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Australia’s home-grown terrorist a threat to all of us.

“We were not chosen for this act of violence because we condone racism, because we are an enclave for extremism,” Jacinda Ardern told New Zealanders in the confused hours following the attacks.

“We were chosen for the very fact that we are none of these things. Because we represent diversity, kindness, compassion, a home for those who share our values, refuge for those who need it. And those values, I can assure you, will not and cannot be shaken by this attack.”

 

Fifty unsuspecting men, women and children attending Friday prayer at 1:00 pm in the leafy, peaceful, central Christchurch Al-Noor mosque and in the nearby mosque at Linwood, New Zealand, are suddenly brutally, cold-bloodedly shot at point-blank range by Brenton Harrison Tarrant, a 29 year-old Australian alt-right terrorist using an AR-15 semi-automatic, the weapon of choice in US mass shootings from Sandy Hook to San Bernardino.

Surgeons, who have treated wounds caused by AR-15 semi-automatic rifles, call the weapons perfect killing machines that can tear a body apart and create massive haemorrhaging. Many medicos call for it to be banned.

The assault is a callous, calculated hate-crime which leaves fifty Islamic worshippers dead and wounds fifty others, thirty-six of whom remain hospitalised, twelve in critical condition and a community utterly traumatised. Broken. Police arrest Tarrant, an Otago rifle-club member; charge him with one count of murder. Other charges will follow on 5 April. Despite earlier reports of a group of terrorists, police say Tarrant is the lone gun-man.

If only he were. Not for a moment, does Tarrant behave as if he is on his own. It’s in his demeanour in court, where he smirks at reporters and flashes an inverted white power symbol- it’s in his “manifesto”; the in-jokes and ironic references to fellow “shit-posters” on white supremacists’ websites; his prior posts to social media; his decision to film his pathological odyssey of destruction.  He is living proof of the myth of the lone wolf terrorist.

In his own, narcissistic, bubble-head, Tarrant’s gone from “zero to hero” appeasing the savage god of alt-right celebrity social media notoriety in thirty-six minutes. But he’s not got anywhere on his own. “Lazy talk of lone wolves obscures the nature of the real threat and makes us all less safe”, writes The Guardian’s Jason Burke.

“The truth is much more disturbing. Terrorism is not something you do by yourself, it is highly social. People become interested in ideas, ideologies and activities, even appalling ones, because other people are interested in them.”  Increasingly, however, links are tenuous. Networks, autonomous cells and “in rare cases” individuals have replaced groups with chains of command. Sadly, our AFP and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton’s other anti-terror forces appear still to be busting down doors in Grafton, Monday, looking for a mythic Tarrant terror cell.

Tarrant exudes complicity; a sense of co-conspiracy; a psychotic, anti-heroic triumphalism of “us” against “them”.

Has the tolerance given the alt-right by governments and mainstream media in Australia, misled him to believe he is starring in his own movie? That he’s untouchable? Or does he simply have the psychopath’s empathy by-pass? Yet rather than seek out a terror cell as his mentors, we need look no further than the federal government.

“Some politicians in Australia have for years been whipping up anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment,” Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi tells ABC Television’s News Breakfast, Monday, “and for years, Muslims have also been warning; we’ve been speaking out and saying this is damaging and hurting the community, and that this does have consequences – this doesn’t happen in a vacuum. And when I talk about politicians, I have to say I’m not only talking about the usual suspects like One Nation’s Pauline Hanson, or Fraser Anning.”

Faruqi spells it out, later on Radio National “… politicians like Peter Dutton have actually contributed to creating an atmosphere where hate is allowed to incubate in our society. They can’t shrug off their responsibility.

What they’ve been doing does come with a cost, it does come with consequences, because really they’ve been playing games with our lives.”

Peter Dutton takes this gentle rebuke with typical good humour. He quickly accuses Faruqi of making political capital out of the NZ shootings. Dutts says it’s “a disgrace” that people “on the far left or far right [are] trying to extract advantage” while families are “burying the bodies of those who have been massacred in Christchurch”.

“He still refuses to take responsibility for his role in demonising Muslims, migrants and refugees,” Faruqi tells Guardian Australia.Trying to claim that my response to the horrific massacre and Senator Anning’s disgraceful comments that harm our community are in any way equivalent is just vile.”

Anning blames the New Zealand victims in a bizarre tweet which asks “Does anyone still dispute the link between Muslim immigration and violence?” His asinine comment causes the Indonesian Foreign Ministry to summon the Australian Ambassador in Jakarta where foreign ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir has some helpful advice,

“Acts of terrorism, he says, are not associated with any religion.”

“The thought conveyed by the Australian senator is inappropriate and does not have a place in the modern world, whether in Australia, Indonesia, or elsewhere,” he says. Anning, meantime has over a million votes on a GetUp petition in favour of his standing down from parliament. His attention-seeking stunt is working marvellously.

As for acts of terrorism, if we look, as we do to the US, violent extremism driven by right-wing, racially motivated ideologies is growing at an alarming pace – ahead of the capacity of public understanding nor government action to keep up or to combat it. Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, calls upon leaders to wake up and to mobilise the necessary resources to deal with right wing terror. In Australia, we lag further behind.

Marvy Morrison is mugged by reality. Yet when it comes to “Muslim extremism” he has the answers all off pat. ScoMo echoes Abbott and most of his other MPs when he says the Muslim community in Australia must be more “proactive” in tackling the threat of terror attacks. Why?  Because “in many cases” imams and community leaders will know who is infiltrating and radicalising members of their flock. It’s reductive, patronising nonsense.

But Brenton Tarrant’s radicalisation is difficult to blame on anyone else but himself and his anti-Muslim, Islamophobic government. Not that ScoMo doesn’t give the hand-pass a try. He’s surprised, he says, that NZ authorities didn’t have Tarrant on their radar.

Jacinda Ardern replies that she’s surprised that Australian authorities, so much more advanced at this anti-terror stuff, weren’t on to Tarrant way back. Why weren’t his community leaders more proactive?

Proactive? Given our first major terrorist turns out to be a white supremacist, Neo-Nazi, why is ScoMo now not calling Anglo-Celtic community leaders to account? Because it’s nonsense? If there’s any good to come out of the tragic horror of Friday’s shootings, it’s the way that it exposes the Coalition’s preposterous supposition that Muslim “communities” are run by imams as some sort of theocratic state.

It also exposes a chilling truth. Paranoid nonsense about white genocide to one side, Tarrant’s intolerant ranting manifesto has many parallels with Coalition anti-immigration and anti-Muslim polemic. Tarrant’s immigration phobia; his scapegoating of Muslims, echoes ScoMo’s government’s own Islamophobic prejudices.

When a clearly deluded and paranoid Hassan Khalif Shire Ali killed one person and injured two others in Bourke Street, the PM identified the “vile presence” of radical Islam as the cause of the attack, dismissing the suggestion that mental health issues negated that primary cause as a “lame excuse”.

Tony Abbott insinuates Muslim leaders do not condemn terrorism: “I’ve often heard Western leaders describe Islam as a ‘religion of peace’. I wish more Muslim leaders would say that more often, and mean it.”

What messages did Abbott think he was sending when he allowed his government to send National MP “gorgeous” George Christensen to address an anti-Islam rally – Reclaim Australia? Perhaps Tarrant was even in attendance? The title of the address is remarkably similar to the theme of Tarrant’s cracked manifesto.

If it takes a whole village to raise a child, how many does it take to raise a genocidal, white supremacist gun-man? At the family level, Tarrant’s devastated relatives offer their profuse apologies to the families who have lost brothers, sisters, uncles, nephews, nieces, husbands and wives who until last Friday were teachers, engineers, accountants and scientists.

And children.  Two young children are among those gunned down in cold blood. Mucad Ibrahim, aged three, dies in his father’s arms. Abdullah Durie, aged four, is caught in the cross-fire and later dies in hospital, explains Abdulrahman Hashi, his uncle. Nothing anyone can ever say will ease their parents’ grief.

Suddenly, we are exporting terrorism. ScoMo’s government has the wrong script. Scott Morrison has said the Muslim community in Australia must be more “proactive” in tackling the threat of terror attacks because “in many cases” imams and community leaders will know who is infiltrating and radicalising members of their flock.

No Australian politician, however, steps forward to take responsibility for his or her role in contributing to the toxic miasma of Islamophobia; the anti-Muslim hate-speech that they nurture as part of Australia’s contemporary political discourse with its blaming, its scapegoating, its fear of the other.  No-one in government apologises for raising terrorist Tarrant, let alone allowing him out of the country to commit his hideous act of carnage.

Scott Morrison offers his condolences but his words ring hollow given how, in December 2010, ScoMo allegedly encouraged the shadow cabinet to exploit populist Islamophobia; growing concerns about “Muslim immigration”, “Muslims in Australia”, how “Muslims” were not assimilating – suppressing their culture, subjugating custom, thought and belief much as Australia’s aboriginal peoples are in many ways still expected to behave.

Julie Bishop and Philip Rudd allegedly remonstrated, but in 2011, Morrison asked why the Australian government should pay the fares of twenty-two mourners to come to the Sydney funeral of family drowned when an asylum-seeker vessel, SIEV 222, (Suspected illegal entry vessel) in our Orwellian terminology, evoking anonymity, illegality and illegitimacy, broke up and sank off Christmas Island’s Rocky Point, with the loss of over fifty lives.

Tony Abbott was censured by Wayne Swan for “parroting Pauline Hanson” in Abbott’s backing of Morrison.

ScoMo was persuaded to apologise or at least he made a contrived statement of contrition,

“I made the suggestion (the funeral) should have been held on Christmas Island. That wasn’t the right time to make that comment. I accept that. I have to show a little more compassion than I showed yesterday.”

Luckily, former accountant-cum-ethicist, Barnaby Joyce is on hand in 2011 to protect the borders of our humanity. The price of compassion is “not limitless’‘, he says. “You can’t do it with a completely open cheque book.”

Making his atrocity even more horrifying is that Tarrant live-streams his killings on the internet and posts an online manifesto, “The Great Replacement”, a deranged treatise on white supremacy: the high volume of immigration now seen in the West is bringing about a “replacement” of host populations by immigrant – and of course, inferior – cultures. The influx of newcomers is causing a “white genocide.”

Kiwi politicians get a copy of the treatise minutes before his attacks. Both his email and his Go-Pro live-streamed film convey not only his bizarre deliberations but suggest that the “entire attack seemed orchestrated for the social media age” suggest CNN reporters, Jenni Marsh and Tara Mulholland. It’s an ISIS-like recruitment tactic.

Before Tarrant’s attacks, a post on the anonymous message board 8chan — a forum featuring racist and extremist posts –previews the horror. It links to his 87-page grab-bag of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim slurs, and directs users to a Facebook page hosting the live stream. He also uses a new Twitter account to herald the attack. Yet no-one in any anti-terror police unit either in Australia or New Zealand notices his declaration of intent to murder.

Facebook claims that within 24 hours of Friday’s shooting the company had removed 1.5 million videos of the attack from its platform globally. Naturally, Scott Morrison has this contingency all under control.

“We will be seeking to get assurances from the social media companies about their capabilities to ensure that this tool cannot be used by terrorists,” ScoMo says, keen to be seen to impose “a tough on Facebook borders” solution. However, he reveals an astonishing ignorance of how social media works. As Mark Zuckerberg explains, his company could not have stopped Russia manipulating the outcome of the last US presidential election,

“We don’t check what people say before they say it, and frankly, I don’t think society should want us to. Freedom means you don’t have to ask for permission first, and by default, you can say what you want.”

The slaughter is quickly labelled “one of New Zealand’s darkest days” and “an act of terrorism” by Kiwi PM, Jacinda Ardern. Other world leaders offer sympathy. Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan goes further; arguing that Muslims worldwide have found themselves targeted and “demonised” since the 9/11 attacks on the US.

“I blame these increasing terror attacks on the current Islamophobia post-9/11 where Islam and 1.3 bn Muslims have collectively been blamed for any act of terror by a Muslim,” he tweets. “This has been done deliberately to also demonise legitimate Muslim political struggles.”

It is the largest massacre in New Zealand history since 1943, when forty-eight recently-arrived Japanese prisoners of war staged a sit-down strike at a POW camp in Featherston, a Wairarapa town in the Wellington region of the North Island. Guards fired a warning shot wounding Lieutenant Adachi Toshio. The prisoners rose. Forty-eight were shot by guards. A guard was killed, possibly by the warning shot. A further 63 prisoners were wounded.

Acting out his warped fantasy, Brenton Harrison Tarrant straps on his Go-Pro helmet camera, packs three semi-automatic rifles, two pump action shotguns and a bolt-action rifle in his Subaru before driving four and a half hours north from his home in Dunedin to Christchurch where he opens fire on unsuspecting innocents.

As Waleed Ali has written, it is “slaughter by appointment”. The true threat posed to us by this new form of terror; the true obscenity of the killings lie less in any alt-right madness about white genocide or Islamophobia but in the abuse of human trust and instinctive hospitality. The killer would have known how profoundly defenceless, how vulnerable, his targets would have been as they gathered in peace to begin their prayers. How vulnerable in their humanity and the innocent rituals of their faith.

“Hello Brother,” one greets Tarrant before the Australian terrorist shoots him dead.

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ScoMo’s cynical Christmas Island stunt is an assault on our democracy and an affront to our humanity

“I will do everything in my power to ensure that these suggested changes … never see the light of day… I will fight them using whatever tool or tactic I have available to me …” Scott Morrison

 

Flanked by a trio of Border Force black-shirts and a lone, grim digger in camouflage, Scott Morrison morphs into Colonel Kurtz of Christmas Island, Wednesday. Consumed by his delusions. In a spectacular mid-week flight of fantasy, he becomes Colonel Kurtz of Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola’s phantasmagorical 1979 Vietnam war film loosely based on Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness. For Kurtz and ScoMo Horror and moral terror are your friend. 

Morrison is up for another stunt if only to drown out the erupting chaos and crisis of confidence in its leadership which, yet again, engulfs the Coalition. He’s also working up to a sensational International Women’s Day address Friday “so tone deaf so terrible” – so bad it makes international news. Is it the Kurtz method acting? Or is it just ScoMo’s ear of tin?

Pet black rock-star Morrison tells a flabbergasted audience at the Chamber of Minerals and Energy in Western Australia, a bastion of women’s emancipation, that it is “not in our values” to “push some people down to lift some people up”.

“That is true of gender equality,” he says. “We want to see women rise. But we don’t want to see women rise only on the basis of others doing worse. We want everybody to do better, and we want to see the rise of women in this country be accelerated to ensure that their overall pace is maintained.”  Clearly, ScoMo has no idea what equality means. But that doesn’t stop him “telling women not to get ahead of themselves” as Sarah Hanson-Young tweets.

Feminist, Malcolm Turnbull embarks on a finely nuanced new offensive against those who knifed him in the least successful coup in Liberal history by telling the BBC, his MPs dumped him because they knew he could win the election.

“Basically you could argue that their concern was not that I would lose the election, but rather that I would win it.”

It’s absurd. Obligingly, however, Turnbull also lets the world know that the Liberals definitely has a woman problem; a serious gender inequality issue. ScoMo will be thrilled. But Turnbull slaps down Tony Abbott for his “innumerate idiocy” in his carbon emission triple back-flip and snipe. The suppository of all wisdom declares he’s all for following the Paris climate-in-a-canter agreement now. Why? “Because the party’s leader and energy minister have changed.”

Nothing to do with being likely to lose his seat of Warringah where his chief adversary Zali Steggall confirms that Tony is being his “rude, aggressive, self.” He’s also lying, she adds. Who says there’s no consistency in politics?

Bonkers Barnaby Joyce is up for a change; he’s making ready to depose Nationals Leader Michael McCormack. The fracas will be very helpful to ScoMo in diverting us from Josh Frydenberg’s April stunning budget tax-cut bribes.

Joyce is close to a shoo-in. Few even in his own electorate have heard of McCormack. The Nationals are miffed by their lame-duck leader’s train-wreck interview with Waleed Ali on Ten’s The Project which goes viral on social media.

It’s a simple question and one that Barnaby Joyce would struggle with. “Could you name a single, big policy area where the Nats have sided with the interests of farmers over the interest of miners when they come into conflict?”

Macca just can’t name a single way that the Nationals Party stands up for the farmer rather than for mining interests.

Naturally, Macca is also attacked by “Joyced-up” Queensland Nats-rats who demand he underwrite Matthew Canavan’s “about ten” new coal-fired power stations before the Budget. For now, the agrarian socialists simply want state power over power companies; Angus Taylor, bring you big stick back. Or is this Barnaby’s cunning plan to win his old job back?

Macca kicks another own goal by telling the ABC, Sunday, that night-time sport would have to be cancelled given Labor’s emissions targets. McCormack calls Bill Shorten “nuts” and “living in fairyland” for pursuing a 45 per cent reduction in carbon emissions. “I mean sure, go down that path, but forget night footy, forget night cricket.”

Given this surfeit of absurdity, disunity and ever-mindful to lead by inspiring, ScoMo takes his shock-horror show on tour to Christmas Island, pressing a hand-picked media claque aboard an RAAF 747; a virtual, portable Canberra bubble. He says nothing he couldn’t have said in Canberra but he knows exotic settings make the news. And the value of escape.

“Anyone who wants to game the system, understand you won’t be able to game your way to the mainland if I have anything to do with it. This is why we are here,” he blusters. Border Force cutbacks are not mentioned. Yet David Wroe writing for Nine Newspapers quotes a leaked Defence Department classified briefing paper warning,

“The Australian Border Force has been falling short of its sea patrol target by 20 per cent, which has posed an increased risk” to maritime security. Anti-terror work has been cut back just because the ABF hasn’t been out there doing its job. Budget cutbacks and crew shortages are cited as reasons in Wednesday’s Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

It’s a far cry from the halcyon days of Tony Abbott’s boat-stopping, a feat he didn’t achieve, which he has never ceased to take credit for. The depersonalisation stuck, as well. Stopping boats or “illegal maritime arrivals” is so much easier than owning sadistic cruelty to vulnerable people. As for Abbott and Morrison’s boat-stopping fiction, asylum-seekers, in fact, stopped attempting to reach Australia when Kevin Rudd made it clear, in July 2013, that they would never be settled here. By the time Morrison was in charge, the flow of boats slowed to a trickle. Yet one or two still try.

What Morrison can take credit for is a culture of secrecy and lies. As Immigration Minister, he showed contempt for the press – and with it – for normal measures of accountability in a democratic society. ScoMo would simply walk out of formal press-conferences when he didn’t like the questions – or scrutiny of openness and accountability.

At times, he would resort to the fiction that we were at war with asylum seekers and people-smugglers, a fantasy in which he was indulged by Abbott, a ruse to claim that “on water” or “operational matters” were top secret as a matter of national security. Yet, as his government’s exit, stage right, draws ever closer, his legacy will be his inhumanity.

Under Scott Morrison, Australia’s Migration Act was effectively entirely eroded: all affirmations of the rights of asylum seekers that applied in international law under the United Nations Refugee Convention were stripped from the Act.

Today, 1015 innocent men and women are deliberately being driven mad by the misery of indefinite offshore detention. Some are pushed to suicide and self-harm by our government’s policy of punitive incarceration; or sadistic cruelty.

Yet human beings with needs and rights do not feature in Morrison’s message to the press, midweek. There’s a lot about himself, of course. And pointing. Feeling of steel mesh. He points to where a refugee boat sank in rough seas in December 2010. Forty-eight died. But it’s only to reiterate the lie that Coalition policy is based on preventing drowning.

Does this humbug deceive anyone? Coalition policies are founded in crass, political advantage. Deny refugees’ rights. As John Menadue puts it, the Coalition’s political objective in opposition was to stop Labor stopping the boats. In co-operation with the populist Greens, it voted against the Malaysian Solution. A surge of boat arrivals followed.

Nowhere does ScoMo admit we must render others urgent medical help; our non-delegable duty of care. Instead, all he can talk about are those who will “game the system”. Fake illness. Like Dutton, he must dwell on duplicity; deception.

If not some type of disorder, the obsession with deception or lack of good faith destroys the Coalition’s promises to keep us safe. As do its laws preventing whistle-blowers. We’re safe until we blow the whistle. We’re not safe if we can’t trust government. As for deception, we have no idea how many boats have been turned around, give the level of secrecy surrounding Operation Sovereign Borders. Secrecy hardly encourages us to trust the Coalition’s official statistics

What is clear, is that punitive detention has no effect and the “successes” – if we can talk of abrogating our humanity and our responsibility to others in such a way – have come from boat turnbacks. No-one at the press briefing challenges Scott Morrison’s basic assumption – just how mainland medical aid to men on Manus or men and women on Nauru, which his government will deny by sending the suffering to Christmas Island, can attract more boats.

Talk of “illegals” crops up frequently in Coalition spin on “securing our borders”, a nonsense useful for wedging Labor. It’s repeated so frequently it’s become part of accepted truthiness. The word dehumanises but it is not illegal to seek asylum. Secondly, our borders are naturally insecure given our 25,760 km coastline. And more porous than they’ve ever been. In 2018, 9.2 million overseas residents flew in for a short-term stay say the ABS’ official statistics.

It’s high time we gave up the fiction of border control. Helping us, the formation of the Home Affairs (HA) super-ministry is already imploding. Size imperils co-ordination and communication. Home Affairs is so huge it took a senate committee two and a half days just to scrutinise Peter Dutton’s empire May last year, reports ABC’s Laura Tingle.

Home Affairs swallowed The Department of Immigration and Border Protection – itself a shotgun wedding of customs and immigration created by the Abbott government’s 2014, which Scott Morrison failed to manage well. One change was simply a captain’s call; desk-bound bureaucrats were suddenly kitted out in paramilitary uniforms.

Our refugees do not deserve our compassion, is Morrison’s subtext.  They do not merit being treated at “Bondi” he explains to Ben Fordham on 2GB’s bubble. The sick will be sent to suffer further on Christmas Island with its six bed hospital and its inadequate facilities. All that remains, is to demonise those whose only mistake is to seek our mercy.

The Coalition continues its warped fear-mongering all week. Morrison has long accused asylum-seekers of carrying all manner of diseases from Hep B and TB to Chlamydia and syphilis. Now his government claims that those identified as eligible for treatment under Medevac include “paedophiles, terrorist sympathisers and an alleged murderer”.  

ScoMo’s speech could be made in Canberra but, instead, the Coalition flies its PM and an embedded media team by RNZAF 747, 5000 km to Christmas Island. It’s a bizarre and expensive stunt – even for the architect of Abbott’s 2014 “Cambodian Solution”, an abortive deal with one of the world’s poorest and most corrupt nations, which led to two refugees being resettled with no human rights guarantees at a cost of $55 million.

But Apocalypse Morrison sees only the horror.  Horror? “Labor will start the boats again. Every arrival is on Bill Shorten’s head.”  Last time it was in office, Labor brought 50,000 asylum-seekers in boats. Even if this inflated figure were accurate, his own government has seen 64,000 people claim asylum in the last three years. They flew here.

Today they are part of an oppressed, exploited, invisible underclass of worker on farms, in factories, restaurants, building sites, franchises and other businesses, as The Saturday Paper’s Mike Seccombe details.

ScoMo’s promo draws all the attention he can to Christmas Island’s ignoble re-opening. Does the PM hope that a boat might chance indefinite offshore detention or turnbacks, on the off chance that some asylum-seekers may be sick enough to be treated on the mainland – despite the new legislation clearly applying only to refugees from Manus and Nauru?  It’s highly unlikely but he does makes much of the people-smugglers’ lack of nuanced understanding.

Why else, apart from pure political bastardry, re-open another island prison in Australia’s gulag archipelago of cruelty?

On Bill Shorten’s head? It’s a desperate projection. As former Immigration Minister and distinguished public servant, John Menadue notes, by defeating the means to implement the Malaysian Arrangement, Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison triggered the surge in boat arrivals from September 2011 onwards. The more boats the better for him.

In November 2009, the issue of asylum seekers was “fantastic” for the Coalition and “the more boats that come the better” a key Liberal Party strategist” told a US diplomat in Canberra.  Scott Morrison was the ‘strategy director’ for the 2007 NSW election campaign. The comment was published 10 December 2010 by the SMH reporting from Wikileaks.

Our onshore detention centres (gulags) are full, he lies.  Shorten’s new law means ScoMo must reopen Christmas Island Detention Centre, (a prison), because 57 “adverse characters,” require a “hardened centre”, (a fresh bit of jargon to help with the message that refugees are rapists, terrorists and worse. Some are Armani-wearing con-artists – just ask Dutts.)

“Somebody once said to me that we’ve got the world’s biggest collection of Armani jeans and handbags up on Nauru waiting for people to collect it when they depart,” Dutton told 2GB’s Ray Hadley two years ago, using the dodgy “somebody once told me…” propaganda strategy in the government’s squalid bid to smear our refugees as dishonest and undeserving – when it’s not demonising them as carriers of STDs or terrorist sympathisers.

Horror of horrors. There is room on the mainland. In a government of secrets and lies, truth, like science, is a dirty word. Home Affairs own monthly newsletter shows three mainland “hardened centres”. One alone has 200 spare beds. If every one of ScoMo’s 57 “adverse characters” were sick, we’d fit them all in. So far, not one has sought assistance.

And why ignore local residents of the Australian territory? They have a democratic right to be consulted,

Museum attendant, Roxanne Wilson, complains that ScoMo’s detention centre media blitz is certainly no advertisement for Christmas island. “I’m just concerned that any tourists on the island or [who] would like to come to the island, are thinking it’s a detention island. I would just like them to see the beauty of the island: we get bird watchers coming here quite regularly, the island has endemic bird life that is not found anywhere else in the world.”

Yet ScoMo flies 5000 kilometres to an Australia external territory, acquired in 1958, which his mentor, John Howard, rat-cunningly excised from our migration zone in September 2001.  An exhausted phosphate mine, Christmas Island is 1400 km north-west of Australia but only 360 km south of Java; alluringly close for Indonesian people-smugglers.

Is ScoMo hoping to reboot its allure? Another asylum-seeker boat or two could turn the May election into Tampa 2.0.

Or could it? How likely are demon people-smugglers to forget history? Tampa’s 438 passengers were taken to Nauru and Manus. Not to be outdone by the lying rodent, Howard, moreover, the Gillard government, excised the mainland of Australia from our migration zone in May 2013. Even if you do make it to Australia, you’ll end up being “processed” or in indefinite detention on Manus or Nauru. Only ScoMo could pretend the Medevac bill opens any “loopholes”.

Yet, blast the trump, Christmas Island is open for business again. What better spot for ScoMo to declare war on the Medevac Bill and humanity; protect us all from those who may “game the system”? Dog-whistle people-smugglers?

Morrison does boost Australia’s reputation for gratuitous cruelty and abuse of human rights via off-shore detention. Our democracy cops a hiding, too. Cap’n ScoMo’s determined to subvert the will of the Australian people as represented by parliament’s passing of a bill to allow asylum-seekers held on Manus Island and on Nauru to be treated on the mainland, a bill which received royal assent last Friday. No-one puts up a fuss. He’ll send them to an island where medical facilities are inadequate but thanks to Howard, the law doesn’t reach. It’s an act of pure political bastardry. And it’s not cheap.

All up, Monty Morrison’s flying circus costs taxpayers $2000 per minute, reckons Nine Newspapers’, David Crowe. But that doesn’t begin to count the cost to our humanity nor to our capacity as sentient beings to find our way in the world.

The result of a consistent and total substitution of lies for factual truth is not that the lie will now be accepted as truth and truth be defamed as a lie, but that the sense by which we take our bearings in the real world – and the category of truth versus falsehood is among the mental means to this end – is being destroyed. (Hannah Arendt).

=====

Note

From the Attorney-General’s Department, Laura Tingle reports, Home Affairs has taken carriage of national security, emergency management and criminal justice functions. The Office of Transport Security has been plucked from the Infrastructure Department. Multicultural affairs has been absorbed from the Department of Social Services. And from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Home Affairs has taken control of counter-terrorism coordination and cybersecurity. The super-ministry also assumes responsibility for key agencies including ASIO, the Australian Federal Police, Australian Border Force, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and AUSTRAC.

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No, ScoMo, you can’t have Snowy 2.0 and coal-fired power too.

“What we are talking about here is reliable, renewable, energy,” gurgles a pumped PM, Tuesday. He stands in the same spot as Turnbull, before ScoMo deposed him; the same huge penstock steel pipes arch back behind him like some gigantic, shamanic, horned headdress. The pose gives pause for thought. As does ScoMo’s pivot; his sudden switch from bearer of the black rock in parliament to ScoMo of Snowy 2.0, a study of calculation in concrete brutalism.

In an incredible back-flip, Faux-Mo re-invents his carbon-emitting, coal-powered government as climate and environmental custodians. Snowy 2.0 is the site of Turnbull’s nation-building pet project. Is his an act of homage, or  usurpation? Yet it could be a lemon. Neither the Coalition, nor its wholly owned Snowy Hydro, will reveal any financial models. Giles Parkinson notes that there’s a fair bit of red tape to clear, not to mention environmental issues to resolve.

