“We haven’t got everything perfectly right … we continue to learn from the experiences of previous events”.
Richard Colbeck appears as this week’s poster-boy for the Morrison government of cruelty and neglect. Yet in a blink of an eye, he is eclipsed by Tony Abbott, a fellow colossus of incompetence who thoughtfully syndicates his timely advocacy of gerontocide to every paper in the land. But first to Dick.
Nearly a fortnight after displaying total incompetence, if not criminal neglect of his duty of care, former carpenter and onetime professional pokies’ lobbyist, Dick Colbeck has yet to toss in his claw as Aged Care Minister. Imagine if he were a Labor Minister. There’d be rallies in Canberra; demands to “ditch the Dick”.
While the PM bangs on about his invisible COVID plan for protecting us from the truth about his aged care debacle, discovery learning is all the go, insists Minister for Aged Care and enabler of elder abuse, Dick Colbeck, after freezing like a bunny in the headlights of a senate Covid-19 Committee inquiry 21 August.
How many aged care residents have died of coronavirus? Chair, Katy Gallagher asks. Incredulous. How many have coronavirus? Dick doesn’t know that, either.
“You don’t know how many people have passed away. You’re now telling me you don’t know how many people have the infection?” “… you’re the minister for Aged Care.”
Completely rattled; as bonkers as a Belgian Hare, bunny Colbeck swears he has the figure with him; just not in front of him. It’s a bravura display of abject ineptitude that rivals that of rolled gold Liberal dud, the recently anointed UK trade envoy and now de facto aged care spokesperson, Tony Abbott.
Abbott, too, was habitually ill-prepared. As Howard government Health Minister, 2003-7 he is described by Nikki Savva as attending meetings without reading his briefing papers. Indulged by a PM. who increased government subsidies to private health insurance corporations while exploiting a minister more interested in politicking than policy, he was a stooge to help keep health out of the news.
The greater truth, however, is that Colbeck’s now very reduced ministry is a poisoned chalice, offered him only by a PM who needed to ensure that there was at least one Tassie with a portfolio in his government. Dick was the least worst pick.
Now it’s all backfired. The ongoing dumpster fire that is Richard Colbeck’s continued tenure exposes new depths in the Morrison government’s signature evasion of responsibility. It shuns its moral and legal responsibility for senior citizens? It parades its irresponsibility. Is it a calculated slight or just more evidence of endemic corruption and incompetence? Hundreds of grief-stricken families mourn their loved ones.
The minister’s subsequent efforts to put things right include storming out of the senate and walking out of pressers. Theatrical? That’s the plan. He’s a walking advertisement for the Morrison take on Ministerial responsibility. Luckily, Colbeck is part of a government in which accountability is a dirty word.
Dick’s incredible run of luck continues, as does the misery of our lucky country’s pensioners, especially younger Australians, who must not only suffer cruelly inadequate payments but endure the predation of a parasitic job provider network. In 1998, a Howard government invented an Orwellian unemployment industry in which Jobactive job “provider” spivs profit from government subsidies at the cost of robbing job seekers of their dignity and sense of self-worth. With the pandemic, business is booming.
Rick Morton reports that the Jobactive caseload has more than doubled to 1.4 million people – up from 630,000 in February – while mutual obligations for job seekers were temporarily suspended because of the virus. If they have more clients on their books, however, there are also vastly fewer jobs.
Newcastle University Economics Professor, Bill Mitchell delineates the abuse even before COVID-19.
“There’s a whole industry of punishment and coercion and monitoring of the unemployed when there’s not enough jobs anyway.”
Then there’s the systemic cruelty which is the “aged care sector”, where a generation of unique and wonderful individuals gifted the wisdom of experience, who have devoted their lives to others, is dehumanised; reduced into a buzzword “sector”.
How good is the jargon of economics? Here it helps ensure our elders suffer an old age of abuse, neglect. Similarly, so many are destined for the scrap heap of aged care facilities – not “nursing homes” – for the latter term implies that a nurse is on the payroll.
