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Search Results for: where fools rush in

A double agent in the house? It’s the least of our worries.

Loud hosannas resound in Canberra. Hallelujah. Could it be the joyous news that Harry and Meghan Markle will grace us with their royal presence at a charity polo match in Marvellous Melbourne early next year?

Or is it Dotard Trump’s Middle East diplomatic masterstroke? Swayed by Zionist lobbyists and fat-cat Republican donors’ demands he moves the US embassy to Jerusalem? Images of rioting, protesting Palestinians appear immediately. Any moment, son-in-law, slumlord Jared Kushner, will “deliver peace” in the Middle East on cue.

No. It’s our own joyous ritual bloodletting. The killing season is upon us. A PM should watch his back. Beware Daily Telegraph claims that Turnbull is “turning the tide on Labor”.  Which tide? A chorus of MSM hacks ignore NewsPoll and Ipsos showing the Coalition lagging Labor 47:53, while Essential has the government 45-55 to Labor.

Yet Turnbull insists he’s ending the year on a high. Even lurching from crisis to catastrophe, a Coalition government always gets a fabulous press. It has the best connections.

Or it just helps itself to credit due to others.  A week before parliament plunges into recess, the government covers itself in stolen glory. In a stunt worthy of a Mean Girls’ character, little Malco takes credit for the Yes vote himself, despite leaving all advocacy to others. It’s his big win. This does not endear him to any LGTBI advocates.

More worryingly, Turnbull shows no sense that the survey was a delaying stunt. Nor is there any hint he feels sorry – or some responsibility for all of the injury done. Mental health expert, Professor Patrick McGorry – reports that, for many, the campaign revived traumatic memories of bullying and discrimination they faced at school.

Online agencies report a similar pattern. Digital Youth service ReachOut, a Frontline Service which attracts 1.5 million unique visitors to its website annually, reports its online forums recorded a sharp increase in activity, with young gay people reporting feeling scared and tired of personal attacks.

Many other agencies report distress. A key source of psychological suffering stemmed from the flaw in the survey’s conception. Many share Dennis Halloran’s anger that other people get to vote about his personal life.

“It’s insulting,” says Halloran a voter in Turnbull’s Wentworth electorate . “I believe equality is a human right.”

In other aspects, Turnbull’s support of marriage equality is equivocal; inconsistent. In 1997, he wrote a case against a postal vote because “it flies in the face of Australian democratic values”. In 2012 in Julia Gillard’s conscience vote in parliament, he voted against marriage equality. Bill Shorten voted in favour.

Turnbull has not been honest about the concept. The postal survey was not Dutton’s idea but came from Andrew Laming, an MP who drew up many surveys, which, when trialled always managed to get a negative result.

Most tellingly, Turnbull has never been keen to canvass the thoughts and feelings of those whose interests and experiences are most relevant.   Last August he ignored calls to consult with the LGTBI community before introducing his postal survey which, in inception at least, was a Trojan horse to forestall marriage equality.

Congratulations? The PM will be lucky to receive a Mean Girls  Spring Fling plastic tiara a cheap, hollow crown.

Yet a euphoria descends upon weary but relieved yes supporters. Even IPA tool, former anti-human rights commission, human rights commissioner Tim Wilson proposes to partner Ryan mid-debate.

You can read it in Hansard. Then, quickly compartmentalising joy as all male-dominated outfits must; it moves on to pride. The Coalition channels its inner Trump, boasting over its glorious, historic victory in the New England by-election.

The Coalition  crows. Biggest swing to a sitting government in history, even if it must say so itself – repeatedly.

This “wasn’t a Newspoll”, this was “a real poll” shouts a PM whose credibility is in free fall as a nation has just seen him cynically cancel a week of parliament on the pretext of making room for marriage equality law-making. The hiatus is a desperate move to ensure his own political survival. So, too, is his over-promotion of Peter Dutto.

Yet joyous exultation froths out of the Liberal spin machine over the imminent elevation of our Lord High Protector Peter “Spud” Dutton to his new Home Affairs gig. His installation is fast-tracked not by popular demand but by Turnbull’s need to appease right wing party bullies intent on total domination via ownership of the PM.

Dutto, too, kicks along the nation’s ersatz euphoria as Dastyari-bashing, a national blood-sport, is back in season.

“Sam Dastyari is a Chinese spy. A double agent”, dirty Dutto dog-whistles in Question Time. It’s a slur speaker Tony Smith doesn’t hear, he says, but it’s clear enough to 2GB listeners when Dutto first makes it a week earlier.

“You can’t have a double agent in the Australian parliament. It’s simply not good enough, Ray.”  

Government MPs love a lynch mob – especially with a racist vibe. All week, MPs pile on; raid the Liberals’ stock of Yellow Peril formula from the Cold War to whip up a fresh brew of Sinophobia. They howl Dastyari down, a Labor traitor in our midst, while putting the wind up the 44341 Bennelong residents who identify as Chinese-Australians.

Political piñata he may be, but Dastyari’s bashing goes too far. And not just in Sydney. China is “astonished” by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s statements which risk “poisoning” our bilateral relationship.

Less puzzled, however, is Martin McKenzie Murray who reports in The Saturday Paper that senior Labor Party figures believe the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) leaked the audio of Sam Dastyari’s 2016 press conference in front of Chinese media, but possibly did so following pressure from a disgruntled US.

Like the giant panda in the room, the issue of how the media gained report of Dastyari’s diabolical treachery is largely ignored in our MSM. A security agency’s spook may have leaked intelligence to the media in order to damage Dastyari and Labor but the story of the week has been largely ignored, save by McKenzie-Murray.

A hostile US embassy concerned with Labor’s links to China – and a willingness to co-operate may have stitched up Sam – and his PM.

How this Chinese-whisper stacks up against Andrew Robb, for example, or countless other money-grubbing Coalition figures is problematic. Dastyari’s breach of protocol is nowhere as serious, for example,  as Stuart Robert who, as assistant minister of defence, oversaw a mining deal between Nimrod Resources – run by his close friend, major Liberal Party donor Paul Marks – and the Chinese government-owned company Minmetals.

In a review conducted by Prime Minister and Cabinet (PMC)head, Dr Martin Parkinson, it was found that Mr Robert had acted inconsistently with the Statement of Ministerial Standards, if unwittingly. Parkinson also notes Mr Robert appears not to have received any financial benefit from the deal. Unlike Andrew Robb.

Andrew Robb’s contract with Chinese company Landridge, a document shrouded in confidentiality,  effectively guarantees him $800,000 per year with little in the way of prescribed, part-time  duties, – beginning shortly after he left parliament in 2016 – a contract revealed by Fairfax Media and Four Corners in June.

Billionaire Ye Cheng owns Landridge, which controversially acquired a 99-year lease for the Port of Darwin in 2015. In brief, any investigation of China’s influence in Australia would begin with far bigger firms and entrepreneurs.

And agents. McKenzie Murray reports sources who suggest that the damaging leak against Dastyari may arise from his association with Chinese businessman Huang Xiangmo. ASIO had forewarned major parties Huang was a likely agent for the Chinese Communist Party. Some suggest the NSW Right may have leaked the story.

A separate leak against Shorten was made quickly after the Dastyari tape went public. The Opposition leader is reported to have visited Huang prior to the federal election – months after an ASIO warning – for a campaign donation. The NSW Right may have leaked to warn Shorten to acquiesce with the pro-China faction.

All of this is damaging to Labor. Yet more than some of the story beggars belief.

Getting great airplay in parliament and in MSM is the PM’s story that Dastyari visited Huang at his home. He suggested to Huang that his phone may be tapped, or its microphone remotely activated. The story depends on the willing suspension of belief that neither man would simply turn his phone off.

Or that neither uses Telegram or some similarly secure popular messaging device. But we mustn’t spoil the story.

Being bugged by a phone which is  turned off taps vast reserves of fiendish oriental cunning and other Sinophobic prejudices. It is also fed by popular mythology of all-pervasive, ruthless modern cyber espionage, currently fanned to fever pitch by dynamic Dan Tehan and his PM on behalf of a government keen to crank up fear of Cyber-attack.

Hysteria beckons. MSM report stories of people fearing they are being spied on by their microwave ovens.

The attacks on Sam are problematic. It is unwise, however enjoyable, to speculate on motivation. Yet they are odd and appear orchestrated.  Are they US inspired? Shopping a spook – or a double agent could help the coalition show its fealty to the US and also be part of an attack on Shorten, an MP who has been pilloried mercilessly since Abbott in a prolonged and damaging process of character assassination and personal slur.

What is alarming is the number of MSM stories which now suggest Shorten faces troubling times.  Even more disturbing is Peter Dutton’s promise that he has more dirt to dish on Dastyari.

There will be more revelations to come out on shady Dastyari, he threatens in that menacing generality one expects from a super minister about to run a Home Affairs super ministry. Or a drug cop about to fit you up.

Huge damage has been done, despite Labor’s strong opinion polling. So effective has coalition sledging been, alone, the name “Bill Shorten” has in some contexts become a type of gag-line; a means to invoke derision or worse. Barnaby Joyce loves to make himself useful with such attacks. Nationals exist to bait Labor.

