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A government trying to fix everything while they’re not even working

There was a time in this country when government took advice from public servants.

You know, those who work for the government in their specialised fields and offer independent advice.

One would think that advice from these people who diligently and independently gather all there is to know on a given subject, and then without fear or favour place it in the lap of government, would be the people to consult.

But no, that old thinking went out the window a long time ago.

Now we need panels, lobbyists and advisers to whom we pay millions of dollars.

And as if the government – backed by advice from as many public servants from as many departments as is required and as many advisers as they can lay their hands on – together with the state premiers and officials from federal and state departments the Prime Minister has decided to suspend the parliament for five months and appoint a panel of business people to manage the government’s economic response to the coronavirus pandemic.

These people are apparently more gifted than the heads of the public service – including the head of Treasury.

Presenting facts to people who have reasoned by virtue of their feelings that they are right is totally futile.

This new panel of gifted business people are as deputy chairman former Telstra chief David Thodey. The Board members include former Labor government minister Greg Combet, former health department Jane Halton, former Toll Holdings boss Paul Little, and EnergyAustralia managing director Catherine Tanna.

They will be joined by Philip Gaetjens, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary, and his counterpart at Home Affairs, Mike Pezzullo and will be known as the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC).

Julie-Anne Spargue from the AFR tells us it will be chaired by former Fortescue Metals chief Nev Power whose job it will be to “coordinate advice to the government on actions to anticipate and mitigate the economic and social effects of the global coronavirus pandemic.”

I know very little about Mr Power and just what experience he has had managing pandemics, but I’m sure it would be no more than that of the head of the public service or the head of treasury, for example.

All I know is that he is a mining executive, as are others on the panel, a friend of the PM, and according to the Prime Minister won’t be constrained by the codes and traditions of the public service, and that:

“When I rang him the other day, I simply said, ‘Nev, I need you to serve your country.’ And he quickly responded … and he stepped up.”

(Morrison is becoming more like Trump every day: “The codes of the Public Service”?)

The peoples of all the nations of the world increasingly seem to be having less to say about their own destiny.

So, the parliament will suspend parliamentary sittings until August 11 and wont bring down a budget until October.

The government has always been paranoid of criticism. ‘Accountability’ isn’t a word they particularly like. That is why they are so secretive.

After all, the LNP has governed appallingly and achieved nothing yet they are now asking the people to take them in good faith and guide them through a pandemic and a recession when they still haven’t recovered from their ill-fated 2014 world’s unfairest budget. (Maybe that’s a bit unfair, but you get my point.)

Now we know that the possibility of a recession was very real before the virus hit and there wasn’t much business on the government’s books, but closing parliament down for so long is a big call.

In fact, it must be a bit of a joke. How are they going to pass the necessary legislation to deal with the crisis?

It is as Tony Burke, Manager of Opposition Manager Business said:

“I will be more than surprised if we can go from now until August and find that the legislation we put through the parliament today is all the nation needs for Australia to handle this pandemic, all the nation needs to deal with the crisis of unemployment and recession that we’ll be facing.”

To think that during a crisis of this magnitude you can simply close the doors of the people’s parliament so as to escape scrutiny.

The government may argue that it wants to totally concentrate its efforts on the economy and the virus, and there is certain legitimacy in this argument but it certainly flies in the face of known democratic principles.

I notice that Margo Kingston, author of “Not Happy John” fame tweeted last Monday night:

 

The Australian’s sometime-left-wing stirrer Peter van Onselen wrote (paywall) that the parliament:

“… kept operating through both World Wars. It operated during the Great Depression and even the Spanish Influenza of 1919. In those days we didn’t have the technology nor know-how we do today to make it even easier to keep parliament open.”

Crikey’s Guy Rundle argued that (paywall) MPs should continue to do their jobs – “no excuses.”

Former Treasurer Wayne Swan joined the chorus, tweeting:

 

If ever there was a justification for recalling the parliament one only has to look at the performance of the government thus far. Here are three examples:

  1. The Prime Minister should be outlawed from delivering any public notifications regarding government decisions.
  2. Government Services Minister Stuart Robert’s performance regarding the MyGov debacle illustrates why we need the federal parliament to hold this government to account. He should be immediately sacked from his portfolio.
  3. Then of course there was the debacle with the Ruby Princess.

The better performing states premiers are currently overshadowing the government’s performance.

They need to reopen the people’s parliament, restore our democratic processes and lift their game.

My thought for the day

Never confuse what you want with what you need.

An addendum

In a strange twist, having written all this, on Monday 30 March the government in perhaps the greatest ever back flip in Australian political history came out with a wage’s package that just a week ago they absolutely and empathetically opposed.

What a truly staggering conversion from the pursuit of a surplus a month ago to compassionate socialism today.

Without at this time going into the whys and wherefores of their decision I agree with the thoughts of Barrie Cassidy who tweeted.

 

And of course they will have to reconvene the parliament to pass the necessary legislation.

A further thought

Economics is not a capitalist gift to the right of politics to further the wealth of the rich or a plaything for politicians to cement their power. Economics should be a process used to mold a humane and rounded society committed to kindness and compassion. One where the pursuit of success is encouraged while at the same time acknowledging that fairness and equality of opportunity is real in economic terms.

Imagine, if you will, an Australia where economics has a human face to it: Where the common good controls capitalism.

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Morrison abandons democracy; installs junta to cope with COVID-19

“There’s a concept of economy and efficiency. You should have just enough beds for what you need tomorrow. You shouldn’t prepare for the future. Right? So the hospital system’s crashing. Simple things like tests which you can easily get in a country South Korea, you can’t get here.

So the coronavirus, which should be controlled in a functioning society, is going out of hand here. We’re just not ready for it. What we’re good at, what our leaders are good at, and have been very good at for the last 40 years, is pouring money into the pockets of the rich and the corporate executives while everything else crashes.” (Noam Chomsky on a US health system which has parallels with Australia’s).

Shock and awe seize the nation in Scotty’s Dad’s Army war on Coronavirus. It’s a sound and light show. The PM does the narration. Lights go up Monday to reveal a helicopter gunship. Alongside an SAS chap at the controls, but keeping his social distance, is nifty Nev Power, a battle-hardened former Fortescue Metals (FMG) CEO.

Every PM’s Office press drop repeats the battle-hardened mantra as Nev abseils into our political theatre while Scotty explains Power’s new power, without really making anything any clearer. Truth is the first casualty of war but Morrison cloaks his communications with a thicket of evasions, distractions, diversions and outright lies.

Having no clue what he’s dealing with, or how to deal with it, only compounds his straight-talking problem. A third tranche of measures to support the economy is on the way, he tells a mystified nation, Friday.

How he loves that word, tranche. A slice. There will be a plan, he says, to hibernate Australian businesses. This means on the other side, the employees come back, the opportunities come back, the economy comes back, adds, baffling everybody.

His big lie is that COVID-19 will only hurt a little bit. The PM loves reassuring platitudes. He invokes verbal images of cushions, bridges – including his favourite pneumatic children’s castle; “bouncing back” all figures of speech washing over us in a torrent of fatuous, flatulent garrulity.

And boosterism. Scotty and Hunt love to pat themselves on the back. We’ve done more tests than the US or the UK, two of the world’s worst COVID-19 testers. Our 163,000 tests, are almost five times as many as Britain; 25 times as many as the United States, ScoMo crows.

Give the man a lapel pin. But our results suggest an infection rate increase of twenty-five per cent per day. Morrison neglects to say we can expect 90,000 Covid-19 cases by Easter; 2.5 million by Anzac Day. Surely a PM could stress how infectious the virus is. One Australian can infect three others. 400 can catch the virus in a month. And in contrast to other countries such as Singapore and South Korea, we are slack at following up results.

If between five million and 15 million Australians are infected … it would mean 35,000-105,000 Australians will die from the Coronavirus, an upbeat Peter Van Onselen calculates cheerily. But what of the recession or depression it brings? We are poorly equipped to help those hundreds of thousands of workers who no longer have jobs.

Close to three million workers could find themselves unemployed as a result of an estimated twenty-two per cent decline in household spending, calculates Melbourne University economist, Professor Jeff Borland, basing his estimate on the two main groups of industries likely to be most affected – ‘other store-based retailing (that is, retailing apart from food, fuel and motor vehicles)’ and ‘food and beverage services’.

Morrison’s big lie to those “decent Australians” who find themselves jobless overnight is predicated on a social welfare system which has been fine-tuned by successive coalition governments to punish needy dole-bludgers for being improvident and a drain on the system. This animus extends to all pensioners, be they aged or disabled. You must, moreover, furnish proof of your entitlement. The Robodebt extortion racket reverses the onus of proof.

It will take until 27 April before anyone gets any Centrelink money because that’s how the system’s designed.

Dutton coup numbers man Matthias Cormann confirms “even using the existing system, the existing processes and programs, this is the amount of time it takes to get this additional level of support into the community”.

Labor asks why the government doesn’t deploy the single touch payroll system which gives real-time data on employees — to create a different base from which to pay wage subsidies. But that would involve dialogue. Compassion. And the empathy consultant seems to have gone into social isolation. Or is it hibernation?

The ABC’s Laura Tingle notes that boofhead Boris Johnson’s Tory government in the UK is already able to provide a wage subsidy of 80 per cent of your previous wage capped at 2,500 pounds a month. Our bonzer, newly renamed with bonus reduced stigma, Jobseeker payment offers a mere eighty per cent of the minimum wage.

Instead, we have announceables and an alarming absence of good faith in Morrison’s government by spin. Keeping us safe is his greatest priority?

Conspicuously missing from the PM’s “conversation” his buzz-word for lecture; talk down to, is the great hoax of border protection – which is now surely well and truly exposed for what it always was – a lie based on the greater lie that others mean us harm.

At LAX there had been masked staff controlling the spacing in such areas. In Australia there was no sanitiser on counters, nor were staff using any as they stood close and took our smeared customs forms. The crackdown on foreign arrivals is symbolic bullshit. Those of us who arrived are as likely to have been infected by under-protected airport staff as they were by us, reports Guy Rundle on his recent return to work in Crikey.

We were quick to close the door to China but far too late to take similar action with Italy and the US. Then there’s the inexplicable fiasco over the Ruby Princess, our own Typhoid Mary which let 150 sick passengers ashore – a figure disputed by NSW Health – while passengers departed to a dozen different countries. 

Or visited local nursing homes. And other states, making it the single, biggest source of infection in the nation.

Jewel in the crown of the extraordinary story of our nation’s epic battle with Coronavirus pandemic terror, is the Ruby Princess, a cruise ship, aka gin palace, named for a precious stone symbolising purity, nobility and passion which let 2647 passengers disembark at Sydney’s Circular Quay, Thursday, despite a ship’s doctor’s treating thirteen on board for symptoms of respiratory illness.

158 passengers report ill yet Sydney port officials are told that there is no-one sick on board. Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt is adamant that ships “arrive under strict conditions”. NSW Health classifies Ruby Princess as low-risk. Why? It comes from New Zealand. Seriously.

What could possibly go wrong? Luckily our fabulous “abundance of caution” kicks in, explains Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerry Chant in an hilarious disclaimer; all cruise ship passengers’ swabs are tested for COVID-19.

At least four prove positive, but other infected thrill-seekers swarm ashore to hit the high spots in Sydney and beyond  – despite an inspired Inspector Clouseau-like expedient of texting passengers a full day after they have gone ashore. Border control by text?

Our highest priority is keeping Australians safe, the PM insists. His empty rhetoric is now self-parody. His government wants to keep Australia trading as long as it possibly can before its corporate sponsors succumb to economic recession. Or worse. At the same time, he’s shutting things down; stage 3 restrictions are imminent.

Scotty’s verbiage betrays his fear that the virus will find him out; we are woefully unprepared as the result of a series of funding cuts to public health launched by Tony Abbott. Our hospitals and healthcare system is already stretched beyond its capacity. We ignored COVID-19 warnings from the World Health Organisation months ago.

Top marks to Brad Hazzard, the wonderfully named dud NSW Health Minister -who may have failed to do his job with any degree of competence – but who is at least prepared to fess up publicly; own his own egregious stuff-up.

“If I had my opportunity to have my two bob’s worth, with the benefit of what we now know about those … people, I’d have said yeah, maybe we should hold them on the ship,” he says in marked contrast to his boss.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian blames the Federal government and the Australian Border Force (ABF). Peter Dutton perks up in recovery from his own COVID-19 infection to say it’s all the fault of the NSW state government. An edifying slanging match erupts.

Ruby Princess passengers boost NSW’s confirmed cases. Total infections in the state jump by 186 to more than 1,617 on Saturday morning. It is the second consecutive day that the total number of new cases in the state is up. Abundance of caution? Or panic stations? At least 26 other passengers test positive to the virus outside NSW.

