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Who’s the real baby here, Mr Trump?

Who’s the real baby here? A monster orange balloon-effigy of Trump as an angry baby in a nappy, complete with blonde comb-over and blue mobile in tiny hand, scares him off London, Friday. It’s a brilliantly surreal representation, of the inner Trump which also evokes just how untethered this president is from his administration. Or from reality.

Giving 100,000, “Together against Trump”, London protesters the slip, he elects to chow down with Theresa May, at Chequers, her grace and favour country residence, sixty-four km safely away in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.

Not that his safety is at issue, of course, although Scotland’s police will ground Trump baby on security concerns. Pressed on the mass demonstrations against him, Trump offers a reporter his favourite blend of delusion and denial: “‘Some of them are protesting in my favour, you know that? There are many, many protests in my favour.”

May displays a hearty appetite, despite the resignation of hard Brexiteer Boris Johnson, her foreign minister. He’s her ninth minister to resign in a year. Then Brexit Secretary, David Davis makes ten. Clearly, something is up.

Steve Bannon, who sees a Trump-like quality in Johnson’s capacity to be dismissed as a clown, rates him a potential Prime Minister. Incredibly, not only does Trump barrack for Boris for PM also, this is widely seen as undermining Theresa May. By Friday, however, Johnson is back on the staff of The Daily Telegraph.

May’s hospitality toward Trump is restrained. So much for the full state visit the British PM promised him in January 2017. Hot to trot, May jetted to the White House with an invitation from the Queen, seven days after Trump’s inauguration; the first world leader to visit monster baby. Perhaps it’s hyperbolic remorse.

“I think Brexit’s going to be a wonderful thing for your country and I think it will be a tremendous asset, not a tremendous liability,” Donald, sagely predicted. So much for that.  So much too, for Trump’s subsequent refusal to visit Blighty if there were large-scale protests. Monster baby soars above London; a bizarre barrage balloon.

Large scale? There’s an unprecedented, massively popular, “dump Trump” protest in all major UK cities.  May, herself, has alienated her party with her Brexit white paper, proposing an “association agreement”, an homage to the agreement the EU signed with Ukraine, a stroke of genius which could lose her control of her party.

By week’s end, Scotland blows a raspberry at security and at The Donald. Police have yet to nab a paragliding Greenpeace protester who breaks through the “no-fly zone” surrounding Trump’s Turnberry golf resort, Friday evening. He’s as elusive as the small fortune Trump is losing on the venture. Or its source.

Trump lost $36.1m on Turnberry in 2016, the last figure available. The Washington Post is looking into $400,000 in cash which Trump plunged into acquisitions, including $65m to buy Turnberry, between 2006 and 2015. Eric Trump has reassured everyone, however, by volunteering that much of Turnberry’s funding came from Russia.

Floating past the US president, a notorious golf-cheat, as he enters the Scottish hotel; flaunting himself in front of rows of police snipers, the protestor trails a canary yellow banner with the legend “Trump: well below par #resist”.

Police go ballistic with all the latest anti-terror, counter terror, dissent repressing and all the other top secret security routines that cannot be divulged for operational reasons  – measures which are so popular in our own nation that we blithely surrender our rights to the very “way of life” we are trying to protect.

Freedom of the press, a right supported by the Australian Human Rights Commission and The Australian Press Council is increasingly eroded or curtailed. Anxious not to be wedged, Labor supports the Coalition’s latest espionage bill and its foreign transparency register. The former could criminalise protests and criticism of government, according to legal advice, obtained by Get Up.

Would a monster baby Trump survive in our skies?

Our pro-Trump commercial media and our cowed, under-funded, government-bastardised ABC, about to endure an efficiency review, would have us believe that the Donald, who watches up to eight hours’ TV a day, won’t see the protests. The mainstream narrative normalises the monster as much as it insults its audience’s common sense.

Some of the more coherent, authentic local Trumpistas are wheeled out, at week’s end to rave over him.

On ABC Insiders Sunday, Gerard Henderson, pronounces Trump’s diplomatic mission as “largely successful”. He just loves Trump’s pep talk to NATO, a US-led containment strategy dating from 1949.

Trump threatens to pull out the alliance. Rich NATO countries are not paying their fair share, he raves.

“Many countries are not paying what they should,” he says. “And, frankly, many countries owe us a tremendous amount of money for many years back, where they’re delinquent, as far as I’m concerned, because the United States has had to pay for them.”

Yet as Stephen Saideman explains in Politifact, “Countries falling short means not that they owe anyone money, but that countries have weaker militaries than we would like. NATO is not a country club.”

The next day, however, Trump holds a conference praising NATO. He spends more time spruiking his own success in getting members to increase their budgets and commitments, but he won’t specify by how much.

It’s another outright lie. There has been no such increase. Nor is the US being dudded.

Although the US pays only 22% of the cost of maintaining NATO, leaving Germany (14.65 percent), France (10.63%) and Britain (9.84 %) – and thirteen allies; mostly smaller, vastly poorer, former communist countries roped into the alliance after the fall of the USSR and disintegration of Yugoslavia, who pay less than one percent each.

Zut! French President Emmanuel Macron confirms no-one has agreed to any figure higher than what was in the leaders’ communique — 2 per cent by 2024 — a leaders’ statement that Donald Trump had signed the day before.

Gerard Henderson could, of course, be ahead of the game. Perhaps he’s referring to his idol’s business successes – or, at least, he may be impressed at how many infomercials and business trips Trump works into his gruelling presidential schedule.

Trump’s Turnberry tour of duty is the 169th day during his presidency that he has visited a property owned, managed or branded by The Trump Organisation, writes Katie Rogers in The New York Times.

Then again, merry Gerry could have been charmed by the President’s slap-down of Angela Merkel who was also  chuffed to hear that Germany was “captive to Russia” because of its dependence on Russian natural gas.

Of course, Trump will watch TV coverage of his favourite subject, himself.  But that’s not even the main point of Trump Baby, its creator, environmental activist, Leo Murray, explains, claiming (mostly) loftier aspirations.

“Trump Baby will spread cheer and goodwill, putting smiles on the faces of millions of people here and around the globe as we remember our common humanity, and laugh together at the idiot president.”

An inspired send-up, and a telling put-down, the six metre high, ($1600 worth of helium)-filled, flying monster baby parody is calculated to get some form of response, because, as Murray, explains to The Guardian, Trump is,

“… a deeply insecure man, and that is the only leverage we have over him. If we want his attention, we have to do something that humiliates him.”

Britain’s PM must grin and bear Trump’s humiliation of her in the Murdoch press. The Donald, a self-proclaimed stable genius, says May failed to take his advice on Brexit and she’s about to kill any special UK-US trade deal.

Boris would make a great Prime Minister, he adds, but he clears all that up by explaining that it’s fake news and that May is “an incredible woman doing an incredible job” and The Sun just left out all the good stuff, he says.

Advice? By Sunday, May reveals on BBC TV’s, The Andrew Marr Show, that Trump suggests she sue the EU. May publicly declines the US president’s advice. She will, instead, be negotiating with the EU, she says pointedly.

Insecure? Trump shouts down CNN’s reporter; calls CNN “fake news.” He bags NBC News for “such dishonest reporting.” The Donald falsely accuses London’s The Sun of cherry-picking quotes from an interview; complains about a New York Times image that, he says, makes it look like he has a “double chin.” He acts like a big baby.

Or anti-baby? Most babies like to breast-feed.  The New York Times reports, last Sunday, that the US confounds world health experts by heavying other nations to block a UN resolution promoting breastfeeding.

Monster baby Trump, evokes babies of “illegal” migrants in cages. Our government tends to play along with The Donald’s random acts of cruelty.

Only Peter Dutton matches Trump’s mob when it comes to souring the milk of human kindness. Now even the human breast is suspect. The US defies long-standing scientific consensus that breast milk is ultimately healthier for children than infant formula, (although not all parents can breastfeed).

Breast-milk is not only safer, it’s cheaper. “The deaths of 823,000 children and 20,000 mothers each year could be averted through universal breastfeeding, along with economic savings of US $300 billion,” a 2016 study found.

Yet breast-feeding threatens the profits of multinational corporations who produce infant formula in a US $70bn industry dominated by a few giant US and Europe-based multinational firms. Even after Trump’s tax breaks, they may fail to thrive should mothers put their babies on the breast.

Six major international companies and their subsidiaries control the market: Nestle leads with 22% of the global market share, Danone, Mead Johnson (now RB), Abbott, Friesland Campina, and Heinz. It’s a tribute to the power of oligarchical, multi-national capitalism. Its brilliant success mirrors the fabulous benefits we enjoy as a result of having privatised so many essential services such as electric power or the provision of jobs or disability services.

Trump’s concern parallels our own business-friendly government’s solicitude; its crusade to help out needy corporations with tax cuts, especially the ten companies who have written an open letter urging the senate to pass the last tranche of the legislation even if half of them didn’t pay any company tax in 2015-16.

Amazing news gladdens the hearts of all Australians as Rod Sims, head of the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission, (ACCC), commonly billed as our “competition watchdog” announces it has solved the mystery of why our nation’s electricity is the most expensive in the world. Retail competition is a failure.

It’s taken just over a year for the ACCC to make its statement of the bleeding obvious. Yet now it is overnight the expert du jour on setting energy policy. Already there’s the Australian Energy Market Commission, (AEMC), The Australian Energy Regulator (AER), Australian Energy Market Operator, (AEMO) and Energy Security Board (ESB), an alphabet soup of acronyms to set energy policy – helped of course by various state government bureaucrats.

We had three bodies too many when the ESB entered the scene a year ago. And as Brian Toohey explained in The Australian Financial review, last year,

The AEMC’s rules have pushed electricity prices unnecessarily high. One rule gave the grid companies a guaranteed mark-up on capital outlays, rewarding them for gold plating the network. Another rule let wholesale suppliers enjoy ridiculously high prices by “gaming” the government-created National Electricity Market (NEM).

It doesn’t help that the ACCC report is highly contentious. John Quiggan shows commendable restraint in calling its report “a mishmash of cognitive dissonance and half-baked suggestions for fixing the unfixable”. Of course, it may well be designed to read like that. Or as The Saturday Paper’s Sean Kelly puts it

 “… the political equivalent of the Laurel or Yanny sound clip. The Nationals heard, “Coal!” Labor heard, “Turnbull is to blame for rising prices!” Malcolm Turnbull himself heard, “My plan will work!”

Less ambiguous, however, is its call to cease subsidies for solar panels, a call which flies in the face of The Australia Institute’s (TAI) latest expert analysis. Their findings are that “rooftop solar delayed and reduced peak demand in the National Electricity Market (NEM) this summer. This improved the reliability of the grid, covering for coal-fired power plants during breakdowns.”

“Hot days are the greatest challenge for our electricity system and especially for gas and coal-fired generators. Our system now struggles to meet peak demand without rooftop solar and other renewables,” says Ben Oquist, Executive Director of The Australia Institute.

Immediately, however, the blind men and the elephant (in the room) that is the Turnbull government energy and environment committee claim that the ACCC calls for government-subsidised new coal-fired power stations. It doesn’t. Time for someone to produce a balloon barrage of Craig Kelly, Matthew Canavan, Tony Abbott, Barnaby Joyce and co.

If time is short, a flying Frydenberg or a michelin man Malcolm Turnbull would do.

These babies could be deployed whenever and wherever the nation’s citizens are brave enough to risk prosecution by protesting at having been exploited for decades; robbed blind by an electricity system that is built for profits and not fit for purpose.

Our electricity system will not be fixed by the NEG, the ACCC or any other dodgy acronym, authority, board or quango that permits further environmental destruction under the hoax of being “technology neutral” or “agnostic” as a ruse to allow coal-fired power stations to continue to cause global warming, destroying the planet and poisoning the very air we breathe.

 

Abbott’s subversion fails, yet Turnbull succeeds in undermining a fair and just society.

“The nose of Cleopatra, if it had been shorter, would have changed the face of the Earth,” ventured philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal in 1669.… This indefinable something, so trifling that we cannot recognize it, upsets the whole earth, princes, armies, the entire world.”

David Leyonhjelm would not have been elected to the Senate had Malcolm Turnbull not bet the house on a double dissolution election, a stroke of Turnbullian genius, according to Annabel Crabb, one of the PM’s many Canberra media fans.

“Turnbull’s a soft cock and a pussy”, David cat-calls merrily this week.

“Fuck-off”, he tells a journo, because this is how Australians talk to one another. He defends his coprolalia by pretending obscenity, like slut-shaming, is a Libertarian thing. His misogyny is undisguised. It’s OK to call women bitches “when they are bitches“, he tells Channel 10.

Even less plausible is his claim to crusader status. It’s his duty to manfully call out misandry. This he does by asking his colleague when she’ll “stop shagging men”. It’s done so softly that it is not recorded in Hansard; not heard by the Senate President, Scott Ryan.

Naturally, he must repeat and expand upon the slur in a series of media interviews.

In the Leyonhjelm parallel universe, men are victims of a powerful, all-pervasive misandry, because, as Clem Ford writes, “being made to feel bad or implicated somehow in the power advantage enjoyed by men is exactly the same as living with an increased statistical likelihood of being beaten, raped or murdered by one.”

Leyonhjelm refuses to apologise. There’s no such thing as bad publicity for him. Even if the election is not until 2019, voters will recognise Leyonhjelm’s name. It’s all he needs to get his 7000 votes.

By Sunday, ABC Insiders, delivers the nation the ever-popular celebrity-gossip politics, spats and leadership tussles that sustain us. Why risk a slow show investigating the big issues, such as the crypto-fascism of Turnbull’s corporate oligarchy of secrets and lies with its flat tax madness, mass surveillance, its war on workers, the poor and The ABC or its $1bn unfunded GST bid to buy back voters in WA? Happily, it gives an already over-exposed Leyonhjelm another free plug.

But for Leyonhjelm to trash the PM for weak leadership is ungenerous. Cleopatra’s nose knows he should be grateful. If gratitude is a Libertarian thing. Or do Libertarians pretend that gratitude, like offence, can only be taken, not given?

Leyonhjelm owes his place to Mal’s dud judgement. (And tricking some would-be Liberal voters with the Liberal in Liberal Democrat). Turnbull’s genius shrank his government to a one-seat majority; delivered a senate cross-bench like a scene by Hieronymus Bosch, a nightmarish, macabre image of hell complete with mutant monsters and goblins.

So, too with One Nation, the senate’s Cheshire hellcat, now rapidly vanishing leaving nothing behind but its scowl. Yet Turnbull has only himself to blame for having to contend with a One Nation puss too big for its boots. A half senate election may have returned only Pauline herself.

Now, as The Guardian’s Nick Evershed shows, after 23 months, a rapid succession of changes in the senate has seen senators switch parties several times, leave politics or depart because of their dual citizenship. Hey presto, the government has a malleable senate cross bench. Last week, it passes its socially disfiguring monster income tax cuts.

The nation may never recover. Even if One Nation’s populism is in decline, it’s infected the body politic. We are a less equal nation today partly because of Mal’s courtship of Queen Pauline with her batty flat tax ideas, her state-built coal-fired station and her personal vendetta against The ABC.

And Turnbull’s readiness to use her.

Flat tax? As the IMF reports in its Fiscal Monitor for 2017, “Australia is among countries with the highest growth in income inequality in the world over the past thirty years.” The flattening of our tax system, will ensure that by 2024, when the Turnbull government’s tax cuts take full effect, the rich will pay a lost less than their fair share of tax.

It’s a recipe for increased inequality. Ben Eltham notes that a worker earning $200,000 a year in 2024, will pay the same rate of tax as someone earning $41,000. Scott Morrison’s largesse to the Liberal base will cost a mind-boggling $144 billion dollars which can only come from cuts to spending. It’s the Coalition’s small government, mean-spirited ideology at work.

None of those making the tax changes have the faintest clue what it’s like to get by on $41,000.

Rather than invest in a democratic and just society, the Coalition chooses to reward the well to do – taking from the poor, impoverishing the many, to give to its rich supporters. The National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) at The University of Canberra modelling finds “a couple both earning twice the average full-time salary can expect an extra $13,000 in 2024-25”.

What a stroke of good fortune for a lucky few; Morrison’s Aspirationals. Those who need it least.

Pauline backs the tax cut; betrays her battlers, yet again, thanks to Matthias Cormann’s sweet talk. Cormann promises government can wring billions out of corporate tax avoiders, a fairy story. And Pauline’s keen to get help with her ABC vendetta.  Stop all the lies its lefties tell about her; about climate change, Four Corners’ fake news and how she runs her party like a malignant despot.

“Absolute dictatorship. Brutal,” says One Nation’s former Queensland president and treasurer Ian Nelson.

Help is on its way. Who better to look into the left-leaning, Jihadist, ABC than former-Foxtel head honcho Peter Tonagh? Tonagh and former Australian Communications and Media Authority acting chairman, Richard Bean will head the government’s “efficiency review” of the ABC and SBS.

Fox Sports and Foxtel are 65 per cent owned by Jerry Hall’s husband, Rupert Murdoch’s family business, News Corp. The other 35 per cent is owned by Telstra. Rupe is back on deck now after a fall on his son’s yacht, an occupational hazard for billionaires and their kin, and a potential ABC buyer.

“Efficiency review” means cutting funds. Minister for Communications and Complaining About Emma Alberici, Mitch Fifield, who sees no conflict between his role and his membership of an IPA pledged to privatise the ABC, (the Liberal Party Annual Council, last month, voted 2:1 in favour) complains of Auntie’s bias and slack journalism – five times in six months.

“In the fast-evolving world of media organisations, it is important to support our public broadcasters to be the best possible stewards of taxpayer dollars in undertaking their important work for the community,” Fifield says. Nothing about speaking truth to power. Community voice? Never.

An IPA bean-counter orders a commercial rival to review Aunty. What could possibly go wrong?

Pascal is on to something. Had Mark Anthony not been smitten by the beauty of Egypt’s Queen in 41 BC, he would never have gone to war for her; changed the destiny of the Roman Empire and the History of the West, whose civilising legacy yobbo, Tony Abbott, convinced his private health tycoon pal and fellow St Ignatius Riverview old boy, Liberal donor, Paul Ramsay, to leave $3.3 billion to perpetuate. Without Abbott’s intercession, who knows whom may have benefited?

In 2012, Ramsay gave $300,000 to help the now defunct The Kevin Spacey Foundation to aid arts education. Spacey set up his foundation in 2008, when, as artistic director at the Old Vic, he is accused of routinely preying on younger men.

Paul Ramsay wouldn’t have built his private hospital empire without tinpot Neocon general John Howard ‘s dogged determination to subsidise private health insurance; part of his grand plan to undermine the Medicare system, dismantle public health and his dedication to welfare for the wealthy. Battlers like Ramsay deserve a hand up.

Efficiency! Flexibility! The words buzz. And it’s all about choice. Public health is not for everyone.

Forcing the poor to pay more, Howard kept bulk billing rebates down, discouraging doctors from helping the needy by prescribing a low scheduled fee, a goal recently revisited in the Coalition’s thawing of his Medicare rebate freeze. It’s a wee puddle in the permafrost.

“General Practice has been transformed” spruiks Minister for Private Health Insurance, Hyperbole Hunt. GPs weep with gratitude for the few extra cents he’s wantonly thrown their way.

Last July, the Federal Government allowed indexation for bulk-billing incentives – putting an extra 12 cents in doctors’ pockets. This July, GPs will benefit as indexation is applied to GP attendance items.

This adds a whopping 55 cents on a standard consultation. Naturally, GPs must wait until mid-2020 for indexation on a further 140 MBS (Medical Benefits Scheme) items. Had the same price-fixing strategies been applied to private business, Howard, Abbott, Turnbull would be in gaol.

Like Howard’s squandering of the mining boom, Coalition health policy is an intergenerational fail. Twenty years after his 30% subsidy for private health insurance came in, premiums continue to rise every year. The subsidy does, however, sop up those lazy billions we’d otherwise fritter away on education, public hospitals, dental health, refuges, infrastructure or social welfare.

It’s costly but outsourcing democracy to titans of industry and commerce is never cheap. Just ask Donald Trump’s if his BFF, Vlad Putin is thriving along with his fellow oligarchs and Mafia pals.

“Putin’s fine,” Trump says. “He’s fine. We’re all fine.

Health insurance companies are fine, too, thanks to the nation’s generous taxpayers. $6.5 billion went to insurance companies from the government subsidy alone in the 2016 federal budget. If nothing else, Ken Hayne’s Royal Commission into Banksters , round four, currently playing in Darwin, shows just how fabulously successful our nation’s insurers can be with a bit of a hand up.

If the neoliberal Turnbull government is more attuned to maintaining the rude good health of private health corporations than to improving public health, it does plan to inoculate the body politic against toxic ideas. Or it did, thanks to former failed health minister, now Liberal Party pariah, Tony Abbott who chatted up Paul Ramsay long before Paul had a heart attack on his yacht Oscar II off Ibiza, May 2014 and was subsequently rushed all the way back to Bowral NSW to die.

Now The Ramsay Centre is on the nose despite its promise of “a cadre of leaders … whose awareness and appreciation of their country’s Western heritage and values … would help guide their decision making in the future”. Or because of it.

Ramsay wants its lectures to be vetted by what Guy Rundle describes as “a Stasi-like process of commissar-auditors in lectures” but now the ANU has rejected it, all bets are off. Will it be buried out the back of the ACU under the eye of Abbott pal, Greg Craven, as recently forecast? Or will it instead, end up at Notre Dame University at Fremantle and Sydney where its mission to civilise by promoting a bogus western supremacy, will cause far less grief and mischief?

Even if Dr Tony Abbott doesn’t end up as its director, Ramsay’s been exposed as a travesty of the fundamental idea of the university as a university, a place of free inquiry, a notion that baffles Liberals who confuse Uni with job training.

In brief, The Ramsay Centre’s a grubby think tank peddling an entirely spurious and dangerous notion of western supremacy, and Leyonhjelm IPA-type nonsense about freedoms , a cause Dan Tehan, our federal Minister for Social Affairs, takes up in The Weekend Australian  where he argues we should have a religious discrimination act. Get us ready for Phil Ruddock’s committee report.

In 2008, a clear majority of Australians favoured some form of bill of rights, according to the report of the  National Human Rights Consultation, a Government commissioned inquiry chaired by Jesuit priest and human rights lawyer, Father Frank Brennan. The concept was howled down by leaders of religious groups, predominantly some Christian groups, who claimed that rights would take away religious freedoms, especially the freedom to discriminate. So much for brotherly love.

As befits an urbane civilised westerner, Toxic Tony Abbott, the incredible sulk, the asp forever at Turnbull’s bosom, hisses with malevolence and petty jealousy. Tuesday night, he hunkers down at The Australian Environment Foundation (AEF), a front for the IPA, which keeps its funding secret, but is revealed this week to have overlooked declaring a $4.5m donation from Gina Rinehart.

The Australian flatters the AEF as “a climate sceptic think tank” – as if climate change were a matter of belief not established scientific measurement. It does not burden readers with the fact that the AEF was founded by the IPA. Curiously, no mention is made at all of Don Burke, AEF’s hand-picked celebrity gardener and green-wash mascot.

Snug as a slug in a slag-heap, coal-bagged by climate deniers, Abbott snipes at Turnbull. Abbo doesn’t understand climate change. Never has. Never will. Instead he channels his former business adviser, Maurice Newman, a former head of the Australian Stock Exchange and chairman of the ABC.

“He is either intentionally misleading the public or he is incapable of understanding scientific consensus, in which case he has no business advising the government” warned The Climate Council, a non-profit body set up by former members of the Climate Commission after it was abolished by the federal government three years ago. They had tin-foil hatter Maurice in their sights but it may as well have been The Mad Monk Abbott for his efforts this week.

Abbott is all over the media this week trying to bring down the NEG, Turnbull’s singularly unworkable national energy guarantee. It’s his cunning plan to bring down Turnbull.

Tuesday, he claims no means yes: he’s the only man in Australia not to know the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, he signed was a binding commitment. Anyway, he reckons now that stable genius Trump has pulled out, that we should never have joined. Or words to that effect.

When it comes to argument, there’s always less to Abbott than meets the ear.

But what is he smoking? In his sights is “the emissions obsession that’s at the heart of our power crisis”. Yep. The reason we don’t have enough power, or cheaper power, or fabulously well-paid coal workers eagerly stoking filthy hot furnaces in power stations fired by the lung-destroying, toxic, dirty black rock is because of our folly to commit to lower emissions in Paris. Obvious, really.

The rest of Abbott’s nonsense may safely be left to the reader. It’s a reprise of his quick study of coal-lobby spin and it hasn’t changed since 2010. He tries to raise insurrection amongst The Nationals, whose new leader, Michael McCormack settles the pit-ponies by telling Queensland Nats that “coal will be in the mix”, an expensive hoax perpetrated by Josh Frydenberg the Minister whose NEG is ill-defined, unworkable and in current draft form, long, verbose and incomprehensible.

Abbott, on the other hand, is going over the top. He wages the same campaign as he waged against Gillard, a campaign he and Peta Credlin now openly admit was based on a lie, ” a label to stir up brutal, retail politics”. This week, Abbott recycles the lie that coal is cheap and reliable.

“Far from wrecking the government, MPs worried about energy policy are trying to save it, with a policy that would be different from Labor’s and would give voters the affordable and reliable power they want.”

Sadly, his colleagues avoid him. They fear to join his rebellion lest it be an attack on Turnbull. Far from fomenting dissent, he is creating some type of cohesion. A Liberal wag notes that Abbott has wasted years only to make himself completely irrelevant and the object of his colleagues’ pity.

Modelling done for The Australian Energy Market Commission, Reliability Panel the government expert energy adviser, puts the lie to the scare campaign led by the federal government. The risks of power supply not being met are “so small, they are generally not visible on the chart.”

On the other hand, many old coal plants are unreliable, especially in Victoria, where The Australia Institute reports 16 major breakdowns at Victoria’s three brown coal plants, Loy Yang A, Loy Yang B and Yallourn took place last summer. All saw hundreds of megawatts of capacity withdrawn from the grid almost instantly. This makes Victoria the standout state for power plant breakdowns.

Even more alarming, reports TAI, were two fires. The first was at Loy Yang A on January 6th, within 500m of the mine. Another in the coal pit of Yallourn on February 4th, cost $100 million dollars and endangered the health of 14,000 Morwell residents

Of course, Abbott believes in new power stations, the great black hope of the future for the coal industry lobbyist. Yet even those spun as High Efficiency Low Emissions are almost as polluting as the old. And their prohibitive cost far outweighs installing a renewable plant with battery back-up.

