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Turnbull government marks two years of inertia, paralysis and failure.

“It’s been two years of great achievement … But above all it’s two years since I became prime minister building on the outstanding work of the Member for Warringah. And what that has done is delivered strong jobs growth.”

Malcolm Turnbull marks two years in office with a tribute to his nemesis Tony Abbott; a falsehood set in a farrago of lies.

Great achievement? Don’t mention the NBN. The ABCC was adulterated to buggery. The Gonski 2.0 con a $22 billion cut for education. Media reform? A path for Rupert The Sun-King to gain even more power. Strong jobs growth? The unemployment rate is stuck stubbornly on 5.6%. Over 730,000 people are out of work for more than a year. Every one of us is working fewer hours.  Most Australians are steadily getting poorer while the rich and the very rich prosper.

But in our Orwellian political arena, up is down. Back is forward; black is white. Our PM, the most over-promoted, least-attractive, poseur in our political history, leads his underwhelming, overweening parliamentary jeer-squad over the top.

Embracing their inner lout again this week, MPs set about bullying AGL, defaming “shifty” Bill Shorten and throwing such a hissy fit of denunciation, eye-rolling, finger-pointing, mocking, crowing and hectoring of demon Labor, as they can muster to divert from their imminent mugging by a host of scandals, self-inflicted crises and policy failures.

Gavin Hanlon, our most senior NSW water wallah resigns two months after it is revealed that he offered to share confidential government documents with irrigation lobbyists. Of course it’s nothing to do with our Water Minister, Kiwi, Barnaby Joyce. Not even a federal matter. And, Oh my, just look over there. Shorten’s telling lies again.

“We have seen this all before, because the Leader of the Opposition has a pathological pattern of behaviour to deceive, to falsify and to mislead the Australian people …” crows Josh Frydenberg rightly disputing Labor’s claim that NSW power prices would rise by $1000. Yet Liberals warned of $100 lamb roasts and Whyalla disappearing off the map, if carbon emissions were to be priced, in a carbon tax scare which Peta Credlin and Tony Abbott now freely admit to inventing.

Team Turnbull’s plan is a back-to-the-future attack on Labor as the party of high electricity prices in a re-run of Abbott’s astonishing success, yet it’s unlikely that NSW consumers whose bills Frydenberg claims increase by only $300 will feel upbeat – especially given that the privatisation of electricity was sold to them as a way to lower power tariffs.

Its ABCC scandal, on the other hand, is electrifying. Nigel Hadgkiss, their “tough new cop on the construction beat” confesses he published false information about site entry. He did not bother to read it, he says. Restoring law and order to building sites by appointing an industrial cop who breaks those laws himself would cause most ministers to reflect.

Not so Employment Minister, lip-readers’ friend Michaelia Cash despite being hoist by her own petard appears entirely unrepentant. Ms Hard Cash wins this week’s Government own goal of the week award. And Stand by Your Man award.

Ms Ready Cash tapped Liberal pal Hadgkiss to head the ABCC when she knew that he had broken the Fair Work Act himself.  There was no cabinet appointment process just a lousy $426,160 a year  She tells the senate that she first learned about Nigel’s behaviour in October last year but her office quickly modifies that to “learning of the allegations”.

“Merely because behaviour is alleged in a court process does not make it a finding of fact,” she shrieks on Thursday.

It’s a sobering thought, given forty-one, thirty year old unsubstantiated allegations about Lionel Murphy are released by Federal Parliament to help divert from pressing scandals and to help assuage the Coalition’s insatiable fetish for bashing Labor activists even after they’ve shuffled off stage left.

Never to be outdone, indignant that there is no posthumous Royal Commission into Murph, Merry Gerry Henderson eagerly puts his boot in also just to put aside for a moment The Australian’s sterling contribution to the respectful and mature hatred so consuming the national mood in what the government so fondly calls the same sex marriage debate.

Gerry finds 41 serious allegations to salivate over but allegations they remain. It’s a point The Oz, oddly, seems to lose sight of.

Perhaps Coalition MPs, too could bear Ms Cash’s distinction in mind when next they rise to repeat the Chiquita mushroom allegation or any other from two years of unproven allegations against Bill Shorten in the TURC.

Undeterred and in the spirit of a post-truth week, Cash proceeds to paints Hadgkiss as some kind of martyr,

“Mr Hadgkiss has played a pivotal role in restoring the rule of law to Australia’s building and construction industry, despite relentless opposition and appalling intimidation from lawless construction unions and their political supporters.”

Cash admits to knowing for almost a year, then, that Australian Building and Construction (ABCC) chief had broken the laws he was supposedly enforcing.

He says he thought the laws would be repealed and didn’t bother checking. Why would he? She says she had no proof and besides, he only admitted to the breaches this week.  Why would she check?

In like Flynn, Hadgkiss was immediately appointed, in 2013, by then Employment Minister, Eric Abetz, to head the Fair Work Building Inspectorate. Shortly after his appointment he told inspectorate staff not to correct misinformation to employers that they could direct unions where they could hold their on-site meetings, advice which was left uncorrected for two years, despite warnings from CFMEU and Commission staff.

Hadgkiss admits in a 25 page agreed statement of facts tendered to the Federal Court Tuesday that, in December 2013, he directed his agency to not publish changes to right-of-entry laws that were of benefit to unions. Above all to workers.

The coalition has always claimed that Howard’s ABCC brought a 20% increase in productivity, a lie refuted in Productivity Commission reports. Not only did construction activity decrease, it became more dangerous. Now it’s even worse.

Deaths in construction soared to 19 in the first six months of 2017, equivalent to 38 per year, the worst rate on record. Under Abbott, deaths became more frequent but under Turnbull, the rate at which workers are killed has accelerated.

The fatality rate is even more worrying given the industry’s unprecedented three consecutive years of investment decline under the Abbott-Turnbull government with a corresponding slump in output. The ABCC was supposed to revitalise the industry. Construction would boom once government relaxed the red tape in a new era of deregulation.

Malcolm Turnbull even gave it his best Neoliberal benediction,

“Deregulation, enabling businesses and individuals to pursue their own dreams, their own freedom, is the way to deliver the prosperity upon which all depends.”

Pressed by Leigh Sales, recently to list his achievements, the PM was quick to instance the ABCC. No hint from Sales that construction industry activity or its safety record since Turnbull’s ABCC revival is an indictment of his government.

So, too, is the slump in residential building which headed for a 31 per cent decline according to BIS economics. Jobs? Tens of thousands of construction workers could find themselves unemployed in 2018.

The Australian Construction Industry Forum predicts construction industry could shed as many as 166,000 jobs over the next three years as a deterioration in engineering construction dovetails with the slump in residential building,

It’s a big cloud gathering but Pollyanna Scott Morrison is still inanely braying “better times ahead”. Perhaps he has to. The alternative is unthinkable.

The Cash scandal, together with Stuart Robert’s sensational revelations, would bring any other government to its knees.

Robert is alleged to have made his eighty-year-old father, Alan, a director in his IT service business, Robert International, which he ran with his wife, Dorothy, so his son’s business could continue to receive tens of millions in government contracts.  It also links Robert to GMT Services, an IT business with which Robert says he has “ceased involvement”.

Any normal government would be rocked to its foundations but the Coalition has the answer. More loud shouting. Slurs.

You can’t let Shorten “slither in”. Malcolm Turnbull’s morphing into Tony Abbott with a bigger vocabulary and a better postcode is almost totally complete two years after he hauled the mangy junkyard dog before his own kangaroo court.

Turnbull 1:0  still in his suavely debonair Q&A leather jacket stage, couldn’t tell Tony that, as PM, he was a hopeless joke.

Worse. It was the savage god, the economy, that ravenous beast that made him do it. He had to knife his PM, he said, in his languid, lofty, hollow, vowels primarily, because Abbott was hopeless with budgets and spending. Simply no idea of how to act like an economic leader, or what tie to wear, let alone how to keep a Cayman Island company or trust afloat.

How Turnbull’s Abbott hatchet-job has come back to mock him. The 2017 budget is big-spending and high taxing. Yet the economy is going backwards. Hours worked, to take the single most reliable indicator of jobs created, have been below 85.10 in the 22 months since Morrison became Treasurer and Cash became Employment Minister.

The lowest under Labor was 85.7.

Despite the nonsense about total jobs created – meaningless without population growth, jobs wound up and above all attention to the steady decline in total hours worked, unemployment is stuck at 5.6%.

While profits are at record levels, wages growth hasn’t budged from 1.9%, for the last four quarters is a record low. It helps to put the lie to trickle-down if not the entire corpus of laissez-faire Neoliberal economic theory.  Wages as a proportion of GDP are at their lowest since records began in 1959.

Today, economic leadership amounts only to repeating “our economic plan.” And “strong jobs growth.” Yet, in keeping with all true contrarian experience, every claim the Turnbull team makes about the economy, employment or their goals is refuted by the experts.

Similarly, Abbott’s leadership style was held to be deficient. How, for example, Tony spoke down to the nation. Talk about superficial slogans. “Jobs and growth.” The tosser sounded like a talking bumper sticker. Sloganeering was no substitute for advocacy and didn’t respect people’s intelligence. It was mutual. Witness 30 straight Newspoll fails.

Despite solid progress, Turnbull is still working towards the Newspoll goal but most of the other key non-performance indicators are there. Especially the slogans, arrogance and the autocratic tendencies. This week, in the bullying of AGL, there have been flashes of the Ayatollah, as the imperious Turnbull was known in his banking career.

The power play of the week has been to wheedle cajole and bully Andy Vesey, the CEO of  AGL into an undertaking to keep Liddell, the nation’s oldest, dirtiest and least reliable power station open beyond its 2022 use by date. Or sell the plant to a competitor, a proposal which has curiously been spurned by the company’s board.

No-one would buy a station which AEMO itself says is most likely to cause power blackout and which could consume a billion dollars just to get it back into commission – despite Barnaby Joyce’s claim that he knows of at least two. But he’s not telling.

The Turnbull government, however, has chosen the contrarian path issuing press releases suggesting the AGL board will take 90 days to consider keeping the station open.

In reality, the undertaking allows AGL a number of options including honouring its generation commitment by means of renewables – which was its intention in the first place.

Alarmingly, this week Morrison is not up to speed on AGL. And who knows where Joyce has got his Liddell tyre-kickers from. His place as a National party climate denier is to insist repeatedly that coal is affordable and reliable, neither of which is true but it all helps the Coalition strategy of ditching Finkel’s Clean Energy Target for something that would allow coal-burning power stations to be part of the “energy plan” a novelty in Coalition policy to date.

Expect a CET 2.0 which will have to be appropriately renamed as an ‘affordable energy target”. Whatever the government comes up with it deserves to be known as the dirty or unclean energy target. It will be billed as a product of the cabinet and party room “consultation process”. In other words what Tony Abbott’s mob tell Turnbull he must do.

An environmental, energy and economic disaster, it promises to end Turnbull’s political career.

Yet Abbott’s consultation style was hopeless, too. Nor was he big on “proper cabinet government”. Mostly he got Peta Credlin to tell ministers what they were up to – or how far they were off the pace.  And he made up policy on the hop.

Turnbull two years out is vulnerable on all these counts just as he is hamstrung by his secret Faustian pact with the Nationals. Captured by the right of his party with its climate denial and its opposition to marriage equality he is unable to exert his authority, let alone lead. Further, as Bernard Keane points out, the PM is wedged between the sudden death of neoliberalism, largely occasioned by its inability to sustain wages growth and the rise of populist resentment.

This week a conga-line of ministers turns itself inside out in a series of back-flips on everything including the Paris Climate Accord as the Turnbull circus marks the beginning of its third, surreal, year with an Orwellian tour de force.

“This will be a thoroughly Liberal Government. It will be a thoroughly Liberal Government committed to freedom, the individual and the market.”  promised Turnbull at first. Now he’s intervening in the energy market, lecturing the banks, re-jigging the gas market, even bullying AGL to keep open a costly, inefficient, unreliable, uneconomic coal-fired plant and proposing to build and run state power plants and even a railway to a coal mine or two in the best Soviet command-economy style. He styles himself as a pragmatist but his record is more one of agonising confusion.

In common with Abbott, Turnbull falls back instead upon a political style which is permanently stuck in opposition mode.

“We know that this Leader of the Opposition is shifty and he can’t be trusted,” Coalition junkyard top dog Dutton says.

“The Labor left will not allow a policy which sees boats stopped, deaths at sea stopped, children out of detention.”

Kill Bill is the now the only game the whole bitterly divided government can safely play. No wonder they do it to death. Luckily, our leaders can still rally the nation if not the party’s esprit de corps by making war on the poor, the less fortunate and those who throw themselves on our mercy.

Peter Dutton has just cut financial assistance for up to 400 asylum-seekers across Australia. Over seventy refugees are evicted in Melbourne. Fortunately, Daniel Andrews’ Labor government will provide financial support, food and shelter, “so they don’t starve on the streets” to those now facing homelessness on top of the trauma they have already endured.

The state’s support package follows Andrews’ letter to the prime minister last year offering to take “full responsibility” for asylum seekers who faced being sent back to Nauru. He received no reply.

In another surprise announcement, it is revealed that construction is well-advanced on Manus 2.0 in Port Moresby, of a duplicate detention centre to incarcerate refugees displaced by PNG’s decision to close the Manus gulag.  Details are sparse. Doubtless all has to be kept secret to spoil the demon people smugglers’ business model.

The $20 m building will house men who have been given “negative” refugee status, a category which includes those who have withdrawn from submitting to the cruel torture of “processing” their claims out of fear, trauma or a lack of trust.

“Those people, who total about 200, who have been found not to be refugees are to be moved into an alternative place of detention away from the regional processing centre, given that they have no lawful claim to be in PNG,” Peter Dutton tells parliament.

Sadly, it is always “those people” whenever the government speaks of refugees. Not “our people” as our common humanity would tell us or as international law would confirm. And we have only Dutton’s notoriously untrustworthy word for the adequacy or the legitimacy of the processing to say nothing of its legality under our human rights obligations.

The only possible humane solution is to bring those on Nauru and on Manus home to Australia immediately. Four years of suffering is enough. Apart from petty political point-scoring the government has nothing to lose and everything to gain. Yet such a move does not suit its increasingly narrow, right-wing agenda.

Nurturing Islamophobia and the persecution of minorities is now a mainstay of Coalition politics but in a new low, even for the fathomless enigma that is Turnbull, the week is darkened by the PM’s inaugural anti-Muslim dog-whistle.

“I notice they’re all making a sign of solidarity with the Muslim Brotherhood with the Rabia sign there,” he bellows. “They might want to think about that.

Labor MPs are displaying four fingers to indicate his government has taken four years to do nothing on energy policy. It could just as easily indicate it has nothing to show in ending the illegal indefinite offshore detention of men, women and children whose only mistake was to throw themselves on our mercy.

Four years out, the Abbott-Turnbull experiment has so little to show for itself in the economy, the environment, education or any other area of policy, that it may as well take the opportunity of the closure of the Manus detention centre to rediscover its humanity and reverse its opposition to resettlement in Australia of those in off-shore detention.

Time for the PM to give his precious innovation agenda mob a real project. Nothing much else seems to be working.

Turnbull no Pacific leader nor, alas, at home.

His Pacific Leaders’ blue shirt a size too tight Malcolm Bligh Turnbull winces at the camera like Gulliver awakening to find himself tied to the ground by pieces of thread. He can only look up and the tropical sun prevents him from seeing anything but he knows the locals are hostile.  He has never been more ill at ease in his political career.

It’s the 48th Pacific Islands Leaders’ forum in Apia. Neither the rig nor the gig are a good fit for our little Aussie bwana. Amidst the Islanders, the canaries of climate change, our coal-powered Prime Minister is way out of his comfort zone. Utterly exposed. Now the whole world can see he’s treading water; not waving but drowning.

He’s left Kiwi of the Year nominee, Barnaby, in charge just to stick it to the Labor Party. Anything could happen.

In other ways our PM is glad to leave Canberra. It’s his government’s 19th straight Newspoll loss; the eighth in a row where the margin is at least six points behind Labor. A one-point gain on the last poll is just a statistical blip.

Way things are, Ian Macdonald kindly tells the party room, at least 30 MPs stand to lose their seats next election.

Turnbull’s tight shirt looks as if it’s shrinking, like the emerald isle of Upolu itself, as climate change, helped by Aussie coal, raises sea levels; brings floods, and storms.  The shrinking Samoan shoreline is confronting.

Help is needed. Twenty per cent of Pacific Islanders live in poverty and are unable to meet their basic needs.

Unsettling also is the bad vibe he’s getting from Pacific leaders, burned by an endless gallery of rogues; black-birders, corporate pirates, carpet-baggers and other invaders from the south. Above all, his hosts take Australia’s carbon emissions role in global warming seriously. It’s not a political game to these leaders. He looks pained.

This should be Mal’s happy place.  He’s had a big week ranting about downward-pressure on power prices, putting the wind up Blackout Bill and a huge win in the High Court over the constitutionality of Dutto’s delaying tactic. The postal survey is in the bag. Respectful debate is off its leash.

Amanda Devine pens a piece entitled, Fascism has a new flag and it’s a rainbow, in an echo of a Breitbart piece from two years ago. She wins Orwellian double-speak of the week.

Reason, inevitably, flies out the window. Rich and powerful lobbyists such as the ACL whose mystery donors include mining corporations spend up big to create a tsunami of fear that a Yes vote will be the start of a slippery slope which could end with marriage to Sydney Harbour Bridge or the loss of religious and other freedoms.

John Howard, whose change of the Marriage Act in 2004 has helped to make marriage equality a matter to be decided by popular prejudice, helpfully says it’s disingenuous for the Yes campaign to argue that changing the law to ­include same-sex marriage did not affect other rights and that the survey involved a simple yes/no question.

Yet, as former High Court justice Michael Kirby said in August last year,

“We didn’t do this for the Aboriginal people when we moved to give equality in law to them, we didn’t do it when we dismantled the White Australia policy … we didn’t do it in advances on women’s equality, we didn’t do it most recently on disability equality. Why are we now picking out the LGBT, the gay community?”

Howard’s dog-whistling about rights evokes Augusto Zimmerman’s Quadrant view that the welfare of children of parents in same-sex relationships are physically and emotionally at risk. In a not too distant echo, residents in Newcastle NSW receive No case propaganda suggesting that same-sex parents are likely to be paedophiles.

More alarming for the PM and for most Australians but delighting Abbott and the right-wing of the party is recent Fairfax research suggesting support for the No case is growing, while only 65% who support the Yes case appear much less likely to complete their survey. Yet the shift needs to be seen in context of a strong majority for Yes..

Yes voters still make up nearly 60% of the poll, conducted for the Equality campaign by Newgate Research pollster Jim Reed between August 28 and September 6, with a sample size of 800 and a 3.5 per cent margin of error.

Marriage equality is not something the Australian PM can take on the road, especially given that homosexuality is illegal in Samoa but he’s got a lot of good tidings if only they could look past their hang ups with climate change. The forum leaders are astonished that he could waste so much time avoiding the one issue that really matters.

You’d think, nevertheless, he could kick back and enjoy a South Sea Islands Friday happy hour with his Pacific-leader pals. It’s a chance for them to high-five him over the latest “good set of figures” the tiny rise in GDP created largely by government spending? Record profits. Lowest wages. Our economy is the envy of the world, he brays.

A new IMF study shows lowering taxes for the wealthiest 25%, such as the Turnbull government’s $65bn corporate welfare tax cut may stimulate economic activity but will promote inequality. Such cuts never pay for themselves.

But not to worry, we can import cheaper workers. Mal announces an amazing self-help deal for Polynesian job-seekers. Islanders look warily at yet another Aussie con-man. AusAid 2.0? Or return of the blackbirders?

2000 workers from Kiribati, Tuvalu and Nauru may now spend up to three lonely years in remote parts of country Australia doing poorly-paid low and semi-skilled jobs. And it’s not just hard manual labour, some will work in aged care and tourism. Goodbye backpackers, hello Kanakas 2.0, another brilliant scheme to boost corporate profits, by providing contractors with a stream of docile Pacific labour to exploit in often dangerous, back-breaking work.

Pacific Islanders already throng to work on farms in their thousands, lured by word of high wages. Yet, reports reveal, the reality is near slavery. An ABC investigation found Tongan and Fijian workers were picking fruit in Victoria for $9 a week after deductions for accommodation and travel and work equipment from their pay.

A 22-year-old Tongan national, Sione “Vaka” Fifita, who died after falling ill while fruit-picking, was left for eight days in a caravan park, according to The Salvation Army. Ten seasonal labourers have died in the last five years.

Twenty-two workers tell the Federal Court they often were given no food for entire days, moved from farm to farm without warning and forced to sleep on buses on the side of the road, or on chairs.

Silas Aru was paid $150 for six months work in Australia. Others were abused and threatened with arrest or deportation if they asked for food and water, or about their pay: “Stop asking questions about payment. If you keep asking I will send you back to Vanuatu,” said Emmanuel Bani, the contractor.

No-one from your village will get work in Australia again. It’s a powerful threat to a member of a small community.

A senate inquiry last May heard evidence from Australian unions that exploitation of seasonal pacific workers is widespread. Reports were heard of long hours, up to 60% deduction from wages for board and lodging, excessive hours, unpaid overtime and lack of access to health care. Yet the PM’s announcement is given hearty media spin.

Exploitation, neglect and abuse can be so spiritually uplifting. Minister for Utopia, Michaelia Cash talks of promoting economic resilience and improving livelihoods of ‘the citizens in the region’ as Islanders “access the Seasonal Worker Programme.  Why it will even “pilot ways to lower upfront costs for employers”. You bet it will.

So why so glum? True, he’s missed four days of meetings but at least he’s here in time for the leaders’ retreat.

And the camera. Mal’s shunted to one side, his ill-fitting shirt just shrieking exclusion in the forum leaders’ photo. Worse, the colourful Peter O’Neill ear-bashes him about Manus. Wednesday’s $70 m Victorian Supreme Court settlement puts the lie to the Turnbull government’s fiction that the detention centre is not our responsibility.

Our evasion of duty of care extends to having no plans for the refugees beyond telling them they’ll never come to Australia. One hundred men have been moved to Port Moresby, ostensibly, for specialist medical treatment. Immigration Minister – soon to be super minister indefinite detention Dutton has nothing planned beyond that.

By contrast, in another state response to the failure of commonwealth will and compassion, Victoria’s Andrews government will find $600,000 for the asylum seekers living in Victoria so they “don’t starve on the streets”.

Andrews will also set up means whereby Pacific Islanders working in Victoria can be more carefully monitored and policed in order to end exploitative practices in the state. Yet there is no federal acknowledgement. Especially not from Peter Dutton.

It’s hard to conceive that Peter Dutton could think that forcing destitute refugees on to the street is an acceptable strategy but he spends much air-time this week defending his callous inhumanity while his shock-jock hosts nod along.

On radio 2GB with Alan Jones, Dutton defends the introduction of ‘final departure Bridging E Visa’, claiming that people are ‘ripping the system off’. It’s a cruel stunt which is part of a Coalition attempt to wedge Labor as soft on refugees while dog-whistling Pauline Hanson supporters. Yet it is a singularly degrading experience for all parties.

New Zealand Labour leader Jacinda Ardern renews former Kiwi PM John Key’s offer to take 150 men from Manus – possibly more – but the Turnbull government appears implacably opposed to any variation in its punitive detention policy. The dead hand of Dutton denies all compassion or humanity; the access and passage of remorse.

In absurdity of the week, Turnbull manages to insult the Kiwis and all refugee advocates and supporters by maintaining that a NZ solution would offer people-smugglers a “marketing opportunity” for backdoor access.

Worse, like any shyster, our PM doesn’t care if the US takes a single refugee in the much vaunted refugee swap deal, another Dutton disaster. It’s the look of the thing that matters. Last month’s leaked transcripts of his call to Trump make his unconcern shamefully clear.  He makes policy not to govern the nation but to appease his party.

Similarly, he’s unfussed how much Australia waters down any climate agreement Pacific leaders may propose.

Last month PICAN awarded the Australian government the inaugural “Pacific Fossil Award”, for repeatedly trying to kid Pacific island countries that it was serious about helping to slow climate change, while, in fact, making the problem worse by increasing coal exports, as well as promoting the use of coal abroad.

They’ve been kind to us. Ten million Pacific Islanders need our help. They can see what we’re up to.

The Islanders have seen how Abbott dismantled our price on carbon; how he crippled investment in renewable energy. Worse, they have seen how Coalition governments diverted public funds from genuine carbon abatement schemes by pretending that its Direct Action boondoggle was a legitimate mechanism to curb CO2 emissions.

Scott Morrison didn’t even mention climate change in his last budget. The climate change debate has been supplanted by the ‘energy debate,’ in line with world’s best practice in defending the use of coal by ignoring climate altogether and pursuing “energy solutions” instead.

The Pacific has been rising by 4mm per year since 1993. It will inevitably swamp Samoa and other Pacific Islands unless global warming is halted. Mad Mal’s response is to drown our neighbours by increasing carbon emissions – not because he believes in coal but because it fits his selfish political agenda. Talk about make yourself popular.

Island leaders remember last year, too when the PM misled Parliament that Australia’s emissions reduction targets of 26 to 28 per cent on 2005 are “credible and substantial” and ” second only to the cuts offered by Brazil.

His latest ploy to wedge Labor and to win over his own party’s right wing rump is to keep Liddell, Australia’s oldest, dirtiest, coal-fired power station burning.

The week is wasted with attempts to paint Labor as the party of blackouts while the Coalition is determined to roll up its sleeves to keep the power on. This means picking a fight with AGL over its decision to phase out NSW’s Liddell power station, only recently privatised by the former Baird NSW government.

Liddell is the oldest, dirtiest coal-fired plant in Australia. In the view of energy market regulator AEMO, it is likely to cause blackouts rather than supply additional electricity to the grid. Yet over the week it becomes a cause celebre. It will be sold, the government declares. Yet who will buy remains a mystery. It won’t be AGL.

The plant would require at least $1/2bn to keep going but offers investors only five years, operation in a market where profits on coal-fired electricity are harder to make than in renewables.

The crusade to save of Liddell will be a defining point in next week’s debate in the house – just as it stands as a defining point for this government which is so committed to pleasing its coal-lobby sponsors that it has abandoned all pretence at concern with carbon emissions and their role in global warming. No wonder Pacific Islanders see our PM simply as another palagi who is interested only in putting profits before people.

It’s not just home fires burning, moreover, our global warming Coalition promises to help Adani pollute the planet. Back out of Paris. Flunk even Finkel’s feeble CET, a type of Clayton’s carbon price Turnbull is rapidly giving up hope of sneaking past Tony Abbott and his cheer squad of delusional denialists and Minerals Council dupes.

The government pounces upon the Australian Energy Market Operator’s annual Electricity Statement of Opportunities which is released this week and within hours has its own spin on the report which predicts the likelihood of blackouts this summer given the age and unreliability of our national grid. It blames Labor.

What the report really says, the government doesn’t want to admit. It’s an indictment of the failure of Abbott’s war on carbon pricing, his so-called carbon tax that Peta Credlin now confesses was just a stunt. Without such a pricing mechanism, our nation’s progress towards renewable energy sources has been criminally sabotaged.

Equally damning are the ways in which the Abbott and Turnbull governments have discouraged investment in renewable energy generation.  Alternative power sources should be available ready, now, to be phased in as we close the dirty, uneconomic fifty-year old coal-burning plants. Instead, the industry has been actively discouraged.

All of his could be foreseen; planned for. For all its attempts to rewrite history and blame both sides of politics, or even to just blame Labor, it is the Coalition with its coal-based ideology and its failure to develop a clear energy policy or a policy on carbon emissions which is responsible for the energy mess we are in now.

More will be heard of the Turnbull government’s base load fetish; the technological nonsense that a stable power source is only possible through burning coal. Much less will be said about the fetish for the free market and for privatisation which helped it to set up an electricity supply which is either affordable or reliable.

And in the ledger of our international responsibility, our status as global citizens we face a growing deficit as polluters. Tuvalu’s PM, Enele Sopoaga, speaks of hypocrisy, of an Australia which is happy to preach renewable energy and emissions control to its island neighbours but which in practice does the very opposite itself.

