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Pauline rushes to rescue farmers while the coalition falls apart.

“I want to put out a call to these farmers; please don’t give up hope,” Senator Pauline Hanson says shortly before breaking down in tears on her old pal, Alan Jones’ 2GB radio show, Friday last week.

Laugh and the world laughs with you. Weep and you weep off microphone. But no longer need you weep alone, Australia. Help is on its way. No. Not Joel Fitzgibbon’s outrageous suggestion of a bipartisan “war cabinet” approach to drought relief. Drought relief is for ScoMo & Co to pork-barrel; grandstand on grief. The government has no drought relief policy. The last thing it wants is Labor to show it up.

ScoMo ridicules Fitzgibbon in Question Time, an institution now entirely corrupted by a government in perpetual campaign. Vitiated by Dorothy Dixers, Labor-bashing and political assassination by quoting News Corps, the nation’s most powerful political party. Monday, ScoMo quotes Troy Bramston of The Australian on Anthony Albanese’s hopeless leadership.

“A Labor frontbencher told me …” is Bramston’s prelude to back-stabbing Albanese. Trump uses ” people tell me…” When no specific authority or evidence is given, the slur may be mere confection or confabulation. But it is also impossible to refute.

“For a guy who wanted to be leader so bad, and couldn’t wait to announce he was running for it less than 24 hours after the election, he does not know what to do with the job.” A Labor frontbencher?

Sure he did, Troy. Sure. Look. It’s uncanny. ScoMo’s cock a hoop with your “scoop”, first up Tuesday.

Labor couldn’t be trusted when it was in power, Mr Speaker, Morrison scoffs. It’s vital to repeat the one big lie of Labor’s hopelessness with money. As experts now, daily, attest to ScoMo and Co’s economic incompetence and the Reserve virtually begs for some serious stimulus measure, it’s especially important to repeat the lie that the GFC didn’t happen here or that we are still paying for Labor’s mess.

As The Guardian Australia’s Greg Jericho notes, Mathias Cormann now claims absurdly that Labor’s GFC stimulus drove up interest rates and the value of our dollar.

“If interest rates went up due to the stimulus then that meant it had helped improve demand in the economy, which was the whole point.”

Hang on. Help is on its way. Good news this week. Dairy farmers struggling to squeeze out $3.00 an hour in an industry milked dry as de-regulation, duopolies and globalisation lead to ruinous farm gate prices – while many suffer drought and ScoMo photo-ops – rejoice to learn that Pauline Hanson has their backs.

“Give me an opportunity to keep fighting. I don’t want these farmers to give up.”

The plucky One Nation leader heroically battles on at Jones’ microphone before it’s all too much and she’s led, sobbing inconsolably, off-air. But not before a word from her sponsor. Pauline’s “upset”, Big Al explains to listeners, “for the farmers” and exhausted as she “fights the bureaucrats” in Canberra.

Pauline is tirelessly fighting up hill and down dale to get our honest, hardworking, dairy farmers a fair price for their milk, a long-lost cause she shows no sign of understanding.

Fairness would involve the dismantling of global price-fixing and regulating the Fonterra-Saputo duopoly that dominates our milk-processing. (Canadian giant Saputo, which enjoys a monopoly in British Columbia bought out a troubled Murray Goulburn, our largest milk processor in April 2018.) Murray Goulburn had contracted with Coles to supply one dollar milk to 2023.

None of this matters to Hanson’s quest for self-aggrandisement. But Pauline’s plan will entail having Canberra bureaucrats very much on side. And supermarkets. Not to mention Saputo and Fonterra.

“It’s hard to say this but it makes no fucking sense,” sweet-talking Saputo boss, Lino Saputo Jnr admits freely. “$1.10 still doesn’t make sense when you can buy water at $3 a litre, when you can buy soda pop at $4 a litre, when you can buy Gatorade at $5 a litre.”  No? Never heard of a loss leader, Lino?

Yet loss-leading supermarkets are not the only bad guys. More than half Australia’s milk is sold overseas. The same neoliberal ideology that has us paying export prices for our own gas works with milk, too.

Even if the price of milk on the supermarket shelf were to double, the extra profit wouldn’t go to farmers directly as the ACCC found in its 18 month report on the dairy industry last year.

