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Morrison on futile G20 mission, as his government blows up.

Scott Morrison is a man on a mission. The chips are down, down, down but fixed is his shit-eating grin – at least in public. It’s not just his government’s unpopularity and manifest ineptitude. Even News Poll has the Federal Coalition on only 34% of the primary vote; a twenty-seat loss. It’s also his poor leadership and charisma bypass. Julia Banks, MP for Chisholm resigns Thursday stealing the PM’s cunning re-set plan in which he promises an April 2 budget with surplus.

Banks is so alienated that she does not even warn her party. Perhaps she expects only further rebuke. She’s not disappointed, “Lazarus with the triple bypass” as deathless John Howard styled himself once, but now more of a Grim Reaper given his universally toxic effect on any Liberals he’s recently chosen to campaign for – is on ABC TV – not to offer any commentary, a promise which seems to allow him to put his boot in. Add judgmentalism. Banks is an ingrate.

After all, Howard campaigned for her during the 2016 election. She “owes a lot to the Liberal Party”, Perhaps Banks will get an invoice. Bizarrely, he urges the party not to divide itself along ideological battlelines, (he failed at this as PM).

Speaking of social division, Gavin Silbert, QC, who retired as the state’s chief crown prosecutor in March, accuses the Department of Human Services (DHS) of ignoring its legal obligations and acting like a bully towards some of the nation’s most vulnerable people. There’s talk of a challenge to Robo-Debt which is all set to claw back up to $4.5 billion in “overpayments” – the DHS gets to make the call. You, the neoliberal client, must prove your innocence.

Not so says University of Sydney’s Professor Terry Carney. The “failure of a person to ‘disprove’ the possibility of a debt is not a legal foundation for a debt”. Carney releases a report claiming that Robo-Debt wreaks legal and moral injustice.

A member of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for 40 years, reports Fairfax, Professor Carney accuses Centrelink of failing to defend the legality of the debts in the AAT, where several welfare recipients had made appeals. He claims their conduct “arguably breaches” the model litigant obligations of a government agency.

Professor Carney understands how it furthers the Coalition government’s war on the poor.

“When confronted with suggestions of having an overpayment, often up to seven years ago, the least literate, least powerful, and most vulnerable alleged debtors will simply throw up their hands, assume Centrelink knows that there really is a debt, and seek to pay it off as quickly as possible,” Carney writes in the UNSW Law Journal published in March.

Out of nowhere, Malcolm Turnbull appears in full war-bonnet. He attacks ScoMo’s attempt to fix Craig Kelly’s pre-selection woes. According to The Australian, the former PM calls upon Senior Liberals to “defy” Morrison; vote down a plan to save Craig Kelly from losing preselection. This would save the Berejiklian government, claims Turnbull.

The Oz sees this as “a ­brazen intervention” – which it is – but only if you ignore Tony Abbott’s guerrilla war on Turnbull. Or if you think John Howard’s public admonishment of former Liberal Julia Banks via the 7:30 Report is not totally out of order and a classic use of male power and prestige to publicly bully a woman who is given no right of reply. And surely Malcolm Turnbull, as a former PM and as a senior Liberal has a right, if not an obligation, to speak up for justice.

“It has been put to me that Mr Kelly has threatened to go to the crossbench and ‘bring down the government’. If indeed he has made that threat, it is not one that should result in a capitulation. Indeed it would be the worst and weakest response to such a threat,” Turnbull claims. “It is time for the Liberal Party members in Hughes to have their say about their local member and decide who they want to represent them.”

Luckily, the Libs’ wipe-out in Victoria’s state election has nothing to do with the collapse of federal government. As PM, he’s kept his distance. To voters, however, it looks like the Liberal denialism that may be found in its blinkered attitude to the realities of climate, energy policy, religious freedoms, environment, social justice, investing in social welfare, gender equality, wage parity, trickle-down or the folly of tax breaks for the wealthy – just to name a few.

State issues account for Labor’s victory, chorus Federal Liberals, mostly on cue. Yet some state MPs blame the leadership spill. None speak of Dutton’s African-gang scare, boosted by Murdoch media, which also dubs Victoria, the “terror capital” of Australia. Unlike Guy, who enjoys a lobster with a mobster party donor, Andrews is way too soft on crime.

Ivanhoe voters receive a black envelope with an image of a black man in a hood. A caption asks if voters feel safe.

Wisely, Scott and Matty keep out of each other’s way. Mostly. Yet both manage to crash Pellegrini’s with a massive media pack in tow. A saccharine platitude is never far from the PM’s lips, as we’ve seen with his huge, largely empty, blue bus-tour odyssey of comfort and promises of drought-proofing loans to Queensland farmers.

