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Cry me a river; the Murray-Darling is being destroyed by greed and ignorance.

A stench of putrefaction wafts over a troubled nation, this week, all the way from the tiny, dusty, outback settlement of Menindee, in far west NSW. Mass media is full of shocking images of an horrific mass fish kill in the millions and distressed, hapless, trapped wildlife; hopelessly mired in the deep mud of a dessicated  Lake Cawndilla, nearby, confronting Australia with the catastrophic failure of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, (MDBA), a $13 billion lemon.

The MDBA’s failure is a metaphor for our nation’s ruling elite, who, like Trump, inhabit the eternal now and are in politics solely to look after big cotton, big mining and their other corporate sponsors. Bugger the science. Bugger the future. Just like Trump, Melissa Price, our own climate change denying environment minister has mining connections.

The environment can look after itself.

Or not. Set up by the 2007 Water Act to rescue the basin’s fragile ecosystem, by returning water to the ailing rivers, the MDDBA, its conflicted, compromised and corrupted, dark angel, instead, is achieving “perverse outcomes” – jargon for making things worse. It is, as some locals suggest, as if we’ve put mother in a home notorious for elder abuse.

Evasiveness, secrecy and deceit, experts testify, are part of the rotten culture of the MDBA – a test case in good policy stuffed up at every turn; a clusterfuck from foundation to nearly every stage of its implementation. It’s almost (apart from the policy) in the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government DNA. Except that Labor had a spanner in the works, too.

The MDBA is  “a fraud on the environment”, Royal Commission lawyers declare, on the other hand. Put simply it has not merely watered down a noble plan whose rational aims are enshrined in The Water Act of 2007 – it has subverted it.

The Water Act 2007 recognises that too much water is being extracted from the river system and seeks to reset the balance between the amount required for human consumption and the amount needed to sustain the environment. By 2011, however, as the Royal Commission will find, The MDBA seems to have subverted the intention of the act with the support of key National Party figures including current leadership rematch contender, Barnaby Joyce.

Psst… No-one says nothing. The 2017 Royal Commission is due to report in a few weeks, but it’s stymied by states and authorities’ refusal to cooperate. Had the banks behaved in this fashion during the Hayne Royal Commission there would have been an uproar. Not so rotten in the state of Renmark, South Australia, alone, agrees to give evidence.

Unimpressed, Counsel Assisting, Richard Beasley S.C, an eminent specialist in environmental law notes, acerbically, in his summing up for the Commissioner, Brett Walker S.C., that the state governments’ submissions were,

“..either totally unhelpful or not particularly helpful.”

The MDBA itself excels in chutzpah and contempt by writing to the Commissioner saying it is unavailable because it is “busy”. Our finest scientists, on the other hand, provide the commission with a wealth of expert, testimony.

“Systematic mismanagement, cover up and maladministration has undermined the proper implementation of the Murray Darling Basin Plan”, Maryanne Slattery, a Senior Water Researcher at The Australia Institute sums up.

“Implementing the Plan for political expediency, without transparency or accountability by the Murray Darling Basin Authority, has resulted in a fraud of a Basin Plan. It has benefited big irrigators, at the expense of everyone else, including Aboriginal people, regional communities, floodplain graziers, small irrigators and the environment.

MDBA has ignored the science it was set up to apply in favour of pleasing its political masters. Now, the fish kill creates a big stink for both major parties but especially for Barnaby Joyce, former Minister for Agriculture and Water resources, who is on record boasting publicly to farmers in a Politics in the Pub-demonise a Greenie session in Shepparton, Victoria of how his mob, heroically, was able to take the water meant for the environment and return it to agriculture.

“We have taken water, put it back into agriculture, so we could look after you and make sure we don’t have the greenies running the show basically sending you out the back door, and that was a hard ask,”

Former Director of National Farmers’ Federation, Mal Peters, claims Joyce tilted the Murray-Darling Basin Authority towards irrigation interests over the environment when he was agriculture minister. It may be impossible to tilt back.

Joyce is popular with irrigators for killing off water buybacks and substituting subsidies for efficiency, effectively government handouts but efficiency reduces the run-off back into the river system with predictably disastrous effects.

Above all, “hard ask” Joyce insists on his rhetorical triple bottom line which gives economic and social needs priority over environmental; subverting the environmental aims and the entire intention of the Water Act.

“It’s a public relations sound-bite made up by the Basin Authority” says Counsel Assisting Beasley. There can be no trade-offs between environmental objectives and socio-economic ones, as the environmental objectives of the Act are subordinate to Australia’s international environmental treaty obligations. We are committed to Ramsar, a treaty to preserve wetlands, which takes its name from the small Iranian town where in 1971, the agreement was drawn up.

The Productivity Commission, notes in its recent report available in draft form – (its final report is with government on the understanding that it will be released in 2019) that cancelling buybacks has resulted in more than doubling the cost of water savings. The commission concludes that the current progress on implementing water efficiency measures “gives little confidence” they would be completed by 2024, as planned. But when will the report be released?

Joyce, Morrison’s government, the states and the authority itself show true leadership by keeping eerily shtum.

Hilariously, ScoMo, our chameleon PM becomes “Prime Minister for standards”, he declares, at the end of the week, as he cynically but shrewdly comes up with another spectacular diversion; a truly cunning stunt. Sunday, our own political head prefect decrees, that Australia Day citizenship ceremonies will be compulsory. And formal. No flip-flops.

Not only must councils run ceremonies for new Aussie citizens on Australia Day, they’ll have to hold another on 17 September. But watch what you wear. ScoMo’s bold new citizenship shindig has a dress code. No thongs and shorts. In brief, you can become an Australian at a citizenship ceremony only if you shun Australian casual national dress. It’s bonkers, but it has to be to distract from the biggest stink of the Coalition’s odoriferous last five years in office.

Bill Shorten sniggers at ScoMo’s cynical ploy. “You sort of know when Australia Day’s coming up don’t you, when a couple of weeks before we get the annual conservative outing to put politics into Australia Day,” the Labor leader tells reporters in Melbourne Sunday. “It’s what the conservatives do to keep their base happy.” As do the reactionaries.

Edicts and bad odour are no novelty to our nation’s history. Menindee also felt the full force of government authority on January 26 1935 when, during the first rally against Australia Day, twenty-five Aboriginal men were nicely told if they did not perform the role of ‘retreating Aborigines’ in a re-enactment of the First Fleet, their families would starve.

Echoing Morrison’s current concern for a good show, officials were to recruit the best singers and dancers and take them back to Sydney to perform. Their women were terrified. Ngiyaampaa elder Dr Beryl (Yunghadhu) Philp Carmichael, born and raised on the mission, was only three at the time, but her memory of the fear in the community never left her.

“Whether they were taking them away to be massacred or what, no-one knew. The community went into mourning once they were put on the mission truck,” she recalls.

Menindee is a richly resonant site, historically, politically, ecologically and countless other ways including our vast, interminable, inscrutable legacy of heroic colonial stupidity – and our forbears’ barbarous cruelty to Aboriginal peoples.

In the light of Morrison’s decree on the observance of Australia Day, another typically vacuous, bogan slogan which reveals his ignorance of his nation’s history, (“I think people want Australia Day to be Australia Day, it’s for all Australians”,) it is timely to acknowledge the testimony of Edward Wilson who wrote in The Argus, 17 March 1856,

“In less than twenty years we have nearly swept them off the face of the earth. We have shot them down like dogs. In the guise of friendship we have issued corrosive sublimate in their damper and consigned whole tribes to the agonies of an excruciating death. We have made them drunkards, and infected them with diseases which have rotted the bones of their adults, and made such few children as are born amongst them a sorrow and a torture from the very instant of their birth. We have made them outcasts on their own land, and are rapidly consigning them to entire annihilation.”

Menindee unwittingly played its role. The first town on the Darling, Menindee is the oldest, European colonial settlement in western NSW and was the advance base for Burke and Wills’ 1860 expedition, a grand folly half-cocked, a noble failure, which, not unlike the MDBA, or the Morrison government, set out before its instructions were finalised.

Today, the putrid smell of decomposing carcasses of millions of golden perch, bony herring and Murray cod drifts up over the Darling River bank and into Maiden’s Menindee Hotel whence on 19 October 1860, Robert O’Hara Burke and his third in command, William John Wills, set out into terra incognita; their fatal expedition and the beginning of the end; a shocking new chapter of disease, dispossession and genocide for the traditional owners of the land.

“It opened up the way for the pastoralists,” says Joshua Haynes from Newcastle, a director of the Yandruwandha Yawarrawarrka Traditional Land Owners Aboriginal Corporation -, “and the moment someone took up ownership of the land we could be moved on, or disposed of, just like a kangaroo.”

After the pastoralists came the irrigators; cotton and wheat farmers who took both water and land. “Without the river, us Barkandji people, we are nothing. We’ve got no land, no name, nothing. This is our lifeblood, this is our mother,”

Barkandji Elder “Badger” Bates laments in a letter read in NSW parliament by Independent MP. Jeremy Buckingham.

After waiting 18 years for their Native Title to be acknowledged, his people watch the Barka (Darling river) dry up.

