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Dutton’s naked power grab

“Our nation faces a slow decline if it takes no action on its major economic, social and environmental challenges.”

Unless we act boldly; commit to long-term thinking, we face a poorer, bleaker future. It’s the big idea of the Australian National Outlook 2019 (ANO 2019), a report published Wednesday, 12 June, by CSIRO whose partners include fifty leaders across twenty-two major Australian organisations from industry, the not-for-profit and education sectors.

Ken Henry is on 7:30 Report, Tuesday, to explain how this ANO has a new section on loss of trust and social cohesion.

“We all know why trust’s a concern” he says, straight-faced. Irony doesn’t cut it in an age of deep fakery. Perhaps Ken counts on our forgetting his smart-arse testimony to the Banking Royal Commission, an appalling performance which led to his standing down as NAB Chairman.

As he professed at the time, “I did not perform well. I really should have performed quite differently. I should have been much more open.”

Yep. Bugger honesty; integrity. It’s all about performance. Authenticity is the most important thing in corporate life. When you can fake that, you’ve got it made.

Clearly, Ken has no clue why trust’s a concern. Nor does The Liar from the Shire, our accidental PM, who never lifted a finger in the Turnbull coup. So he says. A month after ScoMo surprises everyone, including himself, by winning an election, which he pretended was a popularity contest between himself and Bill Shorten, a poll decided largely by betraying the trust of rural voters; hoodwinking regional Queensland and WA, he takes a leaf from Tony Abbott’s book. “Not-Me” Morrison makes a virtue of doing nothing. Man needs a break. Fear-mongering takes it out of you.

ScoMo takes “a brief, well-earned break” according to his press drop to The Herald Sun. It’s a secluded (expensive) family island holiday in Fiji, a state which doesn’t muck around pretending to a free press. Or free speech.

Besides, the hard work’s already been done. Expanding national security; “bigging up” Big Brother. Now ScoMo can sit back. Watch Going Batty, the latest episode of How Bad is John Setka?, a boo-the-union-thug melodrama, a Coalition-News-Corp production, while “Thumper” Dutton finesses our final descent into a mass surveillance police state.

Certainly that’s the plan, as News Corp’s, Annika Smethurst, reported in April 2018, warning us about a proposed abuse of state power. Her work led to her home being invaded by an AFP squad 4 June this year. A reprisal? No. The raid was about the ­“alleged publishing of information classified as an official secret” that police said “had the potential to undermine national security”. While some may view the charge as impossibly broad, no-one’s been arrested yet. Nor may any arrest be expected, says the AFP before it cops a theatrical, hypocritical, spray from its Murdoch-crat fans.

“This raid demonstrates a dangerous act of intimidation towards those committed to telling uncomfortable truths.”

Let News Corp bullies fulminate about intimidation, it’s all good publicity to Peter Dutton. Or the cat’s well and truly out of the bag. The Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) a military intelligence arm, will be empowered to spy on civilians, as Ms Smethurst said, a move which Dutton says on ABC Insiders Sunday, warrants “a sensible discussion”.

Dutton is of course not bound by fact and embellishes his interview with Annabel Crabb by claiming that “he’d got all children out of detention here in Australia”, whereas, at that very moment, two-year-old Tharunicaa is waiting to celebrate her birthday at the Melbourne Immigration Detention Centre. Her strawberry cheesecake birthday cake is refused entry in yet another reminder of the tenderness and mercy extended to those youngsters yet in Dutton’s care.

Tharunicaa is one of four small girls aged between one and four in the centre, which also imprisons a seventeen-year-old boy. Her parents, Priya and Nades have been incarcerated with her following a dawn raid fifteen months ago.

On the theme of sensible discussion, Rebekah Holt reports in Crikey that Border Force has previously disputed the definition of detention regarding baby Isabella and her mother Huyen, who are held in the same unit with Tharunicaa and her family. Lawyers and the UN agree, semantics aside, that Isabella is a detained child. Yet the Morrison government insists that the child and some others, be classified as guests to get around the law on detaining children.

