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Morrison abandons democracy; installs junta to cope with COVID-19

“There’s a concept of economy and efficiency. You should have just enough beds for what you need tomorrow. You shouldn’t prepare for the future. Right? So the hospital system’s crashing. Simple things like tests which you can easily get in a country South Korea, you can’t get here.

So the coronavirus, which should be controlled in a functioning society, is going out of hand here. We’re just not ready for it. What we’re good at, what our leaders are good at, and have been very good at for the last 40 years, is pouring money into the pockets of the rich and the corporate executives while everything else crashes.” (Noam Chomsky on a US health system which has parallels with Australia’s).

Shock and awe seize the nation in Scotty’s Dad’s Army war on Coronavirus. It’s a sound and light show. The PM does the narration. Lights go up Monday to reveal a helicopter gunship. Alongside an SAS chap at the controls, but keeping his social distance, is nifty Nev Power, a battle-hardened former Fortescue Metals (FMG) CEO.

Every PM’s Office press drop repeats the battle-hardened mantra as Nev abseils into our political theatre while Scotty explains Power’s new power, without really making anything any clearer. Truth is the first casualty of war but Morrison cloaks his communications with a thicket of evasions, distractions, diversions and outright lies.

Having no clue what he’s dealing with, or how to deal with it, only compounds his straight-talking problem. A third tranche of measures to support the economy is on the way, he tells a mystified nation, Friday.

How he loves that word, tranche. A slice. There will be a plan, he says, to hibernate Australian businesses. This means on the other side, the employees come back, the opportunities come back, the economy comes back, adds, baffling everybody.

His big lie is that COVID-19 will only hurt a little bit. The PM loves reassuring platitudes. He invokes verbal images of cushions, bridges – including his favourite pneumatic children’s castle; “bouncing back” all figures of speech washing over us in a torrent of fatuous, flatulent garrulity.

And boosterism. Scotty and Hunt love to pat themselves on the back. We’ve done more tests than the US or the UK, two of the world’s worst COVID-19 testers. Our 163,000 tests, are almost five times as many as Britain; 25 times as many as the United States, ScoMo crows.

Give the man a lapel pin. But our results suggest an infection rate increase of twenty-five per cent per day. Morrison neglects to say we can expect 90,000 Covid-19 cases by Easter; 2.5 million by Anzac Day. Surely a PM could stress how infectious the virus is. One Australian can infect three others. 400 can catch the virus in a month. And in contrast to other countries such as Singapore and South Korea, we are slack at following up results.

If between five million and 15 million Australians are infected … it would mean 35,000-105,000 Australians will die from the Coronavirus, an upbeat Peter Van Onselen calculates cheerily. But what of the recession or depression it brings? We are poorly equipped to help those hundreds of thousands of workers who no longer have jobs.

Close to three million workers could find themselves unemployed as a result of an estimated twenty-two per cent decline in household spending, calculates Melbourne University economist, Professor Jeff Borland, basing his estimate on the two main groups of industries likely to be most affected – ‘other store-based retailing (that is, retailing apart from food, fuel and motor vehicles)’ and ‘food and beverage services’.

Morrison’s big lie to those “decent Australians” who find themselves jobless overnight is predicated on a social welfare system which has been fine-tuned by successive coalition governments to punish needy dole-bludgers for being improvident and a drain on the system. This animus extends to all pensioners, be they aged or disabled. You must, moreover, furnish proof of your entitlement. The Robodebt extortion racket reverses the onus of proof.

It will take until 27 April before anyone gets any Centrelink money because that’s how the system’s designed.

Dutton coup numbers man Matthias Cormann confirms “even using the existing system, the existing processes and programs, this is the amount of time it takes to get this additional level of support into the community”.

Labor asks why the government doesn’t deploy the single touch payroll system which gives real-time data on employees — to create a different base from which to pay wage subsidies. But that would involve dialogue. Compassion. And the empathy consultant seems to have gone into social isolation. Or is it hibernation?

The ABC’s Laura Tingle notes that boofhead Boris Johnson’s Tory government in the UK is already able to provide a wage subsidy of 80 per cent of your previous wage capped at 2,500 pounds a month. Our bonzer, newly renamed with bonus reduced stigma, Jobseeker payment offers a mere eighty per cent of the minimum wage.

Instead, we have announceables and an alarming absence of good faith in Morrison’s government by spin. Keeping us safe is his greatest priority?

Conspicuously missing from the PM’s “conversation” his buzz-word for lecture; talk down to, is the great hoax of border protection – which is now surely well and truly exposed for what it always was – a lie based on the greater lie that others mean us harm.

At LAX there had been masked staff controlling the spacing in such areas. In Australia there was no sanitiser on counters, nor were staff using any as they stood close and took our smeared customs forms. The crackdown on foreign arrivals is symbolic bullshit. Those of us who arrived are as likely to have been infected by under-protected airport staff as they were by us, reports Guy Rundle on his recent return to work in Crikey.

We were quick to close the door to China but far too late to take similar action with Italy and the US. Then there’s the inexplicable fiasco over the Ruby Princess, our own Typhoid Mary which let 150 sick passengers ashore – a figure disputed by NSW Health – while passengers departed to a dozen different countries. 

Or visited local nursing homes. And other states, making it the single, biggest source of infection in the nation.

Jewel in the crown of the extraordinary story of our nation’s epic battle with Coronavirus pandemic terror, is the Ruby Princess, a cruise ship, aka gin palace, named for a precious stone symbolising purity, nobility and passion which let 2647 passengers disembark at Sydney’s Circular Quay, Thursday, despite a ship’s doctor’s treating thirteen on board for symptoms of respiratory illness.

158 passengers report ill yet Sydney port officials are told that there is no-one sick on board. Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt is adamant that ships “arrive under strict conditions”. NSW Health classifies Ruby Princess as low-risk. Why? It comes from New Zealand. Seriously.

What could possibly go wrong? Luckily our fabulous “abundance of caution” kicks in, explains Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerry Chant in an hilarious disclaimer; all cruise ship passengers’ swabs are tested for COVID-19.

At least four prove positive, but other infected thrill-seekers swarm ashore to hit the high spots in Sydney and beyond  – despite an inspired Inspector Clouseau-like expedient of texting passengers a full day after they have gone ashore. Border control by text?

Our highest priority is keeping Australians safe, the PM insists. His empty rhetoric is now self-parody. His government wants to keep Australia trading as long as it possibly can before its corporate sponsors succumb to economic recession. Or worse. At the same time, he’s shutting things down; stage 3 restrictions are imminent.

Scotty’s verbiage betrays his fear that the virus will find him out; we are woefully unprepared as the result of a series of funding cuts to public health launched by Tony Abbott. Our hospitals and healthcare system is already stretched beyond its capacity. We ignored COVID-19 warnings from the World Health Organisation months ago.

Top marks to Brad Hazzard, the wonderfully named dud NSW Health Minister -who may have failed to do his job with any degree of competence – but who is at least prepared to fess up publicly; own his own egregious stuff-up.

“If I had my opportunity to have my two bob’s worth, with the benefit of what we now know about those … people, I’d have said yeah, maybe we should hold them on the ship,” he says in marked contrast to his boss.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian blames the Federal government and the Australian Border Force (ABF). Peter Dutton perks up in recovery from his own COVID-19 infection to say it’s all the fault of the NSW state government. An edifying slanging match erupts.

Ruby Princess passengers boost NSW’s confirmed cases. Total infections in the state jump by 186 to more than 1,617 on Saturday morning. It is the second consecutive day that the total number of new cases in the state is up. Abundance of caution? Or panic stations? At least 26 other passengers test positive to the virus outside NSW.

But, look over there. Command and control fuse seamlessly with chaos and confusion in the latest twist in the plot of our edgy national political soap opera. Clueless Scotty gets in a former mining CEO to do his job for him.

Nothing shrieks medical expertise and nuanced public relations as much as Nev’s career digging rocks out of the ground. He was CEO at the time FMG lodged its Solomon Hub Pilbara land rights decision appeal to the Federal Court, an appeal which the company lost on all counts in 2019.

Local Yinjibarndi people keep their native title to their 2,700 square kilometres of Pilbara land and are eligible for compensation. But Nev is moving up and on.

Nifty Nev will get on well with Morrison’s Chief of staff, John Kunkel, a former CEO at the Minerals Council of Australia, (MCA) who fits in like Flynn with Scotty’s senior adviser, Brendan Pearson, another former MCA CEO, who once worked for ecocidal monster US coal miner Peabody Energy.

Pearson provided Morrison’s infamous lacquered lump of coal for the then Treasurer’s notorious 2017 show and tell (no props allowed) of energy agnosticism in parliament. “This is coal. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be scared.”

What is truly scary is that Morrison has just created a whole new layer of government, his own National COVID-19 Coordination Commission or NCCC. Morrison calls his jumped-up junta “eminent Australians”.

Eminent Australians are next rung up from decent Australians who are losing their jobs; distinguished in government despatches from unworthy bludgers who don’t have jobs and who must be punished by Robodebt.

Eminent? They are certainly part of our corporate ruling elite. Deputy Chair of Power’s power elite, is Dave Thodey who did big things for six years as Telstra’s CEO.

How big is buying video streaming company OOYALA for over $500m in 2014 and writing it down to nothing in 2018? Dave’s also chair of what’s left of the CSIRO, cut down to size by the anti-science Coalition. No longer a portfolio on its own, Science is a bit-player in the portmanteau, Industry, Science and Technology.

But Dave’s had a fair bit of help. In 2014, Abbott’s $110 million science funding cut preceded a loss of 1400 staff across CSIRO. In 2013 CSIRO’s annual report listed 6500 staff overall. By 2015, staff had fallen to 5100. It’s just lost twenty per cent of staff from its Energy Business Unit just days ahead of the Morrison government’s carbon reduction roadmap.

Yet our ruling junta can’t be accused of being exclusively corporate fat cats. Greg Combet, now a lobbyist for industry super, is token leftie on a team of business types which includes career mandarin, Jane Halton, who headed the government’s people-smuggling team during John Howard’s children overboard fraud. Catherine Tanna became MD of Energy Australia, which hates paying tax and is on the boards of the RBA and the BCA.

True, big Paul Little, amassed a net worth of $950m running Toll Group for two decades. And from property investment. But just because you are one of Australia’s richest men, doesn’t mean you lack insight or compassion. It may just be very well concealed.

Speaking of compassion and rounding out the team are our top two Canberra shiny bums, Home Affairs Secretary, Prime Minister and Cabinet, head, Mike Pezzullo and Phil Gaetjens, two of our most powerful if not public-spirited mandarins, both of whom are always eager to assist senate committees with inquiries.

Or, in fabulous Phil’s case conduct their own exemplary-how-to exonerate- Bridget McKenzie of breaching the ministerial code in a secret Star Chamber inquiry.

Is this Covid-19 pandemic, a medical emergency or an economic meltdown? Will the economic considerations take priority over social issues? Morrison’s staffing of his NCCC leaves us in no doubt as to his government’s view. Sadly, as Michael Keating writes, it seems unaware that good health policy is good for the economy.

Scotty waffles on about how the new commission will coordinate decisions across governments and the private sector. Co-ordinate decisions? How good is that?  It will also advise government on re-purposing manufacturing for essential equipment, and shifting staff from defunct industries to areas that need them.

It will be spoilt for choice there. Given the way the economy is tanking, defunct industries will be in abundance. Virgin Australia, for example, has taken a bit of a hit, as has QANTAS now that no-one’s allowed to fly.

A colour-coded spreadsheet, perhaps? Someone at the PM’s Office should be able to help with that.

Commissioner Power will solve problems with supply chains and staff. It won’t be easy. Someone at HQ forgot to order tests, face-masks and other PPE. Fart-arsing and dithering over what we’re doing in the policy space with a lethal pathogen needs a bit of a fine-tune. The National Cabinet, a rebadged COAG with a few tame medicos on hand to baffle media is doing a top job. But it’s a bit bolshie. Even with the Leader of the Opposition excluded. The NCCC will run things Scotty’s way. There’s been a bit of States’ rebellion over letting children got to school. Nev’s boys will fix all that.

How will NCCC work? “They will say ‘Prime Minister, we need you to do this. We need you to authorise this. We recommend that you take these actions to get these problems sorted’,” Scotty from marketing explains making the blatant out-sourcing of his own cabinet’s job sound so terribly democratic. Morrison seems dead keen to be spared the hassle of being a democratic leader – or making any decisions at all for a good five months at least. Or clearing up the sports rorts mystery.

The logo NCCC is emblazoned on the Hawk’s undercarriage to help get the message out that the brand spanking new National COVID-19 Coordination Commission is hi-jacking our democracy a little bit for a while.

Scotty’s been copping a bit of stick for not getting his message out and generally confusing everyone over hairdressers and his crafty herd immunity by stealth approach to Coronavirus. ‘It’s essential, unless it’s not. Then it’s essentially not essential. I can’t be clearer,’” tweets Shane Warne.

Never has the accidental PM’s addled thinking been on such public display. Nor at such great cost to so many.

Every job is essential. Sacred. You can’t have a virus wrecking the Holy Economy, amen. Children who don’t always suffer COVID-19 severely are great at spreading the virus. But they must attend school. Parents may be vital healthcare workers.

Infect Mum and Dad or Grandma? Hairdressers can stay open but beauticians must close? Childcare must continue while some schools close? The NCCC will fine-tune the rules. Don’t you worry about that.

Expect a lot of operational secrecy and deference from Power, a man who owes his loyalty to Morrison alone.

 “When I rang him the other day, I simply said, ‘Nev, I need you to serve your country.’ And he quickly responded … and he stepped up.” How good is Scotty’s authority? Puts this whole Coronavirus thing on to a war footing. Ticks a lot of boxes. Nationalism. Despotism. Secrecy. Smart-arse questions will just be un-Australian.

Morrison is ever in quest of a populist paramilitary, patriotic note or vote. Doubtless, Commissioner Nev’s lapel badge is in the mail already. Along with a salary commensurate with experience. Iron ore is falling in price as the coronavirus pandemic lowers demand from China so it may well prove Power’s golden parachute.

Some experts predict acute oversupply, a scenario which could cut prices from US$80 to $50 per tonne.

Nev’s our new dictator for the next five months or so. At least. Scotty’s got him in to not only to dodge questions but to chair our brand-spanking National COVID-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC). NCCC will “coordinate advice” to Morrison’s utterly clueless government on “actions to anticipate and mitigate the economic and social effects of the global coronavirus pandemic”.

In brief, Nev will do a fair bit of damage control and disaster relief. Power’s mining background makes him a perfect captain’s pick to poppet-head the junta of lobbyists, state premiers, media and other mineral lobby Muppets who already run our kakistocracy.

Not only that, Nev’s got stacks of self-saucing, trickle-down magic pudding stimulus mess-kits to chuck at unlucky punters out looking for work. Lucky punters who own businesses or run banks get the bulk of the money which the government’s printing up as we speak, just to keep the wheels of trade and commerce oiled.

Surprisingly, Nev’s entrance upstages ScoMo and Co’s Ice Follies Show, Morrison’s long-running tableaux vivant of bunnies frozen rigid in the headlights of a monster, runaway debt truck. News Corp critics give Nev rave reviews. No-one listens to Dr Norman Swan who is always, full of sage advice and timely warning. What would he know?

Boosting Cash Flow for Employers (BCFE) is a bill which allows businesses up to $100,000 to small and medium-sized businesses which employ people. It is an article of neoliberal faith which trumps experience, both here and in the US when tax cuts did not trickle-down into increased wages but were more likely to boost share dividends, paying debt or extra cash reserves. In the Coronavirus recession, how many businesses will even be trading?

The frenetic turd polishing on display is a record-breaking, world-class spectacle. The magic pudding trick, or corporate welfare is already into its third, new, improved, upscaled, version before its world premiere.

It’s a spectacular stunt, a patent cure-all miracle message in a basin – a centrepiece of Dr Scotty’s Flatten that Curve, fatten a banker, salvation by corporate welfare, Travelling Medicine show.

A standing ovation erupts across the self-isolation void of our times. Few spot the failure of our caseload curve to flatten at all, as cases quadruple in a week. Or our reverse Robin Hood Treasurer who nicks a nation’s housekeeping to keep needy banks, airlines, casinos, coalmines and other essential services afloat.

Luckily, there’ll be no awkward questions. Parliament is suspended for five months. Our hand-picked crew of fat cats and business-class passengers who’ll be doing Scotty’s job for him are accountable only to him.

Scotty’s been setting the tone. Panic-buying – unless it’s the government’s quest for face-masks and PPE or new stationery is “ridiculous” and “un-Australian”. ScoMo also has a go at all those thronging Bondi or St Kilda Beach for not taking seriously the requirements for physical distancing. There’ll be an ADF team taking care of that.

A monstrous double-standard stalks the land, as Simon Longstaff notes in Crikey. Morrison can lecture us all he likes on how we must take responsibility for our actions. Let him wag his finger until it falls off.

“It’s just a terrible pity that the potency of the message is undermined by the hypocrisy of the messengers — a group that has refused to take responsibility for pretty much anything.”

Warnings of a global meltdown just around the corner comes as a bit of a shock to the mug punter. Morrison’s magical medicine show helps keep it that way. Before the week is out, his government’s spin that the recession is caused solely by a rogue, Far Eastern, pathogen, a Wuhan flu, hardens into gospel truth. Coronavirus is a perfect scapegoat for seven years of coalition economic mismanagement in a world facing a growing debt crisis. You never hear a reporter challenge the PM on it.

“We know everyone is overleveraged, full bore, full risk,” says Lindsay David of LF Economics. “All we were waiting for was a trigger and unfortunately that has come in the form of a health crisis.”

COVID19, the disease resulting from severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is not only a world-wide pandemic, infecting 601,536 people worldwide by 9:30 pm AEST Saturday, causing 27,441 deaths and wreaking havoc with trade, commerce and industry – it may help blow up a financial system which rewards businesses for borrowing well beyond their capacity to pay back, just to keep operating. Cue Philip Lowe.

Thunderous applause breaks out at 4:00pm, Thursday 19 March, as the nation thrills to a bravura soft-shoe shuffle from Reserve Bank Boss, Pianissimo Philip Lowe, our High Priest of polymer money has an act which is reserve personified in a gig where bland is beautiful and cautious, tortured, understatement rules.

In Lowe’s low-key lowdown is one key line: “funding markets are open only to the highest quality borrowers“. Or the shit has hit the fan for companies, fattened on a decade of cheap money, who now find themselves about to go out of business thanks to a virus which has caused the cost of borrowing to sky-rocket as skittish foreign lenders seek to stay afloat in the wen of corruption and deception that is the international money-market.

Masters of illusion, the Morrison government will pump our money into monopoly capitalism’s deepest pockets, while making it appear as if it’s a rescue package for small to medium enterprises.

Why? Banks are risk-averse. When lending money, they will avoid high-risk small to medium enterprises and do business instead with a government-guaranteed airline, for example, or an oil or gas multinational paying no tax or an essential services oligopoly paying little tax.

As Michael West points out the government has surrendered control of its money-printing programme to the Reserve bank and its club of banksters. Paragons of fiscal virtue. They include a Commonwealth Bank which can take money from people who’ve been dead for a decade as evidenced at Kenneth Hayne’s Royal Commission.

It’s also helping out the banks by giving them cash for assets which the banks are keen to offload. To West, it’s confirmation that Morrison and Co “really have trouble governing”.

Job-seekers will get to eat for at least six months as the old New Start becomes a Job-seeker Allowance topped up by $550 a fortnight via a thoughtfully “time-limited” Coronavirus Supplement (about half the median weekly rent in Sydney) while businesses get “up to $100,000” to stop them laying off workers if they haven’t shut up shop.

Of course, there’s more to Morrison’s corona-recession busting but it’s a timely shift of focus as the evidence mounts that our federal government has a lot to answer for in its phony war on the pandemic, its own show of Much ado about Nothing. The truth is that it’s bragged, boasted, self-promoted and talked itself up a treat but at every turn, it has failed to hatch any plan for action. We need to demand more of our politicians.

“They were warned twelve weeks ago by the WHO what was coming”, Bill Bowtell tells The Saturday Paper’s, Mike Seccombe. Architect of Australia’s response to the AIDS epidemic, Adjunct professor at the Kirby Institute for infection and immunity at NSW University, Bowtell articulates every Australian’s dismay at the Morrison government’s inertia; its paralysis in the face of impending disaster.

They ignored the warnings. They did not accumulate test kits. They did not accumulate the necessary emergency equipment. They did not undertake a public education campaign. They gave no money to science, no money to research, no money to the International Vaccine Institute, no money to WHO.

Bowtell’s interview follows his appearance on Q&A, where he challenges the government’s disinformation. He holds to account former chippie, Senator Richard Colbeck, Minister for Aged Care, Youth and Sport, who fills in for the PM or his Health Minister who must be in social isolation or witness protection somewhere. Perhaps, they’ve gone to the footy or are booking flights to Hawaii for when it all dies down.

“I’d like to ask the Minister, where are you getting this idea that older Australians are more vulnerable than anybody else? On the figures released tonight in New South Wales, almost 80% of the caseload in New South Wales, which we’re assured by Brad Hazzard is going up exponentially, 80% of them are younger than 60.”  Colbeck defers to the CMO but misinforms his audience.

Later in the week, Bondi and other popular Sydney beaches are closed because young people are flouting government instruction regarding distancing. The World Health Organisation is worried.

“Today I have a message for young people: you are not invincible. This virus could put you in hospital for weeks – or even kill you,” warns World Health Organisation’s Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

“Even if you don’t get sick, the choices you make about where you go could be the difference between life and death for someone else.”

Yet it would be unfair to say the Coalition is doing nothing; the need to act on Coronavirus and the global economic meltdown it brings with it vastly energises Aloha Morrison and his government. It’s hard work causing panic. And pressers to tell a nation just how great a job you’re doing don’t run themselves, you know.

In the sunny uplands of international politics, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) is flooding the market with dirt-cheap Saudi crude in a mad attempt to break Russia, whilst arresting rivals uncle, Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, and cousin, Mohammed bin Nayef, whom he usurped as Crown Prince in 2017 – it’s a diversion, at least, from dismembering journalists who dare speak the truth about his despotism. It certainly helps depress Wall Street.

King Salman, MbS’ 84-year-old father, will be sidelined soon as his son jockeys for power, lest chief ally Donald Trump lose the November presidential election to Joe Biden. But the oil strategy is foolhardy. Demand is collapsing given the economic recession triggered by the Coronavirus – our Great Plague 2.0 –  MbS is just like his mentor Trump. Neither will tolerate dissent; nor heed practical advice.

Equally headstrong and peerless when it comes to dud judgement or malignant narcissism, Trump’s poodle, Boris Johnson, backs down on his herd immunity excuse for doing nothing which would put at least six million Britons at risk of severe symptoms and kill off the UK’s run-down public health system. Ironically he gets the plague himself.

Britain, along with Australia and the US, has ignored warnings published by Chinese doctors and scientists in The Lancet 23 January, detailing the virus in Wuhan a city of eleven million, the capital of Hubei province. The virus had already spread to Thailand, Japan and South Korea. They urged careful surveillance in the light of its pandemic potential, editor Richard Horton reports.

Belatedly, the UK has implemented new social distancing measures based on modelling by Imperial College and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine which predicted 260,000 deaths – not just from COVID-19 but from other illnesses a stretched NHS could not treat.

Our own NCCC and its inept Morrison government would do well to take note.

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Coronavirus will prove Morrison’s nemesis

By Sunday, novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 causing COVID-19, a respiratory illness and worse has infected 157,197 and killed at least 5,839 in 146 countries in just three months; a 3.4 per cent mortality rate, WHO estimates.

No-one knows when the pandemic will peak. Yet just as incalculable is COVID-19’s capacity to disrupt the world economy. The virus, moreover, is advancing faster than any financial crisis; government officials who must deal with it, risk becoming infected by a deadly pathogen, which is pretty enough under the microscope to be mistaken for a spring blossom, Maureen Dowd discerns.

Jason Furman, Barack Obama’s chief economist warns that coronavirus could harm the economy more than the GFC. Worse, he frets that politicians can’t fashion an adequate response. Certainly, that’s abundantly true in Australia.

“If two months from now we go back to normal, I think we’d be OK. If this lasts six months or longer — and I think that’s the more likely scenario — all of that just compounds. Even if you discover a cure in December, you still have people out of jobs, broken balance sheets, bankrupt companies that won’t be particularly eager to hire.”

Its economic effects are bound to outlast COVID-19’s impact on our health. Unlike Australia, where some token stimulus measures are applied, even if three out of four dollars is spent on business, in the US, the world’s largest economy, rescue measures betray no sign that the administration even understands the nature of the task before it.

Morrison at least uses the coronavirus to hide the Coalition’s seven years of economic mismanagement. Of course, the PM was treasurer or PM for only five of these years and on that basis, given his Sports Rorts inquiry model, is completely innocent of any fiscal negligence or the fact that the Australian economy has not once grown above its trend rate.

Scotty’s recent shot at Coronavirus busting, something, he says, will soak up $17.6 billion is a ruse. It has to be seen, Richard Denniss argues, in the context of the PM’s failure to do a single thing to the fix the economy his own party has wrecked. Just as he did with the bushfires and just like his mentor Trump, he’s airily dispensed with expert advice. He’s never once seen fit to take advice from an economist. He’s not waving; he’s drowning in malignant narcissism.

Even the RBA can go down on its knees to plead he do something to stimulate the economy as it did in July 2019. But instead of listening, Scotty from marketing and Josh the wannabe stand-up comedian slapped each other’s backs in public about how they were back in black – next year; how the economy was about to take off.

Instead, it tanked. It’s been tanking for seven years. Just take the ABS record of increase in household incomes. 1995 to 2012, sees a healthy increase during the Howard and then Rudd/Gillard governments. It collapses in 2013; never to recover.

Morrison’s rosy picture of the economy is based on a farrago of lies. Labor’s shadow finance minister, Katy Gallagher, is quick with some key facts; net debt has more than doubled under the Coalition even before the outbreak, from $175 billion or just under 11 per cent of GDP in September 2013, to $430 billion or over 21 per cent of GDP seven years later.

Back in black was never going to happen. There is no budget surplus of $7.1 billion as predicted. Never would have been – coronavirus or not. Even the “back in black” slogan was ripped off from former Kiwi PM John Key’s 2014 ad which appeared on a Young Nationals’ Facebook page. Back in black is also an AC/DC song, a tribute to late singer Bon Scott.

In 1998, Sneaky Pete Costello used “back in black and back on track” in his budget speech. What he forgot to explain is how he squandered the proceeds of the mining boom on middle-class welfare and lowering taxes, as part of Howard’s cunning plan to put short-term vote-winning policies ahead of the long-term interest of the nation.

Sound familiar?

Apart from a $750 sop to pensioners and others on government payments, which may help a few pay the arrears on the electricity or gas bill, or pay the rego on the car, the stimulus package is pretty much a non-event. True, there is a great, big, huge, instant tax write-off. But all this does is tweak the depreciation schedule from $30K to $150K.

To stimulate the economy, you have to be a business rushing out to invest thousands in plant, just because you can write it off – at a time when you’re likely to struggle to earn enough just to stay in operation – especially in tourism, hospitality or education.

Paying half the wages of 120,000 young apprentices is good if the boss has the work to keep them on. Until we know the severity of the recession we are about to enter, it’s impossible to estimate how many apprentices will still be laid off.

As for the grant of $25K to small business, that is small beer to a Small to Medium Enterprise in tourism or hospitality whose work has dried up as a direct result of travel bans or a pandemic keeping people at home. Even to flourishing businesses, it is more of a reward or an insurance policy to the Liberal Party’s traditional base in case, as is not impossible, things really go belly up.

In brief, Morrison’s Clayton’s stimulus only makes Donald Trump’s look good. Trump announces a US$50 billion loan program for small business, subject to congressional approval. Nothing says borrow money more than discovering your income is collapsing.

Trump will get Treasury to defer $200 billion worth of tax payments. Businesses who struggle to turn a profit now will love having their tax-deferred. It sure beats watching demand dry right up.

Then Trump runs out of ideas. True, he hankers after cutting payroll tax which Crikey’s Bernard Keane sees as a good idea. Yet he’ll need Congress to support it.

Both Democrats and Republicans call for stimulus measures, but getting them to agree on any one package is fraught. True Democrats have cooked up a batch of measures but we’re yet to see if the GOP will back it and Trump will sign it.

A virulent disease, COVID-19’s rapid spread is sped up by the wilful stupidity; toxic, populism and malignant narcissism afflicting many current world leaders and the even greater number of frauds, from BoJo to ScoMo, who simply pretend to be leaders. Badly. Enter Nemesis, punisher of hubris, writes The NYT’s Bret Stephens.

Nemesis is a Greek goddess of divine retribution who avenges evil deeds and undeserved good fortune. She will level the jumped-up; often Trumped-up post-truth poseurs, hypocrites and con-men who clog up the top jobs.

Also known as Adrasteia, “the inescapable”, Nemesis, hates injustice and rushes to help the arrogant, insolent and depraved get what they deserve.  Who better to reveal the empty rhetoric and lies of our top imposters?

Past peak vacuity and a top contender in the keenly contested policy stupidity stakes is political clown prince, Britain’s PM, Boris Johnson. Not for Boris are restrictions, nor indeed policy; that’s for sooky-la-la countries. Boring. Instead, Boris reverts to his signature buffoonery; do nothing.

It’s a novel response to a novel virus. And it’s cheap. When most of the world is hell-bent on prevention, Boris wants Britons just to lie back and think of England.

BoJo’s latest stunt, the non-response, is billed as a “herd immunity” approach. The uncertainty is thrilling. No-one knows if it will work; how long it will take to work, or just how many will die in the process. Yet it parallels Chris Uhlmann’s “war footing” a chilling buzz-phrase which evokes the jingoistic mania which led us into disaster at Gallipoli, The Great War, Viet Nam, Korea, Iran, Syria, or our longest war in history, the war in Afghanistan.

Herd immunity does not spring fully-formed like Pallas or Athene from the head of her father, Zeus. Typically it’s only seen as a preventive strategy in vaccination programmes. If we don’t have a vaccine – as we don’t for COVID-19 – achieving herd immunity would require massive numbers of Britons to be infected and then recover from COVID-19.

Has anyone ever made a vaccine for a coronavirus? Currently circulating in humans are four coronaviruses which cause the common cold. We are yet to create a vaccine for one of them. Pesky, beta coronaviruses are most likely to just become endemic. New variants would crop up each year.

At least it would liven up the doctors’ waiting rooms. Dull and boring cold and flu season could soon become quite a bit more exciting: a cold and flu and COVID season.

Doing bugger all is of course richly attractive to BoJo and many of his compatriots. The theory is inertia will help Britons catch COVID-19 as quickly as possible in the hope – fingers crossed –  that when up to seventy per cent of the population is infected, some type of immunity will develop. Genius. If it’s only forty per cent, Daily Kos’ Mark Sumner extrapolates from Italy’s mortality rate, this would cause 27 million cases and about 2 million deaths.

It’s likely to be more. At least sixty per cent of the population – possibly seventy – will need to become infected and recover to create immunity, suggests, Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s Chief Scientific Adviser.

Paediatrician and former WHO director Anthony Costello, says that the UK government is at odds with other countries in proposing herd immunity. Shifting from containment to mitigation is “wrong and dangerous”, he says. He doubts COVID-19 herd immunity would even last. It’s possible that like ‘flu, new strains will emerge each year and it will need repeat vaccines. By Saturday, Boris is happily selling his brainwave, however, to PM Morrison.

ScoMo and BoJo have discussed international co-operation in responding to the coronavirus pandemic in a telephone call, Boris Johnson’s office says. “The two leaders updated each other on their countries’ respective responses to the virus and agreed on the need to take a science-based approach to mitigate its impact.”

Science-based? There’s little science in either PM’s brief. We are trying to contain; not mitigating. Aren’t we?

