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Tag Archives: Peta Credlin

Australia’s Orban Sycophants

Australians welcoming the defeat of our nascent religious right in the May election need to pay attention to the echoes of the American right-wing strategies looming ahead of their 2024 election, and the faction in Australia that shares those goals.

The religious right has looked to Putin for leadership for years now. More quietly, the ideas and strategies of Hungary’s Viktor Orban have pervaded the sphere.

In America, Fox News’s Tucker Carlson has been an outlier speculated as a post-Trump Republican candidate. Florida’s Ron DeSantis looks much more likely to win the nomination at this stage. Both men have worked to promote Hungary’s Viktor Orban’s ideas in America.

Rod Dreher, ultra-conservative American intellectual, persuaded Carlson to broadcast for a week from Budapest in 2021, celebrating Orban’s achievements and his proudly illiberal democracy to the Fox base. This year Carlson released a documentary promoting Orban’s strategies as the ideal Republican model. These apparently led into the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), America’s key radical “conservative” event, being hosted in Budapest in May 2022, where Orban told the crowd that the right must have its own media and that it should broadcast the Murdochs’ favoured performer, Carlson, to the nation 24/7.

Orban continued that his latest election had “completely healed” Hungary of its “progressive dominance” and that the authoritarian right factions of the world should unite and coordinate to “take back” all the key institutions of the West.

It has just been announced that Orban is to return to speak to the CPAC audience again in Dallas in August.

DeSantis does not so much promote Orban as create what has been described as “American Orbanism.” His people admit, behind the scenes to following and echoing Orban’s strategies. Florida’s “Don’t say gay” bill which depicted any mention of anything to do with LGBTQI identity in schools as “grooming” echoed Orban’s 2021 bill focused on the same issue. DeSantis’s press secretary told Dreher that, “Oh yeah, we were watching the Hungarians, so yay Hungary.”

Orban targets minorities as a supposed threat to Hungarians and then devises laws that push Hungary further into authoritarianism to address the non-existent threat. LGBTQI people are the latest target after bigoted attacks on refugees, Romani, and non-Christians. Florida punishing Disney for its tepid pushback against anti-LGBTQI legislation echoes Orban’s strategies for punishing opponents. The primary institutional enemies are educational, media and social media. Control of the message is central.

The key appeal of Orban’s ideology, as well as Putin’s, is that they posit a white Christian – Western – Civilisation as the world’s great treasure and one that is under attack. Progressive “elites” or globalists – usually embodied in Jewish figures like the loathed George Soros – are depicted as executing a “Great Replacement” of the white embodiments of the west with black and brown non-Christians. The key appeal of his strategy is that he rejects liberalism in the existential battle to preserve the mythologised heritage.

This alliance of culture warriors is apparent in the Australian right. Morrison’s defeated government contained both the traditionalist defenders of a beleaguered Western Civilisation that Tony Abbott drew to prominence, alongside the American-style Evangelicals who are more theocratic in goal, aiming to impose national purity through government action.

Tony Abbott’s international advisor from 2010 to 2014 was Mark Higgie. His years as Australian ambassador to Hungary from 1998-2001 (before becoming our “senior spy” in London) seem to have made Orban’s career a focus for the ideologue. He echoes the same “Hungarians are free” line as Rod Dreher, but the latter when asked about the dark underbelly of living in an illiberal democracy tends to reply, I dont know much, to be honest. Like Dreher, in 2019 Higgie moved to Budapest. He writes for The Australian Spectator.

The main intellectual conduit of Orban’s ideas to the West is the Danube Institute. Brian Loughnane, Peta Credlin’s husband and former Liberal Party federal director is on its international advisory board. Tony Abbott appeared with Higgie there before the pandemic conversing about immigrants “swarming” over the borders. Alexander Downer spoke in Budapest about immigrant Bantustans. Kevin Andrews spoke about reversing declining birth rates in the west at the Budapest Demographic Summit, a “biennial gathering of ultra-conservative and highly influential decision-makers, politicians and individuals actively working to curb the rights of sexual minorities and women.”

John O’Sullivan is the president of the Orban-funded Danube Institute. He has edited Quadrant and serves as its international editor with Keith Windshuttle. O’Sullivan too has written about how the left exaggerates the discomforts of living in an illiberal democracy.

One early event that aimed to foster Danube Institute immigration phobia for a broader Australian audience was a Conversazione in Melbourne in 2016. In fact, it fostered Great Replacement fears in a local audience of the rich and powerful albeit without using the term. Orchestrated by a Quadrant writing LaTrobe academic, with O’Sullivan as a speaker and featuring a Windshuttle essay on Quadrant in the program, it highlighted the connection between that publication and the Orban-booster spirit.

Loughnane also spoke at the event, although Credlin was not present. One of the nations leading News Corp journalists appeared, presenting a speech that expressed lurid objection to Muslim immigration. (That journalist has been a guest of the Orban-funded Mathias Corvinus Collegium in Hungary, which hosted another migration talkfest in 2019.)

Fresh from the January Islamic Radicalism and the Westconference held at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Brits Daniel Pryce-Jones and Daniel Johnson also spoke at the Melbourne Club that day alongside Geza Jeszensky, former Hungarian foreign minister and noted eugenicist.

Tucker Carlson is now watched by Murdoch’s Australian print editors as a guide to the beliefs of Rupert and Lachlan. Carlson’s show is pervaded with incitement to violence over the existential attacks on white Christian civilisation by the elites and their immigrant hordes; over the threat to (white) American children posed by progressive groomers particularly their teachers; over the existential threat posed by any liberal who embraces diversity and acceptance.

Dutton and News Corp’s new focus of a war on teachers in Australia has been picked up by the IPA in its “Class Action” program to stop teachers “dominating our children’s schools” with “woke ideology.” There they aim to gather “concerned parents and teachers” in a reproduction of American Christopher Rufo’s cynical moral panic about Critical Race Theory. In America, teachers are leaving the profession, exhausted partly by poor funding and the pandemic, but also by being barraged with conspiracy-fuelled hate by parents and outside groups attending school board meetings in threatening mode.

We saw Morrison fighting hard for his religious discrimination bill while neglecting crucial work, aiming to provide a tool of backlash for marriage equality. The trans sports issue was deployed in the election as an echo of the bitter American attacks on trans youth and LGBTQI people in general. The religious right here has begun to echo the fight against reproductive rights.

After the recent release of census data noted the decline in Christianity, Peta Credlin wrote in The Australian (paywalled) in full Orban mode warning of “the centrality of Christian inspiration to Western civilization.” She defined an Indigenous Voice to parliament as “anathema to the fundamentals of Christian faith” and obliquely blamed Chinese and Indian immigration for the crisis.

The combined forces of the radical right – whether Christian Nationalist in intent, or in bigoted fear of a Great Replacement, or cynically deploying culture wars – all have the capacity to distort our civic debates as they are doing at all levels of government in America. The outcome in America is catastrophic.

It is critical for Australians to watch the international right forces filtered through to our democratic project, directly from the opponents of democracy, or filtered through the American role models so central to our “conservatives.” They are not defeated here, but regrouping.

This was first published in Pearls and Irritations.

 

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Surplus to requirements, ScoMo?

Applause, stamping, hoots and catcalls resound up and down our wide brown land as another big week in Oz-politics lives down to expectations, as John Crace says of Boris Johnson, now the incredible sulk, after his inevitable Brexit flip-flop just flops with a not-so-super Saturday vote to delay, a thinly-disguised ploy to sink the whole mad shebang in the middle of the Irish Sea. Brexit continues to make fools of fools, says Crace.

A week when our parliament is actually sitting, despite its increasing rarity, has a similar effect. This week the government tries to fool us that Labor is in government and to blame for all kinds of feckless fiscal ruination.

