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The Emperor fiddles while Rome burns

We are currently experiencing a massive natural catastrophe such as Australia has never before experienced. The Northern reaches of the Great Barrier Reef are dying. Much of the coral cover over thousands of square kilometres of the reef has turned as white as bone china. Even the fringing reefs are dying.

Professor Terry Hughes of James Cook University recently flew over 660klm of the northern reaches of the reef and estimated that 60% of the reef was entirely bleached. Many of the most famous dive sites on the northern reef have been reduced to barren ghostly white wastelands. Soon algae will discolour these lifeless coral skeletons and they will begin to crumble. As will the local tourism, diving, and fishing industries.

If you hop on any number of the dive or charter boats available in Port Douglas and motor out over the reef for several hours you will come to the famous Agincourt Reef system. Or at least you will be in the vicinity of where it used to be. In today’s Guardian you can see pictures of this natural wonder of the world bleached as white as coral sand. The same thing has happened to most every reef between Cairns and Papua New Guinea.

Meanwhile on another planet entirely, in Canberra, our government has been summarily recalled to debate vitally important business. In an action which has no modern precedent our PM has recalled parliament so as to sit for a few days to reconsider matters that are of such dire consequence that normal conservative practice and tradition must be set aside.

As I write I am listening to the leader of the opposition moving for the business of the house to be suspended so that they might all discuss the banking ‘crisis’. This motion will fail. The Turnbull government will then use this extraordinary meeting of parliament to prorogue parliament and call a Double Dissolution election.

The government has not been able to get its extraordinarily repugnant economic agenda through the senate. Many of the 2014 budget cuts are still delayed. And despite the fact that even the government has turned away from many of the more obnoxious of these proposals, this is now a ‘crisis’. Moreover: if we don’t suddenly reinstate a home-grown FBI built just for unions involved in the building industry then the whole of the Australian economy is under threat (apparently).

Under normal circumstances the artificiality of our politicians and their views is somewhat masked by the gravity of the issues they consider. However in this instance, for this week, there are only artificial crises being considered.

Nobody in our country really believes that the passage of the BCCC Act is a first order problem. If it had wanted to negotiate an outcome on the BCCC Act then the government could have done so. Many cross bench senators may have been willing to negotiate a reasonable outcome, if only the government had not already rammed through alterations to the senate voting procedures that will wipe them all out at the next election, and then recalled parliament using a long dormant constitutional manoeuvre so as to manufacture a double dissolution election.

Six months ago it may have possible to still keep a straight face while calling DD and arguing that it was because there was a policy agenda that was being thwarted by senate intransigence, however after six months of political inertia it is no longer tenable. For the last six months the government has done nothing but rule things out. When Turnbull was raised to the throne all of Australia chanted ‘yes’ ‘yes’ ‘yes’ in unison. The ‘Party of No’ was at last going to pursue a middle of the road conservative agenda. Then ever since Turnbull has done nothing but say ‘no’ ‘no’ ‘no’.

So while six months ago Turnbull might have been able to call a DD and be pretty sure to get elected on the basis of all his wonderful aspirations for our country, now it’s not a sure thing. The longest election campaign in Australian history is in prospect. And while very few Aussies know what the BCCC is, most every one of them is fairly attached to the Great Barrier Reef.

Unfortunately for the Turnbull incumbency he is leading the wrong political party. All of Australia was backing him on the hope that he would be able to lead us out of a wilderness of political rhetoric and bowing and scraping to vested interests. Aussies largely agree with his stated sentiments regarding climate change, keeping manufacturing in our country, addressing long term unemployment, providing decent education and health services, and knowing that there will be a secure pension available at the end of a working life.

However every time Turnbull has voiced anything that might possibly be construed as being in line with any of these stated aspirations he has been immediately beaten up by right wingers before backing down. It is becoming more and more apparent that Turnbull is entirely captive of his own Praetorian Guard. He is up on the battlements playing a sweet fiddle, but nonetheless Rome continues to burn.

So while six months ago Turnbull would likely have won an election comfortably, now it seems the worm has turned. It is going to be a long cold winter for Turnbull and the LNP. The bookies are still offering reasonable odds against a Labor victory. Maybe it’s time for a flutter?

