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Blood on your hands, Prime Minister?

“Future generations will thank us not for what we have promised but what we will deliver – and on that score Australia can always be relied upon,” Scott Morrison.

 

“PM, good morning to you. Do you have blood on your hands?” chirps a chipper Karl Stefanovic, who wears the same suit on Nine’s Today for a year to point up the sexism behind critics of former co-host, Lisa Wilkinson who dared wear the same shirt twice in four months. No-one noticed Karl; proving a breakfast TV point about sexist objectification which is neither original, unresearched, nor something not well understood by half the population. Perhaps in his next stunt he could don a dhoti – if he wants to disappear completely.

Everybody notices Morrison’s racist dog-whistle, “we’ll decide which of our citizens return to Australia and the circumstances in which they do so.” It’s a Tampa-style homage to his mentor, “lying rodent” John Howard. Thanks to both, it’s OK if our PM abandons the rule of law to be “tough on borders”. Or is it?

The criminalising of citizens just because they want to come home from pandemic-ravaged India is unprecedented. Experts warn that it may not even be legal. Former Race Discrimination Commissioner, Tim Soutphommasane asks what citizenship means if you can’t rush home from OS in time of crisis. Morrison’s practising discrimination; promoting an Australia where some are more Australian than others.

Typically hypocritical, Scott Morrison was quick to bag Queensland, last September, for closing its border, a move by a state aimed at saving lives, but one which drew the PM’s ire for risking Australia’s “humanity”.

Not that the federal government is keeping us all safe at home. The New England Journal of medicine reports new research suggesting Astra Zeneca, the mainstay of Australia’s vaccine program, is just 10% effective against the virulent South African Covid strain, which is found in Bali and Djakarta this week.

A range of vaccines would have been a wiser choice. Pfizer, for example, shows 75% effectiveness. Yet we’ve been unable to secure adequate Pfizer supplies. Nor do we have the multinational’s consent to manufacture our own even if we were all tooled up and ready to brew up a batch, as is CSL’s Melbourne lab, whose output the Morrison government keeps secret, in case we discover just how inadequate it is. Calculation based on current production, however, suggests it will take until 2024 before we’ve all had an AZ or Pfizer jab.

Preferably Pfizer. Because the SA variant shares key characteristics with another highly infectious variant which emerged in Brazil, (P.1) AstraZeneca’s vaccine may also have low efficacy rates on P.1. But Mum’s the word. Besides the government is in crisis management mode bringing citizens home from India. Or not.

Worse, the PM cops flack from unexpected quarters including the PM’s own back-bench, its chipper TV breakfast show hosts and its fair weather friends, Australia’s mainstream media. Even Tory hacks, such as Andrew Bolt say the decision to lock out brown Australians “stinks of racism”.

The death of any one Aussie will shame the PM, Bolt warns. By Saturday, one death is reported but this prompts the PM to declare that we don’t repatriate people with Covid-19. Always been policy. Standard practice globally. The man’s family is incensed. Even worse, “pushback” transcends mere mortals to reach the divine-pavilion of celebrity-cricketers, (Amen). Morrison just has to walk it all back. Duck, weave, deny and lie.

Karl’s first up on the PM’s media crab-walk, Tuesday. Our nation’s divinely ordained pastor, Morrison, to whom God speaks through a Ken Duncan photo of an eagle, confirming that he chose Scott ‘n Jen to lead us all, tries to weasel out of all responsibility for his SNAFU-prone government’s dumbest stuff-up.

Karl’s co-host, Allison Langdon, is on the (eye)ball, however. She cuts to the chase,

“The problem you have here, Prime Minister, the optics of threatening your own people with jail and huge fines is not a good one.” Criminalising citizenship? Definitely not a good look for a government which has busted a gut ear-bashing us all with how Aussie citizenship is a privilege not a right. Like extra virgin oil. Here’s Dutto blowing his bags over a bill entitled, Strengthening the Integrity of Australian Citizenship in 2017.

“Membership of the Australian family is a privilege and should be granted to those who support our values, respect our laws and want to work hard by integrating and contributing to an even better Australia.

Citizenship is at the heart of our national identity. It is the foundation of our democracy…”

Work hard? Morrison’s off like a frog in a sock. Like a democracy sausage – all sizzle and no meat. His mission? He wants to con us that his fiat banning all travel from India is no big deal. What began as a brown ban is quickly toned down to a “temporary pause” until 15 May. It’s a worry. There’s a temporary pause on investigation into the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins, two years ago. As always, there’s a herd of scapegoats to whom he can pass the parcel of blame, this government’s next best game after its game of mates.

It’s the media’s fault. It hasn’t been helpful for “these things to be exaggerated,” he tells reporters, Tuesday.

It’s the doctors. The government’s acting only on the best advice of its medical experts – we are told ad nauseam – despite Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly making no such advice. In fact, the CMO alerts the federal government to the dire health risks to citizens who will be trapped in India by any travel ban.

It’s the law’s fault. Hunt tells a sleepy nation at just past midnight Friday a week ago, but this just buggers up Morrison’s attempt to blame the media for the threat of fines and gaol sentences. Hunt is unequivocal,

“Failure to comply with an emergency determination under the Biosecurity Act 2015 may incur a civil penalty of 300 penalty units, five years’ imprisonment, or both. The temporary pause will be reconsidered on 15 May by the government following advice from the chief medical officer (CMO).”

Morrison, however, can’t resist one last squeeze of the lemon even though the pips are squeaking.

“I’m not going to fail Australia. I’m going to protect our borders at this time.”

A duly sceptical Dennis Atkins in The New Daily won’t have a bar of it. Gutless Morrison “tried to pretend this didn’t happen six days later by saying it was the media’s fault, but he and his health minister did it. They did it for one reason: to get a tough guy headline, and that mission was accomplished.”

And because they could. The Biosecurity Act 2015 gives unbelievable power to the government, says Marque Lawyers partner, Michael Bradley, once a human biosecurity emergency has been declared.

Section 477 gives the health minister power to “determine any requirement that he is satisfied is necessary to prevent or control the entry of the disease into Australia.” This can include “requirements that restrict or prevent the movement of persons between specified places.”

But Greg Hunt’s got to watch himself. Measures must be “effective, appropriate and no more restrictive than necessary” – lyrical legalese from the unacknowledged poets of the world, as Shelley nearly said. A legal challenge on these grounds is mounted by Marque Lawyers, who file a case against Hunt in the Federal Court, Wednesday, on behalf of Gary Newman, a 73 year-old, who’s been banged up in Bangalore since last March.

Justice Stephen Burley will expedite the case for a hearing the following week.

Whilst there may be an implicit constitutional right to return, which courts would be unlikely to find unlimited, Bradley argues, the current ban is illegal – because it exceeds what is appropriate – and because it’s outside the powers which the constitution gives to federal government. Bradley echoes many others in noting that there are means by which the government could have rescued its 9000 citizens, concluding that its actions are “unlawful, disgraceful and racist.”

Another shot across the bows of Scotty’s Tampa 2.0 is fired by the UN’s commissioner for human rights, Rupert Colville who lets our federal government know that what it’s proposing flouts Australia’s human rights obligations; breaches international law.

“In particular, article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which is binding on Australia, provides that no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.”

Elvis, aka his impersonator, Michael McCormack rushes on to ABC radio to repeat ScoMo’s sophistry that his government has to take a hard line but it never meant to lock anyone up … At this time.

Given his past record, Morrison, as did Abbott before him, is likely to tell the UN to stop meddling in our affairs, which rather defeats the object of signing up to international agreements.

“We can never answer to a higher authority than the people of Australia,” Morrison said two years ago. “We should avoid any reflex towards a negative globalism that coercively seeks to impose a mandate from an often ill-defined borderless global community and, worse still, an unaccountable internationalist bureaucracy.”

Is the PM is channelling Trump? It won’t wash. The Human Rights Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, has already warned our PM that the scrutiny Australia is receiving is based on the high standards we ourselves helped create.

Marque Lawyers may well contend the ban is unconstitutional, but Morrison repeats no-one is going to gaol or anything. Welcome back to a Joh Bjelke-Petersen moonlight stage-like age of innocence and endemic corruption where the separation of powers can’t exist if your leader’s never heard of them. Not to be outdone, Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews pops up to take matters from the subliminal to the ridiculous.

Always a barrel of laughs, a boss whom a senior Liberal adviser alleges to be “disrespectful, humiliating and demeaning,” Karen Andrews cracks hearty, at Wednesday’s chook-feeding presser. The best way to avoid doing time would be to stay where you were, if you were stuck in a raging pandemic, quips Kaz.

What a scream. Morrison’s cabinet is full of stand-up comics but lately it’s pure theatre of the absurd.

Only a ScoMo government could have a minister opine that your right to return is perfectly safe – provided you don’t try to exercise that right. Phil Ruddock is similarly reassuring in his religious freedom to discriminate bill which seems to have risen without trace to the Prime Minister’s orifice. But let’s not race ahead.

“Jailing and fining returning Aussies, I mean, as a sitting prime minister, it is incredibly heartless,” Karl Stefanovic says.

“Pretty much zero” chance of that happening replies Morrison, scrambling the separation of powers.

ScoMo tells Karl he doesn’t mean anything by his threats, Karl. His government’s vibe, Karl, is just one big warm and fuzzy buzz, Karl; like Strawberry Fields, Karl, where “nothing is real; nothing to get hung about.”

Karl’s keen to shirt-front Morrison but the PM’s dog-whistle is already exploding in his face as his hard borders, brown ban on Australian citizens’ trying to return from India earns a serve from “cricket great” Michael Slater. Meanwhile talking heads defend the PM; tell us how popular hard borders are with voters.

The messaging from the PM’s office is determined to blur the distinction between closing a state border and preventing Australians returning home from a nation which faces a catastrophic Coronavirus pandemic.

ScoMo’s speaking eagle must have been a wedgetail. He’s in a tight spot. Add in our pretensions to do business or be done over by Adani and how Modi loves our true blue, clean as a whistle Aussie coal. The ban has the government wedged between a black rock and a hard place. Aussie icons as Michael Hussey, who’s got Covid, David Warner, Steve Smith and Pat Cummins are stuck in Delhi. (Note: these men are cricketers a sport in international decline before Coronavirus struck, yet still more popular than religion in Australia.)

When Cricket Australia (CA) talks, governments take notice. On ABC TV’s PK show, some suit from CA, one of our Kafkaesque sports bureaucracies – aka “controlling bodies” that rival the medieval papacy for administrative bureaucracy – and alleged corruption – warns us that cricketers, bless their flannel trousers, may be super-heroes but some may still need a bit of TLC or an 1800 number state of the art type telephone counselling service when they return to the unreality of their Peter Pan lives.

Yes. It’s the poor hard-done by cricketers who tug CA’s heartstrings not those suffering the worst Covid outbreak yet, a pandemic which could reach a million cases per day. And unlike our own hospitals, or those to which cricketers would have access, India must deal with a dire shortage of essential supplies such as oxygen.

But no such TLC from CA nor from Barry O’Farrell our invisible ambassador to India for Sonali Ralhan’s father who dies in a New Delhi hospital Wednesday. Ralhan says she contacted consular officials with “great hopes” at first that her parents would be helped home. Instead, she finds herself mourning the death of her father.

“I write to you with so much anger brewing inside me,” Ralhan writes 6 May. “I am an Australian citizen and highly disappointed to be one today. What nation disowns their own citizens? (It) is a matter of wonder for the entire world.”

The family’s suffering is not helped by what seems to be Australia’s unjust targeting of citizens in India.

No ban happened with the UK or the USA, commentators helpfully chorus. They overlook at least 40,000 poor souls stranded overseas, whom Deliverance Morrison promised to bring home by Christmas, past. Plus both nations had more infections per capita than India, busting open the PM’s specious, “safety first” argument.

It doesn’t help Morrison when he claims that he’s halting all flights to safety from a pandemic ravaged land just so he can bring more Australians home safely. The fruit-loop is drowning in his own word salad gloop.

But blood on his hands? Is Karl plagiarising the late, great, Richard Carleton? Or paying homage? Or is he just quoting Slater, former Aussie cricketer cum presenter? Either way, Karl gets up Morrison’s nose.

“No, Karl,” the PM snaps. “We haven’t had a shift. How you’re reporting it is a shift.”

Mission accomplished. Morrison reverts to his government’s Trumpian default. Any unwanted criticism is fake news. He rebukes his genial host before falsely accusing a servile media for misrepresenting his government’s position. Position(s). It’s so simple a young child could grasp it, as The Monthly‘s Rachel Withers explains.

“The government will be defending the ban, which it insists it has the power to implement, but it won’t be imposing it, despite deliberately invoking it.”

It’s not an invisible pivot. It’s more of a flip-flop with a lot less flip than flop. Morrison is just making empty threats to act tough. Again. Like the war with China, pencil-rattling Pezzullo is picking in his bid to get back to Defence. Insiders say it will never happen. The Pezz is also over-stepping the mark for a shiny bum; an unelected pencil-pusher, even if his boss sees fit to over pay him nearly a million dollars a year.

Morrison utterly contradicts his Health Minister. Huntaway Hunt our fearless leader’s cub was baring his fangs and howling at the moon, midnight Friday. You could be banged up for five years or fined $66,600 if you even looked like you were an Aussie booking a flight home to safety. No wonder Labor is having fun accusing the Coalition of chest beating gone wrong. It’s easy to understand. But first make sure you have a chest.

Slater’s stuck on the subcontinent as Big White Bwana Aussie cricket commentators love to dub India, unable to get back to his Island Continent home on the NSW waterfront somewhere- just because the federal government’s sprung a travel ban. He’s not a happy camper. He nicks off to the tropical haven of the Maldives, a “no news, no shoes” Shangri-La, haunt of the rich and infamous, where COVID-19 is still a risk along with insect-borne diseases such as dengue, Zika virus and chikungunya. Falling coconuts can kill you, too.

China’s Long March 5B, which sounds as if it should be a pencil but is, in fact, a spacecraft plunges into the sea nearby but as its government says, most of the rocket burnt up on re-entry and besides it’s too early to know if any of the debris from the ten storey cylinder actually fell on any of the Maldives 1192 islands.

Slater’s not going anywhere. But the biggest threat to life in the low-lying islands is climate change, which for Morrison, or his former finance minister and newly appointed secretary-general of the OECD, who takes up his five year term in June, Mathias Cormann, will all be solved by exporting our super high-grade, extra clean coal to India where its cheery blaze will lift millions out of poverty as it heats the planet into oblivion.

Ninety islands have disappeared so far and even by the typically generous projections of climate scientists, the entire Maldives archipelago will be underwater in eighty years. Ironically, in a microcosm of parts of Australia’s economy, the tourism, on which islanders depend, fuels the global heating which will drown them. But to a man of Morrison’s faith, it’s all part of God’s plan. Whilst many churches are concerned about climate change, there is not a murmur from any evangelical group. It’s a perfect setting for Slater’s attack on Morrison.

Of course Morrison’s got blood on his hands. With this happy clapper, punters are spoilt for choice. And Karl knows it. It’s dramatic irony – if you could call Today’s cheesy infotainment a drama. A woman is killed a week by a current or former partner. Experts warn the Morrison government that its recent abolition of the family court will help cause a spike in men’s violence (or domestic violence as it’s officially euphemised). As Abbott’s border enforcer, we can only guess how many of Morrison’s boat turnbacks ended badly.

We do know that 23 year-old Iranian Kurd, Reza Berati was bludgeoned to death inside the Manus Island gulag, one of our offshore prisons we’ve been happy to call detention centres. Witnesses say guards were in a frenzy and jumped on the man’s head in a rage.

Despite first telling parliament it happened outside the compound during the riot where dozens were injured on Manus 17 February 2014, despite assuring all parties that G4S were able to maintain security without the use of force, Morrison did update his story several days later. Naturally, then PM Tony Abbott was quick to defend his captain’s pick.

After Morrison is caught out lying, Abbott helpfully declares that Morrison’s doing a “sterling” job, adding that “you don’t want a wimp running border protection.”

Blood? Morrison knifed his own PM, Turnbull in August 2018. Then, there’s the two thousand Australians who died after receiving Centrelink Robodebt letters of extortion. Thank heavens we don’t have a wimp in charge. But boosting a macho man image means putting in the hard yards. Take Scotty’s marvellous Barnes dancing.

Scott Morrison and Andrew Twiggy Forrest at Christmas Creek FMG mine site

Shots of Twiggy and Scotty in hi-vis rig stretching to Jimmy Barnes’ Working Class Man along with 300 Fortescue Metals Group miners in a workout routine at the Christmas Creek iron ore mine in WA, also reassure a nation sick with worry over PMs turning wimpy or compassionate or that the Coalition is soft on its promises to dance in step with mining oligarchs. After a night on the beers, Scotty’s up early the next morning for the workout photo-shoot travesty.

Whilst statistics show our average worker may be a woman health professional, tradie votes depend on spinning work as blokey and physical; something you do outdoors in your hard hat and Yakka overalls, Bro.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Fortescue Metals chairman Andrew Forrest join workers for morning exercise during a visit to the Christmas Creek mine site in The Pilbara, Western Australia, Friday, April 16, 2021. (AAP Image/Pool, Justin Benson-Cooper)

Just in case limbering up to “Barnesy” isn’t enough bullshit in itself, Twiggy leaves nothing to chance, Fortescue’s owner tells Sam Maiden and other media hacks on tap that a bend and stretch routine is vital to get its workers ready for a long hard day’s work in the mine.

What isn’t spelled out is how highly automated and (buzzword-alert) “autonomous” modern mining is. While fitters have light, driverless, vehicles to fetch spare parts, even the big trucks can drive themselves. Fortescue boasts a fully automated haulage operation.

Still, it would pay to limber up before hitting the computer console or checking the smart sensors and drones.

Similarly, Scott Morrison’s office has cleverly taken much of the drudgery out of the PM’s work, substituting instead hand-crafted moving pictures of our leader being a man of the people, celebrating small business heroes in barre classes, building a Bunnings kit-set chook house or fawning all over the nation’s richest man, iron ore miner, Dr Twiggy Forrest, who in 2020, completed a PhD in marine ecology. As you do.

Scotty sucking up to Twiggy? Check. Hamming it up? Check. Token women workers taking part? Check. There’s even more talk, again of a gas-fired power station at Kurri Kurri in the Hunter. Visionary. We’ll all be paying for it in the Coalition’s insatiable appetite for state socialism despite its gospel of self-help, small government and the invisible hand of capitalism. The word is Snowy Hydro’s already approved the little beauty which is said, variously, to be set to deliver anywhere from 350 to 1000MW – but you know how good our Minister for fossil fuel Energy, Angus Taylor, is with figures. And doctored documents. Just ask him. Or Clover Moore.

One thing not in dispute is the buckets of money Coalition government’s lobe to shower over the fossil fuel industry. A ten billion dollar a year annual subsidy helps the little Aussie billionaire battlers.

Who’s beating the drums of war? Just in case anyone, anywhere, is in any doubt as to who’s a climate criminal, mining muppet Scott Morrison, the only PM to flash his pet black rock in parliament, seals the deal for Australia when he takes his mark at the back of the pack of forty world leaders at the USA’s virtual Earth Day climate summit, 22 April. On ANZAC Day, Mike Pezzullo, deftly turns our attention to the fact that those drums of war don’t beat themselves in the mother of all beat ups our war with China over another bit of China.

In a forum set up so that forty nations can increase their commitment to fighting global heating, ahead of a Conference of Parties, (COP26) scheduled to be held in Glasgow, this November, Morrison pledges to do nothing. Nothing but spin. Australia will make “bankable” reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, he says; even without a concrete 2050 net-zero target.

Cutting emissions by 26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, our current target, is already “insufficient” in the eyes of Biden’s administration.

As for being relied upon, just look at Kyoto, another meeting with the aim of producing binding commitments to reduce emissions. We are the world’s Artful Dodger, (a type-cast role played by “I’d Do Anything” Morrison at fifteen in the 1982 Sydney Boys High School production of Oliver!)

Kyoto credits – brainwave of John Howard’s Environment Minister Robert Hill are now off the Coalition table but that doesn’t mean other nations have either forgotten or forgiven our chicanery and bad faith.

Even a late spot on the programme flatters Morrison. He’s lucky to be invited to speak at all. Perhaps he believes in doing nothing because, the end times are upon us, as all good Pentecostalists believe.

Australia gets the Graveyard shift on a Long Earth Day’s Night. So why not tell the world just how much his government is a front for fossil fuel corporations who would kill the lot of us just to boost a balance sheet?

President Joe Biden sensibly leaves before ScoMo gets his slogan mojo on. Nature abhors a vacuum. “It’s not the when or the why it’s the how,” he says as if he’s doing some cheesy infomercial to teach teenagers, how good is consent. But he has no “how” to demonstrate and his insistence that carbon capture and storage is a viable technology makes us a laughing stock. We’ve spent nearly a billion dollars failing to make it work.

The Earth Day Zoom meeting is an international forum which acts as a prelude for heaps of other huff n’ puff stuff. BoJo is holding a G7 while Norway is getting the whole band back together.

Scotty’s also a hot prosperity gospeller. Believers get rich. The godly become wealthy and the wealthy become godly. If global heating means the world is going to fry like a fisherman’s basket, that’s God’s plan. Try to combat that? Sacrilege. Or even sin. Nothing to be done. Yet as one of the saved, our wealthy PM’s our to save others. Because he knows it’s what God wants him to do. Even if it means a Yuri Geller truth-bender. Not only does our happy clapping, rapture-rat, evangelical fabulist and con-artist, PM lie about Australia’s climate change policies, he bags every one of the forty nations who pledge to slash their greenhouse gas emissions.

The summit may be seen as the United States’ homage to the potlatch, a traditional, ceremonial gift-giving amongst some North American first peoples in which goods are given away for power in a complex ritual which includes the reaffirmation of family, clan and international relationships. The US opens the bidding with a pledge to cut emissions 50-52% below 2005 levels by 2030.

While a terrified nation hides under the doona, our PM spruiks hydrogen. Not just any hydrogen or the green hydrogen advocated by some climate change experts but hydrogen that will be produced by burning coal or gas. The details are murky. Morrison’s a big picture man. As big as possible when he’s in the frame, posing as a tough on borders populist or a mate of Twiggy Forrest and his working class men. No hint emerges from the PM or his government that extending fossil-fuel usage is an act of wilful criminal negligence if not homicide.

His answer to what Biden calls “the existential crisis of our time”? Hydrogen valley. Where the fatuous meets the vacuous. Setting up a totally unnecessary coal-fired power station in the Hunter. Seriously.

It’s not the why or the when it’s the how. It doesn’t help that Scotty’s still a rusted-on fanboy of The Donald or that his microphone is off or – he’s on mute – as he is in half of all households around the country. The President has already left the building. This administration will decide later how it will reward Australia’s obstructing global consensus in curbing carbon emissions and embracing renewable energy.

Trade Tariffs may well be added to nations such as ours which seek to evade their international responsibilities with regard to curbing greenhouse gas emission and climate change abatement. It will not go well for us.

Joe Biden knows that Morrison’s not speaking to him. The PM’s not trying to reach an international audience. His remarks are for domestic consumption. Our totally transactional PM is frantic to appease the right wing of his party which, he believes, will see him as a true believer with his hard-line stance on border protection. Yet it is, in fact, an act of calculated, callous inhumanity which goes against the spirit of our constitution and against the letter of international agreements to uphold human rights which we once helped to write.

Morrison is right – but not for his vacuous rhetoric. Future generations will judge us on what we deliver. Just as they judge us today on what we do rather than whatever our government might say – and then pretend it didn’t say or try to crabwalk away from. The inaction of this government to honour its obligations to its citizens in its travel ban on those trapped in India – or its chicanery on energy or climate change, its betrayal of its stewardship, or duty of care of the planet for future generations, is an indictment of its motives to seek and hold power for its own sake and a travesty of democratic principle and responsibility to its people. It is also a declaration of moral bankruptcy.

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Keeping a Morrison government honest?

Warning: this article contains material which will shock monarchists everywhere, especially citizens of the south Pacific island of Tanna in the Vanuatu archipelago who once worshipped Prince Philip as a spirit or a god and who now must transfer their adulation to Charles, the son of (their) god.

Keeping a Morrison government honest is like trying to nail a jelly to a wall, as Teddy Roosevelt wrote of his efforts to get an agreement with Columbia in April 1912. Or the ABC’s work to take the twerk hurt out of 101 Doll Squadron’s sensational dance rendition of Koffee’s Toast (remix) for the “launch event” of HMAS Supply II in Woolloomooloo, (not be confused with HMAS Supply I a vessel which was actually launched where it was made in Spain in 2018).

The ABC is told to undo a video edit creating an image of top brass watching – Governor-General David Hurley, Chief of Navy Vice-Admiral Michael Noonan and Chief of Defence General Angus Campbell “observing the performance.”

The women complain ABC camera angles amount to upskirting which is then shown to the world. They feel “threatened and exploited.” Defence Minister Dutton declares that future ship launch celebrations will be twerk-free zones.

 

101 Doll Squadron

 

Hurley and Noonan claim they arrived post-“Toast”. The ABC releases Toast 2.0 which does show just a sole, impassive, Campbell mentally rehearsing his tribute to the late Prince Philip; doubtless pondering what Philip – both a sailor and a pants man might have made of proceedings. Meanwhile Liberal MPs are unhappy at the dance/warship fusion. They sook about how our armed forces are now too “left” and “woke” at a cost to their core business of killing people.

It’s another top opportunity for the PM to bash the ABC and throw another dead cat on the table to distract from his vaccination debacle. He brands the ABC camera woman’s work “disrespectful to the performers,” on Thursday. “To suggest the Governor-General or others were in attendance there in that way I think was dishonest.

The twerk angle is escalated into a major issue for all armed forces and Morrison’s standards: “ … standards have failed, and so I think Defence will look at these matters and make whatever changes they wish to in the future.”

Standards? Morrison’s invoking standards? What a crack-up. Kristina Kenneally finds her flight to Christmas Island cancelled by Peter Dutton a few hours after she’s made it. She wishes to visit the Biloela family in indefinite detention and she plans to take her joint parliamentary committee with her. Dutton says no suitable aircraft are available.

Ever resourceful, committed to the cause of open government and justice, Kenneally secures a Virgin flight.

“Peter Dutton did the one thing he could as defence minister and cancelled the committee’s flight on a Government Special Purpose Aircraft,” she says. “This from the same Minister who didn’t hesitate in spending $36,000 of taxpayers’ money flying himself on the same Government Special Purpose Aircraft from Queensland to Tasmania to announce a highly political “Safer Seats Rorts” grant during the Braddon by-election.”

Scott Morrison’s government has standards. And to adapt Groucho, if you don’t like those standards, it’s got others.

It’s a week of revision and revisitation. After five abortive tries to get a vaccination programme happening, the PM just gives up. If at fifth you don’t succeed, why try again? Scotty screws up his vaccine roadmap. He’s not playing the jab-plan game any more. Instead, National Cabinet, another Morrison, Secret Squirrel comic fiction, will Zoom bi-weekly to nut out a vax plan. Of course that doesn’t prevent the PM from hinting broadly, Friday, at open borders and quarantine at home for vaccinated Aussies returning from foreign locations. At least 40,000 stranded Australians are in limbo. They are still waiting for him to honour his promise to have them all home by last Christmas. National Cabinet will fix that, too?

So he’d love us to believe. He needs another scapegoat. And headlines. Wrest the narrative from his bullying of Christine Holgate, the interview he’s promised Brittany Higgins, her upcoming book – or reports that Ben Roberts-Smith buries a pink plastic children’s lunchbox of USB flash drives in his backyard. The drives, sources report, contain images that may implicate fellow diggers, a violation of Justice Brereton’s 2016 request that soldiers surrender any such material.

The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes have evidence that Roberts-Smith intimidated witnesses to prevent them giving evidence at the Brereton Inquiry. The media also have Images which show elite, Perth-based SAS troops at a fancy dress party at The Fat Lady’s Arms, an unauthorised bar, frequented by both officers and men in Tarin Kowt in Southern Afghanistan. One wears a Ku Klux Klan costume. Friends of his, dressed in similar outfits are alleged to have executed fathers, brothers, sons say locals in a series of complaints, dating from 2006.

A midweek press drop is called for. In synchronised stenography, surely a future Olympic Event – our media flacks oblige with “Back on war footing amid vaccine mercy dash to Europe.” It’s just another desperate Morrison stunt; set up another story that casts himself if not his motely crew of rorty, incompetent failures as valiant, chivalrous heroes.

Mercy dash? Knight errant, valiant, Dan Tehan kits up. Booted and spurred, he’s off to tilt at Brussels’s windmills. Another stunt. None of it fools Niki Savva, whose basilisk stare turned Gillard to stone, or so Savva swears.

“First Australia was in the front of the queue, then it slipped towards the back of the queue, now there is no queue, no timetable and no targets. All too hard.” The Liberal insider, scoffs at Morrison‘s farrago of lies in the party’s Pravda, The Australian. To her, the PM’s a dead man walking. The pandemic will be the kiss of death because it reveals his government’s utter incompetence -when it comes to governance. And ScoMo has Pinocchio’s nose. His government’s paralysing ineptitude is compounded by its mythomania; its pathological inability to tell the truth.

But the Morrison omnishambles does some things rather well. It’s a well-oiled machine when it comes to injecting money into the economy via Job Keeper. Over a billion dollars went into some of Australia’s biggest and most profitable companies last year, boosting a $3.6 billion return to shareholders. A few will repay $78 million in return. Corporations don’t have to repay – unlike Centrelink beneficiaries receiving overpayments who get debt collectors set on to them.

Where the Morrison government really excels is being frugal with the truth. While it bullshits about its affection for small government, what it loves most is secrecy and deception. And it’s not just good at lying its head off, it’s mean and sneaky. It’s a black belt in the dark arts of persuasion such bullying Holgate, who cops a bucketing from Jared Lynch for her grandiose ideas, which did not endear her to the government, as he tells the story, in Friday’s The Australian. Add in the backgrounding against Brittany Higgins and David Sharaz or steam-cleaning a sofa. Anything underhand.

Or under Hunt. Down. Down. Down. Monday’s jab tally sags to 56,000. By Wednesday it is only slightly better at 63,633. No biggie, lies our Health Minister who, like his PM, would con us that in a pandemic, best to be the tortoise in any race to the mortuary. Or how we always stuff up on the best expert advice. Professor Murphy says so. “Vaccination alone,” moreover, “is no guarantee you can open up.” Yet last month, Morrison was promising an October jab-by-date.

A travel backflip is not without its risks. QANTAS’ ruthless CEO, one of the highest paid executive in Australia (total salary last year of $24.8 million) a $700 million government corporate welfare recipient, Alan Joyce, is overjoyed that domestic travel is back to eighty per cent of pre-pandemic level, whatever that means in an industry of brutal cutbacks. Joyce is still barracking for open skies in October, despite the Morrison’ latest dummy-spit on setting any target at all.

Alan’s not alone. Others join Joyce in intoning “October” as if it were some holy mantra – as if by power of repetition the month will bring news that we’re all vaccinated and back to business as usual. All our trading partners fit and well again.

You can always trust Hunt to plant his feet firmly in the air. Our thoroughly post-modern Health Minister Greg Hunt is always up for a back-flip. Or pivot. Or somersault. Just don’t ask him to reverse his refusal to testify to what he saw at the Intervarsity Debating Tournament in 1988, attended also by Christian Porter and Paul Fletcher.

For Hunt, there’s no open border on the horizon, ever. Nope. Nope. Nope. No commitment to when we’ll all have had the jab. Even when we do have everyone vaccinated, borders may stay shut. It’s a last-ditch effort to dump the whole vaccination distribution debacle back on to state laps. But before any smartarse can query the futility of more talk about distribution without having any supplies, Holgate-gate breaks, a public name and shame of bully-boy Morrison.

Clad in suffragette white, Christine Holgate appears before a senate committee to accuse the Prime Misogynist of trashing her reputation; gaslighting her resignation, in an orchestrated psychological war on one woman that she says leaves her suicidal. All too much for Scotty. He vastly prefers the old Holgate who was a self-serving corporate hack and Murdoch lackey on Ten. Scotty steals away on Shark 1. Jets to the western front for photo ops, a cash splash for Seroja cyclone victims and perhaps a single malt with merry, Kerry Stokes. WA is showered in handouts, a token five hundred dollars for kids and twice that for adults -just enough to big-note the PM but useless to those who must rebuild.

Shark 1 is a modest one hundred and two seater, a Qantas A330 converted in 2015 by Airbus to a freighter and air-to-air refueler. The RAAF KC30-A tanker is set up to ferry the PM and claque of embedded journos on big overseas trips. If he gets to make another: Morrison flew to Japan, last November. Foreign Minister, Marise Payne and former Defence Minister Linda “Lying Cow Reynolds” flew Shark 1 to Washington but PM’s office told them not to use the VIP suite.

Nor its comfy bed. The $250 million re-jig is worth every cent. A nation wonders how any PM ever did without it. No doubt it will come in handy if it ever becomes safe for any leader to jet away. The pandemic is raging globally.

WHO reports a rise in new COVID-19 cases around the world – for the seventh, consecutive week. Over 4.5 million new cases are reported, as of last week. 76,000 new deaths are reported. Alarmingly, the number of new deaths continues to rise over four consecutive weeks. It’s up by 7% compared to last week. Our PM would do well to heed this trend.

In the meantime, he’s desperate to wrest control of the narrative which entails despatching former DFAT pen-pusher and onetime diplomat in our nation’s Embassy in Mexico, dapper Dan Tehan, Minister for TTI, trade, tourism and investment to EU HQ to plead for more vaccine, even though we don’t deserve it. Dan’s had stellar success in Education, which he equates with training for jobs. Why, he singlehandedly doubled the cost of an arts degree, while helping ensure that Universities and the like did not qualify for Job Keeper. Bet that wins him fans in academia worldwide.

Perhaps the flight will also give Morrison time to reflect on his peroration on the dying of Abbott knight, Sir Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, for whom tributes still flow, thick and slow. Scotty’s no Boris Johnson who fancies Philip as an expert carriage-driver, whose racism and misogyny were just ways to “break the ice; get people laughing.”

“You look like you’re ready for bed!” he tells the President of Nigeria in 2003, dressed in traditional robes. It’s a quip that’s guaranteed to build respect and rapport between the two leaders and their respective nations. Just ask Boris.

It’s a tough gig. Morrison’s got a bit of competition, too. The demise of the notorious gaffer, the fabled Duke of the eponymous Scheme and self-reliant to the last, inventor of his own, patent, modified Land Rover hearse springs a gush of tributes. It’s tricky territory, which Marina Hyde reminds us, reveals more about the author than the subject.

” … neither royal fans nor royal detractors care entirely selflessly about what the royals want. Emotions are for us, not them. They are mostly required to serve as Rorschach blots, in which we see only what we wish and reveal only ourselves. Knowingly or otherwise.”

Many of us warm to Britain’s royalty, described by US Ambassador, William Crowe, in 1997, as the royal family mourned Diana as “aloof, rigid and lacking in empathy.” Many of us don’t. We project what we believe we see; and even that projection is shaped by others. Hamlet asks Polonius. “Do you see yonder cloud that’s almost in shape of a camel?

Polonius: By the mass, and ‘tis like a camel, indeed.

Hamlet: Methinks it is like a weasel.

Polonius: It is backed like a weasel.

Hamlet: Or like a whale?

Polonius: Very like a whale.”

 

Prince Philip and Elizabeth in Australia

 

“The Duke’s life was one of duty and of service, of loyalty and of honour,” Morrison intones, unwittingly evoking his own back-stabbing, duplicity. The citing of the dutiful, master-servant, a mythological beast is compulsory. Unsaid are the hard facts of privilege. Despite Philip’s apocryphal stories of his poverty, he got by with a bit of help from his family including his grandmother, Princess Victoria at Kensington Palace, and later, his guardian Uncle George, Marquess of Milford Haven. His mentor was the distinguished Uncle Dickie, Lord Louis Battenberg, also renamed Mountbatten to disguise his German ancestry, but not his paedophilia, described in FBI files as his “perversion for young boys.”

Philip himself spent his married life playing gooseberry to a Queen’s love affair with her own royal duty. It did not sit well with him. “I am nothing but a bloody amoeba. I am the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his own children.” Self-disparagement aside, he generally did as he pleased, if not without a certain ironic resignation.

Less well-aired are Battenberg’s views on the social picnic, although on one occasion, Philip did demand service. The Duke knew what he wanted but never really got it, a tragic subtext the obsequies of mourning clogging our screens.

“Bugger the table plan, just give me my dinner.” Cut off in his prime at 99, HRH, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, is said to be a “shock death”. The consort, on sufferance, of Queen Elizabeth, the Second, whom he said was “only interested in something if it farts and eats hay, is admired for daring to share his inner vulgarian. Yet the Duke knew that fine words butter no parsnips. He’d be quick to deplore our media’s manic eagerness to fawn over him on his demise.

The gush threatens to become a deluge. Our own closet monarchists on The ABC are awash with tosh. They prattle endlessly, recycling well-worn, clichés and reheating stale platitudes. We learn yet again how Philip “modernised the monarchy” or how his gaffes were really helpful in instructing us what to avoid. Or taken out of context.

Yes. He was a devoted family man. Royal biographer, Sarah Bradford writes, of the younger Philip, “the women he goes for are always younger than him, usually beautiful and highly aristocratic … He has affairs and the Queen accepts it.

The BBC creates a dedicated complaints form on its website to cope with a volley of protests from viewers who find its royal fawning emetic. Many object to East Enders, Gardeners’ World and the final of MasterChef being replaced by simulcast pre-recorded tributes from Philip’s children. Randy Andy, Jeffrey Epstein’s pal, who was sired, by Lord Porchester, The Seventh Earl of Carnarvon is very much in frame. As is Harry, whose paternity is also controversial.

The BBC form’s a handy counterpoint to the sycophantic, bollocks of countless, mindless, fatuous, fact-free eulogies.

Philip did marry well. It should be his obituary. Being born an aristocrat was another stroke of luck. Forget the myth of his poverty. His people knew people who knew people with money. And mansions in England. Philip fled Corfu in 1922; smuggled out in an orange crate borne aboard HMS Calypso. (Greek: she who hides). The plan was to evade anti-monarchists out to kill his Papa, Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, brother of King Constantine of Greece.

King George sent a Royal Navy gunboats around, as you do, when a rellie is in spot of bother. He’d never forgiven himself that time when he was too slow to pull the fat out of the fire for his other cousin, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia whose main claim to fame is that he had no idea how to be a Tsar. Nor did he want to be Tsar. Russia was less than understanding. It ended badly for Nick and family. Now things were looking crook for cousin Constantine.

Con was forced to abdicate. Grovelers gush that the sea rescue kindled Phil’s interest in the navy, but that’s a bridge too far. He was an eighteen-month old tot at the time. He could hardly be expected to know his Navel from his Naval. Oddly, he has no fond memories of Greece or the Greeks especially the Greek who shot his uncle George in 1913.

King George I of Greece and Denmark was on an afternoon stroll in the streets of Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city, when shot in the back by Alexandros Schinas, who declared that he shot George for refusing to give him money. He’d even petitioned the palace a few years earlier. Philip took the story to heart.

Schinas, whose tubercular delirium may have triggered his shooting, as he claimed, died six weeks later in a fall from a window of the Magistrate’s Office.

Like LEGO, the Greek monarchy, in 1922, was an expensive Danish toy, imposed on the Greeks by a referendum in 1862, after thirty odd years’ under Bavarian import, King Otto of Wittelsbach, a dud they fell in love with at first sight but whom they later came to detest, depose and expel. Surprisingly, there was no mad rush of candidates to replace him.

Prince Wilhelm of Denmark, the eventual winner, received a paltry six votes. More popular candidates, include Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, another debauched party-goer. Instead, Alfred is sent on tour to Australia, by his mother, Victoria, partly to curb her son’s appetite for society high-life. A bullet which lodges near your spine can also have that effect. Prince Alfred, Earl of Kent and Earl of Ulster, is the only royal known to have been shot whilst on a visit to Sydney.

Henry O’Farrell shoots Alfred in the back in a visit to a picnic, a fund-raiser for the Sydney Sailors’ Home held at Clontarf Reserve in February 1868, the first royal tour of Australia. Men and women faint. Tears are shed. Tempers flare. A few quick-thinking bystanders barely manage to prevent O’Farrell from being torn asunder on the spot. An “Indignation Meeting, only a day later, draws 20,000. Things turn ugly for Irish-Catholic Australians across the nation.

O’Farrell fesses up to being a lone wolf. Just before he’s hanged, he disavows any link with any other Fenian, much to the relief of NSW cops who are quite unable to find evidence of any fellow terrorists.

O’Farrell is fuelled by Fenian republican sentiment; the desire to liberate Ireland from British tyranny. Prince Albert made an heroic recovery by the end of March yet he was not destined to become the king of Greece.

“Affie” as Prince Alfred was fondly known to his family, won 230, 016 votes. Yet he was forced to politely decline the offer to become King of Greece, however, flattering largely because his mother, Victoria, disapproved. He would later marry Duchess Marie Alexandrovna, the only daughter of Nicholas II and Marie Alexandrovna of Russia and on the death of his uncle Ernest II, in 1873 took up the duchy of Saxe Coburg and Gotha and gradually became popular and was well regarded by his subjects on his death in 1900. Fast forward.

The Calypso took Philip to Italy and he went on to Paris. Philip never looked back. Or forward. Phil, the Greek, or Stavros or The Hun as the Queen Mother called him, may technically have been a Greek prince, but he neither lived in Greece nor spoke Greek. French and German were his languages. As a young child in Paris, he saw himself as a Danish prince.

At seven, he was abandoned by his father Andrew who left to set himself up in Monte Carlo with his mistress, while his strikingly beautiful mother, Alice Battenberg, profoundly deaf, but who could lip read in several languages, believed herself to be a nun and the only woman on earth and married to Christ. A doctor diagnosed her as a paranoid schizophrenic. Philip’s grandmother was persuaded by psychiatrists that Alice was best placed in a secure sanatorium.