Like our own populist tosser Morrison, professional political clown, Boris is clueless about what to do – that’s for “girly swots” – and neither narcissists can take advice – so every waking hour is an epic battle with reality.

At home, a fever of anticipation erupts at the chance of being re-tied to Britain’s apron strings with beaut new trade deals, an agile Coalition with economic management in its DNA can whip up in weeks. Or a year. Tops.

“We are match-fit and ready,” ScoMo’s already promised Boris, an MP with whom he feels an immediate affinity. Scott’s got his mandarins all sworn to secrecy and totally Sco-Motivated to all-new levels of public service loyalty and fidelity. It’s not just manspreading or mugging for the camera in Fiji’s Rugby change-rooms, ScoMo channels the blokey banality of the footy coach in his unsubtle instructions to our public servants.

“It’s the bacon and eggs principle – the chicken is involved but the bacon is committed,” he says. Boom-Boom. Somehow, it’s all about how ministers can only set direction by being sensitive to quiet Australians, whose deepest desires can only be deduced through some miraculous phatic communion.

“Look beyond the Canberra bubble” says our PM, who is nothing but Canberra Bubble. A former Liberal apparatchik and player in the game of mates before being called to lead his people as prophet and seer; a high priest of populism and neoliberal revival. As William James and Bertrand Russell said of the turtles who hold the flat earth in its place in creation, for ScoMo, it is Canberra Bubble all the way down.

How good is a well-done Free Trade deal? Our brilliant new Free Trade Agreement with Indonesia has been quietly simmering since 2012. Morrison promised it August last year, when after six years it had progressed to a most promising single page but hopes no-one recalls. Then – as now- the fact of its brevity does not mean that it is not miraculously close to conclusion. He’s doubtless been out praying. And the spirit’s there.

We only have to “paper it”, as President Bone Spurs says, faking a breakthrough in his tariff war with China.

Stealing the show is Gladys Liu, MP (via AEC poll-booth signage simulation) for Chisholm who’s finally sorted her membership of Chinese organisations known to ASIO. She’s clear of them all, “she thinks”. Or is she?

In a flash, Rupert’s Hun is on to her, protesting Ms Liu’s links with top property developer Chen Guo Jing, whom the MP described as one of her “good friends” in her maiden speech. Chinese language sites call Chen the “implementer” of the Australasia Belt and Road Advocacy initiative, The Herald Sun adds helpfully.

Gladys is now well beyond hapless Sam Dastyari’s villainy in the latest instalment of rabid Sinophobia, Yellow Peril 2.0. She’d resign immediately but “Mandate” Morrison’s government has only a one seat majority.

Rushing to assist, is cuddly Peter Dutton, the Minister for Home Affairs, whose portmanteau portfolio covers everything best left unsaid. Whilst we love to profit out of China’s coal and iron custom, its tourists and its students, whose insatiable thirst for knowledge causes them to take up full-fee paying places in tertiary institutions, there’s just one thing about our biggest single trading partner. Its government’s values suck.

“Our issue as I’ve said before is not with the Chinese people,” Dutton thunders. “My issue is with the Communist Party of China and their policies to the extent that they are inconsistent with our own values.”

Aussie values include lying, spying, cheating and stealing as the case of East Timor reveals. Witness K and his lawyer Bernard Collaery are still holed up in a secret trial in Canberra where they are not even permitted to know the charges against them – except the bleeding obvious; they have embarrassed the government by reporting the fact that Canberra bugged the cabinet rooms of Timor-Leste in 2004 in order to draw up geographic boundaries which would yield Australia more than its fair share of gas and oil.

Alexander Downer is still pouting. Lord knows how his friendship with ScoMo’s going now he’s promised Trump he’ll snoop on the spy-master; find out just how Downer morphed into a small “L” Liberal; set the Mueller Inquiry on to that fake Russian collusion witch hunt. Be very careful with your bus-travel, Alex.

As fans of Q&A, Sunrise and The Drum would know, freedoms come into (and out of) the grab-bag of Aussie values a fair bit, in what is fondly termed “our national conversation”, (but which isn’t ours or even national – and so often turns out to be a power elite talking to itself in public).

Freedom? Sheesh! It’s right up there with crony capitalism, gambling, racism and elder abuse- yet we are currently debating how we know just how much freedom of speak we are allowed to have? Seriously.

Word comes this week that former Amnesty poster-boy Phil Ruddock’s religious freedom bill which would have restored some of the losses felt by the anti-marriage equality brigade pleases neither church nor state.

Given that it was a solution in search of a problem – religious freedom is already protected in law -it is hardly surprising but will ScoMo’s “top priority” just go? Leave privilege unprotected? Impossible.

But don’t rule out another inquiry. At present the draft bill offends all parties – and cross-bench Tassie Senator, Jacqui Lambie can’t see the need for it. Unlike her sympathy with national security justifying expanding state power even further. We’re world leaders in this field.

Australian Human Rights Commissioner, Edward Santow, notes Australia has “passed more counter-terrorism and national security legislation than any other liberal democracy since 2001”.

Instead of agonising nightly on The Drum about how we need to “get the balance right”, wouldn’t it be a whole lot easier just to ask government permission? A journo with a story that seeks to hold a government department accountable must run the story by the government first. It’s the position favoured by Mike Pezzullo who is the eyes and ears of Dutto’s Home Affairs mega-department. What could possibly go wrong?

In the meantime, Attorney-General Christian Porter confirms, on Sunday’s ABC Insiders, that his government will continue to intimidate journalists by refusing to rule out AFP raids. He pretends that the AFP is at arms-length from government. Hilarious. Lie. The AFP comes under the (big right) wing of Minister Dutton.

Turning the thumbscrews, Porter would be “seriously disinclined”, he reckons, “to sign off on the criminal prosecution of journalists” for public interest journalism, but says he cannot give any guarantees. No-one on Fran’s panel calls Porter on his pretence that the AFP is independent of the federal government of the day.

Canberra Times veteran, Jack Waterford reminds us that never in its forty years’ operation has the AFP come up with a finding which might embarrass a sitting government – apart from Abbott’s Peter Slipper witch hunt.

“The AFP behaves rather more as a department of state, pathetically anxious to please the government of the day. The department seems to lack internal checks and balances, and sometimes seems to put outcomes ahead of process and sound management, and seems to lack people with the courage to stand against any of the enthusiasms of its secretary,” observes the former editor and investigative journalist of 43 years’ service.

We can’t blame Fran Kelly – or any of her guests for not nailing the minister on the furphy of the AFP’s independence or the farcical pretence that as Attorney-General, Porter is led, like a lamb, to slaughter offending journalists.

But don’t shoot the mixed messenger.

Our ABC is under extra pressure in the form of a ripper new bill for silent Australia due in the house early next week. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation Amendment (Rural and Regional Measures) Bill 2019 requires the ABC to set up a Regional Council, at a cost of $100,000 PA to help it contribute to a sense of “regional” identity” as well as “a sense of national identity” and to reflect “geographical”, as well “cultural diversity”. Sounds as simple to get sorted as the Nicene Creed.

Accompanying the push to the bush, a second bill is a sop to Pauline Hanson. It’s an ABC “Fair and Balanced” yard-stick-slogan-logo-thingy while the bill also orders Aunty to supply regional content – even though this is totally impossible on a reduced budget. The result is to give the government a new big stick or two to beat the public broadcaster into compliance. Or soften it up before it’s sold off as in the IPA wish-list.

“This regional push by the Coalition government is no benign shepherding of the ABC back to its core duties. It’s actually designed to tie the corporation up in red tape and shift its attention away from national coverage – and the machinations of federal government” warn Sydney University’s Fiona Martin and Michael Ward.

