Return of The Fixer opens to a stacked house this week in Canberra’s political theatre. The show has everything, arms-dealers, a PMC mystery Cabinet of Dr Caligari homage in which a somnambulist MSM “predicts” a Labor leader’s death. Are they accomplices; in on Bill’s kill or, do they, incredibly, for the first time, predict the future?
Of course, there’s more. ASIO makes a ritual midnight raid on our ABC to retrieve Commonwealth property once all dirt on Labor is copied; Turnbull over-eggs the pudding of presumption of his innocence by declaring
“This is a disgraceful, almost unbelievable act of negligence.” Almost unbelievable? No. Downright implausible.
The totally implausible Scott Morrison, Monster of Manus, colludes with ASIO to deny 700 refugees rightful permanent settlement in Australia and our Lord Protector Peter Dutton continues to white-ant the judiciary.
Suspense builds. Why is Dutton silent on Morrison’s collusion with ASIO? Will Morrison get off Scott-free?
Cue counter-tenor Turnbull who reprises an old Howard/Abbott standard, the ballad of the demon(ised) people-smuggler, a typical non-sequitur, a lame, cynical, evasion of ScoMo’s conspiracy to deny refugees their rights.
More examples emerge of torture by ASIO security assessments and their mysterious, arbitrary revision. Karen Middleton reports in The Saturday Paper that all 57 refugees detained since 2012 because of adverse ASIO security assessments have now had their assessments downgraded. Some have been released. Into limbo.
Many are now on bridging visas and are applying for temporary visas – not that these offer much security but it’s their only option since Border Supremo Scott-Almighty Morrison abolished permanent visas in 2013.
Others remain virtual political prisoners. Middleton documents tragic individual stories showing the human suffering caused by Immigration and ASIO’s despotic, secret regime of terror. Two Sri Lankans, one in Melbourne, the other in Sydney have been imprisoned for 8 years. Yet our PM, puppet of the right, must back Morrison.
“We make no apologies for sending the clearest message to the people smugglers and to their would-be customers; if you want to come or think you can come to Australia on a people smugglers’ boat, you’re wrong.”
No apologies for the cruel perversion of our obligations under international law. Shelter? We torture refugees as a deterrent. No apologies either for dog-whistling or rewriting of history. The boats had slowed to a trickle under Labor. And let’s not forget the times the Coalition paid people smugglers, a collusion Tony Abbott freely admits.
From root-vegetable to the recruiting of Lucy Gichuhi, Fixer is jam-packed with postmodern, post-truth zeitgeist and vibe, Bill’s zingers- a “left behind” – (as opposed to a total arse?)- society, tax-cut throwaway lines and the launch of the official 2018 season of Kill Bill where Canberra’s press gallery forms its traditional conga line of suck-holes number with the ruling Liberal Junta, to rave about our democratic depots’ success, growing jobs and stuff, while attacking Labor for having ” anti-business, anti-jobs, anti-Christ”, sledge-hammer wielding on house values but still wimpy, Bill Shorten as leader in an upcoming election, everybody knows he cannot possibly win.
Cannot? In any ambiguous, post-modern narrative, paradox abounds; safe Liberal seats are in danger. Like Sturt.
Bringing on the big guns, opening act, Mouth that Roars, Minister for Defence Industry, the visibly excited, “Fixer”, Christopher Pyne, MP for Sturt, has a rocket in his pocket as he over-pitches another fabulous Coalition plan to clean up Labor, create zillions of jobs, even give him some slight chance of re-election in his own seat, where swelling hordes of SA voters see him variously as a privileged prat, a twat or simply a sad little wanker.
Some make fun of Pyne. A “wet” Liberal who runs a hard right agenda to get ahead is open even to self-parody.
His mannerisms also make him an easy target for cheap shots, especially since Julia Gillard’s “mincing poodle” gibe – which has dogged him ever since. Not to be overlooked, however, is the central role he plays in the Liberal Party, his embodiment of its “I’m all right Jack” values and how he represents its profound existential crisis.