“We’re simply seeking for the rights of small island states to survive,” he says.

Oddly, no-one in Apia looks overjoyed to have the big blue bwana in their midst. He has dropped in on the tail end of proceedings as if he still believes it’s the great white bwana, the palagi’s prerogative to be fashionably late.

Better late than never? We can’t even give him that. Leadership is what you do not what you preach. And your priorities. When there’s a clear choice between saving his own leadership and the chance to lead or even save others, Turnbull gives up a whole six hours of his time. Just enough time to announce a new kanaka recruitment drive.

Super Mal of Monaro about to crash and burn.

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird? It’s a plane? No it’s super-Mal soaring high above the Monaro Plains! Up, up and away!

Faster than a speeding ballot or a same-sex marriage postal survey. More powerful than a speeding locomotive loan fast-tracked for approval in Adani’s boondoggle. Able to leap tall infrastructure building in a single bound.  Or soar above the heap of mounting crises from Abbott’s sniping to impending High Court hearings that could derail his government.

Parliament is about to resume. A new News Poll looms and two challenges to the Coalition’s postal thingy thought bubble could be decided next week. The dual citizen juggernaut thunders on while four years on, the Coalition has forgotten to get an energy or environment policy. And the government is tearing itself apart over marriage equality.

As it continues to do over climate. Helpfully, our resident international expert on climate change denial, Dr Tony Abbott announces he will be the star speaker  delivering a paper entitled “Daring to Doubt” at The Global Warming Policy Foundation which holds an annual gabfest in London. His selfless gesture is certain to help his party agree on a CET.

When the going gets tough, the tough get airborne. Super-Mal, son of Ming, scion of “the sensible centre”, hurtles across the political firmament, all fizz and spin; a sky-rocket without a stick; a whirlwind of technological agnosticism and base load bull dust. Up? Turnbull even tells Leigh Sales he’ll win the next election. Attacks her “cynicism”.

It’s impossible to keep up with him. Two days after he says the government has no plans to build a coal power station, Turnbull pledges federal support to Queenslanders hoodwinked into thinking this could fix their tripling power bills.

Why? The PM must appease his masters, of course. South Australian Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis  writes:

“ … the only thing standing in the way of lower prices, improved grid security and meeting our carbon reduction commitments is a divided Federal Liberal Party that is completely beholden to the coal lobby.”

Then there are MPs who have to be obeyed. Kiwi-Barnaby Joyce and his former chief of staff, Signor Canavani our Italian Senator are both noisy advocates for a mine whose only value is the profit in it to investors up for a boondoggle.

Super Mal would be easier to follow, however, if he satisfied Joel Fitzgibbon’s FOI request that he release his secret squirrel deal with the Nats, the Coalition agreement.

Turnbull refuses because it is private and not an “official document of the minister”. The case, currently before the Federal Court, promises to be a protracted legal stoush.

Yet it’s a lose-lose for the PM. A new coal power plant would not offer consumers lower prices, despite coal lobby spin.

AIG (Australian Industry Group) and Bloomberg New Energy Finance say electricity prices could double if new coal-fired power stations are built. Experts also say more coal-fired power generation is not needed. 680 MW of privately funded renewable energy projects are pending with $1.5 billion of new investment and more than 1200 direct jobs.

Yet, with an election announcement in the wings, QLD Opposition Leader, former Newman government treasurer, Tim Nicholls will fast-track a project using the latest high-energy, low-emissions (HELE) technology, to be built and run by the private sector if he wins. The QLD LNP has already proposed that Australia quit the Paris Climate Agreement.

Queensland Energy Minister, Mark Bailey, says another coal power plant is one of the most irresponsible policy propositions, ” he’s ever heard.  With eight huge generators Queensland is already the powerhouse of the nation. It does not need a ninth. Nor is it persuaded by coal lobby propaganda that new power stations are somehow clean.

The state already has four HELE plants, all burning black coal and using you-beaut “super-critical” steam technology. They emit only 10% less than stations burning the same fuel with regular technology. Queensland’s proposed new coal-fired power station is a litmus test in the Turnbull government’s complete and utter failure to get real about energy.

But why listen to cynicism? (Turnbull-speak for scepticism.) Innovation reigns. Up, up and away. Turnbull’s Coalition 2.0 upgrade replaces government with an eternal loop of announceables. Cameras show a PM doing stuff and looking tough. Fuddy-duddy consultation and collaboration are as yesterday as facts in a post truth, Trumpian universe.

Our new anti-terror partner, Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte, doesn’t let any of that consulting stuff hold him back.

Just to help duelling Duterte uphold the rule of law, Australia pledges help to the Philippines’ President in his battle in Marawi, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announces. Eyes in the skies, not boots on the ground she adds hastily.

Bishop’s caught on the hop with her own state becoming a foreign country.  WA Liberal Party delegates vote to:

“examine the option of Western Australia becoming a financially independent state”, late Sunday afternoon in a motion which manages to combine Liberal revolutionary ardour with its legendary commitment to fiscal prudence.

Yet her drift is clear.  In no way does sending the odd RAAF Orion to spy on his people mean we condone Duterte’s war on drugs which has caused the death of up to 13,000 Filipinos in “extrajudicial killings”, double-speak  for murder.

But the Pres is on to it. “There is a possibility that in some of police incidents there could be abuses. I admit that,” Duterte tells reporters in Manila. “These abusive police officers are destroying the credibility of the government.”

Duterte nails it. Doubtless our nation has much to gain from supporting the regime of such an enlightened ‘strong-man.’

Our PM is inspired. Junking the commonwealth’s clunky federalism for a united states of xenophobia, homophobia and atychiphobia (fear of failure) Super-Mal, soars effortlessly above the High Court, the constitution and the rule of law.

Beware you cynical 7:30 reporters, Stalinist revisionists, defacers of public monuments; all other evil-doers in our midst.

And bankers. Just look how we’ve put the wind up the banks, boasts ScoMo. No Royal Commission is required. ASIC and APRA are doing it all anyway, the wordsmith  and former tourist-tout now Federal Treasurer gloats. Then there’s my Banking Executive Accountability Regime (BEAR) which I will be introducing into the Parliament before the end of the year.

It’s “the take action now approach which the Turnbull Government continues to drive right across government”.

Like any “take action now” hero, Mal knows how to look the part. Tough? Does all his own image consultancy. Stylish to the core, our death-defying PM breaks out his emergency leather bomber jacket, Monday and ‘copters to Cooma. Time for a spin recycle.  Renewable? Bernard Keane notes, clean green Turnbull pumps Snowy Hydro PR back uphill, reuses it.

Carpe diem. Let’s do another showy, Snowy Hydro 2.0 whopper in a chopper. Spear-head this week’s instalment of “Malcolm malgré lui,” another ritual tussle with his brothers, the power barons, part of Mal’s epic struggle with himself, his party and anyone who answers back. He’s keeping the lid on power prices, he says in the whopper of the week.

The lid is part of “a comprehensive package” to put “downward pressure” on energy prices.

“Operation lid-on” is Wednesday’s well-staged show-of-farce in which Turnbull and side-kick Futz Frydenberg eye-ball energy executives. Cameras roll. A break-through is announced on ABC. Companies will mail consumers on how to get a discount on prices which on average have doubled in the last year thanks to our hugely defective price-setting system.

Turnbull’s embarrassing stunt will apply the same downward pressure that we’ve long exerted on petrol prices by driving to a cheaper outlet. None. The ACCC this week reports that Australian petrol prices at the bowser are at their lowest for 14 years. Gross retail margins, however are at record highs. Companies are not “passing on their savings”.

Yet it’s not trickle-down – it’s the consumer at fault. Taking a leaf out of the neoliberal playbook, the ACCC exhorts motorists to shop around. Oil companies could write letters to tell motorists which servo has the best prices each day.

Back at the showdown with Mal, Josh and the power CEOs, sparks fly. A quid pro quo situation arises. In return for writing a million letters, energy executives request the government set a Clean Energy Target.

A CET is all that remains of a sensible carbon emissions policy. Like the Cheshire Cat’s smile it is all that remains to a Coalition whose grasp on carbon pricing was destroyed for narrow political gain by Tony Abbott and his anti-climate science followers including Craig Kelly who recently claimed that renewable energy would kill people this winter.

The claim is helpfully repeated by Andrew Bolt.

Our electricity cartel’s request for certainly over a CET doesn’t make the news. It won’t pass the party room either. Given the entrenched opposition from the Coalition’s right, the key component to Alan Finkel’s government-friendly report will be ignored as Turnbull desperately tries to find a way to build uneconomic, toxic coal-fired power stations while feigning concern for the environment, public health, industrial health and safety or a commitment to renewable energy.

“Technology agnostic” rivals” innovative” in the battle of the buzz-words but nothing can disguise the dismal fact that the Coalition has fails comprehensively to devise either an energy or a real environment policy in four years of government. Nor did it ever really intend to. The Murdoch press helps by wilfully misrepresenting the shift to renewables as a false dichotomy  – a choice between jobs or clean energy. It’s standard coal lobby propaganda.

Luckily, our innovative PM has super powers. He can contain price rises with a re-visit to a project which gets no new funds and which is only a feasibility study on a scheme which relies on burning coal to pump water back up to the dam. It will take twenty years to build and its design guarantees it can only ever produce expensive electricity.

In a script straight out of ABC’s Utopia, Turnbull re-announces $8 million in funding towards a $29 million feasibility study on the project. The Snowy Hydro 2.0 idea was first explored in 1980 – and rejected because of the prohibitive cost.  Mal’s signature NBN fiasco has more chance of living up to expectations and promises than his Snowy Hydro 2.0 stunt.

Some state infrastructure projects could be just the ticket to help us out of what seems to be an approaching recession. In the nation-building afterglow of the Snowy 2.0 presser, no-one brings up the construction slump. That’s heresy.

Everyone knows the Coalition has completely reformed by stopping “union thuggery” and with its hugely diluted ABCC laws. Yet, as Alan Austin reports, the nation has seen three consecutive years of decline. It’s a unique achievement.

Turnbull blamed construction workers and their union for the high cost of housing, when he re-introduced the ABCC bill in Parliament a year ago, claiming the bill would help “young Australian couples that can’t afford to buy a house because their costs are being pushed up by union thuggery.”

Yet research from the Centre for Future Work reveals it’s a lie. There is no statistical correlation between construction unionization or construction wages and the soaring cost of housing. Construction wages are in fact below average for the last five years. Construction labour amounts to only ten per cent of new housing prices.

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures released Wednesday show building and construction investment has now declined for three financial years in a row. It’s an alarming result especially to a Coalition which vowed to make construction its signature achievement.

Tony Abbott fantasized about becoming, “ … a prime minister who revels in seeing cranes over our cities, who revels in seeing bulldozers at work and who revels in seeing water coming from where it flows to where it’s needed. That is the kind of prime minister that I would like to be if I get the chance.”  Instead he helped achieve the reverse.

Pleading global headwinds won’t cut it. Global trade is booming and company profits are at record highs. Explanations include the decline of real wages, low business confidence.

Yet there is also, Austin notes, a slow-down in investment from overseas which coincides with a shortage of public funds for infrastructure due to an acute loss of tax revenue caused largely by widespread tax avoidance.

Disaster dogs our super-hero at every turn.  His enemies are legion. Arrayed against Mal are eighteen straight News Poll falls, his nemesis, the mad monk Abbott, and a perfidious, shape-stealing “slithering-Bill” Shorten, a Stalinist-Trotskyite-Castro-ite opposition leader so keen to rebuild East Germany he carries his own Berlin Wall brickworks in a knapsack.

Mathias Cormann continues his surreal attack on Shorten begun last week at Gerard and Anne Henderson’s Sydney home dining club otherwise known as The Sydney Institute, a tax-deductible charity which is handsomely supported by Telstra and QANTAS although the names of its backers or “contributors” are closely guarded.

Cormann ought to do more stand-up comedy. He could clearly use a live audience. His dire warnings that the Labor leader is “getting increasingly cocky” a novel theme which Paul Kelly in The Oz re-badges as a ” Battle of Ideas” which, somehow, Cormann is “rebooting” include the tired assertion that Shorten is consumed by the politics of envy.

It’s a stock response to Labor’s pursuit of inequality a topic which the Coalition, with the help of the ABC, has relegated to a ‘contested area’ despite damning evidence of wealth inequality across generations.

It’s no easier to move from rags to riches in Australia than it used to be, and no easier than anywhere else concludes Dr Andrew Leigh whose recently published research creates Australia’s first very long run estimates of social mobility, using data on rare surnames among doctors and university graduates from 1870 to the present.

Dangerous Dan Tehan  believes “what we are seeing from Labor and from Shorten is a desire to go back to that type of governing where government knows best, government will impose its will”. Labor is trying to turn us into Cuba. Wags on social media look forward to a decent education and health system. The Cuban heel is a tricky pivot.

Tehan’s Cuba is meant to invoke a socialist state which saps individual initiative and wastes resources. This is totally unlike a Turnbull government which can ignore its UNHCR obligations and the rule of law to turn refugees out into the street when it wants them to hurry up and return to persecution either at home or in offshore detention.

Declaring war on the unfortunate and demonising bludgers are two of this government’s specialities but Supremo Dutton ups the ante with his attack on those refugees whom illness or a family member’s illness has caused to fetch up on the mainland, thereby circumventing the death-in-life of indefinite offshore detention so lovingly prepared for them.

In one of the most shameful chapters in the Turnbull government’s history and in the history of our nation, Dutton decides to cut off all assistance and accommodation; turn out into the street seventy poor and suffering refugees whose offence is to be sent to Australia because they were too ill to withstand the torture of onshore detention.

They can’t return to Manus. Many would be in danger back on Nauru. The government’s tactic is to force them to return to their country of origin where they are almost certain to encounter persecution. It is an act of despicable inhumanity. And it’s illegal.

What makes it worse is the clear sense that it is a stunt – a distractor to take pressure off the government’s myriad other problems with complete unconcern for the personal suffering of the men, women and children involved.

Dutton complains to his 2GB host Ray Hadley about the cost. He forgets that it costs $500,000 to house each refugee in offshore detention. Or hopes we forget. The case he makes continues the demonising of those whose only mistake is to seek our refuge.

The least we can do is to allow those here to settle; bring the remaining detainees suffering on Manus and Nauru to the mainland immediately. It is a political stunt which demeans us all. It is never about the money.

No money available? News comes Saturday that the Coalition will allow a $100 million dollar government subsidy to WA mining companies to help them with the cost of their prospecting, despite such costs being tax deductions. The Australia Institute publishes a report showing 83% of Australian mining companies are overseas-owned.

Tony Abbott gets subsidised. The former Opposition junkyard dog, who was a total disaster when his News Corp fear campaign made him PM, reveals he’s racked up $120,000 plus in travel expenses just last year, a matter which Paul Bongiorno sees as a tax-payer funded anti-Turnbull campaign. “Former Prime Ministerial duties”, Abbott puts it down as.

Abbott’s out to destroy Turnbull at any price, certainly. But let’s not discount how well Abbott’s destroyed every last shred of his own political credibility in the process. His legacy of division lives on in the current postal survey compromise.

According to some experts, The High Court is poised to disallow emergency funding to a postal poll in a challenge it will hear next week. How the government will react is not clear. On Sunday’s ABC Insiders Christopher Pyne was full of breezy mindless optimism and chose not to share any contingency plan.

The postal vote or survey is Super minister Dutton’s cunning compromise. An unfunded optional survey, it is a non-binding shonky sequel to Abbott’s dodgy plebiscite stunt  – itself a desperate delaying tactic to extricate the accidental PM from a push for by some Liberal MPs for a conscience vote on marriage equality.

“Good captain” Abbott could block democratic process in his party room while pretending to consult the people.   Genius.

Despite a ripper of an argument in response to a challenge- the postal thingy is “urgent and unforeseen” and thus the government’s entitled to $122 million straight out of the kitty – no dreary legislation required, experts are not upbeat.

Professor George Williams, Dean of Law at the University of New South Wales, puts a live cat amongst the pigeons when he declares Monday, that he would be surprised if the government emerges with a victory in funding the survey.

Given the long-running debate on same-sex marriage, it is far from obvious that it fits into these categories,” Professor Williams says at the National Press Club.

“How could this expenditure be said to be unforeseen at the relevant date of 5 May 2017 when the government had a longstanding policy of holding a plebiscite on same-sex marriage? And what about this survey is urgent, except for the fact that it is necessary because of the government’s own political imperatives?

Nor does Williams fancy the chances of the seven MPs who will appear before the High Court. He also admonishes Turnbull for his abuse of parliamentary privilege in prejudging a matter before the High Court when it comes to the wretched case of Barnaby Joyce, whom the PM roundly declared will have no case to answer. “And the court will so find.” It may not.

Super Mal’s week is frenetic. It is successful, however, only as absurdist entertainment or distraction. In the end it is totally counterproductive. With every stunt, or stalling, a decision is avoided, a policy is not developed. Events scheduled  in the High Court and in energy and around marriage equality and in the near total breakdown in the government’s asylum seeker management are rapidly conspiring against it.

The government’s attack on Bill Shorten won’t save it. Instead its cheap cries of socialism, of Cuban and Eastern German and of class traitor only serve to signal its utter desperation. Lacking coherent policy or the capacity to plan, forever reacting to events it can’t control, the Turnbull government heads further into chaos and dysfunction.

Whatever The High Court decides, Turnbull’s lost the nation already.

“If you look at the examples across Europe, socialism is a recipe for failure, is a recipe for mediocrity and for inferior outcomes. There is no doubt Bill Shorten has taken the Labor Party down the path of a socialist agenda,”

Senator Matthias Cormann.

 

Undermined by a dual-citizenship debacle that threatens its legitimacy and which could well drag on until Christmas, besieged by a marriage equality survey that is at best postponing of a reckoning with popular opinion – and at worst an abdication of leadership, the Turnbull government is paralysed by indecision and ineptitude.  Almost.

Luckily, it has hidden reserves. Wannon MP, plucky Dan Tehan, is on hand to deplore the “defacing of public statues” and two councils’ decision to change the date of Australia Day. It’s his way of advancing public debate.

“The behaviour of these councils is appalling”, he says, showing all the open-minded empathy a Liberal MP can muster.

Darebin Council, in Melbourne’s north, says it decided to replace citizenship ceremonies on January 26 with “more culturally appropriate” activities out of “compassion and empathy to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people”.

Accordingly, the federal government has, fairly and reasonably, removed Melbourne’s City of Yarra and Darebin councils right to host citizenship ceremonies, ever, after the local governments voted not to hold them on January 26.

The bizarrely high-handed, over-reaction to what is a local issue reveals a government losing its sense of perspective long with its legitimacy and its authority. Worse.  In the hothouse anti-terror climate of official aussie values, hypervigilant citizenship and constant, state-sponsored paranoia, a type of madness thrives.

The Turnbull government is increasingly, alarmingly intolerant of dissent. In its recent Australia Day actions it seems unduly, unreasonably, threatened by local independence which includes a healthy disrespect for authority and state control – surely the very lifeblood of the Aussie values or the peoples-  it professes to respect.

Professor Roberta Ryan, Director the The Institute for Public Policy and Governance at Sydney’s University of Technology, cuts to the chase.

“I really do think the outrage is about people not liking what councils are saying … and what these councils are saying is ‘Australia Day is ‘Invasion Day’ for Aboriginal people and we don’t want to be a part of it’.”

“It’s ironic that the PM has said changing the date is a national debate we need to have, yet his government appears to be working to silence it by punishing councils for taking a stand in support of their Indigenous communities,” says Darebin’s mayor, Kim le Cerf, exposing a favourite Turnbull buzz-phrase – on a par with “national conversation” .

Dan hasn’t got the memo about debate or dissent. Someone has written “change the date” and “no pride in genocide” on a statues, including one of James Cook in central Sydney. Dan hopes they are arrested. You can’t change history. You can look at the facts at the time and you can say this is what we know now. “But you can’t deface statues.”

Australia Day’s date and the statues are huge in the news. The PM is quick to condemn the “cowardly criminal attack” on the defenceless statues.  He sees it as nothing less than “a Stalinist attempt to rewrite history”, which fits his government’s attack on socialist Bill Shorten this week.  You can tell he’s always up for measured, respectful debate.

Dan’s can-do attitude and his nose for true Aussie values illustrate the resilience and agility of a Turnbull team with its backs to the wall. The statues help remind us how we are up with latest overseas trends in statuary conservation.

Donald Trump, for example, has recently deplored the toppling of beautiful statues of confederate generals and slave owners. He tweets that he is  “sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart”. No danger that the Donald will acknowledge his own part in that ripping apart. Our self-righteous rulers share the same blind spot.

Minister for Defence personnel and for assisting the PM on cybersecurity, when he’s not deploring local vandalism, Dan is also helping his government devise laws to make telecommunications providers take responsibility for what he describe as “scrubbing the Web of viruses and malware”. With those aims he easily wins Sisyphean hero of the week.

Sinking further with every poll, racked by internal division, a rapidly disintegrating Coalition desperately tries to rally; forge some superficial unity or purpose by picking on others. A week of absurdly overblown posturing is on show all arenas – in the theatre of its war on terror, refugees, the poor or Bill Shorten, led by the PM’s bullying of the High Court.

Barnaby Joyce is “qualified to sit in the house and the High Court will so hold. “Turnbull trumpets. He goes way too far, even given his gift for hyperbole. Better to have stood his Kiwi ring-in aside. Called a bye-election. Bluster won’t cut it.

In three months, tops, Aussie Barnaby, would canter back in – well in time for office Christmas drinks and parties.

The PM’s dud call upsets backers. Shocks their Murray-Darling cotton socks off. Even Barry O’Sullivan goes quiet.

Bazza reckons BJ’s a rock star. A real celebrity. Books him to campaign in the QLD state election in October or next March. Across the Tasman, Joyce’s just as big. He’s running second in nominations for 2018 New Zealander of the Year.

Huge as Barney is, nevertheless, Turnbull is out of order. Did the former savvy, Spy-Catcher barrister really try to sway the High Court? Abuse parliamentary privilege to get an expeditious hearing or a favourable outcome? Surely not.

Turnbull says he has “very clear advice” from the Solicitor-General that Joyce need not stand down; that his future’s safe. But does he? Could it simply be its George Brandis-friendly S-G 2.0, Dr Stephen Donoghue QC, our second most powerful law officer, telling it what it wants to hear? Could getting rid of Gleeson have backfired so quickly?

Other constitutional legal experts are much less upbeat. Spencer Zifcak, Professor of Law at the Australian Catholic University says the PM has badly miscalculated:

He should have known better than to preempt the court’s decision. The judges will not be impressed. And anyway, in this instance, he’s likely to be wrong. In constitutional matters, unambiguous words usually win out.  

Notorious for its secrecy, the Coalition will not release its advice, yet the public has a right to know. AG Brandis, maintains that publishing advice could scare off the silks; jeopardise the Coalition’s future access to legal opinion.

Yet “…why should the nation trust the government on the basis of legal argument it has not seen?”, asks UNSW’s Gabrielle Appleby.

Government should release its case out of respect for the upcoming High Court hearing, for the right of the Parliament and public to know the full detail of advice that we are being assured we can rely upon. Secrecy, she concludes, risks further undermining the reputation of the office of the Solicitor-General, tarnished by Gleeson’s treatment.

Help is on its way. Nuanced News Corp hacks invade the field; stiff-arm tackle a rogue constitution for tripping up the lazy or unwary. Laurie Oakes calls section 44 “a silly tangle” and calls for change in the next election “if we value parliament.” Law’s an ass. A referendum will fix it. Let’s do away with anything that gets in government’s way.

Whatever Turnbull’s tactic, his rush to prejudgement backfires, Thursday. Chief Justice Susan Kiefel sets a hearing for October 10, 11 and 12, a month later than Attorney-General George “bring-it-on” Brandis bargains on.  Everything  about the Chief Justice’s demeanour suggests that she is reluctant to allow proceedings to be hurried along by anyone.

Justice Kiefel asks the Solicitor-General Dr Stephen Donaghue QC, who represents Brandis, if there is any “practical difficulty” or “issue of governance” if the court hears the matter in October.  No. There is not, young Donaghue meekly replies. The real possibility that the government could lose its majority over Barnaby is not something to bring up here.

It’s a stiff rebuke from the chief beak; yet another miscalculation by a government with a genius for self-sabotage.

In a further blow, the court grants Tony Windsor permission to appear “as a contradictor” because he polled second in New England in 2016. Windsor may challenge the government’s arguments and put forward contrary views.

Windsor will argue that Joyce, a dual citizen of New Zealand, has breached the constitution by standing as a senator. His lawyers have also argued for the right to cross-examine Joyce, if needed, for their case.

Even more damaging to the government’s cause, Signor Canavani, our Italian Senator, changes his story. No longer does he blame his mother, Maria, for his Italian citizenship. Instead, it’s his mother country. Italy changed its law in 1983 conferring citizenship by descent upon him when he was but two years old. He knew nothing. Besides the law is an ass.

“Assolutamente ridicolo” Matteo’s lawyer, Barrister David Bennett QC, contends that to apply section 44 (i) to citizenship by descent is ridiculous. He’ll use ABS statistics to show that citizenship by descent could apply to half the parliament.

Absolutely. The Law’s at fault; not the responsibility of the candidate to check he makes an true and accurate declaration.  And follows procedure. A novel twist is introduced by one (former) dual citizen amongst the magnificent seven now awaiting clarification. Malcolm Roberts says he emailed The British Home Office to renounce his citizenship.

Roberts did not hear back and emailed his renunciation again. His lawyer, Robert Newlinds, SC says the Senator was sent a form by the Home Office after the election, and sometime later, the British authorities accepted his renunciation.

Mr Newlinds said it remains unclear whether the Home Office “were accepting the renunciation by the form, or the earlier email”. To the non-legal observer it would seem, by his own admission, nevertheless, that Roberts was still a dual citizen at the time of his election and that the supply of a form indicates that there was a process yet to complete.

The political stage is set for a bean-feast of casuistry, pettifogging and bush-laywering.  Until Roberts’ case is thrown out.

The notion that the Leader of the Opposition must disprove his dual citizenship is irresistible to a government desperate to distract. The week begins with a series of government MPs demanding Bill Shorten produce documentation showing he’s renounced the British citizenship he inherited from his Tyneside father William. It’s a game anyone can play.

Coalition climate change guru Craig Kelly calls for an audit of all MPs eligibility to sit in parliament. He believes all MPs “should be forced to prove” they are not dual citizens of another country, thereby reversing the onus of proof in an imitation of the American birther movement. Others chime in, assisted by the ABC’s Tony Jones on Monday’s Q&A.

Liberal Fran Kelly pesters guests on her RN breakfast show over several days as to why Bill Shorten won’t provide proof he’s renounced British citizenship. Bugger justice. Sabra Lane also badgers Labor MPs who appear on ABC AM.

The onus or burden of proof is borne by the prosecution in a legal tradition which is hailed as the golden thread of English criminal law and is fundamental to the presumption of innocence. As the High Court put it three years ago:

” …[o]ur system of criminal justice reflects a balance struck between the power of the State to prosecute and the position of an individual who stands accused. The principle of the common law is that the prosecution is to prove the guilt of an accused person.”

Shorten’s in trouble  -as we all know – just for being Bill Shorten, a predicament created by Tony Abbott whose sole political legacy is his capacity to see clear past policy to focus solely on persecuting his opponents by any means possible. It hurt Rudd and worked a treat with Gillard, thanks in no small part to the support of the Murdoch press.

After Abbott wasted $50 million on the witch hunt that was the Heydon Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption a circus which failed to find Shorten or Julia Gillard guilty of a single criminal offence, this week, in desperation the Coalition allows its ferocious Belgian Schutzhund, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann off his leash.

Cormann takes the lead in demonising Shorten in a speech at Gerard and Anne Henderson’s tax-deductible, home, also grandly titled The Sydney Institute. Not only is he a socialist, the Labor leader is taking his party back to its failed socialist roots, barks Matthias. No-one is rude enough to point out that Shorten is a member of the Victorian right. Nor dare anyone suggest that Coalition proposals to build state coal mines or Adani a railway are very much socialist ideas.

