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Tag Archives: Coalition Government

Labor’s “brave” review fails to upstage Morrison’s incompetence.

Were politics reset in keeping with the times, the parties would concede that it is not a contest between social democracy and a capitalist free-for-all, or “the light on the hill” and “the forgotten people”, or even conservatives and progressives, but one in which the ghosts of organisations that once had some claim to represent these passions compete to prove themselves the superior financial managers. Don Watson

Attack of the Labor Zombies: “Review of Labor’s 2019 Election Campaign”, the ritual killing of Bill Shorten by hungry ghosts, premiers nationally, this week, six months after Bill’s political death, a fate which the commentariat is still finalising for him despite his promising to “hang around” for another twenty years.

Karen Middleton scoffs at Shorten’s pledge. “He’ll be in his seventies”, she sighs, on ABC Insiders Sunday. Bill will be 72. Four years younger than Joe Biden. Elizabeth Warren’s 70. Billy Hughes served for 51 years; died at 90 before he could get around to thinking about retiring. But it’s not about age.

It’s … the chutzpah. “He’s got to win all those elections.” Shorten won almost a five per cent (4.99%) swing to Labor in his Victorian seat of Maribyrnong, last election. Next, he’s at fault for making his twenty-year pledge before the review comes out to help others decide his future for him.

How very dare he get in first?

MSM is consumed by the review; the review of the review and any excuse at all to kick Bill Shorten.

Kill Bill has become a national sport since Tony Abbott contrived to make “Bill Shorten” a pejorative term, a project taken up shamelessly by Malcolm Turnbull and with glee by bully Morrison.

Interviews with Morrison normalise his bullying, as Dr Jennifer Wilson argues, in analysis of the PM’s manic scattergun barrage of bullshit to cover his running away from the question guerrilla tactics.

Julia Banks quit parliament after only a term because of the level of bullying during the leadership spill.

What’s even more alarming is the subtext that Morrison, miraculously, got everything right. Scapegoats help with that. It’s a by-product of reducing party politics to the popularity of the leader, part of our brave new age of populist personality politics where policy and reasoned argument count less than spin and image. And Morrison’s fevered hyper-partisanship makes Tony Abbott look like a peace-maker.

Albo offers to accompany Morrison to NSW bushfire areas, he tells Fran Kelly, Sunday. His offer is brushed aside. Something about not getting in the way of “the rescue effort”. Later media images show Morrison, alone, comforting victims, as he did with his drought series of visits, grandstanding on grief.

But Labor doesn’t seem to have got the memo that there’s a war on. Blending psychic surgery with forensic post-mortem, Labor eviscerates itself for a ritual cleansing. Bares its soul. And then some. The Review … is an unparalleled, almost naive act of faith. No wonder it gets everyone’s attention.

But why? Is this orgy of over-sharing prompted by some rush of utopian socialism which only true believers can call into being? Or is it folly? It’s unique, says ABC’s Laura Tingle, her take on “brave”.

“That’s very brave of you, minister. An extremely courageous decision,” as Mr Appleby would say.

Yet Labor’s purpose, beside officially defining what went wrong, is to draw a line under its defeat.

Fat chance. Just because closure is a tabloid TV victim’s top buzz-word doesn’t make it achievable. Somehow, there’s something for everybody because, you know, Labor lost. By Sunday’s ABC Insiders, a  narrow loss morphs into a rout. Labor can’t even pass its own post-mortem exam, Fran Kelly implies.

It’s not easy. Former Keating speech-writer, Don Watson, notes that Labor’s changing constituency increasingly includes service-sector employees, lower-level managers and healthcare workers, as the middle class itself is changing. Labor’s review even detects an influx of woke, affluent, graduates in Southern states, whom, it contends can afford the luxury of idealism. It’s a dangerous hypothesis.

“Since university graduates, on average, earn higher incomes and have more secure jobs than those without tertiary qualifications, they are more readily able to think about issues such as climate change, refugees, marriage equality and the rights of the LGBTQI+ community.”

But a few rich grads didn’t win Labor any seats, Emerson and Wetherill are quick to note. And if your idealism or concern for justice and the survival of the planet is in proportion to your wealth, heaven help the rest of us. Paul Keating reckons Labor lost because it failed to understand the “new middle-class”.

New? Watson sees a class with no ideology nor even consciousness of itself as a class. Being new it has “no roots beyond its self-interest”. He hopes Morrison hasn’t already press-ganged it into Quiet Australians, another bogus, Silent Majority.

But who needs analysis? Nuance is banished from our national conversation. Labor’s review simply has to make Bill the villain. You can’t trust Bill Shorten. It’s the old Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison melodrama.

News Corp prefers a shifty, shorthand, “dud leader, dud policies, dud strategy”, summation which bears no resemblance to the subtler findings published by Dr Craig Emerson and Jay Weatherill who chair Labor’s inquiry. But given Murdoch’s stranglehold over our media, it will soon become gospel truth.

Paul Kelly, The Australian’s editor at large, wilfully misrepresents the report.  Eagerly, he invents a turf war. Two Labor constituencies are at war with each other. Father Kelly fears for Labor  – a fear which Fran Kelly and others put to Albo. How can Labor possibly bridge the gap between blue-collar and gown?

“The Labor Party now resembles two rival constituencies fighting each other — their origins embedded in the party’s past and its ­future — a conflict that extinguished Labor’s hopes at the May election and a chasm that nobody knows how to bridge,” Kelly fantasises. But it’s never had any trouble in the past.

Rupert’s troupers can’t labour Labor’s factionalism enough. It diverts from Coalition disunity. All is not well, for example, in Cockies’ Corner. Nationals Deputy Leader and Minister for Agriculture, Bridget McKenzie, “couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery” one MP tells ABC’s, Lucy Barbour.

McKenzie is under pressure to perform; step up to the plate or step aside. Pauline Hanson’s taken all the credit for saving the dairy farmers and the PM seems to own drought the relief compassion show.

Barnaby Joyce is still agitating for promotion despite spending $675,000 for only three weeks in the field and not providing any reports as special drought envoy. But as media keep the focus on Shorten’s failure and the myth of Labor’s imminent descent into civil war, the Morrison miracle spin gets a further tweak.

(By the magic of implication, the current struggle between Nats and Libs – witness the spat over who owns the theatre of drought relief, or the Liberals capture by climate change denialists – means the Coalition with its three Prime Ministers in six years, rivals The Mormon Tabernacle Choir for harmony.)

Not the Puritan Choir, that’s another, evangelical, faction led by Mr Probity, Stuart Robert, architect of the Turnbull assassination plot. But all is forgiven. He’s repaid $37,975, only $8000 shy of what he had previously claimed as ‘residential internet expenses’.  Streaming Christian TV from home is not cheap.

Be fair. Stu’s wife, Peoples’ Pastor Chantelle, can’t run her Pentecostal online evangelism without a decent broadband connection. Robert also says he’s returned a brace of gold Rolex watches, he and his wife – and other Coalition MPs received in 2013 from Chinese instant noodle billionaire Li Ruipeng.

Robert, Abbott and Macfarlane thought the $250,000 worth of watches were fakes, they say. As you do, whenever any oligarch tenders a token of his esteem in expectation of a return favour. Or perhaps not.

Or perhaps you do – if you’re an Australian MP seeking favour. Robert resigned from Turnbull’s ministry when he breached the Ministerial Code of Conduct on a business trip to China for Nimrod resources in which he somehow gave his Chinese hosts the false impression he was in China in an official capacity.

In 2017, Robert’s eighty-year-old father, Alan, discovers that he is a director of one of his son’s companies and that his son has used his Dad’s address on one of his businesses. Without telling him. The private company in question is doing rather well in winning government contracts, until then.

You won’t catch Robert or Morrison holding any public review. It’s against their religion. Look at the trouble Morrison’s mentor Brian Houston is having just complying with NSW police investigation. He’s refusing to answer questions about his father’s child abuse. The tactic seems to be working perfectly.

Frugal with the truth, lest Satan strike you whilst your guard is down, God’s hot-eyed warriors know when to keep stumm. Just as they know that God put coal underground for our blessing and just as they are happy to burn for mining while awaiting the rapture, believing they will be saved by their faith.

Thou shalt not fear fossil fuels preaches Pentecostal Pastor PD King in The Christian Post.

Yet Robert’s god-botherers and coal warriors are not symptoms of deep division in the Coalition. Nor are Tim Wilson, Dave Sharma, Jason Falinski, Katie Allen, Angie Bell and Trent Zimmerman who sign on to parliamentary friends of climate action, “a safe place away from partisan politics”, which has Greens, Labor and cross-bench supporters, only to snub their very first meeting 14 October.

But not all MSM scribes are bluffed. Do what Father Morrison does: walk both sides of the chasm at the same time. Granted, “Shut up and eat your peas, dad is talking” is Morrison’s leadership style, as The Guardian Australia’s Katharine Murphy astutely discerns, but don’t let a paternal despot pull the wool.

“… look at Morrison, who manages to walk every side of every street simultaneously and talk out of both sides of his mouth and suffer no apparent penalty.”

Murphy’s amused by Morrison’s hypocrisy in his illiberal lecture to the mining mafia last Friday week in which he threatens yet another new clampdown, (number 84 and counting) on the civil liberties of illiberal protesters who are exercising their right to boycott businesses who collude with coal-miners to extinguish the planet. She believes he just says this sort of stuff for effect and hopes nobody notices.

Also hypocritical is Morrison’s message that he’ll do everything for coal. Only a few days earlier, he makes a billion-dollar grant to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC). Abbott tried to close down the CEFC along with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), a move Turnbull reversed.

Morrison’s CEFC grant will help fund new transmission infrastructure to help clean energy access more of the national grid. Next, he agrees to help underwrite the main NSW-Queensland interconnector.

Murphy rightly asks why Morrison is able to shape-shift every day of the week but Labor is excoriated for selling out when it tries to straddle two constituencies. Worse, it must get a real leader, like ScoMo, the actor playing the daggy suburban Pentecostal dad with the Stepford wife, a man we can all identify with.

Shorten’s unpopularity has more to do with his crucifixion by News Corp and its lackeys including, sadly our ABC, than any political reality. Labor’s review concedes, however, that damage has been done.

Labor’s review sums up Labor’s loss as a combination “of a weak strategy that could not adapt to the change in Liberal leadership, a cluttered policy agenda that looked risky and an unpopular leader” –  a verdict, writes ANU’s Frank Bongiorno “which belies the sophistication of the report as whole”.

But everyone in the gallery – from Michelle Grattan to Mark Latham – gets to twist the knife. It’s a massive pile-on; way more popular, than Melbourne’s Spring Carnival. Bagging Labor’s failings easily upstages the Melbourne Cup, the race that barely slows the nation, our increasingly anaemic, ritual national blood-sport. Besides schadenfreude is surely part of our tall poppy syndrome.

But like the curious incident of the dog in the night time, nowhere is there mention of News Corp.

“The Murdoch media didn’t merely favour the government over the opposition. It campaigned vigorously for the return of the Coalition. And it is a vast empire, with a monopoly through much of regional Queensland, for instance. It is hard not to see in the review’s silence on this matter a clearing of the way for a future kissing of the ring of the familiar kind.” Frank Bongiorno writes.

Everyone wants to wag the finger; tell Labor where it went wrong and by implication how Morrison’s miracle campaign was so inspired – when in reality it was almost totally negative; long on disinformation and attacking Shorten’s character – including the Daily Telegraph’s attack on his mother’s integrity.

A review of the Coalition campaign? Nasty, brutish and short on policy beyond the promise of tax cuts. The $1080 tax cut may have bought a few votes but it is proving a total failure as a fiscal stimulus.

The retail sector is in its third year of per capita recession. While Frydenberg and Morrison seek to explain it away by online sales, as Alan Austin notes, the ABS figures include online sales.

“Retail sales for the September quarter came to $82.6 billion, up just 2.48% on the same quarter a year ago. With inflation at 1.7% and population rising 1.6%, that is a decline in real terms relative to population. So the sector is now in its third year of per capita recession.”

Luckily Labor Zombies … is a sell-out performance, upstaging the government’s own show, “Geronticide! Hell ain’t a patch on the ways you will suffer in God’s Waiting Room; dying of abuse and neglect in our private aged care homes”, brilliantly scripted by commissioners Lynelle Briggs, AM, and Richard Tracey, AO, in their three-volume Interim Report into Aged Care …, “…a shocking tale of neglect”.

Everything’s apples with aged care with just a few rotten fruit spoiling everything. Besides, Morrison says there’ll be more funds by Christmas. He can’t say how little. No-one would expect his government to have been briefed so soon, given that it’s only Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison’s sixth year in government. Expect Santa Hunt and Morrison to stuff the announcement in a stocking late on Christmas Eve.

In the meantime, despite the commissioners’ finding that commodifying aged care is the core of the problem, the Coalition is proceeding with its plan to privatise the staff who do the assessments.

Amazing new efficiencies will follow; such as we’ve seen in the NDIS, where $1.6 billion is being saved by shunting disabled Australians on New Start instead. Private enterprise is a miracle of profit-driven efficiency. And care. No funds will be wasted on gratuitous compassion or humanity. Or spent in haste.

“We are six years into the rollout and we have heard of people waiting two years for a wheelchair, so it needs concerted attention,” says Kirsten Dean from disability advocate group Every Australian Counts.

Expect the reforms to raise the bar; reducing the number of our elderly folk who qualify for homecare “packages”, which are already very limited in scope and difficult to access even at their most basic level.

Above all, Labor Zombies … is a great diversion from the long list of latest revelations of wrong-doing by Morrison’s mob, especially the Australian National Audit Office’s (ANAO) censure of the pork-barrel party coalition for its shonky award of funding under its $200 million regional jobs and investment packages.

Conceding it might have a bit to hide, a furtive, federal government chooses to release its ANAO report on Tuesday afternoon when it hopes all eyes and ears will be turned to the track at Flemington.