“It takes character to do what’s right and it takes courage to disagree with your peers,” Abbott quotes Bob Carter, a climate science quack, to his fellow climate change deniers Tuesday.

Time to heed your own advice, Tone. Get out more. Cycle down to the library. Open your mind. Do some independent research. There is no time to waste on coal lobby lies and propaganda. Take time out. Malcolm Turnbull would be delighted to arrange a year or two’s study leave.

The week ends with Abbott exposing Coalition division over energy, one of the causes, says Paul Bongiorno of a record 35 News Poll losses. Could it also be that voters are not fooled by a party so keen to bribe the rich with $144 bn of uncosted tax cuts – a government dedicated to the destruction of a just and fair democratic society which its flat tax policy, its social welfare war and its increasing secrecy and surveillance and its relentless clampdown on dissent, all inevitably lead.

Turnbull’s Kill Bill show can’t hide his failure to sell his NEG to his back bench.

Is it back to the future? Or is it déjà vu?  The Coalition fails to win over its coal lobby to its Clayton’s National Energy Guarantee, (NEG) a huge defeat, this week, eclipsed only by the uproar of a pliant media when Bill Shorten rethinks his tax cut repeal.

Energy and Environment Minister Frydenberg ends up hinting at a NEG 2.0 due to the woeful ignorance and wilful obstruction of his government’s troublesome, Turnbull-hating, ruling, right wing.

Happily, Frydenberg is still able to help protect Abbott’s Booby, an endangered sea bird which breeds only on Christmas Island. Alarmingly, The Dept Of Environment and Energy notes “there is no adopted or made Recovery Plan for this species.”

The Booby’s habitat is threatened by phosphate mining, an attractive extractive industry which did so much to enrich, enhance and refine the Island of Nauru, essentially a mound of fossilised bird turd – before all royalties were squandered and the island reduced to a barren, rocky moonscape. It’s the perfect site for a prison for innocent men women and children who must be punished for having the audacity to seek us out by boat and throw themselves on our compassion.

And “pour encourager les autres” – as a deterrent to other smugglers whom a paranoid Dutton claims are poised to put boats into the water at the slightest hint of compassion.  “Pour encourager les autres” is  from Voltaire’s Candide whose eponymous hero notes that “in England, it is good, from time to time, to kill an Admiral to encourage the others.”

Frydenberg knocks back Phosphate Resources’ environmental approval application which promises, with a straight-face some “small-scale exploration clearing”. What a crack up. It hopes to clear 6.8 hectares to see if it’s worth digging up any more. A “fair and balanced” ABC quotes Shire President, Gordon Thomson, a stoic, master of understatement, who reports that the island community faces “economic and population collapse” without the approval.

Incredibly, other flora and fauna including the island’s famous red crabs would be threatened by mining expansion.

Also at risk are our endangered species on the cross bench of our house of review, the senate. Peter Georgiou, Rod Culleton’s brother in law, may find family comes first in his relationship with party supremo, Pauline Hanson.

Lucy Gichuhi, however, who was recruited from Family First into the Liberals, is now relegated to an unwinnable fourth on the SA Liberal Senate ticket. Despite being in the news for struggling with rates and water bills for her burgeoning Whyalla low-rent property portfolio – she’s clearly having “a red hot go” and she is a Kenyan-born woman; both of which should make her an ideal fit for SA Liberals’ vision of a multicultural, entrepreneurial, small business-led community.

The sniping of micro- party senator, David Leyonhjelm, this week, evokes Paul Keating’s jibe at senate minor parties – “unrepresentative swill“. Little did the former PM suspect in 1992, that the  “unrepresentative swill” to whom he refused to expose John Dawkins, his treasurer, is now more of a badge of honour than an insult.

Even the Bankstown bovver-boy, would be shocked by the maverick mayhem of our senate cross-bench this week.

Sarah Hanson-Young should “stop shagging men” snorts failed Liberal candidate, now Liberal Democrat Senator, Tea-Party nut, David Leyonhjelm, who supports The Katter Party’s Queensland Senator Fraser Anning’s motion that state governments legalise and promote the carrying of pepper spray, mace and tasers by women for “personal protection”.

“Fuck Off” is Crazy Dave’s caring, Libertarian, free-speech-respecting response to Sarah Hanson-Young when she demands an apology. In defence, Dave blames Hanson. “She said all men are rapists”, he howls. Something like that. Seriously.

Women quickly, effortlessly get the better of Leyonhjelm. “The last thing that women in Australia need now is another man in power telling us that we are responsible for violence against us,” Greens senator Janet Rice responds.

Despite Leyonhjelm’s lewd contribution, which is overlooked by Clayton’s Senate Leader Scott Ryan, a perpetual cub-scout who, despite the size of his giant swearing-in Bible, is yet to exercise leadership or authority, the taser motion is defeated 46-5.

Senator Fraser Anning, One Nation’s WA ring-in, Peter Georgiou and reactionary homophobe, Cory Bernardi, loopy Leyonhjelm and Big Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party’s “senate leader” Brian Burston are the only supporters.

Who’s representing whom? And how? Isn’t this supposed to be a debate about protecting women? It’s surrealism at its finest. An antipodean William of Ockham, Leyonhjelm is God’s gift to a senate which ever in need of his razor-sharp capacity to simplify debate. His fabled metaphysical libertarianism will cut to the nub of any conundrum. Dave stars, for example, in a 2015 National Rifle Association film. Warns US viewers not to repeat Australia’s gun buy-back folly. OK, they did pay him.

“We are a nation of victims”, he says of a scheme which The Conversation fact check duly acknowledges is difficult to measure. The Conversation does concede last year, however, that “in the 15 years prior to the first gun buyback in 1996, there had been 13 mass shootings in Australia. In the 21 years since more restrictive firearm policies came into effect, there has been only one recent single mass shooting in the country.” (A grandfather killed himself and six family members at Margaret River in May.)

Leyonhjelm’s reading from the same NRA script supplied to its other stooge, Donald J Trump whose response to school shootings is to arm the teachers. He repeats the NRA myth that the only protection against a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

It’s puerile nonsense – which puts it on a par with much of Libertarian politics, Morrison’s justification of tax cuts to business and all of Trumpism.

Research into four decades of data in all fifty states reveals that “right to carry” laws have no public safety benefit. None. Zero. When “right to carry” laws were introduced, violent crime rates went up.

Also rising as steeply as a pithead over a mineshaft is coal. Coal is back. “Good for humanity”, lifter out of poverty, the sainted black rock will put paid to all those “reckless” and “aggressive” targets for renewable energy in Labor states run by union thugs, hell bent on wrecking the sacred National Grid (amen) with solar, wind and other unreliable, heretical, sources.

Baseload is back now thanks to equal parts of inertia, ignorance, indifference and a huge dollop of the enormous power of corporate vested interest with which our nation is blessed. Coal is in the mix, courtesy of the National Energy Guarantee which the backbench of the Liberal Party and most Nationals just don’t get. Fatuous Josh Frydenberg’s failure, as our hopelessly conflicted energy and environment minister has played a key role, too, but we mustn’t be too hard on him. He’s been set up to fail.

For a Liberal, there’s a natural conflict between meeting the demands of energy and environment. When the joint portfolio was announced, many welcomed the move as representing an enlightened acknowledgement – at last – of some interrelationship. But it didn’t take long before the combination was revealed for what it is, a cover for a party which has no real policy on energy and even less concern for the environment.

Today, Frydenberg is trying to peddle a last-ditch National Energy Guarantee which will appease his party’s implacable opponents of renewable energy and he never tires of saying be “technology neutral” – but we can’t burn coal and meet our Paris commitments.

Worse, the NEG in its latest incarnation involves a great big new subsidy on coal.  Yet if the country’s greenhouse gas emissions continue on their current trajectory, Australia will fail to meet its Paris target by a billion tonnes of CO2. That’s about two years of Australia’s combined national emissions, according to Lisa Cox reporting in The Guardian, Monday, on new data released by NDEVR Environmental – data which excludes unreliable data from land use and forestry sectors.

Yet NDEVR projects that the Australian electricity sector would meet the proposed NEG target of a 26% cut on 2005 levels by 2030, five years ahead of schedule, without the NEG, because investment continues in renewable energy generation while large, aging coal-fired plants are rapidly approaching their use-by date.

But not if One Nation has a hand in it.  A few senate cross-bench votes shy of a majority in its bid to include our richest corporations in its $140 billion of unfunded, unworkable, unnecessary tax cuts, Wednesday, the government suddenly backs former 1996 Oxley, Liberal candidate, Pauline Hanson’s new North Queensland state coal power plan.

Is Turnbull’s support a bizarre, late play for Pauline’s loyalty? Or is it also using Hanson as a stalking horse to officially return to centre stage the IPA, The Minerals Council of Australia, the Business Council and countless other members of the order of the black rock active among the 252 lobby groups currently registered with the department of Prime Minister and Cabinet that Rupert Murdoch’s press so obligingly helps to shape government energy policy?

Of course, not all lobbyists have to register, including religious groups and charities and non-government organisations. John Menadue estimates there are at least a thousand people, counting full-time and part-time lobbyists in Canberra helping to make Turnbull and his government’s mind up for them. But Wednesday looks like a big win for Big Coal.

Astonishingly, the entire Coalition senate team votes for Hanson’s 1950s Ming dynasty, Menzies era state socialist Senate bill for government to build new coal-fired power stations. But hang on. Her bill sounds so familiar it’s spooky.

And there’s more. Old clunkers will get a retro-fit. Now it makes sense. Pauline’s channelling The “Monash Forum”, a “ginger group” as Peta Credlin flatters them, which includes climate change deniers, Eric Abetz, Tony Abbott, Kevin Andrews and fellow holy coaler Craig Kelly whose identical call for a new taxpayer-funded coal fired power station is derided as “ludicrous” by energy analysts who calculate it would cost at least $3 billion, drive up energy prices and take eight years to build.

Apart from that, what could possibly go wrong? True. Coal subsidies are toxic; political poison. But so, too, increasingly is neoliberalism itself.

Is Hanson’s echo of the monkey pod boys, Abbott’s band of dissidents, out of left field? Or right? Or as daft as a chimney-sweeper’s brush? As the PM is quick to remind us – often, we must respect the fact the people voted for her. Yet he also said Hanson was “not the sort of person he wanted to see in politics”. Before she got elected.

Pauline’s latest power play, taken with her pattern of regularly voting with the government, suggests that The Red Queen is still a true blue aspirational Liberal even if the Libs had to disendorse her for disparaging Aboriginal people, leaving her to win the seat of Oxley as an independent. There is also a legacy of mutual help. In 1996, members of the Oxley branch of the Liberal Party distributed how to vote cards for Hanson after she was disendorsed as their candidate.

Hanson wrote a letter to The Queensland Times claiming that reverse racism bred Aboriginal entitlement.

Amazingly, our media treats Queen Pauline very seriously. No-one even laughs – or at least not in public – at  her absurd notion of retro-fitting toxic old coal-burning clunkers. With what? Filter tips? A kit of scrubbing brushes so they, too, can now burn clean fuel, to match the fabulous new clean coal we’ve all been hearing about? The idea that it is practical or economic to prolong the life of a station at the end of its life is simply another bit of coal lobby propaganda.

Coal-hauling, keel-hauling, Captain of One Nation’s two-man canoe, Pauline wants to “to facilitate the building of new coal-fired power stations and the retrofitting of existing base-load power stations”. Crew of one, Petro Georgiou claps madly. Pauline runs a tight ship. He doesn’t want to suffer the same fate as Rod Culleton, his brother-in-law.

Base-load power stations are the mythic invention of a coal industry under imminent threat of extinction.

Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel made it clear to a Senate Estimates Hearing, “The actual cost of bringing on new coal in this country per megawatt-hour is projected to be substantially more expensive than the cost of bringing on wind or solar.”

In the vexed case of Liddell, for example, for all Turnbull and Frydenberg’s bullying, extending its operation would be futile.

Delaying the closure of coal burning at Liddell would achieve precisely bugger all. Arguably, it would be worse than bugger all as it would delay the investment in the alternative generation that AGL is proposing. Unless you’re a weird little coal-hugger, or strained by internal political conflicts, it’s an absolute no-brainer writes John Menadue.

Will this week’s blast from the Stakhanovite Coalition’s State Socialist collective’s coal-huggers blow up Turnbull’s government? Is the Coalition’s backing of Pauline Hanson’s bill to build new coal-fired power stations an innovative, disruptive Googly, Facebook, coal-powered 2.0 type of thing?

(Soviet hero, Aleksei Grigorievich Stakhanov, mined 102 tons of coal, so the legend goes in less than 6 hours (14 times his quota) on 31 August 1935.)

No. It’s a sop to the right.

A split, big enough to drive a steam locomotive through, now divides Turnbull’s back bench bovver boys from their PM and his utterly ineffectual Energy and Environment Minister, the hopelessly conflicted, Josh Frydenberg over its rejection of Frydenberg’s mare’s nest of an energy policy.

A Coalition cave-in under a shower of black rock any moment seems imminent as Frydenberg fails utterly to corral the ugly right wing rump that runs the Turnbull government. He wants Abbott, Kelly and other climate change deniers to fall in behind the hoax that is the National Energy Guarantee. They won’t.

Ironically it’s their fear of emissions reduction from a NEG which could, in fact, lock in higher emissions, which proves a major stumbling block, as literary connoisseur Tony Abbott tells his mate, Alan Jones on Friday on his regular 2GB on-air rubdown.

 “… there’s a few lines on reducing price, there’s a few pages on boosting reliability, and there’s page after impenetrable page of the most appalling prose you’ve ever read, which is all about reducing emissions.”

Josh Frydenberg’s hasty hand-ball of The Neg is a dud pass. Frydenberg gives the job of spruiking The national energy guarantee, to a few CEOs and minerals business shills. Turns out they’re the same people who sold Abbott on axing the carbon tax not so long ago. They have no credibility to sell anything new to Craig Kelly’s environment and energy committee.

It’s a brave new way to dodge all personal and ministerial responsibility, but the back- benchers do not budge from their conviction that there’s nothing wrong with reducing the globe to a smoking ruin. Others are doing it. And perish the thought that a government ought to be anything more than the thinly disguised political wing of the mining lobby.

But OMG, just as Turnbull is about to throw another dead cat terror alert on the table, Tuesday, Bill Shorten makes a captain’s call to repeal the tax break for businesses with a turnover of between $10 – 50 million, a simple bribe, which is undeserved, unnecessary, unworkable and unfunded. But that’s not how most media respond. They pounce. Kill Bill!

Just look at what Shorten’s gone and done now! The air fills with howls of derision, cat-calls and pages in The Australian about how it’s Shorten, not Turnbull now who is a dead man walking.

The week ends with all eyes on Shorten. Not to mention venom and scorn for the class traitor. Some on ABC Insiders Sunday even predict his demise if Labor should fail to win even one of the five by-elections slated for Super Saturday 28 July.

In the rush to crucify Shorten, Paul Bongiorno wryly observes, the government gets away with redefining small business as any enterprise with a turnover between $2 million and $10 million.  In the end the government withdraws its bill but you can be sure that after 28 July, they’ll be lobbying again;

The NEG will be sold as better than nothing. In fact nothing is better. What is certain is that as far as members of the cross-bench of the senate are concerned, in the words only Mathias Corman can use to channel Arnie, “I’ll be back.”

Aspirational? Don’t try to take us for ride, Mr Turnbull.

Aging chestnut mare, Aspirational, returns to the Canberra track, next week, in the lead-up to The Super Saturday By-election Stakes, to be run 28 July.  Aspirational, a J Howard favourite, now  hopelessly long in the tooth, was always a baulky, flea-bitten nag, but her recent runs are shocking.

Aspirational is all over the track. The PM’s spin unit has injected the tedious buzz-word into every MP’s talking points. Are they aiming for a wake-up call, or hitting the snooze button? What exactly is aspirational? Ambition 2.0? Hope? No. Currently, it is a cover for increasing inequality.

Abracadabra! Hocus pocus! By the magic trick of lifting the “tax burden” (a Tea Party, TM, idea) or making our tax system flatter, less progressive and more unfair, aspiration will kick in. Take off.

Those who’ll benefit the most over the next seven years are the rich. Turnbull’s tax cuts skew the system in favour of the wealthy. And they are subversive. The government’s new flat marginal tax rate of 32.5% for all workers earning between $41.000 to $200.000 a year undermines our progressive taxation system. It flouts the principle of each according to his or her means.

Workers average $62,000 a year. The median is trickier although there is no excuse for the PM taking the question on notice. It can range from 47K to 55K depending what you take into calculation. Easy. But how to reward the wealthy at a time of alarming increases in economic and social inequality? Easy. Pretend you are rewarding the mythical aspirational worker.

Is Liberal hoop Turnbull guilty of reckless riding? His backhand whip action and his attempts to box in rival top jock, Labor’s wily Will Shorten create uproar. But can he put Bill’s weights up?

“Slimy, insinuating and patronising” hisses the PM. It’s his best barb of the week. Turnbull is in the running for best venomous toad. His puffy eyes seem to fill with the milky white toxin which some toads produce from poison glands behind their eyes. He shouts. He bellows. He screams.

“This groveller, this man who abandoned workers while he tucked his knees under Pratt’s table.”

Turnbull is overcome by class hatred. ‘There’s class war all right,” US billionaire Warren Buffett reminds us, “but it’s my class, the rich class that’s making war and we’re winning’.

It’s the same, insane, snarling rage that ruined Turnbull’s pyrrhic victory speech, election night. Like Abbott, The Incredible Sulk, or his mentor, Donald monster man-baby Trump, a sore loser, Turnbull stoops to his “knees under the table” routine. It says more than he knows about himself.

Courtesy of Rupert Murdoch, whose Newspoll, which has installed itself as our national political oracle, Turnbull is reminded of two bitter truths each day parliament is in session.

As Tassie psephologist, Kevin Bonham, tweets, “Turnbull and Coalition lose an outright record 34 straight #Newspoll 2PPs, Bill Shorten 34 2PP wins in a row is the most for an Opposition Leader.”

Beyond desperate, the Coalition now tries to bribe the electorate with an over-hyped message about a “record” $140 billion of tax cuts, a mantra its ABC echo-chamber faithfully repeats. No matter those cuts are a long way into the future. Besides, aspiration, like grifting, is in its DNA.

 “We’re not mystified by [aspiration],” the PM crows this week. “We recognise it, we embrace it.”

Turnbull’s turns puce. His face is puffy. He howls down deputy Opposition Leader, Tanya Plibersek who doubts anyone refuses a pay rise, or a promotion just because they have to pay extra tax. She defends marginal tax rates which even The Grattan Institute says are vital to a progressive system.

Mal’s a dead man walking. Liberal Party internal polling predicts a Coalition rout next election. To use the surgical meaning, toxic Turnbull will soon be aspirated; sucked out of politics entirely.

In desperation, the PM tries to buy us with tax cuts. Yet his dodgy tax cuts will favour the rich. “Class warfare” is a reproach from the right of politics, whenever an attempt is made to help workers, those on low incomes, or the rapidly expanding underclass. Now it’s his main strategy.

A real class war election will be triggered by Turnbull’s move to lock future governments into huge income tax cuts for high income earners, as John Quiggin, notes. The top twenty per cent of earners will benefit – that is people who currently earn $87K or more.

Workers on $120,000-a-year today will still pay today’s average tax rate of 29 per cent in 2027-28, unchanged from today. Yet tax rates for middle-income earners will continue to rise.

If you earn $36,000-a-year today, your tax will increase from 10-16 percent, a 6 percent rise. Consequently, workers on the highest incomes get to pay a lower share of tax.

No wonder class inspires much of the PM’s bravura performance in Question Time this week.

Keeping his class-warfare personal, the PM attacks Tanya Plibersek’s family earnings, an extension of his mantra that the Labor Party is made up of class traitors just out for themselves.

“From the hard streets of Rosebery, with a household income of just under $1m, the deputy leader of the opposition says aspiration is a mystery,” he hectors. Our PM’s a class act. What a ham.

It’s a typical pick-on-Plibersek moment for a government which finds it uplifting to ridicule and publicly humiliate a woman. It’s a ritual that is, sadly, not just confined to the blokes.

Julie Bishop loves to mock Tanya Plibersek over such critical issues as Africa being a continent and not a country; or her knowledge of which of the Marshall Islands is now submerged due to climate change. Rebukes even echo the misogyny of the blokes in charge – in 2016, Bishop accused Plibersek of a “hysterical campaign of misinformation” about the government’s approach to Iran.

It’s inspiring, character-building stuff just guaranteed to make any woman feel equal and at ease. But it doesn’t stop with the put-downs. This week, Plibersek is even thrown out of the chamber when she attempts to table a transcript of the very interview which the PM is wilfully misquoting.

The transcript she offers would stop Turnbull’s mockery; correct the record – surely a reasonable and responsible action on her behalf. It is peremptorily disallowed by Speaker Tony Smith.

Her transcript reads: Honestly this aspiration term, it mystifies me. As if someone on $40,000 a year isn’t going to want to earn $100,000 a year because they’re going to pay a bit more tax. They’re going to get a lot more income, they’re going to pay a bit more tax.

I think it’s just an excuse and a cover for a government that is determined to give the biggest tax cuts to people like them, people that they want to look after at the big end of town. How is it fair that a surgeon on five times the income of a nurse gets a 16 times larger tax cut. Is that fair?”

Plibersek nails it. No wonder the government didn’t want the full text to appear in Hansard.

At other times, the PM and his team of mostly old white blokes tell men to wise up. Lift their game. Abuse of women would stop if only blokes could just show women a bit more respect. Further idle flapping of the gums is also devoted to why so few women are Coalition MPs. As for the PM’s guff about aspiration, that’s just a cover for injustice; a lame excuse to rip off the poor.

Not even Turnbull believes his cynical rhetoric – an excuse for rewarding the rich based on the lie that the harder you work, the richer you get. Australia has always been a stratified society. It’s a place, moreover, where’s been no real change in social mobility since the 1960s, former ANU economist, Andrew Leigh’s research, concludes, confirming other, significant, academic studies.

Family background still matters. What is growing, however, is income inequality and policies which accelerate it. Decades of neoliberal policies have widened the gap between the haves and have nots, enriching the toffs while creating an impoverished, marginalised underclass.

Yet Turnbull’s riposte is revealing – and ultimately self-sabotaging. It’s a key note in the week’s all-in brawl over tax cuts and justice which plays out against news of Donald Trump’s decree to separate babies from their mothers while their parents are prosecuted for illegal entry to America.

Nearly 1800 immigrant families are torn apart at the US-Mexico border from October 2016 to February this year. In Brisbane, a solo mother is being torn away from her eight year old son, Giro, who is an Australian citizen, by Peter Dutton’s Home Affairs and deported to the Philippines.

It will be at least three years before she will get a chance to return to see Giro again.

Like Dutton’s (broken) Home Affairs and his supporters, Trump peddles the pernicious myth that undocumented migrants are a danger. A myth? The Poynter Institute‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning Politifact reports, “undocumented immigrants – (along with all other migrants) commit crimes at lower rates than the native born.”

Giro’s mother, Bernadette Romulo has lived in Australia with her children for 11 years. She works in aged care, pays taxes; contributes to her church community. Her son cannot leave with her because partial custody arrangements require that he not be separated from his father.

Trump boasts it’s his tough zero-tolerance border policy, but, in reality, he’s just his playing to the gallery, or as commenters love to say, his “base”. Immune to reason, impervious to all evidence of ineptitude, illegality, or betrayal of its base, a more suitable term for his devotees is “cult”.

Yet base is a perfect word to fit Trump’s hollow posturing. Like Dutton, Morrison or Abbott before him, he’s forsaking all decency and humanity to win votes by pretending he’s a tough guy. And everybody knows only tough guys are caring and protective. Alpha males rule. It’s a grotesque, dog eat pup, faux show of strength in a neoliberal theatre of unfathomable cruelty.

That theatre is even more terrifying because it operates in a void. Trump’s America does not care, writes Robert Kagan, It is unencumbered by historical memory. It recognizes no moral, political or strategic commitments. It feels free to pursue objectives without regard to the effect on allies or, for that matter, the world. It has no sense of responsibility to anything beyond itself.

We are dragged along by our great and powerful friend’s coat-tails. Melania Trump causes a fuss this week when she chooses to wear a $52 Zara coat which says “I really don’t care. Do U?”

Melania’s coat is seen as she embarks on a plane to head to McAllen, Texas, for a surprise visit to the heart of the family separation crisis at the southern border. Could she be so heartless?

In a word, yes. Yet a torrent of apologies, excuses and semiotic glosses ensues, including a tweet from the POTUS saying his wife was heroically liberating herself from the tyranny of fake news.

He tweets, “‘I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?’ written on the back of Melania’s jacket, refers to the Fake News Media. Melania has learned how dishonest they are, and she truly no longer cares!”

As if. Gertrude Stein points to the truth with elegant simplicity, “A rose is a rose is a rose”.

If fake news is a thing, so, too are fake tweets. Trump’s one big thing is to feed our mistrust.

Above all, we need to demonise the other. Even as neoliberalism’s mainspring unwinds, its selfish competition and commodification of relationships vitiates normal social bonds of reciprocity, obligation and responsibility, we are driven to blame aliens; enemy agents to appease our guilt.

Pastor Peter Dutton, ever keeping us safe from terror, pipes up about the need to keep our “foot on the throat” of demon people-smugglers, terrorists and bad dudes with tats and facial piercings from Kiwi bikie gangs we must deport back to Nelson, Wellington or Christchurch.

It’s critical, he tells The Weekend Australian  much in the same way that Christian Porter insists we pass the proposed espionage and foreign interference bill – a bill which he says is necessary to protect the Super Saturday by-elections, July 28, which could be sabotaged by foreign agents but he can’t say who, how or why.  It’s another excuse to silence advocacy groups and GetUp!

Dutton tells Coalition colleagues that Australia is in a “danger phase” with illegal boat arrivals. One act of compassion could “undo overnight” five years of hard work in “stopping the boats”.

His claim’s preposterous. But who needs a reasoned case with evidence in an age of metanoia?

In the end, Trump rescinds his decree. Sort of. He tells an aide, Tuesday, that “it doesn’t look good politically”. Instead, children will be locked up with their parents, on bases, a practice zealously embraced by Australia despite Dutton’s repeated fake claims that we have no children in custody.

Refugee Council of Australia figures indicate there are seven children in detention facilities; 33 on Nauru, 180 in community detention and an estimated 3,083 in the community on a bridging visa.

Since 2010, 40 asylum seekers have died in detention. This week, Home Affairs Minister, Dutton bows to pressure and allows Ali, a 65 year old man, dying of lung cancer, to return to Australia.

