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Turnbull dogwhistles bigots while Trump bluffs and blusters.

Mr Turnbull identified Australian values as freedom, equality of men and women, the rule of law, democracy and “a fair go”, and claimed these were “uniquely Australian”.

“They are shared with many other democracies but they are in and of themselves unique. There’s something uniquely Australian about them,” he said.


A haze of fake tan and a whiff of panic hangs over Canberra this week as Malcolm Turnbull vows Australian values be put first. He plays an anti-migrant card to inflame the same blind fear of others as John Howard’s desperate lie of 2001 that asylum seekers were throwing babies overboard. 457 Visas will be scrapped to ensure that any migrant who gets an Aussie job can speak English. Pass an Aussie values test – even if he can’t define those values himself.

The fair go he speaks of certainly does not apply to women who as Michael Short reports continue to be paid less than men, on average $27,000 and $100,000 if we’re talking about executive salaries, according to Tax Office figures. The gender gap, on average 26,000 a year in wages, he reminds us, is unchanged after 20 years.

Australia’s take on a fair go and equality of opportunity ensures that it’s a blokes’ world where men have more power, earn more while women not only earn less and are more likely to be passed over for promotion. Women continue to carry out two thirds of all unpaid domestic work, three quarters of child care and 70 per cent caring for adults in Australia.  Unpaid childcare alone is estimated by PwC at $345 billion a year.

A fair go is a pet rhetorical device for our politicians. A fair go had a fair go from Kevin Rudd when he opposed Howard’s WorkChoices. Julia Gillard wove “mateship” into the skein when she spoke of the ways the NDIS could offer a fair go, a scheme now imperilled by our current government which pretends that there it is unfunded.

Turnbull gave it a whirl when he blathered on about tax reform in 2015. Menzies and Fraser also both hopped into it. It’s at best an appeal to fairness and justice. Equality of opportunity is in there, too. Clearly, however, it’s not something to be taken too seriously although the ten to fourteen per cent of Australians living below the poverty line would disagree.

Above all, Indigenous Australians whose life expectancy is lower than other Australians; whose children are more likely to die as infants; whose health, education and employment outcomes are poorer than non-Indigenous people would , sadly, have plenty of evidence to dispute the sincerity beneath the PM’s glib rhetoric. The irony for Malcolm Turnbull is that his trumpeting of Australian values, as Michelle Grattan points out, raises serious questions about his own.

Is he tapping into community fears; reaching out to ordinary Australians, widely believed to be Hanson supporters – spurned in an age of identity politics? Or is he willing, once again, to forgo his own beliefs to save his career?

There is nothing uniquely Australian about the values which Malcolm Turnbull is able to instance in a patronising interview with Leigh Sales on ABC 7:30, the PM reveals that respect for a woman with a different point of view is often conspicuously lacking. Indeed, viewers, would be forgiven for concluding Australian values include arrogantly talking over the top of your (female) interviewer and chiding, belittling or mocking your adversary’s commitment.

“I’m surprised you’re challenging this on the ABC,” he says. “I don’t think your heart’s in it actually, Leigh. I think you agree with me.” Daddy knows best, dear. Of course, if Turnbull were really concerned to preserve our uniquely Australian freedoms, he’d not only be practising what he preached, he’d be pushing for a bill of rights.

Instead, what’s clear is that his own heart is not in it. He’s toying with populist rhetoric. It’s also a dog-whistle to those who like Peter Dutton would have us believe, against all evidence, that migrants were taking our jobs. That all our problems are caused by people from other countries who don’t know Don Bradman’s batting average.

That’s it! He’ll set a harder test – only three tries allowed – as if migrants need further tests; as if the questions mean anything; as if any test which rests on cultural  assimilation is not at odds with even his lip service to multiculturalism.

Doubtless a focus group or a think tank told him this is how to win over Pauline Hanson’s fans. It’s not going to work. Yet there’s an awkward echo to Australia first. An orange ring around the rhetoric. An echo of the yam that talks.

The PM is, of course, paying homage to another weak, vainglorious lout, Donald Trump, who’s also muscling up, bigly.  Abruptly switching from America First or self-interested isolationism, to an intrusive, if not, trigger-happy foreign policy involving missiles and bombs, a violent right turn in desperate attempt to stem a rocketing disapproval in opinion polls, the Trump administration marks its hundredth day of chaos and dysfunction by picking a fight with everyone this week.

All the old foes cop a serve: China, Russia, North Korea, Iran. Russia’s “vassal” Syria is threatened with regime change. China must pull its spoilt brat, North Korea, into line; stop its “illegal activities” on the Spratly and Paracel Islands in The South China Sea. Pipsqueak Montenegro is pulled into NATO, adding an extra US base in Europe, antagonising Russia.

Yet a US alone in a world of threats is an illusion, a paranoid collective delusion. America’s real enemies are injustice, inequality and ignorance fostered, as in Australia, by a Neoliberal domestic policy which puts profits over people.

Trump promises “massive tax cuts” which would boost the rapid transfer of wealth from worker to capitalist, benefiting the top one per cent on average $214,000. Eight million low-income and single-income families would suffer financially.

It is not clear, however, that he will be able to deliver. Even Republicans – especially Republicans – want to see something revenue neutral. What he has accomplished is a Cabinet of billionaires and millionaires, the wealthiest in US modern history which stars Education Secretary Betsy de Vos, an opponent of state education, a woman who helped Michigan expand private schools with public funds. Students in Detroit now finish last in US tests of numeracy and literacy.

At the top, its role model is a president who knows no better than to claim in public that Korea was once part of China.  Not that it worries him. He has money. “Part of the beauty of me is that I am very rich”, he once told an interviewer.

We don’t care. US allies fawn approval. Mike Pence is feted by the Turnbull government this week as “wise and stable”.

Like Trump, who paid his own business $8.2 million out of campaign funds, Pence has also helped himself. 1990 campaign finance records show that Pence, then 31, was using political donations to pay the mortgage on his house, his personal credit card bill, groceries, golf tournament fees and car payments for his wife.  Not that it was illegal, then.

Turnbull may see this as wise and stable but it cost Pence an election. Public records also reveal as Governor of Indiana, Pence communicated with advisers through his personal AOL account on homeland security matters and security. Yet he’s despatched to Australia on a goodwill tour and to help us tell China to tighten the screws on North Korea.

It’s a rapid, dramatic change of role for the US. Exit stage left, Barrack Obama’s “pivot to Asia”. Enter stage right, Trump’s Team Heavy, a loosely affiliated gang of self-interested thugs united by their insecurity and a desire to kick heads.

Not that anyone can claim to have worked out Trump’s Foreign policy. It’s still a work in progress; a baffling, blustering incoherence based on boosting an already hugely unpopular, geopolitically ignorant President’s bellicose campaign rhetoric which usurps any rational policy based on negotiated mutual interest or calculated strategic initiative.

The US wants Russia out of Syria while it adds Montenegro to NATO.  Another link is added to a ring of bases it has established in spite of its 1990 agreement with Russia not to add a single one. It mouths off at Iran over its landmark nuclear test treaty. Iran, it says, is a threat to the entire civilised world. It’s a pivot to a hard core Neocon agenda which earns it gushing praise from a Turnbull government, desperate to arrest its terminal unpopularity by any means.

America’s reverse charm offensive is unique in US foreign policy history, at least in tone.  Cue VP Mike Pence, the smooth-talking former talk show hate radio host, who styles himself “Russ Limbaugh decaf” Hailed as a moderate, a safe pair of hands, (only by contrast with Trump?), Pence is an “evangelical social conservative“, a climate change sceptic determined to undo 40 years’ progress on abortion, gay rights, civil rights, criminal justice reform and race relations.

Anti-abortion, homophobic, Tea Party Pence is an oddball who won’t dine alone with any woman, a man who must have his wife by his side at events featuring alcohol. As a Congressman, he opposed federal funding to support HIV and AIDS sufferers unless it were matched by government investment in programs to discourage same-sex relationships.

Pence was one of only 25 Republicans to vote against George W Bush’s signature legislation No Child Left behind because he feared its Federal intervention in education. He visits Australia Saturday, with his family, to rapturous applause.

Turnbull is all over him like a rash. Over-zealous US sycophants feature large in the fawning over America that is our political leaders’ response to the US-Australia Alliance, an agreement which binds the US to do no more than consult with us in time of danger, but never has any PM been so keen to gush over a Vice President so far to his right.Â

Desperate for a bounce in the polls, in thrall to his own powerful conservative party rump, Turnbull dotes on Pence; rashly parrots US anti-China nonsense.

“The real obligation, the heaviest obligation, is on China because China is the nation that has the greatest leverage over North Korea,” Turnbull said. “It has the greatest obligation and responsibility to bring North Korea back into a realm of at least responsibility in terms of its engagement with its neighbours.” 

Does North Korea pose a problem for China? Noting its “medieval leadership” run by a family dynasty with “a habit of murdering its family members”, is problematic, Former Foreign Minister Bob Carr counters that China’s got less influence over North Korea than it has over any of its other thirteen neighbours on its 22,000 km borders.

China does fear, however, he says, that a DPRK collapse would leave US ally South Korea’s army on the Chinese border.

Yet nothing has changed in the behaviour of the leader of the DPRK. The only change has been Trump’s bluster.

Now that The Donald’s got his rockets off over Syria or Iraq, he’s not quite sure where, and the USS Carl Vinson is found to be nowhere near the Korean Peninsula but heading to Australia for war games instead, the confrontation is revealed to be a fake face off or a bluff, neither of which does much for Trump’s credibility. Nor our local media.

Our media eagerly, uncritically recycle the US show of force narrative and its dramatic brinksmanship. Is it a bluff or, perhaps, a double bluff, a signal that the Pentagon has no wish to let North Korea put the wind up it; spring a Thucydides trap? The risk or the trap is that the US will be drawn into war with China, as Karen Middleton notes.

Egg permanently on face Press Secretary, White House fall-guy, alternative factotum and, now, hapless casuist, Sean Spicer, is left to split hairs in the faint yet undying hope that he can claim black is white.

“The president said that we have an armada going towards the peninsula. That’s a fact. It happened. It’s happening, rather,’ he tells a scowl of reporters. “We never said when it would get there.” He could have made a virtue of a calculated delay. When we’ve finished bowls worked for Drake in 1588. But Trump’s White House is in 1984 mode.

War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength and Spicer is credible in the Orwellian world of modern politics.

While The Donald’s armada is found and turned around, our nation’s appetite for hate is regaled, ad infinitum, by a volley of shots of North Korea’s missile exhibitionism.

Scenes of last Saturday’s DPRK massed parades and assorted military porn help imprint an image of a “reclusive, rogue state” which is, paradoxically, never too shy to threaten nuclear Armageddon or put its people in gulags worse than anything Australia has on Manus or Nauru.

At least, that’s how our press packages its hate, served up with double-helpings of demonisation and lashings of fear.

Sample questions are produced to illustrate the type of thinking that will keep us safe from those who don’t share our values. Oddly they are all aimed at Muslims. Fear of 457 fraudsters, a type of visa which is all Labor’s fault, is whipped up in Canberra. Happily our heroic PM will save the day. Clean up Labor’s mess. He’ll rebadge the visa. It’s name will change and there will be some tinkering but the changes will affect only nine per cent of current 457 visa holders.

The PM hoses down any expectations his government’s budget will do anything except talk about housing affordability. It’s re-run of his all talk and no show tax summit.

Not talking, however, Monkey-Pod Top Banana, Immigration Minister and Border Enforcer, former Queensland drug squad copper Peter Dutton puts report of PNG soldiers shooting at asylum seekers on Manus on Good Friday down to a payback for sexual abuse of a young boy. It’s a rumour he starts. His facts are wrong.

But he’ll leave the commentary to others, he says, deflecting any questions.

Dutton should resign. He’s prejudiced any inquiry on Manus. He’s smeared asylum seekers’ motives as John Howard might. The implication of sexual abuse is a despicable attempt to blame the shooting on the victims.

It would seem, moreover, Dutton’s got the date wrong, the boy’s age wrong and that he’s refusing to admit PNG police evidence. He’s conflated two incidents. The boy who entered the camp was begging for food and was given some fruit.

Interviewed on ABC’s Insiders, Sunday, Peter Dutton won’t hear Barrie Cassidy’s protest that the incident involving a young boy was a separate matter; a week apart from when asylum-seekers were fired upon by an intoxicated mob of PNG solders after a football match at which asylum-seekers had refused to leave the field , according to local police. Dutton perpetuates the lie that the centre is run by PNG, to dodge responsibility for an unsafe environment.

The only proper solution would be to bring the asylum-seekers to Australia and out of harms’ way but Peter Dutton’s more interested in blaming the ABC for “commentary”. It’s un-Australian to expect him to account for his actions.

In the deeper international waters of intolerance and mindless enmity, however, a Leni Riefenstahl Logie goes to MSM, for its sensational scenario of a North Korea a goose step away from world annihilation, in a televisual extravaganza set up to loop endlessly, effortlessly across our screens, as George Orwell foresaw, a cheap and easy means of social control in a world of fear, hate and scarcity made possible by perpetual war. Neocons take a bow.

News editors are spoilt for choice of long-running conflict. There’s more dirt to dish on Syria as it dives for Russian cover, fear that ISIS will link with Al Qaeda in Iraq while Iran is back in the US hit list as public enemy number one.

After a cordial meeting with US Saudi leaders and pals who fund and export extremism, Rex Tillerson accuses Iran of being the mother of all evil with its alarming and ongoing provocations that “export terror and destabilise” the world.

“Allowing this dictator to have that kind of power is not something that civilised nations can allow to happen,” says Paul Ryan Speaker of US House of Representatives. He’s talking about North Korea’s Kim but it’s a nifty confection of moral outrage that would suit any number of contemporary US allies including Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi who seized power in a coup and killed more than 800 protesters in a single day.

A similarly US-favoured strong man is Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan whose recent referendum win means a sidelined parliament and judiciary. Erdogan can now just get on with the business of growing the economy, cracking down on dissent and providing arms and other support to Jihadists in Syria.

Allowed far too much power, nominal leader of Rogue Superpower US President Donald Trump swears, on the other hand, he’ll put an end to nasty North Korea’s nuclear testing all by himself if he has to. Horrible. “The shield stands guard and The sword stands ready,” fearless leader, dimes in his sidekick, bloodless hulk VP Mike Pence, a villain fresh from a Marvel Comic Universe. International law? We make the rules, boss.

The words get worse. The “era of strategic patience” is now over. Why, he’ll even snatch Kim’s missiles out of a falling sky, while as for Syria, bad-ass Bashar al Assad will get his regime changed on him any day now. Or sometime soon. OK.

Will North Korea launch a nuclear attack? Can China tighten the screws on its wayward neighbour, the DPRK? Will Iran prove itself the mother of all evil by pursuing its own nuclear programme? Can Bashar al Assad continue to defy Trump’s threats of regime change? Will Russia take Trump’s Tomahawk hint and pull out of Syria?

The essence of US foreign policy currently is to keep everyone guessing. What is clear, however, is that beneath the spin, the bluff and bluster and the breathless, apocalyptic reporting is a president whose opinion ratings are at record low.

Only 41.9 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s performance as President. 52.3 percent disapprove, according to the FiveThirtyEight aggregate of polls. Polls from swing states similarly show Trump’s approval rating under water, making him the least popular newly elected president in decades.

Most reassuring – but not to The Donald was that national polling showed that after his Syrian attack, euphemistically referred to everywhere as a “strike”, his polls remain flat. Trump is enough of a dud and a disappointment already to be denied the traditional bounce in approval enjoyed by presidents after ordering military action.

Turnbull should take note. Yet this week his grandstanding and dog-whistling on Australian values and his 457 visa rebadging stunt together with his embarrassingly over exuberant greeting of one of the least distinguished and most disturbing Vice Presidents ever to reach our shores is a signal that our PM’s in full panic mode.

As with our great and powerful friend, the US, Australia’s voters are not going to be fooled by a random attack of misty-eyed patriotism or any con-job about Aussie values. Another babies overboard in disguise at this late stage will not help a government which is so divided, so uninspired and so poorly led it just cannot deliver.

Spare us the embarrassing rhetoric, Mr Turnbull. Your frenzied embrace of a fair go and an Aussie freedom, you and your government are not remotely committed to betrays a lack of good faith and good judgement.

Similarly your adulation of Mike Pence and all he represents will do you no favours. Above all, your supercilious and patronising response to Leigh Sales on the 7:30 Report betrays your real values. Australians, especially women can spot a con.

Give up the fear-mongering. The enemy is not the migrant or the asylum seeker or the terrorist. It is within the neoliberal policy of your government which puts profit before people, a government which wages war on the poor and provides tax cuts for the rich.

Australia doesn’t need a new citizenship test. It does need a government which can honour its commitment to meet the needs of its people.

This means providing access for all to good health, welfare and education; ensuring equal opportunities, equality and justice for all; a fair go for all, if you like, but not just more empty talk or posturing while your policies deny these rights.

Australia follows USA blindly into disaster in Syria and North Korea.

The Donald follows rave reviews of his hugely popular Syrian bombing this week by trashing his “America First” isolationist foreign policy. “Just a jump to the left then a step to the right” continues his recent Time Warp homage and conveys all the chaos and conflict of the Trump team’s horror show domestic policy on to a world stage.

In one week, Trump has discarded half a dozen major campaign pledges on foreign policy. Happily Australian foreign policy is just as fluid: Trump’s left wheel – right about turn wins instant approval from Malcolm Turnbull and his crew of US cheerleaders, environmental vandals, climate deniers and mindless multinational corporate lackeys.

North Korea is “reckless and dangerous” says Malcolm Turnbull from India while he rashly promises government funding for an uneconomic, environmentally disastrous, toxic coal mine Australia neither needs or wants.

In words that echo Washington, Turnbull says China is “clearly not doing enough” to control North Korea. Astonishingly, the new Donald Trump has been trying to get the same message through to the Chinese President.

“From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first”, Donald Trump promised at his inauguration. It has taken until Easter for his show’s new directors, US Neocons to take him down their rabbit hole; turn him around.

It’s a big turn. Now, despite his campaign stump stuff, Trump must “reverse (Obama’s) downward spiral” of US power and influence, not only in the Middle East, but throughout the world, orders right wing Brookings Institute’s Robert Kagan in The Washington Post. Trump is warned that one missile strike doesn’t cut it. Press on, Donald.

Flip-flopping bigly, Trump tells NATO that it’s no longer obsolete. He crosses currency manipulation off the long list of things the US holds against China. Next, the US drops the Mother of all Bombs in Afghanistan before boxing itself into a corner by threatening North Korea with military action unless it stops its nuclear tests. North Korea responds by what Australia’s The Daily Telegraph, downplays as “a threat to unleash nuclear hell”.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop loves US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s proposal of a pre-emptive military strike against North Korea. She sees it as just an “all options on the table” thingy, a policy posture as familiar to the government as the flip-flop.

It fits well within its steadfast determination to normalise Trump’s aberrance within its role as US sycophant; Australia’s great and powerful friend. All the way with the USA whatever, wherever.

Bishop does have six decades of history on her side. In 1950 McArthur aimed to use six atomic bombs on North Korea. In 1951 Truman signed off on the plan.

Some estimate that the nation may have lost as many as 8 to 9 million people to US bombing, while others put the figure at 3 million close to thirty per cent of its population between 1950 and 1953. With no official statistics it is impossible to know precisely.

What is certain is that the suffering inflicted is seared into the nation’s consciousness.

Carpet bombing was deployed to rase cities.  The US dropped more bombs in North Korea than in the Pacific theatre during its part of World War Two. 29 000 tonnes of Napalm were used in campaigns which level entire cities.

In 1969, Richard Nixon put nuclear-armed warplanes on 15-minute alert. In the 1990s Bill Clinton weighed up nuclear strikes against North Korea’s nuclear facilities while George W Bush added the “rogue nation” to his axis of evil, a list of rogue states to be annihilated after Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had been dealt with.

Wednesday, mouth that roars, Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne is on Trump’s new page.  North Korea, is “the most dangerous situation” in the world right now and “worse than the situation in Syria”.

Pyne implies we are at war with North Korea whose erratic regime causes “significant consequence to Australia”.

“I know it seems surprising to say so, but there is a predictability about the war in the Middle East, in Syria and Iraq, and of course the allies there are winning that war slowly but surely,” he tells Adelaide radio 5AA.

The unpredictable slur fits neatly into the portmanteau stereotyping and demonising of North Koreans as erratic, crazy, deluded or buffoons, all ways the Chinese were portrayed in the fifties and early sixties in Western media until China acquired atomic then hydrogen nuclear weapons 1964-7 with the help of the Soviet Union.

The “unpredictable” charge is doubly ironic in the light of the flip-flop foreign policy of the United States or a vassal of a nation which has had five PMs in five years and a government hard to fathom on energy or environment.

A US naval strike group steams to the Korean Peninsula, a show of force that has sections of the media talking war. Is this a showdown between Pyongyang and Washington? No. It’s more show than showdown.

Will “rogue state” North Korea- as MSM love to call it, often adding “hermit” or “secretive” defy the US? Launch another nuclear test? It’s Kim Il-sung’s 150th anniversary.

“Rogue state” was a favourite Neocon term in the Bush, Rumsfeld era. It helped demonise Iraq which failed to respond to cold war deterrence and helped justify illegal military intervention. If North Korea won’t play by the rules, it can’t expect to be dealt with in like manner.

As Bush warned, missile attacks are justified against WND held by rogue leaders in “rogue nations who hate America, hate our values, hate what we stand for.” The same rhetoric is still used by our own government.

In the end, Kim celebrates the birth of the nation’s founder, his grandfather with a parade that helps remind everyone how many missiles North Korea can put on show. There’s a fizzer of a missile launch on the coast. No-one starts a nuclear war, however much representatives of the tabloid press may suggest it’s imminent.

US Defence Secretary, Jim Mattis issues a statement: “The President and his military team are aware of North Korea’s most recent unsuccessful missile launch.”  ”Mr Trump was not making any further comment.”

Yet Trump has been commenting, correcting the record on his dinner with the Chinese president. The correction helps set a context for the week’s brinksmanship with North Korea, an event which ends badly for The Donald who had a notion he could press Xi to call his North Korean pups to heel. Until Xi disabused him with a history talk.

Just as in a February phone call he had talked him out of his nonsense on Taiwan. Xi set up the summit. He’s two strikes up on Trump already. Xi has Trump’s number.

Earlier reports put the pair mid-way through the pan-fried Dover sole with champagne sauce, when Trump chose to tell his Mar-a-Largo, dinner guest, China’s President Xi Jin-Ping he had just gazumped their summit by bombing Syria, or wherever, The Donald now advises that he and Xi were, in fact, on to their sweets.

“So what happens is I said, ‘We’ve just launched 59 missiles heading to Iraq, and I wanted you to know this,'” Trump says in the interview. “And he was eating his cake. And he was silent.”

“Syria?” Fox Business Host Maria Bartiromo corrects.

“Yes, heading toward Syria,” Trump says. He follows up by mentioning Xi finished his dessert.

Savouring “the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you have ever seen”,  Trump fills Xi in on his latest take on isolationism: he’s just launched 59 Tomahawk Cruise missiles at Syria. Doubtless, Xi’s tickled pink with the Von Trump family’s Tomahawk missile-barrel diplomacy. Learning that China’s last to be told is the icing on the cake.

Xi drops his cake fork. An interpreter has to repeat The Donald’s bombshell.  Not only is it a complete flip-flop, a 180 degree turn on Trump’s campaign rhetoric, it’s a diplomatic gaffe; a breach of protocol, an insult to China.

It’s like breaking off a dinner party conversation with your boss to berate your neighbour, suggests Foreign Policy‘s Asia editor James Palmer.

Above all, China experts agree, no Chinese leader is likely to mistake unpredictability for strength. What Trump claims as tough, a shirt-front victory, the Chinese dismiss as stupidity. Yet a wily panda will not block a US rush to self-destruction in another costly, protracted and unwinnable Middle Eastern war.

In a United States of self-righteous spin, The Donald simply has no choice. “If you gas a baby then I think you will see a response from this president” explains White House word-splicer, Sean Spicer. Satanic Bashar-al Assad, is a poison gasser and a bad man worse than Hitler, he adds. Assad gets his just desserts.  Trump is pumped.

So, too are the decision makers in the alliance between arms’ manufacturers and armies influencing political policy which the US military-industrial complex, as Eisenhower termed it when he warned of its power in 1961. Syria, Iran, North Korea, all present alluring business opportunities. Above all, his son cheers on his father, his hero.

Eric, an affectionate but clumsy pup, eagerly volunteers how the strike shows how tough his father is. He’s not frightened by Putin’s threat of war. He won’t be pushed around by Putin. Just for measure he throws in a threat of his own. There’s “no one harder” than my Dad, the President if they “cross us”. It proves, he adds breathlessly, that his dad is not in league with Russia.  Well, that’s cleared that up, then. Much rejoicing follows in the free press.

“I think Donald Trump became president of the United States,” gushes CNN’s Fareed Zakaria as her nation is smitten by strong man love – and its love of vigilantes bearing arms. Forget policy, integrity or merit, all you need to do to become President is order up a bombing somewhere. NBC’s Bryan Williams waxes Leonard Cohen-lyrical:

“We see these beautiful pictures at night from the decks of these two U.S. Navy vessels in the eastern Mediterranean,” he swoons.  “I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen: ‘I am guided by the beauty of our weapons.”

