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Oh Oh, Houston ! We have a problem !

The Liberal Party, to a man, have embraced the need for legislation to provide protections for religions and religious beliefs.

I say ‘to a man’ because the Sheilas have been a bit precious about coming on board. As Christian Porter noted, “that’s women for you” and Peter Dutton seconded that and reminded women that the Liberal Party is a broad-church and Scott Morrison is the second coming (evidently a reference to his own failed attempt to seize the leadership as he sees himself as the chosen one – I don’t know, you work it out ! )

As Craig Kelly, Member for Hughes and avid student of the Bible, solemnly noted on Sky-after-Dark whilst in discussion with Andy Bolt over several bottles of cheap whisky : “the Bible guides me in everything I do and say and there’s nothing in the Bible about global warming, I’ve looked.”

Craig had also noted that according to the Bible it is not permitted for women to aspire to positions of authority and furthermore he declared that the Labor Party were languishing in Limbo, not because they threatened to take away franking credits from wealthy retirees, but because they defied the Bible in allowing a woman in the form of Julia Gillard to assume dominion over men.

Craig, of course was referring to the references in the Book of Timothy [soon to be incorporated in the religious protections legislation] making things absolutely clear to all those uppity Sheilas :

11 A woman[a] should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man;[b] she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women[c] will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety. (Timothy 2: 11-15).

When it came to the bit about women being saved through childbearing, Barnaby Joyce was heard to mumble; “I’ll drink to that” and he promptly produced a stubby of VB and did precisely that. Defence Minister Linda Reynolds and Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne were heard to mutter ‘pigs arse’ as they crossed the floor to join the Jacquie Lambie Ladies’ Collective.

Josh Frydenberg said it insulted his religious beliefs to refer to any part of a pig and that bacon, pork roasts (and that includes crackling) and bacon sangers should be banned from Aussies Parliament House cafeteria as they were not Kosha and as such an abomination to his belief system and thus he demanded the protection of the Religious Discrimination legislation.

Scott Morrison said that he would pray for them all !

And Oliver fiddled with his tie and said to Stan “That’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into”.

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Phew!! That was close but Craig Kelly has confirmed that climate change doesn’t exist!

On Thursday, the Member for Hughes, after a long lunch, struggled to his feet, adjusted his belt over his ample belly, wiped some egg from his tie, farted and proceeded to address our national parliament. His purpose was to convey a message to us all but to the younger generation in particular whom he had been informed were planning to wag school the following day on some trumped-up business about climate change. The member for Hughes is utterly opposed to anybody wagging off on POETS Day although it was noted from the gallery that he himself would be heading off for a long weekend as soon as he had delivered his speech to the nation.

The parliament were as always eager to hear from Mr Kelly as are his devoted followers on Sky-After-dark (SAD) where he appears far too often.

Craig Kelly, you will recall, was about to be dumped from pre-selection by the wise burghers of the  federal Liberal seat of Hughes prior to the last election. But Kelly, being a man with immense talent and wisdom as yet untapped, declared that if he was not pre-selected to run again, he would spend the remaining parliamentary term on the cross-benches making rude noises and gestures in the general direction of the government benches. The Prime Minister, having noted the incredible contribution of Mr Kelly to the governance of our nation immediately called for a halt to all pre-selections in all seats in New South wales, thus ensuring that Craig would remain the honourable member for Hughes, and so it came to pass that Craig was duly re-elected as the member for that long-suffering electorate.

And how right the PM was, a man of undoubted perception, seeing in Craig Kelly something that had eluded the rest of us. Namely his grasp on climate science and his ability to understand and explain to the uninformed the vagaries of climate change.

I give you the honourable member’s speech to our parliament as recorded by Hansard :

Mr CRAIG KELLY (Hughes) (13:55): I understand how persuasive peer group pressure can be for teenagers, with their desire to conform and fit in with the crowd. However, I would say to any student considering joining the so-called climate protest: don’t be a sheep; think for yourself. You are being used and manipulated, and everything you are told is a lie. The facts are: there is no link between climate change and drought. Polar bears are increasing in number. Today’s generation is safer from extreme weather than at any time in human history. There is no 97 per cent consensus. Such claims are a fraud. Crop yields have increased remarkably. Wildfires have declined 25 per cent over the past two decades. We are seeing fewer cyclones, not more. Cold weather kills many times more people than hot weather, including here in Australia. The sea ice is not melting away; in fact, where the ill-fated Franklin expedition sailed in the year 1845 is blocked by thick sea ice this year. Renewables ain’t renewables, and they certainly don’t make electricity cheaper.

This speech was met with mixed feelings by the House of Representatives, perhaps best summed up by Stephen Jones (the member for Whitlam) who responded on behalf of us all by calling out (and I again quote from Hansard) : You are completely bonkers !

So, here’s a tip : instead of installing solar panels on your roof you would be better advised to duck down to Bunnings and get some polar bear proof fencing – they also have an aerosol I understand – before it’s too late !

‘Ooroo !

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Who Needs Policies ?

If you were an aspiring political leader with ambitions to lead the nation and you had a suite of well-developed progressive policies which you hope will capture the imagination of the electorate, would you tell them in advance ?

If you answer Yes : you are a loser !

You might as well join a barbers’ shop quartet because your political career isn’t going anywhere.

Do you remember Liberal leader and aspiring prime minister John Hewson, who was taking on incumbent prime minister Paul Keating in the 1993 election and who brought a package of policies to the electorate under the banner of Fightback. One such policy was a tax on consumption in the form of a Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the Liberals saw this as progressive taxation reform as it would include the abolition of a range of other taxes such as sales tax, state stamp duties, deep cuts in income tax for the middle and upper-middle classes, and increases in pensions and other benefits to compensate the poor for the inevitable rise in prices flowing from the GST. Labor played on the complexity of the tax and Hewson didn’t help himself by bungling an explanation of how the tax would apply to a birthday cake. In the event Hewson lost the unloseable election and we lost the prospect of having a very reasonable and thoughtful man as our prime minister.

Instead we got John Howard as the next Liberal leader and he knew full well that you don’t take major policy changes to an election, you introduce them when you secure office and in the meantime you tell lies for all you are worth : and to John Howard, as we were to learn, truth is a strange, unknown and unexplored continent, terra nullius you might say.

Howard was desperate to knock-off Keating so in May 1995, eight months before the general election of March 1996, he started to – in Liberal party parlance – crab walk away from a GST even though it was Liberal party policy. In true biblical fashion, before the cock crowed three times John Howard would deny that the GST formed part of a Liberal policy.