Cormann shows a slide with a link to a quotation from Karl Marx. The clue is in the key word inequality.

“Bill Shorten says he will fight inequality everywhere. Who else used that sort of language?” The Messiah?

Smart as a whip, Julie Bishop calls Shorten the most left-wing Labor leader than Arthur Calwell, Gough Whitlam’s predecessor, a gibe which is sure to create mass panic amongst the over seventies. Or amuse those who attend Liberal Party meetings. A delinquent focus group somewhere, surely, must be laughing at its mischief.

Cormann’s evidence is equally laughable. Shorten’s keeping the deficit levy which the Coalition itself brought in – at a whopping 49.5%, a whole half a percent higher than under Abbott’s regime. Then there’s his restriction of negative gearing, his limitation of self-managed super funds to borrow from the fund to buy property, itself part of the government’s Murray inquiry into the financial system.

In brief, even after a scare about the tax cuts for business which Labor may even keep for small business, Cormann’s case is light on for detail – and substance. Much like his government’s economic policy. Yet then again, in a post-fact, fake news era, it’s more the vibe of the thing that matters. Bagging Bill does leave less time to spin your own lies.

Of course to hit any political target you need a good aim. So far the war on Shorten has failed to even identify its target, let alone score any hits. A large part of the problem is that the Coalition has two Bill Shortens in its sights. One is a dangerously lunatic leftie who will socialise everything from the local milk-bar to the banking system.

The other is a regular visitor to the Pratt household, a class traitor who hobnobs with millionaires and who does dodgy deals with rich employers to rip off workers for union benefit and to line his own pockets. “Slithering snake.”

This caricature overlaps, it is true, with our PM himself who features this week in the media in ecstatic sycophantic communion with a member of the Pratt family. Demonise Bill all you will – but two demons is one too many.

While the war on Bill Shorten is waged, Bernard Keane suggests, the government wastes time it could put into promoting its success in employment growth. Or could it? 220,000 new full-time jobs since September 2016 sounds impressive, as Alan Austin notes unless you are also told that the adult population increased by 265,300 over that time.

Or might just as well explain its half a trillion debt due entirely to its mismanagement of the economy something which mainstream media ignores scrupulously because -as everyone knows – Coalition governments are so much better at economic management and have been ever since Howard made up the lie.

Kill Bill or the war on Shorten will continue at least for another week because, as Tony Abbott capably demonstrated, it’s so much easier to survive in Coalition politics if you focus solely on attacking your opponents and let the IPA do the policies.  And there’s a most obliging media who are only too happy to publish scare-mongering and slurs.

In a month’s time, however, all the distraction in the world won’t help a government which may not get to keep its deputy PM and which may – for a while at least – have to govern without a majority. Yet even if it retains Barnaby Joyce and no other dual citizen is uncovered on its lower house benches, it will have lost.

Even should it retain government, the mean and tricky Coalition’s citizenship fiasco with its one set of rules for the Greens and another for its deputy PM and Minister for Resources has helped it lose the electorate. You can see by its responses to local councils and its judgemental dismissal of protesters that it is well down that road already.

Turnbull government loses plot in worst week of its life.

“Is ‘e an Aussie, Lizzie, is ‘e? Is ‘e an Aussie, Lizzie, eh?”, a catchy 1930s hit, could be the theme song of the entire 45th Parliament this week as three more MPs are exposed as dodgy double-dipping dual nationals under their Akubras, their RM Williams and their Drizabones. It’s like a masked ball. No-one is who they seem.

Barnaby Joyce, Fiona Nash and Nick Xenophon are all, in quick succession, revealed to hold dual citizenship.

It’s a shocking predicament. A government so over-invested on prizing citizenship, a government which has even added tough language tests and waiting periods in order to “accept the right people” as soon-to-be-Super Minister Dutton puts it, a government which fetishises the “priceless gift of citizenship” (akin to Tony Abbott’s “precious gift of virginity”) may be utterly undone by alien MPs who appear lax; blasé, even, over their own nationality.

Of course it’s all Labor’s fault, at least in the case of our iconic Deputy PM, bow-yang Barnaby, as Aussie as a dog on a tucker-box, last glimpsed succumbing to the spell of the water naiads of the Murray Darling Basin.

Barnaby goes to water. Panic grips the entire front bench. Pyne is petrified. What if the truth about Fiona Nash leaks? A fool-proof diversion is called for. A red kiwi conspiracy? Brilliant!

Turning crisis into catastrophe, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, the Turnbull government sheds any last vestige of credibility with a Kiwis-under-the-bed witch hunt.

Labor is colluding with “a foreign power” to out Barnaby Joyce as a New Zealander. It’s a stroke of genius.

Our Foreign Minister channels her inner Trump. Bugger diplomacy: a stunt is much more fun. Reason flies out the window. Julie Bishop denounces Wellington, now the Pyongyang of the South Pacific. Howls down the Pig Islanders. She feigns paranoid madness in a cunning ploy to divert everyone from the Barnaby Joyce disaster.

Clearly there’s a conspiracy between the Bolshevik parties on both sides of the Tasman, she implies. Demon Bill Shorten’s “sneakiness, dishonesty and disloyalty” pipes up her PM, adding his own ostinato to the Kill Bill theme, make him the cause of every self-inflicted government catastrophe, ever. Heads nod. Sinodinos applauds.

“The Australian people elected the government,” Turnbull tells Coalition MPs on Tuesday. Applause. “Bill Shorten wants to steal government by entering into a conspiracy with a foreign power.” How low can he go?

Adding a clever bit of cold war era top spin, the PM claims ALP fifth columnists are “conspiring with the NZ Labour Party to undermine the position of the deputy prime minister and the government of Australia.”

Really? So the proper, patriotic thing to do would have been to collude to cover up Barnaby’s Kiwi paternity? It’s unclear how checking the facts could “undermine” the government unless it wanted to hide its illegitimacy.

The charge is as dishonest as it is absurd. How could Joyce’s “position” which stems from his own false declaration of nationality be further undermined? Could he be more compromised? Inquiries, moreover, were not made by Labor but by a reporter working for The Australian. Fairfax journalist Adam Gartrell was also asking questions.

Yet for Bishop, a class act, who shows no signs of snubbing mass-murderer Duterte, payback doesn’t stop there.

“I would find it very difficult to build trust with members of a political party that had been used by the Australian Labor Party to seek to undermine the Australian government,” Bishop sniffs Tuesday, upping the ante; clearly aiming to make a full-blown diplomatic incident out of her government’s desperately lame strategy.

“Forget the trans-Tasman friendship in 2017 – Australia is basically a bully,” says Jesse Mulligan, host of New Zealand’s The Project.

“Julie Bishop – when you say you’ll find it hard to work with New Zealand, what exactly do you mean? How much worse could it possibly get?”

 Bishop has touched a raw nerve with New Zealanders who view the relationship as one-sided and who find it difficult to overlook evidence that access to citizenship and social security entitlements for Australians in New Zealand are not reciprocated in the treatment of Kiwis in Australia – before anyone brings up the summary deportation via Christmas Islands of Kiwis in Australia whom Peter Dutton doesn’t like the look of.

Trans-Tasman relations aside, for Laura Tingle, of The Australian Financial Review Bishop descends into a “whirlpool of hysteria and conspiracy theories that would do Donald Trump proud”. It’s disturbing.

Yet Bishop’s done the government a favour. Her stunt is more than enough to dispel any delusion that she might, somehow, be a “safe pair of hands’ or a potential replacement for a dead man walking at the head of a mortally wounded government, Malcolm Turnbull. Even the smitten Peter Hartcher says she’s “over-cooked” her bid.

Deputy PM Barnaby “Bow-yang” Joyce outs himself in the House of Reps. He has to. Labor asks a leading question. Media hacks are shocked. Not Ocker Barnaby, our best retail politician? A Kiwi dual national who has, for years, been impersonating a true blue, bush Aussie? No half measures either. Hands down, he’s got the part off pat.

Just listen to him some time. The Barnaby garble is New England’s – New Zealand’s answer to Bob Katter’s rant.

Baa-narby. Stop bleating about your Tamworth mother and grandmother, Baa-narby. You’re busted. On cue, a mob of MPs rushes to point the finger and snigger. Baa-Baa-arnby sheep noises erupt from Labor benches.

Yet things are so crook in the 45th parliament that even a ribbing is risky. Never know who’ll be next.

“Things are looking baaaaaaaa-d for Barnaby Joyce” tweets a snickering Nick Xenophon in RM Williams boot in mouth Schadenfreude of the week “that’s why an independent audit of all MPs citizenship urgently needed.”

Xenophon is visibly dismayed to learn he is a UK citizen and while he goes to some length to point out it’s through his father and a very rare blink- and- you’d- miss- it type of citizenship, his special pleading sits oddly with his decision not to resign.

He refers himself to a High Court which may not make a decision until October, a High Court which staffed by conservative black-letter judges which Turnbull oddly seems to believe will suddenly become progressives to suit his government. Joyce, similarly, seems unable to countenance anything but a favourable High Court decision.

Barnaby Joyce’s father, James Joyce – no less, hails from Dunedin, Edinburgh of New Zealand’s South, technically making his son a dour Kiwi by descent, a fact Joyce could easily have checked for himself but didn’t. It’s odd that he was never even curious. The complacency and the sense of entitlement is all his own – and his undoing.

Yet Joyce’s not the only 45th Parliamentarian whose inner voice told him not to bother. Fiona Nash can’t even bring herself to confess until the last-minute before the senate rises. Three Nats out of a total of 20 is a lot.

Is it chutzpah? Arrogance? Agrarian socialists never read the fine print? Something tells him he’s above all that?

Joyce receives a box of finest kiwi-fruit from gal-pal, puppy-lover, Amber Heard who tweets

‘When Barnaby Joyce said ‘no one is above the law’ I didn’t realise he meant New Zealand law.’

Yet Joyce won’t stand down. That’s something for others – such as his hated Greens to do. Listen to them moaning about how billions of litres of Murray-Darling water is rorted by big cotton irrigators and other National Party pals in direct contravention of the $13 billion Murray Darling Basin plan, a boondoggle which means that water paid for by taxpayers to protect the river ecosystem is, instead, subsidising local billion-dollar agricultural firms.

The notion of a Kiwi fifth column is no more absurd than the idea of leaving Barnaby Joyce in charge next week when the PM attends the Pacific Islands forum in Samoa, 4-7 September a nation with a history of resistance to European rule. Labor says leaving Joyce in charge is untenable and that it will not grant a pair for Turnbull.

But it’s about more than Barnaby. Into its regular, heady mix of state sponsored intolerance and paranoia, the government blends a swift Kiwi-kicking, a bagging of our ANZAC partners and post-colonial cousins-the soul mates we love to hate.

It’s a ritual attack, born of a complex mutual self-loathing, the cultural-cringing, sibling rivalry of two small nations upside down at the bottom of the world whose complex history is inextricably interwoven.

“Is ‘e an Aussie, Lizzie, is ‘e? Is ‘e an Aussie, Lizzie, eh?  

Not only are we close, we may all now be Kiwi-aliens. According to the letter of section 44 of the Australian Constitution, no Australian is entitled to sit in Australian Parliament, given recent changes in New Zealand law.

As Sydney barrister Robert Angyal reminds us, Section 44 (i) of the constitution bars anyone “under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power” from serving in federal parliament.

“Under recent and little-noticed changes to New Zealand law, however, Australian citizens now don’t need a visa to live, study or work in NZ. Any Australian citizen is entitled to live, study and work there,” he says. All are thereby entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power.  

“New Zealand law has made every Australian citizen incapable of being elected to, or serving in, the Australian Parliament. It’s not just Barnaby Joyce: It’s everyone,” he adds.

Doubtless this is something for The High Court to take into consideration. Lighten things up a bit. Certainly it will have to screen out the comments made by the Prime Minister that “it will find” that Barnaby Joyce and Fiona Nash can remain in parliament, an extraordinary prompting from the PM in parliament. Even if he is merely reflecting the Solicitor General’s view, it appears as if he is directing the judges to a favourable outcome.

The government redoubles its efforts to keep us in a state of perpetual hysteria; alert but no alarmed. There’s always pressing national security news on hand to divert us; feed our anxiety. By Sunday, the PM is talking up bollards and other anti-terror attack preparations while praising police for arresting three men who are currently in custody over an alleged arson attack on an Islamic Centre a year ago.  Cutting edge anti-terror stuff.

It’s one of the weekly terror announceables which Laura Tingle recently warned us the government has put by.

Turnbull’s backing group is a nod squad of heavily-braided, shoulder-patched anti-terror cops, a riot of silver frogging and rank insignia all over the collars and the epaulettes of their black shirts and braid on the peaks of their caps. They are on hand to add laconic gravitas. Praise policing. They also update us on their bust.

One speaks of “male individuals” with that agonisingly indirect death-in-life depersonalisation so beloved by authorities, together with an arch coyness that is practically an anti-terror weapon in itself.

Not that the names are secret. Ever helpful, Murdoch’s Herald Sun published them in a law and order piece last year complete with illustrations of the Fawkner mosque which bears graffiti reading The Islamic State.

The definite article is troubling. Islamic State would look more less like a fit-up.

Everything is not what it seems, another cop not beating things up, tells us earnestly. “This is a really complex investigation.” “These are not just arson attacks – what we are going to allege is that these were Islamic State inspired arson attacks.” “… Designed to put fear into a particular group in the community.”

“It interferes with the whole process of social cohesion that we so heavily promote,” he adds, straight-faced.”

In reality, the Coalition continues to divide the body politic with its war on terror, its rabid nationalism and its cynical manipulation of our fear of the other. Elevating citizenship into a “cherished prize” also stokes division.

By week’s end “all bets are off” in “light of the deputy prime minister’s citizenship situation” declares a shattered Bob Katter. He will no longer guarantee Coalition support on supply and confidence. He’s offended, above all, by Turnbull’s failure to even adequately consult with him, as promised, let alone meet Katter’s needs.

“I wanted and need certain things. I wasn’t delivered certain things,” he says. By this, presumably, a cryptic Katter means The Hell’s Gate Dam on the Upper Burdekin river, Indigenous land title, and the Galilee rail project. He also wins Golden Litotes for incisive political understatement of the week when he says of the PM,

“This is not a decision-maker who has a lot of political acumen.”

Failing to deliver justice also is a government which clearly expects other dual nationals to step aside or resign while its own MPs may stay on while their cases are referred to the High Court. Turnbull’s own crowing over the “remarkable” failure of The Greens’ Scott Ludlum to check his dual citizenship hasn’t helped.

The hypocrisy and injustice of preferential treatment rankles cross-benchers.

An outraged Katter protests to Paul Bongiorno at “two sets of rules at work here: one for Matt Canavan, a less senior minister in the Nationals, and one for the number two in the Coalition government, Joyce.”

“I am quite frustrated with the Prime Minister” for retaining in cabinet Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and Regional Development Minister Fiona Nash, adds Rebekah Sharkie.

Now Turnbull’s government risks losing its majority. Nick Xenophon Team MP, Rebekah Sharkie, MP for Mayo, also withdraws her support for the government, saying the PM needs to stand aside two of his team while The High Court deliberates on the eligibility of dual citizens Fiona Nash and Barnaby Joyce to be in parliament.

While by Sunday, nifty Nick the crypto-Liberal appears to tone down Sharkie’s threat, the Coalition’s majority is still uncertain. Even if it retains its dual citizens, can it stumble along all the way to October?

The path to this impasse reveals a government whose ineptitude is surpassed only by its gift for self-sabotage.

Along with its bungling of who should stay and who should stand down, must go its mismanagement of dual-Scot, Fiona-food-label Nash who is permitted to deploy delaying tactics which only further damage the government.

“As Senator Nash admitted, she has known since Monday that she was a dual citizen, yet waited until one minute before the Senate rose for a two-week break to inform the Parliament,” protests Labor Senator Katy Gallagher .

Labor is not bluffed.  “We’ve never had a government before, ever since Federation, that has had to go to the High Court because they just weren’t sure if they had a majority,” says Tony Burke, in the best zinger of the week.

It’s a line which highlights how the reality of the government’s one seat majority dictates its special treatment of Joyce.

Not to be upstaged, professional attention-seeker, Pauline Hanson stages her own bizarre performance theatre by wearing a burqa to the senate, an act which earns her a powerful serve from Senate Leader AG George Brandis but which achieves her attention-seeking, anti-Muslim dog-whistling objective.

Brandis is open to criticism with his solely pragmatic concern that Hanson may alienate the Muslim community a first line of defence – “vital to law enforcement agencies”, although he does protest at her intent saying “to ridicule that community, to drive it into a corner, to mock its religious garments, is an appalling thing to do.”

Typically, Hanson dresses up her stunt in ways which further discredit her motives. “They’re spending $16m to put in more security because they’re worried about terrorism,” she smirks, ever eager to conflate burqa and terror.

Yet this is a misrepresentation. There was no security slip. She wears her senate pin. Hanson’s identity is checked by officials; she is granted access to her Senate seat because of who she is not what she was wearing. Whether or not she should have been permitted to take her seat given her clear intention to use the burqa as a cheap stunt is another matter. The same indulgence is not granted to other members who seek to bring in props.

Hanson’s not concerned with security, moreover, despite being happy to imply that Muslims are women-oppressing potential terrorists, a line not too far from some of Peter Dutton’s own remarks. Nor is she prompted to protest at any perceived subjugation of women by the garment. Rather, she is content to promote her own brand of toxic, mindless bigotry in the knowledge that any media attention at all can only help her publicity.

Never shy of publicity and not to be outbid by the crazy desperation manifest elsewhere in his government, Treasurer Scott Morrison makes his own magnificent contribution or debit entry, as Greg Jericho notes, by beginning the week accusing Labor of raising taxes and ending it with a bill to raise taxes.

Monday’s News Corp papers all obligingly relay his scaremongering that Labor’s taxes would  cost the economy $167 billion based on Parliamentary Budget Office modelling, or so it seems, until Monday lunchtime.

“References in the media this morning to modelling being released today by the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) are incorrect. The analysis reported in the media this morning was not conducted by the PBO”, ” the PBO’s Jenny Wilkinson says in a rare slapdown of the Treasurer.

As Chris Bowen notes ScoMo’s modelling fails to take into account Labor plans to cut income taxes for low and middle-income earners. Instead it is the quick and dirty scare campaign figuring favoured by Morrison in election mode. Could his attack of madness be taken as a sign an early election is being prepared?

Whatever his motive, the Treasurer ignores the electorate’s interest in reducing income inequality in Australia. Morrison remains fixated on the same shonky formulaic debt and deficit nonsense of the Abbott years.

Team Turnbull members may well now rue their Schadenfreude, their jeering and sanctimonious hypocrisy at the time yet The Greens did resign on discovering their dual citizenship. Set a benchmark. As the week concludes, the Coalition has succeeded only in conveying its desperation, its poor judgement and lack of moral compass.

Even should the High Court, somehow, decide to permit Joyce to remain, saving the Coalition its wafer-thin majority the verdict may not be known until October and in the meantime it has done itself irreparable harm both to its legitimacy and to its credibility.

And just how long can a nation can be distracted with national security announceables on bollard placement and breathless details of new charges being laid on last year’s arsonists?

Turnbull’s weak leadership revealed in junk-mail marriage-equality rip-off

Red Star flags and missile carriers are everywhere in this week’s best-directed mass military rally in Pyongyang Wednesday. North Korean soldiers in high-crowned hats like painted halos march frenetically across our screens, their unique, bouncing goose-step a tribute to their athleticism, indomitable spirit and edgy photogenic villainy.

‘Rogue state’ hysteria triggers fear of global nuclear war. Our local MPs heave a sigh of relief. Out of the spotlight, Victorian Opposition Leader Matthew “Mafia” Guy takes a spell from his epic struggle to shake himself free of news of his “lobster with a mobster” Liberal fundraiser.  His Laura Norder campaign is at risk.

The Victorian Liberals don’t have anything else by way of policy. News Corp backs them heavily – raving about how victims love Liberals’ promises of “toughest ever sentences”. The Herald Sun creates a rising crime wave hysteria. Victoria is the state of lawlessness. It will be safe only when the Liberals bring in a two strike approach.

Mandatory minimum sentencing policies ignore a vast body of evidence showing that this approach to sentencing is expensive, unlikely to improve public safety and of no use in deterring future offending. But it has populist appeal and – as with any good terror programme -it cynically obscures the lack of any real policy.

Things get tricky when a secret recording shows Guy is lying. He claims he didn’t know which cool Calabrian businessman dude was about to shout him a cray at Beaumaris’ The Lobster Cave. Yet Fairfax sources report Guy’s office was informed that Mr Madafferi would be one of the guests. He attacks the secret recording.

Guy lies about the gathering’s size. His claim of 20 becomes six or seven when a witness dobs him in to 3AW.

The Opposition Leader is busted when Liberal staffer, Barrie Macmillan, un tipo losco, (a shady character) himself, is taped advising how to split up donations under the $13,200 threshold to avert being traced back to their donors.

“They want to give Matthew a substantial donation towards next year. Now, I understand what they can and can’t do,” bagman Bazza helpfully explains on a recording obtained by ABC’s Four Corners and Fairfax.

“I know how that all works, so you can’t associate Matthew with money, and I would have to be the intermediary, but I’m talking about a swag of money that they’re prepared to give for them.”

Shady? Astonishingly, the five-year veteran Liberal Party fundraiser, turns out to have a criminal past. In 2006, while convicting him and ordering him to repay $25,000 to a local junior football team he defrauded , the magistrate told Macca he should never be involved in fund-raising-again.  But the Libs did not help him.

Liberal Party membership application rules do not require new members to declare prior convictions.

It has been alleged, in court, that Guy’s pal, Antonio “Tony” Madafferi, a market gardener whose business interests include the La Porchetta restaurant chain, is a don in Melbourne’s Calabrian mafia.

Madafferi denies any connections with organised crime. He has never been charged with any offences.  He sets his lawyer on to James Merlino for implying he’s a mobster.

Madafferi has, however, been banned from Crown Casino and all Victorian racetracks over his alleged links with crime. None of this, of course, would ever have come to the attention of Matthew Guy or his office.

In an affidavit filed in court in June, Detective Superintendent Peter Brigham said police hold “substantial intelligence” indicating that Madafferi had “substantial and close involvement with serious criminal conduct including drug importation, murder and extortion”.

Brigham also alleged that Madafferi is,

“a known associate of prominent criminal entities and persons who have a history of significant criminal conduct that includes money laundering and drug trafficking”.

Yet Guy insists he met with long-time Liberal supporter Frank Lamattina and his cousin, Tony Madafferi, to discuss fruit and vegetable markets. Epping. As you do. No donations were made. But how would we know?

Macmillan, a former Datsun salesman and Tattersall’s agent resigns. He’s a fallen fall guy for Guy. Anywhere else, Guy would also have to resign, but in Victoria the (market) garden state, Liberals have powerful friends.

In 2013, as Victoria’s Planning Minister, Guy also was just an innocent diner who attended Liberal fundraising dinners with developers who had major planning applications he would decide on. “I did nothing wrong”, he explained at the time, despite then Premier, Ted Baillieu’s ban on ministers doing dinner with donors.

Also doing nothing wrong but being caught out not reporting 53,000 deposits of $20,000 because of just one maverick line of code is the Commonwealth Bank. Such a simple, innocent mistake – and only one error.

CEO Ian “nifty” Narev’s brilliant one slip-$1060 000 000 -defence is playing well. So clever of the bank to cast a Sontaran as its top banana.  Narev will slip out quietly with a golden parachute discreetly after his show.

Yet the CBA, part of our nation’s oligopoly of usurers, extortionists and silver-tongued con-men is relieved to be out of the spotlight over its you-beaut money-laundering for terrorists and drug syndicates ATM scam while Bruce Billson’s delicious double-dipping scandal can’t compete with nukes. Oh what a lovely war-scare.

Being paid by The Franchise Council of Australia, the same outfit he was lobbying for, while still being paid to be an MP, “for months”, as former Small-Business Minister Billson admits this week, will not embarrass a Liberal Party joined at the hip to employers, bankers, developers – and fruiterers. He’s off the hook. Almost.

In politics, there ain’t no such thing as a free lobster.

Always eager to promote the small business backbone of our economy, Billson was instrumental in helping Francesco, another Madafferi family member and suspected Mafia figure, obtain a permanent visa in 2004 – a year after his supporters, who included Antonio Madafferi, donated to the Liberal Party.

Billson, along with Greg Hunt, Marise Payne, Russell Broadbent successfully lobbied or contacted then Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone. Whilst the MPs protest their naiveté, their association raises serious questions and has inspired calls for reform of the nation’s political party donations racket.

Billson “conveys his apologies to the clerk of the house for this error”.  Yet you can barely hear Billson’s apology for his corrupt behaviour, so loudly bark the dogs of war. Suddenly humdrum, day-to-day dealings of our nation’s rogues, knaves and MPs are swept aside in a tsunami of  “Konghanzheng” or Koreaphobia.

2GB’s veteran guest MP, expert military fetishist, the ever-practical Tony Abbott, calls for a national missile shield to be installed immediately. Later, the junkyard dog-whistler, may insist the North Koreans pay for it.

MSM hiss “the rogue state’s” rude defiance of US threats of nuclear annihilation and eternal demonisation.  How dare North Korea reject new ‘UN sanctions’ – on its exports of coal, iron and metallic ores, and seafood, amounting to $US1 billion or a third of its earnings from exports to China, its major trading partner?

Kim calls the measures “a panicky response by a US bully”. He warns he has four missiles ready to lob into the sea off Guam unless the US stops its B-1 long-range bomber sorties from its US Pacific island territory.

Such base ingratitude. Media frame Kim as an utter psychopath; a suicidal maniac or just “The Fat Kid”. Not even the administration’s leaked decapitation strike plan can get Kim to pull his oddly tonsured head in.

Worse. Dear Leader has the US president’s number. In diplomatic slap-down of the week, Kim-Jung-un says Trump is “spouting nonsense”. No more Mr Nice Guy from the leader of the world’s top “evil regime”.

Kim hits back. The sanctions will cripple his nation’s economy. He gets personal. “Sound dialogue” is impossible with a person “bereft of reason”. He echoes other leaders’ frustration with Trump’s just “Being There” presidency.

“Only absolute force can work on him”, he adds. At least he’ll get Trump’s attention.

He’s on to Trump. Even fun-loving Kim can tell, Trump is wasting his time “on the golf links,” instead of skulking behind a desk faking being president, as he must, on non-golfing or non-Fox News-watching days.

Ouch. At least he leaves alone the Commander in cheat’s multiple mulligans or how he forges his scorecard.

Kim says Trump’s gone dotty. He’s “bereft of reason”. He does not “grasp the ongoing grave situation.” His comments “show his senility.” He is “extremely getting on the nerves” of North Korean soldiers.  Take that.

No pussy-footing around from a chap who’s fed his rellies to his dogs – a Chinese satirical newspaper’s joke which instantly became “fact” in MSM accounts of Kim’s depravity and North Korea’s weirdness.

The demonisation of Kim and his state is thoroughgoing and includes the myth of the official Kim haircut, a fabrication recently exposed by two Aussie journalists who made a film, The Haircut (2017) – A North Korean Adventure about their recent trip to Pyongyang for a hipster haircut.

There is little doubt, however, he sent his uncle Jang to his death. But what if the US pushes him to the wall?

His people have had a gutful – according to the street theatre. Thousands of white-shirted workers march through Pyongyang Square angrily brandishing flags. The other hand does a taekwondo air punch.

Back in Canberra, a macho Mal endorses The Donald’s latest madness in provoking North Korea; threatening “fire and fury”. Turnbull invokes ANZUS, for the second time in our history. It’s a distortion of a treaty which is just an agreement to consult but he’s playing hard the only card left him, the loyal US sycophant.

Turnbull pledges Australia’s unqualified support in an unknown conflict between a con-man, a fake president and a crazy dictator. Oddly, there seems to be a reluctance from any other US ally to rush headlong into another bloodbath.

By Sunday, he’s looking typically over eager – just as he did when he fawned and gushed all over Trump in his meeting last May on the USS Intrepid, in New York.