Imagine how much more sensible Dutto’s discussion might be if the Minister could admit that Tharunicaa exists. Last year, her father also assiduously filled out a form requesting permission his daughter be allowed a birthday cake brought in by a friend. Then, as now, it was refused. It’s not petty cruelty, however, but merely a sensible precaution in the circumstances. Imagine the flood of refugees crowding our shores if we were known to be soft on kids’ birthday cakes.

A sensible discussion erupts in our main daily newspaper claque, radio and on TV networks, especially Sky TV. It consists of madly agreeing with Peter. Cheering. How we have to trade off a bit of fatuous free speech for the government’s hugely important (both for national security and in the national interest) need to keep secrets. ScoMo gets Paul Fletcher on ABC to help him with a commitment that’s worthy of an episode of Yes Minister.

Some journos question the PM regarding the AFP raids to rough up the press. ScoMo is a model of ponderous solicitude, despite wilfully misreading the question, as how a law which is rotten at its core may, somehow, be made better.

“If there is a suggestion or evidence, or any analysis, that reveals that there is a need for further improvement of those laws, well, the government is always open to that,” Morrison says. But the principles of maintaining national security and freedom of the press both have to be honoured. So? “I intend to proceed calmly, and soberly, and consultatively”.

Will he support a parliamentary inquiry into press freedom? Morrison evades the question on Tuesday, “What I’m going to do on this issue is listen carefully. I think we have to keep these matters in perspective”.

In other words, ScoMo intends to do nothing. Hope that it all blows over. Besides, Peter Dutton can sweet-talk anyone.

After all, as Pete says, the last thing we want is to let paedophile rings, terror networks, or the odd transnational crime syndicate (not Adani) get under our radar. Oddly, however, not all politicians favour such an increase in surveillance.

It’s “a dangerous and unjustified attack on fundamental rights”, protests Nick McKim, The Greens’ justice spokesperson, who quite properly takes exception at proposed laws to enable a government to spy on its people.

“For the Liberals to try to push this through just days after raids on journalists shows how little they respect basic rights and freedom of the press … No further powers should be granted to security agencies without a thorough review of existing laws, and until our rights are properly enshrined and protected in a Charter of Rights.”

Bernard Keane reports of a “power grab” by Home Affairs. At least, that’s how it seems to the Intelligence Community. A turf war rages as Mike Pezzullo, Home Affairs Czar, annexes the Australian Signals Directorate. Or at least asserts enough control to permit it to spy on civilians. It may well be one of those things that is best managed by Morrison on holiday in Fiji. On the other hand, its success can only help Peter Dutton with his enormous leadership ambitions. Already, he is technically more powerful than the PM. With even more powers, he will become impossible to manage.

The grab has other implications for civil society. Whilst he does not subscribe to the “spying on civilians” scenario, Keane does note “the proposal would include the ASD not merely advising corporations on cybersecurity but being allowed full access to their IT systems in order to “protect” them. The result would be the ASD having unfettered access to vast amounts of private information about the consumers and businesses that use that corporation’s servers — all under the guise of protecting the community from cybersecurity threats.”

ScoMo has no policy platform apart from a Tea-Party thought bubble which media insist on calling “tax relief” or “lowering the tax burden”. It further flattens our once-progressive system with unjust tax cuts for the rich which we can’t afford. A third tranche in 2024-5 will cost us $95 billion over five years, calculates senior economist, Matt Grudnoff at The Australia Institute. Overwhelmingly, high income earners will benefit. So ScoMo copies Abbo. Goes to ground.

“I want the people to know that calm, steady, purposeful government has returned; a government that’s about the substance of getting things done, not about the theatre of putting things on the front page.” Tony Abbott pronounced hopefully, with his own unique irony bypass and pious piffle filter working overdrive in 10 Sept 2013.

Observers of Abbo’s achievement are less generous. “An utter waste of space” is Laura Tingle‘s withering verdict in 2017, well after the self-abortive Abbott experiment collapsed under the inertia of its own ineptitude. “Secrets R Us” ScoMo will follow the same route but more quietly. And it may take a while. Warringah has only recently come to share Tingle’s view, despite the budgie smuggler’s brilliant, last-ditch attempt to re-invent himself as the father of marriage equality.

