Stunned silence blankets Canberra, this week, on the set of Kill Mal, the Turnbull government’s orgy of self-destruction. Even seasoned backstabbers and plotters in our political class are shocked to discover how our new PM played them; urging unpopular tax cuts before the Longman byelection to damage Turnbull and deceiving Dutton over numbers.
In The Saturday Paper Karen Middleton reveals“a story of ambition, doublecrossing and outfoxing, with (Peter Dutton) as an unwitting stooge.” “Senior cabinet sources” say Home Affairs Minister Dutton, was just a stalking horse for ScoMo.
Both leadership contenders were undermining Turnbull for their own purposes. Middleton alleges Mathias Cormann gave Dutton tacit support, an allegation Cormann rejects. Promoting himself as the moderate compromise candidate, Morrison was able to play each faction off against the other. The first spill ballot was critical, explains Middleton.
“Supporters for both Dutton and Turnbull say they believe it was actually Morrison’s backers who secretly forced matters to a head, voting for Dutton in the first ballot to boost his numbers and generate a crisis for Turnbull, while intending all along for their man to prevail.”
Middleton quotes a Liberal on how ScoMo fiddled the spill. “Assuming the Dutton vote was 40 [based on his result in the subsequent ballot], where did the other five come from? They were Morrison people who voted for the spill.”
Of course, the serial incompetent Morrison, had a bit of help from his friends and others who thought they were. As Richard Denniss points out, interest-based politics rule and Morrison is a poster boy for coal, at least for now.
In the end even Turnbull, a skilled back-flipper, almost in the same class as Tony Abbott, the contortionist’s contortionist, was fast losing his appeal to a coal lobby worried he’d lose the next election or honour our pathetic emissions target under the Paris Agreement or something else terrible. In vain, he desperately jettisoned the NEG.
“Coal has had this cabal by the balls for a decade. Their weakness in the face of the miners has been pitiful. Compelling Turnbull to abandon his latest effort to deal with emissions was not enough. He was getting nowhere but he had to go because there was no trusting he wouldn’t somewhere down the track once again irritate the coal industry. Writes David Marr also in The Saturday Paper.
But who can tell what all the gratuitous violence in Kill Mal is about? Abbott’s hatred of Turnbull plays a big part. Alex Turnbull has freely offered his analysis, that the coup was caused by a government right wing desperate to stop action on climate change. Their fervour he attributes to the “undue influence” of a small cabal with vested interests in the fossil fuel industry. Finally, elements of the media helped immensely – especially Murdoch media.
The baroque plot expands to reveal a stalking horse inside a stalking horse. Coup support is a high stakes game favoured by punters who play to win. “Rupie” (as Donald Trump calls Murdoch) owns papers ever ready to word up the cause of our Mining and Business cabals such as that led by “affordable, reliable”, Gina Hancock. And to demolish opponents.
Yet Clive Palmer also has a runner in the race. His $6.5bn Waratah Mine is all set to go Adani or no; Adani, he tells the AFR, ultimately, was just a stalking horse.
“We have a whole team of people working on our project all the time. I think we can develop that. But unlike Adani we don’t need to raise as much money as them. All the fuss about Adani getting federal government approvals. They took all the heat and we sailed through after them.”
Gina’s three mines in the Galilee Basin will produce 90 million tonnes of coal a year and Palmer reckons Waratah could produce thirty percent more than Adani’s proposed monster. But neither is commercially viable without a railway.
All it needs is a federal government to give the Northern Australia Infrastructure (NAIF) piggy bank, a slush fund for the fossil fuel industry a bit of a shake and our local mining billionaires will have the funds to build the railway required.
But it’s all kept quiet. As Greens senator Andrew Bartlett reported after the senate inquiry into the NAIF, 6 July.
“Both the NAIF and the Coalition have refused to answer questions about who has applied to the NAIF, how decisions are made and what the loan conditions are to access public funds. It’s difficult not to conclude that the NAIF is really just a slush fund for the fossil fuel industry that bankrolls the Coalition.”
Nothing is forever, but the MP who once brought his pet black rock into parliament, “Coal scuttle” Morrison, the bankers’ and miners’ friend, our sixth Prime Minister in eleven years, could be in the Lodge for the next nine months, at least. Of course, like any seasoned performer, he’s had shorter gigs but his career could do with a bit more scrutiny.
A child actor who played The Artful Dodger to his father’s Fagin, Morrison is the spitting image of the Vicks “Love Rub” kid in the 1970s Vicks Vaporub commercial, although he is evasive on the subject. He also did voiceovers and sang.
None of this wins hearts and minds with his countrymen nor at The Pacific Islands forum held on Nauru this year. Pacific leaders want answers. Australia must explain why twenty refugee children refuse to eat or drink. Hint: ScoMo- they are traumatised by war and worse, in illegal indefinite detention and terrified they’ll be there for the rest of their lives.
