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From SA election conundrum to the riddle of the ASEAN Way.

Could Adelaide, or “Adders”, as Jeffrey Smart loved to call the Athens of the South, the staid city of churches and canon law, now be under Marshall law? How dare Labor lose when it was electric light years ahead of everyone in Tesla batteries; renewable energy?

Cue our ABC. The national broadcaster is a staunch SA regime change supporter when it’s not gunning for soft-on-crime Dan Andrews and his African gang crisis in lawless Victoria.

Chris Uhlmann led the charge; blaming renewable energy for SA’s blackouts caused by natural disaster but there has been some solid pro-Liberal teamwork from our state broadcaster, including Fran Kelly’s trifecta of power-crisis, the demise of the car industry and rising regional unemployment, all of which are Labor’s fault, Thursday, on RN Breakfast.

Labor is howled down for its “ideologically driven” embrace of “aggressive” targets for wind and solar energy; an “experiment” in a clean and sustainable source of electricity which can never be as affordable or reliable as good old coal. Or coal industry Liberal Party donations. Or a Liberal plug from the IPA with its secret list of big mining, big Rupert donors.

Labor’s SA was a plucky little state, of 1.2 million, the scapegoat in a cynical attack on behalf of big coal and gas. It stood up to Canberra’s bullying over the federal government’s National Energy Guarantee, (NEG), a thought-bubble masquerading as an energy policy.  

What energy policy? Jay Weatherill was never afraid to let everyone know the emperor wears no clothes. Renew Economy’s Giles Parkinson reports growing ranks of critics who argue that the NEG is all negative. It will do nothing to address Turnbull’s “energy trilemma” of emissions, prices, and reliability. In fact, it is more likely to make each of them worse.

It has the capacity to kill investment in storage and to leave businesses with stranded assets.

Utilities, analysts, and activists have already criticised the NEG for doing little on emissions, putting an effective freeze on renewable investment, and creating a scheme of such complexity it would likely push up prices and reinforce the power of incumbent utilities.

Jay Weatherill quickly resigns as SA Labor leader, Sunday, soon after he concedes victory to Steven Marshall, leader of a Liberal Party whose inscrutable win was founded upon an extensive redrawing of electoral boundaries which psephologist, William Bowe and other experts predicted would help its chances in four seats.

Context matters. As do key actors. The SA Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission was chaired by Supreme Court Judge Ann Vanstone, sister-in-law of former federal Liberal minister Amanda Vanstone, appointed in October 2015 under state laws requiring the chair to be the court’s most senior judge. Labor appealed against the redistribution and lost.

A unique, “electoral fairness”, a clause in SA’s constitution requires the commission to attempt to set new boundaries so that a group of candidates which receives more than 50 percent of the popular vote “will be elected in sufficient numbers to enable a government to be formed”.

On ABC Insiders, Sunday, a guest recalls an ABC 2016 report that The Liberal Party’s chances of winning the 2018 South Australian election were greatly improved by a boundary redistribution which “notionally handed the party up to four additional seats”.

398,000 voters were affected by the changes and our ABC predicted Labor would need to secure a 3.2 % swing to stay in Government at the 2018 election.

Was it time for a change? Our ABC repeats a slogan which evokes Whitlamesque reform to misreport the state’s reversion to rule by the coal and gas barons; the oligarchy of corporate captains of industry and finance which commands the ear of our federal government.

Can the barons trash our national conversation? Is our democracy in peril?  Certainly SA’s Liberals ride a wave of industry-sponsored nostalgia for the good old days of paternalistic government delivering mythic certainty for investors with lashings of energy security, all guaranteed free of sovereign risk, as SA 2.0 hops aboard the Coalition’s flight from reason.

Business and mining interests are, nevertheless delighted to see little SA come to its senses; elect a government keen to take it back into the 1950s. A roar of approbation follows from the right, boosted by what Richard Denniss warns is “econobabble bullshit”.

Not so noisy, now, however, are those at Aunty such as Leah MacLennan who, but six weeks ago predicted a premiership for Nick Xenophon and a majority for his SA Best, a party which fails to win a single seat. Was it a bold call? Or relaying a shrewd Liberal spin unit scare-tactic to panic voters into sticking with the devil they fondly imagine they know?   

Yet MacLennan is not the only pundit undone. Many a News Corp scribe confidently forecast a swing to “the minor parties” or on ABC’s The Drum beat up a bold showing for the tirelessly self-promoting, reactionary, throwback, Cory Bernardi and his atavistic Conservatives.

One social good is achieved. Hardening into orthodoxy is speculation that disaffection with the major parties’ snake oil salesmen causes voters to flock to more overt shonks; even wackier, crackpot candidates. SA’s result offers no evidence to help such theorising.

But let’s not get too warm and fuzzy about South Australia’s former government. Wind and solar aside. Labor has less of a lead on Liberals in nature conservation.  The Liberals’ ten-year moratorium on unconventional gas extraction, includes fracking, in the rich farmland of the state’s south-east while Labor supports an expanded gas industry there.

And when it comes to letting multinational corporations drill for oil in the pristine waters of the Great Australian Bight, the two parties are neck and neck in their rush to wreck the precious ecosystems of a unique environment. Liberals are gung-ho, while Labor merely insists that companies “follow regulations”, an approach which does nothing to avert an oil spill accident.

Oil spilled, experts caution could wash up on the shores of NSW. BP and Chevron may have shelved their plans but international oil giants Statoil and Murphy, still hold exploration titles. Expect a lot of propaganda about jobs but don’t expect either to pay company tax.

South Australia’s election result is the week in politics’ riddle wrapped inside a mystery inside an enigma; rivalling the inky, darkness at the heart of ASEAN, ten Southeast Asian supremos in search of a soul attending Turnbull’s monster mash in Sydney this weekend.

The result is also a black hole which sucks energy out of ALP candidate, former ACTU President, Ged Kearney’s winning 54.2% of the primary vote and a 3.2% swing to Labor in Batman, Victoria, a by-election, Labor was widely tipped to lose to The Greens’ Alex Bhathal, who receives 45.3% – with 80% of the vote counted, late Sunday afternoon.

Sabotage, fumes browned off Greens’ leader, Richard di Natale. He blames “internal sabotage”, presumably referring to the leaking of bullying complaints against Bhathal.

Less paranoid, party strategists attribute the Green’s loss to their candidate’s focus on national issues such as the proposed Adani coal mine project and refugee policy while conceding that they were up against Ged Kearney’s popularity. Nor were they helped, they mutter, by Labor’s Faustian preference deal with the Conservative candidate, Kevin Bailey.

But look over there. Shifty Bill Shorten is picking pensioners’ pockets. Rolling old grannies for their savings. Howl down, the scoundrel. Howl him down. Labor’s aim to reform dividend imputation becomes the mother of all scare campaigns.

Raving Scott Morrison is a froth of confected outrage. As always, parliament’s worst ham actor, he lampoons his own case, forfeits any credibility by over-egging his hyperbole.

“It is unfair to steal someone’s tax refund, I wouldn’t do it on your tax refund as a normal income tax payer and I’m not going to do it for pensioners and retirees who are simply making smart decisions in an environment like this where they can get a better return on buying shares,” Morrison rants, conveniently overlooking these investors don’t pay tax.

Only Morrison can turn a cash handout rort costing taxpayers $6bn into a tax return.

Not only is Labor out to sabotage SA’s power grid, then, it is intent on stealing pensioners’ nest eggs.  Reform dividend imputation? Labor is mad, bad and dangerous to know.

In fact, Labor proposes a change which the Parliamentary Budget office calculates “will have a minor impact” on 10% of our 2.5 million age pensioners who receive a part pension and only 1% of those receiving a full pension. But facts don’t matter to Morrison. Labor’s reform, something which the Liberals themselves considered in 2015 is demonised in mainstream media (MSM) as “Shorten’s cash grab”.

The servants have been nicking the silverware again; you just can’t trust Labor, is the major MSM theme. Yet Treasury estimates the average cash refund for age pensioners holding shares to be $900 a year per person. Any cash grab came in 2015 when The Greens sided with the Coalition to deprive all pensioners of up to $12,000 PA by changing the assets test.

In Tasmania, however, the prospect of a Greens alliance with even Labor is held to deter swing voters from voting Labor, explains The Guardian’s Ben Raue, arguing that Labor is destined to struggle to win elections until this dilemma is resolved. Yet for your average mug punter, in all other respects, Tassie, aka Woolworth’s Island Inc., is thriving.  

The post-Vandemonian pandemonium over Big Gambling’s buying of last week’s Tasmania’s election is quickly drowned out as souped-up chainsaws rev up to tear into Tarkine timber whilst the staccato rattle of automated fire destroys the natural tranquility as cockies, graziers and sporting shooters get bigger, quicker guns in their war on nature.  

But let’s be fair. Lethal, rapid-fire assault rifles are vital if farmers are to have a sporting chance against the lethal, feral fauna threatening their livelihood, or, if they just lust, lawfully, to enjoy the thrill of the kill, like any other normal, red-blooded, responsible sporting shooter who never had a rifle stolen. Or had to lend or even sell one or two to a mate.

Tassie’s battle with the bush and the irksome dictates of democracy are upstaged by Home Affairs Supremo, Scipio Africanus Dutton, who tears himself away from sacking former Queensland Drug Squad colleague, Roman Quaedvlieg, six months’ too late.

Roman, it seems, has been sold down the (Murray Darling) River, lock, stock, and barrel, in Turnbull’s open season on bosses who bonk. He’s dismissed over allegations he got his girlfriend a job at Sydney airport. If only he’d been more discreet; asked Matt Canavan or Damian Drum.  It is all part of an adult soap opera entitled Barnaby’s Choice.

Unlike Sophie’s Choice (1982) which stars Meryl Streep, Barnaby’s Choice involves impaling yourself on the horns of a dilemma by pretending your paramour is not your partner even if you do promote her to a series of well-paid posts in your government, said to involve teaching staff about email even though she, herself doesn’t merit an email account.

In another shotgun marriage, Peter Dutton springs a firearms advisory council proposal, a move to allow our burgeoning gun lobby to bypass tedious democratic process and buy itself “a seat at the table” of government. All’s fair in love and war. What could possibly go wrong?

A proposal to allow white South African farmers, a persecuted minority, special Visas to enter Australia? Our Home Affairs supremo jumps the shark, given the dispossession of white farmers is part of a proposed amendment, as barrister Greg Barns explains in Crikey.

Worse Dutton makes a case for preferential treatment in a statement which has clear, racist overtones. Not only does he claim the farmers share our values, he tells 2GB listeners.

“We want people who want to come here, abide by our laws, integrate into our society, work hard, not lead a life on welfare. And I think these people deserve special attention and we’re certainly applying that special attention now.”

Dutton’s misunderstood that the brutal dispossession is, in reality, a recent move by the South African Parliament to recommend an amendment to that nation’s constitution to allow for expropriation of agricultural land without compensation.

Yet, as Barns points out, had Dutton bothered with any research, the resolution provides ways around the proposed change in a law which is a long way from being enacted.

Farmers and big agribusiness stakeholders can cut a deal with the Ramaphosa administration. Dutton’s act of clemency is in effect a calculated dog-whistle to right wing racists at home. It is the Home Affairs Minister’s White Australia Policy 2.0.

Late Sunday, Julie Bishop disputes Dutton’s claim that the white farmers merit special treatment and their alleged persecution. She pretends that the Home Affairs Minister was referring to Humanitarian Visas which she says anyone can apply for at any time.

Above the chatter of the automatically weaponised, dog-whistling ruling classes, all eyes turn to Sydney by the weekend. The city of bread and circus, is abuzz with fuzz this weekend as it plays host to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, (ASEAN), another fabulous gabfest about business opportunities just waiting on our doorstep and how more state power and secrecy will keep us all safe from ISIS in a “Special ASEAN-Australia summit”, a diversionary circus called by a Coalition which, so far, can’t win a trick.

Shunting aside a hapless ABC News 24 presenter, Friday afternoon, Turnbull mugs on camera with old pal, Singapore Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong in an impromptu infomercial where our PM prompts his guest to mouth incoherent platitudes about the great regional leadership Australia is showing already. It’s an inspired vignette of The ASEAN Way.

A big-noting, do-nothing club, ASEAN is an outfit where nine out of ten members are tyrants whose mutual contempt for human rights is protected by a mind your own business pact.

Like the fabulous Kray brothers who terrorised London, ASEAN’s strong men are harsh but fair. Cambodian PM Hung Sen obligingly warns any would-be protesters that,

“If they burn my effigy … I will pursue them to their houses and beat them up”.

The ASEAN Way means members vow not to meddle in any other member’s internal affairs. These include Myanmar’s genocide, or the 12,000 plus, Human Rights Watch calculates to be the current tally of victims of Duterte’s “war on drugs”, in reality, a war on the poor.

Sadly, psychopath, Duterte is unable to be with us this weekend because he’s busy pulling The Philippines out of the International Criminal Court (ICC) by withdrawing from The Rome Statute, the treaty which established the ICC. He’s furious with ICC criticism of his ways.

It’s inspiring leadership. Our own tin-pot government, a front for big mining, banking and other multinational business interests is already well along The ASEAN Way as Julie Bishop and her funky DFAT backing group refuse to condemn Myanmar’s genocide of Rohingya or utter a peep at China’s Xi becoming President for life.

Still, it’s hard to claim the high moral ground. We have glaring human rights violations of our own, in our offshore detention regime and in our treatment of Australia’s indigenous peoples while our Coalition government increases state surveillance and secrecy.

The ASEAN club fondly imagines itself to be the hub of Asia Pacific regionalism which could  put a spoke in China’s wheel, in an airy grand design that provide a beaut opportunity for our government’s foreign policy wonks to compose carefully worded statements pious intent that lack all specificity; an archly non-committal commitment, the epitome of postmodern politics.

“Australia places high priority on our bilateral relationships in Southeast Asia and on our support for ASEAN. The Government is enhancing engagement with the region to support an increasingly prosperous, outwardly-focused, stable and resilient Southeast Asia.”  

The statement, like ASEAN itself, defies parsing. Just think of APEC without the silly shirts. But it’s a ripper of an opportunity for “Little” Malcolm Turnbull to pose as a regional statesman amongst a bunch of crony capitalists, nepotists, despots and thugs -(strong men is the favoured euphemism) -who preside over governments that deny basic liberties and fundamental freedoms to their citizens. Especially in Myanmar.

Human Rights Watch reports,

Since late August 2017, more than 688,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Burma’s Rakhine State to escape the military’s large-scale campaign of ethnic cleansing. The atrocities committed by Burmese security forces, including mass killings, sexual violence, and widespread arson, amount to crimes against humanity.

Those who expect to hear a statement from the Australian government censuring Myanmar for its policy of genocide towards The Rohingya come away from the weekend sadly disappointed.

It is left to a group of local lawyers to file a private case against Aung San Suu Kyi, state counsellor and de facto leader of the Myanmar government.  

Ron Merkel QC, a Melbourne barrister and former federal court judge, international lawyers Marion Isobel and Raelene Sharp, and Sydney human rights lawyers Alison Battisson and Daniel Taylor file the private prosecution application in the Melbourne magistrates court late on Friday reports The Guardian’s Ben Doherty

The lawyers’ application, which faces many barriers, including the approval of the attorney general, Christian Porter, accuses Aung San Suu Kyi of crimes against humanity for the deportation or forcible transfer of a population in relation to widespread and ongoing human rights abuses inside Myanmar.

May the applicants be blessed with miraculous success. Their action is inspiring as much as it shows up the Turnbull government’s reluctance to assert any real leadership at all.

The last word for the week could be a motto for the ASEAN Way and our own ruling elite’s self-interested, cynical – often amoral but high-handed behaviour. It comes from Trump’s new economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, who takes the spirit of neoliberalism to a whole new level:

The wealthy, he claims, “have no need to steal or engage in corruption” because “they know how to achieve goals and convince skeptics that good deals can be made to the benefit of both sides.”

Our nation abounds this week, with examples of great deals made by those whose wealth has made them virtuous or whose virtue has made them wealthy.


“Despite the light at the end of the tunnel, the journey ahead will not be smooth.”

“Despite the light at the end of the tunnel, the journey ahead will not be smooth.” Wang-Yi, Chinese Foreign Minister.

China’s philosophical Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, dips into the fortune cookie jar, this week, for a homespun mixed metaphor to sound a diplomatic note of caution, when, in an extraordinary turn of events, North Korea agrees to meet South at the negotiating table.

Wang’s multi-layered killer riff also wraps politics at home from Barnaby Joyce’s “grey area” paternity, to the fracas in Tasmania as “slick” Willy Hodgman’s Liberals sensibly announce their policies after winning the election, thus sparing Apple Isle voters the Sisyphean agony of choosing between parties according to policy manifesto; promises made to be broken.

Shoot first. Ask questions afterwards. Even Tasmanian nasty party veteran, Eric Abetz must be shocked by the state Liberals’ Willy-nilly approach to democracy. Returned Premier Hodgman openly admits that 200 of its 300 policies were released after election day. Yet he’s claiming an electoral mandate even for policies which were hidden from voter scrutiny.

Fast-talking Michael Ferguson, Tassie Liberal campaign manager and master of spin, claims his party simply had too many good ideas. Of course. The “sheer volume of policies released during an election campaign makes it impractical to widely promote all of them during the campaign period”. Or explain them. Or get them to Treasury on time. Or cost them.

Treasury documents, released Wednesday, reveal that Hodgman has opted to follow Barnaby Joyce’s example of improving a party’s electoral appeal by not costing new policies. Tassie Liberals win a Barnaby award for most un-costed election commitments.

Showing contempt for evidence is one way the National Party’s former leader once rallied his party. As shadow water minister, in 2010, he said he’d use for toilet paper, the Productivity Commission Report on water recovery for the Murray Darling Basin.

Insufficient time or information leaves Tasmania’s Department of Finance unable to assess 161 Liberal pledges. Joyce, readers will recall, billed the taxpayer $40 million to move an entire government department, appropriately a regulatory authority which deals with pests, without even what is fondly called “modelling” and despite the wishes of the staff.

This week, the wonderfully named David Littleproud, Minister for Agriculture confirms the move will continue, despite the discovery that the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority will spend nearly $1 million on leasing and fitting out its temporary digs in Armidale for more staff, as it prepares to move into its permanent new home by mid-2019.

ACT MP Gai Brodtmann warns that the move “has cost the Australian taxpayer $26 million already and is likely to cost the Australian taxpayer $60 million”.

A mere 42 staff, including nine scientists have left the APVMA since Barnaby’s brainwave and Dr Parker, New CEO of the regulatory authority claims most have been unable or unwilling to travel north from Canberra, the original location of their workplace. Nothing to see here.

Less is heard this week from  industry groups who have complained that the authority is unable to cope with its workload, but Ms Brodtmann reports that the move is opposed by industry groups and peak associations, including CropLife Australia, Animal Medicines Australia and the National Farmers Federation.

The vibe was right; the pork barrelling perfect. Bugger the key stakeholders. Too much consultation simply spoils the populism. So, too does the over-sharing of personal details, as Joyce discovers to his cost.

Barnaby’s intimate affairs may be the new wet patch of national politics. Monday, Joyce calls yet another public, press conference to keep his life private. The paternity of his partner Vikki Campion’s child, he says, is a grey area. Joyce is a dead, buried and cremated man walking.

How quickly, the gold rolls off the “rolled gold promise” he would survive as Nationals’ leader.

Already regretting her rolled-gold pledge is Nats’ Deputy, Bridget McKenzie, whom a well-oiled Joyce (“I wasn’t drunk”) once publicly admired in a late night senate session,

“Madam acting deputy president McKenzie, you are looking wonderful tonight,” Joyce said at 9:00 pm July 2012. “You are a flash bit of kit in this chamber; there is no doubt about you.”

 In the spirit of International Women’s Day, last Thursday, it must be remembered that Barnaby rounded off his compliment by asking McKenzie to “roll with me on that one”.

Impotent, “inept”, but as yet unrolled, Liberal leader, Turnbull, meanwhile, wears his PM’s hollow crown uneasily. Eagerly awaiting Newspoll number 30, Abbott reminds him he will need to show due cause why he should remain Prime Minister, next month – if not sooner.

Michaelia Cash, darling of Western Australia’s hard right, continues to cause grief with her “brain-snap”, or attempt at debate by personal innuendo and slander but Turnbull cannot afford to lose her support. His contortions to keep her onside, on board, or behind a white-board have been pure high farce and highly damaging. If only he could white-board Abbott.

The white-board parodies a government which boasts it is open and transparent. Damaging also is Turnbull’s brain-snap defence of Cash. Betraying his need to support her at any cost, he absurdly accuses Doug Cameron of bullying. At least the dud GDP figures can be hushed up.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), reveal real GDP grew by 0.4% in the December quarter of last year. Even the best spin can’t disguise a drop over the year to 2.4%, below what the government claims is the economy’s potential trend growth rate or around 2.75%.
Malcolm chokes on the sulphurous stench of his 28th consecutive bad Newspoll, a modern medieval Hell’s mouth, which, this week, even devours his precious but irrelevant preferred PM lead. He drops eight points. Now he’s statistically equal to Bill Shorten.

Since 2016 the government has lagged behind the opposition by 6.6 per cent on average. The Turnbull experiment is a failure.

Even Turnbull must concede that a thirtieth dud poll is inevitable, next month. “Senior Labor figures” are said to be calculating on facing another Liberal leader, next election. Nothing for it but once last fling at being Super-Mal. Mal gets his office to call Greg Norman to be Robin.

As he dons his tarnishing Super Mal outfit; the showman in Turnbull senses a last chance to pose as a super statesman by wringing exemptions from the president’s dumb 25% tariff on steel 10% tariff on aluminium – that is if no-one at home notices that US tariffs won’t make much difference to our industries. We don’t export much of either metal.

What we do export, moreover, is covered by the Australia United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSTFA) our much-vaunted dud Trade Agreement with the United Sates.

Dynamic Dan Tehan rushes to air Friday informing ABC RN listeners of his mission to save Alcoa’s Portland aluminium smelter, which is in his electorate. He neglects to say that the business is a basket case, propped up only because the state and federal government use $250 million of tax-payer money to pay the smelter’s electricity bill.

Of course, there’s more. Now concessions have been granted –or appear to have been granted, Trump expects Australia to “join the US in sending a signal to China about the South China Sea”, or play chicken with the Chinese Navy, an option favoured by new US ambassador to Australia, Pacific commander Harry Harris formerly of Guantanamo Bay.

It’s a high price to pay for concessions which appear to have been unnecessary and which, in any case, won’t protect us from the effects of a trade war between China, USA and the EU. Turnbull’s stunt may prove a pyrrhic victory; another example of his poor judgement.

Another fan of poor judgement, Trade Minister, Steve Ciobo, pops up on Sunday’s ABC Insiders to spruik US lickspittle, John Howard’s, dud trade agreement with the US as the best thing since smashed avocado. Yet three years ago, ANU research confirms that the Australian Free Trade Agreement, (AUSTFA) is a lemon. But how would Steve know?

Everyone on Insiders is too polite to ask the Neoliberal blowhard what’s happened to the wondrous free trade deal with Indonesia he promised a year ago. Ciobo’s work on our Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA), which began in 2016, is a game well into extra time, as negotiators add an 11th round in December, its seventh extension after negotiations in November failed to finalise any deal whatsoever.

Ciobo’s lies about the benefit of AUSTFA are unchallenged. Ciobo even drops the name of the Liberal party’s patron saint, Neoliberal Saint John of the double-cross of Tampa, the un-Fair Work Commission, cheer-leader of the illegal invasion of Iraq Howard, Amen, as geriatric living proof that AUSTFA is a good thing. It has, in fact, cost us billions.

Shiro Armstrong Co-Director of the Australia-Japan Research Centre at the Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU notes the agreement diverted Australia’s trade away from the lowest-cost sources. Australia and the US reduced their trade with the rest of the world by US$53 billion and are worse off than they would have been without the agreement.

Imports to Australia and the US from the rest of the world fell by $37.5 billion and exports to the rest of the world from the two countries fell by $15.6 billion over eight years to 2012.

Praise for AUSTFA is “complete and utter nonsense on stilts” to purloin Nick Clegg’s recent dismissal of Julie Bishop’s proposal of a UK-Australia free trade (FTA) which would be “value-added” by creating a bridge whereby the Old Dart could become eligible to belong to another impending disaster, the TPP.

The TPP will enable companies to exploit “temporary workers” brought from overseas, says the Australian Council of Trade Unions, which slammed the deal on February 21. It also warns that the agreement also allows foreign companies to sue Australian governments for making decisions, such as the plain packaging laws on cigarettes.

Never to be outbid, our Prime Minister, Malcolm Bligh Turnbull echoes Wang’s cryptic warning. “There have been many false dawns”, Turnbull responds. He should know. His epigram avoids trains, tunnels and journeys but unwittingly voices his own political epitaph.

Turnbull doesn’t mention false claims. The week witnesses a bizarre tussle as three nations compete for kudos in wrangling “rogue state” North Korea to its senses. Things turn ugly.

In a shocking three-way heist, China, snatches credit from the US which snatches credit from South Korea, which cops a lot of stick, for painstakingly setting up its first talks since 1953 with North Korea’s Fatboy-Kim III, as Kim Jung-un is known, in Chinese cyberspace.

The breakthrough results from South Korea’s hard yards. Despite US opposition, President, Moon Jae-in has laboured long over his courageous personal diplomacy in search of peace.

Moon’s initiatives include high-risk ventures: he hosted Kim’s sister and a chorus of cheerleaders for the Winter Olympics. He defied US opposition to his mission. And a senior delegation sent to Pyongyang, gets a terrific surprise to find their dinner host is Kim.

Moon will meet Kim next month on the south of the demilitarised zone, a brutal reminder of when the US divided North and South Korea after dropping half a million tonnes of bombs on the north. Chemical weapons and Napalm were included in a “long, leisurely and merciless” bombing campaign killing three million people, about half of whom, were civilians.

Koreans remember “the forgotten war”, a war the US lost against largely peasant armies, “forgotten” by the US and Australia only because it went unreported at home. One post-war detail, at least, helps contextualise the view of those who charge Kim with nuclear blackmail.

Nuclear blackmail? From 1958 to 1990, the US stationed hundreds of nukes in South Korea with standard plans to use them in the early stages of a North Korean invasion.

Moon pressures the US to relax its demands for talks with North Korea. He sends his emissary to Trump, Thursday, relaying “an undisclosed personal message” from Kim. It is this initiative which results in The Donald trumping his efforts and claiming all the credit.

Yet Wily Wang Yi is uncannily prophetic. Before week’s end, two desperate imposters, the hopeless, hapless, narcissist Trump and his embarrassingly eager “inept” fan-boy, Turnbull, big-note themselves abroad in desperate attempts to divert impending domestic disaster.

Trump jumps the shark. As his staffers spin the old, tired myth of The Donald’s deal-making mastery, he gazumps the South Korean engineered offer to talk with “little rocket man”, his pet pejorative term for Kim Jong-un, and pretends to propose a pow-wow in May, provided, of course, Kim completely disarms and crippling sanctions stay in place.

Deal-making? It’s just a stunt. Yochi Dreazen sets the record straight in Vox.

It’s not just that Trump hasn’t been able to nail down deals on domestic issues like health care, trade issues like NAFTA, or foreign policy issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It’s that he hasn’t really even tried, avoiding direct talks with political rivals or foreign leaders and instead preferring to simply sit on the sidelines and see what his aides could come up with.

 Sit on the sidelines? Trump slaves night and day over his signature phrases “We’ll see what happens … we’ll see how it all comes about”. Flattery helps. “Uncle Trump” or “Donald the Strong” or “The Commander” his Beijing fans call him. They follow state media in paying tribute to his “decisiveness; his fearless risk-taking”. China has got Trump’s number.

The Chinese play Trump at his own game. The self-proclaimed master deal-maker would rather have a bad deal than no deal at all. Even a compromise allows him to declare a “win.”

“Tell him yes”, “I’ll do it,” The Donald rudely interrupts a trio of South Korean officials, visiting The Oval Office to weigh the diplomatic options of Kim’s offer to talk. Trump has no inkling of what he’s up for. No-one could remotely prepare him for such an encounter by May. But his instinct prompts him to snatch kudos for himself, regardless of protocol. His racism helps, too. Instantly, he usurps Moon’s role; brazenly claiming his diplomacy as his own.

Light at the end of the tunnel may, of course, be an oncoming dragon. Or the devil’s venom, the dangerously volatile rocket fuel, unsymmetrical dimethyl hydrazine (UDMH), which China and Russia have obligingly supplied Kim since George W Bush restored trade tariffs to protect the US steel industry in 2002, a calamitous failure, abandoned a year later.

With no dragon’s venom, Kim’s missiles could not fly but that’s not in either Russia or China’s strategic interests. Our US vassal nation rejoices to learn that China has sorted North Korea, even if, as Wang Yi suggests, we may all be in for a rough trot.

Amazingly, the Pussy-Grabber in Chief is able to extricate himself from his duties; tear himself away from getting lawyer, Michael Cohen to put a restraining order on adult film actor, Stormy Daniels, (Stephanie Clifford), who wants to reveal details of her alleged affair with Trump, a fabulous audio-visual performance piece, which may include images and texts.

Juggling the rigours of golf, firing more staff and the other pressing needs of a B-Grade reality TV presidency, including waging a world trade war, simply because, he mistakenly believes it will win him Pittsburgh, Trump stops the show by announcing he will meet Kim.

It’s huge. The Donald’s talk of talks with Kim, “in May, sometime” on a set yet to be chosen is given a standing ovation by local media happy to pretend a meaningless stunt is, in fact, an amazing breakthrough – before any meeting has even taken place.

The Donald is hailed locally as “The first serving president to meet a North Korean leader”.  Some of our local politicians from Tamworth to Tasmania will be delighted to see Trump get the accolade before he’s even met Kim Jong-un or without a scrap of evidence to suggest the US President is capable of any intelligent, informed, strategic dialogue.