But we can’t let Boris steal the hotly contested title Imposter of the Week so easily. Donald Trump misreads his teleprompter in his rushed, unrehearsed and wooden address to the nation Wednesday night. His miscues panic the stock market, prompting an overnight sell-off on Wall Street Friday 13 March which helps erase most of big gains since Trump took office in 2017, gains, albeit, more the result of Obama policy than anything Trump ever did.

Karma? Or more of a SNAFU? His gaffe comes on top of claiming to close borders which happen to be still open. “As you know, Europe was just designated as the hot spot right now and we closed that border a while ago,” he lies. It’s vastly reassuring, nonetheless, to learn that Covid-19 is a nasty un-American foreign disease.

The Donald oozes reassurance. Part of his charisma. An alleged sexual predator, he is accused of 26 incidents of “unwanted sexual contact” plus 43 instances of inappropriate behaviour detailed in a new book last December.

Trust him? Trump can’t lie straight in bed. He did impose a raft of travel restrictions on 26 European countries, Wednesday night, but they were effective midnight Friday. They are not a total shutting down of the border.

A pal of fellow travellers, Prince Andrew and the late financier and convicted paedophile, Jeffrey Epstein, Trump was a passenger on Jeff’s private jet, nicknamed “The Lolita Express” as 1997 logs show. In 2002, Trump called Jeffrey “a terrific guy and a lot of fun to be with.” Doubtless, the feeling was mutual given that Epstein had fourteen numbers for Trump and his staff in his phone book, leaked in 2009.  Yet everybody lies but The Donald.

“Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign,” the Republican nominee said at a 2016 rally. “Total fabrication. The events never happened. Never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.”

Trump falsely blames Obama for testing shortages Trump himself has helped create. Whilst COVID-19 is now thought to have evolved in China in November, Trump’s administration is only putting key elements of US testing strategy in place, Friday, two months after the danger of the outbreak was communicated by China in January.

With a highly contagious virus that is lethal to vulnerable populations, the delay amounts to criminal negligence.

The Guardian Australia reports Dr Anthony Fauci, a top US official dealing with the crisis, calls US testing a failure on Thursday. South Korea tests up to 15,000 people a day. More than 230,000 people have been reached. The US, has managed only 11,000 in total. The USA’s per capita rate is about 130 times lower than in South Korea.

There have been delays and stuff-ups with botched testing kits but the origin of the problem lies in The White House. Trump has seen COVID-19 as a foreign problem. Yet he has it all under control. Or so he believes.

In his address to the nation, Wednesday, Trump calls it the “foreign virus”, a dangerous misnomer. Remarkably, he still rambles on Friday about combating coronavirus through “a very strong border policy”, when COVI-19 has clearly been spreading inside the US, undetected, for weeks. Then, incredibly, he invents a Google solution.

“I want to thank Google. Google is helping to develop a website, it’s going to be very quickly done, unlike websites of the past, to determine whether a test is warranted and to facilitate testing at a nearby convenient location,” he waffles and lies, hyping a pilot screening service, which is actually being built by Alphabet subsidiary Verily, a site limited to health workers in the Bay Area, which is still being developed.

Such disinformation will help kill his presidency, which is now terminal, given last week’s stock market losses.

Our pseudo-populist, Team Australia’s Scott Morrison, Bronte’s bogus bogan with the slogan, a conman with a cap for all seasons, will not escape either. COVID-19 may not strike him down, as it has Peter Dutton, but it is setting acid tests of his leadership, especially in public health policy and economics that he is already, comprehensively, failing.

How good are the Sharkies? Originally from the Emerald City’s rugby-loving eastern suburbs, Morrison professes his passion to watch his beloved Sharkies, a Cronulla NRL team he adopted only in 2009, dismissing any hint that he act like a leader and self-isolate, especially since he’s up close and personal with Peter Dutton in cabinet since Tuesday.

There’s a bit of a fuss on Sunday’s ABC Insiders regarding Morrison’s intention to flout his own Chief Medical Officer’s recommendation. Whatever that is. From Monday, we’re supposed to self-isolate; stay away from gatherings of five hundred or more. Whew! This gives Scotty and other Hillsong well-wishers a free pass to mingle at Hillsong’s Colour Conference Sunday at the Hillsong Convention Centre in Baulkham Hills in Sydney’s north-west, Saturday.

The venue has a capacity of 3,300.

“A journalist needs to come straight out and ask Morrison if his reluctance to stop large gatherings is related to the big Hillsong Church gathering with people from all over the world attending. Why only stop gatherings larger than 500 people, Chief Medical Officer?’ a concerned Australian tweets.

“Massive Hillsong conference over two weeks finishing this weekend in Sydney. Tens of thousands of people from all over the world tightly packed in. Millions of tax-free dollars for our PM’s best friend and mentor. No wonder there is no shut down of mass gatherings yet,” writes another.

Even more baffling is Morrison’s live broadcast to the nation from Kirribilli Thursday. In true Scotty from marketing style, he doesn’t give away much information but there’s a lot of spin about how well his government’s doing at the economy; keeping people safe; all the regular bullshit and buzzwords. As Matilda’s Chris Graham notes, it takes Scotty barely fifty seconds before he’s into party political mode; back in the Trumpian bubble of his eternal campaign.

“I want to assure you and your family tonight, that while Australia cannot and is not immune (sic) from this virus, we are well prepared and we are well equipped to deal with it, and we do have a clear plan to see Australia through.”

Morrison keeps his speech brief, only 605 words, but, as Graham notes, “plan” gets a plug once in every hundred.

There’s a “clear plan” at the beginning, a “plan [with] three goals”, a “national health response plan”, an “economic stimulus plan”, “targeted local recovery plans”, and another “clear plan” at the end.

This is classic Crosby Textor marketing. It is all to do with pitching and spin; the man with the plan thrashes the living daylights out of the word “plan”; banging on and on about his coronavirus stimulus package at his presser earlier.

Seven times in under two minutes, you hear him utter the words “clear plan”. Evading a question from a journo minutes later, he abuses the word plan” another seven times.

Some are troubled by Scotty’s hypocrisy. Oddly, it’s never worried him. After bagging Labor mercilessly, stimulus is not only OK; it’s the new black. The complete U-turn bothers the man who did help get us through the GFC, Wayne Swan.

“For six years,” says Wayne Swan, “there virtually wasn’t a day where they didn’t pour shit all over me, telling lies about the effectiveness of the stimulus.”

The lies have hardened into orthodoxy with the help of the News Corp megaphone. School halls which employed locals and which function today as multi-function community centres remain a brilliant investment in social capital as well as being textbook examples of public money wisely invested. As does the much-maligned home insulation scheme, thank you News Corp.

The opposition’s framing of the issue was reflected in most reporting and commentary, writes Rodney Tiffen. The narrative was one of disaster and incompetence, especially as the controversy gathered intensity. He sums up

As a tool of economic policy, the stimulus worked. Although other factors, including the strong demand from China and the sound position of Australia’s banks, were also important, the stimulus played a central role in making sure that Australia suffered less of a downturn than most other developed countries.

The opposition has criticised the public debt that resulted, but compared with most other developed nations this is fairly small. Moreover, the capacity to repay that debt – and, in the meantime, to service it – has been greatly aided by the success of the stimulus in minimising unemployment and boosting output.

Pensioners the length and breadth of the land enjoy homes made more comfortable. Better insulation has also meant lower heating and cooling bills despite electricity’s continuous rise to record levels due to the rising cost of gas and coal and the abject failure of coalition governments to evolve an energy policy.

The coronavirus crisis is a catastrophe in both public health and in its depression of economic activity. Alternative facts do not help leaders in times of recession, as Trump and Morrison are discovering. Trust and credibility are not rebuilt by talking quickly or by simultaneous mass press drops. A leader who cannot be believed will not be followed – especially in an emergency, Bret Stephens reminds us.

Does Team Australia inspire anything but derision? Did it ever inspire? Morrison will learn to his cost, Team Australia is too closely associated with suppression of dissent; the hoax prime ministership of Tony Abbott, a brief but convincing demonstration of a leadership job that was too big for the man. As for patriotism, it is the last refuge of the scoundrel.

The Canberra Bubble has been used so often by Morrison to rule out questions he wishes to dismiss out of hand. It has come to signal a reluctance to be accountable, responsible or open – transparent in the jargon of the day. First, there are testing kits in abundance; later in the day, the Chief Medical Officer warns they are in short supply.

In these ways, the coronavirus health and economic crisis will be Morrison’s nemesis as it will his mentor Donald Trump. As Bret Stephens concludes

It should not have had to take a deadly virus to expose this presidency (or prime ministership) for what it is. But it’s fitting that it has. A man who thinks he can twist every truth to suit his needs has at last discovered that he cannot twist the truths of nature and of one of nature’s gods. Her name remains Nemesis.

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A government reeking of corruption hits the panic button.

Coronavirus-panic sweeps the nation. There’s barely a bottle of Dettol hand sanitizer left on a metal supermarket shelf across the land. Panic buying of toilet paper, pasta and rice turns ugly. A fight erupts in a Western Sydney Woolworths. Two Bankstown women, aged 23 and 60 are charged with affray.

Whilst no injury seems to have been sustained, the same cannot be said of the Morrison government which ends the week reeking of corruption after misleading the senate over changes to its rorted sports grants after it had entered caretaker mode 11 April 2019, whilst former Sports Minister Bridget McKenzie departs from the script by insisting she knows nothing of changes made in her name after caretaker mode commenced.

Sport Australia has refused to answer forty questions, which officials took on notice, effectively denying a senate committee request and failing to meet its Friday deadline. Former Health Department Head, Glenys Beauchamp, did comply but she’s destroyed all of her personal notes following her resignation in January. Genius.

Adding injury to insult, Attorney-General Porter has to be corrected by his own department on his misunderstanding of his own paper tiger DIY federal anti-corruption body he’s been drafting since 2018. Then, from up shit creek, there’s a hullabaloo about all that bushfire crisis money being as scarce as rocking-horse poo. Labor’s Murray Watt makes a convincing case that Scotty’s $2 billion dollar fund doesn’t even exist.

But how good is our chief malignant narcissist for calling a coronavirus pandemic, early despite expert advice? Panic is a great distractor. As with his mentor, Donald John Trump, Scott John Morrison always knows best.  Also freakishly Trump-like is his urge to upstage anyone who knows what they’re doing but by week’s end, his shonky public appearances as leader of our fight against COVID-19 look less and less convincing.

Like Trump, Morrison loses interest quickly – especially when things are not going all his own way. Or are not all about him. Time to hand-ball to serial failure Hunt. By Sunday, the hapless Health Minister, now struggling with his fifth portfolio, urges Australia to draw on the community spirit it showed during the summer bushfire crisis.

Luckily, Hunt stops short of invoking the spirit of the fire-ravaged Bega township of Cobargo, or countless other small towns whose residents are underwhelmed by glad-handed Scotty and are happy to let him know it.

Melding bushfire crisis talking points into cryptic nostrums, like some talking fortune cookie, Hunt gushes puzzling, but tremendously uplifting morale-boosters such as  “This is the moment to be its best self, and for Australia to be the nation and the community we know it can be … We will get through this together.”

An orgy of public self-congratulation, spun as “Coronavirus updates” not only helps to boost the nation’s spirits with the palpable falsehood that all is well, it helps distract from a barrage of inconvenient truths. There’s still a bit of fuss over General Gus; Defence Force, Chief Angus Campbell, who tells Senate Estimates, Wednesday, he’s given Morrison an earful over the abuse of defence material in the PM’s bushfire promo.

Labor leader, Anthony Albanese is rapier-like in calling Morrison out, saying he “used defence force imagery to try to shore up what was flailing political support due to his lack of action during the bushfire crisis”.

“I talk to the chief of the defence force very regularly,” Morrison blusters in reply, slyly dressing up the dressing down. (Surely every healthy Western democracy has a PM who is bosom pals with the defence chief?) But there is even criticism from within his own party over his politicising of the climate bushfires.

Good Morning Britain host, Piers Morgan, who was recently gob-smacked by Craig Kelly’s climate science ignorance and denialism, calls the video, “a self-promotional commercial with cheesy elevator music.”

“This is one of the most tone-deaf things I’ve ever seen a country’s leader put out during a crisis. Shameless & shameful,” he rages on Twitter. A range of similar comments confirm Morrison’s ear of tin. It will undo him.

The Australia Defence Association – a public-interest watchdog – says the government breaks rules around political advertising. “Party-political advertising milking ADF support to civil agencies fighting bushfires is a clear breach of the (reciprocal) non-partisanship convention applying to both the ADF & Ministers/MPs,”

Other home truths include a mismanaged economy; tanking for four years. Yet the government still has no plan beyond declaring it has a plan. Just as it has a coronavirus plan. Worse, the former Minister for sports rorts loads both barrels of her Beretta Silver Pigeon; takes aim at her PM Thursday. This is not in the plan.

The government’s cunning plan is to help “dodgy” Scotty (as the normally very proper ABC 7:30’s Laura Tingle calls Morrison on ABC Insiders, Sunday) evade questions such as Katharine Murphy’s query on sports grants Friday. Sport Australia tells The Saturday Paper that both former Sport minister McKenzie and the Sport Australia board approved its decision to withhold 25 per cent of the $41.7 million allocated to the Sporting Schools program in 2018 – and that it was “authorised by government under the usual budget processes”.

Sport Australia will soon “transition” to an Orwellian Sport Integrity Australia, due to operate from July or whenever the government comes up with the legislation required.

All Australians will be delighted to hear that Sport Integrity will police threats to Australian sport doping, match-fixing and cheating as befits an organ of Sport Australia which currently enables Liberal MPs to abuse funds in pork-barrel rorting to buy elections.

Yet another mystery hangs over our secretive government’s proceedings. Clover-gate is put in the shade. Thursday evening, McKenzie reveals she made no “changes or annotations” to a 4 April brief which suggests it was clearly altered by the PM or some staffer in his office before it went to Sport Australia 11 April.

Morrison fobs off questions at his Friday Presser. “I’m dealing with coronavirus”, Milli Vanilli Morrison lies. In reality, in between dodging shotgun pellets, he tries to take all the credit for the work of Federal Chief Medical Officer, Prof. Brendan Murphy and his team of state medical officers and staff. Yet it won’t wash.

Guardian Australia’s Katharine Murphy is shocked by Scotty’s refusal to take her questions on Friday. Tactically, it gives Bridget McKenzie’s revelations a type of legitimacy. The PM appears to be running away. He has every reason to. According to legal experts such as Anne Twomey, there is not one occasion in the sports rorts saga where the government appears to have acted legally.

Not only were its actions illegal, Professors Cheryl Saunders and Michael Crommelin of the Centre for Comparative Constitutional Studies at Melbourne University, and Professor Anne Twomey of Sydney University argue in a joint submission published by Senate Committee that the grants are unconstitutional.

The very bad news for Scott John Morrison is that the experts concur that not only did Minister McKenzie have no lawful power to approve the grants, but the offices of the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister had no power to direct how decisions were to be made. No wonder Scotty’s running scared.

The PM’s bushfire disinformation campaign blaming a lack of back-burning is also cackling away. On ABC, Aunty recycles the inflammatory remarks of Ted Bull, superbly-named Gippsland Nationals’ MP.

Last January, killjoy CFA chief, Steve Warrington warned hazard or fuel-load reduction it is not a “silver bullet” solution.

“Some of the hysteria that this will be the solution to all our problems is really just quite an emotional load of rubbish, to be honest,” he says, a comment close to heresy in our current post-fact, anti-expert climate.

Too late. Great swathes are cut alongside roads in Gippsland in Victoria. It’s unprecedented, say conservationists, who report loss of habitat; vandalised ecosystems. Logging contractors clear-fell timber in an eighty to a hundred metre buffer along thousands of kilometres of roads in climate bushfire-affected areas, near Cann River, Mallacoota, Cape Conran and Orbost.

Bushfire consultant, Cormac Farrell, says burns are a useful tool, especially when the hazard reduction burns were completed within 800 metres of urban areas or public assets.

“But in terms of protecting towns and cities on those worst-case scenarios on those really bad days when the fire, the wind and heat are really pumping, we are finding it is able to burn over relatively bare ground.”

Luckily, Scott Morrison has already set up its inquiry, a Royal Commission which will follow its mining lobby script and find value in hazard reduction, praise the role of the military, call for its increase and confirm his sermons on “adaptation” the latest excuse for doing nothing to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Our rort-meister government tries to jumps the shark in Senate Estimates this week. In a fit of sheer, gas-lit genius, rural and regional affairs committee chair, Susan McDonald rules, Monday, that the word “rorts” is unparliamentary.

Senate Estimates continues its theatre of cruelty; or abuse of due process, with AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw, prefacing his evidence by bragging that he set a record for questions on notice in his last appearance. He boasts he’ll beat his record this time.

Say what you will. Our federal government and its fans in big mining and banking and agribusiness are endlessly inventive in their contempt for democracy.

Everything is going to plan. But what is the plan? Wacky, undergrad humourist and Yoga-joker, Hungarian Josh Frydenberg, who is such a crack-up lately with his tacky, racist insults towards Australia’s Hindu community, in response to Labor’s Shadow Treasurer, Dr Jim Chalmers’ well-being budget, suddenly goes all coy.

Morrison helps out heaps with a three word slogan; the response will be “targeted, measured and scalable”.

All the Treasurer will say this week is that his coronavirus stimulus package to rescue a tanking economy “will have a B in front of it“. For business, buffoonery, or bluff? His government’s chronic mismanagement has caused our economy to tank for some time. Not once in six years has GDP been on trend.

Doubtless, details will follow as soon as the BCA, the Minerals Council and the banks put their requests in.  But the Nats may still be unhappy.

The Incredible Bridget McKenzie pushes back at her PM from under the bus he drove over her – only to be upstaged by My Corona, a show from Shonky Morrison and his honky tonk combo starring Chief Medical officer, Brendan Murphy, who gets to bare his teeth in a shit-eating grin while Morrison takes credit for Murphy’s work.

Backing vocals are by doo-wah dweeb, Greg Hunt, Minister for flatulent garrulity and advocate for the private health insurance virus; today a six billion dollar impost, crippling our public health system, a subsidy introduced by lying rodent John Howard, in 1996.

Greg tells us, endlessly, how well our sick health system is and what miracles of planning are being wrought, tautologically; “we have a national stockpile that is very well stocked.”

In reality, our masks used to be imported from Wuhan and even dentists have less than two weeks’ supply but government is “close to securing a deal” with local manufacturers claim the Australian Dental Association.

Funding? Funding never ceases to be a good news story. A recklessly generous, federal government will be “shoulder to shoulder with the states”, as former rugby forward, Morrison, puts it. This means forking out an extra five per cent, Hunt explains, patting himself and PM on the back over cutting such a great deal.

“It’s a very, very good outcome for the states. I think they recognise that … Normally, if somebody presented at a hospital without something such as this, we would pay 45 percent of the costs, and they would pay 55 percent of the costs.” Put this way, the federal government seems a model of profligate generosity.

Just imagine. By Friday, GPs, officials, “primary health workers” and those who tend the elderly hold meetings. Medication is stockpiled, they fret. Masks and other protective gear are scarce. Workers already struggle to do their jobs after Morrison ripped $1.2 billion from the aged-care industry budget, a cut which came on top of an earlier $500 million reduction in subsidies to create an industry now on the verge of collapse.

Above all, those who make our medical system work lament the lack of information and real leadership from government. AMA head Tony Bartone, exposes the reality behind the federal government’s interminable spin,

“Communication, timeliness and consistency of messaging about the virus to doctors and the public was brought up by doctors loud and clear. As was personal protective equipment.” Fatuous reassurances follow.

“There was a deep, deep understanding and acknowledgement by the commonwealth that more needs to be done in both of those spaces,” Dr Bartone adds, channelling the “in this space” vacuity, so popular in modern officialese, a virulent disease of communication itself; the enemy of plain speaking. Or accountability.

“It does not look like we are looking at containment, we are going to be managing an outbreak across our community, and we need to be properly funded and need true leadership from government about what everybody’s roles are,” warns Dr Charlotte Hespe,  of The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.

Talk about talk it up. Playing to packed houses across the nation, Morrison’s Corona Update Show features a troupe of Chief Medical Officers, state and federal, plucked, reluctantly, from the mounting impossibility of completing his or her day to day duties to publicly suffer the PM’s prolixity; his cheapjack grandstanding.

Worse, we “cross” to apostle of bombast, sidekick Dweeb Hunt who adds his own brand of long-winded spin.

“Our first task as a Government is to keep Australians safe. And as part of that, working together with the states and territories, with the community, with the health sector, to ensure that there’s a seamless approach.”

Clearly, the first task of his government is to divert our attention from the rising stench of scandal and corruption which, as Bernard Keane notes, threatens to eclipse the smell of fear as Morrison almost loses control of numbers in the House over Labor’s censure of his government because it “deliberately misled the parliament and the Australian people about the corrupt sports rorts scheme”.

Yet the message changes. “Get yourself tested” Hunt tells Australians with flu-like symptoms late Sunday. It’s a sudden departure from the confidence in containment script so carefully followed only a week ago. No-one tries to explain how an overburdened General Practice will cope with the sudden demand.

“Even though it can be a little bit of a stress on the system,” Hunt says. “If in doubt, get yourself tested.” If only you could get an appointment at your local medical centre.

The week has been testing for the Morrison government, a government which since its inception has found the challenges of policy-making impossible, let alone those of day to day administration. Whipping up pandemic panic is counterproductive, especially now since consumers see empty shelves; hear empty rhetoric while learning of the spread of the virus. Between reality and the rhetoric of government reassurances falls a shadow.

Exploiting fear while spinning the illusion of leadership and control marks the Coronavirus Update Show as another Morrison failure; another confirmation of the PM’s dud political judgement and the dysfunction of a cabinet of yea-sayers and bootlickers.

Worse, as COVID-19 takes hold in communities the length and breadth of Australia, it is clear that the PM’s initial claims of containment were mere Trump-like bravado.

Finally, fatuous Josh Frydenberg must come up with a miraculous package; a stimulus to businesses which are already foundering based on a trickle-down theory that is economic nonsense. Chris Bowen tries to be supportive on ABC Insiders.

“The economy has been weakening,” he says. “Now the government does need to respond. One of the things that they could do is adopt the policy we took with the election with the Australian investment guarantee – a … 20% upfront for all businesses and investments big or small.

The government has one sitting week before it is due to hand down its May Budget. It is unlikely to provide any relief to workers or the 4.6 million Australians who receive an income support payment of some kind from the Australian Government in the form of a pension or allowance. Or to increase the minimum wage or restore penalty rates.

Yet reputable economists argue that boosting household incomes is most likely to boost consumption and stimulate a stagnant economy.  Given its Coronavirus Update Show chicanery, however, expect the Coalition Coronavirus Budget Show to be all about rescuing its business mates while grandstanding fit to beat the band.

On its current performance, it will not begin to be able to factor in the economic dislocation of the virus such as the disruption of education, tourism, trade and supply chains, nor will its limited repertoire of neoliberal nostrums be up to the task.

But you can be sure the virus will be made to take the blame for four years of its own, woeful, economic mismanagement. And the welfare of business mates and wealth creators will matter far more than that of households or pensioners or wage and salary earners. And we’ll never stop hearing about how wonderful it is.

And it’ll be no good asking about sports rorts corruption and illegality or anything unconstitutional because the PM’s presser will always be about something else.

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COVID-19 brings a hard reckoning for Morrison and his government.

Like a rat up a drainpipe, wildly excited by any crisis not of his own making, panic merchant Messiah Morrison is all over the news this week. Suddenly there’s a pandemic to blame for his government’s monumental ineptitude; its catastrophic bungling. Even a re-boot of the prime ministerial persona may be possible.

Can Hootchie Kootchie Henry from Hawaii morph into Captain Australia, our public guardian?

Cynics see the derelict, deadbeat dad; the leadership failure in the climate fires, avid for an image makeover. Will Scotty soon be modelling a designer range of dinkum Aussie anti COVID-19 combo cap and facemasks?

Others welcome what may be a return to sanity; a willingness by the Morrison government to take Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy and his colleagues’ expert advice.  But only because they have no other option. As Peter Hartcher notes, Australia’s state and federal medical officers, convene daily, usually by phone hook-up, is the peak point of the pure medical advice, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC). No politicians sit in on their meetings.

Morrison is forced to take expert and specialist scientific advice? It’s a total contrast with this summer’s climate fires where current fire chiefs were locked out of discussions; forbidden to mention climate change.

Worse, Greg Mullins, former chief of NSW Fire and Rescue reports that a group of former fire chiefs tried to meet with the PM since April 2019 because “they knew a bushfire crisis was coming.” He refused.

But Scotty’s not himself lately. He’s had a rough trot in the $100 million Sports Rorts Arena; 136 emails link his office with former Sports Minister, Bridget McKenzie. Labor is asking smart-arse questions about Morrison’s $4 billion urban congestion fund rort, set up to funnel money into the campaign funds of its MPs in mainly Victorian marginals, originally to fund roads, but later to build railway car parks at stations which had no available land – a car parks in the air scam which makes the Building Better Regions rort look honest.

It’s bound to be all Labor’s fault, of course, but Victoria’s state government was not consulted. Now Labor has the hide to demand answers as to why the bulk of funds bypassed areas of highest population growth; the low-income western suburbs, serviced by forty railway stations, in favour of a few well-heeled electorates.

Several stations were funded in Josh Frydenberg’s well-heeled seat of Kooyong, Karen Middleton reports for the Saturday Paper. Hungarian Josh’s return was at risk, given he was up against The Greens and a high-profile independent. Goldstein, IPA shill Tim Wilson’s electorate, got a grant for Brighton Beach station in the state’s affluent south-eastern suburbs. In brief, all but three of forty-six projects were in marginal Liberal seats.

Morrison’s Rorts R Us campaign plan included The Building Better Regions Fund which gave 94 per cent of its $841 million to electorates held or targeted by the Coalition in the months it took to buy the federal election, where funding was at least shared with Clive Palmer, eager to cruel Labor’s chances for a mere $83 million.

So endemic is its corruption that in most other democratic nations, the entire government would be resigning. But such is the power of vested interest and so domesticated is our mainstream media, we are rapidly losing the means to speak truth to power, let alone hold governments to account. The courts don’t help.

Misleading Chinese-speaking voters in Kooyong and Chisholm is now deemed OK by the Federal Court.

Richard Ackland reports that the court’s night-before-Christmas finding was that in at least 16 polling places (of 42) in Chisholm and 11 (of 37) in Kooyong, corflutes were placed sufficiently close to AEC signage to be misleading or deceptive. Yet there’s no evidence, it says last week, that Liberal apparatchik Simon Frost, had anything to do with their placement. How they got there must be just another Morrison miracle.

Oddly, one or two latte-sipping city-dwelling media leftists not under AFP watch, spot a ship of state adrift.

“Bouncing around at the mercy of the sea” [is]  “… where Australia finds itself under Captain Scott Morrison: engine in neutral, rudder jammed, lurching from side to side, with the poor passengers increasingly seasick and the ship drifting closer to the rocks,” notes Paddy Manning in The Monthly Today.

Worse, the arse is falling out of private investment, which drops 2.8% in the December quarter, while construction falls 3%, (bugger building any infrastructure, all that matters to Morrison’s mob is providing buckets of funding). Recession looms. Even The Australian‘s Economics Editor, Adam Creighton says a per capita recession is now almost certain- but – look, over there! Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

No it’s Scotty from PM™

Scotty from Pandemic Marketing has arisen. He spruiks himself and his do-nothing government of mining shills and rorters on steroids as our COVID-19 saviours. On all channels. Even the sonorous piffle that is ABC News 24, interrupts its tepid stream of unconsciousness with a “major” press conference from the PM, Tuesday.

“… we are not immune to the coronavirus and its impacts, but we are as best prepared as any country can be in the world today …”  It’s a hollow slogan given our public health system is already over-stretched. By Friday, experts such as Prof Raina MacIntyre, head of the biosecurity program at the Kirby Institute at the University of NSW, predicts anywhere from a quarter to seventy per cent of Australians may be infected.

“If 50% of Australians – 13 million people – became infected that is up to 400,000 people dying, almost 2 million people needing a hospital bed and 650,000 people needing an ICU bed.”

But that’s a worst case scenario – even if it does expose the emptiness of federal government rhetoric and the legacy of cutbacks in funding. Brendan Murphy is less alarmist; more reassuring,

“We are still contained in Australia. We do not have any evidence whatsoever of community transmission in this country. Whilst we are preparing and we are realistic about what might come in future weeks. We are not in a situation where anyone needs to be concerned.”

So, does the Morrison government really have a plan? No. Not ever. Anywhere. What it banks on is spin and the goodwill of health workers.

“Part of the pandemic plan is ‘hospitals opening their surge capacity’. Now, I don’t want to alarm anyone, but there is no surge capacity. It’s all open … we are full every day. We’ve been saying this for years,” past president of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, Dr Simon Judkins tells The Guardian Australia.

Yet capacity can be created by cancelling surgery and outpatients’ clinics and Dr Judkins believes that our system will cope, chiefly because of the dedication of our healthcare workers; not because of any planned inbuilt surge capacity. Queensland University virologist, Mackay notes we can’t put the virus back in the box,

“So it’s really important that we find, test and isolate the ill to slow the spread and give hospitals plenty of time to prepare and manage cases without being overwhelmed. Many countries probably can’t trace, test and isolate as well as China, Singapore, Hong Kong have.”

At Tuesday’s briefing, Morrison throws to Josh Frydenberg, with other well-worn lies. “We are responding on the basis of a strong platform of a resilient economy, a very strong health system that has put Australia in this position to deal with what is a very serious challenge.”

Resilient? The government’s much-vaunted infrastructure boom is nowhere to be seen. In fact non-residential construction is down 3.4 per cent, while private and public engineering fall 0.5 per cent. Residential construction slumps to 4.6 per cent for the December quarter, its fifth consecutive quarterly fall. Forget  Morrison’s bare-faced lies and boosterism, Australia is deep in a building recession.

Private investment is falling in mining and in building while business investment adds up to a mere $28.5 billion, a total which follows a revised 0.4 per cent fall in the September quarter. Apart from some spending on equipment and plant, up 0.8 per cent, investment is so weak, in dollar terms the figures look like a retreat to 2017, reports Crikey’s Bernard Keane and Glenn Dyer. Those tax cuts just failed to boost investment, despite all the government hype. There was never any evidence it would.

Morrison deploys John Howard’s Alert but not alarmed V2.0 His government is acting with “an abundance of caution.” “Everyone will get coronavirus,” The OZ obligingly chimes in, misquoting QLD Uni’s Ian Mackay.

Bans are placed on travellers from China. From Sunday, Iran will be included. Yet Brendan Murphy cautions against a policy of stopping the boats 2.0. And the planes.  Travel bans won’t work, he says, “… it’s not possible to further isolate Australia”. The focus should be on detection and containment instead.

Saturday, a 63-year-old Gold Coast woman recently returned from Iran has coronavirus, authorities confirm. A beautician, she says she saw 30-40 clients at work on Thursday before going home ill. So much for Hunt’s containment claim two days earlier. COVID-19 – the disease caused by the Sars-CoV-2 virus – has a case fatality rate of between 2-3%. Whilst we don’t know precisely how it spreads, we do know it will spread.

Harvard epidemiology professor Marc Lipsitch predicts that within 2020, 40 to 70 percent of people around the world will be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. But this does not mean that all will have severe illnesses. “It’s likely that many will have mild disease, or may be asymptomatic,” he says.

Epidemiologists concur that the most likely outcome of this outbreak is a new seasonal disease—a fifth “endemic” coronavirus. With the other four diseases, people are not known to develop long-lasting immunity. If this one follows suit, and if the disease continues to be as severe as it is now, “cold and flu season” could become “cold and flu and COVID-19 season.”

But you’ve got to hand it to Morrison. He can whistle up patriotic pride in a flash, especially when News Poll has him on minus 20 – up only two statistically insignificant points on last poll. You don’t come back from that an anonymous backbencher tells Paul Bongiorno. But it won’t for want of hide, guile or rat cunning.