The ANAO is scathing about the Morrison government’s disregard for advice provided by bureaucrats. It is also unhappy with ways the Coalition chooses to ignore guidelines regarding merit and eligibility.

Untrained ministers took over the process, making decisions on their own, unaided by expert advice. No. Of course, they did not bother to take minutes. 64 of 232 applications were scrapped. A total of $75.9m in funding is declined. Yet $77.4m in requested grant funding is approved to 68 applicants, not on the departmental list. Over half the funding is pork forked out of the barrel.

While program guidelines require applicants to declare any perceived or existing conflicts of interest, or declare that they had no conflicts – “no action was taken to give effect to this element of the program guidelines”.

Doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results, is one definition of insanity. Yet, when the Coalition rolls out the pork barrel, this week, in yet another round of drought relief; a billion-dollar “suite of measures” to its backblock pals, as it grandiose handout, once again, to entice farmers to do more of the same, is there method in its madness? Or is it merely Groundhog Day again?

The groundhog factor cannot be ignored. Mugged by an Anthropocene reality; Morrison’s mob have no idea what to do. No policies; no plans. No future. They can only fall back on past practice. And buying votes. Along with nostalgia, the pork barrel is part of every Coalition MP’s mental furniture; it’s in its DNA.

And craving more of the same old, same old means it’s only natural to look backwards; unerringly repeat the same mistakes of the past.  Five years ago, then PM Tony Abbott, and his Minister for Agriculture and Water rorts, Barnaby Boondoggle Joyce, announced – a suite of measures offering financial, social and mental health support. Bingo!

But there is method or shrewd craftiness. Evading accountability for starters. Is there any area of public funding less scrutinised than drought relief? wonders Bernard Keane.

Australia would still have a car industry and 50,000 secure jobs for only a third of the amount that the Coalition is prepared to pony up for loans to farmers and small-businesses in drought-affected towns.

But imagine the outcry from News Corp and its claque if workers, or manufacturers, could borrow up to two million interest-free for two years; with no need to pay back the principal until the sixth year.

“Rural communities can’t function without these small businesses – that’s why we’re stepping in to provide this extra support,” Morrison says. But in its Abbott incarnation, the coalition government was perfectly happy to deny SPC Ardmona $25 million just five years ago?

Many workers and their families in other sectors would be glad of the support. Manufacturing, for example, lost 100,000 jobs, or a third of the entire agriculture workforce, in the year to August.

But extra support has limits. State schools won’t be eligible for $10m in new education funding announced in Thursday’s drought package, an “elitist and unfair” if not downright cruel decision.

Australian Education Union president, Correna Haythorpe, argues it’s “another slush fund for private schools” on top of the $1.2bn Choice and Affordability fund for Catholic and Independent schools, which Lenore Taylor reports also included money for drought-affected areas.

In its encore, Drought Relief 2.0 “Suite of measures” this week, Morrison’s travelling roadshow hopes, above all, that the hullabaloo will distract punters from its own Drought Response, Preparedness and Resilience a report which it commissioned from top brass Stephen Day, DSC, AM, the very model of a modern Major General and former Drought Co-ordinator-general.

Somehow it must keep us from the Light of Day.

Drought is not a natural disaster, it’s an enduring feature of the Australian landscape, reports Day. Yet instead of launching into the droughts and flooding plains of Dorothea McKellar’s My Country – and a staple of The Nationals’ MP interview press-kit, Day breaks with climate-denialist tradition.

“While droughts are normal for Australia, drought conditions are likely to become more frequent, severe and longer in some regions due to climate change.”

It’s plain as day that we’re responsible for the drought, with our love of coal-fired power stations, coal mines and our mania for land clearing. It’s a far less romantic notion than playing the hapless victim – Abbott’s “Shit Happens” philosophy, a helpless victim of natural disaster.

But accountability is apostasy, heresy even in the broad church of the Coalition Party Room and especially to the reality denial cabal in the driver’s seat, to say nothing of the God-made-coal-so-we-should-profit-from-his-divine-providence, Pentecostal push that has a hot-line to the current tenant in Kirribilli House.

 

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When will Morrison and his government be held to account?

“With everything that’s going on at the moment we need to be in the tent and we need to know what’s going on – and we are,” Scott Morrison spruiks his star role as a fly on the tent wall, a vital bit part in the latest instalment of the G7 soap opera, a chic, dysfunctional clique; a G6+1 held this year in Biarritz, artificial pearl of the Basque coast.

Next year, Trump wants them to kick back at his Trump National Doral in Miami, one of his top golf resorts in Florida. Invite his old pal Vlad Putin. Get a few holes of golf in. “It would be better to have Putin inside the tent than outside the tent,” Trump says. He doesn’t explain. Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine and its illegal annexation of Crimea are but two stumbling blocks for most G7 members. Putin won’t attend as guest. He wants full membership again.

Tent? Is ScoMo being droll? Few at the G7 know what’s going on – neoliberalism is dead for starters. The post-war world that spawned the Group of Seven, “advanced” non-communist economies the UK-Atlantic alliance is long gone. So, too are some G7 economies. Is France “advanced” or merely held up by transnational receipts, asks Crikey’s Guy Rundle.

Others will never know. The terminally bewildered include Donald Trump who may or may not attack Iran any minute, “bonkers”, Boris Johnson, whose EU ignorance may take the great out of Great Britain and Jair Bolsonaro who puts a sixty-day ban on lighting fires in the rainforest, while the Amazon, the lungs of the planet, burns out of control.

Did you see that tie-dye that Melania wore? It gets more ink that any international political or environmental or climate crisis. Or the fact that her husband doesn’t even deign attend the climate conference. Thank God we had ScoMo there, beavering away at “rules-based order” or keeping extremists off the net. It’s too late for The White House. Hopes that monster-baby Trump will pick the toys he threw out of his playpen, abandon the trade war with China – which he thinks he’s winning or the plan to attack Iran which he’s happy to leave out there – are dashed from the start.

After Trump repudiated last year’s motherhood statement, there is no attempt at a 2019 G7 consensus communique.

This year, he also vetoes ScoMo’s proposal for self-regulation of social media, an ineffectual, if not futile proposal to counter online extremism, which will collect data from law-abiding citizens and do nothing to curb extremists. It’s a quality thought–bubble that in the end, Trump sycophant ScoMo, sniffing the wind, doesn’t even vote for himself.

Luckily Morrison, still gets to wow leaders with our space research, a type of astral Spakfilla which “will fill space infrastructure gaps to support businesses and researchers to participate in the global space economy.”  Or at least his latest BFF, Boris bird’s nest head Johnson, Britain’s professional clown who is also putting in a top performance in vacuity as clueless Prime Minister tells him “it’s a fabulously interesting, brilliant and exciting project, Scott.”

Morrison is in Biarritz because, France’s President, Emmanuel Macron invited him to observe- along with India’s PM Narendra Modi and G7 pariah Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister. Despite reporting how Boris Johnson, is absolutely gob-smacked by Australia’s space agency space, ScoMo totally assures everyone he’d rather be at home.

“As Australia’s Prime Minister, I always prefer to be in Australia dealing with issues on the ground domestically,” says our most evasive PM since Abbott and the least accountable ever. He’s pleased to be out of the country when his government’s religious freedoms bill is finally published. It’s superfluous – religious freedom is not under threat; but it’s a sop to those who were out-postal-voted on marriage equality but who still claim they have a right to discriminate.

The bill, which skips the tricky stuff of actually defining religious belief, upsets progressives and conservatives alike, while dividing the broad church of the Liberal Party including some of its de-facto partners in the open marriage of convenience with the National Party (and anyone else it can bed), a secret agreement which has, at its core, an uneasy juxtaposition of mutual suspicion and condescension but which both sides pretend is a viable coalition government.

Laura Tingle warns, Morrison’s biggest domestic political challenge yet may be his need to deal with MPs such Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells who claims, Friday it is “clear from my ongoing consultation and engagement with religious leaders that the bills are likely to fall far short of properly and fully addressing their requirement”.

If Morrison moves to appease the reactionaries, he is in danger of alienating the conservatives whose support he courted when he declared religious freedom to be his key priority at the outset of his accidental prime ministership. On the international front, his government is choosing to fall in with Washington’s plan to wage war on Iran, a reflex appeasement of the Trump administration’s bullying which may well lead to catastrophic consequences.

In a brilliant show of legerdemain, a triumphant Macron produces the Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif from behind a screen, a move which is reported to surprise Trump and other leaders despite their prior warning.

Will Trump and Zarif talk? No. Iran’s PM Hassan Rouhani wants the US to lift sanctions first. Trump says he’ll meet Iran’s leader because “We’re looking to make Iran rich again.” US sanctions on Iran under the Trump administration have caused the rial to lose 75 per cent of its value this year.  Yet Trump rules out direct US financial assistance.

“No we are not paying, we don’t pay,” Trump says. “But they may need some money to get them over a very rough patch and if they do need money, and it would be secured by oil …, so we are really talking about a letter of credit. It would be from numerous countries, numerous countries.”

But all is not lost. Love is in the air. Bromance blossoms between BoJo, (Boris Johnson) and DoJo (Donald John Trump) two confirmed narcissists who praise each other to the skies and promise all manner of fabulous trade deals guaranteed to make Britain great again. Again. Hugely.

No-one bothers Trump with picayune details such as the way he depresses world markets and how he is a huge drag on the global economy with his mindless trade war with China.  Or his conflict of interest in next year’s proposed venue.

Or they see no point in raising it during his bromance with Boris. Luckily, BoJo and ScoMo are also now best friends forever. “Let’s just say that we’re going to have a great relationship,” Morrison sighs after his speed-date with Boris. Our nation is overjoyed by the potential outcome of the marriage of two such uncannily alike minds.

ScoMo caps his G7 gig in Biarritz, a world first for Australia, according to the hype but only if you ignore Kevin Rudd’s presence at a G8 in Japan in 2008, with a bromide on how the G7 team should root out violent, extremist, anti- social media, (but still allow its MPs to attend extremist rallies), with a quick Dili-dally on the way home to take care of business while upstaging the 20th anniversary of Timor-Leste’s democracy. Oozing unfunded empathy, our Neo-colonial Big White Bwana, reprises his brilliant Pacific shtick. Celebration? Locals should be grateful to Australia, he suggests.

Super-ScoMo, now with added whiteness power, repeats lying rodent John Howard’s fib that Australia protected and liberated Dili from Indonesia which invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975 in an illegal, genocidal annexation, massacring 2000 Timorese in the first weeks alone in a campaign of savage brutality in which 200,000 were killed.

Morrison’s chief mission is to see Woodside, or some other capitalist-crony, still gets to rip off Timor Leste’s oil and gas reserves while warning locals about Yellow Peril 2.0. It goes over nearly as well as when our PM also tells locals Australia won’t refund $5bn in royalties, already fraudulently gained by deception by bugging Timor-Leste’s cabinet in 2004.

Whip-smart, Morrison’s charm offensive includes telling locals that his government’s secret star chamber trial of Dili bugging, whistle-blower, former ASIS agent, “Witness K” and his lawyer Bernard Collaery, a case of international espionage is “a domestic matter” . Besides, how good is democracy, truth, justice and the Quiet Australian way?

Locals know the truth. If John, “The Liberator” Howard’s pro-Jakarta government had got its way on 30 August 1999, when it let Indonesian- backed paramilitary militias punish East Timor after daring to vote for independence from Indonesia in its 30 August 1999, referendum, there would have been no democratic state of Timor-Leste for Australia’s paternalistic PM, Scott Morrison, to pat on the head this week. Yet that’s not ScoMo’s narrative.

Instead, the thoroughly postmodern, post-fact, post-truth, Trumpist Morrison government; peddles an ancient myth. Australia played a major role in that period when East Timor broke away from Indonesia. A letter from former PM John Howard and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer led to Indonesia holding the vote,” Seven mis-reports, helpfully. The story is the subtext in every photo opportunity as ScoMo happily takes credit where it most certainly is not due.

It’s pure fiction, a lie confirmed, this week, when a ruffled Downer howls down the unequivocal evidence of newly declassified US intelligence documents, published by The National Security Archive based at the George Washington University Washington which cast fresh light on Howard’s letter to B. J. Habibie, then Indonesian PM.

The US, in fact – not Howard – leaned on Jakarta to call off its dogs of war; rescuing East Timor’s independence referendum of 30 August 1999. 78.5 per cent voted for independence. Almost every East Timorese adult voted.

Brutal was Jakarta’s reprisal. Indonesian military and police forces and their local paramilitary allies retaliated with a scorched earth campaign which killed over 1,500 Timorese and displaced nearly half the population. 100,000 were forced across the border into West Timor. Much of East Timor was razed to the ground. Australia looked the other way.

Australia had no plan for peace-keeping and acted only after the US. Howard and Downer’s hopes of cleverly engineering Indonesia’s permanent incorporation of East Timor, a bogus, special autonomy ruse had failed.

There’s no apology. ScoMo soft-soaps his hosts, congratulates them on the anniversary of their independence and proffers other heavy-handed platitudes. How good is democracy? How good is the people’s voice?

How good is the secret trial of Witness K and Bernard Collaery who are currently being punished in a star chamber?

Their crime, as all of Timor-Leste’s leaders know, is that Witness K had the conscience to blow the whistle on his government’s illegal bugging, in 2004, of the, then, East Timor cabinet during negotiations in which Woodside Petroleum was going to do very nicely out of fudging a boundary that gave Australia a 50 per cent share of oil and gas resources – located 150 kilometres from Timor-Leste’s shore but 400 kilometres from Australia’s.

His hosts mostly feign a polite tolerance but local hero, former independence leader and first President of Timor-Leste,

Xanana Gusmão threatens to come to Canberra to testify in person – not that Christian Porter’s kangaroo court could cope with something as fair and just as expert testimony.