Alice did not go willingly. In Easter 1930, the highly distressed woman was physically subdued by the doctor, sedated and taken by car to a clinic near Lake Constance. His mother’s committal, 2 May is the end of Philip’s family life.

 

Alice of Battenberg, Prince Philip’s mother

 

Philip did not reconcile with Alice until 1967, when they were re-united and they spent her last days together.

Philip was sent to England to live with his maternal grandmother. His childhood was chaotic and infused with tragedy, writes Andrew Scott in Politico. He was cared for by his grandmother, Princess Victoria in England at first and was later in the guardianship of his uncle. Gordonstoun school and later the Royal Navy were to be profound influences on his character and personality.

As an adult he retreated into a Colonel Blimp caricature, a public persona that could be an irascible racist and sexist. Examples abound. Philip once asked a group of women community workers in the East End of London who presented the Queen with a sponge cake, whom “they were sponging off.” “Do you meet for a gossip?” he added.

Did he fill the House of Windsor’s random stand-up comedy slot? Leaven her Majesty’s chit-chat and banter? He was far too shrewd to be its court jester. Philip is credited with introducing a business like approach to the royal household and he did notch up an Olympic record of seventy six years as her Britannic Majesty’s “Cookie’s” chief squeeze.

Hacks at The Daily Telegraph and other sycophants enjoyed creating the myth that Philip was a no-nonsense man of the people but he showed no great fondness for commoners. He was no democrat. He greeted the brutal Paraguayan dictator General Alfredo Stroessner in 1963: “It’s a pleasure to be in a country that isn’t ruled by its people.”

The man, however, remains an enigma. Much is made by British media of the royals’ charity work and there is no doubt it is hard work. Perspective matters, however. Whilst Tory tabloid toadies love to fawn over Philip’s statistical record of 22,219 “engagements” in his capacity as the Duke of Edinburgh over six decades: “… most such engagements, involving anything from launching battleships and unveiling plaques at town halls to guzzling drinks and tucking into banquets in the company of other reactionary toffs, lasted on average an hour.”

His working week averages about 350 hours a year of seven hours a week over sixty-four years. For his he earned a stipend of £360,000 PA. All expenses, such as travel, accommodation and meals were paid for him. A complex and reticent figure despite his rhinoceros hide, Philip is not found in his obituaries or the obsequies of public figures.

Another baffling enigma, Scott Morrison is back into his cosplay, the mainstay of his Prime Ministry, doing stretch exercises with mining workers (but not twerking) to the strains of Jimmy Barnes’s Working class Man. It’s quite a stretch even for our protean PM. He tells pet journos that we could be all be jetting OS again, Friday.

“The doctor ate my homework,” or the experts told us to take a punt on a few vaccines are its first line of defence. But when the going gets tough, Morrison gives up. Fail to honour a single pledge to meet any vax distribution deadlines? It’s the only thing, for which federal government will take direct responsibility. Now it refuses to even have a plan. You can’t criticise a plan that doesn’t exist. Just as you can’t be held to account for a rape you don’t hear about.

The non-plan won’t catch on. Vaccination rollout an omnishambles? All of us have skin in the game. Morrison’s inspired decision to abandon all targets is all lamely explained away by scapegoating suppliers. Uncertainties such as vaccine nationalism have been known since the first vaccines appeared. Labor’s Antony Albanese warmed the government of the risk of putting all our eggs in one basket at the time.

Critics such as a left-wing ABC or the sewer rats of social media are confounded. Great solace is to be had that we rank just ahead of Bangladesh or one hundred and fourth in the global vaccination race?

Of course it’s just a walk in the park; not a race and we’ve lost only a total of 909 says the PM in a video he posts on Facebook, a type of social media he tells Australians not to trust, Laura Tingle, reminds Greg Hunt.

“We’ve been very clear to point out where you get your information from. You don’t get it from Facebook. You get it from official government websites,” Morrison patronises our National Press Club, 1 February, this year.

Yet our dilemma deepens – and with it Morrison’s problem. New evidence from researchers at Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital indicates that just counting fatalities does not begin to assess the effect of the pandemic because it ignores Long Covid which may afflict at least nineteen per cent of all Australians who contract acute COVID-19.

“Long COVID hits women more often than men, affects young and old, and while more common in those who had severe symptoms in the acute stage, it can also afflict those who had only a mild course of COVID-19,” reports Crikey’s Jason Murphy.

Health Secretary Brendan Murphy praises the rigour of St Vincent’s research model which selects patients before they succumb to COVID-19 and which tracks them after they do. The experimental design side-steps some vociferous critics of studies which include non COVID-19 sufferers who dismiss Long Covid as all in the mind.

But don’t call Dr Laming. Liberal love rat, Andy Laming, the LNP’s upskirter can’t get enough of Facebook. He has a swag of fake Facebook community and news pages. The AEC is looking into the Queensland MP’s failure to make any political disclosure. Given the AEC’s record of investigations clearing Liberals in Kooyong for example, he’s got nothing to fear.

But Laming is in a spot of bother over his awarding a $550,000 govt grant to a rugby club in his electorate with links to one of his electoral staffers. Worse, the grant which comes from funding aimed at female participation, goes to the Southern Cyclones rugby club, which does not even field a women’s team?

MP for Bowman, Laming flip-flops on his vow not to stand for re-election thereby making himself a “de-selected candidate” who is entitled to a $105,625 resettlement allowance , explains researcher and Walkley finalist, William Summers. A net loss to his own party in terms of scandal, Laming will exit politics at our expense. Yet Morrison’s refusal to stand the MP down is yet another sign that the PM lacks the bottle to be an effective leader; much as he lacks the moral compass to condemn the behaviour of a party member who is a stalker and a troll who bullies women online.

Finally it’s still a shock to many that the PM takes it upon himself to offer an Easter Message. Worse, the sentiments expose the inadequacy multiplied by the inhumanity and sadistic cruelty of his government’s policies

“A very special time when people and families come together?” OK. Not so much for forty thousand Australians stranded overseas by his government. Or the Biloela family in indefinite detention, a type of torture according to the UN, on Christmas Island. Not for the poor whose numbers his government’s IR and economic policies have vastly expanded. 3.24 million of us are forced to live below the poverty line of half the minimum wage, ACOSS calculates.

But how good is The PM’s Easter Massage? Lynton Crosby may throw a dead cat on the table to distract us but it takes a Scott Morrison to get Jen to pet someone else’s live labradoodle. Get real.

A nation goes wild over platitudes and re-hashed homilies as we are left pondering his parable of the girls who must grow up but who’ll never lose their love of chocolate. Tony Abbott’s mentor, Cardinal “Melbourne Solution” George Pell reinvents Easter in an op-ed in The Australian in which he bullshits that the pagan festival has Christian origins.

But imagine if the Easter Message were not words at all but deeds; a commitment to a living minimum wage. Businesses can afford higher wages. The Guardian’s Paul Jericho reminds us businesses can afford higher wages. Profits increased by 15% in the last 12 months. It’s the first recession in Australian history when profits got bigger, not smaller.

Women would benefit the most. Two thirds of all award-dependent workers are women. Yet government policy increases inequality. As women returned “to part-time, casual and low-paid roles last year, the gender pay gap across all jobs (including part-time and full-time) widened from May to November, reaching 31%.

The federal government needs to do more than hand-ball the pandemic to the states to deal with. If it can’t secure enough vaccine, then say so. Call an election. But at the same time it needs to heed the women who marched on parliament not patronise and divide them or buy them off with a women’s cabinet taskforce.

A real boost to the minimum wage would not only help address the gender pay gap and the scourge of inequality, it would stimulate an economy that is coming off job-keeper in a world in which the coronavirus pandemic still rages, only to be depressed by the application of austerity economics – as seen in the shameful measures mooted by a Morrison government to make it harder for our most vulnerable to access the NDIS.

Time to drop the evasion and the indecision, Prime Minister, the nation is calling out for leadership not only in obtaining adequate and timely supplies to ensure a successful vaccination roll-out – but leadership in applying consequences to the likes of Andrew Laming. Above all leadership and vision is required from your government in boosting the minimum wage to stimulate the nation’s prosperity and to attack the scourge of violence against women at of its key origins – the undervaluing of women’s work and gender inequality in the workplace.

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Morrison can’t take a trick

Warning: this article discusses rape.

Morrison can’t take a trick lately. He fails the 4 million Covid vaccinations by March target he set in January. Massively. Andrew Laming is off on empathy training to stop his stalking women; curb his up-skirting? Because the party needs the pervert’s vote. Morrison doesn’t have the bottle to sack him. He’s barely promoted Amanda Stoker as deputy of his new women’s taskforce when Grace Tame calls him out. He’s either pulling a swiftie or he’s got dud judgement. And the latest skirmish in the PM’s guerrilla war on women who investigate rape accusations against mates and staffers blows up in his face.

The PM smears Sam Maiden via a snide dig at Sky’s Andrew Clennell for an act of sexual harassment in a News Corp women’s loo. But it didn’t happen. News Corp and Sky swiftly point out how wrong he is. Water closet-gate will be his undoing. But how good is ScoMo as a rapid-fire shit-canner?

“One more scandal. One more boneheaded disgrace. One more backbench troll sent off to study how to impersonate a human being.” Speaking at the ALP’s virtual annual conference, which our press mostly ignores, Bill Shorten sees Morrison’s as already a virtual minority government in disarray.

AFR’s Aaron Patrick has to do Morrison’s hit job for him. It backfires badly. “A crusade of women journos,” upbraids Maiden, Laura Tingle and others for being good journalists and being women.

“Anger at the government over the abuse of women is being led by a powerful group of female journalists,” Patrick pouts in a personal attack rubbishing the “challenging,” “spiky” and “difficult” Maiden’s single mother’s poverty, the writer’s bad temper and ambition. Other women are incensed.

“So apparently giving Brittany Higgins a platform, calling the powerful to account, exposing government coverups & a vile rape/sexual assault culture in Parliament House, is not journalism. According to the AFR, it’s angry activism. Welcome to the new world order boys. Tweets Lisa Wilkinson.

Morrison makes a shocker of an apology on Facebook and on MSM. Blames the emotion of the moment. His cabinet reshuffle just looks like a ruse to demote Dutton, Porter and Reynolds, promote Stoker and to dodge responsibility for his government’s sexism. Misogyny. He press-gangs his women ministers into a “taskforce” to deal with girly stuff. But he and Marise Payne will “co-chair” it, just to keep it on track.

Why put four men in a women’s taskforce? It’s Morrison’s signature; he loves to smirk while twisting the knife. He must know we see him thumbing his nose. The taskforce is just another cynical act of coercive control in the abusive relationship his sexist government has with the nation’s women.

But first his vax debacle; the four million Covid jabs, he promised us by 31 March turn out to be a paltry 600,000. Only 3.4 million shy. The “vaccine rollout” won’t even meet his fudged target (2.0) of the end of April. Seventy-seven leading epidemiologists warn, Tuesday, that failure to vaccinate within the year will pave the way for dangerous mutations against which most current vaccines will prove useless.

Complicating matters, a tad, AstraZeneca, (the only vaccine we, plebeians, are due to get) may cause blot clots in the brains of those under sixty. But only seven people have died, worldwide. So far. And we won’t be halting the program because our Therapeutic Goods Administration says no.

Of course, our corporate elite call the shots behind the scenes. Peter Costello is smirking all the way to the bank. The underwhelming, $161 billion Future Fund, which dropped 0.9% in value last year, whose grandiosely-titled “Board of Guardians,” he chairs, has doubled its one billion dollar investment in vax manufacturers to a $2 billion punt during the pandemic. Costello also chairs Nine newspapers. Always plugs a good cause. While Greg Hunt boosts the TGA ceaselessly, the investor class is in for the kill.

Covid Commission adviser, “Babies Overboard” Jane Halton, has also healthy interests in our nation’s well-being including being Director of Crown Resorts, the COVID-19 quarantine facility in Victoria.

Best TGA in the world, says Greg Hunt. Endlessly. A model regulator. Who is he kidding? While there’s not a corporate arse, in any boardroom, anywhere, this government won’t blow smoke up, the TGA is supposed to be a government body. But it’s one which depends on those it regulates for its funding.

A watchdog which receives funding from health and medical companies has no conflict of interest? Model regulation? Not its transvaginal mesh scandal. The TGA approved the mesh without any studies to show it was a safe or effective prolapse treatment. It wasn’t. Thousands of women report complications, including severe pain and damage to nerves and nearby organs, including the bladder and bowel.

Similarly, a herbal remedy for benign prostate enlargement, from The Tomato Pill Company is TGA approved, despite research showing it is no better than a placebo. Clearly, critics just don’t know how our TGA works. If you have BPH, you might like to try a tomato pill, a TGA spokesperson says.

Morrison could bullshit for Australia but even then he meets only 15% of his original target. Work Experience Boy, Minister for Health Hyperbole, Hunt storms Sunrise, Today and sundry other TV infotainments to spruik his government’s huge success. In Hunt’s view, we’re the envy of the Covid World. Everything his government ever does is world beating or world-leading. Even its wanking. Revelations that Liberal staffers regularly film acts of self-abuse at work do help take the focus off rape cases and the government’s failure to honour its vaccine commitments. Thank you, Peter van Onselen.

(Anxious readers will be relieved to learn that one Liberal has now been sacked for jerking off at work). Bound to fix the problem. But even this token bust is too much for Michelle Landry who stuns everyone when she is sent out to praise the young man.

“The young fellow concerned was a really good worker and he loved the place. I feel bad for him about this, but it’s unacceptable behaviour,” Landry, assistant minister for children and for Northern Australia, says, outside Parliament, trivialising, if not normalising, lewd sexual misconduct – whilst neatly turning the perpetrator into the victim – a common inversion in the defence of male violence and sexual abuse and no small part of Morrison’s declaration of Christian Porter’s innocence and need for sick leave.

“Politician feels bad someone is suffering from the consequences of their own actions. Right,” tweets former Fairfax reporter now The Guardian Australia‘s Political journalist, Amy Remeikis.

Others see the behaviour as more disturbing; a defilement or desecration. If it’s not an act of violence, it’s certainly an offensive display of disrespect to any female boss. Ten has video of at least four other staffers in a “wankers at work” video which those involved keenly shared amongst friends.

But Morrison moves on. Reports of any man masturbating over a woman boss’ desk are now consigned to the memory hole of history. Furthermore, it’s been made quite clear, in the usual fashion, that this story or others related to it, are not to be pursued if you value your place in the Canberra Press Gallery.

The PM would love to pick a fight with the states over his own failure to honour his vaccine promise. But the states aren’t having a bar of it even if the PM’s office is able to team up with News Corp to release figures which imply that vax hoarding is the reason for the slow pace of the rollout. Time for a reset.

Enter the ineffable Hunt. No-one believes Hunt. Ever. His spin echoes the twaddle of his “meet and beat” our Kyoto targets. Or his soil magic, a boondoggle of bogus carbon offsets to pay polluters to plant trees they would have planted anyway. Offsets were never measured nor were they permanent.

Our vaccine delivery’s been overhyped and under-delivered, writes Stephen Duckett, The Grattan Institute‘s Health Director, who diagnoses a lack of urgency and poor phasing – frontline workers should have been vaccinated first. Delivery has been compromised, furthermore, by being politicised with Liberal Party logos everywhere and countless, interminable, brag-fests of self-advertising and relentlessly upbeat, absurd over-promising. They call this messaging? The danger of this hype, notes Duckett, is that it leaves no margin for error; blocks any capacity for a government to learn from its mistakes.

Learn? This is a government of covering up mistakes. Beyond even Hunt’s puffery, our PM of sleaze-baggery, self-interest and government by decree even takes a hit in Murdoch’s News Poll. Amen.

Run by YouGov, News Poll now operates solely online – a change which may render it even less reliable than last election, an epic fail that would cause any self-respecting poll to close down – but there’s also an Essential poll out to suggest that Australian women don’t like what they’re seeing in their PM.

Women’s disapproval of the PM rises ten per cent in two weeks – from 30% to 40%. His approval rating drops to 57% (from 62% earlier in the month) driven by lower approval from women (59% to 49%). Three out of four Australian women do not believe women are treated fairly in politics.

Not meeting the women marching for justice has cost him. The sex scandals may not have helped. Along with Michelle Landry’s loveable lad with Portnoys’ Complaint, reports pour in of rent boys, assignations, orgies during Question Time, abuse of Parliament House’s prayer room for carnal pursuits.

Certainly not helping is the government’s mishandling of the rape allegation against former Attorney-General Christian Porter by Katharine Thornton, a complaint she emailed police not to proceed with, a day before the woman, tragically, took her own life. To pronounce Porter innocent is not leadership by the PM but a painful, gratuitous, reminder to women of how the system works to protect men.

Speaking of protecting men, where’s Bruce Lehrmann, the former Liberal staffer in Linda Reynolds’ office? The rising star seems to have vanished in plain sight after committing himself to a North Shore mental hospital. All this helps turn Morrison’s dag persona into a reprehensibly clueless Mr Magoo.

Yet is anyone fooled? The PM is as quick to tip a bucket of shit as he is with a disappearing trick.

No-one’s sure Lehrmann still in the country. No-one’s talking. Million dollar man, ($914,000 PA) Phil Gaetjens reveals he’s “paused” the inquiry that the PM set up because the AFP told him to. The AFP denies this – only quickly to change its tune. It’s clear to all, except, perhaps, Brittany Higgins, that there’s no inquiry under way. The AFP, moreover, not only lack the resources and the experience to pursue a rape investigation, since its inception in 1979, it has done nothing to embarrass a sitting government. It’s sheer bastardry to keep up the pretence. But don’t expect Morrison to back down. He enjoys it.

Worse, there’s an orchestrated campaign to discredit Higgins and to impugn her character which ranges from Eric Abetz’ alleged slut-shaming to the alleged briefing against her from the PM’s office. In similar vein, Aaron Patrick attacks Samantha Maiden, who published details of the late Katharine Thornton whom Christian Porter is alleged to have raped. Maiden also broke Ms Higgins’ story.

A cabinet reshuffle is just what’s needed. A reset. While he’s at it, Pro-Mo sets up his own advisory council or taskforce, a cringeworthy display of tokenism and duplicity nurtured by a pliant MSM.

The Liberal’s woman problem? Fixed. Morrison anoints Marise Payne,“the PM for women,” a preposterous over-promotion, to say nothing of its dud subtitle. A journo asks if Payne’s newly exalted status means he’s PM for blokes only? Morrison walks back his spin to a meaningless “Primary Minister for Women.” Now his mob will be all ears to all women. Just don’t expect an answer from his five media advisers. His government by secret fiat is flat out hiding its stuff ups. It has so much to cover up.

Crikey’s Amber Schultz asks Nick Creevey, Senior Media Adviser to Team Morrison, whether there’d been hint of allegations of bullying against Karen Andrews before the PM promoted her to Home Affairs, made vacant by Dutto’s demotion to Defence. The PM’s Media team does not respond.

Andrews is not alone. Cash is a controversial choice for Attorney General, given her role in the hounding of AWU and the leaking of a police raid to the press. Is Morrison’s reshuffle plus political CWA just another bum note from the tone deaf goanna strangler? Or is it more sinister, cynical skullduggery?

Scotty’s taskforce is a Jen’s party of all seven women in cabinet, co-chaired by himself and the invisible Minister for Women, our low-profile Trade Minister Marise Payne who’s been knocking herself out lately, not commenting, not visiting the women’s march; not calling out Andrew Laming. No. She has no comment on the government’s failure to read Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate JenkinsRespect at Work, a national sexual harassment inquiry report. It’s been on Porter’s desk over a year.

The Commission says fifty-four of the fifty-five recommendations still await a government response. Australia is also yet to take any action towards ratifying the 2019 ILO Convention on Violence and Harassment. Whilst it moots a women’s summit, the Morrison government has plenty to work on immediately. What it would like to label “women’s issues” – rather than matters of common humanity and justice are not a priority. This reality is revealed in its failure even to respond to Jenkins report.

“It may come as a surprise to some in the government, but women don’t exist in a vacuum, writes Crikey’s Amber Schultz. Childcare is an issue for parents, not women. Workplace sexual harassment is an issue for employees and companies, not women. Sexual violence is an issue for society, not women. As a new report shows, even women’s salaries are not only an issue for women: domestic violence risk increases by 35% when women start earning more than their partners.

Jenkins notes that Australia ratified the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women in 1983 with accompanying domestic legislation. Yet “over 35 years on, the rate of change has been disappointingly slow. Australia now lags behind other countries in preventing and responding to sexual harassment.”

Despite calling herself a feminist, Payne acts the complete enabler, the Coalition’s iconic Stepford wife.

Women’s equality, safety, economic security, health and wellbeing are “on the agenda,” says the PM’s press drop. Or will be. How could they not? We all know they’ve gone MIA since 2012 when Abbott made himself the Minister for Women, a calculated gesture of contempt, that no-one could forget.

In 2014, the Commonwealth government suddenly abandons forty years of practice and fails fifty-one per cent of the population by ceasing to publish its Women’s Budget Statement, an integral part of its federal budget. No sources are tipping that anyone intends to restore it. Instead it’s all fluffy stuff.

Senior government sources add the rush of improv theatre to the TF concept by bullshitting The New Daily that “It’s about making sure the policies are aligned with where we want to go as a government.”

No shit, Sherlock.

Other seers of the bleeding obvious see a taskforce with “a major hand in federal budget preparation” putting a “gender lens” on (The Big Swinging Dicks’) major policy areas and government initiatives.

If that sounds a tad murky, what is crystal clear is that no thought at all has been given to what his taskforce will do. Or how. But that’s the nature of a political stunt. It’s not meant to work. This is for show. Worse. Just a glance at its composition suggests Morrison is making sure TF it won’t work.

Kaye Lee profiles the women in the taskforce in a compelling argument that whilst the ministers may be women, their record on women’s issues suggests that they will not be agents of change or real reform.

Michaelia Cash, a lip-readers’ dream, maintains the pernicious myth that feminism is so old hat that it’s irrelevant to today’s women. Like solidarity. In 2018 Cash, a former Minister for Women boasts that she has the dirt on Bill Shorten’s female staff. No-one had the foggiest idea what she was referring to but then, as our PM just showed, you don’t have to have any factual foundation for a smear to be effective.

She’d heard the “rumours.” For women, unspecified “rumours” are still career death. In fact, any whiff of sexual misbehaviour, even if not directly committed by them, sticks like glue,” writes Jane Caro who notes that Cash, along with many other conservative women MPs are content to ally themselves with men. Token blokes or worse – enablers of a sexist, misogynistic, patriarchal regime that gags on quotas.

Home Affairs is huge. So big in fact, that experts warned Malcolm Turnbull against creating it. The departing, demoted, Peter Dutton, a former Health Minister who was voted worst minister ever by a group of doctors has done nothing in the portfolio to suggest good management or even that the monster is, in fact manageable. Already, however, sleuths such as Mark Kenny are keen to know if Karen Andrews will bring more compassion. Forget it Kenny. Her reply is to make a threat about social media.

More compassion with our applications and ad hoc deportations? Wash your mouth out. The thing that sticks in Karen’s craw is anonymous online disrespect. Of course. Dutto had the same bugbear.

[I] will certainly be taking an active interest and engaging as much as I possibly can on that issue.

Look, social media has significant challenges, one of those issues is the level of anonymity. We need to make it very clear that people can’t hide or should not be allowed to hide on these social media platforms so absolutely I will be taking a very close look at that.

Assistant to Marise Payne is right-wing darling of the Christian lobby, Amanda Stoker. Observers note that she began her career being seen as some sort of libertarian by being parachuted into George Brandis’ Queensland senate seat with a couple of years left on the clock. Then she turned hard right.

Stoker gets a big rap on mensrights.com.au and she’s spoken up for the victims of false rape accusation. Tertiary institutions don’t do enough to protect the rights of students (overwhelmingly male) accused of sexual assault harassment and sexual assault. Accordingly, Bettina Arndt is a big fan.

The Catholic Leader dubs her “Queensland’s voice for life,” and she’s been an outspoken opponent of abortion, regularly starring at pro-life rallies around Brisbane. Naturally, she is convinced that something she calls “freedom of religion” to be under attack despite a lack of any empirical evidence. Morrison shares the same belief and it may help explain why Ms Stoker’s been so rapidly promoted.

He’s got that beaut bill which Phil Ruddock charged a fortune to shape up. Christian Porter’s polished it.

“If we fail to defend people’s right to believe, and to practise their faith, we deny our nation its moral bedrock. Tolerance must cut both ways. It is deeply troubling to have so many examples to point to that suggest this freedom is under attack in our culture,” she claims, declining to point to a single example. It’s the “everybody knows” or “folks tell me” fallacy integral to Trump’s populist rhetoric.

It’s dangerous. Luckily, Frydenberg and Birmingham are along for the ride; helping the ladies’ keep on track. Keeping the boys in line is Elvis impersonator Michael McCormack, who owes his job as The King of the Nats to not being Barnaby Joyce. Big Mac has yet to display any leadership ability whatsoever. He is, however, a National Party MP who owes his deputy PM badge to the Coalition’s quota system.

While Macca’s icon, Presley, liked to take a clutch of fourteen year old girls on tour, the titular Deputy is unlikely to emulate his hero’s pillow fights, tickling, kissing and cuddling. But he’s bound to be right on the button when it comes to helping the ladies come to a decision about gender equity.

If work permits. His “meetings all day” made it quite impossible for him to meet the March4Justice women or even organise his wife, Catherine Shaw, into whipping up a batch of lamingtons. Or a pav.

Morrison’s latest faux pas is greeted with derision, disbelief, anger and weary resignation by at least half the nation’s population who grit their teeth and just get on with their day to day oppression.

As second-class citizens, women know all about gaslighting and abusive relationships- even if the good news comes from Papa Morrison’s hand-picked, handmaid Marise Payne. Or will – if she gets to speak. She may leave that to her assistant, Amanda Stoker. Stokes and ScoMo could be quite a show.

Both would very much like you to believe there’s no such thing as objective truth, and that after a while, the audience will simply lack the energy to understand or argue with what they’re watching – as Marina Hyde observes of Boris and his Brexit clowns.

“Blokes don’t get it right all of the time,” Morrison opines to his oleaginous on-air masseur, Ray Hadley, on 2GB, Wednesday, using that cutesy Love-Rub man-child special pleading he tries on in emergencies.

On this occasion he’s got dirt all over his face after his mudslinging at Sky’s Clennell bombs because Sky and News Corp say there’s no mud to sling. Morrison is quick to invent a salacious slur about a woman being sexually assaulted in a women’s toilet. Only top-shelf stuff from our Prime Mud-slinger.

“Blokes don’t get it right all the time, we all know that, but what matters is that we’re desperately trying to, and that’s what I’m trying to do, and we will get this right – we all need to focus on that.”

Of course. It’s not the stuff-up that matters – it’s how hard you try that gets people vaccinated. Ray could be an honorary Stepford wife himself, the way he coos over the PM; soothes his fragile ego. The glass jaw is a bit more of a challenge. But just listen to Morrison begging to be given a koala stamp for trying his best. Telling us to focus on his rhetoric not the reality. Is this what national leadership has come to?

Come in spinner. A session with Jen the clarifier helps him to understand that rape is a criminal offence?

Women won’t forget. Men are not quite perfect? Incredible. This ploy is a tricked-up version of “boys will be boys.” But just lately, the PM’s been getting nothing right – least of all his call to cut Job-Keeper and raise job-seeker by a paltry fifty dollars. Women will be most affected as at least three million Australians will plunge below the poverty line – all in the interests of saving expenditure.

Yet, on the debit side of the ledger, there’s no compulsion for billionaires such as Gerry Harvey to pay back a profit-boosting Job-Keeper they simply didn’t need. Welfare beneficiaries who are overpaid get no such indulgence. The government’s double standard, here, does not augur well for its new taskforce.

But what Morrison’s up to is his old hand-ball trick. Rather than burden poor limited men with women’s issues, he’ll give them to the few women in his cabinet to sort out. ScoMo’s silo. In a flash, he elects the Minister for Women, Marise Payne, Prime Minister for Women, while Amanda Stoker, another senator, a pin up girl for men’s rights groups, who supported a fake rape crisis tour to be her deputy.

Grace Tame unerringly calls him out. Appointing Stoker to second in command of his faux-taskforce demonstrates he either is “ignorant of the cultural issues at hand, or he understands them completely, and is making calculated moves to perpetrate them.

“If the latter is true, then what we are seeing is further abuse of power, masterfully disguised as progress – the very same psychological manipulation at the heart of these recently exposed evils.”

All but forgotten, thanks to the PM’s orchestrated litany of false promises, dissimulation and paternalism is the story of Brittany Higgins, now pilloried by such crusty right wing henchmen of the government as Eric Abetz. Her story, as recounted recently on ABC Four Corners, must not be forgotten.

“As I opened the door, I noticed that the female was lying on her back, completely naked, on the lounge that was adjacent to the door … for which I’ve gone, ‘Oh’.”

A whole nation goes “Oh” with Nikola Anderson as the former security guard at Parliament House’s ministerial wing, who was on night shift at 2:35 am, 23 March 2019, tells ABC Four Corners her shock discovery of a nude Brittany Higgins on a sofa in Defence Minister, “Lying Cow” Linda Reynolds’, office, located only a drunken stumble away from Morrison’s office; aka Big Swinging Dick HQ.

Morrison claims that he didn’t hear about Miss Higgins for two years; a claim so improbable it would be laughable – were his abdication of responsibility – to say nothing of the suffering – his office’s leaks help heap up upon Brittany Higgins and her loved ones – a laughing matter. But he miscalculates. Badly.

“It’s incredible… Inconceivable” that Morrison’s own staff would keep him in the dark about such a serious matter, says former PM, “Fizza” Malcolm Turnbull, the man Morrison knifed to get the top job, a job proving way too big for the man. You know you’re in trouble when Fizza calls bullshit on you.

In a desperate reset of his story, Morrison: Model Boss 2.0, the man Michael Keenan describes as an absolute arsehole, now makes noises about having made offers to meet Ms Higgins – as if meeting her somehow atones for his abdication of duty of care, or his office’s subsequent cruelty. Or losing her job, her credibility, or, in the latest of an orchestrated campaign of attacks on her credibility and character, becoming the butt of gibes fired by Abetz, who, of course, denies he ever slut-shamed her.

Morrison’s new version of his own melodrama is crafted solely for the purpose of diminishing a young woman who alleges she is the victim of a rape; paint her as spurning his support. Once again, he displays a rare talent for breath-taking hypocrisy and brazen denial as he gas-lights her version of events.

M:MB 2.0 has a twist or two in the plot. “Just before she departed,” or resigned, the PM tells Channel Nine, Ms Higgins was “offered the opportunity” to meet with himself and Michaelia Cash. Yet Higgins left Cash’s office 5 February, ten days before the story broke. Ten days before he says he knew anything.

Belief will not be beggared, however, much Morrison has “steadfastly maintained that he knew nothing of the alleged rape until 15 February, 2019,” writes Dr Jennifer Wilson. And now he is undone.

Morrison’s bluster; and his big-noting, braggadocio on the run will prove the end of him. His posturing merely accentuates the vulnerability of his victim as she appeared to Nikola Anderson, two years ago. The encounter is richly resonant, confronting as it is instructive; a type of violation in itself.

It’s a nightmare for both women. You want Anderson to say she immediately covered up the young woman; put her clothes back on; took her to hospital. Comforted her. But Parliament house doesn’t work that way. Anderson loses a job she goes public to try to keep. Guards are low down parliament house’s food chain. Along with whistle-blowers, you get sacked, or worse, for speaking up.

Already, Anderson’s testimony contradicts Finance Department reports that Higgins was found half-dressed. Above all, the guard’s version negates the PM’s lie that Bruce Lehrmann’s employment was terminated because of a security breach. There was no security breach. Two guards let him in.

And they let in Ms Higgins, who was, clearly, unable to walk straight. Or put her own shoes on. Anderson’s narrative also hugely damages the myth of Parliament House – to say nothing of how it punctures the rhetoric of national security and the fantasy that we have vital defence secrets.

“Nobody really knows the truth but me,” Anderson tells Four Corners

There’s security and then there’s Parliament house’s travesty. It’s an indictment. If security guards are so subservient to their overlords, how do they challenge aberrant behaviour? Anderson’s story shows how. Badly. A young staffer, with neither pass nor key and an allegedly “falling down drunk” young woman in tow, is admitted into the office of the Defence Minister at 2:00 am Saturday, two years’ ago?

“Can’t it wait, guys?” Anderson asks.

“Not really,” replies the man.

It’d be a walking bust in most outfits. The male emerges around 2:35 am, alone and exits quickly. Says little. No-one on the security team puts two and two together? No. That’s beyond their pay-scale.

A wave of revelations of acts of depravity, debauchery and slut-shaming follow; including word that Tasmanian Senator and Christian-right Tsar, Abetz, is alleged to have said that on that night, Ms Brittany Higgins was “so disgustingly drunk [she] would sleep with anybody.”

Abetz is also reported to have said that Christian Porter is “safe because the woman’s dead” and the AG will be protected by the law. It’s classic victim-blaming which sides with both alleged perpetrators in a singularly prejudicial way. It’s almost as if such outbursts are orchestrated by a fixer somewhere.

But if the most dangerous place in the nation for a young woman to be is in a cabinet minister’s office, the Morrison government appear to be running a bawdy house elsewhere. A rising tide of licentiousness threatens to capsize Morrison, a leaky rudderless craft.

It’s clear that The Miller’s Tale has its counterpart in our parliament and doubtless there will be much clutching of pearls in the suburbs, but, for Morrison, the most damaging aspect of being publicly mugged by reality is that it reveals a PM who is a sham; a leader who is clearly neither in touch nor in control.

First, the PM’s security breach story is contradicted by Anderson’s candour. Security let in Ms Higgins and her companion, Bruce Lehrmann. There was no breach of security, she stresses, but this quandary is soon upstaged by Peter van Onselen. His timely account of lewd acts, dissipation and low pursuits atop the desktops of Canberra threatens the record of Calcutta (Kolkata) under the dissolute Wajid Ali Shah.

Hook-ups and blow jobs? A prayer room, where Stuart Robert knelt beside his pal Scott Morrison just before Morrison knifed Turnbull, appears to be a multi-function, pleasure centre. “Tom the Whistle-blower” provides confidential information to Senator Simon Birmingham, that would earn Parliament House an X-rating, were it a computer game. But he’s not talking about virtual reality. The testimony he supplies to Birmingham involves four current and former staffers; three non-staffers; one busy sex worker; a former minister and a sitting MP in a slew of sexual encounters from September 2015 to 2020.

Dangerous liaisons are taking place right under the PM’s nose. Or knees as the case may be.

Nothing to see here, of course. The Office of PM and Cabinet, (PM&C) positively reeks top-secrecy when not leaking against its enemies, such as Brittany Higgins’ loved ones. Ms Higgins lodges a formal complaint with John Kunkel, Morrison’s Chief of Staff with evidence that Morrison’s media team has been “backgrounding” or leaking, off the record, information to discredit, demean and disparage her partner, former Canberra lobbyist, David Sharaz, who has been forced to quit his Canberra job.

Nothing to see? Except when mud-slinging. The PM’s hack-counter-attack -Tuesday, a departure from his earlier set piece, a histrionic baring of his soul, climaxing in a tearing up scene as the ham actor soliloquises grandiloquently about how the women in his life mean everything to him. But then he loses the plot.

In a flash, the PM switches from treacle to brimstone. He rounds on Sky News’ political editor, Andrew Clennell. How dare he suggest that Morrison can’t control his motely crew! – Clennell had better wise up or he’ll tell what Clennell did to a woman in a ladies’ loo. The mind boggles. But it’s all a bluff

That’s his implication, a lie, for which the PM stages a faux apology later.

Will water-(closet)-gate, prove to be Scott Morrison’s Waterloo? A royal flush of pundits think so.

Is he threatening me or something? Clennell, later on his own show, reflects, in a rhetorical question. The Murdoch journo helpfully notes that Morrison can tell him to “Be careful” about a fake incident that he says took place in a Sky water closet – but, even after two years – he knows nothing about a rape which is allegedly occurred only fifty metres down the hall from his office.

“Captain Schultz” Morrison is infamous for running such a tight-lipped, ship of state that not even his AFP’s Reece Kershaw nor his chief dogsbody, political hack, Phil Gaetjens, know where it’s going. Just don’t ask. Especially when Phil tells a senate committee it’s been two weeks since he hit pause on his “inquiry” into who knew what, where, when and why about the body in the office.

Gaetjens’ drops Morrison right in it. The PM’s been telling the House that Phil’s got the inquiry steaming along. Ongoing. All shipshape and Bristol fashion, rather like his government. But it’s more like the Evergreen Marine, run aground; lodged sideways hard up against the banks of the Suez Canal.

True, former NT plod, now AFP Commissioner, a boyish, Reece Kershaw, tries a quick re-float and turn around. It’s a spectacular retreat. In record-breaking time, he executes a top copper reverse pike.

Commissioner Kershaw disavows all knowledge of ever phoning Gaetjens to stop him poking around, asking nosy questions, in case the AFP’s, much-vaunted but almost certainly apocryphal investigations into the alleged rape of Ms Higgins are compromised. It’s another cover up of a cover up.

Compromised? Least a wary nation take fright at the latest shenanigans, there’s a dead cat on every table or desk. There’s such frigging in the rigging that the air is blue with talk of it, be it a Portnoy on a desk or staffers at it like rabbits while the Dorothy Dixers drone on destroying Question Time.

It’s a remarkable tale in itself filled, as it is with date rape and the disappearing acts of the mysterious Lehrmann, an alleged rapist who has yet to be questioned by police. Once he was a rising star. His meteoric rise without trace included a spell under George “bookshelves” Brandis, the former Attorney-General whom the nation was given to make Christian Porter look good. Fat chance.

Last seen “checking himself” into a North Shore psychiatric ward in Sydney, Lehrmann has vanished off the face of the earth or at least that earthy Liberal dunghill that the PM loves to call his Canberra bubble.

Will Morrison survive? The Liberals and their corporate masters will. Think of the cockroach, a creature which can survive without its head. Or is the PM undone already by his ill-judged mudslinging and his naked desperation to destroy the reputation of Samantha Maiden, a woman journalist, whose only fault is to do her job investigating two notorious allegations of rape? Can a PM promise vaccination and fail so demonstrably, so lamentably to deliver? Now women have woken up to him is it all over for Morrison?

Let us not be distracted by speculation. What emerges most clearly from the latest reports of group madness, bonkers bonking, rent boys, Portnoys and sundry wankers on desks from our federal government in the midst of its women’s taskforce theatre is the textbook persecution of a young woman who came forward with an allegation of rape. The persecution of Brittany Higgins, directly and indirectly through the media and from the floor of the House of Representatives, the assassination of her character and the systematic, orchestrated attack on her credibility is a monstrous injustice that shames us all.

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“Not a tin ear but a wall of concrete.”

A vast sea of black-clad women of all ages and some men seeking justice for women, swells around Parliament House, Canberra, as former Liberal staffer, Brittany Higgins, in suffragette white, tells us “the system is broken”, Monday, while inside, a tone deaf PM, snubs them. He won’t meet them. Doesn’t want have a bar of their petition by Survivors and Allies to demand justice for gendered violence in workplaces including Parliament, although it’s addressed to him.

Labor’s Anthony Albanese uses Question (evasion) Time to tell Morrison he’s “not got a tin ear but a wall of concrete.” Saying “sorry” to the Stolen Generations of Indigenous children was beyond John Winston Howard who discouraged his MPs from attending Sorry Day marches, a Liberal insider reminds Paul Bongiorno, but Morrison is more violent.

Women should be happy they’re not “met with bullets, he says, in Freudian slip, as he lists all the things “his government” is doing to “fix” male violence, (although he uses the popular euphemism, violence against women, a neutered term which bestows victimhood on women while obscuring the men who perpetrate the violence). Of course, the very next day, he’s protesting that he’s been wilfully misinterpreted. He’s always the innocent party. Or bystander.

Oddly by Wednesday there is still no Hansard transcript online. Perhaps The Fixer’s taken it down for steam-cleaning.

As always, Morrison’s a model of enlightened equability and charm. There’s nothing remotely truculent about his own rebuff. His habit of turning his back on Opposition speakers. Nor his pointed refusal to accept a petition bearing ninety four thousand women’s signatures. Labor’s Tanya Plibersek and The Greens Larissa Waters happily accept it.

Tireless advocate for women and iconic feminist, Minister for Women, Marise Payne won’t meet the women of the March for Justice. The petition? She helpfully suggests that they email it. As you would a rape allegation.

It need not be thus. Never before has a PM been given so many chances to lead and repelled them all. He rallies the troops in the party room with another inspirational Kokoda riff. “We’re on a narrow path. We need to have look out for each other and focus on what matters.” He’s been pumped since he rode in a tank in Queensland last October. He did leave failed LNP candidate, Deb Frecklington, behind but we can’t all get in the cockpit at the same time can we?

And as Morrison says, the rise of women should not come at the expense of men.

On International Women’s Day 2019, Morrison upstages a sensational speech by Minister for Women Kelly O’Dwyer,

“That’s not in our values. That is an absolutely Liberal value, that you don’t push some people down to lift some people up. And that is true about gender equality too. We want to see women rise. But we don’t want to see women rise only on the basis of others doing worse.”

Such gnomic moments, doubtless, bring joy to The Big Swinging Dicks who like the PM are happy to talk about gender equality as long as they don’t have to do anything to promote it, but he does get a bit of cheek from Christian Porter’s number one fanboy, Murdoch chorister, Professor Peter Van Onselen, who tells his PM that he’s talking nonsense.