Scotty’s shameless, dog-whistling chauvinism, rivals only his brazen self-promotion and ineffable self-love.

By Thursday, Morrison is a man with a plan. He refines his rhetoric, aka the Gospel according to Crosby-Textor. Crosby’s formula is, go negative and go for fear. Two days later you say you have A Plan. Morrison stays on script – even if he’s humiliated by Pig Islander, Jacinda Ardern in a presser wisely scheduled for Friday.

“Do not deport your people and your problems,” the Kiwi PM rebukes him. Publicly. Ouch.

Morrison’s mob has a plan, even if it can’t say what that plan is – apart from such caution as calling pandemic when the World Health Organisation warns against panic. Banning travellers from China? A fake ban. It’s soon exposed as a hoax by travellers such as Rob Garrington who writes a letter to the editor of Nine’s The Age,

The Prime Minister has announced a plan for handling a pandemic. Is he for real or playing politics again? On Thursday I flew from Singapore to Melbourne and my plane included passengers from China. At Melbourne Airport there were no temperature checks, hand-sanitising stations or information about the virus’ symptoms. At the Malaysian and Singapore airports I travelled through, temperature checks were made and hand-sanitising stations were everywhere.

The Prime Minister says he and Border Security are doing everything to protect us and check incoming passengers. None of this was evident between 11.45am and 12.30pm at the airport on Thursday. Scott Morrison again appears to be all spin. Rob’s on to something. Next is the spin given to the word “plan”.

The Guardian’s Katharine Murphy counts the word “plan” twenty times, in Morrison’s Dorothy Dixers, while Amy Remeikis counts sixteen uses of the p-word by Dutton. But first a note of caution. Harping on about having a plan is what Abbott and Turnbull used to do. It’s a tell-tale sign you haven’t a clue what you’re doing.

Caution? We lead the world in shirking curbing our carbon emissions. But even in the relentless self-parody that Morrison summons so effortlessly when emergencies beckon, the PM kicks an own goal this time.

Only ScoMo could whip up hysteria with an “abundance of caution”. Reeking of abundant caution is the orgy of pork-barrelling Morrison’s office directed prior to the miracle election, replete with colour-coded spreadsheets to help it fund club buildings already built. Or it’s eagerness to chip in half a million dollars to help SA’s Old Collegians, a disbanded women’s rugby team in Sturt, to get its non-existent kit on.

How else to describe giving grants to clubs who requested nothing? It’s a super abundance of caution. But it’s not just fun and games, we see that caution also in the doubling of the nation’s net debt since the Coalition took office in 2013. We see it in its climate science denialism, its ecocide and environmental vandalism.

We see it, above all, in the inexorable self-engorging authoritarianism; of the rampaging, malignant growth of Caesar’s mad black eye; the power of the state. 2019 was huge for the Australian Police State, writes Crikey’s Kishor Napier-Raman. Our federal government’s abundance of caution has seen it pass more laws restricting fundamental rights and freedoms than any other Western nation. “No-one is above the law” smirks Morrison.

Children are strip-searched. Icons of caution, the AFP, raid a journo for revealing how our spooks plan to spy on us all.  MPs howl to outlaw protest and dissent. The Coalition’s war on whistle-blowers proceeds apace.

“David McBride, the whistle-blower in the Afghan Files case, is in and out of court all year. Richard Boyle, the former debt collector who disclosed unethical practices at the ATO could face up to 161 years in prison if found guilty. The prosecution of Witness K, the intelligence officer who exposed Australia’s bugging of the Timor-Leste cabinet, drags on,” notes Napier-Raman.

Julian Assange’s show-trial proceeds with Morrison’s tacit support. Showing an abundance of caution, the PM ignores the pleas of filmmaker James Ricketson, who spent 15 months as a political prisoner in jail in Cambodia. Ricketson begs Morrison to “pick up the phone” to his British counterpart if only to prevent Assange – whose mental and physical health is rapidly failing – from dying in London’s Belmarsh prison.

Not a word is heard from the very Christian Porter, who is far too busy being the model of a modern Attorney-General, fearlessly at war with unions, whose members, statistically, are typically women teachers and nurses. Assange is publicly pilloried in a grotesque travesty of justice because, as Andrew Wilkie writes, ” … he publicised US misconduct and presented hard evidence of their war crimes.”

Abundance of Caution may well be the name of Morrison government’s heavy metal band. Centre stage, Scotty fronts the massive News Corp valve amplifier; an old clunker with its comforting hum and retro harmonic distortion. Backed by Dutto’s Peter Pan Border Force boy band, the week’s gig features solos from pumped-up Greg Hunt. Our Chief Medical Officer even gets a guest spot.  Never let a good crisis go to waste.

But incredibly, our Chief Medical Officer and his band of experts, dedicated to public health and not private wealth have upstaged Scotty; unplugged the Coalition’s COVID-19 pandemic plan for a comeback. The group will have to sing for its supper now.

Of course, the virus will cop the blame for the stock market crash, the forced abandonment of the federal government’s surplus fetish and a recession we had to have but so huge is Morrison’s loss of credibility and legitimacy over its sports rorts pork barrel corruption, that he and his team can bullshit all they like about fundamentals being in place. Praise the economy for its resilience.

But, now, he will be forced to contend with the reality of that economy performing under stress. As his public health system and his other policy-free zones are put to the test.

A hard reckoning is coming. A type of enforced accountability will come with it, too. It’s about six years’ overdue.

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Morrison’s government, a poster-child for irresponsibility on climate

“Australia is the poster-child for irresponsibility on climate change” laments Christiana Figueres, former head of The UN Framework Convention On Climate Change. A key architect of the 2015 Paris Agreement, Dr Figueres is currently in Australia on a speaking tour. She deplores our PM’s latest “technology target” stunt.

Figueres dismisses Scotty from marketing, our coal lobbyists’ puppet PM and his weasel-worded “technology not taxes” evasion of responsibility; a dereliction of his duty to at least reduce emissions to net zero by 2050. But she may as well be talking about our bizarre determination to pursue the fiction of Kyoto carry-over credits.

Or the Coalition’s recent crazy decision to finance a four million dollar feasibility study into a coal-fired power station at Collinsville in North Queensland, a project that is destined to become a white elephant. Demand is flat and there is no shortage of electricity in supply in the area.

Tropical North QLD also has an abundance of renewables, wind, solar and hydro.

Morrison is concocting a fake substitute. Details remain top secret even to his own cabinet but he’s calling it a technology goal, so as not to upset the coal warriors who run his coalition. All will be revealed at the 2020 UN Climate Change Conference, to be held 9-19 November, in Glasgow.

Working on it now, doubtless, is Gus Taylor, the government’s undisputed computational champion following his sensational calculation that Sydney’s Lord Mayor, Clover Moore’s annual travel amounted to an astonishing $15 million a year, a figure which was leaked to News Corp’s Daily Telegraph, in an apparently doctored report, by Taylor’s office, an action calculated to damage Moore’s reputation.

Happily, NSW Police were able to hand-ball the investigation of the forgery to the AFP which hadn’t “bothered” to look for the information required. As Clover Moore, herself observes,

“The people might pay the [AFP] salary but they work for the government who appoints them.”

Similarly, Figueres is not fooled by Morrison’s proposal of an alternative, Clayton’s commitment of his own. “I frankly think every industrialised country has to take on an economy-wide target,” she declares.

According to The Australian, (the Liberal Party’s Pravda), Morrison’s conflicted Coalition will oppose any proposal to adopt a long-term emissions goal, such as Labor’s net zero emissions target by 2050, which the Opposition announced this week. Already, crackpot Craig Kelly is calling it “an economic suicide note” on Sky.

It it’s suicide, then also committing economic self-slaughter are Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Cape Verde, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Comoros, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, Ethiopia, European Union, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Grenada, Guyana, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Kiribati, Lao PDR, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Maldives, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Namibia, Nauru Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niue, Pakistan, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Portugal, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, South Sudan, Spain, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Vanuatu. Add in all Australian state governments including Liberal.

But don’t expect Morrison’s mob to be shamed into accepting their fair share of decarbonisation. Amy Remeikis notes in Monday’s The Guardian Australia the paucity of the Coalition’s latest threadbare case as it airs the Kiwis’ cow, sheep-fart and Fergie tractor exhaust exemption.

The government’s killer argument against Labor’s zero emissions by 2050 policy, is that the Kiwis have quarantined New Zealand’s agriculture industry from Aotearoa’s target.

“So suddenly, after years and years of rhetoric over how we don’t need to look to other countries for our policies, including NZ, in the wake of its offers to take additional refugees from Nauru, New Zealand is the gold standard of policy.”

But no-one expects, logic, consistency or sanity from Morrison. Most of the time now we are surprised, if not somewhat dismayed, that he remembers to show up for work.

Trying hard to be wily, Scotty recycles tactics Howard used to dodge emissions targets in the Kyoto Protocol negotiated in the 1990s. “Investment targets or goals” for technologies will help the Coalition continue to abdicate all responsibility for being the planet’s highest per-capita greenhouse gas polluter, amongst advanced countries.

The dirty trick of focussing on investment is a legacy of climate contrarians such as Bjorn Lomborg, the world’s most active luke-warmer. Lomborg doesn’t deny the physics of the greenhouse effect, but instead cherry-picks information to deny that the risks of climate change are large enough to justify strong and urgent action.

Morrison’s technology hoax contains the specious case that governments should develop new technologies to drive down costs, before actually deploying the new technology. It is simply another criminally irresponsible, flawed, stalling tactic. Labor’s climate change spokesperson, Mark Butler calls out Scotty’s latest, futile, subterfuge.

Morrison’s ” … latest thought bubble of a “technology target” is just a throwback to the Howard era when he and George W Bush rejected emissions reduction targets in the Kyoto Protocol in favour of a so-called “technology approach” which boosted nuclear power and so-called ‘clean coal,’” Butler says.

Serial ministerial failure, Greg Hunt, Abbott’s environment minister patsy, who gave the nation “soil magic” or direct action is a huge Lomborg fan. Greg tried to stump up $4 million in taxpayer funds to pay for Lomborg’s appointment to an Australian university. Hunt’s opposition to the carbon tax cited Lomborg’s nonsense.

Scotty’s mob denies that we live in a climate emergency. Refuses to even say “climate change“, let alone admit that it is a result of anthropogenic global heating or link this to our recent catastrophic megafires. And worse. Kelly’s all for distributing climate change lies in schools so that children can make up their mind based on falsehoods.

Kelly’s a fan of Advance Australia – which bills itself as a right-wing version of progressive lobby group GetUp. Advance Australia plans to develop materials on climate change targeted at children. Their fossil-fuel propaganda would include a “Smart Scientist’s Kit”, a misinformative e-book of “10 climate facts to expose the climate change hoax”, as well as an “educational video and speaking tour” by a “renowned climate scientist”. Nine Newspapers reports.

Liz Storer, the former, silver-tongued, Liberal adviser behind the development of the kiddies’ kit of lies is a model of halcyon objectivity and tolerance as is evident in her views on the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. (CEFC)

We (recently) saw our PM give $1 billion more, taxpayer dollars, to the CEFC. For what? These guys started back in 2012 as a Labor-created, snot wad of a useless body,” she sneers. Useless snot-wad? Perhaps she should talk to CEO Ian Learmonth who notes in CEFC’s latest Annual Report,

We are proud to report that, since inception, CEFC investments have helped drive more than $24 billion in additional private sector (clean energy) investment commitments Australia-wide.  Yet her PM is no better.

Scotty resurrects all his favourite flawed arguments as he Gish-Gallops away reducing greenhouse emissions.

“Currently no one can tell me that going down that path won’t cost jobs, won’t put up your electricity prices, and won’t impact negatively on jobs in the economies of rural and regional Australia. And my Government is absolutely committed to the jobs of rural and regional Australians,” he spins his hurdy-gurdy of vacuous, dishonest garrulity.

Scotty is totally surprised to get a bit of a hand from bush-lawyer Barnaby Joyce who can’t resist his own garbled Gish-Gallop, either, as he vents in a parliament’s hallway, shouting over the top of Joel Fitzgibbons’ Monday morning conference. Joyce is right on cue. It’s almost as if his outburst is scripted by the PM’s office.

“What a load of rubbish. What a load of pig manure. He’s going to reach out to you. He’s going to reach out to the coal mines. Don’t worry, fellas, we’re reaching out to you. We’re reaching out and saying you’re going to lose your job. Reaching out, that’s how you’re going to do it. You’re going to make the equation work by putting trees back on people’s properties whether they like it or not. We’re going to let the shrubs grow back on the country.”

You can’t beat parliament’s hallways for a bit of sober, civilised, rational discourse. Putting trees back? Oh, the horror of wanton reforestation.

No-one asks Morrison of the negative impact of doing nothing – especially when that means continuing the $42 billion a year subsidy which fossil fuel industries enjoy in the absence of carbon pricing. That would be cabinet in confidence and/or commercial in confidence and above all a matter of national security.

No-one can tell Scotty anything – unless, it’s former coal lobbyist John Kunkel or one of other nine former mining industry suits whom he’s recruited on staff. Or the claque of former News Corp hacks, who join them.

Australia would prosper – if only it had a government responsible enough to take real action on climate change, according to a range of experts.  These include CSIRO calculations that we would spend 58-64%  less on electricity under a shift to 100 per cent renewables.

Above all, it exposes the Coalition’s reversion to the hype of $100 lamb roasts, as cynical, disinformation. In fact, renewables bring huge economic benefits.

The CSIRO’s Australian National Outlook report finds bold action on the uptake of renewables could lead to GDP growth of 2.76% to 2.8% annually, a 90% increase in real wages and net zero emissions by 2050.

Monday, Pravda is full of Morrison’s drop that Cabinet ministers, the National Farmers’ Federation and freight lobbyists are all calling for Anthony Albanese to cost his economy-wide target of net-zero emissions by 2050, despite all states in nation having already made their own independent commitment. It’s the same wedge tactics we heard from Tony Carbon-tax Abbott with his $100 lamb roast and Whyalla off the map hype.

Oddly, The Oz fails to include the relative cost of inaction — which the Climate Council estimates at over $2 trillion by 2050 for Australia’s agriculture, property and productivity sectors.

But ScoMo knows that when you’re a government in an abusive relationship with the electorate, you gaslight the nation, you insist repeatedly that renewables are so costly they will wreck the economy.  Or you make cryptic references to developing technologies – only to be blown out of the rapidly heating water in one of the best good news stories of the week.

“The technologies are here,” software billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes says as he announces a $12 million plan to fund solar and battery off-grid system to provide clean and reliable power to communities hit by bushfires and other disasters.

In delivering the first two of what could be one hundred off-grid solar and storage systems – using rapid solar deployed by Australia’s 5B, and Tesla batteries , Cannon Brookes is struck by how surprised people are that such technology is available now. They tell him they thought such technologies were a decade away.

Such misconception is rife in the general community as it is amongst our ruling class. Yet disinformation about energy and denigration of renewables is the mainstay of much of mainstream media – the Murdoch papers, Sky News and toxic talk-back radio’s investment in recycling ignorance, prejudice and superstition. Even our ABC is not immune. Who can forget or forgive Chris Uhlmann’s mis-reporting that the SA grid had collapsed not because of freak weather but because of over-reliance on renewables.

This Sunday, David Speers on ABC Insiders, whose objectivity is imperilled by its increasingly framing discussion by reiterating federal government policy, twits Albo eight times about a carbon price in the desperate search for a gotcha headline that is neither in the nation’s interest nor in the interest of informative, objective journalism.

At the arse-end of last week’s government by announceables and cheering ourselves on until we are hoarse over such big wins as an Aussie Coronavirus cure; a billion dollar spend for Tindal air base, near Katharine, to upgrade it to re-fuel US long-range bombers, a bit of maintenance on the US Alliance we must pay for ourselves, dynamic duo, Dan Tehan and Greg Hunt shuffle on stage right, Saturday to pin the tail on the donkey of the body politic, a Liberal party game of upbeat stuff and nonsense where self-congratulatory bullshit masquerades as fact.

This week’s show’s subtext is abuzz with feel-good fantasies. Good old Aussie know-how and “working around the clock” will produce an anti-Covid-19 Coronavirus vaccine any day soon, whereas, other scientists in other countries are also researching and any vaccine is years away from licence and use in the community.

Professor Warwick McKibbin, director of the Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis at the ANU Crawford School of Public Policy, argues that government money would be best spent on advertising public hygiene, given that simple hand-washing is the single, best preventative against the virus.

The Covid-19 Coronavirus has been contained in Australia, claims Hunt, a fair stretch, given that the Morrison government is again putting the interests of trade and investment ahead of any woke city latte-sippers’ concern for public health.

Worse. The much-vaunted China travel ban was relaxed last week when a series of its cargo ships were allowed to dock regardless of the compulsory 14 day exclusion period. Shocking as this may be it’s hardly a surprise.

If the travel rorts have taught us anything, it is that Morrison’s government is flexible in applying regulations. Yet Health Minister Hunt’s quite happy to take a punt on helping turn Covid-19 into a global pandemic, if there’s a quid in it. It’s our government keeping us safe.  Tarric Brooker in Independent Australia, notes,

By choosing to partially lift the China travel ban, the Morrison Government has chosen to bet the wellbeing of the Australian public on coronavirus statistics coming from the Chinese Government. The same government that lied about the impact of SARS and, even as late as January, was persecuting whistle-blowers who were trying to warn the world about coronavirus.

Yet Morrison’s government – can now add a brand new slogan. We’re the only party that didn’t stop the boats. New Zealand, on the other hand, has extended its ban on arrivals from mainland China into a fourth week, Kiwi PM Jacinda Ardern announces Monday 24 February. The ban would be reviewed after that, she says.

Of course, it’s difficult to get a fix on the facts amidst background noise from other competing narratives; the cheering on of UQ researchers who are “just days away” from testing a COVID-19 vaccine on animals while dapper Dan’s on hand to spruik up getting “normality” back into the international student market.

Nothing is remotely normal about the international student market which Liberal con-artists such as Immigration Minister David Coleman claim is worth a whopping $35 billion in export revenue. Luckily, Dave was addressing Gerald Henderson’s Sydney Institute last August and no-one was paying much attention.

Coleman is wrong. It’s not export revenue, as Leith Van Onselen points out. International students studying in Australia are legally allowed to work 20 hours per week. Many also work illegally. Because the income earned is used to pay for either tuition fees or living expenses, it is not a true export but merely economic activity.

International students working and supporting themselves are no more an export than domestic students living away from home. It pays to take boasts about total numbers of international education exports with a grain of salt, however much Dan Tehan loves to blow his own trumpet. We just don’t know the facts.

Tehan dynasty scion, Dan, an Education Minister, who knows the price of everything we can charge a fee for and the value of nothing that accrues from study let alone learning, struggles a bit to get his message out.

The guts of it is that he’s going to take China’s reassurances at face value because we’ve got to get those Year 11 and Year 12 fee-paying students back into the country or all hope of any sacred surplus materialising is buggered.

In fact, given “political tensions” and diplomatic ineptitude, the result of our government’s US sycophancy, numbers of students from China are declining while those from India and Nepal are on the rise.

Leith Van Onselen worries given the ABC’s Four Corners expose of plagiarism, academic misconduct, and students from India failing their courses, that standards may be lowered in order that the government can pump up numbers.

Or, in other words, that we continue to prostitute our tertiary institutions to boost our “export” earnings, however, dodgy or “Gussied” up they may prove. Yet there’s no way to “Gussie up” or put lipstick on the pig of Morrison government’s energy debacle.

Our corrupt, coal-fired climate science denying Coalition is crippling investment in renewable energy, according to COAG’s Energy Security Board (ESB) which released its annual Health of the National Electricity Market report on Friday. It confirms recent reports that investment in renewable energy in Australia has slumped 40% in 2019.

Yet as Giles Parkinson writes in Renew Economy The only thing that is getting in the way of a zero emissions target is a government refusing to acknowledge it is possible. And that’s because it doesn’t set a plan that federal regulators and rule-makes can follow, and which can provide a signal to business and investors.

The ESB pulls no punches. It’s time we called sabotage for what it is. The Morrison government is sabotaging the uptake of renewables in order to build a case for the fossil fuel industries which are among its principal backers and donors.

In its report, the Energy Security Board observes

The lack of a strategic direction has led to stakeholders deferring investment in the maintenance and construction of new generation, especially in flexible dispatchable generation. This has increased reliability risks, undermined affordability and slowed progress on emissions reduction. It has also raised barriers to entry and constrained competition in the market. With political uncertainty investment planning becomes very difficult and this has impacts well beyond the electricity industry.

The undermining of affordability of renewables is exactly what those who drive the coal-powered Morrison puppet government desire. It is part of their game plan. With every delay and cynical evasion, the Morrison government reveals itself to be hopelessly, irretrievably corrupted; captives of a fossil fuel industry which is interested only in the profit that comes from expansion even if this means destroying the planet.

At a time when all around it, is the evidence of irreversible global heating, drought, catastrophic megafire, rather than take action to pledge to limit greenhouse gas emissions the Morrison government prefers to play politics; weaponise climate change; rather than act in the best interests of the people it is elected to represent.

Labor’s pledge of net zero emissions by 2050 is neither controversial nor radical. Experts argue we should do much more. This week, it is abundantly clear, however, that the Morrison government, hopelessly in thrall to the coal and gas barons would rather wedge Labor than pursue an emissions policy which could help save the planet.

Its hoax of a technology target or goal is a ploy to get away with doing nothing when every indication from every expert is that we should do all we can and more.

Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor reduces our responsibility as global citizens to a despicable semantic quibble today. Australia has committed to a net zero emissions target by 2050 under the 2015 Paris Agreement?

“That’s incorrect,” said Taylor. “We signed up to the Paris Agreement, which involves the world achieving net zero in the second half of the next century.” We are not part of that world? Only a fool could be happy living in such a fool’s paradise.

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Trashing our democracy

“They are trashing our democracy in the way they are dealing with this disgusting political cover-up,” Penny Wong [says] on Wednesday. “… This is all about protection of the prime minister, who is up to his neck in the sports rorts scandal. Well, I’ve got some news for the government: it’s too late. It’s too late for a cover-up when you’ve already been caught.”

Is it consternation or apoplectic rage? The shocked disbelief on Senator Erich Abetz’s typically saturnine features, Thursday, at a senate select committee on Administration of Sports Grants, or sports rorts sums up a disastrous fortnight for the Morrison-Gaetjens duumvirate that rules Australia when it’s not blaming the states, the COVID-19 Coronavirus, The Greens “creeping environmentalism” or Labor for its own failures.

“I seek to clarify, you did find that no ineligible project or application was funded?” leads the Tassie Liberal Party Czar who proceeds, in faux legalese, to verbal Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) boss, Brian Boyd, Friday 14 February, a joust sure to enter the lists of epic political failure as Eric’s Valentine’s Day self-massacre.

Seek to clarify? It’s a clumsily disingenuous attempt which even Samantha Maiden sees as Abetz’ bid to lob a Dorothy Dixer which will let him repeat the lie that all projects were eligible. It’s the PM’s favourite talking point. Albo reckons Scotty’s misled parliament by repeating this disinformation sixteen times in the house.

Government by spin spawns MPs who believe their own propaganda. Originally billed in a blizzard of press snow drops as “a reset” and a chance for our jelly-back PM to re-assert himself, the parliamentary fortnight ends in a debacle. Abetz is gob-smacked when he collides with reality at the sports rorts senate inquiry.

David Speers exposes ScoMo’s sophistry in ABC Insiders. The AG says, “no applications assessed as ineligible” received money. Morrison spins this into, “every single one of the projects that was approved was eligible”.

Morrison conveniently conflates application with project. It’s lie which Abetz discovers to his chagrin.

“No, Senator, that’s not what we found,” Boyd replies. “… around 43% of those which were awarded funding, by the time the funding agreement was signed were ineligible.”

Abetz, clearly, hasn’t bothered to read the report, a practice not uncommon amongst Coalition Senators. In 2015 Chair into the Forgotten Children report, Ian MacDonald, declared he hadn’t read Gillian Triggs report. Nor did he know what the Human Rights Commission was. April 2016, Triggs observed in The Saturday Paper that politicians were “usually seriously ill-informed” and had “lost any sense of the rule of law”.

For Samantha Maiden it’s a spectacular political own goal, “inadvertently demolishing the PM’s central sports rorts defence and revealing a stunning 43 per cent of projects that secured funding were ineligible.” Abetz’ stunt is nearly as inept as Mick-Mack’s dying duck in a thunderstorm performance on ABC Insiders Sunday.

Many projects were ticked off by Sport Australia as meeting the criteria, but 270 clubs over-eager to receive funds disqualified themselves by starting building works before the final paperwork was completed. Grants were restricted solely to clubs who were yet to begin works. A few others disqualified themselves by completing work before receiving funds or amending their applications or missing the application deadline.

In brief, Sport Australia got hundreds of applications from clubs. Some were eligible. Others were not.

In addition to the $100m scandal which has cost (then) Sports Minister Bridget McKenzie her place in the ministry, details of a $150m rort obtained, by Labor, through FOI, emerge this week.

Poorly entitled, the “female facilities and water safety stream program”, when it clearly was aimed at women, it was announced by the Coalition less than two months before the election. Funded in the 2019 budget for providing women’s change rooms and swimming pool upgrades, it was supposed to go to regional and remote communities.

In reality, only $10 million went to rural projects in four electorates held by National Party MPs. The bulk of the money – nearly $110 of the total four year fund was spent on projects in urban Liberal-held electorates

Pearce and Corangamite, two key marginal seats were given almost 40% of the total funding pool.

Women’s change rooms pose a particular problem. Scott Morrison and deputy Mick-Mack seem obsessed with evoking images of women changing behind trees and in cars. Why this fixation? No-one in his staff of fifty-odd boffins can stop the PM and his deputy? The scenario is insensitive, if not totally inappropriate.

And dishonest. Grants were rushed along or even stream-lined to protect women’s modesty, or so they seem to leer;

“because we didn’t want to see girls changing in cars or out the back of the sheds rather than having their own changing facilities”. The verb “see” puts the male gaze where it should not be. Try “make” or “have”.

The alacrity with which the claim is made suggests it may have been part of a focus group but when repeated, ad nauseam, the image evoked betrays a pre-occupation; almost a type of voyeurism on behalf of the PM and his Deputy – an attitude to women which not just women find repugnant.  The claim is also based on a lie.

Sports rorts were not a flood of money to respect women’s needs to have their own change rooms. The PM dwells endlessly on women’s change rooms, in the hope that this issue will distract us from his vote-buying.

In fact, as Christopher Knaus and Sarah Martin report for The Guardian the Coalition rejected Sport Australia recommendations. At least twelve proposed grants for women’s change rooms at local sport grounds were overturned by the minister, including one where women and girls are currently changing in tents.

Making stuff up, includes inventing new reasons to avoid any kind of scrutiny. Or gaslighting the nation that its approval of 290 ineligible sports grants, through Bridget McKenzie’s office is all OK. Phil Gaetjens says so.

Morrison’s former Minister for sport is not allowed to be a good sport. Rather than accept the National Audit Office umpire’s decision, her PM has a vested interest in arguing the toss. Now clear links emerge between McKenzie’s office and his office, Canute-like, he foolishly tries to countermand the ANAO.

Morrison’s own dodgy inquiry adds injury to injustice as he hand-balls to his pal, Phil Gaetjens, the task of being his alternative fact-finder in a secret inquiry. New sophistry, casuistry and specious argument don’t help.

Morrison and Gaetjens demean the PM’s office and the nation. Worst is “fixer” Phil Gaetjens’ straw man that McKenzie is exonerated by ignorance. She didn’t even see the colour-coded spreadsheet designed to guide her department fund projects, not on merit, but in areas where they might buy Coalition MPs a few more votes.

“Her Chief of Staff also told the Department of the Prime Minster and Cabinet that the Adviser had categorically stated she had not shown the spreadsheet to the Minister.”

Gaetjens’ claim is absurd.  The former Morrison and former Costello chief of staff hopes to hoodwink us into thinking that the sports minister handles every piece of correspondence personally or that her former ministerial responsibility somehow excluded colour-coded spreadsheets which her staffers may have used.

Ministers “have large staffs of advisers, liaison officers and media people to handle their paperwork … the whole point is that, if you’re going to rort something, you make sure the minister doesn’t have direct oversight of it. Staff (who, conveniently, can’t be called before Senate committees) do it.” Writes Bernard Keane.

New lies abound. These include the lie that an inquiry into ministerial misconduct (a code of conduct said to embrace integrity, fairness and accountability) is automatically elevated into the status of a cabinet document and is thus protected by the pixie-dust of cabinet confidentiality – unless, as in Abbott’s case you leak the lot to damage then opposition leader Kevin Rudd over the pink batts affair, where four young installers lost their lives in a highly successful 1.1 million home insulation initiative which the Murdoch press mercilessly pilloried.

Morrison’s cover-up is a bit of shadow puppet theatre in which McKenzie gets sent back to the back bench for her gun club misdemeanour as part of his regime’s constant stream of disinformation, lies and secrecy.

Minister for Sports Rorts, Bridget McKenzie is found guilty of a breach of ministerial standards, but Morrison, unlike Trump, cannot prevent public servants from testifying at the senate inquiry. In his best SNAFU tradition, his Gaetjens’ fix serves only to highlight tell-tale signs that the $100m pork-barrel was run out of his office.

Clearly, Morrison should stand aside himself. But then, so, too should gorgeous Gussie Taylor Minister for Energy and Emissions reduction who has never satisfactorily explained his role in the uttering of forged documents, published in The Daily Telegraph to discredit Sydney’s Lord Mayor, Clover Moore after Moore declared a climate emergency in 2019. An AFP investigation would up on 6 February

“The AFP assessment of this matter identified there is no evidence to indicate the minister for energy and emissions reduction was involved in falsifying information,” an AFP spokesman says.

“The low level of harm and the apology made by the [minister] to the Lord Mayor of Sydney, along with the significant level of resources required to investigate were also factored into the decision not to pursue this matter.”

Taylor has also failed to offer convincing explanations of his role in water buybacks to the total of eighty million dollars, which has yet to materialise. Then there’s his intervention in the clearing of protected native grasses on behalf of a constituent or so he claims but one which benefited a company in which his family holds a financial interest.

But with a quick application of lipstick, the Coalition government pig is transformed by a fabulous free trade deal with Indonesia. A Gamelan orchestra of Aussie spin-doctors begins gonging on endlessly. We hear them spin the usual inanities; how near, how big, how good is our is our trading neighbour? In the meantime, the highly protectionist Indonesians view Australia through narrowed eyes.

Gamelan derives from the Indonesian word to hammer, a perfect verb for the Coalition’s frantic attempts to ear-bash us into submission with talking-points, inane slogans and saturation media drops. Yet MPs insist their self-interested, self-deceiving indoctrination and propaganda campaign is a “national conversation”.

And how good is Jokowi, a human rights abuser who gets to travel to Canberra like some travelling saint of free trade? How good is an Indonesian free trade deal years in the making which is now re-announced? You’d swear the government were looking for a diversion. Megawati’s puppet, Joko Widodo fits the bill.

In 2015, on the day of his inauguration, Jokowi, as he is known, sat in the front row, party chairperson, Megawati Soekarnoputri, harangued him from the lectern. He owed the presidency to her, she said. He was to do as he’s told. Perhaps there’s a message in Jokowi’s visit for our National Party leader.

The free trade deal which is neither free nor about trade, has that nifty investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) clause to it which will help transnational companies sue our government should our laws imperil any of their profiteering. Sheer democratic genius.

The deal will also promote a flood of compliant temporary visa workers in 400 occupations who will be able to call Australia home, a move sure to cheer “chefs, nurses, plumbers, carpenters, bricklayers, tilers and many more workers who are already struggling to find enough work,” ACTU President Sharan O’Neil observes.