No, ScoMo says, speaking quickly, Australia won’t pay back the $5bn in gas revenue it rorted from the government of East Timor. An earlier, treaty gained Australia an unfair advantage, thanks to information obtained by the illegal bugging of East Timor cabinet meetings in Dili. The bugging was allegedly ordered by then Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer. Downer denies it. Timor Leste successfully appealed to the permanent court of arbitration in The Hague

There is nothing to be proud of historically. Despite John Howard’s claims, Australia wanted East Timor to remain Indonesian and lobbied to exclude peace-makers. Howard’s backflip was forced on him only after the US stepped in on 9 September, 1999, to halt the carnage after the 30 August referendum in which 78.5 per cent of East Timorese voted to become independent. Nor is there anything to be proud of today.

A world statesman, whose presence is now du rigueur wherever heads of state may gather, our internationally- acclaimed, but “just a normal guy”, PM disappears when he returns home to Kirribilli House right after telling reporters at the G7, he’d rather be keeping the home fires burning, some fantasy about “dealing with issues domestically”.

Dealing or dodging? Despite nation-wide protests, ScoMo has nothing to say on “The Tamil family”, as newshounds call Peter Dutton’s paramilitary Home Affairs’ latest victims, now banged up on Christmas Island, before deportation, gaol and torture in Sri Lanka. Once in Colombo, they’ll be arrested for “illegally leaving the country” – despite it being completely legal, under international law, to seek asylum. Even in boats. Sri Lanka’s human rights abuses are legion.

If world leader ScoMo knows what’s going on, he keeps it to himself – until Monday, midday, when he resurfaces to call a press briefing. Fluently, he repeats his government’s lies that Kevin Rudd was soft on borders. Labor caused children to drown. Incredibly, Richard Ferguson writes almost a verbatim account of ScoMo’s spiel in The Australian, minutes later.

Deporting the Tamil family is ScoMo’s only honourable option, he says. The PM claims his period as Immigration Minister means he cannot “in good conscience” allow the family to stay since they came by boat and have been found not to be refugees. No evidence is given; nor do Sri Lankan authorities provide a guide to who is likely to be persecuted.

Aran Mylvaganam of the Tamil Refugee Council tells The Guardian Australia that our legal system fails to investigate asylum claims. Tamil asylum seekers have no means to prove claims of persecution, yet they are still being “disappeared” in northern Sri Lanka, where the ethnic minority is under the world’s most intense military occupation.

In Mullaitivu District, a 2017 report found at least 60,000 Sri Lankan Army personnel among just over 130,322 civilians.

Sri-Lankan family, Priya and Nadesalingam and their two Australian-born children Kopika, four, and Tharunicaa, two, lived in Biloela, Queensland until Border Force put them into Melbourne detention seventeen months ago. A wave of public sympathy is joined by family man, Barnaby Joyce and noted humanitarian, Alan Jones. But look over there – suddenly, reports The Australian’s Coalition hack, Simon Benson,  “a surge” of six Sri Lankan asylum seeker boats.

Who needs evidence? ScoMo’s government works by bald assertion, the endless recycling of lies and racist dog-whistling. Borders must be enforced. It’s all a matter of national security. Sovereignty. People have to come to Australia through the front door. The Medevac Bill will be fast-tracked; repealed when parliament resumes (for two weeks) next week. But not if Jacqui Lambie’s bluster is to be believed. She wants a parliamentary inquiry to proceed as planned.

“Use your bloody manners,” Burnie blowhard, Tasmanian Senator, Jacqui Lambie milks press attention with another of her plain-speaking truth-seeking, salt-of-the earth, Senator For-Ordinary folk performances. Lambie has a solid record of walking back her rhetoric and capitulating to the government. Who knows how she’ll vote this time?

The Australian also carries another piece from Morrison’s office which states that the PM will not intervene to stop a Tamil family being deported from Australia. An “exception here or there” would only kick-start the people-smuggling trade. Yet Peter Dutton is happy to allow exceptions for au pair visitors and others. And ScoMo’s first speech as PM in August after his double, double-cross and back-stabbing of his leader, Turnbull, was a pledge to populist solidarity.

“We’re on your side because we share beliefs and values in common. As you go about everything you do each day …”

Sharing? ScoMo totally ignores thousands of people demonstrating in the streets, or those petitioning his government to show some humanity. Opinion polls – for what they worth – given an issue strewn with wanton disinformation and misunderstanding – show Australians are at best divided on the Coalition’s hard-line policy. Morrison’s government is back to the dark old days of Howard’s babies overboard, exploiting and generating division for political advantage.

Most telling is eminent criminal lawyer, Robert Richter QC’s opinion on ABC 774, that the Morrison government’s wilful neglect of the duty of care constitutes a criminal offence. Since all detention facilities are Commonwealth workplaces, the Commonwealth Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act), applies to them, across Australia and its Territories.

Above all, former Worksafe Prosecuting Solicitor Max Costello writes, section 19 imposes on workplace operators – in this context, Peter Dutton’s Department of Home Affairs – a “primary duty of care” for the health and safety of not only “workers” but also any “other persons” at the workplace – such as detainees. The relevant government agency to police the legislation is Comcare.

Whisked away to Christmas Island is two-year-old Tharunicaa, the little Tamil girl whose rotting baby teeth had to be surgically removed, a stark and compelling reminder of Peter Dutton’s department failure to provide duty of care.

Other cases are tragic. Damning. Manus asylum seeker Hamid Khazaei arrived brain dead at a Brisbane hospital in August 2014. An infected cut on his leg was not responding to treatment. He was developing blood poisoning. His airlift was delayed by the Department under then Immigration Minister Scott Morrison. Yet Comcare found no fault.

Costello reports, “Comcare’s Khazaei Inspector Report EVE00229456-0001 found “no evidence … that the [airlift] delay … was a contributing factor to the final outcome …”, and said “there were no apparent breaches of the legislation” (see Senate submission 47, pp 35–36).

Yet Queensland coroner Terry Ryan’s inquest report, 30 July 2018, concludes that the “overly bureaucratic” airlift process which involved no fewer than four levels of public servants, did, in fact, contribute to Khazaei’s death.

The department’s failure to stock the Manus clinic with Meropenem also contributed to the Iranian man’s death.

Costello cites four other cases and concludes, “If Comcare prosecuted the Department and a senior officer in, say, 2015, over alleged RPC-related offences; so that by, say, July 2016, both were found guilty, with the Department being fined $2 m and the officer jailed for 2 years, the (disgraced) offshore cruelty regime could’ve ended by, say, 1 October 2016.

If that had happened, six deaths would’ve been prevented, and the remorseless mass destruction of physical and psychological health would’ve been curtailed.

Finally, ScoMo must also keep mum about Attorney-General Christian Porter’s rip-snorting new religious discrimination draft bill which pleases neither progressives nor reactionaries and which may prove a bridge too far for our star of Dili, Pacific and European diplomacy. Or our globe-trotting PM may just be plumb tuckered out; a daggy dad with bad jet-lag. On the other hand, he’s been exceptionally ineffectual and deceptive, even by his own government’s yard-stick.

The key question is when will he and his government be held to account?

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CPAC’s travelling show can pack up and go home. And stay there.

“I’ve been to the border,” Fox TV’s Judge Jeanine Pirro says. US citizens living there talk of “rape trees” upon which the clothes of rape victims are hung she says. They talk of children having their hearts cut out with machetes. The US, as Donald Trump regularly tweets, is under siege; its way of life threatened by an invasion of rapists from south of the border. Trump’s re-election campaign team repeats the siege message 2199 times in paid Facebook ads since January.

Welcome to the Conservative Political Action Conference or CPAC ‘s travelling show, a rabble of far right US fear-mongers, liars and conspiracy crackpots convinced by Trump’s canard that George Soros or The Democrats fund the migrant caravan. It’s a popular idea which provokes distrust and permits inhumanity.

Peter Dutton expresses similar ideas regarding our refugees on Manus and Nauru. He claims they are “economic refugees” who own “Armani jeans and handbags”.

Add the odd stray Brexiteer and sundry alt-right camp followers. Blend in two, confused members of the Morrison government, Craig Kelly and Amanda Stoker, bestowing a type of legitimacy -and presto -we have a three-day bag-fest of racist hatred, intolerance and ignorance vital to any healthy democracy. Or so our Federal government insists.

CPAC’s enriched US politics. It helped launch Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump, two useful idiots who could attract, repel or just distract the masses while lowering taxes and elevating naked greed; allowing finance, business, mining and gambling get everything they want. It’s a recipe for success that the Morrison government is following religiously.

The gory border story is a fiction told by Trump buddy Judge Jeanine. It’s all part of the enriching offerings to a conference which our Coalition government has sagely declared not to be white hate speech at all. Nope. Nope. Nope.

CPAC’s the voice of sweet reason itself, a symposium vital to any free speech-embracing democracy to add to its community conversation about why we should hate Mexican rapists, child-murderers and fear refugee-invasion. In local content, Craig Kelly MP says the CSIRO should go to jail for its science and calls for us to embrace nuclear power plants.

How good is the power of the nuclear energy industry?

Pirro’s in Sydney to help spread hate and fear at CPAC, a forum for the lunatic right, which began in 1974, with a speech from Ronald Reagan who entered national politics ten years earlier after a televised address promoting Barry Goldwater. Reagan’s talk did not help Goldwater win the election. Oddly, voters saw Barry as a dangerous, right-wing extremist.

True, Goldwater did want to nuke Hanoi. But this strategy was also advocated in 1965 by the US military’s Joint Chiefs during Lyndon Johnson’s presidency, Daniel Ellsberg reports, a plan, he believes, which was aimed at provoking a nuclear war with China. The Joint Chiefs envisaged a big show which would need 500,000 to a million troops.

Even more oddly, Johnson said no. He chose to do some socially useful projects. His Great Society and War on Poverty.

All was not lost, however. California’s business elite saw in Reagan a man with the charm to sell right-wing extremism. Reagan was duly recruited as Republican Party candidate for Governor of California. He won easily by promising tax cuts. His victory was helped by a smear campaign against his opponent, Pat Brown. Trump’s rise to power has many parallels.

Star of her own Fox reality TV show, Justice with Judge Jeanine, Pirro is more than an incendiary hate-speaker, she’s a total pyromaniac. Her role as a tireless Trump cheer-leader has helped her to rebuild her TV career after a setback in the 1990s when her ex-husband Al Pirro, a Trump power-broker, went to jail for conspiracy and tax evasion.

Trump’s a HUGE fan. Not only does their friendship go back decades, the pair enjoy what The Washington Post’s Sarah Ellison calls “transactional loyalty”, a concept well understood by Morrison and Liberal Party leadership strategists.

“She’s as sexy as hell,” Trump tells New York Magazine; Pirro’s show is a relentless defence of everything Trump, but this week, she’s in Sydney spreading a type of lie that inflames prejudice and helps incite violence. Invasion is a fixation in the online manifesto of Patrick Crusius, the 21 year old who is accused of killing 22 people in a Texas Wal-Mart.

Headline speakers, such as Pirro, peddle xenophobia, bigotry, misogyny, hatred and work themselves into a lather with their lurid anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic murder and rape fantasies in a ballroom set up with brown vinyl chairs at Sydney’s Rydge’s World Square Hotel, Friday to Sunday. But it’s not all rabid hate-speaking. Organisers thoughtfully include some local comic talent. Clown duo, Mark Latham and Ross Cameron, for example, do the warm-up.

Boosted as the largest gathering of conservatives in Australia, in fact it’s tiny; roughly one tenth of the size of all registered Tasmanian Organ Donors or 0.17% of the Melbourne Cricket Club’s waiting list.

But size doesn’t matter. Organisers have deep pockets; grand plans. CPAC’s powerful backers tell The Guardian’s Michael McGowan, they are committed to making the event a “multi-year, forever-type project” aimed at “galvanising” the right wing of Australian politics. Why not? Luigi Galvani even made dead frogs’ legs twitch by applying an electric current.

CPAC’s a show that ScoMo & Co sagely decide we all need to see. In fact, there are more than a few members of the government mad keen to attend – but don’t for a moment think MPs’ attendance is any endorsement, cautions failed Dutton coup numbers man, Matthias Cormann. No? Nor does it add any legitimacy to see George Christensen in the crowd, Jim Molan, former deputy PM National Party hack and mining shill John Anderson with Tony Abbott on stage.

Liberal Party MP when he’s not doing stand-up comedy, Craig Kelly’s a crack-up with his routine about how Tony Abbott won the Coalition’s election for it by attracting all the “crazies” to Warringah. “Took the bullets” for the others, he says, in what has to be least well-judged metaphor of the week. But wait. There’s more. Kelly says CSIRO ought to be in jail.

He accuses the science agency of a “bogus report” on energy costs because its 2018 report finds solar and wind generation technologies are the cheapest power stations to “build new”. CSIRO, of course, is correct. So, too is The Climate Council which reports Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s conclusion,

“Due to the continued fall in the cost of wind and solar, as well as the higher international price for black coal, it is now the same cost or cheaper to build a new wind or solar plant in Australia than to continue operating old coal power stations in New South Wales and Queensland.”

“If an ASX-listed company said that in an annual report, they would likely end up in jail because of how misleading it is,” Kelly claims modelling, himself, the sort of wilful disinformation he tries to rail against.

Meanwhile, Federal Energy Minister, the Watergate and Grass-gate survivor, Angus Gravy-train, Taylor is forming “a new taskforce” to pressure AGL to keep coal-fired Liddell power station open. It’s all part of ScoMo & Co’s big-stick approach.

Taylor says his taskforce, to be set up in partnership with the NSW Government, will consider “all options” – Liberal code for putting on blinkers; propping up coal. He does not rule out using taxpayer money to extend the life of the plant. AGL responds by pointing out that doing so would cost “a lot of money” and any such move “does not stack up.”

The IMF reports that the Australian tax-payer is already subsidising fossil-fuel industries to the tune of $29 billion a year.

In the CPAC spirit of personalised ridicule, Kelly has a presentation trophy to award to Labor Senator, Kristina Keneally.