Afghan refugee, Ali, has been interned five years on Nauru. As loyal US allies, we are still helping turn Afghanistan into a hellhole. Worse, grave allegations emerge that our forces have committed war crimes, amid a “complete lack of accountability” from the military chain of command.

Yet no-one can explain what Australia is doing in Afghanistan – apart from blindly following the US.  Even the US can’t say what it is achieving in its longest war in history and the costliest since WWII. It began in 1981 as the Bush administration’s response to the September 11 attacks. It has cost over $1 trillion to date. Civilian casualties are fast rising under Trump’s “fight to win strategy”.  There were 10,000 civilian casualties last year with over 3000 deaths.

Trump’s push is as ineffective as his decision to drop the GBU-43, the mother of all bombs. What is certain is that the region has been the source of a flood of refugees which some estimate to number three million. The nation has the reputation of causing the greatest number of refugees in the world. Of those who do return, three quarters are forced by violence to flee again.

The brutal answer to the question of what we are doing is that we are creating refugees.

Similarly, few are prepared to make the link between our illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the subsequent flood of millions of refugees or those from Syria. Nor do we hear of the ways the US illegal invasion helped radicalise Iraqis; join al Qaeda in Iraq which would become ISIL and other groups. Easier to discover are estimates that around four million Iraqis were forced to flee ISIL.

We’ve helped to dispossess Afghans but we don’t want them here. Ali and his family were told “under no circumstances” would he be permitted to set foot on Australian soil. It’s a reversal of a Trump-like decision by Border Force and Home Affairs to deny all natural aspiration to humanity,  compassion or respect for international law regarding the unity and protection of the family unit.

The UNHCR reluctantly agrees to help in the relocation of refugees from Nauru and Manus to the US, reports Ben Doherty, in The Guardian, but “on the clear understanding” that vulnerable refugees with close family ties to Australia would ultimately be allowed to settle there.

This proviso is ignored. Our government’s aspirations do not embrace or honour UNHCR requests.

Australia’s refugee policy is now a byword for brutality. Our Nauru detention centre which bears the Orwellian name of Regional Processing Centre is a place of medical neglect, hunger strikes, suicides and abuse. Amnesty International calls our policy a “human rights catastrophe”.

330 refugees and asylum seekers, including 36 children, remain in detention on Nauru. Our government tells them that they will never be able to settle in Australia or New Zealand.

Are they, too, entitled to aspirations? Perish the thought. Time to return to Turnbull’s stunt.

Turnbull blunders. Is derision the best way he can respond to a Plibersek, a politician who has the integrity and intellectual honesty to own that she is mystified by his vacuous cliché? Bad enough that he must fend off her challenge to his platitude, a challenge which goes to the empty heart of his sonorous oratory; all sound and fury and no conviction, but he makes a very bad call.

Aspirations are not all to do with working harder, earning more or “improving” your social status and it diminishes any leader to pretend otherwise. Mal’s quip and the Coalition’s subsequent mockery by reiteration ad absurdum of the word aspiration in Question Time are another poor call. The nation is again dismayed by his lack of judgement. In World Cup terms, it’s an own goal.

Far from embracing or recognising aspiration, the Turnbull government will be remembered for its ever lowering of ambition in its desire to act with compassion, justice or humanity. Or humility.

It has heartlessly abandoned and abused to the point of torture those we choose to call asylum seekers. They are refugees; desperate men, women and children, fleeing war, famine and disaster whose only choice is to seek out Australia by boat and throw themselves on our compassion.

Embrace? No embrace here. Aspiration? More like apathy and perverse indifference to our own cruelty and inhumanity. At present, we illegally detain, indefinitely, over two thousand refugees on Manus, Nauru, Christmas Island as well as those in community detention on the mainland.

Despite Aspirational’s Liberal pedigree, Mr Turnbull, you would be well advised to drop the buzz-word immediately. Send the flea-bitten old nag to the knackery. While you’re at it you should drop the attacks on Tanya Plibersek. Can the wisecracks about her household income or Bill Shorten’s dinners with the Pratts. People in glass houses need to aspire to a higher standard of debate.

Finally, it may be a radical step for you, but it’s not too late to recall the last stage of your tax cut policy too. Or scrap the plan entirely. Australian voters are not mugs. They can tell when they’re being taken for a ride.

 

Can Trump’s Singapore Summit farce alert us to the need to protect our own democracy?

“A new story, a new beginning, one of peace. Two men, two leaders, one destiny. A story in a special moment in time. When a man is presented with one chance that may never be repeated, what will he choose?”

High-tech-sci-fi labs, fast trains and a slam-dunking basketballer flit across the screen as a bizarre, four minute US mobile-propaganda-video, set to a dramatic musical score, fires our national and international imagination this week.

Fox & Friends host, Abby Huntsman, almost steals the show with a Freudian slip, however, when images of Trump, disembarking Air Force One, en route to his date with destiny at Paya Lebar Air Base, in Singapore, appear on screen.

Regardless of what happens in that meeting between the two dictators, what we are seeing right now, this is history,”

Two dictators? Single-handedly, deal-maker Donald Trump wrangles North Korea to the negotiating table. So he says. It must be a master of the art of the deal thing. Details are hazy and scant, but a brace of Norwegian anti-immigration politicians want give The Donald a Nobel Peace prize for his promo alone. Even Australia’s PM says he’s dead impressed.

“Well look, [he] gave it a red hot go”, Trump’s lackey, Malcolm Turnbull, tells Hobart Radio. Mal’s in Tassie, the apple (and other fruit machine) isle, boring Braddon voters rigid before the by-election.

“Red hot go” is a cliché the PM stole from ScoMo. It rivals “hard-working Australians” who, amazingly, are always virtuously succeeding in small businesses.

Yet ScoMo’s quick to call out our welfare bludgers who are a burden on the economy. As are our oldies. Low wage earners  – if not all – workers are shirkers. Poverty is God’s way to punish the lazy. Expect a national basics’ card soon.

Scott’s been cocking up the economy. The MP for Cook has also been cooking the books.  He rants about how his government has created a million jobs since it came to power. It’s a hoax. No-one counters his claim with the fact that the population grew by 1.6 million in the same period. His assurance of prosperity is based on a lie.

For the first time in history, says The Australia Institute, more than half of our workforce do not have secure full-time employment. Insecure work, with no holidays, super, or sick leave, is rising dramatically.

31.7 per cent of employment is now part time, the highest percentage to date, while the rest of our increasingly marginalised, alienated workforce is made up of self-employed, casual and underemployed workers.

Morrison crows about our 3.1% GDP; says we’re on the global leaderboard. It’s sheer nonsense. As Alan Austin notes, in Crikey, 3.1% in the current global environment is a fail. APEC economies, the 21 countries sharing Australia’s Pacific rim region, average GDP growth of 3.8% or more. Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore and Chile all exceed 4.0%. Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia top 5.0%. Vietnam, China and the Philippines are over 6.0%. Australia is lagging in the bottom half.

Being a Coalition Treasurer, however, and backed by the Howard era myth of better economic managers, Morrison can say what he likes. Our media lap it up.

His leaderboard nonsense is a complete falsehood. “Australia has climbed back to the top of the global leaderboard”? Not remotely true. Current GDP growth figures for 185 economies, published by Trading Economics, show Australia’s 3.1% ranks equal 96th. We are in the bottom half of the leaderboard, nowhere near the top. Yet there are no questions for the PM on ScoMo or Trump.

No Hobartian challenges Mal’s wilful mis-reading of Trump’s stunt either. Yet he’s at odds with Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, whose diplomacy owes much to The Godfather. She keeps her friends close and her enemies closer.

“I would not be taking my foot off the throat of North Korea until I saw very concrete steps that this time they were genuine.” Military exercises? Bishop hisses. “I think the United States needs to clarify what was actually meant.”

What was meant? Trump rashly promises he will suspend Ulchi-Freedom Guardian” eight days of massive, land, sea and air live fire military exercises between the US and South Korea. Each year, tens of thousands of American forces augment its 32,000-strong garrison, America’s third-largest, after Japan and Germany. Yet Trump’s consulted no-one.

Decapitation strike drills  – aimed at Kim and his high command, oddly, lead Pyongyang to see the US-led exercises as rehearsals for pre-emptive war on the North. Already, Trump’s administration is walking away from his concessions.

Is the president dismayed to read he’s been outsmarted by Kim? For that to happen he would have to read or pay attention during briefings. No. What does get him down is how “little rocket man” commands his people’s attention.

He speaks and his people sit up at attention,” Trump complains. “I want my people to do the same.

Trump’s Singapore summit is a superficial, publicity stunt; a quick and dirty diversion from domestic issues for both Kim and himself. The money from his tax cuts for example is going straight into the CEO’s wallet.

Like his robotic Finance Minister, tedious, Mathias Cormann, an energiser bunny who recycles the same trickle-down mantra endlessly, “lower taxes = higher profits = more jobs”, Turnbull, a hapless captive of his party’s right wing, is fated also to repeat his party’s clapped-out canard that tax cuts for US companies have created jobs. They haven’t. They won’t here, either.

In fact, while banks and companies have profited massively: US jobs are not growing; nor is investment in Wall Street. Fat bonuses are back. Profits are rocketing. Companies reinvest. Apple is able to make a $100 billion share buyback.

Share buybacks push up stock prices. They are immediately followed by company executives offloading some of their own stock to take advantage of rising prices, reports Bernard Keane. He quotes CNN,’s research “the report studied 385 buybacks in 2017 and during the first three months of 2018. Thanks to the reliable stock bounce, insiders gained a total of $75.1 million on their stock sales, the SEC researchers calculated”.

But peace is bad for business. What if peace breaks out between North and South Korea?  Wall Street worries itself sick. Luckily, it has more than enough to depress it in Trump’s trade wars with China and the rest of the world.

Trump’s tough-talking trade war has cost the stock market $1 trillion dollars, since March, according to JP Morgan’s Marko Kolanovic. The Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 200 points, 6 June, following the president’s decision to include Canada, Mexico and the European Union in global steel and aluminium levies.

Yet further questions remain. Have South Korea, Japan and Australia – and even Trump’s off-White House been blindsided? Did Trump over-promise to stop the arms business-friendly military exercises over The Republic of Korea?

The video’s a White House media spin unit confection, cunningly credited to Destiny Productions. In case you miss its heavy-handed message, an incredible rewind sequence, a sort of reverse Indian rope trick, shows an array of missiles sliding back down their own vapour trails; resiling tidily into silos, denuclearising the world.

The video puff-piece is Donald Trump’s overture to a five hour speed-date with fellow enfant terrible Kim Jong-un in Singapore this week.

“One moment …” is the trailer for “A special bond” a new show in which the former reality TV boss, buddies up with paranoid narcissist confrere Kim Jong-un. It’s Trump’s East meets Western, a feelgood show which plays out at the Capella hotel, (from AU $659 per night), on Sentosa, Singapore’s Disneyland, off Singapore’s south coast Tuesday.

Madonna and Lady Gaga are known to stay at The Capella. The three bed colonial manor is a steal at AU$9946 per night.

Sentosa, as it is known nowadays, to celebrities, show-biz identities and presidents, is a former Japanese prisoner of war camp, now transformed for “high end” holiday-makers. An artificial paradise, its man-made beaches hide bodies of victims of past atrocities, Sentosa was formerly named “Pulau Belakang Mati”, (island of death from behind).

The old British coastal fort’s guns face out to sea but the Japanese invaded by land. It’s an ideal setting for Trump’s kiss and make up for the camera summit, a pact between two malignant psychopaths who only recently were vowing to annihilate each other. Their abiding mutual mistrust is suppressed as each seeks to profit personally from the PR.

“One moment…” could run for two and a half years, or until the end of Trump’s term, ABC seer, Andrew Probyn, warns Insiders Sunday. Bingo! In an uncanny coincidence, in Seoul on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo explains “major disarmament” would take place over two-and-a-half years.

Buoyed by his ratings, his love of strong leaders – and mad keen to distract from Robert Mueller’s tightening net, Trump is already promising to broaden the plot to include a speed date with his BFF Vladimir Putin.

A love-in with Putin will also help draw attention away from Trump’s being sued by New York state which is taking the Trump mafia, (Trump and his three eldest children, Donald Jnr, Eric and Ivanka and the board of his charity, to court for “an alleged pattern of persistent illegal behaviour.”

Barbara D. Underwood, NY State Attorney-General, alleges Trump’s charity is just a shell for payments that benefit Trump or his businesses. She describes the Trump foundation as “little more than a cheque-book for payments from Mr. Trump or his businesses to non-profits, regardless of their purpose or legality.”

Trump’s Kiss me Kim propaganda video is fashionably crass and a typically unsubtle attempt at coercion and diversion.

“What will he choose?” It’s a Zen riddle, a sly tribute – surely- to Iron Chef’s Kitchen Stadium, a campy Japanese cooking cult classic: “Whose cuisine will reign supreme?”  Kim doesn’t have to choose. He’s already being treated as an equal.

Trump and Kim’s love-in receives rapturous self-applause which resounds around the world courtesy of such US sycophants as Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who is still forlornly hoping Trump will honour his weasel word to take “up to 1250” refugees, including 29 children, in indefinite detention in our illegal offshore gulags on Manus and Nauru off our hands before Mal calls a snap election on national security and tax cuts in September.

The movie trailer and the man-made beach are also a perfect setting for a president who is artifice personified. Trump has the reality TV show host’s whitened teeth, big hair and witless patter; diplomacy effortlessly morphs into game show. Can diplotainment make America great again? Save the world from nuclear annihilation?

The president echoes the fortune-cookie platitudes of his trailer: sententious clichés will ensure lasting world peace.

“The past does not have to define the future,” he declares. “Yesterday’s conflict does not have to be tomorrow’s war. As history has proved over and over, adversaries can become friends.”

After five hours, including a sequence where Trump shows a keenly interested Kim the features of his bullet-proof limousine, the two get around to signing a document. Wait. It’s an historic agreement. Hold the front page.

Hold the fire and fury. All you need is gloves. A gloved official checks Kim’s pen to see it’s free of nerve agent poison. A microphone picks up Kim’s quip: “Many people in the world will think this is a scene from science fiction, from fantasy.”

The Singapore Sting is a breakthrough for North Korea. It may even usher in a brave new era of international diplomacy as diplotainment. The perpetually unprepared Donald J Trump defies all protocol to wing a summit with the North Korean dictator he calls “little rocket man”. Kim Jong-un outfoxes his woefully ill-briefed detractor.

But the show’s the thing. Donald Trump, a type of Reagan 2.0, is a mythomaniac who believes that he not Tony Schwarz wrote The Art of the Deal – just as Reagan came to confuse his acting in war movies with war service.

Of course, if no one is allowed to say the emperor has lost his marbles, as in the Trump administration, or in Peter Dutton’s Home Affairs super ministry, we are all in serious trouble but that is the trend which the Turnbull government favours with its draft Foreign Espionage and Foreign interference bill.

It is not reassuring that the draft bill has bipartisan support. Nor the nonsense that we face unprecedented threats from foreign espionage, even greater than the cold war.

One authority is uniformly cited, ASIO, but no further evidence is disclosed. Why? To do so would further imperil the national interest? It’s a beat up; an excuse to further curtail civil liberties. Media outfits and civil society groups such as Amnesty International, Greenpeace Change.org and GetUp! are alarmed at the way Turnbull’s government wants to rush the legislation through before the July by-elections

Nor is it encouraging when, all week, the Coalition rails against foreign interference but is willing to do nothing to curb foreign donations, especially so close to a snap election which looks as if it may be time for September.

“In an open democracy such as Australia, limiting free speech and the contestability of ideas is to destroy the very essence of our polity,” says GetUp!’s national director, Paul Oosting.

Advocacy group GetUp! publishes research to show this is precisely what the Turnbull government is doing.  Yet it’s backfiring. GetUp’s Paul Oosting, argues: “The Turnbull government’s attack on democracy and free speech is absolutely unprecedented, so it’s not surprising it has energised GetUp members like little else before.”

Trump’s erratic, attention-seeking, grandstanding with his fake treaty with North Korea this week is alarming for its sheer chicanery. Like Kim he is in it simply for his own selfish reasons, be it diversion, ego, or greater kudos at home.

Even more alarming is his abandonment of accepted protocols of accountability and consultation. Much is made of the threat of the terror cell or of the lone wolf terrorist but Trump’s impulsive, egocentric, ill-informed and entirely ill-advised upstaging of diplomacy and international relations poses a far more tangible threat to world stability.

Trump’s bluster over tariff barriers alone can only feed global economic instability and fuel increasing tension between US and China, a conflict that affects our national interest rather more directly than any foreign spy or terror bogeyman.

In such times, it is vital that we continue to demand honesty and accountability from our government; from all politicians. Above all, we must resist current Coalition attempts to curb our democratic right to free speech.

Similarly we have a right to expect representative government to respect due process. The Foreign Espionage and Foreign Interference Bill must not be rushed because of some spurious “urgency” of the government’s own making.

As Sunita Bose of Change.org writes,

People power should not fall casualty to restricting foreign influence over parliament. Our laws must be better than this. They must protect the important role Australians play in shaping policy from the ground up. The government and Labor need to urgently introduce stronger safeguards for campaigning in these bills, or risk silencing Australians who participate in our democracy.

 

Nothing but blue ties from now on? Or academic and democratic freedom?

Blue ties

Smiling at me

Nothing but blue ties

Do I see

(With apologies to Irving Berlin)

 

“Blue ties … nothing but blue ties” is the theme of this week’s Canberra soap opera. It’s about the Coalition’s vain attempt to flog off a hugely ignorant, intellectually bankrupt concept which “suppository of all wisdom” Tony Abbott once pitched to Liberal donor and private health Czar, the late Paul Ramsay, as a cure for our national identity crisis.

The Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation, would confer an undergraduate degree that would supply what ‘this current generation was missing … familiarity with the stories and the values that had made us who and what we are’.

Like any snake oil or hair restorer salesman, Abbott suggested other key deficiencies in our national psyche would also be cured.  Above all, bigotry and dogmatism would thrive. “Almost entirely absent from the contemporary educational mindset was any sense that cultures might not all be equal, and that truth might not be entirely relative.”

Desperately, the Turnbull government begs the ANU to take on The Ramsay Centre; confer ersatz academic legitimacy on a cheer squad for cultural supremacists. It woos the university for six months but is flatly rejected Thursday.

Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt BS Phys, BS Astro, AM Astro, PhD Astro is polite but firm  as he lets Ramsay know it’s on the nose. ANU has “serious concerns about its autonomy”, he says. His objections expose The Ramsay Centre utterly. And by extension they are a trenchant criticism of a Coalition keen to undermine if not silence a free and open society.

Professor Schmidt tells  Fairfax Media, Thursday, that the Ramsay Centre had “sought a level of influence over our curriculum and staffing that went beyond what any other donor has been granted, and was inconsistent with academic autonomy”. This would set a precedent that would completely undermine the integrity of the university,” he continues, noting the ANU had declined donations before and “will again”.

The word integrity mystifies the PM of an anti-academic, coal-powered, business-friendly government. He just cannot fathom Schmidt’s decision, he declares sounding less confounded than condemnatory:  “I find it very hard to understand why that proposal from The Ramsay Foundation would not have been accepted with enthusiasm, he tells Fairfax.

Rejecting Ramsay is quickly conflated with rejecting western civilisation. Publicly, the PM vows to drum some sense into ANU’s curmudgeons. PM of a mercantile government of mean, narrow and contracting horizons, Turnbull might find himself out of his depth, however, with Schmidt, winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize and leader of the High-Z Supernova Search team which in 1998 made the wonderful discovery that the expansion rate of the Universe is accelerating.

At stake is the very idea of the university, a place for inquiry, academic freedom and intellectual rigour, concepts, ironically that are central to the Enlightenment a part of what it suits some to call the western tradition.

On the other side of the ledger is Paul Ramsay’s $3 billion legacy. The late corporate oligarch, was a former land surveyor who put away theodolite and tape to open a Sydney psychiatric clinic in 1964, a portal into a Mad-man meets Wall Street world of profiteering via his Ramsay Health Care, a thriving private hospital business empire until it “diworsified” overseas.

A market darling, Ramsay Healthcare’s motto is people caring for people. But only for people with money, darling.

While Ramsay may struggle a bit now, with underperforming overseas investments, Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts see a healthy profit in private healthcare. Australian hospitals enjoyed 13% earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization, (EBITDA) margin ten years ago. Now it’s 18%-20%. Ramsay has been a nice little earner.

In the five years to 2016, Ramsay Health Care Limited shares rose 321%: 14.6 times better than the return offered by the ASX during the same time period. Since Winston Howard’s 1997-2000 private health subsidies and other ways of getting government to foster private enterprise in the private health industry, Ramsay has never looked back.

Ramsay’s inspiring devotion to profit, the public good and the undermining of our public health system also included his building regional TV: the mighty Prime Network which along with a mind-boggling swag of products to flog, including  pay-day lenders’ usury, gambling and scams such as health and funeral insurance and banking, still manages to find space for daily crusades to expose welfare bludgers and for other truthiness to enlighten our benighted nation.

An army of jeremiahs at The Australian don sackcloth and ashes. Poison barbs are lovingly fashioned by News Corp hacks. Forget culture war, The Oz declares a holy war.  A broadsheet, broadside ensues. Like the heads Christians cut off the Turkish wounded and dead and catapulted into Nicea in 1097, the word Ramsay is now hurled at all infidels; evidence the great white way of the West is superior to Islam, the East or anything anyone else might have to offer.

Surely all that money talking must be heeded, suggests policy-free, Federal Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, who blames ANU’s student associations and the National Tertiary Education Union for “stoking negativity” about such a “significant bequest”. He warns other universities “to resist politically correct objections” whatever that means.

Never get between a Vice Chancellor and a source of funding say the wags. Sydney University, The Canberra Times reports, now may take the money and run – (the degree). Yet more than 100 of its academics sign an open letter declaring that they are “strongly opposed to the university entering into any arrangement with the Ramsay Centre”..

The Australian smears this protest as “including refugee and pro-Palestine activist Nick Riemer, fellow boycott Israel campaigner Jake Lynch and Tim Anderson, who courted controversy by defending Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.”

On economic fronts it’s all good news for Pollyannas. We are world’s best in the GDP, a contest to equate a statistical blip caused by mining and government spending in health with progress. The economy is booming. Except for wage-earners. For the first time on record, less than half of all workers now enjoy secure work reports The Australia Institute.

Scott Morrison may well boast that real wages for those in the best paid job category – permanent full-time jobs – have grown but wages for casual workers are declining. Part-time workers in marginal self-employed positions, including so-called ‘gig economy’ workers fare the worst, with real wages falling 26 percent in the last five years.

“There are one million more Australians in work than there were when we were elected,” boast con-artists Turnbull and Morrison. No hint that our adult population has grown by 1.4 million in that time. One million jobs is inadequate. An endlessly-repeated hollow boast; the lie has sadly now by dint of repetition become accepted as a Coalition success.

The Australian Financial Review’s Michael Stutchbury appears on ABC Insiders, Sunday, to cheer on the government’s fantasy employment boom although he does get a rise out of News.com.au’s Malcolm Farr when Stutchbury smugly dismisses workers on low wages as “whingers”. Bugger the facts. Everyone is fabulously well-paid at bullshit castle.

Everyone gets a share of our national magic pudding featured in ScoMo and Co’s big show this week. Even his PowerPoint tables groan under the weight of his porky-pies. In a feast of aspirational mind-setting, the treasurer flogs a drop-dead gorgeous set of figures. And takes credit. Our hero is on a mission to ease our “tax burden”.

Like a favourite footy team, homespun metaphor-king Morrison, the Malcolm Roberts of economics, bellows, Australia has “climbed back to the top of the global leaderboard”, growing faster than all seven of the biggest rich countries.”

No. ScoMo our economy only looks as if its growing faster because our population is growing faster.

None of ScoMo’s boast is true. Above all, it is impossible to measure our economy from quarter to quarter. Such is the faith-based fervour a Neoliberal government invests in anything to do with the economy – it’s heresy to dispute ScoMo’s misrepresentation of what’s caused the GDP to become a bigger, sexier figure. Or whether it really has changed.

Ross Gittins in Fairfax points out that for the last two years we’ve endured implausibly weak figures on quarter and implausibly strong the next. The only possible meaning lies in the trend. And even jobs are now 600 a day.

Nor dare anyone dare challenge the Prophet of Trickle Down’s wilful distortion of tax bad; cuts good. Or the tax burden.

Tax burden? Taxes are only a burden if you don’t want roads or schools or hospitals. Spare us your second-hand Tea Party evangelism about burdens, ScoMo. The Treasurer runs into a spot of bother when reporters ask him to comment on how women will do three times worse out his proposed personal tax cuts than men. With a well-practised display of confected anger, he trivialises the issue and patronises all with a quip about tax forms not being in pink and blue.

Job done. Journos are silenced. GDP’s making whoopee and we’ll all be on easy (Ramsay?) street on the back of mining exports; a random figure plucked out for show which looks good only because of government spending on health and its NDIS cock-up. GDP is there to remind us that what matters often doesn’t count and what counts often doesn’t matter.

In other fabulous news, a quixotic Craig Kelly jumps on his high horse and rides off in all directions in search of traitors.

‘Leftist academics’ not only hate ‘Western civilisation’, but they ‘have a dislike of our nation, that is simply why they do not want this course’ blue tie Liberal MP Craig Kelly rants. A grateful nation gives thanks for our heroic monocultural warrior’s wake-up call. Fifth columnists infest our universities. Gays. Feminists. Environmentalists. Cultural Marxists.

Our way of life is at risk. Luckily the anti-government Jihadists at the ABC has been fixed. Mitch Fifield, who sees no conflict between his membership of an IPA dedicated to closing down our public broadcaster and his role as Minister for Communications, has helped his Coalition cut $254 million in funds and cull 600 staff members since 2013.

Complaints have been stepped up in the meantime as resources have been denied in a bastardisation strategy. Fifield slams Barrie Cassidy, ABC Insiders’, genial host with the gentle question technique for allowing Andrew Probyn together with ring-ins Phil Coorey and Mark Kenny, who work for other media, to repeat the “Labor lie” that the Super Saturday by elections date was chosen in an act of political bastardry to conflict with Labor’s National Conference.

Laura Tingle opines that the ABC has morphed from being a perennial political whipping-boy to an election issue in its own right. Some tip an early election to be timed to start with disgraced former HSU head and Coalition model unionist Kathy Jackson’s trial but she may not go before a jury until 2019 given the backlog of trials before the County Court.

Cutting the funding and staffing the ABC needs to do its job while complaining about its performance, is a great way to bully our public broadcaster into submission. But even a government cheerleader can’t get out all the good news.