Our elders are not a priceless living treasures to whom we owe at least a duty of care, but a burden on society – Liberal Party neoliberal attention-seeker; suppository of all wisdom, Tony Abbott reminds us today.
Abbott, bravely speaks from the safe distance of the Policy Exchange, a murky Tory NeoCon think tank, located in London and linked to former Conservative PM and Brexit genius, David Cameron. Policy Exchange comes 27th or bottom of the list for transparency in Transparify’s UK Think Tank Transparency report 2016. Kensington Wine Bar buff and Timor cabinet bugger, Alex Downer is chair of its trustees.
Abbott slams community lockdowns as Covid “health dictatorships”. It’s a chance to sink the slipper into Victorian Premier Dan Andrews’ for his “extraordinary ineptitude”, the only field in which the former PM is a world leader, in the orchestrated pile-on-shit storm that is the Morrison government’s answer to the pandemic. Dictator Dan is a character in lurid News Corp fictions that regularly slander the Labor leader.
For Abbott, the economic cost of lockdowns means families should be allowed to consider letting elderly relatives with the coronavirus die by letting nature take its course. He claims it costs federal government up to $200,000 to give an elderly person an extra year’s life, substantially beyond what governments would usually pay for life-saving drugs. Boris Johnson who has recovered from COVID-19 only thanks to intensive, expensive medical intervention should be personally, vastly cheered.
Abbott is on to something, however. In 2019, the OECD Pensions at a Glance 2019 report indicates that poverty rates for age pensioners in Australia are very high at 23%, a full ten percentage points above the OECD average. And if you are old or unemployed – or both, it’s all your own fault. At least that’s the dominant narrative subtext in the News Corp-led claque that is Australia’s mainstream media.
Why waste resources on the improvident elderly? They are lucky to get a Minister to represent them at all – although the aged care minister is in the outer cabinet which means he is seen and not heard.
Of course, even in a Morrison government, Dick Colbert is lucky to keep his job. Yet he’s led a charmed life as a politician. Good fortune, surely, is the main feature of this nonentity’s rise to office.The only feature?
Astonishingly, against all odds, Dick won top spot on the Tassie senate ticket in 2019, determined by a trim panel of only sixty-seven selectors. Colbeck’s elevation was helped by personal testimonials from Scott Morrison, Peter Dutton and other “high profile” Liberals; paragons of selfless generosity and integrity.
Mathias Cormann, Marise Payne and Noddy Birmingham also backed the little Tassie battler and not just because Shouty McShoutface Morrison told them to. No wonder Colbeck has yet to be asked to resign.
And why should he? Since when is not giving a stuff about knowing stuff all about your job a hanging offence in a Morrison government? It’s all part of the Roadmap™ Out.
Why, Alan Tudge jumped at the chance to help out in a portfolio well beyond his ken. Big Al was only too happy to step up from spruiking a (gravel) rash of shovel-ready projects in Population, Cities and Urban infrastructure to nurse Dave Coleman’s babies in Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs.
Cuddly Tudgie is all heart; the gift that keeps on giving. Stop Press. His website list of press releases and pork barrels details yet another “shovel-ready” Gold Coast roundabout project; a 10.7 million upgrade on one of the coast’s busiest intersections that will “spark” thirty four “city jobs”. Seriously.
Unless it’s a magic roundabout – eternally under construction, the average punter will be lucky to get some short-term casual labouring out of it. But the optics are there. Local MP, Federal Member for blue-ribbon Fadden, Savvy Stuart Robert is rapt. He can spot a good deal. Even the odd gold Rolex or two.
“The upgrade will benefit cyclists and pedestrians as well as motorists”, Morrison’s prayer-mate Roberts points out. Who would have thought? Crikey. No skate-boarders or roller bladers? Perhaps that will be the guts of a subsequent press release. But that’s the Morrison government through and through: no policies, just wall to wall announceables a sort of game of mates meets friends with benefits.
Big Al’s baby-sitting will further endear him to a nation forever grateful to his work as Human Services Minister three years ago. Benefit? In 2017, Al defined poverty out of existence. Who can forget Tudge’s tough love; his selfless determination to stem welfare payments and government services to the poor?
