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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.

Fools rush in where wise men never go

One can understand that Labor is hesitant about climate change after the subject has been a dead runner for them in the past two elections. As things are shaping up, the Prime Minister will front other world leaders as a climate denier, prepared to lie to convince them that Australia is meeting its climate obligations.

And to watch Scott Morrison and other ministers doing their media rounds, they certainly sound convincing. Words fly from frequently moistened lips with the sting of dishonesty and an absence of explanation.

The blatancy of Morrison’s lying confuses this writer because Proverbs 6:12-13 says; “let me describe a worthless and wicked man; first, he is a constant liar.” Undoubtedly some of you, most of you, or all of you when you hear the words; “we are meeting and beating”, you may be as confused as I am. Given his Pentecostal brand of Christianity, which believes in a literal interpretation of scripture, does the word of God presuppose that he is both a liar and a hypocrite?

When Morrison uses the phrase “we are meeting all our obligations”, it is camouflaged with the uncertainty of lies but not backed with the truth of evidence, then he lies.

At this stage of these Clayton’s negotiations between a corrupt party and a smaller but equally defective one, the Coalition has left us with a commitment to net zero emissions by 2050. However, we are assured that Australia will not attempt to reduce emissions between now and 2030. We will be seen as laggards by an international community, increasing its targets and suffering international isolation. Our target should be more like 50%, not 30%.

Fools rush in where wise men never go.

Ask yourself this question: “Are they serious?” Do Scott Morrison and energy minister Angus Taylor want to have a much more ambitious emissions reduction policy? No, not on your nelly. They are not driven by the innate goodness of saving the planet but by the politics of power. It’s more about one party appeasing the other and working out a political plan between them. A balancing act between the Liberals, the Nationals and their ability to win the next election. Advance Australia fair. They can give no certainty on the as yet unproven technology they intend to use.

I want to get this absolutely right. So correct that there can be no ambiguity. Morrison and his cabinet members tell us “We are meeting all our obligations” at every opportunity, but they tell the most dreadful lies.

What they don’t say is important. They talk about a target set for emissions reductions at the Paris climate talks in 2015.

It’s not apples with apples, and what we are actually beating is the commitment we made to cut 26 to 28 per cent of our emissions compared to 2005. Similar countries to Australia committed to cuts of more than 50 per cent.

The meeting in Scotland will in the main focus on 2030 targets because they are more critical than 2050.

The Coalition insist that we have cut our emissions since 1990, when the fact is that they have risen.

“The truth is that electricity emissions have increased by around a third, and transport emissions have grown by more than half.” (The Climate Council, New Report: Australia ranks dead last on climate, 21/10/2021).

So, it’s only when you add in all the land clearing that impacts emissions that the figure starts to look genuine or at least healthy.

Call it what you like, dirty tricks, political skulduggery or creative accountancy, but that’s what we used at the Kyoto talks in 1997.

They talk about a “gas-led recovery”, the technology roadmap, but no policy work or legislation is involved, and it is only unproven science.

Here are some facts from Climate Action Tracker (CAT):

“The CAT rates Australia’s climate targets, policies and climate finance as “Highly insufficient”. The “Highly insufficient” rating indicates that Australia’s climate policies and commitments are not Paris Agreement Compatible. Australia’s 2030 domestic emissions reduction target is consistent with warming of 4°C if all other countries followed a similar level of ambition. Under Australia’s current policies, emissions will continue to rise and are consistent with more than 3°C warming. Australia needs to set a more ambitious target for emissions reductions, establish associated policies, and provide finance to support others to get a better rating.”

Last week Laura Tingle (7.30’s chief political correspondent) wrote:

“And, whatever the Government does do in terms of setting, goals, ambitions, or whatever terms of sophistry are employed to not appear to have adopted a target of net zero emissions by 2050, it is not expected to be legislated, lest it produce a humiliation on the floor of the Parliament as Nat’s cross the floor against it.

Can you think of a more abject failure of political leadership in living memory?”

The Australian Government has a dislike of accountability and transparency unequalled by any other. It has reduced the budget of the Auditor General’s office. After all, you don’t want people looking over your shoulder when you are doing naughty things with public money.

Instead of governing with an open mind as to the integrity of climate change, Tony Abbott sought to use it as a political tool to gain Government. Peta Credlin, his chief of staff, later admitted the climate change policy under Julia Gillard’s Labor government was never a ‘carbon tax’. Still, Tony Abbott used that label to stir up trouble continuously. If he did not, Australia would be a leader instead of a nation lagging behind almost every other.

In 2013 and 2014, when Labor’s ‘carbon tax’ was still operating, Australia was significantly ahead of the target for those years.

In 2019, Angus Taylor gave an interview on ABC’s Insiders. He said that when the Coalition came to power, it inherited a 755 million tonne emissions “deficit” needed to reach Australia’s second Kyoto target because Labor “hadn’t done the hard work”.

“We have turned that around by 1.1 billion tonnes,” Mr Taylor said.

“They [Labor] hadn’t got to the point where we were going to meet Kyoto. We will reach Kyoto in a canter.”

So, the question begging to be answered was through its own “hard work”? Has the Coalition turned around an emissions deficit inherited from Labor? And is it correct to suggest emissions are heading down, or have they gone up?

He also claimed that emissions are “coming down right now”. They say they are protecting jobs, but the only threat to coal jobs comes from countries that will eventually stop buying it from us.

Mr Taylor’s claim is misleading, said the ABCs Fact Check:

“When the Coalition came to power in September 2013, the most up-to-date projections available were from a Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency report almost a year earlier. The figures Mr Taylor cites are consistent with forecasts contained in that report and another released in December last year.

However, Mr Taylor’s characterisation is problematic.

First, the 2012 emissions data used by Mr Taylor was superseded by a new report three months after the Coalition came to power. It found that actual emissions under Labor in 2013 were significantly lower than had been anticipated a year earlier.

Its forecasts also factored in estimates of abatement to be achieved by Labor’s carbon tax.

For this reason, Fact Check considers the 2013 report provides a more accurate and less pessimistic snapshot of the situation that the Coalition “inherited” from Labor.

In addition, the 2013 report accounted for a significant “carry-over” of emissions credits from Australia’s over-achievement of the first Kyoto period, which ended in June 2012. The inclusion of the carry-over, which was not factored into the 2012 estimate cited by Mr Taylor, reflects an accounting assumption rather than any “hard work” on the part of the Coalition in reducing emissions.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has further reduced emissions by shutting down whole industries. But in reality, where has this decade long lust for power over principle left us?

Our Prime Minister will go to Scotland for the COP26 with an agreement to cut our emissions to net-zero by 2050. The deal is only valid if the terms reached don’t vary from those agreed to between Joyce and Morrison.

The substance of which has not been revealed, or the cost, nor are they likely to be. Or it might be on a need to know basis. No plans are available outlining how we will reach net zero by 2050, but even more importantly, the conference will want to hear about what we are doing to improve our 2030 targets.

Morrison will have to tell the truth, which is always a delicate proposition, and he will have to say we will do our best, but because our coalition partners don’t want a target, there is “nothing” much we can do. It’s just the way we govern in Australia.

Fools rush in where wise men never go.

My thought day

In terms of the environment, I wonder what price the people of tomorrow will pay for the stupidity of today.

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COP26, Boris and Scotty’s cop-out, just a lot of hot air in the end?

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. Carl Sagan

On a clear spell in a chilly November day in Glasgow, on Clyde’s bonnie banks, you can see all the way to the end of the world; hear the crack of doom in distant thunder, if you are Boris Johnson, climate denialist turned climate evangelist, who is a half-hour late to his own convention where he seeks to whip up urgency in curbing greenhouse emissions before we fry our little blue dot of a planet to a crisp.

“Eco-Warrior”, Boris, as ITV’s Robert Peston dubs the Tory PM, is a Damascene convert, an epiphany courtesy of third wife, Carrie, (much as our own ScoMo, architect of the unlawful Robo-debt, extort-the-poor-scheme despite his lies of denial, gets his Jen-lens to clarify empathy), appears before the multitude as a hot-eyed zealot, a mop-headed prophet who peers out over a choppy sea of greenwash as 122 (almost all male) heads of state and their digital wallahs check texts, email and mining markets on smartphones in the Twenty-Sixth United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties, 31 October-12 November 2021.

Welcome to COP26, the curtain raiser for the last call for the End of the World, where trade fair and carnival seek to upstage our finest, noblest, minds, as a serious gathering of world leaders and negotiators is hi-jacked; press-ganged aboard the comic floating opera of a show, with a star cast including a grotesque mix of rent seekers, hangers-on and political wannabes warns Nine Newspapers Bevan Shields.

Thirty-thousand turn up -about a third of those who would have liked to attend -had there not been a pandemic to contend with. Or if transport were not an issue. Or they weren’t too poor. Or from the South. And if organisers had been able to provide wheelchair access.

Israeli Energy Minister, Karine Elharrar, who has muscular dystrophy, is left stranded outside in the damp, chill Clydeside air of greater Glasgow in her wheelchair.

Little wonder that COP26 is decried as the most exclusionary climate summit ever. What is surprising is that we expected better from a Johnson government. Like the UK PM’s opening speech, things seem flung together at the last minute. Or not at all. Boris is like our own PM in his tendency toward word salad when given occasion to speak. Both struggle to consistently produce joined-up thinking in public.

Neither seem capable of organising a cup of tea without a special commission of inquiry. Despite being host, Boris himself cannot even stay awake during the summit.

Unlike earlier COPS where leaders such as our own, Kevin Rudd, arrived late but stayed until stumps, working into the wee hours, drafting communiques and getting “ratfucked by Chinese ratfuckers(Copenhagen 2009), most opt to attend the opening gabfest; get snapped and papped before they nick off early.

Or are laughed out of town, as liars whose polyester viscose pants are on fire as in Morrison’s sensational own goal with Macron, in which ScoMo leaks personal texts to prove how trustworthy he is, an act of duplicity helped by inviting Santos to set up its Carbon Capture and Storage disinformation display.

Seriously, how good is leaking a private text to a Murdoch newspaper when you want to win public trust and confidence? Little wonder Morrison rushes home to break out the Hi-Viz and hard hats, snag a gaggle of Nationals and head for mining electorates in NSW. Feel the love of the campaign trail.

World time is one minute to midnight by the doomsday clock, Carrie Johnson’s latter-day Cassandra, Boris, warns in press drops. Moments later, her prophet opts for a soccer analogy. “We’re 1-5 at half time.” Nothing prosecutes your case so well as a metaphor mixture of Christian theology and football paganism.

Yet Johnson’s audience fidgets long after the seer makes his late arrival. Why a thirty-minute delay if every moment counts? Perhaps, like our own PM, Boris’ policy-free abyss engulfs him. Brexit turns from heroic act of sovereign independence into an Aldi of empty shelves. Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Tesco have single lines of products to disguise bare shelves. Entire aisles vanish. Winter approaches with no gas to heat homes. No petrol is a worry but no beer?

At least Boris got Brexit done as his campaign slogan had it. But what of things undone? Is the human toll of his disastrous “Freedom Day”, 40,000 Covid cases and 200 deaths per day and rising getting to him? Has Johnson lost confidence in his own leadership? It’s not easy at the top.

You couldn’t blame Johnson for feeling mortified by his catastrophic failure to close the border with India. It has made the UK the Delta variant capital of Europe. Being the cause of so much sickness, so many unnecessary deaths, such suffering, must be hard to live with. Boris has blood on his hands. Scott Morrison and The Ruby Princess, Gladys Berejiklian, his Lady Macbeth, must suffer similar self-reproach.

The Ruby Princess is Australia’s biggest single source of COVID-19 infection.

Mortification and remorse, however, require a conscience. Maturity. A sense of moral responsibility. No evidence exists for any of this in the wanton Boris, who has more than deceit, ineptitude and egomania in common with his empathy bypass pal, Scott, “I’ve just learned not to care,” Morrison.

Boris may, of course, run habitually late just as part of his assiduously cultivated Bozo persona, a thoroughly postmodern performance artist, like our Scott Morrison, who stands for nothing other than his own self-promotion, but with an act of such wacky vacuity it disguises his political guile; his ruthless dispatch of his opponents.

We know the type. Our daggy Dad, ScoMo, loves to pose with Sri Lankan curry ingredients or a Bunnings’ kit hutch, he reckons is a henhouse, power tools or other products to pretend he’s a wholesome, homemaker – an aspiring tradie (amen) instead of a world-renowned liar, a bully and a climate recalcitrant.

“Morrison’s own worst traits have been on full display since Rome: the slipperiness, the spin, the smirk, the failure to listen, the aggression, the blustering self-justification, the shifting of grounds and above all the faux conflation of himself with the Australian people,” The Mandarin’s Verona Burgess notes.

Faux conflation? Deceit always returns to its master, as they say in France. Macron takes pains to distinguish his contempt for Morrison from his great respect for the Australian people.

L état, c’est moi is an apocryphal conceit attributed to Louis XIV, the Sun King whose power was extensive, as were his achievements. His palace at Versailles still stands today. Morrison and Johnson, on the other hand, are dangerous, vainglorious louts both at home and abroad.

ScoMo’s Glasgow sideshow is embarrassingly woeful. First up in the Australian Pavilion, is Santos’ Carbon Capture and Storage Scam, one key to the Morrison government’s net zero by 2050, a vow it boasts won’t be mandated. Delegates mock both display and plan. Malcolm Turnbull, who attends as chair of the Fortescue Future Industries, is scathing,

It’s “a pity” Australia had not signed up to the methane pledge, Turnbull points out and “a joke” that Santos had been given prime placement. “Look at the Australian stand – you’ve got a gas company highlighted apparently at the insistence of the energy minister, who thinks that our energy policy should be all about burning gas,” he says. “The whole object is to stop burning fossil fuels.”

Australia’s PLAN is puerile. Carbon emissions will be a thing of the past because CCS will magically start to work even though it’s been exposed as a hoax by the coal industry itself. Or someone will come up with something. Somehow. Hi-tech. The Micawber principle. Something’s bound to turn up.

Perhaps DFAT could resurrect Julie Bishop’s innovation hub, her “gorgeous little funky, hipster, Googly, Facebooky-type place”. DFAT paid $1700 for three bean bags. The hub has innovated itself out of existence, since her departure from politics.

Our painfully lame display is, ironically, juxtaposed with Curb Methane promoting The Global Methane Pledge to cut by 30% emissions of methane, a gas far more damaging being eighty times more powerful than CO2 in the first twenty years, which has rapidly increased its presence in the atmosphere since 2007 when CSG fracking became widespread. Accounting for 30% of methane released into the atmosphere are sheep farts and cow burps. The plastic in our oceans is also believed to be a source of methane but it is less easy to calculate how much.

Unlike CO2 reduction, a slow, process, public health benefits of just curbing methane would appear in twenty years. Climate in just ten. But Australia refuses to sign the pledge to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030. Morrison’s gas-led recovery stunt, a front for Liberal gas industry donors to boost profits which is certain to increase consumer gas bills, on the other hand, will inevitably increase methane leakage.

Of course, Johnson’s got other things on his mind, along with the scandal of who paid what and when for the £200,000 renovation of Boris and Carrie’s 11 Downing St flat, (customarily reserved for the Chancellor), with its gold wallpaper at £840 per roll, not only, decadence itself, surely, but something which simply would not stick to the walls.

Much as Boris would love to stay, he can’t stick around either. Has to dash away; leave his own climate conference by private jet, to dine at the boys-only Garrick Club with veteran climate denialist and former Daily Telegraph boss, whom Boris appointed a Peer only last year, Lord Charles Moore.

Keeping your audience waiting half an hour, when your theme is urgency sends its own message. As does jetting away to dine with a chap who opposes everything COP26 stands for. Even keynote speaker, the earnest Prince Charles wishes his mother had been well enough to open the show. His father would be turning in his grave.

Whilst the peerless naturalist David Attenborough provides his own, uniquely moving, heartfelt testimony to species depletion and extinction in a warming world, Tory organisers might reconsider their reliance on the Royal family. Inspired and inspiring as it may be, to many, its circumstances and its carbon footprint are problematic.

England’s greenest royal spins his fourteenth century handcrafted feudal birthright as a model village, where six hundred, New Age loyal tenants tend self-sustaining, mixed farms amok with organic, free-range, hand-reared mutton, beef and pork.

Charles’ modern-day serfs put on a jolly good show of course. They’re a Potemkin village of beekeeping, cheese-making and weaving to pay rent whilst tugging their forelocks, “Thankee kind sir”, in rustic, homespun smocks and sturdy, handmade wooden clogs, the length and breadth of his Duchy of Cornwall, a modest 52,789 hectares which spill across 23 counties chiefly in the South-west of England where temperatures now can reach 31°C. But during Boris’ harangue, Charles frowns at his iPhone.

Is there a hitch with the 2,500 housing estate the duchy is to build in the Faversham countryside?

Managing to live on £20 million pounds a year is tough. The prince must provide £6 million PA for his heirs, for example. Luckily, his housekeeping money is topped up from the £90 million Sovereign Grant his Mum gets from government to help defray expenses the kids may incur on official business. Like COP26. There’s been a rise of 26% recently. Imagine that in the average worker’s pay packet.

It’s not easy being a Windsor. But a green Windsor is a real stretch. The Royals clock up 3,810 tonnes of CO2 a year in their combined carbon footprint, whilst their subjects average only ten tonnes. Charles and Camilla, alone, notch up 400 tonnes in their private jetting about hither and yon.

Yet help is on its way. Divesting. Coutts, private banker to Elizabeth II and family, promises to drop its investments in tar sands/oil sands, Arctic oil and gas exploration, thermal coal extraction and generation, and to reduce the carbon intensity of its holdings 25% by year’s end. Every bit counts.

On the other hand, special arrangements are made for a Queen “whose lawyers very recently lobbied the Scottish government in secret to change a draft law to exempt her private estates from a major carbon-cutting initiative?… [making her] … the only landowner in the whole of Scotland who doesn’t have to facilitate renewable energy pipelines on her various estates in the country.”

One does what one can of course. Charles’ fifty-year-old, Aston Martin is converted to run on bioethanol brewed from “surplus English white wine and whey from the cheese process”. Other cars run on biodiesel made from recycled cooking oil.

But Boris takes the apocalyptic view. Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, (friends and family call him Al), Little Britain’s class clown in a fright wig and bespoke suit is Crosby/Textor’s current UK PM. Better late than never, he does his crowd warm-up gig at COP26, a liar’s convention where nations such as Norway, Australia, the USA and the fast-fraying Gordian knot of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, all foregather to feign public shows of concern and vow to cut emissions, while leaving minions to beaver away at home, licensing ever more oil, coal and gas for export.

If, like Boris, you are a bigwig, you try to snag a headline early, before you nick off home, to pat yourself and your pals on the back for saving the planet, as The Guardian’s John Crace notes. The whoopie cushion of UK politics, Boris does it with his clever doomsday crack and the odd, irresistible, fart joke about cows and methane.

Young delegates from several continents look on in “silent, muted, disgust”, reports The Civil Servant in The Guardian. Much of what Boris says offends his audience. But then, as Crace reminds us, Boris doesn’t do gravitas. “They had come for gravitas, and he was just too lightweight, too flippant, too obviously amoral for not just the most serious but also the only game in town.”

Lightweight, amoral Australia is already up and running in the breach of protocol and offensive behaviour stakes. The Santos stall says it all. Morrison is concerned purely with his own political advantage, linked inextricably to the fossil fuel industry at every level from staffing his own office to decisions taken by his Covid Commission, his government’s supposed gas-led recovery. But there’s ever the need for public, self-promotion.

Our own Crosby/Textor PM, Scott John Morrison breaks early in the race to the headline by releasing private texts from Emmanuel Macron when France’s President calls him a liar.

Morrison lies that the texts show that France knew well in advance that we were going to dump it for the US, ending abruptly our submarine romance, a dalliance based originally on a flawed plan to win the SA seats of Sturt and Boothby. Whatever it cost. Such is the making of our national security.

For Niki Savva, Morrison’s Nine News nemesis, the texts do nothing of the sort. True. But it is Scott Morrison. No-one expects Morrison to do anything but lie. Is Savva not savvy to the power of negative advertising? Morrison’s confected stoush with Macron gets him world headlines. In fact, he’s gone for the trifecta.