Guided? Try dazzled. Blinded. America swoons over the attack. It falls back in love with Trump, a type of Lone Ranger with more big hair than white hat. The “liars” and “enemies of the people”, as he calls the press, now rush to cheer on The Great Disruptor.

Lost in the rush is any case for the bombing. No need to bother with Congress or dreary international law. Forget briefings. To hell with intel. Foreign policy is now decided by whatever TV show upsets the President – or his daugher, Ivanka.

Ivanka Trump, Anne Summers suggests, is the most powerful staffer in The White House. And dangerous. Superbly equipped for a profound and nuanced understanding of foreign policy by her real estate and jewellery business background, “heartbroken”, “outraged” she urges Daddy to bomb Syria when she sees the babies on Fox news.

Her compassion is oddly selective. Did Ivanka reproach her father when he boasted he could look Syrian children “in the face and say, “You can’t come here”? Did she demur when one of his first acts as President was to sign an executive order to indefinitely ban Syrians, even beautiful babies, from seeking refuge in the United States?

“Rather than pay lip service to the plight of innocent Syrian children, President Trump should provide actual solutions for the children who have been languishing in refugee camps for years,” reads a statement released 7 April from the New York based International Refugee Assistance Project.

“Many refugee children have been left in life or death situations following the President’s executive order, which suspends and severely curtails the U.S. resettlement program.”

Former Trump supporter, Republican Pat Buchanan suggests that Donald Trump was independently moved to act, before he was influenced by his daughter’s feelings. In other words, he was impetuous, emotional and uncritical of what may well prove to be a series of propaganda images and at a time when his National Security Adviser warned him that the intelligence services had their doubts about Assad’s culpability?

We do know, from multiple sources, that many in CIA and DIA, including those on the ground, did not accept that President Assad was responsible.

Leading rocket scientists, national security advisor, and former scientific adviser to the US Chief of Naval Operations, MIT Professor Theodore Postol, who has won awards for debunking claims about missile defence systems says in a nine-page report that we should be cautious.

A four-page report released by the Trump administration intended to blame the recent chemical attack in Syria on the Syrian government, Postol concludes, “does not provide any evidence whatsoever that the US government has concrete knowledge that the government of Syria was the source of the chemical attack”.

Postol is not convinced by such evidence. “Any competent analyst would have had questions about whether the debris in the crater was staged or real,” he wrote. “No competent analyst would miss the fact that the alleged sarin canister was forcefully crushed from above, rather than exploded by a munition within it.”

Australia’s response is similarly conveniently emotional and selective; visceral to the point of being anti-intellectual – unfussed by the illegality of Trump’s bombing and naively accepting of allegations against al Assad, a case which official Washington sources now concede is one of “high confidence” in a supposed intelligence assessment.

In other words, as Robert Parry decodes, “high confidence” usually means “we don’t have any real evidence, but we figure that if we say “high confidence” enough that no one will dare challenge us.” Parry is one of the reporters who helped expose the Iran-Contra scandal for the Associated Press in the mid-1980s.

Instead, we stampede to trust images provided by Al Qaeda-related propagandists and to overlook documented prior cases in which the Syrian rebels staged chemical weapons incidents to implicate the Assad government in the context of what former British diplomat Alastair Crooke calls the most intensely fought propaganda war in history.

Malcolm Turnbull strongly backs U.S. military action in Syria in response to the “abhorrent” chemical weapons attack.

Defence Minister Marise Payne is “open to Australia increasing its commitment” in Syria with no independent assessment of the worst man-made disaster the world has seen since World War II, according to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in a statement to the Human Rights Council March 2017.

No-one bothers much either with the hypocrisy of the confected moral outrage. The US used agent Napalm in Vietnam and its use of Agent Orange is estimated by the Vietnamese to have killed or maimed 400,000 people.

Vietnam claims moreover half a million children have been born with serious birth defects, while as many 2 million people are suffering from cancer or other illness caused by Agent Orange.

In the end, Trump gazumps only himself. He’s boosted expectations. “A very difficult meeting” will not only fix the US trade deficit with China, settle North Korea’s nuclear nonsense but do a whole bunch of other things including blowing the whistle on China’s currency manipulation, slapping a 45% tax on imports and arresting its theft of US jobs.

By Friday the US President retracts his slur about the currency. Heck, he’ll even praise NATO when he has to.

Upstaged by the US president’s illegal Syrian sortie, by Friday, the US-China Summit’s a dud. Xi and Trump mumble goodwill and mutual respect; motherhood clichés cloak a woeful non-event. Required to negotiate, a skill he will never possess, Trump squibs; settles for a stunt, a token show of force. Call North Korea to heel or the US will fix the problem itself. Does Trump really believe he can coerce China’s cooperation?

Did Trump mean to torpedo the talks? Some commentators spin Trump’s blitzkrieg as a calculated plan, even a Nixonesque “strategic unpredictability.

Henry Kissinger would privately let world leaders know that Nixon was an erratic madman who best not be trifled with. It ended badly, however, for Tricky Dicky in impeachment. Does the same fate await The Donald? Certainly, he’s no diplomat. He’s decided offense is the best defence with China.

“The Chinese government is a despicable, parasitic, brutal, brass-knuckled, crass, callous, amoral, ruthless and totally totalitarian imperialist power that reigns over the world’s leading cancer factory, its most prolific propaganda mill and the biggest police state and prison on the face of the earth”

Taking the cake in studied slights and calculated offence is academic Peter Navarro, author of Death by China, newly appointed head of Trump’s new National Trade Council, a body the President has set up to fix industrial stuff and do great deals so America can become great again. Sweet talking Navarro’s begun by attacking China.

It’s been a big week for Trump and for its Australian satellite. Happily for both parties Trump’s erratic and unpredictable reversals departures have not strained the relationship with our Great and Powerful Friend.  Its dog like devotion does not bode well, however, for any expectations of a mature and mutually beneficial relationship.

Given the rapidity with which isolationist Trump has now been overtaken – strong armed by Washington’s hawks, it is possible that this outcome has not surprised our government. Perhaps it was betting this way all along.

On the other hand, it may simply be that chance has dealt a totally unprepared-for-Trump-or-anything-else Turnbull government a favourable hand; a Neocon US foreign policy it can at least understand.  Even if it cannot fathom the cost.

What is truly shocking, moreover, is that the Turnbull government is simply repeating the mistakes made in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq.  It is 2017. Its aggressive tone with China. Should we still be the USA’s humble and obedient and uncritical servants?

Alarming indeed is our incapacity to exercise our critical faculties or perform due diligence on the case for attacking Bashar Al Assad. Similarly with our gung-ho anti North Korean propaganda. Australia, the world, deserves better.

Turnbull blindly follows Trump into Syrian regime change disaster.

“What the world saw last night was the United States Commander-in-Chief, and also a father and grandfather,” explains Kellyanne Conway, Counsellor to the President, on Friday. “The world recoiled in horror at babies writhing and struggling to live. And who could avert their gaze – and that includes our very tough, very resolute, very decisive President.”

Choked-up, yet resolute and tough, hunkered down in his Mar-a-Largo bunker, the man who walked right off the set of Celebrity Apprentice and on to a world stage, Donald J. Trump, shows everyone he’s made of the right stuff, bigly. Ham.

Trump mugs the camera; a Ronald Reagan parody of fake sincerity. He’ll stop Bashar Al Assad from gassing children. Why, Assad has affected him profoundly, personally. “… a chemical attack that was so horrific in Syria against innocent people, including women, small children and even beautiful little babies, their deaths were an affront to humanity.”

The President is responding to reports of a chemical attack on a building in Khan Sheikhoun, north-western Syria, that killed 80 civilians and left hundreds wounded. The Syrian Air Force is blamed for the bombing. Yet there is no proof.

Syria denies any involvement. Those responsible for the original report, the “White Helmets” are alleged to function as a propaganda branch of ISIL and have been criticised for their fake videos and disinformation. The group apologised last year for its viral Mannequin Challenge video in which it staged a fake rescue.

They are a political group. Max Blumenthal points out, The White Helmets were founded in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Office of Transitional Initiatives, an explicitly political wing of the agency that has funded efforts at political subversion in Cuba and Venezuela.

Their website argues for a No Fly Zone (regime change) in Syria. Yet MSM takes for granted the organization’s self-proclaimed assertions they are an unarmed, impartial and independent Non-Government Organization (NGO) whose sources of funding are not derived from any of the conflicting parties in Syria.

The Shajul Islam video which purports to document Sarin gas in the  Khan Sheikhoun attack is examined in detail by pharmacologist and lawyer Dr Denis O’Brien, author of Ghouta Massacre Murder in the SunMorgue, a detailed, forensic-pharmacological analysis of the Ghouta Massacre near Damascus, Syria in August, 2013.

O’Brien finds little or no evidence of Sarin gas but identifies symptoms consistent with cyanide poisoning. His reservations are echoed by other experts and critical observers. The “Sarin gas video” nevertheless receives widespread uncritical screening on MSM.

Trump is convinced. He orders a missile strike. It is set to launch during the main course of his welcome dinner for China’s president, for which he selects the a pan-seared Dover sole with champagne sauce and herb-roasted new potato from a plain menu which signals business function as much as an impressive lack of inspiration. He has a deal to seal with Xi Jinping. He’s already threatened that the US will “solve” North Korea alone, although experts are sceptical.

A mid-dinner missile strike on Syria ups the ante. Will North Korea be next? “I am not going to tell you” is all he will say. His deputy security adviser, KT McFarland, talks up North Korea’s nuclear threat. Trump says he wants China to “rein in” North Korea. “Trade is the key.” Yet he’ll need more than bluff and bluster if he is to seal any kind of deal. And he’ll need to deliver on his promises to put America first if he is to arrest his declining support at home.

“The Art of the Deal” author (ghost-writer Tony Schwartz) Donald, has always been an approval seeker. Now he’s keen to arrest his plummeting popular opinion ratings. Only 34 percent of Americans currently approve of the job Trump is doing, a figure two points below Obama’s all-time low, reports Investor’s Business Daily/TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence (IBD/TIPP), a ten percent drop since March. He’d do anything to get America to like him again.

Setting up a Syrian strike to upstage his dinner with Xi Jinping certainly gets a rise out of China’s state media:

“This is his first major decision on international affairs, and his haste and inconsistency has left people with a deep impression,” says the Global Times. It’s hardly an auspicious beginning but the US still puts on an incredible show..

Australians are optically carpet-bombed Friday with sensational saturation video loop coverage of the firing of 59 long-range, all-weather, subsonic, Tomahawk cruise missiles Al-Shayrat air base in the Western Syrian province of Homs.  A barrage of assertion, speculation and general ignorance is lined up in support. A case for regime change is brewing.

Across the nation, lounge rooms flicker in the ghostly glow of endless replays of giant missiles twisting skyward in early morning Eastern Mediterranean inky darkness. Swirling trails of thick smoke transform the Arleigh-Burke destroyers USS Ross and USS Porter, two of a US fleet of seventy-five, into ghastly fire-breathing, death-dealing, vengeful dragons.

It’s a top quality performance, a Pentagon son et lumière; a spectacular display of righteous might intercut with images of gas attack victims supplied by US-UK and NATO funded White Helmet rebels in Syria who always put on a good show in return for a retainer of $123 million a year.  What it lacks in narrative coherence, it makes up for in special effects.

No expense is spared, although a 3.5% US Navy budget cut back to $152 billion in 2017 mean crews are halved to find savings. Replacing one destroyer would cost $1.8 billion. Each missile has a million dollar price tag. Yet inestimable;  beyond all calculation is the value of each one of the lives of seven civilians, including four children who have been killed in areas nearby who remain unnamed statistics in a Reuters’ relay of a Syrian state news agency report.

The pipeline wars have taken a massive toll. More than 1 in 10 Syrians have been wounded or killed since the beginning of the war in 2011, according to the Syrian Centre for Policy Research in 2016 which finds the conflict has killed 470,000 either directly or indirectly. The United Nations stopped counting Syrian war dead in 2014.

Given these circumstances, it’s incredible that Trump’s humanity is affronted so late in the day. Also worrying is his blindspot – unless he’s seeking a diversion. Last month alone, 1472 civilians have been killed in his war on ISIS a result of his decision to alter risk/reward ratio calculations. Yet none of this dints the President’s Australian support base.

Down under we’re gung ho. Huzza huzza, four cheers for Trump. Trump has done something. Thumped Syria. He’s OK. Local commentators love a bit of biffo. Suddenly we are all applauding the man with a plan. Loving that line in the sand.

Panels of experts are mobilised instantly. Cobber Kim Beasley gets a guernsey. Kim loves guns and knows stuff about America. And can he talk! Bobbing up everywhere is model of compassion, jolly Jim Molan, architect of “Stop the Boats” (at any price) and our resident chemical weapons expert, a Major General seconded from the ADF to the US command who deployed white phosphorous in Fallujah in late 2004, a choice corroborated by U.S. Colonel Barry Venable in 2005.

The attack on Fallujah was launched by seizing the only hospital. Oddly, no-one asks for Jim’s special insights.

 “Packed into an artillery shell, white phosphorous explodes over a battlefield in a white glare that can illuminate an enemy’s positions. It also rains balls of flaming chemicals, which cling to anything they touch and burn until their oxygen supply is cut off. They can burn for hours inside a human body,reports the New York Times 

Prior to George Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003, there was no ISIS; no civil unrest in Syria. A lot of explaining is left to do. Yet all the talk is of “bringing the Assad regime into line”, as Malcolm Turnbull puts it. Pressure must be put on Russia because Syria is a vassal state, he says. The Daily Telegraph raves about Donald Trump’s “well-considered” attack which it sees as a “circuit-breaker”. Words come cheap but it sounds ominously as if regime change is in the wind.

There is precious little discussion of the gas attack itself; no pause to consider why Syria’s president might gas his own people at a time when things were going very much his own way. The people of Syria would decide their own future leader said US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as recently as 30 March.

A more plausible scenario which fits history and circumstantial evidence is that al-Qaeda, ISIS and/or other anti-Assad factions supplied the chemical weaponry. The White Helmets may have orchestrated the attack leaving US Neocons to supply the script. Yet our response has been largely uncritical, pliant and alarmingly receptive to official US propaganda.

More entreprenurial types want to take the false flag and run with it. Celebrity politician Christopher Pyne effortlessly blends expedience with rooting for Trump as he heroically battles over exposure and relevance fatigue to meet US Defence Secretary James Mattis. Like a rat up a torpedo tube, Pyne sees new opportunities for our “burgeoning defence industry” now Trump has upped US defence spending ten per cent.

How quickly we move on. In 2014, former Defence Minister David Johnston disgraced himself by saying he wouldn’t trust the ASC to build a canoe. Jim Molan saw red. Now we are touting our defence industry to the United States.

Other urgers are waiting.  Kevin “boots on the ground” Andrews, a big fan of the US from its wacky fundamentalism to its divine right to regime change in Iraq, is saddled up, incommunicado, on Pollie Pedal with pal Abbott. Wild horses wouldn’t get his Grecian head on the box now. But he’ll be back to argue our need to boost our commitment in Syria.

In brief, with incredible unanimity, once again, our commentators, like our politicians are overwhelmingly, a pack of hawkish US sycophants or apologists. US cheer-leader Marise Payne appears on ABC Insiders Sunday to spin the sudden US flip-flop or Trump’s latest impulse as a  “considered, calibrated and proportionate” response.

A new world disorder is born. Nothing is certain; everything is cast into doubt. Michaelia Cash will proceed with internships regardless of Senate approval and against all advice that it’s exploitation because it helps businesses, Amen . Turnbull’s Adani coal safari will still go ahead but that’s locked in by his coal lobby bosses.

Never to be upstaged, or to pass up on a slogan, “Bashar Al Assad has to go”, the PM says, finding his inner Tomahawk.

Trump’s Operation random Tomahawk attack would upstage anyone. Each missile carries 450 kg of explosive in its nose. Fittingly, for an era of leaders who worship technological disruption, or for the growing army of critics of a US President who has proved an inept stooge, tomahawk comes from Powhatan tamahaac,’to cut off by tool’.

The attack is not a random act of gratuitous violence to distract from investigations into his Russian connections. He may owe billions to Russian banks but who cares? No-one else would lend the multiple bankrupt the money.

Instantly Trump is a moral hero. No longer is he stunningly inept, an accidental president desperate to be taken seriously. He’s drawn a line in the sand, Barnaby Joyce, our man in touch with nature suggests, a signal to Syrian President Bashir Al-Assad that he’s gone too far. It won’t stop at a Tomahawk warning. Regime change is in the wings.

Not only is Assad’s responsibility for the gassing not established, Trump did not bother to check. What is clear is that Trump has violated international law. University of Sydney International law expert international law expert Professor Ben Saul says that force is legal only in self-defence or with the authorisation of the UN Security Council.

A Mexican wall of enmity is rising against him in Syria, if not throughout the Middle East. Russia threatens to shut down its “deconfliction channel” with the US a means by which the two nations co-ordinate their efforts in Syria. Friday Russia’s TASS news agency reports that the Admiral Grigorovich, a frigate armed with Cruise missiles has been despatched from the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Calling upon Russia to bring Syria to heel is having the opposite effect.

Russian defence ministry spokesman Maj Gen Igor Konashenkov suggests a “complex of measures” to strengthen Syrian air defences will be carried out to help “protect the most sensitive Syrian infrastructure facilities.” Not that he is impressed by the last attack.

Only 23 of the 59 missiles reached the Shayrat air base Konashenkov says “the combat efficiency of the U.S. strike was very low”. Photographs on Syrian and Russian media confirm that the airbase is still operational.

The attack has been a wonderful opportunity for our PM, leader of “a government that gets things done”, to posture patriotically, invoke sacrifice and to not so innovatively call for regime change in Syria, the very same mistakes John Howard made when he was seduced by propaganda about the existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

There’s a bit of naff Anzackery to take care of with stirring speeches from Kokoda before Mal must dash to India, doubtless, a mercy mission to soothe the pillow of the dying in a nation where coal smoke fed pollution brings premature death to 3000 people every day. He leaves his trusty deputy PM, Air Vice Marshall Barnstorming Barnaby Joyce on hand to deal with the more nuanced parts of governing and getting things done such as why Assad would gas his own people.

Joyce doesn’t make a lot of sense but you can tell he’d be keen himself to put a Tomahawk up Assad’s clacker.

To Barnaby, it’s all about a line in the sand, code for a finger wagging ultimatum, a foreign policy strategy not known for its success rate, historically, especially when dealing with leaders whose nations are already a hotbed of insurgency.

Effortlessly, Kaiser Barnaby, who has moved an entire government department single-handedly to shore up his own electoral prospects, grasps the nettle. He has the runs on the board when it comes to the high-handed, patronising arrogance and hypocritical posturing that a nation needs in a crisis. Not that there’s any crisis in our well-oiled economy.

Empiricism is so yesterday. But raise a glass. Government policy passes the pub-test this week. Despite its death spiral opinion polls and signs of an unbridgeable credibility gap in energy, environment, education and welfare and trickle-down economics, almost any policy area you can poke a stick at, really, the government has something to shout about.

Not only does the pub test trump all other forms of evaluation, – as everyone knows, it also means the Coalition won’t bother to explain its company tax cuts for firms with turnovers up to $50 million. This frees up government no end. We’ve already had a taste of how it liberates foreign policy from the dreary burden of proof into mindless sloganeering.

No need to commission another dodgy report like BIS Shrapnel’s March 2016 calculation that cutting negative gearing would drive up rentals and push down prices, a case based on some rubbery figures including shrinking GDP to $190 billion from its true figure of $1 trillion per year.

Treasury said of the whole government company tax project it would deliver a 1 per cent growth dividend and a wage increase of $2 a day – and that wouldn’t be for 20 years.

Even right wing Economist Saul Eslake is among the many experts who dispute that giving smaller companies a tax cut will generate the claimed benefits in jobs and wage increases. He points to much evidence. Joe Hockey rushed to give small businesses breaks. He gave a 1.5 per cent tax cut and an enlarged instant asset write-off in his second budget. Wages are stagnating; not growing. Unemployment and underemployment expand while our budget deficit soars.

A clearly elevated federal Treasurer Scott Morrison explains his government need not release any more fatuous fact-based projection, prediction or any other form of assessment to support its company tax cuts. It’s just not what small business folk are concerned about. He knows what’s best for us. Don’t you worry about that.

“If you go down the pub and you talk to small-business people, they’re not talking about econometric models. What they’re talking about is how they are going to grow their businesses.”

There’s a hint of Turnbull’s old saw, “the vibe of the thing” dressed down a bit as well as a flash of the old born to rule arrogance that is helping this government seal its fate.

Rivalling Pauline Hanson’s powers of clairaudience – or perhaps they are contagious, Morrison now claims he knows what’s on the minds of the Mum and Dads who own the businesses that are this nation’s backbone.

From your local Jim’s mowing to the bloke who fixes your car; from your corner hairdresser to your mobile nail technician, none can stop talking about growing their businesses.  As a unicorn is always talking about growing its horn. Everyone is planning to expand. Sounds absurd, impossible? It’s because it is. But Morrison won’t hear a word against it.

In fact many small businesses are unincorporated and their proprietors will continue to pay tax at personal income rates.

Bugger the evidence. Truth is unassailable. Besides, who needs facts when you can hear the fat cats purring?

Sinking in the polls with not a stitch of useful policy to its name, a failing government grasps with both hands the news of Trump’s crusade against the bad, mad Aassad with his gas attacks on his own people without exercising due diligence, independence of though or even a modicum of common sense.

It is a disturbing sign. An all-consuming self-destructive collective madness stirs, a type of folie a foule which is totally immune to reason’s dictates. Writ small it expresses itself in a crusade for tax cuts, lower wages and a pogrom on the poor. Writ large it leads to foreign intervention and regime change; in brief, unholy, unmitigated disaster.

 

Turnbull government’s tax cut cannot save it from itself.

“We have a plan.” Scott Morrison, has ABC listeners in stitches Monday with yet another of his funny but freaky comedy routines. “… The Government,” gags the Coalition’s creepy clown, as he effortlessly tosses off a penicillin metaphor, “is working right across the spectrum to deliver more affordable, more secure, more sustainable electricity prices.”

Affordable? Howls of laughter and snorts of derision are heard across the nation. Pensioners and penalty cut-rate workers laugh especially long and hard. Power bills are rising steeply since privatisation and “marketization”, the selling off of state assets to private companies by Coalition governments keen to do the bidding of powerful business interests and the Neoliberal “think tanks” and lobby groups that serve them such as the Business Council of Australia.

In South Australia, for example, five years after the state privatised electricity in 1998, helped by independent, former Liberal “nifty” Nick Xenophon, who voted with the government, prices increased on average by 23%. Across the nation from 2000 to 2014, the Australian ABS Electricity Price Index (EPI) shows household electricity prices rose by 174%. 

Expensive electricity, is not, as we are told, a matter of supply and demand but a tale of private profiteering. Demand began to flatten in 2004 and has been falling since 2009. More than anything, higher network charges, boosted in 2005 by John Howard’s ironically titled Australian Energy Regulator (AER) have caused power bills to skyrocket.

In 2009, the AER ruled NSW distribution networks could claim 8.78% per annum capital cost on money they could borrow securely from a triple-A-rated state treasury for half that amount. The rate quickly became ten per cent.

It was a licence to print money. ABS data shows that the electricity industry’s profits rose by 67% between 2007–08 and 2010–11. In the same period, electricity bills rose 40%.

Privatisation, it was claimed, would lower business taxes and boost investment: the same specious arguments and faith- based assumptions used today to defend company tax cuts, minimum wage restraint and lower penalty rates.

Instead it has helped low-income and vulnerable households across Australia to be increasingly enslaved by energy poverty. The poor spend more and more of their income on energy. Deprivation and social exclusion are the results.

Low income households lose 12.4% of their income to utility bills and fuel each week, calculates The Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre compared with 2.9% for high income households. Modelling by St Vincent de Paul based on 200,000 disconnections in the four largest states reveals some poor families are disconnected five times in three years. Towns in rural New South Wales and outer Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide suburbs experience the most disconnections.

Six per cent of us must join electricity hardship programs just to keep the power on. Last June, 18,423 ­residential customers in Queensland and 32 000 in NSW joined 33,000 Victorians in hock to a power company. A rising tide of power debt swamps low wage workers and welfare recipients. Tasmanians have the highest per capita electricity debts.

It will get worse. Bills will rise $28 to $204, depending on area. And worse. Morrison’s “more affordable” energy plan will abolish energy supplements: single pensioners will lose $366.60 per year and couples $551.20 for a couple.

Not to worry. NSW Water and Energy Ombudsman, Janine Young, is almost as upbeat as the vapid Federal Treasurer.

“Most (consumers) quickly reconnect through family loans, payday lenders and forgoing food, but others may experience a longer term off supply,” she says, reassuring all those who may worry that power companies are price-gouging themselves out of the market. While starving to keep the lights on is always an option, not every poor person can borrow from family and payday lenders charge exorbitant interest rates.

