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Business as usual for banks despite Frydenberg’s faux outrage and finger-wagging.

Our nation sighs with relief this week. Our banks are safe. Federal Treasurer, former Minister for resources and Northern Australia, energy, environment, serial failure and currently unelected Prime Minister, Scott Morrison’s Deputy, Josh Frydenberg, will not get tough on financial companies just because a Royal Commission uncovers incompetence, theft, forgery, impersonation, fee-gouging, usury amongst other criminal conduct while regulators looked the other way.

“Getting stuck into banks could hurt the economy”, he warns. Ah, yes. The economy – that lonely little petunia which blossoms on the dung-heap of consumption. As Richard Denniss observes, Australians have been told for decades that as long as the amount of stuff bought is growing we must be doing well. Yet it’s clearly never been the case.

The same mentality has the Coalition Monash coal cult calling for us to open new coal mines – if only we could find a single investor. Or even if we have to fund them ourselves in a bizarre hybrid state Liberal/National socialism.  While buying more coal, if we could, would “grow the economy”, (another neoliberal nonsense) buying stuff that harms us and harms the planet is not going to make us any better off. It’s what we buy, not how much we buy that matters.

But you can’t tell our tyro Federal Treasurer. Keenly attuned to the need to provide the right pastoral care to markets, Frydenberg hints darkly to The Financial Review of the perils of layering new rules on trustworthy institutions such as banks and insurance companies which laboured mightily to sell us harmful products, such as mortgages we can’t afford or junk insurance or even charge us for services they don’t even bother to provide.

Either Josh doesn’t know, or he’s wilfully misleading, but Justice Kenneth Hayne QC is not suggesting any new rules. He makes it clear he knows that the banks are bigger than the paper tiger regulators, ASIC and APRA. Why impose new rules that will just be ignored? What’s needed is no new set of rules but the will to impose existing legislation.

At present, all banks have had cosy chats with their corporate regulator. As they break the rules, they get a warm inner glow over putting things right by negotiating “Enforceable Undertakings.” Any tiny fine is factored into business costs.

Banks agree to sign a statement which says the regulator is concerned they have been bad boys, or rarely, girls. In return, our fearless corporate regulators, the “tough cops on the beat”, which Scott Morrison was only recently assuring us were more powerful than a Royal Commission, simply agree the banks have not really done anything wrong and they agree not to prosecute them. Occasionally there’s a token financial “penalty” thrown in for good measure.

Doesn’t this process pre-empt the whole Royal Commission? A get out of jail free card? That’s the whole idea.

As Justice Hayne’s three volume interim report makes clear: Enforceable undertakings have been negotiated and agreed on terms that the entity admits no more than that ASIC has reasonably based ‘concerns’ about the entity’s conduct. ASIC has issued infringement notices. But by paying the infringement notice the entity makes no admission. It is not taken to have engaged in the relevant contravention. Yet, ASIC and the Commonwealth are prevented from starting a civil or criminal proceeding in relation to the contravention that caused ASIC to issue the infringement notice.

But it’s reassuring to learn that Josh won’t rock the boat. He already knows the ropes. It will be business as usual. Just as it was with all six decades of previous inquiries up to the 1997 Wallis Inquiry report – which led to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and agreement that “light touch regulation” and the magic wand of market competition would best keep light-fingered institutions honest in a dishonest non-competitive system.

At heart was John Howard’s neoliberal fantasy as Bernard Keane describes it, a blueprint for a free market Utopia based on an ideology of competitive forces, rational consumers and information symmetry and the Howard government’s dream of a shareholder democracy (where ) ordinary Australian workers would be transformed into McMansion-owning, private school- and healthcare-using, investor-contractors enjoying the fruits of unfettered (but taxpayer-subsidised) markets and endless asset price growth. But just to be on the safe side, he blew a mining boom on middle-class welfare.

Instead lives were wrecked; ordinary Australians were ripped off; robbed blind, ruined, some even paying fees for services, they never received, plus fees for reviews of their non-existent services long after they themselves had expired.

ASIC’s light touch was lightened even further by funding cuts of $120 million over four years in Tony Abbott’s 2014 budget. Scott Morrison’s recent Federal Budget further cut ASIC’s permanent funding by $26 million to $320 million by 2020-21. Staff at the agency have been cut by 30 investigators. What could possibly go wrong?

Competition? The banks quickly became an oligopoly, colluding rather than competing. So much more profitable.

Oleaginous Josh is a capital chap who sounds in top form as a result of elocution lessons which slow his pace and lower his pitch. The kid gloves are on – no kidding. But have they ever been off? Is our system a world’s best protection racket?

Certainly there’s ample evidence of malpractice. Last week, for example, asthenic Kenny Hayne’s Royal Commission into misconduct in the (monolithic) Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry heard that mug punters who trustingly invest their life savings in cash in AMP’s subsidiary NM actually lose money because the firm charges its clients more in fees than they receive in their accounts from interest, or in bankers’ jargon, return on their investment (ROI).

Why? Because they can – and because this is what the system is designed to do. In Ken Hayne’s words, it puts “profit before people”. Naturally, as they explain their conduct to the commission, the banks or super funds blame the victim.

Above all, the negative return rip-off is all the customer or client’s fault. Caveat emptor. Witness the interaction between counsel assisting Michael Hodge and NM Super chairman, Richard Allert, at the royal commission 16 August:

Hodge: “Your point is why are they foolish enough to invest their superannuation with AMP?”

Allert: “(laughs) … no that’s not what I’m saying at all.”

Hodge: “But isn’t that your point?”

Allert: “You have to ask the client what’s in their mind when they put money into a cash account, and as you’ve pointed out, this person has had a cash account with AMP at least from March 1, 2014 to February 28, 2018. They’ve left the cash there knowing the return they’re getting.”

The exchange is pure Monty Python. If it did not cause such suffering. AMP alone acknowledges to the commission that inappropriate advice by fourteen advisers between 1 January 2009 and 30 June 2015 had resulted in compensation to 1,079 customers.

AMP also acknowledges a licensee continued many times to charge a customer fees for services that were not provided.

Unfair, unjust or just outrageous fraud? The scam is familiar to millions of us who see account balances steadily decline with annotations on statements such as “fee for service” even when there’s been no service. But at least we are alive.

Not content with generously helping themselves to our life savings, banks also charge fees to the deceased while their investment tentacles or subsidiaries cop a blast from Justice Hayne over charging “fees for no service”.

“Fee for no service” is one of many modern euphemisms and weasel-words for bare-faced fraud. ASIC defines it as, “… the failure to deliver ongoing advice services to financial advice clients who were charged fees for those services”.

Even better, it covers an additional fee you may pay for not getting a review – in effect advice about the advice you are not getting. ASIC calls it “failure(s) to deliver an annual (or other periodic) advice review that was promised to a client.”

The consequences of banks’ behaving badly is staggering – apart from the boost it provides to executive salaries. Some clients commit suicide. Others’ lives are ruined. But my, how investors, governments and banksters love it. Happily, we have the right chaps, and the odd lady chap, in Canberra who see the need to crack on with the racketeering.

And Kenneth Hayne’s Royal Commission interim report? It’s a type of post-modern show trial where the guilty pretend to be publicly shamed. Pure performance theatre. Nothing will come of it.  Michael West sums up, “Driven by greed, the banks behave with appalling dishonesty. Secondly, bankers exploit their customers for personal financial gain, often behaving illegally. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), is “captive” to those it regulates.

Captive also is the Coalition. Fabulist Frydenberg whose heroic failures include doing nothing to fix our fee gouging, planet poisoning coal-fired power grid and the laying waste of vast tracts of countryside, helping kill one world heritage reef, in what is archly termed “land-clearing” amongst other triumphs, is solicitous about the need to spare the rod.

Appearing on ABC RN Monday Frydenberg is as quick to posture and wag his finger about the shocking wrong-doing uncovered as he is to find a scapegoat, even if his script does sound like a quick precis of Justice Hayne’s own obiter dicta.

“Reading the 1,000-page interim report is one that shows a pretty frank and scathing assessment of the culture, the compliance, and the conduct in the sector.

And for me, Sabra, there were really two take-outs: firstly, that greed was the motive here and that the banks put profits before people; and secondly, that ASIC (Australian Securities and Investments Commission) as the regulator was too timid, preferring negotiation over litigation, even though they’ve had a greater than 90 per cent success rate in the cases that they’ve taken through the courts.”

Too timid? Frydenberg overlooks the Coalition’s savage cuts to ASIC’s funding. Or is this a case of psychological projection of his own mentality? Oddly Sabra doesn’t ask him about the nearly $150 million or the staffing cuts which have crippled the corporate watchdog to the point where it’s not even able to bark, let alone bite.

Of course it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog that matters, but as this section of the ABC transcript shows, Frydenberg is more than happy to lamely let the failed system fix itself. Sabra Lane asks

What have you said to ASIC’s chief James Shipton and APRA’s Wayne Byers about muscling up?

JOSH FRYDENBERG: Well, I’ve said that the public expect them to do better, and we, as the Government, stand ready to provide them with the support that they need.

But let’s not forget — the regulators should be enforcing the law, but we should also see greater compliance from the banks and the financial institutions themselves, and this greed —

SABRA LANE: But it’s clear that the banks and the financial institutions just didn’t fear being… You know, they just didn’t fear any consequences at all, that they regarded these watchdogs as toothless chihuahuas.

Hayne’s final report is due February 2019 and will include his findings on superannuation, insurance. It will also contain his recommendations, which can include recommending criminal prosecution.

What is clear, nevertheless, from the Coalition’s responses to a Royal Commission it vigorously and repeatedly opposed twenty-six times is that this government is happy to proceed with the theatre of its thoroughly post-modern show trial – even comply with a few token prosecution as long as it leaves the rest of the highly profitable and rotten edifice intact.

Above all, it shows itself firmly wedded to John Howard’s neoliberal vision of the past and as much in thrall to the powerful banks as any Coalition government.

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David will be taking a break to undergo coronary bypass surgery. He is looking forward to returning to writing as soon as possible.

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Lose our democracy? It’s as easy as ABC.

“We need a president who isn’t a laughing stock to the entire world. We need a truly great leader, a genius at strategy and winning. Respect!” Donald Trump tweet, August 2014.

 

They laugh in Trump’s face at the UN, Tuesday. Twice. Is it a sign of rude good health in an international set too keen to kow-tow, suspend judgement or collude in the vainglorious delusions of the self-styled “stable genius”?

Trump is visibly taken aback; retreats into Security Adviser “barking” John Bolton’s bonkers script; pulls his head into his shell in Turtle Bay, midtown Manhattan NY site of UN Headquarters, a metonym for the UN itself . It’s Trump’s worst nightmare; his speeches are strewn with tell-tale images of being the laughing stock of the world.

The world? A hundred world leaders, ministers, ambassadors and dignitaries are present. Their laughter is an unprecedented breach of decorum. Never before have they laughed out loud at the most powerful man in the room. Or the least stable. It is not unreasonable to wonder how and when Trump will seek his revenge.

Our universe is also turned upside down. Not only is Turnbull’s pick to be ABC MD, Mal’s pal, Michelle Guthrie, unceremoniously dumped overboard shortly after she’s been made to walk the plank- an amazing coincidence as many have noted – the execution is so badly botched that ABC Board Chairman Justin Milne is forced to resign.

Intriguingly, neither Milne, nor the Minister for (mis)Communication, “bitchin'” Mitch Fifield, a minister who has made a record six complaints against the ABC in five months, can articulate why Guthrie has been boned. It’s something to do with her “leadership style”, Milne faffs around endlessly in response to pointed questions from a forensic Sales. It’s painful and damning. Incredibly, he clearly believes he has no obligation to explain himself.

Sales grills Milne on ABC 7:30 after his resignation Thursday. Weirdly, parts of the interview are used as ABC promos all that day. Did Milne resign in the studio before informing the board? Is Sales a Liberal fixer? Sales seems to push it uphill with her notion that his board stooges must explain why they didn’t act on damaging emails they had been shown between him and Ms Guthrie until after they were revealed by Fairfax Media.

Of course, she does obliquely make the point that his board is just there to rubber-stamp Milne’s decisions. Later, the nation is overjoyed to learn that one of the board, Kirstin Ferguson is to become acting deputy-chairman, meaning that she will fill Justin Milne’s shoes, at least, as the fiction goes, a new Chairman is appointed.

Or however long it takes before Ferguson’s history with Theiss is in the public domain. Thiess was involved in a 2010 bribery scandal over a $6bn Indian coal mine deal. A whistle-blower contacted Leighton’s ethical committee chair and then Thiess advisory board chair Dr Kirstin Ferguson about the payments, but no action was taken. Instead, the whistle-blower was dismissed in accordance with our new rules of corporate and offshore detention.

“I’m really glad to have you in that role. I really am,” Dr Kirstin Ferguson her whistle-blower. Ferguson was speaking to David (not his real name) who for more than two years had been working to stamp out alleged corruption and misconduct within his company, Thiess, part of the Leighton group which is implicated in serious foreign bribery and corruption cases involving negotiations over the $6 bn Indian coal mine concession.

David was suffering stress and anxiety because he feared – with good reason – that his boss was cutting him loose. Two weeks later, he was given three months’ notice and told to go immediately on “garden leave”.

Perhaps Malcolm or Lucy Turnbull are interested and available? Julie Bishop may be at a loose end soon. So, too, if predictions are accurate, could be Peter Dutton. Judging by Milne’s stonewalling and evasion, not to mention how he’s let it be known that the ABC as it stands is “dead to me”, the totally hands-off Dutto would be ideal.

The plan to combine the SBS and ABC, which Morrison magnanimously refuses to rule out, would suit someone of Dutton’s megalomaniacal temperament or would be an ideal add-on to his current suite of responsibilities. His appointment would be a logical extension of installing the PM’s mate as the government’s man on the board.

Milne, whom Fairfax media reports, refers to female colleagues as “chicks” and “babes”, finally quits after sacking MD Michelle Guthrie, “the missus”, as he refers to her in a Trump-like infantilising and objectifying of women.

Not that he’s been told to interfere or end journo’s careers. Like ScoMo, his hands are clean. Honest Injun. Evidence emerges that, in fact he’s been very “hands-on” voicing displeasure with the work of Emma Alberici, Tom Ballard and Andrew Probyn. (Curiously those like Laura Tingle and Phil Coorey who have written for other publications to express similarly heretical viewpoints have escaped unscathed.)

The singling out of ABC journalists tends to confirm that it is not just a matter of correcting errors of fact as the government maintains but, rather, a desire to eliminate dissent, as Waleed Aly writes for Fairfax. Aly contends that the week is one in which the ABC has been recast as an organisation more concerned with keeping the government happy than with the non-negotiability of journalistic independence.

For Ali, “it’s about a civic culture that is slowly falling apart: a political class with fewer civic boundaries, less concerned with the independence of institutions, and a muscular intolerance of dissent.

It’s also a ruling class is happy to cling to power by mounting increasingly legalistic, hair-splitting defences.

“I never provided instructions that anyone be sacked he tells ABC 7:30…I have never sent an email to Michelle Guthrie or anybody else, which says you must sack Emma Alberici or Andrew Probyn or anybody else.’

Yet that’s exactly what his email to Guthrie, republished by Fairfax shows he did do. Other excuses follow. His “email was taken out of context.” Astonishingly, a former PM and his personal friend is quick to back him up.

Nor, stresses Turnbull from his pad overlooking Central Park in NY, did he ever issue any such instructions. Not that he had to. Being the PM’s bestie and former OzEmail business associate would help him pick up the vibe.

Calling, hands-free, from New York, Turnbull denies instructing anyone to sack anyone. All he’s done is appoint Milne to the board; a friend he could then harangue about the performance of various journalists and their stories. Did he also get stuck into Guthrie? Who knows? Turnbull’s personal hotline to Milne would do the trick.

A lot of tosh fills the airwaves on chat shows like The Drum which help Liberal stooges to deceive voters that ABC journalists are never directly berated by politicians, an illusion Jacqueline Maley is quick to dispel. She notes our nation’s “sharp segue from a national conversation about media interference in the politics, following the (latest) spill, to political interference in the media.”

It’s less a national conversation – more that the nation is dumbfounded by a collective sense of outrage.

Incredibly the rest of the ABC is struck dumb. Not a peep is heard from other Liberal stooges on the broadcaster’s board – five of whom were appointed directly by Communications Minister, Mitch Fifield- aka “the talking toilet brush”, who appears also to be able to bypass regulations designed to ward off political influence with impunity.

Just as they sat on Milne’s email since Friday. The chairman was making an inappropriate if not illegal request. Were they so in thrall they were powerless? What was stopping any one of them from blowing the whistle?

Breaking rules with impunity are our usurious robber-barons of banking. Commissioner Kenneth Hayne’s interim report of his banking and financial services Royal Commission hammers banks and slack regulators,

“… the conduct identified and criticised in this report was driven by the pursuit of profit – the entity’s revenue and profit and the individual actor’s profit. Employees of banks learned to treat sales, or revenue and profit, as the measure of their success.”  (And not just banks.) He should next have a word with Centrelink about Robodebt.

“Too often, the answer seems to be greed — the pursuit of short-term profit at the expense of basic standards of honesty,” he says. “How else is charging continuing advice fees to the dead to be explained?” 

Part of the answer is that neoliberalism itself is dead. Hayne would do well to refer to The Australia Institute’s Richard Denniss, How Neoliberalism Ate Itself. Yet, as Denniss concludes, even as a corpse, the false idea that what is good for business is good for the country has so much rhetorical and political clout in Australia – it has vitiated if not utterly corrupted healthy social relationships. Even caring has become a “service delivery industry”.

Hayne sees a problem in bankers’ pay structure; a base salary supplemented with incentives or bonuses an inducement to greed. “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works,” chortles the deluded

Gordon Gekko, a satirical character in Wall Street (1987.) While Wall Street foresaw the era in which we live, one defined by greater inequality and the normalisation of corporate greed, Gekko is not a role model.

Greed is not good for us; let alone our banks – despite the claims of parliamentarians and The Business Council of Australia who witter on endlessly about “flexibility”, code for even more casual, underpaid, underemployment.

Claims? Two years ago, Arthur Sinodinos gave a gold standard definition when he railed against entitlements, defending Steve Irons who spent thousands on airfares and accommodation to attend Melbourne’s Derby Day and a golf tournament on the Gold Coast. On another occasion, Steve charged taxpayers to get to his own wedding.

 “These are work expenses which are paid for by the taxpayer.” Some say MPs work hard and are entitled to everything they get – or it prevents bribery. It’s as specious as the claim that bankers won’t work properly, or even stay in Australia, unless they receive special incentives or help to profiteer.

Irons’ claims were all honoured. Haynes is not having a bar of it. Even his interim report has stirred the possum.

It’s put the wind up Scott Morrison who voted against a Royal Commission 26 times. ASIC, he falsely claimed, had greater powers. Yet now, novice-Treasurer Josh Frydenberg makes ASIC the scapegoat. Another stunning reversal.

Frydenberg blames the regulators, namely ASIC for seeking “negotiated outcomes” instead of pursuing litigation or forcing entities to face the courts. This strategy saw ASIC working too closely with the sector it was regulating.

Yet, as Kaye Lee reports in The AIMN, ASIC was crippled by Coalition funding cuts. And it gave fair warning. After Tony Abbott cut ASIC’s budget $120 million in 2014, she notes, its chairman Greg Medcraft, warned that over 200 staff would be cut. Worse. The regulator just couldn’t do its job properly.

 “Our proactive surveillance will substantially reduce across the sectors we regulate, and in some cases stop.”

In many cases it did. In 2016, Scott Morrison was inspired to announce “reforms” to shift the regulator to a “user-pays” funding model – in which the institutions it regulates are forced to pay for the ongoing cost of their regulation – so taxpayers no longer have to fund its operations, a brilliant incentive to ignore infringements.

Similarly, as with recent Coalition governments, a culture of evasion, secrecy and lies is nurtured. Hayne warns.

“If the short term incentive scheme reduces the amount allowed if an employee does not meet some standard (of accuracy, or behaviour) the employee may focus as much upon avoiding error being discovered as upon avoidance of error.”

May or will? In his bravura performances of the week, banking royal commissioner, captivating Kenny Hayne, concludes, in his sonorous, gravel baritone, the interim stage of his mini-morality play by finding vice is to blame. Vice is leads to usury, theft, extortion not to mention collusion over interest rate fixing or an oligopoly itself.

“Too often, the answer seems to be greed — the pursuit of short-term profit at the expense of basic standards of honesty,” he writes. It’s not his lines so much but the way he delivers them that make him such a crack-up.

Another funny man, Donald Trump is laughed at by the UN, the butt of an entire world’s jokes. But not by its loyal cultural colony of Australia, a satellite of mateship to whom, as Turnbull says, the US is “joined at the hip” and not the funny-bone. Raised in a Queens mansion, Trump remains an outsider in Manhattan, an unwelcome, parvenu. Yet the polite titters and Bronx cheers he receives are unprecedented, if not shockingly un-Australian.

When Trump proceeds to assert – “Germany will become totally dependent on Russian energy …” he draws a similar response. Germany’s delegation laughs and snickers. But it’s sacrilege to us fair dinkum, down-under allies.

We must suck up to Trump, our Siamese twin, culturally, economically, politically; ape America’s decadence and double-speak, fawn over its hypocritical “rules based world order”; just as we cheered its illicit attacks on a base in Syria in 2017 and its three further, more expansive strikes on what it claims were chemical weapons sites in 2018.

How we eagerly joined its illegal 2003 invasion of Iraq. PM Howard only had to pretend he had legal authority . Few brave our patriotic press to explain that the failed invasions have created a refugee crisis, let alone colossal human suffering, which we have no hope of dealing with. Perhaps guilt helps fuel our anti-refugee hysteria.

As obsequious, fawning lickspittles we help normalise Agent Orange, as Trump is sometimes known.

And we love a stoush. A frisson of anticipation runs round our island nation’s high command at the merest hint of a role to play in invading North Korea, Syria or Iran or wherever the flower of democracy must next be tenderly preserved. As the needs of the military-industrial complex, as Eisenhower warned in 1961, demand.

Imagine, as Orwell puts it, whenever you think of the future, a boot stamping on a human face forever.

We’ve just put our hands up to join a NATO-led mission in Iraq “to improve the country’s military academies”. How else to stop the return of ISIS or a resurgence of terrorism? We’ll “train the trainers” who’ll teach Iraqi soldiers how to counter suicide bombers and detect, defuse and dispose of terrorists’ improvised explosives.

At least that’s the official spin, loyally and faithfully reproduced by Fairfax and our ABC over the last five years.

The Donald may be a joke to the rest of the world. But not us. We are remaking our politics in his own image. It’s not just how we’ve taken to fake news increasingly found in Murdoch tabloids and Sky after Dark. Even our ABC dare not put a foot out line in singing the praises of the wisdom of toxic, expensive, coal-fired base-load power.

Think Great Barrier Reef Foundation where we tip a bucket of money over a group of fossil fuel executives, coal lobbyists and other climate change deniers. We have to give them $444,000, to meet UN requirements regarding deadlines set for spending and amounts to keep the reef registered on the world heritage list. The chief advocate for this decision has gone on to knife his PM and wear a Trump-like cap.

Our own unelected PM, Scott Mad Max Morrison is so utterly converted to Trumpism that he’s taken to wearing baseball caps – all that’s missing is the MAGA logo.  Or is it? A closer look at the UN laugh-in is instructive. The rest of the world is less prepared to pretend that the emperor wears new clothes. The worm may be turning.

Deluded narcissist, monster-baby and first US President from Russia with love, Trump takes his Fox-populist Neocon shtick on the road, Tuesday, only to have United Nations General Assembly delegates, laugh at his own trumpet-blowing; chutzpah solo, the hollowest boast UN members have ever heard from any president.

And the most far-fetched fantasy. “In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country.”

Delegates laugh at the leader of the free world. Fifty-five per cent of the UN’s 193 members represent dictatorships – or in UN double-speak “not fully-fledged democracies” evoking Dryden’s nod to Aristotle’s view of man as an unfeathered two-legged thing. Tyranny and despotism are equally plucked; featherless.

But common to all democracies is a free press. Some of these even have a proudly independent national broadcaster free from political interference. And they’ve cut away the dead albatross; the decay corpse of neoliberalism from around their necks leaving them to invest in schools and hospitals not the service delivery of privatised and outsourced health care and educational options. And banks set up not to profit out of need and vulnerability but to supply the funds to develop a civil society.

Morrison hopelessly conflicted and compromised

It’s been a big week for helmsman ScoMo, who urges a scurvy crew to make the Coalition boat go faster, according to Laura Tingle.

Playing an average suburban joe, Trumpista Morrison, whom Maureen Dowd notes in The NY Times, is devoted to The Donald, apes his mentor by affecting a fair dinkum vernacular and a daggy baseball cap to match.

Carn the Sharks!

Morrison claims Monday, in The New York Times, “many people in both the US and Australia feel left behind by the powerful economic forces of globalisation, which have brought massive wealth to some but left others feeling poorer and disenfranchised.” What he skips is his own role in the advocacy, implementation and local design of this process.

He could confess his own role in opposing 26 times, calls for a Royal Commission into banking, a key agent of the very forces, which, he hypocritically implies, he will mitigate. Similarly, he has opposed raising the minimum wage, the age pension, penalty rates, Newstart and insists on referring to tax as a burden and welfare as a safety-net.

What he won’t do is acknowledge that Donald Trump has done nothing to allay the concerns of his supporters. And even less to make decisions to improve their lives.

Above all he is a big fan of what he fawningly praises as Donald Trump’s practicality. Trump? Practical? It’s an impossible oxymoron. Yet, inspired by Abbott’s you-beaut barnacle removal of 2014, ScoMo’s trimming our ship of state. But not before he’s got a Crosby-Textor dead cat or two on the table and a handy, grandstanding opportunity.

Thirty inquiries have been held into aged care since Bronwyn Bishop’s kerosene bath scandal of 1997. Yet Morrison’s blitzing the airwaves, Monday; announcing a brand new Royal Commission. Oddly, his Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care, Ken Wyatt, tells the ABC that a Royal Commission would be a waste of time and money.

The Great Strawberry terror crisis of 2018 is a godsend to Morrison the grandstander.

“We have a real issue going on here … I’m not going to get distracted … I’m going to stay 100 per cent focused on those issues.” Not the real issues – such as energy- climate – education  – the rise of China’s global influence and an increasingly erratic US foreign policy ; Irrigation, drought, or our growing economic inequality which sees wages frozen and profits soaring – all risks to his government.

Liberal and National parties snub their electorates on climate change and on inadequate regional services in their stampede to heed the wishes of mining.

Outside metropolitan areas, both Coalition partners now depend on miners and not farmers in their electorate for funds and ideas. The Coalition also ignores country voters’ concerns – climate change, NBN, rural poverty including substandard, cut-down or run-down health and education services.

As Ms Dowd notes, company profits approach record levels yet wage growth remains stubbornly anaemic, and cost-of-living pressures, particularly around housing and power, leave millions feeling poorer, rather than better off. Does ScoMo want to know?

“Why don’t we talk about strawberries and not politics for a second?” The PM asks peevishly. Carn the sharks!

Weaponised fruit? A new act of depravity. Morrison goes into outrage mode. It’s an over-hasty, over-reaction. Penalties for food tampering are increased overnight, despite little evidence that stiffer penalties diminish crime.

The Criminal Code Amendment (Food Contamination) Bill 2018, increases the maximum penalties for the offences of contaminating goods (section 380.2), threatening to contaminate goods (section 380.3) and making false statements about contamination of goods (section 380.4) from 10 years’ imprisonment to 15 years’ imprisonment.