“This is the CPAC Freedom Award, which goes to the individual who has done the most to promote the CPAC conference,” Kelly tells about 200 attendees. Thigh-slapping hilarity erupts on one side only.  Keneally sees it as part of a Two-minute Hate and straight from the pages of George Orwell’s dystopian vision of the future 1984.

“It’s uncanny how much CPAC is exactly what it claims to oppose,” Keneally tweets. “They are … spending all day yelling about their ‘enemies’. This is exactly how people under totalitarian regimes behave.” And key National Party figures.

Farmers’ friend and champion of the man on the land, John Anderson was chairman of coal seam gas frontrunner Eastern Star Gas, bought out by Santos in 2011. He’s one of a herd of former Nationals MP who model transactional loyalty, locally, despite some fuddy-duddy farmers seeing the defection from agriculture to mining as a betrayal.

Former Nationals MP, and pro-coal energy minister, Garry West ,chairs, for undisclosed sums, the Integra Vale, Ulan coal, Moorlaben coal, and the BHP Caroona Coal project, adjacent to Shenhua Watermark’s mine. It’s all part of the mining industry community consultation hoax. Former Nat, Larry Anthony, a former Shenhua Watermark lobbyist, was an advocate for a coal mine which was recently in the news for rigging the storage volume of underground aquifers.

“The values used were implausibly high based on our research,” Ian Acworth, UNSW Emeritus Professor, says in May.

Asking the questions, always more engaging than a talk, Ando interviews his old pal Abbo – who makes a double debut as ex-MP, and ex-PM. Australia is now a nation that offers “death on demand” warns the former minister for women, a master of the hollow three word slogan.

In NSW, an abortion law reform bill which has yet to pass the upper house, had been sprung on voters. “No due consultation”, protests the former PM who sprang a postal vote on marriage equality on the entire nation rather than face a divided party room. Victoria’s recent, assisted dying law proves we’ve lost our moral anchor points. Christianity used to anchor our morality, asserts Abbott, whose former spiritual mentor and adviser was Cardinal George Pell.

Death on demand? Lost moral anchor? “It’s pretty rich”, writes Junkee’s Joseph Earp, “coming from a man who helped speed along an environmental apocalypse that will cost the lives of animals and humans alike.”

“Faith is a gift,” Abbott offers generously. “Some people have it, some people don’t.” Go bite an onion.

Recording or photographing Abbott’s riff is forbidden. He insists. Some of the small audience applaud. The left, he says, opaquely, is wallowing in identity. Wallowing. “Spiritually we’ve rarely been worse off than we are now,” he adds for good measure, perhaps, a typically public-spirited projection of his own long, dark, night of the soul.

Equally benighted but in Australia’s post-modern under-paid, casual, part-time workplace where wage theft is rife, Queensland senator, Amanda Stoker drones on about how industrial relations means labour hire and localised enterprise-bargaining, a vision of the future, surely, now that the government has its Ensuring Integrity bill through the lower house. The cross-bench will be sure to fall in line, especially if demon union thug John Setka’s name is mentioned.

But don’t get the wrong idea. So the government is cosying up to the lunar right in public? Don’t mean a thing. OK? But it does lend a dangerous legitimacy to the lunar right, as Jason Wright thoughtfully observes in The Guardian.

Raheem Kassam, a former Breitbart London editor who calls the Muslim holy book, the Quran, “fundamentally evil”, and Islam a fascistic and totalitarian ideology,” is a “career bigot” says Shadow Home Affairs Minister, Kristina Keneally. Last month, Keneally unsuccessfully asked that he be denied entry to the country.

Friday, in a speech largely devoted to attacking Kenneally and accusing her of putting his life in danger, Kassam says,

“She should be ashamed of herself … There’s nothing Christian about silencing your opposition,” he says, preferring an ad hominem attack on Senator Keneally and her Catholic beliefs, to any reasoned rebuttal. Kassam illustrates the fallacy of the Morrison government’s claim that CPAC even vaguely involves or promotes rational debate. Kenneally is closer to the mark when she describes the gathering as a “talk-fest of hate”. And anger.

Warming the chair for Sky’s David Speers, ABC Insiders’ Patricia Karvelas asks an evasive Simon Birmingham if “we are we seeing a more aggressive position taken by conservatives after the election of your government?”

Birmingham evades Karvelas’ question. He might well quibble with her misuse of the term. CPAC is conservative in name only.

Morrison’s government is cosying up in public to win votes from the radical right attending CPAC and those who share its prejudices, its racism and xenophobia. It is also being disingenuous about its motives and the effect of its attendance.

“Their attendance at this conference does not imply agreement or endorsement with the views of any of the other speakers attending in any way,” a dangerously deluded Cormann would have us believe. He fails to explain how or why not.

“The government will always stand against divisive, inflammatory commentary which seeks to incite hatred or which seeks to vilify people.”

“However the way to defeat bad ideas, bad arguments and unacceptable views is through debate, especially with those we disagree with. It is not by limiting our conversations only to those who at all times share all of our views.”

Cormann forgets Scott Morrison’s 2011 suggestion that the Coalition exploit anti-Muslim sentiment. Or when in 2015 Abbott allowed George Christensen to attend an anti-Muslim rally. Or Tony Abbott in 2015 insinuating Muslim leaders do not condemn terrorism: “I’ve often heard Western leaders describe Islam as a ‘religion of peace’. I wish more Muslim leaders would say that more often, and mean it.” Or when Abbott chose Syrian refugees on the basis of religion.

We could add many more examples. There’s Handy Andy Hastie’s “Islam must change.” But this just brings him into line with the budgie-smuggler who declared that Islam has a massive problem and who called for a “reformation”.

Penny Wong points out the difference between hate speech and “bad ideas.” The nonsense that any of the speakers attending is willing to enter into rational debate or is as farcical as expecting the Morrison government to heed the science on climate change or to expect Peter Dutton to retract his scare campaign on the dangers of refugees using Medevac legislation to flood our shores.  Or issue an apology for his Melbourne African gang fear-mongering.

Having Cormann lecture us on bad ideas is hilarious coming from a man who tried to make Peter Dutton PM. As for rational debate, this is the Finance Minister who claims that tax cuts for the rich stimulate the economy. Sorry Matthias, you Belgian sausage, all evidence is to the contrary – especially in Trump’s Dis-United States of America.

But it’s a top show. Sponsored mainly by US organisations and gun, oil and cigarette industries, CPAC has deep ties to the Koch brothers. Our IPA, LibertyWorks and Advance Australia are also right behind the far right.

Augmenting top acts from Trump’s America is not only “Mr Brexit” nifty Nigel Farage, former head of the United Kingdom Independence Party, introduced to the CPAC audience as “quite possibly” Britain’s next PM. Seriously?

“A snake”, hisses Nigel Farage attacking a straw man; a mythical Malcolm Turnbull who starts out all right but who engineers a serpentine leftist coup. The crowd cheers, thrilled by Nige’s Olympian detachment, halcyon objectivity and utter historical falsehood. Farage’s farrago of lies offers a ludicrous parody of the hapless captive of the right.

“Your Liberal party, your conservative movement was hijacked by the other side, taken over by Malcolm Turnbull, who pretended to be a conservative but actually turned out to be a snake.”

Wrong in fact and egregiously wrong in function, CPAC and its backers can stay at home in the USA in future. We don’t need to invite far right ideologues or neo-fascists or hate-speakers to Australia. We have enough of our own at home, already.

Nor do we need to kid ourselves that CPAC speakers are interested in debate. All we’ve seen and heard is personal abuse and an eagerness to win converts to conspiracies.

There is a world of difference between freedom of speech and being granted a licence to spread hate-speech. And the last thing our politicians need is to court the far-right or let themselves be used to legitimise your fear-mongering and your lies.

Forget the idea of a “multi-year, forever, project”. Once is way more than enough.

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Why African Gangs Are More Dangerous Than Climate Change!

When your average Coalition MP speaks, a lot of people get very, very angry about what he (or occasionally, she) has said. These angry people try to argue about what’s making them angry.

However, this is probably the wrong approach. What we need to do is to simply ask the politician if they’ve changed their mind. When they say, “Of course not, we never change our minds. We’re committed to life exactly as it was in the 50s!” Then simply point out what they said about a different issue just a few years, days or minutes before.

Take protecting our borders. We can’t have people arriving by boat because we need to protect our borders, we’re told. Compare that with their statements on globalisation and how we need to be part of the world. We need to knock down artificial trade barriers and invite the rest of the world in… even if they want to bring their own workers.

Or compare the demands for religious freedom with the calls to ban the burqa. Ok, ok, the burqa may be cultural, but there does seem to be a contradiction there. Notwithstanding that, it is nice to see a party with so few male MPs who tell us that their party doesn’t need quotas, complaining that a particular garment oppresses women. Ok, I concede the merit argument: Women could get preselected if only they could find women the calibre of Tony Abbott, Kevin Andrews or Eric Abetz… And they could make it to the ministry if only they could be like the new Minister for Immigration, David Coleman. Now, there’s a rising star. Remember his recent interview? You don’t…Maybe that’s because he hasn’t done one in living memory.

Then we have the whole 18C thing. People should be allowed to say what they like. However, you shouldn’t be allowed to call someone racist or sexist because that’s political correctness gone mad.

But I guess the most obvious recent example is the “African” gangs. I put “African” in quotation marks because it’s rather interesting that we refer to them as African. No, I’m not having a go at Dan Tehan’s statement about kids not knowing that Africa is a country. I’m just pointing out that we don’t have the children of immigrants from England or Scotland refered to as “British” gangs when they commit a crime.

Nontheless, we have to face up to the fact that the Sudanese community is over-represented in crime statistics. Even though they make up significantly less than one percent of the population, they account for about one percent of the crime. (I’m quoting these figures from the media, so they must be accurate). Yes, there are all sorts of reasons for this, such as there being a greater likelihood of being charged, or their difficulty adjusting to a new country after traumatic experiences in their youth.

This may be a novel defence, but I suggest that the lawyer for the next member of an “African” gang uses these figures to justify releasing the defendant without charge.

Why? Well, it’s very simple. It’s only one percent so if they all stopped, it would make no difference to the crime statistics. They would only hurt themselves financially. And for what? Nothing would be achieved. It’s only when everyone else stops committing crimes that we’ll make inroads. Besides the science on crime isn’t really settled yet…

Yes, the Coalition on climate change does sound rather strange when you apply it to other areas…

Now I could keep going on about Liberal inconsistencies and point out the contradiction of spending half a billion dollars on upgrades to the War Memorial, while skimping on support for veterans, but that’s hardly a change of mind. The Coalition have always been good at glorifying war, while pretending that any individuals who are having problems adjusting afterwards aren’t really worth discussing because there’s plenty help for them.

And, of course, Scott Morrison doing a bus tour of Queensland where he flies just about everywhere isn’t a contradiction; it’s more the norm when your government uses “Utopia” as a “How-To- Govern” video, rather than a cautionary warning.

Bloody Fair Dinkum Power, Where The Hell Are You?

To me, the great thing that Scott Morrison had going for him as Treasurer was his capacity to be boring. Let’s be real, one only has to use the words “fiscal”, “nominal expenditure”, “Gross Domestic Product” and “Consumer Price Index” in the same paragraph and not only does it seem like one knows what one is doing, but most sane people are too bored to pay much attention. Certainly I don’t want the person doing my tax to sound too interesting; it makes me worried that they’re up to something.

I expected this boredom bonus to carry over once he became PM, giving Scottie a little bit of a honeymoon period, where we were comparatively content that – unlike erratic Abbott or flashy Turnbulll – we had a boringly safe pair of hands on the tiller, sailing us through the calm waters till there’s a change of government. Unfortunately, for the Liberal Party, it seems as though he’s chosen to spend his honeymoon at the Ettamogah Pub, that fictious chaotic hotel which was turned into a reality by some enterprising businessmen.  Similarly, Scott seems to want to turn us into the ficticious fifties Australia where we were all fair dinkum and there was a fair go for all… so long as you were an Anglo-saxon male.

I could overlook his use of the phrases “fair dinkum power” and “a fair go for those who have a go” if I thought they’d just slipped out in the way that your offensive uncle’s views slip out at Christmas after a few drinks. Unfortunately, they both seem to be a carefully crafted slogan and part of a marketing campaign. As such, it makes his “where the bloody hell are you campaign” for tourism seem like the epitome of good taste and intelligent marketing. While “jobs and growth” was bad enough, at least they were three words I’d heard in normal conversation this century. Stone the bloody crows, I’m waiting for him to casually drop “sheilas” into an interview about women in the Liberal Party or to tell us that the unemployment figures are just “bonza”. Yes, I’m fair dinkum about that!

“Fair dinkum power” is rather like their plan for jobs and growth. If we get fair dinkum power, it’ll be both reliable and cheaper. What’s the plan for achieving this? How do we get it? Just like jobs and growth, it’ll happen when our plan is put into place so it won’t be happening straight away, but it will happen. Similarly, I can cure your cold. Just pay me ten bucks and if your cold doesn’t clear up in the next four weeks, I”ll give you your money back. Yes, “fair dinkum power” is something that won’t occur until after the election, and it’ll only happen if you re=elect the Liberals. If you don’t, well there won’t be any fair dinkum power…. at least not for them.

The worst part of Scott Morrison is that he’s starting to get to the point where Tony Abbott is looking good. I know, I know, it’s a big call. But some of Tony’s worst captain’s calls were harmless things like knighting a duke. Yes, we all felt that Tony was like a kid playing with matches; Scott seems to be lighting them and trying to land them in the can of petrol.

Perhaps the best comparison for Scott would be Billy McMahon, a man once described as “a despicable bastard” and a “contemptible little squirt” but that was by other Liberals, Menzies and Sir Paul Hasluck. McMahon may be best remembered for his surprsingly accurate assessment of the situation when he told voters that after looking at the facts, they should vote Labor. He quickly corrected himself, but he may have been better to have stuck with his original statement.