A family which borrows $2000 from a payday lender will pay back $3,360 over a year according to ASIC’s calculator. In SA last year it was reported families who can’t pay immediately are paying up to $586 per year more than those who can.

ScoMo set the bar high when he worked coal-tossing into his parliamentary stand-up, but Monday he surpasses himself. Like John Howard’s original gift to allow to companies to electricity as a luxury item and his farcical national electricity market, a device for companies to rig the price, this is gold standard satire, self-parody and slapstick all in one.

No-one suggests that instead of his corporate tax break, he invest $2.6 billion in solar energy for the poor, like Bangladesh and Mongolia. 3.5m solar homes systems installed in 2015 in rural Bangladesh, created 70,000 direct jobs.

Morrison’s power plan spiel is indulged Monday in an on-air massage on Fran Kelly’s RN Breakfast show, a comfort station for Liberal politicians and backers, which doubles as a government megaphone. An ambulance chaser follows, bringing listeners the full gory details of the Hazelwood Power station’s head-on collision with economic reality. ABC TV continues the shameless Peabody energy propaganda that falsely posits energy as a choice between coal or jobs.

Hazelwood: a dirty business, is weepie of the week; a full-scale tear-jerker noir with endless grainy close-ups, interviews with stoic, blokey workers, Stakhanovite-style amidst stacks of angst and long shots of idle but uplifting chimneys.

Overlooked amid the melodrama of coal stokers cast off by cruel fate, victims of Labor’s green ideology is the fact that each worker will receive an average redundancy payout of $330,000 largely thanks to their union and state government.

By week’s end, a filthy Malcolm Turnbull trashes his earlier commentary and any residual integrity to lash Dan Andrews’ socialist Victorian state government for doing the dirty on workers in choosing clean renewables over brown coal.

He lies. Turnbull the coal-burner contradicts his earlier rebuke of Abbott that the closure is a hard-nosed commercial decision by the plant’s joint private owners, Engie and Mitsui and Co Ltd. Hazelwood has been privately owned since Jeff Kennett, another visionary Liberal politician, sold it to the sensitive, caring multinational corporations in 1996 for $2.35 billion. Had it not sold, it was set to be closed by the State Electricity Corporation of Victoria in 2005.

Expunged from Coalition nostalgia is the uncontrolled fire in Hazelwood’s lignite mine, a fire which burned for 45 days near Morwell in 2014 and which led to its owner being charged with 10 breaches of the Occupational Health and Safety Act – including failing to provide a safe workplace and failing to provide a safe environment for the community.

In a huge stretch, Sunday, on ABC Insiders, Morrison uses the word “plan” to dignify his tax cuts for businesses. It’s not a plan – more of a kneejerk capitulation to the government’s business backers. Money will go to the government’s mates instead of schools or hospitals. Cutting business tax has no economic justification. It did not boost employment under Howard. Nor will it now. Treasury modelling shows that all the benefits of a company tax cut go to companies.

The nonsense that it will boost investment in Australia is refuted  by Australia Institute research showing 97 per cent of the applications to Australia’s foreign investment review board come from countries with lower company tax rates.

Let’s call it for what it is. A reward to its supporters. And if it’s no fillip to wages or growth it’s ill-timed. It’s a $26 billion cash splash on its electorate while it cuts penalty rates and opposes upping the minimum wage for all other Australians.

But ScoMo’s always entertaining. The way he works his man with a plan gag is a crack-up. It’s going to grow the economy. Boost paypackets. Businessmen with less tax to pay will increase wages in his manic flights of pure fantasy.  Elliptical as ever, suddenly, he’s praising a humble local artisanal chocolatier, an inspiration to us all.

I mean put yourselves in the shoes of a company like Zokoko, they’re a chocolatier out in Penrith, a small business, between $2 and $10 million. They are not only getting a 27.5 per cent tax cut, they are getting access to pool depreciation, the instant asset write-off, they can do their GST on a cash basis. That means they can invest, they can look at new markets, they can look at taking more people on. 

Let them eat chocolate. Great plan. And all from the creator of the $55 million dollar Cambodian two person refugee resettlement scheme; a minister whose government is a mare’s nest, a government which quickly dropped its vows of dialogue to revert to Abbott’s mindless sloganeering even aping his inane braying, hectoring and bullying, lately.

Morrison may howl “jobs and growth” like a man snorting powdered unicorn horn but it’s only corny performance art. This week The Brotherhood of St Lawrence reports that youth underemployment is the highest it’s been for forty years.

ScoMo’s “working” pun is just as much fun. This government is as unworkable as Abbott’s.  Voters punish it, accordingly, in opinion polls. Monday’s Fairfax Ipsos Poll puts Labor ahead by a massive 56-44 two party preferred while the PM has a 40% approval rating, his lowest since he deposed his former leader. 48% disapprove of his performance.

Increasingly unpopular, conflicted and chaotic, the Coalition continues to inflict inury and insult upon itself as much as others whether it be moving to extinguish Victoria’s tiny Leadbeater’s possum or offending our giant trade pal China.

Barnaby Joyce accuses a wanton, socialist Victoria of putting possums before people. Daniel Andrews rejects mill owners’ request for a $40 million to keep his state’s Heyfield sawmill running. His government also cuts back mill access to native forest to a third of that previously over-promised by a pro-logging Coalition predecessor. He tells the community “the timber is just not there”. Barnaby bores on bemoaning timber job losses. Bugger the environment.

Joyce claims new evidence shows Leadbeater’s possum thrives in the Central Highlands, a claim conservationists contest. He  writes a letter to Daniel Andrews requesting Dan consider easing protected areas indirectly pressuring Environment Minister Josh Freydenberg to review the possum’s critically endangered status, a task he cannot do without state government participation. Now a state premier, farmers and conservationists are all at odds.

Divisions also help photo opportunist Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to botch the ratification of an extradition treaty with China after a meeting, Monday, with twelve backbenchers hostile to the deal. Abbott-lackey Eric Abetz threatens to cross the floor. Others could follow. Bishop is blamed for high-handedness; a lack of due consultation. Embittered back-benchers are heard to mutter about the depth of the minister’s preparation and her effective commitment to process.

Turnbull, however, unseals the deal by alienating Labor support when he links the fate of Australians already in Chinese custody into the deal. While the fiasco will dull Bishop’s potential leadership appeal, Turnbull is blasted in The Australian by Abbott pal, Greg Sheridan who wins best over-kill calling it “the single worst foreign policy fiasco in the Turnbull government”.  Get a grip; get with the program, Sheridan. Without self-injury, Turnbull’s government is nothing.

Far from Morrison’s working plan fantasy, the Coalition blends chaos with catastrophe. As its chocolatier-led economic recovery anecdote reveals, its feet are firmly planted in the clouds. Or its permanently out to lunch. It is a dysfunctional, faction-ridden, delusional, policy-free zone run by mining, business, banking and Neoliberal IPA stooges. It is a right wing rabble animated only by self-interest, ambition and the maintenance of privilege. And a sense of grievance.

George Brandis is heard roaring like a wounded walrus in the senate this week when someone insults him about his obsession with changing 18 and pretending it’s about free speech. A powerful, privileged white male of the ruling elite finds it “deeply offensive and insulting” for Labor and Greens senators to suggest he supported weakening race hate laws because he was a white man. Most reasonable community members would say they were spot on.

Good news this week comes when the government loses its cynical crusade to water down our racial vilification laws. It may be more successful however, with a proposed procedural change for the AHRC which adds a reasonable community member clause to discourage complainants like George Brandis. The Australian spins it as a partial victory.

The Coalition spin machine never stops. As it flounders, flip-flops and comes unstuck, the Coalition spins itself, Pravda-style as “a government that gets things done.”  Beginning the political year with an agenda so thin, it had to stretch its parliamentary breaks, it now harangues us about how much is on its plate. These include Abbott’s unpalatable leftovers rehashed in the Omnibus Savings Bill .

Helen Gibbons, assistant national secretary of United Voice, has told a senate committee it was disappointing that a boost in childcare funding was only being discussed when cuts where being made to other areas, including Family Tax benefits, Youth Allowance and Newstart unemployment benefits. So many to disadvantage. So little time.

There’s a budget to fudge. Races to vilify. A war on Shorten and the poor to be fought; a tax on the rich to reduce. All richly fulfilling stuff. Longer term, if the phrase may be applied to the Turnbull adhocracy, a prolonged fit of absence of mind, it’s kill Bill. Paul Bongiorno cites an anonymous Victorian Liberal who tells a Labor MP on the flight to Canberra.

“Nothing personal, but we are going to try to destroy Shorten over the next six months, and if that doesn’t work we may have to destroy Turnbull.” Yet even his RN admirers would agree Turnbull is doing a good job of destroying himself.

Friday sees Australia’s shortest parliamentary sitting last less than sixty minutes. Luckily the stuff-up goes largely unremarked by a media awash in Cyclone Debbie’s tabloid depths and the eternal wake our ABC conducts for the jobs lost by the rash closure of the Hazelwood power station, something Tony Abbott tries to pin on doctrinaire froggy climate politics and which Aunty successfully implies is both unexpected and all the fault of a state Labor government.

Yet cheek of the week goes to the Treasurer. Not even Julie Bishop’s insult which angers China, our largest trading partner can compete. Not even a mutiny stirred by ex-Liberal now gang-of-one (seldom) silent-majority-Cory Bernardi can match it. Let running junk-yard dog Tony Abbott blithely tell media this week that he made China a promise he never meant to keep, as only hypocrites and liars can. None can hold a candle to ScoMo’s shtick.

Not even Iron Chef Turnbull plying a sizzling Fizza-wok at his all you can eat cross-bench banquet this week – a well buttered combination stir-fry race hate speak with a corporation tax cut sauce – can rival Morrison. The Treasurer is power-mad, certainly, but his line that his government stands for cheaper electricity is hilarious.

The Neoliberal bigot stops ranting. Sotto voce, he pitches the amazing work his government does to keep the lights on. Despite his utter lack of credibility, camp theatricality and his problem with intelligibility, the interview goes swimmingly.

Has privatisation of the energy sector failed Australian consumers? Sabra Lane asks earnestly.

“Well I don’t think you can necessarily draw that conclusion,” replies Morrison. (Only when you look at the evidence.)

The Treasurer becomes the hookah-smoking caterpillar in Wonderland. He drags in a Hazelwood of dense smoke; puffs out a vast, thick, cloud of spin – and disappears into it. A lot of pompous, lofty, do-nothing, big-noting will surely follow.

“I think what’s important with what the Prime Minister and I will be announcing later today is that to deliver energy security, affordability and sustainability, you’ve got to work across all the different areas.” (Stereo twaddle alert.)

“And we’ve been working on the gas side of things, as you know, getting all the big gas producers in to ensure we get an assurance about their supply to the domestic gas industry.” (Always focus on process if you have nothing else to offer.)

“On top of that, there’s the work being done on pumped hydro,” he lies, avidly appropriating someone else’s work. It will take ten years to build Snowy 2 and even then there are problems with the economics, the engineering and raising the capital. The only work that’s been done is by Professor Andrew Blakers of ANU’s Energy Change Institute.

There is no Federal plan to help keep Australia’s lights on. Nor is there any thought given at all to supporting the energy poor who are rapidly being priced out of the market.  The government is hiding behind a Snowy 2 feasibilty study while desperately talking up its leader’s chat with the gas corporation CEOs as some kind of solution to the nation’s gas profiteering racket. In the meantime, the states are taking the initiative with solar farms, wind and battery storage.

By Sunday, the government has got half of what it wanted in its tax cuts and the failure it deserved on 18C.  While  others in his newspaper mark the China fiasco as an epic fail of principle and process management, Paul Kelly at least has Turnbull “snatching a surprise victory from the jaws of defeat”; “pulling off a face-saving deal.”

But those jaws will still snap, tax cuts for fat cats or not. What the government likes to call average “hard-working Australians” will not be appeased by the spectacle of an inept, remote, bosses’ government taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich. Nor will those whose business interests lie with affordable energy and good relations with China – if only in trade –  tolerate the chaos and dysfunction of an unpopular dysfunctional government with no plan.

For when all a Federal Treasurer has to show for himself is a tax cut and cuts to low-paid workers’ wages, together with a war on welfare and the poor, he clearly has no economic plan at all. Unless you count his dazzling comedy routine.

 

Barnaby Joyce’s edible donkey skin trade beats Turnbull’s 18C freedom of speech lies.

“It was miraculous. It was almost no trick at all, he saw, to turn vice into virtue and slander into truth, impotence into abstinence, arrogance into humility, plunder into philanthropy, thievery into honour, blasphemy into wisdom, brutality into patriotism, and sadism into justice. Anybody could do it; it required no brains at all. It merely required no character.” Joseph Heller Catch 22 


 

“Bat poo crazy”, sneers loyal Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce. “Just plain stupid. Just plain dumb.”

A dab hand at restoring sanity to the national conversation, Joyce takes time out from urging the export of edible donkey skins to China, the next big thing logically, now returns on iron ore and coal are down a bit, to jeer at Pauline Hanson for her call, Friday, for ‘Straya to be “vaccinated against Muslims”.

The 18C law is an ass.  Imagine if Putinista Pauline and other Islamophobes could say what they really think. Yet Barnaby’s Hanson slap-down applies equally to his PM’s own bat-shit maniacal mission to drop energy, budget preparation – everything –  to make Australia bigly bigot-friendly this week.

Nothing special is required. No trick. All you need to turn hate speech into free speech is no character.

Turnbull sucks up to the 18C brigade. Next he’ll be rewriting the national anthem: “Australians, all let us rejoice in our dem-o-cracy. O-ffend, in-sult, hu-mil-iate; for these deeds make us free.”

Mad as a March Hare, the PM darts about the national stage. A lot of shouting is involved. He exceeds even his Shorten-bashing, in forsaking decorum. And it works. Sort of. It impresses the odd critic.

Mark Kenny, National Affairs Editor for Fairfax, writes inscrutably of a “growing sense around the halls of power that Malcolm Turnbull is finally starting to get somewhere.”

All week, Turnbull extols the nation-building virtues of racial vilification, the acid test of free speech.

It’s an extraordinary contortion even for a practised back-flipper, a retail politician who sold his soul to the National Party and who hasn’t looked back since. Or forward. Just sideways. But now he’s hydro-pumped. Free speech, he blows all week, is not just intrinsic to insult and injury, it’s a core Liberal value. Somehow he’s persuaded by his Snowy 2.0 propaganda that he’s nation builder and elder statesman.

“Our freedom of speech is the foundation of our great democracy that has caused people from every corner of the world to join ours, the most successful multicultural society in the world,” he honks loftily, rashly cramming three lies into one canard. Vapid, pretentious nonsense enchants him. Becomes him.

All week he pretends he doesn’t know that the Racial Discrimination Act’s section 18D protects freedom of speech.  It goes down well. The Australian’s Paul Kelly and gang gush thousands of words in applause.

Turnbull’s performance reminds us free speech in Australia is a ruling class privilege. He intends to keep it that way. If he were serious about free speech for all, he’d repeal the secrecy provisions of section 42 of the Border Force Act 2015. These led the UN special rapporteur on human rights to abandon a planned visit to Australia that year. The Act would prevent workers from providing any information.

Free speech? Anyone is free to report on Nauru if Dutton approves of you and you can pay an $8000 fee.

If he were serious about protecting free speech, Turnbull would stop Centrelink divulging personal details of clients to silence those victims of Roboclaw extortion who dare criticise its operations.

He’d rescind his government’s permission for ASIO to trawl through journalists’ metadata to discern sources.  He’d be outraged at the way the ABC, our national broadcaster, has had its independence destroyed through budget cuts and government interference. He’d recall Michelle Guthrie.

A government committed to free speech would establish a bill of rights to protect this inalienable human right, article 19 in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It would reform our defamation laws exploited by rich individuals and corporations who successfully threaten to sue to silence critics.

It would repeal the 2014 law which allows the Attorney General to define a “special intelligence operation” making it a crime for journalists to report on the operation.

The government would also persuade to its cause State governments, who restrict free speech.

In 2014 the Tasmanian government enacted new anti-protest legislation to prevent anti-logging protesters from objecting to clear-felling of native forests in January 2016. Bob Brown has launched a High Court legal challenge.  WA and NSW also have laws to muzzle protesters.

Beyond the law, there are countless informal ways freedom of speech is denied Australian people because of their colour, class or gender. Despite Turnbull’s week-long harangue – and partly because of it – our nation excludes the voices of those who do not belong to the dominant elite.

Of course he doesn’t want free speech for all. The PM’s performance is a stunt to divert an insatiable rabid right wing. Yet the right will simply want more. Accordingly, Turnbull duly receives praise from Tony Abbott, another bumper sticker orator; Abbott knows an empty slogan when he hears one.

Yet Abbott, who’s busily alarming an adoring media about Victoria’s power crisis, ups the ante. He asks Turnbull to keep Hazelwood Power Station open until Snowy 2.0 starts pumping its hydro.

Turnbull quickly dismisses his rival’s latest mischief. It’s too expensive and unnecessary. He’ll put Abbott back in his box even if it means another U-turn from his catastrophising over renewables and his love of coal-fired power a week or so ago.  At least the truth is out. He doesn’t seem to have told Josh Frydenberg.

Turnbull also will tackle 18C – something Abbott failed to do – even though it was on his IPA-led agenda. What the PM proposes, however, has nothing to do with free speech and everything to with appeasing a few old, white, ruling class warriors feeling hard done by who love to beef about being bound by law; men whose privilege and power mean they will never suffer vilification or discrimination.

Or be overlooked. In a virtuoso display of duplicity and indirection, the Coalition devotes all Tuesday to diluting section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, 1975, a section added in 1995 to make it illegal to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate on the basis of a person’s race, colour or national or ethnic origin.

It’s a big back-flip. Leaving 18C alone was a Turbull campaign promise. He once told the IPA’s John Roskam “About 100 people care about 18C and there are about 16 million people on the electoral roll.”

The RDA helps the Australian Human Rights Commission, (AHRC) resolve conflict. Fewer than five per cent of complaints go to court. Yet critics claim fear of being dragged through court stifles free speech.

Never one to overshare, fearing leaks, or with his team plan still a work in progress, the PM neglects to mention the 18C changes he has planned when he addresses the full cabinet on Monday at 6:30 pm. Oddly, MPs come to feel excluded; slighted. Those in electorates with large ethnic communities fear that the issue will lose them votes. Some would cross the floor if they thought it would save their seats.

Turnbull’s timing is impeccable: 21 March is Harmony Day and the International Day of Eliminating Racial Discrimination. Harmony Day, moreover, is a Howard invention,  a day and a campaign dedicated to a truth self-evident to Howard’s band of reality deniers: racism could not possibly exist in Australia.

There’s a hint of this self-delusion in the statement on multiculturalism which the PM releases. It’s been doctored a bit to ensure that migrants know they have to assimilate. It’s almost no trick at all. Greens leader, Richard di Natale, however, calls him out on it; his One Nation dogwhistling:

Di Natale nails it.  New arrivals should adopt so-called “Australian” values?

“The new multiculturalism statement is an attack on multiculturalism,” Di Natale says in a statement.

Julian Leeser, David Coleman, Julia Banks, Russell Broadbent and Craig Laundy, oppose the proposed 18C re-wording. Only news that the law will go to the senate first, where it will surely be lost, persuades them not to cross the floor.

The group’s dismay illustrates how the PM wooing of his right wing is alienating the middle. It remains to be seen if the right will be appeased by a process where the new bill is set up to be lost in the Senate. It’s too tricky by half.

A snap Senate inquiry Friday by the legal and constitutional affairs legislation committee, to report back by Tuesday, is announced. Attorney General, George Brandis, whose previous reform proposals were ignored, has his submission quietly incorporated into Hansard. Also invited are the Australian Law Reform Commission, the Human Rights Law Centre and Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).

The inquiry allows Liberal senator Ian Macdonald to continue his bullying of the Commission’s President: “You’re here to answer questions, Professor Triggs, not to go off on a frolic of your own.” His belittling harassment of Triggs is a case study in freedom of speech at work in senate committee.

Triggs has been pilloried and accused of political bias since her 2014 report on children in immigration detention centres, The Forgotten Children was critical of government policy. Attacks have been mounted in parliament and Triggs’ findings have been howled down in Newscorp media.

Media attacks include accusations about her personal life and a piece by Piers Akerman alleging that she was an unfit mother. It’s an insight into the real constraints on our freedom of speech which the Prime Minister’s rhetoric ignores, and an illustration of the cruelty inflicted by the Old White Male brigade.

Macdonald is a veteran of the Coalition’s long-running war on the Human Rights Commission, begun by Tony Abbott and capably assisted by George Brandis who has insulted and demeaned Triggs mercilessly. He chaired the committee which looked into her Forgotten People report but he didn’t bother to read it.

“I haven’t bothered to read the final report because I thought it was partisan,” he told the committee. It is an insult not only to Triggs but to the nation. Macdonald doesn’t get it.

In March 2015, the Senate passed a motion declaring Brandis “unfit to hold the office of Attorney-General” over the Government’s criticism of the Human Rights Commission president. As Penny Wong noted at the time, Brandis failed as AG not merely to defend the AHRC as an institution but he actually led the charge attacking Gillian Triggs on charges that her report on children in custody was political.

Somewhere in the excitement, MPs misrepresent the change as sanctioned by the AHRC itself. It’s not.

“It’s very, very clear that we do not approve the changes to the substantive provision of the [act],” Gillian Triggs, AHRC President says on Friday.

“The current language has worked extremely well.” Inserting the word “harass” instead is “curious”, “an entirely circular process” and “highly unsatisfactory”, she says.

The Coalition’s amendments include substituting “harass” for the words “insult and offend”, a weakening which the PM pretends will make the law stronger, clearer, fairer. Inserting a reasonable member of the community test will discount minority experience.  It’s a disingenuous double-bluff.

In reality, the changes will weaken the law to “… give a free pass to ugly and damaging forms of racial vilification which do not satisfy the stringent legal criteria of harassment and intimidation”, say Greek, Armenian, Chinese, Indian, Aboriginal and Jewish communities in a signed statement to the PM.

Silence from the Kiwi migrant community, a whopping fifteen per cent of New Zealand’s population, does not equal consent. New Zealanders, along with the South Sudanese  report highest levels of discrimination in Australia, in a survey of 10,000 respondents, conducted by the Scanlon Foundation and Monash University and reported in August last year. Yet the Sudanese are twice as happy to be here.

It’s a report Zed Seselja, Minister for Multicultural Affairs, channelling John Howard “simply cannot understand”, exposing an inherent flaw in the “reasonable community member” test.

The Kiwi underclass is not asked to comment. Some may even be on Christmas Island awaiting deportation at Peter Dutton’s pleasure, courtesy of the character test an amendment to the Migration Act, of December 2014 which provides for mandatory cancellation of visas of anyone who has served a year in prison or who, “in the minister’s judgement” is a known associate of a criminal organisation.

Our immigration detention centres now hold more New Zealanders than any other national group. Kiwis are often held in detention for months awaiting “processing” of their deportation or appeal. Cut off from families and legal support, detainees report violence, abuse by guards, and a lack of medical treatment.

The government has no hope of getting its bill through the senate. At best, Turnbull’s bluff buys off bigots in his own party as well as those in the Murdoch press who deride his government for not making it easier for privileged white racists to abuse persecuted minorities. It is common knowledge now that 18C killed freedom fighter St Bill Leak, a racist cartoonist whom the PM has helped canonise.

“Political correctness did not silence Bill, any more than terrorists did, every cartoon he drew was an exercise of freedom.”

What the PM really hopes to do, however, is forestall a budgie smuggler putsch he fears is out to get him. Crazy? He’s read Catch 22. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.

Tactically, Turnbull’s batshit crazy; deluded. Every inch he yields, every capitulation he makes to his party’s right merely increases their demands and weakens his lame duck leadership of a government overwhelmed by such basic tasks as taking charge of its agenda. Yet after his cunning plan; his brilliant double dissolution disaster he lacks the political capital to defy his bullies.

Appeasing racists ought to be low down the list for a government with so much else that is pressing. It has yet to formulate a coherent energy or environment policy. It has yet to end Abbott era hangovers; zombie measures. It is racking up a massive deficit. It has no idea of what to do with the 854 asylum seekers on Manus Island once PNG closes the camp.

The refugee people-swap deal with an inept, crisis-ridden US administration appears flakier by the week.

Above all there’s the war on the poor, a crusade on behalf of the rich to cut up to $7,700 per annum from the wages of our lowest paid earners by axing Sunday penalty rates, a move which The McKell Institute reports, accelerates the mass casualisation of the Australian workforce which is now spreading, inexorably, into other workplaces and occupations.

The PM cannot bring himself to publicly announce his support for the pay cuts on the floor of the house but finds ways to announce that he’s in favour of a decision which he blames on Labor and the FWC.

Turnbull’s 18C stunt demeans the work of the bipartisan parliamentary committee which recently advised against any change and is yet another offence against democratic process committed as this government and its predecessor have sought to abrogate power into the office of the Prime Minister.

Increasingly, as one wag puts it,  what is good for the country is what is good for Malcolm Turnbull. His decision to devote himself to the repeal of a law he knows won’t get past the senate has to be the ultimate in cynical political manoeovreing.