“In an extraordinary diplomatic feat, Morrison has somehow managed to have China, France and the United States offside simultaneously. It’s an outstanding trifecta, when the Chinese refuse to talk to you, the American President thinks you are a boofhead and the French President calls you a liar.”

Similarly, a clip of his talk to an empty room, Tuesday goes viral on Weibo when in a Freudian slip, Morrison urges “global momentum to tackle China” He means to say, “climate change”.

State-run Guancha.Com reacts swiftly to condemn Morrison. “He doesn’t have a passion to protect the environment but does have anti-China passion under the name of protecting environment,” its opinion piece says. “This episode is the actual reflection of his mind.”

As befits any convocation to save humanity, COP26 is beset with hi-tech wizardry. First up, is a manic video clip, the sales promo shock and awe, assault on hearts and minds type of attention -grabber, barely six minutes long so as not to tax the harried, multi-tasking modern statesman’s attention span.

“Action, this day,” concludes Earth to COP26 a frenzied splicing of fire, flood, freak tide and high wind climate change disaster porn, an offensive of Anthropocene woe intercut with lovely images of dolphins, kids, folk in ethnic rig and a magnificent, endangered, sacred, Kyrgyzstan snow leopard to offer hope.

Hope an endangered planet can rid itself of 28 gigatonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere in eight years if global heating is to be kept to 1.5°C. Hope we survive our coal-fired catastrophe begotten out of modern global capitalism and the fruits of cotton field slavery by an industrial revolution which began in Eighteenth Century Britain. Hope that we are not, already, beyond hope; a species so toxic we have triggered Gaia’s final act of revenge, our own extinction.

Sea levels are steadily rising, while freak weather brings heatwaves, torrential rains, wildfires, floods and droughts ever more often and each more dire, warn chief scientific advisers and presidents of national science academies of over 30 nations.

“Climate modelling indicates that with every fractional increase in warming, these effects will get worse with all countries vulnerable. It’s one minute to midnight by the doomsday clock” thunders Johnson, a hint of John Cleese as Headmaster, in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life chiding errant pupils of the Lower Fifth for being inattentive to his practical demonstration sex education class.

Boris is so excited by his own sententious exhortation that he is seduced into bathos; adding a gratuitous “and we need to act now.”

Wise men speak when they have something to say. Fools speak when they have to say something.

If only BoJo’s performative oration, (which some adjudge one of his best – OK it comes off a low base), remotely matched what his government’s actually doing in its recent humbugger of a budget. Or its re-opening of coalmines.

Neoliberal UK Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, dances to the beat of one invisible hand clapping. Tells Brits, their only hope lies in growth. Paving the way, he doles out more money for roads which he says will boost industrial expansion and a cut in taxes on domestic flights.

Jet engines add only two percent to our greenhouse gas emissions. Charles can easily squeeze in a few more trees to offset that. Brazil’s Bolsonaro can stop clear-felling Amazon rainforest. Or we just won’t buy any more coffee. That trade deal with Australia will save Britain’s bacon.

As to trade, however, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) estimates the boost from the Australia agreement at around 0.01 per cent of GDP. Meanwhile, live data, on the other hand supports its expectation of a 15 per cent fall in trade with the EU. Brexit has been all cost and no benefit.

A stiff telling-off is just the ticket. Always change the topic. Imagine, the legions of dreary Heads; masters, mistresses and other public finger-waggers who have imprinted the need to chide on the subconscious of our Boris, a PM of Olympian ineptitude who, like our own Prime Hypocrite, Mendacity Morrison, makes it his business to lecture others on acting while doing as little as possible himself.

Of the $2 billion ScoMo boasts about for bushfire relief, for example, victims have yet to receive a cent, reports The Monthly’s Nick Feik. Its bushfire fund turns out to be another lie, a type of fiction, which boffins tell Senate Estimates, is a “notional entity”.

Morrison, a liar’s liar, attends Glasgow only to continue the fight he picks with France at the G20 – and to peddle fossil fuels. He puts out his stall as a fully paid-up member of The Coal Club. Standing up for The Australian Way means siding with other coal club members, more notorious, human rights abusers who make our own gulag of indefinite detention centres, our systemic, endemic racism, and our zeal to expand state surveillance and quash dissent appear trivial by comparison.

We join India, China and Russia in blocking a push at the G20 in Rome by the UK and EU countries to commit to phasing out coal production. Poland withdraws its pledge later. Our government floats a $250 billion coal mine funding facility.

To flog coal and gas at a climate convention takes chutzpah. Who else to help than road-show buddy, Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction and sticking it to Clover Moore, Angus, “air miles” Taylor. Morrison plays the plucky little digger from down under who sticks up for his fair young country’s reputation against international depravity and that vulgarian, Macron’s ugly departure from protocol.

Our National Interest is at stake. Just in case anyone notices Australia’s a pariah at any climate convention. Our PM abominates sledging, as anyone watching Question Time can attest.

Several embedded hacks bag Emmanuel Macron for speaking English and daring to call our PM a liar, “I don’t think, I know” Macron’s immortal response to being asking if he thinks that Morrison is a liar. The utterance is unprecedented in public exchanges between heads of state. Attempts to explain it away as just a form of electioneering, a stunt to win votes at home miss how great a breach of protocol it is.

As Christopher Warren notes in Crikey, the narrative is now all about the election. It matters not a jot that the coalition’s disgraced the nation at COP26 with its shameful inability to come up with a policy to reduce emissions. It’s OK if it promotes business as usual for coal and gas because of CCS, a failed technology which puts billions into mining corporation pockets.

So what if it will settle instead for a plan to have a plan based on the hope that others will invent stuff? Not only have we got coal and gas in the mix, above all we’ll market it as The Australian Way. What matters is whether it will be enough to let Morrison just squeak an election victory. We must, at all opportunity resist this facile reduction.

An international laughing-stock who has given offence to three powerful nations, Morrison returns home with his reputation in tatters. His government will never be trusted by any other nation. It’s the most disastrous trip overseas ever taken by an Australian PM. Above all he’s been called out for what he is, a liar.

Morrison’s so used to lying at home and getting away with it given this nation’s tamed corporate media monopoly that he is furious that he’s been called on it – and by another leader, no less who has put the lie to his attempt to lie about his lie. The text the PM’s office released to media does not corroborate Morrison’s claim that France knew all along that Australia would go back on its word and abandon its contractual commitment.

While the UN’s COP26 may prove disappointing in its capacity to achieve binding commitments from enough nations to cut carbon emissions enough to keep to the 1.5 degree increase in temperature agreed in Paris, on a local level it has been of great benefit to Australia in exposing to the world the duplicity and dishonesty of its mining corporation puppet-government. Forget the hard hat and Hi-Vis, Morrison and his corrupt, rorty government of gas pipeline boondoggles and new coal mines are toast.

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And this is the bloke we’re sending to Glasgow!

The Government’s booklet and the entirety of its contents purporting to be a plan the Morrison government has adopted for a mid-century target of net zero emissions by 2050 has met with universal criticism.

After weeks of melodrama, the Coalition parties have adopted a plan hastily put together in a matter of days with all the swiftness of an African antelope.

There is much to be said about this agreement between the Liberals and the Nationals, and it is, in my view, a superb exercise in nothingness. Probably the worst in Australian political history is about the best I can do.

It seems to me to confirm that whilst our Prime Minister might believe that climate-heating is happening, he is sceptical about doing anything about it.

No coatings, no modelling, no legislation, nothing to even suggest they have done much work on the problem at all.

They couldn’t have given it much thought because we adopted these objectives five years ago when we signed the Paris Agreement.

When he arrives in Scotland, the prime minister won’t be greeted with handshakes of possibility but a kick up the arse for pursuing nothing.

Here is a selection of headlines from news outlets that capture our government’s hypocrisy (and idiocy) on climate change:

Mathias Cormann calls for carbon pricing to be coordinated across the world, the ABC.

Angus Taylor to promote fossil fuels at Glasgow Cop26 climate summit, The Guardian.

“Angus Taylor has declared he will use Cop26 to promote Australia as a good place to invest in fossil fuel projects in a provocative statement confirming he will attend the climate summit in Glasgow.”

For those of us who clean our glasses with ‘see it clearly’ and see what we are looking at through the lens of honesty, well, we are fascinated by the seemingly appalling lack of enthusiasm shown by the government. Conservatives must be asking why Tony Abbott led this country down the road of crap in the first place. It’s not easy being green.

What an embarrassment we are in the world’s eyes and what an absence of leadership we carry. What a shame we are to ourselves. How confused must be our electorate that we would place power in the hands of people with chastisement in their hearts, authority on their minds, and control in their doing, those who do little for democracy.

Control freaks usually cannot see beyond their own self-importance and are hostile to those who might threaten it.

Here are some more headlines – including some from overseas media outlets:

Australia will be the rich world’s weakest link at COP26 with hollow net-zero and emissions pledges, CNN.

The Washington Post raised the devastating bushfires of early 2020 and the urgent push for action against global warming that followed in their article, Australia pivots on climate with 2050 net zero target, but won’t adopt steeper 2030 commitment.

Closer to home again, Katharine Murphy reports in The Guardian that:

“It really is extraordinary that we could spend the best part of a year tracking towards Tuesday’s pre-Glasgow crescendo – and land with a “plan” that is actually the status quo with some new speculative graphs.

But that’s exactly where we are. After the Coalition’s disgraceful, destructive decade – measured substantively, looking at proposed actions, not slogans – the government is still running to stay still, without any obvious remorse, introspection, or regret.”

She went on to say:

“But if the Coalition were to change course radically, it would be tantamount to an admission that a party of government in this country has traded the national interest for a handful of regional Queensland seats for the best part of a decade.”

Internally many organisations were just as scathing, as reported in The Guardian:

“The Greenpeace Australia Pacific chief executive, David Ritter, said the Australian government’s commitment “will not stand up on the global stage”.

He said without an updated 2030 target that did more than just “repackage” state emission reduction targets, the government’s plan was “meaningless”.

Influential software billionaire and climate advocate Mike Cannon-Brookes slammed the plan as “just more bullsh*t”. He is, in my view, correct.

David Attenborough has “blasted the plan for lacking detail and failing to increase 2030 emissions reduction targets.”

 

 

The Clean Energy Council warned that:

Without a stronger 2030 target, there remains a lack of clarity and positive investment signals to accelerate the decarbonisation of Australia and take advantage of the enormous economic opportunity in play.

Morrison, when he returns from Glasgow and after receiving the condemnation of other world citizens, will as promised, release the modelling within weeks. Given the government’s record on producing reports etc., I can see that waiting until after the election.

The Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese was right onto Morrison’s ploy when he asked during Question Time:

“What is the reason why he says he’s releasing the modelling in a few weeks, rather than now? Don’t Australians deserve the right to see it?”

While:

“Labor climate spokesman Chris Bowen said the next election would be a climate change contest, labelling the announcement a ‘steaming pile of nothingness’.”

Bowen was correct.

The next day:

“Senate estimates was told Treasury had little input into the modelling but provided advice to the energy department… Treasury had little input into the modelling but It’s even possible that none existed or is being done now.”

Morrison dismissed all the criticism by turning his motor mouth to full throttle, saying on the Seven Network that:

“Everyone else who doesn’t understand Australia, our economy and the challenges we have here are entitled to their opinions… I will do what is right for Australia and we are getting results.”

Mr Morrison said Labor won’t release its plan for 2030, and it was yet to reveal if it would take a 2030 target to the next election and had not released its plan for 2050 net-zero.

Labor intends to release its plan after the Prime Minister returns from Glasgow, and this makes sense after being bitten badly by releasing policy too early.

The prime minister produced his smartphone in defending a reliance on unproven technology to achieve his emissions targets:

“An iPhone would never have been existing if it was based on the assumptions of the leader of the opposition,’ Mr Morrison said. “We wouldn’t have had a COVID vaccine. I have more confidence in technological innovation and science than I do in taxes and regulations.”

All this was meant to imply that he had great faith in technology, but he missed the point that millions of dollars had been spent on carbon capture and storage over a long period without success.

The government won’t budge from its 2030 emission reduction target of 26 to 28 per cent on 2005 levels or its 30 to 35 per cent by the end of the decade.

Just what the National Party’s cooperation will cost the country or the taxpayer (businesses won’t pay) in this ill-founded exercise is unknown, but it will come out in dribs and drabs.

Resources Minister Keith Pitt returns to the cabinet, but we will suffer much more than that. And in more ways than one. So, I end this piece with the same paragraph with the exact words as my previous one:

Morrison will have to tell the truth, which is always a delicate proposition, and he will have to say we will do our best, but because our coalition partners don’t want a target, there is “nothing” much we can do. It’s just the way we govern in Australia.

Fools rush in where wise men never go.

My thought for the day

When he arrives in Scotland, the prime minister won’t be greeted with handshakes of possibility but a kick up the arse for pursuing nothing.

 

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Hey, hey, it’s Perrottet. Can Morrison survive?

“…the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favoured few booted and spurred, ready to ride them…” Thomas Jefferson.

“It’s not just a health crisis, it’s an economic crisis.” Dominic Francis Perrottet, a gangly colt by Gordon Gecko out of Margaret Thatcher in party apparatchik’s blue tie saddle-cloth, a heavily tipped favourite, but up in class, easily beats his lunchtime jogging pal, Planning Minister, pious Anglican and fellow anti-abortionist, Rob Stokes to the winning post in NSW’s forty-sixth premier stakes.

It’s a rigged ballot, after much horse-trading, yet a novelty in a party which hasn’t voted for a leader since 2002. NSW prefers, like La Cosa Nostra, to keep its succession planning simple.

Gladys is a no-show. Is she in witness protection already? Scuttlebutt from “senior Liberals” is that she’ll be parachuted into a safe federal Liberal seat. If ICAC doesn’t send her to jail.

Federal Liberals and Nationals unite behind the terminally compromised ex-Premier, if only to show their hostility to the very idea of the ICAC and air their continued contempt for accountability. As thick as thieves, the saying goes.

Also continuing is Ms Berejiklian’s salary – not her $407,980 as premier but a handy $14000 a month pocket money – as is her ex-deputy’s, the self-styled John “Pork” Barilaro, as you’d expect from two pillars of selfless dedication to the greater good.

Neither has formally resigned yet. Nor has Andrew Constance. Nor need they, until by-elections, costing around a million dollars are held.

To the delight of his corporate owners, bankers and investors, Perrottet immediately pushes the economic panic button. Thanks to our unique media oligopoly, everyone knows that being locked down causes horrendous losses while “opening up” is the one true path to eternal prosperity. But austerity budgeting will do nothing for employment.

Since May, there are 244,000 fewer people in work in NSW while a further 217,000 people report working zero hours last month due to “economic or other reasons.”

To the horror of the PM’s handlers, saddled with an absolute dud in the leadership stakes, aka the PM for NSW, Perrottet, The Premier for Australia, in Laura Tingle’s call, goes rogue; decrees that he’ll abolish caps on overseas arrivals and dispense with tedious quarantine requirements. It’s refreshingly assertive, attention-seeking and an homage to the Ruby Princess. What could possibly go wrong?

It’s a heaven-sent opportunity for comic relief, even if it is egg on face. Libertarian autocrat, King Dom is a whirlwind of free will, divine right or hidebound arrogance – no-one’s quite sure – especially the state’s increasingly casualised, precariat, its baggage handlers and an underclass of overworked, underpaid and contract staff whose lives are consumed over getting enough hours to get by.

A world away, on The Drum, ABC’s leisure class salon, no-one’s booking OS holidays. Yet.

The ACTU says one in three jobs are casual or contract or labour hire and gig workers. Federal government gurus such as the very Christian Porter counter that it’s one in four.

In fact, the ACTU understates the case given our Uber-army of self-employed workers. The true figure is closer to 37% of the workforce or about five million workers.

Denied paid leave, casual employees generally have no guaranteed hours of work, work irregular hours and can have their employment ended without notice, says the Fair Work Ombudsman. But the federal government rejects, out of hand, any suggestion it revive Job Keeper. Or any Dom keeper.

Perrottet’s already lost a shouting match with the PM on the topic in July. Now, Morrison must slap-down the uppity Premier for Australia again. He must lasso the bolter fast.

“The Premier understands that is a decision for the Commonwealth government not for the state government and when we believe that is a decision to make, we will make it in that time,” Morrison issues a pointed, but ineffectual rebuke.

It will be a different story should infection gallop away again, as it has elsewhere in the world, as a result of prematurely easing restrictions. Or importing new mutations.

Already there is a massive miscalculation baked into the Federal Plan or Roadmap, a Clayton’s plan Morrison imposes on premiers and waves in front of the camera. Vaccination rates are never uniform across any state. Perrottet’s grand gesture spells disaster for regional NSW, especially for the state’s rural aboriginal communities.

Rick Morton reports in The Saturday Paper that the Covid-19 infection rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is two and three times higher than that of non-Indigenous Australians. He cites leaked federal government confidential briefing papers.

The death rate amongst First Nations’ peoples aged 40-60, given low vaccination rates and the prevalence of early onset chronic diseases, is three times that of non-indigenous people.

Now, as the two most populous states, NSW and Victoria, begin to ease restrictions, the woefully low vaccination rates among First Peoples generally and especially in some communities pose a real threat to the lives and wellbeing of those for whom the priority vaccination effort has been anything but urgent.

So much for the PM’s assurances that his pet unicorn, “federal cabinet” and its National Plan would give top priority to the vaccination of our most vulnerable.

A few hours after the Premier for Australia usurps him, the PM for NSW, who spends all week in “coward’s castle”, Kirribilli, letting the Nationals hijack the carbon agenda, emerges to peg back Perrottet, claiming opening up applies only to returning Australian citizens (the same group he promised to have back home last Christmas).

King Dom has another go. He walks back his travel thing a tad. He puts regional freedoms on hold a month or two because of low vaccination rates.

Not to be outdone, Saturday, Morrison announces he’s giving everyone the freedom to buzz off overseas and back. Permanent residents, only, of course.

In just one week, despite his bluster, Perrottet’s sounding as weak and indecisive as the dithering Berejiklian. And every bit as shifty. Neither gives a fig about any duty of care towards anyone.

By Saturday, Perrottet is at it again. All international travellers will be welcome in NSW.

He’ll decide who comes into NSW… besides the state urgently needs a shed load of cheap migrant labour.

Morrison’s utterly gazumped by the young upstart. Never has a PM’s authority been defied so brazenly. Nor his impotence exposed so publicly. Dominic Francis Perrottet knows that Scotty’s all piss and wind. And that he has Sydney business behind him.

Moreover, his pernicious, economic crisis, tabloid scare, helps the state’s latest Great Helmsman to divert from the inconvenient truth of his own controversial role in Treasury.

Perrottet was in the wheelhouse in Captain Gladys ship of fools’ inglorious retreat from Delta, a textbook case in turning crisis into catastrophe. A headless chook ought to be NSW emblem. Or a barbed wire canoe. We’re already all up shit creek as far as national public health is concerned.

Perrottet’s choice peddles a deadly deception. People gasp their lungs out in intubation in a hospital system gutted by gung-ho post-modern neoliberals who’ve defunded public health and privatised just about everything left worth selling. But the Perrottets of this world insist it’s your own fault or a lifestyle choice if you’re sick or must live in overcrowded poverty in a Western Sydney ghetto.

“Privatize everything. Abolish help for the weak, the solitary, the sick and the unemployed. Abolish all aid for everyone except the banks. Don’t look after the poor; let the elderly die. Reduce the wages of the poor but reduce the taxes of the rich. Make everyone work until they are ninety. Only teach mathematics to traders, reading to big property-owners and history to on-duty ideologues.” And the execution of these commands will in fact ruin the life of millions of people,” writes Alain Badiou in Capitalism Today, (2012, 13).

It could be a page from Dom’s secret diary. It certainly fits federal Coalition “policy”.