“You might be leader of the Labor Party, but it looks like you’ve never done a day’s labour in your life.

“He couldn’t run a pie shop and the thought of him running the country fills me with dread.”

Lapdog Barnaby is eager to follow Turnbull’s lead in preferring personal insult to political debate. Character assassination takes far less preparation than refutation or rebuttal or any other of the arts of debate. Far more damaging, too.

Yet there’s another twist. Mal’s cunning plan is to crank up the war on Dastyari to smooth the passage of a bill or several –he talks loosely of laws – which will restrict foreign influence- not just Chinese interference- while it prevents charities from advocacy (which entails criticising government policy) and nobbles GetUp!

More worrying is that the new legislation appears directed against Sam Dastyari, our Labor opponent du jour.

“In my view, the conduct alleged against him does not reach the threshold of the existing laws of treason and espionage, but that is why we are introducing – because of the gap in those laws, a new offence of unlawful foreign interference,” argues Attorney-General Brandis, a Queensland QC who argued in August that ignorance would save Barnaby Joyce.

Ironically, Australia takes further moves to silence dissent and to diminish agencies of advocacy or criticism, while China, with a long history of such measures  including persecution of dissidents, is quick to voice its displeasure.

Yet Turnbull’s gone overboard – or thrown the Dastyari out with the bath water. Whipping up anti-Dastyari hysteria so keenly as to offend a major trading partner amounts, is another poor judgement call from the PM. Happily the Liberals’ broad church can celebrate Barnaby’s brain farts instead.

Joyce to the world. Barnaby is not just Tamworth’s Salvator Mundi, says the PM although BJ says he’s no saint.

New England writs return in record time; Turnbull urgently needs BJ’s vote. By Wednesday, Joyce’s back at the despatch box ranting at Labor in a mongrel attack bagging Shorten for not sending MPs straight to the High Court .

 “Even after seeing the decision in the High Court where it is black and white, they (Labor) still made it a resolve of theirs to hide, to obfuscate and treat us all as fools,” he thunders his face all beetroot borscht and no cream.

“To Mr Shorten, to the Labor Party, to those being led around by the nose by the Labor Party, who actually took them on good faith to what they told you. I think now is the time that you should truly hold the Labor Party under the tutelage of Mr Bill Shorten well and truly to account.”   

There’s more of this from the former bean counter but the jig is up. Joyce is rewriting history. Preposterous is his outrageous claim that his delayed appearance in the High Court was not an attempt to hide, obfuscate and treat judges like fools. But he knows, as well as his government’s dirt unit, that it’s the big lies that work best.

Mangling syntax, forging tortuous metaphors, BJ rivals Bob Katter for wrangling language into nonsense.  Barnaby has his own wordsmithing ways and he’s not afraid to enter the smithy. Even if it gets him into serious trouble.

In October 2014, Barnaby corrected Hansard  His drought assistance answer claimed farmers received immediate help. He added disclaimers and qualifiers – “unless it is a new application,” and “if you were also a recipient of the Interim Farm Household Allowance”. He later had the changes struck out, blaming his staff for the error.

In  March 2015 his secretary Paul Grimes wrote to the now-Deputy Prime Minister telling him he “no longer [had] confidence in [his] capacity to resolve matters relating to integrity” with him. Grimes resigned. Fudging Hansard is probably not something to put on a CV but Barnaby’s absolved of all sin by his latest, greatest, glorious win.

The government has Joyce sworn in just before Question Time Wednesday and uses his crucial vote to stymie Labor’s attempt to send a joint referral of its current crop of nine MPs with dual citizenship to the High Court.

Turnbull does another flip-flop, back-flip. His political gymnastics are guaranteed to convey stability; strength.

For all its hype about a bipartisan resolution of the citizenship crisis , the government is now adamant that only Labor MP David Feeney and senator Katy Gallagher will be referred to the High Court. Given a chance to clear up an unpopular and time-consuming crisis, Malcolm Turnbull has chosen to prolong it indefinitely.

Yet, just as big, is the news of the elevation of Liberal top banana, former QLD drug squaddie “Dirty” Peter Dutton.

Riding high on the runaway success of his off-shore detention regime of deterrence and the genius of his Manus’ final solution, Dirty Dutto’s long overdue promotion to a Home Office super-ministry is tipped for 17 December.

The move strengthens talk that Santorin George Brandis, our Attorney-General, will slope off to Old Blighty to replace High Commissioner to the UK Alexander Downer even if he does have to evict Downer kicking and screaming out of his High Commissioner’s mansion. At least Theresa May will receive some free entertainment.

Yet Dutto has a tough gig. Long overdue is Australia’s response to the UN Human Rights Committee, a body which harshly condemns of Australia for failing in its treatment of refugees, Indigenous rights and inadequate protection of human rights, including the lack of a national human rights act.  On past form, Dutto will ignore all this.

His pal Tony Abbott provides a clue. Going on the offensive, Abbott declared that we were sick of being lectured to when a 2015 UN report found Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers breaches an international anti-torture convention. It was just after he called Professor Gillian Triggs report on children in detention a stitch-up.

The UN’s special rapporteur on torture finds Australia is violating the rights of asylum seekers on multiple fronts under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, a notion which Eric Abetz calls deluded when Tasmanian Senator Lisa Singh repeats it on ABC Q&A last Monday.

Dutto will be champing to get this bit between his teeth. His  super ministry will combine Australian Federal Police (AFP), spy agency Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), and the Australian Border Force (ABF).

But the week has a happy ending after all.

All hail New England’s conquering hero, former dual Kiwi, bar-storming, Barnaby Joyce, a man of the Tamworth world, who returns to Canberra in a blaze of glory, a cloud of bull-dust and his Akubra Cattleman hat. He’s back in parliament in a flash. His government’s majority rides on his RM Williams hand-tooled dynamic flex boots.

A boisterous, brawling government is abuzz with something more than the size of the New Election by-election win, a win which Turnbull instantly appropriates for the coalition – as he does with the marriage equality Yes vote.

Meanwhile, true-blue, Aussie battler and patriot Barnaby is pitted against Sam Dastyari public enemy number one.

Or that’s this week’s national mythic contest. It doesn’t pay to look closely. Barnaby may be Australia’s best retail politician but he’s a mining lobbyist who would help pollute the Great Artesian Basin, the world’s largest and deepest and our island continent’s biggest water source is extolled as a paragon of Aussie loyalty and fidelity.

“If you want to focus on the person in the weatherboard and iron they will give you the grace of their vote,” says the MP with a touch of Huey Long a politician who like Donald Trump appeals to the battlers and does nothing for them. And almost everything against them. Barnaby’s backers include billionaire Gina Rinehart

A deputy PM in charge of resources and water, he has no issue with spruiking for Santos on the local radio despite the damage done by fracking to local water.

Amidst the crush to cheer on Barnaby and install him in Tamworth’s pantheon as a cultural icon and appropriate his victory as the greatest swing to a sitting government ever, a frantic Canberra reaches fever pitch Thursday as religious freedom fears or time-wasting “pious amendments” such as Tony Abbott proposes are brushed aside and it becomes legal for same sex couples to marry. The winners’ circle is swamped by raucous gate-crashers.

Much of the ruckus is joyous celebration over the removal of an injustice and the recognition of a human right but there is also a desperate rush by a crush of unlikely MPs – rent-seekers eager to claim the victory of marriage equality, hitch their star to true-blue Barnaby’s iconic victory – while Dutton’s hot-eyed zealots pool resources, horses, water and feed and prepare to run any double agents right out of town.

Activists, lefties, greenies, advocates and dissidents all need to sit up and take notice.


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Day to Day Politics: I think Turnbull has taken them for a ride. He conned them.

Saturday 21 October 2017

1 There are times in political life when an argument becomes exhausted. When all that can be said, has been. Because of political expediency the common good is overlooked: replaced by self-interest.

It is a time when the opposition needs to take stock and consider the public interest. It is now time for Labor to do a deal on an Energy Policy. Yes, there are disadvantages but if they negotiate with forethought there are many positives.

What the Coalition has presented is a policy based on the opinions of three heads of energy departments. The nuts and bolts we have yet to see, so Labor is entitled to criticise as much as it wants. That’s what oppositions are for.

Its fair game at the moment but Shorten needs to decide if he wants to continue with the energy/climate wars or does Labor want to present itself as the appeaser? Continuing with this trench warfare could do more harm than good. By speaking the truth they would receive enough kudos.

Some will want to fight with the hope that Turnbull is crushed by his own internal in fighting, but in my view this is a forlorn hope. Better to do a deal and go forward by making it patently clear that if they are elected there will be changes. They can always increase the emissions target and ramp up renewables at a later date.

The renewables industry will read between the lines of what that means and they can invest with certainty either way. According to the Essential survey support for renewables and an emissions target was around 68%. So the public gets it.

In any case the thrust of Labor’s argument can be made over time and evolve into an election policy.

Shorten should wait until everything, every detail is disclosed then interrogate Turnbull with the view to pointing out the weaknesses , if any, and then negotiate. Don’t allow it to look like a policy success. If it can easily be shown as dud then he can walk away from it in good faith. If it is sound then the national interest should take precedence.

