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The Messiah from the Shire and other advertising slogans

If you believe the media, Scott Morrison is popular with the electorate because he is “genuine”.  Apparently, he is a man of conviction, a man who’s deeply held beliefs guide his actions, a man who sticks to his word.

Or should that be slogan?

Scott’s past was as an advertising man and one could be forgiven for thinking that’s all he’s got.

The whole Newstart debate has degenerated into a sloganfest.

“The best welfare is a job”.

“Labor’s unfunded empathy”.

“Conservative compassion”.

When Scott resists advice from everyone that the low level of Newstart is an impediment to getting a job, and when he resurrects random drug-testing for young unemployed people, and when he supports extending the cashless welfare card, and when he stubbornly sticks with the Robodebt debacle – he isn’t putting his surplus before the well-being of the people and the economy, he isn’t throwing red meat to the baying hounds of Sky After Dark, he isn’t stigmatising those who cannot find work no matter how hard they try – he is being kind.

In the ultimate display of self-interest and paternalistic hubris, the Messiah explains that his government’s priority was “not to overburden the welfare system”.

“I’m helping a lot of people if I’m careful about it, and if it’s well targeted, and I invest in getting a better understanding of what the needs are and what people have to overcome, in order to become more self-reliant.”

I am not sure that trying to make Scott understand is a worthwhile investment.

But back to the ad man’s slogans.

Defending his cruelty, Morrison tells us that he wants welfare to be “a trampoline, not a snare”.

Great line.  So great he’s been repeating it for years.

In his address to the IPA in July 2015 titled Positive welfare and compassionate conservatism, Scott called it “The Trampoline Effect”.

“An effective and reliable safety net that catches and supports the most vulnerable is absolutely necessary. But we need a safety net that acts like a trampoline, not a snare.”

When the Messiah rose from the ashes of the Turnbull knifing to reluctantly take the mantle thrust on him by a grateful party, he travelled to Albury in September last year to deliver a sermon rekindling the Menzies adoration and calling on us all to love each other.

Morrison said anyone worried about what he would do to Medicare or Centrelink should know he is committed to looking after people.

“Remember, my value is: we look after our mates,” he said.  “That’s why we have a safety net in this country, to protect people. But it works as a trampoline, not as a snare.”

As Morrison and co try to portray the unemployed as indolent, hedonistic addicts rorting the system, the fact is that the majority of Newstart recipients are aged over 50.

With the pension age rising to 67, and renewed calls to increase it further to 70, combined with the skills required in this new age of digital disruption, that number will only rise.

“If you have a go, you’ll get a go” doesn’t seem quite fair to say to a retrenched 65-year-old.

Just like he stuck with “Where the bloody hell are ya?” despite its obvious failure, this ad man will stick with the plagiarised slogans he has been using for years.

Genuine?  You gotta be shitting me.

 

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Dutton: The Lone Voice of Cruelty…

I am going to make this short. Australia wants the Biloela Family to stay!

While Peter Dutton clearly believes that white au pairs for his rich mates deserve special consideration, white South African farmers “deserve special attention” and fast-tracked visas, young brown children born here, to good parents fleeing conflict and looking for a better life? Well, not so much.

At Dutton’s express orders, they should be locked up for months without proper medical care, early childhood education and amenities; left to self-harm while their teeth blacken and fall out, only to be disappeared/deported in the middle of the night.

In the case of the Biloela family, DUTTON’s behaviour is nothing short of disgraceful. EVERYONE wants these people to stay. BUT Dutton, with his power grubbing overreach, is the lone voice of cruelty. He has cordoned off the power to rest solely in his hands, and he is behaving shamefully.

His claim, that he is simply upholding the law, is nothing but a cloak of moral cowardice. Not only does it fail to acknowledge his own part in creating the cruellest aspects of those laws, it fails to give due deference to human decency.

If a law fails to account for the natural human instinct, to refrain from treating innocent children with a cruel and contemptuous disregard, then that law is immoral and needs to be changed. No ifs, buts or maybes.

Whether or not the parents are genuine refugees (as determined by the courts), these are good people, hard-working people, and their children were born here. They have never even set foot in another nation. Deportation of these AUSTRALIAN children may be legally permissible but it is, nonetheless wrong.

Dutton’s racism is so blatant, his preferential application of power so beset with bigotry and prejudice, he is simply not fit for public office.

This is not the Country I want us to be. I, like so many others these days, am sadly ashamed of the cruel and heartless nation we have become. From our policies on refugees, climate and welfare, to the inequity of corporate tax evasion and misconduct, we have lost our moral compass.

Under the auspices of our current government we have become an immoral, corrupt, cruel and selfish nation that is indifferent to human decency.

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Uncovering the ruthless heart of the Liberal Party

By Ad Astra  

Dedicated observers of the political scene in Australia owe much to Niki Savva. Although she has been a political correspondent for News Corp Australia since 2010, she really made her mark as a significant author when she penned two critical exposés in which she fearlessly uncovered the labyrinthine machinery of the Liberal Party for all to see.

Her 2016 book The Road to Ruin: How Tony Abbott and Peta Credlin Destroyed Their Own Government published by Scribe exposed the machinations of PM Abbott and his entourage. Now her Plots and Prayers: Malcolm Turnbull’s demise and Scott Morrison’s ascension, also published by Scribe, exposes the intrigue that brought PM Turnbull undone and installed Morrison as PM.

How has she been able to do this? How has her access to Liberal Party members been so exceptional? During her time as a senior adviser to Prime Minister John Howard and media advisor to Treasurer Peter Costello, she engaged with a coterie of key players who are still ready to trust her with the Party’s tightly held secrets and convoluted inner workings. Now, through her books, she shares them with us.

Ahead of obtaining her latest book, I listened to Richard Fidler interviewing her about it on ABC Conversations. The episode was titled: How brutal politics and righteous prayers toppled a Prime MinisterYou can listen here to Savva’s account of the treachery that permeated the Liberal Party in the lead up to Turnbull’s removal and Morrison’s ascension. It’s not a pretty story.

What follows is my attempt to capture some of the intrigue, but more importantly to describe the behaviour of the key Liberal Party figures that run this party, our current government, so that you can become more aware of their nature and their style. Prepare to be disappointed.

You would have to listen to Fidler’s interview to grasp the extent of the extraordinary deviousness of senior Liberals in the lead up to Turnbull’s removal. It’s too complicated to describe here. It’s almost unbelievable that the planning and plotting of the key players and a cluster of nebulous groups could have been so complex, so detailed, so strategic, and so ruthless. It would be worth your time listening to the Fidler interview if you really want to know how the Liberal Party operates. The pity is that if it put as much time and skill into governance, our nation could be so much better.

Here, I’ll let you in on Savva’s opinion of some of the key players.

Let’s start at the top, with PM Turnbull. We know him as a supremely confident man, but one who makes serious errors of judgement. We know from his past history that he is prone to take risks, always believing he is right. As the storm clouds gathered, he took a monumental risk when he decided to declare his position vacant. It was downhill for him thereafter. We know the outcome. He was warned of Peter Dutton’s ambitions, but retorted that it was ridiculous to think Dutton could become PM, and indeed believed he was ineligible to be in parliament at all under section 44 of the Constitution. He was even prepared to advise the Governor-General that Dutton should, therefore, be excluded.

Next, his successor, Scott Morrison. Savva reveals that he was up to his neck in the coup that led to his ascension. He was an integral part of the planning and execution of what was a surprisingly complex plot. You will remember how, at a joint press conference with PM Turnbull, when a reporter asked Morrison about his ambition for Turnbull’s job, you saw his disarming denial (arm around Turnbull): ”This is my leader and I’m ambitious for him!” Even that seemingly random event was carefully scripted.

Morrison is a deeply religious man. When he said ’I believe in miracles’, he meant it. On his way to that fateful vote, he asked his secretary to message his family to pray for him. He has about a dozen close friends, all religious: Stuart Robert, Steve Irons, Alex Hawke, and members of the weekly prayer group he attends. He has few friends outside this group. He welcomed being photographed in his Pentecostal Horizon Church with his arms outstretched – an indication of his religious fervour.

Savva says of Morrison: “While on the surface Morrison may seem to have clean hands; below the surface, his mates are doing the dirty work. She describes him as “extremely clever, cunning, ruthless, Machiavellian, brilliant at the ‘black arts’, but ‘not a policy guy’.

That’s our Prime Minister! Trust him if you dare.

Savva’s opinion of Mathias Cormann is even more disparaging, and rightly so.

Before the ballot, he vowed that he was sticking with Turnbull, even to the bitter end, and would serve him loyally: ”I will go down with him.” But before the sun had set that day he had turned turtle. With Michaelia Cash and Mitch Fifield, he held a press conference to announce that he had advised Turnbull that he no longer enjoyed the confidence of the Party Room, and should resign. As Savva put it so tellingly, Cormann brutally knifed Turnbull in the back. In the process, he irreversibly trashed his reputation and shredded his credibility. She added that Cormann was fully complicit in the plan to install Dutton. She added that Julie Bishop so loathed Cormann, and Dutton too, that she could not bear to be in the same room as them.

This piece could go on and on, but I could not leave you without mentioning Tony Abbott, the most destructive politician in living memory, the destroyer of Julia Gillard’s ‘carbon pricing’ and Labor’s ‘fibre to the premises’ NBN (remember his instruction to Communications Minister Turnbull to ‘demolish the NBN’).

Although he did feature in this internecine drama, it was somewhat in the background. He was fiercely determined to remove Turnbull in retaliation for Turnbull’s displacement of him. He never gave up on this aim. But it was not to placate Abbott that the anti-Turnbull forces assembled. His behaviour had become so objectionable that he had become an object of loathing, even among those who were only too willing to hang on his coat tails when he was in power. Although he still enjoyed the support of his old allies, Eric Abetz among them, many were delighted when he lost his seat of Warringah, and was cast out of parliament and politics. Morrison is greatly relieved that he doesn’t have to cope with Abbott on the backbench. Savva reveals that Dutton had planned to reinstate Abbott in cabinet, a move that cost him the votes of many colleagues.

If this piece, fragmentary though it is, has attracted your interest, I strongly recommend that you listen to the ABC podcast of Richard Fidler interviewing Niki Savva. You will enjoy every one of the 52 minutes it runs. You can access it here.

Now David Crowe, chief political correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, and a regular commentator on national affairs on several networks, has released his book on the same period titled: Venom: Vendettas, Betrayals and the Price of Power by HarperCollins. He too has been able to gain access to the players in this unseemly saga. His account corresponds with that of Savva. He was interviewed by Jon Faine and Patricia Karvelas on The Conversation Hour on ABC Melbourne Radio on 19 August. You can listen to this interview as an ABC podcast here. The Crowe interview starts about 10 minutes from the beginning of the podcast.

This piece would expand into several if were I to attempt to detail all the ruthless manoeuvres that characterized this disgraceful period in our political history. As Savva and Crowe have done that so comprehensively, I recommend you read their books, or commentaries on them.

Be prepared though to be startled, shocked, and dismayed at the nature and behaviour of the people now running our country. It really is appalling, disgraceful, and most of all, deeply disappointing. I suppose we should not be surprised, but even those of you who are deeply cynical about politics and politicians will be repulsed, even revolted. If these events had occurred in a totalitarian state where ruthlessness prevailed, we would not be surprised. But it occurred here in our so-called Westminster-style ‘democracy’! 

During the discussion of Crowe’s book on ABC Breakfast on 774 Melbourne Radio, listeners were asked which book our politicians should read. One suggested George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four. Another listener disagreed, fearing that our government might use Orwell’s book as an instruction manual rather than read it as a telling novel. That points disturbingly to the level of disrespect we have for our politicians, and the abysmal depth to which our politics has sunk.

Sadly, we cannot expect any improvement. Oh dear!

This article was originally published on The Political Sword.

For Facebook users, The Political Sword has a Facebook page:
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The Political Sword also has Twitter accounts where they can notify followers of new posts:
@1TPSTeam (The TPS Team account)
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Pell appeal verdict unleashes a perfect storm for our Tory ruling class

Head bowed, a manacled cardinal is led hobbling out of court into a prison van, a shocking image calculated to rock our nation’s Tories to the core, last Wednesday, as Victoria’s Court of Appeal upholds Cardinal George Pell’s conviction on five counts of child sexual assault, for offences committed against two thirteen year-old altar-boys in a priest’s sacristy at St Patrick’s Church, in 1996 and 1997, whilst Pell was still Archbishop of Melbourne.

By Sunday, thank God and Rupert Murdoch, it’s all OK – at least, in Australia’s News Corp-led “mainstream media” as our corporate, oligarchical, media tribe is typically misnamed, whose stories quickly turn a convicted predator into an innocent victim. OK, too, in our progressive, post-modern, post fact, Trumpian universe of discourse, our collective, international pandemic of unreason led by lords of misrule from Boris to Bolsonaro to The Donald.

Bugger the facts, it’s the vibe that counts. As former PM Turnbull, pre-knifing by Scott Morrison, told Glyn Davis, Vice Chancellor of The University of Melbourne when Davis challenged Turnbull’s spin that all was rosy between town and gown. Davis dared air his heretical view that collaboration between business and university was crap.

“This is, by the way, you running against the vibe. You haven’t got the new zeitgeist. The new zeitgeist, Glyn, is to believe in yourself, is to have a go.”  Did Mal’s liberating ideology help spawn ScoMo’s “have a go to get a go”?

Bugger “police, the prosecutors, the courts, the jury system, the burden of proof and the entire rule of law. In its place is the new primacy of feelings: they feel Pell must not be guilty, therefore he is innocent. All else — most significantly, the fully tested testimony of the victim that they have never seen — gives way before their emotional need.” writes Crikey’s legal beagle, Michael Bradley. Above all, our establishment must protect one of its own.