Not only is the state not coping, but its health system itself needs intensive care after botched neoliberal surgery. The pattern is the same across the nation. All states are infected with the deadly neoliberal virus. Expect ever greater unmet demand, fewer hospital beds, overcrowded emergency departments and longer waits for elective surgery. Our public health system puts at risk the lives of all Australians reports The AMA in its recent analysis, Public Hospitals: Cycles of Crisis.

The crisis was full-blown well before Covid. As for the crisis induced by the Berejiklian government’s failure to respond, the former premier insists she acted on “the medical advice,” yet three months pass before Michael West Media investigative journalist, Callum Foote even gets a reply from her office. Foote simply wants to know what the medical advice was. The Premier’s office can’t tell him.

Incredibly, three months later, Foote receives an email from Kerry Chant dated early June, three weeks before the lockdown on June 23. But that email is not about public health advice in NSW. It’s about lockdown restrictions in Victoria. ICAC could turn its attention to what seems to be a desperate bluff. NSW’s response is dictated by the top end of town’s business interests. Gladys’ mantra about “the medical advice” is a pathetic attempt to evade accountability.

Perrottet’s glib diagnosis of economic crisis gaslights a state so wracked by existential crises, its vital signs are faint. News of a fourth resignation doesn’t help. Rats.

Nor does the new premier’s opposition to laws requiring priests to disclose to police confessions of child abuse. He believes that canon law trumps any state legislation.

Bringing schools back a week earlier without any consultation has teachers’ unions furious. But it does get everybody’s attention. It’s the new realpolitik which holds that a even wilful blunder can pay dividends in generating publicity for a newbie leader.

But is it just to keep himself in the news all week, that Perrottet, announces that NSW will abolish quarantine from 1 November? It’s a calculated act of contempt for Scott Morrison and federal authority over borders that he represents. And more.

Perrottet adds another, crisis to the disaster area that is NSW State politics, a state in crisis in an age of crisis; economic, political, environmental and social. And engineered.

“Crisis, rather than being accidental or episodic – as is too often assumed – has been a regular feature of state practice in the neoliberal austerity regimes of contemporary capitalism,” writes Canadian academic, poet and activist Jeff Shanks, echoing Naomi Wolf’s Shock Doctrine and Anthony Lowenstein’s Disaster Capitalism.

Thursday, Melanie Gibbons becomes the fourth rat to desert a sinking Liberal ship, leaving Perrottet a four-by-election popularity contest crisis.

Gibbons quits her marginal, Western Sydney seat of Holsworthy, to have a crack at federal politics in Hughes – seat of Craig Kelly, climate science denier, anti-vaxxer and Covid quack – the arse end of Clive Palmer’s UAP panto horse; a pseudo-party set up to peddle anti-Labor lies. Help the pro-mining federal coalition buy another election.

But there’s more. UAP now has 65,000 members, which Kelly reckons makes it the largest political party. It’s free to join via a simple online form. The politically comprised AEC says it’s all legit. Meanwhile UAP is joined by an extremist group.

Monday brings news that UAP will turbo-charge its toxic disinformation as Reignite Democracy Australia’s (RDA) top firebrand, Monica Smit, who has Liberal links, is to “join” the UAP.

How good is RDA’s call that all Commonwealth Health Officers be prosecuted for crimes against humanity? Vaccines are deadly? Contact tracing is unconstitutional?

Smit is a rabid conspiracy theorist who says her movement began “in response to the Victorian government’s catastrophic handling of the Covid Pandemic.”

Reignite Democracy Australia (RDA) boasts 80,510 subscribers, a thousand paid up members and an extensive online presence in an algorithm based digital echo chamber in which the deluded and irrational collude in paranoid fantasy, insidiously promoting the growth of outrageous lies, disinformation and bias.

RDA-UAP political interference suits the Morrison government’s agenda and is boosted hugely by Palmer’s funding. Clive’s spent almost $1m already, bankrolling Kelly’s election ads on YouTube. Google’s political transparency report shows that the UAP has spent $878,250 since November 2020, twenty times its nearest rival; over sixty per cent of the total political advertising spend.

The hard right, dry white, Dominic Perrottet’s ascension to Premier is, like Scott Morrison’s, a miracle given Dom’s tendency to treat the state treasury as a hedge fund and his role in the iCare scandal. The Liberals’ Pravda, The Australian, aka Catholic Boys’ Daily, reports Dom’s got the top job only after a deal to make his party deputy, Stuart Ayres, a St Dominic’s College Old Boy and Marise Payne’s man bag. Veteran Liberal powerbroker, lobbyist Michael Photios works the phones.

Fellow “committed Catholic”, the highly ambitious, green energy advocate, Matt Kean becomes treasurer. Ayres’ “Western Sydney profile” seals the deal, and leaves moderates out in the cold.

The superbly named Paul Toole gets the Nationals’ leader’s baton when pork-Barilaro does a Gladys and quits before ICAC can separate him from his superannuation. This makes Toole the new token deputy Premier, largely a walk-on role. Expect to see a lot of images of Paul Toole scowling in the background while Perrottet makes it up as he goes along. It’s the federal coalition in miniature. But with more political deaths onstage than the last scene of a Shakespearean tragedy.

Perrottet steps booted and spurred over three rivals, an Olympic standard pile-up- even for the perilously thin ice skating of contemporary Liberal politics. Imagine Steven Bradbury morphing into a predatory, bespectacled, giant stick insect.

Too Kafkaesque? Perrottet’s economic crisis diagnosis is woefully deficient and wilfully misleading. Imagine if this were a Labor government. NSW Leadership Crisis would be all over the news. Or what passes for news in our benighted island paradise, a fully owned subsidiary of News Corp with its retinue of fawning hacks, flacks and Morrison government stenographers.

Instead, Leigh Sales goes in soft on Ita’s ABC 7:30 midweek, letting Perrottet get away with murder.

“I think … Leigh, in relation to the workers compensation scheme in New South Wales. I think, as I have said very clearly in relation to that scheme, the reform was the right thing to do when I was finance minister. The scheme is in a much better place than it was before.”

Some things Perrottet would have done differently? Create an iCare without racking up four billion dollars in debt while underpaying 52000 workers $80 million?

Some subsequently perish. Others just have their lives ruined. But three key iCare executives get a total of $1.2 million payouts. Labor calls for an end to iCare executive bonuses after eight executives share $8 million in salaries and bonuses over two years.

Miraculously, a branch-stacking scandal in Victoria monopolises media attention while Perrottet’s Freedom Day lets you have a beer while you get your hair cut or your nails done, or all three, simultaneously, provided you are fully vaccinated.

These freedoms leave no-one any time at all to heed a terminally, politically compromised Federal Treasury, which confesses Monday, that it blew $40 billion on JobKeeper subsidies to businesses who did not qualify; did not lose a third of their turnover – and not $27 billion as previously reported. No-one cares?

Undaunted, Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce appears on ABC to spruik a further $100 million of corruption in The Building Better Regions fund (BBR) whilst BBR is being audited by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) over whether funding was consistent with the Commonwealth’s grant rules. Talk about contempt for accountability.

The Nationals, a critically endangered political subspecies, who represent five per cent of a gerrymandered electorate, rush to top up the scheme; blow their bags about how much control they have over the purse strings. Brag about a colour-coded spreadsheet.

How good is colour-coding? Such a boon to our innumerate ruling classes. “Get the money out the door” is a Coalition mantra. Shame is dead, buried and cremated. It’s the Morrison government’s biggest achievement.

God forbid that we exercise due diligence, even-handed justice or duty of care in federal expenditure. Any ideal of a democratic commonwealth is corrupted; mired in the stampede to buy votes.

Above all, the celebrity cult sucks the oxygen out of our politics. Hacks rush to gush over how many children the premier has sired. His Catholicism. How he’s only 39.

It’s a hot mess of irrelevancies which displace the cardinal question of the day; how in Dog’s name did Perrottet get the gig?

Is it his scandalous fiscal incompetence, or his Wolf of Wall Street stunt such as punting public funds on stocks, shares, junk bonds, anything bar the 7:30 at the Dapto Dogs, which equips him for the role of NSW premier?

Or like Morrison, has his God spoken to him out of a photograph of an eagle or a parrot or the hindquarters of a bandy-legged budgie smuggler? The suppository of all wisdom?

Such is the bizarre, supernaturalism and magical realism at the heart of our polity: a Trumpian adulation of celebrity leaders who betray us with their venality, their narcissism and their gobsmacking incompetence, while they bleed us dry.

Rivals, Berejiklian and Barilaro flee the ICAC, a body booed by Murdoch hacks, while Andrew Constance is lured out of the comp by shonky Morrison’ promise of a safe federal seat in Gilmore.

Constance. So promising a name, so quickly waylaid by the whiff of a chaffbag of cash.

Perrottet proclaims himself “first family premier of NSW”, an award he selflessly gives himself in his inaugural speech. Hugely cheered by Dom’s posturing, doubtless, are families suffering because injured or sick workers were underpaid in the state’s iCare workers’ compensation scheme scandal.

iCare nearly collapses under Perrottet’s mismanagement, making a $4bn loss.

Taking on the unions to cut public servants’ pay, or freezing nurses’ wages, similarly, is always a family friendly career move. As is not consulting teachers’ representatives.

A dry, right, family guy Perrottet seeks to distract us from the elephant in the room, his own fiscal incompetence and the sudden, rapid, decapitation of his government.

Liberal leadership may have taken a fatal hit but Perrottet’s kept his powder and his Thatcherite economics as dry as they were in his maiden speech.

“I strongly support the principles of free markets. I oppose plans for more social engineering, more welfare handouts and the continual obsession with our rights at the expense of our responsibilities,” Perrottet declared in 2011.

It’s vacuous, hypocritical, cringeworthy, neoliberal cant. Did an IPA hack write it for him? All parties are social engineers as The AIMN’s John Lord so capably shows.

As state treasurer, Perrottet helped former Premier Gladys Berejiklian ensure that Sydney’s elite Northern Beaches received four times the amount of lockdown support from fellow social engineer, Morrison a defender of the rights of the kleptocracy to help themselves to funds diverted from the poor and needy or unvaccinated battlers on the Death Star Victoria.

Middle-class welfare, the genteel euphemism for tipping buckets of money stolen from workers into bosses’ Cayman Island accounts is the class act of our economic theatre for the last fifty years. The myth of trickle-down makes the reverse Robin Hoods of Coalition economics public heroes. At least in their own echo-chambers.

Workers starve as billions of dollars are gifted by Frydenberg and his government’s subsidies to fossil fuel corporations and private insurance shysters. Naturally, one of Perrottet’s first moves is to announce a “package” of funding and other measures to help the struggling business classes.

Perrottet is perfect successor to Gladys in a state which is run by business for business.

Dom’s cranking up the economic crisis because he’s just shunted Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant off-stage in the state’s daily Covid Punch n Judy Show with its ritual case tally, fatalities and finger-wagging. Saturday there’s no show at all. Bugger the medical advice, King Dom’s in charge now.

We’ll miss passive-aggressive Gladys’ ineffectual pleading. Imploring people to follow the medical advice which she never divulged because it never existed. And the way she could still bag Victoria. Her outbursts of petulance when journos expected answers.

On ABC Insiders, recently, a sage says shooting the medico messenger is part of a general return to elected representatives. It’s a revealing comment from an embedded press, given the extent to which those self-same representatives, including our federal Health Minister, just love to hide behind “the medical advice” until there’s a political point in ignoring public health experts. Now it seems to be open slather.

The myth of an economic crisis caused solely by lockdown; of liberty curtailed by dictatorial Labor premiers out to sabotage a nation’s economic well-being is one many lunatic absurdities created by a Murdoch-led media which endanger public health.

Yet it sells well – at least with the hired help who turn up outside the CFMEU, who keep building workers safe, before blocking the Westgate Bridge, scene of one of the worst industrial accidents in the history of construction, an industry notorious for injury and shoddy work practices which ruin or cost workers’ their lives.

Urging states to open before restrictions have done their work is madness. Yet Perrottet is a more than eager accomplice. He’s in competition with his let ‘er rip PM, the latest avatar of Scott Morrison, ever a work in progress.

Goodbye dullsville; hello Gladesville. Make way for an up-beat, corporate, kleptocratic patsy, who like his predecessor has all the libertarian rhetoric about granting freedoms off pat while acting like a petty tyrant, arbitrarily bringing Freedom Day forward for his own political gain. We’ll know in a week at what cost. If we can trust the data.

Dom is head of a state that now becomes even more about cheering on its celebrity premier than any social contract, political covenant or civil society. Suffer mere voters who may yet cherish quaint hopes of democratic representation. Or responsibility. King Dom has a bent for autocracy, secrecy and golden parachutes.

With Perrottet at the helm, Icare, NSW’s WorkCover 2.0 almost collapsed. It underpaid 52,000 sick and injured workers, eighty million dollars in claims benefits, as it racked up four billion dollars in debt. Yet it was immensely successful in looking after its executives. Executives collected four million in salaries and bonuses in 2018-19 alone, a parliamentary inquiry was told.

Another $1.2 million helped ease the pain of termination, icare announced, this February, when interim CEO Don Ferguson would depart the government-owned insurer in six months’ time, while group executives Rob Craig and Sara Kahlau were to go sooner.

But look over there! Dom promises more freedoms. By Monday, 11 October he tweaks Gladys’ hopelessly nanny-state plans to let shops and hairdressers reopen to the fully vaccinated and apply a five kilometres-from-home travel limit.

“Hey, hey it’s Perrottet” firms as favourite in the stakes for the title of the new, occasional Covid NSW infotainment which dumps “the medical advice” in favour of appeasing corporate greed.

Our medium, singular, given all outlets sing from the same hymnal, choruses that new King Dom’s a “devout” Roman Catholic with a six-pack of kids. Dom, a Castle Hill Quiverfull denies he’s a member of Opus Dei, but in the immortal words of Mandy Rice-Davies, “Well, he would, wouldn’t he?”

If he were a member of a secret cult, his superiors would, presumably, insist that he not advertise the fact, John Carmody notes drily. But Perrottet makes his allegiances crystal clear.

Fear not. Dominic’s faith will not affect his politics or his religion; the uber-neoliberal flogging of every public asset he can get his hands on, poles and wires, roads, even the Public Titles Office.

It’s not his family Dom’s talking about. Perottet’s tickled pink to be elected NSW’s new Godfather at The Liberal Mafia’s Macquarie Street palace after self-professed – self-deceiving – “goody-two-shoes” Gladys goes under a bus, bequeathing Dom her Fiefdom of Little Mateship and HQ of The Jolly Bagman as Operation Spicer discovered, where developers make donations to The Free Enterprise Foundation, a Canberra slush fund, which are then washed back into state politics.

Bugger the law. On with the party is the Liberal anthem, fostered by Pepsodent Kid Mike Baird, whose career dipped when, in 2014, ICAC found a swag of Liberal MPs “acted with the intention of evading laws under the Election Funding, Expenditure and Disclosures Act.”

For ten, the party was over. Not all left politics entirely, some took refuge on the cross benches.

Dom’s not giving too much away when becomes clear that even the Press Gallery knows Morrison called the former NSW treasurer a “fuckwit”.

Others claim he was told to go away. The latest NSW Premier, a gawky, asthenic, bespectacled, geek who lost a mozza on his iCare scam, for which he may yet face the ICAC, is no dear friend of the PM. Not because he’s failed spectacularly already but because he’s a rival and he’s pushy and he’s shrewd. He intimidates the PM.

But Perottet’s not going to break Omertà, the code of silence binding Liberals.

Politicians are like diapers. They should both be changed regularly. And for the same reason. As for the Liberal Party of NSW, its MPs must also contend with Engadine Macca’s syndrome, where our PM involuntarily soils himself over a Rugby League Grand Final in 1997 and must then go on Sydney’s KIIS FM, three years later, to clear up the matter.

Doubtless, Gladys is similarly indisposed on hearing that ICAC is on her case. Perrottet has every reason to expect a call also. In the meantime, he’s humiliated Morrison publicly, with his defiance of the PM’s authority over borders. It bodes not well for either.

Ultimately, the rise of Perrottet is another chapter in the rise of a ruling elite, to whom Morrison does not wholly belong, an elite that exists to promote its own and to serve the interest of its wealthy corporate sponsors. Despite much distraction over the NSW’s new premier, it is not his religion but his dry, right politics that merit our full attention.

 

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Keeping a Morrison government honest?

Warning: this article contains material which will shock monarchists everywhere, especially citizens of the south Pacific island of Tanna in the Vanuatu archipelago who once worshipped Prince Philip as a spirit or a god and who now must transfer their adulation to Charles, the son of (their) god.

Keeping a Morrison government honest is like trying to nail a jelly to a wall, as Teddy Roosevelt wrote of his efforts to get an agreement with Columbia in April 1912. Or the ABC’s work to take the twerk hurt out of 101 Doll Squadron’s sensational dance rendition of Koffee’s Toast (remix) for the “launch event” of HMAS Supply II in Woolloomooloo, (not be confused with HMAS Supply I a vessel which was actually launched where it was made in Spain in 2018).

The ABC is told to undo a video edit creating an image of top brass watching – Governor-General David Hurley, Chief of Navy Vice-Admiral Michael Noonan and Chief of Defence General Angus Campbell “observing the performance.”

The women complain ABC camera angles amount to upskirting which is then shown to the world. They feel “threatened and exploited.” Defence Minister Dutton declares that future ship launch celebrations will be twerk-free zones.

 

101 Doll Squadron

 

Hurley and Noonan claim they arrived post-“Toast”. The ABC releases Toast 2.0 which does show just a sole, impassive, Campbell mentally rehearsing his tribute to the late Prince Philip; doubtless pondering what Philip – both a sailor and a pants man might have made of proceedings. Meanwhile Liberal MPs are unhappy at the dance/warship fusion. They sook about how our armed forces are now too “left” and “woke” at a cost to their core business of killing people.

It’s another top opportunity for the PM to bash the ABC and throw another dead cat on the table to distract from his vaccination debacle. He brands the ABC camera woman’s work “disrespectful to the performers,” on Thursday. “To suggest the Governor-General or others were in attendance there in that way I think was dishonest.

The twerk angle is escalated into a major issue for all armed forces and Morrison’s standards: “ … standards have failed, and so I think Defence will look at these matters and make whatever changes they wish to in the future.”

Standards? Morrison’s invoking standards? What a crack-up. Kristina Kenneally finds her flight to Christmas Island cancelled by Peter Dutton a few hours after she’s made it. She wishes to visit the Biloela family in indefinite detention and she plans to take her joint parliamentary committee with her. Dutton says no suitable aircraft are available.

Ever resourceful, committed to the cause of open government and justice, Kenneally secures a Virgin flight.

“Peter Dutton did the one thing he could as defence minister and cancelled the committee’s flight on a Government Special Purpose Aircraft,” she says. “This from the same Minister who didn’t hesitate in spending $36,000 of taxpayers’ money flying himself on the same Government Special Purpose Aircraft from Queensland to Tasmania to announce a highly political “Safer Seats Rorts” grant during the Braddon by-election.”

Scott Morrison’s government has standards. And to adapt Groucho, if you don’t like those standards, it’s got others.

It’s a week of revision and revisitation. After five abortive tries to get a vaccination programme happening, the PM just gives up. If at fifth you don’t succeed, why try again? Scotty screws up his vaccine roadmap. He’s not playing the jab-plan game any more. Instead, National Cabinet, another Morrison, Secret Squirrel comic fiction, will Zoom bi-weekly to nut out a vax plan. Of course that doesn’t prevent the PM from hinting broadly, Friday, at open borders and quarantine at home for vaccinated Aussies returning from foreign locations. At least 40,000 stranded Australians are in limbo. They are still waiting for him to honour his promise to have them all home by last Christmas. National Cabinet will fix that, too?

So he’d love us to believe. He needs another scapegoat. And headlines. Wrest the narrative from his bullying of Christine Holgate, the interview he’s promised Brittany Higgins, her upcoming book – or reports that Ben Roberts-Smith buries a pink plastic children’s lunchbox of USB flash drives in his backyard. The drives, sources report, contain images that may implicate fellow diggers, a violation of Justice Brereton’s 2016 request that soldiers surrender any such material.

