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Where fools rush in: The Leasing of the Port of Darwin and the Rise of China

By Dr Strobe Driver

Recently on the ABC’s Lateline,[1] Adam Giles the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory (NT) explained the reasons why the lease of the Port of Darwin—to a Chinese company, Landbridge Group—took place. And while the ‘deal has delivered the NT government a half-a-billion-dollar windfall, the port’s privatisation has raised anxieties about Chinese investment in a strategically important piece of Australia’s infrastructure,’[2] and moreover, there are other issues that the lease raises. Aside from the emotive nationalistic murmurings associated with the port being, and remaining, an Australian-owned -operated asset, which it must be said is now a redundant argument, due to Australia being part of the World Trade Organisation; believes in a free-market economy; is in favour of globalisation; and is the active participant in the breaking down of trade barriers, the lease is part of the of the trajectory of Australia’s commodity trading. All of the aforementioned elements were commenced by the Fraser government in the mid-1970s, and have been enthusiastically embraced by both federal and state governments ever since. The Port of Darwin lease is nonetheless, a step in the direction of implicating Australia in the new geo-strategic reverberations of China’s rise in the Asia-Pacific (A-P); and from a geo-strategic perspective can be placed on a par with the conjoining of Australia to the post-World War Two (WWII) geo-strategic ambitions of the United States of America (US)—in which Australia served and became involved in the US’ ambitions, rather than establishing a more independent and forthright position within the region. Thus, the lease of the Port of Darwin is a step in the direction of conjoining to another actor’s ambitions in the region—in this case China. The lease of the port is a decision of such magnitude that it will come to haunt Australian politics for years to come; and will incrementally and then exponentially ensnare consecutive Australian governments in A-P dilemmas as the rise of China gathers pace.

On the same program that Chief Minister Giles was interviewed, Peter Jennings of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute stated, “We have a China which is becoming increasingly assertive in the South China Sea and it’s very difficult to know how this is going play out and that should have factored into our considerations about a 99-year lease. Unlike Australia, unlike the US, the Chinese Communist Party has the capacity when it needs to reach into the operations of Chinese business whenever it suits it to do so …”[3]. These words resonate within the structure of openness that the Chinese government has set out to achieve through the prism of trade and the result has been success growth in countries from Australia to Brazil, making it indispensable to the world[4]. From this paradigm China has set out to establish an ongoing international presence comparable to the British during their Industrial Revolution; and the US during its post-WWII expansion.  However, at this stage it has been largely non-violent in terms of its international ambitions. What the Chinese government has accomplished through the prudent use of fiscal/monetary policies is to move China’s companies into the Asia-Pacific region and in doing so, have established a quasi-political and –strategic presence through these companies. This has, and continues to produce a geo-strategic environment that has essentially, been sponsored by its fiscal generosity.

To be certain, China is not the first to indulge in such a focussed foreign policy, as the US would do so with the post-WWII Bretton-Woods system[5] which tied world currency and therefore trade to the US dollar in 1949; the US taking over Guam and Diego Garcia; the British invading India and securing Northern Ireland in order to secure international resources and regional security; the French invading Indo-China  and Algeria; and to balance the argument somewhat, Russia invading the Eastern-bloc countries circa-1950. All are representations of focussed and (often) violent foreign policy initiatives.  The difference between what has gone before is that China is expanding in a world where communication and therefore, geo-political comment cum observation is much more robust, and there is much more information ‘out there.’ Governments are more aware of their actions and are therefore, able to make more enlightened decisions as the repercussions are understood more thoroughly. This said however, does not preclude there are many dangers in the decision of the NT government and whilst the decision has been made by sheer immediate economic advantage for the NT, it has also been made without any consideration for the future security of Australia per se. To assume that the lease will not place Australia in a very precarious position in the future is to be blind to the obvious intent of how countries prepare their strategic environment/s; secure their geo-strategic advantage more generally; and establish their regional advantage far into the future. All of these components are what the NT government has blithely ignored in the leasing process.

Australia, through the manoeuvrings of the economic world market, and due to the NT government’s desire for a form of fiscal independence—under the auspices of ‘self-reliance’ reducing the NT from 80 percent (%) to 71% of Federal funding[6]—is why the lease was deemed to be fiscally responsible.  ‘Fiscal responsibility’ however, is only one aspect of understanding what is happening in the A-P region—a region that will increasingly become friction-filled as China demands its ‘rights.’ It is the interlinking of the rise of China, its trajectory of dominance, and the lease of the port and the direct frictions for Australia that will be created from the juxtapositions of these three elements that is of interest here. The assumption within the framework of the NT government making such a momentous decision hinges on several assumptions: that the status quo will remain static, that is, US-Australia agreements will remain unsullied by the rise of China; Indonesia will be a relatively passive neighbour; the Philippines will continually side with the US; and Oceania’s governments will not exert political pressure on Australia to accept China’s foreign policy ambitions in the region. There are far too many variables to mention suffice to state the region will be in a dynamic flux, especially over the next two decades and moreover, China will steadily assert an enormous and continuous influence, as regional machinations unfold. This acknowledged, and in order to give the lease of the port a greater perspective of why the dangers associated with the leasing of it will come to the fore, a brief historical observation of why ruling sea-lanes—and the ports that are within them—are such a vital part of power-projection is needed. In observing what has gone before will highlight that if China decides to take a more robust (and possibly violent) geo-strategic pathway to realise its ambitions, Australia’s Port of Darwin will be one of the key areas impacted upon by its goals.

Post-WWII the US exploited its newfound power-base and as part of countering the Soviet threat, moved closer to Russia, establishing Okinawa as a quasi-suzerain state of the US, as it offered a rapid mobile presence for its naval forces and quick access to the Taiwan Strait, Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean. This geo-strategic approach, of having ports in another country stymied Russian regional ambitions becoming eventuating. The US, with varying degrees of political and direct force then shifted into Diego Garcia, Guam and the United Arab Emirates,[7] as well as other Middle Eastern countries. To be sure, this process, of stablishing military ‘footprints’ was a learned experience from the British and was a process which served consecutive British governments well when utilizing force-projection; and allowing for military force to be easily accessed if necessary. The British fundamentally understood the most effective way in which to rule the world was through sea-power, and enforced this in a multitude of effective ways. The paradigm alluded to, whilst being a somewhat lengthy explanation does offer an historical insight into the way in which the British treated access to what they perceived as their territory, cum territorial rights. The way in which the British projected their force is as follows . . .

 

The British practice of warfare from the sixteenth century to World War 1 was to employ…[a] way of war [which] de-emphasized direct confrontation, concentration, mass, and battle and emphasized surprise, mobility, manoeuvre, peripheral attacks on the enemy weaknesses, dispersion, conversion of resources, and negotiated settlements … The British used sea power primarily to achieve their limited strategic objectives. They traditionally fought low-expenditure, high-gain wars that took advantage of Britain’s geographic circumstances that exploited those of its enemy. The British way of war was to destroy when possible the enemy’s fleet; attack enemy trade; block the enemy’s coast and conduct raids on the enemy’s ports, coastal towns and colonies; seize, when possible, the enemy’s colonies; subsidize allies on the Continent; wait for the attacks on the enemy’s economy and peripheral areas to erode its capacity to resist; exploit opportunities through the use of surprise made possible by the superior mobility of the fleet; deploy limited expeditionary forces on the Continent to fight alongside the larger forces of the allies; and finally, to manoeuvre  the enemy into an untenable position in which it had no other option but to conclude a peace agreement on terms set by the British and their allies.[8]

The abovementioned signals what a large and competent navy is able to achieve and it is pertinent to reintroduce the Port of Darwin as a strategic necessity to an expanding country—in this case the People’s Republic of China (PRC). This stated it is important to observe how other countries have exercised their naval power in more recent times to show that the use of this power-base has not lost its appeal to governments. The British accomplished this through variations of force that are stipulated in the abovementioned, and the US certainly has used its navy on many occasions to enforce its geo-political will, or by directly responding to perceived threats to US ‘interests,’ and/or to force countries to abandon their anti-US stance. Engaging its sea-power by moving into the Strait of Hormuz in 1987 and reflagging Kuwaiti tankers to the US, so as to legally allow these ships to be protected by the US Navy[9] is one example of the utilization of direct force through the prism of protecting US domestic interests—in this case the flow of oil via tankers to the US. Iceland using its ships to disrupt British fishing on their actual/perceived territorial waters—in the ‘cod wars’ of 1950s through to the 1970s—is another example of the exercising of direct influence through the use of sea-power[10]. History is littered with examples of sea-power and the subsequent force-on-force collisions that have been engaged in are too numerous to mention.  Notwithstanding, to assume that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) will not move in the direction of using forceful and direct power is folly in the extreme. More to the point, if the NT government does not know this, the Liberal Party of Australia certainly does. To give this statement some meaning is to construct several scenarios.

As stipulated, China is on the rise and is establishing geo-strategic foothold in the A-P region, although it is also expanding into Central Asia. With this in mind is to also understand that the PRC is acquiring assets as it progresses and it correctly deems these assets—in line with international laws and protocols—as ones of legal ownership.  With ownership and short of a nation-state nationalising their assets a country is entitled to protect said assets, or bestow that right on another nation-state to be a byproxy guardian.  The Australia-New Zealand-United States (ANZUS) treaty would allow Australia for instance to act on behalf of, and with the support of the US, in an area of friction. The legalities of this is not important to the debate as this is not a legal submission, and what matters in this instance is a country can act alone, or ask another to protect its assets.

The activities of the PRC’s military has recently been exercising its actual/perceived rights in the South China Sea[11] with the construction of airstrips and bases on several atolls and this standpoint, regardless of the objections of others, remains the (historical) strategic necessity for a country expanding through force-projection. This, in and of itself, should have sent warning signals to the NT government but for some reason it did not. Now to the Port of Darwin.  If for any reason the PRC government believed that Chinese interests were under threat it could (and would) order the PLAN to exercise an incursion into the port, and moreover, it could claim any action was necessary under the  auspices of protecting its quasi- cum literal-territorial assets; and of protecting a Chinese direct-investment. To continue, what if the Australian government has a strategic disagreement with the PRC? For instance the Australian government objecting to the PLAN presence in the aforementioned atolls.  What if the disagreement escalates?  China would be entitled to protect its assets with a physical presence—as the British did with Hong Kong on numerous occasions. The PLAN could blockade the port, or harass ships that exited the harbour without the PLANs express approval.  China could refuse access to Australia’s allies and/or harass ships of Australia’s allies whilst in ‘its territory’ harbour and moreover, China could argue this was needed to protect its international assets.  Compounding these issues for Australia is the somewhat mythical belief that the US would come to Australia’s protection. This is due to the US being Australia’s greatest ally isn’t it?  Once again, the Australia-US relationship is not static and is influenced by both domestic and international politics. What if the US moves toward ‘Wilsonian-isolationism,’[12]  if Trump become the next US president?  What if Clinton directs America’s interests more toward Central Asia and decides the A-P is claiming too much of the US’ security assets time and effort for little reward? What is this phenomenon? Fraser Nelson stipulated in The Spectator recently that ‘America First’ is gaining momentum. Simply put: ‘It means using the [US] military when directly threatened, but [the US] worrying a lot less if other countries are attacked’[13].  What if China demands Australia sides with it rather than Japan, in the disputed territorial islands referred to, and/or demands that US Marine rotation stop? And furthermore, states Australia must choose or have Australian Navy access to the port limited/cancelled? If the PLAN decided to place one of its aircraft carriers in the port as a sign of force-projection, would Australia be able to say no?  All of these examples however, are insignificant if the PLAN decides to place several of its cruise-missile carrying submarines[14] in the port—this is where the real potential for ‘brinkmanship’[15]; and power-projection really comes into play.   The scenarios are limitless and need not be expanded further.

To be sure, Australia would have to deal with any PLAN activity within the port on its own and each one on its merits. However, to have such a naked example of business interests overriding security interests—especially when China is rising so rapidly, and the US is in such rapid decline in terms of applying its assets to other nation-states needs/interests—is simply astounding. Australia will rue the day it allowed this to happen and whether the US would ever come to the aid of Australia is, and always has been a moot point, and a cursory glance at World War Two history will attest to this state-of-affairs. Notwithstanding, the core element of the debate to actually lease such a valuable asset to a country—in this case China—at a time of such oncoming (and what will be ongoing) frictions is a signal that the Australian government is fundamentally not concerned with Australia’s security interests beyond the rhetoric of ‘stopping the boats.’  For Malcolm Turnbull to state “The security issues relating to that port sale were thoroughly investigated in Australia’s national interest by the relevant security agencies. That’s how we determine security issues; not, with all due respect, by text message opinion polls,” [16] simply offers up that business interests are the ultimate expression of a secure nation.

The Port of Darwin should not have been leased to any company and should have remained as a NT government asset, through the tutelage of the Australian government within a single understanding: it is vital to the security of Australia. No amount of money should have been traded for the right of, and for, another sovereign nation-state, whether as a byproxy of a particular government, or as a stand-alone independent company that operates within the prism of its government’s rationales. Notwithstanding, what the lease of the Port of Darwin means for Australians is the NT government has sacrificed the security of all Australians to an extent that is unheard of in recent times. The lease of Hong Kong was a ‘thorn in the side’ of an increasingly independent China, and China vowed to take it back—through diplomacy or force if need be—and have true independence in their post-1949 era.  Australia should have learned from China in order to understand what true independence actually comprises. China will utlilize this asset to its maximum potential, and Australia will be left wanting if the PRC makes unforeseen demands on Australia—the ones which the security agencies should have taken into account—and more to the point, the NT government should be ashamed of its ‘business management model’ because all Australians will eventually have to accept their folly; and the Turnbull government by allowing this to happen, has essentially placed Australia in an extremely dangerous future predicament. Australia will have to tread very warily in the A-P region per se in the coming years, however to have given the PRC through their military—the PLAN—such a strategic vantage point is stupidity writ large on the part of Australia; and the NT government in particular.

©Strobe Driver.  June 2016.

[1] ‘Will the controversial decision to lease the port of Darwin to a Chinese company have an impact on the federal election?’  Reporter: Jason Om.  Presenter: Tony Jones. Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Lateline,  1 June, 2016.  http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2015/s4473850.htm

[2] ‘Will the controversial decision to lease the port of Darwin to a Chinese company have an impact on the federal election?’   http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2015/s4473850.htm

[3] http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2015/s4473850.htm

[4] Fareed Zakaria.  ‘Mishandling the China Challenge.’ South China Post, 9 Aug, 2005.

[5] ‘The Bretton Woods exchange-rate system saw all currencies linked to the [US] dollar, and the dollar linked to gold.’ Whilst this was eventually abandoned by the Nixon administration it set in play the continual attachment of countries to the US dollar.  See: ‘What was decided at the Bretton Woods summit.  The Economist. 30 June, 2014.  http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2014/06/economist-explains-20

[6] ‘Interview: Adam Giles, NT Chief Minister.’  Reporter: Tony Joes.  Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Laterline, 1 June, 2016. http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2015/s4473856.htm

[7] See: ‘United Arab Emirates Facilities.’ GlobalSecurity.org http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/facility/uae.htm

[8] Adrian Lewis.  Omaha Beach:  A Flawed Victory. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2001, 34-35.  Emphasis added.

[9] See: ‘Tanker War.’  The Robert S. Strauss Center for Securit and Law. https://www.strausscenter.org/hormuz/tanker-war.html

[10] Valur Ingimundarson. ‘Fighting the Cod Wars in the Cold War: Iceland’s challenge to the Western Alliance in the 1970s., The RUSI Journal, 148:3, 88-94.  http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/03071840308446895

[11] See: South China Sea: Conflicting Claims and Tensions.’  The Lowy Institute.  http://www.lowyinstitute.org/issues/south-china-sea  The Lowy Institute  observes: ‘While UNCLOS [The United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea] has been signed and ratified by nearly all the coastal countries in the South China Sea, its interpretation is still hotly disputed. Moreover, legal and territorial disputes persist, primarily over the Spratly and Paracel Islands as well as Scarborough Shoal, the scene of ongoing tensions between China and the Philippines. In terms of the Spratlys, more than 60 geographic features are reportedly occupied by claimants, which consist of Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, China and Malaysia. The Paracel Islands are the subject of overlapping claims by China, Vietnam and Taiwan. China makes the largest claim in the South China Sea, within a ‘dash-line’ map published by the Kuomintang Government in 1947. The ambiguous nine or ten ‘dash line’, which China asserts is based on evidence of historical usage, is disputed by other South China Sea territorial claimants and lacks a legal foundation under UNCLOS.’

[12] See: ‘American Isolationism in the 1930s,’ United States Department of State, Office of the Historian. https://history.state.gov/milestones/1937-1945/american-isolationism

[13] Fraser Neson.  ‘US ready to go it alone.’ The Spectator/The Age.  Fairfax Media: Melbourne, 7 June, 2016, 18.

[14] [14] For an insight into the capabilities of the PLAN see:  Franz Stefan-Gady.  ‘Chinese Submarine Simulates Cruise Missile Attack on US Aircraft Carrier.’ 21 Dec, 2015.  http://thediplomat.com/2015/12/chinese-submarine-simulates-cruise-missile-attack-on-us-aircraft-carrier/

[15] According to Gochman brinkmanship becomes part of political manoeuvrings when, ‘decision makers perceive a dramatic impending shift in the balance of power in favour of an adversary and/or a substantial internal challenge to their own political position at home.’  See:  The Process Of War.  Advancing the Scientific Study of War. Edited by Stuart Bremer and Thomas Cusack.  Australia: Gordon and Breach, 1995.