Is war with North Korea likely? Despite Trump’s bluster, there’s been no change to US troop deployment or alert status in the region. Unlike our own leader, China’s president Xi Jinping rings Trump Saturday to ask him to tone down his rhetoric. All is going to plan. Trump’s real aim is to get China to cut off North Korea’s oil.

The show must go on. All trace of last week’s electrifying travelling family mincer-jihadi terror drama is expunged by the fire and fury of this week’s national thriller. “Locked and loaded”, Donald Trump’s hairy-chested homage to John Wayne of Iwo Jima, goes viral. Malcolm Turnbull tries out a macho swagger himself.

“I am a strong leader,” Malcolm Turnbull tells Canberra’s press, Monday, despite his lame-duck government’s latest failure of nerve; a plebiscite-cum-survey to kick the can of marriage equality down the road.

“Strong leaders carry out their promises. Weak leaders break them.”  It’s a dig at Abbott and a hollow boast which backfires badly. It’s obvious to all assembled that Turnbull’s promise to be anything but Abbott in a better suit is now irretrievably broken. Only a weak leader would draw attention to his own inadequacy so publicly.  Whatever epithet he may end up wearing, he will always be the Liberals’ Great Disappointment.

On the back foot again, this time, the PM shoots himself in the other. Journalists smirk. No strong leader ever talks up his toughness. Or needs a side-kick on stage for backup. On twin lectern, to add grunt in stereo, is muscular straight-face heavyweight, Matthias Cormann, the Liberals’ fiscal Belgian schutzhund.

Can the government afford to go postal?  Does it have authority to fund the survey? The Finance Minister claims he has a $295 million line of credit to fund “anything unexpected or unforeseen”. A $122 million non-compulsory postal opinion poll to do parliament’s job for it certainly fits the bill. Other experts disagree.

The PM attempts to set the week’s tone. He certainly fails to set the agenda. Authority rules.  Briefly.  Seven’s Mark Riley cheekily asks why he is so weak on marriage equality; why yet again he is so keen to follow others rather than take the lead himself.

It’s not for want of body language. Our PM demonstrates his personal authority with his signature choppy hand movements. It’s as if he’s rinsing a lettuce at a sink. Then he’s back to Kill Bill, a game the whole party can play. And fear. Shorten will be “the most dangerous leftwing leader in generations”.

Left wing? Bill’s a member of the Victorian ALP Right?

Shorten has got to Turnbull. Cut him to the quick with an impassioned speech in the house on marriage equality. And he has threatened to hold Mr Turnbull “responsible for every hurtful bit of filth” “unleashed” during the same-sex marriage survey debate.

In an amazing performance, our government by evasion has duck-shoved its responsibility while pretending it’s honouring a fake election pledge to lumber us with a same-sex marriage plebiscite. There was no campaign promise of a postal plan B if a plebiscite failed to pass the senate, as a reporter reminds the PM.

It’s not a plebiscite of course and it the term “survey” soon replaces it. No-one knows what authority it will have. It’s being tested in the High Court in two legal challenges which will come before the full bench of the court on September 5 and 6, Chief Justice Susan Kiefel tells a hearing in Sydney on Friday.

One challenge is by Tasmanian Independent Andrew Wilkie and Australian Marriage Equality and Victorian Greens senator. Janet Rice. Should these succeed, the government has no plan B.

Whatever the court decides about the legality of the postal survey, it’s no substitute for the conscience vote in parliament that Turnbull is forbidden by his National Party minders to embrace.

Nor is it fair, given the capacity for postal surveys to favour older voters, conservative voters and retain the status quo. Despite all the prompting the yes cause can muster, young people may well be loath to register just to take part in a junk-mail survey which is likely to be ignored by a government that has lost their trust.

Last election, there were almost a million young people missing from the electoral roll; too alienated to bother to register to vote. Voter turnout was the lowest since 1925.

Not only does it lack leadership, there is something fundamentally tacky about a government which can contrive to allow itself to be guided by a non-binding, non compulsory postal opinion survey on a basic human right.

After calculated vacillation, indecision and cowardly prevarication, the Coalition has opted to allow the mob-majority to sit in judgement on the human rights of a minority.

Shorten is right to voice his fears that in the process many Australians will be hurt. In effect, the process virtually guarantees a maximum of damaging propaganda. It’s already started. Bronwyn Bishop on Sky News claims that marriage equality will lead to bestiality and the killing of newborn children.

Worse, old jelly back Malcolm Turnbull, a leader who bizarrely tells parliament that being PM makes him too busy to lead debate, has made no effort to rebuke, rebut or reprimand her. It’s a telling abdication.

Then there’s Tony Abbott, disciple of BA Santamaria and nineteen fifties’ throwback, who leads those who would make the campaign about something else. He would turn his back on modernity while spreading his irrational fear of a nurturing, tolerant, progressive, pluralist society. He doesn’t care if he causes suffering.

He’s prepared to lie because he knows most Australians are in favour of marriage equality and he knows he can’t win if he acknowledges that a no vote is a denial of a human right. He’s cynically misrepresenting the issue.

Abbott’s got a solid track record of success in disinformation whether it be in his white-anting of Gillard, with gratuitous misogyny or his repeal of a price on carbon emissions we urgently needed but which he labelled a great big new tax on everything.

“I say to you if you don’t like same-sex marriage, vote no,” says Abbott. “If you’re worried about religious freedom and freedom of speech, vote no, and if you don’t like political correctness, vote no because voting no will help to stop political correctness in its tracks.”

Director of an organisation which calls itself the Australian Christian Lobby, but which gets plenty of support from US fundamentalists, Lyle Shelton, writes that “the marriage plebiscite is a referendum on freedom of speech and ‘safe schools'”. He laments the “stolen generation” that are the children of Australian gays.

The week ends in uncertainty as the diversion tactic of the threat of nuclear war yields to something more prosaic and destructive, a government which lacks both leadership and moral authority.

As the case of Matthew “Mafia” Guy and lobster with the mobster suggests, the modern Liberal Party covets funds above all else. It is as recklessly indulgent of its donors as it is heedless of the needs of the ordinary voter – or as it is of any promptings of conscience; or moral compass.

Bluster all he may about being a strong leader, Australia can see ever more clearly how deeply Malcolm Turnbull is in thrall to his party’s moribund conservatives and its modern amoral money-men.

He is a Prime Minister in title only who heads a government in retreat from reality, a government which is so keen to evade its basic responsibilities that it is willing to commission a $122 million junk-mail survey to prove the point. It has no real concern over the hurt it will cause nor of the human rights it tramples.

Ironically, if the Turnbull government had hoped to consign the issue to the background for the next three months, to clear the decks to prepare itself for re-election, it will find it has, instead, done everything in its power to guarantee the reverse.

Turnbull’s terror bust raises big questions over his government and his leadership.

Riotous splashes of daffodil – Petals on a wet, black bough, cheer a bleak Lakemba Street, in the flare of an OB TV van’s lighting, while the sounds of big diesel heaving and the grinding -peep-peep-peep of a garbage truck in reverse greet the nation Monday as it wakes to a motley squad of glum Teletubbies sifting rubbish. Who are they?

Surely it’s not our jolly AFP, out to fit up another Labor NBN leaker? Colvin’s cowboys? It’s all a visual riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, all rolled up in sodden copies of the Bankstown-Canterbury Torch, ever at hand to take care of any Lakemba household’s potato-peelings and discarded jihadi bomb components.

Sproule St’s canary-kitted bin-pickers are an establishing shot in a post-modern apocalyptic story of four Muslims, a halal meat-grinder and a fart gas plot. Fittingly, this week’s freak-out anti-terror squad is not in camouflage grunge. Last week’s gas masks, machine guns and assault vehicles yield to a form of Bananas in Pyjamas rig.

Oblivious to all hysteria, the wallopers seem part of a slow dance routine. Cue Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers.

The week’s wondrous political theatre includes a piece to camera in a brilliantly improvised disaster narrative – “one of the most sophisticated plots“…  ever attempted on Australian soil” – (we’ve had none before.) And what a ripper plot it is.

Four Men and a Mincer is a televisual feast. Every tidbit is filled with suspense and wonder. Fart gas? Wood scraps – errant Kebab skewers, perhaps? Brother, Khaled, planned to fly to Jakarta, terror capital of Indonesia?

Unknown to the airline, the police and even his brother, Mr Khayat packed a military-grade bomb, concealed in a kitchen meat mincer, in his brother’s check-in bag”? Bro didn’t notice the extra weight?  His bro’s teary farewell?

And “how very dare he”, as Catherine Tate says, not notify police or at least Etihad airlines, his carrier of choice.

In a novel twist the bomb or “IED”, (acronyms boost legitimacy), is Australia’s first FIFO explosive. “Authorities”, a term which helps convey authority, (together with breathless hyperbole and a total bypass of scepticism or hint of critical thinking), report bomb ingredients were flown from ISIS in Turkey, and delivered via the recently retired $4.8 million dollar gunpowder-runner Ahmed Fahour’s Australia Post. In another first, our terror goes postal.

FIFO clinches it. Terror fans today all know, full well, how ISIS has fiendishly ingenious ways of achieving the impossible – possibly disguising the explosives in a cunningly re-purposed receptacle such as a pressure-cooker. It’s extraordinary, moreover, that no traces of Semtex or C4 seem to have been found despite extreme “scouring”.

But wait. As luck has it, The Daily Telegraph a terror-organ hot-wired to Coalition HQ, is on hand to record a major discovery. OMG. Just as well the plot was foiled. Could’ve been Australia’s 9/11. Sharri Markson has a moment.

“Officers, dressed in yellow plastic jumpsuits, meticulously went through each garbage bag, going through avocado skins, beer bottles, egg shells and fast food wrappers before finding the flight receipt, which was ripped and soggy,” Markson records. Kerbside developments are relayed in relentlessly prosaic detail. Terrifying.

Soggy? NSW Commissioner Mick malaprop Fuller uses “forensic” to stress how well his men scour the area.

As befits any witch-hunt, there is no right to privacy. Nor is any presumption of innocence extended by The Tele which helpfully provides photographs, names, addresses and maps to assist rubber-neckers and vigilantes.

Nothing is left to chance, however. Neighbour Kate Harrison swoons.“There must have been at least 40 riot squad police with huge guns.” Massive swarms of police help reinforce the myth of our “probable” terror threat; the diabolical cunning, the fiendish “sophistication” of our enemies, the Lakemba jihadis, one of whom didn’t notice the sudden extra weight as a heavy home-made bomb disguised as a mincer made its way into his hand luggage.

Spin-off of the week is won by the tall tale of the travelling mincer. Top Cops, boost airport security whilst maintaining peak paranoia, by taking an each-way bet. Yeah. It was yet to pass metal detectors, they say, before being rejected because it was too heavy to be allowed on the flight. Yeah. Nah. Our systems didn’t fail us.

Sophisticated? Imagine the scene. “I know you say your bastard brother always packs the family travelling halal mincer for you, but I’m sorry, Mr Khaled, you either remove that IED from your bag or we can’t let you on board.”

All is calculated to steal the nation’s gaze away from the government’s Murray-Darling $13.5 bn water scandal, its NBN disaster, its energy policy failure, news of record carbon emissions, its marriage equality snafu, the revelation of un-renounced dual citizen-fifth columnists lurking in its midst, the leaking of the PM’s duplicity over our refugee deal, the CBA bank’s money-laundering for drug syndicates and other self-inflicted crises and catastrophes.

Self-inflicted? In another of its brilliant reforms, the Abbott government made AUSTRAC, Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre financially dependent on the same mafia it was supposed to keep honest. It moved AUSTRAC in 2014 to what it said with a straight face was ” a full industry-based funding model” which meant government funding would be replaced by an industry level. As long as AUSTRAC kept in sweet with the banks.

But look over there. No. Not our shameful abdication of responsibility for Manus. Not the farce of a non-binding, non-compulsory postal plebiscite, certain to be served upon the nation, Tuesday. Not The Great Equivocator Malcolm Turnbull’s slapdown over his resolute evasion of constitutional recognition for indigenous peoples – that’s too ambitious” even though – or, perhaps – because Labor is proposing it. No. It’s a Lakemba-terror. Look out!

Of course it’s not all meant to drive us to distraction. A well-executed terror scare helps us embrace our political leaders and reinforce their need to frighten us further. As experts point out, it is not clear-cut, however, although evidence suggests a terror threat can benefit right wing politicians, especially election candidates.

To create maximum consternation, a mincer is pressed into service as the engine of an “Islamic-based” plot. An inspired choice of device, “mincer” bolts the exotic to the domestic right in your own kitchen. Inventive? Sinister. Not only is ISIS coming to get us, as Abbott warned, our household appliances are not what they may seem.

There is a teensy evidentiary problem. No-one has been able to find the Kenwood in question. Happily, habeas corpus no longer holds up our streamlined anti terror laws. Mostly it’s straight to jail even if you only have a dumb plan. Yet it’s deadly serious. The attention to detail in costume alone signals a bin squad that means business.

Yellow plastic terror-proof cover-alls contrast vividly with blue kitchen gloves, blue plastic bags and the cerulean blue tarps everything in the bin is tipped out on. It’s more than a visual feast to lift a nation’s spirits, it’s a religious ceremony, the ritual elevation of the AFP into a priestly class.

Almost up there with ASIO, our AFP hierophants are blessed with supernatural powers to divine all manner of evil.

And keep us safe. The saffron vestments help cement the deal. A buttercup cop in a surgical mask upends a gun-metal grey garbage bin. Voila! But take heed, political deviants and dissenters. Our moral, metaphysical, if not spiritual, guardians sift rubbish with all the unhurried, unsmiling thoroughness of a gang of Mumbai rag-pickers.

Four Men … is a high-stakes, top-quality attention-grabbing drama, a long, suspenseful, terrifying stake-out.

Lethal. Yairs. Top cops tell us how an exploding mince-maker could bring down an airliner in a setting of utter suburban dullness, a plot device and a location so humdrum it takes the banality of evil to a whole new level.

Worse, Channel 7 rants, in more, explosive, revelations. It has wind of a back up plan to launch a Hydrogen Sulphide or fart gas attack on a public transport network system in Sydney. Is there no end to Muslim perfidy? But, wait, something’s on the nose. Of course, Seven has just re-releasing an AFP press release – and it’s a bit whiffy.

The gas is toxic in sufficient concentration but the volume required, Professor Greg Barton, who enjoys regular media billing as a Deakin counter-terrorism expert, argues, rules out any carry on luggage. You’d need a truckload.

And it’s only talk. AFP deputy commissioner of national security Michael Phelan reveals that a second terror plot was “allegedly being discussed by the accused”. Yet even this can be dressed up as scary. The men discussed “… building of an improved chemical dispersion device,” Phelan claims. It’s enough, moreover, to get you charged.

For News Corp’s Sharri Markson, who relays an anonymous minister (not Peter Dutton) the real terrorists are Tim Wilson, Trent Zimmerman, Trevor Evans, Dean Smith and Warren Entsch who are agitating for a conscience vote.

“Today we need to be talking about terrorism and the fantastic work our agencies have done — but instead, because of these saboteurs, these suicide bombers in our own party, we’re talking about same-sex marriage.”

Not another agenda hi-jack! Markson’s “minister” (not Peter Dutton) pretends that government can’t possibly talk about more than one thing at a time. It’s an indictment, to claim our elected representatives can’t “fart and chew gum at the same time” (as Johnson said of Gerald Ford) but it’s now a Coalition orthodoxy; a standard evasion.

Do we really need to baste the carcass of an open society in its own juices by gushing praise over police, paramilitary and other agents of coercion? Haven’t we valorised anyone in uniform enough already? What we need to acknowledge is how well anti-terror laws and terror bust theatre help conceal the terror of the state.

Our draconian security laws threaten our open society. As The MEAA points out we have criminalised the truth and suppressed the right to know. Despite George Brandis, Barnaby Joyce and company, it’s the state whose terror laws are “law-fare” – not the protests of environmental groups which the government seeks to silence.

Michael Forst, UN Special Rapporteur, last October criticised The Turnbull government for its bill to prevent individuals or organisations that have engaged in environmental activities in the past two years from challenging decisions under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

Others have instanced our Border Force Act 2015 which can put you in jail for two years if you reveal anything about Manus or Nauru. Too bad if this cuts across your professional obligation to report physical and mental harm.

But the Coalition has not been content just to outlaw whistleblowers and suppress dissent. It deploys its own terror. News “breaks” this week that 38,000 Centrelink pensioners receive “Taskforce Integrity” letters from the Department of Human Services which bear an AFP logo to help instil fear. The letters, sent late July, warn often terrified recipients against deliberately withholding or providing false information to dishonestly collect payments.

Since 2015, DHS has sent over 85,000 letters with AFP logo to welfare recipients in nine national locations. Should any  government put the frighteners on its most vulnerable?  ACOSS head, Sandra Goldie, is in no doubt,

“It is completely inappropriate for the government to send letters to income support recipients with the Australian Federal Police logo asking if their details are up to date.” “These letters are threatening and completely disregard any mental health issue the person may have.”

Yet, distressingly, the issue attracts little MSM attention and despite its Robo-claw debt recovery debacle, the government is determined to press on with its standover tactics and its efforts to shakedown pensioners to find the small change down the back of the couch while allowing 36 per cent of large companies to pay no tax whatsoever. Oxfam calculates multinational tax avoidance costs Australia $6 billion in revenue every year.

No-one on the Tele, nor any another MSM recalls that it was a “relaxed and comfortable” John Howard in 2004 who took it upon himself to change the Marriage Act to exclude gay couples. Nor that he did it without plebiscite.

True, there was a bit of a fuss when he also proposed to ban same sex couples from adopting children from other countries, but he was able to abandon that part of his “reform” in his hope of quickly wedging Labor.

He wished, he claimed, “…to  make it very plain that that is our view of a marriage and to also make it very plain that the definition of a marriage is something that should rest in the hands ultimately of the parliament…”

In fact, as he did with school chaplains, arch-conservative Howard imposed his own prejudices on the nation, pausing only to insult us that he had read our’ minds for us. In this sense, he planted an IED of his own that his indulged disciple, Tony Abbott, our accidental Prime Minister, was able to augment with a bomb of his own.

Losing control of an unruly six hour party room meeting stacked with Nationals dinosaurs and desperate to head off a conscience vote, Abbott got his then deputy PM Julie Bishop to propose a plebiscite. It was a word which Wokka Entsch reckons he never heard. Yet it put a time-bomb under Turnbull which is ticking louder by the day.

In a secret, special “emergency” meeting of the Liberal party room scheduled for next Monday, Turnbull  will continue his mission of open and transparent, cabinet based decision-making government by trying to engineer a solution which will preserve his confidential, Faustian compact with the National Party.

What has upset the conservatives is news that WA Liberal Senator Dean Smith wishes to introduce a private member’s bill in favour of a conscience vote in parliament. Planning of this was leaked when last June when in a kiss of death, Christopher Pyne overshared his view that a bill would be introduced “sooner than everyone thinks.”

It was not so much the assertion itself which had Liberal die-hard rightists spluttering but his allied claim that the left-wing of the Liberal Party had taken over a vision calculated to inflame the passions of the Abbott, Eric Abetz, Kevin Andrews and the ten or so “Deplorables” who like to style themselves as conservatives.

Michelle Grattan who knows people who know people in Canberra believes the five amigos have unleashed an existential battle which goes to the heart of Turnbull’s leadership, a locus, itself a vexed conundrum. Like some reverse terror group, those pro a SSM conscience vote, she says, have engineered an “extraordinary implosion”.

It won’t come to a fight. In typically assertive fashion, the PM’s made it clear that he won’t lead or embrace a position himself. In truth he doesn’t have the political capital to do much else – and even less authority.

What could possibly go wrong? Courting disaster is the par for the course with him. Politics, Groucho Marx reminds us, is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.

If all goes to plan, the PM will be able to brandish a non-binding, non-compulsory postal plebiscite which could cost the nation $100 million – to reach a verdict which his government can then reject. Malcolm Farr on ABC InsidersSunday, says he’s charging the tax-payer to come up with a decision which parliament should be making.

In brief, a postal plebiscite is another political expedient; an evasion of Tony Abbott’s initial evasion of a conscience vote which would undo John Howard’s original 2004 political expedient. Bugger what the nation wants.

Polls show majority support for marriage equality. Only about 25% of Australians oppose same sex marriage.

In the end, the issue illuminates how far Turnbull’s need to keep his leadership outweighs all other concerns and how much his need to appease the right of the party leads his government further away from popular opinion.

The secret deal with the Nationals he made to gain the leadership has not been divulged even after FOI requests.  But it’s clear that he’s meant to keep a leash on the liberals in the party while the National party keeps a leash on him.

A joint party room will follow Tuesday where Turnbull will take a secret ballot, banking on the status quo. Whatever the outcome, the Nationals – who have seven times the number of seats as The Greens but less than half the votes – thanks to our gerrymandered political system, will exercise their right of veto, Friday.

In a ray of (setting) sunshine for the right wing, groundhog day for peak stupid arrives Saturday. Craig Kelly is on ABC crowing over the proposed visit of Trump EPA Head and climate change global village idiot, Scott Pruitt. Kelly gushes over the chance to hear Pruitt.

“The head of the EPA in the United States of America is a very high ranking and prestigious position and if he’s got time amongst his busy schedule to come and visit us down in Australia we should welcome him with open arms,” Kelly says.

Nonsense. Just let us know, Craig, if it were you or Josh who invited him. Pruitt does not need our endorsement; nor do we need to hear his stupidity nor his coal-lobby spin. We are being softened up for more coal-fired power stations. On cue this week, PM has been waffling about how ideology must not get in the way of energy security.

By the end of the week, the Turnbull government is in crisis even before parliament has resumed. Luckily a tape is leaked which gives the lie to claims that Turnbull has not talked tough to the US President, Donald Trump over our heroic refugee-swap which will see us clear Manus and Nauru in return for some unwanted Columbians.

He has “held the line” claim MSM applauding our PM’s assertiveness and offering other glowing endorsements his office has press-released them. In reality, the transcript reveals Turnbull’s thoroughgoing duplicity and cynicism. He is unconcerned if the US takes only a hundred refugees as long as the deal appears outwardly to be a success.

The leak is a damning indictment. It provides a privileged insight into a totally cynical Turnbull and his government to whom nothing matters, least of all the suffering of our refugees, detained offshore in conditions and circumstances which amount to torture.

Turnbull’s sole motivation is to cling to power by whatever means present themselves.

Above all the leaked transcript points to the callous inhumanity of our refugee policy. Whatever the outcome of its gay-marriage imbroglio, the Turnbull government needs to bring our refugees home immediately.

Similarly he could make the call for a conscience vote in Parliament and let his opponents be damned. It would require courage but he has absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Spare us the surreal terror scare tactics, the endless hype about security and the dog-whistling of division, Mr Turnbull. For once in your life do something healing.

 

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Joyce, Canavan and Murray Darling scandal expose fatal flaws in Turnbull’s government.

Explosive revelations rock our sleepy island-continent this week as a plot to bring down a plane with an “improvised explosive device” is thwarted in Sydney in yet another timely Coalition terror alert while Labor dares suggest that a bigger threat is the inequality which is tearing our nation apart, just as the time bomb of section 44 (i) of our constitution wreaks havoc in North Queensland.

Happily, North Korea obliges with another diverting missile show. Our media replays its spooky tape of goose-stepping men in uniform with recklessly big hats and bad haircuts. A war with North Korea would last for ever judging by the way you see the same missiles fired endlessly. For a moment we forget our local woes and hiss the international villain.

Back to earth and some shocking news. Casa Canavani, home of the Federal Minster for Adani, Flat-earther Matt Canavan is in tatters. Many other MPs are at risk of a 44(i) gone rogue. Twenty MPs – at least risk being found ineligible.

Barnaby Joyce whose father was a New Zealander is hoist with the 44 (i) petard. Joyce maintains he’s not a Kiwi because he was born in Australian and he never applied for NZ citizenship.

Yet the 1948 British Nationality and New Zealand Citizenship Act (Section 7), which was in place in New Zealand when baby Barnaby was born, clearly states:

“Subject to the provisions of this section, a person born after the commencement of this Act shall by descent be a New Zealand citizen by descent if his father was a New Zealand citizen at the time of his birth”

Barnaby need not resign but he should, in good faith, declare his situation and add his case to the High Court, for consideration, too. The same goes for Eric Abetz.

Tasmanian Senator Eric Abetz has yet to document his timely renunciation of German citizenship. Indeed, his case is an anomaly of interest to the High Court, surely, given reports that he was ineligible to enter parliament when he did, initially filling a casual vacancy.

Legal action over Eric’s ineligibility was eventually withdrawn but only because the time to lodge objections to his initial appointment and his first election “win” had expired.

Abetz has yet to keep his promise to provide a copy of a letter he says he wrote to the German Embassy in 1993 renouncing his citizenship. Instead, Tassie Liberals attack Labor’s Justine Keay.

As befits our tribal politics, a witch hunt is unleashed. Tasmanian Labor MP for Braddon, Keay, said by ABC to be “dodging queries” has explained via social media that she formally renounced her UK citizenship before nominating as a Federal candidate and that she has provided proof to the ALP.

Section 44 (i) is, however, set to unseat recently-renounced dual citizen, PHON’s Malcolm Roberts, all seventy-seven votes of him. His bijou senate spot will now go to Pauline Hanson’s sister, Judy Smith, who is itching to hop aboard the clan’s Jabiru, despite its problematic provenance.

MPs scramble to check their mothers’ passports, recipe books and other signs of dormant dual nationality. A mercurial Malcolm Roberts embraces an impossible number positions in quick succession. No change there.

He clearly was once a Pom, as well as a Planet Zorgian and he has a go at renouncing his UK nationality on The Today Show and by email – as if being a PHON member isn’t worldly renunciation enough. His showmanship will be missed.

“I am choosing to consider I never was British”, says the nation’s top empiricist, in a backhand swipe, perhaps, at Australians who identify as Indigenous, perhaps confusing empiricism with solipsism. That settles the matter.

Some cry foul. Others say the unwritten rules and conventions the Constitution relies upon are not worth the paper they are written on. Yet our Constitution is a tribute to our federating fathers’ quest to create the best business environment they could for themselves. It bans anyone who:

“Is under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or citizen of a foreign power.

Always keen to strike a pose on the world stage, meanwhile, Australia is keen to join its secret arms trade partner, Saudi Arabia on the UN Human Rights Council, when the UNHCR accuses Immigration Minister Dutton and his team of deception in its US refugee swap double-deal.

Cross-examined by hostile Coalition Inquisitor, ABC’s Leigh Sales, Volker Turk, UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, responds that Dutton gave an undertaking that 36 refugees from Manus Island could join close family in Australia. He explains the nature of the assurance.

 “(Dutton) didn’t give us assurances because we didn’t present cases yet. But he did agree that we would be able to present such cases.”

Michelle Grattan suggests it would be too Machiavellian to suggest Dutton’s gang would give the impression of having cases looked at while they had no intention of reviewing them favourably.

In his best diplomatic manner, Turk condemns the damning shameful human rights big picture,

“… what we have seen is a deterrence policy. It’s a border protection policy with a slippery slope where, indeed, people who are refugees are effectively punished. Part of that punishment is also how they deal with people who have family links in Australia.”

As Gillian Triggs, Human Rights Commissioner, mercilessly pilloried and persecuted by Abbott, Brandis and News Corp, the Turnbull government, like its punch-drunk predecessor, says on retirement this week, Australia  is ideologically opposed to human rights. Poor fellow my country.

Supremo Dutton, meanwhile, who will acquire even greater power when he heads up our super-ministry of Home Affairs, in reward for his loyal support of the PM, is unavailable for comment.

Equally under-examined is our Foreign Affairs Minister, Julie Bishop. Her pro-US line on China has triggered a ban on our chilled beef and sheep exports. Six processing plants have been stopped.

Processors claim the bans are in retaliation to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s recent comments over freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.  Yet China may well accuse us of hypocrisy.

Australia is critical of China’s artificial islands and its bellicose posturing but we continue to bully our tiny northern neighbour Timor-Leste (East Timor) over rights to gas reserves in just the same way we accuse China of behaving in the South China Sea.