Whatever, I suspect that the best move for the Coalition would be to go to the polls now and limit the damage. Over the next few months, I see one or more of the following things happening.

  1. The people of Wentworth grow to appreciate having an Independent who actually stands for something. They also realise that the Liberals won’t be in power after the next election and they might get more bribes from Labor if Phelps is the member, because there’s no incentive for a Labor government to do anything to help a sitting Liberal, but helping an Independent look good is one more seat the Liberals have to spend campaign funds winning back
  2. The National Party could change leaders. Even if they don’t go the full Barnaby, they may feel that they need a change because the current one has been there almost a year and they want to look like a major party.
  3. Scott Morrison will float an idea because a radio shock jock seems to think it’s a good thing. He will later get into more trouble by insisting that it’s just an idea and nothing is definite and it’s a great idea because Alan likes it and it’s just an idea and it’s worth discussing but don’t tell me there’s anything wrong with it because we don’t want to talk about it. (See the moving of the Israeli Embassy for a prototype. Even Turnbull who was sent to discuss it with Indonesia, wasn’t meant to discuss it!)
  4. Someone may actually notice the irony in outgoing minister, Simon Birmingham’s press release expressing his pride at being the longest serving Education Minister since Brendan Nelson. He was there for slightly less than three years, which is longer than your average PM, but not quite long enough to make it from one election to the next.
  5. There may be questions about whether the neo-nazis are being expelled from the National Party because they were too left wing for some in the NSW branch.
  6. Tony Abbott will say something that reminds people of why we got rid of him.
  7. Scott Morrison will say something that makes us wonder whether getting rid of Tony was really such a great idea.

Now, I’m not saying all these things will happen in the next six months. However, I suspect that if the Liberals haven’t acknowledged the trouncing they had in Wentworth, then there’s little hope for them. Yes, it’s true they can turn it around. They have in the past. But that required them to actually have a look in the mirror and say, “What are we doing wrong and how could we fix it?” While many of you may not have liked what they did, the point is that it worked electorally for them in a number of elections. For this one, they seem like a football side who are behind at three-quarter time deciding that they’ve won from this position before so there’s really no need  do anything differently – they don’t even acknowledge that they may need to try harder.

Still, I can understand why they wouldn’t want to take a look in the mirror. I mean, would you if you were going to see a reflection like that?

Scott Morrison Tells Us That The Bell Hasn’t Rung…

It was strangely ironic when Scottie told us last Saturday, “we will stand up for what we believe until the bell rings – the bell hasn’t rung.”

It was ironic because I’d been thinking that if the current government was a boxing match, the referee would surely have stopped the fight. I mean, when you have one boxer staggering around, not sure who he’s fighting, it’s clearly time to get the doctors to check him…

Although, on that basis, Abbott would have been gone years ago.

Of course, the trouble with the Liberals is that they don’t stand up for what they believe. Ok, they have a few times, but it’s been electoral suicide. Take Fightback ’93 as an example! Or Workchoices 2007, if you’re not that old.

In 1993, I wrote that the Liberals couldn’t work out what the lesson from Hewson’s loss in the unloosable election was. Ok, I wrote it on a bit of paper so I can’t find exactly what I wrote, but that simply means that – like the Liberals – I can pretend and nobody can call me out. Anyway, I remember writing that the Liberals couldn’t work out whether elections were about offering up a vision of an alternative future and if that vision was rejected, well, that’s democracy and we should change what we offer OR we take a stand on what we believe and we keep arguing for that until we bring the people along with us.

In the aftermath of ’93, they tended to explode and say things like, “We told them what we’d do and that was a mistake. We’ll never do that again!”

Ok, I’m not quoting directly, but if you want to search for quotes, I’ll bet you can find someone saying something pretty close… Actually, when I think about it, that’s pretty close to an accurate reflection of everything they’ve done since.

But back to the present…

There seems to be a strange view about the Wentworth by-election which goes something like this:

“No, we don’t need to reconsider our policies in light of the result because this is all down to one simple thing. It was a very, very silly thing to remove Malcolm as leader and that was all his fault, so we don’t need to think that maybe it was all about the policies and nobody gave a tinker’s cuss about Malcolm because clearly this was because everyone loved Malcolm but not because he seemed to want policies more in touch with the majority of Australia than the rest of us: it was personal. He was trying to push the party to the left so we got rid of him because people didn’t want that but unfortunately people didn’t realise that they didn’t want it and got angry because we got rid of this man because, well, he quit, we didn’t get rid of him…Sorry, what was the question?”

Yes, when Scott Morrison said, “This wasn’t unexpected,” on Saturday night, I had to wonder why wasn’t it? And not just because he used a double negative instead of saying, “This was expected.”  I mean, yes, if I have three glasses of scotch, finish off the bottle of wine, see how many times I can spin around and then try to climb onto a table and dance, when I fall over and do some damage, the line, “This wasn’t unexpected,” may be true for anyone that witnessed the previous ten minutes, but the people who asked me to babysit an hour or two before, would be thinking that, while the end damage wasn’t unexpected, the drinking and twirling wasn’t something that they factored in before they entrusted their child to me.

Ok, nobody, would be silly enough to let me babysit. Unless they voted Liberal where they entrusted the whole country to Scott Morrison. To be fair, at the last election they thought they were entrustring it to Malcolm, but at the previous one, they were giving Tony Abbott the keys to the Lodge…

Actually, Tony never made it to the Lodge owing to some renovations. Scott emulated John Howard and announced that he needs to be based in Sydney owing to his young family, Fair enough, I suppose, but one really shouldn’t put one’s hand up for a caretaker role and then expect to be able to work from home.

Whatever, the Wentworth by-election does make it clear that we have an entire government with about as much self-awareness as Donald Trump on LSD… Actually, Trump may have more self-awareness after dropping acid…

The Liberals have lost one of their safest seats, but they conclude it was only because they removed Turnbull as PM and they did that when he called a spill after Peter Dutton was counting the numbers and threatening to challenge. Then, after losing, Dutton’s backers assured everybody that they had the numbers. However, owing to the Finance Minister’s inability to count, the Treasurer slipped by and emerged victorious. Turnbull then did as he promised and left Parliament, leaving an unwinnable by-election because the Liberals only held it by a margin of 17%, so you’d hardly expect that not to be down to Turnbull’s personal following. No, that’s the explanation and we don’t need to consider changing any policies because Wentworth is out of step because they’re all well-off and not like the rest of Australia. No, we don’t need to change any policies…

Oh, have we mentioned we’re bringing eleven children from Nauru for health reasons. Not a change of policy. We’ve always been nice guys where people’s health is concerned…

No, there’ll be no change of policy on anything else.To quote Tony Abbott from 2014 after a few little hiccups: “Good government starts today.”

I must go and check the news to see if the rumours of a Bishop challenge are true.That’s Julie, by the way. Bronwyn’s left Parliament and she’d make a terrible PM…

Although, when I think about it, the Liberals seem to think that’s a prerequisite for the job!

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Wentworth Circus, Elephants In The Room, Jokers In The Pack And Too Many Ringmasters…

The Liberals have lost Wentworth for the first time and so the analysis begins.

We’ve already been told that Malcolm didn’t help. He should have been there, campaigning his little arse off out of gratitude that the Liberals made him PM. Ungrateful wretch.

And, in the washup, Sky News was telling us not to draw too many conclusions because Wentworth wasn’t typical of the rest of Australia…It’s one of the wealthiest suburbs and it does have a significant gay population. True enough, I suppose, but is one meant to draw the inference that other electorates have an insignificant gay population?

However, I keep coming back to a point I make over and over again. We only get to vote once every three years or so and we often make our choice based on who we think is the least worst. Our vote is sometimes the lesser of two evils, rather than a ringing endorsement of every single policy of the party we ultimately vote for. And sometimes, an electorate gets the chance to say, yes, you seem more in tune with what we actually think than either of the major parties.

It’s not that Wentworth is out of step with the rest of Australia on something like climate change. Wentworth has pretty accurately reflected the fact that most people think more should be done on climate change. It’s not that Wentworth is out of step with attitudes to LGTBI issues or children on Nauru; it’s more that the loudest conservative voices have managed to make it sound like they are speaking for the “ordinary” Australian. And it’s hard to get more ordinary than some of the people backing Peter Dutton.

Now, I always suggested that Malcolm Turnbull wasn’t all that left-wing. I know, it’s surprising that a Point Piper multimillionaire Liberal Party leader wouldn’t be an extreme socialist pushing for the overthrow of the corrupt system.  Yes, we’ve been told about leftie Malcolm, so often that we overlook the fact that most of his progressive views were consistent with the majority. Backing for the Republic, marriage equality, action on climate change. You name it, there was nothing that wasn’t a popular position. He was always positioning himself for popularity. That is, until he became Prime Minister, where his Faustian bargain left him unable to please either his party or his electorate. While it was one thing to paint Malcolm as progressive; it’s quite another to ask us to believe that a Liberal stronghold – one of its safest and most affluent seats – is a hotbed of out-of-touch elites who were simply angry at the dumping of their man.

It’s worth pointing out that they did so with the full knowledge that, unlike so many by-elections, they had the power to make the Coalition a minority government. If anything, this should have chastened them, made them more circumspet. And it’s not as though, this was a surprise like the 1999 defeat of Kennett in Victoria where people made a protest vote without any expectation that it would result in a change of government.

The electorate made a conscious decision to create a hung Parliament. But to hear Scott Morrison last night, it was all about Malcolm Turnbull, it was all about the “price” of switching leaders. But rest assured, the Liberals would rise again. (I’m sure I heard a few “hallelujahs” at this point from the crowd). Ok, perhaps not in three days, but it certainly sounded like an evangelical meeting at times. He went on to repeat his well-worn slogans of “Those who have a go, will get a go”, “The best form of welfare is a job”, “Jesus was a small businessman” and “I stopped the votes” and several other meaningless phrases, as though these had somehow helped deliver an electoral victory rather than the most embarrassing thing to happen to the Liberals in almost a week.

I guess it’s easy to be pessimistic and shake one’s head. We have a governent voting for a motion then realising that they didn’t intend to vote for it, floating ideas which are against all departmental advice, squabbling internally, considering a disgraced Barnbaby for a return to the Deputy PM role only a few months after his embarrassing admissions. And I know some of you will be worried by the assertions that this won’t flow through to the general election because of Rupert Murdoch or because the Liberals will “get away with it like they always do”.

However, I think that it’s always worth stopping and considering how many impossible things have happened. I mean, not only have the Liberals lost Wentworth – unthinkable just a few weeks ago – but they lost to an openly gay Independent. Yes, I know some of you are thinking, so what? But that’s the point. How long ago would it have been unthinkable for a candidate to have called their same sex partner up on the stage during their victory speech? If you go back to the beginning of this century it would have been talked about for weeks.

Progress may feel like two steps forward and one step back. And even, at times, the other way round. But because progress is slow, we often don’t see how far we’ve come. There’s still a long way to go, of course. For example, I was confused as to why the email suggesting that Phelps had pulled out because she had HIV was reported as being a “smear” and a “slur”. I don’t see having HIV is either of those, any more than a suggestion that she was cancelling an appearance because she had the flu. It was a nasty trick, sure, but why a “smear” as though HIV suggested something immoral about the person.

So, before the media starts talking about how terribly the Labor Party performed and tries to start leadership speculation about Shorten, let’s see this for what it is: a massive wake-up call for Scott Morrison. Unfortunately for him, his speech last night suggested he intended to just keep hitting the snooze button.

Charity Begins At Home Or We Need To Talk About Harriet

School Counsellor’s Office. Mr and Mrs White enter.

Counsellor: Ah, thanks for coming in.

Mr White: We’re really glad you called.

Mrs White: We’ve been really worried about Harriet.

Counsellor: I understand, but really, it’s nothing to worry about.

Mr. White: Yes, but some of the things she’s been doing. She keeps taking her younger brother’s toys and insisting that he shouldn’t have them until he’s earned them. I mean, I do appreciate a work ethic, but…

Mrs White: But he is only two. And then there was what she said when she saw that the government was helping farmers with the drought.

Mr White: Yes, she insisted that we shouldn’t be giving charity to people who didn’t come from the same house as we did. I said that they were in need and she just said that they didn’t have the same surname so why should we help them. And she locked one of her friends in the cupboard because she didn’t come in the right door.

Mrs White: We’ve been asking her for the key for months now, but she insists that the friend has to stay in the cupboard so none of her other friends come in by the wrong door.

Counsellor: So she does have friends?

Mr White: Well, not so many since she had her thirteenth birthday and told them that they had to make a large donation to sit at the table with her.

Counsellor: Yes, well, I can see how this may seem like a real worry to you. However, I’m just throwing this out there, but have you ever considered that she might be…

Mr White: Go on!

Counsellor: A Liberal!

Mrs White: No, she can’t be. I mean what sort of…

Mr White: Not our daughter surely. I mean, she can’t be. She’s female.

Counsellor: Now I know that you may need some time to adjust to the idea but believe it or not, there are female Liberals. It’s just that they’re much more likely to be hidden away than the type you see in the media, but female Liberals are more common than you might think.

Mrs White: But what makes you think that she’s a Liberal?

Counsellor: Well, one of her teachers noticed that she kept blaming everyone else whenever she made a mistake. By itself that wouldn’t be unusual but then we noticed her complete lack of empathy and her inability to make a consistent argument for anything. For example, when she was doing group activities, she’d insist that she’d done all the work and then when the marks were in, she’d loudly declare that this shouldn’t go on her report because the other students had done it. Classic Liberal behaviour.

Mr White: Is it… Is it something to do with the way we raised her?

Counsellor: Now, you mustn’t blame yourselves. Sometimes these things just happen and because we live in a tolerant society she’ll be able to lead a relatively normal life. Of course, she’ll never be able to make a meaningful commitment or trust any of her friends, but apart from that, she’ll be able to function just like a normal person.