“We’ve all got to find our Sisto smiles; that’s the best message we can send,” our PM preaches. He rejects a question suggesting he’s intruding; politicising a personal tragedy by campaigning with Matthew Guy at a site of mourning.

“I’m not. I’m here to pay my respects and talk to the very issues that took place right here in this street,” he says, losing his Sisto smile for an instant. He clearly wins no votes. ScoMo may “talk to the issues” but no-one’s listening. No-one tells Liberals that messaging is a reciprocal process involving speaking and listening and mutual respect.

Early this week, key liberals such as Josh Frydenberg were persuading themselves in public of the lie that nothing has to change with the Liberal Party or Morrison’s Coalition government – “we just have to get the message out”.

NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, who does her own messaging, has a state election scheduled for 23 March 2019, texts toxic Scott Morrison that she is OK to campaign all on her own even though polls put Labor in front, ReachTEL: 51-49 to Labor in New South Wales; YouGov Galaxy: 52-48, The Poll Bludger, William Bowe reports.

New Labor leader, Michael Daley, leads Gladys Berejiklian 54.2-45.8 on the meaningless but mindlessly media popular nonsense of preferred premier, which will cheer Daley as the non-incumbent as much as it will chill Gladys.

Doubtless ScoMo will take the hint, despite his history of close involvement in his home state’s politics, which goes back to before his contest for Cook in July 2007 where, after a series of damaging articles in The Daily Tele, Michael Towke, the Liberal candidate was disendorsed – allowing Morrison, despite his eight votes, (Towke polled 82 on the first ballot) to be pre-selected in Towke’s place. Not even ScoMo could believe he was given a go because he was having a go.

Prior to his becoming MP for Cook, ScoMo knocked the socks off John Howard as NSW Liberal Party State Director, 2000-2004. Apart from his fondness for party fund-raisers, Howard also has a soft spot for evangelicals yet is never questioned in the media on his role in the increased influence of the religious right on the parliamentary Liberal Party.

Morrison’s more of a Liberal apparatchik than a salesman despite his media unit’s insistence he’s a marketing guy, a lie he must, of course, repeat – ad nauseam- himself. According to former staff, his sacking as MD of Tourism Oz, mid-way through his contract attests to a self-abrogating, if not bullying, selfish, management style and an irregular approach to some key contracts which has led the Australian National Audit Office to query his adherence to established protocols.

It must be weighing on his mind a little bit. Thursday, The Senate supports Labor’s motion to order the government to produce “all documents” relating to any contracts Tourism Australia entered between January 1, 2004, and January 31, 2006. It demands the contracts be tabled by 10am on Monday. As his mentor Trump says, “We’ll see what happens.”

Morrison refuses to publish details of two missing advertising and media contracts worth more than $100 million that preceded his sacking as Tourism Australia’s managing director in 2006. The PM insists they are confidential quibbling that the services they covered were delivered overseas. Yet Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines state otherwise.

Karen Middleton’s two articles in The Saturday Paper are a fair and reasonable case that ScoMo accounts for his actions.

Account for his actions? It’s easier to blame Julia Banks and rats like in the ranks. Yet the government is stuffed with all the decisions the PM’s put on hold over his hundred-day reign. Yet it won’t stop his boast that “I just get on and do”.

On hold includes his embassy shift to Jerusalem, a captain’s call, he’d hoped would win the Jewish vote. Everyone knows Jews vote en bloc on such issues; as do all Christians and Muslims. Joko Widodo, Indonesia’s Sukarno dynasty current Presidential puppet, won’t sign the Australia-Indonesia free trade agreement, a single page of platitudes which has been under negotiation since 2012, unless he hears Scott flip-flop; decide to keep the Oz embassy in Tel Aviv, a move which would save $200 million, among other benefits such as conforming with international law.

First, he must he snatch catastrophe from chaos this week as he counters the risks of minority government. Ignoring Turnbull, (so far) he gets his staff on to NSW Liberal Party Vice President Kent Johns, who could beat the PM’s fellow evangelical and climate change denier Craig Kelly for pre-selection in the southern Sydney seat of Hughes.

If Derby Kelly goes belly-up in pre-selection, he’ll join the crossbench but support the Morrison government anyway, despite Turnbull’s dire warnings that the worm may turn. Kelly is taxed just keeping up with government policy.

Craftily, ScoMo culls the 2019 parliamentary calendar. He has to make way for an April 2 budget, he says, in which he predicts a surplus, largely achieved by making it harder to qualify for the NDIS, something Christian Porter boasts is ending welfare dependency, but it’s more a case of denial, a move that saves the budget $2 billion dollars.