Menindee, today, is thus, the site of a massive environmental disaster, a site layered with all the historical associations of dispossession, alienation and worse; of Burke and Wills grand folly, now overlaid with the folly of irrigated agriculture, unsustainable – environmentally and economically not only here, but throughout Australia. Add a failure of political will.

Big irrigators with big party donations have recruited politicians of all persuasions. It’s a dramatic, tragic reminder in microcosm of how poorly governments of a corporate state have mismanaged energy, environment and health for example when too much power resides in a few massive corporations and oligopolies. Yet we don’t lack in ideas.

In 2006, a meeting of western NSW mayors, chaired by local state MP Peter Black, voted for the Commonwealth to buy the 96,000 hectare Cubbie Station, in southwestern Queensland, the largest landholding in the nation and also the biggest irrigation property in the southern hemisphere, enjoying rights to 400,000 megalitres of water, equivalent to all the water licences downstream in north-west NSW, but it was sold to a Chinese-led consortium. It’s a scandal.

There were two Australian bids on the table, both more generous than the $240 million winning bid, as the ABC’s Stephen Long reported on Radio National’s PM programme in 2012. At the time Fairfax’s Ann Kent puzzled,

“There is something odd about Australia. Our politicians expend huge resources and even more hot air wrangling over how to exclude a pitifully small number of legitimate Asian and Middle Eastern refugees from our shores, while they allow, almost without a murmur, the purchase of Cubbie Station, the largest landholding in the country, comprising a number of properties the size of the ACT, by a consortium headed by a Chinese enterprise, Shandong Ruyi.”

What’s not odd is the all too familiar way authorities rush to scapegoat. They duck and weave to evade responsibility. In this popular political pantomime, it is forbidden to admit the role of climate change or of disastrous mismanagement.

Officials are quick to claim the fish are killed by a toxic algal bloom but locals say the primary cause of the catastrophe is poor water management and irrigation agriculture. The drought and algal bloom are secondary stressors on a system which has failed to use water specially allocated to protect the foundations of the river’s aquatic ecosystems.

“Droughts would have contributed to the blue green algae outbreak,” says Richard Kingsford, Director of the Centre for Ecosystem Science at the University of NSW,  “But the river droughts are happening more often and they’re more intense as a result of the irrigation industry in the Darling diverting water from the river over the last 10 to 20 years.”

Leading scientists agree.

The NSW Irrigators Council would have us believe it is all about the drought. It isn’t. It about taking too much water upstream so there is not enough for downstream users, and the fish,” says Professor Quentin Grafton, UNESCO Chair in Water Economics and Transboundary Water Governance.

What would Grafton know? He’s just a scientist. In the media show which follows, it’s all the fault of the drought of course. In a rare display of synchronised swimming, Agriculture and Water Resources Minister, climate change denier David “don’t give a rat’s” Littleproud, ducks for cover, as does his counterpart, NSW Primary Industries and Water Resources Minister Niall Blair in a hilarious visit to Menindee, where he is seen in a boat speeding past a group of local protestors – only for safety reasons, of course, a technicality which local police do not support.

Unsafe at any speed, The MDBA has, of course, long been warned by scientists that things are hotting up in the basin; hotter periods are lasting longer. Climate change can happen very rapidly and abruptly. Even to denialists.

NSW Labor wants a special inquiry into the ecological catastrophe – as if there’s been no Royal Commission. They want a commission or an inquiry to determine why the Liberals and Nationals sought “changes to water rules that reduced river flows and allowed the over-extraction of water by lobbyist irrigators who were National Party donors”, while ignoring warnings from the Wentworth Group of Scientists and local communities.

Professor John Quiggan has the last word by reminding us that irrigation never was the solution. He notes that agricultural economists recognised long ago that the environment in Australia, especially in areas like Menindee, was not suited to irrigated agriculture. Yet, as he wryly notes, the converse recognition, that irrigation schemes are often disastrous for the environment, came much later. Or as in the case of the MDBA, or the National Party not at all.

The stink from Menindee ought to be enough to bring down any respectable government. On the other hand, it is clearly capable of distracting the Morrison government into outrageous, ill-considered and divisive stunts like his new edict for Australia Day.

In all the fizz and the fuss over the fiasco that is the MDBA debacle, not to mention the frenzy of finding scapegoats and blame-shifting and just plain lying it is worth taking a longer, broader view especially as Australia Day approaches, albeit still on the 26 January. Above all it is worth recalling the rights and the role of the traditional owners of the land and their suffering both past and present – for it far surpasses, in all dimensions, the losses of the corporate cotton farmer.

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Women are the forgotten people of the modern Liberal Party.

Often, when good women call out or are subject to bad behaviour, the reprisals, backlash and commentary portrays them as the bad ones – the liar, the troublemaker, the emotionally unstable or weak, or someone who should be silenced …” Julia Banks, former Liberal, now Independent MP for Chisholm.

Julia Banks’ resignation speech is eerily prophetic. Spooky. In a flash, this week, a pack of Liberal women call her a liar – in effect. Worse, at least one of the women, Senator Linda Reynolds, is a victim of political bullying herself. So she says – but she’s happy for ScoMo to sort it all out. Naturally, he’ll pass it all on to an “independent” review.

In September, he told the party room the federal executive “would consider how they will take steps to ensure there is a rigorous and confidential process to deal with concerns and complaints from party members, including members of parliament”.

But he’s also declined to take any responsibility for the bullying, a dead give away, or, reports Fairfax’s Latika Bourke, to back allegations of bullying against female MPs during the leadership spill. His cop-out, his abdication of any kind of leadership, is that “both men and women were subjected to intense pressure during the episode”.

Even more alarming, is the way Reynolds quickly finds another MP to undermine Banks’ testimony with disinformation, an evergreen propaganda technique which can only further weaken our democracy.

Banks doesn’t know what she’s talking about snipes MP for Corangamite, Sarah Henderson. “In my view, being lobbied for votes does not constitute bullying,”

Henderson deploys the classic bully technique of invalidating the victim’s testimony by misrepresentation and selective misquotation.

“I can’t walk in anyone else’s shoes; I can only speak about my experience. But I can certainly say that being lobbied for votes is an integral part of a political process and it does not constitute bullying.”

No, Sarah. What Banks has trouble with is “supposed colleagues, “sniping” behind her back, spreading malicious rumours and then trying to shut her up by hustling her out of their way with an all-expenses-paid posting to New York. She accuses supporters of Victorian Liberal powerbroker Michael Kroger of backgrounding against her.

“There wasbackgrounding that I was an emotional wreck.”

Julia’s experiences deserve to be shared. There is a truth in her simple testimony that the bullies just cannot explain away and a Prime Minister exposed as a gutless wonder.

“The Liberal Party can be proud of its record on women,” Reynolds insists in The Australian. “Reform may be slow but it’s solid,” she claims in a whopper that monsters all credibility. It’s pernicious, too, with its Trump-like, duplicity- its utter contempt for truth. First fake news, now fake views. But how easily are we seduced?

Oddly, only last August, at the time of Turnbull’s knifing, Reynolds was “deeply saddened and distressed”.

The behaviour of some had “no place in [her] party or this chamber”. By contrast, she notes, “I greatly respect my friend and colleague Julia Banks who is an outstanding local member and a woman of great integrity.”

You can’t polish a turd. “Great integrity” won’t help there, either, Linda. The Liberal record is damning.

What is “solid” about a party that only gives female candidates seats they are unlikely to win? What is there to be “proud” of? Last election, only three women Liberal candidates, out of thirty-eight, were pre-selected for safe seats. With Banks’ defection, only 12 of the Coalition’s lower house of 74 are women.

Six may not survive May’s election, given many of the 12 are marginal  – and against record disaffection. News poll has the Coalition primary vote at 35%, lowest in the poll’s history, four months from an election. Labor is on 41%.

Oddly, Scott Morrison is upbeat, riffing about coming back like Whyalla. It’s a whole new trope for him. No-one has the heart to explain that Whyalla steel’s new owner, UK billionaire, Sanjeev Gupta, who’s made a fortune snapping up steel companies in the old Dart, others wouldn’t touch with a pair of tongs, is installing 780,000 solar panels.

Some UK papers report that bankers wonder whether Gupta has “too many plates in the air”, a very British way of hinting – (not that ScoMo or his work experience treasurer would listen) – that the brilliant billionaire whose plans rely on the heavy involvement of key Chinese corporations in Whyalla’s comeback may be a tad undercapitalised.

Whyalla Norrie and Port Augusta, along with Nullarbor and Coober Pedy have some of the highest rates of domestic violence offences in the state of South Australia. Police responses are, however, improving in both quality and promptness – but longer-term support such as mental-health therapy for victims – often falls by the wayside because of lack of resources. For this, the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government is responsible.

Tanya Plibersek is quick to instance some other ways the Coalition is culpable. “The Liberals argued against increases to the minimum wage that substantially benefit women … and they also tried to cut around $35m from Community Legal Centres that provide crucial legal services to family violence victims.”

No politician could possibly be proud of the national statistics. There is a war on women. Domestic violence? Try male violence. One woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner. Nine women were killed last October, seven allegedly in the context of a current or former intimate relationship.

