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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Sunita Bose of Change.org writes,

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

 


8 comments

  1. Kaye Lee

    Re the election timing, Turnbull has said he will make an apology to child sex abuse victims on October 22. Apparently he wants to be the one to do it so that throws a spanner in the early election possibility. Personally, I find it bizarre that someone would say I will apologise in 5 months time but I don’t really understand political machinations. It will be interesting to see what they do if they have a good showing in the by-elections. There has been some talk about splitting the Senate and HoR elections.

    On the Donald, I found his trailer hilarious. If Americans aren’t humiliated yet they should be.

  2. New England Cocky

    An excellent article David Tyler with some wonderful language; “mythomania” for example. The FACTS you have presented show that the LNP misgovernment are intent upon driving Australia to becoming a 19th century colonial economy where all the benefits of our natural resources are owned by foreign multinational corporations for the benefit of those managers and shareholders living overseas.

    As for Madhatter Conman, the Babbling Belgian, perhaps the optimal solution would be to revoke his Australian citizenship and deport him back from whence he came. That would create a precedent for similarly removing Toxic RAbbott, the backward thinking politician from the British economic refugee family in the 50s.

    As for Trumpery, perhaps the less said the better. His antics may be revolutionary but they appear to diversion from the main game of ripping off the citizens of the USA (United States of Apartheid) for the benefit of US corporations that chose to re-locate manufacturing to SE Asia in the 90s for low cost wage slave labour and bountiful US tax concessions.

  3. Kronomex

    I had this bizarre image of Trump pop into my head just before I went to sleep last (it’s crude but…):

    A naked Donald on his hands and knees with Putin at the back end and Kim at the front end with trousers down around their ankles. Both have blissful looks on their faces and Putin says, “He really does take good care of us doesn’t he?”

  4. helvityni

    ” Mal’s in Tassie, the apple (and other fruit machine) isle, boring Braddon voters rigid before the by-election.”

    Yes boring them in Braddon and us here on the mainland also; plenty of selfies taken, no doubt…

    Kim and Trump have made sure they eat enough, be it home or abroad, they ought to take on some exercise routine, like Putin, who most likely eat only a bowl of slimming Borsht….

  5. Henry Rodrigues

    Great article, very comprehensive take down of the dishonest Trump and the sycophantic Trumbles. Nothing to add except as I observed earlier, Trump is in this for the glory and the lucrative real estate deals he will swing later which he and his sleazy family will reap millions from. But the ultimate judgement is upon the 38% of Americans who still support this vile fellow and cheer him on to even more destructive policies. Just as we have Trumbles here, voted in by the fools who think that somehow they’ll also become as rich as him.

  6. Jon Chesterson

    ‘TRUMP’S KISS ME KIM SPEED DATE’ – IT’S ALL ABOUT POWER AND THE RAPE OF DEMOCRACY: ‘The old British coastal fort’s guns face out to sea but the Japanese invaded by land. It’s an ideal setting for Trump’s kiss and make up for the camera summit, a pact between two malignant psychopaths who only recently were vowing to annihilate each other’.

    …And Malcolm loves it, Dutty too!

  7. mobiusecko

    “He’s the head of a country and he’s the strong head. Don’t let anyone think anything different,” Trump said during an interview with Fox News’s Steve Doocy on the White House lawn Friday. “He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.”

    Following the interview, Trump was asked by the White House press pool what he meant by wanting “his people” to listen and “do the same.”

    “I was kidding,” he said. “You don’t understand sarcasm.”

    The standard response from bullies and sociopaths who say something in all seriousness only to realise they have stepped over moral bounds.

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