The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes have evidence that Roberts-Smith intimidated witnesses to prevent them giving evidence at the Brereton Inquiry. The media also have Images which show elite, Perth-based SAS troops at a fancy dress party at The Fat Lady’s Arms, an unauthorised bar, frequented by both officers and men in Tarin Kowt in Southern Afghanistan. One wears a Ku Klux Klan costume. Friends of his, dressed in similar outfits are alleged to have executed fathers, brothers, sons say locals in a series of complaints, dating from 2006.

A midweek press drop is called for. In synchronised stenography, surely a future Olympic Event – our media flacks oblige with “Back on war footing amid vaccine mercy dash to Europe.” It’s just another desperate Morrison stunt; set up another story that casts himself if not his motely crew of rorty, incompetent failures as valiant, chivalrous heroes.

Mercy dash? Knight errant, valiant, Dan Tehan kits up. Booted and spurred, he’s off to tilt at Brussels’s windmills. Another stunt. None of it fools Niki Savva, whose basilisk stare turned Gillard to stone, or so Savva swears.

“First Australia was in the front of the queue, then it slipped towards the back of the queue, now there is no queue, no timetable and no targets. All too hard.” The Liberal insider, scoffs at Morrison’s farrago of lies in the party’s Pravda, The Australian. To her, the PM’s a dead man walking. The pandemic will be the kiss of death because it reveals his government’s utter incompetence -when it comes to governance. And ScoMo has Pinocchio’s nose. His government’s paralysing ineptitude is compounded by its mythomania; its pathological inability to tell the truth.

But the Morrison omnishambles does some things rather well. It’s a well-oiled machine when it comes to injecting money into the economy via Job Keeper. Over a billion dollars went into some of Australia’s biggest and most profitable companies last year, boosting a $3.6 billion return to shareholders. A few will repay $78 million in return. Corporations don’t have to repay – unlike Centrelink beneficiaries receiving overpayments who get debt collectors set on to them.

Where the Morrison government really excels is being frugal with the truth. While it bullshits about its affection for small government, what it loves most is secrecy and deception. And it’s not just good at lying its head off, it’s mean and sneaky. It’s a black belt in the dark arts of persuasion such bullying Holgate, who cops a bucketing from Jared Lynch for her grandiose ideas, which did not endear her to the government, as he tells the story, in Friday’s The Australian. Add in the backgrounding against Brittany Higgins and David Sharaz or steam-cleaning a sofa. Anything underhand.

Or under Hunt. Down. Down. Down. Monday’s jab tally sags to 56,000. By Wednesday it is only slightly better at 63,633. No biggie, lies our Health Minister who, like his PM, would con us that in a pandemic, best to be the tortoise in any race to the mortuary. Or how we always stuff up on the best expert advice. Professor Murphy says so. “Vaccination alone,” moreover, “is no guarantee you can open up.” Yet last month, Morrison was promising an October jab-by-date.

A travel backflip is not without its risks. QANTAS’ ruthless CEO, one of the highest paid executive in Australia (total salary last year of $24.8 million) a $700 million government corporate welfare recipient, Alan Joyce, is overjoyed that domestic travel is back to eighty per cent of pre-pandemic level, whatever that means in an industry of brutal cutbacks. Joyce is still barracking for open skies in October, despite the Morrison’ latest dummy-spit on setting any target at all.

Alan’s not alone. Others join Joyce in intoning “October” as if it were some holy mantra – as if by power of repetition the month will bring news that we’re all vaccinated and back to business as usual. All our trading partners fit and well again.

You can always trust Hunt to plant his feet firmly in the air. Our thoroughly post-modern Health Minister Greg Hunt is always up for a back-flip. Or pivot. Or somersault. Just don’t ask him to reverse his refusal to testify to what he saw at the Intervarsity Debating Tournament in 1988, attended also by Christian Porter and Paul Fletcher.

For Hunt, there’s no open border on the horizon, ever. Nope. Nope. Nope. No commitment to when we’ll all have had the jab. Even when we do have everyone vaccinated, borders may stay shut. It’s a last-ditch effort to dump the whole vaccination distribution debacle back on to state laps. But before any smartarse can query the futility of more talk about distribution without having any supplies, Holgate-gate breaks, a public name and shame of bully-boy Morrison.

Clad in suffragette white, Christine Holgate appears before a senate committee to accuse the Prime Misogynist of trashing her reputation; gaslighting her resignation, in an orchestrated psychological war on one woman that she says leaves her suicidal. All too much for Scotty. He vastly prefers the old Holgate who was a self-serving corporate hack and Murdoch lackey on Ten. Scotty steals away on Shark 1. Jets to the western front for photo ops, a cash splash for Seroja cyclone victims and perhaps a single malt with merry, Kerry Stokes. WA is showered in handouts, a token five hundred dollars for kids and twice that for adults -just enough to big-note the PM but useless to those who must rebuild.

Shark 1 is a modest one hundred and two seater, a Qantas A330 converted in 2015 by Airbus to a freighter and air-to-air refueler. The RAAF KC30-A tanker is set up to ferry the PM and claque of embedded journos on big overseas trips. If he gets to make another: Morrison flew to Japan, last November. Foreign Minister, Marise Payne and former Defence Minister Linda “Lying Cow Reynolds” flew Shark 1 to Washington but PM’s office told them not to use the VIP suite.

Nor its comfy bed. The $250 million re-jig is worth every cent. A nation wonders how any PM ever did without it. No doubt it will come in handy if it ever becomes safe for any leader to jet away. The pandemic is raging globally.

WHO reports a rise in new COVID-19 cases around the world – for the seventh, consecutive week. Over 4.5 million new cases are reported, as of last week. 76,000 new deaths are reported. Alarmingly, the number of new deaths continues to rise over four consecutive weeks. It’s up by 7% compared to last week. Our PM would do well to heed this trend.

In the meantime, he’s desperate to wrest control of the narrative which entails despatching former DFAT pen-pusher and onetime diplomat in our nation’s Embassy in Mexico, dapper Dan Tehan, Minister for TTI, trade, tourism and investment to EU HQ to plead for more vaccine, even though we don’t deserve it. Dan’s had stellar success in Education, which he equates with training for jobs. Why, he singlehandedly doubled the cost of an arts degree, while helping ensure that Universities and the like did not qualify for Job Keeper. Bet that wins him fans in academia worldwide.

Perhaps the flight will also give Morrison time to reflect on his peroration on the dying of Abbott knight, Sir Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, for whom tributes still flow, thick and slow. Scotty’s no Boris Johnson who fancies Philip as an expert carriage-driver, whose racism and misogyny were just ways to “break the ice; get people laughing.”

“You look like you’re ready for bed!” he tells the President of Nigeria in 2003, dressed in traditional robes. It’s a quip that’s guaranteed to build respect and rapport between the two leaders and their respective nations. Just ask Boris.

It’s a tough gig. Morrison’s got a bit of competition, too. The demise of the notorious gaffer, the fabled Duke of the eponymous Scheme and self-reliant to the last, inventor of his own, patent, modified Land Rover hearse springs a gush of tributes. It’s tricky territory, which Marina Hyde reminds us, reveals more about the author than the subject.

” … neither royal fans nor royal detractors care entirely selflessly about what the royals want. Emotions are for us, not them. They are mostly required to serve as Rorschach blots, in which we see only what we wish and reveal only ourselves. Knowingly or otherwise.”

Many of us warm to Britain’s royalty, described by US Ambassador, William Crowe, in 1997, as the royal family mourned Diana as “aloof, rigid and lacking in empathy.” Many of us don’t. We project what we believe we see; and even that projection is shaped by others. Hamlet asks Polonius. “Do you see yonder cloud that’s almost in shape of a camel?

Polonius: By the mass, and ‘tis like a camel, indeed.

Hamlet: Methinks it is like a weasel.

Polonius: It is backed like a weasel.

Hamlet: Or like a whale?

Polonius: Very like a whale.”

 

Prince Philip and Elizabeth in Australia

 

“The Duke’s life was one of duty and of service, of loyalty and of honour,” Morrison intones, unwittingly evoking his own back-stabbing, duplicity. The citing of the dutiful, master-servant, a mythological beast is compulsory. Unsaid are the hard facts of privilege. Despite Philip’s apocryphal stories of his poverty, he got by with a bit of help from his family including his grandmother, Princess Victoria at Kensington Palace, and later, his guardian Uncle George, Marquess of Milford Haven. His mentor was the distinguished Uncle Dickie, Lord Louis Battenberg, also renamed Mountbatten to disguise his German ancestry, but not his paedophilia, described in FBI files as his “perversion for young boys.”

Philip himself spent his married life playing gooseberry to a Queen’s love affair with her own royal duty. It did not sit well with him. “I am nothing but a bloody amoeba. I am the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his own children.” Self-disparagement aside, he generally did as he pleased, if not without a certain ironic resignation.

Less well-aired are Battenberg’s views on the social picnic, although on one occasion, Philip did demand service. The Duke knew what he wanted but never really got it, a tragic subtext the obsequies of mourning clogging our screens.

“Bugger the table plan, just give me my dinner.” Cut off in his prime at 99, HRH, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, is said to be a “shock death”. The consort, on sufferance, of Queen Elizabeth, the Second, whom he said was “only interested in something if it farts and eats hay, is admired for daring to share his inner vulgarian. Yet the Duke knew that fine words butter no parsnips. He’d be quick to deplore our media’s manic eagerness to fawn over him on his demise.

The gush threatens to become a deluge. Our own closet monarchists on The ABC are awash with tosh. They prattle endlessly, recycling well-worn, clichés and reheating stale platitudes. We learn yet again how Philip “modernised the monarchy” or how his gaffes were really helpful in instructing us what to avoid. Or taken out of context.

Yes. He was a devoted family man. Royal biographer, Sarah Bradford writes, of the younger Philip, “the women he goes for are always younger than him, usually beautiful and highly aristocratic … He has affairs and the Queen accepts it.

The BBC creates a dedicated complaints form on its website to cope with a volley of protests from viewers who find its royal fawning emetic. Many object to East Enders, Gardeners’ World and the final of MasterChef being replaced by simulcast pre-recorded tributes from Philip’s children. Randy Andy, Jeffrey Epstein’s pal, who was sired, by Lord Porchester, The Seventh Earl of Carnarvon is very much in frame. As is Harry, whose paternity is also controversial.

The BBC form’s a handy counterpoint to the sycophantic, bollocks of countless, mindless, fatuous, fact-free eulogies.

Philip did marry well. It should be his obituary. Being born an aristocrat was another stroke of luck. Forget the myth of his poverty. His people knew people who knew people with money. And mansions in England. Philip fled Corfu in 1922; smuggled out in an orange crate borne aboard HMS Calypso. (Greek: she who hides). The plan was to evade anti-monarchists out to kill his Papa, Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, brother of King Constantine of Greece.

King George sent a Royal Navy gunboats around, as you do, when a rellie is in spot of bother. He’d never forgiven himself that time when he was too slow to pull the fat out of the fire for his other cousin, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia whose main claim to fame is that he had no idea how to be a Tsar. Nor did he want to be Tsar. Russia was less than understanding. It ended badly for Nick and family. Now things were looking crook for cousin Constantine.

Con was forced to abdicate. Grovelers gush that the sea rescue kindled Phil’s interest in the navy, but that’s a bridge too far. He was an eighteen-month old tot at the time. He could hardly be expected to know his Navel from his Naval. Oddly, he has no fond memories of Greece or the Greeks especially the Greek who shot his uncle George in 1913.

King George I of Greece and Denmark was on an afternoon stroll in the streets of Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city, when shot in the back by Alexandros Schinas, who declared that he shot George for refusing to give him money. He’d even petitioned the palace a few years earlier. Philip took the story to heart.

Schinas, whose tubercular delirium may have triggered his shooting, as he claimed, died six weeks later in a fall from a window of the Magistrate’s Office.

Like LEGO, the Greek monarchy, in 1922, was an expensive Danish toy, imposed on the Greeks by a referendum in 1862, after thirty odd years’ under Bavarian import, King Otto of Wittelsbach, a dud they fell in love with at first sight but whom they later came to detest, depose and expel. Surprisingly, there was no mad rush of candidates to replace him.

Prince Wilhelm of Denmark, the eventual winner, received a paltry six votes. More popular candidates, include Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, another debauched party-goer. Instead, Alfred is sent on tour to Australia, by his mother, Victoria, partly to curb her son’s appetite for society high-life. A bullet which lodges near your spine can also have that effect. Prince Alfred, Earl of Kent and Earl of Ulster, is the only royal known to have been shot whilst on a visit to Sydney.

Henry O’Farrell shoots Alfred in the back in a visit to a picnic, a fund-raiser for the Sydney Sailors’ Home held at Clontarf Reserve in February 1868, the first royal tour of Australia. Men and women faint. Tears are shed. Tempers flare. A few quick-thinking bystanders barely manage to prevent O’Farrell from being torn asunder on the spot. An “Indignation Meeting, only a day later, draws 20,000. Things turn ugly for Irish-Catholic Australians across the nation.

O’Farrell fesses up to being a lone wolf. Just before he’s hanged, he disavows any link with any other Fenian, much to the relief of NSW cops who are quite unable to find evidence of any fellow terrorists.

O’Farrell is fuelled by Fenian republican sentiment; the desire to liberate Ireland from British tyranny. Prince Albert made an heroic recovery by the end of March yet he was not destined to become the king of Greece.

“Affie” as Prince Alfred was fondly known to his family, won 230, 016 votes. Yet he was forced to politely decline the offer to become King of Greece, however, flattering largely because his mother, Victoria, disapproved. He would later marry Duchess Marie Alexandrovna, the only daughter of Nicholas II and Marie Alexandrovna of Russia and on the death of his uncle Ernest II, in 1873 took up the duchy of Saxe Coburg and Gotha and gradually became popular and was well regarded by his subjects on his death in 1900. Fast forward.

The Calypso took Philip to Italy and he went on to Paris. Philip never looked back. Or forward. Phil, the Greek, or Stavros or The Hun as the Queen Mother called him, may technically have been a Greek prince, but he neither lived in Greece nor spoke Greek. French and German were his languages. As a young child in Paris, he saw himself as a Danish prince.

At seven, he was abandoned by his father Andrew who left to set himself up in Monte Carlo with his mistress, while his strikingly beautiful mother, Alice Battenberg, profoundly deaf, but who could lip read in several languages, believed herself to be a nun and the only woman on earth and married to Christ. A doctor diagnosed her as a paranoid schizophrenic. Philip’s grandmother was persuaded by psychiatrists that Alice was best placed in a secure sanatorium.

Alice did not go willingly. In Easter 1930, the highly distressed woman was physically subdued by the doctor, sedated and taken by car to a clinic near Lake Constance. His mother’s committal, 2 May is the end of Philip’s family life.

 

Alice of Battenberg, Prince Philip’s mother

 

Philip did not reconcile with Alice until 1967, when they were re-united and they spent her last days together.

Philip was sent to England to live with his maternal grandmother. His childhood was chaotic and infused with tragedy, writes Andrew Scott in Politico. He was cared for by his grandmother, Princess Victoria in England at first and was later in the guardianship of his uncle. Gordonstoun school and later the Royal Navy were to be profound influences on his character and personality.

As an adult he retreated into a Colonel Blimp caricature, a public persona that could be an irascible racist and sexist. Examples abound. Philip once asked a group of women community workers in the East End of London who presented the Queen with a sponge cake, whom “they were sponging off.” “Do you meet for a gossip?” he added.

Did he fill the House of Windsor’s random stand-up comedy slot? Leaven her Majesty’s chit-chat and banter? He was far too shrewd to be its court jester. Philip is credited with introducing a business like approach to the royal household and he did notch up an Olympic record of seventy six years as her Britannic Majesty’s “Cookie’s” chief squeeze.

Hacks at The Daily Telegraph and other sycophants enjoyed creating the myth that Philip was a no-nonsense man of the people but he showed no great fondness for commoners. He was no democrat. He greeted the brutal Paraguayan dictator General Alfredo Stroessner in 1963: “It’s a pleasure to be in a country that isn’t ruled by its people.”

The man, however, remains an enigma. Much is made by British media of the royals’ charity work and there is no doubt it is hard work. Perspective matters, however. Whilst Tory tabloid toadies love to fawn over Philip’s statistical record of 22,219 “engagements” in his capacity as the Duke of Edinburgh over six decades: “… most such engagements, involving anything from launching battleships and unveiling plaques at town halls to guzzling drinks and tucking into banquets in the company of other reactionary toffs, lasted on average an hour.”

His working week averages about 350 hours a year of seven hours a week over sixty-four years. For his he earned a stipend of £360,000 PA. All expenses, such as travel, accommodation and meals were paid for him. A complex and reticent figure despite his rhinoceros hide, Philip is not found in his obituaries or the obsequies of public figures.

Another baffling enigma, Scott Morrison is back into his cosplay, the mainstay of his Prime Ministry, doing stretch exercises with mining workers (but not twerking) to the strains of Jimmy Barnes’s Working class Man. It’s quite a stretch even for our protean PM. He tells pet journos that we could be all be jetting OS again, Friday.

“The doctor ate my homework,” or the experts told us to take a punt on a few vaccines are its first line of defence. But when the going gets tough, Morrison gives up. Fail to honour a single pledge to meet any vax distribution deadlines? It’s the only thing, for which federal government will take direct responsibility. Now it refuses to even have a plan. You can’t criticise a plan that doesn’t exist. Just as you can’t be held to account for a rape you don’t hear about.

The non-plan won’t catch on. Vaccination rollout an omnishambles? All of us have skin in the game. Morrison’s inspired decision to abandon all targets is all lamely explained away by scapegoating suppliers. Uncertainties such as vaccine nationalism have been known since the first vaccines appeared. Labor’s Antony Albanese warmed the government of the risk of putting all our eggs in one basket at the time.

Critics such as a left-wing ABC or the sewer rats of social media are confounded. Great solace is to be had that we rank just ahead of Bangladesh or one hundred and fourth in the global vaccination race?

Of course it’s just a walk in the park; not a race and we’ve lost only a total of 909 says the PM in a video he posts on Facebook, a type of social media he tells Australians not to trust, Laura Tingle, reminds Greg Hunt.

“We’ve been very clear to point out where you get your information from. You don’t get it from Facebook. You get it from official government websites,” Morrison patronises our National Press Club, 1 February, this year.

Yet our dilemma deepens – and with it Morrison’s problem. New evidence from researchers at Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital indicates that just counting fatalities does not begin to assess the effect of the pandemic because it ignores Long Covid which may afflict at least nineteen per cent of all Australians who contract acute COVID-19.

“Long COVID hits women more often than men, affects young and old, and while more common in those who had severe symptoms in the acute stage, it can also afflict those who had only a mild course of COVID-19,” reports Crikey’s Jason Murphy.

Health Secretary Brendan Murphy praises the rigour of St Vincent’s research model which selects patients before they succumb to COVID-19 and which tracks them after they do. The experimental design side-steps some vociferous critics of studies which include non COVID-19 sufferers who dismiss Long Covid as all in the mind.

But don’t call Dr Laming. Liberal love rat, Andy Laming, the LNP’s upskirter can’t get enough of Facebook. He has a swag of fake Facebook community and news pages. The AEC is looking into the Queensland MP’s failure to make any political disclosure. Given the AEC’s record of investigations clearing Liberals in Kooyong for example, he’s got nothing to fear.

But Laming is in a spot of bother over his awarding a $550,000 govt grant to a rugby club in his electorate with links to one of his electoral staffers. Worse, the grant which comes from funding aimed at female participation, goes to the Southern Cyclones rugby club, which does not even field a women’s team?

MP for Bowman, Laming flip-flops on his vow not to stand for re-election thereby making himself a “de-selected candidate” who is entitled to a $105,625 resettlement allowance , explains researcher and Walkley finalist, William Summers. A net loss to his own party in terms of scandal, Laming will exit politics at our expense. Yet Morrison’s refusal to stand the MP down is yet another sign that the PM lacks the bottle to be an effective leader; much as he lacks the moral compass to condemn the behaviour of a party member who is a stalker and a troll who bullies women online.

