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“No emerging crisis so big the government can’t find a way to look past it.”

A massive pall of smoke cloaks NSW and shrouds Canberra as the state burns in a catastrophic mega-fire already the size of greater Sydney. Too big to put out, it could last for weeks. Or until rain falls. Meanwhile, Sydney itself joins the world’s top ten most polluted cities as air quality declines as a result of bushfire smoke over the last few weeks.

Some schools are forced to close while others cancel playtime and sports because of polluted air. Red dust and ash waft 2000 km across the Tasman. Smoke also reaches South America. Yet Coalition MPs back-slap and high-five each other on parliament’s last sitting day over their secret deal to repeal Medevac and endanger asylum-seekers’ lives.

“Australia is the best country in the world” government MPs chorus Thursday. “I, too, am confident about Australia’s future.” A claque performing fawning self-applause begin a raucous crowing over Medevac, job creation, congestion-busting, meeting our Paris emissions’ pledges in a canter, our drought relief plan among other Morrison government pretences. In counterpoint, fire alerts and other real warnings run in the crawler under coverage on our TV screens.

“The disconnect [is] emblematic of the week. Indeed, it’s a … motif of the Morrison government. There is no emerging crisis so big that the government cannot find a way to look past it,” even Molan fan-boy Peter Hartcher warns.

Hartcher himself has his blind spots. He hails Jim Molan’s return to the senate where the coal-warrior will replace renewables advocate, amnesiac Arthur Sinodinos who’s off to be our US Ambassador. Amazingly, Hartcher backs Molan to lead a Liberal charge for democracy whilst being uniquely valuable to national security. It’s hard to see how or why.

March 2003 to June 2006 alone 601,000 Iraqis were killed. Since 2007, four million Iraqi refugees had also been created.

Allegedly, Molan was in command when war crimes were allegedly committed in Fallujah 2004 after the US illegally invaded Iraq, a military mis-adventure to which we were joined at the hip. The greatest failure of Australian foreign policy, our involvement in Iraq was based on a farrago of lies. John Howard lied to the nation that he had proof that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction that could end up in the hands of terrorists.

We are still all paying the price in all sorts of ways.

Howard ignored advice in 2002 and in 2003 from Australia’s Defence Intelligence Organisation that there was no evidence of Iraq having chemical weapons nor nuclear weapons. He lied that we had to disarm Iraq to have any hope of disciplining North Korea – another palpable lie. And he fabricated a link between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.

There are votes in being tough on terror. This week, in similar duplicity, Home Affairs Tsar Peter Dutton deploys police to patrol our airports as if an extra 135 AFP officers armed with MK18, short-barrelled rifles will protect us from terrorists.

While our PM rants about suicide prevention amongst veterans, he would do better to attend to possible causes. These include growing evidence of moral injury. Fighting in conflicted wars is increasingly being seen – even by US Operations Special Command – as contributing to soldiers experiencing moral conflict or feeling morally damaged by their service.

Moral injury is the lasting mental and emotional result of an assault on the conscience — a memory, as one early formulation put it, of “perpetrating, failing to prevent, or bearing witness to acts that transgress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations.”

Whilst current research is based on military contexts, there is every reason to suppose that moral injury is also part of our modern human condition, not only a result of our war on terror, but of our climate wars which are mis-named attempts to downplay the wilful moral injury inflicted on those whose concern for humanity opposes the extinction of the planet via global warming boosted by the continued abuse of fossil-fuels in transport and electricity generation.

New Zealand’s once-pristine South Island glaciers are turning pink. Kiwis in Auckland and Wellington cough up our soot. But none of this alters Morrison’s mission to lie about climate change. And nothing can hide his hapless government’s monumental ineptitude in grasping the nature or scale – let alone its incapacity to respond appropriately to catastrophic bushfires which have so far killed six innocent people; destroyed over a thousand homes. Keep calm and carry on. Lying.

No credible scientific evidence links climate change and fires, Morrison insists. Besides, he just gets on with the job.

Accordingly, a can-do Morrison-McCormack government pledged to “meaningful practical action without damaging our economy or the family budget” rolls up its sleeves. Jumps in a ute. Gets its teeth into another bush photo-shoot.