At a Sydney bankers’ lunch, Howard referred briefly to John Hewson’s losing GST policy in the 1993 election and how “nothing remotely resembling it” would be Coalition policy in the 1996 campaign. When questioned further he said that ” the fact is the last election was a referendum on the GST. There is no way we can have it as part of our policy for the next election. As to what happens some years in the future, I don’t know. But the GST cause was lost in the last election …”

The mainstream media noted that final sentence and reported that ” Howard had left open the possibility of the Coalition reconsidering a GST some years in the future.”

Howard instantly issued an unequivocal statement saying ” suggestions I have left open the possibility of a GST are completely wrong. A GST or anything resembling it is no longer Coalition policy. Nor will it be policy at any time in the future. It is completely off the political agenda in Australia.”

When further questioned and with an ear open for that crowing cock he told reporters ” There’s no way a GST will ever be part of our policy.” When a journalist pressed him on the point : “Never ever, Mr Howard?” he replied with that now infamous pledge : “Never ever. It’s dead. It was killed by voters at the last election.”

So, that was alright wasn’t it ? He went on to win the election that made him prime minister and some 27 months later, in August 1997, less than 18 months after becoming Prime Minister, Howard told the truth by telling yet more lies. He announced a “great adventure” in tax reform he wanted to “share with the Australian people” : this great adventure we were later to learn was to be the  introduction of a GST.

By April 1998 Howard was well ensconced in the Lodge and he told parliament : “I went to the 1996 election saying there would not be a GST in our first term. I go to the coming election saying we are going to reform the tax system … The Australian public are entitled to be told before an election what a government will do after the election. They do not deserve to be misled. They do not deserve to be deceived.”

So, a grateful nation re-elected him and he gave us a GST and an alternative  definition for never ever.

From there on it’s been down hill

So, when Shorten and Bowen announced their detailed policies in the lead up to the 2019 election, they told us how they would focus on health and bring dental care into Medicare and ease the burden on cancer sufferers and out of pocket expenses and they would reinvigorate TAFE, apprenticeships and our education system and they would eliminate distortions in our taxation system. In particular they would eliminate negative gearing on existing housing purchases to create a level playing field between investors and first home buyers and owner occupiers ; they would correct an anomaly that was allowing self-funded retirees to claim cash refunds from the tax office on franked share dividends which in turn meant that no tax was being paid on that component of a company’s profits. In other words they took the high road, and bared their souls with costings and modelling : the Liberal party were ecstatic.

The coalition’s only real election policy was to provide tax breaks for more than 10 million Australians well into the future and in so doing try to bind any future government to adopt the same policy. These measures they reluctantly conceded would cost Treasury over $158 billion over 10 years in forgone revenue and, of course, they insist there won’t be any cuts to essential services .

Perhaps Bob Hawke was right in 1983, when his campaign was built around  Reconciliation, Recovery and Reconstruction; his and Keating’s subsequent achievements in  government were developed and implemented later, when in office. Hawke is later reported to have said to John Hewson “You should have put the GST stuff in your bottom drawer, and not pulled it out till after the election.”

Sadly, the lesson for Labor is that policy formulation in advance of an election is a recipe for failure and it seems that the road to electoral success in this country is a bit like reality show, Married at First Sight ; you scheme, tell lies, defame and revile your opposition and pout a lot. If you can also rely on organised persuasive communication from a compliant media you are almost home. But, under our preferential system, you also need as many dodgy preference swap deals as your conscience will permit.

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Do Debates Help?

Hands up how many of you have seen both so-called leaders’ debates? Not too many I will wager.

It seems that the Liberal party got to choose the venues, the times and the broadcaster and in Perth that was The West Australian as moderator and Channel Seven’s second channel as a broadcaster. Some of the questions were loaded but fairly evenly : Morrison was asked twice about his preference swap deal with Clive Palmer but wasn’t able to reassure the audience that it was just normal politics : Shorten was pointedly asked about border security and Labor’s record in a loaded question prefaced by “800 boats carrying more than 50,000 illegal arrivals flooded into Australia; 1,200 people lost their lives at sea under Labor” straight out of the Liberal party songbook.

Of the 48 undecided invited guests, 25 gave the win to Shorten 12 to Morrison and 11 remained undecided.

Then the Liberals chose Brisbane, the Courier Mail and SKY News for last Friday’s debate : nobody watched as it cut into footy time (both AFL and NRL) and this time there were 100 supposedly undecided voters invited although one woman – could have been Dorothy Dix – who was worried about her religious freedoms clearly wasn’t going to vote Labor any time soon.

Morrison had evidently been advised to intimidate Shorten and crowd his personal space in a Trump-like manoeuvre: didn’t work as planned with Shorten going for the zinger and calling him a “classic space invader” which sent Morrison scuttling back to his corner and much laughter from the crowd.

This time it was 43 to Shorten, 41 to Morrison and 16 still undecided: SKY called this a draw! I wonder how they score the footie?

Shorten will be doing a solo appearance on the ABC’s Q&A program on Monday, May 6 taking questions from the audience but so far Morrison has not committed to doing the same. Labor has also proposed a third debate at the National Press Club on May 8 with journalists from Nine, the ABC and another media outlet on a panel but Morrison has yet to confirm on this one either. Perhaps the initial enthusiasm for public confrontations is no longer so popular with the Liberals who have also been accused of hiding their ministers in witness protection – some of them should be in solitary confinement as far as I’m concerned!

Overall, Shorten has benefited from these debates as it has given those who bothered to watch a clear contrast between the two men and has shown Shorten to be well briefed and have a positive vision for the future, and a mischievous sense of humour; these qualities are not so evident in a somewhat wooden Morrison. He comes across as bombastic and evasive particularly when it comes to the potential chaos that this preference swap deal with Clive could have in a future Senate.

It seems that Shorten has gained confidence and that the punters are warming to him………let’s hope so.

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A Coalition of whatever and whoever it takes

In case you missed it, there was an announcement by the temporary, care-taker, acting prime minister today: People of Australia, it gives me great pleasure to announce that after careful consideration and a couple of schooners and a takeaway Chinese with my good friend Clive Palmer, that we have agreed on what we are calling…

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Oink Oink !

Pork-barrelling is a metaphor for vote buying in particular electorates to secure votes, normally for the incumbent politician. It involves appropriating public funds – that’s important, you never use your own money or that of your party – prior to an election and applying them to normally worthy causes but with the prime purpose being to secure votes. It goes on in almost every democracy and can involve roads and bridges to nowhere or, literally in PNG, distributing pigs to remote villages in return for votes.

The Energy Assistance Payment announced by Josh Frydenberg last week is a classic case of pork-barrelling. The one-off payments of $75 for singles and $125 for couples will go to 2.4 million pensioners, 744,000 disability pensioners, 280,000 carers, 242,000 single parents and 225,000 veterans and their dependants (and belatedly to those on Newstart). It is supposed to convey to the section of the electorate who receive this largesse that the coalition has an energy policy and that they are thinking of you : in reality they don’t and they are not.

