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Tag Archives: Police state

Beyond a Morrison Police State.

“This is not about free speech, it’s not about the ability to protest, these people are completely against our way of life,” former Queensland drug squad and sex offenders cop, now Home Affairs Supremo and family child care business partner, self-made millionaire, MP Peter Dutton tells Channel Nine Friday.

“For many of them they don’t even believe in democracy, … the disharmony they seek to sow within society is unacceptable,” says our super minister who, only recently, was keen to dog-whistle racists by falsely claiming that African crime gangs make it unsafe to go out on the streets in Melbourne.

A fretful nation is overjoyed that Il Dutto has spotted another enemy within. In a nifty intercept, former Hillsong Elder, Scott Morrison, now our PM for extractive industries, snatches the ball and punts it.

How good is our media? By Friday night, every newspaper in the land carries the banner “radical activism threatens mining”. It’s a spectacular, mass propaganda drop which highlights how smoothly a Prime Minister’s staff of fifty can swing into gear should Dutton or any other MP steal the limelight.

“High velocity bollocks” is Katharine Murphy’s view of Morrison’s alert on ABC Insiders. A tad unfair. ScoMo has to create a diversion from Thursday’s Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety interim report of scandal that has taken place during the Coalition’s six years in government.

It’s a shocker. Health Minister Hunt bobs up also on Insiders to pat the government on the back for ordering the Royal Commission but skips the $2 billion cut by the Coalition since it came to power.

“… the aged care system fails to meet the needs of its older, vulnerable, citizens. It does not deliver uniformly safe and quality care, is unkind and uncaring towards older people and, in too many instances, it neglects them,” report commissioners Richard Tracey and Lynelle Briggs in a media release.

Images of Morrison are everywhere. Speechifying. Threatening protesters at a Brisbane mining lobbyists’ free lunch. And anyone daring to impose a secondary boycott. “Wedgislation” rasps Murpharoo.

All it would take, mumbles former News Corp hack, now Brisbane free-lance, Dennis Atkins, deftly sidestepping the ScoMo police state elephant in the room, is to change the bit in the law where unions’ secondary boycotts are outlawed and extend that … section … mumble … something DD.

The bit in the law? Generally, in Australia strikes are unlawful, in breach of international law which holds that the right to strike is recognised as a fundamental human right, as the ILO has been reminding Coalition and Labor governments for the last thirty years. But the PM’s team plays a blinder in giving him a time and a place and a text Friday, to normalise the outlawing of secondary boycotts.

“If it’s not OK to have secondary boycotts being run by unions … it’s not OK for environmental, well, they’re anarchist groups … to be able to disrupt people’s jobs, their livelihoods, to harass people as we saw down in Melbourne,” Morrison blusters, glossing over the highly contentious anti-union law.

Naturally there is no detail from such a big picture thinker. And scare tactics work best without specifics. But Morrison needs to explain what he means. How can he possibly legislate against freedom of choice, one of the set-pieces of Liberal rhetoric? Aren’t we free to choose which firms we patronise?

Also skipped is the real disruption that accrues now that our largely de-unionised workforce has so little real bargaining power over wages that spending drops and helps tip Australia into economic recession. But you’ve got to hand it to the PM’s staff. They’ve had wage cut-backs, too. 13 per cent since Malcolm Turnbull was double-double-crossed by Morrison and his right-hand evangelical Stuart Robert and crew.

At an average salary of just over $200,000, the PM’s minders work wonders on a shoe-string budget. And a skeletal staff. All up, the Morrison government must battle on with a mere 457 ministerial advisers.

(Theresa May’s UK government employed 99 ministerial advisers in December last year, including 2 who earned the maximum salary of £140,000 pounds.)

But it’s all about team work. Our press flacks fall in behind the Coalition’s muppet-show and the mining and banking lobby which pulls their strings. Morrison threatens “a radical crack-down” on protesters.

The team plan is to demonise those who protest against a government in denial that holy coal mining and coal-burning power stations even cause global warming, air and water pollution. On present trends, let alone with new mines, coal will destroy nature, our health and ultimately extinguish our future. But just as we’ve created illegals out of those who seek asylum, we’ll do it with climate protesters.

Morrison is addicted to the politics of division. And it worked with vegan activists. The Criminal Code Amendment (Agricultural Protection) Bill 2019 which outlaws “farm invaders”, passed 12 September.

Labor was wedged into voting for draconian, superfluous legislation. Trespass is covered by state laws. Labor senators Kim Carr and Anthony Chisholm warn farmers, themselves, are at risk from the new law, if opposing fracking. Whistle-blowers and journalists are also at risk of prosecution for inciting trespass.

Reporters who merely publish footage of animal cruelty, or who publish a map of factory farms and slaughterhouses where such cruelty is known to occur, may face a criminal charge for “inciting trespass onto agricultural land” regardless of whether incitement to trespass is intended by the publisher, and regardless of whether the cruelty is legal.