One in three women has experienced violence since the age of fifteen. Intimate partner violence is the greatest health risk factor for women aged 25-44.

Indigenous women are 45 times more likely to experience violence than non-Indigenous women. The severity of the violence is also greater, with higher rates of hospitalisation. Yet for all women, there is no sign of action by government or any authority to effectively deal with the crisis.

Awareness campaigns such as the Federal Government’s Let’s stop it at the start are relatively easy to run and can help increase public understanding but changing public attitudes to violence is the critical challenge. And so far it has proved hardest to accomplish. A key factor, sadly, is the strength and persistence of victim-blaming.

Awareness campaigns are no time to be diverted by those who ask why male victims are overlooked. Men need to become a voice in this fight. Experts suggest that as role models, men’s voices are crucial in calling out violence against women. Any voice. Some campaigns explore holding the general public accountable for preventing.

Queensland’s #dosomething campaign, works along these lines. Similarly, Victoria has its Respect Women: Call it Out campaign. Yet there is no sign of any practical initiatives from the federal government. Just cuts to funds for refuges and advisors.

Silke Meyer, Senior Lecturer in Domestic and Family Violence Practice CQ University Australia writes in The ConversationIn order to make domestic violence everyone’s business rather than an issue solely for women, awareness campaigns need to follow these examples.”

“More importantly, they need to address how perpetrators manipulate victims, their families and their communities, and how we all play a role in speaking out against such violence”.

To the privileged, sheltered, old white males who run the party under instruction from their sponsors and who mould its patriarchal culture, gender inequality is like social and economic inequality. Or like climate change. Or renewable power. Not only does it not exist, or not work, it’s heresy to maintain otherwise.

It’s a threat to their world view, a denialist fantasy which in many cases hasn’t changed since the good old days the MP attended St Ignatius College, Riverview, for example, the exclusive Jesuit day and boarding school on the Lane Cove River, where senior tuition plus boarding fees costs $49,520 P.A. Both Joyce and Abbott are old boys.

There are few signs that their schooling helped them understand or relate to women but there are key events which can help us understand their real attitudes and values. One fertile example will suffice.

At Sydney University in 1977, an enraged Tony Abbott punched the wall either side of the head of Barbara Ramjan, his young student political opponent, when he was miffed at losing a student representative council vote.  Despite Ramjan’s sworn affidavit Abbott denies the incident. Old pal and Donald Trump fan, The Australian‘s Greg Sheridan supports him. “It was inconceivable”, he writes – and besides “there were no witnesses”.

In the 1970s, Menzies era throwback, Tony Abbott, set the Liberal benchmark on gender equality,

“I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons.”

Abbott’s on-air rubbishing of the Human Rights Commission’s bright idea that women should have equal representation on boards last year, shows he hasn’t changed his views much. When the HRC proposed that company boards work towards a 40:40:20 representation, the Riverview old-boy was outraged. King of wittering talkback 2GB’s Ray Hadley was dead keen to broadcast to his equally threatened old white male fans.

“Obviously we have to give women a fair go, but some of this stuff sounds like it’s just anti-men,” rants Abbot. “There are lots of things we can’t change but one thing we should never do is fail to call out politically correct rubbish.”

The “anti-men” canard may be an expression of Abbott’s own fear of women but even from a former PM, it is a dog-whistle, a covert and inflammatory signal to similarly threatened or misogynistic men to abandon all attempt at reforming their hostility to women. It is a shameful, reprehensible remark.

Proud of its record? When, in 2013, Tony Abbott made himself Minister for Women, a clear gesture of contempt for women in itself, (Michaelia Cash was to be his assistant), he promptly discontinued the Women’s Budget Statement, a measure of accountability and justice which now falls to volunteers to compile.

Gender bias towards men is inevitable in a budget which chooses to avoid explaining its impact on women. In March 2015, Abbott’s government then stripped $300 million from women’s legal services domestic violence advice and casework services and refuges. Some found themselves turning women away who couldn’t pay.

This year, the Coalition does highlight budget measures of interest to women in its 2018 Budget statement ‘Women’s Economic Capability and Leadership’. But it’s not a gender-based analysis of proposed policies, it’s a quick tick-and-flick list of initiatives that may benefit women.

As for reform, a weasel-word now used to denote any change while trading on the connotation of improvement, as in calling tax cuts for the rich tax “reforms”. The Australia Institute finds that men get twice the benefit from the income tax cuts compared to women – because men dominate the ranks of high-income earners. Previous spending cuts mainly disadvantage women because women are bigger beneficiaries of government services.

As for the Coalition’s sainted record on women,  Tanya Plibersek retorts,

Over the last five years, all Scott Morrison and the Liberals have done is deliver policies that disadvantage women. The Liberals tried five times to slash paid parental leave, and called working mums ‘rorters’ and ‘double dippers’.

Not to mention the defunding of women’s refuges and local legal aid centres. As Eliza Berlage writes, “in its 2018 budget the government could map out the costings of a seven-year tax cut package but wouldn’t secure that same forecast period of funding for frontline domestic violence services.

Plibersek could add much more. Household income is lower than it was in 2011. Part-time and multiple poorly-paid or casual, insecure jobs with too few hours now dominate our economy. 69% of part-time workers are women. Of 12.5 million workers in the workforce there are now at least 2 million casuals.

Underemployment, underpayment and even wage theft are becoming the norm for Australian workers and it is women who bear the brunt of the decline in wages, conditions and job security. Most commonly, it is the woman who must seek further casual work to pay the bills – on top of her regular work and work in the home.

Last July, Fair Work inspectors forced business to pay $472,000 to 616 employees after their audit of the hospitality industry in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. 72 percent of businesses had underpaid their employees.

The Coalition has helped keep wages at record lows by such means as stacking the Fair Work Commission with representatives affiliated with employers. Low wages may help boost profits in the short term but in the long term it is a recipe for social and economic decline. Raising wages boosts both family security and the economy.

Banks’ testimony and the accounts of other women MPs bullied during Turnbull’s political assassination, last August, are an indictment on the Liberal party. The women were betrayed; their silence bought by promise of an independent inquiry, as Kellie O’Dwyer insisted, which has ended up as a review. It will go nowhere.

Yet it won’t go away. As the new year begins Scott Morrison must deal with the albatross around his government’s neck. His own neck. Or is he bullying women into claiming there is no bullying? Or at least persuading them to collude in the cover-up of a toxic Liberal Party bullying culture by propagandising that women get a wonderful deal?

It’s alarming to see Linda Reynolds, who complained of being bullied in August now leading a group of women who contend, bizarrely against all evidence  that the Liberal Party has done more women than Labor. What pressure are they under? What threats or promises have been made?

How have they been coerced into taking this stance? Or are they, as Jenna Price suggests, victims of Stockholm syndrome, in thrall to their captors and abusers?

One thing is certain. The Coalition’s unfair treatment of women in its own party, coupled with revelations of a culture of bullying and intimidation, if not misogyny, will cost it dearly at the next election. Its failure to craft policy to significantly advance the cause of gender equality and its shameful failure over its five years in office to address the crisis of male violence towards women – beyond raising awareness campaigns is reprehensible.

The truth is inescapable: women are the forgotten people of the modern Liberal Party yet without women’s support, the Liberals will be out of power for a long time.

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We’re into big ideas; they’re in New Idea”.

“It’s fun to shoot some people,” Defence Secretary Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis notoriously remarked in 2005.

“Actually it’s quite fun to fight them, you know. It’s a hell of a hoot … I’ll be right up there with you. I like brawling.” Mattis says, bringing a little Tarantino, perhaps, to a panel discussion in San Diego, California.

A Marine general voicing his enjoyment of killing causes military members of the audience to laugh and clap.

More worryingly, Mattis goes on to become famous as the Trump’s administration “only adult in the room”.

This week, Mattis exits; slams the door. Trump is pulling 2000 US troops out of Syria; 7000 will leave Afghanistan. It’s two steps too far. Mattis quits his post in a “Dear Mr President” letter of resignation and protest.

Adult to the end, Mad Dog drops fifty copies of his resignation letter around the Pentagon. As you do. Helene Cooper notes in The New York Times, it’s the most public condemnation of Trump’s isolationism the president has ever received from his administration. Mattis ups the ante; throws down a back-handed challenge.

“While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies.”

Trump hates the letter. He is particularly hurt by the widespread view that he sometimes needs adult day-care.

“We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there,” he tweets. It’s a full four Pinocchio on The Washington Post Scale after failing to persuade any senior Pentagon figure to publicly back his withdrawal. Or lie for him in his war on the truth.

Official White House fabulist, mythomaniac Sarah Saunders is left to spin Trump’s tweet. She settles for ‘clarifying’ that the recall of US troops over the next 2-4 months will mark a ‘transition to the next phase of the campaign’ against IS.

It’s standard Saunders’ Orwellian double-speak. Trump’s abrupt, unilateral withdrawal of US troops from Syria is more chilling. It illustrates, again, just how much US policy and power rest largely on the whim of one man-child.

Trump thrives on chaos and disruption, of course. He’s desperate to distract from Mueller’s investigation. He’ll do anything to evade the net. And in January, he’ll have to account to a Democrat Congress. They’ll ask for his tax returns. These may well expose his links with Putin’s government. But there are many other hazards.