Our PM and his dapper, deputy fashionista, Michael McCormack, a former editor (1992-2002) of The Daily Advertiser, a deeply homophobic bloke’s bloke, pose in a drying dam bed which retains a stale puddle big enough to reflect a trio of eucalypts in the background, a symbolic reminder of the Morrison regime’s unholy trinity. Cruelty. Ego. Inertia.

The setting says that while it may look dry, there’s plenty of cause for optimism. And more thoughts and prayers.

“We’ve had droughts before. Bound to rain again. Only latte-sipping city dwellers panic about climate change.”

Following Jenny’s recent write-up in national newspapers, wardrobe is all. Scott models a basic black Anthony Squires trouser with classic white shirt and salmon tie, while Michael teams the traditional National’s MP man-on-the-land-rig of rumpled moleskins with RM Williams Collins button-down, open-necked shirt and RM Williams Comfort Craftsman boot.

ScoMo’s a pro. He’s never forgotten what he learnt as the Vicks Love-Rub kid in the 70s Vapo-Rub ad. It shows. Hands on hips, Mugger Morrison grins down the lens while McCormack seems about to smile at something to the right. Michael could be about to crutch a sheep while Scott looks as if he has just sold the farm to an international consortium.

Fans of merit-based equality, the boys are every bit as “natural and authentic” as Jenny Morrison is recently judged.

“It was a wonderful thing to do. We’re really advocates of wearing pieces over and over again … if something suits you – you should wear it as many times as you like, even to meet the Queen. It shouldn’t just be about wearing them once,” snipes Genevieve Smart: a verdict which should equally apply to a Stepford husband’s ability to dress himself. Jenny doesn’t have a stylist. Buys all her own clothes. Gosh. Can the same be said of her husband and his deputy?

With drought and bushfires all under control thanks to a fabulous fashion-in-the-field photo shoot, the boys are at their best when called upon to dig deep back in Canberra; bash Labor and trash parliamentary democracy to the end.

The spirit of Christmas erupts across both ochre-red and eucalypt-green chambers of federal parliament as MPs break up for the year, Thursday, with a riotous free-for-all. It’s a joyously bicameral, poly-partisan, fiesta of back-stabbing, smearing and blaming amidst the ritual, slagging-off of Labor that now usurps all policy or reasoned exchange. Government MPs seem elated that they have the numbers to deny the opposition its democratic right of reply.

Ironically, there’s no debate allowed on the re-introduced Ensuring Integrity, a bill to further silence dissent in the workforce, a law which could deprive workers’ of their right to withhold their labour; make strike action impossible. Could any Labor MP fail to get the vibe? Or mistake the lower house for a debating chamber? It’s now Morrison’s “bubble”. For Katharine Murphy, it shows how little parliament matters to a Morrison government. Albo is disgusted.

“They run in to gag the debate. They refuse to allow anyone to speak to push through legislation, to what end? So that they can make a point that while they lost in the Senate last week, they won’t on the floor of the House of Representatives?

“We know they have a majority on the floor of the House of Representatives, but this is not, or should not be, a totalitarian state … Dissent and the right of people to represent their electorates have been shut down.”

Warming to the occasion, Angus Taylor, a former Rhodes Scholar who makes Tony Abbott look bookish, over-cooks his already well-stuffed goose by accusing Naomi Wolf of anti-Semitism. His seasonal Christmas tree war is a total fabrication which plays well to misogynists, racists and all conflicted and confused opponents of political correctness.

Taylor’s outrageous fiction ignores Wolf’s objection that she was nowhere near Oxford in 1991 as he alleges. Besides, she rather likes Christmas. In a sensational development, she rings Taylor’s office whilst recording the response before posting it on YouTube and social media. In a post-fact era, her rational, logical, objections are automatically overruled.

Besides, as a woman, a feminist and a victim of male malfeasance she has three strikes against her already in the Trump era.

Yet Taylor is a racist parody in response. Racist? Taylor? Why, some of his best friends are Jewish and he’s got a Jewish grandmother. Irrefutable proof of virtue. It’s a low pitch to divert a nation still in uproar over Clover-gate.