The Process of War, 97.

[15] For an insight into the capabilities of the PLAN see:  Franz Stefan-Gady.  ‘Chinese Submarine Simulates Cruise Missile Attack on US Aircraft Carrier.’ 21 Dec, 2015.  http://thediplomat.com/2015/12/chinese-submarine-simulates-cruise-missile-attack-on-us-aircraft-carrier/

[16] Jared Owens.  ‘China Darwin port: Intelligence, not texts’ sealed deal, says Turnbull.’  The Australian.  9 Mar, 2016.  http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/defence/china-darwin-port-intelligence-not-texts-sealed-deal-says-turnbull/news-story/8511b081548e2e1948b28766a8bdbe42

This article was originally published on Geo-Strategic Orbit.

Strobe Driver completed his doctoral thesis on war studies in 2011. Since then he has written on Asia-Pacific security, war, terrorism and international politics as well as Australian domestic politics.  Dr Driver is a sessional lecturer and tutor at Federation University, Ballarat, Victoria.  The views expressed here are his own.

Liberal bullying culture is all the way to the top, ScoMo.

 

 

The year can’t end quickly enough for the series of cunning stunts masquerading as a Morrison government.

Topping its epic series of diversions, evasions and sensational stuff-ups – and hastening its end, is its curtain call brawl; a spectacular bit of Biffo.  Peter Dutton pops up centre stage. He publicly attacks Julia Banks and Malcolm Turnbull. Why? Is the public brawling an orchestrated show of disunity; another stunt? Or is Dutto making his run?

Labor’s Amanda Rishworth ponders whether the comments are sanctioned by ScoMo or merely Dutto freelancing.

Who would know? Sean Kelly in The Monthly writes a detailed and persuasive case for considering the cagey and evasive Morrison our invisible Prime Minister who has developed techniques to erase himself from the frame.

Events occur, but Morrison’s involvement is passive, tangential, almost accidental. He may be the minister, but he is not an instigator, only a vessel through which others’ bidding is done. If you are Scott Morrison, it is even possible to become prime minister without any agency on your part. And, today, it is Dutton who takes the blame.

Liberal MPs “left” and right are unimpressed, calling the attack “selfish” and “arrogant” according to Rick Morton in The Australian . Off-record, one generously calls Peter Dutton “fucking dumb” for bagging Julia Banks.

Liberal MPs “lament the last chance at a reset” according to Amy Remeikis In The Guardian. That’s impossible. No-one admits this government was never “set” in the first place. It is a remarkable series of policy collapses informed only by expediency, the ruthlessly cynical pragmatism encompassed by the Trumpian phrase “whatever works”.

Another accuses Dutton of reminding voters “why they are sick of us.” This, too, taps into the fatuous narrative that the government would be a runaway success if only it could stop talking about itself and get its message out. It’s all a matter of communication. Abbott echoed the same nonsense.

A series of respectable national opinion polls show voters get the message all right and they don’t like it – especially on social welfare, the effective cap on wage growth, environment and energy, kids on Nauru.

The glib dismissals also indirectly serve to highlight the poverty at the heart of the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government. There are few policies or practical achievements to celebrate unless we’re suddenly in love with a data encryption bill rushed through on the last day of parliament which experts say is unnecessary, unworkable and a risk to our personal and national security.

What is clear is that the Coalition is tearing itself apart. A March election date firms as its least worst option.

Will Dutto be checked by a ScoMo™ show? Many PM performances self-abort. Nothing, however, will ever top the PM Poppadom’s Curry, a dazzling image and brilliantly-timed injection of esprit de corps in his recent secret dash to Iraq to inspire our soldiers and the nation – (PM-troop pep talks are traditionally for domestic consumption).

Our army is like a curry? Morrison is a poppadom? Food for thought. As with most things Morrison, it gets worse.

“I’m here to be part of the great collaborative curry by association despite having not contributed to the mix of flavours in any way. The alternative is potato though.”

No Australian Prime Minister has ever presented himself in this way. The troops stare at him in stunned disbelief. Or are they just relieved that a PM who can send them to war, with the backing of a servile cabinet, is not Dutton?

Only ScoMo™ could try to persuade anyone that the ADF has a “collaborative culture”. Least of all members of a ranked, class-conscious ADF.  Officers eat after their troops. Yearn to be called ‘boss’. Yet it’s complex. Officers shun tattoos and choose their personal car carefully, lest they be labelled as having ‘other rank tendencies’.

We have around four thousand war memorials in Australia. None depicts an officer. Or a poppadom. Or a potato.

Morrison stuns the troops into silence by his riff. “And I see myself as the poppadom, bland and uninteresting by myself, unpalatable really”. Shire genius, ScoMo, plumbs new depths of faux self-abasement. Fools no-one.

But he does get the “unpalatable” right, if only where his own, emetic, political self is concerned. Who can forget when, in 2014, he accused Save The Children advocates of coaching refugee children on Nauru in self-harm?

“Making false claims, and worse, allegedly coaching self-harm and using children in protests is unacceptable.”

“Bland uninteresting and unpalatable?” Now, that’s sure to win hearts and minds as much as it will outrage Australia’s many poppadom aficionados. Nothing tops a public display of incompetence quite like false humility. No wonder, Dutton sees his main chance. ScoMo™’s pose as a hopeless liability is a national embarrassment.

Time to kick a few goals, Dutton decides. Or heads. He’s on a hiding to nothing in Dixon as things stand.

When the going gets tough, the tough go for the vulnerable. Dutton bags Banks and Turnbull for their treachery.

Of course it’s the victims’ fault, especially Julia Banks. The MP for Chisholm is in the gun for everything she’s said and done since calling the Liberals a pack of “heartless bullies”, in a “party riven by personal ego trips” where MPs bully and intimidate to get their way in last week’s Women’s Weekly.  And then there’s Malcolm Turnbull.

Turnbull is the political pantomime villain Libs love to hate. Now, as everything goes on to hell in a handbasket, Dutto, at least, has a chance to let rip. The 2016 election fiasco? The loss of Wentworth? All those dud Newspolls? Turnbull’s to blame for everything. Above all, he is to blame for being Malcolm – not just a leftie but a dud.

“Malcolm had a plan to become Prime Minister but no plan to be Prime Minister,” snipes Dutton. Dutto’s own plan to be PM failed spectacularly when his numbers man, Finance Minister Matt (Turncoat) Cormann couldn’t count any better than Dutto –  but in postmodern, Trumpian politics – hypocrisy is the new moral high ground.

Legalists triumph in such times. Note, Dutton never said he himself had no plan to be PM. As for becoming PM, what we are witnessing, may, in fact, be his own run-up to toppling a PM who sees himself as a poppadom.

Peter “dog-whistle” Dutton chooses Sunday to join Andrew Bolt in the bully pulpit, our national media, a one stop shop for consumers of “the national conversation” or everything you need to be told on politics, dominated by ex-pat Rupert Murdoch with the generous assistance of the Australian tax-payer and the Australian government.

Bolt and Dutton’s bullying of Banks is a concerted, public attack on the MP’s credibility and integrity. Or what’s left of it. Banks massively damaged her own credibility, herself, with her claim in May that she could live on $40 a day, effectively actively supporting Coalition bullying and intimidation of job-seekers on Newstart.

Labor clearly agrees. Despite its recent national convocation and Shorten’s sermon on the Torrens, in its carefully stage-managed national conference, all it will commit to is a “root and branch review” of Newstart payments. Be its cause political timidity, or neoliberal thinking, the result is to vitiate its historical commitment to welfare.

Surely the party whose Curtin government created unemployment benefits in 1943 and who made the first payments in 1945 would do well to heed its current obligation. Or reflect on Ben Chifley’s 1946 observation.

I cannot forget how miserable those hundreds of thousands of men must have felt when they went back each night to their families after tramping the streets all day in search of work.

Unemployment averaged 2% in 1946. Last month, pollster Roy Morgan, who bases his figures on gainful employment rather than one hour’s work a week, calculates that, “in total 2,333,000 Australians (17.2% of the workforce) were either unemployed or under-employed in November, a decrease of 61,000 in a year (down 1%). 

But Dutto’s detonation is a spectacular diversion, especially to Morrison, who is now even losing the seniors’ approval in the latest Newspoll. Now, 45% of voters over 50 are dissatisfied with his performance, according to the poll – a drop of ten percent from the only group to show approval when he knifed Malcolm Turnbull in August.

Public infighting beats backstabbing. It is so much more cathartic.  But will it prove politically useful, to either combatants or their party? Some insiders believe Dutton’s latest stunt is carefully orchestrated; stage-managed.

For former PM Kevin07™, it is simply a case of Rupert Murdoch putting his pet candidate forward. He tweets.

Wonderful to see the Murdoch boys at work in all Sunday papers in a nation-wide puff-piece on their poster boy Dutton. The man who boycotted the Apology to appeal to racists. And was supposed to be Murdoch’s man in the Lodge. Now they’re trying to rehabilitate him & save his seat.”

Is Dutton a stalking horse for Abbott?  The Home Affairs Minister dismisses the question; preferring to set and answer one of his own. No. Nor is he making the running for any right wing “bible-basher”.

Banks, a staunch Turnbull loyalist, is not Dutton’s only victim. He savages his ex-boss but includes the odd compliment. Turnbull is “incompetent and spiteful” yet a “gracious and charming man” who “doesn’t have a political bone in his body”, Dutto generously tells the Brisbane’s Sunday Mail. Others also have knives to twist.

Banks’ eloquent, revealing account of how she was driven out of the party by the way she was bullied during the Morrison leadership coup last August appears in this week’s Women’s Weekly. Her story reveals Liberal bullying

Adding to the distraction, former Liberal MP, Julia Banks tells The Women’s Weekly how the “bullying” and “madness” at the heart of the Morrison government caused her to cross the floor to become an Independent. She gives a damaging account, moreover, of how the right-wing “reactionaries” seized control. She names names.

“It was all driven from Tony Abbott’s opposition,” explains Julia. “Tony Abbott, Peter Dutton, Greg Hunt – that whole program to knife Malcolm was driven by and led by them.”

Top Gun, Peter (Dog-whistle) Dutton, is scrambled. In a trademark deflection, he puts the boot into Labor. Again. (After all, his Great African Gang crisis of 2018 worked so well for his Victorian colleagues.)

“Under Labor, terrorists couldn’t be strip­ped of their citizenship. This government has now stripped Aust­ralian citizenship from 12, and our country is safer as a result.”

Both demean the Turnbull supporter, now an independent, by accusing her of lying out of self-interest.

“It just didn’t happen and it has been used by Julia as an excuse to leave the party because she was upset about Malcolm losing the leadership and her not being promoted to the Ministry under Scott.

It is pure and simple a case of sour grapes and it deserves to be called out. We need more women in politics but to suggest we have a bullying problem is ridiculous.”

Dutton inadvertently, reveals the very misogyny, bullying and intimidation, from reactionaries, that Banks and other women MPs claim is entrenched in Liberal party and federal Coalition culture.

Banks is moved by Dutton’s allegations to retweeting (off the record) a cabinet minister’s view that the Queensland MP is “just an egotistical moron who lacks self-awareness”.

Luckily, other scapegoating stunts are available to ScoMo’s government. A Home Affairs Minister can do a lot these days, especially after the data encryption bill was rushed through parliament on its last sitting day.

Bernard Keane warns that, “The encryption laws, designed to target terrorism, could allow security agencies to trick suspects into giving up access to their private messages, effectively robbing them of the privilege against self-incrimination, and also give law enforcement the ability to circumvent the need to obtain a warrant.”

Keane also quotes President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties Pauline Wright’s concern. “There’s been a massive amount of legislation passed that prior to then would have been unthinkable. There have been incursions into freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of movement, right to protest, all basic legal rights that underpin our democracy”.

Wright maintains that we now have more national security laws and harsher laws than any other western nations.

Neil Prakash, the nation’s star ISIS recruit, is stripped of his Australian citizenship this week by Dutton. Because he can. Because the Morrison government desperately needs a diversion from Broadgate. How could ScoMo™ not have been told by his own department of the scandal surrounding Andrew Broad, MP for Mallee over his alleged use of a dating website dating to seek out a sugar baby? It beggars belief.

“Broadgate” is the noxious miasma emanating from ScoMo™’s office after its incredible claim it knew early in December of Andrew Broad’s alleged attempted philandering but kept mum about the sugar daddy with their boss, the Prime Minister of Australia. For two whole weeks.

Incredible? “A long stretch” says Anthony Albanese, but, if true, evidence of the Morrison government’s acute dysfunction. Perhaps they didn’t want to over-tax ScoMo™. After all, he’s got an image makeover. Gone are the rimless spectacles and the suburban dad gear. Pictured talking to the Iraqi PM. ScoMo’s sports a look upgrade; new, open-necked shirt and pants – RM Williams boots, even, in Iraq. So much more like Malcolm’s wardrobe.

Of course, it may be that ScoMo™’s deputy PM, “Major Malfunction” Michael McCormack, ineffectual even in a token role, felt he needed to “support” Broad, if not collude with him, to curry favour with his right-wing critics.

The Nationals party room which Joyce created give Macca stick for not being Barnaby. It’s not looking good for the deputy PM, who, as Paddy Manning notes, “is being circled by a miraculously rehabilitated Barnaby Joyce”.

Today, The Courier-Mail reports that he has a “target on his back” as colleagues accused him of hiding Broad’s “sugar babe” scandal to protect himself from being rolled.

The year ends with a government at war with itself. Revealed also explicitly and implicitly is the entrenched bullying culture in the Liberal Party that Scott Morrison promised he would set up a review to deal with.

Those who have any doubts as to why progress has been glacial, need only read Julia Banks’ account. This taken together with Peter Dutton’s recent attack on Banks and Turnbull – implicitly condoned by ScoMo -suggest that the culture of bullying in the current parliamentary Liberal Party reaches all the way to the top.

Dutton’s recent bullying of Banks and Turnbull confirms that Morrison is either without judgement or authority. Or both. It is inexcusable and will accelerate the Liberal party’s electoral decline; impede its election preparations. The fish rots from the head down.

Don’t lose sight of the fair go, Bill.

Australians are spoilt for choice this week in politics. On the far right is Scott John Morrison who is determined to improve on his last week’s Slow-Mo filibuster fiasco by pretending that religious freedom is the biggest issue facing the nation along with encryption-busting and stopping kids needing medical treatment off Nauru.

Not only that, he’s a Walter-Mitty-Henry Kissinger style negotiator who can kick-start the Arab-Israeli peace process by offending both parties and sundry nearby Muslim nations such as Indonesia and Malaysia, whom our governments are always on the verge of cracking amazing free trade deals, that somehow never eventuate.

ScoMo’s got both hands full in his pre-MYEFO clean-up as he checks the fudged figures and shoves a whole lot of other stuff off into a review, while, over on the left, in Adelaide, city of churches, Labor holds its annual conference, an event which somehow shrinks in ABC TV coverage to recurring images of Stop Adani protestors.

Bill’s got the fair go theme happening; great shots of the most photogenic family in Australian politics and a beaut re-run of a plan to subsidise housing for developers who’ll charge rents low enough for underemployed workers to afford, despite their flat-lining wages, soaring utilities and jobs that are increasingly underpaid and insecure.

Yet developers and loans all take time. Sadly for those three million Australians, the OECD tell us are living on the poverty line, there is no hope that Labor will lift Newstart. Guardian Australia reports the conference will wimp out with promises to review Newstart within 18 months if Labor wins in May or whenever. Insult the poor.

The Guardian’s Katharine Murphy who clearly knows her onions reports “senior figures are reluctant to sign up to a concrete commitment to increase Newstart because of the fiscal impact”. The fiscal impact? The triumph of Neoliberalism is complete when Labor apparatchiks talk of “fiscal impact” when they won’t pony up the money.

Where is the Labor Party that stood by the battler? The party that fought for a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay?

Stage right there’s a banner showing some poor sods being evicted for upstaging Mr Shorten with a message about getting kids out of detention. Labor’s lock-step with Liberal on “off-shore detention” doesn’t offer much hope but you can’t fault the demonstrators for gate-crashing the Labor love-fest with a heartfelt plea to help the suffering.

Over in Morrison’s sordid corner, the work experience PM is riffing with his powerful fellow religious cranks.

We have more than enough religious freedom in Australia but, like John Howard, ScoMo knows – or hopes – there’s votes in even the most fatuous, confected, totally futile crusade.  Besides, he believes this stuff. You can tell.

When he declared religious freedom his number one priority back last August it was more than a broad hint. Back then, he spoke of “preventative regulation and legislation to ensure your religious freedom in this country. In other words, it didn’t have to exist but if it did we’d have the laws on the books to stop it in its tracks.

“What you believe should always be a matter for you … Anti-discrimination is an important principle in a modern democracy and so it is important that that principle of anti-discrimination and the protection of people’s religious liberty are addressed in this country. And there is some unfinished business that we are seeking to address in the announcements that we’re making today.” Morrison stutters at his Thursday presser. Yet he moves fast.

Sleeves rolled-up, “getting on and doing – and listening”, ScoMo sets a cracking change of pace as he dashes into a series of pressers. Last week’s slow bicycle race is over.

Now he’s waving a Christmas check-list. Busy-dizzy. The futuristic white tubular podiums, which wouldn’t be out of place on the bridge of a spaceship get a fair workout from the daggy dad, the everyman PM who vows to be a man of the people. Fat chance. Morrison loves only to preach.