Expect an “easing of the tax burden”. An early budget may buy some voters before the May 18 Federal Election. Who would not be chuffed to find a few extra bucks’ tax cut resulting from denying the needy? The House of Reps meets for one week whilst in the other place, senators not required for the four days of Senate Estimates committees, three days.

Parliament, Bill Shorten jeers, Thursday, is “part-time under this prime minister, but the civil war in the Liberal party is a full-time occupation”. He also notes that a Liberal Party Room meets with each parliamentary session. Is safety an issue?

Blood is being shed. Jacqueline Maley sees cannibalism: “the Liberal Party is eating itself amid an atmosphere of blame and blind hatred”. Kelly O’Dwyer tells a “crisis” meeting that many view the Liberals as “homophobic, anti-women, climate-change deniers”. None of this is possibly a result of the Federal Liberal Party culture or the PM’s botched leadership coup in which he simply replaces one right-wing puppet with another even less popular, more limited model.

ScoMo has to get away. Fobbing off women MPs with promises he’ll look into the Liberals’ culture of bullying and paternalism is catching up with him. After three months he’s done nothing. It’s enough to make Julia Banks leave the party. Happily, he’s off the hook. The Australian manages to find conspiracy theory evidence that Malcolm Turnbull is up to his old tricks. His hands are all over Julia Banks’ defection.

Worse, the Fizza’s been communicating with Kerryn Phelps. And using social media, too, the ingrate.

Then there’s the Wentworth move-the-embassy-to-Jerusalem thought bubble. Morrison’s told Joko Widodo, it’ll all be fixed, fair dinkum, by Christmas. But enough of squalid, petty local concerns such as having no real legislative programme and nothing really for government to do – Morrison’s ego responds to the thrill to a higher calling.

The G20 needs him. He’s not just looking for sympathy, although Labor’s wrecked everything forever. And in Victoria. Nothing to do with federal politics. Nothing. All state issues. But now Kroger’s just quit, who will sue the Cormack foundation for Liberal funding? Where’s the election war chest now they’ve decided to do their funding directly?

Buenos Aires beckons alluringly, even if ScoMo dare spend only a couple of days. The G20 may be split down the middle between those like Trump and Xi who may say they are all for tariff hikes and those who oppose them. Masterfully, Morrison works out his own bottler of a compromise; a fair dinkum Clayton’s tariff and protectionist censure – that won’t impugn – or impress anyone, although spoiler alert, it may bring tears to the eyes of the unwary reader.

“I don’t think anybody is about protectionism. The allegations that have been made against the United States about protectionism, I don’t buy. What we are trying to achieve here is a modernising and an improvement of the world’s trading system.”

Don’t cry for me, Argentina. The nation is rapidly going bust. Inflation is rampant. Buenos Aires is a perfect setting for the surreal tenth G20 tango, a tryst of international big-noters where everyone is out of step since Trump ended to any pretence at US leadership; America’s authority wanes and oligarchs pick over the carcase of neoliberal capitalism.

Anything to get away from the reality of his government’s unpopularity; his dud political judgement. “Given that his minority government is consumed by division, dysfunction and chaos, was it a mistake for the current prime minister to replace Malcolm Turnbull?” Shorten asks. Is it a mistake for him to leave the country?

Who can blame ScoMo? Certainly not himself. The Liberals’ rout in Victoria has nothing to do with his knifing Malcolm Turnbull and replacing him with an even more pitiful, pliable, right-wing puppet, himself. No, he’s telling the G20 that everyone’s behaving beautifully and all that’s needed is a new rulebook, a G20.2.0.

Regard our host Mauricio Macri, an Argentinian Malcolm Turnbull with a “high profile business career” from a wealthy family who rose to power in 2015 boasting how his business-savvy, business-friendly, neoliberal government would soon have the economy pumping. Alas, Macri, too, proved a Fizza. Free trade doesn’t seem to be doing him a lot of good.

Buenos Aires. Who better to show-case international capitalism with its free-market-but-with tariff wars, economic order? Argentina’s peso is down 18 percent so far this year. Macri’s government has put up interest rates to 40 percent. But a lack of cash or a bit of inflation is nothing to do with solvency, credit rating, or any inability to pay its financial dues – his economic team insists. No Argentinians are reported massing after a long walk to the US-Mexico border.

Trumpism, moreover, has done the country a favour. In retaliation for Donald Trump’s tariff protectionism and border wall plan, Mexico is turning away from the US to import corn, rice, soy, and wheat from Argentina and Brazil.