“Just continuing to put more and more government services into places, be they Aboriginal communities or not, and continuing to increase welfare payments, isn’t going to be the solution to the problems which exist in many dysfunctional locations today,” an utterly functional Tudge argues.
Big Al wants us to focus instead on his “pathways to poverty” – such evils as welfare dependency, drug and alcohol abuse, family breakdown and poor education standards. Admit it. Your poverty is your own fault.
And dole bludgers are actually richer than you think. He’s done the Maths. We should not be measuring poverty against a nation’s average household earnings, he contends. We should look instead at “absolute deprivation” – which is not being able to afford the basics, food, schooling, shelter.
By Tudge’s magic formula, the poor are 10 percent better off today than thirty years ago -in the golden years of The Silver Bodgie, the late Bob Hawke’s neoliberal nirvana. Doubtless, Tudge’s insights will vastly comfort all those Australians who find themselves booted off Job-Seeker come 31 December.
On JobKeeper? Toughen up buttercup. From September 28, your payment will fall to $1,200 a fortnight, followed by a further drop on 1 January 2021 to $1,000. But that’s only if you were lucky enough to be in the minority of workers on at least twenty hours a week before JobKeeper was introduced.
If, as is most likely, you are just a lucky part-timer, then your payment will be slashed in half to $750 a fortnight from the end of September. Three months later, it drops to $650 a fortnight. Happy New Year.
All extensions will expire on March 28, 2021. But you’ll be too busy to notice applying for jobs all day.
2021 will usher in a new round of the circus of mutual obligation (a theatre of cruelty in which you are forced to apply for jobs that don’t suit you that you know you’ll never get). Applications take time and money – not to mention the incalculable cost of being bullied by your parasitical job provider, always dead keen to collect lush government subsidies. And the Morrison government’s made it a whole lot easier for them.
“As the rest of the country descended into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the government made it easier for these agencies, known as Jobactive providers, to claim bonus “outcome” payments, fees and other rewards for the work of “servicing” the unemployed”, observes Rick Morton in the latest edition of The Saturday Paper.
Private job agencies have banked at least $500 million, reckons Rick from his reading of the government’s own data and payment schedules. The federal government has even paid agencies for workers who kept their jobs after its JobKeeper scheme was announced – at least according to one document.
“An Outcome may be payable where an Outcome was already tracking for a participant who moves onto the JobKeeper Payment through their previous employer or applies for/receives JobSeeker Payment initially then moves onto the JobKeeper Payment through their previous employer,” the government’s helpful guidance document explains – allowing job providers to double-dip.
But credit where it is due. Where would we be today without John Howard’s privatisation of employment services? And where would Sarina Russo be? Liberal Party pal and uncrowned “job queen” Russo’s modest empire includes Sarina Russo Job Access, Sarina Russo Apprenticeships, Sarina Russo Institute, Russo Business School, Sarina Russo White House and Sarina Russo Recruitment.
With $100 million, reputedly in personal wealth, Russo’s a Liberal Party’s mega-donor. Her companies have banked $2 billion worth of government contracts since 2006. Her most recent contract struck under the brief, ill-fated Abbott-Credlin duumvirate amounts to a cool $606 million. It expires in 2022.
Job providers such as Russo are clearly attuned to the day to day realities of job-seekers. In touch. The cost of getting to interviews comes atop rising supermarket and utility prices – while jobseekers get by on thirty-eight dollars a day. New research from the ANU estimates that while half a million fewer Australians live below the poverty line, 2.2 million will be added when coronavirus supplements cease.
3.8 million of our population will be thrown into poverty. If we don’t allow for accommodation. Using an ‘After-housing’ version of poverty, the 3 million becomes 5.8 million people. How will they cope? In the nineteenth century, Australia was feted as the working man’s paradise. What have we become?
Adding insult to inhumanity, JobKeeper 2.0, the new poor law, is passed by the lamest excuse for parliament we have ever experienced. As Michelle Grattan reports, under rules agreed for the current sitting fortnight, MPs can participate in parliament remotely and ask questions and speak but cannot vote. Who exactly does get to attend and vote is neither transparent nor democratic. Many Victorian MPs, for example, are locked down in the garden state. Even barking Barnaby Joyce is not happy.