Call it his post-modern sermon on the dismount or his own “unfinished business”, ScoMo battles to clear the decks and appease Abbott and the lads, a scurvy crew who’ll mutiny at any hint of a Federal ICAC or any sell-out of the right over religious freedoms, a long-promised sop to homophobes for losing the marriage equality plebiscite.

Morrison has a lot to tick off. None of it is easy, but top of the list is taking his foot out of his mouth over his Wentworth by-election stunt. Foreign policy is not his forte. Who’d be so silly as to bid for “the Jewish vote” by moving the Australia embassy to East Jerusalem?

Why follow the United States’ and Guatemala’s lead and flout international consensus? It’s the thought-bubble debacle of his political career, against some strong contenders.

Who can forget or forgive ScoMo’s $55 million 2014 Cambodian solution which resettled but two refugees, a decision which Peter Dutton, ever the master of Orwellian double-speak, calls “a good outcome”?

Morrison formally recognises West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Saturday, in a talk in Gerry and Anne Henderson’s cosy right wing, corporate-sponsored think tank, The Sydney Institute, which in 1989, former Howard adviser, Gerry lovingly fashioned out of the Sydney branch of the IPA with financial assistance from Philip Morris.

Two staff members only are employed, Gerard is Executive Director and Anne is Deputy Director.  You can see them both in homespun shot as they fiddle with microphones and fetch glasses of water for the useful idiot PM.

“Foreign policy must speak of our character and our values. What we stand for. What we believe in and, if need be, what we’ll defend,” oleaginous Trump toady Morrison bloviates in yet another pro-US foreign policy speech at the Henderson’s Sydney terrace home, otherwise, grandiosely known to the ATO, as The Sydney Institute.

It is not a good outcome for our international relations. Australia joins just three other nations; the Russian Federation, the Czech Republic and Panama. Since 2014, our international reputation’s copped a hammering.

We make the declaration, says Morrison from a desire to end a “rancid stalemate” in the peace process. It’s likely to have exactly the opposite effect. Could he be hoping that his mixed metaphor will achieve a breakthrough?

Neither side seems impressed. An Israeli official tells The Times of Israel “We’re disappointed with the Australian decision… Morrison only went half-way. It’s a step in the right direction, but we expected more.”

President of the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, Bishop George Browning, calls Morrison’s announcement “a tortuous attempt to salvage himself from a pre-emptive thought bubble prior to the Wentworth by-election”.

That there is no city named West Jerusalem, according to the Israeli government, doesn’t seem to worry Morrison’s government. Yet, in international law and diplomacy, the status of Jerusalem has been a vexed question since Israel was created in 1948. Fools rush in.

International law considers East Jerusalem to be Palestinian territory under illegal Israeli occupation. Since 1967, when Israeli troops drove Jordanian settlers out of East Jerusalem, expanding its borders, Israeli actions have been the subject of many UN Security Council resolutions calling upon Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories.

Australia will hold off moving its embassy, Morrison says, until a peace settlement is reached. But it’ll check out a site. Palestine will be recognised after a settlement has been reached on a two-state solution.

While Israel sees Australia’s stance as “a step in the right direction”, Palestine is incensed. Secretary-General of the PLO Executive Committee, Saeb Erekat, blasts the “irresponsible policies” that led to the recognition.

“The policies of this Australian administration have done nothing to advance the two-state solution,” Erekat says in a statement. “The holy city remains a final-status issue in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which have run aground.”

The Palestinian Liberation Organisation attacks Australia’s new policy for being contradictory. It violates our obligations under international law (namely UNSC 478, something Australia denies). Luckily a culture war breaks out at home. Morrison must stand up for what he believes in. Bugger the rest of us.

Ruddock is dudded. Blessed are the meek in spirit but pity the poor souls who are made to wait seven months to hear a peep from the PM on their report on the power of religious outfits to discriminate. Ruddock recommends that such organisations have their exemptions from discrimination laws abolished or at least reduced.

[The panel] could see no justification for exceptions in existing law relating to race, disability, pregnancy or intersex status,” the report says of the current religious anti-discrimination exemptions at the federal, state and territory level that differ across jurisdictions. “The panel is of the view that those jurisdictions retaining exceptions should review them having regard to community expectations.”

But ScoMo says no. “Pushes back” as they insist in modern commentary. The PM orders a review of the review.

Ruddock’s review has taken a full year since Turnbull lit the torch and seven months since it reported. It’s now likely to become an election issue and voters may not take kindly to the Coalition’s need to placate the far right over the right of all children (and teachers) to be spared discrimination regardless of what school they attend.

But ScoMo knows best. He rejects Ruddock’s findings in favour of his own surprise Christmas gift to the nation, a “freedom of religion commissioner”, to bulk up The Australian Human Rights Commission with a bit more rightist bias, as part of a culture war no-one needs or wants. Or can afford, financially or socially.

Not everything gets top air-play. Dud ideas, such as the Clayton’s Federal ICAC or ones that may cause trouble such as the promise to hold a Royal Commission into aged care are dumped in a quiet time-slot; “putting out the trash”. It’s as much a Coalition strength, as its fetish for secrecy or its unparalleled capacity to stall, flip-flop, flounder or nose-dive while preaching practicality and strong leadership.

Despite the promise that the royal commission would start this year, its first directions hearing has been postponed from December 7 to January 18. As Laura Tingle points out, hearings proper begin in February.

It gives little time for public submissions, nor for the commissioners to adequately prepare themselves.

Not so our new Governor General, who will – gasp- be another old digger, David Hurley, a former defence chief and current NSW Governor. The Coalition has pointedly ignored Labor’s request to make the appointment after the proposed May 2019 election.

Cosgrove will stay on until the end of June when Hurley officially takes over. As Paul Karp notes this gives Morrison his pick of governor as well as keeping his election options open. Tellingly, Morrison announces the appointment with another homily.

“It was General Hurley who first spoke the words, ‘The standard you walk past, is the standard you accept’. That is a lesson to all of us. It is a phrase that embodies what Australian leadership is all about and it is a phrase that has embodied the service of General Hurley.”

Yet as Chris Bowen notes, the timing suggests a government blithely unconcerned about standards of fair play.

“Do we really believe that a governor general, who will be taking up his post in the middle of next year, had to be announced today while the leader of the opposition was making an important speech at the very same time? What a coincidence.”

Yet Hurley is the very model of a modern governor general, whose heart of faith helps him lead and whose wife Linda inspires by sharing details of her daily spiritual spin, a rare double act with Eternity News

“I hula-hoop every morning and I like to read the Bible or a devotional book while I’m doing that.”

Who doesn’t? Onward Christian soldiers. Curiously, Morrison’s presser proclaiming his redundant religious freedom commission segues into his announcing his utterly unrelated Commonwealth Integrity Commission, (CIC) a Clayton’s federal ICAC, a totally toothless tiger which would have allowed even Eddie Obeid or Eric Roozendaal to evade justice, experts warn.

Geoffrey Watson SC, who had acted as counsel to ICAC in NSW opines it’s “worse than having no commission, in my opinion” while former NSW ICAC commissioner David Ipp tells ABC radio that it’s “the kind of integrity commission you’d want to have when you didn’t want to have one”.

For Crikey’s Bernard Keane, there is a wider significance in the paper tiger. Scott Morrison’s joke of federal anti-corruption body simply confirms everything voters hate about politics in Australia.”

It’s crippled by having no public hearings; the public won’t even know who is under investigation, let alone why. Herein lies a key problem.  Keane believes “that’s exactly one of the key problems voters perceive with our current political system: that so much is hidden from citizens. Donations. Meetings. Lobbying. And corrupt conduct. The exercise of power in Australia is hidden, confirming the sense that it is exercised by and for the powerful only.”

Nor will justice be seen to be done if the only recourse the CIC has is to refer a matter where a public servant has acted inappropriately to the DPP, who is chosen by the Attorney-General of the day.

Perhaps the greatest flaw in the Morrison proposal is that the public will not be able to dob in a delinquent official – or one they suspect may have broken the law.

“The CIC will not investigate direct complaints about ministers, members of Parliament or their staff received from the public at large,” the government says.

Typically, Pastor ScoMo doesn’t help his cause by calling NSW ICAC a “kangaroo court”, while, equally out of order, Federal Attorney-General Christian Porter accuses it of “show-trials”. For Morrison’s government to cynically insult the integrity of a real commission against corruption diminishes any further confidence in their proposal.

Some see the CIC as a pre-emptive strike by a Morrison minority government to dodge a tougher ICAC forced on them by independent Cathy McGowan, Labor and an uppity crossbench. Yet it could filibuster or close up shop early. Parliament will sit only ten days in the first eight months of 2019 as it. Would a few less days matter?

Even if the election were to be brought forward, it should not distract us.  Just how have we been gifted with a religious discrimination commissioner when Ruddock’s review panel specifically recommends against it – and what does it say about the Morrison government’s religious pre-occupation?

Freedom For Faith, a group which describes itself as a “Christian, legal, think tank” in its submission, has persuaded the Morrison government to create a religious freedom commissioner, a bargain at $1.25m-$1.5m. Beyond the fee, however, is the incalculable social cost of granting religious groups new authority to discriminate.

A Religious Freedoms Act, a cruel parody of a charter of rights, which Ruddock’s panel does recommend, would codify and expand exemptions to anti-discrimination laws. These currently grant church groups the right to hire or fire those sympathetic to its ethos. Or not.

The act would limit and override the anti-discrimination laws of Australia’s states and territories and “further protections for people who don’t want to associate with same-sex marriages”.

But be of good cheer. “Christians are not into freedom to discriminate, they’re really into freedom to select,” explains author Patrick Parkinson, a professor of law at Sydney Uni and a Freedom for Faith board member.

Father knows best. Yet, like his patronising, patriarchal predecessor, ScoMo’s paternalism will prove his undoing.

But, my, such unity. Not a bum note is heard – for a whole 24 hours. Coalition MPs are all on song, a ragged paean to the policy-free politics of survival as they plot Bill Shorten’s death and hope, somehow to avoid electoral annihilation in May as Monday’s Newspoll confirms the Morrison government’s unique and abiding unpopularity.

It trails Labor 45-55, a record low in the poll’s history for a government five months out from an election. It’s the government’s third, ten point defeat in a row. The last time this happened, notes Paul Karp in The Guardian, Julia Gillard was replaced by Kevin Rudd. Political scientist, Kevin Bonham says history is not on Morrison’s side.

“No government has recovered from this far behind with this little time to go,” Bonham says. Yet The Daily Telegraph says Labor’s “softened border policy” invites shady types into Australia. “Foreign crims’ free pass,” screams the headline. The Australian obligingly runs a very similar scare campaign. An influx of terrorists, paedophiles and crime gangs will flood the nation as a result of Labor softening its border policy.

‘Tis the season to be jolly, however. Can Bill still stuff up? Enter Rupert the red-nose reindeer. National Affairs Editor, Simon Benson in The Australian, Friday, hyperventilates over Labor’s hubris, and lese majesté in “preparing to run union-backed election campaigns in once unassailable Victorian Liberal heartland — including Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s blue-ribbon Melbourne seat of Kooyong — with polling showing the Coalition risks losing the electorate once held by Australia’s longest-serving prime minister, Sir Robert Menzies.”

Back in the bosom of the Liberal Party’s broad church and even in the weatherboard and iron of the Nationals’ annexe, hearts swell as MPs rejoice in the hyper-partisan hypomania of the festive season; all noses are to the grindstone as the Coalition of the killing of Bill sharpen stilettos, rake muck and top up vast vats of vitriol.

The Coalition is obsessed by Shorten; they mention him by name in Question Time, this year, 1260 times.

Spoiler alert. Bill is to be killed during Labor’s annual conference 16-18 December. Labor will be attacked for being soft on borders, national security and refugee torture. Frydenberg’s coup de grace, a MYEFO monstering, will follow on Monday. The cunning plan is to upstage day two of “A Fair Go for Australia” Labor’s gabfest.

A mid-year economic financial outlook in December? It’s a bit like July at Christmas. But it’s all amazingly good news. A temporary spike in the price of coal and iron ore and a boost from government spending on setting up its bastardised NDIS, helps to mask a stalling economy as wages remain frozen, profits soar. Morrison’s mob, however, will boast its superior economic management. It certainly won’t be telling the truth about infrastructure.

Public and private investment in engineering is dwindling, for the fourth time in five years, Alan Austin reports; all in the five years since the Abbott government was elected, according to ABS figures up to the end of September. It’s a decline not seen since ABS figures began in Whitlam’s era. The nation’s net worth is declining as a result.  Morrison will predict a budget surplus. Yet as economist Stephen Koukoulos warns, it won’t be until September

2019’s final budget outcome that we will know if the surplus occurs, or if it’s just like Wayne Swan’s, as Paul Bongiorno notes, another in a series of disappearing desert mirages. Much like the Coalition itself and the neoliberalism on which it is founded.

Disappearing. It won’t be for lack of appeasing the right. Morrison has taken no chances there. It’s fitting to reflect on the PM’s inclusiveness and largeness of heart in the season of giving.

Even drones such as Craig Kelly, who sacrificed a career selling furniture for the politics of climate change denial to chair the committee for promoting coal are thoughtfully rescued from; returned to the fold by Pope Scott’s pre-selection bulk plenary indulgence that fits brilliantly the special religious if not entirely ecumenical and certainly not gender-equal character of the mates’ rates 45th parliament.

Day to Day Politics: Liberal Party’s “women problem” and other stuff.

Monday 21 May 2018 

I decided to take a weeks rest after the scourge of writer’s burnout had lingered beyond it’s used by date. My wife had found me asleep with my head on the keyboard – the computer typing a story of its own truth. Anyhow, I am now refreshed ready to take up the fight against these capitalist conservatives who continue to govern for themselves with bugger-all interest in the country.

The disadvantage in taking a rest is that things happen and move on in the blink of an eye. So my first post is about these events.

1 The first thing concerns the lack of women in conservative ranks, and I wonder what all the fuss is about. After all, one of the key tenants of conservatism is an adversity to change and if it is needed, it should be incremental. The Coalition has always been a men’s club and the conservatives within it are the least likely to be abreast of changes in society and fight to the very end to protect the status quo.

When males talk about female representation within the Coalition they talk in terms, not of equality, but privilege. A few maybe, but not many. You see, the men of the Liberal and Country party’s have never really grown up.

It’s a problem they will take with them to the next election. 21 per cent of federal Liberal members are women. Labor has 44 per cent in the current Parliament. Fifty per cent of the Greens are women, but just 14 per cent of the Nationals (anyone surprised?)

The men of the Coalition still reside in their leather lounges of exclusive men’s clubs where the only thing that has changed is the ‘No Smoking’ signs that did the rounds of endless committee meetings before being approved. The difficulty being the science, of course.

2 Within a budget described by Ross Gittins as “too good to be true” a cut of $84 million to the ABC was to be found. That’s on top of the $284 million from the 2014 budget. It’s staggering that a government could extract such amounts from a public service that is the most trusted of all media outlets in the country. More so than any Murdoch owned rag that occupies a place in the media landscape of Australia.

But at the same time as committing this payback of political cowardice for doing their job, they had no compunction about giving Rupert Murdoch $30 million dollars with no strings attached. So lacking in any explanation, the $30 million can only be described as a gift or payout. But the answer to the question “what for?” will probably remain in the minds of men with hate on their lips and dollars in their heads.

Supposedly it is for TV network Foxtel to help promote “underrepresented sports including women’s sport”.

“We’re told the cuts to the ABC are about ‘efficiency’… wonder how the government will audit the appropriate (women’s sport) and efficient use of the $30 million grant to Foxtel,” the ABC’s economics correspondent Emma Alberici said in a recent tweet.

If my memory serves me correctly after last year’s budget when asked about the gift to Murdoch, Mitch Fifield was at a loss to explain just what the money was for. Embarrassingly so. He made a complete dick of himself when the shutters of “how dare you question me” sealed his lips.

Scarcely does one day bleed into the next that Fifield isn’t somewhere critiquing the ABC for those who might benefit both economically and politically from closing it down altogether. But then he is a member of the IPA who is dedicated to having “aunty” closed down. So to this day just why the grant was given remains unclear but it has that odour of the “c” word about it.

3 Corruption is a terrible thing. It impregnates all facets of society and spreads itself like rust on the body of a pre-40s Ford. Perhaps Boral should now be scrutinised in the same way the CFMEU, Bill Shorten and Labor were before a Royal Commission.

The decision to drop all charges against John Setka and Shaun Reardon further reinforces opinions that the $46 million Royal Commission was a set up and witch-hunt:

“The abandoning this morning of trumped up charges of blackmail … brings an end to a dark chapter in Australia’s union and political history.”

The fact that Tony Abbott and his government almost got away with it underpins my contention that our democracy is under threat. In trying to protect the big banks from a Royal Commission the people must surely see that our government is corrupt.

4 Having said all that, the government decided to approach its problems with a number of confessions. The Treasurer in one of his rare moments of lucidity decided that he should, after reviewing a windfall of revenue prior to the budget, never have repeatedly said that revenue was a problem. Suddenly, miraculously money started to flow into the government’s coffers. Nobody could have predicted it, it happened so fast.

He couldn’t just leave it all there to gather dust so he did what John Howard did in election years. He gave the punters tax cuts and scrapped the need for the Medicare levy.