No financial modelling? No worries. Whether nation-building with your ego or your energy policy, it’s the vibe that matters. And the mix. A “technologically neutral” ScoMo-government may green-wash itself overnight but it’s careful to leave black or brown coal-fired power generation still in the energy mix. It prolongs the hoax that coal and wind and solar can somehow co-exist, whatever the market is saying about the need to invest in renewables to make a profit.

Naturally a few false prophets must be ignored. The Australian‘s Chris Kenny is all for a nuclear option, safe, cheap; a boon, environmentally, as Fukushima and Chernobyl attest, with only a few drawbacks including toxicity, short life-span, long build time and prohibitive price as demand for electricity diminishes. Nuclear is so yesterday. As for green, any saving in daily running cost is offset by a large environmental debit incurred in the massive concrete construction.

But is our new ScoMo Coalition with clean, green, pumped snowy hydro 2.0 fair-dinkum? Giles Parkinson drily notes,

“…a government that “scrapped the carbon price, tried to kill the renewable energy target, defenestrated the Climate Change Authority and tried to scrap the Clean Energy Finance Corp and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency appears to be taking note that climate focused independents are posing a real threat to incumbent MPs.”

Is it green? Will our unreliable, coal-fired clunkers such as Liddell be taken off life support? (Liddell’s expected life-span was 25 years, when built in 1973.) Will filthy, new, polluting smoke stacks rise phoenix-like from the ashes, as the Coalition honours Matt Canavan’s recent pledge to fund ten new coal-fired power plants? Funding? Banks won’t touch them. China doesn’t love us any more and the Russians have already been well-tapped by Trump.

Government funding is promised to those keen to build new coal-fired power projects – but is it legal? In a startling new piece of legal advice from barristers Fiona McLeod SC and Lindy Barrett, The Australia Institute reports McLeod and Barrett argue that the government will need parliament’s approval before it can underwrite any new coal fired plant.

The only existing authority for such appropriation of funds is the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, a body set up to encourage investment in energy-efficient; low energy or low emission technology. Coal or gas projects are excluded.

The barristers hazard that “Energy Minister Angus Taylor is in such a rush to funnel taxpayer funds to new coal fired power stations before the election, he seems to have overlooked that he has no constitutional authority to do so.”

Assistance for new coal fired power projects, it is argued, will require “some form of supporting legislation”, reports Katharine Murphy, either new or existing, to operate and fund the program, otherwise the arrangements would be open to a high court challenge. Certainly, Energy Minister Angus Taylor is coy about new build details.

Taylor, is tight-lipped on ABC Insiders, Sunday. Incredibly, after six years in government and with an election in May, he acts as if he is being put on the spot by a key question on major policy. Perhaps he is. Has no-one done the research?

“I’m the energy minister, I am not going to commit to a number here and now.” An evasive Taylor sees fit to use the Westminster code of ministerial responsibility to parliament to weasel out of a simple question in the national interest.

Instead, Trump-like, the Energy Minister spins a web of lies. He risks ridicule in pretending that the Coalition is reducing its carbon emissions. The government’s own figures show a five-year increase. (Emission rose again when, then PM, Abbott “axed the carbon tax: a lie which even former Chief of Staff Peta Credlin now admits was untrue – “just brutal retail politics” – by which she means ruthless, self-serving, pragmatism. Any means to win an election is OK.)

Yet Taylor’s cool with coal and pumped hydro competing. Has he read Tassie’s Project Marinus’ feasibility study? It’s clear from the project brief that the interlink will be economically viable only if coal is taken out of the mix – and soon.

“… when approximately 7,000MW of the national electricity market’s present coal-fired generation capacity retires”,

Pouncing, like a terrier, on the word “competition”, the topic of his M.Phil from Oxford where, like Abbott, he was a Rhodes Scholar, Taylor offers a touching non-sequitur, “You put your finger on it – we want more competition, Barrie.” Perhaps coal can compete with pumped hydro in the parallel universe of the coal lobby shill or the Kelly “ginger group”.

Taylor has ScoMo’s biggest lie off pat. “We will reach our Paris targets in a canter.” The Coalition knows that with repetition the lie will become orthodoxy  – as has the false narrative that our energy policy is a failure because “both sides” have been bickering, a point repeatedly made by Coalition MPs and their supporters on mainstream media, including the ABC’s The Drum and Q&A. No. It’s a Coalition wedded to its coal sponsors causing the damage.

There are no reputable scientists or economists who believe we will meet our Paris target to reduce our emissions by 26%, based on 2005 levels, by 2030 in a canter. Now the talk is of carry-over credits.

The question has Taylor talking about The Kyoto agreement to Australia fudging its figures; being allowed a credit for land-clearing and forestry in article 3.7 of the Kyoto Protocol, known but not fondly, as The Australian Clause and inserted at the behest of Senator Robert Hill. In brief, we chose 1990, a year when land-clearing had been high as our base, thus giving the impression of progress even if we did nothing. The Coalition’s attitude remains unchanged.

We did not do nothing. The Hawke government introduced policies to restrict land-clearing and established Landcare. When Kyoto was officially ratified in 2008, under Rudd, Australia was able to claim “emissions from Land-use, Land-use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) had fallen by over 80 million tonnes CO2-e … an almost 15 per cent reduction in Australia’s emissions – enough to offset the significant growth in emissions from electricity generation over the same period, which had added 82 million tonnes CO2-e by 2009.”

Because we will beat our 2020 Kyoto targets by 240 million tonnes of CO2, the Morrison government will carry these forward against our 2030 Paris pledge, if other countries are weak enough to allow this. The 26 to 28 per cent target effectively turns into a 15 per cent cut on 2005 levels.

It seems like sharp practice – and in terms of our real contribution to curbing global warming it is a shamefully weak effort, yet our environment minister, “Invisible” Melissa Price, says “it’s a great result for the environment and for the economy”, helping prosecute the fallacy that curbing emissions acts as a break on prosperity, a myth so widely and frequently circulated that it is Coalition and mainstream media orthodoxy.

Bill Hare, director of Perth-based global consultancy Climate Analytics, says there’s no chance we can meet our target without new policies. Most other experts agree. Yet the Coalition is a policy-free zone, especially around energy.

Barrie tries to chat about rats leaving the sinking Coalition ship. Ten faux-green bottles no longer hanging on the wall. More to accidentally fall? Taylor recycles ScoMo’s spin that while the faces may change, the policies remain “focused”. Yet  coal is in now out of-focus while hydro gets a spin.  And since Taylor’s debut in August, energy is an enigma. Even Frydenberg didn’t try to ride two horses at once. You can’t burn coal and pump hydro. It’s one or the other.

Unless it’s for show. This week the Coalition puts another $1.6bn into the kitty for Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro. Invests $56m in interconnector 2.0, or the Marinus link to make little Tassie a powerhouse; “the battery of the nation”.

Marinus will carry power not only from pumped hydro, moreover, it will be able to conduct electricity from wind-power projects in the pipeline. But it won’t be economic; it can’t pay its way unless coal-fired power generation is retired. The costs of the poles and wires are extra. These, ScoMo generously makes clear, are to be borne by the relevant states.

For Tassie’s Marinus 2 project to work, however, its feasibility report says its necessary or our nation to get out of coal-fired power generation. Fast. 2020 is suggested. Yet Angus Taylor suggests there may be ten coal-fired plants which the government may subsidise. Again, it’s impossible to have an each-way bet. Giles Parkinson sums up: Snowy 2.0 and the Tasmanian scheme only make economic and financial sense if coal-fired power production ceases.

“There is no place in the schemes if coal-fired generators remain.”

That’s entirely at odds with Coalition policy. This includes a type of state aid to Trevor St Baker, the billionaire who bought Vales Point from the NSW government for a song – and poised to set up some new ones; a white knight of the black rock and a Liberal Party donor just battling to make a quid by keeping old stations such as Liddell running well past their use-by date. No wonder the government is releasing no feasibility study. What they propose is impossible.

At base, however, Snowy 2.0’s just another show.  “Getting on with the job”, as Showboat ScoMo pitches his cynical faux humility. Typically, “the job” entails the hard slog of deception, disinformation and spin but the old stager knows no sort of performance can distract from the reality that at least ten of his Coalition crew are madly stampeding for the exits.

“Jobs for the boys” are what we are in fact talking about, as Labor’s Penny Wong never tires of reminding us.

Wait, there’s more good news. “A record seven women in cabinet”, boasts Nine news. ScoMo boldly overpromotes rookie WA Senator Linda Reynolds straight from assistant Minister for Home Affairs, to Minister for Defence Industry.

“When you can call up a brigadier, in the form of Linda Reynolds, to take on the role of defence minister, it shows we have a lot of talent on our bench to draw from” Morrison lies. It does show the Liberals’ fetish for militarism. Above all, it rewards Reynolds for quickly abandoning her complaints of bullying in the Liberal Party.

“As a soldier I believe you go through a chain of command and you do things internally,” she says. Her cryptic comment may make sense to a part-time army reservist on a weekend camp but how is this Liberal individualism?  Of far more concern, is how the potential Minister of Defence would respond to whistle-blowers.

Alarmingly, Reynolds repeats Morrison’s myth that voters have no interest in the internal workings of the party – a nonsense given the party’s commitment to transparency – and given the ways our choices of candidate and party are justly informed by insights into party culture – or as Kelly O’Dwyer put it, ways votes are lost by a popular perception that the Liberal party is a mob of “homophobic, anti-women, climate-change deniers”.

ScoMo promises to make Reynolds Defence Minister after Christopher Pyne tidies up his sock drawer and ties up a few other loose ends such as our $79 billion submarine contract. Can he get the boats built in Australia by Australians – preferably in his own state, if not his own electorate? How will we provide crews? A lot for the Fixer to work through.

Reynolds is also – gasp – a woman and a Brigadier in the Army Reserve – irrefutable proof of the Liberals’ egalitarian democracy, despite only nineteen MPs being women.  And a reservist Brigadier will instantly win over any full-time ADF member. Yet the PM fails to cut a dash given the splash as rats desert HMAS Chum-bucket his sinking submarine.

The week in politics sees the federal Coalition frantically green-wash its cred – even recycling the direct action scam, a monster magic soil boondoggle only Hunt could flog, as it struggles to “get on with the job” as ScoMo puts it.

Everyone else lost interest long ago. Or they’re jumping overboard or already off-grid, as a weary nation battles fair-dinkum fatigue, a torpor not even Snowy Hydro 2.0, a Sisyphean marvel now bigger than ANZAC, Phar Lap and Kokoda put together can shift.

“It’s absolutely fair-dinkum power. It doesn’t get more fair dinkum than this,” gurgles ScoMo, who transforms, this week, into state socialist as he widens the sluice-gate of government funding on a project which has already cost a mozza; $6 billion for the Commonwealth just to buy out NSW and Victorian states’ investments.

This week’s capital transfusion transforms Malcom Turnbull’s pipe-dream into a Ponzi scheme. Snowy 2.0 will pump water uphill when power is cheap and let it rush downhill again when the price is right driving whirling turbines to produce top dollar power which cannot but help drive up power bills.

“We don’t need Morrison’s money”, carps Snowy Hydro CEO, Paul Broad, to News Corp, rejecting the Coalition’s sudden, unbidden injection of $1.4 billion part of a largesse which includes glad-handing $440 million to The Great Barrier Reef Foundation, a sign that the outfit may be struggling to stay afloat; struggling to make its numbers add up.

Pumped hydro schemes are generally not profitable, reports Giles Parkinson. Last year, data from the Australian Energy Market shows that existing pumped hydro schemes made almost no money from this activity. In the last quarter, they actually lost money and over the previous four quarters made virtually no money. Paul Broad is less expansive.

“The government decided the way it wanted to balance out the funding. It wanted to sustain dividends,” Broad says. “It wanted to support the project with equity. These things are part of negotiations that go on. We never asked for it. We never asked for anything.” Keeping financial modelling secret only fuels suspicion that Pacific Hydro’s in trouble already.

 Our PM quickly whips up a succession of other phantasmagorical stunts, this week, ranging from Monday’s Climate Solutions fund to spruik the ERF’s resurrection, an Abbott scam for channelling funding to Big Agriculture and even Big Coal amongst other worthy Liberal donors and supporters. It would cost $200 bn to use it to reach our Paris targets.

In other words, it’s “a recipe for fiscal recklessness on a grand scale and a fig leaf to cover its determination to do nothing”, as Malcolm Turnbull proclaimed of Abbott’s ERF plan prior to the 2013 election.

An emission-abating nation gasps as “showboat” ScoMo simultaneously flogs a dead horse, puts lipstick on a pig and executes a reverse pork barrel dive with pike all in free-fall off Mount Kosciuszko in the Snowy Mountains region.

“Magic-soil” Morrison rebadges Abbott’s quick and dirty emissions reduction fund (ERF) boondoggle as a $2bn Climate Solutions Fund (CSF) whilst slashing its annual budget from $510 million to $200 million.  Sheer genius.

It’s half of the funding Abbott committed in the 2013 election campaign. The Kiwis are right. ScoMo’s a phenomenon; a force of nature; a cunning stunt and not a one trick pony after all.

If there’s less pork to fork, what’s left is spread more widely; farmers, whose fingers are already worked to the bone filling in drought-relief forms can now apply for a CSF handout to “drought-proof” their farms, whatever that means, or just do a bit of re-vegetation. Businesses get handouts for “energy efficient projects” and not just planting for trees they would have planted anyway. Given that ERF farmers are agri-businesses, also, a double dip may well be possible.

The Wilderness Society calls on the invisible Environment Minister Melissa Price, former  to review the channelling of funds into paying farmers to protect native vegetation after Queensland satellite data suggested recipients of such money were clearing other parts of their land. What could possibly go wrong?

“Our analysis shows that 13,317 hectares of forest and bushland clearing has occurred across 19 properties in the same year or years subsequent to winning ERF contracts for funding under vegetation methodologies,” Glenn Walker, climate campaign manager for the group, says in a letter to Minister Price.

Not to be outdone, Home Affairs Super-Minister, one trick pony, Peter Dutton doctors up his fear campaign Thursday, with another populist dog-whistle from Dutts Unplugged, a long-running White Australia revival tour.

“People who need medical services are going to be displaced from those services, because if you bring hundreds and hundreds of people from Nauru and Manus down to our country, they are going to go into the health network,” Uncle Dutts tells a fawning of loyal reporters in Brisbane. Doctors respond that the claim is nonsense.

Oddly, not a word of support is heard from anyone, not even Craig and the rest of the Kelly gang, a sect whose job it is to invite climate-change deniers to parliament to mislead policy-makers and to hold Morrison to ransom on energy, a kindness paid forward by the PM and his federal energy minister, Angus Taylor in dictating to the states.

Nobody’s talking. It’s an “announceable” – not a discussion topic. Flanking his PM in the photo opportunity, is Angus, “Squizzy” Taylor, our federal energy enforcer. Was he in witness protection since his rout late last December’s COAG meeting? Then he refused NSW energy minister, Don Harwin’s call for a new national zero emissions policy?

“Industry is spooked by poor policy”, Harwin holds; a circuit-breaker is needed. Squizzy shoots him down. Out of order.

December’s COAG meeting does not even hear NSW’s point of view. Taylor tells Harwin to zip it, citing procedural grounds. Vetoes discussion. “It got ugly very quickly. It was a full-on revolt”, a source tells Fairfax, now Nine Newspapers.

Happily Craig Kelly’s not worried. “I know how [Taylor’s] mind works”, he explains to Guardian Australia’s Katharine Murphy. Murphy wisely leaves this alone. On Sky, Taylor won’t divulge how many Coalition coal projects are planned but Matt Canavan blabs that the government is looking at including ten in the underwriting scheme. Someone needs to talk to Canavan but only after voters are sold on the wave of jobs that will flow from so many new automated hell-holes and black-lung health hazards.

But it’s not Handbrake Kelly’s backbench committee to abort any change in energy or environment that Morrison really needs to win over. Nor is it the cabal of climate deniers Buzzfeed dubbed “The Dirty Dozen”, in 2016. Still in parliament, at least until May, are Tony Abbott, Eric Abetz, Craig Kelly, Zed Seselja, Peter Dutton, Barnaby Joyce and George Christensen. Senator Linda Reynolds must surely get a Dirty Dozen supporter lapel pin for disinformation,

“Remember when the coalition repealed the carbon tax? It led to the largest fall of electricity prices on record,” she lies.

ScoMo’s Snowy Hydro 2.0 reboot is a bid to woo Kooyong, Warringah, Wentworth, Higgins and Tasmanians who’ll be pumped to be included, even if they’ll have to pay for the bits to make the interlink link anywhere. Knit their own cables.

The media narrative that both major parties’ squabble threaten the development of a sound energy policy is a myth invented by those reactionaries and others who call themselves conservative parties. Conservative?

The lack of progress towards renewable energy is no fault of partisan politics or any 24-hour news cycle, but an outcome actively planned and funded by key stake-holders whose institutes, associations and think tanks enjoy remarkably success – if you can count the win of the mining lobby, (just for example), as a win and not an irretrievable, egregious loss in terms of global warming, environmental vandalism and humanity.

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HMAS Chum Bucket almost scuppered in a week of scandal and self-sabotage.

Loose lips sink ships. “Hockey owes me”, a brief indiscretion over a mate’s favour – now disputed by both- almost blows HMAS Chum Bucket, the Coalition’s yellow submarine out of the water, this week. Yet “chum-gate” is merely the latest scandal in a series of political depth-charges that threaten to sink the rudderless tub that is the Morrison government.

Trump-like, Morrison retreats into howling down shonky Bill Shorten. No-one can trust Bill. His policies mean bigger taxes, sky-high power prices and a government run like a union (of thugs). He recycles Howard-era fear of boat people and blends in a bit of the budgie smuggler’s carbon taxing, big spending big Labor Scare Campaign of 2013.

No-one can get a straight answer out of ScoMo. He doesn’t run commentary, he says, or he’s just getting on with the job when journalists dare venture a question about Helloworld Travel. He denies that Joe Hockey instructed staff to meet on 26 April 2017 with Helloworld travel subsidiary QBT before it lobbied for government.

“I’m advised embassy staff did not meet QBT or other staff in relation to the tender and embassy staff have met and corresponded with a whole range of travel providers to discuss the embassy’s travel requirements.”

Labor’s Jim Chalmers responds that DFAT has documented Hockey’s request.

“The prime minister is denying something of which there are reports of documents which exist from officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade – that is a very serious matter.”

Morrison shrugs it aside. Always he’s got better things to do than be accountable. He simply repeats his facile, clapped-out Canberra bubble mantra; nobody outside the Canberra bubble cares (about dodgy, dirty deals or wanton profligacy).

ScoMo goes OS. No. Not to China where mystery shrouds major Chinese port Dalian’s decision to ban further imports of Australian coal. That would require leadership and independence from Trump’s US China-bashing policy. He pays a flying visit to New Zealand, his maternal grandfather, Sandy’s homeland, but he’s careful not to outstay his welcome. Not every Kiwi is thrilled to see him given the Coalition’s deportation policy. And not all former colleagues love him.

In 1998, Morrison was inaugural Managing Director of New Zealand’s Office of Tourism and sport, a body offering advice to government where he reported to NZ Tourism Minister, Murray McCully but was not universally popular. “Hard man” ScoMo, as he was seen, takes credit for the 100% Pure NZ campaign, for which he contracted M&C Saatchi- whose services he sought for his later controversial campaign at Tourism Australia “Australia, where the bloody hell are you?”

Morrison and McCully clashed with the independent NZ Tourism Board and a number of officials and board members resigned during his tenure. Morrison, himself, resigned in 2000, one year before his contract was up. As with Helloworld Travel, or with his termination from Tourism Australia he himself has never given a satisfactory explanation.

In 1999, the NZ Auditor General challenged Morrison’s handling of an independent review and found two payouts of staff in 2008 to be unlawful. The auditor’s report was critical of Morrison’s job performance in ways that are echoed by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO), nine years later, which finds his management of Tourism Australia marred by non-consultation, making unilateral decisions, not observing due process and restricting board access to information. Little appears to have changed since.

Not everyone hates him. Tim Fischer is a big fan – as is Martin Ferguson but Fran Bailey, Tourism Minister at the time, observes of Morrison, “I’m sure he’s learned how to work with people better these days. His career has certainly had a few twists and turns.”

In his quick trip across the ditch, Friday, Morrison cops an earful from Kiwi PM Jacinda Ardern about all the Aussies born in New Zealand his government is repatriating, even though most have no family in the land of the long white shroud. It’s another diplomatic triumph as he cops a mouthful from Ardern. The NZ Herald reports,

“Ardern didn’t mince words. She employed the strongest criticism yet of any New Zealand Prime Minister or foreign minister about deportations of Kiwi offenders… The New Zealand people have a dim view of the deportation of people who move to Australia as children and have grown up there with often little or no lasting connection to here.

Ardern’s referring to 1,500 NZ citizens deported since 2015. Coalition “immigration reforms” grant the Department of Home Affairs power to deport foreigners on nebulous ‘good character’. Last year, 600 Kiwis were deported on this criterion alone. It can be a death sentence. In the last three years, at least four people have died in Australian detention centres (where Kiwis are now the largest group. Before 2015, they were not even in the top ten).

Or they die immediately following deportation. Fatalities may be higher. Neither nation keeps records of deaths. 15,000 Kiwi citizens will be deported in the next ten years. Morrison is not receptive to Ardern’s appeals. She will not give up.

Nobody cares, ScoMo?  For all your nihilism, your Trumpista populism, the week sees the Canberra bubble burst by a series of sensational revelations. Top of the bill is the hyper-reality melodrama of “Hockey owes me” a rip-roaring, cigar-chomping, trough-snouting show of cronyism and corruption which Mark Dreyfus dubs “chum-gate”, in which Joe Hockey’s bestie Andrew Burnes’ Helloworld Travel company appears set up to win a billion dollar government contract.

Not all contracts are open, especially when the Commonwealth seeks “procurement” on Manus Island. Officials use a “limited tender” meaning no other bidders. They have to, they tell senate estimates. There are no other bidders. No-one good wants the work.

Yet this is a side issue. As the Australian Financial Review (AFR) investigation puts it, the committee wants to know “how Paladin, despite its lack of capacity, expertise or track record in the sector, appointed as the government’s main service provider on the island, becoming the recipient of contracts worth $423 million over 22 months.”

Yet journalists at the AFR quote locals who contest the government’s version and who suggest there were others who would have liked to tender for the contract. Greens senator Nick McKim gives Home Affairs a serve.

“The Paladin contracts, and the unexplained increases, yet again raise serious questions about lack of probity and due diligence inside Home Affairs. It’s an absolute disgrace that a shonky operator like Paladin is raking in the millions while comprehensively failing to provide even the most basic support for many hundreds of vulnerable refugees.”

Former CEO Craig Coleman broadly agrees with McKim. Three weeks before they gained the contract, he alleges, Paladin was,

“not well prepared to perform the role provided for under the Proposal” . He puts his view in documents he has filed with a court as part of an employment dispute with Paladin. Home Affairs cannot, of course, offer any insight and any further comment would be inappropriate given that the firm is to appear before a judge later in the year.

Yet more news does emerge of the shadowy Paladin Group’s receipt of over $A420 million over two years. A security firm is paid $1600 per refugee, per day, to pay locals to watch over men on Manus who pose little threat of escape? At least that’s the theory. News comes this week from two Manus detainees that Paladin does nothing.

Winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Prize, Behrouz Boochani, who has been held on Manus for six years reports,

“What I am seeing on the ground is that Paladin, they … are doing nothing,” he tells Guardian Australia. “In Australia, people ask this question now. But this question for us is for years, not only for Paladin, but all of the companies. How do they spend this money? It is a question for us, not only Paladin, [but for health contractors] IHMS, PIH.

Paladin is part of a pattern where major “offshore processing” contracts are awarded in a limited tender process. Home Affairs deputy-secretary Cheryl-Anne Moy, explains to a senate estimates committee, this week, that companies are reluctant to run our gulags where human beings are illegally detained indefinitely without charge; with no other cause than they desperately needed to flee their country of origin by boat, instead of being part of the sixty thousand or so who successfully fly in with QANTAS and other airlines. Border protection or punishment? It’s sadistic cruelty.

“Primarily the people who expressed some interest early on and then decided that they wouldn’t tender gave us the reason that there was too much noise for their organisations – they were international companies – around regional processing.”

Too much noise? Try a reluctance to be part of a punitive, illegal scheme to deny refugees human rights.

Dutton’s mob is conceding that it can’t find competent contractors because no-one good wants to work on Manus? Time to close the camps. Bring the men to Australia. Let some take up residence in Australia – but shut down Manus.

The Guardian reports major flaws in the work of Pacific International Hospital, (PIH), a PNG healthcare provider which receives $21.5 million for ten months’ service from the Australian government to look after men we placed on Manus six years ago, despite its chairman, PNG Deputy PM being found guilty of misconduct in the use of public funds.

More alarming, PIH’s expertise, competence and treatment standards are a grave cause for concern amongst refugees remaining on Manus. Coroner,Terry Ryan, confirmed their worst fears during his 2016 coronial inquest into the death of twenty-four year old Hamid Kehazaei, who died in September 2014 from a treatable leg infection. His inquest found that PIH staff did not understand that Kehazaei was critically ill, despite hearing the alarms from his life support machines.

PIH staff failure to respond directly contributed to Kehazaei’s subsequent cardiac arrest. Equally disturbing, however, bureaucrats failed to book him on the next available flight to Brisbane. As Ryan reports,

“An urgent transfer request from a doctor had languished while an immigration official queried why medication could not be sent to the detention centre instead, and then referred the request to a superior who did not read it until the next day.”

As the Coalition prepares to take asylum-seekers to Christmas Island for treatment, will it follow Coroner Ryan’s eight recommendations? These include proposing that Home Affairs enact a new written policy which puts the clinical needs of detainees first when medical transfers required the approval of Australian immigration officials.

Ryan’s 140 page report also recommends that clinics treating asylum seekers offshore be accredited to a level equivalent to Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) standards. He recommends the Department of Home Affairs also conduct annual audits of clinics “in conjunction with” the RACGP.

Happily for the Morrison government, which has sensibly shut down parliament, Paladin is likely to be eclipsed by China.

The elephant in the news-room and the dark shadow over HMAS Chum Bucket‘s chartroom is, of course, China which, we learn this week, bans ship-loads of Australian coal, at Dalian, a north-east port where ninety per cent of our iron ore goes ashore. From its posturing, it’s clear no-one in government knows why China should give us the coal shoulder- but suddenly everyone can explain it all away. Alarmed? Relax. Sheesh, it’s a hole in only one end of our trade flagship.

Worth around $58bn, the coal trade is Australia’s largest export earner next to iron ore ($57bn). In 2018, we exported 89 million tonnes of coal to China, worth $15 billion, almost a quarter of our nation’s total coal exports.  Now they’ve suddenly cooled off on us despite our “you beaut” free trade agreements stuck five years ago. Then it’s not a ban but just a slowing up of the process of unloading while quality control checks are carried out. Then it’s a Chinese whisper joke.

You were saying coal not cow, right? China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, has a laugh at our expense. Yet in the China Daily, he upbraids ScoMo for alleging that “a sophisticated state actor” (read China) is behind the recent hack attacks both on parliamentary computers and those of major political parties.

China Daily responds by calling Scott Morrison a conspiracy theorist. ScoMo is rebuked for his Trump-like public accusations and for being a US lackey- or at least rashly irresponsible.

“… this is not the first time that Canberra’s anxiety-driven willingness to emulate Washington has prompted it to lay the responsibility for alleged spying at Beijing’s door… No matter whether he was assigning the malevolent acts to China or another country, it is irresponsible of him to cast aspersions in this way.”

Ian Verrender reports a Chinese go-slow on coal imports began months ago. Dozens of coal-laden ships are queued off ports across China as delays extend beyond 40 days.

Five harbours are under Dalian customs control but Phillip Lowe, governor of our politicised Reserve Bank -which even cautioned the Morrison government to avoid any “regulatory response” to the Banking Royal Commission which might put the brakes on lending to home buyers and businesses –  is quick to point out that it’s only a few months of our exports. A drop in the national coal bucket, really.

On the other hand, (Reserve Bankers are masters of understatement; the measured anti-inflammatory, anodyne),

“If it were to be the sign of a deterioration in the underlying political relationship between Australia and China, that would be much more concerning.”  Nothing like a passive, subjunctive construction to sound the non-alarmist alarm.

Given coal from Russia and Indonesia is still welcome in China, our finest political minds work feverishly overnight to assure us not to take the ban personally. This type of thing happens all the time; there’s nothing to see here. In brief, no-one has a clue what’s going on and China isn’t about to enlighten anyone. If it were a shrewd move to slow down coal consumption, then others would be subject to the same bans and caps.

Other commentators, including Verrender, see the bans as serious. Despite involving about ten per cent of our coal exports, Dalian’s indefinite ban on Australian coal imports marks a significant deterioration in Sino-Australian trade relations. As Greg Jericho notes, the incident exposes the Coalition’s spin about its Free Trade agreement with China. Revealed beneath the hyperbole is the vacuous rhetoric and the hollow promise of the free trade “breakthrough”.

“A major step in cementing closer economic relations with China” that would “be the catalyst for even further mutual gain between our two countries”, raved our then foreign minister, Julie Bishop, in 2014. Jericho calls bulldust. Had Bishop tarried after her valedictory on Thursday, someone might have asked her how it could have gone so wrong.