It’ll help put downward pressure on wages to use a favourite government slogan which is just what the economy and working families don’t need but employers and other wage thieves will be tickled pink.

Amnesty International Australia and Indonesian human rights lawyer Veronica Koman urges the Australian government to raise the human rights situation in West Papua during bilateral talks this week.

Koman’s has many concerns about the Indonesian government’s human rights abuses:

A joint military and police operation in Nduga regency of Papua province has taken place since early December 2018. As a result, according to a regency official, as many as 45,000 people, half of the regency’s population, are displaced in neighbouring areas.

The Humanitarian Volunteer Team, a local grassroots community, has been collecting data on the operation’s casualties and reported that as of 2 February 2020, 243 civilians have died due to violence by the security forces and hunger and illness from the displacement. 

Fifty-six indigenous West Papuans and one Jakarta-based Indonesian were arrested merely for expressing their opinion during mass protests against racism and for the independence referendum in August and September 2019 and during commemoration of West Papua’s national day on 1 December 2019, Konan notes.

They are currently awaiting trial and face life imprisonment. Yet on 10 February the Indonesian leader gives a speech in our House of Representatives in which he urges

“We must continue to advocate the values of democracy, human rights, stop intolerance, stop xenophobia, stop radicalism and stop terrorism.”  In a sign of the Morrisonian times, journalists could not ask questions.

Nor does anyone in Canberra talk about Pork’n ‘Ride. Car parks in the air. Michael West’s Jommy Tee, writes of a $500m Commuter Car Park Fund (CCPF) set up ostensibly to provide car parking at rail stations which turns out to be a brazen vote-buying gambit. Thirteen lucky winners are announced in the pre-election pork-fest. It’s big; $149 million worth of projects. All are Liberal-held seats with six in marginal NSW and QLD electorates.

Yet state governments and councils cannot say where exactly any of these mysterious new spaces will be.

A miracle of modern micro-targeting is at work. As Jommy Tee explains, micro-targeting is as simple as it is cynical.  Ask a member or candidate to spot a public need. Develop a petition around that issue. Use the data collected (names and addresses of constituents). Mine that data accordingly, fund the project, and then promote the outcome to the petitioners. Generate publicity. NB: Labor seats along the tracks get nothing.

But Banks gets $15m, Dickson $11m , Petrie $4m, Robertson $35m. Everyone is told the value of the pork on their fork. But the parks just don’t seem to exist. Funds just go to swell local party campaign coffers.

The Age calls out Pork ‘N ‘Rides in Victoria. It’s got the ring of a Ponzi scheme to it – except that taxpayers pay.

“So sparse were details of exactly how these six parking lots would grow, neither the state government nor in large part local councils could say where the expansion would occur”.

Nor do experts ever suggest that busting urban congestion is ever achieved with car parking or road space alone. It’s about the quality of the public transport service; its quality and interconnectivity.

The rorty story is a gift that keeps on giving. Thursday, the ANAO makes it clear at the senate committee on the Administration of Sports Grants that the PM’s Office worked closely with the sports minister’s office over six months, between October 2018 and April 2019. Yet it’s Bridget McKenzie who is made the scapegoat.

Porkie pies fly in all directions once the pork-barrel is busted. Like his mentor Trump, Morrison just makes stuff up to cover his hide. Here are two of examples of his insidious disinformation.

“all we did was provide information based on the representations made to us, as every prime minister has always done”.  It’s a lie. 290 projects, 43 per cent of all approved, were ineligible under program guidelines.

“the auditor-general found that there were no ineligible projects that were funded”.

Another lie which just re-hashes his notorious – “every project which was funded was eligible.”

Aloha Scotty, our fair weather PM, and his beleaguered crew’s legitimacy and credibility cop a hiding as reports of rorting and pork-barrelling confirm vote-buying is the Coalition’s sole campaign strategy.

Adding instability, is the Nationals’ failed DIY arsehole transplant, to apply former Minister for Digital Transformation, Michael Keenan’s parting shot at his “absolute arsehole” leader, Scott Morrison.

In other words, Barnaby Joyce’s abortive coup deals Mick-Mack’s leadership a mortal blow while three resignations and a spill put the skids under the Nats while Scotty’s numbers are looking crook. And it’s only February, two weeks into the parliamentary year, as brief as that may be under a Morrison government.

“In three times in less than two years I’ve been endorsed” says McCormack, who gets votes because he’s not Barnaby. Yet Mick-Mack claims that Joyce and Canavan have said they will support him.

Do you believe them? “Speersy” asks. “I always believe country people when they look me in the eye and say something and you’ve got to take people on their word.”

“The fact is, I’m the leader and I’m going to lead the Nationals to the next election,” Mick-Mack says scotching all hope of his announcing his retirement in order to devote himself to his Elvis impersonations.

“I haven’t thought it, I haven’t said it, [stepping down] and I’m not quite sure why it was written in that way, he deftly ticks off the media whom everyone knows should only write what is first authorised by politicians.

It’s a direction of state known all too well to our ABC which learns from Justice Wendy Abraham of the Federal Court, Monday, that its legal challenge is dismissed. The ABC must now pay costs. An appeal is being considered. ABC careerist who worked his way up to news director, Gaven Morris ruminates

The decision is “really disappointing” and a blow to press freedom and the public’s right to know.

ABC Managing Director David Anderson goes to the heart of the matter in this part of his statement.

“When the AFP executed its search warrant here at the ABC last June 5th, its raid was seen – internationally – for exactly what it was: an attempt to intimidate journalists for doing their jobs.

Not just the journalists named on the search warrant, but all journalists.”

Back in Mick-Mack land, our deputy PM is on thin ice. For Wagga’s Elvis, “There’s a whole lotta shakin goin on.” Like Turnbull, he believes he can count on ScoMo.

“I have the prime minister’s full support.” But so did Bridget McCormack – and look at her now. Besides, the country can’t even count on the PM’s full attention when it’s on fire. Good luck with that, Mick-Mack.

Clive Palmer could make the same claim here now it’s clear from even the limited reporting by The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) on 3 February.

Despite publishing too little, too late, of political campaign donations, it’s clear from the AEC just how much Morrison owes him. Via his flagship company Mineralogy, Palmer spent at least $83,681,442, much of which went to fund targeted social media publication of anti-Labor lies.

His propaganda was alarmist and untrue: Bill Shorten’s economic policy would make “four million older Australians homeless and destitute”.

Palmer helped defeat Labor through harvesting preferences for the Coalition. He says he decided to polarise the electorate to ensure a Coalition win. Palmer says his shift to attacking Shorten and Labor immediately “improved the government’s position” and that they won a majority on the back of his preferences.

“Ninety per cent of those preferences flowed to the Liberal party and they’ve won by about 2% so our vote has got them across the line.”

The authoritative Australian Election Study (AES) reports,

“Measured by first preference votes, there was a swing against both the Liberal-National Coalition (-0.6%) and Labor (-1.4%) in the election. The Coalition managed to secure a greater number of seats than in 2016, despite the lower primary vote. The Coalition won the election through preferences flowing from the minor parties;” specifically, UAP and One Nation, which won 6.5 per cent of the primary vote between them.

Is it a flying pig? A pork barrel bigger than our parliament itself? Or pig ignorance? Protecting government from being accountable, this week, is Pauline’s party of two performing its traditional back-flip with pike.

“What I’m concerned about is setting a precedent here in this chamber where a senator can be thrown out of the chamber by the majority,” blathers Hanson. What the senate motion seeks to do is beyond her ken. It’s an attempt to get the Coalition to release Phil Gaetjens’ report – if any such report exists.

“Senator Cormann is an elected member of this chamber,” La Hanson declares, in a desperate lunge at high-sounding principle; only to lapse into pious piffle. “He has a right to his place in this chamber. It is not up to us to take away that right that was given to him by the Australian people when they voted for him.”

No-one is taking away Cormann’s rights. One Nation’s two votes torpedo the Senate motion. A corrupt government escapes accountability for its brazen bribing of electors in marginal electorates or sports rorts.

Worse it gaslights the nation. We are to believe that the Auditor-General’s ten month report is inferior to something quickly whipped up by the PM’s former chief of staff, Phil Gaetjens; a secret report which somehow exonerates dishonesty and duplicity. And which earns Gaetjens a promotion. The Liberal Party apparatchik is Morrison’s captain’s pick to be the most politicised, least qualified Secretary of the Treasury in history.

At the end of his first two weeks, Scotty may shout a lot about how his government is honouring the promises it took to the people. But surely that’s irrelevant when you buy the election. Surely also, given its record of deception and ineptitude, any credibility the nation may have extended toward this government is now completely shot to pieces.

Above all, at every opportunity on parliament’s return, this Coalition of secrets and lies which rorted and bought its “miracle election” shuns all accountability.

Now as it suppresses and intimidates the press, Christian Porter announces legislation to further silence dissent. At each turn, this government is trashing our democracy.

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Humiliated, Morrison sticks to his adaptation and resilience con.

“We have just seen the stability of the Coalition on full view, for all to see – government members running against each other for a position of deputy speaker … and for the prime minister to stand up and to pretend somehow this is a win.”

A Prime Minister rises to his feet to claim his humiliation, if not his rout, is a victory for parliament and for the voter? The death of shame infects our politics. Hypocrisy is no longer a thing. Shame is now just something only the other side should feel, while telling the truth when it doesn’t suit you is seen as a type of madness.

It wasn’t always thus. During the reign of Elizabeth I, the Earl of Oxford farted while bowing low before the Queen, records John Aubrey. So utterly mortified was Oxford, that he fled the country for seven years.

On his return, Elizabeth welcomed him but could not resist the quip “My lord, I had forgot the fart!”

Labor’s Anthony Albanese, may be a raving woke, latte-sipping, inner-city greenie to the Coalition’s pixilated right wing. This includes some Nationals who rebel, this week, against lame-duck leader, Michael McCormack. It adds a riot of colour and movement to the orchestrated litany of lies and chaos that is the Morrison government.

Yet, unlike the government, not only does Albo have a sense of humour, he can summon a dry wit,

“I congratulate the prime minister on his capacity to make anything into a marketing proposal.”

Barnaby Joyce, having botched his leadership spill, has stirred up enough trouble to get a few of his backers to attack his nemesis, the hapless Michael McCormack. Mick-Mack and his puppet-master Morrison are blindsided by an unprecedented public display of wilful insubordination by some Nats and cross-bench MPs who help Labor to elect Llew O’Brien over ScoMo’s tame deputy of choice, Damian Drum.

It’s a useful, if unwelcome diversion, to Morrison’s plight. The PM performs some shabby sleight of hand where he hopes to trick the nation into accepting that Phil Gaetjens’ quickie report on Bridget McKenzie’s Sports Rorts trumps the lengthy, forensic, investigation carried out according to due process by Auditor-General, Grant Hehir.

Or the AFP gives up on Gus Taylor, or someone from his department, uttering a forged document designed solely to discredit Sydney Lord Mayor, Clover Moore by leaking it to The Daily Telegraph. It couldn’t have been Taylor’s staffer, Josh Manuatu, formerly of Eric Abetz’ staff, who is now promoted Director Canberra’s Liberals.

Only a “low level of harm” AFP decides, deploying its Star Chamber function. Anyway, the minister apologised. Take too many resources. Case closed. Unlike the journalist Annika Smethurst, whose investigation is, ominously, still ongoing.

The duelling reports as News.Com.au misrepresents them (implying they are equal) evoke Trump’s Counsellor to the President, Kellyanne Conway 2017 defence of Sean Spicer’s absurdly inflated estimate of attendance at the President’s inauguration.

“I have alternative facts.”

Let the AG find that McKenzie flouted guidelines and broke the law with her abuse of her authority as sports minister in allocating funding solely according to colour-coded criteria for political advantage, the PM can whistle up an alternative secret report and find McKenzie guilty only of a minor breach of ministerial standards.

Similarly, Attorney-General The Christian Porter argues that the AG is wrong but refuses to publish his own argument. Now, McKenzie stands aside, clearly convinced all she has done wrong is give funds to a gun club of which she was a member. Her penance will be brief. Soon, she’ll be back in cabinet. But what of Mick-Mack?

Will our deputy PM survive? Barnaby is emboldened by O’Brien’s contempt for Mick-Mack’s authority. It’s all going to plan for BJ’s next assault on the top job.

Mick-Mack leads a double life as a casual Elvis Presley impersonator. Will Elvis now be forced to leave the building? Or will he just have to quit his day job impersonating a party political leader? McCormack may squawk a lot at the despatch box. Puff his feathers. Flap his wings. But he’s kidding no-one. Least of all himself.

A former editor of Wagga’s Daily Advertiser, who was sacked in 2002, prompting him to set up the now defunct online MSS Media, Mick-Mack will never truly be Boss Cocky of the regional rednecks, pork-barrel populists and climate-denying, mining lobby shills and agribusiness spivs who masquerade as a National Party.

Yet unlike Barnaby Joyce, McCormack poses no threat whatsoever to Scott Morrison, apart from when the Nationals’, neoliberal puppet leader falls off his perch as he did when Joel Fitzgibbon said that the Nationals should stop banging on about how tough it is for farmers. And “do something about it.”  For years, the Nats have been lickspittles to Agribusiness and have eagerly helped Liberals get stuck into welfare and unions. Opposing raising minimum wage, penalty rates or increasing NewStart.

Is it the tail that wags the Coalition dog once again?  The noisy Nationals’ are the coalition’s uppity rump, zealously promoting the myth, even at its inception in 1920, that we are an agricultural nation awash with pioneer spirit, despite the fact that most of us live in suburbia and work in health and social services.

The Nationals’ tail also wags the electoral dog; the party gets seven times the number of seats for fewer than half the number of votes won by The Greens, thanks to our atavistic, gerrymandered, electoral system, based on location; a scheme that assumes where you come from is more important than who represents you.

But help is always at hand whenever the poor, innocent, vulnerable handmaids and manservants of capital are attacked. Fran Kelly, a stalwart ABC RN Coalition advocate, naturally blames Albo, Tuesday, for the chaos in Coalition ranks. How very dare he vote for O’Brien, knowing the trouble it would cause? Isn’t that politics? What is she implying? Why can’t he be more like Tony Abbott, that icon of positivity, in opposition?

On cue, MSM are a forum for those who blame the climate megafires on The Greens’ “creeping environmentalism” as Matt Canavan calls it, in a flurry of news conferences Tuesday morning. His scapegoating is boosted by the PM’s bogus call for more fuel reduction firms – a cynical deflection which Victorian Fire Chief, Steve Warrington dismisses as “an emotional (and combustible) load of rubbish.”

Fran’s antsy about Labor’s backing Nat rat Llew (Who?) O’Brien who wins deputy-speaker over Coalition patsy Victorian MP Damian Drum, a Mick-Mack man. O’Brien quit the Nats after Joyce’s spill was unsuccessful. It is hardly the Abbott Opposition’s relentless pursuit of speaker Peter Slipper via James Ashby and Mal Brough.

Writer and lawyer, Richard Ackland, terms this “one of the grubbiest assaults on a government in recent memory.” The Coalition has no moral high ground to take over the O’Brien stunt. But it will try. And try. With a bit of help from its Murdoch pals.

Labor’s National Party Deputy Speaker tactic is an act of open defiance of Mick-Mack, the spectacularly inept Nationals’ leader. And his leader, the PM. For those who support O’Brien, it’s an act of open insurrection. Nats’ rats include Barnaby Joyce, Llew himself – and Ken O’Dowd, who, as Nats Whip, is responsible for party discipline.

Ken blots his copybook by openly confessing that he voted for O’Brien. Will Mick-Mack take the hint?

It’s a proxy war over the government’s direction, trumpets Nine Newspapers, as if the Morrison omnishambles has a direction – unless running from truth, science and brazen, bare-faced rorting – or “fraud, theft and massive corruption” – as lawyer, Michael Bradley, calls it out in Crikey -mutates like Orwellian Newspeak into policy direction.

The MSM narrative, being obligingly framed for Morrison, is that the Nats want more coal-mines whereas the Libs want fewer, a lie which conveniently overlooks a slag-heap of coked-on Liberal coal-holers from the PM down.

Scotty’s spin doctors have the Coalition “planning to set a 2050 strategy this year” to go beyond its (laughably inadequate) existing reduction targets. It’s billed as some sort of breakthrough in its climate denialism. Incredible initiative. Especially since each state has already set a target of net zero emissions by 2050. But hang out the flags.

There’s dancing in the street this week. Not just vague promise of a plan to set a 2050 strategy sends us wild with delirious joy. Unless you’re in Far North Queensland or NSW or other parts of our wide brown land’s east coast where the heaviest rains in twenty years bring flash floods forecast years earlier in the BOM’s warning on the freakish consequences of global heating on Pacific weather patterns.

Weekend storms devastate eastern NSW; causing flooding, power outages and commuter chaos. 391.6mm of rain falls over Sydney in four days, reports the BOM the most since 414.2mm fell from 2 to 5 February 1990.

Will our PM for all seasons, Morrison scramble a squad of ADF Super Soppers to mop up the deluge? Build more dams? Fund a totally redundant four million dollar Collinsville coal-mine study? Nope. This week Coach Morrison’s wholly focussed on practicality. He gives us all a pep talk from the sidelines. Bugger reducing greenhouse gas emissions, resilience and adaptation are what we need to survive climate catastrophe.

Better, he channels “don’t you worry about that,” Joh Bjelke Petersen and Liberals’ St John Howard who led our nation toward being “relaxed and comfortable” as he helped big business and banking do us over; squandering the mining boom on buying votes and allowing miners to be lightly taxed.

Howard’s toxic legacy lives on in many battles Australians face today; the casualisation of the workforce, underemployment and low wages growth produced by his industrial-relations policies, culminating in WorkChoices, Crispin Hull pointed out in the Sydney Morning Herald, three years ago. But it’s back to the future with Morrison.

Waffle-gab world champion, Morrison claims Australians want to have a ‘level of comfort’ and have confidence about our level of resilience. “We need to have a good stocktake of that …” whatever that means. In other words, while he disconnects the petrol gauge and closes gas stations, it’s up to us to check that we have enough fuel in our tanks.

“It’s remarkable, notes Dr Jennifer Wilson, “that the least resilient, most non-adaptive Federal Government in living memory should now urge its citizens, in the face of horrific bushfires, to prove our resilience and adaptability by learning to put up with weather conditions that are hostile to human life.

Remarkable? It’s an outrageously cynical con. Morrison has no intention of reducing emissions or alter one iota of any other aspect of our ecocide. Rather it is every one of us who must adapt and show resilience so that he and his minders may profit.

There is shameless, hypocrisy here, too. Witness how the Coalition slashed funding to the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) in 2017.

Crippling this vital adaptation research body three years ago has left Australia “not well positioned” to deal with fires, the “silent killer” of drought and other global heating impacts, its director, Jean Palutikof, explains.

Morrison, as Treasurer, took the axe to funding which gutted the research community. This means that our “capacity to take action on climate change is smaller than it was decade ago”.

The Guardian’s Paul Karp reports that the NCCARF, a Griffith University research facility, began under Howard and was funded in the 2008 budget by the Rudd government. It continued under the Abbott government with $9m over three years in the 2014 budget. The environment department reports that the body has produced 144 adaptation research projects since 2008 with a total of $56.3m in federal funding.

Yet in 2017, Morrison reduced its funds to $600,000. On this pittance, it had to continue its existing online platforms that inform decision makers seeking to adapt to changes in climate. But there would be no ongoing federal funding from 2018.

“I worry if it starts to rain and bushfires cease to be an immediate risk some money will be pumped in and then we’ll forget about it. The government will call it adaptation and resilience but people will be left in the same vulnerable state they were when these bushfires hit,” explains The Australia Institute’s (TAI) deputy Director, Ebony Bennett.

Bennett adds that the government’s new embrace of adaptation and resilience is the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff approach.

“To reduce the amount of gas and coal mined and burned in Australia is the [better] response … to prevent hotter and drier summers in future.”

Labor’s climate spokesman, Mark Butler, says: “The Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison governments have cut funding for significant adaptation work at CSIRO, completely de-funded the NCCARF and produced a national disaster risk reduction framework that failed to take climate change seriously.”

“The 2017 review of climate change policies completely excluded climate adaptation.”

The government holds a press conference in Canberra announcing extra bushfire payments to families, where Morrison Gish Gallops, a favoured evasive tactic named after US Creationist Duane Gish. Gish would spew as many half-truths and untruths as he could fit in his answer time so that questioners became overwhelmed.

You have no time to respond to each point, let alone refute its inaccuracy or challenge its relevance. Here’s Morrison’s original Gish Gallop, then, we’ll break it down exposing its monstrous lies.

At a press conference in Canberra announcing extra bushfire payments to families, Morrison says the hazards of “longer, hotter, drier summers” had “always been acknowledged by the government.”

He says that adaptation measures including hazard reduction, building dams and learning from Indigenous burning practices are “a part of that important response.”

“Our policy is to reduce emissions, to build resilience and to focus on adaptation,” he said. “All of these are the necessary responses to what’s happening with our climate. They are not either or, they are not one instead of the other.”

Here’s a bit of decoding. It’s a service which could be provided in the ribbon that runs across the bottom of TV broadcasts. It should be part of every journalist’s toolkit.

  • Morrison claims the hazards of “longer, hotter, drier summers” had “always been acknowledged by the government” which is OK if it were not on record as denying or minimising those hazards. He follows this lie by proposing facile solutions which are then followed with a medley of buzz-words and platitudes.
  • “Adaptation measures including hazard reduction,” except for all the expert advice showing that hazard reduction has no effect on megafires. Indeed, the current bushfire crisis has reached catastrophic severity in former logging areas.
  • … building dams and learning from Indigenous burning practices are “a part of that important response.” Here ScoMo yokes two entirely separate proposals.

The Australia Institute’s Maryanne Slattery has tirelessly exposed the errors behind advocating dams. It doesn’t make it rain. First, there’s already been a spate of dam-building. Twenty or thirty at least, but the government won’t talk about those – event though tax-payer funds helped build them. Why? They go to irrigation; not towns.

Second for each dam built, an adjacent dam or aquifer must compete for groundwater.

Above all, dams which are built are drained by agribusiness giants such as Big Cotton. The additional water reserves are not the issue. It’s all about the fairness of that water’s allocation. It’s pointless building more dams so that billionaire companies can continue to plant water-intensive almonds or rice or cotton, what is needed is policy that works to fairly share the water with the community and with the environment.

  • “Our policy is to reduce emissions, to build resilience and to focus on adaptation,” Morrison burbles.

Again he’s diminishing the vital task of emission reduction by linking it in the same breath to buzz-words that are in fact excuses for not addressing causes but which in effect transfer responsibility to victims.

This, as Dr Wilson notes, fits neoliberalism’s central tenet that individuals work out their own solutions with as little help as possible from governments. Above all governments can boost resilience by cutting welfare. This toxic nonsense has already corrupted our welfare, age pension and disability services – boosted by the need to take from the suffering, the poor and the vulnerable so that the government can create a surplus.

  • “All of these are the necessary responses to what’s happening with our climate.” Morrison deploys the shabby trick of imputing false equivalence. They are not either or, they are not one instead of the other.”

But they are. Let’s get back to basics. Putting a price on emission such as the Gillard government successfully achieved resulted in a drop in greenhouse gas emissions.

Since Tony Abbott decided to play political games at the expense of our planet’s survival; since his cabinet’s group hug on the axing of the carbon tax – a tax which his Chief of Staff admits was just a rhetorical device, a lie to help build confusion and opposition, emissions have risen.

So let’s see the party games in Canberra for what they are – a diversion – albeit a significant attack on both Morrison’s authority and that of his decoy deputy, McCormack. Mick-Mack may go soon but whoever replaces him will do even less to help us understand and respond to global heating and the climate wars.

Let’s also reject the false MSM dichotomy – Nats bad vs Liberal moderates or changes of policy; there are many Liberal die-hard climate denialists, including Scotty himself. We must not be softened up to believe that Morrison’s government has the slightest intention of doing anything significant to mitigate global heating.

Above all, a critical reading of Morrison’s adaptation and resilience buzzwords is vital. Jennifer Wilson writes brilliantly about how this shifts all the responsibility on to the individual citizen while Scotty and his corporate state continue business as usual; laughing (and smirking) all the way to the bank.

Finally we must not let Morrison get away with the Gish Gallop, a cynical tactic to defeat any form of accountability and to evade questions which might expose his government’s duplicity, dissembling or disastrous wilful ignorance. Call him out on it. Blog it. Tweet. as Bret Walker notes here, it’s your right. Social media and non MSM are vital.

“I don’t care if it’s the first or only time they publish … they should have the same protection [as journalists]. The idea that people’s right to know should be filtered first by government and then an intermediary class of journalist I find really offensive … I’ll be damned if I’m going to give a monopoly to [officially approved] journalists. I don’t want the government to be giving badges to people, here are our licensed critics – that’s nonsense.” Brett Walker

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Scotty: a hollow man hollowing out our democracy

“There are many “rules”, and none of them support making grant decisions based upon the location of recipients in targeted and marginal seats for party-political advantage. This is because the primary rule, as recognised by the High Court, is that Members of Parliament and Ministers are obliged to act at all times, in fulfilling their official duties, in the public interest.” ( Anne Twomey, Professor of Constitutional Law, University of Sydney).

“There’s always a bit of heaven in a disaster area,” Hugh Wavy-Gravy Romney told Woodstock fans in 1969.

Expert in turning crisis into catastrophe, Aloha Scotty from marketing, an artisanal wool-puller, hand-crafts the most disastrous start to a parliamentary year in Australia’s political history. It’s quite an achievement. A catalogue of political failure.

Highlights include Scotty’s pissing off to Waikiki to keep the family happy while Australia burned in its worst bushfire crisis yet – something he says he can safely leave to the states –  to his “Fuck Off Morrison” failed charm offensive on return.

Scotty’s empathy by-pass, his dud political judgement and leadership deficit disorder are all compounded by his government’s ignoring requests to support aerial fire-fighting which were made in 2017, a contempt echoed in Scotty’s eagerness to spurn expert advice on return, all dividends on his hefty investment in climate denialism multiplied by his breath-taking inability to even recognise, let alone respond to a crisis.

A wen of incompetence and corruption, the Morrison government begins 2020 mired in sports and sundry other rorts scandals. MPs spend as if there’s no tomorrow; dole out sports and other grants solely to buy marginal political seats. Buy-back, not fight-back is the PM’s brazen strategy.

Yet a strange elation stirs the nation. Cheers, cat-calls and shouts of unbridled joy erupt across our mega-fire-burnt land for Nationals’ favourite son, Barnaby Joyce, a fearless defender of the Weatherboard Nine” and oppressed peoples in regional Australia everywhere. Joyce will step up to the top job, if his party asks him. Or not.

Raised in a world of privilege and entitlement, the Riverview old-boy and family-trust silvertail, Joyce is lightning-quick to announce his bid to recover his rightful role as Nationals’ leader for life. Its saviour. Perhaps he’s channelling Chris Kenny’s lickspittle piffle that Joyce is the “spiritual head” of the National Party.

Others buy Abbott’s “greatest retail politician” tag, which is just as preposterous, given Joyce and his party clearly alienated many voters in his electorate, especially women, when 2012 WA Rural Woman of the Year and Broome Councillor, Catherine Marriott’s sexual harassment accusations against Joyce were leaked to the press. Joyce has always denied all accusations. On ABC Radio this Tuesday he dismisses them as slander.

The Nationals NSW Branch was unable to make a finding “due to insufficient evidence” after a long delay. It’s not a problem that holds Jim Molan back. “I’m not relying on evidence for climate change” he tells Q&A, Monday.

Whilst Joyce may pose as a man of the people, it’s just retail politician bullshit. In reality he’s voted against issues such as increased support for childcare, marriage equality, a Royal Commission into violence against people with a disability, increasing funding for legal aid, increasing housing affordability.

He’s voted strongly against increasing the age pension and increasing trade union powers at work. He does not support public transport and he opposes public protest. Increasing the Newstart allowance? He abstains.

In fact, Joyce has a track record of being hostile to the battler. Yet he cosies up to big business. He has many close links with the mining lobby including prominent former Nationals leader, John Anderson. BJ’s a member of the pro-coal Monash Group along with Eric Abetz, Craig Kelly and George Christensen. Despite his populist rhetoric, Joyce is a well-heeled, big fan of big mining, who has spruiked for Santos on radio.

In December 2018, Joyce announced that he was selling up over 1000ha of marginal NSW farmland covered by a coal-seam gas exploration ­licence that he vowed to sell more than five years ago because of conflict-of-interest allegations. He has yet to allay those concerns. He told The Australian he was selling the land, with an asking price of $878,000, to free up cash for his divorce settlement with wife Natalie.

Joyce claims that he didn’t realise the blocks in the Pilliga region between Coonabarabran and Narrabri were subject to a petroleum exploration licence (PEL) when he bought them, despite his friendship with former Nationals leader, John Anderson. Anderson became chairman of Eastern Star Gas in 2007. Eastern Star co-owned explorations rights to a nearby area – PEL 428 – before the company was taken over by Santos.

Rohann Boehm, co-founder of Anyone But Nats a group which campaigned against Joyce last election, adds

“For the last 10 years the Nats have been very, very clearly in favour of coal seam gas. The Nats have been absolutely going really hard on supporting new mines and new gas fields, and the community has been universally against those proposals.”

Joyce is a mate of Gina Rinehart’s. She’s presented him with two cheques, one for $50,000 in 2013, which he kept; one for $40,000 in 2017, which he returned. Should Adani, Rinehart’s G V K Hancock joint venture partner proceed, her firm will benefit from the rail which will allow her company to mine the Galilee Basin, an act of ecocide.

He’ll run on his record, Joyce declares of his bid to depose McCormack. Not his backing of Santos or Rinehart. Not just his silver-tongued oratory and debonair charm. Joyce points to “… huge changes (he’s) delivered.”

What changes? Well, the Inland rail boondoggle, Regional Investment Corporation pork-barrel, country of origin labelling, (after extensive lobbying as part of a CHOICE campaign initiative). Water rorts.

It’s a record that speaks for itself – and often has to – which brings us to BJ’s Drought Envoy gig where he racked up a record $675,000 in expenses  – plus two staffers at $200,000 but spent less than three weeks on the (dry) ground. Joyce submitted no final report but says he sent an “awful lot of texts” to his PM, which, Scotty says, will be kept top secret along with Phil Gaetjens’ report exonerating Bridget McKenzie.

Also speaking volumes are several “prominent women” who beg the National Party not to reinstate Joyce because he has too many skeletons in his closet. Scandal could return to haunt the Nationals? Seriously?

Founder of Australian Women in Agriculture, Alana Johnson, says “the rehabilitation of the former deputy prime minister would send the wrong signal to regional communities, and particularly women.”

But Barney’s got himself a flash new RM Williams kit. It’s two years now since his former wife, Natalie, tipped his entire wardrobe out on the lawn and mowed down the louche Lothario’s best moleskins, shirts, brass-button blazers, fancy belts and men’s chinchilla-cognac boots with the ride-on mower.

It was Natalie’s considered response to news that Barnaby was expecting a baby with former staffer Vikki Campion.

Barney tells his pals at The Australian that he’ll stand for the leadership, if there’s a spill, Tuesday. Akubra-wearers throw their hats skyward while others punch the air, or knuckle each other, in sheer delight.  Bernard Keane is left spluttering,

“On a day that was supposed to have been given over to the political class paying respects to the victims of the bushfire catastrophe, a significant section of the Nationals decided that a climate denialist and target of serious accusations of sexual harassment should be elevated to the second highest political office and restored to cabinet.”

Less generous critics see a PM grandstanding on grief, buying time before the hyper-partisan shouting and finger-pointing resumes. His government has a lot to answer for. But it’s not that type of government. To answer entails accepting responsibility.

Late Monday, Joyce’s former chief of staff, Matt Canavan whose brother John is MD of miner Winfield, announces he’s resigning from cabinet to back Barnaby’s bid to be leader. The plot thickens. But after Tuesday’s party room meeting, dynamic Michael McCormack retains the leadership by eleven votes to ten – not that these figures will be made public because the open and transparent Nationals never release spill figures.