Other confessions included they had been “lying” and Labor telling the truth for years about the funding for the NDIS. Not only that, Mathias Cormann then fessed-up that they should have had a Royal Commission into the banks two years ago. Financial Services Minister, Kelly O’Dwyer, has yet to confess to her wrongdoing but her time will come.

The sudden inflow of millions of dollars into Treasury is proof beyond doubt that Abbott, Hockey, Cormann, Morrisom and Turnbull had been concocting the story all along that we were saddled with momentous unfunded liabilities. The fact is, the money was there all along.

Well, I think that’s enough for one day. I will have more tomorrow. How they lie and get away with it is beyond me. But they do, and it shows up in the polling. So long as you repeat it often enough people will believe you. Fools do rush in. Until tomorrow.

My thought for the day.

”Lying in the media is wrong at any time however when they do it by deliberate omission it is even more so. Murdoch’s papers seem to do it with impunity.”

PS: “Its is a pity that the written word cannot convey the tone of the spoken one. It has to rely on the skill of the writer.”

A double agent in the house? It’s the least of our worries.

Loud hosannas resound in Canberra. Hallelujah. Could it be the joyous news that Harry and Meghan Markle will grace us with their royal presence at a charity polo match in Marvellous Melbourne early next year?

Or is it Dotard Trump’s Middle East diplomatic masterstroke? Swayed by Zionist lobbyists and fat-cat Republican donors’ demands he moves the US embassy to Jerusalem? Images of rioting, protesting Palestinians appear immediately. Any moment, son-in-law, slumlord Jared Kushner, will “deliver peace” in the Middle East on cue.

No. It’s our own joyous ritual bloodletting. The killing season is upon us. A PM should watch his back. Beware Daily Telegraph claims that Turnbull is “turning the tide on Labor”.  Which tide? A chorus of MSM hacks ignore NewsPoll and Ipsos showing the Coalition lagging Labor 47:53, while Essential has the government 45-55 to Labor.

Yet Turnbull insists he’s ending the year on a high. Even lurching from crisis to catastrophe, a Coalition government always gets a fabulous press. It has the best connections.

Or it just helps itself to credit due to others.  A week before parliament plunges into recess, the government covers itself in stolen glory. In a stunt worthy of a Mean Girls’ character, little Malco takes credit for the Yes vote himself, despite leaving all advocacy to others. It’s his big win. This does not endear him to any LGTBI advocates.

More worryingly, Turnbull shows no sense that the survey was a delaying stunt. Nor is there any hint he feels sorry – or some responsibility for all of the injury done. Mental health expert, Professor Patrick McGorry – reports that, for many, the campaign revived traumatic memories of bullying and discrimination they faced at school.

Online agencies report a similar pattern. Digital Youth service ReachOut, a Frontline Service which attracts 1.5 million unique visitors to its website annually, reports its online forums recorded a sharp increase in activity, with young gay people reporting feeling scared and tired of personal attacks.

Many other agencies report distress. A key source of psychological suffering stemmed from the flaw in the survey’s conception. Many share Dennis Halloran’s anger that other people get to vote about his personal life.

“It’s insulting,” says Halloran a voter in Turnbull’s Wentworth electorate . “I believe equality is a human right.”

In other aspects, Turnbull’s support of marriage equality is equivocal; inconsistent. In 1997, he wrote a case against a postal vote because “it flies in the face of Australian democratic values”. In 2012 in Julia Gillard’s conscience vote in parliament, he voted against marriage equality. Bill Shorten voted in favour.

Turnbull has not been honest about the concept. The postal survey was not Dutton’s idea but came from Andrew Laming, an MP who drew up many surveys, which, when trialled always managed to get a negative result.

Most tellingly, Turnbull has never been keen to canvass the thoughts and feelings of those whose interests and experiences are most relevant.   Last August he ignored calls to consult with the LGTBI community before introducing his postal survey which, in inception at least, was a Trojan horse to forestall marriage equality.

Congratulations? The PM will be lucky to receive a Mean Girls  Spring Fling plastic tiara a cheap, hollow crown.

Yet a euphoria descends upon weary but relieved yes supporters. Even IPA tool, former anti-human rights commission, human rights commissioner Tim Wilson proposes to partner Ryan mid-debate.

You can read it in Hansard. Then, quickly compartmentalising joy as all male-dominated outfits must; it moves on to pride. The Coalition channels its inner Trump, boasting over its glorious, historic victory in the New England by-election.

The Coalition  crows. Biggest swing to a sitting government in history, even if it must say so itself – repeatedly.

This “wasn’t a Newspoll”, this was “a real poll” shouts a PM whose credibility is in free fall as a nation has just seen him cynically cancel a week of parliament on the pretext of making room for marriage equality law-making. The hiatus is a desperate move to ensure his own political survival. So, too, is his over-promotion of Peter Dutto.

Yet joyous exultation froths out of the Liberal spin machine over the imminent elevation of our Lord High Protector Peter “Spud” Dutton to his new Home Affairs gig. His installation is fast-tracked not by popular demand but by Turnbull’s need to appease right wing party bullies intent on total domination via ownership of the PM.

Dutto, too, kicks along the nation’s ersatz euphoria as Dastyari-bashing, a national blood-sport, is back in season.

“Sam Dastyari is a Chinese spy. A double agent”, dirty Dutto dog-whistles in Question Time. It’s a slur speaker Tony Smith doesn’t hear, he says, but it’s clear enough to 2GB listeners when Dutto first makes it a week earlier.

“You can’t have a double agent in the Australian parliament. It’s simply not good enough, Ray.”  

Government MPs love a lynch mob – especially with a racist vibe. All week, MPs pile on; raid the Liberals’ stock of Yellow Peril formula from the Cold War to whip up a fresh brew of Sinophobia. They howl Dastyari down, a Labor traitor in our midst, while putting the wind up the 44341 Bennelong residents who identify as Chinese-Australians.

Political piñata he may be, but Dastyari’s bashing goes too far. And not just in Sydney. China is “astonished” by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s statements which risk “poisoning” our bilateral relationship.

Less puzzled, however, is Martin McKenzie Murray who reports in The Saturday Paper that senior Labor Party figures believe the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) leaked the audio of Sam Dastyari’s 2016 press conference in front of Chinese media, but possibly did so following pressure from a disgruntled US.

Like the giant panda in the room, the issue of how the media gained report of Dastyari’s diabolical treachery is largely ignored in our MSM. A security agency’s spook may have leaked intelligence to the media in order to damage Dastyari and Labor but the story of the week has been largely ignored, save by McKenzie-Murray.

A hostile US embassy concerned with Labor’s links to China – and a willingness to co-operate may have stitched up Sam – and his PM.

How this Chinese-whisper stacks up against Andrew Robb, for example, or countless other money-grubbing Coalition figures is problematic. Dastyari’s breach of protocol is nowhere as serious, for example,  as Stuart Robert who, as assistant minister of defence, oversaw a mining deal between Nimrod Resources – run by his close friend, major Liberal Party donor Paul Marks – and the Chinese government-owned company Minmetals.

In a review conducted by Prime Minister and Cabinet (PMC)head, Dr Martin Parkinson, it was found that Mr Robert had acted inconsistently with the Statement of Ministerial Standards, if unwittingly. Parkinson also notes Mr Robert appears not to have received any financial benefit from the deal. Unlike Andrew Robb.

Andrew Robb’s contract with Chinese company Landridge, a document shrouded in confidentiality,  effectively guarantees him $800,000 per year with little in the way of prescribed, part-time  duties, – beginning shortly after he left parliament in 2016 – a contract revealed by Fairfax Media and Four Corners in June.

Billionaire Ye Cheng owns Landridge, which controversially acquired a 99-year lease for the Port of Darwin in 2015. In brief, any investigation of China’s influence in Australia would begin with far bigger firms and entrepreneurs.

And agents. McKenzie Murray reports sources who suggest that the damaging leak against Dastyari may arise from his association with Chinese businessman Huang Xiangmo. ASIO had forewarned major parties Huang was a likely agent for the Chinese Communist Party. Some suggest the NSW Right may have leaked the story.

A separate leak against Shorten was made quickly after the Dastyari tape went public. The Opposition leader is reported to have visited Huang prior to the federal election – months after an ASIO warning – for a campaign donation. The NSW Right may have leaked to warn Shorten to acquiesce with the pro-China faction.

All of this is damaging to Labor. Yet more than some of the story beggars belief.

Getting great airplay in parliament and in MSM is the PM’s story that Dastyari visited Huang at his home. He suggested to Huang that his phone may be tapped, or its microphone remotely activated. The story depends on the willing suspension of belief that neither man would simply turn his phone off.

Or that neither uses Telegram or some similarly secure popular messaging device. But we mustn’t spoil the story.

Being bugged by a phone which is  turned off taps vast reserves of fiendish oriental cunning and other Sinophobic prejudices. It is also fed by popular mythology of all-pervasive, ruthless modern cyber espionage, currently fanned to fever pitch by dynamic Dan Tehan and his PM on behalf of a government keen to crank up fear of Cyber-attack.

Hysteria beckons. MSM report stories of people fearing they are being spied on by their microwave ovens.

The attacks on Sam are problematic. It is unwise, however enjoyable, to speculate on motivation. Yet they are odd and appear orchestrated.  Are they US inspired? Shopping a spook – or a double agent could help the coalition show its fealty to the US and also be part of an attack on Shorten, an MP who has been pilloried mercilessly since Abbott in a prolonged and damaging process of character assassination and personal slur.

What is alarming is the number of MSM stories which now suggest Shorten faces troubling times.  Even more disturbing is Peter Dutton’s promise that he has more dirt to dish on Dastyari.

There will be more revelations to come out on shady Dastyari, he threatens in that menacing generality one expects from a super minister about to run a Home Affairs super ministry. Or a drug cop about to fit you up.

Huge damage has been done, despite Labor’s strong opinion polling. So effective has coalition sledging been, alone, the name “Bill Shorten” has in some contexts become a type of gag-line; a means to invoke derision or worse. Barnaby Joyce loves to make himself useful with such attacks. Nationals exist to bait Labor.

“You might be leader of the Labor Party, but it looks like you’ve never done a day’s labour in your life.

“He couldn’t run a pie shop and the thought of him running the country fills me with dread.”

Lapdog Barnaby is eager to follow Turnbull’s lead in preferring personal insult to political debate. Character assassination takes far less preparation than refutation or rebuttal or any other of the arts of debate. Far more damaging, too.

Yet there’s another twist. Mal’s cunning plan is to crank up the war on Dastyari to smooth the passage of a bill or several –he talks loosely of laws – which will restrict foreign influence- not just Chinese interference- while it prevents charities from advocacy (which entails criticising government policy) and nobbles GetUp!

More worrying is that the new legislation appears directed against Sam Dastyari, our Labor opponent du jour.

“In my view, the conduct alleged against him does not reach the threshold of the existing laws of treason and espionage, but that is why we are introducing – because of the gap in those laws, a new offence of unlawful foreign interference,” argues Attorney-General Brandis, a Queensland QC who argued in August that ignorance would save Barnaby Joyce.

Ironically, Australia takes further moves to silence dissent and to diminish agencies of advocacy or criticism, while China, with a long history of such measures  including persecution of dissidents, is quick to voice its displeasure.

Yet Turnbull’s gone overboard – or thrown the Dastyari out with the bath water. Whipping up anti-Dastyari hysteria so keenly as to offend a major trading partner amounts, is another poor judgement call from the PM. Happily the Liberals’ broad church can celebrate Barnaby’s brain farts instead.

Joyce to the world. Barnaby is not just Tamworth’s Salvator Mundi, says the PM although BJ says he’s no saint.

New England writs return in record time; Turnbull urgently needs BJ’s vote. By Wednesday, Joyce’s back at the despatch box ranting at Labor in a mongrel attack bagging Shorten for not sending MPs straight to the High Court .

 “Even after seeing the decision in the High Court where it is black and white, they (Labor) still made it a resolve of theirs to hide, to obfuscate and treat us all as fools,” he thunders his face all beetroot borscht and no cream.

“To Mr Shorten, to the Labor Party, to those being led around by the nose by the Labor Party, who actually took them on good faith to what they told you. I think now is the time that you should truly hold the Labor Party under the tutelage of Mr Bill Shorten well and truly to account.”   

There’s more of this from the former bean counter but the jig is up. Joyce is rewriting history. Preposterous is his outrageous claim that his delayed appearance in the High Court was not an attempt to hide, obfuscate and treat judges like fools. But he knows, as well as his government’s dirt unit, that it’s the big lies that work best.

Mangling syntax, forging tortuous metaphors, BJ rivals Bob Katter for wrangling language into nonsense.  Barnaby has his own wordsmithing ways and he’s not afraid to enter the smithy. Even if it gets him into serious trouble.

In October 2014, Barnaby corrected Hansard  His drought assistance answer claimed farmers received immediate help. He added disclaimers and qualifiers – “unless it is a new application,” and “if you were also a recipient of the Interim Farm Household Allowance”. He later had the changes struck out, blaming his staff for the error.

In  March 2015 his secretary Paul Grimes wrote to the now-Deputy Prime Minister telling him he “no longer [had] confidence in [his] capacity to resolve matters relating to integrity” with him. Grimes resigned. Fudging Hansard is probably not something to put on a CV but Barnaby’s absolved of all sin by his latest, greatest, glorious win.

The government has Joyce sworn in just before Question Time Wednesday and uses his crucial vote to stymie Labor’s attempt to send a joint referral of its current crop of nine MPs with dual citizenship to the High Court.

Turnbull does another flip-flop, back-flip. His political gymnastics are guaranteed to convey stability; strength.

For all its hype about a bipartisan resolution of the citizenship crisis , the government is now adamant that only Labor MP David Feeney and senator Katy Gallagher will be referred to the High Court. Given a chance to clear up an unpopular and time-consuming crisis, Malcolm Turnbull has chosen to prolong it indefinitely.

Yet, just as big, is the news of the elevation of Liberal top banana, former QLD drug squaddie “Dirty” Peter Dutton.

Riding high on the runaway success of his off-shore detention regime of deterrence and the genius of his Manus’ final solution, Dirty Dutto’s long overdue promotion to a Home Office super-ministry is tipped for 17 December.

The move strengthens talk that Santorin George Brandis, our Attorney-General, will slope off to Old Blighty to replace High Commissioner to the UK Alexander Downer even if he does have to evict Downer kicking and screaming out of his High Commissioner’s mansion. At least Theresa May will receive some free entertainment.

Yet Dutto has a tough gig. Long overdue is Australia’s response to the UN Human Rights Committee, a body which harshly condemns of Australia for failing in its treatment of refugees, Indigenous rights and inadequate protection of human rights, including the lack of a national human rights act.  On past form, Dutto will ignore all this.

His pal Tony Abbott provides a clue. Going on the offensive, Abbott declared that we were sick of being lectured to when a 2015 UN report found Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers breaches an international anti-torture convention. It was just after he called Professor Gillian Triggs report on children in detention a stitch-up.

The UN’s special rapporteur on torture finds Australia is violating the rights of asylum seekers on multiple fronts under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, a notion which Eric Abetz calls deluded when Tasmanian Senator Lisa Singh repeats it on ABC Q&A last Monday.

Dutto will be champing to get this bit between his teeth. His  super ministry will combine Australian Federal Police (AFP), spy agency Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), and the Australian Border Force (ABF).

But the week has a happy ending after all.

All hail New England’s conquering hero, former dual Kiwi, bar-storming, Barnaby Joyce, a man of the Tamworth world, who returns to Canberra in a blaze of glory, a cloud of bull-dust and his Akubra Cattleman hat. He’s back in parliament in a flash. His government’s majority rides on his RM Williams hand-tooled dynamic flex boots.

A boisterous, brawling government is abuzz with something more than the size of the New Election by-election win, a win which Turnbull instantly appropriates for the coalition – as he does with the marriage equality Yes vote.

Meanwhile, true-blue, Aussie battler and patriot Barnaby is pitted against Sam Dastyari public enemy number one.

Or that’s this week’s national mythic contest. It doesn’t pay to look closely. Barnaby may be Australia’s best retail politician but he’s a mining lobbyist who would help pollute the Great Artesian Basin, the world’s largest and deepest and our island continent’s biggest water source is extolled as a paragon of Aussie loyalty and fidelity.

“If you want to focus on the person in the weatherboard and iron they will give you the grace of their vote,” says the MP with a touch of Huey Long a politician who like Donald Trump appeals to the battlers and does nothing for them. And almost everything against them. Barnaby’s backers include billionaire Gina Rinehart

A deputy PM in charge of resources and water, he has no issue with spruiking for Santos on the local radio despite the damage done by fracking to local water.

Amidst the crush to cheer on Barnaby and install him in Tamworth’s pantheon as a cultural icon and appropriate his victory as the greatest swing to a sitting government ever, a frantic Canberra reaches fever pitch Thursday as religious freedom fears or time-wasting “pious amendments” such as Tony Abbott proposes are brushed aside and it becomes legal for same sex couples to marry. The winners’ circle is swamped by raucous gate-crashers.

Much of the ruckus is joyous celebration over the removal of an injustice and the recognition of a human right but there is also a desperate rush by a crush of unlikely MPs – rent-seekers eager to claim the victory of marriage equality, hitch their star to true-blue Barnaby’s iconic victory – while Dutton’s hot-eyed zealots pool resources, horses, water and feed and prepare to run any double agents right out of town.

Activists, lefties, greenies, advocates and dissidents all need to sit up and take notice.