What do facts matter in a post-truth world? Or a world in which lies are merely alternative facts? Or a world where real statecraft takes a back seat to parochial politics; how it looks at home for Wang, Turnbull and the photo-opportunity, reality TV president Trump?

No-one expects Kim to give up his nuclear weapons, his nation’s life insurance policy. Nor does China want a weakend North Korea on its border.

It’s clear, above all, from Wang-Yi’s cryptic fortune cookie comment that it’s not the light at the end of the tunnel but the long rough journey ahead – the drawn-out, time consuming, endlessly protracted time wasting process of talks that’s China’s real objective.

Upsetting the bad-apple cart, is South Korean President, former student activist and human rights lawyer, Moon Jae-in’s inspiring personal quest for peace and justice against the odds; a rare quest fuelled by principle and ideal in a world where cynical pragmatists abound.

The cheerleaders, whom Moon kindly billeted, over a Winter Olympics, will have long left to go back to their homes in the North, but he could certainly do with some cheering on.



One Armed Bandits steal Tassie election; Cash loses plot and Joyce finds paternity a grey area.

And it is money that has come out of the pockets of some of the poorest people. It is money that comes from human hardship. These machines are located in pubs and clubs in areas of economic disadvantage deliberately. And that is why we have fought so hard, so hard, to get poker machines out of pubs and clubs in Tasmania. We know they are lethal and toxic machines. Rebecca White Tasmanian Labor leader

Like rabbits caught in the headlights of a juggernaut of pro-pokie Liberal Mad-men, Tasmanians vote, Saturday, mostly to do as they are told. It’s a win for pokies’ owners by pokies’ owners. Bugger the people. Yet it’s not the crushing victory being sold on mainstream media. What is clear by Sunday is the Liberals will stay in power.

Premier Will Hodgman’s government wins 13 of the 25 state lower house seats on Saturday, a loss of two, or down 0.8 %, but still enough for his Liberal Party to govern in its own right in a large late surge over the last month.

Labor’s vote is up 5.4% with 84% of the vote counted Sunday. The Hare-Clark, Robson system means that several seats remain in doubt in contests between candidates from the same party. What is not in doubt is the size of the Liberal war chest which some say is ten times Labor’s. Did wealthy Liberals donors help the party buy its victory?

Bedazzled by bill-boards, newspapers and TV screens, in a saturation ad blitzkrieg, voters succumb to sentimental slogans such as “love your local” and fear of paternalism, the dreaded spectre of Labor-Green despotism.

And the jobs’ lies. “I’ll have to go to the mainland for a hospitality career if Labor gets in,” whinges a teenager on the radio, a model of self-pitying misery and entitlement, already a perfect fit for any career in customer service.

Bad news, kid, the “hospitality industry” is rife with wage theft and exploitation. Better you should stay at school.

“Whether it’s a big, small or medium business, the most common worker is young, unskilled or a migrant so really it’s a hotpot for exploitation. When you put all these things in the mix, people aren’t aware of their rights — people are desperate to work, and it’s a recipe for exploitation,” says Shine Lawyers employment law expert, Will Barsby.

When it comes to wages, Tasmanian workers share the predicament of all Australia’s workers. Wage earners’ share of the national pie has shrunk dramatically to the lowest point since the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) began recording this data in 1959.

Roy Morgan reports that our workforce is 13,410,000 comprised of employed and unemployed, up a whopping 518,000 on a year ago, a context omitted in Scott Morrison’s misleading claim that “2017 was a year of extraordinary jobs growth in Australia, over 400,000 jobs created in the year”.

1.312 million Australians were unemployed (9.8% of the workforce); an increase of 126,000 (up 0.6%) on a year ago, but Morrison chooses to hide this from us in the hope we are all mugs. ScoMo or Michaelia Cash never talk about numbers of unemployed.

Furthermore, despite Liberal shills on ABC and mainstream media who pretend there is some miraculous recovery happening ,Tasmanians are in fact more likely to be out of work or underemployed than workers in any other state.

Tasmania’s unemployment rate is 10.7% while 11.5% of the workforce is under-employment 11.5%. 22.2%, or one in five, Tassie workers have either no work or not enough. Abolishing pokies is not going to cost 5000 jobs – as claimed by Hodgman’s Liberals – when there are only 370 workers in the industry – or about 1000 in gambling overall. And other jobs are likely to be created as a result of money not spent gambling.

The new gaming laws will bring a windfall for casinos reports The Australia Institute, cutting their taxes in half if they are put on the Federal group rate. Taxes for pubs and clubs, on the other hand, will rise by $10 million. Yet, in a typically caring, sharing, token concession to pokies’ toxicity, taxpayers will contribute an extra $1.7 million to the Community Support Levy to counter the costs of problem gambling. The casinos are the big winners while the punter loses out yet again.

The Liberals’ big Tasmania vision is not solution, either, for unlucky punters. Population growth is at its highest rate since the GFC, but that doesn’t “grow” jobs. Nor is it a state economic windfall. It’s the structure of the population that counts. Each year Tasmania has fewer young and more older people compared to the rest of Australia, even when population “booms”.

Will Hodgman has had a population push since 2014. Yet Tasmania has always gained more people over 45 and lost more younger, working, fertile, 19-39 year olds due, mainly, to the state’s lack of employment opportunities.

Older folk create jobs and actively contribute to society and economy, but they also will create increasing demand for government services, such as pensions and healthcare, areas in which Liberals have a poor track record.

The Government has made sweeping job cuts in health, reports ABC Fact check with the Treasurer stating publicly that while the Tasmanian Health Organisations gained 80 full-time equivalent staff, the Health Department shed 200 positions between June 2014 and March 2016.

But bosses and government never gull young people, it’s always unions and greenies who are out to con you.

“Labor and the Greens think you’re stupid. What’s next? Don’t let them tell you what to do”.

This richly allusive Liberal rhetorical campaign gem shrewdly taps Tasmanians’ memory of the unpopularity of its last Labor-Greens coalition cabinet of 2010, a coalition which psephologist, William Bowe, dubs an electoral disaster.

Be it inertia, bewilderment, blind panic, cynical manipulation, disinformation or a toxic cocktail of the lot, in the end, voters elect Will Hodgman’s Libs, a shady cabal of big business, big gambling and Big W, in a result which will further erode Tasmanians’ control of their own lives, expand state power, boost  gun-power and feed the canker of poker machine blight, introduced to the Apple Isle by Ray Groom’s, 1993 Liberal government.

Can Tasmania, our most beautiful, most wondrous state, Australia’s own Serendip, now be rotten at the core?

Ministry of Truth, our ABC in its Insiders cosy Sunday hack-chat-show, a forum which artfully evades the real issues, or real depth, says the Liberals win as Tasmanians flock to sunny uplands of neoliberal prosperity. Hodgman’s Liberals, they say, deliver an “economic upturn” a myth based on the island state’s property boom, or bubble.

It’s a tall story which can only grow taller, as the federal Liberals’ spin doctor army toils to turn the result into a vindication of the Turnbull government’s futile attempts to revive neoliberalism’s corpse; its corporate tax cut payola to its donors, and austerity budgeting, a campaign of calculated impoverishment of innocent and vulnerable victims of its policies, which daily widens the gulf of economic inequality, in its war on the poor and elderly.

By Monday, Tassie’s results will become a sign of upturn number 365 in the Turnbull government’s popularity. There is always a reboot, a recovery around every corner.

Yet, apart from real estate sales, any other economic upturn is hard to find. So why the sudden turnaround? A month ago, polls had the two parties neck and neck, on 34% of the vote, but in more recent polls Liberals soar an alarming 12 %.  in a shocking corruption of the popular will, which, William Bowe, worries, means,

The election could join federal Labor’s mining tax debacle in 2010 as a cautionary tale about the dangers of taking on deep-pocketed interests in an election campaign.

A key issue at stake is many Tasmanians’ opposition to Federal Hotels’ pokies monopoly. Federal owns all 3500 machines (plus Wrest Point Casino, some luxury wilderness accommodation and the Henry James Hotel). Labor and The Greens’ want to remove pokies from all pubs and clubs by 2023. But end the firm’s half-billion dollar revenue stream?

Also not sitting well with voters is Federal’s breath-taking, back-flipping duplicity. Anti-pokers veteran, Pat Caplice sums up Federal’s hypocrisy.

 “The clubs and hotels pushed for pokies back in the ’80s. Federal opposed it totally, used all the arguments about dependency they now deny. Then, when it was being debated in 1993, there was a huge backflip, within days, and Federal itself was gifted a monopoly licence.”

Saturday’s election result ushers in a new “gaming” agreement, an industry euphemism for ripping off unwary, vulnerable, punters. The state will revoke Federal Hotels’ monopoly and gift licences to pokies pubs, in a move which will result in cashed-up Federal and Woolworths buying up dozens of pubs, allowing Woolworths a 30-40% stake in gambling in the state. The result is guaranteed to increase personal misery and social breakdown.

Meanwhile, the pro-pokie promotion create a ruckus that sucks the oxygen out of many other areas of debate.

Protecting what remains of The Tarkine is a huge political issue. Speciality timber logging permits granted in 2014 by Hodgman’s government reduce the area’s reserve to five per cent of its former area. Liberal candidate for Braddon, Adam Brooks’, media release reads “Only the Liberals would stop a Tarkine National Park”.

The Liberal election pledge is an indictment of the party’s senseless environmental vandalism; its contempt for Aboriginal cultural heritage, history and the legacy of shell middens, stone quarries, hut depressions, seal hides and rock carvings that remain and its failure to consult with local Aboriginal people.

17 coupes are still being logged while the 4WD fraternity, bush-bash on expensive temporary road mats. In Hobart, around two thousand people protest the abuse of the unique wilderness, in a gathering led by the Bob Brown Foundation. The group calls for permanent protection for the 447,000 hectares of the Tarkine.

One-armed bandits backers make such a racket they drown out late news that the 45th Tasmanian premier, William Edward Felix Hodgman, promises the quaintly termed sporting shooters and farmers, a hard-nosed gun lobby, an easing of gun control laws, extending licences from five to ten years and permitting automatic weapons.

But if it’s a victory for guns and money, it’s also another stage in the ascent of the corporate oligarchy Woolworths, which, Guy Rundle writes, will wield power over Tasmanians “from controlling prices to suppliers, to selling them their food back as consumers, and taking the cash of people who never quite make it to the shops.”

At the same time, Tasmanians surrender their own say in their own affairs, as Hodgman’s big government proposes major projects legislation and a state-wide planning scheme which shuts out community input.

Tasmania, fruit of the fruit machine, rolls with the dice, as the state’s obscenely powerful gambling lobby pours millions of dollars into Liberal party campaign coffers, vastly outspending the Labor Party. Some estimate a Liberal war chest up to ten times larger. We may never know. The state has the nation’s slackest campaign donation disclosure rules.

What is unique – and refreshing about the Tassie election campaign is the respect between the Liberal and Labor leaders, a tradition that is dead, buried and cremated in federal politics this week when Michaelia Cash suddenly threatens to name young women in Bill Shorten’s office – about whom there have been rumours “for many, many years.” The idea that she should “slut-shame” nineteen women working in Shorten’s office is bizarre, wrong and a sign of an ugly decline in federal politics.

Worse, Cash makes it clear that she proposes to name names and then Shorten will have to prove his innocence. It’s a perversion of legal process and a cheap, demeaning stunt. Worse, it plumbs new depths in character assassination as political strategy.

And it’s part of Liberal team plan: Peter Dutton is soon off the leash on 2GB attacking loose, louche, philandering Bill and two-timing Tony Burke.

“I think we’ve sat here taking a morals lecture from Bill Shorten in relation to Barnaby Joyce over the last few weeks and people know that there’s a history of problems in Bill Shorten’s personal life, Tony Burke’s personal life. And to be lectured by the Labor Party really sticks in the craw.”

As is Dutton’s wont, he is undeterred by being factually incorrect and totally out of order. Labor scrupulously abstained from criticising Barnaby Joyce’s affair with his staffer Vicki Campion.

It was, in fact, Malcolm Turnbull who took it upon himself to deliver a finger-wagging moralising, which was backed up with what can only have been a National to Liberal Party hand-ball leaking of the name of a woman who is bringing case of sexual harassment or serious misconduct against Joyce to the National Party – from whom we have heard nothing further.

Above all it’s not Joyce’s dangerous liaisons that are the critical issue – not his fidelity or his personal morality but how he could create or cause to be created not one but three jobs for his (non-partner) paramour Vicki Campion. And his boondoggle inland rail. Plus his Murray Darling basin water for rich cotton irrigator National party mates scandal.

As the week closes, it is clear that the Coalition’s mud-slinging will continue as part of the Kill Bill strategy – but also as a splendid diversion from any alleged peculation, nepotism or misuse of public funds including travel allowances, a net which seems to be closing rapidly on Julie Bishop, whose non-partner, David Panton, is somehow able to travel at taxpayers’ expense.

The situation is clarified late in the week when Bishop changes her mind; agrees the two have been partners for six months. At least that’s cleared that up. Will Panton now repay his trip to the UN or any other trips he took with her prior to that period? At least it’s not “a grey area” as Barnaby Joyce calls his paternity.

A new tune to add to his brilliant riffs on playing the innocent victim, Joyce tells media that everyone assumed he was the father of Vikki Campion’s child. He may not be. The Daily Tele never asked, despite there being an email from the paper to Joyce asking that very question according to Fairfax.

Now it seems Barnaby and non-partner Vikki were mostly geographically apart with some togetherness during the putative conception date of the unborn child, whom Barnaby, nobly, says he will love anyway. And no. He has no intention of taking any paternity test. Perhaps it may turn out to be an immaculate conception.

In Tassie this week, the Liberals win by throwing buckets of their sponsors, the gambling mob’s – (wrongly dignified as an industry)-  money at advertising promoting fear and loathing of Labor, while, in the senate, Michaelia Cash dishes the dirt as a diversion from her own alleged collusion with the AFP to contact media to help her conduct a witch hunt in an illegal raid on the Melbourne office of the AWU, a union Michael Keenan says gave a donation to Bill Shorten’s campaign – as it is perfectly entitled to do.

The AWU has not yet been charged with a single criminal offence. Probably because none has been committed. In the meantime, politicians from Tasmanian to the nation’s capital compete this week, as Hamlet almost says, stewing in corruption, honeying and making love – while tipping buckets of excrement over their opponents in a debauched, degenerate, parody of a competitive party political system which was once based however loosely around policies and reasoned argument and rational rebuttal.

The nation moves beyond policy, principle or even the fan-club of identity politics to savage character assassination, innuendo and vituperative personal attack. Each day we draw closer to the politics of Trump’s USA, the nation our PM wishes to sedulously ape and not only in tax cuts for corporations but in health and welfare, too.

100 Years of mateship? A week of desperate, empty, posturing from a government in crisis.

“It’s not about me. It’s about the Weatherboard Nine”, Barnaby riffs. He’s working up to standing down. It’s the best thing he’s done in politics but it’s not done well. Not about me…invokes the little people in whose name monstrosities are committed in populist identity politics. It’s a suitably tacky grand finale to Barnaby-Dada!, our current Canberra soap opera, whose title nods to surrealism while paying tribute to the blessed gift of paternity.

Some say Barnaby-Dada! sucks all oxygen out of our national conversation but it’s a rewarding show. We are miraculously distracted from the national agenda of how best to give the Coalition’s rich pals tax cuts at our expense, or how incredibly well-protected we are from ISIS Jihadists, who almost blew an Etihad jumbo right out of the sky but for our fabulous mincer bomb Mossad intelligence. And Dutto’s jihad on Melbourne’s African gangs.

Yet Barnaby-Dada! and its side-splitting sequel Mal bans bonking the boss offers more than entertaining diversion; a wretched Turnbull government, for example, may be put out of its misery by Barnaby’s big dummy-spit Friday.

It may be just the end of the beginning of Barnaby Busted our next enthralling episode featuring Barnaby in his role as The Red Octopus, as women call the man with the roving hands but the beginning of the end for Turnbull.

There’s a lot to be learned, for starters, about the man, his mob and our politics from the manner of his going.

Flash as a rat with a gold tooth, all togged up in a shiny new navy suit; trouser legs ruched up untidily over stockman’s boot-tops and a cattleman’s hat, always a size too big, Nationals’ love-rat, Barnaby, Thomas, Gerald Joyce, calls a 2:00 PM – put the trash out- presser. He’s stepping down as deputy and party leader.

But only to protect others. Barnaby has done nothing wrong: “Over the last half a month, there has been a litany, litany of allegations. I don’t believe any of them have been sustained. A litany of allegations,” he repeats in a mea non culpa rib-tickler that follows his earlier number I did not partner that woman ( it’s a bad joke, Joyce).

The latest allegation, is, in fact, a formal complaint of sexual harassment. Catherine Marriott whom The Australian describes as a ­respected leader in the agricultural sector and a former West Australian Rural Woman of the Year, says she wants Joyce held to account.  So she tells his party’s federal executive. Joyce wants to call in the police.

“I requested that a formal and confidential investigation into this incident be undertaken by the National party to ensure there is accountability in relation to the incident I raise, and to prevent this type of inappropriate behaviour towards women in the future,” Marriott tells The Oz which reveals her identity, against her wishes, Saturday.

Marriott is determined that the Nationals follow her complaint through to its conclusion, her lawyer, Emma Sal­erno, says yesterday. Joyce, who insists he’s the victim in this whole marriage breakdown thing, asks his party

“… for the right of that person who’s made the allegation, and I’ve asked for my right to defence, that that be referred to police.” In the meantime he’s publicly called the allegations, “spurious and defamatory”, just in case his party or any other authority need a little gratuitous bush-lawyer advice to guide their independent adjudication.

ABC Insiders scribes nod wisely, Sunday. “She tried to do it the right way,” they agree. In 2018, the woman should not go to the police but keep her serious allegation of sexual harassment quiet; tip-toe to the offender’s party boss? What have we come to? Bridget McKenzie denies that the Nationals leaker Marriott’s name to The Australian. “Who else would have done it?”, panel members ask. They get that bit right. Barnaby plays victim.

It’s all a witch-hunt but he cannot stand by and let the innocent suffer. Sadly his PM cannot be present, either.

Safely in an open-for-business Washington, protected by a posse of fellow biz-millionaires whom he co-opts to hail Trump’s fake economic miracle. (It’s part of his wheeze to push his own plans to put $65 billion in their pockets on return), our Prime Minister of cunning stunts, looks on, from afar, as Barnaby falls like Brueghel’s Icarus.

A poker-faced PM imagines his deputy drowning; a red stain spreading in the lower right of the national canvas as he bides his time waiting for Trump’s nanosecond attention-span to register his unctuous fawning. Coalition policy is to normalise Trump while playing up our dangerous, grovelling, dependency on the US as 100 years of mateship.

“The economic stimulus that your reforms have delivered here in the United States is one of the most powerful arguments that we are deploying to persuade our legislature to support reducing business tax,” our PM tells Trump. “Because, as you are demonstrating and as we all know, when you cut company tax, most of the benefit goes to workers. It produces more investment. And, when you get more investment, you get more jobs.”

Turnbull tells an outright lie. There is no evidence of economic stimulus. Nor is it reasonable to expect any, experts reckon, until at least a year has passed. And not even then. Most of the benefit goes to shareholders who see the value of their shares increase as the extra cash is spent on more stock buybacks or dividends.

US companies have not only overwhelmingly used the tax cut to buy back shares, wage increases turn out to be mainly one-off bonuses rather than an actual pay rise. $5.6bn has gone towards employee bonuses awarded on the basis of years served with the company while $171bn has gone into share buybacks.

Turnbull, nevertheless, persists with the palpable lie that trickle down does not in fact trickle up. And stay there.  A few embedded journalists who travel with Turnbull repeat his fiction so that by Sunday’s ABC Insiders, the lie that 70% of US corporate tax cuts go to workers is reified, and will go on to become a canon of mainstream media (MSM) belief as our media sets the “national conversation” about tax. It’s wilful, fraudulent, disinformation.

Trickle-down is a joke. Comedian Will Rogers, poked fun at President Herbert Hoover’s Depression-era recovery efforts, with the line that “money was all appropriated for the top in the hopes it would trickle down to the needy.”

It’s still a joke today. In 2015, the IMF published a scathing indictment of the ways trickle-down theory has been used to justify growing income inequality over the past several decades. As for growth, the authors of the report write, “Income distribution matters for growth. Specifically, if the income share of the top 20 percent increases, then GDP growth actually declined over the medium term, suggesting that the benefits do not trickle down.”

Trump looks at Turnbull. He’s demolished the triple cheeseburger. Our PM cutely seizes his moment.

“We have been inspired, I have to say, by your success in securing the passage of the tax reforms through the Congress,” Turnbull flushes and gushes over Trump’s A$1.9 trillion tax cut for corporations and the wealthy.

Never mind that Treasury is reserved while the Reserve Bank thinks the “reforms” stink and economics boffins worry about where the money’s not coming from; how tax cuts funded entirely by debt may be a recipe for financial instability both in the US and at home. Trump just wants to hear praise for his guns in schools idea.

Fixing his trademark shit-eating grin in that awkward side-on-body-head-turned-to-the-camera handshake pose, a figure in an Egyptian frieze, Trumble offers best buddy Trump fearless advice on his latest show of stable genius: how to end school gun violence by arming teachers.  Or does he? He could follow Sarah Chadwick’s example.

Sixteen year old Sarah, a survivor of the February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, tweets to the Tweeter in Chief in language he understands , reports Richard Ackland

“I don’t want your condolences you fucking piece of shit, my friends and teachers were shot. Multiple of my fellow classmates are dead. Do something instead of sending prayers. Prayers won’t fix this. But gun control will prevent it from happening again.”

So what is, ” I am a strong leader”, Malcolm Turnbull’s fearless advice to our great and powerful friend?

“We certainly don’t presume to provide policy or political advice on that matter here,” he says bravely.

Keen to win back The Donald’s goldfish attention-span and knowing how the odd trillion helps buy the right type of friendship, Turnbull flashes some cash to revive the President’s flagging concentration.  Some of Australia’s $2.53 trillion superannuation pool, he says, could “help unlock funding” for Trump’s infrastructure thought bubble.

Money can’t buy me love? OK, Trump may be fiscally illiterate. Senile. But what could possibly go wrong? In an a meaningless gesture costing nothing, the US will jinx its latest warship by naming it Canberra, the snafu capital of Australia, a city which is, moreover, synonymous with all manner of ruinously expensive combat and overkill.

Back in New England, Joyce is not feeling the love from all of his party. Mallee MP, narrow Andrew Broad who nearly resigned on account of the notion of granting gay people their right to marry and Andrew Gee, MP for Calare NSW, another MP stuck in the 1950s, join WA Nats leader, Mia Davies in telling Joyce publicly to resign.

Seasoned thespian, Barnstorming Barnaby Joyce, The Nationals’ chief bull-moose lunatic, dons his fustian and heroically soldiers on, as he struts and frets his last half-hour as leader; upon an outdoor stage. It’s a hill somewhere, there are no programme notes, a Tamworth Mount of Olives perhaps. Great setting, Barney.

Of all roles, he chooses an old standard, St Barnaby of the double cross to embrace his own, noble martyrdom.

A martyr to the rural poor, St Barnaby’s “Weatherboard Nine” is his Ocker-Strine bush dialect for weatherboard and iron. His protestation of selflessness is also pure Tamworth ham. In the end – and right from the beginning of the end, his speech is all about himself, whatever he may claim. Yet it also embodies core Nationals’ chicanery.

Self-pitying, self-serving, self-parodying to the end, only Barnaby could call a presser to draw attention to his own humility; his self-effacing public life of self-sacrifice and big-noting. His swan song echoes the strangled syntax and populist pretensions of his mentor, corrupt hill-billy dictator, Queensland Nationals’ Premier, Joh Bjelke-Petersen.

“Can I say right from the start, this is never about me. It’s about the person in the weatherboard, something that manifestly expressed what the National party is about. It’s about the person in many places, their right to transcend through the economic and social stratification of life.” Now, parse that, you bastards he implies.

Incoherent, indulgent, unfathomable, Barnaby publicly salutes himself as the rural underdog’s top dog, the poor man’s champion. His hypocrisy rivals anything by Tony Abbott, also a Riverview old-boy with a privileged upbringing, although unlike Abbott’s parents, Joyce’s mother and father, he freely concedes are millionaires.

So, too are most of his pals. There’s mate Greg Maguire who lent his luxury apartment so Barnaby didn’t have to sleep on his sister’s couch. Greg also gave Barnaby and his partner Vikki a free holiday last month at his $4000 a week beachfront pad. Only last November, Gina Rinehart gave him a $40,000 cheque in public for his services to agriculture and in a heart-warming show of support she once bought a lazy $100,000 worth of raffle tickets.

John Anderson, a former Nationals’ leader also made a mozza. He got a plum job in mining company Eastern Star Gas in October 2007, just after leaving politics and  according to Michael West, made $9 million when in 2011 the company was acquired by Santos.

Joyce still maintains he had no idea Eastern Star had a petroleum exploration licence over the Pilliga, including his properties at Gwabegar which he bought in 2006 and 2008. He’s been telling reporters that the land is up for sale for the last five years. Wags notice that the inland rail route now goes close to the property hugely boosting its value to any company such as Santos which may be interested in the gas beneath the land the mongrel land.

So it’s touching of Barnaby to remember his battlers, Friday.  Looking out for the little bloke. He’s been recorded boasting in the bar of the Shepparton Hotel how he has helped billionaire cotton irrigators rort their Murray-Darling water allowances at the expense of poorer people relying on the water downstream – and of course, to do “the greenies down” because the last thing poor people deserve is a clean and healthy environment.

Barnaby’s also a Santos mining shill appearing on radio 2GB last September to spruik the advantages to farmer and environment of coal seam fracking, a service of great benefit to the billionaire multi-national corporation. True, his own government’s  independent expert scientific committee recently finds significant “knowledge gaps” in the environmental impact study put forward by Santos. But it’s only fair that Barnaby gives the company a plug.

And one day soon, he really will sell that land he owns and there won’t be a whiff of conflict of interest.

On Friday, he’s selflessly standing aside for the battler. It’s only fair on those people on the weatherboard and iron, it’s only fair on that purpose of trying to make sure we continue that advancement of the person so that – if they are on the periphery of society, they can have the best opportunities – that there be some clear air.

Howard also invoked his mythic “battlers” as he gave away their birthright, including squandering a mining boom on tax handouts for rich businessmen while slashing worker’s pay and conditions with Work Choices, funding private schools at the expense of public and undermining Medicare by subsidising private health insurance.

Families suffered as child care rebates coincided with a shift to more expensive, privately owned for-profit child-care centres. In brief, Hosking argues, Howard created dependency, not just of the poor and disadvantaged who were scapegoated and stigmatised for much of his period of governance as they are today, but the heavily indebted, time poor, middle classes increasingly reliant on two incomes and welfare to stay solvent.

Barnaby’s back-block battlers have a right to get ahead, he says, despite his backing every Coalition initiative to suppress wage growth, cull full-time jobs, cut wages and conditions via a rigged Fair Work Commission, abolish Medicare by stealth and terrorise the poor with Centrelink’s robo-claw on the unemployed. It’s pure myth.

Myth creates a blissful clarity and natural justification without explanation or depth, wrote Roland Barthes.

Myth can be deadly. Even The Grattan Institute estimates that on current policies it will take 65 years before people in many parts of rural and remote Australia have the same access to GP services as city people.

Or is it the right to fight to get ahead? Must Joyce’s battlers pull themselves up by their own bootstraps?

Their right that even though they might not have had inherited wealth or might not have been born to the best family, or might not have had the best education, their right to advance, limited only by their innate abilities, to get as far as ahead in life as they possibly can by the sweat of their own brow.

Barnaby sounds as if he’s channelling John Howard’s aspirational voter. As Sean Hosking writes in New Matilda

Aspirationals were said to be upwardly mobile, independent, hard-working battlers bereft of the egalitarian character, welfare dependence and class based political identifications of the traditional Australian working class battler. As such they represented an attempt to shoehorn the values of the free market and political right onto the Australian working class.

It’s not the rip-snorting, water rorting or the pork barrel or even the mongrel land at Gwabegar he still swears he didn’t know had gas reserves, or his spruiking for Santos. Nor is it the $10 billion boondoggle of his Inland Rail Project, a white elephant even Treasury experts tell him will never turn a cent of profit. In the end Barnaby’s been stitched up by his party’s senior partners, The Liberals, leaking scandal after scandal to the Daily Telegraph.

Ironies abound but in the end True blue, bull-dust Barnaby, aka “The Red Octopus” may be finally felled by Catherine Marriott who lodges a “serious” sexual harassment complaint against him with National Party President Larry Anthony, scion of the powerful bush newspaper family and son on Nationals MP, Doug Anthony.

Larry  Anthony who lobbied for the $1.2 billion Shenhua Watermark coal mine is still listed as a Director of the firm SAS Consulting Group, which counts the Chinese state-owned Shenhua group among its client list. Financial institution Indue Limited, which operates the Government’s cashless welfare card, is also a client.

How will the show end? It never ends. For Malcolm Turnbull, however, there is a chance to reset his special, secret relationship with the Nationals whereby he surrenders any right to independence and swears to follow a Tony Abbott hard right political agenda. So far all his public comments suggests he won’t rock the boat.

Turnbull’s government desperately needs the Nationals’ co-operation and that vital vote of Barnaby’s. But that can no longer be counted upon. Joyce did cross the floor thirty-eight times under Howard. Nor can Joyce be counted on to remain in politics. A lucrative job in mining may well be Barnaby’s new career. He can still wave cheerio to the battlers as he fracks their land and pollutes the local water supply to obtain gas to warm the atmosphere.

Sadly, for the PM and the leaking of Marriott’s name to The Australian may encourage other women to come forward, Tony Windsor, on social media lists several other cases of impropriety – all grist to the bush telegraph rumour mill. And also accessible to The Daily Telegraph, no doubt, should the masters of Joyce’s political universe decide it’s time The Nationals were taken down a peg. Already there are signs of movement at the gas station.

In the meantime, Turnbull has doubled his back-bench snipers adding a rancid Joyce to a rabid Abbott.