Pell can’t be guilty: he’s part of the power elite, as untouchable as Casino King, James Murdoch. Pell’s protection is necessary to preserve the power of our monocultural bunyip aristocracy. However, it’s a secular crusade now, David Marr reflects. “Rome somewhere in the past few years lost the power” to protect men like Pell.

Above all, however, is the political purpose served by the all-consuming pseudo-debate over Pell’s innocence, a diversion adroitly exploited by a Coalition keen to soft-pedal its announcement that it is eagerly doing the US bidding; taking up gunboat diplomacy in the Persian Gulf because this will help “de-escalate tensions”.

Foreign Minister, Marise Payne keeps a straight face on ABC Insiders, Sunday; farcically claiming we are part of an “international mission” which is “modest, meaningful and time-limited”. In reality, we are offering Trump a blank cheque. It’s all about restoring “rules-based order and the rule of law”. No-one mentions the fact that we are about to break international law. Trump’s administration clearly hankers for the good old days when it ran Iran.

With British help, America overthrew Iran’s democratically elected conservative Prime Minister, Mohammad Mossadegh’s nationalist parliamentary government, in 1953, to install Shah Reza Pahlavi, a dictator who gave 40% of Iran’s oil concessions to US oil companies. America supported the corrupt dictator until his overthrow by a popular mass movement in 1979. As punishment, the US backed Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in the Iran–Iraq War, 22 September 1980- 20 August 1988.

It is estimated one million Iranians died defending their country. Up to half a million Iraqis also lost their lives.

The international team comprises ourselves, the Great Satan, as Iran once called the US, Little Britain under Boris Johnson, a professional clown, now playing Albion’s accidental PM and Human Rights Watch pin-up, Bahrain, a state of unabated repression whose rulers’ crack-down on dissent has eliminated all opposition banned independent media and peaceful dissidents are roughed up, arrested, prosecuted and stripped of their citizenship.

Clearly, there’s a bit our government could yet learn from Bahrain and embedding our troops with theirs is a move guaranteed to bring mutual enlightenment, the rule of law and stability to a region where eighty million Iranians are starved of daily necessities from food to medicines as a result of forty years of US sanctions.

It’s possible, of course, that the sudden appearance of an Australian cruiser in January 2020 “for six months” or a P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft to the Middle East for one month “before the end of 2019” will prove immensely re-assuring to Iran’s government and cause citizens to hi-five and hug each other in sheer relief.

Aussie diggers posted to Bahrain, super-charged with ANZAC can-do, could repair the nation’s moral high ground.

Luckily for Morrison’s government, the Cardinal Pell in the Pokey show is the perfect distractor; a timely bit of cultural warfare guaranteed to upstage any grovelling capitulation to the whims of hawks such as Bolton or Pompeo who run demented Donald Trump and his mad, neo-con, anti-Iranian, administration.

Hard right hacks, Andrew Bolt, Miranda Devine, Bettina Arndt rush to defend Pell. Left out of the moral outrage are the 1900 child sex-offenders, identified in Australian Catholic churches, whose 4,444 victims were on average under twelve years old, according to the 2016 Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to child sexual abuse. Eclipsed almost entirely, is the suffering of thousands of abused children; or how their lives were ruined.

And who knows how many victims there are in the sexual abuse of nuns by priests, abuse which Pope Francis acknowledged last February? Catholic women are speaking out, too, under the #NunsToo hashtag. In the meantime, a sanctification of Pell proceeds, by some of our best and finest reactionary media mavens.

Poor George, whose Dad, a Ballarat publican, David Marr reports, ran an SP book from the public bar of The Royal Oak, from 1953 to 1976, becomes, by mythic invention, an icon of apostolic poverty, humility, chastity and saintly compassion who will appeal to The High Court. The magical thinking of his backers has him acquitted already.

A man of such grace and standing (Peter Kidd, Chief Judge at his sentencing commented on his “staggering arrogance”, in committing crimes he thought he could get away with), will automatically be granted leave to appeal. But in the eternal interim, the very idea of a fallen Pell is a monstrous offence against nature.

Worse, the appeal judgement is a heresy right up there with Aurecon’s shunning of Adani, a move which resources High Priest, Matt Canavan says is as “weak as piss” before calling on the energy oligopoly to shun and shame Aurecon. The Australian and others in the stable eagerly recycle the lie of Pell’s unblemished record.

Yet there is no question that Pell is the reactionaries’ reactionary, a one-stop shop for any crusade against change.

Pell held that abortion was “a worse moral scandal than priests sexually abusing young people.” is Papal-royalty. Boys driven to take their own lives through homophobia only had themselves to blame, Pell maintained;

It is another reason to be discouraging people going in that direction. Homosexual activity is a much greater health hazard than smoking.”

Pell denounces concern about climate change as “a symptom of pagan emptiness” The Greens? “Anti-Christian”.

Pell’s perspective on accountability is clear in his view, given in 2014, that “the church’s responsibility to those abused by priests is comparable to the responsibility of a trucking company to a hitchhiker raped by a trucker.”

Monday, Pell’s media acquittal continues. The Australian’s Mirko Bagaric blusters… it debases the legal and democratic process for anyone to insist — as a few prominent commentators have in recent days — that it is impertinent to believe that Cardinal George Pell is innocent despite losing his case in the Victorian Court of Appeal.

News Corp’s contempt for the rule of law is as staggering as the propaganda it peddles to buy its monstrous power. Its defence of St George, moreover, reveals Australia’s follow-the-leader-media rushing pell-mell to fall in behind Papal knight Sir Rupert’s News Corp’s Cardinal-as-Victim story-tellers.

Part of this narrative involves appeals to sympathy for “an old sick man” “who might well die in gaol” as the current Archbishop of Melbourne, Peter Comensoli tells 3AW’s Neil Mitchell. Bizarrely, Comensoli maintains Pell is innocent – and the victim is telling the truth too. It was another priest who committed the sexual abuse.

Easy for a thirteen year-old altar boy to get one 190 cm priest mixed up with another.

The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian and the odd guest on The Drum hold that Judge Weinberg’s dissenting view is the only one that matters or proof that our legal system is broken and or grounds for High Court appeal.

Paradoxically, another part of the story is that Pell is Australia’s most senior cleric, internationally renowned, a pal of Rupert Murdoch’s, a tall poppy cut down in his prime. The facts suggest otherwise.

At the end, Pell’s power in the Vatican rapidly waned, despite a promising start in modelling austerity by big spending. Outrage broke out over his choice of a 5100 euro a month apartment requiring he spend 87,000 on new furniture; employing an assistant on a 21,600 a month salary and even 6,650 euros on kitchen sink fittings.

Somehow word got out to Italy’s L’Espresso weekly of detailed opposition to Pell’s financial reform; not helped by his Secretariat for the Economy racking up a half-million dollars in expenditures in the last six months.

True, Pell rose to become Cardinal, but Francis, shrewdly diverted the ambitious antipodean prelate into the Sisyphean labour of draining the swamp of the Vatican’s scandalous financial mess, an impossible task – and one fraught with peril, for anyone, let alone a boy from Ballarat, who knew neither Vatican culture nor the rudiments of diplomacy or tact, author of The Melbourne Response, another monumental failure of Christian charity and human compassion which capped compensation clerical sexual abuse victims at $50,000.

They saw him coming, a retired priest says on The Drum. Rubbed them up the wrong way say Vatican insiders. Francis himself believes “Behind rigidity something always lies hidden,” he says. “In many cases, a double life.”

But nothing may detract from the Tory postmodern narrative of St George The Martyr. A man as powerful as Pell, a priest who could command a character reference from a former Prime Minister, (gasp) just cannot be guilty. The Pell pillar must be protected or the entire edifice of conservatism may be revealed to be rotten to the core.

It’s a monstrous spectacle made all the more shocking, somehow, by technical glitches which cause the live broadcast to freeze, the court website to crash and by appellant judge, Chief Justice, Anne Ferguson’s funereal delivery which brings “all the drama of a dead wombat to reading a summary of one of the most important criminal judgments of the year”, reports seasoned legal commentator, lawyer and writer, Richard Ackland.

The Tory world is in turmoil. Right-wing hacks and flacks led by News Corp, nutcase Andrew Bolt, thresh about protesting victim Pell’s innocence, slagging off Victoria’s judiciary and declaring war on the rule of law.

“Never any hope of justice for George Pell. He was too big a scalp for the howling mob,” tweets Bettina Arndt.

Could a Cardinal be so publicly undone? Could a high priest of our ruling elite, a fully-paid member of the board of Reactionary Australia Inc. be brought to heel? Could our rulers be held accountable? Perish the thought. Look at Crown.

The kid gloves are on in the federal government’s treatment of St James Packer’s Crown Casino where there is report from a whistle-blower that ought to be hair-raising. It’s a whale of a tale of high-rollers being fast-tracked through immigration, equipped with escorts before a restorative punt is followed up by a refreshing wildlife shoot.

Crown is a cathedral to our new age of mad depravity, infinitely more popular than any offering of the Catholic Church and more powerful. Crown’s backers rule our politics as the gun lobby does America’s, as former Victorian Premier John Cain observes.

Cain, whose government decided as early as 1983 that to build a casino would be to invite organised crime, warned of the power, grace and charm of casino lobbyists in 1990,  “Within three weeks of me going in August 1990, they had not only battered the doors down, but they were in the lounge room pissing on the furniture.”

Sensibly, heeding their mandate from silent Australians to leave no depth unplumbed, the Morrison government summons a toothless watchdog, no-one’s ever heard of.

Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI), a Clayton’s investigator, is agreed upon by both major parties, to allow our gambling lobby to continue to uplift the moral tone of the nation, growing jobs and building wealth, especially in the off-shore bank accounts of Crown Casino and its coterie of money-launderers.

Conspiracy theorists swarm to depict poor, vulnerable Georgie Boy as the innocent victim of a Gillard-leftist-Victoria Police-Nine News plot. In the midst of this fertile, national conversation, Scott Morrison shrewdly chooses to announce he’s just engulfed us in another US oil war which his BFF, another vainglorious lout, the dangerously demented Donald Trump is brewing up against arch-fiend Iran in the Straits of Hormuz.

“200 troops”, he says out of the corner of his mouth. “Limited to six months,” he says. “Or longer, as the case may be” he says, skipping away.  Marise Payne, repeats his de-escalation double-speak, almost word-perfect as so sundry other MPs as interviews are merely an excuse for the re-iteration of central minders’ talking points.

Happily, the week brings the anniversary of Scott Morrison’s hugely undistinguished year in office, after knifing Malcolm Turnbull in a double, double-cross. His government has no energy, no environment, no economic or climate change policies, no vision and no shame. But it’s cranking up Robo-debt to go after elderly age pensioners. That blessed surplus won’t accrue all by itself.

No-one in government fusses over the two thousand who die after receiving Robo-debt letters between July 2016 and October 2018.  It’s not difficult to envisage a link between their deaths and the debt letters.

Yet Morrison is now the best PM ever, according to the worst, “lying rodent” John Howard, the PM who did most to unpick the threads of a prosperous, progressive, cosmopolitan and egalitarian society and who lied to parliament and people that he had legal opinion to join the illegal US war in Iraq.

Howard also wrote a glowing reference for George Pell.

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Great Australian political policy stuff-ups: Howard wins in a canter.

For those who have been following my posts of the Great Australian political policy stuff-ups, I have decided to, instead of continuing downs the path to a long excruciating conclusion, to bring my research to an abrupt if not obvious end.

The Liberal National Party has governed for the majority of the post-Menzies years and obviously, it would be they who would have made the most major policy stuff-ups.

So, to date, I had completed Menzies, Whitlam and a list from the IPA. Rather than letting my list linger like a bad smell, this post contains a list of my findings of the Greatest Australian political policy stuff-ups.

So let us start with Sir Robert Menzies.

Communist Party ban

The Communist Party Dissolution Bill was passed by parliament. After it was enacted in October, the law was challenged in the High Court and, on 9 March 1951, was held to be unconstitutional.

Referendum on Communism

A referendum to alter the Constitution so as to grant parliament the power to outlaw Communism was lost narrowly.

Nuclear testing

In September 1950 Menzies agreed, without any serious scientific or political consultation, to allow the British to test a nuclear weapon on Australian soil. On October 3, 1952, the British detonated a nuclear bomb on a ship — HMS Plym — off the coast of the Montebello Islands in Western Australia.

This was a site they had chosen themselves with no Australian consultation.

War in Vietnam

Perhaps the biggest ever cover-up in Australian political history is how we became involved in the Vietnam War.

On April 29, 1965, PM Menzies shocked the House of Representatives when he rose to speak. With gloomy voice, he said that he had received a letter from the South Vietnamese government to join the war.

It was a lie.

National Service lotteries

Cabinet decided to re-introduce compulsory military service, which had ended in 1960. The National Service Act enabled the government to conscript men for a two-year term with a further three years in the Reserve. Marbles denoting birth dates were drawn from a lottery barrel to select those who would be called up. Between the first ballot in 1965 and the last in1972, some 63,000 men were conscripted.

500 died in a war that was none of our business.

I have omitted Harold Holt, John Gorton and Billy McMahon.

Gough Whitlam

Whatever your political disposition there cannot be any doubt that he changed the nation, with many excellent policies, for the better.

As for the other side of the ledger, the economics, I would suggest that history is beginning to look favourably on the intellectual giant that he was.

Others who lived in his extraordinary times would disagree entirely, particularly with his economics. I concede this and leave you to your view.

Malcolm Fraser

His time in government could be considered uneventful along side Whitlam or any of those that followed. By placing economic management at the centre of politics he sought to explain how economic activity sat with the social life of a nation.