John “always look on the bright side” “Noddy” Birmingham, an underwhelming former education minister turned Trade Minister exudes insight and reassurance, telling an anxious nation that “it’s not an all-out ban“.  Whew! Not yet. Unlike the latest case against indefinite detention on Manus and Nauru just delivered to the High Court.

Prominent refugee lawyers are preparing to prick the government’s latest thought bubble – the moving of sick refugees and asylum seekers to Christmas Island. In addition, two new legal actions will also be heard in the High Court, explains ACU Allan Myers Professor of Law, Spencer Zifcak, a former president of Liberty Victoria – class action cases which argue that the Commonwealth has acted negligently; breached its duty of care.

The lawyers will argue that the negligence is constituted by crimes against humanity.

The Commonwealth Criminal Code 1995 criminalises certain crimes against humanity recognised in international law. These include:

  • Imprisonment or other severe deprivations of liberty.
  • Severe deprivation of a person’s rights under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. These include freedom from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, freedom from arbitrary arrest , the right to take a case before a court if deprived of liberty, the presumption of innocence, freedom of expression, and freedom from national, racial or religious discrimination.
  • Inhumane treatment i.e. treatment engaged in intentionally that causes great suffering, serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.

The argument is that the Commonwealth government has committed each of these crimes offshore.

As for Christmas Island, Human Rights Law Centre executive director, Hugh de Kretser, tells Nine Newspapers’ Sydney Morning Herald, “the legal basis for a challenge would be that the government had breached its duty of care by sending refugees and asylum seekers to a place where inadequate treatment was available”.

National Justice Project’s George Newhouse concedes a legal challenge over Christmas Island, which has inadequate medical facilities, is more likely to succeed than a challenge for those in offshore detention on Nauru or Manus.

While ScoMo is busy rehearsing his Kiwi charm offensive, Friday Labor also fires a warning shot across the bow of the Chum Bucket. And upstages him. The Opposition’s Immigration spokesman, Minister Shayne Neumann tells AAP,

“Labor, if elected, will accept New Zealand’s generous offer to resettle refugees with appropriate conditions similar to those under the US arrangements and negotiate other third country resettlement options as a priority.”

Labor reaffirms its pledge to accept New Zealand’s offer, a strategic policy announcement which wedges Scott Morrison, a puppet of his right wing, into defending an immoral, illegal and unsustainable, punitive, indefinite, offshore detention regime on the grounds that any change to it is “not in Australia’s interest”.

Opinion polls and the Coalition defeat in Wentworth suggest he’s increasingly out of touch with popular opinion. Sixty per cent of voters polled by GetUp! last Thursday support Medevac Bill reports The Guardian Australia.

Yet the nation so often learns of government by snafu, it may become inured to scandal and incompetence. Paladin alone or Chum-gate alone would be sufficient to bring other governments down. Now there’s dinnerplate.

The Morrison government must, navigate reefs of hazards as scandals arise from as far away as Manus Island and as near as the plush executive suites of our big bean-counters’ head offices with their billion dollar Sydney harbour views

Dinnerplate, involves CEOs from the nation’s Big Four accountancy firms, EY, KPMG, Deloitte and PwC meeting regularly for private dinners, as Labor’s shadow assistant treasurer and former ANU economics professor Andrew Leigh discovers.

Naturally such gatherings lend themselves to admiring the view, praising the catering and appreciating the wine list, but Leigh’s curious to know what else is on the menu – and has asked to ACCC to look into the meetings.

Allegations of price fixing; collusion over fees and monopolising markets, such as Hayne found among our banks are not easy to prove. Doubtless the bean counters are celebrating their colossal good fortune in being blessed with a Coalition government which has been prepared to pay them $1.7 billion between 2013 and 2017 for their services.

Dining together may have in no small way contributed to any or all of the big four looking after their other three mates. A similar cosy mutual self-help arrangement also appears to have been part of the Helloworld Travel pitch, although all parties vociferously deny any allegations of impropriety.

Joe Hockey, our Ambassador to the US and occasional Trump golfing partner, a former treasurer who once defended a hike in the petrol excise on the basis that poor people either don’t own cars or don’t drive very far buys $1.3 million dollars’ worth of shares in a company run by his bestie, Andrew Burnes.

Burnes, who just happens to be federal Liberal Treasurer is CEO of a travel company Helloworld Travel which stands to win a billion dollar government contract if the Coalition scraps Labor’s red tape and goes with a single travel agency.

Tragically, after the rude intrusion of Labor and sections of the media, Joe’s holdings have dropped a tad. Shane Wright on Insiders brings it up.

Cursed by a run of bad luck and mismanagement, the Chum Bucket fetches up high and dry on a dying Great Barrier Reef after freakish cyclone force winds bring a perfect storm of graft, cronyism and catastrophic incompetence. As Jim Chalmers puts it

I seek leave to move the following motion:

That the House

(1) notes that:

(a) yesterday, it was revealed the Finance Minister received free flights to Singapore from Helloworld, which he booked by calling the CEO of this ASX listed company directly, just before it was awarded a multimillion dollar whole-of-government contract by the Minister’s own Department;

(b) today, it’s been reported that US Ambassador Joe Hockey – who has a million dollar shareholding in Helloworld – helped a Helloworld subsidiary lobby for the Embassy’s travel contract;

(c) the CEO of Helloworld and one of its largest shareholders Andrew Burnes is a Liberal Party heavyweight and current Liberal Party Treasurer, with connections to a number of Liberal Party politicians;

(d) the Finance Minister told Senate Estimates yesterday that he had “a close personal relationship” with Mr Burnes;

(e) Mr Burnes was previously a colleague of the now Prime Minister during the Prime Minister’s time at Tourism Australia;

(f) since being awarded Government contracts, the share price of Helloworld has skyrocketed, making shareholders like Mr Hockey and Mr Burnes rich; and

(g) this morning, it was reported that the Herald Sun asked almost all of the 82 Liberal MPs in Parliament whether they had received free travel from Helloworld, but only 14 said they had not; and

(2) therefore, calls on the Prime Minister to investigate and report to the House how far this Helloworld scandal reaches into his Government.

The PM hunches over his papers. Gets Christopher Pyne to answer.

Luckily, ScoMo’s unplugging the nation’s parliament for six weeks. The Coalition’s lost the remote. No-one’s seen it since Morrison lost Wentworth, plunging his government into minority. At least Hockey Owes Me should now get a good box office. It will run back to back with Tampa 2.0, the Coalition’s end of term pantomime; another terrific show to follow up Paladin’s Cave, a $423 million mystery saga attracting rave reviews this week over at Senate Estimates’ theatre in the round.

Hockey owes me turns out to be a big show with a huge cast, stunning song and dance numbers and some beaut ensemble work from veteran performer Hockey and his a star-studded chorus. A drop-dead gorgeous performance of injured innocence from Helloworld’s CEO Andrew Burnes, who also manages to double as the Liberal Party’s federal treasurer steals the show. Forming a brilliant counterpoint to Burnes’ aria Hockey Owes Me is the pathos of the poignant testimony of disgruntled former executive, Russell Carstensen. The production is every bit as good as Tampa 2.0.

Tampa 2.0 is modelled on the false assumption that John Howard won in 2001 by getting commandos to prevent the Tampa, a Norwegian vessel from docking at Christmas Island to put ashore 433 refugees it had rescued from the water.

The popular fiction is that Tampa robbed Labor of an easy election win. In reality, as statistician Adrian Beaumont and analyst Peter Brent point out, the polls were closing after Labor’s 57-43 lead in March to 52-48 in August when Howard denied Tampa permission to its human cargo. And while the Coalition may have gained a two point lead from Tampa, it gained five points from September 11 gaining a 55-45 lead which abated to a 51-49 win in November.

And HMAS Chum Bucket? The craft is modelled on US civil warship, CSS Hunley, one of the earliest fighting submarines sporting forty feet of bulletproof iron but a most dangerous vessel to be inside.

Morrison’s crew, duck down the hatch; all hands to the pumps. Chum Bucket is leaking badly; listing starboard.  Sharks circle asylum-seeker policy writes Laura Tingle who also notes that “chum buckets are buckets full of fish guts and heads and other smelly stuff” which fisher-folk cast overboard “to attract a feeding frenzy of fish, particularly sharks”.

Chum bucket first hove into view with ScoMo ranting that Labor had “gone to the bottom of the chum bucket” in seeking the truth behind Helloworld, a scandal which could blow any government out of the water. Chum bucket is Sutherland Shire satire; rebarbative wit. You can take the boy out of Bronte but you can’t take the Bronte out of the boy.

Julie Bishop, jumps ship, another rat joining a slew of deserters, including ship’s purser Kelly O’Dwyer, a former NAB banker whose bon voyage bon mots are missed by many Liberals, including Tony Abbott who choose to slink out precisely as O’Dwyer rises to give her valedictory.

It may be payback for her one good speech given to Victorian Liberals where she recently excoriated her party telling her colleagues the Liberals are widely regarded as “homophobic, anti-women, climate-change deniers”.

Displaying all the true grit and instinct for self-survival which has made her a household name, along with her enormous capacity for business travel, Princess Mesothelioma, aka Julie Bishop, a former corporate lawyer, whose sterling work for Perth legal firm Clayton Utz in the 1980s helped CSR delay compensation payouts the courts had already awarded to victims of its asbestos mining at Wittenoom.

“Even if the workers die like flies, they will never be able to pin anything on CSR,” wrote Norman Irving, the mining corporation’s personnel manager in 1977, expressing a contempt for its wage slaves distressingly familiar to students of modern industrial relations. Bishop, or Julie Gillon as she was then devised her own echo of Irving’s solicitude.

As Peter Gordon, recalls, “(She) was rhetorically asking the court why workers should be entitled to jump court queues just because they were dying.”

Gordon’s words sum up so much of the inhumanity, injustice and indifference to those lower on the social ladder as much as they foreshadow the sense of privilege and entitlement and arrogant superiority that will ultimately be the undoing of this Liberal government, a Liberal government, as Bill Shorten put it, of the donors, by the donors for the donors.

Time democracy and humanity got a look in.

No, ScoMo, the last thing we need is a Tampa 2.0 election or a 90 day season of Kill Bill.

There’s something about the debate around asylum seekers that taps into the darkness in the souls of millions of Australians. There’s a reflexive suspicion and bigotry which is being manipulated and forged into hatred by wordsmiths on the government payroll.

 

It’s a practice of the black art of propaganda which is despicable and verges on the evil. It comes from those clever enough to know the power of language to manipulate and immoral enough to care little of the consequences.

Walkley Award–winning ABC journalist, David Hardaker

 

A pit-bull about to snap his leash, at least in his own fantasy, “Walter Mitty” Morrison lunges at Bill Shorten, across the despatch-box. ScoMo scowls, hunches, juts his jaw. The corners of his mouth turn down. He stabs the air with a forefinger; face twisted in fury and frustration. No nuance here. It’s less dog-whistle than honking fog-horn.

But it captures the tone of a week in which the government abandons any policy platform for a fear campaign based on a farrago of lies and a swill of wilful disinformation eagerly relayed by Rupert Murdoch, Kerry Stokes and others. Honk. Welcome to Tampa 2.0, the Coalition’s all-new recycled Kill Bill campaign with embedded media.

ScoMo will kill Bill Shorten on border security. You can read about his tactical genius in The Australian or anywhere in mainstream media, (MSM). All follow Murdoch’s lead. Nothing is said of ScoMo’s contempt for parliament, no protest over a PM with so little regard for democracy that he said weeks ago if the bill was lost he’d just ignore it.

ABC News Sunday night even has a segment allowing ScoMo to trash Labor for being weak on border protection after some nonsense poll that Kerry Stokes’ IPSOS gets up.

You guessed it. There’s a bounce for the Coalition! Already editors say it’s caused by Labor’s position on asylum-seekers. Cranking up the fear factor as we steam back to the future, is Attorney-General, Christian Porter, a name Charles Dickens would have loved for any character with a compassion bypass or a Centrelink, Robo-debt, bagman.

“Hundreds of asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru will undergo fresh security and character assessments as the Government prepares for an “influx” of medical transfers, AG Christian Porter says, reports Jane Norman for our ABC.

There’s no time to ask him about his contempt of parliament in trying to collude with Speaker, Tony Smith in supplying not-to-be-tabled legal opinion that Labor’s proposed Medivac Bill was unconstitutional.

In a rare win for democracy, Tony Smith tables the opinion that the Medivac Bill required doctors to be paid and therefore is unconstitutional because the senate can’t make bills which involve increasing expenditure. Labor’s response is an amendment stating that panel doctors would not get paid; making their positions voluntary. It is beyond scandalous for an Attorney-General to connive at such tactics but he’s not part of the MSM narrative.

No right of reply from Labor. Just another reminder of the way our national broadcaster has been subjugated through funding cuts and PM and Cabinet phone calls to the top floor of a corporatised ABC. Journalists’ union the MEAA is calling for a shake-up of the ABC to try and protect it from political interference, seeking a Board with more “independent, accountable and experienced” directors. It won’t happen under this government.

In a moment of epic self-parody, Communications Minister, Fifield offers to do an independent review himself.

Little is made of the Coalition’s historic defeat in the House over the Medivac Bill. Yet others are on their way. There’s a bill about making small business lawsuits more small-business friendly where they won’t have to pony up if they lose the case, which they mostly do, against a corporation with a big enough kitty to buy the best silks.

Disgraced former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce, making a comeback, is prepared to rip the Coalition apart to get this bill through he says (or words to that effect) if need be because when he’s not spruiking for SANTOS or backing Big Cotton against the survival of the Murray Darling Basin, he’s always been a supporter of the little man.

Barnaby is also keen on the big stick, until recently part of the Coalition energy plan – it doesn’t have a policy but it does have a series of postures. Errant companies would be forced to get their prices down and to lift their game. Now work experience treasurer Josh Frydenberg has tried to soft pedal the hard paddle. Joyce won’t let him. Expect a hoo-ha over the big stick resolved by some judicious media leaking of Barnaby-busting bombshells.

There’s also Greens’ Senator Jordon Steele-John’s motion calling for a Royal Commission into the abuse of the disabled. Expect ScoMo to embrace it now and just shelve it next to The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry which will also gather dust unless he can do something to nobble industry super – unlikely now the Coalition is a minority government.

Braver to shelve rather than face another embarrassing defeat, or risk being seen to lack mettle or bottle.

By Sunday, it’s all ScoMo’s show. Super-ScoMo will run rings (of steel) around a limp Labor leader who

“…cannot be trusted on our borders and Australia cannot trust Bill Shorten on border protection,” despite their being not a cigarette paper between the two parties on the absurd fiction of border protection.

Protect 25,760 km of coastline? We can’t even protect Australia’s greatest river system, the Murray Darling Basin. And isn’t Australia over the demonising of refugees? Polls suggest that we have rediscovered our humanity. (Unless you count Kerry Stokes’.)

But not ScoMo. Dropping his bundle, Morrison unleashes a Kill Bill missile of character assassination, mangling metaphor, misquoting mentor John Howard and causing untold collateral damage to his own credibility.

Yet it’s a one stop shop. The sloth in ScoMo is cheered that all he need do is assassinate Shorten’s character. Paint him as an untrustworthy union-thug-puppet; or an arriviste who is somehow also flexible enough to be a class traitor who parks his shoes under the Pratt family table, (a Turnbull-News Corp creation), a straw man which those sedulous echo-chambers the ever-reliable and totally authoritative Liberal focus groups or party polling respondents claim to loathe.

“You’ve got to have the mettle, you’ve got to have the ticker, you’ve got to have the resolve (he can’t remember bottle) to actually see things through and implement these decisions and not roll over to whatever wind might blow your way to make you compromise Australia’s national security and trade it away,” ScoMo preaches.

The unsubtle subtext is ScoMo’s public pat on the back by himself for himself about himself; his own mettle; his ticker. Where was that ticker in February 2014, when Iranian Reza Barati was clubbed to death on Manus Island? Morrison told parliament that Barati was outside the compound. It took him a week to correct the record.

Behrouz Boochani, winner of this year’s Victorian premier’s literary prize, who has been held captive on Manus for six years gives eloquent testimony to the regime of sadistic cruelty which began on Morrison’s watch.

“For days on end after the riot the Manusian residents and local guards told the refugees that they were just following orders. They claimed they were not to blame and it was all the machinations of the Australians. This was a well organised plan. They wanted to put the refugees in their place; people who only wanted to know how long they had to remain in prison. There was just one objective to their plans: to make the refugees return back to their countries by giving them a severe beating.” 

ScoMo’s campaign strategy is a captain’s call. In a flash, ambitious sycophants leap up to praise the idea. Scott Morrison? Why, he’s a virtual Clint Eastwood. The Saturday Paper’s Karen Middleton reports that former Howard (man of steel) advisor, David Gazard tells Sky News this week: “I reckon it’s ‘make my day’ [for] Scott Morrison.”

If it’s on Sky it must be true. Mainstream media, or the Rupert and Kerry Show recycle the preposterous line that being defeated on the floor of the House of Representatives allows ScoMo to focus on William John Shorten’s weak, untrustworthy character. Call out Bill for being flaky on borders and national security?

Genius. Checkmate in one move.

Yet, sadly for the Coalition, it’s not 2001. Winds of change are blowing  – and Peter Dutton’s fate blows in the wind. His dysfunctional Department of Home Affairs is again in damage control after it’s revealed that it has awarded a contract via something called a “closed tender” to Paladin, a mob which operates out of a beach shack on Kangaroo Island – which is a step ahead of the reef foundation that didn’t even apply for its $444 million grant.

Nor did The Great Barrier Reef Foundation – an idea floated by a group of businessmen while waiting for a plane – even have to go through “a tender process”. But then its board members were all models of probity, supported by corporations which are bywords for integrity and tax minimisation: BHP, Qantas, Rio Tinto, Google and Orica.

Paladin, naturally, also boasts a post office box in Singapore, a handy tax haven which does not tax capital gains.

An Australian Financial Review scoop finds that as Australians return to work, the Coalition pays $109 million to the Paladin Group, which is clearly being given a go for having red-hot go, as ScoMo loves to say. Pick winners; damn the bludgers.  Bugger any social contract nonsense that gives a go to those who can’t have a go.

Having a go? In 22 months, Paladin gets paid $423 million for security on Manus Island, an oxymoron, which includes gangs of drunken PNG soldiers who shoot up the old detention centre just to keep Australians safe.  No biggie. Peter Dutton has secret information on why that’s all OK. Psst. Paedophiles. A local five year old boy.

“There was concern about why the boy was being led or for what purpose he was being led away back in the regional processing centre,” Dutton later says although his slur is refuted by PNG police and refugees who point out that in fact a ten year old boy was escorted to the camp and given fruit to eat. Dutton never retracts his defamatory claim.

Alarmingly, Dutton, who is head of far too much to monitor any one thing, (namely ASIO, AFP, Australian Border Force, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC)and Office of Transport Authority) claims he had “no sight of” Paladin’s closed tender processes.

He freely concedes to Sky News that there are “very few people who can deliver services in the middle of nowhere on an island”, which is his nuanced way of blaming his departmental officers and handballing to Christian Porter who dutifully appears on ABC Insiders saying how fair dinkum Paladin really is. Nothing to see here.

Perhaps “Dutts”, as he is known to his mates, is working on a reverse Nuremberg defence: “Don’t blame me. I was just giving the orders.”

Whatever the explanation, OSB’s obsession with secrecy began with Scott Morrison who elevated his rank and status as Minister for Immigration into that of a tinpot military commander who was immune to the requirements of mere ministerial responsibility, an unaccountability, he buttressed by pretending that any information would be seized upon by demon people-smugglers. (DPS) Beyond despicable, DPS were so savvy with their depravity that they even had a “business model”.

And probably a Post Office Box in Singapore.

Answering questions was out of the question. ScoMo just gave up giving press briefings. Now he just harangues, sloganeers and evades questions unless it’s an on-air rub-down with Ray Hadley. Dutts just loves them.

Dutts is no slouch, either, when it comes to getting aeroplane people settled here. Who would have thought that people smugglers would switch to planes after boats? Or people would smuggle themselves, to the profit of people-smuggler Alan Joyce and his antique QANTAS fleet?

Well, certainly not Dutts but at least he can claim the record for biggest asylum-seeker migration. In 2017-18, 27,931 asylum seekers flew in to claim protection visas.

Only 18,365 asylum seekers came by boat in 2012/2013 at the peak of the inflow in the Gillard/Rudd years. Clearly, this fact is too nuanced for ScoMo and co, and well beyond the remit of News Corp.

The government’s argument – if we may flatter it with that term – has more holes in it than any of the bodies in the execution of Corleone’s enemies scene in The Godfather.

May 2018, 460 people are moved to Australia.  By last week, it’s 879.  But there’s no new flotilla of boats. Not a glimpse even of a demon people smuggler’s horns. Big Brother Scott mounts the mother of all scare campaigns including a video remake of K. Rudd’s 2013 classic sermon, No boat people will ever be settled in Australia!

Even more damaging for Morrison is that his claim to have stopped the boats is fraudulent. As John Menadue and others continue to point out, the boats stopped when Kevin Rudd declared in July 2013 that no asylum seeker would be settled in Australia. Yet a ruthlessly pragmatic Coalition, seized the chance to claim victory.

Fellow imposter, Tony Abbott, of course, needed to create his own high camp paramilitary force, giving his political chicanery high-sounding nonsense titles – Operation Sovereign Borders (OSB) – even though dealing with refugees in boats could be handled by our navy, in co-operation with Indonesia. But (OSB) took time.

And money. (Now “offshore detention”, or illegal, indefinite imprisonment in gulags -to cut the double-speak – costs over $4 billion a year.) And a shift in focus to boat turn- backs in violation of UN 1951 convention which has at its core a commitment to prevent refoulement. Our boat turnbacks violate this core principle.

We cheerily turn back boatloads of refugees; returning them to their persecutors. Innocents then face imprisonment, torture and death.

Stopped the boats? Operation Sovereign Borders did not gear up to turn back the first boats until 19 December 2013, when boat arrivals dropped from 48 in July 2013 to only seven in December 2013. That Morrison and Abbott stopped the boats is a lie we’ll hear a lot between now and the election. It needs to be called for what it is.

Similarly, the flood of asylum-seekers which the Coalition will continue to blame on Labor was, in fact, boosted by Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison in a cynical ploy to embarrass Labor. John Menadue sums up,

“Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison in Opposition gave the green light to people smugglers by opposing the implementation of the Malaysia Arrangement in September 2011.  Following the defeat in the Parliament of legislation to give effect to the Malaysian Arrangement there was a dramatic increase in boat arrivals. Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison gave the green light to people smugglers to really step up their activities.”

Thursday, Morrison’s macho plan is to filibuster. Fatuous Dorothy-Dixers and haranguing extend question time to a record 150 minutes to avoid Labor’s motion for a Royal Commission into abuse in the disability sector. It shows contempt for parliament process and an epic thumbing of the nose at our democracy which is a living, evolving and vulnerable institution- not as is commonly supposed – an immutable good or some fixed asset.

Stunt-master ScoMo, later, says he feared Labor would pull a stunt. Feared? Later, realising he has made a prat of himself, he says he has no problem with the legislation. He lies that he failed to receive notice of the bill. Yet the Coalition has, itself, abused disabled Australians by effectively redefining disability and tightening eligibility.

Last year, Industry Super Chief, economist Stephen Anthony reported that our federal government has created a “false economy” by restoring the budget bottom line through cuts to the disability support pension, forcing people on to the New Start allowance of $245 a week and potentially pushing more people into homelessness.

A 63% drop in successful claims for the disability pension between 2010 and 2016 was the result, Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) reports. A government that can do this is not only cruel and heartless, it is sadistic. Cue ScoMo’s gaze.

ScoMo’s eyes turn obsidian, a spectacle all the more chilling now he’s back in rimless specs after flirting with Turnbull horn-rims. Much too patrician? Clashed with his natty PRATT baseball cap?  His inner junkyard dog?

(Pratt Holdings paid no tax 2015-6 on a total income of $2.75bn yet donated $850 million to political parties.)

722 major corporations pay no corporate tax in Australia in 2016-17, despite one hundred firms reporting earnings  of over $1bn in total income. No problem. The Coalition simply takes more -and more from the average wage and salary earner to compensate for its scandalous unwillingness to expect the top end of town to pay its fair share. And it saves a fortune; denying most disabled Australians their rightful pension.

A maestro of mixed messaging and a muddle-class champion Morrison is incensed at the passing of the Medivac Bill which permits sick asylum seekers to come to Australia for treatment subject to approval of a medical panel and then only at the Minister’s discretion.

Wednesday, he loses control. Control of the parliament; the argument and of the beast within himself.

Now, I cant describe to you the fury that is within me that I have to now go spend money on opening a centre that I didnt need to open a week ago,

ScoMo morphs into some petulant put-upon national boarding house matron pouting and sulking at the prospect of suddenly being asked to put up extra guests. But devious. He’ll reopen Christmas Island. Frog-march the sick parade malingerers there. It’s an Australian territory, so technically, he can avoid bringing them to the mainland.

Yet the Coalition was happy to blow $275,000 in legal costs last financial year on challenging, in court, requests for urgent medical transfers of asylum seekers and refugees on Nauru and Manus Island. This figure doesn’t include the cost of air ambulances and subsequent treatment for critically ill patients, figures Peter Dutton must keep secret.

This year it will be more. Morrison cannot be taken seriously if the bleats about the cost of Christmas Island.

Nor does his government’s campaign impress those sampled in opinion polls. The latest YouGov Galaxy poll shows that the PM’s-all my own work -Tampa 2.0 stunt has lost support in Queensland, which pundits insist is a key election battleground, while overlooking Victoria where fear and division failed in November’s state election.

The QLD poll shows the Coalition down 3 to 35, while on a two-party preferred basis Labor is ahead on 52, to the LNP’s 48.

Worse, William Bowe’s Poll Bludger track’s aggregate of Newspoll and Essential Research shows 53.8 to 46.2 to Labor in a solid shift to the Opposition this week, much to the chagrin of The Australian and other right-wing media who were recently crowing about a Coalition “bounce” and fondly predicting a “re-set” as The ScoMo Show. By Monday, MSM will crow about a re-set based on Kerry Stokes’ aberrant IPSOS poll.

Morrison’s view in Opposition was ‘the more boats that come the better’. Nothing’s changed. Megaphoning the re-opening of Christmas Island is a blatant invitation to people smugglers. ScoMo is a desperate, ruthless Machiavellian pragmatist bent on boosting boat arrivals. What if a turnback somehow fails?

“Be it on your head,” ScoMo shrieks. In the politics of finger-pointing, malediction always triumphs over reasoned rebuttal.  If you have any kind of authority. Instead, all Minority Morrison can manage is an impression of a grown man throwing a tantrum. Now the beast takes him over. He leers at Labor’s front bench, his face a twisted mask of malevolent guile, a transfiguration evoking a Notre Dame gargoyle or Tony Abbott axing the tax in opposition.

The beast is stirring? Could the PM mean our wage crisis; the blatant beast that devours Since 2012, wages growth has slumped to record lows, with increases of only two per cent each year – well below previous levels of 3.5 per cent. This stagnation is affecting all states and territories, all industries and all types of work.

No. It’s Pandora’s Box. Heroically, our prophylactic PM boasts to Canberra’s national Press Club not only about his government’s solicitude for our well-being – there’s a plan. “Our plan for keeping Australians safe and secure.” ScoMo government will protect us from modern living, where calamity awaits at us all at every turn.

Or mouse-click and digital swipe. “The online world has opened up a dangerous place for our children. It is the terror of parents everywhere, including Jen and me.”  It is? Seriously? The terror of parents everywhere? No chance then, of teaching your children safe online behaviours – they have courses in most state schools.

“People smuggling, natural disasters, organised crime, money laundering, biosecurity hazards, cyber security, the evil ice trade, violence against women,” he declaims. Not a word about climate change – nor its devastating effects on our fauna, our fragile ecosystems, our environment that gives us life. Nor the vast new powers of the state. And nothing at all about the rise of lobbyists, the decline of democratic process and the rapid death of a free press.

Yet you can’t fault Morrison’s cheap theatricality, his hammy patent insincerity – the pantomime villain of our political stage. What a performer!  But will his voice hold out? Can he keep this up for ninety days?

Highlight of a week of lowlights is our Shaman-PM’s thrilling ritual invocation of the beast in parliament Thursday. Calling up The Beast is a climax to his bizarro shock-horror show to a non-plussed mob at The National Press Club. ScoMo eagerly poses as our nation’s Red Cross Knight, a crusader against a world of unfathomable evil, from whom our virtuous, if not saintly, Coalition noblemen and women in government will ever protect us. Journos yawn; check their smartphones.

Protect us? It can’t protect itself. Naturally we are obliged to overlook the Morrison government’s recent run of minor setbacks, which include its engineering of its own defeat in The House, mid-week, an epic feat equalled only twice previously, in 1929 and 1941 by two other governments who’d lost the plot.

Both were promptly voted out of office. Morrison’s mob should call an election now.

The federal government is now floundering; threshing and gasping like a Murray Cod in its death throes in the shallows of a dying Murray River at Menindee. Yet stand by for a miraculous resurrection as Kerry and Rupert breathe life into the Coalition corpse.