Most media are banned on Nauru which after a chequered history in the fertiliser industry, derives almost all of its income from housing Australia’s “boat people” or refugees who arrive by sea. Guardian Australia‘s application was rejected; The ABC was also told it would not be allowed on the island, effectively, a vassal state of Canberra.
The Pacific Islands Forum says there’s only room enough for three journalists from each member country.
Yet in the last three years, Australia incarcerated over 1,200 men, women and children on Nauru. Perhaps if he turned up, Morrison may have to answer questions about his former behaviour. And not even he could put a gloss on that.
As Immigration Minister, Morrison’s response to reports of children self-harming on Nauru by claiming that zSave the Children workers were making false claims, and even coaching children to self harm, in order to undermine the government. Independent reports later found his claims to be false. Peter Dutton still repeated them.
Nor do his claims to have stopped the boats hold water. As John Menadue and Peter Hughes point out
Abbott and Morrison actually kept the door open for tens of thousands of boat people arrivals by opposing legislation that would have enabled implementation of the Malaysia Arrangement of September 2011.
They also explain that Tony Abbott’s and Scott Morrison’s role in ‘stopping the boats’ was at the margins and vastly overstated. By the time Operation Sovereign Borders was in full swing, numbers of boats had slowed to a trickle. There were forty-eight in July 2013 but only seven in December 2013.
The real boat stopper was Kevin Rudd’s announcement that people arriving by boat after July 2013 would not be settled in Australia. Menadue sums up:
Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison in Opposition gave the green light to people smugglers by opposing the implementation of the Malaysia Arrangement in September 2011. In Government, Operation Sovereign Borders, had a marginal effect on boat arrivals. By the time OSB came into effect, the number of boat arrivals had been dramatically reduced.
Fortunately, our tough new cop on the beat, Scott Morrison, is way too busy in Indonesia where he hypes a one page statement of general intent as a “game-changing” breakthrough in our vague agreement to improve our trade or something with Indonesia, a nation which accounts for 2.3% of our total exports and $7bn of Australian goods.
It’s tiny. It’s about the same as our export trade to New Zealand, a nation with one fiftieth of the population. Yet even smaller, it seems is what Turnbull leaves behind him as he departs the political scene.
Malcolm Turnbull’s legacy? No-one on The Drum, on Mal’s muzzled ABC can find a good word to say. Or anything.
True. Massive income tax cuts are Super Mal’s great leap forward to a more unequal, less democratic society. But it won’t be until 2024 that the rich will pay far less tax than they do now, a vital reform which will cost us $144 billion in foregone revenue, while the rest of us have to make do with fewer teachers and schools; more suffering, poorer health.
By 2024, a worker earning $200,000 a year will pay the same rate of tax as someone earning $41,000. The National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) modelling calculates that “a couple both earning twice the average full-time salary can expect an extra $13,000 in 2024-25”. Heart-warming to help the needy get their just rewards.
Of course it’s unfair, but as Ben Eltham claims growing injustice and inequality are only some of the effects of ripping the guts out of our progressive tax system, a fair system. The main aim is to collect less money. Then you have less funding for infrastructure, defence, welfare and all the other nasty nanny statism (au pairism?) which the right abhors.
“…lower revenue is all part of the Coalition’s plan. The Turnbull government wants to give away all this money – not just to reward high-income earners in its political base, but in order to permanently reduce the federal tax base.”
Richard Denniss begs to differ. The Australia Institute Chief Economist argues that, despite its rhetoric, in thirty years the Coalition has made no attempt to lessen government regulation, spending or decrease the tax take, the problem is that
“for 30 years Australian political debate has revolved around “what the economy needs”. The simple truth is that economies don’t need anything. People do.”
Of course, Fizza’s left a lot to be going on with. Some of it’s OK.
Industry Super is gaining from the Royal Commission Morrison and Turnbull voted 26 times not to have. The AFR reckons rivers of gold are pouring out of bank-owned superannuation funds and into industry funds in response to revelations of misbehaviour at the banking royal commission.
AustralianSuper says it received more than $1 billion from new customers in July and August – double the amount of the same time last year. It’s a snafu in a commission the government hoped would have the opposite effect.
History will not spurn Turnbull, the J Alfred Prufrock of Australian politics, however, for all the brevity of his tenure, his indecision and his incapacity to lead. He wins the Honey I Shrunk the Kids Award. Even hobbled by his Faustian pact with the Nationals, his “smaller government” diminished us; making us a smaller, meaner, sneakier, crueller society with increased state surveillance, persecution of dissenters, especially whistle-blowers – not to mention the pressure brought to bear on charities lest their advocacy for the poor and marginalised lead to any criticism of government policy.
Critics were also put on notice that DHS may leak their personal details to the press to “correct media claims.
Centrelink briefed a journalist about the welfare history of blogger Andie Fox, who wrote an opinion piece for Fairfax Media claiming the agency had “terrorised” her over a debt she claimed she did not owe.