It will also introduce new offences that will apply where a person contaminates goods, threatens to contaminate goods or makes a false statement about contaminating goods in circumstances where the person is reckless as to whether their actions will cause public alarm or anxiety, economic loss or harm (or risk of harm) to public health.

After the House of Representatives passes the brave new anti-food tampering legislation, Thursday morning, but just before MPs debate a motion of no confidence in Dutton over the au pairs scandal, which he wins again only by his casting vote, the Home Affairs minister introduces the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Bill 2018.

It’s another big step towards becoming a police state.

A new Office on National Intelligence within the Prime Minister’s Department will help to increase surveillance of citizens; bypass personal privacy laws and expand into monitoring domestic activity. It’s the biggest expansion of our intelligence operations in decades, argues Karen Middleton. A key change redefines public information.

Public information is broadened by legal definition. This allows ONI to collect some online data that we might typically assume to be private. It defines this as “information relating to matters of political, strategic or economic significance to Australia that is accessible to any section of the public”. This definition will allow it to include accounts on social media sites such as Facebook, even those which are set to private.

Middleton also warns that the new law ushers in a new era of intense scrutiny of domestic political activity – in conjunction with new laws on foreign influence, interference, espionage.

Along with the theatrical diversion of the 2018 “terrible”, “criminal” strawberry terror show, ScoMo’s a desperate, ruthless pragmatist. All week, he junks unpopular policy that might scupper the mother-ship.

Does this make the boat go faster? Morrison urges MPs ask themselves before commenting in public. He cuts Herb Taylor’s Rotary four way test down to one.

If only Malcolm had shown such command! Such business smarts! If only MPs could exercise restraint. Ticky Fullerton raves over ScoMo’s sales background secret weapon in The Australian.

We have an election coming. And this time it’s different — our sitting prime minister is a marketing man.

“A simple campaign strategy is emerging. Stripped down, this strategy is systematically to go through all the pain points of the Coalition out there in voter land and remove them. This is more than barnacle scraping because these pain points are not just slowing down the good ship ­Coalition — the ship is taking on water after a bloody mutiny.”

Ticky’s on to something. Bugger platform, policy or vision. Ditch everything that voters don’t like. All hands to the bilge pumps. Politics is just a reality TV show. MPs do anything they can not to get themselves voted off. In Peter Dutton’s case, Thursday, this involves using your own vote to prevent a censure motion for misleading parliament.

ScoMo loves his pep talks. Someone has to. In Tuesday’s party room meeting, Morrison tells incredulous MPs that “we have momentum”. One realist responds: “Yeah, the sort of momentum you get when you jump off a cliff.”

Is our current Prime Minister just a crowd-warmer until the coalition loses government in the May election?

If not, motivator Morrison will need to refine his pitch. In the senate, for example, the government is becalmed. It runs out of legislation. Stalls. Senators filibuster their own bills; even debate the Governor-General’s 2016 address-in-reply.

There’s also a bit of backlash about bullying. ScoMo invalidate the complainants. Gaslighting helps. There’s no bullying in the Federal Liberal Party. It’s all part of the rough and tumble of politics.  Now it’s all hands on deck.

Heeding the call, at least on the poop deck, Supercoach ScoMo’s throwing energy, education and any other useless policies and principles overboard; clearing the decks for re-election. Anne Sudmalis is packed off to the Big Apple.

She’s being temporarily deported for naming names; her second secondment, although her first as an MP.

Bullying, betrayal and backstabbing have been the hallmarks of one of my state Liberal colleagues, Gareth Ward, over the past six and a half years, she says. There is every reason to believe that the culture is entrenched. Yet Morrison remains staunchly in denial. Not one male Liberal MP comes forward to support Sudmalis.

The same is true of Linda Reynolds and Julia Banks, who is resigning from politics because of bullying.

On the contrary, Liberal power-broker and Victorian Liberal president Michael Kroger respond that “people do speak strongly” in politics while Scott Morrison says he is concerned for “Julia’s welfare and wellbeing”. Neither acknowledge bullying is a problem in the Liberal Party.

Vice president of the federal Liberal Party, Teena McQueen, says of quotas for women in politics, “Women always want the spoils of victory, without the fight”.

Liberal Senator, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, is similarly, all compassion. “Politics is a tough businessif you can’t stand the heat you should get out of the kitchen” she blames and bullies the victim.

Likewise, other victims of bullying are bullied into line. Men control Liberal preselection, women are reminded.

But help is at hand. In NY, Sudmalis won’t be such a vocal critic of party bullying – the sort ScoMo denies exists. Instead, she can blow raspberries at the UN, in person, as she swans off on a three month secondment-junket, a cunning plan to inflict her on the international body the Coalition loves to hate. Sudmalis may have attended the secondment when advisor to Jo Gash, the former member for Gilmore*

Morrison’s denial and evasion are unlikely to do anything but solve his short-term problem. But then, his approach has been less compassion or true concern and more about himself and potential political embarrassment. Regardless of how many times he refers to “Jenny and the girls”, women are unlikely to forgive or forget his role.

Meanwhile the PM jettisons all vestige of energy policy. Neophyte Energy Minister Angus Taylor proudly announces, “the renewable energy target is going to wind down from 2020 … and we will not be replacing that with anything”.

Climate change isn’t happening. Education? Overboard goes all rhetorical abhorrence of special deals with private schools as the Coalition blows $4.6 billion dollars, including a $1.5 billion dollar slush fund, as Labor fairly calls it.

Enrolments that were once growing at a rate of 20,000 a year will slow to as little as 3000 by the middle of the next decade, according to ABS data, presenting a stark marketing if not survival challenge to private schools. $4.6bn is not a need; it’s a bribe.

Buying off private schools is also jettisoning a potential electoral headache but it’s likely to create others. NSW education minister, Rob Stokes, responds by arguing that “we don’t want a return to the school funding wars of the past that pitted private schools against public schools, and urge the federal government to provide equal treatment for all schools, public and private”.

No chance of that. Morrison works all week solely to clear the decks. Religious freedom-fighter, decorated boat stopper, Cronulla Shark number one ticket-holder, he now promises to free his (Christian) peoples’ speech. And religion. But as Brian Morris points out, Australians currently have religious freedom.

Australia is a signatory to the International Covenant of Civic and Political Rights which states: “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”

This may be OK now, for Morrison, but will it be good enough in future? The PM’s logic is magical, irrational. He is proposing laws to protect what may happen; an event which only he can foresee and not even he is prepared to name.

This is not how a Prime Minister should behave.

Morrison’s “not happy with the last ten years’ trajectory”, he tells Sky, cryptically and misleadingly. But there’s more. Christians will all be able to sit on the boards of big companies or law firms whose policies may conflict with their beliefs. Serco, perhaps. Big Coal? Fabulous. Nothing is so compelling as a solution in search of a problem.

Is there a problem? Trajectory-busting Scott’s on to it. A weasel word to the wise. You prove him wrong.

“It shouldn’t happen in this country. Now, I’m not saying it is, necessarily. People say ‘oh well, if there’s not this great problem, why do you need to do it?’ [But] can they guarantee me it won’t happen in the future?

In a television interview with Sky News on Monday night, Morrison says he is displeased with the level of free speech given to Christians and freedom of religion generally; “So there’s nothing wrong with a bit of preventative regulation and legislation to ensure your religious freedom in this country.”

Except that it’s not under threat. Except that it’s been since May that Ruddock formulated his twenty recommendations and still the Coalition has not seen fit to share them with its key stakeholders, the people. Except that such a radical step could at least proceed openly and in a widely canvassed and unhurried, consultation.

The latest Newspoll will do little to cause any reassessment. The Coalition’s primary vote is up two points to 36 per cent. There is a two point improvement in the two preferred vote with the Coalition now trailing 46/54 following a three year low of 44/56 over the past two Newspolls. Morrison’s government will spin this as a win.

It’s not. It may be aberrant. Even if it’s not, on these statistics, the Coalition stands to lose 20 seats at an election on a uniform swing. Yet the week has seen a dysfunctional willingness to discard well–established positions, especially in funding private schools but also in due process with regard to bullying accusations made by Liberal women against their male colleagues. These suggest the problem is entrenched in party culture. A boorish, sexist, inequality, if not overt misogyny, appears to be institutionalised.

Similarly, the PM has shown such blind support for Peter Dutton that his capacity to act with independence and integrity is already severely compromised. Nowhere is this more evident than in his making his main goal the securing of gratuitous further legal guarantee of esoteric religious freedoms – freedoms he can neither identify nor make any rational case for.

Like his failed predecessor, Turnbull, but after only a few weeks in office, Morrison appears to be just as much a puppet of Big Mining, Banking, Big Dutton and his right wing push. Add in his church and other vested interests and Morrison’s capacity to succeed as PM appears doomed.

 

ScoMo’s debut ruined by his own treachery.

“You are a fucking mendicant,” Scott Morrison tells Tassie Treasurer, Peter Gutwein, reports Paul Bongiorno who quotes a Herald Sun article, Wednesday, citing “senior Liberal sources”. Gutwein doesn’t dispute the claims.

Bean-counter Gutwein can’t find a good word for Morrison when asked how it feels to be so bullied and abused by his new leader. He fobs off reporters’ impertinent questions. He has “a constructive and positive working relationship” with Morrison, he lies, before falling back on that hoary political standby, “we don’t comment on private conversations”.

Yes Minister. Our politics is choked with such double-speak. In time, it will be a “robust discussion”, part of a “national conversation” or “a healthy exchange of views” but to witnesses, it’s the Liberals’ St Valentine’s (four) Day massacre. Luckily mainstream media, mostly, happily agree to report this nonsense at face value. It’s an extension of the pact to report flawed employment statistics and falsehoods about uninterrupted economic growth as if these were facts.

Morrison may bray about “creating a million jobs since 2013” but he doesn’t give any detail of the quality of those jobs. Nor is any government ever directly responsible for creating jobs outside the government sector. No-one in government mentions population increase or net job growth. Above all, his boast wrecks the government case for company tax cuts. The miracle million has been created without these. Finally, as every household knows, wages remain stagnant.

Roy Morgan reports the workforce which comprises employed and unemployed Australians is now 13,416,000, up 407,000 on a year ago. He calculates that 1,476,000 Australians are unemployed (11% of the workforce); an increase of 152,000 (up 0.8%) on a year ago and the highest level of unemployment for over two years since March 2016.

And the jobs which shouldn’t be happening without expensive corporate tax cuts? Turns out the huge growth in jobs is in education and healthcare which also accounts for a boost in women’s participation. It may just be, of course, that Labor’s NDIS has boosted women’s employment. So much for small business being the engine of the economy.

So much for his government’s fetish for small business, (amen) forever praised (wrongly) as the nation’s biggest employer. It seems the government sector plays a vital role, after all, despite all the fervid neoliberal faith.

None of this fits ScoMo-a-go-go’s mantra of “a fair go for those having a go”, an echo of nineteenth-century self-help. Critics have relegated him and his party to the 1950s. This is a bit mod. His social philosophy goes back to the 1850s.

“Daily experience shows that it is energetic individualism which produces the most powerful effects upon the life and action of others, and really constitutes the best practical education,” wrote the ever popular Samuel Smiles in 1905.

The fair go for those having a go carries its own sanction or disapproval of the slob, or those unable to have a go. It’s a hopelessly limited and outdated ethic but it’s clearly still got a lot of self-righteous political mileage left in it. But whatever happened, pray, tell, Mr Morrison to the Christian ethos of unconditional love?

Beneath the sentimental façade, it’s war out there. Each week brings further news of welfare crack-downs in the Coalition’s war on the poor. Or of bludgers. In 2016, three-quarters of the bludger bashing in the Daily Telegraph included government statistics and interviews with prominent ministers. It’s a Coalition government strategy to alienate public support by poisoning our natural empathy with myths about the unworthy poor. Then cut their allowances.

But no Australians are being prevented from having a go. Or restricted to having only a bit of a go. Morgan finds 1,071,000 Australians (8.0% of our workforce) are under-employed, working part-time and looking for more work, a fall of 170,000 in a year (down 1.5%); The meagre increase in employment is driven by an increase in full-time employment which was up 323,000 to 7,761,000, while part-time employment fell 68,000 to 4,179,000.

The hand-ball to Frydenberg is so smooth it is disturbing. An over-achiever he is already out of the blocks contesting Labor’s thesis that inequality is growing. Except it’s not Labor’s thesis but the work of a body of respected economists. But what matters is that he’s already playing politics with the statistics.

“The Productivity Commission said exactly the opposite,” he cries. “It said we had made strides in recent years in reducing inequality.”

He’s referring to September’s report which, Ross Gittins explains, doesn’t strengthen the government case for tax cuts and trickle-down at all. In fact, it says inequality is not as bad as it could be but only because of measures we have taken which are not to the liking of the right wing of the Coalition at all.

Above all, it assumes that the inequality we started out with was acceptable. It bases its conclusions on a version of the Gini coefficient which has the nifty inbuilt flaw of making inequality appear much smaller than other measures.

The relative Gini assumes that inequality stays constant—growth remains ‘inclusive’—if everyone experiences the same rate of growth, and rises only when upper incomes grow faster than lower incomes. Accordingly, inequality stays constant if a two-person distribution x = (10, 40) becomes y = (20, 80). But the poor are relatively poorer.

The income gap has grown from 10 to 40. Moreover, it’s just as plausible to argue that inequality remains constant under The Absolute Gini if incomes grow by the same amount; when individuals receive the same additional amount to the initial measure. If, as is happening, richer individuals receive more, then inequality will grow.

In brief, we should not ignore trends in absolute income gaps when making inequality comparisons, as most of neoliberal governments, and our new Federal Treasurer does. To Frydenberg’s joy, the Commission’s report implies nothing need be done to reduce income and wealth inequality. The rich would stop wanting to get richer.

At the bottom end, government should help only those poor people whose disadvantage has become “entrenched”.

As Ross Gittins explains, “In other words, don’t acknowledge that poverty is being kept high by successive governments’ refusal to lift the freeze on real unemployment (and age pension) benefits.”

Research published by The Australia Institute shows despite record business profits, workers’ share of GDP is at a post-war low. From 58 per cent of GDP in the mid-1970s labour compensation — including wages, salaries, and superannuation contributions — declined to just 47 percent in 2017, their lowest level since 1960.

Even more concerning is that real wages have consistently lagged behind the ongoing growth in labour productivity. This means workers do not get paid enough to buy back the goods and services they produce.

It’s a lesson in trickle up. The loss of labour’s share of GDP translates into the redirection of over $200 billion in income per year from workers to other groups in society (mostly corporations).

None of this reality is of any cause for concern to a Coalition government at war with itself and with economic reality.

A week of wicked leaks almost drowns out ScoMo’s shouting and slanging, his chief gift to our body politic, exceeded only by his rat cunning and his talent for suppression, secrecy, evasion, prevarication and lies. To be fair, yes, ScoMo does put in a bravura absurdist-Dadaist performance on ABC 7:30 Report. He simply cannot explain why we need new laws to protect our religious freedoms, why it is his number one priority, nor why he is PM; why he rolled his PM, Leigh.

(Chumming up with your executioner was a Hawke strategy. The New Generation Morrison would do well to leave the ingratiating use of his interlocutor’s first name alone. But it adds rich nuance and subtext. You can tell she hates him.)

Why is Morrison PM? Because he is not that dangerous lefty Malcolm Turnbull. OK, there’s his overweening ambition.

 I have no spur / To prick the sides of my intent, but only / Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself /

And falls on th’ other.

But unlike Macbeth, ScoMo is not big on insight even if he is as ruthless. He’s a verbose Tony Abbott from the suburbs.

Happily, deputy dog, Michael charisma-bypass McCormack, Barnaby’s placemat, tells the truth – in his own fashion:

“But, you know, when you combine those sorts of things – ambition, and Newspolls and the like, opportunity – people take those opportunities and we’ve got a new Prime Minister.”  They pullulate like mushrooms after rain, it seems.

Thanks for the heads-up, deputy. We’ll keep our eyes peeled. You never know when another new PM will pop up.

ScoMo loses all hope of authority or legitimacy the moment parliament resumes. It’s not just that he looks like that daggy bloke from the butcher’s who raffles the meat tray in the pub. All he needs is a striped apron and a scabbard.

His debut is ruined by his own treachery. MPs tot it up. He’s knifed a PM whom he’d just publicly embraced as “his prime minister”, a PM whom “he had ambitions for”; a PM, for all his fizz, far more popular than himself. Turnbull and his camp now see clearly what those ambitions were. Or now feels brave enough to put a spoke in ScoMo’s wheel and offer legal advice from NY on what to do with Dutton – an intervention which only a few weeks ago he voted against.

Not only must Holy ScoMo, technically our most charismatic Liberal leader to date, contend with the ghost of Malcolm, Peter Dutton misbehaves disgracefully, abusing parliamentary privilege to imply his former hand-picked Border Force supremo, Roman Quaedvlieg is a paedophile. Morrison sabotages any remaining credibility to unreservedly back Dutton and to dismiss calls that Spud be referred to the High Court over his eligibility to sit in parliament at all.

Morrison’s first week in parliament is a fiasco. He campaigned to be leader with the pitch that his hands were clean and he could hold the show together. Stop boats. In reality, he got votes because he wasn’t Dutton. No PM -even by dirty deed- demonstrates less authority, legitimacy or gravitas. Bernard Keane believes,

Elevation to the prime ministership has exposed his hollowness; he is a figure who has stepped straight from an ’80s lawnmower ad, bereft of policy on the economy, on energy, on wages, on climate change — but most of all, bereft of authority. His colleagues and former colleagues are not even according him the respect due the office; instead, they’re blithely carrying on their own wars with no regard for either the government or the electorate.

Not so much unpopular as reviled, mistrusted and afflicted by dud political judgement Sub-Prime Minister, shifty Scott Morrison alienates rather than inspires. He presides, says Bernard Keane, “over a world-class political circus; less over a party than an ongoing civil war”.  And after his Wentworth slap-down, he’s increasingly the party piñata.

Morrison’s angry Tassie outburst caused Turnbull to sideline him in GST talks with the Apple Isle, say the “sources”. Yet, in a chillingly Trump-like response, the new PM denies ever abusing Gutwein. Why, the claims are “offensive” he counter-attacks, trusting we have all forgotten all his offences against human rights; humanity as Immigration Minister.

Most found Morrison’s own actions offensive when in 2011 when he questioned whether taxpayers should pay to fly twenty-one friends and family of refugees to Sydney so they could the attend funerals of their relatives, who drowned off Christmas Island.

Faced with enormous backlash including from members of his own party including Joe Hockey, later Morrison did concede that his comment was “insensitive and inappropriate”. Like Abbott, he prefers to act first and apologise after.

Offensive? What of his lies that Reza Berati’s death on Manus Island, February 2014 was caused by his being outside the compound. Offensive? Experts attest to Manus being set up and mismanaged. Violence was easily foreseeable.

Offensive, above all, is the way Morrison and Abbott played politics, seeking to blame Labor and fob off responsibility on to PNG, a shabby hoax it maintains to this day. It refused to accept that Morrison and his department had a non-delegable duty of care to ensure the safety of those it detains, as refugee lawyer Greg Barns argues, irrespective of the location of detention. Similarly, boats were turned back into almost certain danger.

Much was made of preventing drownings at sea by stopping boats but not a word was spoken of the risks to turnbacks’ occupants’ safety. Morrison brings to his new PM act a history of barefaced chicanery, hypocrisy, evasion and denial.

Is ScoMo our new Trump? He has the cap, the lapel flags and the murky past. Where is he leading us? Surely a Christian leader sees mendicants as blessed – not accursed? Or does he merely mean to remind us that beggars can’t be choosers?

Trump-like, he brushes aside all suggestion that Peter Dutton present himself to the High Court to clear up his eligibility to sit in parliament. As Trump would say, ScoMo claims the public doesn’t want the “lawyers’ picnic” to continue.

A nation puzzles all week over the contortions of the coal lobby’s latest Liberal poster-boy who would gull us he’s an innocent abroad; just a suburban boy in the big city. “I’ve got clean hands. I can hold the show together” was his sales pitch in the second spill. Each claim was as bogus then as it is now. Yet now, he is the accidental Prime Minister.

What is he doing there at all? The inexplicable Morrison is utterly unable to account for his presence as leader despite being invited to do so by the Opposition all week. When he crows about jobs and growth and other so-called Coalition successes, he begs the question of why if things were going so well, Turnbull had to be deposed.

One thing is clear. Expect obfuscation, evasion and turbidity. A poor communicator, he’s more skilled ranting; shouting slogans at us than accounting for his actions. Posturing Morrison’s an enigma wrapped in cliché, inside a mystery. A caricature of cant, condescension, overweening self-righteousness, rigidity and denialism, he’s all front and no Myers.

His “new generation” team is set to take us back to the 1950s or even earlier, anywhere in the age of steam will do.

His denialism is not merely directed towards climate change, gender and marriage equality, it finds expression this week in his dismissal of any hint of bullying in the Liberal Party despite Julie Bishop, Julia Banks and Lucy Gichui making detailed claims. Bishop has even questioned whether some Liberals acted illegally during the leadership spill.

Bizarrely, however, the Foreign Minister praises the party for handling complaints internally in more theatre of the absurd. Despite Minister for Women, Kelly O’Dwyer’s pledge, the issue barely gets a mention in Tuesday’s Liberal party room meeting.

Despite his promise that bullying complaints would be dealt with internally, the Prime Minister’s office confirms no process has been established to investigate them – or, is even planned. Instead, the party’s whips have been charged with handling “future” complaints. Which probably will be suppressed and denied also. What could possibly go wrong?

Gichui, another devout Pentecostalist, confirms on ABC Radio National, that, “as a good Christian woman” she was pressed to vote for Peter Dutton in last month’s leadership spill.  Yet Morrison persuades her to drop her threat to name names when parliament resumes. Those who have been bullied are bullied out of making a complaint.

What is going on? Is it, as Bernard Keane suggests, the women have been reminded that men control the pre-selection and to shut up if they wish to work in Canberra again?

What is clear is the Liberals’ fabled broad church is narrowing. Morrison and other foot-soldiers of the religious right are capturing the party as former member for Moore, Mal Washer puts it

 “… on climate, on women’s rights, on freedom of choice on abortion, on new ideas about sexuality, about a whole range of things … Basically, they are out of date and out of step with community views. They are bloody damaging, to be realistic.”

But man, can ScoMo duck and weave. All week, Morrison evades questions from Labor and Leigh Sales as to his legitimacy. He quotes stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf, the US general second only to McArthur in theatricality, whom he recalls, as having heard once at the Sydney Entertainment Centre. As you do.

‘When placed in command, take charge,” Our new PM sees his role as akin to a military commander? Alarming.

But Tinpot Morrison seized command. Now he promulgates the myth of acclamation. Greatness was thrust upon him.

He cunningly quotes lying rodent and inveterate plotter St John Howard. He’s invoked Ming last week – even visited Albury, birthplace of the miscellany of self-interested reactionaries and union-bashers that became the Liberal Party.

“John Howard used to say something quite simple and that is, the privilege of serving as the leader of your parliamentary party is the decision of your parliamentary party,”

His attempt to induct himself into the Liberal pantheon is embarrassing. None of his overreach has a shred of credibility.

Mal’s out for revenge. He’s also got it in for Dutton. He phones and texts key Liberals. He wants Peter Dutton referred to the High Court because of his apparent violation of the constitution’s section 44 given his wife Kirilly’s family trust, RHT Investments, of which he is a beneficiary, owns two childcare centres which have profited from the crown.

The Liberals’ civil war rages.

A daggy dad joke will fix it. In a bizarre twist to his existential nightmare, Morrison’s office tweets a meme it’s cleverly compiled showing coalition MPs in Question Time, Thursday, repeatedly raising their right hands. The frantic fascist arm action is dubbed with Be Faithful, a track from rapper Fatman Scoop, whose lyrics celebrate casual sex.

The chorus elevates the PM’s EM Forster-inspired “Only Connect” defence to a whole new level.

Who fing Tonight? Who fing tonight?

Who fing Tonight? Oh! Oh! Who fing tonight?

“We’re just trying to connect honestly with people, Morrison says in defence. Connect honestly? Bugger policy. Honest communication. Listening to the electorate. In ScoMo’s world a tricked up, meretricious, video clip is an honest connection?

Bowen reckons the members of ScoMo’s Party room know he doesn’t have a clean pair of hands. In the first big test of his already comprised authority, Muppeteer Morrison favours party hack Katherine O’Regan for Wentworth. There’s great hand-wringing over quotas in the media. but the fact is that on current trends, the Liberals will soon be an exclusively white, male brethren.

Worse, party polling puts the Liberal primary vote in Wentworth at 39%. Minority government beckons. Our new sub-Prime Minister shrewdly plays the gender card, even though it’s against his religion. Throws a sheila on the barbie.

ScoMo is rolled by Turnbull and Howard. Their pick, Dave Sharma, a former ambassador to Israel, a long-shot, political and geographical outsider, is duly pre-selected. David Gonski’s reference helps.  Losing the seat to high profile Sydney Councillor independent, Dr Kerryn Phelps appears increasingly likely.

Morrison sends a fulsome, fawning tweet in which he gets Sharma’s name wrong. His name Devanand.

“Big congratulations to David Sharma. A quality guy with extensive experience and capability. The best candidate won. That’s how it should be.”

 

Manic Morrison in frantic, futile denial about bullying and climate and enemies.

 

Come on, come on

Do the ScoMo-motion with me

Ye-ye-ye-yeah …

The Locomotion, by Little Eva.

 

 

Bullying, standover tactics, sit-ins – allegations of misconduct flow thick and fast in the aftermath of Peter Dutton’s botched Liberal Party leadership coup, a fiasco which Scott Morrison helped create – then exploited in his ambition to topple Turnbull.

Morrison’s plotters voted for the spill only to switch their allegiance in the next round. Lucy Gichui maintains, moreover, Morrison’s mob had been planning to knife Malcolm Turnbull, at least, since June.

The revelations do nothing to mollify members of the Coalition’s hard right rump, whose mistrust of Morrison goes back at least to his betrayal of Tony Abbott in 2015. Abbott declares he’s still up for a leadership bid. No-one takes seriously his pious piffle that “the era of the political assassin is over”. It simply echoes his “no sniping”.

Then again, he did explain that no promise of his was to be believed – unless you had it in writing. Pathological liar or not, deeds do speak louder than words. Abbott’s are still speaking.

Who can forget his inspiring leadership in bullying Julia Gillard, “ditch the witch” or his services to party misogyny – well before he even contrived to insult all women in Australia by appointing himself the minister for women? His legacy may still be seen today.

This week women MPs speak of a culture of bullying in the Liberal Party. Male MPs, lobbying for Dutton, enter women’s offices early and refuse to leave in an intimidating and bizarre type of sit-in, unless the MPs sign up to Dutton’s faction. Some women MPs are told they must sign or they would lose their pre-selection, they allege.

“… I’m talking about senators and ministers who were in tears because they were at the crossroads where they could not choose, especially the ones from Victoria went through a very, very rough time because they were holding a carrot … like this is your preselection — ‘hey you do this, we do that’,” Liberal senator Lucy Gichui alleges.

Gichui threatens to name names under parliamentary privilege next week. MP for Chisholm, Julia Banks says she will resign from parliament and not re-contest the next election. For her, the spill was “the last straw” and “women have suffered in silence too long.” Dutton and his henchmen disavow all knowledge. So, too do party leaders.

Scott Morrison dismisses the women’s claims. Appearing on The Project, he denies there’s a bullying issue.

“I believe there was a lot of pressure, that it was applied over a very intense period, okay? Australian politics had been “ferocious” and “tough” but he would not describe any behaviour as bullying. Problem solved. It’s all a matter of how our Humpty Dumpty PM defines a word. And power and gender politics.