Despite the odd spot of bother, not to mention ineptitude, impotence and difficulty with arithmetic, our Broad Church Coalition will leap to the nation’s defence with an invigorating new production, of John Winston Howard’s 2001 catchy standby, The Babies Overboard or Tampa Crisis election, a classic Liberal victory if not a stroke of genius in Liberal annals, is also wrongly credited with winning Howard the election.

The Coalition has some dazzling theatrics up its sleeve. Yet amongst the hysteria and the rabid scare-mongering there are many issues on which it is to be held to account. It cannot base an election campaign on the lie that it stopped the boats. Or the lie that medical help will cause us to be flooded with an armada of boat people.

Nor can it conduct a campaign with no policy to speak of, especially in energy, education, environment and climate change. Australians will not tolerate a ninety day episode of Kill Bill, the Coalition’s favourite show.

Above all Morrison’s government needs to be held to account for its contempt for parliament, the Paladin scandal, its refusal twenty six times to hold a Royal Commission into Banking and the secret deal that seems to have been done between Ken Henry and itself over the terms of the commission and above all its evasion of responsibility for the death of the Murray-Darling Basin system.

These are just a few issues to begin with. The last thing the nation needs is a ninety day season of Kill Bill. Or a Tampa 2.0. Or anything with Scott Morrison’s beast in it.

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Climate change is making an already bad situation catastrophic. It’s worsened by a Federal Coalition in denial.

“Finished, it’s finished, nearly finished, it must be nearly finished Grain upon grain, one by one, and one day, suddenly, there’s a heap, a little heap, the impossible heap.” Samuel Beckett, Endgame.

Politicians fiddle as Tasmania burns. Freakishly new infernos blaze across 200,000 hectares; three per cent of the Apple Isle. Climate change fuels fires which now ravage fragile, ancient, high-altitude ecosystems that are not adapted to fire at all — relict forests from when Tasmania was a part of the vast Gondwana supercontinent, 180 million years ago at least.

Tragically, stands of pencil pines and magnificent King Billy Pines are gone forever.

Like an arsonist who must return to the scene of the crime, ScoMo-FIFO pays a flying visit to the Huon Valley, Monday. His quick pit-stop photo-op earns him a serve from The Greens’ Nick McKim who tells Scott Morrison to stop the nonsense; accept responsibility. And climate science. Stop pretending the Coalition has a climate policy.

Climate science is clear that Tasmania will face more bushfires and they will be more dangerous as a result of burning fossil fuels. Fossil fools like Mr Morrison should stay out of Tasmania until they are prepared to accept the science and adopt a decent climate policy,” McKim tweets. Ouch. ScoMo sulks and sooks; gets all huffy.

Morrison’s untimely riposte is to tell Nine Media that “many bushland areas in the state were unaffected by fire.”

Yep. Another captain’s call. Be of good cheer, me hearties. There are still parts of RMS Titanic not under water.

Labor’s leader, William Richard Shorten, whose party’s policy platform promises an emissions target of a 45 per cent cut and a renewable energy target of 50 per cent by 2030, pays Tassie a visit, too. He’s been there before. He knows the Beaconsfield Mine quite well. Bill’s no dill. He gives the conflicted Liberal leader permission to get real.

“Even the most extreme climate deniers are probably at the point of acknowledging that we are having more and more extreme weather events. New weather records are being set and the economic cost is growing … I think it is legitimate to talk about climate change.” 

Shorten knows Morrison’s Coalition leadership rests on his continuing the party line of climate change denial. Just after ScoMo knifed Turnbull, deftly riding the wave of instability; cutting in on Hunt and Dutton’s plot to make “Dutts” PM, Turnbull held a final press conference before he had to leave to attend to pressing, sniping business.

Turnbull’s lame excuse for failure on climate change policy is to blame his oddball colleagues; climate change is “very hard” for the Liberal-National Coalition because MPs have “bitterly entrenched” views, “actually sort of more ideological views than views based, as I say, in engineering and economics.” Or, God, forbid, science.

Ideological? Try ignorance. Last September, Party climate guru, cuddly Craig Kelly, the electric chair of the Coalition backbench environment and energy committee stood in for a no-show Tony Abbott. He knocked the socks off Mosman’s true blue-rinse Liberal branch by claiming that fossil fuels make us safe from climate change.

“The reality is we live in a time where our generation has never ever been as safe from the climate because of fossil fuels, concrete and steel,” Kelly confabulates.

“The climate was always dangerous. We didn’t make it dangerous.”

Emboldened, by November 2018, Malco spells it out. “The truth is … the Liberal Party and the Coalition is not capable of dealing with climate change,” Turnbull tells the Australian Bar Association’s Annual Conference. He adds, helpfully, that many of his former colleagues are convinced, like Trump, that climate change is a giant hoax.

Climate science denial is a huge electoral liability, according to the polls – even if – as Pyne threatens on ABC Insiders – to wheel out their totally discredited Direct Action, Emissions Reduction Fund, boondoggle again.

(Governments pay farmers to plant trees they would have planted anyway.)

But there’s a bit of ground to make up. Forest-clearing elsewhere in the country created enough emissions in two years to wipe out the gains of the emissions reduction fund.

Bazza Cassidy politely fails to mention that after the abolition of Gillard’s price on carbon – and despite the daylight robbery of the Direct Action fantasy, our greenhouse gas emissions are sky-rocketing. As are our electricity and gas bills.

ScoMo’s burning issue is less how to protect his own and his party’s ignorance than his politically sensitive skin, an engaging conundrum given, like Craig Kelly, or Abbott, he has the hide of Dürer’s Indian rhinoceros. He’s offended by Nick McKim’s tweet, he says. It’s always about him; never climate change, policy or any other issue at hand.

The Monthly’s Sean Kelly writes brilliantly about how Scott Morrison has made a career of never being responsible for anything that goes wrong; how he adroitly always removes himself from the frame.

“Morrison, in his own telling, is so often a mere observer. When reckless and false accusations have been made, it turns out Morrison has only presented the facts as presented to him; when offensive comments have been made, he has been only the dutiful messenger of the sentiments of others; in the rare cases he has made mistakes, they have been minor errors of timing. Events occur, but Morrison’s involvement is passive, tangential, almost accidental. He may be the minister, but he is not an instigator, only a vessel through which others’ bidding is done.”

ScoMo keeps shtum about Premier Will Hodgman’s requests for help with funding beyond the Commonwealth’s National Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA). While the Federal Government will fund up to 75 per cent of the damage bill, it applies only to people, public assets, some business grants and the clean-up.

Thousand-year old pines, and many older, not only burn; their seeds are destroyed, their soils incinerated, notes science writer, Nature’s Emma Marris. The pines represent species which have survived only because of their cooler, wetter microclimate. Now, extinction beckons, as drier, warmer weather is wrought by global warming.

Threatened also are pockets of a smaller but no less iconic tree, the Southern Beech, Nothofagus gunni, Tasmania’s only deciduous native with its spectacular rust-red to gold Autumn display whose relatives are found in New Zealand and South America, a distribution which provided first clues that the landmasses were once joined.

Climate change also brings its own tinder box; dry lightning strikes in the Southwest, now, while nearby logging and the record dry of 2015 leaves trees which surround the alpine forest with less capacity to act as a firebreak.

“There was no doubt pencil pine was on the mainland, but the fire and climate regime meant it couldn’t persist,” says David Lindenmayer, a professor of ecology and conservation biology at Canberra’s ANU.

“If Tasmania is going to become more like the mainland, there is a distinct possibility that its time is going to be done. That is a huge loss for the world.”

But the biggest loss is to ourselves and our federal government afflicted by the mental and moral blight of denialism, men (mostly) for whom climate change is “absolute crap” to quote Tony Abbott, the most destructive MP in politics today, whose ignorance and obdurate stupidity not only cost us a carbon price, but which inspire a small band of fellow saboteurs just big enough to abort Coalition climate change, energy or environment policy.

Lyndon Schneiders, federal director of the National Wilderness Society (NWS) says the Coalition is “missing in action” after five years’ undermining environmental protections. The Society targets former PM Abbott, former environment ministers Hunt and Frydenberg in its first major federal election campaign in a decade.

Tony should worry. A poll commissioned by GetUp! has Abbott losing his seat to Alpine skier, Zali Steggall. She’s leading the former PM 54% to 46% on a two-party-preferred basis, according to a ReachTEL poll of 622 residents commissioned by activist group GetUp and published in the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on Sunday.

AFR’s Phil Coorey sneers on ABC Insiders Sunday, The poll’s too small to be significant. Yet in Warringah, in the 2016 election, after preferences, Abbott got 61.55% of the vote vs 38.45% for the Greens candidate.

Abbott was saved by his nemesis. Oddly, last April, it was Coorey who reported Turnbull intervened personally by making robocalls during the final week of 2016’s election campaign to help save Tony after internal party polling showed the former prime minister was so unpopular in his own seat of Warringah, he risked losing it in a landslide.

The Guardian reports that Warringah’s voters worry about climate change. “Private polling conducted for the environment movement and for the major parties suggests community concern about climate change is currently sitting at levels not seen since the federal election cycle in 2007. Abbott, our own Dr No, naturally, denies this.

Morrison’s government needs to stop obsessing over photo-op politics and look south. Drop its populist posturing and  take responsibility. But that would require an open mind. And heart. The heart of Tasmania’s World Heritage area is dying, reports Richard Flanagan. The island’s sea waters are warming at two to three times the global rate.

Giant kelp forests which once dominated Tasmania’s east coast are dying. 95 per cent have been lost over the last few decades. They may soon become extinct, despite some brilliant long-term programmes to restore them. Kelp forests are vital to forming habitats on reefs around temperate Australia, and have been home to hundreds of species of animals and plants, Hobart-born journalist Lucy MacDonald reports for the ABC.

Yet ScoMo can manage only a token show of interest. The quick change artist dons another outfit. Heads north. He lobs in Townsville wearing an unbuttoned camouflage jacket. It’s useless. His blue shirt shows through; betrays a Liberal vainly trying to hide.

He’s photographed in a tank. A tank? It’s supposed to help with his posing as one of the troops cleaning up after floods, Tuesday. Abbott couldn’t resist dressing up in uniform either. Apart from macho image, it’s a prop to help him with his faux populism, a cunning way to evade any real engagement; answer any of the real issues of the day,

“My thinking is the support for Townsville people,” he puffs in his trademark humbug. “I’m not engaging in broader policy debates today. I’m engaging in the needs of people here on the ground, people in evacuation centres.”

ScoMo never engages in broader policy debates. When not plotting, his effort goes into scripting absurd Trump-like scare campaigns to prevent Kerryn Phelp’s bill to allow medical evacuation.

We’ll be overrun with refugees. Our national security is at stake. Murderers, terrorists, rapist will all race to the mainland if we allow sick refugees medical evacuation. We’d even have to spend over a billion dollars opening Christmas Island to contain them all.

Meanwhile, Tasmania’s wilderness is burning. Our greatest river system, The Murray Darling Basin is mortally wounded by mismanagement, maladministration and a man-made drought. 1,200 billion litres of water were extracted for irrigation in 2014-15 in the Northern Basin yet only about 35 billion litres, actually arrived at Bourke from upstream in the past year, according to the latest data.

Former Water Wallah – or Water Wally, ex-minister Barnaby is in witness protection.

Freak floods deluge Townsville. Two million hectares of Queensland forest have been cleared in the past five years. In the past three years, land clearing in NSW has increased by 800 per cent.

“The Darling River is dying, the Tassie wilderness is in flames, two million hectares of forest have been cleared in the past five years in Queensland alone and iconic species such as the koala are hurtling towards extinction,” NWS head, Lyndon Schneiders says. “Climate change is making an already bad situation catastrophic.”

Schneiders says the Coalition government has been “missing in action” after five years undermining environmental protections. Of course, it’s easier and more fun to put on RM Williams gear and be photographed “drought-proofing”. Flood-busting. Deal with climate change and its dangers? Our PM and his colleagues are in denial.

Or worse. Then Environment Minister in the Abbott-Credlin government, Greg Hunt, rings Tim Flannery personally to sack him; nuke the Climate Commission in September 2013. But brute force and ignorance fails. The Climate Council rises like a phoenix from the ashes. Like its predecessor, but with no government funding, the Commission’s mission is to warn us of effects of global warming and to advise us of possible ways to deal with it.

In the meantime, Tasmania is the canary in the climate change coal mine. The federal government can gain much by pledging its unconditional support and as much expert help as it can muster. It can help in other ways, too. And it can learn a lot about climate change and the dangers of mining and gambling on people and habitat.

This week sees an ANU report once-believed pristine lakes are contaminated by mining. Then Tassie’s a case study of a government captured by corporations some even donating proceeds of gambling, revealed only this week by virtue of lax political donation disclosure laws.  But the commonwealth can’t criticise, the laws are as effective as expecting ASIC to hold our banksters to account, the most risible proposition in Royal Commissioner Justice Kenneth Hayne’s report.

Spending four million dollars, but reporting only a quarter of its war chest, Tasmanian Liberals were able to buy the election. And lease political power. Wealthy corporate donors buy influence, off the record. in other states, too. It’s a major threat to our democracy. Yet no-one can buy time from the inexorable progress of global warming.

Or fathom its cost. The Council reports that extreme weather cost Australia $1.2 billion last year alone. While ANU scientists try to break the nation’s obsession with The Clayton’s Royal Commission into Ken Henry, with a bogus claim that solar and wind will mean we meet our Paris targets, the spotlight falls on the frenzied fear-mongering of a Morrison government unable to cope with any opposition, let alone the prospect of a whole ten sitting days until the election although Tasmanian Labor’s backflip on “gaming” – industry spin for gambling, our nation’s destructive $200 billion a year love affair with the punt -does raise the attention deficit stakes for a moment.

Tasmanian Labor abandons a policy to put pokies out of pubs and clubs by 2023. Did they cave in to federal Labor policy? Were they worried they’d shut themselves out of power? Whatever the reason, Tasmanians will suffer. Tassie Labor will suffer.

Along with the rest of us. Australians lead the world in wagering a staggering $11,000, per person, per year. Gambling ruins at least 200,000 Australians; causes families to suffer. Pokies’ addiction, can lead to self-beggary, theft and interpersonal violence (IPV) commonly, misleadingly, termed “domestic” rather than male violence.

Another ANU report, this week, has it that Tasmania, Hodgman’s Poker Machine state (Inc), a rambler and gambler’s natural paradise, has poisoned the water of its Highland Lakes – but it’s OK because it happened long ago.

Allowing miners to freely use lead, copper, arsenic and cadmium to extract precious metals, is a legacy of the environmental disaster our nation knows as “the mining industry”, Hodgman, dynastic Premier of the land of the eternal punt, takes pains to explain it’s just the way they did things in the past, by which he means 1893-1994.

Mining’s toxicity is a century old mystery? But there’s good news, too. TasWater says it’s OK; boosting Tassie and the nation’s global reputation as a budget holiday destination, with only 2000 natural species at risk of extinction, a third world country where it’s safe to drink the water – if you’re OK with slow, expensive, NBN broadband.

Fortunately, our country’s run of luck continues, The Royal Commission into Ken Henry has a happy ending. Banksters are sent to the naughty corner to be licked to death by ASIC, our toothless corporate watchdog which Kenneth Hayne criticises for hopping into bed with banks rather than litigate.

The Royal Commission show helps distract us all from our self-inflicted and our natural disasters and the love that dare not speak its name; our coal-lobbyists cum leaders’ climate change denying nihilism.

Two cheers for Kenneth Hayne! Happily there’s a big win for banks this week as Hayne’s Clayton’s report, a thorough flogging with a wilted celery stick, recommends that borrowers pay brokers’ fees upfront, a nip and tuck in the usury and extortion racket that is our banking oligarchy that will save our banksters $3 trillion dollars

Deputy PM Macca (Michael McCormack almost has the last word –“We are looking at climate, of course, (but) climate has been changing since year dot,” he says, before adding: “We don’t want to go down a path of renewables, which is not going to solve anything apart from de-industrialising Australia and making sure we don’t do manufacturing here and pushing electricity bills into the unaffordable state.”

Put that in your coal-fired chimney-pipe and smoke it. But lucky last word goes to cranky Kenneth Hayne whose wonderful performance of forensic irritability during the hearings, most capably assisted by the formidable Rowena Orr, was mistaken for the prelude to heavy penalties for banksters clearly capable of criminal misconduct.

His image has tarnished rapidly since the ACTU obtained a copy of a letter from Ken Henry to Josh Frydenberg laying down the scope and time frame of the commission. We’ve been had. Who knows if longer, better resourced commission would have led it to impose more serious penalties; more effective deterrents. What’s sure is that the government got the report it wanted rather than the one the industry needed.

“Experience shows that conflicts between duty and interest can seldom be managed,” Hayne observes. “Self-interest will almost always trump duty.”

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The Royal Commission Show, our favourite national theatre?

There is no scientific, intelligible or rational justification put forward for the reduction of 70 GL. The obvious inference to be drawn is that political considerations largely drove the NBR, not science. This is not only unlawful, but is deplorable.

Bret Walker SC, MDBA Royal Commission Report, p.63

 

The reek of corruption and decay mingles with the stench of another mass fish kill at Menindee this week. The nation gags in shock and disbelief as not one, but two, of our favourite forms of national theatre, the Royal Commission Show, conclude with the obligatory self-flagellation in the form of tabling excoriating reports. Traditionally, this leads to a frenzy of self-exculpation in the uplifting and compelling “Don’t blame me” chorus.

Officials, everywhere, are left gasping for breath; floundering like a forty-year old Murray Cod left to perish on the bed of a Darling River whose waters have been sold off to profit wealthy rice and cotton farmers upriver.

In his report, SA’s royal commissioner, Brett Walker, SC, a distinguished constitutional lawyer, throws the book at NSW and Federal governments for their “gross negligence” and their failure to follow scientific advice.

In particular, he is scathing about how MDBA modelling failed to factor in the effects of climate change certainties into how much water was a “sustainable” amount to be taken from the river system for commercial reasons. The failure is systemic, historically traceable to at least 2009. It may prove catastrophic. Walker notes, however,

“The damage and depletion of the water resources, ecosystems and biodiversity of the Murray-Darling Basin since European colonisation, and the trauma and dislocation experienced by Aboriginal people, are part of the same story. The necessary work to protect and restore the river systems must go hand in hand with the necessary measures to include Traditional Owners centrally in decision-making about water planning and management.”

Walker castigates politicians for their “head in the sand” attitude to climate change and also buckets the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) for its unfathomable predilection for secrecy; its history of “grossly inadequate disclosure, explanation and consultation” in the handling of its responsibilities under the Water Act (2007) which regulates how water is allocated to irrigation or environmental flows in Australia’s largest river system.

In a world record water rort, The Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) has contrived to lower the required environmental release; deny the river its allotted 70 billion litres of water. No wonder fish are dying. Yet NSW wants to take even more.

NSW regional water minister and deputy leader of NSW Nationals, Niall Blair cops a personal serve, Friday, from Walker for his “grossly irresponsible” and crude remarks in promising to stick the state plan in response to the Menindee kill. Anything less would “blow up” the Murray Darling Basin Plan.

It’s an alarming sign of the inertia, ignorance and hostility to sound advice as much as the vested political interests that threaten the adoption of the Royal Commission’s recommendations.

Blair wants to press on with the controversial Menindee Lakes project, a water-saving scheme to reduce the size of the lakes and empty them more often, a proposal which federal authorities caution would not help the environment – or as Walker puts it “threatens the national plan to save the Basin from irreparable degradation”.

NSW Nationals worry they’ll lose the local seat of Barwon as a result of the fish kills. Enter The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party whose donors include The Shooting Industry Foundation, a well-funded lobby group for relaxed or “simpler” gun laws and more gun sales. The party’s website takes pot-shots at “extreme” animal activists.

All up, the Shooters just shriek conservation and climate change science. Far too green for a National Party voter.

On the federal stage, The Nationals’ Big Dave Littleproud, Minster for Agricultural Resources and Water rorts, walks tall on the side of climate science denial. Last August, he told a Q&A audience and ABC viewers always eager to hear ignorance paraded in the interests of “balance” that he doesn’t understand the link between climate change and drought. Making the link is a “big call” for Dave. He does not “give a rats if it’s man-made or not”.

In minutes, it’s clear that for Littleproud, burning coal is the only way to safely generate reliable electricity.

This week’s fish kill? Dave is quick to blame the drought, but Walker painstakingly details a man-made river drought. Busts a National Party billion dollar boondoggling triumph. At least four billion dollars of taxpayers’ money, has been given by the commonwealth, over the last few years, to farmers and agricultural groups for water-saving infrastructure projects that don’t work. Water buybacks are cheaper and more effective.

Brett Walker calculates that projects cost taxpayers two and a half times more than water buybacks to put the same amount of water back into the system. Over ten years, the cost of buybacks was $2026 per megalitre. $970 was the cost of purchasing a megalitre of water through efficiency upgrades funded under the Sustainable rural water use and infrastructure program (SRWUIP). As Bernard Keane notes it’s a lot of “free money for irrigators”.

Can the boondoggle, in fact, be busted? It’s not shaping well. Does the Federal Minister have the independence, authority and experience? DLP, as Littleproud is known to mates and staff, was Barnaby’s pick, a shrewd move that excluded the vastly more experienced Darren Chester in favour of the work experience boy; someone who’d mind his seat until Barney regained the leadership and the water portfolio for himself.

And Joyce is especially proud of his boondoggle. In his 2015 white paper, he brags

The Government is funding the largest investment in upgrading and refurbishing irrigation infrastructure in Australia’s history, investing in the future of competitive irrigated agriculture, as well as community sustainability. To implement the Murray–Darling Basin Plan, the Commonwealth has committed almost $13 billion through a range of programmes in the Basin through to 2024.

Clearly, Dave’s backers give him a boost. Sort of. Fairfax’s Mark Kenny gushes in a puff-piece how the “nerdy and bookish” looking Littleproud looks much bigger in real life he is than on TV and how his electorate Maranoa, the only National electorate to return a No vote in the same sex marriage survey, is three times the size of Victoria).

But the key is SA. Premier, Steven Marshall, who hollered for a Royal Commission while in opposition, says Walker has exceeded his brief. He claims the commissioner was supposed to look at a bit of water theft and leave it that. Still, it’s something he and Scott Morrison will get around to looking at later in the year. If Morrison’s still around.

Unafraid of doubling up, he’ll also look into the legality of the plan, something, it could be argued, Walker has just done. But Steve’s a crack-up as he wraps up with his dead-pan stand-up routine: “But I can assure every single person in this state, we are taking this royal commission report extraordinarily seriously.”

“Extraordinary and serious” doesn’t begin to describe the icy look given Josh Frydenberg by Kenneth Hayne, QC, who responds with a wintry glare as Josh Frydenberg tries to trap him into a photo-opportunity, Friday, as the Commissioner hands over his report to a Minister whose government is a big part of the problem. And let’s not forget that for a year in 2005-6, Frydenberg worked for Deutsche Bank as Director for Global Banking.

Hayne’s interim report depicts a finance industry rotten at the core by a culture of rampant greed and regulators too ineffectual to do anything. It’s safe to assume the theme continues in the final report. What’s wrong?

As Hayne puts it “Too often, the answer seems to be greed — the pursuit of short-term profit at the expense of basic standards of honesty. How else is charging continuing advice fees to the dead to be explained?” the royal commissioner writes.

Frydenberg is all smiles and faux-jovial affability; a rictus of offensive charm imposed over a shit-eating grin while former High Court Justice Commissioner Kenneth Hayne AC QC, skewers him with an icy disdain.

Hayne, a blackletter, black belt, in forensic dissection of fool and fraud, quite properly deigns a request to shake hands with jolly Josh, currently our federal treasurer, who had to be dragged kicking and screaming to accept a royal commission into banking. Twenty six times you denied me, Hayne’s face says. Spin collides with integrity as Frydenberg’s charm offensive blows up in his face. It may be the most damaging encounter of a damaging week.

“Nope” is all Hayne needs to say in a salutary display of personal authority, integrity and laconic brevity when a photographer suggests the pair shake hands. It’s a refreshing contrast to our palaverous political discourse.

Frydenberg may be frozen out Friday but an eerie silence stalks the land. Two dragon-slaying royal commissioners bust banksters and expose the Murray Darling Water allocation system as a billion dollar water-rorting scandal. But no-one stands up for their nation. Instead there’s a rush of weaving and ducking for cover.

Royal Commissioners Hayne and Walker file reports no-one in government could like – even a fit and functioning NSW state or federal government that could be held to account. There’s a slow bicycle race by states and Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) to say the least they can. Then it’s only to disavow responsibility.

Faux-Mo, our PM for standards, applies the choke-hold. He won’t release Hayne’s report, until Monday, giving himself  time to remind us how to trust our banks. Swiftly, shiftily, he fills the gap with his own spin on that old standby trope – the table – as if a royal commission alleging criminal negligence and fraud is somehow an ambit claim; a matter for negotiation. He also pretends he doesn’t know what’s foreshadowed in the interim report.

“It will be a question of what suggestions or measures they put on the table but I will be very mindful that I want to see the oil that lubricates our financial system – which is access to credit – continues to flow, otherwise the consequences would be quite significant,” Mr Morrison tells Nine’s increasingly pliant newspapers, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age in Brisbane. He’s protecting the banks before the report is even published.

ScoMo’s propaganda 101 technique misrepresents the issue as a choice between not being able to borrow at all and seeing banks held accountable for a series of criminal acts exposed by the commission which include charging fees to dead people and banks and super funds charging fees for no service. As Bill Shorten says on ABC Insiders, Sunday, the choice ScoMo offers is between an unethical banking system or no system at all.

Prosecutions may well be one outcome; civil or criminal referrals to state prosecutors could be made.

On the water front, or ruined, dried-up backwater as it is now, there’s another massive fish kill at Menindee but shit happens according to David Littleproud, the former rural bank manager, whose RM Williams gear helps show he really knows the many hardships faced by those who live in the bush.

“Save the Gravy” Dave fronts the cameras again; reminds greenies, Guardian-readers and townies to stop carping. Again, the choice he offers is between a corrupt, unethical system and no river water allocation scheme at all.

“The basin plan is lawful and was lawfully made”, he blusters, despite Brett Walker SC’s excoriating report which accuses the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) of negligence and being “incapable of acting lawfully”.

There’s little chance Littleproud has time to read the report. Gross maladministration, negligence and unlawful actions by Commonwealth officials are just some of the multi-billion dollar failures of the MDBA to save Australia’s largest river system, according to Walker. Walker has to name names, including, of course that of Barnaby Joyce.

Star of the aquatic show, former Minister for water-rorting, Barnaby “boondoggle” Joyce is invisible, either white-anting Michael McCormack or busy showing prospective vendors around his property at Gwabegar which he bought for 12 years ago for $572,000 but must now sell, for family reasons, for a modest $878,000.

Those interested should note “the dams are full and cattle and sheep prices are very good”, a detail which will greatly cheer other farmers in drought, especially those downstream on the Darling. Above all the two parcels of land are openly advertised as being covered by an as-yet unused coal-seam gas petroleum exploration licence, PEL 428, owned by resources group, Comet Ridge, a detail old Barney used to shy away from.

Nothing to see here, says a government which has nothing to say for itself either. ScoMo’s “major” speech, another modest “headland”, “landmark” production, Tuesday, gets even less attention. Voters can’t stop yawning.

By Sunday, Nine newspapers publish a drop announcing that the last kids will leave Nauru for the US. Heaven. Not only will it ensure they don’t see their families, they can join government workers in living off food stamps. How does this square with “Peter Dutton has revealed that 13 refugee children on Nauru are with parents deemed national security risks by the US” late last year, tweets Michelle Grattan. But no-one’s over-impressed.

No-one listens. Fewer take ScoMo seriously. John Hewson jokes the PM’s “preaching to the deserted”. His slogans about growing 1.2 million jobs don’t match the lived daily reality of voters whose wages have flatlined for years.

Experts point out that jobs are not created by governments overnight. It takes decades to create the conditions favourable to a buoyant labour market. Others note that the promise is hollow. Our average job growth is around 200,000 a year for the last ten years. And how many of these are full time? Another evangelical gets this handball.

Party paragon of integrity and icon of probity, the unofficial minister for truthiness, Stewart Robert, is brilliantly deployed to assure voters that all the new jobs will be part-time, a claim he has to retract. Quickly. A truer figure, he admits would be around half. Even Leigh Sales is on to how ScoMo talks out of the back of his neck, pointing out to him that half his jobs will be taken up by migrant workers. Yet Morrison has promised to cap immigration.

Diversion! Furiously, Morrison flogs Labor with the big stick he has left over unused from his power company standover stunt. Energy corporations are laughing all the way to the bank. Energy Australia posted a 200% profit last August, a rise in earnings for the Hong Kong-based utility company from $129 million to $375 million.

Of course the taxpayer effectively gives our battling power companies generous support. Investigative journalist, Michael West reports Victoria Power Networks, paid no tax at all on a four year income of $6,120,404,139.

It should pay tax. Just the health problems caused by coal-fired power stations cost the nation $2.6 billion a year.