He’s one of the architects of Liberal disaster. Five years ago, Pyne helped Abbott drive the Liberal bus off a cliff, wrecking any last vestige of integrity or credibility. Now, thanks to the incredible magic of corporate tax cuts, trickle down, the just-having-a-Laff(er) Curve, all the Liberal Party needs to do is cure its terminal cancer of internal division, get rid of the mad monk Abbott – erase its past, find a leader in a hurry, get some workable policies on energy, environment, education and wages and/or become gun-runners. Simple, really.
Badly miscast, then, as Education Minister, Pyne opined on the value of schooling. He even promised the Libs were “in lock step with Labor on Gonski”. Lock step for a few paces only. Paul Bongiorno traces a rapid and irrevocable decline in Coalition credibility from Abbott’s notorious 2014 Budget of broken promises, (BOBP).
But, look over there! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it’s super-Pyne, Adelaide’s Adnan Khashoggi, (aka “The Whoremonger”; aka the Mr Fix-it of the Saudi royal family as they splurged oil wealth on weapons-buying sprees).
A dud Education Minister, albeit, in a party which values investing in death over learning, Pyne is now on a similar mission to expand our arms dealing. Monday, he flourishes a “Defence Export Strategy”, for what is quaintly called the Defence Industry rather than the death industry or the toady to America and buy their old, crap, hardware industry.
Our Defence Industry is also, largely, a foreign-owned, price-gouging oligopoly, where a few giant multinationals make billions out of our pathetically naïve defence pretensions and our dangerous fetish for anything military.
Bombs, landmines, drones? Few details of new weapons taxpayers will subsidise are spelt out, but Pyne is pushing local firms to help US giant Raytheon put missile launchers on Bushmaster and Hawkeis armoured trucks for the Australian Army. Toyota utes could be next. No-one questions why an uber-wealthy corporation needs a handout.
But it does pay a bit of tax. Raytheon paid $36m tax on the nearly $750m gross it earned in Australia last year.
In ten years, Pyne’s pipe-dream is for us to become one of the world’s top ten arms exporters. He’s always been a big picture thinker. With his urging, military exports licences increased 44%, every year for the last three years, although they were only $216m in 2016, the Stockholm Institute reports. Seed! What’s needed is seed capital.
Steve Ciobo rushes to the rescue, glad to get away from a clusterfuck of failed trade deals. Originally a pot of aid funds, The National Interest Account gives trade ministers licence to approve any funding deemed “in the national interest”, a phrase opaque and subjective enough to allow arms makers a ready and reliable source of funds.
A “gun slush fund” if you like, it will underwrite the $3.8bn scantily clad, “Export Defence Facility” handout.
Pyne’s gung-ho. A rocket in every pocket is his aim. He is the very model of a modern major general in his total disconnect from consequences; his mad passion to supply weapons that can only cause harm: to kill and maim; to inflict pain, suffering and death not to mention the incalculable agony of dislocation and destruction. Refugees?
Our world’s most generous humanitarian refugee program will assist any displaced persons we may create.
Gun-Runners R AUS reflects Pyne’s poverty of imagination, his total lack of moral scruple. It is an indictment of his lack of humanity and his government’s amoral expediency and utter lack of principle that he should set his cap on making himself and his nation a major arms dealer. In blind pragmatism and more he is a model, modern Liberal.
Pyne’s also on song with Liberal idolatry; its veneration of profit; the bottom-line; its mindless materialism; above all its utter subservience and obsequious devotion to any corporation likely to make a donation to Party funds.
Corporations are keen on it, too. The government is rubber-stamping requests made by arms companies in submissions to the December 2015 Inquiry into Government Support for Australian Defence Industry Exports.
Obscenely wealthy firms are unanimous in their demands that government assistance in the promotion and facilitation of overseas arms sales should be increased. A hand out; not a hand up? This entails deploying ADF personnel as advertising mannequins as in our PM’s presser. Above all, it involves massive government subsidies.