“When all is said and done, I helped to make the thing happen,” the former PM tells The Sydney Morning Herald, skipping the fact that from the onset, he vociferously opposed any change to John Howard’s Marriage Act. What he says next will form a gold standard in ministerial political accountability especially among Liberal Party neoconservatives.

“I set up the process which opened up the possibility and even the likelihood of change. Now that it has happened, I absolutely accept the outcome. It’s the law of the land and that’s the way it is.”  

Calm, steady and purposeful? Rarely are we blessed with such sublime self-parody. In 2015, Abbott was thrown into blind panic at the prospect of a real party room debate on marriage equality. It’s how we got the half a billion postal thingy which began as a plebiscite and then was moulded into a postal something on Peter Dutton’s suggestion.

As for the theatre, Abbott’s cabinet leaked all over the front page of The Australian or Daily Tele whenever it suited him, a tactic already avidly embraced by his heir-apparent to the fun of quietly getting things done, ScoMo, the totalitarian.

Abbott is a Caspar Milquetoast compared with ScoMo’s back-stabbing, ABC raiding, water-rorting, secrecy-obsessed, FOI refusing, Banking Royal Commission-resisting cabal of God-botherers, noddies and mining lobby shills.

True, the Abbottocracy did a lot of lasting damage. Its nihilistic climate change denial, its petty and pernicious hyper-partisanship, its war on renewable energy, the environment, the poor and its madness in mistaking Julie Bishop’s Aid budget for a cash cow, have all helped reduce us. Above all, his dud political judgement took its toll. Those who chart the Liberal Party’s decline under John Howard cannot ignore the toxic legacy of his spoilt acolyte, Abbott.

Getting things done? Or undone? Australia has one of the highest per capita carbon emissions in the world – yet it is the only nation in the world to actually repeal a carbon price? 17 July 2014 ought to be another type of national sorry day.

But how good is that front page? Much as Morrison is doing now, with the John Setka panto, Abbott hoped that by continuing to harp on the Gillard government’s supposed instability, the nation would miss his own stunningly crud judgement. Who can forget Prince Philip’s knighthood, the Bronwyn Bishop expenses fiasco or the Dyson Heydon imbroglio? Yet one enduring act of Abbott-sabotage is that our Tories end up believing their own News Corp chorus.

Morrison’s Follies follow both the trend to self-destruction and the rhetoric: the pretence that when it’s not throttling democracy or spending seven hours embarrassing and intimidating a free press journalist quietly at her home, it’s somehow nation-building because it has nothing to show – no programme – no vision and no sign of a set of policies

Yet barely four weeks out of the blocks, ScoMo’s show, another supposed tribute to the “Quiet Australians” he credits with bringing him his “miracle victory”  is already a riot of evasion and division with a power grab and police busts and a turf war waged on the Australian Signals Directorate by Home Affairs, the Department of Megalomania, created against all advice, by a Malcolm Turnbull whose reliably poor political judgement caused him to try to buy off power-hungry Dutton and his Monkey Pod roommates. Not even ScoMo can assert that sort of authority.

This week, ScoMo puts in some hard slog on Tony’s invisibility project. Does nothing. Holidays on an exotic coral atoll as yet undrowned by a steadily rising sea. Opening up the Galilee Basin to six new coal mines will help with that.  But it’s no respite. Apart from a pledge of tax cuts by 1 July, a vow which cannot be honoured, the policy void that is the Morrison government is rapidly filled, as Paul Bongiorno gently notes, by the ghastly “spectre of an incipient police state”.  And by the odd cameo role from our protector Dutton on birthday cake duty. Forget Setka, ScoMo, Dutto’s right behind you.

Josh Frydenberg is despatched to the US. Tuesday, he’s full of admiration for Trump’s tax cuts. Fran Kelly on Radio National Breakfast shares his joy. No point in being a party-pooper. Fact-checking a Treasurer who has yet to give any evidence that he is anything more than a neoliberal shill could not possibly be in the national interest. It may well be a threat to national security. Especially given that he’s refused to budge from his mission to balance the budget.