However, he never understood the new paradigm of economics that had begun under Whitlam. It was a policy fail of monumental proportion.

The then Treasurer John Howard understood it and wanted to implement what Hawke and Keating did later.

Bob Hawke

He defeated Malcolm Fraser and arguably became Labors brightest ever Prime Minister. A reformer who did more than any other to reform the Australian economy. He had such fine cabinets that policy errors are difficult to find.

His major error was that he clung to power for too long and in doing so prevented an orderly leadership succession.

Paul Keating

Keating was the big ideas man who couldn’t sell them. He had a vision of Australia becoming of a republic, justice for our first nations people, a larger connection with Asia, and his support for Marbo was set in stone.

His policy errors were that he believed in a GST but didn’t introduce one and that he amended the Migration Act to provide for mandatory detention of irregular arrivals that was to be a disastrous decision.

John Howard

During the decade of his Prime Ministership, he made many poor decisions.

He became Prime Minister in 1996. His legacy will be long debated. On the one hand, he was the consummate politician who read the public mood like no other. On the other hand, he was a sly conniving politician who pandered to popular sentiment. The lying little rodent as one of his ministers describes him.

It was in his rein that the decline in our democracy started. He introduced changes to the tax system and introduced a GST that affected pensioners and lower paid workers the most.

Much of the blame for the gas shortage that Australia is suffering from now can be blamed on Howard. He very irrationally sold it all to China at a bargain basement price. It is but part of the energy debacle that exists today.

Perhaps the decision to commit Australian forces to the second Iraq War is his worst. Without a scintilla of proof that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, without even asking if there were any he sucked our nation into a quagmire of terrorism. It was a decision to please George Bush and nothing more. The war on terror still continues today.

Housing

Domestically he increased the first homebuyers grant and increased immigration. All of which increased demand. Investors entered the market and years on we suffer from his idiotic decisions.

We experienced a once in a century mining boom that resulted in untold budget surpluses. At the end of it, there was little left. Howard had squandered it on over-60 superannuation tax holidays, other super concessions, and family payments to middle-income households, age-based tax concessions, and lots of income-tax breaks for middle to higher-income households.

Most of these presents came in the budget of an election year to buy votes.

All he achieved was increased inequality and making the rich richer.

Education

He had an almost fetish like need to pamper to the rich by increasing Federal funding to the richest schools which they have spent on non-educational luxuries.

Like his other concessions they have all been difficult to remove and they, to this day, remain a burden on the budget.

The Republic

Being the royalist that he is he played a “divide and rule” role with the 1999 Republic referendum instead of leading the nation through it?

Health

He eroded Medicare by mischievously misdirecting money into tax deductions for inefficient private health insurance. In doing so he tried to return Medicare to a 1960s style healthcare system.

Gold reserves

Howards Treasurer Peter Costello sold two-thirds of Australia’s gold reserves for the rock-bottom price of $US306 per ounce (Today, gold is about $US1590 per ounce).

Kevin Rudd

He was blessed with a prodigious intellect and will best be remembered for the apology to our indigenous “Stolen Generations” and his handling of the World financial crisis. He also coined the phrase “the greatest moral, economic and social challenge of our time” in reference to Climate Change.

Home insulation scheme

The Pink bats’ scheme because of its poor administration became a policy disaster for Rudd. Reports of house fires, possible fraud and the deaths of four young insulation installers led to numerous enquiries.

After a Royal Commission instigated by Tony Abbott, Rudd accepted his Government’s responsibility for systems failures that led to the deaths, describing them as a “deep tragedy” and acknowledged the pain of the families involved.

Building the Education Revolution

This saw 23,670 school building projects around Australia rolled out in quick time.

Tony Abbott continuously complained about cost blowouts resulting in an enquiry headed by Brad Orgill, the former CEO of UBS Australasia.

3% of complaints about the scheme were proven, but the commission found that most projects were an advantage to the school and the community. Ask your local Primary School Headmaster what he or she thinks.

Julia Gillard

Gillard followed Rudd and so began the revolving door politics of the last 10 or so years. She led a minority government and Abbott, the Murdoch press and the shock jocks immediately began attacking her on the basis of her sex.

She had some handsome policy victories such as the Royal Commission into Child Abuse, the National Broadband Network, putting a price on carbon, the National Disability Insurance Scheme and reforms to education. Not bad in anyone’s book.

Unemployment

On the other side of the ledger in terms of policy stuff-ups her failure to stop unemployment from rising clearly went against her.

Sure this was complicated by the GFC that we were still recovering from but also from a silly obsession with a budget surplus.

Tony Abbott

Abbott came to power after 6 years of the most negative opposition the country has ever seen. If nothing else he was the most professional liar to ever walk the halls of parliament.

His negativity was famous. It both gained him government and lost it for him. He was the worst Prime Minister the country has ever had and came into power without any policies and left without any.

He did have success in stopping the people smuggling trade but it divided the nation.

He removed the price on carbon, a terrible decision only based on politics, and the minerals resources tax.

That said there is nothing more to say about this characterless man of no redeeming features. His greatest success was that he turned his party from its Liberal beginnings into the far right conservative one it is today.

Malcolm Turnbull

Malcolm Turnbull entered through the revolving door and instantaneously chucked all his principles into the nearest rubbish bin. In doing so, he became the greatest hypocrite of a Prime Minister the country has ever seen. He also fell into the lying mindset of Abbott.

The policies on the many things he had carried with him like Climate Change he gave over to the far right of his party. He might lay claim to Marriage Equality but that was undoubtedly people led.

Scott Morrison

It is too early to judge Scott Morrison but he too has thrown away policies on energy, climate change and many others.

He shows all the qualities of Abbott and Turnbull. Of one who wants the rich to become richer in the expectation that they will share some of their riches with their fellow humans. Fat chance.

My thought for the day.

“In the recipe of good leadership, there are many ingredients. Popularity is but one. It, however, ranks far below getting things done for the common good.”

 

Previous instalments:

Great Australian political policy stuff-ups (part 1)

Great Australian political policy stuff-ups (part 2): The Menzies years

Great Australian political policy stuff-ups (part 3): Whitlam – how does history judge him?

 

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Morrison’s monumental dysfunctional Pacific “family” failure

No matter how much money you put on the table it doesn’t give you the excuse not to do the right thing, which is cutting down your emissions, including not opening your coalmines.”  (Enele Sopoaga, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, 14 August 2019).

“Shove a sock down the throat of Jacinda Ardern” – urges Alan Bedford Jones, 2GB Sydney’s sock-shock jock, another former, failed, Liberal Party candidate and inveterate misogynist,Thursday, as New Zealand’s PM supports Pacific Islanders’ global warming concerns, endorsing the resolutions of all but one of the eighteen countries and territories of this week’s 50th Pacific Islands Forum, (PIF) meeting in Tuvalu’s capital, Funafuti.

Left on its own, promoting global warming is Australia. Ms Ardern says, diplomatically, that our land down-under can answer to the Pacific for itself. New Zealand, or Aotearoa, as its Maori people named it, commonly translated as land of the long white cloud, or, continuously clear light is doing what it can to limit its carbon emissions to 1.5C.

Ms Ardern expects all nations to make a similar commitment but will not lecture others.

Rabid climate change denier Jones turns puce. He rants; spits foam at the microphone. Does ScoMo’s office tell Jones to put the boot in? For Jones and his audience – and, indeed, for much of Morrison’s government, global warming, is a hoax. And an aberration, a perversion of reason. The notion is an unnatural hoax, as is the monstrous regiment of women who dare to demand their fair share of political power from blokes.

“Here she is preaching on global warming and saying that we’ve got to do something about climate change,” Jones harangues listeners from his bully pulpit. His signature outbursts of outrage, his demonising and his scapegoating are his own take on Orwell’s two-minute hate. Jones down low may be heard playing daily in all the best dementia wards in hospitals all over Sydney. Thursday, Jones goes off like a frog in a sock.

Preaching? It’s precisely what the Kiwi PM takes pains to avoid, but Jones rarely lets fact spoil his argument.

New Zealand has cows that burp and fart, he sneers, in a rare, brief, departure into scientific truth.

Jones role has little to do with reporting and even less with respecting fact. In the 1990 cash for comment scandal, where he and John Laws were found to have accepted money from a slew of corporations, QANTA, Optus, Foxtel, Mirvac and big banks, the jocks’ defence was that they were not employed as journalists, but as “entertainers” and thus had no duty of disclosure or of journalistic integrity. Yet Jones hopes the PM is briefed,

“I just wonder whether Scott Morrison is going to be fully briefed to shove a sock down her throat.”

Outraged by Ardern’s audacity – as much as the fact that she’s a Jezebel – a woman brazenly asserting authority, independence and leadership, Jones works up a lather. Arden’s an impudent hypocrite, he squawks. Australia act responsibly or answer to the Pacific on policy? Accountability is heresy in ScoMo’s government. Perhaps Jones hopes that his “sock it to her” will be an Aussie form of “send her back”.

Sending Kiwis home, if Peter Dutton doesn’t like the look of them, is at least one Morrison government policy that’s coherent. Repatriation on “character” grounds saw a thousand forcible deportations between 2016-2018. Under Morrison as Immigration Minister in 2014, the policy was expanded to include all those Kiwi-born residents who’d been sentenced to twelve months or more in prison.

Many of those deported under the “character test” have no family or friends in New Zealand; have extensive family ties in Australia and have spent very little time in New Zealand, having arrived in Australia as children.

It’s another source of friction between Australia, its major trading partner, despite China (NZ$15.3bn) now having eclipsed Australia (NZ$13.9bn) as New Zealand’s biggest export market.

Friday, Jones’ sock-jock mockery continues. “The parrot” ridicules one of New Zealand’s most popular and effective Prime Ministers; alleging Ms Ardern is “a clown” and a “joke” for “preaching about climate change”, claiming, falsely, that New Zealand’s carbon dioxide has increased per capita more than Australia’s since 1990.

The Parrot’s problems with women in power, rival those of the Liberal Party itself. Worrying aloud in 2012 about our Pacific policy and how “women were wrecking the joint” during Gillard’s highly successful minority government, Jones said he was “putting Julia Gillard into a chaff bag and hoisting her into the Tasman Sea”.

Gillard’s government invested $320 million in promoting Pacific Island women’s role in business and politics.

“She said that we know societies only reach their full potential if women are politically participating,” he shrieked in utter disbelief to listeners during an on-air hate update from Barnaby Joyce about the sale of Cubbie Station to a Chinese-led consortium.

“$320 million could have bought the 93,000 hectare Cubbie Station and its water rights, he reckoned. Kept it in Australian hands. There’s no chaff bag big enough for these people.”

“Women are destroying the joint – Christine Nixon in Melbourne, Clover Moore here. Honestly.”

Gillard’s father John a former psychiatric nurse who passed away at 83, “died of shame”, he added in 2012, “To think that he has a daughter who told lies every time she stood for Parliament.”

Also socking it to Jacinda, Jones is joined in combat by another Liberal supporter and climate denialist, One Nation’s resident empiricist, Malcolm Roberts, who knows how much Kiwis love sheep jokes.

“New Zealand has over 60 million sheep. Sheep produce about 30 litres of methane a day. If Ardern was serious about addressing ‘climate change’ shouldn’t she start by culling the entire sheep population of NZ? Or is she just climate gesturing?”

Roberts is wrong in several respects as an AAP fact check demonstrates. He can’t count sheep. New Zealand’s official data agency, Stats NZ, reports the most recent farm census, conducted in 2017, records 27.5 million sheep in the country. A 2018 provisional update reports a drop to 27.3 million.

Nor are sheep the major culprits. New Zealand’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory for 2017, released in April 2019, shows sheep produced 12.7 per cent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Dairy cattle accounted for 22.5 per cent, while electricity generation created 4.4 per cent.

Above all, this year, New Zealand introduced a bill to reduce emissions of methane by animals to 10 per cent below 2017 levels by 2030, and between 24 and 47 per cent below 2017 levels by 2050.

Fellow climate science denier, Mick-Mack, as Coach ScoMo calls our deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, must grab a headline to delay being deposed by Barnaby Joyce. Mick-Mack chimes in with a killer argument. Lenore Taylor says on ABC Insiders Sunday, that he couldn’t be more “offensive or paternalistic” if he tried. Itinerant Pacific Islander fruit-pickers, he says, should thank their lucky Aussie stars.

“They will continue to survive,” the part-time Elvis impersonator says in his most tone-deaf, judgemental manner. “There’s no question they’ll continue to survive and they’ll continue to survive on large aid assistance from Australia. They’ll continue to survive because many of their workers come here and pick our fruit.”

And our tomatoes – for eight dollars an hour, as reported in the recent settlement of a case on behalf of fifty workers from Vanuatu, who suffered bleeding from the nose and ears after exposure to chemicals at a farm near Shepparton under the government’s seasonal worker programme.

Brisbane based Agri Labour Australia refuses to admit liability, even after being taken to court and even after agreeing to an undisclosed financial settlement. The Fair Work Ombudsman takes separate legal action. This results in nineteen workers being compensated $50,283 for wage theft – a crime rife in our migrant workforce be it in horticulture or in hospitality.  No records were kept of the workers’ labour over six months.

Seasonal worker and father of six ,Silas Aru, worked for six months, yet was paid a mere $150 in total in farms across Queensland – also as part of a government seasonal workers’ or slave labour scheme. Federal Circuit Court Justice, Michael Jarratt​ struggled to imagine a “more egregious” case of worker exploitation.

Exploited to the point of criminal neglect or abuse, men and women from the Pacific Islands are often the slaves in our nation’s overworked, underpaid, casual or part-time workforce. Mick-Mack knows how to pick ’em. Rip off the vulnerable. Trick them. Rob them blind. Then remind them what a favour you are doing them.