It’s a stunning result for McCormack who now can refute critics who accuse him of being only half a leader with empirical evidence that he has fifty-two per cent of his parliamentary party solidly behind him.

If Canavan stays. Senator Canavan says he has referred himself to his PM over a possible conflict of interest having failed to disclose a membership. It slipped his mind that as a regional supporter of the North Queensland Cowboys, he’s entitled to a membership of its leagues club. Incredibly, only last November the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) gave a loan to the same club.

By what stretch of even the northern imagination is a football club a NAIF infrastructure project? Surely there are other grants for sport? Commercial sponsors? The club was granted a $20m loan for a community, training and high performance centre next to its Townsville stadium, on top of a $15m grant extended in March 2019.

The latest baroque twist in the tale of Barnaby’s comeback dovetails beautifully with the labyrinthine plot of the Morrison government’s sports rorts scandal. After Bridget McKenzie steps down as Agriculture Minister and Deputy PM, suddenly the Coalition is awash, if not drowning, in a slurry of slush fund scandals.

It’s clear that given the betting odds of a loss last election, the Coalition threw money around like confetti – and now at least four funds are implicated; exposed. Increasingly, Morrison’s win looks less miraculous and more like vote-buying, augmented by Clive Palmer’s anti-Labor $90 million negative advertising campaign. $165 million in donations to the Liberals in the year prior to the election, helped a tad also.

In the spotlight now is Building Better Regions (by buying votes) Fund, (BBR) another “regional infrastructure grants program” – nudge, nudge. Say no more. In a spooky coincidence, this pork barrel is run by Mr 52 per cent, Deputy PM Michael McCormack. Amazingly, Macca’s BBR awarded 94 per cent of its grants to electorates held or targeted by the Coalition in the months leading up to the federal election.

How good are colour-coded spread-sheets? But let’s get sports rorts, NAIF pork-barrel and BBR into perspective. May 17, one day before the 2019 federal election, the Morrison Government gave over $15 million to a major political donor. The funding had been set aside to alleviate grinding Aboriginal poverty.

The grant is made through the Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS), the Morrison government’s controversial main Aboriginal affairs funding pool. Just three months prior, its recipient– Wesfarmers, one of the wealthiest corporation in Australia – announced a record half-yearly profit of $4.5 billion.

The nation’s largest private employer in 2018, with over 222,000 staff including, it claimed, over 5,200 Indigenous staff. An IAS “funding stream” the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet calls the ‘Employment Parity Initiative’, means governments grant large corporations funds to employ Indigenous people.

Does it work? An Australian National Audit Office report shows the IAS lacks any effective framework to evaluate outcomes. Yet it’s spent $5 billion over five years, Chris Graham reports in New Matilda. A great hue and cry is raised over $100m of sports rorts but where’s the outcry over rorting $5 bn sensitively ear-marked for “Indigenous Advancement” and supposedly intended for our Indigenous peoples’ benefit?

Senator Pat Dodson says the IAS has ‘basically folded up Aboriginal controlled organizations’ and set out competitive tenders for people to fight for funding amongst private business and non-government organisations. It is the result of Tony Abbott’s scandalous 2014 budget captain’s call which collapsed over 150 programs into five funding streams, without consultation and cut $500 million from indigenous spending.

Could Macca be in the gun? And if Bridget McKenzie has to resign, why not Angus Taylor? And Matt Canavan?

Phil Gaetjens bones Bridget McKenzie. It’s announced Sunday.

Incredibly, Scotty’s mate – and former Chief of Staff – Gaetjens’ secret report finds no wrongdoing in the way grants were distributed, overruling Auditor-General, Grant Hehir, who finds McKenzie handed out $100m in sports grants before last year’s election without apparent legal authority, favouring marginal seats.

“Triply outrageous” fumes The Monthly’s Paddy Manning. How can partisan piss-ant Phil Gaetjens, OK a $100 million Community Sports Infrastructure grants program in a report that will remain secret?

Doubly outrageous, is PM and Deputy PM McCormack’s Trumpist love song of duplicity duet: McKenzie exercised her ministerial discretion over the scheme? Nothing wrong with that. Liberal Phil Gaetjens says so.

Grant Hehir, clearly condemns it? Scotty’s alternative expert – Attorney-General Christian Porter simply says the Auditor-General is wrong. As Groucho says, “These are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others.”

However, constitutional expert, Anne Twomey, cites a series of clear legal constraints to the exercise of ministerial discretion, all of which McKenzie has ignored.

It is triply outrageous for Scotty to preach high ministerial standards and keep Energy and Emissions grifter Angus Taylor in cabinet. It seems to upset even the Nats.

Peter Van Onselen tweets. “Nationals MP to me: if McCormack is prepared to let the PM throw Bridget under a bus for something his office was part of, yet protect Angus Taylor, it’s time our party stops being a lap dog to the Libs.”

You came to Casablanca for the waters? Taylor forgot to let on about his ties with a Cayman Islands company that benefited hugely from the Commonwealth in a miraculous waterless, water buyback scam.

Also slipping Gussie’s memory is Taylor’s duty to disclose his interest in Jam Land a company that stood to benefit from removal of restrictions on grass clearing that he was lobbying for.

Add the hilarious Keystone Cops ruse where Gus Taylor could be subject of an AFP Flying Pig Squad investigation into who gave the forged documents to The Daily Telegraph in a bid to put Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore’s weights up. Is there one rule for McKenzie, but no rules at all for Taylor?

Since its inception in 1979, the AFP has never made any investigation that embarrassed a sitting government.

Piss-ant Phil, a Liberal staffer, becomes Australia’s most politicised head of Treasury, overnight, for services rendered. We’re teetering on the edge of recession so a party hack at Treasury’s helm could be just the ticket.

Josh Frydenberg take a bow. It hasn’t been easy, but his government has now taken Australia’s federal net and gross debt to record levels.  The Coalition has added 52% of all debt accumulated by the nation since 1854.

The “Flash Bit of Kit” as suave, sophisticated icon of urbanity and wit, Barney, a hard pooch to keep on the porch, once publicly praised McKenzie in a late night sitting – has proved a flash in the pan.

Dashed are the hopes of those awaiting the gun-toting, straight-shooting Senator for Elwood to also do some plain speaking. She could name staffers in Scotty’s office who appear to have been closely involved in the Sports Rorts Scandal and whether or not the sports pork-barrel was part of Scotty’s miracle election-winning strategy.

At the National Press Club, Wednesday, Morrison’s government by rort turns up in force to help Scotty from marketing make his pitch. Old wine in new bottles. A babble of righteous indignation and self-entitled arrogance. Why can’t Coalition MPs fund gun-clubs and phantom women’s rugby clubs in marginal seats?

Pork-barrelling is all about buying votes. Perfectly legal. MPs know where the money should go; why should Sport Australia put its oar in? Does it matter to the modern neoliberal? Ian McAuley offers this explanation.

“If you believe that nothing of value comes from the public sector, it doesn’t matter how public money is spent. A grant to a gun club, a new railway, Medicare… it’s all waste, and may as well be spent in order to maximise the government’s chances in the next election.”

It’s part of political economy theory dubbed “public choice,” a theory that arose in the US in the late twentieth century but which, he notes, took off in our universities in the 1980s. Or is it superseded in the post-fact era?

The Auditor General got it wrong, Attorney-General Christian Porter snorts. But no-one’s allowed to look at his reasons. If he has any. No laws were broken; every application had merit, Morrison bullshits.

In fact, the Senator for Elwood presented Sport Australia with a list of 236 projects for funding. Only 73 of these met the original merit-based criteria in Round Two according to independent analysis.

But hark! It’s a RESET, chorus spin doctors and media minions. Flashback to Wednesday’s rally at the Canberra Press Club and witness the miracle of a Morrison government reset which looks and sounds exactly like the old set. Cheerleader Scotty from Fossil fuel and Climate Science Denial Marketing suddenly appears, swinging his pom-poms, punching up and doing the high V.

The crowd goes wild. How good’s Scotty’s “2020 Opening Address”? Stacking the gathering with his professional Liberal claque helps. So, too the blizzard of press drops from his office. Climate Action Now (CAN) is Scotty 2020’s brand-new Orwellian slogan. But only the slogan is new. Morrison has no intention of curbing emissions or easing back on cooking the globe. He’s full of bullshit about mitigation and adaption. And gas. It’s more dangerous than coal when it leaks methane during mining.

“… there is no credible energy transition plan, for an economy like Australia in particular, that does not involve the greater use of gas as an important transition fuel … ” Morrison bullshits.

But look over there! How good is Scotty’s calling out of ADF reserves? True, one MRH-90 helicopter did cause Canberra’s most serious bushfire since 2003, by setting fire to grass in the Namadgi National Park while landing with lights on to help visibility in smoky conditions. But it’s our first bushfire lit by a copter landing light. Another first!

There are other firsts to follow. Morrison’s government will fast-track new law to make it easier for him to call out troops to disaster areas or help quell anti-mining demonstrations or extinction rebellion protests. It’s hard, unglamorous work but police states don’t just happen by themselves, you know.

During question evasion time at the end of Scotty’s embarrassing failure to come up with any vision while embracing all the old lies, Morrison’s bullshit is briefly slowed by The Guardian’s Sarah Martin who asks if it is wrong to misappropriate public funds.

Does he think it wrong, “as a matter of principle”, Martin asks, for public funds to be spent on party political pork-barrelling? Morrison gaslights. “That is not what the government has done,” he lies.

It’s precisely what Scotty’s government has been doing. It doesn’t think it’s wrong. Morrison’s government continues to abuse its elected authority; betray the public’s trust that it will act in the public interest.

“I am asking as a matter of principle, if you accept that,” Martin asks.

“It is — of course. That is like, do I believe the sun should rise tomorrow? Yes I do, and it will,” he smirks.

Climate action? Scotty’s climate science denial and his government’s inept handling of our bushfire crisis won Australia First Fossil of the Day from the Climate Action network of 1300 nations, COP25 in December. Nothing has changed. Nor will it. Ministerial responsibility? We’ll refer Angus Taylor to an AFP that will take forever to do nothing. Bridget McKenzie? An icon of integrity for upholding ministerial standards by resigning.

This is not a Prime Minister who merely lacks credibility. Nor one who just breeds cynicism, distrust and denialism, although he excels at all of these. This is a hollow man; an utterly vacuous man with neither policy, practicality, real plan nor moral compass, a smirking, spinning, vortex of self-righteous egotism.

Sarah Martin raises a matter of principle. It’s clear that the Prime Minister has no idea what she’s talking about. For Morrison and his MPs the notion holds no meaning.

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Morrison rebuilds trust with a farrago of lies; pushes McKenzie under a bus.

“The link between the fires, drought, and climate change is clear. For decades, climate models have predicted a hotter, drier Australia thanks to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. Were greenhouse gases at pre-industrial levels, natural factors alone would produce a year as hot as 2019 just once every 360 years. But add the effect of human-emitted greenhouse gases and the probability drops to one year in eight—a forty-five-fold increase in probability.” Tim Flannery

Scotty from Marketing, as The Betoota Advocate dubs our Schlockmeister of spin, is busier than a one-eyed cat watching two rat-holes. The parliamentary year from hell awaits. After his “miracle victory” pitch, an upset helped hugely by political cane toad, Clive Palmer, and his gift of sixty million dollars of anti-Labor negative advertising plus Scotty’s own campaign of outright lies about Opposition policy and endless defamatory attacks on Bill Shorten’s character, Scotty’s political future is already in extremis.

“PR is the place people end up when all other professional options fail, writer and lawyer Richard Ackland, unerringly, observes, “and now Schmo has failed at the failures’ last resort.”

Arrogant, hopelessly out of touch, fearless cheerleader, Scotty, has botched his one big chance to fake empathy and leadership, opinion pollsters suggest. How? A lot of it is simply not turning up to the gig. Going AWOL. Hanging loose on Waikiki. Catching up with his loopy QAnon pal, Tim Stewart who believes that the world and its media are run by a conspiracy of Satan-worshipping paedophiles.

Woody Allen reckons, eighty percent of success is just showing up. Murdoch’s latest News Poll, fresh out of rehab, and Guardian Australia oracle, Essential, both agree that Morrison’s on the nose. His government, like a fish, is rotting from the head down – despite Scotty’s best charm offensive; repairing trust by forcing bushfire victims to shake his hand; visiting fire-ravaged areas only to be told to “fuck off”.

Who would have thought? Why should our worst bushfire crisis ever deprive Scotty of his right to a Waikiki Holiday? Who’d have guessed blaming Jen and the girls would have alienated the Australian nation? Will blaming Bridget McKenzie for his own sports-rorts pork-barrelling similarly backfire? Will the Senator for Elwood get the last laugh?

Even Simon Benson, The Australian’s top Coalition flack, notes 12 January’s News Poll has produced the worst numbers for Scotty since he knifed Turnbull in August 2018. Morrison’s now on par with Bill Shorten at his least popular. Now, Labor’s Anthony Albanese easily pips Morrison as preferred PM.

Essential’s Peter Lewis notes that “good in a crisis” is down 35% amidst a decline in Morrison’s personal standing. One in seven Australians have changed their minds about Scotty from Marketing in a month – but the surprising thing is not that he’s “taken a personal hit but that it isn’t a walloping.”

Yet there’s hope. Blaming Greens and arsonists cuts it with Morrison’s base. In a parallel with Trump supporters, just when the leader is most conspicuously not a leader’s bootlace, his base locks in.

Scotty will claw back some kudos by blaming arsonists and demonic Greens who oppose hazard-reduction, despite expert evidence that catastrophic fires burn even where the forest floor is clear. ABC Fact Check experts concur that it is highly unlikely arson is the cause of most of the current bushfires.

Scapegoating aside, Scotty will rebuild trust with a farrago of lies. He tells ABC viewers,

“It is, and always has been, the policy of our government to understand the need to take action on climate change and the impact that has on the world’s broader weather systems and climate systems,” Morrison bullshits to Michael Rowland on ABC 7:30, more an on-air massage than an interview.

Understand the need to take action? Morrison makes not cooking the planet sound like remembering to floss your teeth. The coalition government has no climate change policy. The claim is absurd. Look how quickly it got rid of Malcolm Turnbull when its right wing rump feared that he might adopt one.

Turnbull previously lost his party leadership to Abbott in 2009 by supporting carbon emissions-trading. Nick Feik, editor of The Monthly sums up some of the other inconvenient truths undermining Morrison’s hollow claim. Far from understanding the need for action, his government has opposed it at every turn.

“(It) killed the emissions trading scheme and the climate change portfolio; tried to kill the renewable energy target and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation; defunded the Climate Council; supports Adani’s massive proposed coalmine; has no significant emissions-reduction or energy policy; and is populated with climate deniers.” And those deniers show no sign of any Damascene conversion.

Someone needs to call bullshit on Morrison’s brand new mantra, “it has always been our policy.”

Last September, for example, David Littleproud professed not to know whether the global heating crisis was man-made. This month, Science Minister, Karen Andrews, says the “science is settled” but the Coalition will do nothing to lift its woefully inadequate carbon emissions targets.

And only last September, Ms Andrews was making the big pitch that

Harnessing new technologies in the mining, oil and gas industries will add $74 billion to the Australian economy by 2030 and create more than 80,000 new local jobs. Jobs and growth? All sorted then. But ABS figures suggest nothing like this.

Time to phone a friend. Federal energy minister Angus Taylor has an “expert panel” –led by former Origin Energy CEO and president of the Business Council of Australia, Grant King, along with Susie Smith, the CEO of the Australian Industry Greenhouse Network, which represents many of Australia’s largest emitters.

Taylor claims his panel will identify new opportunities to achieve emissions reduction – without explaining how. The panel has undertaken a closed consultation to which the public has not had input with Taylor’s handpicked group of representatives heavily stacked towards the fossil fuel industry and Australia’s largest emitters, reports Renew Economy’s Michael Mazengarb.

Angus Taylor’s list clearly indicates a government in cahoots with the polluters causing global heating. But Taylor’s case is fair and reasonable compared to Matt Canavan’s.

How does Scotty explain Canavan, the self-styled “Mr Coal from Australia” who tells Sky News calls to reduce emissions, especially by Greta Thunberg, are about social engineering than climate change?

“Their policy prescriptions aren’t actually about reducing carbon emissions, it’s about the radical massive changes to our economy and society and culture.” 

Seriously? As opposed to the radical changes caused by doing nothing?

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists executive chair of its Science and Security Board, former Governor of California, Jerry Brown, exposes Scotty’s posturing. “The Australian government is in utter and complete denial. Under its current leadership, Australia is fostering denial in an incredibly mendacious way.”

Now is not the time to talk about Greg Hunt’s soil magic but our ABC could at least hold the PM to account on how our bushfire catastrophe burns a hole in Hunt’s Direct Action tree-planting boondoggle.

“Carbon credits counted in government projections can, quite literally, go up in smoke and blow out the emissions side of the CO2 ledger,” ANU climate scientist, Will Steffen explains.

There’s also more bullshit of “evolving” climate policy and other ScoMo-hoaxes to cloak the reality that his mining lobby muppet government has no intention of curbing emissions or fostering renewables.

True, the PM’s crafty plan runs up against a raft of inconvenient truths such as The Greens not actually being in power or billionaire climate science denier Michael Hintze’s funding of Liberals for years, but, as Lewis points out, supporters will grab on to whatever they can in order to maintain their world-view.

The PM could explain why Hintze, a crusading Neoliberal who disputes scientific evidence that carbon emissions are rapidly helping cause irreversible global heating, donated $75,000 to former, fellow dud Prime Minister, Tony Abbott’s 2013 election campaign – amongst other Liberal Party support over the years. Hintze also enjoys a cordial long-running business relationship with Energy Minister Angus Taylor.

Only a year ago Morrison was preaching to us in The Daily Telegraph that Australians can always be counted on to make and keep our commitments. Exposed is his own utter lack of commitment to lead or to plan or to heed climate scientists’ or accept expert fire-fighters’ advice. Instead, he is a total liability.

Recent Australia Institute polling leads senior researcher, Tom Swann to conclude.

“Australia is in the grip of a national climate disaster. The social, economic and medical impacts are vast and only just starting to become clear,”

“Our research shows that it’s likely more than 5 million Australian adults, along with many children, have suffered negative health impacts as a result of the fires and at least 1.5 million have missed work.”

Lying about climate policy is taxing. Yet Scotty suddenly has a crisis on his hands – the Coalition’s $100 million sports rorts scandal reveals a government avidly milking the till, ripping off the taxpayer and other more deserving local sports clubs in favour of buying support in marginal seats.

In brief, then Sports Minister, Bridget McKenzie took it upon herself to decide which clubs got the grants. It turns out that she has no legal authority to do so. The Auditor-General, Grant Hehir is underwhelmed.

If only, in 2019, Georgina Downer hadn’t flashed a giant polystyrene cheque for $127, 373. Downer wished to “make sure the Yankalilla Bowling Club’s Community Sport Infrastructure grant application was successful”. It was. And battling Adelaide Hills Council also got almost $500,000 to upgrade change rooms at the oval.

Downer’s oversized cheque leads the Auditor-General to uncover a $100 million pork-barrel racket under the aegis of then Minister for Sport, Bridget McKenzie, with the help of two members of the PM’s staff.

Australians are still coming to terms with Morrison’s deceit and his fake apology and whilst the sociopath in him would like to con us that we’ve “moved on”, it doesn’t work like that. The rorts will do little to curb growing suspicion of his government’s corruption, incompetence and sheer contempt for due process.

“The past is not dead. It is not even past”, William Faulkner observed. Scotty’s shameless dereliction of duty, his substitution of PR strategy for policy and his contempt for accountability continue to eat away at his credibility as the bushfire crisis and the sports rorts scandal take their toll. As do his gaffes.

Monday, he stuffs up comprehensively, promising Nine’s Today that over ten years, “Our per capita emissions will fall by half”. This adds up to a massive forty-two per cent reduction. Even his own Environment Department boffins predict only a four percent over the same period – a decline from 532 million tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent in 2019 to 511 million tonnes in 2030.

Michael Pascoe boggles: not only does the PM clearly not know what he’s talking about, his hosts, Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon don’t notice. Hosts are only there to fawn over the most inept PM in our nation’s history. Show business for ugly people, celebrity back-scratchers.

As Pascoe notes, no-one pays attention, cares or follows whatever inanity comes out of the PM’s motor mouth. And to be fair, you do tune out after a while.

When he promised to “burn” for us, Morrison’s vision did not include megafires for which he’s completely unprepared. Then there’s his sports rorts; the scandal of doling out grants he isn’t entitled to. Will these prove to be his minister’s auto da fe?

Now Scotty’s doing the hard yards, slaving away back at the PM’s office, signing press drops disclaiming all responsibility for sports rorts or doing nothing at all to curb global heating and less than nothing to heed expert advice that we need to prepare for a terrible new type of bushfire. But, seriously, what would a mob of dedicated, distinguished and experienced former fire chiefs know about anything?

Also missing in action is Il Duce, Peter Dutton, our ambitious Home Affairs Czar whose duties include “Commonwealth emergency management and natural disaster relief, recovery and mitigation and financial assistance”. More powerful than the PM, Dutton has yet to do a tap – a sure sign that he’s keen to foster resilience and promote self-help by doing nothing at all for bushfire victims.

Dutto oozes natural leadership with his Queensland Drug squaddie jollity, his compassion and his endless hypervigilance over scoundrels who might rort our Border Protection by faking illness just to get into a mainland hospital but his emergency role, so far, is limited to accusing Labor of pork-barrelling, too.

Morrison’s nemesis, Malcolm Turnbull weighs in, Wednesday. Scotty double-double crossed his PM with the most brazen lie in our political history on 22 August, 2018. Morrison threw an arm around Turnbull, “This is my leader and I’m very ambitious for him”, he said in a rare break from plotting to knife his PM in the back.

Still wounded by the betrayal, Turnbull can’t fathom Morrison’s conduct, he helpfully tells BBC listeners. Revenge is a dish best served cold.

“I can’t explain why he didn’t meet the former fire commissioners who wanted to see him in March last year to talk about the gravity of the threat. Everybody knew we were in a very dry time and as a consequence the fire season was likely to be very bad.

“So rather than doing what a leader should do and preparing people for that, he downplayed it and then of course chose to go away on holiday in Hawaii? At the peak of the crisis? I just can’t explain any of that. It’s just not consistent with the way in which a prime minister would or should act.”

In the far pavilions of Victoria’s Liberal festering wen of corruption, rising evangelicals and intrigue, the lobster with the mobster crew in Victoria are no help at all. Current leader Michael O’Brien, elected for not being Matthew Guy, calls on the federal government to adopt long-term “sensible” emissions reduction targets. Communities and businesses need certainty beyond 2030. It’s the old, trite, tired slogan.

And it’s bullshit. O’Brien still wants native forest logging, so vital to micro-climate, ecology and to species survival and he’s full of guff about how gas is heaps better than coal because – you know … transition to renewables. He’s just another Liberal fossil fuel shill pretending to take global heating a little bit seriously.

Natural gas is a bridge to nowhere. It comprises mainly methane, a greenhouse gas that plays a big role in cooking our planet. When it first enters our atmosphere, it’s 120 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in trapping heat. Over twenty years, it’s eight-six times more powerful.

Methane leaks from natural gas extraction and production. This may make natural gas extracted from shale rock worse than coal in terms of its greenhouse gas footprint. The chemicals used in fracking fluid can easily end up contaminating groundwater. And drilling can be enormously polluting.

But it’s all OK, Scotty knows what to say. He deploys the lame “if anyone’s offended” cop-out to cover absconding to Hawaii. Besides, as everyone knows, bushfires are totally a state matter. Expect a piece in the Murdoch press quoting unnamed high-ranking Liberals exposing O’Brien as a hopeless bed-wetter.

Above all, not one catastrophic inferno could ever be linked to Morrison’s government’s crusade to mine, sell or burn coal, for its fossil-fuel industry robber baron sponsors. Long may their tax-payer funded subsidies suck dry the funds that should go towards  running schools, hospitals and making payments to disability pensioners.

No-one’s making the absurd claim that any single fire is solely caused by climate change but Morrison just loves the straw man logical fallacy – almost as much as he loves scapegoating and slurs.

As everyone knows, everything is always Labor’s fault. Tim Wilson, IPA MP for Goldstein instead of IPA fellow Georgina Downer, bags Daniel Andrews for slack hazard reduction. It’s as dishonest and as baseless as Tim’s election campaign franking credits farce. But it fits the PM’s lie that bushfires can be blamed on Greens, Labor -anyone. For seven years, Wilson was IPA Director of Climate Change Policy to protect mining.

Look over here, calls Morrison, Tuesday. I’ve got a little list. It’s more than a bid to look busy. Morrison is out to create a fake climate agenda by proposing a “national register to ensure hazard reduction transparency at a federal level”.  Karen Andrews has also been on the front foot to ensure that we just stop talking about how fossil fuels are helping us to fry the planet and instead talk about land-clearing.

“My starting position in the discussion tomorrow will be that the climate has changed and it continues to change. We need to focus on the steps to adapt and mitigate the impact of those changes.” Karen is Morrison’s Science Minister, a captain’s pick which confirms his perverse delight in choosing MPs whose views are antithetical to the portfolios they are assigned. Adapt and mitigate is coal lobby nonsense.

And it’s disingenuous. Australia is experiencing unprecedented, unpredictable and devastating climate change and we should be taking steps to reduce the carbon and other emissions that are part of its causation. Her “discussion” is a version of Morrison’s NRA gun lobby mantra: “Now is not the time …”

The national register is all part of Scotty’s team plan to divert attention from his government’s monumental failure of leadership in all aspects of the current bushfire crisis by blaming the states for not preventing the fires.

After unprecedented, catastrophic fire consumes 10 million hectares, destroys over 2,000 homes and kills at least 28 people, destroys some of the oldest forests in the worldkills nearly 500 million animals and causes the loss of sites that hold the timeless history of First Nations’ cultures, there’s nothing like a bit of scapegoating to restore the nation’s faith. Cue hypocritical hand-wringing from the Murdoch press.

Fearless advocate of fossil fuel and an early champion of “axing the tax: as Australia’s successful price on carbon, 2012-2014  was cynically misrepresented, The Australian now laments part of the costs.

The Oz estimates that the bushfire crisis has cost $2 billion in lost business revenue, forward sales and the physical destruction of tourism facilities, and could cost an additional $4.5 billion by season’s end.

Scotty’s non-apology helps us all heaps. We treasure his “regret” for “any offence caused to any of the many Australians affected by the terrible bushfires by my taking leave with family at this time”.

Scotty’s always got a glib comeback; an adman’s spin. He totally gets that we all like to see him take charge in times of crisis. Besides Jen and the girls needed a break. He pushes them under a bus. It’s something he’d like to do with Bridget McKenzie, but can’t – yet – because she’s a National and can do more or less what she likes according to the secret agreement that lies at the Coalition’s sclerotic heart.

In the end, Scotty spins. Wednesday, he makes a big deal out of announcing that the Auditor-General’s adverse finding that the allocation of funds intended to be awarded by Sport Australia is a process which appears to have be ignored or suborned by the then Minister for Sport and her PM.

It’s a headache. Not only did McKenzie hand out $100 million without legal authority on the basis of her own, political criteria, more worthy but unsuccessful grant applicants who followed a merit-based process could sue. Slater and Gordon is looking into a class action for those who missed out on grants.

Morrison refers former sports minister McKenzie’s handling of the $100m sports grants program to his own department to investigate whether ministerial standards were breached – even though the Auditor-General is concerned that it’s a tad more serious. Neither McKenzie nor Morrison have legal authority to hand out sports grants.

But don’t think the big guns aren’t being brought in. Attorney general and national paper tiger, our nation’s legal guardian, Christian Porter pretends to defend McKenzie after it’s revealed that she approved a $36,000 grant to a shooting club of which she is a member, claiming being a “paper member” of a club raises no probity issue.

The “only a paper member” defence is a stroke of forensic genius.

Sheer genius also is Ms McKenzie’s claim that she did not know she was a member of the club until her mother told her, a variation on Signor Matt Canavan’s “my mother made me an Italian” defence.

By Sunday, in the cross-hairs at Scotty’s political roo-shoot is the incredible Bridget McKenzie. McKenzie is already a VIP as a former sports minister. Does it get any more important than sport? OK, there may be a few minor peccadilloes such as our modern gladiators’ doping scandals, off-field homophobia, misogyny, match-fixing, substance abuse and FIFA’s corruption -but sport is huge.

And you’ve got to be in it to win it. Bridget packs a double-barrelled Beretta Silver Pigeon over and under shotgun. Loves being a sporting shooter. Killing puts her in touch with nature.

“I know it will sound incongruous to people but hunting is about connecting with nature and the outdoors. You have to understand nature to reap the bounty of it,” she tells The Age’s Matthew Knott.  Or have powerful automatic weapons such as the Adler A110, a banned rapid-fire shotgun.

Nothing says understanding nature more than the wild terror inflicted by the fearful noise of the shotgun. Just the sound of exploding black powder severely interrupts feeding and breeding. Quick kills are rare. Many animals suffer prolonged, painful deaths when hunters severely injure but fail to kill them.

The prohibition of the A110 was no real problem for McKenzie and our gun lobby to overturn quietly. Nor was there a single comment from then Attorney-General George Brandis or then Justice Minister Michael Keenan, who drew fire for heeding the gun lobby. In the year to March 2017, political parties pocketed over $300,000 in donations from the firearms lobby, gun suppliers and manufacturers.

Above all, McKenzie commands respect because she’s deputy leader of a mob of regional, parochial, benighted, mining Muppets who absurdly posture as The Nationals. Without the Nats to make up the Coalition’s numbers, however, the Libs are cactus.

Scott’s non-apology sets the tone for his government and for what is already proving to be a beaut new year of Coalition incompetence, evasion, denial and outright lying. Who will ever forget the inspiring leadership Morrison showed when he expressed “regret” for “any offence caused to any of the many Australians affected by the terrible bushfires by my taking leave with family at this time”.

Leading from the front this time, Scotty, himself, seems to have found $200,000 for a local Sutherland Shire Lilli Pilli Soccer club at least three weeks before grants were decided. A series of experts point out, yet again, that the PM has no legal authority to disburse funds designated for Sport Australia.

Nor does Bridget McKenzie. If he plays his cards right, Morrison will be able to handball Bridget McKenzie’s demotion to his own office’s Phil Gaetjens while he continues to snub a nation increasingly concerned that his government has no policy on greenhouse gas emissions.

Adding insult to injury, he will insist that his government “is evolving its policy” on climate change.

Scotty’s case is helped immensely, Monday, by his ugly personal and political attack on NSW Liberal Matt Kean, a state environment minister, who dares suggest that the federal government heed those voters who want the federal government to do something to protect our environment.

Other Liberal coal lobby shills, such as NSW deputy-leader John Barilaro quickly put the boot into Kean. As does Samantha Maiden in The New Daily who attacks the “Senator for Elwood”, as Bridget McKenzie is known in a helpful piece that will buck up the government’s spirits no end. It begins,

“Accused pork-barrelling minister Bridget McKenzie accepted a free Christmas ham from the pig industry, but took three months to declare her purchase of a $2 million investment property in beachside Melbourne.”

Looks like Bridget’s in deep trouble but will Morrison once again walk away – miraculously – Scott-free? Or will the Senator for Elwood have the last laugh after all?

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As straw men in a firestorm.

“There is no link, the facts that cause the fires are the drought and the drying of the environment,”

“I follow the science,” lies Craig Kelly, MP for Hughes, who lobs on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, a pulpit for Piers Morgan, a Daily Mirror, former editor, sacked in 2004, for publishing fake images purporting to show British soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners.

Kelly’s claim is as ludicrous as his PM’s own palpable falsehood. It’s in this week’s talking-point kit. Suddenly government MPs are all trotting out the same bullshit.