Dollar milk is the scapegoat, regardless. Even those who may be expected to understand how farmers contracts are set by producers play along with this. Yet never in Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie’s howls of outrage (or Drought Minister David Littleproud’s) does either stop to recall that Labor’s policy last election was to set a minimum price dairy farmers can be paid for the milk they produce.

Doubly unhappy is Bridget McKenzie, the Nationals’ “flash bit of kit” (as Barnaby once described his party’s deputy leader during a late night senate debate). Ms McKenzie cops flak for letting Hanson grand-stand as the cow cockies’ saviour. It’s not just a turf war; everyone knows that hand-wringing over drought or flood or farmers being robbed blind by multinational middlemen is the Nationals’ pitch.

Below the topsoil, the post Barnaby-era party writhes in existential crisis. It lacks leadership, identity and others are muscling in on its patch. Things quickly go bad – with a little help from New England. Friday, the Nationals split with their Coalition partner by leaking a $1.3 bn drought funding policy without approval from Michael McCormack – aka Mick-Mack. Scott Morrison is gob-smacked; blind-sided.

So much for the tremendous authority which pundits confidently predicted Scott Morrison was sure to wield over the Coalition after his miracle win. Or is that all spent in gagging and finger-wagging? The National backbench policy committee, which includes Barnaby Joyce, is the author of the rogue policy.

Such perfidy will not go unpunished – but, that it occurs at all – indicates how weak is ScoMo’s hold on Coalition reins. Are the Nats paying him back for crowding them out of his drought-porn photo-ops? Or did Pauline Hanson’s calling them weak and ineffective” do the trick? The Oz thinks so. The truth hurts.

Extra funding? It’s part of a ten-point plan. This includes setting up committees to oversee who gets their forks into $10m pork barrels, help with boarding school fees and other thought bubbles which will do less to alleviate drought suffering than improve the Nationals’ political identity. Rivals appear, artfully clad in Collins Street bushman’s kit of RM Williams’ moleskins and boots. Topped with spotless Akubra.

Is it identity politics? The Nats argue that their cash-splash will send a message. Or a vibe. It would “appear as an unambiguous package that is clearly labelled Nationals” they claim. Naturally. Nothing shrieks National Party so clearly and plainly as a barrel clearly labelled “pork”.  But even a simple lack of ambiguity can come back to bite you in the bum, as the trepid party deputy leader discovers.

Adding to the Nationals’ woes, Bridget McKenzie’s brazen pork-barrelling of grants has rejected 618 applications for community sports facilities. Labor’s sports spokesman Don Farrell cuts to the chase;

“The minister, we now know, rejected advice from her own department, Sport Australia, as to who should get these grants, and she imposed her own favourite grants in their place.”

Above all, despite McKenzie’s promising the ACCC’s recommendation, a dairy industry code of conduct by 2020 – hey – presto -to keep Hanson’s vote, the code will miraculously be available later this year.  So far, Hanson seems happy. Early report had her demanding re-regulation of the dairy industry.

Mathias Cormann must be a sweet-talker if Pauline’s being fobbed off with a code of conduct.

How bad are codes? Hopeless -if the PM’s own code for MPs, Morrison’s Statement of Ministerial Standards, tabled last August, is any guide. Gus Taylor just goes ahead and does what he likes. Clearly. Attacking Clover Moore is part of a rational plan?

Oddly, all hell breaks loose. Gus ducks and weaves. Evades all responsibility for the patently false figures in his bizarre letter lecturing Sydney’s lord mayor, Clover Moore on her travel. Tries to claim that the City of Sydney published fake figures on his website. Yep. The old “fake figures made me frame you” defence.

Worse, his PM supports Taylor, a serial offender, yet again, refusing to sanction his Energy Minister. It’s yet another sign of weak leadership and utter lack of integrity.

By his own code of rules, ScoMo should at least sack Taylor from cabinet; report him to the police.

Shadow climate minister, Mark Butler, tells an Adelaide presser Friday,

“Instead of the prime minister actually putting his words into action and putting this into the hands of the New South Wales police, he has shown that there is one rule for one group of Australians – cabinet ministers in the Morrison government – and another rule for everyone else, including the journalists who are currently under threat of prosecution for doing their jobs.”