The so called Community Environment Program is another example but it is a little more tricky as it doesn’t actually exist yet. As the Department of Environment assistant secretary Steve Costello, noted at Senate Estimates last week : the proposed program “is not open for applications, there is no successful grant under that program because the money is not appropriated, there has been no application process.”

So that’s fairly straight forward isn’t it ? There evidently will be a Community Environment Program but it won’t be open for applications until the new financial year and the grants will not be announced until September and to run its course, the coalition have to be re-elected and the recipients selected.

So why in March was Chris Crewther Liberal member for the seat of Dunkley (held by a margin of 1.4 per cent) along with hapless Environment Minister Melissa Price award almost $40,000 of non-existent environment grants to community groups in Crewther’s  marginal Victorian seat ? Well, the answer to that lies in the words : marginal seat .

In several social media posts last month, Crewther, announced grants of between $7,500 and $20,000 under this Community Environment Program and he included video coverage of himself and Minister Price shaking hands with all and sundry to congratulate them on their successful grant applications : the posts have now been deleted.

When quizzed about this in parliament Minister Price said that “if you’re going to pork-barrel in an electorate you need to do it before the election not after it, you effing idiot.”

Well, that’s not precisely what she said but it’s what she meant. What she actually said was that the government had not announced any money and the trip with Crewther related to “expressions of interest” for the program and he had invited her “to speak to a number of really good local community environment projects.” At which point she had to hastily leave the parliamentary chamber as her pants spontaneously combusted.

But Labor’s environment spokesman, Tony Burke, then read from a media release issued by Crewther on March 15, which quoted the minister and announced funding to four community groups in Dunkley including video clips featuring himself and the minister with announcements of $10,000 in Frankston, $7,500 in Boggy Creek and $10,000 at Downs Estate.

“If no announcements under the program had been made, why does the minister appear with quotes in the media release and each of these announcements is accompanied by a video with the minister present. How can it be that she claims none of it ever happened when she’s quoted in the media release and is personally in the video?” Mr Burke asked.”

This important question was left hanging, as our accidental prime minister advised the speaker that this seemed to be a good time to wind up Question Time and the forty-fifth parliament.

Whatever it takes !

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Down the Rabbit Hole Again !

I wrote this back in December and it is worth repeating to keep in context the Bill that Kerryn Phelps will present to the parliament next week, the Migration Amendment (Urgent Medical Treatment) Bill 2018: it has already passed the Senate :

“Back in September 2014, a young man died in a Brisbane hospital after he had contracted a leg infection on Manus Island where he had been held in detention by Australian immigration authorities. Brisbane Coroner Mr Terry Ryan found his death followed a series of clinical errors and delays,” including a lack of antibiotics on Manus Island to treat tropical infections and a failure by Australian immigration officials to urgently grant a doctor’s request for the twenty-four-year-old asylum seeker to be transferred to Australia for life-saving treatment.

The coroner found the Australian Government had not met its responsibility to detainees such as Mr Hamid Khazaei to provide health care that was “broadly comparable” to that available in Australia.

The coroner recommended a systemic overhaul of healthcare responses in offshore detention, including a new policy to allow doctors on the ground, rather than Canberra officials, to approve medical transfers.

So why raise this matter now, we all know that the medical welfare of asylum seekers held indefinitely on Manus and Nauru has been a highly toxic political issue for some years. The coalition government go to great lengths to argue that healthcare available to asylum seekers on these islands is of a high standard and equivalent to that available in regional Australia. But then we have organisations like MSF saying it was deeply concerned for the health and well-being of patients and described the mental health situation of asylum seekers and refugees on the island (Nauru) as “beyond desperate”: MSF were then ejected from Nauru.

More than 4700 Australian doctors and medical professionals have signed a new appeal asking Prime Minister Scott Morrison to reconsider his refusal to transfer sick refugee children and their families off Nauru (and Manus) for medical care.

When Dr Kerryn Phelps was elected to the federal seat of Wentworth, she took it as a personal crusade to bring the children on Nauru to Australia (or New Zealand who have consistently offered to take 150 asylum seekers a year since 2013) with no further delay and to streamline the medical evacuation process. As had been noted by the Brisbane Coroner, in the Khazaei case, there is a very opaque system in place that involves bureaucrats in Canberra who will frequently override medical advise when it comes to evacuating a patient (or they will send people to Port Moresby or Taiwan rather than bring them here).

The parliament was due to knock-off for the summer holidays last Thursday but before that occurred, a Bill was passed in the Senate to change and streamline the medivac process and leave it to two medical professionals to authorise a medical evacuation with the minister having ultimate discretion : in circumstances where the minister went against medical opinions and disallowed the medical evacuation he or she would be answerable to the parliament. Clearly, in these circumstances, the minister would be chancing his or her arm to go against professional medical advice.

In the Senate, there was much filibustering and waffling to avoid this Bill being passed and going before the House of Representatives. Morrison had a win by shutting down the House early so that the Bill could not be presented or voted on.

Clearly, the system of medical evacuation needed upgrading, the Brisbane coroner noted that, but the coalition are against any change and they have suggested that to improve the medical evacuation system will lead to detainees engaging in self-harm to expedite an evacuation: does that mean that the current cumbersome system discourages self-harm?

Scott Morrison got a bit shirty about the proposed legislative changes saying in an intemperate and rather bizarre and impromptu news conference that :

“I will do everything in my power to ensure that these suggested changes … never see the light of day,” Mr Morrison said. “I will do whatever I can. I will fight them using whatever tool or tactic I have available to me to ensure that we do not undermine our border protection laws.”

Why do you think that our prime minister would say this, does he believe that taking such decisions out of the hands of unqualified bureaucrats and giving them to doctors will really undermine our border protection laws rather than just save lives?

It seems that what really is getting up Morrison’s nose is that over eighty percent of the detainees on Nauru and Manus have been found to be genuine refugees and as such can claim protection and sanctuary if they come to Australia, and this is the point. The whole offshore detention policy was designed to get these people out of Australia and beyond the reach of Australian law and jurisdiction and Morrison is worried that, as the majority of these people are suffering from undiagnosed mental illnesses, they will all end up here, assert their refugee status, claim protection as they are entitled to do and Bob’s your uncle.”

The Phelps Bill, the Migration Amendment (Urgent Medical Treatment) Bill 2018 reflects the recommendations of the Brisbane Coroner and will require that two doctors, usually one on the island in question and another doing an electronic case evaluation from Australia will be able to initiate and streamline a medical evacuation where in their joint opinions it is warranted based on medical grounds. The minister still has right of veto if there are pressing security factors that override the medical considerations: hard to think that such a situation could arise but Scott Morrison considers that some of the refugees could be rapists, murderers and pedophiles. If they are, then it seems strange that after five years in detention they have not been detected and criminally prosecuted.