 

Day to Day Politics: I think Turnbull has taken them for a ride. He conned them.

Saturday 21 October 2017

1 There are times in political life when an argument becomes exhausted. When all that can be said, has been. Because of political expediency the common good is overlooked: replaced by self-interest.

It is a time when the opposition needs to take stock and consider the public interest. It is now time for Labor to do a deal on an Energy Policy. Yes, there are disadvantages but if they negotiate with forethought there are many positives.

What the Coalition has presented is a policy based on the opinions of three heads of energy departments. The nuts and bolts we have yet to see, so Labor is entitled to criticise as much as it wants. That’s what oppositions are for.

Its fair game at the moment but Shorten needs to decide if he wants to continue with the energy/climate wars or does Labor want to present itself as the appeaser? Continuing with this trench warfare could do more harm than good. By speaking the truth they would receive enough kudos.

Some will want to fight with the hope that Turnbull is crushed by his own internal in fighting, but in my view this is a forlorn hope. Better to do a deal and go forward by making it patently clear that if they are elected there will be changes. They can always increase the emissions target and ramp up renewables at a later date.

The renewables industry will read between the lines of what that means and they can invest with certainty either way. According to the Essential survey support for renewables and an emissions target was around 68%. So the public gets it.

In any case the thrust of Labor’s argument can be made over time and evolve into an election policy.

Shorten should wait until everything, every detail is disclosed then interrogate Turnbull with the view to pointing out the weaknesses , if any, and then negotiate. Don’t allow it to look like a policy success. If it can easily be shown as dud then he can walk away from it in good faith. If it is sound then the national interest should take precedence.

Although the Coalition is dismissing Labor’s accusation that their policy is in effect a carbon price by another name. Which is true. And the chief of the Australian Energy Council, Matthew Warren, yesterday said it was and Hugh Grossman of RepuTex was of the same view.

Sean Kelly in The Monthly Today warned that:

“This is where Labor needs to tread carefully. There is a constructive reason for Labor to raise this, as well as a destructive reason.

Let’s start with the destructive one, which is obvious: to stir up trouble in the Coalition party room by convincing pro-coal and anti-renewable MPs that they’ve been masterfully conned by the not-a-real-conservative Malcolm Turnbull into supporting a carbon price.

Some of Labor’s attacks today headed in that direction, by explicitly referring to Liberal divisions, or by making it a focus of attack in Question Time.

If the Opposition has decided it has no interest in agreeing to the PM’s climate policy, then fine. There are advantages to delivering certainty, but then there are also significant weaknesses in this policy, so if the Opposition has decided its approach is to create maximum havoc, then I can’t really find a moral reason to tell it not to.

But – and this is a massive but – if Bill Shorten and his team have decided, or might be in the process of deciding, that they want a deal, then now is the time to back the hell away.”

Turnbull – when being interviewed yesterday morning – went out of his way to say that this wasn’t a carbon price policy but when the dunderheads on the back bench finally open their eyes to the fact that he has conned them, all hell might break loose.

And if they do a deal Labor will be able to say that the Coalition has gone the full cycle and arrived back at a carbon price.

Nobody believes the fanciful figures that power bills will be cut between $100 and $115 a year between 2020 and 2030.

They made a mistake by plucking that figure out of a hat. No one can guarantee anything that far ahead. Why do governments continue to treat us like fools when we aren’t.

2 Whilst Australia’s employment rate of 5.5% in September hit a four-year low the big concern is that full-time jobs seem to be almost a thing of the past. Sure, creating 19,800 jobs might seem fantastic but the reality is that only 6,100 were full-time. It seems that the structure of Australian jobs is rapidly changing. As good as the figures look the fact remains that for every job there are 17 people wanting it. Entry level jobs for young people we have five applicants for every job.Not to forget the number wanting more work.

3 Peter Dutton’s “Immigration Bill”, or citizenship crackdown, died an instant death in the Senate when they realised they didn’t have the numbers. And so it should have. Anything this minister handles has the stench of his filthy hands on it and this negative bill was just another attempt to demoralise people: to make them feel inferior. It’s the Dutton trademark.

My thought for the day

“Turnbull’s elevation to Prime Minister brought with it some expectation of civility of discourse. I had hoped that it might also bring an element of truth but it seems my hope has been shattered. Nothing has changed.”

PS: Last week I suggested that the PM would release his Energy Policy the same day the High Court released its findings on the status of 7 politicians eligibility to sit in parliament.

I confess I was wrong.

 

The Corporatization of Women

Before I go here, let us agree to lay our weapons at the door and seat ourselves quietly and not interrupt until the speaker is done … agreed?

Right … let me make an observation about the outrage and disgust concerning certain male behaviour, not naming those individuals accused, for they have to answer for their own crimes, but as for the heterosexual male of the species in general, we have to ask: “Why do we sometimes act so stupidly around women?” Now, I admit I am entering dangerous territory with this article … but let’s start a conversation anyway.

So let us begin:

There was a time in the mid-sixties – and right into the seventies – where young males (myself included) grew their hair very long and individual styled, and wore radical coloured and styled clothing that outraged the older males in society and there were frequent bashings and abuse and homophobic accusations committed against many of those young men … even to the point of sackings from their jobs. For a while there, it was full-on. This attitude and the abandoning of the old social mores and habits of employment led many young people to opt out and start collective life-styles in out of the way places … I helped build several mud-brick structures-including my own in these communities.

Of course, males and females both joined in the search for a different, “better” lifestyle. Places like Nimbin in NSW became one of the most famous, but there were many. Unfortunately, the fact that there was only the one generation to sustain the dream left it vulnerable to economic necessity and open to a decay of entropy through generational change and loss of sustained enthusiasm.

The need for one or other of the partnership to go out for work re-introduced “role-structure” back into the home. And since children came along with usual progress, the male mostly assumed … again … the role of “bread-winner”. This situation, once women had finally taken the early steps in the sixties toward liberation from male-dependency in economics and marriage, naturally bred resentment and more radical liberation theory and practice. The conservative mood of politics in the Menzies/Fraser governments exacerbated the anger … a ready pool of misogynist males in media and the workplace and in many social circles did more damage. There were those men who did support women’s liberation who often found themselves lumped together with the worst of the worst of the males … of course … how does one discriminate this from that of a herd of similar gender … and if those particular males did make their voice heard, they were many times attacked by other males with more aggression both verbally and physically.

A “lose-lose” situation …

A tragic end to a noble ideology.

But now the political theatre is shifting the plot … changing the scenery … With the rise of social media putting a spotlight on the gender inequality, those female “assistants” to media front-men “news anchors” have gained their voice. No longer the petite “bimbo” or the older “classy dame” to attract the early rising “sportsmen” of the breakfast shows, we are seeing stylish women making conversation in many platforms at equal level to the males … certainly … we have to acknowledge that mostly there is a male “behind the scenes” either owning or overseeing the network. But gone mostly are the likes of Kerry Packer’s shouting abuse and sexism into the intercom phones. All is certainly not equal (as can be seen by the recent gross accusations in the news) but the lumbering wagon has been set in motion.

However, this is an early-warning call to women … and I give it as a male who has lived through those years of suspicion, threat, abuse and retaliation by other males against what is seen as revolution against “the norm” … I am seeing the early warning signs of the “Corporatizing of Women” …

Corporation:

noun: corporation; plural noun: corporations

  1. 1.

a large company or group of companies authorized to act as a single entity and recognized as such in law.

“the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation”

synonyms:company, firm, business, concern, operation, agency, office, bureau, house, guild, institution, organization, trust, partnership, federation, conglomerate, consortium, syndicate, group, chain, combine, multiple, multinational; More

informaloutfit, set-up

“he was chairman of the corporation for three years”

  1. 2.

British

a group of people elected to govern a city, town, or borough.

“the City of London Corporation”

synonyms:council, town council, municipal authority, civic authority;

authorities

“the corporation refused two planning applications”

 

As political power is not only gained, but recognised to be present and available to those who “seize the day”, one finds that strangely, that power seems only to gravitate toward a certain group of citizens … not to the collective … and from that certain self-elected group, there comes forward certain “authorised” edits and demands of behaviour, language, style and conformity to protocol. In short; the febrile energy of the mass is gathered to a central power of management … a corporation.

Nothing, neither masculine stupidity at high-governance, macho brutality at low socio-economic levels nor any religion foolish enough to demand obedience to their patriarchal God will slow down this “Vishnu’s Juggernaut” from rightfully taking what is theirs by human destiny.

“What is born of equal pain has right to equal reign.“

But I tell you this for free … there are those in these groups, of either gender, who do not hold the best interests of the whole group, no matter the ethical philosophy, in their hearts. Many good, sensitive males have been crushed and destroyed by those men of power who know how to hold onto that power, and neither wisdom, faith nor decency has been able to save them. Ladies … watch your backs!

I would always gratefully stand to one side to let those most qualified do the task … but I do have regrets that when we boomers had our moment in the sun, and we shed those chains of social bondage in regards of work, play and life-style, we did not also take the opportunity to once and for all rid ourselves of this ponderous burden of gender oppression and religious patriarchy … we blokes should’a seen it right there in front of us … and we should have busted the bastards!

With just a bit more sacrifice we could have all been free! … But were too drunk on our own vain masculinity to comprehend the state of our sisters plight in our midst … fools that we were. Now we pay the price.

Mea culpa.

On one side the night so dark

South Australia was founded on the philosophic ideas of a degenerate, financed by the money of an opportunist, bailed out by the taxpaying British public and eventually prospered on the money of speculating aspirants. What sort of government would eventually grow from such riff-raff? Answer: An LNP government.

When it comes to choosing what type of person is suitable to govern a nation at election time, we are presented with a variety of choices, and if we look closely at those choices, it appears that the “preferred option” is a well-educated (as in private school/sandstone university), well-spoken (as in good English), well-dressed and morally reasonable personality. A bit of a “rat-bag” (Katter?) is OK, as is a “English as a second language” migrant – as long as they can get their message across – but one thing is noticeable by it’s impressionability, and that, at least amongst the males – and I would imagine similar with the women – is the “suit”.

We seem to luurrrve the “man in the suit”, be he the biggest bullshit artist in the country (Turnbull), the biggest con-artist in the country (Turnbull), or even the most mealy-mouth bastard in the country (Turnbull; 3 out of 3!). As long as he has “university cred” (preferably Oxford or Cambridge – but Harvard will now suffice – for the agile aspirants!) and an inherited or self-made fortune which gives the impression that he is not in the job for the money …

BULLSHIT!!!! Complete bullshitt with the double “t”.

nam dives qui fieri vult, et cito vult fieri“: for the one who wishes to become rich quickly (Juvenal).

We have fallen for this old chestnut again and again. Why? Because it is the “image perfect” for the “lady and gentleman” we, as a nation of aspirants seem to aspire to be: the image of success. God it’s horrible to watch … like a train wreck in slow motion. Let me tell you of the establishment of the colony of South Australia as an example.

Edward Gibbon Wakefield … a man who disgraces the first two names in his identity. The man was a disgrace all ‘round. A swindler, liar, fraud, pedophile and crook. It is of no wonder he was adopted by the aspiring men as a shining example of their class to write the formulae for the establishment of a “free enterprise” colony.

In 1829, the very year in which Thomas Peel’s colonists were being dumped down at Fremantle, West Australia, a man of thirty was busily writing in a room in Newgate Prison, in London. He was in prison because he had through a devious ruse: abducted a school-girl and “married” her at Gretna Green. But he was not treated like a convict. He could obtain books and pens and paper, as influential prisoners could in those days. He was writing a little book which was published in 1829. He called this book “A Letter from Sydney”, (although he had never been near Sydney, nor out of Europe). But he wrote so well and so brightly, including little bits of goss’ and “racy tales” that many people thought his book was the work of a man who had been living in Sydney for years, and who knew a great deal about Australia.

He proposed starting a new colony built on the idea of speculation and aspiration, with the proposition that:

“You must never sell land in a new colony except at a fairly high price. He called it a ‘sufficient price’. And he meant a price sufficient to prevent labourers from buying it easily. This would secure a supply of labour. When any land was sold—either to labourers who had saved money, or to emigrants who possessed money—the proceeds were to be used to bring out more labourers. No more land was to be given away, or granted cheaply, as in Western Australia.”

You start to get the idea … sounds familiar, doesn’t it? The object being that a labourer (and that title in those days included everybody who earned money for their work), if he had enough money to by his little piece of land when he reached the colony, would not be available to work for a “gentleman” for a measly wage, but would work his own land, and: “… his master would be left servantless. So the kind of life that an English gentleman loved—with plenty of (cheap) labour at hand—was impossible in Australia”.

This is the sort of bastard sets the example of those “born to rule”. Enter;George Fife Angus.

In 1834, an Act of Parliament was passed, which carved 300,000 square miles out of New South Wales, and established the colony of South Australia. But the British Government would not finance the new colony. Indeed, it might have well been a still-birth had not a wealthy financier. George Fife Angus stepped up and was appointed to a “Board of Commissioners”. He put up a surety of 200,000 pounds and the South Australia Company was formed with a prospectus enticing investors to buy into the project.

Eventually, two shiploads of ill-informed, ill-equipted “colonists” found their way to land at Kangaroo Island. The hopelessness of that as a colony capital was soon established. There was absolutely no information on the location suitable for settlement save Captain Charles Sturt’s notes on his Murray River trip. The whole fiasco was a gamble … a speculation … I leave the readers imagination to create the scene upon those two ships when the “investors” started to realise just who was in charge of their lives and fortunes in this strange land.

Fortunately, Colonel William Light – the surveyor with the party – reviled by the authority (Governor Hindmarsh), chose the present site of Adelaide as the best location to set up shop. He was chastised and challenged all along the way by those most incompetent Commissioners, and as Don Dunstan explained when he too was vilified by the “Powers that be” of also being a ” Melanesian half-caste bastard”, but he held fast and the site was settled. Eventually after a number of conflicts, a new Governor was sent and he (Governor Gawler), tried to organise the colony. However, no sooner had land been surveyed and sold, there began a chaos of land speculation:

“They had guarded against the lack of labour by sending out work-men, and by keeping up the price of land. (Later it was raised from 12s. to £1 per acre.) What they could not guard against was the desire of people to get rich quickly. Land was sold and the money was sent to England. More people came out and wanted to buy more land. But they wanted to buy it close to Adelaide and not far away from town. So the people who had bought land near the town sold it again for higher prices. Then began a wild rush of buying up land, not to cultivate, but to sell it again at a higher price. This is what is called speculation, or, sometimes, ‘a land boom’. We have had many outbreaks of it in Australia and nearly always it has resulted in misery and unemployment. But it is very hard to stop. With no farming going on, the immigrant labourers could get no work, and so they flocked to Adelaide and demanded food from the Governor. But food was hard to get. Very little of it was being grown in South Australia, and it had to be brought from New South Wales and Tasmania …”

Now we are getting into very familiar territory; the chaos of free enterprise.

The upshot of it all was that there being no farming done to employ or sufficiently feed the labourers. Governor Gawler put the men to work on civic construction – roads and buildings. – but with an empty treasury, he had to write out “promissory notes” (rubber cheques) to cover wages and goods. These notes, once presented for payment back in England were promptly dishonoured, and Gawler pissed off back home and the British Government was forced to honour the nearly 300,000 pounds owing and to take control of the colony just six years after it was formed. But that is how entrepreneurial speculation inevitably ends; the project is a disaster and the taxpayer is forced to pick up the tab either through gross incompetence or manipulative politics.

And there is where we will leave those floundering colonists..luckily the discovery of large tracts of copper ore saved the colony from bankruptcy..the gamble paid off…an early example of the “just in time” principle of survival capitalism which is then, through sheer blind luck claimed as “well planned management”.

And here we are in the twenty-first century, with another cycle of colonisation … not by an imperial power, but by mega corporations … with an administration called the “LNP Government” run by the same sort of gormless fools that ran the first … with the same principles but instead of depriving the Indigenous peoples of their lands, they now are in the process of depriving all the citizenry of their sovereignty. It is a colonisation of a different kind with the taxpayer still picking up the tab. And you can pin epaulets on their shoulders, gold-braid and medals upon their chests … you can string a long line of letters after their names and call them “sir” or “lady” … but they are still f#ckers and dickheads!

The selection of who to represent us in Canberra must no longer be chosen from the stupid, the fraudsters, the treasonous who received their coaching from the most exclusive schools and universities. They have betrayed their obligations. The future leaders must be chosen from the skilled trades and practical professions like nursing and engineering etc. We cannot risk our future with unskilled fools and speculating criminals from that class of degenerates who most believe they are “born to rule”.

They must be sent back to be retrained for at least something useful.

This article was originally published on freefall852.wordpress.com.

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Turnbull fails reset as Trump dumps on US-Australia relations.

It’s fake news. After a shocking week in which Australia has its nose rubbed publicly in its own mess by the US, Donald Trump makes Islamophobia official US policy, threatens to invade Mexico and our PM confesses he paid $1.75m out of his own Cayman Island account to buy his own mandate – as you do- a grateful nation can at last heave a sigh of relief. Malcolm’s incredible slap-down – and its leaking to the Washington Post never happened.  Hit the reset button.

Surely Malcolm Turnbull would provoke no-one to hang up on him – not even a fellow egotist. As Phillip Adams puts it.  “ …Turnbull doesn’t suffer fools, the only problem is that to Malcolm we are all fools” while Peta Credlin observes a rich businessman turned politician who can bully and leak is hardly new to politics.  But it never happened, OK?