“Actually I’m sorry but if men have taken a finite number of roles not on merit but on patronage then there will be losers in what are sometimes zero sum situations.”

Former Deputy Labor leader and current Shadow Minister for Education and Training, Tanya Plibersek tweets a neater rejoinder,

Gender equality is good for both women and men. It gives all of us more freedom and choice at work, at home, and in our relationships. Feminism is a fight for equality between men and women, what’s so complicated about that?

At the moment Morrison himself could do no worse Unless of course he reprises Things That Batter, Alexander Downer’s witticism. While promoting the Liberal slogan “The Things That Matter”, in a reference to abusive men, Downer quipped that the party’s domestic violence policy would accordingly be named “The Things That Batter.”

15 March may enter history as Morrison’s Ides of March, the day when Caesar Morrison stabbed himself in the rotunda.

Even Murdoch rags talk of an Hawaii 2.0. Instead of leadership, Morrison rejigs tricky issues, reframes them into inanity, slogans – or an absurd word salad. If women want to complain, well, has he got news for them? Monday, he waves a list; a bull-necked coercive controller calling attention to his own selfless generosity. And its billion dollar price-tag.

His office gets out a calculator. Tots up what’s been spent, since 2014, on just one bit of part of one issue. Violence.

No-one’s bluffed. Take his Economic Security Statement for Women which has scrupulously erased any reference to discrimination and the way it fosters inequality which leads to lower pay for women. As Kristine Ziwica notes,

“… we are dealing with a government that does not recognise discrimination as a factor in women’s inequality or the gender pay gap. It’s all about women’s “choices”. In effect, women are to blame, and if they can just be helped to make better “choices”, all will be right with the world.” Undervaluing women’s labour is part of the same mindset. Jane Hume tells women to “work just a little a bit harder” if you want to get into the boys’ club that is our parliament.

“For women that don’t get there, the trick is to work that little bit harder. Don’t get bitter. Get better. Work harder. Nothing that is worth getting doesn’t come without hard work.”

Never; not for a nanosecond, will Morrison concede the truth; under his neoliberal bosses’ government – women have done more work for less pay under worse conditions than at any other time in the modern era. And it’s getting worse. In part, the pandemic has paused the economy but the prime cause is his government’s economic mismanagement.

It’s a colossal fail which has taken us from the pinnacle to the poorhouse in just seven years, writes Alan Austin who also notes the paradox that the more outrageous the government’s lies about its economic performance, the more the public is inclined to believe them. He points to unemployment, for example,

Australia’s jobless rate today is a miserable 6.35%. That ranks 81st in the world and a dismal 17th in the OECD. During the last Global Financial Crisis under Labor, Australia ranked third in the OECD.

Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison’s inept mismanagement has also caused catastrophic decline in wealth per adult, wages growth, productivity, retail trade, infrastructure investment, the value of the dollar and economic freedom.

An inexorable downward spiral continues despite some positive circumstances.

The states defeated the pandemic. Vaccines are now available. Demand for Australia’s exports remains strong. Commodity prices are soaring. The trade surplus is at an all-time high. Corporate profits are booming. The Parliament permits this Government to splurge unlimited billions borrowed from future generations.

Economic mismanagement drives inequality, particularly in the context of Porter’s IR “reforms” which threaten workers’ conditions and further suppress wage growth at a time when it is widely understood that wage stagnation is a key force in stalling the Australian economy. Porter’s reforms also entrench casual work, insecure poorly-paid jobs which are more likely to be taken up by women – 67.2 per cent of part-time workers are now women.

Even on spending, the PM is a hypocrite. In Budget 2020, the Morrison government cuts over a million dollars from its anti-domestic violence school programme in a year with more male and family violence than refuge workers have ever seen before. Fifty-five women are killed. One in four women experience violence from an intimate partner. Men’s violence is more severe or more frequent, report half of all women with previous experience of abuse.

Morrison’s list doesn’t amount to a hill of beans at the best of times. It’s not how much – it’s how well his government invests its vast wealth in its biggest human resource – its women- (there are only 994 men to every 1000 women in Australia.) But more women are suffering in more ways than ever before.

Whatever’s on his list, it’s not working. It’s an indictment of his government’s failure to begin to engage with male violence. All-female police stations are up for discussion on The Drum. Of course. Talk about parking the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. There’s a pathological fear of investigating structural causes of violence because they lead uncomfortably and directly towards the casual misogyny, discrimination and toxic masculinity that is integral to many conservative parties including our own Liberal Party culture.

It’s a potent brew, fuelled by privilege, entitlement and elite private schooling which reaches its quintessence amongst the Nationals whose party bigwigs just couldn’t reach a decision when Catherine Marriott lodged a sexual harassment and/or sexual misconduct complaint against Barnaby Joyce in 2018.

Worse, Morrison has form; a long history of gaslighting, as Kristine Ziwica notes.

You can’t trust anything he says, especially when it comes to reciting statistics which, he reckons, somehow show that women have never had it so good. Or they don’t know how lucky they are. All the evidence points to a crisis, an ugly new intensification in the subjection of women as John Stuart Mill termed it, or as Eva Cox writes

“Women, particularly feminists, have spent the last four decades seeking equality with men, but have failed to change inequitable male-driven values. We started well in the 1970s and into the 1980s but as neoliberalism took over our progress stopped. We had gained laws for equality in some areas but without the necessary value and attitude changes, so outcomes were very limited.”

Dr Cox notes a paradigm shift – or a change in world view, which has caused us to treat each other as economic units, not sentient living beings. She laments the ways this has turned us away from our understanding of our needs and wants as a society and into a competitive marketplace instead. In the process, personal financial gain is elevated while at the same time most social needs are either devalued or demonised – as in this government’s war on the poor.

Feminist equity changes were replaced by macho self-interest criteria.

“We are all here today, not because we want to be here, because we have to be here,” Ms Higgins says, on Capital Hill although she and her partner, lobbyist, David Sharaz have been briefed against by the PM’s office; hounded out of town.

Ms Higgins’ testimony is part of a series of speakers including Australian of the Year, the amazing Grace Tame, who address an extraordinary March4Justice, a nationwide movement of over a hundred thousand women to call out those accountable for women’s inequality and safety in a nation where there are two million survivors of sexual violence.

It’s an unprecedented mass demonstration of women triggered less by reports of an alleged rape at Parliament House and an alleged rape in 1988 by Attorney General, Christian Porter than by the workplace culture exposed – and by the ways in which the rape victims are being denied justice, a theme repeated across a nation in which ninety nine per cent of rapists will not be prosecuted for their crime.

Between 2010 and 2018, rates of sexual assault victimisation recorded by police for Australians aged 15 and over rose by more than 30% (from 66.8 to 90.2 per 100,000) (based on ABS 2019).

The Women’s March 4 Justice upstages any post-mortem of the Liberal Party’s near total extinction in Saturday’s state election, a rout which leaves Nationals’ leader, Mia Davies, contemplating a coalition with the two or three Liberal MPs left. Five thousand, mainly women march in Perth, Sunday.

Labor wins big in WA; a win for all pollsters who got it right in “an historic landslide” and “bloodbath”, as Nine News’ hacks bung on the metaphor. It’s a win helped, in no small way, by Zak Kirkup, the first WA Opposition Leader to lose his own seat since 1933; the first ever to hoist the white flag before the battle; the Gideon Pillow of Australian politics.

One of history’s less successful leaders, Confederate General, Gideon Pillow ordered his men to entrench on the wrong side of fortifications at Camargo, a village below the Rio Grande in 1845 in the Mexican American War. While digging a parapet on the side protecting the depot from the town, Pillow dug the accompanying ditch on the other.

But we can’t blame his training. He had none. It’s the same for our nation’s politicians, unless you count debating, or Law. But they more than make for it by choosing the right parents and schools. Our archetypal anti-hero Pillow, (1806-1878) is appointed by his former law partner and mate, President James K. Polk. Their friendship firms in 1838, when Pillow defends Polk’s brother on a murder rap. Seven years’ later, an expansionist and manifest-destiny-man Polk makes Pillow a Major-General in the Mexican-American War; as they dress up a land grab. But what a war it was.

For Mexico it’s the Intervención Estadounidense en México – the U.S. intervention in Mexico and it comes after the US simply annexed Texas, which Mexico considered Mexican territory.

Poor sanitation helped turn Camargo into a bog of filth and disease, a festering hell-hole under a blistering sun. Soldiers succumbed to influenza, smallpox, measles, malaria, and scurvy. At least ten per cent died of dysentery.

Seven years later, Pillow hides behind a tree rather than lead his men into battle at Stone’s River, a few days’ rout, which ends in 3 January 1863. A year earlier, he abandons Fort Donelson 11-16 Feb 1862, a handball tactic, where he’s given command only to pass the parcel to Brig. Gen. Simon B Buckner who surrenders to Ulysses S Grant.

Kirkup, who, also, bears a unique name, courtesy of his Yamatji grandfather, traditional owners of lands and coastal waters in Northern WA is to be commended on deploying Pillow tactics. It’s rare to see a leader concede defeat two weeks before a state election is held. A brave, if not foolhardy tactic. Saves a lot of fuss and bother later.

Obliterated; reduced, possibly, to a party of two, WA Liberal MPs will still cut a dash on a tandem as they bicycle around Cottesloe and back to take High Tea at Dr David Honey’s, one of the two, or at best three, Liberal MPs left with a seat. Dave’s always up for cuppa and with six children, doubtless, has ample room at his pad for a party meeting. Items on the agenda will include a review of his sublimely titled “Spring on the Swan” campaign soirees with fine wine and food held at Mimi and Willy Packer’s Mosman Park mansion on The Swan. Willy Packer is a name to be reckoned with out West.

Out East, things is crook in Tallarook and there’s still no work at Bourke. Footsore and forsaken job prospectors fossick on the national mullock-heap for cast-offs and scraps the lucky country yields up ahead of the abyss, the maw already yawning beneath their feet. In two weeks, Job Keeper will cut. It can’t go on forever, they say. But of course it can. There’s $60 billion in credit due to an embarrassing Treasury oversight – that no-one in government ever talks about.

While 3.24 million of us suffer privation under the poverty line, and two million survivors of sexual violence suffer the Morrison government saga of Reynolds and Porter, victims of trial by media, whom the rule of law exists to protect in the latest travesty of A Land Girt by Sleaze, a muffled titter erupts when a third man goes down in Morrison’s Cabinet as Health (and Aged Care) Minister, Greg Hunt is rushed to St Vincent’s Private Hospital, Sydney Tuesday, with what The Australian hypes into ” an infection scare”, later diagnosed as cellulitis of the upper thigh.

“They’re dropping like flies,” gasp Twitter’s sewer rats, agog as Morrison’s ministers ape David Coleman whose leave now equals an elephant’s gestation, on to the sick list. “Lying Cow” Linda Reynolds, off with a dodgy ticker, pays damages to settle out of court a defamation suit brought by former staffer, Brittany Higgins, who alleges that she told Reynolds that she was raped in the Minister’s office in 2019, only to be made to feel as if she were a problem.

The very Christian Porter, an alleged rapist, whose accuser, Kate Thornton, tragically took her own life is on leave to repair his mental health and get his crack legal team to file a defamation suit against Louise Milligan and the ABC. The team makes a shrewd choice of federal court despite Porter’s scorn for those who would go forum shopping for best chance of most favourable legal judgement.

Opting for the federal court is a bit of a trend recently with high stakes litigants who believe they will fare better without the prospect of a jury trial.

Given that his immense powers include appointing judges to the federal court, there’s a bit of a hitch for The Fixer back at the Prime Minister’s Office – but it’s quickly resolved by announcing that his assistant minister, Amanda Stoker, who called out the Queensland Premier for having her knee on the throat of Australian tourism is just the person to take over the court side of Porter’s responsibilities.

The fine legal line Porter treads in launching a case in a court which is created by government, a court in which he holds the authority to shape a judge’s career or indeed impede it should she wish to proceed to the High Court, as is the case with Justice Jayne Jagot the judge set to hear his case.

Jagot had her sights on the High Court last year and the backing of many around the Sydney Courts reports Kishor Napier-Raman in Crikey.

Incredibly, NSW Police resolved not to read an email from the Prime Minister’s office, which we learn this week, contained no attached dossier. Nor did Police have the wit to read the dossier hard copy provided by Labor Senate leader, Penny Wong in which the victim of the alleged rape, Kate Thornton documented her suffering and provided names and contact details of those whom she knew could help support her allegations.

While Porter’s crack legal team is pursuing a strategy which will give him every possible legal advantage, there remains the case of the Health Minister’s ill-health, a crisis he may battle valiantly but which may prove to put the skids under his career as the Covid vaccination roll-out begins to look alarmingly tardy and a bit of a shambles.

Luckily, it’s only the nation’s health that’s at stake and now that rumours that the Astra Zeneca vaccine – the one destined for we plebeians – not the Pfizer which the ruling elite have obtained, causes clots has been quashed, we can all sign up merrily online as instructed. But is Hunt really up to the jab? Early reports were ominous.

“Potentially serious” puffs NCA Newswire, Murdoch’s own AAP-lite, which keeps costs down and journos out of work, still spinning Hunt’s illness on his release, Saturday, while Sky warns that Hunt could battle his rash for weeks.

Sky’s the limit; as eager to take the lead in the Foxification of events as it is to sling mud and rotten slops in its public pillory.

Kevin Rudd reckons Fox will radicalise our politics because Murdoch’s following the same game plan that worked so well in the US. Give it ten years, he says.

We should heed Rudd who pops up genially midweek to give a National Press Club Address on The Case for Courage, a refreshing reminder that we still have leaders who are both intelligent and articulate. It’s just that we are seduced by the Murdoch media monopoly and its satellites, Stokes and Costello into voting in the utter duds.

Silver tongued Hunt, a Melbourne University Debating Society (MUDS) life member is a scion of the late Alan Hunt AO, MLA, a Hamer era planning Minister, who, in 1986, almost toppled Jihadi Jeff, Victoria’s militant neoliberal extremist. Kennett mob slashed public service jobs as it privatised transport, energy and roads and aimed to privatise 3000 hospital beds, 485 of which were tendered off by the time it lost office. As luck and dynastic right would have it, Hunt is fixed up in St Vinnies, Private and Public the best Sydney Hospital, money can buy. Chyron writers can’t resist the pun.

“Sick Hunt in hospital” runs the Sunrise chyron combining a character assessment along with their health report. Oddly, the Oz ignores other pathogens ravaging our body politic; a canker afflicting the nation, the wen in the commonwealth that other monstrous oxymoron, the Morrison government, which continues to flout the rule of law.

Must our plucky Health Minister battle a mystery bug along with his serial incompetence and chronic logorrhea, (a pathological loquacity), both of which also afflict his motormouth PM, Scott “Word Salad”, Morrison? If the bumpy course the course of the vaccine rollout is anything to go by, Hunt may do well to heed his boss’s kind offer to take over his job.

The Australian, the Liberal Party Pravda, stresses the mystery ailment is unrelated to Greg Minor’s vaccination aka the jabberer’s jab. The plot thickens. Could Greg be feeling a bit sick given the prospect of further questions about the now notorious Sydney Intervarsity debating competition of 1988, also attended by its-all-a-blur Christian Porter?

A nation, sick with worry, rejoices. There’ll be line-dancing down Main Street Mornington, led, doubtless, by Julie Bishop’s man-bag, David Panton, a former twenty-four hour chemist, who once made a mozza by supplying the peninsula with pills and potions. Hunt will be OK with an overnight stay and “fluids and antibiotics”, combined, one trusts, by an agile, innovative and resourceful hospital pharmacy in the form of one mouldy orange, lobbed into his gob.

Never before has the sick list, the staple of sports reporters, been so avidly peddled by our merchants of neoliberal national spin, Kerry Stokes, Peter Costello and The Dirty Digger Murdoch, the power-mad catspaw of multinational capitalism and its investor class, claque of climate-change deniers and backers of big pharma.

Little attention, if any, is given to the pathological sickness infecting our own body politic in which the government of the day can turn its back on half its population and deny women’s call for justice and equality. Already, there are signs that the Morrison government has no option but to sack its Attorney General and its Minister of Defence.

The March 4 Justice movement will not be placated by a paternalistic sermon on all the money the government has spent making women safe. Women of Australia are less safe than they have ever been before and the gains toward equality made by feminism in the last four decades that Eva Cox documents are in danger of being unwound by Morrison’s tin ear, his innate obduracy and Big Swinging Dickery – underpaved by his government’s fanatical devotion to neoliberalism, with its fetish for privatisation and its coercive commodification of social relationships.

Not so flash either is world health – neoliberalism is after all an international contagion – in its latest excrescence, intellectual property rights are being used to shore up a lethal inequality or the way our nation attaches itself like a limpet mine to the hull of big pharma and the sadistic cruelty and selfishness of wealthy states that is guaranteed to see poor nations suffer.

In “commandeering Covid vaccines, there will be about 40-50 million more cases of infections and perhaps 2 to 3 million additional deaths,” estimate David Legge and Sun Kim, both of the People’s Health Movement, Michael West reports.

Too many of these unnecessary deaths will be health workers.

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“I’m the Prime Minister.” Really, Mr Morrison?

*CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses rape

 

“I’m the Prime Minister…” Scott Morrison

Despite its multi-gabled slate roof and ornate, white bargeboards,“rustic gothic” harbourside mansion, Kirribilli, is not our White House, however much Turnbull’s usurper, The Whited Sepulchre, Scott Morrison and his court love make-believe; however much he kids himself that he has the powers of a US president. Or aspires to a Trump-like posturing as some type of populist sage; a pretence that leads him to such ponderous banality as, “Aged care is complex … Life is complex.”

Never have we had a PM whose political career is so unfettered by belief, ideal or principle. Untroubled by deep thought. Ideas. Doyen of the Canberra Press Gallery and black-belt in litotes, Michelle Grattan calls out his near obsession with control.

For Morrison, it’s always all about himself and his grip on power. That’s why he backs ministers who, in any other government, would have been made to pack their Samsonite bags long ago. He’s investing in their loyalty, a quasi-medieval system of patronage rampant in our politics. The result is a court of incompetent crooks.

A brief roll-call is in order, given the twentieth anniversary of lying rodent John Howard’s regime. “Babies overboard!” Forget the Menzies bullshit, Howard’s main legacy was to make us feel comfortable about casual racism. And mendacity.

True, Howard did also go on to fiddle the till; squander the resources’ boom, which began in 2003, on tax cuts – middle class welfare – instead of investing in aged care, for example. Private investment would take up the slack. It was a goldmine for private equity firms, new foreign investors, superannuation and property real estate investment trusts, some of which became big donors to the Liberal Party.

How good is aged care now? It’s a disaster. We’ve failed our elders. How badly? It’s top secret. In a stroke of genius, The Howard government’s Aged Care Act 1997 made top secret all data relating to the safety and well-being of residents in aged care. Kudos, John. The cat is only now out of the bag and the figures are damning. Almost as damning as the number of Morrison’s ministerial scandals.

Speaking of figures, take a bow, Barnaby’s “Flash bit of kit”, Bridget McKenzie, for keeping shtum about $102 million the PMO must explain, in its hands-on rorting of federal funding to 684 clubs for party-political electoral advantage. Amazingly, it added projects, just hours after the election was called, 11 April 2019.

Angus Taylor, where do we begin? Or end. Watergate, grass-gate and the absurdist farce of the forgery of Clover Moore’s air-travel record. Unable to account for what went on in your office? Join the club.

Richard Colbeck, rocks up to a parliamentary inquiry, clueless about how many aged care residents have been infected by COVID-19, or the 800 who’ve died from it. Demoted. Punished by having to work alongside Greg Hunt.

Say this for Dick, on Monday, he’s the only one who seems even dimly aware of the key issues. He got the portfolio in the first place only because Morrison wanted one Tasmanian senator in (the outer) cabinet.

Neither Dick “clueless” Colbeck nor Morrison’s prayer-mate, Stuart, “Gold Rolex“, Robert -a fellow happy-clapper whose online evangelist wife, Chantelle, ran up a $37,975 bill on Stu’s residential internet allowance – have quit over major stuff-ups in their portfolios of aged care and the “robodebt” scandal.

It’s unconfirmed, but word has it that Robert may even be given Defence.

True, these two cases, alone, cost us over a billion dollars which would be welcomed by the 3.24 million Australians below the poverty line, but Scotty’s OK with that. What matters, boys, is I’ve got your back, you can hear him saying, his way of reminding MPs they owe him a favour. He’ll cut them loose if he has to.

Now we’re waving au revoir to the lovely Linda Reynolds who did everything she could to support Brittany Higgins, before shanghaiing Ms Higgins, in June 2019, into service in the halcyon sanctuary of Michaelia Cash’s office, where the young staffer was immured in a small office, in Perth all day, a sure-fire remedy for PTSD.

Sadly, Reynolds doesn’t know who wrote two references for her alleged rapist. Don’t ask. Is she responsible for the steam cleaning of a sofa in her office?

You’ll have to ask Finance, whose former minister, the climate-denying Belgian Shepherd Matthias Cormann who was readily persuaded to jet OS on a fool’s errand for top dog at the OECD.

Alas, Linda is returned to her sick-bed whence she is unlikely to return – at least not to her Defence post. And not until 1 April. Tragically, this means she’ll miss the ritual of having her department take questions on notice at senate estimates.

Also on sick leave is Christian Porter, who is the subject of rape allegations which he strenuously denies a key phrase assiduously repeated ad infinitum. And it’s a police matter. Porter’s off work, recovering bits of his memory that put the lie to his claim that he knew his deceased former debating pal Jane Doe only briefly in 1988. Seems they did renew their acquaintance, twice, subsequently, at least.

Porter’s looking after his mental health. Close ranks, chaps. Were he to subject himself to an inquiry, our society would collapse. Anyone could accuse anyone of anything and the onus of proof would be reversed.

Or so he claims. Is he thinking of Robo-debt; a stand over scam, for which he, as chief architect must take full responsibility? No doubt, the thought of the two thousand Australians who died after receipt of Robo-demands keeps him awake at night. Of course, not all of these committed suicide but it must surely vex his conscience.

Fellow barfly, and Big Swinging Dick, (BSD) acting Immigration Minister, Alan Tudge, also owes Morrison. Both Tudge and Porter were keen to close down an ABC Four Corners investigation, which revealed that both MPs flouted Fizza Turnbull’s bonk ban; to say nothing of Public Bar displays of passion. All dismissed by Morrison because, their alleged actions occurred during the watch of the previous prime minister.

But he’s good at shooting the messenger. Subsequently, Rachelle Millar, who tells ABC Four Corners, that she had an affair with Tudge, and who details Porter’s open dalliances at Public Bar, finds herself without a job because of her media appearance.

In his defence, Fizza Turnbull, does point out, a little after the fact, that he did call Porter on his conduct. Porter strenuously denied public snogging, hard drinking, sleaze-bagging or any other such impropriety. It’s not what Four Corners’ Inside The Canberra Bubble, broadcast last November, shows.

But just when Porter thinks it’s time to have a crack at PM, Niki Sava suggests he confides in “sources close to him” that he may leave politics after this term. The recent loss of his father, his second marriage break up and the proposed redrawing of the electoral boundaries of Pearce, his seat in WA which may either fold into MP for Cowan, Anne Aly’s – or become more marginal may cause him to choose another career.

As Attorney General, a position of public trust, his situation is untenable. His “it just didn’t happen presser” Wednesday is a train-wreck. He sounds more like the gun schoolboy debater he once was – than the AG he is supposed to be. His main slippery slope fallacy that an inquiry, in his case, would enable a flood of false accusations is a wilfully cynical and cheap misrepresentation of the type of inquiry he would face.

Above all, he has failed to meet the expectation that he be a model litigant. Perhaps Twiggy Forrest could fix him up with something. Along with Rio Tinto CEO, Sam Walsh, Twiggy was one of Porter’s referees for Federal Liberal pre-selection.

Are we seeing a tragic and dangerous case of arrested development, the middle-aged party animal frat boy?

Why keep the duds? Morrison sets great stock on buying colleagues’ support by standing by them in public, says insider Niki Savva, although “buying” is not her term. He has to. There’s his pathological lying. His weasel words. His (we owe you nothing) have- a-go-get-a-go? His charisma bypass. His Fixer. Who could trust him?

Especially on the rule of law, a concept he doesn’t grasp but which he’ll soon render meaningless by abuse.

With the aid of Hale alumnus, The very Christian Porter, whose big achievement so far is to abolish the family court, despite a wealth of experts warning of the great harm this would do women – who vastly outnumber men as victims of what is still misnamed “domestic violence” – Morrison leads a mob notorious for flouting the rule of law whenever it suits its dodgy cause. Take its guilty-until-you-prove-yourself-innocent Robo-debt extortion racket. Or the sheer malice aforethought or sadistic bastardry in the secret trial of witness K who is prevented from even knowing the charges against him. Teach him to blow the whistle on our bugging of East Timor in 2003.

Morrison’s above the rule of law government, acting through its paragon of innocence and virtue – if not Australian citizenship test grade family values – Christian, “I’ll smut my way through law school” Porter has ruined the career of Bernard Collaery who committed the crime of stepping up to be Witness K’s lawyer.

Whilst there’s so much more below the waterline of the Morrison government’s glistening fatberg of illegality and venality, cameras turn, this week, to Kirribilli, Sydney’s bullshit castle. The harsh sun of the first day of autumn reveals glimpses of a glittering waterfront backdrop, while chief of the Liberal tribe acts out his Walter Mitty power-trip. Morrison’s increasingly agitated, discombobulated, to rephrase Oscar Wilde,

“To lose one minister, Mr. Morrison, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.”

Who believes the PM’s even read the Final Report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety? Or that he didn’t read the letter and thirty page dossier, anonymously mailed to him, containing names, addresses and other evidence to support the late Jane Doe’s allegation that she was anally raped at sixteen by aspiring Prime Minister, Attorney- General Christian Porter, whose pal, ABC’s Andrew Probyn pities for the burden of his ambition. Former Costello press secretary and then Howard advisor, Murdoch’s Niki Savva, accuses the PM of using the police as a shield. His response she says, has been appalling. The Murdoch worm is turning.

But then, what can we expect of a post-modern, post-truth, Trumpian, neoliberal anti-hero? A white knight who has to consult the little woman before he can grasp that rape is a crime? Or think of his daughters? Australian of the Year, Grace Tame nails Morrison’s sophistry after her powerful Press Club address,

“It shouldn’t take having children to have a conscience. And, actually, on top of that, having children doesn’t guarantee a conscience.” Others simply dismiss the talk with Jen as another Morrison rhetorical fiction.

Fittingly, Kirribilli’s walls are a fashionable taupe, a dirty off white, a Camelot of rendered stone. But the heritage-listed pile reeks privilege and power, which a squattocratic, Scott Morrison, a Sutherland copper’s son, our uppity, current Prime Minister wilfully confuses with legitimate authority. And cynically exploits to his government’s advantage. Expect more pressers from the bunker. Morrison in decline apes his mentor Trump.

Morrison invokes a Rule Of Law, which he just makes up. It’s embarrassingly inadequate, almost juvenile. Our civil society would collapse into barbarism and mob rule if there were to be a properly constituted judicial inquiry into allegations against his Attorney General, he huffs. Yet the paramount component of the rule of law is that it operates to protect the most vulnerable and underprivileged in our community.

Morrison’s promptly refuted by a slew of legal experts including UNSW’s Professor Fleur Johns who points out that the rule of law is “associated with making power vulnerable to question, especially power derived from office. It is being invoked for precisely the opposite – the harbouring and insulation of power”.

Geoffrey Watson SC in The New Daily, warns that it’s wise to be suspicious when any MP invokes The Rule of Law and concludes by chiding the malignant narcissist in Porter for his solipsism,

“I was especially surprised at the Attorney-General’s claim that if he stood aside the rule of law would be destroyed. Sorry to be the one to tell you Mr Porter, but the rule of law was functioning pretty well before you ever came along, and I am confident that it will be able to survive your departure.”

Canberra University’s Professor Kim Rubenstein quotes Legal philosopher, Lon Fuller, who holds that the rule of law refers to

“legal power over subjects [as] distinguished from mere power over subjects”. Mob rule or brute force, when used by those in power heralds the end of the democracy.

He suggests that Morrison’s “mob rule” is better characterised as democratic will and expectation.

But Scotty’s a hot mess. There would be anarchy, he wails. It’s a Big Lie he repeats, ad nauseam, with the help of his claque in Murdoch’s media monopoly, billionaire Kerry Stokes, and Peter Costello’s Nine. The Big Lie is a tactic commended by Joseph Goebbels, with one proviso.

You have to squash dissent. Nip it in the bud. Disinformation will only take you so far.

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

Squash dissent by any means at hand. Even if you have to break the law. The first law officer knows this. That’s why Attorney-General, one of our power elite’s self-styled Big Swinging Dicks BSDs, Christian Porter, got the Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission (ACNC) to “suss out” which do-gooders are likely to break the law and revoke their charitable status. Stop activists like Father Bob, masquerading as charities.

Porter gives himself away. Experts note that Porter’s proposed Integrity Commission is a ruse designed to trick the public into thinking the Morrison government is tackling corruption when in fact the proposed commission is designed to protect parliamentarians and public servants from investigation and exposure.

It’s sly; cynically hypocritical and, surely, a breach of public trust.

Since 2017, notes Elizabeth Minter, Porter was in breach of Commonwealth legislation for three years by neglecting to table crucial reports documenting his use of secretive national security orders. An administrative oversight, says the Attorney General, who only rectifies his failure after Nick Xenophon exposes it on The ABC’s Q&A. Porter blames his breaking the law on an “administrative oversight”.

Much fawning attention is lavished upon to the costume and especially the caps and the RM Williams Macquarie Street Cowboy rigs that Morrison favours. He’s a brilliant quick change artist, a legacy doubtless of the child actor, The Vicks Love Rub star in him. And he’s in constant quest of reinventing himself as a populist hero.

Morrison is a (piece of) work in progress. But setting, as he shrewdly knows, can upstage even the worst ham and he’s in need of a bit of support because Monday’s the day he’ll play the autocrat, supremely indifferent if not deaf to the entreaties of ABC upstarts such as the brilliant Anne Connolly, who calls him out:

“This report was delivered last Friday. You gave us half an hour to attend a press conference. You tabled the report when we were here. How can we ask questions to know what’s relevant in the report without knowing what’s in it?”

“I’m the Prime Minister.”

Kirribilli is not just bullshit castle, it’s the temple of Morrison’s Jen, his Pythian oracle, who clarifies things to do with women for him. Above all, it’s Vesta to The Girls, his daughters Abbey and Lily, his maids of compassion and Jen’s special friend, Lynelle Stewart, whose QAnon freak husband, Tim, is Scott’s bestie from way back. It’s also a challenging destination for a presser. It’s difficult for the hacks and flacks of the media to get across Sydney traffic, especially when summonsed at short notice.

After announcing the report would be launched mid-week, the PM cunningly brings that forward. To Monday. You get thirty minutes’ notice. Get your skates on.

Not only is it inaccessible and imposing, part of Kirribilli will always be off limits, upstaging proceedings, as our shapeshifting PM shrewdly knows. How good is home advantage?

Morrison and Hunt are always up for a stunt, especially when it means evading scrutiny on another bloody Royal Commission or an inquiry. Morrison’s a master of the dark arts of evasion. But how good is acting? He loves to improvise; indulge his passion for cringeworthy amateur theatrics; get in touch with his inner, provincial thespian.

“This is personal’. Morrison croaks as he squints into the early afternoon sun, his best histrionic voice aquiver. Will he tear up?

Flanked by Hunt and Colbeck, his latest Aged Care sales duo, Morrison postures, frets and soliloquises incoherently about his father John’s final days in five star luxury. Hunt takes up the same theme. See. The system works fine (for wealthy old white men).

It doesn’t matter that he hasn’t read the report. Neither has the media. He’s seen to that.

He’s given the hacks and flacks no time at all to read the eight volumes and 148 recommendations of the Final Report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, one teal volume of which Scott Morrison holds aloft for the benefit of his official photographer, or to help bolster his outrageous lie that the RC is all his own initiative.

A woman dares to question His Authority? Called publicly to account by ABC’s Anne Connolly, whose awards include a Gold Walkley (Cash for Comment) the 2020 Graham Perkin, Australian journalist of the year, Morrison tries to pull rank. Connolly’s reporting helped get us a Royal Commission into aged care quality and safety, a report which castigates federal government for its lack of leadership. Morrison spits the dummy.

“I’m the Prime Minister. This is my Minister. Our Cabinet will decide our response to this Royal Commission, OK? So we’ve released it. I think I’ve answered your question, thank you.”

It’s a put-down. A gag, not an answer. But it’s a risky triple-bluff. Patently absurd. Fobbing off an expert, the notorious buck-passer, Scott, “I don’t hold the hose, mate,” Morrison can’t even pretend that the buck stops with him. If only he had the authority.

Worse, the week’s Essential Poll shows nearly half of those sampled (49%) believe the Prime Minister avoids responsibility. It’s a theme Labor is now embracing to some effect.

Two out of three believe the Morrison government puts politics ahead of women who make rape and sexual assault allegations. It reflects the catastrophic failure shown by the PM to discipline Defence Minister Linda Reynolds over her failure to support Brittany Higgins when she reports she’s been raped by another, more senior Liberal staffer. Her shitstorm peaks this week when Reynolds calls Higgins’ a lying cow. But it’s all cool, says Morrison, with trademark sophistry. It was said in private and Reynolds wasn’t talking about the rape allegations. Her remark” involved subsequent commentary”. It’s a desperate (unheld) hosing down.

Behold! The lying cow, as Sissy Jupe, daughter of a circus performer who goes to live with Gradgrind, sage of calculating rational self-interest, learns in Hard Times, turns out to be a recumbent bovine quadruped after all.

Lawyers have to intervene before Reynolds apologises to workers in her open plan office – a public space – in which several clearly hear her call Ms Higgins a liar. Higgins receives no such courtesy because she dares speak out about how she was treated; how she was made to feel she was a problem to be disposed of after she was raped by a staffer who is yet to be questioned. Why? How things have changed since Morrison’s impassioned 2019 advocacy of believing the woman’s story. But that was an attempt to smear Bill Shorten.

For her pains, Brittany Higgins, is now on the receiving end of Gradgrind Morrison’s self-interested backgrounding against her partner, lobbyist David Sharaz. It has also cost Sharaz his job. Last seen, the couple were preparing to move out of Canberra, a transition which may well coincide with International Women’s Day, 8 March.

Oddly, Morrison flouts his own sage counsel.

“One of the things that often happens with [rape] is they’re not believed and their stories are not believed and it’s important that their stories are believed and they know that if they come forward their stories will be believed,” he says in a barb aimed at Shorten at the start of the 2019 election campaign

“Women in those circumstances should have a greater sense of confidence that if they tell their stories they will be believed.”

Women don’t make it up. Why should they? False allegations don’t get you anywhere.

“While men successfully convinced each other and us that women cry rape with ease and glee,” Susan Brownmiller writes, “the reality of rape is that victimised women have always been reluctant to report the crime and seek legal justice – because of the shame of public exposure, because of that complex double standard that makes a female feel culpable, even responsible, for any act of sexual aggression committed against her … their accounts are received with a harsh cynicism that forms the first line of male defence.”

While Morrison is in damage control his delegation of responsibility suffers. France could follow Italy’s lead in blocking supplies of coronavirus vaccine, reports Jess Malcom in The Weekend Australian but do we even need it? Turns out we didn’t factor it in? Greg Hunt’s got it all under control. Yet when pushed Monday, Morrison’s over eager to pull rank.

“I’m the Prime Minister.” What a crack up. Our mining, Murdoch and business lobby puppet, has a hissy fit. Did the PM pull rank on Craig Kelly before he defected to the cross bench? Throw his weight around? Last April, he cut ABC’s Andrew Probyn off mid-question. “Andrew, you don’t run the press conference.”

No-one’s really shocked by Morrison’s ego. Or his bullying. Queensland and Victoria know it well. But every day brings signs the PM is losing his grip and with it, his self-control. “Portergate” threatens to undo him. While in one breath, he’s leader of the pack, in the next, he’s not top dog at all. The week begins badly.

“I am not the police force,” he says. “That is a matter for the police. I am not the commissioner of police.”

Last Sunday, keyboards were busy into the night at the ministerial wing of Parliament House, Canberra, erasing Wikipedia details of Christian Porter’s presence in Sydney 1988, the date of an alleged brutal rape of a sixteen year-old Jane Doe, who later, tragically took her own life. When questioned, Porter says he didn’t even know that there were Wikipedia entries. The scrubbing of internet references parallels that performed for the Liberal staffer whom Brittany Higgins accuses of raping her.

It matters little what Porter says he knows. The fact is that some Fixer is prepared to go to great lengths to engage professionals to remove inculpatory internet evidence; any evidence which may assist those accused of evading justice; hinder the chance that the victims’ allegations can be corroborated.

In the meantime, of course, the PM goes swimming at Bronte Beach, despite promising the nation that he’d spend the weekend reading the eight volume report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care.

Wednesday, The Australian says “the political crisis” is “engulfing the Morrison government.” Mangling metaphors, Australian Financial Review political editor Phillip Coorey says the government is

“reeling from the allegations … the events of this week have highlighted just how quickly the government’s fortunes can run off the rails.”

Phil’s a fabulous fence-sitter. No splinters in his bum. The government’s problems are largely of its own making. The week’s events have found out a government and a Prime Minister who have spectacularly failed to exercise due diligence or duty of care.

Instead, whether it be paying lip-service to reforming its responsibilities in aged care or its handling of allegations of rape by young women working in Parliament House, its response has been to make the problem go away; abuse its power rather than exercise its legitimate authority.

A democratic government in a civil society doesn’t gag its press when faced with difficult questions. The reporter is just doing her job. A young woman who says she is raped in the Defence Minister’s office deserves respect and support. Instead, she is called a “lying cow” and she and her partner are run out of town.

The Prime Minister is too quick to pull rank or handball his responsibility to the police. Or rely on his fixers behind the scenes. He does himself and his government no favours by allowing his ministers to evade responsibility. His behaviour is increasingly despotic and his invocation of a bogus conception of the rule of law is making him a laughing-stock amongst the legal profession, while exposing a disturbing level of desperation.

Morrison is out of his depth. He needs to stand down two ministers and ensure that all rape and sexual assault allegations are investigated by an appropriately constituted independent inquiry. If he can’t lead from the front he needs to get out of the job. If you really were an effective Prime Minister, Mr Morrison you wouldn’t have to tell us.

I’m the Prime Minister. Really? All the evidence suggests otherwise.

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A cancer on our democracy

“I know perfectly well that it can’t last. Whatever we think, we are courtiers in an oriental Sultanate, and there is a corps of janissaries, with bowstrings at the ready, at the palace door.” Hugh Trevor Roper

 

Imagine half a million Australians, a record 501,876 to be precise, petition for a royal commission into your patron, rabid reactionary, Rupert Murdoch, billionaire media monopolist and monster powerbroker. Does our PM, whose Liberal Party is effectively a wholly-owned subsidiary of News Corp, act democratically?

No. Head Office steps in. Sharri Markson and Richard Ferguson of Murdoch’s The Australian publish an article, Kevin Rudd’s Bangladeshi ‘bots’ in media royal commission petition, Thursday 11 February, quoting a “Nicholas Smith”, who claims to have paid an overseas freelancer to “sign” the petition “hundreds of times” in order to “demonstrate to you how easy it is to manipulate our own government’s website.”

Smear tactics. Neither mud-slinger Markson, nor feckless Ferguson take the next responsible step: concede that even without this stunt, there are more names on Rudd’s e-petition that any other. Ever.

And just who is this Smith and his podcast The Turncoat? The story is a fake. SBS notes that The Turncoat’s Facebook page is littered with posts that have been flagged as misinformation, baseless claims about the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine, and others, expressing support for President Trump.

Shades of Craig Kelly, MP for Hughes, who despite his dressing down from his PM, immediately returns to Facebook to promote more toxic nonsense about fake cures for Covid-19 and to sow doubt about vaccines. Former furniture rep Kelly appears regularly from his chair on Murdoch’s Sky News, beaming his dangerous disinformation around the country and – via the internet – around the globe – from whence it came.

There’s a restless, recycling in Kelly’s quest. As Crikey’s David Hardaker observes, “the outrageous nonsense spouted by the renegade Liberal MP is mostly spun from generic alt-right conspiracies and ideas.”

News Corp also loves nonsense. Dr Daniel Angus, Associate Professor of Digital Communication at the Queensland University of Technology says The Australian’s story is a “beat-up” and “bereft of any substance.” Dr Timothy Graham, Senior Lecturer in Digital Media at the Queensland University of Technology, who researches bots and misinformation, notes that there is no evidence that Kevin Rudd is linked to the bots.

“The headline of this article is misleading because it tries to weaponise the context of the fact that yes, it is possible to game these systems or any number of petitions,” he tells SBS. “The only influence is the unnamed individual, who paid someone overseas.”

The Ferguson – Markson abortive muck-raking comes on top of a slew of smears including alleged links between Rudd and Jeffrey Epstein. Almost every Murdoch paper runs a story about the International Peace Institute, chaired by Rudd, accepting US$650,000 from Epstein’s charities between 2011 and 2019.

Rudd says he convened a board meeting on December 4, 2019, to recommend an amount comparable to Epstein’s donations to the IPI be forwarded to charity. He said it was important to remember that Epstein’s foundations were donating millions of dollars to “dozens and dozens of charitable organisations” and he had never “to his knowledge” met him.

“I recommended to the board, and the board accepted my recommendation, that a donation of comparable amount be made to a charity, so that we would not in any way be a beneficiary of the cumulative donations from Epstein over a long period of time,” he tells ABC radio on Thursday, adding that he regarded Epstein as an “odious character in the extreme.”