But, look over there. Command and control fuse seamlessly with chaos and confusion in the latest twist in the plot of our edgy national political soap opera. Clueless Scotty gets in a former mining CEO to do his job for him.

Nothing shrieks medical expertise and nuanced public relations as much as Nev’s career digging rocks out of the ground. He was CEO at the time FMG lodged its Solomon Hub Pilbara land rights decision appeal to the Federal Court, an appeal which the company lost on all counts in 2019.

Local Yinjibarndi people keep their native title to their 2,700 square kilometres of Pilbara land and are eligible for compensation. But Nev is moving up and on.

Nifty Nev will get on well with Morrison’s Chief of staff, John Kunkel, a former CEO at the Minerals Council of Australia, (MCA) who fits in like Flynn with Scotty’s senior adviser, Brendan Pearson, another former MCA CEO, who once worked for ecocidal monster US coal miner Peabody Energy.

Pearson provided Morrison’s infamous lacquered lump of coal for the then Treasurer’s notorious 2017 show and tell (no props allowed) of energy agnosticism in parliament. “This is coal. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be scared.”

What is truly scary is that Morrison has just created a whole new layer of government, his own National COVID-19 Coordination Commission or NCCC. Morrison calls his jumped-up junta “eminent Australians”.

Eminent Australians are next rung up from decent Australians who are losing their jobs; distinguished in government despatches from unworthy bludgers who don’t have jobs and who must be punished by Robodebt.

Eminent? They are certainly part of our corporate ruling elite. Deputy Chair of Power’s power elite, is Dave Thodey who did big things for six years as Telstra’s CEO.

How big is buying video streaming company OOYALA for over $500m in 2014 and writing it down to nothing in 2018? Dave’s also chair of what’s left of the CSIRO, cut down to size by the anti-science Coalition. No longer a portfolio on its own, Science is a bit-player in the portmanteau, Industry, Science and Technology.

But Dave’s had a fair bit of help. In 2014, Abbott’s $110 million science funding cut preceded a loss of 1400 staff across CSIRO. In 2013 CSIRO’s annual report listed 6500 staff overall. By 2015, staff had fallen to 5100. It’s just lost twenty per cent of staff from its Energy Business Unit just days ahead of the Morrison government’s carbon reduction roadmap.

Yet our ruling junta can’t be accused of being exclusively corporate fat cats. Greg Combet, now a lobbyist for industry super, is token leftie on a team of business types which includes career mandarin, Jane Halton, who headed the government’s people-smuggling team during John Howard’s children overboard fraud. Catherine Tanna became MD of Energy Australia, which hates paying tax and is on the boards of the RBA and the BCA.

True, big Paul Little, amassed a net worth of $950m running Toll Group for two decades. And from property investment. But just because you are one of Australia’s richest men, doesn’t mean you lack insight or compassion. It may just be very well concealed.

Speaking of compassion and rounding out the team are our top two Canberra shiny bums, Home Affairs Secretary, Prime Minister and Cabinet, head, Mike Pezzullo and Phil Gaetjens, two of our most powerful if not public-spirited mandarins, both of whom are always eager to assist senate committees with inquiries.

Or, in fabulous Phil’s case conduct their own exemplary-how-to exonerate- Bridget McKenzie of breaching the ministerial code in a secret Star Chamber inquiry.

Is this Covid-19 pandemic, a medical emergency or an economic meltdown? Will the economic considerations take priority over social issues? Morrison’s staffing of his NCCC leaves us in no doubt as to his government’s view. Sadly, as Michael Keating writes, it seems unaware that good health policy is good for the economy.

Scotty waffles on about how the new commission will coordinate decisions across governments and the private sector. Co-ordinate decisions? How good is that?  It will also advise government on re-purposing manufacturing for essential equipment, and shifting staff from defunct industries to areas that need them.

It will be spoilt for choice there. Given the way the economy is tanking, defunct industries will be in abundance. Virgin Australia, for example, has taken a bit of a hit, as has QANTAS now that no-one’s allowed to fly.

A colour-coded spreadsheet, perhaps? Someone at the PM’s Office should be able to help with that.

Commissioner Power will solve problems with supply chains and staff. It won’t be easy. Someone at HQ forgot to order tests, face-masks and other PPE. Fart-arsing and dithering over what we’re doing in the policy space with a lethal pathogen needs a bit of a fine-tune. The National Cabinet, a rebadged COAG with a few tame medicos on hand to baffle media is doing a top job. But it’s a bit bolshie. Even with the Leader of the Opposition excluded. The NCCC will run things Scotty’s way. There’s been a bit of States’ rebellion over letting children got to school. Nev’s boys will fix all that.

How will NCCC work? “They will say ‘Prime Minister, we need you to do this. We need you to authorise this. We recommend that you take these actions to get these problems sorted’,” Scotty from marketing explains making the blatant out-sourcing of his own cabinet’s job sound so terribly democratic. Morrison seems dead keen to be spared the hassle of being a democratic leader – or making any decisions at all for a good five months at least. Or clearing up the sports rorts mystery.

The logo NCCC is emblazoned on the Hawk’s undercarriage to help get the message out that the brand spanking new National COVID-19 Coordination Commission is hi-jacking our democracy a little bit for a while.

Scotty’s been copping a bit of stick for not getting his message out and generally confusing everyone over hairdressers and his crafty herd immunity by stealth approach to Coronavirus. ‘It’s essential, unless it’s not. Then it’s essentially not essential. I can’t be clearer,’” tweets Shane Warne.

Never has the accidental PM’s addled thinking been on such public display. Nor at such great cost to so many.

Every job is essential. Sacred. You can’t have a virus wrecking the Holy Economy, amen. Children who don’t always suffer COVID-19 severely are great at spreading the virus. But they must attend school. Parents may be vital healthcare workers.

Infect Mum and Dad or Grandma? Hairdressers can stay open but beauticians must close? Childcare must continue while some schools close? The NCCC will fine-tune the rules. Don’t you worry about that.

Expect a lot of operational secrecy and deference from Power, a man who owes his loyalty to Morrison alone.

 “When I rang him the other day, I simply said, ‘Nev, I need you to serve your country.’ And he quickly responded … and he stepped up.” How good is Scotty’s authority? Puts this whole Coronavirus thing on to a war footing. Ticks a lot of boxes. Nationalism. Despotism. Secrecy. Smart-arse questions will just be un-Australian.

Morrison is ever in quest of a populist paramilitary, patriotic note or vote. Doubtless, Commissioner Nev’s lapel badge is in the mail already. Along with a salary commensurate with experience. Iron ore is falling in price as the coronavirus pandemic lowers demand from China so it may well prove Power’s golden parachute.

Some experts predict acute oversupply, a scenario which could cut prices from US$80 to $50 per tonne.

Nev’s our new dictator for the next five months or so. At least. Scotty’s got him in to not only to dodge questions but to chair our brand-spanking National COVID-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC). NCCC will “coordinate advice” to Morrison’s utterly clueless government on “actions to anticipate and mitigate the economic and social effects of the global coronavirus pandemic”.

In brief, Nev will do a fair bit of damage control and disaster relief. Power’s mining background makes him a perfect captain’s pick to poppet-head the junta of lobbyists, state premiers, media and other mineral lobby Muppets who already run our kakistocracy.

Not only that, Nev’s got stacks of self-saucing, trickle-down magic pudding stimulus mess-kits to chuck at unlucky punters out looking for work. Lucky punters who own businesses or run banks get the bulk of the money which the government’s printing up as we speak, just to keep the wheels of trade and commerce oiled.

Surprisingly, Nev’s entrance upstages ScoMo and Co’s Ice Follies Show, Morrison’s long-running tableaux vivant of bunnies frozen rigid in the headlights of a monster, runaway debt truck. News Corp critics give Nev rave reviews. No-one listens to Dr Norman Swan who is always, full of sage advice and timely warning. What would he know?

Boosting Cash Flow for Employers (BCFE) is a bill which allows businesses up to $100,000 to small and medium-sized businesses which employ people. It is an article of neoliberal faith which trumps experience, both here and in the US when tax cuts did not trickle-down into increased wages but were more likely to boost share dividends, paying debt or extra cash reserves. In the Coronavirus recession, how many businesses will even be trading?

The frenetic turd polishing on display is a record-breaking, world-class spectacle. The magic pudding trick, or corporate welfare is already into its third, new, improved, upscaled, version before its world premiere.

It’s a spectacular stunt, a patent cure-all miracle message in a basin – a centrepiece of Dr Scotty’s Flatten that Curve, fatten a banker, salvation by corporate welfare, Travelling Medicine show.

A standing ovation erupts across the self-isolation void of our times. Few spot the failure of our caseload curve to flatten at all, as cases quadruple in a week. Or our reverse Robin Hood Treasurer who nicks a nation’s housekeeping to keep needy banks, airlines, casinos, coalmines and other essential services afloat.

Luckily, there’ll be no awkward questions. Parliament is suspended for five months. Our hand-picked crew of fat cats and business-class passengers who’ll be doing Scotty’s job for him are accountable only to him.

Scotty’s been setting the tone. Panic-buying – unless it’s the government’s quest for face-masks and PPE or new stationery is “ridiculous” and “un-Australian”. ScoMo also has a go at all those thronging Bondi or St Kilda Beach for not taking seriously the requirements for physical distancing. There’ll be an ADF team taking care of that.

A monstrous double-standard stalks the land, as Simon Longstaff notes in Crikey. Morrison can lecture us all he likes on how we must take responsibility for our actions. Let him wag his finger until it falls off.

“It’s just a terrible pity that the potency of the message is undermined by the hypocrisy of the messengers — a group that has refused to take responsibility for pretty much anything.”

Warnings of a global meltdown just around the corner comes as a bit of a shock to the mug punter. Morrison’s magical medicine show helps keep it that way. Before the week is out, his government’s spin that the recession is caused solely by a rogue, Far Eastern, pathogen, a Wuhan flu, hardens into gospel truth. Coronavirus is a perfect scapegoat for seven years of coalition economic mismanagement in a world facing a growing debt crisis. You never hear a reporter challenge the PM on it.

“We know everyone is overleveraged, full bore, full risk,” says Lindsay David of LF Economics. “All we were waiting for was a trigger and unfortunately that has come in the form of a health crisis.”

COVID19, the disease resulting from severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is not only a world-wide pandemic, infecting 601,536 people worldwide by 9:30 pm AEST Saturday, causing 27,441 deaths and wreaking havoc with trade, commerce and industry – it may help blow up a financial system which rewards businesses for borrowing well beyond their capacity to pay back, just to keep operating. Cue Philip Lowe.

Thunderous applause breaks out at 4:00pm, Thursday 19 March, as the nation thrills to a bravura soft-shoe shuffle from Reserve Bank Boss, Pianissimo Philip Lowe, our High Priest of polymer money has an act which is reserve personified in a gig where bland is beautiful and cautious, tortured, understatement rules.

In Lowe’s low-key lowdown is one key line: “funding markets are open only to the highest quality borrowers“. Or the shit has hit the fan for companies, fattened on a decade of cheap money, who now find themselves about to go out of business thanks to a virus which has caused the cost of borrowing to sky-rocket as skittish foreign lenders seek to stay afloat in the wen of corruption and deception that is the international money-market.

Masters of illusion, the Morrison government will pump our money into monopoly capitalism’s deepest pockets, while making it appear as if it’s a rescue package for small to medium enterprises.

Why? Banks are risk-averse. When lending money, they will avoid high-risk small to medium enterprises and do business instead with a government-guaranteed airline, for example, or an oil or gas multinational paying no tax or an essential services oligopoly paying little tax.

As Michael West points out the government has surrendered control of its money-printing programme to the Reserve bank and its club of banksters. Paragons of fiscal virtue. They include a Commonwealth Bank which can take money from people who’ve been dead for a decade as evidenced at Kenneth Hayne’s Royal Commission.

It’s also helping out the banks by giving them cash for assets which the banks are keen to offload. To West, it’s confirmation that Morrison and Co “really have trouble governing”.

Job-seekers will get to eat for at least six months as the old New Start becomes a Job-seeker Allowance topped up by $550 a fortnight via a thoughtfully “time-limited” Coronavirus Supplement (about half the median weekly rent in Sydney) while businesses get “up to $100,000” to stop them laying off workers if they haven’t shut up shop.

Of course, there’s more to Morrison’s corona-recession busting but it’s a timely shift of focus as the evidence mounts that our federal government has a lot to answer for in its phony war on the pandemic, its own show of Much ado about Nothing. The truth is that it’s bragged, boasted, self-promoted and talked itself up a treat but at every turn, it has failed to hatch any plan for action. We need to demand more of our politicians.

“They were warned twelve weeks ago by the WHO what was coming”, Bill Bowtell tells The Saturday Paper’s, Mike Seccombe. Architect of Australia’s response to the AIDS epidemic, Adjunct professor at the Kirby Institute for infection and immunity at NSW University, Bowtell articulates every Australian’s dismay at the Morrison government’s inertia; its paralysis in the face of impending disaster.