Mrs White: Is there anything we should be doing? Like is there any treatment or help available.

Counsellor: I think the main thing is just continuing to be supportive and remembering when attempts to install herself as head of the household, that it’s the condition and nothing that you should blame her for.

Mr White: So there’s no cure or…

Counsellor: Well, there are people trying a radical new therapy. Apparently if you give Liberals lots and lots of money and keep telling that they’re the adults, they behave politely and only lash out at things like renewable energy or unemployed people.

Mr White: How much money?

Counsellor: All of it, but I only mentioned that to say that people are trying to help. I don’t know if there’s any scientific validity behind the therapy.

Mrs White: But the lack of science wouldn’t matter, would it? I mean, if she’s really a Liberal…

Counsellor: The main thing is not to over-react. As unbelievable as it may seem, there are lots of Liberals out there and if you can just steer clear of certain topics, you might never even be aware that they’re any different from you or me.

Mr White: Is there some sort of support group? Malcolm Fraser inspired a lot of people by showing that you could make an almost complete recovery from being a Liberal.

Counsellor: That’s what I mean. You shouldn’t talk about recovery. You should just respect her choices.

Mrs White: So it is a choice thing?

Counsellor: Look, I’m not an expert. We do have someone at the school who’s very good at understanding they way Liberals think and he’ll be able to give you some strategies for getting Liberals to do what you want.

Mr White: Who’s that?

Counsellor: The school chaplain.

 

 

Seldom has a government looked more ridiculous. More compromised. Incompetent. Less trustworthy.

If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever, wrote George Orwell, foreseeing, our Border Protection policy, in the news this week as Australian War Memorial Director, Brendan Nelson proposes the creation of a type of shrine or monument to paramilitary thugs; the weaponising of compassion to enable us to deny our own innate humanity.

Similarly highlighted this week is the tender loving care our government lavishes on loan sharks, insurance touts, embezzlers and other predators in “the financial advice industry” at the expense of “ordinary hardworking Australians”. Yet nothing shows our open, transparent, democratic, government so clearly as its suppression of criticism; dissent.

Group hugs must surely break out all round at Sunday’s news, that the Coalition has pressured the UN to excise from its expert report on irrigation, a critique of the government’s $13 billion failure to restore our Murray-Darling river system.

The “Australia chapter” is now cut from the UN report “Does Improved Irrigation Technology Save Water?” published online by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Down the memory hole it goes; extinguished.

Water allocations to irrigators will in fact increase an extra 605 GL under innovative “on-farm efficiency: schemes but nothing may distract us from the government’s carefully orchestrated inquisition into usury and other money-lending malfeasance this week in Melbourne, an antipodean Malleus Maleficarum, which can turn grown men to water.

Banks Behaving Badly-or Business as Usual, a spell-binding, live-streaming, morality play, stars Royal Commissioner, The Honourable Kenneth Madison Hayne, QC, AO, as Grand Inquisitor, brilliantly assisted by Ms Rowena (shock and) Orr, QC.

The show, so much better than anything Labor had planned, government ministers keep telling us, continues its blockbuster run, as a hand-picked cast of spivs, charlatans and rogues and other financial advisers show open contempt for corporate cop, ASIC, and expose Coalition nobbling. Yet mystery shrouds this week’s show. Where are the big guns?

Conspicuous by their absence, possibly in witness protection, as secure as if in Monash fox-holes, are any CEOs.

Schadenfreude seizes the nation. Outrage. The drama has our full attention. True. Bonkers Brendan Nelson does his best to distract with his proposal to honour Border Force; to extend The Australian War Memorial to commemorate those brave souls who served in the war on compassion; our nation’s glorious battle with innocents; those compelled by cruel fate to seek asylum by any means. Some troops, he says, even jumped into the water to save people from drowning.

By Monday, the plot of Banks Behaving Badly includes dead people, knowingly being charged for financial advice; The CBA pockets $118 million for advice it doesn’t provide; NAB bribes people – its innovative “Introducer Program” -pays commissions to unqualified “spotters” – no financial expertise necessary- for home loan referrals, a subplot which includes forged payslips to settle loans, and envelopes stuffed with cash. The Introducer nets NAB $24 billion in loans.

(Former banking lobbyist, Scott Morrison’s tough new fines are capped at less than 1 per cent of that. Offenders will be brought to account, thunders former Goldman Sachs banker Turnbull. NAB is laughing all the way to the bank.)

Fee for no service turns out to be a nice little earner also. AMP’s head of financial advice, Anthony Regan, says he’s lost count of how many rip-offs; how many thousands of customers are charged fees for services they don’t receive. Lives are destroyed by bad advice; or when advisers’ financial ineptitude is compounded by avarice and duplicity.

It’s bad timing, however, for government by and for the banks, a Coalition which has to sell the electorate the last $35 billion of its $80 billion tax cut package, a gift of $13.2  billion in savings to our big four banks over the next ten years.

Even worse, its big business pals are no help. In the parallel universe where senate enquiries are held, Business Council of Australia’s CEO, Jennifer Westacott is asked, this week, by The Greens’ Lee Rhiannon.

“Can you give us an example of another country where tax cuts have resulted in wage rises?” 

Westacott wimps out. She’ll “take that question on notice”, despite the claim’s being a central plank of the BCA and the government’s campaign for the past two years. But let’s be fair. There’s too much business bashing around these days, as Westacott often wails. Above all, even the BCA can’t provide evidence that doesn’t exist.

Examples abound, however, from Canada or from The UK where, despite ten years’ company tax cuts, real wages continue to decline. The National Bank conducts one of Australia’s largest business surveys only to report that a mere 8 per cent of businesses would give workers a significant wage rise if they received a company tax cut.

One-in-five say they don’t need a tax cut to secure their company’s future. But who needs research in an age of neoliberal faith? The Coalition takes heart in the recent dismissal of The White House Chaplain, Jesuit Patrick Conroy who has held the job for seven years.  No reason has been given for Father Conroy’s sacking. Nor is it needed. In a Trumpian universe, it’s heresy to frown upon trickle-down or laugh at the Laffer Curve or even just express dissent.

Best explanation, reports The New York Times, is that the priest is being punished for his prayer last November, at the opening of a debate on the Republican tax bill. Conroy asked God to make sure that the members’ efforts “guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.”

Amen. Fairness is the last thing our government needs in its agile, innovative business-friendly zeitgeist but former Xenophon team member, now the more prosaic Centre Alliance, Sterling Griff, (a name that conjures confidence) is quick to remind listeners of government trumpet ABC Radio National that some top BCA companies pay no tax.

Australia’s effective company tax rate is 12% already. He warns his audience, moreover, where cuts will come from.

“It’s hard to see how a reduction in corporate tax is not going to lead to a reduction in public services like health and education.”

“The economic case for these company tax cuts never stacked up. The benefits were largely to foreign shareholders, with a huge long-term revenue cost to the budget,” says The Australia Institute’s executive director, Ben Oquist when the Coalition withdraws the tax cut legislation it fails to get through the senate last month.

“It’s a tactical retreat” explains former HealthGuard and HBF Insurance companies’ general manager, Mathias Cormann.

Desperate to stop the rot, Malcolm Turnbull mounts a type of apology for his government’s howling down the very idea of a Royal Commission into banks, an opposition it kept up for two whole years. His government would have been “better off politically” to have called the Royal Commission, “several years ago”, he calls in from Berlin, Monday.

Not that he’s accepting any responsibility (Westminster or otherwise) for any malfeasance that his government has effectively enabled by its two years of spirited opposition, evasion and delay,

“The responsibility for wrongdoing lies with the people who did the wrongs. Let’s be clear about that,” he says, hopefully.

It is too little, too late and will do nothing to appease his critics who rue his dreadful political judgement; nor those who ask why his government protects wealthy banks and big businesses, while hounding and gouging the poor.

ASIC’s official boast is that it’s “Australia’s integrated corporate, markets, financial services and consumer credit regulator”. The Coalition hypes the regulator’s powers. Two years ago, Treasurer Scott Morrison claimed that,

“ASIC has the powers of a royal commission and, in fact, it has greater powers than a royal commission.”

But just in case, penalties will now be increased; jail time provided for some offences, a hollow response that overlooks the core problem. ASIC has neither the will nor the resources to act. It’s launched but one criminal case in ten years.

As this week’s testimony shows, ASIC’s the financial sector’s family pet, lying doggo or sitting up and begging to play fetch or rolling over to have its tummy tickled. Of course there’s a weasel-word for it. In ASIC- speak it “negotiated” rather than prosecuted misconduct cases which is why it’s brought only criminal prosecution in ten years.

Does Hayne’s royal command performance have more power? While a royal commission can refer suspected offences to the Director of Public Prosecutions who can then prosecute, in practice, criminal prosecutions rarely result from recommendations of either a royal commission or a parliamentary inquiry.

Key to the commission’s power are its terms of reference. Here is a huge weakness. Its terms of reference dictate that it is not required to look at anything the commissioner believes “has been, is being, or will be, sufficiently and appropriately dealt with by another inquiry or investigation or a criminal or civil proceeding”.

In other words, it will ignore the findings of at least 38 other inquiries held into banking and financial services since 2010. Sensational, shocking as it may be, the misconduct Hayne has revealed, so far, is but the latest scandalous chapter in a long series of instalments, all of which have also exposed ASIC as a Clayton’s corporate regulator; a paper tiger.

When The CBA ruined many clients with bad financial advice a 2014 Senate inquiry criticised ASIC for being “too slow to act, lack[ing] transparency and … too trusting of the big end of town”. The verdict still applies today.

In the meantime, by popular demand, – and the instigation of The Nationals helped by The Greens and with the late support of Labor, the show must go on.  And on. Talk abounds of an extended season. Yet can it fix anything?

Crusty Justice Hayne’s superbly orchestrated production is in danger of being upstaged by its own lurid revelations of the graft, fraud, usury, collusion, extortion, embezzlement, cheating, lying and bare-faced robbery integral to our banking system; as a series of wretched pin-striped small fry from the big four take turns to spill their guts.

Equally distracting are the sideshows. A stampede to steal the glory includes the two-bob populist Pauline Hanson, even though it was her hapless former colleague, Rod Culleton, a bankrupted WA farmer who campaigned for a royal commission. Perhaps she’s getting confused with her repeated calls for a Royal Commission into Islam.

Also confused is Hanson’s new pal, Tony Abbott who channels the Queen of Hearts. “Off with their heads”.

Tin-pot general of the monkey pod rebels, Abbott is pumped. He’s led his peacock peloton and mobile media squad coal revival cycle tour through the Latrobe Valley of death-by-coal-fire, his latest sortie in his “no sniping or undermining” war of revenge by attrition on Turnbull. He’s just back from the $100 million Monash Centre he had built in France.

He goes off like a frog in a sock. “Sack ASIC”, he shrieks, despite his own role as ASIC’s chief nobbler.

Abbott’s government snatched $120 million, a cut of 200 workers, from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, a pillaging which left the watchdog unable to do very much at all effectively, let alone chase up the banks. Instead, the corporate regulator would get banks to self-report. What could possibly go wrong?

At the same time, in July 2014, Mattias Cormann attempted to weaken Labor’s Future of Financial Advice legislation (FOFA) which sought to ensure that advisers acted in their customers’ best interests, amendments put up by the banks but lost only when two cross-benchers voted them down.

ASIC hit the panic button. It complained that all advisers would be caught on the hop. It would do nothing, it said until July 1 2015 – two whole years after the new law was supposed to apply.

This, the corporate regulator supported Cormann, giving advisers two extra years in which to charge commissions and evade their duty to put the clients first. This week has seen how AMP flouted the FOFA law with impunity.

“Through AMP’s dealings with ASIC regarding the extent and nature of its fee-for-no-service conduct, AMP adopted an attitude toward the regulator that was not forthright or honest, and demonstrated a deliberate attempt to mislead,” Ms Orr sums up Friday.

AMP and its advice businesses misled the regulator 20 times from 2015 to 2017 about the nature and extent of its fees-for-no-service practice.”

The Coalition is responsible. It can’t pretend now that it merely got the timing wrong. Surely. But that’s just what it does.

Time to chuck a U-turn. Not far from Hitler’s bunker in Berlin, in the Reichstag’s shadow, Monday, Turnbull grabs the Coalition handbrake; burns rubber in a tyre-shredding U-turn. The government’s been driving the wrong way up a one-way street for two years but a quick U turn will fix it. Memo: Get updated talking points to Kelly O’Dwyer.

Facing overwhelming evidence that its concerted opposition to a Royal Commission into the banks was palpably not in the public interest, a willful misreading, if not contemptuous defiance, of public opinion in defence of the top end of town, the PM and his minions hastily abandon their epic, sandbagged, campaign to defend their banking mates.

Seldom has a government looked more ridiculous. Or more compromised. More incompetent. Less trustworthy.

Tragically, Terry McMaster, of Dover Financial, a pillar of the financial advice industry, oxymoron of the week, is taken ill, mid-sentence – but quickly recovers sufficient self-possession to sit bolt upright in his ambulance stretcher like some grandee being ferried up above the masses upon a palanquin. He’s excused from further participation in Hayne’s show.

But not before he’s been able to defend hiring advisers who were under investigation and later sanctioned for serious breaches. At least, he makes some incoherent response. Perhaps he’s just choking.

McMaster’s also questioned on Dover contracts which purport to give client protection yet which, in fact, attempt to indemnify Dover advisers from accusations of bad conduct. Doubtless ASIC plans to catch up with him on that, too.

Dover is the only big financial advisory group to decline to assist the Royal Commission. It has not supplied adequate documentation. Yet McMaster has dramatically collapsed in the attempt. His clients will wish him a speedy recovery.

You can’t fault the performances. The Royal Commission into crony capitalism is an orchestrated confession of wrongdoing; a lavish smorgasbord of malfeasance even if the grubby money-grubbers of the “wealth industry” themselves, are cynical, untrustworthy, grossly overpaid, self-interested spivs who’d sell their own grandmothers.