Also by James Moylan:

The ongoing News Limited ‘reality show’

Likely arguments in Day v Regina

Why we need to be intolerant of climate science fools

Campaign coping strategies

‘The modern and wonderfully diverse 21st century Australian democracy®’

Yes, we do need to talk about the spurious nonsense being taught to children in our schools

Election 2016: Media Groundho


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  1. Bronte ALLAN

    The BCCC is a disgusting unnecessary waste of “our” money, & is really just a Star Chamber, designed especially to somehow “force” the building industry Unions to “toe the line”, or be sent to jail without any form of Westminister justice system being invoked, bow down to whatever the Construction industry bosses want, & to hell with important & necessary “protections” such as the adherence to any OHS&W breaches that seem to happen almost daily in this industry. As for Talkbull insisting that this “crap” HAS to be voted on & accepted by the Senate, or he will take his bat & ball home etc, this is just his evil way of getting rid of all those pesky independents that currently hold balance of power in the Senate. With the changes to the ballot paper being virtually forced through Parliament, we, the voters stand to lose any “independence” there was in the Senate! It is more apparent every day that Talkbull is no “better” than Tony Abscess was, despite giving us the impression he was gong to be “different” & be able to discuss the “policy” topics he first proclaimed to us after his ascension to the throne! It appears that the far right, flat earth, quasi-religious factor in the Liberal party are the ones who now dictate policy items etc to Malcolm! The ONLY people in Australia who stand to “benefit” if this lot get into power again are all these obscenely wealthy mining magnates, media bosses, pastoralists, industrialists etc, who do not pay any or very little taxes now. God help the rest of us if this inept, lying, obscenely over-paid conservative so-called mob of politicians get into power whenever the next Federal election is held.

  2. Jexpat

    “When Turnbull was raised to the throne all of Australia chanted ‘yes’ ‘yes’ ‘yes’ in unison.”

    “All of Australia was backing him on the hope that he would be able to lead us out of a wilderness of political rhetoric and bowing and scraping to vested interests.”

    I understand that’s probably a figure of speech, but it is a bit presumptuous. Many seasoned observers were not so naive, and would have preferred that Abbott face the press and the voters with what we knew would be the same polices or worse with fancier window dressing and a silvery tongued salesman. Same store, same shoddy merchandise.

    Indeed, some of us both predicted early on that somewhere down the track- before the next federal election, the spill would occur, people and the media would thrilled and conned and yet most everyone (including many LNP cronies) would be worse off -and farther away from restoring some semblance of sanity and evidence based policy making to government.

  3. James Moylan

    Jexpat; It is both a figure of speech and a bit presumptuous. I am sure that the majority of the readers here will have had similar grave reservations about Turnbull’s facility and abilities. I certainly did.

    However if I remember correctly (which is a big caveat) I think I was talking generically regarding the general views expressed within our vast range of media outlets. For a while there (remember) if you read any of the MSM in Aus you could be forgiven for thinking that all Australia was about to follow our great leader into gentle scented uplands where there would be space for all and there would be food and wine aplenty. Where there would only be ‘lifters’ and the refugees would simply bugger off and stop bothering all us fine upstanding Liberal folk.

    Then, apparently, reality intervened.

    And no. I really did not see the spill coming.

    I thought that the LNP would be mad to repeat the very same foibles that killed the Labor Party. Surely if they had all locked Tony away in a room and beaten him with copies of the polling data for long enough then they might have been able to get him to go back into Mr Nice Guy mode for just long enough to get him past another election? Maybe someone would have turned up who was actually a conservative and not a populist liberal? As it is they are in a bit of a pickle. Poor bloody Turnbull has to fight half of his own party as well as the Labor and Greens, all while being unable to defend (or even mention) any of the policy positions that he is known and loved for.

    But then it couldn’t happen to a better merchant banker.