As a user of fossil fuels, Victoria Power and Energy Australia are both also eligible for the fabulously generous fuel tax subsidy scheme, and a range of other subsidies, which, last year, totalled $11,692 million dollars – that’s around $12 billion each year that won’t be spent on schools, hospitals or age pensions.

Labor will put up your power bills. Taxes. Run by union thugs. Tie businesses up in union knots. You can’t trust ’em. He fondly reprises the golden oldies from Abbott’s glorious but pyrrhic victory of 2013 when all you had to do was oppose everything Labor proposed – and promise to scrap a carbon tax that wasn’t a carbon tax to lower electricity bills – which it could never do and lie about no new taxes. And make up absurd scares.

Whyalla was going to be wiped off the map. Lamb roasts would cost $100. Barnaby Joyce’s incredible carbon tax-boosted price estimate of abattoirs having to charge $575,000 per beast at least is worth a re-run, ScoMo.

A fatuous two per cent News Poll rise puts lead in ScoMo’s pencil. But that’s only two party preferred. His approval rating is slumping along with his spectacularly bad captain’s call to parachute Warren Mundine into Gilmore. ScoMo sends an email the Gilmore Liberal Party, half of whom have resigned in disgust. It’s another master-stroke. Sheer genius. The old impersonal unsolicited self-justifying generic email template is bound to win everyone back.

Tuesday, The Australian reports its latest Newspoll is a “lifeline” for Morrison, with a “bounce” in the polls – a lift of two points on a two-party preferred basis (Labor on 53, the Coalition on 47). It’s coy about how many it contacted but typically it contacts up to 2000 people – a sample size with an error rate of two to three per cent.

Once this is factored in, the so-called bounce of two per cent immediately is meaningless. A distracting public stoush always works wonders. Team ScoMo brawl openly over rats in the ranks as lone wolves appear.

At war with itself over climate change, energy, refugees, the government is hopelessly divided. Homophobic reactionaries still smart from losing their gay marriage gambit, but have yet to demand action on the religious freedoms ruse to reintroduce discrimination. The election plan is to bag Labor and to kill Bill Shorten. And scare. Scrapping dividend imputation and reducing negative gearing will cause the economy to tank.

Christopher Pyne says that Labor will cause a recession which is the Liberal party version of Pauline Hanson’s eminently sensible plan to get everyone to use up all the electricity to bring the grid down.

Truly sensible would be for ScoMo to call an election soon while he still has candidates to field. Delaying further is not going to give him any election policies, his party’s too divided for that. And the hard graft of dealing with the Royal Commissions – both its recommendations but especially the issues they address cannot simply be left.

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Neither democracy nor integrity, ScoMo? The rats get it right.

“For years – decades – we have had political correctness in this country, which I fear is raising kids in our country today to despise our history, to despise how we have grown as a nation and I am disappointed that Bill Shorten would want to feed into that.” Scott Morrison

Australia Day is not for moving, despite protests from thousands of Australians across the nation – and as far as London’s Westminster Bridge. At least this is the view of our current PM, Scott Morrison, who won’t move the date because, as he says Cook might have made the odd mistake, (ask the Hawaiians) but to change the date would be to kowtow to political correctness. The wishes of indigenous people don’t seem to count at all.

Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples see the commemoration of 26 January as a day of mourning, less a reminder of the arrival of Arthur  Phillip’s first fleet than a harbinger of the genocide, alienation, dispossession and brutal oppression that followed. Nevertheless, Morrison’s government is seeking to keep the day and to deify Cook, in policies which seem calculated to celebrate white supremacy, invasion, slavery and forced colonisation.

Morrison’s recourse to “political correctness” is dangerous nonsense, a dog-whistle to the alt-right who us the term to invoke an imagined conspiracy to silence them. To be politically correct in its original sense means respecting diversity, modifying language to avoid giving offence to others. But Morrison is a Trumpista.

Trump constantly abused the term. Political correctness was to blame for everything in his 2016 presidential campaign. A Muslim with a gun killed forty-nine people at a night club in Orlando. Trump blamed Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton. They had “put at risk the lives of ordinary people.” Why? Political correctness.

“They have put political correctness above common sense, above your safety, and above all else,” Trump raved. When Fox News’ Megyn Kelly asks him if he were part of the war on women, he rants,

“I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct. ”His audience applauds. “I’ve been challenged by so many people, I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either.”

Ironically, Trump’s own rise to success comes from a nation where voicing criticism of your government could put you in gaol, as Pussy Riot discovered, gaoled for hooliganism for two years in 2012 because they had challenged the support of Russian clergy for Putin and his regime.

Or it could be fatal. Twenty-one journalists have been killed since Putin came to power in March 2000. In most cases, no-one has been held responsible for the murders. Now the press is too frightened to tell the truth.

Only the RBC media holding, made a name for itself over seven years by its investigative coverage of business and politics, including Putin insiders. Otherwise a fearful Russian press ignored the Panama Papers.

A few weeks after its Panama Papers report, RBC’s top editors were dismissed. RBC holding changed ownership a few months later. It was bought by pro-Putin Onexim Group, controlled by metals magnate, Mikhail Prokhorov.

Trump became president with a little help from his friends; Russian oligarchs whom the West helped install in the carve-up of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. Their funding helped rescue The Donald from himself; a series of disastrous business failures. Yet who could have predicted he would become a role model for Morrison?

“I think we both get it”, ScoMo tells The New York Times’, Maureen Dowd. Even though Australia did not get rocked by a recession like the US, some people feel forgotten, left off the globalism gravy train. “And that’s what we get. The president gets that. I get it.” What gravy train? No, ScoMo, you just love the propaganda technique.

Despite his posturing as battlers’ hero, Dowd sees ScoMo as a lucky chump, the Stephen Bradbury of Oz-politics.

“In 2002, ice skater Steven Bradbury became the first Australian to win a Winter Olympic gold medal when his three top rivals crashed in a last-minute pileup. The right-wing Peter Dutton kicked off the coup that felled Malcolm Turnbull, but then the slimy Dutton and the soignée Julie Bishop crashed in a pileup that allowed the unprepossessing Morrison to glide across the finish line.”  Not that ScoMo didn’t have his skates on, already.

Heroic hamster-in-a-wheel, ScoMo the party apparatchik, remembers a forgotten people he never knew; ordinary folk, average workers, whose interests neither he, nor Trump, will do anything to promote; everything to imperil.

Wages are flat-lining and despite all the turd-polishing from government media spin units, workers are increasingly likely to be part-time, underemployed, underpaid and in casual, insecure jobs. They feel ripped off.

Overall, Australia may be richer but the rich are the winners. Alan Austin reports that Credit Suisse’s annual global wealth report and wealth data-book — which show more Aussie millionaires  — confirms that since 2013, wealth continues to flow from the working- and middle-classes to the rich.

For the Coalition, Frydenberg argues it’s just not happening. As for ScoMo, he’s too ordinary to be elitist.

Morrison’s minders script a PM of faux-mundanity who spends Australia Day with Jen and the kids at the Shoalhaven Heads Hotel, having a feed of flathead and chips as he savours a beer and his own propaganda-show.

“Can this cloying folksiness be any more unconvincing than his policies on energy, climate, anti-discrimination, anti-corruption and refugees both offshore and onshore?”, asks The Saturday Paper’s Richard Ackland.

Unconvincing or contrived? What is the Coalition’s climate, energy, immigration, population or water policy? As with economic and environmental policy, it is non-existent. Anne Summers finds “…so many policy deficits in Canberra, it is difficult to know if there are any established, well-based and effective policies still in existence.

Faux-Mo overlooks how Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan sheltered us from the GFC. Even if prompted, he’d rant about Rudd’s pink batt disaster or school hall folly, Abbott-Murdoch lies, which demean both projects’ role as community assets and as economic stimulus. But Faux-Mo is a post-fact poster boy. Spin is everything.

Part of his act is ignorance. This week Morrison imagines James Cook RN circumnavigating Australia, a school boy howler. Those who know their nation’s history shake their heads. Yet it is also a wilful re-writing of history in the service of white supremacy, evident in Morrison’s $5.7 billion fetish for all things Cook, an imaginary or fantasy Cook – the bearer of civilisation. It’s a calculated gesture of contempt for all indigenous peoples.

The racist Donald Trump whose real estate company in the 19770s avoided renting apartments to African-Americans, in favour of whites, in the 1970s would be proud of him. If he were interested in anyone but himself.

Or if he could read. Or if his inattention span or his narcissism permitted. In other words, were he not a bigoted, boorish, pre-literate, vainglorious lout. Or wooing his “base” with follies such as his hard-line on the Mexican wall, his potentially disastrous trade wars with China, his isolationist foreign policy – less policy than populist retreat.

And here’s the rub. It’s not so much that ScoMo admires Trump’s discovery of the people who “fell off the global gravy train”, whose interests both Trump and Morrison imperil in their mission to service the rich. It’s the bully.

ScoMo and some other locals – including what’s left of One Nation – have become fans. They are drunk on Trump’s contempt for convention and misread his wilful ignorance as licence to misbehave badly. Because it works: just look at Fox. Or Sky. Or anything by Greg Sheridan. It’s the vulgarian Trump’s bad-boy behaviour that appeals.

Trump peddles a heady but pernicious mix of philistinism, prejudice and brute ignorance, often confused with iconoclasm, strength or independence, by the naïve, immature or uneducated who form most of his base. Their uncritical adulation fits hand in baseball mitt with our US Alliance, a one-sided, unrequited love affair with the US as our protector when, in reality, the relationship is a liability. Seriously. Both, moreover, require maintenance.

The Coalition is “joined at the hip” to our once-great and powerful friend, the disunited states of America whose current decline into anarchy is presided over by a clapped-out, TV celebrity game-show host, Donald J Trump, heir to a real-estate fortune; a grifter whose career peaked when he appeared on a 1990 Playboy magazine cover.

The playboy who would later be drafted into The White House, in the emperor’s new clothes, is depicted in black tie, minus his jacket which he’s chivalrously given to Brandi Brandt, his Playmate companion. It’s all she’s wearing.

Oddly, there is no comment from Morrison’s government now that the fake president has hit a wall – in Mexico. You’d think there’d be a bit of applause from a PM who built a career on demonising immigrants and colluding in off-shore incarceration on Manus and Nauru so cruel, the UN says it’s torture. Or refusing medical treatment, especially to sick children, many of whom have been driven mad by five years of imprisonment, neglect and abuse.

Morrison could turn a blind eye to Trump’s lie that Mexico would stump up $5.7 billion, or so, to wall themselves in – just as he’s made no comment on Trump’s Mexican stand-off with congress. Morrison or Marise Payne could offer congrats – not that Trump’s backed down on his government shutdown, but on his bullying Congress that it had better pay for the wall come 15 February or he’d declare a state of emergency.

800,000 government workers are on leave or working without pay. Trump tells them to get credit at the store.

But still not a peep, not a word in any tongue from ScoMo or his government. Could it be that “chaos is reigning; the PM is jumping at shadows and doesn’t know what to do?” as a Liberal “hard-head” tells Paul Bongiorno.

Rats continue to jump ship. Nigel Scullion joins Michael Keenan who joins Kelly O’Dwyer in the rush to desert the sinking, stinking, Liberal ship.

Trump has hit a wall or two before, of course. After squandering the $413 million bequeathed him by his builder father, Fred C Trump, a bankrupt Trump Jnr allegedly sought help from Russian financiers.

Craving approval and control, Trump surrounds himself now with sycophants and incompetents. In his court are enablers and rent-seekers such as VP Mike Pence, who this week crowns Trump,  – as a type of King.

Colluding in Trump’s paranoid delusion of invasion by a migrant caravan, Pence claims Martin Luther King, would support the President’s empty threat to build a wall along the US-Mexico border. “Now is the time to make real the promises for democracy,” Pence quotes King on the weekend of King’s birthday. It’s sycophancy on steroids.

It is a week of mutual Endeavour. In the US, The Donald’s rabid fear-mongering about how the land of the brave and the free is to be invaded by drug-crazed, diseased and dangerous criminals aka “many gang members and some very bad people” – from South of the Border, is boosted by his VP. Pence calls it an epoch-making speech, an epic, if not heroic, evocation of human rights worthy of the late great, civil rights leader himself.

For Trump’s small and powerless pal, ScoMo, too many Cooks are never enough when it comes to invaders. What’s left of Morrison’s government goes cuckoo over Cook. James Cook that is.

In Cairns, the PM busies himself setting the record crooked reinventing the doughty Scots-Yorkshireman as an icon of Western Civilisation, a scientist, whose mission was not to observe the transit of Venus or to make his men eat sauerkraut but to bear the precious gift of The Enlightenment to the poor, benighted inhabitants of this land.

The myth that Cook discovered Australia has been taught in schools for decades – too long-established to quickly challenge. ScoMo may know this. He has a solid base of disinformation to build his culture warfare on. Just for the record, however, James Cook never held the rank of Captain. The British navigator was a Lieutenant when he landed in Botany Bay in April 1770 and was promoted to Commodore soon after his return to England in 1771.

Not to be outdone in cooking the books, Nationals’ deputy leader, Bridget McKenzie, a “flash bit of kit”, according to former Tsar, Barnaby Joyce, not only wants to keep Australia Day on 26 January, she wants to rewrite history.

“That is when the course of our nation changed forever. When Captain Cook stepped ashore,” Senator McKenzie tells Sky News viewers on Tuesday. “And from then on, we’ve built an incredibly successful society, best multicultural society in the world.”

Australia Day commemorates the landing of Arthur Phillip in January 1788, nine years after Cook’s death. “The best multicultural society” boast is rhetorical nonsense; impossible to quantify. Yet it also slights or treats with contempt the migrant experience of racist rejection, exclusion, scapegoating and discrimination, at school, in the workplace and in society at large from the treatment of the traditional owners of the land through the Chinese gold-diggers, forced to walk 900km from Sydney southward across the Murray River to the goldfields to avoid the 1855 Victorian poll-tax, to Dutton’s African gangs. And the White Australia Policy is the elephant in the room.

Sadly, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young also errs. Incredibly, she hadn’t time to read her release before publication, she says. “Despite an important national debate about changing the date of Australia Day away from Captain Cook’s landing at Botany Bay, the Government has decided to spend taxpayer money it is stripping from the ABC on yet another monument to Captain Cook on the land of the Dharawal people,” her statement reads.

ScoMo will go ahead with his captain’s call, the commission of a replica of HMB Endeavour, a replica of James’ Cook’s barque, itself a copy of a Whitby collier, broad in the beam and shallow in the draft, ideally designed to navigate the shallows, or cope with running aground, even survive a collision with the Great Barrier Reef.

Top of the list it has a generous storage capacity for coal – a happy metaphor for Morrison’s government itself.

Oddly, Morrison’s second captain’s call is not going so well. Drafting wily Warren Mundine from his pay-TV show on Sky Mundine Means Business as candidate in the NSW ultra-marginal south coast seat of Gilmore, over the heads of the local Liberal Party branch may not fare so well. Ann Sudmalis was ejected from the seat in favour of Grant, “you better watch out” Schultz, the real-estate agent son of former Liberal party MP Alby Schultz.

Already there’s a bit of a fuss over the fact that Wokka’s company has received half a million government dollars to date, in two government grants in 2017 and 2018, in a process cryptically described as being “a closed process”.

Schultz quits the party and will run as an independent but not before firing a fine parting shot.

“I can no longer be a member of a party that does not support democracy or act with integrity,” he tells reporters.

Sometimes the rats get it right.

ScoMo, where’s your trousers? A week of epic failure.

Some think, that the Rationall Spirits flye out of Animals, (or that Animall we call Man) like a swarm of Bees, when they like not their Hives, finding some inconvenience, seek about for another Habitation: Or leave the Body, like Rats, when they finde the house rotten, and ready to fall.

— Margaret Cavendish Newcastle, Philosophical Fancies, 1653

There’s not a dry eye in the house, Saturday, as a weary, teary, Kelly O’Dwyer, MP for Privilege (Higgins), minister for women, jobs and Neoliberal industrial relations, yet still seen as a Liberal “wet” makes her “shock” announcement. Internal polling suggest she’ll get the bum’s rush next election. A ReachTEL poll of about 1000 voters in Higgins published by the Herald Sun in November also indicates Ms O’Dwyer may “lose her seat to Labor on a two-party vote of 53-47″.

But it’s not in the official script which instead re-iterates the epic delusion of the Libs winning the next election.

In between her standard Liberal MP stand-up routine: the talking-point bot, Kel goes rogue, looks up a bit from her notes; talks of quitting for “very personal reasons” which she quickly makes public, using economic jargon. The O’Dwyers want to “grow their family” while there’s still time. In an exclusive in The Herald Sun she talks of a recent miscarriage.

Multiple Joyce, puns The Courier Mail‘s Sunday front page, meanwhile, sensitively reminding readers of the former Deputy-Prime Minister’s fecundity, given having a family is so much more interesting than dull stuff like whether our government’s lack of policy on climate or energy or environment will leave us a nation fit to raise a family in.

Barney’s partner, Vikki Campion is expecting their second child in June, a boy to be named Thomas, after his grandfather. Will Barnaby now quit politics for fatherhood?  Murdoch’s Tittle-tattle rag, The Herald Sun notes “family sources” say Joyce’s four daughters are “furious”. Dad is squaring off, meanwhile, for another tilt at being Nats leader.

ScoMo is frantic. How will his government survive?  Will other rats desert the rotting house? Seer, Samantha Maiden reckons Cabinet colleagues say Julie Bishop is only hanging around to spite Christian Porter who has his eyes on her seat. Blue ribbon Curtin is certain and has more cred than his marginal WA seat of Pearce to Porter, an aspiring Liberal leader.

Some Liberals are happy to see O’Dwyer go. Victorian Liberal Party Hawksburn branch president Thomas Hudson tells The Australian Ms O’Dwyer’s decision could be a “fresh start” for Higgins. “We have been losing Liberal voters disappointed with Ms O’Dwyer’s lack of involvement in the electorate,” he explains. ScoMo counters with fantastic spin.

O’Dwyer is a huge loss. There’s much talk of her massive legacy of tireless work for women and for workers. And banks. Who else but O’Dwyer, a former NAB investment banker, could have fought off a banking Royal Commission for so long? Who else could have drafted twenty Coalition-friendly employer representatives in a row on to the Fair Work Commission? When Fair Work’s president, Iain Ross, recommends only one new appointment, O’Dwyer makes seven.

Who could so stoutly deny workers penalty rates? Women are hit by penalty rate cuts more than men. Director of The Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work, economist, Dr Jim Stanford, points out that women make up 60 per cent of Sunday workers in retail, and 54 per cent in hospitality, according to current data from Australia’s statistics bureau.

More women are also likely to work part-time. Seventy per cent of women in food and beverage services, and 60 per cent in retail, work part-time, compared to only 52 and 35 per cent, respectively, for men, concludes Stanford.

Quit politics, Kel must, however, even if it means leaving “the natural government for women” without a Minister for Women. Perhaps Abbott could be drafted into another special envoy posting? He has the runs on the board. And time on his hands. Nope, nope, nope? Make that a definite maybe, Tone has a battle on his hands just to win Warringah.

Natural government for women? O’Dwyer’s nonsense comes hard on the heels of her public reflection on how the Liberal Party’s “homophobic, anti-women, climate-change deniers” image cost votes. Only cynics would conclude that O’Dwyer has been “counselled” into being more upbeat about the toxic culture of the Liberal Party. Surely she has not been bullied into making some sort of unconvincing correction or retraction?  Or bullied out of the party?

At least, Kel gets a gig on the Scott and Jenny show, a special Saturday edition, a post-modern press conference with no questions but with dollops of emotional support from First Lady Jenny Morrison, who is suddenly seen everywhere in public with her husband and lashings of micro-management from minder ScoMo, who smirks and grins vacantly into the middle distance, displaying his nurturing nature in between bouts of affirmative, paternalistic nodding for the camera.

“Supportively” is the word reporters choose, desperately hunting for a term to put spin on ScoMo’s rictus with a tic.

Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them in a Saturday presser.

Kelly is a “great woman who’s done a great job for her country and community” and has “made a great choice for her family”, Morrison gushes over her trifold greatness.

“There is no one I know who has worked harder or achieved more than Kelly O’Dwyer,” ScoMo lays it on so thick and chunky you could carve it. His hyperbole entirely discredits himself and his subject, regardless of his intention.

Some note on social media that ScoMo’s face reminds them of when he stood supportively behind Turnbull shortly before knifing him. Now he hovers, a looming, controlling, sinister presence, upstaging and overshadowing. O’Dwyer’s resignation announcement is not allowed to be a speech. He cuts her off. No questions. He hauls her off-stage.

There’s a lot more to run away from this week. The stench of the Murray Darling Basin scandal continues but despite a Royal Commission and a report from the Productivity Commission – and a wealth of expert advice that the river system is being killed by the extraction of water for irrigation by Big Cotton and other corporate farming oligarchies – Morrison stalls. His tactic is straight out of Yes Minister. He’ll call for more information. Meanwhile, the river system is dying.

“I think we need to look carefully at what is actually occurring,” ScoMo says. “Of course, the drought, as the deputy prime minister has said, has had a devastating impact on what we’re seeing, and there has been a perfect storm of other environmental factors, which has crystallised into the serious fish death that we’ve seen.”

“But before we start ripping up bipartisan agreements that have been very important to how we manage that area, I think it’s important that we inform ourselves more.”

Managing? A neon sign warning of the Coalition’s paralysing inertia and its collusion with corporate agribusiness to the detriment of the small farmer, local fauna, the environment and the national interest, the Murray Darling Basin is poisoned by greed and graft. Naturally, the catastrophe is all too much for ScoMo. Suddenly, overwhelmed by the need to find some high moral ground overseas, our self-declared “Prime Minister for standards” has to flit to Fiji.

A human chameleon, our protean ScoMo, who also moonlights as a lackey of Big Coal, Big Cotton, Big Gina and all other bigwigs of Australia’s corporate oligarchy, has to let China know that the Pacific is our back yard; draw a line in the sand drowning from global warming. So it’s off to Suva to drop his trousers and don a Fijian kilt, the sulu vaka taga.

“We are family”, ScoMo tells Fiji, thawing our diplomatic deep freeze which began with then Head of Fiji’s military, Commodore Frank Bainimarama’s coup in 2006. Bainimarama declared himself Acting President deposing President Josefa Iloilo. In 2007, he reinstated Iloilo who then endorsed the coup and appointed Bainimarama PM.

In 2014 his FijiFirst Party narrowly wins the first election since 2006. Just over fifty per cent of voters turn out.

Now petty despotism is cool again, especially as China waves its chequebook in the region. China is set to quadruple Australia’s outlay on aid to the Pacific region after pledging $US 4 billion in 2017, most of which is accounted for by loans to an eager PNG, according to Lowy Institute calculations. Other nations are not so keen on racking up more debt.

Of course, there are other items on the agenda. We must hush-up Peter Dutton’s stuff-up over Neil Prakash not being Fijian. The subject did not even come up beams ScoMo. In return, Australia will train Fijian soldiers should Fiji be required to defend itself against China, for example – or once again help another local despot seize power in a coup.

ScoMo frocks up in the sulu. The loin-cloth was introduced by missionaries from Tonga in the nineteenth century and was worn to indicate conversion to Christianity. It’s a typically bold if not risky gesture for our seat of the pants PM.

Notorious for his bizarre dress sense, decorum bypass and cornball humour, ScoMo almost veers into blackface. But what is our PM without his daggy dress-ups, his cheap stunts; his desperate attempts to ingratiate? His ear of tin?

A faux-Fijian ScoMo wags the White Man’s Finger; lectures the benighted Fijians on how to deal with climate change. It’s a remarkable stance even by ScoMo’s standards. His government won’t commit to lower emissions, even though this is what Pacific Islanders beg, nor will it commit to renewable energy, as Fiji suggests. Climate change deniers dictate policy. Accordingly, ScoMo’s party has no climate change policy. He rebukes Aussie school children for protesting about this.

Above all, Morrison has a feature role at home as a fossil fuel shill, the only MP to worship a lump of coal in parliament; the only PM to select former coal industry boss and Rio Tinto lobbyist, John Kunkel, as his chief of staff.

“We’re very committed to funds in the Pacific to deal with programs to deal with the impacts of climate change here,” ScoMo patronises leaders in Fiji and Vanuatu and any other Islanders who miss the ABC radio cricket broadcasts along with the odd tsunami warning since Australia stopped its short-wave broadcasts to the Pacific, January 2017. Another round of ABC funding cuts, cunningly dubbed “efficiency dividends” in Newspeak, ended the eighty year service.

Our ABC, claims to be “seeking efficiencies” – of course – and doing Pacific Islanders a favour by upgrading their service. Yet its shift from shortwave to FM transmissions and digital and mobile services, overlooks the reality that in the remote Pacific, particularly Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands, there is no access to an FM signal, limited internet and, where internet is available, it is prohibitively expensive. Yet it’s a boon to any tin-pot dictator.

FM frequencies can easily be shut down by a self-appointed prime minister, as Fijians discovered in 2009.

But it’s not just empty rhetoric; linking vacuity with platitude, ScoMo is a master of artful meaningless jargon.

“To address the impact it’s having on particular communities, and to ensure we can put in place programs which protect those communities, and to ensure the continuance of lifestyle and the way of life,” he soars, way past peak bullshit.

Fiji’s PM, former military dictator, Frank Bainimarama points at the Australian Prime Minister’s nether regions. It is not clear from images published – Fijian press is even more heavily censored than our ABC – whether Frank is laughing or crying. Certainly he manages to work a sense of “You obsequious hypocrite” into the subtext of his welcoming speech.

“Australian coal is killing the Pacific; Australia must not put the interests of a single industry above the lives of Pacific nations battling climate change,” Bainimarama barrels the hapless, trouser-less, Australian Prime Minister. He kindly refrains from bringing up ScoMo’s snub of the South Pacific leaders’ forum last year. Or he didn’t really miss him.

Luckily, despite battling invisible charisma, ScoMo has a fantastic Kanaka 2.0 Pacific Islander labour recruitment scheme up his sleeve. It turns out to be merely an extension of the Pacific Labour Scheme, begun 1 July 2018, but in a fabulous new neo-colonial cultural twist, Fiji will get “a thousand hours of television” – Australian content for three years!

But wait, there’s more, Morrison promises Kanaka 2.0 will help Aussie farmers as well as pay Pacific Island workers so handsomely they can support their families at home. It matters little that after three years of investigation, the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) found that many migrant workers are exploited, overworked and underpaid. And bullied.

In 2016, Seasonal workers from Fiji who were paid less than $10 a week, were told by government officials they must return to work for the contractor who exploited them or leave Australia. An ABC investigation then revealed many received little or no pay after deductions while picking fruit and vegetables for AFS Contracting, in northern Victoria.

“Bonded like a slave,” the FWO says in its report, compiled after its Harvest Trail investigators visited hundreds of farms, speaking with workers and farmers. “In some cases a person is virtually bonded like a slave to a particular [labour hire] provider, on the basis they have been told they won’t have their visa extension signed unless they see out the season with them,” says the sublimely named Jennifer Crook, Assistant Director, Compliance and Enforcement branch.

It’s an excoriating report but nothing, however, compared to Concetta Fierravanti-Wells’ free critique. She gives ScoMo a serve over being demoted after punting on Dutton in last August’s Coalition two-horse race to be Australia’s least worst leader. Like most of the ginger group who run Morrison and his government, she fears the Liberals drifting to the left.

Now she also hates the “socialist termite” – a right wing term for those who lean to the left even if they are just adjusting their seatbelts- Morrison for not being Dutton and mourns the loss of her former portfolio and fatter salary.

The former Turnbull Pacific affairs and international development minister, claims it is “disingenuous” for Australia to announce a loans program late last year for island nations while complaining of Chinese “debt-trap diplomacy”.

Concetta vents in an opinion piece for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Fairfax has not yet become solely Nine-infotainment, its rapidly approaching fate. It can still publish the odd piece critical of the government, something you would never get away with in Suva.  Or in Beijing. The gist of her excoriating public attack on her PM is quite fair and reasonable if not authoritative and well-informed, even if, as David Wroe coyly notes, she “breaks ranks”, the rat.

“A region that already owes about $5.5 billion to international creditors,” she says, “doesn’t need to be saddled with more debt.”  Yet selling debt turns out to be only part of ScoMo’s amazing sales pitch.

In a fresh new episode of ScoMo Goes Weird (Again), Morrison tries a bit of self-deprecating and insulting flattery, “We’ve done pretty well you and I, maybe punching above our weight”, ScoMo says ogling Mrs Maria Bainimarama.

It’s a compliment on the beauty of their wives, Jenny Morrison and Maria Bainimarama. How much better looking the wives are than their husbands. How both are in the ugly-bastards-with-beautiful wives joy luck club. What a hoot!

His island jet-away dictator love fest allows Morrison to leave the Murray Darling Basin clusterfuck – an environmental, economic and political catastrophe, a scandal without parallel in the nation’s history, in the safe hands of David Littleproud whose father Brian was Minister for Education, Youth and Sport in Bjelke-Petersen’s moonlight state-brown -paper-bag government and who is related by marriage to John Norman, the operator of Norman Cotton Farming.