All is well with the economy’s fundamentals, however. All Macri needs is an IMF hand-up of $30 billion followed by decades of character-building austerity measures. Worked so well for Greece. In fact, the IMF made itself hated in Argentina last time it stepped up to assist the invisible hand of the (almost) free market. But it’s the vibe that our Prime Minister is able to imbibe. As ABC News 24 gushes, Scotty is able to take his place among the “heavyweights” as they do deals, free up trade or wait to face off in top-level spats. Perhaps, he’ll be able to swap the odd lapel badge.

But it’s not just (mostly) male bonding. While Scotty and his numbers man, Matty Cormann get to hang out with the big boys; talk each other up, bitch about Julia Banks, Kerryn Phelps and demonise Bill Shorten, they renew their vows to the fraternal oligopoly, the rules-based brotherhood of multinational capitalism.

G20 is a ritual obeisance to free trade, free markets and their bosses. Yet it’s also a freak-show. Putin, Trump and Xi, our bad boys who are currently vying to break every rule of the “rules-based order” they confer upon the globe.

In the end daggy dad and everyman, Scott the Popular baseball-caps another busy week, “just getting on with doing” – so busy that he is quite unable to account for two $100 million contracts which The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) lists as still missing from Morrison the marketing guy’s dismal failure as MD of Tourism Australia.

But who knows? Morrison may come back with yet another makeover or another lapel pin or a fabulous free trade deal.

What seems certain is that the local crises of our local Liberal Parties emanate from the breakdown of neoliberalism itself which has enabled a wealthy elite to increasingly profit by the plunder of finite global resources. These include even the air we breathe. The pursuit of ever more growth or GDP comes at the expense of the health and well-being of all of us but especially the poor, a working poor who are increasingly deprived of fair wages, conditions and prospects.

As for dealing with the rise of erratic protectionist leaders such as Trump and proto-fascists such as Xi and Putin, we are ill-served by a local polity dominated by one PM in cabinet in camera, a world outlook wedded to an outmoded dependency on the US and its vacuous, cynical ideologies of free trade, free markets and workplace flexibility.


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  1. Michael Taylor

    Good to see you back, David. I trust all is well.

    Now to read the post. I’m wagering that it’ll be another gem.

  2. Jaz

    David , great to see your back ,
    your writing and annalisys as always is bang on .. This LNP Govt somehow have managed to become even worse under the moronic leadership of Morrison . Which is , in a way quite an achievement really .

  3. Ian

    Thank you David for another highly entertaining and bang-on piece about the ‘adults’ in charge.
    The odds are firming for an Abbott challenge post Xmas, and it’s my guess that our happy-clapping, merkin-ensconced used car salesman PM will fall before the election.

    Please Santa, make all my Xmas’ come at once.

  4. AJ O'Grady

    Is the budget surplus on the back of “go slows” for age pension applicants, increase in pensions and Newstart ( it should be Nowstop because it will be along time before any job provider gets you meaningful employment),healthcare, education, scientific institutions, ABC and SBS, environmental and social services and many other services that have been trashed by the L/NP governments whilst handing out grants and privileges to those who donate to keep the “born to rules” in power.

  5. helvityni

    I don’t want anything from Father Christmas, but I’d love some people in high places to disappear, no need to list them here….

    It already feels a bit more Christmassy now that you back here, David…

  6. Henry Rodrigues

    That is good read, all the weaknesses and sordid goings on in this disastrous and unworthy government. All I can say is its time to get rid of the parasites by calling an early election.

    I’m not endorsing Turdball and his arguments, its just time to reset the whole system. starting with a change of government. Enough of this bullshit.

  7. Miriam English

    A rattling good read, David. Not quite as laugh-out-loud funny as some of your earlier ones, but that’s understandable; joking about this toxic government sometimes feels a little bit like joking about vivisection.

    We look on with disbelief as they trip over themselves and do more stupid things day after day. Can it get worse? Oh yes.

  8. Diannaart

    “We just have to get our message out” …

    Murdoch not helping?

    Repetition, ad nauseum, not working?

    … could the “message” be unacceptable, unworkable, blatantly unfair? … unthinkable … the fickle public don’t know what’s good for ‘em.

    Thank you, David, for a terrific read, enjoying image of Turnbull in full war bonnet.

  9. Kronomex

    The self destruction of the Libs is a wonderul thing to behold –

    If the above doesn’t count as part of the Libs crashing and burning then Scummo definitely lives in a wonderful sugar coated world of fantasy where the LNP rules forever and ever and… –

    Scummo is life imitating art, in this case The Goon Show, as our “Part-time strolling Prime Minister.”

  10. DIANE Larsen

    Great read David always enjoy your articles

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