They ignored the warnings. They did not accumulate test kits. They did not accumulate the necessary emergency equipment. They did not undertake a public education campaign. They gave no money to science, no money to research, no money to the International Vaccine Institute, no money to WHO.

Bowtell’s interview follows his appearance on Q&A, where he challenges the government’s disinformation. He holds to account former chippie, Senator Richard Colbeck, Minister for Aged Care, Youth and Sport, who fills in for the PM or his Health Minister who must be in social isolation or witness protection somewhere. Perhaps, they’ve gone to the footy or are booking flights to Hawaii for when it all dies down.

“I’d like to ask the Minister, where are you getting this idea that older Australians are more vulnerable than anybody else? On the figures released tonight in New South Wales, almost 80% of the caseload in New South Wales, which we’re assured by Brad Hazzard is going up exponentially, 80% of them are younger than 60.”  Colbeck defers to the CMO but misinforms his audience.

Later in the week, Bondi and other popular Sydney beaches are closed because young people are flouting government instruction regarding distancing. The World Health Organisation is worried.

“Today I have a message for young people: you are not invincible. This virus could put you in hospital for weeks – or even kill you,” warns World Health Organisation’s Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

“Even if you don’t get sick, the choices you make about where you go could be the difference between life and death for someone else.”

Yet it would be unfair to say the Coalition is doing nothing; the need to act on Coronavirus and the global economic meltdown it brings with it vastly energises Aloha Morrison and his government. It’s hard work causing panic. And pressers to tell a nation just how great a job you’re doing don’t run themselves, you know.

In the sunny uplands of international politics, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) is flooding the market with dirt-cheap Saudi crude in a mad attempt to break Russia, whilst arresting rivals uncle, Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, and cousin, Mohammed bin Nayef, whom he usurped as Crown Prince in 2017 – it’s a diversion, at least, from dismembering journalists who dare speak the truth about his despotism. It certainly helps depress Wall Street.

King Salman, MbS’ 84-year-old father, will be sidelined soon as his son jockeys for power, lest chief ally Donald Trump lose the November presidential election to Joe Biden. But the oil strategy is foolhardy. Demand is collapsing given the economic recession triggered by the Coronavirus – our Great Plague 2.0 –  MbS is just like his mentor Trump. Neither will tolerate dissent; nor heed practical advice.

Equally headstrong and peerless when it comes to dud judgement or malignant narcissism, Trump’s poodle, Boris Johnson, backs down on his herd immunity excuse for doing nothing which would put at least six million Britons at risk of severe symptoms and kill off the UK’s run-down public health system. Ironically he gets the plague himself.

Britain, along with Australia and the US, has ignored warnings published by Chinese doctors and scientists in The Lancet 23 January, detailing the virus in Wuhan a city of eleven million, the capital of Hubei province. The virus had already spread to Thailand, Japan and South Korea. They urged careful surveillance in the light of its pandemic potential, editor Richard Horton reports.

Belatedly, the UK has implemented new social distancing measures based on modelling by Imperial College and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine which predicted 260,000 deaths – not just from COVID-19 but from other illnesses a stretched NHS could not treat.

Our own NCCC and its inept Morrison government would do well to take note.

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The end of the Newstart Criminal?

Happy days. The unemployed will now no longer be demonised as dole bludgers or Newstart Criminals. From now on they will be known as Australians in need.

Mind you, it has taken a crisis of unprecedented proportions to force a sliver of care, empathy, and compassion, into the punitive hearts of our right-wing politicians.

Could it be perhaps that the speed with which our Government has dropped their policy of the deliberate impoverishment of the poor and the unemployed could be due to the fact that now, given the ever-growing lines outside Centrelink, a proportion of their conservative base is about to be exposed to the untender mercies of our welfare system?

Can’t call your own voters dole bludgers or leaners can you? Gosh, how cynical of me.

Many people, and nobody alive would wish it on them, are about to find out what it will take to survive with a fortnightly income of roughly $1,100. But let’s bring that down to what the weekly income will be. $550. If you are single and live in your own home and have a mortgage of $500 per week you’ll be left with $50 per week to take care of everything else. Food, energy bills, petrol, phone, car repairs, and everything else. Reality. Not good.

If you are single and renting you will roughly get $550 per week plus a rental allowance of $69.50 per week. If you are paying $300 a week rent (and average regional rents, let alone city rents, are much higher than that) you will be leading a fairly tough and restricted lifestyle. Reality. Not good.

Of course, individual circumstances for the unemployed vary widely. Some people are in relationships and have children, and will be eligible for further support. But in all cases, things will be very, very, tight. Reality. Not good.

But lest we forget. Up until a week ago the unemployed, including those who lost their jobs during the last catastrophic bushfire season, were expected to survive on the paltry sum of roughly $275 per week. At the same time, they had to endure the demonisation of ‘dole bludging’ foisted upon them by their own Government, the nong commercial television channels, the conservative press, and far too many of their fellow citizens.

Let’s hope that when we come out on the other side of the COVID-19 crisis that the rush of empathy for the unemployed and the poor becomes permanently welded onto the hearts, souls, and guts of the bureaucrats and politicians who design and maintain the safety net of our Welfare System.

(What is the average rent in Australia? $436 per week. The median rent across Australia is currently $436 per week, according to a new report from property research house CoreLogic. In capital cities, it’s $465 per week, while the regional areas have it slightly cheaper at $378. and pls note: these figures are as of a year ago!)

(According to research from Commonwealth Bank in 2017, average monthly mortgage payments in Australia’s capital cities range from $1,500 to over $3,000.)

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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW, but they are not telling you.

The government is not telling the truth about community transmission. The FACT is they don’t know what is happening, because they are NOT, and HAVE NOT tested people in the community that are clearly showing symptoms.

I KNOW this, because we have symptoms, and have not been able to get tested. There is a shortage of test kits and they are only testing people returning from OS showing symptoms, OR those showing symptoms that have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive. THEIR CRITERION EXPRESSLY EXCLUDES TESTING FOR CASUAL LOCAL TRANSMISSION.

WE HAVE BEEN IN LOCK DOWN FOR OVER A WEEK…. we are not seriously sick, and may or may not have the virus, and we are all getting better, BUT while I have been in lock down I have read extensively on the situation as it has evolved in Italy, Spain, France and the USA, and I can tell you what we are seeing now is illustrative of infection rates about 10 days ago. NOT WHAT IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW!

I just saw this… AND I WAS HORRIFIED!

Most Australian coronavirus cases coming from USA: Scott Morrison

Morrison saying “Eighty per cent of coronavirus cases in Australia are people who have come in from overseas or have caught the disease directly from them.”

I cannot say this loudly enough. THEY ARE NOT TESTING FOR COMMUNITY TRANSMISSION, and the government is not being honest when they say there is very low levels of community transmission, or most cases are coming from overseas. They may be right, BUT THEY HAVE NOT BEEN TESTING, so they have NO IDEA where we are at. 

A couple in Sydney where refused tests and went off to work. They where out and about for several days before someone they had had contact with got a positive test, then they were “allowed” to be tested and turned out to be positive… This is happening all over the country.

When they said Singapore had kept its schools open and that was OK, what they are not telling you is that Singapore initiated local lock downs, and aggressive community testing and tracing.  We have not done either.

WE ARE NOT TAKING THE LEVEL OF PRECAUTION NEEDED, especially with the low level of testing we are doing. We are on an exponential trajectory, and there is no way of predicting who will get it mildly and who will get it seriously. Many people, and probably some people you KNOW an LOVE will probably die.

Please, if you can lock down then just do it. I know no one wants this, but the government is not doing what is needed to contain this. They are trying to protect the economy, and in so doing may cause a lot more trouble.

I know no one wants to hear this, BUT THEY ARE NOT TESTING PEOPLE WITH SYMPTOMS, and not all people with symptoms are locking themselves down.

If this unfolds here like it has everywhere else it is about to explode and blow up in our faces.

Please stay safe and shut down if you possibly can, or a lot more people are going to die than need to. Our health system is going to come under extreme stress. The best way to help our essential service, food chain and medical workers is for non essential workers to stay at home.

Sorry to be banging on about this. BUT THEY ARE NOT TESTING PEOPLE… and yes I know locking down will cost money, and yes it will cost jobs, and there will be chaos BUT we cannot chose the economy over the lives of our parents, grandparents, healthcare workers, the ill and vulnerable. We can sort out the money thing later, but for now please let’s prioritise saving lives.

I am on my 10th day of voluntary Lock down. Feeling fine now, but had a cough and sniffles and decided to lock my self in, and if I want to err on the side of caution I will be locked down for two more weeks… WHY SO LONG?  BECAUSE I CANNOT GET TESTED!

***Just spoke to my next door neighbour. She told me that many local people have been in close contact with a CONFIRMED case, but still cannot get tested… Make of that what you will.

For the record I hope more than anything that I am wrong, and worrying unnecessarily. I will wear any amount of egg on my face it means maybe saving the life of someone’s loved one.

Stay Safe, People.

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Scott Morrison Quiet – Is He Isolated With Covid-19 Or In Hawaii?

Ok, I apologise for the terrible clickbait but, unlike most clickbait it could be true for all I know.

Anyway, apart from spreading rumours, I have a few pertinent points to make about the nonsense coming from the Federal Government and, more importantly, I had this great idea for countering the influence of Murdoch’s Minions and I wanted to share it far and wide.

I’ll start with the idea which is really quite simple. On the weekend, I purchased “The Saturday Paper” and took it to the coffee shop where I read it while waiting for my wife. As I looked at the people reading Rupert’s rag, I could help but wish that the shop stocked something a bit more radical like the one I’d just read. Then it hit me. Why not leave it behind?

Ok, I don’t expect one edition of a mildlly leftie newspaper will lead to a rousing chorus of “Do You Hear The People Sing?” before the quiet Australians try to storm Parliament but it would at least be read by some people who’d normally only read the propaganda from people like Andrew Bolt. If it just changed a handful of votes in the right electorate, it may not lead to a change of government, but at least it might get them remembered in the next sports rort.

Or, if you can’t afford “The Saturday Paper” why not print out one or two articles from “The Australian Independent Media” and if you go down for a coffee, slip them into the paper on the opinion pages. I mean, it couldn’t do any harm and if it just makes one person think, who knows, that might spread like…

Mm, hard to think of the right simile without sounding insensitive. Wildfire, nah. Coronavirus? Definitely not!

Speaking of Coronavirus, I couldn’t help but find Scottie’s rationale for keeping schools open a little weird. According to our fearful leader, it doesn’t matter if it spreads in schools because it doesn’t affect young people as badly. Teachers apparently are disposable, as are any older people that students come into contact with after school.

However, that wasn’t the strange bit. He went on to tell us that if they closed schools down, then parents who were health workers would have to stay home to look after them and we certainly couldn’t spare health workers at the moment. When you say it quickly, this sounds all right, but stop and consider for a moment. If schools are kept open, sooner of later, the children of those valuable health working parents are going to get ill and potentially affect their parents. Then, instead of them merely needing a babysitter so they could go on working, they need another health worker to look after them.

The other thing that puzzles me is the testing. Apparently you can only get tested if you’ve been overseas or you’ve been in contact with a confirmed case. To illustrate what’s wrong with let’s imagine Basil hasn’t been overseas, nor has he been in contact with a confirmed case. Basil, in spite of showing symptoms can’t get tested. Now, if he has somehow picked up the virus from an unknown source, he can continue to infect people, none of whom can get tested because until one of them gets tested, there are no confirmed cases in this spread.

So, maybe Scottie could go on television, and explain away my concerns. Or maybe he really has been struck down and is being kept in quarantine.

Nah, surely we’d be told.

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In Cobargo people are still homeless after the fires, so where is the $2 billion going?

This morning I received the following email from my sister, Sarah, who lost her home in the Cobargo fires.

I’m speaking to ABC radio tomorrow about how bad the situation is down here.

I haven’t looked but have you written anything about it on your blog?

PLEASE will you write about how people are still living in tents? I heard a story about people with a disabled son, his wheelchair burnt and they are now paying to hire one. I hear of people who are still without power and water. I found another person who was renting and had been evicted because the landlord now needs to live in the house, she has 3 children and is caring for a disabled sister, they have nowhere to go. People who want to go home to their places in the bush can’t go there because the roads aren’t cleared. The organisations down here are giving priority to farmers and their fences and to businesses NOT the homeless.

This area is a place where Coronavirus would take off. We have no running water, no power, no toilets.

I saw on the tele tonight that the government has earmarked $2.4 billion to combat Coronavirus. Surely the best thing to combat disease is to house people?

Please tell everyone,

from Sarah

PS I’m so pissed off!