“Our view of climate change is that it’s real. We accept the science,” Josh Frydenberg lies in a drop to every media outfit in Australia. Yet the Coalition, steadfastly, ignores all scientific advice linking global heating to climate change.

Scott Morrison’s government favours the straw man fallacy. No-one accuses them of denying the reality of climate change – that’s a distortion of the argument that climate change or global heating contributes to the new bushfire holocaust we are suffering – a fire so severe; so intense that it defies all conventional means to bring it under control.

Can Piers Morgan or co-host meteorologist, Laura Tobin tell Kelly that climate change causes the drought and dry? It’s difficult given that Kelly holds that there’s no evidence that climate change is making Australia hotter and drier. It’s woeful, wilful ignorance.

An exasperated Tobin berates Kelly for ignoring scientific reports that 2019 is our hottest and driest year on record.

“At the moment we want everyone to commit in the world to be one and a half degrees to lower our global temperature rise,” Tobin says. “You can’t even commit to two degrees.”

Kelly’s as plausible as an arsonist with a box of matches and a jerry-can of petrol who says he’s only helping other volunteers put out fires. Some punters say he’s been banned from Q&A so he’s now speaking out on “Pommy” TV as he calls it.

Or is he sent by the PM? Fair dinkum, says Craig. Australia’s fire catastrophe was no reason for Morrison to cancel his planned family holiday in Hawaii. The situation is totally under control and besides, fire-fighting is a state matter.

Neither Morgan nor Tobin ask why a plan to prepare for climate change-related natural disasters was left to gather dust in Peter Dutton’s Department of Home Affairs for eighteen months before catastrophic bushfires hit last month.

The bushfire crisis now includes a “mega blaze” of half a million hectares on both sides of the Murray in the Snowy and Upper Murray. The flames have cost twenty-seven lives, destroyed at least 2079 homes, damaged over 800 others and have burned or are currently burning 8.4 million hectares – an area the size of Ireland or Austria.

We can only guess at the loss of wildlife. Above and beyond the human trauma and loss in fire grounds, Australian Academy of Science Fellow, Chris Dickman estimates that 1 billion animals have now been killed in the bushfires — a figure that includes mammals, birds and reptiles, but not bats, frogs, insects or other invertebrates.

A National Disaster Risk Reduction report containing a national implementation plan was published just before Malcolm Turnbull was double-double crossed by Morrison. Then Dutton put it away. But you can bet he was under instruction from his new PM.

Kelly can claim he’s following the science, but follow the (current) leader appears to be the only Liberal game in town. Morrison leaks against you otherwise, as his government has with Gladys Berejiklian, claiming she’s being obstructive of federal efforts to help.

As luck would have it, Good Morning Britain is another show with no scruples at all. Self-styled “climate science-follower”, a dubious generic tag evoking a voyeuristic ambulance-chaser, Craig Kelly does not expect a hostile reception. More a back-rub.

A former editor of Murdoch’s now defunct tabloid rag, News of the World, whose then editor, Andy Coulson, resigned before it closed in 2011 after he’d been caught hacking the phones of dead children, Morgan admits to BBC Desert Island Discs in 2009 that gutter publishing corrupts much of Britain’s print media – as it does in Australia.

“I simply say the net of people doing it was very wide, and certainly encompassed the high and low end of the supposed newspaper market.”

The “everybody does it”, argument is hugely reassuring to all who expect a bit of truth in their news and a few less monsters in their politics, but Morgan, like Morrison and Trump are creatures of a post-truth era in which everyone just makes stuff up.

We must be careful, however. When a thousand people believe some made-up story for one month, that’s fake news. When a billion people believe it for a thousand years, that’s a religion, and we are admonished not to call it “fake news” in order not to hurt the feelings of the faithful. Not that it ends there. Morrison’s priority as PM, he claims, is to protect freedom of religion, even though this is already guaranteed in our constitution.

Christian Porter is slaving over a new bill to allow churches to discriminate against workers provided that the school or hospital or op-shop “publish policy” explaining its ethos and rules, (something of a challenge given explaining exclusion implies that it stems from reason and not faith or prejudice). But it’s all very fair and merciful.

Religious hospitals, granny farms and retirement homes will “preference” members of their own faith to preserve their “religious ethos”. Unbelievers can die on the streets.

Dutton supporter, Kelly looks more pub bouncer than MP in blue suit and red tie rucked up under a thick, red, neck. He’s eager to get his mug on ITV to help repay the favour he owes the PM by acting as mouthpiece for Morrison’s own climate science denialism.

Big Craig is the founder of bipartisan buddy-club, Parliamentary Friends of Coal Exports, (PFOC) a climate criminal and mining lobby catspaw self-help group which includes Joel Fitzgibbon. Mike Freelander, who holds the south-west Sydney seat of Macarthur, swells the throng, as does the invisible Member for Paterson, Meryl Swanson, and the Member for Oxley, the euphonious, Milton Dick.

Kelly continues to bullshit Morgan.

“On this, climate scientists down here have been very clear and they have said there is no link between drought and climate change.”  Kelly outdoes even his PM.

Kelly, as Morrison’s emissary and coal lobby shill, already has zero credibility before he even gets to his own batshit crazy blame-it-on-the big dry and I-follow-the-science big fat lie. His hosts do their homework. Laura Tobin, the woman Kelly calls a “Pommy weather girl” has a degree in physics and meteorology.

A former RAF forecaster for four years, Tobin has also worked as a broadcast meteorologist for twelve years. She’s completed a climate course with the World Meteorological Organisation. Kelly’s sexist weather girl slur is superbly misjudged.

But Kelly barely gets to open his mouth before Tory pit-bull and professional bully Piers Morgan, leaps down his throat. Morgan’s the other co-host of Good Morning Britain ITV’s daily carnival of interrogation, right-wing rants celebrity gossip and fashion tips.

Morgan attacks Kelly for taking a “nothing to see here, nothing to worry about” approach as “your entire country is eviscerated by fires”.

“You are facing now one of the greatest crises you have ever faced, and there is you Mr Kelly, with respect, a senior politician who still doesn’t think this has anything to do with a heating-up planet,” Morgan snorts and rages. Senior?

Kelly, who’s been warned off spruiking climate science denial on SKY, bobs up like a turd in the surf off Bondi, on Morgan’s show. But is there a bit of divine intervention, behind the scenes, to help Craig get a live TV link to London? If he’s free-lancing, it’s not going to help Humpty-Dumpty Morrison win back any credibility as a leader.

“I did @BBCRadio4 against him Sunday. The producer said they had asked for a senior government rep and this is who @ScottMorrisonMP thought was the best person to represent his government,” tweets Labor’s Catherine King.

Kelly denies it. He’s never said anything to the PM but Morrison did warn him off SKY. A “government spokesman” bags the suggestion as“fanciful”.  But it’s way too much to swallow. The same PM’s staff denied that he had deserted the nation in its hour of need when he nicked off to Waikiki. Sprung, he blames Jen and the kids – as he blames our failure to reduce fire hazards and arson as the causes of our worst bushfires ever.

Kelly’s interview is widely written off as a car crash but sometimes people do survive car crashes. Both Kelly and his PM have the skids under them. Aloha Morrison is done for.

“Car crash” also unfairly diminishes the salesmanship of our crack elite of climate science denialists. They’re out to crash the planet. Every time Kelly repeats a lie, it gains legitimacy. And like a rat up a drainpipe, Josh Frydenberg’s able to bucket us in more bullshit by publicly correcting Craig and boosting the red-herring of fuel load.

Frydenberg rat-cunningly corrects Kelly. The “government’s view is that climate change is causing hotter, drier summers”, but he shrewdly endorses the popular troll-bot myth that fuel load is “a contributing factor” to the bushfires.

“Hazard reduction is just one way of preparing for bushfires – it doesn’t remove the threat of fire,” explains a spokesperson for the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment. And the terrible new fire leaps fire breaks.

Kelly’s a useful idiot. The former Rugby knucklehead would be back selling furniture, had not Scott Morrison lobbied NSW Liberals to skip pre-selection for all sitting Liberal members; torpedo party democracy just to keep Kelly on the team. And out there selling denialism. As Chris Graham argues in New Matilda, there’s nothing that Craig Kelly recites in his Liberal talking points that Aloha Morrison hasn’t already said since he rinsed the sand out of his budgie smugglers on return from Waikiki.

Of course, there’s more to it than Morrison’s need to keep Kelly on board. Malcolm Turnbull weighed in to lobby the NSW Party Executive to waive its emergency powers; drop the Morrison plot to help Kelly dodge a bullet. Had pre-selection proceeded, a more moderate Lib/Lab MP, Kent Jones, would have unseated Kelly.

“Today I learned there was a move to persuade the State Executive to re-endorse Craig Kelly as Liberal candidate for Hughes in order to avoid a preselection – in other words to deny Liberal Party members in Hughes the opportunity to have their say.” Turnbull tweeted just over a year ago.

Besides, Kelly threatened to stand as an independent and cross the floor if he didn’t get pre-selected. Malcolm Turnbull weighed in on behalf of his imaginary friends, the Liberal moderates of Hughes, a south Sydney electorate, who are stoked to have a coal lobby shill represent an electorate where the monstrous new bush fire still rages today.

Hold it right there. Kelly is quickly gagged in the name of transparency and broad churchiness that is today’s Liberal Party- where any MP can say anything – provided his PM agrees. Sky News “Political Editor” Andrew Clennell claims, on Thursday, control freak Morrison, “… requests MPs don’t do any international media interviews …”

It’s a dig at Kelly. But only if Sky News had a skerrick of credibility. The supposed ban could well be a PM’s office drop to help boost Morrison’s floundering leadership. There’s no real evidence that this PM has any more sway over his right wing than Turnbull.

Above all, the government insists, now is not the time to talk. Unless you are the PM who gets a fab, fur-lined, fully scripted, designer interview with David Speers on ABC, Sunday to help narcissistic Scott Almighty from marketing to sing his own praises.

My, he’s called out the military. (Reserve). No-one’s done that before. He lies. Black Saturday in Victoria 2009 saw 600 ADF personnel deployed. But Speers can’t go there. Victoria doesn’t exist in the Canberra bubble – nor can the past intrude upon the eternal present of “news”. But, man, can motormouth Morrison talk up one simple phone call.

“I mean, the scale of these fires going across two very large jurisdictions reached an unprecedented level and that required an unprecedented response at that time and one was delivered and delivered very quickly.”

How many reservists have been deployed? If employed they have to get leave from work. “You may not be forced to take any form of paid or unpaid leave.”

How well trained are they? What was the call-up? “We are caught up in an unprecedented, catastrophic and uniquely dangerous bushfire crisis. Drop whatever you’re doing and join us?” A rapid, mass deployment may not be easy.

Morrison expects applause for a desperate afterthought after four years of his government ignoring warnings. Friday, over 30,000 people march in Sydney, alone, in a series of nation-wide demonstrations, quiet Australians take to the street to demand Morrison be sacked over his government’s lack of action on climate change.

Overseas protests are held from London to Lima. Morrison sooks on 2GB. John Stanley’s minding the mike while Alan Jones is on holiday. Oddly, the PM’s courage evaporates when Stanley asks him to book an ear-bashing with Alan on his return.

It’s “disappointing” that people are conflating the bushfire crisis with Australia’s emission reduction targets, ScoMo-Pinocchio tells 2GB Friday.

“We don’t want job-destroying, economy-destroying, economy-wrecking targets and goals, which won’t change the fact that there have been bushfires or anything like that in Australia,” he dog-whistles up a farrago of lies.

We? Only the federal government wants inaction on carbon and greenhouse gases. In fact, every state and mainland territory government in the country has made either aspirational or legislated commitments toward zero-emissions. Victoria has legislated a target of net zero emissions by 2050, while the ACT aims for net zero by 2045.

Job destroying; economy wrecking? The coal industry employs less than 0.4% of the Australian workforce and its royalties contribute just 2% of revenue to NSW and Queensland budgets. That’s before we subtract national, annual tax-based subsidies of $12 billion to boost fossil fuel production and consumption. Tax-payers subsidise wealthy companies?

Abreast of science; prompted by years of first-hand observation and experience, former emergency chiefs step up to write the PM an open letter warning about funding cuts to fire services, the coalition’s criminal negligence of the facts of global heating and the fatal consequences of following ignorance, self-interest and the sirens of the coal lobby.

“In the last year we’ve seen unseasonal fires in Tasmania, Victoria, NSW, Queensland and Western Australia, floods and twin cyclones in parts of northern Australia, longer bushfire danger periods and fires burning in rainforests,” the statement, signed by 23 representatives from each state and territory, says.

“Rising greenhouse gas pollution from the burning of coal, oil and gas is worsening extreme weather and putting people in danger.”

Now “pants-on-fire” Morrison gallantly blames yet another woman. (First it was Jenny and the girls.) This time, it’s NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. She’s refusing federal help to fight fires. Gladys is furious.  NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner, Shane Fitzsimmons simply says “it just didn’t happen”. Senior Liberals rush to support their premier, united against the PM’s dishonesty; his latest act of evasive misogyny.

Greens are to blame, lies barking Barnaby Joyce, throwing a hissy fit of relevance deprivation to divert a bit of heat off the PM. Always keen to recycle disinformation, Joyce repeats the old canard that “green caveats” for preventing hazard reduction burns led to the current bushfire catastrophe. Fitzsimmons rejects Joyce’s claims, saying the biggest challenge with hazard reduction is the “weather and the windows available” to do it safely not “environmental clearances.”

On Saturday, his shifty PM is keenly scapegoating, saying people “who say they are seeking those actions on climate change” could also be the same people who “don’t share the same urgency of dealing with hazard reduction”.

None of this is true. It’s easier to blame arsonists and greenies than to act on expert advice. It may divert attention from the government’s lack of consultation and its failure to delegate or deliver collective action, as Monash University’s James Walter observes.

But it highlights Morrison’s own incompetence; his preference for divisiveness in a crisis. This is a government without a clue and a leader without a plan beyond diversion, evasion and scapegoating, lying and gaslighting. It is a travesty of the notion of governance in the public good. Australians deserve better than this grifter.

Above all the ScoMo show has no scruples. A PM who is happy to recycle lies is not a leader – just a dangerous bullshit artist. Up there with Trump and his BFF Putin.

US philosopher Harry Frankfurt argues that whereas the liar cares about the truth – their aim is to prevent others from learning it – the bullshitter does not care about the difference between the truth and falsity of their assertions. They just pick ideas out, or make them up, to suit their purpose. This makes them more dangerous than liars.

“Bullshitters seek to convey a certain impression of themselves without being concerned about whether anything at all is true. They quietly change the rules governing their end of the conversation so that claims about truth and falsity are irrelevant.”

But it can’t happen so easily without a servile press. Hero of the week is Emily Townsend who leaves The Australian under a cloud – with a silver lining.

“I find it unconscionable to continue working for this company, knowing I am contributing to the spread of climate change denial and lies. The reporting I have witnessed in the Australian, the Daily Telegraph and the Herald Sun is not only irresponsible, but dangerous and damaging to our communities and beautiful planet that needs us more than ever now to acknowledge the destruction we have caused and start doing something about it.”

Commercial finance manager who reads between the lies, Emily Townsend emails executive chairman Michael Miller in a sensational open email to all staff.

News Corp papers highlight issues such as arson and hazard reduction to divert readers from climate change’s role in creating longer, more severe fire seasons. Arson may be responsible for one or two fires so far but it’s a major cause in the Oz.

Hazard reduction is no longer quite so relevant to today’s climate. Former NSW fire and rescue commissioner Greg Mullins tells ABC 24 climate change means it’s often too dangerous to burn: “Extreme drought like this, underpinned by 20 years of reduced rainfall, has meant the window for hazard reduction is very narrow now.”

Cutbacks in forestry and national parks personnel mean hazard reduction has fallen to volunteers. But in the end, the best hazard reduction is in calling bullshit to climate science deniers, for ultimately they are a type of arsonist, too.

Naomi Wolf is checking Bullshit Morrison’s dubious claims that the Australian government has sought overseas fire assistance. Dr Wolf calls Morrison’s office. It stonewalls. She’s amazed at how we Australians just take this lying down, tweets indefatigable, investigative reporter Ronni Salt.

“His office is not aware if either offers have been accepted”? In a working democracy the head of state knows if national offers of crisis assistance have been accepted. As does his office. “It’s alarming how they’ve tried to habituate people to no response,” she tweets. It’s even more alarming how the PM will just make up stuff.

War breaks out between NSW Liberals and Pinocchio Morrison, over his incredible story that the state government rejected offers of navy ships to help evacuate bushfire victims from Mallacoota and other fire-ravaged south coast towns. Further stretching credibility is that the story is dropped by the PMC to The Daily Tele’s Sharri Markson.

Labor also is losing credibility as an effective opposition on the need to get real about global heating. Terminally conflicted opposition leader, Anthony Albanese, wrings his hands in despair. Yet his recent advocacy of coal exports aligns him with other Labor MPs in the Kelly gang; the Parliamentary Friends of Coal Exports, (PFCE).

Albanese articulates his vision as shadow Prime Minister. He gets up to over-share his despair. No, Albo, no. Read the government and other, independent modelling that shows our economy will grow at just the same rate without coal.

“Despair not just that Craig Kelly has those views and continues to advocate them, not just here in Australia, but globally, and be seen to be representing the Australian government’s position, but the knowledge that he’s one of the people who has held back action,”

Albo sobs, backing the Coalition’s coal export toxic nonsense. Can our shadow PM not see how promoting coal makes him another “one of the people” to hold back action? Shut your coal-hole, Albo.

“I have seen a number of people suggest that somehow the government does not make this connection,” Morrison says deploying Trump’s favourite clapped-out bandwagon tactic “people say” followed by a fishy red-herring  “The government I lead has always made that connection and that has never been in dispute.”

The Bureau of Meteorology’s clear advice is that climate change is “influencing the frequency and severity of dangerous bushfire conditions in Australia and other regions of the world, including through influencing temperature, environmental moisture, weather patterns and fuel conditions”.

In the 2008 Garnaut Climate Change Review of the scientific evidence of the impacts of climate change on Australia and its economy, Ross Garnaut predicted that without adequate action, Australia would face a more frequent and intense fire season by 2020.

The bushfires that have ravaged our nation over the last four weeks, and which are likely to burn for at least a month more, are not just devastating farms, homesteads and forests. They also expose the wilful abdication of responsibility of a government in thrall to the coal-lobby and its servitude to a small but shrill group of climate science-deniers.

While Craig Kelly has widely been pilloried as a national embarrassment and a disgrace, he may have done us all a favour. His ITV interview debacle helps reveal the monumental ineptitude of the Morrison government he represents.

Above all, Kelly epitomises the Coalition’s dangerous, wilful ignorance, its mining industry muppetry as much as it helps expose the toxic nonsense of the climate science deniers and coal lobby shills which poison its ear and hence corrupt our body politic.

Scott Morrison and his government are as straw men in a firestorm.

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A dangerously dysfunctional state of decay.

“The Prime Minister is testing the theory that the best way to resolve a crisis is to be as far away from it as possible,” Julie Bishop tells 150 “prominent” Liberals – in Nine Newspapers’ Michael Koziol’s view – who gather for The Liberal Forum (LF)’s annual, festive, pre-Christmas binge, whinge and back-stab over champers and canapés at former NSW Liberal president; serial company director, Fat Cat Kevin McCann’s, Mosman Gatsby mansion.

Her wicked dig is also an in-joke. Libs always cast Bishop as a “loyal girl” as Abbo aptly put it in 2009.

Bishop could also titillate guests with the PM’s other brilliant “out of sight out of mind” tactic of delaying or refusing FOI requests. How good is Morrison’s, latest attack on transparent government, a war begun by Tony Abbott, now a heroic Volunteer Fire-fighter bigging up his image in The Daily Mail at Morrison’s expense?

The PM, aka Scotty from Marketing, orders staff not to release texts which Drought Envoy, Barnaby Joyce says justify $675 thousand in expenses – rung up as he ventured outside his electorate for less than three weeks to assiduously report on The Big Dry. As with Brian Houston’s invite to the White House, Scotty clams up.

Joyce was demoted for violating Malco’s Ministerial code’s no bonking clause, but to keep Joyce on side, within days of knifing Turnbull, ScoMo bought the support of the former Nationals’ Leader by creating an important job, Drought Envoy with expense account and staff to find out how no rain affects farmers.

Joyce has filed no report. He did not know he needed to. But he “sent heaps of texts,” he tells Channel 7. 

“An awful lot of texts,” he tells our ABC.  But he’s not showing them to anyone. Nor is the Prime Minister. Barnaby’s insights will remain hermetically-sealed, like the top secret agreement between the Liberals who need the Nationals numbers, come hell or high water. It’s as if some secret Freemasonry is the heart and soul; the life-blood of our can-do Coalition government which is always rolling up its sleeves to set up inquiries.

And stymie others. “I’m not going to tell you what they said, they were directed to the Prime Minister, if he wants to tell you what they said, that’s up to him … I can assure you, I directly sent reports,” Joyce blusters.

Can-do? If it’s OK with the Nats and their Big Cotton, Big Mining bosses, the Liberals can do it. Or not.

The PM’s Office refuses a FOI request for “any correspondence, including text messages and WhatsApp messages” between Joyce and Morrison “regarding his work as drought envoy”. Why? It claims it “would substantially and unreasonably interfere with the prime minister’s functions”. What a crack-up.

But ScoMo’s a no-show at this function. The Big Kahuna is still rushing back from Hawaii as guests arrive. But should the right wing warrior and climate change denier, Dutton dressed up as lamb, even get an invite?

The Liberal Forum runs on pure idealism, unsullied by the Party’s need to please its mining and banking lobby bosses’, its bigamous marriages of convenience to the Murdoch Press – and to The Nationals, its day to day chicanery or its Machiavellian pragmatism.  It’s a platonic affair, not a cabal of leadership plotters.

An “ideas group” of pure, if not lofty, intent, formed in secret in 1985 to offset “the conservative tide”, The Liberal Forum‘s noble, clandestine, mission was, alas, rapidly outwitted by “forces of greed and self-interest” recalls former NSW Senator Peter Baume, a small-l Liberal known to cross the floor on issues of principle.

Nowadays, The Black Hand, as wags quickly dubbed the Forum, is like The Cheshire Cat, a creature which has disappeared, leaving only the grin of its good intentions behind. The LF’s reduced to organising social events for what it fondly imagines is the modern Liberal Party’s moderate faction; a species which is much talked about  – in awe but never sighted- a type of Sasquatch or Loch Ness Monster, as Greg Jericho so aptly puts it.

Conspicuously missing in action (or “doing a ScoMo”) was any small-l Liberal in last February’s vote on the Medevac Bill. (Before it was so heroically repealed, early this month, thanks to Jacqui Lambie’s secret deal.)

Back in February, not one MP appears from Liberal ranks to be in favour of human decency. Not a word of protest is heard. Not one MP even hints that this niggardly act of humanity was OK, let alone fair or right.

Not a word is heard from any Liberal pleading to help our fellow human beings – all vulnerable, innocent people fleeing war, rape, genocide, political repression and murder. No-one speaks up for those whom we illegally detain indefinitely – an ugly, morally repugnant type of sadistic torture in our offshore prisons.

All the Medevac Bill proposed was that MPs agree to get all who are sick, or driven mad to a doctor. Twelve people have died in offshore detention to date. Coroner Terry Ryan’s inquiry into the case of Hamid Khazaei showed that he died as a direct result of the Australian Government’s refusal to follow medical orders.

Similarly, not one moderate protests last February’s gaming of parliamentary process by extending question time in order to avoid a vote on a Royal Commission into disabled care. But they do know how to party.

A former Liberal deputy leader, whose deputising was also near invisible, Ms Bishop wows the crowd when she mocks Scott Morrison as a PM who disappears just when we might need him. How good is her aim? But has Morrison become just another political joke?  Is the king-tide of Liberal support now fast running out for “miracle” Morrison, given his calamitous captain’s call to holiday while Australia burns?

Chins wag. Heads shake. There is much clutching of pearls. ScoMo’s snafu is generally held to be a monumental cock-up, except by News Corp’s Peter Van Onselen, who believes that Aloha Morrison has erred “while still on a honeymoon of sorts”. But, then, Van Onselen did predict a stonking Labor victory in May.

For most others, however, Aloha Morrison’s now a hopeless joke. (Hawaiians use Aloha both to greet and farewell.) Will “met his Waikiki” also enter the political lexicon as a colossal failure of judgement? Will Morrison’s dereliction of duty in time of crisis, be the only thing voters remember at the next federal election? Is Miracle Morrison already morphing into a political liability in the view of many nervous Liberal MPs?

But, let’s be frank, our Bronte bogan, the bad dad-joke who plotted day and night to get himself installed as PM over Turnbull’s politically dead body, but who didn’t have a clue what to do next, would still be the butt of derision even if he hadn’t cruelled Julie’s run for the top job or double-double crossed her pal, Malcolm.

Since becoming PM, Morrison’s wasted an inordinate amount of time and energy avoiding doing anything. At least Bishop gets in touch with her small-l liberalism by being cover star of Financial Review’s LUXURY Magazine September issue in a photo shoot. But it’s not all glossy photographs of Bishop rocking designer frocks and gowns. The former Minister for Women (2006-7) explains how she uses fashion for politics.

So this is what small-l Liberalism has come to? A photo-shoot in the exclusive LUXURY fashion-mag?

Julie loves a party, too. The former corporate lawyer knows how to have fun, as we all know, from her taxpayer funded trips to the Portsea Polo in 2016, a year when she racked up $1.2 million in travel expenses to her 2011, Reddy family celebrity Indian wedding in Hyderabad, a frugal, three-day event involving ten thousand guests, an intimate group of Indian politicians, Bollywood stars and a swag of international fashionistas. Bishop, Barnaby Joyce, Teresa Gambaro flew over in Gina Rinehart’s private jet.

But not back. Waggishly, Bishop billed tax-payers for a $3445 flight home to Perth from Hyderabad because, although she concedes she did attend the wedding, she was on a “study tour” which involved her in fact-finding, high-level trade and investment discussions with local energy and infrastructure potentates.

Bishop’s droll humour precedes her career in politics. In the 1980s, she worked as a solicitor for Wittenoom building company CSR, fighting workers’ claims and successfully delaying payouts to victims of asbestosis.

As Peter Gordon, whose firm Slater and Gordon won an historic class action for the workers in 1989, recalls, Bishop, then Julie Gillon, was a barrel of laughs, “… rhetorically asking the court why workers should be entitled to jump court queues just because they were dying.”

As a junior lawyer, Gordon had been told that it was too hard to run a case for negligence for someone with an asbestos-related cancer because “the victims died too quickly”. With his senior partner’s support, Gordon successfully approached the Court to fast-track the process “for interlocutory processes, discovery and interrogatories” to make sure victims got a trial in their lifetime. It was a hard-won decision.

Peter Gordon recalls, “We had to fight even for the right of dying cancer victims to get a speedy trial.”

Robert Vojakovic of WA-based Asbestos Diseases Society says Bishop “had a take-no-prisoners approach”.

Bishop is out of politics now but her legacy lives on in Morrison’s malignant narcissism; his ruthless ambition. His hyper-partisanship. And beyond.

Not only is the office of PM and Cabinet re-fashioned in his own Machiavellian image, his government has further cowed the public service into serving the party rather more than the people. And its Big Kahuna.

Back in the swim of things after his spectacularly ill-judged top-secret trip to Waikiki for a bit of quality time with his girls and his AFP Close Personal Protection squad, our roving PM takes time out from the rigours of defending his going AWOL by penning a blistering op-ed in The Daily Telegraph denouncing “reckless” and job-destroying proposals to cut coal coal-mining. He also takes a top photographer to Sydney’s Bronte Beach to snap him in his speedos for the press drop his boffins in the office make in crises of image management.

Charcoal-black budgie-smugglers,” The Daily Mail’s Tita Smith gushes.

ScoMo in speedos? The image conjures up a Lucian Freud nude – but our PM and his team of turd-polishers will go to any length to reassure an anxious nation that a PM who claims in his national apology that our nation’s clergy engaged in “ritual sexual abuse” of children is just a normal bloke. Even if he’s full of bull-shit.

Or even because of it. Australians love a tall story. It may help explain our nation’s weakness for Coalition election pledges. The coal industry employs less than 0.4% of the Australian workforce while its royalties contribute just 2% of revenue to the NSW and Queensland budgets – and that’s before the payment of subsidies. This week, our miners are hit by biggest thermal coal price plunge in over a decade. High coal prices cannot continue; Morrison’s Trumpista diplomacy has alienated our best customers in China. They are now buying less from us and more from other sources such as Mongolia in reprisal. Nice one, Trump fan-boy.

Morrison’s claim that we must choose between coal or prosperity is worse than nonsense. He’s just parroting coal lobby spin. Modelling shows we’d have just the same or better GDP growth with no mines. And with the damage done by his government’s diplomatic anti-China charm offensive, his rhetoric is even more vapid.

Yet with no coal mines our climate would be less overheated. Less likelihood, then, of catastrophic fires.

Fires destroy 4.6m hectares, across New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia. They burn with a ferocity and on a scale we’ve never seen before yet there is no hint that the government will acknowledge the link between the catastrophic fires and global heating. The PM makes a token concession.

Volunteer firefighters in NSW will be able to apply for up to $6,000 in compensation from the Federal Government, Morrison announces. Up to? Only NSW? Despite the cunning lack of clarity in the Coalition’s pledge, right on cue, there’s a howl of protest from Murdoch media, forever vigilant over the nation’s purse-strings and always eager to publish a government drop or spin story. And put the boot into unions.

“All prime ministers try to manage the media but Morrison is an extreme example. He is shameless about his use of favourites, whether individuals or outlets. The government regards The Australian as its bulletin board for announcements, frets even conservative Canberra Press Gallery veteran, Michelle Grattan.

Morrison’s offer is immediately denounced as against the “spirit of volunteerism” by Victoria’s CFA chief Steve Warrington. “We are always keen to explore opportunities to manage and reduce potential financial burdens on our members. However, it is my view and that of the CFA board that paying volunteers in general terms is not in the spirit of volunteerism,” he tells The Australian‘s Rebecca Urban.

A chorus of hard right commentators including Peta Credlin howls down the proposal. Incredibly, the same “spirit” nonsense is invoked. Worse, it’s a slippery slope. Credlin reckons there’ll be a rush of other applicants with their hands out for money. Imagine how we’d go to rack and ruin if we paid people for the work they do.

I’m a community volunteer. I can attest to the small fortune that local communities save governments with an endless series of fund-raisers, the donation of labour and the seeking of donations. At our Christmas community dinner, we helped raise $5000 to replace the chairs in three classrooms in the local primary school.

Chairs our state government is too tight-fisted to supply are part of the walnut and the thimble trick of global budgeting where the state shrugs off its responsibility leaving local principals teachers and school councils to do the hard unglamorous yards allocating forever shrinking funds to classroom and other programmes.

Imagine how our system would fall apart if we had fair and adequate government funding. Each federal education budget sees a further decline in real terms, although the Coalition loves to boast about total amounts spent. Population growth does that for them. In reality it’s always a per capita cut for the average kid in a state school. Greater hardship for working families. And support services increasingly harder to access.

Private schools continue to prosper but that’s all about giving parents’ choice as John Howard, pretended. Choice? Only for those who can pay. In a captain’s call, Howard also introduced poorly paid chaplains that schools must also raise funds to support.

What Credlin and Howard are about is the politics of division, where the wealthy prosper while the poor go begging, even though each spin their cuts as encouraging locally raised funds and community-building.

Decades of neoliberal management and federal funding cuts in education departments have seen countless rural schools become dependent for essentials on the “spirit of volunteerism“. Most teachers I know buy classroom materials out of their own increasingly casualised and contract salaries. Or go begging.