It’s also, as Jacqueline Maley notes in The Brisbane Times, a farcical indictment of our wilful abandonment of reason and the siloes into which we’ve retreated. Or been abducted by our elected representatives. Maley sums up the spat;

“So, here we have it, at year’s end: the greatest, weirdest and the saddest encapsulation of the tribalism that seems increasingly to define our politics: two people at odds, one from the left, one from the right, both with reputations for playing loose with the facts to make ideological points.”

Equally loose with the facts in service of ideology, Morrison’s government by and for and of the ruling elite, a hardy, noxious hybrid of kleptocracy, kakistocracy and oligarchy, is hell-bent on expanding wage slavery under the guise of his vitriolic hatred of “union thugs”.

The coalition government gags debate in a ram-raid on democracy so that its Ensuring Integrity Bill, passes through a bruised lower house to await a newly compliant senate when parliament resumes next year.

Together with side-lining parliamentary democracy, Ensuring Integrity further trammels workers’ rights to freedom of association and makes it easier for governments to deregister unions as well as just interfere in union governance.

A win will further handicap unions’ efforts to monitor workplace agreements and employee entitlements; create an environment which invites wage theft. Whilst this may delight some employers it has dire implications for those families who increasingly depend on underpaid, insecure, casualised or uberised work. And it will help stuff the economy.

Workers must have wages to spend to buy the goods and services our worthy small businesses have for sale.

But there’s big profits in cutting wages and keeping wages down, down, down. Woolworths’ eye-watering underpayment of $300 million to 5700 of its employees happens right before the regulator’s eyes. Unpaid wages may even run to $620 million according to a class action launched this week, reports employment lawyer, Josh Bornstein.

Australian bosses underpay their workers by $1.35 billion every year, PwC estimates, in its November report.

Wage theft is rampant in the hospitality industry, notes Bornstein. The Good Food Guide would fold tomorrow if it excluded those eateries that underpaid or otherwise ripped off their staff.

Workers are most vulnerable in construction (~$320 million), healthcare and social assistance (~$220 million), accommodation and food services (~$190 million) and retail (~$180 million). This estimate includes ~21% of the workforce in the selected industries, or ~13% of the total Australian workforce, reports PWC.

Speaking of rip-offs How good is Gladys Liu? Thursday we learn Morrison’s Great Australian is demanding the Liberal Party repays her $100,000 donation. It was only ever a loan. Victorian Liberals needed her money to hold Chisholm, a marginal Melbourne seat, she says. Liberal Party-poopers beg to differ. Thank God for Scott Morrison’s leadership.

“That’s a matter for the Victorian division of the Liberal Party. I was a state director a long time ago. That is no longer my job,” Morrison ducks and weaves in Canberra, Thursday, eagerly leading in evasion and prevarication at every turn.

But when money talks, a nation pays attention. And even our PM’s charisma can’t compete with Liu’s story.

Australia thrills to its small business backbone to hear how Glad’s pal Allen Saylav, ex-Brighsun CEO, backpacked to raise capital for his plucky little EV bus start-up.

Gladys steered Brighsun towards federal backing in 2015, taking the wheel as the company’s pro-bono Communications Director. Her role led her to organise events with former Minister of Energy and Direct Action dirt magic boondoggler, Greg Hunt, who was then flashing bags of cash for carbon abatement.

Gladys is so passionate about clean energy, she tells Nine Newspapers, she charges no fee.

Alas, poor Saylav has no idea the million dollars in cash including a cool half million he picks up in a Oztrail Quest backpack at a Melbourne BP petrol station car park in April and May 2016 involves a heroin-dealer. A drug mule? Who would know? Not that Saylav can’t explain himself. He’s just following orders. From Mr Zhang.

Brighsun’s Chinese co-director and fat-cat backer, Zhang Genjiang is a Crown casino high roller who jets into Melbourne on his private plane for a flutter. As you do.

Australia is now completely made-over into Morrison’s own Trumpian dis-United States or commonwealth of Metanoia complete with Jacqui Lambie the post-modern anti-heroic little Tassie battler left bleating and freaking out about national security, a phrase which means whatever any MP wants it to mean – but how good’s a mystery ending?

“There is no secret deal,” Mathias Cormann insists – despite all circumstantial evidence pointing towards Lambie being gulled; duped by a promise that Morrison’s government would look into re-settling 500 asylum-seekers who have survived the repeal of Medevac being resettled in New Zealand.