In fact, Trump’s $1.5 trillion in tax cuts that came into effect last year have failed to raise workers’ wages, boost economic growth, or stimulate business investment.

A recent US study by the bipartisan Congressional Research Centre suggests that in Australia, too, most workers’ pay will not rise nor will jobs grow. Nor will tax cuts boost investment or help any other measure of productivity. Only four percent of US workers have seen a bonus or pay increase following Trump’s tax cuts.

Far from creating jobs, corporations, such as GM, have laid off thousands of workers while using tax windfalls to buy back $1 trillion of their own stock. In America, as in Australia, corporate executives and rich investors are the real beneficiaries of tax cuts. GM posted a tax windfall of $157m in the first three months of 2018 thanks to the cut.

If and when parliament meets again, the government intends to put its tax cuts forward as one portmanteau bill. It is unlikely at this stage it will have anything but rave reviews from The Australian and unqualified support from the rest of News Corp. Whether it can persuade the senate cross bench, is, however, another matter. Already, Senator Rex Patrick, who shows sterling independence as an Alliance Party cross-bencher, has complained of bullying from Home Affairs Mike Pezzullo, a spat which Dutto says is all sorted out now in his nurturing, non-judgemental fashion.

“it was counterproductive because I have always found Senator Patrick to be a person of the sort of character who would seek to misrepresent the secretary’s words, and the secretary agreed the contact was not appropriate and that is where the matter ends”.

It has to be the best non-censure and least impartial intervention between a Minister and his chief of staff in political history. No wonder even Ken Henry can come on national TV to bemoan our lack of trust. ScoMo appears unafflicted, however, and doubtless when he does return from the South Pacific, he’ll find his government all shipshape and Bristol fashion and Captain Dutto on deck ready to pipe him aboard – in the most respectful non-insubordinate way. You wouldn’t count on him to bake a cake though.

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16 comments

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  1. Baby Jewels

    Dutton takes bald-faced lying to an art form.

  2. David Bruce

    You are very generous to suggest ScuMo had a “thought bubble”? From my perspective it is just another brain fart from a bloated egotist!

  3. wam

    fake news if the economic woes were true, the papers would have been full of it, the morning shows would squealing with the controversy and little billy would have won the election.
    Frying burg will come back waving a trump tweet stating the great success of the tax cuts and declaring prosperity in our time.
    All will be well in the AFP and dutton’s regime.
    My rabbottians will gloat as they repeat the truth murdoch prints.
    Dinatale will revert and exclaim Mea Culpa (only joking)
    Labor will lie down and pass the cuts.

  4. New Englnd Cocky

    Too many Australian voters are prepared to overlook the historical fact that Benito Duddo was a Queensland copper, attached to the Drug Squad at one time, who allegedly abused Aboriginal children for personal pleasure with impunity. It was further alleged that he was allowed to resign from the Queensland Police Force within two weeks of qualifying for long service leave rather than face criminal charges in these matters, as is the (“unfortunate”) common practice in these matters in some Police Forces.

    Too many Australian voters have not read the history of the rise of European fascist dictators in the 1920s and 30s when established wealth in Western democracies was fearful of Communism and so turned to suppression of the woking classes to protect their material wealth and possessions.

    Too many Australian voters decline to see the many similarities between these historic events and the present political situation in Australia where rich and powerful usually foreign owned multinational corporations are encouraging incompetent governments because that benefits their acquisition of Australian natural resources for free or less.

    So, what is the difference between a Nazi storm-trooper beating up a Jewish teenager in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1944 and a Queensland Policeman beating up an Aboriginal teenager in Brisbane in 2109?

    The answer is : 75 years.

  5. Kaye Lee

    The thing I don’t understand about the ABC raid is that the whistleblower had already outted himself. David McBride faced court last week. So what actually were they trying to find?

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-06-13/abc-raids-afghan-files-leak-accused-court-canberra/11206682

    As an aside, Pezzullo’s wife Lynn was employed to lead the charge on cutting penalty rates in the Fair Work Commission. A truly caring sharing family making our lives a misery as they pocket huge salaries.