“No disease in 2020 should interfere in your parliamentary democratic rights. Parliament in a half-life is not a parliament, it is merely a rather large building, kind of a new age palace in Canberra.”
Barnaby bullshits on about how New England doesn’t get represented if a vote is taken and he’s not present in the chamber. A glance at his voting record doesn’t help his case. His weatherboard and iron constituents, the growing rural and regional poor would be shocked to discover Joyce sides with big business and mining and against the worker.
If they give a stuff.
Joyce’s base is more inspired by the way he harvests their resentment at the way the cards seem stacked against them and how he gives them someone to blame; scapegoats the latte-sipping urban guerrillas, The Greens or an out of touch Labor.
(Morrison makes a similar play for his tradies who enjoy material success but are press-ganged into his anti-academic, anti-Arts and humanities philistine Team Ocker.)
Joyce exploits his notoriety, like Morrison’s mentor Trump. A perverse logic is at work. How he votes in parliament matters less than his performances. His schtick. The more erratic, outspoken or eccentric his behaviour, the more his fans’ faith in his independence is confirmed. Supporters like to think “that he’s a maverick”.
Local store owner Andrew Coventry is on to something. “Australians in general love an underdog. They love a local boy story. We kind of fall a little bit for that larrikin, or a villain. A lot of people up here feel he has been hardly done by – by the media and maybe crucified a little bit.”
Joyce, of course, who, like Morrison, is only in politics for himself, is actively undermining the PM’s sock puppet, the underwhelming Michael McCormack, nominal Nationals leader, whose charisma bypass and a secret agreement helps keep Liberals in power and is part of a type of a brazen gerrymander.
Where Joyce’s complaint really breaks down is on not being represented. A major indictment of our political system is how much the Nationals are over-represented. In 2019 they gained only 7.5 per cent of the vote, but this entitles them to 10.6 percent of the members of the house of representatives.
In total, the Nats boast 21 members and senators, six ministers and two assistants in portfolios vital to regional and rural Australia. The Greens, on the other hand, won 10.4 per cent of the vote but have only one member of the house of representatives (0.65 per cent of members) and nine senators.
Doubtless Scotty would love Joyce to resign. But you don’t even have to turn up for work to keep your job in a Morrison government. Granted there are extenuating circumstances but David Coleman fell ill last December. He’s granted indefinite sick leave: his PM can’t face another by election. Similarly, even miracle Morrison can’t find another patsy to tend Aged Care. Or can’t be faffed. Besides, dynamic Dick is doing a sensational job as Minister, Belgian shepherd, Matthias Cormann assures us.
“I am sure that he regrets not having had that number at his fingertips. I am sure he does,” Cormann, archly tells Canberra’s press-gang, hosing down the senator’s complete and utter cock-up. Or perhaps not. Coach Morrison has taken Dickie’s whistle off him. Colbert can’t blow up any emergency measures.
Similarly, back in African gangland, after sensational revelations of his leading role in branch-stacking for Victorian Liberals in search of a more Mormon Victorian party, Assistant Treasurer, Michael Sukkar is off Scott-free, while in a desperate bid to bury a Turnbull dud, Spud Dutton is being chipped sideways and consigned into the death-in-life of Minister for Defence, a sinecure which will be revamped to include Abbott and Morrison’s Village People paramilitary, Border Force, so there’s no hint of demotion.
Not in pay, anyway. Pete still has to help service the considerable outgoings on his multi-million dollar property portfolio built in part thanks to government subsidies to Queensland childcare centres. Dutton remained in cabinet meetings where childcare was discussed.
But, look over there. Victoria is ruining the economy. Yes it’s time to play the Dan not the ball. Remember that recession we had to have? Paul Keating, November 1990?
Turns out we never had it. Technically. Revised ABS data for the June 1990 quarter show Australia economy grew by 0.1 per cent. Two consecutive quarters of negative growth never happened. Yet now, even work experience boy, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg admits that after a 0.3 per cent contraction in ABS March quarter growth figures, recession is inevitable. That’s why he’s attacking Dan Andrews.