Finally it’s still a shock to many that the PM takes it upon himself to offer an Easter Message. Worse, the sentiments expose the inadequacy multiplied by the inhumanity and sadistic cruelty of his government’s policies

“A very special time when people and families come together?” OK. Not so much for forty thousand Australians stranded overseas by his government. Or the Biloela family in indefinite detention, a type of torture according to the UN, on Christmas Island. Not for the poor whose numbers his government’s IR and economic policies have vastly expanded. 3.24 million of us are forced to live below the poverty line of half the minimum wage, ACOSS calculates.

But how good is The PM’s Easter Massage? Lynton Crosby may throw a dead cat on the table to distract us but it takes a Scott Morrison to get Jen to pet someone else’s live labradoodle. Get real.

A nation goes wild over platitudes and re-hashed homilies as we are left pondering his parable of the girls who must grow up but who’ll never lose their love of chocolate. Tony Abbott’s mentor, Cardinal “Melbourne Solution” George Pell reinvents Easter in an op-ed in The Australian in which he bullshits that the pagan festival has Christian origins.

But imagine if the Easter Message were not words at all but deeds; a commitment to a living minimum wage. Businesses can afford higher wages. The Guardian’s Paul Jericho reminds us businesses can afford higher wages. Profits increased by 15% in the last 12 months. It’s the first recession in Australian history when profits got bigger, not smaller.

Women would benefit the most. Two thirds of all award-dependent workers are women. Yet government policy increases inequality. As women returned “to part-time, casual and low-paid roles last year, the gender pay gap across all jobs (including part-time and full-time) widened from May to November, reaching 31%.

The federal government needs to do more than hand-ball the pandemic to the states to deal with. If it can’t secure enough vaccine, then say so. Call an election. But at the same time it needs to heed the women who marched on parliament not patronise and divide them or buy them off with a women’s cabinet taskforce.

A real boost to the minimum wage would not only help address the gender pay gap and the scourge of inequality, it would stimulate an economy that is coming off job-keeper in a world in which the coronavirus pandemic still rages, only to be depressed by the application of austerity economics – as seen in the shameful measures mooted by a Morrison government to make it harder for our most vulnerable to access the NDIS.

Time to drop the evasion and the indecision, Prime Minister, the nation is calling out for leadership not only in obtaining adequate and timely supplies to ensure a successful vaccination roll-out – but leadership in applying consequences to the likes of Andrew Laming. Above all leadership and vision is required from your government in boosting the minimum wage to stimulate the nation’s prosperity and to attack the scourge of violence against women at of its key origins – the undervaluing of women’s work and gender inequality in the workplace.

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Prevention is better than cure

I was reminded of this old adage, when I heard it reported this morning, on ABC radio, that the new approach to mental health should be to prepare people to cope better with the adverse effects of the present stressful situation, as compared with treating those who have already developed mental health issues.

Then, later in the day, I read Alan Kohler’s Insight article on page 33 NT News, (12/08/20), Covid-19, needs inquiry, fiscal fix – which should be compulsory reading for anyone with any involvement in economics. (I am sure this article can be easily obtained from other News Corp publications, even though it is probably pay-walled for non-subscribers.)

If I were to be unkind, I would suggest that Scott Morrison is deliberately waging war on universities because he thinks he knows all the answers and does not want to admit that there might be – let alone really are – many people who are far more knowledgeable than he is, on the areas which are vitally important in establishing a new order which might deliver us from the current crisis situation.

To a large extent, since everyone has grown up knowing that doctors know more about the human body than do most laypeople, expert medical advice has been accepted in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Because it is caused by a novel coronavirus, approaches to controlling the pandemic have changed as knowledge has grown. To wear or not to wear a mask has become a contentious issue, partly because of the reasons put forward for doing so.

An infected person wearing a mask is less likely to infect others if wearing a mask. And people can be infected without showing symptoms.

Wearing a mask will reduce the probability of becoming infected – but not guarantee total success.

PPE is worn by most health care workers, yet even some of those become infected, sometimes because removing PPE carelessly can enable the virus from infected patients to be transmitted.

It really is a silent enemy.

Look at what has happened in New Zealand after 100 days of no infections!

It is hard to change the habits of a lifetime. In many cultures, greeting a family member or friend automatically involved making contact. Yet this is the quickest way to pass on an infection.

Human beings, by their very nature, mostly enjoy company, yet one person in a group may be infectious and pass on the infection to all within the group. The larger the group, the greater the number of infections.

Then we come to the issue of needing to be concerned about others, not just ourselves.

If you unwittingly get infected, before any symptoms show – if they ever do – you can pass that infection on to everyone you spend time with.

Without a mask, every time an infected person breathes out, they send a spray of microscopic particles which can be inhaled by anyone in their vicinity – or land on their skin, clothing or nearby surfaces and find their way into the bloodstream of those nearby.

Insisting on having fun, in company, risks spreading a virus which not only might kill someone, particularly but not exclusively an older person, or it might infect someone who goes through a nightmarish illness from which full recovery is not guaranteed.

And that is just the medical side.

In order to reduce the extent of infection spread, the Commonwealth government closed down many business and social activities and tried to persuade mortgagors and landlords to allow mortgagees and tenants some latitude in relation to payments due.

Not all states have necessarily followed up on necessary directions and legislation and not all mortgagors or landlords have seen fit to comply.

Given the thousands who are currently out of work or struggling with a reduced income, I do not know who gains anything if mortgages are foreclosed or tenants evicted.

Hold it!

Remember how reducing taxes and allowing millionaires to pay minimum tax has led to a massive wealth gap?

Millions – probably billions or even trillions are stashed away in tax havens, ready to be poured into buying property in a market where house prices will be dropping, at least initially.

The buyers can still make use of negative gearing and can afford to sit on their property empire as long as it takes.

They will recoup little in the short term, but that is no problem as they have more than enough to ride out the crisis.

Government MUST intervene to ensure this currently hidden wealth is put to better use than further impoverishing the already poor!

Alan Kohler’s article is important in at least two regards.

One is the point about re-thinking the whole economic approach and the other is the issue of Modern Monetary Theory.

We are hearing too many horror stories about debt and disaster without realising that the solution is in our hands.

When I studied economics, two early units were microeconomics and macroeconomics – simplistically the household and business aspects vs the issues affecting countries and governments.

I am fortunate in being retired, with an adequate pension from a secure source which is topped up by a portion of the Age Pension.

When I received my two $175 relief payments, I was not in desperate circumstances and I understood that the money was intended to go back into the national economy to stop the wheels from grinding to a stop.

So I passed it all straight on to the Asylum Seeker Refugee Centre.

Kon Karapanagiotidis, CEO of the ASRC, and his valiant group in Melbourne are struggling to help many who have no other means of support, having been continuously ignored and ill-treated by government…Every cent I sent will have already been well spent!

I tell this story, not to make myself out as a do-gooder, but because the government desperately needs people to spend, while the stagnant wage issue, preceding people’s losing their jobs, means that people can barely afford to buy necessities, let alone spend up big to boost the economy.

I do not doubt that some, not necessarily all, of the really wealthy, are also philanthropists, but there is a mass of wealth – in property and tax havens – which will not get back into circulation, unless the government persuades those holding it, that now is the time to invest in the country’s future.

We have accepted medical advice.

We need to accept advice from climate scientists, because, while a reduction in travel (including by aircraft) and industrial has serendipitously reduced greenhouse gas emissions, it is not enough to allow us to postpone action to further reduce levels.

Gas is a fossil fuel. It might pollute slightly less than coal but fools rush in!

Alan Kohler has provided a very valid suggestion as to how to get some effective economic advice – which is incredibly important at this stage of the crisis.

To be talking now about reducing support payments, without first analysing the impact on rent and mortgage payments, and making more certain arrangements with the banking industry, would be negligent to a possibly criminal extent.

What good are empty houses which people cannot afford to live in?

Get real!

Some of you, reading this, might agree with the underlying theme but assure me that it will never happen.

I am maybe a foolish optimist, but I cannot see any government brazenly pursuing policies that will end in the destruction of society.

If enough people with appropriate expert knowledge can show them that investment for the future, using money held by the already wealthy, plus using MMT approaches to issuing bonds, in order to ensure people can receive enough to survive AND enable the economy to recover, then the government might even survive the next election – perhaps the message might get through!

I end as always – this is my 2020 New Year Resolution:

“I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”

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Memes R Us

I put this simple question, “What is a meme?” to Wikipedia.

This is what they told me:

An Internet meme, more commonly known simply as a meme (/miːm/ MEEM), is a type of meme that is spread via the Internet, often through social media platforms.

Traditionally, a prominent form of such memes consisted of image macros paired with a concept or catchphrase. In some cases, these memes used words and phrases contain[ing] intentional misspellings (such as lolcats) or incorrect grammar (such as doge and “All your base are belong to us“).

However, in more recent times, memes have evolved from simple image macros with text to more elaborate forms such as challenges, GIFs and viral sensations.

These small movements tend to spread from person to person via social networks, blogs, direct email, or news sources. They may relate to various existing Internet cultures or subcultures, often created or spread on various websites. Fads and sensations tend to grow rapidly on the Internet, because the instant communication facilitates word of mouth transmission …

… And on they went.

My interest in them stems mainly from a general appreciation of how we use words; how they make us think, the effectiveness of them and the perceptions they might carry.

Life, after all, is about perception. Not what it is but what we perceive it to be.

Here are my top 15 favourite memes. The first thing you will notice is that the group of 15 all reflect my own views. Memes allow this. It’s part of the culture.

 

15 Every picture tells a story. Yes?

 

14 Admitting one’s guilt.

 

13 Words that make you think.

 

12 Seriously funny.

 

11 Slam dunk.

 

10 What’s his name again?

 

9 I liked this for its truth.

 

8 I agree

 

7 Fools rush in.

 

6 No words needed.

 

5 The truth hurts.

 

4 When you tell a lie you deny the other person his or her right to the truth.

 

3 Memories

 

2 A true, if biased view

 

1 A classic.

 

I have no more to say except that I might follow up with a Top 10 Donald Trump memes. They should give your thought processes a thorough going-over!

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.

Words have special meaning when they are written by the intellectually rich but mean nothing when written by the intellectually corrupt.

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Resume democratic government, Morrison; recall parliament

The ritual killing of a water buffalo, by Ifugao villagers of northern Luzon, Philippines, the bloody, brutal slaughter of an innocent, sentient creature, a shocking intrusion of cinéma vérité (filmed by his Francis’ Ford’s wife Eleanor) spliced into the last, dark scenes of Coppola’s self-indulgent masterpiece Apocalypse Now presages the savaging of our body politic to keep us safe from COVID-19.

Premiers hack away at our civil liberties. Our pass-the-parcel federal government hands over its job to a congeries of police proto-states where democracy is hollowed out. Unlike their counterparts overseas, our Federal MPs take a break while the pandemic wreaks its havoc. Genius. Much as it suits Morrison’s secretive style to run a closed shop, someone has to turn up to work, along with teachers and healthcare workers.

To be fair to Scotty, being mugged by reality is a relief. His government has always lacked any agenda. Its dearth of policy ideas, programmes, principles is embarrassing. Forlornly, it kicks a busted legislative can or two down the road. Where is that Morrison priority, his tits-on-a-bull religious discrimination bill? All that seems still in play are its stage two and three tax cuts – cuts it can’t afford and can’t afford to give up on.

Bernie Fraser tells The Sydney Morning Herald that Team Morrison’s policies plus tax cuts face a “reckoning” as public sector debt reaches $1.5 trillion. Plus a potential budget deficit of $200 billion this year, reports The Saturday Paper‘s Max Opray. New company tax cuts for sprats – firms earning under $50 million start next in 2020-21. Personal income tax cuts further bleed the budget by $132 billion over ten years begin the following financial year. None of this will help our economy over-reliant on mining in deep recession.

As Frank Bongiorno puts it, Morrison has governed like a political billionaire yet without a hint of a policy agenda thanks to his vacuous, platform-free election campaign. The rest of his team are back-slapping and high-fiving on the close of parliament’s token day back, Wednesday – as if they had something to celebrate.

Other democracies aren’t shutting down. Peoples’ representatives in the US, the UK, Canada and New Zealand will all return to parliament, later this April. Congress, on the other hand, hasn’t cut its schedule at all.

It’s not easy being Antony Albanese, you get bad press, cut off mid-sentence or mostly no press at all. Jokes about your combover? Yet Albo has it sussed. Parliament “wasn’t suspended during the Spanish flu, or World War I or World War II”.

Barry Jones argues cogently that it is precisely in times of crisis that we need our parliament the most. Without transparency and scrutiny, there is no democracy. He quotes lawyer and journo, David Allen Green.

“If it were not for this public health emergency, this situation would be the legal dream of the worst modern tyrant. Everybody under control, every social movement or association prohibited, every electronic communication subject to surveillance. This would be an unthinkable legal situation for any free society. Of course, the public health emergency takes absolute priority. But we also should not be blind to the costs.”

Who’s to help our Kangaroo National Cabinet and NCCC run the show? SA and WA adjourn their parliaments, mothball democracy, but for other states, it’s see you later (on the other side) and may the fuzz be with you.

“Don’t be surprised, this Easter, if you are stopped by the police and asked what you’re doing” warns Tasmanian Premier, party-pooper, Peter Gutwein who, at least, concedes that if “this were a game of football, we’re not yet halfway through the first quarter”. Apple Isle Peelers will be out in force over Easter. Anyone holing up in the shack; hunting eggs in holiday homes can expect a knock on the door. Or a boot.

Never one to be outdone, Victorian Premier, despotic Dan Andrews, in bed with Big Gas, suspends parliament indefinitely and – unlike Gutwein – seriously contemplates a bonking ban on couples living apart. Andrews warns Victorians high-tailgating it out of Melbourne to caravan parks or already at it like rabbits in their holiday homes to expect an Easter visit from a flop-eared friend in uniform; “…it’s not an Airbnb weekend.”

You can holiday with your family only in a property you own, says Dan. Own? That’s around five per cent of the state’s population. But there’s always been a better set of rules for the ruling elite. Get used to it. Inequality’s only going to increase.

For SA Easter hot cross bunnies, first the good news. Steve Marshall who like climate giant, Craig Kelly, ran a family furniture business before getting into politics and middle-class welfare is giving $10,000 to 19000 gyms, hairdressers, beauty and nail salons, restaurants, cafes and cellar doors, who’ve had to close their doors or who’ve lost income because of the CoVID-19 lockdown. It’s a handout to help you through a crisis which News Corp’s flat-curvers tells us will be done and dusted soon. It’ll buy a lot of chocolate at least. But does trickle-down really work?

Trickle-down is a delusion conservative economist Arthur Laffer sketched on a napkin at a free lunch in 1974 to bullshit Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, two giants of US Republicanism, a once-proud party which now panders to demented despot, aspiring-president-for-life, Pussy-Grabber in Chief, Donald Trump.

A senile Ronald Reagan fell in love with trickle-down. If governments cut business taxes and ease up on the rich, (or, give hand-outs like Scotty’s (Keep my own) JobKeeper or Marshall’s cash splash,) they’ll invest that extra money in productive enterprise, which, in turn, creates more jobs and growth, which will ultimately maximise both the return on endeavour and government revenue. Fantastic? Literally. It hasn’t happened yet.

For Ron Reagan Sr, revenues fell, the deficit doubled and government debt tripled. The US turned from the world’s largest creditor to its biggest debtor. But the theory thrives.

A huge body of evidence exposing the trickle-down myth is probably all fake news. At least if you’ve shut up your SA nail salon, you can buy a few Easter eggs. The bad news? Going away is “completely and utterly off”.

As it is for those in Queensland or NSW. But cheer up Crow-eaters. If at home in SA, the two person rule is just a recommendation – you can have up to ten attending your Easter rave parade and you won’t be busted. But don’t be surprised when your local coppers drop by just to count heads. Human, that is. There’s a rogue virus to patrol.

Every day, we become a less democratic nation, warns lawyer Michael Bradley. The PM and Premiers lecture us with a heavy-handed paternalism. Leaders don’t make sense? No. It’s the people who can’t be trusted to do the right thing. A novel coronavirus brings a brave new world, Bradley writes in Crikey. It’s a world with,

” … police cars circling inside public parks, lights flashing, ordering stationary people to either get on with their exercise regime or go straight home. A tense debate on social media about whether visiting your boyfriend who lives in a different house qualifies as a “reasonable excuse” to leave yours.”

Follow our leaders’ authoritative, timely advice? Listen as they clearly explain restrictions to us? Impossible. They’re experts in equivocating, spin and bullshit.

Eagerly, NSW, Victoria, SA and other tinpot dictatorships reach for the big stick; vying with each other to impose the strictest lockdown. NSW and SA put their top cops in charge. And they look the part. Overpower-dressing. Flaunt the braid; flash the badges, patches, epaulettes and the rest of their quasi-military rig. Inspire trust.

It’s not just the uniform. Our cops are increasingly militarised. Front-line officers in Queensland and Victoria, and specialist units across the country, are being trained in military-style tactics and thinking. Lawyer and former ADF officer, John Sutton warns of a slow and disturbing “convergence”. But is it a good fit?

“Typically, a close ideological and operational alliance between the police force and the military has always been associated with repressive regimes,” he says. Despite John Howard and Tony Abbott and other uniform-fetishists, “Australia has a very strong democracy and a very robust civic mindedness among its population.

Erik Jensen agrees. The Saturday Paper’s editor in chief, agrees that restrictive public health measures are vital. There’s just no evidence to justify any lurch to the right; any special powers of enforcement. “Australia is an exceptionally law-abiding country with a national character based on the false belief we are not.”

Nor is there any sign police have been trained to deal with the health measures detailed in the public health order. Worse, Bradley and others note, the “lockdown state” reverses the onus of proof fundamental to our legal system. In coronavirus times you need to prove you’re doing the right thing by others at all times.

To protect against wrongful convictions, the criminal law, ordinarily, requires proof “beyond reasonable doubt” and the onus of proof lies with the accuser. If there is no case to answer for, a defendant’s silence should be sufficient to render them innocent. Only after proof is brought, should the defendant need to present some defence to their supposed actions.

Old as the law itself, the presumption of innocence lies trampled underfoot. States vie on TV to signal their virtue as guardians of public health, a task neatly handballed, along with such responsibilities as the criminal investigation of the Ruby Princess by a Morrison government always happy to hand-ball trouble.

Are we flattening the curve or flattening freedom? Of course we need to self-isolate and observe other social distancing and health precautions. Self-quarantine is imperative in halting contagious disease. Surviving the coronavirus pandemic means following expert advice, but do we need to be coerced?

Michael Bradley makes a case for a less arbitrary more workable system of policing lockdown.

“I wouldn’t object to a regime under which I was required by law to remain home, with the proviso that I was able to lawfully leave home and go outside if I had a legitimate reason for doing so, subject to all the rules of physical distancing. I also wouldn’t object if that regime gave the police power to reasonably determine that my reason was not legitimate and to order me to go home; or to fine or arrest me if I refused and they reasonably believed that I may be presenting a danger to public health by my actions.

No-one disputes the need for a lockdown. It is a reasonable and proportionate response to the threat of community infection but are we really that complacent or recalcitrant? Or is our allegedly wilful disobedience simply the result of our leaders’ mixed messaging? Confusion abounds. Just look at Victoria.

Not every couple lives together. Can you visit your partner at his or her home? No says Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Brett Sutton. State Police Minister, Lisa Neville also says it’s not on. Well mostly. Sort of. That’s a definite maybe, then.

“You cannot visit your partner for social reasons. There are select reasons you can go to the home of your partner.” Daniel Andrews, on the other hand, who knows a bit about public speaking goes off into a riff:

“That’s not work, that’s not caregiving, that’s not medical care, that’s not shopping for the things that you need when you need them. And you know, it does not comply with the rules. So people should not do that.”

Newsflash. The rules have been relaxed. It’s now OK. But there’s no guarantee things won’t change as the number of Victorians infected with COVID-19 continues to climb. And climb as they do when community transmission is under-reported thanks to a limited testing regime – (expanded since Monday).

Our leaders fail to communicate clearly; consistently. In part, they, themselves, are confused. Or prefer evasion. At the start, in his self-styled role as Bronte bogan, Ocker Morrison urged us to continue with our normal lives. He was off to watch his Cronulla Sharks, or so he planned. It’s vital to his self-marketing.