In the process, his attempt to puff his posturing into a stand on free speech is likely to backfire and illuminate the extent to which his government is the catspaw of mining, business and media groups who are motivated only by the narrowest short-term, self-interest.

The PM’s hollow rhetoric this week is no substitute for vision or policy or leadership but is instead the desperate posturing of a hollow man intent on appeasing his right wing critics at any price.

Turnbull’s attempt to dilute the RDA’s section 18C to save his political hide, under cover of a fog of lies about freedom of speech and high-sounding lies nonsense about our multiculturalism makes Barnaby Joyce’s edible donkey skin trade with China honest and virtuous, a tangible public good by contrast.

 

Jay Weatherill speaks truth to power; Turnbull comes up with NBN 2.0

Our parents toiled to make a home hard grubbing t’was and clearing 

They wasn’t troubled much by lords when they was pioneering 

But now that we have made the land a garden full of promise 

Old Greed must crook his dirty hand and come and take it from us 

So we must fly a rebel flag as others did before us  

And we must sing a rebel song and join in rebel chorus 

We’ll make the tyrants feel the sting of those that they would throttle 

They needn’t say the fault is ours if blood should stain the wattle 

From Freedom on the Wallaby  Henry Lawson 1891


Sparks fly, shots ring out. A whiff of grapeshot wafts across the nation’s political stage this week as South Australia, fair maid of liberty, flower of Athens of the South, rebels against Canberra’s dark, despotic cruelty.  The crisis goes viral as Minister for Energy and Environment, Josh Frydenberg tilts at SA’s windmills; blaming them for its power outages Thursday at a press conference set up to upstage, bully and humiliate its junior commonwealth partner. 

Frydenberg, the man with a plan from a government without an energy policy, is there to spruik his government’s Snowy 2.0 scheme, a pie in the sky project akin to Malcolm Turnbull’s NBN, a scheme which will take too long to complete, cost too much and fail to deliver. No. Let’s be clear. Snowy 2 is not designed to help anyone except the PM himself and his image-building PR team who must now reinvent the merchant banker as a nation builder.

It says a lot about your need for spin when even your hydro needs pumping. Weatherill is justly disgusted.

“I have to say it is a little galling to be standing here next to a man who has been standing up with his Prime Minister bagging SA at every step of the way over the last six months to be standing here on this occasion, him suggesting that we want to work together,” Jay Weatherill sprays. He wants a divorce. And he’s taking the kids.

The spat has commentators clutching their pearls or reaching for their smelling salts. “Unedifying” huffs Aunty, a word deftly dropped into the mix by the coalition spin team. Unedifying? Are we to believe the Prime Minister’s personal attacks on Bill Shorten are edifying? Was Malcolm Turnbull’s victory whinge where he blamed Labor for the mess he himself led his government into – edifying? On the contrary, Weatherill is inspiring.

It’s a dramatic scene which presents a clear choice between truth and more of the same old bullshit. Weatherill not only opts for truth, he  strikes a blow for freedom from the yoke of commonwealth. Yet it’s freedom from neglect and mismanagement as much as oppression.  The power price scam; the fake gas shortage rort are just the final straws. A nation applauds as SA walks away from an abusive relationship. Other states may follow.

Let the PM blow hard about our energy crisis. We’re about to overtake Qatar as the world’s largest producer of LNG.  No. We have more than enough gas for all our needs but we’ve let corporations sell it offshore and jack up our prices.

We are not paying international prices. We are paying an artificially inflated price jacked up by a cartel of companies. Who needs a federal government whose role is to just stand by and let price gouging and price fixing happen? Or aid and abet it? Blow smoke about how a rigged electricity market fairly decides consumer prices?

SA declares its independence over its electrical power. Pulls the plug. Consigns fossil fuels to the rubbish bin of history. It’s a bold move that rocks state and commonwealth bonds. Forget Snowy 2.0. This is federation 2.0 It also highlights the Coalition’s craven gas and coal corporation co-dependency.

SA Premier Jay Weatherill vows to build his own gas-fired plant. Generate his own backup capacity. Australia’s largest battery farm will store the electricity. Flamboyant TESLA CEO Elon Musk, whose very name conjures romantic heroism, pledges a money back guaranteed 100 mw battery farm in one hundred days.

But it’s as much a hard-headed business deal as an act of disruption which puts the skids under fossil fuel. With a toe-hold in the local market, Musk could make billions supplying households with his TESLA batteries.

The battery beats another gas plant. Or new gas production. SA farmers will never abandon all their fears about water contamination and environmental degradation. Weatherill’s offer to pay farmers for what gas companies can take out of their land will never lead to a new wave of gas production. Who’d embrace fracking or gas wells for a pitiful ten percent royalty? You’d need more than that just to repair the damage to your land.

In fairness, the long lead-in before any new gas would flow, the cost of new exploitation weighed against the falling cost of renewables and storage make new gas supplies the state’s least likely option. Weatherill’s having a bet each way. Gas giant Santos, for example, is choosing now to invest in a solar farm rather than drill any new gas wells.

Santos says the cheapest way to free up gas is not to drill for more, but to build a solar plant? We should listen.

Weatherill still needs the gas plant backup, however, because the state no longer has faith in the market operator to act in the state’s best interests. It will give itself emergency powers to fire up the plant when it is needed. And just to make sure, it will order emergency diesel generators to be on standby until the gas plant is operational.

Even more contentious is Weatherill’s promise to give SA new powers over the National Electricity Market, a price-rigging scheme designed to boost multinational power company profits at consumers’ expense regardless of reliability of supply.

The lines of authority are complex. The National Energy Market, NEM is governed within COAG’s Energy Council, a body which comprises federal and state energy ministers. It’s a dog’s breakfast.

The Australian Energy Market Operator  is supposed to look after System security and reliability while network investment is the responsibility of private network businesses, overseen by the Australian Energy Regulator.  

It’s a great management model if you want to run a business by means of a committee without a CEO. The prime bodies charged with delivering electricity and gas to the NEM have done very poorly because they lack a chain of command or strategic plan; no idea of what they want or how to get there. David Leitch Renew Economy.

“There are no real metrics for the success of the system and no shared vision of the appropriate direction or how to get there.” It’s almost a definition of the coalition’s approach to commonwealth government.

The privatised electricity system is a complete failure. In a damaging revelation, close to Neoliberal heresy, the Grattan Institute reports another open secret , Monday. The so-called competition of privatised electricity markets has failed, or in an odd admission from a mob that believes in markets, “has failed to be managed properly”. Up to 43 per cent of household power bills are profits which line the pockets of electricity retailers. 

Weatherill’s defiance drives the coal-powered federal Coalition government into a flat spin. It will seek legal advice, it huffs, to see if SA’s threats are lawful. But it can deal its legal mates in as much as it likes. Nothing can disguise its confusion. Energy Minister Frydenberg falsely claims that states are responsible for the stability of their power system.  That’s AEMO’s job. 

Terminally conflicted and confused, Josh Frydenberg whose cruel fate is to be Energy and Environment minister in a government which lacks a policy for either, is dispatched to upstage the unplugged upstart by re-announcing AGL’s 5 MW 2016 household battery farm. True to form, his fearless leader Malcolm Turnbull wimps out, opting instead for a nation-building image makeover, a Snowy chopper ride and a chat with the gas industry.

Tough-talking, trouble-shooting Turnbull goes the full tea-bag. He rebukes gas corporate CEOs by giving the lads a cuppa and a heart to heart about saving a bit of gas for Australia. The tactic works so well with the banks. His script is similar. Abandon your cartel and your price-fixing boys. So you over-invested $60 billion in plant? So you plan to gouge the Australian customer to recover that debt? Stop it now. Walk away, boys, walk away.

What could possibly go wrong? Richard Denniss, chief economist of the Australia Institute explains to Crikey:

that for the gas industry, everything is going to plan. “It took 10 years and $60 billion building three enormous gas liquification plants in Gladstone with the specific goal of increasing the domestic price to Asian levels,” he says.

The gas industry is frustrated prices aren’t even higher. Once local prices were linked to international princes, global prices fell. Turnbull’s meeting agree to another meeting. It’s difficult to see any more productive outcome.

Luckily Turnbull has some crack troops in the rear. Tea party crackpot James McGrath on ABC Lateline witters on about how state issues caused the Liberal rout in South Australia despite abundant evidence to the contrary.

It would foolhardy for the federal government to imagine national factors had no bearing on the vote at least in marginal seats. Apart from his energy fiasco, these include lame duck PM accelerating unpopularity, his capture by party reactionaries, the Centrelink Robo-claw extortion, the PHON deal and weekend penalty rate cuts.

As for the PM, terminal Turnbull is wedged by a fatal trend which Bernard Keane and Josh Taylor delineate. A parliamentary leader reflecting the party’s base will lose touch with voters as Tony Abbott discovered; while a leader even briefly popular with voters, as in Turnbull’s case is likely to alienate the hard right in the party base. 

Yet again there’s help from the crack troops behind the leader. Never to be deterred by research, former dud Health Minister, Peter Dutton, a Minister only nominally in charge of Immigration, boosts his leadership stakes, or so he calculates, by attacking Alan Joyce and thirty other CEOs for daring to exercise their right to free speech in a letter urging government to act on same sex marriage.

Dutton argues that businesses best leave such issues to our elected political representatives. We’ve all noticed how well that’s working.

Yet all eyes remain on plucky little South Australia, the giant-killer as it shapes up against its oppressor and tormentor.  It is a thrilling new twist in the faction-riven Federal government’s Energy Wars, an electrifying series which pits big business against the powerless, miners against all-comers –  and ministers against each other.

Resources Minister Matt King Coal Canavan, for example, departs his Coalition team plan, the bogus clean coal staging horse for prohibitively overpriced gas in favour of reverting to a mythical “cheap coal”. The cost of pollution and the un-investible cost of building new plant, mean that cheap coal is just as much of a myth as clean coal.

No-one seems to have told Canavan that the coal advocacy part of the cunning plan was yesterday. Gas is today. The nonsense with the lump of coal; the PM’s Press Club carbon fuel vision were all devices to make gas madly attractive. Except that it’s not working. The Coalition’s team plan is every man for himself.

Immune to empiricism, impervious to fact, as coal-lobbyists invariably are, Canavan appears on ABC Insiders Sunday to bag South Australia and peddle dangerous nonsense about how coal-fired electricity is more stable, cheaper and a vast source of safe, clean jobs. How it’s manufacturing’s saviour. It’s an alarming demonstration of a narrow mind closed tighter by ideology. Equally disturbing is the extent to which he is feted by the media.

One of the beaut things about Insiders, the 7:30 Report, The Drum or ABC 24 is that a government minister knows he’ll be indulged. On the couch. After an obligatory time-waster about gay marriage, broad-brush Canavan gets a quarter of the program to regurgitate as many asinine assertions about clean coal as he can remember from Peabody Coal’s press kit. He even gets to repeat the lie that his government will act to lower energy prices.

University of Melbourne’s Climate and Energy College, recently reported that the average wholesale electricity price soared to $134 a megawatt hour last summer, compared with $65-$67 in the two summers the carbon price was in place. The biggest rise has been in Queensland and in NSW, states which rely heavily upon coal power. 

“High prices have nothing to do with renewables or state government [renewable energy] targets and everything to do with the Liberals’ failure to properly run our national energy network,” says Adam Bandt but the fiction of a Coalition standing for lower energy prices is unassailable if you say it on ABC or on MSM generally.  

“We need to act to keep power prices down”. A straight faced Canavan gets a nod and a wink from Barrie. What Canavan has in mind is a beaut artisanal, low-emission boutique coal mine industry boosting Queensland’s tourism potential.

If only he could get his head out of his coal pit and look at the vast solar farms setting up in North Queensland, he would realise that there is simply no business case for investment in coal-fired baseload power generation.

No bank will invest in it. Clean coal is nothing but an industry fiction. “Wanna maintain a manufacturing industry in this country,” he bleats. As we’ve seen with the car industry. But it’s way too late. The bird has flown.

In brief, frantically, up against this Monday’s Newspoll, Turnbull over invests in a rushed competitive bid: a nation-building stunt, he dubs Snowy Mountain 2.0, in a move worthy of the ABC satire Utopia.  NBN 2.0 would be closer. The PM’s announcement has every sign of haste. NSW and Victoria, both shareholders in Snowy Hydro, didn’t know about it, while the company itself has no proposal for pumped hydro in its Finkel submission. 

Newspoll does reflect a Snowy improvement. Labor’s lead is now 52 to 48 per cent in two-party terms and the Prime Minister’s personal ratings are up but the government is perilously below its July election support levels. There is a big risk that the hastily assembled promo will fall to bits as voters discover the plan is a thought bubble.

The government has had a study by ANU academic Andrew Blakers for some time, which accounts for the persistence of “pumped hydro” in the government’s energy lexicon in recent months. It seems to have swept its announcement forward to compete with Jay Weatherill’s initiative, a master of practicality by contrast.

“I am a nation-building Prime Minister and this is a nation-building project,” grins the Mal from Snow River. “This is the next step in a great story of engineering in the Snowy Mountains and the courageous men and women who are confident and committed to Australia’s future.”

Yet only a few weeks before he was all for clean coal at the Press Club. His Treasurer was even more dramatic.

Like Morrison’s lump of coal, Turnbull’s announcement is a stunt. The project would take too long, cost too much and deliver too little to solve immediate generation challenges. Snowy 2.0’s business model is to buy cheap and sell dear. It won’t increase capacity but could become an expensive backup. The government is evasive on costs, funding and completion date.

Yet the Coalition puts maximum spin behind it. It has blasted SA for its unstable energy policy now it is gazumped when Weatherill acts to build capacity and stability. Its response is hasty and vague, a sketch of a feasibility study drawn with a very big brush and some loopy strokes.

The government has only itself to blame. Not only has it wasted years failing to come up with a successful energy policy, it’s backed SA into a corner.

Bullied, publicly pilloried for its reckless, “ideological” embrace of renewable power, South Australia is victim of an orchestrated bullying campaign by federal government as its mining backers label wind and solar as expensive and unreliable, spinning the colossal lie that fossil fuel-powered generation is stable clean, cheap and job generating.

Mouth that roars, Christopher Pyne, helpfully lies about the Australian Submarine Corp being forced to build a $20 million diesel plant to make sure the lights stay on in risky renewable South Australia.

When asked, however, its CEO says “I don’t know anything about that.” Jay Weatherill’s stand is not so easily assailed. The risk for the government is that its anti-renewable propaganda and bagging of South Australia’s ideological fix on renewables will backfire. The Coalition’s lies are more easily exposed now and the nation has sympathy for the underdog. 

As luck would have it there is another distraction. Look over there. Sally McManus, newly elected ACTU secretary, and the first woman to head the organisation says she will break unjust laws if she has to. 

“I believe in the rule of law where the law is fair and the law is right but when it is unjust I don’t think there’s a problem with breaking it,” she tells Leigh Sales who is out for a gotcha moment on the CFMEU’s fabled thuggish disregard for the rule of law.

Exposed for a rare moment is the monumental hypocrisy of those who attack Sally from the Business Council with its tax sharp practices and in the case of News Corp UK, illegal industrial action to Malcolm Turnbull himself whose Liberal Party received millions of dollars of illegal donations. And would Spycatcher have seen the light of day without laws being broken?

There is also a pretence that the law is some inviolate, separate body of holy writ immune from human affairs. Or, as Sally herself, puts it. “Australia has been built by working people who have had the courage to stand up to unfair and unjust rules and demand something better.”

Now we can’t have that, can we? It’s just as crazy as expecting a commonwealth government to nurture its dependent states rather than bully or exploit or defame them. Or a federal government to be above petty politicking and scapegoating, dishonesty and manifest hypocrisy on something as vital as energy provision.

Yet the week has seen a line drawn in the sand with regard to energy if not states’ rights while Jay Weatherill has used the national stage to dramatically re-enact the need to speak truth to power. All the Snowy 2.0 or NBN in Australia can’t put that genie back in the bottle.

WA Liberal landslide buries Turnbull and Hanson.

It’s a Labor landslide in WA. Mark McGowan’s party may end up with 41 seats as the Liberal primary vote collapses 15% , and it’s all over bar the infighting and the recriminations. Yet one thing is sure. The fall of “Emperor” Colin Barnett can have nothing to do with Malcolm Turnbull; no blame no responsibility is accepted. Nothing to do with Turnbull’s support for the One Nation preference deal or his government’s dud policies. Instead the WA Premier invokes Whitlam.

It’s an overwhelming “it’s time factor”, Colin Barnett lies as WA Liberals openly wish they’d dumped him. Shit happens.

The ineluctable truth of Turnbull’s blamelessness emerges on ABC Insiders as “How the West Was Lost”, a gripping media mystery drama, reveals a mob of scapegoats for Liberal failure in a week of dodgy deals and reversals in which our anti-scare tactic PM’s Great Big Energy Crisis is gazumped by electron-magnate Elon Musk who offers a stack of Tesla batteries to keep the lights on in South Australia, a rashly wind and sun powered renewable rogue state.

Peter Georgiou, who takes his brother-in-law Rod Culleton’s senate spot, catches measles, a setback concealed during the campaign lest anyone laugh; or cast nasturtiums at One Nation’s crusade against childhood vaccination. There is no hope Georgiou can match the gifted buffoonery or performance art of his bankrupt predecessor but he is already off to a brilliant start not only with the measles but with his all-in-the-family route to power.  One Nation is a one-ring circus.

Not to be outdone, moreover, La Hanson suddenly falls arse over tit. Everything is going so well, too. She’s set to be crowned Queen of WA by an adoring media, when she inexplicably trips over her lip; declares herself both a Putinista and a passionate anti-vaxxer. Naturally. All Trump torch carriers are virulently anti-jab and pro Putin, too.

Hanson’s revelations cause a stir. Some PHON dingbats flee the belfry. Brazen hussy. Traitor. What became of Pauline’s Celebrity Apprentice bikini-bottoms with the Australian flag on? Worse, she self-aborts her mission. Her WA Liberals’ preference deal reveals to even One Nation voters that Pauline is just another conniving politician. It’s a fatal error. Half her predicted supporters turn against her. Beliefs, Peter Ustinov said, are what divide people. Doubts unite them.

Not that Hanson is wearing any of it. Quickly, the Liberal’s senate stooge finds a handy scapegoat for her failure.

“I don’t think it was the Liberal Party, I think it was Colin Barnett. The people here did not want Colin Barnett — he should have stepped aside.” Or thrown out. Like milk in your fridge that’s started to go sour, she says. It’s easy to see why Turnbull confidante and inner cabinet member Arthur Sinodinos praised One Nation’s sophistication recently.

The truth is voters have stepped aside – and not only from Colin Barnett. They’re not that sweet on Pauline either.

Not only does Pauline’s pixie dust suddenly wear off, however, lame duck Turnbull’s fate is sealed by the sand-gropers’ no-vote, based in real fear that the Coalition is just an ill-disguised front for business, bankers and miners with its coal-war on the climate and environment and its class-war on the poor.  Turnbull’s leadership is terminal. No ABC-led defence can help him now. He is a dead man walking even if he dare not show his face before noon.

The PM goes into witness protection, yet a piece by a Malcolm Turnbull appears 9:00 am in The Sunday Telegraph with the Dubai World’s Best Minister Greg Hunt threatening to bar unvaccinated kids from childcare and preschools. “No jab no pay will be matched by no jab no play.” Mal’s even written a letter commending his idea to state and territory leaders.

Sky News calls it the PM’s “hard stance on vaccinations”. Hunt repeats the word “tough” twice. It must be a stiff letter. The Liberal party’s storm-troopers are scrambled to put Humpty Dumpty back together again starting from the tough up. Sturmmann Matthias Stormin’ Cormann is despatched to stonewall on ABC TV. He belabours the Liberals’ preference deal’s impeccable logic.  It would put a floor under a declining primary vote of 29%, he repeats ad nauseam.

Cormann’s the Liberals’ master tactician and powerbroker. His recent master stroke was to be seen walking out with Peter Dutton recently. Dutton wants to head up a new uber-department of Homeland Security an idea which many of his colleagues dismiss as a naked power grab by the Border Enforcer and his boss Mike Pezullo who amalgamated Customs and Border Protection without over troubling to get them working together properly. Or communicating.

Some see Dutton keenly building a power base from which to challenge Turnbull. Homeland Security would take what is laughably called oversight of ASIO from Attorney General. Others see Turnbull so beholden to the right and so keen to be free of Brandis that he will agree. It will not be a path to the top but to the bottom. Dutton struggled to run Health. He is overwhelmed by the tasks of winding up Manus and running down Nauru. His refugee deal with Trump is stalled.

Out of his stall and a law unto himself as ever, deputy leader Barnaby Joyce calls the preference deal “a mistake” before offering some colourful opinions on ABC Radio about One Nation’s senate candidates. “Mad”, he says.” Lucky this is not being broadcast.” Labor simply replies swiftly that Fizza Turnbull failed to act on his power to veto the deal.

Of course there are local factors. Barnett’s switched-on plan to privatise state electricity in WA seems a turn off for voters. It’s worked so well in other states. In Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, prices soar as systems become less reliable. The “Junior, sweaty, Navy Lawyer” attack on McGowan by the typically sensitive Minister for Welfare Extortion and sandgroper, Christian Porter may have not struck the right note early in the campaign.

But in a post truth, fake news Trumpocene age, personal abuse beats rational argument any day. Besides, didja hear what Turnbull called Shorten?

Like their federal counterpart, the WA Liberals are lean on policy.  Astonishingly, also, Colin Barnett fails to convince anyone that he should waste a third term pretending to be an effective State Premier after blowing the proceeds of the mining boom, driving up the state debt and causing credit ratings and property prices to fall.

The Department’s pre-election budget update forecast total public sector debt will reach $41.1 billion by mid-2020.

Then there’s the elephant in the room of WA’s dodgy queue-jumping tax grab. Barnett’s government passed legislation in late 2015 to seize control of the $1.8 billion assets from the Bell liquidation — potentially jumping ahead of the ATO and other creditors. Somehow Joe Hockey and Attorney General George Brandis led them to believe that the federal government backed WA’s strategy. The High Court threw out the legislation on appeal, humiliating the WA government.

Sadly, Brandis’ inability to recall the nature or the precise date of his involvement may have misled parliament over the issue. The AG seems to have confused everyone. The case may also have cast a cloud over the Barnett regime. Certainly it has led to calls for Brandis to resign. Whatever else may be said, however, the Premier is clearly not short of big ideas.

You can’t fault Barnett for innovative policy. He’s out there doing the hard yards promising ripper statues of sporting heroes at the new Perth Stadium, not just a digital tribute, but a whole new statue every two years, plus a whole bunch of other stuff in aquaculture, Aboriginal rock art and tourism along with a pledge to see the federal government’s wonderful new Sunday penalty rate cuts translated into state awards, too. Plucky? “You bet you are. You bet I am.”

But you can’t fight city hall. Barnett is blown away by the Tsunami of unpopularity that is the Turnbull government.

Despite all the spin, the WA result is clearly a rejection of the Turnbull government’s Centrelink Robo-debt extortion of the poor and its equally cruel penalty-rate cuts. The state with 6.5% unemployed and rising, the nation’s highest, even measured by the government’s rubbery figures, also smarts over the barefaced robbery of Coalition tax cuts for the wealthy, while International Women’s Day this week reminds us that we remain one nation divided by entrenched gender inequality.  It’s even more keenly experienced in the new mining industrial rustbelt of WA.

Women with children, workers least equipped to find childcare other days in the week, suffer the most from the government’s cutting Sunday penalty rates. They bear a disproportionate part of the social, emotional and economic brunt of the government’s push to have more Australians under-employed in an increasingly part-time casualised workforce where hours may grow, wages are stagnant and penalty rate cuts increasingly undermine household budgets.

Things are likely to get worse. Legal opinion for the ACTU released Friday by lawyers Maurice Blackburn finds that the Fair Work Commission case to consider consumer expectations and not to actively deter weekend work could be used to reduce awards in nursing and health care, transport, security, cleaning services, construction, clerical workers, laundry services, hair and beauty industries, trainers, mining and factories.

Employment Minister and Minister for Women, avid part-time property investor and lip readers’ gift, Michaelia Cash says it’s all a Labor lie but since her claim to have overlooked registering her 1.5 million property investment next door, no-one can believe a word she says.  She’s a big fan of penalty cuts but you’d never know it – now. She’s in witness protection for the duration. Or at least until there’s no risk of being questioned about her property management skills.

At least Pauline tells it like it is. Even if the big ideas don’t always fit the sentence. Hanson’s support for penalty rate cuts goes back to running the Ipswich fish shop. Labor’s to blame. McDonald’s undercut her minimum wage. She had to pay eight dollars an hour more. EBA’s are to blame. It’s not the sort of pitch the average WA worker can relate to.

Yet the jabs break through. Not every mother owns a small business but all mothers know what is to have sick children.

Along with her dangerous advice to parents to make up their own minds on vaccinating their children, a song from Donald Trump’s hymnbook, she professes love for Russian despot Vladimir Putin, whom she naively praises as “a strong leader” who “stands up for his country” – not one who invades others to seize lands where ethnic Russians may live  – as indicated by his incursion into Georgia, his seizure of Crimea and his role in the “frozen conflict” in eastern Ukraine.