Although the Coalition is dismissing Labor’s accusation that their policy is in effect a carbon price by another name. Which is true. And the chief of the Australian Energy Council, Matthew Warren, yesterday said it was and Hugh Grossman of RepuTex was of the same view.

Sean Kelly in The Monthly Today warned that:

“This is where Labor needs to tread carefully. There is a constructive reason for Labor to raise this, as well as a destructive reason.

Let’s start with the destructive one, which is obvious: to stir up trouble in the Coalition party room by convincing pro-coal and anti-renewable MPs that they’ve been masterfully conned by the not-a-real-conservative Malcolm Turnbull into supporting a carbon price.

Some of Labor’s attacks today headed in that direction, by explicitly referring to Liberal divisions, or by making it a focus of attack in Question Time.

If the Opposition has decided it has no interest in agreeing to the PM’s climate policy, then fine. There are advantages to delivering certainty, but then there are also significant weaknesses in this policy, so if the Opposition has decided its approach is to create maximum havoc, then I can’t really find a moral reason to tell it not to.

But – and this is a massive but – if Bill Shorten and his team have decided, or might be in the process of deciding, that they want a deal, then now is the time to back the hell away.”

Turnbull – when being interviewed yesterday morning – went out of his way to say that this wasn’t a carbon price policy but when the dunderheads on the back bench finally open their eyes to the fact that he has conned them, all hell might break loose.

And if they do a deal Labor will be able to say that the Coalition has gone the full cycle and arrived back at a carbon price.

Nobody believes the fanciful figures that power bills will be cut between $100 and $115 a year between 2020 and 2030.

They made a mistake by plucking that figure out of a hat. No one can guarantee anything that far ahead. Why do governments continue to treat us like fools when we aren’t.

2 Whilst Australia’s employment rate of 5.5% in September hit a four-year low the big concern is that full-time jobs seem to be almost a thing of the past. Sure, creating 19,800 jobs might seem fantastic but the reality is that only 6,100 were full-time. It seems that the structure of Australian jobs is rapidly changing. As good as the figures look the fact remains that for every job there are 17 people wanting it. Entry level jobs for young people we have five applicants for every job.Not to forget the number wanting more work.

3 Peter Dutton’s “Immigration Bill”, or citizenship crackdown, died an instant death in the Senate when they realised they didn’t have the numbers. And so it should have. Anything this minister handles has the stench of his filthy hands on it and this negative bill was just another attempt to demoralise people: to make them feel inferior. It’s the Dutton trademark.

My thought for the day

“Turnbull’s elevation to Prime Minister brought with it some expectation of civility of discourse. I had hoped that it might also bring an element of truth but it seems my hope has been shattered. Nothing has changed.”

PS: Last week I suggested that the PM would release his Energy Policy the same day the High Court released its findings on the status of 7 politicians eligibility to sit in parliament.

I confess I was wrong.


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Turnbull fails reset as Trump dumps on US-Australia relations.

It’s fake news. After a shocking week in which Australia has its nose rubbed publicly in its own mess by the US, Donald Trump makes Islamophobia official US policy, threatens to invade Mexico and our PM confesses he paid $1.75m out of his own Cayman Island account to buy his own mandate – as you do- a grateful nation can at last heave a sigh of relief. Malcolm’s incredible slap-down – and its leaking to the Washington Post never happened.  Hit the reset button.

Surely Malcolm Turnbull would provoke no-one to hang up on him – not even a fellow egotist. As Phillip Adams puts it.  “ …Turnbull doesn’t suffer fools, the only problem is that to Malcolm we are all fools” while Peta Credlin observes a rich businessman turned politician who can bully and leak is hardly new to politics.  But it never happened, OK?

Relief comes late in the week from the man who has changed US diplomacy to 140 characters or less. US President and  playground bully, Donald Trump tweets that “fake media has lied” about “a very civil exchange” over what he still calls “a dumb deal”; “the worst deal ever” to swap our largely Muslim refugees for US Latinos, a deal he views with extreme prejudice, calculated ignorance and stupidity.  “They want to send us the next Boston bombers.”

Eureka! Scott Morrison high-fives Peter Dutton. The pernicious lie that our refugees are terrorists is one their party has actively fostered for years along with the myth that turning away refugees reduces the chance of terrorist attack.

No matter, moreover, that the Boston bombers were Chechen migrants, a people excluded from Trump’s Islamophobic travel ban. Mad Mullah Morrison rushes back to his 2GB pulpit to praise the US travel fatwa which excludes Trump’s business pals, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia and Afghanistan.

“We have got a good history around this and really the rest of the world is catching up to Australia now,” ScoMo crows.

It’s a lie Turnbull told at the UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants last September. That “good history” has cost us a massive $9.6 billion in three years, not to mention the incalculable cost to Australia’s reputation, putting us in breach of international human rights law 40 times. Children have fled conflict; sought our asylum –  only to be illegally detained for years in conditions which expose them daily to abuse, neglect and violence.

Oddly, information about our “good history”: is suppressed. Criminal sanctions apply to anyone who reports abuse on Nauru and Manus. Good history? In a world which has over 21 million refugees, Australia takes 13750 annually.

But it’s all sweet, now The Donald makes nice. White House Press Secretary Sean “Slice-n-dice” Spicer stresses in a presser, Friday, that the US will honour the deal “in some way”. “We’re going to vet these people in accordance with the agreement that happened and we’ll continue to have further updates as we do,” says a man whose debut was to convey “alternative facts” to boost the size of his President’s inauguration crowd. What could possibly go wrong?

Being Trump-chumped takes the gloss off born diplomat Turnbull’s master-stroke of the week. He’s rebooting and reinventing himself. Again. Hacks helpfully remind us Kerry Packer once threatened to kill him. Hairy-chested Malcolm threatened to whack Packer back. Turnbull hagiographer, Annabel Crabb records his response: “Well, you’d better make sure that your assassin gets me first because, if he misses, you better know I won’t miss you.” Such a way with words.

It is going to be a big speech. Huge. A nation is on tenterhooks; walking on egg-shells, awaiting the master tactician’s much-vaunted reboot at the National Press Club Wednesday. Everything is put on hold. Somehow the windy, wittering, toff-waffler will pull out all his stops in a heart-warming, soul stirring; inspiring, visionary, headland speech.

A bold new policy agenda has been slow-cooking in the Point Piper kitchen where Turnbull’s inner circle holds court under former Sydney Mayor Lucy who wields the wooden spoon, helped by the unimpeachable Arthur “safe pair of hands” Sinodinos, numbers man James McGrath, whose maiden speech called for the sale of the ABC and “keep Tertiary policy out of the campaign”, anti-Gonski Education Minister Simon Birmingham.

Malcolm will descend from the mount like Moses. Or so we are led to believe by the  army of scribblers contemporary LNP PMs can count on to puff any little fluff into a divine wind. Especially Turnbull, Australia’s eternally re-rising, self-saucing soufflé. Gunner Turnbull is always in the wings somewhere, about to morph into Super Mal. Some Press Gallery hacks make Apple fanboys look fickle. Yet, now, even Laurie Oakes calls for Turnbull to TPP or get off the pot.

Unaccountably, Turnbull’s address is a Fizza; another grab bag of flatulent platitudes, false or meaningless assertions and hollow boasts – “we are the most successful multicultural society in the world.”  Plumbs new depths even for a PM whose ear for rousing speech is pure tin. Who else could draw attention to his own dullness?

“Balancing the budget can sound a bit prosaic – something to satisfy the tidy instincts of the bean counters – but it is a profound moral issue,” he waffles.

Who else but Turnbull could seek the high moral ground as he churns out Liberal fiscal fetishism, an affliction which goes back all the way to Peter Costello’s “black hole”? Forget that deficit spending got us out of a hole in the GFC.  No matter that balancing the budget is irresponsible economic nonsense, a type of voodoo now widely held, along with austerity budgeting, to have dragged Europe into deflationary quicksand. It’s become a Liberal article of faith. The PM is giving his party what he thinks they want to hear.

Budget balancing is a profound moral issue? God help all of us -even the bean counters. Nothing about a fair and just society, arresting the galloping inequality fostered by decades of neoliberal stupidity and rule by mining, business and finance lobby which is irreparably destroying our social fabric? Nothing about the dire need to release 1250 refugees detained illegally on Manus and Nauru, islands of abuse and torture which infect our body politic and demean us all?

A pregnant Kuwaiti woman detained on Nauru, hostage to our own xenophobes’ morally bankrupt domestic political agenda urgently needs hospital treatment. Help is held up on the whim of our combined Border Force and Immigration department before she is flown to The Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital for treatment. Peter Dutton says nothing lest people smugglers update their business model. An 82 strong communications unit helps him keep stumm.

Turnbull needs a word with his wordsmiths. They’ve helped him over-promise and under-deliver. Again. Context is not so easily ignored. Turnbull’s empty rhetoric is upstaged by such pressing realities as his war on the poor and the vulnerable under Centrelink’s Robo-debt Clawback while corporations avoid tax. Education is now reduced to bean counting. Health is all flexible delivery options while pensioners put off doctor’s visits they can’t afford and people die on gurneys. Newly appointed Health Band-Aid, Greg Hunt wants a US-style system, a prescription for disaster.