Ominously, Joyce has already promised “he won’t snipe”. As did Abbott. Their cat-calls and raspberries will make it even harder for Trumble to pay sufficient attention to his political masters, especially the holy trinity Shell, Origin Energy and Santos, an oligopoly that runs the National Party and much of the rest of the Coalition.

Even Nationals’ Andrew Broad, who chairs the House of Representatives moribund Environment and Energy Committee can see trouble looming. Turnbull may have sold the MSM his gas deal but Broad told the ABC last October that whilst it says it’s guaranteed supply, the Coalition’s done little or nothing about higher prices.

Finally, Turnbull has not exactly come out of the dust-up with his deputy as a stronger or more powerful leader.

if Turnbull does manage to get his $65bn corporate tax cuts through parliament – money that is being stolen from taxpayers to be given to some of the world’s largest corporations in a demonstrable hoax that the money will increase investment and worker’s wages, he does not have the credibility to sell his latest tactical diversion, a re-serving of the stale shit sandwich of the Coalition’s sycophantic relationship with its great and powerful friend, the USA especially when 80% of us regard Trump as either an important or critical threat to Australia.

“One way or another, Barnaby’s cactus.” Malcolm might be too.

Barnaby bunny blinks in the spotlight centre stage in our national political show, this week, as our Deputy PM shrewdly plays the victim in his marriage break-up while he muffs his special pleading self-defence for begging his Tamworth mogul pal, Greg Maguire, to be allowed to crash for six months at his millionaire mate’s luxury pad at mates’ rates.

So wrong; so unfair, Joyce pleads, leading his supporters in hand-wringing over how his private life is his own business, hoping the rest of us will miss bigger issues such as alleged abuses of public funds for travel and accommodation.  He’s also punting on our confusing workplace exploitation and his abuse of power with an innocent, mutual, private affair.

It’s a captivating performance which helps divert the nation from the Turnbull government’s response to the Closing the Gap steering committee’s finding that the programme, launched after Kevin Rudd’s apology was effectively killed when Abbott ripped over half a billion in funding out of it in 2004- and cancelled an Aboriginal housing programme.

The policy, they report, has been “effectively abandoned” by extensive budget cuts since 2014.  Turnbull’s response echoes his initial response to Don Dale; he fobs off the nation with another select joint committee inquiry which will seek how to “refresh the policy”; while holding a new inquiry into the issue of constitutional recognition.

As Jack Waterford, former editor of The Canberra Times writes,The government has never narrowed the gap. At present rates, Aboriginals will remain the poorest, sickest, least employed and least educated group in the community 80 years from now – and still without a plan, as opposed to a vague hope and intention, to make it different.”

Happily for the PM, there is a distraction. Poor, rich, white, boy, Barnaby, a lad who enjoyed a privileged upbringing, a St Ignatius College Riverview private school boy, – one of Sydney’s most expensive schools – who at home could roam Rutherglen an 1821 hectare farm estate, a New England University accountancy graduate who loves to play the battler from the bush is now acting hard done by. It’s all about soliciting free accommodation; favours from a mate.

Not only is BJ the victim of a marriage break-up, he hasn’t broken any rules, he wails. He didn’t ask to be put up free, he claims, contradicting the story his millionaire mate Greg has given The Daily Telegraph and put about the town.

Ex-wife Natalie dents BJ’s victimhood a tad revealing to Miranda Devine that her former husband is a serial philanderer. Whilst he may be “a hard pooch to keep on the porch“, to quote Hillary Clinton, he “always comes back”. Worse, he told the nation of his separation four days before he could face his wife. And he has to tell her Vikki is expecting a boy.

Not all of Joyce’s mail is from fans either. “Somebody sent this letter to my office today,” he guffaws to Fairfax’s David Robson last year. “It ran like this: ‘I don’t know who’s a bigger c…, you or Trump. But I think you win.’ And that was it!”

Nat’s no longer a fan either. Neither are many Nationals, including Veteran Affairs Minister, Michael McCormack  who may have a crack at the leadership himself at Monday week’s party room meeting. Iain Macdonald, The Nationals’ attack dog, in senate committees an easy rival for Joyce’s fan mail award, tells Barnaby to take a back-bench seat.

Liberals call for Joyce to resign, while Labor’s leader, Bill Shorten, says neither Joyce nor Turnbull are fit to hold power.

“One way or another, Barnaby’s cactus. It’s just a matter of when.” says a senior National who tells The Saturday Paper‘s Karen Middleton that traditional National Party supporters are likely to be “extremely unhappy” – especially women.

A third of those who backed Joyce in December’s by-election no longer support him, according to a ReachTel poll last Tuesday night; fifty per cent believe that he should resign either from parliament or go to the back bench. A petition to demand his removal from his New England seat has received almost 7000 votes in five days, says The Herald Sun.

Happily, despite polls which suggest his electoral popularity is now down from 65% of the primary vote to 43%, a quarter say they’d be more likely to support him after his affair. Clearly, Barnaby still has a few mates left around the place.

Mates? ‘Mates don’t pay for things when they’re helping other mates out,’ Barney gargles in Question time. And they return favours. In a moving mateship tribute, the nation learns that Greg also does very well out of putting up public servants as Pork-barrel Barnaby moves a whole government department to New England  to boost his local vote.

In true Nationals’ fashion, a mob of rugged if not roughshod individuals, whose contempt for bureaucracy matches its war with science and the environment, Barnaby decided to relocate the Australian Pests and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) from Canberra to Tamworth. It’s a cheap pork-barrel at a mere $26 million when you compare it with $10 billion for Joyce’s Inland Rail boondoggle which will never turn a profit either but which is also a nifty source of pork.

Joyce’s plan lacks cost-benefit analysis and is entirely off his own bat. Most of his work is like that. The Inland Rail, is really not that much of an exception.  It’s all going brilliantly, of course, apart from those who work in the APVMA, including scientists who can’t or won’t leave Canberra. One in five positions are still unfilled.

Twenty regulatory scientists plus 28 staff members, with a total of 204 years’ service, left the agency between July and February, Fairfax reports in a staff exodus which has halved the authority’s approval rate for new products meeting. “Required timeframes” plummeted from 83 per cent in the September quarter to 42 per cent in March 2017.

It’s the worst rate in history says Monsanto pesticide industry leader, CropLife’s CEO, Matthew Cossey who warns of billions of dollars of lost farming revenue. He urges a return to Canberra. But he’s just a key corporate stake-holder.

At least APVMA boffins can count on food and shelter. Enter Barney’s flash mate Greg with his modestly named Quality Hotel Powerhouse, a pub which gratefully receives $14,700 spent by the APVMA relocation fund, money it controls to accommodate the wayfaring strangers whose business will help turn Tamworth’s (and Greg’s) fortunes around.

The APVMA invites an advisory committee of 20 odd to stay, reports ABC Saturday AM. Of course, as public servants, all are parched and on the tooth and primed for wining and dining. My, how they enjoy a welcome dinner of prawns with kimchi, truffle oil risotto, New England lamb and sticky date sponge; great value at $80 per head. Our shout.

The APVMA won’t divulge the total bill. Could it be an on water into wine matter? Greg’s joint is only one of several Armidale accommodation providers used by the regulator, a APVMA spokesman sniffs. “We don’t have a preferred provider”. The Neoliberal “provider” tag went feral long ago; instead of community support we buy and sell each other.

In a reverse planning move akin to putting the wings on an aircraft as it taxies down the runway, the committee, made up of APVMA and department of agriculture staff, as well as peak industry bodies, meet to work on the relocation plan.

The mad monk, Tony Abbott once buttered up Barnaby as “a great retail politician”, an MP who ranted about $100 lamb roasts resulting from a price on carbon. The term means a politician whose strength lies in cultivating his own popularity with his electorate. Coming from fellow egomaniac and walking three-word slogan, it means nothing but, alas, it’s stuck.

Every talked-up populist-capitalist running dog has his day, however, and Turnbull almost steals Barnaby’s thunder in a show-stopping finger-wagging in a new role as parliament’s head prefect or moral policeman on Thursday. The PM holds a special presser to scold Barnaby for leading a fluffy young bunny astray and to ask him to consider his position.

During intermission, Turnbull censors the ABC again – but no biggie. Happens all the time. The Guardian Australia reports “ABC News management has been in crisis meetings for two days” after the PM courageously attacks the articles in question time before getting Fifield and Morrison to join him in penning formal letters of complaint to management.

The Ayatollah, as he was mocked at Goldman Sachs, the PM succeeds in suppressing Chief Economics Correspondent Emma Alberici’s heretical analysis of how tax cuts to business don’t stimulate jobs or growth.  One in five don’t pay tax for the past three years at least. Those who do, moreover, pay a seventeen per cent tax rate, on average.

Naturally, Qantas CEO, the silver-tongued leprechaun, Alan Joyce, is quick to grab ABC Radio’s ruling class megaphone to defend his company’s non-payment of corporate tax for nine years. He argues it is legitimate under rules that allowed it to carry forward losses from previous years. His words immensely cheer our aged pensioners on $671 a fortnight.

Workers on the minimum wage of $18.29 per hour are also heartened to learn that they’ve helped QANTAS to clock up its tenth tax-free year while Joyce’s salary nearly doubled in one year to reach $24.6 million in 2017. Can we afford the $65 billion, Alberici asks cheekily. Or could it be better spent on health, education and pensions?

She dare not mention raising the minimum wage or putting some of the money back into Aboriginal housing.

Above all, Alberici joins other economics writers in putting the lie to Treasurer’s Scott Morrison’s hoax that lowering tax rates makes us more internationally competitive when it comes to attracting investment. Now he and Matthias Cormann are promoting the falsehood that company taxes have to be cut or workers won’t get wage rises.

Before Trump cut US corporate tax earlier this year, the rate was 5 to 9 percentage points higher than our own. Yet Australian companies still preferred to invest in the US rather than Ireland, where the corporate tax rate is less than half ours (12.5 per cent), or Singapore (17 per cent). The truth is that many factors beyond tax rates guide investment.

Alberici’s piece is pulled because ABC management says it doesn’t meet editorial standards. Whilst ABC finds no inaccuracies in the articles, in the opinion of Director of News, Gaven Morris, “it sounds too much like opinion”.

Did Morris miss Chris Uhlmann’s opinionated reporting of SA’s power blackouts, wrongly blaming the Labor government’s reliance on renewables? The same lie is reprised this week in ABC previews of its SA election coverage.

All of Uhlmann’s factually incorrect SA blackout articles remain up, moreover, but, amazingly, it takes the ABC only 48 hours to remove accurate and factually correct reporting because it is unpalatable to the government of the day.

Alberici’s views are in line with leading economists including at The Australia Institute and at Treasury. Greg Jericho in The Guardian protests that she’s said nothing that many other writers haven’t been saying regularly. But as Mal’s new pal Donald Trump would say, a leader doesn’t need fake news or expert opinion to spoil his policy-making.

A calculated strategy of funding cuts, a constant stream of derogatory remarks from Liberal attack dogs, has crippled the ABC’s independence. Lest we forget, these attacks include Home Affairs Protector, Peter Dutton, and his “one down many to go” gibe at ABC presenter Yassmin Abdel-Magied’s dismissal.

Gibes and taunts add to the pressure of direct protests whenever The ABC holds government too much to account. Now Turnbull’s virtual appointment to Managing Director of pal Michelle Guthrie, who says her former 14 years career with Rupert Murdoch does not maker her a hatchet woman, the national broadcaster has become a Liberal trumpet.

Soon we will have a tabloid ABC with commercials, devoted to car crashes, stabbings, how hot or how cold the weather is for the year and endless relaying of superficial USA political news and shootings, which can then be knocked down to the highest bidder as requested by the Liberal Party’s key think tank and policy unit, The Institute of Public Affairs (IPA).

Turnbull, like his predecessor, aims his performances to the tabloid media. We saw Turnbull play huckster and shyster early. Now he adds his strait-laced Presbyterian minister routine knowing it will get full coverage in The Daily Telegraph. The moralising, holier-than-thou Reverend Mal (Turnbull 2.0) emerges this week in the midst of the Barnaby barn dance.

Thursday, Mal swoops right after Barnaby’s Aint nobody’s business to ban all Canberra office Rock ‘n Roll, along with jiving and swiving. Canute-like, he vetoes all sideways samba, jazz or jelly roll; sex between all ministers and staffers.

“Turnbull bans sex”, MSM wags say. No more fornicating, fraternising or horizontal folk-dancing between ministers of the crown and their underlings. Loins are to be girded at all times. To show he’s serious about ending the funny business, he’s put his bonking prohibition into the Ministerial Code of Conduct, every Cabinet Minister’s bible.

It’s risible but then it’s meant as a show of authority. Nobody in Canberra believes that the Code of Conduct carries any weight. Shorten says it’s not worth the paper it’s written on. Perhaps it will work if staffers keep it between their knees.

Fawning is still in, of course, as is flattery and obsequious devotion; essential to any staffer’s tenure. These are transferrable skills. Moguls, miners, anything in uniform, bankers, think tankers and lobbyists are still to be lusted after.

Equally, business big and small -like the US Alliance- is there to be serviced. But ministers and minions must, at once, stop bonking each other, especially “that stubborn bastard with rhinoceros hide”, as a senior Liberal calls Barnaby.

“If you want to be in power, you can’t afford to fuck around,” is how a real PM once put it. Sadly, Mal is no PJ Keating.

Compounding his ludicrous finger-wagging, the PM makes himself look even more inept, ineffectual, absurd, by calling out Joyce publicly for his predatory behaviour as well as his poor decision-making in his affair with Vikki Campion, his staffer.  Worse, the lubricious leader of The Nationals, “the family values party” has got Ms Campion in the family way.

By Thursday, after trying a Kamasutra of new positions on the Joyce affair, Turnbull turns chaos into catastrophe when he blasts Barnaby with both barrels in a public bollocking of his own deputy, unique in Australian politics.

After the” private matter” position; the even trickier “not his partner” defence. Not his partner?

Women across the nation, including Campion, who is carrying Joyce’s fifth child, are cheered to hear her status reduced to a casual shag, a quick roll in the hay; as meaningless and ephemeral as a politician’s promise. Even Playboy bunnies had contracts. But what “those women” of Australia will hear from the PM on Thursday is even more alarming.

“My wife ironed my shirts this week… does that make her staff?” responds deep Andrew Broad, Nationals MP for Mallee.

Vikki and Barney are split up because of their madly passionate affair and she is promoted out of his office, twice, but they were not partners because they were not living together. Turnbull expects us to accept that?

Ducking and weaving, a desperate PM channels his inner Bill Clinton, (aka Slick Willie), to redefine a dangerous liaison to save his own bacon. Barnaby, he argues, did not have a partnership with that woman, his former staffer, Vikki Campion.

The PM needs to dodge responsibility for breaking the Ministerial Code of Conduct in promoting Campion, Joyce’s paramour to a couple of plum jobs to get her out of Joyce’s office to hide a rapidly all-consuming scandal.

Someone clearly thought a tricky definition was a winner. At least the Joyce debacle has helped expose the process by which Ministerial assistants are appointed and promoted out of fealty, fear and favour rather than any qualification for the job. Advisers are thus both partisan and beholden to their bosses. You see it in the quality of their advice.

Monday’s circus establishes a catchy reality TV show format: “So you think you’re a partner?” Will Team Malcolm’s cunning plan to unhook Vikki and Barney get the PM and his government off the hook? By Thursday, Newspoll will need something stronger. Cue strong leader, moral guardian of the national flock: Turnbull lowers the boom.

“Barnaby made a shocking error of judgement in having an affair with a young woman working in his office,” the PM scolds. “In doing so he has set off a world of woe for those women, and appalled all of us. Our hearts go out to them,” 

So sayeth The Reverend Mal, at a special Barnaby-barrelling press conference, Coalition shot-gun divorce combo.

The PM’s excoriating sermon; his moralising, judgemental excommunication is too little, too late and too low.  He stops short of dismissing him as deputy which ABC News 24 reminds us is something he cannot do. Secret agreement stuff.

At least Joyce’s had his bat and ball taken off him before he’s sent home. Barnaby won’t be acting PM when Turnbull treats coal-mining, non-tax-paying – at least for the last ten years – CEO of multinational Glencore to a five-day junket to the US. Joyce will take a week’s leave “to consider his position”.

Considering her position also will be Julie Bishop who is abroad at the moment but who has sent messages letting it be known that she could fly home at once if need be. Perhaps she could console Barnaby; coach Cormann by emoji?

Hearts do go out but not all, like the PM’s, appear to be worn on sleeves. Consternation erupts. Mark Kenny and other Turnbull toadies rush to praise the new, resolute and decisive PM but even Kenny concedes Mal’s ban is empty.

Barnaby Joyce calls an extraordinary conference to call out his boss for his “inept and unnecessary” attack on Friday.

Unnecessary? Paul Bongiorno notes, wryly, the PM gifts Joyce with a unique opportunity to show who is truly in charge.

Turnbull’s public rebuke and call for Barnaby to resign helps highlight the Nationals’ power. The Turnbull government’s subservience, if not its impotence, lie in its 2015 secret Coalition Agreement, whereby Turnbull secured the Prime Ministership by capitulating his own political ideals in favour of Joyce’s right-wing Abbott political agenda.

Others sniff hypocrisy. Others deplore the public blaming and shaming. Imagine if Goldman Sachs were to call out Turnbull for the $500 million it is reported to have cost the banking firm to settle out of court in 2009 after HIH collapsed taking many small investors with it after buying an overvalued FAI due in no small part to Turnbull’s dud advice.

Some may even ask is Turnbull still has no knowledge of logging when he was chairman of a company in the early 1990s whose Solomon Islands’ subsidiary was described as having some of the worst logging practices in the world.

Turnbull flits to Tasmania; seeks the high moral ground by going to water. He appears later on ABC energetically talking up the twelve great projects of the Tamar Estuary Water Management Task Force. Pity BJ is no longer water minister.

A nation is caught on the hop. For three years, our carefree, sun-drenched continental island home has thrilled to the rhythms of Flash Mal ‘n Barnaby bull-dust’s bush-bash band. They do all the old Tony Abbott standards as laid down in their secret coalition agreement but, suddenly, something’s up. Mal thinks he can pick a fight with Bulldust and win?

Is the band breaking up just over Barney’s latest dancing partner, Vikki? Slugging wildly at each other out the back of the outback country hall that is our national parliament, Mal and Barney our two Coalition band-leaders trade haymakers.  Neither is in what you could call tip-top condition. Neither could fight his way out of wet paper bag.

The stoush lasts three days. Then a press release of a kiss and make-up saturates media mid-Saturday. Ominously, Scott Morrison, who couldn’t tell the truth about Reza Berati’s 2014 murder on Manus Island is sent on to ABC Insiders, Sunday to proclaim a “frank” clearing of the air but the PM has not walked away from his earlier comments. Nor has Barnaby Joyce who is quoted later in media reports saying he has nothing to apologise for.

Why the big bust up? The boys got the band back together in Tamworth only last December. New hats and boots, too. Will Barnaby Joyce survive a Nationals’ leadership spill. The signs are ominous. Yet, even worse are the portents for a Turnbull government which has been unable to deal with a matter it knew was coming at least six months ago.

The spectacle of the public spat; the utterly inept handling of Joyce’s affair with a staffer and of Turnbull’s moral denunciation and his patently impractical ban on sex between minister and staffer can only serve to highlight how rapidly his government is unravelling.

The PM is taking twenty Aussie tycoons to the US for five days. They can talk rich man’s stuff; Cayman Islands; investment portfolios; things he’s really into. Not politics; certainly not people. Perhaps they will also form a cheer squad while he begs Rupert Murdoch to give him one more chance. One thing is certain. The Barnaby brouhaha will not have died down on his return and the damage it has caused will be permanent.

Turnbull’s Joyce will cost him dearly.

“There’s no-one more Australian than Barnaby Joyce”, blusters Malcolm Turnbull, his fair-weather defender in happier – well – slightly less miserable times last November when Joyce, another appalling ham, in RM Williams and stockman Akubra, playing an outback whip-cracking caricature from central casting turns out to be a Kiwi, too.

By week’s end it’s clear, as Oscar Wilde, on his death-bed, famously remarked of the wall-paper,

“One of us has to go.” Not that Mal hasn’t put on a good show of support. Or milked Barnaby’s ” landslide” by-election for all it is worth and more – despite Barnaby going MIA, turning campaigning into pub crawls, refusing to debate the other candidates and talking of death threats. Hacks still misread the victory as a Turnbull comeback.

Cue the night of the New England by-election, a couple of old con-artists in a show about snake-oil salesmanship.

“We’re getting the band back together,” crows a PM who presides over his dysfunctional moribund leadership. How he loves to talk up renewal, unity. MSM follow his lead. He looks the part – all kitted out in blue flannel shirt and moleskins, the compleat Collins Street farmer. He tilts his pristine Akubra back to form a buffalo-hide halo.

A deafening roar of beer-sodden catcalls, stamping and two-fingered whistling buoys his spirits at the Nats’ election piss-up in Tamworth that Saturday night last December. But Turnbull knows truth will out. The “open secret” of 50 year old Barnaby’s affair with a 33 year old married woman cannot kept out of the news forever.

Always solicitous of our well-being and a stalwart Coalition megaphone, The Daily Telegraph toils virtuously in the public interest, all week, photographing Barnaby’s new partner’s baby bump after previously deploring the intrusion of gossip into Barnaby’s personal life, his privacy and the New England by-election.

Now the two old stagers face their final curtain. Even Turnbull must know it’s over. He’s signed off twice on two plum jobs, for Joyce’s new partner, Vikki Campion, just to get her out of BJ’s office; keep her out of the public eye.
One is with Matt Canavan, the other as “second media adviser” to National Party Whip Damian Drum.

It’s hardly a subtle cover-up. Even Graham Richardson ponders in The Australian why the Nationals Whip needs one media advisor, let alone a second high-flyer. Puzzling Richo, also, is why Joyce should promote Drum to be his assistant minister.

A salary of $191,000 for Vikki is now in the news. So, too is The Daily Telegraph’s Miranda Devine writing about Barnaby telling his estranged wife, Natalie that Vikki is expecting a boy. “A dagger to Natalie’s heart.”

Even Murdoch’s purple press has turned. 26 dud Newspolls plus one Barnaby fiasco may be too much for Rupert Murdoch. The Coalition’s major backer may be turning sour over Turnbull’s bungling ineptitude.

Creating national heroes can be hazardous, Turnbull discovers to his cost but he can’t help himself. When the Greens question Jim Molan’s involvement in the dirty battle for Fallujah in Iraq in 2004, Senator St James Molan, our PM thunders, fought for Aussie values against the ISIS Infidel and thus must be above all earthly criticism.

In his own way, too, Turnbull’s Aussie icon Barnaby Joyce is a self-styled Cultural Warrior on his own crusade for moral decency. Why, he even fought against girls being inoculated with anti-HPV vaccine Gardasil lest it promote promiscuity. He opposed gay marriage claiming it went against traditional family values. Now look at him.

Some unkindly call Joyce a hypocrite. It’s not playing out well in Tamworth, says The Daily Telegraph. Others raise the way the affair has been kept out of the news where Julia Gillard or Cheryl Kernot were hounded. “What if this MP were a fifty-year-old woman having an affair with a man half her age?”, asks Clem Ford in Fairfax. The media would have leapt instantly to judgement. Now the Tele has broken ranks, expect a ton of moralising to follow.

Moral posturing may be a key part of Joyce’s rural populist politics – his idol is former Queensland premier, the bible-bashing, corrupt hillbilly dictator Joh Bjelke-Petersen – but it carries grave risks of self-betrayal. Joyce, for example, campaigned against same sex marriage for years. In 2011, he addressed a rally organised by the Australian Christian Lobby and The Australian Family Association, posing as a protective father of four girls.

“We know that the best protection for those girls is that they get themselves into a secure relationship with a loving husband and I want that to happen for them. I don’t want any legislator to take that right away from me.”

How Barnaby thought same-sex marriage could do this is unclear, but he is one of fourteen MPs who abstained from voting on the same-sex marriage bill, Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017. What is clear is that in presenting himself as a family values campaigner, he has set himself up for a big fall.

Or has he? On ABC Insiders, Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek notes that the PM’s office signs off on jobs. Labor will pursue the only legitimate line of inquiry: she calls on Joyce and Turnbull to be “fully transparent” about the expenditure of taxpayer funds, which she said was the “only area in which there is a genuine public interest”.

In the end, the jobs will undo Vikki and Barney; the thin red line of the Prime Minister’s Office debit accounts, as much as Tamworth’s wrath. Joyce’s soap opera, moreover, makes Turnbull’s leadership look inept, weak and ineffectual. But right on cue, look over there. Our great and powerful friend, the USA graces us with Harry Harris.

We’re just mad about Harry. Our nation is overjoyed to learn, at long last, we have a US Ambassador. “Great Wall of Sand”, Admiral Harry B. Harris Jr, a Sinophobe, who doesn’t trust our largest trading partner.

“In my opinion China is clearly militarizing the South China Sea,” Harris tells the Senate Armed Services Committee in February 2016. “You’d have to believe in a flat earth to believe otherwise.”

Harry’s “shithole” posting tells us he is no favourite of Trump’s but it does send a warning to China. A former Gitmo head, Admiral Hal also brings a unique record of duty of care to inmates of the USA’s “extra-constitutional prison camp”, Guantánamo Naval Base whose role, he explained to ABC in 2007, is not to be confused with justice.

It’s not about ” guilt or innocence” he told the late Mark Colvin, it’s about “keeping enemy combatants off the battlefield”. Harry’s past may help him advise Border Force in its own illegal, indefinite detention practices.

Doubtless Harry would admire our Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (resolving the asylum legacy caseload) bill 2014, a Scott Morrison masterpiece which gives the immigration minister, now Peter Dutton, unprecedented, unchallengeable, and secret powers to control the lives of asylum seekers.

Tragically, Harris is linked to the possible homicides of three young men in his care, June 9 2006; Salah Ahmed Al-Salami, a Yemeni aged thirty-seven. Mani Shaman Al-Utaybi, a Saudi, aged thirty. Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani, also from Saudi Arabia, was twenty-two. None had been charged with any crime but all were found hanged in their cells.

The three men were found to have stuffed rags into their throats; put on masks, fashioned nooses out of cotton fabric they, alone, mysteriously had access to and reached an eight foot high ceiling to hang themselves.

Harris declares the deaths “suicides.” Channelling a Big Brother hate session, he then attacks the dead men.

“They are smart, they are creative, they are committed,” Harris says. “They have no regard for life, neither ours nor their own. I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us.”

Naval Criminal Investigative Service records suggest, instead, death from torture. New evidence, published in Harpers, includes an eyewitness account of al-Zahrani, on the night of his death, which indicates torture and suffocation during questioning at a secret black site facility at Guantánamo known as Camp No, or Penny Lane.

Our MSM say nothing about “Gitmo” but a fluffy ABC gushes over the posting of “the first security professional” hinting at some pastoral care role for the new US Ambassador to Australia. Certainly, Harris will be a perfect fit to be joined at the hip, as our PM sees our US alliance, with Canberra’s tough on border protection boffins.

The big lie is that the US Alliance is a mutual security pact. Despite our political leaders’ bipartisan spin, all ANZUS entails is a promise to consult. JFK refused our plea for help against a “communist crisis” in Indonesia in 1962.

Before Trump, Nixon put us on his “shit list”, because he didn’t like Whitlam’s robust nationalism and when Man of Steel, US brown-nose John Howard asked for help in East Timor in 1999, Clinton told him to bugger off.
Thank God we’ve got soldiers like Jim Molan to protect us and to hire out to the United States; win its illegal wars.

Liberal Senator “Jingo” Jim Molan, is sworn in Monday and wastes no time in urging even greater expenditure on the military. A thoroughly modern former major general, Jim’s memoirs modestly entitled Running the War In Iraq, reveal his glee in using drones to direct 200kg bombs that could “pick up a house and land it in the street”.

Jim’s no slouch on Facebook or war by social media. Yet while he posts racist videos on Facebook and retweets a racist, Islamophobic joke, he can’t be a racist, insists the PM, because he’s been a soldier and freedom-fighter.

Turnbull rounds on Bill Shorten’s suggestion that he discipline our Aussie war hero Jim as “deplorable” and “disgusting”. Yet what is more deplorable and disgusting is the extent to which Turnbull must overreach; grovel publicly to a new Abbott supporter. He falls back on the last refuge of scoundrels, patriotism.

Jim is a “Great Australian” brays the PM, who claims the former soldier (in 2004) ” … led thousands of troops in the battle for freedom against terrorism”. Others know it as the 2003 illegal invasion of Iraq, under the twin fictions of regime change and ridding Saddam Hussein of his weapons of mass destruction, while wresting control of Iraq’s oil-fields and utterly destroying Iraq, fuelling anti-Western terrorist extremism into the bargain.

As the late Chalmers Johnson warns in Blowback, the appalling blundering by US strategists in Afghanistan and the Middle East is the prime motivator of terrorist organisations like Al Qaida and ISIS. Jim may think he won Fallujah but he lost the war. Yet the monstrous lie of Iraqi liberation is central to Turnbull’s government world-view.

Experts estimate around half a million Iraqis died in the Bush-Blair invasion; A Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Survey published in the Lancet, and the Iraq Public Health Survey published in the New England Journal of Medicine, give figures of 655,000 and 400,000 excess deaths respectively.

In 2013, birth defects for the city of Fallujah surpass rates for Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the nuclear attacks at the end of World War II. Scientists suspect the white phosphorous and depleted uranium in US munitions.

The use of white phosphorous was illegal because it is arguably a chemical weapon, riot control agent, or incendiary weapon. Furthermore, the methods and means of its use in Fallujah violated the laws of war.
Greens MP Adam Bandt has, however, apologised to senator Jim Molan, for saying he could be a war criminal.

Inexplicably, the PM skips Jim’s winning “2009 Australian Thinker of the Year” an inestimable gift of appreciation which unlike our Border Force and the militarisation of compassion, another of Jim’s great Australian contributions “carries with it no responsibilities, commitments or obligations of any kind”.