At the height of the fires, after Prime Minister Scott Morrison was shamed into returning to Australia one day early from his Hawaiian holiday, the PM announced a $2 billion bushfire recovery fund, presumably to assist people like my sister and the people she speaks of in her email. So far, several months after the catastrophe, only 10 per cent of that money has been allocated.

According to this ABC report, from March 2, the very existence of the recovery fund is questionable:

Labor Senator Murray Watt questioned whether the $2 billion fund actually existed, after National Bushfire Recovery Agency deputy coordinator Abigail Bradshaw told the hearing the fund was “notional”.

“So, the Prime Minister’s announcement on the 6th of January, when he was under a lot of pressure, was that he had established a national bushfire recovery fund. But there is no fund, is there, it’s not anywhere within the budget statements?” Senator Watt asked.

So, is there or isn’t there a $2 billion bushfire relief fund? And if there is, why is it taking so long to distribute the funds to people in desperate situations? And if there isn’t, what the hell is the Coalition government playing at?

Winter in the Cobargo area is cold. Nobody wants to be living in a tent. Nobody wants to be without power, heating, and water. What do people struggling to survive the loss of everything actually have to do to see some of this $2 billion, to which they are absolutely entitled?

Morrison and his government have moved on to the COVID-19 crisis, which they no doubt see as an opportunity for them to  repair the massive loss of confidence, and the credibility they so thoroughly trashed during the bushfire disaster. We can only hope that monies promised to deal with the pandemic actually exist and, unlike the bushfire fund, are appropriately dispersed in time to have some effect.

In the meantime, the Coalition must answer all the questions surrounding the national bushfire recovery fund, the most urgent being, does it even exist? Because there are people in Cobargo, and I suspect many other fire-affected towns and villages across the country, who are living in tents and see no immediate relief from hardship, despite Morrison’s promises.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

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A government reeking of corruption hits the panic button.

Coronavirus-panic sweeps the nation. There’s barely a bottle of Dettol hand sanitizer left on a metal supermarket shelf across the land. Panic buying of toilet paper, pasta and rice turns ugly. A fight erupts in a Western Sydney Woolworths. Two Bankstown women, aged 23 and 60 are charged with affray.

Whilst no injury seems to have been sustained, the same cannot be said of the Morrison government which ends the week reeking of corruption after misleading the senate over changes to its rorted sports grants after it had entered caretaker mode 11 April 2019, whilst former Sports Minister Bridget McKenzie departs from the script by insisting she knows nothing of changes made in her name after caretaker mode commenced.

Sport Australia has refused to answer forty questions, which officials took on notice, effectively denying a senate committee request and failing to meet its Friday deadline. Former Health Department Head, Glenys Beauchamp, did comply but she’s destroyed all of her personal notes following her resignation in January. Genius.

Adding injury to insult, Attorney-General Porter has to be corrected by his own department on his misunderstanding of his own paper tiger DIY federal anti-corruption body he’s been drafting since 2018. Then, from up shit creek, there’s a hullabaloo about all that bushfire crisis money being as scarce as rocking-horse poo. Labor’s Murray Watt makes a convincing case that Scotty’s $2 billion dollar fund doesn’t even exist.

But how good is our chief malignant narcissist for calling a coronavirus pandemic, early despite expert advice? Panic is a great distractor. As with his mentor, Donald John Trump, Scott John Morrison always knows best.  Also freakishly Trump-like is his urge to upstage anyone who knows what they’re doing but by week’s end, his shonky public appearances as leader of our fight against COVID-19 look less and less convincing.

Like Trump, Morrison loses interest quickly – especially when things are not going all his own way. Or are not all about him. Time to hand-ball to serial failure Hunt. By Sunday, the hapless Health Minister, now struggling with his fifth portfolio, urges Australia to draw on the community spirit it showed during the summer bushfire crisis.

Luckily, Hunt stops short of invoking the spirit of the fire-ravaged Bega township of Cobargo, or countless other small towns whose residents are underwhelmed by glad-handed Scotty and are happy to let him know it.

Melding bushfire crisis talking points into cryptic nostrums, like some talking fortune cookie, Hunt gushes puzzling, but tremendously uplifting morale-boosters such as  “This is the moment to be its best self, and for Australia to be the nation and the community we know it can be … We will get through this together.”

An orgy of public self-congratulation, spun as “Coronavirus updates” not only helps to boost the nation’s spirits with the palpable falsehood that all is well, it helps distract from a barrage of inconvenient truths. There’s still a bit of fuss over General Gus; Defence Force, Chief Angus Campbell, who tells Senate Estimates, Wednesday, he’s given Morrison an earful over the abuse of defence material in the PM’s bushfire promo.

Labor leader, Anthony Albanese is rapier-like in calling Morrison out, saying he “used defence force imagery to try to shore up what was flailing political support due to his lack of action during the bushfire crisis”.

“I talk to the chief of the defence force very regularly,” Morrison blusters in reply, slyly dressing up the dressing down. (Surely every healthy Western democracy has a PM who is bosom pals with the defence chief?) But there is even criticism from within his own party over his politicising of the climate bushfires.

Good Morning Britain host, Piers Morgan, who was recently gob-smacked by Craig Kelly’s climate science ignorance and denialism, calls the video, “a self-promotional commercial with cheesy elevator music.”

“This is one of the most tone-deaf things I’ve ever seen a country’s leader put out during a crisis. Shameless & shameful,” he rages on Twitter. A range of similar comments confirm Morrison’s ear of tin. It will undo him.

The Australia Defence Association – a public-interest watchdog – says the government breaks rules around political advertising. “Party-political advertising milking ADF support to civil agencies fighting bushfires is a clear breach of the (reciprocal) non-partisanship convention applying to both the ADF & Ministers/MPs,”

Other home truths include a mismanaged economy; tanking for four years. Yet the government still has no plan beyond declaring it has a plan. Just as it has a coronavirus plan. Worse, the former Minister for sports rorts loads both barrels of her Beretta Silver Pigeon; takes aim at her PM Thursday. This is not in the plan.

The government’s cunning plan is to help “dodgy” Scotty (as the normally very proper ABC 7:30’s Laura Tingle calls Morrison on ABC Insiders, Sunday) evade questions such as Katharine Murphy’s query on sports grants Friday. Sport Australia tells The Saturday Paper that both former Sport minister McKenzie and the Sport Australia board approved its decision to withhold 25 per cent of the $41.7 million allocated to the Sporting Schools program in 2018 – and that it was “authorised by government under the usual budget processes”.

Sport Australia will soon “transition” to an Orwellian Sport Integrity Australia, due to operate from July or whenever the government comes up with the legislation required.

All Australians will be delighted to hear that Sport Integrity will police threats to Australian sport doping, match-fixing and cheating as befits an organ of Sport Australia which currently enables Liberal MPs to abuse funds in pork-barrel rorting to buy elections.

Yet another mystery hangs over our secretive government’s proceedings. Clover-gate is put in the shade. Thursday evening, McKenzie reveals she made no “changes or annotations” to a 4 April brief which suggests it was clearly altered by the PM or some staffer in his office before it went to Sport Australia 11 April.

Morrison fobs off questions at his Friday Presser. “I’m dealing with coronavirus”, Milli Vanilli Morrison lies. In reality, in between dodging shotgun pellets, he tries to take all the credit for the work of Federal Chief Medical Officer, Prof. Brendan Murphy and his team of state medical officers and staff. Yet it won’t wash.

Guardian Australia’s Katharine Murphy is shocked by Scotty’s refusal to take her questions on Friday. Tactically, it gives Bridget McKenzie’s revelations a type of legitimacy. The PM appears to be running away. He has every reason to. According to legal experts such as Anne Twomey, there is not one occasion in the sports rorts saga where the government appears to have acted legally.

Not only were its actions illegal, Professors Cheryl Saunders and Michael Crommelin of the Centre for Comparative Constitutional Studies at Melbourne University, and Professor Anne Twomey of Sydney University argue in a joint submission published by Senate Committee that the grants are unconstitutional.

The very bad news for Scott John Morrison is that the experts concur that not only did Minister McKenzie have no lawful power to approve the grants, but the offices of the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister had no power to direct how decisions were to be made. No wonder Scotty’s running scared.

The PM’s bushfire disinformation campaign blaming a lack of back-burning is also cackling away. On ABC, Aunty recycles the inflammatory remarks of Ted Bull, superbly-named Gippsland Nationals’ MP.

Last January, killjoy CFA chief, Steve Warrington warned hazard or fuel-load reduction it is not a “silver bullet” solution.

“Some of the hysteria that this will be the solution to all our problems is really just quite an emotional load of rubbish, to be honest,” he says, a comment close to heresy in our current post-fact, anti-expert climate.

Too late. Great swathes are cut alongside roads in Gippsland in Victoria. It’s unprecedented, say conservationists, who report loss of habitat; vandalised ecosystems. Logging contractors clear-fell timber in an eighty to a hundred metre buffer along thousands of kilometres of roads in climate bushfire-affected areas, near Cann River, Mallacoota, Cape Conran and Orbost.

Bushfire consultant, Cormac Farrell, says burns are a useful tool, especially when the hazard reduction burns were completed within 800 metres of urban areas or public assets.

“But in terms of protecting towns and cities on those worst-case scenarios on those really bad days when the fire, the wind and heat are really pumping, we are finding it is able to burn over relatively bare ground.”

Luckily, Scott Morrison has already set up its inquiry, a Royal Commission which will follow its mining lobby script and find value in hazard reduction, praise the role of the military, call for its increase and confirm his sermons on “adaptation” the latest excuse for doing nothing to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Our rort-meister government tries to jumps the shark in Senate Estimates this week. In a fit of sheer, gas-lit genius, rural and regional affairs committee chair, Susan McDonald rules, Monday, that the word “rorts” is unparliamentary.

Senate Estimates continues its theatre of cruelty; or abuse of due process, with AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw, prefacing his evidence by bragging that he set a record for questions on notice in his last appearance. He boasts he’ll beat his record this time.

Say what you will. Our federal government and its fans in big mining and banking and agribusiness are endlessly inventive in their contempt for democracy.

Everything is going to plan. But what is the plan? Wacky, undergrad humourist and Yoga-joker, Hungarian Josh Frydenberg, who is such a crack-up lately with his tacky, racist insults towards Australia’s Hindu community, in response to Labor’s Shadow Treasurer, Dr Jim Chalmers’ well-being budget, suddenly goes all coy.

Morrison helps out heaps with a three word slogan; the response will be “targeted, measured and scalable”.

All the Treasurer will say this week is that his coronavirus stimulus package to rescue a tanking economy “will have a B in front of it“. For business, buffoonery, or bluff? His government’s chronic mismanagement has caused our economy to tank for some time. Not once in six years has GDP been on trend.

Doubtless, details will follow as soon as the BCA, the Minerals Council and the banks put their requests in.  But the Nats may still be unhappy.

The Incredible Bridget McKenzie pushes back at her PM from under the bus he drove over her – only to be upstaged by My Corona, a show from Shonky Morrison and his honky tonk combo starring Chief Medical officer, Brendan Murphy, who gets to bare his teeth in a shit-eating grin while Morrison takes credit for Murphy’s work.

Backing vocals are by doo-wah dweeb, Greg Hunt, Minister for flatulent garrulity and advocate for the private health insurance virus; today a six billion dollar impost, crippling our public health system, a subsidy introduced by lying rodent John Howard, in 1996.

Greg tells us, endlessly, how well our sick health system is and what miracles of planning are being wrought, tautologically; “we have a national stockpile that is very well stocked.”

In reality, our masks used to be imported from Wuhan and even dentists have less than two weeks’ supply but government is “close to securing a deal” with local manufacturers claim the Australian Dental Association.

Funding? Funding never ceases to be a good news story. A recklessly generous, federal government will be “shoulder to shoulder with the states”, as former rugby forward, Morrison, puts it. This means forking out an extra five per cent, Hunt explains, patting himself and PM on the back over cutting such a great deal.

“It’s a very, very good outcome for the states. I think they recognise that … Normally, if somebody presented at a hospital without something such as this, we would pay 45 percent of the costs, and they would pay 55 percent of the costs.” Put this way, the federal government seems a model of profligate generosity.

Just imagine. By Friday, GPs, officials, “primary health workers” and those who tend the elderly hold meetings. Medication is stockpiled, they fret. Masks and other protective gear are scarce. Workers already struggle to do their jobs after Morrison ripped $1.2 billion from the aged-care industry budget, a cut which came on top of an earlier $500 million reduction in subsidies to create an industry now on the verge of collapse.

Above all, those who make our medical system work lament the lack of information and real leadership from government. AMA head Tony Bartone, exposes the reality behind the federal government’s interminable spin,

“Communication, timeliness and consistency of messaging about the virus to doctors and the public was brought up by doctors loud and clear. As was personal protective equipment.” Fatuous reassurances follow.