Even Peta Credlin, who suffered Abbott’s agonising 2015 reset can tell Turnbull his “… speech lacked a plan, and clear deliverables, to demonstrate to ordinary people that the government was focused on the things that matter to them.”

A final word on Turnbull’s high-sounding nonsense. Australia is “A beacon of harmony in the midst of diversity, founded on a deep tradition of mutual respect in a world of rising intolerance.” It must be why we are cherry-picking Christian refugees from Syria. Canada has rescued 800 times as many. Turnbull’s words help explain why last September, Essential pollsters found 49% of respondents in favour of a ban on Muslim immigration.

Turnbull tricks up his makeover with ornate garnish but nothing can disguise stale leftovers. His speech serves up his dud 2016 policies and warns us off Bill Shorten and Labor who will trash our energy security and give us big power bills with their mad belief in renewables. It’s rehashed and reheated with a fresh topping of unicorn droppings; new clean coal. Clean coal is a fiction; a climate-denier’s fantasy. A Jay Gatsby, the rock of Malcolm Turnbull’s world is fastened securely to a fairy’s wing.

Just as with Abbott before him, nothing can save the PM from his re-set failure, not even the whole Liberal front bench, it seems, a nodding, smiling claque, a unique and disturbing- turn of events in itself. Yet luckily, the rest of the week in politics is utterly consumed by the scandalous canard that Trump has hung up in Turnbull’s ear; called his refugee resettlement deal “dumb”, the “worst possible deal”.  Apologists are all over this like a rash.

Turnbull has the guts to stand up for his nation sucks Mark Kenny, doubtless eyeing off the PM’s media backgrounders’ stock PR image  in Saturday’s The Age, again. The PM is depicted bolt upright, jaw down, a deal-broking pose, dwarfed by a clunky handset from a fixed line telephone that appears to pre-date John Howard. It looks as if the PM is jumping to attention at the sound of his master’s voice. Or he’s strayed into a remake of Get Smart.

Turd polishers and pig lipstick appliers go into overdrive. Laurie Oakes sees the great vacillator “showing his mettle” while for The Guardian Australia’s Jacqueline Maley, Turnbull is the “grey rock” of textbook responses to malignant narcissists. Much speculation ensues. Did Turnbull stand his ground?  Will the deal proceed?  It seems highly unlikely. As it stands, the deal only commits the US to allowing refugees to “express an interest” in being resettled in America.

What is certain is that Turnbull’s call was leaked by a senior White House official who intended to humiliate Turnbull. Also certain is that “extreme vetting” – a bit of campaign rhetoric is now a thing without any further explanation. Unless, as Peta Credlin wickedly suggests, he may have leaked it himself. He’s been known to play the victim. Just look at his campaign video depiction of himself as son of sole parent Bruce a battling hotel broker suffering poverty in Double Bay.

What is extreme vetting? How long will it take?  Surely the three years of “processing” endured by those on Manus and Nauru is enough? Is it that no-one dare speak out in case we offend the bully in The White House? Julie Bishop argues with Reuters; pushes the line that US representatives are still interviewing refugees on Manus and Nauru. Perhaps rather than remain in LA taking photos with celebrities, she should have been dispatched to The White House.

One thing is clear. You don’t beg a bully. An attitude of supplication is no way to begin a relationship with Trump. The best thing Turnbull could do is to bring the refugees home. And he’s got nothing to lose and everything to gain by adding his voice to the many world leaders including France, Germany and the UK who have protested The Donald’s anti-Muslim travel ban, a ban which has successfully been suspended thanks to courageous Seattle Judge, James Robart who finds legal grounds to challenge the ban, legal opinion Donald Trump dismisses as ridiculous and one he will overturn.

Turnbull says he’s just “doing what a good Prime Minister does”, a job description which includes buying his own mandate as he later tells ABC 7:30’s Stan Grant. Grant leads him to confirm his $1.75m donation to his own party when it is clear campaign funds were running critically low – not that this is his gloss on it.

At $1.75m it was just one of those regular philanthropic things that he and Lucy get up to, a donation to a good cause – a theme later continued by screaming Scott Morrison on 2GB, a benevolence to warm the cockles of your heart if you overlook the calculated self-interest.

It may well have helped him over the line. Certainly it will provide Labor with ammunition even if only to attack his judgement and how his immense fortune isolates him from the real needs and issues of everyday Australians.

By week’s end, his ignominious dumping by Trump is so big it does Turnbull a favour. It helps sink his reboot and takes attention off his lame policies  – but at the cost of a focus on his diplomatic rebuff; his skills as a negotiator; even his ticker. He’s walked softly but copped a lot of stick. His government again seems upstaged by events it could have reasonably foreseen. The Coalition begins 2017 with its inability to plan; its retreat from the real world highlighted.

While no-one could predict exactly how Trump might jump, there was every reason to suppose he’d hate the deal.

Similarly, with Trump’s anti-Muslim travel fatwa. Turnbull’s bid to defend his silence in the face of expressions of outrage from leaders around the world as permitting a quiet and effective personal word with the president rings hollow in the light of Trump cutting the phone call short, hanging up on him and allowing details to be leaked to the press.

Turnbull’s even caught napping; upstaged at the National Press Club Liberal Party love-in Wednesday. Bill Shorten has beaten him to it only the day before, calling him phony nine times in the course of his speech and in answers.

Turnbull is pilloried for his appeasement of Sun King Donald Trump.  In vain, he claims that he does not comment on other nations’ domestic affairs. His record clearly shows otherwise.

Only last April his commentary on domestics included urging the Chinese leadership towards “continued openness and the rapid development of the rule of law”, which, he argued, “is a fundamental requirement of progress”. Many times has he lectured  PNG, Syria, Russia and North Korea.

The Chinese are unimpressed. They’re on the UN Human Rights Council. They know how we run our gulags on Manus and Nauru.  Not that they would welcome any commentary on their denial of freedom of speech, religion, and association; extrajudicial killings; repression of civil society; discrimination against Tibetans and other minorities.

The truth lies closer to home. Turnbull’s right wing will give him gyp if he goes soft on terror now. He dare not utter a peep over Trump’s Islamophobic travel ban; the persecution of a Middle East diaspora largely created by decades of US foreign policy; its war on terror. His policy reset has failed. His diplomacy has been trumped. He has been made to look a capon in the Year of the Rooster when it comes to exercising his authority in the international community.

The spotlight has swung back on his judgement, his leadership and above all his capacity to prosecute a plan. Parliament will begin next week and already the PM is on the back foot; he has been tried domestically and abroad and found wanting. Another dud Newspoll awaits him. As Prime Minister he is a dead man walking.

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Every Now And Then, I Think Before I Say Something… Perhaps, Malcolm Should Try It Some Time!

Ok, just in case you’re wondering, I am talking about the Turnbull Malcolm and not the One Nation Malcolm…

Now, I know some of you are critical of Malcolm Roberts and are suggesting that he’s been put there to make Pauline Hanson look intelligent…

Well, maybe not intelligent, but at least sane.

However, I say, everyone is entitled to believe whatever they like. So if our recently elected senator wants to believe that there’s no such thing as man-made climate change because we had climate change in previous times, I say, let him. In fact, I see similarities in his argument and my assertion that because car accidents had occurred in previous times, there was no way that it was my fault that I had that accident in 1993 when I pulled out from a stop sign without looking. Indeed, I don’t think that the government has a right to impose stop sign laws against us, and I’m thinking of seeing if Senator Roberts will take up my cause and get my money back from aforementioned “accident”. Clearly stop signs are part of the UN conspiracy to impose world government, as are all road rules.

But enough about that. ‘Tis the other Malcolm I intend to discuss. You know the one I mean, after all, at least some of you voted for him…

Although even Neil of Sydney won’t admit to being a Turnbull supporter so it does make me wonder how he’ll last out the year. That’s Malcolm, not Neil. There’s apparently a patron saint that protects drunks and fools… Ah, so that’s how so many One Nation supporters have managed to vote without stabbing themselves with the pencil… Yes, yes, tell me that it’s democracy and all that and that we should respect the vote… I heard that from the editor of one of the Murdoch papers on the radio today. I couldn’t help wondering if I asked him why his paper never takes that view when Labor actually win an election.

Anyway, let’s try and imagine if the Labor Party had done what the Liberals did this week…

I guess that I should point out for the umpteenth time that I have no links to the Labor Party, I’m not a left-winger and if you come up with a halfway competent group of people who make me feel like they’re capable of organising things in a way that enables people to have the chance at a decent life no matter where they’re born, then I’ll pledge my loyalty to them for the next election. In fact, I may pledge my undying loyalty to them for life and join their cult and just follow orders, but not if it involves too much exercise.

The point of this is to point out the bleeding obvious, and, in doing so, I’m not doing it in the hope of winning votes for anyone – I’m just intrigued that there isn’t more of a “you can’t be serious” reaction from people.