News this week that Dili wants a $5bn refund to compensate for gas and oil illegally taken is likely to be music to Josh Frydenberg’s ears given that he’s making it clear that his government’s surplus fetish does not mean “surpluses are like a trophy in a cabinet,” The AFR’s Jennifer Hewitt reports. But that’s exactly what it means.

It takes genius to con so many Australians for so long that a meaningless line on an annual budget is a sign of good management – let alone the allied bullshit about “fiscal responsibility” and “living within our means”. Yet to claim a budget surplus means anything at all, is a hoax. And a cruel hoax when it means that NDIS applicants, for example, are made to wait or face stricter qualifying tests to “save up” a surplus.

The only reason a budget surplus ever comes in handy is as a brake on inflation,Greg Jericho reminds readers of The Guardian Australia. No danger of that now where even the Reserve is begging the government to do something about a shrinking economy. Would Joe Hockey squander his $80 billion gift/investment in 2014?

The Opposition is addicted to panic and crisis”, Bovver Morrison hollers across the despatch box as he accuses Albo of a stacking a tantrum. Not only is ScoMo a past master at projection, he knows we live in the present. In the eternal now of modern politics, he assumes that few will recall the metanoia of Tony Abbott’s hyper-partisan opposition’s debt and deficit disaster fear campaign when Labor borrowed to get us out of the GFC.

Forgotten, also, he hopes, is Abbott’s brief-lived Coalition government led by “warrior” Peter Credlin with its war on the poor, on indigenous Australia and on workers amongst others. We have yet to recover from its sick militarisation of compassion – the paramilitary Border Force with its ludicrous uniforms and cruel protocols.

Clayton’s PM Junkyard Abbott’s sidekick BJ helped warn us all that Whyalla would be wiped off the map or that we’d being paying hundred dollars for a lamb roast. They rushed to kill off their carbon tax scare.

Their subsequent revoking of a price on carbon has helped lead us to record carbon emissions ever since.

ScoMo opened Christmas Island just for his Medevac scare, an extension of his asylum-seeker paranoia, a rabid and irrational fear febrile of others. Jacqui Lambie may now help him get to revoke the Medevac Bill.

Yet he proceeds with his name-calling, baiting and jeering at Labor for what they might do to ruin us all. It helps create an illusion, as Katharine Murphy of the Guardian observes that Labor is in power -yet by some miracle that Morrison, a solo act throughout his career, is a PM primum supra pares (first above the rest).

In a moment of madness, Labor’s Joel Fitzgibbon proposes a bipartisan war cabinet for the drought. Settle down, Fitz. That would be like a union between the arsonists and the fire-fighters. Besides, could you really trust any of them on their past performances? No-one else in the world takes their climate figures seriously.

Australia is a world leader in climate change abatement per capita in the Coalition’s Gospel according to Morrison. Doo wah boy, Gus Grassgate Taylor, Minister for Global Warming Energy and Big Irrigation does backing vocals.

“The comments made by the Prime Minister at the UN, that we are going to meet our emissions targets, was a gross misrepresentation and was staggering for someone in his position,” protests former Liberal leader, John Hewson, addressing the Round Table in Canberra. Global warming heretic Hewson favours regenerative agriculture. Expect his immediate retribution via ridicule in some Rupert rag.

Reverting to wilful ignorance and disinformation, the Australian economy is not tanking a bit, insists the PM, despite this week’s IMF growth downgrade by almost twenty per cent from 2.1 to 1.7. On the contrary, our nation’s growth something to shout about in parliament.

“Australia’s economic growth is the second highest if compared to the major Group of Seven economies, and the government has helped create 1.4 million new jobs,” ScoMo misleads parliament.

Reliant on resources, Australia lacks diversification of exports and its economy is now more like that of a developing country with fewer prospects for growth, reports the Harvard’s Atlas of Economic Complexity. It predicts growth to slow to 2.2% over the next decade, ranking us in the bottom half of countries

Australia is not even in the G7, however much ScoMo loves to boast about his special invitation to observe last August’s meeting; a token of his government’s leading role as hyper-partisan US ally in the ruinous trade war between Trump’s administration and China.

As for jobs, his claim covers six years. Growth doesn’t even keep up with population.

A stoic ScoMo won’t be spooked by international events; or lift a finger to stimulate a stagnant economy. All this – and more – promises the PM’s turd-polish unit, which accidentally emails the media its jumbo economy super-savers’ pack of lies meant for Coalition MPs, this week.

It’s an innocent mistake. And easily made. Our media lead the world in recycling government press releases. No heads will roll this time. The chooks just get an extra feed of MPs’ “talking points”, the rich mix of fantasy, lies, evasions, disinformation and other conversation-stoppers confected non-stop by the PM’s spin doctors.

Australia’s national net debt is now a record $400 billion plus, according to Matthias Cormann’s own Finance Department’s report last Friday. It’s a peculiar type of nincompoopery that can take Labor’s puny $174 billion net national debt and double it in six years, despite some of the most favourable global economic tailwinds in history, yet the Coalition is on track to get to $700 billion in a canter.

The biggest issue for the economy remains the decline and fall of our household incomes. This will not be revered by some slick tax cut. Nor will it show any improvement, whatsoever, if the government having utterly no idea what to do by way of stimulus measure clings to the mantra of a budget surplus.

But that’s not in the talking points.

There’s so much to crow about it’s not funny. Cue standing ovations from the poor, the elderly, the under-employed and those who need wait only a matter of months before they’re trampolined off welfare and back at work at the local widget factory.

Above all, Australia is God’s Own Country and as the PM reminds a national prayer breakfast, Tuesday,

“The only prayers that you can be assured are never answered are the ones that are never prayed.”

Our latter day saints, the nation’s hard-working farmers are clearing land at record rates yet some find the time to take out of helping cause the problem to wax ecstatic over Drought Relief; the Coalition’s most shameless pork-barrelling since its 1700 kilometre Inland Rail boondoggle. No-one’s getting any money for a year and the $7 billion doesn’t add up, former farmer’s lad Alan Jones berates the Prime Minister.

Jones asks how all of the drought relief grandstanding that’s been going on three months is going to feed a cow?

How good’s a Farm Household Allowance worth a measly $250 a week? $5 million for rural financial counselling? $115.8 million that Morrison says “went directly to drought communities”. Morrison finally gets to talk. He embraces the theme of weed eradication. Jones cuts in, “Oh, PM, don’t talk to me. I’m a farmer’s son, you’re not.”

When the IMF tells you the economy is down the gurgler and your own Finance Minister reports the same – When Alan Jones gives you a bollocking, ScoMo, you may need more than a new set of talking points.

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Turnbull, Credlin And “Interesting Times”…

“May You Live In Interesting Times” = Chinese Curse.

“As they craft their new economic narrative, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Treasurer Scott Morrison must reframe the national conversation about debt.

“To listen to the conservative right, government should never spend a penny more than it raises – and it should raise a lot less at that.

“To listen to the loony left, government debt is simply an investment in our future, and anyway, our debt levels are much smaller than in other countries.

“Neither description of Australia’s debt position holds water.”

Jessica Irvine, The Age, September 24th, 2015

OK, so according to Ms Irvine, the section of western civilisation containing Tony Abbott, Cory Bernardi, Donald Trump, the Tea Party and Sarah Palin is “conservative”, while the one with people such as Bob Brown, Bernie Sanders, Russell Brandt and the Socialist Alliance is just “loony”.

Yes, she was just using “loony left” because it’s a term often used, and unfortunately, my suggestion that we start using the term “ridiculous right” to cover extremists on the conservative side of politics hasn’t really caught on.

However, I suspect that now Malcolm’s in charge, the phrase we’ll be hearing a lot more is the “sensible centre”.