Gus is helped by The Daily Telegraph, which publishes an article claiming hippy, tree-hugging, bicycle-riding, Clover Moore is not merely a progressive and independent pain in the establishment’s bum, a theme familiar to Telegraph readers, the Lord Mayor has been “told by the federal government to rein in the hundreds of thousands of dollars her council is spending on international and domestic travel if she is serious about lecturing Australia on climate change”. It’s madly untrue, of course, but well-timed.

Trump-like, Taylor uses what seems to be a forged City of Sydney council document to accuse City of Sydney council of spending “$1.7m on international travel and $14.2m on domestic travel” for councillors. The real figures are $1,727.77 on international travel and $4,206.32 on domestic travel.

Taylor’s dead cat on the table, distracts from Morrison’s stuff-up: his upstaging of the Nationals’ announcement of the breakthrough on the dairy code, Thursday. Experts warn that ScoMo’s holy surplus may now never eventuate. Or if it does it may come smack dab in the middle of a recession. Bad look.

But a line has to be drawn in the sand. News surfaces, Sunday, that Scott Morrison told Craig Kelly, chair of the Coalition’s backbench energy and environment committee, not to appear on Q&A with his daft graphs that show that climate change is a hoax. So much for Howard’s broad church Liberal Party.

Gagging Kelly is as much an extension of ScoMo’s naturally despotic leadership style as it is his way of “moderating public perception” to use Michael Koziol’s euphemism for the PM’s hiding an inconvenient truth from voters. ScoMo’s keen to conceal his climate change deniers and cover up the fact that they control the black hole that passes for government policy, a course largely determined by the coal lobby.

Kelly was due to wow ABC audiences with his insights on 16 September. A week prior, the climate denier regaled the multitudes who packed into an Australian Monarchists League function with the amazing news that the South Pacific island nation of Tuvalu is “floating, not sinking [due to climate change]”, because it was a coral atoll and “a coral atoll actually floats on the ocean”. Seriously.

It’s not clear that Kelly is aware that coral is acutely sensitive to sea-level changes. Or that Tuvalu is sinking. Already two of its nine islands are on the verge of going underwater swallowed by rising sea-levels and erosion. Scientists predict Tuvalu will become uninhabitable in fifty to a hundred years.

Porous, salty, soil is already useless for planting crops while Tuvalu’s water supply is now contaminated by rising seawater leaving Tuvaluans entirely dependent on rainwater. Even the fish are now toxic. Ciguatera poisoning affects reef fish who have ingested microalgaes expelled by bleached coral.

When fish infected with ciguatera toxins are consumed by humans, it causes an immediate and sometimes severe illness: vomiting, fevers and diarrhoea. Someone should tell Kelly and his committee but communicating scientific information is heresy in a government devoted entirely to spin.

Clearly, Morrison doesn’t talk to Mick-Mack, his pet name for his deputy Prime Minister. Mick-Mack is also in danger of being drowned by a rising tide of nostalgia for the good old days when Barnaby ruled.

For the Nationals, another backward-looking party firmly rooted in the past, Barnaby can do no wrong.

Yet it’s not what the historical record suggest. It’s never perfect with agrarian socialism or any other cult. Never ends well. Investigative journalist Jommy Tee sums up a topical part of Saint Barnaby’s legacy.

As Minister for Water and Agriculture, Barnaby was responsible in 2017 when the government coughed up $80 million in water buybacks to Eastern Australia Agriculture (EAA), the company where Angus Taylor had been a director and consultant. Eastern Australian Agriculture, a company founded by Gus Taylor made a two hundred percent profit out of Australian water and cotton farms.

Barnaby offered Clyde, a cotton-growing property to the LNP QLD government in 2006. Queensland  approached the federal government only to have the sale knocked back by Malcolm Turnbull, then parliamentary secretary to the PM. The federal government deemed the $20m price tag – for both property and water too high, given the water flow’s unreliability and its high price.

Joyce, Taylor and the current federal coalition government have much to explain. This includes:

“Why in 2017, did Barnaby Joyce, as Minister for Water, engineer the purchase of that same water from Clyde at the exorbitant cost of $40 million to taxpayers?”