When the fires came for our place in regional Western Victoria, our local volunteers did a wonderful job. But if it hadn’t been for Elvis the giant Erickson S-64 Air-Crane, our little cottage in the woods would have gone up in smoke. Our neighbour M who is a former CFA chief gave us a video of Elvis dropping fire retardant on flames which licked across the dry grass, set fire to the trees, shrubs and fence-posts to within metres of our dwelling.

Three times the fire came and went; driven by high winds that switched north, south, north as they do in this area. After each wave of fire, local CFA volunteers, farmers with tanks on utes came to put out spot fires as ancient river red-gums along the road erupted into flame and century-old fence posts and battens caught fire.

The 2015 bushfire began in a vineyard, almost certainly started by a gas-powered bird-scaring device. I could see the smoke from our letter-box at the end of the street a kilometre away at lunchtime. I didn’t like way the wind was bringing it straight towards us. By the time I’d driven home it was time to leave. But you don’t just dash out. We had time only to pack up pets and a few essentials. We had to leave the chickens.

By 9:00pm the fire had burned more than 3,500 hectares. We stayed at our daughter’s place twelve kilometres away until we thought it safe to return. No way to tell if our place had survived. Just a line of cars crawling bumper to bumper. Each being stopped while ID was checked. Preventing rubber-neckers. Checking our destination. No time for police or CFA or SES to set up clear lines of communication to residents.

It is impossible to describe how it feels to drive through the smoke along your unsealed road while trees and fencing blaze. Or how it is to discover your gate posts are on fire but your house looks quite OK amidst a charred front garden which still has shrubs and mulch on fire and trees on the fence-line are burning.

The smell of eucalyptus leaves mingles with acrid smoke from the remains of your watering system burning.

We were lucky. Our house was spared. The fire came up within metres of the front and side. Thanks to the skill and sheer hard work of local volunteer fire crews and the expertise of our next-door neighbour. But Elvis was the star. Without the help of a leased US helicopter and its professional crew, our home would have been lost.

Now I note there is no sign of Elvis. Not for three years. No sign either of Morrison meeting with experienced fire chiefs who want him to get the gear to fight fires that in a few short years have rapidly grown into monsters. Heed the science of global heating. Invest in new equipment to cope with the new inferno.

The Coalition won’t offend its sponsors in the mining lobby or risk further internal friction by admitting there is a direct link between climate change, the genteel euphemism for catastrophic global heating. Nor will it imperil further its precious surplus, achieved partly by a contemptible underspending on NDIS. Because, in the end, the ideology of outsourcing has long usurped the desire to meet peoples’ needs. Exercise duty of care.

Wise up, Morrison. Global heating has wrought a terrible new type of bushfire. Cut the subsidies to miners and private health insurers; buy a few less F35s and submarines. Put the money into fire-fighting equipment that’s up the task of the monster bush-fires we have helped to breed.

Much fun has been had at Morrison’s expense over his unconscionable decision to leave Australia in flames while he took a secret holiday in Hawaii – and his scurrilous decision to blame the trip on his family. But it’s no laughing matter. While the Liberal Forum may make fun of the PM, his decision shows an arrogance, a lack of compassion, an alarming disconnection from reality and dud political judgement.

Worse, however, is his arrogant dismissal of former fire chiefs who call for a summit on the bushfire catastrophe. Morrison’s government is unwilling to listen. He can holiday in Hawaii but he can’t find the time to sit down and hear out those whose only motive is to help him save Australia from burning?

His Prime Ministership and his government are more than monumentally incompetent. Morrison’s intransigence and sheer perversity in preferring his own poor judgement to the advice of experts is dangerous.

As the year draws to a close some things stand out. The saga of the Medevac Bill reveals a government entirely devoid of humanity and human decency while the PM’s decision to embargo any text message that might have been sent from his faux drought envoy Barnaby “boondoggle” Joyce signal a government that has absolutely no intention of being accountable, whatsoever.

Instead it delights in thumbing its nose at democracy and transparency; turning its back on expert advice.

Above all, as the Liberal Forum annual gathering at Kevin McCann’s pad in Mosman last week so powerfully attests this is a government that has betrayed any ideals it may once have had in favour of Machiavellian pragmatism to keep itself in power for power’s sake and to serve the interests of its powerful corporate backers. It is not just a degenerate form of its earlier self; it is in a dangerously dysfunctional state of decay.

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This is not normal, Mr Morrison.

The nation heaves a sigh of relief as Hawaiian Airlines HA451, an Airbus carrying a Daggy Dad from Central Casting, Trump fan-boy and fellow crypto-fascist, Scott Morrison, finally touches down at 8pm after being delayed by thick clouds of acrid, catastrophic, bushfire smoke which choke Sydney Airport, limiting visibility.

“Where the bloody hell were you?” Effortlessly, the PM side-steps questions. It’s his signature move. Makes hokey, blokey, emotive excuses. He’d promised the girls a holiday. His office had to lie about where he was?

Security. Poor timing? Booked seven weeks ago. Bushfires were raging, then? Yeah. Nah. Who could tell how bad things would get? But he gets it how we’ve missed him. Need him. How good are empathy consultants?

“I get it that people would have been upset to know that I was holidaying with my family while their families were under great stress,” Morrison tells press at the NSW Rural Fire Service HQ in Sydney, Sunday. Great stress? Two volunteer fire-fighters are killed overnight. Two more are put in induced comas.

Seventy-two homes are destroyed in South Australia while little is left of Balmoral in the Southern Highlands, southwest of Sydney. NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner, Shane Fitzsimmons estimates that at least one hundred homes have been lost in the ferocious fires which hit the small town over the weekend.

The body language in the HQ control room is hostile. Tone deaf, Morrison is clueless about his chilly reception. Pity. His minders have him in RM Williams kit for bush credibility. His hands low on hips bolster his need to bulk up his personal authority but end up a tad on the aggressive side, creating a bullshit macho swagger.

“Stress” insults their families’ loss and grief; their trauma. But all spin-doctor props are in place. Images of Morrison, pointing at maps, head Sunday morning news; propaganda to be replayed throughout the day.

“Upset?” Morrison seeks to deflect anger by wilfully misreading others’ feelings. He diminishes. Invalidates. In fact, Australia is furious with the PM’s dereliction of duty. His cavalier attitude. His arrogance. Angry doesn’t begin to describe the nation’s outrage. Yet he’s not remotely contrite. And it’s all about him. Always.

Under pressure, Morrison’s malignant narcissism morphs into messiah-complex. His people need him.

“But I’m comforted by the fact that Australians would like me to be here, just simply so I can be here, alongside them as they’re going through this terrible time … and I apologise for that.”

Incredibly, Morrison’s monster ego lets him believe he now can draw a line under his deserting his post as PM; his epic lack of judgement in sneaking a secret holiday to Waikiki while instructing staff to keep schtum. They did better than that, ABC’s Andrew Probyn reports. Morrison’s staff were extraordinarily secretive.

No official public note was issued of the PM’s absence. Nor would the Deputy Prime Minister’s office confirm Michael McCormack was Acting PM. A journalist was referred back to the PM’s Office (PMO). Yet when asked, to confirm Morrison was in Hawaii, reporters were misled; told this was incorrect. But we have to move on.

“The time for that discussion is over”, Morrison declares, unilaterally. Or would – if he could seize control of the situation. Of course, it is not over. Nor will he ever move on. His monstrous lack of empathy; his staggering lack of political judgement will forever hang over his head, like the sword of Damocles.

The PM who skived off is denounced up and down the land. His own party room feels the heat. There’s talk of “moderate” Liberal climate rebellion. Even our Tory mainstream media attempts to hold the PM to account.

Reporter: “Are you sorry you abandoned Australia and secretly went to Hawaii on holiday while Australia burned?”

Morrison: “I already said that”

Reporter: “Are you sorry?”

Morrison: “I already addressed that.”

Also “addressed” is Morrison’s determination to defy reason and science and to deny the climate science of global heating. “I do not accept the suggestion that Australia is not carrying its weight,” he says. He doubles down; reverting to a climate science denialism which rules any MP who aspires to be Coalition PM.

Carrying its weight? Morrison is gaslighting; pretending that Australia is not blocking climate action – as it did recently, along with other hard-core chauvinists, USA, Brazil and Saudi Arabia at the twenty-fifth Conference of the Parties (‘COP25’) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (‘UNFCCC’).

Yet our Kyoto carry-over scam makes us one of a kind. The Climate Council confirms, even according to the Department of Environment and Energy, Australia, alone, of all other nations, seeks to use its supposed overperformance against previous goals as an offset for future targets. ‘Over-performance’? Australia over-reached its previous goals solely because they are among the weakest in the whole world.

In Copenhagen in 2009, Australia was proud to lead the world on applying climate science to fight our global heating crisis. A decade later, we are disgraced by our government’s switch to coal lobby spin and sophistry instead. Protect corporations. Look after banks, big investors and party donors. Bugger the planet.

“In Madrid Australia was “… potentially destructive… just really a self-interested righteous way of doing less,” frets The Australia Institute’s climate change specialist Richie Merzian who found it hard to watch.

“Your country is literally on fire because of climate change and your representatives are at the COP trying to water down the provisions for climate action,” Merzian says. “It’s kind of other-worldly.” Or barking mad.

Is anyone in the world fooled by Morrison’s specious 1.3% fig-leaf argument? Australia adds to global greenhouse gases, not only in the export of fossil fuels to be burnt overseas, but in a swag of other ways.

Other nations can see at once how Australian companies are today busily expanding their coal, oil and gas operations in some of the poorest areas in the world, reports ActionAid Australia. Mostly, it is women who pay the price. Australia has more mining companies operating in Africa than any other nation.

Above, all, ActionAid Australia reports, Australia’s growing global fossil fuel footprint shows that while the total number of projects is down, ASX-listed companies are increasing their reach in the furthest parts of the globe – with total carbon emissions potential up by 13% compared to last year.

These projects are likely to cause 2.8 billion tonnes of emissions — five times Australia’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. Whilst thirty-four projects, currently operating are owned either wholly or partially by ASX-listed companies, their annual reports reveal plans for an additional ninety-nine.

It’s insulting to other nations genuinely seeking climate action to insist Australia’s carbon emissions amount to only 1.3% of the global total, when our nation has one of the largest mining footprints in the world. Hypocritical, too. Our government’s failure on climate action is shameful; its denialism, reprehensible.

In brief, looking beyond our borders and even past our embarrassing performance at this year’s UN climate talks, our beggar-thy-neighbour role in global heating is far greater than Morrison’s government claims.

“Morrison’s touting of the 1.3% figure is his idea of a clever political tactic – it allows him to deflect responsibility. But the effects of climate change know no bounds. Women, poor communities, and other marginalised groups will of course be hit the hardest, but ultimately we all suffer the consequences,” writes ActionAid Australia’s Head of Policy and Campaigns, Katharine Tu.

Yet Morrison can’t wait to trot out his clapped-out rhetoric. The spin. The stale talking points. The lies. As Lenore Taylor writes in The Guardian Australia, Sunday, the nation urgently needs a credible climate policy. Stop pretending, she begs. It’s dangerous. Vast tracts of NSW are burning in a fire unlike any other.

Emergency-level fires also consume parts of South Australia and Victoria; fires so vast and so intense they create their own weather. Time to admit that global heating is fuelling our own catastrophic bushfire.

Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese, sees a government paralysed by complacency. “This government is complacent when it comes to climate change and energy. They do not have an energy policy and they sent [Energy Minister] Angus Taylor overseas to help to undermine international action on climate change, by arguing for accounting tricks rather than lowering emissions,” Albo tells reporters in Sydney on Saturday.

Morrison slinks back home to a bushfire and Liberal leadership crisis Saturday after cutting short – by a whole day – his surprise Waikiki family holiday. But there’s time to claim it was a working holiday. Regular bushfire briefings punctuate his QAnon conspiracy updates from close family friend, Tim Stewart, aka Burn Notice @BurnedSpy34 whose wife, Lynelle, works for bestie, Jenny Morrison, at Kirribilli House.

Mrs Stewart’s security clearance is a work in progress. But Jen and Lynelle were each other’s bridesmaids.

Former Fruit Loop proprietor, a failed online health food venture and former bankrupt, Tim’s a mate of Scott’s from way back. QAnon put him on to the secret cabal of paedophile-Satan-worshippers which rules the world.

Politics has its fair share of nutters but Tim’s clearly not without influence. Witness Morrison’s reference to ritualistic child sexual abuse in the PM’s national formal apology to survivors of institutional sexual abuse.

“The crimes of ritual sexual abuse happened in schools, churches, youth groups, scout troops, orphanages, foster homes, sporting clubs, group homes, charities, and in family homes as well,” Morrison told the politicians, supporters and survivors who packed the house.

The phrase was Tim’s idea, – or at least that’s what Tim claims. The word “ritual” introduced the idea of secret ceremonies with Satan’s involvement, which aligns with QAnon’s theory of global threats.

Perhaps his poorly-judged Hawaiian break attests to Scott’s loyalty to his mates. Or is it their power over him? If so, there must be a ray of hope. If only the nation could tap into Tim’s influence on his old pal Scott; gain some of the avid attention Morrison extends to his friend – then perhaps we could put the PM on to a real conspiracy, the mining lobby and its bizarre plan to dig us into extinction.

Extinction is also on the mind of a few Liberal MPs who are “becoming frustrated with the Federal Government’s inability to sell its climate change policies and believe the chief salesman, Angus Taylor, is part of the problem,” reports ABC’s Jane Norman.

It pays to have a scapegoat but Norman’s scuttlebutt draws attention to the glacial pace of the NSW Police Task Force investigation of Taylor over his alleged involvement in the publication of a doctored document in The Daily Telegraph which denigrated Clover Moore, Lord Mayor of Sydney’s green credentials.

“I think the biggest problem we face is not so much our suite of policy measures, it’s our credibility and sincerity and spokespeople,” says one Liberal.

Suite of policy measures? A set of trite slogans and a hyper-partisan party stalled in continuous campaign mode is a suite of policies? And it’s back to the old “selling the message”, regardless of how meaningless, or morally bankrupt. “Angus doesn’t have the ability to sell a positive climate change message.”

“This is not normal” says New South Wales Liberal Minister Matt Kean who is vilified The Australian for breaking ranks; noticing that Australia might be in the grip of record drought, heat and catastrophic bushfire.

Kean’s on to something. Voters may, indeed, be expecting the Federal government to do more than send its PM on top secret holidays with his pal Tim. But credibility and sincerity? Morrison’s got no show.

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Morrison’s credibility as leader goes up in a cloud of smoke.

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now

From up and down and still somehow

It’s cloud’s illusions I recall

I really don’t know clouds at all

Clouds Joni  Mitchell

Clouds or clowns? The week’s politics offers both. A toxic miasma of 250 million tonnes of CO2 and clouds of sooty bushfire-smoke blanket vast tracts of eastern Australia yet also expose the Morrison government’s total leadership fail, while professional clown, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson has a huge win over truth, justice and democracy in the UK. In the US, Democrats finalise two articles of impeachment that are unlikely to bother President, Donald Teflon Trump.

“There is no Republican Party,” John Boehner, who served as House Speaker from 2011 to 2015, said last year. “There’s a Trump party. The Republican Party is kind of taking a nap somewhere.”

Ditto for the UK Conservative Party. And for Australia’s Liberals who retain the name only as some sick joke. Hilarious. Meanwhile, is Gus the badly-burned victim of the author of The Beauty Myth‘s vicious, anti-Semitism or is he just crying wolf? Could Angus Taylor be making some kind of Johnsonian run to be Australia’s next Prime Minister ? You decide.

What’s clear is Energy, Emission Reduction and Round-up Minister, Angus Taylor, is under a cloud of his own; the noxious emanations of allegations of outrageous water rorting, document forging and alleged lobbying of an environmental compliance officer (ECO) in 2016. The explanation he allegedly offers does not stack up.

Taylor sought permission to poison kangaroo or red anther wallaby grass and an associated threatened ecological community in the thirty hectare Jam Land grasslands in Monaro region NSW, a property located outside his electorate of Hume, weakening Taylor’s claim that his meeting was prompted solely by his constituents’ concerns.

Taylor did, however, meet with Geoff Richardson, the Department of Environment and Energy’s Assistant Secretary for the protected species and communities branch.

The department had prepared a briefing document on the grasslands which explained that the species had been protected since 2000 and that, collectively, temperate grasslands are among the most threatened vegetation in Australia, with only about 5% remaining in relatively undisturbed condition. It’s an indictment of our introduced agricultural practices and our land abuse.

Jam Land Pty Ltd is a Taylor family linked company in which one of Angus’ Cayman Island-registered companies has an interest through his family investment company Gufee. His brother, Richard Taylor, is the director of the company.

Now parliament’s shut its doors for 2019, hola! Gus is off like the clappers to Madrid. Labor wouldn’t grant him a pair, what with Scott Morrison’s erstwhile neighbour, former bin brother and mate, top NSW cop, Commissioner Mick Fuller, at the head of a strike force, he says is actively investigating Taylor over Clover gate.

Barnaby Joyce says Clover gate is a “triviality” which has gone on far too long. Leaking a false document to the Daily Tele to discredit Clover Moore is trivial? All the mayor has done is write to Taylor; tell him to lift his game on climate change.

At least Gus makes the last week of UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, COP25 which involves 190 nations. Why rush? No-one’s all that keen to see him.

Australia has already earned the Fossil of the Day award. Twice. Will Taylor, a noted wind-energy critic with close coal industry links be having another public tilt at windmills? Nope. Instead he ties up the conference with Kyoto credit nonsense.

Just to get the facts in context, Australia is responsible for about 1.3% of annual pollution, as our PM is fond of boasting. But this places us 16th on a ladder of polluting nations. We emit more each year than 40 countries with larger populations, including G7 members Britain, France and Italy.

Talk about punching below your weight.

Gus gives a speech which reprises former Environment Minister Greg Hunt’s twaddle about our “meeting and beating our targets” (but only if we cheat; use our carry over from Kyoto cop-out). Courageously, Taylor skips our outrageous plans to use 411m tonnes of CO2-equivalent credits from the previous Kyoto targets against the government’s newer Paris commitment. But he leaves it to delegates to resolve.

Absent from any reporting, or any Australian communication, is the story of how Howard Government Senator Robert Hill argued late in the night in Kyoto in 1997; how reliant Australia is on fossil fuel industries. How we needed a special favour.  Hill got his way. Whereas Europe promised to reduce emissions by 8% by 2012, compared with the base year of 1990, and the US agreed to cut by 7%, Australia was one of three countries allowed to increase emissions – by 8%.

But that wasn’t enough. Long after most major players had gone home or had passed out from exhaustion, Hill got the UN to accept land-clearing; include land-use changes in calculating emissions. The Guardian Australia’s Lenore Taylor sums up,

Restrictions that had already been imposed on large-scale land clearing – especially in Queensland – allowed Australia to rest assured it had achieved its new target before it even signed up to it.”

In other words, Angus Taylor is on a fool’s errand if he thinks he can sell our Kyoto carryover caper yet again. Yet in our brave new world where Trump’s United States can just pull out of Paris, how much does good faith really matter?

Taylor flies out Friday leaving a skeleton crew of Australian negotiators to put the carry-over case. Observers expect negotiations on carbon trading rules and other issues to last until at least Sunday, Australian time. Only Australia is willing to play that card says John O’Connor CEO of the Carbon Markets Institute and it’s not winning us any friends.

There’s a more than a touch of the quixotic; a lot of Boris in Angus Taylor -beyond each MP’s wealth, their hidebound sense of privilege and entitlement, their membership of elite families, their Oxonian education and their ludicrous buffoonery. In Taylor’s case, unlike Boris, however, the class act is also a family affair. Enter Louise Clegg.

Gussie’s wife, Sydney barrister Louise Clegg, unreliably rumoured on social media to have local government aspirations in Sydney, but who “does not speak to journalists”, is quoted in the Australian Financial Review warning that rolling blackouts might be needed to teach people that “left populism (is) not the answer” to Australia’s policy challenges. Opposed to coal? Let them light candles instead.

Some Liberal malcontents mutter about having a Minister for emissions reductions who doesn’t actually want to reduce emissions but that’s Scott Morrison’s trademark perversity in his captain’s call in allocating ministries to MPs with opposing interests and backgrounds. Keeps everyone on their toes. Fantastic. Great move. Well done, Angus.

“Tickets” Taylor clearly sees himself as “a rising Liberal star” who may be only a Dutton coup away from being Deputy Prime Minister. Or are his sights already on the top job? He’s certainly attracting a lot of attention in track work. Just not the right type of attention.

Gus fully expects to be allowed to play Kyoto-Carryover, a party trick, a rare form of carbon emission-figure-fiddling while Spain burns along with the rest of the world. Editor Maddison Connaughton observes in The Saturday Paper,

“In Madrid, Angus Taylor argues for carryover credits, so that the government might do less. The world is slowly ending and he is doing a card trick. He is not even doing it well, and has to ask the other countries if they will pretend they didn’t see him cheating.”

It helps to have galloping Gus out of the country while NSW police investigate The Mystery of the Doctored Documents, another Canberra soap bubble opera which concerns false claims about Sydney City Council’s exorbitant overseas travel bill his office dropped to the Daily Telegraph 30 September to discredit the green credentials of Sydney’s Lord Mayor, Clover Moore. Any day or month now, police are bound to solve this baffling case, given how much rides on its speedy resolution. Or not. Imagine how our AFP, with full TV camera crews, would bust Gussies’ office if he were Labor.

But now to BoJo, who modestly claims a huge great stonking mandate” in the UK general election, over anti-Semitic, socialist, dotard, Jeremy Corbyn – who offends the press by not immediately resigning; outliving his political demise. Bojo’s win heartens our own Coalition government of secrets, lies and rubbery figures and its Tory Story supporters in Murdoch’s The Australian, whose orgy of Corbyn-bashing parallels its relentless character assassination of Shorten in its epic Kill Bill campaign.

Australia’s sons let us rejoice in a victory for vanity and mediocrity. Even The New York Time’s Jenni Russell describes the contest in terms that would delight the late, great, absurdist, dramaturge Samuel Beckett:

Two vain, incompetent, mediocre charlatans are competing to become prime minister. For the Conservatives, we have the blustering, lying, oafish puffball Boris Johnson. In the Labour corner is the querulous, wooden, sanctimonious Jeremy Corbyn.”

In mirror images of our own oxymoronic Coalition’s MPs, Russell sees each UK pretender as ill- briefed, hazy on the facts and implications of policy proposals, uneasy under scrutiny and belligerent when challenged. Yet, again, as in our local, national soap opera “How good is Australia?” both MPs meet realities of stagnant wage growth, galloping economic inequality and a mounting workers’ sense of helplessness with lies – especially Boris’ Brexit consoling fantasy.

As both ScoMo and Donald Trump know, illusion and deceit can build a type of rusted-on loyalty; feed our emotional need to believe that our leader is on our team. It’s a blind faith; at best indifferent to facts – if not downright hostile.

How Good is Australia has a sequel. How good are Quiet Australians? It’s a narrative about blind obedience; a type of group-think loyalty which scorns key detail and elevates faith above empiricism, especially the science of climate change.

If you are going to tell a lie tell a big one. Angus Taylor knows that. The big lie is back -if it ever went. If your big lie looks absurd, then launch an even more outrageous counterfactual counter-attack. The figures did not come from Clover Moore’s Sydney Council website. Throw a staffer, such as Josh Manuatu, under a bus. Then attack Naomi Wolf for her Christmas Tree War. When that’s exposed as a blatant lie, call the Jewish feminist writer an anti-Semite. Or sexist.

What’s wonderful about Gus’ contribution to our public conversation is its inspired inclusivity. No elitism here. After all, most of us were Rhodes Scholars together at Oxford. We all have a Jewish grandmother somewhere and we’re all on first name terms with Naomi. Probably send her Christmas cards. Talk to her about how good is attending Mass.

Boris’ big lie? A quickie divorce from foreign control, the parasites, bludgers and tinpot dictators of the EU will make Britain great again. Instead, he’s more likely to preside over Scottish independence than anything faintly like the Great Britain of his followers’ magical thinking. Probably about one hundred years too late, Boris.

But, in a post truth age, deceit rules. Victory goes to best clown.  In a debased, corruption of the court jester, the most plausible liar, the most brazen dissembling toady to the powerful, wins. Enter the PM as best crowd-pleaser.

As with Trump, local fans bust a gut to cheer on a fellow fraud; rally around his bigotry, ignorance and monumental incompetence. Lionise his repulsiveness. Naturally, Pete Costello’s Nine News’ Sydney Morning Herald throws to our own James McGrath.

“You don’t become mayor of London, you don’t become foreign secretary, you don’t become the elected leader of the Tories, you don’t become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and you don’t secure a new Brexit deal against the odds by being a dunderhead,” slobbers Johnson’s former aide, our senator for Adani, local savant McGrath.

Unlucky Jim McGrath, “Let them go if they don’t like it here” was fired, by Boris, in 2008 for telling older, Afro-Caribbean Britons to return to the Caribbean if they didn’t like the vibe and other vast benefits of Tory rule in London.

You don’t become? – clearly, you do, Jimmy. Above all, your former boss, Boris’ has the gift of the gaffe. BJ’s way with words supercharges his natural tact, his homophobia, xenophobia and misogyny. It’s unifying. Uplifting. Inspiring.

Gay men love it when Boris calls them, “tank-topped bum-boys”. Women in burqas are cheered to hear Boris; ” would go further and say that it is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes.”

Britons in general -not just racist Brexiteers, are also hugely comforted to know that if “a female student turned up at school or a university lecture looking like a bank robber” Boris would ask her to remove it [the burqa] to speak to her.

Despite being fired for telling lies as a journalist, urbane, cosmopolitan Boris is a peerless wordsmith. Who else could claim, “Voting Tory will cause your wife to have bigger breasts and increase your chances of owning a BMW M3.” ?

Boris will Get Brexit Done, Rupert’s local toadies croak. It’s Johnson’s only slogan. Yes. The Oz is a political party in its own right, as Kevin Rudd knows. But hold the front page. Getting Brexit done will create a bonanza Down Under all wrought by the miracle of UK trade deals with Australia which will be signed off within a year. It’s a done deal.

Oddly overlooked by The Oz is that there’s not a skerrick of evidence to suppose that Johnson can get anything done. Au contraire, apart from Boris’ sheer brilliance as professional fabulist, serial womaniser and a policy-free zone on a bicycle – his entire political career is one of unrelieved, bungling ineptitude. And malignant narcissism.

Unless, of course you admire Boris’ cunning stunts and his peerless record for cop-outs and cock-ups. Crass theatrics. Above all, is Johnson’s endearing laziness, his inspiring, Trump-like resolve not to bother with the fine print or even read briefings at all.

Also forgotten by The Oz is heretical research that shows that our own, upright, tax-evading, wage-stealing business class are fully occupied in being the backbone of the nation -having a go and getting a go. They mostly can’t understand free trade deals, don’t use them because they are too complicated –  or they’ve lost buckets of money on them in the past.

Unsurprisingly, a survey of Australian businesses, big and small, conducted last year by our august Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, found local tycoons largely ignore free trade agreements.

Yet, in another sign of the times, Johnson’s Tory Party win is a big victory for mendacity. Morrison’s mob will take great comfort that Johnson’s government was helped into being by a farrago of online lies.

First Draft, a disinformation tracking organisation, finds 88 per cent of the most widely circulated online Tory ads during the first four days of December were misleading. That’s nearly all of them. First Draft found no Labor disinformation in the same period.

But it’s another thing to try to lie your way out of a real crisis; one that demands a rational response and real leadership – as Boris and Scott Morrison will discover.

A noxious miasma of acrid smoke smothers the yellow brick roads of The Emerald City poisoning Sydney’s air, over twelve times hazardous levels in Camden and Liverpool, Tuesday, as catastrophic fires continue to ravage the east coast of Australia, consuming over 2.7 million hectares of bush and destroying seven hundred homes in four weeks.

Commuters choke. Hospital emergency admissions soar. Ferry services are cancelled. Yet no smoke is thick enough to cloak the federal government’s wilful blindness; its failure of leadership. Morrison’s government is being tried by fire; bushfires of unprecedented scale and ferocity. And it is found lacking -utterly, comprehensively lacking. Not a clue what to do but to retreat into a type of paralysis.

The smoke is thick enough to trigger alarms at Liberal HQ in Sydney where Australia’s climate science denialist Prime Minister Scott Morrison neatly sidesteps the nation’s catastrophic bushfire crisis by holding a press conference on his post-truth, post-government’s religious discrimination bill, a sop to his right wing, which effectively foments intolerance by extending the definition of religious organisations to include hospitals and Op-shops. Smoke prevents from leaving the building.

“Let’s not beat around the bush … let’s call it for what it is. These bushfires have been caused by extreme weather events, high temperatures, the worst drought in living memory – the exact type of events scientists have been warning us about for decades that would be caused by climate change,” says Matt Kean, who is the leader at state level of the NSW Liberals’ moderate faction.

Kean is quickly clobbered; he cops a hiding for being right in The Australian. He’s accused of using the bogeyman of climate change as an excuse for not introducing any new initiatives – whatever they might be. It’s a straw man argument in which the Australian specialises. He’s also – shock – horror –“politicising the fires”.

“The [no new initiatives] revelation comes after Mr Kean attracted criticism for politicising the devastating fires — which have seen six people killed and more than 720 homes destroyed so far this season — by claiming the nation needed to prioritise the urgent reduction of carbon emissions to prevent catastrophic bushfire seasons becoming the new norm.”  Expect a lot more of this type of smear before the season of peace on earth and goodwill to all men and women is over.

But a few festive season shout outs are in order. Merry Christmas aged care executives – enjoy your $12 billion dollar a year subsidy and congratulations in lobbying govt to vote down Aged Care 2019 amendments to make aged care accountable  – as recommended by the current Royal Commission.

Public health researcher, Dr Sarah Russell, reports for veteran Walkley Award winning investigative reporter Michael West how a “few big interests” run our coalition government was on full show last week, when three critical amendments to the Aged Care Legislation Amendment (New Commissioner Functions) Bill 2019 were tabled. The Liberal-Nationals voted against all amendments.”

The amendments would have been a watershed in aged care – holding private firms accountable for their duty of care rather than maximising their profits. To vote down the reforms makes a mockery of the Commission’s findings and stalls vital transparency and accountability around finances, staffing ratios and complaints in aged care homes.

Yet you’ll hear a lot of boasts about the number of new home care packages available. Few of us are ever frail enough to warrant any kind of care package at all. Most packages available to average candidates offer very limited practical help.

The elderly do not need neoliberal packaging, any more outsourcing, service-delivering or commodifying. They need a government prepared to exercise humanity and to reform a system which horrifies Royal Commissioners by its cruelty, its abuse and its neglect of our senior citizens – all in the interests of a privatised age care system which works mainly for the financial benefit of owners and investors..

Season’s greetings also to all pensioners who may still be able to fend for themselves.

Waiting until the last sitting day, the Coalition uses its numbers to quietly push through its Social Security Integrity Bill which will make life harder for 400,000 Australians. Newstart recipients are mostly over 45. A quarter are over 55 years old.

Labor’s Linda Burney, Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services is furious at the arbitrary, uncaring injustice.

” … the two onerous or odious bits of this bill is what’s called the Liquid Assets Waiting Time. If you are a middle aged man, who’s lost their job; been made redundant; and you have more than $36,000 in the bank – or if you’re single and have $18,000 in the bank – the government wants to double the wait time before you can access social security.

So it’ll go from 13 weeks to 36 weeks, which is half a year. And it means that the government expects people to run down all their savings – any buffer they’ve got for a disaster in their life, like sickness – before they can access social security.

The second aspect of this bill which is odious as well is what’s called the migrant wait time. That means if you’re someone that’s migrating here from overseas, and you go back to your home country for more than six weeks the government wants to take the age pension supplement off you.

One final image of a government out of touch with those in its duty of care; a government crippled by internal division and its servitude to climate change deniers in its ranks and its donors; our coal barons and fossil fuel magnates, occurs Tuesday.