Not that Morrison ever said that. His leadership weasel words include “revisiting” New Zealand’s offer of a deal which was never off the table, he says – despite being rubbished by himself and Dutton as a back-door to refugees resettling in Australia – The Greatest Country in the World. A deal may still be on – but only when the US takes all 500 asylum seekers off Nauru and Manus, an event six months away, at the earliest – and after extreme vetting – in other words, most likely never.

The nation thrills this week to the riddle, wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma of the Morrison government, a puzzle, that includes Lambie’s Faustian bargain, Angus Taylor’s war on both Naomi Wolf and Clover Moore with Gladys Liu’s to-do tipping the government’s weekly balance from hyper-partisan warfare and union thuggery into utter skulduggery.

The one-time trombone-playing former teacher’s aide and ex-chemist-shop proprietor cannot keep mum forever about her Brighsun or Liberal associates, nor they about her, especially as she now has cause to ask for her money back.

Any sensible, practical government would demand the resignation of both Gladys Liu and Angus Taylor. Given his form so far, Scott Morrison is likely to find fifty shades of grey evasion including blaming Labor and Wolf to avoid taking any decision.

There is no individual, no institution nor any emerging crisis so big that this government cannot find a way to look past it.

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  1. Baby Jewels

    Ignoring the bleeding obvious, taken to an artform, when it harms us all, is nothing short of criminal. Jail is too good for them.

  2. Geoff Andrews

    Put this one away in the archives for future reference.
    And so we look forward to a looming 2020 – more of the same.

  3. New England Cocky

    Geez David, I hope GG writes on these topics because his articles make this serious situation look comical.

    Still, Australian voters get the politicians and government that they elected; but will they remember this long enough in the 24/7 news cycle of 2021?

    An objective political skeptic might consider that Liu is the thin edge of the Yellow Peril wedge well greased with PRC donations to slide into Australian politics while making the life of the unelected political hacks who control pre-selection that much more comfortable.

    So, is the Morriscum Lazy Nasty Party treasonous? Certainly it is NOT representing Australian voters.

  4. Regional Elder

    Thanks David for your incisive and disturbing account of the past week in our increasingly faux democracy.

    In a week of unparalleled bush fire intensity in NSW, your writing neatly frames Morrison and McCormacks’ publicity shot, these two carefully-attired men standing together in front a small pond just large enough to reflect the foliage of three small eucalypts, as symbolic of the malaise that has become national governance in Australia. The concept you convey is as brilliant, as it is accurate.

    For as you observe, Morrison’s holy trinity of political strategy, Cruelty, Ego and Inertia, has rapidly brought us to this point, Thus, the government’s denial of the growing impact of climate change on a water-starved continent that houses and feeds our predominantly coast-hugging population, is fuelled by Morrison’s blind invocation, to better utilise ‘Thoughts and Prayers’, as solutions to the problems we now currently face.

    In Morrison’s malevolent mal-administration, we can really see another layer of meaning, relevance, and continuity, so evocatively encapsulated in the title of his book, by Xavier Herbert in the depiction of what he discerned in an earlier epoch of this nation’s history: ‘Poor Fellow, My Country’.

  5. Kaye Lee

    Anthony Albanese touring regional Queensland….

    “If Australia stopped exporting today there would not be less demand for coal – the coal would come from a different place,” Mr Albanese told Nine newspapers on Monday.

    “So it would not reduce emissions – which has to be the objective. I don’t see a contradiction between that and having a strong climate change policy.”

    I dunno why we bother busting drug dealers. It doesn’t reduce demand. The drugs just come from a different place. So it would not reduce addiction.

    FFS Albo….hearing Scott Morrison’s lines out of your mouth disgusts me. I am sick of political hacks who are more interested in their own job than in actually taking a stand on something. At exactly the time when Labor should be ramping up pressure to act on climate change, Albo decides to fold. This, more than anything, has made me feel he is not up to the job of ousting the deniers. He wants to join them. If I be more like Scott then people will like me? Is that the plan?

  6. whatever

    Dear Cara Clark,

    Newspoll is just delivering the usual Monday Morning booster “Good News for the Govt!” crap.

    Fran Kelly on Radio National performed the same Monday Morning LNP booster ritual for years.