  6. whatever

    Please don’t put “Dutton” and “naked” in a sentence again. Thank You.

  7. Matters Not

    ME, his father was quite a successful builder. Indeed Dutton joined his father on leaving the police force and they engaged in some successful projects along the way. That might explain his wealth.

    Groves who made a squillion out of childcare scams and then fled to Canada after declaring bankruptcy is now back on the Gold Coast. Now scot free.

  8. Terence Mills

    The Department of Home Affairs believes that it is beyond scrutiny as was demonstrated when the Auditor General sought to report on the claimed efficiencies that drove the departmental mergers which created Dutton’s empire.

    The Department of Home Affairs was required to prepare data that would allow the Auditor General to carry out an audit on the effectiveness of these departmental mergers, this from the Auditor General :

    >The objective of the audit was to examine the effectiveness of the integration of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.

    The result of this audit had a quite worrying outcome reported by the Auditor General :

    >The department [of Home Affairs] cannot demonstrate that the claimed benefits of integration have been achieved because it did not implement the Benefits Realisation Plan which formed part of the Integration Business Case.

    https://www.anao.gov.au/pubs?f%5B0%5D=field_report_sector%3A96

    The Auditor General has now been tasked with finding out what happened to all the money given to *Paladin Security** in what looks like a major scam involving the security contracts on Manus. Don’t hold your breath for this report as, if they were able to get to the truth there is one government minister who could be up on criminal charges.

  9. Terence Mills

    The copy function didn’t work properly, it should read :

    The objective of the audit was to examine the effectiveness of the integration of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.

    The result of this audit had a quite worrying outcome reported by the Auditor General :

    The department [of Home Affairs] cannot demonstrate that the claimed benefits of integration have been achieved because it did not implement the Benefits Realisation Plan which formed part of the Integration Business Case.

  10. Kaye Lee

    From Terence’s link….

    “The audit found that the department did not maintain adequate records of the integration process. This finding repeats the outcomes of a substantial number of audits and reviews going back to 2005. The department’s own assessment is that its records and information management is in a critically poor state.”

    That is not particularly encouraging for the department in charge of all of our security agencies.

    Also….

    “The department also experienced a loss of corporate memory due to the level of turn-over of SES staff, with almost half of SES officers present in July 2015 no longer in the department at July 2017.”

    What’s that tell you about the reign of Pezzullo and his front puppet Dutton.

  11. Bert

    Australian version of the Stasi anyone?

  12. Kaye Lee

    The Australian federal police is losing its independence and integrity and must be separated from Peter Dutton’s home affairs portfolio, police union leaders have warned.

    The AFP was subsumed into the behemoth home affairs portfolio in late 2017, placing it under Dutton’s direct responsibility.

    But the Australian Federal Police Association, which represents 6,500 AFP members, now wants the change reversed, saying it has compromised the AFP’s organisational integrity and its ability to carry out investigations without government influence.

    The association president, Angela Smith, said the AFP has lost autonomy and is now the “poor cousin” in the home affairs portfolio. Smith said it was a feeling shared widely across the AFP, including in the agency’s senior ranks.

    “It’s an embarrassing situation,” Smith told Guardian Australia. “We look the least independent police force in Australia”

    The AFPA pointed to the compromised situation the agency was placed in during the Australian Workers’ Union raid and au pair scandals. The latter involved federal police searching the offices of fellow portfolio agency, the home affairs department.

    Federal police are also frustrated at criticism in politically charged controversies outside of their control, including the detention of Hakeem al-Araibi, which the agency says was caused by a decision made in home affairs department.

    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/mar/15/federal-police-must-split-from-dutton-ministry-to-save-integrity-says-union

  13. Kris

    Let News Corp bullies fulminate about intimidation, it’s all good publicity to Peter Dutton. Or the cat’s well and truly out of the bag. The Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) a military intelligence arm, will be empowered to spy on civilians, as Ms Smethurst said, a move which Dutton says on ABC Insiders Sunday, warrants “a sensible discussion”.

    Already doing it and i can prove it !

  14. Pingback: Duttonisation – an existential threat to Morrison? - » The Australian Independent Media Network

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