Subsidies? Hockey and Abbott refused to fork out a cent to save a car industry which could have continued on $300m a year. Yet, today, it has no trouble finding $4bn of subsidies – “Export incentives” to benefit local subsidiaries of multinationals, Thales Australia (France), BAE Systems Australia (UK) and one of the big three, Raytheon Australia (US).
Lockheed Martin is worth $40.8bn, Boeing $29.5bn while Raytheon is worth $22.9bn. All deserving causes.
Above all it’s shameless pork-barrelling. The $4bn Export Defence Facility is on top of the Coalition’s massive $50bn spend on submarines that may not now generate even half the 90% Australian jobs first promised.
Governments helped gold-plate electricity networks but Pyne’s seat is solid gold. Michael Owen noted in 2016 that, “based on the geographical spread of ASC workers in key Liberal-held South Australian electorates, the Prime Minister’s $50bn spend on a per capita basis equates to $468,000 per potential vote in Hindmarsh, $490,000 for every vote in Sturt, held by Industry Minister Christopher Pyne, and $480,000 for each potential Boothby vote.”
A nation’s heart must gladden, above all, to learn we are upping our subsidy of the world’s wealthiest death-merchants instead of wasting funds on hospitals, schools, pensions or futile scientific research into climate or environment. The ADF must be delighted with materiel deals which include promotional obligations. This means our diggers not only get to pay top dollar for their gear, suppliers expect them to model it; advertise it as well.
Happily on display, looking for all the world as if they have stepped out of a 1981 Action-Man toy catalogue, are three mean-looking military dudes on a mission; all locked and loaded, ready to put the theatre back into “theatre of war” – such as the latest Kill Bill campaign which even features a couple of filing cabinets of dirt to dish.
Let the hostilities commence. The nation thrills to see a trio of trigger-finger-itchy hi-tech cyborg soldiers sprouting repurposed bits of field-glass or recycled roo-rifle sights from their frighteningly low staghorn beetle brows.
The soldiers do less to butch up the PM’s act than to highlight his ineffectuality. Human chameleons, masters of stealth and surprise, the boys upstage their PM effortlessly even in their dog-shit and olive camouflage. Turnbull joins Payne and Pyne, moreover, at the risk of looking as if he can’t even run in his own presser unassisted. And such is our nation’s love affair with the military that the PM ends up playing gooseberry on a hot date.
Our national fetishising of the military, dead or alive, is also behind the PM’s presser . We lead the world, for example, in “bigging up the Digger” commemorative spending on the military disaster that was The Great War.
Thanks in no small part to Tony Abbott’s infatuation with the ANZAC myth, $8889 was lavished on each Aussie lad killed in the Great War. The Poms, our mythically incompetent colonial masters and cricket enemies, remember their Tommy on a budget of $109 per casualty while the Germans invest a mere $2 for each dead Jerry.
Are we commemorating? Or are we promoting war? John Menadue notes, even The Australian War Memorial accepts donations from merchants of war. BAE Systems, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Rayethon, Thales and Northrop Grumman are all donors. Accepting the war profiteers’ dollar, surely demeans the Memorial’s true function.
“The Memorial’s purpose is to commemorate the sacrifice of those Australians who have died in war.” Its mission is to help Australians “… to remember, interpret and understand the Australian experience of war and its enduring impact on Australian society”.
War is a dirty business. Unlike Pyne, the arms sales evangelist, Menadue and others also warn that BAE Systems is a key weapons supplier to the Saudi Arabian government. The United Kingdom Ministry of Defence is investigating the Saudis for 282 alleged breaches of international law including bombing civilians and the use of cluster bombs – weapons which are likely to increase civilian casualties in its war against Yemen which has killed 10,000 people.