  7. johno

    Kiwi’s get free topsoil from Australia. Probably started getting free topsoil in the 50’s when landclearing in Oz really kicked in, now exasperated by mega drought.

  8. David Tyler

    Kaye Lee, well said. We need to talk about Albo. Joel Fitzgibbon, too.
    And spot on, Whatever. Fran and her producer frame the ABC RN breakfast BS news in the most Coaltion-friendly fashion manner they can. Hopelessly out of her depth on ABC Insiders. Helps give nonsense and toxic phrases like “union-busting” a legitimacy they don’t deserve. Forlorn belief that giving equal space to – or leading with government lies = balance. Still with Morrison’s Public Service “shakeup”, ABC will be outsourced- privatised, soon. It’s on the IPA agenda.

  9. Kaye Lee

    We should not be dealing with the “war on drugs” by locking up users, strip-searching kids, wandering around public places with sniffer dogs.

    You could stop the criminal supply of drugs by providing them on prescription to registered addicts provided they take part in a health support program. If there is no profit in it, then the crims are cut out and less kids will fall prey.

    Here’s a tip Albo – when renewables are cheaper and more accessible than coal, watch demand plummet. Why do you think private investors are abandoning it in droves?

    Why con people that there will be coal jobs in the future where any new mines will be fully automated?

    Show some gumption man!

    Give them alternatives.

  10. Grumpy Geezer

    I’m bookmarking this – a valuable compendium of the evil that lies at the heart of this kakocracy. And i don’t use the term “evil” lightly.

    BTW NECocky – ta for the mention; but I try to make the perps look comical not the situation – which i acknowledge is what you mean. Re-reading this article will get my grump going.

  11. Matters Not

    That Albo’s energy will focus almost exclusively on trying to win the next election should come as no surprise. Indeed, it was predictable and predicted. With primary support now down to about one in three of voting citizens, this bleeding has to stop and right now.

    Regarding what Labor stands for is now a philosophical issue for sometime down the track when the deep wounds are licked dry. Who knows, maybe even a détente with The Greens becomes an option before an election rather than an absolute certainty afterwards if it would lead to government. Desperate times demand desperate actions. Maybe lots of pride swallowing will be on the menu. Methinks Albo’s up for it. His last chance and also for the many colleagues. The whiff of ministerial leather is one hell of a motivating force.

  12. David Tyler

    The Guardian has some expert comment on our government’s disgraceful reality denial and brazen coal-lobby bias.

    Climate experts who spoke to Guardian Australia say they are “bewildered” the emergency has grabbed little attention during the final parliamentary sitting week for the year, which was instead taken up by the repeal of medevac laws, a restructure of the public service, and energy minister Angus Taylor’s run-in with the American author Naomi Wolf.

    Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, a climate scientist with the University of NSW’s Climate Change Research Centre, says she is “surprised, bewildered, concerned” that the emergency had prompted little discussion from political leaders this week.

    “Here we are in the worst bushfire season we’ve ever seen, the biggest drought we’ve ever had, Sydney surrounded by smoke, and we’ve not heard boo out of a politician addressing climate change.”

    “They dismissed it from the outset and haven’t come back to it since.

    “They’re burying their heads in the sand while the world is literally burning around them and that’s the scary thing. It’s only going to get worse.”

    Mark Howden, the director of the Australian National University’s Climate Change Institute and a vice-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said while the fires were raging on, “the commentary in terms of climate change has very much died down”.

    “Thursday they did a public service reshuffle, or there was medevac, or the ‘union-busting’ bill,” he says.

  13. David Tyler

    Kaye Lee, Albo would also do well to heed Richard Denniss of The Australia Institute

    Australia isn’t just the world’s largest coal exporter. We are the world’s largest exporter of LNG, the third largest exporter of fossil fuels and the 14th largest emitter of greenhouse gasses in the world. We emit more than 40 countries with bigger populations than ours, and our exported emissions add double that again.

    While Morrison or Albo argue that what happens to our coal and gas after we sell it isn’t our problem, that’s not the way the rest of the world sees it. It’s not the way the world sees those countries that export landmines, nuclear weapons technology or endangered species either.

  14. Roswell

    That’s it for me as far as Albanese is concerned.