Strong-arming the weak and defenseless is Coalition policy, abroad as much as at home.

No drama. Help is on its way. Smooth-talking Trade Minister Steve Ciobo – not-an-Italian-citizen- says it is “a very significant situation” and the Government has “mobilised quickly” to engage Chinese authorities on the issue.

Whew. That’s all sorted then. We can all go back to our happy families living in democratic, rules-based harmony under US power.  The Bishop doctrine of denial shows blithe over-confidence in an imaginary friend. US leadership in Asia under Trump will be unlike any other. Now that’s a real and present danger.

Luckily, by Saturday, the bomb plot which Abbott-appointee, AFP’s Andrew Colvin says is “Islamic inspired” is discovered just as a couple of TV crews happen to be right outside. The bust is nicely timed for Prime TV and helps deflect attention from a Prime Minister who is in hiding all week.

No-one dare ask Colvin where he’s up to with investigating Pauline’s Jabiru. Or with the NBN busts timed so well for last election. The polite fiction of AFP independence and competence continues. Expect more lecterns and updates. We are in an era of government by announceables.

It matters little now to citizens of our democracy that 24 hours pass and no charge is laid. Rule of law? Separation of powers? So easy to extend detention without any charge with our beaut new anti-terror laws to keep everybody safe.

A dual citizen witch-hunt or alien alert, if you prefer, and an anti-Muslim dog-whistle terror distraction divert few from this week’s main show. Spoiler alert. The plot continues as follows.

Turnbull goes missing in inaction. In a searing new episode of Upstream Downstream, our nation’s epic soap opera, Matt Canavan is outed as an alien and Barnaby Joyce’s front bar gaffe pulls the pin on a Nats Murray-Darling basin boondoggle, revealing the scheme to be a scam.

First to a bar in Shepparton, packed we are told with local farmers, agog to hear Barnaby, as ever. He speaks their language.

“We’ve taken water and put it back into Agriculture [ministry] so we can look after you and make sure we don’t have the greenies running the show, basically sending you out the back door.” 

Barnaby means he’s helped wealthy cotton irrigators to help themselves to billions of litres of water, paid for by tax-payers to ensure the environmental health of the Murray Darling system. Some farmers may have traded in this stolen water, profiteering from its illegal sale.

The program exposes what appear to be seriously corrupt dealings between politicians, public servants and a few big irrigators in the Murray Darling Basin.

Not only is the alleged rort a national scandal, Joyce’s behaviour is shocking. Rather than exercise his own responsibility as Minister for Water, he accuses ABC’s Four Corners of trying to “create a calamity” over its allegations of water theft.  In the interim, he seems to collude with irrigators. In any other government he’d be tendering his resignation.

Instead, Joyce goes missing until late in the week when the tape of his Wednesday address to farmers in Shepparton surfaces. The tape confirms his contempt for any environmental concern and implies he is in collusion with the water thieves. For any other minister it would be curtains. In any other government he’d be fired.

Agile Mal is on to it. After a long talk with his deputy, they decide that this is not a federal matter. How could the Federal Water Minister be responsible? NSW can sort itself out. After all Baird sorted out ICAC before he retired. Didn’t he?

By Sunday, Phil Coorey reports that the PM has ordered a national review of water compliance in the best Yes Minister tradition of diverting a crisis into a review rather than follow up what seem serious allegations of criminal misconduct made in the program. It beats real leadership.

The PM is silent, moreover, over Canavan. He must be gone for all money. Not a word about  Matt, The Accidental Italian which wins performance of the week for its opening number alone- Mum’s the Word.

Mum’s the Word  is a show-stealing multi-cultural number with slick ensemble work. It features Signor Canavan, Adani’s champion and family. Matt tears his hair with passionate self-loathing. No. He struts and frets. No. He’s turned into an Italian. No. Tell me it’s not true. I tell you I signed nothing. No. I have never been to Italy. No. An alien?

Canavan mugs the camera. He’s beside himself with conflicted loyalties. Is it witchcraft? Too much grappa?

No, Matteo. Not stregoneria. Worse. Motherly love. In a captivatingly coy cameo debut, Matt’s Mama, Maria, La Contessa Canavan, faithful wife of convicted felon Bryan, confesses. She’s kept everything from her son. The papers. The passport. The whole Italian job. Her secret for ten years.

Wife of Bryan is top contender for the week’s best spin-off for its sensational revelations alone. In 2007 when Canavan Snr was sent to the Big House for seven years for fraud, a provident Maria was inspired to take out Italian citizenship for herself and her children. As you do.

A quick family chat in 2006 and the subject was never again mentioned by anybody. Nor were the Italian government voting papers which arrived on three occasions ever forwarded nor was Matt’s brand-new passport ever sent on to him.  The script is pure farce, pure Dario Fo.

Not a word, even, of praise for Maria’s miracle: making Matt an Italian without his having to sign anything or produce ID. Embassy staff and other dual nationals even claim the feat is impossible.

The Australian recruits our sympathy for battler Bryan. Had to sell a string of properties in 2006, we are told, after he and a colleague were investigated for embezzling $1.6 million from Nestle. Clearly a better class of felon.

Suspense sky-rockets thanks to our PM’s studied under-performance. In homage to Conan Doyle’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time,Malcolm Turnbull, lies doggo all week, despite a scandalous turn of events which could easily cause his government to lose its tiny majority.

Could it be that his recent OS trip and his bid to convert Menzies and the Liberal Party to lower case L over-taxed him. Or the government’s continued tanking in News Poll and Essential?

Certainly his shit-eating grin and camera handshake with Tony Abbott would be taxing. The encounter was billed as a fight to the death, yet, on the day, Turnbull turned the other cheek. Tiring.

Worse, he supported the NSW Liberal Party Warringah motion plebiscite, which will enable Tony’s backers to stack branches with right-wingers; safeguarding Abbott’s own pre-selection.

Perhaps the PM’s just hiding the egg on his face. When Greens Senators, Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlum, woke up to discover they were still dual nationals, the PM was quick to sink the slipper.

“It is pretty amazing, isn’t it, that you have had two out of nine Greens senators didn’t realise they were citizens of another country. It shows incredible sloppiness on their part,” Turnbull sneered.

Schadenfreude aside, the PM could acknowledge that Waters and Ludlum couldn’t resign from Parliament quickly enough. Yet, now that Canavan’s in trouble, it’s the law that’s at fault.

Of course, Matt may be above the law – the Coalition default option for cabinet ministers. He’s certainly acting that way. With unseemly haste, the government rushes to protect its own.

Signor Canavan proclaims he has “legal advice” that he is not in breach of Section 44 (i) of the constitution. He’s appealing to the High Court. The matter will be referred 6 August. It’s a useful gag and a standard tactic by government MPs in trouble to avoid any further scrutiny. Fat chance.

Legal advice? The law holds that ignorance is no excuse. What Canavan means is that he’s been persuaded not to resign by legal genius AG George Brandis. George just loves Matt’s defence of “My Mum did it”. Incisive. Like Malcolm Turnbull, Brandis has a brilliant mind until it is made up.

Matt is a man of the people, at least in North Queensland and our coal-fired national press.

Naturally, he is also a News Corp star for his advocacy of mining, his climate-denial, his right-to-lifing, his support of protests outside abortion clinics and his war against green vigilantes. Environmental groups must be prevented from any advocacy. They sabotage coal mines.

In brief, Matt is framed as an archetypal innocent trapped by events beyond his control. He is quick to protest his ignorance. The Sergeant Schulz defence goes over well in The Australian and with Andrew Probyn.

I know nothing. Mama is to blame he says. You have to understand. He has never been into an Italian embassy or even eaten pizza. Bravo, Matteo! Rave reviews follow.

Godfather to his children, his former employer, (Matt was his Chief of Staff) and an old family friend, an impartial Barnaby Joyce attests to Matt’s “incredible” character. Not the wisest choice of epithet in the circumstances, he realises, binding it with a running superlative or two – “exemplary character; exemplary person.” Barnaby nuance. Media pundits agree he’s a good minister.

Of course there’s no show without Punch. Think-tanking, our Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison tops last week’s top trick, Tudge’s Fudge, a redefining of poverty out of existence whilst continuing a war on the poor.

This week ScoMo banishes inequality simply by shouting everyone down and calling Bill Shorten a liar. It’s a fantastic trick. Such a boon to the mindlessly tribal approach the Abbott Turnbull Coalition has brought to politics.

And it’s personal. All week, a servile ABC repeats Morrison’s nonsense that inequality is a contested area and simply one of Evil Bill Shorten’s Mediscare fakes. Perhaps the Coalition’s sole achievement has been to turn the name Bill Shorten into a pejorative term – at least to their own tribes.

Nerding up with graphs, ScoMo puts the Gini Co-efficient back in the bottle in a Duttonesque demonstration that whatever evidence you may think you have, he alone knows the truth.  Besides, he leers, social inequality is something Bill Shorten invented in a naff attempt to cash in on trendy-lefties Jeremy Corbyn and Sanders’ popularity.

The week ends with a government in crisis over water, our most precious resource. No inquiry or review will siphon off the public anger and sense of betrayal. Turnbull’s side-step will only lower his negative leadership ratings.

The Murray-Darling Basin scandal helps confirm that this government has not the slightest commitment to environmentalism. Sadly it fits into a long established pattern of environmental neglect from the Great Barrier Reef to land-clearing. Its evasive, cynical response, alone, to say nothing of its failure exercise due diligence, however is yet another compelling indication that it is unfit to govern.

Ironically, the Murray-Darling water rort is also a grotesque illustration of some of the flaws of trickle-down economics, if any more evidence were needed, while the witch hunt for aliens in parliament; those MPs who have not yet renounced their dual citizenship is fed by an ugly, irrational, intolerance abroad in the land.

For this a government which substitutes the threat of terror to compensate for real leadership has only itself to blame. For Malcolm Turnbull, moreover, the water scandal and his weak response this week is a reminder that the Faustian pact with the Nationals which helped him to become leader is rapidly working to depose him.

Turnbull’s super ministry an epic failure.

They lie the men who tell us for reasons of their own

That want is here a stranger and that misery’s unknown …

Henry Lawson Faces in the Street


 

Loud Hosannas, cheers, applause and dancing in the streets erupt across a grateful nation this week as our bravely innovative, PM, Malcolm Turnbull, proclaims Peter Dutton, Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of Australia.

Dead-eye Dutton’s rise is but one sublime peak in a week action-packed with fear and surprise featuring a Turnbull presser at a military base, backed by a blackface troupe of armed commandos in balaclavas, keeping us all safe.

Meanwhile up the coast, intrigued by our amphibious landings and all agog at sundry other top-secret-state of the art, war games with the US, so cleverly filmed by our ABC, a Chinese Peoples’ Liberation Army-navy spy ship is observed “aggressively” lurking off Queensland’s coast, within our Exclusive Economic Zone in the Coral Sea.

So much for Malcolm Turnbull’s 2016 ring of steel, encircling Australia’s northern waters, protecting our borders.

In NSW, Liberals savage each other before their national conference, a stoush billed as a clash between left and right factions in a fight for control of the party. The vote also is a proxy war between Abbott and Turnbull.

Abbott leads a push to include members in candidate pre-selection in a “democratic reform” move which will only lead to a return to right-wing branch-stacking. Above all, it will help ensure his own pre-selection, currently at risk.

His “Warringah motion”, for one member, one pre-selection vote which features speeches from windy, right-wing warrior, retired Major General Jim Molan receives 61% of the 1224 votes, taking NSW Liberals further to the right.

Abbott’s eager contribution to political conflict also includes the gift that keeps on giving, the legacy of his plebiscite on same-sex marriage, a cynical, last-minute tactic to prevent a party conscience vote. A non-binding, non-compulsory, snap postal plebiscite, a Clayton’s plebiscite,  “just to get a result” on same sex marriage, has been prepared by a secretive government keen to avoid having to take the issue to the next election.

Peter Dutton, an opponent of marriage equality, threw his extra-large hat into the postal vote ring last February, as did Matthias Cormann. If a postal vote can take place quickly, it will avoid the scenario where Liberal senator Dean Smith can bring his promised private member’s bill to his party room and to a parliamentary vote in August.

Gorgeous George Christensen is urging everyone to go postal, as is the Queensland Liberal National Party, which last week called upon the Coalition to conduct a mail-out plebiscite, a process which is predicted to favour the no case partly because young voters, who are more likely to vote yes, are believed to be less likely to return non-compulsory ballots.

A no vote is the outcome the party right, who run this government prefers, despite it being a minority view in parliament and in the nation. Abbott may be long deposed, but his spirit of evasion, tactical subterfuge and reality denial lives on in Turnbull’s era. Dutton steps up to swing the vast bulk of Home Affairs behind a postal ballot.

Sunday, Dutton is right on song with the quick and dirty idea that a voluntary postal vote would be a “much cleaner process” than a private member or a Labor bill. Dispensing with pleasantries, early, in a Sunday interview, he quickly assumes his super minister bully role with a resounding rebuff to his imaginary enemy, a left-wing ABC.

In a twist on his 2015 denunciation of the national “Jihadist” broadcaster, in league with Fairfax to do the government down, the paranoid and autocratic Dutton, as befits a newly anointed super minister, now sees the ABC as a culturally-flawed “worker’s collective” that has deviated from its charter. Shades of Donald Trump.

Like any self-respecting Coalition heavy, Dutton puts pressure on ABC’s MD Michelle Guthrie to further diminish the possibility of objective commentary or factual reporting impeding the processes of government. No holding to account. It’s proved a devastatingly effective tactic when combined with budget cuts or chronic under-funding.

“I hope that Michelle Guthrie can arrest some of that direction and bring it back to a more sensible position,” Dutton tells Sky News on Sunday. He also adds his signature dog-whistle, this time, to all of ABC’s right-wing critics.

“That’s been my long-held view of the ABC … and I haven’t seen anyone dispute that with any seriousness.”

No-one cares much any more about the ABC but Alex Greenwich, Australian Marriage Equality co-chair, a NSW independent MP, is quick to denounce Dutton’s call as a “political trick to override the role of parliament”.

 “Any attempt to hold a non-binding and voluntary postal plebiscite will be seen as a pointless political trick to override the role of parliament and delay the settled will of the Australian people.”

Luckily Alan Tudge is on hand to advance the national conversation from political chicanery to statistical duplicity. Taking time out from extorting “overpayments” from innocent and often helpless Centrelink victims to provide tax cuts to the rich, while unemployment benefits stay unchanged since 1994, the Minister for Social Services and Neoliberal nurturing, declares poverty is all your own fault.

Time again to blame the victim.

More welfare, he tells the tough-luvvies of the hard right CIS think-tank in Sydney, will do nothing to alleviate what is simply the result of your own dysfunctional family. He echoes Jeremy Sammut’s  remarkable piece in The Australian last year when he identified “bad parenting” as the real dysfunction. Helping only makes this worse.

“Long-term welfare dependence is a poison on the individual, it reduces people’s ability, it reduces people’s confidence,” Tudge tut-tuts. CIS members whose think tank enjoys long-term tax-free status as a charity, cheer.

Some Indigenous communities, he blusters, before singling out Wilcannia NSW, are at “saturation level” of funding. In an echo of the Coalition argument for reducing our investment in education by billions, he contends that more money won’t fix the problem. What’s needed is to address the causes, he reckons.

Yet Tudge’s list of causes or “pathways to poverty” reads suspiciously like effects. He cites welfare dependency, drug and alcohol abuse, family breakdown and poor education standards. More self-righteous victim blaming.

But there’s more. A late ray of sunshine across a wintry national stage, littered with the corpses of dud ideas, Tudge has a magic formula of “absolute deprivation” to redefine poverty as your ability to afford, food, clothing, education – compared with say, thirty years ago when even a neoliberal Hawke was vowing to end child poverty.

Calculating poverty from average household earnings, taking, for example, the OECD’s benchmark of 50% of median income, puts 3 million Australians, including 731,000 children, below the poverty line, is so passe.

Instead, argues Tudge, go back thirty years. Apply an absolute deprivation filter. Presto. A single unemployed person on $38 per day, today, is ten per cent better off than in the past. People with children are even wealthier.

It’s a cruel statistical hoax, of course. The reality is that poverty is increasing  as shown by a range of reputable researchers such as ACOSS. At least of third of those receiving social security live below the poverty line. It is highly likely, moreover, that poverty is under-reported but for this government, if you are poor, it is your own fault.

Tudge could go back to 1890 and find figures to prove that today’s poor are fat cats relatively speaking. But only if we accept a ludicrous formula which, among other flaws, ignores the soaring costs of accommodation and energy.

Blaming the victim and demonising the poor are not new trends. Nor is sophistry and wilful ignorance.

“People who have secure accommodation, decent food on the table, access to medical care and whose children go to school are not poor”, thundered The Australian in 2004, denouncing “the welfare lobby”‘s attempt to define poverty as earnings less than average weekly income. No matter that no such definition has ever been ventured.

Tudge continues to argue against increasing government spending on welfare. Spurious statistics are adduced to persuade us that a married couple on welfare now enjoys 38% greater benefit that a couple thirty years ago. Benefits have increased, he claims in real terms by 10% for a single person. It’s dangerous nonsense.

Tudge and his government are reviving a culture of cruelty, a mean-spiritedness which speaks against a culture of compassion or solidarity in favour of division and an ethos of competitive rivalry, a survival of the fittest in a type of neoliberal authoritarianism which threatens the very fundamentals of our welfare state and our civil society.

Aside from the cheer squaddies, others see Turnbull as a forlorn Theresa May figure, a PM in title only, cynically embracing fear-mongering and in no position to refuse his right-wing rival in a last-ditch bid to stay in power.

Butch Dutton’s elevation comes a day after the PM stages his weirdly dystopian press-terror show. It’s an ironic over the top homage to military fetishist Tony Abbott who followed his mentor Howard, in politicising the military.

A beached assault vessel lurks behind masked ADF soldiers in camouflage gear who brandish automatic weapons to help the PM explain the ADF’s need for greater powers; expanding into domestic terror attacks.

As Guy Rundle writes, “up pops Malcolm, to announce a vast centralisation of state power in one department, and a weakening of the barrier between military and police operations in domestic matters.”

Dutton grins. Becoming super powerful is something he and his Immigration and Border Protection secretary, Mike Pezzullo, have been working on for some time, despite enjoying very mixed success with their day jobs.

Is it another of the PM’s cunning plans, a Turnbullian tactic which flouts all expert advice, common sense and the mind-numbing dullness of collegiate decision-making to buy off a right-wing challenge? Or is it capitulation?

Certainly, it’s another fracture in the image of reasoned collaboration and consensus-seeking. A day after deposing Tony Abbott, a junkyard dog of opposition promoted out of his depth, who sensibly left all big decisions to his chief of staff, Peta Credlin, Turnbull declared he was a Prime Minister who would listen to his peers.

“We need to restore traditional cabinet government. There must be an end to policy on the run and captain’s calls,” he said, in what proved to just the first step to becoming an answering-machine of high-sounding, crowd-pleasing promises he had no intention of keeping. And even less capacity. Now, even Greg Sheridan protests:

“The decision … to establish an omnibus, security-focused department of home affairs, with Peter Dutton leading the new ministry, changes the Prime Minister has ­described as the most important to the organisation of national ­security in 40 years, never once went to a full cabinet meeting for consideration.”

Nor was it taken to the cabinet national security committee for any deliberation or evaluation. “The Ayatollah”, as Turnbull was known in merchant banking, has returned with a vengeance. He’ll do anything to stay in power – he’ll even over-promote Peter Dutton, a Minister with a record of manifest serial incompetence .

Dutto’s promotion makes the former Queensland drug squad policeman,  aka J. Edgar Tuber,  the most powerful man in Australia. He’s now way above the PM atop a brand-new, instant, Super-Ministry of Home Affairs, a press-ganged crew of ASIO spooks, Border Force cowboys, our AFP and many others, none of whom were consulted and all of whom may be counted on to resist the amalgamation, especially when it comes to co-operation and sharing.

For all his high-sounding embrace of “the sensible centre”, a posturing which involved the reinvention of Menzies during his speech in London, Malcolm Turnbull has taken the Liberal Party and his government hard right. In this he may, indeed, prove tactically agile, moving to a position where Abbott’s attacks are unable to find him out. He may also, as Guy Rundle suggests, move closer than he knows to Ming’s reactionary and ruthless pragmatism.

In the process of shoring up his leadership, however, Turnbull has created a monster which is far more likely to prove a major liability rather than any streamlined, linked-up, co-ordinated, up to the minute anti-terror fighting machine or super ministry. Even the one voice in cabinet promise sounds like a problem. One voice three times?

The PM’s ignored good advice; a review of the intelligence system by two top mandarins, Michael L’Estrange and Stephen Merchant commissioned last November. These senior bureaucrats were advised by former senior British spook Sir Iain Lobban. Nowhere does their report propose an amalgamated Home Affairs ministry.

Not that it’s more than a bureaucratic exercise. For Bernard Keane, the review of Australia’s intelligence community is superficial; “a major, perhaps spectacular, missed opportunity, [which] skips critical thinking for bureaucratic insularity, empire-building and a bizarre indifference to the key issues of intelligence and national security.

Lots of new high-ranking bureaucratic positions will be created, however, in a process of systemic self-perpetuation. Naturally, both Turnbull and Morrison are pretending all will be cost-neutral.

Turnbull was not seeking depth or objectivity; rather a box to tick. In the process, however, he appears overly receptive to Peter Dutton whose secretary Mike Pezzullo is the architect of the Home Affairs concept in a process which rewards naked empire building at the expense of any wider, objective or detailed view.

Home Affairs is what Dutton wants and what Turnbull thinks he could use; a recipe for disaster from day one. Then there are practical issues such as ASIO issuing warrants which will have to be signed off on by Brandis.

Apart from unease over the process, strains will naturally quickly appear in Home Affairs, a forced menage a trois of three separate government bodies, none of whom favour amalgamation – and with key issues unresolved – let alone under Dutton, a Minister who has struggled to administer the unhappy merger of Immigration and Customs.

Is the PM tongue in cheek when he praises the new model’s superior communication and collaboration potential? Peter Dutton is typically evasive, non-communicative or hostile. Of all ministers, he is the least responsive.

He has yet to explain why he misled the parliament and the Australian public when he asserted that shots were fired upon Manus Island Detention Centre on Good Friday this year in retaliation over the refugees’ suspected paedophile activity, an unsubstantiated slur. Greens Senator Nick McKim reports that after visiting Manus, he found that Dutton’s account was not supported on the ground.

“What I can say is that both the PNG police and Ronny Knight, and all of the detainees … are consistent in their positions, and that is that an event involving a small child had nothing whatsoever to do with the attack and the shooting, which obviously puts the lie to Peter Dutton’s version of events,” he says.

The super ministry is likely to get in its own way; confuse the allocation of counter-terrorism roles and responsibilities.  Yet the elephant in the room is the over-hyped terror threat which is its reason for being. Seriously. Despite Abbott’s rhetoric, Australia does not pose an existential threat from ISIS or any other group.

Talk it up all you will, Prime Minister, our nation’s terrorist experience is tiny – mercifully.

As Mehdi Hasan writes, “there have been zero mass-casualty terror attacks on Australian soil since September 11, 2001.”

Or as Greg Austin, international security expert at the University of NSW, observed last October:

“More Australians have died at the hands of police (lawfully or unlawfully) in 10 years (50 at least from 2006 to 2015) or from domestic violence in just two years (more than 318 in 2014 and 2015) than from terrorist attacks in Australia in the last 20 years.”

The threat our nation faces from the right-wing of the Liberal Party and the puppet Turnbull government it runs is immeasurably greater than any external threat it must conjure in order to boost its dwindling authority.

While the super-ministry fiasco, a giant bureaucracy no-one except the PM needs and no-one except Peter Dutton and Mike Pezullo want, reflects its manifestly inept decision-making, the Coalition’s fixation with neoliberal ideology is more pernicious and far more pervasive than any possible external terror threat.

A PM who truly cares about national security would look within. The war on terror is a hoax. The government’s capture by business, mining and banking has led it to inflict injustice and indignity including the cruel trickle-down fraud of $65 billion dollar tax breaks for business in the pretence of prosperity for all.

Forget the war on terror, Prime Minister. Spare us the weird theatricals. Look at rampant inequality fostered by your neoliberal economic policies. If you want better security, cease your war on the poor and the vulnerable, the cutting benefits and penalty rates. Address underemployment. Get real about enforcing working conditions and pay rates. Ensure that businesses pay a fair rate of tax.

Stop the demonising of the poor. Take the $65 billion you were going to give to the rich and boost pensions and benefits. Set an adequate minimum wage for the average worker. Invest in education. Health. Boosting living standards and reducing inequality will foster social cohesion. Real national security needs no super ministry.

Turnbull assumes Menzies’ mantle in epic failure of judgement.

The Queen has embodied selfless public service, dignity, wisdom, leadership for and more magnificently than anyone alive today, there is not doubt.”

 

In a florid tribute which betrays more than he realises, a fawning Malcolm Turnbull, proclaims himself not only an Elizabethan but also a Republican, a surprisingly belated affirmation of a cause which he has shunned since being out-manoevered by John Howard in the skewed 1999 plebiscite. He also declares the Liberal Party is centrist.

It’s another incredible twist in a week of surprises as the PM extends his G20 junket to buddy up with Macron, hoping he won’t notice how we treat meeting our Paris Accord as a joke, return Abbott’s sniping, evade his fifteenth damning News Poll and do the dirty on the states on clean energy. All up, his grand tour is a tonic.

Saturday, Lazarus Mal is back, lurching to the right to massage Queensland Liberal Party prejudices. Coal-fired power opponents are “delusional”, he hollers. He’s all about energy security, stability and lower prices. The sunshine state is committed to coal-fired electricity. The coal bludgers also have the nation’s highest electricity prices.

In the real world, the US, our neocolonial dominatrix, leaves us in the lurch by not declaring war on North Korea after all. It also abruptly halts its processing refugees on Nauru, an ominous sign for Dutton and Turnbull’s US refugee swap deal .

The halt follows ABC’s Chris ” I only wrote what I was told to” Uhlmann’s honest and objective review of Trump as a total G20 failure, a your-emperor-has-no-clothes report which goes viral. Could the two events possibly be related?

Time to look more closely; first to Turnbull’s public coming out as an Elizabethan. It’s not the first time, as Judith Ireland reminds us, that the PM’s played the Elizabethan card. Last December he disappointed an Australian Republic movement sit-down do, at $150 a head, with his specious argument for not ditching the monarchy while Elizabeth reigned over us. The Queen is a vital tribal totem, as important to our identity as Vegemite.

So admired and respected is the Queen, he claims, that “few of us can say we are not Elizabethans”. Especially himself.

It’s a conundrum if not an identity crisis which annoys the Duke. “What’s wrong with these people? Prince Philip is reported to have said when the republican plebiscite failed in 1999. “Can’t they see what’s good for them?”

“They just couldn’t agree about the model”, replied Elizabeth. Little bull-dog, Howard, Order of Merit, had seen to that.

The 91 year old Queen, impeccably prepared, receives her Elizabethan-republican and recently proclaimed follower of Menzies’ Australian PM wearing her Ming bling brooch, a diamond-encrusted spray of wattle. It is a gift from a smitten Robert G Menzies, who “… did but see her passing by …” long enough to pin it on her during HM’s 1954 Commonwealth Tour.  It’s a sign Her Majesty trusts Turnbull won’t spoil things by raising The Palace letters relating to The Dismissal.

A Federal Court case to force the release of the letters, is set to begin in August, a move The Palace can veto, however, at any time, even after the 2027 embargo is up. Our figurehead of state still retains an extraordinary power.

Turnbull’s Palace reception lifts his spirits after the G20 letdown. He’s looking like a goose now war on North Korea is off the menu despite his urging and hectoring of China for letting its minion get dangerously and “recklessly” out of hand.

The Coalition’s attempt to jump the Trump was gazumped when the tweeter-in-chief failed to rail against North Korea. Not even an emoji escapes from under his thumbs alerting the twittersphere to the rogue state’s aim to nuke the world into oblivion. No idle-threatening. No behind the scenes lobbying. Not even a statement.