Frydenberg fears Wednesday’s National Accounts show a seven per cent decline in economic activity. Is that a recession or a depression? Newspoll’s no help. Its latest dodgy estimate suggests a 50 – 50 tie between Labor and Coalition. Morrison’s approval rate dips seven points to a net approval of +32
Naturally, in a government of duck and weave and spin, the recession we can’t avoid has nothing to do with the federal government’s failure to manage to economy. It’s The Coronavirus Recession. And it’s all Dan Andrews’ fault because instead of his lockdowns. After all, “letting her rip” has worked so well in the UK or the US which recorded 93.2 deaths per million in August — or more than 30,400 in one month.
While we recorded two deaths in June and 93 in July (3.6 per million), Australia’s August tally represents 455 (17.8 per million). Australia ranks 42nd out of the 54 highly developed countries on deaths per million in August.
Today, rising underemployment and falling private sector business investment are but two sure signs that we are in recession, a recession we did not have to have – if only Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison governments knew anything about economic management.
Or ever listened to expert advice.
A profound collapse in work available and hours worked in the economy can be blamed on ‘Rona. So, too with the big dip in private investment. The construction slump.
Granted, the coronavirus with its widespread disruption to all forms of economic activity globally brings its own deep malaise. Add to this its many risks to our mental health, not to mention corona mania, a type of group madness; a folie a foule, evident in the behaviour of many of our elected representatives.
Yet we enter a recession the pandemic has made worse. Hungarian Josh Frydenberg and his shysters need something to hide behind as the stench from assistant-Treasurer Mick Sukkar’s branch-stacking spree threatens to get into everything while weekend wok-botherer, Pappadum Morrison posts selfies of himself concocting another hokey, home-spun ScoMo self-promo with a Sri Lankan curry.
Or so he says. Catch it on Linked-In where our fearless leader describes himself as an “influencer”. Tell that to Malcolm Turnbull. Or Michael Towke, victim of a Daily Telegraph smear campaign from whom Scotty stole preselection in Cook in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire in 2007.
Dan’s the plan, as Paddy Manning observes, for the non-wok, workaday week. Morrison’s shit-can Dan campaign turns even dirtier, Monday, as the work experience federal treasurer accuses the Victorian Premier not only of wrecking the nation’s economy with his reckless disregard for disrupting the profiteering of our banking and commerce oligopolies but not having a roadmap out.
No Melways. No Google street view? Not even a trail of stale focaccia bread crumbs?
Look over there. Dan Andrews has wrecked everything. His pandemic lockdowns represent “… the biggest public policy failure by a state government in living memory”.
Wednesday, the Herald Sun prints its Morrison government press drop.
The Australian economy has officially entered into a recession with the latest national accounts figures confirming the worst contraction since the Second World War.
Australia’s gross domestic product (GDP) fell 7 per cent for the June quarter, revealing the financial wounds inflicted upon the economy from the initial lockdown sparked by the coronavirus pandemic.
This is no time to be cutting the spending power of the most vulnerable, as Greg Jericho notes. Can’t afford it? Nonsense. Can’t afford not to keep it going.
Nor should we abandon our senior citizens to the vagaries of the property investors’ marketplace. Yet it’s odds on that more austerity budgeting is on the cards. And while there is no doubt that pandemic has played havoc with our capacity to continue business as usual, there is no question that the failure of government policy meant that the economy was tanking well before the pandemic erupted.
This may be a recession we couldn’t avoid but neoliberal Coalition economic policy has done almost everything to invite. Even its stimulus package will be cut short. And Morrison’s junta, his COVID-19 committee of mining industry executives’ talk about a gas-led recovery is dangerous nonsense. In the meantime, expect the war on Dan Andrews to reach fever pitch. To say nothing of our cold war on our biggest trading partner.
As Richard Colbeck almost said, “We haven’t got everything perfectly right … we continue to learn (almost nothing) from the experiences of previous events.”
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