28 Australians were among the 298 passengers killed when MH17 a Boeing 777 flying civilians was blasted out of the sky over Ukraine by a Russian missile, an act for which Hanson’s beloved strong leader, Vladimir Putin, refuses to take responsibility.

The media turn. Even ABC Insiders Barrie Cassidy can’t let her ignorance go unchallenged. Turnbull himself weighs in later and has another dab Sunday while Bill Shorten makes a bipartisan show of support for a factually based public health policy. It’s the high point of the political week – if you don’t count Colin Barnett’s comeuppance. Or Georgiou.

A concerted stand against Hanson may be good news for the nation this week even if the ABC gets its nose rubbed in its mess. In retaliation for holding Australia’s Trumpista to account, the ABC is barred access to her WA election wake where party members console themselves that their dismal showing was all the fault of Barrie Cassidy. Doubtless the banks and those international financiers who created the climate change hoax for profit have a hand in it, too.

Hanson’s “humilating flop” as Malcolm Farr calls it in WA parallells her failure to coordinate a handful of senators and makes a complete mockery of her leadership pretensions. But it’s not what people are telling her she says. It’s not what she hears from the voters. Like Corey Bernardi, she claims a type of clairaudience. She intuits the people’s will. Incredibly, no-one else can do this.  Amazingly, ordinary people who lack her access to the media always agree with her.

No rebuke will easily dint Hanson’s rock-star popularity. Like her idol Trump, her fans are nurtured more by mutual ignorance, fear and hatred than petty details such as factual accuracy. Yet  the preference deal with the Liberals, goes badly. She admits as much Saturday as she acknowledges PHON has won less than five per cent of the lower house vote and seven per cent in the upper.

Gone is any hope of the swag of seats predicted earlier. Gone is the prospect of holding the balance of power. PHON will be lucky to get one or two seats in a big Senate cross bench. Yet straight-faced she blames the Liberal Party.

Hanson, Labor helpfully reminds voters, is supposed to be above preference deals; that type of politics.  No-one says that her WA bid is preposterous; no-one whispers she is utterly, ludicrously out of her depth; not waving but drowning.  Luckily, however, there are others competing for Australian politics Darwin Award for individuals who contribute to improving the evolution of our national politics by selecting themselves out of the gene pool by self-destruction.

Perennial Darwin Award contender and sole survivor over his 2016 how to vote Liberal in the Senate fiasco plucky Tassie Senator Erich Abetz jostles to the front of the pack this week with some beaut new views on how women win respect.

“Queen Elizabeth II has demonstrated that hard work and commitment earn you far more respect than demanding that people make way and artificially promote you simply because of your sex,” tweets the budding local female emancipist, pocket philosopher and inveterate attention seeker Abetz who trips badly in his run-up to achieving his own unique insight into International Women’s Day. Abetz succeeds once again only in putting both feet into his mouth.

Last October, Abetz was berating the media for bias in failing to celebrate those who come out straight.  “Ever thought why there is no celebration for those that decide to go from the homosexual to heterosexual lifestyle? Are they not honest? Are they not coming out as well? … just one of the examples of the one-way traffic and bias from the media.”

HRH, one hopes, will overlook Eric’s slight on her inherited privilege, status and wealth – just as women whose hard work and commitment has not yet made them members of the royal family may now safely overlook anything the senator says as the blathering of a manifest idiot who has no clue about gender inequality and less about gender politics.

Media bias, however, to be fair to Eric, is firmly entrenched although the traffic follows the money; flows Eric’s way.

An ally, of sorts, for example, in Abetz’ quest to misrepresent, dismiss or deny the gravity of gender inequality is to be found on what Peter Dutton sees as the jihadist conspirators’ ABC’s The Drum where one of a panel of “successful businesswomen” points out that the surest path to equal opportunity is to have your stockbroker gal pal on your speed dial. She’ll be the one with the best baby-sitting contacts. Abetz is right about the bias; The Drum is an exclusive club where success talks to itself in public.

In the same way, politicians talk to themselves in the media, or over each other or the interviewer, a process they fondly describe as “having a national conversation”.

None of these token successes have anything remotely useful to offer ordinary women whose lives in their own ways deserve every bit as much celebration and affirmation. Their presence is a reproach to all those who are trying to run a home and a family on a hopelessly inadequate and shrinking part-time wage.

Our media promotes inequality in privileging the discourse of the successful as it does by ensuring the dominance of a white male middle-class elite. If you are a woman, for example, you have a one per cent chance of being interviewed in a newspaper, on TV or radio or any other form of media. And in news coverage, three quarters of all women are invisible. Only about 24% of all people seen, heard or read about in the news are female.

Although women make up 46 per cent of all employees in Australia, they take home on average $283.20 less than men each week (full-time adult ordinary time earnings). The national gender “pay gap” is 18.2 per cent and it has remained stuck between 15 per cent and 18 per cent for the past two decades.

The PM honours International Women’s day with community legal centres in Australia, facing a 30% funding cut from the federal government next financial year. Tasmania’s state government recently announced they would make up the difference.

Nothing is heard from Minister for women Michaelia Cash about penalty rate cuts which hurt women the most. Nor does the government express any compassion or concern for the consequences of Robo debt clawback – although the ten per cent debt recovery surcharge may well be illegal – as too are its methods of discouraging protest.

News comes this week that the department pulls the files of those who make a fuss and sends their personal details to the Minister, who then may pass them on to be used against the ungrateful welfare recipient. It’s an extraordinary admission of another step towards a totalitarian state. It fits with Brandis’ recent admission that the AFP accesses certain journalists’ meta-data in order to hunt down whistle-blowers.

Soon this may all be under the aegis of Peter Dutton. What could possibly go wrong?

WA is at the very least a slap in the face for the federal government. It is almost certainly the end of Malcolm Turnbull. It may well be, also, that it is the beginning of the end for Pauline Hanson whose attempt to make it on the national stage has not got much beyond a seat on the cross-bench.

Or is it the end of the beginning? Certainly the curbing of the mainstream media’s fawning indulgence of a celebrity politician with some dangerously false ideas is a welcome corrective against infectious ignorance and division.

Now the same process needs to be sustained on the wilful disinformation of those in the major parties who would divide and dupe us for their ends and their backers’ profits.

Coalition loses all credibility and legitimacy over penalty rate cuts.

If there were an Olympic event for the side-step, handball or back-flip, the Coalition would win all three at once this week. Mugged by reality, former small business champions, Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull, duck for cover after the Fair Work Commission’s cuts to Sunday penalty rates for Retail, Pharmacy and Hospitality workers. Once righteous penalty cut crusaders, wild-eyed Coalition MPs now stampede in all directions. The PM wears his best shit-eating grin.

No-one is game to applaud the business lobby’s win over workers’ rights to a fair day’s pay.  Once penalty rate cuts were an elixir for every ailing government. Now they are electoral poison. Gorgeous George Christensen, who hovers at large in a halo of self publicity – like a botfly forever on the edge of defecting from a government he seldom deigns to support, fears penalty rate cuts will cost him his seat unless something is done.

Nationals cat-herder Party Whip Christensen is big in the news this week for tossing in his tawse. And professing loyalty.

Abbott loyalist, Eric Abetz shows why he is the former Minister for Workplace Relations by rushing to the rescue with an absurdly unworkable grandfathering proposal for new workers only to be paid less than they are worth.

“The Fair Work Commission should use the powers that it already has to grandfather current employees’ salary rates so that only new employees are covered by these new salary rates. The Fair Work Commission, under current law, already has the ability to do this,” Senator Abetz writes in Thursday’s Fairfax papers

Cheaper workers would displace more expensive as the boss laid off old hands and hired new. It’s the Gresham’s Law of employment. But relax. Experts, ever generous with jargon, rush to tell us that “red-circling” is not practicable while most of us didn’t even know it was a phrase. What they mean is businesses could not possibly keep books which have workers on different pay rates. Way too complex.

Turnbull dismisses the proposal as impracticable. This does not mean, of course, that nothing is happening “in this space” to use another of the jargonistas’ favoured phrases.

The best course of action for the nation would be for the government to show leadership and reject the commission’s recommendation. The FWC is not meant to further disadvantage our lowest paid, least secure workers.  And our latest current accounts are an argument for a pay rise not a pay cut.  The rising tide is not floating all boats.

The December quarter accounts show a rise in productivity but wage growth is in decline; the worst set of figures for workers since records began. While the economy grew nominally by 3% in the December quarter, the third best result in twenty eight years, according to Guardian Australia’s Greg Jericho, the amount of money flowing to employees fell by 0.5%, the worst since the ABS began measuring quarterly GDP statistics in September 1959.

The results torpedo the government’s mantra of jobs and growth. They are a slap in the face to trickle-down theorists on both sides of the House. Never before have our nation’s leaders been so publicly rebuked by the statistics. Wealth in the nation does not trickle down; it trickles up. What is a government to do?

Luckily a philosophical Scott Morrison is on hand to offer a healing gloss.

“… we must continue to remember that our growth cannot be taken for granted and is not being experienced by all Australians in all parts of the country in the same way.” Or the rich get rich while the poor get poorer. Shit happens, as his illustrious former Prime Minister put it so sagely. No inkling that governments might lend a hand to those in need.

Leadership is the first casualty in the Fair Work Commission’s war on the poor. To be fair, the PM has another Abbott attack to fend off. A La Trump, he says Tony Abbott causes the latest Newspoll which gives his government its eight straight set of dud results in a row and puts his approval rating at record low.

Having comprehensively established that rather Tony Abbott is the sole cause of his inept, dysfunctional government’s and poorly led government’s bad performance in the polls, Turnbull gets on his high horse and rides off in all directions.

In the week after the Fair Work Commission’s decision The Coalition embraces five different, contradictory, positions, as  Bernard Keane notes. It’s the decision of the independent umpire, it’s Bill Shorten’s doing, it’s good for jobs, it has no position at all, it is good for jobs but existing workers should be protected, a grandfathering proposal from Eric Abetz which the PM dismisses as unworkable. By Sunday, Murdoch hack and addled agent provocateur Piers Ackermann not only calls Turnbull’s leadership “terminal” he backs a plunge on Portsea Polo princess Ms Julie Bishop as successor.

At least the Labor party’s posture  is consistent.  Despite its crippling Neoliberal infection, the workers’ party which long ago sold workers down the river, the party which helped rich rob poor under Hawke and Keating, is here to help. Labor pledges to fix things up by proposing new laws to protect low paid workers’ penalty rates. It knows it’s riding a winner. Yet, as Turnbull calculates, it is also compromised; vulnerable to attack however loudly it may protest its loyalty.

“Quite frankly, last Thursday, when Bill and I looked at the decision, we were – to say the least – surprised and disappointed that there was a significant net loss to workers without compensation whatsoever and we felt we had no option but to stand on the side of workers,” says Shadow employment Minister Brendan O’Connor.

Solidarity is well-nigh irretrievable. The Hawke-Keating government reduced corporate taxes by 16 per cent from 49 to 33 per cent. It cut the top personal tax rate from 60 cents to 47 cents in the dollar. Union membership fell from over 48 per cent to below 31 per cent.  By September 2016, Roy Morgan estimates,  national union membership was around 17.4 percent, the lowest result since the research firm began collecting union membership data in 1998. Gloating, the IPA calls it “terminal decline”. Workers are increasingly part-time, casual, underemployed and non-unionised.

Under Hawke and Keating the wages share of GDP fell from 61.5 per cent of GDP to less than 55 per cent, a transfer of $50 billion from poor to rich. Encouraged by such betrayals, Turnbull works all week to frame Shorten as another working class traitor. It’s ill-judged. Those suffering rate cuts don’t get much comfort from killing Bill. Forget the spin. But a Work Choices style campaign would cut through. Workers know all about the real decline in their pay packets.

Under the Coalition, real wage growth has reversed: increases in nominal weekly wages haven’t even kept up with inflation. It’s the worst wage performance in Australia’s postwar history, reports The Australia Institute.

Yet there is an astonishing lack of empathy or compassion for those affected, in government ranks. The Opposition, on the other hand, to its credit, chooses to focus on the workers’ stories. It reads case studies of men and women whose earnings have been cut, a powerfully eloquent testimony to the real suffering unleashed by the Commission’s decision.

For Tony Abbott, however, another week brings another sniping. Who gives a fig for the working poor when there’s yet another opportunity to knife your nemesis? And he’s a veteran arm chair general. He’s a dab hand at giving Turnbull the very advice that he could never take himself in his own brief reign of failure as the IPA’s best Prime Minister.

“Against Labor’s pitch of ’high wages’ versus ’low wages’, we need to pitch ’high wages’ versus ’no wages’,” Abbott tells The Australian Friday turning exploitation into a zinger. “The issue is not higher wages versus lower wages.” “It’s about making it possible for more businesses to stay open because if the business is shut no one gets paid anything.”

Abbott, typically, deigns to offer evidence that any business has been forced to close because of penalty rates but it’s a bit of rhetoric which Turnbull picks up gratefully late Friday. Much of his week, however, is wasted blaming Labor.

It’s all Bill Shorten’s fault, screams the PM, his voice hoarse from a week of hurling abuse at Labor’s leader. “Labor appointed all of the full bench who made the decision.” Labor’s to blame. Blaming others  is this government’s signature.

Just as Labor’s Mediscare campaign disrupted Turnbull’s “powerful and positive campaign” causing the Coalition to be returned with a piddling one seat majority – just as Tony Abbott caused the government’s eighth consecutive dip in Newspoll, the causes of adversity are always someone else’s fault. Come what may, penalty cuts, whatever its latest self-inflicted injury, the Coalition always has Labor or someone else to blame. It’s a strategy that shrieks weak leadership.

By Tuesday it’s the fault of the independent umpire, a phrase which the PM wears out with overuse. The independent umpire, he labours the phrase, almost leering, like some knowing Pantomime Dame. What he’s hinting? Is it ironic? Just how independent is the FWC?

Liberals say it’s stacked by Labor. Former Deputy President Brendan McCarthy, a Howard appointee, stepped down from the FWC in December 2014, telling The Australian the Fair Work Commission “is not the appropriate body for the setting of minimum wage and awards. No longer has it the best experience to set Australia’s minimum workplace standards.”

McCarthy gave his serve following the resignation of FWC vice-president Graeme Watson who complained to Employment Minister Michaelia Cash that the industrial umpire was becoming “politically compromised and dysfunctional” under President Iain Ross’s leadership. The jibe moved Tony Abbott to write glibly that the FWC was “pro-union and anti jobs”, typically without being pressed to explain the contradiction.

Hence Turnbull’s glee – a schadenfreude that is his undoing.  He sees a commission which Abbott and others call too left wing to ever get it right now giving a decision to the right. But is it a victory? The focus on the FWC risks shattering any illusion that the body has any effective role in protecting workers. Surely the government has some role here, too?

Certainly a week passes before Turnbull manages to affirm the decision. He croaks out the patent lie that cutting penalty rates makes for more jobs, instead of just forcing low wage earners to seek an additional job or more hours to survive.

By Sunday he claims airily that “masses of evidence” exist to support a reduction to some penalty rates by the Fair Work Commission, saying the changes mean more businesses will open; jobs will be created.

They won’t. According to experts including University of Melbourne’s Mark Woden, “The most likely scenario is that some businesses, not all, will now have their existing staff offered a few more hours.”

Given the government’s long war against penalty rates and its carte blanche to the commission, its contortions and its buck dodging are ugly and unedifying.  Its default option is to scatter – as it did when Minister for Coal-fired energy generation, Josh Frydenberg hinted at a carbon pricing scheme hint recently. Scatter and finger Bill Shorten. Has there ever been a more gutless or ill-disciplined government?

Turnbull himself once crusaded for cuts. “Penalty rates are an anachronism” he bellowed in 2015. A mob of other MPs have been just as keen to do the business lobby’s bidding. Michaelia Cash claimed they were a brake on weekend work. Wokka Entsch reckoned penalty rates closed businesses. Hard to fathom, Bernard Keane notes given the mini-boom in hospitality over recent years. But now there’s a deafening silence. Above all, no-one owns the government’s choice not to make any submission to the Commission –  effectively handing it a blank cheque.

The government is caught flat-footed again. No plan is at hand, oddly, to spin business’ victory; explain any “benefits to the economy”.  Other fumbles follow. World’s loudest treasurer, Scott Morrison flubs his latest undeserved lucky break when growth, of sorts, returns, on his watch. But it’s no cause for celebration.

While MSM cheer our escape from a “technical recession”, the quarterly account figures show workers, hardworking Australians are increasingly excluded from sharing in any new productivity or economic growth. The truth hurts. This is a government which has helped wages to decline while enabling company profits to soar twenty per cent.

No-one challenges the Coalition and business lobby backers’ false report of a dying Hospitality trade. As Bernard Keane regularly reminds, us far from being “crippled” by penalty rates, Australia’s cafe and restaurant sector is growing so fast it will soon overtake manufacturing.

Many open-on-Sunday businesses are booming. It’s their workers who are being sent to the wall. The issue is not about who is to blame or whether the umpire is fair, but about exploitation; the inexorable decline of wages and job security.

From 1 July, a retail worker on an hourly rate of $19.44 will lose $77 after working an eight-hour Sunday shift, all because the FWC deems Sundays to be “less important” to us today. Not how important rates are to workers’ pay. Absent from the FWC’s calculation is any notion that poorly paid workers depend upon penalty rates to pay bills and buy food. By contrast, bosses will get tax cuts to boost their profits. Our agile PM can’t skedaddle fast enough.

The decision to cut penalty rates helps legitimise our cash economy, a labour market where Chinese workers may be paid as little as six dollars an hour. While the 700,000 workers affected are among our lowest paid, there are hundreds of thousands cash in hand workers even worse off. In a Fairfax investigation, hundreds of thousands of workers were found to be exploited. The ATO estimates about 1.6 million businesses (mostly micro and small businesses with an annual turnover up to $15 million) operating across 233 industries make up our expanding illegal cash economy.

This sordid truth underpins the “transitioning” economy, a favourite phrase used by a treasurer whose government is increasingly adept at turning a blind eye to human suffering and distress. Never have our two nations; the two Australias – the worlds of the haves and the have nots been so far apart.

While the PM claims $273 per night to stay in his wife’s Canberra apartment, the average accommodation and food services worker earns $524 a week. Retail workers earn just $687 – compared with $1,163 for all Australian workers.

“It’s not a decision of the government,” Turnbull says like Pilate washing his hands. “It’s a decision of the FWC, an independent commission.”  Yet he has done nothing to preserve that independence. Since gaining power, the Coalition has not appointed a single workers’ representative to the commission.  In not making any submission, moreover, the government has effectively given the green light to penalty rate cuts unlike Labor whose submission opposed cuts.

Claims of independence also ignore the eight members the coalition appointed to the FWC in 2015; four in September by Eric Abetz and four in December by Michaelia Cash 2015. It’s also a spectacular backflip. After years of bleating about the need to cut or abolish penalty rates to “grow businesses” the Coalition seems caught out by the decision; with no real plan to sell penalty rate cuts to the electorate.

That’s been left to businesses themselves. Yet it’s not happening. A defensive Employment Minister Michaelia Cash denies that she has fumbled the handball; businesses will step up and sell the cuts on behalf of a gutless government.

Worse, the Turnbull government, soft on banks, hard on welfare recipients, has wedged itself between its $50 billion business tax cut largesse to the wealthy on the one hand and its swingeing pay cut to the poor on the other.

The Commission’s decision to cut penalty rates beginning 1 July not only lowers the take home pay of some 700, 000 workers it leaves others nervously wondering when their wages will be cut too.  Restaurants, Fast Foods, Clubs and Hair and Beauty Awards remain the same but the commission invites interested parties to “express a view”. The lower rates will also influence enterprise bargaining from 1 July this year. No wonder Labor sees it as the thin end of the wedge.

Turnbull settles for calling Shorten a “double gold medallist on backflips on penalty rates”.

Last week despicable Bill was a “social climbing parasite”, this week, he is a hypocrite who flip-flops from support for the FWC’s decisions to contesting them. Won’t respect his own Fair Work Commission’s decision or the umpire’s independence, honks Malcolm Turnbull. Why he even traded away penalty rates. And the money went to the UNION.

Turnbull’s desperately confected indignation, outrage and derision, serves to drive him deeper into the politics of denunciation and character assassination. By Thursday and the finale to this week’s episode of our record-breaking national political melodrama, Question Time. Killing Bill is the answer to everything again.

Turnbull riffs about Cleanevent and Chiquita mushrooms, firms and workers Shorten sold down the river, he screams. He loves the sound of his own baritone, as he goes loud and long on mock outrage. His fog carries him beyond reality to an upland plain where he is a dragon-slayer. He lies about the commissioners, eight of whom are Liberal appointees. Ignores the times he’s walked all over other independent umpires such as in the CFA dispute. Or sacked them.

If only shouting abuse could make turncoat Bill the scapegoat for his government’s own incompetence.  By Thursday, not only is Shorten a class traitor he’s  “He’s moved into the post-truth environment.” Is this politics or some surrealist poetry slam? 700,000 workers who find themselves suddenly unable to pay rent or buy food could tell him.

Sneering at the Labor leader won’t disguise his government’s pathological inability to make a decision.  Turnbull’s a dead man walking – not so much because his colleagues have their knives out but because of his own crippling indecision. By Thursday, he’s lecturing the FWC about the need to protect low-paid workers, hinting that the decision may be delayed or somehow fairly phased in. Apparently he’s changed his mind but only if you trust the rhetoric.

Caught napping by a Fair Work Commission decision to cut penalty rates, the Prime Minister leads his government along a well-worn goat track where everything from the energy crisis to refugees on Manus and Nauru are all Labor’s fault.

Blaming Labor doesn’t require a lot of preparation or real team work. And it’s the of the few things the crew can agree on. But it may serve to make the Coalition’s headache only worse as the focus shifts to the plight of the low paid workers whom through incompetence and ideology it abandoned or assumed it could safely ignore. It is a huge miscalculation.

It is also a huge disservice to women who will bear the brunt of the cuts: “For many women, working on weekends is their only option because conventional career work on weekdays is too inflexible for them and there is no childcare,” says Marian Baird, Professor of Gender and Employment relations at the University of Sydney business school.

The 700,000 workers whose earnings are cut plus those many more whose wages will drop as a consequence and the millions more who know or depend upon them and anyone with a sense of justice will remind them an Australian government with no clear plan or policy; a government which exists merely to meet the needs just of the rich, the privileged and the powerful soon forfeits its right to govern at all.

 

Turnbull embraces Netanyahu; lets everything else go to hell.

Sydney Harbour sparkles in the morning sun, a wash of blue and the perfect backdrop for the azure ties and matching navy Zegna suits of power-dressers Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu and Malcolm Turnbull who step out together in Admiralty House gardens at Kirribilli; wives Sara and Lucy, their minders, handlers and backers in tow like seconds at a duel.   Camera men scramble backwards up steep paths risking injury to keep it all in frame.

A riot of photo-opportunities beckons a government of endless self-promotion where image and spin utterly upstage vision; where government can seldom move far away from the politics of the campaign stump. But what is Malcolm Turnbull doing inviting one of the most reviled leaders in the world to Australia for a week?

Is it part of the deal Turnbull denies striking with Donald Trump? Could our PM have agreed to back up US  support for Israel in return for The Donald’s re-consideration of the controversial refugee swap between Australia and the US agreed under the Obama regime, a deal the President has dismissed as dumb and stupid? It would seem that our military commitment to fighting ISIS in Syria is about to be increased. Just out of the blue.

Certainly Bibi-love is in the air. We can’t make too much fuss over him. Helicopters hover above. Police boats patrol below. Armed police are everywhere. Security forces haven’t been this busy since 1967 when Holt invited Air Vice Marshall Nguyen Cao Ky, playboy US puppet boss of South Vietnam in another politically and morally bankrupt gesture of goodwill. But none of the force on display will protect us from the enemy within however much he may look like the innocent flower.

“This is magnificent,” says Sara, admiring a place Mark Twain found “superbly beautiful”. Yet all the beauty in the world cannot undo the terror inflicted, the suffering wrought by the monster just ahead, her husband the “butcher of Tel Aviv”, flash as a rat with a gold tooth in his finely-cut Italian suit. Despite all of the security patrols on show on land sea or air, Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit is a welcome mat to state terror.

Operation Protective Edge saw Netanyahu’s Likud government kill 2,251 Palestinians including 1462 civilians, 299 women and 551 children in the bombing of Gaza between 8 July and 27 August 2014. 142 families lost three or more members. Sixty-six Israeli soldiers and seven civilians in Israel also lost their lives.

Over 11 000 Palestinians were injured according to an independent UN report which found that while both Palestinians and Israelis may have committed war crimes, hundreds of Palestinians – many of them women and children – were killed in their own homes.

But we all need to toughen up, Netanyahu explains. The bodies were arranged by Hamas to display “telegenically dead Palestinians” for their cause. Ironically, the same propaganda technique was deployed in Goebbels’ 1941 propaganda piece ‘the Jews are guilty’. It’s not too far from John Howard’s 2001 babies overboard claim.

Sixty prominent Australians pen a letter of protest that Netanyahu’s government sets out to “provoke, intimidate and oppress” the Palestinian people. Netanyahu defends the Nakba, the Israeli colonisation of Palestinian territory as a bulwark against radical Islam. A tape from 2001 leaked in 2010, however reveals his own form of terrorism.