Christian Porter, the poor man’s George Brandis, urges the nation to get behind the government’s latest attempt to turn the nation into a police state, in its Espionage and Foreign Interference Bill which has nothing to do with foreigners interfering and everything to do with the Turnbull government’s obsession with secrecy.

While Porter screams urgency, it should be remembered that in 2009 it was the Coalition which blocked Labor’s attempts to ban the most direct form of foreign interference, foreign political donations.

It’s an “egregious, blatant breach of the democratic rights and civil liberties of Australia” says GetUp!’s legal director, Alice Drury. Porter’s bill is not about foreign influence it’s about increasing government secrecy laws.

Some of the excesses of George Brandis’ original gonzo legislation remain in the proposed new legislation. Bernard Keane sums up. Whistle-blowers remain unprotected but must go through the labyrinthine APS processes laid down by internal whistle-blower laws.

Worse, you can still be prosecuted for viewing, sharing and republishing Wikileaks-style leaked governments documents unless you can prove you believed the information would not “cause harm to Australia’s interests” and non-journalists who receive or use information can still be prosecuted.

Above all it is a move to silence dissent. GetUp! believes it will be forced to declare it is not independent when its grassroots effectiveness is entirely based on “people power” through the digital and social media revolution with crowdfunding campaigns like marriage equality and opposition to the Adani Carmichael export coal mine in Queensland.

The Turnbull government may say it wants a Ramsay Centre to perpetuate Western Civilisation yet beneath the rhetoric is the desire to promulgate propaganda to support the conservative cause and perpetuate the blue tie ruling elite.

In other ways, also its actions betray a police state agenda. Anyone may soon expect to be asked for their “papers please” at an airport. Your private information can be leaked to damage your credibility if you dare to criticise a government department such as the DHS.

Add growing draconian surveillance laws and factor in the ongoing mistreatment of Witness K a former ASIS agent who revealed ASIS’ illegal bugging of the East Timorese government in 2004 for the benefit of Australian resources companies and you have a brave new Australia that a visitor from 2013 would barely recognise.

Yet with the nobbling of the ABC’s independence and culture warriors such as Abbott and Howard actively undermining the foundations of a free, open and democratic it looks like nothing but blue ties from now on.

Unless, of course, the blue ties have already overplayed their hand and gravely underestimate the power of grass-roots opposition and the average Australian’s capacity to see right through the blue ties’ lies, the spin, the evasions and diversions.

Effing get over it: Hunt gives Turnbull government a new motto.

“Fucking get over it”, is Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt’s uplifting advice to 71 year old Fay Miller, Mayor of Katherine, who dared front Hunt in Canberra last December, to lobby him for more local resources to clean up contamination, a multi-billion dollar operation, from toxic fire-fighting foam used at RAAF Bases in Darwin and Tindal.

Hunt doesn’t give a toss about the environment, either. His PM is due to tell us the Coalition has squandered $2.3 billion on Direct Action, Hunt’s emissions reduction fund boondoggle.

As a back-bencher, Turnbull had the guts to predict Direct Action would waste billions of taxpayers’ dollars paying farmers to plant trees so industry could freely pollute, a scam he denounced as “a recipe for fiscal recklessness on a grand scale”– akin to his current unfunded corporate tax cuts.

“F…get over it” could be The Liberal Party’s motto if it had one. So much better than “Our Plan will deliver a strong, prosperous economy and a safe, secure Australia.”

“F… get over it” would also be fair warning of the Libs’ abandoning any pretension to be a party of individual freedom when as coalition partner they constantly extend state power over us, be it beefing up surveillance, (Home Affairs plans to expand the Australian Signals Directorate to spy on all citizens), retaining data, censorship, human rights abuse, compulsory ID checks at airports for all, or violating our right to privacy.

Privacy? Personal information may be leaked to damage your reputation or discredit your case – as Alan Tudge, or his department, did to Andie Fox who dared criticise the DHS’ Robodebt reversal of onus of proof extortion racket.

In Paul Malone’s Fairfax article in February 2017, a Centrelink spokesman, General Manager Hank Jongen, commented on Ms Fox’s personal information including her history of claiming the Family Tax Benefit and relationship circumstances.

Acting Privacy Commissioner, Angelene Falk, declares this week it’s OK for Social Welfare Dictator Alan Tudge and his band of bureaucrats, to use private information “if the individual would reasonably expect it to do so.” 

Her deliberations have taken a year but her verdict boils down to this. So you think you have a right to privacy? Get over it.

The Mayor of Katherine does not like being told to “fucking get over it” – and let’s face it, who does? – even if Hunt “may reasonably be expected” to model himself on his PM.

“Fuck off and get out of my way,”  Malcolm Turnbull once told Peter King, his rival for Wentworth, in 2004. Ironically, in an aside to a scrum of reporters, King declared.

Bullying is “abhorred by everybody and true liberal values are contrary to that approach.” My, how times have changed.

Twice, Miller writes the minister, Dear Greg, you owe me an apology for your abusive outburst. But it’s more than abuse. Hunt, who, in January, vowed he was an advocate for mental health because his late mother, Kathinka Hunt, suffered bouts of bipolar disorder, was “rude, disrespectful, misogynist, boorish; arrogant“, Miller tells our ABC.

A former NT MP, Miller says she was “probably in the biggest boy’s club in Australian politics” as a Country Liberal Parliamentary Party member, but claims she has never been as insulted as she was by Hunt — who called her “feisty”.

“He went off like a light switch,” she explains. As mayor, she “believes in fairness” she adds and being an advocate for her community. “Sometimes people in parliament are seduced, so it’s important that they remember how they got there”.

Hunt counter attacks in February, bagging Miller’s own behaviour. Only last Wednesday does he offer an apology – and only then, when –News Limited claims The Herald Sun submits questions to Hunt and his PM, does Hunt phone Miller.

What a mensch! Greg’s tender, bedside manner and what the former Environment Minister tries to kid us is just “strong language” vividly evoke his government’s contempt for the welfare of working Australians, everywhere, especially those who may be over 70, female and refractory. Or regional.

Hunt’s class act, moreover, sets the tone of the week’s political theatre.

By Thursday, Labor’s Catherine King confronts Hunt in Question Time; asking whether he had been involved in any other instances “involving inappropriate behaviour towards stakeholders, public servants or staff”. King later tells Sky News Hunt appears to have “an anger problem” and his PM “had to decide whether it was befitting a minister”.

Yet Hunt is prepared to divulge only that “one case has been raised with him”.

This again concerns “strong language”, his euphemism for abusing Martin Bowles, his own department head, who has since resigned. Hunt’s defence is to claim dramatically that it was a matter of life and death: the progress of screenings for cervical cancer.

Of course the ends always justifies the means for Hunt and his party. “I think in that situation, while it was a strong discussion, it resulted in the right outcome, the program was able to be continued and I have utmost respect for the (now Head of Calvary Health) public servant involved,” Hunt bull-shits Parliament. It’s not what happened.

Martin Bowles, a highly regarded senior bureaucrat, seems to have been bullied into resigning as Head of the Department of Health, 1 September last year, after “rumours of tensions” between himself and Hunt. Bowles was tipped to become defence secretary but was overlooked in favour of Greg Moriarty, Malcolm Turnbull’s former chief of staff.

Bowles’s fraught, if not downright unhealthy, ­relationship with Hunt was a major factor in his ­decision to “abruptly end his distinguished 40-year career of public service last August”, contends The Herald Sun, Friday. The Australian claims “government MPs have privately expressed concerns there could be further tales of temper tantrums.”

Temper tantrums? Why infantilise an abuser? Bullying or silencing dissenters is not, of course, confined to the Coalition’s approach to inclusive, democratic leadership.

When the arse falls out of One Nation, this week, no-one is surprised.  But it’s as almost as comical as bankrupt Rod Culleton and his tea cup juggling. Or as farcical as Mal Roberts’ attempt to explain his citizenship.

The back end of Hanson’s One Nation panto horse departs the front. Brian Burston, backs out, mid-performance. Rips asunder the patched, well-worn costume.

Pauline’s panto horse party, her mythic white charger, ever rescuing battlers in distress or offering hope to an entire nation of deadbeat dads who hate the family court for having to pay maintenance, now lies in shreds downstage.

Can it ever be repaired? Is there a panto horse vet in the house? Hanson rushes to be comforted on the Bolt Report. Weeps buckets. “Burston’s a backstabber”, says the betrayer of her entire electorate of battlers. Backstabber Burston accuses Pauline of “a massive dummy spit” and “running a dictatorship”; both of which are fair comment.

But unwise. Pauline orchestrates a very public falling out with the NSW senator over Burston’s baffling decision to keep his promise to vote for the Coalition’s corporate tax cuts, just as she decides One Nation will renege on its deal.

It’s only the fourth or fifth change of position which the party has taken on the company tax cuts but Brian refuses to budge. Some scurrilous scuttlebutt has it that the PM wants an excuse not to proceed with the unpopular tax measure.

A high-handed Hanson kindly writes to Burston to give him his marching orders. Quit the party. Leave the senate. Now.

She’ll have to expel him from the party. Burston won’t budge. He won’t resign from One Nation, he declares. Let Pauline expel me. And he has no intention of leaving the senate.  He’ll become an independent who’ll vote with the government in the One Nation tradition.

Rumours abound that he touts himself around to the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers but it’s all the fault of a matchmaking mate who didn’t tell small bore Brian that he was pleading his case. Mates go off half-cocked like that all the time.

AAP reports that the Shooters reject Burston like a shot. A spokesperson says it is not a lengthy decision.

Mad Mark Latham is now being touted as a possible recruit for the One Nation parliamentary micro-party which will soon be able to meet in the cabin of the Jabiru 230-D two-seater aircraft, bought for it by property speculator Bill McNee, a political donation which the AFP reports breaks no Commonwealth legislation. Who needs law courts?

Latham refuses to confirm or deny any overture from One Nation but he’s probably only waiting for Burston to bail out. Time is on the wing for Pauline’s vanity political party, along with La Hanson, hersel.

The consummate drama queen with a nose for trouble, flies to the UK Saturday with a parliamentary delegation. She’s hell-bent on bonding with fellow alt-right martyr Christopher Yaxley-Lennon alias Tommy Robinson, a football hooligan turned anti-Muslim rabble-rouser who is in stir for contempt of court.

Founder of the (now defunct) far right, English Defence League, banned from Twitter under its “hateful conduct” policy, yobbo Robbo is sentenced to do thirteen months’ porridge for live-streaming outside a continuing court case; a practice which could have prejudiced a fair trial.

He pleads guilty. He knows it will make an iconic free speech warrior of him.

The Drudge Report, which has 1.3 million followers, and other alt-right disinformation sites already hail Robbo as a fearless citizen journalist silenced Soviet-style by British justice. Roseanne Barr and Donald Trump tweet their support.

There’s heaps to talk about should Hanson make contact. She’ll boast how she’s closed down the Australian family court thereby advancing men’s rights, when in fact she has just made it much harder for women victims of male violence to gain legal help. Horse-trader Cormann and his party are, of course, complicit in the secret deal.

Closed down? The government’s announcement that it will “merge” the Family Court of Australia (FCA) with the Federal Circuit Court (FCC) will affect tens of thousands each year. Even the super court’s not so super jaw-breaker of a title gives a hint of the troubles which lie in store for the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCA).

The changes will affect a great many of us each year. We average 47,000 divorces annually, while thousands of de facto relationships also wind up in the courts. In 2016-2017, we made 106,000 applications for family law determinations.

Naturally former failed WA treasurer, Christian Porter our current Attorney-General, is raving about the savings which the new merger will bestow upon all of us. Of course it will save confusion as well as “address costly inefficiencies” which is government jargon for providing fewer services and having to make do with fewer funds.

Porter does stop short at the Coalition favourite neoliberal weasel phrase, the “one-stop shop” but there’s no evidence at all that the merger will be any less inconvenient or any less expensive overall to families than its predecessor. It’s billed instead as “saving time and money”. Clearly, that doublespeak means government time and money. What could possibly go wrong?

Everything. “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” Tolstoy observed. Families have complex and unique problems. They need specialised help – not speed and efficiency.

Jane Wangmann and Miranda Kaye of the Faculty of Law, University of Technology Sydney list issues of family violence, child sexual abuse, alcohol issues, mental health concerns, and questions of parenting capacity. Time to be listened to properly and at length vastly outweighs any fast-tracking.

Fast-tracking? Was the merger rushed through to help secure One Nation’s vote on tax cuts for companies?

Why is the Turnbull government so keen to pre-empt the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC)’s review due March next year? It’s  the first comprehensive review of the family law system since the Family Law Act was passed in 1975.

There are certainly challenges in our current system. 87% of Family Law matters are heard by the non-specialist FCC leaving only 13% to the specialists at the FCA. Yet the “reforms” extend the non-specialist FCC. Cheaper, faster, better.

Faster decisions do not necessarily lead to better judgements, however, and the merger appears not only over-hasty and premature but lacking in consultation. Again, these are the hallmarks of a Turn-bull in a china shop government.

The Burston bust-up briefly upstages the Joyce soap opera when father of the year, Barnaby breaks down with stage fright, exacerbated by a shocking case of self-righteous indignation.

He cannot go on. Medicos immediately triage him on to sick leave – with a medical certificate, vouches Leader of the House, the Mouth That Roars, Christopher Pyne.

On the set of Love Among the Cinders, (a working title for what may well become a mini-series or blossom into a full-blown soap opera, Joyce is badly hurt by cruel if not outright vicious criticism of his decision to flog for $150,000 to a voyeuristic, tabloid TV show the right to publicise everything about how he and Vicky Campion found true love, a modern maid-servant swept off her feet by her Prince Charming and vice versa; a fairy tale romance come true. And, of course, the miracle of a male heir at last.

But – sheesh – just look how the media puts them all through living hell; ruins his privacy; spoils their intimacy.

Revealed in the caring and sharing spotlight is Brian Burston who vows he’ll keep his word to support his party’s Aussie battlers by voting with the government on an unfunded tax cut for big business which will go straight into company profits and do less than nothing for workers who will end up paying for it in higher taxes.

Finally, even a nation accustomed to its lunatic fringe regularly being eclipsed by its government’s own spectacular random acts of madness, is astonished to hear how Scott Morrison gets his little hands on our piggy banks.

Hardworking Australians, who mostly now delight in the riotous freedom and flexibility of casual work; liberated from such encumbrances as sick leave, holiday pay, regular hours or a living wage, thrill to learn that a public-spirited Turnbull government has just vacuumed up $2 billion of their unclaimed super.

Less than half of Australia’s workers hold a permanent full-time paid job with leave entitlements. Insecure, inadequate, underpaid work is the new normal, for the first time on record, reports, The Australia Institute‘s Centre for Future Work.

For our government, the super windfall is a win-win. Not only will the cash come in handy in fudging a return to surplus, it also helps its false narrative that union super funds are shonky – despite the Productivity Commission’s findings.

Because it doesn’t trust our super funds with our money, the Coalition argues, it sensibly pockets the money itself. A lot of money. The ATOs been swooping on 4.1 million “lost” super accounts.

Of course, the money will still be able to be claimed should its owners realise it’s theirs to claim – and provided the government passes measures in its May Budget. Pigs might fly. In the meantime, it’s a boon to its budget bottom line.

The $2 billion unclaimed super grab is “factored in”, as Treasurer ScoMo is desperate to tot up even the miserable $2.2 billion fantasy surplus, which the government bullshits it will deliver in 2019-20. It’s a promise which beggars belief and defies even its own expectation that most new found lost super funds will flow back into the active funds of workers.

The median income for all workers – that is, the amount at which half earn more and half earn less – is just $52,988. Most of us on these rates will save bugger all in super.

It would be cheaper and a far better investment of time and effort to cancel the $11 billion a year which the government spends subsidising private health insurance funds whose operations directly undermine a successful Medicare system. Put half of that into health and put the rest into boosting age pensions and welfare payments.

Minister for Jobs and Innovation and ripping off workers, Michaelia Cash gives a bravura performance this week of not answering any questions to do with anything. In frustration, Senator Murray Watt asks her if she knows the time. She has no intention of explaining how she got the AFP on to the AWU, despite there being no law broken.

She called the media to the AWU raid in a stunt to embarrass Bill Shorten. It may backfire. Sooner or later she needs to explain as to how she misled a senate inquiry on the matter. But it’s all Bill Shorten’s fault because he just can’t be trusted.

In the meantime, let us count our blessings, Cash never fails to sound as if she’s auditioning for Kath or Kim or Upper Middle Bogan. Bugger the workers. Stuff the injustice. The Coalition show must go on. And on. And on.

What’s that? You’ve got serious issues with the performance? The narrative? No. Just take a hint from the sensitive new age Mr Hunt: “fucking get over it.”

 

Hastie goes over the top while Hanson spills the beans.

Petty, vindictive, political bastardry, the signature theme of our bastardised, post-modern, dog-eat-dog politics, erupts far and wide this week, from magical fabulist, US pseudo-President, mob don, Trump, to our mock-populist, One (White) Nation’s Pauline Hanson, who each abandon key political deals at the last minute. Consternation and chaos ensue.

Leaping into the fray, Canning MP, sandgroper, Handy Andy Hastie, conducts a surprise attack on his own Prime Minister. Doubtless, Hastie’s five years in Afghanistan equip the former SAS officer well for the mortal combat, cage fighting, mud-wrestling and sundry other contests vital to any Liberal MP’s advancement. He is certainly combative.

‘I have no problem with people coming after me, but just make sure you come after me and not my family’ Hastie threatens in 2015 in case anyone asks about his family and his fascinating, fundamentalist religious views.

And on matters relating to his military service, Hastie, an Abbott man, is with Peter Dutton, Angus Campbell or Scott Morrison who kept secret his ordering of boat turnbacks in not talking about “operational matters” – as if, somehow, our nation is at war; as if such information threatens, rather than strengthens, the national interest of a democratic state.

Hastie is later cleared of any wrongdoing when a soldier under his command cut off the hands of Taliban fighters in 2013. In 2015, Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop offer gushing endorsements which make interesting reading today.

“We want you in Parliament,” Bishop says. “You are an outstanding Australian who deserves to be elected in the seat of Canning and we will do whatever we can to ensure that our Parliament, our country, has the benefit of your skill, leadership and expertise.”

Parachuting Hastie into the safe Liberal seat, it was believed, might even save Tony Abbott from a Turnbull challenge.

“He has fought for our country in the field and he will fight for our country in the Parliament. Thank you Andrew for making yourself available for this important form of national service,” Abbott says his military fetishising, boundless.

While the mutilation or mistreatment of the bodies of the dead is a violation of the laws of war, the soldier involved has never been disciplined. Inquiry transcripts published by The ABC in 2017 have led to public outcry and conflict between defence personnel. Some contend the incident is evidence of a “drift in values” among Australia’s Special Forces.

The soldier cut the hands off three dead EKIA (Defence reports depersonalise the dead with the acronym, EKIA – enemy combatants killed in action)- in order to be able to identify them, it is claimed, although then Captain Hastie wasn’t at the scene. Yet a commanding officer’s approval would be needed, to authorise such an action army experts attest.

Similarly Hastie was “just making up the numbers”, explains military expert and war criminal John Howard, in 2015, in another operation in which US troops accidentally killed two Afghan boys, firing on them from a helicopter gunship.

Right place, wrong time? For Hastie the incidents are a test of his fortitude and his patriotism.  “I’ve seen these things and I’ve had to have the strength of character, integrity and honour to deal with these incidents and serve my country.”

“Who dares wins” is the SAS motto. Yet when Hastie blows up his own PM this week, Turnbull and his committee are blind-sided. Or is it shock and awe?  Under parliamentary privilege, anti-communist Hastie denounces one of our government’s benefactors, Chau Chak Wing, accusing Chau not only of being a communist but a corrupt communist.

Chair of Federal Parliament’s joint intelligence and security committee, (ISC) Hastie, is testosteronic Tony Abbott’s star 2015 recruit. As befits an Abbott man, Hastie lobs a grenade into his own leader’s tent, fragging Turnbull, under parliamentary privilege, while spilling the (classified) beans on billionaire businessman Chau Chak Wing a Chinese–Australian wanted by the FBI for co-conspiring in the bribery of a former UN president. Chau has never been indicted.

All hell breaks loose. The Turnbull government fears all is lost in its mission to repair its increasingly rocky relationship with China. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who is always “doing an outstanding job”, according to her PM, whose government continues to plunder her budget and hasn’t read her Foreign Policy White Paper, is putting finishing touches on her communique after failing to patch things up with China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi in Argentina for the G20.

Bishop reports “very warm candid and constructive” talks. Wang Yi says the two nations “encountered some difficulties”.

“If Australia sincerely hopes that the relations between the two countries will return to the right track … they must break away from traditional thinking, take off their coloured glasses, and look at China’s development from a positive angle,” Wang adds. Our government’s foreign interference laws are not being received well in Beijing.

Yet, as Bishop suggests in her incoherent Foreign Policy White Paper, we must be prepared to go to war with China, if it can’t observe something US policy wonks love to call, “rules-based order” a code for the status quo in Asia. We have just realised how powerful and determined China is. The problem, notes Hugh White is what are we going to do about it?

All the White Paper can offer is the naff bumper sticker slogan of “a new mix of co-operation and competition”.

Last December, Turnbull took up the diplomatic megaphone to declare that the Australian people would “stand up” against meddling – a phrase evoking Mao Zedong and insulting his successors. As The Guardian’s Katharine Murphy writes, “Language like that fuels the Chinese nationalist narrative of a century of humiliation.” Beijing wants an apology.

Worse, our great and powerful friend, the US is underwhelmed by Hastie’s breach of classified information and is less likely to trust our ISC with its secrets in future. Ms Bishop’s “outstanding job” looks curiously like yet another spectacular Turnbull government failure. And in one short week, we’ve alienated our two greatest trading partners.

Is Hastie over-hasty? Has he ruined, forever, our kowtow to Zhongguo, (China)? Is our Sino-Australian love-hate relationship now impossibly conflicted by our love of Trump; our Australian crawl, the latest act of ritual abasement in our historic US-Australian vassalage? Or is Handy Andy simply urging his nation not to go soft on Sinophobia?

Or have we been set up by US spooks eager to foment discord; see the fur fly between the koala and the panda?

Whilst he told neither his PM nor his committee, Hastie did tell an ASIO operative “in a speculative way” before he blew the whistle on Chau. It’s as if he’s been set up by the Abbott-Dutton hard right faction. Or its supporters.

The Turnbull government is caught with its pants down. Worse. Hanson blabs.  One Nation has been wooed with promises of a petrol resource rent tax hike. It’s kept mum in the hope it will garner enough Pauline Hanson One (White) Nation (PHON) votes to pass its enterprise tax plan, a $48 billion hit over ten years to its revenue and a sugar hit to business, which will do nothing to boost wages and less to lift productivity but will do everything to raise workers’ taxes.

Hanson is stung to discover the May Budget meets few of her other bucket list demands such as lower migration which currently is “destroying our standard of living and way of life”. And where’s her Health Card for self-funded retirees? Her new coal-fired power station for North Queensland, home to some of the biggest solar plants in the country? Her gas pipe line from west to east coast Australia?  And there’s more. So Hanson goes for her fourth company tax position.

She’s happy with all but the last stage – but she’s got a long list of needs that negotiator Mathias Cormann must satisfy.

Pauline’s script is fabulous: “The people of this country want leadership. They want honesty and they want trust. And I have to do that job.” Voting regularly with the government, she styles herself “a senator for the people of Australia.”

La Hanson is a martyr to her lofty principles and her mangled syntax: “(in) all good conscience I cannot look back in time and think I could have made a difference and never did anything about it”.  No? There’s always room for a fifth position.

Hanson’s veto may give Turnbull just the excuse he needs to drop the unpopular tax and further ammunition to attack Labor’s capacity to cost its own promises. But will his government’s corporate sponsors let him?

All bull-dust and bastardry aside, Hanson evokes the spirit of our time and helps to lead us in our “universal descent into unreality”, as US writer Benjamin DeMott noted of his own nation’s zeitgeist, sixty years ago.

Upstaged almost, but equally impotent and deluded, is our own Mad Man Mal. Like Trump, he is another hapless Gatsby ,trapped in the fantasy of his own self-creation, who gets his independent Australian Electoral Commission to tell his independent speaker, Tony Smith, to declare, on Thursday, that Super Saturday, a series of super Section 44 by-elections, will be held on 28 July, a date which clashes with the final day of Labor’s 48th national annual bun-fight.

“No judgement”, as Paul Keating famously dismissed Malcolm Turnbull, is confirmed Thursday, as his pet Speaker and IPA member, Tony Smith, calls a Super Saturday of five by-elections in Braddon, Longman, Perth, Fremantle and Mayo, to conflict with The Australian Labor Party’s National Conference scheduled for 26-28 July.

Labor is in uproar. It’s “a disgraceful indictment” on the government and “stinks of interference … with the independent electoral commission” howls ALP National President Mark Butler.

Granting a nine-week campaign period, however, secures no certain advantage to the Coalition. In fact, it seems to repeat the dud political judgement that nearly cost Turnbull’s government victory last election.

When the going gets tough, the Coalition goes to water. The party that saw no need for a royal commission into child abuse, a mob which howled down calls by The Greens, Labor and others for a royal commission into banking, completes a hat-trick in responsibility abdication, this week, by pretending there is no water-tight case for a federal ICAC.

Attorney General, Christian Porter, tells Labor shadow Mark Dreyfus that there is no “persuasive evidence” that current methods of tackling corruption are insufficient. Even for a Turnbull government, which denies climate change, gender equality and which can cynically misrepresent the Uluru voice from the heart as a bid for a third parliamentary chamber instead of an eloquent, cogent case for constitutional recognition of Aboriginal peoples, it is a staggering denial of reality.

Contributing brilliantly to the national conversation which Liberal party weasel-wordsmiths are having on merit versus gender equality quotas, a ruse favoured by conservatives desperate to defend the status quo, Senator Jane Hume wins token bloke of the week for her attempt on Monday’s Q&A to ingratiate herself with her party’s patriarchy.

The Liberal party is particularly fond of touting “merit” as the reason it cannot take affirmative action to redress the dearth of women among its ranks. The Coalition has but 13 women MPs in the lower house; four fewer than John Howard had in his first term in 1996. Howard, Pru Goward, Head of the Office of the Status of Women, told us in 1997 was surrounded by strong women “and it doesn’t bother him a bit” and he knew all about feminism from his daughter.

While some of Howard’s best friends were women, Senator Jane Hume on Q&A on Monday tells women hoping to become Liberal MPs to simply “work harder” to get pre-selected; win seats. Equality can also be fixed by “being nicer”.