Enter the Daily Telegraph, a Murdoch paper which defamed Michael Towke who was pre-selected hands down 82-8 for Cook, in July 2007. The Tele ran four articles, by four different journalists, two of them very senior. They defamed him, destroyed his political career, and caused untold stress to his family.

”These stories sent my mother to hospital. ‘They demonised me. I wanted to confront them in court.”

The false stories also caused the Liberal Party to rescind his nomination, allowing Scott Morrison to walk unelected into the seat. Never lacking in creativity, the Tele now tries a Hunter Biden yarn.

In this surreal spin, jailed business partner of presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son Hunter claims ex-PM Kevin Rudd was coming to one of their company’s banquets in order to celebrate a controversial Chinese takeover deal. But Rudd was in London and Abu Dhabi that week, as ABC’s Media Watch’s Paul Barry points out. But that doesn’t stop Murdoch hacks, from just making stuff up. Take a bow, Peta Credlin.

Sky hack Peta Credlin is forced to apologise for falsely calling Rudd’s petition just “a data-harvesting exercise,” part of a defamation settlement. “An egomaniacal fantasist, notes the AFR’s Joe Aston, Credlin is a flack who derided the jabbering nobodies and has-beens on Sky News while deciding which prestigious corporate role she would accept post-politics, only to become a jabbering has-been on Sky News.”

Murdoch allegedly colluded with miner, broadcaster and warmonger, Kerry Stokes, to help Morrison knife his predecessor Malcolm Turnbull. How dare Kevin Rudd get up an e-petition to call for a royal commission into the Murdoch empire’s ways and means? Of course, the empire strikes back. And misses. Spectacularly.

But there are more ways to kill a porcupine than smothering it with lotus petals. The PM steps up. Or does he? What would you do if you were Murdoch’s minion, Scott Morrison? Or Morrison’s catspaw? Organise an award, of course. Time it to coincide with Straya Day, a national holiday, 26 January, now colonised by its largely Liberal Party Committee to reward supporters and obscure the sordid reality of European invasion.

Thus “His Excellency”, Keith Rupert Murdoch is lauded for transforming the media landscape. The “how” is left unsaid. Buying competitors and selling controversy is key to his seamy business model. And sexploitation sells; look at his titillating page three girls. As does publishing lies about climate science, inventing a sinister agenda behind moves towards gender equality and defaming opponents, especially Labor and union figures.

Oddly, not everyone approves of Murdoch’s business model. Dacre deplores its vulgarity and vitriol.

I felt that whatever Murdoch touched went down-market, though it also moved from loss into profit. For the sake of sales, he aims to moronise and Americanise the population.

He also wants to destroy our institutions, to rot them with a daily corrosive acid… He certainly has a hatred of what he considers the stuffiness of the British establishment.

Being Morrison, someone else does the award. Of course. The PM’s Principal Private Secretary Yaron Finkelstein, spin doctor and former CEO of Crosby Textor knows whom to call. Of course, Scotty knows nothing. Chinese warlord, Feng Yü-hsiang, baptised his troops with a hose. Morrison is similarly doctrinaire and just as much of a control freak, whilst always disclaiming responsibility, I don’t hold the hose, mate.

Rupert’s rags attribute the Lifetime Achievement Award to The Australia Day Foundation UK a cabal of well-heeled, Tory corporate elitists, with rent-free offices in Australia House. The Foundation first gave out awards in 2003, the year of his illegal invasion of Iraq, under John Howard, who lied to parliament about it.

Some of these achievements are unique. Eight years ago, Murdoch’s News of the World, a now defunct UK Sunday tabloid, whose prurient interest in sex scandals earned it the soubriquet news of the screws, delighted readers by publishing pictures and video of Max Mosely, son of British fascist, Oswald Mosely.

The then UK Formula One Boss, indulged in a five-hour sadomasochistic session with prostitutes in a Chelsea apartment. News Group Newspapers, the tabloid’s publishers, had to pay £60,000 for grossly invading Mosely’s privacy. His sadomasochism he freely admits to. But much more damaging to Mosely is the News of the World’s false assertion that the motor-racing boss took part in a Hitler-themed orgy.

There was no Sick Nazi Orgy, as News maintains, he successfully argues in court – just a private “party” for himself and five like-minded, consenting women, and there was no public interest in reporting it.

Our government uses Australia House for the virtual ceremony. As taxpayers we pay (and pay) for a large part for Murdoch’s honour, while the pot is topped up by donations from Woodside Petroleum, in the news again for reaping a bonanza, after Alexander Downer helped bug East Timor’s cabinet in 2004 under cover of an aid project. Witness K, the ASIS agent involved in the bugging turned whistle-blower, is currently on secret trial in Canberra in a travesty of justice because he’s embarrassed the government in telling the truth.

Rio Tinto contributes, Anglo American, energy giant Worley resources and billionaire hedge fund manager Sir Michael Hintze’s own asset management fund CQS. In brief, a claque of Murdoch media icons.

News of the award is not just a rude shock. It’s a mystery. Who gonged the Doctor Evil of Global Media? Not that invisible hand of capitalism again? Each of us working for his or her own gain, benefiting us all? Scott Morrison just loves to keep us in the dark. Especially as the alternative could be as embarrassing as former half-term PM Tony Abbott discovered with his Sir Philip knighthood. But Murdoch won’t blab.

Rupert’s addicted to power. And he’s had a sniff. Eminence grise in Blair’s family affair, Trump’s enabler and dinner guest. And now, Muppet Morrison’s puppeteer. Or is it self-help? His devout faith in money and power, helped Rupie buy a papal knighthood in 1988, by donating to a Church education fund and chipping in $10 mill to help build LA’s Catholic cathedral, thus buying the right to be addressed as “His Excellency.”

Who’d honour an Establishment reject? Well, we did, in effect. And we paid for our part. Just as we stuff $40 million into the Murdoch family’s pockets for Foxtel, to do something with women’s sport. Michael West believes Murdoch may have recently, quietly sold Foxtel- but the Coalition is keen to see Google and Facebook pay the Murdoch empire (and the boutique Nine Newspapers, now under Chairman Costello, a Liberal rag appended to its real estate business) for bringing visitors to his dying pay-walled newspapers.

Google knows search engines are not killing mainstream media. Its advertising didn’t kill the classified ads that paid for newspapers. Specialised online sites did that. Above all, Canberra’s plan is an “unworkable” dud.

You wouldn’t read about it – at least not in mainstream media. But Rupie has the gall to play the victim. Claims he’s being muzzled. He’s clearly dog-whistling not only those who have no bullshit filter but those who fear wokeness, a state of being socially aware, especially of issues of justice, inequality and racism. He protests,

“For those of us in media, there’s a real challenge to confront a wave of censorship that seeks to silence conversations. To stifle debate and ultimately stop individuals and societies from realizing their potential.

This rigidly enforced conformity, aided and abetted by so-called social media, is a straitjacket on sensibilities. Too many people have fought too hard in too many places for freedom of speech to be suppressed by this awful woke orthodoxy.”

Murdoch’s hypocrisy does not go unnoticed by the lynx-eyed, Rudd who had the wit to observe in Copenhagen in Christmas 2009, that “those Chinese fuckers are trying to rat-fuck us.”

“Rank hypocrisy from Murdoch accepting an Australia Day award. He pretends to champion freedom of speech, but he’s spent decades abusing his monopoly to bully Australians he doesn’t like into silence. Murdoch invented “cancel culture” in Australia,” he tweets.

But an “achievement award”? True, His Excellency helps pick our PM; set his agenda. And granted, Rupert always does his level best to help capital protect itself from the curse of working voters. But achievement?

“If you’re just choosing from people in OECD countries, ostensible liberal democracies, Rupert Murdoch has to be up there as the most-single-handedly destructive person of the last three decades, right?” MSNBC anchor, Chris Hayes, is stung by the brazen duplicity in Fox’s peddling the Hunter Biden laptop canard. He may as well be talking about how Murdoch has stymied carbon abatement or backed the Iraq incursion. On a national level he could be talking of how the empire has destroyed progressive candidates’ lives.

Rudd, who unlike our current charlatan, was a real PM, sees Murdoch as “a cancer on our democracy.”

Worse, Rupert enables mob violence. For The Washington Post’s, Margaret Sullivan , the mob that stormed and desecrated the Capitol, 6 January, 2021, could only exist in a nation radicalized by the urging of Murdoch’s factoid Fox News. Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham all helped incite that riot.

Perhaps, in a post-modern, post structuralist, post-truth, world, inciting destruction is a type of achievement. Yet given his history in the British newspaper business, few would mistake Murdoch’s award for anything but a set-up. Rupert’s gong is an award conferred on the other side of the world, aimed squarely at an Australian audience. Kevin Rudd – and the signatories to his e-petition – will have no difficulty recognising the target.

It’s unlikely Murdoch will feel the need to add the Lifetime Achievement award to his CV for his next big commercial adventure. The News Corp CEO and his right-hand woman, Rebekah Brooks have held a series of meetings with the orchestrated catastrophe that is Boris Johnson’s Conservative government. Sam Bright in Byline Times reports that the pair had seven meetings with five senior ministers last August-September.

It’s clear that the Murdoch empire proposes to open an “opinionated” news channel, News UK TV which some worry will turn out to be just another version of the highly profitable Fox. The banner headline in The Sunday Mail is a hint, Top Tory Launches Rival to Woke Wet BBC.

While the Murdoch channel may struggle to achieve a big audience, its influence may be much larger. Fox News, for example, one of the most popular US networks, reaches fewer than four million primetime viewers. But it’s a sterling example of how even a shameless train-wreck of opinionated hackery can have a significant intermedia effect, setting the agenda of mainstream network news as well as its cable TV rivals.

Similarly The Australian can set and frame the news agenda on any given day in Australia with even the ABC taking its lead from the stories that News Corp publishes. Murdoch pretends that he doesn’t tell his editors what to print. The truth is that each editor is left in no doubt. And Murdoch is in constant communication. His power over his papers and over many of the governments they are published in is enormous.

But power does not confer acceptance. His experience in the UK is instructive. To the establishment, Murdoch is the archetypical antipodean gold-digger, a crassly ambitious vulgarian for whom no gutter is too deep. This reputation was earned when his News of the World ran Christine Keeler’s memoirs in 1968. The Aussie nonentity morphed effortlessly into the Dirty Digger inside six months.

“It was his first very big story in his first very big British newspaper,” writes The Guardian’s Steve Hewlett. If it won few friends in high places, it got attention. It earned him a reputation for muck-raking for personal gain. Later, of course, Murdoch would ingratiate himself with the power elite only to ultimately alienate it.

Murdoch’s illegal Phone Hacking Scandal, nearly finished him in Britain. Only nine years ago, a cross-party UK parliamentary committee tells the News Corp chief he “lacks credibility,” his son, James, “appears incompetent” and the company is guilty of “wilful blindness” towards its staff at The News of the World.

Murdoch is not, they conclude, a fit and proper person to run any sort of rag. Luckily for “Pops” as he’s known to his kids, his pal David Cameron’s four Conservative MPs on the ten person committee loyally dissent.

Elisabeth Murdoch is ropeable. As Rupert’s only daughter and the child with the most business acumen, puts it with characteristic Murdoch delicacy, her brother, James and Rebekah have “fucked the company.”

And as the revelations reverberate, The Guardian’s John Harris fears, quite reasonably, the duo may have done the self-same thing to UK politics and public life. As in Australia.

It’s not just the mogul’s dominance, or his petty vendettas against progressives and his pleasure in ruining people’s lives, his prurient eagerness to drag us into the gutter, his brazen fabrication and his outright lies, there’s the damage Murdoch does as he debases public discourse.

Roger Ebert’s account of the uber-grub’s arrival at the Chicago Sun-Times, reveals something more than an assault on decorum and decency, a perverse, pernicious vulgarity.

“… first day of Murdoch’s ownership, he walks into the newsroom and we all gather around and he recites the usual blather and rolls up his shirtsleeves and started to lay out a new front page. Well, he was a real newspaperman, give him that. He throws out every meticulous detail of the beautiful design, orders up big, garish headlines, and gives big play to a story about a North Shore rabbi accused of holding a sex slave.”

Rudd protests the ways the Murdoch empire’s power is routinely used and wantonly abused, “to attack opponents in business and politics by blending editorial opinion with news reporting. Australians who hold contrary views have felt intimidated into silence. These facts chill free speech and undermine public debate.”

True. Our trust in institutions, including democracy itself, not to mention our sense of integrity, is polluted by Rupert’s alarmism, climate denialism, muckraking, titillation, innuendo and character assassination, although it’s not spelled out in Rudd’s petition. But schlock and horror is just the dirty digger’s house style.

For Murdoch and his family firm, media ownership is a means to power. He is the most powerful single force in Australian politics, “bigger than the major parties or the combined weight of the unions,” says veteran Labor politico, Bruce Hawker, in The Rudd Rebellion. Bigger than Big Gina and Twiggy combined.

Power confers contempt. He lets his useful idiot, Donald Trump call him “Rupie”. Rupie calls Trump a “fucking moron” behind his back.

And the Murdoch family business’ power is metastasising further, thanks to the Coalition gifting Foxtel $40 million to make three out of four Australians lose free access to sport. Not that Foxtel is making any money as far as anyone can tell – now that Murdoch has “disappeared” the company to the secret state of Delaware, the small Eastern U.S. State, which boasts more corporate entities—public and private—than people.

The ratio stands at 945,326 to 897,934, at last count.

Helping the dynasty increase its power, is the Morrison government with its Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code a form of extorting money from Google and Facebook on the lie that the social media giants profit unfairly from news. Or else Microsoft’s Bing gets it. Morrison licks his lips at the APC.

Bing is the winner in a 2019 Stamford study which shows the search engine is far more likely to return disinformation, misinformation conspiracy and white supremacist sites. Out of 600 results for 12 search queries, Bing returned 125 sources of disinformation while Google returned 13.

Microsoft is pleased, too, because whilst it commands 30 per cent of traffic in the US, Bing currently has only 3.6 per cent of traffic. In response to queries for vaccines autism, Bing returns six anti-vax sites in its top 50 results. Google, in contrast, shows none. In general, Bing directs users to conspiracy sites even if they are not looking for them. Our PM is either unaware of this research or it fits his friendship with QAnon follower, Tim Stewart whose wife Lynelle is paid $80K PA with a car allowance to be Jenny Morrison’s special companion .

The tech giants face payments which will flow to News Corp and Nine helping them increase their dominance at the expense of smaller, more independent publications and as Kevin Rudd puts it “media diversity.”

A code should not just profit two giant companies, Chair of Private Media and Solstice Eric Beecher argues,

“This ‘ground-breaking’ legislation, as the government and its big media supporters constantly describe it, should not just be a mechanism to ensure the bulk of Google and Facebook money lines the pockets of a couple of multibillion-dollar public companies for whom news journalism is a small part of their business.”

News journalism is not a big part of Murdoch’s business. News Corp is more a propaganda operation masquerading as a news service, argues academic Denis Muller, a role which Sally Young notes is how the business began its corporate life in 1922 as News Limited. Secretly established by a mining company owned by industrial titans of the day, it was created for the express purpose of disseminating “propaganda.”

Rupert did not invent the tabloid, although he’d love to take credit. Edward Lloyd (1815-1890), published the first newspaper to sell a million copies a hundred years earlier. And while Murdoch is always happy to take kudos for “writing what the public want to read”, a Lord Northcliffe motto, his papers and his TV shows are part of more complex and more pernicious transactions than simply pandering to base or popular appetites.

“Those who say they give the public what it wants begin by underestimating public taste, and end by debauching it,” quotes The Monthly’s Richard Cooke. The insight’s attributed to TS Eliot in The Pilkington Report on Broadcasting, 1962, which opposed commercial broadcasting in the UK.

Murdoch knows the tabloid’s days are numbered, like all print newspapers, along with the days of their most successful modern exponent. It’s not just the Internet. In Britain it’s the pandemic. Which is why it doesn’t hurt to get out the turd-polish. Murdoch has a big TV project in the wings and his lifetime achievement award is a kick in the teeth for Rudd and a timely bit of a back scratch from Morrison in advance of an early election.

News of the World was ultimately wound up after a notorious phone hacking scandal led to an eight month trial in which Murdoch did not appear. Instead his money did the talking. Editor Rebekah Brooks was his proxy, just as Andy Coulson was a de facto proxy for the PM at the time David Cameron and his political reputation.

It cost Murdoch over a billion dollars to engage top silks and assistants, a tour de force which overwhelmed the state’s prosecutor, one assistant and meagre resources.

Yet it was not the indictments in court that were at stake, less about journalists behaving badly so much as the power of money and the abuse of that power, an issue which is very much alive in the incorporation of a “charity” The Australia Day Institute, UK, so that members of the power elite can applaud each other

“… the perception that some news organisations were all too happy to invade privacy and ruin lives in order to sell more papers; that they regarded themselves as not only above the law but above the government, which would do their will or suffer for it; that they had poisoned the mainstream of public debate with a daily drip-feed of falsehood and distortion.”

Achievements? Inciting riotous insurrection via Fox in the US and colluding with the Morrison government in promoting climate science denial on Sky and in his News Corp papers in Australia – now quietly relocated to Delaware? As Michael West reports, Murdoch has already funnelled his Foxtel monopoly out of Australia into a new company, or “mysterious entity” as West puts it, set up in the secrecy jurisdiction of Delaware where shareholders, directors and other picayune details remain hidden from public scrutiny. A ScoMoesque move.

Delaware seems to be part of a radical restructure of News Corp’s Australian assets in preparation for sale. Yet Rupie even at 89 is his dynasty’s biggest asset.

Rupert poses; flash as a rat with a gold tooth in what seems to be a budget hotel bathroom. He’s spent his life crushing editors and standards even for hacks of the gutter press. Setting the bar lower than a snake’s belly.

”Silence. I am the billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch,” says Murdoch’s avatar on an episode of The Simpsons as he commands attention to open the Super Bowl. A man with a massive ego, writes Paul Barry, an elephant hide and an extraordinary sense of entitlement. A mammoth sense of his own self worth.

Fox sponsors Trump’s conspiracy theory of election theft and voter fraud just because it makes money. But the outlook is not rosy. As with News Corp, the rivers of gold are drying up and it’s time to move on and sell up.

Is the gong Morrison’s revenge on Rudd whose petition for a Royal Commission into News Corp gained over half a million signatures? Investigative journalist Ronni Salt traces our PM’s links with the mysterious Foundation, which include a one-time PR manager for our PM during his brief time at Tourism Australia.

Ronni generously calls the award “a fabricated piece of performance frippery” and an after-thought.

“It’s that long forgotten party hat left under the stairs given to that extra birthday party guest at the last minute.”

But even at 89 it would be dangerous to write Rupert off yet. His mother lived to 103. Surely he can live long enough to be arraigned before Rudd’s Royal Commission.

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A criminally negligent federal government beneath the festive schmaltz.

Deck the halls with vows of folly. How good are good tidings, lies and promises you never, for a moment, intend to keep? All Aussies stranded overseas home by Christmas? Ho. Ho. Ho. Australia ‘among the first’ to receive the world’s most promising vaccine? “We could begin manufacturing it by year’s end.” Ho. Ho. Ho. “NSW is the gold standard [of contact tracing]. I don’t spend too much time worrying about NSW.” Ho. Ho. Ho. Santa Morrison’s on top of his game.

The killing season segues into the silly season, a surreal appendix to our political advent calendar. Our coal-lobby’s PM, a fossil with a baseball cap, Keating calls him, indefatigable self-promoter, Santa ScoMo, mugs for official photographer, Adam Taylor, a News Corp recruit hired to show a wholesome 1950s household ruled by a practical but pious, devoted Dad. If the Liberal Party is News Corp’s local political wing, Adam Taylor is its Leni Riefenstahl.

But hark! Hear ye not the Angel Song? Avalon toffs begin to cough and splutter. ‘Rona clusters erupt over Sydney; Croydon, Gosford, Katoomba, Cronulla – now even reach rust-belted Wollongong, site of the grand failure of the first coal port in 1868, constructed by government at great expense.

Will Morrison rise to the (photo)-opportunity? He soars above the pack.

Leadership? He’s all over it. Our nation’s relatable mate, bonds with his tradie base, teaming natty RM Williams red and blue themed check shirt with chinos. He’s up a ladder having a red hot go posing as a DIY festive decorator, oozing practicality; a handyman dad. Blue sky framing the shot evokes Our Comeback™ campaign.

Abbott created the PM’s official photographer role to ensure we see the PM our PM needs us to see. Now press photography is decimated; casualised by News Corp and by the few remaining other mastheads’ kamikaze cost-cutting. A politicised propaganda photo from an embedded happy snapper is increasingly the only political photo we are likely to see. Resilient photojournalists can always transition to posters of the Santos gas pipeline.

Tony Abbott needed two photographers, of course. Turnbull had but one. Gillard dismissed the idea as too narcissistic. But Morrison’s smitten; in love with his own turd polish; his staged image. And how good is being your own sock puppet? A goofy, blokey, populist persona helps cocoon you from accountability, for starters. As does the fun father act. Sociopathic control freaks affect an air of equable laid-back informality with ease. Morrison can even feign the po-faced international statesman.

And the act travels well. Our PM’s junket to Japan is a runaway success. Call me Yoshi, says Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Or so Morrison claims, in his press release to The Australian, the Liberal Party’s Pravda. Like Sydney’s New Year’s Eve fireworks, the relationship gets off to “a cracker of a start”. The Yoshi and ScoMo show further winds up China with a mutual defence pact, the Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) which makes it easier to play war games but means that our diggers in Japan could face the death penalty. We’re still working on that.

Also in progress is RCEP, a regional comprehensive economic “partnership” led by top dog China, a huge win for us but no-one can explain why- helped enormously by an image supplied by PM’s Office. Morrison achieves a suitably inscrutable, sourpuss scowl. He’s clearly calculating that when he gets back, fourteen days of self quarantine mean he’ll escape the controversy over allegations of SAS civilian murders and get to spend some more quality time with his personal photographer.

The quarantine gallery of poses includes a suit jacket worn with shorts, a desperate sort of Dave Hughes’ sight gag to humanise the monster who plans to incentivise job seekers by cutting back allowances (“tapering”) so that millions out of work or underemployed will be unable to pay rent, power bills or put food on the table.

But some local images are a triumph. Taylor’s June shot of the PM at the Eden chip mill, Victoria, against the light is just magical. Whilst it’s billed as a $50 million bushfire recovery fund for the forestry industry, readers discover that Morrison’s government is a ray of sunshine for the community which is entirely at the mercy of the local timber mill. None could possibly be redeployed into a less ecocidal, more sustainable line of work.

600 workers’ jobs are at stake, Scotty lies. In fact, there’s more work in the arts and sport in the region, explains South East Region Conservation Alliance spokesperson, Harriet Swift, who sees the grant as a tragic waste of money and opportunity. Fires have burnt 80 per cent of State forest available for logging on the South Coast.

Senator Jim Molan’s announcement of a million dollar grant 6 November is, in fact, the re-announcement of projects to make pallets and briquettes announced well before the bushfires. Our mainstream media’s current nanosecond attention span and a 24 hour news cycle makes recycling old announcements so much easier.

The remainder of the “recovery fund” is buried deep in labyrinthine, bureaucratic complexity. Communities have to resort to full time grant application writers to even engage with the process.

It’s a different story for big Liberal donor, Anthony Pratt, Australia’s second-richest man whose multi-national-VISY, one of the largest paper companies in the world, gets a ten million dollar handout for its undamaged mill at Tumut. (The mill does suffers widespread loss of plantation timber as 62,000 hectares of NSW state forest are lost.) The grant is guaranteed to create jobs, according to federal government, but The Greens point out that the funding goes to a stacker-reclaimer, an automated piece of machinery built overseas. Few Australian jobs are in the deal at all.

Then there’s the inconvenient truth that waste from the paper mill goes into landfill in towns around the Riverina.

But it’s all in the call. Nick Feik in The Monthly calls Morrison The Announcement Artist – because it’s more refined than bullshit artist. Morrison can’t help himself. He’ll announce anything. Do nothing. Deny everything. Take his infamous hollow promise on aged care.

“… the Australian Government will be responsible for residential aged care facilities”, he bullshits in February in his great palaver over his fifty-six page Coronavirus Emergency Response Plan, that turned out to lack any plan at all. Not everyone’s forgotten. Few families forgive him.

The PM was helping too blue to be true, former teacher, Reservist, cattle and truffle-farmer, RFS Volunteer, Lifeline Counsellor, Anglican Church Property Trustee and Oxfam Director, Fiona Kotvojs, an unwitting self-parody of Liberal Party “values”, lose the Eden-Monaro by-election to Labor’s Kristy McBain, as it happened.

Or was he? A few electors may have recognised Morrison as the bloke who took a holiday during the bushfires or who forced the odd local to shake his hand. The unsuccessful Liberal candidate may not have been helped by Morrison’s mug shot on each of the seventy polling booths, however talented the official photographer.

Today, there’s no hint of apology for the PM’s role in clear-felling Victoria’s timber export industry as a result of his government’s abortive trade war with China. Our former best customer is declining any logs from Australia. Expect Fiona to be parachuted into the senate or AAPT on to the ABC board, or all three, as Our Comeback™ plays out.

All his political career, Morrison’s worked hard to remove himself from the frame. He spins, ducks weaves and deceives in a frenetic blur of role-playing self-promotion, sophistry and evasion. You can’t pin anything on him. Especially not blame. Sean Kelly calls him our “no-fault PM”. If only that were not -in itself- a massive fault.

In frame is a festive, fire-truck-red aluminium step-ladder and a tantalising background glimpse of the pluto-populist’s million dollar Sydney harbour view. Just an hour up the road, is Avalon, named after King Arthur’s isle, a refuge to cure Arthur of his mortal wounds but, today, it’s the centre of a Coronavirus cluster of 144.

Cricket Australia overrules doctors and dictates to the state government, the New Year’s Test will go ahead.

“The best health advice tells us outdoor ticketed seated events are safer than household gatherings, and that’s just a fact,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian bullshits. 25,000 fans will throng public transport. Masks will be optional.

Experts fear a super spreader event. But it won’t be Morrison’s fault. Nor will Hillsong Church be in any way be held responsible, despite images of mass beachside gatherings of non-social distancing prosperity-gospellers.

Our PM has long since abdicated his federal responsibility for quarantine to the state but is on standby to issue vital statements commending the embattled premier Gladys Berejiklian on her heroic non-lockdown or her capitulation to the vested interests of commercial sport, alcohol and gambling.

(The) … major reason for success with Covid 19 directions was that the messages were coming from health professionals, hence trusted. The politicians, PM with Brendan Murphy and Gladys with Kerry Chant have used them to sell a different message. Undermining our need to trust science, tweets Tony Windsor.

Charismatic Gladys appears daily in turgid TV pressers pleading with viewers not to travel – unless they have to. Nags them to wear masks. If they feel like it. She is the very model of libertarian authority. Her personal relationship with medical science is also uneasy. Don’t go to the fireworks unless you feel compelled? She could be Deputy-Head-Mistress of a progressive private school. If she were a leader or public speaker. Or just in charge.

“Limit your mobility … we are far from out of the woods.” “This is a very unpredictable, contagious disease, but we also appreciate that we don’t want to put more burdens on our citizens than we need to. It’s a very fine line,” Gladys agonises. Real leaders such as Dan Andrews or Anastasia Palaszczuk just draw the line.

And take expert advice. Ms Berejiklian permits Christmas gatherings of children because, she claims, children are not transmitters. Yet other countries’ research shows children and young adults to play key roles in the spread of the virus. Schools have been a driver of the second wave in Europe, India, Canada, the UK and elsewhere. Children account for three of the six cases of Coronavirus in western Sydney’s Croydon Coronavirus cluster.

Morrison appointee, CMO Kelly says he wouldn’t take his kids to any cricket match but it’s OK for the public.

No buy-in from PM? Scott’s just a humble dad, at heart, taxed by putting up family Christmas decorations. Mulling over his New Year’s word salad about our optimism and confidence. Being handy is such a relief from his day job, evading quarantine responsibility, waging war on the poor, the aged and his pet project of blowing up the economy by suppressing wage growth, depressing consumer spending and alienating our main trading partner.

And grovelling to Rupert Murdoch is hard work- pleasing our Dear Leader demands all his intuition . It’s like News Corp editors; they know to anticipate god’s wishes, they don’t need to be told how to cover stories.” But they never cease worrying over getting it right.

Above all, Santa Scotty’s plumb tuckered out just from reshuffling his cabinet. Making Greg Hunt Minister for the Aged while allowing him to keep the Health portfolio is a snub to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, whose media release on its interim report is entitled A Shocking Case of Neglect.

Commissioners Tracey and Briggs call for comprehensive reform. In August, senior counsel assisting, Peter Rozen QC, voices his scepticism. Rozen can find no evidence of any plan at all. Just evidence of months of under-resourcing, lack of planning and wage theft. Following the deaths of 685 aged-care residents, minister Richard Colbeck loses his COVID-related responsibilities. Not that he admits to any responsibility.

“I don’t feel responsible personally for the deaths that have occurred, as tragic as they are, which were caused by Covid-19,” Colbeck tells a Senate estimates hearing. It’s the death of ministerial responsibility, writes Dr Sarah Russell. Morrison’s re-shuffle seems to be based on little more than looking after his mates. Yet never was a talent pool so shallow.

Why was “criminal act” Al Tudge promoted from acting Immigration or David Coleman’s locum to Education? Why reward his contempt for the law? Hawke’s perfect in Immigration- already big-noting himself; calling for visas to be revoked in Northern Beaches’ – because tourists are so anti-Australia in failing to social distance.

Attorney-General “Public Bar”, Christian Porter is still the very model of a modern Liberal attorney-general by continuing to conduct the secret trial of whistle-blower, Witness K, a trial which his lawyer, Bernard Collaery, says has destroyed his Canberra legal practice.

Our democracy is fragile, Collaery tells ABC’s 7:30 Report. “Publicity is the soul of justice.”

Our PM is not wearing The Legion of Merit, a fab new decoration, which Murdoch papers insist, is a top military honour from his mentor, fellow war crimes enthusiast and Kleptocrat in Chief, Donald Trump, another family guy who stuns everyone with his refusal to be the only outgoing president of the US to be voted out of office. Not only is he refusing to accept the will of the people, his crackpot accusations of voter fraud will undermine the Biden Presidency’s legitimacy enough to sabotage the incoming administration before it’s even sworn in.

Shinzo Abe and Narendra Modi get the Merit gong, too, a nod to the Quadrilateral alliance of India, Japan, Australia and the US which resurrects the gang of four; Quad 2.0 to keep China in its place. It’s working flawlessly so far to cause a dramatic cut in our export trade. Yet has the US made the Morrison government an offer it can’t refuse? There’s no overt reason why the Coalition would go out of its way to poke the panda.

Jack Waterford notes that iron ore prices may temporarily, in total value, compensate for the losses faced by coal miners, wine, fish, barley, timber, lobsters and any other item China chooses for impact on the Australian economy and Australian public opinion.

“But it is China setting the pace, not us.”

Over 50 Australian coal ships are still stranded off China’s coast, held up by an import ban, despite the nation facing coal shortages and one of its worst power blackouts in years, reports The Guardian’s Helen Davidson.

Imports of timber from NSW and WA are also halted. Local customs officers find pests in cargoes from those states, the General Administration of Customs says late on Wednesday.

Perhaps Australia is not aligned with the U.S. to protect itself from China. Australia is aligned with the U.S. to protect itself from the U.S. As a Twitter follower recently observed, the US doesn’t have allies, only hostages.

US political analyst, neorealist, right wing John Mearsheimer put his view less delicately last year to the CIS.

“You’re either with us or against us,” he says. “And if you’re trading extensively with China, and you’re friendly with China, you’re undermining the United States in this security competition. You’re feeding the beast, from our perspective. And that is not going to make us happy. And when we are not happy you do not want to underestimate how nasty we can be. Just ask Fidel Castro.”

It’s all far too hard for Morrison. Yet there’s little sign that his doctrinaire approach to applying neoliberal austerity to Australian workers is likely to pay any dividends beyond securing the continued support of party donors.

Merry Christmas, reads a Bunnings sign in another shot in ScoMo’s promo. Yet for millions of Australians, whom Morrison’s government is depriving of income support, Christmas is miserable. In a last act of bastardry, the 2020 parliament cuts incomes of the poor. Two million have no paid work. A further million children live in these families.

Rather than a safety net for a marginalised minority, as the Coalition has it, short-term reliance on Newstart is relatively common, at nearly a quarter of the workforce, from 2001 to 2016, the latest figures available for study, according to a recent study by The Brotherhood of St Lawrence in conjunction with ANU and RMIT.

“Despite record high unemployment and underemployment, the Government is cutting income support at Christmas time, down to $50 per day, almost taking us back to the old, brutal Newstart rate of $40 a day,” despairs Dr Sandra Goldie, ACOSS, CEO.

Since March, a quarter of a million more of us are forced to seek work while Scotty’s party helps usury prosper by axing responsible lending laws just as eviction moratoriums expire.

Homelessness will rise nine per cent in the New Year while housing stress will afflict an extra 24% of families.

You can’t fault the choreography even if the plot’s a turkey and the lead character’s a ham. Scotty the fawning, shape-shifting sycophant – “I don’t hold the pose, mate,” – is a Karma Chameleon, a man for all seasons’ greetings.

The one constant in Scotty’s approval-seeking is his indifference to others’ suffering, his empathy bypass, as vital to his evasion of responsibility as it is to his capacity for gratuitous cruelty, evident in his indefinite detention, a form of torture of asylum seekers, through to his signature Robodebt’s extortion with menaces; all his own work.

“Contrary to the assertions of Stuart Roberts … the (Robodebt) disaster was not a logical development from data matching schemes of previous governments going back to Bob Hawke. It was the extra leavening of bias, malice, inverted onus of proof, major jump of logic and administrative and bureaucratic arrogance that sheets the conception home to Morrison himself,” notes former Canberra Times news-sleuth Jack Waterford, AM.

For Murdoch’s media, our ABC and other camp followers of the News Corp behemoth, monster Morrison morphs into a harmless if not endearingly incompetent suburban middle class dad puzzling over electrical connections of his modest Christmas light show. Yet even uber-orchestrated, Scotty’s retro Xmas show betrays a toxic nostalgia for gender inequality.

In Morrison’s 1950s division of labour, a fun father mucks around with festive fairy lights, while mum, left with all the real work, especially, the family’s cognitive and emotional labour, which so often includes relentless, corrosive maternal guilt, has a nervous breakdown in the pantry.

Mum’s infinitely elastic role includes kitchen galley slavery, extra housekeeping on top of Everywoman’s traditional yuletide role as chief scapegoat and emotional hostage. Domestic violence, the euphemism for male violence is rising over the pandemic and during the Christmas season, yet there is no hint that this government is willing to increase funding for refuges or provide any real support for women in crisis.

The level of artifice in Scotty’s Xmas sales pitch is astonishing. He publishes a manipulative letter to “his girls”, daughters, Abbey and Lily, in which he claims that Dad just has to be away from home a lot because the country needs him to help people look after the environment, get a job, a house and pay for their retirement.

Or doctors, hospitals and drugs. He reminds his daughters that if the economy can’t afford drugs for a child their age with Cystic Fibrosis, the child doesn’t get to breathe. No pressure. No emotional blackmail. What a mensch! What a man for our times. Yet as the pandemic becomes endemic, as his government’s debacle in its megaphone diplomacy with China begins to cost, the Morrison’s government’s hollow promises, lies and incompetence will be its undoing. Looking at the debacle that is the NSW government’s response to what may well prove to be a new wave of coronavirus cases surely no-one can miss the criminally negligent federal government behind the scenes. Our challenge is to hold it to account.

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Scotty gets gong while Cormann tries to crash jet-set

Australians swell with pride; hi-five each other – as they wait patiently to be ripped off at local supermarket duopoly checkouts, Monday – or vastly overcharged for cheap, dirty petrol amongst the worst in the OECD, over news that Abbott fan and Dutton numbers man, Belgian waffler Mathias Cormann zips around Europe in an RAAF Dassault 7X jet schmoozing OECD big-shots in his ridiculous bid to become its Secretary-General.

The jokes – and the jet are on us. At $4305 per hour, no tax-payer or Job-seeker looking forward to starving on forty dollars a day in January, could possibly begrudge the cost. As Nine Newspapers’ Liberal shill, Bevan Shields points out, we’re keeping The Cormannator safe from Covid and bigging up ourselves on the economic stage. He’s also got a staff of eight and a doctor just to ensure he’s not over-stretched or overwhelmed by Covid-19.

“There’s 36,000 Australians currently stranded as a result of border closures; they don’t get this sort of treatment, having an RAAF jet,” Shadow Minister for foreign affairs, Penny Wong objects. Nor do other candidates for international positions, particularly if they happen to be women not in the Liberal Party.

Natasha Stott Despoja is able to successfully run her UN campaign entirely from home via Zoom. She’s recently been appointed to the UN Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, CEDAW.

But could this be yet another stroke of genius from a Morrison government just busting with big ideas? Prepared to think big. Impose our own Australian-Belgian talking points on what neoliberals believe is the “world economic stage.”

We could even be a voice for the Indo-Pacific Regionanother Trumpism replacing Asia-Pacific. We don’t even have a PM who can speak for his own party. Or rise above platitude. And you may as well try to nail a jelly to a wall when it comes to getting any accountability out of him but ten countries and 650 million people should be a doddle.

Read all about it in the PMC’s drops to media. What you won’t see is any hint that Scotty is shitting himself that the OECD will impose trade sanctions on Australia because his government won’t get real about climate change.

Luckily, we may not need free trade in future. Be free of trade itself. China’s tariffs put the brakes on, Hockey and Abbott ran our car industry off the road. Farmers can’t pick produce, given a pandemic drought of backpackers and Kanakas 2.0 .

Luckily, as Scotty tells us, we’re transitioning to a service economy. We’ll surge to prosperity on the wave of an economy based on taking in each other’s washing. And dry-cleaning our leaders’ trousers.

No RAAF jet lacks a trouser press but top of Cormann’s CV, must be his role as the one and only – One Nation-Whisperer. Who could forget when, in October 2018, his mis-management of government business in the senate led to a vote in support of Pauline’s motion that it’s OK to be white. Coalition MPs “only mistakenly” supported the motion, Cormann quickly pointed out – and he wasn’t even in the chamber when the racist motion was passed.

Keating’s unrepresentative swill clearly includes government senators who can’t or won’t think for themselves. Cormann, himself, was once just a loud stooge; echoing Tony Abbott’s Labor debt and deficit nonsense.

“For me personally, this is severely embarrassing,” Cormann explained. Happily, Labor agreed to having another vote, which unanimously opposed the motion but with leadership skills like this, Cormann will go far. He’ll need to. Why not a shot at a pro-renewable and climate change woke OECD? All Mathias needs to do to create the perfect CV is to go through and delete all references to anything he’s ever said or done on energy. Or debt and deficit.

The result will look a bit noir; like the stygian pages of Justice Brereton’s redacted report on alleged SAS war crimes and atrocities in the narco-state of Karzai’s kleptocracy of Afghanistan which Morrison repeatedly warns us will be shocking (if we could read it). The print job is likely to use a whole new black toner cartridge but, heck, with a planet to fry and entire species to exterminate, who’s counting the Officeworks budget?

It’s unfair to bring up the hypocrisy in Morrison’s well-rehearsed attack on former AusPost CEO’s Christine Holgate’s profligacy in buying watches for a few executives, although Katharine Murphy does her best against the odds on ABC Insiders which, along with David Speers, is once again well stacked with Liberal shills.

Besides, the Aussie candidate is a top bloke, all the other blokes agree. Advancing his career is a win for all men – and not just another win, win, win for Morrison and his network of alpha mates – or that’s the dominant narrative.

Just as with only a few bad apples to weed out and a culture to re-boot, no-one in uniform appearing in our media to re-work the story of the US invasion of Afghanistan bothers to count the 1,300 civilians, including hundreds of children, who were killed in Afghanistan in the first six months of the year, according to the UN.

Army Chief, Angus Campbell maintains that nineteen years of war has improved outcomes for the Afghan people when in fact, the Taliban has never been more powerful and even its leader admits that US dollars have helped create a hopelessly corrupted nation.

“The US went into Afghanistan in 2001 with the lofty goals of democratizing and modernizing it. Today, neither has been approximated and the goals seem naïve or foolhardy. The effort has failed, though no one in Washington wants to admit it. The political system is hopelessly corrupt, incompetent, and unstable. Ethnic and tribal mistrust is higher than ever,” writes national security analyst Brian Downing.

No-one in Canberra wants to admit it either. Instead the consensus is that our brave lads are beyond reproach. While Campbell has agreed with Brereton that meritorious service citations be stripped from 3000 special forces personnel, the decision has abruptly been taken out of the Chief of Army’s hands by Defence and in the end it will be a matter to be decided by government. By Scott Morrison.

In brief, no action will be taken. There may be a puerile justification along the lines of the injustice of punishing all for the sins of a few but this ducks the issue of Justice Brereton’s finding of a toxic SAS culture in which “blooding”, brutality and inhumanity were allegedly normalised. Canada disbanded their unit for similar reasons.

The war on terror, an unmitigated disaster and a boon only to arms dealers, which the US began in 2001, will have cost six trillion dollars before 2020 ends, calculate Watson Institute researchers at Brown University. 21 million Afghan, Iraqi, Pakistani, and Syrian people are war refugees and internally displaced persons, in grossly inadequate conditions. But few deplore the human costs. Heroes, like David McBride, face life in jail for blowing the whistle.

Recommendations in the report of Inspector General of The Australian Defence Force, Justice Brereton’s inquiry, will be furthered stymied by the federal government’s AFP handball – Team Morrison is happy to hand over the task of prosecution to a force which, as Jack Waterford points out in Investigating Murder is not an AFP key Competency is just not up to the task. The force lacks the experience and the resources. Missing from current narratives is any sense of reality. As for Afghanistan, no-one is prepared to admit mission failure.