The fuss over Jim helps distract from the revelation that the Coalition has been lying about Treasury advice. Our ABC reveals how Turnbull’s government lied in 2016 about Labor’s negative gearing plan. Our sensible centrist PM calls it “the most ill-conceived, potentially destructive policy ever proposed by any opposition”.

The ALP wanted to limit the tax deduction and halve the capital gains tax (CGT) discount, a modest proposal. Yet Coalition MPs went into howls of protest: Labor would take an “axe”, a “sledgehammer” or even “a chainsaw” to the housing market. Such wanton vandalism would bring Australia’s booming economy to a “shuddering halt”.

Of course, the Turnbull government lied. And it lied that its lie was based on “confidential Treasury advice”.
It was a scare tactic straight out of Gitmo or Abbott’s carbon tax hysteria playbook and almost as damaging.

It’s taken a mere, two-year legal battle to find out the lies. Treasury advised in 2016, that Labor’s plan “might exert some downward pressure; a (possible) relatively modest downward impact” on house prices. The lie was a key campaign issue in the 2016 election. Newspeak virtuoso, Scott Orwell Morrison, is not, however, a whit abashed.

ScoMo still lies about who benefits from negative gearing. Treasury advice is that negative gearing and the capital gains tax mostly benefit high-income households. Treasury calculates, 52.6% of the tax benefits from negative gearing are reaped by the top 20% of income earners, while 54.3% of the tax savings from the capital gains discount go to the top 10% of families ranked by income.
Despite this, an Orwellian Coalition and its housing lobby pals claim the opposite. “Teachers, nurses, and police officers” stand to benefit the most or it’s that sentimental family favourite “Mums and Dads trying to get ahead”.
The Grattan Institute finds 12% of teachers negative gear and 9% of nurses. Yet 29% of surgeons and anaesthetists benefit. Doctors also get a much higher average tax benefit. $3,000+ compared to nurses, who benefit by a mere $226 and teachers who benefit by $289. But ScoMo never listens. Nor does his government.

Treasury is wrong, ScoMo maintains. ScoMo knows because he was once “a research economist in the property sector”. From 1989-1995 he was, indeed, a manager for The Property Council of Australia, a housing industry lobby group, a role guaranteed to give him halcyon independence, objectivity and peerless, impartial advice.

Morrison’s chutzpah, his Trumpery, his flaky claim to credibility, allows him to dismiss Treasury experts; spurn Productivity Commission research that Labor’s proposal will have little, if any, effect on housing supply.

The Treasurer’s big lies, of course, include the fiction that his government are good economic managers and that we are in the middle of a jobs bonanza. Public opinion, he says, agrees – another lie.

It’s not that every opinion poll is rigged, although Clive Palmer candidly admitted paying for the results the Liberals wanted when he was state director. It’s not just that MSM is always ready to repeat the monstrous falsehood – some defending it on the grounds that it’s a widespread perception – or it’s what voters think. Voters think?

The reality, Alan Austin notes, ” … is that the economy collapsed inexcusably during the two years Joe Hockey was treasurer. But it has tanked even further, except for the very rich, since Scott Morrison replaced him. The Australia Institute research indicates Abbott and Turnbull are Australia’s worst post-war economic managers on record.

Less forgettable or, as Orwell has it, less worthy of erasure, is Scott Morrison’s preselection; how The Daily Telegraph got the MP pretending to be an effective Federal Treasurer launched into politics in 2007. The extraordinary circumstances of Morrison’s entry into the political arena are almost cause, in themselves, to be cautious of any of his subsequent claims. No other MP, surely, is less credible; has such a flaky threshold of power.

In 2007, Morrison loses 82 votes to 8 to Lebanese-Australian Michael Towke, a telecommunications engineer member of the Liberals’ right faction, in pre-selection for the safe Liberal NSW seat of Cook.

Enter The Daily Telegraph. In four articles, The Tele falsely accuses Towke of branch stacking & faking his resume. Towke is disendorsed. The Liberals hold a new ballot. Morrison wins; parachuted in over the politically dead body of his rival local members gossip. Towke sues The Tele for defamation; settles for an undisclosed sum.

Glad tidings round off the week in politics as US fiscal genius Donald Trump’s tax cuts help panic the stock market into wiping off $2.49 trillion in a 10 percent fall by Thursday from a record on Jan. 26. Global stock markets follow, losing $5.20 trillion.

Trump’s cuts are acclaimed by our economically illiterate government which seeks to emulate Trump’s economic wizardry and his war on truth. Morrison, recently returned from the US, claims to have witnessed for himself the miracle of massive company tax cuts creating jobs. But the only example he can give is Walmart.

Yet Walmart on 12 January said it would raise entry-level wages for U.S. hourly employees to $11 an hour in February as it benefits from last month’s major corporate tax cut and on the same day announced it would shut stores and lay off thousands of workers.

Of course, Morrison will dispute this. He will know better than the experts. Better than any authorities or any so-called facts. He always does, just like his Prime Minister. It’s the signature theme of the Turnbull government. The future looks impossibly rosy. Especially when you are making it up. But the key lies in erasing the past.

As Malcolm Turnbull himself quoted from George Orwell, this week “The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became the truth”. It was not yet our reality, he says, “but no longer entirely fantasy.”

He and his government are seeing to it personally.

Arms deals, cabinet leaks and fake jobs figures reveal a desperate Turnbull government.

Return of The Fixer opens to a stacked house this week in Canberra’s political theatre. The show has everything, arms-dealers, a PMC mystery Cabinet of Dr Caligari homage in which a somnambulist MSM “predicts” a Labor leader’s death. Are they accomplices; in on Bill’s kill or, do they, incredibly, for the first time, predict the future?

Of course, there’s more. ASIO makes a ritual midnight raid on our ABC to retrieve Commonwealth property once all dirt on Labor is copied; Turnbull over-eggs the pudding of presumption of his innocence by declaring 

“This is a disgraceful, almost unbelievable act of negligence.” Almost unbelievable? No. Downright implausible.

The totally implausible Scott Morrison, Monster of Manus, colludes with ASIO to deny 700 refugees rightful permanent settlement in Australia and our Lord Protector Peter Dutton continues to white-ant the judiciary.

Suspense builds. Why is Dutton silent on Morrison’s collusion with ASIO?  Will Morrison get off Scott-free?

Cue counter-tenor Turnbull who reprises an old Howard/Abbott standard, the ballad of the demon(ised) people-smuggler, a typical non-sequitur, a lame, cynical, evasion of ScoMo’s conspiracy to deny refugees their rights.

More examples emerge of torture by ASIO security assessments and their mysterious, arbitrary revision. Karen Middleton reports in The Saturday Paper that all 57 refugees detained since 2012 because of adverse ASIO security assessments have now had their assessments downgraded. Some have been released. Into limbo.

Many are now on bridging visas and are applying for temporary visas – not that these offer much security but it’s their only option since Border Supremo Scott-Almighty Morrison abolished permanent visas in 2013.

Others remain virtual political prisoners. Middleton documents tragic individual stories showing the human suffering caused by Immigration and ASIO’s despotic, secret regime of terror. Two Sri Lankans, one in Melbourne, the other in Sydney have been imprisoned for 8 years. Yet our PM, puppet of the right, must back Morrison.

“We make no apologies for sending the clearest message to the people smugglers and to their would-be customers; if you want to come or think you can come to Australia on a people smugglers’ boat, you’re wrong.”

No apologies for the cruel perversion of our obligations under international law. Shelter? We torture refugees as a deterrent.  No apologies either for dog-whistling or rewriting of history. The boats had slowed to a trickle under Labor. And let’s not forget the times the Coalition paid people smugglers, a collusion Tony Abbott freely admits.

From root-vegetable to the recruiting of Lucy Gichuhi, Fixer is jam-packed with postmodern, post-truth zeitgeist and vibe, Bill’s zingers- a “left behind” –  (as opposed to a total arse?)- society, tax-cut throwaway lines and the launch of the official 2018 season of Kill Bill where Canberra’s press gallery forms its traditional conga line of suck-holes number with the ruling Liberal Junta, to rave about our democratic depots’ success, growing jobs and stuff, while attacking Labor for having ” anti-business, anti-jobs, anti-Christ”, sledge-hammer wielding on house values but still wimpy, Bill Shorten as leader in an upcoming election, everybody knows he cannot possibly win.

Cannot? In any ambiguous, post-modern narrative, paradox abounds; safe Liberal seats are in danger. Like Sturt.

Bringing on the big guns, opening act, Mouth that Roars, Minister for Defence Industry, the visibly excited, “Fixer”, Christopher Pyne, MP for Sturt, has a rocket in his pocket as he over-pitches another fabulous Coalition plan to clean up Labor, create zillions of jobs, even give him some slight chance of re-election in his own seat, where swelling hordes of SA voters see him variously as a privileged prat, a twat or simply a sad little wanker.

Some make fun of Pyne. A “wet” Liberal who runs a hard right agenda to get ahead is open even to self-parody.

His mannerisms also make him an easy target for cheap shots, especially since Julia Gillard’s “mincing poodle” gibe – which has dogged him ever since. Not to be overlooked, however, is the central role he plays in the Liberal Party, his embodiment of its “I’m all right Jack” values and how he represents its profound existential crisis.

He’s one of the architects of Liberal disaster. Five years ago, Pyne helped Abbott drive the Liberal bus off a cliff, wrecking any last vestige of integrity or credibility. Now, thanks to the incredible magic of corporate tax cuts, trickle down, the just-having-a-Laff(er) Curve, all the Liberal Party needs to do is cure its terminal cancer of internal division, get rid of the mad monk Abbott – erase its past, find a leader in a hurry, get some workable policies on energy, environment, education and wages and/or become gun-runners. Simple, really.

Badly miscast, then, as Education Minister, Pyne opined on the value of schooling. He even promised the Libs were “in lock step with Labor on Gonski”. Lock step for a few paces only.  Paul Bongiorno traces a rapid and irrevocable decline in Coalition credibility from Abbott’s notorious 2014 Budget of broken promises, (BOBP).

But, look over there! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it’s super-Pyne, Adelaide’s Adnan Khashoggi, (aka “The Whoremonger”; aka the Mr Fix-it of the Saudi royal family as they splurged oil wealth on weapons-buying sprees).

A dud Education Minister, albeit, in a party which values investing in death over learning, Pyne is now on a similar mission to expand our arms dealing. Monday, he flourishes a “Defence Export Strategy”, for what is quaintly called the Defence Industry rather than the death industry or the toady to America and buy their old, crap, hardware industry.

Our Defence Industry is also, largely, a foreign-owned, price-gouging oligopoly, where a few giant multinationals make billions out of our pathetically naïve defence pretensions and our dangerous fetish for anything military.

Bombs, landmines, drones? Few details of new weapons taxpayers will subsidise are spelt out, but Pyne is pushing local firms to help US giant Raytheon put missile launchers on Bushmaster and Hawkeis armoured trucks for the Australian Army. Toyota utes could be next. No-one questions why an uber-wealthy corporation needs a handout.

But it does pay a bit of tax. Raytheon paid $36m tax on the nearly $750m gross it earned in Australia last year.

In ten years, Pyne’s pipe-dream is for us to become one of the world’s top ten arms exporters. He’s always been a big picture thinker. With his urging, military exports licences increased 44%, every year for the last three years, although they were only $216m in 2016, the Stockholm Institute reports. Seed! What’s needed is seed capital.

Steve Ciobo rushes to the rescue, glad to get away from a clusterfuck of failed trade deals. Originally a pot of aid funds, The National Interest Account  gives trade ministers licence to approve any funding deemed “in the national interest”, a phrase opaque and subjective enough to allow arms makers a ready and reliable source of funds.

A “gun slush fund” if you like, it will underwrite the $3.8bn scantily clad, “Export Defence Facility” handout.

Pyne’s gung-ho. A rocket in every pocket is his aim. He is the very model of a modern major general in his total disconnect from consequences; his mad passion to supply weapons that can only cause harm: to kill and maim; to inflict pain, suffering and death not to mention the incalculable agony of dislocation and destruction. Refugees?

Our world’s most generous humanitarian refugee program will assist any displaced persons we may create.

Gun-Runners R AUS reflects Pyne’s poverty of imagination, his total lack of moral scruple. It is an indictment of his lack of humanity and his government’s amoral expediency and utter lack of principle that he should set his cap on making himself and his nation a major arms dealer. In blind pragmatism and more he is a model, modern Liberal.

Pyne’s also on song with Liberal idolatry; its veneration of profit; the bottom-line; its mindless materialism; above all its utter subservience and obsequious devotion to any corporation likely to make a donation to Party funds.

Corporations are keen on it, too. The government is rubber-stamping requests made by arms companies in  submissions to the December 2015  Inquiry into Government Support for Australian Defence Industry Exports.

Obscenely wealthy firms are unanimous in their demands that government assistance in the promotion and facilitation of overseas arms sales should be increased. A hand out; not a hand up? This entails deploying ADF personnel as advertising mannequins as in our PM’s presser. Above all, it involves massive government subsidies.

Subsidies? Hockey and Abbott refused to fork out a cent to save a car industry which could have continued on $300m a year.   Yet, today, it has no trouble finding $4bn of subsidies – “Export incentives” to benefit local subsidiaries of multinationals, Thales Australia (France), BAE Systems Australia (UK) and one of the big three, Raytheon Australia (US).

Lockheed Martin is worth $40.8bn, Boeing $29.5bn while Raytheon is worth $22.9bn. All deserving causes.

Above all it’s shameless pork-barrelling. The $4bn Export Defence Facility is on top of the Coalition’s massive $50bn spend on submarines that may not now generate even half the 90% Australian jobs first promised.

Governments helped gold-plate electricity networks but Pyne’s seat is solid gold. Michael Owen noted in 2016 that, “based on the geographical spread of ASC workers in key Liberal-held South Australian electorates, the Prime Minister’s $50bn spend on a per capita basis equates to $468,000 per potential vote in Hindmarsh, $490,000 for every vote in Sturt, held by Industry Minister Christopher Pyne, and $480,000 for each potential Boothby vote.”

A nation’s heart must gladden, above all, to learn we are upping our subsidy of the world’s wealthiest death-merchants instead of wasting funds on hospitals, schools, pensions or futile scientific research into climate or environment. The ADF must be delighted with materiel deals which include promotional obligations. This means our diggers not only get to pay top dollar for their gear, suppliers expect them to model it; advertise it as well.


Happily on display, looking for all the world as if they have stepped out of a 1981 Action-Man toy catalogue, are three mean-looking military dudes on a mission; all locked and loaded, ready to put the theatre back into “theatre of war” – such as the latest Kill Bill campaign which even features a couple of filing cabinets of dirt to dish.

Let the hostilities commence. The nation thrills to see a trio of trigger-finger-itchy hi-tech cyborg soldiers sprouting repurposed bits of field-glass or recycled roo-rifle sights from their frighteningly low staghorn beetle brows.

The soldiers do less to butch up the PM’s act than to highlight his ineffectuality.  Human chameleons, masters of stealth and surprise, the boys upstage their PM effortlessly even in their dog-shit and olive camouflage. Turnbull joins Payne and Pyne, moreover, at the risk of looking as if he can’t even run in his own presser unassisted. And such is our nation’s love affair with the military that the PM ends up playing gooseberry on a hot date.

Our national fetishising of the military, dead or alive, is also behind the PM’s presser . We lead the world, for example, in “bigging up the Digger” commemorative spending on the military disaster that was The Great War.

Thanks in no small part to Tony Abbott’s infatuation with the ANZAC myth, $8889 was lavished on each Aussie lad killed in the Great War. The Poms, our mythically incompetent colonial masters and cricket enemies, remember their Tommy on a budget of $109 per casualty while the Germans invest a mere $2 for each dead Jerry.

Are we commemorating? Or are we promoting war? John Menadue notes,  even The Australian War Memorial accepts donations from merchants of war. BAE Systems, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Rayethon, Thales and Northrop Grumman are all donors.  Accepting the war profiteers’ dollar, surely demeans the Memorial’s true function.

“The Memorial’s purpose is to commemorate the sacrifice of those Australians who have died in war.” Its mission is to help Australians “… to remember, interpret and understand the Australian experience of war and its enduring impact on Australian society”. 

War is a dirty business. Unlike Pyne, the arms sales evangelist, Menadue and others also warn that BAE Systems is a key weapons supplier to the Saudi Arabian government. The United Kingdom Ministry of Defence is investigating the Saudis for 282 alleged breaches of international law including bombing civilians and the use of cluster bombs – weapons which are likely to increase civilian casualties in its war against Yemen which has killed 10,000 people.

War is being normalised. Its remembrance is corrupted into celebration. Drenched in Anzackery, dripping with testosteronic male posturing, our collective reptilian brain stem has usurped our national sense of ourselves; our sense of who we are.  The shift has been lavishly nurtured and exploited by political scoundrels for decades.

In 2004 Michael McGirr warned “The remembrance of war is moving from the personal to the public sphere and, with that, from a description of something unspeakable to something about which you can never say enough.”

David Stephens notes, “It has led to projecting pictures of soldiers on to walls at the Australian War Memorial, promotions for “the rarest tank in the world,” battle-field tours and Gallipoli cruises and surf boat races, and boys and girls on their gap year wrapping themselves in Australian flags at Anzac Cove or getting drunk in the streets of Çanakkale and shouting “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi.”

We are normalising, if not nurturing, a perversion, a sentimental, nationalistic, jingoistic appetite for war bereft of any insight or understanding of war’s indescribably destructive horror, intensified in today’s horrific warfare.

Yemeni, Jamal shares her insight,

“This war is tearing the social texture in a way that makes it impossible to repair,” she says. “The double aggression we are under from the outside and the inside is creating cracks. I can see all my loved ones watching in pain knowing that things will never be the same even when this war ends, if it ever does.

“We have survived so many wars. We have been stripped of jobs, security and basic services before, however, this time we are being stripped of a home.”

Yet our governments’ funds for commemorative celebration of the joys of war are running like a tap, conditioning us; grooming us to accept war as normal and the arms trade as just another commercial opportunity.

The arms industry is delighted. Certainly no expense has been spared in Monday’s breathless announcement.

In yet another spell-binding PM’s presser, Turnbull and Pyne promise to “set aside” funding of A$3.8 billion to lift Australia into the world’s top 10 weaponry exporting nations. Our Defence Minister, the inscrutable Marise Payne  stands off to one side, transfixed, transported, doubtless, by the bigger picture. Or by Pyne’s petty rivalry.

We are now the 20th biggest arms supplier, reckons the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, with annual earnings of about US$1.6 billion. Yet it’s not a race any one of us volunteered to enter. Not even a plebiscite. Such is the nature of our political system, governments get to decide all that life and death stuff for us.

Exporting death is the Turnbull government’s latest innovation in its flawlessly orchestrated suite of manufacturing, trade and international relations policies. Expanding our arms trading, moreover, can only boost our status on the UN Human Rights Council, as we embrace the dirtiest business in the world and join the select group of international merchants of death where corruption, graft and deception are all part of the art of the deal.

There’s light and shade in every government, however, a truth which even Malcolm Turnbull can acknowledge with this week’s piece de resistance – at least until a power drill was sent for – the duet for two filing cabinets, a piece performed for (public played like a) piano and (tame MSM) orchestra.

Happily little is left to be said about the “discovery” of the cabinets in a Canberra store which specialises in recycled government office furniture which they have not already betrayed themselves.  It beggars belief.

Many questions arise. How did such a salacious selection of files spanning five governments fit into two cabinets? How come there’s such a bipartisan range; dirt to dish on both sides? Why is it that the damaging leaks attack Abbott, Turnbull’s nemesis, and Morrison, a potential rival and why do Rudd and Penny Wong get leaked first?

Why are our spooks so slow to act? Imagine if this were Labor and NBN files. ASIO eventually retrieves the files for the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, which states that they remain Commonwealth property. Of course. Why does the ABC not oppose retrieval on the grounds that these files are in the public interest?

The cabinets are returned to ASIO which will then investigate itself.  But the ABC will have access? How long did the ABC have the cabinets? Who bought them? How did ABC obtain them from that buyer? Why is it considered necessary to protect your “source”, ABC? Why did ASIO taken so long to reclaim Commonwealth property?

Sadly for Turnbull it all sounds like a Godwin Grech 2.0. The cabinets fell off the back of his ute, like a dead cat bouncing. Forget ScoMo’s collusion with ASIO to deny 700 refugees permanent residency.

Look over there. Pink batts. Look what Labor’s gone and done now. Penny Wong left some files in her office.

ABC radio totally compromises its integrity and credibility by leading news bulletins with the fiction that “new documents have emerged” showing Kevin Rudd had ignored safety advice over the Pink Batts scheme. They are old documents already submitted to a Royal Commission. Nobody at ABC bothers to check.

As Kevin Rudd acidly observes, “First, the cabinet document referred to by the ABC was given to and considered by the Royal Commission into the Home Insulation Program by the Abbott government in 2014.

“Second, the risks referred to in the cabinet document used in the ABC report refer to financial and administrative risks to the program for the commonwealth, not safety risks to workers. “The ABC was told of these facts before publication. For these reasons, legal proceedings against the Australian Broadcasting have now commenced.”

No wonder Malcolm Turnbull is tired and irritable on ABC Sunday Insiders. It doesn’t stop him repeating drivel-tickle-down nonsense about how company tax cuts make everyone richer and not just the boss. He still manages to make an ass of himself with his impromptu swingeing attacks on his pet straw man Bill Shorten.

But the dead cat strategy is working. Barrie does not ask him how he can defend Scott Morrison’s collusion with ASIO, a conspiracy to deny 700 refugees their right to live here. Not a question about the morality of our bid to be big in the global arms trade or the reality that any deals done will profit multi-national corporation with state of the art tax minimisation schemes.

Not a peep about his Home Affairs Minister, like Trump keeping us safe by sowing seeds of distrust in the judiciary.

Instead the PM’s lies about jobs get another airing. In fact 477,040 jobs were created in the last 15 months. This reduced the jobless rate 5.6% to 5.5%. Yet unemployment rose between 2014 and 2016 to heights not seen since 1996. There are 730,500 people unemployed, two monthly increases in a row on top of 51 consecutive months over 700,000, the worst figures since the 1990s.

As Alan Atwood explains  “2017 was a poor year for the Australian economy overall – and jobs in particular – when the numbers are examined in the global context …  the whole world is now in a phenomenal trade, investment and profits boom. All well-managed economies are reducing their pools of unemployed remaining from the GFC.”

Yet Michaelia Cash crows on Thursday that, in 2017, “the economy created 403,100 jobs and three-quarters of these new jobs were full-time”, yet they are not new jobs. They are jobs clawed back from the Coalition’s devastating job losses in its first three years of inglorious failure.

The week ends with two cheers for the MSM who pat themselves on the back at their mutual discovery that Labor’s really got no show now that Turnbull’s got so much done in parliament. Besides, he’s pulled off this amazing (fake) jobs miracle and the economy is just taking off.  And just look at Christopher Pyne go.

My, how he’s turned out to be quite the international entrepreneur. Found his niche at last.

Arms? If we didn’t sell them someone else surely would. Besides Labor hasn’t come out with any fully costed, modelled alternative. OK, the polls are looking dire right now but once Turnbull’s popularity gets boosted by our patronage, who knows ? And there’s bound to be more dirt on Labor. Then there’s the Batman by-election.

Return of The Fixer closes this week’s instalment with a government preparing to dish the dirt on Penny Wong when parliament returns next week, while crowing about its fake jobs figures, its corporate tax cuts, its arms trade and its uninterrupted economic growth – an orchestrated farrago of lies.

Beneath the noise, however, the sound and the fury, the roar of the greasepaint and the smell of the crowd, more and more Australians are buying less and less of the hyped-up rhetoric; seeing through the lies.

Times are tough for the average punter and no amount of theatrics in Canberra will divert, distract or bluff families struggling to pay increasing utility bills, workers increasingly underpaid, casualised and on short term, insecure contracts, while women juggle two or three part time jobs and a full time job at home just to make ends meet.

Despite the denial and diversion of the Turnbull government and the sheer volume of its MSM proxies, Bill Shorten’s Labor Party pitch to cost of living and social justice matters will prove increasingly resonant.



Turnbull Cooks up White Supremacy for Australia Day.

“The very ink with which all history is written is merely fluid prejudice.”
– Mark Twain

As Australia Day breaks upon Catani Gardens, St Kilda, the morn “in russet mantle clad” reveals Cook in the pink – not a trick of the light -but the victim of a “paint attack”, a casualty of a culture war we gaily wage each January.

It’s a brief respite from our energy wars or our government’s “humanitarian” war on refugees, asylum-seekers, our workers and our poor. Only IPA stooge, Tony Abbott, a self-styled conservative, a type of Aussie Tea Party martyr to a mindless cause, steps up his war of revenge on Malcolm Turnbull.  Hell hath no fury like an Abbott spurned.

An empty vessel makes the most noise, our father used to say. Not that Turnbull is a stranger to vacuity himself.

I’m disappointed by those who want to change the date of Australia Day,” the PM scolds, driven ever further right,  “seeking to take a day that unites Australia and Australians and turn it into one that would divide us.”

The day is not for changing, any more than our constitution will change to recognise first peoples or their right to a voice to parliament.  Worse, Aboriginal Affairs Minister, Nigel Scullion claims “not a single Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person has approached him about changing the date of Australia Day”.

He’s the same minister who didn’t bother to read his department’s reports; four briefings on child abuse and breaches of the Youth Justice Act at Don Dale. “Nobody told me” is Turnbull’s code of ministerial responsibility 2.0.

Sack them, says Matthew Guy, the Victorian Opposition leader, whose career will never recover from his lobster with a mobster dinner with Liberal Party donors who included Tony Madafferi, whom, police allege, is the godfather of Melbourne Mafia. An error of judgment, says Guy. So is his call to sack councils who disrespect Australia Day.

Guy’s been inspired by the Federal government’s despotic decision to strip Melbourne’s Darebin and Yarra councils of the right to hold citizenship ceremonies because they’ve chosen another date for Australia Day.

An endangered species, Turnbull’s old, sclerotic, white male, mob must deny the fundamental truths of invasion, dispossession, and subjugation lest the whole edifice of vested interest and ill-gotten privilege, be revealed to be rotten to the core.  Our PM calls a halt to all subversive date-changers. Gives them a stiff finger-wagging.

Wimpy Bill Shorten agrees. He’s for “Australia Day staying on January 26”; another vote for the house of cards.

Last August, when Lachlan Macquarie and Cook were tagged with “Change the date” and “No pride in genocide” Malcolm Turnbull’s over-reaction to “this cowardly criminal act” was more bizarrely alarmist. Then, it was “… part of a deeply disturbing and totalitarian campaign to not just challenge our history but to deny it and obliterate it.”

This year, Turnbull’s wrong-headed rhetoric evokes a school principal lecturing Year 9s for their lack of team spirit.

Unites us? Our wholesome, multicultural Australia Day ceremonies unite us by celebrating exclusion, cultural assimilation or token inclusion. How we love to keep outsiders out; and how great our state is at protecting us from the un-Australian and non-Australian are key themes. Next up will be flags with Major-Domo Peter Dutton’s face so we can wave away strangers – and blowflies – on the day; celebrate our intact border, our ring of steel.

Australia Day is set aside for conferring citizenship but numbers are down this year. Typically 16,000 and 17,000 migrants a year became citizens on January 26. This year it’s down to 12,887. Take a bow, Peter Dutton.

Protector Peter’s big on reinstating tough new language tests for prospective citizens but he’s not quite there yet. The old one would inspire anyone. From 1901 to 1958 the following dictation test effectively screened out non-Europeans. Even if you passed, the immigration officer had the right to test you in another European language.

If the land is ploughed when wet the furrows may, and in all probability will, wear a more finished appearance, and will be more pleasant to the eye, but land so ploughed will be more inclined to become set or baked, and when in this state will not produce a maximum yield.

More alarming, however, than language test plans, Australia Day is distorted into something it has never been – a test of loyalty to the state. Fortunately, the PM is upstaged by Melbourne’s Invasion Day protest, a show of support for the pink paint push; doing away with all celebration, as organiser Tarneen Onus-Williams explains,

“People who celebrate Australia Day are celebrating the genocide of aboriginal people, waving Australian flags in our faces. It’s disgusting. We don’t want the date changed. We don’t want to celebrate Australia Day at all.’’

Organisers estimate the Invasion Day Protest may number 60,000, a big turnout paralleled in other major cities. Melbourne’s vastly outnumbers the official Australia Day Parade, despite the State government’s alluring promises of an Official Flag Raising and other, fun, cultural stuff. And, boy, do they know how to sell their show.

After the Official Flag Raising Ceremony, spectators will be treated to a vibrant public display of our diverse community with more than 1,000 participants from over 80 community and cultural groups taking part in Melbourne’s annual Australia Day Parade. Diversity? It’s a veritable fiesta of multicultural efflorescence.

A 21-gun salute at the Shrine of Remembrance at noon helps our adulation for the military, a Coalition fetish which has grown from Howard’s khaki and cricket whites prime ministership through Abbott’s militarisation of compassion, in creating a uniformed Australian Border Force, whose dark blue shirts may as well be black.

Undeterred, or even spurred, by the thunder of big guns in the background, the Invasion Day Melbourne crowd chants “always was, always will be Aboriginal land”. History is on their side. While Fairfax shows new research suggesting only a third of Australians realise the date is offensive, most of us are happy with a change of date.

A year ago, only 15 percent wanted a date change. By September, it was 26 percent. A survey this month finds 49 percent of people agree that Australia Day should not be held on a date Aboriginal people find offensive.

Back in St Kilda, Cook looks as if he’s been anointed with a vat of strawberry yoghurt. Or a chef who’s had a bad accident with an exploding pastry bag. His periwig is plastered pink. Lavender pink daubs his high forehead, cheeks, and nose in unwitting, ironic homage to the Aussie surfer’s iconic slip-slop-slap, ritual face-painting sun-screen.

A mess of thick pink paint dribbles down Cook’s front; dispelling, forever, any hope of gravitas, order or decorum.