Of course, when I say Malcolm’s in charge, I simply mean that now he’s Prime Minister. Yes, he certainly isn’t “in charge”. because, well, if he were, wouldn’t he be doing more on climate change and same sex marriage?

And the Republic. Lest we forget all those diggers who died at Eureka trying to make this country free from tyranny.

Oh wait, we should forget them because under today’s laws most of them would have their citizenship stripped and sent back to their country of origin.

No, we should only say “lest we forget” when refering to those diggers who went and invaded Turkey to keep our country safe from the potential invasion in World War One.

Anyway, let’s not get bogged down in history. As we all know these are “interesting times”.

Malcolm Turnbull is proving to be a polarising figure. He’s winning popularity with some for two major reasons. First, not only is he not Tony Abbott, and is responsible for sending Tony into such a funk that he hasn’t turned up for work in over a week. This endears Malcolm to a number of people. Second, although he’s only been in the job a week, he’s actually done some things that people agree with, such as removing Hockey, Andrews and Abetz from Cabinet, and his announcement on extending services for victims of domestic violence. Not only that, he’s managed to do things without a major stuff-up.

On the other hand, there are many who mistrust Malcolm and think that he’s too slick and has a hidden agenda. They feel that he doesn’t mean what he’s saying and his main goal is to stay as Prime Minister. This simple fact is helping to heal the rifts between the Left and Right in Australia, as it’s something that both Cory Bernardi and Sarah Hanson-Young can agree on.

So, because of a couple of polls, everyone has written Shorten off as Labor leader, and the commenteriat will speculate about when Labor will remove him, overlooking the obvious fact that the hard-heads in Labor may be ready to concede the next election and be working on the one after. Why chew up a good leader when Shorten can be dispensed with after he’s lost, and you can approach the future with a fresh face? I still think that it’s likely that the Liberals may go to the polls before they have to frame another Budget, and, with a rise in the GST on the table, they’ll lose some seats even with the drover’s dog leading them. Replacing a leader after an election loss, doesn’t have the same “here we go again” about it that replacing Shorten any time soon would create.

And now that Peta Credlin has joined Julia Gillard in playing the “sexism card” – which was just being a bit of girl then, but OK now (yes, yes, irony intended, don’t clog up the comments with about accusations of me being sexist, I’m not, and being a white male, I’m in the best position to know when I’m being racist or sexist!). She came out against the sexism Abbott spoke of when he commented that things would be different if her name was “Peter” rather than “Peta”. There’s no doubt that Abbott’s right on this, as one of the problems people were complaining about was the fact that she was married to Brian Loughnane, long term Federal Director of the Liberal Party and to have his wife as the PM’s Chief of Staff meant that too much power was in the hands of one couple. (Loughnane and Credlin, that is. What did you think I meant!) Given Abbott’s strong opposition to gay marriage, there’s no way she would have been his Chief of Staff if her name were “Peter”.

Anyway, we were treated to a rather frank assessment from Ms Credlin yesterday:

“And if you’re a cabinet minister or a journalist and you’re intimidated by the chief-of-staff of the prime minister then maybe you don’t deserve your job.”

Now, this is rather interesting. Is she suggesting that there were cabinet ministers who didn’t “deserve” their jobs? If so, which ones? And did she bring this to the attention of the PM? Because he could have done a reshuffle and dropped them. Actually, one has to ask if they were, in fact, the ones Turnbull dropped, or are there still people there who don’t deserve their jobs.

She also informed us:

“I am not going to be one of those people who go out and kick the Liberal Party and kick the new Prime Minister on their way out. I think that is undignified,”

Interesting that her way of not kicking the Liberal Party is suggesting that some of the cabinet ministers weren’t up to the job. Also interesting that she’s not doing it because it’s “undignified” and not because they don’t deserve a damn good “kicking”.

Yep, like the curse says, “May you live in interesting times.”

Footnote: In spite of a boost in consumer confidence after Turnbull’s ascension, Australia is still likely to slip into recession owing to massive redundancies in our flag manufacturing sector.

 

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Credlin: It’s not me it’s them

There’s a point in just about any desirable human characteristic when it can tip over into pathology, and self-confidence is no exception.

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin (otherwise known as the Horsewoman of the Apocalypse) has spoken publicly for the first time since the powerful couple were ousted by their party a few days ago.

The ousting was, Ms Credlin insisted at a Women’s Weekly woman of the future event, caused by the “tripe and bile” of a media fed anonymous commentary by despicable persons who leaked.

The double ousting can be seen, I suppose, as evidence that the voice of Murdoch’s Newscorpse, otherwise known as the LNP Weekly, was drowned out by other voices to a degree sufficient enough to persuade the Liberal party to dump its leader. These other voices are, no doubt, the “tripe and bile” to which Ms Credlin refers.

Let us take a moment to reflect on the Murdoch rags and their global standard of journalism, shall we? Just for perspective.

As examples of individuals promoted beyond their merit (defined as not up to dealing with her) Ms Credlin cites Cabinet Minsters and journalists, who should not, she states, be in their jobs at all if they are intimidated by a Chief of Staff.

Ms Credlin also stated that she had got the opposition into government:

If I was a guy I wouldn’t be bossy, I would be strong. If I was a guy I wouldn’t be a micro-manager, I would be across the detail,” she said.

“If I wasn’t strong, determined, controlling – and got them into Government from Opposition, I might add – I would be weak and not up to it and would have to go and be replaced.

As in all the best spin, there’s elements of truth in Credlin’s assessment of herself, and only the most naive would deny she is as subject to sexist character analysis as are the rest of our gender. Be that as it may, like her former boss Credlin’s strongest message is that she is beyond criticism, indeed she cannot and will not take criticism. In other words, I’m totally OK, you most certainly are not.

Being unable to take criticism isn’t a marker of self-confidence and strength. It’s a marker of delusion and weakness. It’s an indicator that self-confidence has reached its tipping point, and has begun its descent into pathology.

How fortunate we are to have escaped Ms Credlin’s anointing as the most powerful woman in Australia.

But did they ask her if she’s a feminist? That’s what I want to know.

PS: My bestest canine Twitter pal @missbaileywoof just sent me this video of a horse with brilliant instincts:

This article was first published on No Place For Sheep.

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Should Julie Bishop be afraid?

Rumour has it that Kevin Andrews will not contest the next election and Peta Credlin will be gifted the safe seat of Menzies, and there are good reasons why this might prove to be true.

Both are big players in Abbott’s Star Chamber as is Credlin’s husband, Brian Loughnane. They certainly have the power to make this happen.

”As for a Cabinet re-shuffle, “it’s really Tony and Peta’s decision, there’s no point pretending otherwise”, the MP said, referring to the Prime Minister and his chief of staff Peta Credlin, who has been criticised for a perceived excess of power within the government.”

At first I thought Andrews unlikely to give up his position but on further reflection there could be some contributing factors.

Like the realisation that he is never going to become Prime Minister. A couple of weeks before Tony Abbott rolled Malcolm Turnbull, Kevin Andrews made an unsuccessful bid for the leadership. While he seems to wield more power behind the scenes that Tony Abbott, he doesn’t get to do the handshaking. Perhaps he feels he can do better elsewhere.

He may return to his marriage counselling business since there is plenty of government money on offer there. His publications could become required reading as Andrews is an Adjunct Lecturer in Politics and in Marriage Education in the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Melbourne – an institution that has also just benefited from newly offered government funding.

Andrews has been able to reward his backers. How else could one describe his repealing of gambling reform laws?

He has been able to impose his ideology in everything from school chaplains to the categorisation as “leaners” of anyone who uses his department’s services.

He has been able to oppose stem cell research, voluntary euthanasia, RU-486, and marriage equality.

As Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Andrews set the tone for Scott Morrison when he revoked on character grounds the visa of Dr Mohamed Haneef, who had been granted bail on charges of aiding terrorists. After the Director of Public Prosecutions dropped all charges against Haneef, Andrews refused calls to reinstate Haneef’s visa, stating that his personal evidence was still valid. Andrews’ justification of his decision, on the basis that he had a reasonable suspicion that Haneef had associated with suspected terrorists and therefore failed the test of good character that a person must pass to keep a visa, was rejected in the Federal Court, and the revocation of Haneef’s visa was overturned.

We have just voted to remove these safeguards.

Andrews is also a climate change sceptic so he can feel successful in dismantling any action on that too.

All in all, Kevin probably thinks job well done.

If, like me, you have wondered why Peta Credlin takes a seat at the table in all meetings with foreign leaders, why she gets to host soirees for Murdoch hacks and radio shock jocks at Kirribilli House, why she gets to decide who gets what job and who may speak to the media and what they may say, it may be now a bit clearer.

It seems obvious that Tony will have to be dumped sooner or later. Could Peta be a double agent? After all, she is the person advising him and look how abysmally he is doing.

My prediction? Peta wants to be Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade on her way to the top job.

Look out Julie, the turd polisher is making a run.

 

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Australians for Honest Politics set for a revival?

As reported by John Kelly in September, there has been an ongoing investigation into Tony Abbott’s eligibility to enter Parliament as dual citizenship precludes you from running for office.

Tony Magrathea filed a Freedom of Information application to the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Peta Credlin rejected his request stating, “The document you have sought is not an official document of a Minister and therefore there is no right of access to the document under the FOI Act.”

Ninemsm also asked for confirmation that the Prime Minister had renounced his British Citizenship. They were advised by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet that, “The Prime Minister is an Australian citizen and does not hold citizenship of any other country.”

Robert McMahon, Assistant Secretary of the Parliamentary and Government Branch, apparently disagrees with Credlin’s stonewalling.

On October 8 he responded to a FOI application lodged by Jan Olsen with the following:

Having regard to my knowledge of where documents potentially relevant to the applicant’s request would be held, if they existed, the following locations were searched:

  • The Department’s file management system
  • The Department’s current and former ministerial correspondence database
  • Computer drives of relevant branches in the Department
  • Email accounts of current officers in relevant branches in the Department

As a result of these searches, no relevant documents were found in the Department.

I am satisfied that all reasonable steps have been taken to identify documents relevant to the applicant’s request and that no documents relevant to the request are in the possession of the Department.

The British Home Office, following a FOI request, have also been unsuccessful in finding Tony’s RN form which relinquishes British citizenship.

I wonder where Credlin gets her information from and why she is keeping it a secret.

And now another rather ironic possible connection has emerged.

In the Sue vs Hill case, Henry Sue, a voter from Queensland, disputed the election of Hill and filed a petition under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 in the High Court of Australia, sitting in its capacity as the Court of Disputed Returns. Sue argued that on the date of Hill’s nomination to the Senate she was still a citizen of the United Kingdom and thus, because of the operation of section 44 of the Australian Constitution, was ineligible to be elected to the Parliament of Australia.

Terry Sharples, a former One Nation candidate who had stood for the Senate in the 1998 election as an independent candidate, made a similar petition. Because both cases involved constitutional questions, and were substantially identical, they were heard together from 11–13 May 1999.

In 1998, Abbott privately agreed to bankroll Terry Sharples, a disaffected One Nation member, to take legal action against Pauline Hanson.

Less than 2 weeks later, he categorically denied to the ABC that he had done so, and 18 months later he repeated the lie, this time to the Sydney Morning Herald’s Deborah Snow. But when she confronted him with his signed personal guarantee, he said that:

‘…misleading the ABC is not quite the same as misleading the Parliament as a political crime’.

He then created a slush fund he called Australians for Honest Politics and raised $100,000 for it from 12 people he declined to name. The fund began bankrolling more court actions against Hanson and her party.

Could Tony’s slush fund have financed the Sharples vs Hill case?

I wonder if Geoffrey Robertson might be interested in taking on a crowd-funded People vs Abbott case?

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Lawmakers or lawbreakers?

The Readers Digest list of the 50 most trusted professions in Australia ranks lawyers at 39 and politicians at 49 just scraping in in front of door-to-door salespeople and two places behind call centre staff.

Considering these are the people who make, and prosecute, our laws, this is a sad indictment.

The record of the Abbott government ministers with regard to the law makes one wonder if they may just consider themselves above it all.

Assistant Treasurer Arthur Sinodinis is continuing to be mentioned at ICAC. Not only was he involved in shady dealings when at Australian Water Holdings, he is now implicated in emails (that his lawyers tried to have suppressed) from chief fund-raiser of the NSW Liberal Party Paul Nicolaou to Peta Credlin. As Sinodinis was Finance Director (2009 to 2011) and President (since 2011) for the NSW branch of the Liberal Party, it is hard to believe he knew nothing of the laundering of donations through the Canberra-based Free Enterprise Foundation.

Credlin and Loughnane appear to be in on the act, and Bronwyn Bishop and Tony Abbott have also been named, the former for redirecting funding through her Dame Pattie Menzies Foundation Trust and the latter for his association with Lindsay Partridge the MD of Brickworks who were advocating for the repeal of the carbon tax.

In May, the SMH published an article stating that

“Treasurer Joe Hockey is offering privileged access to a select group including business people and industry lobbyists in return for tens of thousands of dollars in donations to the Liberal Party via a secretive fund-raising body whose activities are not fully disclosed to election funding authorities.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption is probing Liberal fund-raising bodies such as the Millennium Forum and questioning their influence on political favours in NSW.

Mr Hockey offers access to one of the country’s highest political offices in return for annual payments.

The donors are members of the North Sydney Forum, a campaign fundraising body run by Mr Hockey’s North Sydney Federal Electoral Conference (FEC). In return for annual fees of up to $22,000, members are rewarded with “VIP” meetings with Mr Hockey, often in private boardrooms.”

Members of the forum include National Australia Bank as well as the influential Financial Services Council, whose chief executive is former NSW Liberal leader John Brogden. Both these groups have benefitted from the changes to the Future of Financial Advice (FOFA) laws.

The chairman of the North Sydney Forum is John Hart, who is also the chief executive of Restaurant and Catering Australia – a hospitality industry lobby group whose members stand to benefit from a government-ordered Productivity Commission review of the Fair Work Act that is expected to examine the issue of penalty rates.

Mr Hart also sits on Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s Business Advisory Council.

When asked if there should be a federal ICAC, Mr Abbott said that he thought that Canberra had a “pretty clean polity”.

Despite accepting huge donations from bodies with obvious vested interests and loudly articulated demands – mining companies, property developers, financial institutions, hotel and gambling bodies, hospitality industry – Tony Abbott said

“The thing is that we’re going to keep the lobbyists out [of politics]. And the problem that ICAC is exposing is a problem of lobbying, essentially its influence peddling . . . and we’re going to make sure that that has no place whatsoever federally.”

Last night’s edition of 60 minutes showed Mal Brough, by his own admission, directed the stealing of a copy of Peter Slipper’s diary. James Ashby also stated he was offered employment and legal costs by Christopher Pyne who has always denied any knowledge or involvement. And now, boy wonder Wyatt Roy is dragged into the fray. Somebody is/has been fibbing.

It would be very interesting to know who filed the complaint with the Australian Federal Police after Mal Brough went through Slipper’s diary and when the complaint was filed. There has been some suggestion that is was ex-defender of bigots, Attorney-General George Brandis.

When faced with action in the International Court over Alexander Downer’s bugging of the East Timor Parliamentary offices to gain confidential trade information for a subsequent employer, Brandis reacted by raiding the offices of the lawyer for East Timor, confiscating the evidence and the passport of the key witness.

If laws get in the way, bypass them or abolish them.