  4. Gangey1959

    Surely, when it comes to any investigation and “trial”, any of the construction workers dragged up in front of the so called tribunal will be able to fall back on the ever reliable “Duuuh. I forgot”
    After all, it worked so well for the loverly georgie ‘porkpie’pell, and his mate arfer sinnerdin’donuthinodinos when they were being asked far more important questions by courts of a far higher standing than any ipa backed dark ages torture chamber session.
    It’s almost Pythonesque. “If he was using a hammer and nails then he was made of a duck, and ducks float the same as trees and we burn trees to cook the duck so let’s eat him……..”
    Go for it mr turdbullshitartist and your wetbehindtheearsandoutoftouchwithrealitybuti’malrightcosi’mreligiousandgodisonmyside moron purple minion halfwit colleagues. I figure that I’m next in line behind the guys wearing the same safety shirts as me if I so much as even think “please sir, I want some more”.
    For less than $25 an hour, do your worst. You had better make it a good one, because you’ll only have time for one swing.
    And there are a lot more of me than there are of you.

  5. Sir ScotchMistery

    @Gangey – thank you for the veritable minefield of gross over-generalisations etc etc, but you have wrung the neck of the one duck that can quack –

    “There are a lot more of me than there are of you”

    All we need is the balls, as a group, to not bow once. We need to all wear a T-Shirt saying just that.. “There are more of me, than there are of you”

    So, tonight I am going to design my Federal election T-Shirt and put it right here. Any of you who buy it, I will donate the money to Michael. I shit you not. This is bigger than all of us.

  6. Jexpat


    Many had variations of the same take, including members of my family and some colleagues. We had some rather rigorous disagreements about this right on up through the silly season. I see their point (and understand how and why that perspective would be appealing, even to people otherwise cynical about politics and polirical manueverings).

    In the frst instance, it would look hypocritical to bring out the long knives or forment the same “instability” that the media ripped Labor incessantly over. But what reasonable folks might think- and how Machivellian plays work out are often two different things.

    I can’t take credit for the spill prediction, as another colleague of mine, a veteran of many more Australian campaigns than I, called the shot even before the 2013 election(s) were fait accompli. Her rationale was that Abbott would… well, be Abbott. Mouth off, overreach, and be a bull in a china shop. Once enough damage was done (or at least as much as they could get) -once Abbot became radioactive, they’d dump him (and the nation would cheer).

    Whereupon, we’d be well and truly fvcked.

    I also reckoned -and thus far have got it wrong, that Turnbull would pull out and play the marraige equality card to shore up his leadership credentials and crossover voter potential.

    I’m not quite ready to eat crow on that one just yet, so we’d best to stay tuned. 😉

  7. Kyran

    “Under normal circumstances the artificiality of our politicians and their views is somewhat masked by the gravity of the issues they consider. However in this instance, for this week, there are only artificial crises being considered.”
    A good friend came back from an Indonesian holiday some years ago with T-shirt’s for my lad’s. On the front was “Same same”. On the back was “but Different”.
    Mr Moylan, through both his article and his comment has, in my opinion, nailed it.
    Same same, but different.
    SSM, ‘This is bigger than all of us’.
    Gangey, ‘it’s almost Pythonesque’.
    Same same, but different. Thank you Mr Moylan. Take care

  8. Wayne Turner

    There is no point to Tony Turnbullsh*t being PM – He chucks out thoughtless bubbles,which he then dumps when rubbished.
    Totally GUTLESS.who sold out to be PM.

    These Libs ONLY govern for the MEGA RICH. With distractions of union bashing,general fear mongering (From asylum seekers,terrorism to the unemployed) thrown in.

  9. Wally

    Sir Peter officially reopened Parliament, calling House of Representatives Members into the Senate, but the ceremony was not without incident. He described the two industrial relations Bills the Parliament will be asked to vote on as “critical” to the government’s reform agenda. “My government regards these measures as essential for the rule of law in our workplaces,” he said.

    When did the GG become part of the government? I always believed the GG was supposed to be an impartial head of state.

    In general, the governor-general observes the conventions of the Westminster system and responsible government, maintaining a political neutrality, and has almost always acted only on the advice of the prime minister or other ministers or, in certain cases, the Parliament.