It’s sort of like the joke where Gillard walks on water across Lake Burley Griffin and the headline in the Murdoch papers is “Gillard Can’t Swim!”

Anyway, let’s just look at the facts in the most objective way possible:

ABC does a stitch-up on Government by releasing video showing the treatment of young offenders in the Northern Territory.
Turnbull springs into action and announces Royal Commission, nominating ex-Chief Justice of Northern Territory as head.
Turnbull rejects suggestion that there should be an Indigenous person appointed as well, saying that it’s not needed.
Turnbull also rejects suggestion of any conflict of interest given that the appointee was actually part of the system that he’s investigating.
A couple of days pass, and the appointee stands down.
Indigenous appointment made.
Big announcement that they’ve told the – “we don’t make the decisions it’s an independent body” – CSIRO to create a climate change division and employ some of the people who were going to get the chop.
In spite of it being a firm commitment in their election campaign, they’re now considering changes to the superannuation policy that they took to the election, because there was a supposed backlash against it. Somehow though, they have a mandate for all their other policies. It’s this one that caused them the electoral pain. And, of course, the Labor lies on Medicare.
Turnbull announces that Mr Rudd always knew that his endorsement was in the hands of Cabinet. Someone leaks that Cabinet voted 11-10 in favour of endorsing Rudd.
Banks don’t pass on full interest rate cut; they’re told they’ll have to report to Parliament. (Didn’t Joe tell us that banks would always pass on cuts under a Liberal government when he was in Opposition?) So when the banks report and say that they need to pocket more money because the government upped the amount they need to keep in reserve, will Turnbull’s terriers tear them apart and tell them that, come the revolution, they’ll be the first ones lined up against, or will they nod and say, “Good on you, it’s responsible actions like that which make Labor’s call for a Royal Commission into the banking industry a political stunt!”

Now let’s imagine that it was a Labor government who’d been in power while all this was happening. We’d have front pages on leadership tensions because of the leaks. We’d have editorials on their inability to manage the simplest processes. We’d have complaints that they rushed into the Royal Commission and that it was a knee-jerk reaction which didn’t think through the implications of their initial appointment, as well as complaints that the subsequent appointments were similarly ill-considered. We’d have shock jocks talking about how this was the worst, most dysfunctional government since Whitlam.

Instead we have attacks on the Education system and cartoons that seek to remind us that if indigenous children are being ill-treated by white people than it’s all the fault of their parents for not being better people… I mean, let’s not shy away from it here, as Bill leaked today, it’s not racist to remind everyone that it’s all the fault of aboriginal people if they haven’t become a successful human being like him and therefore their kids deserve no sympathy!


It’s so hard to be someone like me. White, male, privileged. Incredibly good-looking. Modest…

Nobody cuts you any slack…

Oh, sorry, must go, important things happening. Collingwood are about to play. Far more important than politics.

(This is the point where I think that I probably should proofread/think twice/wonder how what I’ve said will sound to anyone else. But hey, if it’s good enough for our nation’s politicians to say whatever thought bubble they have and not be held accountable I guess you’ll forgive me for the odd split infinitive! … )

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Even Malcolms.

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Gobbledegook in three part harmony

By James Moylan

Part one: the consumer

We have been all been sold a pup. And a coat rack. Also an extensible walking stick with a built in LED light. Plus wine, soap, cereal, funerals, alien abduction insurance, thirty dollar packets of cigarettes (discretely of course) and endless acres of inflatable mattresses. And of course the chance to attract ever more semi-naked women. If you are a modern living breathing human being of any age, shape, or habit: you have been sold endless ‘stuff’. ‘Up Up and Away.’

The great democracy that is portrayed in our advertising is not Australia. Most of us understand this (if we ever bother to think about it at all). We know that when we are being targeted as a consumer we are not being ‘advised’ impartially. Advertisements are generally seen to be all about trying to get you to do or buy something. So when we are being addressed by an advertisement we don’t expect a deep and meaningful message. Consumers expect (and distractedly demand) instant answers to simple questions. ‘Things go better with Coke.’

The key is that advertising is consumed automatically and distractedly.  Advertising is experienced as a lived reality (as opposed to being sought out and rationally considered). So while our modern 24/7 multi-media commercial extravaganza does certainly provide a hundred and one wonderful ways of advertising opportunities to buy expensive goods that you might not otherwise know you need – it also has significant consequences for the way in which we consume all other sorts of information. ‘Aveagoodweekend’.

Despite rumours to the contrary our modern commercial marketplace is not a ‘democracy of ideas’. Where the Jesuits say they need to instruct a young and growing mind for seven years before being assured of their eternal devotion, our modern advertisers manage much the same invisibly, thirty seconds at a time, in an eternal drip-feed of background advertising. We grow up constantly bathed in a background radiation of commercial imagery and inducement. We become accustomed to instantaneous satisfaction being defined and seamlessly delivered, all the time, everywhere. In the advertising world there are no complex insoluble, irrational, or non-commercial answers. ‘A diamond is forever

We know consciously that, in the main, advertisers do not give a damn about the validity or quality of information. They are solely focussed on promoting a particular response. Validity and quality of information are merely aspects considered in the light of how persuasive a message might be. So anything problematic will be dismissed, but more significantly, if no problem exists then one will be instantly invented. ‘Put a tiger in your tank.’

So our days are just crowded with a thousand and one messages that sometimes relate to very real problems, but sometimes just advertise wonderful answers to invented problems. In fact, in the ‘advertising world’, we expect that anything can and might happen. We expect a ‘super-reality’. And we are always ready to suspend disbelief at the drop of a hat. While we know we are being ‘sold a pup’ most of the time, we all still pay passing regard to the fleeting parade of images – just in case. This is because while most advertisements are so obviously selling the wrong breed of puppy in the wrong way at the wrong place at the wrong time. We also know that every now and again we just might see a dog that we might want to buy.

In this way, from preschool until pension, we are all exposed to a hundred and one invented problems and we become aware of their immediate and apparent cures. Even while we semi-consciously screen out the majority of advertisements and simply dismiss the ones that are telling a story we don’t want to know, we are becoming entirely familiar with the ‘common-sense’ of our commercial world. Advertisers tell you that you are bald, tubby, unattractive, smelly, sick, bored, tired, overworked, exploited, and drive the wrong car to the wrong suburb to sleep in a badly renovated and decorated home with a dysfunctional family. Then they offer you an instant cure for any one of these problems. ‘But wait: there’s more!’

We all know (as an intellectual and academic fact) that behind the seemingly random and chaotic flood of advertising images we are exposed to every day is a massive industry that is devoted to identifying every emotional quirk and habit that we are ever likely to experience. We know that half of what we are being told is total BS but we brush it off as being mere commercial flim-flam. Yet this knowledge is something we have to dredge up and consider. It is the sort of thing that we only really acknowledge when we are consciously considering one or many of the eternal flow of advertising images and inducements that float in front of us during every one of our days. ‘Beanz meanz Heinz.’

So why have I commenced this article with such an extensive tour of the bleeding obvious? We all know that when we consider carefully our relationship with all of the commercially driven information providers in our society that a lot of the stuff we are being told is nonsense. However in the process of learning to live in an information and advertising saturated world we have all also become habituated to many aspects of ‘commercial common-sense’ that are downright nonsensical. ‘Big bubbles: no troubles!’

In the commercial world complexity is entirely masked and ethical questions are represented as simple economic equations. Stereotypical imagery and generalisations abound. And the right answer is always likely to be a simple and inexpensive answer. So we have been taught from the time we a very small to mistrust complexity and expense. The modern Australian electorate over the last two decades has been conditioned to think and react as consumers. We have been educated to expect simple answers to difficult questions. ‘A Mars a day helps you work rest and play.’

So we come to the end of two decades of continuous pandering by our politicians to our commercial sensibilities. And what is the result? The Australian voter has been transformed from being a citizen into a consumer with an investment in an economy. To facilitate this change many of the old ways of talking about being a citizen have been jettisoned and our political world is now saturated with new phrases that stand for our new modern ideas. They are mainly ways of thinking that have been borrowed from the advertising and commercial marketplace. Now econospeak is used to excuse and justify behaviour that cannot be talked about in open and stark terms. ‘Have a nice day.’

Part two: econospeak

Econospeak is used to mask and justify inequity. It enables euphemisms to be coined to stand in for long discredited ideas and to hide that you are actually advocating on behalf of apparently objectionable outcomes.  Econospeak is simply a social code that has been developed to propose that the economic interests of a very few rich individuals in our society are identical to those of the public at large. It’s as much a ‘vibe’ as it is a series of catch phrases. It is a way of speaking that presupposes that we are all first and foremost self-interested and economically rational beings. In other words; it presupposes that we are all greedy bastards.

For example the term ‘aspirational voter’ actually  refers to a class of voter who is so heavily invested in the current boom that they see their commercial self interest as outweighing all other considerations. ‘Tax cuts’ or ‘tax relief’ or ‘addressing bracket creep’ all variously stand in for the objectionable concept of ‘trickle-down’ economics. ‘Rationalising’ means cutting benefits, services, and complexity. ‘Hard-working Mums and Dads’ is shorthand for ‘indebted working consumers’. ‘The economy’ means all of the important parts of our society. ‘Common-good’ means fiscally expedient. Etc.