The formidable Rowena Orr, QC, continues to impress as she leads a brilliant supporting cast in homage to the English theatrical tradition of personifying justice as a Judge, a trend since Respublica, the mid-15th Century, morality play which has the body politic under insidious, deceptive attack from Avarice, Indolence, Oppression and Adulation.

By Monday, however, our political masters are back on song, a Hallelujah chorus of shock, surprise and outrage, the necessary ritual disclaimer and distancing which will enable them to snatch the whip hand back from Hayne.

“I have to say I have been surprised. I have to admit some of the revelations in recent times, I have been surprised.”

Mathias Cormann tells Sky News, Australia’s Fox News of government spin, while Matt Canavan, Minister for Coal, is “shocked“. Kelly O’Dwyer is “appalled” in a in a duet with Barrie Cassidy on Insiders. At the Self-Managed Super Fund expo in Melbourne on Friday, (no irony in the venue?) the assistant treasurer is back on stage and on song.

“The royal commission has highlighted in the most profound way, some of the devastating personal consequences that have resulted from corporate misconduct in the financial services sector,” she says.

“The government did get the timing wrong.”

That’s it, then. Just dud timing. Could happen to any government bank protection racket. As Helen Razer notes in Crikey, not one MP is surprised, or shocked, or appalled, or devastated enough to call out a scandal when they see one.

As Bob Katter fears, Karen Middleton reports, the real problem remains. Banks will continue to transfer loans between them, unilaterally dictate and then change the terms, downgrade property values and then foreclose without negotiation, seize and offload the properties at fire-sale prices, leaving borrowers still owing them the difference.

And it’s all perfectly legal.

Routed by the sheer force of numbers, rubbery figures, lies, impersonation and other evidence of illegality elicited from bankers so far, by beak of the week, Justice Hayne and his crack team of silks so far, Monday, Malcolm Bligh Turnbull beats a retreat on his quixotic Coalition forces’ foolhardy ideological charge against Labor and The Greens’ impregnable position; that there be a Royal Commission into Banking. It’s also a retreat from credibility and legitimacy.

News of the PM’s surrender from Berlin where he commends John Howard’s Pacific Solution (2001); lecture Germany on how to deal with refugees as he fills in time before opening yet another monument to John Monash and to honour his government’s militarisation of history and fetishising of war.

Some may admire his chutzpah. Germany took in a million Syrian refugees. The nonsense that border control helps build a multicultural society is insulting; demeaning to any audience. But it’s all designed for domestic consumption.

Turnbull makes no apology for his government’s enabling of what clearly amounts to a banking oligarchy; helping our new robber barons hold the country to ransom, destroying careers, wrecking families and ruining the lives of thousands.

“It was a poor political decision“, is the best the former merchant banker can manage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Honour The Sabbath, But Clearly In A Clearly Optional Way OR Why Tony Is The Only True Conservative Left!

Recently I’ve speculated on how the Christian Right have found clear evidence about the Bible’s opposition to gay marriage based on highly ambiguous readings of obscure verses here and there, but not one of them has come out and condemned the reduction of penalty rates on Sundays. I suppose one could argue that they see it as a sin anyway and whether one is paid double time or not is hardly the issue. However, I would expect that someone like Neil who graced us with his presence in the comments, or Lyle Shelton would have been jumping up and down and complaining about the abolition of penalty rates leading to more sin…

Yes, the wages of sin is death… But you do get to pick your own hours and the working conditions are pretty good!

I don’t know why I chose to start talking about penalty rates. I’m really much more interested in the coming leadership challenge which leaves us with a Liberal Party 100% behind Scott Morrison… Or Peter Dutton, if they decide that he’s the only one who’s still friendly enough with the Tony to convince him to take the effing job in London before they have to revoke his citizenship under the recent changes allowing us to cancel it when dual citizens commit crimes such as sedition… Sedition can loosely be defined as trying to bring down the government, and they could even get a jury to convict Abbott on that.

Ok, ok, I know that Abbott isn’t really a dual citizen and that he revoked his British citizenship some time ago, but he won’t tell us when because it’s a deeply personal thing and therefore an operational matter. Of course, when I say that I know, I’m using the words “I know” in the same way that Donald Trump knows that nobody understands the world like him and he knows that climate change is part of a conspiracy between Hillary and the Chinese to destroy Trump Tower!

Anyway…

Tony decided to warn his colleagues that they were in danger of losing the next election because they weren’t conservative enough. The Tone decided to do this – not in the Party room where he was concerned that his mates may be asleep or not paying attention – but via the media. In the everyday world where most of us live this would be the normal way of doing things. If you had a problem with your boss, you wouldn’t blurt it out at a staff meeting. No, you’d publish it on social media in the hope that someone would bring it to his attention and he’d go, “Yes, that person had a point, I’ll change my ways!”

Peta Credlin rushed to Tony’s defence. He wasn’t being disloyal. He was just frustrated. She quickly added that she was no longer working for Tony and her reflections were just to help us all understand that it was his pent-up frustration and that she wasn’t speaking on his behalf. No, she was just presuming that he was frustrated, and she was just trying to explain what he gets like when he’s frustrated by not having his own way. No, she may no longer be his Chief of Staff, but she knows where he’s coming from!

Tony, we’ll all have you know, is simply trying to keep the Liberal Party together. And we all know that the best way to keep a party together is to criticise it in public…

Yes, Labor has disunity; the Liberals have “a broad church”.

And part of this broad church, in the Gospel according to St Tony, tells us that we should just get rid of all the nonsense that we pretended to believe in when we were trying to get elected. You know, like all that nonsense he pretended to believe in when he was studying to be a priest before he realised that he’d never be Pope.

I mean, don’t you all understand the threat of One Nation?

No, not the One Nation which encourages songs like “We’re all in this together” or multicuturalism. No, the One Nation that wants to exclude most people in our nation from anything approaching rights and thinks that penalty rates should just be abolished altogether and women get pregnant for the money!

You know, One Nation…

Remember, Tony did his bit by meeting with Pauline where they had a jolly good laugh about how he raised the funds to have her put in jail.

You know, One Nation…

Who’ve hired James Ashby. Remember him? He left the Liberals to go and work for Peter Slipper. That worked out badly and he had to leave because he alleged that Slipper was sexually harassing him, but his case sort of fell down when his reaction to a text about being spanked was to reply that he might like it. (This is not a joke. Unless Winston Smith has started to work for the government it’s easily searchable!) Now James is working for Pauline and Tony is saying that we need to be less consistent to what we believe and more like PHON!

You know, One Nation…

Whom Abbott seems to believe may take votes off the Liberals and are a threat.

You know, One Nation…

The Party that the Liberals decided to preference above their Coalition partners in WA. Of course, helping them get elected doesn’t mean that we support them and agree with them. We’re just doing it because we’d trade preferences with the devil himself if he it helped us get elected. I mean, at least we have sunk so low as to work with The Greens!

Yes, it’s a worry that people may start to agree with One Nation whose candidates have done such wonderful things as suggesting that a termite repellent can be used to treat skin cancer (or could, were it not for the fact that silly regulations have stopped it’s import, just because a few people have needed hospitalisation because they have large holes in their face) and the idea that gay people are using “Nazi mind control” to change our thinking. I can see more votes leaking to One Nation than the Labor Party or The Greens. God, doesn’t Donald Trump show how dangerous the left can be?

When I suggest that the Liberals will call a spill this week, it seems highly unlikely at the time of writing. However, in a world where Abbott was elected as PM and Turnbull is praising the virtues of coal and Bill Shorten looks the most sincere of the three*, then it’s a risky call to bet against me unless you’re getting good odds. Do I think, Malcolm will be PM by the end of the week? Probably… But I am prepared to suggest that the person who suggested that Turnbull would go on to be one of our longest-serving and most successful Prime Ministers must be wishing that they’d decided to write a column about the achievements of Lachlan Macquarie instead!

*I only said, of the three, AND I do know we could have a long discussion about it, but the idea that it’s even debatable is EXACTLY my point!

What’s The Difference Between Barnaby Joyce And A Lump Of Coal?

The answer, of course, is that one is a prop and shouldn’t have been taken into the Parliament, while the other can be burned to provide heat – apart from that it’s useless…

Still confused?

Well, so am I! We have a Treasurer who took a lump of coal into Parliament. Just so you know, it’s against the rules to use props in Parliament. Ok, some of you are thinking, everybody knows that, but clearly Scott Morrison didn’t. I mean he wouldn’t deliberately ignore the rules, would he? That’s not a very good example to set our country.

Still, I guess when you’re dealing with those boring old number things as Treasurer day after day, you might need the odd creative outlet. Joe’s was dancing after the Budget, but unfortunately, not in the dark. Costello’s was creating fiction; he used to tell people that he’d be a great PM and one day soon, he’d challenge John Howard. Scott must have spied a lump of coal and been hit with an idea. Once inspired, you do tend to take liberties. That’s what artists are like, they sometimes feel that the rules don’t apply to them because they have a message to get out to the world.

I can picture it now, Mr Morrison and his lump of coal in his office. He calls in his staff. “I have this great idea,” he tells them.

“What is it?” they ask, fearful that it will involve incredible amounts of work “fixing the Budget”, or at the very least coming up with reasons why Labor owing $287 billion was the end of civilisation, but raising the debt ceiling above half a trillion isn’t worth talking about.

“I’m going to take this lump of coal to Parliament,” Scott tells them.

The staff nod approvingly, figuring that if they can perfect their nodding, they may get a safe seat where they can stand behind the PM and nod approvingly, but Scottie doesn’t notice. He’s on fire… (no, not literally!)

“And I’m going to say ‘This is coal,’ and I’m going to tell the Opposition not to be afraid of it! Brilliant, eh?”

His staff keep nodding as though there’s more, so Scott improvises.

“Um… then I’m going to suggest that the Opposition are suffering from coalophobia.”

When told that there’s no such word, Scott says that he’ll be remembered for creating it, like that guy who invented the word “selfie”.

“I’ll admit that I’m making up the word and tell them that it’s this ideological malady that stops them from allowing coal to create jobs and growth. And it’s an illness and they need help… Brilliant, eh?”

The staff nod more approvingly because nobody wants to upset the Treasurer when he seems in a good mood. Lately he’s been so down, thinking of how Cory has left and that’s one less vote for him when the spill happens. Not even the idea of some families losing Family Tax Benefits has caused him to smile. Even when told that some asylum seekers are being forcibly removed from Manus and sent back to possible torture and death, his spirits barely lifted.

So the staff say nothing.

And Scott appears in Parliament with that ugly lump and hands him the coal when the Speaker tells him to put the prop away. (Someone assured me that a lip-reader confirmed to them that when Joyce was given the coal he stroked it, saying, “My precious, my precious,” over and over.)

Of course, it may not have happened quite like that. Scott may have just wandered in to Parliament and put his hand in his pocket and discovered that he had a piece of coal that he’d forgotten to take out, and when one of the Labor MPs recoiled in horror, he may have quite genuinely thought it necessary to calm their fears.

Whatever, I found Morrison’s performance with the lump of coal more disturbing than Richard Denniss’ great article: How Christmas Prawns Explain Australia’s Power Blackouts

Why we need more corporate tax cuts

 

ATO data shows that 36 per cent of large companies paid no tax in the 2014-15 financial year. 679 companies including McDonalds Asia Pacific, Chevron Australia, Vodafone Hutchison and News Corp made $462 billion in revenue in Australia last year without contributing a single cent to the nation’s health, education, defense or welfare.

Of the large companies who did pay tax, the effective tax rate on profits was 25 per cent – 5 per cent below the statutory rate of 30 per cent.

Of the 200 largest corporate taxpayers in Australia, companies in the health care, energy and financial sectors paid the lowest effective tax rates of 19 to 24 per cent on a combined income of over $330 billion.

Investors in Australia assume taxpayers will bail out Australia’s big four banks in the event of any of them becoming insolvent. As a result, investors lending to such large banks are prepared to accept lower returns for risk, which lowers how much banks pay for funding. The Reserve Bank of Australia estimates that Australia’s major banks receive an implicit subsidy worth between $1.9 billion and $3.7 billion due to this assumption.

An international report on G20 subsidies found that the Turnbull government is continuing to subsidise fossil fuel production to the tune of $5.6 billion a year. Nearly $6 billion a year is paid to Australian corporations though the Fuel Tax Credit scheme. In 2014 it was estimated that State Governments alone had paid $17.6 billion in subsidies to mining companies over the previous 6 years.

Oxfam Australia estimates that the Australian economy is losing up to $6 billion a year in tax revenue due to Australian-based multinationals shifting money to international tax havens.

The federal government remains committed to doing bugger all about this problem, but they are pushing ahead with their plans to cut corporate tax rates. This means that while we’ll still be up to $6 billion a year down on revenue, corporate tax avoidance will be a lot less of a problem in Australia, because the less tax you’re meant to pay, the less tax you can avoid paying.

So the government would like to wish big business a happy and prosperous 2017. For the rest of us, they’ve had to made make some cut backs.

 

Jobs And Grr… Sorry, I meant to say Jobs and Gr…

Sorry, that was meant to be “growth” in the title but for some reason “growth” just stopped, and I think we all know the reason why it’s so hard to have any sort of gr…

Gro…

G-G-r-r-o…

Oh dear, it just won’t appear.

Anyway, I think we know the reason. It’s because of you.

Well, you all complained. You all ridiculed them about “Jobs And Growth”, so it’s your fault that the last quarter didn’t have any growth. It ran away because it didn’t like have to appear after “jobs” all the time. It couldn’t put up with the humiliation any more.