As the bullying of the Pacific Island leaders rapidly turns into an unmitigated disaster, something must be done. ScoMo’s staff work long and hard to orchestrate a shit-storm in response. It’s specialised work. Howard allegedly had an operative in his office solely working on “Alan Jones issues” throughout his term in office, former 2UE Jones colleague and big critic Mike Carlton tells The Saturday Paper’s Martin McKenzie-Murray.

Jones’s confected outrage is a tactical dead cat thrown on the table; distracting media from ScoMo & Co’s default policy of bullying and duplicity. Con-man Morrison promises $500 million over five years for “climate and disaster resilience” but it’s an accounting trick; a shonky repackaging of existing aid. No-one falls for it.

Pacific leaders are insulted, alienated by Morrison’s attempt to con them with a fake bribe. Our PM adds injury to insult by adding a bit of emotional blackmail.  Fijian PM, Frank Bainimarama explains.

“The PM … apparently [backed] into a corner by the leaders, came up with how much money Australia have been giving to the Pacific.” He said: “I want that stated. I want that on the record.’ Very insulting.”

Bainimarama is ropeable. By Saturday, he is all over the media after phoning Guardian Australia. ScoMo’s “condescending” diplomacy is as much of a massive fail as his government’s energy or environment policy or overseas aid abroad vacuums. The Fijian PM is clear that by alienating and insulting Pacific Islanders, ScoMo is helping drive the leaders into the arms of the Chinese. In other words, Morrison’s mission is a total failure.

Kick Australia out of the PIF, calls Anote Tong, former president of Kiribati, and veteran advocate for nations battling rising sea-levels caused by global warming. Australia’s membership of the Pacific Island Forum should be “urgently reviewed” for possible sanctions or suspension over the Morrison government’s pro-coal stance, he says. There’s a precedent. Fiji was barred until recently in a move to censure its departure from democracy.

(PIF) … is supposed to be about the well-being of the members,” Tong tells The Sun-Herald and Sunday Age“If one country causes harm to other nations, such as by fuelling climate change, “there should be sanctions”.

“Pacific people see through this facade. We won’t solve the climate crisis by just adapting to it – we solve it by mitigating it, reducing emissions, investing and transitioning to renewables, not shirking our moral duty to fight,” Greenpeace’s Head of Pacific Joseph Moeono-Kolio says. But our federal government just doesn’t get it.

ScoMo started badly by opting for antagonism and insult. Sending junior minister, coal lobby shill, Alex Hawke on ahead to set up talks did not go over well. Hawke recycles denialist garbage. Human influence on global warming is “overblown” he reckons, while in Tuvalu, he peddles the lie that our economy depends on coal.

In reality, the Morrison government’s dance to the tune of the coal barons costs us a fortune. Avoiding climate change reduces our GDP, by $130 billion a year, reports The Australia Institute, citing calculations by government consultant, Brian Fisher. Yet in the reporting of the Forum, our media helpfully relay the government’s re-framing of our global warming crisis into a choice between jobs or a few more emissions.

We are “family” insists Great White Bwana Morrison. A dysfunctional family where a crafty Father Morrison tells the younger fry lies. The Greens Adam Bandt puts his finger on it. Our wretched carry-over Kyoto credits are yet another shonky accounting trick to allow ScoMo to continue his hollow boast that “we’ll meet and beat” our Paris emissions reduction targets. The stunt certainly does not impress beleaguered Pacific leaders.

“At the moment we are not on track to meet the Paris targets. No one in the world is. We are on track to exceed 3.5 degrees of global warming, which will be a catastrophe. The Pacific Island leaders know this.”

Exploiting “a pollution loophole” is how The Australia Institute (TAI) describes Australia’s bad faith. The “pollution loophole” amounts to about eight years of fossil-fuel emissions from the Pacific and New Zealand combined, calculates, TAI, in a research paper it helpfully makes available to leaders before the Forum. The paper pulls no punches from its title onward: How Australia is robbing the Pacific of its climate change efforts.

Worse, it spells out how Islanders are paying for our denialism. Australia intends to use 367 Mt of carbon credits to avoid the majority of emission reductions pledged under its Paris Agreement target. Meanwhile, the entire annual emissions from the Pacific Islands Forum members, excluding Australia, is only about 45 Mt.

The bad faith continues. ScoMo & Co coerce Island leaders into watering down the text of their draft declaration. Or so it seems, unless you are tuned to Radio New Zealand. Local reports have it that after twelve hours, the PIF comes up with a hollow text that mimics the Coalition’s own climate change denialism.

Pacific leaders released a draft declaration in Tuvalu, Tuesday, calling for “an immediate global ban on the construction of new coal-fired power plants and coalmines” and for all countries “to rapidly phase out their use of coal in the power sector”. It echoes the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call last May.

All references to coal go from the forum communique and climate change statement. Expunged also, are any aims to limit warming to less than 1.5C or any commitment to a plan for net zero emissions by 2050.

Naturally, the Pacific leaders have the nous to issue their own separate declaration with targets which echo its draft statement and which follow the lead of the United Nations, sadly, a body increasingly ignored – if not ridiculed – by our own government and that of its great and powerful friend the US, among a host of others.

By Saturday, Morrison’s stunt with grateful fruit-picker and sock back-up is unravelling badly. Promising to be “a good friend, partner and brother of Pacific Island countries” is China’s special envoy to the Pacific, ambassador Wang Xuefeng, who is quick to exploit the rift between Australia and its Pacific neighbours.

Morrison insists the Forum is a “family gathering” and that “when families come together they talk about the stuff that matters, that’s most important to them. Over the next few days that’s exactly what we’ll do.” It’s ScoMo code, Newspeak for insulting, alienating and bullying the leaders; trashing their hopes and aspirations.

Let the Pacific Islanders worry about rising sea levels and increasing salinity which is rapidly making their homes uninhabitable. In Australia, government energy policy is dictated by a powerful coal lobby – with powerful allies in the media. The PM who brings a lump of coal into parliament also has an assistant recruited from Peabody Coal and has his fossil-fuel lobby and a daft hard right with the upper hand in mind all week.

The Prime Minister’s performance at the Pacific Islands Forum is a monumental failure. Even if his bullying, his intransigence, his inhumanity and chicanery do impress a few one-eyed partisans at home it has dealt irreparable damage to our goodwill in the Pacific, which has not really recovered since the Abbott government  cut $11bn from overseas aid in 2015, a cut which the budgie-smuggler insisted was “modest”.

Fears that China will exploit Australia’s neglectful – if not abusive – relationship with its Pacific neighbours are aired all week but the Morrison government isn’t listening. It does everything in its power to offend and alienate Pacific leaders as it clings to its ideological fixation with supporting a moribund coal industry at home.

Above all, enlisting or inspiring the support of Alan Jones, aka The Parrot, has helped the Morrison government shine a light on the unreason, the bullying, the racism and the misogyny which lie at its heart.

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Condescension and Climate Change: Australia and the Failure of the Pacific Islands Forum

It was predictably ugly: in tone, in regret, and, in some ways, disgust. Australia emerged from the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting isolated, the true spoiler of the party which saw 17 states facing the obstinacy of one. It had taken place on Tuvalu, some two hours flight north of Fiji. The capital Funafuti is located on vanishing land; the island state is facing coastal erosion, the pressing issue of salinity, the very crisis of its existence.

Pacific Island leaders were already wise to the accounting cosmetics of Canberra’s accountants prior to the Forum. It reeked, for instance, of a gesture for permissive pollution to the tune of $500 million: we give you money to boost “resilience” and sandbag your countries against rising water levels; we will keep polluting and emitting with expanded fossil fuel projects because that is what we are good at.

Alex Hawke, Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific, called the cash promise the “most amount of money Australia has ever spent on climate in the Pacific.” As Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga explained, “No matter how much money you put on the table, it doesn’t give you the excuse not to do the right thing.” That right thing was a reduction in emissions, “including not opening your coal mines.”

The PIF leaders were also aware about what disruptive role Australia was going to play. Australian politicians of the past and present have done little to endear themselves to a forum they have only recently felt more interest in because of China’s increasingly conspicuous presence. In 2015, when Tony Abbott held the reins of power, his culturally challenged immigration minister Peter Dutton, in conversation with the prime minister, quipped rather darkly that “time doesn’t mean anything when you’re about to have water lapping at your door.” The remark was a response to a meeting on Syrian refugees which had been running late, or on “Cape York time”, as he put it.

Ahead of the leaders’ forum, an annotated draft of the Pacific Islands Forum declaration revealed a sprinkling of qualifications, repudiations and rejections on the part of the Australian delegation. The comments from August 7 sought to restrict any total decarbonisation, bans on the future use of coal power plants, opt out clauses for the 1.5C limit in temperature rise, phasing out fossil fuel subsidies and the very mention of the term ‘climate change’.

When it came to proceedings, Prime Minister Scott Morrison showed his true garish colours: Australia was a small contributor to emissions; it was a global problem, and so others had to do more. In short, the weak excuse of any emission producing state. Besides, he kept trumpeting, Australia was a leading investor in the sector of renewables.

Back in Australia, the Australian broadcaster and regular vulgarian Alan Jones was busy attacking the leaders of the gathering, most notably New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern, who had suggested that Australia “had to answer the Pacific” on the climate change issue. A sock, he suggested, should have been strategically placed down her throat. He subsequently suggested that this was a “wilful misrepresentation of what I said obviously distract from the point that she was wrong about climate change and wrong about Australia’s contribution to carbon dioxide levels.”

Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama was sickeningly unimpressed, having expressed open admiration for New Zealand’s efforts to combat climate change. “Easy to tell someone to shove a sock down a throat when you’re sitting in the comfort of a studio. The people of the Pacific, forced to abandon their homes due to climate change, don’t have that luxury. Try saying it to a Tuvaluan child pleading for help.”

Michael McCormack, Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister, added the most revealing touch on Australia’s position at the PIF during a revealing business function in the rural town of Wagga Wagga on Friday. (McCormack, it should be noted, is on record as disputing evidence of an increase in global temperatures). With an address heavy with bruising paternalism, he thought the PIF leaders were bellyaching, needlessly lamenting their fate. He admitted “getting a bit annoyed when we have people in those sorts of countries pointing the finger at Australia and saying we should be shutting down all our resources sector so that, you know, they will continue to survive.” He had little doubt they would continue to do so, due to the “large aid assistance from Australia” and “because their workers come here and pick our fruit, pick our fruit grown with hard Australian enterprise and endeavour and we welcome them and we always will.” The only thing lacking in the statement was a Boris Johnson-styled garnish: a reference to cannibalism, or the toothy watermelon smiles.

A neat summary of the entire encounter between the Pacific Island leaders and Australia was provided by Tuvalu’s Sopoaga. “You [Scott Morrison] are concerned about saving your economy in Australia… I am concerned about saving my people in Tuvalu.”

The final communique proved lukewarm and non-committal, a feeble reiteration of existing understandings that climate change was a serious matter. Bainimarama supplied an acid opinion on the final text. “We came together in a nation that risks disappearing to the seas, but unfortunately, we settled for the status quo of our communique. Watered-down climate language has real consequences – like water-logged homes, schools, communities, and ancestral burial grounds.” Sopoaga was even more dramatic in assessing the response to the weakened language of the communique. “There were serious arguments and even shouting, crying, leaders were shedding tears.”

Sadly, the main Australian opposition party would not have done much better. Efforts on the part of Senator Penny Wong to claim a drastically different Labor approach must be put to rest. This is a party torn on the subject of King Coal, energy costs and renewables.

The hysterical aspect to PIF is that Australia’s denuding contribution will only serve to damage its own interests. In the short-term, Chinese diplomats will be delighted by the self-sabotaging efforts of the Morrison government. Beijing’s Special Envoy to the Pacific, Ambassador Wang Xuefeng, was on hand to tell the forum that “no matter how the international situation evolves, China will always be a good friend, partner and brother of Pacific Island Countries.” Expect a surge of interest towards the PRC in the forthcoming months.

A longer-term consequence is also impossible to ignore. Fine to joke about having refugee islanders pick the fruit of your country, but to do so requires places to grow fruit. Rising sea levels may will cause the dreaded vanishing of the island states, but it will also submerge a good deal of Australia’s precariously placed coastal cities. What a bitter, if not deserved outcome that would be.

 

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In Barnaby’s world, everything is about him

It comes as no surprise that the bill to have NSW catch up to the rest of the country in decriminalising abortion has all of a sudden become about Barnaby Joyce because, in Barnaby’s world, everything is about him.

One week we have Barnaby telling us we should raise Newstart because he was struggling to support his six children, his ex-wife, and his lover on the measly $211,000 (plus expenses) that he is gifted for being a beer-swilling backbencher.

Then the next week, he intones that women who have terminations, and the doctors who perform them, should be judged as murderers because they were some sort of threat to his unborn child whose rights he must protect.

Pity he wasn’t as concerned for the rights of his born children when he chose to abandon them because, hey, a man can’t be expected to remain faithful when he’s away from home so much.  Poor Barnaby was lonely and using a condom would have been infringing the rights of his unborn sperm.

And that cringeworthy interview he did with mistress and baby was necessary regardless of how much it must have hurt his wife and daughters because, hey, his son didn’t have a trust fund yet.

Barnaby also made the marriage equality debate personal, telling a rally that his four daughters would be affected if same-sex marriage was allowed.

“We know that the best protection for those girls is that they get themselves into a secure relationship with a loving husband, and I want that to happen for them.  I don’t want any legislator to take that right away from me.”

Yeah … nah.