Being a macho Sharkies fan is vital to Morrison’s everyman branding – as Van Badham says, although he fools no-one, he’s a “fauxgan not a bogan” – a Sydney eastern suburbs spiv who needs the westie blue collar vote. Yet in February, there were echoes of his mentor Donald Trump in his message of business as usual.

“There is no need for us to be moving towards not having mass gatherings of people. You can still go to the football, you can still go to the cricket … You can go off to the concert, and you can go out for a Chinese meal. You can do all of these things because Australia has acted quickly.”

Yet there was a need. Morrison gave dud advice based on a lie. Australia did not act quickly, argues Bill Bowtell, adjunct professor at The Kirby Institute for Infection and Immunity at the University of New South Wales and architect of Australia’s world-leading response to the AIDS epidemic several decades ago.

The federal Government knew about the severity of Coronavirus three months before it did anything. It should have accumulated testing kits, brought in necessary emergency equipment and medical supplies, provided money for science and vaccine research and immediately begun a public educational campaign.

Confusion from the top helps create a broader, underlying problem of vagueness at law. In the US a law can be unconstitutionally void for vagueness as former convenor of criminology, Deakin University’s Darren Palmer writes in The Conversation; a law becomes invalid because it is insufficiently clear.

People must have trust in any new powers given to authorities, he continues. New powers must be clear to all; applied consistently and transparently. Pandemic powers currently meet none of these criteria.

Pandemic powers are vague, inconsistent and opaque. A Victorian teenager is fined $1600 (later withdrawn by Victorian Police) for a driving lesson that is deemed non-essential travel yet NSW Police say the lesson would have been OK in NSW. Mick Fuller tells Fran Kelly that travel to a holiday home at Easter is not essential travel whereas in Victoria, it’s OK if quarantine is observed on arrival. And you own the home.

Do we really need to see soldiers in the street? Fine a man for eating a kebab? A homeless person is fined washing windscreens in south-west Sydney. Another man is pinged for drinking outside a closed pub. Exercise is OK but not elbow-raising.

But,sit on a park bench to catch your breath and you risk a fine in Victoria or NSW.

In SA, as in NSW, top cop, Police Commissioner, Grant Stevens, is the designated emergency co-ordinator. Accordingly, Stevens is practically licensed to kill.

He may use “such force as is reasonably necessary in the exercise or discharge of a power or function under this section or in ensuring compliance with a direction or requirement under this section.”

Not only are you are expected to quietly obey the new laws in SA, you forfeit your right to remain silent. “No obligation to maintain secrecy or other restriction on the disclosure of information” when you are “ … required to disclose information by a direction or requirement” issued under the new powers. Experts in civil liberties warn that we’re on a bit of a slippery slope – and we’ve been on it for about twenty years.

“Australia is now the only democratic nation in the world without a national human rights law such as a human rights act or bill of rights,” warned UNSW Professor George Williams in 2011.

Williams calculates that between the September 11 terrorist attacks and Howard’s end in 2007, a new anti-terror law was enacted every 6.7 weeks. Since then, increasingly draconian – and often unworkable – legislation has ballooned out well beyond any sane or reasonable response to its original worthy aim. Coronavirus extends the trend.

“There’s been a massive amount of legislation passed that prior to [September 2001] would have been unthinkable”, Pauline Wright, President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties says. “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”.

Luckily, we have a PM who is alert to creeping crypto-fascism. Scotty from marketing makes it clear he is sensitive to the term “lockdown”. He fears it may prompt panic buying of toilet rolls and hand sanitizer.

“I would actually caution the media against using the word ‘lockdown’ because I think it does create unnecessary anxiety because that is not an arrangement that is actually being considered in the way that term might suggest,” he says with typical laconic brevity. Yet Police Commissioner, Mick Fuller, who once took Morrison’s wheelie bin in for him, and is now the most powerful man in the state, begs to differ.

“You’re in a lockdown wherever you live,” Mick says last Tuesday after NSW announces its strict rules.

The latest lockdown laws in all states are rushed, unnecessary; “overzealous” writes ANU’s Peter Collignon, a professor of infectious disease. Not only do they seem a tad arbitrary and excessive, however, they are based on guesswork, extrapolation from extractions; cherry-picked, overseas data as Our Nation’s, Flat-Curve Saviour, Morrison confirms in his over-hyped, long-awaited, Release the Modelling show, Tuesday.

Asked whether the exotic modelling “indicated anything about the relative effectiveness of different measures” deployed in Australia. Chief Medical Officer Murphy replies: “It doesn’t, unfortunately.”

In brief, we’ve set up petty despots to protect us from spreading infection who don’t really know what they’re doing or why they are doing it. There is broad agreement on restricting movement but without any clear rationale to inform their arbitrary and inconsistent decrees to restrict the spread of the virus.

Duck-shoving responsibility to the states but taking all the credit for a flattening of the coronavirus pandemic curve, the federal government suspends parliament –

Even Jacqui Lambie’s not happy.

“This idea the government has of calling us in on a whim, whenever they feel they need, it’s not the most functional. They’re spending billions of dollars, so it’s time to apply a bit of scrutiny. We’ve been very nice to the government, we’ve played very nice. But with no parliament – is that a sustainable way for a democracy to go? No, it’s not.” The Independent Tassie Senator,makes the right call this time.

The Morrison government continues to hack away at the practice of representative democracy. Adding insult to injury, Federal Parliament is recalled, Wednesday, to rubber-stamp Job-Keeper. Labor is asked endlessly if it’s going to block the legislation – as if it has the numbers -when it’s already promised its support. The subtext in ABC news reports is that it would be heresy to challenge the Morrison government’s plan.

In fact, there’s a lot that needs challenging. Over a million Australians are ineligible. The Very Christian Porter doesn’t care. There has to be a line drawn somewhere he says. The Australian Bureau of Statistics report only 47% of businesses in the arts and recreation sector are still operating at the end of March.

But because short-term contract work is rampant in theatre, television, film, live shows and the wider arts sector of the economy, many of the 50,000 artists and 600,000 workers in the sector miss out on JobKeeper.

JobKeeper is touted as a $130 billion stimulus package, vital to Snap-Back, Morrison’s six-month miracle cure for our Coronavirus economic recession – which, amazingly, is yet another subsidy of the Liberal Party’s business pals. No-one asks where’s the money coming from; ask which spending will be cut or what additional revenue will pay for it. Few bother with the lack of any “mutual obligation” to bosses attached to it.

Yet the package will help Scotty counter toxic images of queues outside Centrelink offices, snaking along pavements and around the block. Not only will JobKeeper workers be kept out of unemployment queues, moreover, they won’t appear in statistics. Best of all, employers get to choose which workers to keep and which to lose. Workers’ gratitude will be lavished on big-hearted bosses, not endorse Big Government.

JobKeeper is yet another “package” – Morrison jargon to help evade accountability. Many drought relief packages, for example, are yet to materialise. JobKeeper subsidises six million workers’ wages to keep one million in work, as Richard Denniss observes, in a cunning transfer of wealth to prosperous business owners.

Expect little debate. The News-Corp-led media Hallelujah Chorus hails the PM as the Messiah. David Speers on ABC Insiders is full of applause. Others ask: how good is our socialist government? But both are lies. By pumping hundreds of billions into existing businesses, there’s little capital for investing in projects that actually create employment. And Morrison expects things to snap back, once we’re on the other side.

It cannot last. The PM is very keen to impress this on us. “There is a snap-back there, a snap-back to the previous existing arrangements on the other side of this,” Morrison warns Thursday. “There is an intensity of expenditure during this period. And then we have to get back to what it was like before.”

Except, he has no idea how to do this. Or when. Turning off the economic stimulus tap too soon, however badly it’s targeted, would deepen any recession – and it’s likely to be a deep one. It’s wildly optimistic to talk in terms of a six months’ cure.

Other problems are just as intractable. How it will be possible to snatch back JobKeeper or “free” childcare or the JobSeeker allowance, a doubling of the not so new Newstart and tacit admission that its forty dollars a day was woefully inadequate? Meanwhile, JobSeeker still promises punitive “mutual obligation” requirements after 27 April 2020 which force unemployed workers to look for jobs that simply won’t exist.

Greg Jericho reports that Callam Pickering, economist at global job site Indeed, estimates that currently job adverts are running about 33% below what they were last year. “It would actually be surprising if they don’t drop by more – during the 1990s recession they fell by half.”

Some prosperous businesses will receive a big boost from JobKeeper, notes Richard Denniss, The Australia Institute’s chief economist. For example, childcare which underpays and overworks its staff, exploiting a largely female workforce. But for many, it is no help at all. Worse it further divides the working poor.

A glance at current ABS statistics on businesses in the hospitality sector, already rife with wage theft and underemployment and now hit by the coronavirus social isolation decrees, reveals that seventy per cent are forced to further under-employ their workers, reduce the hours of their staff. Forty three percent are estimated, by ABS sampling, to have either laid off workers, or placed them on unpaid leave.

Federal Parliament is suspended until 11 August at least, although as government leader in the House of Reps, Attorney-General Christian Porter makes clear, it’s not due to resume until September. The recession-busting brains trust running the joint has “better things to do” than sit in parliament.

Non-essential outings are banned in NSW and Victoria in a zealous interpretation of a recommendation by Morrison’s oxymoronic adhocracy, his National Cabinet; a marvel of self-promotion and self-preservation by a PM who’d struggle to raffle a duck in a pub but who is a past master of the duck-shoving of responsibility.

Scotty grandstands, whilst ensuring responsibility for containing the coronavirus pandemic lies with the states. But it will all be OK because he’s agreed to a senate committee which will provide oversight. Seriously.

We’ve seen too much already of the contempt for democracy and transparency displayed by his government and senior public servants called before senate committees – including the ADF’s top cop, Reece Kershaw, whose boast was that he’d set a record for taking questions on notice. In other words, avoid answering.

Nowhere is Scotty’s buck-passing more apparent than in the five star scandal of the monster cruise ship Ruby Princess, our Typhoid Mary, an eighteen deck behemoth linked to over a dozen deaths and up to a thousand cases of infection.

Is it a cop-out by federal government as NSW Senator, Kristina Kenneally alleges? She’s being diplomatic about dereliction of duty compounded by a very clumsy cover up of Dutton’s Home Affairs failure to stop the one boat that mattered.

The shadow minister for Immigration and Home Affairs, accuses the Coalition of ducking its responsibility by expecting the states to take the lead – albeit in co-operation with federal Border Force officers. The federal government’s “dragged its feet” on crucial border protection measures, such as temperature checks at airports or mandatory quarantine for cruise ship arrivals.

“The wider Australian community is now seeing the calamitous results of their decision to allow the Ruby Princess to dock in Sydney,” Kristina Keneally says, “a moment we have quickly realised was a tipping point in the spread of coronavirus in Australia.”

This will be regarded as the worst public health disaster in America in a century,” says Eric Topol, professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research in San Diego. “The root cause of the disaster was the lack of readiness to understand where, how and when the disease was spreading.”

It’s been much the same in Australia but now with Carnival and other companies’ ships of shame no longer visiting, there’s been a drop in our statistics. Whether we are flattening the curve, it is too early to tell but there are encouraging signs of a decline in reported cases although community transmission continues to be a major concern.

Finally Morrison’s snapback is an illusion. Many who lost their jobs in past recessions never found another another, even years later.

In the recession of the early 1980s the unemployment rate almost doubled, increasing from 5.5% to 10.5% in two years. The number of unemployed Australians increased by 330,000. An equivalent proportion of today’s workforce would be about 650,000. It took six and a half years, to the end of the 1980s, for the unemployment rate to claw its way back to somewhere close to where it started.

And there were other, deeper, consequences. During the recession of the early 1980s, the proportion of Australian males with a job fell by about 7%. Only half of that fall was reversed in the ensuing recovery. Then workers were hit with the recession of the early 1990s. In the following three years, the proportion of males with a job fell by a further 10%, Macrobusiness’ David Lewellyn Smith reminds us.

Morrison needs to step up, however much he fears accountability. Parliament needs to be recalled immediately. The nation deserves no less. Our public health and the health of our body politic, our democracy depends upon it.

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Just not cricket, Mr Morrison.

“Going to be a great summer of cricket, and for our firefighters and fire-impacted communities, I’m sure our boys will give them something to cheer about,” Morrison tweets Wednesday, at the Gabba, prompting former Wentworth MP and AMA President, Kerryn Phelps, to reply that it must be the empathy consultant’s day off.

Reading between the lines, the PM is overwhelmed by nostalgia for a simpler, quieter, Boys’ Own Australia where flannelled fools at the wicket and muddied oafs at the goals” commanded a man’s full attention and respect.

Australia’s Dear Leader is looking forward to kicking back at the end of a big year of getting in touch with his inner totalitarian; denouncing Labor at every turn in a perpetual campaign of hyper-partisan hysteria, union-bashing, evading scrutiny if not accountability and reforming his Party Room. Discussion and debate are all but eliminated.

Now MPs meet to view a PM’s PowerPoint of his latest talking points and vacuous slogans in silence. No smartarse remarks. Apart from his own. Morrison continues to put his foot in his mouth whenever he goes off script.

Something for the burnt-out to cheer about? It’s a shocker. Any self-respecting empathy consultant would run sobbing from the room, in search of another job. A gig with the Duke of York’s media team holds more appeal.

Opportunity beckons. Bond University and RMIT are cutting ties with Pitch@Palace, the disgraced Duke’s business mentoring charity, which once held a business pitching contest every October at Government House in Perth. The UK’s The Daily Telegraph reports that Andrew is no longer leading Pitch which will continue sans royal support.

Ironically, Bond could not recall $50 million stashed overseas when he appeared in Sydney’s Federal Court in 1994. Later, he served three and half years in prison, for stealing $1200 million from Bell Resources’ shareholders. It is the biggest fraud in Australia’s history, maintains Paul Barry. But Bond University still bears his name.

Shocking memory problems also now plague Prince Andrew, former host of Pitch@Palace, who claims he has no recollection of having ever met Virginia Roberts, a seventeen year old, whom convicted paedophile and financial hustler, the late Jeffrey Epstein, is alleged to have procured for his royal highness. His account is hotly contested.

Roberts, now Virginia Giuffre, tells the BBC’s Emily Maitlis the Duke had sex with her three times. The interview will screen 2 December. Giuffre claims Epstein trafficked her to powerful people and then used her as blackmail.

In New York court documents, prosecutors allege Epstein “enticed and recruited, and caused to be enticed and recruited, minor girls to visit” his homes “to engage in sex acts with him, after which he would give the victims hundreds of dollars in cash”. They say that “to maintain and increase his supply of victims, Epstein also paid certain of his victims to recruit additional girls to be similarly abused by him.”

The Duke insists, in an interview with The BBC’s Emily Maitlis, he was at home after a family party, a right royal pizza with the lot at Pizza Express in Woking? He can remember the day, date and year. It’s a lot to swallow. Never met Ms Roberts, no. Sex? No. He’d know “… if you’re a man it is a positive act to have sex with somebody.”

Naturally, The Duchess of York, a title she may keep as long she does not remarry, Sarah Ferguson, rushes to Instagram to defend her ex-husband. Andrew’s “a giant of a principled man” but after his gigantic train-wreck BBC interview, he may need a little professional help. As could our cricketers – with a very different type of pitch.

With “our boys”, Morrison instantly dismisses women’s cricket as anything uplifting. Australia is number one in the world in women’s cricket but you’d never know it from his utterly thoughtless and insensitive comment.

Does he not know, moreover, that our boys’ ball-tampering scandal in Cape Town, last year, has brought the men’s game into grave disrepute? Cricket Australia (CA) itself is in trouble.

Last year, an independent review found that players live in a “gilded bubble — disconnected, for much of each year, from families, friends and the grounding influence of community”.

CA’s review findings are resonant with meaning for all walks of corporate life and contemporary politics.

Cricketers, today’s gladiators, see themselves as being part of a “machine that is fine-tuned for the sole purpose of winning”, reviewers tut-tut, deploring CA’s win-at-all-costs culture. Imagine. “The reputation of the game of cricket as played by men has been tainted.” Moreover, CA has an “arrogant, controlling and commercialised” culture which reacts to adversity by bullying or ostracising. In brief, it acts like any other corporate enterprise.

Above all, however, CA lacks accountability to its stakeholders, the public. Its independent report is redacted despite all promise of transparency from CA chairman, David Peever. Nor will it publish minutes of its meetings.

It’s not just cricket. CA’s reviewers could be talking about the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Coalition government or its backers, the banks, especially Westpac, which is also in the news, this week, over twenty-three million breaches of money-laundering laws. Happily, after an emergency meeting, CEO, Brian Hartzer, gets to keep his job.

As do the board of directors and the “senior executive team”. The show must go on. And on. The best the PM can manage is to tell 3AW’s Neil Mitchell and ABC Radio’s AM that it’s not up to the government.

“It’s not for the government to say who should be in those jobs or not, but they should be taking this very seriously, reflecting on it very deeply, and taking the appropriate decisions for the protection of people’s interests in Australia. These are some very disturbing, very disturbing transactions involving despicable behaviour.”

Work experience boy, Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg is asked on ABC Insiders what would he do. Do? “Hard Discussions,” is all he can manage. No-one now seriously believes he has the will or the authority to take a bank to task.

Yet it’s a serious breach and it exposes major flaws in the system. Banks are exploiting loopholes. Anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws have been broken by Westpac, alleges AUSTRAC – on 23 million occasions. This includes failing to adequately monitor the accounts of a convicted child sex offender who was regularly sending money to the Philippines. Morrison says it shows the system is working.

Westpac more generally failed to “carry out appropriate due diligence on customers sending money to the Philippines and South East Asia for known child exploitation risks,” the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre – Australia’s financial intelligence unit and its anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regulator, AUSTRAC alleges.

Westpac is unlikely to be alone, writes regulatory expert Nathan Lynch. The story behind the story is industrial scale tax avoidance, the concealing of enormous cross-border payments. Yet it’s not up to the government?

Morrison’s hands-free policy with a bank is in complete contrast to his government’s Ensuring Integrity (EI) bill which seeks even greater state regulation of unions and a further curtailing of workers’ rights to organise.

If passed into law, the provisions of the EI Bill would directly interfere with the rights to freedom of association and independent functioning of trade unions guaranteed by, among other international instruments, the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, writes Anthony Forsyth, Law Professor in the Graduate School of Business and Law at RMIT University.

Granted, all this could take your mind off the odd bushfire – including the monster in NSW which, at its peak, had a front stretching 6000 kilometres- or from Sydney to Perth. And back. But Morrison is making a grotesquely tone-deaf proposal with “… our boys will give them something to cheer about.” Does he lack all compassion?

Can Morrison, or any member of his government or PMO seriously believe, that those suffering bushfire’s devastation, the six hundred and twenty-three traumatised by losing their homes; all their earthly goods, or livelihoods, or the six households grieving the loss of a family member will be diverted by a game of cricket?

Because nothing fixes broken people in anguish, & blackened communities & animals in pain like random blokes doing something meaningless on an oval somewhere. “Fire trucks anyone?” “Nah, just some cricket thanks” tweets independent researcher and writer, Ronni Salt.

At least the Pentecostalist PM hasn’t repeated his promise to burn for Australians every single day. Yet.

Our “Prime Minister for standards” as Australia’s Prime Buck-Passer proclaimed himself last January, may be a sandwich short of a picnic when it comes to personality, policy or people-skills but you have to hand it to him, he certainly has the gift of the gaffe. Plus a tin ear. Tone deaf. It will prove his undoing.

Cook’s circumnavigation of Australia? You heard it first from The Gaffer. All Asians look the same? Morrison’s cheery “Ni Hao” to a Korean woman in Strathfield, the little Korea of Sydney’s inner-west. Understandable. He’s got China on his mind, after his mid-year monster diplomatic gaffe when he declared it “a developed country”.

Some gaffes suggest a malignant narcissism. In 2014, something more than a compassion bypass was evident in Morrison’s hostile response to allegations that underage asylum seekers on Nauru had been forced to have sex in front of a guard, and that women were being told to strip in exchange for showers of longer than two minutes.