What is decried as desecration or vandalism, appears instead as a timely commentary, if not an art form of its own as much as it may offend fans of replicas of early twentieth century British Edwardian academic memorial sculpture? Sculpture buffs will be delighted to know there’s another replica in Hawaii if all pink paint is not entirely removed. Others may be pleased to learn that Hawaii’s obelisk marking Cook’s death is almost inaccessible.

The lava of pink paint also subverts the authority of Cook’s captain’s coat, his embroidered silk waistcoat beneath, the heroic fortitude of his set jaw and his imperious, surveyor’s gaze above. Yet history, as always, is even crueler.

The festive season of Cook’s first visit to Hawaii had ended. He returned early in 1779, left, then was forced back by gales, beyond his, by now, well worn-out welcome, during a time of worship of the god of war Kūkaʻilimoku.

But it was not just bad timing. Cook had also provoked the Hawaiians, killing several men and breaching kapu in a bungled attempt to kidnap their King Kalaniopuu to hold hostage in order to recover a stolen cutter. As you do.

Crew member John Ledyard’s journal‘s entries are not only ominous, they resonate with the cause of today’s Australia Day pink pot culture warriors.  “They had been oppressed and were weary of our prostituted alliance…”

Cook was clubbed and stabbed to death on Valentine’s Day 1779 on a wood-fringed shore, lapped by the musical, turquoise waves of Kealakekua Bay, on a return visit to Hawaii’s Big Island. His body was dismembered, cooked and burnt and the long bones returned to his crew, part of Hawaiian ritual respect to any chieftain slain in battle.

The cooking of Cook softened his flesh to allow the bones, in which a man’s power resided, to be more easily cleaned but accounts of his cooking have given rise to the myth that the British navigator and explorer was eaten.

His remaining, unspoiled clothes were sold among the officers, following the Royal Naval tradition after a burial at sea, a practical custom, given any sailor’s rig became threadbare after a three-year voyage, officers and men alike.

Ritual cannibalism is out of vogue today, but “No Pride” in big blood-red letters at the base of Cook’s statue suggests a waning appetite for the mindless veneration of the arrival of Lieutenant Cook, his rank when he came ashore in New Holland, as this land was known in April 1770, and proclaimed the whole east coast for mad King George III, a ruler who not only lost the American colonies, it is said but also his mind.

Modern research, however, suggests bipolar disorder rather than Porphyria, an earlier, popular conjecture.

Cook declared the land Terra Nullius, beginning the legal fiction that Australia was waste and unoccupied, a lie that prevailed until the High Court decided that a form of native title existed in The Murray Islands in a case, (Mabo v. The State of Queensland (1992)) which overthrew Terra Nullius some two hundred years later.

Disaster for indigenous peoples swiftly, inexorably, followed Cook. Populations were rapidly decimated by smallpox, syphilis, TB, measles, typhus, influenza and even the common cold; diseases introduced by sailors and convict settlers for which Aboriginal peoples had no natural immunity. Natalie Cromb for IndigenousX takes stock,

“From that date forward we have been subjected to murders, massacres, mass poisonings, sexual violence, child removal, erasure of rights, decimation of language, identity and the means to collectivise and assert sovereignty.” 

Cook also brought sickness and death to Hawaii. University of California’s David Swanson estimates one-in-seventeen Native Hawaiians had died within two years of Cook’s arrival. By 1800, the population had declined by 48% since Cook set foot on Hawaii. By 1820, it had declined 71%; by 1840, it declined 84%.

Smallpox killed over half the indigenous population living in the Sydney Basin in one year. Aboriginal land was then stolen and cleared for settlements and farms. Genocide followed.  The Australian frontier wars from 1788 to as late as 1934 saw settlers engage in systematic massacres and other forms of brutal dispossession.

In his 2013 book, Forgotten War, Historian Henry Reynolds estimates that about 30,000 Indigenous people and approximately 5,000 Europeans died. In research published in 2014, two Queensland University researchers suggest the death toll may have reached 60,000 Indigenous people in Queensland alone. Then there was grog.

“Dispossessed of the land that had nourished them for so long, the Aboriginal people became dependent on white food and clothing. Alcohol, used as a means of trade by the British, served to further shatter traditional social and family structures.”

For Tony Abbott, however, and other thinly disguised Aussie white supremacists, Australia Day is a chance to parade populist historical illiteracy, talk more nonsense about “Western civilisation” and to dog-whistle racists,

“What happened on January 26, 1788, was, on balance, for everyone, Aboriginal people included, a good thing because it brought Western civilisation to this country, it brought Australia into the modern world.”

750,000 to a million Aboriginal peoples are estimated to have inhabited this land in 1788, yet only 30,000 were recorded in the British colony’s first national census in 1911. Yet Abbott’s mentor, Howard seized upon Geoffrey Blainey’s phrase others to consign such realities to the “black armband view of history”. Turnbull is not far behind.

All right-thinking Melburnians are outraged to discover yet another act of desecration has been perpetrated upon another statue of an old white male invader. A chorus of disapproval erupts across the nation. It’s sacrilege.

Worse, Burke and Wills are found to be splattered with green paint. “Stolen” is written across their plaque.

“The vandalism is a disgrace,” thunders Alan Tudge, our Federal citizenship minister.  “These people are trashing our national heritage by doing what they’re doing and they’re achieving nothing in the process,” he helps make up the minds of listeners to Coalition echo-chamber, Radio 3AW. (He may as well say “these pinkos”.)

“You can’t rewrite our history.”

But of course, you can. History is continuously being re-written; a constant dialogue between the past and present.

Sir John Tweed, R.A., whose original statute at Whitby, the 1914 St Kilda statue replicates, would doubtless be tickled pink at the love and care lavished upon this antipodean copy of his hatless for action Cook, maps in hand.

The Times publishes a photo of a worker giving Cook a facial with a Bunning’s high-pressure water cleaner.

Another image shows a pigeon atop the haughty Yorkshireman’s pink pate completing Cook 2.0, transforming the staid effigy into an installation all its own, a surreal homage to the need for a subversive reading of history.

Above all, it’s an image of profound absurdity – like so much else in our narcissistic national veneration of ourselves, our lazy navel-gazing, our loutish Ocker jingoism, our trumpeting of our achievements and the decoration of heroic Aussies who appear in the Australia Day Honours List who “have contributed so much”.

Or whose forebears have taken so much.

Or, as in Brian Loughnane’s case, being director of the Federal Liberals for twelve years, an exercise in fatuity.

Australia Days of our Lives, a long-running political soap-noir, divides the nation again this week. Some underpaid, underemployed workers may be lucky enough to get a day off from their increasingly underpaid, part-time, uncertain work. Our ABC and other MSM whip up a froth of fluffy, fun stuff. Show us all sinking tinnies; have a splash of the white; enjoying our holiday.

Many, however, rage against a government, whose indifference to Indigenous peoples amounts to contempt in its rebuff of any constitutional recognition, whose failure of human compassion and denial of historical reality can enable it not only to hold a national day on a date that marks an invasion, a day which led to dispossession and genocide, but to strenuously defend its prerogative, its shabby, specious case or “right” to do so .


Through the looking glass with Trump and Barnaby.

Now that Donald Trump, Leader of the Free-with-the-truth World, has got a dodgy clean bill of health and a thumbs-up from The Drum for keeping almost all his campaign threats, nifty neo-colony, Australia, can breathe again before it blindly follows America into further military misadventure, or a disastrous war with North Korea.

We have already followed The Donald through the looking-glass into the strange, parallel world of Trump-land. It’s a Lewis Carroll-Mad-Men reality running counter to the real world; where things are not as they should be.

Our government loves it there. Totally. Coalition devotion to America and its Manipulator in Chief is so hopeless, that ABC News 24, Sunday, swoons that The Donald “swept to power” on the back of his claim that he is the “world’s greatest deal-maker”.  Only the “most dishonest human beings on earth” as he once called the US press would dare suggest that that the only thing that Trump ever swept to power was his pompadour-bouffant hair-do.

The week’s airwaves ring with praise for Trump’s tax breaks for the filthy rich, his incredible medical, his business smarts; his inspirationally loyal, rusted-on “support-base”, amidst other puffery about his achievements.

The arch-bigot of intolerance is feted, even for his 38% popularity rating, the lowest on record. Means nothing. My, how his “conservative support-base” loves him raves our ABC’s Zoe Meers.  The US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney helps out again with a glowing endorsement, accommodating and normalising Trump.

“Republicans love his unconventionality,” says Simon Jackman, chief executive of the pro-US US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney. “Democrats and Independents detest it, are embarrassed by it.” Seriously?

ABC Idolatry is boundless. Panellists on The Drum echo RN presenters; indulge the Donald’s excesses. They dismiss his inadequacies by chuckling over how with Trump you have to “expect the unexpected”. His wholesale incompetence; his failure to be presidential in any way is lauded as some innovative, disruptive tactic.

The Disrupter in Chief thesis originates, naturally, deep in Republican think-tankards. Bruce Bartlett, a domestic policy wonk to Ronald and (Just say no, Nancy) before George W. Bush, claims the president creates “unforced tumult.”  His thesis neatly ignores the tumult prompted by the current Congress funding deadlock crisis.

A grateful USA marks Trump’s first anniversary as Deal-Maker-in Chief, fittingly, as the nation is mired in chaos. Lawmakers blame each other over who’s caused the government shutdown while mass demonstrations erupt in cities across the country. But look over there.  See the change? Bartlett riffs on Trump the change-maker.

He has changed how presidents behave. He has changed how presidents talk. He has changed how president communicate. He has changed how presidents deal with Congress. He has changed how presidents approach the press. He has changed how presidents regard international trade. He has changed how presidents deal with foreign countries. He has changed how presidents interact with scientists. He has changed how presidents treat the agencies and departments of their own government.

It’s almost Biblical prose. Not one of Bartlett’s changes are for the better. Yet critics don’t know what they are talking about. The Australian, The Daily Telegraph, Our ABC and other government megaphones rush to defend Trump from Michael Wolff’s “sloppy journalism” and the heresy of his slanderous allegations in Fire and Fury.

Donald Trump is deeply unpredictable, irrational, at times bordering on incoherent, self-obsessed in a disconcerting way, wacky, way-out Wolff concludes from what he saw and was told. Especially vivid is the contempt expressed by people around the “fucking moron” as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tenderly calls Trump.

“A fucking idiot” is his bestie, super-pal, Rupert Murdoch’s frank and forthright assessment but to be fair he was talking about Trump’s contradictory, racist immigration policy which is no less conflicted than our own.

“A dope” is HR McMaster’s term of endearment while to Reince Priebus, the chief is an “idiot”. Yet the definitive portrait of the Trump presidency may go to  Gary Cohn, Trump’s economic adviser who emailed for help.

It’s worse than you can imagine. An idiot surrounded by clowns. Trump won’t read anything—not one-page memos, not the brief policy papers; nothing. He gets up halfway through meetings with world leaders because he is bored. And his staff is no better. Kushner is an entitled baby who knows nothing. Bannon is an arrogant prick who thinks he’s smarter than he is. Trump is less a person than a collection of terrible traits.

Trump threatens to sue his caricaturist, Wolff. It’s “the fake book of a mentally deranged author”. It may be the flawed work of an ambitious hack who has been over-reliant on what Steve Bannon told him, yet it matches other testimony. Tony Schwartz says it fits The Donald he knew in 1987 when he “co-wrote” The Art of the Deal. 

Happily, in Australia, we are protected by a mainstream media which works hard to support the rich and powerful.

No American President in recent US history has so dramatically improved the American economy boosting pay rates, job numbers, retail sales, business investment, profits and, of course, the share market, gushes The Weekend Australian’s Robert Gottliebsen, who is clearly not constrained by reality.

The S&P 500 may be frothing but Trump is presiding over a slow but steady growth which began under Obama.

Employment growth is not inspiring. Despite the Trump hype, the nation has gained 171,000 new jobs a month in 2017, down from 187,000 in 2016 and 226,000 a month in 2015. Wages’ growth is flat.

Short of unleashing a massive stimulus package, moreover, there is little a president can do to dramatically change the US economy in a year. While it’s early days for economic credit, however Trump has done other HUGE things.

The elevation of ignorance, bigotry, shit-holery and re-inventing work as a break between golf and TV, for example, is inspiring. Of course, transformative genius doesn’t come cheap, but the essence of Trumpery is to get someone else to pick up the tab.  Taxpayers have paid almost $US50 million for Trump’s 91 golf trips so far.

Why our crush on Trump? There is much more, of course- and a great deal less- to the current imposter in the Oval Office and his toxic influence on our politics than his supporters’ unctuous fawning. Trump’s far more than our CEO and Commander in Chief, an overlord to whom we must grovel with regular, reckless, self-abasement and cultural cringing. There’s anti-Thought Leader Donald’s vibe, his counter-factual zeitgeist and his gas-lighting.

Gas-lighting, Tony Schwartz, explains is “lying until you get people to doubt their own reality. And it is both frightening and disturbing”.  It’s also as seductive as it is addictive. Turnbull’s government is terminally hooked.  Michaelia “gaslight” Cash is a magnificent example with her defence of her role an illegal union raid.

“I can assure you that I found out about the raids as they unfolded on the television. I can also assure you that my office did not find out about the raids until after they were being conducted.” 

Why raid the AWU at all? Why contact media? Employment Michaelia Cash lies to parliament about her role in an illegal raid designed to smear Bill Shorten and his former employer, along with a bit of ritual union-bashing.

Her lie is based on a farrago of lies including that the AWU broke the law. Some key details, however, deserve refreshing. The AFP errand? All the AFP were looking for was some union book-keeping, a ten-year-old receipt the AWU was not obliged by its own rules to keep for a donation to GetUp!

Had anyone from her office tipped off the media? No, she lies five times. In fact her media adviser, David De Garis, had done so. He confesses only after being outed by BuzzFeed. De Garis resigns only to quickly to be fixed up with a job as media and communications adviser with Australian Hotels Association in WA.

Amazingly, as luck would have it, only last August, De Garis was the employment minister’s chief media strategist, when Cash announced a deal to create up to 10,000 internships with the AHA. Internships enable the government to lie that it is creating employment when in fact it is running an industry subsidy. Jobs? No. Gas-lighting.

Unemployed people under 25 get an extra $200 a fortnight for doing an internship for four to 12 weeks of between 15-25 hours a week. The intern’s employer, however, gets $1,000, and does not actually pay the intern. If, after the internship they do then employ them, they get a wage subsidy of up to $10,000.

The big lie behind this work for the dole scheme is that it helps young people gain work. It won’t. Such schemes are fatally flawed as Greg Jericho notes. In fact the AHA internship merely helps an employer gain more cheap labour – in an industry where there is an abundance of under 25s already employed – in an industry which pays some of the lowest wages and which has some of the highest underemployment.

Michaelia Cash’s promotion in Turnbull’s 2018 Cabinet more than suggests that it was the PM himself who authorised the raid. Also promoted recently is gas-lighting maestro, gang-buster, Peter Dog-whistle Dutton.

“People don’t see this in NSW, in Queensland, but the reality is people are scared to go out at restaurants of a night time because they’re followed home by these gangs, home invasions, and cars are stolen,” lies Home Affairs Supremo, Peter Dutton. To blame for this state of lawlessness, is a conspiracy of soppy, soft-sentencing, civil-libertarian Victorian left-wing  judges and magistrates, a mob he invents with the aid of his trusty dog-whistle.

Even if there were a crime wave in Victoria – and all the evidence shows a decline, the truth is that there is no link showing severe sentencing reduces violent crime. Successes are achieved in nations where restorative justice programmes operate but these lack political appeal to right wing politicians perversely determined, as is Donald Trump that the multi-coloured, infinitely nuanced and miraculous universe of human discourse is really only black and white. To Dutton, communication is not about complex reciprocal relationships but getting the message out.

Our government even gas-lights about gases. Federal Energy and Environment Minister, Labor Blamer Josh Frydenberg begrudgingly concedes our greenhouse gas emissions rose in the year to last June by 0.7 per cent to 550 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. He’s done his best to hide the bad news late in December on a busy day as he did last year. But the truth is out. Scrapping the carbon tax has backfired. Direct Action is a failure.

It’s the third year of increase, but his government will still meet its climate change goals, he claims.

Seriously? The Australia Institute’s Climate & Energy Program, reports that to meet Australia’s wimpy 26-28 per cent by 2030, Paris commitment, at lowest cost to the economy and other key sectors like manufacturing – electricity sector emissions would need to be cut by between 40-55 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Politicians have always lied, it’s true. But where does our government by gas-lighting draw its inspiration?

A key is to be found last May, when Turnbull first publicly paid homage to his US liege-lord, The Donald after an abusive phone call.  Australia pledged to normalise an unstable, dangerous monster. Collude in his madness.

Hosted by veteran political impresario, a man who has used his newspapers ruthlessly to make or break governments or parties but who is now less influential, Rupert Murdoch, it’s a ceremony worth briefly revisiting.

On cue, our own fake leader, Turnbull, renews our oath of allegiance and feudal bondage as he toadies to Trump aboard SS Intrepid, a clapped out rust-bucket aircraft carrier-cum-museum trapped in the silt of the Hudson River, a relic of a former age of glory and a vivid warning to rust-belters that making American great again is idle, wilful, mutual, self-delusion. Never have the signs of US decline, degeneracy and corruption been more evident.

In an “amazing snub” Trump keeps our PM waiting three hours. Turnbull, who unsuccessfully contested Liberal preselection for the Division of Wentworth at a 1981 by-election and the 2001 federal election, before his success in 2004, trots out a favourite deception, the myth that he is, somehow, a late-comer to politics.

“We have backgrounds that are similar in many respects — businessmen that found our way into politics — and we’ve also got a lot of friends in common too. So it was a very, very warm, as I said, more family than formal.

Turnbull’s sycophancy is more than fulsome praise for the most incompetent leader in US history. More than a bonding based on a lie. It sets the tone for the normalisation of The Donald, especially the condoning of his lying; aiding and abetting Trumpism; a plague of fakery; a disfiguring pox on our politics at home and abroad.

Pathological liar, Trump downplays his early rift over Turnbull wanting the U.S. to accept 1,250 refugees stranded in the Dantean inferno of Australia’s off-shore detention system, saying reports of an abusive phone call were “exaggerated” and “fake news.” Dazzled by the effulgence of the Orange Sun King, Turnbull does not demur.

Pants-on-Fire, Liar Trump dismisses any facts he doesn’t like as “fake news”.  Yet, in one year, he makes 2,000 false or misleading claims of his own – more than five a day. In a single half-hour interview with the New York Times in late December, he makes 24 false assertions. This is the very definition of gas-lighting explains Schwartz.

Gas-lighting takes time and repetition to achieve success. But it’s catching. Happily, this week our media helps out Trump’s score card with breathless interviews with Trump supporters. Others will doubtless follow.

ABC RN Breakfast Fran Kelly’s stand-in, her political body double, Hamish Macdonald airs the wisdom of Nicole Martin, a pet Trump supporter he met in America in 2016 and whom he invites on regularly. Martin loves Trump for being a businessman. Turn American around economically. Keeping her safe. 9/11 is repeatedly mentioned.

Martin’s vacuous, inarticulate, endorsement of The Donald supports Richard Fording’s thesis that it’s not about education or even disaffection but that Trump voters have lower levels of knowledge about politics and less interest in using ideas to understand politics – place little premium on the ‘need for cognition’.

Barnaby Joyce’s supporters showed the same predilection at his byelection. And there’s no need for cognition for a nation to thrill to the clatter of 14,000 tonnes of shiny Whyalla steel unloading at the start of the Parkes to Narromine stretch of Barnaby’s “steel Mississippi”, the 1700km Melbourne to Brisbane $10.7 billion Inland Rail.

How dare Treasury try to tell government Barnaby’s boondoggle will lose money? Our nation is back on track.

Not everyone’s aboard but who cares? “Suck it up, ” says Joyce, who became Infrastructure and Transport Minister by shafting Darren Chester.  Chester was respected for his competence.

NSW farmers fret over consultation; worry that the 307 kilometre section of the track crosses valuable crop land and volatile floodplain from Narromine to Narrabri. But Barnaby is big on vision; not listening.

An Inland Rail gravy train is all part of a forward-thinking Turnbull-Joyce infrastructure government, dedicated to nation-building, says the visionary deputy PM. As always, he is a fashion statement. He wears an arresting air-sea rescue orange outfit, pairing an ARTC Hi-Vis hard hat with soft back flap to protect himself from brain snap.

Or a thought-bubble. ARTC stands for Australia Rail Track Corporation, a government statutory body that since 1998 manages what’s left of our interstate rail since B Doubles won 96% of the nation’s east cost intercity hauling as part of a push to get rail unions out of transport. The big trucks will continue to rule.

Even ARTC and government research warns of losses. Former Nationals’ leader John Anderson’s Deloitte 2015 report says the line would deliver a net economic benefit but the expected operating revenue over 50 years would not cover the initial capital investment and the project would therefore not attract the private-sector investment required to build it. As Bernard Keane says the project’s a winner if you didn’t have to pay for its construction.

Barnaby’s iron rooster is like Snowy 2.0, a revamped, rebadged “iconic” con. Wokka Truss came up with the tag before the former Nationals’ leader and bean farmer handed over the caboose to younger buck Barnaby.

Barnaby’s reviving a 1990s pipe dream, the hobby horse of Everald Compton, a Belke-Petersen adviser and latterly seniors’ advocate; appropriately Chairman of the Longevity Forum, an outfit which is blue-printing an ageing Australia. It’s an idea which has been around for a long while – even longer than the ANZUS alliance which despite popular misconception offers only an “agreement to consult” should we need US protection.

The week shows we have more of a need to be protected from the United States – at least from Trumpism, its latest cultural export. And we need to end our love affair with The Donald before things really get out of hand. Normalising the 45th President merely feeds a monster, a mistake we could all live to regret.

Gas-lighting, in particular, has no place in our politics any more than Barnaby’s inland rail, a boondoggle which is nothing to do with transport and everything to do with pork barrel politics, another gravy train we can ill-afford.

Similarly we cannot afford to subsidise outfits like the AHA who raise false hopes in the vulnerable, by offering rip-off internships when what young people need are real jobs, secure jobs, that offer a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. Not McJobs or rip-offs.  Grovelling to the United States is not only demeaning it will do us great harm.


Gas-lighting: The term comes from the classic 1944 psychological thriller “Gaslight,” in which a husband (played by Charles Boyer) manipulates a gaslight to dim and brighten alternately, while insisting to his wife (Ingrid Bergman) that it’s steady — the first of a whole series of deceptions intended to undermine her sanity, so that he can have her committed to a mental institution and claim her inheritance.

Call off your dogs, Turnbull and scrap your attack on open government.

“We are very concerned at the growing gang violence and lawlessness in Victoria, in particular in Melbourne …This is a failure of the Andrews Labor government.” Malcolm Turnbull 1 January

The PM’s uplifting, personalised New Year goodwill message, vilifying public enemy Andrews and belittling the Premier for causing The Herald-Sun’s fake African gangs crime wave, fuels another wave of racist xenophobia and shit-holery.

Top Dog Peter Dutton savages Victoria’s judges for their lax sentencing at home this week, while Trumpista Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, shit-holes China, our biggest trading partner for poaching our Pacific Island pals.

A born megaphone diplomat, hard right wing warrior, International Development Minister Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells on Wednesday bawls out China for building “roads to nowhere” and “useless buildings” in the Pacific. Even worse, they’ve been duchessing local politicians and promising a slew of new jobs, practices abhorrent to Australian politicos.

Australia is in no position to criticise. First, as ANU’s Development Policy Centre research shows, where our aid funds once gushed, there is now a mere trickle. And it goes against the flow. Other OECD nations now pump up aid; do their bit for global security if not humanity. Yet for every $100 we earn as a nation, we now give only 20 cents in overseas aid.

And our giving is not selfless. Our aid program boosts Australia’s commercial interests at the expense of genuine local poverty eradication. Neoliberal, “Aid for trade” programs, first adopted by Howard, benefit Aussies far more than Islanders. “Creating a favourable environment for business”, or giving to the rich increases local poverty and inequality.

Of course there’s more to aid than helping others. We like to be “geostrategic”, or keep other nations off our patch.

But it costs. There’s some concern in Canberra and Washington over China’s rapidly growing influence in the Pacific since Hockey and Morrison plundered our aid programme’s piggy-bank but Connie’s on to the Chinese. She’s not holding back on how she sees China’s aid programme as a type of indentured servitude or neo-colonial expansion.

Rising sea-levels should worry Oceania less, she contends, than its rising sea of crippling debt. Islanders are in hock to China over their heads. And Beijing’s influence can only grow.  Sri Lanka handed over its strategic southern port of Hambantota in a 99 year lease to the Chinese government last month because it couldn’t meet debt repayments.

Similarly, Landridge, a Chinese company, now has a ninety-nine year lease on the port of Darwin, because NT Chief Minister Adam Giles saw the deal as a fiscally responsible way of reducing the Territory’s indebtedness to Canberra.

There’s been a bit of a fuss since about the lack of due diligence, but given Darwin is not exclusively a military port and we are all one free trade, neoliberal, global fraternity, the government argues, what could possibly go wrong?

In 2009, Tonga’s debt to China was $US100.4 million ($A132.9 million) or roughly one-third of its national income.   Samoa and Vanuatu are also over-committed with big debts to China. In 2013, The World Bank warned Samoa of about “debt distress” where public loans repayments would exceed 56 per cent of Gross Domestic Product each year.

It’s all part of China’s One belt One Road plan to buddy up with foreign governments and companies to channel $trillions into ports, roads and other big infrastructure to boost its sea power or as it says “counter its maritime vulnerabilities”.

The Lowy Institute estimates China has poured $2.3 billion in aid to the South Pacific since 2006 – almost half Australia’s commitment. It’s expanding while our aid budget is the lowest it’s been in half a century and it’s still being trimmed.

The Abbott-Turnbull government cut a whopping $11 billion from our aid budget. “Unmet and unfunded”, moreover, remain our promises of climate change aid.  Oxfam Australia reports, Australia’s average annual contribution of $200 million to international climate finance has not increased since 2010. Little wonder China has been able to buy in.

Oxfam is calling for Australia to boost its contribution to climate finance to $3.2 billion by 2020.

Fierravanti-Wells, however, is a bull in a China shop. The best defence is offence. At least her panda-bashing will win US approval. And it’s a perfect fit with US-sycophants-R-US and Project Normalise Trump, the Coalition’s team plan.

Beijing is not bluffed. Australia is “the daring vanguard of anti-China forces” says the Global Times, Chinese edition.

China’s influence must be pegged back. Trump even threatens trade sanctions. But must we copy his combative communication style? Are we infected with Trumpism? Our Minister, it seems, cannot help herself.

Nuance, subtlety and indirection may be China’s diplomatic bag. Our Connie prefers a Trumpista style. A vociferous foe of abortion, marriage equality and coy reserve Concetta is a self-proclaimed loudmouth of the silent majority. She prides herself on speaking out – venting preconceptions, prejudgements and, in this case, insults.

“I think in politics it’s good to be upfront about what you believe in”, she says, as if communication were really that simple. As if all beliefs were rigid, unchangeable. Already she’s lost her PM, a politician who struggles more than most with knowing what he believes and how to voice his equivocation. Yet like Concetta, he’s quick to strike a pose.

Holding that pose is harder. Turnbull is a notorious flip-flop.  New Year’s Day, he proposes a postal vote on a republic. The next day it’s off the agenda. Doing a Turnbull will enter the language for a volte face; an abrupt reversal of position.

Like most MPs he’s constantly changing beliefs and seeking ways to hide, disguise or deny them. Little wonder he leads a government which has taken years to admit to its hoax about a carbon tax. The upfront plain speaker theory is bunkum.

But that’s not what Concetta’s really saying. What she means in this context is that it’s OK to be tactless or calculatedly offensive. Why, it’s now almost compulsory, as MPs are thrust on to a global stage, awash with Trumpist, “shithole”, anti-diplomacy. Yet Fierravanti-Wells dresses up bluntness or insensitivity as a virtue. Firstly, it’s a time-saver.

“It means that people don’t waste time. It means that they know where you stand,” says the MP. If only. As it stands, she’s offended both Pacific leaders and the Chinese. Prolonged hostility, not communication, results, despite the best efforts of our celebrity Foreign Minister and polo aficionado to step in with her talking points and smooth things over.

“Australia works with a wide range of development partners, including China, in pursuit of the goal of eliminating poverty in our region and globally.” Bishop refuses to endorse her development Minister in The Australian  which reports the Foreign Minister’s intervention as a slap-down. Samoa is not placated. Nor is China.

“The comments … have certainly surprised me, indeed, they are quite insulting to the leaders of Pacific Island neighbours,” St Paul’s College Old Boy, the urbane Samoan PM Tuilaepa Sailele, Auckland University’s first Samoan Commerce graduate  tells the ABC, “they have the capacity to “destroy” Australia’s relationship with the region.”

China lodges a formal protest. A diplomatic slanging-match breaks out. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang calls the Minister’s comments “nothing but irresponsible” complaining they show “scant regard for the facts”.

Xinhua News, which SBS and ABC, our own state news agencies love to demean as China’s state news agency, publishes an angry editorial accusing Australia of acting like an “arrogant overlord”.

“If Australia really cares about its Pacific neighbours, it should first learn from China’s to treat those much smaller neighbours as equals and refrain from behaving like an arrogant overlord,” Xinhua retorts.

“Then it could learn, again from China, to contribute constructive ideas, if not funds, to address the real concerns of the peoples in those countries.”

It’s a fair call. The diplomatic fracas intensifies. Doubtless, the PM will call in his right hand man, Peter Dutton, whose sensitivity to climate change sea rise faced by Pacific Island nations was immortalised, along with his condescension and indifference in his witty joke two years ago.

“Time doesn’t mean anything when you’re about to be, you know, have water lapping at your door.” 

Dutton, however, has a home fire or two to keep burning. He is busy branding Daniel Andrews an enemy of the people.