Doubtless, refreshed after their five week break, our Coalition MPs will rush back to Canberra to clear up the stench of Watergate. Resignations will be tendered. Heads will roll. On the other hand, if Home Affairs top shiny-bum, Mike Pezzullo has his way, people will be jailed for leaking government information to the media.

But at present, it seems, neither partner in the coalition can even synchronise their diaries. Snap! Morrison holds his PM’s presser Thursday, on 2SM Radio.

ScoMo’s broadcast is heard just as the Nats gather at parliament house to simultaneously announce the good news on the code and cheer on the same pitifully small cash grants of $7000 and $13000 to farmers coming off the totally inadequate Farm Household Allowance (FHA) of up to $600 a fortnight.

Centrelink grants FHA to those who can pass its convoluted and protracted application process. Most applicants give up. Of 26,000 eligible households, only 2000 apply.

But of those 2000 who have persevered against all expectation – all will be overjoyed to receive a pittance extra, provided they don’t want to do anything rash like buy feed or replace a set of tractor tyres. See a dentist. Or pay the rates or the electricity bill.

Yet help is on its way. Professional empathy consultants, Futureye, are out in the field, helping ScoMo & Co win hearts and minds; forge its social licence in the bush. It’s not all photo-ops up dry creek-beds and matching green shirts.

Revealed by senate estimates committee questioning, this week, the ever more marvellous Morrison government approach to forging consensus.

Queensland Labor senator Murray Watt asks how Futureye works. Senior Inland Rail project officer Dr Garth Taylor is keen to explain, a rarity in the week’s proceedings where across four committees, ministers and mandarins take hundreds of questions on notice.

“Three key areas come to mind. “One is around empathy, around getting the right tone of voice to deal with landowners along the way … We start with getting the tone of voice right and getting the narrative right, and that leads to empathy. I think that along the way, with the landowners we’ve been dealing with, there has been an appreciation that there has been a more empathic approach taken since the social licence initiative.”

Picking up the $190 million tab to help ScoMo and Co build empathy along the tracks across the backblocks is the Department of Infrastructure’s Train to Nowhere, its Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail Project, a $10 billion boondoggle which is battling to establish its credentials, let alone goodwill. Even the government’s own hand-picked experts told it, the inland rail would never pay its way. It went ahead anyway.

The week ends with Matt Canavan being sent out on damage control. Canavan talks all over Fran Kelly on ABC Insiders, Sunday, to demonstrate his party’s superior empathy. Instead he gives a virtuoso display of gaslighting; arguing black is white. It’s his Prime Minister’s if not his government’s favourite tactic.

Instead of an utter disaster, a catastrophic rout by its own incompetence, in brief in spite of all the damning evidence, we are to see the week as the Nationals’ finest hour?

Finest hour? The reality is that the Coalition is unravelling as the going gets tough,with bad news on the economy that is ever harder to explain away and no sign that any of its carefully choreographed show of concern for drought victims is yielding any result.

Fighting over who gets credit for what is at best a band-aid solution or a PR stunt is not an edifying end to a parliamentary term. Nor does it augur well for the next.

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12 comments

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  1. Perking Wattleneck

    I have nothing but contempt for farmers. I know that is wrong, and it is coloured by my experience as a 13/14/15 year-old working, on farms in my summer holidays in England. They were lying, grasping, bullying and mendacious bastards who employed children to do work that should have been done by adults and paid them sod all. Even then I had to get my father to call on one of them and threaten to duff him up because he offered to pay us in rabbits he’d killed instead of money( My dad was a cruiserweight boxer in the Royal Navy. We got our money).
    In my 30s I was an insurance broker, in South Australia, offering help and insurance claims advice to farmer clients of a now-absorbed national bank. One of the farmers, who was representative of all of those I met, complained bitterly about anything and everything, while living like a king and sending his children to the most expensive schools in Adelaide. One afternoon we were discussing life and politics (I told him I was a leftie) and he itemised all his expenses, finally ending with the lament that all he had left after all his work was $26,000.
    ‘What, left over? Spending money? After tax?’
    Yep, only $26,000 left in my pocket.
    I told him I considered I was well paid, had a generous salary, gross $25,000, before tax.
    Then I got told how hard life was on the land.
    And so it is. To do everything right, only to be let down by the weather. I couldn’t stomach it. But they get as much sympathy from me as the GMH workforce at Elizabeth got from the bloated oaf Hockey.
    As Clyde Cameron said, they are agrarian socialists; they nationalise their losses and capitalise their profits. They elect National Party arseholes and threaten to replace them – with huntin’ shootin’ and fishin’ fuckwits.
    That’s yer farmers for you. Watching multinationals stealing our (and their) water and re-electing the pricks that enabled it to happen.
    Sod them, they already get too much WELFARE.