“There was a deep, deep understanding and acknowledgement by the commonwealth that more needs to be done in both of those spaces,” Dr Bartone adds, channelling the “in this space” vacuity, so popular in modern officialese, a virulent disease of communication itself; the enemy of plain speaking. Or accountability.

“It does not look like we are looking at containment, we are going to be managing an outbreak across our community, and we need to be properly funded and need true leadership from government about what everybody’s roles are,” warns Dr Charlotte Hespe,  of The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.

Talk about talk it up. Playing to packed houses across the nation, Morrison’s Corona Update Show features a troupe of Chief Medical Officers, state and federal, plucked, reluctantly, from the mounting impossibility of completing his or her day to day duties to publicly suffer the PM’s prolixity; his cheapjack grandstanding.

Worse, we “cross” to apostle of bombast, sidekick Dweeb Hunt who adds his own brand of long-winded spin.

“Our first task as a Government is to keep Australians safe. And as part of that, working together with the states and territories, with the community, with the health sector, to ensure that there’s a seamless approach.”

Clearly, the first task of his government is to divert our attention from the rising stench of scandal and corruption which, as Bernard Keane notes, threatens to eclipse the smell of fear as Morrison almost loses control of numbers in the House over Labor’s censure of his government because it “deliberately misled the parliament and the Australian people about the corrupt sports rorts scheme”.

Yet the message changes. “Get yourself tested” Hunt tells Australians with flu-like symptoms late Sunday. It’s a sudden departure from the confidence in containment script so carefully followed only a week ago. No-one tries to explain how an overburdened General Practice will cope with the sudden demand.

“Even though it can be a little bit of a stress on the system,” Hunt says. “If in doubt, get yourself tested.” If only you could get an appointment at your local medical centre.

The week has been testing for the Morrison government, a government which since its inception has found the challenges of policy-making impossible, let alone those of day to day administration. Whipping up pandemic panic is counterproductive, especially now since consumers see empty shelves; hear empty rhetoric while learning of the spread of the virus. Between reality and the rhetoric of government reassurances falls a shadow.

Exploiting fear while spinning the illusion of leadership and control marks the Coronavirus Update Show as another Morrison failure; another confirmation of the PM’s dud political judgement and the dysfunction of a cabinet of yea-sayers and bootlickers.

Worse, as COVID-19 takes hold in communities the length and breadth of Australia, it is clear that the PM’s initial claims of containment were mere Trump-like bravado.

Finally, fatuous Josh Frydenberg must come up with a miraculous package; a stimulus to businesses which are already foundering based on a trickle-down theory that is economic nonsense. Chris Bowen tries to be supportive on ABC Insiders.

“The economy has been weakening,” he says. “Now the government does need to respond. One of the things that they could do is adopt the policy we took with the election with the Australian investment guarantee – a … 20% upfront for all businesses and investments big or small.

The government has one sitting week before it is due to hand down its May Budget. It is unlikely to provide any relief to workers or the 4.6 million Australians who receive an income support payment of some kind from the Australian Government in the form of a pension or allowance. Or to increase the minimum wage or restore penalty rates.

Yet reputable economists argue that boosting household incomes is most likely to boost consumption and stimulate a stagnant economy.  Given its Coronavirus Update Show chicanery, however, expect the Coalition Coronavirus Budget Show to be all about rescuing its business mates while grandstanding fit to beat the band.

On its current performance, it will not begin to be able to factor in the economic dislocation of the virus such as the disruption of education, tourism, trade and supply chains, nor will its limited repertoire of neoliberal nostrums be up to the task.

But you can be sure the virus will be made to take the blame for four years of its own, woeful, economic mismanagement. And the welfare of business mates and wealth creators will matter far more than that of households or pensioners or wage and salary earners. And we’ll never stop hearing about how wonderful it is.

And it’ll be no good asking about sports rorts corruption and illegality or anything unconstitutional because the PM’s presser will always be about something else.

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Speaking of rorts…

Eleven days before the election last May, Scott Morrison announced $15 million to extend a program to build regional study centres in country towns.

The project, Country Universities Centres, was initially proposed by Duncan Taylor, the brother of the federal energy minister, Angus Taylor, when Duncan’s wife, NSW Nationals state upper house MP Bronwyn Taylor, was parliamentary secretary to John Barilaro, the Nationals state leader and deputy premier.

Despite a cost-benefit analysis showing the project would be unlikely to deliver a positive benefit to the state, the NSW government handed over $16 million – $8 million in 2017-18 and another $8 million in 2019.  The grants were awarded without tender.

Bronwyn Taylor has insisted she had nothing to do with the grants yet emails have revealed she was informed about it minutes after the decision was made which caused NSW Labor to ask the pertinent question in Senate estimates:

“You said you had no involvement but you were informed three weeks before the grant is announced. If you weren’t lobbying and engaging behind the scenes why were you told about it?”

The CUCs had previously received $5.1m funding in 2018 from the federal government, including $830,000 for a centre in Goulburn in the seat of Hume, the seat of Angus Taylor, whose wife, Louise Clegg, is on the board of the Goulburn CUC.

In New South Wales the centres have been largely located in seats that coincidentally are under pressure from minor parties, like the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers, or independents.

The $15 million handed over during the federal election campaign was for five new centres, only one of which had been decided upon at the time.  It just so happened to be in the seat of Indi where the Coalition were trying to wrest the seat back from the independents.

Once again, we see Coalition governments using public money to shore up their political fortunes and, once again, the Taylor family are the recipients of government largesse.

In fact:

“From the time Angus Taylor entered parliament in September 2013, companies & organisations the Taylor family have managed, directed or are directly associated with have benefited from over $93,515,673 in federal & state government funds.”

It pays to have friends and relatives in high places.

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We’re living in dangerous times

By Brett Flower  

This week, the Australian government claimed it does not owe welfare recipients a duty of care over the RoboDebt scandal. Only weeks before, documents revealed that the government had received legal advice that debts issued under the scheme were unlawful.

That is a lot to digest in one short paragraph, however, I will try.

For perspective, in 2012, I was made a Managing Director of a foreign-owned Australian Subsidiary. I took my obligations seriously. VERY seriously. The company performed high-risk work in a high-risk industry, and I was soon to learn that should the proverbial hit the fan (as has happened with the RoboDebt scheme) I would be personally responsible for any actions I took or oversight that occurred under my tenure as a director.

Unlike the RoboDebt scheme, Ministers (Government Directors) are not accountable under the Corporation’s act as Corporate Directors are. However, they are “obliged” (more recommended) to adhere to the Statement of Ministerial Standards. (SoMS). The latest version of SoMS was signed by the Prime Minister in August 2018.

My position is clear. If you are entrusted with a leadership role, the buck stops with you. You must endeavour to avail yourself of all information available to you to mitigate risk and execute your Duty of Care to your employees, customers, stakeholders and community. But what is meant by “Duty of Care”?

Duty of Care

I probably took my obligations duty further than most. To be honest, it frightened the crap out of me, however, I had a passionate desire to understand how I could perform a lifelong carer ambition, whilst protecting those around me… without surrendering everything that I believed in and had worked for.

After barely graduating from a week-long directors course and a further three weeks of study groups and in-depth research, I left the learning institute confused and with more questions than answers. Consequently, being “blessed” with an enquiring mind (a legacy from working 20 + years with engineers) and not the indoctrinated “she’ll be right” Australian version of accountability, I decided to gain further insight into this minefield called Corporate Governance. (CG)

I enrolled in and (barely again) completed a Graduate Diploma in Corporate Governance and then a Master’s degree in Corporate Governance research. Before completing, I took the bold but responsible and now very informed move and resigned as Managing Director. Quite simply, the Reward was not worth the risk.

The risk lies in the Directors Duty of Care.

The Detail is the Devil

Of the Many Acts a director is bound to abide by and instil is the WHS Act 2011 – Summarising, if you engage contractors to fulfil work responsibilities, or have students on work experience, apprentices, volunteers etc… all are classified as a ‘worker’ and therefore, fall under the ultimate duty of care of the director – (WHS Act 2011, section 7).

Remember, High Risk Work, High Risk Industry…

Among the prescribed text I studied for the CG courses was “Corporate Governance Principles, Policies and Practices by Bob Tricker

Page 103 states:

“The duty of care requires directors to exercise independent judgement with care, skill, and diligence.”

In Australia, courts DEMAND a duty of care that is expected of a person serving as a director. They recognise that ‘duty of care’ should also consider the knowledge, skill, and experience of that director.

Revisiting the government’s position, surely, a minister who is responsible for the Child Support Agency, Centrelink, Australian Hearing, CRS Australia and Medicare Australia would undertake his Duty of Care to “exercise independent judgement with care, skill, and diligence”, seriously?

It would seem not.

The Corporation Acts requires directors to follow the Business Judgement Rule which in summary requires directors to make any business judgement in good faith for a proper purpose; stay clear of conflicts of interest, inform themselves about the subject matter and, importantly, believe that the judgement is in the best interests of the corporation.

Just as a Managing Director is elected to serve a corporation by a board of their peers, so too a government is elected by its peers to serve its populace. Now, substitute the word “Corporation” with “people” from the last sentence in the last paragraph.

What our Laws and Standards State

Importantly, the 2018 Ministerial Standards states the following:

1.3. In particular, in carrying out their duties:

(i) Ministers must ensure that they act with integrity – that is, through the lawful and disinterested exercise of the statutory and other powers available to their office, appropriate use of the resources available to their office for public purposes, in a manner which is appropriate to the responsibilities of the Minister.

(ii) Ministers must observe fairness in making official decisions – that is, to act honestly and reasonably, with consultation as appropriate to the matter at issue, taking proper account of the merits of the matter, and giving due consideration to the rights and interests of the persons involved, and the interests of Australia.

(iii) Ministers must accept accountability for the exercise of the powers and functions of their office – that is, to ensure that their conduct, representations and decisions as Ministers, and the conduct, representations and decisions of those who act as their delegates or on their behalf – are open to public scrutiny and explanation.

(iv) Ministers must accept the full implications of the principle of ministerial responsibility.

Can you see the parallels between the corporations Act and the Ministerial Standards? Accountability, fairness, transparency, diligence…The question that must now be asked is quite straight forward

WHOSE INTERESTS ARE BEING SERVED?

Absolution from Responsibility

When a director or corporation absolves them/itself from responsibility, they are brought to bear by the courts and all too rarely, ASIC; the somewhat toothless Government Watchdog that has its investigative and enforcement power stripped away by successive governments. (That is another article in the works). As recently as the Banking Royal Commission, The Hayne report stated:

“A trustee has a duty to identify relevant considerations before making a decision and to use all proper care and diligence in obtaining the relevant information and advice relating to those considerations.[1] It has been said that if the consideration of the trustee is not properly informed, it is not genuine.[2] The duty to take these steps flows both from the best interests obligation and also from the duty of care, skill and diligence. (P58 fsrc-volume-2-final-report).

Are you Starting to see a Pattern?

There are multiple laws and acts in place to hold Directors and Corporations accountable. However, there seems to be very little in the way of processes for holding Governments accountable. Yes, we have the opportunity every three years to voice our view, but let us not forget, it took just six years between 1939 and 1945 to cause generations of loss, destruction, genocide and ecocide. Caused by a government that was not initially held to account and it’s people surrendering to dangerous propaganda – a view used to promote a view or political cause…

Let’s also respect that not all have the will, drive or need to pursue a graduate diploma or master’s degree in their chosen area of responsibility or interest. The Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and Government Services is no fool. He holds an MBA and Graduate Diploma in Information Analysis. He is aware of his duty of care and his ministerial obligations. It seems that his “corporation” is a willing and supportive co-conspirator, letting significant lapses in judgement care, skill, and diligence slide “through to the keeper”. Next ball, please.

It’s by Design

This same minister also made headlines for claiming nearly $3000.00 per month for internet access. Other transgressions include signing his father up to be a director – without his consent or knowledge -to his own Private Investment Company – that conveniently had won tens of millions of Government contracts.

Interestingly, under the 201D of corporations’ act, “Consent to act as director”, A company contravenes this subsection if a person does not give the company a signed consent to act as a director of the company before being appointed.

Lets not waste too much time talking about Rolex’s and conflict of interest…Once more, that’s another article for another time.

I hope you are seeing a pattern. It would appear that different rules apply to the elite few than to the egalitarian many.

The Rule of Laws is not a Law of Rules

We are indeed in very dangerous times. When a government Minster is empowered and supported by its “board and CEO” whilst flagrant breaches of its own Statement of Ministerial Standards occur. We are in real danger of abusing the Rule of law. This is where our democracy rapidly falls to pieces. Remember… just six years.

As Chief Justice Allsop AO wroteThe Rule of Law is not a Law of Rules.