For twenty years our politicians have simply refused to grapple with any of the really big questions that face our country over the longer term. Rather they have decided to simply pander to our commercial sensibilities and mask their expediencies with econospeak gobbledygook. For five years we surfed the wave of a renovated economy, then for another ten we lived off a mining boom. Now our good fortune has largely evaporated. We have gradually exported all of our economic capacity and so now the mining boom has dried up our property market is the only part of our economy left standing.

When viewed from the outside there is no denying that Australia is on a sticky wicket. Our banks have borrowed trillions of dollars and then leant it out to hundreds of thousands of overextended borrowers at historically low interest rates to pay hyper-inflated prices for property at a time when our terms of trade have gone south and economic activity in our country is on life support. Then the response of our political class has been to simply not look at it. I mean what could possibly go wrong?

Now we’re all collectively so deep in a hole that we are obliged to keep digging regardless. There are no other readily apparent options. So econospeak is used to support the pretence that we are not actually in a deep hole, but instead we are all enjoying sweet economic sunshine, and that all of this activity is socially beneficial anyway. In fact, we all need lots of very deep holes for the public good. In other words econospeak is the stuff we whistle to make us feel better as we walk past the graveyard.

Like a frog in a pot over a flame Australians have become so deeply invested in the illusion that everything is absolutely and completely hunkey-dory that it looks like we are entirely unlikely to leap out of the pot until we are deeply scalded. Understandably our political class has decided they also will simply pretend that house prices can and will continue to rise forever.

Part three: Gravity is hereby suspended until further notice

Yes it might actually be ludicrous but it is easier and less painful in the short term to simply pretend that we can all forever float high above the ground, and move ever higher, instead of planning on returning to earth, or even thinking about the possibility that we might all jointly ‘plummet’ together. After all Australia is an island. Different rules apply!

So jointly we get together in our media and pretend that having a wildly overinflated housing bubble instead of ‘houses’ is actually a good thing. Moreover for the period of the coming election campaign we will all once again wear a false grin and argue that it is perfectly normal to be spending a million dollars plus on a house when you earn one tenth of that amount per year (before tax).  Nothing to see here.

A suspension of credulity is required. It’s obviously too late for any sort of remedial action. Many hundreds of thousands of Australian family’s are now so massively indebted, just to live in a suburban house, that any downturn in the market will tip them into bankrupt. Everybody is now exposed to the whim of the marketplace. Any aware individual with even the slimmest facility with basic mathematics has to suspend credulity just to remain relatively free of existential angst. It’s emotionally safest to simply nod at the continued assertions that black is white and up is down – for the good of us all.

Anyway, for the very first time in the history of capitalism, houses might just forever go up in value. Just this time. Here in Australia. There is at least as much a chance of this as there is that pigs might fly and I have seen pictures of flying pigs. So maybe?

So it goes without saying that nobody serving in our parliaments today could possibly advocate that we should all back away from the huge Ponzi scheme that is the Australian property market. Our country, as a whole, is now so heavily invested in property that a recession would likely see several of our banks fall over, and half of the ‘on-paper’ wealth in our country evaporate instantly.

So certainly no federal politician can afford to even mention a bubble. Especially since the same econospeak ideas that they blithely and endlessly repeat are also endorsed as realities by our corporately owned and controlled media. The idea that everyone in Australia can own a million dollar house, and aspire to owning lots and lots of stuff, and that those who own lots and lots of stuff are happier, are all truisms in our press.

So no politician or pundit will point out that our banks are ludicrously overextended and that the majority of the investment funds across the world are now short selling Aussie bank shares. Most of all nobody will admit that the whole trickle down mythology of the last twenty years is bankrupt and has led to a massive growth in inequity and social and environmental damage. Even as we approach the edge of the cliff, at speed, no politician in our land will advocate a need to reverse direction. In fact, any that did campaign on a platform of raising taxes and slashing the price of housing probably wouldn’t even get pre-selected.

This is because the assertion that if we cut taxes it will stimulate the economy persists in our social discourse as a social fact. Despite it being plain wrong in every way imaginable. So this caustic and socially destructive mythology underpins and promotes the ongoing debasement of social responsibility by the political class in virtually every western world country. Yet still the idea of trickle down economics rules in the minds of our politicians and in our press.

The simple idea that cutting the tax of a corporation or individual will lead to the money that is ‘saved’ being ‘reinvested’ in a socially beneficial manner is not just incorrect; this prescription for ‘growth’ has caused economic chaos wherever it has been implemented. In country after country it has prompted greater inequality, greater social indebtedness, housing booms and major busts, and extended periods of austerity and hardship for the poorest and most disaffected in the community. All throughout the world. All for no apparent benefit except for further helping to enrich a very few of the already wealthiest individuals.

Over the last twenty years in Australia we have seen a slow dismantling of the social democratic contract that once existed. We have allowed our politicians to reform what government means. They have been allowed to pretend that our society is now nothing but an ‘economy’ and that the good of the many is reducible to the financial health of the few – and we have been gullible enough to buy it.

Top marginal and corporate tax rates have been massively reduced and at the same time the cost of living has soared. The cost of housing has ballooned and has swallowed up all of the spending money that Australian workers once had to spend, and then a bit. Paradoxically, the higher the housing market has soared, the less money we have all had to spend, and the average worker has had to work ever harder and longer just to enjoy a reduced quality of life. Why?

The top ten percent of Australians are now living an incredibly luxurious lifestyle while everyone else is working ever harder just to support their jet-setting habits. We have come to a place where our Prime Minister can have an undisclosed amount of money in a series of secret overseas accounts, in a tax haven, and it is considered to not only be acceptable, but unremarkable.

We have collectively sold our soul to a marketplace blind to both the environment and the long term interests of our society. We are all far more indebted. Our future no longer appears as rosy as it once did. We were the lucky country yet perhaps that might be fading? Certainly history is betting that our housing bubble will burst sooner rather than later.

However our common exposure to this looming threat is as much our own fault as it is that of our political masters. We were the ones who bought simple answers to complex questions because it was far easier than thinking for ourselves. We have been provided with political masters that will pander to what we want to hear.

In America the housing bubble burst when the average price of a house got to five times average yearly wages. In Ireland it burst when it reached eight times.

Think about how much the house you are in now is worth on the current market. Then divide that sum by what you earned last year. It’s not a difficult sum to do. The bankers and money men throughout the rest of the world have done that very same piece of arithmetic. That is why they are short selling our banks.

Tick tock. Tick tock.

Poor fellow my country!

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The Great Warming: Anthropogenic Global Warming and the spread of disease

Regular readers of Australian political blog sites will  be familiar with Deknarf, whose ‘Graphic Manipulations’ provide a barbed, light-hearted observation of the fools on the Hill on a weekly basis.

Lesser known, is that Deknarf is a researcher in his right in the field of micro-biology. As  this weeks guest blogger, he takes a look at the micro-biological effects of AGW.

Now there’s a heart-stopper of a headline!  Presenting information on the likely effects of Anthropogenic Global Warming and the related spread of disease tends to make people’s eyes to glaze over.  It does mine after a lengthy sojourn wading through the science-speak!  So, perhaps a hypothetical. Remember Joe Hockey saying that it’s highly probable that a child is being born and that it will live until 150?

So here we go!

It’s 2035!

I’m sitting on the mosquito-proofed verandah, beachside in tropical Sydney, gazing out to sea.  Wasn’t able to do that a few years ago because there were beachfront houses over the road.  More rapid global sea rise took care of those.  Another prediction that went awry!  Forgot to incorporate in the models that as the world warmed the rate of sea rise would increase, not stay at a steady rate.

It wasn’t so much that the models were wrong, they just didn’t include a couple of factors, and it all turned out to be less incremental, more logarithmic, eh?  Especially when the Arctic permafrost let go and released all that methane!  Anyhow, now that they’ve removed the wreckage there’s just the road between home and the beachfront and luckily home is still three or four metres above sea level.

The property value went up accordingly but since they reckon that the road will be inundated in another 10 to 15 years, that little bubble’s going to burst soon I’d say.  But then again, on current expectations, I won’t be around to see it.

It’s a bit of a shame that you have to go inside around 4.00 in the afternoon unless, of course you cover yourself in anti mozzie stuff and smell like a bad case of body odour.  Since the “Great Warming” started those bloody Queensland disease bearing mozzies headed south and now we’ve got them all over the place!

Part of the daily grind is the “get rid of the stagnant water patrol” just to make sure the little buggers aren’t breeding in every puddle!  Given that we now get afternoon tropical storms it’s a right pain in the bum!  So if you want a dose of Dengue, Japanese Encephalitis or Malaria just step outside for a bit and get a mozzie bite, or two!!

Going outside at night?  Brave person!  If you dodge the mozzie’s then there’s always the Cane Toads!  Along with the mozzie and disease invasion those bloody toads came too!  Sydney these days has become “Tropical one day, hospitalized the next!”  Someone said the other day, that they’d found fire-ants in Vaucluse!  That’ll play havoc with the real estate prices!