Certainly not Angus Campbell, current Chief of Army who knows corruption well, having been squeezed uncomfortably into frame whenever Morrison was building his career as boat stopper and refoulement operator as Minister for illegal detention by refusing questions on internment. Or turnbacks. Or anything else falling into an on-water or operational matter – as it does in a war on those seeking our mercy; craving our asylum by sea.

Yet not everyone is wishing Cormann bon voyage. The Monthly’s Paddy Manning is scathing. And spot on.

“it sticks in the craw that Mathias Cormann – the world’s first and only Finance Minister to abolish a functioning carbon price … who has plumped for the Coalition’s denialist wing in every toxic leadership contest – is now touting his “green recovery” credentials and supporting “net zero emissions as soon as possible”.

Sorry, you don’t get to argue against climate action in Australia for seven years and then jet off at taxpayer expense and say exactly the opposite.”

Manning is a model of economy and restraint but he’s clearly not buying the twenties’ post-fact Trumpian zeitgeist where integrity is a dirty word and public life is filled with charlatans who lie at every conceivable opportunity, boosted by Keith Rupert Murdoch, one of the most toxic oligarchs in the world, whose propaganda machine media empire corrodes democracies with a noxious miasma of alternative facts. Or lies. Where useful idiots, such as Trump, Johnson and Morrison are exalted while Dan Andrews is torn down – relentlessly.

But two cheers for Scotty. Our Panda-poking PM, is not only madly popular at home, but a hero in London. It’s another reason for Aussies to be singing in the aisles of Liquorland although the billionaires who invested in the Chinese wine export market are about to have his guts for garters. Better get used to it. The fossil-fuel lobby driven Coalition is just not good for business. Joe Biden’s incoming administration could also impose trade penalties on climate deniers. But there’s more to Morrison’s trade debacle than a loss of exports.

It’s not just a 200 per cent tariff on wine, it’s the collapse of the million Chinese tourists a year market, the tertiary education student business, the coal, the copper, the lobsters, the sugar, the barley, the timber – all of which add up to six billion dollars in trade per year – because it suited Morrison to suck up to Trump by megaphoning his criticisms of Beijing.

Of course, other factors help alienate our biggest trade partner, our war games with Japan, the Huawei paranoia, the delays instituted by the secret Foreign Investment Review Board, FIRB, under former spook, David Irvine, which Paul Bongiorno reports could stall a Chinese-Australian property investment transaction for twelve months.

“Why are they picking on us,” one Chinese-Australian constituent asks his MP.

More deeply problematic is Frances Adamson, head of DFAT our nation’s top wolf diplomat who warns that China, as a global power cannot “escape scrutiny and debate” and condescendingly warns its government that it is not at the point where it can set the terms of its engagement with the world.” Her comments are on a par with Simon Birmingham’s patronising praise on ABC’s Insiders for China having lifted millions out of poverty.

Even the ABC’s Stan Grant warns that these words may merely further provoke a great power who intends to act like a great power. Expects to be respected as such. Adamson and Birmingham’s rebuke may invite the retaliation they seek to avert. ANU’s Hugh White notes the Trumpist in Morrison’s mis-reading of our relationship with China

“Morrison … seems to think that Australia can set the terms of the relationship unilaterally. Again and again over the past few months, as things have plunged to new lows, he has told Australians that there is simply no choice but to defy Beijing the way he has done. Anything else would betray Australia’s interests and impugn our sovereignty. This absurd oversimplification of such a complex and important issue is … an insult to our intelligence.”

Equally insulting is his brazen public embrace of internationalism and rules based order, which rings both expedient and hollow, given his record in Immigration Minister and the gratuitous secrecy and cruelty layered on top of the inhumanity and abdication of refugee convention that was Operation Sovereign Borders.

“Morrison was willing … to barter with the fate of the most vulnerable simply to get his way,” recalls Shaun Hanns, former public servant in Home Affairs’ refugee assessment. Few forget his pressers in which he indulged his fondness for sophistry and logic-chopping. Whatever his intent, Morrison came across as a sadistic smartarse.

Luckily, Scotty’s flip-flop, weathervane approach to world events and his lusty rendition of Yellow Peril 2.0 is a big hit with that other international contradiction in germs, (like herd immunity) Bozo Boris Johnson and his handlers, the Policy Exchange (PE) who are working extremely hard to make Britain little again as quickly as possible. Johnson, a total failure of a leader of a failing state has nothing better to do than to butter up Morrison at a PE bunfight.

Our PM is given the Grotius Award, something PE fellows dream up to recognise his genius for diplomacy and staunch support of rules-based world order. Is it a terribly tongue in cheek rebuke? Or a lame attempt to let China and America know that the worm has turned. Behold, Scotty 2.0 – a man of the new world order.

What’s escaped the attention of many is that whilst Morrison’s megaphone diplomacy, his bagging of Beijing for allowing festering wet markets to create a coronavirus which has already killed 1.45 million and is destroying the world economy, has not gone down well with President Xi or the mandarins in China’s vast bureaucracy, it’s been brilliant for US farmers and wine-makers who have actually expanded their trade with China at our expense.

Some pundits claim that Morrison is dumb to be suckered by Trump but let’s be fair. Scotty doesn’t hold the wine hose, mate. PVC and rubber hoses are used to transfer liquid around wineries. Wineries that remain in business.

So Scotty’s the first Australian PM since Billy McMahon not to wangle an invitation to Beijing? It may have a bit to do with allowing his team to publicly proclaim that China’s like Nazi Germany. But Morrison doesn’t hold the whip, mate. He’s not the sort of leader to pull handy Andy Hastie or Eric Abetz into line just for Sinophobia.

Why? Few members of our fourth estate bother to ask. On ABC Insiders, Sunday, Trade Minister, Simon Birmingham is clear that we’re the injured party and that if need be, we’ll take our case to the WTO. So there. No-one apart from The Guardian’s Katharine Murphy attempts to even sketch the context of calculated offence.

Morrison does attempt to bullshit things to rights in his UK Policy Exchange waffle but his words serve only to trigger a list of fourteen grievances from the Chinese Ambassador to Australia – almost the day following his naff repositioning. Trade is only a minor – China finds fault in business, media, defence and national security. Its list includes:

  • Banning Huawei from the roll-out of 5G over “unfounded” national security concerns
  • Foreign interference laws, “viewed as targeting China and in the absence of any evidence”
  • Calls for an inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus – “siding with the US’ anti-China campaign”
  • Speaking out on the South China Sea
  • Speaking out on human rights allegations in Xinjiang, accusing the government of “peddling lies”
  • “Thinly veiled” allegations against China on cyber attacks which Beijing says lacks evidence
  • And new foreign relations laws which give the federal government power to veto state, or local government agreements with foreign governments.

By incredible coincidence, PE’s council of Conservative old fogeys, toads-in-the-hole and Colonel Blimps is chaired by Alexander (Bunter) Downer, a former Liberal leader and low achiever who won foreign minister, by stepping aside for John Howard to become leader. Scandal-ridden Downer urged his nation to join George W Bush’s illegal 2003 invasion of Iraq, an oil-war in which Howard misled Parliament that he’d gained favourable legal advice.

Downer’s notoriety – which embraces his pledging to repeal Native Title at a League of Rights meeting in the 80s and initially refusing US entreaties, in 1999, to help America prevent Indonesian atrocities against East Timorese- peaked in 2004 when Billy Bunter, as Keating dubbed Downer, ordered the bugging of East Timor’s cabinet during negotiations over how much of its off-shore oil reserves Australia could steal. The move richly benefited Woodside Petroleum, who later employed Downer out of sheer gratitude for his magnanimity and altruism.

Downer’s work helped a Howard government cheat the Timorese out of billions of dollars in oil and gas revenue for years. Naturally, the Morrison government rules out any compensation for the depleted fields that it now concedes belong to East Timor. You get that sort of outcome with a rules-based approach to exploitation.

Awkwardly for Morrison, reports the Human Rights Law Centre, prominent international figures, including former Presidents of Timor, Xanana Gusmao and Jose Ramos Horta, urge him to shut down the outrageous secret prosecution of Witness K and his lawyer Bernard Collaery – two heroes who helped to expose the skullduggery to which Australian Government cowboys stooped to filch Timor’s oil and gas. The petition is stonily ignored.

As is much of Downer’s contributions to statecraft. But not his latest finger-wagging, Sunday in The Australian Financial Review where he notes that the Chinese are famous for playing the long game. Quoting Sun Tzu is bound to be a big hit with Beijing – especially when Bunty proceeds to take the opposite tack himself in an incendiary put-down that can only strengthen the suspicion he’s channelling Trump.

“Banning Australian exports of wine, barley and lobsters as well as disrupting coal exports is an act of real aggression. It needs to be understood for what it is. This is a totally inappropriate way for a sophisticated modern nation to behave. Governments are expected to discuss differences and negotiate outcomes, not engage in brutal aggression of the kind we have seen from China towards Australia over the past few months,” Billy Bunter blusters..

Downer fans still chuckle over his being accused of being a leftist spy by Trump. Now a lame duck, he accused the monarchist and Thatcherite of being a Clinton errand boy after a night on the turps at a Kensington wine bar in 2016. So Alex knocked back a late-night noggin with George Papadopoulos, an oxymoron – a foreign policy adviser to Trump’s campaign? Luckily Alexander’s able to clear all that up. Some day.

Of course there’d be no Downer diatribe without Morrison. And no Morrison without Murdoch. How good is News Corp’s fearlessly fair and accurate YouGov Galaxy News Poll? Keeps us up to speed with what matters, “who would make a better PM?” Is far more diverting than any two party preferred polling. And even more meaningless.

Naturally, Morrison’s mob wants to give even more money to Murdoch. Kissing-Christian Porter is poised to slip in a News Media and Digital Platforms Bargaining Code into parliament’s last bench-polishing for the year next week. Make big tech pay. AG and party-boy Porter’s proposed Robin Hood law helps the Coalition to steal from the rich and give to those crying poor, especially billionaire victim Murdoch and Nine’s Chairman Pete Costello. Even the ABC stands to benefit – but you can be sure subsequent ABC funding will be reduced accordingly.

Heist hundreds of millions from Google and Facebook to give to News Corp and Nine? Why? News and Nine claim the two tech giants make a mozza out of news content, report Crikey’s Bernard Kean and Glen Dyer. Yet our ACCC has already disproved the claims. Tech giants’ theft of news is not killing newspapers. They’re doing that nicely all by themselves via Domain and real estate.com.au, which have stolen rivers of gold from classified advertising.

Happily help is on its way. The fabulous Paul Fletcher has given ten million to News to do what it likes with it. Even better, Tim Wilson is campaigning to open up super to home-buyers, a move to undermine super funds, outfits Liberal hate because they threaten their power – and transfer wealth to the poor. This will push up home prices but boost advertising in Pete and Rupert’s geese that lay the golden eggs, their online real-estate sections.

Goodness, Grotius Me: Scotty, we learn, wins the inaugural Grotius Award, a novelty door-prize, for his “support” of “the international rules-based order” a concept which – like Morrison himself -is very much a work in progress, from UK Tory sausage-fest The Policy Exchange (PE). Its think kitchen is big on Brexit and knocks up “bonkers” Boris Johnson’s other top ideas. At the moment, it’s Brexit or bust. Or if not bust, just a failed state. Or three.

Boris’ current brainwave is the alliterative Build Back Better, code for dismantling Britain’s planning system and handing over power to private developers. Our local Liberals are up with this game, of course, especially in NSW, where glad-handed Premier Berejiklian and her grifter associates help NSW taxpayers pay ten times its value for western Sydney airport land. All the go this week in the UK, however is A Very British Tilt, which Morrison plugs shamelessly, which is all about Albion keeping the aspidistra flying in a fantasy land called The Indo-Pacific Region.

Naturally, the plan to play war over Asia and the Pacific will gladden the hearts with anyone with shares in arms dealers Thales, BAE and other merchants of death. Britannia may no longer rule the waves but PE believes it can still waive the rules. The rules of logic, common sense as well as international law. As the Barclay Brothers’ Daily Telegraph unkindly points out, the nation of once proud warriors now has rather more hairdressers than soldiers.

All that’s needed is the delusion that the UK can even afford to mount a show of force on the other side of the globe or that China will not retaliate with trade sanctions at the slightest hint of gunboat diplomacy. But let’s not get bogged down in practicalities. Like Gallipoli it’s a brilliant plan. The Panda must be put back in its cage.

“The UK government should expand the deployment of Royal Navy assets, RAF aircraft and Army (including Special Forces)/Royal Marines personnel to achieve uninterrupted, year-round UK military presence in the IPR (both on operational and training missions).” Britain can talk loudly even if it can carry only a little stick

PE’s council is a neo-con choir of Tory corporates, a retired First Sea Lord and a former Army Commander. Of course, below the upper crust, a colony of boffins, beaver away giving the Tory party all its inspiring ideas. Imagine our IPA running government. Or our CIS. Menzies Institute? All three? Whilst it pretends to be an “independent, educational charity”, PE was founded in 2002 by Conservative MPs, Francis Maude and Archie Norman. First chaired by Michael Gove, it has provided Conservative governments with personnel and policy ever since.

The election of stand up comedian Boris and the astonishing success of Brexit in tapping British xenophobia to no real purpose save self-destruction are signs it’s a runaway success. But both got a lot of support from the Rupert Murdoch mafia, a political party and a propaganda machine for any Tory twat who boosts the worth of the family’s investment portfolio.

Fizza Turnbull, who against all advice, created Dutton’s monster, Home Affairs, got PE’s Disraeli Prize, in a 2017 visit to Blighty when he waxed lyrical about A Free Society. When Dutton deposes Morrison, it may well be the Molotov. No-one knows who funds the secretive, powerful right-wing lobby group, one of the UK’s largest.

Nor will Policy Exchange divulge who funds its campaigns, for example, who paid for its report labelling Extinction Rebellion (XR) “extremists”. The Gloucestershire-based conservation group was upset to find itself on a list of terror groups shared across government. A spokesman explains,

“It was shocking because our only aim is to make the government tell the truth and act on the climate and ecological crisis. We have never picked a fight with the police, only asking them to respect the right to protest, and to join us because it is not possible to safely police a society that has collapsed because of climate breakdown.”

PE is bound by wealth, privilege and status into a ruthless, uber-capitalist propaganda unit or Thatcherite think-tank lodged in two Tufton Street town houses at the top end of London town. St James Park, Big Ben, The Cenotaph and Westminster Abbey are only minutes away.

PE’s mission is to wrest influence from similar groups and shift power into the PM’s office, a project paralleled by Morrison’s own inner circle, which hack Simon Benson assures The Australian reader represents,

“… an unprecedented dismantling of power bases dominated by ­bureaucratic fiefdoms and the ­political class.” Why? Bundle of laughs, Benson bullshits that it’s to “… to boost productivity and service delivery for Australians.” But it’s really about centralising and expanding a ruthless and controlling Prime Minister’s power.

“To accumulate power,” writes George Monbiot, “a government with authoritarian tendencies must first destroy power. It must reduce rival centres of power – the judiciary, the civil service, academia, broadcasters, local government, civil society – to satellites of its own authority, controlled from the centre, deprived of independent action. But it must do this while claiming to act in the people’s name.’

A pandemic can help greatly, too, as even The Conversation‘s Michelle Grattan cautions, over Morrison’s creation of a national cabinet, which constitutional experts note is not a cabinet at all, but a cabal which helps greatly with “congestion-busting”, code for the Prime Minister getting his own way. PE toffs love strong, secretive leaders.

Founded but eighteen years ago, The Exchange is a parvenu, but you’d never know it from its exclusive location. Or its claims to be a brains trust or moral compass for a venal, vacuous, UK political establishment more interested in power and profit taking than government.

It’s a venue perfectly suited to our Liberal PMs. Or former PMs. Tony Abbott, for example, recently whinged that the media overhypes Coronavirus. Instead of “preserving every life at almost any cost ..” we need to ask many deaths we can live with. Turnbull merely shared with the Exchange his government’s aim to access encrypted data to bring evil-doers to their knees. Now, up pops Tosser Morrison with an astonishing policy U-turn.

Hugo Grotius, an “Arminian” Calvinist, abhorred the notion that God could create justice by absolute decree. He’d find himself completely off-key in Hillsong, or at the Exchange, unlike Morrison, but it’s not his theology or his legal philosophy that interests the fat cats of the exchange – even slightly. Hugo is now a father of international law – a brave new religion which -like Saul on the road to Damascus – Scotty 2.0 is suddenly converted.

Sadly, for all parties, a global coronavirus pandemic stops Tosser from attending in person but via Zoom, the born-again internationalist preaches his new credo. Morrison must forgo the iconic central London landscape and make do, somehow, with the spartan Kirribilli House with its priceless harbour views and an attendant private jet.

We must “make our world more Grotian and less Hobbesian” Morrison tells PE worthies. Put simply: give up the dog-eat-dog, win at all costs, beggar thy neighbour mercantile individualism of Liberal Party foreign policy for the last eight years. Co-operate and respect each other?

Tosser’s sucking up to Biden. But he’s also desperate to crab-walk away from poking the Panda. His megaphone diplomacy demanding an inquiry into who caused the Wuhan flu provokes an irate China to do us slowly. Over 600 ships are stranded at sea; prevented for months now from unloading their Australian coal.

Gone is all sign of the Border enforcer, his boat-stopping, turning back or lock ’em up forever tough-cop persona. It’s a dramatic about face. But Scotty’s face is always a work in progress. A year ago, Morrison told the UN it could butt out; let Australia violate international agreements and human rights with impunity.

Latika Bourke, Julie Bishop’s former Fairfax puffer, bills political weather vane Morrison’s spray as an “olive branch to China”, when it’s clearly a total repudiation of his fan-boy Trumpism.

Rules? Morrison is doing a risky, public back-flip. Only last year, flushed with Trumpism after a visit to his mentor’s Fox-hole in The White House, an already orange-hued Morrison was putting on a show at the Lowy Institute; blow-torching multilateralism. Rubbishing the UN. International institutions were an “unaccountable internationalist bureaucracy” They “demanded conformity rather than independent cooperation on global issues.”

Policy Exchange is part of a flourishing infrastructure of persuasion and the “second-hand dealers in ideas who oversold us neoliberalism, who help replace civic power with the power of money. Watchers of ABC’s The Drum, Q&A, or The Leigh Sales Show, would recognise just how regularly our local dealers bob up like turds in the surf off Bronte beach be they IPA, CIS, Menzies any other of forty-six special interest groups which hi-jack public policy.

Rules-based order is top contender for most vacuous nonsense of the decade but it’s up against some stiff competition from our own PM’s virtual atlas of road-maps to claims that a few bad apples in our SAS fell victim to their own culture, as if accidentally poisoned by a tub of yoghurt left uncovered in our national war refrigerator in Canberra, the AWM, which is stacked with Liberals in the government’s mission to own the military.

The AWM also doubles as a pro-war propaganda unit, sponsored by Thales and other top arms manufacturers. Chairman Kerry Stokes will have to modify the SAS display to depict how its Special Forces soldiers’ allegedly would cordon off a whole village, taking men and boys to guesthouses.

“There they would be tied up and tortured by Special Forces, sometimes for days. When the Special Forces left, the men and boys would be found dead: shot in the head or blindfolded and with throats slit,” SAS soldiers tell a military sociologist.

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“It is the core that is lunatic, not the fringe.”

Australians all let us rejoice. For we are done with thee. Vexatious litigant and wage-thief, Clive Palmer, fools no-one with his yellow billboards of lies; targeted Facebook ads, texts and social media trolling about a Labor death tax in his eight million dollar campaign to “Give Labor the boot”. The Trojan Horse of his UAP, an $80m fake political party, paid for by Clive’s businesses, set up solely to subvert democratic process, pulls up lame in Queensland’s state election, Saturday, as punters confound predictions and flock to re-elect Labor.

Mr Incredibility, Clive, did promise, last year, he’d pay 800 former workers at Queensland Nickel’s Townsville Refinery. Three years late. Yet it was the Commonwealth which had to stump up $66m in unpaid entitlements.

As Labor’s Chris Bowen points out in parliament, Queensland Nickel couldn’t afford to pay its workers’ wages, but it could afford to pay $135 million to a company owned by Mrs Anna Palmer, days before going into receivership. Give Labor the boot? Clive just wants a freer hand with his companies’ wage theft.

Back to the twerk-bench, Palmer. Bunnings influencer and puppet PM for mining, banking and gambling cartels, Scott Morrison, also cheers the nation by spending a long week in Queensland, campaigning with the Liberal candidate. Party sources claim LNP leader, Deb Frecklington would have done far worse without Scotty to hold her hand and help her with the obligatory yet hokey-blokey Hi-Viz vest and hard hat costume changes. But it’s hard to see how. The LNP vote has gone backwards. Deb will be lucky to remain leader

Frecklington did miss out on a ride at the ADFs Redbank facility in Ipswich when Scotty took off to do a few laps and burnouts in a tank. The PM did manage to fit in eleven others and two cabinet colleagues.

“There were only two spots at the top,” Morrison says. “I am sure there are safety issues around these things. ” Too dangerous for a woman? Scotty needn’t worry. Deb’s in enough danger as it is.

How good is paternalism? It’s touching to see the Morrison government maintain its policy towards empowering women by supplying a male minder. Just as joyous, is news that fellow saboteur, US citizen, “Big Rupe” Murdoch, whose News Corp -a political party cum media empire – enjoys federal government subsidies, while paying almost no tax in Australia, fails utterly in its desperate bid to nobble QLD Labor.

Queensland Labor may win up to fifty-two seats in a major victory for Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk who, along with Dan Andrews in Victoria has been pilloried mercilessly by a Morrison government and its Murdoch partner for putting public health before wealth; the profits of a business elite who campaign for “open borders” and the easing of restrictions which have saved us following the fate of the US and the UK.

Johns Hopkins University, reports 9,007,298 Americans have been diagnosed with coronavirus by Saturday. Forty-eight thousand people are currently hospitalised with Covid-19. Trump lies about turning a corner.

Britain enters a second lockdown as Covid-19 cases reach a million, whilst America sets a grim new daily record of 100,000. In the lucky country, Aussie exceptionalism thrives; we pretend that we are somehow immune to the pandemic’s global devastation. It will all be over by Christmas and other comforting myths, are cruel hoaxes spread eagerly by a mass media claque orchestrated by Big Rupe’s News Corp.

Richard Cooke writes in The Monthly that News Corp in Australia: “… isn’t a normal news organisation any longer. At News Corp – in an inversion of journalism’s ideal – the old-fashioned, straight-down-the-line reporting is expendable and surplus to requirements. It is the unhinged propaganda outfit that is central to the identity of the company. It is the core that is lunatic, not the fringe.”

News Corp gave Britain Boris and Brexit and the US, Trump, sustained by a constant diet of sycophantic lies from a fawning Fox News. Yet Trump’s unhappy with the network now running what he calls anti-Trump ads. Wouldn’t have happened in the old days. (Former CEO) “Roger Ailes was the greatest”, Trump says.

“Lying predator praises lying predator” tweets Californian Congressman, Democrat Eric Swalwell. Yet things need not be this way. News comes this week of Joe Hockey, now a member of Sky’s stable of hacks, use of a thought partner, a novel concept which Labor pursues with DFAT in a senate estimates committee.

Joe “Hello World” Hockey had a “thought partner”, Alex Tureman, to help him do his job as Ambassador to Trump’s Court. And what a job it is. Alex doubtless helps finesse Joe’s G’Day, 100 Years of Mateship suck up to Trump campaign. Just one fly in Hockey’s ointment – all fifteen patrons chosen are white and male. Glaring omissions include former PM, Julia Gillard, a distinguished fellow at The Brookings Institution.

It’s the concept that sucks says The Lowy Institute, which decries “once again the apparent triumph of stale thinking, and the lazy fusion of the Anzac legend with the US alliance.” The old John Howard playbook.

To be fair, Hockey does promise to fix his mistake and he does try to revive “Friends of Australia” caucus in Congress, a former lobbying group defunct for decades. Again, attention to detail brings him unstuck.

“I’m not so sure about this mateship campaign. Have you seen the logo? It looks like the eagle is buggering the kangaroo,” laughs Mike Green, a former senior official in the George W. Bush administration.

Defining relationships is a bit of a bugger in Macquarie Street. So NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, resorts to sophistry when ICAC enquires into the status of her close friendship with bosom buddy and confidante whom she says she hoped to marry of some eight years standing – at least – former Wagga MP Daryl Maguire.

Gladys Berejiklian explains Daz is – “not a boyfriend” – just a friend with benefits – such as her house-key. Access to her office. What was she thinking? Surely ICAC would relax if Maguire was just her thought partner.

Bravo Joe. Too bad, Glad. Don’t let anyone tell you that getting someone else to do your job is wrong because it’s “irregular”. Who cares if DFAT Secretary Frances Adamson says it’s not the ‘normal way’ in Thursday’s senate Estimates Committee hearing. Abnormal is the new normal all round the world. And look how Abbott got Credlin to do all the PM stuff he couldn’t understand. Cutting aid by $1.4bn a year from 2014? Perfect.

Thought partners have been a thing for a long time, helping you avoid your own dumb ideas, assumptions and actions and enabling you to innovate. They are not to be confused with thought leaders who are people clearly and widely recognized as leading experts and visionaries in their field.

Noam Chomsky interviewed in the New Yorker on how Donald Trump is the “worst criminal in human history” comes to mind.

Slum-lord millionaire Jared Kushner is a thought partner for father in law Donald Trump – as is Ivanka, prompting creative stuff like peace in the Middle East and The Don’s leaving hospital for a drive-by salute to his many QAnon fans cheering him on – as they see it – in his battle against his nemesis; a secret elite Democrat child-trafficking ring. Dominic Cummings is clearly vacuous Boris Johnson’s thought partner du jour.

Who can forget Cummings’ brilliant defence for breaking curfew because he needed to go for a twenty-five mile drive (40km) to test his eyesight? As you do. He’d temporarily lost his vision after a bout of coronavirus.

Kushner is far more dangerous. He proudly explains Trump’s disastrously politicised coronavirus strategy to Bob Woodward in a way that reveals an abdication of leadership chillingly familiar to Australians.

“The states have to own the testing,” Kushner says. Or as Morrison would put it, “I don’t hold the swab”.

“The federal government should not own the testing. And the federal government should not own kind of the rules. It’s got to be up to the governors, because that’s the way the federalist system works.”

“But the President also is very smart politically with the way he did that fight with the governors to basically say, no, no, no, no, I own the opening. Because again, the opening is going to be very popular. People want this country open. But if it opens in the wrong way, the question will be, did the governors follow the guidelines we set out or not?”

The Washington Post’s Paul Waldman notes how Trump “politicized every public health measure necessary to control the virus”, Fans now refuse to wear masks as a badge of loyalty to the president. Congregate to breathe the same air; complain about how their “freedom” was being attacked. Freedom?

In March, the Trump administration imports a million Chinese-made diagnostic tests. It’s Jared Kushner’s secret plan to bring in billionaire business types who knew nothing about medicine but who could “get shit done”. A bit like Twiggy Forrest and his useless PPE. The tests are found to be contaminated and unusable.

All is not well abroad, or “overseas” as we prefer down under, as a pandemic rages while California burns, exposing corrupt, inept, leadership and busting free market ideology. Much as our federal government loves doing nothing in the land of the laissez-faire-go – banking on “herd immunity” as it’s misnamed and wishing the market will sort out the coronavirus – is causing a public health catastrophe world-wide. Experts also worry, that unless we keep punters alive – with money in their pockets – they may be unable to buy products.

Or services. Whenever Federal Treasurers need to show the good side of an economy tanking badly, they blow hard about transitioning. We are getting out of making things or digging up rocks in favour of paying mates to thought-partner us, or nurse, or teach in a “service economy”. China’s helping wean us off our traditional exports by cutting back on Australian coal, barley, wine, beef, lobster and other imports. In brief, they’ve stopped buying our stuff – since we insulted them over COVID, following Trump’s lead.

Donald Trump lies to a Michigan rally that “our doctors get more money when someone dies from COVID” But Coronavirus is helping put the lie to neoliberalism itself and patently false beliefs that the market solves everything or that we need small government – although it has crippled health departments worldwide.

Less pillar of small government than tower of ineptitude, Boris Johnson is on the blower. Useless as a trapdoor on a submarine – or as evasive, reactive and inept as our own PM, the UK PM, who’s too busy playing to ever do any work, talks up a storm about how it’s time for bold action on climate change.

Our own bullshit artist, Scotty, is quick to strike his own ludicrous pose in return.

“We will not be dictated to by anyone”, he bullshits, channelling the best of John Winston “We Will Decide” Howard’s babies overboard oratory, based on a fiction equal to anything Scotty spins. Wee Johnny’s thought partner in 2001 was Jane Halton whose shocking memory fail currently prevents her shedding any light on Crown Casino’s doings.

Not be dictated to? Unless Donald Trump tells us to bag China. Or any US President needs a coalition of the willing to add bogus legitimacy to any illegal war on an oil-producer. Or anyone from gas, oil or coal.

Happily, the game of mates, or crony capitalism, the biggest game in town, is thriving and helps explain why Matthias Corman and family got free Helloworld flights in 2017, from a company run by Hockey’s mate, Andrew Burnes just before Cormann’s department awarded Helloworld a million dollar contract.

Joe was a big shareholder in Helloworld in 2017 with $1.3m in shares, but it didn’t stop him teeing up a meeting between Helloworld subsidiary Qantas business travel and the Embassy’s Head of Operations.

Not long after, cops were on the job looking for whistle-blowers. As you’d expect in an era of AFP raids on journos who risk national security to allege misconduct by one or two bad apple troops in Afghanistan. Hockey’s shares in Helloworld are down to about $1.72 from $5.00 four years ago.

If he still owns any. But who could have foreseen how COVID would cut global travel and tourism? It’s down to about fifty-six per cent of its 2019 levels, according to the UN’s World Tourism Organisation. Poor Joe.

Naturally, Matthias paid back the $2780.82, blaming “administrative oversight” – that old imp – as you would – if someone blew the whistle on you. The system is working perfectly. Just as Tony Abbott, and Scott Morrison’s prayer-mate Stewart Robert and Ian Macfarlane, the MP who got a job with mining lobbyist Queensland Resources Council, minutes after he left parliament, gave back the $250,000 worth of Rolex watches which they kept only because “administrative oversight” had led them to believe they were fake.

Chinese instant noodle billionaire, Li Ruipeng, would have loved the boys for handing the time-pieces back. Especially when they said they only kept his timeless gifts because they thought they were counterfeit. If only the four Cartier time-pieces awarded by watch-lover Christine Holgate could have suffered the same fate, Scott Morrison would not today be cruising for a bruising. But let’s not overwind the suspense. Just yet.

There’s still time for a big, fat Australian divorce and political payout. Taxpayers will foot the bill. Holgate’s on a pittance compared with her predecessor, former banker Ahmed Fahour, whose final pay day, three years ago netted him a cool $10.8bn. There’s a bit of a fuss over AusPost’s fat cat executive salaries while parcel contractors starve on sham contracting and must use and pay for their own vehicles.

Always in touch, Holgate suggests that to clear the backlog, caused in part by the Morrison government law cutting deliveries, that contractors use their own cars in their own time; treat work as charity. Or slavery.

Are the Cartier watches the last straw? It’s Holgate’s Marie Antoinette moment. Yet ticked-off Morrison’s attack on Holgate, AusPost CEO, for giving timepieces worth $20,000 to reward execs for getting banking into post offices – in 2018 – is about to bite him on the bum. Turns out Holgate’s husband, Mike Harding is a bigwig in Santos’ natural gas. Getting Mike offside could dim Scotty’s big fat gas-lit, gas-led recovery.

There’s report that Holgate’s been weeping for four days. Lawyer Bryan Belling says the PM’s performance in question time upset his client. Upset? PM Shouty McShoutface acts “appalled and shocked” that the CEO had awarded four executives $20,000 worth of watches for wooing three out of the big four banks, into the AusPost tabernacle. It is “humiliating” for Christine. No-one tells her she is to be stood down.

Holgate-gate may be the most expensive outrage Scotty has ever confected. Mr Belling is totting up the cost to his client. There’s reputational damage, pain and suffering, loss of future earnings. And his fees, of course.

No-one doubts CEO Holgate was doing the right thing – at least by our usury cartel, the banksters.

Banks will bring their greed, the pursuit of short term profit at the expense of honesty, Commissioner Hayne says in his interim report. When misconduct was discovered, it often went unpunished. Who’d not want to bring banks into the tent? It’s a win-win. Holgate is offering banks a chance to redeem themselves. Yet shocking as her treatment is, think of those thousands of workers now being sacked by text message.

“Is it a cheap shot to point out that as millionaires and political elites wrestle over the potential millions of dollars in payouts, there are people losing their jobs under a government which can’t even be bothered to measure what constitutes poverty?” asks Crikey’s David Hardaker.

Labor’s Communications spokeswoman, Michelle Rowland, helps contextualise Holgate-gate.

The Australia Post board “is a dysfunctional swamp of former Liberal politicians, party hacks and mates of Scott Morrison”? Don’t hold back, Michelle. Tell it like it is. The board’s “incapable of executive oversight” and must be cleaned up? All appointments were made by Mitch Fifield. What could possibly go wrong?

But it is a Morrison government, Bernard Keane reminds us. “This is the most corrupt federal government since the 1970s, and possibly much longer – that has constantly indicated it will reward its friends and punish its enemies, and use taxpayer funding – or, more accurately now, borrowed money – to serve its partisan agenda. As the sports rorts affair demonstrated, it is also unashamed about it.”

Brazen. Luckily, we’re spoilt for choice with a range of distracting local scandals including the NSW inquiry being conducted into Crown Casino by former supreme court judge Patricia Bergin SC. Pats is miffed to discover that Crown plans to expand into its beaut new Barangaroo money laundry before her review of its suitability is due. Has Packer jumped the gun? Or is the rule of law in the Morrison government as increasingly irrelevant as it is in Gladys Berejiklian’s grubby state of close personal friends and their mates, NSW?

The Ballad of Gladys and Daz, a rehash of Frankie and Johnny is all over the nation’s airwaves as the NSW Premier, a “private person”, who “stuffed up her personal life”, Gladys Berejiklian, performs her victim shtick on Sydney Radio, post Alan Jones. Glad’s a consummate actor. She makes a desperate and cynical bid to rebrand her story from corruption to unlucky in love.

It works for about a week. Then her staff reveal that they’ve shredded evidence of how she may have rorted over $250 million in council grants to favour coalition electorates. Now, former NSW Attorney-General Tony Morris calls on her to resign.

The Premier’s office says Wednesday that Gladys “was not the decision-maker in the Stronger Communities Grant Fund”. Yet she gives email approval for 11 grants, including $90 million for Hornsby Council. Yet you can’t fault Berejiklian’s special pleading,

“I know the people of this state know I have done nothing wrong. I never have and I never will.”

The first leg of the Premier’s double is run well. Gladys’ melodramatic narrative of a woman wronged is eagerly sold by a NewsCorp that loves to help vested interests prevail. A cowed, gutted, ABC is on board instantly. Yet Glad’s story is a shrewd sidestepping of Icac law which obliges any premier to declare any relationship which is likely to detract from the Premier’s discharge of her elected duties and responsibilities.

Barrister and Labor MP, Adam Searle, Opposition leader in the NSW upper house, argues the Premier was legally obliged under s. 11 of the act to ­report what she knew about Mr Maguire’s activities to ICAC.

Yet, “she’s done nothing wrong” becomes a media mantra. Thanks, Rupe. And look how well she did with the bushfires. The sheer genius with which she tackled the pandemic. “Hardworking” is said to be her virtue. The Ruby Princess is not mentioned. Or Was Not Her Fault. But by the Tuesday after The Cox Plate, former auditor general Tony Harris explains patiently that destroying records is in itself an offence; a breach of the State Records Act.

“A pathetic, pigeon-livered apology” is how Alan Jones dismisses the NSW Premier earlier this year. Gladys’ explanation of the Ruby Princess fiasco, where 2,700 infected passengers were allowed off the cruise ship, is a disastrous, display of incompetence, cover-up and buck-passing, in which Federal government officials from Border Force play such a key role that Scott Morrison forbids them to answer any questions in Brett Walker’s inquiry. Jones would open all borders and go full Trump or Boris Johnson, if he had his way.

But how the mighty are fallen. Jones now talks to himself on Sky; tails Bolt, Credlin and Murray in ratings- after he killed off station advertising revenue and his career with his misogyny. Jacinda Ardern deserved “a few back-handers”, he said and “a sock down her throat”. It cost his station six million dollars. But clearly, there’s no penalty for inciting violence against women on Sydney radio if you are rich old white guy with mates.

Sloe-eyed, Glad “bares all” for Ben Fordham, Jones’ successor. Listeners learn that her close personal friend Daryl Maguire, former MP for Wagga just had one of those political careers that end when you deceive a lot of people. Such a relief to learn she’s not the only one with dud judgement in NSW government. She’s always tried to be as open as possible, she says, guardedly.

Rashly, she books a guest spot on high priest of sleaze Kyle Sandilands’ KIIS, Emerald City purveyors of prurience. Kyle invites Gladys to “get her freak on”.

“You’d think the premier and Kyle Sandilands couldn’t be two more polar opposites but then I was having sex with seven people at the radio station I worked at in Perth when I was living over there,” he brags.

“Well that’s a record I can’t break,” Gladys rejoins, unwittingly signing herself on to the hot to trot list.

Ever ready with the relevant political question, stud-muffin Kyle asks Gladys if she ever “dabbled in same sex relationships”, a follow-up to his earlier wondering aloud on microphone if she were “a mad lesbian”. Glad’s done nothing wrong; just been busted not declaring her relationship with an person of interest to Icac.

Two of the Premier’s staffers help shred Berejiklian’s credibility further in confessing to destroying documents. Destroy any paper trail to NSW’s Shred Prefect. Gladys approved projects which allocated $250m in council grants under the Stronger Communities Fund in ways which can be seen to favour Coalition electorates.

Sleaze and self-interest, if not outright corruption also define the Morrison government, Bernard Keane writes which may help explain why the part-time PM declares his “absolute support” for Gladys, as, indeed, he did for Turnbull just before knifing him to become PM. Things look crook, but Glad is not going anywhere.

Gladys spins her secret relationship with the former MP for Wagga, dazzling Daryl Maguire as a dud choice in boyfriends. Yet Daryl’s confessions to ICAC include taking developers up to the Premier’s office. He also admits to running a profitable visa scam, an alarming revelation to our PM who was Minister of Immigration at the time. Morrison whips himself into a lather of faux outrage, Thursday over Australia Post’s Christine Holgate.

“I was appalled, and it is disgraceful and not on,” Morrison says of Ms Holgate’s giving Cartier watches to four executives as a reward for a $66m deal to get three of the nation’s four big banks into post offices. The deal was announced two years ago. An “award”, she claims. For three quarters of success? Imagine if they’d cracked the whole cartel. If she doesn’t front the inquiry? “She can go,” Scotty fulminates.

Glad is yet to resign, however. Lame-duck Premier of NSW, a state run by “colourful identities”, a Melbourne Cup field of spivs, shonks, shock-jocks and brown paper bag-men? What’s changed? Alan the Parrot Jones bullied Berejiklian into allowing The Everest Cup to be projected on to the sails of The Sydney Opera House in 2018.

Glad’s backers include the Waterhouse clan, producers of Fine Cotton (1984) featuring Bold Personality, a ring-in over 1500 metres at Eagle Farm badly disguised with white paint, peroxide and brown hair dye.

Glad’s in strife over pulling the Icac wool over her relationship with “not really a boyfriend”, Daryl Maguire, former Harvey Norman franchise manager and sofa salesman who swept her off her feet with his pillow talk about himself and his finances. “Woo-hoo” she says to a boast he makes of a fat profit. Not – Whoa!

But it’s not just about aiding and abetting. Berejiklian was in trouble once she knew Daryl was in business, writes Jack Waterford – even if, as she claims, she was studiously uninterested in the details. She had no right to assume that he was following the rules – and every responsibility to challenge his bragging about making money; check his register of interests.

Bedazzled by Daz, the premier has ended a fine romance with the people of NSW by testifying that her eight-year fling was not an intimate relationship – although the ICAC Act doesn’t require any specialised definition. and that although she hoped to marry him, her dangerous liaison with the dodgy Maguire was not serious enough to warrant introducing him to her family or friends. She kisses goodbye forever to the last shreds of her political credibility.

“Given that Daryl Maguire had a key to the Premier’s north shore home for many years, and while cohabitating came and went as he liked as recently as last month, doesn’t this demonstrate an intimate personal relationship and the Premier’s failure under the ministerial code of conduct to declare all of Daryl Maguire’s business interests?” asks acting parliamentary ethics watchdog, One Nation’s Mark Latham.

Yet all is not doom and gloom. Matty Cormann will be a shoo-in as OECD secretary given our heroic carbon chicanery. No-one in Paris will notice how The Announcement Artist, as Nick Feik calls Scott Morrison, a PM who makes it up as he goes along, stacks his hand-picked National COVID-19 Coordination Commission with fossil fuel shills led by a former Fortescue exec with their gas-led recovery boondoggle. Meetings are secret. It’s a cabinet-in-confidence- committee, a brazen fiction disputed by constitutional scholars.

Luckily, we’ve now got Abbott on the BOT (UK Board of Trade), an atavism revived by Theresa May in the faint hope that another talking shop will solve the problem of what to do post-Brexit. Tone can talk up all the unsold cheap coal we have lying around now that China has cancelled its orders. Barley, beef and wine? It’s important, says our, PM not to get ahead of ourselves. Let’s just see what evolves. Look backwards a bit. Jog on the spot. Pop down to Bunnings.