He stated:

“The Rule of Law lives in the recognition by society of the human character of law: its essential underpinning human values – honesty, equality of treatment, a respect for the dignity of the individual, the rejection of unfairness, and mercy; in the place of an independent judicature and an independent profession; and in the judicature’s exercise of its accompanying irreducible protective power.”

Let’s consider just one part of this very important text: “equality of treatment, a respect for the dignity of the individual, the rejection of unfairness, and mercy”

We can now complete the circle. In February 2020, our Government has claimed it does not owe welfare recipients a duty of care over the RoboDebt scandal; it claims no responsibility for equality of treatment or a respect for the individual; it rejects fairness and shows little or no mercy.

If you’re not infuriated by now, I’ll let you consider The Australian Department of Health’s handbook advice for its workers. It discusses responsibilities to “your clients and to other workers”.

“As a worker, you have a legal and moral responsibility to keep your clients safe from harm whilst they are using a service. This responsibility is known as ‘duty of care’.”

If only our elected “leaders” acted and behaved in a manner that they expect their public and public servants to… Uh, but alas, that would require accountability and transparency. Two qualities that have been sorely missing in politicians for too many years.

In February 2019, it was reported that more than 2030 people had died after receiving a Centrelink “RoboDebt” debt notice.

* * * * *

[1] Abacus Trust co (Isle of Man) v Barr [2003] 1 All ER 705, [23]; Scott v National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty [1998]

[2] All ER 705, 717. [1] Finch v Telstra Super Pty Ltd (2010) 242 CLR 254, [66] citing Kerr v British Leyland (Staff) Trustees Ltd [2001] WTLR 1071, 1079; Stannard v Fisons Pension Trust Ltd [1992] IRLR 27, 31.

[3] 1. Tricker, Bob. Corporate Governance: Principles, Policies and Practices (p. 103). Oxford University Press.

This article was originally published on The Blog.

Brett Flower has spent 30 years owning and managing businesses. His journey includes a humble trade background, where he started an HVAC business the day after he finished his Mechanical Engineering Cadetship; through to his most recent role as Managing Director of the multimillion-dollar Australian subsidiary Reinhausen Australia, the 2nd oldest subsidiary of the 118-year-old Global Electro-Mechanical Engineering German Icon; Maschinenfabrik Reinhausen.

Brett advises organisations on business turnaround, cultural reform, growth strategy, corporate governance and workplace health & safety (WHS), providing business owners, aspiring leaders and managers, officers and front-line staff with a pathway to growth, sustainability and long-term success.

Brett holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) majoring in Corporate Governance Research (HD), a diploma in WHS, is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (GAICD), a Certified SafeWork NSW Construction and Health Safety Representative (HSR) Trainer and is also a qualified Trainer and Assessor.

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Speak out

By Ad astra  

Although recent public opinion polls have suggested that some people are losing faith in democracy, how many would prefer another style of governance? Very few! Yet our Australian democracy does have one telling defect: usually, we have a chance to vote for a federal government only once every three years. Once we’ve voted, we are then stuck with our choice until the next election.

How many times have you heard people lament this electoral helplessness? How many times have you read in the social media how much some voters would like to oust the federal Coalition government? How many times have you sensed the frustration people feel as they contemplate having to endure it until 2022? How many times have you heard both journalists and ordinary people express disappointment about the poor performance of Scott Morrison? Yet, we are stuck with him, and his cohort of incompetent, even corrupt ministers.

Incompetent? Think about the LNP’s longstanding lack of climate and energy policies. Think about its inability to take meaningful action in pursuit of the worldwide goal of zero net emissions by 2050. Think about its inadequate planning for drought, fire and flood emergencies. Think about how our PM rejected the offer of expert advice about these threats. Think about the LNP’s disjointed recovery plans after the recent fires and floods. Think about a stuttering economy now facing a fading surplus, rising unemployment and underemployment, a shamefully low Newstart allowance, chronic wage stagnation, poor productivity, and lagging R&D investment. Although on the face of it Morrison’s response to Covid19 might see reasonable, the way he is using it an excuse for a weak economy is not..

Corruption? Think about the continuing ‘sports rort’ saga, the ‘you are not allowed to see’ Gaetjens Report that says ‘there’s nothing to see here’ even though it contradicts the detailed Report of the Auditor General, the validity of which has been once more confirmed in Senate Estimates by those who prepared it. If you need more convincing, read this. Think about how 83% of the Coalition’s $3 billion, election-era Urban Congestion Fund went to government or marginal seats. Think about the Angus Taylor imbroglio, which seems to have no end. Think about the strife-ridden Nationals tearing themselves apart with self-interest. Think about the hard-core denial by the conservative rump of the LNP of the reality and consequences of climate change, and their ideologically driven advocacy for more coal-fired power stations at a time when the rest of the world is abandoning them. If these are not corrupt behaviours, what on earth are they?

So what can we do? This short piece is a clarion call to Speak out.

This is what this blogsite has been doing since 2008 via 868 posts to date – amounting to some two million words. How much influence The Political Sword has had is impossible to know. Yet we have had sufficient faith in it to continue it uninterruptedly for 12 years. In its earlier years each post might attract as many as 300 comments, but competition from the proliferation of alternative news and political websites has resulted in this falling away.

Aware of the limitations of our political website, this piece appeals to all of you to give us a hand, to let your voices be heard often and loudly. Do speak out!

One option is via online comments on this and other news and political blogsites, and through the social media. Some of you do this every day; we invite all of you to do likewise. You may even like to try your hand at writing a piece for The Political Sword. If this appeals to you, send an email to Ad Astra at 1tpsteam@gmail.com to obtain further information.

Another avenue is via your local newspaper. Many still exist. They carry local news, which is always of interest to locals. Hungry for content, they will welcome your contribution. You may have more difficulty having a ‘Letter to the Editor’ accepted by State or National newspapers, but it’s worth a try. As you know, some do actually get published!

Another option is via your local member of federal parliament. It matters not whether he or she is a member of your preferred party. Local members are there to represent your views in parliament and its committees, even if different from their own. Visit their electoral office and say to the member: “You may not agree with my views, but I insist you take them to your party room and your committees, and express them forcibly; I want your colleagues to know what I think”. The member is obliged to do so, to represent you as an individual voter.

Each of us has but a small voice, but thousands of small voices can make a lot of noise. We know that parliamentarians are very sensitive to letters sent to them by constituents, so long as they are courteous and respectful. While a couple of letters on the same subject might be ignored, more than a few ring alarm bells for them, and evoke a frightened response. We’ve known that for ages. Writing a letter has more potency than sending an email. Parliamentarians receive thousands of emails, which are too easy to delete.

Here is a website that gives advice about how to write to a parliamentarian. This example is particularly useful as it focuses on climate change, a subject you may wish to address with your MP. Here’s another resource.

Please join hands with us at The Political Sword to facilitate the changes to the governance of our country we all desire and deserve.

This article was originally published on The Political Sword.

For Facebook users, The Political Sword has a Facebook page:
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It Can’t Get Any Worse. Can it?

By Grumpy Geezer  

Are we there yet? Have we reached rock bottom?

The L/NP coagulation’s purpose is, and always has been, to function as the primary mechanism for their corporate chums to shovel public money into their private hands – supplemented with a shoot-it-or-chop-it-down nod and wink to the squatocracy and the Kickatinalong kulaks to lock in the bumpkin vote.

* * * * *

There was a time when, as conservatives, the Tories believed in compliance with conventions and standards; when their born-to-rule beliefs at least included some sense of noblesse oblige, when rabid right-wing fuckwittery was hidden in the attic of their port and cigars old boy’s fraternities. That time was way back when a New Guard proto-fascist Francis De Groot got arrested and charged for being an arsehole whereas his present day facsimile, Herr Kipfler Spud-Dutton, gets handed the reins to the nation’s spooks, goon squads and thought police and who, in a fully functional democracy would be as welcome as a loose stool in a preschool ball pit. This is progress?

The 1975 overthrow of Gough Whitlam kicked the legs out from under Australia’s progressivism and showed the lengths that Tories are willing to go to when they lose control of the Treasury benches. But in the aftermath of the dark days of Kerr’s coup Malcolm Fraser as PM at least showed glimpses of humanity with his sympathy for refugees and his antipathy to apartheid.

The fetid stench that settled over the Lying Nasty Party was from the beetle-browed goblin John Howard’s shrivelled arse hitting the big, green Parliamentary swivel chair. His operating style was meanness and trickery, divide-and-conquor was his modus operandi and FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) was his tool of trade. He was the architect of Workchoices Macht Frei – the manifesto of his mendacity and duplicity in one nasty, divisive Newspeak package. It could not get any worse. Except it did.

Enter the living proof of the invalidity of the Peter Principle:

The Peter Principle is an observation that the tendency in most organizational hierarchies, such as that of a corporation, is for every employee to rise in the hierarchy through promotion until they reach a level of respective incompetence.

If all of the village idiots in all of the world gathered together in the one village they would elect Tony Abbott as their icon of idiocy. He’s an ideas-free zone who through happenstance rose far beyond his level of incompetence. He would be mentally challenged in the role of porn theatre bucket boy, he could capture all of his thoughts on an Etch-A-Sketch and his rudimentary planning capacity had him thinking that tactics are a minty breath freshener. He’s a void that could suck the vacuum from empty space.

With the face of a carp wrapped in cling film, his tongue flicking like a lizard trying to lick its own eyeballs he’d invade the personal space of visiting dignitaries while the colour drained from their faces. He’d cackle like marbles being dropped down a drain – somewhat undermining his self-image of a macho man. Covering his manhood in too-small red sluggos made him look like a moulting yowie, his bow-legged, shoulder-rolling affectation not so much butch as “chimpanzee-with-ball-rash”. What a fucking disaster he was.

The L/NP effluvium was briefly masked with Eau de Swarovski-scented inertia in a leather jacket when the mendacious wrecker Abbott was consigned to the ignominy of the backbench by Malcolm Bligh Turnbull who impressed no-one more so than he impressed himself. He was a man of inaction but at least we were saved from the RWFWs; there was no-one who could be worse than Abbott.

Turnbull The Useless’s legacy is three-fold. We have a national telecommunications infrastructure that would embarrass Lower Moustachistan. We have a neo-fascist tuber as Minister for Home Affairs and we inherited a carnival side-show spruiker and Armageddonist as PM, showing that the impossible is possible – Morrison is even worse than Abbott.

Howard to Abbott to Morrison, lower and lower and lower. The mendacity has multiplied, incompetence is rewarded, avoidance of scrutiny is embedded in their governance; Parliament is like a performance of Puppetry Of The Penis – we’re watching cocks tie themselves in knots. Public service has been crushed by cronyism and profiteering privateers, authoritarianism is rampant and dodgy practice has devolved into brazen criminality. It’s as bad as it gets.

We have an end-of-times Prime Minister, an Armageddonist who wont buy long life milk let alone plan for the nation’s future. He no doubt secretly welcomes the coronavirus as both a distraction from the blatant theft of hundreds of millions of our dollars to support his re-election, and as a marketing opportunity to salvage his image from the train-wreck that was his behaviour during the bushfire crisis. It’s also a handy excuse for not delivering on his boasted budget surplus.

As a Pentacostalist nutter Morrison will believe that the virus, the fires and the drought are his god’s will and that he and his righteous brethren will safely ascend to the heavens in a golden, chauffeured, stretched Beemer. His god apparently has no misgivings about larceny on a grand scale, brazen lying or the persecution of the unfortunate – as long as there’s no lawn mowing on Sundays.

In the words of another ad man – but wait, there’s more.

Despite Australia’s governance being in the hands of a graduate of the Jimmy Swaggart School of Ethics and the deputy PM being a bobbleheaded dullard of such monumental dreariness that his pronouncements have been copyrighted as a sleep apnea therapy it can get even worse.

Like crows circling roadkill there’s the usual chancers impatiently awaiting their opportunity. There’s Christian Porter, an Attorney General who’d re-gift a Scrabble set to a school for dyslexics just so he could enjoy the bickering. There’s Smarmy Josh Fraudburger, a pitiable PJK-wannabe who’d take bets on which blind beggar in a wheelchair would make it across the Bradfield Expressway at peak hour.

And then there’s that other ever-present miasma, Barking Barmy – aka Englebert Humpastaffer. As coherent as a cement mixer with tourettes who shouts at clouds while dressed as a hay bale, who has more kids than teeth and who is a Riverview educated ex-Deputy PM raging against “elites” while trousering $600k for sending some text messages. This delusional cretin’s lack of self-awareness tests the parameters of the Dunning-Kruger effect as he continues to harbour dark thoughts about shivving his bobbleheaded boss.

A Dutton/Joyce government?

With Dutton and Joyce the Tories can indeed sink even lower than the fetid depths that they have already plumbed.

Let’s not forget some of Spud’s and Joyce’s appalling cheer squads who would be rewarded with further perks, rorts and influence.