In June, the court upheld a challenge to the National School Chaplaincy Program, saying providing funding directly to chaplaincy organisations was constitutionally invalid. To get around that, the federal government will give a quarter of a billion to the states, insisting they must employ only religious chaplains.

Despite 72 per cent of Australians wanting same-sex marriage legalised, one of Brandis’ first acts was to challenge, and overturn, the ACT’s recently passed same-sex marriage laws. Why? Because he could is all I can come up with.

I am sure Corey Bernardi and Kevin Andrews were demanding this ‘depravity’ be abolished.

A poll in 2009 showed that 85 per cent of the country is in favour of voluntary euthanasia but that will never happen while Kevin Andrews has a driving seat in the Star Chamber.

In 1997, Kevin Andrews and Eric Abetz were members of the Coalition’s fundamentalist Christian faction, the Lyons Forum, who were successful in overturning the Northern Territory’s historic voluntary euthanasia law.

Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, the recently decorated compassionate Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop also has an affinity with the law. Before we were paying for her Armani suits she was busy representing CSR (amongst other “dodgy” corporate clients) famously asking the court “why workers should be entitled to jump court queues just because they were dying.”

Our Environment Minister Greg Hunt has overseen the roll back of environmental protection laws to facilitate his approval of coal mining.

The Federal Government’s handover of environmental approval powers to the states for development projects will wind back 30 years of legal protection for the environment and put at risk Australia’s World Heritage areas such as the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu and the Tasmanian forests.

At the same time, state governments are seeking to ‘fast track’ major developments, such as coal mine and coal seam gas projects, reducing public participation and removing legal rights of local communities to mount legal challenges.

This is a crime that will certainly saddle our children with perhaps insurmountable problems.

And in perhaps the most heinous example of disregard for the law, morality, justice and humanity, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague is currently considering a submission calling for an investigation into Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers. The submission was officially accepted by the ICC on May 19, 2014, and it names Scott Morrison and Tony Abbott. Similar complaints have been lodged with the United Nations. Let’s hope they can compel our government to accept their legal obligations even if they are bereft of ethics.

 

 

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Short memory

Photo: lifethoughts.com

Photo: lifethoughts.com

I recently spent a day with my extended family, one of whom is a ‘senior government employee’ who has served ministers in several different portfolios and governments including the current one.

When we found ourselves standing together at one stage, in a very non-confrontational, non-interviewing way (he doesn’t know I write here), I asked him a few questions.

He is a very intelligent, astute man who has the diplomatic talk down pat so I knew I wouldn’t hear any dirt – he isn’t the type of person who would do that and it doesn’t interest me either. He is a pragmatic man who gets things done under whatever constraints are set and is rarely critical of whoever he may be working for. I admire him for that and he is truly an asset for the government of the day regardless of their ideology.

He describes himself as being in ‘the centre’ – I would describe him as slightly right of there and he certainly lives a lifestyle more akin to the right. But he is a realist and too smart to bother prevaricating so I found his comments both interesting and disturbing.

I asked about the carbon tax – he said it was never going to work. I assume he meant politically though I did not have the chance to ask further. He, like so many others, said Labor made themselves an unelectable train wreck.

He believes the free trade agreements with Japan and Korea are good things but said we are nowhere near an agreement with China.

When I asked about Tony Abbott he was surprisingly dismissive as if he wasn’t important to the conversation saying off-handedly “I could never vote for him though Malcolm Turnbull would probably get my vote.”

On Peta Credlin, he said somewhat resentfully “She wields an enormous amount of power for someone that no-one ever voted for”. Everyone has to ask permission for everything they do and then plead for the money to do it – even down to ‘may we please have the airfare to get to the conference we are attending on the government’s behalf’ – pre-approval only, no private jets or ‘make a claim’ entitlement stuff for the people who are actually doing the work.

None of the above is particularly surprising. You may disagree with it but there are no revelations there. But what he said next flummoxed me.

He very confidently stated that the Coalition will “romp home” next election. I spluttered in obvious incredulity. He said “The sweeteners are coming and that is what they will remember”. He has no vested interest in saying this and he has sufficient experience and inside knowledge that I must take his opinion seriously.

It is so blatantly obvious how crudely we are being played. Every economic parameter is compared to Hockey’s MYEFO, in which Hockey added $68 billion to the deficit over the forward estimates through his government’s decisions, rather than with the PEFO prepared under the Charter of Budget Honesty.

Of the total Commonwealth securities on issue, the $19.7 billion increase on the Coalition’s watch above what had been predicted, represents 6 per cent of the Treasury Indexed Bonds for the 12 months to June 2014. Add a few hundred billion to a projected debt in a decade and then cut money from the “leaners” to say look how much we have saved.

The refrain has returned to the “$1 billion in interest every month” mantra. When interviewed on radio recently, Mathias Cormann repeated it and “debt and deficit disaster inherited from Labor” so many times I thought I was hearing an infinite loop replay. The interviewer asked why, if we have such a problem, would you not use the GP co-payment to pay down the debt? Cormann then revealed the Coalition’s true agenda by saying “it will be an asset that improves the budget bottom line.” In other words, they don’t care about the interest being paid at all, they just want a number on a piece of paper.

We have been hit with the worst budget in living memory, attacking the very fabric of our society under the guise of “sustainability”. It’s surprising that this government only applies that word to pensions, healthcare and education spending. We never ask whether tax concessions for the wealthy are sustainable. We never ask if subsidies to the mining industry are sustainable. We never ask if pinning our economy on the mining and burning of fossil fuels is sustainable – ok 97% of sane people do ask that, sadly none of them advise our government who is apparently preparing for global cooling on the advice of their senior business advisor who is being avidly quoted on denial sites like wattsupwiththat. (I mean seriously….sack the fossil).

There will be some compromises from this budget passed off under “we listened to the people”, but the mining tax will go. Then will come the company tax cut. There will be adjustment to the top tax bracket to save those unfortunate high earners who have “crept” over the $180,000 mark through no fault of their own. The temporary levy on the highest bracket will go. The amount you can invest in superannuation will continue to rise.

But what crumbs will be thrown to the rest of us? If we get back a few of the conditions that have been stripped from us will we be happy to be only a bit worse off? Because we have been so battered and broken by this budget will we just be grateful to not get hit again?

Beware of Treasurers bearing gifts.

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Dear Peta Credlin

July 31st, 2014

Dear Peta Credlin,

Yes, I understand the dilemma. Telling Tony not to say anything unless he hears it in the headpiece has lead to rather embarrassing silences like the one with that Channel 7 reporter a few years back. On the other hand, letting him speak when he feels that he isn’t going to say anything controversial is risky and can lead to comments like the one about Australia being “unsettled” before the British came here. I presume the “suppository of wisdom” comment was just his inability to hear what you were saying clearly.

After giving the matter some thought, I don’t think that it’s really a good idea to go down the path of declaring war on Russia. True, they may not notice – particularly if we don’t actually send troops there – and any occasion where we can play the patriotism card and accuse people of playing for the other team works well for us, but I think this may be a mistake for two reasons. First, Russia may actually retaliate in some way, and second, we’d have to actually send the troops somewhere. Even if we call it “Operation Take Back Russia for The Czars” and black out all media coverage, some of the troops are bound to spill the beans and tell someone that they spent the entire campaign in Mauritius.

I have a rather radical plan, and I know this goes against everything you’ve been trying to do up till now.

Why not let the front bench speak to the media?

Just go on a brief overseas holiday and tell them that they’re free to say what they like. A couple of weeks of Joe, George, Christopher, Eric, Barnaby and company shooting off their mouths and anything’s Tony’s said until now will seem calm and reasoned. People may even start to feel sorry for him.