Both the government and their handmaiden Newscorp have gone into overdrive to stop this Bill passing in the House of Representatives and they say that if it passes among other things, the sky will fall in and the sun will not rise and a plague of toads will visit this wide brown land – and that it will cost the taxpayer a minimum of some $1.4 Billion to medivac and attend to these sick people. They even say that they will have to reopen the Christmas Island detention facility as they anticipate that all of the remaining detainees on Manus and Nauru are suffering from some physical or mental condition and will require medical evacuation: in this, they are probably right. Mr Dutton also helpfully adds that if the legislation is passed an armada of boats will imminently put to see from Indonesia – he fervently hopes.

So, we have a perfectly sensible piece of legislation that may very well be defeated depending on how the Independents and crossbenchers vote; Bob Katter has already been bought off and it seems that Cathy McGowan is the wild-card – we shall see.

After the recent US transfers from both islands, there are now roughly one thousand detainees left who have been held without trial for over five years. Isn’t it about time that Australia stood up and told these buffoons, masquerading as a government, that Enough is Enough?

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Political Wrecking Ball for Hire : Tried and Tested works every time !

Over the Christmas break, at a time when the last thing anybody wants to be thinking about is Peter Dutton, he came out with a nasty personal spray against the former prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull.

One of the things he said about the former PM was that “he (Turnbull) doesn’t have a political bone in his body and it’s not a criticism, but without political judgment you can’t survive in politics and he didn’t.”

Well, actually it is a criticism !

Dutton is a man who knows all about political jockeying, after all he mounted two attempts to unseat a sitting prime minister to install himself as our leader and failed in both. In the first attempt on 21 August last he missed out by 13 votes and maintained after the party-room snub that he is still the “best prospect” to lead the Liberal Party, but said that he will respect the result of the vote and support Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

That, of course was a lie : nobody believed him and sure enough Pete was still doing the numbers three days later when he mounted another challenge. This time he thought he had it all sewn up, having phoned all his mates who naturally pledged their undying support for his leadership. What it seems he didn’t know was that as he was phoning his supporters, Morrison was on call-waiting ready to convince them to vote for him, which is precisely what they did. So, in a deft display of political stupidity, Dutton managed to get the numbers wrong again. In the words of Oscar Wilde you could say that to get the numbers wrong once may be regarded as a misfortune, but to do so twice looks like a diabolical stuff-up !

Ever the optimist, Dutton was reported to have said that despite the loss, he still harboured the ambition to lead the Liberal Party but in the meantime he would give Scott Morrison his unwavering support and undying loyalty : Oh yeah, we’ve heard that one before somewhere !

Dutton quickly assumed his old job under the Morrison administration with barely any criticism for the damage he had inflicted on the Liberal party and the disruption to the orderly functioning of our parliament merely for him to pursue his own self-serving ambitions : he did however lose responsibility for immigration presumably because he had been calling for a reduction in immigration numbers without actually formulating an immigration policy as would normally be expected from somebody purporting to be responsible for immigration.

Then we had the unusual and yet to be explained issue of terrorism suspect Neil Prakash who was born in Australia of a Fijian Australian father and a Cambodean Australian mother. When Prakash was first arrested entering Turkey in 2014 , Julie Bishop as Foreign Minister cancelled his passport which restricted his ability to move around the world and expunged his rights as a citizen to return to Australia. For no apparent reason, Dutton then announced a week ago that he was exercising his ministerial discretion to take away from Prakash his Australian citizenship. It turns out that this was a bungle too as he could not do that. Prakash is not a citizen of Fiji as Dutton maintained and, under our legislation and in accordance with international law, we cannot make a citizen stateless at the whim of a poorly advised minister.

Fiji has confirmed that Prakash is not a citizen of theirs and did not meet the criteria for Fijian citizenship and noted that they were not impressed with an Australian politician trying to pass off a troublesome Australian citizen to a near and friendly neighbour. Dutton has dug in his heels and continues to maintain that he knows more about both Australian citizenship laws and those of Fiji : he doesn’t, he was wrong and he now leaves it to Scott Morrison to go cap-in-hand to Fiji and try to patch up yet another embarrassing blunder by the hapless Dutton.

Interestingly, Australia had an extradition application with Turkey to return Prakash to Australia to face the courts here. Traditionally, common-law jurisdictions like Australia have tended to exercise extra-territorial jurisdiction over their citizens only for very serious crimes. The Prakash case falls into that category. So, Australia could claim jurisdiction over Prakash because he was an Australian citizen, as a country has the ability to prosecute and punish its citizens solely on the basis of their nationality, wherever their alleged offence takes place. But by withdrawing his citizenship Dutton has effectively limited our ability to deal with Prakash by way of extradition processes.

As a wrecking ball, the Liberal Party has no further to look than Dutton. A man who manages to sail under the media radar by rarely making himself available to media scrutiny unless it happens to be a weekly love-in with Ray Hadley on 2GB or a scripted interview on Sky-After-Dark.

Even as the dust was settling over the leadership debacle Dutton declared that he had no regrets about bringing on a week of drama that had split the Liberal Party and halted Parliament. He continued to describe himself as a “better person” and a “person of greater strength and integrity to lead the Liberal Party” than Malcolm Turnbull.

You be the judge !

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Morrison’s Bluff

Back in September 2014 a young man died in a Brisbane hospital after he had contracted a leg infection on Manus Island where he had been held in detention by Australian immigration authorities. Brisbane Coroner Mr Terry Ryan found his death followed a series of clinical errors and delays, including a lack of antibiotics on Manus Island to treat tropical infections and a failure by Australian immigration officials to urgently grant a doctor’s request for the twenty-four year old asylum seeker to be transferred to Australia for life saving treatment.

The coroner found the Australian Government had not met its responsibility to detainees such as Mr Hamid Khazaei to provide health care that was “broadly comparable” to that available in Australia.

The coroner recommended a systemic overhaul of healthcare responses in offshore detention, including a new policy to allow doctors on the ground, rather than Canberra officials, to approve medical transfers.

So why raise this matter now, we all know that the medical welfare of asylum seekers held indefinitely on Manus and Nauru has been a highly toxic political issue for some years. The coalition government go to great lengths to argue that healthcare available to asylum seekers on these islands is of a high standard and equivalent to that available in regional Australia. But then we have organisations like MSF saying it was deeply concerned for the health and well-being of patients and described the mental health situation of asylum seekers and refugees on the island (Nauru) as “beyond desperate” : MSF were then ejected from Nauru.