And all this, on top of the increase in food and water borne diseases, respiratory diseases as well as animal borne disease mean that, these days, living past about 70 is primarily down to good luck, living in Tasmania, and good genes!

What with Dengue, Chikungunya, Japanese encephalitis, Malaria, E coli, Campylobacter, Salmonella, Giardia, Cholera, influenza, whooping cough, as well as the Hendra and Leptospirosis I’m surprised that there’s still a population of 20 odd million in the Sydney metro area!  Most of them moved down from Queensland after the desertification, and the refugees from all those Pacific Islands are still coming!  Some smarty-pants called them “submergees”!

And the odd part!  There are still the seriously deluded who still believe that the last 30 years is just a warm weather anomaly and it’ll all change back again – eventually!  I’m wagering they still vote Liberal or National Party and think, “Coal is Good!”

150 years old Joe? Don’t think many of us will get to see that milestone.

Perhaps we could use the now ex-Prime Minister of Team Australia’s approach!

“My fellow Team Australians.  The are coming after us and they strike, wraithlike, from the shadows and in the darkness of the night.  In their urgent quest for our blood, they send their Death Cult terrorists amongst us.  Everything possible needs to be done to defeat these evildoers!

This is a Government utterly committed to a campaign against those who are coming to get us.  And the point I keep making is that these killers of women and men, child murderers, these medieval barbarians, broadcast to the world through the mounting death toll the ugly dimension to their evil.  We may not always feel that we are at war with them, but they certainly know that they are at war with us!”

“And, as the world warms new battlefronts open up to these murderers.  New territory to conquer, new opportunities to wreak their evil, murderous havoc on the innocent and unwary.

Rest assured my fellow Team Australians, as long as we have our energy, our industry, and our coal is good, we will fight them on all fronts! In tropical Sydney, in Mediterranean Melbourne, in the deserts of Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory – we will never surrender!


Then again, perhaps the Abbott approach was just a tad hyper hyperbolic.  After all.  We did create the opportunities for these little beasties, didn’t we?

Deknarf  blogs on his own site; Deknarf: The Australia Blog.


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Turn out that damn light

The Abbott government’s hysterical response to a question asked on last Monday’s Q&A is concerning on many levels.

Zaky Mallah, an Australian who spent 2 years in jail for threatening to kill ASIO officials, had a heated exchange with MP Steven Ciobo on proposed laws to strip terrorists of their Australian citizenship after Mr Ciobo said he would be comfortable blocking someone with Mallah’s past from living in Australia.

Mallah fired back that Mr Ciobo’s comments were the reason young Islamic people were prepared to leave Australia and fight for ISIS. He later tweeted: “I would pay to see that Minister dumped on #ISIS territory in Iraq!”

The Prime Minister’s response was predictably to once again take aim at the ABC.

“I think many, many millions of Australians would feel betrayed by our national broadcaster right now, and I think that the ABC does have to have a long, hard look at itself, and to answer a question which I have posed before – whose side are you on?”

Long gone is the idea that we “shine a light on dark places”, that people should be free to express their views and the listener be free to judge them accordingly.

Rather than letting the hatred and anger foment in secret, there is much of value that can be achieved by having this discussion in the public arena.

Mallah travelled to Syria in 2011 and was believed to be involved in non-violent roles in the civil war to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.  There were accusations that he was an undercover operative of Australia intelligence agencies.  (If it’s illegal for me to talk about that, sorry – I read it in the Courier Mail)

This young man seems ideally placed to help us understand how and why our young people are being seduced to join IS.  His anger showed how some young Muslims are feeling targeted by their own government and alienated in their own community.

Mallah’s intemperate outburst (no worse than Steve Ciobo’s slit her throat comment about Gillard) was immediately condemned by the Muslim community. It sparked a Twitter war as Muslim groups rushed to distance themselves from the man.

By silencing the debate we are forgoing our chance to make our case – to speak publicly about the horrors of IS, to help address the social problems that have allowed some of our citizens to be wooed by these bloodthirsty extremists who are using our children as cannon fodder, to contribute to the discussion of policy that strips us of our rights.

Abbott described Q&A to the Coalition party room as a “lefty lynch mob”.  He is launching inquiries and making threats and is relishing in his G W Bush stance “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”

Abbott will not tolerate scrutiny or criticism.  He hates Q&A because he cannot control the questions that the Australian public want to ask.  It is the only place where those with a social conscience can question our politicians.  The right has all the rest of the media – the Murdoch press and talk back radio.  The ABC annoyingly persists with fools like Rowan Dean, the insufferable Gerard Henderson, and the never-ending parade of IPA stooges in waiting for their government appointment.

In defence of the repeal of Section 18c of the racial discrimination act, the IPA’s Chris Berg wrote

“the very foundation of our liberal democracy is a right to speak freely on matters of political importance.  To defend free speech is to recognise that no ideas are sacrosanct, that all ideas can be challenged. Historically, free expression has been one of the strongest weapons for pluralism. Speech rights are most necessary for the weak, not the powerful.  Nobody denies the harm of hate speech. But nor should anybody deny the necessity of protecting free expression for the maintenance of a democratic system and as a basic individual right.”

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shootings, Tony Abbott said “I accept that in the course of having a robust democracy a lot of people will be offended, a lot of people will be insulted.”

The Prime Minister said if any encouragement could be drawn from the recent tragedies in Paris and at Sydney’s Martin Place, it was that “more and more Muslim people seem to be saying ‘look, there is a value in diversity’.

“We do have to adopt the position of live and let live.”

It is increasingly apparent that Abbott means live like I do and don’t question me or you will suffer the consequences.

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An award winning story

By John Lord
‘The red rose whispers of passion

And the white rose breaths of love

O, the red rose is a falcon
And the white rose is a dove’.

John Boyle O’Reilly

I first met Doctor David Gillespie in the hellish confines of Changi Prison. I was his commanding officer and we were friends for a little over two years. He was the most selfless altruistic man I ever met. His unselfish devotion to the men of our battalion often went beyond human capability. I think even some of the Japanese guards noticed his decency. In front of the men, he would address me as Colonel Matheson and in private it was simply Peter. All the men called him Doc Doogood in the Australian manner dispersing nicknames.

Changi was built by the British in 1936 as a civilian prison to hold 600 inmates and in 1942 following the fall of Singapore the Japanese interned 3000 prisoners of war. Of these 650 souls died in wretched circumstances including Lieutenant Gillespie. He died in my arms at 10am on Sunday the tenth day of October 1944 following yet another severe beating by the Japanese. His demands for better conditions and medical supplies for the men had reached a point of no return. Two days previous, he had had an argument with the camp superintendent about medical supplies. It developed into a shouting match.

There they were standing face to face at morning roster shouting at each other in Japanese. The commandant in pressed uniform and David with only a pair of tattered thin kaki shorts hanging loosely from a body that displayed nothing more than skin and bones. I must say he took it up to the bastard though. He had acquired the Japanese language in a very short time and conversed with the guards fluently. When the commandant hit him, across the face with his baton, the entire assembled battalion took a step forward and I quickly issued an order for the men to fall back in line. David slowly raised his arm, touched his face with the tips of his fingers, looked directly into the commandant’s eyes and spat in his face. Three guards dragged him away and he appeared four hours later staggering across the assembly ground carrying two cardboard boxes with Red Cross signs printed on them. I rushed out to meet him and caught him just as he was about to fall.
‘Medical supplies sir. I think I won the argument.’ He said.
‘That’s debatable, and at what cost?’ I whispered in his ear.
‘Some will live but the dead are many.’ he replied and then through swollen bloodied lips caked with dried blood, he said ‘There is only what you do or don’t do.’

He was barley recognizable from the beating he had taken. His head appeared to be twice its size. He spoke in short bursts of heavy breath indicating broken ribs and his left arm was obviously broken at the elbow. Two men helped me carry him to his quarters where we placed him on his cot. I asked one of the men, a sergeant who assisted David to see what was in the boxes. There was some morphine and I asked him to give David a shot. He did this and then set about the task of cleaning him up.
‘I will have to set the arm.’ said Sergeant Harry Dunfeld.
‘Yes, do it Harry’. I said adding ‘What do you think?’
‘If I may say so Sir, I don’t think he will make it beyond today. He’s taken some beatings before but this is by far the worst. Is it all right to let the men know? Some will want to pray’.
‘I will do it Harry.’ I replied, and I went to address the assembled throng at the entry to the hut.

I returned to my quarters and sat on my cot, closed my eyes and recalled the first time I met David. What a truly impressive man he was. Not just his physical characteristics, which were exceptional, but also his intellect and strength of character. He was twenty-five going on fifty with a well-rounded worldly attitude. He had a presence about him that lifted the spirit of anyone he met. His enormous mental capacity enabled him to complete his studies two years ahead of his class and graduate from Melbourne University with honors .He had also attained blues for both cricket and football in which he excelled.