CNN suggests that virtually every House investigatory committee will pursue something from his administration.

Even worse, no longer can he count on the Republican majority in the Senate as any guarantee of united support.

North Carolina’s senator Richard Burr, Republican chair of the senate intelligence committee, releases two independent analyses, this week explaining how Russia’s Internet Research Agency, (IRA) was able to use hacking and disinformation strategies to help Trump get elected and later boost his presidency.

On the other hand, Patrick Lawrence, queries the reality of the troop withdrawal. The Washington Post and other papers report that Raqqa “unofficially” has 4000 US troops, which control virtually a third of Syria. In September, these troops were told they were to remain until the Syrian conflict ended, as a bulwark against Iran.

Luckily for Australia, our troops in Iraq still get a visit from Scott Morrison (Afghanistan is too dangerous). ScoMo is photographed handing out a couple of deflated footballs as part a stunning pep talk-presentation. But will the soldiers get time to pump them up – let alone have a game? ScoMo is in the dark on Trump’s latest new world order.

As becomes an ally “joined at the hip” to the US, the Morrison government responds to America’s troop withdrawals with a vow that Australia will continue to hold the line, (whatever or wherever that may be).

The Weekend Australian runs the spin that Scott Morrison, Christopher Pyne and Marise Payne promise Australia will continue to hold the line with international partners, including the US and NATO. In other words, no-one has a clue what to do.

“Australia will continue to provide security, humanitarian and development assistance in the ­region.’’

There’s a good side. Happily taking selfies with soldiers means that ScoMo cannot field questions regarding Andrew Broad or George Christensen’s claim that his eight innocent trips to the Philippines are subject to a “vile and defamatory smear campaign”.

Broad says he won’t stand as Nationals candidate for Mallee in the light of his “sugar daddy” scandal which involves his visiting Hong Kong in September to hook up with a sugar baby almost twenty years his junior. He’s only done once and they didn’t have sex. The liaison is arranged via a website, “Seeking Arrangements”

Broad’s story appears in veteran celebrity gossip magazine, New Idea, this Monday. He subsequently steps down; issues a statement as any sugar daddy would.

Broad’s statement blames the media. “After recent media stories about my private life, it is clear that the people of Mallee will be best served in the next parliament by a different Nationals candidate.”

Proving, surely, that travel broadens the mind, is the fact that the member for Mallee was one of the first to criticise his former leader, Nationals’ Barnaby Joyce when details of Joyce’s affair with his staffer became public.

Broad does pay back a $400 internal airfare in case you think he’s misused funds but there is a bit of a fuss when a Guardian Australia article shows that he and George have been guilty of copying and pasting their fact-finding reports. It’s not a good look.

More damning is that his current National Party leader, the dynamic Michael McCormack knew about the matter six weeks ago, a fact which seems to slip his memory. McCormack’s explanation for not bothering Scott Morrison who learns about sugar daddy only this week, is that the PM was too busy.

“I don’t tell the prime minister everything about every member of parliament. He’s got enough on his mind at the moment and quite frankly I thought it was a matter for Andrew to sort out with his family.”

Naturally, Christensen chooses to defend himself in a Facebook post, Saturday morning, as his response to media recent media reports about AFP blackmail concerns over an unnamed federal MP visiting seedy neighbourhoods overseas notorious for drugs and prostitution. The whole affair is the work of his political opponents.

The allegations were “mainly” spread by a former senior government MP and one of his former senior staff members, he says he’s been told. He does not identify either. As for any allegations about him made to the AFP, these are vexatious, fake and made by a “senior Labor MP”, he says. That clears that up then.

On the lookout for fake Labor, or forged unity, scribes attend an over-orchestrated Labor gang show in Adelaide.

“Managed to an inch of its life”, sniffs Michelle Grattan. On the nose is The Fair Go, Labor’s 48th National Conference-travelling salvation show, which winds up beyond peak puke in North Terrace, Adelaide, city of Light, Tuesday. Newly ordained life member, Kevin Rudd, bestows a tongue-in-cheek benediction on his mortal enemies.

“You know, we had our occasional disagreements … Just here and there, at the margins, but you know something, we all have written our bit and I just have a simple suggestion: Let’s let history be the judge of these things.”

Rudd also jogs history’s elbow by reminding Labor that Murdoch is not so much a news organisation as a political party, warning Bill Shorten that “dealing with the Murdoch mafia is … like dealing with a daily evisceration”. We’ll take his word for it.

It is true that his press loves to hammer Labor but the experience in Victoria recently shows that voters ignored the trumped-up nonsense about African gangs and how a Liberal government would restore law and order and other fictions. Do his papers have the influence they once did? Or did they ever have the influence they claim?

Murdoch may like to style himself as a king-maker but two Australian academics disagree. Rodney Tiffen and David McKnight, argue that while his media outlets routinely excoriate Labor, Murdoch is more likely to trust in his political intuition; sniff the political wind before he makes a case for backing the favourite.

Even then, he insists that he’s not responsible for what his editors may write. (As if they don’t pick up his views.)

Perceptions do matter, nevertheless. Andrew Probyn argues that when Murdoch concluded Malcolm Turnbull was a dud, it rattled the then Prime Minister.

Probyn then reconstructs the infamous “Malcolm’s got to go” meeting where Rupert Murdoch is reported to have told Kerry Stokes, “We have got to get rid of Malcolm. If that’s the price of getting rid of him then I can put up with three years of Labor.” The Australian Financial Review reported a remarkably similar story.

Even accepting that Murdoch is shrewd rather than all-powerful, there are, nevertheless, changes in the complexion of Australian print and electronic media since Fairfax’s corporate merger with Nine, attracted by Stan and Domain and little else, is likely to lead to more cuts to journalism and a drift to the right, with a senior Liberal, Peter Costello taking over the nation’s biggest media company.

Then there’s recent confirmation of active interference by the Coalition in the ABC, with pressure on the national broadcaster not to be critical of government policy while savagely slashing budgets to help ensure compliance.

None of this seems to unduly bother Labor’s 48th conference. It survives some desperate attempts at upstaging on Monday by the government’s MYEFO castles in the air future surplus and hint of income tax cuts stunt – self-sabotaged also by the member for Mallee’s sugar daddy broadside – prompting a zinger from Deputy, Tanya Plibersek – “We’re into big ideas, they’re in New Idea.”

There are some bold proposals. Shorten commits a Labor government to subsidise the building of 250,000 homes for low and middle-income earners over ten years, even if it is not prepared to raise Newstart or to increase the age pension or fix a liveable minimum wage.  Ensuring the Fair Work Commission was not unfairly stacked with employers’ representatives might help with core issue of the suppression of fair and reasonable wage increases, too.

A pledge to fund 15 hours a week of subsidised preschool for every three-year old, acknowledges the importance of early learning, but fails to include a ParentsNext scheme reform that will not see young mothers forced to attend activities such as playgroup or swimming lessons to keep their parenting payments.

Nor is there any hint of a recall of the RoboDebt programme and a reform of other Centrelink demands on low-paid workers’ time.

Among other worthy but often general aims, James Button includes the following in his report of the conference:

“New funds for schools and TAFE, a commitment to higher pay for “feminised industries” such as child, disability and aged care, and restored penalty rates for 700,000 workers. 

While it’s promising to learn “The refugee intake would be lifted over time from 18,750 to 32,000” It’s inexcusable that the aim to empty offshore detention centres on Manus and Nauru cannot be made effective immediately.

Similarly, it’s distressing to learn that asylum boat turn-backs are a policy now accepted by the party’s Left. These are neither legal nor humane. As it is, it’s enough to drive Peter Dutton nuts as evident in his wild attack on Bill Shorten – still the best game in town amongst the Liberal right wing. Dutton sneers.

“In fact what he has committed to is unravelling Operation Sovereign Borders – the Coalition’s successful policy – that stopped the boats after Labor’s last disastrous term in government.”

Dutton must believe Australians can’t read the reports of bullying in the ABF or the tragic reality of suicide amongst its staff. He also assumes, contrary to opinion poll evidence, that the old canard that the Coalition stopped the boats with Operation Sovereign Borders has any currency. It’s just a lie that is endlessly repeated.

In fact, the boats slowed to a trickle under Kevin Rudd in July 2013, with his announcement that people arriving after that time would not be resettled in Australia.

Furthermore, as John Menadue never tires of pointing out, “Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison 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.”

It’s heartening to learn that Labor also promises to hold a referendum to recognise First Australians and create an Indigenous advisory body to Parliament in the Constitution. The voice to parliament was cynically misrepresented by the Turnbull government as constituting a third chamber and dismissed out of hand.

Finally, among the edited highlights, the conference makes new commitments to fight climate change, yet side-steps Adani, a project which Labor maintains will not go ahead instead of boldly exposing the lies about promised employment and opposing such issues as environmental degradation and the energy subsidy it represents.

Despite its delusions and mining backers, the Coalition is not going to win the election on Adani. The Australian Conservation Foundation has already come up with a powerful campaign. Labor simply needs to get on board. It even has a ready-made pitch.