Whatever, you and he can return to Australia and when he says that’s not what we are go to do/actually believe everyone will breath a big sigh and say, “Thank God, Tony’s back and we have a pair of calm hands at the wheel.”

I know it seems like a radical plan, but it worked for the Labor Party in Victoria for a number of years. Every time they did something controversial, they’d find some way to introduce a topic that Jeff couldn’t resist commenting on, and people would quickly forget whatever it was that was upsetting them. They’d have probably won again in 2010, but a bout of laryngitis stopped Jeff speaking at a critical time.

Whether you follow my advice or not is up to you, and you have my full support in the coming years, whether in your current role or as is becoming more likely, adviser to Malcolm. Just remember, you’re leading an independent government and I only offer advice in order to be helpful. Make your own judgement, and don’t let the fact that I crushed the last two Prime Ministers make you feel as though it’s necessary to take my suggestion.

Regards,

Rupert.

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The puppet masters

Before the time of Gough Whitlam, the public service were largely responsible for the formulation and co-ordination of policy and senior public servants made the important decisions. The Prime Minister had a single press secretary and ministers of the Crown relied on a very small staff to perform administrative and secretarial duties.

Whitlam created an office employing political staff to help strengthen an executive administration to formulate and implement policies. This continued under successive Prime Ministers with Howard overseeing an expansion of political staff in the Australian government to about 450 and the establishment of a government staff committee to take a tight reign over staff appointments.

As Nicholas Reece points out in the SMH

“TV programs such as The West Wing, In the Loop and The Hollowmen reflect the shift that has occurred in the balance of power in government from public servants to political staffers compared with the days of Yes Minister.”

And amongst these staffers, Abbott’s Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin, has arguably achieved more power than any of her predecessors. She and her husband Brian Loughnane run the Star Chamber with an iron fist, deciding who gets what job, who may speak to the media and when, and dictating what people will be told, much to the chagrine of Coalition backbenchers like Senator MacDonald.

Reece goes on to say:

“Credlin holds the ultimate backroom role in Australian politics. Despite her extraordinary power, she does not hold an elected position. She is not appointed by the cabinet, nor is she directly subject to the scrutiny of Parliament. And she does not do press conferences that would allow open questioning by journalists.”

Unless of course, it’s to make the bizarre disclosure that Abbott “allowed” her to keep her IVF drugs in his office fridge. For a very private woman, that was a very private thing to share publicly.

Not only do we have unelected, unaccountable, often inexperienced, staffers dictating policy, we also are paying a fortune to media spin doctors for them to sell their wares.

In August 2012, the Australian reported that

“TAXPAYERS are spending about $150 million a year on an army of spin doctors to sell the Gillard government’s policies to voters.

Figures obtained by The Australian reveal there are about 1600 staff employed by federal government departments and agencies in media, communications, marketing and public affairs roles.

Opposition Senate leader Eric Abetz seized on the figures to accuse Labor of focusing on spin over substance and vowed to cut the numbers if in government.

Senator Abetz said he believed it would cost taxpayers an average of about $100,000 a year to keep each staff member in their job, once salary, entitlements and equipment were factored in. He said a Coalition government would cut the numbers.

“This is literally a battalion, if not an army, of spin doctors. What this highlights yet again is the government’s concentration on spin. They do get the initial message out very well, but the policy underpinning it and the administrative follow-up is always a shambles. Most Australians would agree that spin doctors are not necessarily a core business of a lot of these departments,” he said.”

Unfortunately, those heartening words from Senator Abetz as he decried the waste, turned out to be…spin.

In March 2014, the Canberra Times reported that:

“The federal government’s ”army” of spin doctors and communications staff has grown to more than 1900, based on data supplied by departments and agencies.

An analysis of answers to questions on notice supplied to a Senate committee shows staffers in government media, communications and marketing operations have increased by several hundred in two years and could be costing taxpayers as much as $190 million a year.

Public Service Minister Eric Abetz said the government was conscious of the growth of its spin machine and hinted action was being considered. Responding to the latest figures, the minister said they showed ”the approximate level of communications staffing that the Coalition inherited from the former government after the election”.

Of course – it is an example of Labor’s waste that the Coalition have had to employ more spin doctors.

And chief amongst these spin doctors is Mark Textor.

For the 2004 federal election campaign for John Howard, Textor was credited for the “who do you trust” campaign strategy refocusing key trust questions back on the then Opposition Leader’s economic competence – a line Tony Abbott recycled. In 2012 he was strategist and pollster for Campbell Newman’s Liberal National Party election campaign.

We also have “Tex” to thank for the catch cry quote: “We will stop the boats, stop the big new taxes, end the waste, and pay back the debt.”

So confident is Textor of his position, in November last year he felt it appropriate to tweet about Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa, whom he likened to a 1970s Pilipino [sic] porn star, also questioning his ethics.

Textor’s company profile says:

“Mark’s direct clients have included governments, premiers and opposition leaders in six countries and the CEOs and Boards of major Australian and multi-national companies in a broad range of industries, including; mining, fast moving consumer goods (FMCG), pharmaceutical, retail, financial services, banking (“Big Four”), tobacco, renewable energies, oil, gas and farming sectors.”

It’s a bit rich for a man who will say anything for money to be lecturing on ethics.

Australia’s Power Index acknowledged his skill with the focus group.

“He’s a genius at transforming raw research into compelling communication – someone who presses people’s emotional buttons, identifies points of division, and boils complex issues down to their core.”

This is the man who has sold the message of fear and division, and is praised for so doing.

As reported in the Guardian

“In Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia, Crosby Textor declares it is paid to lobby on behalf of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association.

APPEA is the peak industry group for the oil and gas industry and among other things, speaks on behalf of Australia’s booming coal seam gas industry.

Crosby Textor also carries out research for industry groups such as the Queensland Resources Council – the peak body for mining in the state.

Crosby Textor also lists on the lobby registers other clients including Research In Motion (the makers of BlackBerry), property developers, a plastics company, a recycling firm, a business making biofuels and a charity that aims to better protect cyclists.”

How can we expect honesty and integrity from a government which is run by a woman who craves personal power without accountability and a man who has a vested interest in manipulating opinion and policy in favour of his clients?

 

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Shining a light on dark places

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The attempt to sell the repeal of Section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act has led to a new page in the “phrases to repeat” Coalition script. Everyone from Tony Abbott and George Brandis to Tim Wilson is saying that it is the responsibility of the community to “shine a light on dark places”.

I realise they are referring to bigotry and racism but I think it is a laudable sentiment which should be embraced and extended.

I would like a light shone on Manus Island and Nauru and “on-water operations”. I would like to see a cost benefit analysis of our offshore detention policy. I would like to see a total bill for Operation Sovereign Borders and the incarceration of innocent people.

Add up how much we are spending on orange life rafts and unmanned drones and having a naval fleet patrolling. Add up how much we are spending on flights for politicians, aid workers, guards, journalists, asylum seekers etc to fly backwards and forwards to Indonesia, PNG, Nauru, Christmas Island, Cambodia, Solomon Islands and everywhere else we are trying to make complicit in this inhumanity. Add up how much it is costing us to keep 30,000 people locked up in limbo.

Next, this government is carrying out a concerted campaign to discredit unions using the Craig Thomson case to justify spending hundreds of millions on a Royal Commission and the re-establishment of the ABCC. I find this hard to understand as Mr Thomson is going to gaol – doesn’t this show that we already have a system of oversight by which corrupt officials can be prosecuted? Aren’t the police and ICAC better suited to deal with bribery, corruption and intimidation?

The $24,000 that Mr Thomson misappropriated pales into insignificance compared to the amount of money that politicians have been forced to repay for fraudulent expense claims that are brushed off as “mistakes” if someone questions them. I would like a light shone on parliamentarians’ entitlements and for the Finance department to exercise better governance.