More than 4700 Australian doctors and medical professionals have signed a new appeal asking Prime Minister Scott Morrison to reconsider his refusal to transfer sick refugee children and their families off Nauru (and Manus) for medical care.

When Dr Kerryn Phelps was elected to the federal seat of Wentworth, she took it as a personal crusade to bring the children on Nauru to Australia (or New Zealand who have consistently offered to take 150 asylum seekers a year since 2013) with no further delay and to streamline the medical evacuation process. As had been noted by the Brisbane Coroner, in the Khazaei case, there is a very opaque system in place that involves bureaucrats in Canberra who will frequently override medical advise when it comes to evacuating a patient (or they will send people to Port Moresby or Taiwan rather than bring them here).

The parliament was due to knock-off for the summer holidays last Thursday but before that occurred, a Bill was passed in the Senate to change and streamline the medivac process and leave it to two medical professionals to authorise a medical evacuation with the minister having ultimate discretion : in circumstances where the minister went against medical opinions and disallowed the medical evacuation he or she would be answerable to the parliament. Clearly, in these circumstances the minister would be chancing his or her arm to go against professional medical advice.

In the Senate, there was much filibustering and waffling to avoid this Bill being passed and going before the House of Representatives. Morrison had a win by shutting down the House early so that the Bill could not be presented or voted on.

Clearly the system of medical evacuation needed upgrading, the Brisbane coroner noted that, but the coalition are against any change and they have suggested that to improve the medical evacuation system will lead to detainees engaging in self-harm to expedite an evacuation : does that mean that the current cumbersome system discourages self-harm ?

Scott Morrison got a bit shirty about the proposed legislative changes saying in an intemperate and rather bizarre and impromptu news conference that :

“I will do everything in my power to ensure that these suggested changes … never see the light of day,” Mr Morrison said. “I will do whatever I can. I will fight them using whatever tool or tactic I have available to me to ensure that we do not undermine our border protection laws.”

Why do you think that our prime minister would say this, does he believe that taking such decisions out of the hands of unqualified bureaucrats and giving them to doctors will really undermine our border protection laws rather than just save lives ?

It seems that what really is getting up Morrison’s nose is that over eighty percent of the detainees on Nauru and Manus have been found to be genuine refugees and as such can claim protection and sanctuary if they come to Australia and this is the point. The whole offshore detention policy was designed to get these people out of Australia and beyond the reach of Australian law and jurisdiction and Morrison is worried that, as the majority of these people are suffering from undiagnosed mental illnesses, they will all end up here, assert their refugee status, claim protection as they are entitled to do and Bob’s your uncle.

Morrison could very well take out his frustrations on the half-smart lawyers who devised the offshore detention fiasco by adopting what Oliver Hardy would say to Stan Laurel when he had stuffed up again; “Well there’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into.”

Remember the Warringah Motion ? Neither do the Liberal Party !

The Liberal Party is nothing if not democratic : perhaps it’s closer to being nothing after what happened over the Craig Kelly preselection for the NSW seat of Hughes.

Last year the Liberal party in NSW voted on what came to be known as the Warringah Motion sponsored by Tony Abbott and vigorously supported by temporary senator, Jim Molan.

The so-called Warringah motion was designed to reform the Liberal preselection process and ensure a members’ plebiscite to select candidates for state and federal seats in NSW. The motion passed 748 votes to 476 at a party convention in Sydney in July last year.

Tony Abbott emerged victorious from the NSW Liberal Party convention after his motion to give party members a greater say in selecting candidates was passed. “This, gives grassroots members more power in selecting candidates,” Abbott said. He went on to say that it would create a more democratic Liberal Party and end the potential for corruption : “It’s a clear road ahead to one member one vote preselections, a clear road ahead to a democratic political party which is controlled by its members not by lobbyists, not by factionists, not by strong pullers.”

“I think this is a great day for the NSW Liberal Party. And because it’s been a great day for the NSW Liberal Party, I think it will be good for our Government in Canberra and I think it will be very good for Australia” Abbott concluded.

So, a jubilant Tony Abbott must have been a bit non-plussed when this new era of democratic preselections was thrown under a bus at the first available opportunity, essentially to preserve a numpty  by the name of Craig Kelly who is nominally the member for Hughes in the federal parliament. Nominally because he seems to spend more time waffling on the Sky-after-dark Muppet Show than he does making a useful contribution to our parliament.

When the preselectors in Hughes were showing signs of getting themselves a decent local member in the lead up to the 2019 election, Kelly made it known that if he was dumped by the grass roots membership, he would go to the cross-benches for the remainder of this parliamentary term and further erode the authority of this already lame minority government ; perhaps even bring the government down .

Our prime minister acknowledging the power of the Right, in an act of desperation, capitulated and decided that expedience was the way to go and that preselections by the grass roots Liberal membership was all very well but only when they do as they are told. Clearly in Hughes they were not prepared to preselect Craig Kelly, so our action-man prime minister quite incredibly called on the NSW Liberal party executive to scrap all democratic processes and re-endorse all sitting members – including of course, Kelly – without the need for the messy and inconvenient involvement of the party membership : and that’s just what they did.

Ironically, the Warringah Motion was promoted as broadening the democratic processes within the Liberal party which in turn it was thought would boost branch membership, a win win it was suggested.

The question is, when the executive of a political party are prepared to scrap their own democratic principles and processes to appease threats of blackmail from a person like Craig Kelly, is that the sort of party with which you would wish to associate yourself ?

When is it OK to lie ? Don’t ask a politician !

It seems that in politics telling lies, fabricating half truths and being wilfully misleading is now par for the course in this game of crazy golf.

Trump has turned it into an art form ; that is, if you are not much of a connoisseur when it comes to modern art : which reminds me of the true story of an attendant at the Museum of Modern Art in New York who had to inform a group of people staring transfixed at an item adorning a wall that, what they were looking at was in fact an air conditioning duct. That may or may not be a true story : you be the judge.

In the past couple of weeks, our new prime minister has been flailing around looking for a policy or at least something to wack Bill Shorten over the head with. Inevitably it has come down, once again, to the dire consequences facing Australia and possibly the planet if Labor gets into office and does away with negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions currently available to those who engage in churning existing housing stock at the expense of new home buyers. It seems to add some weight to Scomo’s argument to paint these property speculators as mums and dads and he frequently mentions nurses, ambulance drivers, police and other such ordinary people. So far he has stopped short of suggesting that homeless people will have their investment opportunities curtailed by not being able to negatively gear their investment portfolios.

Morrison fails to mention that the Labor proposal will only affect existing housing stock and thus should encourage investors to put their money into building new houses and apartments which is generally seen as a good thing. He also overlooks the fact that the Labor policy will not impact existing negatively geared  investments : they call it grandfathering.