China and Russia objected to the G20 making any joint statement being made on North Korea and tougher sanctions, arguing the summit was an economic forum. Behind the scenes, our PM blames The Donald for his lack of leadership.

“… nobody round that table was defending the North Koreans, in terms of their conduct” at the G20 meeting in Hamburg, Turnbull tells Fairfax’s James Massola. Nor, however, was anyone making such a spectacular effort as Australia to support US Defence Secretary mad dog James Mattis’ anti-Kim madness in public. No-one else is that desperate to impress the US.

So embarrassing. The ABC has been dutifully screening endless loops of rockets and manic goose-stepping North Korean soldiers intercut with images of Kim taken on a bad hair day as Malcolm, Marise, Julie and Barnaby denounce the rogue.

“Experts” are quoted by Barnaby. Maps of the Top End appear on TV showing that all of North Queensland could be at risk of Kim’s nuclear warheads.  Darwin, anyway. Kim’s a monster, a one man yellow peril to be stopped at any price.

Yet there’s a bright side. Australia has done the world a favour by inadvertently exposing the hoax of international censure of Kim to be no more than a US-orchestrated beat up. It’s the same with every illegal invasion it has ever dragged us – however eagerly- into. So much for stable leadership. Full war alert one day; a deafening silence the next.

When the leader of the free world can’t even bother giving a press conference it leaves little even for a sycophantic media to embellish. Thank god for Malcolm and Lucy’s ride in the French President’s Falcon jet.

It’s a first, gushes Fairfax’s James Massola. Has Turnbull also persuaded Macron to withdraw France’s application to the UN Human Rights Council?  Over night, it seems, France is out, virtually guaranteeing Australia a place in October. Two years and hundreds of thousands of dollars has been well spent. Nothing to report here, though.

Turnbull’s keen to talk up our twelve submarines on order, a deal which is far from water-tight. He continues to pretend that a $50 billion investment in an untried concept is a stroke of genius. But he’s left treading water on the jobs hoax.

90% of the submarine build would take place in Australia, the government was promised. But in a senate committee hearing last month, French builder DCNS backed away from that commitment. DCNS has “no formal agreement” with ASC. The company now intends to “absorb” ASC workers, the ones David Johnston wouldn’t trust to build a canoe.

With a sinking feeling Turnbull returns to his own survival. He has a cunning plan to redefine the Liberals to exclude those who are giving him trouble. He’ll invoke Menzies. Portray him as a leftie. Brilliant. What could possibly go wrong?

Bill Shorten knows. He sticks his head up his holiday reading to lob a well-aimed zinger. “The Turnbull government is in the middle of an identity crisis and they’ve forgotten what their real job is – it’s to look after the country.”

Jeff Kennett doesn’t get it. “Why would you do it from overseas? Why would you throw a can of petrol onto a fire?”

“The Liberal Party has never been a conservative party”, asserts Turnbull, who knows he has nothing to lose. Moreover, he’s always been a PM who will say or do anything. He waxes historical in an address in London to Policy Exchange, deadly Dave Cameron’s favourite right wing think tank aka the “neo-con attack dog”. His audience glowers.

In 2009 Policy Exchange commissioned veteran opponent of wealth redistribution Peter Saunders to rebut Kate Picket and Richard Wilkinson’s case for reducing inequality. He denounced their book, The Spirit Level as a left-wing manifesto.

It’s an odd mob to tell “Menzies did not want his party to be reactionary”. But Turnbull has a wider audience.

It’s my party, not yours, Tony, is his message to his nemesis. It’s part of his thank speech to PE for its “Disraeli Award” for his government’s “non-discriminatory policies which help make Australia a land of opportunity”.  Last year, a report found a we’d only taken one sixth of the Syrian refugees we promised a year earlier. It takes time to pick the Christians.

Are we getting a Disraeli for stopping the boats? Our offshore detention policy is based on discrimination. On Manus Island, the PNG government cuts the power off to force 800 refugees into a transit centre in the town. The men fear for their safety and they fear abandonment. Fear makes us feel our humanity wrote Disraeli. Or not.

The government deal with the US to swap the refugees who will never be allowed into Australia has fallen in a heap. Opportunity? Julie Bishop on ABC Insiders Sunday skitters away. Blames Labor. Keeping a straight face, the prim white hope of Liberal leadership assures us “the process” will be resumed after 1 October. “…as the President promised…”

She repeats the lie that “Australia is one of the most generous countries in the world since the second world war.”

Our annual humanitarian intake of around 20,000 people is far from generous when placed in a historical context. In 1949, when there were 60 million global refugees and Australia had 8 million we gave refuge to almost 75,000 people.

“Processing” is a cruel farce. What could there be to discover after years of our multi-billion dollar Immigration  Dept processing? The US has threatened extreme vetting without deigning to explain what it means. The truth is that it is just something Trump made up in a speech. In the meantime the hopes of 800 men continue to be abused.

The camp will be completely demolished in October. Yet the government has no plan whatsoever – apart from the punt on Trump following through on Obama’s offer. Apart from all its inhumanity, Manus is a debacle. Dutton would have been asked to resign in any other but a Turnbull government. Instead, he is about to be given a promotion.

The award is a set up. Or ironic. Never was any recipient less deserving, politically or personally. But it’s an irresistible opportunity to bloviate, slap down Abbott and rebadge, if not reinvent, the party to suit his own, current, orientation.

An insufferable egomaniac, only Turnbull would attempt such a party trick; remaking the Liberals in his own image.

Normally no-one would notice. But when he claims the Liberal Party sits in the “sensible centre of politics” howls of outrage erupt from the party’s reactionaries, even though he’s craftily borrowed the phrase from tin-eared Abbott.

Jeff Kennett and Eric Abetz, who delude themselves they and their party are conservative, go right off. Barking. Acting PM Barnaby Joyce, nearly drops his Adani tar-baby. The Coalition has become “a philosopher’s club”.  In Barnaby’s barnyard, as in Craig Kelly’s cave or Jeff’s shed only tossers give a toss about ideas. Let’s tell it like it is, he snarls.

“In North Queensland, they have 20% unemployment. You know the only thing they want to hear? How you are going to get them a job? You know what they want to hear in regional areas? How you are going to invest in infrastructure, like inland rail.” There’s a lot of such reductive nonsense aired in regional seats but Barnaby’s blarney hits a new low.

The deputy PM’s nitty gritty is a myth. Inland rail is a hollow promise which has been repeated by Liberals and Nationals since 1996. It is unlikely to even pay its way – even if you could get it funded – let alone deliver a job bonanza but Barnaby’s one of the government’s big picture men.  Politics all comes down to a lump of coal or a barrel of pork.

The original inland train of thought envisaged a parallel energy corridor. Perhaps a natural gas pipeline that doesn’t have to contend with environmentalists is what really piques Barnaby’s interest today. As Tony Windsor points out it would harness a populist issue to to solve the problem of gas permits, access across private lands and NSW energy demands.

If it is, he concludes, maybe it’s time for some honesty. Instead, the acting PM opts for a poor man’s Bob Katter routine.

Joyce riffs a front bar ear-bash.

“They look at political candidates and say ‘have you ever actually lived, mate? Do you know what it’s like to not have any money in your wallet? Do you know what it’s like to think, shit, I’m want a life with dignity and I’m on the pension, and I can’t actually afford food, so how do I do this and keep my dignity in this town?’”

His rhetoric is as empty as the dead centre. Barnaby may have moved his office from Sydney to Armidale, but it’s all he’s done to “grow regional jobs”. His mob, moreover, tends to look out for the wealthy while it turns its back on the battler.

The Turnbull government cuts assistance to families. In March, Coalition welfare cuts included a two-year freeze on the indexation of the Family Tax Benefit. As a result the payment will no longer increase to keep pace with inflation.

Money in your wallet? Joyce was silent when his government phased out the Energy Supplement for pensioners.

Centrelink’s robo-claw automated debt recovery, should help Joyce’s constituents retain their dignity. Cutbacks to hospitals and schools are morale boosting. Character building. So, too the decision to keep pensions so low a third of pensioners are on the poverty-line.

Penalty rate cuts are other helpful Coalition “reforms” which help make the unexamined life worth living.

Duty bound to stop the rot, Eric Abetz looks for someone else to blame. With the ease of long experience he quickly finds a scapegoat. “Hysterical media have decided to dishonestly spin the speech in such a way to inflame tensions.”

He’s heard the speech. It’s “a great speech; a unifying speech”. Undone now by the media who seem to have had time to sit down and collude to mis-report it. In tandem, Dutton still wages war on the leftist, Jihadist ABC.

Has Turnbull been misreported? There’s not a skerrick of evidence for Abetz assertions. It’s easy to locate the text of his speech, posted promptly after the event. But that’s not the point of his tactic. He’s commenting on some comments, a tack the Liberals always swear they are not going to take as if you can be an MP without giving opinions.

Let’s return to Turnbull’s argument, despite Abetz attempt at distraction. It’s a great stretch to see Turnbull as any type of Menzies. Our protean PM, whose identity, legitimacy, credibility and authority are all always works in progress, is brave, moreover to align himself with Menzies, a man who when he wasn’t trying to outlaw the communist party or despatch our chaps off to stop the dominos of communism falling from Viet Nam on to Australia.

Menzies would have hated Turnbull. Ming whinged to his daughter, Heather Henderson, in 1974,

“The main trouble in my state is that we have the State Executive of the Liberal Party, which is dominated by what they now call ‘Liberals with a small l’ – that is to say, Liberals who believe in nothing but still believe in anything if they think it worth a few votes. The whole thing is tragic.”

The speech goes down well with a few party sycophants. Christopher Pyne praises it as an “historically accurate rendition of the party’s foundational principles.”

” Considered and powerful”, says Josh Frydenberg says, a public speaking connoisseur. Julie Bishop loves it to bits.

Yet not every Liberal is tickled pink.  Jeff Kennett turns the air beyond blue. Abetz saddles up his inquisitorial war horse.

Lying rodent, John Howard, who carefully blocked progressives throughout his long period in office and over promoted the likes of Abbott, helpfully tells the press that the Liberal Party will always have room for conservatives before blowing any question of political judgement by mounting a case not to prejudge Donald Trump. But the rot’s set in.

Sole, surviving Tasmanian Liberal Senator, Eric Abetz can sniff decay like a Lagotto Romagnolo can snout a truffle. A man on a mission, his hypervigilance once helped him proclaim a link between abortion and breast cancer. Lynx-eyed, he, alone, could see treason in rainbow flags in government offices, discerning flags of “a cause” and of “a hostile nation.

“Australian policies for gay and lesbian citizens had caused them to plant a flag in the Coral Sea Islands of the Great Barrier Reef, naming their own nation and declaring war on Australia”, said activists in 2004. Eric remembers.

Eric loves to keep the nation up to the mark. It’s a tough love. In May, the former Abbott employment minister whose PM’s approach to policy was notoriously underdone, he had the hide to call public servants professional slackers.

It’s not an easy call even for black-pot Eric. As Liberal Party affiliate Judith Sloan, notes Abetz did not impress many with his work effort himself. “The ineffective Workplace Relations minister, Eric Abetz,” she writes “submitted a number of relatively inconsequential and technical amendments of the Fair Work Act to the Senate, but they were rejected”.

When Yassmin Abdel-Magied dares voice opinion on our challenged system of government, he shows her the door,

‘If Ms Abdel-Magied thinks our system of government is so bad perhaps she should stop being a drain on the taxpayer and move to one of these Arab dictatorships’. Ouch. No good at her job? Doesn’t deserve to be here? It’s Eric’s way.

It’s government by dog whistling the unhinged, and with his help, the nation sees a wave of xenophobic anti-muslim, misogyny hurled at Julia Baird who declares Yassmin Al-Magied the latest woman to be roasted on the public spit.

Few can sniff conspiracy like Abetz and he’s as daft as David Leyonhjelm on the nonsense of political correctness being a leftist plot; a tyranny. Call him an “angry white man” and he’ll be quick to tell you that’s racial vilification.

And so it is this week, brows beetling, nostrils twitching, our national guardian of the straight and narrow spots a perfidious plot. Media twist the PM’s words. Turnbull may be fighting for his political life but Eric won’t let the press lead us up the garden path. Let hacks laugh themselves silly over the PM’s hubris and deception in “sensible centre”.

Abetz wilfully misses the point. Turnbull’s “sensible centre” is a dig at his nemesis Abbott, an expression of a hatred that cannot speak its name. Menzies, he says,” chose the name Liberal” because he never wanted a conservative party.

Never is no time at all in politics. But never conservative? Think energy; marriage equality or tax cuts for the wealthy. Think equal pay for women. And so much more. What can he mean? It’s a “Tony Abbott slapdown”, scream News Corp’s Tory Shepherd, Peter Jean and Sheradyn Holderhead, who are always keen to sell ringside seats to a stoush.

An anti-Liberal media conspiracy or an anti-Turnbull plot? Regardless of what he means, in the wider view, Eric Abetz is on to something huge. Attacking the media when you don’t like the message. And he’s a front-line combatant.

From America’s Tweeter in Chief’s battle with fake news to Saudi Arabia’s tussle with Al Jazeera, originally a BBC outpost until it ran factual news reports on Saudi Arabia and found its satellite switched off, the world is at war with reporters who tell the truth. What’s needed is good news; positive news; news that’s a faithful echo of its master’s voice.

Luckily news comes this week that some of this will be fixed. Australia awaits the financial wizardry being performed on Channel 10 as it is being transformed by the alchemy of limited liability from a bankruptcy into another successful Murdoch venture. A nurturing Turnbull government has slashed TV station licence fees.

News reports invariably barrack for 10 as if it were some benevolent charity. Even voluntary administration, a process which could see 17,000 ordinary investors lose everything is cheered from the sidelines.

A Fox News type channel may well eventuate, a sign of the times which can only cheer on the sensible centrists in power.

An equally chilling sign is is Turnbull’s dip into a think tank to ” get his message out”  So much of the Coalition’s political discourse is shaped by an echo-chamber of think tanks, shock jocks and Murdoch hacks; a claque of noisy, like-minded, powerful voices who also just happen to dictate so much of party policy. Little wonder the electorate despairs.

Turnbull is in serious trouble. His leadership is in tatters. His credibility is spent. Evidence accumulates on all fronts of a government in crisis largely as a result of its own indecision and poor policy.  The problem will not to be solved, however, by sophistry; by redefining the party as small “l” liberal to exclude its conservative critics.

In promoting the sensible centre, the Prime Minister is looking to his own survival and settling, tellingly for another clever trick. Instead, he should address his government’s many real failures of policy in energy, education, environment, immigration and economics.

Standing up to the mutinous few in his crew will do more to put his ship to rights than trying to run up a false flag.

G20 No Ode to Joy

Ode to joy, the final movement of Beethoven’s ninth symphony, buoys the spirits of G20 leaders as they gather with groupies, minders and hangers-on, Friday, in Hamburg’s magnificent Elbphilharmonie concert hall, a glittering crystal palace soaring high above its brick foundation, once the base of an old cocoa warehouse.  The building is a triumphal monument to high culture towering over the hoi polloi swarming Germany’s busiest port below.

“It’s a hymn to humanity, peace and international understanding,” purrs G20 host German Chancellor Angela “Mutti” (mother) Merkel, explaining why she chose Beethoven’s last major work at a time of unprecedented international conflict and brutality. The choice of venue, a sanctuary for a privileged elite speaks for itself.

As host, Germany also sets the agenda. No-one is looking to the US for leadership.  The G20 is now the G19.

Keen to move delegates beyond their habitual GDP fetish, Merkel inserts health into the G19+1 agenda. The only leader to have attended all twelve gabfests, she knows what will work. Perhaps she recalls Australia’s failure.

Who can forget the embarrassment of watching Tony Abbott in 2014 as he bizarrely sought to recruit world leaders’ into his local political challenge of imposing a GP co-payment? Was he winging it? His retreat into domestic politics perplexed leaders as much as Hockey’s call for 2% plus growth with no idea how to get there.

Australian media have already set their own agenda, of course, with our ABC hyping “military action” on North Korea endlessly before the G20. Effortlessly it recycles clichés of “rogue state”, “hermit state” and now “client state” in its mission to support a Turnbull government reduced to echoing or second-guessing US foreign policy.

It’s a crisis. No-one, including its president seems to knows what US has planned for North Korea but acting PM Barnaby, Kamikaze, Joyce says we’ll back any trade sanctions which it may impose on China, a posture Julie Bishop affirms on her return from the US. North Korea may nuke North Australia, any moment, Barnaby assures us.

Incredibly, cool hand Luke, David Johnston, Defence’s chief of joint operations, disagrees. The likelihood Pyongyang would even target Australia is “low”. Even if they had the means. Media outlets, naturally, ignore him. Who could pass up an excuse to screen images of goose-stepping troops? Shots of rockets belching flames?

We are unlikely to be on North Korea’s hit list, confirms University of Tasmania missile systems expert James Dwyer on ABC Radio and later on Sunday’s TV news in a rare and commendable correction to Joyce’s hysteria.

Psychologist Lissa Johnson cautions, however, that we are more likely to believe Barnaby rather not. We struggle to accommodate an uncomfortable truth in a process known as system justification.

“The more that a person feels dependent, powerless and vulnerable, at the mercy of a system over which they have no control, the more terrifying it is to think that the system is deeply flawed.”

In a post truth, Trumpocene era, moreover, truth is losing its value as society’s reserve currency while legitimate scepticism is yielding place to pernicious relativism warns The Guardian’s Matthew D’Ancona.

“Emotional resonance”, he adds, or gut feeling – a narrative that gives visceral meaning – increasingly means more than fact or evidence. The vibe. Certainly there’s a vibe to Ode to Joy, a revolutionary anthem.

Ode to Joy forms a touching counterpoint to the cries of protesters as they rise above the sirens of Hamburg Police’s tank-like police water cannons rumbling far below. Plumes of acrid smoke arise from cars set alight.

Almost all of the 100,000 who are in Hamburg to protest are non-violent. The same cannot be said of the societies represented around the G20 conference table.  Or the state-sponsored violence. Everyday lives in US, Russia or Saudi Arabia are among the world’s least peaceful according to The Global Peace Index 2017.

Violence may cost 12.6% of world GDP in 2016 or $14.4 trillion in purchasing power parity.

Even harder to measure is the violence done to those suffering austerity budgeting such as Greece which has been forced by its lenders such as the European Central Bank to agree to further spending cuts, pension reductions and tax rises in order to unlock emergency funds. The bank is a key G20 player, safe inside the towering concert hall.

Formed in 2008 to fix the GFC, the G20 pursues something called “stable and resilient economic growth”, a task which consists mainly of putting on a talk show. No-one except MSM which hypes a Putin-Trump showdown and a North Korean slapdown and, of course, the odd grand-standing politician expects it do anything more.

The European Central Bank, in its 2014 study, for example, concludes the annual group of twenty meeting has no effect on anything much. Merkel is hopeful in adding a health ministers’ discussion. Or shrewdly courting votes.

This year, nevertheless,  it does produce some guidelines for businesses to factor climate change into their planning. The Coalition’s right wing will be delighted.

Those who dismiss the G20 as international capitalism talking to itself in public should, however, look beyond the windy free market rhetoric and neoliberal truisms, to its role as political theatre. This year the drama is vastly enriched by a reality TV presidency who adds all the bullying, bitching and backstabbing banality of Celebrity Apprentice or in the Putin-Trump kiss and tell feature segment, a good dollop of Farmer Takes a Wife.

Yet there are rules and expectations. Much tut-tutting is heard, for example, when soi-disant feminist and exploiter of cheap, female international labour, Ivanka Trump, deputises for her father when Donald has to duck out unexpectedly of a Saturday meeting for some undisclosed one on one discussion. Perhaps his attention-span is playing up again.

No biggie. Unless you want to get picky about the Trump family firm’s teamwork. Or nepotism. Or where the Presidency involves the national interest rather than Trump Inc business. Or Ivanka’s potential benefit.

A White House spokesman opaquely explains:

“… the topic involved areas such as African development, areas that will benefit from the facility just announced by the World Bank.” The White House adds that other leaders had their seats filled by others. But not by family.

There’s clearly more to the G20 show than just a lot of hot air. It’s a ritual re-enactment of how international capitalism, hopelessly diseased by neoliberal faith, helps the rich get richer at the expense of the poor. Austerity budgeting or slashing public spending or balancing budgets with maximum suffering is part of its reason for being.

Whilst Germany’s Chancellor may be a neoliberal pin-up abroad, not everyone’s a fan at home. In the eyes of many Europeans, Merkel rivals IMF MD Christine LaGarde as fiscal austerity’s door-bitch.

“The policies of Angela Merkel and Wolfgang Schaeuble have no doubt contributed to the deep crises in the European Union since 2008, to the isolation of a dominant German government and, through a relentless insistence on austerity, to high unemployment outside Germany,” Vice Chancellor Gabriel argues.

The G20 takes place amid galloping global inequality caused by globalisation. Just eight men now own the same wealth as half the world, Oxfam reminds us in its January 2017 report Economy for the ninety-nine per cent.  One in ten people survive on less than $2 per day. There are huge inequalities within societies such as pay for women.

On present trends, it will take 170 years before women are paid the same as men.

Big business and the super-rich fuel our inequality crisis by dodging taxes, driving down wages and using their power to influence politics. Oxfam, doubtless, along with many protesters in Hamburg seek a fundamental change in the way we manage our economies so that they work for all people, and not just a fortunate few.

Inequality is trapping hundreds of millions in poverty; it is fracturing our societies and undermining democracy,  says Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International.

“Across the world, people are being left behind. Their wages are stagnating yet corporate bosses take home million dollar bonuses; their health and education services are cut while corporations and the super-rich dodge their taxes; their voices are ignored as governments sing to the tune of big business and a wealthy elite.

The sparkling new high-rise concert hall, however, insulates delegates beautifully from tens of thousands who protest far below. As it is, a police lockdown causes five guests, including Malcolm Turnbull to miss the start.

Turnbull doubtless has time to take in the word from the street of Nick Dearden of Global Justice Now.

“The model itself is broken.” We need a new model to undermine the racism and thuggery of Trump and his ilk—one that values human life before the profits of the superrich.”

20,000 well-equipped police use pepper spray, water cannon as well as underwater and aerial drones to protect 38 square kilometre designated ‘no protest zone’. 74 police officers and several protesters are reported hurt.

Outlawing protest would meet with Malcolm Turnbull’s approval. The “no protest zone” in Hamburg parallels initiatives taken by Australian federal and state governments to curb dissent, erode protest rights and press freedom in order increase state power and ensure vested business interests are protected.

Turnbull could swap stories with Merkel about changes to laws in NSW which make it harder to protest about mining. Police were given new powers to stop, search and detain protesters and seize property. Peaceful protests could be shut down on the grounds that they obstruct traffic. The offence of “interfering” with a mine, is expanded to cover coal seam gas exploration and extraction sites. It carries a seven-year jail penalty.

The Inclosed Lands, Crimes and Law Enforcement Legislation Amendment (Interference) Bill 2016,[2] follows similar laws targeting Tasmanian anti-logging protesters[3] and Western Australian environmentalists.[4] The bill confers expanded powers on police and increases penalties for protesters.

Australia’s G20 mission, however, seems to be couched in terms of echoing The White House’s spin of the moment on North Korea, along with our usual rhubarb about freeing up trade and investment. Climate is talked up and there are always opportunities to repeat the furphy that we are world leaders in re-settling refugees.

Sky News lets us know of a leader-level discussion behind closed doors on terrorism, Friday, where Mr Turnbull calls for cyberspace to be treated “just as seriously as the battlefield” in countering Islamic State.

It’s all part of the febrile war footing and anti-terror alarmism that helps our government increase surveillance, discourage dissent and curtail human rights, including indefinite detention much to the horror of  Human Rights Watch .

Such moves, especially detention were likely to radicalise potential terrorists HRW protested in its submission to government last October. Yet “cyber”, as it is now called, by dangerous Dan Tehan, is a great distractor and a wonderful way to convey the illusion that a government that has trouble keeping Medicare numbers private or getting its Robocall debt recovery right, is somehow hard at work protecting every hard-working Australian.

Dan is also careful to tell us that cyber is not all defence. In some unspecified way, we are to wage cyber war as well. How our first hack capability will be implemented is unsaid. What’s certain is the IT industry will be happy. IBM will be delighted to atone for its 2016 census fail.

Dan tells us, deathlessly, that “The Defence Signals Directorate will be given legal authority to expand offensive cyber operations from a military role to civilian targets overseas. It’s breathtaking stuff – even if it does look like a tactical diversion from a government which is bitterly divided and poorly led.

‘As of tomorrow, Australia will have an information warfare division within Defence. This is a result of the changing character of contemporary conflict,’ Tehan declares. It’s so innovative and hush-hush nobody knows any details.

Clearly Australia is at war. The subtext is that of our ongoing war on Islam, a conflict which is conflated with the War on Terror, an epic invention of George Bush, along with WMD, lies which were somehow meant to help find and punish those responsible for the attack on the World Trade Centre and which led us into war in Afghanistan.

Now, however, Trump’s advisers want us to know that we are all at war with Jihadist Islamic fascism.

In a rare show of lucidity, US tweeter-in-chief, Donald Trump reads a speech in Poland as a type of prelude to the G20 – an off G20 show. It’s an amazing success. Authorities bus in hundreds of spectators from the countryside to ensure the President is shown in a square which seems packed with cheering fans. The Donald is deliriously happy.

The speech itself, however is pure Steve Bannon, Trump’s new chief strategist, who argues that the West is in “the very beginning stages of a brutal and bloody conflict . . . against jihadist Islamic fascism,” while KT McFarland, his new deputy national security advisor, argues that we are engaged in a “long war” against radical Islam. The idea is endorsed by former national security adviser and lobbyist for the Turkish government Michael Flynn.

Trump’s address and the rants of his ratbag minders owe much to Harvard academic the late Samuel P Huntington, who decries the clash of civilizations, American decline, and sees a West encircled by enemies. Immigration is hugely bad too.

It’s a text both for our times and for our politicians. It proposes a beguilingly simple, albeit paranoid and unrealistic, theory to explain a complex world. The downside is that it provides nothing to guide any policy. Beyond that it is reductive, distorts reality and misrepresents the complex causation of warfare.

Will our US vassal government take up the Donald’s vision of the clash of civilisations? Highly likely. Already, there is more than a hint, in the PM’s warnings that terrorists hate our way of life and despise our values, spurious, dangerous, notions that probably also inspire our new citizenship test and oath of allegiance if we allowed a peep.

At the end of the G20, however, the ABC is reduced to applauding our PM for having hitched a ride in French President Macron’s car, a brilliant move which is seen as endorsing the incredible submarine deal with DCNS in which we are contracting to spend $50 billion on a completely untried design on a concept of retro-fitting nuclear power plants that experts doubt is even possible. All for a firm that won’t keep its promise of local work.

Our media gives us the score on the G20. Sky says it ends “divided” on climate and free trade. What Sky means is that all delegates agreed except Donald Trump, a president so challenged, intellectually and morally that he cannot comprehend the crisis of global warming, let alone the imperative take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Not that he’s alone. Back at home while the cat’s away, Mouseketeer Abbott is leading his insurrection. Like Trump, he doesn’t get climate change either.

In the end, the truth is more prosaic. The US under Trump has failed to exercise global leadership on climate and trade. The world enters uncharted territory with China and Germany and Russia all keen to muscle in on the US act. Yet as Turnbull notes, the US has a role from which it is impossible to abdicate, given its size and power.

The G20 cheer squad for international capitalism has met yet again to further its own interests, in a Hamburg crystal palace high above the masses below.

Deaf to all entreaties, heedless of the suffering caused by their Neoliberal nostrums, their austerity budgeting, tax cuts for the rich and trickle down economics, the G20 represents an abdication of humanity which the unassailable optimist, Beethoven, inspired by the liberty equality and fraternity of The French revolution would be sorely troubled by.

Abbott is determined to destroy Turnbull

“It’s not that easy being green …” sings Kermit, the sage of Sesame Street, a truth NSW Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon helps her party revisit in a wild week of backstabbing, slagging, poodle-poking and character assassination as our federal MPs let it all hang out in the bare-knuckle, free for all stoush that is our nation’s endless quest for effective, decorous and representative political leadership.