  15. crypt0

    Perhaps we are being a bit hard on Albo … maybe he’s just not that perceptive.
    After all it was he who said …
    “I have not seen any evidence of direct corruption … that has been proven in my time when I’ve been in parliament,”
    “Albanese was defending the opposition’s decision this past week not to support a crossbench proposal for a parliamentary committee to examine new allegations involving Crown casino.
    Specifically that Crown partnered with people linked to organised crime and encouraged staff based in mainland China to stretch strict laws against promoting gambling, which led to 19 Crown staff members being arrested in China in 2016.”
    Now if he can’t see corruption when it’s right out in the open, when will he?
    Obviously no need for a federal ICAC hey Albo?
    So much for the “opposition” to the Morriscum “government”.
    Consequently today I’m reading …
    “Coalition extends lead in latest Newspoll”
    No bloody wonder … rotten “government” and no opposition to speak of.

  16. New England Cocky

    @Kaye Lee: England had this identification and dispensing system before about 1965 and it was very effective. The then government threw it out and consequently the illicit market developed for the benefit of criminal gangs.

    Coal miners are actively pursuing fully automated work sites meaning that the number of coal industry jobs will decline into the future, especially in large open cut operations like Adani and the Galilee Basin.

    So, perhaps the optimal solution would be to begin re-training coal miners to become alternative energy engineers capable of building and servicing alternative energy facilities. In California this strategy has provided about 50,000 jobs for miners over a decade, more than will be available in the automated coal industry.

    @David Tyler: Both Albo and Fitzgibbon are lost causes because they have not come up with suitable alternative employment opportunities for miners. See above about California. Then consider the LACK of a Coal Industry Faculty in any Australian University working to discover alternative mean of production and uses for coal based products.

  17. New England Cocky

    Funny how both Morriscum and Mack Muck are dressed in metropolitan country style with never a speck of dirt on their tie or pressed pants while their Williams boots are so well polished and spotless than they must have just stepped out of the RAAF helicopter for the media opportunity before returning to the frustrating task of happy clapping up policies for the benefit of all Australian voters …..

  18. Keith

    Thanks for another great article David.


    My comment elsewhere about Albo’s comments about exporting coal:

    Good for businesses producing coffins and shrouds. We are already seeing the results of exporting coal. Fish stocks are dying off in Alaska creating situation where mutton birds are dying in large numbers, an example of numerous cases where the environment is deteriorating. Heat, fossil fuel emissions, coal dust, and smoke from bushfires/wildfires cause death for many vulnerable people. Young people should be livid with politicians not acting in a safe manner, their decisions are in the long run creating more danger than the terrorists getting all the attention at present. What is it about the reference below that is too hard to comprehend?

    I reckon I have written this before; but, Professor Richard Alley when assessing ice cores has stated that abrupt climate change can happen within a decade.
    In Alaska the fisheries industry is to be put on hold in 2020 through fish species being hit hard by climate change. The “blob” which impacted on marine life off the Wester Coast of the US is apparently reforming.

    Just like conservatives focus on the individual, I’m beginning to wonder whether they can hold an aggregate of information from a number of sources to provide a rationale for decision making.

  19. whatever

    When Turnbull was dumped and they trotted out Scotty as the new leader of the L(ONENATION)NP, a lot of senior public servants in Canberra quit. They would not serve under these swine, so the Minerals Council offered up a whole bunch of Mining execs to take over these public roles.

  20. wam

    What a great start, david. Such a put down that the arrogant arsehole so richly deserves.
    ‘Allegedly, Molan was in command… ‘
    The libs have had the fishing skill of using lures to attract the voters by using the perceived truth verses labor’s lies.
    Actual truth is not worth the words.
    Labor cannot deliver a telling blow by going on the ABC.
    Labor has never won office without a powerful charismatic leader. they came close in 2010 with a woman but a qld twit and a nasty clp xstian cost two seats. They won on a cake which was equalled by loosing on a caravan.
    Can albo go two seats better the billy?? Not at this pace

  21. whatever

    Is this ‘ wam’ an actual person or just some kind of bot posting the same thing all the time?

  22. David Stakes

    Seems we are settling in to a least 4 terms of a LNP gov, when its finally over the Earth will be scorched. Millions of refugees both at home and the rest of the world clamouring to get somewhere. Maybe the Years and Years series on SBS was very close to what to expect, What a horrible world it will be in 2035.

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