I would like to shine a light on who is actually running our government. Every time Tony Abbott meets with world leaders Peta Credlin is sitting at the table. I know she runs his office but surely there are some diplomats, economists. cultural, trade or defence experts that deserve a spot in front of her.

I want to know why Cardinal Pell and Maurice Newman feel empowered to advise the government on climate change. I want to know why Mark Textor feels empowered to wade into foreign affairs on Twitter. I want to know who are the puppet masters. (see Andrew Robb video).

Speaking of puppet masters, I want to shine a light on political donations, and on paid political advertising which is banned in the UK.

Coincidentally, in a recent freedom of speech ruling in the European Court, the UK government successfully argued that the ban on paid political advertising was necessary to achieve the “legitimate aim of avoiding the distortion of debate on matters of public interest by unequal access to influential media by financially powerful bodies.”

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights held, by a majority of nine to eight, that the long-standing ban on paid political advertising on television and radio in the United Kingdom does not contravene the right to freedom of expression in article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Wealthy corporations, organisations and individuals have unusual access to, and influence over, the parties and politicians to whom they donate. Hundreds of millions of dollars are donated and then spent on advertising. Not only is this a ridiculous waste of money, it makes our political parties beholden. They are focused on chasing sponsorship so they must appease those with the means to bankroll them. People back winners so they must concentrate on being popular rather than governing.

The media must have a good relationship with a politician to gain access and to be fed the leaks. The politician must have a good relationship with the media because they choose what the next headline will say and which stories will be reported. This symbiotic arrangement has degenerated so far that politicians and journalists are amongst the least respected professions in the country. The following arrangement doesn’t add to the public’s trust.

“The $600 million lease on the current RAAF fleet of two Boeing 737 business jets and three smaller Challenger 604 aircraft will expire next year and the government will seek agreement from media companies to limit criticism of any decision to opt for bigger planes

According to senior government sources the new plan would involve aircraft such as the Airbus A-330 or Boeing 777 that can fly hundreds of passengers over long distances with fewer stops. The Boeing 777 and Airbus A-330 each cost about $250 million and both can carry in excess of 200 passengers in VIP configuration.”

And why should the media not report on this? Because the current planes “are too small to carry a full complement of press gallery journalists and crews” so let me spend my hundreds of millions in peace and you get a free ride to come film me. The taxpayers are footing the bill for Tony’s tame journos to be flown around the world presumably for free.

I would like to shine a light on corporate lobbyists and the deals they make with politicians. After leaving Parliament, an inordinate number of ex-pollies secure plum jobs with corporations they dealt with in their portfolio.

After bugging the East Timorese cabinet rooms under the guise of building them as a foreign aid project when he was Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer became an adviser to Woodside Petroleum, the company that was negotiating to exploit the oilfields. Peter Reith was appointed as a consultant to defence contractor Tenix immediately after resigning as defence minister. Health minister Michael Wooldridge signed a $5 million building deal for the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and days later, after resigning as health minister, was employed by the college as a consultant.

I would like to shine a light on the truth about debt and deficit. Between PEFO and MYEFO, under the Coalition government, the projected deficit for the year blew out by $17 billion. $10.2 billion of that was due to spending decisions made by the Coalition, notably an $8.8 billion gift to the RBA, an extra $1.2 billion for offshore processing, and tax breaks for those with super balances over $2 million.

Quoting from the Coalition “phrases to repeat” sheet, you will hear every one of them say Labor left us with a debt of $667 billion. Well to quote Joe Hockey’s own MYEFO document which he produced in mid-December:

“Net debt is forecast to be $191.5 billion in 2013-14 and reach $280 billion in 2016-17.”

The figure of $667 billion comes from Hockey’s MYEFO estimation of the possible gross debt in ten years’ time. Surely between now and 2024 he will be able to come up with a solution or will we still be hearing about Labor’s debt?

Where we need a glaring spotlight is on the free trade agreements that we are rushing headlong into. With Peter Dutton insisting that our health system is unsustainable why on earth would you enter into agreements that will unquestionably send our PBS into a death spiral? Allowing the evergreening of patents and other measures to benefit the pharmaceutical companies (who just so happen to be generous sponsors of the pollie pedal) will potentially spell the end of generic medicines with a huge increase in the price we pay for our drugs.

I could go on but all this light shining is burning me out. We need all of you to be torch bearers for our country. Do as Tim Wilson urges us to do – shine a light on the dark places where this government is trying to lead us.

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The Ministry for Misinformation and Wealth Protection

The AIMN has obtained a copy of a draft proposal circulating the Coalition party machine.

In an attempt to better use available resources, state and local governments will be abolished. All federal and state ministries, departments, advisory bodies, and their employees, will be coalesced into one organisation known as the Ministry for Misinformation and Wealth Protection (MMaWP).

It is estimated that this will eventually result in one million redundancies which will come from, as far as possible, natural attrition. Retraining as spin doctors will be available to those with a penchant for prevarication. Others will join a mobile workforce to be deployed wherever the mining or agricultural industries may need them. Others will build the roads of the 21st century. Those who refuse will be transferred to an undisclosed location to undergo behavioural rehabilitation followed by resettlement.

MMaWP will be headed by the Creator of all things seen and unseen, Peta Credlin. Through her all things are made.

The Creator’s wisdom will be disseminated by the Knights of the Star Chamber – Brian Loughnane, Tony Nutt, Andrew Hirst, Mark Textor, Michael Ronaldson and Kevin Andrews. These six men meet around a table emblazoned with the Star of David to reflect our Judao-Christian heritage.

Appointments have been made on merit.

Two Archanglers will head up Operation Corporate Marauders.

Scott Morrison will be in charge of Misinformation. He will give a weekly briefing though, due to concerns about wealth security and diplomatic relations with other companies, the time and place of these briefings will be kept secret.

Greg Hunt will head the Wealth Protection program. He has had 175,000 rubber stamps made and will be sending them to those who are in the top 1% of income earners. This will save an enormous amount of red-tape as developers and entrepreneurs can be self-regulating.

Advising the Archanglers, there will be a Coalition of Cheaters.

Joe Hockey has a team devoted to getting blood out of a stone. Discarded stones will be washed away by the rising tide. Middle-class stones will be put on orange life-rafts while they regenerate more blood for harvesting. Diamonds will be given a transfusion and accommodated on a fleet of custom built yachts.

Malcom Turnbull will advise on how to sell things you wouldn’t buy.

Andrew Robb has been charged with protecting the wealth of pharmaceutical companies so they can continue to contribute to the Pollie Pedal ride.

Julie Bishop will be in charge of grooming. It is understood that she has a memorandum of understanding with Armani to provide uniforms for MMaWP officials. She will also instruct in deportment and the importance of making eye contact.

Christopher Pyne will give back-to-basics direct instruction on indignation.

Anthony Mundine will advise about Aboriginal Muslim sports stars.

Bronwyn Bishop will act as interpreter and mediator.

Tony Abbott will be the face of the MMaWP, available to travel anywhere for a photo opportunity. Audio will not be allowed.

Banks and Private Health Insurers will remain outside the purview of the Ministry.

Perhaps the most courageous proposal of the MMaWP is to abolish the Australia Sale Act, paving the way for majority foreign ownership of Australia. They argue that privatising Australia would bring enormous wealth to a few people which will allow them to feed more serfs. Hungry serfs will find sweatshops off-shore.

Concerned Aussies Gina Rinehart, Rupert Murdoch and Andrew Bolt have put together a partnership which is understood to have made an offer to keep Australia in the hands of Australians. Their Board of Directors, the IPA, have been in close negotiation with the MMaWP, and insiders have told AIMN that agreement in lack of principle has been reached.

We will endeavour to keep you informed of reaction to, and progress on, this proposal.

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