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

Morrison has another go. Votes may be lost over this. The Australian reports that he’s going to be a bully-buster.

“I have laid down the law to my cabinet. I have laid down the law to my ministry and to the parliamentary secretary ranks of my government. They know what I expect and I have every confidence they will live up to what I expect,” Morrison says.

Bully the bullies – get them to live up to “my standards”. What could possibly go wrong?

Cue the big guns. Victorian Liberal Party President and expert feminist Michael Kroger dismisses the women’s evidence, Monday on our ABC RN. There’s no bullying problem in the Liberal Party. It always helps to be dismissive in conflict resolution as in dealing with complaints but Kroger’s also patronising. The females are imagining it.

Why, if it were, true, President Kroger would be the first to do something about it.

Also in denial, is his wife, former Liberal Senator for Victoria and president of the Federal Women’s Committee, Helen Kroger. She blames the victim. Toughen up buttercup. It’s just “part of the rough and tumble of politics”.

The euphemism “robust” is abused all week. It’s now code for rude, abusive and distressing. An example will help.

Alexander Downer in July 10 2007 used The Australian, to call then Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd shallow, cynical, immodest, mealy-mouthed, duplicitous, a boy in a bubble, a foreign policy imposter and unfit to lead the nation. That’s robust. Morrison merits all of these insults and more but it’s unlikely they’d upset him either.

Craig Kelly’s language doesn’t help any attempt at denial. The women should “roll with the punches”, he says.

As for living up to his expectations, Morrison’s 45-40 victory divides the party. So, too does his apparent duplicity. Parliamentary Liberals are furious. Voters are also angry. Why and how is Morrison our new PM?

Morrison has no answer. As Paul Bongiorno reports in The Saturday Paper, ScoMo is quickly the target of a vicious “scuttle Scott” campaign from within his own party. A flood of leaks this week undermine him.

The Herald Sun Monday has his infrastructure plan, $7.6 billion that Turnbull had handy to splash in marginal electorates around election time. Tuesday he reads details of his former boss’s now not so secret $4.4 billion deal to buy off Catholic schools over the next ten years. Wednesday, The AFR, leaks details of how Turnbull planned to use $3.6 billion of the blocked corporate tax cuts to provide “accelerated relief” to small business.

The Sydney Morning Herald publishes Liberal polling, midweek, suggesting that the party not over-react to the Longman byelection. The candidate’s false medal claim and poor campaigning are more to blame.

It’s clear that Morrison has already made enemies but there’s nothing new about that.

Even Sydney Boys High School alumni- (SBHS Old Boys) has had its robust Facebook page public forum locked by moderators after former students said they were “embarrassed” to be associated with their former classmate.

“His political actions are a disgrace to humanity and his Christian hypocrisy is mind-boggling. Hardly someone to hold up as a model of what SBHS turned out.”

It’s not a new phenomenon. The Guardian reports that in 2015, 300 alumni signed an excoriating open letter when Morrison was invited to speak at a school fundraiser. SBGS Old Boys, including former supreme court judge Hal Wootten and acclaimed journalist John Pilger, criticised Morrison for “flagrantly disregarding human rights”.

Parliament resumes next week. Labor will challenge the PM’s legitimacy with the help of Liberal leaks. Given the government’s lack of a majority, Labor could move that Peter Dutton be referred to the High Court.

The Opposition may allege that Dutton’s financial interest in RHT Family Trust, which runs two childcare centres, and his failure to recuse himself from cabinet discussion of childcare funding, puts him in a position to profit and in breach of Section 44(v) of the Constitution. The centres have received government subsidies since 2 July.

Meanwhile, Dutton publicly bullies his former head of Border Force Roman Quaedvlieg, over his testimony that on at least three occasions, Dutton as Minister for Immigration, intervened in the granting of visas to au pairs. Dutton responds that his friend and former protégé is mentally unwell. Calls on his employer to arrange medical help.

It’s a form of bastardisation which leading medical experts condemn in The New Daily. Dutton, they allege, is “lowering the tone of public discourse, seeking to delegitimize another person by way of stigma, damaging years of work to improve public attitudes, and breaching his duty of care.”

But it’s up our new Prime Minister to dig deep into his own faith-healer’s medicine bag to give the nation some of that old-time religion and good, old fashioned, self-righteous judgmentalism that will get us all out of trouble.

ScoMo-locomotion grips the nation this week as Uber-Pastor Morrison and his travelling revival show make a mad dash back to Canberra after freeing our trade in Jakarta. It’s the big deal Turnbull vowed he’d conclude in 2017 but for the teensy problem that apart from a million tourists to Bali, we don’t produce much Indonesia needs.

Indonesia ranks us lowly in trade. Suharto family and ruling elite sock puppet PM Joko Widodo is blunt.  “You need us more than we need you”, he says. The left has not recovered since the 1960s when the military massacred hundreds of thousands of “radicals” crushing opposition to the ruling class and suppressing democratic reform.

Do we care? Our 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper barely mentions Indonesia. Abbott and Hockey cut Australia’s foreign aid by a billion dollars in 2015.  Indonesia’s aid was slashed 42% from $542.5m to $323m. But no biggie.

Enter “power-housing”, a breakthrough which lets both parties talk about “leveraging access” to third markets that neither could access on their own, a bit like ScoMo’s PM coup in which he leveraged himself off the back of Dutton’s plotters, duping everyone, at least for a week or so. Indonesia? After eight years, a one page outline.

Off like a frog in a sock on to Sydney, ScoMo’s all over soul bro, Alan Jones, where our accidental PM attacks Safe Schools’ “gender-whisperers”. Alan loves a PM who gets how schools brainwash children about sex – and gender.

“I don’t want the values of others being imposed on my children in my school and I don’t think that should be happening in a public school or a private school.”

Morrison’s clearly a big picture man, too. He exudes tolerance, insight; a profound grasp of a balanced curriculum.

“When it comes to public schools, as you know they’re run by the state governments, but how about we just have state schools that focus on things like learning maths, learning science and learning English?”

Too bad, he’s criticising “respectful relationships” an optional case study which is part of the Victorian curriculum.

But who expects our self-appointed PM to know what he’s talking about? He comes up trumps when the parrot mentions unions. Scott’s into John Setka and his kids using an obscenity to mock the obscenity that is the ABCC, head, whose predecessor Nigel Hadgkiss, despite a salary of $426,421 per year, broke the Fair Work Act.

“You know, when you see children being used in these sorts of protests, and we saw it in some of those horrific things in relation to the protests around terrorism, this kind of stuff just makes your skin crawl,” says Morrison.

It’s the type of incoherent babble Trump deals in but ScoMo passes The Parrot’s on air values test, well before his Thursday pilgrimage to Albury, NSW, birthplace of The Liberal Party in 1944 for a sermon on the Murray.

And to pray for rain. “Voters should love all Australians” he preaches. But especially himself.

“I’ve come to talk to you today about what’s in here,” says Morrison, pointing to the black rock of his heart. It’s a set-piece for your average high-functioning sociopath. In Albury, it’s also an excuse for fluff. How he loves Australia. How he and Jenny know all about ritual and how this connects them with Aboriginal peoples.

His homily, entitled “until the bell rings”, in subtle homage to Menzies, (not Pavlov) is over-praised by Katharine Murphy and Gareth Hutchens in The Guardian as “trialling a new anecdotal approach to political communication”.

No. It’s story-telling. His colleagues’ body language is wary but few appear asleep.

As for Menzies, he was just as much of a hypocritical blowhard, who built the Liberal Party out of eighteen different political parties and groups who were united only in the determination to defeat the Labor Party.

“No party seizes the imagination of the people unless the people know the party stands for certain things. And we’ll fight for those things until the bell rings.”  RG Menzies

No-one does vacuous platitudes like Morrison. Billed by our ABC 24, breathlessly as “a major speech by the PM”, Morrison’s sermon on the Murray is a cliché-ridden homily full of banalities about a fair go and having a go. But even at the end of it, exhausted listeners still don’t have a clue what the man or his government stand for.

“I don’t believe that for you to do better, that [others] have to do worse. I don’t think you need to be taxed more for [others] to be taxed less,” he says. It’s a mantra you could chant at any flat tax magic pudding Tea Party.

“I don’t think that, for someone to get ahead in life, you’ve got to pull others down. I believe that we should be trying to lift everybody up at once, that we get away from this politics of envy.”

As he’s just amply demonstrated with his knifing of his former Prime Minister.

Like the notoriously treacherous reaches of the Murray itself, however, there are dangerous undercurrents and snares as he evokes a society of lifters and leaners. ScoMo is doubtless inspired by Menzies’ gold standard:

“The great vice of democracy … is that for a generation we have been busy getting ourselves on to the list of beneficiaries and removing ourselves from the list of contributors, as if … there was somebody else’s wealth and somebody else’s effort on which we could thrive.”

The “love” Morrison preaches is far from inclusive, humane or enlightened. Instead it seeks to exclude the poor and disadvantaged; divide our nation into worthy and unworthy according to our need for welfare.

Social contract fixed, ScoMo scoots off to the arse end of the Frankston line, Morrison’s venue of choice to meet Melbourne media for the first time since he deposed Malcolm Turnbull and stitched up Peter Dutton.

“Congestion-busting” is his mission, ScoMo tells reporters at Leawarra station. It’s also Alan Tudge’s new portfolio, but Morrison’s a man of vision; he’s also on a mission. There are prejudices to massage; policy to be made on the run; climate change denialists to reassure. As Giles Parkinson notes, there are huge concerns here.

This week, Australia tries to water down the language of the Pacific Islands Forum declaration on climate change. In Bangkok it sides with the Trump administration and Japan in attempting to weaken climate finance obligations in a move Parkinson says “that has horrified some observers.”

The NEG is dead, because, he lies, we’ll meet our (inadequate) Paris commitments at a canter. Bugger climate change. Or the environment. In reality, it’s a sop to the right wing, a tactic which is eerily familiar of his predecessor.

Morrison’s lack of interest in climate change is matched only by his profound ignorance. He tells new energy minister Angus Taylor, a wind energy hater and a climate change sceptic, despite his protestations, to focus only on “bringing down prices”. Ensure the nation retains as much “fair dinkum” coal in the system as it can.

What could possibly go wrong? OK. The rest of the world won’t continue to trade with us if we can’t show we’re serious about curbing emissions – and we’re coming under increasing international scrutiny. Pray for clean coal.

Morrison’s next choice is even more alarming. New environment minister Melissa Price, a former mining company lawyer is responsible for emissions. She’s spruiking new coal-fired generators?

We’ve scuttled back into Abbott’s foetal position on energy and environment. It’s all too hard, not settled and besides those coal companies give your party such wonderfully generous political donations, don’t they? Great talking points, too.

Energy and environment fixed, midweek, ScoMo appears on Seven to backflip on his promise to make us work until we’re seventy, a “reform” he once swore was vital to protect the national economy going bust from funding elderly work-shy bludgers.

When you’ve just knifed your PM and put down your colleagues as “a Muppet Show” which somehow you are not part of, a few running adjustments help you keep yourself nice. Even micro-popularity needs a boost.

“I was going to say this next week but I may as well say it here … I’ve already consulted my colleagues on that. And next week, cabinet will be ratifying a decision to reverse taking the [pension] age to 70. It will remain at 67 …”

Announce publicly first, obtain consensus later. ScoMo’s has rule by cabinet consensus all under control.

His vision of an Australia, girt by xenophobic seizures, a federation of homophobia and paranoia that ends at the parish pump and his gospel of self-help or as he puts it “having a go” are not to be hidden under a bushel. His frantic, manic pace and his parochial vision are guaranteed to make us relaxed and comfortable

By Friday, the ScoMo show and its all-star cast including Jenny and the kids, gets rave reviews in ScoMo’s promos; his office’s dumps to favoured news outlets. But it’s not without sacrifice. He’s had to turn down a leadership role in the Pacific Islands Forum on Nauru to hang with his Sydney talkback radio pals on 2GB and 3AW, shock jocks Alan Jones and Raving Ray Hadley. And he’s had to cram for his sermon on the Murray and the Frankston whistle-stop. Especially Frankston. It’s a huge performance.

Up front is bantam opposition leader, a former Baillieu government’s bodgie planning minister and mobster’s mate, natty Matthew Guy, while Scott Morrison is a knockout as a not so daft as daggy, demented father figure spitting Chips Rafferty fair dinkums and other stuff he just makes up like “Tulla”, which like the word “mate” he repeats.

Endlessly, Mate. Is he auditioning to be the host of ABC’s Macca All Over? Morrison loves the show and has already won Annabel Crab’s admiration for record number of mate in a sentence, mate. Spare us the faux, folksy bonhomie, you monster.

Tulla turns out to be a reprise of Turnbull’s promise to build a railway from Melbourne to Tullamarine Airport, a project certain to appeal to every Frankston voter. Is that Dunkley’s, too cool for school, Chris Crewther over there? Or is it some Year 12 student from Flinders Christian College dressed up in a suit for work experience week?

Fresh from his sermon on the Murray where he tells astonished multitudes that all you need is love, Rev Morrison segues effortlessly into fixing “decongestion”, his government’s patent medicine for curing Victoria’s public transport ills by electrifying the eight kilometres of the Stony Point track which runs between Frankston and Baxter. It’s also used by diesel trains to Bluescope Steel at the Port of Hastings. Sheer genius.

It’s the same exciting new announcement Malcolm Turnbull made six weeks ago when he was still allowed to be Prime Minister. Fair go? It’s been a Frankston Council project since 2012 but in 2016, the Turnbull government committed an incredible $4 million dollars. Now motormouth Morrison’s having a go, mate.

A woman journalist spots the similarity between the Pastor’s spiel and Turnbull’s. She asks, quite reasonably, if ScoMo plans to re-announce all of Turnbull’s projects. Will she now ask if he’s stolen not only Malcolm’s job but all his talking points?

You can tell by the way he overdoes his head-nodding that Morrison takes an instant dislike to her.

“It’s a great opportunity to affirm the continuity of the commitment, here,” the new PM says.

Skip the flag pin, ScoMo, we already know whose side you’re on.

Stunned silence blankets Canberra, this week, on the set of Kill Mal, the Turnbull government’s orgy of self-destruction. Even seasoned backstabbers and plotters in our political class are shocked to discover how our new PM played them; urging unpopular tax cuts before the Longman byelection to damage Turnbull and deceiving Dutton over numbers.

In The Saturday Paper Karen Middleton reveals“a story of ambition, doublecrossing and outfoxing, with (Peter Dutton) as an unwitting stooge.” “Senior cabinet sources” say Home Affairs Minister Dutton, was just a stalking horse for ScoMo.

Both leadership contenders were undermining Turnbull for their own purposes. Middleton alleges Mathias Cormann gave Dutton tacit support, an allegation Cormann rejects. Promoting himself as the moderate compromise candidate, Morrison was able to play each faction off against the other. The first spill ballot was critical, explains Middleton.

“Supporters for both Dutton and Turnbull say they believe it was actually Morrison’s backers who secretly forced matters to a head, voting for Dutton in the first ballot to boost his numbers and generate a crisis for Turnbull, while intending all along for their man to prevail.”

Middleton quotes a Liberal on how ScoMo fiddled the spill. “Assuming the Dutton vote was 40 [based on his result in the subsequent ballot], where did the other five come from? They were Morrison people who voted for the spill.”

Of course, the serial incompetent Morrison, had a bit of help from his friends and others who thought they were. As Richard Denniss points out, interest-based politics rule and Morrison is a poster boy for coal, at least for now.

In the end even Turnbull, a skilled back-flipper, almost in the same class as Tony Abbott, the contortionist’s contortionist, was fast losing his appeal to a coal lobby worried he’d lose the next election or honour our pathetic emissions target under the Paris Agreement or something else terrible. In vain, he desperately jettisoned the NEG.

“Coal has had this cabal by the balls for a decade. Their weakness in the face of the miners has been pitiful. Compelling Turnbull to abandon his latest effort to deal with emissions was not enough. He was getting nowhere but he had to go because there was no trusting he wouldn’t somewhere down the track once again irritate the coal industry.  Writes David Marr also in The Saturday Paper.

But who can tell what all the gratuitous violence in Kill Mal is about? Abbott’s hatred of Turnbull plays a big part. Alex Turnbull has freely offered his analysis, that the coup was caused by a government right wing desperate to stop action on climate change. Their fervour he attributes to the “undue influence” of a small cabal with vested interests in the fossil fuel industry. Finally, elements of the media helped immensely – especially Murdoch media.

The baroque plot expands to reveal a stalking horse inside a stalking horse. Coup support is a high stakes game favoured by punters who play to win. “Rupie” (as Donald Trump calls Murdoch) owns papers ever ready to word up the cause of our Mining and Business cabals such as that led by “affordable, reliable”, Gina Hancock. And to demolish opponents.

Yet Clive Palmer also has a runner in the race. His $6.5bn Waratah Mine is all set to go Adani or no; Adani, he tells the AFR, ultimately, was just a stalking horse.

“We have a whole team of people working on our project all the time. I think we can develop that. But unlike Adani we don’t need to raise as much money as them. All the fuss about Adani getting federal government approvals. They took all the heat and we sailed through after them.”

Gina’s three mines in the Galilee Basin will produce 90 million tonnes of coal a year and Palmer reckons Waratah could produce thirty percent more than Adani’s proposed monster. But neither is commercially viable without a railway.

All it needs is a federal government to give the Northern Australia Infrastructure (NAIF) piggy bank, a slush fund for the fossil fuel industry a bit of a shake and our local mining billionaires will have the funds to build the railway required.

But it’s all kept quiet. As Greens senator Andrew Bartlett reported after the senate inquiry into the NAIF, 6 July.

“Both the NAIF and the Coalition have refused to answer questions about who has applied to the NAIF, how decisions are made and what the loan conditions are to access public funds. It’s difficult not to conclude that the NAIF is really just a slush fund for the fossil fuel industry that bankrolls the Coalition.”

Nothing is forever, but the MP who once brought his pet black rock into parliament, “Coal scuttle” Morrison, the bankers’ and miners’ friend, our sixth Prime Minister in eleven years, could be in the Lodge for the next nine months, at least. Of course, like any seasoned performer, he’s had shorter gigs but his career could do with a bit more scrutiny.

A child actor who played The Artful Dodger to his father’s Fagin, Morrison is the spitting image of the Vicks “Love Rub” kid in the 1970s Vicks Vaporub commercial, although he is evasive on the subject. He also did voiceovers and sang.

None of this wins hearts and minds with his countrymen nor at The Pacific Islands forum held on Nauru this year. Pacific leaders want answers. Australia must explain why twenty refugee children refuse to eat or drink. Hint: ScoMo- they are traumatised by war and worse, in illegal indefinite detention and terrified they’ll be there for the rest of their lives.

Most media are banned on Nauru  which after a chequered history in the fertiliser industry, derives almost all of its income from housing Australia’s “boat people” or refugees who arrive by sea. Guardian Australia‘s application was rejected; The ABC was also told it would not be allowed on the island, effectively, a vassal state of Canberra.

The Pacific Islands Forum says there’s only room enough for three journalists from each member country.

Yet in the last three years, Australia incarcerated over 1,200 men, women and children on Nauru. Perhaps if he turned up, Morrison may have to answer questions about his former behaviour. And not even he could put a gloss on that.

As Immigration Minister, Morrison’s response to reports of children self-harming on Nauru by claiming that zSave the Children workers were making false claims, and even coaching children to self harm, in order to undermine the government. Independent reports later found his claims to be false. Peter Dutton still repeated them.

Nor do his claims to have stopped the boats hold water. As John Menadue and Peter Hughes point out

Abbott and Morrison actually kept the door open for tens of thousands of boat people arrivals by opposing legislation that would have enabled implementation of the Malaysia Arrangement of September 2011.

They also explain that Tony Abbott’s and Scott Morrison’s role in ‘stopping the boats’ was at the margins and vastly overstated. By the time Operation Sovereign Borders was in full swing, numbers of boats had slowed to a trickle. There were forty-eight in July 2013 but only seven in December 2013.

The real boat stopper was Kevin Rudd’s announcement that people arriving by boat after July 2013 would not be settled in Australia. Menadue sums up:

Tony Abbott  and Scott Morrison in Opposition gave the green light to people smugglers by opposing the implementation of the Malaysia Arrangement in September 2011. In Government, Operation Sovereign Borders, had a marginal effect on boat arrivals. By the time OSB came into effect, the number of boat arrivals had been dramatically reduced.

Fortunately, our tough new cop on the beat, Scott Morrison, is way too busy in Indonesia where he hypes a one page statement of general intent as a “game-changing” breakthrough in our vague agreement to improve our trade or something with Indonesia, a nation which accounts for 2.3% of our total exports and $7bn of Australian goods.

It’s tiny. It’s about the same as our export trade to New Zealand, a nation with one fiftieth of the population. Yet even smaller, it seems is what Turnbull leaves behind him as he departs the political scene.

Malcolm Turnbull’s legacy? No-one on The Drum, on Mal’s muzzled ABC can find a good word to say. Or anything.

True. Massive income tax cuts are Super Mal’s great leap forward to a more unequal, less democratic society. But it won’t be until 2024 that the rich will pay far less tax than they do now, a vital reform which will cost us $144 billion in foregone revenue, while the rest of us have to make do with fewer teachers and schools; more suffering, poorer health.

By 2024, a worker earning $200,000 a year will pay the same rate of tax as someone earning $41,000. The National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) modelling calculates that “a couple both earning twice the average full-time salary can expect an extra $13,000 in 2024-25”. Heart-warming to help the needy get their just rewards.

Of course it’s unfair, but as Ben Eltham claims growing injustice and inequality are only some of the effects of ripping the guts out of our progressive tax system, a fair system. The main aim is to collect less money. Then you have less funding for infrastructure, defence, welfare and all the other nasty nanny statism (au pairism?) which the right abhors.

“…lower revenue is all part of the Coalition’s plan. The Turnbull government wants to give away all this money – not just to reward high-income earners in its political base, but in order to permanently reduce the federal tax base.”

Richard Denniss begs to differ. The Australia Institute Chief Economist argues that, despite its rhetoric, in thirty years the Coalition has made no attempt to lessen government regulation, spending or decrease the tax take, the problem is that

“for 30 years Australian political debate has revolved around “what the economy needs”. The simple truth is that economies don’t need anything. People do.”

Of course, Fizza’s left a lot to be going on with. Some of it’s OK.

Industry Super is gaining from the Royal Commission Morrison and Turnbull voted 26 times not to have. The AFR reckons rivers of gold are pouring out of bank-owned superannuation funds and into industry funds in response to revelations of misbehaviour at the banking royal commission.

AustralianSuper says it received more than $1 billion from new customers in July and August – double the amount of the same time last year. It’s a snafu in a commission the government hoped would have the opposite effect.

History will not spurn Turnbull, the J Alfred Prufrock of Australian politics, however, for all the brevity of his tenure, his indecision and his incapacity to lead. He wins the Honey I Shrunk the Kids Award. Even hobbled by his Faustian pact with the Nationals, his “smaller government” diminished us; making us a smaller, meaner, sneakier, crueller society with increased state surveillance, persecution of dissenters, especially whistle-blowers – not to mention the pressure brought to bear on charities lest their advocacy for the poor and marginalised lead to any criticism of government policy.

Critics were also put on notice that DHS may leak their personal details to the press to “correct media claims.

Centrelink briefed a journalist about the welfare history of blogger Andie Fox, who wrote an opinion piece for Fairfax Media claiming the agency had “terrorised” her over a debt she claimed she did not owe.

Unfounded allegations unnecessarily undermine confidence and take staff away from dealing with other claims,” a DHS spokesman explained, keeping a straight face. Unfounded allegations? Centrelink itself concedes that one third of appeals relating to its contentious robo-debts scheme have resulted in the debts being set aside by a federal tribunal.

Centrelink’s Robo-debt automated persecution of the innocent is also no small feat. A government department that holds you guilty until you prove your innocence, not only reverses the onus of proof, it’s a real money-spinner. Terry Carney, a former member of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal argues that the Turnbull government’s robo-debt program involves enforcement of “illegal” debts that in some cases are inflated or non-existent. Money for jam.

Politics is of course about more than power for its own sake but the Liberals remind us it can also be about so much less.

Abbott’s petty vendetta towards Turnbull is worthy of a Maupassant story, the monstrous dwarf’s, all-consuming, insane power of revenge.  Turnbull bears responsibility as PM for not confronting Abbott on his overt sabotage campaign. He preferred the passive-aggressive right to his final quip that “past prime ministers should get out of parliament”.

Above all, in the short term, Turnbull’s weak leadership has helped deliver us unto ScoMo, even if the new Prime Monster’s pathology ultimately has a deeper and broader aetiology.

In the end, the delusional right’s nostalgia for an old, white, male Australia doesn’t let the Liberals give much thought to Turnbull’s legacy – although there were signs of a party reported in Dutton HQ when it seemed that the merchant banker was at last cast out. And as for the nation – it’s too distracted replaying the ScoMo show, whose plot features a thoroughly post-modern coup where winner loses all as his party gives up on heeding what the nation wants.

It’s attuned instead to coal lobby propaganda and the music of its banking and business lobby’s donations.

Peter Dutton stars as Morrison’s useful idiot, in the on demand replay of Scott Malcolm, a whodunit with a baroque plot in which Mal’s backers help Morrison to seize his job and blow up the Liberal Party. Explosive revelations, recriminations and exclusive off the record, well-sourced accusations rock Canberra, this week, as a volley of aftershocks threatens to demolish what remains of the smoking ruins of the Turnbull government. ScoMo will finish the job.

Turnbull himself wisely kisses politics goodbye and jets off to the Big Apple where he and Lucy own a modest luxury apartment on the Upper West Side which overlooks Central Park. At least it will have reliable, high speed broadband.

Whilst the Cayman Islander, himself, calls his political assassination “a malevolent week of madness”, in a touching farewell letter to his Wentworth constituents, it is just another day at the office for the megalomaniacal, stop-at-nothing, frothing Morrison.

In his first stand-up routine as leader and Liberal Top Rat, Morrison hands out Aussie flag lapel pins. He wears one, ScoMo explains, to the most divided Liberal party room in history, because it helps him remember which side he is on.

“The reason I wear it is because it reminds me every single day whose side I’m on. I’m on the side of the Australian people, that’s what I’m saying to myself, that’s who I think about first.”

Flags? Side? It’s a brilliantly subversive, richly allusive, Freudian piece, an ironic homage to Ten- Flags-Tony Abbott’s ersatz nationalism, while flagging that a race-baiting, bigot-whistling immigration election is on the menu. All other futile pretence at policy, from The NEG, to the banking royal commission is finally about to be swept overboard or scuppered as the brave new leader clears the decks of all detritus and Dutton supporters. Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead.

“This is about giving up on the country, on what it wants, because a stubborn few cannot give up on coal and traditional values. The Coalition would sooner forsake electoral success than reckon with the realities of climate science or engage with the leadership asked for by multiculturalism.

Scott Morrison is prime minister not because he has a better chance than Malcolm Turnbull of winning the next election. He is prime minister because he is willing to govern against the desires of the electorate.” Writes Erik Jensen.

Our screens soon clog with images of our dear leader in a Hurley cap and shirtsleeves, a sly rebuke to Turnbull’s Collins Street Akubra and RM Williams moleskins. Gonzo Morrison is an antipodean Gomer Pyle in a frenzy of emoting consoling and mad gesticulation amidst drought-porn images of dying stock, parched paddock and stoic, laconic farmers.

Of course it’s all about keeping us safe. News of a terror plot is a timely reminder of our super security. Somehow, somewhere is a shot of a dog-proof fence for ScoMo to reach right up and hold on to, another ironic parody of all those images of Turnbull strap-hanging in railway carriages, a millionaire public transport aficionado, man of the people.