The bushfire smog is so thick that it triggers fire alarms trapping occupants of Liberal HQ in Sydney. Prevented from leaving also, is a climate science denialist PM who is trapped in a building by smoke from fires fuelled by man-made global warming, a term which the press has largely dropped in favour of the neutral “climate change”.

Time to drop the ideology, Mr Morrison. If you can’t join the dots connecting climate change and catastrophic bushfires, it’s high time you stepped aside in favour of someone who can. Or sought advice from experts. Not turn away when former fire chiefs try to help you with their advice and expertise.

Given your government’s track record, so far, however, it’s clear that you are a dangerous liability in the current crisis. You are not just fiddling while a nation burns, you are feeding the flames with your inertia, your policy paralysis, your wretched climate science denial. Time to declare a state of national climate emergency as a first step to taking the type of emergency action that experts are urging you to adopt.

Twenty-three former fire and emergency leaders say they tried for months to warn you that Australia needed more water-bombers to tackle bigger, faster and hotter bushfires. Former NSW Fire and Rescue chief Greg Mullins — one of the founders of the Emergency Leaders for Climate Action Group — says his group’s been seeking a meeting with Federal Government to discuss the crisis since April.

Subsequent pleas fall on deaf ears. Time to act step aside in favour of someone who can. Australia’s current crop of catastrophic fires are not about petty party politics and climate science denial. They are a real and pressing danger you need to address now.

Call the National Summit which Greg Mullins and Lee Johnson, two former fire chiefs from NSW and Queensland, say we need immediately to work out “how to deal with the increasing strain on volunteers battling more extreme and frequent bushfires, but also how Australia deals with fire in a changed climate.” Listen to them.

“What we’re saying long term is there needs to be a paradigm shift for how we deal with these fires,” former chief of NSW Fire and Rescue Greg Mullins says.

“A big national conversation needs to be had. We need farmers, councils, the military, politics.”  Of course, it won’t solve the crisis but it’s a very good start.

Instead we have a federal government and a headstrong, obdurately stubborn PM unwilling and incapable of taking any advice that is not his own or from powerful cronies whose views he already shares. It’s a lethal combination. A deadly Canberra bubble all of Scott Morrison and his ministers’ own making.

Don’t look to Boris Johnson’s win as some kind of vindication; far better that you treat it as a warning that even a lunatic, incompetent, clown born with a silver spoon in his mouth can get elected PM but there’s no reason to believe he knows remotely where to begin when it comes to governing. Nor does he have the personality or the nous to ever learn. If that sounds familiar, it’s time you, yourself, stood aside or at least owned your own cluelessness. The bluffing just adds another potentially lethal layer of disaster.

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“No emerging crisis so big the government can’t find a way to look past it.”

A massive pall of smoke cloaks NSW and shrouds Canberra as the state burns in a catastrophic mega-fire already the size of greater Sydney. Too big to put out, it could last for weeks. Or until rain falls. Meanwhile, Sydney itself joins the world’s top ten most polluted cities as air quality declines as a result of bushfire smoke over the last few weeks.

Some schools are forced to close while others cancel playtime and sports because of polluted air. Red dust and ash waft 2000 km across the Tasman. Smoke also reaches South America. Yet Coalition MPs back-slap and high-five each other on parliament’s last sitting day over their secret deal to repeal Medevac and endanger asylum-seekers’ lives.

“Australia is the best country in the world” government MPs chorus Thursday. “I, too, am confident about Australia’s future.” A claque performing fawning self-applause begin a raucous crowing over Medevac, job creation, congestion-busting, meeting our Paris emissions’ pledges in a canter, our drought relief plan among other Morrison government pretences. In counterpoint, fire alerts and other real warnings run in the crawler under coverage on our TV screens.

“The disconnect [is] emblematic of the week. Indeed, it’s a … motif of the Morrison government. There is no emerging crisis so big that the government cannot find a way to look past it,” even Molan fan-boy Peter Hartcher warns.

Hartcher himself has his blind spots. He hails Jim Molan’s return to the senate where the coal-warrior will replace renewables advocate, amnesiac Arthur Sinodinos who’s off to be our US Ambassador. Amazingly, Hartcher backs Molan to lead a Liberal charge for democracy whilst being uniquely valuable to national security. It’s hard to see how or why.

March 2003 to June 2006 alone 601,000 Iraqis were killed. Since 2007, four million Iraqi refugees had also been created.

Allegedly, Molan was in command when war crimes were allegedly committed in Fallujah 2004 after the US illegally invaded Iraq, a military mis-adventure to which we were joined at the hip. The greatest failure of Australian foreign policy, our involvement in Iraq was based on a farrago of lies. John Howard lied to the nation that he had proof that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction that could end up in the hands of terrorists.

We are still all paying the price in all sorts of ways.

Howard ignored advice in 2002 and in 2003 from Australia’s Defence Intelligence Organisation that there was no evidence of Iraq having chemical weapons nor nuclear weapons. He lied that we had to disarm Iraq to have any hope of disciplining North Korea – another palpable lie. And he fabricated a link between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.

There are votes in being tough on terror. This week, in similar duplicity, Home Affairs Tsar Peter Dutton deploys police to patrol our airports as if an extra 135 AFP officers armed with MK18, short-barrelled rifles will protect us from terrorists.

While our PM rants about suicide prevention amongst veterans, he would do better to attend to possible causes. These include growing evidence of moral injury. Fighting in conflicted wars is increasingly being seen  – even by US Operations Special Command – as contributing to soldiers experiencing moral conflict or feeling morally damaged by their service.

Moral injury is the lasting mental and emotional result of an assault on the conscience — a memory, as one early formulation put it, of “perpetrating, failing to prevent, or bearing witness to acts that transgress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations.” 

Whilst current research is based on military contexts, there is every reason to suppose that moral injury is also part of our modern human condition, not only a result of our war on terror, but of our climate wars which are mis-named attempts to downplay the wilful moral injury inflicted on those whose concern for humanity opposes the extinction of the planet via global warming boosted by the continued abuse of fossil-fuels in transport and electricity generation.

New Zealand’s once-pristine South Island glaciers are turning pink. Kiwis in Auckland and Wellington cough up our soot. But none of this alters Morrison’s mission to lie about climate change. And nothing can hide his hapless government’s monumental ineptitude in grasping the nature or scale – let alone its incapacity to respond appropriately to catastrophic bushfires which have so far killed six innocent people; destroyed over a thousand homes. Keep calm and carry on. Lying.

No credible scientific evidence links climate change and fires, Morrison insists. Besides, he just gets on with the job.

Accordingly, a can-do Morrison-McCormack government pledged to “meaningful practical action without damaging our economy or the family budget” rolls up its sleeves. Jumps in a ute. Gets its teeth into another bush photo-shoot.

Our PM and his dapper, deputy fashionista, Michael McCormack, a former editor (1992-2002) of The Daily Advertiser, a deeply homophobic bloke’s bloke, pose in a drying dam bed which retains a stale puddle big enough to reflect a trio of eucalypts in the background, a symbolic reminder of the Morrison regime’s unholy trinity. Cruelty. Ego. Inertia.

The setting says that while it may look dry, there’s plenty of cause for optimism. And more thoughts and prayers.

“We’ve had droughts before. Bound to rain again. Only latte-sipping city dwellers panic about climate change.”

Following Jenny’s recent write-up in national newspapers, wardrobe is all. Scott models a basic black Anthony Squires trouser with classic white shirt and salmon tie, while Michael teams the traditional National’s MP man-on-the-land-rig of rumpled moleskins with RM Williams Collins button-down, open-necked shirt and RM Williams Comfort Craftsman boot.

ScoMo’s a pro. He’s never forgotten what he learnt as the Vicks Love-Rub kid in the 70s Vapo-Rub ad. It shows. Hands on hips, Mugger Morrison grins down the lens while McCormack seems about to smile at something to the right. Michael could be about to crutch a sheep while Scott looks as if he has just sold the farm to an international consortium.

Fans of merit-based equality, the boys are every bit as “natural and authentic” as Jenny Morrison is recently judged.

 “It was a wonderful thing to do. We’re really advocates of wearing pieces over and over again … if something suits you – you should wear it as many times as you like, even to meet the Queen. It shouldn’t just be about wearing them once,” snipes Genevieve Smart: a verdict which should equally apply to a Stepford husband’s ability to dress himself.  Jenny doesn’t have a stylist. Buys all her own clothes. Gosh. Can the same be said of her husband and his deputy?

With drought and bushfires all under control thanks to a fabulous fashion-in-the-field photo shoot, the boys are at their best when called upon to dig deep back in Canberra; bash Labor and trash parliamentary democracy to the end.

The spirit of Christmas erupts across both ochre-red and eucalypt-green chambers of federal parliament as MPs break up for the year, Thursday, with a riotous free-for-all. It’s a joyously bicameral, poly-partisan, fiesta of back-stabbing, smearing and blaming amidst the ritual, slagging-off of Labor that now usurps all policy or reasoned exchange. Government MPs seem elated that they have the numbers to deny the opposition its democratic right of reply.

Ironically, there’s no debate allowed on the re-introduced Ensuring Integrity, a bill to further silence dissent in the workforce, a law which could deprive workers’ of their right to withhold their labour; make strike action impossible.  Could any Labor MP fail to get the vibe? Or mistake the lower house for a debating chamber? It’s now Morrison’s “bubble”. For Katharine Murphy, it shows how little parliament matters to a Morrison government. Albo is disgusted.

“They run in to gag the debate. They refuse to allow anyone to speak to push through legislation, to what end? So that they can make a point that while they lost in the Senate last week, they won’t on the floor of the House of Representatives?

“We know they have a majority on the floor of the House of Representatives, but this is not, or should not be, a totalitarian state … Dissent and the right of people to represent their electorates have been shut down.”

Warming to the occasion, Angus Taylor, a former Rhodes Scholar who makes Tony Abbott look bookish, over-cooks his already well-stuffed goose by accusing Naomi Wolf of anti-Semitism. His seasonal Christmas tree war is a total fabrication which plays well to misogynists, racists and all conflicted and confused opponents of political correctness.

Taylor’s outrageous fiction ignores Wolf’s objection that she was nowhere near Oxford in 1991 as he alleges. Besides, she rather likes Christmas. In a sensational development, she rings Taylor’s office whilst recording the response before posting it on YouTube and social media. In a post-fact era, her rational, logical, objections are automatically overruled.

Besides, as a woman, a feminist and a victim of male malfeasance she has three strikes against her already in the Trump era.

Yet Taylor is a racist parody in response. Racist? Taylor? Why, some of his best friends are Jewish and he’s got a Jewish grandmother. Irrefutable proof of virtue. It’s a low pitch to divert a nation still in uproar over Clover-gate.

It’s also, as Jacqueline Maley notes in The Brisbane Times, a farcical indictment of our wilful abandonment of reason and the siloes into which we’ve retreated. Or been abducted by our elected representatives. Maley sums up the spat;

“So, here we have it, at year’s end: the greatest, weirdest and the saddest encapsulation of the tribalism that seems increasingly to define our politics: two people at odds, one from the left, one from the right, both with reputations for playing loose with the facts to make ideological points.”

Equally loose with the facts in service of ideology, Morrison’s government by and for and of the ruling elite, a hardy, noxious hybrid of kleptocracy, kakistocracy and oligarchy, is hell-bent on expanding wage slavery under the guise of his vitriolic hatred of “union thugs”.

The coalition government gags debate in a ram-raid on democracy so that its Ensuring Integrity Bill, passes through a bruised lower house to await a newly compliant senate when parliament resumes next year.

Together with side-lining parliamentary democracy, Ensuring Integrity further trammels workers’ rights to freedom of association and makes it easier for governments to deregister unions as well as just interfere in union governance.

A win will further handicap unions’ efforts to monitor workplace agreements and employee entitlements; create an environment which invites wage theft. Whilst this may delight some employers it has dire implications for those families who increasingly depend on underpaid, insecure, casualised or uberised work. And it will help stuff the economy.

Workers must have wages to spend to buy the goods and services our worthy small businesses have for sale.

But there’s big profits in cutting wages and keeping wages down, down, down. Woolworths’ eye-watering underpayment of $300 million to 5700 of its employees happens right before the regulator’s eyes. Unpaid wages may even run to $620 million according to a class action launched this week, reports employment lawyer, Josh Bornstein.

Australian bosses underpay their workers by $1.35 billion every year, PwC estimates, in its November report.

Wage theft is rampant in the hospitality industry, notes Bornstein.  The Good Food Guide would fold tomorrow if it excluded those eateries that underpaid or otherwise ripped off their staff.

Workers are most vulnerable in construction (~$320 million), healthcare and social assistance (~$220 million), accommodation and food services (~$190 million) and retail (~$180 million). This estimate includes ~21% of the workforce in the selected industries, or ~13% of the total Australian workforce, reports PWC.

Speaking of rip-offs How good is Gladys Liu? Thursday we learn Morrison’s Great Australian is demanding the Liberal Party repays her $100,000 donation. It was only ever a loan. Victorian Liberals needed her money to hold Chisholm, a marginal Melbourne seat, she says. Liberal Party-poopers beg to differ. Thank God for Scott Morrison’s leadership.

“That’s a matter for the Victorian division of the Liberal Party. I was a state director a long time ago. That is no longer my job,” Morrison ducks and weaves in Canberra, Thursday, eagerly leading in evasion and prevarication at every turn.

But when money talks, a nation pays attention. And even our PM’s charisma can’t compete with Liu’s story.

Australia thrills to its small business backbone to hear how Glad’s pal Allen Saylav, ex-Brighsun CEO, backpacked to raise capital for his plucky little EV bus start-up.

Gladys steered Brighsun towards federal backing in 2015, taking the wheel as the company’s pro-bono Communications Director. Her role led her to organise events with former Minister of Energy and Direct Action dirt magic boondoggler, Greg Hunt, who was then flashing bags of cash for carbon abatement.

Gladys is so passionate about clean energy, she tells Nine Newspapers, she charges no fee.

Alas, poor Saylav has no idea the million dollars in cash including a cool half million he picks up in a Oztrail Quest backpack at a Melbourne BP petrol station car park in April and May 2016 involves a heroin-dealer. A drug mule? Who would know?  Not that Saylav can’t explain himself. He’s just following orders. From Mr Zhang.

Brighsun’s Chinese co-director and fat-cat backer, Zhang Genjiang is a Crown casino high roller who jets into Melbourne on his private plane for a flutter. As you do.

Australia is now completely made-over into Morrison’s own Trumpian dis-United States or commonwealth of Metanoia complete with Jacqui Lambie the post-modern anti-heroic little Tassie battler left bleating and freaking out about national security, a phrase which means whatever any MP wants it to mean – but how good’s a mystery ending?

“There is no secret deal,” Mathias Cormann insists – despite all circumstantial evidence pointing towards Lambie being gulled; duped by a promise that Morrison’s government would look into re-settling 500 asylum-seekers who have survived the repeal of Medevac being resettled in New Zealand.

Not that Morrison ever said that. His leadership weasel words include “revisiting” New Zealand’s offer of a deal which was never off the table, he says – despite being rubbished by himself and Dutton as a back-door to refugees resettling in Australia – The Greatest Country in the World. A deal may still be on – but only when the US takes all 500 asylum seekers off Nauru and Manus, an event six months away, at the earliest – and after extreme vetting – in other words, most likely never.

The nation thrills this week to the riddle, wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma of the Morrison government, a puzzle, that includes Lambie’s Faustian bargain, Angus Taylor’s war on both Naomi Wolf and Clover Moore with Gladys Liu’s to-do tipping the government’s weekly balance from hyper-partisan warfare and union thuggery into utter skulduggery.

The one-time trombone-playing former teacher’s aide and ex-chemist-shop proprietor cannot keep mum forever about her Brighsun or Liberal associates, nor they about her, especially as she now has cause to ask for her money back.

Any sensible, practical government would demand the resignation of both Gladys Liu and Angus Taylor. Given his form so far, Scott Morrison is likely to find fifty shades of grey evasion including blaming Labor and Wolf to avoid taking any decision.

There is no individual, no institution nor any emerging crisis so big that this government cannot find a way to look past it.

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A Whale of a Taylor – too.

“People aren’t spending” sighs Fran Kelly at the end of ABC Insiders Sunday, blaming us for the government’s epic failure to manage the economy. It’s always the victim’s fault. Yet if you don’t have it, you can’t spend it.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) records a snail’s pace in the latest increase in household incomes. ABS data shows a healthy increase from 1995 through until 2012, the period of the Howard and then Rudd/Gillard governments. Then it collapses in 2013. It is yet to recover. No wonder 9,300 retail stores will close their doors this year.

Average wealth per adult Australian, also fell by $US28,670 in 2018-2019 reports Credit Suisse in its annual global wealth report. Although Credit Suisse’s calculation includes falling house prices and a falling Australian dollar – and despite Australians remaining among the wealthiest in the world, the report confirms economic mismanagement.

We are one of a tiny minority of countries with wealth per adult lower in 2019 than back in 2012.

Vast amounts of wealth are being shunted offshore with little or no benefit to the people of Australia.

“There is no mineral resources rent tax, no other scheme to retain wealth in Australia, tax avoidance and evasion are rife, the Tax Office’s audit and enforcement divisions are severely understaffed and the Government keeps giving handouts to its foreign corporate mates,” writes Alan Austin.

What is improving is the Coalition’s strangle-hold on the media, helped in the ABC’s case by $84 million budget cuts, intimidating calls to head office, stacking of the board and a PM’s captain’s pick of Ita Buttrose as ABC Chair. AFP raids on working journalists help to increase the state’s pressure on everyone not to criticise; step out of line.

Journos pick up the vibe. Last week, Kelly’s love-in with work experience kid, Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg aids and abets Coalition’s lies about its comprehensive, colossal failure to manage the Australian economy.

“When we came to government, unemployment was 5.7%. Today it’s 5.3%. We have a record number of Australians in jobs. We have just produced the first current account surplus since 1975 … the budget is back in balance, already delivered, for the first time in 11 years. And we’re going to deliver a surplus. That means paying down Labor’s debt. Right now we have an interest bill of around $19 billion a year …”

 “So what we need to do is build the resilience of the Australian economy and face those domestic and global economic headwinds that all countries are facing, particularly the trade tensions,” Frydenberg lies.

OK, Josh. Perhaps you’d like to take credit for at least half of that debt and rising interest yourself. Hey Big Spender, your government spends like a drunken sailor. Since March, Australia’s gross debt was $543,409,430,000. Double all debt accumulated by every government from Federation to the 2013 election. Just tell the truth.

Global headwinds? Mathias Cormann – who’s never been the same since his arithmetic failed him as Dutton’s numbers man in the Liberals’ last leadership coup – has been wearing out this excuse since he become finance minister. Luckily, he need suffer no longer. He’ll quit politics at the end of this parliamentary session according to Paul Bongiorno. Cormann should go. Ten years ago, the nation was praised for its success during the GFC.

Now we lag the field. Global wealth grew during the past year as the five-year international boom in trade, jobs, investment, corporate profits and government revenue continues, although Alan Austin reports some easing with the new record high adult wealth reaching $70,850 or just 1.2% below last year’s record.

There are no global headwinds. The excuse is invoked whenever jobless figures rise, interest rates are cut, GDP per capita is lower than last year and declining productivity, among other factors, show our local economy stalling.

We’re all at sea. The mutinous dog in the captain’s rig may have seized the helm in last year’s dirty double, double-crossing of Turnbull. But the usurper has no charter; no vision. His first mate can’t read a compass and the crew are frigging in the rigging or sleeping in a cabin far below. No wonder Chief Purser Cormann is about to jump ship.

With Fran’s help, Frydenberg’s farrago of lies includes his party’s whopper that it has a record number of Australians in jobs. Yet Australia’s population growth of 1.7 million people (over 15 years old) during the same period, “created” those jobs. And a record number of deaths, too, not that you hear any boasting on that score.

Even if you take figures at face value, ABC, you could query the quality of those jobs. As in the US, many Australian workers are waiting up to a decade for a pay rise, income inequality is at record levels, working hours are long or unpredictable and penalty rates are being cut or do not exist. Conditions are also rapidly getting worse.

Wage theft is becoming the new normal as every month another corporation is found underpaying its workers.

“For many workers, there is no on-the-job training or chance for career progression, stress related illnesses due to intense work pressures are common and large sections of the workforce live in fear of being sacked without notice or redundancy pay because employment security provisions have been eroded,” reports the ACTU.

Above all, as The Australia Institute’s Richard Denniss asks, “… if the Coalition is managing the economy, why did they grow the population rather than create jobs for those who were already unemployed?” We need to explode the pernicious myth of the coalition as good economic managers.  And as Denniss puts it, the economy’s effect on the budget vastly outweighs the effect of any budget on any economy.

Budgets are important but budgets are not central to the management of the economy.

Context matters. Unemployment was indeed 5.7% at the end of the financial crisis or global recession of 2013 but that rate still put us eighth in OECD rankings – as contrasted with our 21st place today at 5.3% as shown in last month’s ABS data. That’s our lowest ranking since records have been kept. But no-one holds Josh to account.

The budget is not back in balance. As Finance Dept data reveals, the deficit at the end of October is around $14.7 billion. A surplus is predicted for next June. Alan Austin spells it out, that’s seven months away.

Above all, as Ross Gittins and others point out, any surplus requires a series of heroic assumptions which include expecting government spending to grow by just 0.1% in real terms – as opposed to 4.9% last financial year.

Then there are the decidedly unheroic calculations and assumptions of this government. Helping create a sacred surplus are cuts to NDIS, although the preferred term is “underspend”. Chief amongst these is the $4.6bn that has not been spent on NDIS, or to use the bureaucrats’ jargon, the “… slower than expected transition of participants into the NDIS and lower utilisation of participants’ individual support packages”.

In other words, our most vulnerable experience delay or denial as more stringent assessments reduce the numbers who qualify for NDIS. Wheelchair Basketball and Tennis, Paralympian Dylan Alcott is disgusted.

“I see the heartbroken families of people who try and try to get funding but can’t, robbing them to be independent, contributing members of society. Fix it.”

Then there’s the timing of receipts. Bringing forward the collection of tobacco excise collections, for example, Shane Wright reminds us, boosts the bottom line by several billions in the new financial year. But wait!

Look over there! In an “explosive allegation”, a Chinese spy ring, exposed by Nine’s 60 Minutes, Sunday, may involve the late Bo “Nick” Zhao, (32) a former luxury car-dealer in leafy Glen Iris in Melbourne’s sleepy eastern suburbs who was offered one million dollars to be a Chinese agent of influence in Australian federal politics.

Or so the self-professed Manchurian candidate, Bo told ASIO a year ago. Is Glen Iris the den of sedition, our ex-pat local sage and dramaturge Barry Humphries, has always warned us about?  Sandy Stone now a suburban guerrilla?

A nation is shocked to learn of the plot to parachute Bo into the Liberal seat of Chisholm. Bo would then be injected like a bacillus into the fibrillating heart of our body politic, our parliament, like Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (Lenin) in the train to the Finland Station in April 1917. Seriously? More panic from Canning MP, Andrew Hastie.

“I heard that he was a 32-year-old Melbourne resident cultivated by the Chinese Government to run as a Liberal Party candidate,” Chair of Parliamentary Joint Subcommittee on Intelligence and Security Hastie breathlessly tells Channel Nine whose chairman is former Liberal Treasurer and current chair of the Board of Guardians of our $148 billion (that won’t be invested in education, health or welfare) Future Fund, nest-egg, Peter Costello.

Sadly, it turns out Bo’s in jail awaiting trial for fraud in October when Chisholm’s preselection takes place. Gladys Liu, who also boasted she could raise a million dollars for the cause, takes his place. Bo’s bid would be a Chinese Communist Party long-term strategy, helpfully suggests Alex Joske, Australian Strategic Policy Institute analyst.

Did Bo know too much? Tragically, he is found dead of a drug overdose in a Mount Waverly motel after tipping off ASIO that Chinese intelligence operatives would give him a million dollars to run for Chisholm. What could possibly have gone wrong? The party would even have given him a hand with the odd fake AEC polling booth or two.

Mandarin language electoral booths in Chisholm and Kooyong and in several other electorates with Chinese speakers instruct unwary voters to unwittingly tick the box to elect the Liberal candidate. These appear to be authorised by the Australian Electoral Commission. Prove they affected one vote say government lawyers.

Cases have been brought against the two candidates by climate campaigner Vanessa Garbett and unsuccessful independent Kooyong candidate Oliver Yates. The fake poll booth case is currently before the full federal court.

Former acting Victorian Liberal party state director, Simon Frost, has testified that signs written in Chinese at polling booths on election day were designed to look like official Australian Electoral Commission signage. Preliminary comments from the bench are not encouraging. At least the spy scandal gets our PM’s attention.

“Deeply disturbing”, Scott Morrison finds the spy claims, he says, while Liberal MP for Canning, first talent-spotted by Greg Sheridan, and an Abbott, captain’s pick, former SAS Captain, Andrew Hastie, cranks up the hysteria.

A state-sponsored attempt to infiltrate our Parliament using an Australian citizen and basically run them as an agent of foreign influence in our democratic system,” cries Andrew “handy Andy” Hastie, who chairs the Australian Parliament’s oxymoron – its intelligence and security committee.

It seems to give Hastie a lot of prominence if not power.

Incredibly, another self-proclaimed Chinese spy, Wang Liqiang, who also comes to Hastie’s attention, is the star of a 60 Minutes’ show when he comes forward with sensational allegations. Wang claims he worked as a secret Chinese operative for five years. Worse, Beijing has directed overseas assassinations, including on Australian soil.

Yet barely a week passes before our spooks conclude the self-proclaimed Chinese spy is not a highly trained intelligence operative dispatched by Beijing to wreak havoc on China’s enemies. At most, they suggest, he may be a bit player on the fringes of the espionage community. But what a star. Let’s hope he’s awarded asylum.

“We develop friendly co-operation with Australia and other countries based on mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit,” a foreign ministry spokesman says. “We have not interfered and are never interested in interfering in other countries’ domestic affairs.”

That settles that, then. Meanwhile, it seems Wang may have some charges to face should he return to China. The Chinese Embassy insists he is merely a “self-proclaimed intelligence agent” and a convicted fraudster who was sentenced to one year and three months in prison, with a suspended sentence of a year and a half.

The embassy cites a Shanghai police statement of an investigation into Mr Wang they opened in April, after he allegedly cheated 4.6 million yuan ($960,000), in a “fake investment project”, involving car imports in February.

Chinese spies is the latest episode of Morrison’s Police State which stars our fearless anti-hero the PM as daggy-Dad, a NSW copper’s son, making yet another dud judgement call. Rather than get his Minister for Energy, Emissions, water-rorts and Round-Up, Angus Taylor, to explain who cooked up the dodgy document Taylor used to falsely impugn Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore – he rings Mick’s mobile. Is Mick’s number on Scott’s speed dial?

So our PM phones a friend; his former neighbour and bin brother, top cop, Mick Fuller. Mick’s NSW Police Commissioner, a passionate advocate of strip-searching minors, the separation of powers and augmenting the rule of law with a little bit of fear.

Young people should have a “little bit of fear” of police he tells the fear-mongering Sydney tabloid The Daily Telegraph. It’s a view which former AFP chief Mick Palmer does not share. He says it is frankly frightening.

Morrison tells parliament that Strike Force Garrad (SFG) won’t be going anywhere. He implies Mick’s told him.

SFG is the NSW police investigation of Gus Taylor’s use of doctored documents to ridicule Sydney’s Lord Mayor, Clover Moore for declaring a state of climate emergency over some forged travel figures, Gus swears were downloaded from Sydney City Council’s website, a claim contradicted by the council’s website metadata.

Doubtless, no crime will be found to have been committed but no-one will believe Morrison hasn’t leaned on Fuller to back off.

Happily, our spooks are up to snuff. The Australian even suggests that Morrison could learn from their approach. Don’t turn crisis into catastrophe.  Spymaster, ASIO Director-General Mike Burgess looms up late Sunday night to assure all loyal Australians that not only is ASIO aware of the matters but is “actively investigating them“.

A former Telstra information security chief, Mike’s a top bloke says Peter Dutton. Last August Mike “moved across” to head ASIO after heading the Australian Signals Directorate, (ASD). He was on deck to News Corp Annika Smethurst whose scoop, April last year busted an ASD plan to spy on all Australians. Mike says it’s bollocks.

Mike Burgess and two departmental heads, (always better than one) issued a rare public statement disputing the report. Later Smethurst’s home was raided by the Australian Federal Police, reports Michelle Grattan, looking for anything which would lead them to her source.

Since then, there’s been a lot of fuss and bother about the role of the free press, a debate in which News Corp is handicapped by the baggage of having urged Coalition governments to increase state powers to spy on us all.

News of the Chinese plot is enough to put a nation off its Uncle Toby’s Weeties, Monday morning and quite upstages Evangelical Stuart Robert’s frantic attempts to hose down the government’s dumpster fire which erupts when, as it knew would happen, its Robodebt assessment or extortion of the poor is ruled illegal Wednesday by the Federal Court. The Morrison government may have to repay hundreds of millions of dollars.

While MSM faithfully report that it’s a shocker of a week for Morrison, it is, in fact, a very positive week for the Australian worker. Bill Shorten also is in top form. He raises the following matter in parliament. He asks

“Given that the government has now suspended robodebt after three years of operation, is it because the Coalition government at the time of creating it either, a) didn’t seek legal advice, or b) had inaccurate legal advice or c) received legal advice but just didn’t think that Australians would notice the government unjustly enriching itself at the expense of the most vulnerable in Australian society.”

It’s a bad week for Scott Morrison chorus Nine Newspapers following News Corp’s lead. But it’s far from that. It’s a good week or at least a hopeful week for ordinary Australians. What is bad is that Ensuring Integrity and repeal of Medevac are not remotely necessary.

Worse, Jacqui Lambie and Pauline Hanson note the hypocrisy, the double standard applied to workers and Westpac bankers who have just been called out by AUSTRAC on twenty-three million counts of money-laundering.

“The Prime Minister himself came out and said ‘it’s not up to us to deal with it, it’s up to the board to deal with the banks’ – but that’s not good enough,” senator Hanson says.

In the end, the Morrison government’s just not good enough, Pauline Hanson nails it. Or big enough.

One bill before the senate extends the government’s campaign to cripple unions; reduce further the power of workers to organise and exercise industrial action while the other is more a fit of pique – a sure sign that petty political point-scoring matters more than the human rights of asylum-seekers – or our compassion, humanity – or our doctors’ Hippocratic oath. Morrison’s government hates any law that Labor may have had a hand in.

Finally, there’s the robodebt debacle. The government has been happy to connive at extortion but even when called on it’s illegal averaging to raise a debt, all its Government Services Minister Stuart Robert can offer is;

“This government does not apologise -” Yet apologise it must. And fitting restitution must soon follow. No government can treat its people with such contempt; nor in reversing the onus of proof put itself above the law.

As for Yellow Peril 2.0, its spy drama, cooler, wiser heads must prevail. Andrew Hastie’s Sinophobia has all the hallmarks of an orchestrated diversion, designed to distract us from a government in deep trouble.

This week Scott Morrison reveals he understands neither the separation of powers nor the rule of law in our democracy; he acts the can-do PM; markets himself as a man of action. Yet this does not give him permission to ring the NSW Commissioner of Police in the midst of a parliamentary sitting to seek details of an investigation it is not his business to ask nor the Commissioner’s business to tell. Both parties are now irrevocably impugned.

Viewed in conjunction with his eagerness to silence dissent and his government’s passage of at least eighty laws increasing the powers of the state to spy on its citizens, his behaviour is not only entirely inappropriate it is truly alarming. The road toward a police state is paved with such incursions into liberty, democracy and justice.

Just as the incessant repetition of party propaganda and lies mask a grave unwillingness to consult others, let alone fairly and effectively manage our nation’s economy and resources whilst elevating illusion over truth.

Yet this tyranny is not inevitable. Armed with knowledge we can resist. We must. Our democracy depends upon it.

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