But how good are those carryover Kyoto credits? Not only can the Cormannator speak French, he can turn himself Green as a frog; happy to lie that we are on track with our Paris emissions reductions targets – when blind Freddy can see we’re not. Robert Hill’s cynical sophistry in Kyoto in ’97 is neither forgiven nor forgotten.

Big investors fear a catastrophic market crash, triggered by the China Virus, (as Uber-Sinophobe, Donald Trump derides Coronavirus) collides – in bad Feng-Shui-with a US Presidential Election, a monster baby-contest between Trump family mafioso Psycho Don and Joe Neoliberal, whose supporters include Big Pharma’s bagmen, banksters, property speculators and private equity and hedge fund managers who have kicked in $21m. Not being Trump boosts Joe’s appeal although he loses points for sniffing women’s hair.

“I need you very badly,” Joe Biden Jnr begs a hundred fat cat donors at the Carlyle Hotel in New York’s Upper East Side last summer “[If I’m elected president] No one’s standard of living will change, nothing fundamentally would change.” All cats crave routine. Fat cats especially. Joe promises the rich will get to keep the biggest slice of the pie; keep milking the till, rip off the poor; still win every trick in the game of mates.

But if grovelling goes down a treat with the top end of town, (Joe has at least thirty-two billionaires backing him, backing them,) his campaign returns the donation of George Kaiser whose fortune stems from stakes in oil and gas. Biden is not accepting contributions from fossil fuel industry executives.

Sadly, at the arse end of the world, as Keating found us, Albo is sucking up to Joel Fitzgibbon instead of asking him to join the Liberals or the Nats. Thursday brings report that Labor will back Morrison’s gas-led recovery scam to enrich Santos and fellow fossil fuel corporations while boosting domestic gas bills beyond working families’ budgets – as fugitive methane, 84 times more potent than CO2 warms our atmosphere.

Labor is endorsing the government’s economically and scientifically illiterate embrace of gas at the behest of opponents of climate action in the CFMEU’s mining and energy division and the right-aligned AWU. Australia now has bipartisan stupidity for an energy policy, write Bernard Keane and Glenn Dyer.

Could old Joe toad actually turn into liberal prince? His platform promises to boost unions, invest in green infrastructure and spend money on education. Biden also offers a public option for health insurance. Elizabeth Warren’s bankruptcy plan gets his blessing while he’s OK with partial forgiveness of student debt.

At least NASA astronaut Kate Rubins cast her vote for America’s next president, 408 kilometres above the Earth’s surface, from aboard the International Space Station.

A wag tweets “It’s easier for a white person to vote from space than for an African American or Latino to vote in their home zip code.”

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Trump is the architect of his own decline

Australia, Coca-colonial US satellite and missile guidance base is abruptly distracted from its Dear Leader’s sweet dream of a gas-led El Dorado; a nation great again with tax cuts and other handouts to the rich; a people soon to be joyously back at toil in workshop, sweatshop or even chook shed kit assembly- making things with our own hands again – manufacturing – when disaster befalls our great and powerful friend.

A dark angel hovers over Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC. A Sikorsky VH-92 Marine One helicopter, a giant, sinister, olive, tin dragon fly with white-top toupee livery oddly evocative of Trump’s combover, buzzes The White House Lawn, Friday.

The whopper chopper’s rotor blades’ force shreds plants and mulches grasses; plays hell with the presidential pompadour but what’s a military rescue mission without collateral damage? Cue shock, awe and suspense. And horror. Is the invincible, priapic, Pussy-grabber in Chief so stricken with ‘Rona he needs a helicopter medivac? Or has the Biden debate TKO’d the obese, sclerotic, seventy-four year old with hypertension?

Worse. Is this the beginning of the end for reality TV President Donald and the fawning claque of loyalist incompetents who make up his blighted, backstabbing, maladministration? Or is this just the end of the beginning of another cunning stunt? A twist in the plot? Trump trumped cos Corona is all reality and no show?

It’s certainly right on script, notes Megan McCardle in The Washington Post.

“The past four years have proceeded eerily as if they were being scripted by an HBO showrunner, complete with an antihero protagonist, and a deus-ex-machina pandemic, and the obligatory Helicopter Flight over the darkening D.C. skyline, all seemingly designed to revive fan excitement after viewers became jaded by the vulgar antics of the first few seasons.

With Trump, what’s certain is uncertainty. Fellow-kleptocrat Vladimir Putin’s patsy, Trump sows confusion. He’s an open-cut mine of disinformation. His tsunami of untruths, numbers 20,000 lies by 9 July, reports The Post, which keeps count on a large database. Above all, he’s an uber-kleptomaniac. It’s part of his malignant narcissism, a pathological inability to differentiate between himself and the rest of the world.

“The president can’t have a conflict of interest,” he claims. Human Rights Watch’s Sarah Saadoun sees the self-dealing Trump as a poster-boy for Kleptocracy International. (They have chapters everywhere – especially Canberra). Corruption cripples the state and reaches beyond achieving “transnational ripple effects”.

“Where there is impunity for official corruption,” writes Saadoun, “government itself becomes a means for the elite to enrich itself and silence its critics.” Morrison’s Covid Commission is a local example. Yet abusing your political office for personal profit is only part of the Trump strategy. Abusive relationships are key, also.

Late last year, as our own PM, Pauline Hanson, Hillsong Global Senior Pastor and founder, Brian Houston and other local Trump fanboys, who mentor Scott Morrison and who are under “ongoing” NSW police investigation will recall, the US Klepto-in-Chief was seeking to hold the G7 at his Miami resort. At business class rates. Currently, the Secret Service can pay up to $650 per night for rooms at Trump’s properties.

Trump’s outfit received $471,000 from the Secret Service between January 2017 and April 2018.

I thought I was doing something very good for our Country, Trump tweets, before upbraiding his critics for their Crazed and Irrational Hostility. Upholding the rule of law is irrational hostility? Trump is gas-lighting.

Gratuitous gas-lighting is a big hit with Trump fans. Two years ago, Jenna Price reports, Scott John Morrison told a range of people that bullying and harassment within the Liberal Party did not exist. Asked if he was 100 per cent confident bullying was not an issue in the federal parliamentary party, the PM replied: “I am.”

Clearly deluded, Julia Banks quit the party over it and Linda Reynolds, (a former defence industry lobbyist whose work for Raytheon in no way compromises her role as Defence Minister) was hallucinating when she thought she saw Liberal MPs bullying over the leadership spill orchestrated by Scott Morrison’s team but which Scott knew nothing about.

Gaslighting is an integral part of modern right wing politics, given the way the world stubbornly refuses to return to the 1950s and now neoliberalism’s absurdities are exposed, as state fiat conflicts with individual responsibility in our own local social distancing fiasco and our border wars.

Work experience Treasurer, Frydenberg, gaslights Andrew Probyn and ABC viewers Sunday. Hungarian Josh may change the subject but he never changes the lie that the high-taxing, high-spending Coalition is the party of lower taxes and spending. Or that tax cuts are a stimulus. Or that our economy was not tanking well before COVID-19. Or that a Morrison government is not just a junta of miners, banksters and business organisations.

But it takes stable genius, to blend useful idiocy and nepotism with tax fraud. The shit hits the fan for the Trump mafia with revelations that the Trump Organisation’s paid Trump’s daughter, Ivanka $747,622. There’s even talk of a criminal prosecution. Donald’s lily-white reputation is in peril. Conspiracy theorists go wild with the notion that Ole Bone Spurs’ fakes Covid to evade accountability. Not only is his hectoring of Joe Biden not even a debate, let alone presidential, he’s caught fiddling his tax return because Ivanka fudged the cover-up.

A consultancy fee for Ivanka pops up in The New York Times’ investigation of Trump’s tax returns. His daughter’s disclosure of receiving fees for consulting on hotel projects in Hawaii and Vancouver, British Columbia matches exactly the $747,622 which the Trump Organisation is claiming on its tax. By pretending that its employee, Ivanka Trump is, in fact, a consultancy firm. Not that the First Daughter received any money personally. Well, not technically. A company she co-owns banks the cheque.

Helping whittle down the family tax bill is only one of Ivanka Trump’s profitable roles in the Trump presidency of ever-declining vital signs. There’s the thirty-four lucrative Ivanka Trump “Yiwanka” trademark business deals in books, housewares, cushions and so much more in China way back when Xi Jinping and Trump were pals. The presidency is an Aladdin’s cave of business opportunities for godfather Trump and his family firm.

Ivanka is, moreover, senior adviser to her Daddy and architect of brilliant PR strategies such as his fabled St John’s Episcopal Church High Noon with Bible homage – after armed police clear the way by firing rubber bullets and tear gas at protestors – “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God.”

A sitting president commits a blasphemous act of aggression against his own people for the sake of a tacky photo op? Clearly, Ivanka has inherited her father’s “good genes”, his stable genius. But she excels herself Sunday with a PR coup – a drive-by (in an armoured, black, Chevrolet Suburban) royal wave to QAnon conspiracy theorists, followers of falsehoods, misinformation super-spreaders and other “great patriots” who picket Walter Reed Military Hospital to tell the world the President is a hero who has “god-tier genetics”.

Our MSM refer to the crowds as Trump’s “base” but QAnon is more than a fan club. They’re a fight club, too. Besides helping to spread dangerous disinformation about COVID-19, there is the fantasy that defeating COVID-19 will become just the latest thing to add to Trump’s “list of legendary feats. They’re hanging out on Wisconsin Avenue to get a ring-side seat at the fight of the century. Trump doesn’t disappoint.

Not everyone is as impressed. “Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary Presidential ‘drive-by’ just now has to be quarantined for 14 days,” tweets James P. Phillips, a Walter Reed doctor who is also a professor at George Washington University.

“They might get sick. They may die. For political theatre. Commanded by Trump to put their lives at risk for theatre. This is insanity.”

Insanity? Trump’s first pick for running mate in 2016, was Ivanka. As her father explained to bemused aides –

“She’s bright, she’s smart, she’s beautiful, and the people would love her!”’

That’s Rick Gates’ testimony. The former campaign deputy and first big fish indicted in Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference. It’s all in Gates’ Wicked Game which will also reveal,

“… how the current state of presidential politics is tearing apart the very fabric of our democracy.”

Ivanka talks her Dad out of making her his running mate. Republican Party cigar store Indian sans feather bonnet, Mike Pence, the Mick-Mack of US politics, gets the gig after his “vicious and extended monologue” bagging Hilary Clinton wins Trump over. A round of golf – in which Pence gushes that Trump, a notorious, blatant cheat, beat me “like a drum” – helps seal the deal. Trump treats Mike like a hick from the sticks.

A principle of perversity applies to Trump’s picks, a principle echoed by acolyte Scott Morrison in choosing for example, Angus Taylor, a climate denier, LNG advocate and carbon capture fantasist, for Energy and Emissions. Similarly, Sussan Ley is a Minister for an Environment who poses her own threat to biodiversity.

Let the UN warn that a million species across the world face extinction. Ms Ley says she is “concerned” about the problem, but doubts land clearing is to blame. Has she read her own government’s reports? Over 400 ecologists, including leading conservation scientists from Australia and around the world, issued a declaration in 2016 warning of the devastating impacts of land clearing on Australia’s biodiversity. The World Wildlife Fund says land clearing is the main cause of habitat loss in its Living Planet Report 2020.

But Ms Ley promises to cut green tape for big projects – just as Trump has done in the US. Despite opposition from environmental and indigenous groups, his administration exempts the Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska from a 2001 prohibition on commercial logging and other development.

The Tongass is an enormous carbon sink. Its store of carbon is equivalent to taking 650,000 cars off the road each year, Andy Moderow, Alaska director of the Alaska Wilderness League, estimates.

A fossil fuel lobbyist heads up America’s EPA, assisted in its toxic chemicals programme by an industry insider. Ken McQueen, a former oil executive, who pooh-poohs manmade global heating, is top Environmental Protection Agency official in the South-Central US, a fossil fuel industry hub and site of recent climate-driven disasters such as Hurricane Harvey. Trump’s made it much easier to drill for oil in national parks.

Similarly, Pence is a perfect fit on public health. A Big Tobacco stooge, he says in an opinion piece, “Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill.” Yet, two out of three smokers die from a smoking-related illness, according to medical research. Smoking kills half a million Americans a year.

As Governor of Indiana, the “cross-roads of America”, where intersecting highways mean increased risk of infection, Pence cut funds, forcing HIV test stations to close, banned needle exchanges and helped create the largest outbreak of HIV in state history. Who better to lead Trump’s coronavirus task force?

The VP’s performance has not been without incident. Pence’s use of his personal AOL account for State of Indiana business is eerily similar to Clinton’s abuse of protocol for which she is still mercilessly pilloried.

Totally different, Pence defenders snort. Yet Mike’s account was hacked into. Pence’s contacts were startled to receive desperate emails claiming Mike and Mother (as the VP insists on calling his wife, Karen) were attacked on their way back to their hotel in The Philippines and needed money urgently. A scammer claimed the Pences had lost all their money, bank cards and mobile phone. Luckily they still had their faith.

“Startling” and “extraordinary”, The Washington Post calls the mixed messaging over Trump’s health. Oddly, there is nothing remotely approaching Vice Presidential leadership from Pence or any official statement from the leader of the Trump Administration’s Coronavirus SWAT team. Is Pence too busy getting himself tested?

We do know that he believes God has a plan for him and that entails “servant leadership”.

“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave.” Yet we also know that when The Washington Post published the Access Hollywood tape in which Trump boasts of grabbing women “by the pussy”, 7 October 2016, Pence was contemplating a coup.

Should Trump die or become incapable of serving as President, Pence will step into his shoes. But that does not mean that he will automatically become the Republican Party’s candidate in 3 November. The Republican National Committee makes that decision. There is no question that Pence has his eyes on 2024.

Is Trump still alive? Has he been saved by a cocktail of experimental drugs? By Saturday, peak uncertainty is reached. Exceeded. Yet later that day, his doctor “clarifies”. Trump will stay at Walter Reed Military Hospital “for an indefinite number of days.” He’s placed on a five-day antiviral drug regimen for COVID-19. Evidently, Trump’s condition may be more serious than official briefings suggest. He has only himself to blame.

Trump is the single largest driver of false and misleading information about the coronavirus, report Cornell University researchers who publish a study this week showing that Russia’s chump makes up nearly 38 per cent of what they coyly describe as the overall “misinformation conversation,” based on 38 million articles in English language media around the world. Trump’s toxic bullshit covers eleven main topics, but the most prevalent, ironically, is his promotion of untested miracle cures, including anti-malarial and disinfectants.

Currently, the president is reported to be taking not one but two experimental treatments; a hint of panic in medical ranks. Saturday, a swarm of white coats from central casting, appear; an homage to Big Tobacco’s classic advertisements where doctors swear that smoking is good for you. Trump’s in great shape, they lie. He continues to improve, they claim since Saturday and could be released as early as Monday.

The team confirms Trump had lowered oxygen levels at one point. They won’t answer questions about whether the president has suffered lung damage. If this is their damage control, it has the opposite effect. Again Trump and his team have seen to that personally.

“We’re in an environment where conspiracies are thriving, in part because the president encourages them,” says Melissa Ryan, CEO of Card Strategies, a consulting firm that researches disinformation.

“And we have a White House comms operation that gives the press and public disinformation constantly.”

Yet, exercising reasonable scepticism is to miss the theatricality; the magical surrealism of Trump’s presidency. Above all, even down under, Trumpism entails the willing suspension of disbelief.

All eyes are on China Flu in The White House, a special effects episode of the epic TV soap that is the Trump Dynasty presidency – a perverse parody of Camelot, a festering wen of turpitude and lies in a dis-United States of degeneracy, deceit and greed presided over by huckster Donald Trump and his grasping, venal family.

“The president has never overnighted at a hospital before” squeaks an aide from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Overnighted? Trump’s boasts of invincibility already look sick. Delusional. Rapidly, the narrative becomes “a few days’ stay”. The hospital is named after the US Army doctor whose 1901 work on the role of mosquitoes in spreading yellow fever helped pioneer biomedicine and epidemiology.

Reed’s work also allowed the US to complete a Panama Canal which would make America a world economic powerhouse. Above all, by linking its growing Pacific power to its traditional Atlantic allies, the canal was a geopolitical strategy to make the United States the most powerful nation on earth. Now it’s a pariah nation, thanks in no small part to Trump’s foreign policy failures – and, of course, his administration’s coronavirus mismanagement.

Walter Reed is a thirteen minute drive away – the chopper on the White House lawn is overkill. Yet it adds some of the grand-standing, big-noting, big-hair, big-orange Bronx Colors brand face make up melodrama which fuels Trump’s tacky, stage-presidency.

Not to be overlooked, however, is Trump, the authoritarian’s fetish for all things military, currently echoed in our own PM’s incessant attacks on Dan Andrews who is constantly rebuked for failing to call in the ADF, thus causing Victoria’s corona-crisis.

In President Bone Spurs’ suite, reserved for high-ranking soldiers, distinguished draft-dodgers and other public heroes, the man who scorns the pandemic as a hoax and who mocks Joe Biden for wearing a face mask is lethargic. He has some trouble breathing and his blood oxygen levels have caused doctors some concern. Medical experts are divided. Some subscribe to the view that to be prescribed a cocktail of experimental drugs plus dexamethasone, means that Trump must be severely ill.

Dexamethasone is a steroid used to head off an immune system overreaction that kills many COVID-19 patients reports The New York Times. It is generally reserved for those with severe illness. Yet there is another equally plausible scenario. Trump himself is directing his own treatment. If he’s able to overrule doctors and visit fans in his SUV, he’s quite capable of ordering a hamburger with the lot.

Suddenly they’re throwing the kitchen sink at him, says Dr. Thomas McGinn, a top physician at Northwell Health, the largest health care provider in New York State.

“Is he sicker than we’re hearing, or are they being overly aggressive because he is the president, in a way that could be potentially harmful?” Or is Trump dictating his own medication regimen, oblivious to the risks of ingesting a cocktail of unproven drugs?

“Am I dying?” is one of the first questions Trump asks doctors at Walter Reed. The answer may be yes but it is just as likely at this stage, that the autocratic malignant narcissist is bossing the doctors around, demanding, as his right what he believes is the best of everything. He may have VIP Syndrome.

‘VIP syndrome,‘ describes a phenomenon in which medical treatment of a famous, powerful, or influential patient, even a celebrity president, is compromised precisely by the patient’s fame, power, or influence. Complications can arise when doctors are pressured into decisions which diverge from the normal routine of care into treatment which may ultimately turn out to be detrimental to the patient’s health.

Trump may, of course, already have compromised his health by choosing to leave the hospital in a drive-by flirtation with his deluded fans. The stunt has all the hallmarks of Ivanka’s direction but it may have been entirely his own idea. What we do know is those close to him would endorse if not applaud Trump’s latest act of genius. Such are the potentially deadly perils of surrounding yourself with yes-men – and women.

Whether Trump survives or not, there is the vexed question of his legacy. When he leaves the presidency it will be in far worse shape than he found it – but in the meantime – two hundred and ten thousand Americans have perished and 7.44 million are infected with the virus. This need not have been the case.

Had his administration shown leadership, or even competence, the tragedy of America’s coronavirus experience may have been averted or at least attenuated. Instead, like fellow narcissist and buffoon, Boris Johnson, Trump set a tone of hubristic denial and worse. He actively perpetrated disinformation, disparaged science, suppressed information, advocated bleach or hydroxychloroquine, sunlight and other quackery.

Of immediate concern are the lives of those workers in The White House and those members of the Republican Party who have been needlessly put at risk by a Presidency that is more than dysfunctional, more than corrupt and self-serving; a presidency that could not even acknowledge the need for basic precautions, such as the wearing of masks or social distancing let alone exercise its duty of protecting the American people.

Whether he recovers or not, Trump’s presidency is moribund; so utterly corrupted it is rotten to the core. Mendacity and recklessness are two of its worst traits, notes Frank Bruni. Add a third: Trump’s petty tyranny.

If you wanted the boss to be happy, you left your mask at home, report Annie Karni and Maggie Haberman of The White House’s top-down culture of fear. A staff too frightened to displease their boss cannot tell him the hard truths he needs to know. In the end, this is the illness that has undone Trump. He is the architect of his own decline.

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Stop the lies, Morrison. Your gas-led recovery is a toxic sham.

In any other universe, recovering from one public health crisis by worsening another would spark immediate backlash. An “asbestos led recovery” would be career-ending; as would a “tobacco led recovery” or a “AK-47 led recovery”. But fossil fuels have locked their harm so deeply into our lives that we have become desensitised to this incredible, radical significance of proposing to hurt humans as a pathway to helping them. What is happening here is simultaneously deadly and ludicrous. (Ketan Joshi Renew Economy).

In pristine white hard hat and air sea rescue orange Hi-Viz vest fluoro fancy dress, Scott Morrison is like some surreal, grotesquely upscaled, Lego minifigure in a budget horror movie as he bobs up like a turd in the surf off Nobby’s Beach to spruik his latest role as our national saviour in Santos and Origin’s Gas Chooses itself.

After spending a week singing an aria to himself and his government which gets things done – because “that’s what we do” as he tells Coalition toady, David Speers, on ABC Insiders, by Sunday, he’s changed his tune. His threat to build a massive new 1GW gas-fired power station to replace Liddell won’t be happening.

Yep. Scotty’s “can do” government can also undo. Why? Morrison bullshits about how private enterprise has saved us from yet another crisis. As if he’s talked them into it. Why, Energy Australia has a fabulous new gas-fired generator in the wings and – look over there – corporations have batteries and stuff just waiting to go.

No mention of Mike Cannon-Brookes who throws down the gauntlet, declaring he’ll bid for Liddell’s replacement if Scott Morrison can identify the rules of engagement. Calls Scotty’s bluff. Worse.

“Giant fossil fuel companies need subsidies to extract gas and export it? No they don’t, that is bullshit. So declare the rules of the game. That’s the way to get assets built.”

Bizarre? It’s what we’ve come to expect from a government which has no energy policy. Not a clue. But what a stunt! Trust Scotty to launch his gas-led recovery show in Tomago, home to another aluminium smelter, Coalition policy is helping to kill. It’s twenty-two minutes inland from coal terminal and post-industrial rust-bucket Newcastle. Described – along with winsome Wollongong – by John Quiggan as a “vibrant and diversified” regional centre, Newcastle has a ten per cent unemployment rate; a seventeen year low.

The Tomago smelter, one of the Hunter’s last big metal producers, is 51% owned by model corporate citizen, Rio Tinto. Drawing twelve per cent of NSW’s electricity, it’s the state’s biggest user. At mates’ rates, of course.

Our smelters typically rely on heavily subsidised coal-fired electricity with gas back-up plants. If they shut their doors, as Rio keeps threatening, power companies’ would have to shut a few generators down, too.

Tomago claims rising power prices will force it to close. But experts point to a glut of aluminium world-wide. China produces 62 per cent to our 3.3. In 2017, moreover, Tomago forged an eleven year baseload power supply contract deal with Macquarie Generation. AGL is plans to build a 250MW back up gas generator at Tomago but it costs three times as much to burn gas to make electricity than to burn coal.

Smelters account for sixteen per cent of greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector but there has been not a hint of any Coalition roadmap towards encouraging the industry to adopt renewables. Conspicuously lacking from Morrison’s roadmap is any acknowledgment that unless Australian industry invests in green energy then it will decline along with fossil fuels.

“Australia is one of the world’s most emissions-intensive aluminium producers. Deployment of renewable electricity is a path out of this quagmire, and the rapid fall in cost of renewables makes it more viable than ever before.” Clark Butler reports for The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA)

Simon Holmes à Court argues, Tomago’s crippled by Coalition incompetence; politicised mismanagement.

Australia’s four aluminium smelters are salvageable. They also offer stability to our national grid. Above all, they provide employment and support whole communities. They will be scrapped because Morrison’s government won’t admit that renewable energy is the key to their future. Will it clean up its act? Phase out fossil fuels as soon as possible? Pigs might fly. Instead the PM has a surreal cop-out, “Gas Chooses Itself”.

Sure it does. Despite being flogged as a transition fuel, gas is not good for the environment. Morrison’s messaging on gas originates in US industry bodies and think tanks. The fantasy that gas is a “transition fuel” or a “bridge” to renewables stems from the 1990s. The spin was fabricated by the American Gas Association as more evidence emerged on global warming.

Crikey’s David Hardaker refers to Marian Wilkinson’s The Carbon Club which traces the influence of US fossil fuel lobbyists to 1997 when the Frontiers of Freedom Foundation fossil lobbyists arrived in Canberra to work us over before we sent our representatives to cheat at Kyoto – “It’s not global and it won’t work.”

Wilkinson’s book begins by noting that when Tony Abbott became PM, a raft of legislation was introduced to shut down everything from the emissions trading scheme, the CEFC and the Climate Change Authority. Tim Flannery recalls being sacked from the Climate Commission. It was the first act of the Abbott government and Flannery doubts that cabinet had even met. Morrison’s leadership is still appeasing the same push.

As for (mainly methane) natural gas being any type of bridge to renewables, the notion is risible. If fully unleashed, Australia’s gas resources could be responsible for up to three times the annual carbon emissions of the entire world, reports The Australia Institute in a landmark new report, Weapons of Gas Destruction.

“Gas is a high-pollution industry that won’t create jobs while unleashing triple the world’s annual emissions into the atmosphere. To say it is ‘lose-lose’ is an understatement,” concludes Climate and Energy Program director, Richie Merzian.

Of course Gas Chooses Itself is a winner for the gas industry which is a huge user of gas, burning twice as much gas as Australian households and nearly as much as our manufacturing sector. But ScoMo’s no fool.

The plot reworks an old routine. Santos and Origin make a mozza from rigging the already extortionate price of gas. Laugh all the way to the bank. Demand booms, thanks to the Coalition’s, Gas-led Recovery Plan. Santos and Origin also rake in millions in subsidies for their Pythonesque carbon capture and storage (CCS) scam.

CCS is ludicrous. Capture, transport and bury millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide from coal power plants? How good is Peabody Coal’s propaganda unit? US Coal baron Robert Murray freely admits that CCS is baloney. A fantasy. Murray says CCS is a con. It ‘does not work’ and ‘is just cover for the politicians.’

Trust Scotty to promise a con that the UN Development program says would “arrive on the battlefield far too late to help the world avoid dangerous climate change”. Bush fire victims know all about his late arrivals.

CCS is expensive and impracticable. Not only is energy wasted burying carbon, retrofitting a 2100-megawatt brown coal-fired power station in Victoria would “conservatively” cost a whopping $2.45 billion per boiler.

Governments showered $1.3 billion on CCS from 2007-13 with not one commercial working model to show for the money, but “simp” Scotty from marketing believes in it; he’ll surely find a bit extra in the kitty for his mining pals. Cut back on social services, hospitals and widows’ pensions. Incentivise self-reliance.

Scotty’s chosen the right setting to announce his gas-fired delusion. Newcastle is spiritual godfather to our state of the art asylum-seeker gulags and our perverse delight in punishing the elderly, infirm and those out of work. Debit where debit is due, our PM himself, was quick to back our Robodebt extortion scam which led some pensioners to take their own lives. Over 2000 people died after receiving Centrelink debt notices.

Yet their debts outlived them. Anastasia McCardel received a call from a Centrelink in May. Told her son Bruce owed $6,744.52. When would she repay his debt? Bruce had died six months earlier, in November 2018, aged 49. He was born with Noonan syndrome, a genetic condition that affects the heart and other vital organs.

You can’t just blame Scott Morrison. Success has many fathers. Failure is an orphan. As treasurer in 2016, former social services supremo, Morrison was supported by Christian Porter, Alan Tudge and Stuart Robert, who were high-fiving and jiving at the promise of automated welfare debt recovery. But not this week.

The Federal Court learns at a pre-trial hearing on Monday that Gordon Legal plans to argue that Big Al Tudge, who was Human Services minister in 2016-17, either knew or was “recklessly indifferent” to the fact the botched program was unlawful. Luckily Tudge, is tied up at the moment explaining how he had nothing at all to do with the taxpayer paying $30 million for a $3 million parcel land for a Sydney airport.

The Australian National Audit Office finds that the federal government bought land from dairy farmer and Liberal Party donor, Leppington Pastoral Company, at 10 times its market value while developing Western Sydney Airport. Urban Infrastructure Minister, Tudge has a stunning reverse Nuremberg alibi.

There “is no question of ministerial involvement”, he swears. The matter “goes to the administrative actions of the department, more than two years ago”. Doubtless Big Al will quickly get Robodebt to retrieve the overpayment from Leppington Pastoral. The letter threatening debt collection’s already in the mail.

Beyond the joy it gives our MPs to further impoverish men and women struggling to exist on forty dollars a day by imposing debt repayments, while fat cats in our gas industry cartel get massive handouts, double punishment is a tradition: like double standards, it is rooted deeply in our convict colony origins.

Newcastle, like Norfolk Island, was a penal settlement inside a penal colony – or a place of secondary punishment for convict re-offenders until 1813. For nearly 20 years, wayward convicts were flogged amidst idyllic natural beauty, a place where summers are warm and humid and winters are short and cool. Plants flourished in fertile, soft, absorbent carbon rich soils until cloven-hoofed sheep and cattle ruined them.

Punishment, however, is perennially problematic. Although it was easy to dispense, flogging was not foolproof. It often killed the convict or reduced his capacity to work. Furthermore, when convicts were unable to work because they had been flogged, they needed to be flogged again for not working.

Similarly, job-seekers cut off from all extra support on New Year’s Day 2021 will need to present themselves at job interviews they can’t afford to attend – having frittered away their recklessly generous work incentive-sapping allowances on op-shop clothing, fares, haircuts and the chore of having to feed themselves.

Or pay the gas bill.

Unemployed or underemployed workers are already punished by the humiliation of having to apply for jobs under the Job Active scam, a privatised “job-provider” service they may not be able to get to and double punished should they not attend. Their meagre payments can be suspended. Meanwhile, Rick Morton estimates that job-providers have banked $500 million of taxpayers money during the pandemic.

But Morrison’s got that covered. As he explains, gas will bring back jobs. At least for a few mates. Scotty’s role has a touch of the post-apocalyptic zombie as he helps the Liberal Party’s craven mining oligarchy mates prop up dying coal and gas industries as they collude to cook the planet and snuff out life as we know it.

Left-leaning, (as our national media love to dub any outfit not funded by our barons of industry) Grattan Institute calculates that ScoMo’s gas led recovery” would benefit fewer than 1% of Australian manufacturing jobs currently in gas-intensive industries. The report is leaked to the left-leaning The Guardian Australia.

15 facilities that together employ just 10,000 people consume two-thirds of gas used in manufacturing.

“There are almost no jobs in [gas] … If we were going to see a massive boom in gas-based manufacturing, we should be seeing it right now. And we’re not seeing it,” says The Grattan Institute’s Tony Wood.

Gas Chooses Itself features our elected representatives tipping buckets of public money into a failing private cartel. Origin and Santos. Scotty promises subsidies of $52.9m, support to “open up” five new gas basins and a beaut new National Gas infrastructure plan.

His announcement sounds eerily similar to a leaked paper from a working party of his gas-industry dominated cabal, the National Covid Coordination Commission (NCCC) which meets in secret under the stewardship of nifty Nev Power to further its own interests under the guise and confidentiality of a cabinet committee.

But there’s more. Santos and Origin will be subsidised under the carbon capture and storage boondoggle. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency will be tweaked so it can fund CCS, a scam which has already cost us a fortune. He’ll also kill off innovation, undermine renewable energy and prop up costly failing fossil fuels, warns Christine Milne, global Greens ambassador and former leader of the Australian Greens.

The world’s largest coal port, Newcastle’s is also NSW’s post-industrial rust belt: 4000 manufacturing jobs vanished since 2015. Green steel made with hydrogen is the answer says The Grattan Institute. Not coal. Nor gas. Hydrogen is also proposed for aluminium smelting. But you can’t tell the PM anything. He’s out overacting again; hamming it up in his blokey construction costume; lying about gas and coal.

Talk about miracle Morrison. Gas will bring back Australian manufacturing (like Lazarus from the dead).

He’ll say anything. On ABC Insiders, he tells David Speers that “Gas has chosen itself” just in case you think his decision has anything to with his secret cabal of gas industry barons cunningly dubbed his Covid Commission. Coal is the key way to keep electricity prices cheap he bullshits.

“In Australia, you cannot talk about electricity generation and ignore coal,” he rants in his pants on fire plan.

Coal, Morrison says, will not only “continue to play an important role in our economy for decades to come”, but “with new technologies such as carbon capture and storage continuing to improve, it will have an even longer life”. New? Continue to improve? CCS has never worked. KFC employs more of us than thermal coal.

The proportion of the total workforce employed in thermal coal is one quarter of one per cent of our total workforce of twelve million – or around 20-25,000. The ABS calculates, on the other hand, that 20,000 of us work in renewable energy activities.

Oddly Scotty doesn’t mention steel. While one in five local youngsters are seeking work, the steel town is in the Hunter whose iconic thermal-coal-mines employ at best five per cent of NSW’s workforce, whatever its MP, Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Resources, Joel Fitzgibbon wants us to believe. Or Morrison or Matthew Canavan whose brother is big in coal mining for that matter. And thermal coal is plunging to an average price of $60-70 a metric tonne from $100 in January.

Peabody plans to sack half its workforce at Wambo, blaming Coronavirus but demand for coal is dropping in Europe and the US while China is using more domestic coal and less of the more expensive imported black rock, especially from Australia. Aping Trump’s poke a panda policy is costing us dearly.

Even so, why does, our Trumpista PM head to coal central to promise his preposterous gas-led recovery?

Could it be just bastardry? Fitzgibbon is Labor’s shadow minister for resources. So entrenched is Labor bashing that already 9 News is crowing about a Labor split over gas. This is part of Morrison’s crafty plan.

So, too is the nobbling of any emissions target. The government’s position is not to have a position.

“The renewable energy target is going to wind down from 2020, it reaches its peak in 2020, and we won’t be replacing that with anything,” climate denialist Energy Minister Angus Taylor boasts.

But what’s this? Not even Simon Benson is in attendance, Tuesday – Scotty from marketing heroically risks anti-climax or exposing his signature, saponaceous, insincerity. Of course, his list of talking point slogans, boasts and empty promises is dropped to every media outlet in the land – and beyond – his government is gunner,

“… reset the east coast gas market … create a more competitive and transparent Australian Gas Hub by unlocking gas supply, deliver an efficient pipeline and transportation market, and empower gas customers.”

Perhaps it’s prudent that, he holds no “How good is gas?” presser afterwards. Embracing Big Gas as our saviour, creating jobs and driving down prices, may trigger a repeat of his Cobargo bushfire reception where he was run out of town.

Of course, crocodile teary Scotty could still be smarting from his rebuke over bullying Annastacia Palaszczuk to secure a quarantine exemption for Sarah Caisip to attend her stepfather’s funeral in Queensland. Palaszczuk’s office reports Morrison shouting down the phone, “You will do this.” Then there’s his politicising private grief.

In an open letter to the PM, Caisip’s stepsister Alexandra Prendergast excoriates Morrison for using her grieving family “to try and advance your political agenda”. But Morrison will stop at nothing.

As Christine Milne opines in The Guardian Australia, as she calls out the government’s wilful sabotage of its renewable energy agency, there is one certainty you can rely on in Australia. “Namely the Morrison government’s championing of fossil fuels, relentless attacks on renewable energy, lies about its commitment to emission reductions, openness to fossil fuel donations and sabotaging any institutional framework that works in driving investment in the technologies desperately needed to get us to a zero emissions future.”

It’s a calculated snub. If Morrison intended to do anything about emissions or energy he would not have Angus Taylor as Energy and Emissions Minister. But how good is Gus at browning off greenies?

Whether it’s poisoning endangered grasses or trashing Clover Moore’s environmentalism by falsely accusing her of jet-setting based on a web document no-one’s been able to find, go-getter Gus is always on the go. Like his PM, he’s all for “moving on – I’ve dealt with that.”

Don’t even try to bring up the $79 million, Eastern Australia Irrigation, his Cayman Island registered company made in 2017 from selling overland flow water licences, on its Clyde and Kia Ora farms after the same sort of water at two southern Queensland cotton farms, nearby, was valued at zero.

OK, Barnaby Joyce signed off on the record closed tender deal. But he was only the Water Minister at the time. And, as he tells ABC’s Pats Karvelas, any claims of any wrongdoing are “an absolute load of horse poo.” Curiously, his puerile protest is repeated in every major daily and every online regional newspaper in the land.

This week, Taylor and Morrison send the whole country back to the future with a gas-led recovery plan boondoggle: a plan to have a plan to sell us methane – always spun as “natural gas” king – along with a vision of a West-East trans Australia pipeline. But, wait, there’s more. Before, seven days’ later, it’s revoked.

A state-run, gas-fired power plant will replace Liddell in Hunter, Joel Fitzgibbon’s electorate. If need be. Only a week later, it’s not. Morrison’s “major speech” on energy policy is a tour de force of absurdist theatre. If it ain’t broke, don’t mean we won’t bullshit about fixing it. And if it’s broke, don’t mean we can’t make it worse. Gas powered electricity will only serve to push up prices and help cook an overheated globe.

“We are in the ludicrous situation of having a gas policy we don’t need, and none of the climate policy that we actually do,” warns The Saturday Paper’s Mike Seccombe.

Yet Taylor’s on thin ice. Only two years ago, Gufee Pty Ltd (as Angus James Taylor calls himself in his personal private company) was colluding over sushi, tempura washed down with a frosty XXXX Gold at Kagawa in Dickson, to install Spud Dutton and topple Kermit Turnbull, the PM his deluded opponents see as a Green-Left Galaxy mole, according to Morrison stenographer at The Australian, Simon Benson.

Liberal renegade Mal’s NEG emissions target is the last straw. Benson claims a senior cabinet minister blabs,

“I have been wrong all along. I thought he should have joined the Labor Party. Turns out he should have joined the Greens.” Yet not one Liberal opposed Turnbull’s $1.75m donation to help buy it the 2016 election.

But the coup proves a fiasco. Numbers man, Matthias Cormann can’t add up. Dutton’s cabal is stooged by another player. Spud’s weights are put up by party race fixer, soapy ScoMo, whose followers first fake a plunge on Dutton, to force a spill only to change their votes to Morrison in a second ballot.

Disraeli called soapy Sam Wilberforce, unctuous, oleaginous, saponaceous, in the 1860 Oxford evolution debate. He could have been describing our current PM. But only if he overlooked the killer instinct.

No good deed goes unpunished in Scotty’s playbook. Duttonista Gus finds his mind greatly exercised now that Scotty’s just slipped Spud a political Novichok cocktail. Dutton will find his new dog’s breakfast of Defence and Border Force just as unworkable as Turnbull’s Home Affairs of federal police, ASIO, Australian Border Force, immigration, counterterrorism and emergency management.

Samuel Johnson knew a thing or two about Taylor’s likely frame of mind, “Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”

Morrison’s not going to push Gus under a bus tomorrow but pushing him out on stage and praising him as a deep thinker; the intellectual heavyweight of the Coalition energy team cannot bode well. The PM’s hyperbole is damning.

“He brings an enormous amount of intellect and experience to these tasks.”

“What we are speaking of today really is the extraordinary work that Angus has done in this portfolio as energy and emissions reduction.”

Some accuse Gus of being a lightweight. Or dilatory. But that would be to wilfully misread our political class. True, seven years down the track, the Coalition has no energy policy. But that’s its policy. Just as Morrison’s way of dealing with the pandemic and a collapsing economy is business as usual.

So calamity Taylor takes a gas axe to renewables this week. Bugger the planet. Gunner Morrison’s fossil fuel energy and noxious emissions minister can’t say when or how but he’s in the job to profit the Liberal Party’s mining industry mega-donors. Crony capitalism. Scott’s been promising we’re gunner have a gas-led recovery. Or snap-back as our ruling elastic band of Liberal toadies and big business and banking sycophants has it.

But Gus is not all gaseous catastrophe, however much the assonance appeals to Katharine Murphy. To Murpharoo, Scott Morrison’s power plan is nothing but a gas-fuelled calamity. A rump in the government even protests Morrison’s prioritising of gas over coal, as David Crowe reminds the rapidly declining readers of Nine newspapers Friday. Labor’s Joel Fitzgibbon is cheering them on. Yet things could turn bad in November.

Perhaps Morrison’s been tipped off that Russian interference in the US Presidential election, will confer victory upon Trump, the useful idiot who has been putty in the hands of American fossil fuel barons.

The alternative is sobering. “The Biden administration will impose carbon adjustment fees or quotas on carbon-intensive goods from countries that are failing to meet their climate and environmental obligations.”

Or as Peter Brent writes, “Australian global warming politics is broken. If we’re too hopeless to price our carbon, someone else should price it for us.”

Pulling the pin on wind and solar? News this week confirms hard-nosed investors have taken flight; fled the electricity generating field by the gigajoule, which is how you measure the energy content in natural gas if you can afford any. Utility scale generation of green energy dropped by half during 2019 thanks to “Herbicide” Taylor’s climate-denialist sabotage of our children’s futures. But you can’t blame him for our gas cartel which fixes prices to suit itself and which is not even obliged to let the government know its reserves.

If you want affordable Australian gas, best emigrate to Japan. Customers in Japan buy Australian gas more cheaply than we can, reports Michael West. Some of this gas is drilled in the Bass Strait, piped to Queensland, turned into liquid and shipped 6,700 kilometres to Japan … but the Japanese still pay less than Victorians. It’s enough to drive a family back to burning dung. Two billion people worldwide swear by it.