Morrison announces an inquiry into the allegations but adds that the review will also look into whether the allegations had been concocted. In the meantime, he will remove ten Save The Children staff from Nauru?

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

They are “employed to do a job, not to be political activists”, Morrison makes his own false claims in a written statement, repeated verbatim at his press conference. Political activists? It’s a damaging and false slur.

Later the Immigration Department, he heads is forced to admit that there is no cause for the staff members to stood down. “No reason to cause doubt to be cast.” The review results in full compensation being paid.

No censure or penalty is imposed on Immigration Minister Morrison, who goes on to become Treasurer.

As Treasurer, Morrison is questioned by Barrie Cassidy on ABC Insiders. Typically, Morrison denies all responsibility for his error of judgement, his fabrication of a damaging slur. He is as intractable as a mule. Morrie the mule.

“I drew no conclusions on the material that had been presented to me at the time.”

Cassidy tries to hold him to account. “Well, yes, you did.”

“No, I didn’t, Barrie.” He tells Cassidy to go back and check the transcript. Cassidy: “I have.” Shrugging aside all ministerial responsibility, denying any personal accountability, Morrison resorts to the Nuremberg defence:

“I did the job that I had to do in that situation, just as I am doing the job now as treasurer …”

Under pressure, this week, Morrison retreats into climate science denialism, a tactic which John Hewson hazards in The Sydney Morning Herald is “doubling down”, a phrase which originates in blackjack. If you are confident of winning after being dealt only two cards, you can double your bet but may take only one extra card.

High risk can yield high reward in blackjack. Figuratively, the phrase means to “to engage in risky behaviour, especially when one is already in a dangerous situation.”

Doubling down is now applied to any fit of intransigence. Hacks abuse it trying to explain the equally bizarre behaviour of Morrison’s mentor Trump who is now totally consumed by his own impeachment. Gone is all pretence of a Presidential role. He emerges from his obsessive monitoring of coverage only to whinge to his aides.

Or he doubles down; repeats his allegation that it was “Ukraine not Russia”, a political interference conspiracy theory which nobody is buying. Even Republicans have trouble with it. In desperation, in a phone call to Fox, Trump admits he demanded a quid pro quo from Ukraine, tantamount to a public confession that as US President he resorted to extorting another nation to support his own political witch-hunt of Joe Biden’s son.

Doubling down can be admirably bold or woefully foolhardy. Morrison’s resort to a palpable lie about Australia’s contributions to greenhouse gases shows a contempt for his audience’s intelligence that will be his undoing.

“To suggest that with just 1.3 per cent of global emissions that Australia doing something differently — more or less — would have changed the fire outcome this season, I don’t think that stands up to any credible scientific evidence at all,” he tells ABC radio the following day.

It’s a nonsense response you might expect from a Craig Kelly, not a Prime Minister, deeply flawed in its logic and at odds with the evidence. Imagine if all the “little polluters” continued burning coal – worse, expanding their coal mining as Australia proposes. Or just be honest with the facts, Morrison.

As AIM writer, Kaye Lee, explains, “in 2016, we were the fifteenth biggest emitter in the world. If we don’t have to worry about our measly contribution, then neither do 180 other countries including the UK, Turkey, Italy, Poland and France, all of whom have smaller emissions than us, and I am not talking per capita.”

As for the evidence, RMIT’s fact check, for example, estimates that Australia’s domestic emissions plus the emissions embedded in its exports added to 1,712 million tonnes in 2016. This represents roughly 3.6 per cent of total global emissions for that year, the latest reliable figures for global emissions.

It’s inspiring stuff. Or contagious. Government by bullying, extortion, deception and denial. Only an Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government could send 6600 menacing debt letters to wrong addresses. When no-one responds, it uses income averaging to raise dodgy debts. Some are referred on to debt collectors.

Professor Terry Carney’s research finds when Centrelink asks for payment of alleged debts or evidence to disprove them, “most vulnerable alleged debtors will simply throw up their hands, assume Centrelink knows that there really is a debt, and seek to pay it off as quickly as possible”.

This week, the centrepiece of its three ring circus surplus-mania, the Robodebt extortion of over a million Australians – of money we mostly didn’t owe – is put on hold pending a class action from Gordon Legal, championed by Labor which is officially launched Wednesday, while Morrison is making his cricket pitch.

“There are a lot of our fellow Australians – single mums, pensioners, people who’ve been unemployed, people on Austudy, students – who’ve been forced to pay up under a regime which, in my opinion, is not validly based in law,” argues shadow Government Services Minister, Bill Shorten, who confirms that a separate class action will continue to argue that the government is “unjustly enriching itself at the expense of social security recipients”.

Government services ought to include “shakedown, outwrestling and exaction. Seven hundred thousand cases may now be opened to review should this single class action succeed.

Also still proceeding, is Deanna Amato’s imminent federal court case, which is due to be heard on 2 December, reports Victoria Legal Aid. The test case will continue to seek a declaration that the debt raised against Ms Amato is unlawful, despite the government’s announcement that it’s giving up granny-bashing and standover tactics in an unparalleled pause in its war on the poor.

It will, it promises solemnly, no longer rely solely on income-averaging to determine debts. No sense that it abused its duty of care in proceeding with an inherently flawed, cruel and unjust scheme which reverses the onus of proof on to the pensioner to disprove the alleged debt. No sense that it will compensate those whom it terrorised.

Some see the abandonment of Robodebt as likely to put paid to any surplus. The truth is that its net benefit never amounted to much any way. Crikey reports this week, debt-collectors have done very well out of Robodebt.

Over $2 billion worth of so-called debt has been outsourced. Yet it’s cost government $534 million – almost as much as the $658 million that has been collected. The model is deeply flawed as Paul Bongiorno observes

“This model of outsourcing government services, which so often sees taxpayer funds being funnelled to some of the government’s biggest friends and supporters, is increasingly problematic. It is operating in the National Disability Insurance Scheme and in the aged-care sector – where, as the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has shown, millions of dollars of public money is going to the private providers’ profits.”

But this time, Morrison The Congestion-buster, can’t blame his office, which is whittled down to a skeletal staff of fifty mandarins -(where one in five is a former coal industry shill) – as he did, last month, when all thirteen pages of the day’s talking points were emailed to the press gallery.

A conversation scripted to reassure us about a prince’s judgement has the opposite effect. A chance to connect the royal family with the modern world reveals that it is marooned, remote and criminally out of touch.

Similarly, Morrisons tin-eared tweet about cricket reveals a PM who is in another world, a malignant narcissist who is pathologically incapable of feeling for others, a would-be tribal leader who has no moral compass; whose energies are invested solely in maintaining power at any cost and increasingly in the politics of division.

As the economy tanks and households find it harder to make ends meet, after six years in power, the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government has only more coercion to offer the average Australian. And cricket.

Above all, the Robodebt debacle shows a government which has no scruple in waging war on the poor. It has, moreover, connived at diverting funds from schools and hospitals to boost the profits of private providers.

As Christmas, a festival of giving approaches, a cruel and tricky government prepares to further punish workers with a law that is certain to reduce their power to negotiate a living wage.

Yet there is hope for some. The million – plus pensioners who have been caught up in Robodebt may take heart in the fact that the government has been forced to abandon the scheme, at least for now.

Just don’t expect any real reform from the banks under a Morrison government.

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Surplus to requirements, ScoMo?

Applause, stamping, hoots and catcalls resound up and down our wide brown land as another big week in Oz-politics lives down to expectations, as John Crace says of Boris Johnson, now the incredible sulk, after his inevitable Brexit flip-flop just flops with a not-so-super Saturday vote to delay, a thinly-disguised ploy to sink the whole mad shebang in the middle of the Irish Sea. Brexit continues to make fools of fools, says Crace.

A week when our parliament is actually sitting, despite its increasing rarity, has a similar effect. This week the government tries to fool us that Labor is in government and to blame for all kinds of feckless fiscal ruination.

Like our own populist tosser Morrison, professional political clown, Boris is clueless about what to do – that’s for “girly swots” – and neither narcissists can take advice – so every waking hour is an epic battle with reality.

At home, a fever of anticipation erupts at the chance of being re-tied to Britain’s apron strings with beaut new trade deals, an agile Coalition with economic management in its DNA can whip up in weeks. Or a year. Tops.

“We are match-fit and ready,” ScoMo’s already promised Boris, an MP with whom he feels an immediate affinity. Scott’s got his mandarins all sworn to secrecy and totally Sco-Motivated to all-new levels of public service loyalty and fidelity. It’s not just manspreading or mugging for the camera in Fiji’s Rugby change-rooms, ScoMo channels the blokey banality of the footy coach in his unsubtle instructions to our public servants.

“It’s the bacon and eggs principle – the chicken is involved but the bacon is committed,” he says. Boom-Boom. Somehow, it’s all about how ministers can only set direction by being sensitive to quiet Australians, whose deepest desires can only be deduced through some miraculous phatic communion.

“Look beyond the Canberra bubble” says our PM, who is nothing but Canberra Bubble. A former Liberal apparatchik and player in the game of mates before being called to lead his people as prophet and seer; a high priest of populism and neoliberal revival. As William James and Bertrand Russell said of the turtles who hold the flat earth in its place in creation, for ScoMo, it is Canberra Bubble all the way down.

How good is a well-done Free Trade deal? Our brilliant new Free Trade Agreement with Indonesia has been quietly simmering since 2012. Morrison promised it August last year, when after six years it had progressed to a most promising single page but hopes no-one recalls. Then – as now- the fact of its brevity does not mean that it is not miraculously close to conclusion. He’s doubtless been out praying. And the spirit’s there.

We only have to “paper it”, as President Bone Spurs says, faking a breakthrough in his tariff war with China.

Stealing the show is Gladys Liu, MP (via AEC poll-booth signage simulation) for Chisholm who’s finally sorted her membership of Chinese organisations known to ASIO. She’s clear of them all, “she thinks”. Or is she?

In a flash, Rupert’s Hun is on to her, protesting Ms Liu’s links with top property developer Chen Guo Jing, whom the MP described as one of her “good friends” in her maiden speech. Chinese language sites call Chen the “implementer” of the Australasia Belt and Road Advocacy initiative, The Herald Sun adds helpfully.

Gladys is now well beyond hapless Sam Dastyari’s villainy in the latest instalment of rabid Sinophobia, Yellow Peril 2.0. She’d resign immediately but “Mandate” Morrison’s government has only a one seat majority.

Rushing to assist, is cuddly Peter Dutton, the Minister for Home Affairs, whose portmanteau portfolio covers everything best left unsaid. Whilst we love to profit out of China’s coal and iron custom, its tourists and its students, whose insatiable thirst for knowledge causes them to take up full-fee paying places in tertiary institutions, there’s just one thing about our biggest single trading partner. Its government’s values suck.

“Our issue as I’ve said before is not with the Chinese people,” Dutton thunders. “My issue is with the Communist Party of China and their policies to the extent that they are inconsistent with our own values.”

Aussie values include lying, spying, cheating and stealing as the case of East Timor reveals. Witness K and his lawyer Bernard Collaery are still holed up in a secret trial in Canberra where they are not even permitted to know the charges against them – except the bleeding obvious; they have embarrassed the government by reporting the fact that Canberra bugged the cabinet rooms of Timor-Leste in 2004 in order to draw up geographic boundaries which would yield Australia more than its fair share of gas and oil.

Alexander Downer is still pouting. Lord knows how his friendship with ScoMo’s going now he’s promised Trump he’ll snoop on the spy-master; find out just how Downer morphed into a small “L” Liberal; set the Mueller Inquiry on to that fake Russian collusion witch hunt. Be very careful with your bus-travel, Alex.

As fans of Q&A, Sunrise and The Drum would know, freedoms come into (and out of) the grab-bag of Aussie values a fair bit, in what is fondly termed “our national conversation”, (but which isn’t ours or even national – and so often turns out to be a power elite talking to itself in public).

Freedom? Sheesh! It’s right up there with crony capitalism, gambling, racism and elder abuse- yet we are currently debating how we know just how much freedom of speak we are allowed to have? Seriously.

Word comes this week that former Amnesty poster-boy Phil Ruddock’s religious freedom bill which would have restored some of the losses felt by the anti-marriage equality brigade pleases neither church nor state.

Given that it was a solution in search of a problem – religious freedom is already protected in law -it is hardly surprising but will ScoMo’s “top priority” just go? Leave privilege unprotected? Impossible.

But don’t rule out another inquiry. At present the draft bill offends all parties – and cross-bench Tassie Senator, Jacqui Lambie can’t see the need for it. Unlike her sympathy with national security justifying expanding state power even further. We’re world leaders in this field.

Australian Human Rights Commissioner, Edward Santow, notes Australia has “passed more counter-terrorism and national security legislation than any other liberal democracy since 2001”.

Instead of agonising nightly on The Drum about how we need to “get the balance right”, wouldn’t it be a whole lot easier just to ask government permission? A journo with a story that seeks to hold a government department accountable must run the story by the government first. It’s the position favoured by Mike Pezzullo who is the eyes and ears of Dutto’s Home Affairs mega-department. What could possibly go wrong?

In the meantime, Attorney-General Christian Porter confirms, on Sunday’s ABC Insiders, that his government will continue to intimidate journalists by refusing to rule out AFP raids. He pretends that the AFP is at arms-length from government. Hilarious. Lie. The AFP comes under the (big right) wing of Minister Dutton.

Turning the thumbscrews, Porter would be “seriously disinclined”, he reckons, “to sign off on the criminal prosecution of journalists” for public interest journalism, but says he cannot give any guarantees. No-one on Fran’s panel calls Porter on his pretence that the AFP is independent of the federal government of the day.

Canberra Times veteran, Jack Waterford reminds us that never in its forty years’ operation has the AFP come up with a finding which might embarrass a sitting government – apart from Abbott’s Peter Slipper witch hunt.

“The AFP behaves rather more as a department of state, pathetically anxious to please the government of the day. The department seems to lack internal checks and balances, and sometimes seems to put outcomes ahead of process and sound management, and seems to lack people with the courage to stand against any of the enthusiasms of its secretary,” observes the former editor and investigative journalist of 43 years’ service.

We can’t blame Fran Kelly – or any of her guests for not nailing the minister on the furphy of the AFP’s independence or the farcical pretence that as Attorney-General, Porter is led, like a lamb, to slaughter offending journalists.

But don’t shoot the mixed messenger.

Our ABC is under extra pressure in the form of a ripper new bill for silent Australia due in the house early next week. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation Amendment (Rural and Regional Measures) Bill 2019 requires the ABC to set up a Regional Council, at a cost of $100,000 PA to help it contribute to a sense of “regional” identity” as well as “a sense of national identity” and to reflect “geographical”, as well “cultural diversity”. Sounds as simple to get sorted as the Nicene Creed.

Accompanying the push to the bush, a second bill is a sop to Pauline Hanson. It’s an ABC “Fair and Balanced” yard-stick-slogan-logo-thingy while the bill also orders Aunty to supply regional content – even though this is totally impossible on a reduced budget. The result is to give the government a new big stick or two to beat the public broadcaster into compliance. Or soften it up before it’s sold off as in the IPA wish-list.

“This regional push by the Coalition government is no benign shepherding of the ABC back to its core duties. It’s actually designed to tie the corporation up in red tape and shift its attention away from national coverage – and the machinations of federal government” warn Sydney University’s Fiona Martin and Michael Ward.

News this week that Dili wants a $5bn refund to compensate for gas and oil illegally taken is likely to be music to Josh Frydenberg’s ears given that he’s making it clear that his government’s surplus fetish does not mean “surpluses are like a trophy in a cabinet,” The AFR’s Jennifer Hewitt reports. But that’s exactly what it means.

It takes genius to con so many Australians for so long that a meaningless line on an annual budget is a sign of good management – let alone the allied bullshit about “fiscal responsibility” and “living within our means”. Yet to claim a budget surplus means anything at all, is a hoax. And a cruel hoax when it means that NDIS applicants, for example, are made to wait or face stricter qualifying tests to “save up” a surplus.

The only reason a budget surplus ever comes in handy is as a brake on inflation,Greg Jericho reminds readers of The Guardian Australia. No danger of that now where even the Reserve is begging the government to do something about a shrinking economy. Would Joe Hockey squander his $80 billion gift/investment in 2014?

The Opposition is addicted to panic and crisis”, Bovver Morrison hollers across the despatch box as he accuses Albo of a stacking a tantrum. Not only is ScoMo a past master at projection, he knows we live in the present. In the eternal now of modern politics, he assumes that few will recall the metanoia of Tony Abbott’s hyper-partisan opposition’s debt and deficit disaster fear campaign when Labor borrowed to get us out of the GFC.

Forgotten, also, he hopes, is Abbott’s brief-lived Coalition government led by “warrior” Peter Credlin with its war on the poor, on indigenous Australia and on workers amongst others. We have yet to recover from its sick militarisation of compassion – the paramilitary Border Force with its ludicrous uniforms and cruel protocols.

Clayton’s PM Junkyard Abbott’s sidekick BJ helped warn us all that Whyalla would be wiped off the map or that we’d being paying hundred dollars for a lamb roast. They rushed to kill off their carbon tax scare.

Their subsequent revoking of a price on carbon has helped lead us to record carbon emissions ever since.

ScoMo opened Christmas Island just for his Medevac scare, an extension of his asylum-seeker paranoia, a rabid and irrational fear febrile of others. Jacqui Lambie may now help him get to revoke the Medevac Bill.

Yet he proceeds with his name-calling, baiting and jeering at Labor for what they might do to ruin us all. It helps create an illusion, as Katharine Murphy of the Guardian observes that Labor is in power -yet by some miracle that Morrison, a solo act throughout his career, is a PM primum supra pares (first above the rest).

In a moment of madness, Labor’s Joel Fitzgibbon proposes a bipartisan war cabinet for the drought. Settle down, Fitz. That would be like a union between the arsonists and the fire-fighters. Besides, could you really trust any of them on their past performances? No-one else in the world takes their climate figures seriously.

Australia is a world leader in climate change abatement per capita in the Coalition’s Gospel according to Morrison. Doo wah boy, Gus Grassgate Taylor, Minister for Global Warming Energy and Big Irrigation does backing vocals.

“The comments made by the Prime Minister at the UN, that we are going to meet our emissions targets, was a gross misrepresentation and was staggering for someone in his position,” protests former Liberal leader, John Hewson, addressing the Round Table in Canberra. Global warming heretic Hewson favours regenerative agriculture. Expect his immediate retribution via ridicule in some Rupert rag.

Reverting to wilful ignorance and disinformation, the Australian economy is not tanking a bit, insists the PM, despite this week’s IMF growth downgrade by almost twenty per cent from 2.1 to 1.7. On the contrary, our nation’s growth something to shout about in parliament.

“Australia’s economic growth is the second highest if compared to the major Group of Seven economies, and the government has helped create 1.4 million new jobs,” ScoMo misleads parliament.

Reliant on resources, Australia lacks diversification of exports and its economy is now more like that of a developing country with fewer prospects for growth, reports the Harvard’s Atlas of Economic Complexity. It predicts growth to slow to 2.2% over the next decade, ranking us in the bottom half of countries

Australia is not even in the G7, however much ScoMo loves to boast about his special invitation to observe last August’s meeting; a token of his government’s leading role as hyper-partisan US ally in the ruinous trade war between Trump’s administration and China.

As for jobs, his claim covers six years. Growth doesn’t even keep up with population.

A stoic ScoMo won’t be spooked by international events; or lift a finger to stimulate a stagnant economy. All this – and more – promises the PM’s turd-polish unit, which accidentally emails the media its jumbo economy super-savers’ pack of lies meant for Coalition MPs, this week.

It’s an innocent mistake. And easily made. Our media lead the world in recycling government press releases. No heads will roll this time. The chooks just get an extra feed of MPs’ “talking points”, the rich mix of fantasy, lies, evasions, disinformation and other conversation-stoppers confected non-stop by the PM’s spin doctors.

Australia’s national net debt is now a record $400 billion plus, according to Matthias Cormann’s own Finance Department’s report last Friday. It’s a peculiar type of nincompoopery that can take Labor’s puny $174 billion net national debt and double it in six years, despite some of the most favourable global economic tailwinds in history, yet the Coalition is on track to get to $700 billion in a canter.