“If it goes ahead, Adani’s mine and its coal will wreck our climate, steal our groundwater, trash Indigenous rights and irreversibly damage the Great Barrier Reef. Adani’s mine is a climate crime – a crime against humanity and our planet.

Life memberships are also bestowed, in absentia, on two other former Labor PMs, Paul Keating and Julia Gillard, as part of the conference’s spirit of ecumenism and public unity. Shorten pays tribute to Keating as a “hero of the true believers” and to Gillard for her “continuing inspiration for women and girls”.

No mention is made of Gillard’s NDIS which is being wilfully cut back by the Coalition. It has already pruned a handy $2.5 billion off the cost by making it harder to qualify. Autism advocates have protested, for example, at cost-cutting in the case of autistic children. The government changed the qualification criteria so that many people would have to be individually assessed to determine their need for support.

No Keating quote? Keating’s insults are surprisingly current. “He’s wound up like a thousand-day clock! One (more half) turn and there’ll be springs and sprockets all over the building. Mr Speaker, give him a Valium.” Scott Morrison? Josh Frydenberg? PJK could have had any number of the current front bench in mind.

No. The mood and the rhetoric is curiously subdued, over-cautious, over-controlled rather than inspiring .

Karen Middleton mistrusts the display of unity at Labor’s triennial conference. The party may boast that it holds an open shop but all that’s on show is a window display writes another. Veteran Canberra Gallery-slaves appear to mourn a lack of ill-discipline, confusion or open insurrection in The Fair Go. After all it is a Labor shindig. For weeks, scribes predict nothing else. Someone’s got to keep the hoi-polloi on script.

In three days of public debate over the party platform – if debate is not too robust a word — observes James Button, just one issue is taken to a contest, when the Left faction’s push to introduce a Charter of Human Rights loses by just three votes. Can a Labor conference lose such a vote and still have what it takes to run the country?

The peoples’ voice is not entirely excluded. Resourceful protestors make colour photocopies of passes; gain entry. But, again, all is not what it seems. A lad with a promising mullet tells the press ,“young working class people like me aren’t racist dickheads”.

His cotton protest tabard-cum placard bears the legend: “ALP CLOSE THE CAMPS”

Contentious issues are dealt with in caucus. In 2015 this was not the case and clearly some commentators hanker for a return to the past so that the (largely fictive) narrative of a faction-riven, fisticuffing Labor Party may yet again play out in public.

Middleton and Grattan are right. The Fair Go is more your Whitby collier, built broad of beam and shallow in draft to lessen the drama of running aground in uncharted waters. It’s no man o’ war or flashy transport of delight.  Yet Shorten easily brings her up alongside after four days of left-hand down a bit and steady as she goes.

“There has been a lot of pain,” Shorten consoles by torturing an analogy. “But today I say to the conference, it is time for healing, to make peace with our past in the same way we are united about our future.”

All hell breaks loose on the other side. Mozzle Morrison, aka Captain cluster-fuck, our mini-Trump – whose gift for turning chaos into catastrophe surpasses Turnbull the PM Scott somehow deposed in August’s mystery coup – is stumped . Moz still can’t explain why he’s Prime Minister. Judging by his wondrous stuff-ups, nor can anyone else.

Take a bow, Moz.  True, you haven’t cocked it all up on your own. There’s your own self-effacing Santa’s elves on your largely invisible front bench. Tirelessly, they ply their skills to erase all trace of any ministerial responsibility.

And the states. The NSW government is pressing Morrison to do what predecessor Turnbull had planned – go to an election in early March, before the NSW state election at the end of the month, rather than waiting until May.

Don Harwin, NSW Energy Minister, bags his Federal Coalition colleagues for being “out of touch” on energy and climate policies in an op-ed for The Australian Financial Review.

“We need to end the ‘climate wars’ and put science, economics and engineering ahead of ideology,”Harwin says.

The “big stick” energy policy – now no stick at all – frightens mining and business lobby horses. It is against Liberal principles. Yet can a party which has this abject, jargon-stuffed line in its credo really claim any right to govern?

“We believe in the inalienable rights and freedoms of all peoples; and we work towards a lean government that minimises interference in our daily lives; and maximises individual and private sector initiative.”

Finally, t’is the season to be giving. And for every giver there must be a receiver. Top marks to Tassie Nationals’ senator, Steve Martin, who manages to spend $531,000 to refurbish his new electorate office (and more than $50,000 in temporary office costs) after he quits the Jacqui Lambie Network and relocates to Devonport.

Four snouts, Stevie!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our politics is not reality TV?

“Politics is not a reality television show,scowls ScoMo, in a cameo piece to camera, Thursday, in the “most hysterical presser in our nation’s political history” according to Shadow Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus.

Labor doesn’t help with its smart-arse stunt news conference late Thursday proposing to support the Coalition’s botched and dodgy encryption legislation unamended given that the government has packed up and gone home. Appearing on ABC, the duo repeat the observation that the government has simply walked off the job.

Walked off. They can’t help repeat it. It’s a political point-scoring stunt but most media report a Labor cave-in.

The Morrison government’s final parliamentary fortnight is its first taste of a hung parliament and by Thursday, it is clear to even ScoMo’s few remaining supporters that everywhere are signs of collapse if not ruinous defeat.

Almost. ScoMo’s big on coal. So, too, is his Chief of staff John Kundel, former deputy CEO of the Minerals Council of Australia. Hence the lacquered lump of coal supplied to former Treasurer. If Morrison could wave his pet rock around parliament last February, in the middle of a drought, who knows how he may reach out to Adani?

His ministers possibly do. Some, may themselves, find employment with Adani after the May Federal Election.

Yet not even the latest re-announcement, by Adani, that Adani’s mine construction, albeit in a convenient, user-friendly, shorter, cleaner shovel, Adani-lite format “is imminent” again and will go ahead as a self-funded enterprise (with Indian government subsidies in Gujarat, paid for by imposing higher tariffs on the ever-grateful, local poor; subsidies which may help get Adani an Indian bank loan) is enough to fire up the troops.

Even George Christensen is diplomatic; sublimating his own joy in the interest of unity and nation-building.

“I say to the reckless law-breaking extreme greens and your Labor mates – accept defeat because it’s all go as far as Adani is concerned.”

Non-Adani readers will note that Adani is not all go. Adani still has a number of hurdles to clear, including getting approval from local indigenous land owners, a land use agreement and a Queensland government water licence.

Green Career reports, moreover, that environmental group Coast and Country has high resolution satellite and drone imagery showing “illegal” dewatering bores at the site of Adani’s controversial Carmichael coal mine project in north Queensland near Doongmabulla Springs.

A nationally significant wetland of ‘exceptional ecological value’ and home to 11 endangered or vulnerable species, the springs have cultural significance to local indigenous groups and have been described by ecologists as one of the world’s last remaining pristine oases.”

Environmental Defenders’ Office, QLD, reports that Adani’s environmental conditions require approval of a Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems Management Plan (GDEMP), which must include research to identify the source of water for the Doongmabulla Springs before the commencement of ‘Project Stage 2’. ‘Project Stage 2’ is defined to include ‘site clearance’, ‘new access roads’ and ‘commencing dewatering operations’.

All coal-fired up, nevertheless, is the euphoniously-named Melissa Price, our Federal Environment Minister, formerly of WA mining, who, bravely, insists that we will meet our carbon emissions targets at a “canter”.

Price will trot out her case at The UN climate conference in Katowice, Poland, a nation with a right wing government which, she can tell Craig Kelly, has been able to make a 180 degree turn to embrace renewables.

Yet 91 international leading reason-crazed, haplessly empirical scientists differ. As The Saturday Paper’s legal eagle, writer Richard Ackland reminds us, the UN’s Emissions Gap Report 2018 concludes:

“There has been no improvement in Australia’s climate policy since 2017 and emission levels for 2030 are projected to be well above the [Nationally Determined Contribution] target. The latest projection published by the government shows that emissions would remain at high levels rather than reducing in line with the 2030 target.”

The Coalition’s energy policy is also a dud, its “religious freedoms” (read further discrimination) nutters who rule its energy policy are aggrieved and the government is perilously close to a de facto vote of no confidence given some MPs’ determination to help kids off Nauru; a political crisis tailor-made for its tactical evasion and delay. The Australian embassy in Israel remains in Tel Aviv. But of course, there’s a committee looking into that.

Ever thinking outside the box, ScoMo’s proposes to deal with the protection of religious freedom, in schools by a conscience vote. He’s even got up his own private member’s bill.  Religious freedom, does not, however, appear at risk in Australia. Although he was quick to declare it as his number one issue, it seems little more than just a sop to the party’s right wing and others disappointed to be in a minority on marriage equality. Bugger.

A panel reported to Turnbull in May. Will the Ruddock Committee’s report be made public before Christmas?

No rush. As Bernard Keane notes, Morrison has already broken his promise to end the possibility of religious schools discriminating against LGBTQI students. It was, Keane, reminds us, to be done by October.

Yet can it ever be accomplished, given the mission is inherently flawed, as Keane kindly points out.

“Think about that for a moment — religious organisations say they’re perfectly happy not to expel a gay or transgender student, but want the freedom to teach those students that homosexuality is evil, or that transgender people are somehow unnatural.”