When, in a blatant porkbarrelling exercise that went against all advice, Barnaby decreed that the pesticides authority should be moved from Canberra to his rural electorate, he seemed to have no consideration for the fact that he had just told a couple of hundred people that they would have to leave their homes, make their spouses quit their jobs, and their children leave their schools and friends.

Barnaby tells us that, as a farmer himself, he understands how devastating the drought is.  Whilst his family did run a sheep and cattle property, Barnaby went to boarding school in Sydney and then became an accountant.  The closest he has come to farming is speculating on land that may have CSG deposits and that may improve in value depending on the route of his inland rail boondoggle – a project that won’t generate enough revenue to cover its capital cost.

In order to satisfy his mates at the pub, Barnaby is more than happy to declare climate change is crap and that they can take all the water they need.

“We have taken water, put it back into agriculture, so we could look after you and make sure we don’t have the greenies running the show basically sending you out the back door, and that was a hard ask,” Barnaby told them.

Gina needs a few more dollars so Barnaby is happy to champion the push for more coal to be mined and burned.  A man’s gotta look out for the people who look after him, and if that means interfering in their relationships (and court cases) with their children, Barnaby has no qualms when it comes to looking after his patroness.

After the 2013 election, Joyce said to Tony Windsor, ‘You know, Tony, until you had decided not to run I had the money for the Armidale Hospital, as well as funding for the Legume to Woodenbong Road.’

‘When you were still the member and running,’ he said, ‘Abbott’s office said we could have a range of things, including $50 million for the hospital. But when you didn’t run they withdrew the money for the hospital and the road.’

So much for concern for his constituents.  Once he had the job, who cares?

Barnaby is certainly incompetent, possibly corrupt, with the empathy of a blood-sucking tick and the morals of an alley cat.

It is a mystery as to why decent country folk would re-elect this self-absorbed, self-serving charlatan.

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The Australian Dark Age

Can you imagine a dystopian future Australia ruled by an extremely conservative and fundamentalist religious government with attendant undertones of fascism and racism thrown in just to round things off?

Well, twenty years ago I tried to do just that, and I wrote a short screenplay called Perfidon – The New Dark Age.

It was a purposefully dark little idea about the worst set of unlikely circumstances that could possibly befall Australia, and not for a second did I think that it would remotely come within a bull’s roar of becoming a reality in my own lifetime.

Perfidon was a made-up variation of the word perfidious: treachery and bad things and all of that. Perfidon was the name of a prison, and it was a very bleak, cold, and isolated place indeed. It was the sort of place you got sent to if you were not a herd-follower, and you definitely got a spot in that clink if your brain thought for itself and did not have the government mandated consistency of a soft compliant sponge.

The mass of the population in that imagined Australia was cowed and fearful and terminally gullible, and they were well trained to report on anybody who transgressed against either the paramount political ideology or the paramount faith of the time.

In the screenplay it was not hard to come up with a handy list of the expected transgressors. Unionists, atheists, scientists, independent academics, anyone of the left, anyone of a different faith, the pursuers of social justice, the poor and disadvantaged, anybody with a variation in skin tone, anybody who loved or lived with somebody of their own gender, and the variantly opinionated free thinkers … they were all potential targets to be reported upon under the imagined they are not of us regime.

In that imagined Australia people had to be very careful about what they said, and who they said it to. But free thinkers being free thinkers, and unionists being perennial pursuers of the common good of the workers, and social justice types being social justice types, and uncowed people being uncowed people … all meant that in the story they could not help but stand up and refute the reigning ideology of that future time, and therefore outed themselves as excellent targets to be reported on.

The cowed masses, fearful, and hopeful of currying favour, turned up in droves to be the hopefully well rewarded dobbers. Inevitably, as duly reported upon Reportees, the transgressors were dragged off the street, or out of their homes, and dumped into the unwelcoming maw of Perfidon. Gosh, it was a dark little screenplay.

Then it got worse. Because the Reportees never, ever, returned from Perfidon.

At that point I sort of lost my way with the idea. Couldn’t quite figure out how to end it. So it got dumped into the I’ll think about that later file. Guess what? Later has arrived with a vengeance.

I don’t have to dust off the old Perfidon idea because our current Coalition Government is writing their own updated version of that old unpublished screenplay as they go along. Does any of the following sound familiar to you?

  • Attack and demonise the unions.
  • Attack anybody who holds a different ideological, or political, or religious, slant.
  • Do the Spartan thing and expose the poor the unemployed and the disadvantaged on the unforgiving hillsides of degradation, demonisation, poverty, and starvation.
  • Reward the compliant and attack the free thinkers and opinion holders.
  • De-fund or muzzle non-compliant non-religious community groups.
  • Ignore the Judiciary and grant ever increasing national security powers into the hands of favoured Ministerial henchmen.
  • Demonise anybody who is ‘other’ and label their ‘otherness’ as a threat to the security of the nation.
  • Mute the rationality of empirical science-based evidence.
  • Attack independent free-thinking journalism and use the police forces of the state to harass and suppress any non-compliant media.
  • Use Orwell’s Newspeak as a mechanism of thought diminishment, or if that doesn’t quite grab sufficiently, simply outright lie to the gullible masses and then present truth as falsity and falsity as truth.
  • Favour religious schools, and force religious proselytising into secular schools.
  • Place the enemies of the state, the very refugees who are the collateral damage of the wars of the state, into prisons from which there is no return.
  • Pay lip service to Indigenous aspiration.
  • Protect religion via legislation and de-power humanism and secularism.
  • Sustain and promote the bigotry of hurtful free speech and demean the veracity of polite free speech.
  • Whatever the overt nature of their criminality, protect supporters and donators, and attack the whistle blowers.

People who say it can never happen here are perhaps not critically analysing the unfolding script. It is already happening here, and it is not as if the evidence is hard to find for those with eyes that can see.

Some people I know sort of laugh at me when I say that there is a battle for the heart of this nation playing out under our very inattentive eyes. But I am deadly serious with my assertion.

It is no joke to say that the Liberal and National Parties of Australia, the Coalition, have burrowed themselves deeply under the skin of far too many compliant Australians. And the Coalition has done so with the poisonous tenacity of a latched-on Paralysis Tick.  The poison is circulating in the national bloodstream, and it will take an incredible effort of national will to expunge it.

The fear in our society is palpable. It is a government engendered fear. Fear of refugees, fear of the voice of the original people of this nation, fear of anybody with a skin coloured other than white, fear of the religiously different, fear of anybody who is not a herd follower, fear of the thought of difference itself, the ephemeral fear that somebody is coming to take away what we have,  and fear of who we really are and what we have really become. Fear of looking in our own mirror in other words.

Our collective compliance, our collective acceptance of terrible things done in our name, our collective fear of being different and brave and strong, is gutting any chance of a better Australia.

We all have to make a decision at some point regarding what to do about the direction the Coalition Government is taking Australia in. The following assessment of the state of that decision making process is unambiguous:

Some have already made their decision with courage and heart, some are wavering under the lure of incessant tax breaks and the unsubtle pandering to aspirational greed, and the saddest part of it all is that the rest are compliant and fearfully complicit drones. Harsh perhaps, but try to prove that it is not so.

But are we prepared to actually do something about it?

I have been politely rebuked here and there for suggesting that the interminable internecine warfare and kneecapping that goes on between the ALP and the Greens needs to stop, and that both parties need to get together and form a cohesive workable coalition.

I don’t suggest such a thing just for the fun of it. There are two major coalitions competing for the favour, for the very will if you like, of the people here in Australia. One coalition is a deadly parasite on our national psyche and it is devastatingly effective at garnering electoral success, and the other coalition, or non-coalition, is a frustrating exercise in the mournful ability of the reasonably like-minded to continually self-sabotage their own progressive efforts.

One could almost scream about the pointlessness of the internecine battles between the Greens and the ALP, because meanwhile, at a higher level, the war for protecting and nurturing the soul of this nation is being lost. Those two parties, in union, are our only hope of arresting the current negative slide. Those in either party whose main motivation is primacy over the other are self-distractedly and inadvertently doing no less than a disservice to the future of this nation.

We need leaders, we need courage and strength and guts to stem the tide of extreme rightist conservatism that is currently swamping and damaging Australia. It is disingenuous of the Liberal Party to infer that their extreme rightest totalitarian rump has been muted and marginalised, the reality is that the ideology of the rump has saturated the core and has been window-dressed up as mainstream and unthreatening.

It is incorrect to say that the Coalition Government has no cohesive set of policies. The long list mentioned above is but a sample of their policy directives and they are now, with a slightly more compliant Senate, in a far better position to enact more of their agenda.

Leadership … just as Gerry Adams, Martin McGuiness, and Ian Paisly had to step away from everybody else who was clamouring for their ear and reach a workable solution to their collective Irish troubles, then I think that Anthony Albanese and Richard Di Natale need to step above individual party interests and combine their efforts in the interests of a far greater national good.

And the answer, to my mind, lies in both the political and the personal.

At the personal level people wonder what it is that they could possibly do to bring about positive change. In my case keyboard protests have their value, and I use that avenue because words can have power and can influence opinion, but their reach, certainly in social media circles, is often limited to the already sympathetic or already cause-converted. Like anybody else I have struggled with the question of how to convert such thoughts into action.

I remember the power of the March Australia marches against the excesses of the Abbott Government from a couple of years ago. Those Marches dragged me off my verandah, away from my keyboard, and out onto the streets. They dragged an awful lot of people out onto the streets. From that experience I went on to organise a civil rights rally in, of all places, Gympie, and I went on to deliver a speech in support of welfare recipients at a rally in Brisbane. None of that saved the world but it was an example of one individual stepping outside the comfort zone of his own dronish compliance.

Imagine if we all did something like that?

I also learnt something from a solo protest I undertook two years ago. In order to protest against a mega-development by Sekisui at Yaroomba Beach here on the Sunshine Coast I grabbed a Save Yaroomba Beach type sign and planted my feet firmly on a wide divider in the middle of the road with traffic whizzing around me from every direction. Got a lot of honks that day, mostly supportive, but I’m so light it’s a wonder the wind draft didn’t spin me round like a top.

The police turned up eventually and, with grace and humour and style, two of them shunted my geriatric bones across to the footpath. I learnt that it is easy to shunt one person, but I reflected on the fact that it is almost impossible to shunt 10,000.

I really think we are getting to the point, or perhaps we are already past it, where all the talking about the ills of this Coalition Government is going nowhere, it is fast becoming an example of truthful opinion circulating like hot air around itself.

Concerted legal and peaceful action needs to begin, both at the political and personal level.

At the political level it may require something we have rarely seen here in Australia. The Greens and the ALP seek to progressively advance Australian society through the mechanisms of the party system and parliamentary processes. Well and good, generally tried and true, but it isn’t currently working.

The streets are there. The streets are waiting.

It is done elsewhere around the world so is it so unthinkable to suggest that the leaders of our progressive parties should call the people out onto the streets to peacefully protest en masse?

Will it cost them votes in some quarters? Yes, it will. Is it time they moved on from that worry and stood up for the principles they espouse? Yes, it is.

In the past groups like March Australia, Lock the Gate Alliance, Refugee advocates, Amnesty, various environmental groups etc have taken the lead in organising peaceful mass street demonstrations, and the odd progressive politician has turned up for the photo opp. I’m suggesting that the leaders of the ALP and the Greens call for, organise, and lead peaceful mass street rallies in all our capital cities and main regional areas to protest against the insidious agenda of our openly right wing, and increasingly suppressive, government.

To anybody who might think that I’m being slightly over the top here all I can say is the following … the water is in the pan, it is currently lukewarm, and we are the frog. Also, the mass of the population under the old Weimar Republic thought that the totalitarian ‘jobs and growth’ mantra was a wonderful thing, until they learnt at great cost to themselves and others that it wasn’t when economic crisis and political instability led to the collapse of the republic and the rise of the Third Reich.

We certainly need to cut through, and simply waiting for the three-year electoral cycle to grind over is not providing it, and peacefully taking to the streets under a clearly defined joint political banner may well be the only way to truly achieve it.

For putting forward this proposal I may well be called many things by the ideologically invested and the compliant, well water off a duck’s back and all that. I could not even remotely be called a radical, I am an average old age pensioner Australian, and what I see happening to our country, and the apathetic response to those events, worries me deeply.

A female friend of similar age suggested to me the other day that once you get past 60, especially if you are a woman, but also if you are a man, you become invisible to society. There is truth in that. But it is also truthful to say that people of our vintage have seen an awful lot over the course of our lifetimes, and we know some of the lessons of past history.

Our parents were of the generation that had to physically combat, and in many cases lose their lives, to stem that last terrible flowering of rightist suppression, and because the events of that time unfolded so fast they were not afforded the time or the luxury to get in early with peaceful mass street protests. We have the luxury, and at the moment, a slowly but accelerating diminishing amount of time.

People sort of jokingly say that it is all hopeless here and that we should all emigrate to New Zealand or something. Well nope to that. We should stand firmly on our ground, and firmly claim it. We should fight the rightist move in Australia before it gets a chance to develop further and truly flower.

But I don’t want to be one of one. I want to be one of 10,000, or 50,000, or 100,000, or 500,000, or one million. I would like to see the coalition of the Greens and the ALP call the people out onto the streets to peacefully protest against what this Coalition Government is doing to our country. This nation that we love and cherish is more than bloody well worth fighting for.

Perfidon was simply meant to be a story. It was an exercise in imagination banged out on an old manual typewriter. That’s all it was ever meant to be. I never thought I would see it unfolding as a reality in my own Australian lifetime.

Image from independent.co.uk (AFP/Getty )

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ScoMo’s captain’s pick could sink the entire ship.