Morrison’s more at ease with the fence, the fear and the dog-whistle.

Meanwhile after-shocks from ScoMo’s coup continue with complaints about bullying, his buying-off Abbott and Joyce as special envoys at rates which may even equal Ruddock’s $274,507 plus pay for his own hugely successful stint as special envoy for human rights. Above all, a mysterious flood of leaks threatens to drown Dutto in an au pair scandal.

A former drug squad detective, Peter Dutton shouldn’t have to work too hard to suss out where they’re coming from.

You’ve got to hand it to Morrison (or he’ll take all the credit himself).

“Lay on, Macduff, and damned be him who first cries ‘Hold! enough!’” Macbeth Act V Scene viii.

It might have been heroic. Given another time, place or PM, Malcolm Turnbull’s call for a Liberal leadership spill Tuesday, might have been inspiring -“Turnbullian”, as Turnbull torch-holder, fan-girl Annabel Crabb would have it. Perhaps she could run a new hit TV series: “Kitchen cabinet makeovers you can safely enjoy at home.”

As it is, Turnbull makes a typically, ill-judged, call. Rattled by the jungle drums of the Dutton camp, amplified in True HD Dolby stereo in the Murdoch media, Turnbull demands a Liberal leadership spill, Tuesday. It is his undoing.

He gains 48 votes, 57.8 percent of all ballots cast. Making public his meagre victory, however, serves only to advertise how many oppose him. It helps prematurely end his own vexed term as the 29th PM of Australia by Friday; a mixed blessing.

Dutton says he’ll challenge again, (and again) Turnbull demands his Home Affairs Supremo supply 43 signatures by Friday.

Calling a spill may throw Dutton off-guard, but with Turnbull’s modest support now public, his insurgents have some useful vulnerability to work with as they hit the phones, twisting arms, tweaking role descriptions, even promising portfolios.

Don’t be sucked in. Monstrous, soulless, merciless, the Coalition is a horror-show, Labor Deputy, Tanya Plibersek warns the house.

“This is a Frankenstein’s monster of a government. It has the face of the member for Wentworth, the policies of the member for Warringah and it has the cold, shrivelled soul of the member for Dickson.” 

Others, out of right field, voice disappointment that Tuesday’s coup has not delivered Mal’s head on a platter. Or under a strappado. Some may be heard getting pilliwinks ready.

“… in its current state the Liberal Party cannot even organise an assassination, let alone run the country,” Catherine McGregor carps in Fairfax, disappointed that Abbott and his monkey-pod rebels or his Monash Mensheviks have been so overtly unsuccessful. Rasputin’s hit job is beginning to look more professional.

Rasputin was poisoned, shot three times, bludgeoned with a dumb-bell, before he was bound and thrown from a bridge through the ice and left to drown in the river Neva. Even so, when his corpse was recovered, the position of the hands suggested he was trying to untie the bindings. The Turnbull government is just as messily despatched.

The final twist of the knife, happens mid-morning Thursday. Three cabinet ministers claim publicly that Turnbull has lost majority support among his colleagues and that they have to bring the leadership dispute to a head. Had they not defected, their three votes would have been enough to thwart Friday’s spill. Turnbull would still be PM.

Ultimately, Turnbull is undone when his three loyal lieutenants desert him. Cormann, Fifield and Cash all defect to the enemy en masse. Why? There’s no logical reason to pull their vital support. “It’s just the vibe of the thing”, Tony Wright writes in Fairfax. Do the three musketeers nobly elect to go with the flow in order to purge their party?

True, the Liberal Party, itself, is paralysed by division; gripped in a “cataclysmic, existential” fight, as Liberal shill, Terry Barnes, adviser to former Health Ministers, Abbott and Medicare levy Michael Wooldridge, hypes party discord to Fairfax.

Malcolm’s political miscalculation; misjudgement plays into Labor’s hands: Shorten calls a vote of no confidence. Pity there’s no vote of over confidence.

“The conduct of this narcissistic government is both shocking and selfish and undervalues the Australian people.”

This house should vote for no confidence because the prime minister has no authority, no power and no policies. And the reason for that sits behind him. If nearly half of his own government do not want him to be prime minister, why should the rest of Australia put up with him?”

Shorten echoes former Howard adviser, former QLD and SA state Liberal Party President, Geoffrey Green, a “senior Liberal” strategist who told The New Daily astutely and fearlessly last year that,

“The Turnbull government is at war with the people. This is a government which hates their own constituents. The Liberal Party has lost touch with what it stands for and will be decimated unless it changes tack.”

“The Turnbull government has attacked every core constituency, small business, superannuants, pensioners, families with children, all because they have a budget that is out of control.” OK there’s a class war they have to win too but he leaves that out.

“They have not done anything about their own backyard. Public servants still fly at the front of the plane.” Or anywhere in the plane if it’s a chartered RAAF jet to the football.

Far from having his knuckles rapped, Greene, moreover, now runs Peter Dutton’s campaign in the seat of Dickson which he holds by a margin of 2%. But he’s going to have to hose down Spud’s coup-mania, or his urges toward auto da fe.

Even for the modern Liberal Party, an oxymoron which rivals “Turnbull government” as a contradiction in terms, Tuesday’s botched right wing coup is a colossal cock-up. It sets in train a farcical series of miscalculations, aided and abetted by Murdoch’s media, Australian politics king-maker supreme. And by its own, internal fifth column.

Be it group madness or poor arithmetic, or Turnbull’s sheer bloody-minded revenge on Dutton, Scott “where the bloody hell are you?”, Morrison wins narrowly 40-45 against Dutton, Friday, after Julie Bishop is unfairly eliminated first ballot with only eleven votes.

A leaked WhatsApp reveals the party is instructed not to vote for Bishop in round one as this is a ruse to enable shonky Morrison to drop out and give all his votes to Dutton.

Dirty Tricks? Morrison is victorious 40-45. The MP whose capacity to foster racism and resentment makes him the “greatest grub in Australia’s political history”, according to Peter Hartcher, is sworn in as Prime Minister, Friday.

A divided, dysfunctional, party musters all its sublime ineptitude to transform chaos into catastrophe. Above all, as David Marr argues, the fiasco reveals an atavistic right wing desperate to wrest control of a party it doesn’t reflect.

Trouble is already brewing for Morrison if it is true that Peter Dutton, is – or was a stalking horse for Tony Abbott’s own return from exile. Morrison has already wisely excluded Abbott from his cabinet, fobbing him off with a job as Coalition water-boy.

The latest Newspoll shows a massive blowout in what Turnbull bragged, this week, was a closing of the gap – but which is more likely to have been an aberrant result. The two party preferred split showed a slim two point gap of 51/49 in favour of Labor a fortnight ago. Now it’s blown out by twelve points. Labor now leads 56/44.

For the first time since 2015, Bill Shorten emerges as preferred PM, reversing a 12 point lead by Malcolm Turnbull, two weeks ago, into a six-point lead (39/33) for the Opposition leader over Morrison.

As The Australian’s Simon Benson puts it mildly, popular support for the Coalition has crashed to the lowest levels in a decade with the newly elected Prime Minister Scott Morrison now faced with leading a shattered government out of the wreckage of last week’s leadership coup and rebuilding a Liberal Party in crisis.

Yet there’s a lot to Morrison’s rebuilding of his own background before we even get to his party leadership or to his fitness to be Prime Minister. His success as state director of the NSW State Liberal Party 2001-4. His subsequent $350,000 PA post as head of Tourism Australia, bestowed by a grateful then Tourism Minister, Joe Hockey, is widely seen as cronyism or part of the Liberal tradition of jobs for the boys.

Morrison soon, however, ran into trouble with the nine man board of Tourism Australia inspiring complaints which echo those from Immigration Department Officials when he militarised the nation’s compassion by setting up Border Force in what it suited the xenophobic Abbott government to pretend was “strengthening our borders”.

Nick Bryant reports of Tourism Australia in The Monthly, “Its members complained that he did not heed advice, withheld important research data about the controversial campaign, was aggressive and intimidating, and ran the government agency as if it were a one-man show.”

His contempt for then Minister, Fran Bailey, also reveals qualities of mind and spirit that do not augur well for any neophyte Prime Minister. Morrison boasted that “if Bailey got in his way, he could bring her down”. In the end Howard backed his minister. Morrison was paid out in an “agreed separation” believed to have been A$300,000.

Much of the secrecy and the absurd officialise and bureaucratic jargon of “operational matters” and “on-water” matters are part of Morrison’s lasting legacy to obfuscation if not secrecy. Morrison’s incoherence owes a great deal to meaningless jargon.

Morrison’s dealings with the media and accountability to the public have been widely criticised. A 2014 Australian Human Rights Commission report to government found that Morrison failed in his responsibility to act in the best interests of children in detention during his time as minister.

In 2014, he also succeeded in passing a bill through parliament which gave him more power than any previous immigration minister. He could now return asylum seekers to their place of origin, detain asylum seekers without charge, and refuse any asylum seekers who arrive by boat. No-one made much of a fuss. Unless it was all hushed up.

In his two-year career as Immigration Minister Morrison saw at least one major incident where he was shown to lie about an attack 17 February 2017, on a 23 year old refugee Reza Barati, who, Morrison maintained for days, was outside the compound of the Manus Island detention centre, until incontrovertible evidence emerged later that the young Iranian man was in fact attacked by a gang of guards inside the compound.

Witness and fellow Iranian refugee, Behrouz Boochani writes: “Even though four years have passed, the killers have yet to be brought to justice, and there are still no clear answers to the fundamental questions concerning the riot.”

Reza Barati’s parents still hold Morrison completely accountable for their son’s death. A senate inquiry found  the cause of the riot to be a failure to process asylum seeker claims, stating the violence was “eminently foreseeable”.

It also found that the Australian Government failed in its duty to protect asylum seekers, including Barati. Morrison accused Labor and the Greens of using the report “as a blatant attempt to whitewash their own failures in government“. Nice.

Many similar miscarriages of justice and neglect of duty of care are documented in the 2000 leaked reports which detail the abuse of women and children on Nauru Island during May 2013 to October 2015. Morrison was Minister for Immigration and Border Protection 2013-2014.

Other examples of Morrison’s behaviour suggest that he is not a fit and proper person to be Prime Minister.

These include politicising suffering. When 48 people died in the Christmas Island disaster of 2010, Morrison objected to the Gillard Government offering to pay for families’ fares to the funerals in Sydney. The cost of the fares would have amounted to a few cents per Australian taxpayer.

Morrison did admit later that his comments were insensitive and in appropriate. But how many incoming PMs have hung with Hun Sen? Or sipped champagne with Pol Pot’s former Khmer Rouge battalion commander, a mass murderer and his cronies in Phnom Penh, just four years ago, as he sealed a bargain A$55m deal, whereby they would take five of our refugees off our hands?

The corrupt regime got A$40 million vaguely described as “development assistance’. In other words we bribed a corrupt Cambodian government to take our refugees, aka “illegal maritime arrivals”, whom our domestic political theatre has been taught are illegal aliens, persons we cannot accept because of their links with Islamic terror and their capacity to encourage demon people smugglers and other monsters of our leaders’ febrile imagination.

Finally, together with this selective account, offered as a clue to “Scott Morrison: Who the bloody hell are you?” (as Nick Bryant entitles his Monthly essay) must be included the means by which Morrison secured preselection for the safe Liberal NSW seat of Cook, prior to the 2007 federal election.

Michael Towke, a Lebanese Christian from the right faction, won with eighty votes. Morrison managed only eight. Four days later, amid allegations of branch stacking, Towke became the victim of a smear campaign, suggesting he’d inflated his CV, along with a series of damaging personal stories alleging his family has unsavoury connections leaked to the Daily Telegraph. (After mounting a legal fight, News Limited offered him an out-of-court settlement).

A Lebanese Australian could never win a seat that had recently witnessed the Cronulla riot, it was muttered. Consequently, the NSW state executive refused to endorse Towke’s nomination, and demanded a second ballot. The beneficiary was Scott Morrison, a cleanskin in the factional fight, who was parachuted in as a unity candidate.

Turnbull looks relieved. In part he is happy, no doubt, to see Dutton come unstuck. Some part of him also must be relieved to be rid of a role no-one could master; a straightjacket imposed by the Nats’ former leader, Warren Truss who, in the secret Coalition Agreement, dictated Turnbull’s Faustian compact: Malco could be PM just as long as he was never himself – especially on such matters as climate change, energy, water or same-sex marriage.

There’s a lot of the thespian in the PM; a ham actor. Yet quitting office is quite the best thing Turnbull’s done to date, a measured, if not restrained performance, not that he’s likely to get any thanks for it. The right wing mistrust him as a dangerous leftie, a threat to the purity of their Menzian ideological mish-mash. He’s not one of them.

Our media, once again, rush to air with “vox pops” interviews with “ordinary Australians” (there is no such thing as an ordinary Australian” – “ordinary people” are extraordinary – but that heresy is never part of the narrative).

The narrative is to deplore the change of Prime Ministers. In the next breath, it is time to bag Labor. Sheesh, the Coalition’s caught the Labor disease. Enough said.

Yet for all the truth that people like to get the PM they vote for and for all they suspect that a change means they’ve been sold a dud, the notion of betrayal is nonsense, a cheap and easy way to expose a raw nerve. We all know that our pollies our parasites. How much joy it gives to express our futile righteous indignation. And envy.

Aussies love to take the mickey out of those with tickets on themselves – even if we’re paying for them. We love to puncture the pomposity of the over-exalted. There’s nothing wrong with that. But Shorten’s on to something when he claims Turnbull’s government undervalues the people. We’re all ripped off.

The popular narrative has two skeins. Men and women in the street obligingly decry the incessant changing of our PMs, while behind our backs, other parts of the media find virtue in a new pretender, a process ScoMo helps with a brilliantly timed set of releases including a puff piece in the Australian Women’s Weekly that takes the cake.

You have to hand it to Morrison. His knack of being in the right place at the right time, his Zelig-like shape-stealing self-camouflage, his overweening ambition, his lust for realpolitik and his PM’s backing all help him see off his rival. ScoMo riskily insinuates himself between Dutton’s coup and victory; snatching the nation’s thirtieth Prime Ministership all for himself. For now at least.

Dutton is undone. ScoMo robs an ugly mob of reactionaries, opportunists, and the malignant malcontents of the monkey pod room, Monash groupers, a scurvy crew of climate change deniers orchestrated by Tony Abbott and Peta Credlin in league with Sky, The Australian and other Murdoch media outlets out to depose Turnbull.

Just how many days will it take before they turn on him? How long before telling the truth about a prime or any other minister will become an indictable offence?

 

 

 

 

Dutton circles, poised to attack, sensing Turnbull’s blood in the water.

A conga-line of suck-holes and the odd cross-bencher form a blue-grey-suited crush up the raspberry carpeted steps of the senate, Tuesday, as members of our government’s upper house file up to shake Aussie racism’s latest White Australian, Fraser Anning, by the hand. Are they spell-bound by his five thousand word maiden speech fantasy?

“Fifty years ago Australia was a cohesive, predominantly Anglo-Celtic nation. Most people thought of themselves as Christian of some sort, although most of us didn’t go to church all that often. Everyone, from the cleaners to the captains of industry, had a shared vision of who we were as a people and our place in the world,”

They did? In 1968 when anti-Vietnam demos were at their height here? A year of seismic social and political change around the world? A time when single, aged and invalid pensioners were grateful to get another whole dollar rise to fourteen dollars a week? When a quarter of the population lived on less than $58 per week?

Bear with Fraser; nostalgia isn’t what it used to be. Behind him, Tory Cory Bernardi nods agreement. Cory’s part of a tinpot Oz-Tea Party troika with Fantasy-fabulist Anning and deluded David Leyonhjelm. They have a lot in common.

“We want stronger families, limited government, lower taxes…we want to re-install personal responsibilities front and centre of public life,” Bernardi claims. Seriously? Is this code for Leyonhjelm’s “slut-shaming”, now the subject of a defamation case in which, as he admits, he told Sarah Hanson-Young that “… she should stop shagging men”?

In the topsy-turvy, inside-out and back-to-front world of our upper house of mirrors, reality is bent, shrunk and stretched while ignorance, bigotry and even crypto-fascism, defy government tax-cut theory to trickle up. And up.

Anning’s not only out to romanticise White Australia, he calls out Labor as the serpent in the worker’s paradise.

“I think – a European based immigration program has … been a very good policy and it’s been of great value to us … This continued until 1973 when Whitlam and his hard Left cronies adopted Soviet inspired UN treaties on discrimination and banned preferential selection of migrants based on their ethnicity,” Anning rants.

Whitlam had hard left cronies? Whitlam was always on the right of the Australian Labor Party.

But it’s Fraser’s “final solution”, Nazi dog-whistle which earns most censure. Of course, it’s all unfair. Political correctness gone mad. Anning cannot apologise. He casts himself as the victim. He babbles to Sky, which is madly Foxifying Australia’s news that he refuses to apologise. His innocent “final solution” is totally taken out of context.

Besides, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean the bastards aren’t out to get you.

“It was just two words, and the thought police have jumped on it,” he whinges. Andrew Bolt pretends that the words final solution refer only to the last in a series and that the new boy meant nothing by them. Blot aka Bolt, blames vegan cultural Marxists in mung bean sandals on the left for their incessant thought policing, political correctness and witch-hunting.

Sheesh! You incite hatred with a farrago of lies, favourably reference the Holocaust, spread disinformation and people have a go at you. Politics today is so unfair on right wing demagogues. No-one gives you air time. Equal treatment.

Even Pauline rushes back to her spot on Channel 7’s Sunrise to denounce Anning as “appalling” or that could be “a Pauline”, poorly transcribed? It’s a cut-throat business, this stampede to the bottom. Anyone, even a moral politician, could go a bit silly.

By the next day, however, Hanson is tickled pink by the notion of a plebiscite. She totally backs his idea on air.

It comes from a part of Anning’s rambling which would delight arch racist, Babies Overboard’s John W. Howard:

“The final solution to the immigration problem is, of course, a popular vote. We don’t need a plebiscite to cut immigration numbers; we just need a government that is willing to institute a sustainable population policy, end Australian-job-stealing 457 visas and make student visas conditional on foreign students returning to the country they came from. What we do need a plebiscite for is to decide who comes here.”

Making it easier for more dingbats to come into the senate is Turnbull’s 2016 dud double dissolution which halved the number of votes senate candidates required to get a seat. Add a Turnbull government’s sexy decision to take a hard line on dual citizenship and the result is the least representative senate in our nation’s history.

As for the competition to be outrageous, there are other new rules which mean that you have to do a bit of self-promotion if you want to get re-elected; not like the good old days when preference whispering was king.

Happily, Anning’s antics distract from accident-prone Mal Trumble whose own slip-ups mean he is battling to remain top banana. The $444 m Great Barrier Reef Foundation rort explodes in his face, the Hayne Banking Royal Commission, a concept the Coalition vigorously opposed for years, continues to expose such egregious criminal behaviour that the Coalition’s earlier opposition looks increasingly like collusion, while bovver-boy backup group Benito and his Budgie-smugglers go all out to bag their PM as a useless dilettante, a merchant banker, or a closet leftie who even believes in climate change.

“Not every Muslim is a terrorist, but every terrorist is a Muslim” Anning cribs from Pauline Hanson’s response to the 2015 Paris terror attacks, a lie she’s copied from a US 9/11 hate-slogan, debunked in 2005 by the FBI.  Anning’s shtick is a tribute to the new senate system which now relies on being noticed. Brand recognition. It’s also his big chance to win Best Bigot from former Dancing With the Stars, celebrity and Sunrise TV regular, Pauline Hanson.

Anning’s done his homework. And nifty Jim Savage of Queensland’s One Nation gives him a vital bit of advice.

“… when you make your maiden speech Fraser – you gotta get up there and say something really controversial…really … hit that fucking nerve, otherwise you’ll be forgotten, no one will know who you are.”

A former National Party supporter, Anning is a big Joh fan-boy. Queensland’s hillbilly dictator, Joh Bjelke- Petersen’s fiefdom is synonymous with endemic political corruption and state repression of protest and dissent. Yet Fraser praises the time when the Kingaroy peanut farmer ruled the Moonlight State as “a golden age”.

And the worst? Gough Whitlam. Why? Because … “he didn’t ask if the nation wanted non-European Migration“?

Cue the Monty Python skit – what have the Romans Empire ever done for us? What did Whitlam ever do for us?

Damien Murphy published a list in The Age four years ago. Whitlam’s reforms include: ending conscription; bringing troops home from Vietnam. His government recognised China a week prior to Nixon in July 1971.

Then there’s Medibank, Medicare’s forerunner, yet to be destroyed by shonky private health cover and the six billion dollars a year subsidy taxpayers generously provide by means of subsidy. Under Whitlam, supporting mothers gained benefits and the homeless could get welfare payments. Humanity in social welfare? Shocking.

Equal pay for women? Abolition of capital punishment? Both arose from the one three year term of office. Turnbull’s managed only to bugger up one energy policy in that time.

The Whitlam government’s Family Law Act 1975 introduced non-punitive divorce laws. He brought in needs-based funding for schools. His free university education initiative hugely benefited women. A 25 per cent cut in tariffs across the board opened up trade. His government set up a precursor to the Productivity Commission, adding the Trade Practices Act and a predecessor of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Whitlam’s Australian Assistance Plan funded regional councils and employment projects. It continues in the concepts of “social planning” and “community development”. His government reduced the voting age to 18 and provided the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory with representation in the Senate.

The Racial Discrimination Act 1975 conferred rights to equality before the law and bound the Commonwealth and the states to the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, a fact which our current government mob and its allies could do well to dwell upon.

The Department of Aboriginal Affairs was set up and the first Commonwealth legislation to grant land rights to indigenous people was drafted. Land title deeds were handed to some Gurindji traditional lands owners in the Northern Territory in 1975, a real and symbolic gesture that became a touchstone for the land rights movement.

The Whitlam government also established the National Gallery of Australia, the Australia Council for the Arts, the Australian Heritage Commission. It introduced FM radio, pushed for the setting up of 2JJ, a radio established to support Australian music and connect with young Australians. It set up multicultural radio services – 2EA Sydney and 3EA in Melbourne – and issued licences to community radio stations for the first time. Oddly none of these are preaching hate-speech or demanding that their audience assimilate. That’s the Tory politicians’ job.

It’s handshakes, hugs and kisses Tuesday; the Tories are all over Fraser. But will they still love him in the morning?

Wednesday, many go on air, stricken with morning after remorse. Regret after a Bex, a good lie down and a sniff of the political wind. Derryn Hinch says he felt “trapped in a Ku Klux Klan rally”. For the former shock jock …it’s one of the most disgraceful, racist, homophobic, divisive, misogynist, spiteful, hateful speeches… I’ve ever heard”.

In a touching, post-modern homage to Thomas Cranmer who in 1556 – thrust the hand that signed his recantation of his Protestant beliefs into the flames as he was burned at the stake for heresy and treason; Derryn tells a fawning press gallery, how he heroically went home and washed the hand that shook the hand of Fraser Anning.

Others claim a post-maiden-speech hand-shake’s compulsory. Don’t shoot the speech-writer, Richard Howard who has also spun gold for former One Nation senator, now Hanson staffer, Malcolm Roberts. Howard also helped Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm to infamy. Not that there’s anything offensive in Fraser’s phrases.

Echoing lying rodent John Howard, Dick Howard helpfully sets the record straight in The Australian Friday,

“This appears to be a beat-up by One Nation to distract attention from senator Fraser Anning’s message that the Australian ­people are entitled to choose who comes here.”

Who can blame the early responders’ re-think? Turnbull, himself, can do a 24 hour U-turn, as he does this Sunday in dumping any carbon emission target for the NEG and changing his mind back to legislation rather than regulation.

In brief, Fraser Anning is merely following the lead given by other racists. His stunt is neither bi, nor tri but poly-partisan, building as it does on the solid foundations of intolerance, bigotry and racial hatred laid by John Howard and so capably continued by Tony Abbott, Peter Dutton, Malcolm Turnbull and other leading Liberals.

And, sadly, some of it is tacitly condoned by the Labor Party which doesn’t dare rock the boat on immigration.

Even his form has form. Anning’s grab bag of platitudes is a gallimaufry of false assertions, assumptions and is just as incoherent as the Turnbull government’s energy (a work in regress) or its immigration policy. Or its uncosted tax cuts to business.

It may be the political virgin’s maiden speech but he’s already been around the block. The former One Nation, nineteen-vote-wonder, a former Gladstone publican, quit Pauline Hanson’s party two months after being appointed. He turned independent after a blue with Hanson over his elevation to the senate.

Pauline threatens to put his weights up by writing to the senate dobbing him in as ineligible in case the court let him off his pending bankruptcy charges because they saw he’d soon be earning $200,000 PA plus travel and other expenses not to mention a generous parliamentary super scheme, but nothing comes of it. Nor could it.

Anning’s been able to sort the bankruptcy proceedings against himself and his wife, Fiona, last October. Now for the harder task of settling his score with Pauline. Part of this is to poach her anti-immigration extremism; upstage her natural fascism.

Anning is snapped up by another vanity political party, “barking” Bob Katter’s Australian Party (KAP). Mad Bob backs his star recruit “one thousand percent”. “Solid gold.” KAP may or may not boost Anning’s political fortunes.

Fraser’s big legal win enables him to replace Senator Malcolm Roberts and pre-empt the elevation of Judy Smith, Pauline Hanson’s sister. It’s a bitter pill for her younger sister to swallow. Without Anning’s ascension One Nation might have become The Pauline and Judy Show a potential runaway success on Sunrise.

Much has been ventured about the new low, the new depth of disrepute Anning’s “Final Solution” speech has brought to the senate. In truth it’s more of a logical extension of the tactics already favoured by an increasingly xenophobic, racist, dog-whistling government. It bodes not well for the tenor of the next election.

As Paddy Manning notes in The Monthly,

“We have been building up to this steadily. From Pauline Hanson’s return to parliament, to Tony Abbott’s dog-whistling on immigration policy, to Peter Dutton’s attacks on “African gangs”, to Andrew Bolt’s comments about Chinese, Cambodian, Indian and Jewish communities“changing our culture”, to Sky News airing an interview with neo-Nazi Blair Cottrell, the trend is clear: we are sliding ever-faster down a slippery slope towards an ugly, divisive race-card election.”

What is certain, however, is that Katter’s backing of Anning will cost him union support. Katter’s sponsors such as the ETU and the CFMEU are walking away from the KAP. It remains to be seen how much damage it may do him.

Also walking away is the Prime Minister who drops his NEG Sunday in the face of gathering opposition from the moderates, few as they may be – and the right of his party. It is clear that he is in trouble, even if he takes out the carbon emissions target, a legacy dud from Tony Abbott’s cynical attempt to set a ludicrously low and patently unhelpful target in Paris – where Australia pledged under a Paris Agreement, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

And even if he “walks back” his earlier announcement that he’d regulate rather than legislate – making it harder for a Labor government to later increase the NEG’s emissions reduction target – he will not appease his critics. What is clear is that he is facing the toughest test of his Prime Ministership as he sits down to a cabinet dinner at the Lodge Sunday night. Overcooked goose, perhaps?

Somehow, be it his vacillation, poor judgement, poor policy or poor polling, Turnbull has managed to alienate or alarm a substantial portion of his party. A number of MPs are speaking of crossing the floor. The PM’s supporters are trying to avert conflict when the Party Room meets Monday.

Worryingly, Barnaby Joyce’s “flash bit of kit”, The Nationals’ Deputy Leader, Bridget McKenzie expresses support.