  2. pierre wilkinson

    and yet, do we hear the MSM decry the hubris and incompetence?

    crickets<
    or worse, acclaim! hallelujah, we will all be saved from the red peril…
    er the yellow peril? muslims? black gangs? terrorists?
    or just our home grown bludgers and leaners?
    thank god for scomo and herr dutto

  3. Kaye Lee

    Barnaby Joyce posted about visiting his local trade skill centre as did several other Coalition politicians. This was a Labor initiative begun in 2008 from which the Coalition stripped $950 million in funding.

    The day after Tony Windsor confirmed he would be running against Barnaby Joyce in 2016, Barnaby issued a media release saying “more than 5,700 children will benefit from the Turnbull Government’s National Partnership Agreement on Universal Access to Early Childhood Education.” Education Minister Simon Birmingham said that the National Partnership funding was just one aspect of the Turnbull Government’s commitment to early childhood education.

    Except the NPA was signed by Julia Gillard in 2013.

    And there was Barnaby again at the ribbon-cutting for the opening of the upgraded Tamworth Hospital even though the funding for the redevelopment was secured in May 2011.

    Tony Windsor once said, I don’t really care who unveils the plaque as long as it gets done, but these guys take plagiarism to a whole new level.

    https://theaimn.com/ribbon-cutting-shovel-toting-regifters/

  4. Phil

    Perking Wattleneck.

    Farmers. No doubt some are doing it tough however, go to any country fair ( Dowerin as a case in point) ) And observe how many private airplanes are parked up from the host state and Intra state. I presume to buy one capable of long trip + to fuel it wouldn’t come cheap.
    As an aside my dads brother was the middle weight champion of the Mediterranean fleet before he was captured in Singapore and ended up in Changi. . Needless to say he didn’t suffer fools gladly. If you told him to fuck off you had better be able to back it up.

  5. New England Cocky

    @Perking Wattleneck: Like you I have often wondered why farmers are gifted considerable government funds to remain inefficient and basically under-productive. I note that many factory workers at Maitland were laid off causing the government to step in because John Howard’s brother had interesting financial practices, but why are over-stocked rural properties allowed to continue with gifted funds for stock feed that pushes up feed prices for farmers practicing sustainable agriculture when the sensible strategy is to de-stock and eliminate the personal stress of drought?

    Ok, I was lucky … a much more experienced mate pointed these facts out to me during the 1983 drought to my great relief ever since.

    @Kaye Lee: Our local hero in New England, INDEPENDENT Tony Windsor MP supported the building of the Tamworth Livestock and Equine Centre, (ALEC) a $6 MILLION arena proposal built on the southern outskirts of the city.

    Come the time for officially announcing the funding, Nat$ leader John Anderson, then representing the nat$ in the now defunct seat of Gwydir, threatened NOT TO FUND ALEC if Windsor attended the event.

    Windsor replied that he did not care who got the credit for building ALEC, just that it was built. The funding was announced and an Armidale firm built the ALEC, which many horse organisations now are using regularly and pouring tourist dollars into Tamworth as a result.

    John Anderson presently is involved in the Northern Inland Railway (NIR) that by their own financial analyses is unlikely to return the initial investment at this stage about $700 MILLION in under 50 years, or more. Well, you know, the nat$ always have to help out a mate.

    Vote nat$ get screwed.

  6. wam

    Empathy is not an emotion I have ever ascribed to jones, These words:

    ‘….she’s led, sobbing inconsolably, off-air. But not before a word from her sponsor. Pauline’s “upset”, Big Al explains to listeners, “for the farmers” and exhausted as she “fights the bureaucrats” in Canberra. moved me to believe he must be so taken with hanson’s sorrow that I must listen to him.

    nah only joking that would be like watching narrow nose with the sound on.