But you’d be hard pressed to pick our venture capitalists’ mass stampede. All round business investment is plummeting. Bernard Keane reckons it’s at 2010 levels – propped up only because China is smiling on our mining exports. For the time being. Poking the Panda may look cute to our US overlords but China is poking back. Private investment in infrastructure has dipped to 2006 levels. Blind panic seizes our intrepid profiteers. After seven years of obstruction, obfuscation and chicanery – and Abbottising of our energy policy

It’s no mean feat. Renewables are hugely profitable compared to fossil. Yet ensuring the bottom falls out of investment in safe, clean power generation in the land at the arse-end of the world, as Keating fondly called his home, is the one enduring achievement of Scotty’s kakistocracy. Gus Taylor, take a bow.

True, Snowy 2.0 is still in the frame, despite a $10bn cost blowout, experts warn, but like Fizza Turnbull’s other dud, his high speed fibre to the node NBN, now fourth slowest in the OECD and one of the most expensive in the world, Snowy 2.0 is shaping to be another gigantic white elephant.

A Dear John letter from a group of no fewer than thirty-seven eminent Australian energy, engineering, economic and environmental experts, reaches Teddy Kunkel former Rio Tinto lobbyist and other former mining industry executives and coal lobbyists who dominate Scott John Morrison’s office Friday.

“It is now even more clear that there are numerous alternatives that are lower cost, more efficient, quicker to construct, and incur less emissions and environmental impacts,” the letter warns. AEMO forecasts that “inefficient, unnecessary and damaging Snowy 2.0” will never pay for itself; nor be needed until the 2030s, when emerging technologies like battery storage and demand response will have come into their own.

Unless you are a gas or coal baron, that is. Then you can count on gorgeous Gus, the Morrison government’s high-maintenance Energy and Emissions Minister to bring home the bacon; put a bit of pork on your fork.

Luckily, pumping water uphill will still require a shitload of fossil fuel so mining companies will still do well out of the twelve billion dollar pipe dream – especially big donors Santos, Origin and Woodside who funnel money into Liberal Party coffers. So what if Snowy 2.0’s pumped hydro will hike power prices and diminish supply?

Has Gus pulled the plug? Star of byzantine epic “Watergate”, featuring fellow silvertail and veteran game of mates grifter and Nats’ sideshow carnival barker, Barnaby Joyce, “Grassgate” a Tarantino homage to herbicide as an obliging Environment Minister, played by Josh Frydenberg helps Gus farewell some of the last remnants of all-but extinguished temperate grasslands and the whodunnit “Clovergate” fake document download scandal knows how to power down. In renewables, that is.

Less than two years after his PM set him up as muppet for our mining barons, aka Energy and Emissions Minister, silvertail Gussie’s buggered new wind and solar farm start-ups from near-record highs to near-record lows. Only three new projects reached completion in the last quarter – and 90 per cent of that capacity came from a single solar farm courtesy of the Queensland Labor government.

Morrison’s theatre of the absurd energy policy show is no roadmap to lower emissions, cheaper power or more jobs. It is just another calculated insult to those who have worked to honour our Paris agreement; to those who have worked tirelessly to decarbonise our economy. The rug has been pulled out unceremoniously because that’s what Scotty does best. And he’s been watching his mentor and enfant terrible Trump.

Scotty’s right wing coal warriors such as Matt Canavan may be appeased – for five minutes – Nats with interests or mates with interests in the gas industry may tolerate the sociopath and bully in him a little better, while his embrace of gas will appease key Liberal Party donors. Above all, Morrison will shrewdly have done the bidding of his cabal of mining industry executives under the guise of a coronavirus recovery plan while setting up Angus Taylor to take the blame when the inevitable repercussions are felt.

Best of all he will wedge Labor over their policy on gas.

Where it will all go pear-shaped is when gas becomes even less affordable and fails to provide jobs, let alone fulfil his rash and glib promise of bringing back a manufacturing sector – now around ten per cent of the economy – that neoliberal ideology is helping to banish forever. Emissions will continue to climb. The need for “new technology” he preaches will be exposed as a sound-bite sham. There are no new technologies that need to be developed to be decarbonised. There are, however, sports rorts yet to be accounted for.

Worse, Morrison may be exposed as a bare-faced liar as CCS is seen to be a coal industry fiction and an expensive indulgence of powerful party mates as the economy further contracts in 2021 with his ill-advised and inhumane cutting back on pensions for those out of work and those unable to work given their disabilities. The Panda factor can only exacerbate a downturn in our trade in a Coronavirus recession world

Trade with China is suffering because of Morrison’s witless desire not only to align with Trump’s trade war with Beijing but to enlist as an active belligerent. China will do us slowly write Crikey’s Michael Sainsbury. Unemployment and underemployment will soar in the New Year. Morrison has already alienated thousands of university teachers. His promised IR reforms threaten to make a bad system worse. As Dennis Atkins warns,

The all too apparent human toll of this insecurity is not enough to deter the Morrison Government from its determination to further deregulate the labour market.

The “energy roadmap” in all its intellectual and moral poverty is studded with disinformation. Despite what he claims, for example, renewables can’t “stand on their own two feet”. The Prime Minister’s gaslighting merely underlines his abdication of responsibility; his failure to provide real leadership when it was most needed.

Morrison may already have neutralised rivals, Dutton and Taylor but he will rapidly lose the confidence of MPs in marginal seats and despite his daggy dad routines; his carefully orchestrated relentless curry and cubby home-loving hubby PR campaign, voters are not mugs. They know when they’re being taken for a ride.

It may take a while given our Murdoch orchestrated cheer squad that is the mainstream media but truth will out. Especially when you can’t get work or the hours you need to put food on the table and pay the rapidly rising power bills the Prime Minister falsely promised his gas-led recovery would reduce.

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Just who are the losers and suckers, Mr Trump?

“Trump puts his stamp on the politics of other countries … both overtly and subtly. Populists, nationalists and authoritarians look to Trump and know that they may proceed unchecked. Countries more committed to the decades-long liberal international order scramble to respond to scrapped cultural, institutional, diplomatic and policy norms.” (Mary Jo Murphy The Washington Post).

Donald Trump, a silver-spoon buffoon who got away with the biggest con job in modern history, a type of Gordon Gekko, the character who had a moral bypass at birth, was set to play himself in the 2010 sequel to Oliver Stone’s Wall St: Money Never Sleeps but his outrageous demands – most of which were to do with his hair – were so over the top that his scene – in which Trump bumps into Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) in a barber shop – ended up on the cutting room floor.

Mega-diva Donald’s bizarre list of demands include forcing a contract upon everyone in the scene not to touch his topknot. Hair today, gone tomorrow, Donald, just read Samson and Delilah, Judges 16.

Today, Trump’s hair is causing more grief. Again, it may cause him to fail to make the final cut; cost him re-election in November. His fear that his combover would come unstuck in the rain caused him to abort his 2018 chopper ride to honour American soldiers slain in battle. Now it threatens his re-election.

Trump pulled the pin on a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018. Rain forced his last-minute cancellation, he lies “the helicopter couldn’t fly” and Secret Service wouldn’t drive him there. Another lie. The truth is more prosaic. Trump feared that rain would mess with his hair and makeup; undermine the pompadour he teases over his bald pate, to say nothing of his waterproof foundation which Washington Post pundits believe to be Bronx Color – a fourteen euro Swiss cosmetic.

Fear of cosmetic or wardrobe malfunction can paralyse public figures. Doubtless, after his “I shall return”, uttered not in The Philippines but in fact back at Terowie Train Station Alice Springs, Douglas McArthur added “but only if it’s not raining and I still look good in a bomber jacket with slacks”.

Trump’s re-wind is contradicted by four first-hand witnesses’ evidence, painstakingly recorded by Jeffrey Goldberg, editor in chief of The Atlantic, who pursues the president’s total incomprehension of patriotism, service and sacrifice since Trump attacked the late senator John McCain’s war record.

“We’re not going to support that loser’s funeral,” Trump rages, despite being not invited, report witnesses. Washington’s navel-orange-in-chief, President Trump sees White House flags at half-mast.

“What the fuck are we doing that for? Guy was a fucking loser,” Trump tells his claque; the bitching, backstabbing, festering, toadying grovel of sycophants, formerly White House aides who him prop up. The White House flag is back at full mast Monday morning – before being lowered again Monday afternoon – up and down like the zipper on JFK’s chinos; or a media whore’s drawers.

Time wounds all heels, however. In an age of pivot and spin, what’s certain is that by 20 January 2025, Trump’s enablers will be exposed. And even his most powerful collaborators have bound their fate to his.

As to the lies Trump told when cancelling his visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018 at the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the original Armistice Day, they won’t fly.

First, Marine One, the Presidential helicopter can’t fly in the rain? It’s almost plausible. Yet the weather has to be extremely cold, with risk of icing up or risk of thunderstorms. Neither was the case. Moreover, former aides confirm there’s always a back-up plan. Luckily The Secret Service won’t blab. For now.

Crippling vanity aside, Trump’s larger concern is his own toxic turpitude. Let his deluded following ignore the Coronavirus pandemic, there is no escape from the pox of Trumpism itself, now endemic in so many bodies politic including our own federal government – brought into being by the same forces which helped to take us from greed is good to greed is God, the Hillsong heresy. Trump is an enabler.

For Hungary’s neo-fascist PM, Viktor Orban who, like his US mentor, favours rule by decree, Donald Trump represents “permission” from “the highest position in the worldTyrants all over the globe from Brazil’s “strongman”, Jair Bolsonaro, to Cambodia’s fascist Hun Sen, or Scott Morrison, Trump’s mini-me down under, are vastly encouraged by the US President’s increasing disdain for the rule of law.

“I not only weaken the opposition, I’m going to make them dead … and if anyone is strong enough to try to hold a demonstration, I will beat all those dogs and put them in a cage.” Hun Sen boasts 2011 on suggestion he should be worried about the overthrow of a Tunisian dictator in the “Arab Spring”.

Whilst his captain’s-picked cabal of gas company executives and mining industry shills, the oxymoronic Covid-19 Co-ordination Commission, led by former Fortescue top dog, deputy chair of Strike Energy, nifty Nev Power meets in secret to plot pipe-dreams in pursuit of the chimera of a gas-led recovery and the stranded assets of new, uneconomic pipelines, Morrison steps on the gas.

Oxymoronic? There is no federal co-ordination. Morrison’s tactic is to politicise the pandemic. Relentlessly he bags Daniel Andrews for ruining the national economy with his frivolous lockdowns.

MSM continues the assault, taking its lead as always from Liberal propaganda organ The Australian. Show us your road map, he chants. Shrewdly he writes a threatening letter to the Victorian Premier attaching Frydenberg and Hunt’s names to his own. It will help him with a talking point evading responsibility; shifting the blame. Scotty, you are a born leader. Not only that you are our nation’s saviour, reminding us that we are all in this together.

In fact, Morrison is using the pandemic to divide and conquer. He ridicules Victoria’s effort because Dan’s health workers are just crap at contact tracing. Just look at Australia’s gold standard, New South Wales.

Overlooking the federal government’s Ruby Princes debacle is not easy but Morrison is brazen. It will be his undoing. Cases may well rise in NSW. The state’s contact tracing may be more thorough because it has fewer cases. If the number spikes it could all change. The Kirby Institute’s Infectious diseases expert, Raina McIntyre, points out that Victoria’s health system has been cut to the bone.

“When it comes to public health infrastructure and resources per head of population, Victoria is much worse off than any other state in Australia,” she says.

“Victoria is just a shell of a system, it’s just been decimated, and that’s fine in the good times, you can get by on a minimal model, but when there’s a pandemic all those weaknesses are exposed.”

McIntyre stops short of tracing the neoliberal origins of the state’s poor health system. “Economic rationalisation” under Jeff Kennett’s Liberal Coalition government during the 1990s devastated the Victoria’s health care system. Of course, Kennett claimed it was all Labor’s fault.

In microcosm, Kennett’s attack parallels the Morrison government’s upcoming austerity budgeting federal solution. Labor governments plunge the state into deficit, therefore “reforms” must be made. Kennett pursued a radical privatisation. Public services were contracted out to private operators, an approach which has helped cripple the state’s health care system, today.

Labor is to blame? Scapegoating is in full swing. Ben Fordham appears on ABC The Drum to spread the rumour that Andrews will resign. “People are saying that Dan Andrews is contemplating his future.”

The PM presses the pedal to the metal. It’s total war on every front – Labor, international student farming, The Arts, arts and humanities, which the federal government sees as hotbeds of sedition, Super, especially industry super. But as Crikey’s Guy Rundle observes, nothing it does leads “to any conclusion other than that everything can be trashed to get a political edge.” Pure Trumpism in other words.

Trump’s war on Democrats and the media gives dictators like Hun Sun an alibi for their own attacks on the opposition, protest and freedom of the press. When, in 2014, Morrison devised his Cambodian solution, to handball 1000 refugees from our care, blithely outsourcing our obligation to provide asylum under international law, Australia told the south-east Asian nation it needed to stop its military from killing street protesters, violently crushing political opposition and detaining people without trial.

But it didn’t stop the deal – one of Morrison’s follies, abandoned, out of sight and out of mind. Another thing “we are not here today to talk about” if reporters dare raise the issue at a presser. After Australia’s caution, Cambodia’s government has continued to crush dissent. And the Opposition.

“Videos of police dragging peaceful protesters on the street and forcibly jamming them into vehicles should raise global concern for police abuse in Cambodia,” says Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director. “The authorities should immediately end violent tactics against peaceful protesters and respect the rights to free expression and assembly.” Yet Trump undermines all that.

When the US embassy in Phnom Penh joins condemnation, Hun Sen calls on Trump to overrule his staff, “Your policy has been changed, but the embassy in Phnom Penh has not changed it yet,” he says.

Dictators feel affirmed by Trump’s trashing of the media; his fake news. His contempt for such basic democratic principles as the right of US Democrats to vote. Or how he urges supporters to vote twice. Or how he’s preparing to demand that all postal votes be scrapped because they shouldn’t count.

The Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland notes, Trump’s seen data that predicts postal voters are more likely to support Biden. On 4 November, he’ll demand that tens of millions of postal votes be disallowed – leaving only votes cast on election day, from which Trump reckons he could achieve a narrow victory.

Poster-boy for petty despots and crazed crackpots world-wide, a monster man-baby whose name now surfaces as a rallying cry or potential “liberator” to Germany’s neo-Nazis and other far right extremists, America’s paranoid conspiracy theorist in chief; malignant narcissist and pathological liar, Trump is not, of course, responsible for the decline in freedom around the world. Yet he is an accelerant.

Now he “pivots” into damage control. Despite a wealth of evidence to the contrary, he denies he ever called US troops who died in war “losers and suckers”. But will denial work? And what does his insult reveal about Trump and his many fans including our own Trumpista Scott Morrison?

First, denigrating the military could prove a fatal error in Trump’s campaign for re-election. With fewer than two months until America votes, his minders fear he may have alienated a key component of his base at a critical time. Support amongst active service men and women is now down from 46 per cent at his inauguration to 38 per cent approval in a recent Military Times poll.

Trump’s supporters comprise a disproportionately high percentage of veterans. Aides panic. SBS reports a video is concocted in which four veteran stooges testify to their undying love of all things Trump.

In the meantime, Australia, which fancies itself as a US deputy sheriff, but which is closer to a servile lackey or “US imperialist running dog” is up shit creek without a paddle. In a barbed wire canoe.

We poked the Panda, as The Donald wanted but the Panda poked us back threatening our trade, expelling our journalists and detaining our citizens. Team Trump won’t help. They’re too busy in damage control – dispute, deny and discredit.

“It’s a fake story and it’s a disgrace that they’re allowed to do it,” Trump tells reporters in the Oval Office. Why, he respects all troops. “To me, they’re heroes,” he says. “It’s even hard to believe how they could do it. And I say that, the level of bravery, and to me, they’re absolute heroes.”

Deny, dispute and discredit. It’s Trump’s signature strategy, aped by admirers world-wide including Scott Morrison, who continues to deny his key role in defrauding amateur clubs to help Clive Palmer business buy the election victory his business needed – a steal at only $67 million, in Scotty’s sports rorts scandal.

Yet much as Trump may protest, “I never called John a loser”, his bluster is also contradicted by video and Twitter which both show him doing just that in 2015.

 

 

Fifteen hours later, his aides are in full flight and panic mode. VoteVets, a progressive veterans’ organization and never a fan of Trump, releases an online ad featuring the parents of troops slain in Iraq and Afghanistan. Each parent declares that their son or stepson was neither a “loser” nor a “sucker.”

Why such contempt? Why does it appeal? Papa Trump is popular in “the shit-hole countries” as he fondly refers to sub-Saharan African nations such as Nigeria and Kenya, who rank number one on the US Security and Assistance Monitor; continue to thrive on US economic aid.

Why does it appeal to our local faux-populists such Morrison and Pauline Hanson? Trump and his acolytes in our pick-a-winner wide brown land cannot see the point of doing anything without monetary reward. Sacrifice? Dying for a cause? None of this makes any sense when your one true love is yourself; your only cause is your own self-promotion.

Lying’s hard work but The Donald’s protestations don’t deter him from his mission: beating Biden in November. Trump’s gone postal. Mega donor Louis DeJoy, whose name makes him sound as if he belongs in a fly-spray commercial, is President’s pick for PMG. Louie is joyfully ripping out mail boxes and scrapping sorting machines in any electorate where a hapless Democrat might try to cast a postal vote.

Since May, DeJoy has brought in reforms, which he claims cut costs. These reduced overtime and limited deliveries that postal carriers say created backlogs across the country.

Trump’s 2020 appointee, Post Master General DeJoy (the cheque’s in the mail) is now accused of paying former workers bonuses to reimburse them for donating to the Republican Party. The Washington Post speaks to seven former employees of his former business New Breed Logistics whom DeJoy forced to donate to GOP candidates. An unconcerned Trump says he’ll act if DeJoy has done anything bad.

Such a practice violates both North Carolina state and federal law. Yet it’s an insight into how the party enabled the rise of a Donald Trump. DeJoy’s rapid rise in Republican politics was helped greatly by his ability to multiply his fundraising through his company; increasing his influence in the GOP.

“Louis was a national fundraiser for the Republican Party. He asked employees for money. We gave him the money, and then he reciprocated by giving us big bonuses,” says David Young, DeJoy’s veteran director of human resources, with access to payroll records at New Breed from the late 1990s to 2013 and is now retired. “When we got our bonuses, let’s just say they were bigger, they exceeded expectations — and that covered the tax and everything else.”

The Washington Post reports that between 2000 and 2014, 124 workers together gave more than $1 million to federal and state GOP candidates. Many had not previously made political donations, and have not made any since leaving the company, public records show. During the same period, nine employees gave a combined $700 to Democrats.

While Mail voting sabotage is an irresistibly “authoritarian power grab”, team Trump, is supported by states’ refining ID requirements while it rigs every other aspect of the US vote it can get away with. This includes gerrymandering of electorates and removal of places of voting.

Since 2010, twenty-five states have enacted new voting restrictions, such as strict photo ID requirements, early voting cutbacks, and registration restrictions. The land of the free is busy making it even harder to vote. Especially if you are poor, a person of colour or you live in a remote area.

Our own father of lies, Donald’s disciple the besotted Scott Morrison is on the tools again. Mugging for the Scott Cam camera he reprises his role as daggy Dad with Ryobi saw. Perhaps Cam does the building off-camera. It would be a fair return for his $300,000 salary. Achieve more than his former role as Careers Ambassador, another Morrison debacle.

But why is Scotty building the same Bunnings kit cubby house, his press agents gushed about in June? So high is staff turnover everywhere in our commonwealth public service, so savage are the cuts, there’s barely anyone around to turn the lights off. It’s systemic dementia, a loss of institutional memory.

Collective amnesia may create stuff-ups – promote the discovery learning that hapless Tassie battler Dick Colbeck whimpers about. Aged care is not perfect but that’s OK because it’s learning to be better.

Yet it’s also perfect for the evading of responsibility and accountability which fuels the duck and weave of our modern political Quotidien. Senators at estimates hearings have been told that there is no-one left at the department to answer questions about all sorts of rorts and activities that have occurred within even the previous few years.

Churn and the rise of the PA mean an even chance we’ll see the same promo with bells on at Christmas.

But we may have to be careful with our Christmas carols. As Crikey’s Charlie Lewis notes after years of allowing neo-Nazis, various terrorist groups, conspiracy theorists and democracy warping fake news to flourish, Facebook has finally cut down on the scourge of blog posts featuring Spotify playlists.

Will Trump’s “losers and suckers” undo him? Lose him votes among the veterans he counts on to vote for him? It certainly will do him some damage. Add in the cost of his coronavirus debacle and its economic consequences. But it must not be forgotten that the Republican Party that stands behind Trump, the party apparatus and the massive network of donors which enables him is hopelessly corrupted as the curious case of Trump’s Postmaster General, DeJoy suggests.

Whatever happens, the end of Trump will not be the end of Trumpism. Nine out of ten Republicans are fans of the job he is doing as president, David Smith notes in The Guardian. And who would replace him?

Smith points to an alarming paucity of alternatives: in SurveyMonkey poll for Axios last December, Republican voters’ favourites for 2024 were Mike Pence, with Donald Trump Jr in second place, followed by Nikki Haley, Ivanka Trump, Marco Rubio and Mike Pompeo.

If “losers and suckers” does help Trump lose, however, the gaffe illustrates a mentality which Trumpism has nurtured – a complete incomprehension of service, sacrifice or dedication to principle. It’s a perspective which Gordon Gekko, a fictional caricature, would instantly recognise – as would anyone attending a recent Senate Estimates committee. Or who follows the current attack on Dan Andrews.

“Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” The embodiment of the false creed of neoliberalism, Trump cannot fathom any human action that cannot be reduced to a transaction. He cannot comprehend volunteers because that involves altruism and empathy.

The narcissistic materialist is equally confounded; discomfited to discover that over 1,800 US Marines lost their lives at Belleau Wood. He sees them as “suckers” for getting killed.

In brief, as Goldberg sees, Donald Trump suffers the delusion that “nothing is worth doing without the promise of monetary payback, and that talented people who don’t pursue riches are “losers.”

It’s not hard to hear the same delusion at work in the News Corp journalists who endlessly, every day twit Dan Andrews with the same questions. Why should the state pursue public health and safety instead of profits for business at any costs?

Similarly, in his tedious repetition of his vacuous slogan “open the nation for business”, Trumpista Scott Morrison exhibits the same pathological indifference to others; the same failure to imagine another’s pain, along with an alarming poverty of mind and spirit which simply make him unfit to lead. He should resign over the sports rorts alone.

In their own ways, the rise of Trumpism and the coronavirus pandemic have helped create an environment where Morrison and Murdoch’s minions’ claims that we must endlessly pursue selfish competition – that greed is good and might is right – are so vividly exposed as toxic aberrations and hopelessly, grotesquely inadequate to the times’ need for compassion, co-operation, community and humanity.

We must expose their lies; continue to hold them to account.

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Let our old folk die? Abbott sets the tone for a cruel and heartless government’s next act.

“We haven’t got everything perfectly right … we continue to learn from the experiences of previous events”.

Richard Colbeck appears as this week’s poster-boy for the Morrison government of cruelty and neglect. Yet in a blink of an eye, he is eclipsed by Tony Abbott, a fellow colossus of incompetence who thoughtfully syndicates his timely advocacy of gerontocide to every paper in the land. But first to Dick.

Nearly a fortnight after displaying total incompetence, if not criminal neglect of his duty of care, former carpenter and onetime professional pokies’ lobbyist, Dick Colbeck has yet to toss in his claw as Aged Care Minister. Imagine if he were a Labor Minister. There’d be rallies in Canberra; demands to “ditch the Dick”.

While the PM bangs on about his invisible COVID plan for protecting us from the truth about his aged care debacle, discovery learning is all the go, insists Minister for Aged Care and enabler of elder abuse, Dick Colbeck, after freezing like a bunny in the headlights of a senate Covid-19 Committee inquiry 21 August.

How many aged care residents have died of coronavirus? Chair, Katy Gallagher asks. Incredulous. How many have coronavirus? Dick doesn’t know that, either.

“You don’t know how many people have passed away. You’re now telling me you don’t know how many people have the infection?” “… you’re the minister for Aged Care.”

Completely rattled; as bonkers as a Belgian Hare, bunny Colbeck swears he has the figure with him; just not in front of him. It’s a bravura display of abject ineptitude that rivals that of rolled gold Liberal dud, the recently anointed UK trade envoy and now de facto aged care spokesperson, Tony Abbott.

Abbott, too, was habitually ill-prepared. As Howard government Health Minister, 2003-7 he is described by Nikki Savva as attending meetings without reading his briefing papers. Indulged by a PM. who increased government subsidies to private health insurance corporations while exploiting a minister more interested in politicking than policy, he was a stooge to help keep health out of the news.

The greater truth, however, is that Colbeck’s now very reduced ministry is a poisoned chalice, offered him only by a PM who needed to ensure that there was at least one Tassie with a portfolio in his government. Dick was the least worst pick.

Now it’s all backfired. The ongoing dumpster fire that is Richard Colbeck’s continued tenure exposes new depths in the Morrison government’s signature evasion of responsibility. It shuns its moral and legal responsibility for senior citizens? It parades its irresponsibility. Is it a calculated slight or just more evidence of endemic corruption and incompetence? Hundreds of grief-stricken families mourn their loved ones.

The minister’s subsequent efforts to put things right include storming out of the senate and walking out of pressers. Theatrical? That’s the plan. He’s a walking advertisement for the Morrison take on Ministerial responsibility. Luckily, Colbeck is part of a government in which accountability is a dirty word.

Dick’s incredible run of luck continues, as does the misery of our lucky country’s pensioners, especially younger Australians, who must not only suffer cruelly inadequate payments but endure the predation of a parasitic job provider network. In 1998, a Howard government invented an Orwellian unemployment industry in which Jobactive job “provider” spivs profit from government subsidies at the cost of robbing job seekers of their dignity and sense of self-worth. With the pandemic, business is booming.

Rick Morton reports that the Jobactive caseload has more than doubled to 1.4 million people – up from 630,000 in February – while mutual obligations for job seekers were temporarily suspended because of the virus. If they have more clients on their books, however, there are also vastly fewer jobs.

Newcastle University Economics Professor, Bill Mitchell delineates the abuse even before COVID-19.

“There’s a whole industry of punishment and coercion and monitoring of the unemployed when there’s not enough jobs anyway.”

Then there’s the systemic cruelty which is the “aged care sector”, where a generation of unique and wonderful individuals gifted the wisdom of experience, who have devoted their lives to others, is dehumanised; reduced into a buzzword “sector”.

How good is the jargon of economics? Here it helps ensure our elders suffer an old age of abuse, neglect. Similarly, so many are destined for the scrap heap of aged care facilities – not “nursing homes” – for the latter term implies that a nurse is on the payroll.

Our elders are not a priceless living treasures to whom we owe at least a duty of care, but a burden on society – Liberal Party neoliberal attention-seeker; suppository of all wisdom, Tony Abbott reminds us today.

Abbott, bravely speaks from the safe distance of the Policy Exchange, a murky Tory NeoCon think tank, located in London and linked to former Conservative PM and Brexit genius, David Cameron. Policy Exchange comes 27th or bottom of the list for transparency in Transparify’s UK Think Tank Transparency report 2016. Kensington Wine Bar buff and Timor cabinet bugger, Alex Downer is chair of its trustees.

Abbott slams community lockdowns as Covid “health dictatorships”. It’s a chance to sink the slipper into Victorian Premier Dan Andrews’ for his “extraordinary ineptitude”, the only field in which the former PM is a world leader, in the orchestrated pile-on-shit storm that is the Morrison government’s answer to the pandemic. Dictator Dan is a character in lurid News Corp fictions that regularly slander the Labor leader.

For Abbott, the economic cost of lockdowns means families should be allowed to consider letting elderly relatives with the coronavirus die by letting nature take its course. He claims it costs federal government up to $200,000 to give an elderly person an extra year’s life, substantially beyond what governments would usually pay for life-saving drugs. Boris Johnson who has recovered from COVID-19 only thanks to intensive, expensive medical intervention should be personally, vastly cheered.

Abbott is on to something, however. In 2019, the OECD Pensions at a Glance 2019 report indicates that poverty rates for age pensioners in Australia are very high at 23%, a full ten percentage points above the OECD average. And if you are old or unemployed – or both, it’s all your own fault. At least that’s the dominant narrative subtext in the News Corp-led claque that is Australia’s mainstream media.

Why waste resources on the improvident elderly? They are lucky to get a Minister to represent them at all – although the aged care minister is in the outer cabinet which means he is seen and not heard.

Of course, even in a Morrison government, Dick Colbert is lucky to keep his job. Yet he’s led a charmed life as a politician. Good fortune, surely, is the main feature of this nonentity’s rise to office.The only feature?

Astonishingly, against all odds, Dick won top spot on the Tassie senate ticket in 2019, determined by a trim panel of only sixty-seven selectors. Colbeck’s elevation was helped by personal testimonials from Scott Morrison, Peter Dutton and other “high profile” Liberals; paragons of selfless generosity and integrity.

Mathias Cormann, Marise Payne and Noddy Birmingham also backed the little Tassie battler and not just because Shouty McShoutface Morrison told them to. No wonder Colbeck has yet to be asked to resign.

And why should he? Since when is not giving a stuff about knowing stuff all about your job a hanging offence in a Morrison government? It’s all part of the Roadmap™ Out.

Why, Alan Tudge jumped at the chance to help out in a portfolio well beyond his ken. Big Al was only too happy to step up from spruiking a (gravel) rash of shovel-ready projects in Population, Cities and Urban infrastructure to nurse Dave Coleman’s babies in Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs.

Cuddly Tudgie is all heart; the gift that keeps on giving. Stop Press. His website list of press releases and pork barrels details yet another “shovel-ready” Gold Coast roundabout project; a 10.7 million upgrade on one of the coast’s busiest intersections that will “spark” thirty four “city jobs”. Seriously.

Unless it’s a magic roundabout – eternally under construction, the average punter will be lucky to get some short-term casual labouring out of it. But the optics are there. Local MP, Federal Member for blue-ribbon Fadden, Savvy Stuart Robert is rapt. He can spot a good deal. Even the odd gold Rolex or two.

“The upgrade will benefit cyclists and pedestrians as well as motorists”, Morrison’s prayer-mate Roberts points out. Who would have thought? Crikey. No skate-boarders or roller bladers? Perhaps that will be the guts of a subsequent press release. But that’s the Morrison government through and through: no policies, just wall to wall announceables a sort of game of mates meets friends with benefits.

Big Al’s baby-sitting will further endear him to a nation forever grateful to his work as Human Services Minister three years ago. Benefit? In 2017, Al defined poverty out of existence. Who can forget Tudge’s tough love; his selfless determination to stem welfare payments and government services to the poor?

“Just continuing to put more and more government services into places, be they Aboriginal communities or not, and continuing to increase welfare payments, isn’t going to be the solution to the problems which exist in many dysfunctional locations today,” an utterly functional Tudge argues.

Big Al wants us to focus instead on his “pathways to poverty” – such evils as welfare dependency, drug and alcohol abuse, family breakdown and poor education standards. Admit it. Your poverty is your own fault.

And dole bludgers are actually richer than you think. He’s done the Maths. We should not be measuring poverty against a nation’s average household earnings, he contends. We should look instead at “absolute deprivation” – which is not being able to afford the basics, food, schooling, shelter.

By Tudge’s magic formula, the poor are 10 percent better off today than thirty years ago -in the golden years of The Silver Bodgie, the late Bob Hawke’s neoliberal nirvana. Doubtless, Tudge’s insights will vastly comfort all those Australians who find themselves booted off Job-Seeker come 31 December.

On JobKeeper? Toughen up buttercup. From September 28, your payment will fall to $1,200 a fortnight, followed by a further drop on 1 January 2021 to $1,000. But that’s only if you were lucky enough to be in the minority of workers on at least twenty hours a week before JobKeeper was introduced.

If, as is most likely, you are just a lucky part-timer, then your payment will be slashed in half to $750 a fortnight from the end of September. Three months later, it drops to $650 a fortnight. Happy New Year.

All extensions will expire on March 28, 2021. But you’ll be too busy to notice applying for jobs all day.

2021 will usher in a new round of the circus of mutual obligation (a theatre of cruelty in which you are forced to apply for jobs that don’t suit you that you know you’ll never get). Applications take time and money – not to mention the incalculable cost of being bullied by your parasitical job provider, always dead keen to collect lush government subsidies. And the Morrison government’s made it a whole lot easier for them.

“As the rest of the country descended into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the government made it easier for these agencies, known as Jobactive providers, to claim bonus “outcome” payments, fees and other rewards for the work of “servicing” the unemployed”, observes Rick Morton in the latest edition of The Saturday Paper.

Private job agencies have banked at least $500 million, reckons Rick from his reading of the government’s own data and payment schedules. The federal government has even paid agencies for workers who kept their jobs after its JobKeeper scheme was announced – at least according to one document.

“An Outcome may be payable where an Outcome was already tracking for a participant who moves onto the JobKeeper Payment through their previous employer or applies for/receives JobSeeker Payment initially then moves onto the JobKeeper Payment through their previous employer,” the government’s helpful guidance document explains – allowing job providers to double-dip.

But credit where it is due. Where would we be today without John Howard’s privatisation of employment services? And where would Sarina Russo be? Liberal Party pal and uncrowned “job queen” Russo’s modest empire includes Sarina Russo Job Access, Sarina Russo Apprenticeships, Sarina Russo Institute, Russo Business School, Sarina Russo White House and Sarina Russo Recruitment.

With $100 million, reputedly in personal wealth, Russo’s a Liberal Party’s mega-donor. Her companies have banked $2 billion worth of government contracts since 2006. Her most recent contract struck under the brief, ill-fated Abbott-Credlin duumvirate amounts to a cool $606 million. It expires in 2022.

Job providers such as Russo are clearly attuned to the day to day realities of job-seekers. In touch. The cost of getting to interviews comes atop rising supermarket and utility prices – while jobseekers get by on thirty-eight dollars a day. New research from the ANU estimates that while half a million fewer Australians live below the poverty line, 2.2 million will be added when coronavirus supplements cease.

3.8 million of our population will be thrown into poverty. If we don’t allow for accommodation. Using an ‘After-housing’ version of poverty, the 3 million becomes 5.8 million people. How will they cope? In the nineteenth century, Australia was feted as the working man’s paradise. What have we become?

Adding insult to inhumanity, JobKeeper 2.0, the new poor law, is passed by the lamest excuse for parliament we have ever experienced. As Michelle Grattan reports, under rules agreed for the current sitting fortnight, MPs can participate in parliament remotely and ask questions and speak but cannot vote. Who exactly does get to attend and vote is neither transparent nor democratic. Many Victorian MPs, for example, are locked down in the garden state. Even barking Barnaby Joyce is not happy.

“No disease in 2020 should interfere in your parliamentary democratic rights. Parliament in a half-life is not a parliament, it is merely a rather large building, kind of a new age palace in Canberra.”

Barnaby bullshits on about how New England doesn’t get represented if a vote is taken and he’s not present in the chamber. A glance at his voting record doesn’t help his case. His weatherboard and iron constituents, the growing rural and regional poor would be shocked to discover Joyce sides with big business and mining and against the worker.

If they give a stuff.

Joyce’s base is more inspired by the way he harvests their resentment at the way the cards seem stacked against them and how he gives them someone to blame; scapegoats the latte-sipping urban guerrillas, The Greens or an out of touch Labor.

(Morrison makes a similar play for his tradies who enjoy material success but are press-ganged into his anti-academic, anti-Arts and humanities philistine Team Ocker.)

Joyce exploits his notoriety, like Morrison’s mentor Trump. A perverse logic is at work. How he votes in parliament matters less than his performances. His schtick. The more erratic, outspoken or eccentric his behaviour, the more his fans’ faith in his independence is confirmed. Supporters like to think “that he’s a maverick”.

Local store owner Andrew Coventry is on to something. “Australians in general love an underdog. They love a local boy story. We kind of fall a little bit for that larrikin, or a villain. A lot of people up here feel he has been hardly done by – by the media and maybe crucified a little bit.”

Joyce, of course, who, like Morrison, is only in politics for himself, is actively undermining the PM’s sock puppet, the underwhelming Michael McCormack, nominal Nationals leader, whose charisma bypass and a secret agreement helps keep Liberals in power and is part of a type of a brazen gerrymander.

Where Joyce’s complaint really breaks down is on not being represented. A major indictment of our political system is how much the Nationals are over-represented. In 2019 they gained only 7.5 per cent of the vote, but this entitles them to 10.6 percent of the members of the house of representatives.

In total, the Nats boast 21 members and senators, six ministers and two assistants in portfolios vital to regional and rural Australia. The Greens, on the other hand, won 10.4 per cent of the vote but have only one member of the house of representatives (0.65 per cent of members) and nine senators.

Doubtless Scotty would love Joyce to resign. But you don’t even have to turn up for work to keep your job in a Morrison government. Granted there are extenuating circumstances but David Coleman fell ill last December. He’s granted indefinite sick leave: his PM can’t face another by election. Similarly, even miracle Morrison can’t find another patsy to tend Aged Care. Or can’t be faffed. Besides, dynamic Dick is doing a sensational job as Minister, Belgian shepherd, Matthias Cormann assures us.

“I am sure that he regrets not having had that number at his fingertips. I am sure he does,” Cormann, archly tells Canberra’s press-gang, hosing down the senator’s complete and utter cock-up. Or perhaps not. Coach Morrison has taken Dickie’s whistle off him. Colbert can’t blow up any emergency measures.

Similarly, back in African gangland, after sensational revelations of his leading role in branch-stacking for Victorian Liberals in search of a more Mormon Victorian party, Assistant Treasurer, Michael Sukkar is off Scott-free, while in a desperate bid to bury a Turnbull dud, Spud Dutton is being chipped sideways and consigned into the death-in-life of Minister for Defence, a sinecure which will be revamped to include Abbott and Morrison’s Village People paramilitary, Border Force, so there’s no hint of demotion.

Not in pay, anyway. Pete still has to help service the considerable outgoings on his multi-million dollar property portfolio built in part thanks to government subsidies to Queensland childcare centres. Dutton remained in cabinet meetings where childcare was discussed.

But, look over there. Victoria is ruining the economy. Yes it’s time to play the Dan not the ball. Remember that recession we had to have? Paul Keating, November 1990?

Turns out we never had it. Technically. Revised ABS data for the June 1990 quarter show Australia economy grew by 0.1 per cent. Two consecutive quarters of negative growth never happened. Yet now, even work experience boy, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg admits that after a 0.3 per cent contraction in ABS March quarter growth figures, recession is inevitable. That’s why he’s attacking Dan Andrews.

Frydenberg fears Wednesday’s National Accounts show a seven per cent decline in economic activity. Is that a recession or a depression? Newspoll’s no help. Its latest dodgy estimate suggests a 50 – 50 tie between Labor and Coalition. Morrison’s approval rate dips seven points to a net approval of +32

Naturally, in a government of duck and weave and spin, the recession we can’t avoid has nothing to do with the federal government’s failure to manage to economy. It’s The Coronavirus Recession. And it’s all Dan Andrews’ fault because instead of his lockdowns. After all, “letting her rip” has worked so well in the UK or the US which recorded 93.2 deaths per million in August — or more than 30,400 in one month.

While we recorded two deaths in June and 93 in July (3.6 per million), Australia’s August tally represents 455 (17.8 per million). Australia ranks 42nd out of the 54 highly developed countries on deaths per million in August.

Today, rising underemployment and falling private sector business investment are but two sure signs that we are in recession, a recession we did not have to have – if only Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison governments knew anything about economic management.

Or ever listened to expert advice.

A profound collapse in work available and hours worked in the economy can be blamed on ‘Rona. So, too with the big dip in private investment. The construction slump.

Granted, the coronavirus with its widespread disruption to all forms of economic activity globally brings its own deep malaise. Add to this its many risks to our mental health, not to mention corona mania, a type of group madness; a folie a foule, evident in the behaviour of many of our elected representatives.

Yet we enter a recession the pandemic has made worse. Hungarian Josh Frydenberg and his shysters need something to hide behind as the stench from assistant-Treasurer Mick Sukkar’s branch-stacking spree threatens to get into everything while weekend wok-botherer, Pappadum Morrison posts selfies of himself concocting another hokey, home-spun ScoMo self-promo with a Sri Lankan curry.

Or so he says. Catch it on Linked-In where our fearless leader describes himself as an “influencer”. Tell that to Malcolm Turnbull. Or Michael Towke, victim of a Daily Telegraph smear campaign from whom Scotty stole preselection in Cook in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire in 2007.

Dan’s the plan, as Paddy Manning observes, for the non-wok, workaday week. Morrison’s shit-can Dan campaign turns even dirtier, Monday, as the work experience federal treasurer accuses the Victorian Premier not only of wrecking the nation’s economy with his reckless disregard for disrupting the profiteering of our banking and commerce oligopolies but not having a roadmap out.

No Melways. No Google street view? Not even a trail of stale focaccia bread crumbs?

Look over there. Dan Andrews has wrecked everything. His pandemic lockdowns represent “… the biggest public policy failure by a state government in living memory”.

Wednesday, the Herald Sun prints its Morrison government press drop.

The Australian economy has officially entered into a recession with the latest national accounts figures confirming the worst contraction since the Second World War.

Australia’s gross domestic product (GDP) fell 7 per cent for the June quarter, revealing the financial wounds inflicted upon the economy from the initial lockdown sparked by the coronavirus pandemic.

This is no time to be cutting the spending power of the most vulnerable, as Greg Jericho notes. Can’t afford it? Nonsense. Can’t afford not to keep it going.

Nor should we abandon our senior citizens to the vagaries of the property investors’ marketplace. Yet it’s odds on that more austerity budgeting is on the cards. And while there is no doubt that pandemic has played havoc with our capacity to continue business as usual, there is no question that the failure of government policy meant that the economy was tanking well before the pandemic erupted.