War is being normalised. Its remembrance is corrupted into celebration. Drenched in Anzackery, dripping with testosteronic male posturing, our collective reptilian brain stem has usurped our national sense of ourselves; our sense of who we are. The shift has been lavishly nurtured and exploited by political scoundrels for decades.
In 2004 Michael McGirr warned “The remembrance of war is moving from the personal to the public sphere and, with that, from a description of something unspeakable to something about which you can never say enough.”
David Stephens notes, “It has led to projecting pictures of soldiers on to walls at the Australian War Memorial, promotions for “the rarest tank in the world,” battle-field tours and Gallipoli cruises and surf boat races, and boys and girls on their gap year wrapping themselves in Australian flags at Anzac Cove or getting drunk in the streets of Çanakkale and shouting “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi.”
We are normalising, if not nurturing, a perversion, a sentimental, nationalistic, jingoistic appetite for war bereft of any insight or understanding of war’s indescribably destructive horror, intensified in today’s horrific warfare.
Yemeni, Jamal shares her insight,
“This war is tearing the social texture in a way that makes it impossible to repair,” she says. “The double aggression we are under from the outside and the inside is creating cracks. I can see all my loved ones watching in pain knowing that things will never be the same even when this war ends, if it ever does.
“We have survived so many wars. We have been stripped of jobs, security and basic services before, however, this time we are being stripped of a home.”
Yet our governments’ funds for commemorative celebration of the joys of war are running like a tap, conditioning us; grooming us to accept war as normal and the arms trade as just another commercial opportunity.
The arms industry is delighted. Certainly no expense has been spared in Monday’s breathless announcement.
In yet another spell-binding PM’s presser, Turnbull and Pyne promise to “set aside” funding of A$3.8 billion to lift Australia into the world’s top 10 weaponry exporting nations. Our Defence Minister, the inscrutable Marise Payne stands off to one side, transfixed, transported, doubtless, by the bigger picture. Or by Pyne’s petty rivalry.
We are now the 20th biggest arms supplier, reckons the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, with annual earnings of about US$1.6 billion. Yet it’s not a race any one of us volunteered to enter. Not even a plebiscite. Such is the nature of our political system, governments get to decide all that life and death stuff for us.
Exporting death is the Turnbull government’s latest innovation in its flawlessly orchestrated suite of manufacturing, trade and international relations policies. Expanding our arms trading, moreover, can only boost our status on the UN Human Rights Council, as we embrace the dirtiest business in the world and join the select group of international merchants of death where corruption, graft and deception are all part of the art of the deal.
There’s light and shade in every government, however, a truth which even Malcolm Turnbull can acknowledge with this week’s piece de resistance – at least until a power drill was sent for – the duet for two filing cabinets, a piece performed for (public played like a) piano and (tame MSM) orchestra.
Happily little is left to be said about the “discovery” of the cabinets in a Canberra store which specialises in recycled government office furniture which they have not already betrayed themselves. It beggars belief.
Many questions arise. How did such a salacious selection of files spanning five governments fit into two cabinets? How come there’s such a bipartisan range; dirt to dish on both sides? Why is it that the damaging leaks attack Abbott, Turnbull’s nemesis, and Morrison, a potential rival and why do Rudd and Penny Wong get leaked first?
Why are our spooks so slow to act? Imagine if this were Labor and NBN files. ASIO eventually retrieves the files for the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, which states that they remain Commonwealth property. Of course. Why does the ABC not oppose retrieval on the grounds that these files are in the public interest?
The cabinets are returned to ASIO which will then investigate itself. But the ABC will have access? How long did the ABC have the cabinets? Who bought them? How did ABC obtain them from that buyer? Why is it considered necessary to protect your “source”, ABC? Why did ASIO taken so long to reclaim Commonwealth property?
Sadly for Turnbull it all sounds like a Godwin Grech 2.0. The cabinets fell off the back of his ute, like a dead cat bouncing. Forget ScoMo’s collusion with ASIO to deny 700 refugees permanent residency.