What could possibly go wrong? Water Resources Minister Dave’s a great climate change denier and blames the drought, a laughably dishonest fob-off and a wilful misreporting of the detailed reports that have been sent his way. Labor is to blame. ABC News 24 Sunday runs an item which wrongfully implies Julia Gillard wasted $13 billion on a scheme that doesn’t even work.  Next, a lover’s tiff erupts between the Coalition partners, but what’s new?

“The Nats are plagued by scandal, vested with bullies and riddled with incompetence … The one thing they were supposed to be good at were [sic] looking after farmers and they have failed at that. Look at the management of the Murray-Darling,”  says Liberal Party Wagga branch president Colin Taggart,  who adds

“The Nationals are a barnacle on the backside of the Liberals.” Don’t hold back, Col. Tell us how you really feel.

Pity poor ScoMo the most clueless Liberal PM since McMahon. His government is imploding, rotting at the core. It reeks of rotting fish and all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little band of climate change denying, environmental, ecological vandals. There are rats in the ranks and frigging in the rigging aboard HMS ScoMo-go-slow whilst civil war and insubordination breaks out over our aid to Fiji. In Victoria the blokes are crowing over their victory over Kelly O’Dwyer.

Teach her to suggest they are misogynists and bullies.  Next up: how to stop ScoMo parachuting another dud woman into Higgins. Rational spirits are flying out like a swarm of bees as chaos reigns in Morrison’s misgovernment. If he’s got any sense he’ll go for a March election – linger longer and other rats will surely quit the rotting house. Or rat on him.

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Cry me a river; the Murray-Darling is being destroyed by greed and ignorance.

A stench of putrefaction wafts over a troubled nation, this week, all the way from the tiny, dusty, outback settlement of Menindee, in far west NSW. Mass media is full of shocking images of an horrific mass fish kill in the millions and distressed, hapless, trapped wildlife; hopelessly mired in the deep mud of a dessicated  Lake Cawndilla, nearby, confronting Australia with the catastrophic failure of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, (MDBA), a $13 billion lemon.

The MDBA’s failure is a metaphor for our nation’s ruling elite, who, like Trump, inhabit the eternal now and are in politics solely to look after big cotton, big mining and their other corporate sponsors. Bugger the science. Bugger the future. Just like Trump, Melissa Price, our own climate change denying environment minister has mining connections.

The environment can look after itself.

Or not. Set up by the 2007 Water Act to rescue the basin’s fragile ecosystem, by returning water to the ailing rivers, the MDDBA, its conflicted, compromised and corrupted, dark angel, instead, is achieving “perverse outcomes” – jargon for making things worse. It is, as some locals suggest, as if we’ve put mother in a home notorious for elder abuse.

Evasiveness, secrecy and deceit, experts testify, are part of the rotten culture of the MDBA – a test case in good policy stuffed up at every turn; a clusterfuck from foundation to nearly every stage of its implementation. It’s almost (apart from the policy) in the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government DNA. Except that Labor had a spanner in the works, too.

The MDBA is  “a fraud on the environment”, Royal Commission lawyers declare, on the other hand. Put simply it has not merely watered down a noble plan whose rational aims are enshrined in The Water Act of 2007 – it has subverted it.

The Water Act 2007 recognises that too much water is being extracted from the river system and seeks to reset the balance between the amount required for human consumption and the amount needed to sustain the environment. By 2011, however, as the Royal Commission will find, The MDBA seems to have subverted the intention of the act with the support of key National Party figures including current leadership rematch contender, Barnaby Joyce.

Psst… No-one says nothing. The 2017 Royal Commission is due to report in a few weeks, but it’s stymied by states and authorities’ refusal to cooperate. Had the banks behaved in this fashion during the Hayne Royal Commission there would have been an uproar. Not so rotten in the state of Renmark, South Australia, alone, agrees to give evidence.

Unimpressed, Counsel Assisting, Richard Beasley S.C, an eminent specialist in environmental law notes, acerbically, in his summing up for the Commissioner, Brett Walker S.C., that the state governments’ submissions were,

“..either totally unhelpful or not particularly helpful.”

The MDBA itself excels in chutzpah and contempt by writing to the Commissioner saying it is unavailable because it is “busy”. Our finest scientists, on the other hand, provide the commission with a wealth of expert, testimony.

“Systematic mismanagement, cover up and maladministration has undermined the proper implementation of the Murray Darling Basin Plan”, Maryanne Slattery, a Senior Water Researcher at The Australia Institute sums up.

“Implementing the Plan for political expediency, without transparency or accountability by the Murray Darling Basin Authority, has resulted in a fraud of a Basin Plan. It has benefited big irrigators, at the expense of everyone else, including Aboriginal people, regional communities, floodplain graziers, small irrigators and the environment.

MDBA has ignored the science it was set up to apply in favour of pleasing its political masters. Now, the fish kill creates a big stink for both major parties but especially for Barnaby Joyce, former Minister for Agriculture and Water resources, who is on record boasting publicly to farmers in a Politics in the Pub-demonise a Greenie session in Shepparton, Victoria of how his mob, heroically, was able to take the water meant for the environment and return it to agriculture.

“We have taken water, put it back into agriculture, so we could look after you and make sure we don’t have the greenies running the show basically sending you out the back door, and that was a hard ask,”

Former Director of National Farmers’ Federation, Mal Peters, claims Joyce tilted the Murray-Darling Basin Authority towards irrigation interests over the environment when he was agriculture minister. It may be impossible to tilt back.

Joyce is popular with irrigators for killing off water buybacks and substituting subsidies for efficiency, effectively government handouts but efficiency reduces the run-off back into the river system with predictably disastrous effects.

Above all, “hard ask” Joyce insists on his rhetorical triple bottom line which gives economic and social needs priority over environmental; subverting the environmental aims and the entire intention of the Water Act.

“It’s a public relations sound-bite made up by the Basin Authority” says Counsel Assisting Beasley. There can be no trade-offs between environmental objectives and socio-economic ones, as the environmental objectives of the Act are subordinate to Australia’s international environmental treaty obligations. We are committed to Ramsar, a treaty to preserve wetlands, which takes its name from the small Iranian town where in 1971, the agreement was drawn up.

The Productivity Commission, notes in its recent report available in draft form – (its final report is with government on the understanding that it will be released in 2019) that cancelling buybacks has resulted in more than doubling the cost of water savings. The commission concludes that the current progress on implementing water efficiency measures “gives little confidence” they would be completed by 2024, as planned. But when will the report be released?

Joyce, Morrison’s government, the states and the authority itself show true leadership by keeping eerily shtum.

Hilariously, ScoMo, our chameleon PM becomes “Prime Minister for standards”, he declares, at the end of the week, as he cynically but shrewdly comes up with another spectacular diversion; a truly cunning stunt. Sunday, our own political head prefect decrees, that Australia Day citizenship ceremonies will be compulsory. And formal. No flip-flops.

Not only must councils run ceremonies for new Aussie citizens on Australia Day, they’ll have to hold another on 17 September. But watch what you wear. ScoMo’s bold new citizenship shindig has a dress code. No thongs and shorts. In brief, you can become an Australian at a citizenship ceremony only if you shun Australian casual national dress. It’s bonkers, but it has to be to distract from the biggest stink of the Coalition’s odoriferous last five years in office.

Bill Shorten sniggers at ScoMo’s cynical ploy. “You sort of know when Australia Day’s coming up don’t you, when a couple of weeks before we get the annual conservative outing to put politics into Australia Day,” the Labor leader tells reporters in Melbourne Sunday. “It’s what the conservatives do to keep their base happy.” As do the reactionaries.

Edicts and bad odour are no novelty to our nation’s history. Menindee also felt the full force of government authority on January 26 1935 when, during the first rally against Australia Day, twenty-five Aboriginal men were nicely told if they did not perform the role of ‘retreating Aborigines’ in a re-enactment of the First Fleet, their families would starve.

Echoing Morrison’s current concern for a good show, officials were to recruit the best singers and dancers and take them back to Sydney to perform. Their women were terrified. Ngiyaampaa elder Dr Beryl (Yunghadhu) Philp Carmichael, born and raised on the mission, was only three at the time, but her memory of the fear in the community never left her.

“Whether they were taking them away to be massacred or what, no-one knew. The community went into mourning once they were put on the mission truck,” she recalls.

Menindee is a richly resonant site, historically, politically, ecologically and countless other ways including our vast, interminable, inscrutable legacy of heroic colonial stupidity – and our forbears’ barbarous cruelty to Aboriginal peoples.

In the light of Morrison’s decree on the observance of Australia Day, another typically vacuous, bogan slogan which reveals his ignorance of his nation’s history, (“I think people want Australia Day to be Australia Day, it’s for all Australians”,) it is timely to acknowledge the testimony of Edward Wilson who wrote in The Argus, 17 March 1856,

“In less than twenty years we have nearly swept them off the face of the earth. We have shot them down like dogs. In the guise of friendship we have issued corrosive sublimate in their damper and consigned whole tribes to the agonies of an excruciating death. We have made them drunkards, and infected them with diseases which have rotted the bones of their adults, and made such few children as are born amongst them a sorrow and a torture from the very instant of their birth. We have made them outcasts on their own land, and are rapidly consigning them to entire annihilation.”

Menindee unwittingly played its role. The first town on the Darling, Menindee is the oldest, European colonial settlement in western NSW and was the advance base for Burke and Wills’ 1860 expedition, a grand folly half-cocked, a noble failure, which, not unlike the MDBA, or the Morrison government, set out before its instructions were finalised.

Today, the putrid smell of decomposing carcasses of millions of golden perch, bony herring and Murray cod drifts up over the Darling River bank and into Maiden’s Menindee Hotel whence on 19 October 1860, Robert O’Hara Burke and his third in command, William John Wills, set out into terra incognita; their fatal expedition and the beginning of the end; a shocking new chapter of disease, dispossession and genocide for the traditional owners of the land.

“It opened up the way for the pastoralists,” says Joshua Haynes from Newcastle, a director of the Yandruwandha Yawarrawarrka Traditional Land Owners Aboriginal Corporation -, “and the moment someone took up ownership of the land we could be moved on, or disposed of, just like a kangaroo.”

After the pastoralists came the irrigators; cotton and wheat farmers who took both water and land. “Without the river, us Barkandji people, we are nothing. We’ve got no land, no name, nothing. This is our lifeblood, this is our mother,”

Barkandji Elder “Badger” Bates laments in a letter read in NSW parliament by Independent MP. Jeremy Buckingham.

After waiting 18 years for their Native Title to be acknowledged, his people watch the Barka (Darling river) dry up.

Menindee, today, is thus, the site of a massive environmental disaster, a site layered with all the historical associations of dispossession, alienation and worse; of Burke and Wills grand folly, now overlaid with the folly of irrigated agriculture, unsustainable – environmentally and economically not only here, but throughout Australia. Add a failure of political will.

Big irrigators with big party donations have recruited politicians of all persuasions. It’s a dramatic, tragic reminder in microcosm of how poorly governments of a corporate state have mismanaged energy, environment and health for example when too much power resides in a few massive corporations and oligopolies. Yet we don’t lack in ideas.

In 2006, a meeting of western NSW mayors, chaired by local state MP Peter Black, voted for the Commonwealth to buy the 96,000 hectare Cubbie Station, in southwestern Queensland, the largest landholding in the nation and also the biggest irrigation property in the southern hemisphere, enjoying rights to 400,000 megalitres of water, equivalent to all the water licences downstream in north-west NSW, but it was sold to a Chinese-led consortium. It’s a scandal.

There were two Australian bids on the table, both more generous than the $240 million winning bid, as the ABC’s Stephen Long reported on Radio National’s PM programme in 2012. At the time Fairfax’s Ann Kent puzzled,

“There is something odd about Australia. Our politicians expend huge resources and even more hot air wrangling over how to exclude a pitifully small number of legitimate Asian and Middle Eastern refugees from our shores, while they allow, almost without a murmur, the purchase of Cubbie Station, the largest landholding in the country, comprising a number of properties the size of the ACT, by a consortium headed by a Chinese enterprise, Shandong Ruyi.”

What’s not odd is the all too familiar way authorities rush to scapegoat. They duck and weave to evade responsibility. In this popular political pantomime, it is forbidden to admit the role of climate change or of disastrous mismanagement.

Officials are quick to claim the fish are killed by a toxic algal bloom but locals say the primary cause of the catastrophe is poor water management and irrigation agriculture. The drought and algal bloom are secondary stressors on a system which has failed to use water specially allocated to protect the foundations of the river’s aquatic ecosystems.

“Droughts would have contributed to the blue green algae outbreak,” says Richard Kingsford, Director of the Centre for Ecosystem Science at the University of NSW,  “But the river droughts are happening more often and they’re more intense as a result of the irrigation industry in the Darling diverting water from the river over the last 10 to 20 years.”

Leading scientists agree.

The NSW Irrigators Council would have us believe it is all about the drought. It isn’t. It about taking too much water upstream so there is not enough for downstream users, and the fish,” says Professor Quentin Grafton, UNESCO Chair in Water Economics and Transboundary Water Governance.

What would Grafton know? He’s just a scientist. In the media show which follows, it’s all the fault of the drought of course. In a rare display of synchronised swimming, Agriculture and Water Resources Minister, climate change denier David “don’t give a rat’s” Littleproud, ducks for cover, as does his counterpart, NSW Primary Industries and Water Resources Minister Niall Blair in a hilarious visit to Menindee, where he is seen in a boat speeding past a group of local protestors – only for safety reasons, of course, a technicality which local police do not support.

Unsafe at any speed, The MDBA has, of course, long been warned by scientists that things are hotting up in the basin; hotter periods are lasting longer. Climate change can happen very rapidly and abruptly. Even to denialists.

NSW Labor wants a special inquiry into the ecological catastrophe – as if there’s been no Royal Commission. They want a commission or an inquiry to determine why the Liberals and Nationals sought “changes to water rules that reduced river flows and allowed the over-extraction of water by lobbyist irrigators who were National Party donors”, while ignoring warnings from the Wentworth Group of Scientists and local communities.

Professor John Quiggan has the last word by reminding us that irrigation never was the solution. He notes that agricultural economists recognised long ago that the environment in Australia, especially in areas like Menindee, was not suited to irrigated agriculture. Yet, as he wryly notes, the converse recognition, that irrigation schemes are often disastrous for the environment, came much later. Or as in the case of the MDBA, or the National Party not at all.

The stink from Menindee ought to be enough to bring down any respectable government. On the other hand, it is clearly capable of distracting the Morrison government into outrageous, ill-considered and divisive stunts like his new edict for Australia Day.

In all the fizz and the fuss over the fiasco that is the MDBA debacle, not to mention the frenzy of finding scapegoats and blame-shifting and just plain lying it is worth taking a longer, broader view especially as Australia Day approaches, albeit still on the 26 January. Above all it is worth recalling the rights and the role of the traditional owners of the land and their suffering both past and present – for it far surpasses, in all dimensions, the losses of the corporate cotton farmer.

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Women are the forgotten people of the modern Liberal Party.

Often, when good women call out or are subject to bad behaviour, the reprisals, backlash and commentary portrays them as the bad ones – the liar, the troublemaker, the emotionally unstable or weak, or someone who should be silenced …” Julia Banks, former Liberal, now Independent MP for Chisholm.

Julia Banks’ resignation speech is eerily prophetic. Spooky. In a flash, this week, a pack of Liberal women call her a liar – in effect. Worse, at least one of the women, Senator Linda Reynolds, is a victim of political bullying herself. So she says – but she’s happy for ScoMo to sort it all out. Naturally, he’ll pass it all on to an “independent” review.

In September, he told the party room the federal executive “would consider how they will take steps to ensure there is a rigorous and confidential process to deal with concerns and complaints from party members, including members of parliament”.

But he’s also declined to take any responsibility for the bullying, a dead give away, or, reports Fairfax’s Latika Bourke, to back allegations of bullying against female MPs during the leadership spill. His cop-out, his abdication of any kind of leadership, is that “both men and women were subjected to intense pressure during the episode”.

Even more alarming, is the way Reynolds quickly finds another MP to undermine Banks’ testimony with disinformation, an evergreen propaganda technique which can only further weaken our democracy.

Banks doesn’t know what she’s talking about snipes MP for Corangamite, Sarah Henderson. “In my view, being lobbied for votes does not constitute bullying,”

Henderson deploys the classic bully technique of invalidating the victim’s testimony by misrepresentation and selective misquotation.

“I can’t walk in anyone else’s shoes; I can only speak about my experience. But I can certainly say that being lobbied for votes is an integral part of a political process and it does not constitute bullying.”

No, Sarah. What Banks has trouble with is “supposed colleagues, “sniping” behind her back, spreading malicious rumours and then trying to shut her up by hustling her out of their way with an all-expenses-paid posting to New York. She accuses supporters of Victorian Liberal powerbroker Michael Kroger of backgrounding against her.

“There wasbackgrounding that I was an emotional wreck.”

Julia’s experiences deserve to be shared. There is a truth in her simple testimony that the bullies just cannot explain away and a Prime Minister exposed as a gutless wonder.

“The Liberal Party can be proud of its record on women,” Reynolds insists in The Australian. “Reform may be slow but it’s solid,” she claims in a whopper that monsters all credibility. It’s pernicious, too, with its Trump-like, duplicity- its utter contempt for truth. First fake news, now fake views. But how easily are we seduced?

Oddly, only last August, at the time of Turnbull’s knifing, Reynolds was “deeply saddened and distressed”.

The behaviour of some had “no place in [her] party or this chamber”. By contrast, she notes, “I greatly respect my friend and colleague Julia Banks who is an outstanding local member and a woman of great integrity.”

You can’t polish a turd. “Great integrity” won’t help there, either, Linda. The Liberal record is damning.

What is “solid” about a party that only gives female candidates seats they are unlikely to win? What is there to be “proud” of? Last election, only three women Liberal candidates, out of thirty-eight, were pre-selected for safe seats. With Banks’ defection, only 12 of the Coalition’s lower house of 74 are women.

Six may not survive May’s election, given many of the 12 are marginal  – and against record disaffection. News poll has the Coalition primary vote at 35%, lowest in the poll’s history, four months from an election. Labor is on 41%.

Oddly, Scott Morrison is upbeat, riffing about coming back like Whyalla. It’s a whole new trope for him. No-one has the heart to explain that Whyalla steel’s new owner, UK billionaire, Sanjeev Gupta, who’s made a fortune snapping up steel companies in the old Dart, others wouldn’t touch with a pair of tongs, is installing 780,000 solar panels.

Some UK papers report that bankers wonder whether Gupta has “too many plates in the air”, a very British way of hinting – (not that ScoMo or his work experience treasurer would listen) – that the brilliant billionaire whose plans rely on the heavy involvement of key Chinese corporations in Whyalla’s comeback may be a tad undercapitalised.

Whyalla Norrie and Port Augusta, along with Nullarbor and Coober Pedy have some of the highest rates of domestic violence offences in the state of South Australia. Police responses are, however, improving in both quality and promptness – but longer-term support such as mental-health therapy for victims – often falls by the wayside because of lack of resources. For this, the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government is responsible.

Tanya Plibersek is quick to instance some other ways the Coalition is culpable. “The Liberals argued against increases to the minimum wage that substantially benefit women … and they also tried to cut around $35m from Community Legal Centres that provide crucial legal services to family violence victims.”

No politician could possibly be proud of the national statistics. There is a war on women. Domestic violence? Try male violence. One woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner. Nine women were killed last October, seven allegedly in the context of a current or former intimate relationship.

One in three women has experienced violence since the age of fifteen. Intimate partner violence is the greatest health risk factor for women aged 25-44.

Indigenous women are 45 times more likely to experience violence than non-Indigenous women. The severity of the violence is also greater, with higher rates of hospitalisation. Yet for all women, there is no sign of action by government or any authority to effectively deal with the crisis.

Awareness campaigns such as the Federal Government’s Let’s stop it at the start are relatively easy to run and can help increase public understanding but changing public attitudes to violence is the critical challenge. And so far it has proved hardest to accomplish. A key factor, sadly, is the strength and persistence of victim-blaming.

Awareness campaigns are no time to be diverted by those who ask why male victims are overlooked. Men need to become a voice in this fight. Experts suggest that as role models, men’s voices are crucial in calling out violence against women. Any voice. Some campaigns explore holding the general public accountable for preventing.

Queensland’s #dosomething campaign, works along these lines. Similarly, Victoria has its Respect Women: Call it Out campaign. Yet there is no sign of any practical initiatives from the federal government. Just cuts to funds for refuges and advisors.

Silke Meyer, Senior Lecturer in Domestic and Family Violence Practice CQ University Australia writes in The ConversationIn order to make domestic violence everyone’s business rather than an issue solely for women, awareness campaigns need to follow these examples.”

“More importantly, they need to address how perpetrators manipulate victims, their families and their communities, and how we all play a role in speaking out against such violence”.

To the privileged, sheltered, old white males who run the party under instruction from their sponsors and who mould its patriarchal culture, gender inequality is like social and economic inequality. Or like climate change. Or renewable power. Not only does it not exist, or not work, it’s heresy to maintain otherwise.

It’s a threat to their world view, a denialist fantasy which in many cases hasn’t changed since the good old days the MP attended St Ignatius College, Riverview, for example, the exclusive Jesuit day and boarding school on the Lane Cove River, where senior tuition plus boarding fees costs $49,520 P.A. Both Joyce and Abbott are old boys.

There are few signs that their schooling helped them understand or relate to women but there are key events which can help us understand their real attitudes and values. One fertile example will suffice.

At Sydney University in 1977, an enraged Tony Abbott punched the wall either side of the head of Barbara Ramjan, his young student political opponent, when he was miffed at losing a student representative council vote.  Despite Ramjan’s sworn affidavit Abbott denies the incident. Old pal and Donald Trump fan, The Australian‘s Greg Sheridan supports him. “It was inconceivable”, he writes – and besides “there were no witnesses”.

In the 1970s, Menzies era throwback, Tony Abbott, set the Liberal benchmark on gender equality,

“I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons.”

Abbott’s on-air rubbishing of the Human Rights Commission’s bright idea that women should have equal representation on boards last year, shows he hasn’t changed his views much. When the HRC proposed that company boards work towards a 40:40:20 representation, the Riverview old-boy was outraged. King of wittering talkback 2GB’s Ray Hadley was dead keen to broadcast to his equally threatened old white male fans.

“Obviously we have to give women a fair go, but some of this stuff sounds like it’s just anti-men,” rants Abbot. “There are lots of things we can’t change but one thing we should never do is fail to call out politically correct rubbish.”

The “anti-men” canard may be an expression of Abbott’s own fear of women but even from a former PM, it is a dog-whistle, a covert and inflammatory signal to similarly threatened or misogynistic men to abandon all attempt at reforming their hostility to women. It is a shameful, reprehensible remark.

Proud of its record? When, in 2013, Tony Abbott made himself Minister for Women, a clear gesture of contempt for women in itself, (Michaelia Cash was to be his assistant), he promptly discontinued the Women’s Budget Statement, a measure of accountability and justice which now falls to volunteers to compile.

Gender bias towards men is inevitable in a budget which chooses to avoid explaining its impact on women. In March 2015, Abbott’s government then stripped $300 million from women’s legal services domestic violence advice and casework services and refuges. Some found themselves turning women away who couldn’t pay.

This year, the Coalition does highlight budget measures of interest to women in its 2018 Budget statement ‘Women’s Economic Capability and Leadership’. But it’s not a gender-based analysis of proposed policies, it’s a quick tick-and-flick list of initiatives that may benefit women.

As for reform, a weasel-word now used to denote any change while trading on the connotation of improvement, as in calling tax cuts for the rich tax “reforms”. The Australia Institute finds that men get twice the benefit from the income tax cuts compared to women – because men dominate the ranks of high-income earners. Previous spending cuts mainly disadvantage women because women are bigger beneficiaries of government services.

As for the Coalition’s sainted record on women,  Tanya Plibersek retorts,

Over the last five years, all Scott Morrison and the Liberals have done is deliver policies that disadvantage women. The Liberals tried five times to slash paid parental leave, and called working mums ‘rorters’ and ‘double dippers’.

Not to mention the defunding of women’s refuges and local legal aid centres. As Eliza Berlage writes, “in its 2018 budget the government could map out the costings of a seven-year tax cut package but wouldn’t secure that same forecast period of funding for frontline domestic violence services.

Plibersek could add much more. Household income is lower than it was in 2011. Part-time and multiple poorly-paid or casual, insecure jobs with too few hours now dominate our economy. 69% of part-time workers are women. Of 12.5 million workers in the workforce there are now at least 2 million casuals.

Underemployment, underpayment and even wage theft are becoming the norm for Australian workers and it is women who bear the brunt of the decline in wages, conditions and job security. Most commonly, it is the woman who must seek further casual work to pay the bills – on top of her regular work and work in the home.

Last July, Fair Work inspectors forced business to pay $472,000 to 616 employees after their audit of the hospitality industry in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. 72 percent of businesses had underpaid their employees.

The Coalition has helped keep wages at record lows by such means as stacking the Fair Work Commission with representatives affiliated with employers. Low wages may help boost profits in the short term but in the long term it is a recipe for social and economic decline. Raising wages boosts both family security and the economy.

Banks’ testimony and the accounts of other women MPs bullied during Turnbull’s political assassination, last August, are an indictment on the Liberal party. The women were betrayed; their silence bought by promise of an independent inquiry, as Kellie O’Dwyer insisted, which has ended up as a review. It will go nowhere.

Yet it won’t go away. As the new year begins Scott Morrison must deal with the albatross around his government’s neck. His own neck. Or is he bullying women into claiming there is no bullying? Or at least persuading them to collude in the cover-up of a toxic Liberal Party bullying culture by propagandising that women get a wonderful deal?

It’s alarming to see Linda Reynolds, who complained of being bullied in August now leading a group of women who contend, bizarrely against all evidence  that the Liberal Party has done more women than Labor. What pressure are they under? What threats or promises have been made?

How have they been coerced into taking this stance? Or are they, as Jenna Price suggests, victims of Stockholm syndrome, in thrall to their captors and abusers?

One thing is certain. The Coalition’s unfair treatment of women in its own party, coupled with revelations of a culture of bullying and intimidation, if not misogyny, will cost it dearly at the next election. Its failure to craft policy to significantly advance the cause of gender equality and its shameful failure over its five years in office to address the crisis of male violence towards women – beyond raising awareness campaigns is reprehensible.

The truth is inescapable: women are the forgotten people of the modern Liberal Party yet without women’s support, the Liberals will be out of power for a long time.

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Liberal bullying culture is all the way to the top, ScoMo.

 

 

The year can’t end quickly enough for the series of cunning stunts masquerading as a Morrison government.

Topping its epic series of diversions, evasions and sensational stuff-ups – and hastening its end, is its curtain call brawl; a spectacular bit of Biffo.  Peter Dutton pops up centre stage. He publicly attacks Julia Banks and Malcolm Turnbull. Why? Is the public brawling an orchestrated show of disunity; another stunt? Or is Dutto making his run?

Labor’s Amanda Rishworth ponders whether the comments are sanctioned by ScoMo or merely Dutto freelancing.

Who would know? Sean Kelly in The Monthly writes a detailed and persuasive case for considering the cagey and evasive Morrison our invisible Prime Minister who has developed techniques to erase himself from the frame.

Events occur, but Morrison’s involvement is passive, tangential, almost accidental. He may be the minister, but he is not an instigator, only a vessel through which others’ bidding is done. If you are Scott Morrison, it is even possible to become prime minister without any agency on your part. And, today, it is Dutton who takes the blame.

Liberal MPs “left” and right are unimpressed, calling the attack “selfish” and “arrogant” according to Rick Morton in The Australian . Off-record, one generously calls Peter Dutton “fucking dumb” for bagging Julia Banks.

Liberal MPs “lament the last chance at a reset” according to Amy Remeikis In The Guardian. That’s impossible. No-one admits this government was never “set” in the first place. It is a remarkable series of policy collapses informed only by expediency, the ruthlessly cynical pragmatism encompassed by the Trumpian phrase “whatever works”.

Another accuses Dutton of reminding voters “why they are sick of us.” This, too, taps into the fatuous narrative that the government would be a runaway success if only it could stop talking about itself and get its message out. It’s all a matter of communication. Abbott echoed the same nonsense.

A series of respectable national opinion polls show voters get the message all right and they don’t like it – especially on social welfare, the effective cap on wage growth, environment and energy, kids on Nauru.

The glib dismissals also indirectly serve to highlight the poverty at the heart of the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government. There are few policies or practical achievements to celebrate unless we’re suddenly in love with a data encryption bill rushed through on the last day of parliament which experts say is unnecessary, unworkable and a risk to our personal and national security.

What is clear is that the Coalition is tearing itself apart. A March election date firms as its least worst option.

Will Dutto be checked by a ScoMo™ show? Many PM performances self-abort. Nothing, however, will ever top the PM Poppadom’s Curry, a dazzling image and brilliantly-timed injection of esprit de corps in his recent secret dash to Iraq to inspire our soldiers and the nation – (PM-troop pep talks are traditionally for domestic consumption).

Our army is like a curry? Morrison is a poppadom? Food for thought. As with most things Morrison, it gets worse.

“I’m here to be part of the great collaborative curry by association despite having not contributed to the mix of flavours in any way. The alternative is potato though.”