Relief comes late in the week from the man who has changed US diplomacy to 140 characters or less. US President and  playground bully, Donald Trump tweets that “fake media has lied” about “a very civil exchange” over what he still calls “a dumb deal”; “the worst deal ever” to swap our largely Muslim refugees for US Latinos, a deal he views with extreme prejudice, calculated ignorance and stupidity.  “They want to send us the next Boston bombers.”

Eureka! Scott Morrison high-fives Peter Dutton. The pernicious lie that our refugees are terrorists is one their party has actively fostered for years along with the myth that turning away refugees reduces the chance of terrorist attack.

No matter, moreover, that the Boston bombers were Chechen migrants, a people excluded from Trump’s Islamophobic travel ban. Mad Mullah Morrison rushes back to his 2GB pulpit to praise the US travel fatwa which excludes Trump’s business pals, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia and Afghanistan.

“We have got a good history around this and really the rest of the world is catching up to Australia now,” ScoMo crows.

It’s a lie Turnbull told at the UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants last September. That “good history” has cost us a massive $9.6 billion in three years, not to mention the incalculable cost to Australia’s reputation, putting us in breach of international human rights law 40 times. Children have fled conflict; sought our asylum –  only to be illegally detained for years in conditions which expose them daily to abuse, neglect and violence.

Oddly, information about our “good history”: is suppressed. Criminal sanctions apply to anyone who reports abuse on Nauru and Manus. Good history? In a world which has over 21 million refugees, Australia takes 13750 annually.

But it’s all sweet, now The Donald makes nice. White House Press Secretary Sean “Slice-n-dice” Spicer stresses in a presser, Friday, that the US will honour the deal “in some way”. “We’re going to vet these people in accordance with the agreement that happened and we’ll continue to have further updates as we do,” says a man whose debut was to convey “alternative facts” to boost the size of his President’s inauguration crowd. What could possibly go wrong?

Being Trump-chumped takes the gloss off born diplomat Turnbull’s master-stroke of the week. He’s rebooting and reinventing himself. Again. Hacks helpfully remind us Kerry Packer once threatened to kill him. Hairy-chested Malcolm threatened to whack Packer back. Turnbull hagiographer, Annabel Crabb records his response: “Well, you’d better make sure that your assassin gets me first because, if he misses, you better know I won’t miss you.” Such a way with words.

It is going to be a big speech. Huge. A nation is on tenterhooks; walking on egg-shells, awaiting the master tactician’s much-vaunted reboot at the National Press Club Wednesday. Everything is put on hold. Somehow the windy, wittering, toff-waffler will pull out all his stops in a heart-warming, soul stirring; inspiring, visionary, headland speech.

A bold new policy agenda has been slow-cooking in the Point Piper kitchen where Turnbull’s inner circle holds court under former Sydney Mayor Lucy who wields the wooden spoon, helped by the unimpeachable Arthur “safe pair of hands” Sinodinos, numbers man James McGrath, whose maiden speech called for the sale of the ABC and “keep Tertiary policy out of the campaign”, anti-Gonski Education Minister Simon Birmingham.

Malcolm will descend from the mount like Moses. Or so we are led to believe by the  army of scribblers contemporary LNP PMs can count on to puff any little fluff into a divine wind. Especially Turnbull, Australia’s eternally re-rising, self-saucing soufflé. Gunner Turnbull is always in the wings somewhere, about to morph into Super Mal. Some Press Gallery hacks make Apple fanboys look fickle. Yet, now, even Laurie Oakes calls for Turnbull to TPP or get off the pot.

Unaccountably, Turnbull’s address is a Fizza; another grab bag of flatulent platitudes, false or meaningless assertions and hollow boasts – “we are the most successful multicultural society in the world.”  Plumbs new depths even for a PM whose ear for rousing speech is pure tin. Who else could draw attention to his own dullness?

“Balancing the budget can sound a bit prosaic – something to satisfy the tidy instincts of the bean counters – but it is a profound moral issue,” he waffles.

Who else but Turnbull could seek the high moral ground as he churns out Liberal fiscal fetishism, an affliction which goes back all the way to Peter Costello’s “black hole”? Forget that deficit spending got us out of a hole in the GFC.  No matter that balancing the budget is irresponsible economic nonsense, a type of voodoo now widely held, along with austerity budgeting, to have dragged Europe into deflationary quicksand. It’s become a Liberal article of faith. The PM is giving his party what he thinks they want to hear.

Budget balancing is a profound moral issue? God help all of us -even the bean counters. Nothing about a fair and just society, arresting the galloping inequality fostered by decades of neoliberal stupidity and rule by mining, business and finance lobby which is irreparably destroying our social fabric? Nothing about the dire need to release 1250 refugees detained illegally on Manus and Nauru, islands of abuse and torture which infect our body politic and demean us all?

A pregnant Kuwaiti woman detained on Nauru, hostage to our own xenophobes’ morally bankrupt domestic political agenda urgently needs hospital treatment. Help is held up on the whim of our combined Border Force and Immigration department before she is flown to The Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital for treatment. Peter Dutton says nothing lest people smugglers update their business model. An 82 strong communications unit helps him keep stumm.

Turnbull needs a word with his wordsmiths. They’ve helped him over-promise and under-deliver. Again. Context is not so easily ignored. Turnbull’s empty rhetoric is upstaged by such pressing realities as his war on the poor and the vulnerable under Centrelink’s Robo-debt Clawback while corporations avoid tax. Education is now reduced to bean counting. Health is all flexible delivery options while pensioners put off doctor’s visits they can’t afford and people die on gurneys. Newly appointed Health Band-Aid, Greg Hunt wants a US-style system, a prescription for disaster.

Even Peta Credlin, who suffered Abbott’s agonising 2015 reset can tell Turnbull his “… speech lacked a plan, and clear deliverables, to demonstrate to ordinary people that the government was focused on the things that matter to them.”

A final word on Turnbull’s high-sounding nonsense. Australia is “A beacon of harmony in the midst of diversity, founded on a deep tradition of mutual respect in a world of rising intolerance.” It must be why we are cherry-picking Christian refugees from Syria. Canada has rescued 800 times as many. Turnbull’s words help explain why last September, Essential pollsters found 49% of respondents in favour of a ban on Muslim immigration.

Turnbull tricks up his makeover with ornate garnish but nothing can disguise stale leftovers. His speech serves up his dud 2016 policies and warns us off Bill Shorten and Labor who will trash our energy security and give us big power bills with their mad belief in renewables. It’s rehashed and reheated with a fresh topping of unicorn droppings; new clean coal. Clean coal is a fiction; a climate-denier’s fantasy. A Jay Gatsby, the rock of Malcolm Turnbull’s world is fastened securely to a fairy’s wing.

Just as with Abbott before him, nothing can save the PM from his re-set failure, not even the whole Liberal front bench, it seems, a nodding, smiling claque, a unique and disturbing- turn of events in itself. Yet luckily, the rest of the week in politics is utterly consumed by the scandalous canard that Trump has hung up in Turnbull’s ear; called his refugee resettlement deal “dumb”, the “worst possible deal”.  Apologists are all over this like a rash.

Turnbull has the guts to stand up for his nation sucks Mark Kenny, doubtless eyeing off the PM’s media backgrounders’ stock PR image  in Saturday’s The Age, again. The PM is depicted bolt upright, jaw down, a deal-broking pose, dwarfed by a clunky handset from a fixed line telephone that appears to pre-date John Howard. It looks as if the PM is jumping to attention at the sound of his master’s voice. Or he’s strayed into a remake of Get Smart.

Turd polishers and pig lipstick appliers go into overdrive. Laurie Oakes sees the great vacillator “showing his mettle” while for The Guardian Australia’s Jacqueline Maley, Turnbull is the “grey rock” of textbook responses to malignant narcissists. Much speculation ensues. Did Turnbull stand his ground?  Will the deal proceed?  It seems highly unlikely. As it stands, the deal only commits the US to allowing refugees to “express an interest” in being resettled in America.

What is certain is that Turnbull’s call was leaked by a senior White House official who intended to humiliate Turnbull. Also certain is that “extreme vetting” – a bit of campaign rhetoric is now a thing without any further explanation. Unless, as Peta Credlin wickedly suggests, he may have leaked it himself. He’s been known to play the victim. Just look at his campaign video depiction of himself as son of sole parent Bruce a battling hotel broker suffering poverty in Double Bay.

What is extreme vetting? How long will it take?  Surely the three years of “processing” endured by those on Manus and Nauru is enough? Is it that no-one dare speak out in case we offend the bully in The White House? Julie Bishop argues with Reuters; pushes the line that US representatives are still interviewing refugees on Manus and Nauru. Perhaps rather than remain in LA taking photos with celebrities, she should have been dispatched to The White House.

One thing is clear. You don’t beg a bully. An attitude of supplication is no way to begin a relationship with Trump. The best thing Turnbull could do is to bring the refugees home. And he’s got nothing to lose and everything to gain by adding his voice to the many world leaders including France, Germany and the UK who have protested The Donald’s anti-Muslim travel ban, a ban which has successfully been suspended thanks to courageous Seattle Judge, James Robart who finds legal grounds to challenge the ban, legal opinion Donald Trump dismisses as ridiculous and one he will overturn.

Turnbull says he’s just “doing what a good Prime Minister does”, a job description which includes buying his own mandate as he later tells ABC 7:30’s Stan Grant. Grant leads him to confirm his $1.75m donation to his own party when it is clear campaign funds were running critically low – not that this is his gloss on it.

At $1.75m it was just one of those regular philanthropic things that he and Lucy get up to, a donation to a good cause – a theme later continued by screaming Scott Morrison on 2GB, a benevolence to warm the cockles of your heart if you overlook the calculated self-interest.

It may well have helped him over the line. Certainly it will provide Labor with ammunition even if only to attack his judgement and how his immense fortune isolates him from the real needs and issues of everyday Australians.

By week’s end, his ignominious dumping by Trump is so big it does Turnbull a favour. It helps sink his reboot and takes attention off his lame policies  – but at the cost of a focus on his diplomatic rebuff; his skills as a negotiator; even his ticker. He’s walked softly but copped a lot of stick. His government again seems upstaged by events it could have reasonably foreseen. The Coalition begins 2017 with its inability to plan; its retreat from the real world highlighted.

While no-one could predict exactly how Trump might jump, there was every reason to suppose he’d hate the deal.

Similarly, with Trump’s anti-Muslim travel fatwa. Turnbull’s bid to defend his silence in the face of expressions of outrage from leaders around the world as permitting a quiet and effective personal word with the president rings hollow in the light of Trump cutting the phone call short, hanging up on him and allowing details to be leaked to the press.

Turnbull’s even caught napping; upstaged at the National Press Club Liberal Party love-in Wednesday. Bill Shorten has beaten him to it only the day before, calling him phony nine times in the course of his speech and in answers.

Turnbull is pilloried for his appeasement of Sun King Donald Trump.  In vain, he claims that he does not comment on other nations’ domestic affairs. His record clearly shows otherwise.

Only last April his commentary on domestics included urging the Chinese leadership towards “continued openness and the rapid development of the rule of law”, which, he argued, “is a fundamental requirement of progress”. Many times has he lectured  PNG, Syria, Russia and North Korea.

The Chinese are unimpressed. They’re on the UN Human Rights Council. They know how we run our gulags on Manus and Nauru.  Not that they would welcome any commentary on their denial of freedom of speech, religion, and association; extrajudicial killings; repression of civil society; discrimination against Tibetans and other minorities.

The truth lies closer to home. Turnbull’s right wing will give him gyp if he goes soft on terror now. He dare not utter a peep over Trump’s Islamophobic travel ban; the persecution of a Middle East diaspora largely created by decades of US foreign policy; its war on terror. His policy reset has failed. His diplomacy has been trumped. He has been made to look a capon in the Year of the Rooster when it comes to exercising his authority in the international community.

The spotlight has swung back on his judgement, his leadership and above all his capacity to prosecute a plan. Parliament will begin next week and already the PM is on the back foot; he has been tried domestically and abroad and found wanting. Another dud Newspoll awaits him. As Prime Minister he is a dead man walking.

Day to Day Politics: Internet Media defeats the Mainstream Media.

Saturday 12 November 2016

1 One of the fascinating things to come out of the American Presidential Election campaign was just how wrong mainstream media was. In fact one has to say that Donald Trump in attacking them as biased, while at the same time talking directly to the people (no matter how crassly) played them for fools.

I have to admit that I followed the election mainly through the pages of the Washington Post and the New York Times. More fool me perhaps? Trump it has to be said picked the issues, like unemployment, free trade deals, and immigration etc., talked about them, even exaggerated them.

An observation

‘It is a pity that fact in journalism cannot be made compulsory and decency legislated’.

It seems that the democratisation of information is, both  in Australia and the US, having a far greater influence than the MSM, than political parties thinks.

The MSM backed Clinton to the hilt as they did Turnbull. Both outcomes suggest the MSM got it badly wrong.

James Dean writing for The Australian said:

“It is estimated that each of the college electoral votes won by US president-elect Donald Trump cost about $US935,000, compared with $US2.6m for each vote won by Hillary Clinton. The Center for Responsive Politics estimates that Trump’s presidential election campaign cost about $US286m, while Clinton’s cost $US609m. Although both candidates utilised social media, University of Wisconsin academic John Blakeman notes that Trump used digital platforms to target electors with personal messages”

Perhaps now we can agree that the internet has smashed the MSMs long-held monopolisation of information. Another knife in the back of Murdoch I should think.

An observation

“The mainstream media will only ever print or say whatever is in its best interests. Then it might say something interesting and truthful”.

Katharine Murphy in Friday’s Guardian added a sobering thought on the subject of public interest journalism:

“Culturally, we are on a slide down a slippery slope. If no one wants to read anything other than material that confirms their pre-existing biases, then public interest journalism is in danger of becoming a historical artefact”.

Something we should all keep in mind.

2 Another insight into the mind of George Brandis. The conditions he imposed on the former Solicitor General have been dropped. That doesn’t change the fact that any new applicant will face the same possibility. Agree with me or suffer Gleeson’s fate.

What a bastard he must be. The shadow attorney General said the only purpose of the direction was to force Gleeson to resign. 10 out of 10 Mark.

3 One Nation and its leader Pauline Hanson got very excited about Trumps win thinking that it gave credence to their policies. Fortunately the 99% of people who didn’t vote for her don’t see it that way.

4 “If you don’t have a strong and sensible centre-right party, people who are looking for what might broadly be described as conservative positions will find other voices to represent them”.

So said Tony Abbott. I think he misses the point. The folk he is talking about are those who don’t see the answers in a centre right party but in a far right party. That’s why they go to Hanson.

Malcolm Turnbull countered by saying:

“The question for my party and for me and my government is why people were able to be frightened”.

Remember ISIS is coming to get you personally. That’s the voice of far right parties.

In his interview with Fran Kelly on the ABC he was also critical of   comments made by the President-elect, but said people should now judge him on his future actions instead of past insults.

“People are not voting for a saint or even for a role model — they’re voting for a leader,” he said.

Now that statement shows just why he was such an abysmal failure.

5 Why was there such a rush on Thursday to announce that we had ratified the Parris Climate Agreement? Was it because Liberal MP Craig Kelly, the Governments environment committee chairman,  said on his Facebook page that the Paris  agreement was now ‘’Cactus’ ’He also shared on his page a video clip of Trump saying he would cancel the Paris agreement at an oil and gas conference in North Dakota in May.

How can one man hold the future of the planet in his hand while the remaining leaders kowtow to him?

6 “We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals,” Trump said. “We are going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none.”

It is one of the few statements of Trumps that makes sense.

It was somewhat akin to Rudd’s “Building the Education Revolution” program during the global financial crisis. Trump may be about to implement an anti-austerity program of gigantic proportions.

He will have to borrow considerably which will annoy the hell out of his party but it does have its short and long-term rewards. Something that Turnbull should be doing. Money has never been cheaper.

6 The Government is dropping hints that America is opening its doors to asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru. If the reports are true that is a good thing. Some day they will be citizens of that country. I still find it difficult to imagine that the US would agree to deny its citizens, the right to travel freely.

My thought for the day.

‘We would be a much better society if we took the risk of thinking for ourselves unhindered by the unadulterated crap served up by the media and some self-interest groups’.

 

Out of the frying pan: Should the Australian Army be used against terrorists on Australian soil?

By Dr Strobe Driver

Introduction: Terrorism as a ‘dynamic’

Recently in The Australian, an article entitled ‘We’d be fools not to use the ‘best in the business’’[1] was written suggesting that the Australian Army—specifically TAG East, the special forces team based in Sydney—should have been used to stop the gunman Man Haron Monis in the 2014 Lindt Café siege.[2]  The justification being that the police alone can no longer be relied upon as the ‘sole defenders against a terrorist attack.’[3]  The reasoning for this case is that sieges have changed and that terrorists, in this case supporter of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), are now ‘faster moving’ as illustrated by the Paris attacks of 2015 in which 130 were killed. [4] The French police special forces— which are integrated with the military—then took another two days to confront and neutralise the threat.  According to Maley in his article, the Paris attack is ‘emblematic of the style of terrorism the West now confronts.’[5]   All of Maley’s statements are factual and reflect the fact that terrorists—as with conventional sovereign-state military forces—alter their tactics in the kinetic phase of battle in order to gain the outcomes that most benefit their perception and realities in any a given situation.  As such ISIS, in the Paris attacks is no different than what has gone before.  For instance the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA)—colloquially known as the ‘Provos’—fought Irish security personnel and the British Army in Northern Ireland (and on the English mainland) in a seventy year’ war before a settlement was reached.  The IRA encompassed strategies that would escalate tensions and create a belief that the police and army were not in control and many tactics were tried—such as  setting a building on fire and then shooting at the arriving firemen[6]—in the pursuit of their ambition to rid Northern Ireland of what the IRA saw as invaders.  The point being made here, is that terrorist groups are a dynamic, and as with any violent group their tactics need to be assessed and dealt with by experts, of which the New South Wales (NSW) Police Force no doubt, has access to, whether through its own staff or a broader expertise through consultancy.  Therefore, to suggest the Australian Army should be ‘called in’ in order to right a ‘terrorist situation’ needs to be assessed on the basis that the NSW Police Force—and therefore any other Australian police force—is somehow incapable of proactively or reactively containing a terrorist and/or terrorism.  There is more to introducing the Australian Army into the abovementioned than meets the eye and contains many worrying aspects for Australian society in general.