“When it comes to political white-anting, Lee is the Greens’ version of Tony Abbott,” says Bob Brown. Ouch.

In January, he bagged Rhiannon’s moves to challenge the party’s direction under Richard Di Natale’s leadership.

Rhiannon wants her mob to follow Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn and stress its left-wing policies on economic redistribution.  She leads a debate between her “Eastern Bloc” on the party’s left and the more conservative environmentalists or “Tree Tories” who currently suck up to an anti-greenie government.

It’s a tough gig. Pilloried by MSM for her socialist parents, profiled by ASIO as a subversive revolutionary and attacked as a Leninist-Stalinist by News Corp’s Gerard Henderson – who also falsely accused her of being a communist, Rhiannon was asked by Bob Brown to quit the senate last July – just a month after being elected.

In response, the senator accuses her former leader of resenting that NSW preselected candidates are not his preferred nominees. Yet, in an open season of sniping and undermining, she is accused of betrayal. Brown says the rules provide for her to be expelled from the Greens’ Party Room and even to lose her party membership.

A case is building against her. Last week, all nine of her federal colleagues accused Rhiannon of undermining them over school funding negotiations after she distributed a leaflet in Sydney’s inner west against the deal.

The NSW Greens see Gonski 2:0 as a con. It’s neither needs-based nor sector blind. In fact, it guarantees 80 % of federal funds to the wealthy, private system. It has been imposed without state or public school consultation.

Rhiannon says the pamphlet is a local initiative. She has done nothing wrong. Her protests will, doubtless, come to little but they do make her a top scapegoat. Many teachers will see NSW as the only Greens to get it right.

Beneath all the fuss and alongside the left and right divisions, a grassroots party controlled by members struggles against the power imposed by few at the top in what John Passant calls a battle for the soul of The Greens.

An ugly public brawl ensues. Bugger consensus politics. Di Natale generously tells the Left Renewal faction their anti-capitalist rhetoric is ridiculous and that they should join another party. Critics accuse Di Natale of shaping The Greens into a potential coalition partner for the Liberals; point to his record of support for Coalition legislation.

Rhiannon is disappointed in Richard’s leadership, she tells Barrie Cassidy, on ABC Insiders, Sunday. Rather than explore the issue, Cassidy is keen to seek more details of the conflict but, like Kermit, the senator is philosophical.

“Sometimes democracy is messy”, says Rhiannon. She wins this week’s Golden Litotes for understatement of the week. Her thought is echoed and debased by Tony Abbott who proposes streamlining democracy to fix Senate obstructionism and resolve deadlock through a joint sitting of both houses to pass deadlocked bills.

Australia “increasingly resembles Italy”, facing chronic changes of PM and an inability to get things done, the MP whose career in and out of The Lodge is a byword for instability and policy paralysis Abbott explained straight-faced to a South Australian Young Liberals Federal Convention in Adelaide in February.  

Or the UK. The young Libs may have lost a little sparkle as results filtered in at their UK Election champagne breakfast 9 June. Thank God guest speaker, nuclear lobbyist Haydon Manning was on hand to liven things up.  

Manning is all too happy to help. Our nation’s politics is vastly enriched by an ever-growing army of lobbyists, think-tankers, bold ideas-men and women and former leaders who fearlessly shirtfront the onion of democracy.  

The Centre for Independent Studies, for example, helped inspire Tony Abbott to cut the last two years of Gonski – for public schools, while continuing to fund the private system, a favouring of privilege continued in Gonski 2.0. Research Fellow Simon Cowan, one of its policy wonks, whipped up a nifty monograph on nuclear subs, too.

Then there’s “green lawfare”. An IPA and mining industry campaign against environmental groups raged under Abbott. It continues under Turnbull. What constitutes an “environmental organisation” will be redefined to strip such groups of their charitable status and is an “attack on Australian democracy”, warn legal experts.

The IPA would like to see environmental groups denied all government funding, a position they articulated in 2011. Their services to tidying up democracy, Abbott-style include selling the federal government the idea of imposing restrictions on advocacy, such as gag clauses and threats to curtail groups’ advocacy activities.

Emily Howie, a Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre warns:

“A thriving democracy needs an informed public debate with a range of voices. However, governments are making it clear to charities that work with families and communities doing it tough, that if they speak out about government policy, their ongoing funding will be put in jeopardy.”

Apart from the threat to free speech, the ban on advocacy adds another dimension; another layer of urgency to the Greens’ current existential struggle to maintain its own traditional social and environmental advocacy.

Greens’ harakiri or ritual disembowelment is just a warm-up act, however, to the hype, the trash-talk and the stare-downs of the World Championship Wrestling theatrics of our federal MPs who eye-gouge, hair pull and scissor-kick viciously in a desperate, no-holds-barred, last-ditch bid to upstage each other. Or worse.

Exterminate. Exterminate. Top of the bill is Dalek Abbott, a self-promoting attention-seeker and professional wrecker, programmed to destroy his nemesis Malcolm Turnbull in a fit of pathological hatred and payback.

A one-man opposition party, a self-described “whirling dervisher”, Abbo busts a gut this week to bag his nemesis Malcolm Turnbull, even if he has to destroy the Liberal Party in the process. He pulls out all the stops.

It’s a multi-faceted act. Upstage so far he’s in danger of being electrocuted by the footlights, Abbott promises to build new coal-fired power stations and freeze migration. A true-blue Rinehart Cowboy, he will Make Australia Work again by opening more mines, cutting government spending and scrapping his own renewable energy target. Best of all he dog whistles up our safety. No more known jihadists will run loose in our streets.

Wait. There’s more. Nuclear submarines. Raising the nation’s awareness of relevance deprivation disorder, wacky weirdo Abbott easily wins our public service award. His brave stand-up comic routine, Permission to Lower the Scope is fittingly staged by his loyal supporters at the Centre for Independent Studies, Thursday, in its leak-proof Sydney think tank. Tony goes off like a frog in a sock. The CIS love him. How he adds to the national conversation.

Tony’s all for nuclear submarines, all week, although Defence Minister, Marise Payne is unconvinced. She’s right.  Abbott had ample time to declare himself a fan of floating reactors well before his prime ministership sank before the end of its maiden voyage. He just wants to scuttle Turnbull. Party-pooper Payne fires a salvo across his bows.

“We don’t have a civil nuclear industry, we don’t have the personnel or the experience or infrastructure, we don’t have the training facilities or regulatory systems that you would need to design to operate to construct a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines,” she says.

Apart from that, Tony, you know all this. You made the call. Remember. When you were briefly PM. Ouch again.

“What we are in fact doing is delivering the plan to acquire the plan that was set out and agreed by Tony Abbott and his team in 2015,” she says. It’s a forlorn appeal to a former PM who put the flip into flip flop commitment, the MP who warned Kerry O’Brien that he often lied – “gospel truth is those carefully prepared scripted remarks”

For The Guardian’s Jason Wilson, who builds a case that Abbott is a loose unit, “This was not only a blunder, but a revelation of the kind of confessional impulse that needs a national stage. After a while, you start to feel like a therapist, sitting in silence while Abbott regales us with his symptoms.”

In fact, as PM, Abbott ignored a sub submission from Australia’s peak defence industry group in May 2015. Australian Industry Group Defence Council chairman Chris Jenkins and Australian chief of French Industry giant Thales, told him to reconsider a nuclear option for replacing the ageing Collins class subs. It remains a great pitch.

No need to worry about having no local nuclear plant. New subs are so efficient they almost never require maintenance. No need to build if you don’t want to. Just lease a few of the bastards off the yanks. Trained crew? These babies practically steer themselves. What could possibly go wrong?

Now, torn by regret, lyrically, ever the tragic ham, Abbott cries. “Not more robustly challenging the nuclear no-go mindset is probably the biggest regret I have from my time as PM.” It’s pure, dramatic, poetry in a performance guaranteed to heighten anyone’s sense of the cruel suffering inflicted on those deprived of relevance.

His biggest regret? Even by Abbott’s yardstick, it’s an utterly incredible claim. But the CIS can’t get enough of him.

A powerful right wing lobby group which styles itself an Australian Libertarian think tank, the CIS is a big wheel in the oxymoron of Australian conservative politics. Tony’s no Tory; more of a radical ratbag with a grab bag of soundbite ideas. Some are socialist. Take state coal power. Yet his attention-seeking is a win-win for both parties.

Like the IPA, which set most of the Abbott government’s agenda, the CIS also keeps its donors’ names secret but it will get great mileage out of publicising the former PM’s nuclear conversion as evidence of its capacity to influence even those of our political class, like Trump, who are notoriously difficult to brief in anything but sketch outlines.   

In return, Abbott is able to strut his stuff, this week, in front of both IPA and CIS, Australia’s most conservative and influential think tanks. The exposure can do his campaign no harm. A successful spill is impossible, he has only a handful of backers, but his regular sniping and undermining helps Turnbull toward the magic 30 dud News Polls.

Showing off his capacity as a quick nuclear study is a bonus for Abbott. His game plan is to highlight Turnbull’s not so secret plan to convert to nuclear its diesel submarines from French builder DCNS, despite no conversion ever having been done. The hulls are shaped differently. Some experts doubt it can be done.

The first DCNS Shortfin Barracuda submarine is not scheduled until the 2030s. Whilst the late delivery gives plenty of time to work out a solution to the retrofitted nuclear propulsion problem, it also means that the Collins subs will have to remain in service until the 2040s, becoming less safe as they age and requiring expensive refits.

Technical issues alone mean the whole project is a huge blunder, according to Jon Stanford  a director of Insight Economics and past head of the Industries Division in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

“If you asked someone to devise a new submarine program with the highest risk factors at every stage, you could not have done a much better job. It will almost certainly end in tears and possibly a catastrophe,” a senior defence official told The Daily Telegraph in September last year.

Yet with a commitment to a drawing – “the development of a detailed design” –  only at this stage, it is not too late to change course and Abbott knows this. He is also counting on causing maximum embarrassment to his PM.

Some unkind souls also interpret Abbott’s nuclear submarine proposal as revenge on Christopher Pyne, who, in a late night session at The Star Casino’s Cherry Bar has confirmed what the conservatives have always believed is Malcolm’s secret plan to turn the Liberal Party to the left. It’s all about legalising same-sex marriage. And more.

Marriage equality has become the proxy for the struggle in the Liberal Party between right and left. It also acts to focus the fear and rage of those Liberals who instinctively retreat from change; those whose lack of adaptive capacity leaves them open to a rampant paranoia that the modern world is a leftist plot against them.

Pyne’s indiscreet comments assuring gay marriage supporters of a victory sooner than later are calculated to offend and enrage those conservatives who remain resolutely opposed to change and suspicious of Turnbull.

It also provides Abbott with a receptive host for his wormholes as he continues his white-anting of Turnbull.

Posing as a conservative, he’s happy to coin a new breed of Liberal to make it clear that he’s making up a deficit in the current government. Not only is he self-sacrificing, he’s duty bound to continue indefinitely.

“I’m in no hurry to leave public life because we need strong Liberal conservative voices now, more than ever.”

For his part, Turnbull makes it clear that he is not going to hang around. Sunday he announces that he will leave parliament should he no longer be PM.

Some claim that Abbott’s strategy has all gone awry because his week of Turnbull-bashing has not led to a conservative uprising. If anything he’s been met with a chorus of put downs from those on the right.

Peter Dutton is wheeled out to claim “the Liberal Party operates at its optimum when we do have a broad church, when we do have people across the spectrum”, and that it was good to have a diversity of views in cabinet because “you have a more rounded discussion” and better decisions as a result.

Better decisions? Turnbull takes to listing his government’s achievements on social media. It’s a thin list which includes the Gonski 2.0 makeover boosted as a such as a new plan for education funding and contentious visa reforms. “Plans for an intervention on gas exports” are counted as achievements. And of course there is that magic faraway tree of action on a second Sydney airport.

Dutton’s defence and Turnbull’s list are as unconvincing their own way as Abbott’s manifesto, a big bucket-list gig routine featuring a good half-dozen bad ideas, or flip-flops and snappy, empty platitudes and hollow slogans.

Other coalition members during the week do their best to bring the rogue to heel. Some point out his contradictions. His advocacy of things he never stood for before. None will succeed. The ultimate test of his case against Turnbull’s ineffectual and indecisive leadership lies in what he can get away with. He’s made it clear this week that he will continue as long as it takes to exact his revenge on the man who deposed him.

Liberal senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, tells Abbott he can’t reinvent the past. It’s a futile reproach. As a former follower of BA Santamaria, Wilson points out, Abbott is necessarily committed to living and thinking totally against the grain of the present, and dreaming of an impossible restoration of the past.

 

Corks pop over Gonski 2.0 con but Turnbull government has nothing to celebrate.

Corks pop and peals of laughter ring out over the disco beat of a ghetto-blaster cranking out a Donna Summer number from Liberal offices deep inside Parliament House, safe from the world outside and Canberra’s winter frost.

She works hard for the money, MPs sing along with Donna.  It’s 2:00am Friday before MPs can celebrate a pay rise, a tax cut and a six week break. Overseas holidays, aka tax-deductible study tours, in warmer climes beckon.

All raise a glass to Remuneration Tribunal members, John Conche, Ewen Crouch and Heather Zampatti, for their fair decision to grant federal parliamentarians and senior public servants a 2% pay rise. Years of experience as company directors of banks and investment houses help John, Ewen and Heather achieve arms-length objectivity.

The rise coincides with government’s decision to scrap the deficit levy even though the deficit is still $30 billion. Selflessly, it eases the burden on our highest income earners and lowers the top marginal tax rate to 47 per cent.

Yet many ordinary hard-working Australians will lose their recent minimum weekly wage rise of $22.20, a rise deplored as devastating by the Australian Retailers Association, negated by the loss of penalty rates from 1 July.

Or will they? Our rapidly expanding precariat and those in the trendy serfdom of the gig economy, or a quarter of our workforce face pay cuts of up to $63 for working a public holiday after July 1. Some pin their hopes on gorgeous George Christensen, who even promises fabulous mining jobs in his quest to do something for them.

All talk and no walk, sneers Labor. Coal mining employs 0.5% of the nation’s workforce. Yet a workers’ champion is born as Deadly Duterte fan-boy George crosses the floor to support Labor’s bill to reverse penalty rate cuts.

The bill is lost 73-72, Tuesday but George is hot to trot. Or walk again. His breach of party discipline further wounds a PM so agile and innovative it’s anyone’s guess what he’ll stand for next. Low emission coal-fired power?

The electorate has written him off. Essential Research shows Labor continues its steady lead 52:48. Newspoll is a week late but still shows 53:47 to Labor. One Nation is up a point despite adverse press recently.

Despite his flip-floppery and Morrison’s budget lunge to the sensible centre provoking screams of Labor-lite from the lunatic right and doing more harm than good, our Mal for all seasons has 14 consecutive bad Newspolls to prove his unpopularity. Although he deposed Abbott after 30 bad polls, he now says it’s no benchmark.

Paul Bongiorno quotes polling analyst Andrew Catsaras says a close look at the poll shows that “nothing is happening here”. Gonski 2.0 won’t help and Finkel is a resounding tinkle. Mal’s now as unpopular as Bill Shorten.

Yet it’s not all bad at the top. While Australians’ average income is $80,000, our PM’s pay will increase from $517,504 to $527,852. Barnaby “Bat-poo” Joyce pockets $416,191. Luckily we’ve saved $18 billion on schools.

Everyone’s toasting Gonski 2.0. It’s a brilliant pea and thimble trick to cheat millions of ordinary hard-working Australians, as, Mal’s mob so fulsomely flatters its victims, of their birthright. Yet it’s been sold not only as an increase in funding but a brave new system which is “sector blind and needs-based”. Spin? Marketing genius.

Bugger equal access to education for everyone. Gonski 2.0 subsidises the rich and perpetuates privilege. It locks in federal funding for private schools while poorer states are left to struggle to find the money for public schools.

It’s radical. Epoch-making. For the first time ever, private schools will be guaranteed eighty per cent of federal funding. States and Territories will get twenty. States can find their own money for public schools, with what’s left over from funding hospitals and any other small change they can find down the back of the federation sofa.

Or they can bugger off. The Coalition’s ultimatum to the states plumbs new depths in state-commonwealth relations, trashes Malcolm Turnbull’s 2015 promise:

“ There must be an end to policy on the run and captain’s calls. We need to be truly consultative with colleagues, members of parliament, senators and the wider public.’

Consult? States were presented with a fait accompli. Education Minister, Simon “Bolivar” Birmingham, refused, moreover, to enter into long-term consultations with States on future arrangements. Bugger federalism. States were also excluded from appearing before the Senate inquiry hearing on Gonski 2.0.

In a final tour de force, Birmingham turned to coercion. He threatened to cut funding to public schools if Gonski 2.0 were not passed by the Senate. Only public schools would suffer in Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory. All private schools would have their funding guaranteed.

Birmo’s bullying evokes Howard’s special deal in 2000 which guaranteed private schools their Gonski 1.0 funding. Funds continued after Tony Abbott cut public sector funding in 2014 two years before the end of the agreement.

Elite winners such as Loreto Kirribilli, Brigidine St Ives and St Aloysius’ College in Milsons Point received more than $5 million a year over the Gonski amount because of Howard’s funding guarantee; safeguarding privilege.

It’s no way to build a new national funding system, however loudly the private school claque may applaud.

Gonski is “the best special deal that private schools have ever had”, writes Save our Schools’ Trevor Cobbold, a former Productivity Commission economist.  But such schools have ridden a winner since 1964 when their pork-barrelling potential was exploited. MPs saw schools as a wonderful vehicle in vote-buying and opened the public purse, ending a century of no support.

Since 1964, the private funding juggernaut has continued apace. We are avidly recreating the colonial system of the 1850s; replacing free and secular education with a system that embeds inequity and division.  Fee barrier aside, private schools are exempt from discrimination legislation and can select students as they wish.

There is no evidence whatsoever that private schools offer higher education standards. Research does show that once you take their parents’ privileged backgrounds into account, students fare no better in the private system.

“We allow people to opt out of a government service and then send us a bill for obtaining the same service from a private provider. We are happy to buy a car for the chap who finds public transport distasteful,” notes Cobbold.

The private system enjoys huge subsidies. Their latest windfall boosts the $12 billion that our proudly “pragmatic” neoliberal government blithely currently lavishes on them. Private schools, in essence private businesses, receive from the federal treasury more than nine times the combined annual budget of SBS and the ABC.

Needs based? Or greed, with at least a whiff of droit du seigneur or good old-fashioned ruling-class entitlement?

Lauriston Girls’ School, for example, with annual fees of $25,000, will get an increase from Gonski 2.0 of $4093 per student over 10 years, while the public school in Tennant Creek, with three-quarters of its students in the lowest quartile of disadvantage, must make do with a paltry $1300 a student over the same decade.

Tanya Plibersek cites , Geelong Grammar, with 70 per cent of its students in the top quartile of advantage, will get an increase of $2309 while Wanguri Primary School in the NT, with a quarter of its student body from Indigenous families, will surely struggle to get by with a mere $565.

And Birmingham’s making noises about not “throwing money” at the issue; expecting more bang for those bucks.

Even worse, the federal contribution is capped. Under-funding is, therefore, assured given that few states ever meet the 80% schools need. In 2016, for example, NSW found 71%, 66% in Victoria, Queensland and South Australia, 72%  and 67% in the Northern Territory.

Prospects are even bleaker for Tasmania, which has the largest proportion of low socio-economic students in Australia and where 85% attend public schools. Its Labor Government slashed state funding for public schools between 2009-10 and 2013-14 while the Liberals cut further in 2014-15.

Public school funding did increase slightly overall, because of increased Commonwealth funding but this was outstripped by a massive, five-fold increase in government funding of private schools. It can only get worse.

Unlike Gonski 1.0, there is no incentive for states to increase or maintain their level of funding in order to qualify for federal funds. If anything, under-funding is almost guaranteed.

State and Territory governments already punish public schools by cutting funding by $732, or 6.6%, on average, per student, while increasing funding for private schools by $161 per student, or 6.9%, according to records from 2009-10 and 2014-15, the last five years for which official figures are available.

The bill, which passes the lower house around 2:00am is a wonderful victory for spin and wedge politics. Not only is Gonski 2.0 “the most significant reform to school education in Australia’s history” says another former failed Education Minister, Christopher porkie-Pyne.

The $50 billion dollar MP maintains his seat of Sturt in SA by a dodgy pork-barrel submarine-building contract yet he paints Labor’s Gonski opposition as petty politicking.

Politicking? In 2014 Pyne erased all mention of Gonski from every government website including reference to the original 2011 report. Amazingly, all were re-instated early last month, as Gonski became a sales pitch.

“Transparent, right and fair,” gurgles Turnbull mimicking Tony Abbott, a vacuous three word slogan personified. All hope of any rational, national conversation is torpedoed by MPs whose speech blends the language of advertising with the front bar inanities, platitudes and half-stewed certitudes of some imaginary country pub.

Our brave new political discourse echoes tabloids and shock-jocks to weave a “shallow, facile and ill-informed” world, as Jeremy Corbyn notes. Emotions are massaged as exponents swap headlines and reductive bumper sticker slogans in a caricature of debate. When two-dimensional superficiality triumphs; issues wither and die.

Advertising and propaganda techniques impoverish our “national conversation” about education funding. Slogans such as “needs-based” or “sector-blind” remain unexamined; unexplained. Incessant repetition is provided instead. Gonski 2.0 is just another chance to dumb-down issues, whip up fear and to patronise constituents.

“It will end decades of arguments about the school funding wars,” breakfast TV celebrity, near-sighted Liberal hack, former Education Minister, Christopher Pyne periscopes on Nine. Can Mr Magoo not see that Labor has already declared war? It will fight Gonski 2.0 all the way until the next election; restore every dollar cut.

Opposition to Gonski 2.0 will be wide and enduring. Turnbull’s government will face stiff opposition from not only from supporters of systemic Catholic schools but from a wide group of others dedicated to educational equality.

Teachers, in particular, will not take kindly to what is already seen as an attack on their profession in another part of Gonski 2.0 that has received no real public discussion and been through no real consultation process.

Little comment has followed Birmingham’s plan to include with Gonski 2.0  NAPLAN tests for every year level; annual literacy and numeracy reporting requirements; performance pay for teachers (including student results); a year 1 phonics test; contracts and performance pay for principals; and more Independent Public Schools. These arbitrarily imposed conditions  must be met to access any funding. The implication is teachers are slack.

The politics of Gonski 2.0 is also part of a rapid decline in the prosperity of ordinary Australians.  Workers’ share of GDP has plummeted since 1975. Then, two-thirds of our GDP was in wages; in 2014 it was just 53%. The gap between rich and poor is accelerating. The richest 1% of Australians now own 22% of the nation’s total wealth.

As the asset ownership gap widens, the rich, of course, have increasing influence. Private school associations enthusiastically endorse the coalition’s new funding model. Yet no-one can explain how it was decided that they should receive 80% of federal funds. Part of the Coalition’s spin on transparency.

Yet one the most remarkable – and distressing features of the Gonski 2.0 con is the success of government spin.

The Coalition has been assisted in its Gonski confidence trick with the support of a compliant media. Its win is paralleled in the other big issue of the week, the flogging of the Finkel Report, a campaign which began with the demonising of renewables after the SA blackout, a cause fearlessly championed by ABC’s Chris Uhlmann.

An Important Announcement on Energy Tuesday is a Gilbertian performance. Coal school quality. On TV everywhere, Matt Canavan, Josh Frydenberg and Malcolm Fraser perform Three Little maids of School Are We.

No-one mentions that Finkel is dead in the water. Instead, Turnbull has a thought bubble:

“It would be good if we had a state-of-the-art clean coal power station in Australia,” Turnbull tells a media conference in Canberra. We could have a reverse auction. (Easy to rig in coal’s favour.) Technology neutral.  Someone asks what technologies could provide “continuous” and “synchronous” power.

Turnbull can talk only of “clean coal”, gas and hydro. Gas, he notes, however, in an aside, would be too expensive.

Solar and wind with battery storage do not rate a mention. Nor do other technologies. No-one recalls that he had the clean coal bug when he was Environment Minister in 2007. Or expects him to account for the $1bn spent on it.

“We are seeing a real change in the nature of the energy market … with more variable sources of energy, more distributed sources,” the PM waffles off somewhere on his own evasive wave-length.

The April announcement that Australia would intervene in the gas market, something catchily entitled” imposing an Australian domestic gas security mechanism” is announced again. It was to have started 1 July but it has been postponed to allow consultations with the sector. It is “immediate action to put downward pressure on prices” which will probably happen next year, if it happens at all.

Best of all, the “limited merits review” which was to put downward pressure on electricity prices is put off to 2019.

The cave in to coal precedes a party room meeting to approve all of Finkel except his main point, the adoption of a Clean Energy Target. No policy. The media show reassures everyone that clean new coal is in there with a chance.

Coalition Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel continues his flawless political performance mid-week as he delivers a thoroughly dull and boring account of his report to the National Press Club. A highlight is an aside when he recalls a quotation from Giuseppe Di Lampedusa’s The Leopard, a text he read to help one of his children with their HSC.

“If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change”. It’s an inspiring quote about adaptation, especially if you see yourself as an enlightened autocrat. Job’s done for Finkel who makes it clear that the ball is in the government’s Dark Age court. There change must contend with the likes of Barnaby Joyce.

A week ago, proudly airing his sublime ignorance on national television, the Deputy PM tells Insiders host Barrie Cassidy:

“I flew in this morning Barrie, it was a beautiful day, not a puff of wind and if memory serves me correct, it was dark last night, so you switched off your coal-fired power stations, how do you switch on the lights?” he said, before adding:  “So it’s just, we’re living in a different church to reality.”

Living very much in a different church is a Coalition which is on target to revise the CET to accept coal-fired power stations. Naturally they will be mythical High Efficiency Low Emission and clean coal even if they will take five to seven years to build. Of course they are expensive. But funds can then be provided at low-interest from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. Emissions? Don’t you worry about that. Paris? Non-binding.

The week ends, we are told, with Coalition MPs going away to have a think about a Clean Energy Target after a Finkel Review which is destined to be no more that just another piece of theatre to avoid commitment to clean energy as a means to curb carbon emissions and as a cheap, economic and reliable alternative to coal. If, after four years, the party has been unable to agree on energy or climate, however, six weeks’ break is useless.

Gonski 2.0 reveals a high-handed government prepared to ride rough-shod over the states to impose a funding system which is not needs-based and certainly not sector-blind but one which will only entrench privilege and perpetuate inequality. In media management it has been a huge success and it will save $18 billions on Labor’s model but, in its style and in its substance, it can only leave a poorer and more divided nation.

Turnbull government in crisis as ministers face contempt charges and Abbott stages a revolt over Finkel.

A life-threatening political and constitutional crisis is brewing for the Turnbull government this week as three Ministers of the Crown face contempt proceedings in Victoria’s Supreme Court.

No big deal; just a politically motivated, orchestrated attack on judges for being hard left activists who are soft on terror, while, off Broadway, the Coalition’s out of court settlement of a class action on behalf of all those it detains illegally on Manus Island blows the lid off its regime of secrecy, cruelty and denial of responsibility in a week where federal government with economic management in its DNA racks up a record debt of over half a trillion dollars.

Adding fat to the fire, Shadow Attorney General  Mark Dreyfus QC calls on Malcolm Turnbull to explain why he publicly backed Health Minister Greg Hunt, Minister for Social Services, Robo-Claw and the War on the Poor, Alan Tudge and invisible assistant treasurer, Michael Sukkar.

Dreyfus demands Turnbull explain why, the day before last Friday’s court hearing, the Prime Minister “backed in his ministers’ comments, on 3AW, despite knowing this matter was before the court the following day”.

Helpfully he notes the court proceedings could have “potentially serious” results. “It is incumbent on the Prime Minister to explain why he thought it was a good idea to validate the criticisms.”

Turnbull waffles “… in a free society a person is entitled to criticise the conduct of the courts or of a judge,” but this diminishes a concerted attack by three of his cabinet ministers on judges over an appeal which was still sub judice and, therefore, prohibited from public discussion.