“Beat them up, not once but repeatedly, beat them up so it hurts so badly, until it’s unbearable”, he says on tape.

If Turnbull has been expecting reasoned moderation or compromise, he is rudely disabused. Now he must also take responsibility for isolating Australia from mainstream international policy in cosying up to a monster and pariah. The stakes are high both the PM and for the nation. Yet he seems to go to excessive lengths.

Turnbull uses The Australian to lecture the UN not to be “hypocritical” over its Resolution 2334 which condemns Israeli settlements as a flagrant violation of international law. He does his best to push the two state formula.

“My government will not support one-sided resolutions criticising Israel of the kind recently adopted by the Security Council and we deplore the boycott campaigns designed to delegitimise the Jewish state,” he writes.

“We support an outcome which has two states where Israelis, the Israeli people, the Palestinian people live side by side as a result of direct negotiations between them — that is the fundamental point — and live together in peace and the security that they are entitled to expect,” he adds. But Bibi won’t have a bar of any two state juju.

Netanyahu’s a realist, at least. The two state formula is a con, Bernard Keane notes. It lets nations turn a blind eye to Israel’s illegal occupation and control of the West bank by settlement and military force.

What Netanyahu wants is Australia to support his current policy of Illegal colonisation by settlement. And he gets it. What Turnbull gets for going out on a limb risking international isolation- even from New Zealand which moved the resolution –  and censure is another drubbing, another foreign policy humiliation.

No-one mentions the siege of Gaza.  Israel has besieged Gaza by land, air and sea since 2007, following Hamas’s takeover from the Palestinian Authority’s security apparatus. 1.8 million Palestinians are “locked in and denied free access to the world,” the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported in July 2015. Does Malcolm Turnbull believe that the UN is being hypocritical here, too? Where does the accommodation end?

All that matters, then, is the Bibi and Malcolm and Sara and Lucy show, a feel-good story. It’s a simple script. The foursome get on so famously that they hang out together all week. Turnbull hopes Brand Netanyahu will rub off on him a bit; help boost his own anti-Islam, anti-terror standing with his insatiable hawkish right wing. Somehow the PM trusts that despite his failure to stand up to Netanyahu, Bibi’s company will make him appear stronger.

The official rationale includes vital agreements needing to be signed on technology and air services. Then there’s airy talk of expanding co-operation in areas including cyber-security, innovation and science.

Why we could triple our trade with Australia, says Netanyahu on cue. With bilateral trade between Israel our 44th trading partner and Australia currently worth around $1 billion, the benefits would still not offset the costs to Australia’s reputation. Or the potential offence we may give to Arab nations. Ultimately it comes down to a botched strategy. The visit was only ever about Turnbull’s need to look tough on the domestic front.

Instead he’s compromised himself and his nation, especially given the contrast with the reception given to Indonesia’s leader – and especially given the cloud of criminal charges hanging over Benjamin Netanyahu.

When Joko Widodo arrives Saturday, no formal dinner awaits him. He’s left to rustle up a bucket of Point Piper Kentucky Fried for himself.  But he’s cool. And he needs to stay cool. In ways “too painful to explain”, an irreverent Perth army base training manual discovered in January discredited Indonesia’s military, its people and its ideology, claims his hard-line military chief Gatot Nurmantyo who has little love for Australia.

Any thaw in relationships has to be staged carefully. Unlike the Netanyahu love-fest which runs all week.

Clearly, Benjamin Netanyahu PM of Israel, a much smaller and more remote rogue nation than Indonesia, is much more fun to be with.  Mal and Lucy have all the time in the world for their new pals.  War criminal Bibi, in return, must appreciate time out from charges of improper use of state funds and criminal corruption for hurting a rival newspaper and accepting illegal gifts the Israeli PM faces at home. The case is likely to go court.

In the best news money can’t buy, Israel’s Channel 2 reports police have a recording of Netanyahu offering to curb the circulation of Israel HaYom, a critical newspaper, and also to broker billionaire investment in rival newspaper Yediot Aharonot if its publisher, Arnon Mozes, would make its coverage more pro-government.

Caught in the headlamps, also, is neighbour James Packer, one of Bibi’s inner circle of billionaires. The casino owner’s quest for Israeli citizenship may be unrelated to his buying a beachfront house next door to the Netanyahu shack. Similarly Packer may not be one of the billionaire investors teed up to buy the paper.

Police have questioned Netanyahu about his close relationship with Packer, who is reported to have financed trips abroad and hotel stays for Netanyahu’s eldest son, Yair.

Here a fulsome media embrace is orchestrated. Breathlessly, endlessly, every channel tells us that this is the “first visit to Australia” by a sitting Israeli Prime Minister. Trade deals are touted breathlessly, as always, as if somehow governments must clear the way before any enterprising trader may succeed in a free trade environment. Not a word is heard of Israel’s war crimes and current charges against its PM are soft-pedalled.

Happily a leadership lunge by a punch-drunk Tony Abbott provides media with a great story, Thursday, when he uses a Sydney book launch Making Australia Right a collection of essays by conservatives edited by James Allan, and an appearance on his pal Andrew Bolt’s show to outline his own five point plan to win the next election. Some journalists describe his thought bubble as a major speech. 

It’s more of a kamikaze attack which will further alienate any support which remains for him but which is bound to damage Turnbull and to accelerate rapidly dwindling public affection for a clearly divided, dysfunctional Coalition government. Some, including Bernard Keane, suggest that the hard right’s leader in waiting, Peter Dutton, will be the chief beneficiary of Abbott’s open assault on his leader. It is a fair stretch, however, to tip Dutton for PM.

David Marr, however, on ABC Insiders, Sunday, finds the prospect laughable. Yet years ago, Abbott was similarly dismissed as having shown little of the requisite qualities of mind and spirit to become leader. It may well be, also as Carl Bernstein has written of Trump that Abbott’s achievement has been to break the civic consenus as to the qualities required in successful political leader. Or the behaviour expected.

Astutely, Abbott observes there is disappointment ‘perhaps even despair’ with Turnbull’s government. He notes nearly 40 per cent of Australians didn’t vote for the Coalition or Labor in the 2016 election before spoiling his speech by claiming: “It’s easy to see why”. In reality, he still has no idea as his solution shows.

“In short, why not say to the people of Australia: we’ll cut the RET [renewable energy target] to help with your power bills; we’ll cut immigration to make housing more affordable; we’ll scrap the Human Rights Commission to stop official bullying; we’ll stop all new spending to end ripping off our grandkids; and we’ll reform the Senate to have government, not gridlock?”

Abbott’s plan is just a series of empty rhetorical assertions. The lie about lower energy bills has already been tried and recent polls show most Australians do care about renewable energy targets.

Immigration cuts will not lower house prices and would help further suppress economic growth. Scrapping the HRC, a body his government attacked savagely is not going to end official bullying, especially when Centrelink is doing a magnificent job of that already with its Robo-claw automated debt-recovery debacle.

Stopping spending is rich, as Christopher Pyne points out, rashly, when he observes that Abbott’s was a big-spending government which raised taxes, too in the form of a deficit levy and a fuel excise rise. How exactly reform of the senate would proceed is left up to the listener to imagine in a series of points which is less of a “manifesto”, as some in the press have helpfully dubbed it, than a few more empty slogans.

On savage counter attack, Turnbull taunts Abbott for being all mouth and no trousers. The PM’s dresses up his ABCC, his removal of MP’s travel Gold Pass and his tax cuts to show that what he says he does. Solid achievement.

It’s risky not only because the claims of achievement are risible, especially with an ABCC modified beyond all recognition. It’s laughable to claim that in its new form that the ABCC will restore law to the building sector.

Research published this week by Alan Austin in New Matilda shows that despite Abbott’s promises and Turnbull’s assurances, construction has dramatically contracted under the Coalition. Yet it has become more dangerous.

“Weighted for actual activity, construction deaths increased from an average of 24.7 deaths per 100,000 chain volume units of construction activity under Labor, to 30.3 under the Coalition. That is an increase in the death rate of nearly 23%. That represents an extra six fatalities each year.”

And flip flops are always risky. Out with the bathwater goes the Coalition’s previous claim that Turnbull’s government represents some form of continuity with its predecessor.

Abbott’s outburst sets a course further to the right when there is no evidence it will win more Liberal votes. Tracking even further to the right would only further reduce his party’s appeal to, what opinion polls reveal, is still a moderate electorate.

Even more of distasteful to voters, however, is the recent decision of the Fair Work Commission to dock the pay of some 700,000 of our lowest-paid workers by reducing Sunday penalty rates. Many will find themselves $6000 out of pocket in July when the decision takes effect but many others will know or depend on those whose earnings have been reduced.

The concept of penalty rates is well supported by most Australians in Essential’s opinion polling. the decision will be seen as unfair and a capitulation to the business lobby’s crusade against penalty rates.  Claims that lower wages mean expanded business and more jobs are not supported by hard evidence,  while economists point to the slowing effect on the economy of the reduced purchasing power of low-paid workers.

The government chose not put in a case to the commission and its bizarre claim that the decision is all Labor’s fault will not wash. The rhetoric of an independent umpire will also be tested given the slew of pro-business appointments to the commission made by Michaelia Cash.

While the cut is restricted to retail, fast food, hospitality and pharmacy, other sectors may follow using the decision to effectively cut Sunday rates in new enterprise bargaining .

By week’s end, the government is again in crisis, hosing down its former PM’s challenge and attacking Labor in a hopelessly long-shot attempt to pin the Fair Work Commission’s decision on the Opposition. In the process, it has shot itself in the foot by bagging Abbott’s lack of achievment and pointing to his big spending and high taxing government – a trend continued by Turnbull.

Turnbull’s failure to manage Abbott, on the other hand, only serves to draw more attention to his pyrrhic victory over the budgie smuggler; how hopelessly he is encumbered by the circumstances of his leadership coup.

On top of the Coalition’s domestic problems sits its foreign policy debacle with the United States. Deal or no deal with refugees, it must now contend with the international response to being Israel’s new best friend at a time when investigations into Benjamin Netanyahu’s dealings are likely to lead to, at least, to a court case.

Should a new troop commitment against ISIS be announced, it will become immediately apparent that Turnbull has been trumped by the US president and that the PM’s determination to succeed with a deal to palm off our offshore refugees on to our great and powerful friend could in the end put many more lives in danger.

The Coalition’s  immediate challenge, however, will be to deal with the fallout from the decision of the Fair Work Commission which may help put dollars in bosses’ pockets but which will punish lower paid workers and send shock waves much more widely affecting all families with children with part time jobs. Above all it will most profoundly affect the lives of women.

Turnbull still has time to reject the Fair Work Commission’s decision. He also has time to back out or postpone his promises of 50 billion tax cuts to companies. Anything less will be fatal to his government’s chances of re-election, to say nothing of arresting his inexorable decline in the polls.

One thing Tony Abbott has right, however, it may be too late to arrest his decline in the polls. No amount of power-dressed photo opportunities can save Turnbull or his government now.

 

Turnbull follows Trump’s lead in politics of personal abuse and campaign of lies.

“Don’t be a Malcolm”, warned The Toronto Star, as it urged Canadian PM, Justin Trudeau, not to ruffle Mr. Trump’s feathers as Malcolm Turnbull had done by trying to hold him to account over a refugee deal recently. The US President seemed ready to pull the pin on the US-Australia alliance when PM Turnbull foolishly expected him to commit to a pre-existing agreement. Hung up in his ear. It put the wind up the Turnbull government and other post-colonial toadies.

In a sense, the advice is old hat in Canberra. “Don’t be a Malcolm”, is a tip the Australian PM has long since deployed to advantage. This week he looks a lot like The Donald as he continues to turn himself inside out endorsing by evasion WA Liberals’ plan to do a preference swap with One Nation candidates in March.

“Preferences, he says, craftily, are a matter for the party organisation. In a state election, it is a matter for the organisation in Western Australia.”

WA Liberals will deal PHON its preferences in upper house multi-candidate electorates it may win in return for PHON preference support for Liberal candidates in single-member lower house seats, where One Nation victory is unlikely. What Turnbull is evading is the legitimacy, authority and credibility conferred by the deal upon One Nation.

Arthur “safe hands” Sinodinos, telegenic smooth operator and fixer for Coalition media damage control is sent in to peddle the lie that today’s One Nation is a “more sophisticated” party than it was twenty years ago. It’s an astonishing claim for a party which has merely shifted its scapegoats from “The Aboriginal Industry” and “Asians” to “Muslims”.

“Everyone changes in sixteen years” chimes in eternal opportunist John Howard, Great Helmsman of Liberal bigotry and One Nation dog-whistler, whose “babies overboard” lie demonised refugees; helped deny them rightful asylum.

On cue, One Nation anti-Gay Nazi mind control candidate Michelle Meyers, in the WA state seat of Bateman uses Facebook to warn voters abortion creates “societies of cannibals that consume our own progeny”. “Sexually confused” LGBTI people are “indoctrinating our kids” and transgender people are “broken”. In a nod to The Donald, “All terrorists ARE pretty much Muslims” and “the ‘peaceful’ majority [of Muslims] DO support them [terrorists]”.

The PHON preference deal is unlikely to shore up a WA Liberal rout. It may even cost Liberal votes. The PM’s main aim is to woo Pauline. Never in our political history has a PM so completely abandoned what he stood for prior to taking office. Malcolm Turnbull sheds his earlier progressive political identity as if it were a trendy leather jacket.

Not so easily cast off, however, is the historical record. In 2011 Turnbull blew the whistle on his future self.

“Some people would say that as we have a vested interest in coal being burned, we should oppose action on climate change and … muddy the waters on climate science in order to prolong the export billions from coal mining.” 

What Turnbull warned against six years ago is precisely what he is doing now. Daily, he steers himself and his government ever further towards the rabid right. His treasurer, Scott Morrison, fondles a lump of coal in the house. His government mounts an energy scare campaign based on outrageous, irresponsible lies and a fortune in coal funding that renewables threaten something he calls “energy security” and promoting a clean coal that doesn’t exist.

Peta Credlin attacks the scare campaign. She helpfully confesses on Sky the claim was groundless: “It wasn’t a carbon tax, as you know … but we made it a carbon tax. We made it a fight about the hip pocket and not about the environment. That was brutal retail politics.”

Josh Frydenberg is sent on to ABC Insiders Sunday to pretend that Turnbull isn’t following Tony Abbott in “making energy about the hip pocket and not the environment”. He patronises Barrie Cassidy and unleashes a torrent of Trump-like inconsistencies and non-sequiturs a morass of logical incoherence to confuse known as Derrida’s Kettle.

“See Barrie, politics is about ideas and when we see a bad idea, we will call it out. And just 18 months ago we had a deal with the Labor Party and legislated through the Parliament a 23.5% Renewable Energy Target. Bill Shorten then fell under the spell of the deep Green left-wing of his party and produced a 50% Renewable Energy Target. And now the Government is prosecuting the case against that target because we believe not only will it lead to higher electricity prices and hurt the hip pocket and cost jobs, but it will also destabilise the system like we have seen in South Australia.”

Frydenberg continues to repeat the false claim that coal is the cheapest source of energy. Cassidy does not counter that coal is cheap only because it is subsidised. Without fossil-fuel subsidies, wind and solar would be instantly cheaper in Australia today. He does, however, tell Frydenberg he’s ignored  the environmental costs of coal.

The Minister’s aim  is to present a mine of misinformation. A few examples will suffice. He blames renewables for the rising cost of electricity when network costs and soaring gas prices are chief causes. Solar drives down costs and provides huge benefits to the economy. 24, 000 jobs have been created so far. His claim of unreliability is refuted by scientific reports which show that reliable systems need only a mix of solar and wind. As the sun goes down wind generally increases and as winds drop in one region they pick up in another.

Author and essayist and one of Canada’s leading public intellectuals Jeet Heer summarises the government kettle technique as spreading lies while creating a state of dream-like delirium whereby reality and lies cannot be separated, where everything is just a pretext, an excuse or a rationale, and nothing is ever argued in good faith.

With his lies, his gibes at the media and his desperate right wing opportunism, his surrender to the mining industry and powerful backers in business and finance, Turnbull looks and acts more and more like an acolyte of Trump. The parallel extends into the use of invective.

Turnbull echoes The Donald’s attack on “crooked Hillary” as he leads his front bench in name-calling in a puerile assault on Bill Shorten’s phony, parasite and sycophantic character. Liberals bravely say it’s because “he started it” with “Mr. Harbour-side Mansion” but the taunt is Peta Credlin’s. He is on dangerous ground with “phony”.

After boasting of his leadership of the national conversation on the issue of domestic violence at the Parliamentary International Women’s Day Breakfast Thursday there are cuts proposed to women’s refuges. Turnbull vaunts the $200 million to be spent by his government over three years, as Anne Summers reports on advertising, research, information sharing, help lines, counselling services, trials of technology to improve victim safely, training of frontline staff, efforts to stop “revenge porn” and other worthy measures. Yet his government will cut $100 million from women’s refuges in May’s budget by axing the National Affordable Housing Agreement according to a leak last week.

As he fearlessly leads Christian Porter’s monstrous Robo-claw war on the poor, the sick and the vulnerable, Turnbull stands exposed as Tony Abbott in more expensive suit, another junkyard dog but with a more exclusive postcode.

“Don’t be a Malcolm” is, of course, meant as a wry caution to Trudeau not to stuff things up with shirt-fronting stunts. Yet when the lap dog is savaged by the top dog, the world is out of joint.  Australia’s “special relationship” with the US is sufficiently notorious to make even Canada wary of its own reception in King Donald’s court.

Can you believe Trump hung up on the Australian Prime Minister?, boggles The Washington Post in the subtext of a piece written when a “high ranking White House official” leaks the call. Now all is thrown into doubt. A terrible, new, world disorder, an anti-Pax Americana, is born out of Mar-a-Lago and New York.

Even dud former treasurer, now work for the dole Ambassador to the US, Joe Hockey is worried by Wednesday.

“When America says ‘America First’, as someone with nearly 20 years in politics, I get that . . . but what the rest of the world is hearing is that they’re coming second and they’re the losers and America is the winner,” he tells the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, before hosing down Turnbull’s failure to get Trump’s nod to the refugee deal.

“Some countries unfairly look to the US to solve every problem the world faces.” We don’t expect leadership.

Hockey even lies that our Manus and Nauru detainees are “economic refugees”. He’s picking up the vibe of the Donald’s approach to truth. Even if his 2014 budget cuts are now “zombie measures”, Joe’s not slow to catch on.

Seventy years of a US-led alliance system may now be undone as The Donald, a con-man occupies the Oval Office, the most inept, insecure and least qualified person ever to have nominally become president lashes out at world leaders and the media; blunders around a Washington he cannot remotely fathom.

His first press conference is train wreck of incoherence, misinformation and bullying in which he attacks the press publicly, even upbraiding the BBC. The “media is the enemy of the American people”. Foreign policy is also a disaster. A US naval ship is buzzed by the Russians in the Black Sea. Russia tests a missile, flouting an agreement and a 300 foot surveillance ship snoops along America’s east coast. Somehow, despite DFAT and our best intel we are blindsided.

Not everyone is afraid, however. The Coalition is in such trouble that it could use the distraction of another military adventure. Clearly a deal is being done with The Donald’s administration to supply more Australian troops to “fight ISIS”. Using the same words every government uses, the Prime Minister and Defence Minister Payne say a US request for troops will be “looked at carefully”. Historically this is code for unqualified approval. Tony Abbott wanted to send even more than requested and made creative suggestions about a crack squad of Aussie troops invading Syria.

Domestically, also MPs take heart. The Donald-monster, a seven year-old in a seventy year old body, inspires our own reactionaries to unleash their own inner enfant terrible; inspires the Turnbull government to greater depths in the politics of denunciation and deceit. Killing Bill Shorten is now the Coalition’s only coherent policy. It’s a tag team free for all wrestling match and the bovver-boys wade in all week.

“Counterfeit Bill” sneers Steve Ciobo while Mouth-that-roars, Christopher Pyne wants us all to know that Shorten, the social sycophant and parasite, holidayed with millionaire Dick Pratt, the cardboard packaging king.

Worse, Pyne, boxes on, as national secretary of the Australian Workers’ Union Shorten signed an agreement with Pratt’s company VISY “which removed maternity leave rights and turned them into unpaid maternity leave”.

It’s a lie. The Labor leader kept maternity leave in the 2002 agreement but the new world disorder discourages truth.

In a Trumpian universe of discourse every little fact must fend for itself against mad King Donald’s whim. No shot is too cheap, too wild or too low for the billionaire vulgarian. Nothing is what it seems. Ears pricked in Canberra, new, improved, Malcolm Mark III, unleashes his own inner pack leader. Now with extra junkyard dog, he sniffs the wind, reverse-engineers himself before our very eyes to maul Shorten and cock a hind leg over Labor’s track record.

Pausing his snarling and yapping only to beg a biscuit from his backers in media, mining and banking while Pauline Hanson’s political love child, the anti-halal crusader gorgeous George Christensen threatens to defect from Mal’s kennel; the Coalition’s Church of infinite breadth which, he says, needs narrowing because it’s squeezing voters and conviction politicians like himself out. Things are crook. The chief National Party whip is its least disciplined member.

“Don’t be a Malcolm” in the original context evokes Turnbull’s unparalleled gift for SNAFU, self-sabotage and gratuitous insult, all in play this week. The PM, whose own election night dummy-spit dismayed a nation, jeers Thursday that Bill Shorten is “defender of the biggest glass jaw in Australian politics”. All hail the crystal mandible.

Yet it’s Turnbull, not Shorten, who appears fragile lately despite the cheering-on he’s received from a tame ABC and others for shouting insults at Bill Shorten. The Coalition believes that painting the Labor leader as a working-class traitor and a social climbing brown-nose will win over an electorate already fed up with petty personality politics.

Desperate to arrest his government’s continuous decline in the polls, Malcolm’s been making a Donald of himself by descending to character attack and ever wilder claims in the manner of a president who publicly upbraids journalists at his first Press conference; lashing out at the lying hounds who report non-fake news merely to attack an administration which, any fool can see on Fox or read on Breitbart, is running “like a fine-tuned machine”.

All is going well according to the Turnbull spin machine which nearly blows a gasket as Scott Morrison goes up river like Mr Kurz and bullies the cross-bench, threatening new taxes if members fail to pass its childcare bill which cuts welfare to fund childcare. It’s a streak of SNAFU genius that only the Turnbull government could achieve and a sign of poor discipline and teamwork under the Prime Minister’s leadership.

Nick Xenephon and his senate duo get it right when they announce they would vote against the bill, saying “pitting battling Australians against Australians needing disability support services is dumb policy and even dumber politics”.

Despite his attack on Shorten, however, Turnbull finds himself boxed in like Tulloch as he wedges himself between his war on the poor and his tax cuts for the rich; a tricky spot he makes impossible by his failure to persuade anyone but the rich that trickle-down economics works; or that Centrelink’s Robo-claw debt collection is a riotous success.

A full third of the benefit of a company tax cut would be enjoyed by just 15 companies in Australia. Once phased in the cut would be worth $6.7 billion per year to these companies, reports The Australia Institute.

On top of that the government has to justify a $50 billion splurge right at the time it’s urging savings, threatening taxes and repeating the meaningless mantra of budget repair. Turnbull bats away the growing pressure for a Royal Commission on banks because Royal Commissions are lengthy and don’t achieve anything, which was no impediment to the $80 m Heydon Royal Commission to get Shorten which was actually extended, at great cost, by Tony Abbott.

Turnbull also bats away an allied proposal that the company tax cuts not apply to the big four as “not practical”.

Having increased debt by $100 billion since Labor left office and with its petrol excise tax and its budget repair levy tax, the Coalition is the big taxing, high spending it accuses Labor of being. Despite its rhetoric, the only jobs created are part time and casual and the economy contracted last quarter. So much for growth and hollow slogans.

Its war on renewables means the team must argue Abbott’s case that it’s only about the hip pocket, not the environment but Credlin’s blown the whistle on that. And you can’t build coal-fired power stations unless you can find investors, no matter how much you fudge the rules of the Clean Energy Foundation’s loan book.

A farrago of lies boosting fossil fuels over wind and sun vitiates debate as a Turnbull government blind-sided by Trump the disruptor and the dawn of a new world disorder, seeks to please its corporate backers and appease its insatiable right wing at any price. No truce is called in its class war on the poor while profiteering banks bleed the nation dry; escape all censure. Heartened by Trump’s trashing of covention, Turnbull’s jeering mob puts the boot into Shorten demeaning itself, the nation’s parliament and all “hardworking, ordinary Australians” it claims to represent.

 

Turnbull stoops to personal abuse as government plays with coal in a disgraceful week.

“He has no respect for the taxpayer any more than he has respect for the members of the Australian Workers Union, he betrayed again and again. He sold them out. He sold them out.”

A volley of cheap shots rings out across the chamber this week as a beleaguered Malcolm Turnbull begins the new parliamentary year in a flat spin. He’s under attack on all sides, travel rorts, Trump’s dumping on him, Bernardi’s defection, Abbott’s sniping, a seven-month losing streak in the polls and what to do about George Brandis and his diary.