They also put their fingers in their ears and sing lah lah lah whenever they are referred to the observations of their former Treasurer Joe Hockey who, in a moment of economic clarity, which coincided with him leaving the parliament for a cushy job in the USA, told us that :

“negative gearing should be skewed towards new housing so that there is an incentive to add to the housing stock rather than an incentive to speculate on existing property.”

So, lying also takes the form of obscuring or rewriting historical fact to suit changed or changing circumstances or to fit in with the narrative that you have chosen for the day. Malcolm Turnbull was recently on Q&A embellishing his legacy and throwing in a couple of curved balls for antiquity :

You know, think of the big social reforms, legalising same-sex marriage. I mean, what a gigantic reform that was, I was able to do that … I legislated it, right? So I delivered it.

Well, that was a big fib because, as we all know, Malcolm allowed a noisy group of nut-jobs to divert the parliament from its proper course and forced upon a reluctant nation a postal plebiscite. A plebiscite that would not be binding on the parliament, would cost a fortune and the financing of which was never approved by our parliament (in fact it was knocked back in the Senate) and which proved to be socially divisive.

A big fib can have consequences if spotted by a dogged fourth estate of investigative journalists and media hounds dedicated to uncovering the truth (and I wouldn’t wish to imply that this is the business model of Fox, Sky-after-dark or news Corp). Richard Nixon found this out and he was ultimately brought down over a fairly innocuous raid on the Democratic headquarters in the Watergate Hotel in Washington. The raid was engineered by the Republicans for the purposes of planting listening devices which it was hoped would assist the party and Nixon in achieving their re-election ambitions. What brought down Nixon was not the raid but his emphatic denial of any knowledge of the scam and subsequent revelations that proved he had been fibbing.

Secret raids, listening devices, political advantage, doesn’t that ring a bell and bring us closer to home ? Our very own Watergate involving government authorised bugging of the Timor Leste parliament offices for political, commercial and territorial gain during the reign of John Howard and his Foreign Affairs Minister, Alexander Downer. When the scam became public the leading protagonists covered themselves in a blanket of national security and once again, stuck their fingers in their ears and sang lah lah lah in unison. To add a very Australian twist to the story, they decided, in an act of cold-blooded retribution, to prosecute the whistleblower and his lawyer for telling the truth and are currently trying to have the matter heard in secret : national security and all that dont’cha know !

Then you have what Winston Churchill referred to as Terminological inexactitudes which are still lies but are dressed up in their Sunday Best so as not to look like a bare-faced lie. For instance, former President Clinton said  I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky”. Well, that may well have been technically true depending on how you define sexual relations but it’s obviously not an excuse that, say for instance, Barnaby Joyce could have volunteered, is it ?

In recent days we have observed a sudden need for a show empathy towards asylum seekers on the part of former hard-nosed immigration ministers. Purely it seems for political purposes as the mood of the nation changes and as a federal election beckons. This, after five years of name calling with racist overtones directed towards Illegals, requires some deft gymnastic backflips in what amounts to the weaving of what the Brits would call a tissue of lies and a veil of deception.

The spinmeisters for former Immigration ministers Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton have been working overtime : yes, they do still get penalty rates as political advisers !

So, we have been told by Peter Dutton that :

“I think in the Immigration portfolio, you are defined by Nauru and Manus. Now, I didn’t put any people on Nauru and Manus, I got people off. I would love to get everybody off there tomorrow — if I could have brought them to Australia in a charter flight overnight I would have”.

and from Scott Morrison, who said he has :

… cried ‘on his knees’ for the plight of asylum seekers held offshore.

Speaking at a lunch organised by suicide prevention service Lifeline, Mr Morrison said he had prayed for the children still on Nauru, confirming there were still just over 30 on the Pacific island.

Morrison said he had prayed for the children in detention on Nauru and he hoped it had made a difference.

I don’t know about you, but my heart bleeds for these two men who have been so deeply conflicted between their obvious compassion as Christians for refugees and asylum seekers and the demands of their political antennae. If I was either of these two blokes and if I know anything about Christian Gods, I would be watching out for thunder-bolts from above after those elaborate and breathtaking fabrications.

Nauru – Is this a Mexican Stand-Off ? If not, it will do until one comes along !

There are about 119 children currently detained with their families on Nauru – this number fluctuates, as children are often taken from the island temporarily for emergency medical treatment ; many of these children were born on Nauru.

Back in 2013, John Key, the then prime minister of New Zealand offered to break the Australian political stand-off and take 150 refugees each year from Australian detention centres. This offer has been renewed each year and was most recently re-confirmed by Jacinda Ardern at the Pacific Islands Forum held on Nauru in September.

Peter Dutton as Minister for Home Affairs and formerly as Immigration Minister has been a vocal opponent of accepting this gesture from New Zealand. At various times he has argued that should these asylum seekers go to New Zealand they would, once having gained New Zealand citizenship, seek to visit Australia through the back-door as he calls it. An argument that he doesn’t use against those asylum seekers already resettled in the USA – under the deal struck during Barack Obama’s presidency – which has resettled 183 people, including 15 children, according to Australia’s Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.

Dutton also, at various times introduces other spurious arguments including that resettling these folk in New Zealand will send a signal to people smugglers that the doors are now open to Australia via New Zealand and that the armada of vessels from Indonesia will launch imminently. Again, he doesn’t say that resettlement in the USA would act as a pull factor from Indonesia, I wonder why not ?

For Dutton the continued indefinite detention of asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Islands appears to be a major form of demarcation for the coalition to use against the Labor party and so far it has worked for the Liberals but obviously not for the detainees (who they annoyingly call transferees : when does a transferee become a detainee, is five years enough ?). Labor, sadly, have been weak and indecisive throughout, being afraid to blink and allow Dutton to deliver the wedge that Labor are weak on border protection.

New Zealand have approached this whole debacle with an adult maturity that has been entirely absent in Australian politics in recent years and had we accepted the generous offer made by John Key back in 2013, all of the detained asylum seekers on both Nauru and Manus would by now be living new lives in New Zealand.

In the last few days before the Wentworth by-election Scott Morrison has been bending over backwards to accommodate any policy twist that will win favour with the voters in that electorate, ranging from the desperate dog-whistling to the Jewish community to offering a glimmer of hope for the children and their parents on Nauru.

Morrison has flagged his intention to accept New Zealand’s long-standing offer on the condition that the Senate passes a law banning the resettled refugees from ever gaining any visa to visit Australia. Labor have said that whilst they have not received a briefing from the government, they consider  that the lifetime visa ban is “ridiculous” and not necessary to enact the New Zealand deal.

New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Winston Peters also condemned the visa-ban policy on Wednesday, warning it was requiring New Zealand to create “second-class citizens” in his country, something that New Zealand would never do.