Wild applause breaks out across half the nation at this immensely helpful suggestion while The Guardian’s Georgina Dent attacks the specious merit argument.

“If merit is an entirely fair and effective mechanism then, it must hold, that men are simply better company directors, chief executives, judges, surgeons, professors, pilots, politicians, leaders, bureaucrats, principals and lawyers than women.”

There is some evidence from the US that the elevation of reality TV show host Donald Trump to the Oval Office of The White House has inspired women to run for office and to get out and vote. If it’s true, it may prove his only positive achievement in a presidency which he has contrived to demean since his inauguration.

News this week that Trump has broken off his summit with North Korea’s Kim Jon-un should not distract us from the fact that the summit was never his in the first place. It was a meeting neither Trump nor his advisers were remotely prepared for. Instead, it was something he hijacked; a process instigated and nurtured by South Korean president, Moon Jae-in – with most of the hard yards being done by Im Jong-seok, a former prominent student democracy activist who is now President Moon’s Chief of Staff. She must have worked hard and been nice to a lot of people.

The US descent into unreality continues apace. An increasingly erratic, paranoid Trump, desperate for any diversion from the inexorable progress of investigation into his collusion with Russian interference in the presidential campaign – a two-pronged process into obstruction of justice and collusion led by ex FBI Chief, Special Counsel Robert Mueller, falsely accuses The New York Times on Saturday of making up a source in an article about North Korea.

The source is, in fact, a senior White House official addressing a large group of reporters in the White House briefing room.

Does the Coalition have a woman problem or just a problem being human?

Does the Coalition have a woman problem? Or a “female” problem as Education Minister and Gonski-con-artist, simple Simon Birmingham puts it? Or just your everyday, run of the mill, neoliberal lack of humanity problem?

Certainly, our heart of stone; our national emotional deficit and compassion bypass, betray us this week as parvenus on a world stage of freakish weirdness which features US Evangelicals blessing Trump’s moving the US embassy from the Sodom and Gomorrah of modern Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move which sees Israeli snipers open fire on unarmed Palestinian protestors, a move we alone condone by voting with the US against any UN inquiry.

Weirdness? As all true believers know in their hearts, Hallelujah, Trump’s removalists will hasten the final trump, the apocalypse, the rapture in which all (evangelical) Christians living and dead will be united.

Trump himself, on the campaign trail in 2016, displays a Bible in which, he says, his mother has written his name and address, “She wrote the name and my address and it’s just very special to me,” he said, in a quiet voice. Your name generally is.

It’s as touching as the label on Paddington Bear but it’s hailed by Fox News cubs as incontrovertible evidence of The Donald’s moral rectitude and piety. No true believer worries much when the next day the President mistakes the silver communion plates that are passed around for the offering plates, at church in Council Bluffs Iowa reaching for dollar bills from his pocket. No Trump voter would find reason to question he often he attended such services. Others will find the gaffe quite telling.

Our own divine afflatus – our ascent to the UN Human Rights Council is similarly moving. We mealy-mouth all the right platitudes about how we care about human rights; how much we love a “rules-based order”, a meaningless American buzzword Julie Bishop invokes incessantly – while pretending the Rohingya genocide isn’t happening or is something else, a benign or even blessed event, she archly calls a Myanmar “security operation”.

It works. We’re elevated to the council, up snug alongside The Philippines with its you-beaut-shoot-first rule of law, networking with Burundi, Egypt, Rwanda, Cuba, Venezuela, China, India, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – all of whom share with us the distinction of being censured by the UN for their human rights violations

So what can little Australia do? This week we show how we alone can publicly suck up to Trump; prove ourselves US zǒu gǒu, as the Chinese call running dogs or lackeys, much to our global infamy, ignominy and shame.

We are the only nation in the world to side with the US in voting against the UN Human Rights Council‘s (UNHRC) call for an international inquiry into the state of human rights in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

Why? The UNHRC condemns Israel for shooting dead over sixty protesters including civilians, journalists, children and armed militants, in the Strip. Injured are hundreds more, at a mass protest in which tempers are inflamed by America’s recent pro-Likud decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem  – a promise Mafioso Don says he must honour. He cares more about re-election than the lives and rights of or any human beings; let alone Islamists.

Is there something cultural about chicanery, bigotry and cold-blooded murder? Something we don’t get?

The massacre ends six weeks of protests at the Gaza border, part of the “Great March of Return” led by Gaza’s rulers, Hamas, the largest of several Islamist Palestinian groups. Israel is given ample warning. The UNHRC and many other observers, shocked by the brutality, call out Israel for acting illegally; using disproportionate force.

It’s not as there’s no time to prepare a more humane and proportionate response. Hamas made it clear it would intensify its protests before Tuesday, when Palestinians hold their annual commemoration of the Nakba or Catastrophe. The foundation of Israel on 14 May 1948 forced 750,000 Palestinians from their homes into exile.

Australia’s opposition to the inquiry has been deplored  by human rights groups, who say Australia has broken its pledge to uphold human rights and improve its own human rights record – in particular its abysmal record on indefinite offshore detention, as well as structural Indigenous disadvantage, juvenile justice and disability rights.

Lachlan Strahan, Charge D’Affaires of Australia’s mission to the UN in Geneva, gave the “incoming members’ pledge” publicly mouthing our nation’s undertakings to fight for human rights when joining the UNHRC.

Just for the record we are committed to promote gender equality; good governance; freedom of expression; indigenous rights; and strong national human rights institutions. (Nothing as naff as demanding ID at airports).

Yet for many, including Daniel Webb of the Human Rights Law Centre, words are cheap. “It’s important to hear our government promise to strengthen the UN system and to start respecting human rights findings,” he says. “The world will be a fairer and more humane place if we have a strong and effective international human rights system.

“But just saying over and over again that you respect human rights doesn’t make it true, not for the innocent human beings warehoused on Manus and Nauru for the last five years, or the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men, women and children being forced into prisons away from their families and communities at obscenely high rates.”

Anthony Albanese asks the government to explain itself and cops a hammering on ABC Insiders, Sunday, from Barrie Cassidy who’s after a gotcha moment. He presses Albo to endorse the NSW ALP’s conference’s motion to unilaterally recognise the state of Palestine.

Imagine what the Daily Telegraph or The Australian could do with news of Labor endorsing Islamic terrorists.

Albanese blusters; comes up with the Two State Solution, which sounds like a dance step or something you’d use in a chemistry lab but gives life to the absurd but pernicious myth that Palestine and Israel are equal.

The two state solution, is neither confined to two states nor a solution but a war of attrition backed by The Great Satan (as the US is fondly reviled in the Middle East). It originates in the UN’s 1947 division of Palestine into two states with a large area around Jerusalem to be run by the UN.  Over half the country was to go to 34 per cent of the population; the Jewish minority. The smaller part of the country went to the overwhelming Arab majority.

Arabs rejected the partition resolution. They could see how unfair it was. The injustice still rankles; festers.

For Hamas, which came to power in Gaza in 2007, Monday’s border protest is the culmination of a week -long campaign to try to break Israel’s blockade. The group has led weekly protests near the border with Israel since late March. Over 100 Palestinians are shot dead. Hundreds are wounded in the series of weekly protests.

The dead include eight children under the age of sixteen while 2,700 people are wounded.

The UNHRC votes 29-2 with 14 abstentions to back a resolution that also condemns “the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force by the Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians.” An “independent, international commission of inquiry” mandated by the council will be asked to produce a final report next March.

Luckily, local right wing scribes such as Gerard Henderson and fellow Catholic Boys’ Daily (The Australian) pontificator Greg Sheridan are on hand to explain to our nation how the deaths are all the fault of the Palestinian victims who were in the process of “pulling a fence down” and deliberately exposing babies to danger evoking John Howard’s 2001 “babies overboard” canard, a lie which helped him win an election.

Sheridan  sagely and courageously choruses, “As Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull pointed out, the terror group Hamas, which controls Gaza, purposely pushed tens of thousands of rioters towards the Israeli border in the certain knowledge that the Israeli defence forces would not allow them to breach that border.”

Australian media generally, however, follow Julie Bishop’s lead. Bishop reiterates the US line; framing a war crime with no perpetrator.  No hint that 750,000 Palestinians were displaced in the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. No point in recalling Israel’s Irgun strategy of a series of selected killings of Palestinian civilians from 1930.

From 1930, Guy Rundle writes, Irgun, a group of young bloods, … injected into clashes between Arabs and European Jews a new element: precise, targeted terror against random Arab civilians.

In our postmodern, lobotomised, mass-mediated world, complex issues, events and conflicts are tidied up by obliterating historical context. It makes finger-pointing, demonising and confected outrage; mass manipulation so much easier.

Palestinians suffer institutionalised discrimination by Israel, reports Human Rights Watch. It’s apartheid. In its 50-year occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, Israel’s systematic rights abuses include collective punishment, routine use of excessive lethal force, and prolonged detention, without charge or trial, for hundreds.

Palestinians are daily made to suffer human rights violations surpassed only by the indefinite detention we inflict on those whom we catch seeking refuge in Australia by sea. To say nothing of our no dobbing laws, The Australia Border Force Act 2015, which prohibits doctors, media, professional groups, international human rights bodies, NGOs and others from blowing the whistle on brutality and inhumanity.

Many Palestinians caught in videos of the recent “riots” in Gaza are refugees. Yet erased from our mainstream media is the history of Israeli construction of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank; how Israel steals Palestinian land and water and how its much vaunted “two state solution” is a way of diverting attention from its apartheid regime; from burdens it imposes on Palestinians but not on settlers, restricting Palestinians’ access to basic services and making it nearly impossible for them to build in much of the West Bank without risking demolition.

Israel repeatedly denies Palestinians permits to build schools in the West Bank and demolishes those built without permits denying access to education for thousands of children, Human Rights Watch reported, last month.

Israel’s decade-long closure of Gaza, supported by Egypt, severely restricts the movement of people and goods, with devastating humanitarian impact, reports Human Rights Watch.

Extremism is all corrupting writes David Brooks in The New York Times. The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza both sharply restrict dissent, arbitrarily arresting critics and abusing those in their custody. The process is not unknown in Australian conservative political circles but we excel at extradition and rendition.

Bishop expresses the government’s “deep regret and sadness over the loss of life and injury”, in a press release entitled Palestinian Protests in Gaza as if some natural catastrophe has killed sixty Palestinians rather than Israeli Defence Force snipers’ bullets and tear gas. Israelis call their anti-terror programme “cutting the grass”.

Israel makes Gazans non-persons and thereby all the easier to mow down. Similarly Peter Dutton’s personal fiefdom, The Department of Home Affairs, confirms, this week that it is ending financial assistance to “transitory persons” who haven’t returned to Nauru or Papua New Guinea after coming to Australia for medical treatment. It’s as dehumanising and as criminally contrary to our human rights obligations as calling those wretched souls who seek our refuge by boat “illegals”.

$200 per fortnight of housing assistance and income support is stripped mainly from families with young children. But Home Affairs is all heart. It generously gives most of the refugees six weeks to find new shelter and a source of income. Others are given three weeks to find accommodation but lose income support immediately.

Charity begins at home, of course, and the nation wakes Monday to learn that the wondrously named, Jane Prentice, Assistant Minister for Disability Services is the latest victim of our federal government’s inherent sexism and dog-eat dog philosophy. She loses pre-selection to Julian Simmonds, a younger, sexier male party member, a fate which government MPs rush to assure us is the Liberal Party’s democracy in action. Or meritocracy.

Gerard Henderson kindly sinks the slipper by accusing Prentice of under-performance, a novel political criterion which if it were to be applied rigorously would certainly terminate the careers of Tony Abbott, all-hat and no cattle Barnaby Joyce and even our puppet of the right Prime Minister himself to name but a few recent stellar duds.

Beyond Abbott and other political mediocrities is a long line of hapless male MPs which neatly counter the argument Coalition blokes put up against quotas for women preventing MPs from being elected on merit. Merit? Barnaby Joyce?

Only 22.6 per cent of federal Liberal MPs are women. Of 76 Coalition MPs in the lower house, only 13 are women. And only 35 per cent of women voted for the Coalition last election. The two statistics cannot possibly be related.

Discussion veers hard right (as always) this week to posit a Liberal party political machine which is responding to hard times by wheeling further to the right. It’s not sexism or misogyny but just an accidental turn of the political screw.

ABC panel members on The Drum or Insiders and other huff and fluff shows, in particular air the view that the party’s discrimination against women is all ideological. Perhaps they’ve missed how in general, on average, Australian women have to work an extra 56 days a year to earn the same pay as men for doing the same work.

Ann Sudmalis may also lose pre-selection for Gilmore to real-estate agent Grant Schultz, son of the late, great (John) Alby Schultz. (Alby, federal MP for Hume 1998-2013, was one of several Liberals along with Don RandallWilson TuckeyConcetta Fierravanti-WellsDennis Jensen and Sophie Mirabella, who boycotted Parliament on the day that the formal apology to the Stolen Generations was made by then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.) Clear merit is apparent in the Schulz bloodlines.

By Thursday, “Birmo” has sized up the problem. “Blokes face just as many preselection challenges as females,” he tells ABC radio. Sure they do, Birmo. We know. And all over Australia Liberal blokes are being challenged by women.  Nothing his government of reality denying privilege protectors can do about it.

Just as his government has no plans to address the injustice of our nations’ workplaces where women earn on average $48,690 in 2015-16, yet $63,000 is the median taxable income for men. In fact, according to the National Foundation for Australian Women, its tax offsets proposed for 2018 increase the effective marginal tax rate by 1.5% within the taper zone, which increases work disincentives for women and other low earners.

As Matt Holden notes in Fairfax, when a Coalition bloke challenges another, it does nothing to make our government any less of a patriarchal atavism. Only 21% of Liberal Party federal MPs and a mere 14% of the Nationals’ representatives are women. And falling. Luckily Liberal sophist Scott Morrison has the answer.

“Politics is a contestable process” booms party queue-jumper, Morrison, who owes his own safe Liberal seat of Cook less to his own merit than to The Daily Telegraph‘s four defamatory 2007 attacks on Michael Towke, a character assassination which led the NSW Liberal Party to dis-endorse his Lebanese-Christian opponent.

Morrison lost pre-selection comprehensively on first ballot, in July 2007, receiving 8 votes to Towke’s 82.

Two senior Liberal blokes then phoned The “Tele” which ran four stories painting Michael Towke as a liar. Towke contends that the third story entitled ”Party split as Liberal candidate faces jail,” put his mother in hospital.

Towke would eventually win his legal war, but his political career was ruined. ScoMo’s story shows that conservative politics is eminently contestable if you are a WASP bloke with powerful old white male party pals.

No hope for Jane Prentice. A sorcerer’s apprentice in reverse, her role consisted largely in keeping mum about how, like its predecessor, the Turnbull government continues to kick welfare expenditure reduction goals by “transitioning” a weasel word for denying disability support pensioners to the needy.

They’ll thrive on the starvation rations of the Centrelink Newstart program. Yet Prentice is clearly an MP with a love of family. She claimed $14,039 for her husband to fly between Canberra and Brisbane 24 times during her first term in Parliament. Twenty-one trips were in business class. Her claim of $352 for her spouse to be chauffeured, however, shows exemplary frugality and should inspire all other MPs to follow suit.

 

Bill’s a liar? ScoMo, your own pants are on fire.

“Liar”, screeches Scott Morrison, the pot calling the kettle black, opting fittingly for a personal insult rather than a reply to Bill Shorten’s Budget reply, Thursday. ScoMo snatches a moment from commissioning a culturally sensitive, brilliantly timed erection of a statue of James Cook, to signal he’s on the Right white side of history in his electorate of Cook.

It’s inspirational; an emblem of so much the member for Cook stands for. It will cost a lazy $50 million that might otherwise have been wasted on The ABC or squandered on ASIC both of which have been crippled in his budget cuts.

A fine gesture of contempt, another politically incorrect Cook among the pigeons does nothing to help the needy.

Nor does the budget. Pity the poor, the frail, the elderly and disadvantaged who are either ignored or whose privacy and peace of mind may be destroyed by a beefed-up Centrelink Robodebt-collector, in a process which promises to be even more demanding of welfare recipients yet just as prone to error. Equally disturbing, the onus of proof remains reversed.

Last year the government ignored a senate committee which made 21 recommendations to make the system workable. In June, The Community Affairs References Committee released a report condemning the system for being “so flawed it was set up to fail” and contained a number of “procedural fairness flaws”. Fully Coalition compliant, in other words.

The Centrelink Online Compliance Intervention (robo-debt) program matches and averages your income records held by Centrelink and the Tax Office – to detect overpayment. Yet, only last September, the government conceded that it sent recovery demands to 20,000 welfare recipients who were later found to owe less money, or none at all.

Robodebt 2.0, as it may termed, announced in Tuesday’s budget, will further tighten the screws. In a vivid contrast with its cossetting of the top end of town, the Coalition will target people already paying back debts but who have been identified as having the “capacity to pay more”. Former welfare recipients who have “high-value” debts can also expect to be heavied. The Coalition claims the measure will “save” $300m without clearly explaining why or how.

The most despicable lie which underpins this budget is that only the “aspirational” classes matter. The poor don’t count. Warning that after five minutes’ economic sunshine, the government is planning seven years of tax cuts, ACOSS asks

“… where’s the seven year plan for reducing poverty among adults and children, guaranteeing growth funding for health care, and closing the gaps in essential services such as mental and dental health and affordable housing?”

Support? Help? Perish the thought. Ever since Abbott, mocking, jeering name calling, demonisation and division have long become the Coalition’s default responses to any political challenge. Certainly the response betrays a desperation

“Bill Shorten’s a serial liar.”  Finance Minister Mathias Cormann eagerly choruses, “His numbers don’t add up, you can’t trust a single word Bill Shorten says.” The personal slur is part of Kill Bill, the Coalition’s sophisticated tag team plan.

Morrison knows what he’s talking about. For once. He knows a compulsive liar when he sees one. He only has to look in the mirror. No offence. He just can’t help himself. He’s built his career on deception. As Treasurer, his favourite furphy is that his government’s created a million jobs since Turnbull knifed Abbott. In reality, it doesn’t bear inspection.

Employment is up but so too is our population. Our nation’s grown by 1.8 million people in the last five years. It’s a similar picture with growth, the Turnbull government’s other buzz-word. Growth looks anaemic once we factor in our population increase. Australia’s per capita growth, last year, was only 0.8 per cent, Alan Kohler calculates.

“… two thirds of last year’s economic growth came from population and most of that from immigration,” he writes.

Morrison is a charlatan who attacks Labor to divert us from his own epic failures. Australia’s global ranking on all major variables has plummeted. Our economic growth, reports Alan Austin, now ranks equal 125th in the world.

Equal with Somalia? The Coalition’s respect for an independent press is following a similarly disturbing decline.

Morrison’s growth hoax is as shonky as his claim that ABC cuts are part of a common or garden “efficiency dividend”. In fact the cuts are Coalition strategy to nobble the ABC, by cutting funds whilst crying “unfair”. Left bias. It’s a win-win. Its IPA pals, who want a privatised ABC, are cheered while the government saves money and avoids being held to account.

What the government hates is scrutiny”, Erik Jensen notes in The Saturday Paper.

“There are no votes in cutting the ABC. Not directly. This is about the votes you hold on to when the country doesn’t know what you are doing. It is about conducting government in darkness. In an ugly and unimaginative budget, these cuts are some of the ugliest.”

But ScoMo’s on a roll.

“Efficiency dividends”, manic Morrison lies on ABC, are widespread in the world of commerce; standard business practice. Sure. Evidence given the Royal Commission into Banking highlights how directors of insurance, financial advice or banking are frugal to a fault; penny-pinching when it comes to paying multi-million dollar salaries to senior staff.

ABC Director Gaven Morris knows the truth. He warns that the public broadcaster will find it hard to continue. Staffing will be cut, he says. “… there is no more fat to cut …any more cuts to the ABC cut into the muscle of the organisation.”

Of course that’s just what the government wants. Cutting $85m from the ABC will ease the Turnbull government’s aversion to being held to account. Satisfied also will be Pauline Hanson’s demands that her support depends on $600 million being cut each year, a list of salaries published and the adoption of a gratuitous and inane Fox News slogan.

Fox? Fair and balanced?

Hanson also hates the ABC. ABC’s Four Corners exposed One Nation‘s peculiar business franchise-type structure, a setup quite unlike any other political party. Most recently, ABC reported the nonsense of her stooge flight to Afghanistan.

Where would we be without Pauline’s probing military analysis? Hanson told The Australian she can see Australian soldiers being in Afghanistan for the long haul. They need to be. “You can see the changes that are happening in the country,” she gushes. No-one else can. Even the Pentagon admits defeat. Last July, her idol, Donald Trump spelt it out.

“We aren’t winning … we are losing.” But Trumpistas, like La Hanson, have a different take on reality.

So, too does our federal Treasurer and his team, deep within their bunkers. A word you never hear is unemployment. Unemployment’s stuck in a rut. 5.6 % of workers still have no jobs, a proportion unchanged from October 2013.

Wages remain flat. Repetition doesn’t make Morrison’s claim that wages will grow any less of a whopper. Growth? GDP sounds impressive – but factor in population growth again or calculate GDP per capita and you get a dismal picture. Hence the necessity of decisive action. Turnbull’s team digs deep to come up with the right stuff – and at the right time.

Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison resort to “Unbelieva-Bill”, a witty, finely nuanced and searching rebuttal of Mr Shorten’s Budget Reply speech. The government is desperate: Labor has outwitted it. The Opposition’s still opposed to the Coalition’s unpopular company tax cuts. It will limit negative gearing tax concessions to new properties and it pledges to end cash refunds from franked dividends. Thus, Labor can trump the government’s personal income tax cuts.

Kill Bill, the order goes out. But liar? ScoMo’s own pants are on fire. His finger-pointing, kindergarten name-calling plumbs new depths – even for Liberal politics. Morrison froths. He and his morally bankrupt party lack all credibility. Humanity. History will judge harshly Coalition eagerness to embrace a post-truth, amoral Trumpian political universe.

Worse. Tony Abbott, who still lies that he stopped the boats, and his monkey-pod climate denialists call the shots, now.

Stopped the boats? Try enabled. Junkyard Abbott gave a green light to tens of thousands of arrivals by opposing a Labor law which would have enabled implementation of Julia Gillard’s Malaysia Arrangement of September 2011.

In effect, Abbott stopped Rudd’s boat-stopping. Yet Trump-like, the budgie smuggler confected another mythology, as John Menadue has argued. “We stopped the boats,” Abbott boasted so often, while keeping “on-water matters” secret in the militarisation of compassion, so that our largely pro-government media has happily accepted his lies as gospel.

Luckily, the electorate is not so easily fobbed off. Many of us recall what really happened. Yet it’s worth a quick recap.

When “Operation Sovereign Borders” (OSB) was ready for turnbacks in December 2013, unauthorised maritime arrivals had dropped from 48 in July 2013 to seven. OSB applied only to the stern (not the pointy bit or bow) of the boat drama.

The ‘game-changer’ was, in fact, Kevin Rudd’s declaration, July 2013, that people arriving by boat after July would not be settled in Australia. Even more damaging, turnbacks would have been impossible without Rudd’s 2013 declaration.

Turnbull’s last budget returns to Turnback Tony’s nihilism; his lifters and leaners, his lies and his climate change denial.

The Climate Change Authority, which Abbott “climate-change is crap” tried to wind-up after the independent body said we had to do more to meet our Paris pledges, loses $550,000. Its budget is now $2.9 million – half its in 2011 funding.

Yet we’ll spend $30 billion on the diesel fuel rebate until 2021. $1 billion a year of that will go to coal mining companies. Off like a frog in a sock, Morrison mocks the concept of renewable energy: Abbott-like, he lies about its effect on prices.

“We will maintain our responsible and achievable emissions reduction target at 26-28 per cent, and not the 45 per cent demanded by the Opposition. That would only push electricity prices up.

Morrison-the-conman has form, of course. He’s a notorious repeat offender in a government of secrets and lies.

He’s also on a high with his party’s flat tax plan. It’s another under-handed way to punish the nation’s idle poor and reward the rich, whom he assures us, work harder than lazy lower-paid workers who lack aspiration. It’s Hockey redux. Morrison’s assumptions are insulting. His assertions are false. But he’ll do anything to wedge workers; Labor.

Despite the Treasurer’s lie that workers will be better off; his budget’s tax “relief” flows mostly to our highest income earners who stand to gain 62%, while a paltry 7% of the benefit goes to the 30% of Australians on the lowest wages.

Using the “simplifying our tax system” ruse – (Liberals love weasel words like “simpler” and “flexibility”)- Morrison’s budget will accelerate inequality in Australia. In 2024, his government plans to abolish the 37 per cent tax bracket. Per Capita denounces it as “the most radical attack on Australia’s progressive income tax scales in living memory.”

The Australia Institute’s briefing paper models how this agile, innovative tax proposal will be distributed. Workers earning $40,000 per year will get a tax cut of $455 per year while for those on $200,000, it’s $7,225 per year.

That those earning $200,000 get a bigger cut is not a problem. They do pay more tax. But, as TAI points out, although workers on $200,000 earn 5 times more than those on $40,000, the budget makes their cut 16 times larger.  And, as Michael Pascoe notes that’s after negative gearing, superannuation, fringe benefits tax and other deductions.

Worse, as Greg Jericho shows, Morrison’s tax flattening not only gives more money to the rich. It also “locks in the need to cut services”, given its real impact will be felt in reduced government revenue. Not to worry. Poor people don’t drive cars; go to school or visit the doctor or need to pay massive tariffs to price-gouging energy companies. Much.

The most offensive part of the plan, to the average voter is how workers are discriminated against. Out the window goes the fundamental quest for fairness of our progressive tax plan where each is taxed according to his or her means.

Worse – retained is a Community Development scheme that actively discriminates amongst between those in remote and regional areas, where unemployment is up to 50%. 85% of those in the scheme are Aboriginal peoples.

The 35,000 men and women registered with the program must complete jobs and activities to receive their Newstart allowance in remote New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory in a scheme which covers 75% of Australia’s land mass and involves about 1,000 remote communities

Unlike their metropolitan counterparts, they’re required to work 25 hours per week, at $11.20 an hour. Or they are fined. Since 2015, over 340,000 fines have been issued to people enrolled in the Community Development Program.

Participants will still have to work or engage in work-like activity for 46 weeks a year but face stricter penalties from July for non-compliance. Even though changes in February will cut the required work hours to 20, it’s blatant discrimination. Non-remote jobseekers are required to work 20 hours a week for only six months of the year.