“I think Malcolm Turnbull is our Prime Minister and I would like to see him stay as our Prime Minister and that is actually a decision for the Liberal Party,” she tells Sky News, adding ominously,

“And I haven’t heard anything personally that would suggest that that’s not going to continue to be the case.”

Meanwhile, Peter Dutton, Minister for Home Affairs, who earlier in the week ominously takes time to explain he’d resign his commission if he could no longer support the government has his own message on Saturday,

“In relation to media stories today, just to make it very clear, the Prime Minister has my support and I support the policies of the Government,” he tweets.

In the meantime, Turnbull’s ship may run aground on the Great Barrier Reef given that it is clear from statements made by its Managing Director, Anna Marsden, that despite Josh Frydenberg’s assertions last Sunday, there was no consultation.

As if the Great Barrier Reef Foundation’s unexpected no-strings-attached gift of $444,000, with no tender, no application or any other due process were not scandal enough, the government lies to protect its Energy and Environment Minister who appears to be as loose with the truth as with treasury purse-strings.

“It’s a most cynical piece of accounting trickery …a  piece of chicanery. That’s the only way I can describe it,” says Geoff Cousins, of the Barrier Reef grant. Cousins is a former president of the Australian Conservation Foundation.

More ominously for the Turnbull government, as Mike Seccombe points out in the Saturday Paper, Cousins is a corporate boardroom heavyweight. For 10 years, he was an adviser to John Howard.

The haste to deposit the funds comes, Cousins believes from the government’s promise to UNESCO.

“They made a commitment, the Australian government, to the World Heritage listing committee, to spend $716 million on the Barrier Reef, prior to 2020,” Cousins says. “But they have spent just a fraction of that, and there is no way that in the remaining 18 months or less that they can reach that target, which raises the potential of the reef being put on the endangered list.”

Even if there’s no chance of the money being spent, depositing the funds technically fulfils the Coalition’s promise.

As for due diligence, Cousins has no doubt that this assertion of Frydenberg’s is a palpable lie.

“For the Department of the Environment and Energy to grant over $440 million to a small charity that didn’t even prepare an application form or ask for the grant is inconceivable!”

Government attempts to condemn Fraser Anning appear artificial and hypocritical and serve only to draw attention to Turnbull and Dutton’s African gang scaremongering or Dutton’s earlier charge that immigrants were taking jobs which should go to Australians whilst simultaneously soaking up Centrelink payments.

As it deals with the stench in the senate, the Turnbull government must clean up another mess of its own making, its rejigged energy policy 2.0 or “The Broken NEG” which is now so far from the victory over the party room touted last Monday that it may well be the catalyst to unleash a Coalition hostility, division and mutual recrimination whose only common point may come be its lack of faith in its Prime minister – accentuated by his inept handling of the self-inflicted Great Barrier Reef fiasco.

Late on Sunday, David Crowe reports in The Age that Peter Dutton is readying to challenge his PM like a shark circling, sensing blood in the water.

In the midst of crisis over energy policy and in the wake of a horror new Fairfax-Ipsos poll showing support for the Coalition has slumped from 39 to 33 per cent of the primary vote, Dutton’s supporters claim he has the numbers to win.

 

Turnbull’s leadership a sham as he seeks to evade GBRF scandal, climate change with a dodgy NEG.

“Our efforts to deal with climate change have been betrayed by a lack of leadership, a political cowardice, the like of which I have never seen” — Malcolm Turnbull 2010

Country folk up and down our fly-blown land give thanks this week for a federal government whose devotion to the plight of stock on drought-stricken New South Wales and Queensland to Tasmania is everywhere on display. Or not as in the case of rural spots still with poor TV or NBN coverage.

Since Will Hodgman upped the supply of pump action shotties and automatic rifles so vital to a good day’s work in the Tassie paddock, an election eve promise, Apple Isle farmers are doing so well they can now truck feed to Tamworth, where the PM comforts cockies battling a baffling absence of rain.

Clearly, in times of continuous national crisis, everyone has to get behind their national or their state government and to that end, Tassie’s Hodgman government has a plan to deal with workers who want to vent online about their stupid boss, low pay or government job. It’s just not on.

Hodgman and his crew hand-craft a beaut “new social media policy” to keep its servants civil.  Government employees will be forbidden to whinge or carp online. Ideally there should be no criticism of politicians over the internet at all, just an applause button or an emoji for job well done!

As rigorous as it is vigilant, the Tasmanian government also plans to ban staffers associating online with “groups or individuals”. No likes or shares. To like or share a post is the same as creating it.

By Wednesday, Will walks it back. “The draft social media policy has a number of unintended consequences that are clearly out of step with community expectations,” he says. Tasmanians are overjoyed to hear the policy is to be reviewed to “ensure a common-sense approach prevails”.

Common-sense flies out the window… 

Further north, common-sense flies out the window as Malcolm Turnbull pulls on his RM Williams. Faced with crisis and catastrophe over energy and a Great Barrier Reef debacle, the PM hits the road on a mission to win hearts and minds in places where he’s not going to be asked about coral reefs.

“Stay strong.  We’ve got your back,” our PM consoles teary central NSW farmers, in his role as tribal leader, as he selflessly helps media and agricultural lobby groups establish the dominant narrative that our farmers are merely hapless victims of the worst drought in history.

Not a word is spoken of climate change. And the farmers? They must get as much government support as possible in learning to rely not on welfare but on charity. Take it from the PM.

Moleskin Mal knows all about farming and hardship. He hunkers down. Scoops up a bit of dry, sandy topsoil, lets it trickle through his fingers, in his role as Agronomist-in-chief. Squints into the distance.

“Luce and I are in the sheep and cattle business in the Upper Hunter,” he declares. The Pitt Street farmer instantly wins over local cockies who are “doing it tough” with his self-reliance, his hard graft with fencing and fly-strike; fire, flood and drought. And his reckless generosity.

Taxpayers’ are still agog at Mal’s gift of their money to his pals at the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, (GBRF). The Foundation didn’t even have to ask. Malco always has his mates’ backs; anticipates their every need.  It’s a matter of principle, whatever his principles may be at the time.

He gives to all sorts of worthy causes; looks after the top end of town;

No government handouts for him – just tireless, selfless, self-help, trusts and tax breaks. He gives to all sorts of worthy causes; looks after the top end of town; The Sydney Biennale, The Australian Chamber Orchestra, Rhodes Scholarships and The Scots College. Above all, he looks after the odd needy family – especially his own.

Mal donates all of his $587,852 parliamentary salary to his own charity The Turnbull Foundation, or so he says. Like his pal, Donald Trump, he’s never made his tax returns public.  Unlike his giving. “I’ve always been a philanthropic person. We’ve always been very generous.”

The Turnbull Foundation, appears in the Australian Business Register as a “private ancillary fund”, (PAF) a scam invented by the Howard government, in 2001, with all the tax perks of a charity. Only 5% of the value of such funds need be donated annually to other non-profit organisations, who, themselves, hold deductible gift recipient (DGR) and tax concession charity (TCC) status.

What happens to the rest of the money? Historically, such funds average 8% in donations to such non-profit outfits, a trend which would leave Turnbull a handy 92% tax-free nest-egg. But there’s more. As directors, he and Luce are also entitled to draw tax-free directors’ fees.

Along with modelling altruism and advocating charity over government handout, Turnbull’s out to hose down alarmist speculation that climate change has something to with droughts and that governments have something to do with climate change. Or that the Coalition has no climate policy.

Mal tweaks this part of the official Big Dry story. He channels Abbott’s tin-foil hatter Maurice Newman as he continues to court the Liberal Party dries who don’t get climate change.

“The reality we face is rainfall has always been variable in Australia. It appears to be getting more variable, certainly in this part of the world and back where Lucy and I are in the Hunter,” he says modelling precisely the lack of leadership and political gutlessness he deplored eight years ago.

The coal-lobby sponsored, climate change denying, Coalition lacks the will to do anything but ignore expert consensus… 

Worse, he and his government are adding to the problem. The coal-lobby sponsored, climate change denying, Coalition lacks the will to do anything but ignore expert consensus, be it in the parched paddocks of central NSW and QLD or on the Great Barrier Reef where governments have allowed record levels of bush-clearing for farming to create run-off which is helping to kill the reef.

Enter stage right The Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF) whose foundation chairman’s panel comprises big polluters; CEOs of BHP, Commonwealth Bank, Deloitte Australia, Lendlease and Deutsche Bank as well as representatives from Rio Tinto, Shell, AGL and Peabody Energy.

Australian Conservation Foundation’s Matt Rose nails it. “The links to companies such as Peabody Energy, which has funded climate denial groups in the past, doesn’t sit comfortably with us.”

The GBRF is a captain’s call by a PM desperate to greenwash a problem he knows he can’t fix.

Will greenwashing help? Despite Josh Frydenberg’s unbelievable performance on ABC Insiders Sunday, where he claims “extensive due diligence” (like extra virgin snake oil?) led, incredibly, to the selection of a group which just happens to represent the nation’s major polluters, few are bluffed.

Even Barrie Cassidy asks why the Great Barrier Reef Foundation (that word again) got the gig.

“Maximum leverage” Frydenberg blusters. Whatever it means, he hopes to silence the howls of outrage which erupt across the nation. Jargon’s good that way. And he could use a few levers.

Frydenberg … is totally unable to explain to Barrie Cassidy why $444 million was given in a lump sum …

Frydenberg, whose lack of accomplishment has not yet impeded his career, is totally unable to explain to Barrie Cassidy why $444 million was given in a lump sum to be used over six years to an obscure group of six mining and finance industry CEOs whose backgrounds create a palpable conflict of interest, without any tender, invitation, application or any other form of due process.

It doesn’t matter how much Frydenberg may claim that the foundation has delivered excellent results, its aims speak for themselves. There is nothing in the Foundation’s brief which mentions climate change. Immediate aims are to enhance water quality, cull outbreaks of invasive crown of thorns starfish and boost scientific research funds that might aid the reef’s “resilience”.

The reef is dying. It’s lost half its coral in the last two years. Global warming and the strongest El Nino effect ever recorded in 2016 caused the water temperature to rise, killing one third of the coral in a nine-month span between summer and autumn 2016. It would take decades for the coral to regenerate even if rising sea temperatures were brought under control.

A desperate government is wedged between the need to appease its coal-huggers who expect Adani to open and for Abbott Point to expand and an electorate which will not respond well to further bad news about the reef’s decline. It has gone for a spin solution, out of sheer political expediency.

Did Adani collude with Queensland’s state government to break the law? The Guardian reports that as Cyclone Debbie approached, 27 March, Adani leapt into damage control – by changing the rules – obtaining a temporary licence to pollute wetlands near Abbott Point. It’s a worrying sign. Doubtless there’ll be a move to recruit Adani to the GBRF in the light of its environmental concern.

“Shocking and almost mind-blowing” Michael Myer, a former founder of The Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF) terms the growing scandal surrounding Mal’s gift of $444 million to a group which is clearly still stunned at the PM’s unexpected, unbidden largesse; reefer madness.

“It was like winning lotto” says MD Anna Marsden. Truly. When you didn’t buy a ticket?

He quit in part over concerns about its “corporate” direction and the growing involvement of figures from the fossil fuels industry.

Myer, a member of the Myer family dynasty, was a financial supporter and board member of the GBRF for two years until 2002. He says he quit in part over concerns about its “corporate” direction and the growing involvement of figures from the fossil fuels industry. Now they run the outfit.

He tells the ABC Thursday that it is “unthinkable” for the Government to award the largest ever non-profit grant to an organisation with six staff members “without due diligence, without a proper tender process, without a request”. The GBRF albatross will rot around the Coalition’s neck.

Luckily, in the week’s good news, conflicted Energy and Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg fails to bully the states into accepting the National Energy Guarantee (NEG), Friday, thus avoiding locking in Tony Abbott’s inadequate emissions reduction target of 26% of 2005 levels by 2030.

Frydenberg will now have to battle Abbott’s faction to get Liberal Party Room agreement next Tuesday. Not that you would know from his spin. “We had the victory. The national energy guarantee goes through the gate to the next stage,” he lies.

Expect Josh to talk long; keep questions short – especially from “The Monash Group”, a mutant Monkey Pod, a cabal of anti-Turnbull plotters comprising Tony Abbott, Eric Abetz, Kevin Andrews, Craig Kelly and the resourceful George Christensen whom Matt Canavan sent to Tokyo to badger baffled Japanese bankers with his pitch to put their money in the rebels’ plan to build hugely expensive, new, loss-making, toxic coal-fired power plants.

The COAG rout is touted as a win in principle, a spin repeated by a fawning mainstream media who keep us distracted meanwhile with shocking images of parched paddocks and starving stock. It’s the Lynton Crosby distraction strategy of throwing a dead cat (or dying sheep or cow) on the table.

It’s an artful dodge. A conga-line of camera-men whose shadows appear clearly in-shot; a post-modern chiaroscuro, create a Brechtian alienation effect as Super Mal blitzes our screens last Sunday night, live from Trangie, a quiet, rural service town on the Mitchell Highway between Narromine and Nyngan, 493 km NW of NSW capital, Sydney.

Super Mal is paying a flying visit to Trangie whose name is an indigenous word meaning “quick”.

Sadly, Trangie relies on the Murray Darling Basin for water

But not so fast, Super Mal. Sadly, Trangie relies on the Murray Darling Basin for water and as Karen Middleton notes in The Saturday Paper, its suffering in Australia’s last severe drought in the early 2000s, a “devastating dry spell, the worst on record, prompted calls for a management plan of the basin and the water it holds”.  The basin’s mismanagement cannot be so easily shrugged off.

Given the Coalition government’s record of Murray Darling mismanagement under former Minister for Water and irrigators’ pal, Barnaby Joyce, Turnbull quickly finds himself not waving but drowning. Naturally it doesn’t stop him talking up the ways his government is listening.

Flash Mal’s all care and no responsibility. Keen to escape the GBRF stench, his whirlwind “listening tour” of drought-stricken NSW and QLD allows him to plug an insultingly inadequate “drought relief package” of $12,000 and an easing of Centrelink rules so farmers qualify for a paltry $16,000 PA.

Some locals find his visit offensive. They’re fit to kill over the PM’s do-nothing, self-promoting political photo-opportunity tour, yet there’s more to his caring than exploitation.

Riding shotgun with his PM, Minister for Agriculture, David Littleproud, surely a world’s best case of nominative determinism is jeered on Q&A Monday when he says that it’s “a big call” to own responsibility for climate change and that he doesn’t “give a rats if it’s man-made or not”.

Littleproud then quickly ducks for cover: There’s no silver bullet to this apart from rain. We can’t make it rain,” he says opting for the bleeding obvious in a dismissive non-sequitur.

No-one expects any mea culpa; acknowledgement that the Coalition’s lack of any real energy policy is boosting global warming nor that anthropogenic climate change is helping to cause the drought. 2017 was NSW’s hottest year ever. Autumn 2017 in southern Australia was the driest for 116 years.

the PM is not about to blind the locals with climate science,

This is all the more remarkable given there was no El Nino effect in 2017.  Yet the PM is not about to blind the locals with climate science, as he would have eight years ago. Now he’s warm and fuzzy.

“We’re here with love and practical help …” Practical help? Or another vacuous platitude? The Coalition has spent years evading any form of practicality when it comes to energy or climate. And meanwhile, its social welfare practices have morphed into an automated Robo call extortion racket.

Thank heaven for the photo-opportunities. Super Mal is all heart and hat as he clutches One Bucket’s Edwina Robertson in a stiff embrace, a medium close-up shot. The Toowoomba wedding photographer, turned drought awareness campaigner, tears up as she confronts the PM.

Ms Robertson, who is on week five of her own drought awareness campaign tour, tells the PM the federal government’s last Sunday morning assistance announcement is “underwhelming.”

Worse. She tells reporters, his package is “short sighted”. “He needs to acknowledge the long term effects of this.” PM and campaigner concur it’s a big bastard; the biggest drought in history.

Yet she’s on song with the Coalition’s creed of small government and in tune with Turnbull’s own crusade for private philanthropy. Robertson calls on people to donate to charities around Australia.

“We all need to be consistent in our message of how bad the drought is,” she said.

“Our money is going to come from charitable help, we need Aussies to get together. [It] is not going to come from the government.” 

Mal bravely takes aim at the rabid black dog of despair down on the drought-stricken farm

A modern Atticus Finch, Mal bravely takes aim at the rabid black dog of despair down on the drought-stricken farm as he reveals his African gang-busting, welfare-cheat-exposing, Emma Husar slut-shaming, Murray Darling Basin Authority bullying, COAG coercing, anti-immigrant racist dog-whistling, Bill-killing, witch-hunting government’s tender, nurturing side.

Mal pats her back in a touching, fatherly, gesture just perfect for TV replay. Nothing too patronising.

For Fiona Simson National Farmers’ Federation head, the show is no substitute for policy.

“We are certainly concerned that as a Commonwealth we don’t have a Federal drought policy in place. The Intergovernmental Agreement on Drought expired in July,” Simson snipes.

Perhaps the former, former Minister for Agriculture, (Malcolm Turnbull held the fort for 57 days) Barnaby Joyce was pre-occupied. Weatherboard and Iron, Joyce’s book launch comes with lurid details of his dissolute behaviour, inspired perhaps, distantly, by the confessions of St Augustine.

When it’s not over-sharing his own battle with booze, suicidal depression and philandering, Weatherboard and iron perpetuates the myth that Joyce and the Nationals somehow represent the interest of the rural worker, or the poor rather than the mining lobby or Big Agriculture. Nothing in Joyce’s voting record suggests he’s interested in preserving penalty rates or increasing Newstart.

Proposals which might benefit the poor he’s voted against. These include increasing housing affordability, the age pension, trade union powers in the workplace, funding for university education, public transport.

He’s opposed the right to protest and the use of natural resource wealth for the benefit of all.

Joyce was happily spruiking on the radio for Santos to develop its coal seam gas project at Narrabri…

Last September, Joyce was happily spruiking on the radio for Santos to develop its coal seam gas project at Narrabri, maybe thirty- maybe fifty kilometres from his own land holdings, he says although he says he won’t make any financial windfall.

Nor will Weatherboard and Iron. Australian readers are not so easily duped. Joyce’s exploiting the rural poor for his own political advancement just as Turnbull is exploiting the drought crisis for photo opportunities and as a distraction to his reef, energy and Royal Commission disasters.

Joyce flogs his book on every channel. He tells Charlie Pickering he needs the money. Charlie is too polite to demur. Barnaby has a wealthy family; whose main property is Rutherglen, in Woolbrook, which sprawls across more than 1780ha north of Tamworth. True, there are other siblings, but The Joyce Family trust fund administered by his parents Beryl and James, has Barnaby as a beneficiary.

Monday, it rains. Trangie receives five millimetres according to the new, sleek, efficiency dividend beneficiaries, The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), currently on the fifth year of a wage-freeze.

Turnbull’s team compassion is all over the airwaves, Monday, with its tough love. “Not everyone is going to survive,” federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud tells ABC’s RN, Monday morning.   “You can’t enjoy the fruits of the market economy without fear of failure.” Toughen up buttercup.

Meanwhile, full of fear of failure, Josh Frydenberg must do without the support of the states. – now he’s going into the party room Tuesday with no “leverage”; even less hope of forging consensus.

The Turnbull government spins another failure as a success – with a switch into vaudeville as Frydenberg “singles out hydrogen as a point of discussion” – about as practical as Greg Hunt’s Direct Action and just as outrageously expensive.

federal and Victorian state government are spending $500 million to build a pilot…

Yet our federal and Victorian state government are spending $500 million to build a pilot plant that will operate for only one year and produce “up to” three tonnes of hydrogen over the whole year.

We are beyond Carbon lock-in” – the self-perpetuating inertia created by large fossil fuel-based energy systems that inhibits public and private efforts to introduce alternative energy technologies.

What we’ve seen instead this week is a PM prepared to seek any distraction from his GBRF scandal and his party divided on the fundamentals of an energy policy which would meet our Paris commitments.

Instead his Energy Minister is peddling a NEG which is so complex and so rushed that no-one fully understands it but one thing is clear, it will lock in Abbott’s inadequate targets for ten years; a NEG which is worse than no NEG at all which is being presented as our only way to move forward and a framework which can be modified into something workable later.

It is neither of these but a shameful attempt to forge Coalition consensus and coerce the states.

Turnbull’s need to seek distraction and his natural evasiveness has led him on a lightning tour of drought-afflicted country towns where the focus is emotive with countless images of suffering animals and distressed farmers but which obscures the link between the big dry and climate change.

It will not be long before his GBRF scandal catches up with him and party disunity erupts over emission targets, and the NEG, like his tour of compassion is exposed as a transparent sham.

 

Turnbull snatches defeat from the jaws of victory.

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, in its Super Saturday massacre 28 July, (National Drowning Prevention Day) the Coalition is quick to spin its five seat rout in Braddon, Longman, Mayo and its uncontested by-elections in the Labor electorates of Perth and Fremantle into a “typical by-election swing of five per cent against the government”.

It’s “normal”, Liberal MPs’ chorus; all on song from their dot points Monday as they sally forth in damage control; voices strident with performance anxiety. Inwardly all are inconsolable; mourning unexpected, unfathomable loss. Corporate tax cuts are on the nose with voters but can the party heed the feedback? So far it is incapable of listening.

Worse, the hoax that The National Energy Guarantee, (NEG) which is said to be “technology neutral” yet deliver cheaper, more reliable, electricity is rejected by most voters as just another coal-lobby con, aimed not at them but at Abbott’s black rock cult that rules Turnbull’s government, a “ginger group”, Peta Credlin calls them, that is deluded, misinformed and in thrall to mining company propaganda and funding.

Their mutual ignorance will shape the nature of our next ten years of energy policy.

It’s NEG week, an arbitrary deadline imposed to forge consensus on a National Energy Guarantee agreement so complex, lengthy and so recently handed down without consultation that few who will vote on it have read it, let alone understood it.

Yet the Liberal spin machine this week is all over the media telling us it’s all or nothing; now or never. Sadly the push coincides with the release of government data revealing that we’ve just wasted a billion dollars planting trees and restoring degraded habitat under Greg Hunt’s fabulous Direct Action emissions reduction fund climate policy.

Increased forest-clearing in other parts of the nation since 2015 has released over 160m tonnes of carbon dioxide wiping out any Direct Action carbon abatement gains. Emissions projections data estimates another 60.3m tonnes will be emitted this year – equivalent to 10% of national emissions. Hunt’s policy’s a costly, ignominious failure.

In NSW, data obtained under FOI by The Guardian and only after an eight month battle from the Berejiklian government which had not published information for three years, shows it gave permission to clear over 7,000 hectares of native vegetation in 2015-16, the second highest rate of clearing in a decade, while the creation of new conservation areas and restoration of bushland has slumped while it has held office.

Environmental groups and the government’s own Office of Environment and Heritage warn that the new regime will lead to a major increase in loss of habitat, on a scale only seen in Queensland, our nation’s worst state for land clearing and degradation.

To be kind to Hunt, rates of land clearing have been underestimated. In Queensland, moreover, LNP politicians pressured government to withdraw federal department of environment notices demanding landowners explain suspected of illegal clear-felling.

All of this provides context to the Coalition’s urging the states to accept a NEG with woefully inadequate emissions targets of just 26% below 2005 levels for the electricity sector, by 2030. Not only will new investment, least of all in renewables receive no clear signal, the NEG effectively will lock in Tony Abbott’s targets for ten years.

Breezily, commentators and government spin merchants urge states to sign up to targets which can be increased later. It’s a bit like a mobile phone sales pitch.

Sign up now, change your plan later. But it’s not that easy. A federal government committed to higher emissions targets may struggle to gain senate support.

Our total national carbon emissions continue to rise. The most recent national greenhouse accounts showed a 1.5% increase last year. More than $1bn of public money spent on cutting greenhouse gas emissions by planting trees and restoring habitat under the Coalition’s fairies at the bottom of the garden Direct Action climate policy will have effectively been wiped out by little more than two years of forest-clearing elsewhere in the country, according to official government data.

Could the coal warriors snap out of it? Is the Coalition seduced by its own party spin machine? Can it not abandon its futile Kill Bill strategy? Will it stop its tiresome pantomime that Anthony Albanese is after Shorten’s job? None of this is working for it.

Nor does insisting that unfunded tax cuts help the whole nation to prosper win over those who experience at first hand wage theft, the loss of penalty rates, too little work, dangerous work or the half of all workers who are now in insecure employment.

Trump’s American provides clear evidence that corporate tax cuts go into share buy-backs, executive bonuses – anywhere but increased wages or the creation of new jobs.  History in both Australia and the US suggest wage rises are highly unlikely.

By Sunday, a new diversion is required. Turnbull announces the government’s $12,000 drought assistance package to farmers. Yet he’s mugged by reality. Ashley Gamble, a Toowoomba Queensland farmer says the cash payments promised by the government for struggling farms are inadequate. He could add insulting. Heartless. Cruel.

“To be honest, that’s absolutely nothing. $12,000 doesn’t even buy a load of grain.” Gamble’s completely out of stock feed. Nothing in the package for him. Nor many others like him. The government’s package looks like a stunt.

Turnbull spins the federal government’s generous plans to provide immediate financial support to farmers with a “$190 million package” to help farming communities fight one of the worst droughts of the past century. You can get one inadequate handout or you may qualify for a type of Centrelink support. It’s a whopping $16,000 PA.

99% of NSW and more than 58% of Queensland is now officially in drought, yet no-one in government is bold enough to publicly make any links between land-clearing, drought and other extreme weather and climate change. We’ve politicised our own survival.

Capitalism is also unquestioned. Farmers now face unprecedented prices as feed becomes scarce, just as transport costs rise steeply as they are forced to seek sources further and further afield. Then there’s higher fuel and power costs.

The meagre drought assistance looks like a cheap publicity opportunity, especially given last week’s news that the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, a hitherto obscure “charity”, run by wealthy business leaders, receives $443 million from Malcolm Turnbull and Josh Frydenberg without prior consultation or even being required to apply.

There are no set expectations of accountability and the donation appears to have bypassed cabinet or the party room in a captain’s call.

Again, Turnbull’s government is remote, aloof and high-handed. It’s not heeding the people, nor serving the people, however sensitive it may be to Newspoll and media opportunities. Yet rich corporations get a $65 billion handout in a tax cut.

But look over there! Senses heightened by fear, the Coalition pack is hot in pursuit of Emma Husar; MP for Lindsay, a Western Sydney electorate. The single mother of three, they allege, bullies and abuses her staff. Not only must staffers walk her pet Labrador, they have to pick up dog poo and pop into Aldi for bread, milk and toilet-paper.

Husar has misused entitlements such as the Comcar travel service, some staff allege. Yet there’s no hint of any chartered helicopter hire, such as helped to ground Bronwyn Bishop. Husar’s not used RAAF VIP jets, such as Tony Abbott would use to fly to Melbourne, to attend a March 2015 birthday party of mining millionaire and top Liberal donor Paul Marks.

Nor is there any allegation that Emma’s abused her role to secure a job for anyone not-her-partner-at-the-time; nor a whiff of any dubious paternity, a “grey area” for Barnaby Joyce who has been cleared of wrongly procuring jobs for his paramour.

Nor has Ms Husar broken Turnbull’s “no bonking ban” which admonished our former deputy PM indirectly; unfairly over his affair with staffer Vikki Campion. “You can’t help who(m) you fall in love with,” Barnaby, the helpless victim explains.

The pursuit of Husar is a magnificent distraction, however, and a pent up Coalition fond of blood sports pounces on it.

Damned by her accusers, prejudged in the media, Husar takes leave after threatening messages are left on her phone. The bullying allegations are being investigated by the Labor Party with expert assistance from barrister, John Whelan.