He means well. Grand Poo-bah, Home Affairs Supremo, Dutto sheds buckets of crocodile tears over “a small element of The African Community” who tarnish others’ reputations as he gangs up with News Corp to slander Victoria’s Premier for creating lawlessness by appointing limp, left-wing ideologues; wimpy civil-libertarian judges and magistrates.

It’s a rehash of last week’s outrageous attack, reheated and served up with calculated malice aforethought. He’s goading Andrews and the judiciary if not the whole legal establishment to see how much he can get away with. It’s also a stunning display of just how much authority he has over Malcolm Turnbull. Would any other PM indulge him thus?

Dutton also follows his leader’s Trumpism. His libellous allegations are utterly unfounded. Of Victoria’s 57 Supreme Court Judges, Associate Judges in Victoria, the state’s Attorney General, Martin Pakula has appointed 10. Out of 126 magistrates, he’s appointed 17 and out of 68 County Court Judges, a mere 17. But do the facts matter?

Our Home Fires Super Minister, whose interpretation of his role owes much to Tony Abbott’s junkyard or attack dog routines is not just the PM’s bodyguard and Party Room door butch but is already acting as Turnbull’s chief head-kicker.

He’s also treading thin ice. Even a Grand Poohbah can be charged with contempt of court. Is it macho bravado? Is he “going the niggle”  or does our newbie Home Affairs Tsar not understand the separation of powers? That the act is not more complex than it seems is betrayed by his decision this week to attack Lex Lasry for making fun of him in a tweet.

Thin-skinned as his mentor Trump, Dutton personally attacks Victorian Supreme Court Judge Lex Lasry. “Mr Lasry, who is a left-wing ideologue appointed to the court, is dismissive the other day of some of the comments I made.”  

Lasry tweeted that “citizens are out to dinner in Mansfield tonight and they are not worried.” In an alarming show of lack of proportion and decorum, Dutton goes nuts. His rebuke of Lasry is tellingly less than coherent.

“If you’ve got that sort of attitude towards the public, these people who think they’re above the public, it’s a complete nonsense.” 

Dutton is more offended by being mocked than by any legal issue, although he implies that judges should echo public opinion, a dangerously superficial interpretation of the role of the judiciary, especially from a Home Affairs Minister.

His attack earns him swift rebuke. President of the Judicial Conference of Australia, Supreme Court Justice Robert Beech-Jones, says “personalised attacks on judges and magistrates as opposed to individual decisions are unfair and unwarranted. (They) …  cannot respond, and the comments undermine the capacity of the judiciary to apply the law impartially.” 

The JCA rejects Dutton’s claim there was a “problem” with some of the state’s judges and magistrates, describing it as “generalised sledging” that “does not add to the debate”.

Sledging? Dutton’s certainly detracted from so many debates so regularly that his promotion to a Home Affairs super-ministry can only be explained as a leading example of Malcolm Turnbull’s incomparably poor political judgement.

A few examples will suffice. Dutton lashed out at Amnesty International for bullying him, when in October 2015,  Amnesty alleged Australian officials paid $45,000 to six crew to return a boat of asylum seekers to Indonesia and that money was also paid money to the crew of a boat turned back in July. Amnesty’s report describes Australia’s secretive Operation Sovereign Borders as “a lawless venture that should be fully exposed through a royal commission”.

After a spate of horrific incidents in May 2016, Dutton alleged that refugee advocates were “teaching asylum seekers to self- harm”. Refugees leaving Manus for the US were “economic refugees” who could afford Armani luxury fashion items, he claimed in September, in his on-air rub-down with Ray Hadley.

“Somebody once said to me that the world’s biggest collection of Armani jeans and handbags [is] up on Nauru waiting for people to collect when they depart.”

He’s accused men on Manus of paedophile behaviour to explain why drunken off-duty troops in PNG opened fire on the detention centre.  He’s been prepared to violate UN conventions on refoulement. Yahya Tabani, a 32-year-old Rohingya man who arrived in Australia in 2013 but was sent to Manus Island, told Guardian Australia he had no choice but to return. He said he had been promised $25,000 by the Australian Border Force.

Pressed by ABC 7:30’s Leigh Sales to say whether it was safe for Rohingya to return to Myanmar presently, given close to 400,000 Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, many with bullet wounds and stories of mass killings, Dutton says “it depends on the circumstances”.

He has promised thousands to Rohingya refugees who agree to return to Myanmar, a country accused of carrying out genocide or what the ABC continues to call with barbarous euphemism, “ethnic cleansing” against the Muslim minority.

Dutton’s unsuitability to hold office as Home Affairs or any other cabinet post is enough for a separate article. Most damning recently is a report from Queensland police who are investigating an incident in which a South Sudanese-Australian family say were followed home, racially abused, and threatened on Thursday afternoon.

Dutton’s dog-whistling and disinformation may incite further racist violence. He is too powerful to be held in check by his week Prime Minister. Yet he represents a more general malaise as Peter Brent explains.

Australian politics is not in a healthy place. Donald Trump aside, it is difficult to think of national leaders and senior government members of other comparable democracies who regularly debase themselves, and their country, as ours do with these campaigns against minorities. Turnbull, once proudly above all this, is now so enfeebled he feels obliged to join in.

It’s a trend which Brent and others trace to John Howard’s deployment of the politics of division in 2001 with the Children Overboard lie and the notorious, meaningless and false slogan “we will decide who will come into this country and the circumstances in which they come”.

As Brent points out, Howard would have won the election without the arrival of Tampa. Perhaps when Dutton seizes the leadership from Turnbull, as he is manoeuvring to do, he can lose the next election comprehensively by beating the anti-immigration drum and put the lie to the hard-wired notion that stopping the boats and persecuting migrants is somehow an election-winner.

Dutton for PM! The right man to lead the coalition to the defeat it richly deserves.

Just before the last election The Guardian published an Australia Institute poll which showed that most Australians believe that refugees who arrive in the country by boat ought to be allowed to settle here.

Two-thirds of Australians believe doctors working in Australia’s offshore detention regime should be free to speak out about conditions in detention centres, and a majority believe New Zealand’s offer to resettle refugees from Manus Island and Nauru should be accepted.

What Turnbull’s government proposes, however, in a bill introduced in the House of Representatives in December when it would be overshadowed by the result of the postal survey, is the Coalition government’s broader crackdown on treason, espionage and foreign interference in a bill which interprets these matters so broadly it threatens democracy.

If passed into law, the bill increases tenfold the maximum penalties for anyone communicating information potentially harmful to the national interest, where that information is obtained via a government official without authorisation.

As Barrister Greg Barns and lawyer Anna Talbot write, it’s a law which is designed to prevent an incompetent government from embarrassment rather than from any real threats to national security.

Both espionage and national security are defined so widely as to allow almost any writer to fall foul of its provisions which also, alarmingly, uniquely, remove the notion of intent to commit harm before being found guilty of espionage.

The net is cast so wide that almost any writer revealing corruption or misconduct could be caught in it. There is no public interest defence.  Its severe penalties of 5 to 15 years imprisonment with up to 20 years for aggravated offences are out of all proportion to the circumstances or the threat faced.

As Turnbull’s government continue to lose the plot, it resorts to a primitive racist scapegoating and scaremongering it mistakenly believes will rescue it from certain defeat next election. In the process, it emulates the wilful disinformation denial and savage attacks on opponents, individuals and the judiciary that characterise the worst of Trumpism.

Its Pacific foreign policy is an embarrassing self-inflicted failure; its short-sighted massive cutbacks in aid have helped cede influence in the Pacific Islands to China. Trump-like invective and attacks on our greatest trading partner are no substitute for a rational, co-operative policy. Security means an increased investment in foreign aid, not cutbacks.

Similarly the proposed espionage laws represent “a creeping Stalinism” to Ethicos Group specialist Howard Whitton, who has advised governments and the United Nations ethics office on whistle-blower policy.

“The absolute protection of principled disclosure of wrongdoing – unfettered by government – must be preserved, or Australia will become a laughing stock internationally.” Especially a government which has preached the virtue of open and transparent government. But that’s the least of its worries.

The bill will allow government to forgo vital checks on its decency, honesty integrity, justice and efficiency and promote a culture of secrecy and lies which will inflict irremediable damage on our already faltering democracy.



Creeping Stalinism …

Turnbull’s terrifying new espionage laws endanger many innocent people


Turnbull’s New Year gang-bash plumbs new depths.

” … people are scared to go out to Melbourne restaurants of a night-time because they are followed home by these gangs …” People worry about home invasions and cars being stolen.” Peter Dutton’s New Year Message 4 January 2018.


At Heston Blumenthal’s Australian outpost, fireballs erupt outside the casino windows while a waiter freezes your ice-cream with liquid nitrogen, while, at Vue de Monde, patrons nibble on duck breast with fermented truffle.

Such culinary delights, alas, may soon be no more. Haute cuisine, imported wines and all the festive gaiety of a New Year’s nosh-up and natter with pals, once the birthright of every Melburnian, are now off the menu as violent gangs of black youths roam the streets driving honest, decent citizens away from eating out. Furtive, anti-social, home-delivered take-away or even DIY, stay at home, home cooking drudgery threaten to become the norm. Unless something is done.

Or at least that’s the government’s festive New Year’s message of peace on earth and goodwill to all white men. Hark, the herald angels at News Corp’s Herald Sun sing: glory to the new-born gang. Having promoted the “Apex gang”, they are now on to lurid accounts of a “violent crime spree” they wish us to imagine grips Melbourne’s western suburbs.

“Victoria, the state of fear”, they pun.  The Herald Sun dedicates 28 front pages in a year to a Sudanese migrant “gang” which police confirm were always Australian born-offenders, never had a clubhouse or flag and is now disbanded.

It’s all part of the service News Corp provides to Coalition politicians who sniff votes in a law and order scare campaign.

News Corp’s scare-mongering flies in the face of the facts. Criminal incidents recorded in Victoria are down 4.8%. Victoria’s youth crime rates are declining slowly over the last decade. The proportion of young offenders, under 25, moreover, is falling from half of all incidents recorded in 2007-2008 to 40% of all incidents in 2015-2016.

As Ben Debney reports in New Matilda, migrant youth and newly arrived migrants are not involved in criminal activity. Less than 10 per cent are overseas-born offenders. After Australia, the second-highest country, of alleged offenders in Victoria is New Zealand (2.8 per cent of the total offenders), followed by India (1.5 per cent), Vietnam and Sudan (both 1.4 per cent). Victoria Police confirm that Apex members were from a variety of backgrounds.

Still, gang violence is a good stick to beat Labor with. Turnbull bags Daniel Andrews’ government for nurturing “Apex and Menace to Society gangs terrorising residents following a spate of thuggery across the city’s western suburbs”.

‘We are very concerned at the growing gang violence and lawlessness in Victoria, in particular in Melbourne … this is a failure of the Andrews Labor government,’ Turnbull tells reporters at Sydney’s Bondi Beach Monday before handing the moral panic job to his superior attack dog Peter Dutton. Greg Hunt helpfully yelps the same talking points.

Welcome to 2018. As befits his status as Home Affairs Minister, an MP suddenly more powerful than the PM, Coalition chief head-kicker, fear-monger and crisis lever puller-Dutton, leads his Orwellian government’s first Hate Week by demonising Sudanese-Australians. African gang violence is totally out of control. Something must be done.

And said. Like all bigots, Dutton pretends his cynical racism is just honest, plain speaking. Unlike Heston’s steak tartare, moral panic can’t be minced. Leave that to the mealy-mouthed left with their Mouli-grater of political correctness.

 “We just need to call it for what it is.”  Dutton has no idea what “it” is. If he can’t or won’t even define what he’s talking about or give some evidence or example, he can’t possibly “call it for what it is.”  But he reserves the right to vilify.

Perhaps he’s alluding to the Herald Sun’s graphic tale of the slap where “escalating gang violence” in Werribee has left one woman disfigured and distraught.

“They told her to stay still for five minutes or they’d come back for her. She’s traumatised. They slapped her in the face and she’s got a fat lip.”

While there’s no doubt that the victim of the sensationalised attack may well be traumatised, there is no evidence that a Sudanese gang was involved. Just one witness reports to a News Corp scribe of seeing “men of African appearance”.

Victoria’s Police Minister, Lisa Neville, confirms that youth crimes in her state are mainly committed by Australians.

‘We’ve got to be clear, this is not just an African youth problem,’ she tells Melbourne radio station 3AW.

‘Overwhelmingly Australian citizens are the offenders, some of those are African-born.’

Yet none of this deters Dutton who is on cue to refine his PM’s “growing gang violence and lawlessness in Victoria”.

“Of course it’s African gang violence. It’s not the whole community, there are many good people within the community that would condemn this action as strongly as you and I would…and have done so, and to their credit.” 

Condemn this action? Last year South Sudanese community leader, Richard Deng helped set up a team of volunteers who patrol the western suburbs trying to prevent crime by engaging troubled South Sudanese youth.

30 volunteers now patrol the Wyndham area, 18 patrol the streets of Melton, and there are plans to recruit more volunteers across Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, Maribyrnong and Dandenong.

In fact, only one Sudanese man, Nelly Yoa has publicly supported Dutton’s nonsense that political correctness has helped create African gangs but MSM has published him everywhere. It’s almost as if he’s being groomed for Liberal politics.

Yet when Dutton rings the young Sudanese volunteer youth worker, Wednesday, Yoa says he politely rebukes the minister for his “reckless” and “exaggerated” comments about Melburnians being afraid to go to restaurants. Sadly for both parties, moreover, Nelly’s claims over his sporting career are revealed to be false.

So, too, are other claims. ABC News Radio’s Tracey Holmes speaking with the South Sudan Community Association in Victoria discovers that Nelly Yola is actually not working with the association; not in contact with community leaders.

But saddest of all, sanctimonious Paul Barry’s ABC’s  Media Watch falls for Yoa’s claims — labelling him an “ex-professional footballer” despite there being no evidence of his football career.  Not on your Nelly, Barry. It’s a no Yoa.

Hate week, or “Peter’s Panic attack” identifies the nation’s common enemy, unifies us against a nominated minority and diverts us from real threats to our security such as the impending energy crisis. Prices continue to soar despite talking-point-Turnbull and flip Frydenberg’s glib, risible, assurances they have our gas and electricity oligopolies under control.

In fact, Victorians’ electricity prices will rise 10-15%, courtesy of the Coalition’s failure to regulate the price-gouging industry or its labyrinthine, extortionate supply mechanism. This rise comes on top of last July’s rise which imposes a $44 million increase for health services as part of the new electricity contract, according to Health Purchasing Victoria, which is responsible for securing bulk power deals. Some Health services’ power bills doubled.

Cobdenhealth​’s CEO Leonie Rooney says her regional service’s monthly bill is up about $4000 to more than $7000.

Gas producers continue to jack up local prices and to export 74m tonnes by 2018-19, up from 52.2m tonnes this year, with capacity growing to 88m tonnes as we challenge Qatar for world’s largest LNG exporter. All cool, says Turnbull.

“They have given us a guarantee that they will offer to the domestic market the gas that was identified as the expected demand shortfall, by AEMO, in 2018.” The PM cons no-one. It’s a non-binding fairy-floss agreement and the ACCC’s December report says prices remain too high. The market is not functioning effectively.  Big companies may have experienced some price relief but smaller operators and domestic consumers will still pay rates which were too high.

A slew of other problems afflicts a government whose big win, its raison d’être, is to cut corporate tax rates by increasing income taxes on middle-income wage earners. Its Centrelink war on the poor is going well, too. Knight errant of neoliberal austerity, the very undistinguished, Christian Porter has now been over-promoted to Attorney-General.

A former failed WA Treasurer, Porter maintains Centrelink’s Robo-debt recovery program is “working incredibly well”.

Like Dutton, he can scapegoat and demonise the poor as unworthy dole-bludgers, a drain on the public purse who can’t be trusted not to rort their pension claims. Accordingly each is deemed guilty until they prove their innocence.

This can be impossible, especially for women who are more likely in our gig economy “precariat” to hold a range of poorly-paid part-time casual jobs. One woman, reports Tasmanian Independent Andrew Wilkie, was expected to get documents from five employers she had worked for in a seven-year period, one of whom was no longer in business.

The high error rate among 20,000 notices produced weekly brought a sharp public and political backlash against the Coalition and prompted both the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Senate to investigate the scheme.

There’s a herd of other elephants in the room. Alan Austin reports our economy collapsed inexcusably during the two years Joe Hockey was treasurer. But it has tanked even further, except for the very rich, since Morrison replaced him.

And – despite his denials, we experience galloping economic inequality, a demoralised, underpaid, increasingly part-time and insecure casual workforce, homelessness, not to mention housing unaffordability and a housing bubble. Nauru and Manus smoulder. Then there’s Australia’s male violence epidemic, still too often misleadingly termed domestic violence.

ABC’s Emma Alberici takes issue with Dutton’s scapegoating of Sudanese when the minister could more profitably turn his faux concern for victims of gang violence and deploy his resources to deal with male violence towards women.

Victoria recorded 90,000 family violence offences in 2017. Family violence accounts for 17.5% of all crime in the state. One woman a week in Australia dies at the hands of a current or former intimate partner. 

What crime is “out of control”? Family violence is “out of control” She tweets. 

Dutton is already way out of control. Yet his understated delivery, like a drunk’s deliberate phrasing gives him away. He’s a plain speaker, he insists. Nuanced language just can’t be trusted. Like Trump, he poses as blunt, homespun and trustworthy. He also shrewdly exploits populist anti-intellectualism. Tellingly, in 2016, Dutton attacked Labor’s leader.

“Bill Shorten can carry on being part of the tricky elite in this country,”…  “He can talk double-code to people, he can be tricky in his language. I’m not going to be intimidated by it.” 

Confusing racial vilification or offensive speech with honesty is part of Peter’s plain speaking shtick. Calling it for what is. Part of Peter’s appeal is that we already know what he’ll say. He’s said most of it before. More than once.

“The vast majority of Lebanese-Australians are law-abiding, hard-working, good, decent people who are besmirched by a small element within their community who are doing the wrong thing,” he said in November only last year.

It’s dangerous dog-whistling which encourages racists to make threats and post insults to South Sudanese community leaders on social media, but then, Il Duce Dutton is the most dangerous politician in the country.

His Home Affairs combines ASIO with Australian Border Force, Australian Federal Police, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) and the Office of Transport Authority.

Dutton’s been over-promoted, a textbook example of The Peter principle in politics, stratospherically beyond his own  competence. A serial failure, the worst Health Minister in 35 years, according to a magazine survey of doctors and a Minister whose mission to blend Border Force with Immigration, still eludes him, now has a swag of other ministries to administer. The responsibilities would tax even a capable administrator. But he loves talk-back shows.

Of course there’s no real talking back with a minister who opens his mind only to give you a piece of it. He gives us his Wild West weed-killer formula for a tolerant, sophisticated, multicultural and compassionate society.

“We need to weed out the people who have done the wrong thing, deport them where we can, but where they are Australian citizens, we need to deal with them according to the law.” Yep. Round ’em up and run ’em out of town.

African leaders warn that Dutton’s out of touch and dangerous. Many young offenders were in fact born here, they add, while those who are not Australian citizens would be returning to war-torn death zones if they were to be deported.

But Dutton has no time for facts. And if he doesn’t like the look of you, you’re gone, as many Kiwi deportees now on Christmas Island have discovered.

Vigilantism, demonising and scapegoating work a treat on talkback’s echo-chamber where petty-minded opinion recycles in an endlessly recirculating spin like the fan above the warm fug of the front-bar of some country pub.

Dutton turns lazily like a basking shark in the shallows of populist ignorance on 2GB’s Chris Smith Show. Slow, talking out-spoken Pete shows off his strong moral leadership, nurturing yet inflaming his listeners’ prejudice dependency .

Dutton also keeps to the Coalition team plan of evading real challenges, as former Liberal leader, John Hewson, notes.

“In almost every area of public policy the real challenges have simply been kicked down the road by an obsession with short-term, opportunistic, mostly negative, point scoring and blame shifting,” writes John Hewson for Fairfax.

Attack-dog Dutton may not sully his assertions with evidence but he is swift to smear the judiciary. It’s de facto Liberal policy: Greg Hunt, Michael Zukkar and Alan Tudge did the same in July but were quickly forced to make grovelling “unreserved” apologies to the Victorian Supreme Court to avoid pending charges of contempt of court.

The Coalition’s Sisyphean task is to paint an image of lawless Victoria under a soft Andrews government in order to improve the chances of Matthew Guy’s opposition in November’s election on a tough on crime law and order ticket.

Guy’s mug already appears on Orwellian billboards reading “Safer communities; protecting your future.”

Yet Guy’s lobster with a mobster has blown his tough on crime campaign up in his face. Early last year, Guy enjoyed a crayfish and a few bottles of Grange with Tony Madafferi, whom police allege, is a Melbourne Calabrian Mafia Boss.

Tony, who has never been charged with any crime, and his relatives are long-term Liberal Party donors. The secret dinner at the Lobster Cave in Beaumaris, Guy squeaks had nothing to do with fund-raising. Nor did his 2013 meeting.

In 2013, a dumbfounded Guy found himself “unwittingly’ the star attraction at a fundraiser hosted by  Madafferi at his Docklands venue centre. The Opposition leader was warned then about associating with alleged mafia figures.

Besides his interest in seafood, Madafferi is a prosperous market gardener who owns the La Porchetta, literally little pig or roast suckling pig pizza chain. Guy’s spokesman claims straight-faced, “The whole purpose of attending this gathering was to discuss public policy issues in relation to the vegetable-growing industry with some of the biggest users of the market.”  

Yet in an affidavit filed in court in June, seeking his ban from Crown Casino and racetracks, Detective Superintendent Peter Brigham said police held “substantial intelligence” indicating that Mr Madafferi had “substantial and close involvement with serious criminal conduct including drug importation, murder and extortion”.

Mr Brigham also alleges that Mr Madafferi is “a known associate of prominent criminal entities and persons who have a history of significant criminal conduct that includes money laundering and drug trafficking”.

The ban succeeds. Yet Mathew Guy invites Madafferi and his associates to a slap-up meal in a sea-food restaurant?

Also heroically reckless, or Trumpian, Junkyard Dutton follows Hunt, Zukkar Tudge in slagging off the judiciary whilst effortlessly spurning respected research disproving the populists’ nostrum that harsh sentences deter crime.

But let’s be fair, as a former Queensland policeman, Dutton may be a tad underdone on criminology. Doubtless, he’d dismiss Victoria as a hotbed of permissiveness but his call for stiffer sentence is cynical populist nonsense, as The Victorian sentencing advisory council concludes: 

The evidence from empirical studies of deterrence suggests that the threat of imprisonment generates a small general deterrent effect. However, the research also indicates that increases in the severity of penalties, such as increasing the length of terms of imprisonment, do not produce a corresponding increase in deterrence. 

Yet super-minister Dutto can ignore the separation of powers and criminological evidence at the same time.

“You look at some of the jokes of sentences that are being handed down, there’s no deterrence at the moment,” 

Dutton knows how to talk tough. His comfortingly-terrifying vision of a lawless, trendy-leftist, human-rightist, civil-libertarian, dystopian Victoria is a right-wing bigot’s nightmare. Victoria is being held to ransom by gangs of black thugs.

Blacks? “It’s an African gang problem”, “Benito” Dutton dog-whistles. And a conspiracy. Victoria’s civil-libertarian judiciary, appointed by Andrews’ socialist Labor government are telling magistrates and police to “go soft on crime”.

They are? It’s a libellous accusation and wilful disinformation- apart from being a parody of how our legal system works.

But Dutton’s a worry from top to toe. For starters, our Minister for Immigration speaks of “African gangs”? Does he not know The African Union and UN recognise 54 countries in Africa? No wonder the pace of refugee “processing” is glacial.

Luckily help is at hand. Like a rat up a drain-pipe, 2GB’s Smith, Dutton’s on-air message masseur, urger and bigotry facilitator du jour notes, glowingly, that “some leaders have spoken out” against the “car-jackings and home invasions”.

Smith spins the Aussie racist’s favourite long-playing broken record. Why don’t the black thugs’ community leaders step up and take control?  The record’s been given a thrashing with Muslim community leaders. Now it’s time to point the finger at “The Sudanese Community” as if there is only one. “Some have,” Dutton chimes in.

Now he’s about to castigate the Sudanese-Australian community leaders for not controlling the minority of riff-raff in their communities as he did the Muslims, such a cunning double dog-whistle this time. Two ways migrants can fail.

Will the Coalition’s cunning plan succeed? Will Turnbull’s government ruin Andrews’ chances of re-election? Will the massive distraction of bagging African gangs in Victoria distract the entire nation from all the other ways the government is unable to keep its mind on the job? So far, the signs are not promising.

Matthew Guy who has a lot of skeletons in his law and order closet is backing off the African gang thing like a startled rat. Rupert Murdoch’s increasingly unread Herald Sun has over-egged the lawless state pudding while Melburnians who are not so easily put off a good night out their favourite eatery are already laughing all the way to the bistro.

Ultimately, however, regardless of the success of its cunning plan, the government’s unscrupulous resort to racist tactics for selfish political gain can only fan the flames of prejudice and intolerance and will already be causing incalculable suffering to individuals, families and to the nation as a whole. Turnbull’s New Year African gang-bash is an indictment; another lamentable failure of political judgement.


If the shirt fits

His hot pink, red and blue striped Dolce & Gabbana shirt, a steal at a mere $850, is tailor-made for the occasion. Top-shelf apostolic poverty.  What better to wear for his performance of St Mal of Compassion in Sydney’s Wayside Chapel’s annual morality play and nosh-up? Charitable Mal knows how to bling up Christmas; flaunt his self-effacing humanity.

And what better get-up for a post ironic, Trumpian era? Too flash? Fuddy-duddy literalists. You know what you can do.

Too attention-getting? Impossible.  Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, may well be what St Paul penned to The Corinthians but what did Paul or Saul of Tarsus  (as he was before the scales fell from his eyes) know of post-modern disruption, subversion, trickle-down or NewsPoll?

Renaissance Mal and his mob need all the media applause they can get for their work, as they say “in this space”.

Every night over 130,000 Australians are homeless after Abbot and Turnbull cut $500 million from homelessness services as Former Greens Senator Scott Ludlum documented two years ago.

$44 million representing all new homelessness shelters was cut from the National Partnership on Homelessness.

All peak bodies on homelessness have been abolished: Homeless Australia, National Shelter and Community Housing Federation of Australia, inexplicably cut. The PM’s Council on Homelessness is no more. So too, are the COAG Reform group on Housing Affordability and the Homelessness Research Strategy funding axed, saving a paltry $3.1 million

Worse, The National Rental Affordability Scheme was axed, scrapping funding for 12,000 new affordable rental homes worth $235.2m. The Housing Help for Seniors pilot program was abolished to save $173.1m.

The First Home Saver Accounts scheme was cut to save $134.3 million over five years while a new program to sell off “surplus commonwealth property” is introduced with no affordable housing outcomes or any criteria. The National Housing Supply Council, the only body providing data on the gap of affordable and available housing is no more.

It’s impossible to fully document here the government’s war on the poor and homeless. Yet, as work becomes increasingly part-time, underpaid and casual and as the Coalition aims to see all penalty rates are stripped away, the battle to afford rent let alone save to buy a home becomes a desperate struggle. Yet Mal wants us all to keep working.

He’s even got a beaut new slogan, Let’s Keep Australia Working. What better match than his imported high-end fashion statement, worth a month’s Newstart Allowance to help launch The Coalition’s latest four word clanger?

Rank a Brand research reveals that Mal’s D&G shirt of many stripes is most likely to have been made in a Chinese sweatshop which does not report its policies for the environment or its labour conditions.

Nor do they keep Italians working. Most Tuscan factories that produce the region’s legendary luxury goods are Chinese operated and staffed. Fantasma, Italians call the 50,000 Chinese workers, ghosts who may work for $A4.60 per day.

Wages are typically not taxed and around $A 1 billion a year is remitted back to China in a process that only ScoMo or those funky funny-money Tea-Party libertarians at the IPA or in cabinet could claim is good for Italy’s economy.

Ugliness is in the eye of the beholder, of course. Workplaces are often in beautiful surrounds; located in picturesque regions on the tourist trail but most are simply primitive sweatshops with virtually indentured workers. Life is nasty, brutish, miserable and short. Our bilateral trade agreement with China, ChAFTA, allows the same to happen here.

ChAFTA’s “investment facilitation arrangement” allows some projects worth more than $150m to be built in Australia but backed by Chinese companies and staffed by workers hired in China without advertising the jobs in Australia first.

Normally, The Guardian’s Van Badham reports,  companies must show that they can’t find locals to fill jobs before hiring foreign workers. ChAFTA removes this obligation for “infrastructure development projects within food and agribusiness, resources and energy, transport, telecommunications, power supply and generation, environment, or tourism sectors”.

Of course Mal’s gig is not a full morality play. More of a grotesque sketch, a bad Francis of Assisi 2.0 parody with a nod to commedia dell’arte where St Mal, a hybrid Pantalone cum Harlequin character flings a few bread rolls to indigent, itinerant Sydney-siders for whom Christmas is otherwise insufferably miserable, lonely and depressing.

The loud shirt? A play on Joseph and his coat of many colours? Or a practical way to save the camera any bother tracking the PM? It works. Any dream will do. St Mal’s garish ministry to the needy is an instant hit on all channels.

So dazzling is Mal’s show that many mis-hear the government’s new slogan for the election it will spring halfway through the New Year. “Let’s keep Australia twerking”?

But Clive Palmer is off the beltway; out of politics now. Others hear “Australia shirking”. Is it a timely dig at the one third of Australian companies the ATO reports that pay no tax?

Key villains include reptilian Rupert Murdoch, a man with a goanna swagger, who pays no tax on $2.9 billion earned by his News Australia Holdings. Turnbull’s former boss, Goldman Sachs put nothing in the Christmas box. Chevron and Exxon Mobile export huge quantities of gas mainly to Japan. They rake in $2.1 billion without paying a cent to the ATO.

Company tax evasion is costing government revenue $2.5 billion. Nippon Gas Co customers spend less on Bass Strait LNG than Victorians. Worse, Japan makes a killing on the trade as our government is bled dry.