Criticising conduct might, at a stretch, include the lads’ orchestrated slagging off at judges for being “hard-left activists”, “divorced from reality,” and conducting an “ideological experiment”

It might still have to contend with the judges’ view that the comments were “unfounded, grossly improper and unfair”, but Turnbull’s gloss cannot, surely, accommodate Michael Sukkar’s slur?

“It’s the attitude of judges like these which has eroded any trust that remained in our legal system …” 

It’s all part of an action packed week of diversion, denial and disinformation. Oh my, Gonski 2.0 will rip $ 4.6 billion from Catholic Schools. But, look over here. Someone’s thrown a dead moggy.

“We’ve got a judiciary that takes the side of the so-called victim rather than the side of common sense,” suppository of nonsense, Tony Abbott pipes up, helpfully, articulating the Trumpish contempt for the rule of law that features in the Coalition’s approach to government this week.

Bugger the humdrum stuff of responsible government when lads can play politics instead.

Best Crosby (dead cat on the table diversion) goes to Peter Dutton’s secret citizenship test, a solution dog-whistling a problem, which is finally revealed to include a written English language test in a nostalgic bid for the official bigotry of White Australia.  Anyone can become a citizen provided he or she has a university level of written language proficiency. And if Dutton says so.

No matter that Australia has no official language. It’ll help keep the Muslims down.

Illiteracy and innumeracy or cultural ignorance have seldom held back any conservative politician, while proposed changes to the law will set up the former Drug Squad detective, an acclaimed model of fairness and openness as final arbiter. He’ll get to decide who becomes a citizen and who’ll be deported. The bill gives Dutton the power to overrule decisions of the AAT.

Creating broad executive powers with minimal review undermines the rule of law, ironically, said to be one of the fundamental values which underpin Australian citizenship, writes Sangeetha Pillai, Senior Research Associate, Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, UNSW Law School, UNSW. Clearly, she fails to appreciate Dutton’s value to the PM.

More changes, in fact, are afoot to increase Benito Dutton’s arbitrary power by bestowing upon him a Homeland Security Department, merging several government outfits such as the AFP and ASIO in our fight against terrorism as the price of Dutto’s loyalty to Turnbull in the climate wars.

News comes this week, however, that the US style mega-department model which incorporates intelligence, police and security agencies is out of favour with the PM who now favours something akin to the bijou British Home Office, whose recent brilliant success in preventing terror, safeguarding citizens and accounting for lives lost in an entirely preventable fire in a high-rise building is matched only by its success in breaking up families in the name of immigration.

Happily, the government has far too much on its plate at present and the decision can safely wait until December when it can be announced when everyone is on holiday. Unlike the despatching of junkyard Abbott who goes barking, frothing mad over Finkel and demands urgent attention.

“Go fuck yourself” Abbott tells Craig Laundy. It’s an “ugly” bust-up, Liberal MPs report, in a three-hour session held Wednesday. All of Finkel is reduced to how we need to keep coal at any cost. Besides, coal is OK now. It’s clean and there’s carbon capture and storage. Low emission coal.

It’s clear this week that if the boys have read Finkel they have not understood a word. The discussion of the blueprint becomes an excuse to air the same stale platitudes and lies. Renewables are too expensive. We will always need coal because it’s cheap and reliable.

Reductive? Utterly deluded? Never. It’s all part of the cut and thrust of the Coalition’s richly democratic, inclusive joint party room; the fabled broad church, where any member can howl another down. It’s Liberal individualism. Abbott’s tantrum will foster party unity and goodwill.

Laundy tries to speak. Abbott prevents him by repeatedly interjecting. A slanging match ensues which leads to chaos. Government hacks speed to brief the Press gallery how it’s just a vital exercise in democracy. The Finkel fracas degenerates into another Turnbull proxy war on Abbott.

There, there, Tony don’t hold yourself back. Tell us how you really feel.  Really? Never mind.

It’s enough to get any boy band back on the road. Cap’n Abbott and the Carbonistas, a gospel rock revival group are all over Canberra airwaves this week. The boys reprise “gimme that coal-time religion” a toe-tapping gospel hymn of praise to blind faith in a toxic black rock as the nation’s true salvation while still maintaining their trademark grievance and sense of entitlement.

Dr Finkel has winkled out Malcolm Turnbull’s opponents en masse in what may be another crafty manoeuvre in our wily PM’s crafty plan to establish his leadership over Tony Abbott. Whatever his plan, the “sensible centre” is rendered insensible all week by Old King Coal and his chorus.

What is too silly to be said can be sung, Voltaire once observed, but even he did not foresee the Coalition’s holy coalers, its mad right-wing. All croon such complete nonsense in response to Finkel, a fudged blueprint for the future that ignores new technologies and cheaper renewables, that they reveal a damning incapacity to engage in any responsible, rational or informed debate.

Cult claims, moreover, show breathtaking levels of wilful ignorance and brazen deception. Just one example will suffice.

“Coal is by far the cheapest form of base load power,” Abbott cons 2GB listeners on Wednesday, recycling Peabody fossil-fuel propaganda. The problem is not base load but peak load but Abbott wouldn’t know the difference. Nor does he seem to know that even Finkel concedes networked renewables are more than capable of supplying cheap, reliable base-load power.

As for cheap, experts forecast a doubling in electricity prices if new coal-fired stations are built while coal is no longer seen as a form of base load even in China.

Last year China’s State Grid’s R&D chief Huang Han dismissed coal’s claim to be an indispensable source of “base load” generation. As the network operator builds out its clean power sources, coal-fired generators could only serve as “reserve power” to supplement renewables.

Incapable of little more than sloganeering, the vacuous Abbott’s role in the climate wars is to set a back-marker in our national conversation. After decades of paralysing, time-wasting “debate” the government can then achieve a compromise; build a few coal-fired power stations itself. The media is full of constructive suggestion on how the politics should be taken out of energy.

Both sides need to come to a sensible compromise; adopt at least half of government idiocy?

Coal? As even a failed former Health Minister, impossibly indulged by his crafty mentor John Howard, Abbott should know, coal poses one of the most significant health issues of our time.

While mining, transport and burning must be included in any cost calculation, coal imposes an incalculable cost on the health and well-being of those whose lives are affected, if not ruined by pollution, economic losses and environment damage to water sources, land and food production.

No-one on Coalition megaphone 2GB will challenge Abbott’s blatant lies but they could also point to huge costs in climate change and extreme weather events caused by coal burning.

Cheapest? Costs of coal are soaring across the globe. All published studies indicate that the true cost of coal is much greater than the market price. There’s complete consensus. Coal is crap, Tony.

Energy ministers and other coal lobby lackeys typically pretend coal is cheap. Yet its real costs are passed on to the long-term budgets of other departments. Even our Chief Scientist admits this.

In a Senate estimates hearing at the start of the month,  Alan Finkel noted: “The actual cost of bringing on new coal in this country per megawatt-hour is projected to be substantially more expensive than the cost of bringing on wind or solar.”

Abbott has not read Alan Finkel’s work. Nor will he. His mind is made up. He and Russell Broadbent are convinced, moreover, that any emissions-lowering policy will boost power prices.

Abbott and his Carbonistas show a Malcolm Roberts’ level of scepticism on climate change.

When Senator Roberts asked if it were a scientist’s role to be sceptical, Alan Finkel replied: “All the scientists I know have a healthy degree of scepticism, but healthy is an important word there.

“You have to have an open mind, but not so open your brain leaks out.”

Doing the coal lobby’s bidding involves a type of lobotomy but the Coalition has been at it for some time. Denying reality in climate change is another proud tradition which goes back to St John Howard who squandered the entire proceeds of a mineral boom while weaseling out of any real responsibility for the environment or climate.  It’s never been serious about either.

Half of Alan Finkel’s panel may be well be power corporation representatives but pandering to vested interests in energy is a long-term trend for us. In 1997 we took an industry lobby to negotiate Kyoto. As Sarah Gill notes we “comprehensively cheesed off” the European Union by demanding a free ride and, after almost derailing consensus, we refused to ratify Kyoto after all.

Gill makes the case we out-Trumped Trump in dodgy deals on climate change. Kyoto was set up for nations to agree to reduce emissions yet Australia secured permission to increase them by eight per cent. By including emissions from land clearing, we were able to inflate our 1990 baseline by 30% which made our 2012 target impossible to miss.

Direct Action dweeb Greg Hunt was fond of crowing about how we’d meet or beat our target, which amounted to 0.5% of our 1990 emissions yet our absolute emissions are rising. In 2020 they will be higher than they were in 2000. How’s that for emission reduction?

Greg’s Direct Action scam doesn’t get much airplay these days and Greg’s been shunted sideways to Health where he’s got us all on side with his declaration of love for private health insurance and how we could learn a lot from the US Health system. We’ll all heed his warning, too, on how the recent Senate easing of rules for medicinal cannabis for terminally ill patients could be fatal.

Yet Greg has voiced no regret at wasting $2.23 billion on a scheme that paid beneficiaries to plant trees that may have been planted anyway while relaxed land clearing laws in NSW and Queensland wiped out any of the gains. No apology. We understand. Taking cheap potshots at the judiciary would make big demands on your time.  In the meantime, emissions continue.

As Reputex reported, last year, “the rate of annual emissions growth continues to outpace credits contracted by the [fund].” In other words, DA did less than sweet bugger all to stop polluters.

“This growth is driven by Australia’s largest emitting companies, which have … not participated in the [fund] due to the voluntary nature of the scheme, and the large up-front costs.”

Always careful with expenditure and a stickler for accountability, Captain Kangaroo, Peter Dutton, meanwhile joins Tony Abbott in continuing his government’s attack on the legal system over the momentous decision to award $70 million damages plus $20 million legal costs to 1905 Manus Island detainees in an out of court settlement this week.

Slater and Gordon, Dutton says are “ambulance-chasers”. Labor lawyers.

Abbott madly attacks the presiding judges, for siding with the victims despite the settlement being negotiated between the government’s and plaintiff’s lawyers. Dutton is in denial.

It’s no admission of liability, he claims. Rather, in the parallel universe he and his government inhabit, it is a “prudent outcome”. Certainly, it averts a six-month damages trial in which the  Commonwealth and its contractors would be accused of negligence and false imprisonment.

In the real world, however, it is a momentous decision and a landmark admission of liability which blows the whistle on years of Coalition pretence that Australia’s offshore detention is the responsibility of the nations hosting our camps. It also provides direct refutation of government claims that detainees were well looked after.

Mr Kamasaee, a 35-year-old Iranian, who needed treatment for severe burns he suffered as s child, described his experience as degrading and cruel.

“I came to Australia seeking peace, but I was sent to Manus, which was hell,” he said. “Every day in the harsh sun, my skin felt like it was on fire. I was in pain every minute of every day … I cried every night until I had nothing left.

“This case is not just about me, it is about everyone who has been trapped on Manus Island. Our voices have never been listened to, but today we are finally being heard.”

No compensation can make up for the torture endured by the men on Manus. Now that the legal fiction that they are not Australia’s responsibility has been destroyed, the men should be brought to Australia immediately. PNG warns that it will close the centre permanently 31 October.

Dutton ought to resign immediately for failing his duty of care while the government needs to abandon its secrecy and explain clearly what it intends to do after the centre is closed. As in so many areas of this chaotic government, the plan seems to be to wait and see what turns up.

Backward-looking, ever desperate for evasion and diversion, the Turnbull government is beset with a series of crises. There’s more to it than nostalgia or simple coal-lust. A retreat into the past is the only option for a Coalition government caught with no policy, let alone an environment or energy policy.

It has relied instead on populist posturing on border protection and punitive detention in a regime of secrecy, unaccountability, evasion and bare-faced denial – and it has been caught out.

Time to face the music. Instead, a battle of the bands erupts as the Point Piper Set amps up its catchy Blueprint for the Future: Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market, a concerto fantasy for two conductors in homage to Philip Glass, another innovator, whose music some find challenging because it doesn’t go anywhere.

The Turnbull government’s bastardised Blueprint for a world class electricity system, widely reviled by Carbonistas everywhere as The Finkel Review may fail to provide a political road map to allow an endangered coalition a safe exit from an energy policy highway as intended but it is to be praised at least for highlighting a terminally conflicted and out of touch government devoid of ideas or real plans hell-bent on substituting politicking for policy.

Serious questions are raised over Turnbull’s lack of leadership, finally, in his endorsement of his three ministers’ extraordinary, co-ordinated political attack on the Victorian judiciary. Any democratically-elected government which sets itself above the law; which fails to respect the separation of powers between the judiciary and the parliament forfeits its legitimacy.

There’s a better than even chance, according to some experts that Hunt, Tudge and Sukkar may help it out of its misery.

Theresa May sends message to a Turnbull government of slogans, secrets and lies.

Stunned by what the press insists is a “shock” election result in Britain where, inexplicably, hollow slogans, austerity economics and Sir Lynton Crosby’s fear tactics fail to win the day for Tory crash test dummy, Theresa May, our political world is reeling this week as MPs joust with shock jocks in a knee-jerk war on terror while Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel obligingly offers our fearless leaders another chance to dodge any real commitment to climate change.

Political actors dig deep. Best mystery shopper is won easily by One Nation’s epic failure to yet provide a coherent, credible explanation of who paid for Pauline’s Jabiru, while stunt of the week goes to Adani’s incredible “Green Light to Carmichael” oratorio Tuesday, a stirring, religious work relayed faithfully by media and featuring standout performances from fossil fuel fan-boy Resources Minister Canavan and Queensland coal-lobby groupie, Annastacia Palaszczuk.

The staging of Green Light … reveals just how far faith-based decision-making has usurped reason across our nation and not just in Queensland. Coal worshippers surrender critical faculties for the sublime irrationality of a cargo cult.

Adani cult followers echo Melanesian millenarians who believed that ritual projects such as building a runway would result in the appearance of coveted western goods. Everyone stopped anything else to await largesse from a great silver bird returning to their sky.  Today, we may substitute port or railway for runway, but parallels are disturbing.

A glance at the Adani cargo cult’s articles of faith reveals a supernatural power; the vise-like grip of group delusion.

Ritual chanting displaces communication. The mine is going ahead! JOBS. Thousands of jobs will now “flow” say the faithful. 10,000 jobs, Adani devotees chant. An ecstatic Canavan ups that to 15,000, this week, just because he can.

Reality check. In 2015, Adani’s expert, Jerome Fahrer, ACIL Allen economist, estimated ongoing full-time employment for only 1464 workers and only at the expense of 1,400 jobs in agriculture, manufacturing and other mining projects.

It may be fewer. CEO Jeyakumar Janakaraj, boasts he will fully automate all of the vehicles used in the mine and the entirety of the process from the mine to the port:

‘When we ramp up the mine, everything will be autonomous from mine to port … this is the mine of the future‘

Jobs will be lost as existing mines are put out of business by Adani’s automated, hugely subsidised competition. Subsidising Adani makes our former car industry protection appear a bargain, writes Bernard Kean.

The $320, 000 royalty holiday -which will cost taxpayers $253 million over the next five years – which has recently been redefined as not a royalty holiday at all but an indefinitely deferred payment arrangement – promised by  Palaszczuk’s government plus the NAIF billion dollar loan, means each job will cost taxpayers $900,000.

Part of the Green Light … stunt is a desperate gamble. The stakes are high. The government is already in over its head.

A state government which has invested $8 billion on coal-related infrastructure between 2009-2014, on an industry which provides only 4% of its revenue, may well keep a poker face, but this week’s press release – declaring a business is up and running without funding is a bizarre stunt which would get any local company into trouble with ASX rules.

In reality, Adani is further from opening its proposed monster mine than it was five years ago, while India turns to cleaner, cheaper solar energy and coal profits decline. India plans to be 60% fossil fuel free in energy in ten years.

No new coal-fired power station will be approved in India. Nor would it be economic. A Gujarat power station set to import half of the Adani mine’s coal, now believes it can’t afford to. No wonder nineteen banks have refused Adani finance.

Gautam Adani, however, is content to cynically blame activists, a theme embraced by the august upholders of traditional but doomed faith-based causes supported by our media, especially The Australian and The AFR.  

“We have been challenged by activists in the courts, in inner-city streets, and even outside banks that have not even been approached to finance the project,” Adani claims,

“We are still facing activists. But we are committed to this project.”

Committed? None of Adani’s legal challenges prevent it from acting on its 2014 government environmental approvals.

A fascinating twist in the coal cult narrative come from Kooyong coal-raker, the terminally conflicted energy and environment minister Josh Frydenberg. He’s all for carbon capture and storage. Don’t we know that the world is full of CCS power plants? We had better get our skates on. Build some. Those in the coal cult are immensely encouraged.

It’s another delusion, if not a blatant lie. Although one small, 528 MW third, $5.5 billion over budget, plant will be commissioned, in Mississippi the reality is there are but two massively expensive plants in commercial operation. These compress CO2 to force previously unreachable oil out of defunct wells in an Enhanced Oil Recovery Process.

Never mind that in the process, 30% of the CO2 escapes back into the atmosphere. Never mind that the plant saves CO2 to avoid global warming only to extract more oil which will boost global warming. Never mind the expense. None of this matters to the true believer. Just don’t expect any of it to bear any relationship to reality.

Simon Holmes a Court calculates just to capture all of the emissions of the Loy Yang power station in Victoria, we’d need a plant 13 times bigger than Petra Nova in Texas. With currency and Australian labour rates, but allowing for some economies of scale and ‘learnings’, that could cost AUD$15–25bn.

Luckily, because we live in an eternal present, now that history itself has been effectively consigned to the dustbin of history, no-one asks Josh about ZeroGen our cute, little 2006 CCS plant project in central Queensland.

ZeroGen was a relatively tiny, 390 MW net coal-fired power station which would capture 65% of its emissions.  It received $188 million in grants but after a projected cost blowout from $1.2bn to $6.9bn the project collapsed six years before its scheduled 2017 completion date, scuttling hundreds of millions of public funding.

Josh is on another mission, of course. He’s been ringing his party’s back-benchers to sell Alan Finkel’s cop-out Energy Review which tenderly preserves the pernicious myth that safe, reliable baseload power can only come from coal or gas – and not those fickle wind turbines that ABCs Chris Uhlmann blamed for the SA blackout.

Judging by his appearance on ABC Insiders, Josh has learned to speak softly and stare a lot whenever Barrie Cassidy asks questions:

So the Finkel Review suggests that you can reduce emissions and cut power prices and keep coal in the mix. It sounds too good to be true?

Bazza is right on the money but Frydenberg praises Dr Finkel’s report. In a vain and irritating quest for authority, he repeats Dr Finkel every chance he gets to praise the Chief Scientist.

Josh still pretends that electricity prices are high not because of his government’s Jihadist mission to privatise all public utilities according to the dictates of Neoliberal Ideology, the Liberal religion but because of something he invents called “regulatory uncertainty”.

Then he’s off, demonising alternatives to fossil fuel power generation. Renewables are dodgy, “a less stable system because we’ve failed to properly integrate wind and solar.”

Happily for the coal lobby,  Dr Finkel’s report allows us to have half of our power generated by burning coal by 2030 but he doesn’t say who’s going to build the new ones we’ll need. Nor who will finance them. Nor how this will help us with our feeble Paris targets. Even given his soft sell, Josh is at odds with the review he is flogging. Finkel is clear

“Investors have signalled that they are unlikely to invest in new coal-fired generation …”

Luckily, few people still watch the ABC, increasingly a Coalition megaphone, – and Barry won’t press him on key details. He allows him to claim that CCS is a real possibility for future investment in lower emission technology.

While Finkel proposes a new regulatory framework, his review leaves open the central issue of a CET, a clean energy target, which it says is “a role for government”. No preferred emissions threshold is offered. The stage is set for the coal lobby and its allies to press to raise the bar high enough to permit the operation of current coal-fired plant.

Above all, although he promised the Senate that his review would help Australia meet its Paris agreement and reduce its economy-wide emissions by 28% below 2005 levels by 2030, The Chief Scientist’s report won’t help.  The modelling Finkel provides for electricity sector emission reductions, 28% below 2005 levels by 2050 suggests a figure about half what it should be. His own Climate Change Authority Report confirms this.

Wages stagnate, consumer confidence is down, unemployment remains high and underemployment is huge. Since his better economic managers came to power with their jobs ‘n growth slogan, Scott Morrison has little to crow about.

Growth has slowed from 2.6% to 1.7%. While unemployment rate may have remained at 5.7%, wages growth has continued to fall below its then record low of 2.1% to an even lower mark of 1.9%.

Yet Morrison is all over the news in an orgy of self-congratulation and oleaginous good cheer this week.

Our Federal Treasurer says our economy is “transitioning” from a mining boom to a more diversified economy. Better times await us. It sounds like a slogan Theresa May sagely rejected. Ross Gittins, moreover, reminds us that mining accounts for 7 per cent of Australia’s total GDP and employs 230,000 people or 2 per cent of Australia’s workforce.

Transitioning is not reflected in investment projections. Mining investment is forecast to fall another 22% next year, and a 6% expected rise in non-mining investment will not compensate. Yet Morrison is mindlessly upbeat.

Despite our government’s worshipping the same neoliberal creed and embracing the same trickle-down tax cuts which bring income inequality in Theresa May’s Britain to 1930s levels, we are nowhere near technical recession here. Nowhere near.

ScoMo, our bullet-dodging Federal Treasurer, juggles dodgy figures to claim that we have overtaken the Netherlands in a record-breaking run of prosperity but only if we misread Dutch data, prefer GDP figures to GDP per capita, confuse job ads with real employment and hope that after mining and real estate, something will turn up.

Alas, Morrison fails to look to Japan. As Saul Eslake shows, Australia would need to avoid consecutive quarters of negative real GDP growth until at least 2024 if it is truly to be able to claim this “world record” as its own.

Greg Jericho also points out Morrison is factually incorrect. Australia beat the Netherlands in June 2013. The Dutch avoided a technical recession for only 87 consecutive quarters. But technical recession is a “dopey” measure. We are being conned. In 1982, Holland’s economy had shrunk by 2.5% in one year even if “technically” it had avoided recession.

Similarly, in December 1991, three months into our golden run, the Australian economy was 1% smaller than it was the previous year. Technical recessions rely on GDP. If we use GDP per capita we have had two recessions since 1991.

Yet these are both arbitrary measures. We may as well use the percentage of working age people in work.

On this measure our record of economic activity is pathetic.

Australia’s economy grew by a whopping 0.3 % in the first three months. Nothing we could do about that, the Treasurer says.  He blames the weather. It could be a genuine world first.

“Weather conditions during the March quarter did affect exports,” Morrison says. … Exports declined by 0.6% in the quarter, detracting from growth … particularly in the aftermath of Cyclone Debbie.”

Morrison’s waffle does little for the 730,000 Australians out of work and the 1.1 million who are underemployed but our national pride rallies after a full body Reiki massage from visiting US Alliance evangelist James Clapper, whose appearance is part of the total care package conferred upon the nation by our special relationship with Washington.

The most marvellous contribution of Coalition politics to our national well-being, apart from the politicisation of the public service including, now, our Chief Scientist is surely our nation’s US sycophancy, a state of servile dependency on one great and powerful friend given expression by “man of steel”, US lackey and war criminal, John Winston Howard.

“Lying rodent” Howard, as Russell Galt swears metadata pack-rat, AG Brandis called the then PM, was inspired to invoke the US Alliance while flying home post 9/11.

“While high over the Indian Ocean”, he lyrically records, he saw how we could join a “war on terror” proposed by the US. It led us to send troops to Afghanistan, from whence some were destined never to return, and to provoke a wave of international terrorism by illegally invading Iraq on a pretext of seizing WMDs.

Howard, as Albert Palazzo’s recent declassified report shows, aimed to boost our US Alliance, but his big success was simply in helping make Australia a much better target for terrorism, as Paul Keating pointed out last year. It’s been the elephant in the room ever since however much MPs gibber about how terrorists hate our way of life.

Howard’s grand claims are exposed. Enforcing UN resolutions, stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction and global terrorism –  even rebuilding Iraq after the invasion, are dismissed as “mandatory rhetoric” – a term which also fits the treacle from a series of US VIPs visiting Australia recently to profess America’s undying love for us.

We love to be flattered. Happy clappers abound at the National Press Club’s US-Alliance revivalist meeting in Canberra, Wednesday, when former Director of National Intelligence, James Robert Clapper Jr drops in again for a post-retirement rub-down after his top-secret visit here last year. This week it’s a very public sharing of the love.

ANU kindly gives Lucky Jim a gig as a Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Professor and a spot at the ANU Crawford Australian Leadership Forum where the old spook will put the wind up the nation’s movers and shakers.

Keep an eye on China, he says. Beijing may interfere with your politics just like Moscow did with ours. The Russians are not our friends, he warns. The Donald is done for. Watergate pales in comparison to Trump’s Russian allegations.

While cooking Trump’s goose, Clapper is also here to remind us all how much the US means to us in trade and regional security and how we need to keep faith with our big brother and suffer Trump awhile. Our bonds go deep.

“The values (and interests) we share, the things that fasten our two countries together, far transcend a transitory occupant of the White House,” he promises. He’s not wrong: the US has been doing us over for decades.

We like it that way. Not one of the assembled hacks can bring themselves to ask soapy Jim why in 2007, only a few years after it was signed by John Howard, our AUSTFA, a “free trade” agreement supposed to increase Australian access to the US market led to the highest trade deficit we have ever had with any trading partner.

DFAT statistics reveal that the United States is Australia’s second-largest two-way trading partner in goods and services, worth $70.2 billion, as of 2015 yet, Australia imports more than double the amount from the U.S. and is 15th on the list of U.S. principal export destinations.

So much to fear, so little time. Clapper also adds a dash of Brandis’ Sinophobia as he warns how China may try to buy in to our democratic processes. Beware of donations and watch out for fake news, he adds, helpfully. Who would have thought?

Clapper would applaud our surveillance strategies; urge us to keep our metadata. No-one asks him why his NSA illegally collected data at all on millions of Americans or why he chose to deny this in 2013, before a senate committee, inspiring calls by US lawmakers for his indictment for perjury.

Such a challenge would amount to blasphemy. It is an article of modern Australian political faith that any self-respecting scribbler sing praise to our superiors, or their mates, including visiting American political mendicants.

Anything less would be heresy. And Illegal. As Gillian Triggs reminds us we are fast making it illegal to challenge our government. Triggs, of course, is by no means alone in voicing her concern over a government by secrets and lies.

Only October, for example, UN special rapporteur, independent expert Michel Forst recommended we continue to press for an Immigration Department that is open and accountable and which doesn’t hunt down whistle-blowers.

Forst’s report concludes that Australian governments have effectively gagged civil society advocates with secrecy laws, funding cuts and restrictive contracts that prevent them speaking up about human rights abuses.

It’s a theme taken up by Lenore Taylor who reflects on the Tory automaton Theresa May’s election loss. Scott Ryan, Special Minister of State and runaway winner of biggest family bible at government swearings-in is keen to tell groups they can get funds from government but only if they pack in the advocacy lark. Give up their reason for being.

Lenore is right. Democratic government is about enabling advocacy. Respect. And it’s about governing for all. If there were a message in it for Turnbull it might go like this:

You can’t deliver on your hollow promises of jobs and growth, so stop making them. Start listening. You’ll see that you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.

Heed the opinion polls. Stop the play-acting. Spare us the speeches and the sloganeering. To adapt a slogan on a billboard in the UK somewhere: Jobs and Growth, my arse.

Take a long hard look at yourself. If all you are is a front for the bankers, businessmen and big investors, if all you can do is subsidise a dying coal industry, still hell-bent on profit at the cost of life on this planet, stop faking it.

There’s never been a more exciting time to call a snap election.

If all you can offer are tax cuts to the rich, spare us the hokum; the empty cliches of trickle down economics. The drivel about flexible hours and delivery options. Stop the con about non-existent growth in jobs and higher wages.

Above all, stop pretending terror is cured by curtailing our freedom and riding rough-shod over our legal system. Get out of America’s wars, however, much you may be flattered by your wily big brother’s attentions.

Or continue to repress advocacy and free speech; repeat your meaningless slogans about national security. Persecute the poor, the frail and the elderly. But you won’t stay in government very long.  You don’t deserve to. As May just found, the people are on to you.

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