Happily for investors, power prices are set to rise, carried upward by a surge in the price of gas, as much as 40 per cent higher by January next year than the 2018 average, The Australian reports, while despite all the bluster about forced divestiture, the “big stick” is now being whittled down in the face of industry (and Labor) opposition.  A toothpick? The Guardian’s Katharine Murphy says it’s now so small as to be invisible. Just how business likes it.

Or is Trevor St Baker, Liberal patron, no longer keenly interested in buying up plant Frydenberg forces off Alinta?

Also shrinking is our GDP. Wednesday’s Bureau of Statistics release shows only 2.77% annual growth in gross domestic product (GDP) to 30 September 2018. That puts us 106th among the world’s 183 economies; our lowest ever ranking. Our real household disposable incomes are lower than in 2010. Australia is lagging the world on almost all economic indicators, reports Alan Austin.

Happily, mainstream media will uncritically accept anything the government tells them, including the whopper that we will be in surplus in 2019 and the mantra of economic management, now coalition canon law.

‘Because of the Coalition’s strong economic management we will deliver next April the first budget surplus in more than a decade,’ Frydenberg fibs. You do a bit of that when you are the work experience boy. And make the tea.

In fact, Austin calculates the budget deficit to be around $14.5 billion, 30 June 2019. Josh Frydenberg can, of course predict a surplus in May, as he promises, but in April, he will say it may arrive in 2020. It may not. Who can fathom the effect of Trump’s trade and tariff wars? Certainly no surplus will be delivered in April.

Prudently, Morrison’s government ignores a mouthy Malcolm Turnbull’s advice to call an election at once, (the former PM is more famous for his wearing a leather jacket on Q&A than any other act of political judgement). Instead it will meet for nine days in 2019. It can’t evade the inevitable. As Kerryn Phelps tells Sky,

“I am sad that we didn’t get this through today … because I believe it would have gone through on the numbers … But you know if we have to wait until February, at least I believe that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Facing defeat on the floor of the house, ScoMo pulls out all the stops. “I will do everything in my power to ensure that these suggested changes, that would undermine our border protection laws, never see the light of day.”

Or as they say on Big Brother, Australia’s Next Top Model or even My Kitchen Rules, it’s “game on moll”.

Undermine? It’s a wicked, wilful misrepresentation of a proposed act of humanity. How can this PM call himself a Christian? Where is his compassion? Why must children suffer? Following his mentor, Trump, Morrison effortlessly, crosses from florid embellishment through delusion to grotesque and wilful disinformation.

“They’ll hear the people smuggler who sails up to them and says, ‘Guess what, the Australians have changed the legislation, you won’t have to stay on Nauru or Manus, all you have to do is get some doctor in Australia to sign it off and it’s all good mate, it’s all good’,” Morrison mimics a mythical demon people-smuggler who speaks Strine .

In the senate, Labor, the cross-bench and The Greens amend the Home Affairs Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2018  to allow medical evacuation of refugees stranded on Manus and Nauru.

How can this encourage people smugglers? The government’s already removing kids from Nauru, it boasts, only skipping how it’s squandered over half a million dollars in the last two years contesting medical decisions in court.

But Morrison has a lot on his plate. Now he must stall the medical evacuation bill – at all costs. He calls a presser.

Not a reality TV show. Show-Mo’s ironic spoiler alert frames this week’s episode of the Coalition’s long running low-rating hyper-reality politics show. Stage right, in “the other place”, lunatic right odd couple Hanson and Bernardi, who bask in their government attention in the senate, team up in a slow bicycle race which sees a wobbly Morrison minority government delay Labor’s attack on not only border but national security.

Morrison’s border security takes us back to the future. In 2001 the Liberals’ St John Howard won a fabulous victory with his babies overboard episode. The following year, Howard went on to deceive parliament and the Australian people over whether we were fit and ready to join the US’ illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003, a war crime which over eight years claimed the lives of half a million Iraqis. He falsely claimed he had legal advice.

His “legal advice”, based on the opinions of two junior public servants, Bill Campbell and Chris Moraitis appears to have been obtained by silk shopping; avoiding other more prominent senior authorities, such as Professor James Crawford SC, Professor of International Law at Cambridge University who had on previous occasions advised the Australian government and appeared for it in international law proceedings.

Crawford was one of sixteen distinguished international experts who held that any invasion of Iraq was illegal.

Lord Goldsmith, UK Attorney General held that any military action required the explicit authorisation of the security council, yet lying rodent, Howard claimed his experts’ advice was consistent with Goldsmith.

More lies emerge. A secret study surfaces which proves that the former PM misled the nation over when the invasion was planned. University of New South Wales Professor Clinton Fernandes, who first secured the study, says it details how ADF personnel were quietly dispatched to US CENTCOM headquarters in Florida in 2002 to begin planning the Iraq war, a year before John Howard announced Australia’s involvement.

Central to our politics for over a hundred years is the convention that foreign policy is the prerogative of the PM alone and a PM confident of cabinet and house of reps support can act without the need to consult parliament.

The history of our border folly cannot be so easily evaded. As megalomaniac Morrison took the helm – and at times commandeered part of the navy – the Abbott government militarised “border control”; creating Operation Sovereign Borders, throwing all fiscal constraint overboard, to create a paramount, paramilitary Border Force.

Precise figures are few, given the vast tentacles of Warlord Morrison’s private armed force but Save the Children’s Lisa Button and Shane Evans, estimate the cost between 2013-16 alone at nearly ten billion dollars.  

Decoration is not cheap. ABF staff medals have for the last few years cost more than for the entire Defence Force.

And the ABF has its fingers in many pies. Operation Sovereign Borders and Australia’s immigration-related functions span many different departments, from fisheries and foreign affairs to the department of prime minister and cabinet, the Australian Crime Commission and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

“A lack of transparency in reporting and aggregated budget allocations make it difficult to accurately describe the cost of Australia’s asylum framework,” Button and Evans caution.

Does it work? Barely a year later, Border Force takes over the Australian Immigration and Border Protection Department, the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, the Australian Quarantine Service, and Operation Sovereign Borders – despite none of these agencies having worked together before.

Leaked reports of chaos, corruption and disaster, are managed by a cloak of secrecy and the evasion if not erasure of accountability given these were “on water matters” or matters of “national security”.

Also ignored are reports this week of poor morale and a “rampant” culture of bullying and harassment in the ABF which can only be enhanced by the announcement of staff cut-backs over Christmas, the ABF’s busiest period.

We will never control our borders. Off-shore detention is double-speak for the torture of hapless boat people to whom we are legally and morally obliged to offer refuge if not compassion. But the show must go on.

Morrison’s shtick is pure reality TV for all his faux denial. So much of our politics is. ScoMo knows it full well, tsk-tsks Guardian Australia’s Political Editor, Katharine Murphy, who suggests “their hothouse intrigues … petty sagas, and self-indulgences” as “some ways our current cast of MPs have helped morph our politics into reality TV”.

But not all on their own. For Murpharoo, who along with most of our media is inextricably part of the transformation, politics is “the grimmest reality television in the franchise, full of attention-seekers and desperados, looking for a plot twist to propel the battered enterprise into the next season”.

The Australian helps stir the plot by eagerly denouncing Labor’s heinous duplicity, especially their class treason. Labor MPs are shape-stealing, social-climbers parking their Blundstones under Pratt family tables.

Amazingly, they are simultaneously union-catspaws whose moral turpitude seals an all-round unfitness for office.

This includes having evil factions, something alien to the virtuous broad church of the Liberals. The Oz Saturday “reveals” “Labor’s Left faction will push to fast-track refugee medical transfers to Australia through a change to the party platform at next weekend’s ALP national conference as Scott Morrison sets up an election showdown on border security.”

Australian’s great and powerful fiend, the US, also shapes our politics with its postmodern, post-truth universe, currently featuring none other than the “useful idiot” Donald John Trump. Trump inspires many a local politician.

Rusted on is the small, rapidly self-extinguishing Federal One Nation micro-party, united under President for Life Pauline but an even bigger fan, a fully paid up Trumpista in thought, deed and wardrobe is Scott John Morrison.

Yes. Our colossus even shares the same middle name. Of course there are the baseball caps, lapel pins but note also his unctuous toadying to The Donald, whom he praises as a “very practical” leader … “who’s not going to waste a day” in office. ScoMo even boasts to The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd that he and the US president have a special bond. They both share an instinct to help those forgotten by the forces of globalisation.

And on bushfires. Trump berates Californians for not raking up leaves while Morrison castigates the Queensland government for its recent belated attempt to put the brakes on land clearing. An inquiry will be held. Bugger the environment. Leaving trees in the ground is just inviting wildfires.

Hamming it up shamelessly, former child TV actor and Vicks’ Love Rub commercial kid, former Boat-Stopper Morrison is once again the nation’s fearless protector of the week in his performance Thursday,

“I will do whatever I can, whatever I can. I’ll fight them using whatever tool or tactic I have available to me.”

ScoMo’s full of fighting talk. After nearly six years, does his government really thinks it can finally wedge Labor as soft on borders, or make voters fear being swamped by refugees? It last worked seventeen years ago.