Matt King Coal Canavan’s perpetually pained expression could be constipation – an ongoing struggle to release an immovable chocolate hostage on camera, however it’s more likely a symptom of his frustration at his inability to monetise sunshine and wind for familial benefit as he has with coal.

The rotund Georgie Porgy Christenson has reportedly been trying to get into shape. Spherical apparently. His running machine has a remote control, he attends a drive-through gym, he puts mayonaisse on his diet pills, he supports his local sugar industry via Krispy Kreme but Georgy has threatened to work up the effort to cross the floor. He’s just waiting for Harvey Weinstein’s zimmer frame to appear on eBay.

Abbott loyalist Otto Abetz is so inflexible and leans so far to the right he could double as a sun-dial’s gnomon. The possibility of a  suitable position in Spud’s Gestapotato (brown jacket included) could rekindle mein onkle-like ambition in Otto’s withered loins. Kriminaldirektor Deportations perhaps.

With a voice like fingernails down a chalkboard, dunking stool passenger Michaelia Carcrash’s palatability is limited and her loyalty is as suspect as a scoutmaster’s lollybag – just ask Malcolm Turnbull. Well practiced in the duplicitous arts as she is she’s comfortable in her current role as Minister For Employee Exploitation but likely could be tempted by a more rortable portfolio. Carcrash’s contribution to the sisterhood is in proving that a woman can be just as contemptible as any man. Her red high heels are not feminist symbols, they are simply to stop her nasty from dragging along the pavement.

Cheap shots aside, what’s my point?

The L/NP has provided easy targets for loathing and derision since Howard’s time. Their only innovation is in exploring new ways to exploit most of us for the benefit of the few. They are feudalists, Randesque survival-of-the-richest oligarchs, environmental rapists, autocrats and religious fringe dwellers. They are manifestly incompetent, they are liars and grifters.

But as abominable as they are the Tories have proven time and again they can go lower still. They are now indulging in brazen criminality. They should be in prison, not in government. Get angry, stay angry. If we let them they will continue to sink lower and lower.

This article was originally published on The Grumpy Geezer.

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The appalling behaviour of politicians must stop

I’m sure Josh Frydenberg thought he was being very funny as he ridiculed Jim Chalmers for suggesting we need a well-being budget. I’m sure he revelled in the laughter and accompanying jeers from the nodding heads behind him. He was no doubt encouraged by the smirking jerk to his right as he delivered his putdown.

“I was thinking yesterday, as the member for Rankin was coming into the chamber fresh from his Ashram deep in the mountains of the Himalayas barefoot in the chamber, robes flowing, incense burning, beads in one hand, wellbeing budget in the other, I thought to myself: ‘What yoga position the member for Rankin would assume … to deliver the first wellbeing budget?”

Unsurprisingly, Australia’s many Hindu citizens were unimpressed.  The President of the Universal Society of Hinduism said in a statement it was “heartbreaking” for the hardworking and peaceful Australian Hindu community to watch the religion be “belittled and laughed at” in the parliament.

But that’s what our politicians do constantly. Belittling is their cap in trade. Jeering and catcalling and name-calling is standard practice.

This sort of behaviour is emotional abuse.

“Emotional abuse may include behaviours such as threatening, insulting, shaming, belittling, name-calling, gaslighting and stonewalling, which are done in an attempt to chip away at the victim’s independence and self-esteem so the abuser can gain control in the relationship. “

We see this behaviour every day in our parliament.

Along with the emotional abuse, politicians also fuel racism by their snide remarks and racial/religious profiling. Who could forget Attorney-General George Brandis defending the rights of bigots?

Peter Dutton is a constant offender – laughing about Pacific Islands being inundated, wanting to fast track visas for “white” South Africans, labelling second and third-generation Lebanese Australians as a terrorist threat, telling us that Melbourne is under siege from African gangs, boycotting the Apology and stridently defending Bill Leak’s cartoon about Aboriginal parenting, ridiculing Armani wearing asylum seekers – the list is endless.

Josh Frydenberg only recently spoke about the rise of anti-Semitism in Australia yet he seems to have little problem with his party wanting to prioritise Christian migration.  They give lip service to religious freedom but they really mean the freedom to impose their beliefs on others.

We can’t punish our way out of the domestic violence epidemic that grips Australia.  We can’t get rid of racism just by laws.  We all have a part to play in changing our society by stepping up to say it’s not ok.

It would be great if the leaders of our country, the people who make the laws, took some time to examine the example they are setting with their appalling behaviour.

It’s not ok.

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COVID-19 brings a hard reckoning for Morrison and his government.

Like a rat up a drainpipe, wildly excited by any crisis not of his own making, panic merchant Messiah Morrison is all over the news this week. Suddenly there’s a pandemic to blame for his government’s monumental ineptitude; its catastrophic bungling. Even a re-boot of the prime ministerial persona may be possible.

Can Hootchie Kootchie Henry from Hawaii morph into Captain Australia, our public guardian?

Cynics see the derelict, deadbeat dad; the leadership failure in the climate fires, avid for an image makeover. Will Scotty soon be modelling a designer range of dinkum Aussie anti COVID-19 combo cap and facemasks?

Others welcome what may be a return to sanity; a willingness by the Morrison government to take Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy and his colleagues’ expert advice.  But only because they have no other option. As Peter Hartcher notes, Australia’s state and federal medical officers, convene daily, usually by phone hook-up, is the peak point of the pure medical advice, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC). No politicians sit in on their meetings.

Morrison is forced to take expert and specialist scientific advice? It’s a total contrast with this summer’s climate fires where current fire chiefs were locked out of discussions; forbidden to mention climate change.

Worse, Greg Mullins, former chief of NSW Fire and Rescue reports that a group of former fire chiefs tried to meet with the PM since April 2019 because “they knew a bushfire crisis was coming.” He refused.

But Scotty’s not himself lately. He’s had a rough trot in the $100 million Sports Rorts Arena; 136 emails link his office with former Sports Minister, Bridget McKenzie. Labor is asking smart-arse questions about Morrison’s $4 billion urban congestion fund rort, set up to funnel money into the campaign funds of its MPs in mainly Victorian marginals, originally to fund roads, but later to build railway car parks at stations which had no available land – a car parks in the air scam which makes the Building Better Regions rort look honest.

It’s bound to be all Labor’s fault, of course, but Victoria’s state government was not consulted. Now Labor has the hide to demand answers as to why the bulk of funds bypassed areas of highest population growth; the low-income western suburbs, serviced by forty railway stations, in favour of a few well-heeled electorates.

Several stations were funded in Josh Frydenberg’s well-heeled seat of Kooyong, Karen Middleton reports for the Saturday Paper. Hungarian Josh’s return was at risk, given he was up against The Greens and a high-profile independent. Goldstein, IPA shill Tim Wilson’s electorate, got a grant for Brighton Beach station in the state’s affluent south-eastern suburbs. In brief, all but three of forty-six projects were in marginal Liberal seats.

Morrison’s Rorts R Us campaign plan included The Building Better Regions Fund which gave 94 per cent of its $841 million to electorates held or targeted by the Coalition in the months it took to buy the federal election, where funding was at least shared with Clive Palmer, eager to cruel Labor’s chances for a mere $83 million.

So endemic is its corruption that in most other democratic nations, the entire government would be resigning. But such is the power of vested interest and so domesticated is our mainstream media, we are rapidly losing the means to speak truth to power, let alone hold governments to account. The courts don’t help.

Misleading Chinese-speaking voters in Kooyong and Chisholm is now deemed OK by the Federal Court.

Richard Ackland reports that the court’s night-before-Christmas finding was that in at least 16 polling places (of 42) in Chisholm and 11 (of 37) in Kooyong, corflutes were placed sufficiently close to AEC signage to be misleading or deceptive. Yet there’s no evidence, it says last week, that Liberal apparatchik Simon Frost, had anything to do with their placement. How they got there must be just another Morrison miracle.

Oddly, one or two latte-sipping city-dwelling media leftists not under AFP watch, spot a ship of state adrift.

“Bouncing around at the mercy of the sea” [is]  “… where Australia finds itself under Captain Scott Morrison: engine in neutral, rudder jammed, lurching from side to side, with the poor passengers increasingly seasick and the ship drifting closer to the rocks,” notes Paddy Manning in The Monthly Today.

Worse, the arse is falling out of private investment, which drops 2.8% in the December quarter, while construction falls 3%, (bugger building any infrastructure, all that matters to Morrison’s mob is providing buckets of funding). Recession looms. Even The Australian‘s Economics Editor, Adam Creighton says a per capita recession is now almost certain- but – look, over there! Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

No it’s Scotty from PM™

Scotty from Pandemic Marketing has arisen. He spruiks himself and his do-nothing government of mining shills and rorters on steroids as our COVID-19 saviours. On all channels. Even the sonorous piffle that is ABC News 24, interrupts its tepid stream of unconsciousness with a “major” press conference from the PM, Tuesday.

“… we are not immune to the coronavirus and its impacts, but we are as best prepared as any country can be in the world today …”  It’s a hollow slogan given our public health system is already over-stretched. By Friday, experts such as Prof Raina MacIntyre, head of the biosecurity program at the Kirby Institute at the University of NSW, predicts anywhere from a quarter to seventy per cent of Australians may be infected.

“If 50% of Australians – 13 million people – became infected that is up to 400,000 people dying, almost 2 million people needing a hospital bed and 650,000 people needing an ICU bed.”

But that’s a worst case scenario – even if it does expose the emptiness of federal government rhetoric and the legacy of cutbacks in funding. Brendan Murphy is less alarmist; more reassuring,

“We are still contained in Australia. We do not have any evidence whatsoever of community transmission in this country. Whilst we are preparing and we are realistic about what might come in future weeks. We are not in a situation where anyone needs to be concerned.”

So, does the Morrison government really have a plan? No. Not ever. Anywhere. What it banks on is spin and the goodwill of health workers.

“Part of the pandemic plan is ‘hospitals opening their surge capacity’. Now, I don’t want to alarm anyone, but there is no surge capacity. It’s all open … we are full every day. We’ve been saying this for years,” past president of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, Dr Simon Judkins tells The Guardian Australia.

Yet capacity can be created by cancelling surgery and outpatients’ clinics and Dr Judkins believes that our system will cope, chiefly because of the dedication of our healthcare workers; not because of any planned inbuilt surge capacity. Queensland University virologist, Mackay notes we can’t put the virus back in the box,

“So it’s really important that we find, test and isolate the ill to slow the spread and give hospitals plenty of time to prepare and manage cases without being overwhelmed. Many countries probably can’t trace, test and isolate as well as China, Singapore, Hong Kong have.”

At Tuesday’s briefing, Morrison throws to Josh Frydenberg, with other well-worn lies. “We are responding on the basis of a strong platform of a resilient economy, a very strong health system that has put Australia in this position to deal with what is a very serious challenge.”

Resilient? The government’s much-vaunted infrastructure boom is nowhere to be seen. In fact non-residential construction is down 3.4 per cent, while private and public engineering fall 0.5 per cent. Residential construction slumps to 4.6 per cent for the December quarter, its fifth consecutive quarterly fall. Forget  Morrison’s bare-faced lies and boosterism, Australia is deep in a building recession.

Private investment is falling in mining and in building while business investment adds up to a mere $28.5 billion, a total which follows a revised 0.4 per cent fall in the September quarter. Apart from some spending on equipment and plant, up 0.8 per cent, investment is so weak, in dollar terms the figures look like a retreat to 2017, reports Crikey’s Bernard Keane and Glenn Dyer. Those tax cuts just failed to boost investment, despite all the government hype. There was never any evidence it would.

Morrison deploys John Howard’s Alert but not alarmed V2.0 His government is acting with “an abundance of caution.” “Everyone will get coronavirus,” The OZ obligingly chimes in, misquoting QLD Uni’s Ian Mackay.

Bans are placed on travellers from China. From Sunday, Iran will be included. Yet Brendan Murphy cautions against a policy of stopping the boats 2.0. And the planes.  Travel bans won’t work, he says, “… it’s not possible to further isolate Australia”. The focus should be on detection and containment instead.

Saturday, a 63-year-old Gold Coast woman recently returned from Iran has coronavirus, authorities confirm. A beautician, she says she saw 30-40 clients at work on Thursday before going home ill. So much for Hunt’s containment claim two days earlier. COVID-19 – the disease caused by the Sars-CoV-2 virus – has a case fatality rate of between 2-3%. Whilst we don’t know precisely how it spreads, we do know it will spread.

Harvard epidemiology professor Marc Lipsitch predicts that within 2020, 40 to 70 percent of people around the world will be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. But this does not mean that all will have severe illnesses. “It’s likely that many will have mild disease, or may be asymptomatic,” he says.