After all, it can’t be Scott Morrison’s fault that we don’t have “jobs and growth”. Couldn’t be. Ok, ok, maybe it’s not totally your fault. Actually when I think about it, like everything else, it’s Labor’s fault for blocking those company tax cuts. Now, I know Tony said that they were going to be a “no excuses” government, but this isn’t an excuse, it’s a reason. Besides, Tony’s not the Prime Minister any more…

Well, not at the time of writing, anyway, but if that changes before I hit publish then the rumours about him not launching a challenge until Malcolm’s approval rating goes so low that installing Ivan Milat as leader would give the Liberals a boost were wrong.

So, after giving the matter consideration, I think that we can safely say that the lack of growth can be put down to Labor’s decision to block the company tax cuts because reducing the government revenue from profitable companies would encourage all those unprofitable companies who pay little or no tax and the economy would get a boost somehow. I mean, remember the boost cutting the mining tax gave to the miners! Look at how cutting the carbon tax has the economy growing in a way not seen since the GFC!

And speaking of the carbon tax, thank goodness the Minister for Saving And Wrecking The Environment, Mr Frydenberg was able to clear up the confusion about an emissions scheme. Apparently when he said:”We know that there’s been a large number of bodies that have recommended an emissions intensity scheme, which is effectively a baseline and credit scheme, we’ll look at that,” he meant that they’ll view it, shake their heads, before announcing that they can’t consider it because not only is it the most cheap and effective way of reducing emissions but they can’t consider it because it was never on the table, unlike so many of the things that were on the table earlier in the year like the GST or the states having their own income tax. By “look at it”, many of those institutions peddling fake news like the ABC and Fairfax tried to imply that “look at” means the same thing as “consider”, in much the same way that they tried to imply that when Abbott said that he and Labor were identical on Gonski that it meant that they would both implement it, when Abbott merely meant that they had the same election policy. Really! Next they’ll be trying to ask us to believe that the jobs from the “jobs and gr…” slogan were meant to be jobs for people already living in Australia, which is the sort of xenophonic, racist nonsense that Labor and their union mates try to push…

Of course, if One Nation say exactly the same thing we should listen to them because they received nearly five percent of the vote in some states and you can’t ignore with people scoring that many votes in a democracy. In fact, you’re even allowed to disagree with them… but only after acknowledging that they have a point and maybe it is time that we replaced the High Court with the judges from “Masterchef”.

Anyway, it’s good to know that young Josh has come out and explained that on Monday he was misquoting himself when he talked about an energy intensity scheme and as our fearless leader, Malcolm Turnbull pointed out, there was nothing about an emissions intensity scheme in the review and that Josh Frydenberg was clearly being confused with someone who speaks on behalf of the Liberal Party when only Cory Bernardi is authorised to announce policy without checking with anybody on planet Earth.

Australian Voters – What are you afraid of?

The tight polls indicate that a number of Australians are afraid of what a change of Government will bring. However, the thought of remaining with the Liberal Government makes me very afraid.

I still recall that day in early high school so vividly. I was yelled at, embarrassed to the point of tears and pulled out of class.  I was ordered to sit on the verandah, because my parents could not afford the proper text book and the teacher decided I was not ‘ready to learn’. That experience, really drove home that the battlers could sit alone and cry red-faced in shame and be on the outside looking in, or they could use their voices to speak up.

I knew that public education in the early 1980s was considered free for all students and that I was entitled to an education.  (My Mother had told me time and time again “you don’t need money to be clean, honest, intelligent, kind, well mannered, etc., etc.,)

That day, I furiously marched to the Principal’s office at lunchtime and I made a formal complaint.  I stood up straight, looked him in the eye and asked him loud and clear, if I was allowed to be excluded from class because I could not afford the text book.

For a reason I cannot remember now, (possibly being thirteen and misunderstanding the political framework!) I threatened to report the school to the Governor General and guaranteed that he could stand me in front of class and ask me questions. I argued that it would be revealed that I knew more than most of the students who had text books. I was angry and offended that the school had drawn a line between my intelligence, my willingness to learn and the amount of money my parents had to buy a stupid text book!

After some scornful lecture reminding me that it was somehow a thirteen year old’s responsibility to ensure I had the right books for school and I was ‘ready to learn’, I was given a ‘loan’ of a second hand book.  I had to promise I would protect this book with my dear life until the end of the year and I was curtly reminded that ‘forgetting to return the book would be considered stealing from the school.’   That was also a stark reminder of how a low socio-economic background was an immediate negative judgement of one’s morals.

Two things were important that day: A rule existed to prevent unfairness and I had the courage to speak up. 

Rules and Societal Norms shape who we are

Legal rules and also societal norms shape who we are. They shape our nation. The democratic system of parliament is the system which enables the rules by which we live. If the school had a rule implemented that stated I could be excluded because I did not have the correct book, I could have sat on the verandah for the rest of the year. Not learning and not participating. Some kids would not have complained, as I did.  

An important point is that not everyone has the same levels of self-efficacy to use a complaints system, or to even question if they are a victim of unfairness. The rules should be there to protect people so they do not need to have an inherent self-confidence to right any wrongs.

This is the reason I take politics and voting so seriously.  The Liberals, time and time again implement ‘rules’ or laws, that not only make life hard for the disadvantaged, but also make it hard to complain and achieve fairness.  We see this in Education, in Health, in Welfare and in unemployment programs to name a few.

This is the future under the Liberal Government I see and what we have seen for the past three years and in previous Liberal Governments state and federal.  A system of rules, that makes life harder for battlers. A system of rules that makes it harder for battlers to have a voice.  A system of rules that is the antecedent to unfairness and a divided society.

The Liberals seek to make that verandah I sat on, even wider between the thirteen year old me and inclusion in that classroom.  

The Liberals seek to make rules, that would have the Principal tell the thirteen year old me, ‘that it was my fault, I can do better, get richer parents, shut up, sit down and do as you are told, or we may arrest you.’

The tight polls indicate that a number of Australians are afraid of what a change of Government will bring. However, the thought of remaining with the Liberal Government makes me very afraid:

I don’t want to live in a world where a Liberal Government works hard for a greater divide between the rich and the poor. 

Where the practices and policies of the Liberals ensure the working class have no rights and can be replaced by foreign workers in the dead of night.

Where the practices and policies of the Liberals make the disadvantaged choose between seeing a doctor or buying food.

Where the ideology of the Liberals does not see marriage equality as a right for all citizens.

Where the Liberals favouritism of austerity is implemented in times of severe, global economic uncertainty.

Where a narrative which harms and stigmatises people is encouraged and supported and sometimes led by members of the Liberal party.

Where Liberal/Conservative/austerity-laden budgets are designed to give the wealthy money and see the poor grasping for the trickling down of the scraps.

Where the spending decisions of a Liberal Government produces a health system so underfunded that death of Australians is realistic consequence.

I don’t want to live in a country where a Liberal Government makes rules to make life harder for the battler or makes it harder to protest against unfairness.

Another term of The Liberals. That is what makes me very afraid

If you are NOT voting 1 Labor, what are you afraid of?

  • Does ensuring Medicare is in the safe hands of the Labor party  – the party that invented Medicare and the party that has fought against cuts to Medicare by the Liberals for years and years, make you afraid?
  • Does ensuring that all children have the funding they need for more individual attention to excel in school, make you afraid?
  • Does a party who fights for the rights of the worker, make you afraid?
  • Does ensuring that our health system is properly funded, so Doctors and Nurses can do their jobs properly, make you afraid?
  • Does ensuring transparency, KPIs for processing, independent overseer, child guardian, refugee tribunal and funding UNHCR camps to eradicate the need for boat journeys, make you afraid?
  • Does ensuring that the party that got us through the GFC unscathed, managing the economy in a transitional environment or global instability, make you afraid?
  • Does a history of delivering major reforms that have progressed this nation forward such as: NDIS, Enterprise Bargaining, Medicare, Superannuation and Gonski, make you afraid?
  • Does the underpinning ideology of a fair go, make you afraid?
  • Does ensuring that we have a fibre-laden, first rate technology National Broadband System, make you afraid?
  • Does every citizen having the equal right to marry, make you afraid?
  • Does the idea a party can have 100 positive policies, presented and costed before an election, make you afraid?

Vote Labor to put people first on July 2. Don’t be afraid.

Originally published on Polyfeministix

Day to Day Politics: On the eve of the last election.

Saturday 23 April 2016   -72

Author’s note: On the eve of the last election I was forced to confront the reality that the party I supported couldn’t win. This is what I wrote:

I am still no further advanced in answering the question “who will win the election?” I think my mind is still in cause and effect mode. Thoughts of consequence invade me. So I ask the reader to indulge me for a little longer.

I have always thought that at the centre of any political philosophy should be the common good. In saying this my thoughts often drift toward a better way of doing politics and the term commongoodism is central to my internal debate. It sounds idealistic, this common good and it may not in itself be suited to all political persuasions but it is worthy of examination. Conservatives for example may never be able to overcome their dislike of equality. It is probably more acceptable to the left than the right. But politics after all is about ideas and compromise. I ask myself if the isms of left and right have gone past their used by dates? Many questions arise. Do they suffer from the tiredness of longevity? Is there a possibility that a new politic could emerge from the ashes of this election. Can a society deeply entrenched in political negativity and malaise, rise with a renewed interest in the common good, and still retain the essential ingredients of a vigorous democracy where a wide ranging common good test could be applied to all policy. Even have a caveat placed on it.

Have left and right so fused into each other that they no longer form a demarcation of ideas? Could the ideologies of the two somehow come together to form this commongoodism? Who would decide the common good? How could one define it? Could capitalism embrace the common good or would it need a work over? Could conservatism which empathises individual responsibility and opportunity embrace it? What would common good values be? Some might even say there is no such thing. That’s all a bit like political scrambled eggs I know but they are the sort of philosophical questions I ask myself on my daily walks. You see that although I still value my leftish views I do really believe that modern political thought and practice needs to move beyond self-interest and the attainment of power for its own sake. And not just nationally but internationally. But particularly in Australia where politics no longer meets the needs or aspirations of the people and is held in such low esteem that politicians are barely relevant.

I have long felt that the political establishment has taken ownership of a system that should serve the people but instead serves itself. It is self-indulgent, shows no respect for the people it serves and lacks transparency. These thoughts I know challenge established political thinking. They may even be controversial, but politics, as we currently practice it has no future as I see it.

There I have finished my dummy spit, my dose of idealistic medicine.

10 AM Friday.

Now I will answer the question.

Who will win tomorrows election?

Well it won’t be Labor and here are three reasons why.

Firstly, despite the growing influence of the Fifth Estate the mainstream media still packs an enormous punch. In advertising the success of one’s spend is measured by the resulting sales. The media can measure its influence in the polls. Labor has been the victim of the most concerted gutter attack ever thrust upon an Australian political party. And from all sections of the media, although one in particular, News Corp, has gone well beyond the realm of impartiality. Labor has been drowned in an avalanche of lies, repugnant bile, half-truths and omissions. The media has lost its objectivity and news reporting in general has become so biased that it no longer pretends to disguise it. The MSM has forsaken truth, justice and respectability in its pursuit to protect privilege. They print and tell lies with such reprehensible consistency that a gullible and politically undiscerning Australian public has never really challenged. As a famous business man once said, “I spend a lot of money on advertising and I know for certain that half of it works”.

The Fifth Estate (including me) has attempted to counter these nefarious attacks but in my view it is three years away from reaching its full potential. Having said that I plead some degree of ignorance, and I must say, I am absolutely astounded at how many people participate in social media and the voice it gives them. However in three years’ time its ability to influence the younger generation will have risen exponentially. Added to that will be a declining older generation.

Secondly, Tony Abbott has been a man who has adopted an American Republican style shock and awe approach in his pursuit of power. Main stream media has hailed him the most effective opposition leader in Australian political history. This is solely based on his parties standing in the polls and says nothing about the manner in which he lies and distorts to bring about this standing. Perhaps they should rethink the criteria they use.  On a daily basis and in the parliament he has sought to abuse, disrupt proceedings and tell untruths that normal men would not. His gutter style negativity has set a new benchmark for the behaviour of future opposition leaders. Luckily though, he may be the only one of his characterless ilk, and future opposition leaders may be more affable. However, the consistency of his negativity has had an effect on an electorate in a state of comatose.

Since the election date was announced he has portrayed himself as a different person. An indifferent public has been fooled by this chameleon disguise. He is simply a politician who climbs from the gutter to spread his pessimism everywhere. David Marr uses these words to sum up the character of this would be Prime Minister:

“An aggressive populist with a sharp tongue; a political animal with lots of charm; a born protégé with ambitions to lead; a big brain but no intellectual; a bluff guy who proved a more than competent minister; a politician with little idea of what he might do if he ever got to the top; and a man profoundly wary of change … He’s a worker. No doubt about that. But the point of it all is power. Without power it’s been a waste of time”.

On the other hand, John Hewson described him as lazy and indolent.

Thirdly, this where the truth hurts. My Party can at times be its own worst enemy. For the six years it has been in power it has governed well. Despite the enormous difficulty of minority governance. This is indisputable when you look closely at its economic record, the legalisation passed in the Parliament and the reforms from within a minority framework.

Its problems though have not originated from everyday governance. In this sense it has been no better or worse than any other. Rather its problems stem from personality conflict and the pursuit of power.

Politics by its very nature is confrontational and uneasy with those who pursue power for powers sake, or those who think they have some sort of ownership on righteousness.

Labor had two formidable intellects in Rudd and Gillard. In fact, combined they would total the entire opposition front bench. This clash of personalities supplemented by an inability to sell its policies has for six years damaged Labor immeasurably.

And this is the main reason why Labor will lose. Not because they haven’t governed well. But because life is about perceptions, not what is, but what it appears to be. We have painted a picture of dysfunction. Rightly or wrongly that is the perception.

In conclusion, if you are a praying person I suggest you get on your knees and ask that Abbott not be elected tomorrow night.

And in the aftermath, if we stand still in the midst of these challenging and changing times we will stagnate. We simply must move on and confront those oblivious to the common good with all the resources at our disposal.

My thought for the day.

‘I think acceptance and embracement of change is one key aspect of what we try to define as wisdom’.

 

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