Whelan, who has a reputation as a straight-shooter, previously worked for Labor leaders including Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Kim Beazley and Bob Carr before he set up his mediation business which specialises in workplace issues.

Turnbull calls for Shorten to stand Ms Husar down but he risks ridicule as a hypocrite, given recent Liberal history. Some prominent staffers have gone beyond the call of duty.

Niki Savva’s revelations in Road to Ruin quote an unnamed Liberal who witnessed Ms Credlin feeding then PM Tony Abbott food from her fork in public at a restaurant; resting her head on his shoulder.

Savva, who is married to veteran Liberal staffer Vincent Woolcock, records an insider’s poetic observation of a Credlin Abbott relationship moment which appears unusually intimate. “She fed him tenderly as if he were a baby bird.”

Was this duty detailed in Credlin’s job description? Capping her image of tender familiarity of not intimacy, Savva cites an anonymous minister who says he saw Mr Abbott slap Ms Credlin on the bottom not knowing he was watching the scene.

Emma Husar’s alleged misconduct, includes revealing herself to Jason Clare in a “Basic Instinct” move. Buzz-feed is agog despite Jason’s refutation.  Can a woman “reveal herself” to a man who does not notice her? (So he swears.) What law is broken?

So far, despite the best efforts of The Daily Tele and other News Ltd papers, the allegation is baseless. But none of it need be true. All that’s required is a series of unfounded allegations and assertions. Mud sticks.

Metaphysical conundrums aside, Husar is a gift to apparatchiks eager to divert attention from the Coalition’s by-election flop. Her case evokes low journalism in support of a government over-eager to smear Labor. The lynch mob is a beast which feasts on salacious gossip; kindergarten tittle-tattle rather than rational political reporting and analysis.

Expect more of this type of “reporting” as Nine’s takeover of Fairfax, which is already forcing the share price of both companies down, forces Fairfax to “let go” its investigative reporters in favour of infotainers and ambulance chasers.

Will gossip also prevail on the ABC? In the run up to its IPA-ordained privatisation, the ABC announces the launch of ABC Life its new “lifestyle” website, next Monday, in a move which will make it more attractive to prospective buyers when the government privatises the national broadcaster. Lifestyle programmes outnumber all others categories.

Already there’s a fuss over the nonsense dignified by “competitive neutrality” which boils down to the government’s diktat that the ABC not compete with Murdoch’s’ or any other commercial oligarch’s rival lifestyle media “product”. It’s unfair. Our government-protected commercial media oligopoly rules. An inquiry is in place but no-one is certain of what it is or why, except that it is a Pauline Hanson condition on her accepting the first tranche of the Coalition’s brilliant new tax cut legislation.

What happened to the Productivity Commission? It has a section set up to hear competitive neutrality complaints. It’s been gazumped by an ad hoc inquiry.

Happily the Husar hue and cry also takes some of the heat off Malcolm Turnbull who has yet to explain how he could dole out a grant to Liberal Party mates who form the board of The Great Barrier Reef Foundation, a little-known charity comprising captains of industry and finance such as John Schubert, former CBA chair and Australian Business Council’s chairman, Grant King who also chairs the foundation’s board. Chalk it up to a captain’s call.

Along with many in the Business Council of Australia, Grant King is always calling for accountability from government but, as Bernard Keane notes in Crikey, he is not available to answer questions about the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. Perhaps he can’t comment on underwater matters.

Joining Grant is John Schubert also of the Business Council, and also “not available”. On board also is Suncorp’s Michael Cameron, toughing out a 16% drop in profit on a “weather and strategy spend”.

Powerful gold-plated poles and wires head honcho, Origin director, Steven Sergeant brings our warm and fluffy but hard-nosed electricity racketeers into the reefer madness zone, while Boeing Australia head Maureen Dougherty is there to represent a company which is a big arms manufacturer and totally non-polluting major global aircraft builder.

The Foundation is set up to allow our biggest polluters to greenwash their inevitable destruction of the reef, a scandal in itself, but this week, Turnbull feels the pressure over his unsolicited gift of $443 million of taxpayers’ money. He could begin by getting the body to undertake studies into the run-off from the land newly-cleared in NSW and QLD which will help accelerate the destruction of the reef.

Turnbull is long accustomed to spontaneous displays of support for experimental schemes. Or duds. Most memorable is his 2007 donation of $10 million, when, as Environment Minister, he financed Rupert Murdoch’s nephew Matt Handbury for his rain-making testing scheme, despite expert advice from Environment Department experts that the scheme would not work and was worth perhaps $2 million at best.

Handbury, in turn, strenuously denies any relationship between the grant he received from the then Environment Minister Turnbull and personal pal and his subsequent donation to Turnbull’s campaign for the seat of Wentworth.

Normalising electoral defeat helps re-build esprit de corps; a nod, perhaps, to the spirit of ANZAC, another nation-building catastrophe. At least it’s a public show of courage against the odds, as Dutton and at least seven other LNP MPs whose electorates adjoin Longman have reason to fear losing their seats, sneers Abbott’s soapbox, The Australian.

Axe the tax cut, some whimper privately, while yobbo Tony Abbott and others go public, white-anting their PM’s leadership, in the cheeky larrikin spirit of defiance of authority that marks out the true blue Aussie hero but with an obsession that betokens mania.

The anti-Turnbull pile-on via Sydney talkback radio helps ease the stigma of being infected by the viral disease of climate change denial, a malignant metaphysical meningitis, which causes rapid atrophy of the critical faculties.

Climate change denial helps incubate an aberrant strain of “thought”, as Greg Jericho flatters our current Coalition psychopathology in The Guardian “that has decided the way forward is to ignore evidence and instead pursue an ideology of wilful ignorance.”

Of course the government’s ruling Monash Five’s retreat from reason and its climate madness may both stem from larger causes, but the effects of wilful ignorance are pernicious.  Giving the top end of town a tax break is another corporate sponsorship we can’t afford, which, judging by its record profits of 6% quarter on quarter, big business clearly doesn’t need. Profits increased faster for mining (10.9%) and electricity and utilities, (11.9%).

A record 94% of companies reported a profit this year.

By Tuesday, MPs return to backbiting, sniping and finger-pointing. What’s left for the desiccated dries and the dissidents of the Monkey Pod room who dictate government policy on environment and energy to fall back on but Dutton’s African gangs and Andrew Bolt’s rabid racist scaremongering and immigration?

Another dramatic scandal-ridden week in national politics sees further breaking of the ranks in the Turnbull government. Some call to walk back its tax cuts while others remain steadfast; loyal to their principles of looking after their wealthy corporate mates, the sainted capitalist entrepreneur at the expense of everyone else; a retreat into economic folly which entails abdicating their obligation to a just and fair society.

“Everyday Australians would be appalled to know that the annual company tax saving for just one company could pay for 7,610 teachers, 8,450 nurses or 6,310 police officers, says Executive Director, Ben Oquist.

The Australia Institute’s (TAI) new Revenue Watch Initiative calculates that based on Rio Tinto’s half year report, the Coalition’s company tax cut would represent a $7.67 billion gift to Rio Tinto over the first decade of the cut.

Oquist maintains that his institute’s research shows that the company tax cuts are “economically unsound.” Cutting company tax will reduce revenue available for community services and productivity enhancing public infrastructure.

Others duck and weave to dodge the brickbats from Super Saturday as rifts widen within the Coalition over energy and tax cuts for the rich, which Abbott wants to ditch, Scott Morrison wants to keep and which Dutton won’t commit to.

Caught between snafu, self-sabotage and frantic damage control, the PM’s unsolicited $443 million largesse to his party’s mining and finance pals in The Great Barrier Reef Foundation blows up in his face, whilst Health Minister Hunt is left looking unwell when he’s proved wrong on the ease with which others can access patient data on MyHealth.

Of course, he’ll simply fiddle with the wording of the legislation. The opt out concept violates patient’s rights.

Figures for the first quarter of 2018 from Australia’s data breach notification scheme show that over all sectors, around half of breaches were caused by human error.

The scheme found most breaches came from the healthcare sector, reports ABC’s Ariel Bogle.

What could possibly go wrong?

“No-one should be punching the air in the Labor Party. There is not a lot to crow about”, says Turnbull when he finally emerges from his blue funk, Monday. Party Pollyanna, Christopher Pyne, surpasses peak absurdity, in his verdict on Georgina Downer’s crash and burn in Mayo. He’s almost as upbeat over his party’s overall performance.

Downer, Pyne opines, has “created a good base to win in May next year”. Just a little more public contempt for the electorate’s intelligence, should help seal her victory. In all three seats, he lies, it’s “a good result” for the Liberal Party.

Good? It’s a disaster. And it’s unprecedented. Until Saturday, a five per cent swing against the government has never occurred in by-elections in Opposition-held seats, as all five, on 28 July, were. Sixty such byelections have been held since Federation, writes Peter Brent. Half were uncontested. Results from the remainder range widely.

In the thirty seats which were contested, fourteen swung to the government. Of the remaining sixteen, the size of the swing to the opposition averages 1.5% while the mean is a meagre 1.2%. Yet the Liberal spin is quickly, widely repeated.

Incredible Sulk, Tony Abbott is on air with Ray quick as a rat up a drain pipe. Although 2GB boasts it’s number one with 11% of Sydney’s radio audience, according to its own figures, nearly ninety per cent of listeners listen to someone else.

Yet Abbott and Dutton love 2GB’s shock-jockery. Or used to. Monday, Abbott tells Hadley’s fans that his government needs to change policies after its disastrous showing in the three by-elections it bothered to contest. Its policies are just as much of a problem as its leader, Abbott tells listeners. Who’d invent a 30 dud Newspolls’ test of success?

“One of the things you learn as leader over the years is don’t set yourself up to fail, don’t set tests for yourself that are going to be very hard to pass.”  Abbott should know. His own government dishonoured 85 policy promises in 88 weeks.

“There will be no new spending under a Coalition government that’s not fully-costed and fully-funded,” was one of his hollowest election pledges. Once elected, Abbott’s government proceeded to spend more relative to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) than even the notoriously profligate Howard government. Unfunded or deficit spending doubled.

Thursday, Hadley calls Scott Morrison and Turnbull “numbskulls” and gives even Home Affairs supremo Peter Dutton a serve. Channelling Abbott, he bags the PM and his Treasurer for continuing to pursue their policy of tax cuts for businesses with turnover of more than $50 million, following the Coalition’s failure to win seats in Saturday’s by-elections.

Last week Abbott was beating Dutton’s drum. … why do we store up trouble for ourselves by letting in people who are going to be difficult, difficult to integrate?” 2GB Radio regular malcontent, Toxic Tony asks his “big question” relentless in his quest to destroy his nemesis, Malcolm Turnbull, even if it means cruelling the coalition’s chances in the process.

Abbott drips poison as he dog-whistles up racists.

It’s as good as anything his mentor, John Howard, ever managed, when in 1988 he began attacking the Asianisation of Australia, ending years of bipartisan agreement not to play the race card. Howard called for “One Australia,” neatly appealing to the followers of One Nation, which the Liberal candidate for Oxley created the year before when she was disendorsed by her party for racist comments which would be defended as “freedom of speech” today.

Confounded by reality failing to live to its rhetoric in Super Saturday’s debacle and the scandal breaking over Turnbull’s Great Barrier Reef Foundation scam, the accelerating land clearing that is helping kill the reef and the anxiety and stress that Health Minister Hunt is bringing to all of us over our medical data, not to mention Abbott’s sniping at his PM, the government retreats into dissension, reality and climate change denial and the comfort of reverting to the simpler, safer times when elder statesman and war criminal John Howard looked after us all by stopping the boats and rekindling our racism.

Not so super Saturday for Turnbull but silencing of dissent a winner.

Love is in the air is on endless loop at PM’s eleven-week, five by-election, 500,000 voter dance marathon. It’s a bizarre, grotesque, contest as bone-weary MPs fight to stay upright to the end this week.

Turnbull, meanwhile, flits among the “crucial” by-electorates of Braddon, Longman and Mayo, boosting morale. Spinning. Sloganeering. Grandstanding. It’s Mal’s take on campaigning. Australians hate it.

All they see is another rich, Sydney blow-in with tickets on himself.

Similarly, Alexander John Gosse Downer does his daughter, Georgina, – (“out of towner, Downer”) – locals dub her, no favours in Mayo. Or is she too good for them? Maserati-driving, Alexander the great, modestly muses on his family’s legacy in Facebook:

“I would say our family have been nation builders. We’ve helped make this nation great. And you can abuse us and you can criticise us and we’ll take it. We’ll take it, we don’t mind, because nation building is in our blood.”

Downer’s nation-building includes his backing of Australia’s illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003. Iraq, he said, had weapons of mass destruction. Australia, therefore, had legal authority to invade. Both assertions later proved false.

In 2004, as Foreign Minister, Downer ordered ASIS to bug East Timor’s cabinet in order to cheat the impoverished, developing or in Downer’s diplomatic terms “busted arse” nation out of its fair share of recompense for its oil and gas reserves.

A former Portuguese colony, East Timor suffered some of the worst atrocities of modern times, losing 200,000 lives, a quarter of its population, in its fight for self-determination against Indonesian occupation in 1975.

This Wednesday, in the ACT Magistrates’ Court, proceedings begin against two whistle-blowers, one known only as Witness K – and his lawyer, Bernard Collaery, a former deputy chief minister and attorney-general of the ACT.

The case is brought by the government’s hand-picked Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions — former Trade Union Royal Commission counsel, Sarah McNaughton, a decision which raises questions about the motives for the prosecution in a week which sees Turnbull attack the ABC for daring to suggest that Australia would be part of any future “air-strikes”, as they are cutely termed, on Trump’s new nemesis, Iran.

Firstly, the DPP requires Attorney-General, Christian Porter’s, assent. Porter says his hands are tied: he has been briefed by predecessor George Brandis, yet Greg Barns, barrister and president of the Australian Lawyers’ Association, says this is to reduce the AG to a rubber stamp. He argues that the AG can and should exercise his discretion.

Witness K and Collaery face charges of conspiring to commit offences against section 39 of the Intelligence Services Act 2001, which prohibits the unauthorised disclosure of information about ASIS activities.

The pair are being prosecuted by the government for “revealing information about its own crimes”, says Clinton Fernandes, Professor of International and Political Studies at The University of NSW.

And as if whistle-blowing isn’t bad enough, they’ve gone and told The ABC.

One problem, as Crikey’s Bernard Keane and The Saturday Paper’s Mike Seccombe point out, is that the government is charging Collaery with talking to the ABC 13 December 2013 when The Australian published an interview with him on the same matter in May 29 2013.

Why? As the government wishes to keep proceedings secret, we may never know.

Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie suggests, in parliament, that the government has held off until it has reached its new agreement with Timor-Leste and that “with the diplomacy out of the way, it’s time to bury the bodies”.

Downer whose subsequent position with Woodside petroleum, the major firm involved in East Timor gas and oil has nothing to do with his work as Foreign Minister, was also implicated in the 1999-2004, AWB $300 million Iraqi wheat for oil scandal while in 1994, as Liberal leader, he parodied his party’s slogan, The Things That Matter and its domestic violence policy with a witty word play, which he clearly thought would bring the house down, “the things that batter”.

His boat stopping was no joke either. In 2001, as Howard’s Foreign Minister, Downer was instrumental, with Mandy Vanstone, in turning back to Indonesia, 14 Kurdish asylum seekers whose boat had reached Melville Island, by falsely alleging that not one had asked for asylum. Abuzer Goles, one of the Turkish Kurds, testified otherwise.

“Thousands of times, thousands,” said Abuzer Goles. “I begged them, I pleaded down on my knees. They sent a Turkish interpreter and I pleaded with him saying I’ll do anything not to be sent back. We spent four days on the water, 10 days without sleep, it nearly killed us. I’m human, I’m a human being. I’m a refugee.”

He then broke down, crying.

There’s been the odd bit of anti-immigrant and African gang hysteria from Tony Abbott, Peter Dutton and his enabler,Turnbull. At a time when One Nation candidates in QLD threaten to take by-election votes away from the Liberals, a bit of strong-on-borders rhetoric doesn’t hurt. Yet it’s only recently that Turnbull has joined the racist choir.

Hitting the selfie trail and the nation’s airwaves, copping the wrath of the odd age-pensioner in Longman, the PM effortlessly blends a boyish, artless, narcissism with an heroic narrative that is all about him. Only when it all ends badly does our anti-hero duck for cover. Up until then he’s got more front than Myers. And Mark Foy. Combined

“The … contest is between me and Bill Shorten as the prime minister and the opposition leader,” he huffs in Brisbane.  He offers the same reductive puffery in The Australian later.  Again, it’s uncanny. It could be testosteronic Tony Abbott, himself, speaking.

It’s fashionable to decry personality politics as a modern curse, but it’s been with us forever. So has the golden rule that you should only pick a fight you can win. And pride, if not macho chutzpah, goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.

Is it hubris? Or vainglorious vacuity? Are his long-suffering staff to blame if Truffles loses the plot? Goes off script. Since 2017, Turnbull has a meagre 58 staff; each averaging $233,000 PA.  Turnover is high.

February, Penny Wong queried stability in the Prime Minister’s department, noting 28 staffers hold mere acting positions in the senior executive service.

Just don’t hold Turnbull personally responsible. Friday night, as all five by elections go against him. Mal duck dives. The (self-styled) party Fixer, Christopher “Periscope” Pyne surfaces on ABC Insiders Sunday. Turnbull never called it a leadership contest, he lies. When even Barrie Cassidy tries to remonstrate, Pyne trots out the party line.

“It was just a typical by-election swing of 4%”, he squibs – except that in Longman it was at least 10%. Things look bad now for Dutton’s adjacent seat and in three other Queensland seats the government holds by narrow margins. If the Coalition continues to alienate voters in these seats, it is on track to lose the March 2019 general election.

Expect further turnover in Prime Minister and Cabinet.  Turnbull finally comes up for air around Sunday brunch. You can’t keep a straight face on an empty stomach.

“We will look very seriously and thoughtfully and humbly at the way in which voters have responded,” he tells Sydney media. “We will be carefully considering the analysis of the byelections, particularly in Braddon and in Longman.”

We will? Turnbull is the compleat political chameleon: Woody Allen’s Australian Zelig. All voters care about, he declares in a Devonport pub, earlier this week, is “jobs-and-growth”. Voters hear a less nasal, more fluent Tony Abbott with plummier vowels.

Coalition spin-doctors make “Super Saturday”, a referendum on Bill Shorten. It’s a cunning plan. Enduring, too. ABC RN even leads its byelection reporting, Sunday, pondering “what this means for Bill Shorten” – when the real question is how can Malcolm Turnbull survive?

Even after Labor wins all four seats, mainstream media groupthink is still obsessing over the fate of the Opposition. Yet privately government MPs are worrying.

The curse of Malcolm’s dud judgement rears its ugly head again. Why did his government does not contest Perth or Fremantle? OK. Fremantle you can understand – but Perth? Perth casts more votes for Liberal than Labor.

Then there’s the issue of whether it’s wise to chum up to One Nation and lose votes to it, or to “take it on” as Cassidy says. First you’d have to take her off Sunrise.

And Hanson’s everywhere. A  man in love with himself will have no rival, but Mal must contend with fifty life-size cardboard cut-outs of Pauline Hanson. Scandalous allegations emerge that One Nation’s Longman candidate, Matthew Stephens, has failed to pay workers and subcontractors he promised to recompense out of a $66,000 settlement in a long-running legal dispute.

Adding piquant mystery to the romance, One Nation needs to please explain. Just what did happen to the $66,000? Pauline certainly knows how to pick her candidates.

No use asking Queen of vanity politics, Pauline. The government’s loyal cross-bench little mate, is currently enjoying a luxury cruise around Ireland. Unaccountably, she’s missing in action. Perhaps it’s the only moment she can get to reward herself for her long service to Turnbull. Did he or Cormann pay her fare?

Happily, Hanson’s absence leaves Mal free to bang on about his government’s media “reforms” without needing to fuss over how much One Nation’s dogged support has made them possible.

Credit is of course also due to others. There’s the talking toilet brush, as he is known at home in NZ, Derryn Hinch, senate slut-shamer and gun-slinger, Tea Party potty mouth David Leyonhjelm and the stunt-loving but ephemeral NXT.

Mal’s blowing his bags about his government’s fabulous record-breaking job-creating success and the buckets of money it’s throwing at essential services, hospitals, schools, infrastructure; even the odd little charity such as The Great Barrier Reef Foundation which is just the ticket to fix the largest coral reef ecosystem on earth from its inevitable destruction under Coalition tolerance of massive land clearing, acceleration of global warming and other anti-environment policies.

The Foundation, is a charity whose board is headed by the Business Council of Australia’s Grant King. It includes other merchant princes, princesses, bankers, corporate tycoons; all Liberal Party-loving gals and pals in line to get a $433 million dollar government handout; without a tender process or any other skerrick of public accountability.

The United States Studies Centre can also thank its lucky stars. Set up by Howard, it’s the foreign policy think tank the ABC dips into it whenever it needs the ubiquitous John Barron to comment on what Donald Trump is up to now. It has close links to the Turnbull and Murdoch families and it gets a generous $12 million from the federal government, Monday.

James Brown, Malcolm Turnbull’s son-in-law was the Centre’s research director from 2015 until recently when he took up an unpaid position as head of the NSW RSL to help it sort out its current financial scandal. Lucy Turnbull is the Centre’s patron.

Similar largesse, was shown by the Coalition to Foxtel. “News Corp is refusing to explain exactly how it will spend taxpayers’ money more than six months after the Turnbull government granted Foxtel $30 million,” reported Fairfax in February.

Secrecy is a Turnbull government byword. Accordingly, the reef biz-boondoggle will not have to divulge how it spends our money to “lever” more funds from the private sector. Its three directors, moreover, are all too busy to comply with requests to appear before a senate committee hearing into the body, which holds its first meeting in Brisbane Monday.

“How much of it is going to be used to promote the companies and essentially greenwash some of these businesses that are key polluters?” asks Greens’ Oceans spokesman, cheeky Peter Whish-Wilson, who is not a big fan of secrecy. Imagine wanting to know what influence businesses would exert over how the grant was spent.

The government’s own expert agencies were invited not to apply, reports investigative reporter, Nicole Hasham of what, until this week, was known as Fairfax, but which will now be known as Nine, in a “merger” the PM heartily approves of.

Why, he takes full credit for Nine’s takeover of Fairfax. Fewer voices mean It’s a huge step forward for our nation’s democracy which for, too long, has been frustrated by independent nay-sayers in the jihad against the Turnbull government conducted by the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age

“It’s been made possible by the changes in media ownership laws we made,” Mal swanks to Brian, “Spoonman”, Carlton in their bromantic duet on Tassie talkback, Thursday morning.

“To be frank, I welcome the announcement.”

You bet he is; he does, to paraphrase Tony Abbott. The loss of Fairfax in a takeover by Nine will remove one of the few remaining papers, available to the nation, which would protect our democracy by speaking truth to power. And in many other ways.

Andrew Jaspan, a former editor-in-Chief of The Age notes “A well-informed democracy needs to be underpinned by the pluralism of ideas and outlooks that comes from strong, independent news outlets. The well-respected, grown-up and independent journalistic voice of Fairfax journalism will be the casualty of this deal.”

Instead, expect infotainment.

“From now on those remaining Fairfax journalists will answer to the whims of Nine Entertainment. That means news values framed by those of A Current Affair and 60 Minutes, tightly laced with the blokey culture of the Footy Show, with cultural cues set by the programming giants behind Love Island, Married at First Sight and Ninja Warriors.”

Best of all the deal’s a steal. It will cost Nine nothing, reports Jaspan. Nine’s $4 billion Fairfax takeover is just a scrip deal which values Nine at $1.96 billion and Fairfax $1.92 billion. With a bid premium to get to $4 billion. Nine gets 51 per cent and all the power.

Fairfax loses it all despite gaining fabulous former Liberal Treasurer Peter Costello as chairman. Smirking Pete will bring just the right skill-set and networks to help the paper navigate the turbulent seas of competitive neutrality and impartiality.

The merger is unlikely to be a commercial success, however, if the history of media mergers is any guide. Glen Dyer writes in Crikey that “the highest value is always on the day of the merger and then slides from then on.”

He argues that media merger deals fail to create value because they are set up to protect the interests of the moguls or investors and not the position of employees or consumers. Kerry Stokes’ Seven West Media, for example, was worth $4.1 billion at its inception in 2011 but it was worth only $1.3 billion Thursday.

Most observers are too polite to mention the servility the newly merged Nine will be keen to show as it grovels to its latest benefactor.

You can glimpse the future in the crawl and response enacted back on Tasmania Talks, where Carlton is spoon-feeding his PM the best lines. It’s like having a human tele-prompter. “I just wonder”, says Brian, “to what extent we need to more greatly connect the economic success of Tasmania at the moment and the flow-on benefits to people in the state.”

The battlers doing the hard yards in Braddon can’t get enough of this. Beats having enough money to feed your kids or have your teeth fixed.

Bugger the electricity bill, we’ll bask in the warmth of trickle-down and the flow-on benefits of Mal’s miraculous reforms which amount to cutting taxes for the rich while keeping workers’ wages frozen and helping the workforce to become increasingly casualised, part-time, underpaid, unprotected by unions and under-employed.

Two cheers, then, for the Turnbull government’s media reforms. Our media landscape is diminished as is our chance of reading the truth, thanks to the help of a few confused cross-benchers, led by the wily servants of the oligarchy that runs the joint to whom no news is good news unless it’s a feelgood story or an advertorial or an infomercial.

Or a piece which puffs the government’s latest, greatest victory in slashing corporate taxes or invading Iran with Donald J Trump.

Turnbull’s cunning plan of a Super Saturday of five byelections to help destabilise Bill Shorten’s leadership hits a bit of a snag this week, when voters refuse to co-operate. But with the help of a more compliant less diverse press, who knows what amazing achievements await us? And we haven’t even got on to Media Reform 2.0; the privatising of the ABC. Yet.

Look out! Bill is right behind you.

Trump’s “surrender summit”, his love-in with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in Helsinki, Monday, almost upstages our long-running local political panto, “Look out, Bill’s behind you”, performed with gusto all this week by our glorious Coalition, a collective of climate change deniers, rent-seekers, lobbyists and sundry other butlers, maids of the mining, banking and corporate oligarchies which run our nation with Gina Rinehart and Rupert Murdoch’s tender assistance.

Five by-elections are to be decided by next Saturday. Energy and Environment Minister Frydenberg is stuck up on the high wire above a party divided over the National Energy Guarantee, (NEG) a squalid compromise between the changes needed to lower carbon emissions by phasing in the renewable generation the nation needs to make to meet even its modest Paris targets – and his PM’s need to appease its right-wing coal warriors. The suspense is electrifying.

Best trick in the greatest trick-show on earth, a marvel of illusion and sleight of hand, is to cast the Coalition’s internal conflict as somehow between opposition and government. Much time can be wasted; attention diverted, in blaming “the other side” for energy policy failure.

In truth, the Coalition has never had a real energy policy. Their MPs are too busy brawling. Even their think tanks are at odds with each other. And Tony Abbott is quick to exploit divisions as a stalking horse to bring down his PM. Yet sadly, his coal warriors must lump the latest expert advice.

In June last year, The Finkel Review called to prolong the operation of coal-fired power stations beyond their fifty-year life expectancy as our cheapest option. Now the Australian Electricity Market Operator, which runs the national grid, (AEMO) says it’s cheaper to stop at fifty years -if the coal-fired clunkers can even last that long.

AEMO has other hard truths for the pro-coal, Monash Forum. First, it’s prepared to say “clean coal” is a chimera. So-called “Clean coal” is prohibitively expensive. Solar, wind and storage are what we need and all we can afford. Busted also is the mantra of Turnbull’s government; the myth that a 50% renewables target is “reckless” or “irresponsible.”