No Australian Prime Minister has ever presented himself in this way. The troops stare at him in stunned disbelief. Or are they just relieved that a PM who can send them to war, with the backing of a servile cabinet, is not Dutton?

Only ScoMo™ could try to persuade anyone that the ADF has a “collaborative culture”. Least of all members of a ranked, class-conscious ADF.  Officers eat after their troops. Yearn to be called ‘boss’. Yet it’s complex. Officers shun tattoos and choose their personal car carefully, lest they be labelled as having ‘other rank tendencies’.

We have around four thousand war memorials in Australia. None depicts an officer. Or a poppadom. Or a potato.

Morrison stuns the troops into silence by his riff. “And I see myself as the poppadom, bland and uninteresting by myself, unpalatable really”. Shire genius, ScoMo, plumbs new depths of faux self-abasement. Fools no-one.

But he does get the “unpalatable” right, if only where his own, emetic, political self is concerned. Who can forget when, in 2014, he accused Save The Children advocates of coaching refugee children on Nauru in self-harm?

“Making false claims, and worse, allegedly coaching self-harm and using children in protests is unacceptable.”

“Bland uninteresting and unpalatable?” Now, that’s sure to win hearts and minds as much as it will outrage Australia’s many poppadom aficionados. Nothing tops a public display of incompetence quite like false humility. No wonder, Dutton sees his main chance. ScoMo™’s pose as a hopeless liability is a national embarrassment.

Time to kick a few goals, Dutton decides. Or heads. He’s on a hiding to nothing in Dixon as things stand.

When the going gets tough, the tough go for the vulnerable. Dutton bags Banks and Turnbull for their treachery.

Of course it’s the victims’ fault, especially Julia Banks. The MP for Chisholm is in the gun for everything she’s said and done since calling the Liberals a pack of “heartless bullies”, in a “party riven by personal ego trips” where MPs bully and intimidate to get their way in last week’s Women’s Weekly.  And then there’s Malcolm Turnbull.

Turnbull is the political pantomime villain Libs love to hate. Now, as everything goes on to hell in a handbasket, Dutto, at least, has a chance to let rip. The 2016 election fiasco? The loss of Wentworth? All those dud Newspolls? Turnbull’s to blame for everything. Above all, he is to blame for being Malcolm – not just a leftie but a dud.

“Malcolm had a plan to become Prime Minister but no plan to be Prime Minister,” snipes Dutton. Dutto’s own plan to be PM failed spectacularly when his numbers man, Finance Minister Matt (Turncoat) Cormann couldn’t count any better than Dutto –  but in postmodern, Trumpian politics – hypocrisy is the new moral high ground.

Legalists triumph in such times. Note, Dutton never said he himself had no plan to be PM. As for becoming PM, what we are witnessing, may, in fact, be his own run-up to toppling a PM who sees himself as a poppadom.

Peter “dog-whistle” Dutton chooses Sunday to join Andrew Bolt in the bully pulpit, our national media, a one stop shop for consumers of “the national conversation” or everything you need to be told on politics, dominated by ex-pat Rupert Murdoch with the generous assistance of the Australian tax-payer and the Australian government.

Bolt and Dutton’s bullying of Banks is a concerted, public attack on the MP’s credibility and integrity. Or what’s left of it. Banks massively damaged her own credibility, herself, with her claim in May that she could live on $40 a day, effectively actively supporting Coalition bullying and intimidation of job-seekers on Newstart.

Labor clearly agrees. Despite its recent national convocation and Shorten’s sermon on the Torrens, in its carefully stage-managed national conference, all it will commit to is a “root and branch review” of Newstart payments. Be its cause political timidity, or neoliberal thinking, the result is to vitiate its historical commitment to welfare.

Surely the party whose Curtin government created unemployment benefits in 1943 and who made the first payments in 1945 would do well to heed its current obligation. Or reflect on Ben Chifley’s 1946 observation.

I cannot forget how miserable those hundreds of thousands of men must have felt when they went back each night to their families after tramping the streets all day in search of work.

Unemployment averaged 2% in 1946. Last month, pollster Roy Morgan, who bases his figures on gainful employment rather than one hour’s work a week, calculates that, “in total 2,333,000 Australians (17.2% of the workforce) were either unemployed or under-employed in November, a decrease of 61,000 in a year (down 1%). 

But Dutto’s detonation is a spectacular diversion, especially to Morrison, who is now even losing the seniors’ approval in the latest Newspoll. Now, 45% of voters over 50 are dissatisfied with his performance, according to the poll – a drop of ten percent from the only group to show approval when he knifed Malcolm Turnbull in August.

Public infighting beats backstabbing. It is so much more cathartic.  But will it prove politically useful, to either combatants or their party? Some insiders believe Dutton’s latest stunt is carefully orchestrated; stage-managed.

For former PM Kevin07™, it is simply a case of Rupert Murdoch putting his pet candidate forward. He tweets.

Wonderful to see the Murdoch boys at work in all Sunday papers in a nation-wide puff-piece on their poster boy Dutton. The man who boycotted the Apology to appeal to racists. And was supposed to be Murdoch’s man in the Lodge. Now they’re trying to rehabilitate him & save his seat.”

Is Dutton a stalking horse for Abbott?  The Home Affairs Minister dismisses the question; preferring to set and answer one of his own. No. Nor is he making the running for any right wing “bible-basher”.

Banks, a staunch Turnbull loyalist, is not Dutton’s only victim. He savages his ex-boss but includes the odd compliment. Turnbull is “incompetent and spiteful” yet a “gracious and charming man” who “doesn’t have a political bone in his body”, Dutto generously tells the Brisbane’s Sunday Mail. Others also have knives to twist.

Banks’ eloquent, revealing account of how she was driven out of the party by the way she was bullied during the Morrison leadership coup last August appears in this week’s Women’s Weekly. Her story reveals Liberal bullying

Adding to the distraction, former Liberal MP, Julia Banks tells The Women’s Weekly how the “bullying” and “madness” at the heart of the Morrison government caused her to cross the floor to become an Independent. She gives a damaging account, moreover, of how the right-wing “reactionaries” seized control. She names names.

“It was all driven from Tony Abbott’s opposition,” explains Julia. “Tony Abbott, Peter Dutton, Greg Hunt – that whole program to knife Malcolm was driven by and led by them.”

Top Gun, Peter (Dog-whistle) Dutton, is scrambled. In a trademark deflection, he puts the boot into Labor. Again. (After all, his Great African Gang crisis of 2018 worked so well for his Victorian colleagues.)

“Under Labor, terrorists couldn’t be strip­ped of their citizenship. This government has now stripped Aust­ralian citizenship from 12, and our country is safer as a result.”

Both demean the Turnbull supporter, now an independent, by accusing her of lying out of self-interest.

“It just didn’t happen and it has been used by Julia as an excuse to leave the party because she was upset about Malcolm losing the leadership and her not being promoted to the Ministry under Scott.

It is pure and simple a case of sour grapes and it deserves to be called out. We need more women in politics but to suggest we have a bullying problem is ridiculous.”

Dutton inadvertently, reveals the very misogyny, bullying and intimidation, from reactionaries, that Banks and other women MPs claim is entrenched in Liberal party and federal Coalition culture.

Banks is moved by Dutton’s allegations to retweeting (off the record) a cabinet minister’s view that the Queensland MP is “just an egotistical moron who lacks self-awareness”.

Luckily, other scapegoating stunts are available to ScoMo’s government. A Home Affairs Minister can do a lot these days, especially after the data encryption bill was rushed through parliament on its last sitting day.

Bernard Keane warns that, “The encryption laws, designed to target terrorism, could allow security agencies to trick suspects into giving up access to their private messages, effectively robbing them of the privilege against self-incrimination, and also give law enforcement the ability to circumvent the need to obtain a warrant.”

Keane also quotes President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties Pauline Wright’s concern. “There’s been a massive amount of legislation passed that prior to then would have been unthinkable. There have been incursions into freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of movement, right to protest, all basic legal rights that underpin our democracy”.

Wright maintains that we now have more national security laws and harsher laws than any other western nations.

Neil Prakash, the nation’s star ISIS recruit, is stripped of his Australian citizenship this week by Dutton. Because he can. Because the Morrison government desperately needs a diversion from Broadgate. How could ScoMo™ not have been told by his own department of the scandal surrounding Andrew Broad, MP for Mallee over his alleged use of a dating website dating to seek out a sugar baby? It beggars belief.

“Broadgate” is the noxious miasma emanating from ScoMo™’s office after its incredible claim it knew early in December of Andrew Broad’s alleged attempted philandering but kept mum about the sugar daddy with their boss, the Prime Minister of Australia. For two whole weeks.

Incredible? “A long stretch” says Anthony Albanese, but, if true, evidence of the Morrison government’s acute dysfunction. Perhaps they didn’t want to over-tax ScoMo™. After all, he’s got an image makeover. Gone are the rimless spectacles and the suburban dad gear. Pictured talking to the Iraqi PM. ScoMo’s sports a look upgrade; new, open-necked shirt and pants – RM Williams boots, even, in Iraq. So much more like Malcolm’s wardrobe.

Of course, it may be that ScoMo™’s deputy PM, “Major Malfunction” Michael McCormack, ineffectual even in a token role, felt he needed to “support” Broad, if not collude with him, to curry favour with his right-wing critics.

The Nationals party room which Joyce created give Macca stick for not being Barnaby. It’s not looking good for the deputy PM, who, as Paddy Manning notes, “is being circled by a miraculously rehabilitated Barnaby Joyce”.

Today, The Courier-Mail reports that he has a “target on his back” as colleagues accused him of hiding Broad’s “sugar babe” scandal to protect himself from being rolled.

The year ends with a government at war with itself. Revealed also explicitly and implicitly is the entrenched bullying culture in the Liberal Party that Scott Morrison promised he would set up a review to deal with.

Those who have any doubts as to why progress has been glacial, need only read Julia Banks’ account. This taken together with Peter Dutton’s recent attack on Banks and Turnbull – implicitly condoned by ScoMo -suggest that the culture of bullying in the current parliamentary Liberal Party reaches all the way to the top.

Dutton’s recent bullying of Banks and Turnbull confirms that Morrison is either without judgement or authority. Or both. It is inexcusable and will accelerate the Liberal party’s electoral decline; impede its election preparations. The fish rots from the head down.

“We’re into big ideas; they’re in New Idea”.

“It’s fun to shoot some people,” Defence Secretary Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis notoriously remarked in 2005.

“Actually it’s quite fun to fight them, you know. It’s a hell of a hoot … I’ll be right up there with you. I like brawling.” Mattis says, bringing a little Tarantino, perhaps, to a panel discussion in San Diego, California.

A Marine general voicing his enjoyment of killing causes military members of the audience to laugh and clap.

More worryingly, Mattis goes on to become famous as the Trump’s administration “only adult in the room”.

This week, Mattis exits; slams the door. Trump is pulling 2000 US troops out of Syria; 7000 will leave Afghanistan. It’s two steps too far. Mattis quits his post in a “Dear Mr President” letter of resignation and protest.

Adult to the end, Mad Dog drops fifty copies of his resignation letter around the Pentagon. As you do. Helene Cooper notes in The New York Times, it’s the most public condemnation of Trump’s isolationism the president has ever received from his administration. Mattis ups the ante; throws down a back-handed challenge.

“While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies.”

Trump hates the letter. He is particularly hurt by the widespread view that he sometimes needs adult day-care.

“We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there,” he tweets. It’s a full four Pinocchio on The Washington Post Scale after failing to persuade any senior Pentagon figure to publicly back his withdrawal. Or lie for him in his war on the truth.

Official White House fabulist, mythomaniac Sarah Saunders is left to spin Trump’s tweet. She settles for ‘clarifying’ that the recall of US troops over the next 2-4 months will mark a ‘transition to the next phase of the campaign’ against IS.

It’s standard Saunders’ Orwellian double-speak. Trump’s abrupt, unilateral withdrawal of US troops from Syria is more chilling. It illustrates, again, just how much US policy and power rest largely on the whim of one man-child.

Trump thrives on chaos and disruption, of course. He’s desperate to distract from Mueller’s investigation. He’ll do anything to evade the net. And in January, he’ll have to account to a Democrat Congress. They’ll ask for his tax returns. These may well expose his links with Putin’s government. But there are many other hazards.

CNN suggests that virtually every House investigatory committee will pursue something from his administration.

Even worse, no longer can he count on the Republican majority in the Senate as any guarantee of united support.

North Carolina’s senator Richard Burr, Republican chair of the senate intelligence committee, releases two independent analyses, this week explaining how Russia’s Internet Research Agency, (IRA) was able to use hacking and disinformation strategies to help Trump get elected and later boost his presidency.

On the other hand, Patrick Lawrence, queries the reality of the troop withdrawal. The Washington Post and other papers report that Raqqa “unofficially” has 4000 US troops, which control virtually a third of Syria. In September, these troops were told they were to remain until the Syrian conflict ended, as a bulwark against Iran.

Luckily for Australia, our troops in Iraq still get a visit from Scott Morrison (Afghanistan is too dangerous). ScoMo is photographed handing out a couple of deflated footballs as part a stunning pep talk-presentation. But will the soldiers get time to pump them up – let alone have a game? ScoMo is in the dark on Trump’s latest new world order.

As becomes an ally “joined at the hip” to the US, the Morrison government responds to America’s troop withdrawals with a vow that Australia will continue to hold the line, (whatever or wherever that may be).

The Weekend Australian runs the spin that Scott Morrison, Christopher Pyne and Marise Payne promise Australia will continue to hold the line with international partners, including the US and NATO. In other words, no-one has a clue what to do.

“Australia will continue to provide security, humanitarian and development assistance in the ­region.’’

There’s a good side. Happily taking selfies with soldiers means that ScoMo cannot field questions regarding Andrew Broad or George Christensen’s claim that his eight innocent trips to the Philippines are subject to a “vile and defamatory smear campaign”.

Broad says he won’t stand as Nationals candidate for Mallee in the light of his “sugar daddy” scandal which involves his visiting Hong Kong in September to hook up with a sugar baby almost twenty years his junior. He’s only done once and they didn’t have sex. The liaison is arranged via a website, “Seeking Arrangements”

Broad’s story appears in veteran celebrity gossip magazine, New Idea, this Monday. He subsequently steps down; issues a statement as any sugar daddy would.

Broad’s statement blames the media. “After recent media stories about my private life, it is clear that the people of Mallee will be best served in the next parliament by a different Nationals candidate.”

Proving, surely, that travel broadens the mind, is the fact that the member for Mallee was one of the first to criticise his former leader, Nationals’ Barnaby Joyce when details of Joyce’s affair with his staffer became public.

Broad does pay back a $400 internal airfare in case you think he’s misused funds but there is a bit of a fuss when a Guardian Australia article shows that he and George have been guilty of copying and pasting their fact-finding reports. It’s not a good look.

More damning is that his current National Party leader, the dynamic Michael McCormack knew about the matter six weeks ago, a fact which seems to slip his memory. McCormack’s explanation for not bothering Scott Morrison who learns about sugar daddy only this week, is that the PM was too busy.

“I don’t tell the prime minister everything about every member of parliament. He’s got enough on his mind at the moment and quite frankly I thought it was a matter for Andrew to sort out with his family.”

Naturally, Christensen chooses to defend himself in a Facebook post, Saturday morning, as his response to media recent media reports about AFP blackmail concerns over an unnamed federal MP visiting seedy neighbourhoods overseas notorious for drugs and prostitution. The whole affair is the work of his political opponents.

The allegations were “mainly” spread by a former senior government MP and one of his former senior staff members, he says he’s been told. He does not identify either. As for any allegations about him made to the AFP, these are vexatious, fake and made by a “senior Labor MP”, he says. That clears that up then.

On the lookout for fake Labor, or forged unity, scribes attend an over-orchestrated Labor gang show in Adelaide.

“Managed to an inch of its life”, sniffs Michelle Grattan. On the nose is The Fair Go, Labor’s 48th National Conference-travelling salvation show, which winds up beyond peak puke in North Terrace, Adelaide, city of Light, Tuesday. Newly ordained life member, Kevin Rudd, bestows a tongue-in-cheek benediction on his mortal enemies.

“You know, we had our occasional disagreements … Just here and there, at the margins, but you know something, we all have written our bit and I just have a simple suggestion: Let’s let history be the judge of these things.”

Rudd also jogs history’s elbow by reminding Labor that Murdoch is not so much a news organisation as a political party, warning Bill Shorten that “dealing with the Murdoch mafia is … like dealing with a daily evisceration”. We’ll take his word for it.

It is true that his press loves to hammer Labor but the experience in Victoria recently shows that voters ignored the trumped-up nonsense about African gangs and how a Liberal government would restore law and order and other fictions. Do his papers have the influence they once did? Or did they ever have the influence they claim?

Murdoch may like to style himself as a king-maker but two Australian academics disagree. Rodney Tiffen and David McKnight, argue that while his media outlets routinely excoriate Labor, Murdoch is more likely to trust in his political intuition; sniff the political wind before he makes a case for backing the favourite.

Even then, he insists that he’s not responsible for what his editors may write. (As if they don’t pick up his views.)

Perceptions do matter, nevertheless. Andrew Probyn argues that when Murdoch concluded Malcolm Turnbull was a dud, it rattled the then Prime Minister.

Probyn then reconstructs the infamous “Malcolm’s got to go” meeting where Rupert Murdoch is reported to have told Kerry Stokes, “We have got to get rid of Malcolm. If that’s the price of getting rid of him then I can put up with three years of Labor.” The Australian Financial Review reported a remarkably similar story.

Even accepting that Murdoch is shrewd rather than all-powerful, there are, nevertheless, changes in the complexion of Australian print and electronic media since Fairfax’s corporate merger with Nine, attracted by Stan and Domain and little else, is likely to lead to more cuts to journalism and a drift to the right, with a senior Liberal, Peter Costello taking over the nation’s biggest media company.

Then there’s recent confirmation of active interference by the Coalition in the ABC, with pressure on the national broadcaster not to be critical of government policy while savagely slashing budgets to help ensure compliance.

None of this seems to unduly bother Labor’s 48th conference. It survives some desperate attempts at upstaging on Monday by the government’s MYEFO castles in the air future surplus and hint of income tax cuts stunt – self-sabotaged also by the member for Mallee’s sugar daddy broadside – prompting a zinger from Deputy, Tanya Plibersek – “We’re into big ideas, they’re in New Idea.”

There are some bold proposals. Shorten commits a Labor government to subsidise the building of 250,000 homes for low and middle-income earners over ten years, even if it is not prepared to raise Newstart or to increase the age pension or fix a liveable minimum wage.  Ensuring the Fair Work Commission was not unfairly stacked with employers’ representatives might help with core issue of the suppression of fair and reasonable wage increases, too.

A pledge to fund 15 hours a week of subsidised preschool for every three-year old, acknowledges the importance of early learning, but fails to include a ParentsNext scheme reform that will not see young mothers forced to attend activities such as playgroup or swimming lessons to keep their parenting payments.

Nor is there any hint of a recall of the RoboDebt programme and a reform of other Centrelink demands on low-paid workers’ time.

Among other worthy but often general aims, James Button includes the following in his report of the conference:

“New funds for schools and TAFE, a commitment to higher pay for “feminised industries” such as child, disability and aged care, and restored penalty rates for 700,000 workers. 

While it’s promising to learn “The refugee intake would be lifted over time from 18,750 to 32,000” It’s inexcusable that the aim to empty offshore detention centres on Manus and Nauru cannot be made effective immediately.

Similarly, it’s distressing to learn that asylum boat turn-backs are a policy now accepted by the party’s Left. These are neither legal nor humane. As it is, it’s enough to drive Peter Dutton nuts as evident in his wild attack on Bill Shorten – still the best game in town amongst the Liberal right wing. Dutton sneers.

“In fact what he has committed to is unravelling Operation Sovereign Borders – the Coalition’s successful policy – that stopped the boats after Labor’s last disastrous term in government.”

Dutton must believe Australians can’t read the reports of bullying in the ABF or the tragic reality of suicide amongst its staff. He also assumes, contrary to opinion poll evidence, that the old canard that the Coalition stopped the boats with Operation Sovereign Borders has any currency. It’s just a lie that is endlessly repeated.

In fact, the boats slowed to a trickle under Kevin Rudd in July 2013, with his announcement that people arriving after that time would not be resettled in Australia.

Furthermore, as John Menadue never tires of pointing out, “Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison kept the door open for tens of thousands of boat people arrivals by opposing legislation that would have enabled implementation of the Malaysia Arrangement of September 2011.”

It’s heartening to learn that Labor also promises to hold a referendum to recognise First Australians and create an Indigenous advisory body to Parliament in the Constitution. The voice to parliament was cynically misrepresented by the Turnbull government as constituting a third chamber and dismissed out of hand.

Finally, among the edited highlights, the conference makes new commitments to fight climate change, yet side-steps Adani, a project which Labor maintains will not go ahead instead of boldly exposing the lies about promised employment and opposing such issues as environmental degradation and the energy subsidy it represents.

Despite its delusions and mining backers, the Coalition is not going to win the election on Adani. The Australian Conservation Foundation has already come up with a powerful campaign. Labor simply needs to get on board. It even has a ready-made pitch.

“If it goes ahead, Adani’s mine and its coal will wreck our climate, steal our groundwater, trash Indigenous rights and irreversibly damage the Great Barrier Reef. Adani’s mine is a climate crime – a crime against humanity and our planet.

Life memberships are also bestowed, in absentia, on two other former Labor PMs, Paul Keating and Julia Gillard, as part of the conference’s spirit of ecumenism and public unity. Shorten pays tribute to Keating as a “hero of the true believers” and to Gillard for her “continuing inspiration for women and girls”.

No mention is made of Gillard’s NDIS which is being wilfully cut back by the Coalition. It has already pruned a handy $2.5 billion off the cost by making it harder to qualify. Autism advocates have protested, for example, at cost-cutting in the case of autistic children. The government changed the qualification criteria so that many people would have to be individually assessed to determine their need for support.

No Keating quote? Keating’s insults are surprisingly current. “He’s wound up like a thousand-day clock! One (more half) turn and there’ll be springs and sprockets all over the building. Mr Speaker, give him a Valium.” Scott Morrison? Josh Frydenberg? PJK could have had any number of the current front bench in mind.

No. The mood and the rhetoric is curiously subdued, over-cautious, over-controlled rather than inspiring .

Karen Middleton mistrusts the display of unity at Labor’s triennial conference. The party may boast that it holds an open shop but all that’s on show is a window display writes another. Veteran Canberra Gallery-slaves appear to mourn a lack of ill-discipline, confusion or open insurrection in The Fair Go. After all it is a Labor shindig. For weeks, scribes predict nothing else. Someone’s got to keep the hoi-polloi on script.

In three days of public debate over the party platform – if debate is not too robust a word — observes James Button, just one issue is taken to a contest, when the Left faction’s push to introduce a Charter of Human Rights loses by just three votes. Can a Labor conference lose such a vote and still have what it takes to run the country?

The peoples’ voice is not entirely excluded. Resourceful protestors make colour photocopies of passes; gain entry. But, again, all is not what it seems. A lad with a promising mullet tells the press ,“young working class people like me aren’t racist dickheads”.

His cotton protest tabard-cum placard bears the legend: “ALP CLOSE THE CAMPS”

Contentious issues are dealt with in caucus. In 2015 this was not the case and clearly some commentators hanker for a return to the past so that the (largely fictive) narrative of a faction-riven, fisticuffing Labor Party may yet again play out in public.

Middleton and Grattan are right. The Fair Go is more your Whitby collier, built broad of beam and shallow in draft to lessen the drama of running aground in uncharted waters. It’s no man o’ war or flashy transport of delight.  Yet Shorten easily brings her up alongside after four days of left-hand down a bit and steady as she goes.

“There has been a lot of pain,” Shorten consoles by torturing an analogy. “But today I say to the conference, it is time for healing, to make peace with our past in the same way we are united about our future.”

All hell breaks loose on the other side. Mozzle Morrison, aka Captain cluster-fuck, our mini-Trump – whose gift for turning chaos into catastrophe surpasses Turnbull the PM Scott somehow deposed in August’s mystery coup – is stumped . Moz still can’t explain why he’s Prime Minister. Judging by his wondrous stuff-ups, nor can anyone else.

Take a bow, Moz.  True, you haven’t cocked it all up on your own. There’s your own self-effacing Santa’s elves on your largely invisible front bench. Tirelessly, they ply their skills to erase all trace of any ministerial responsibility.

And the states. The NSW government is pressing Morrison to do what predecessor Turnbull had planned – go to an election in early March, before the NSW state election at the end of the month, rather than waiting until May.

Don Harwin, NSW Energy Minister, bags his Federal Coalition colleagues for being “out of touch” on energy and climate policies in an op-ed for The Australian Financial Review.

“We need to end the ‘climate wars’ and put science, economics and engineering ahead of ideology,”Harwin says.

The “big stick” energy policy – now no stick at all – frightens mining and business lobby horses. It is against Liberal principles. Yet can a party which has this abject, jargon-stuffed line in its credo really claim any right to govern?

“We believe in the inalienable rights and freedoms of all peoples; and we work towards a lean government that minimises interference in our daily lives; and maximises individual and private sector initiative.”

Finally, t’is the season to be giving. And for every giver there must be a receiver. Top marks to Tassie Nationals’ senator, Steve Martin, who manages to spend $531,000 to refurbish his new electorate office (and more than $50,000 in temporary office costs) after he quits the Jacqui Lambie Network and relocates to Devonport.

Four snouts, Stevie!

Don’t lose sight of the fair go, Bill.

Australians are spoilt for choice this week in politics. On the far right is Scott John Morrison who is determined to improve on his last week’s Slow-Mo filibuster fiasco by pretending that religious freedom is the biggest issue facing the nation along with encryption-busting and stopping kids needing medical treatment off Nauru.

Not only that, he’s a Walter-Mitty-Henry Kissinger style negotiator who can kick-start the Arab-Israeli peace process by offending both parties and sundry nearby Muslim nations such as Indonesia and Malaysia, whom our governments are always on the verge of cracking amazing free trade deals, that somehow never eventuate.

ScoMo’s got both hands full in his pre-MYEFO clean-up as he checks the fudged figures and shoves a whole lot of other stuff off into a review, while, over on the left, in Adelaide, city of churches, Labor holds its annual conference, an event which somehow shrinks in ABC TV coverage to recurring images of Stop Adani protestors.

Bill’s got the fair go theme happening; great shots of the most photogenic family in Australian politics and a beaut re-run of a plan to subsidise housing for developers who’ll charge rents low enough for underemployed workers to afford, despite their flat-lining wages, soaring utilities and jobs that are increasingly underpaid and insecure.

Yet developers and loans all take time. Sadly for those three million Australians, the OECD tell us are living on the poverty line, there is no hope that Labor will lift Newstart. Guardian Australia reports the conference will wimp out with promises to review Newstart within 18 months if Labor wins in May or whenever. Insult the poor.

The Guardian’s Katharine Murphy who clearly knows her onions reports “senior figures are reluctant to sign up to a concrete commitment to increase Newstart because of the fiscal impact”. The fiscal impact? The triumph of Neoliberalism is complete when Labor apparatchiks talk of “fiscal impact” when they won’t pony up the money.

Where is the Labor Party that stood by the battler? The party that fought for a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay?

Stage right there’s a banner showing some poor sods being evicted for upstaging Mr Shorten with a message about getting kids out of detention. Labor’s lock-step with Liberal on “off-shore detention” doesn’t offer much hope but you can’t fault the demonstrators for gate-crashing the Labor love-fest with a heartfelt plea to help the suffering.

Over in Morrison’s sordid corner, the work experience PM is riffing with his powerful fellow religious cranks.

We have more than enough religious freedom in Australia but, like John Howard, ScoMo knows – or hopes – there’s votes in even the most fatuous, confected, totally futile crusade.  Besides, he believes this stuff. You can tell.

When he declared religious freedom his number one priority back last August it was more than a broad hint. Back then, he spoke of “preventative regulation and legislation to ensure your religious freedom in this country. In other words, it didn’t have to exist but if it did we’d have the laws on the books to stop it in its tracks.

“What you believe should always be a matter for you … Anti-discrimination is an important principle in a modern democracy and so it is important that that principle of anti-discrimination and the protection of people’s religious liberty are addressed in this country. And there is some unfinished business that we are seeking to address in the announcements that we’re making today.” Morrison stutters at his Thursday presser. Yet he moves fast.

Sleeves rolled-up, “getting on and doing – and listening”, ScoMo sets a cracking change of pace as he dashes into a series of pressers. Last week’s slow bicycle race is over.

Now he’s waving a Christmas check-list. Busy-dizzy. The futuristic white tubular podiums, which wouldn’t be out of place on the bridge of a spaceship get a fair workout from the daggy dad, the everyman PM who vows to be a man of the people. Fat chance. Morrison loves only to preach.

Call it his post-modern sermon on the dismount or his own “unfinished business”, ScoMo battles to clear the decks and appease Abbott and the lads, a scurvy crew who’ll mutiny at any hint of a Federal ICAC or any sell-out of the right over religious freedoms, a long-promised sop to homophobes for losing the marriage equality plebiscite.