Yet what he opts for is a slow bicycle race in the senate, a series of filibusters and delaying tactics with the support of the pliant Pauline Hanson and the awful Corey Bernardi who remain perpetually bewildered by modernity. Or anything beyond expedience, xenophobia and self-promotion.

Meanwhile, the Morrison government’s dangerously ill-conceived and poorly written data encryption laws, its latest in at least a dozen “national security” laws which propel the nation ever closer to becoming a police state are rushed through parliament, yet again, on the pretext of a dire, top-secret national emergency.

Will we notice as we slumber deep in re-runs of Bad Santa and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation?

But credit where it’s due. In the credits to this week’s show, “I just get on with the job” Scottie has his nose to the grindstone, his back to the wall and his finger in the dyke. It’s a fair-dinkum show-stopper.

A tsunami of compassion looms as Labor’s anti-Christ, Bill Shorten, “a clear and present threat to Australia’s safety” perfidiously proposes a bill to Medi-vac sick children off Nauru, a move which would see us overrun with boat people by Christmas. Not only that but he dickers with the government’s fatally flawed anti-encryption law before abandoning all attempt at amendment. Perhaps he’s read the member for Sturt’s tweets.

Labor has chosen to allow terrorists and paedophiles to continue their evil work in order to engage in point scoring. – mouth that roars, Defence Minister, Christopher Pyne tweets during 2018’s last Parliament’s valedictories.

In reality, Labor is just as keen on turning Australia into a police state, a process it aids and abets, Thursday in a theatrical news conference stunt held, it points out, in best political point-score, after the government has given up and gone home by agreeing to support The Coalition’s flawed data encryption law which does nothing to make the nation safe from criminals, terrorists and paedophiles but which does vastly extend state surveillance.

A nation is inspired by Scott Morrison’s conscience vote to allow MPs to discriminate against school-children on the basis of gender or sexual orientation. Surely this is peak practicality with its sleeves rolled up; the pinnacle of “getting on and doing”, a phrase the shouty, Quiet Achiever, ScoMo has lifted from an old BHP commercial.

All of which the multi-tasking PM manages to fit around his leaks and manic, midnight, media drops to Murdoch newspapers and his regular visits to 2GB radio in which he talks himself up and the opposition down.

By Friday, ScoMo’s won a huge victory. Huge. He’s had to drag Bill Shorten kicking and screaming into line on data encryption. Labor’s attempt to destabilise the government over refugees has “failed”. He tells Channel 9’s Today programme the “cocky” Labor party claimed “all sorts of bills and all sorts of motions … were going to pass but none of it happened”.

“So all the doomsday scenarios that were put about by the Labor party to undermine confidence, they were all proven to be false and Labor failed on every occasion and the government prevailed.”

Yes, yes, we know, you’re an inspiration to the nation, ScoMo and our politics is not a reality TV show.

Morrison on futile G20 mission, as his government blows up.

Scott Morrison is a man on a mission. The chips are down, down, down but fixed is his shit-eating grin – at least in public. It’s not just his government’s unpopularity and manifest ineptitude. Even News Poll has the Federal Coalition on only 34% of the primary vote; a twenty-seat loss. It’s also his poor leadership and charisma bypass. Julia Banks, MP for Chisholm resigns Thursday stealing the PM’s cunning re-set plan in which he promises an April 2 budget with surplus.

Banks is so alienated that she does not even warn her party. Perhaps she expects only further rebuke. She’s not disappointed, “Lazarus with the triple bypass” as deathless John Howard styled himself once, but now more of a Grim Reaper given his universally toxic effect on any Liberals he’s recently chosen to campaign for – is on ABC TV – not to offer any commentary, a promise which seems to allow him to put his boot in. Add judgmentalism. Banks is an ingrate.

After all, Howard campaigned for her during the 2016 election. She “owes a lot to the Liberal Party”, Perhaps Banks will get an invoice. Bizarrely, he urges the party not to divide itself along ideological battlelines, (he failed at this as PM).

Speaking of social division, Gavin Silbert, QC, who retired as the state’s chief crown prosecutor in March, accuses the Department of Human Services (DHS) of ignoring its legal obligations and acting like a bully towards some of the nation’s most vulnerable people. There’s talk of a challenge to Robo-Debt which is all set to claw back up to $4.5 billion in “overpayments” – the DHS gets to make the call. You, the neoliberal client, must prove your innocence.

Not so says University of Sydney’s Professor Terry Carney. The “failure of a person to ‘disprove’ the possibility of a debt is not a legal foundation for a debt”. Carney releases a report claiming that Robo-Debt wreaks legal and moral injustice.

A member of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for 40 years, reports Fairfax, Professor Carney accuses Centrelink of failing to defend the legality of the debts in the AAT, where several welfare recipients had made appeals. He claims their conduct “arguably breaches” the model litigant obligations of a government agency.

Professor Carney understands how it furthers the Coalition government’s war on the poor.

“When confronted with suggestions of having an overpayment, often up to seven years ago, the least literate, least powerful, and most vulnerable alleged debtors will simply throw up their hands, assume Centrelink knows that there really is a debt, and seek to pay it off as quickly as possible,” Carney writes in the UNSW Law Journal published in March.

Out of nowhere, Malcolm Turnbull appears in full war-bonnet. He attacks ScoMo’s attempt to fix Craig Kelly’s pre-selection woes. According to The Australian, the former PM calls upon Senior Liberals to “defy” Morrison; vote down a plan to save Craig Kelly from losing preselection. This would save the Berejiklian government, claims Turnbull.

The Oz sees this as “a ­brazen intervention” – which it is – but only if you ignore Tony Abbott’s guerrilla war on Turnbull. Or if you think John Howard’s public admonishment of former Liberal Julia Banks via the 7:30 Report is not totally out of order and a classic use of male power and prestige to publicly bully a woman who is given no right of reply. And surely Malcolm Turnbull, as a former PM and as a senior Liberal has a right, if not an obligation, to speak up for justice.

“It has been put to me that Mr Kelly has threatened to go to the crossbench and ‘bring down the government’. If indeed he has made that threat, it is not one that should result in a capitulation. Indeed it would be the worst and weakest response to such a threat,” Turnbull claims. “It is time for the Liberal Party members in Hughes to have their say about their local member and decide who they want to represent them.”

Luckily, the Libs’ wipe-out in Victoria’s state election has nothing to do with the collapse of federal government. As PM, he’s kept his distance.  To voters, however, it looks like the Liberal denialism that may be found in its blinkered attitude to the realities of climate, energy policy, religious freedoms, environment, social justice, investing in social welfare, gender equality, wage parity, trickle-down or the folly of tax breaks for the wealthy – just to name a few.

State issues account for Labor’s victory, chorus Federal Liberals, mostly on cue. Yet some state MPs blame the leadership spill. None speak of Dutton’s African-gang scare, boosted by Murdoch media, which also dubs Victoria, the “terror capital” of Australia. Unlike Guy, who enjoys a lobster with a mobster party donor, Andrews is way too soft on crime.

Ivanhoe voters receive a black envelope with an image of a black man in a hood. A caption asks if voters feel safe.

Wisely, Scott and Matty keep out of each other’s way. Mostly. Yet both manage to crash Pellegrini’s with a massive media pack in tow. A saccharine platitude is never far from the PM’s lips, as we’ve seen with his huge, largely empty, blue bus-tour odyssey of comfort and promises of drought-proofing loans to Queensland farmers.

“We’ve all got to find our Sisto smiles; that’s the best message we can send,” our PM preaches. He rejects a question suggesting he’s intruding; politicising a personal tragedy by campaigning with Matthew Guy at a site of mourning.

“I’m not. I’m here to pay my respects and talk to the very issues that took place right here in this street,” he says, losing his Sisto smile for an instant. He clearly wins no votes. ScoMo may “talk to the issues” but no-one’s listening. No-one tells Liberals that messaging is a reciprocal process involving speaking and listening and mutual respect.

Early this week, key liberals such as Josh Frydenberg were persuading themselves in public of the lie that nothing has to change with the Liberal Party or Morrison’s Coalition government – “we just have to get the message out”.

NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, who does her own messaging, has a state election scheduled for 23 March 2019, texts toxic Scott Morrison that she is OK to campaign all on her own even though polls put Labor in front, ReachTEL: 51-49 to Labor in New South Wales; YouGov Galaxy: 52-48, The Poll Bludger, William Bowe reports.

New Labor leader, Michael Daley, leads Gladys Berejiklian 54.2-45.8 on the meaningless but mindlessly media popular nonsense of preferred premier, which will cheer Daley as the non-incumbent as much as it will chill Gladys.

Doubtless ScoMo will take the hint, despite his history of close involvement in his home state’s politics, which goes back to before his contest for Cook in July 2007 where, after a series of damaging articles in The Daily Tele,  Michael Towke, the Liberal candidate was disendorsed – allowing Morrison, despite his eight votes, (Towke polled 82 on the first ballot) to be pre-selected in Towke’s place. Not even ScoMo could believe he was given a go because he was having a go.

Prior to his becoming MP for Cook, ScoMo knocked the socks off John Howard as NSW Liberal Party State Director, 2000-2004. Apart from his fondness for party fund-raisers, Howard also has a soft spot for evangelicals yet is never questioned in the media on his role in the increased influence of the religious right on the parliamentary Liberal Party.