Best of all, Bloomberg New Energy Finance reports that the falling cost of rooftop solar will help solar push coal out of the market. Giles Parkinson sums up: governments need to get out of the way; leave investors and operators to it.

“The transition is inevitable, only the pace of it is under question if politicians and vested interests seek to erect road blocks in the form of a NEG, an abolition of rooftop solar support, or the power and inertia of the incumbents.”

But none of this will take government MPs eyes off the by-election show. Look out, Bill is right behind you!

Tassie senator, Eric Abetz gets his head on ABC Insiders, Sunday, to spruik for the Liberals in the Braddon by-election; a bit of mind-numbing, bumper sticker sloganeering which passes for argument in our post-truth, post fact politics. The Tasmanian economy is booming, he claims. “A real vibrancy.”

Why? When the Tasmanian people voted Liberal in state and national elections, the “economy was turbo-charged”. Unemployment is down from 8.1% to 5.9%, he reckons.

No-one on Insiders says that 5.9% is still a shocking figure, especially if you’re one of the thousands out of work. Nor is any thought given to the proliferation of poorly paid and part time underemployment. Half of all jobs now have no security; no sick leave or holiday pay. Above all, no-one challenges Abetz’ assertions which imply Braddon, which takes in Tasmania’s West and North-west is benefiting from a super-charged state economy. In fact, it’s the opposite.

452 mining jobs and 1,392 manufacturing jobs have gone in the past five years. The region has 444 fewer businesses over the last four years. On other indicators, such as increasing the area of agricultural land under cultivation, or decreasing the number of insolvencies, the West & North West region also lags behind, reports The Australia Institute.

So why does the former minister for employment gush over Braddon’s “prosperity”? What policies are working?

Abetz can’t nominate one, concrete, Liberal policy responsible for the Tassie turnaround. Let’s hope it’s not just a reflection of population growth from immigration pushing up property prices as retirees seek somewhere they can still afford to buy a house. The Chinese are now Hobart’s second-largest immigrant group writes Martin Flanagan in Fairfax.

You’d think that Brett Whiteley in Braddon would be a Liberal shoo-in; riding the Tassie tiger economy. Yet, in a flash, Abetz reveals his real reason for being on ABC; he’s not expecting a Liberal victory. “Always a five per cent swing away from government in a by-election”, he says, a cross between a politician and a half-baked talking fortune cookie.

Abetz neglects to mention Craig Garland, a Wynyard fisherman and an independent widely tipped to attract ten per cent of the vote in Braddon. Labor could benefit from his preferences. Locals clearly warm to Garland’s pungent populist mistrust of Abetz’ and others’ narrative of a booming Braddon blessed with incredibly successful Liberal politicians who create an overnight economic turnaround.

“I’ve had a gutful of the lot of them,” Garland says. “They treat the electorate as if we’re brain dead, as if we don’t think.”

Or don’t care. And it’s not confined to Tassie. On pause is Girls Make Your Move, a $600,000 plus social media “influence” campaign which pays young women to get themselves liked on Instagram as they post images of themselves kickboxing, yoga, surfing, roller derby, rock climbing and drinking alcohol. Some have also been posting racist abuse but no national health reform is perfect.

The innovative approach to fitness, by commodifying attractive young women in their bathers, is to be “paused and reviewed” reports media savvy, Health Minister, Greg Hunt, this week while the government continues its incredibly successful policy of getting Australians off disability support pensions, merely by tightening up on eligibility criteria.

Not to be left out- or drowned out, our PM echoes Peter Dutton’s dog-whistle; Melbourne, “he hears”, is an African gangland. “You must have your hands over your ears not hear it.” He’s pitching to the hearts and minds of One Nation voters in Longman, whose Liberal National Party candidate, “Big Trev” Trevor Ruthenberg, is a Campbell Newman throwback.

Trumped also is the racist card played by ten-pound Pom, Gina Rinehart’s butler and Monkey pod dog-whistler, Tony Abbott, who says immigration is a great, big, huge, new issue wrecking everything. And it’s all Labor’s fault, because, as he bleats, on 2 GB, his regular talk-back-if-you-dare-radio pulpit, a cess-pit of ignorance and popular prejudice,

“the Labor Party is in the grip of, I suppose, ethnic activists in certain respects”. 

Ethnic activists? Seriously? There’s panic in the ranks and at Point Piper HQ as Super Saturday’s 28 July by-elections loom closer. Arses must be covered. The PM pops his head out of our local version of a Fox-hole to caution party faithful that “the odds are against his government snaring an historic victory” as Channel 10 puts it. Odds? Snaring? Nothing to do with the candidates?

Longman’s legendary Liberal-fabulist candidate, Grim Digger, Trevor Ruthenberg, lies about a medal he never got – an innocent mistake it’s taken six years to correct. “He never wore the medal”, he never received, he explains, helpfully, surpassing peak plausible deniability, as things go bad in Braddon. ReachTel surveys 700 voters for The Australia Institute; finds a 3.3 per cent lift since June in Labor’s primary vote to 36.3 per cent, while Liberals dwindle 4.1 per cent to 42.9 per cent.

Even more confronting, the poll finds sixty per cent of voters want company tax increased or kept the same. Few are tricked by the trickle-downers. Must ScoMo blow his bags in vain? Around seventy percent support keeping Sunday and public holiday penalty rates. In a rush of typically public-spirited generosity, Peter Dutton, Home Affairs, Grand Pooh-Bah, throws in a few brand-new CCTV cameras for Burnie in Braddon, despite receiving no local, formal request.

Trickle-Downers struggle in SA, too as Mayo voters rebuff Georgina, returned prodigal daughter of the local Downer dynasty, after 20 year’s absence, reduced to a blow-in. She puts on a marvellous ventriloquist’s dummy act. She cannot so much as squeak in public without her PM, her former PM or some other top Liberal by her side. It’s a brilliant show. You can barely see their lips move.

Loose lips sink ships. The Libs rush to Mayo to announce a $35 billion contract to build nine anti-submarine frigates for the Royal Australian Navy has been awarded to defence company BAE Systems. It’s déjà vu all over again as the immortal Yogi Berra would say, as locals recall Tony Abbott making a mad dash to Adelaide in 2015 to promise a fleet of submarines would be built locally by government-owned ASC despite the navy having crew for only one.

Abbott was not helped by party-pooper Defence Minister David Johnston saying he wouldn’t trust ASC to build a canoe. It did Dave’s career no harm, however. Salty dog Johnston is currently filling a specially created position – no interview – no application required – as the federal government’s first defence export advocate on an “eminent person’s salary”, typically between $2500-4500 per day but details of which must remain secret under cutting edge “commercial in confidence” nonsense.

But locals are weary of announceables. The Future Frigate employment miracle won’t begin for four years. By then, there’s a real risk that the workforce will have moved on to fruit-picking, waitressing or uber-driving or the many other rewarding employment opportunities, beloved of any neoliberal government that values employer flexibility above a living wage and which puts corporate profits and tax cuts above the need to provide adequate health, welfare and education services.

And the promise of jobs? Nothing happened then and nothing’s been signed now, sighs Ryan Richter, a local ASC employee interviewed by The Saturday Paper. Meanwhile, fifty of his colleagues are made redundant this week. A recent ReachTEL poll has Rebekah Sharkie sitting at 62-38 ahead of Downer on a two-party-preferred basis. Could Downer’s past prove her downfall?

In her time at the IPA, Downer called for the abolition of minimum wage and penalty rates. An early Trump fan-girl, she wrote a 2016 op-ed for The Sydney Morning Herald, praising his election as “a big rejection of the international environmental movement and its fatwa against carbon”.

Georgina is supposed to be the Liberals’ trump card in winning back a seat which has been warmed almost forever by her globe-trotting father Alexander’s nether regions.

Downer was Howard’s Foreign Minister for 11 years, before his role in ordering the bugging of the East Timor cabinet and his involvement in the Australian Wheat Board wheat for oil scandal led to his promotion as Tony Abbott’s High Commissioner to London.

Downer’s only just been ousted by George Brandis who is more a bloviating bully and a bore than a bon vivant but not before Alex’s secret liaison with a George Papadopoulos in a South Kensington wine bar, where he learns that the Russians have some compromising material on Hilary Clinton and plan to use it. Alexander passes the message on through Australian intelligence to the US.

Doubtless something appropriate will be found for Georgie should she fail to win Mayo.

Yet Trump in Helsinki upstages even Downer’s diplomacy.  It’s not just that Trump has done no homework. He can’t. Trumpistas such as Ms Downer explain away The Donald’s manifest incompetence, as somehow refreshing, or even disruptive, as John Howard once indulged an inept Tony Abbott, who enjoyed a string of failures in cabinet before being accidentally elected PM. There are recent signs, however, from Julie Bishop that the Trump indulgence is wearing thin.

Trump’s short attention-span; his inability to sit through any type of briefing is rationalised by aficionados as a strength. It’s seen as part of his disruptive, unorthodox mystique; a positive asset to a reformer hell-bent on cleaning up the Washington swamp. Besides bringing his own swamp, the White House couch potato Fox TV addict shows total disdain for any briefing or expert advice.

So, Trump has to wing it and fails. What’s more shocking is that he prefers Putin’s denial to his own intelligence agencies’ evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election. The New York Times’ James Blow finds the Donald’s mind-boggling.

Putin’s track record does not inspire confidence.

He still blames Ukraine for the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 and in the eastern Donetsk region, a tragedy in which 298 innocent people, including 40 Australian citizens and residents, up to 80 of whom were children died. Locals reported “a rain” of bodies falling on homes and in sunflower fields. Belongings were ransacked because rebels at first mistook the aircraft for a Ukraine Airforce fighter jet.

Recently published reports compiled from evidence gathered by teams of international investigators which include a rebel video which shows faces, implicate Russian military at least in the supply and the retrieval of the BUK-TEAR anti-aircraft weaponry used to shoot down the plane.

Nor is there much doubt Moscow helped get Trump elected. Putin, himself, admits that “patriotic” Russian hackers may have meddled in the election, although this exchange appears to have been overlooked by Trump at the summit – along with a number of other pressing issues.

The Washington Post quotes Max Bergmann of the Centre for American Progress:

Any other President — Republican or Democrat — would use this summit to confront Russia for its on-going attack on our democracy, for its illegal occupation of Crimea and invasion of eastern Ukraine, for its efforts to assassinate people using chemical weapons in the U.K., and for its backing of Assad.”

The New York Times’ Charles Blow joins many other US commentators in deploring his President’s behaviour as “disloyal, traitorous”. Trump’s surrender sucks some oxygen out of our nation’s action-panicked week in politics which features a cameo performance from Abbott parrot, Craig Kelly, on how MH17 victims’ families need to move on with their lives.

“So, what is best for the continued future of the world – and it is best in my opinion that the leader of the USA and the leader of Russia at least have a good talking relationship,” he said. “And if that means some of the things that Russia has gotten away with in the past has to be slightly looked over, well, I am sorry. That is the price we have to pay, sometimes, to have good relations going forward.”

Kelly follows his insensitivity and misreading of the Putin Trump summit as “a good talking relationship” with Australian politics’ most pointed non-apology – but almost as offensive is Malcolm Turnbull’s eager sing-along to Peter junkyard Dutton’s dog-whistling alarm call that all of Melbourne is hostage to rampaging African gangs because Dan Andrews is soft on law ‘n order.

African gangs are not our only worry, however. Australia is “veering towards multicultural segregation” and must “do more to ensure the integration of migrants”, Alan Tudge, the minister who found Centrelink’s Robo-debt persecution of the poor blameless, takes up the cudgels for Dutto.

An Aussie values test for intending permanent residents would fix everything, even if the PM himself is unable to articulate what those values may be, even if he’s able to fake xenophobia.

At last, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, takes umbrage at Trump’s crimes and misdemeanours in a speech she gives in London, she tut-tuts over the way “Trump’s America is challenging the international order which has brought such peace and stability after World War Two”,

It has? Bishop’s clearly not counting its nuclear holocausts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan or its illegal invasions of Vietnam, Iraq, Syria, Granada and Afghanistan or its interventions in Latin America. Nor does she touch upon Trump’s mad trade wars which have the capacity to trigger another world recession, rather than make America great again.

Naturally, at the hint of criticism, Trump goes immediately on the offensive.

“Some people HATE the fact that I got along well with President Putin of Russia,” Trump tweets on Wednesday. “They would rather go to war than see this. It’s called Trump Derangement Syndrome!”

The presser after the boys-only summit is extraordinary. Is it the money he owes the Russians? Or the pee tape Kompromat? Whatever the cause, Trump appears to crawl to Putin. Grovel. And Putin keeps him waiting for an hour before the show begins. Although the Donald later tries to walk back his capitulation – even suggesting he “misspoke”, Trump is totally unconvincing, except of course to his supporters, to whom he offers an escape hatch.

What is most shocking to many Americans and others all around the world, however, is how at the news conference after a private two hour closed meeting, Trump white-ants his own intelligence community, to buddy up to Putin, saying:

“I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this. I don’t see any reason why it would be … So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”

It’s an embarrassingly naïve, almost childlike remark. So, too, the president’s proposal that Putin collaborate in the investigation into himself, an alarmingly absurd idea. Trump later tries to retract the “would be” by claiming he meant to say “wouldn’t be” but he’s patently unconvincing.

Amid all the chaos on the world stage and especially the implications for Australia’s relations with America, our Prime Minister has been steadfast and has the media focused on immigration, supporting Minister Dutton and the Victorian Liberal Party and the myth of Melbourne’s ‘African gangs’ showing Victoria’s Labor Government is soft on crime – all part of the popular Coalition pantomime “Look out Bill’s right behind you”.

 

 

Who’s the real baby here, Mr Trump?

Who’s the real baby here? A monster orange balloon-effigy of Trump as an angry baby in a nappy, complete with blonde comb-over and blue mobile in tiny hand, scares him off London, Friday. It’s a brilliantly surreal representation, of the inner Trump which also evokes just how untethered this president is from his administration. Or from reality.

Giving 100,000, “Together against Trump”, London protesters the slip, he elects to chow down with Theresa May, at Chequers, her grace and favour country residence, sixty-four km safely away in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.

Not that his safety is at issue, of course, although Scotland’s police will ground Trump baby on security concerns. Pressed on the mass demonstrations against him, Trump offers a reporter his favourite blend of delusion and denial: “‘Some of them are protesting in my favour, you know that? There are many, many protests in my favour.”

May displays a hearty appetite, despite the resignation of hard Brexiteer Boris Johnson, her foreign minister. He’s her ninth minister to resign in a year. Then Brexit Secretary, David Davis makes ten. Clearly, something is up.

Steve Bannon, who sees a Trump-like quality in Johnson’s capacity to be dismissed as a clown, rates him a potential Prime Minister. Incredibly, not only does Trump barrack for Boris for PM also, this is widely seen as undermining Theresa May. By Friday, however, Johnson is back on the staff of The Daily Telegraph.

May’s hospitality toward Trump is restrained. So much for the full state visit the British PM promised him in January 2017. Hot to trot, May jetted to the White House with an invitation from the Queen, seven days after Trump’s inauguration; the first world leader to visit monster baby. Perhaps it’s hyperbolic remorse.

“I think Brexit’s going to be a wonderful thing for your country and I think it will be a tremendous asset, not a tremendous liability,” Donald, sagely predicted. So much for that.  So much too, for Trump’s subsequent refusal to visit Blighty if there were large-scale protests. Monster baby soars above London; a bizarre barrage balloon.

Large scale? There’s an unprecedented, massively popular, “dump Trump” protest in all major UK cities.  May, herself, has alienated her party with her Brexit white paper, proposing an “association agreement”, an homage to the agreement the EU signed with Ukraine, a stroke of genius which could lose her control of her party.

By week’s end, Scotland blows a raspberry at security and at The Donald. Police have yet to nab a paragliding Greenpeace protester who breaks through the “no-fly zone” surrounding Trump’s Turnberry golf resort, Friday evening. He’s as elusive as the small fortune Trump is losing on the venture. Or its source.

Trump lost $36.1m on Turnberry in 2016, the last figure available. The Washington Post is looking into $400,000 in cash which Trump plunged into acquisitions, including $65m to buy Turnberry, between 2006 and 2015. Eric Trump has reassured everyone, however, by volunteering that much of Turnberry’s funding came from Russia.

Floating past the US president, a notorious golf-cheat, as he enters the Scottish hotel; flaunting himself in front of rows of police snipers, the protestor trails a canary yellow banner with the legend “Trump: well below par #resist”.

Police go ballistic with all the latest anti-terror, counter terror, dissent repressing and all the other top secret security routines that cannot be divulged for operational reasons  – measures which are so popular in our own nation that we blithely surrender our rights to the very “way of life” we are trying to protect.

Freedom of the press, a right supported by the Australian Human Rights Commission and The Australian Press Council is increasingly eroded or curtailed. Anxious not to be wedged, Labor supports the Coalition’s latest espionage bill and its foreign transparency register. The former could criminalise protests and criticism of government, according to legal advice, obtained by Get Up.

Would a monster baby Trump survive in our skies?

Our pro-Trump commercial media and our cowed, under-funded, government-bastardised ABC, about to endure an efficiency review, would have us believe that the Donald, who watches up to eight hours’ TV a day, won’t see the protests. The mainstream narrative normalises the monster as much as it insults its audience’s common sense.

Some of the more coherent, authentic local Trumpistas are wheeled out, at week’s end to rave over him.

On ABC Insiders Sunday, Gerard Henderson, pronounces Trump’s diplomatic mission as “largely successful”. He just loves Trump’s pep talk to NATO, a US-led containment strategy dating from 1949.

Trump threatens to pull out the alliance. Rich NATO countries are not paying their fair share, he raves.

“Many countries are not paying what they should,” he says. “And, frankly, many countries owe us a tremendous amount of money for many years back, where they’re delinquent, as far as I’m concerned, because the United States has had to pay for them.”

Yet as Stephen Saideman explains in Politifact, “Countries falling short means not that they owe anyone money, but that countries have weaker militaries than we would like. NATO is not a country club.”

The next day, however, Trump holds a conference praising NATO. He spends more time spruiking his own success in getting members to increase their budgets and commitments, but he won’t specify by how much.

It’s another outright lie. There has been no such increase. Nor is the US being dudded.

Although the US pays only 22% of the cost of maintaining NATO, leaving Germany (14.65 percent), France (10.63%) and Britain (9.84 %) – and thirteen allies; mostly smaller, vastly poorer, former communist countries roped into the alliance after the fall of the USSR and disintegration of Yugoslavia, who pay less than one percent each.

Zut! French President Emmanuel Macron confirms no-one has agreed to any figure higher than what was in the leaders’ communique — 2 per cent by 2024 — a leaders’ statement that Donald Trump had signed the day before.

Gerard Henderson could, of course, be ahead of the game. Perhaps he’s referring to his idol’s business successes – or, at least, he may be impressed at how many infomercials and business trips Trump works into his gruelling presidential schedule.

Trump’s Turnberry tour of duty is the 169th day during his presidency that he has visited a property owned, managed or branded by The Trump Organisation, writes Katie Rogers in The New York Times.

Then again, merry Gerry could have been charmed by the President’s slap-down of Angela Merkel who was also  chuffed to hear that Germany was “captive to Russia” because of its dependence on Russian natural gas.

Of course, Trump will watch TV coverage of his favourite subject, himself.  But that’s not even the main point of Trump Baby, its creator, environmental activist, Leo Murray, explains, claiming (mostly) loftier aspirations.

“Trump Baby will spread cheer and goodwill, putting smiles on the faces of millions of people here and around the globe as we remember our common humanity, and laugh together at the idiot president.”

An inspired send-up, and a telling put-down, the six metre high, ($1600 worth of helium)-filled, flying monster baby parody is calculated to get some form of response, because, as Murray, explains to The Guardian, Trump is,

“… a deeply insecure man, and that is the only leverage we have over him. If we want his attention, we have to do something that humiliates him.”

Britain’s PM must grin and bear Trump’s humiliation of her in the Murdoch press. The Donald, a self-proclaimed stable genius, says May failed to take his advice on Brexit and she’s about to kill any special UK-US trade deal.

Boris would make a great Prime Minister, he adds, but he clears all that up by explaining that it’s fake news and that May is “an incredible woman doing an incredible job” and The Sun just left out all the good stuff, he says.

Advice? By Sunday, May reveals on BBC TV’s, The Andrew Marr Show, that Trump suggests she sue the EU. May publicly declines the US president’s advice. She will, instead, be negotiating with the EU, she says pointedly.

Insecure? Trump shouts down CNN’s reporter; calls CNN “fake news.” He bags NBC News for “such dishonest reporting.” The Donald falsely accuses London’s The Sun of cherry-picking quotes from an interview; complains about a New York Times image that, he says, makes it look like he has a “double chin.” He acts like a big baby.

Or anti-baby? Most babies like to breast-feed.  The New York Times reports, last Sunday, that the US confounds world health experts by heavying other nations to block a UN resolution promoting breastfeeding.

Monster baby Trump, evokes babies of “illegal” migrants in cages. Our government tends to play along with The Donald’s random acts of cruelty.

Only Peter Dutton matches Trump’s mob when it comes to souring the milk of human kindness. Now even the human breast is suspect. The US defies long-standing scientific consensus that breast milk is ultimately healthier for children than infant formula, (although not all parents can breastfeed).

Breast-milk is not only safer, it’s cheaper. “The deaths of 823,000 children and 20,000 mothers each year could be averted through universal breastfeeding, along with economic savings of US $300 billion,” a 2016 study found.

Yet breast-feeding threatens the profits of multinational corporations who produce infant formula in a US $70bn industry dominated by a few giant US and Europe-based multinational firms. Even after Trump’s tax breaks, they may fail to thrive should mothers put their babies on the breast.

Six major international companies and their subsidiaries control the market: Nestle leads with 22% of the global market share, Danone, Mead Johnson (now RB), Abbott, Friesland Campina, and Heinz. It’s a tribute to the power of oligarchical, multi-national capitalism. Its brilliant success mirrors the fabulous benefits we enjoy as a result of having privatised so many essential services such as electric power or the provision of jobs or disability services.

Trump’s concern parallels our own business-friendly government’s solicitude; its crusade to help out needy corporations with tax cuts, especially the ten companies who have written an open letter urging the senate to pass the last tranche of the legislation even if half of them didn’t pay any company tax in 2015-16.

Amazing news gladdens the hearts of all Australians as Rod Sims, head of the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission, (ACCC), commonly billed as our “competition watchdog” announces it has solved the mystery of why our nation’s electricity is the most expensive in the world. Retail competition is a failure.

It’s taken just over a year for the ACCC to make its statement of the bleeding obvious. Yet now it is overnight the expert du jour on setting energy policy. Already there’s the Australian Energy Market Commission, (AEMC), The Australian Energy Regulator (AER), Australian Energy Market Operator, (AEMO) and Energy Security Board (ESB), an alphabet soup of acronyms to set energy policy – helped of course by various state government bureaucrats.

We had three bodies too many when the ESB entered the scene a year ago. And as Brian Toohey explained in The Australian Financial review, last year,

The AEMC’s rules have pushed electricity prices unnecessarily high. One rule gave the grid companies a guaranteed mark-up on capital outlays, rewarding them for gold plating the network. Another rule let wholesale suppliers enjoy ridiculously high prices by “gaming” the government-created National Electricity Market (NEM).

It doesn’t help that the ACCC report is highly contentious. John Quiggan shows commendable restraint in calling its report “a mishmash of cognitive dissonance and half-baked suggestions for fixing the unfixable”. Of course, it may well be designed to read like that. Or as The Saturday Paper’s Sean Kelly puts it

 “… the political equivalent of the Laurel or Yanny sound clip. The Nationals heard, “Coal!” Labor heard, “Turnbull is to blame for rising prices!” Malcolm Turnbull himself heard, “My plan will work!”

Less ambiguous, however, is its call to cease subsidies for solar panels, a call which flies in the face of The Australia Institute’s (TAI) latest expert analysis. Their findings are that “rooftop solar delayed and reduced peak demand in the National Electricity Market (NEM) this summer. This improved the reliability of the grid, covering for coal-fired power plants during breakdowns.”

“Hot days are the greatest challenge for our electricity system and especially for gas and coal-fired generators. Our system now struggles to meet peak demand without rooftop solar and other renewables,” says Ben Oquist, Executive Director of The Australia Institute.

Immediately, however, the blind men and the elephant (in the room) that is the Turnbull government energy and environment committee claim that the ACCC calls for government-subsidised new coal-fired power stations. It doesn’t. Time for someone to produce a balloon barrage of Craig Kelly, Matthew Canavan, Tony Abbott, Barnaby Joyce and co.

If time is short, a flying Frydenberg or a michelin man Malcolm Turnbull would do.

These babies could be deployed whenever and wherever the nation’s citizens are brave enough to risk prosecution by protesting at having been exploited for decades; robbed blind by an electricity system that is built for profits and not fit for purpose.

Our electricity system will not be fixed by the NEG, the ACCC or any other dodgy acronym, authority, board or quango that permits further environmental destruction under the hoax of being “technology neutral” or “agnostic” as a ruse to allow coal-fired power stations to continue to cause global warming, destroying the planet and poisoning the very air we breathe.

 

Abbott’s subversion fails, yet Turnbull succeeds in undermining a fair and just society.

“The nose of Cleopatra, if it had been shorter, would have changed the face of the Earth,” ventured philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal in 1669.… This indefinable something, so trifling that we cannot recognize it, upsets the whole earth, princes, armies, the entire world.”

David Leyonhjelm would not have been elected to the Senate had Malcolm Turnbull not bet the house on a double dissolution election, a stroke of Turnbullian genius, according to Annabel Crabb, one of the PM’s many Canberra media fans.

“Turnbull’s a soft cock and a pussy”, David cat-calls merrily this week.

“Fuck-off”, he tells a journo, because this is how Australians talk to one another. He defends his coprolalia by pretending obscenity, like slut-shaming, is a Libertarian thing. His misogyny is undisguised. It’s OK to call women bitches “when they are bitches“, he tells Channel 10.

Even less plausible is his claim to crusader status. It’s his duty to manfully call out misandry. This he does by asking his colleague when she’ll “stop shagging men”. It’s done so softly that it is not recorded in Hansard; not heard by the Senate President, Scott Ryan.

Naturally, he must repeat and expand upon the slur in a series of media interviews.

In the Leyonhjelm parallel universe, men are victims of a powerful, all-pervasive misandry, because, as Clem Ford writes, “being made to feel bad or implicated somehow in the power advantage enjoyed by men is exactly the same as living with an increased statistical likelihood of being beaten, raped or murdered by one.”

Leyonhjelm refuses to apologise. There’s no such thing as bad publicity for him. Even if the election is not until 2019, voters will recognise Leyonhjelm’s name. It’s all he needs to get his 7000 votes.

By Sunday, ABC Insiders, delivers the nation the ever-popular celebrity-gossip politics, spats and leadership tussles that sustain us. Why risk a slow show investigating the big issues, such as the crypto-fascism of Turnbull’s corporate oligarchy of secrets and lies with its flat tax madness, mass surveillance, its war on workers, the poor and The ABC or its $1bn unfunded GST bid to buy back voters in WA? Happily, it gives an already over-exposed Leyonhjelm another free plug.

But for Leyonhjelm to trash the PM for weak leadership is ungenerous. Cleopatra’s nose knows he should be grateful. If gratitude is a Libertarian thing. Or do Libertarians pretend that gratitude, like offence, can only be taken, not given?