Look over there. Pink batts. Look what Labor’s gone and done now. Penny Wong left some files in her office.
ABC radio totally compromises its integrity and credibility by leading news bulletins with the fiction that “new documents have emerged” showing Kevin Rudd had ignored safety advice over the Pink Batts scheme. They are old documents already submitted to a Royal Commission. Nobody at ABC bothers to check.
As Kevin Rudd acidly observes, “First, the cabinet document referred to by the ABC was given to and considered by the Royal Commission into the Home Insulation Program by the Abbott government in 2014.
“Second, the risks referred to in the cabinet document used in the ABC report refer to financial and administrative risks to the program for the commonwealth, not safety risks to workers. “The ABC was told of these facts before publication. For these reasons, legal proceedings against the Australian Broadcasting have now commenced.”
No wonder Malcolm Turnbull is tired and irritable on ABC Sunday Insiders. It doesn’t stop him repeating drivel-tickle-down nonsense about how company tax cuts make everyone richer and not just the boss. He still manages to make an ass of himself with his impromptu swingeing attacks on his pet straw man Bill Shorten.
But the dead cat strategy is working. Barrie does not ask him how he can defend Scott Morrison’s collusion with ASIO, a conspiracy to deny 700 refugees their right to live here. Not a question about the morality of our bid to be big in the global arms trade or the reality that any deals done will profit multi-national corporation with state of the art tax minimisation schemes.
Not a peep about his Home Affairs Minister, like Trump keeping us safe by sowing seeds of distrust in the judiciary.
Instead the PM’s lies about jobs get another airing. In fact 477,040 jobs were created in the last 15 months. This reduced the jobless rate 5.6% to 5.5%. Yet unemployment rose between 2014 and 2016 to heights not seen since 1996. There are 730,500 people unemployed, two monthly increases in a row on top of 51 consecutive months over 700,000, the worst figures since the 1990s.
As Alan Atwood explains “2017 was a poor year for the Australian economy overall – and jobs in particular – when the numbers are examined in the global context … the whole world is now in a phenomenal trade, investment and profits boom. All well-managed economies are reducing their pools of unemployed remaining from the GFC.”
Yet Michaelia Cash crows on Thursday that, in 2017, “the economy created 403,100 jobs and three-quarters of these new jobs were full-time”, yet they are not new jobs. They are jobs clawed back from the Coalition’s devastating job losses in its first three years of inglorious failure.
The week ends with two cheers for the MSM who pat themselves on the back at their mutual discovery that Labor’s really got no show now that Turnbull’s got so much done in parliament. Besides, he’s pulled off this amazing (fake) jobs miracle and the economy is just taking off. And just look at Christopher Pyne go.
My, how he’s turned out to be quite the international entrepreneur. Found his niche at last.
Arms? If we didn’t sell them someone else surely would. Besides Labor hasn’t come out with any fully costed, modelled alternative. OK, the polls are looking dire right now but once Turnbull’s popularity gets boosted by our patronage, who knows ? And there’s bound to be more dirt on Labor. Then there’s the Batman by-election.
Return of The Fixer closes this week’s instalment with a government preparing to dish the dirt on Penny Wong when parliament returns next week, while crowing about its fake jobs figures, its corporate tax cuts, its arms trade and its uninterrupted economic growth – an orchestrated farrago of lies.
Beneath the noise, however, the sound and the fury, the roar of the greasepaint and the smell of the crowd, more and more Australians are buying less and less of the hyped-up rhetoric; seeing through the lies.
Times are tough for the average punter and no amount of theatrics in Canberra will divert, distract or bluff families struggling to pay increasing utility bills, workers increasingly underpaid, casualised and on short term, insecure contracts, while women juggle two or three part time jobs and a full time job at home just to make ends meet.
Despite the denial and diversion of the Turnbull government and the sheer volume of its MSM proxies, Bill Shorten’s Labor Party pitch to cost of living and social justice matters will prove increasingly resonant.