He was sitting on an upturned crate when I caught his eye. He was holding fast to a tourniquet around the arm of a man whose arm was badly bleeding.
‘Sorry Sir. I’d salute if I could.’
‘Not to worry Lieutenant. Got a bit of work ahead of you.’ I said looking at the line of men seeking medical attention.

And so it was for the next two years that I would daily watch him treat the men for various illnesses without medication and instruments. On the occasions that he was able to procure medicine or even vitamin tablets, he usually had to suffer for it. It became a sort of a game with the camp commandant. They would argue. David would be given a beating and then return with whatever he was given. Often after spending days in solitary confinement. At first, he coped physically but as his health deteriorated each bashing left him just a little weaker. I implored him not to give his rations away but he declined saying that the Lord would provide. He said he had sufficient and others were worse off.

He witnessed the death of many of his patients but he never allowed tragedy to penetrate the need to assist suffering. Although we were prisoners, the horror of war was present in its absence.

When we each had completed our day’s ministrations, we would meet for a chat. We would talk of politics, theology, philosophy, the arts and anything that expanded our minds. We spoke of loves won and lost and children remembered or yet to be loved. Often other officers and enlisted men would join in and our conversation was always lively and satisfying. Over a period, I concluded that often our opinions are based on our values rather than our understanding and the difficulty was in separating the two.

However, it was when we were alone that we were able to share our aspirations beliefs and innermost secrets. I valued those conversations as if they were gold. He was the sort of person who wore his heart on his sleeve and no discussion with him was ever inhibited by unnecessary virtuous secrecy. He told me that the month before he was to leave for Singapore he had fallen in love. It was at the St Kilda town hall that he first saw her and when he asked, for a dance and she accepted he knew that he was in love. The intimacy of touch sought only to confirm his feelings. When he looked upon her face, he saw not just beauty but integrity and she wore lipstick the color of his favorite rose. She was studying at the nurse’s college in nearby Commercial Road and intended joining the military when she completed her course. His eyes would light up when he spoke of the love they shared in the days prior to departure. They were both of Christian up bringing. Her family were dairy farmers from southern Victoria and he lived in Melbourne with his parents who were well respected in social circles and the medical profession.

When the physical passion of their relationship demanded consummation, they decided to marry. He told me that both sets of parents gave their consent after observing their happiness and they were married in the St Kilda Methodist church in Fitzroy Street. It was the week before he left for Singapore. The few days before departure, they spent making love.
‘We couldn’t get enough of each other.’ He told me. Then it ended. He bordered a ship at Port Melbourne with the whole family witnessing a farewell embrace that lasted all of ten minutes.
‘I swear we would have made love on the pier had the opportunity arose.’ He added with a twinkle in his eye. Every week a box of twelve long stemmed roses arrived for her at her flat. One week there would be red and the next white.
The love of roses was but one of the many things they shared. He conveyed to me that he had entrusted his mother to have a box of roses delivered to her every Friday regardless of where she lived and for as long as she lived and that this arrangement was to continue if he didn’t return from the war. Added to that his mother was to see that the arrangement continue after her death. In our conversation, he always referred to his young wife as ‘Petal.’ He never mentioned her real name. I remember one clear night when we were sitting on the parade ground. The stars were high and bright in the night sky. He looked at me and then at the sky for what seemed an eternity. When he lowered his face, he said.
‘You know Peter. The fascinating thing about love is that we can experience it without needing to know anything about it. It controls us and we have no control over it.’

On another occasion, he spoke about the meaning of roses in a Biblical metaphorical sense.
‘You see the blue rose is symbolic of the impossible the unattainable and the red represents the passion of Christ and its thorns the blood of the cross. The white rose speaks of innocence, purity, exquisiteness and virtue. The faded rose reminds us that beauty is only fleeting. The rose garden is paradise and the single rose is in essence, a sign of completion, two coming together to consummate perfect love.’
Then he handed me a small piece of paper with a poem written on it.
‘Peter I want you to do something for me. If I don’t get out of this hellhole would you see that Petal gets this?’
‘Yes of course David.’ I replied. ‘I will even put it to memory so as I can retain its meaning’.

Red Rose

First blush of spring
Life’s passion red awakens
Roses touched by clear sky
Sun of day
Son on cross
Crimson drops forgive

White Rose

Immaculate conception
Pure white awakens
Roses touched by innocence
Grow from virgin seed
Son of God
In love forgiveness blooms


‘I think you had better come Sir.’
‘What is it Harry.’ I replied.
‘The Doc Sir, he’s taken a turn for the worse.’
When I arrived at his quarters, some soldiers were trying to prevent two Japanese officers from taking David with them. He was repeatedly mumbling.
‘Enough, enough Kagen ni shinasai, please no more no more’.
I began pushing them away and shouting at the same time.
‘He’s dying you fools. Can’t you see he’s dying?’
In the confusion, an officer unknown to me came in shouting orders at the others.
‘Choudai sakini dekata.’
They stepped aside allowing him space to examine David. Then he looked at me with his back to the others, crossed himself in the manner of a Catholic and said in perfect English. ‘Please forgive us. War is an abomination.’ And with that, he turned and exited the hut with his subordinates in tow.

With the help of the others, we managed to prop David back up on his cot. I sat down next to him trying to keep him erect but I could see it was hopeless. He fell down with his head in my lap and it was in that position that he died. I read his poem to the men as I stood above his grave but I don’t think many of them understood its meaning. The day after we buried him, I was summoned to appear before the officer who spoke English. He introduced himself as Major Hitoshi and asked for David’s poem. When I explained that I had promised to send the original copy to his wife, he agreed to make a copy. ‘
‘It is very beautiful. ’He commented. ‘From what I hear he was an extraordinarily brave man.’

After the war, I joined the Australian diplomatic service and spent many years in England. I also made frequent trips to Japan and often visited Major Hitoshi. We became good friends discussing world issues and he always wanted to know more about David.

When I returned home, I obtained David’s parents address, wrote a long letter detailing his bravery at Changi and requested that at their convenience I would like to visit some time. I explained that I was being relocated to Brisbane and asked if they would forward the poem onto Petal. I never heard back from any of them and assumed that they were too distraught to communicate. I was later to find out that for whatever reason they never received my correspondence.

Some years later when I retired my wife and I purchased a property in the inner Melbourne suburb of St Kilda. We quickly fell in love with the Edwardian style house. Our neighbors were pleasant folk and eager to see that we settled in without fuss. I noticed that the woman who lived next door delighted in growing roses. She had a row of red and white standards along her front garden just inside a picket fence and I often saw her pruning and spraying. One day I was walking our dog and stopped to compliment her on their appearance. She thanked me and said that she grew them in memory of her husband who had died in the war. We exchanged further pleasantries and I went on my way.

Some days later, my wife commented on the fact that every Friday at 10am an Interflora van delivered a box of flowers to her doorstop.
‘Roses I think, and long stemmed judging by the size of the box.’ She said.
My mind went into a spin. It couldn’t be I thought to myself and dismissed the idea as a flight of fancy. On the Sunday, we decided to go to church and choose the Methodist church in Fitzroy Street. We sat in one of the side pews and when I looked around, I saw the woman from next door. I couldn’t help notice how distinguished she looked with her greying hair pulled back and knotted in a bun. Her lipstick was of a passionate red hue and for some reason an image of David Gillespie vividly entered my mind. She noticed us smiled and gave us a wave of recognition. A young man walked down the isle past me and I jumped when he sat next to our neighbor.
‘You all right darling, you’re as white as a ghost.’
‘Bit of indigestion. It will pass.’
At the end of the service, I said that we should formally introduce ourselves to our neighbor.
‘Well certainly Peter but you look like you’re about to meet royalty. Why the nerves?’

We spent some time in small talk chatting to different people and moved closer to where our neighbor and her companion were standing with their backs to us. When they turned I involuntarily said.
‘You know me.’
‘Well I Think…perhaps, I mumbled without completing the sentence.
‘Allow me to introduce my son Doctor David Gillespie Junior. Our neighbor said.
‘I can’t believe it, you’re the spitting image of him.’
And you must be ‘Petal.’ I said.
‘Only one man has ever called me that. You must have known him. She answered with the inquisitiveness of lost love.
‘Yes indeed I did. I think he was the finest man I ever met. My name is Peter Matheson. I was your husband’s commanding officer in Changi. He died in my arms. Did you not receive my letter?’
‘No, I did not.’
‘Then you have never read his poem’
‘Poem, No.’
I took a small piece of paper from my wallet and handed it to her.
‘This is a copy.’
When she looked up, her eyes were moist and sanguine. She placed her hand gently on my arm.
‘Would you care to join us for lunch? Today is David’s twenty fifth birthday. There is much I would like to ask you.’
‘Good God’ I said softly. ‘Your husband died on this day twenty-five years ago.
She turned to her son and said.
‘We may need a bottle of red and a bottle of white, David.’
‘But mother you don’t normally partake before dinner.’
‘Today we make an exception.’
‘By the way’ I said. ‘What is you name?’
‘Rose.’ she answered. ‘Rose Gillespie.’

In Memorium

(Lieutenant) Doctor David Gillespie

‘His life was measured not by the shortness of it’s duration but by the compassion of its depth.’


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