What do you do when your Treasury secretary, a controversial, political posting in 2018, claims that workers are to blame for their own wage stagnation? It’s nothing to do with government. Wage too low? Just find another job that pays better. Joe Hockey was right all along when he told those who were struggling to buy a home “to get a good job.”

Promote him is what you do. Continue the war on the poor; show neoliberalism to be alive and ageing well. Genius. Bugger the boffins, if you ever need advice, there’s always the IPA or Deloitte Access or Judith Sloan. And The Australian Terry McCrann is always full of good news even barracking for APRA this weekend.

Parachuting Phil Gaetjens, Liberal hack and Canberra-Bubble head, a career public servant since 1977, into Dr Martin Parkinson’s chair as secretary of the Department of PM and Cabinet is ScoMo’s top act of the week. Out with the old and in with the old mate is all part of today’s hyper-partisan politics. Shocking. Another apparatchik, Liberal staffer, Simon Atkinson, appointed deputy secretary by Morrison could well move into the top job.

Adding a tragic element to the drama is the fact that Parkinson has to be sacked, two years before his time expires, to make way for ScoMo’s chum and new shiny bum, as a bureaucrat is often fondly termed.

Of course, Phil’s got a few runs on the board. John Howard got his help to spend once in a lifetime mining profits buying votes, he also helped Costello handcraft a gift for Hockey in the form of a budget structural deficit of $56 bn PA. There’s a lot more including bringing in a GST that, of course, cuts hardest the poorer you are – in rather the same way that Morrison’s flat tax system is a boon to the wealthy but sees the ordinary worker pay more than their fair share.

And speaking of things unfair, Phil helped set up Costello’s now $148 billion Future Fund in 2005. Costello likes to kid us that the fund is set up to guarantee public servants and politicians their superannuation – a purpose for which it is both inadequate and unnecessary but its main effect so fair is to takes billions away from useful functions such as education, health and infrastructure as Kaye Lee has clearly pointed out.

ScoMo’s set up a future fund himself to drought-proof Australia which is modelled on Abbott’s dud Medical future fund which is also all about investing in equities, cash and debt securities and keeping the financial industry in work. ScoMo’s drought fund will also dole out $100 m P.A. on some loose criteria, creating what is effectively a Nationals’ slush fund.

ScoMo’s appointment of Gaetjens, sends a message not just about rewarding political time servers and politicising the public service but about surrounding himself with yes-men; a claque of vacuous, boosters like himself. Long gone are quaint public service customs such as promotion on merit. Above all, Morrison sets up a bond of patronage. Let others inspire loyalty or command respect. Yet, of course, the bond does have drawbacks such as any capacity to provide the wisdom gleaned from experience and expert, objective, frank and fearless advice. Treasury is a case in point.

The Hayne Royal Commission exposed Treasury’s complete failure to regulate financial services, a key portfolio function.  Forecasts appear more wishful thinking or influence from above than careful projection. Once an engine of economic reform, since 2013, Treasury is now reduced to predicting heroic wage growth rates that never materialise.

Its latest 2018-19 wages forecast of 2.5% has been revised down three times since 2016. It has failed to predict the collapse in economic growth in the second quarter of 2018. But the problems run deeper than poor performance.

In February, responding to Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus’ concerns, Parkinson observed pointedly,

“I regard acts that have the substance, or appearance, of politicising the APS as threats to the effectiveness of Australia’s democracy.”

Deposing Dr Parkinson, whom ANU Chancellor and former Foreign Minister Gareth Evans praises as “the outstanding public servant of his generation” who’ll be missed is but one stunt in a week of unbridled chutzpah in both local and international events. It almost upstages the Coalition’s attack on its own bipartisan Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, the PJCIS, chaired by Handy Andy Hastie. Why? Peter Dutton doesn’t like compromise.

ScoMo & Co can’t possibly have an advisory committee so uppity that it gives you advice. As for traitor, Mark Dreyfus,

“Mark Dreyfus waters every bill down … what ends up happening is we end up with a bill that’s ineffective and these matters are too important for that … I’m not going to allow national security agencies to be stymied by Mark Dreyfus’ ability to water down bills.” Consultation in the ScoMo government post PJCIS 2.0? It’s now just a rubber stamp.

Dutton’s histrionics echo performance artist Boris Johnson who becomes the first professional clown to enter 10 Downing Street while con man Bernie Madoff, currently serving a 150 year sentence for the largest Ponzi scheme in history, in which he swindled thousands of investors out of billions of dollars, petitions Trump for clemency.

These are more than parallels or echoes or outbreaks of the same neoliberal, post truth Trumpian zeitgeist, they are interactive influences in a mediated, globalised world where connectivity makes intimate what used to be remote.

Meanwhile, our local performer, PM ScoMo, stars in his Towards Zero Suicide advertorial which portrays his compassion on screens across the nation, a sequel to Praying for Rain, his popular drought relief melodrama, while, hidden from prying eyes, his government drives refugees to take their own lives in the suicide factories on Manus and Nauru or in lock-up or at home in terror on the mainland.

There have been 24 deaths in Australia’s onshore and offshore detention facilities since 2010, according to refugee groups, with 14 confirmed as suicides. More than half of the recorded deaths were people held on Manus and Nauru.

Not to be forgotten is Robo-Debt’s hugely successful extortion of the poor, about to be stepped up this year.

From June 2016 to October 2018, the Department of Human Services (DHS) sent more than 925,000 automatically generated letters asking welfare recipients to confirm their income as part of the federal government’s online compliance scheme, known as “robo-debt”. Of those who received letters, 2030 died within the next two years.

Because our DHS does not collect data on cause of death, it is impossible to say how many took their own lives. Although anecdotal evidence was presented to a 2017 senate inquiry, DHS representatives could supply no details of location of the 2030 deceased letter recipients or how many – if any – had been referred to a social worker or helpline.

Morrison’s bid to be our most autocratic PM yet, complete with theatrical displays of public compassion and a public service on a leash, is upstaged by Barnaby Joyce, Craig Kelly, Andrew Bragg and a rash of others suffering relevance deprivation, free-lancing costly ideas or madly impractical policy in the media. Best leave that stuff to me, ScoMo, says in what media report is a “riot act” reading to his party room, Tuesday. Some call it a carpeting. All agree it’s ineffectual.

Yet there’s no censure for good old boy Gaetjens with his “blame the worker” shtick. What can Phil mean – apart from an even more politicised, partisan public service? We’ve caused our own wage freeze with our inflexibility? Workers should be out there jogging from job to job; forever seeking out bosses who can “offer greater productivity”. He claims there’s historical evidence to support the notion that better wages are to be found at more productive enterprises. Oddly, this does not explain the handsome salaries enjoyed by senior public servants. Especially veteran political apparatchiks.

Treasury produces a working paper and deputy secretary Meghan Quinn gives a couple of dull speeches on the virtue of labour market fluidity. Yet the case is flimsy. Among other deficiencies, the authors say they’ve left out utilities, education, public administration and safety, health and financial services from their analysis, in brief the top five sectors for contemporary wage growth. Yet there is no doubt that the thesis is a winner in terms of political utility.

Crikey’s Bernard Keane and Glenn Dyer call out the wilful evasion – if not self-delusion at the heart of Gaetjens’ heartlessness – his scapegoating of lazy workers. They also point to the inadequate evidence and note that the Productivity Commission and The Reserve bank are far less convinced. But it’s bound to get a lot airplay.

Wouldn’t it be great if the whole problem of wage stagnation could be explained away as no big deal? As though the flat or in some cases negative real wages growth of recent years was merely a passing phase, not evidence that something had gone structurally wrong in neoliberalism?

On a smaller scale, the Coalition’s answer to consumer’s rising power prices, a function of our electricity cartel and market rules which encourages generators to game the system is to tell the consumer to shop around.

It’s nonsense. But it’s a timely diversion as sectors of commerce and industry rev up their calls for Newstart to be increased by $75. It pays to paint the welfare recipient as a job snob or one who lacks the gumption to get up, get out and get a real job. And of course, if it’s all the workers’ fault, then a government with no IR policy is doing the right thing.

The jobs are out there, affirms dynamic deputy PM, “Mick-Mack”, as Michael McCormack as he is dubbed by ScoMo who has pet names for his colleagues, all part and parcel of the PM’s footy coach approach to leadership. If only our dole bludgers would get up off the sofa. Why, he was out in the bush the other day and they were just begging for workers.

“Get off Newstart and go Bush” is Mick-Mack’s message for the young unemployed – despite the fact that in outback Queensland, for example, the ABS reports an unemployment rate of 27.6%. The Brotherhood of St Laurence ought to have a word to him. It lists twenty hotspots for youth unemployment; they are all in the bush.

Lowest is the New England area and that suffers 14% unemployment. If time permits, Mick-Mack could also research rampant regional underemployment – and then there’s the issue of migrant workers brought in as cheap labour. Or the deputy PM could just do some research. Read some of the information his own government produces.

ABS data records just 243,000 job vacancies in Australia in May, for example, with 697,000 workers unemployed. Even if each worker has the skills the boss is looking for, even McCormack, surely, is capable of calculating the shortfall. On the other hand, his studied innumeracy and cruelty would not see him out of place as treasury secretary.

Pete Costello’s former chief of staff, Phil Gaetjens, the fiscal whizz-kid who helped Howard blow the entire proceeds of Australia’s mining boom largely through tax handouts to the rich, is exalted for his loyalty this week, although any notion of nepotism or politicisation of the public service is scotched by ScoMo. Besides, he says, it’s all been done before. ScoMo reads out a list, he just happens to have on him, of Labor hacks who also have gone on to be top public servants.

What was to be the megalomaniac’s master-stroke of mates in high places; installing his pal Gaetjens in charge of PM and Cabinet and appointing himself Minister for the Public Service, however, quickly turns into a surreal nightmare. It’s not for want of trying. ScoMo tries to talk softly and carry a big stick but it all comes unstuck with no agenda.

“My view of the public service is straightforward: respect and ­expect — respect their capabil­ities, and expect them to get on board and implement the government’s agenda.”  Agenda? ScoMo has no policy agenda and it shows. Respect? Hasn’t he just sacked an urbane, respected public servant and replaced him with a two dimensional party hack? Worse, ScoMo resorts to what he fondly believes are subtleties but which to any bureaucrat appear as simply idle threats.

“We don’t expect the public service to run the government. That’s what we were elected to do,” he tells The Australian. “In my ­experience, the public service ­always works best when it has strong guidance and leadership.”

Scrap Medicare? Go for nuclear power?  Include the family home in the aged pensioners’ assets test? Make super optional for those earning $50k or less – when $47k is our workforce’s median annual income? Backbenchers from crazy Craig Kelly to barking Barnaby Joyce are all over the airwaves. MPs whom even Captain ScoMo knows are best kept locked in the Liberal Party brig are frigging in the rigging; doing everything they can to get attention.

Liberals’ current festival of ideas is an intriguing oxymoron, were not most proposals just plain silly. Could it be simply a function of nature abhorring the policy vacuum at the dead heart of Morrison’s miracle? ScoMo tells MPs to stop it.

Proposing policy initiatives in the media is forbidden. Run them through proper party processes, implores a PM whose signature is policy on the run. Relocating our embassy to Jerusalem? The Cambodian Solution. Both good ideas at the time. He was all for constitutional recognition of indigenous people for a few days after appointing Ken Wyatt his fixer. It lasted four full days, until he felt the dead weight of his right wing’s disapproval and ruled it out.

Morrison’s strictures make his leadership look even more tenuous, as mavericks laugh at him, blow raspberries or ignore him. By week’s end upping Newstart, at least, is firmly on the agenda and it’s likely to cost at least $3 billion for starters. Bugger the bleeding hearts who want the poor and the elderly to stay alive. There goes the sacred surplus.

Worse, the proposal to raise Newstart is supported by rabid socialists such as Philip Lowe, Governor of the Reserve Bank who believes helping pensioners to afford to feed themselves regularly might be just the boost we need to stimulate the economy, despite his compromising photo-opp with Hungarian Josh Frydenberg – where, after some prompting by the Treasurer, Phil whispers that the “Australian economy is growing” and the “fundamentals are strong”, immediately seized upon by media pundits as solid evidence that while Josh talks tosh he knows what he’s doing.

You can tell Dr Phil’s having a lend of Frydenberg when he sends up the Treasurer’s set-up witless with his line,

“But I don’t think we should forget that more Australians have jobs today than ever before in Australian history. That’s a remarkable achievement.” Remarkable indeed considering that we have more Australians than ever before. Our population continues to grow, boosted by our wildly successful jumbo Australia scam where migrants arrive by jet in record numbers, as Border Force combs the seas for the odd boat-load of refugees. But all is well at Border Control.

Immigration Minister David Coleman, crows over yet another Coalition triumph. Onshore asylum claims “fell by 12 per cent in the 2018-19 program year, a result of the Government’s focus on stopping unmeritorious claims.”

But, as former Immigration official Abul Rizvi notes, that’s not saying much.  The year before saw a record 28,000 applications – and after an astonishing rise to 18,000 applications in 2016-17.

Then there’s those social activists and more bleeding heart liberals at neoliberal lobby group Deloitte Access who argue a $75 boost might cost a few billion but that it would yield a “prosperity dividend”.

The PM gives team ScoMo a pep-talk and a finger-wag. Government is not a blank cheque, he says. Those who go to the media disrespect their colleagues. His lecture results only in the odd snigger and a few muffled titters. The lunatics are on the grass. Not only does a two seat majority ginger up his internal critics, he’s hoist by his own petard.

Having won the election all by himself – and erasing all traces of his party, in “Honey I Shrunk the Libs”, a successful gambit – helped no end by Clive Palmer’s non-stop noxious anti Labor propaganda into regional Western Australia and rural Queensland, Morrison the miracle-worker, finds himself sidelined by his own genius; upstaged by an untalented, unruly mob anxiously clamouring for attention. Relevance deprivation syndrome sets in early when your leader is an egotistical control-freak who has yet to learn, as Fran Bailey put it “to work with other people”.