Leyonhjelm owes his place to Mal’s dud judgement. (And tricking some would-be Liberal voters with the Liberal in Liberal Democrat). Turnbull’s genius shrank his government to a one-seat majority; delivered a senate cross-bench like a scene by Hieronymus Bosch, a nightmarish, macabre image of hell complete with mutant monsters and goblins.

So, too with One Nation, the senate’s Cheshire hellcat, now rapidly vanishing leaving nothing behind but its scowl. Yet Turnbull has only himself to blame for having to contend with a One Nation puss too big for its boots. A half senate election may have returned only Pauline herself.

Now, as The Guardian’s Nick Evershed shows, after 23 months, a rapid succession of changes in the senate has seen senators switch parties several times, leave politics or depart because of their dual citizenship. Hey presto, the government has a malleable senate cross bench. Last week, it passes its socially disfiguring monster income tax cuts.

The nation may never recover. Even if One Nation’s populism is in decline, it’s infected the body politic. We are a less equal nation today partly because of Mal’s courtship of Queen Pauline with her batty flat tax ideas, her state-built coal-fired station and her personal vendetta against The ABC.

And Turnbull’s readiness to use her.

Flat tax? As the IMF reports in its Fiscal Monitor for 2017, “Australia is among countries with the highest growth in income inequality in the world over the past thirty years.” The flattening of our tax system, will ensure that by 2024, when the Turnbull government’s tax cuts take full effect, the rich will pay a lost less than their fair share of tax.

It’s a recipe for increased inequality. Ben Eltham notes that a worker earning $200,000 a year in 2024, will pay the same rate of tax as someone earning $41,000. Scott Morrison’s largesse to the Liberal base will cost a mind-boggling $144 billion dollars which can only come from cuts to spending. It’s the Coalition’s small government, mean-spirited ideology at work.

None of those making the tax changes have the faintest clue what it’s like to get by on $41,000.

Rather than invest in a democratic and just society, the Coalition chooses to reward the well to do – taking from the poor, impoverishing the many, to give to its rich supporters. The National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) at The University of Canberra modelling finds “a couple both earning twice the average full-time salary can expect an extra $13,000 in 2024-25”.

What a stroke of good fortune for a lucky few; Morrison’s Aspirationals. Those who need it least.

Pauline backs the tax cut; betrays her battlers, yet again, thanks to Matthias Cormann’s sweet talk. Cormann promises government can wring billions out of corporate tax avoiders, a fairy story. And Pauline’s keen to get help with her ABC vendetta.  Stop all the lies its lefties tell about her; about climate change, Four Corners’ fake news and how she runs her party like a malignant despot.

“Absolute dictatorship. Brutal,” says One Nation’s former Queensland president and treasurer Ian Nelson.

Help is on its way. Who better to look into the left-leaning, Jihadist, ABC than former-Foxtel head honcho Peter Tonagh? Tonagh and former Australian Communications and Media Authority acting chairman, Richard Bean will head the government’s “efficiency review” of the ABC and SBS.

Fox Sports and Foxtel are 65 per cent owned by Jerry Hall’s husband, Rupert Murdoch’s family business, News Corp. The other 35 per cent is owned by Telstra. Rupe is back on deck now after a fall on his son’s yacht, an occupational hazard for billionaires and their kin, and a potential ABC buyer.

“Efficiency review” means cutting funds. Minister for Communications and Complaining About Emma Alberici, Mitch Fifield, who sees no conflict between his role and his membership of an IPA pledged to privatise the ABC, (the Liberal Party Annual Council, last month, voted 2:1 in favour) complains of Auntie’s bias and slack journalism – five times in six months.

“In the fast-evolving world of media organisations, it is important to support our public broadcasters to be the best possible stewards of taxpayer dollars in undertaking their important work for the community,” Fifield says. Nothing about speaking truth to power. Community voice? Never.

An IPA bean-counter orders a commercial rival to review Aunty. What could possibly go wrong?

Pascal is on to something. Had Mark Anthony not been smitten by the beauty of Egypt’s Queen in 41 BC, he would never have gone to war for her; changed the destiny of the Roman Empire and the History of the West, whose civilising legacy yobbo, Tony Abbott, convinced his private health tycoon pal and fellow St Ignatius Riverview old boy, Liberal donor, Paul Ramsay, to leave $3.3 billion to perpetuate. Without Abbott’s intercession, who knows whom may have benefited?

In 2012, Ramsay gave $300,000 to help the now defunct The Kevin Spacey Foundation to aid arts education. Spacey set up his foundation in 2008, when, as artistic director at the Old Vic, he is accused of routinely preying on younger men.

Paul Ramsay wouldn’t have built his private hospital empire without tinpot Neocon general John Howard ‘s dogged determination to subsidise private health insurance; part of his grand plan to undermine the Medicare system, dismantle public health and his dedication to welfare for the wealthy. Battlers like Ramsay deserve a hand up.

Efficiency! Flexibility! The words buzz. And it’s all about choice. Public health is not for everyone.

Forcing the poor to pay more, Howard kept bulk billing rebates down, discouraging doctors from helping the needy by prescribing a low scheduled fee, a goal recently revisited in the Coalition’s thawing of his Medicare rebate freeze. It’s a wee puddle in the permafrost.

“General Practice has been transformed” spruiks Minister for Private Health Insurance, Hyperbole Hunt. GPs weep with gratitude for the few extra cents he’s wantonly thrown their way.

Last July, the Federal Government allowed indexation for bulk-billing incentives – putting an extra 12 cents in doctors’ pockets. This July, GPs will benefit as indexation is applied to GP attendance items.

This adds a whopping 55 cents on a standard consultation. Naturally, GPs must wait until mid-2020 for indexation on a further 140 MBS (Medical Benefits Scheme) items. Had the same price-fixing strategies been applied to private business, Howard, Abbott, Turnbull would be in gaol.

Like Howard’s squandering of the mining boom, Coalition health policy is an intergenerational fail. Twenty years after his 30% subsidy for private health insurance came in, premiums continue to rise every year. The subsidy does, however, sop up those lazy billions we’d otherwise fritter away on education, public hospitals, dental health, refuges, infrastructure or social welfare.

It’s costly but outsourcing democracy to titans of industry and commerce is never cheap. Just ask Donald Trump’s if his BFF, Vlad Putin is thriving along with his fellow oligarchs and Mafia pals.

“Putin’s fine,” Trump says. “He’s fine. We’re all fine.

Health insurance companies are fine, too, thanks to the nation’s generous taxpayers. $6.5 billion went to insurance companies from the government subsidy alone in the 2016 federal budget. If nothing else, Ken Hayne’s Royal Commission into Banksters , round four, currently playing in Darwin, shows just how fabulously successful our nation’s insurers can be with a bit of a hand up.

If the neoliberal Turnbull government is more attuned to maintaining the rude good health of private health corporations than to improving public health, it does plan to inoculate the body politic against toxic ideas. Or it did, thanks to former failed health minister, now Liberal Party pariah, Tony Abbott who chatted up Paul Ramsay long before Paul had a heart attack on his yacht Oscar II off Ibiza, May 2014 and was subsequently rushed all the way back to Bowral NSW to die.

Now The Ramsay Centre is on the nose despite its promise of “a cadre of leaders … whose awareness and appreciation of their country’s Western heritage and values … would help guide their decision making in the future”. Or because of it.

Ramsay wants its lectures to be vetted by what Guy Rundle describes as “a Stasi-like process of commissar-auditors in lectures” but now the ANU has rejected it, all bets are off. Will it be buried out the back of the ACU under the eye of Abbott pal, Greg Craven, as recently forecast? Or will it instead, end up at Notre Dame University at Fremantle and Sydney where its mission to civilise by promoting a bogus western supremacy, will cause far less grief and mischief?

Even if Dr Tony Abbott doesn’t end up as its director, Ramsay’s been exposed as a travesty of the fundamental idea of the university as a university, a place of free inquiry, a notion that baffles Liberals who confuse Uni with job training.

In brief, The Ramsay Centre’s a grubby think tank peddling an entirely spurious and dangerous notion of western supremacy, and Leyonhjelm IPA-type nonsense about freedoms , a cause Dan Tehan, our federal Minister for Social Affairs, takes up in The Weekend Australian  where he argues we should have a religious discrimination act. Get us ready for Phil Ruddock’s committee report.

In 2008, a clear majority of Australians favoured some form of bill of rights, according to the report of the  National Human Rights Consultation, a Government commissioned inquiry chaired by Jesuit priest and human rights lawyer, Father Frank Brennan. The concept was howled down by leaders of religious groups, predominantly some Christian groups, who claimed that rights would take away religious freedoms, especially the freedom to discriminate. So much for brotherly love.

As befits an urbane civilised westerner, Toxic Tony Abbott, the incredible sulk, the asp forever at Turnbull’s bosom, hisses with malevolence and petty jealousy. Tuesday night, he hunkers down at The Australian Environment Foundation (AEF), a front for the IPA, which keeps its funding secret, but is revealed this week to have overlooked declaring a $4.5m donation from Gina Rinehart.

The Australian flatters the AEF as “a climate sceptic think tank” – as if climate change were a matter of belief not established scientific measurement. It does not burden readers with the fact that the AEF was founded by the IPA. Curiously, no mention is made at all of Don Burke, AEF’s hand-picked celebrity gardener and green-wash mascot.

Snug as a slug in a slag-heap, coal-bagged by climate deniers, Abbott snipes at Turnbull. Abbo doesn’t understand climate change. Never has. Never will. Instead he channels his former business adviser, Maurice Newman, a former head of the Australian Stock Exchange and chairman of the ABC.

“He is either intentionally misleading the public or he is incapable of understanding scientific consensus, in which case he has no business advising the government” warned The Climate Council, a non-profit body set up by former members of the Climate Commission after it was abolished by the federal government three years ago. They had tin-foil hatter Maurice in their sights but it may as well have been The Mad Monk Abbott for his efforts this week.

Abbott is all over the media this week trying to bring down the NEG, Turnbull’s singularly unworkable national energy guarantee. It’s his cunning plan to bring down Turnbull.

Tuesday, he claims no means yes: he’s the only man in Australia not to know the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, he signed was a binding commitment. Anyway, he reckons now that stable genius Trump has pulled out, that we should never have joined. Or words to that effect.

When it comes to argument, there’s always less to Abbott than meets the ear.

But what is he smoking? In his sights is “the emissions obsession that’s at the heart of our power crisis”. Yep. The reason we don’t have enough power, or cheaper power, or fabulously well-paid coal workers eagerly stoking filthy hot furnaces in power stations fired by the lung-destroying, toxic, dirty black rock is because of our folly to commit to lower emissions in Paris. Obvious, really.

The rest of Abbott’s nonsense may safely be left to the reader. It’s a reprise of his quick study of coal-lobby spin and it hasn’t changed since 2010. He tries to raise insurrection amongst The Nationals, whose new leader, Michael McCormack settles the pit-ponies by telling Queensland Nats that “coal will be in the mix”, an expensive hoax perpetrated by Josh Frydenberg the Minister whose NEG is ill-defined, unworkable and in current draft form, long, verbose and incomprehensible.

Abbott, on the other hand, is going over the top. He wages the same campaign as he waged against Gillard, a campaign he and Peta Credlin now openly admit was based on a lie, ” a label to stir up brutal, retail politics”. This week, Abbott recycles the lie that coal is cheap and reliable.

“Far from wrecking the government, MPs worried about energy policy are trying to save it, with a policy that would be different from Labor’s and would give voters the affordable and reliable power they want.”

Sadly, his colleagues avoid him. They fear to join his rebellion lest it be an attack on Turnbull. Far from fomenting dissent, he is creating some type of cohesion. A Liberal wag notes that Abbott has wasted years only to make himself completely irrelevant and the object of his colleagues’ pity.

Modelling done for The Australian Energy Market Commission, Reliability Panel the government expert energy adviser, puts the lie to the scare campaign led by the federal government. The risks of power supply not being met are “so small, they are generally not visible on the chart.”

On the other hand, many old coal plants are unreliable, especially in Victoria, where The Australia Institute reports 16 major breakdowns at Victoria’s three brown coal plants, Loy Yang A, Loy Yang B and Yallourn took place last summer. All saw hundreds of megawatts of capacity withdrawn from the grid almost instantly. This makes Victoria the standout state for power plant breakdowns.

Even more alarming, reports TAI, were two fires. The first was at Loy Yang A on January 6th, within 500m of the mine. Another in the coal pit of Yallourn on February 4th, cost $100 million dollars and endangered the health of 14,000 Morwell residents

Of course, Abbott believes in new power stations, the great black hope of the future for the coal industry lobbyist. Yet even those spun as High Efficiency Low Emissions are almost as polluting as the old. And their prohibitive cost far outweighs installing a renewable plant with battery back-up.

“It takes character to do what’s right and it takes courage to disagree with your peers,” Abbott quotes Bob Carter, a climate science quack, to his fellow climate change deniers Tuesday.

Time to heed your own advice, Tone. Get out more. Cycle down to the library. Open your mind. Do some independent research. There is no time to waste on coal lobby lies and propaganda. Take time out. Malcolm Turnbull would be delighted to arrange a year or two’s study leave.

The week ends with Abbott exposing Coalition division over energy, one of the causes, says Paul Bongiorno of a record 35 News Poll losses. Could it also be that voters are not fooled by a party so keen to bribe the rich with $144 bn of uncosted tax cuts – a government dedicated to the destruction of a just and fair democratic society which its flat tax policy, its social welfare war and its increasing secrecy and surveillance and its relentless clampdown on dissent, all inevitably lead.

Turnbull’s Kill Bill show can’t hide his failure to sell his NEG to his back bench.

Is it back to the future? Or is it déjà vu?  The Coalition fails to win over its coal lobby to its Clayton’s National Energy Guarantee, (NEG) a huge defeat, this week, eclipsed only by the uproar of a pliant media when Bill Shorten rethinks his tax cut repeal.

Energy and Environment Minister Frydenberg ends up hinting at a NEG 2.0 due to the woeful ignorance and wilful obstruction of his government’s troublesome, Turnbull-hating, ruling, right wing.

Happily, Frydenberg is still able to help protect Abbott’s Booby, an endangered sea bird which breeds only on Christmas Island. Alarmingly, The Dept Of Environment and Energy notes “there is no adopted or made Recovery Plan for this species.”

The Booby’s habitat is threatened by phosphate mining, an attractive extractive industry which did so much to enrich, enhance and refine the Island of Nauru, essentially a mound of fossilised bird turd – before all royalties were squandered and the island reduced to a barren, rocky moonscape. It’s the perfect site for a prison for innocent men women and children who must be punished for having the audacity to seek us out by boat and throw themselves on our compassion.

And “pour encourager les autres” – as a deterrent to other smugglers whom a paranoid Dutton claims are poised to put boats into the water at the slightest hint of compassion.  “Pour encourager les autres” is  from Voltaire’s Candide whose eponymous hero notes that “in England, it is good, from time to time, to kill an Admiral to encourage the others.”

Frydenberg knocks back Phosphate Resources’ environmental approval application which promises, with a straight-face some “small-scale exploration clearing”. What a crack up. It hopes to clear 6.8 hectares to see if it’s worth digging up any more. A “fair and balanced” ABC quotes Shire President, Gordon Thomson, a stoic, master of understatement, who reports that the island community faces “economic and population collapse” without the approval.

Incredibly, other flora and fauna including the island’s famous red crabs would be threatened by mining expansion.

Also at risk are our endangered species on the cross bench of our house of review, the senate. Peter Georgiou, Rod Culleton’s brother in law, may find family comes first in his relationship with party supremo, Pauline Hanson.

Lucy Gichuhi, however, who was recruited from Family First into the Liberals, is now relegated to an unwinnable fourth on the SA Liberal Senate ticket. Despite being in the news for struggling with rates and water bills for her burgeoning Whyalla low-rent property portfolio – she’s clearly having “a red hot go” and she is a Kenyan-born woman; both of which should make her an ideal fit for SA Liberals’ vision of a multicultural, entrepreneurial, small business-led community.

The sniping of micro- party senator, David Leyonhjelm, this week, evokes Paul Keating’s jibe at senate minor parties – “unrepresentative swill“. Little did the former PM suspect in 1992, that the  “unrepresentative swill” to whom he refused to expose John Dawkins, his treasurer, is now more of a badge of honour than an insult.

Even the Bankstown bovver-boy, would be shocked by the maverick mayhem of our senate cross-bench this week.

Sarah Hanson-Young should “stop shagging men” snorts failed Liberal candidate, now Liberal Democrat Senator, Tea-Party nut, David Leyonhjelm, who supports The Katter Party’s Queensland Senator Fraser Anning’s motion that state governments legalise and promote the carrying of pepper spray, mace and tasers by women for “personal protection”.

“Fuck Off” is Crazy Dave’s caring, Libertarian, free-speech-respecting response to Sarah Hanson-Young when she demands an apology. In defence, Dave blames Hanson. “She said all men are rapists”, he howls. Something like that. Seriously.

Women quickly, effortlessly get the better of Leyonhjelm. “The last thing that women in Australia need now is another man in power telling us that we are responsible for violence against us,” Greens senator Janet Rice responds.

Despite Leyonhjelm’s lewd contribution, which is overlooked by Clayton’s Senate Leader Scott Ryan, a perpetual cub-scout who, despite the size of his giant swearing-in Bible, is yet to exercise leadership or authority, the taser motion is defeated 46-5.

Senator Fraser Anning, One Nation’s WA ring-in, Peter Georgiou and reactionary homophobe, Cory Bernardi, loopy Leyonhjelm and Big Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party’s “senate leader” Brian Burston are the only supporters.

Who’s representing whom? And how? Isn’t this supposed to be a debate about protecting women? It’s surrealism at its finest. An antipodean William of Ockham, Leyonhjelm is God’s gift to a senate which ever in need of his razor-sharp capacity to simplify debate. His fabled metaphysical libertarianism will cut to the nub of any conundrum. Dave stars, for example, in a 2015 National Rifle Association film. Warns US viewers not to repeat Australia’s gun buy-back folly. OK, they did pay him.

“We are a nation of victims”, he says of a scheme which The Conversation fact check duly acknowledges is difficult to measure. The Conversation does concede last year, however, that “in the 15 years prior to the first gun buyback in 1996, there had been 13 mass shootings in Australia. In the 21 years since more restrictive firearm policies came into effect, there has been only one recent single mass shooting in the country.” (A grandfather killed himself and six family members at Margaret River in May.)

Leyonhjelm’s reading from the same NRA script supplied to its other stooge, Donald J Trump whose response to school shootings is to arm the teachers. He repeats the NRA myth that the only protection against a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

It’s puerile nonsense – which puts it on a par with much of Libertarian politics, Morrison’s justification of tax cuts to business and all of Trumpism.

Research into four decades of data in all fifty states reveals that “right to carry” laws have no public safety benefit. None. Zero. When “right to carry” laws were introduced, violent crime rates went up.

Also rising as steeply as a pithead over a mineshaft is coal. Coal is back. “Good for humanity”, lifter out of poverty, the sainted black rock will put paid to all those “reckless” and “aggressive” targets for renewable energy in Labor states run by union thugs, hell bent on wrecking the sacred National Grid (amen) with solar, wind and other unreliable, heretical, sources.

Baseload is back now thanks to equal parts of inertia, ignorance, indifference and a huge dollop of the enormous power of corporate vested interest with which our nation is blessed. Coal is in the mix, courtesy of the National Energy Guarantee which the backbench of the Liberal Party and most Nationals just don’t get. Fatuous Josh Frydenberg’s failure, as our hopelessly conflicted energy and environment minister has played a key role, too, but we mustn’t be too hard on him. He’s been set up to fail.

For a Liberal, there’s a natural conflict between meeting the demands of energy and environment. When the joint portfolio was announced, many welcomed the move as representing an enlightened acknowledgement – at last – of some interrelationship. But it didn’t take long before the combination was revealed for what it is, a cover for a party which has no real policy on energy and even less concern for the environment.

Today, Frydenberg is trying to peddle a last-ditch National Energy Guarantee which will appease his party’s implacable opponents of renewable energy and he never tires of saying be “technology neutral” – but we can’t burn coal and meet our Paris commitments.

Worse, the NEG in its latest incarnation involves a great big new subsidy on coal.  Yet if the country’s greenhouse gas emissions continue on their current trajectory, Australia will fail to meet its Paris target by a billion tonnes of CO2. That’s about two years of Australia’s combined national emissions, according to Lisa Cox reporting in The Guardian, Monday, on new data released by NDEVR Environmental – data which excludes unreliable data from land use and forestry sectors.

Yet NDEVR projects that the Australian electricity sector would meet the proposed NEG target of a 26% cut on 2005 levels by 2030, five years ahead of schedule, without the NEG, because investment continues in renewable energy generation while large, aging coal-fired plants are rapidly approaching their use-by date.

But not if One Nation has a hand in it.  A few senate cross-bench votes shy of a majority in its bid to include our richest corporations in its $140 billion of unfunded, unworkable, unnecessary tax cuts, Wednesday, the government suddenly backs former 1996 Oxley, Liberal candidate, Pauline Hanson’s new North Queensland state coal power plan.

Is Turnbull’s support a bizarre, late play for Pauline’s loyalty? Or is it also using Hanson as a stalking horse to officially return to centre stage the IPA, The Minerals Council of Australia, the Business Council and countless other members of the order of the black rock active among the 252 lobby groups currently registered with the department of Prime Minister and Cabinet that Rupert Murdoch’s press so obligingly helps to shape government energy policy?

Of course, not all lobbyists have to register, including religious groups and charities and non-government organisations. John Menadue estimates there are at least a thousand people, counting full-time and part-time lobbyists in Canberra helping to make Turnbull and his government’s mind up for them. But Wednesday looks like a big win for Big Coal.

Astonishingly, the entire Coalition senate team votes for Hanson’s 1950s Ming dynasty, Menzies era state socialist Senate bill for government to build new coal-fired power stations. But hang on. Her bill sounds so familiar it’s spooky.

And there’s more. Old clunkers will get a retro-fit. Now it makes sense. Pauline’s channelling The “Monash Forum”, a “ginger group” as Peta Credlin flatters them, which includes climate change deniers, Eric Abetz, Tony Abbott, Kevin Andrews and fellow holy coaler Craig Kelly whose identical call for a new taxpayer-funded coal fired power station is derided as “ludicrous” by energy analysts who calculate it would cost at least $3 billion, drive up energy prices and take eight years to build.

Apart from that, what could possibly go wrong? True. Coal subsidies are toxic; political poison. But so, too, increasingly is neoliberalism itself.

Is Hanson’s echo of the monkey pod boys, Abbott’s band of dissidents, out of left field? Or right? Or as daft as a chimney-sweeper’s brush? As the PM is quick to remind us – often, we must respect the fact the people voted for her. Yet he also said Hanson was “not the sort of person he wanted to see in politics”. Before she got elected.

Pauline’s latest power play, taken with her pattern of regularly voting with the government, suggests that The Red Queen is still a true blue aspirational Liberal even if the Libs had to disendorse her for disparaging Aboriginal people, leaving her to win the seat of Oxley as an independent. There is also a legacy of mutual help. In 1996, members of the Oxley branch of the Liberal Party distributed how to vote cards for Hanson after she was disendorsed as their candidate.

Hanson wrote a letter to The Queensland Times claiming that reverse racism bred Aboriginal entitlement.

Amazingly, our media treats Queen Pauline very seriously. No-one even laughs – or at least not in public – at  her absurd notion of retro-fitting toxic old coal-burning clunkers. With what? Filter tips? A kit of scrubbing brushes so they, too, can now burn clean fuel, to match the fabulous new clean coal we’ve all been hearing about? The idea that it is practical or economic to prolong the life of a station at the end of its life is simply another bit of coal lobby propaganda.

Coal-hauling, keel-hauling, Captain of One Nation’s two-man canoe, Pauline wants to “to facilitate the building of new coal-fired power stations and the retrofitting of existing base-load power stations”. Crew of one, Petro Georgiou claps madly. Pauline runs a tight ship. He doesn’t want to suffer the same fate as Rod Culleton, his brother-in-law.

Base-load power stations are the mythic invention of a coal industry under imminent threat of extinction.

Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel made it clear to a Senate Estimates Hearing, “The actual cost of bringing on new coal in this country per megawatt-hour is projected to be substantially more expensive than the cost of bringing on wind or solar.”

In the vexed case of Liddell, for example, for all Turnbull and Frydenberg’s bullying, extending its operation would be futile.

Delaying the closure of coal burning at Liddell would achieve precisely bugger all. Arguably, it would be worse than bugger all as it would delay the investment in the alternative generation that AGL is proposing. Unless you’re a weird little coal-hugger, or strained by internal political conflicts, it’s an absolute no-brainer writes John Menadue.

Will this week’s blast from the Stakhanovite Coalition’s State Socialist collective’s coal-huggers blow up Turnbull’s government? Is the Coalition’s backing of Pauline Hanson’s bill to build new coal-fired power stations an innovative, disruptive Googly, Facebook, coal-powered 2.0 type of thing?

(Soviet hero, Aleksei Grigorievich Stakhanov, mined 102 tons of coal, so the legend goes in less than 6 hours (14 times his quota) on 31 August 1935.)

No. It’s a sop to the right.

A split, big enough to drive a steam locomotive through, now divides Turnbull’s back bench bovver boys from their PM and his utterly ineffectual Energy and Environment Minister, the hopelessly conflicted, Josh Frydenberg over its rejection of Frydenberg’s mare’s nest of an energy policy.

A Coalition cave-in under a shower of black rock any moment seems imminent as Frydenberg fails utterly to corral the ugly right wing rump that runs the Turnbull government. He wants Abbott, Kelly and other climate change deniers to fall in behind the hoax that is the National Energy Guarantee. They won’t.

Ironically it’s their fear of emissions reduction from a NEG which could, in fact, lock in higher emissions, which proves a major stumbling block, as literary connoisseur Tony Abbott tells his mate, Alan Jones on Friday on his regular 2GB on-air rubdown.

 “… there’s a few lines on reducing price, there’s a few pages on boosting reliability, and there’s page after impenetrable page of the most appalling prose you’ve ever read, which is all about reducing emissions.”

Josh Frydenberg’s hasty hand-ball of The Neg is a dud pass. Frydenberg gives the job of spruiking The national energy guarantee, to a few CEOs and minerals business shills. Turns out they’re the same people who sold Abbott on axing the carbon tax not so long ago. They have no credibility to sell anything new to Craig Kelly’s environment and energy committee.

It’s a brave new way to dodge all personal and ministerial responsibility, but the back- benchers do not budge from their conviction that there’s nothing wrong with reducing the globe to a smoking ruin. Others are doing it. And perish the thought that a government ought to be anything more than the thinly disguised political wing of the mining lobby.

But OMG, just as Turnbull is about to throw another dead cat terror alert on the table, Tuesday, Bill Shorten makes a captain’s call to repeal the tax break for businesses with a turnover of between $10 – 50 million, a simple bribe, which is undeserved, unnecessary, unworkable and unfunded. But that’s not how most media respond. They pounce. Kill Bill!

Just look at what Shorten’s gone and done now! The air fills with howls of derision, cat-calls and pages in The Australian about how it’s Shorten, not Turnbull now who is a dead man walking.

The week ends with all eyes on Shorten. Not to mention venom and scorn for the class traitor. Some on ABC Insiders Sunday even predict his demise if Labor should fail to win even one of the five by-elections slated for Super Saturday 28 July.

In the rush to crucify Shorten, Paul Bongiorno wryly observes, the government gets away with redefining small business as any enterprise with a turnover between $2 million and $10 million.  In the end the government withdraws its bill but you can be sure that after 28 July, they’ll be lobbying again;

The NEG will be sold as better than nothing. In fact nothing is better. What is certain is that as far as members of the cross-bench of the senate are concerned, in the words only Mathias Corman can use to channel Arnie, “I’ll be back.”

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