“Japan, the single-biggest buyer of Australian LNG at 30 million tonnes a year, levies an import tax that will deliver $2.9 billion to its national coffers over the next four years”, according to Heath Aston in “The Sydney Morning Herald”.

Ominously, the slogan’s last word turns out to be “working”, after all. It is part of government’s fetishisation of work betrayed daily in the phrase “hard-working Australians”. Lately Treasurer Morrison has taken to intoning the mantra “1000 jobs a day”. Loco ScoMo knows that if he says it often enough, punters may believe that the government is creating jobs.

Bizarrely, ScoMo seems to channel David Cameron who was using the same slogan seven years ago. He’s also hoping we don’t notice that the population grew 388,000 in the year until June — which is more than 1,000 people being added to our population every day. Even a 1000 jobs per diem equals only 377,000. We’re not even keeping up with our nation’s growth.

Jobs and growth has got the chop. But how much better is the four word slogan, “Let’s Keep Australia Working”?   

Keep Australia working? Researcher Gary Morgan says the government’s official unemployment figures are nonsense. The ABS stopped its yearly count of workers not in the labour force in 2014. Now, the ABS considers someone unemployed only if they have “actively” looked for a job in the previous four weeks and are available immediately.  It’s clear that we need to proceed cautiously.

Roy Morgan reports that 1.288 million Australians or 9.8% of the workforce are unemployed. Unemployment has grown by 89,000, or 0.6% in a year, in a workforce of 13,174,000 comprising employed and unemployed, (up 128,000 in a year).

In Sept. 2013, Australia’s jobless rate was 5.7% 7th of 35 wealthy OECD members, Alan Austin points out . After 3 years of surging global trade & corporate profits, our jobless rate has fallen to just 5.4%. We now rank 17th in OECD, our lowest place, since records have been kept. Keeping Australia working?

In addition, 1.106 million Australians (8.4% of the workforce) are now under-employed, working part-time and looking for more work, a rise of 6,000 in a year.

11,886,000 Australians were employed in November – an increase of 39,000 over the past year – or about 3,000 jobs per month as a result of the growth in part-time employment which rose 70,000 to 3,967,000.

Full-time employment, however, decreased 31,000 to 7,919,000. Yet there has been a massive increase in the amount of unpaid overtime. The Australia Institute Researchers calculate (TAI) that Australians work an average of 5.1 hours of unpaid labour per week (up from 4.6 hours in 2016).

This unpaid labour represents 14 percent to 20 percent of the total time spent working by Australian employees. The aggregate value of this “time theft” is large and growing. TAI estimates the total value of unpaid overtime in the national economy at over $130 billion in 2016-2017, up from $116 billion last year.

In his own small show-boating way, with practised ease, time-thief Turnbull effortlessly exploits the mob at Wayside.

Hapless chapel-goers up for a free feed are quickly put to work on the Turnbull ™ razzle-dazzle PR chain-gang as ecstatic, unpaid extras. “It is an event where people arrive as strangers and leave as friends” harps a po-faced assistant pastor.

In other words it’s a QLD LNP shadow cabinet election post-mortem or a Nationals party-room meeting in reverse.

Peace on earth? It’s a blitzkrieg of goodwill. Mal’s PR machine assails the nation with a gonzo charm offensive; a postmodern selfie on a stick travesty of Christian humility. St Mal the alms-giver and compulsive selfie-taker mugs for the camera, dances badly, makes prawn cocktails and doles out bread rolls to the poor whose destitution his government’s policies help perpetuate.

Once the cameras are packed away the PM’s off like a bucket of prawns in the sun.

Three million Australians at least live in poverty. One third of all pensioners live below the poverty line.  ACOSS’ Poverty in Australia 2016, published with the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of NSW, reveals that 2.9 million people, or 13.3% of the total population, live in poverty. 731,300, or 17.4% of all our children, live in poverty.

Tough-love Turnbull’s government’s response is to make war on the poor by mulcting allowances, cutting benefits and – in a myriad of creative ways making it harder to obtain welfare – including Centrelink’s  notorious Robo-call automated debt recovery extortion system which is poised to terrify any welfare recipient at any time with allegations of fraud.

Reversing legal principle, the onus of proof is now on the accused to prove he or she is innocent. Next comes a wild-goose chase for lost or missing documentation. Women, who are most likely to work several part-time jobs and who have more paper-work to chase are particularly vulnerable to the tyranny of the automated bully, whose accuracy has been shown to be notoriously fallible.

Dispensing with the principle of the assumption of innocence is allied to the demonisation of the poor. This week Scott Morrison’s office leaks disinformation about the “burden of welfare” to News Corp and other Liberal Party lickspittles and Coalition megaphones including Our ABC. The story appears in a more moderate form in The Guardian.

Channel Nine repeats ScoMo’s nonsense that the average Australian works for three hours to pay Australia’s welfare bill. It does not note the $30 billion which is lost because a third of companies evade or avoid paying any tax.

Unemployment benefits, family payments, pensions, were part of this calculation – but excluded were the expensive subsidies tax-payers provide to mining ($4 billion plus state taxes of about $3 billion PA)  or the $6.5 billion The Australia Institute calculates goes to the private health insurance industry.

Estimates from the federal government’s Tax Expenditure Statement and Treasury paper show that tax-payers help subsidise fossil fuel production and use to the tune of $12 billion each year. Yet ScoMo’s basic premise is false.

Figures from 2016 show, Australia spends 19.1% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on social welfare, while in the US it is 19.3%; in the UK, 21.5%; Norway, 25.1%; Germany, 25.3%; Sweden, 27.1%; Denmark, 28.7%; Finland, 30.8%, France, 31.5%3. Australia’s welfare bill as a proportion of GDP is modest. Again, the government lies by omission.

Other policies and programs help keep Australians out of work. Our Work for the Dole program is a poverty trap. 90% of participants are not in full-time work after three months.

Even the feral, profit-crazed crony capitalist class-warriors at the Business Council of Australia concede that rates for the dole are far too low, and impede jobseekers’ efforts to look for work. Yet the demonisation is working.

This week even some of our religious leaders claim the spirit of Christmas is wasted on the poor.

“To be blunt — do homeless people need tickets to Paul McCartney or do they need a roof over their head?” 

Salvation Army CEO Major Nottle upstages the PM’s carefully choreographed Sydney show when, instead of giving two donated tickets to the homeless, he gives them instead to his daughter and her partner.

“You really got me,” Sir Ray Davies’ driving anthem to separation anxiety plays loudly in the foreground. Mal sings along lustily, poignantly revealing a neediness all his own: “Don’t ever set me free/I always want to be by your side”

“Nothing is more invisible than what is truly awesome,” says Rev Graham Long. His last gig. He pulls no punches. “You will miss the awesome if you’re the centre of the universe. Just stand back and realise that it’s not all about you.”

Christmas is a time to spare a thought for the needy and less unfortunate. Charity is a tricky routine for Mal to bring off with his narcissistic ego and his being a bit of a duffer in reading people and his wilful ignorance of the hardships faced by the homeless. True, on ABC 7:30, he can crack hardy about his childhood poverty and hard times as he and his real-estate salesman and hotel broker father Bruce endured the privations of Eastern suburbs Sydney. But the shirt’s the real deal.

Loud? It’s deafening.  Perfect for a Hi-Viz deck-chair or an optometrist’s colour blindness test chart. More than a hint of a Sydney to Hobart spinnaker. Punters puzzle over it. Are the many stripes symbolic? A foppish D&G homage to Flip-Flop, our leader’s signature political position? Or is it simply the Yuletide Mal for all seasons-festive outfit?

Certainly, some of Turnbull’s messaging is unmistakable. Social welfare is under attack by a neoliberal government eager to outsource its social obligations to charity, the way schools, hospitals and other public institutions have now become so accustomed to begging for the funds they need to operate, it’s known as local fund-raising.

We’ve just spent a lazy $10 billion on US arms over four years, we’re told. No hint of any cake stalls, chook raffles or trivia nights. Imagine what a pickle we’d get into if we put people first; gave welfare the unfettered access to federal funds enjoyed by the armed forces while the ADF is told to start baking cakes if it wants a multi-mission helicopter.

Turnbull’s Christmas charity pantomime at Sydney’s Wayside Chapel simply highlights his government’s hypocrisy and tokenism. The Coalition does not give a fig for the homeless. Since Abbott it has done its level best to tear down the limited support that more enlightened and compassionate Australians were attempting to provide.

Similarly the government’s hollow injunction “Let’s Keep Australia Working” masks a range of policies and practices which have done nothing to arrest the growth in unemployment and under-employment while promoting the growth of an increasingly casualised and underpaid workforce which has not enough work and less job security.

While full-time workers find themselves increasingly working extra hours for nothing, the government is doing nothing to promote gender equality. Women in full-time work receive only 84% of their male counterparts’ wage, an inequality which has remained for twenty years.

Increasingly, it is women who bear the brunt of a decline in hours and conditions of work.   One chief consequence is that women are more exposed to poverty and disadvantage than men at every age. If the Turnbull government could do one thing immediately it would be to ditch its banal and dishonest Let’s Keep Australia Working in favour of let’s implement equal pay. It’s not that we can’t afford it. We can’t afford not to.

As for the homeless, there is no time for token patronising public displays of philanthropy at Christmas; what is needed is an urgent re-allocation of funds. The money is there in unpaid corporate taxes and wasted subsidies on fossil fuel, mining and private health insurance. We could begin to provide shelter tomorrow if only our government could recognise that welfare is an imperative in a just and civil society, an investment in social cohesion and not an expenditure item.

But for that to take place, our government MPs would have to stop blaming the victim; stop their scurrilous ideological class war on the poor and begin to acknowledge that neoliberal economics have failed.

What is required is that we confront the consequences of decades of neoliberal inhumanity and the worship of “the economy”; comprehend the reality of a world where the gospel of free trade and globalisation has led to poor Chinese workers in Tuscany trying to get by on $4.60 per day; virtual slaves working to produce luxury goods like Dolce and Gabbana $850 shirts for millionaire would-be Australian Prime Ministers who lack the very empathy, compassion, self-awareness and moral integrity that are the essential prerequisites to even contemplate running for the office.


I’m dreaming of a Right Christmas.

Raucous, rowdy and sometimes bawdy, Christmas is upon us in a rush of beery bonhomie and sudden, univited, pressing of the flesh or worse, especially if you are standing under any mistletoe.

Christmas butts into our lives like an MP barnstorming by-electors, all over local punters like a rash; flash as a rat with a gold tooth and a clean, new Akubra who promises to never forget a voter or her needs – unlike the glad-handed candidate’s own dereliction of duty; the neglecting of his or her dual citizenship.

But let not human frailty dim our view of humanity at this sacred, spiritual, time. As Santa Abetz checks that government departments use the word Christmas and not toxic, politically correct “season’s greetings” on their cards, he also scans Canberra poles for rainbow flags, the flag of a hostile nation.

“This particular flag, you will realise, is the flag of the Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands, that declared war on Australia and you Senator Cormann would understand they did the same as Prince Leonard of Hutt River Province and now this is their official flag,” he tells the Senate.

Let Eric help remind us of our MPs’ unique and precious gifts; their multifarious solicitude for us; the many special ways they choose to reign over us. Do I love thee?, they cry. Let us count the ways.

In the double-dipping spirit of the festive, festering season, a time that wounds all heels; a time when Greg Hunt and other MPs book up $20 K holidays and study tours to us mug tax-payers, then, it is time to give thanks. Let us count the ways our MPs love and serve us by their duplicity, skulduggery and lies.

First! A twisted Christmas cracker bon-mot – a type of misfortune cookie message if you wish. “Some say sincerity is the most important thing in life as in politics. Once you learn to fake that you’ve got it made.”

Faking sincerity is part of the artifice and commerce if not the bitcoin of conviction politics. So credit where it’s due. Has there ever been a government so skilled at dissimulation and deception; kidding us it’s normal? Real? In charge? We have passed peak bullshit, we are now knee deep in reindeer poo.

As the most hyped political year on record spins down from warp speed, old slights and long-nursed injuries erupt; a dumped Dazza Chester festers, Fiona Nash pesters Barnaby to give Bridget McKenzie the arse for travel rorting and re-install herself as deputy-leader. Keith Pitt threatens to quit the party and pig-sticking knives appear on every politician’s Santa wish-list. Why? Time to take stock.

Normalising its abnormalities; its bizarre eccentricities and pathologically aberrant behaviour is the big success story of the Liberals’ otherwise dismal Turnbull experiment; an adventure of unmitigated failure.

We are not alone. Parallels with Pocket Man Trump’s sky-rocketing through the toxic Washington atmosphere to GOP hero abound Down Under. As Dame Edna has it, the similarities are spooky.

Incredible! It’s as if Head Office of international capitalism, Bastards Incorporated, specialists in wage theft, and its Box Office branch, Show Business, with its misogynistic casting-couch grope culture reach all the way Down Under. Who would have thought? No wonder they look snowed under at Christmas.

Business and politics go together like a horse and an Amish wedding buggy. With business help, our Coalition government normalises deviance, excess and even bone-headed stupidity. Thanks must go to all the right wing lobby groups, the IPA, MCA, BCA and all those who work tirelessly against the worker.

As in the US, our reactionaries rule by SNAFU, helped by an MP Amnesty International forbade to wear its badge, Phil Ruddock, tasked with drafting amendments to restore discrimination to the amended marriage act – an act which removes discrimination in the cause of marriage equality.

Also shared with the land of the free and the home of the brave is the Turnbull government’s creepy pandering to the whims of its mega-rich sponsors. Abundant, biddable, migrant labour is one.

In  30 September 2016 nearly 2 million temporary visa holders worked in Australia, an increase of nearly 5 per cent in just one year.

Huge Immigration creates headline GDP growth, yet individuals do not share in the wealth created.

Other Coalition achievements include pimping even cheaper, more compliant, workers to bosses by such means as the new 400 Visa.

The 400 Visa spin is that it is used to “fill talent gaps in the local market” – but qualified Australian applicants have been snubbed in favour of cheaper semi-skilled overseas workers, experts report.

The pattern is widespread. Appearing on ABC Q&A, the Prime Minister claims that migrant workers fill gaps in skills shortfall but recent studies prove that his claim is another blatant lie. It’s been repeated now so frequently by both parties that it’s never challenged. Nor is the former employment minister.

Top of the tree is Bad Christmas Fairy, Michaelia Cash who got the Australian Federal Police to raid the AWU and ensured it was televised in order to embarrass Labor leader Bill Shorten who as a AWU former secretary may have authorised donations to GetUp! – a perfectly legal practice. More on this later.

We are a polite political audience. No-one laughs at our leader’s campy costume or hammy acting. Malcolm Turnbull can tool up in his RM Williams gear to the set of the New England by-election dressed up as a Collins St farmer but no-one howls the poseur down. Instead, photographers adore the Brokeback photo opportunity of Mal and Barnaby in matching cattleman’s Akubras and beer goggles.

Josh Frydenberg “puts out the trash” Tuesday hiding an enormous carbon backflip by quietly announcing that international carbon credits are now included in Australia’s energy policy. No-one makes a fuss.

Similarly no-one really protests at our Treasurer’s biznomics, the pseudo-economic belief that what’s good for big business is good for the economy. This week it’s cutting taxes to increase company profits. And peddling the thought bubble of Snowy 2.0 as if it were a commercially viable, practical, plan.

Our ABC and MSM are full of buzzwords and phrases such as “making industry more competitive’, a mantra Ross Gittins notes, means granting concessions to make chief executives’ lives easier.

Why do we put up with it? Does familiarity breed consent? Are we the boiling frog in the parable? Have we become inured to the incompetence of a government which turns crisis into catastrophe?

The incredible saga of Senator Stephen Parry’s silence is an instructive example of normalisation. Bizarrely, as if the issue had never arisen in a Senate he led, Parry kept mum about his dual citizenship.

Odder still was how Parry defended himself by claiming he had confided in Mitch Fifield. And others. None of these told Turnbull or George Brandis. None counselled Parry to dob himself in to the High Court along with other seven MPs and senators. Clearly he was hoping to lie low until it all blew over.

Lying doggo worked well for Tasmanian Liberal Senator Eric Abetz who may have been a senator 16 years before he repudiated his German nationality 9 March 2010. MPs can count on our losing interest.

Are we numbed by the repetition of sundry acts of ineptitude or aberrant behaviour? Bernard Keane suggests a parallel with America’s normalisation of dotard Donald Trump, the monster man-child.

Of course, crises arise daily. Barnaby’s bastardy, this week, in booting from cabinet his National Party critic, Darren Chester, seizing his Infrastructure portfolio for himself as payback for Chester’s opposition to Matt Canavan’s candidacy as deputy Nationals leader, is not the ticket to party cohesion.

Riskier is Joyce’s dumping of assistant minister to the deputy leader Keith Pitt allegedly for criticising his leader’s extra-marital affair. The MP is threatening to quit the party, losing Turnbull his slim majority. Expect a Nationals leadership spill in the new year.

Regardless of outcome, however, Pitts and Chester are part of the regular rash of crises which threaten to expose divisions behind the uneasy mutual self-interest that MPs claim is party unity.

Yet a number of forces help hold even a bad and unpopular government in power. One of these is the normalisation of oddity or the ways we come to accept strange behaviour as normal.

In the US, voters hope that Trump will turn out to be just a regular president after all – or at worst one who is held in check by his minders, while in Australia the press is primed to prompt us at every turn of the imminent resurgence of the small L Liberal or the Turnbullian political genius.

Each week Mark Kenny predicts a reset – or even a renaissance. It’s an exercise in fatuity. The Turnbull dud we see is the one Turnbull we will get. There is no political maestro waiting inside to break out.

Annabel Crabb invented “Turnbullian” to praise her hero’s super-savvy but abortive double dissolution.  abrasive, incompetent right wing Turn-bully.  It is set to become a synonym for poor judgement.

Yet we come to see such poor judgement and other aberrant behaviour as normal. Voters tend to blur what is ‘desirable’ and what is average into a “single undifferentiated judgment of normality”.

Adam Bear and Joshua Knobe of Yale University, who have studied normalisation, argue in the New York Times that, as Trump “continues to do things that once would have been regarded as outlandish,” these actions are not only being seen as more typical – but also more normal. It’s the same here.

Our perception of normal doesn’t separate the normal from the ideal. So, as Trump or Turnbull becomes more familiar, he becomes more acceptable to those who initially disapproved of his actions. He may be heading towards 30 bad Newspolls but his personal approval rating tells an equally important story.

Along with our acceptance of oddity however, leaders also use strategies to normalise their abnormality.

St John Howard, patron saint of Liberal reactionaries blazed the trail by importing from the US, “pluto-populism” a strategy of deploying social conservatism –  along with a sanctimonious religiosity – which as Mike Seccombe explains helps distract ordinary Australians from their economic pain.

Currently we are hearing about the need to protect religious freedoms, another term imported from the US, or the need for a debate about his issue as if it were anything more than a diversion and distraction.

Pluto-populism has been a GOP strategy in the US since Ronald Reagan. It involves a super wealthy elite who have systematically learned to manipulate the electorate to their advantage. Its key feature is to use democratic processes to establish an authoritarian, autocratic power over the people.

It was deployed in Latin America; it is at work in Trump’s America and it is at work in Australia, too.

Recent events in the brilliant career of former employment Minister, Michaelia “Union-bash” Cash reflect how the Turnbull government’s jihad on organised labour aka “union thuggery” confer a self-righteousness which help Coalition MPs set themselves above the law.

An extraordinary AFP raid on AWU headquarters in Melbourne, Tuesday 24 October, ostensibly to find receipts for donations to GetUp! (ten year old recepts which not required to be kept and which were never a legal matter) leads to a televised raid a type of TV show-trial of Bill Shorten’s former union after David De Garis, Cash’s senior media adviser tips off all available media. His boss lies about his actions.

De Garis, 34, is rewarded for breaking the law with a job as media and communications officer at AHA in WA. Far from censure, Cash is promoted this week to Minister for Jobs and Innovation, a mega-portfolio.

What Turnbull risks is that in rewarding Cash, he is tacitly signalling the extent of his own investment in the plan. Her promotion, surely is indirect evidence, that he or his office was the author of the illegal raid. As with all of Turnbull’s cunning plans this one also blows up in his face Wednesday.

As lawyers Maurice Blackburn report, key parties involved in raids undertaken by federal police on the offices of the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) will have to hand over documents and correspondence, after the Federal Court this morning dismissed applications by Michaelia Cash, David De Garis, Mark Lee and the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) for subpoeanas to be set aside.

The documents had been sought in October and the case illuminates the Turnbull government’s contempt for the rule of law. Along with normalisation of abnormality or delinquency goes the application of pluto populism, a powerful attempt to recruit public sympathies for government propaganda that unions are thugs who engage in criminal conduct.

Similar strategies are deployed to deny Aboriginal people their rights to be part of a bona fide consultation process. The PM dismissively rejects an indigenous voice to parliament by misrepresenting an appeal for constitutional recognition and inclusion as a demand for “a third chamber of parliament”, and “a latecomer proposal” that Noel Pearson says he agreed to in June 2015 .

“This was not what was asked for, or expected,” he told the Referendum Council at a meeting in July.

Yet the Prime Minister’s claim is now received wisdom for MSM.

And as with the dangerous fantasy behind the normalisation of Donald Trump, a stroke of genius is to dress-up what is essentially a mean and sneaky Howard government 2.0 with the natty leather-jacket of the pseudo-Liberal Malcolm Turnbull while his government lurches ever further to the right.

This week’s cabinet reshuffle sees any coalition MP who’d voted for marriage equality dealt out of any promotion by their riverboat gambler Prime Minister. The reshuffle stacks the cabinet to the right.

In panic at Hanson’s One Nation Party’s appeal in rural and regional Australia and its prospects of losing vital Queensland seats in the federal election to be held most likely mid-way next year, Turnbull has bowed to expediency and allocated cabinet positions to Queenslanders not on merit but on territory.

It’s all working brilliantly. Company profit is surging twenty per cent. Wages and working conditions are the worst they’ve been for decades.  And the push is on for Mal to grant business more tax cuts.

Why? With dividend imputation and other concessions, the average effective Australian company tax rate is 10.4%, yet with the passing of Trump’s tax cut bill this week – a bill which will cost America $US2 trillion over ten years, but will net him millions personally, our business lobby wants us to do the same.

Quack Treasurer Scott Morrison, the Malcolm Roberts of the economy, this week tries to con us into thinking business needs even lower taxes. Keep competitive. Few bother to contest his nonsense. Stop Qantas flying overseas?

Yet too many of us have been groomed or coerced into complying or simply suckered into submission.

Now we don’t even raise an eyebrow as our Coalition government, a Westminster kleptocracy run by mining, finance and big pharma oligarchs stops faffing around and appoints Ugly Peter Dutton top dog in cabinet, as head of super ministry of Home Affairs. Dutto’s more powerful now than his own PM.

Christian Porter, who as Attorney-General ought to keep Dutton in check, is no match for the Super Minister. Nor can we expect any hint of resistance from a solidly right wing reshuffled cabinet.

Barnaby Joyce also wields extraordinary power – yet we don’t bat an eyelid. Joyce is a deputy PM who has a secret agreement to be boss of the Prime Minister, a deal which the government refuses to reveal even under FOI, a Faustian pact defended by legal genius, former Attorney-General George Brandis.

In typically dazzling forensic manner, Brandis tells an estimates hearing last October the Coalition agreement is a “private document”. “It is not a public document – it is an exchange between two individuals in their capacity as leaders of two political parties, not as public office holders.”

Hypocrisy and cant are normalised, too. A government which professes respect for the High Court and the rule of law, is led by a Prime Minister can praise Joh Bjelke-Petersen not for his brown paper baggery and homophobic bigotry but for his “vision and leadership.”

Vale to the Venerable Senator Flo’s whose timely popping of her clogs in a Kingaroy nursing home this week at 97 provokes such a tsunami of southerly gush and obsequious fawning from Neoliberalism’s knight errant, Sir Malcolm, Prince of Point Piper, it’s fit to make a pumpkin blush.

In an encomium that would embarrass even Trump’s grovelling claque, Turnbull bids for the most nauseating, orchestrated sycophancy yet demonstrated toward an incompetent and corrupt leader.

Instead of polite indirection or even better, silence, a startled nation hears Joh and Flo brought “success” and “dynamism” to the Moonlight State whose systematic corruption and abuse of power is exposed in  The Fitzgerald Inquiry  of July 1989. Yet Joh’s elevation is nothing compared with Dutton’s.

Border Supremo, Immigration Pooh-bah Peter Dutton’s Trump-like elevation is extraordinary. The only Coalition front-bencher to boycott Parliament’s 2008 Apology to the Stolen Generations, Dutto’s achieved singular distinction before, but the tyrant’s rise and rise, via a career of scandalous incompetence makes him not only the most powerful minister in cabinet – but Turnbull’s most favoured.

Now Pete’s anointed King of Bullshit Castle. Our Lord Protector. He  is not only most comfortably accommodated – in his bespoke Home Affairs portfolio whose extensive powers would dazzle any dictator, his elevation also seals his extraordinary ascent over the rule of law – a process confirmed when in 2015 his government obligingly made it legal for Dutto to use powers that put him above the law.

As the ABC reported at the time, The Australian Border Force Act, supported by the ALP and opposed only by the Greens, effectively turns the Department of Immigration into a secret security organisation with police powers. Although the Act seems to be directed at Customs operations, it also seeks to regulate and control access to information about asylum seekers in immigration detention.

The week marks Dutton’s ascension to the Coalition throne effectively vacated by Malcolm Turnbull’s failure to exercise leadership. By normalisation of abnormal if not bizarre excess and via pluto populist techniques the Turnbull government is successfully and swiftly taking Australia ever further to the right.

Part of this drift may be an insurance policy. Turnbull attempts to keep in sweet with the right wing which pull his strings. Yet it may also be a reflection of a protean, Zelig-like political chameleon whose political complexion is determined by the group he is with or the last powerful politician he spoke to..

But his “reforms’ are alarming. Home affairs combines the Australian federal police, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and border force in a new ministry broadly modelled on the UK’s home office. All this flies in the face of advice from a range of expert commentators.

Gillian Triggs sees the new ministry as “a very serious incursion into the separation of powers, the power of the judiciary to make independent judgments”.

“Over the last few years, and particular during my time as president, we’ve seen this initially quite slow movement, piece of legislation by piece of legislations, that centralises administrative and ministerial decision-making.”

“But the last few weeks are seeing almost a galloping move towards a centralisation of government but most particularly of expanded ministerial discretion without proper judicial supervision and control.”

Beneath its chaotic dysfunction and in some ways because of it, the Turnbull government has been able to normalise its bizarre abnormality whilst at the same time it has used democratic processes to increase the power of the elite in constructing its own Turnbull’s own fortress – bullshit castle, a very right wing, authoritarian government presided over by his Supremo and Lord Protector Peter Dutton.

I wish everyone well for the holiday season  but right now I’m dreaming of a Right Christmas.






Turnbull’s Yellow Peril 2.0 is the panda in the room.

“The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but, on the contrary, that it was impossible to avoid joining in.” George Orwell, 1984

Nothing in our politics excites such primitive passions than a public shaming of a traitor – and his expulsion from our virtuous midst. Especially if this involves a public lynching. And so it is with the extraordinary story of the casting out of diabolical Sam Dastyari which dominates the week in politics eclipsing even the Bennelong bunfight, a bit of a non-event save for a 6% swing to Labor so far which would win it the next federal election. But nothing will ever rescue Sam.

Spurned by his leader, abandoned by colleagues, tormented by Coalition foes, Dastyari is hounded from office, Tuesday, amidst a frenzy of anti-Chinese hysteria, or “Chino-phobia” as Bill Shorten says, which fuels wild accusations of betrayal all cynically engineered by an embattled Turnbull government desperate for distraction and a scapegoat for its woes.

Yet it’s overkill. The harrying of Sam has all the fecund irrationality of a witch hunt. Which it is – at least in part.

Perhaps, also, somehow we’ve dredged up a monster from the deep. Phil May’s Mongolian Octopus has re-surfaced, its writhing, slimy Chinese tentacles threaten every element of our innocent nation’s virtuous (multicultural) ways of life.

One thing is clear. Expulsion is too good for Sam. Even after his exit, Dastyari’s detractors continue their insults.

What is so dastardly about Dastyari? Ben Eltham writes, “Dastyari has been forced to resign, not so much for taking money from foreign donors, but for so obviously showing the political favour that can be bought with such largesse.”

The tragedy of Dastyari’s forced political exit results less from being found by the kangaroo court of Sydney talkback radio to be a spy – or, in Grand Inquisitor Peter Dutton’s dud phrase, “a double agent” – than from his leader, Bill Shorten’s expediency. Shorten must sacrifice Sam lest he mess up Labor’s chances in the Bennelong by-election.

And worse. The Coalition and its media claque are destroying Dastyari to redouble their attack on “Shifty Bill” Shorten’s trustworthiness, his credibility and leadership. Sam must go. Yet nothing about the decision is easy.

Even Sam’s carefully scripted exit lines evoke the self-styled party martyr more than any type of penitent confession.

I’ve been guided by my Labor values, which tell me that I should leave if my ongoing presence detracts from the pursuit of Labor’s mission … It is evident to me we are at that point, so I will spare the party any further distraction.”

Dastyari is a talented politician; a factional ally and a party power broker with a history of personal loyalty to his leader.

And Shorten is indebted to Sam the king maker. As NSW Labor Party Secretary, he rallied Labor’s Right and managed Shorten’s campaign well enough to gain victory over Anthony Albanese in Labor’s leadership stakes, 13 October 2013.

It was a close contest. In Labor’s first leadership ballot to include grassroots party members, the ALP parliamentary caucus gives Shorten 63.95% of the vote while with 60% grass-roots support, Albanese is more widely popular.

Yet Bill doesn’t shilly-shally. Unlike Turnbull’s 18 months agonising on the banks, Shorten takes 13 days to sack Sam. Aaron Patrick in The Australian Financial Review admires the Labor leader’s decisiveness . But how has it come to this?