Policing versus the military

Emphasising the matter-at-hand the difference between the Australian Army and a State/Federal policing force is that the police are a civil force tasked by authority within the numerous conventions of State and Federal laws with solving a situation through policing which is (in theory), a combination of governance, maintaining order, preventing and detecting crime, whilst upholding the rule-of-law.[7]   Within this remit however, police officers have rights (and responsibilities), and are able to use their discretion and rationale in the policing of a situation.  The stark difference between the police and the army is first and foremost, a member of the armed forces in under orders and must carry out those orders or face direct and severe consequences such as a dishonourable discharge/court-martial and/or prison.  If a soldier was given the order to kill Monis then there is no questioning, no discretion and rationale is to be introduced: it must be done.  Here is the hidden danger in introducing an army into an overall scenario.

With the abovementioned in mind, the point of whether the Australian Army should be deployed in order to fight against its own citizens needs a more stringent debate than the simplistic notion that the Australian Army should be involved because terrorism has ‘changed’ society. To be sure, the Australian Army is a defence force, charged with defending Australia’s borders and its citizens.  Whilst the argument can be made that if the Australian Army was involved in the siege and it was their personnel that killed Monis therefore, it was a form of ‘defending’ the Australian public has some validity.  The problem with the situation is and remains with the outcome: the Australian Army would be attacking a resident/citizen of Australia.  The debate beyond a single tragic instance can now be addressed.

The hidden danger: Broadening terrorism

A single problematic exists beyond the Monis/Lindt Café siege case and whilst acknowledging this, it is important to note that in the Monis case there is no doubt that he was acting within the legal definition of a terrorist; committing a terrorist act; and using the patrons of the café as tools in his aim to prove his point.  In this case the label of ‘terrorist’ is unambiguous, focussed on him and his actions.  What of the future?  Within the wider remit of using a military force against a ‘terrorist,’ and/or ‘terrorists’’ is to engage with the unthinkable: what if the legal definition of what a ‘terrorist’ comprises ‘of’ changes in the future?  Of course, this is fanciful, and could never happen in Australia.  Nevertheless, numerous laws have undergone changes over time.  The charge of rape was once, unable to be applied within a spousal situation.  Now when the allegation is made the police must become involved and once charges are laid the accused must attend court in order to accept or defend the charge/s.  The point being here is that the law changed, due to the influences of interest groups, a body-politic, a change of societal attitudes and a myriad of other reasons. Whether the change to a law is positive or negative remains external to this argument as what is attempting to be drawn out here is that the law is also a dynamic, and changes can be made in a liberal-democracy should the impetus be strong enough.

Now to ‘terrorism. Imagine the scenario with regard to a terrorist act unfolding to something anyone objecting to what the government is doing is able to be deemed seditious and therefore, acting in a ‘seditious manner.’  The terrorist label is then applied and once having used the Australian Army, it will be able to be called in again as governments once having gained laws in their favour rarely relinquish their newfound power; or have ‘sunset clauses’ in legislation.  Reverting to the military for answers to societal issues is a dangerous path as per the aforementioned British military in Ireland.  Of course, this would never happen.  No democratically-elected members of a liberal-democracy could ever harness that much influence could they?  Events in Britain suggest they can.  Recently in Britain, the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), a body-politic had consistently demanded (over the past decade) that Britain exit the European Union (EU) and by and large, it was never accepted that UKIP could express so much power.  It has been since acknowledged that the persistent and consistent focus of UKIP on the ‘Leave Vote’ significantly impacted on Britain’s voting choice.[8]  As a result Britain is no longer part of the EU. This example proves that small highly-active political-blocs can bring about cathartic change and indeed pursue a single-issue agenda with robustness and flair, and thereby alter a country’s path.  A path which was once reserved for the major players in liberal-democracies.  Hence, one need look no further than the One Nation party in Australia to observe the garnering of exponential power through persistence—a party which is now a ‘major force in Australian politics.’[9]

Conclusion

To be sure, it is not unusual for neo-conservative and/or conservative commentators to demand decisive acts as an answer to the ills of terrorism, whilst also offering a corresponding gracious and all-encompassing mantra that the West is the ultimate model of what a society should ‘be’ and any form of resistance to the model should be seen as terrorism.  As per the above we come back to what a terrorist ‘is’ also remains a dynamic, and a cursory observation of Nelson Mandela’s party—the African National Congress—is a party which was once labelled ‘a typical terrorist organisation’ by the Conservative Prime Minister Thatcher in the mid-1980s.[10] the statement is tantamount to  an expression that apartheid should not have been challenged.  This stated perhaps the most dangerous aspect of Thatcher’s statement, and one that exists today, is it homogenizes terrorism for the benefit of the nation-state.  If the sovereign nation-state deems you a terrorist, then ‘you are, what you are.’  The fact that Mandela was reacting against the crushing of his people by the nation-state authorities is irrelevant. Thus, Maley’s opinion with regard to the use of the Australian Army is the conservative reaction that befits the model of wanting to ‘get something done’ in the face of a terrorist act.

In conclusion: terrorism came to the fore and into the public sphere more robustly in the 1970s—especially with the destruction of four airliners that had been hijacked and then destroyed in the Jordanian desert[11] —and therefore to imply that a police force in the West does not have a succinct understanding of how to tackle a terrorist attack is insulting in the extreme based on the amount of time and resources Australia—and the West in general—spend on this issue.  If the reverse was proven to the case then the police commissioner in question, should be dismissed.  With regard to the use of the military against its own people in order to  to quell ‘dissent’ is to understand how a horror story can become real life:  the People’s Republic of China Army during the Tiananmen Square protests; the Thai Army use of force against its southern Muslim population; Saddam Hussein’s use of his  army against the Southern Kurds (Marsh People) in the south of Iraq; President Assad’s current use of this military against numerous cities in Syria; the military control of the population of Myanmar up until very recently; and the use of the army in Sri Lanka to eradicate the Tamil Tigers.  The list goes on.  All of these examples illustrate that policing actions are not used by an army as the remit of the army is to get the ‘job done’ at all costs. Therefore, introducing the Australian Army into the domestic  populace to quell terrorism—unless what a the legal definition of a terrorist remains solid and unchanging, which obviously cannot be guaranteed—would be a dangerous and irresponsible move based on the use of the military in the aforementioned examples.  The evidence-base therefore suggests, ‘we’d be fools to use the ‘best in the business,’’  and this is due to the following: a more balanced approach to the issue of terrorism needs to be debated in the public sphere; once the  Australian Army is introduced there will be no turning back; and Australian governments will not relinquish their power over this aspect of the military forthwith.

©  Strobe Driver Sept, 2016

[1] Paul Maley. ‘We’d be fools not to use the ‘best in the business.’’ The Australian. Nat ed. 29, Sept 2016, 2.

[2] Liz Burke.  ‘Martin Place cafe siege: Police storm café and kill gunman ‘Sheik’Man Haron Monis – Report.’  New.com.au.  16 Dec, 2014.  http://www.news.com.au/national/martin-place-cafe-siege-police-storm-cafe-and-kill-gunman-sheik-man-haron-monis–report/news-story/a1e51d29469209ffa62684e648441043

[3] ‘We’d be fools not to use the ‘best in the business.’’ The Australian.  Emphasis added.

[4] ‘We’d be fools not to use the ‘best in the business.’’ The Australian.

[5] ‘We’d be fools not to use the ‘best in the business.’’ The Australian.

[6]  Anthony Joes.  Urban Guerrilla Warfare. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 2007, 123.

[7] ‘Policing.’  Dictionary.com.  http://www.dictionary.com/browse/policing?s=t

[8] See: Ashley Kirk and Daniel Dunford.  ‘EU referendum: How the results compare to the UK’s educated. Old and immigrant populations.’  The Telegraph, 27 June, 2016.  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/24/eu-referendum-how-the-results-compare-to-the-uks-educated-old-an/

[9] Michael Koziol.  ‘One Nation wins four Senate seats, crossbenchers to hold eleven seats.’  The Sydney Morning Herald.  4 Aug, 2016.

http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/one-nation-wins-four-senate-seats-crossbenchers-to-hold-eleven-seats-20160803-gqkn0h.html

[10] Julian Borger.  ‘The Conservative party’s uncomfortable relationship with Nelson Mandela.’  The Guardian.  27 Dec, 2013.  https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/dec/06/conservative-party-uncomfortable-nelson-mandela

[11] ‘1970: Hijacked jets destroyed by guerrillas.’  BBC News, 12 Sept, 2016.  http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/september/12/newsid_2514000/2514929.stm

This article was originally published Geo-Strategic Orbit.

 

Every Now And Then, I Think Before I Say Something… Perhaps, Malcolm Should Try It Some Time!

Ok, just in case you’re wondering, I am talking about the Turnbull Malcolm and not the One Nation Malcolm…

Now, I know some of you are critical of Malcolm Roberts and are suggesting that he’s been put there to make Pauline Hanson look intelligent…

Well, maybe not intelligent, but at least sane.

However, I say, everyone is entitled to believe whatever they like. So if our recently elected senator wants to believe that there’s no such thing as man-made climate change because we had climate change in previous times, I say, let him. In fact, I see similarities in his argument and my assertion that because car accidents had occured in previous times, there was no way that it was my fault that I had that accident in 1993 when I pulled out from a stop sign without looking. Indeed, I don’t think that the government has a right to impose stop sign laws against us, and I’m thinking of seeing if Senator Roberts will take up my cause and get my money back from aforementioned “accident”. Clearly stop signs are part of the UN conspiracy to impose world government, as are all road rules.

But enough about that. ‘Tis the other Malcolm I intend to discuss. You know the one I mean, after all, at least some of you voted for him…

Although even Neil of Sydney won’t admit to being a Turnbull supporter so it does make me wonder how he’ll last out the year. That’s Malcolm, not Neil. There’s apparently a patron saint that protects drunks and fools… Ah, so that’s how so many One Nation supporters have managed to vote without stabbing themselves with the pencil… Yes, yes, tell me that it’s democracy and all that and that we should respect the vote… I heard that from the editor of one of the Murdoch papers on the radio today. I couldn’t help wondering if I asked him why his paper never takes that view when Labor actually win an election.

Anyway, let’s try and imagine if the Labor Party had done what the Liberals did this week…

I guess that I should point out for the umpteenth time that I have no links to the Labor Party, I’m not a left-winger and if you come up with a halfway competent group of people who make me feel like they’re capable of organising things in a way that enables people to have the chance at a decent life no matter where they’re born, then I’ll pledge my loyalty to them for the next election. In fact, I may pledge my undying loyalty to them for life and join their cult and just follow orders, but not if it involves too much exercise.

The point of this is to point out the bleeding obvious, and, in doing so, I’m not doing it in the hope of winning votes for anyone – I’m just intrigued that there isn’t more of a “you can’t be serious” reaction from people.

It’s sort of like the joke where Gillard walks on water across Lake Burley Griffin and the headline in the Murdoch papers is “Gillard Can’t Swim!”

Anyway, let’s just look at the facts in the most objective way possible:

ABC does a stitch-up on Government by releasing video showing the treatment of young offenders in the Northern Territory.
Turnbull springs into action and announces Royal Commission, nominating ex-Chief Justice of Northern Territory as head.
Turnbull rejects suggestion that there should be an Indigenous person appointed as well, saying that it’s not needed.
Turnbull also rejects suggestion of any conflict of interest given that the appointee was actually part of the system that he’s investigating.
A couple of days pass, and the appointee stands down.
Indigenous appointment made.
Big announcement that they’ve told the – “we don’t make the decisions it’s an independent body” – CSIRO to create a climate change division and employ some of the people who were going to get the chop.
In spite of it being a firm commitment in their election campaign, they’re now considering changes to the superannuation policy that they took to the election, because there was a supposed backlash against it. Somehow though, they have a mandate for all their other policies. It’s this one that caused them the electoral pain. And, of course, the Labor lies on Medicare.
Turnbull announces that Mr Rudd always knew that his endorsement was in the hands of Cabinet. Someone leaks that Cabinet voted 11-10 in favour of endorsing Rudd.
Banks don’t pass on full interest rate cut; they’re told they’ll have to report to Parliament. (Didn’t Joe tell us that banks would always pass on cuts under a Liberal government when he was in Opposition?) So when the banks report and say that they need to pocket more money because the government upped the amount they need to keep in reserve, will Turnbull’s terriers tear them apart and tell them that, come the revolution, they’ll be the first ones lined up against, or will they nod and say, “Good on you, it’s responsible actions like that which make Labor’s call for a Royal Commission into the banking industry a political stunt!”

Now let’s imagine that it was a Labor government who’d been in power while all this was happening. We’d have front pages on leadership tensions because of the leaks. We’d have editorials on their inability to manage the simplest processes. We’d have complaints that they rushed into the Royal Commission and that it was a knee-jerk reaction which didn’t think through the implications of their initial appointment, as well as complaints that the subsequent appointments were similarly ill-considered. We’d have shock jocks talking about how this was the worst, most disfunctional government since Whitlam.

Instead we have attacks on the Education system and cartoons that seek to remind us that if indigenous children are being ill-treated by white people than it’s all the fault of their parents for not being better people… I mean, let’s not shy away from it here, as Bill leaked today, it’s not racist to remind everyone that it’s all the fault of aboriginal people if they haven’t become a successful human being like him and therefore their kids deserve no sympathy!

>Sigh

Gobbledegook in three part harmony

By James Moylan

Part one: the consumer

We have been all been sold a pup. And a coat rack. Also an extensible walking stick with a built in LED light. Plus wine, soap, cereal, funerals, alien abduction insurance, thirty dollar packets of cigarettes (discretely of course) and endless acres of inflatable mattresses. And of course the chance to attract ever more semi-naked women. If you are a modern living breathing human being of any age, shape, or habit: you have been sold endless ‘stuff’. ‘Up Up and Away.’

The great democracy that is portrayed in our advertising is not Australia. Most of us understand this (if we ever bother to think about it at all). We know that when we are being targeted as a consumer we are not being ‘advised’ impartially. Advertisements are generally seen to be all about trying to get you to do or buy something. So when we are being addressed by an advertisement we don’t expect a deep and meaningful message. Consumers expect (and distractedly demand) instant answers to simple questions. ‘Things go better with Coke.’

The key is that advertising is consumed automatically and distractedly.  Advertising is experienced as a lived reality (as opposed to being sought out and rationally considered). So while our modern 24/7 multi-media commercial extravaganza does certainly provide a hundred and one wonderful ways of advertising opportunities to buy expensive goods that you might not otherwise know you need – it also has significant consequences for the way in which we consume all other sorts of information. ‘Aveagoodweekend’.

Despite rumours to the contrary our modern commercial marketplace is not a ‘democracy of ideas’. Where the Jesuits say they need to instruct a young and growing mind for seven years before being assured of their eternal devotion, our modern advertisers manage much the same invisibly, thirty seconds at a time, in an eternal drip-feed of background advertising. We grow up constantly bathed in a background radiation of commercial imagery and inducement. We become accustomed to instantaneous satisfaction being defined and seamlessly delivered, all the time, everywhere. In the advertising world there are no complex insoluble, irrational, or non-commercial answers. ‘A diamond is forever

We know consciously that, in the main, advertisers do not give a damn about the validity or quality of information. They are solely focussed on promoting a particular response. Validity and quality of information are merely aspects considered in the light of how persuasive a message might be. So anything problematic will be dismissed, but more significantly, if no problem exists then one will be instantly invented. ‘Put a tiger in your tank.’

So our days are just crowded with a thousand and one messages that sometimes relate to very real problems, but sometimes just advertise wonderful answers to invented problems. In fact, in the ‘advertising world’, we expect that anything can and might happen. We expect a ‘super-reality’. And we are always ready to suspend disbelief at the drop of a hat. While we know we are being ‘sold a pup’ most of the time, we all still pay passing regard to the fleeting parade of images – just in case. This is because while most advertisements are so obviously selling the wrong breed of puppy in the wrong way at the wrong place at the wrong time. We also know that every now and again we just might see a dog that we might want to buy.

In this way, from preschool until pension, we are all exposed to a hundred and one invented problems and we become aware of their immediate and apparent cures. Even while we semi-consciously screen out the majority of advertisements and simply dismiss the ones that are telling a story we don’t want to know, we are becoming entirely familiar with the ‘common-sense’ of our commercial world. Advertisers tell you that you are bald, tubby, unattractive, smelly, sick, bored, tired, overworked, exploited, and drive the wrong car to the wrong suburb to sleep in a badly renovated and decorated home with a dysfunctional family. Then they offer you an instant cure for any one of these problems. ‘But wait: there’s more!’