So, to get Morrison across the line and have the children and their families off Nauru – we know that New Zealand officials have been preparing for the evacuation, in case the deal goes ahead – either our new prime minister has to drop his demand that New Zealand citizens (who were once asylum seekers) be banned from ever visiting Australia. Or Labor cave-in to his demand and pass the legislation which in office they could repeal. But to do so would mean that New Zealand would also have to cave-in – and agree to a lifetime ban on those settled in New Zealand from ever visiting Australia. A ban that would not affect those resettled in the USA or elsewhere we are told.

So, we have a Mexican stand-off : a confrontation between two parties in which no strategy exists that allows either party to go forward or backwards. As a result, the participants maintain a strategic tension, which remains unresolved until some outside event makes it possible to resolve it. Perhaps the outside event we are looking for is the Wentworth by-election or perhaps it is the plight of the children or perhaps it is the utter frustration and exasperation of the Australian people that their elected representatives appear unable or unwilling to resolve this impasse.

Meanwhile, the chief medical officer for contractor International Health and Medical Services on Nauru, Nicole Montana, was arrested, handcuffed and has now been deported from the island on Wednesday in unexplained and mysterious circumstances.

It is my fervent hope that by the time this article is published it will be obsolete and that these children and their parents will be on their way to New Zealand and a new life. Then we can perhaps believe that Dutton’s log-jam has been breached and we can humanely and rationally commence resettlement of the remainder of these unfortunate people : we shall see !

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Would you like a Swastika with your Lamington Slice?

The Supreme Court in Britain has solved the conundrum of our age and we can all go back to watching the Block or the Bachelorette without the nagging worry about bakers and gay cakes: what a relief!

A judge of Britain’s Supreme Court has upheld an Appeal from a baker who refused to incorporate the message “Support Gay Marriage” on a cake he was making for a gay couple.

The judgement stated inter alia that: “Nobody should be forced to have or express a political opinion in which he does not believe.”

Simple really, isn’t it?

It was never in dispute that it remains unlawful to discriminate against a customer based on that customer’s sexual, religious, political or any other personal belief or attribute: you just can’t do that. But, if the customer wants you to incorporate a message on the cake that is personally objectionable to the baker based on a well-founded and conscientious belief he or she holds, then it is absolutely the right of the baker to refuse to lift his or her piping-bag to comply with your wishes.

So, let’s assume for the sake of argument that you are a left-handed, lesbian, line-dancer with a fetish for little men with odd moustaches and snappy salutes and you request that your lamington slice be fashioned in the shape of a swastika with the legend ‘Heil Hitler’ etched across it in hundreds and thousands. The baker is well within his or her rights to refuse to do so if he or she is not a fan of the main proponent of an Aryan master-race. However, that is the only basis on which you can be denied service. If you select the default lamington slice with no adornments, your personal characteristics and attributes cannot stand between you and your chosen chocolate and coconut treat.

Now, it can get complicated. If for instance you go into your local bakery and ask for a three-tiered, iced wedding cake with two little men (or two little ladies) on top. The baker may stop you right there and is justified, on this British Supreme Court ruling, to say to you: ‘no problems with the cake, sport, no problems with the three tiers and the icing but I will not, for religious and reasons of conscience place two blokes on the top: one bloke or one bloke and a lady or one bloke and a dog, at a pinch, but not two blokes’. So, we have a problem but not one that is insoluble.

A progressive baker with his eye on the bottom-line could, for instance, place a cardboard box near the front door to the shop with an assortment of little Lego type people and he could look the other way or get on with fashioning the swiss-rolls while you select your chosen adornments: who’s to say what you may choose and it’s got nothing to do with the baker or anybody but you!

Bakers are not the gatekeepers of our society, you may well say but they have the right at law to discriminate when it comes to promulgating a belief which they do not share. There are however degrees of what is acceptable to the reasonable baker and his conscience. For instance, if you order an apple-crumble and ask for the message ‘Peter Dutton Rocks !‘ piped across it, it is quite reasonable for the baker to refuse to do so. Not because apple crumbles don’t lend themselves to icing but because the statement is patently untrue and misleading.

Now that we’ve sorted that one we can get back to the Bachelorette and ask the question that is troubling the nation: why do these blokes all have tight little suits? Did their Mum throw them in the washing machine and have they shrunk? And what happened to their socks, could they still be lurking in the washer?

A conundrum for another day, perhaps?

And the Clock Struck Thirteen !

The Federal Government has unveiled a plan that will settle certain classes of new migrants [to be known as drones] in regional areas for up to five years after their arrival in Australia. These will be required to work as indentured labour and will not be able to leave their servitude until the five-year term of indenture has been served to the satisfaction of their masters.

Minister for Population and Cities, Alan Tudge laid out the plan to bust congestion in Australia’s biggest cities – Melbourne and Sydney – in a speech in Melbourne on Tuesday.

The proposal is to introduce a mandatory regional settlement plan for some unskilled and semi-skilled migrants, to be known as drones who will be expected to live and work in a designated regional area for five years before being permitted access to our major cities.

Minister for Home Affairs, Peter Dildo Dutton, revealed that a vast majority of newly arrived migrants – 87% are currently settling in Sydney and Melbourne and this would no longer be tolerated by the Morrison government. When asked how the government proposed keeping these people from coming to our capital cities, Mr Dutton told the assembled media that he had all the tools at his disposal to maintain checks on people: drones he said would be fitted with microchips on arrival in Australia, before they were sent to their allotted regional domicile. Should they then stray beyond the boundary confines of their domicile the microchip would initiate an alert and the drone or new-chum as he prefers to call these migrants would receive a severe physical reprimand. When asked by the media in what form this reprimand would be delivered, he gave that creepy smirk that we have witnessed in recent times and said, “they don’t call me Dildo Dutton for nothing …”

Mr Dutton noted that, as a further means of restricting the movement of new-chums he would be adopting some of the valuable lessons that Australian Border Force (ABF) had learned on Nauru and Manus islands; these included torture, deprivation and humiliation. He also pointed to the 2015 Operation Fortitude where ABF officers had planned to randomly check people’s visas at Flinders Street Station and at taxi stands in Melbourne to weed out undesirables: an operation Mr Dutton sadly lamented was called off after so-called human rights activists campaigned against Australia becoming a police state. Similar operations he noted would be carried out on an ongoing basis throughout Australia to ensure that people were kept in their designated places.

Asked if prime minister Morrison approved of this radical and seemingly discriminatory immigration policy, Mr Dutton reminded the assembled media that he had already removed one prime minister for disobedience and he was not beyond doing so again should the circumstances warrant: with that he clicked his heels, raised a salute in the now familiar Heil Trump, turned abruptly and marched from the press conference as the clock struck thirteen !