The Australia Institute reports the scheme has helped fewer than one in five people into an ongoing job. Even then, fewer than one in 10 keep that job for six months or more.  The program “punishes people for not having a job”, says TAI’s author, Rod Campbell.  ACTU Indigenous officer, Kara Keys, says the CDP should be scrapped altogether.

“Equal pay for equal work is a core tenet of Australian society. The federal government must eliminate the blatantly discriminatory requirement, which sees people in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities forced to work more hours for the same basic Centrelink payment as people in cities,” Adrianne Walters, a senior lawyer at The Human Right Law Centre says.

Yet the program’s been an outstanding success claims a spokesman for Nigel Scullion Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.

Perhaps he’s referring to the organisations and for-profit businesses who benefit from the participants’ free labour.

Despite Scullion’s reality denial and despite stiff competition Morrison is still the Coalition’s supreme fabulist. In February, he lied to 3AW listeners that temporary migrants cause population growth. Naturally everything is under control. His government is taking steps to address that. A clampdown on foreign worker visas. But it’s just not true.

Temporary migrants boost population growth? No. They go home. It’s our permanent migrant intake that determines the level of net overseas migration and population growth:

But even Morrison will never live down the infamy he earned in February 2014 when Iranian refugee, Reza Barati was beaten to death on Manus Island in a riot which injured 70 asylum-seekers. Immigration and Border Protection Minister at the time, Morrison tried to lie his way out of failing his duty of care.

Reza Barati’s head was crushed by men employed to protect him but Morrison maintained Barati had escaped campgrounds. While videos show guards throwing stones and other objects, Morrison issued a dishonest denial.

“G4S utilised personal protection gear but no batons or other weapons were in situ and were in control of the centre for the entire period.”

A senate inquiry in December 2014 found the Australian Government — which labelled the incident as a “disturbance” — failed in its duty to protect asylum seekers, including Mr Barati. It was ignored. Morrison even blamed Labor and The Greens in the same way that he blames refugee advocates for coaching refugees on Nauru to self-harm.

Barati’s family hold Morrison responsible for their son’s death.

Given the Treasurer’s own mythomania and his government’s mendacity it is unwise for the Coalition to taunt Bill Shorten as a liar. Hypocritical, too.

Yet it amounts to extreme political folly to proceed down such a path when the entire budget is a farrago of lies, from its false claims that company tax cuts lead to jobs, growth and higher wages, to the hoax of a million new jobs, or the implicit monstrous lie in Morrison’s calculations that ordinary Australians don’t count and Aboriginal Australians on the CDP work or the dole programme count even less – in the trashing of the principle of equal pay for equal work. To say nothing of the reversal of the onus of proof which turns every welfare beneficiary into a potential dole-cheat.

Budget mania almost derails Macron mania but no diversion from Coalition’s war on the poor.

Australia is seized by budget mania. Abuzz. Agog. But after weeks of frenzied expectation, leaks and speculation, relief is in sight. The Coalition’s much-vaunted “economic plan” is out. Buy votes by whatever means you can.

For Jeremy Thorpe of PwC (Price Waterhouse Coopers), Scott Morrison’s stuck his hand down the back of the sofa and found the $35 billion, he carefully lost in December last year. He spends $15 billion but keeps the rest.

Morrison’s budget predicts revenue to grow on average 6.2% over the next four years– twice the average growth during Labor’s time in office and double the rate during failed former treasurer Joe Hockey’s brief stint in the job.

Income tax receipts are up because more of us are working and higher commodity prices mean more profits from mining. It’s no tribute to any government efforts or grand plan; more a case of our enjoying good luck in an upturn in the world economy. Peter Costello is wise to criticise those who would trust it too much. He would know.

Yet ScoMo must shriek that he’s cracked the nut of budget repair -a nonsense buzzword favoured if by failed PM and former Rhodes Scholar Tony Abbott who still cannot differentiate between balance and repair.

But a budget is about more than a rise in federal revenue. It’s about how fairly that prosperity is shared. Here the news confirms the long term trend of the transfer of capital from worker to investor – and bugger the poor. There is nothing in the Coalition’s budget calculations or strategies that might put a brake on the nation’s galloping economic inequality; the rapidly and dramatically widening gap between the haves and the have-nots.

Morrison’s budget speech is silent where it should be loudest; boosting pensions, minimum wages, penalty rates or ensuring job-seekers can survive on Newstart. Investment in these key areas make both social and economic sense. Yet there is no sign of any truce in the government’s war on the poor, the elderly and the infirm.

The weak are less equipped to fight back and our shameful injustice and inhumanity can be rationalised away by blaming the victims. Welfare expenditure is seen as a loss rather than an investment in social justice. Despite the current Royal Commission, this budget reflects a government of the banks, for the banks, by the banks.

Our class warriors have many powerful advocates in the ruling elite. Backbencher, Julia Banks who owns five investment properties tells ABC Melbourne that she could live on $40 a day. Banks receives $285 a night in MP travel allowance just to get to Canberra is more than a week’s Newstart. But she just knows she’d thrive on $40.

“I could, I could live on $40 a day knowing that the government is supporting me with Newstart to look for employment.”

What employment would that be Julia? In March, ABS data reveals unemployment is up to 5.6 despite the Turnbull government’s mantra of job creation. Looking for employment? Or fighting? In South Australia 46 graduates contest every job advertised in that state according to Adzuna, a national employment website.

Nationally, there are at least 2,870100 workers competing for 178,600 jobs, according to ABS data. There also huge differences between region and city. While in Sydney 2.85 job seekers compete for a single graduate role, the competition rises to 7.32 outside of the city. But that’s the way employers like it. It helps keep wages low.

Also boosting government statistics is our annual influx of 190,000 permanent migrants, although Peter Dutton, amen, has arbitrarily cut the latest financial year’s intake to 183,000. Just because he can.  Add in at least 600,000 457 temporary migrant workers per year and Morrison’s job creation budget boast is clearly a hoax.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that almost a million jobs have been created since we were first elected, as promised. This includes 415,000 jobs last year alone. More than a thousand jobs a day, three quarters of which were full time.

Cruelty is king. Already, under what our ABC’s Jane Norman carefully scapegoats as a “Gillard-led crackdown”, we disqualify two-thirds of those who apply for the disability support pension, (DSP). In fact, however, on July 1, 2015, new rules for claiming the DSP created a two-stage process. Only 15 per cent of applicants pass both sets of tests.

Claimants must first undergo an invasive and often personally demeaning interrogation (via video-link in regions) known as Job Capacity Assessment. The subtext, now part of DHS culture, is that the claimant is bluffing. If, however, it is concluded the claimant meets the DSP criteria, they proceed to a Disability Medical Assessment.

If there is no joy for the jobless there is less for the disabled. Here the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) is on a winner, it reckons. Continuing to deny the needy and infirm will save the Federal Government $4.8 billion over the next 10 years. May even save the government’s bacon. Welfare is weaponised in the war on the poor.

You wouldn’t want to be on Newstart struggling to survive on under $250 per week. But as Kate Carnell who enjoys a tailor-made government job as Small Business Ombudsman after her Business Council of Australia failure tells panellists on The Drum last week, it’s a fine line between support and incentivisation.

No-one challenges her nonsense, widely shared amongst government MPs, especially former Social Services Minister, now Attorney General Christian Porter. No-one demands evidence that living below the poverty line ever motivated anyone to get a job – even in a labour market where there is not an oversupply of applicants for every advertised position.  And especially in a market where work is increasingly part-time, casual and underpaid.

“Newstarters” will get less than nothing out of this budget but can certainly count on an increase in their number.

Budget mania is toxic to the body politic. Mysterious. Putinesque. Our national village is consumed by St Antony’s Fire, an early name for ergotism, or mycotoxicosis resulting from poisoned rye and related cereals. Morrison hallucinates that he is at one with the universe, as is clear in his gaffe on ABC Insiders.

But the idea that if you lower taxes which…  it’s not just the US, as you know, the UK is doing it, even Germany now is considering it. They’re considering it. They’re already doing it in France.

Our Treasurer needs a copy of The Economist which argues that Britain is overdue for a tax rise. Included also is news, to ScoMo, not only of a sugar tax –  but a proposed levy to redress global warming, a great big new tax on everything as fearless, fatuous anti-carbon taxer, IPA shill and coal-lobby lackey Tony Abbott might put it.

In April Britain will introduce a “sugar tax”, which should raise some £500m a year. A “climate-change levy”, a tax on energy use by businesses, already exists. Doubling all environmental taxes would raise perhaps £14bn. It would also make Britain greener.

Morrison’s nonsense is more than wilful disinformation and ignorance. So powerful is his government’s blind faith in neoliberalism, it’s blasphemy to suggest that its god is dead. Instead, it continues its futile pursuit of Adam Smith’s laissez-faire economics, where the market is best left to its own devices, or, as the Beatles put it, Let it Be.

Or not. This government also hopes to buy power stations, tries to get into the submarine building business – even buys back a Snowy Hydro scheme or wastes time and $10 billion on a 1700 km Inland Rail Project boondoggle that even The Australian Rail Track Corporation concedes will never make a commercial return.

Mania is not helped by desperation. John Hewson is right on to it. Scott Morrison’s third and final try, he warns, is the “mother of all political budgets”. Little wonder the ether fills with gibberish; absurd, high-sounding nonsense.

This year mad, sad, manic Morrison has invented a magic formula. Australia’s overall tax level must not rise above 23.9 per cent of gross domestic product, a notional entity which excludes women’s unpaid labour for starters.

To ScoMo, who acts as if he’s eaten a stash of truckies’ little white pills this 23.9 figure is the “speed limit”

But it’s so much more. The Australia Institute’s Ben Oquist compares it with Douglas Adam’s 42, the meaning of life. 23.9 tells us all we need to know in the fiscal future. Should new taxes will be added or slashed? The answer’s 23.9. Even the size and timing of the great big new ten dollar a week income tax cuts turns out to be 23.9.

“Credible path to surplus” vies with “budget repair”. Leaked to all media, even Buzzfeed, are reports of “rivers of gold” which will miraculously divert themselves from rich men’s bank accounts to flood our federal coffers.

Yet we expect the bizarre. Five years ago, our former, terpsichorean treasurer, Joe Hockey, now safely out of harm’s way with Donald Trump as his golfing partner and mentor, not only did a little Budget dance in his office but slipped The Reserve Bank of Australia a lazy $9 billion dollars, the bank neither requested nor needed.

Baffling in its timing and largesse, experts remain mystified by Joe’s generosity with our money to this day. All Hockey would offer was a cryptic quip that “our institutions must be at their absolute strongest to deal with the challenges in the days, weeks and months ahead… We need all the ammunition in the guns for what is before us.”

Did Hockey foresee the Royal Commission? Trump’s impeachment? Or was he just trying to boost the deficit and pin the blame on Labor, a tactic which ScoMo is keen to copy with his $80 billion tax cuts for the very rich.

Peter Costello worries himself sick about the wealthy missing out on their entitlements. As you do. He’s outspokenly critical of Morrison’s magical thinking and his slap-down will not help the Coalition sell its budget.

These are people paying 47 cents on $200,000, they’re paying 39 [cents] on $100,000. They’re paying higher than the corporate rate. They haven’t had any tax relief for 10 years. And I think those forgotten people, those people that don’t have organised lobbyists to speak for them, also ought to be in the calculation of the Government …”

Peter may be into the magic mushrooms but he’s not alone, so bizarre are the hallucinations, grandiose delusions, tics, bizarre physical contortions and jejune babbling of our ruling elite. And its cheer squad. And the infection spreads to a fair swag of the third estate, the lunatics on the dark side of the moon; our mainstream media.

Budget mania threatens even to upstage News Poll – where re-jigged preferences engineer a boost in the Coalition’s support, narrowing the gap with Labor 49-51, first party preferred. At least for a week.

It’s no mean feat, even if Essential’s 53-47  suggests caution over News Poll. Our leaders and our mainstream media have a three-ring circus of other diversions lined up for our delectation and distraction.

At least it gives us a break from our fetish for leadership contests and our obsession with terror threats while illegal immigrants, welfare bludgers and working poor, the unemployed, under-employed and pensioners are demonised as traitors; an enemy within whose unproductive sloth mocks our worship of growth and threatens to send us all broke.

Many of these ancient superstitions and moral fables are often cunningly combined and re-hashed. Former health insurance tout Matthias Cormann declares, Saturday that “there’s got to be appropriate reward for effort” on the part of high-income earners, who “overwhelmingly carry the heaviest tax burden in our economy today”. 

Except that they don’t. With dividend imputation, even those companies who do pay tax, (and 700 of our biggest corporations pay none,) face a 12 % tax rate while, as class clown Peter Costello cheekily points out on Monday’s ABC 7:30, wage and salary earners on an income of $100,000 pay four times that amount.

Of the 35 rich OECD countries, Australia is in the lowest seven by tax revenue relative to gross domestic product.

Gone, but not forgotten is what is breathlessly billed as the first Australian visit by a serving French President. Or is that self-serving? There’s a touch of the Bibi Netanyahu adoration bromance in Turnbull’s demeanour, at least at first.

The nation also swoons to the French cheek-kisses, double handshakes, back-pats and other Gallic blandishments of former investment banker, forty-year-old, Emmanuel Macron, Malcolm Turnbull’s neoliberal love-brat, when the French President, swings by Australia, this week, on a three-day charm offensive en route to New Caledonia on his mission to duchess our submarine deal and to help retain La belle France’s control of its former penal colony, of 279,000 residents including 40 per cent Kanaks or indigenous peoples who will hold an independence referendum, 4 November. The modern French state finds such rebellion quite distasteful. Emperor Macron has the matter in hand.

Our adulation of visiting tyrants is legendary. Dissent is ignored; not in the national interest. No-one bothers to ask Macron why he used executive orders last September to implement “reforms” to create a more “flexible” labour market by curbing trade union rights and making it easier to fire workers. True, we also have this French pox at home.

Arriving in Sydney with a raft of military and naval contractors, Le Macron declares France’s desire to be an “even stronger partner” under a deal to build and maintain a new fleet of diesel-electric submarines for our navy.

Nothing is said of the “transition path” to nuclear propulsion which only French submarine builder DCNS offers.  It would be useful to know – now that we’ve signed the contracts – because our government has ordered a vessel which it wants us to believe will be retrofitted and re-designed with a diesel piston engine.

No–one in the history of submarine construction has ever tried to convert a nuclear submarine to a diesel one.

It’s more likely that the Coalition has committed to a nuclear sub in the hope that by the time it’s built all the anti-nuclear fuss will have subsided or its proponents silenced in the national interest. Its silence is deafening.

Even less is made of DCNS’ reneging on its initial promise to build the ships in Adelaide. Instead, last June, The Australian’s Robert Gottliebsen reported that The new DCNS Australian chief Brent Clark backed away from his predecessor Sean Costello’s assertion that over 90 per cent of the submarine build would take place in Australia,

DCNS has no plans to directly involve Adelaide’s ASC in the construction of Australia’s next fleet of submarines. Clark told a  senate inquiry last June, “Quite simply, from our perspective, ASC will be consumed by DCNS.”

Australia’s first blush with the Macron-Mania, sweeping the globe invokes the fulsome flattery, toadying, intrigues and deceit which helped corrupt the Ancien Régime. Macron’s claque of courtiers is thus uniquely suited to our postmodern, post-truth, neoliberal, corporate despotism, which also rules by fear, patronage and lies.

The land of liberty, equality and fraternity is a bit touchy about revolutionary sentiment in the arse-end of its empire, especially given New Caledonia’s rich nickel deposits – although Macron wisely stops short of praising the two nations’ historic Kanaka trade link which saw Australia “blackbird” more than 60,000 slaves from the Solomon Islands, New Hebrides and New Caledonia who were transported to NSW and Queensland 1863-1904.

Islanders were forced to sign three year contracts. For many illiterate workers, their signature was a fingerprint. Whites might earn £30 a year but Islanders received weekly rations and £6 per year.  No-one raises the issue.

No mention either of our 1901 White Australia Act, which saw their forcible repatriation between 1906-1908, in a move which anticipated Peter Dutton’s department of Home Affairs, a parallel, if dog-whistled, xenophobic racism.

Yet Macron is quick to lecture Turnbull at The Opera House, Tuesday, over our PM’s collaboration with his party’s climate change Nazis.  “Revenons a nos moutons” ( Let’s get back to the subject at hand as they say in France.)

There is no planet B, the French President reminds us. No time for leaders in the coal industry’s deep pockets.

“I am fully aware of the political and economic debate surrounding this issue in your country, and I respect this,Macron says. But I think that actual leaders are those that can respect those existing interests, but at the same time decide to participate to something broader, to something more strategic.”

Not a peep. Our media is getting ready to attack Labor for not having costed its shadow government promises, while Scott Morrison is wowing our media with his careful leaks. A few such as Helen Razer in Crikey are to be commended for their outspoken honesty. Her theme is that Morrison is an abject failure.

You increased the gross debt by $254 billion. That’s $43 billion more than Labor stacked on in nearly six years — during the worst global recession in 80 years. You have reduced the nation’s net worth by a staggering $201.3 billion down to negative $407.3 billion!

Canberra’s Press Gallery is pregnant with a Federal Budget and in no state to endorse The Business Council of Australia’s $126 million war chest it says it will raise to defend itself and the tender innocence of its investors from the depredations of GetUp!, its class enemy Labor, whatever’s left of the unions and any other anti-business forces with the impudence to challenge the droit de seigneur of Australia’s capitalist elite.

Boosted also by his triumph in Newspoll number 31  – a boost which can largely be explained by a change in the pollster’s top secret speculative allocation of preferences, our own cheese-eating surrender monkey Malcolm Turnbull is virtually our own Rainbow Warrior, PM and Cabinet turd-polishers assure the nation this week.

Not only must his government publicly embrace its fetish for French submarines, there’s much to be made of its ineffectual pledge of $500 million – half the billion dollars it pledged earlier – to preserve The Great Barrier Reef, a 3444,68 square kilometre world heritage site facing certain extinction as the globe warms because of a climate change most of his party denies is happening, is attacked by the crown of thorns starfish and suffers coral bleaching.

The token gesture is hailed by all as another of the Australian Emperor’s great triumphs and certain evidence that his government is back in the driver’s seat where it belongs.

Seldom has a government looked more ridiculous. More compromised. Incompetent. Less trustworthy.

If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever, wrote George Orwell, foreseeing, our Border Protection policy, in the news this week as Australian War Memorial Director, Brendan Nelson proposes the creation of a type of shrine or monument to paramilitary thugs; the weaponising of compassion to enable us to deny our own innate humanity.

Similarly highlighted this week is the tender loving care our government lavishes on loan sharks, insurance touts, embezzlers and other predators in “the financial advice industry” at the expense of “ordinary hardworking Australians”. Yet nothing shows our open, transparent, democratic, government so clearly as its suppression of criticism; dissent.

Group hugs must surely break out all round at Sunday’s news, that the Coalition has pressured the UN to excise from its expert report on irrigation, a critique of the government’s $13 billion failure to restore our Murray-Darling river system.

The “Australia chapter” is now cut from the UN report “Does Improved Irrigation Technology Save Water?” published online by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Down the memory hole it goes; extinguished.

Water allocations to irrigators will in fact increase an extra 605 GL under innovative “on-farm efficiency: schemes but nothing may distract us from the government’s carefully orchestrated inquisition into usury and other money-lending malfeasance this week in Melbourne, an antipodean Malleus Maleficarum, which can turn grown men to water.

Banks Behaving Badly-or Business as Usual, a spell-binding, live-streaming, morality play, stars Royal Commissioner, The Honourable Kenneth Madison Hayne, QC, AO, as Grand Inquisitor, brilliantly assisted by Ms Rowena (shock and) Orr, QC.

The show, so much better than anything Labor had planned, government ministers keep telling us, continues its blockbuster run, as a hand-picked cast of spivs, charlatans and rogues and other financial advisers show open contempt for corporate cop, ASIC, and expose Coalition nobbling. Yet mystery shrouds this week’s show. Where are the big guns?

Conspicuous by their absence, possibly in witness protection, as secure as if in Monash fox-holes, are any CEOs.

Schadenfreude seizes the nation. Outrage. The drama has our full attention. True. Bonkers Brendan Nelson does his best to distract with his proposal to honour Border Force; to extend The Australian War Memorial to commemorate those brave souls who served in the war on compassion; our nation’s glorious battle with innocents; those compelled by cruel fate to seek asylum by any means. Some troops, he says, even jumped into the water to save people from drowning.

By Monday, the plot of Banks Behaving Badly includes dead people, knowingly being charged for financial advice; The CBA pockets $118 million for advice it doesn’t provide; NAB bribes people – its innovative “Introducer Program” -pays commissions to unqualified “spotters” – no financial expertise necessary- for home loan referrals, a subplot which includes forged payslips to settle loans, and envelopes stuffed with cash. The Introducer nets NAB $24 billion in loans.

(Former banking lobbyist, Scott Morrison’s tough new fines are capped at less than 1 per cent of that. Offenders will be brought to account, thunders former Goldman Sachs banker Turnbull. NAB is laughing all the way to the bank.)

Fee for no service turns out to be a nice little earner also. AMP’s head of financial advice, Anthony Regan, says he’s lost count of how many rip-offs; how many thousands of customers are charged fees for services they don’t receive. Lives are destroyed by bad advice; or when advisers’ financial ineptitude is compounded by avarice and duplicity.

It’s bad timing, however, for government by and for the banks, a Coalition which has to sell the electorate the last $35 billion of its $80 billion tax cut package, a gift of $13.2  billion in savings to our big four banks over the next ten years.

Even worse, its big business pals are no help. In the parallel universe where senate enquiries are held, Business Council of Australia’s CEO, Jennifer Westacott is asked, this week, by The Greens’ Lee Rhiannon.

“Can you give us an example of another country where tax cuts have resulted in wage rises?” 

Westacott wimps out. She’ll “take that question on notice”, despite the claim’s being a central plank of the BCA and the government’s campaign for the past two years. But let’s be fair. There’s too much business bashing around these days, as Westacott often wails. Above all, even the BCA can’t provide evidence that doesn’t exist.

Examples abound, however, from Canada or from The UK where, despite ten years’ company tax cuts, real wages continue to decline. The National Bank conducts one of Australia’s largest business surveys only to report that a mere 8 per cent of businesses would give workers a significant wage rise if they received a company tax cut.

One-in-five say they don’t need a tax cut to secure their company’s future. But who needs research in an age of neoliberal faith? The Coalition takes heart in the recent dismissal of The White House Chaplain, Jesuit Patrick Conroy who has held the job for seven years.  No reason has been given for Father Conroy’s sacking. Nor is it needed. In a Trumpian universe, it’s heresy to frown upon trickle-down or laugh at the Laffer Curve or even just express dissent.

Best explanation, reports The New York Times, is that the priest is being punished for his prayer last November, at the opening of a debate on the Republican tax bill. Conroy asked God to make sure that the members’ efforts “guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.”

Amen. Fairness is the last thing our government needs in its agile, innovative business-friendly zeitgeist but former Xenophon team member, now the more prosaic Centre Alliance, Sterling Griff, (a name that conjures confidence) is quick to remind listeners of government trumpet ABC Radio National that some top BCA companies pay no tax.

Australia’s effective company tax rate is 12% already. He warns his audience, moreover, where cuts will come from.

“It’s hard to see how a reduction in corporate tax is not going to lead to a reduction in public services like health and education.”

“The economic case for these company tax cuts never stacked up. The benefits were largely to foreign shareholders, with a huge long-term revenue cost to the budget,” says The Australia Institute’s executive director, Ben Oquist when the Coalition withdraws the tax cut legislation it fails to get through the senate last month.

“It’s a tactical retreat” explains former HealthGuard and HBF Insurance companies’ general manager, Mathias Cormann.

Desperate to stop the rot, Malcolm Turnbull mounts a type of apology for his government’s howling down the very idea of a Royal Commission into banks, an opposition it kept up for two whole years. His government would have been “better off politically” to have called the Royal Commission, “several years ago”, he calls in from Berlin, Monday.

Not that he’s accepting any responsibility (Westminster or otherwise) for any malfeasance that his government has effectively enabled by its two years of spirited opposition, evasion and delay,

“The responsibility for wrongdoing lies with the people who did the wrongs. Let’s be clear about that,” he says, hopefully.

It is too little, too late and will do nothing to appease his critics who rue his dreadful political judgement; nor those who ask why his government protects wealthy banks and big businesses, while hounding and gouging the poor.

ASIC’s official boast is that it’s “Australia’s integrated corporate, markets, financial services and consumer credit regulator”. The Coalition hypes the regulator’s powers. Two years ago, Treasurer Scott Morrison claimed that,

“ASIC has the powers of a royal commission and, in fact, it has greater powers than a royal commission.”

But just in case, penalties will now be increased; jail time provided for some offences, a hollow response that overlooks the core problem. ASIC has neither the will nor the resources to act. It’s launched but one criminal case in ten years.

As this week’s testimony shows, ASIC’s the financial sector’s family pet, lying doggo or sitting up and begging to play fetch or rolling over to have its tummy tickled. Of course there’s a weasel-word for it. In ASIC- speak it “negotiated” rather than prosecuted misconduct cases which is why it’s brought only criminal prosecution in ten years.

Does Hayne’s royal command performance have more power? While a royal commission can refer suspected offences to the Director of Public Prosecutions who can then prosecute, in practice, criminal prosecutions rarely result from recommendations of either a royal commission or a parliamentary inquiry.

Key to the commission’s power are its terms of reference. Here is a huge weakness. Its terms of reference dictate that it is not required to look at anything the commissioner believes “has been, is being, or will be, sufficiently and appropriately dealt with by another inquiry or investigation or a criminal or civil proceeding”.

In other words, it will ignore the findings of at least 38 other inquiries held into banking and financial services since 2010. Sensational, shocking as it may be, the misconduct Hayne has revealed, so far, is but the latest scandalous chapter in a long series of instalments, all of which have also exposed ASIC as a Clayton’s corporate regulator; a paper tiger.

When The CBA ruined many clients with bad financial advice a 2014 Senate inquiry criticised ASIC for being “too slow to act, lack[ing] transparency and … too trusting of the big end of town”. The verdict still applies today.

In the meantime, by popular demand, – and the instigation of The Nationals helped by The Greens and with the late support of Labor, the show must go on.  And on. Talk abounds of an extended season. Yet can it fix anything?

Crusty Justice Hayne’s superbly orchestrated production is in danger of being upstaged by its own lurid revelations of the graft, fraud, usury, collusion, extortion, embezzlement, cheating, lying and bare-faced robbery integral to our banking system; as a series of wretched pin-striped small fry from the big four take turns to spill their guts.