Morrison has a lot to tick off. None of it is easy, but top of the list is taking his foot out of his mouth over his Wentworth by-election stunt. Foreign policy is not his forte. Who’d be so silly as to bid for “the Jewish vote” by moving the Australia embassy to East Jerusalem?

Why follow the United States’ and Guatemala’s lead and flout international consensus? It’s the thought-bubble debacle of his political career, against some strong contenders.

Who can forget or forgive ScoMo’s $55 million 2014 Cambodian solution which resettled but two refugees, a decision which Peter Dutton, ever the master of Orwellian double-speak, calls “a good outcome”?

Morrison formally recognises West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Saturday, in a talk in Gerry and Anne Henderson’s cosy right wing, corporate-sponsored think tank, The Sydney Institute, which in 1989, former Howard adviser, Gerry lovingly fashioned out of the Sydney branch of the IPA with financial assistance from Philip Morris.

Two staff members only are employed, Gerard is Executive Director and Anne is Deputy Director.  You can see them both in homespun shot as they fiddle with microphones and fetch glasses of water for the useful idiot PM.

“Foreign policy must speak of our character and our values. What we stand for. What we believe in and, if need be, what we’ll defend,” oleaginous Trump toady Morrison bloviates in yet another pro-US foreign policy speech at the Henderson’s Sydney terrace home, otherwise, grandiosely known to the ATO, as The Sydney Institute.

It is not a good outcome for our international relations. Australia joins just three other nations; the Russian Federation, the Czech Republic and Panama. Since 2014, our international reputation’s copped a hammering.

We make the declaration, says Morrison from a desire to end a “rancid stalemate” in the peace process. It’s likely to have exactly the opposite effect. Could he be hoping that his mixed metaphor will achieve a breakthrough?

Neither side seems impressed. An Israeli official tells The Times of Israel “We’re disappointed with the Australian decision… Morrison only went half-way. It’s a step in the right direction, but we expected more.”

President of the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, Bishop George Browning, calls Morrison’s announcement “a tortuous attempt to salvage himself from a pre-emptive thought bubble prior to the Wentworth by-election”.

That there is no city named West Jerusalem, according to the Israeli government, doesn’t seem to worry Morrison’s government. Yet, in international law and diplomacy, the status of Jerusalem has been a vexed question since Israel was created in 1948. Fools rush in.

International law considers East Jerusalem to be Palestinian territory under illegal Israeli occupation. Since 1967, when Israeli troops drove Jordanian settlers out of East Jerusalem, expanding its borders, Israeli actions have been the subject of many UN Security Council resolutions calling upon Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories.

Australia will hold off moving its embassy, Morrison says, until a peace settlement is reached. But it’ll check out a site. Palestine will be recognised after a settlement has been reached on a two-state solution.

While Israel sees Australia’s stance as “a step in the right direction”, Palestine is incensed. Secretary-General of the PLO Executive Committee, Saeb Erekat, blasts the “irresponsible policies” that led to the recognition.

“The policies of this Australian administration have done nothing to advance the two-state solution,” Erekat says in a statement. “The holy city remains a final-status issue in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which have run aground.”

The Palestinian Liberation Organisation attacks Australia’s new policy for being contradictory. It violates our obligations under international law (namely UNSC 478, something Australia denies). Luckily a culture war breaks out at home. Morrison must stand up for what he believes in. Bugger the rest of us.

Ruddock is dudded. Blessed are the meek in spirit but pity the poor souls who are made to wait seven months to hear a peep from the PM on their report on the power of religious outfits to discriminate. Ruddock recommends that such organisations have their exemptions from discrimination laws abolished or at least reduced.

[The panel] could see no justification for exceptions in existing law relating to race, disability, pregnancy or intersex status,” the report says of the current religious anti-discrimination exemptions at the federal, state and territory level that differ across jurisdictions. “The panel is of the view that those jurisdictions retaining exceptions should review them having regard to community expectations.”

But ScoMo says no. “Pushes back” as they insist in modern commentary. The PM orders a review of the review.

Ruddock’s review has taken a full year since Turnbull lit the torch and seven months since it reported. It’s now likely to become an election issue and voters may not take kindly to the Coalition’s need to placate the far right over the right of all children (and teachers) to be spared discrimination regardless of what school they attend.

But ScoMo knows best. He rejects Ruddock’s findings in favour of his own surprise Christmas gift to the nation, a “freedom of religion commissioner”, to bulk up The Australian Human Rights Commission with a bit more rightist bias, as part of a culture war no-one needs or wants. Or can afford, financially or socially.

Not everything gets top air-play. Dud ideas, such as the Clayton’s Federal ICAC or ones that may cause trouble such as the promise to hold a Royal Commission into aged care are dumped in a quiet time-slot; “putting out the trash”. It’s as much a Coalition strength, as its fetish for secrecy or its unparalleled capacity to stall, flip-flop, flounder or nose-dive while preaching practicality and strong leadership.

Despite the promise that the royal commission would start this year, its first directions hearing has been postponed from December 7 to January 18. As Laura Tingle points out, hearings proper begin in February.

It gives little time for public submissions, nor for the commissioners to adequately prepare themselves.

Not so our new Governor General, who will – gasp- be another old digger, David Hurley, a former defence chief and current NSW Governor. The Coalition has pointedly ignored Labor’s request to make the appointment after the proposed May 2019 election.

Cosgrove will stay on until the end of June when Hurley officially takes over. As Paul Karp notes this gives Morrison his pick of governor as well as keeping his election options open. Tellingly, Morrison announces the appointment with another homily.

“It was General Hurley who first spoke the words, ‘The standard you walk past, is the standard you accept’. That is a lesson to all of us. It is a phrase that embodies what Australian leadership is all about and it is a phrase that has embodied the service of General Hurley.”

Yet as Chris Bowen notes, the timing suggests a government blithely unconcerned about standards of fair play.

“Do we really believe that a governor general, who will be taking up his post in the middle of next year, had to be announced today while the leader of the opposition was making an important speech at the very same time? What a coincidence.”

Yet Hurley is the very model of a modern governor general, whose heart of faith helps him lead and whose wife Linda inspires by sharing details of her daily spiritual spin, a rare double act with Eternity News

“I hula-hoop every morning and I like to read the Bible or a devotional book while I’m doing that.”

Who doesn’t? Onward Christian soldiers. Curiously, Morrison’s presser proclaiming his redundant religious freedom commission segues into his announcing his utterly unrelated Commonwealth Integrity Commission, (CIC) a Clayton’s federal ICAC, a totally toothless tiger which would have allowed even Eddie Obeid or Eric Roozendaal to evade justice, experts warn.

Geoffrey Watson SC, who had acted as counsel to ICAC in NSW opines it’s “worse than having no commission, in my opinion” while former NSW ICAC commissioner David Ipp tells ABC radio that it’s “the kind of integrity commission you’d want to have when you didn’t want to have one”.

For Crikey’s Bernard Keane, there is a wider significance in the paper tiger. Scott Morrison’s joke of federal anti-corruption body simply confirms everything voters hate about politics in Australia.”

It’s crippled by having no public hearings; the public won’t even know who is under investigation, let alone why. Herein lies a key problem.  Keane believes “that’s exactly one of the key problems voters perceive with our current political system: that so much is hidden from citizens. Donations. Meetings. Lobbying. And corrupt conduct. The exercise of power in Australia is hidden, confirming the sense that it is exercised by and for the powerful only.”

Nor will justice be seen to be done if the only recourse the CIC has is to refer a matter where a public servant has acted inappropriately to the DPP, who is chosen by the Attorney-General of the day.

Perhaps the greatest flaw in the Morrison proposal is that the public will not be able to dob in a delinquent official – or one they suspect may have broken the law.

“The CIC will not investigate direct complaints about ministers, members of Parliament or their staff received from the public at large,” the government says.

Typically, Pastor ScoMo doesn’t help his cause by calling NSW ICAC a “kangaroo court”, while, equally out of order, Federal Attorney-General Christian Porter accuses it of “show-trials”. For Morrison’s government to cynically insult the integrity of a real commission against corruption diminishes any further confidence in their proposal.

Some see the CIC as a pre-emptive strike by a Morrison minority government to dodge a tougher ICAC forced on them by independent Cathy McGowan, Labor and an uppity crossbench. Yet it could filibuster or close up shop early. Parliament will sit only ten days in the first eight months of 2019 as it. Would a few less days matter?

Even if the election were to be brought forward, it should not distract us.  Just how have we been gifted with a religious discrimination commissioner when Ruddock’s review panel specifically recommends against it – and what does it say about the Morrison government’s religious pre-occupation?

Freedom For Faith, a group which describes itself as a “Christian, legal, think tank” in its submission, has persuaded the Morrison government to create a religious freedom commissioner, a bargain at $1.25m-$1.5m. Beyond the fee, however, is the incalculable social cost of granting religious groups new authority to discriminate.

A Religious Freedoms Act, a cruel parody of a charter of rights, which Ruddock’s panel does recommend, would codify and expand exemptions to anti-discrimination laws. These currently grant church groups the right to hire or fire those sympathetic to its ethos. Or not.

The act would limit and override the anti-discrimination laws of Australia’s states and territories and “further protections for people who don’t want to associate with same-sex marriages”.

But be of good cheer. “Christians are not into freedom to discriminate, they’re really into freedom to select,” explains author Patrick Parkinson, a professor of law at Sydney Uni and a Freedom for Faith board member.

Father knows best. Yet, like his patronising, patriarchal predecessor, ScoMo’s paternalism will prove his undoing.

But, my, such unity. Not a bum note is heard – for a whole 24 hours. Coalition MPs are all on song, a ragged paean to the policy-free politics of survival as they plot Bill Shorten’s death and hope, somehow to avoid electoral annihilation in May as Monday’s Newspoll confirms the Morrison government’s unique and abiding unpopularity.

It trails Labor 45-55, a record low in the poll’s history for a government five months out from an election. It’s the government’s third, ten point defeat in a row. The last time this happened, notes Paul Karp in The Guardian, Julia Gillard was replaced by Kevin Rudd. Political scientist, Kevin Bonham says history is not on Morrison’s side.

“No government has recovered from this far behind with this little time to go,” Bonham says. Yet The Daily Telegraph says Labor’s “softened border policy” invites shady types into Australia. “Foreign crims’ free pass,” screams the headline. The Australian obligingly runs a very similar scare campaign. An influx of terrorists, paedophiles and crime gangs will flood the nation as a result of Labor softening its border policy.

‘Tis the season to be jolly, however. Can Bill still stuff up? Enter Rupert the red-nose reindeer. National Affairs Editor, Simon Benson in The Australian, Friday, hyperventilates over Labor’s hubris, and lese majesté in “preparing to run union-backed election campaigns in once unassailable Victorian Liberal heartland — including Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s blue-ribbon Melbourne seat of Kooyong — with polling showing the Coalition risks losing the electorate once held by Australia’s longest-serving prime minister, Sir Robert Menzies.”

Back in the bosom of the Liberal Party’s broad church and even in the weatherboard and iron of the Nationals’ annexe, hearts swell as MPs rejoice in the hyper-partisan hypomania of the festive season; all noses are to the grindstone as the Coalition of the killing of Bill sharpen stilettos, rake muck and top up vast vats of vitriol.

The Coalition is obsessed by Shorten; they mention him by name in Question Time, this year, 1260 times.

Spoiler alert. Bill is to be killed during Labor’s annual conference 16-18 December. Labor will be attacked for being soft on borders, national security and refugee torture. Frydenberg’s coup de grace, a MYEFO monstering, will follow on Monday. The cunning plan is to upstage day two of “A Fair Go for Australia” Labor’s gabfest.

A mid-year economic financial outlook in December? It’s a bit like July at Christmas. But it’s all amazingly good news. A temporary spike in the price of coal and iron ore and a boost from government spending on setting up its bastardised NDIS, helps to mask a stalling economy as wages remain frozen, profits soar. Morrison’s mob, however, will boast its superior economic management. It certainly won’t be telling the truth about infrastructure.

Public and private investment in engineering is dwindling, for the fourth time in five years, Alan Austin reports; all in the five years since the Abbott government was elected, according to ABS figures up to the end of September. It’s a decline not seen since ABS figures began in Whitlam’s era. The nation’s net worth is declining as a result.  Morrison will predict a budget surplus. Yet as economist Stephen Koukoulos warns, it won’t be until September

2019’s final budget outcome that we will know if the surplus occurs, or if it’s just like Wayne Swan’s, as Paul Bongiorno notes, another in a series of disappearing desert mirages. Much like the Coalition itself and the neoliberalism on which it is founded.

Disappearing. It won’t be for lack of appeasing the right. Morrison has taken no chances there. It’s fitting to reflect on the PM’s inclusiveness and largeness of heart in the season of giving.

Even drones such as Craig Kelly, who sacrificed a career selling furniture for the politics of climate change denial to chair the committee for promoting coal are thoughtfully rescued from; returned to the fold by Pope Scott’s pre-selection bulk plenary indulgence that fits brilliantly the special religious if not entirely ecumenical and certainly not gender-equal character of the mates’ rates 45th parliament.

Our politics is not reality TV?

“Politics is not a reality television show,scowls ScoMo, in a cameo piece to camera, Thursday, in the “most hysterical presser in our nation’s political history” according to Shadow Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus.

Labor doesn’t help with its smart-arse stunt news conference late Thursday proposing to support the Coalition’s botched and dodgy encryption legislation unamended given that the government has packed up and gone home. Appearing on ABC, the duo repeat the observation that the government has simply walked off the job.

Walked off. They can’t help repeat it. It’s a political point-scoring stunt but most media report a Labor cave-in.

The Morrison government’s final parliamentary fortnight is its first taste of a hung parliament and by Thursday, it is clear to even ScoMo’s few remaining supporters that everywhere are signs of collapse if not ruinous defeat.

Almost. ScoMo’s big on coal. So, too, is his Chief of staff John Kundel, former deputy CEO of the Minerals Council of Australia. Hence the lacquered lump of coal supplied to former Treasurer. If Morrison could wave his pet rock around parliament last February, in the middle of a drought, who knows how he may reach out to Adani?

His ministers possibly do. Some, may themselves, find employment with Adani after the May Federal Election.

Yet not even the latest re-announcement, by Adani, that Adani’s mine construction, albeit in a convenient, user-friendly, shorter, cleaner shovel, Adani-lite format “is imminent” again and will go ahead as a self-funded enterprise (with Indian government subsidies in Gujarat, paid for by imposing higher tariffs on the ever-grateful, local poor; subsidies which may help get Adani an Indian bank loan) is enough to fire up the troops.

Even George Christensen is diplomatic; sublimating his own joy in the interest of unity and nation-building.

“I say to the reckless law-breaking extreme greens and your Labor mates – accept defeat because it’s all go as far as Adani is concerned.”

Non-Adani readers will note that Adani is not all go. Adani still has a number of hurdles to clear, including getting approval from local indigenous land owners, a land use agreement and a Queensland government water licence.

Green Career reports, moreover, that environmental group Coast and Country has high resolution satellite and drone imagery showing “illegal” dewatering bores at the site of Adani’s controversial Carmichael coal mine project in north Queensland near Doongmabulla Springs.

A nationally significant wetland of ‘exceptional ecological value’ and home to 11 endangered or vulnerable species, the springs have cultural significance to local indigenous groups and have been described by ecologists as one of the world’s last remaining pristine oases.”

Environmental Defenders’ Office, QLD, reports that Adani’s environmental conditions require approval of a Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems Management Plan (GDEMP), which must include research to identify the source of water for the Doongmabulla Springs before the commencement of ‘Project Stage 2’. ‘Project Stage 2’ is defined to include ‘site clearance’, ‘new access roads’ and ‘commencing dewatering operations’.

All coal-fired up, nevertheless, is the euphoniously-named Melissa Price, our Federal Environment Minister, formerly of WA mining, who, bravely, insists that we will meet our carbon emissions targets at a “canter”.

Price will trot out her case at The UN climate conference in Katowice, Poland, a nation with a right wing government which, she can tell Craig Kelly, has been able to make a 180 degree turn to embrace renewables.

Yet 91 international leading reason-crazed, haplessly empirical scientists differ. As The Saturday Paper’s legal eagle, writer Richard Ackland reminds us, the UN’s Emissions Gap Report 2018 concludes:

“There has been no improvement in Australia’s climate policy since 2017 and emission levels for 2030 are projected to be well above the [Nationally Determined Contribution] target. The latest projection published by the government shows that emissions would remain at high levels rather than reducing in line with the 2030 target.”

The Coalition’s energy policy is also a dud, its “religious freedoms” (read further discrimination) nutters who rule its energy policy are aggrieved and the government is perilously close to a de facto vote of no confidence given some MPs’ determination to help kids off Nauru; a political crisis tailor-made for its tactical evasion and delay. The Australian embassy in Israel remains in Tel Aviv. But of course, there’s a committee looking into that.

Ever thinking outside the box, ScoMo’s proposes to deal with the protection of religious freedom, in schools by a conscience vote. He’s even got up his own private member’s bill.  Religious freedom, does not, however, appear at risk in Australia. Although he was quick to declare it as his number one issue, it seems little more than just a sop to the party’s right wing and others disappointed to be in a minority on marriage equality. Bugger.

A panel reported to Turnbull in May. Will the Ruddock Committee’s report be made public before Christmas?

No rush. As Bernard Keane notes, Morrison has already broken his promise to end the possibility of religious schools discriminating against LGBTQI students. It was, Keane, reminds us, to be done by October.

Yet can it ever be accomplished, given the mission is inherently flawed, as Keane kindly points out.

“Think about that for a moment — religious organisations say they’re perfectly happy not to expel a gay or transgender student, but want the freedom to teach those students that homosexuality is evil, or that transgender people are somehow unnatural.”

Happily for investors, power prices are set to rise, carried upward by a surge in the price of gas, as much as 40 per cent higher by January next year than the 2018 average, The Australian reports, while despite all the bluster about forced divestiture, the “big stick” is now being whittled down in the face of industry (and Labor) opposition.  A toothpick? The Guardian’s Katharine Murphy says it’s now so small as to be invisible. Just how business likes it.

Or is Trevor St Baker, Liberal patron, no longer keenly interested in buying up plant Frydenberg forces off Alinta?

Also shrinking is our GDP. Wednesday’s Bureau of Statistics release shows only 2.77% annual growth in gross domestic product (GDP) to 30 September 2018. That puts us 106th among the world’s 183 economies; our lowest ever ranking. Our real household disposable incomes are lower than in 2010. Australia is lagging the world on almost all economic indicators, reports Alan Austin.

Happily, mainstream media will uncritically accept anything the government tells them, including the whopper that we will be in surplus in 2019 and the mantra of economic management, now coalition canon law.

‘Because of the Coalition’s strong economic management we will deliver next April the first budget surplus in more than a decade,’ Frydenberg fibs. You do a bit of that when you are the work experience boy. And make the tea.

In fact, Austin calculates the budget deficit to be around $14.5 billion, 30 June 2019. Josh Frydenberg can, of course predict a surplus in May, as he promises, but in April, he will say it may arrive in 2020. It may not. Who can fathom the effect of Trump’s trade and tariff wars? Certainly no surplus will be delivered in April.

Prudently, Morrison’s government ignores a mouthy Malcolm Turnbull’s advice to call an election at once, (the former PM is more famous for his wearing a leather jacket on Q&A than any other act of political judgement). Instead it will meet for nine days in 2019. It can’t evade the inevitable. As Kerryn Phelps tells Sky,

“I am sad that we didn’t get this through today … because I believe it would have gone through on the numbers … But you know if we have to wait until February, at least I believe that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Facing defeat on the floor of the house, ScoMo pulls out all the stops. “I will do everything in my power to ensure that these suggested changes, that would undermine our border protection laws, never see the light of day.”

Or as they say on Big Brother, Australia’s Next Top Model or even My Kitchen Rules, it’s “game on moll”.

Undermine? It’s a wicked, wilful misrepresentation of a proposed act of humanity. How can this PM call himself a Christian? Where is his compassion? Why must children suffer? Following his mentor, Trump, Morrison effortlessly, crosses from florid embellishment through delusion to grotesque and wilful disinformation.

“They’ll hear the people smuggler who sails up to them and says, ‘Guess what, the Australians have changed the legislation, you won’t have to stay on Nauru or Manus, all you have to do is get some doctor in Australia to sign it off and it’s all good mate, it’s all good’,” Morrison mimics a mythical demon people-smuggler who speaks Strine .

In the senate, Labor, the cross-bench and The Greens amend the Home Affairs Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2018  to allow medical evacuation of refugees stranded on Manus and Nauru.

How can this encourage people smugglers? The government’s already removing kids from Nauru, it boasts, only skipping how it’s squandered over half a million dollars in the last two years contesting medical decisions in court.

But Morrison has a lot on his plate. Now he must stall the medical evacuation bill – at all costs. He calls a presser.

Not a reality TV show. Show-Mo’s ironic spoiler alert frames this week’s episode of the Coalition’s long running low-rating hyper-reality politics show. Stage right, in “the other place”, lunatic right odd couple Hanson and Bernardi, who bask in their government attention in the senate, team up in a slow bicycle race which sees a wobbly Morrison minority government delay Labor’s attack on not only border but national security.

Morrison’s border security takes us back to the future. In 2001 the Liberals’ St John Howard won a fabulous victory with his babies overboard episode. The following year, Howard went on to deceive parliament and the Australian people over whether we were fit and ready to join the US’ illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003, a war crime which over eight years claimed the lives of half a million Iraqis. He falsely claimed he had legal advice.

His “legal advice”, based on the opinions of two junior public servants, Bill Campbell and Chris Moraitis appears to have been obtained by silk shopping; avoiding other more prominent senior authorities, such as Professor James Crawford SC, Professor of International Law at Cambridge University who had on previous occasions advised the Australian government and appeared for it in international law proceedings.

Crawford was one of sixteen distinguished international experts who held that any invasion of Iraq was illegal.

Lord Goldsmith, UK Attorney General held that any military action required the explicit authorisation of the security council, yet lying rodent, Howard claimed his experts’ advice was consistent with Goldsmith.

More lies emerge. A secret study surfaces which proves that the former PM misled the nation over when the invasion was planned. University of New South Wales Professor Clinton Fernandes, who first secured the study, says it details how ADF personnel were quietly dispatched to US CENTCOM headquarters in Florida in 2002 to begin planning the Iraq war, a year before John Howard announced Australia’s involvement.

Central to our politics for over a hundred years is the convention that foreign policy is the prerogative of the PM alone and a PM confident of cabinet and house of reps support can act without the need to consult parliament.

The history of our border folly cannot be so easily evaded. As megalomaniac Morrison took the helm – and at times commandeered part of the navy – the Abbott government militarised “border control”; creating Operation Sovereign Borders, throwing all fiscal constraint overboard, to create a paramount, paramilitary Border Force.

Precise figures are few, given the vast tentacles of Warlord Morrison’s private armed force but Save the Children’s Lisa Button and Shane Evans, estimate the cost between 2013-16 alone at nearly ten billion dollars.  

Decoration is not cheap. ABF staff medals have for the last few years cost more than for the entire Defence Force.

And the ABF has its fingers in many pies. Operation Sovereign Borders and Australia’s immigration-related functions span many different departments, from fisheries and foreign affairs to the department of prime minister and cabinet, the Australian Crime Commission and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

“A lack of transparency in reporting and aggregated budget allocations make it difficult to accurately describe the cost of Australia’s asylum framework,” Button and Evans caution.

Does it work? Barely a year later, Border Force takes over the Australian Immigration and Border Protection Department, the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, the Australian Quarantine Service, and Operation Sovereign Borders – despite none of these agencies having worked together before.

Leaked reports of chaos, corruption and disaster, are managed by a cloak of secrecy and the evasion if not erasure of accountability given these were “on water matters” or matters of “national security”.

Also ignored are reports this week of poor morale and a “rampant” culture of bullying and harassment in the ABF which can only be enhanced by the announcement of staff cut-backs over Christmas, the ABF’s busiest period.

We will never control our borders. Off-shore detention is double-speak for the torture of hapless boat people to whom we are legally and morally obliged to offer refuge if not compassion. But the show must go on.

Morrison’s shtick is pure reality TV for all his faux denial. So much of our politics is. ScoMo knows it full well, tsk-tsks Guardian Australia’s Political Editor, Katharine Murphy, who suggests “their hothouse intrigues … petty sagas, and self-indulgences” as “some ways our current cast of MPs have helped morph our politics into reality TV”.

But not all on their own. For Murpharoo, who along with most of our media is inextricably part of the transformation, politics is “the grimmest reality television in the franchise, full of attention-seekers and desperados, looking for a plot twist to propel the battered enterprise into the next season”.

The Australian helps stir the plot by eagerly denouncing Labor’s heinous duplicity, especially their class treason. Labor MPs are shape-stealing, social-climbers parking their Blundstones under Pratt family tables.

Amazingly, they are simultaneously union-catspaws whose moral turpitude seals an all-round unfitness for office.

This includes having evil factions, something alien to the virtuous broad church of the Liberals. The Oz Saturday “reveals” “Labor’s Left faction will push to fast-track refugee medical transfers to Australia through a change to the party platform at next weekend’s ALP national conference as Scott Morrison sets up an election showdown on border security.”

Australian’s great and powerful fiend, the US, also shapes our politics with its postmodern, post-truth universe, currently featuring none other than the “useful idiot” Donald John Trump. Trump inspires many a local politician.

Rusted on is the small, rapidly self-extinguishing Federal One Nation micro-party, united under President for Life Pauline but an even bigger fan, a fully paid up Trumpista in thought, deed and wardrobe is Scott John Morrison.

Yes. Our colossus even shares the same middle name. Of course there are the baseball caps, lapel pins but note also his unctuous toadying to The Donald, whom he praises as a “very practical” leader … “who’s not going to waste a day” in office. ScoMo even boasts to The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd that he and the US president have a special bond. They both share an instinct to help those forgotten by the forces of globalisation.

And on bushfires. Trump berates Californians for not raking up leaves while Morrison castigates the Queensland government for its recent belated attempt to put the brakes on land clearing. An inquiry will be held. Bugger the environment. Leaving trees in the ground is just inviting wildfires.

Hamming it up shamelessly, former child TV actor and Vicks’ Love Rub commercial kid, former Boat-Stopper Morrison is once again the nation’s fearless protector of the week in his performance Thursday,

“I will do whatever I can, whatever I can. I’ll fight them using whatever tool or tactic I have available to me.”

ScoMo’s full of fighting talk. After nearly six years, does his government really thinks it can finally wedge Labor as soft on borders, or make voters fear being swamped by refugees? It last worked seventeen years ago.

Yet what he opts for is a slow bicycle race in the senate, a series of filibusters and delaying tactics with the support of the pliant Pauline Hanson and the awful Corey Bernardi who remain perpetually bewildered by modernity. Or anything beyond expedience, xenophobia and self-promotion.

Meanwhile, the Morrison government’s dangerously ill-conceived and poorly written data encryption laws, its latest in at least a dozen “national security” laws which propel the nation ever closer to becoming a police state are rushed through parliament, yet again, on the pretext of a dire, top-secret national emergency.

Will we notice as we slumber deep in re-runs of Bad Santa and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation?

But credit where it’s due. In the credits to this week’s show, “I just get on with the job” Scottie has his nose to the grindstone, his back to the wall and his finger in the dyke. It’s a fair-dinkum show-stopper.

A tsunami of compassion looms as Labor’s anti-Christ, Bill Shorten, “a clear and present threat to Australia’s safety” perfidiously proposes a bill to Medi-vac sick children off Nauru, a move which would see us overrun with boat people by Christmas. Not only that but he dickers with the government’s fatally flawed anti-encryption law before abandoning all attempt at amendment. Perhaps he’s read the member for Sturt’s tweets.

Labor has chosen to allow terrorists and paedophiles to continue their evil work in order to engage in point scoring. – mouth that roars, Defence Minister, Christopher Pyne tweets during 2018’s last Parliament’s valedictories.

In reality, Labor is just as keen on turning Australia into a police state, a process it aids and abets, Thursday in a theatrical news conference stunt held, it points out, in best political point-score, after the government has given up and gone home by agreeing to support The Coalition’s flawed data encryption law which does nothing to make the nation safe from criminals, terrorists and paedophiles but which does vastly extend state surveillance.

A nation is inspired by Scott Morrison’s conscience vote to allow MPs to discriminate against school-children on the basis of gender or sexual orientation. Surely this is peak practicality with its sleeves rolled up; the pinnacle of “getting on and doing”, a phrase the shouty, Quiet Achiever, ScoMo has lifted from an old BHP commercial.

All of which the multi-tasking PM manages to fit around his leaks and manic, midnight, media drops to Murdoch newspapers and his regular visits to 2GB radio in which he talks himself up and the opposition down.

By Friday, ScoMo’s won a huge victory. Huge. He’s had to drag Bill Shorten kicking and screaming into line on data encryption. Labor’s attempt to destabilise the government over refugees has “failed”. He tells Channel 9’s Today programme the “cocky” Labor party claimed “all sorts of bills and all sorts of motions … were going to pass but none of it happened”.

“So all the doomsday scenarios that were put about by the Labor party to undermine confidence, they were all proven to be false and Labor failed on every occasion and the government prevailed.”

Yes, yes, we know, you’re an inspiration to the nation, ScoMo and our politics is not a reality TV show.

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