Unfounded allegations unnecessarily undermine confidence and take staff away from dealing with other claims,” a DHS spokesman explained, keeping a straight face. Unfounded allegations? Centrelink itself concedes that one third of appeals relating to its contentious robo-debts scheme have resulted in the debts being set aside by a federal tribunal.
Centrelink’s Robo-debt automated persecution of the innocent is also no small feat. A government department that holds you guilty until you prove your innocence, not only reverses the onus of proof, it’s a real money-spinner. Terry Carney, a former member of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal argues that the Turnbull government’s robo-debt program involves enforcement of “illegal” debts that in some cases are inflated or non-existent. Money for jam.
Politics is of course about more than power for its own sake but the Liberals remind us it can also be about so much less.
Abbott’s petty vendetta towards Turnbull is worthy of a Maupassant story, the monstrous dwarf’s, all-consuming, insane power of revenge. Turnbull bears responsibility as PM for not confronting Abbott on his overt sabotage campaign. He preferred the passive-aggressive right to his final quip that “past prime ministers should get out of parliament”.
Above all, in the short term, Turnbull’s weak leadership has helped deliver us unto ScoMo, even if the new Prime Monster’s pathology ultimately has a deeper and broader aetiology.
In the end, the delusional right’s nostalgia for an old, white, male Australia doesn’t let the Liberals give much thought to Turnbull’s legacy – although there were signs of a party reported in Dutton HQ when it seemed that the merchant banker was at last cast out. And as for the nation – it’s too distracted replaying the ScoMo show, whose plot features a thoroughly post-modern coup where winner loses all as his party gives up on heeding what the nation wants.
It’s attuned instead to coal lobby propaganda and the music of its banking and business lobby’s donations.
Peter Dutton stars as Morrison’s useful idiot, in the on demand replay of Scott Malcolm, a whodunit with a baroque plot in which Mal’s backers help Morrison to seize his job and blow up the Liberal Party. Explosive revelations, recriminations and exclusive off the record, well-sourced accusations rock Canberra, this week, as a volley of aftershocks threatens to demolish what remains of the smoking ruins of the Turnbull government. ScoMo will finish the job.
Turnbull himself wisely kisses politics goodbye and jets off to the Big Apple where he and Lucy own a modest luxury apartment on the Upper West Side which overlooks Central Park. At least it will have reliable, high speed broadband.
Whilst the Cayman Islander, himself, calls his political assassination “a malevolent week of madness”, in a touching farewell letter to his Wentworth constituents, it is just another day at the office for the megalomaniacal, stop-at-nothing, frothing Morrison.
In his first stand-up routine as leader and Liberal Top Rat, Morrison hands out Aussie flag lapel pins. He wears one, ScoMo explains, to the most divided Liberal party room in history, because it helps him remember which side he is on.
“The reason I wear it is because it reminds me every single day whose side I’m on. I’m on the side of the Australian people, that’s what I’m saying to myself, that’s who I think about first.”
Flags? Side? It’s a brilliantly subversive, richly allusive, Freudian piece, an ironic homage to Ten- Flags-Tony Abbott’s ersatz nationalism, while flagging that a race-baiting, bigot-whistling immigration election is on the menu. All other futile pretence at policy, from The NEG, to the banking royal commission is finally about to be swept overboard or scuppered as the brave new leader clears the decks of all detritus and Dutton supporters. Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead.
“This is about giving up on the country, on what it wants, because a stubborn few cannot give up on coal and traditional values. The Coalition would sooner forsake electoral success than reckon with the realities of climate science or engage with the leadership asked for by multiculturalism.
Scott Morrison is prime minister not because he has a better chance than Malcolm Turnbull of winning the next election. He is prime minister because he is willing to govern against the desires of the electorate.” Writes Erik Jensen.
Our screens soon clog with images of our dear leader in a Hurley cap and shirtsleeves, a sly rebuke to Turnbull’s Collins Street Akubra and RM Williams moleskins. Gonzo Morrison is an antipodean Gomer Pyle in a frenzy of emoting consoling and mad gesticulation amidst drought-porn images of dying stock, parched paddock and stoic, laconic farmers.
Of course it’s all about keeping us safe. News of a terror plot is a timely reminder of our super security. Somehow, somewhere is a shot of a dog-proof fence for ScoMo to reach right up and hold on to, another ironic parody of all those images of Turnbull strap-hanging in railway carriages, a millionaire public transport aficionado, man of the people.
Morrison’s more at ease with the fence, the fear and the dog-whistle.
Meanwhile after-shocks from ScoMo’s coup continue with complaints about bullying, his buying-off Abbott and Joyce as special envoys at rates which may even equal Ruddock’s $274,507 plus pay for his own hugely successful stint as special envoy for human rights. Above all, a mysterious flood of leaks threatens to drown Dutto in an au pair scandal.
A former drug squad detective, Peter Dutton shouldn’t have to work too hard to suss out where they’re coming from.
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