Equally distracting are the sideshows. A stampede to steal the glory includes the two-bob populist Pauline Hanson, even though it was her hapless former colleague, Rod Culleton, a bankrupted WA farmer who campaigned for a royal commission. Perhaps she’s getting confused with her repeated calls for a Royal Commission into Islam.

Also confused is Hanson’s new pal, Tony Abbott who channels the Queen of Hearts. “Off with their heads”.

Tin-pot general of the monkey pod rebels, Abbott is pumped. He’s led his peacock peloton and mobile media squad coal revival cycle tour through the Latrobe Valley of death-by-coal-fire, his latest sortie in his “no sniping or undermining” war of revenge by attrition on Turnbull. He’s just back from the $100 million Monash Centre he had built in France.

He goes off like a frog in a sock. “Sack ASIC”, he shrieks, despite his own role as ASIC’s chief nobbler.

Abbott’s government snatched $120 million, a cut of 200 workers, from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, a pillaging which left the watchdog unable to do very much at all effectively, let alone chase up the banks. Instead, the corporate regulator would get banks to self-report. What could possibly go wrong?

At the same time, in July 2014, Mattias Cormann attempted to weaken Labor’s Future of Financial Advice legislation (FOFA) which sought to ensure that advisers acted in their customers’ best interests, amendments put up by the banks but lost only when two cross-benchers voted them down.

ASIC hit the panic button. It complained that all advisers would be caught on the hop. It would do nothing, it said until July 1 2015 – two whole years after the new law was supposed to apply.

This, the corporate regulator supported Cormann, giving advisers two extra years in which to charge commissions and evade their duty to put the clients first. This week has seen how AMP flouted the FOFA law with impunity.

“Through AMP’s dealings with ASIC regarding the extent and nature of its fee-for-no-service conduct, AMP adopted an attitude toward the regulator that was not forthright or honest, and demonstrated a deliberate attempt to mislead,” Ms Orr sums up Friday.

AMP and its advice businesses misled the regulator 20 times from 2015 to 2017 about the nature and extent of its fees-for-no-service practice.”

The Coalition is responsible. It can’t pretend now that it merely got the timing wrong. Surely. But that’s just what it does.

Time to chuck a U-turn. Not far from Hitler’s bunker in Berlin, in the Reichstag’s shadow, Monday, Turnbull grabs the Coalition handbrake; burns rubber in a tyre-shredding U-turn. The government’s been driving the wrong way up a one-way street for two years but a quick U turn will fix it. Memo: Get updated talking points to Kelly O’Dwyer.

Facing overwhelming evidence that its concerted opposition to a Royal Commission into the banks was palpably not in the public interest, a willful misreading, if not contemptuous defiance, of public opinion in defence of the top end of town, the PM and his minions hastily abandon their epic, sandbagged, campaign to defend their banking mates.

Seldom has a government looked more ridiculous. Or more compromised. More incompetent. Less trustworthy.

Tragically, Terry McMaster, of Dover Financial, a pillar of the financial advice industry, oxymoron of the week, is taken ill, mid-sentence – but quickly recovers sufficient self-possession to sit bolt upright in his ambulance stretcher like some grandee being ferried up above the masses upon a palanquin. He’s excused from further participation in Hayne’s show.

But not before he’s been able to defend hiring advisers who were under investigation and later sanctioned for serious breaches. At least, he makes some incoherent response. Perhaps he’s just choking.

McMaster’s also questioned on Dover contracts which purport to give client protection yet which, in fact, attempt to indemnify Dover advisers from accusations of bad conduct. Doubtless ASIC plans to catch up with him on that, too.

Dover is the only big financial advisory group to decline to assist the Royal Commission. It has not supplied adequate documentation. Yet McMaster has dramatically collapsed in the attempt. His clients will wish him a speedy recovery.

You can’t fault the performances. The Royal Commission into crony capitalism is an orchestrated confession of wrongdoing; a lavish smorgasbord of malfeasance even if the grubby money-grubbers of the “wealth industry” themselves, are cynical, untrustworthy, grossly overpaid, self-interested spivs who’d sell their own grandmothers.

The formidable Rowena Orr, QC, continues to impress as she leads a brilliant supporting cast in homage to the English theatrical tradition of personifying justice as a Judge, a trend since Respublica, the mid-15th Century, morality play which has the body politic under insidious, deceptive attack from Avarice, Indolence, Oppression and Adulation.

By Monday, however, our political masters are back on song, a Hallelujah chorus of shock, surprise and outrage, the necessary ritual disclaimer and distancing which will enable them to snatch the whip hand back from Hayne.

“I have to say I have been surprised. I have to admit some of the revelations in recent times, I have been surprised.”

Mathias Cormann tells Sky News, Australia’s Fox News of government spin, while Matt Canavan, Minister for Coal, is “shocked“. Kelly O’Dwyer is “appalled” in a in a duet with Barrie Cassidy on Insiders. At the Self-Managed Super Fund expo in Melbourne on Friday, (no irony in the venue?) the assistant treasurer is back on stage and on song.

“The royal commission has highlighted in the most profound way, some of the devastating personal consequences that have resulted from corporate misconduct in the financial services sector,” she says.

“The government did get the timing wrong.”

That’s it, then. Just dud timing. Could happen to any government bank protection racket. As Helen Razer notes in Crikey, not one MP is surprised, or shocked, or appalled, or devastated enough to call out a scandal when they see one.

As Bob Katter fears, Karen Middleton reports, the real problem remains. Banks will continue to transfer loans between them, unilaterally dictate and then change the terms, downgrade property values and then foreclose without negotiation, seize and offload the properties at fire-sale prices, leaving borrowers still owing them the difference.

And it’s all perfectly legal.

Routed by the sheer force of numbers, rubbery figures, lies, impersonation and other evidence of illegality elicited from bankers so far, by beak of the week, Justice Hayne and his crack team of silks so far, Monday, Malcolm Bligh Turnbull beats a retreat on his quixotic Coalition forces’ foolhardy ideological charge against Labor and The Greens’ impregnable position; that there be a Royal Commission into Banking. It’s also a retreat from credibility and legitimacy.

News of the PM’s surrender from Berlin where he commends John Howard’s Pacific Solution (2001); lecture Germany on how to deal with refugees as he fills in time before opening yet another monument to John Monash and to honour his government’s militarisation of history and fetishising of war.

Some may admire his chutzpah. Germany took in a million Syrian refugees. The nonsense that border control helps build a multicultural society is insulting; demeaning to any audience. But it’s all designed for domestic consumption.

Turnbull makes no apology for his government’s enabling of what clearly amounts to a banking oligarchy; helping our new robber barons hold the country to ransom, destroying careers, wrecking families and ruining the lives of thousands.

“It was a poor political decision“, is the best the former merchant banker can manage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hockey plays golf with Trump while banks are hung out to dry.

“He’s a good golfer and good company”, reports Joe Hockey, all atwitter at having played golf with Donald Trump

 

Our nation thrills to news, Monday, that our own $360,000 PA, Ambassador to the US, (plus $90,000 PA parliamentary pension), Joe, “The Age of Entitlement is Over”, Hockey, is golfing with Donald Trump, joining the president at the links, if not the hip, in yet another diplomatic coup for Tony Abbott’s failed treasurer.

Doubtless, “Sloppy Joe” will be talking up the president’s incredible success with his illegal Syrian missile strikes, a week ago, timed to distract from Stormy Daniels’ testimony and to beat weapons inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons with their pointless, pedantic search for evidence of chemical weapons. 

Who needs facts when you have tribal support? Our brave new world is characterised by the flight of reasoned empiricism before a tide of what David Roberts in Vox calls “tribal epistemology”. He quotes Russ Limbaugh

“We live in two universes. One universe is a lie. One universe is an entire lie. Everything run, dominated, and controlled by the left here and around the world is a lie. The other universe is where we are, and that’s where reality reigns supreme and we deal with it. And seldom do these two universes ever overlap.”

In Limbaugh’s view, Roberts explains, the core institutions and norms of American democracy have been irredeemably corrupted by an alien enemy. Their claims to bipartisan authority — authority that applies equally to all political factions and parties — are fraudulent. There are no bipartisan authorities; there is only zero-sum competition between tribes, the left and right. Two universes. A similar mindset is emerging in Australia.

Clearly, only one’s own tribe can be trusted. (Who wants to trust a “universe of lies”?)

Tribal epistemology informs Peter Dutton’s dismissal of The ABC and The Guardian as dead to him. Sheesh! All he’s trying to do is spread false stories about the persecution of white South African farmers and arrange preferential immigration treatment so that they can swell the ranks of the right wing in his marginal, Dickson, QLD, electorate.

“There’s lots of outrage. Some of the crazy lefties at the ABC and on The Guardian, Huffington Post, express concern and draw mean cartoons about me and all the rest of it.”

Poor Peter. How wretched it is to be held to account. Erik Jensen, The Saturday Paper’s editor, lists seven refugees who have died under Peter Dutton’s regime as a result of the failure of his duty of care as Immigration Minister. They are also dead to him.  Yet it is clear from Dutton’s comment that he views himself as blameless.

Trump also acts as if he were beyond reproach. Always. His delusion is that he is a warrior in an ongoing battle against mainstream media – a media former chief White House strategist Steve Bannon called the opposition party.

Even assuming some empirical basis to his accusation of chemical warfare, however, Trump could explain to Hockey how his professed concern for the Syrian people; his empathy for their plight, is reflected in his accepting only 11 refugees from that nation, this year.

Trump’s hypocrisy in taking the high moral ground does not stop with his abandonment of the Syrian people, however. Joe would be well placed to ask why Assad’s use of chemical weapons provokes such a response when in Yemen, the US turns a blind eye to Saudi Arabia’s use of white phosphorous. Are Saudis also “gas killing animals“?

Joe may also raise American troops’ use of depleted uranium, (DU) a weapon known to cause cancer and birth defects. DU was used in Syria in late 2015. U.S. Central Command (Centcom) spokesman Maj. Josh Jacques tells Airwars and Foreign Policy a report also confirmed by The Pentagon in The Washington Post, 16 February, that 5,265 armour-piercing 30 mm rounds containing depleted uranium were shot from Air Force A-10 fixed-wing aircraft on Nov. 16 and Nov. 22, 2015, destroying about 350 vehicles in the country’s eastern desert.

Joe could ask his latest, bestie The President, moreover, how it is that in Saudi Arabia’s neighbour, Yemen, 8.4 million people are on the brink of famine; how 11 million children, require humanitarian assistance, because of a Saudi-led, US, UK and Australia-backed military blockade, using hunger and disease as a weapon of war, in a country that imports 90 per cent of its food and most of its medicine, as Dr Lissa Johnson writes in New Matilda.

What a top opportunity to raise how 6.5 million Syrians have been internally displaced by war; the largest internally displaced population in the world. Hockey could explain how Illegal US airstrikes, prolong the war.

All Trump’s Tomahawk “strikes” will do for Syrian people is to lower their wretched existence until it matches the living hell suffered by Yemen’s population where 15 million people have no hospitals, no doctors, no drugs.

“Shoot first. Ask questions later” is the new State Department’s motto. It’s been a long time in the pipeline. In Clinton’s administration, development and diplomacy were cut 30%.  Hockey also cut Australia’s foreign aid budget by $7.6 billion in his 2014  budget, followed by a further $3.7billion reduction in his December budget update.

Now, the Coalition  expresses concern after David Wroe of Fairfax suggests China is building a military base in Vanuatu.  Shock horror. It’s a drop, a planted story to enable Turnbull to sound off – and to gauge the reaction.

“We would view with great concern the establishment of any foreign military bases in those Pacific Island countries and neighbours of ours,” postures Turnbull. Unless, of course, they happen to be American bases.

The US operates permanent military bases throughout the Pacific, including in Australia, Japan (21 bases), Guam and South Korea. Australia is being highly selective about its megaphone diplomacy.

Perhaps Joe could talk economic equality and justice and how it is that the global increase in billionaires’ wealth in 2017 alone is enough to end extreme poverty seven times over. Tax cuts (or subsidies) for the rich will accelerate the process of burgeoning inequality, a symptom of both US and Australian politics’ toxic neoliberal infection.

Doubly subsidised by taxpayers in his political retirement, Hockey, as Treasurer, was quick to call out bludging mothers who “double dip” by claiming both workplace and taxpayer-funded paid parental leave schemes.

Of course it’s more than a stroke of luck that Joe scores a nine-hole round with the notorious cheat who is “unethical and untethered to truth”; a Mafia Don who is “ego-driven” and “about personal loyalty”, as former FBI Director James Comey flatters him, reports the Australian Financial Review. Joe’s always put in the hard yards.

“Since Hockey arrived at the Australian Embassy in Washington two years ago, the former treasurer has taken up golf to network with Trump officials, members of Congress and foreign diplomats.”

Hockey was also the sole guest to brave the rain; standing throughout Trump’s entire inauguration ceremony.  Why, Toady Joe can spot a “significant historic moment to ingratiate himself as effortlessly as he can judge a “good” golf “companion”.

“He cheats like hell,” 15-time LPGA Tour winner Suzann Pettersen says of her president. Unlike Comey, Pettersen does not make a big deal of Trump’s small glove size nor his too-long tie; nor the half-moons his tanning goggles leave under his eyes. She’ll leave such observations to the Trumpentariat.  Instead she says tartly,

“He must pay his caddies well, as drives that are headed for the woods always end back up on the fairways.”

“So I don’t quite know how he is in business. They say that if you cheat at golf, you cheat at business.” 

Australia must have a lot of golf cheats, Suzann. Cheating at business, it is clear this week, from testimony of some of the “industry’s” key players, is the only game in town – especially when it involves our banks; an oligopoly that controls all lending and borrowing of money or giving advice on what is quaintly termed “wealth creation” – or “wealth management’. Many Australians are ruined by being sold dud investment advice.

Sensational revelations of blood-sucking extortion, usury, bare-faced lying, robbery and a long litany of larcenies and law-breakings amaze and horrify audiences in this week’s installment of the long-awaited darkly, comic opera The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry.

Round Two of the hearings, opened Monday in The Commonwealth Law Courts Melbourne and will run until 27 April. “Financial advice” is its focus, a service, bank staff attest, which is  always in the interests of the bank and not its customer  – a policy direction which has ruined more than a few clients.

Evidence given is a dagger to the heart of de-regulation and laissez-faire capitalism, a core article of faith in the Coalition’s neoliberal religion. Yet they were warned.

Labor’s reforms, The Future of Financial Advice (FOFA) were meant to address the conflicts of interest inherent in vertical integration but were undone by Finance Minister Matthias Cormann who talked Clive Palmer into supporting their repeal.

As Bernard Keane points out,

The big banks and AMP hated FOFA, because it directly undermined their vertically integrated model in which financial planners were paid commissions for steering customers into their wealth management products.

Yet in November 2014 Sam Dastyari, angered by how much of Labor’s FOFA was repealed by regulation, was able to exploit a rift between Clive Palmer and Jacqui Lambie to bring Ricky Muir with him to kill the repeal. It remains Sam’s finest hour.

Yet full credit must go to Adele Ferguson’s account of the fiasco which ensued when The Commonwealth Banks’s wealth management arm, Commonwealth Financial Planning (CFP), gave evidence before a Senate inquiry into the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, ASIC.

Labor’s Mark Bishop and Nationals’ John Wacka Williams led and focused the inquiry on ASIC’s bungling of the CPP case. The encounter irreparably damaged the reputation of ASIC and of the CBA.

Westpac and ANZ quickly divested themselves of their wealth management – and later their insurance arms both areas of conflict of interest which have caused negative publicity. Only Westpac now continues to run either.  Now, we are told, banks will go back to core business, their virtue restored. But can anyone believe that?

Self-regulation, clearly, is a sham. The Australian Securities and Investment Commission, (ASIC), the corporate regulator or “tough cop on the beat” which Scott Morrison, Malcolm Turnbull, Kelly O’Dwyer, Josh Frydenberg, Peter Dutton (and any other government member with a set of talking points) never tire of pretending is more powerful than a Royal Commission stands exposed as utterly ineffectual, conflicted.

Perhaps it suffers Stockholm syndrome. Captured, like the ATO, by the sector it is set up to regulate, ASIC ministers to the needs of industry not consumers. It remains chronically under-funded, suffering” efficiency dividends”, under Labor and more funding cuts during the ill-fated Abbott government experiment —cuts which, despite government rhetoric, have never been fully restored.

300 ASIC staff have been shed since 2014.

Starring the Honourable Kenneth Madison Hayne AC QC, who, again, wins Beak of the Week for incomparable diligence, his talented assistant, Ms Rowena Orr QC, puts the cross back into cross-examination, in a crucifying performance which steals the show in a multimedia production live-streamed on the web. It’s damning.

Customers’ signatures are forged, admit the pin-striped suits, clients are impersonated, power of attorney is got by fraud, documents are falsely witnessed, customer’s funds transferred to advisers’ personal accounts.

Even the grave is no protection from these “Greed is Good” post-truth Gordon Geckos on steroids.

The Commonwealth Bank (CBA) confesses that it has taken fees from some deceased clients, including one who’d been pushing up the daisies for ten years- fees, moreover, it was never entitled to had its client been alive.

Fee for no service“, explains Peter Kell, deputy chair of ASIC, the bankers’ lapdog, in his written testimony, or “fee for no service” is used “when a customer is paying a periodic ongoing service fee for services that the licensee or adviser does not actually provide and that the customer does not actually receive.”

Naturally, as you would expect with self-regulation, CBA is on to it in a flash. A good four years goes into stonewalling; ignoring complaints. Two more years, it stalls; paper-shuffling “reports”.

Finally, some bright spark notifies The Australian Securities and Investment Commission, (ASIC), a financial regulator whom the Turnbull government has been telling us for years is more powerful than a Royal Commission.

The nation thrills to the inimitable Ms Orr QC, in her knock-out role as assistant to the commissioner. Orr demands straight talk; honest answers from a gang of knaves, liars and thieves as played by a cast of villains’ fall-guys and patsies from AMP, CBA and Westpac in Corporate Lies, Fraud, Extortion and Boundless Greed – this week’s episode.

Not only is Ms Orr on song, she is an impeccably researched inquisitor who knows what the banks are up to.

Bankers hang themselves out to dry in a show which, exposes, as Tony Abbott, might put it, The Great Big Old Hoax of corporate self-regulation. The hearings so far have shown banks can lie with impunity to the regulator. Evidence so far shows it is neither a few bad apples nor the corruption inherent in diversifying into insurance and investment advice, but rather that banking suffers a systemic blight.

As Keane notes, the Royal Commission is not exposing flaws in the system – this is the system. Concentration has not benefited the consumer but has led to banks seeking greater power over the customer. ASIC has been a Clayton’s regulator; too timid to blow the whistle and so anxious to avoid litigation that it prefers to collude or as Keane kindly puts it, “work with” the industry.

Political protection is built into the system.  AMP, Macquarie and others have contributed $3.85 million in donations to the Coalition since 2010, while $2.66 million has been invested in Labor.

Above all, Anna Bligh, a former Labor premier heads the Australian Banking Association while NSW Mike Baird received $900,000 after his first six months at the head of NAB’s corporate and institutional unit.

Finally, taking a leaf out of Coalition energy and economics policy spin, our banks shrewdly deploy “independent reports” which are in fact heavily skewed in their favour. The Commission hears that the independent report AMP commissions from Clayton Utz is repeatedly edited by a variety of AMP staff right up to board level.

Top marks to the producers, too, for their magical realism, especially Screaming Scott Morrison who rubbished the call for commission into banking as a “populist whinge” in 2016 and which he and his PM voted against 23 times but which the Turnbull government now hails as a triumph of its own invention even demanding applause for setting the terms of reference so wide they’re bound to catch every banking shonk and shyster in the land.

The Royal Commission into banking unfolds a byzantine tale of deception and betrayal, helped in no small measure by a stellar line-up of performers including AMP’s libretto of lying to ASIC, fiddling reports, dudding clients and charging fees for no service.

For the government it is more than an acute embarrassment; it is an indictment.   Proved hollow is their faith in the powerful corporate regulator, ASIC, now revealed to be a toothless tiger while their spin that a few rotten apples must not cause us to fear that the root and branch of the banking system seems patently absurd. In fact, the Commission is providing abundant evidence the opposite is true.

Sadly for Malcolm Turnbull’s Coalition, the stench of corruption in our banking system comes just as it must persuade just a few more cross-benchers that a great big new tax break, to adapt Tony Abbott’s anti-carbon slogan is urgently needed  – when it will in effect reward the banks’ failure to operate a fair, open and accountable system – adding, Bill Shorten argues, $7 billion dollars to the big banks’ bottom line.

Of course, screaming ScoMo rants, there’ll be hefty fines and even ten-year prison sentences. But when did you last hear of a banker going to jail? As for the fines, they’ll be HUGE – up to $10.5 million, three times the illicit gains or loss illegally avoided. 10 per cent of annual turnover. But fines will be capped at $210 million. And they won’t be retrospective. CBA’s profit was 9.9 billion last financial year. The proposed cap is 2% of that.

Yet by Sunday we hear that the Royal Commission is all the Coalition’s idea. It’s breadth. Turnbull’s brilliant broad-ranging approach plus the hard work done earlier and the sterling offices of ASIC have directly led the big four to spill their guts. It wouldn’t have happened under Labor. (Nor under The Greens whose call it was.)

Baloney. As a number of commentators note, the government must take us all for mugs. The new spin is contradicted by the evidence. Labor’s plan was rejected because the Coalition said it was so wide-ranging it would destroy our confidence and wreck the whole banking system. Now wide-ranging is good?

In truth, the Coalition was dragged kicking and screaming into setting up the Royal Commission. What the government runs instead is a protection racket for a banking industry that breaks the law with impunity – a mob who knows shrewdly that even after the show trial and the ritual blood-letting, it’ll be business as usual because “they are too big to fail.” Too tightly integrated into each major party’s machine.

The situation is not helped by the talking points that the PM’s turd polishing unit has given to the likes of Scott Morrison, Kelly O’Dwyer and even Republican at heart Malcolm Turnbull who, must speak from London as duty calls him away to tweet his way through Prince William’s waffling on to open CHOGM,  – an organisation, which, like the Cheshire Cat is fading away leaving nothing behind but its smile or the promise of good intentions – give or take a few vapid clichés of colourful diversity – or meeting interesting people, or as Prince Will puts it “the mother of all networks”.

The British Empire, it is said was acquired in a fit of absence of mind. It’s devolution into Commonwealth and now its genial atrophy into pleasantries and hearty handshakes all round is similarly out of focus; an exemplary model of indirection and self-extinction.

If only our banking system; that many-headed, malignant, blood-sucking, toxic, monster parasite could exit our nation’s body politic, our commonwealth as painlessly.

Trump reaches for the Tomahawk while Turnbull’s rivals sharpen their knives.

Mafia Don, as former FBI Director, James Comey designates Donald Trump in his best-seller, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership is ever more desperate, as Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation closes its net on the nepotist-in-chief and his comic Corleone family’s alleged criminal collusion with the Russian government.

Two weeks ago, in Richfield Ohio, the US will exit Syria, he tells a crowd.

 “Very soon, very soon, we’re coming out,” Trump promises, in a riff which echoes The Beatles’ classic, Get Back “We’re going to get back to our country, where we belong, where we want to be…”

But that was then. This is now. Now Trump has as his National Security Adviser, John “mad-bomber” Bolton the stark raving bonkers neo-con, “architect” of the Iraq War WMD disaster, a hawk’s hawk who lusts for war on Iran, North Korea, Syria and regime change in Libya, Syria, and Venezuela.

Apply the emergency brake. In another high-speed Trumpian highway chase U-turn, which evokes our own helmsman, hydrogen gas-bag Mal, another untethered[1] barrage balloon, of whom Essential’s Peter Lewis, writes, “(Turnbull) didn’t walk away from his beliefs, he never had any “, Trump tweets about “our beautiful, smart” missiles a reference to the slow, low-flying, long-range Tomahawk missile first deployed in 1991.

Will he also countermand his instructions to his military commanders to quickly end American involvement in Syria? Who knows what he’ll do when the diversion fails to halt Mueller’s inexorable advance. For now, in the eternal present of the president’s goldfish consciousness, it’s time for a token show of force.  And perfect for chicken-hawk Trump.

A Tomahawk may be large and slow, but it has a long-range and flies below enemy radar.

Unlike James Comey, who is “an untruthful slime ball”, – (at least it’s an area in which Trump can claim some special expertise) – Mafioso Don reveals in 280 characters or fewer why the fading ex-star of The Apprentice is still world’s best reality TV president.

He provokes Russia into threatening to shoot down any US missiles and to respond to any strike on Syria “at the source”, the first threat of direct military action since 1945.

Then it’s on for young and old – especially the old white males of Trumpdom.

“A short time ago, I ordered the United States Armed Forces to launch precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapons capabilities of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad,” Trump says on a special Saturday night White House broadcast, Friday our time.

Associated with? No proof is provided that Syria is behind the alleged chemical attack last weekend in Duma, where up to 70 people may have been killed.

The gas allegedly used in the Duma attack is chlorine which is not on the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) list of banned chemicals and is not classified as a chemical weapon. Any country, including Syria, is allowed to possess it, but cannot use it as a weapon.

If chemical weapons were used, the US is being highly selective. A string of such attacks in Syria has been reported in the last five years. The UNHCR’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic (even the title is a worry) claims to have confirmed at least 34 chemical attacks since 2013, many of which it says used chlorine or sarin, a nerve agent, and were conducted by the Syrian government.

Syria, Russia and Iran all deny that the Syrian government used chemical weapons.

“The use of chemical weapons by anyone, anywhere, under any circumstances is illegal and utterly reprehensible,” our local Great Helmsman reads from his US kit of talking points, Saturday, despite his government’s support of Saudi Arabia which, The Washington Post, reports uses US-supplied white phosphorous, a chemical weapon, against Yemen. But relax, it’s OK if it’s used carefully. It’s a nice little burner.

Last June, Human Rights Watch warned, “US-led forces should take all feasible precautions to minimize civilian harm when using white phosphorus in Iraq and Syria.”

In early 2017, US Marine artillery deploys to Syria in support of the operation to retake Raqqa, an operation in which “Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)” are also participating.

The Washington Post publishes photographs of the deployed Marine unit equipped with white phosphorus projectiles, as well as similar pictures showing white phosphorus projectiles with US Army units outside Mosul.

A Raqqa resident living in Beirut tells The New York Times in June of an internet cafe in Raqqa hit by white phosphorus, killing around 20 people.