  7. Phil Pryor

    Sluts, slobs, frauds, freaks, old idiots, younger ingrates, half educated irritables, non educated rebellious senility seniors, fascist fools, simpletons and wilful wankers, defiant dickheads, Anning type anuses, Hanson hags and handjobs, Katter cranks and crooks, this is a part only of the diminishing A Jones electorate of deaf, dumb and dopey dickhead deviates and drongos. Cash for imperious, wilful, brainless, misleading, unscientific, primitive, benighted, ignorant, agin and against comment. It is Jones’ s profit from propaganda and poop coated lies, a disgrace to Australian progress. By sustaining ignorance, violent upsurges in stupidity, outbursts of outhouse mentality, we are led by this crap to believe we should sustain and revise a century and more of stupid, ruinous, rural bad practice. This is hopeless, and we might as well bring more successors to rabbits, erosion, water theft, brainless land clearing, deforestation, toads, prickly pear, agro rape of the environment, foreign corporate theft and tax bludging to finally stuff the great nation’s soil and future forever. Is that the final solution for the filth of country party mismangement and stupidity? Is Mc Waggadickhead so hopeless?? Is the conservative brainless collective of anuses so destructive? It IS and it STINKS!

  8. Cool Pete

    All Hanson has to do to help the farmers is make a policy statement. She talks crap and crap is fertiliser.

  9. Terence Mills

    At a time of ever increasing security awareness and surveillance in this country, we have a situation where Angus Taylor’s departmental personnel appear to have been the source of a doctored and false piece of data which, in turn they gave to the Sydney Daily Telegraph as a pile on to discredit Sydney City Council and its mayor.

    So far, Taylor is calling the whole thing a beat-up presumably because he and his media team got caught out.

    The questions to be answered are where did this doctored data on travel expenses come from ? Was it from within the minister’s department or was it a helpful Godwin Greche (remember him ?) who fed the false data into the minister’s office and, without checking the veracity of the data, the minister used the data and launched a hit on the SCC alleging excessive travel spending.

    Once we have tracked the source of this information we need to understand why the minister saw it as appropriate to deliver the false data to Newscorp and how was it that the Tele published this false information without taking the trouble to check the authenticity.

    Labor have referred the matter to the NSW police whilst they could have referred it to the AFP : the involvement of the minister’s departmental personnel in Canberra would give the AFP some jurisdiction as the responsible law enforcement body in the ACT. However, judging from the performance of the AFP in recent times it is likely that they would have decided not to pursue an investigation.

    Australia, we badly need an independent federal commission into corruption !

  10. guest

    There are those who say, six months after the election, that Albanese is not doing enough. Enough what? Apparently he is not being loud, vindictive, assertive, revengeful and blokey enough. They say Labor is not the party it used to be. Well, who is?

    The Coalition is doing plenty to destroy itself.

    Then I worry about the ABC. Over the weekend it was telling us that voters are drifting from Labor in droves, especially older immigrants. One in particular, after we saw politicians celebrating the winning of the gay marriage postal vote, that such a scene made him feel sick. He said Labor had turned away from him. He was a Christian immigrant and said all that gay marriage stuff is b-s-.

    Am I to think this is just an example of “free speech” where anyone can express their anti-gay opinion in public? You know, it is OK to be a bigot – and it makes me a bigot ,too, for questioning his attitude?

    It seems that for any one with a grudge, it is all Labor’s fault.

  11. totaram

    “The Coalition is doing plenty to destroy itself.”

    That may be evident to a few well-informed souls, but unfortunately 60% of people think they are doing a fantastic job. Of course, that what they are told by the “free press” which is also doing a wonderful job. So all in all, everything is tickety-boo really, and that is how it will remain until the next election. That is all that matters to those 60% and of course the coalition government.

    Can anyone do anything about this sad state of affairs? I don’t see much hope at all.

  12. guest

    Totaram,

    no doubt you are right. The msm, except for the Guardian perhaps, will not tell you anything different because it would be too embarrassing for them.

    But elsewhere you can find the byline: “Australia’s alarmingly weak economy makes global headlines”.

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