Yet if the spectacle of a party hack parachuted into head of PM and Cabinet is not wondrous enough, the nation thrills to a brilliantly zinger-less, orchestrated Question Time grilling of Angus Taylor from an Opposition keen to weed out corruption as it needles a busted Gus on his meeting with a compliance officer about relaxing the law in his bid to apply glyphosate, the cockies’ carcinogenic poison of choice, to endangered grasslands on the family farm. Or was it agent orange? ScoMo is completely upstaged in Albo’s new tactics; ignored as Labor treats the PM with icy disdain.

“We’ll treat Morrison as if he’s just another Minister,” a key Labor strategist explains to Paul Bongiorno.

It seems to be working. Immediately it gets under the egomaniac’s skin. By the close of play Tuesday, Morrison, the balding Prima Donna sulks publicly, upbraids Labor with a sooky-la-la rebuke,

“I would invite the opposition to perhaps ask me a question tomorrow. They didn’t do that today.”

Given your obsession with secrecy and control; your record of turning every question into an attack on Labor and given your allergy to objective advice, not being asked questions is something you may need to get used to ScoMo – but just have a word with your department. Phil and the rest of the crew will be quick to tell you you’re doing a fantastic job.

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How good is this crap we are dishing up

Scott Morrison has instructed Coalition MPs that they are not to talk about anything that they did not take to the election.  No-one is to have an opinion about anything or to make any suggestions.  As Ken Wyatt quickly learned, even opening up a discussion will not be tolerated.

They are not to say anything unless they have something to announce.

Since the only thing they took to the election, tax cuts, has passed, they have had to go to Peter Dutton to fill the breach with confected problems.  Toss in the usual union-bashing, and yet more drought stuff to keep the Nats happy, and that seems to be all they intend to do.

Greg Hunt pops out occasionally to announce threepence ha’penny for medical research, or to make a fanfare about the generic version of a drug being put on the PBS.

It’s hard to take this newfound interest in suicide prevention seriously when they continue to keep innocent refugees in limbo, when they lock up Indigenous people for petty indiscretions at alarming rates, when they refuse to introduce responsible gambling legislation, and when they refuse to do anything about climate change that is destroying people’s livelihoods.

The highest age-specific suicide rate in 2017 was observed in the 85+ age group (32.8 per 100,000), yet the Coalition refuses to discuss assisted dying.

The lack of affordable housing is having a devastating effect but the Coalition clings to tax concessions that favour investors and which distort investment away from more productive enterprises.  Had they adopted Labor’s policy of restricting negative gearing to new properties in the future, they could have stimulated a flagging construction industry.

They talk about caring about stopping domestic violence, but the lack of emergency refuge whilst millions are spent on advertising and awareness campaigns shows they do not understand the crisis.

We don’t have enough money to increase Newstart yet we have enough to cut taxes, pay billions out in excess franking credit refunds, and deliver a surplus.  It is glaringly apparent that a surplus is more important to this government than the people who are struggling in poverty.

The Taylor dynasty keeps hitting the news, but only about how they have used their positions to try to get public money or some deregulation that just so happens to benefit them and the organisations with which they have been involved.  Energy and emissions reduction have become a plaything rather than a policy.

The restart of polling shows the electorate are quite impressed with the ScoMo show – thumbs up and take my picture.

How good is this crap we are dishing up.

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The Australian Goes into Bat for Folau: A Response

I thought I was done with this Folau nonsense, but the Un-Australian has printed a piece of breathtaking propaganda which screams out for a dissection. The source piece is long, so this will likely be a monster. Perhaps put on a pot of tea?

Part One: Not a Good Start 

Even the headline of this piece is a cracker:

No forgiveness for Folau’s sins against the PC church

Sigh. Folau did not ‘sin’ against ‘political correctness’. The company for whom he worked responded to his bigoted views (as they would have to anyone else) and sacked him. That is what happened. Nothing more. This explains the financial action against him by Rugby Australia. As for the blasting he received from the general public, this is called free speech. Contrary to recent conservative orthodoxy, free speech does not mean you say whatever you want and everyone else has to STFU.

The opening lines of the piece is not much better

The take-home message of the Israel Folau scandal is as clear as it is terrifying: Christians are no longer welcome in public life. If you adhere to core Christian beliefs about sin, hell and damnation, you will be purged from polite society

The Prime Minister of the nation is a pentecostal christian who recently attended a religious conference and actually said ‘Australia needs more prayer’. Mr Morrison is, to the best of my knowledge, still welcome in public life. The first claim is a demonstrable lie. As for ‘adhering to core christian beliefs about sin, hell and damnation’, these people are not purged from society by any means. Mr. Folau was not fired out of a cannon to the other side of the country for what he said. Rather, he was simply held to account for views which, in light of recent social progress, are now not as accepted as they once were. Christians who say bigoted things using your precious ‘free speech’ being responded to by others using free speech? The cheek! The outrage! The gall!

Part Two: Religious Misinterpretation and False Equivalence

The author continues with one of the more popular anti-gay passages from the christian new testament, that of Romans 1:26-7. He misinterprets it by ignoring the context that it was the christian god himself who forced the people to behave as they did. Compounding this gross misinterpretation is the suggestion that the men had been turned away from ‘the natural use of the female’ – seriously. Barbaric nonsense.

The author’s point here is that if you hold to what the hebrew and greek bibles say about homosexuality, you are ‘branded a moral transgressor’. No, you are not branded as a moral transgressor. You are simply called out for the unevolved, bigoted clown that you are. Your morals are, quite literally, not from this millenium (or the previous one for that matter). Society has moved on. We no longer burn witches, stone or burn heretics or keep slaves. This idiot then adds

critics of christianity now use the tactics that christianity itself once used in its darker moments in history

Unless and until ‘critics of christianity’ are burning people alive for the crime of public disagreement, or perpetrating other acts of violence against ‘transgressors’, you can leave the room and not come back. The very idea that the tactics of modern society in not allowing hate-speech because book are comparable to those of the church itself in medieval times is laughable, and offensive to all the victims of actual violence carried out by the medieval church. Get off my lawn you intellectual midget.

Part Three: False Persecution

In what is fast becoming a tired aspect of this narrative, the author turns to the persecution card. They believe this is a trump card, since disagreement with the premise is evidence for it. So they believe. But like any other form of begging the question (which this is), you did not prove the premise from which you are extrapolating. Back to the piece though. This next part has to be quoted in full to be believed. The author says

 

Yet I find the persecution of Folau repulsive and an alarming sign of the times. It demonstrates how far PC intolerance has gone and how thoroughly anyone who doesn’t slavishly subscribe to contemporary orthodoxy can expect to be punished.

The crap is strong in this one. He is not, as I just said, being persecuted for his beliefs. He is subject to responses, both rhetorical and financial, because he said bigoted things with which people, including the company for whom he works, disagree. Now, the fact that his religion motivated him to say said bigoted things is not relevant. Linking the action taken against Folau to his religion is a non-sequitur and a red herring.

Let us translate the phrase ‘slavishly subscribe to contemporary orthodoxy’, for this is a doozy. Contemporary orthodoxy is conservative code for social progress, otherwise known as living in the modern age. Contemporary orthodoxy is a world that has evolved morally from the teaching of a bronze age book. This is a world where gays are accepted, blacks are not kept in chains and women are not property. In short? A world where christians no longer rule. Clinging petulantly to your beliefs as the world moves on is the equivalent of standing on the platform as the train leaves the station. You get left behind.

Part Four: Doubling Down

The author then recaps the facts in the Folau case (suitably spun). He then proceeds to double down on the persecution narrative. Rugby Australia had, in the name of tolerance, ‘vilified Folau because of his religion’. See above. Sigh.

Referring to the statement put forward by Rugby Australia which effectively said Folau’s bigoted views were at odds with their desire to be inclusive and welcoming of everyone, the author said this

This Orwellian statement translates as follows: “We will not tolerate vilification on the basis of religion — unless your religion is traditional Christianity, in which case we will vilify you.

Once more for the impregnably dense: the responses which Folau has received have nothing to do with the brand of BS in which he believes. It is fair to say that anyone who behaved as he did, regardless of why, would have been treated the same way. If it seems like you have read this before in my earlier articles on this topic, I apologise. They make the same tired arguments, I wield the axe in the same way. Like sands through the hourglass.

The use of George Orwell, to describe the response from Folau’s detractors is a new one. However, the irony does appear lost on this author. The ‘religious freedom bill’ is the ultimate example of Orwellian language. Now, all legislation to some extent is Orwellian: the title either means nothing or is framed in such a way as to be politically expedient. Examples include the infamous PATRIOT Act in the US. Who was going to vote against that? But back to the point. This author bitches about Orwellian language in the age of the ‘Religious Discrimination Act’? Seriously!

Part Five (a): The First ‘Lesson’ of the Folau Scandal

This clown extracts three lessons from this Folau nonsense, and it is on these that I want to end

First, it confirms that PC is the new religion. Political correctness now does what pointy-hatted priests used to do: seeks out thought criminals and moral transgressors and punishes them for their wicked beliefs

Ah yes, political correctness, the go to buzzword of the right that describes social progress made since Patrick Troughton was The Doctor. What this Australian propagandist calls ‘political correctness’ is essentially society-wide politeness. This we often express as tolerance and acceptance of those who are different. Well that is way too christ-like for these modern christians, so screw that.

Part Five (b): The Second ‘Lesson’

His second ‘lesson’ is

The left will turn a blind eye to the use and abuse of capitalist power if it serves their purposes. So, just as leftists have cheered Silicon Valley oligarchs as they have expelled from social media anyone who has an anti-PC point of view, so they have applauded GoFundMe’s shunning of Folau.

Complaining about the use and abuse of corporate power when you write for Rupert Murdoch is the height of lack of self-awareness! SERIOUSLY! You work for Rupert Murdoch! What he means, of course, is that corporate power was used to target someone on his team. The issue is not the use of corporate power itself, but rather who the targets are. THis fact exposes the author as an unprincipled hack!

Also, anti-PC advocates are expelled from social media? Donald Trump, Paul Joseph Watson and Carl Benjamin (Sargon of Akkad) all remain on social media. Next. Also, while the left may have applauded GoFundMe’s decision to close Folau’s campaign, that does not change the fact that it was the right decision. If their platform was the basis for a bigot defending himself against legitimate employer reaction to breach of contract, their reputation would have tanked. This was an act of financial self-preservation.

Part Five (c): The Final ‘Lesson’

The third and final ‘lesson’ from this flaming garbage is

that Christianity is one religion it is acceptable to mock and persecute these days. If you were to criticise Islam, you would be branded an “Islamophobe”. You would be accused of stirring up racist sentiment. You would be denounced and harassed and censured.

Any and all religions are subject to mockery by those who do not believe them. The christian faith is subject to greater mockery in Australia because it is more prevalent. It also takes itself way too seriously, and Australians are always up for a good laugh at anything that does that. But even so, it is not mockery to which Folau and his not-so-merry band of bigots have faced. It is scorn! It is outrage! He is being treated like the hateful, intolerant religious zealot he is. That he and his fellow conservatives do not like the fact that you can’t use religion as a sword and shield anymore is not my problem.

As for the suggestion that criticism of islam is called islamophobic, this is limited to the authoritarian left; the so-called purple hair brigade. Frequently, when the mainstream left uses the term, it is in response to claims that all muslims be banned from entering the US, or all muslims are terrorists. These are bigoted generalisations that do, in fact, suggest an irrational fear of muslims.

Conclusion

Let us hope this is the last time we have to deal with this nonsense (unlikely). The christian community needs to learn and accept that speech has consequences, particularly when you work for a company that values its reputation.

The final, and most important actual lessons from this are as follows

  1. Society has evolved past the point where they require a book to tell them how to act.
  2. Disagreeing with, and legislating away, your ability to discriminate against people is not discrimination against you!
  3. As Anita Sarkeesian said ‘When you are used to privilege, equality seems like oppression’

The batshit crazy ramblings of Barnaby Joyce

Two days ago, the drunken adulterer who used to occasionally fill the role of leader of our country posted this on Facebook:

Warning:  The following post was written by Barnaby Joyce and contains no commentary or analysis by me.  If you don’t want to waste time reading his ramblings, this isn’t for you.

“The very idea that we can stop climate change is barking mad. Climate change is inevitable, as geology has always shown.” These are the views of New Zealand lecturer of geology, David Shelley. A person vastly more competent than me and the flotilla of others telling the kids the world is going to end from global warming.

The central theme of David Shelley’s analysis is that sea levels are rising and have been for thousands of years and will fall during the next ice age which is expected about now, give or take a thousand years.

When the ice age does arrive temperatures will drop around ten degrees. A warmer planet will be a disconsolate chronicle and many, maybe most, will die from starvation as is the usual experience of man or beast in previous ice ages.

The weather is going to brutally win the population problem and the parliament of Australia has no power against it. One may suggest that warmer weather is the better problem of the two.

One of the few graces of being on the backbench is you can be honest with what your views really are. I believe this is one of the greatest policy phantoms, the misguided and quite ludicrous proposition that Australia can have any affect on the climate. If we could we should be the first to make it rain and, more importantly, stop the recurrence of an ice age anytime in the coming millennium.

Politics takes politics to the absurd. We have to absolutely affirm that our domestic settings can deal with a proposition which is stated quite clearly by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that: “In climate research and modelling, we should recognise that we are dealing with a coupled nonlinear chaotic system, and therefore that the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible.”