Morrison’s more of a Liberal apparatchik than a salesman despite his media unit’s insistence he’s a marketing guy, a lie he must, of course, repeat – ad nauseam- himself. According to former staff, his sacking as MD of Tourism Oz, mid-way through his contract attests to a self-abrogating, if not bullying, selfish, management style and an irregular approach to some key contracts which has led the Australian National Audit Office to query his adherence to established protocols.

It must be weighing on his mind a little bit. Thursday, The Senate supports Labor’s motion to order the government to produce “all documents” relating to any contracts Tourism Australia entered between January 1, 2004, and January 31, 2006. It demands the contracts be tabled by 10am on Monday. As his mentor Trump says, “We’ll see what happens.”

Morrison refuses to publish details of two missing advertising and media contracts worth more than $100 million that preceded his sacking as Tourism Australia’s managing director in 2006. The PM insists they are confidential quibbling that the services they covered were delivered overseas. Yet Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines state otherwise.

Karen Middleton’s two articles in The Saturday Paper are a fair and reasonable case that ScoMo accounts for his actions.

Account for his actions? It’s easier to blame Julia Banks and rats like in the ranks. Yet the government is stuffed with all the decisions the PM’s put on hold over his hundred-day reign. Yet it won’t stop his boast that “I just get on and do”.

On hold includes his embassy shift to Jerusalem, a captain’s call, he’d hoped would win the Jewish vote. Everyone knows Jews vote en bloc on such issues; as do all Christians and Muslims.  Joko Widodo, Indonesia’s Sukarno dynasty current Presidential puppet, won’t sign the Australia-Indonesia free trade agreement, a single page of platitudes which has been under negotiation since 2012, unless he hears Scott flip-flop; decide to keep the Oz embassy in Tel Aviv, a move which would save $200 million, among other benefits such as conforming with international law.

First, he must he snatch catastrophe from chaos this week as he counters the risks of minority government. Ignoring Turnbull, (so far) he gets his staff on to NSW Liberal Party Vice President Kent Johns, who could beat the PM’s fellow evangelical and climate change denier Craig Kelly for pre-selection in the southern Sydney seat of Hughes.

If Derby Kelly goes belly-up in pre-selection, he’ll join the crossbench but support the Morrison government anyway, despite Turnbull’s dire warnings that the worm may turn. Kelly is taxed just keeping up with government policy.

Craftily, ScoMo culls the 2019 parliamentary calendar. He has to make way for an April 2 budget, he says, in which he predicts a surplus, largely achieved by making it harder to qualify for the NDIS, something Christian Porter boasts is ending welfare dependency, but it’s more a case of denial, a move that saves the budget $2 billion dollars.

Expect an “easing of the tax burden”. An early budget may buy some voters before the May 18 Federal Election. Who would not be chuffed to find a few extra bucks’ tax cut resulting from denying the needy?  The House of Reps meets for one week whilst in the other place, senators not required for the four days of Senate Estimates committees, three days.

Parliament, Bill Shorten jeers, Thursday, is  “part-time under this prime minister, but the civil war in the Liberal party is a full-time occupation”. He also notes that a Liberal Party Room meets with each parliamentary session. Is safety an issue?

Blood is being shed. Jacqueline Maley sees cannibalism: “the Liberal Party is eating itself amid an atmosphere of blame and blind hatred”. Kelly O’Dwyer tells a “crisis” meeting that many view the Liberals as “homophobic, anti-women, climate-change deniers”. None of this is possibly a result of the Federal Liberal Party culture or the PM’s botched leadership coup in which he simply replaces one right-wing puppet with another even less popular, more limited model.

ScoMo has to get away. Fobbing off women MPs with promises he’ll look into the Liberals’ culture of bullying and paternalism is catching up with him. After three months he’s done nothing. It’s enough to make Julia Banks leave the party. Happily, he’s off the hook. The Australian manages to find conspiracy theory evidence that Malcolm Turnbull is up to his old tricks. His hands are all over Julia Banks’ defection.

Worse, the Fizza’s been communicating with Kerryn Phelps. And using social media, too, the ingrate.

Then there’s the Wentworth move-the-embassy-to-Jerusalem thought bubble. Morrison’s told Joko Widodo, it’ll all be fixed, fair dinkum, by Christmas. But enough of squalid, petty local concerns such as having no real legislative programme and nothing really for government to do – Morrison’s ego responds to the thrill to a higher calling.

The G20 needs him. He’s not just looking for sympathy, although Labor’s wrecked everything forever. And in Victoria. Nothing to do with federal politics. Nothing.  All state issues. But now Kroger’s just quit, who will sue the Cormack foundation for Liberal funding? Where’s the election war chest now they’ve decided to do their funding directly?

Buenos Aires beckons alluringly, even if ScoMo dare spend only a couple of days.  The G20 may be split down the middle between those like Trump and Xi who may say they are all for tariff hikes and those who oppose them. Masterfully, Morrison works out his own bottler of a compromise; a fair dinkum Clayton’s tariff and protectionist censure – that won’t impugn – or impress anyone, although spoiler alert, it may bring tears to the eyes of the unwary reader.

“I don’t think anybody is about protectionism. The allegations that have been made against the United States about protectionism, I don’t buy. What we are trying to achieve here is a modernising and an improvement of the world’s trading system.”

Don’t cry for me, Argentina. The nation is rapidly going bust. Inflation is rampant. Buenos Aires is a perfect setting for the surreal tenth G20 tango, a tryst of international big-noters where everyone is out of step since Trump ended to any pretence at US leadership; America’s authority wanes and oligarchs pick over the carcase of neoliberal capitalism.

Anything to get away from the reality of his government’s unpopularity; his dud political judgement. “Given that his minority government is consumed by division, dysfunction and chaos, was it a mistake for the current prime minister to replace Malcolm Turnbull?” Shorten asks. Is it a mistake for him to leave the country?

Who can blame ScoMo? Certainly not himself. The Liberals’ rout in Victoria has nothing to do with his knifing Malcolm Turnbull and replacing him with an even more pitiful, pliable, right-wing puppet, himself. No, he’s telling the G20 that everyone’s behaving beautifully and all that’s needed is a new rulebook, a G20.2.0.

Regard our host Mauricio Macri, an Argentinian Malcolm Turnbull with a “high profile business career” from a wealthy family who rose to power in 2015 boasting how his business-savvy, business-friendly, neoliberal government would soon have the economy pumping. Alas, Macri, too, proved a Fizza.  Free trade doesn’t seem to be doing him a lot of good.

Buenos Aires. Who better to show-case international capitalism with its free-market-but-with tariff wars, economic order? Argentina’s peso is down 18 percent so far this year. Macri’s government has put up interest rates to 40 percent. But a lack of cash or a bit of inflation is nothing to do with solvency, credit rating, or any inability to pay its financial dues – his economic team insists. No Argentinians are reported massing after a long walk to the US-Mexico border.

Trumpism, moreover, has done the country a favour. In retaliation for Donald Trump’s tariff protectionism and border wall plan, Mexico is turning away from the US to import corn, rice, soy, and wheat from Argentina and Brazil.

All is well with the economy’s fundamentals, however. All Macri needs is an IMF hand-up of $30 billion followed by decades of character-building austerity measures. Worked so well for Greece. In fact, the IMF made itself hated in Argentina last time it stepped up to assist the invisible hand of the (almost) free market. But it’s the vibe that our Prime Minister is able to imbibe. As ABC News 24 gushes, Scotty is able to take his place among the “heavyweights” as they do deals, free up trade or wait to face off in top-level spats. Perhaps, he’ll be able to swap the odd lapel badge.

But it’s not just (mostly) male bonding. While Scotty and his numbers man, Matty Cormann get to hang out with the big boys; talk each other up, bitch about Julia Banks, Kerryn Phelps and demonise Bill Shorten, they renew their vows to the fraternal oligopoly, the rules-based brotherhood of multinational capitalism.

G20 is a ritual obeisance to free trade, free markets and their bosses. Yet it’s also a freak-show. Putin, Trump and Xi, our bad boys who are currently vying to break every rule of the “rules-based order” they confer upon the globe.

In the end daggy dad and everyman, Scott the Popular baseball-caps another busy week, “just getting on with doing” – so busy that he is quite unable to account for two $100 million contracts which The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) lists as still missing from Morrison the marketing guy’s dismal failure as MD of Tourism Australia.

But who knows? Morrison may come back with yet another makeover or another lapel pin or a fabulous free trade deal.

What seems certain is that the local crises of our local Liberal Parties emanate from the breakdown of neoliberalism itself which has enabled a wealthy elite to increasingly profit by the plunder of finite global resources. These include even the air we breathe. The pursuit of ever more growth or GDP comes at the expense of the health and well-being of all of us but especially the poor, a working poor who are increasingly deprived of fair wages, conditions and prospects.

As for dealing with the rise of erratic protectionist leaders such as Trump and proto-fascists such as Xi and Putin, we are ill-served by a local polity dominated by one PM in cabinet in camera, a world outlook wedded to an outmoded dependency on the US and its vacuous, cynical ideologies of free trade, free markets and workplace flexibility.

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.

 

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