Sam’s fate is part-sealed when a patriotic Fairfax publishes Sam’s South China speech, a talk he gave in China 17 June 2016 in which he backs the Chinese Government’s refusal to abide by international court rulings on the South China Sea.

“The Chinese integrity of its borders is a matter for China,” he says.

The “Iranian-born-Australian”, (how the ABC loves to diminish Dastyari’s citizenship) opposes Australia’s and Labor’s position on China’s bullying in the South China Sea. He tells his listeners and benefactors what they want to hear.

Labor and Liberal Party donor, billionaire businessman and head of YUHU group, Huang Xiangmo is present.

It’s not the carpeted Persian’s first offence. Sam’s already been pilloried mercilessly in parliament and press; endured a year of gibes for allowing another fat cat, Dr Minshen Zhu, to pay a $1600 office travel expense for him.

Neither of these comes within cooee of Andrew Robb’s $800,000 PA secret China contract for a part time position with Chinese company Landridge which in the words of former NSW supreme court judge Anthony Whealy, means “on the face of it, he is required not to do anything and still get a whacking great fee”.

The Turnbull government is to come up with a beaut new public register for those who lobby on behalf of foreign interests which will capitalise on the anti-Chinese hysteria it’s created while cracking down on GetUP! And crippling the vital advocacy work done by overseas charities and other international bodies who may criticise offshore detention.

Robb is upbeat. The register would not apply to him because” he doesn’t do business here”. But not so Dr Zhu.

Dr Zhu, a senior adviser at the University of Sydney’s Confucius Institute, and principal of Top Education Institute, donates to both Liberal and Labor. Photos show him with pals Malcolm Turnbull, Tony Abbott, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Scott Morrison, Kim Carr, Bob Carr, Brendan Nelson and Julie Bishop in various roles across government and opposition.

Australian Electoral Commission records show Top Education gave $230,000 to both parties since 2010. Like Huang and almost every other outstandingly successful businessman in our political Yum Cha he has Beijing links.

Yet the Fairfax story 29 November is a bombshell. Using material that Labor figures contend came from “intelligence sources”, a shadowy but beguiling oxymoron, Fairfax reports another meeting between Dastyari and Huang.

On the unlikely face of it, good old Sam is just doing his pal a favour. Weeks after Dastyari had to quit the shadow ministry, he is said to have warned Huang his phone was most likely being bugged by intelligence agencies.

This is either insultingly gratuitous advice or a clumsy intelligence operative’s ex post facto attempt to verbal Sam.

Now the shit hits the fan-tan. Inveterate ham actor that he is, Turnbull milks the incident for all its worth.

“Here he is, an Australian senator who has gone to a meeting with a foreign national with close links to a foreign government and advises that foreign national Mr Huang to put their phones inside to avoid the possibility of surveillance.” Turnbull bellows in the house. “Whose side is Sam on?”

As Dave Donovan notes, Sam’s quite reasonable caution about likely phone-tapping tells us a great deal about the era of Turnbull and Trump. And it beggars belief that Huang would not suspect his phone was being bugged. But that’s what double agents do. Is this the obviously fake detail to throw us off the scent? Make us miss the habeas corpus?

No habeas corpus exists. As from this week an MP can be hounded out of office just if government makes enough fuss.

Dastyari’s major crime … was telling a contact their privacy may be compromised because he was most probably under surveillance by the CIA. Given subsequent events, it appears Dastyari was on the money. Apparently, wanting to exercise your rights to privacy and free association is prima facie evidence of treason in this new Orwellian age, says Dave.

Has Sam been set up? There are disturbing clues that Sam may be the fall guy in some bigger intelligence sting. As Labor figures suggest, Dastyari’s phone advice could come only from some intelligence agency. Unless, of course, Huang, himself is a double agent. Yet, regardless of source, the story becomes terminally damaging to Dastyari.

Clearly Sam has stuffed up. Now his opponents and some of his party accuse him of fatal errors of judgement.

What follows, however, is more serious and disturbing for a nation which prides itself adhering to  the rule of law, especially the cardinal principle that all people are presumed innocent unless proved otherwise.

Sam is judged guilty of treason based on unfounded accusations made without due or proper regard for evidence.  Dutton’s nonsense that he is a double agent, for example, is endlessly repeated verbatim. If Sam were a double agent, he’d be pretending to spy for China while actually spying on them for Australia.

If Sam were a double agent, the AFP would be busting his place apart with crews from all major TV channels filming.

The government, assisted by the media and hyper-egomaniac George Brandis, a bulked-up Big Brother body double, aka the Attorney General from hell, who dubs Sam “a serial offender” despite Sam’s never having been convicted of a crime, subjects Dastyari to a McCarthyite witch trial.

Sam is tried in a theatre of extreme cruelty with a lynch mob’s contempt for his right to a fair and just process.  In CIA jargon, his career is “terminated with extreme prejudice”. Yet, even then, voices are baying for his blood.

“He should get out of the Senate, and Bill Shorten should boot him out of the Labor Party,” Turnbull shrieks on 3AW.

Knowing – as he surely must – that the second call is nonsense, doesn’t get in the way of hate-speak. The PM’s vindictiveness is echoed by Liberals’ deputy leader, Julie Bishop who makes another stupid demand,

“Sam Dastyari should resign effective immediately. He shouldn’t receive another cent in salary from the Australian people.”

It’s an unprecedented dismissal, as Phil Coorey notes in the Australian Financial Review.

“Plenty of politicians have committed acts of stupidity and worse over the years but it’s hard to recollect anyone who has been frog-marched out of Parliament.”

What has Sam done wrong? Everything, it seems. A political tall poppy in all but height, the mildly obnoxious, self-promoting Dastyari has long been unjustly caricatured as an over-ambitious, self-promoting, attention-seeking creature of Labor’s shady NSW Right even though, at 34, he is one of the youngest ever state Labor Party secretaries.

Yet, in April 2015, he led a crusade to get multinational corporations to pay tax. He chaired a Senate Inquiry into Corporate Tax Avoidance.  This July, when he ran a senate committee into the future of public interest journalism, another tantalising oxymoron, he clearly recognised the gravity of its decline.

“This is a serious problem. We have got to the point of no return. If we want to have a proper journalistic industry here in Australia then we have to actually start taking steps to protect it.”

Sam was also highly effective in questioning the CEOs of our Big Four banks.

Yet all of this is irrelevant unless you subscribe to the theory that Sam’s fatal career move was to take on the banks. And upsetting multinationals who are funny about being asked to pay tax. Not only is he outed as some sort of spy, moreover, his own leader is so wedded to his own political survival that he is prepared to throw Sam under a bus. Yet there’s a wider perspective, also in which Sam is merely a bit-player in the murkier interstices of our US Alliance.

The political lynching of Dastyari, forced to resign over accusations he’s a mole; a “double agent” betraying his nation’s interests by being a paid advocate for China’s policy in The South China Sea, may also make him a casualty of a Coalition keen to play craven sycophant to its “great and powerful friend” the USA – a Turnbull government which will do anything to boost its chances of winning a Bennelong by-election on which rests its parliamentary majority.

Right on cue, Sam’s downfall is seized upon by US commentators keen to point up how China threatens western democracies, Australia and New Zealand. Marco Rubio, former Republican presidential candidate,  brings up Sam at a bipartisan, congressional executive commission, during a two-hour hearing he just happens to be chairing Wednesday.

“What we saw in Australia [was] a member of Parliament resigned after there were accusations made that, not only had he tipped off a Chinese national of some alleged intelligence operation being conducted against him, but that he had allegedly received cash from a wealthy Chinese national,” Senator Rubio says.

The hapless Dastyari could also be the canary in our nation’s political coal mine. Surely this weekend’s battle for the Bennelong by-election is the low point of a long campaign of Liberal gutter politics, smearing AWU unionists, refugees on Manus and now a Labor senator – if not the nadir of Malcolm Turnbull’s career?

Surely, also, it is another epic failure of political judgement; a serious miscalculation of consequences?

Certainly, the government’s frenzied attack on the Labor senator, eagerly inflamed by its unctuous toadies, the mainstream media, including the increasingly partisan ABC, is widely condemned both within Australia and in China.

“Needlessly nasty” Labor heavyweight mate Graham Richardson, former Hawke and Keating numbers man, writes in The Australian of the wanton destruction of the Labor senate back-bencher’s political career.  He would know.

“Carpet-bombing” says Paul Bongiorno, needing military metaphor to capture Malcolm Turnbull’s over-the-top attack.

“Hysterical, paranoid and racist” says The China’s People’s Daily, our largest trading partner’s official voice.

Wednesday, the Chinese rag accuses Turnbull of “pandering to anti-China bias”. Is Yellow Peril 2.0 the Panda in the room? Never one to skimp on rhetorical reiteration, the paper also alleges Fairfax Media and the ABC are “jointly whipping up an anti-China backlash”. Turnbull is buying into “an orchestrated media falsehood”.

China is not happy. Whichever pejorative term you prefer, the despatching of Dastyari is classic Turnbullian over-kill. Experts warn that reprisals may follow although given the volume of our vast trade, they have yet to narrow the field. Fewer tourists? Cuts in overseas students? Options for payback are vast.

James Laurenceson in the Australian Financial Review cautions that “cooperation on removing outstanding bilateral trade and investment barriers, not to mention on bigger regional challenges, might be put in the slow lane.

Chinese households might start to find that California wine tastes better than ours and the views at Waikiki eclipse those along the Great Ocean Road.”

A manic Turnbull is all over the airwaves like a man possessed. The magic pudding of public hysteria gets endless stirring. He dubs Dastyari a double-agent. Excoriates Sam for jeopardising our national security. Helping China to spy on us, even though Sam says he has no secrets to sell. The slur is unsullied by a shred of evidence yet impossible to refute.

Dutton calls him shady. He has no evidence, he says, but his slur is based on “what he knows of Dastyari so far”.

The government elevates Dastyari to Public Enemy Number One in order to dent Labor’s chances in Saturday’s Bennelong by-election, a one-sided contest between parliamentary seat-warmer, John Alexander, who boasts of putting table tennis tables in Bennelong’s schools and not missing a local fair or fete.

A courageous raconteur, his anecdotes and cringe-worthy off the cuff remarks speak for themselves.

Charges against Sam are laid in the court of Sydney talk-back by Peter Dutton, an MP who is tasked with protecting our borders from the Armani-wearing people-smuggler enabling riff-raff who would come in the backdoor via boat as illegal maritime arrivals instead of hopping on the next plane. Or that’s Dutto’s potted version of his brief.

Nasty Dastyari is a “double-agent”, alleges Dutton, leading an orgy of public denunciation in an attempt to hound him out of office in a warm-up to his assuming super-minister powers when he becomes Home Affairs Minister next week. Perhaps then, he’ll find some way of stripping Sam of his citizenship and repatriating him to Iran.

Panjandrum Pete will head up a super-ministry which does not include a Hate-Speak department by name, as yet, but which, innovatively, sets up an Orwellian Office of National Intelligence. Expect it to call out spies, denounce GetUP!  and other enemy agents in our midst, whilst it supports Sydney shock-jocks in denouncing un-Australian activity.

Home Affairs’ powers remain nebulous. What is clear, however, is that details will soon become scarcer. As we have seen with Border Force, operational matters preclude transparency and accountability. It’s all part of Pooh-Bah Dutton’s watching brief over us. He will keep Australia safe, protect our freedoms and nurture our multi-cultural democracy. Don’t you worry about that.

Not only will Home Affairs persecute traitors like Sam, it will be a one-stop shop for cradle to grave protection. An English language test, for example, for new citizens, is undergoing a bit of fine-tuning after initially being howled down by a Coalition-dominated parliamentary committee last September – a rare achievement in this government.

But it’s not just about language. The test is part of an exciting new package proposal which has passed the lower house and aims to introduce a four-year waiting period for permanent residents before they can apply for citizenship while imposing tough English language requirements and a test on “Australian values”. Even if these are yet to be articulated.

Home Affairs (HA) is clearly keen to ensure we get the right kind of migrant and for this alone it needs be a huge outfit.

HA will combine ASIO, the AFP, the Coalition’s pet police force and our quiet achievers, the secretive Australian Border Force, who only this week, returned a boatload of 29 Sri-Lankan asylum-seekers to Colombo and certain persecution.

Given Dutto’s conspicuous lack of success in merging Immigration with Border Force, the wisdom of Turnbull’s over-promotion of the Immigration Minister is self-evident. It’s simple self-preservation. Keep the mongrel so busy he can’t make trouble. Every man for himself is team Turnbull’s motto.

Dutton will be so busy, schemes strategic genius Turnbull, that he won’t pose any leadership threat. The flaw in this cunning plan is that Dutto’s alarming lack of success in any department is certain to continue into HA. Combining so many departments may have a crisis-multiplier effect. But given operational secrecy, no-one will ever know.

The nation has much to give thanks for now that our state show trial apparatus is set up. Enemies of the state beware.

We look forward to feeling hugely more secure with the elevation of paranoid Peter Dutton, Australia’s most unpopular, most secretive, least competent minister to a position of unparalleled power in a Home Affairs super-ministry which experts universally expressly warned the Turnbull government never to set up. Expect a show trial next week.

Given the huge success of the lynching of Sam Dastyari and building on recent AFP union raids to recover ten-year old receipts, the nation can expect to see similarly brilliant strategies deployed against Labor or indeed any other organisation including GetUp! or unions which pose a threat to Liberal rule – or any other outfit or individual whose actions or beliefs may interfere with the enlightened despotism of Menzies’ sensible centre as mediated through Malcolm Turnbull’s top secret Coalition agreement with the Nationals.

This week has seen the nation take another step into emulating the political dystopia George Orwell warned us about in 1984. The trouble with the Coalition – and their pals in the United States of America is that they think it’s a primer.



A double agent in the house? It’s the least of our worries.

Loud hosannas resound in Canberra. Hallelujah. Could it be the joyous news that Harry and Meghan Markle will grace us with their royal presence at a charity polo match in Marvellous Melbourne early next year?

Or is it Dotard Trump’s Middle East diplomatic masterstroke? Swayed by Zionist lobbyists and fat-cat Republican donors’ demands he moves the US embassy to Jerusalem? Images of rioting, protesting Palestinians appear immediately. Any moment, son-in-law, slumlord Jared Kushner, will “deliver peace” in the Middle East on cue.

No. It’s our own joyous ritual bloodletting. The killing season is upon us. A PM should watch his back. Beware Daily Telegraph claims that Turnbull is “turning the tide on Labor”.  Which tide? A chorus of MSM hacks ignore NewsPoll and Ipsos showing the Coalition lagging Labor 47:53, while Essential has the government 45-55 to Labor.

Yet Turnbull insists he’s ending the year on a high. Even lurching from crisis to catastrophe, a Coalition government always gets a fabulous press. It has the best connections.

Or it just helps itself to credit due to others.  A week before parliament plunges into recess, the government covers itself in stolen glory. In a stunt worthy of a Mean Girls’ character, little Malco takes credit for the Yes vote himself, despite leaving all advocacy to others. It’s his big win. This does not endear him to any LGTBI advocates.

More worryingly, Turnbull shows no sense that the survey was a delaying stunt. Nor is there any hint he feels sorry – or some responsibility for all of the injury done. Mental health expert, Professor Patrick McGorry – reports that, for many, the campaign revived traumatic memories of bullying and discrimination they faced at school.

Online agencies report a similar pattern. Digital Youth service ReachOut, a Frontline Service which attracts 1.5 million unique visitors to its website annually, reports its online forums recorded a sharp increase in activity, with young gay people reporting feeling scared and tired of personal attacks.

Many other agencies report distress. A key source of psychological suffering stemmed from the flaw in the survey’s conception. Many share Dennis Halloran’s anger that other people get to vote about his personal life.

“It’s insulting,” says Halloran a voter in Turnbull’s Wentworth electorate . “I believe equality is a human right.”

In other aspects, Turnbull’s support of marriage equality is equivocal; inconsistent. In 1997, he wrote a case against a postal vote because “it flies in the face of Australian democratic values”. In 2012 in Julia Gillard’s conscience vote in parliament, he voted against marriage equality. Bill Shorten voted in favour.

Turnbull has not been honest about the concept. The postal survey was not Dutton’s idea but came from Andrew Laming, an MP who drew up many surveys, which, when trialled always managed to get a negative result.

Most tellingly, Turnbull has never been keen to canvass the thoughts and feelings of those whose interests and experiences are most relevant.   Last August he ignored calls to consult with the LGTBI community before introducing his postal survey which, in inception at least, was a Trojan horse to forestall marriage equality.

Congratulations? The PM will be lucky to receive a Mean Girls  Spring Fling plastic tiara a cheap, hollow crown.

Yet a euphoria descends upon weary but relieved yes supporters. Even IPA tool, former anti-human rights commission, human rights commissioner Tim Wilson proposes to partner Ryan mid-debate.

You can read it in Hansard. Then, quickly compartmentalising joy as all male-dominated outfits must; it moves on to pride. The Coalition channels its inner Trump, boasting over its glorious, historic victory in the New England by-election.

The Coalition  crows. Biggest swing to a sitting government in history, even if it must say so itself – repeatedly.

This “wasn’t a Newspoll”, this was “a real poll” shouts a PM whose credibility is in free fall as a nation has just seen him cynically cancel a week of parliament on the pretext of making room for marriage equality law-making. The hiatus is a desperate move to ensure his own political survival. So, too, is his over-promotion of Peter Dutto.

Yet joyous exultation froths out of the Liberal spin machine over the imminent elevation of our Lord High Protector Peter “Spud” Dutton to his new Home Affairs gig. His installation is fast-tracked not by popular demand but by Turnbull’s need to appease right wing party bullies intent on total domination via ownership of the PM.

Dutto, too, kicks along the nation’s ersatz euphoria as Dastyari-bashing, a national blood-sport, is back in season.

“Sam Dastyari is a Chinese spy. A double agent”, dirty Dutto dog-whistles in Question Time. It’s a slur speaker Tony Smith doesn’t hear, he says, but it’s clear enough to 2GB listeners when Dutto first makes it a week earlier.

“You can’t have a double agent in the Australian parliament. It’s simply not good enough, Ray.”  

Government MPs love a lynch mob – especially with a racist vibe. All week, MPs pile on; raid the Liberals’ stock of Yellow Peril formula from the Cold War to whip up a fresh brew of Sinophobia. They howl Dastyari down, a Labor traitor in our midst, while putting the wind up the 44341 Bennelong residents who identify as Chinese-Australians.

Political piñata he may be, but Dastyari’s bashing goes too far. And not just in Sydney. China is “astonished” by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s statements which risk “poisoning” our bilateral relationship.

Less puzzled, however, is Martin McKenzie Murray who reports in The Saturday Paper that senior Labor Party figures believe the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) leaked the audio of Sam Dastyari’s 2016 press conference in front of Chinese media, but possibly did so following pressure from a disgruntled US.

Like the giant panda in the room, the issue of how the media gained report of Dastyari’s diabolical treachery is largely ignored in our MSM. A security agency’s spook may have leaked intelligence to the media in order to damage Dastyari and Labor but the story of the week has been largely ignored, save by McKenzie-Murray.

A hostile US embassy concerned with Labor’s links to China – and a willingness to co-operate may have stitched up Sam – and his PM.

How this Chinese-whisper stacks up against Andrew Robb, for example, or countless other money-grubbing Coalition figures is problematic. Dastyari’s breach of protocol is nowhere as serious, for example,  as Stuart Robert who, as assistant minister of defence, oversaw a mining deal between Nimrod Resources – run by his close friend, major Liberal Party donor Paul Marks – and the Chinese government-owned company Minmetals.

In a review conducted by Prime Minister and Cabinet (PMC)head, Dr Martin Parkinson, it was found that Mr Robert had acted inconsistently with the Statement of Ministerial Standards, if unwittingly. Parkinson also notes Mr Robert appears not to have received any financial benefit from the deal. Unlike Andrew Robb.

Andrew Robb’s contract with Chinese company Landridge, a document shrouded in confidentiality,  effectively guarantees him $800,000 per year with little in the way of prescribed, part-time  duties, – beginning shortly after he left parliament in 2016 – a contract revealed by Fairfax Media and Four Corners in June.

Billionaire Ye Cheng owns Landridge, which controversially acquired a 99-year lease for the Port of Darwin in 2015. In brief, any investigation of China’s influence in Australia would begin with far bigger firms and entrepreneurs.

And agents. McKenzie Murray reports sources who suggest that the damaging leak against Dastyari may arise from his association with Chinese businessman Huang Xiangmo. ASIO had forewarned major parties Huang was a likely agent for the Chinese Communist Party. Some suggest the NSW Right may have leaked the story.

A separate leak against Shorten was made quickly after the Dastyari tape went public. The Opposition leader is reported to have visited Huang prior to the federal election – months after an ASIO warning – for a campaign donation. The NSW Right may have leaked to warn Shorten to acquiesce with the pro-China faction.

All of this is damaging to Labor. Yet more than some of the story beggars belief.

Getting great airplay in parliament and in MSM is the PM’s story that Dastyari visited Huang at his home. He suggested to Huang that his phone may be tapped, or its microphone remotely activated. The story depends on the willing suspension of belief that neither man would simply turn his phone off.

Or that neither uses Telegram or some similarly secure popular messaging device. But we mustn’t spoil the story.

Being bugged by a phone which is  turned off taps vast reserves of fiendish oriental cunning and other Sinophobic prejudices. It is also fed by popular mythology of all-pervasive, ruthless modern cyber espionage, currently fanned to fever pitch by dynamic Dan Tehan and his PM on behalf of a government keen to crank up fear of Cyber-attack.

Hysteria beckons. MSM report stories of people fearing they are being spied on by their microwave ovens.

The attacks on Sam are problematic. It is unwise, however enjoyable, to speculate on motivation. Yet they are odd and appear orchestrated.  Are they US inspired? Shopping a spook – or a double agent could help the coalition show its fealty to the US and also be part of an attack on Shorten, an MP who has been pilloried mercilessly since Abbott in a prolonged and damaging process of character assassination and personal slur.

What is alarming is the number of MSM stories which now suggest Shorten faces troubling times.  Even more disturbing is Peter Dutton’s promise that he has more dirt to dish on Dastyari.

There will be more revelations to come out on shady Dastyari, he threatens in that menacing generality one expects from a super minister about to run a Home Affairs super ministry. Or a drug cop about to fit you up.

Huge damage has been done, despite Labor’s strong opinion polling. So effective has coalition sledging been, alone, the name “Bill Shorten” has in some contexts become a type of gag-line; a means to invoke derision or worse. Barnaby Joyce loves to make himself useful with such attacks. Nationals exist to bait Labor.

“You might be leader of the Labor Party, but it looks like you’ve never done a day’s labour in your life.

“He couldn’t run a pie shop and the thought of him running the country fills me with dread.”

Lapdog Barnaby is eager to follow Turnbull’s lead in preferring personal insult to political debate. Character assassination takes far less preparation than refutation or rebuttal or any other of the arts of debate. Far more damaging, too.

Yet there’s another twist. Mal’s cunning plan is to crank up the war on Dastyari to smooth the passage of a bill or several –he talks loosely of laws – which will restrict foreign influence- not just Chinese interference- while it prevents charities from advocacy (which entails criticising government policy) and nobbles GetUp!

More worrying is that the new legislation appears directed against Sam Dastyari, our Labor opponent du jour.

“In my view, the conduct alleged against him does not reach the threshold of the existing laws of treason and espionage, but that is why we are introducing – because of the gap in those laws, a new offence of unlawful foreign interference,” argues Attorney-General Brandis, a Queensland QC who argued in August that ignorance would save Barnaby Joyce.

Ironically, Australia takes further moves to silence dissent and to diminish agencies of advocacy or criticism, while China, with a long history of such measures  including persecution of dissidents, is quick to voice its displeasure.

Yet Turnbull’s gone overboard – or thrown the Dastyari out with the bath water. Whipping up anti-Dastyari hysteria so keenly as to offend a major trading partner amounts, is another poor judgement call from the PM. Happily the Liberals’ broad church can celebrate Barnaby’s brain farts instead.

Joyce to the world. Barnaby is not just Tamworth’s Salvator Mundi, says the PM although BJ says he’s no saint.

New England writs return in record time; Turnbull urgently needs BJ’s vote. By Wednesday, Joyce’s back at the despatch box ranting at Labor in a mongrel attack bagging Shorten for not sending MPs straight to the High Court .

 “Even after seeing the decision in the High Court where it is black and white, they (Labor) still made it a resolve of theirs to hide, to obfuscate and treat us all as fools,” he thunders his face all beetroot borscht and no cream.

“To Mr Shorten, to the Labor Party, to those being led around by the nose by the Labor Party, who actually took them on good faith to what they told you. I think now is the time that you should truly hold the Labor Party under the tutelage of Mr Bill Shorten well and truly to account.”   

There’s more of this from the former bean counter but the jig is up. Joyce is rewriting history. Preposterous is his outrageous claim that his delayed appearance in the High Court was not an attempt to hide, obfuscate and treat judges like fools. But he knows, as well as his government’s dirt unit, that it’s the big lies that work best.

Mangling syntax, forging tortuous metaphors, BJ rivals Bob Katter for wrangling language into nonsense.  Barnaby has his own wordsmithing ways and he’s not afraid to enter the smithy. Even if it gets him into serious trouble.

In October 2014, Barnaby corrected Hansard  His drought assistance answer claimed farmers received immediate help. He added disclaimers and qualifiers – “unless it is a new application,” and “if you were also a recipient of the Interim Farm Household Allowance”. He later had the changes struck out, blaming his staff for the error.

In  March 2015 his secretary Paul Grimes wrote to the now-Deputy Prime Minister telling him he “no longer [had] confidence in [his] capacity to resolve matters relating to integrity” with him. Grimes resigned. Fudging Hansard is probably not something to put on a CV but Barnaby’s absolved of all sin by his latest, greatest, glorious win.

The government has Joyce sworn in just before Question Time Wednesday and uses his crucial vote to stymie Labor’s attempt to send a joint referral of its current crop of nine MPs with dual citizenship to the High Court.

Turnbull does another flip-flop, back-flip. His political gymnastics are guaranteed to convey stability; strength.

For all its hype about a bipartisan resolution of the citizenship crisis , the government is now adamant that only Labor MP David Feeney and senator Katy Gallagher will be referred to the High Court. Given a chance to clear up an unpopular and time-consuming crisis, Malcolm Turnbull has chosen to prolong it indefinitely.

Yet, just as big, is the news of the elevation of Liberal top banana, former QLD drug squaddie “Dirty” Peter Dutton.

Riding high on the runaway success of his off-shore detention regime of deterrence and the genius of his Manus’ final solution, Dirty Dutto’s long overdue promotion to a Home Office super-ministry is tipped for 17 December.

The move strengthens talk that Santorin George Brandis, our Attorney-General, will slope off to Old Blighty to replace High Commissioner to the UK Alexander Downer even if he does have to evict Downer kicking and screaming out of his High Commissioner’s mansion. At least Theresa May will receive some free entertainment.

Yet Dutto has a tough gig. Long overdue is Australia’s response to the UN Human Rights Committee, a body which harshly condemns of Australia for failing in its treatment of refugees, Indigenous rights and inadequate protection of human rights, including the lack of a national human rights act.  On past form, Dutto will ignore all this.

His pal Tony Abbott provides a clue. Going on the offensive, Abbott declared that we were sick of being lectured to when a 2015 UN report found Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers breaches an international anti-torture convention. It was just after he called Professor Gillian Triggs report on children in detention a stitch-up.

The UN’s special rapporteur on torture finds Australia is violating the rights of asylum seekers on multiple fronts under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, a notion which Eric Abetz calls deluded when Tasmanian Senator Lisa Singh repeats it on ABC Q&A last Monday.

Dutto will be champing to get this bit between his teeth. His  super ministry will combine Australian Federal Police (AFP), spy agency Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), and the Australian Border Force (ABF).

But the week has a happy ending after all.

All hail New England’s conquering hero, former dual Kiwi, bar-storming, Barnaby Joyce, a man of the Tamworth world, who returns to Canberra in a blaze of glory, a cloud of bull-dust and his Akubra Cattleman hat. He’s back in parliament in a flash. His government’s majority rides on his RM Williams hand-tooled dynamic flex boots.

A boisterous, brawling government is abuzz with something more than the size of the New Election by-election win, a win which Turnbull instantly appropriates for the coalition – as he does with the marriage equality Yes vote.

Meanwhile, true-blue, Aussie battler and patriot Barnaby is pitted against Sam Dastyari public enemy number one.

Or that’s this week’s national mythic contest. It doesn’t pay to look closely. Barnaby may be Australia’s best retail politician but he’s a mining lobbyist who would help pollute the Great Artesian Basin, the world’s largest and deepest and our island continent’s biggest water source is extolled as a paragon of Aussie loyalty and fidelity.

“If you want to focus on the person in the weatherboard and iron they will give you the grace of their vote,” says the MP with a touch of Huey Long a politician who like Donald Trump appeals to the battlers and does nothing for them. And almost everything against them. Barnaby’s backers include billionaire Gina Rinehart

A deputy PM in charge of resources and water, he has no issue with spruiking for Santos on the local radio despite the damage done by fracking to local water.

Amidst the crush to cheer on Barnaby and install him in Tamworth’s pantheon as a cultural icon and appropriate his victory as the greatest swing to a sitting government ever, a frantic Canberra reaches fever pitch Thursday as religious freedom fears or time-wasting “pious amendments” such as Tony Abbott proposes are brushed aside and it becomes legal for same sex couples to marry. The winners’ circle is swamped by raucous gate-crashers.

Much of the ruckus is joyous celebration over the removal of an injustice and the recognition of a human right but there is also a desperate rush by a crush of unlikely MPs – rent-seekers eager to claim the victory of marriage equality, hitch their star to true-blue Barnaby’s iconic victory – while Dutton’s hot-eyed zealots pool resources, horses, water and feed and prepare to run any double agents right out of town.

Activists, lefties, greenies, advocates and dissidents all need to sit up and take notice.


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