This may be a recession we couldn’t avoid but neoliberal Coalition economic policy has done almost everything to invite. Even its stimulus package will be cut short. And Morrison’s junta, his COVID-19 committee of mining industry executives’ talk about a gas-led recovery is dangerous nonsense. In the meantime, expect the war on Dan Andrews to reach fever pitch. To say nothing of our cold war on our biggest trading partner.

As Richard Colbeck almost said, “We haven’t got everything perfectly right … we continue to learn (almost nothing) from the experiences of previous events.”

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Keep the National Cabinet going until 2022, Scotty; you just keep low in the back seat.

We have to think that we have to work together as a human species to be organized to care for one another, to realize that the health of the most vulnerable people among us is a determining factor for the health of all of us, and, if we aren’t prepared to do that, we’ll never, ever be prepared to confront these devastating challenges to our humanity. Canadian Bruce Aylward, leader of independent WHO mission to study the spread of the virus in China).

In the dark night of the soul, the pall cast over us all by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2, a pandemic virus strain that causes coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19, a respiratory illness, which also triggers fear and despair, there is more than a glimmer of hope.

While the toll is shocking, COVID-19 infects almost 2.5 million and causes over 170,000 to die, (2:00 pm) Tuesday 21 AEST and puts our global economic and social interactions into deep freeze – and while WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warns “the worst is yet ahead” countless acts of kindness, courage, decency and humanity, shine through.

A Sydney local fills a wooden mailbox with books and pantry supplies, urging passers-by: “take what you need.” In the UK, over four thousand doctors and nurses come out of retirement; risking their lives to help in understaffed hospitals. Dr Alfa Saadu, 68, dies of coronavirus caught while volunteering at the Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital, in Welwyn, Hertfordshire. He is one of four – all minority ethnic doctors -to lose his life so far.

Rethink Food, a New York local non-profit organisation, launches a pop-up soup kitchen outside Salem Methodist church, forced to close its own kitchen because its volunteers are elderly and at too high a risk from infection, serves 600 to 1,000 meals a day, five days a week.

“We could easily do 5,000 meals a day,” Rethink founder Matt Jozwiak says. And lines would be even longer were it not for fear of infection. Endless numbers of other acts of compassion, altruism and self-sacrifice are taking place around the world as people follow their hearts.

“Tireless healthcare workers and researchers seek medical breakthroughs to prevent and cure this new disease. Countless healthcare providers care for the sick, often putting themselves at risk, particularly before the nature of the disease was known. Even the heartache of families who wait helplessly as a beloved family member dies alone quarantined in a nursing home reminds us of the deep bonds that hold us together,” writes Search Institute’s Eugene C. Roehlkepartain.

But Donald Trump’s Operation Re-open America is only about following the cash nexus.

LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” “LIBERATE VIRGINIA.” He tweets. Crowds of protestors magically appear for news cameras in the streets of centres in key states. Give me Liberty or Give Me COVID-19 reads a sign held by a young man in a red cap in Austin Texas. He seems to have utilised a torn-up cardboard carton to add credibility to his improvised sign.

It’s certainly no improvised protest. The demonstrations are orchestrated by a group of far-right, pro-gun Facebook groups calling for anti-quarantine protests throughout the US, reports The Washington Post’s Isaac Stanley-Becker and Tony Romm. The images help skew viewers’ impression away from the reality that most Americans want the shutdown to continue.

Nearly 70 percent of Republicans say they support a national stay-at-home order, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll. Ninety-five percent of Democrats back such a measure in the survey.

The work of the work of Ben Dorr, “political director” of a group called “Minnesota Gun Rights,” and his brothers, Christopher and Aaron, the groups attract 200,000 members combined. They continue to expand rapidly in the days after Trump endorses such protests by suggesting citizens should “liberate” their states. Expect to see more images.

“Jesus is my vaccine,” reads a message on a tractor, driven past the crowded statehouse in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Monday. “Shutdown the Shutdown” says a Maryland sign.

Like Scott Morrison’s Pro-Growth Agenda, Trump’s campaign to shut down the shutdown implies a false choice mimicked in Australia and elsewhere; we need to get back to work; back out into social circulation, rather than remain at home for everyone’s safety or we blow up the economy. Trump has his devotees here. Our Prime Minister is a big fan. So, what is going on?

Health crisis or economic crisis? An open letter published Monday is signed by 157 economists who call it a “false distinction”. While the economists, who include RBA board member Ian Harper and former member Warwick McKibbin, back the government’s $200 billion-plus spending measures they oppose prematurely loosening social distancing restrictions.

They also warn of the consequences of a second wave of infections: “We cannot have a functioning economy unless we first comprehensively address the public health crisis.”

Is the President of the United States actively promoting insurrection? A second Civil War? Washington Governor, Jay Inslee, accuses Trump of encouraging “illegal and dangerous acts”.

Or is Trump merely campaigning in his typically gonzo fashion? Each state has a Democrat Governor; Michigan could be crucial to Trump’s re-election campaign in November’s General Election. As a rule, it’s all about Trump. And as another rule you can’t trust a word he says.

“It’s not about me,” Trump says during Sunday’s briefing. Yet he just has to be at the microphone for all but 13 of its 90 minutes. “Nothing’s about me.”

If the Donald doth protest too much, his toxic tirades are over the top. “He is putting millions of people in danger of contracting COVID-19. His unhinged rantings and calls for people to “liberate” states could also lead to violence. We’ve seen it before,” Democrat, Inslee tweets.

The reality TV star has completely politicised this pandemic, writes Charles M Blow for The New York Times. Blow argues Trump’s “briefings” are his political tool to achieve this. “He is standing on top of … 40,000 dead bodies and using the media to distract attention away from them and instead brag about what a great job he’s done.”

Trump’s call to citizens to rise up against state governors does little to comfort those friends and family mourning over 42 thousand deceased. Nor does it inspire hope in the 792,913 victims of COVID-19 (Tuesday 21, 3:30 pm AEST) yet another scourge of globalisation, the destroyer of space and distance which surged in 2001.

Why? China joined the WTO and modern India forsook its nationalist economic and social ideals to embrace neoliberalism, an ideology which puts the market above the state and which commodifies human relationships. By 2001, global travel and globalisation had ceased to be the privilege of an elite and began to reach deep into the hinterland of these vast populations, as Guy Rundle reminds us. Coronavirus coincides with this new level of globalisation.

The coronavirus is now setting off a cascade of health, economic and social effects that may lead to a collapse of economic globalization, writes Anthea Roberts. This may play out better for Trump than his bungling of America’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. He knows his re-election depends on voters’ perceptions of his handling of the crisis. So he has a cure.

The golf-cheat-in-chief, himself, unable to play in lockdown is quick to exploit a snake oil sales opportunity. Trump promotes the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a possible cure for COVID-19. It’s untested – clinical trials are too small and inconclusive. Experts warn against it.

Some of the twenty-two million Americans, who are now out of work, doubtless, will rush to be guinea-pigs. In Australia, we’ve fast-tracked it so that it can be used in hospitals. After all, anything Trump is spruiking has to be good. Our Chief Medical Officers appear impotent.

Clive Palmer has invested a lazy million dollars of his own money to a “coronavirus action fund” to develop the anti-malaria drug which has toxic side effects when used inappropriately.

It’s OK when treating malaria or lupus or rheumatoid arthritis but perpetrating the myth that it is a cure for COVID-19 is reckless endangerment. It also has led to stockpiling of the drug with the result that those who genuinely need the treatment cannot obtain it.

“Liberate” is more than a bizarre word for men, women and children who are merely obeying the advice of their public health officials and their state government; citizens who are not being repressed or incarcerated but merely complying with advice to self-isolate for their own sake, their community and the nation.

It is pitched to resonate with the alt-right, a dog whistle to all gun nuts, psychopaths and others who mistakenly believe the Second Amendment was written to enable the citizenry to violently resist the government of the United States.

“Liberate” is an abdication of responsibility, by a malignant narcissist who cannot feel for others but who is acutely attuned to the stock market. Trump is gambling that a return to work will somehow restore the nation’s prosperity. He never ceases to fret about his own.

The Trump Organisation needs to service its debt. With some Trump golf courses and hotels closed in the coronavirus lockdown, the family firm, trading since 1923, is seeking to defer payments on some loans and dues such as its lease payments to Palm Beach County to run its golf course on county land. But it’s all cool. Trump calls himself “the king of debt”.

To safely reopen businesses, shops, schools, more COVID-19 tests need to be done. Because tests are scarce, largely due to Trump’s bungling administration, they are rationed to America’s sickest people. In order to liberate; re-open closed businesses and revive social life, those tested must include all those likely to spread the disease – not just the sickest.

Trump’s option is a type of roulette, a gamble on herd immunity, a phenomenon which first requires a vaccine to be invented, a breakthrough which may never come. Even then, experts warn, herd immunity may not even exist for COVID-19. If the four coronaviruses in the common cold are a clue, immunity may be ephemeral, lasting only a few months to a year.

Too little is known about the novel coronavirus and too much is known about other coronaviruses such as SARS and MERS to make it safe to assume that exposure will confer lasting immunity. Too little credence is given to the fundamental truth that a healthy population is the key to a prosperous economy. Much time and money are spent in media worldwide prompting us to choose jobs crisis from the false dichotomy jobs or health.

In Canberra, Trump’s satellite of love and public health pioneer, our PM aka “steam me up Scotty”, star of “The Love Rub”, a 1970s Vicks Vaporub commercial, now re-appears as Our Nation’s Saviour, a miracle play from Pandemic Promotions. Scotty’s just busting to follow Trump’s lead. Saviour is a show with two flags, medical experts and regular egging-on from Health Minister, the unctuous Duttonista, Greg Hunt, who patronises us for our obedience; praising our curve-flattening, as if we’re all on some bizarre weight-loss contest.

Saviour makes a beaut distraction from reports of shortages; stories of doctors and nurses who are forced to re-use single-use masks or who are told to wear plastic aprons because there are no gowns. Psychiatrist Karen Williams’ survey of 245 Australian frontline medical workers finds sixty-one per cent of doctors feel pressure from other staff not to wear a mask, and more than half feel guilt or shame for wearing one.

“The chickens have come home to roost” for Tasmania’s healthcare system and a “decade of austerity” explains Tim Jacobsen, Tasmanian state secretary of the Health and Community Services Union, who reports to The Saturday Paper’s Rick Morton of such dire shortages that staff are forced to rob Peter to pay Paul; “strip” supplies from some parts of hospitals in order to plug gaps in more exposed areas.

“No one has said this overtly, but we clearly have national shortages of personal protective equipment,” Jacobson says. “Masks, gloves, the protective jumpsuits: they have all been very, very difficult to source. It is all being rationed. We have seen mixed messages going out to staff over the last three weeks. Reuse your masks, you need to keep your masks, that sort of thing…”

Yet, however much Hunt pats us on the head, for the “sustained and genuine” way we self-isolate, his PM quickly queers his pitch. Morrison shrinks his six-month lockdown into “a four-week minimum”. Saving jobs outweighs saving lives. Besides if Trump’s America is open for business, how can its client-state stay closed?

Helping the Health Minister succeed, former PM, Malcolm “Fizza” Turnbull’s memoir, “A Bigger Picture” doesn’t flatter Hunt; painting him as a potty-mouthed prat whose abusive, vulgar language and overweening ambition helped everyone to hate him, while Morrison is merely untrustworthy. Scotty damaged his government with leaks that put the government on the back foot, Turnbull reports. Yet Morrison was offside with some major players.

“Mathias regarded Scott as emotional, narcissistic and untrustworthy and told me so regularly,” Turnbull writes. Dutton was also hostile to Morrison. “Of course, if Mathias had a poor opinion of Scott, Dutton’s dislike of him was even stronger,” he says. It’s evident in the strained working relationship between the pair in drought and pandemic.

Yet Greg Hunt seems to have made himself universally detested. Turnbull recalls the day his successor, the Machiavellian Morrison, won the Liberal leadership ballot over his challenger Peter Dutton, the Home Affairs Minister.

“If looks could have killed, Hunt would have fallen over dead. He’d been Dutton’s wannabe deputy and had been working towards this day for months. Never liked, he’d never been more despised than he was at that moment.”

“None of us are perfect, I absolutely acknowledge that,” Hunt says archly. Tellingly, no Liberal MP contests Turnbull’s verdict on Scotty. Or Dutto. Or Hunt. Marise Payne, fails to persuade ABC Insiders’ host, David Speers, or any of his viewers, with her lame claim that she “received and deleted” her pirate copy of A Bigger Picture. When she declares she did not receive her emailed copy from the PM’s office, she reveals that other Liberals were emailing, too.

It seems to have been a bit of a hoot. Take the Toff down a peg. But nothing Turnbull says, now, will dent the commanding fictional narrative the Morrison junta has established; how it acted quickly and, in the nation’s, best interests and how citizens have been so compliant that we’ve stopped the toxic pathogen in its tracks. Besides, Hunt rises to the occasion; takes any high road he can salvage by saying he won’t be reading Turnbull’s The Bigger Picture.

A blizzard of electronic copies of Turnbull’s book is pirated by a staff member in the Prime Minister’s Office, publisher, Hardie Grant alleges, Saturday. Recipients obligingly forward them on. For Hardie Grant, it’s malicious conduct and a massive breach of copyright. Not only were unauthorised copies freely distributed, recipients were urged to forward them to others. Some MPs report receiving five or six copies reports Malcolm Farr for The Guardian Australia.

A letter of complaint is sent on Saturday to senior Morrison adviser Nico Louw by Nicholas Pullen of lawyers HWL Ebsworth, on behalf of Turnbull and his publishers. Louw admits to forwarding 56 copies. Pullen writes that he has been instructed Louw was “responsible for unauthorised distribution of my client’s book” in digital form.

While the publisher threatens to refer potential criminal breaches of the law to the AFP, copyright lawyers advise a civil lawsuit may be more productive. Hilarious. The AFP has never, since its inception in 1979, brought a case that would embarrass a sitting government.

A journalist receives half a dozen. It’s a rip-off on “a massive scale”, say Turnbull and his publisher’s lawyers, a state of affairs that would trouble legitimate purchasers seeking Turnbull’s explanation of his National Broadband Network (NBN) debacle, a $51 billion catastrophe which has spectacularly failed to deliver.

Readers pay good money expecting to learn Turnbull explain why for at least twenty years, Snowy 2.0 will store coal-fired electricity. Not renewable. Snowy 2.0 will also create additional demand for coal-fired generation; increase greenhouse gas emissions. Why? ABC 7:30 Report’s Leigh Sales fails to put these posers to Tuesday night.

A letter of complaint is sent on Saturday to senior Morrison adviser Nico Louw by Nicholas Pullen of lawyers HWL Ebsworth, on behalf of Turnbull and his publishers. Pullen writes that he has been instructed Louw was “responsible for unauthorised distribution of my client’s book in digital form.

But amidst Turnbullian threats by the publisher to refer potential criminal breaches to the Australian federal police, copyright law specialists say the company and the former PM might have a better chance of bringing a civil lawsuit. But look over here!

When all else fails, cue the spin-machine. Or the dead cat on the table. Forget quarantine, or social isolation, Scotty’s fellow evangelical, prosperity gospeller and prayer-mate, walking disaster area, Stuart Robert has knocked off a fabulous app from Singapore we can all put on our blue-tooth-enabled phones. Download. If we want to.

It’ll be an opt-in thing, Scotty says, airily, back-flipping only one day after threatening to make it compulsory. He’s working hard at what he does best, stirring up a diversion.

Apart from the ten per cent of us who don’t own a mobile phone. It’s “a big Team Australia moment” says the Services Minister, wowing us with his oratory and his capacity to reference notorious Liberal Party Luddite, a keenly contested title, tiny Tony Abbott.

“There is no geolocation, there is no surveillance, there is no tracking,” Robert promises. Besides, a lot of that stuff can be got from the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) which has been spying on citizens for years. As Sally McManus says, you expect your phone to be tapped.

Various other intelligence agencies pitch in. Federal and state police, can also request access to your telephone and internet records. These can reveal information about your whereabouts and whom you talked to, emailed or messaged. As Turnbull boasts in A Bigger Picture, as he takes credit for creating the Office of National Intelligence (ONI), PM had access to the collective wisdom and insights of our 7000-person-strong intelligence community.

Yet as Singapore’s increasing rate of infection shows, either contact tracing is too slow, or SARS-CoV-2 is too fast to enable intervention to slow community transmission.

At least the app will help keep more tabs on us. What could possibly go wrong? Above all, Morrison loves the war-talk his mentor, America’s most revered Vietnam bone-spur deferment veteran, uses to inspire states to rebel.

It’s no less than an … “historic battle against the invisible enemy” that amounts to the “greatest national mobilisation since world war two”, says Trump’s autocue.

It’s rhetorical nonsense, probably penned by slumlord millionaire, and “tier-one predator”, son-in-law Jared Kushner, Trump’s fixer on Middle East peace, or Opioid crisis which may have killed 450,000 Americans since 1999, or winning hearts and minds by dithering with COVID-19.

Six weeks are lost as a result of Trump’s dithering and downplaying of the crisis when the virus first struck. His administration’s initial response is “one of the greatest failures of basic governance and leadership in modern times” says Jeremy Konyndyk, a central figure in the US battle against Ebola. The Morrison government dithered, too, before the secretary of the Treasury, aided by Labor and the Unions pressed for a stimulus package.

Trump’s number one fan Downunder, Aloha Morrison is keen to match his mentor’s rhetoric while basic governance and leadership have eluded him from the start. He’ll never recover from his Hawaiian holiday nor his plan to go to a Rugby League game.

Now he’s channelling Trump in his bullshit that we must put the economic crisis ahead of the pandemic; rush back to the workplace just in time to catch or infect workmates with the ‘rona.

The next few weeks will severely tax the PM. Lacking his party’s trust, unable to delegate, let alone work with others, Morrison’s done well recently out of letting the real leaders, particularly Labor Premiers tell him what to do, especially over schooling.

Now he’ll have to do some work himself; something he can’t abide. Being awarded Turnbull’s Plumber’s mate award for his leaks, is unlikely to deter Scotty from his “front-running” – media leaks that weaken the government during high-stakes cabinet debates. After all, his office leaked advance freebies of Malco’s new e-book.

Being “emotional, narcissistic and untrustworthy” won’t bother Morrison, either. Since when did he give a fig? Besides, he’s already got his revenge. The bootleg preview of A Bigger Picture came from a senior staffer – before being forwarded so eagerly to a cast of thousands – copyright given such a thorough thrashing that the memoir, its author and his entire political career became some sort of electronic piñata.

But pushing Trump’s rush-back-to-work barrow is going to be hard yakka. Especially when there isn’t any work for millions of workers to return to, in an economy bled dry after six years’ Coalition mismanagement – before the virus helps tip it into recession.

Above all, his “pro-growth agenda” which is austerity budgeting under an Orwellian name is nothing but a desperate attempt to walk two sides of the fence. Granted it’s Morrrison’s speciality but no good can ever come of it. The Keynesian stimulus giver cannot reveal himself “on the other side” as a monetarist with a closed fist.

“On the other side of this virus and leading on the way out we are going to have to have economic policy measures that are going to have to be very pro-growth, that is going to enable businesses to employ people, that is going to enable businesses to invest and businesses to move forward”. Scott Morrison

It’s going to take a lot more than stale rhetoric. Or platitudes about growth. Lies about the “other side” don’t cut it either. Australians expect the truth, harsh as it may be, not some pie in the sky. There can be no snap back. The world has changed forever.

Morrison’s hollow words reveal that he has no idea what to do to get Australia open for business again. He knows only how to close things down. The nation deserves better; real leadership – for starters – of the sort we’ve seen from some state premiers.

Humanity is a big part of the leadership required. We see it everyday from extraordinary “ordinary” people just doing their best; doing their jobs. Taking care of one another. That’s where true hope lies. Not in sucking up even more to the business class.

Keep the National Cabinet going until 2022, Scotty; you just keep low in the back seat.

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Resume democratic government, Morrison; recall parliament

The ritual killing of a water buffalo, by Ifugao villagers of northern Luzon, Philippines, the bloody, brutal slaughter of an innocent, sentient creature, a shocking intrusion of cinéma vérité (filmed by his Francis’ Ford’s wife Eleanor) spliced into the last, dark scenes of Coppola’s self-indulgent masterpiece Apocalypse Now presages the savaging of our body politic to keep us safe from COVID-19.

Premiers hack away at our civil liberties. Our pass-the-parcel federal government hands over its job to a congeries of police proto-states where democracy is hollowed out. Unlike their counterparts overseas, our Federal MPs take a break while the pandemic wreaks its havoc. Genius. Much as it suits Morrison’s secretive style to run a closed shop, someone has to turn up to work, along with teachers and healthcare workers.

To be fair to Scotty, being mugged by reality is a relief. His government has always lacked any agenda. Its dearth of policy ideas, programmes, principles is embarrassing. Forlornly, it kicks a busted legislative can or two down the road. Where is that Morrison priority, his tits-on-a-bull religious discrimination bill? All that seems still in play are its stage two and three tax cuts – cuts it can’t afford and can’t afford to give up on.

Bernie Fraser tells The Sydney Morning Herald that Team Morrison’s policies plus tax cuts face a “reckoning” as public sector debt reaches $1.5 trillion. Plus a potential budget deficit of $200 billion this year, reports The Saturday Paper‘s Max Opray. New company tax cuts for sprats – firms earning under $50 million start next in 2020-21. Personal income tax cuts further bleed the budget by $132 billion over ten years begin the following financial year. None of this will help our economy over-reliant on mining in deep recession.

As Frank Bongiorno puts it, Morrison has governed like a political billionaire yet without a hint of a policy agenda thanks to his vacuous, platform-free election campaign. The rest of his team are back-slapping and high-fiving on the close of parliament’s token day back, Wednesday – as if they had something to celebrate.

Other democracies aren’t shutting down. Peoples’ representatives in the US, the UK, Canada and New Zealand will all return to parliament, later this April. Congress, on the other hand, hasn’t cut its schedule at all.

It’s not easy being Antony Albanese, you get bad press, cut off mid-sentence or mostly no press at all. Jokes about your combover? Yet Albo has it sussed. Parliament “wasn’t suspended during the Spanish flu, or World War I or World War II”.

Barry Jones argues cogently that it is precisely in times of crisis that we need our parliament the most. Without transparency and scrutiny, there is no democracy. He quotes lawyer and journo, David Allen Green.

“If it were not for this public health emergency, this situation would be the legal dream of the worst modern tyrant. Everybody under control, every social movement or association prohibited, every electronic communication subject to surveillance. This would be an unthinkable legal situation for any free society. Of course, the public health emergency takes absolute priority. But we also should not be blind to the costs.”

Who’s to help our Kangaroo National Cabinet and NCCC run the show? SA and WA adjourn their parliaments, mothball democracy, but for other states, it’s see you later (on the other side) and may the fuzz be with you.

“Don’t be surprised, this Easter, if you are stopped by the police and asked what you’re doing” warns Tasmanian Premier, party-pooper, Peter Gutwein who, at least, concedes that if “this were a game of football, we’re not yet halfway through the first quarter”. Apple Isle Peelers will be out in force over Easter. Anyone holing up in the shack; hunting eggs in holiday homes can expect a knock on the door. Or a boot.

Never one to be outdone, Victorian Premier, despotic Dan Andrews, in bed with Big Gas, suspends parliament indefinitely and – unlike Gutwein – seriously contemplates a bonking ban on couples living apart. Andrews warns Victorians high-tailgating it out of Melbourne to caravan parks or already at it like rabbits in their holiday homes to expect an Easter visit from a flop-eared friend in uniform; “…it’s not an Airbnb weekend.”

You can holiday with your family only in a property you own, says Dan. Own? That’s around five per cent of the state’s population. But there’s always been a better set of rules for the ruling elite. Get used to it. Inequality’s only going to increase.

For SA Easter hot cross bunnies, first the good news. Steve Marshall who like climate giant, Craig Kelly, ran a family furniture business before getting into politics and middle-class welfare is giving $10,000 to 19000 gyms, hairdressers, beauty and nail salons, restaurants, cafes and cellar doors, who’ve had to close their doors or who’ve lost income because of the CoVID-19 lockdown. It’s a handout to help you through a crisis which News Corp’s flat-curvers tells us will be done and dusted soon. It’ll buy a lot of chocolate at least. But does trickle-down really work?

Trickle-down is a delusion conservative economist Arthur Laffer sketched on a napkin at a free lunch in 1974 to bullshit Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, two giants of US Republicanism, a once-proud party which now panders to demented despot, aspiring-president-for-life, Pussy-Grabber in Chief, Donald Trump.

A senile Ronald Reagan fell in love with trickle-down. If governments cut business taxes and ease up on the rich, (or, give hand-outs like Scotty’s (Keep my own) JobKeeper or Marshall’s cash splash,) they’ll invest that extra money in productive enterprise, which, in turn, creates more jobs and growth, which will ultimately maximise both the return on endeavour and government revenue. Fantastic? Literally. It hasn’t happened yet.

For Ron Reagan Sr, revenues fell, the deficit doubled and government debt tripled. The US turned from the world’s largest creditor to its biggest debtor. But the theory thrives.

A huge body of evidence exposing the trickle-down myth is probably all fake news. At least if you’ve shut up your SA nail salon, you can buy a few Easter eggs. The bad news? Going away is “completely and utterly off”.

As it is for those in Queensland or NSW. But cheer up Crow-eaters. If at home in SA, the two person rule is just a recommendation – you can have up to ten attending your Easter rave parade and you won’t be busted. But don’t be surprised when your local coppers drop by just to count heads. Human, that is. There’s a rogue virus to patrol.

Every day, we become a less democratic nation, warns lawyer Michael Bradley. The PM and Premiers lecture us with a heavy-handed paternalism. Leaders don’t make sense? No. It’s the people who can’t be trusted to do the right thing. A novel coronavirus brings a brave new world, Bradley writes in Crikey. It’s a world with,

” … police cars circling inside public parks, lights flashing, ordering stationary people to either get on with their exercise regime or go straight home. A tense debate on social media about whether visiting your boyfriend who lives in a different house qualifies as a “reasonable excuse” to leave yours.”

Follow our leaders’ authoritative, timely advice? Listen as they clearly explain restrictions to us? Impossible. They’re experts in equivocating, spin and bullshit.

Eagerly, NSW, Victoria, SA and other tinpot dictatorships reach for the big stick; vying with each other to impose the strictest lockdown. NSW and SA put their top cops in charge. And they look the part. Overpower-dressing. Flaunt the braid; flash the badges, patches, epaulettes and the rest of their quasi-military rig. Inspire trust.

It’s not just the uniform. Our cops are increasingly militarised. Front-line officers in Queensland and Victoria, and specialist units across the country, are being trained in military-style tactics and thinking. Lawyer and former ADF officer, John Sutton warns of a slow and disturbing “convergence”. But is it a good fit?

“Typically, a close ideological and operational alliance between the police force and the military has always been associated with repressive regimes,” he says. Despite John Howard and Tony Abbott and other uniform-fetishists, “Australia has a very strong democracy and a very robust civic mindedness among its population.

Erik Jensen agrees. The Saturday Paper’s editor in chief, agrees that restrictive public health measures are vital. There’s just no evidence to justify any lurch to the right; any special powers of enforcement. “Australia is an exceptionally law-abiding country with a national character based on the false belief we are not.”

Nor is there any sign police have been trained to deal with the health measures detailed in the public health order. Worse, Bradley and others note, the “lockdown state” reverses the onus of proof fundamental to our legal system. In coronavirus times you need to prove you’re doing the right thing by others at all times.

To protect against wrongful convictions, the criminal law, ordinarily, requires proof “beyond reasonable doubt” and the onus of proof lies with the accuser. If there is no case to answer for, a defendant’s silence should be sufficient to render them innocent. Only after proof is brought, should the defendant need to present some defence to their supposed actions.

Old as the law itself, the presumption of innocence lies trampled underfoot. States vie on TV to signal their virtue as guardians of public health, a task neatly handballed, along with such responsibilities as the criminal investigation of the Ruby Princess by a Morrison government always happy to hand-ball trouble.

Are we flattening the curve or flattening freedom? Of course we need to self-isolate and observe other social distancing and health precautions. Self-quarantine is imperative in halting contagious disease. Surviving the coronavirus pandemic means following expert advice, but do we need to be coerced?

Michael Bradley makes a case for a less arbitrary more workable system of policing lockdown.

“I wouldn’t object to a regime under which I was required by law to remain home, with the proviso that I was able to lawfully leave home and go outside if I had a legitimate reason for doing so, subject to all the rules of physical distancing. I also wouldn’t object if that regime gave the police power to reasonably determine that my reason was not legitimate and to order me to go home; or to fine or arrest me if I refused and they reasonably believed that I may be presenting a danger to public health by my actions.

No-one disputes the need for a lockdown. It is a reasonable and proportionate response to the threat of community infection but are we really that complacent or recalcitrant? Or is our allegedly wilful disobedience simply the result of our leaders’ mixed messaging? Confusion abounds. Just look at Victoria.

Not every couple lives together. Can you visit your partner at his or her home? No says Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Brett Sutton. State Police Minister, Lisa Neville also says it’s not on. Well mostly. Sort of. That’s a definite maybe, then.

“You cannot visit your partner for social reasons. There are select reasons you can go to the home of your partner.” Daniel Andrews, on the other hand, who knows a bit about public speaking goes off into a riff:

“That’s not work, that’s not caregiving, that’s not medical care, that’s not shopping for the things that you need when you need them. And you know, it does not comply with the rules. So people should not do that.”

Newsflash. The rules have been relaxed. It’s now OK. But there’s no guarantee things won’t change as the number of Victorians infected with COVID-19 continues to climb. And climb as they do when community transmission is under-reported thanks to a limited testing regime – (expanded since Monday).

Our leaders fail to communicate clearly; consistently. In part, they, themselves, are confused. Or prefer evasion. At the start, in his self-styled role as Bronte bogan, Ocker Morrison urged us to continue with our normal lives. He was off to watch his Cronulla Sharks, or so he planned. It’s vital to his self-marketing.

Being a macho Sharkies fan is vital to Morrison’s everyman branding – as Van Badham says, although he fools no-one, he’s a “fauxgan not a bogan” – a Sydney eastern suburbs spiv who needs the westie blue collar vote. Yet in February, there were echoes of his mentor Donald Trump in his message of business as usual.

“There is no need for us to be moving towards not having mass gatherings of people. You can still go to the football, you can still go to the cricket … You can go off to the concert, and you can go out for a Chinese meal. You can do all of these things because Australia has acted quickly.”

Yet there was a need. Morrison gave dud advice based on a lie. Australia did not act quickly, argues Bill Bowtell, adjunct professor at The Kirby Institute for Infection and Immunity at the University of New South Wales and architect of Australia’s world-leading response to the AIDS epidemic several decades ago.

The federal Government knew about the severity of Coronavirus three months before it did anything. It should have accumulated testing kits, brought in necessary emergency equipment and medical supplies, provided money for science and vaccine research and immediately begun a public educational campaign.

Confusion from the top helps create a broader, underlying problem of vagueness at law. In the US a law can be unconstitutionally void for vagueness as former convenor of criminology, Deakin University’s Darren Palmer writes in The Conversation; a law becomes invalid because it is insufficiently clear.

People must have trust in any new powers given to authorities, he continues. New powers must be clear to all; applied consistently and transparently. Pandemic powers currently meet none of these criteria.

Pandemic powers are vague, inconsistent and opaque. A Victorian teenager is fined $1600 (later withdrawn by Victorian Police) for a driving lesson that is deemed non-essential travel yet NSW Police say the lesson would have been OK in NSW. Mick Fuller tells Fran Kelly that travel to a holiday home at Easter is not essential travel whereas in Victoria, it’s OK if quarantine is observed on arrival. And you own the home.

Do we really need to see soldiers in the street? Fine a man for eating a kebab? A homeless person is fined washing windscreens in south-west Sydney. Another man is pinged for drinking outside a closed pub. Exercise is OK but not elbow-raising.

But,sit on a park bench to catch your breath and you risk a fine in Victoria or NSW.

In SA, as in NSW, top cop, Police Commissioner, Grant Stevens, is the designated emergency co-ordinator. Accordingly, Stevens is practically licensed to kill.

He may use “such force as is reasonably necessary in the exercise or discharge of a power or function under this section or in ensuring compliance with a direction or requirement under this section.”

Not only are you are expected to quietly obey the new laws in SA, you forfeit your right to remain silent. “No obligation to maintain secrecy or other restriction on the disclosure of information” when you are “ … required to disclose information by a direction or requirement” issued under the new powers. Experts in civil liberties warn that we’re on a bit of a slippery slope – and we’ve been on it for about twenty years.

“Australia is now the only democratic nation in the world without a national human rights law such as a human rights act or bill of rights,” warned UNSW Professor George Williams in 2011.

Williams calculates that between the September 11 terrorist attacks and Howard’s end in 2007, a new anti-terror law was enacted every 6.7 weeks. Since then, increasingly draconian – and often unworkable – legislation has ballooned out well beyond any sane or reasonable response to its original worthy aim. Coronavirus extends the trend.

“There’s been a massive amount of legislation passed that prior to [September 2001] would have been unthinkable”, Pauline Wright, President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties says. “There have been incursions into freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of movement, right to protest, all basic legal rights that underpin our democracy”.

Luckily, we have a PM who is alert to creeping crypto-fascism. Scotty from marketing makes it clear he is sensitive to the term “lockdown”. He fears it may prompt panic buying of toilet rolls and hand sanitizer.

“I would actually caution the media against using the word ‘lockdown’ because I think it does create unnecessary anxiety because that is not an arrangement that is actually being considered in the way that term might suggest,” he says with typical laconic brevity. Yet Police Commissioner, Mick Fuller, who once took Morrison’s wheelie bin in for him, and is now the most powerful man in the state, begs to differ.

“You’re in a lockdown wherever you live,” Mick says last Tuesday after NSW announces its strict rules.

The latest lockdown laws in all states are rushed, unnecessary; “overzealous” writes ANU’s Peter Collignon, a professor of infectious disease. Not only do they seem a tad arbitrary and excessive, however, they are based on guesswork, extrapolation from extractions; cherry-picked, overseas data as Our Nation’s, Flat-Curve Saviour, Morrison confirms in his over-hyped, long-awaited, Release the Modelling show, Tuesday.

Asked whether the exotic modelling “indicated anything about the relative effectiveness of different measures” deployed in Australia. Chief Medical Officer Murphy replies: “It doesn’t, unfortunately.”

In brief, we’ve set up petty despots to protect us from spreading infection who don’t really know what they’re doing or why they are doing it. There is broad agreement on restricting movement but without any clear rationale to inform their arbitrary and inconsistent decrees to restrict the spread of the virus.

Duck-shoving responsibility to the states but taking all the credit for a flattening of the coronavirus pandemic curve, the federal government suspends parliament –

Even Jacqui Lambie’s not happy.

“This idea the government has of calling us in on a whim, whenever they feel they need, it’s not the most functional. They’re spending billions of dollars, so it’s time to apply a bit of scrutiny. We’ve been very nice to the government, we’ve played very nice. But with no parliament – is that a sustainable way for a democracy to go? No, it’s not.” The Independent Tassie Senator,makes the right call this time.

The Morrison government continues to hack away at the practice of representative democracy. Adding insult to injury, Federal Parliament is recalled, Wednesday, to rubber-stamp Job-Keeper. Labor is asked endlessly if it’s going to block the legislation – as if it has the numbers -when it’s already promised its support. The subtext in ABC news reports is that it would be heresy to challenge the Morrison government’s plan.

In fact, there’s a lot that needs challenging. Over a million Australians are ineligible. The Very Christian Porter doesn’t care. There has to be a line drawn somewhere he says. The Australian Bureau of Statistics report only 47% of businesses in the arts and recreation sector are still operating at the end of March.

But because short-term contract work is rampant in theatre, television, film, live shows and the wider arts sector of the economy, many of the 50,000 artists and 600,000 workers in the sector miss out on JobKeeper.

JobKeeper is touted as a $130 billion stimulus package, vital to Snap-Back, Morrison’s six-month miracle cure for our Coronavirus economic recession – which, amazingly, is yet another subsidy of the Liberal Party’s business pals. No-one asks where’s the money coming from; ask which spending will be cut or what additional revenue will pay for it. Few bother with the lack of any “mutual obligation” to bosses attached to it.

Yet the package will help Scotty counter toxic images of queues outside Centrelink offices, snaking along pavements and around the block. Not only will JobKeeper workers be kept out of unemployment queues, moreover, they won’t appear in statistics. Best of all, employers get to choose which workers to keep and which to lose. Workers’ gratitude will be lavished on big-hearted bosses, not endorse Big Government.

JobKeeper is yet another “package” – Morrison jargon to help evade accountability. Many drought relief packages, for example, are yet to materialise. JobKeeper subsidises six million workers’ wages to keep one million in work, as Richard Denniss observes, in a cunning transfer of wealth to prosperous business owners.

Expect little debate. The News-Corp-led media Hallelujah Chorus hails the PM as the Messiah. David Speers on ABC Insiders is full of applause. Others ask: how good is our socialist government? But both are lies. By pumping hundreds of billions into existing businesses, there’s little capital for investing in projects that actually create employment. And Morrison expects things to snap back, once we’re on the other side.

It cannot last. The PM is very keen to impress this on us. “There is a snap-back there, a snap-back to the previous existing arrangements on the other side of this,” Morrison warns Thursday. “There is an intensity of expenditure during this period. And then we have to get back to what it was like before.”

Except, he has no idea how to do this. Or when. Turning off the economic stimulus tap too soon, however badly it’s targeted, would deepen any recession – and it’s likely to be a deep one. It’s wildly optimistic to talk in terms of a six months’ cure.

Other problems are just as intractable. How it will be possible to snatch back JobKeeper or “free” childcare or the JobSeeker allowance, a doubling of the not so new Newstart and tacit admission that its forty dollars a day was woefully inadequate? Meanwhile, JobSeeker still promises punitive “mutual obligation” requirements after 27 April 2020 which force unemployed workers to look for jobs that simply won’t exist.

Greg Jericho reports that Callam Pickering, economist at global job site Indeed, estimates that currently job adverts are running about 33% below what they were last year. “It would actually be surprising if they don’t drop by more – during the 1990s recession they fell by half.”

Some prosperous businesses will receive a big boost from JobKeeper, notes Richard Denniss, The Australia Institute’s chief economist. For example, childcare which underpays and overworks its staff, exploiting a largely female workforce. But for many, it is no help at all. Worse it further divides the working poor.

A glance at current ABS statistics on businesses in the hospitality sector, already rife with wage theft and underemployment and now hit by the coronavirus social isolation decrees, reveals that seventy per cent are forced to further under-employ their workers, reduce the hours of their staff. Forty three percent are estimated, by ABS sampling, to have either laid off workers, or placed them on unpaid leave.

Federal Parliament is suspended until 11 August at least, although as government leader in the House of Reps, Attorney-General Christian Porter makes clear, it’s not due to resume until September. The recession-busting brains trust running the joint has “better things to do” than sit in parliament.

Non-essential outings are banned in NSW and Victoria in a zealous interpretation of a recommendation by Morrison’s oxymoronic adhocracy, his National Cabinet; a marvel of self-promotion and self-preservation by a PM who’d struggle to raffle a duck in a pub but who is a past master of the duck-shoving of responsibility.

Scotty grandstands, whilst ensuring responsibility for containing the coronavirus pandemic lies with the states. But it will all be OK because he’s agreed to a senate committee which will provide oversight. Seriously.

We’ve seen too much already of the contempt for democracy and transparency displayed by his government and senior public servants called before senate committees – including the ADF’s top cop, Reece Kershaw, whose boast was that he’d set a record for taking questions on notice. In other words, avoid answering.

Nowhere is Scotty’s buck-passing more apparent than in the five star scandal of the monster cruise ship Ruby Princess, our Typhoid Mary, an eighteen deck behemoth linked to over a dozen deaths and up to a thousand cases of infection.

Is it a cop-out by federal government as NSW Senator, Kristina Kenneally alleges? She’s being diplomatic about dereliction of duty compounded by a very clumsy cover up of Dutton’s Home Affairs failure to stop the one boat that mattered.

The shadow minister for Immigration and Home Affairs, accuses the Coalition of ducking its responsibility by expecting the states to take the lead – albeit in co-operation with federal Border Force officers. The federal government’s “dragged its feet” on crucial border protection measures, such as temperature checks at airports or mandatory quarantine for cruise ship arrivals.

“The wider Australian community is now seeing the calamitous results of their decision to allow the Ruby Princess to dock in Sydney,” Kristina Keneally says, “a moment we have quickly realised was a tipping point in the spread of coronavirus in Australia.”

This will be regarded as the worst public health disaster in America in a century,” says Eric Topol, professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research in San Diego. “The root cause of the disaster was the lack of readiness to understand where, how and when the disease was spreading.”

It’s been much the same in Australia but now with Carnival and other companies’ ships of shame no longer visiting, there’s been a drop in our statistics. Whether we are flattening the curve, it is too early to tell but there are encouraging signs of a decline in reported cases although community transmission continues to be a major concern.

Finally Morrison’s snapback is an illusion. Many who lost their jobs in past recessions never found another another, even years later.

In the recession of the early 1980s the unemployment rate almost doubled, increasing from 5.5% to 10.5% in two years. The number of unemployed Australians increased by 330,000. An equivalent proportion of today’s workforce would be about 650,000. It took six and a half years, to the end of the 1980s, for the unemployment rate to claw its way back to somewhere close to where it started.

And there were other, deeper, consequences. During the recession of the early 1980s, the proportion of Australian males with a job fell by about 7%. Only half of that fall was reversed in the ensuing recovery. Then workers were hit with the recession of the early 1990s. In the following three years, the proportion of males with a job fell by a further 10%, Macrobusiness’ David Lewellyn Smith reminds us.

Morrison needs to step up, however much he fears accountability. Parliament needs to be recalled immediately. The nation deserves no less. Our public health and the health of our body politic, our democracy depends upon it.

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