What do you do with an Attorney General, an officer in charge of freedom of information who refuses a court order to make his appointments public as Mark Dreyfus, a real QC, has requested? The London posting  can’t come soon enough.

Peta Credlin, Abbott’s all-powerful, all-seeing former chief of staff helpfully puts the skids under the PM she dubbed “Mr Harbourside Mansion” when she tells Sky viewers the Coalition is broken by “an unbridgeable ideological divide”.

Add in to the mix electricity blackouts, a failure to curb power sector emissions and an energy market crisis which has been simmering unattended for years. Luckily energy is all Labor’s fault. It’s their ideological belief in the future of the planet instead of doing whatever it takes to protect the wealth of the coal industry and its many rent-seekers.

The power crisis is caused by Labor because Labor is led by Bill Shorten, a Labor leader who has dinner with rich people!

Desperately, the PM who sold out to his right wing, aims to divert his critics and snatch back credibility by assassinating Hypocrite Bill’s character. Yet Turnbull aims so low he destroys any vestige of credibility; shoots himself in the foot.

The other foot is in his mouth. With nothing left to lose, a gung-ho meets gonzo PM Trumps up his invective; indulges his inner bully in an assault on the man, not his policies, complete with gratuitous, archly homophobic insults.

“This sycophant, blowing hard in the House of Representatives, sucking hard in the living rooms of Melbourne, what a hypocrite,” Turnbull sneers. The “simpering” “sycophant” “sucking up to Dick [Pratt]” “tucked his knees under… tables” jeers the PM. The dig is unlikely to boost his stocks in his inner-Sydney electorate of Wentworth, however many sniggers it gets from his party. Nor will his prejudice play well with his broader constituency.

But why be resolute or decisive when you can be abusive and impulsive? It works for Trump.

Desperate, the orator with an ear of tin leaps, misses his footing and plunges to dangerous depths. He unleashes a raging, ranting, ten-minute volley of personal abuse and defamatory accusation on the Labor leader –  lowering himself to ape Tony Abbott, the leader he deposed because he was incapable of anything but junkyard. Doubtless, he plans to hide, in the fray, how deep in crises he has mired his government.  Instead, Turnbull highlights his own bad judgement.

Bellowing, braying, belittling, the PM calls Shorten names in a spray of spittle. He contorts his face fit to out-butch a bull seal bugling. Shorten is a “a climber”, “a social-climbing sycophant”, a “parasite and a hypocrite”, terms of abuse the PM finds on a prompt helpfully handed up to him by his batman, Christopher lickspittle Pyne, obsequious to a fault.

Sadly, all Turnbull achieves is a grotesque Abbott travesty, an homage to another self-made loser who often parodied himself in his puerile taunting, name-calling, monstrous lies, absurd assertions and bullshit braggodoccio until it cost him his job.

Turnbull is wasting his time trying to impress his party’s puritan choir; the Nationals and the Liberal right. They hate him with a passion. He may as well be Labor. No concession will ever be enough to buy their approval. Nor win their trust. For most other observers, the PM’s ill-advised and hammy performance is a shocking demonstration of just how far he will stoop to conquer. Pollster Hugh McKay believes Turnbull has sealed his fate. Disintegration and ruin can only follow.

Turnbull’s big problem is the plank in his own eye. “No consistency, no integrity. This sycophant, this simpering sycophant,” sneers a PM who hosts Rupert, a PM whose merchant banking venture was funded by sucking up to Kerry Packer whom Turnbull had saved a fortune on tax, a PM whose sell-out to his party’s right wing cost him all credibility.

Almost as big for the toff is the vexed politics of class. As Bernard Keane and Van Badham note, Turnbull’s attack is a slap-down for Shorten getting above himself. Essentially, Turnbull’s case is that he’s Prime Minister because, unlike the Opposition leader, he’s a better class of person.

Yet it’s a no win situation. Keane also notes that after decades of berating union leaders for being anti-business and being unwilling to work cooperatively with bosses, suddenly Shorten is fair game for being too close to corporate leaders. Yet none of this matters to the parliamentary party whose blood-lust is up.

Excited by his show of aggression, his colleagues cheer on Turnbull’s Shorten-bashing with school-boys jeers, grins and much thumping of desks. It is an unedifying display of arousal which can only cost the party popular support.

Equally disturbing are those many Press Gallery hacks who applaud Turnbull’s lapse, gushing approval over his “flash of steel”, his “withering putdown”. One scribe sees the theatrics as an “aggressive new course.”  Another sees it, somehow, as Turnbull’s version of Gillard’s misogyny speech. Is politics merely blood sport entertainment for a jaded Canberra Press Gallery? Certainly, their praise encourages the PM to further excesses.

By Friday, Turnbull is on 3AW denouncing Shorten as a hypocrite who pretends to be a “horny handed son of toil”.

Horny or corny, it’s all part of a bizarre, ill-judged attempt by a desperate Prime Minister beset by more problems than a junkyard dog has fleas. His government is dead in the water say pollsters. Newspoll has Labor 46-54% on the two-party vote and the Coalition’s primary vote falling four points to 35%, its seventh-straight loss and worst result so far under Turnbull’s leadership. Essential polls 53-47 in Labor’s favour. It would take a miracle to come back from here. Instead, the Coalition declares it is truly, madly, deeply in love with coal all along despite making sheep’s eyes at renewables.

True, not all are on the same page with their passion. There’s a lot of codswallop about being technology neutral, the official Peabody Energy talking point subterfuge and some daggy hamming from Energy Pretender Josh Freydenberg who even promises a new cabinet subcommittee to “oversee the progress”.

Partly Turnbull’s tanty is to cover Coalition hypocrisy in two-timing its 2030 carbon emissions targets with its affair with coal. Federal Treasurer, Mad dog Morrison, a natural buffoon, follows his PM’s lead in the race to the bottom Thursday by bringing a lump of coal into the chamber. It suits him to clown while people die of black lung and other respiratory illnesses. It worries him not a jot that an army of scientists could tell him that burning coal to generate electricity will destroy the planet. Instead he and his party proclaim the sick fantasy that coal is a cheap and clean source of energy.

Ultra super-critical coal-fired plants would cost double renewables reports Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The Melbourne Energy Institute agrees. And who could cost their emissions? New analysis from the government’s own research institutions reveal emissions from USC would exceed the current Australian average of 820g/kWh.

Of course we don’t have to burn coal ourselves to contribute to global warming. Currently we export enough coal each day for others to burn and create emissions equivalent to a 500-megawatt coal-fired power station, or 570,000 cars, in a year. Yet we don’t factor in our CO2 exports into our climate policy. It’s been our dirty little secret for thirty years.

Not a single company has any plans to build new coal power plants. No bank will lend any money. The Turnbull government may wave its shotgun as much as it likes but it may never get coal and banks up the aisle again.

Of course, it has a patent remedy which climate change sceptic and front bench coal-tosser Barnaby Joyce has already forecast. The Clean Energy Foundation, established to fund innovative approaches to power generation,  will be raided to pay for energy which is neither clean nor a good investment in the future. Who could possibly find fault with that?

At least, finally, some of the Coalition has stopped pretending it is only a litlle bit pregnant to Peabody Energy. Indeed, the Turnbull government’s recent embrace of coal-fired power shows it has “abandoned all pretense of taking global warming seriously”, Climate Change Authority member Clive Hamilton explains as he resigns from the agency. Professor Hamilton, who teaches ethics at Charles Sturt University, fires a parting shot. He says it is perverse to be advocating coal when 2016 was the hottest year in history.

Bernie Fraser resigned before Hamilton in disgust at the feeble emissions-reduction targets the government was prepared to set. Fraser, a man of principle, pointed out that the government’s post-2020 carbon reduction efforts – a pledge to cut 2005-level carbon emissions by 26-28 per cent by 2030 – as put Australia “at or near the bottom” of comparable countries.

The Climate Change Authority itself soon got five new you beaut members in October 2015, one of the first reforms of young turk Turnbull who is always quick off the blocks when it comes to doing the bidding of his minders, be it his National Party minders or- as in this case -a toady to the coal lobby. The five new members had been appointed by “coal is good for humanity” Tony Abbott and remained to be approved by Macolm Turnbull.

Described at the time as being as “more sceptical of climate change” the five coalition appointments stacked the committee in favour of government policy and removed the vexed Left-Greens ideological commitment to the continuation of humanity and the troublesome notion of taking responsibility to reduce emissions and redress some of the damage already caused to the environment through global warming, noxious emissions and other pollution.

It is timely to review the government team players.  Assisted by former National Farmers’ Federation’s head Wendy Craik the committee gained Kate Carnell, former CEO of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and former ACT Liberal chief minister; Danny Price, economist and managing director of Frontier Economics, who advised the government on its Direct Action policies; John Sharp, a former Nationals politician and federal transport in John Howard’s government before stepping down after questions raised over his use of ministerial travel expenses; Stuart Allinson, the chief executive of Bid Energy.

No-one can pretend these worthy figures, however deserving they may be as representatives of their constituents, have been chosen for their halcyon impartiality. To use Turnbull’s term du jour Australia has been sold out.

Those who were shocked by gonzo Scott Morrison’s pet rock in parliament Thursday – and it’s impossible not to be shocked by the graphic abdication of responsibility to future generations not to mention a contempt for science and a cavalier disregard for all of the economic and environmental benefits of investment in renewables should thank him for so dramatically revealing the government’s hand, a hand which has been prepared ever since Turnbull took office despite all sentiment and nostalgia for the Old Leather Jacket. Get real. This government has always been pro-coal.

But it’s not all plain sailing or committee stacking. Coal is a big blow to the Prime Minister’s new self-appointed role as Parliament’s Grand Inquisitor determined to root out hypocrisy and energy heresy in the opposition. Why, only seven years ago he, himself, was urging Australia to move to a “a situation where all or almost all of our energy comes from zero or very near zero-emission sources” to avoid the risks, laid out in the science, of catastrophic climate change.

Along with Groucho, Turnbull has principles and if you don’t like those, well … he has others.

“You don’t quit a party you already run, protests Sam Dastyaryi when Cory Bernardi, the man who single-handedly, caused Malcolm Turnbull to drop all mention of any form of ETS in 24 hours flat, leaves the Liberals this week over principle, he says. Principle. Yet he is unable to say what the principles are beyond a bit of mangled metaphor about broad tents and churches and pegs. Fearlessly exercising his new role as moral guardian, Turnbull tells him the honourable thing to do would be to resign. The PM gets one thing right. Hasn’t Cory already caused enough trouble?

Cory Bernardi helped Tony Abbott change from an ETS wuss to an axe the tax crusader in 2009. If there were one man we could thank for Tony Abbott becoming the worst Prime Minister Australia has seen, Cory would be right up there. And weather vane Abbott is quick to take any opportunity now to put the boot into Turnbull.

“… While Cory and I have sometimes disagreed I’m disappointed that more effort has not been made to keep our party united. The Liberal Party needs more people, like Cory, who believe that freer citizens will make a fairer society and a stronger country and who are prepared to speak out and make a difference …”

Now a man of principles he can’t articulate, Bernardi will continue his vanity politics while his quest for relevance becomes even harder, however many anti-halal meetings he attends. The harsh truth is that Cory Bernardi represents Cory Bernardi and while he may indeed enjoy the support of Gina Rinehart, it will take more than the backing of the coal lobby to make him a real political force now he’s out on his own and competing with quite a range of other right wing nut jobs for the reactionary and the protest against the two major parties’ vote.

The South Australian senator is, however, a powerful emblem of the disunity and lack of discipline in Turnbull’s parliamentary party and his weak leadership. It is also a reminder of the parlous state of the Liberal Party when it comes to principles. As poor Cory comes to leave and make his stand on principle, he can’t clearly articulate a single principle. Looking at the government’s disastrous week, its hypocritical bashing of Bill Shorten and its theatrical flourishing of a lump of coal in parliament, most Australians would also have trouble identifying a single principle – apart from its steadfast loyalty to the mining lobby –  in the Turnbull government’s shameful behaviour this week.

Turnbull fails reset as Trump dumps on US-Australia relations.

It’s fake news. After a shocking week in which Australia has its nose rubbed publicly in its own mess by the US, Donald Trump makes Islamophobia official US policy, threatens to invade Mexico and our PM confesses he paid $1.75m out of his own Cayman Island account to buy his own mandate – as you do- a grateful nation can at last heave a sigh of relief. Malcolm’s incredible slap-down – and its leaking to the Washington Post never happened.  Hit the reset button.

Surely Malcolm Turnbull would provoke no-one to hang up on him – not even a fellow egotist. As Phillip Adams puts it.  “ …Turnbull doesn’t suffer fools, the only problem is that to Malcolm we are all fools” while Peta Credlin observes a rich businessman turned politician who can bully and leak is hardly new to politics.  But it never happened, OK?

Relief comes late in the week from the man who has changed US diplomacy to 140 characters or less. US President and  playground bully, Donald Trump tweets that “fake media has lied” about “a very civil exchange” over what he still calls “a dumb deal”; “the worst deal ever” to swap our largely Muslim refugees for US Latinos, a deal he views with extreme prejudice, calculated ignorance and stupidity.  “They want to send us the next Boston bombers.”

Eureka! Scott Morrison high-fives Peter Dutton. The pernicious lie that our refugees are terrorists is one their party has actively fostered for years along with the myth that turning away refugees reduces the chance of terrorist attack.

No matter, moreover, that the Boston bombers were Chechen migrants, a people excluded from Trump’s Islamophobic travel ban. Mad Mullah Morrison rushes back to his 2GB pulpit to praise the US travel fatwa which excludes Trump’s business pals, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia and Afghanistan.

“We have got a good history around this and really the rest of the world is catching up to Australia now,” ScoMo crows.

It’s a lie Turnbull told at the UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants last September. That “good history” has cost us a massive $9.6 billion in three years, not to mention the incalculable cost to Australia’s reputation, putting us in breach of international human rights law 40 times. Children have fled conflict; sought our asylum –  only to be illegally detained for years in conditions which expose them daily to abuse, neglect and violence.

Oddly, information about our “good history”: is suppressed. Criminal sanctions apply to anyone who reports abuse on Nauru and Manus. Good history? In a world which has over 21 million refugees, Australia takes 13750 annually.

But it’s all sweet, now The Donald makes nice. White House Press Secretary Sean “Slice-n-dice” Spicer stresses in a presser, Friday, that the US will honour the deal “in some way”. “We’re going to vet these people in accordance with the agreement that happened and we’ll continue to have further updates as we do,” says a man whose debut was to convey “alternative facts” to boost the size of his President’s inauguration crowd. What could possibly go wrong?

Being Trump-chumped takes the gloss off born diplomat Turnbull’s master-stroke of the week. He’s rebooting and reinventing himself. Again. Hacks helpfully remind us Kerry Packer once threatened to kill him. Hairy-chested Malcolm threatened to whack Packer back. Turnbull hagiographer, Annabel Crabb records his response: “Well, you’d better make sure that your assassin gets me first because, if he misses, you better know I won’t miss you.” Such a way with words.

It is going to be a big speech. Huge. A nation is on tenterhooks; walking on egg-shells, awaiting the master tactician’s much-vaunted reboot at the National Press Club Wednesday. Everything is put on hold. Somehow the windy, wittering, toff-waffler will pull out all his stops in a heart-warming, soul stirring; inspiring, visionary, headland speech.

A bold new policy agenda has been slow-cooking in the Point Piper kitchen where Turnbull’s inner circle holds court under former Sydney Mayor Lucy who wields the wooden spoon, helped by the unimpeachable Arthur “safe pair of hands” Sinodinos, numbers man James McGrath, whose maiden speech called for the sale of the ABC and “keep Tertiary policy out of the campaign”, anti-Gonski Education Minister Simon Birmingham.

Malcolm will descend from the mount like Moses. Or so we are led to believe by the  army of scribblers contemporary LNP PMs can count on to puff any little fluff into a divine wind. Especially Turnbull, Australia’s eternally re-rising, self-saucing soufflé. Gunner Turnbull is always in the wings somewhere, about to morph into Super Mal. Some Press Gallery hacks make Apple fanboys look fickle. Yet, now, even Laurie Oakes calls for Turnbull to TPP or get off the pot.

Unaccountably, Turnbull’s address is a Fizza; another grab bag of flatulent platitudes, false or meaningless assertions and hollow boasts – “we are the most successful multicultural society in the world.”  Plumbs new depths even for a PM whose ear for rousing speech is pure tin. Who else could draw attention to his own dullness?

“Balancing the budget can sound a bit prosaic – something to satisfy the tidy instincts of the bean counters – but it is a profound moral issue,” he waffles.

Who else but Turnbull could seek the high moral ground as he churns out Liberal fiscal fetishism, an affliction which goes back all the way to Peter Costello’s “black hole”? Forget that deficit spending got us out of a hole in the GFC.  No matter that balancing the budget is irresponsible economic nonsense, a type of voodoo now widely held, along with austerity budgeting, to have dragged Europe into deflationary quicksand. It’s become a Liberal article of faith. The PM is giving his party what he thinks they want to hear.

Budget balancing is a profound moral issue? God help all of us -even the bean counters. Nothing about a fair and just society, arresting the galloping inequality fostered by decades of neoliberal stupidity and rule by mining, business and finance lobby which is irreparably destroying our social fabric? Nothing about the dire need to release 1250 refugees detained illegally on Manus and Nauru, islands of abuse and torture which infect our body politic and demean us all?

A pregnant Kuwaiti woman detained on Nauru, hostage to our own xenophobes’ morally bankrupt domestic political agenda urgently needs hospital treatment. Help is held up on the whim of our combined Border Force and Immigration department before she is flown to The Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital for treatment. Peter Dutton says nothing lest people smugglers update their business model. An 82 strong communications unit helps him keep stumm.

Turnbull needs a word with his wordsmiths. They’ve helped him over-promise and under-deliver. Again. Context is not so easily ignored. Turnbull’s empty rhetoric is upstaged by such pressing realities as his war on the poor and the vulnerable under Centrelink’s Robo-debt Clawback while corporations avoid tax. Education is now reduced to bean counting. Health is all flexible delivery options while pensioners put off doctor’s visits they can’t afford and people die on gurneys. Newly appointed Health Band-Aid, Greg Hunt wants a US-style system, a prescription for disaster.

Even Peta Credlin, who suffered Abbott’s agonising 2015 reset can tell Turnbull his “… speech lacked a plan, and clear deliverables, to demonstrate to ordinary people that the government was focused on the things that matter to them.”

A final word on Turnbull’s high-sounding nonsense. Australia is “A beacon of harmony in the midst of diversity, founded on a deep tradition of mutual respect in a world of rising intolerance.” It must be why we are cherry-picking Christian refugees from Syria. Canada has rescued 800 times as many. Turnbull’s words help explain why last September, Essential pollsters found 49% of respondents in favour of a ban on Muslim immigration.

Turnbull tricks up his makeover with ornate garnish but nothing can disguise stale leftovers. His speech serves up his dud 2016 policies and warns us off Bill Shorten and Labor who will trash our energy security and give us big power bills with their mad belief in renewables. It’s rehashed and reheated with a fresh topping of unicorn droppings; new clean coal. Clean coal is a fiction; a climate-denier’s fantasy. A Jay Gatsby, the rock of Malcolm Turnbull’s world is fastened securely to a fairy’s wing.

Just as with Abbott before him, nothing can save the PM from his re-set failure, not even the whole Liberal front bench, it seems, a nodding, smiling claque, a unique and disturbing- turn of events in itself. Yet luckily, the rest of the week in politics is utterly consumed by the scandalous canard that Trump has hung up in Turnbull’s ear; called his refugee resettlement deal “dumb”, the “worst possible deal”.  Apologists are all over this like a rash.

Turnbull has the guts to stand up for his nation sucks Mark Kenny, doubtless eyeing off the PM’s media backgrounders’ stock PR image  in Saturday’s The Age, again. The PM is depicted bolt upright, jaw down, a deal-broking pose, dwarfed by a clunky handset from a fixed line telephone that appears to pre-date John Howard. It looks as if the PM is jumping to attention at the sound of his master’s voice. Or he’s strayed into a remake of Get Smart.

Turd polishers and pig lipstick appliers go into overdrive. Laurie Oakes sees the great vacillator “showing his mettle” while for The Guardian Australia’s Jacqueline Maley, Turnbull is the “grey rock” of textbook responses to malignant narcissists. Much speculation ensues. Did Turnbull stand his ground?  Will the deal proceed?  It seems highly unlikely. As it stands, the deal only commits the US to allowing refugees to “express an interest” in being resettled in America.

What is certain is that Turnbull’s call was leaked by a senior White House official who intended to humiliate Turnbull. Also certain is that “extreme vetting” – a bit of campaign rhetoric is now a thing without any further explanation. Unless, as Peta Credlin wickedly suggests, he may have leaked it himself. He’s been known to play the victim. Just look at his campaign video depiction of himself as son of sole parent Bruce a battling hotel broker suffering poverty in Double Bay.

What is extreme vetting? How long will it take?  Surely the three years of “processing” endured by those on Manus and Nauru is enough? Is it that no-one dare speak out in case we offend the bully in The White House? Julie Bishop argues with Reuters; pushes the line that US representatives are still interviewing refugees on Manus and Nauru. Perhaps rather than remain in LA taking photos with celebrities, she should have been dispatched to The White House.

One thing is clear. You don’t beg a bully. An attitude of supplication is no way to begin a relationship with Trump. The best thing Turnbull could do is to bring the refugees home. And he’s got nothing to lose and everything to gain by adding his voice to the many world leaders including France, Germany and the UK who have protested The Donald’s anti-Muslim travel ban, a ban which has successfully been suspended thanks to courageous Seattle Judge, James Robart who finds legal grounds to challenge the ban, legal opinion Donald Trump dismisses as ridiculous and one he will overturn.

Turnbull says he’s just “doing what a good Prime Minister does”, a job description which includes buying his own mandate as he later tells ABC 7:30’s Stan Grant. Grant leads him to confirm his $1.75m donation to his own party when it is clear campaign funds were running critically low – not that this is his gloss on it.

At $1.75m it was just one of those regular philanthropic things that he and Lucy get up to, a donation to a good cause – a theme later continued by screaming Scott Morrison on 2GB, a benevolence to warm the cockles of your heart if you overlook the calculated self-interest.

It may well have helped him over the line. Certainly it will provide Labor with ammunition even if only to attack his judgement and how his immense fortune isolates him from the real needs and issues of everyday Australians.

By week’s end, his ignominious dumping by Trump is so big it does Turnbull a favour. It helps sink his reboot and takes attention off his lame policies  – but at the cost of a focus on his diplomatic rebuff; his skills as a negotiator; even his ticker. He’s walked softly but copped a lot of stick. His government again seems upstaged by events it could have reasonably foreseen. The Coalition begins 2017 with its inability to plan; its retreat from the real world highlighted.

While no-one could predict exactly how Trump might jump, there was every reason to suppose he’d hate the deal.

Similarly, with Trump’s anti-Muslim travel fatwa. Turnbull’s bid to defend his silence in the face of expressions of outrage from leaders around the world as permitting a quiet and effective personal word with the president rings hollow in the light of Trump cutting the phone call short, hanging up on him and allowing details to be leaked to the press.

Turnbull’s even caught napping; upstaged at the National Press Club Liberal Party love-in Wednesday. Bill Shorten has beaten him to it only the day before, calling him phony nine times in the course of his speech and in answers.

Turnbull is pilloried for his appeasement of Sun King Donald Trump.  In vain, he claims that he does not comment on other nations’ domestic affairs. His record clearly shows otherwise.

Only last April his commentary on domestics included urging the Chinese leadership towards “continued openness and the rapid development of the rule of law”, which, he argued, “is a fundamental requirement of progress”. Many times has he lectured  PNG, Syria, Russia and North Korea.

The Chinese are unimpressed. They’re on the UN Human Rights Council. They know how we run our gulags on Manus and Nauru.  Not that they would welcome any commentary on their denial of freedom of speech, religion, and association; extrajudicial killings; repression of civil society; discrimination against Tibetans and other minorities.

The truth lies closer to home. Turnbull’s right wing will give him gyp if he goes soft on terror now. He dare not utter a peep over Trump’s Islamophobic travel ban; the persecution of a Middle East diaspora largely created by decades of US foreign policy; its war on terror. His policy reset has failed. His diplomacy has been trumped. He has been made to look a capon in the Year of the Rooster when it comes to exercising his authority in the international community.

The spotlight has swung back on his judgement, his leadership and above all his capacity to prosecute a plan. Parliament will begin next week and already the PM is on the back foot; he has been tried domestically and abroad and found wanting. Another dud Newspoll awaits him. As Prime Minister he is a dead man walking.

Turnbull government a dead parrot as power-crazed Trump cuts loose.

It’s been a shocker of a holiday for a Turnbull government which slunk off to lick its wounds after being routed by its own ludicrous 2016 energy policy debacle – only to be rocked by MPs’ travel scandals and the debacle of the Centrelink Robo-debt-clawback debt extortion scheme which may, it seems clear this week, have a ninety per cent error rate.

It doesn’t help when The Australian National Audit Office reports that the Department of Immigration and Border Protection spent $2.2 billion without permission. Nor when Scott Morrison trumpets he’s, “putting Australia first”, but has to go to London to announce he’s helped us grow a $500 billion gross public debt; outspending Labor two to one.