White phosphorus, the US claims, it sells for signalling only. What could possibly go wrong? When used against soldiers and civilians as reports attest, it can kill or maim by burning to the bone. It was used in the Battle of Fallujah November 2004 where Jim Molan helped direct operations in a hopeless attempt to “flush out” Sunni insurgents.

Depleted uranium was also used against civilians. Coordinates revealing where US jets and tanks fired nearly 10,000 DU rounds in Iraq during the war in 2003 have been obtained by the Dutch peace group Pax.

The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health published an epidemiological study in 2010, “Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005-2009,” found that “Fallujah is experiencing higher rates of cancer, leukemia and infant mortality than Hiroshima and Nagasaki did in 1945.”  But that was then and this is now. That was them and this is about Trump’s political survival. Bigly.

Turnbull, so pro-USA, he says, we’re “joined at the hip” (and lip?) parrots Trump’s hypocrisy.

“The Assad regime must not be allowed to commit such crimes with impunity.  The attacks are “a calibrated, proportionate and targeted response.”

There’s always a first time. But Turnbull needs a calibrated, proportionate diversion when his 30th Newspoll Abbott petard blows up in his own face this week.

There’s blood in the water. A hapless Turnbull staggers across his own Rubicon of “30 losing Newspolls”, as The Australian’s latest landline phone survey, published last Sunday, reveals Labor leads 52-48 on first-party preferences based on 2016 voting intentions. Blood, too, in news of mass deaths in the live sheep trade, a business essentially, as a senate committee found in 1985, “inimical to animal welfare”.

While refugees can rot in squalor offshore, animal lives really matter to this government, given the power of images of animal cruelty to move television viewers to demand that the Coalition do something. Cue shock and horror; David Littleproud’s debut.

“I’ve seen that footage and I was absolutely shocked and gutted,” neophyte federal Agriculture Minister and Barnaby Joyce protégé, David Littleproud says in an extraordinary outburst of visceral imagery. Talk about going butcher’s hook.

Littleproud’s responding to 60 Minutes’ fourth story since 2003 on the live sheep trade showing WA ship, The Awassi Express, on a three-week voyage from Fremantle to the Persian Gulf with 65,000 sheep. 2400 sheep, it is said, die from heat stress and overcrowding. Lambs are born and crushed underfoot.

There’s no money to invest in a humane live sheep fleet but the federal government announces this week that it will match Victoria in plunging $50 million each into a half- billion dollar pilot plant that will operate for just 12 months to produce “up to” three tonnes of hydrogen from brown coal over a whole year.

Three days after Tony Abbott’s coal-fired power and Lycra revival bicycle tour through the Latrobe Valley, Turnbull is desperate to compete with anything that Abbott may have to offer. Even if it is another, utter con-job. At least he goes for a noble gas.

The PM’s hydrogen mania appears highly selective; contrived. Where was Turnbull when wind and solar-fuelled hydrogen projects – which will create significantly more hydrogen at a fraction of the cost from wind and solar – were unveiled by the ACT and South Australian governments (before Labor’s SA election loss)?

SA’s  50MW wind and solar-fuelled electrolyser at the new Hydrogen Hub would be built by Neoen near Crystal Brook, could provide 20 tonnes of hydrogen a day, at a fraction of Turnbull’s brown coal thought bubble. Giles Parkinson reports the entire complex, including 150MW of solar, about 150MW of wind, a 50MW hydrogen plant along with up to 400MWh of battery storage, would cost around $600 million.

The brown coal hydrogen experiment is located at the Loy Yang brown coal mine complex, where AGL will keep its huge brown coal generator operating until 2048, despite our hopelessly conflicted energy minister Josh Stalin Frydenberg insisting, like a true state socialist, that Loy Yang A and B plants must run until 2070.

For the pilot to succeed, however, depends on carbon capture and storage (CCS), a technology that is still a pipe dream. Like the perpetual motion machine. Not that Andy Vesey AGL boss needs to worry about the pollution created during the experiment. Like the government’s energy policy itself, it’s exempt from any real-world constraints.

Our CCS industry is a metaphor for the Turnbull government’s track record of over-promising and totally under-delivering. Last year’s Auditor General’s report, reveals a total of $450 million wasted so far. All up, over $1.5 billion has been squandered.

There is nothing to show for government funds punted on CCS. Snowy Hydro 2.0 is also likely to be an expensive dud. Think NBN with coal-fired uploads.

$6 billion just disappeared into buying out NSW and Victoria’s interests – (provided the 2018 Budget passes)-  to help the Turnbull government proceed with its untried, unproven Snowy Hydro 2.0 pipe dream – now estimated to cost $4.5 billion – not including the $2 billion estimate it will cost to upgrade transmission lines from the mountains to Sydney and Melbourne.

The Turnbull government can find $12 billion plus if it means feeding its anti-solar and wind ideology, but it has no intention of putting any money where its mouth is on the live sheep trade, a business where farmers’ interest and animal welfare are ever at odds.

Yet the conflicted Agriculture Minister, David Littleproud is beside himself with outrage. It’s easier than admitting as Bernard Keane notes that the Department of Agriculture simply refuses to regulate animal welfare. Dave rushes to defend the farmers.

“This is the livelihoods of Australian farmers that are on that ship. That is their pride and joy and it’s just total bullshit that what I saw is taking place.”

The aptly named Littleproud proceeds to lash his own department, a mob lovingly fashioned in his own image by former party leader in exile, New England’s pride and joy, Barnaby bullshit Joyce.

Minister Littleproud is making “a brave decision”, as Sir Humphrey would say, if not a “courageous” career move.

Agile, innovative and keen to staunch more bad PR, Littleproud says he’ll get the Attorney-General, Christian Porter, himself a paragon of compassion and justice who has endeared himself to all Centrelink pensioners via his robo-debt regime of terror to examine the “skills, capabilities and culture of the regulator”.  Perfect call.

The regulator is the federal Department of Agriculture. It’s will rather than skill that is their deficiency. Yet can they be blamed for just following orders? Ask Nuremberg.

“Staff have diligently reflected Barnaby Joyce’s indifference to animal welfare and preference for the industry to self-regulate. That is Joyce’s legacy on this matter,” writes The Saturday Paper’s Martin McKenzie-Murray, a view echoed by Bernard Keane.

Joyce used live exports to harangue Labor, ceaselessly talking up how its “irresponsible policy plunged the northern Australian cattle industry into extreme hardship” despite a lack of any empirical evidence. The irony is that now Joyce’s indifference to animal welfare has created a real, live, problem for exporters. But he’s worse with people.

Cruelty to public servants is an Abbott-Turnbull signature theme. Agriculture ministry workers ought not to take it personally. Since Abbott, a Coalition committed to “smaller government” and to outsourcing to private contractors avidly slashes funds and culls its workforce, throwing government servants and their families into penury via Orwellian “efficiency dividends”, – if only to rehire some as contractors.

Last September The Australian Public Service (APS) Commission reports there were 152,095 APS staff at the end of June, after a decline of 2.3% over the previous financial year. It’s the lowest figure since 2006. Apart from understaffing and issues of morale and politicisation it’s a fair chunk of knowledge and experience to excise from a public service which increasingly must bear the wrath or the whim of the Minister.

Whim? A whole department may find itself “relocated” from Canberra to Armidale, decimating its workforce by decree as “Joe Stalin” Joyce is doing with the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) which appears now largely crippled and utterly demoralised by a loss of qualified personnel.

Staff departures reached nearly 20 per cent in 2015-16, a national audit report found last year. APVMA was struggling to find regulatory scientists to replace those walking out the door since the Coalition government decision to move it in November 2016.

Yet there are even more disturbing signs. Australia now has a bureaucracy specifically engineered to deliver indifference and inflict suffering, warns Professor Stuart Rees in New Matilda, as “clients” of Centrelink would attest.

“Fear, engendered by cruelties has become central to the operations of an allegedly rational, efficient Australian government” he writes citing the now notorious example of Scott Morrison who as Immigration Minister, in 2013, instructed ASIO to delay security clearances for refugees until he’d changed the law to cruel their chances of citizenship.

Quibbling has broken out this week between Home Affairs Peter Pooh Bah Dutton and hapless Malcolm Turnbull, eternal puppet of the right-wing, over whether cabinet discussed Dutto’s brilliant idea to cut immigration. It’s a great way to seize the headlines and to dog-whistle racists which also allows Tony Abbott to gain some extra unwarranted attention, but it may be attention that the Coalition does not really need.

The Federal Ombudsman reported in December 2017 that on the handling of citizenship applications that required integrity and identity clearance, some people had waited over 18 months for an outcome. There was also an increase in the number of applications where a decision had not been made for over two years.

Bleeding profusely from some ugly self-inflicted injuries, such as making himself a hostage to Newspoll and to his party’s lunatic right-wing in his Faustian compact with Barnaby Joyce, an “unwritten”, secret agreement, whose details he stubbornly refuses to divulge, the underlying reality – despite its incessant crowing over jobs is that his government has clocked up 29 months of economic mismanagement.

To hear its front bench shills, the Turnbull government has created record numbers of jobs. Why 403,000 are  recorded by the Bureau of Statistics in December. But, as Alan Austin points out, with natural population increase and migration, Australia’s population has never been higher either.

“The strongest growth in jobs relative to the adult population in history was actually in calendar 1989 when Bob Hawke was PM. Hawke beat Turnbull’s achievement – relative to population – also in 1985 and 1988.”

The Coalition never mentions unemployment. By September 2015, unemployed numbers shot up to 776,300; a rate rise of 6.1%. After 29 months of Turnbull government, 734,100 are jobless a rate of 5.6%.

Whilst it’s a modest improvement on Abbott’s disaster, Australia’s world ranking has fallen as globally jobs have risen. In 2013, we ranked seventh on our jobless rate in the OECD. By 2015, we slipped to 14th. Now we are 17th.

Underutilised workers, or the sum of unemployed and underemployed, rose in February to 1,841,000, the third highest quarterly figure since this statistic was first recorded in 1978. The only two higher quarters were both since Turnbull became PM and Senator Michaelia Cash employment minister.

The PM comes under fire from his own front bench, Monday, as Julie Bishop, Josh Frydenberg, Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton each declare their very qualified support for their leader. They all have leadership ambitions. Tony Abbott and Barnaby Joyce kindly give Turnbull until Christmas to prove himself or quit. He may as well leave now.

The Newspoll gap narrows two points in two weeks, but since the 2016 election, Newspoll, Ipsos, Essential, ReachTel and YouGov have Labor leading the Coalition in 127 of 138 surveys. Six ties are recorded, but the government leads in five YouGov polls only, between June and October 2017, which allow respondents to nominate their own preferences. Yet there is no way the Coalition will concede its performance is at fault.

Team Turnbull will ignore all polls as it continues to deliver “good government”. This includes suppressing details of the deal whereby Turnbull gained the Nationals’ support to depose Tony Abbott, by promising to follow the suppository of all wisdom on climate, energy, no conscience vote on SSM, keeping the Northern Australia infrastructure slush fund for coal projects and supporting The Nationals’ outrageous $10 billion Inland Rail boondoggle. Above all, as he shows, Monday, Sally Cray will have her way.

The PM’s Principal Private Secretary, Field Marshal Sally Cray, the Peta Credlin of Turnbull’s Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, (PM&C) and most powerful woman in Australian politics today, next to Lucy Turnbull, Gina Rinehart and her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second, but more of a potty-mouth comes out fighting.

Cray orders her Turnbull to put on his best f***ing shit-eating grin and to parade his loyal troops in his courtyard in a special presser, Monday.

Mal’s ministers blink in the sun of an Indian summer; moles suddenly fetched up unnaturally from their nocturnal subterranean undermining; alternately preening and squinting in the flare of a scrum of mainstream media camera chums, a Canberra club which bears far too much wattage and sheds far too little light.

The runts of his government’s underwhelming front bench are a shallows of Widmerpools, “the most dogged and fearless solipsist in modern fiction”.

Obeying Cray’s directive, each goes out of his or her way to spread the gospel of loyalty on their favourite fawning TV or radio talkback shows not hesitating also to declare themselves candidates should the occasion present itself. It’s a total disaster.

But not to our “Malentariat”, a press claque whose livelihoods depend on servile flattery. Hacks gush that Turnbull is back in town; he’s not only “closing the gap” in opinion polls, he’s safe because, as everybody knows, disunity is death and the nation’s phobic about changing leaders, a myth MSM, themselves have helpfully engendered first to attack Labor’s internecine rivalry; now to defend the government from itself.

Above, all, runs the clincher, his front bench, if not his parliamentary party have less popular appeal and even less talent than Mal. It’s not totally implausible. Mal will remain leader, we are told breathlessly, because there is no alternative. Yet.

Seldom has Turnbull’s tactical dyslexia been so clearly exposed. Nothing confirms a vote of no-confidence in any leader quite so well as a fake display of solidarity.

It’s a formidable performance. Stung by Tony Abbott’s Monash Forum insurrection, a comical ginger-group of rear-guard reactionaries who want to bring back coal, topple Turnbull and install Morrison, the elephant in the courtyard is the Lycra Sniper’s gibe that Truffles must explain why he does not now depose himself.

Abbott, The Incredible Sulk, like any self-respecting narcissist, also demands to be told what he did wrong. Publicly. In detail. But look, hands are waving in the air.

The Mexican Wave his front bench performs Monday turns out to be Turnbull’s cabinet putting up their hands for job – if the opportunity should present itself.

In other words, expect a lot more bitching, back-stabbing and pointy-elbowing for position before a knifing around Christmas; our traditional festive and killing season.

=================

[1] “Unethical and untethered to truth” is James Comey’s character reference for Trump.

Tony Abbott’s great, big backward slow bicycle race to nowhere.

Monster man-baby, “stable genius”, Donald Trump stacks another tantrum this week, wiping billions off the New York Stock Exchange and rattling world financial markets by upping the ante in his futile trade war with China.

Baby Donald is spooked by the imminent release of James Comey’s tome, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership, an exposé of “never-before-told experiences from some of the highest-stakes situations of his career”.

Even a man-child fake president can sense a lose-lose situation. Former FBI Director Comey’s book’s topped Amazon’s bestseller list weeks before its 17 April publication. It’s very title is a shot at The Donald.

On another unwinnable front, Trump cracks down on border control, dispatching

National Guardsmen to the US-Mexico border. It never worked for Barack Obama or George W Bush.

But many down under will cheer – especially Tony Abbott who has even travelled to London to preach John Howard’s Pacific Solution and the militarisation of compassion to world leaders. He tells them to wake up to themselves and punish illegals in offshore gulags if they are to deter the demon people-smuggler, stop drownings at sea, deter jihadists, soldiers of the caliphate intent on mayhem or face extinction as a nation by invasion.

Delighted also will also be Il Duce Dutton who is in The Guardian in a couple of sugar-puff pieces this week where he puts himself forward as a man of principle who dismisses as “token” the efforts of countries to re-settle the current numbers of displaced persons. The UN Refugee Convention 1951 ought to be revised, he reckons, to see more refugee camps set up. Not only does Dutto deal well with dissent, he doesn’t muck around with practicality.

Nor humanity. Nor is there a hint of awareness we helped cause the refugee problem with our eager participation, for example, in the illegal invasion of Iraq where half a million were killed and 4.4 million internally displaced. 265,000 were forced to seek refuge abroad. It’s part of Dutto’s run-up to be the nation’s next Prime Minister.

Naturally, like ScoMo, or Dutto, or Turnbull or any other Coalition MPs up on their hind legs braying abuse in Question Time, Trump bags his political opponents, The Democrats, for being soft on border protection.

And on China. China will retaliate over Trump’s threat to impose tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese imports? He’ll see that bid- and raise it. He adds another $100 billion. The Chinese reply with a list of mainly agricultural commodities hurting “places where Trump supporters are to be found” with a focus on key U.S. industries, two of which — soybeans and cars — are concentrated in states Trump won.

The Washington Post reports the conservative Brookings Institute economist Mark Muro and analyst Jacob Whiton’s calculations that, if China goes ahead with its threat, jobs and industries in 2,783 U.S. counties would be directly impacted. 82 percent of voters in these place cast their ballot for Trump.

Whilst Trump chortles that “trade wars are easy to win”, expert consensus is that his war can only hurt US  businesses, farmers and workers whose profits and livelihoods depend in part on commerce with China.

The war’s going well so far. The New York Times notes wryly, that’s probably why the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index falls more than 2 percent on Friday. The DOW closes down 572 points wiping off all the gains of the week.

Aides take to Fox News, the attention-deficient Trump’s sole source of information, in a last-ditch bid to brief him.

As a Minister indulged by John Howard, Tony Abbott never read his briefs either. Junkyard dogs don’t need to be great readers. Tony’s tops on slogans and boats and coal or as chief white-ant of his terminally unpopular PM.

A self-professed liar, now he’s into epic re-invention. He convenes a Coalition “ginger-group”, as their Field Marshall Peta Credlin calls her fatuous former boss and his vacuous band of Turnbull-haters, namely Deputy PM, Barnababy Joyce, Kevin Andrews, Eric Abetz, Craig Kelly plus 20-30 dodgy ring-ins who sign a piece of paper with a pic of John Monash on it – a veritable toolkit of short-attention spanners- who are out to wreak havoc.

Credlin has the perfect metaphor for the Turnbull government, etymologically. To ginger up comes from an old practice of inserting ginger into the anus of a broken-down nag to make it look lively, a horse dealer’s trick recorded from the late 18th Century.

Bugger the ginger. If the broken down Turnbull government were a horse, you’d take it out the back and shoot it.

More recently, however, “ginger group” has come to mean a party or faction which presses for stronger action on some issue. There, alas, the metaphor breaks down. Abbott’s unhappy band may be a whinge of collective resentment and self-pity but they want no change at all. Or even less than none.

Like most conservatives and all climate change deniers, theirs is a slow bicycle ride to nowhere; an inevitable, irrevocable riding for a fall. No-one can tell a reactionary that pedalling backwards is no solution at all – although Going Nowhere Slowly Backwards or Backpedal with Mal could be ripper slogans next election for them.

Led (astray) by Oz-politics’ own enfant terrible, Tony Abbott, The Monash Forum, as they grandly style themselves, hop on their bikes to sell coal to the Latrobe Valley. The Lycra lads’ leader takes his annual Pollie Pedal charity ride through the Latrobe Valley where he’ll raise money for charities supporting cancer victims while promoting noxious, highly carcinogenic coal-burning power stations and an industry with an appalling safety record.

Abbott’s bike is worth far more than he is and could conceivably do a better job as a prime ministerial aspirant. In 2013, he was featured getting fitted out for a personalised Cannondale, a snip at $6000. That’s about six months’ Newstart payments for the many jobless in the Latrobe Valley but it’s guaranteed to be a talking point and just another way in which the former Riverview boy will have a chance to bond with the community.

Or he could talk about his need to upgrade his act: Monday, he’s pictured holding up a Baum Corretto priced at $11,425 AUD, full package, a bicycle with a titanium frame.

They’ll be just passing through, but 900,000 Australians in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria live dangerously close to coal-fired power stations that cause asthma and respiratory illnesses and increase the likelihood of stroke and heart attack, Environmental Justice Australia reported in Toxic and terminal: How the regulation of coal-fired power stations fails Australian communities August last year. (1)

Coal-fired power stations emit more than 30 toxic substances and are Australia’s biggest source of fine particles (PM2.5), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx).

“Fine particle pollution exposure (alone) is responsible for 1,590 premature deaths each year in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth,” says EJA lawyer and co-author Nicola Rivers.

But there’s more. The push bike-putsch to topple Turnbull threatens also to renege on The NEG, the Coalition’s National Energy Guarantee, which is neither national nor a guarantee but a ploy to keep coal “in the mix” – even though it’s supposed to be all signed and sealed. Policy-free Energy and Environment Minister, Josh, The Hopelessly Conflicted, Frydenberg lamely attempts to con ABC Insiders, Sunday, that it has party room approval.

The NEG’s a cynical appeal to a coal industry-backed party of reality deniers who take refuge in industry spin that burning coal is a cheaper, more reliable means of electricity generation than wind or solar. Another Liberal Party statutory buck-passing busybody, NEG’s an emperor with no clothes; a powerless power authority.

The NEG does nothing for emissions, less for investment in renewables, and, Giles Parkinson argues, “creates a scheme of such complexity it would likely push up prices and reinforce the power of incumbent utilities”.

Now Abbott wants us all to know that “party room assent” for The Neg is just more Turnbull-dust – but that’s not his main game. His stunt is to snipe at Turnbull, who is a dead, buried and cremated man walking.

“Life is not fair” Abbott whinges, in a doleful drop to the Sunday Telegraph, in which he demands his colleagues explain why he was dropped as Prime Minister, after only 30 consecutive News Poll failures. It’s a mystery. Appearing on TV a lot apparently will help solve it. Above all, it’s somebody else’s fault, Abbott wails:

“As for that particular metric, that was not my metric and it is for others to explain the rhyme or the reason in it. “

Tony, The Incredible Sulk, is rivalled in the annals of infantilism in our nation’s political pathology only by Burka warrior Pauline Hanson’s considered opinion that the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games is “disgusting” by featuring a twenty-minute segment of indigenous performers. Alan Jones says so, too.

“Our country is not based on the Aboriginals. Our country is what it is because of the migrants that have become here,” Senator Hanson says. She may well have her family and Tony Abbott or Eric Abetz in mind.

Despite its lycra disguise, Abbott’s rat-pack wants to topple Turnbull by rebelling as the News Poll is in the field, on the eve of his thirtieth successive News Poll failure. When added to Abbott’s own desperate lack of appeal, this tots up to a stunning sixty in a row – despite Tony’s masterful, casuist’s quibble that it’s only fifty-nine.

Instead of Mal’s Rats, the Bicycle Push cunningly dubs themselves The Monash Forum and circulate a piece of paper with little else than a big photograph of the great general and Latrobe Valley electrifier. That way it’s easy to con their colleagues into signing up to their cause.

It’s such a cunning wheeze, yet in man-baby fashion they’ve been thinking only of themselves. No-one’s run the stunt past the Monash family. It’s outraged by the scoundrels. And justifiably so.

Great grandson, Mark Durre, takes to ABC Radio, on behalf of seven descendants, to decry the appropriation of the Monash name for what he generously calls the “anti-science and anti-intellectual” approach of the so-called Monash Forum and their promotion of technologies from the “horse and buggy era”.

Arguing convincingly his great grandpa would have been all for solar and wind today, Durre upbraids Abbott.

“At the very least it was discourteous to use it without informing us,” his family statement says.

“More than that, we disassociate ourselves specifically from the forum’s use of the Monash name to give their anti-science and anti-intellectual argument an air of authority and we ask that they withdraw the name.”

Abbott has made it known that the name will stay and so, too, will his greater insult to the Australian nation, the proposal that the government fund a coal-fired power station, a proposal so antithetical to the party of free enterprise and so ignorant of market, let alone environmental realities, that even Scott Morrison, the clown who brought a lump of coal into parliament, a prop, granted, more eloquent than he could ever be, slaps Abbott down.

Abbott’s Monash Forum is hermetically sealed against science or economics. Their coal-worship creed includes the myth that electricity generated by you-beaut, state of the art, modern coal-fired power stations is cheaper than wind farms and large-scale solar. New coal power stations abound all around the world, they lie.

There’s hundreds being built?

No. At most, it may be 150. And they are not cheap. Morrison, the old coal warrior, pulls Abbott up on this,

“It is false to think that a new coal-fired power station will generate electricity at the same price as old coal-fired power stations,” Morrison says. “… it would likely be double the price of existing coal generation.”

No. Not even close, ScoMo. A new coal-fired generator would be twice your estimates of $70-80/MWh. Bloomberg New Energy Finance puts it at $130/MW, at the very least. And no-one’s factoring environmental costs and health risks to those who are forced to live within a 100km radius of the power station smokestack. The underlying reality is that the new HELE – high efficiency, low emission coal plants are only marginally less toxic than the old.

HELE plants use steam at a higher pressure which gives them a small boost in thermal efficiency. Simon Holmes a Court has compiled a table in which he compares our four HELE stations with the fourteen old clunkers such as Liddell which, bizarrely, the government wants to force the AGL, the owner, to sell to a Chinese-owned company, ALINTA.

It’s a flip-flop but then, as Richard Ackland says, Turnbull is the type of man who often meets himself going around corners.

Australian power stations fitted with ‘Clean Coal’ technology, Holmes a Court concludes, emit 9.95% less pollution than stations burning the same fuel with regular sub-critical technology.

Tony’s pushing it uphill if he thinks he can take us all for a ride on coal even with the backing of the industry itself, finally because – largely due to his generosity to the largely foreign-owned power companies – the price of electricity has risen so high so fast that all his carbon tax removal reductions and his claims of cheaper power destroy any vestige of credibility he may once have had with the ignorant and uninformed.

Australian residential electricity consumers now pay the highest prices in the world.  We pay two to three times more than US households. When the Eastern states’ National Electricity Market was set up in the late 1990s, Australia had the lowest retail prices in the world along with the United States and Canada.

It’s another good talking point on your tour through Moe, Morwell and Churchill, Tony. Most of the locals would just love to hear how you helped make an essential utility and basic household necessity into a luxury item.

Onya bike Abbott. Beneath your embrace of coal lies a contempt not only for science but for your fellow citizens, their health and their environment. You don’t care enough about anyone else to bother with any science. You’re the antithesis of Monash who made looking after his men a priority. Little wonder the family is horrified.

Fine if you want to lead (or mislead) your fellow reality deniers on a slow bicycle race to nowhere or you’re busting to backstab Malcolm but don’t waste our time spreading your coal lobby propaganda and your dangerous lies.

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Footnote (1)

  1. Coal-fired power stations emit more than 30 toxic substances and are Australia’s biggest source of fine particles (PM2.5), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx).
  2. These substances cause and contribute to asthma, lung cancer, heart attacks, stroke, respiratory disease, headaches and nausea in nearby communities.
  3. In most cases emissions limits in Australia are much more lax than those in the US, EU and China.
  4. Mercury limits for some NSW power stations are 666 times higher than the US limits.
  5. Pollution reduction technologies that have been available for many years and are used overseas could significantly reduce power station emissions but are not in use in Australia.
  6. New coal-fired power stations, even those described as ‘ultra-super critical’ or ‘HELE’ (high efficiency, low emission) only marginally reduce toxic emissions
  7. A representative of Yallourn power station admitted that at times of excessive pollution it ‘simplified’ its reporting by stating it was emitting at levels that correspond with its licence.
  8. Despite much evidence of failure to comply with pollution licence conditions, no power station in Victoria, NSW or Queensland has been prosecuted for any offence in the past ten years (instead they have been issued with inadequate penalty notices).

From (EJA) Environmental Justice Australia’s August 2017 report:

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