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Downer Conspiracy or Dolly does Dili !

It reads like the outline for a John le Carré spy novel but this one is real and it actually took place in our own backyard. It has all the ingredients : crooked politicians, spies masquerading as aid workers and dressed up in high-viz jackets and hard hats – you can get in anywhere in that kit and a clipboard gives you real authenticity – the planting of electronic listening devices in the parliamentary offices of a neighbouring fledgling nation, a good guy and his lawyer and a vindictive government minister.

You are probably across the main story but as the matter is now going before the courts, possibly in a closed hearing, here are some of the details which, of course are highly confidential and should go no further than you and me.

2004  It appears that  ASIS operatives including Witness K posed as aid workers, deployed by Ausaid who were involved in the construction of the Palacio Governo in Dili, Timor-Leste. This was the building in which the Timorese Prime Minister and Cabinet held their meetings. During the course of construction, it seems that ASIS agents placed surveillance devices in meeting rooms which allowed them to listen in to Timor Leste’s Cabinet discussions. This is where it departs Le Carré and takes on a script directly from Maxwell Smart. We cannot reveal the name of the minister involved for legal reasons but let’s call him Dolly. What Dolly wanted was to listen in on the deliberations of the Timor Leste government and their legal advisors and glean information on Timor Leste’s negotiating position on the maritime boundary and the future carve up of the Greater Sunrise revenues in the oil and gas negotiations. This ploy would it was hoped give the Australian Government critical information about Timor Leste’s negotiating strategy, providing it with a substantial but hugely unfair advantage.

2005 The negotiations continued and, in May, a joint agreement was reached on a formula for revenue sharing from Greater Sunrise. Timor Leste got more money but caved in to Australia’s demand that the maritime boundary issue should be indefinitely deferred.

As a safeguard to any external interference, Dolly then ensured that Australia withdrew from the maritime boundary jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. We were concerned that any determination by such international forums could result in the bulk of the oil reserves being allocated on the Timor Leste side. So the cards were stacked against Timor Leste and the negotiations inevitably favoured Australia on the maritime boundaries covering the Greater Sunrise oil and gas fields in the Timor Sea. The chief beneficiary of this action appears to have been the private consortium led by Woodside, which eventually ended up with exactly what it was after.

2007 Following the Howard Government’s loss at the 2007 election Dolly left parliament and purely as a remarkable concurrence of events and circumstances obtained a highly paid consultancy with Woodside, the company responsible for exploiting the oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea : they call it serendipity, but is that another word for corruption ?

Witness K, who had been part of the ASIS team engaged in bugging the Timor Leste government’s offices was evidently concerned about what had happened in Dili and whilst not a whistle blower, he took the ethical route and reported the events to  his statutory watchdog – the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) – concerned about the legality of the operation. The Inspector-General agreed that Witness K’s evidence could be disclosed in any related legal proceedings.

2012 – 2013 The Timor Leste Government still not satisfied that the boundary issue had been resolved briefed lawyer Bernard Collaery (Collaery was a former Deputy Chief Minister and Attorney-General in the ACT legislative assembly) to represent its interests in relation to the Sunrise dispute. Witness K briefed him on his complaint to the Inspector-General covering disclosures he might make in any future legal proceedings.
The Timor Leste government took its concern about Australian surveillance and the commercial disadvantage it had suffered to the only available international forum, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. It declared that it wished to withdraw from existing treaty commitments, citing the surveillance activity as evidence of Australia’s bad faith in the conduct of the preceding negotiations as to the maritime boundary.
The Timor Leste Government decided to call Witness K to strengthen its argument at Court. However, the Australian Government acted quickly to cancel K’s passport to prevent him from leaving the country and providing his evidence and ASIO officers raided both Witness K’s and Collaery’s homes and offices and removed computers and documents including an early draft of Witness K’s affidavit on the surveillance of East Timorese Cabinet deliberations, together with Collaery’s legal advice as to Timor Leste’s entitlements and suggested legal arguments to support their claims.

The former ASIS officer Witness K was supposed to give evidence at the permanent court of arbitration in the Hague, but was unable to leave Australia because his passport had been seized in 2012 (it was later returned on appeal).

2017 Finally, in September of 2017 the dispute over Timor Sea oil and gas revenues that has been depicted as a David and Goliath struggle was settled after conciliation proceedings in the Permanent Court of Arbitration sitting in Copenhagen, and a deal that satisfied both parties was finally achieved.

2018 But that was not to be the end of the matter. In June 2018 the commonwealth director of public prosecutions laid criminal charges against Witness K and Collaery for conspiring to breach section 39 of the Intelligence Services Act 2001. Under this Act, it is prohibited to even reveal instances in which ASIS breaks the law.

There were clearly grudges held by the Liberal Party and they were out to show that they would not be snubbed. So, it seems that the minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton (the man who would be our prime minister today had not Scomo come through like Steven Bradbury when other contestants had fallen by the wayside), referred the matter to then to Attorney General George Brandis to go after the messengers, Collaery and Witness K.  Brandis put the thing in his bottom draw and as the matter could not proceed without his approval, as the chief law officer in the land, nothing further happened. However, as soon as he had vacated the position of AG to take up the role of our man in London – coincidentally, taking over from our old mate Dolly – the question of shooting the messengers was again raised with the incoming AG, Christian Porter who had no problems in approving the prosecutions.

Perhaps one of the most chilling aspects of this whole affair was when reporters asked Porter why the real perpetrators of this squalid act were not being prosecuted. He gazed into the distance and replied, in an act of wilful ignorance, that he did not understand the question. “I am not the prosecutor, nor is the government the prosecutor,” Porter said. “I am not the judge nor the jury in this matter, and nor is the government.”

So, these two men of good conscience are to be prosecuted for bringing to the notice of the authorities and the Australian people that an act of debased political infamy and overreach had been committed in what amounts to international commercial espionage far worse than the Watergate revelations that brought down an American president. This has the imprimatur of our minister for Home Affairs all over it and like a Queensland copper gone rogue he is letting us know that he will not tolerate troublemakers.

At the present the matter is before the ACT magistrates court where Witness K and Collaery were charged with conspiring to share information covered by section 39 of the Intelligence Services Act, covering secrecy and the unauthorised communication of information. The charges could see each man spend up to two years in jail.

Much of the case is shrouded in secrecy, and both Witness K and Collaery have been served with a national security order preventing them from discussing the case or court proceedings. Whilst the preliminary hearing was open to the public, the Federal Attorney-General is expected to request that much of the evidence be heard in secret.

Welcome to the Brave New World of Australia in 2018 where the rule of law is used to cover up wrong-doing, keep us in our places and protect those in power !

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