You don’t get the feeling when you listen to the political propaganda or the supporting lobbyists that there is any doubt about their capacity to “fix the climate problem” I do get the feeling that you will be tried for heresy if you dare question the zeitgeist so you basically have to lie about your honest assessment of what the hell we are doing to our economy, standard of living, our basic rights and the real future of our children.

Today, more than in the past, the political debate is set within a predetermined paradigm. Participants can not ague outside these preset boundaries. Maybe it is over cynical but I believe the promotion of the primacy of the state over the individual is very well served by the apparent necessity of climate policy.

Private property rights are removed, by the implementation of vegetation laws, because of “climate action”. The state will limit your access to electricity because of “climate action”. You will drive an electric car because of “climate action”. You will divest the nation of its largest export because of “climate action”. Rather than state there is no prospect whatsoever that any action of ours, and most likely of anyone else, will have any affect whatsoever on the trajectory climate is on.

We have instead the congenial narrative that we are all trying to make the world get cooler, but one path or the other path is the better alternative of cooling policies . We will do this by shutting down all our power stations, replacing them with windmills and rejiggering our nation away from our largest exports of mining and agricultural resources to carbon neutral tourism and the knowledge economy. Australia will be the catalyst to a global epiphany and the totalitarian Chinese regime will follow our lead because of our righteousness followed by India and the United States.

No, I don’t think that will happen. I hate to say it but I doubt the majority of people on the planet, give a toss about the Paris Agreement. I would be amazed if one percent of the planet could competently explain it.

I will make one prediction; after this is published it will be promptly followed by the remnants of the traditional media in furious pursuit of my heresy. Questions will be asked by the fourth estate and high octane derision will issue forth from the climate change actionistas.

No doubt I will be accused of not knowing what I am talking about, and when it comes to predicting the weather more than a fortnight or so out, that is true. But of those who ask the questions, will any of them truly understand what on earth are they are talking about.”

Barnaby, you are the last person anyone would bother asking about climate change.

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Lying does work: Just ask any Liberal Prime Minister

Sometimes I allow myself the indulgence of thinking I know a lot. Then I realise that in the totality of things, I know little. One thing I am certain of however, is that there are known facts in the world because science proves them to be so. That is the truth of it.

I also know that humility is the basis of all intellectual advancement but it is truth that enables human progress. Can you imagine a world without truth? I cannot.

That is why I question everything. What I see, what I feel, what I hear and what I am being told until I understand the truth of it.

But the recent past election showed the power of using lying as a political tool. How destructive it can be. How damaging to a fragile multicultural pluralist society. Indeed, how easy it is to adopt the art of lying as a habit.

Central to the art of lying is that it has become so commonplace, so easy to justify.

Society, or sections of it, has so lowered the bar for the need for, truth or fact, that they require little of it.

Now, I would be less than honest if I didn’t illustrate some dishonest examples within the Coalition. The avalanche of lies started with John Howard and the now disgraced former Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Climate change, according to Abbott was crap and a socialist plot. He denigrated renewable energy. His Chief of Staff Peta Credlin later confessed that it was all just a political ploy.

Conservatives were found out telling lies about the cause of climate change but it made little difference. Even the cause of the South Australian blackouts became a target for lying. They categorically stated that it was caused by the introduction of renewable energy, where as it was as simple as towers collapsing during a major storm.

Then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull sought to lie about the value of his donation to the Liberal Party. Who cared?

When did all this lying start? Well I could go back to Reagan and his decision to allow the fundamentalist churches into politics and perhaps bring it up to date with the ascension of Trump.

We have inherited it from US politics that “The press are the enemy of the people.”

Lying in Australian politics has reached an unprecedented level. The Prime Minister and his Cabinet took lying to such depths in this election that it is not disingenuous to suggest that government under Morrision no longer has a moral compass or understanding of truth.

Undoubtedly the rise of the right, imported from the United States, has been the major and most worrisome aspect in the decline of the Liberal and National Parties where once small ‘l’ Liberals had residence, but have now been purged.

Neo-liberalism/Conservatism – aided by an inheritance of lying as a political weapon from the US – infiltrated the Coalition and gave birth to extremism.

Lying has and will probably always exist but it reached its zenith during the 2012 Presidential Debates. I watched all of the debates and in the first I agreed that Obama underperformed and was underprepared.

But in the background of that first debate I had the sneaking suspicion that he was rocked by all the lies Romney was telling. He recovered in the other debates and won them easily.

In that campaign Romney told an astonishing 2000 provable lies and lying has now become part and parcel of American politics.

Whilst I would credit John Howard with modern political lying, people of my vintage could easily take it back to Robert Menzies’ “Reds under your beds.”

This scare campaign was used endlessly during his tenure of office with much success even though there was no grounding in fact but it was enough to keep him in office.

The trams and buses I frequented as a young boy had posters from one end to the other depicting the communist hordes invading our country. Our newspapers were a flood of the worst of communism. Our picture theatres carried western propaganda on there silver screens.

Using vigorous anti-communist slurs and scare campaigns the prime targets for Menzies unashamed propaganda were the powerful trade unions and Labor itself.

It went on for decade after decade.

In the modern era Tony Abbott blatantly and dishonestly sought to convince the population that we were under the threat of terrorism and through both legislation and mouth tried to corner us into believing it was the truth.

Daily he made pre planned visits to compliant businesses to spread his lies about the carbon tax.

Barnaby Joyce then in the Zenith of his oral exaggeration suggested that a Sunday roast was going to cost $100.

Pitifully, without fact evidence or reason he relentlessly attacked, the “carbon tax”.

After all it was going to wreck the Australian economy. We now know that it was all part of his plan to become Prime Minister.

When talking about terrorism he always tried to personalise it. His gutter tactics were never further than a heartbeat away.

“ISIS is coming to get us. And you personally,” he would proclaim.

Tony liked to frighten friend and foe alike. His life records his aggro. Frightening the shit out of people was bread and butter to him. He held the country on permanent alert and revelled in it.

He believed in lying and fear as legitimate political weapons and wielded it unapologetically.

Amidst all this fear he managed to create an untrue budget crisis. One where all hell was going to break loose and destroy the country, as we knew it.

Everything is Labor’s fault became the catchcry for all that ever went wrong.

When he attained the Prime Ministership there was no budget and Joe Hockey soon after was telling the country how he had saved us from disaster. It was nothing but shrill politics from Abbott’s demented mind. The 2014 budget proved it beyond doubt.

Now let us outspread our thoughts to earlier times. To a time when Philip Ruddock as Immigration Minister decided that those seeking asylum weren’t actually doing so because he classed them as “illegals”.

Never in their entire term in office have they had the courage, or the dignity to call these people seekers of asylum

Indeed, never at any time in their scare mongering did they have the dignity to treat these folk as human beings because they wanted to use them as examples.

They we so bad, so inhuman, so violent that they would deliberately throw their own children overboard if it meant saving their own lives.

They made up their own truth and left nothing for one’s imagination when describing these people.

And brutal has been the way in which they have managed asylum seekers. From Ruddock to Morrison and now Dutton they have lied, vilified and demonised asylum seekers. Morrison has even encouraged his party to be more destructive with their damnation. “Praise the Lord.” He denied the claim but members of his own party recall it.

If they murdered truth along the way, who cared?

I have every right to call them the masters of scare. The longevity of the one against asylum continues today even though many have become fine citizens.

We cannot erase from our history the fact that John Howard, together with Bush and Blair used barefaced lies and tricked the world into believing that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

And the whole world knows the consequences of that scare campaign.

In Australia we are frequently reminded by the right about terrorists and of course Muslims. They hate them.

Anything warrants a scare.

In more recent times Liberal “anti everything backbenchers” conducted a scare campaign against the “Safe Schools” legislation.

We have been told that Labor’s negative gearing proposal would wreck the property market and during the election campaign told that a Labor/Green alliance would be one of chaos. Yes, it’s true.

In 2019 we have had Tim Wilson’s scare about franking credits. Negative gearing, death taxes, and many more.

At the very core of conservative capitalistic individualism screams the rights of the individual. Yes, at a time when what the world needs most are collective approaches to solve our problems, people they still proclaim individualism an the answer.

Truth has become a rare commodity. I am talking about a truth based on factual evidence and sound arguments.

Politicians now say that only what they say is the truth when Blind Freddy knows it isn’t. Yet many fall into the cesspool of fallacy.

Some people now factor in what they believe to be untrue. Others because of allegiance accept in blind loyalty. Yet others reject it because they know what they are being told is untrue.

However, the acceptance of lying in society generally is of great concern and shows that our standards are badly slipping.

Ministers in the Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison governments also seemed to have carte blanche to tell as many as they like. Peter Dutton and others to this day continue to lie with monotonous regularity.

Truth is the victim. In the first instance the best way to turn the profession of politics on its head in this country and create a new democracy would be to demand that politicians and the media tell the truth.

“Honesty isn’t popular anymore. It doesn’t carry the weight of society’s approval it once did”.

In politics, truth is something that gives policy and ideology a foundation.

Something upon one can rest one’s argument. If the words you use to substantiate your argument are lined with truth then it is more difficult to argue against it.

You can still be wrong but be satisfied that truth was at the core of what you were saying.

Words of course, are the same. They also require truth otherwise they are without meaning. Without truth hey shape no discourse, no truth, and no debate.

Without truth in words the ability to communicate the seemingly endless aspects of human emotion successfully is taken from us.

That’s why I conclude that words are at their best when they are accompanied by a factual truth of what they want to convey.

As I have said in the past, the rise of the right has brought with it a new political language. One that has not yet been classified because it defies any normal understanding of whether truth has a place in it.

Just listen to Trump’s midweek rally speech and you will hear the truth of everything I have said.

But let’s pause for a moment and take a look at the broader picture and ask ourselves what is a lie in general and what constitutes political lying.

Many would say that lying is just a normal part of society’s intercourse. The lies I’m talking about, the blatant ones like when the liar intends to deceive or mislead or the liar believes that what they are ‘saying’ is not true. We call people who use these three principles blatant liars.

Lies, when it comes to the manipulation of the population have proven to be the most advanced tool we have.

You see, one way or another we all live by belief and it can be manipulated.

I’m not talking here about white lies nor any other category except the lie constructed to deliberately hurt others or manipulate society for nefarious reasons.

When politicians collectively or individually over a long period seek lie for their own individual benefit or that of their parties then the lie only serves to denigrate the liar, and show contempt for the voter’s intelligence.

Sir Walter Scott said this about lying:

”Lying is probably one of the most common wrong acts that we carry out (one researcher has said ‘lying is an unavoidable part of human nature’), so it’s worth spending time thinking about it.

Why is lying wrong?

There are many reasons why people think lying is wrong; which ones resonate best with you will depend on the way you think about ethics.

Lying is bad because a generally truthful world is a good thing: lying diminishes trust between human beings: if people generally didn’t tell the truth, life would become very difficult, as nobody could be trusted and nothing you heard or read could be trusted – you would have to find everything out for yourself and an untrusting world is also bad for liars – lying isn’t much use if everyone is doing it.”

When it was revealed that the Coalition knew that a report would say that renewables were not the cause of the SA blackouts the conservatives had to tell lies on top of lies to justify the first one.

My thought for the day

Despite a tendency inherited biologically by all to lie. Truth in politics and society in general matters enormously.

It is not a trivial matter in any democracy.

 

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Bridget McKenzie revealed the Adani jobs lie and no-one noticed

Nationals deputy leader Bridget McKenzie made an amazing admission in an interview on Sky but nobody (except The Australia Institute) seemed to notice.

“[Adani will] be employing 1500 through the construction phase and around about 100 ongoing.”

Just to emphasise, that’s 100 ongoing jobs – not 10,000, not 1500 – ONE HUNDRED.

Considering Ms McKenzie is an avid Adani fan girl, the “around about” makes even the 100 jobs dubious.  After all, Adani told investors the whole project would be automated from mine to port (meaning driverless trucks and trains to reduce on labour costs i.e. jobs)

Compare that to Queensland’s renewable energy projects committed since 2015: 5687 construction jobs & 273 ongoing. Projects proposed: 33975 construction jobs & 1,562 ongoing.

The Australia Institute points out how comparatively insignificant coal-mining is as an employer.

Across Australia, coal mining accounts for half of one percent of all jobs (0.5%)

In Queensland, coal mining is just 1.1% of all Queensland jobs. Coal mining comes in far behind far bigger employers like health, education, retail, agriculture, public administration, construction, as well as accommodation and food services, which is heavily linked to tourism, and manufacturing.

In North Queensland, coal mining is the eleventh biggest industry, accounting for 4% of jobs, meaning 96% of North Queenslanders do not work in coal mining.

There are around 40,000 jobs in tourism in reef regions on the North Queensland coast — twice as many as in coal mining, according to ABS data. Other estimates put the number higher at 59,000.

If the infrastructure for Adani is built, it is likely that the rest of the Galilee will be developed.  Putting millions of tonnes of new coal into a stagnant and falling market will drive down the price of coal and put existing coal-mining jobs at risk – an estimated 13,000 according to TAI.

Aside from the jobs discussion, climate change must be a consideration not just on environmental grounds but on economic ones too.

According to TAI, inaction on climate change could cost Australia $131 billion per year, excluding natural disasters that already cost Australia over $18 billion per year.

Under the carbon price period, Australia successfully reduced emissions by 2% while the economy grew by 5% showing the economic impacts of taking action are minor compared to the catastrophic consequences of inaction.

Before the Queensland government caves in to bullying to approve a groundwater management plan that the experts have told them is inadequate, they must come clean about the real job opportunities for a handful of people in NQ coal-mining vs the job losses in other mines and industries and the effect more coal will have on the existing market.

For the sake of “around about 100 jobs” are we really prepared to cook the planet?

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