We all know (as an intellectual and academic fact) that behind the seemingly random and chaotic flood of advertising images we are exposed to every day is a massive industry that is devoted to identifying every emotional quirk and habit that we are ever likely to experience. We know that half of what we are being told is total BS but we brush it off as being mere commercial flim-flam. Yet this knowledge is something we have to dredge up and consider. It is the sort of thing that we only really acknowledge when we are consciously considering one or many of the eternal flow of advertising images and inducements that float in front of us during every one of our days. ‘Beanz meanz Heinz.’

So why have I commenced this article with such an extensive tour of the bleeding obvious? We all know that when we consider carefully our relationship with all of the commercially driven information providers in our society that a lot of the stuff we are being told is nonsense. However in the process of learning to live in an information and advertising saturated world we have all also become habituated to many aspects of ‘commercial common-sense’ that are downright nonsensical. ‘Big bubbles: no troubles!’

In the commercial world complexity is entirely masked and ethical questions are represented as simple economic equations. Stereotypical imagery and generalisations abound. And the right answer is always likely to be a simple and inexpensive answer. So we have been taught from the time we a very small to mistrust complexity and expense. The modern Australian electorate over the last two decades has been conditioned to think and react as consumers. We have been educated to expect simple answers to difficult questions. ‘A Mars a day helps you work rest and play.’

So we come to the end of two decades of continuous pandering by our politicians to our commercial sensibilities. And what is the result? The Australian voter has been transformed from being a citizen into a consumer with an investment in an economy. To facilitate this change many of the old ways of talking about being a citizen have been jettisoned and our political world is now saturated with new phrases that stand for our new modern ideas. They are mainly ways of thinking that have been borrowed from the advertising and commercial marketplace. Now econospeak is used to excuse and justify behaviour that cannot be talked about in open and stark terms. ‘Have a nice day.’

Part two: econospeak

Econospeak is used to mask and justify inequity. It enables euphemisms to be coined to stand in for long discredited ideas and to hide that you are actually advocating on behalf of apparently objectionable outcomes.  Econospeak is simply a social code that has been developed to propose that the economic interests of a very few rich individuals in our society are identical to those of the public at large. It’s as much a ‘vibe’ as it is a series of catch phrases. It is a way of speaking that presupposes that we are all first and foremost self-interested and economically rational beings. In other words; it presupposes that we are all greedy bastards.

For example the term ‘aspirational voter’ actually  refers to a class of voter who is so heavily invested in the current boom that they see their commercial self interest as outweighing all other considerations. ‘Tax cuts’ or ‘tax relief’ or ‘addressing bracket creep’ all variously stand in for the objectionable concept of ‘trickle-down’ economics. ‘Rationalising’ means cutting benefits, services, and complexity. ‘Hard-working Mums and Dads’ is shorthand for ‘indebted working consumers’. ‘The economy’ means all of the important parts of our society. ‘Common-good’ means fiscally expedient. Etc.

For twenty years our politicians have simply refused to grapple with any of the really big questions that face our country over the longer term. Rather they have decided to simply pander to our commercial sensibilities and mask their expediencies with econospeak gobbledygook. For five years we surfed the wave of a renovated economy, then for another ten we lived off a mining boom. Now our good fortune has largely evaporated. We have gradually exported all of our economic capacity and so now the mining boom has dried up our property market is the only part of our economy left standing.

When viewed from the outside there is no denying that Australia is on a sticky wicket. Our banks have borrowed trillions of dollars and then leant it out to hundreds of thousands of overextended borrowers at historically low interest rates to pay hyper-inflated prices for property at a time when our terms of trade have gone south and economic activity in our country is on life support. Then the response of our political class has been to simply not look at it. I mean what could possibly go wrong?

Now we’re all collectively so deep in a hole that we are obliged to keep digging regardless. There are no other readily apparent options. So econospeak is used to support the pretence that we are not actually in a deep hole, but instead we are all enjoying sweet economic sunshine, and that all of this activity is socially beneficial anyway. In fact, we all need lots of very deep holes for the public good. In other words econospeak is the stuff we whistle to make us feel better as we walk past the graveyard.

Like a frog in a pot over a flame Australians have become so deeply invested in the illusion that everything is absolutely and completely hunkey-dory that it looks like we are entirely unlikely to leap out of the pot until we are deeply scalded. Understandably our political class has decided they also will simply pretend that house prices can and will continue to rise forever.

Part three: Gravity is hereby suspended until further notice

Yes it might actually be ludicrous but it is easier and less painful in the short term to simply pretend that we can all forever float high above the ground, and move ever higher, instead of planning on returning to earth, or even thinking about the possibility that we might all jointly ‘plummet’ together. After all Australia is an island. Different rules apply!

So jointly we get together in our media and pretend that having a wildly overinflated housing bubble instead of ‘houses’ is actually a good thing. Moreover for the period of the coming election campaign we will all once again wear a false grin and argue that it is perfectly normal to be spending a million dollars plus on a house when you earn one tenth of that amount per year (before tax).  Nothing to see here.

A suspension of credulity is required. It’s obviously too late for any sort of remedial action. Many hundreds of thousands of Australian family’s are now so massively indebted, just to live in a suburban house, that any downturn in the market will tip them into bankrupt. Everybody is now exposed to the whim of the marketplace. Any aware individual with even the slimmest facility with basic mathematics has to suspend credulity just to remain relatively free of existential angst. It’s emotionally safest to simply nod at the continued assertions that black is white and up is down – for the good of us all.

Anyway, for the very first time in the history of capitalism, houses might just forever go up in value. Just this time. Here in Australia. There is at least as much a chance of this as there is that pigs might fly and I have seen pictures of flying pigs. So maybe?

So it goes without saying that nobody serving in our parliaments today could possibly advocate that we should all back away from the huge Ponzi scheme that is the Australian property market. Our country, as a whole, is now so heavily invested in property that a recession would likely see several of our banks fall over, and half of the ‘on-paper’ wealth in our country evaporate instantly.

So certainly no federal politician can afford to even mention a bubble. Especially since the same econospeak ideas that they blithely and endlessly repeat are also endorsed as realities by our corporately owned and controlled media. The idea that everyone in Australia can own a million dollar house, and aspire to owning lots and lots of stuff, and that those who own lots and lots of stuff are happier, are all truisms in our press.

So no politician or pundit will point out that our banks are ludicrously overextended and that the majority of the investment funds across the world are now short selling Aussie bank shares. Most of all nobody will admit that the whole trickle down mythology of the last twenty years is bankrupt and has led to a massive growth in inequity and social and environmental damage. Even as we approach the edge of the cliff, at speed, no politician in our land will advocate a need to reverse direction. In fact, any that did campaign on a platform of raising taxes and slashing the price of housing probably wouldn’t even get pre-selected.

This is because the assertion that if we cut taxes it will stimulate the economy persists in our social discourse as a social fact. Despite it being plain wrong in every way imaginable. So this caustic and socially destructive mythology underpins and promotes the ongoing debasement of social responsibility by the political class in virtually every western world country. Yet still the idea of trickle down economics rules in the minds of our politicians and in our press.

The simple idea that cutting the tax of a corporation or individual will lead to the money that is ‘saved’ being ‘reinvested’ in a socially beneficial manner is not just incorrect; this prescription for ‘growth’ has caused economic chaos wherever it has been implemented. In country after country it has prompted greater inequality, greater social indebtedness, housing booms and major busts, and extended periods of austerity and hardship for the poorest and most disaffected in the community. All throughout the world. All for no apparent benefit except for further helping to enrich a very few of the already wealthiest individuals.

Over the last twenty years in Australia we have seen a slow dismantling of the social democratic contract that once existed. We have allowed our politicians to reform what government means. They have been allowed to pretend that our society is now nothing but an ‘economy’ and that the good of the many is reducible to the financial health of the few – and we have been gullible enough to buy it.

Top marginal and corporate tax rates have been massively reduced and at the same time the cost of living has soared. The cost of housing has ballooned and has swallowed up all of the spending money that Australian workers once had to spend, and then a bit. Paradoxically, the higher the housing market has soared, the less money we have all had to spend, and the average worker has had to work ever harder and longer just to enjoy a reduced quality of life. Why?

The top ten percent of Australians are now living an incredibly luxurious lifestyle while everyone else is working ever harder just to support their jet-setting habits. We have come to a place where our Prime Minister can have an undisclosed amount of money in a series of secret overseas accounts, in a tax haven, and it is considered to not only be acceptable, but unremarkable.

We have collectively sold our soul to a marketplace blind to both the environment and the long term interests of our society. We are all far more indebted. Our future no longer appears as rosy as it once did. We were the lucky country yet perhaps that might be fading? Certainly history is betting that our housing bubble will burst sooner rather than later.

However our common exposure to this looming threat is as much our own fault as it is that of our political masters. We were the ones who bought simple answers to complex questions because it was far easier than thinking for ourselves. We have been provided with political masters that will pander to what we want to hear.

In America the housing bubble burst when the average price of a house got to five times average yearly wages. In Ireland it burst when it reached eight times.

Think about how much the house you are in now is worth on the current market. Then divide that sum by what you earned last year. It’s not a difficult sum to do. The bankers and money men throughout the rest of the world have done that very same piece of arithmetic. That is why they are short selling our banks.

Tick tock. Tick tock.

Poor fellow my country!

The Great Warming: Anthropogenic Global Warming and the spread of disease

Regular readers of Australian political blog sites will  be familiar with Deknarf, whose ‘Graphic Manipulations’ provide a barbed, light-hearted observation of the fools on the Hill on a weekly basis.

Lesser known, is that Deknarf is a researcher in his right in the field of micro-biology. As  this weeks guest blogger, he takes a look at the micro-biological effects of AGW.

Now there’s a heart-stopper of a headline!  Presenting information on the likely effects of Anthropogenic Global Warming and the related spread of disease tends to make people’s eyes to glaze over.  It does mine after a lengthy sojourn wading through the science-speak!  So, perhaps a hypothetical. Remember Joe Hockey saying that it’s highly probable that a child is being born and that it will live until 150?

So here we go!

It’s 2035!

I’m sitting on the mosquito-proofed verandah, beachside in tropical Sydney, gazing out to sea.  Wasn’t able to do that a few years ago because there were beachfront houses over the road.  More rapid global sea rise took care of those.  Another prediction that went awry!  Forgot to incorporate in the models that as the world warmed the rate of sea rise would increase, not stay at a steady rate.

It wasn’t so much that the models were wrong, they just didn’t include a couple of factors, and it all turned out to be less incremental, more logarithmic, eh?  Especially when the Arctic permafrost let go and released all that methane!  Anyhow, now that they’ve removed the wreckage there’s just the road between home and the beachfront and luckily home is still three or four metres above sea level.

The property value went up accordingly but since they reckon that the road will be inundated in another 10 to 15 years, that little bubble’s going to burst soon I’d say.  But then again, on current expectations, I won’t be around to see it.

It’s a bit of a shame that you have to go inside around 4.00 in the afternoon unless, of course you cover yourself in anti mozzie stuff and smell like a bad case of body odour.  Since the “Great Warming” started those bloody Queensland disease bearing mozzies headed south and now we’ve got them all over the place!

Part of the daily grind is the “get rid of the stagnant water patrol” just to make sure the little buggers aren’t breeding in every puddle!  Given that we now get afternoon tropical storms it’s a right pain in the bum!  So if you want a dose of Dengue, Japanese Encephalitis or Malaria just step outside for a bit and get a mozzie bite, or two!!

Going outside at night?  Brave person!  If you dodge the mozzie’s then there’s always the Cane Toads!  Along with the mozzie and disease invasion those bloody toads came too!  Sydney these days has become “Tropical one day, hospitalized the next!”  Someone said the other day, that they’d found fire-ants in Vaucluse!  That’ll play havoc with the real estate prices!

And all this, on top of the increase in food and water borne diseases, respiratory diseases as well as animal borne disease mean that, these days, living past about 70 is primarily down to good luck, living in Tasmania, and good genes!

What with Dengue, Chikungunya, Japanese encephalitis, Malaria, E coli, Campylobacter, Salmonella, Giardia, Cholera, influenza, whooping cough, as well as the Hendra and Leptospirosis I’m surprised that there’s still a population of 20 odd million in the Sydney metro area!  Most of them moved down from Queensland after the desertification, and the refugees from all those Pacific Islands are still coming!  Some smarty-pants called them “submergees”!

And the odd part!  There are still the seriously deluded who still believe that the last 30 years is just a warm weather anomaly and it’ll all change back again – eventually!  I’m wagering they still vote Liberal or National Party and think, “Coal is Good!”

150 years old Joe? Don’t think many of us will get to see that milestone.

Perhaps we could use the now ex-Prime Minister of Team Australia’s approach!

“My fellow Team Australians.  The are coming after us and they strike, wraithlike, from the shadows and in the darkness of the night.  In their urgent quest for our blood, they send their Death Cult terrorists amongst us.  Everything possible needs to be done to defeat these evildoers!

This is a Government utterly committed to a campaign against those who are coming to get us.  And the point I keep making is that these killers of women and men, child murderers, these medieval barbarians, broadcast to the world through the mounting death toll the ugly dimension to their evil.  We may not always feel that we are at war with them, but they certainly know that they are at war with us!”

“And, as the world warms new battlefronts open up to these murderers.  New territory to conquer, new opportunities to wreak their evil, murderous havoc on the innocent and unwary.

Rest assured my fellow Team Australians, as long as we have our energy, our industry, and our coal is good, we will fight them on all fronts! In tropical Sydney, in Mediterranean Melbourne, in the deserts of Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory – we will never surrender!

WE WILL WIN!  CRUSH THE INVADERS!   CRUCIFY THE CULTS!  Thank-you Team Australia!”

Then again, perhaps the Abbott approach was just a tad hyper hyperbolic.  After all.  We did create the opportunities for these little beasties, didn’t we?

Deknarf  blogs on his own site; Deknarf: The Australia Blog.

 

Turn out that damn light

The Abbott government’s hysterical response to a question asked on last Monday’s Q&A is concerning on many levels.

Zaky Mallah, an Australian who spent 2 years in jail for threatening to kill ASIO officials, had a heated exchange with MP Steven Ciobo on proposed laws to strip terrorists of their Australian citizenship after Mr Ciobo said he would be comfortable blocking someone with Mallah’s past from living in Australia.

Mallah fired back that Mr Ciobo’s comments were the reason young Islamic people were prepared to leave Australia and fight for ISIS. He later tweeted: “I would pay to see that Minister dumped on #ISIS territory in Iraq!”

The Prime Minister’s response was predictably to once again take aim at the ABC.

“I think many, many millions of Australians would feel betrayed by our national broadcaster right now, and I think that the ABC does have to have a long, hard look at itself, and to answer a question which I have posed before – whose side are you on?”

Long gone is the idea that we “shine a light on dark places”, that people should be free to express their views and the listener be free to judge them accordingly.

Rather than letting the hatred and anger foment in secret, there is much of value that can be achieved by having this discussion in the public arena.

Mallah travelled to Syria in 2011 and was believed to be involved in non-violent roles in the civil war to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.  There were accusations that he was an undercover operative of Australia intelligence agencies.  (If it’s illegal for me to talk about that, sorry – I read it in the Courier Mail)

This young man seems ideally placed to help us understand how and why our young people are being seduced to join IS.  His anger showed how some young Muslims are feeling targeted by their own government and alienated in their own community.

Mallah’s intemperate outburst (no worse than Steve Ciobo’s slit her throat comment about Gillard) was immediately condemned by the Muslim community. It sparked a Twitter war as Muslim groups rushed to distance themselves from the man.

By silencing the debate we are forgoing our chance to make our case – to speak publicly about the horrors of IS, to help address the social problems that have allowed some of our citizens to be wooed by these bloodthirsty extremists who are using our children as cannon fodder, to contribute to the discussion of policy that strips us of our rights.

Abbott described Q&A to the Coalition party room as a “lefty lynch mob”.  He is launching inquiries and making threats and is relishing in his G W Bush stance “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”

Abbott will not tolerate scrutiny or criticism.  He hates Q&A because he cannot control the questions that the Australian public want to ask.  It is the only place where those with a social conscience can question our politicians.  The right has all the rest of the media – the Murdoch press and talk back radio.  The ABC annoyingly persists with fools like Rowan Dean, the insufferable Gerard Henderson, and the never-ending parade of IPA stooges in waiting for their government appointment.

In defence of the repeal of Section 18c of the racial discrimination act, the IPA’s Chris Berg wrote

“the very foundation of our liberal democracy is a right to speak freely on matters of political importance.  To defend free speech is to recognise that no ideas are sacrosanct, that all ideas can be challenged. Historically, free expression has been one of the strongest weapons for pluralism. Speech rights are most necessary for the weak, not the powerful.  Nobody denies the harm of hate speech. But nor should anybody deny the necessity of protecting free expression for the maintenance of a democratic system and as a basic individual right.”

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shootings, Tony Abbott said “I accept that in the course of having a robust democracy a lot of people will be offended, a lot of people will be insulted.”

The Prime Minister said if any encouragement could be drawn from the recent tragedies in Paris and at Sydney’s Martin Place, it was that “more and more Muslim people seem to be saying ‘look, there is a value in diversity’.

“We do have to adopt the position of live and let live.”

It is increasingly apparent that Abbott means live like I do and don’t question me or you will suffer the consequences.

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