But, look over here, Scomo’s got a beaut new trade deal up his sleeve, says The Herald Sun. Just as soon as the Brexit dust settles, he’ll be laying the foundations for a new trade agreement. Perhaps there will be stuff for backpackers who can also take in the washing in a transitioning economy based on services more than digging up coal and iron ore.

Much clearer, is the proposed mid-year export of George Brandis to London to get him out of harm’s way and to become Australian High Commissioner. It is being treated as an “open secret” at DFAT. Lord Alexander Downer who expected, at least, another term on the grounds that he is born to rule and that Daddy was Commissioner before me will have to be dragged kicking and scheming from the Australia House mansion by the usurper. At least with Crown backing, the Colossus of toads’ deposing of Downer should be less fraught than his demotion of a previous solicitor general.

Demotion is something the Coalition knows intimately, after its shock election result and its decline in opinion polls. As the Chinese Year of the Rooster dawns, Malcolm Turnbull and his government are already feather dusters.

Rude shocks continue.  The Coalition of capons pulls its head out of the sand, only to be eye-gouged by newly proclaimed US Vandal-king, Donald the Red, a power-drunk, politically illiterate knuckle-headed tyrant eager to show he’s king of the playground at home and top dog on the world stage by abuse of his presidential executive powers.

Trump, the campaign blowhard, was meant to morph into a Republican pussy-cat. That was the Coalition plan; its reality-denying rationale for inaction and inertia secured by yet another Julie Bishop charm offensive- now exposed as woefully inadequate.

Instead, Trump is rushing to honour his threats including tearing up the TPP, banning Syrian refugees, closing the border to all Muslims and leaving Australia no “great and powerful friend” to cosy up to at the arse-licking end of the world.

The deal to re-settle, in the US, refugees from Manus and Nauru, struck under Obama, is also dead in the water, Labor argues, but, world leaders in Direct Action, trickle-down, the NBN, scrapping a carbon tax and other modes of reality denial, the government remains confident, the PM announces Saturday, deep within the Coalition’s virtual sinkhole, it has found a loophole “deep within” the President’s anti-Muslim executive order.

The loop-hole, said to have been inserted by a cutting edge PMC allows a case-by-case exemption to allow the US to “conform to pre-existing agreements” provided Trump understands any of it or has read his own executive order.

Heroically, Turnbull phones Trump Sunday, on the number he got from Greg Norman, to probe the inner incoherence of the nuanced and profound understanding that has characterised The Donald’s diktats so far.

Doing a typically magnificent job as back-up, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce adds his own natty touch of policy incoherence and disunity. He tells 2GB listeners – the radio station that governs Australia – that it would not be the end of the world if the deal did not go ahead.

Finding his own loophole meanwhile, Loghman Sawari flies from Manus to Fiji, to seek asylum on the grounds of his certain persecution should he return to PNG. The 21 year old Iranian is the first to seek protection from Australia’s punitive offshore detention regime which has meant years of suffering beatings, bullying, imprisonment, illness, suicide attempts and being threatened by a PNG official.  He fears that Trump will tear up the resettlement in the US plan.

Border Supremo, Generalissimo Peter Dutton has yet to comment – and won’t because operational secrecy trumps open and transparent government. Just imagine how the people-smugglers’ business model would benefit once people realised they could smuggle themselves DIY-style. Expect refugee advocates to be blamed for what is yet another indictment of offshore detention and evidence that Turnbull’s US resettlement plan is a cruel and dangerous hoax.

The ANZUS hoax is still intact. Trump hasn’t torn up the ANZUS Treaty yet, but given its nebulous wording only “to consult” he doesn’t have to. Turnbull’s wait and see tactics mean his government is flat-footed; floundering. Blind Freddy can see he’d be mad to expect any favours from a US President whose anti-Muslim ban is creating chaos around the world. He books a call for 9:00 am Sunday (5:00 pm Saturday in Washington) anyway.

Australia does receive from the US State Department a culturally sensitive Happy Australia Day message which claims that the US has “no better friend than Australia”.

If only the reverse were true. The message coincides with Invasion Day rallies involving hundreds of thousands of Australians in major centres throughout Australia which are generally reduced in the media to reports of “clashes” rather than for any statement they seek to make.

Barnaby Joyce helpfully adds “protesters should crawl under a rock and hide a little bit”, as he does his best to promote ignorance and intolerance from the top – doing his own bit, as always, to disgrace and dishonour the Coalition in the eyes of increasing numbers of Australians who would vote this mob out tomorrow if they could.

His government in free-fall in opinion polls – 46% to Labor’s 54% in Essential’s poll this week, Mal the Vaccillator, the PM of convenience, whose total surrender to the right has neither quelled rebellion, nor inspired followers, is in deep trouble. Adding to his fix, an outbreak of Trumpophilia – with some MPs already Trump-struck.

Scott Morrison vows to “put Australia first” while right wing nut jobs get out their dog-whistles and Barnyard Barnaby descends to rocks and stones. Never to be outdone in delusions of grandeur, Pauline Hanson is reported to believe she has a serious chance of winning government in the Queensland state election.   Or hold the balance of power.

Or something very big, important, something just “yuge” whenever her Svengali, micromanager and political aspirant himself, James Ashby, gets around to providing that talking point.

Beastie-Boy Cory Bernardi and George Christensen, geed up by Trump’s public humping of democracy and all decorum threaten to come out publicly as anti-Halal 10 February at anti-Islamic Q Society’s fund raiser while sniper Abbott’s latest gibe is that the PM ought to stop talking about agility and show some. Somehow, Abbott’s taunt gets a result.

Rocked by rorting revelations, so serious Pythagorean numerologist Sussan Ley’s inquiry must be kept secret, and with no policy agenda for 2017’s parliamentary year, the Coalition digs deep within its existential absurdity to find its own, inner, dead parrot.

Monty Python’s dead parrot sketch is reworked as a live TPP no-one else can see – an invisible friend with benefits. Frantic for distraction, the PM pretends that Trump has not killed off the TPP. Behold! It is reborn; our Free Trade saviour. Bill Shorten must die for his “cowardly” and “gutless” lack of faith and his heresy in refusing the communion of holy free trade – and his allegiance to populist, protectionist, powers of darkness.

Novel? It is politics as usual in the asylum; a mad theatre of the absurd run by the inmates, largely for their own benefit with a few indulgent words of praise from captains of industry bankers and the odd media mogul.

A couple of Liberal shills are called in to attest to the TPP resurrection. There was still “a lot to be gained” from the TPP and “we intend to pursue that”, Mad Dog Scott Morrison, our Federal Treasurer and revenue problem denialist says mid-week from a UK where he has discovered the secret to housing affordability – as you do –  is to stay in bed with property developers, an amazing breakthrough he and his PM call “increasing supply”.

Trade Minister Steve Ciobo, who recently revealed that he can’t tell a trade deal from a Grand Final, chimes in with a catchy “12 minus one” arrangement, a sort of reverse baker’s dozen, rather like leaving the US out of its own stag night.

Japan, on the other hand, still raw after being dudded over Abbott’s submarine building deal, sneers. The TPP is “meaningless without the US”. Pursuing the TPP is a “pointless waste of time” agrees Shorten.

But Labor becomes the whipping boy. For days Shorten is howled down, publicly flogged for being a “cowardly” wimp and a free trade heretic and not upholding a TPP that has expired – a TPP that never was. An alternative factual TPP. What’s going on?

Turnbull’s farcical TPP diversion is a desperate bid to wedge Bill Shorten as anti-trade or for being weak- and in yet another echo of Tony Abbott’s character assassination – just for being Bill Shorten – a slur in itself now, thanks to Murdoch media and Abbott’s Royal Commission show trial which have both helped demonise the Labor leader.

This week, Turnbull taunts Bill Shorten over the dead parrot of the TPP which anyone but gutless Bill, weak Bill – can tell is not dead but just resting, shagged out after a long squawk. Labor’s honesty is heresy, treason and no cojones combined, in the PM’s hysterical denunciation.

OK, it might be clinically dead – but it will prove a phoenix rising from the ashes of Trump’s trade treaty bonfire. Or Trump could change his mind. Or a re-jigged TPP will lead us to a fair bit of eternal prosperity for the time being.

In a post-truth Trump universe of alternative facts, no-one dare mention the truth. The TPP, like all other so-called “free trade agreements” is about trade protection. It is chock-a-block with lists of free trade exempt items such as digital goods and medicines. It seeks to increase copyright protection over these goods. Extend trademarks.

Australians would continue to pay more for these under the TPP. Leaked documents from the largely secret treaty, a lawyers’ picnic that was seven years in the making reveal that the TPP would extend US copyright laws over Australian businesses, hindering innovation and adding compliance costs, according to intellectual property experts.

In brief, one big lie inhabits another. Shorten is demonised for not valuing a dead TPP. It’s a bizarre contortionist performance from a frantic PM who is scaling new heights of absurdity in his will to convince us, against all evidence, that the dead parrot sings.  How can he keep a straight face? Yet his resurrection dream is even sillier.

Not only is the TPP alive and well, with a quick re-jig and a few shanghaied new crew members from China, Indonesia, or wherever, we’ll be in easy street, rich beyond belief by rivers of free trade wealth trickling down from fat cat exporters. Pity no-one apart from Turnbull seems to see his point. Or would ever believe a Coalition promises.

Unlike Turnbull, however, Donald Trump seems to be keeping his pledges. Or his threats to tear up everything Obama achieved, everything progressive or enlightened or wise. So much to undo. So little time.

Certainly he is backing out of the TPP as promised as soon as he takes office. Most see this as the kiss of death. The US is a whopping 40% of the TPP which is less about trade than enabling big pharma, big tobacco and other US corporate interests to dictate to Australia and other nations how local politics best protects US investments. With a TPP, for example, plain packaging of cigarettes would fail. The investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) clause gives corporations power over its signatories; all sovereign states.

The other aim of the late, lamented TPP was strategic. It would balance China’s growing regional political and economic power. Act as a bulwark against the rise of the (not-so) Pacific Panda with its military installations in disputed territories and its muscular global diplomacy. Yet that TPP is not the make-believe TPP which our government wants resurrected.

To hear Turnbull or Ciobo spruik it, the TPP’s not about strategy or investment it’s all about trade, and not just trade but free trade, Amen.  Look at all the deals that will go West if we walk away from the TPP at this stage. It’s bunkum.

In 2010, our own Productivity Commission found the benefits of the TPP to be negligible. No-one in government admits that TPP nations are already our trading partners. As for economic benefits, we didn’t need a TPP to have a resources boom from our trade with China.

Shorten ought to get real, Turnbull jeers. Any fool can see that the TPP is still alive. A quick ring around the neighbours and we’ll top up the numbers. Give the TPP skeleton the kiss of life. Put Humpty Dumpty together again. Get the gang show back on the road.

Of course, he’s got a lot to deal with – there’s a rift between the nervous nellies of the back bench who fear electoral annihilation through sheer incompetence and own goals of a cabinet you could drive a panzer tank division through. Or drag a Trump tower. Sideways. But his latest outrageous display is insane. Of course, there’s a lot on his disordered mind.

Factor in a damaging rorting crisis with the recycling of World’s best Greg Hunt, a fan of the US Health system, as Health Minister and a perfect, scrap-Medicare patsy. Blend in a complete absence of any plan or policy to speak of beyond tax cuts for the rich. Add a dash of Narcissus Trump who doesn’t give a toss for all our diplomatic grovelling, fawning and our mindless US-Alliance fetishising.

All he cares about is the size of his inauguration crowd and throwing his weight around.

Presto! Desperation is bound to break out. You might almost feel sorry for a PM who once had to say that he and The Donald were peas in a pod with their business backgrounds and their late entry politics – even if neither of these is true. Alternative facts, rule, OK?

We have come to expect the unexpected from a government with no real plan and less demonstrated competence – beyond a genius for turning crisis into catastrophe. Yet, as the year of the Rooster dawns, everywhere is chaos and cock-up. Trump-mania afflicts his crew, the new US president turns out to be mad, bad and dangerous to know, a monster intent on proving he’s boss at all costs. No wonder Captain Mal is showing a bit of strain.

But who would have thought he’d reprise the Monty Python dead parrot sketch in his madness- his manic quest to wedge Bill Shorten on the TPP; an ex-treaty, an agreement which even Shinzo Abe, never the sharpest knife in the sushi kitchen, can tell you is deceased.

Or could it be that the dead parrot represents the Turnbull government itself that is deceased, DOA at the beginning of 2017 parliamentary year; all over bar the squawking?

Trump’s new world disorder catches Turnbull government napping.

“Watching Donald Trump take the oath of office is like seeing Bobo the Clown Photoshopped into the Last Supper,” writes the ABC’s Simon Royal. Many Americans are equally shocked. A narcissist with no concern beyond himself and his wealth, a political simpleton, with no experience in public life and little understanding of public issues, an egoist who poses as a populist reformer, a redneck who made his contempt for tradition, protocol and taboo his byword, the 45th President of the United States is a shocker.

Could Americans have chosen a more divisive, more unfit figure? The inauguration, 20 January of the seventy-year-old, reality TV star, real-estate hustler, former beauty pageant entrepreneur, six-times bankrupt and one time professional wrestler installs a president with a 40% approval in opinion polls, the lowest on record.

Trump gained 3 million popular votes less than his rival, Hilary Clinton. It shows. Washington public transport figures reveal fifty per cent fewer locals turn out for Trump than Obama. Protesters take to the streets.

Trump already has half the population offside – and not just in the USA. Eclipsing the inauguration crowd, half a million women in pink knit “pussy hats” march on Washington, the following day in the largest protest demonstration in US history while around the world 1.5 million more march in support in 161 cities across all seven continents. “You can’t comb over misogyny reads one sign.” “Make America compassionate again” reads another.

“It’s been a heart-rending time to be both a woman and an immigrant in this country, says activist America Ferrera. “Our dignity, our character, our rights have all been under attack and a platform of hate and division assumed power yesterday.”

“You are really special, amazing people” Trump tells the CIA the next day, ignoring the Women’s March. He makes a beeline for the CIA HQ in Langley Va; after the National Prayer Service. He’s going to need to build some bridges, at least, with the CIA, having trashed their reputation in dismissing evidence Russia intervened in his election.

The “amazing special people” will require more persuasion than empty flattery, however. Sadly, it’s all Trump knows – along with contesting the truth of anything unflattering to himself.

The newly inaugurated president has already gone to work on his attendance figures, attacking reports of poor attendance. The media’s lying, he says of estimates of 250 thousand. He’s sure it was over a million people. His media people are working on it. Give them a few weeks and it will be at least a million and a half.

White House press secretary, whining Sean Spicer uses his first White House briefing to lecture the press on its “deliberate false reporting” for ten minutes before walking out without taking questions. This administration will be holding the media to account, he says.

It’s an alarmingly adversarial start to the Trump Presidency’s relationship with the press, yet it continues the Trump campaign theme that bad news is fake news and the tactic of disputing all reporting which may be critical or hold Trump presidency to account.

Trump can, however, count on a Mexican wave of support down under. Luckily for the new president and for the “ordinary Strines” she claims to represent, (while consistently voting with the government), Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party has sent its envoy Brian Burston to give the 45th president its own special blessing.

Burston’s already in the press with his endorsement of the new type of One Nation candidate and how they are heaps better than the 1998 train wreck, QLD PHON party. For starters, this time the party is way smarter. Any fool can see that unlike today’s breed,

They ran dopes, unemployed, inexperienced, not all that intellectual

Hanson’s too busy, herself, she says with state election matters involving travel which she books up to her federal government account, unable or unwilling to see when challenged that this is a rort. Burston pays his own way to the US Trump mother ship.

Busy indeed. Hanson assembles her WA candidates but refuses to speak about them, in a Trump-style attack on right of the press to scrutinise public life. “I’m not going to have trial by media here, with all of my candidates. If this interview is going to be all about the candidates that represent me, I’m sorry, but this interview is finished,” Hanson says.

Piquing interest, is One Nation’s candidate for Dawesville, Pastor Lawrence Shave, whose Bikini Baristas business plan will enable consumers to ogle women in swimwear while they satisfy their caffeine fix. Pastor Shave also professes divine, healing powers but Hanson stops the presser.

Hanson’s new WA breed of candidate is a step up from the old guard including former PHON Senator, stand up comedian Rod Culleton whose latest routine is to refuse to accept the Federal Court and Senate ruling that he should be removed from his seat because he is bankrupt. He says he is solvent and will not leave his office. He could now face prosecution for impersonating a government official. It’s a sobering prospect. Yet Pauline’s distracted.

A Trump-struck Hanson shuns the former sheep farmer to put tickets on herself.

So keen is PHON to be invited to Trump’s big bash, empiricist Malcolm Roberts badgers DFAT to find them some spare tickets. Later, these are flourished as evidence of One Nation’s hotline to The Donald and of PHON’s clout in US-Australian relations. Now all Strines can see how big PHON is. Earlier Hanson, or James Ashby on her account, tweets:

“Would you believe it? I have been gifted tickets to the Presidential Inauguration Ceremony of Donald Trump – What an honour!” Of course it’s not. Reports quickly emerge of masses of discarded tickets at the under-subscribed ceremony. “Gifted”, also, is a big stretch.

SBS journalist, Lee Lin Chin is quick to attack Hanson’s grandstanding: “Who hasn’t got tickets? No actual Americans want to go so they’re just inviting everyone. I’ve got a +8 for my man harem,” the pint-sized presenter replies.

The Donald’s Oz cheer squad extends beyond One Nation, or Lee’s man harem, however. It’s a mile wide and an inch deep before you even consider Corey Bernardi.

Never to be upstaged, former Labor PM and UN leadership hopeful, Kevin Rudd calls for a fair go for Trump. Patronises him. Like a child with a tantrum, Trump, should “calm down” his dangerous talk on China and Taiwan, seize our help with nuclear disarming North Korea and bring back the TPP, suggests “One Kevin” Rudd ever bubbling with practical ideas.

Always at arms’ length from practicality, PM Turnbull is upbeat about the TPP. Why, he’s been on the blower to The Donald, jumping the Trump shark, thanks to Greg Norman. Bill Shorten says it’s “a waste of time” and “a distraction” from a PM who has no plans for jobs.

Shorten is proved correct on the time-wasting when an unusually coherent White House statement that is not a lecture or a tirade confirms Trump’s promise to withdraw from the TPP is one of the Administration’s first acts. So much to undo, so little time.

Oz-media’s made itself look silly smoothing the way for Trump, the vulgarian at the gate. The ABC’s inauguration commentary is saccharine with mindless Coalition optimism, which is quickly revealed as so much wishful thinking from a government caught on the nod.

The official ABC spin seems to be that now he’s thrown his rattle out of his playpen and he’s got what he wanted, The Donald will morph into a sensible and moderate monster who only wants our constant undivided attention and who has the nuclear codes to do it with.

Nothing in the Donald’s inauguration speech, not even an echo of Batman, The Dark Knight Rises “…and we give it back to you, the people,” suggests that Trump will soften his campaign rhetoric in favour of more statesman-like role once in power. Everything he says about isolationist foreign policy, in his “dark and inward-looking” fourteen minute speech, his “America first, only America first” is an alarming departure from US interdependence.

So much for the Turnbull’s government’s agility. Its foreign policy, like its domestic planning is rooted in inertia; do nothing, or as little as possible, repeat mindless Abbott era slogans, bag Bill Shorten and see what evolves.

Now it’s caught flat-footed. Foreign Affairs light-weight Julie Bishop says she’s been on the job, briefing Trump’s team on Australia’s requirements but that could mean anything and besides, there’s no evidence whatsoever anyone’s listening. Or ever will. Even the national broadcaster struggles to spin that.

To be fair, Aunty is distracted by the shock resignation Friday of Director of TV’s Richard Finlayson which comes at a time of deep unrest within the ABC, under former Murdoch executive, Managing Director Michelle Guthrie, a Turnbull appointee, whose reign is mired in job losses, cost cutting and ringing accusations of “piss poor management”.

Guthrie is critical of Four Corners-type programs and seems not to understand the role of investigative reporting at all; wants to do “more about successful businessmen”. It’s a work in progress. Already ABC news is lurid with tabloid stories; sensation displaces information.

Expect a puff piece soon on Mr Donald Trump, the people’s president and the inspiring business types who comprise his cabinet. When it’s properly run down and ready to be privatised as the IPA wishes, the ABC could be flogged off to an American. Rupert Murdoch is reported to be currently enjoying Malcolm and Lucy Turnbull’s harbour-side hospitality.

Other media outlets are also complacent; Donald-conciliatory. The least predictable presidency, the least qualified and most divisive figure on the world stage ever is spun as more of the same. Nothing to see here. Business as usual.

“The fair-minded thing is to give the guy a go,” a folksy Rudd tells Seven’s Sunrise on Friday, aglow with sanctimonious hypocrisy given his undermining of Julia Gillard. Rudd’s voice upstages Turnbull as intended – briefly- but fails to quell what is reported to be hundreds of Americans who try to block the entrances to the Inauguration. Dump-Trump demonstrations take place in other cities in America and throughout the world.

“Illegitimate, bastard” shouts Code Pink women’s rights organiser, Madea Benjamin, who makes it into the section reserved for honoured guests and journalists and Joe Hockey before she is thrown out by police. A protestor gets dangerously close to the new president, if not quite in The Donald’s orange face, at least not far below it.

“Trump is not going to be stopped at the top, he’s going to be stopped from the bottom, from people rising up,” says Ben Allen, a thoughtful 69-year-old retired teacher from San Francisco.

“We support the right of everybody in this country, no matter what nationality, what religion, the colour of their skin, to be respected as a human being, and this guy doesn’t respect anybody.”

As he speaks, removed from the web is the Department of Labor’s report on the rights of lesbians, bisexuals, gays and transgender people. The White House’s exposition on climate change and efforts to combat it are also excised. Police hurl flash bang grenades to banish protestors from the inauguration parade route. The smell of tear gas wafts over K street, the heart of Washington’s lobbying district. So much to undo. So little time.

To borrow a Trumpism, its 45th president is bigly disliked already – before he’s even had time to” bomb the shit out of ISIS” or leave NATO or reverse Obama’s sanctions against Russia for hacking the election. He’s yet to slash corporate taxes, bring back water boarding, dismantle Obamacare or lift a brick to wall out waves of Mexicans.

Civil Rights leader, veteran Democrat Congressman John Lewis boycotts the inauguration also because Mr Trump is an “illegitimate” President, he says. Thin-skinned Trump takes this personally, as he does all criticism- even working into his speech an “all talk no action” gibe at “politicians” to echo his earlier tweet that “Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results.”

“All talk, talk, talk — no action or results. Sad!” Trump dismisses Lewis’ role in the protest movement which led to the landmark voting rights act of 1965 and the end of racial discrimination in voting in the US. Lewis has already achieved more for his people and for human rights than Trump ever will.

Malcolm Turnbull may not have been certain Tuesday just who would represent Australia at Trump’s swearing in but Ambassador Joe, Big Noter, Hockey clears that up with tweets that he, along with “all the chiefs of mission”, would attend all the events. We don’t hear that much from Joe: it’s good to know he’s still alive and tweeting. Doubtless he’s been busy saving the TPP and working on that people-trafficking asylum-seeker swap deal.

A messianic figure, in his own eyes, at least, Trump vows to be the greatest job producer that God ever created, a feat he will achieve by cutting taxes for corporations, a trickle-down con trick familiar to Australian voters deceived by similar promises. It’s a key detail in a fact free speech which is stuffed over-full of dreaming big and winning.

“We must think big and dream even bigger,” he says. “America will start winning again, winning like never before.” There’s no explanation of how this will be achieved or even what it means, just echoes of a former casino operator philosophy overlaid, perhaps, with the mindless Neoliberal cruelty which divides all human endeavour into winning and losing.

“We will bring back our jobs, we will bring back our borders, we will bring back our wealth and we will bring back our dreams.” Trump fist pumps. But expect delays. His transition team has only two of its fifteen cabinet members approved and has made only 29 of 660 executive appointments. Trump Inc. is nowhere near ready for government.

Big business is investing heavily in bringing back its wealth. Trump’s inauguration is awash with corporate donations. Chevron ($660,000) and Boeing ($1.3 million) are some of the big business donors who help the Trump team raise more than $131 million for their inauguration hoe-down — double any previous President’s send-on. A big donation secures an intimate dinner with the President and First Lady.

Doubtless, Trump aims to invest heavily in himself, (as did Turnbull with his $2 million donation to his own campaign.) Of course, he claims he won’t. Yet delegating his business affairs to his sons is no substitute for a blind trust. One expert on corporate governance warns that Donald Trump will be a “hopelessly conflicted president” whose unprecedented swag of commercial conflicts of interest will undermine his presidency.

“Parliament is set to return in just over a fortnight but why are they even bothering?”, asks Fairfax’s Adam Gartrell, who points out that MPs have little or nothing on their plates. The government’s legislative list is minimal. The new travel allowance and expenses bill shouldn’t take up more than six months.

As luck would have it, a new president of a newly Disunited States and a new world disorder will afford plenty of distraction, even if it’s only reading The Donald’s tweets. And being terrified.