  10. leonetwo

    I wasn’t chanting ‘yes, yes, yes. when Turnbull knifed Abbott to become PM. I have a thing called a memory. I remembered Turnbull was a failed opposition leader. I remembered all the scandals in his past, HIH/FAI, the Rainmaker scam, the environmental destruction in the Solomon Islands, UteGate, even the cat-killing episode. I knew his lack of judgement would bring down this government. Maybe I was the only one who didn’t fall for the ‘<Malcolm is just so faaaabulous' schtick, but somehow I think I'm not alone.

    Turnbull has never had to lift a finger to do a thing, everything he has done has fallen into his lap as the result of the work of others. He was left wealth and a nice property portfolio by his millionaire father. He married money. he got luck with Ozemail, selling his stake at the right time to make him extremely wealthy. Without his father's wealth and his wife's money he would never have been able to invest in that at all.

    Spare me the drivel about Turnbull being an astute businessman and possessed of outstanding intelligence, that's all a myth. The man wanted to become PM, he achieved that by devious means, now he has no idea what to do with his position. His indecision and lethargy are becoming infamous. He's nothing more than an effete fop. He will go down in history as the man who tied with Abbott as worst prime minister.

  11. Wayne Turner

    “When did the GG become part of the government? I always believed the GG was supposed to be an impartial head of state.”:-

    Indeed the GG is suppose to be an impartial head of state.Instead he clearly has shown he is a leaner puppet for these Libs. He should be sacked (By getting the Queen to sack him.Cause we know the Libs won’t).This GG is a disgrace,who should NOT be making public comments on government and/or opposition policy.

    In the senate Conroy correctly rubbished the GG. Sadly WIMP ShortOnSpine was then critical of Conroy instead of supporting him.

  12. Wayne Turner

    Correction: Conroy made a big mistake.He should of ONLY attacked the GG over his pro-government comments (The GG should be sacked for that.),and NOT the recalling of parliament.Sadly,Conroy made a fool of himself by attacking the wrong point.No wonder Labor too often fails at the politics of arguments,like NOT defending themselves (YES I know they have the Libs MSM to combat with.But often,they don’t even try eg: The “carbon price) and then this case of attacking the wrong thing.

  13. Florence nee Fedup

    Comparison. Gillard with minorities got all 3 budgets through in record time with no problems. 3 years later, this mob unable to get any through. Says it all.

  14. Florence nee Fedup

    One fact one can’t ignore. The 108 referrals PM /Cash/Bishop keep espousing will see few before the courts let alone being convicted. #auspol

  15. Salstarat

    The HUBRIS and self serving, short-sighted agenda of this fascist government is beyond evil! Their unspeakably callous indifference to the terrible plight of the world’s rarest natural site, the Great Barrier Reef, proves just how morally bankrupt these WHORES to the almighty dollar and profiteering, soulless bastards in the top 0.001% really are. The whole WORLD is going to judge this malignant pack of f**king maggots very, very harshly. The GBR belongs to us all – to the children, and grandchildren of the WORLD yet this pack of cynical, self entitled bastards can think of only ONE thing: short term profits and worshipping at the altar of relentless greed! God, I HATE this government with a passion! Every one of these rorting, lying, thieving, pathological LIARS and psychopaths need to be charged and jailed for criminal neglect, relentless cronyism, nepotism and unending, remorseless corruption!

  16. SGB

    I think you will find that the Governor General’s address was entirely proper.
    The Queen refers to the government in power as her government and her governments policy, when she does refer to the government of the day.
    The reason is of course is that she swears the government ministers into their office as advised by the Leader of the party that can form government on her behalf.

    That is how I understand it works


  17. Wally


    I can see the point you make but Cosgrove spoke of the politics involved giving the impression he was taking sides.

    “He described the two industrial relations Bills the Parliament will be asked to vote on as “critical” to the government’s reform agenda. My government regards these measures as essential for the rule of law in our workplaces,”

    Talking about politics or favouring one parties policies is not being impartial. He could have said something to the effect that “parliament has been recalled so the government can address issues relating to their push for reforms”.

  18. Backyard Bob

    The HUBRIS and self serving, short-sighted agenda of this fascist government is beyond evil!

    Ah, yes, beyond evil. That would be meta-evil, then? I always suspected that evil had its own, you know, evil side.

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