Epidemiologists concur that the most likely outcome of this outbreak is a new seasonal disease—a fifth “endemic” coronavirus. With the other four diseases, people are not known to develop long-lasting immunity. If this one follows suit, and if the disease continues to be as severe as it is now, “cold and flu season” could become “cold and flu and COVID-19 season.”

But you’ve got to hand it to Morrison. He can whistle up patriotic pride in a flash, especially when News Poll has him on minus 20 – up only two statistically insignificant points on last poll. You don’t come back from that an anonymous backbencher tells Paul Bongiorno. But it won’t for want of hide, guile or rat cunning.

Scotty’s shameless, dog-whistling chauvinism, rivals only his brazen self-promotion and ineffable self-love.

By Thursday, Morrison is a man with a plan. He refines his rhetoric, aka the Gospel according to Crosby-Textor. Crosby’s formula is, go negative and go for fear. Two days later you say you have A Plan. Morrison stays on script – even if he’s humiliated by Pig Islander, Jacinda Ardern in a presser wisely scheduled for Friday.

“Do not deport your people and your problems,” the Kiwi PM rebukes him. Publicly. Ouch.

Morrison’s mob has a plan, even if it can’t say what that plan is – apart from such caution as calling pandemic when the World Health Organisation warns against panic. Banning travellers from China? A fake ban. It’s soon exposed as a hoax by travellers such as Rob Garrington who writes a letter to the editor of Nine’s The Age,

The Prime Minister has announced a plan for handling a pandemic. Is he for real or playing politics again? On Thursday I flew from Singapore to Melbourne and my plane included passengers from China. At Melbourne Airport there were no temperature checks, hand-sanitising stations or information about the virus’ symptoms. At the Malaysian and Singapore airports I travelled through, temperature checks were made and hand-sanitising stations were everywhere.

The Prime Minister says he and Border Security are doing everything to protect us and check incoming passengers. None of this was evident between 11.45am and 12.30pm at the airport on Thursday. Scott Morrison again appears to be all spin. Rob’s on to something. Next is the spin given to the word “plan”.

The Guardian’s Katharine Murphy counts the word “plan” twenty times, in Morrison’s Dorothy Dixers, while Amy Remeikis counts sixteen uses of the p-word by Dutton. But first a note of caution. Harping on about having a plan is what Abbott and Turnbull used to do. It’s a tell-tale sign you haven’t a clue what you’re doing.

Caution? We lead the world in shirking curbing our carbon emissions. But even in the relentless self-parody that Morrison summons so effortlessly when emergencies beckon, the PM kicks an own goal this time.

Only ScoMo could whip up hysteria with an “abundance of caution”. Reeking of abundant caution is the orgy of pork-barrelling Morrison’s office directed prior to the miracle election, replete with colour-coded spreadsheets to help it fund club buildings already built. Or it’s eagerness to chip in half a million dollars to help SA’s Old Collegians, a disbanded women’s rugby team in Sturt, to get its non-existent kit on.

How else to describe giving grants to clubs who requested nothing? It’s a super abundance of caution. But it’s not just fun and games, we see that caution also in the doubling of the nation’s net debt since the Coalition took office in 2013. We see it in its climate science denialism, its ecocide and environmental vandalism.

We see it, above all, in the inexorable self-engorging authoritarianism; of the rampaging, malignant growth of Caesar’s mad black eye; the power of the state. 2019 was huge for the Australian Police State, writes Crikey’s Kishor Napier-Raman. Our federal government’s abundance of caution has seen it pass more laws restricting fundamental rights and freedoms than any other Western nation. “No-one is above the law” smirks Morrison.

Children are strip-searched. Icons of caution, the AFP, raid a journo for revealing how our spooks plan to spy on us all.  MPs howl to outlaw protest and dissent. The Coalition’s war on whistle-blowers proceeds apace.

“David McBride, the whistle-blower in the Afghan Files case, is in and out of court all year. Richard Boyle, the former debt collector who disclosed unethical practices at the ATO could face up to 161 years in prison if found guilty. The prosecution of Witness K, the intelligence officer who exposed Australia’s bugging of the Timor-Leste cabinet, drags on,” notes Napier-Raman.

Julian Assange’s show-trial proceeds with Morrison’s tacit support. Showing an abundance of caution, the PM ignores the pleas of filmmaker James Ricketson, who spent 15 months as a political prisoner in jail in Cambodia. Ricketson begs Morrison to “pick up the phone” to his British counterpart if only to prevent Assange – whose mental and physical health is rapidly failing – from dying in London’s Belmarsh prison.

Not a word is heard from the very Christian Porter, who is far too busy being the model of a modern Attorney-General, fearlessly at war with unions, whose members, statistically, are typically women teachers and nurses. Assange is publicly pilloried in a grotesque travesty of justice because, as Andrew Wilkie writes, ” … he publicised US misconduct and presented hard evidence of their war crimes.”

Abundance of Caution may well be the name of Morrison government’s heavy metal band. Centre stage, Scotty fronts the massive News Corp valve amplifier; an old clunker with its comforting hum and retro harmonic distortion. Backed by Dutto’s Peter Pan Border Force boy band, the week’s gig features solos from pumped-up Greg Hunt. Our Chief Medical Officer even gets a guest spot.  Never let a good crisis go to waste.

But incredibly, our Chief Medical Officer and his band of experts, dedicated to public health and not private wealth have upstaged Scotty; unplugged the Coalition’s COVID-19 pandemic plan for a comeback. The group will have to sing for its supper now.

Of course, the virus will cop the blame for the stock market crash, the forced abandonment of the federal government’s surplus fetish and a recession we had to have but so huge is Morrison’s loss of credibility and legitimacy over its sports rorts pork barrel corruption, that he and his team can bullshit all they like about fundamentals being in place. Praise the economy for its resilience.

But, now, he will be forced to contend with the reality of that economy performing under stress. As his public health system and his other policy-free zones are put to the test.

A hard reckoning is coming. A type of enforced accountability will come with it, too. It’s about six years’ overdue.

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The smirking arrogance of the LNP

By Kathryn 

Not a single day goes by that we are not confronted with yet another LNP rort, another criminal act of fraudulent misappropriation of taxpayer funds, yet more and more revelations about LNP depravity, more lies, ceaseless broken promises, relentless chaos and inner-party political back fighting, treacherous instability and traitorous, power-hungry backstabbing!

Every day, never-ending news highlighting the LNP’s unspeakable bible-thumping hypocrisy, incidences of sniggering, smirking arrogance, barely disguised misogyny, the appalling defence and support of predatory paedophiles (like George Pell). Not a day goes by when we are not bombarded with endless examples of the LNP’s hopelessly inept mismanagement and waste of countless millions of hard-earned taxpayer funds that have been channelled into their own “pet” projects (thus enriching themselves) or used to further enrich and empower the LNP’s obscenely rich and powerful donors!

Never before in our history have we seen a government so steeped in corruption, so depraved, so condescending and so arrogant! Make no mistake about it, this is a morally bankrupt, born-to-rule pack of barbaric, callously inhumane fascists who have exhibited an absolutely appalling disregard for the laws and moral codes that bind the rest of us. The fact that this monstrous regime have the undisguised support of the, now, thoroughly discredited AFP and dubious judiciary, says so much about the inexorable decline our country is now undergoing in every imaginable way!

Our international reputation as a (once) respectable leading democracy has found its way into an open sewer ranking us almost on the same level as corrupt dictatorships like Zimbabwe or Uzbekistan. Morrison is now modelling himself on the self-deluded and openly corrupt Donald Trump – not surprising, considering that Morrison openly paraded himself as a cloying, salivating lapdog to Trump on SlowMo’s (internationally embarrassing) recent trip kowtowing to the worst president in America’s history!

Our police force are now militarised with semi-automatic assault rifles in order to enforce the acceleration of our deteriorating “democracy”;

  • Our economy is in tatters with a national deficit now nearing one trillion dollars.
    Everything we once owned now sold to the highest foreign-owned bidder (including our precious water resources),
  • Our rivers polluted, our environment pillaged, raped and vandalised by foreign-owned predators for the sake of a transient profit that none of us will ever share in – a profit quickly exported and all of us betrayed because these predators are filling the coffers of the LNP with $millions in underhand parliamentary donations!
  • Every day supermarket prices are skyrocketing, Australian icons are shutting down or privatised;
  • Huge rates of unemployment or under-employment totally denied by the lying, conniving Marketing Monster and his self-deluded, smug and entitled cabinet of rorting, thieving political parasites!

In less than seven years, the LNP have created nothing, achieved nothing, given nothing. A pack of stone cold neo-liberal capitalists whose regime has benefited no one except, of course, themselves and their billionaire, non-taxpaying donors in the coal and iron-ore mining industries and the rapacious grubs in the Top 1%.

Under the fascist jackboot of the LNP, Australia has gone from hero to zero in a terrifying short time!

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The 3 Cs: Collusion, Corruption and the Coalition

Don’t get me wrong.

I do not think for one moment that the Coalition parties are the only political parties in Australia which lack integrity, transparency and a desire to benefit the electors more than themselves.

However, on Thursday 13/02/20, during the Senate inquiry into the sports grant awards, the following, fairly lengthy, exchange, as reported in Crikey Daily on Friday 14/02/20, took place between Senator Abetz and Brian Boyd, an Executive Director in the Auditor General’s Office:

‘SENATOR ERIC ABETZ (Liberal Senator for Tasmania): ” … I seek to clarify, you did find that no ineligible project or application was funded?”

BRIAN BOYD: “No Senator that’s not what we found. So if you go to the start of chapter three, which is the chapter on assessment, the finding there was ‘ineligible applications were identified and no applications assessed as ineligible were awarded grant funding’.

“So that’s the Sport Australia eligibility assessment process. What then happened subsequently was there’s applications, late applications were taken on board, which were ineligible under the guidelines.

“Amendments were made for existing applications which were ineligible under the guidelines and they were funded.

“But at the time — this relates to the Sport Australia assessment process. Sport Australia removed from its list those assessed as ineligible — that’s what that finding is.

“Subsequent to that there were the five new applications, the four amended applications. And then because things took longer — because you are now running two rounds, rather than three, and funding agreements are in place — you had eight projects where, according to the details provided by the proponent, the project had been completed before the funding grant was signed. They’re ineligible under the program.

“And there were 270 something where the project had started before the funding agreement was signed, which is also ineligible under the program. So we get to around 43% of those which were awarded funding, by the time the funding agreement signed, were ineligible.”’

It will be really interesting in due course to actually read in full what is revealed to the Senate Inquiry concerning the extent of communication between the PM’s office and the Sports Minister and the inquiry by Phil Gaetjens. The latter has clearly been significantly paraphrased by the PM in reporting the findings to Parliament.

We already know that this is not the first time that slush funding for sporting bodies in the run up to an election has been abused. Ros Kelly, the 1993 Labor Sports Minister was forced out of office in 1994 and later resigned from Parliament altogether.

First as a university lecturer and later as a lawyer, I have served on three different University Human Research Ethics Committees, which have really strict guidelines. Those guidelines apply whether the research is medical – where they are even stricter – or in social science areas but still collecting date from human beings. In the veterinary sciences there are similar research ethics committees.

As a lawyer, a compulsory unit of study is ethics and I doubt that is the only discipline area to which this applies. Most professions have requirements regarding continuous reaccreditation, as I know from firsthand experience both as a lawyer and as a mediator, and most also have disciplinary bodies with the power to limit or prevent practice by a member of that profession.

Yet when it comes to politics – it is horribly clear that anything goes!

Thus we have to drag a government, kicking and screaming, to a Royal Commission, when it comes to issues like banking and aged care, where poor regulation and supervision can be literally a life and death situation and where the terms of reference seldom fully encompass the needs for enquiry and the following up is seldom effected satisfactorily.

Why?

Because politicians of most flavours receive party donations on a significant scale which discourages them from being too critical to the donors.

Why else did we wait so long for smoking to be curtailed?

Why else are we still waiting for action on phasing out fossil fuels?

And what is the background of most politicians?

Once upon a time, politicians had a wide variety of backgrounds, and usually some work-life experience before entering politics. Nowadays we still have a significant number of lawyers – which is a mixed blessing! – but are represented mainly by political apparatchiks who have spent most of their adult lives to date in a political party environment.

On the pretext that they have nobly abandoned a lucrative career in order to work for the common good, they vote themselves generous-to-a-fault superannuation schemes which the average working person could only dream of and have generous allowances, claims for which depend on their integrity.

I am leaving out a lot of detail here, because most of us who ever stop to look closely at politics know only too well that the balance between public duty and personal benefit leaves none of them short changed.

So – where are we?

Looking back over the last few years, I would sum it up like this:

We have a prime Minister who is not interested in honesty, does not seek the best for the Australian people, and has a single focus which is keeping his party – and himself – in power.

Integrity? MIA.

Transparency? MIA.

Suitability for office? Absolutely none!

Once more – this is my 2020 new Year Resolution:

“I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”

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