The biggest issue for the economy remains the decline and fall of our household incomes. This will not be revered by some slick tax cut. Nor will it show any improvement, whatsoever, if the government having utterly no idea what to do by way of stimulus measure clings to the mantra of a budget surplus.

But that’s not in the talking points.

There’s so much to crow about it’s not funny. Cue standing ovations from the poor, the elderly, the under-employed and those who need wait only a matter of months before they’re trampolined off welfare and back at work at the local widget factory.

Above all, Australia is God’s Own Country and as the PM reminds a national prayer breakfast, Tuesday,

“The only prayers that you can be assured are never answered are the ones that are never prayed.”

Our latter day saints, the nation’s hard-working farmers are clearing land at record rates yet some find the time to take out of helping cause the problem to wax ecstatic over Drought Relief; the Coalition’s most shameless pork-barrelling since its 1700 kilometre Inland Rail boondoggle. No-one’s getting any money for a year and the $7 billion doesn’t add up, former farmer’s lad Alan Jones berates the Prime Minister.

Jones asks how all of the drought relief grandstanding that’s been going on three months is going to feed a cow?

How good’s a Farm Household Allowance worth a measly $250 a week? $5 million for rural financial counselling? $115.8 million that Morrison says “went directly to drought communities”. Morrison finally gets to talk. He embraces the theme of weed eradication. Jones cuts in, “Oh, PM, don’t talk to me. I’m a farmer’s son, you’re not.”

When the IMF tells you the economy is down the gurgler and your own Finance Minister reports the same – When Alan Jones gives you a bollocking, ScoMo, you may need more than a new set of talking points.

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Coalition campaign launch a real shocker.

“Their end game is simply winning at all costs, even at the expense of decency, compassion, and principle”.

Former Liberal leader, Dr John Hewson, Professor at ANU’s Crawford School of Public Policy, on Coalition tactics.

Pledging “a fair go for those who have a go”, a triumph of self-righteous humbug; a vow to pull an aspirational nation up but only by its own bootstraps, and homage to upwardly mobile “Helloworld” lobbyist Joe Hockey’s fabulous lifters and leaners in one, cloth-eared, slogan, the Morrison government doesn’t even give itself a chance in this week’s spectacular self-abortive surprise launch of its five-week federal election campaign show, Thursday.

A bit of sniping from Point Piper doesn’t help. Mal Turnbull gives ScoMo a bollocking over Dutton’s random act of kindness in organising a special citizenship ceremony for the family of billionaire Huang Xiangmo, one of the Coalition’s keenest patrons. Dutton needs to pulled into line. It’s something Turnbull never could manage.

Although Huang was not granted citizenship, himself, given some Chinese whispers from ASIO spooks over the glad-handed tycoon’s links to China’s Communist Party, Turnbull tells Morrison to hold Dutton to account. Malcolm says he knows what it is to be Prime Minister and where the buck stops. He’s forgotten his own capture by the right wing and his secret undertaking to the Nationals to continue key Abbott policies.

But time wounds all heels. A joint investigation by Four Corners, The Age and SMH shows Dutton granting then-Labor senator Sam Dastyari approval to hold a ceremony for the family of Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo, reports the ABC. Turnbull is “concerned and troubled” by the story; the Prime Minister should take it seriously.

“(Dutton) is supposed to be the minister responsible for the domestic security of Australia, he is supposed to be the minister responsible for ensuring our politics is not influenced by foreign actors,” Turnbull nags, helpfully.

“Scott Morrison is the Prime Minister and you can’t wave this off and say that it is all part of gossip and of the bubble — this is the national security of Australia,” Turnbull wags his finger. The former PM, until ScoMo deposed him, draws a parallel with Sam Dastyari, who resigned over similar issues, in a “furore”. (Created by the Coalition.)

There’s also a bit of bother brewing in the deep north where a mob of mostly Queensland fossil-fools succumb to Adani madness, an affliction chronicled brilliantly by James Bradley in The Monthly. Those afflicted include Barnaby fanboy, Matt Canavan and “crazy as a jaybird” James McGrath who threatens to quit or get work experience environment minister, former Minerals Council of Australia shill, Melissa Price to resign.

What they want is Adani to be approved. It means a lot to their career prospects in a few QLD NLP electorates where climate change isn’t happening and where the lies that Adani will create thousands of jobs are believed. Canavan gets all fired up. Steams in to shirt front ScoMo, Thursday 11 April. It’s Adani approval or else.

Later he denies threatening to resign or that anyone is bullying Melissa Price to comply or resign – yet some letters are leaked, according to Barrie Cassidy on ABC Insiders, Sunday, which suggest that bullying may well have occurred.

Liberal senator, James McGrath is both a “fruit loop” and a “Tea Party extremist” to canny Doug Cameron, and a former Boris Johnson boffin. Jim, who also brags he got the scalps of Abbott and Turnbull – or at least helped in their political downfall, now threatens Price. She should resign. Unless she complies with his demand and approves Adani’s groundwater plan, the last hurdle before Queensland gives the final OK.

It’s an edifying glimpse into Coalition democracy at work and it quite puts the lie to any rumours of bullying. But who is former assistant minister, James McGrath, that he should wield such power? His 2013 entrance into the senate gives a fair clue.

Junkee’s James Colley makes a fair analogy. If Clive Palmer, as the Tele suggested, came in like a wrecking ball, then James McGrath came in like a strange man who wasn’t quite finished shouting on the bus.”

McGrath’s maiden maunder is timely in the wake of Christchurch and as a clue to ScoMo’s woes. Early in his maiden speech, McGrath says,

“The ‘Hundred Years War against Tyranny’ continues today on three fronts: first of all Islamist fundamentalism intent on caliphates destroying Western civilisation, especially religious freedom; secondly, democratic governments restricting freedom of speech and association, betraying hundreds of years of liberty; and, finally, leftists delegitimising all views other than their own, especially in media and education.”

Typically, at such times of conflict, or brewing scandal, a Liberal PM could count on a hand from The Oz. Look over there! Bingo! Here’s a bit of rabid Labor-bashing.

Labor plans “to destroy the two core foundations of not just a modern economy but modernity itself and indeed civilisation” rants Liberal hack, Terry McCrann in Murdoch family rag The Australian, after bagging Shorten’s suits.

“I actually think this is my favourite Terry McCrann column ever,” tweets Labor Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen.

Labor leader, William Richard Shorten replies: “I don’t remember putting this in our Fair Go Action Plan.”

Your campaign launch and your leadership is in trouble when your opponents point and laugh at your propaganda organs. Or when the Oz publishes Matt Canavan’s tweeted selfie as he bites into an onion at the Brisbane markets, Sunday, messaging “not as bad as I thought”, a cunning plug for Abbott’s return, or faint praise for ScoMo’s pitch. By eerie coincidence, sacks of brown onions mysteriously pop up in Warringah as if in silent vigil to Abbott’s fall.

But the Coalition runs off the road with its scare campaign. Labor’s target of 50% of new vehicle sales being electric vehicles is soviet-style economics. It’s Pink Batts all over again (in reality, a successful programme trashed by Abbott and a compliant media). Worse, it’s the end of the weekend – (unlike the abolition of penalty rates).

Unfazed, Labor socialists even plan to inject tens of millions into the production of electric vehicles; revive Australia’s moribund manufacturing industry. Instead of coal-fired power? Whatever will they stoop to next?

Electric vehicles can’t tow a caravan? (Nonsense retorts Toyota, we have powerful electric utes in production.) A farrago of lies and ignorance simply invites derision – and an industry rebuke. Wheeling in Michaelia Cash, without her whiteboard but with all her illegal AWU baggage, however, takes the Coalition campaign beyond peak stupidity and into mind-blowing, lunatic absurdity.

50% of tradies will lose their utes under Bill Shorten”, she rages.

How many? Only 50% of NEW car sales will be an electric target by 2030. Unless tradies trade-in their utes every year, it will affect less than half of them. Then there’s good news, electric utes and SUVs will soon hit the markets.

As The Blot Report, reports, “One of the current ute models developed in the US, the Rivian R1T, is expected to be on sale 2020… in three different versions, 105kWh, 135kWh and 180kWh, which will deliver a range of between 370 km and 650 km. Its payload is only 800 kg, it can tow 5 tonnes. Tesla also has an electric ute in production.”

“We are going to stand by our tradies and we are going to save their utes,” shrieks the Small Business Monster.

Yet Labor’s Great Ute Grab Scare of 2019 is abandoned, suddenly, when experts point out a range of fundamental flaws in Ms Cash’s case. This includes evidence that Josh Frydenberg, himself, was spruiking their virtues in January 2018. Where? You guessed it. The Australian, the one stop drop for every aspiring Coalition politician.

Since then, Josh has rocketed from Energy punching-bag to cadet-Treasurer despite lashing out at dinosaur colleagues, still behind the energy wheel. Josh even advocates electric car subsidies, predicting that “the critics will be the ones driving the vehicles in the next decade as part of a revolution taking place in the transport sector.”

We all expect ScoMo to go hard and go low but the fair go is first casualty of the campaign. Coalition rottweiler and Liberal leadership rival, Peter Dutton, slips his leash; attacking the honesty and integrity of Ali France, Labor candidate for his marginal seat of Dickson in Brisbane’s aspiring outer northern suburbs, accusing her of using her disability as “an excuse” not to live in her electoratecausing the nation of the fair go to rightly cry foul.

Dutton digs in. “Voters are angry,” he tells Coalition propaganda unit and minder, The Australian. “A lot of people have raised this with me.” It’s the “people say” fallacy, a common evasion of responsibility and the rules of valid argument. It’s preferred by Donald Trump, a figure hugely admired by our PM, PHON and other local politicians.

Matthias Cormann, Dutton’s numbers klutz in last August’s Liberal leadership coup, rushes to defend his idol by implying that Dutton lacks all moral autonomy and must, therefore, publicly repeat others’ defamation.

“Well, Peter Dutton was expressing views which were put to him by his constituents who had expressed those concerns,” Cormann tells the press. “There are people with a disability [who] live across Dickson and people in his electorate have put [it] to him, … that they don’t accept the explanation that was offered, as a reason for his opponent not moving into the seat of Dickson.”

Relaying malicious hearsay with intent to impugn, defame or gain unfair advantage is unlikely to impress his opponent, or her party, or local voters, or our judiciary.

Nor did MPs echoing opinion impress conservative icon Edmund Burke in 1774. “Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”

Morrison defends Dutton’s diatribe, which, he says, he hasn’t seen, despite Dutts rubbishing his own PM’s public views. Then, class act, ScoMo implies France is lying. “When Labor tell lies in this campaign, we’ll call them out.” Centrelink reversed the onus of proof for its clients; now you even have to prove your false leg is true.

Yet, ScoMo thunders “We have to establish a culture of respect for people living with disabilities and the families who support, love and care for them.” He proclaims a royal commission into abuse of disabled Australians. But his support for Dutton – and his snide insinuation that Ali France is a liar – makes him part of that abuse.

There’s not a wheel-chair accessible home for rent in Dickson, explains France. She’s forced to live six kilometres outside the upwardly mobile electorate. Dutton later tweets a delayed apology. By then, however, he’s torpedoed the campaign mainstay, the ritual ridicule, when Liberals finds black holes in Labor’s costings. Jeering, and finger wagging are cut short, however as Dutts fronts up with an apology – sort of.

Is it something Kristina Keneally says that triggers Dutts’ remorse? Saturday, The Labor senator says she is “gobsmacked” that Morrison has not called upon Dutton to apologise. Is he afraid of Mr Dutton?” she asks.

“You cannot stand in the [Prime Minister’s] courtyard and shed a tear for people with a disability and then the very next week turn a blind eye to a low, despicable attack by Peter Dutton against Ali France,” Keneally protests.

She calls Dutton, “mean and despicable”, a “thug”, and the “most toxic man in the Liberal party”. To borrow a Duttonism, “many will view” Keneally’s counter-attack as showing admirable restraint and discernment but it’s a brave call nonetheless – especially given that “many will view” others in the Liberal Party as rival contenders.

It’s a public service. Open-minded voters can apply Keneally’s razor to assess any candidate’s despicable thuggery.

Or relative toxicity. ScoMo’s launch blows up in his face, upstaging the Liberals’ asinine slogan with their signature, baroque incompetence, policy nonsense, shonky costings and internecine division. A toey, Tony Abbott, in “diabolical trouble” according to senior Liberals, with party polling a twelve percent swing against him, goes solo.

Abbott tells a hundred electors in a Sky News Pub Test at the Harbord Beach Hotel in the beach-side suburb of Freshwater, a local watering-hole in well-heeled Warringah, that immigration is the big issue of the campaign.

“Oh fuck off! You’re a migrant, Tony”, a woman in the audience reminds her local member, forgoing the temptation to go low. Call the budgie-smuggler out for being a ten pound Pom? They’re all class in Warringah.

But is there unseemly haste in Morrison’s surprise election call? Is he desperate to get into caretaker mode before any further questions can be asked in Senate estimates about how it could approve Adani’s Carmichael mine 2.0, now a pared-down mini-mega mine, a mere 27.5 million tonnes output P.A. instead of the 60 million in its permit?

“We were framed”, imply CSIRO and Geoscience Australia who step back from the Coalition’s assertion that the agency has given the green light to Adani’s new, improved groundwater plan. There is no new plan. The CSIRO merely answered a narrow set of questions on some aspects of Adani’s water management plans.

CSIRO categorically did not give the whole project its approval, reports The Saturday Paper’s Karen Middleton. Worse, it did not see Adani’s revised plans until two days after it had answered the department’s few questions.

Yet the senate was due to question CSIRO executives Thursday night and officials of the department the following morning. Suddenly Scott Morrison breaks with tradition to pay a 7:00am to the Governor-General. By 8:29 am, half an hour before Senate Estimates Committee is due to begin he is able to prorogue the parliament.

Murdoch family newspapers already have the news the night before, given a scoop that appeals to Morrison’s twisted sense of giving the media a fair go. It’s a way of punishing those scribblers who criticise policy. It also undermines democracy, claims AFR’s Aaron Patrick, because it polarises media further; removing grounds for a policy debate in the centre. “Moderate voices are lost in a tribal war between conservatives and liberals.”

Patrick defines postmodern conservatism. So, too in a symbolic way does Morrison’s trip to the GG. ScoMo’s driver backs out the 3.6 tonne Prime Ministerial Limousine. The ScoMobile is one of a fleet of nine armoured, bullet-proof BMWs, ($500,000 plus per car) like ScoMo himself, an Abbott indulgence or fit of paranoid megalomania.

Top Ocker Morrison, Fair Dinkum Bloke, Pride of Sutherland Shire, is on his early morning secret mission to the residence of His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter John Cosgrove, Principal Knight and Chancellor of the Order of Australia, Military Cross, Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia; Pete’s pad at Yarralumla.

Yarralumla means echo, a perfect fit for ScoMo’s Canberra bubble. The federal election is at last proclaimed for 18 May. It will be an Adani of an election, Adani is the coal warriors’ totem in our postmodern war between those determined to act to heed the realities of climate change and those who would retreat into the denialism of coal.

Adani is one a dozen key carbon bombs, identified a decade ago which will spew out enough carbon dioxide to make a safe environment impossible. Should emissions continue, writes James Bradley in The Monthly, they will cause four degrees or more of warming well before the end of the century. ”

“Ecosystems around the world will collapse, wiping out most species of animals. Acidification and anoxia will devastate the oceans. Rising sea levels will destroy coastal areas, while heat and famine and cascading climate disasters will kill hundreds of millions. These are not outside possibilities. They are the inescapable and near-term outcomes of failing to reduce emissions.

In the face of this reality, opening new coalmines is like locking our children in a burning house and throwing away the key.” Yet all our PM has to offer is a vacuous slogan about a fair go. He is gelignite putty in the coal lobby’s hands.

“I believe in a fair go for those who have a go,” Morrison proclaims outside his office Thursday morning. “And what that means is part of the promise that we all keep as Australians is that we make a contribution and don’t seek to take one.” Has he even begun to think about those who can’t “have a go”? His slogan is pernicious twaddle, a form of words which will lead to denying those of us in need as undeserving.

Borat impressionist, bingo-caller and a dab hand with a curry, our PM is a man of few parts and no interior or life of the mind but having worked for the Property Council early in his career he knows all about housing. In fact, there’s not much anyone can tell him.

Expect more nonsense about Labor’s grandfathered capital gearing causing property prices to plummet. There’ll be no admission of how over nearly six years’ flat wages growth has eroded each household’s standard of living.

The Morrison omnishambles even makes a hash of its formulaic set-piece, blowing their fake black hole deception by roping in an aggrieved Treasury. Having a flashback? John Fraser, who did little in Treasury except expunge all reference to climate change and take the department back to the (John) Stone age, was similarly put upon.

Bernard Keane reports “Treasury was regularly used to cost bastardised versions of Labor policies that were then dropped to News Corp stenographers as sensationalist “Labor $10 billion hole exposed” fictions.

Plus ça change … In June, 2018, Fraser made clear that Treasury wasn’t costing Labor’s policies, but what was fed them by Morrison’s office. Perhaps he was underwhelmed when ScoMo publicly snubbed Treasury on negative gearing, insisting he, personally, knew more about the experts on housing. We are at the mercy of ScoMo’s “own experience and understanding”, his faith, or his chutzpah or even just the vibe that guides every dud captain’s call.

Treasury Liberal Phil Gaetjens, a former chief of staff to Costello and Morrison, himself, who also has a seat on the Reserve Bank Board, says that Treasury wasn’t costing Opposition promises. It was just given sets of figures to add up. In other words, like the Minister for the Environment, he’s been conned. Or he’s conning us.

In brief, the new black hole is nonsense but as it quickly hardens – as it surely will- into campaign false narrative, by endless media repetition, it is vital to challenge. Labor’s taxes will never cost $387 bn; try $157 bn – that is, if you can set much credence on projected expenditure over ten to twelve years – an almost meaningless exercise.

The coalition’s election campaign is all over the auction – rather like Morrison’s dysfunctional government itself. The fair go slogan has been ruptured on the reality of Dutton’s cruelty to Ali France, aided and abetted by Scott Morrison himself who has not even tweeted an apology for calling her a liar.

The centrepiece of the black hole in Labor’s costings has been eclipsed by revelations from Treasury that the government has lied about its new figures being based on Treasury costings. The true figure is closer to $157 bn dollars over ten years, despite what the Coalition may try to tell you.

Above all, the Coalition is divided and under fire from two former PMs, each with their own agendas. What adds some semblance of coherence, finally, is based a series of lies. Adani has not received CSIRO approval for its water treatment plans. Nor will they be soon forthcoming. The Queensland government will need to see far more detail and evidence of practicality before it can even contemplate the process of final approval.

“This advice was limited to answering discrete inquiries on whether elements of Adani’s proposed plans would be adequate to protect nationally significant environmental assets,” says CSIRO’s executive director for environment, energy and water, Dr Peter Mayfield. Adani’s dreadful environmental record internationally offers little hope of this.

“In that advice, CSIRO had found a number of problems with Adani’s proposed groundwater plans and recommended changes. The environment department, which has the role of regulator, summarised and conveyed those concerns to Adani, which then undertook to make adjustments.”

So far, the department, with its bullied, inexperience Minister, Melissa Price inspires little confidence.

What is certain, however, is that before too soon, electric cars could be produced in Australia and before that the import of electric cars, buses, trucks and utes will bring us cleaner, quieter, cheaper transports of delight. Not only are both parties’ plans almost identical on electric vehicles, it will take more than a catastrophic coalition election campaign to impede their uptake. Yet the launch is a moral and ethical disaster.

Above all, Dutton’s attack on the integrity and honesty of Ali France reveals the vacuity of ScoMo’s fair go slogan and his Prime Minister’s failure to censure him an indictment of his leadership. To accuse a disabled woman of lying about her disability, moreover, plumbs new depths of cruelty and inhumanity.

There is no undoing the hurt, but Morrison and Dutton could start by making genuine apologies. The fair go nation will expect no less.

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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.”