While the brave new ag-gag law has yet to be tested in court, Morrison is playing hyper-partisan politics again with the help of his imaginary arch-fiend “absolutist environmentalism”.  Some complain that attacking an “ism” indicates mental laziness. Imprecision. But fear-mongers just love it. And it works.

Protesters are “anarchists, radical activists; extremists”. If a lie is half way round the world before the truth can get its boots on, vilification is even quicker. Once the PM puts the boot in; Morrison’s gutter politics leadership immediately has its own followers; copycats -even in the police.

A Victorian police officer faces disciplinary action for wearing a sticker with the phrase “EAD Hippy” – slang for “eat a dick” – while patrolling this week’s anti-mining protests in Melbourne. Instead of heeding dissent, the federal government joins some states in choosing to dismantle democracy instead.

Protesters have a right to stage community campaigns to voice their concerns, as Kelly O’Shanassy CEO of Australian Conservation Foundation ACF quickly points out. Moreover, demonstrators and protesters come from diverse walks of life and their dissent is expressed in many different ways, she explains.

“People protesting in the streets are not the only ones expressing alarm about climate change – the head of the Defence Force, the deputy governor of the Reserve Bank and the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority have all recently raised serious concerns,” Ms O’Shanassy says.

Morrison’s not listening. The PM loves his bully-pulpit. You can tell he gets a buzz out of casting out evil.

Progressives seek to deny the liberties of Australians, he tells The Queensland Resources Council, (QRC), another mining lobby, Friday – giving his spin an extra twist by preaching to the converted. It’s a whopping lie, of course and a masterly piece of projection and deflection. But the QRC is cheering.

“The QRC welcomes new laws passed by the Palaszczuk Government to deter people from using dangerous devices …” runs the lobby’s 25 October media release.

Yet the “dangerous devices” turn out to be unsubstantiated claims that some “lock-on devices” contain dangerous items, such as glass or gas canisters aimed at deterring police. No evidence has yet been provided, beyond a few images of a protest in 2018, a case which was prosecuted under existing law.

“Any laws that may infringe on important rights such as peaceful protest ought to be subject to a detailed and proper parliamentary scrutiny process. We are concerned that this has not occurred…,” says Bridget Burton, Director of Caxton Legal Centre’s Human Rights and Civil Law Practice.

Enter Macca. QRC CEO Ian, “Chainsaw”, Macfarlane, a former federal Minister for Industry. After being sacked from the front bench and when his attempt to defect from the Liberals to The Nationals was blocked, Macfarlane quit politics and signed on to head QRC, for a modest half million dollars a year, in 2016, to help eke out his $150-200K income from the Parliamentary Contributory Super Scheme.

Ian’s terribly worried these days about the need to lock up protesters. Their bullying and reckless endangerment of lives – even their own – must be stopped. Tougher laws are the key. Always.

“It is often the case that fines are small and no convictions are recorded,” he tells Brisbane Times in August. Morrison says he is working on legal measures to outlaw the “indulgent and selfish practices” of protest groups that try to stop major resources projects. As if he can outlaw protest.

“Now, we will take our time to get this right. We will do the homework and we’re doing that right now. But we must protect our economy from this great threat,” he thunders.  It’s the sacred economy again. Amen. Or did he mean surplus? Meanwhile, the multinational mining companies protesters target bleed us dry in tax evasion. Not to mention what they cost us in subsidies.

Tenderly, our government takes our taxes and spends billions of dollars to help more coal, gas and oil to be extracted and burned. Other favours include tax-based subsidies, direct contributions, concessional loans from public financial institutions, lax environmental laws and approvals for disastrous projects.

Now ScoMo takes time to hiss the villain. Progressivism, a “new-speak type term”, ScoMo claims (of a movement achieving social and political reform in the US, two decades before Orwell published 1984), aims “to get in under the radar, but at its heart would deny the liberties of Australians.” 

“Apocalyptic in tone, it brooks no compromise,” Elder Morrison continues, as if he were describing the template for a Hillsong sermon. “It’s all or nothing. Alternative views are not permitted.”

But no “needless anxieties”, please. Think of the children. What we need at times like these is some “context and perspective”. The Australian Way of Life must remain secure in its glass case along with a bust of Langley Frederick Hancock, a piece of coal and a blue ribbon for best country in show at Liberal HQ, protected by the eternal vigilance of Dutton’s AFP, ASIO and the web of eighty-odd federal national security laws governments have spun to catch evil-doers since September 11, 2011.

Nobody seems to know precisely how many laws. Or care. The more the meh-factor.

Our most recent bit of spy fly-paper is the Coalition’s Foreign Influence Registry, part of its visionary Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme, which became law last December. In a mass mail-out last month, the Attorney General asks all foreign agents of influence to put their hands up. Way to go.

Who? What? Defining influence can be a tricky business, which is probably how Tony Abbott got caught in the net. In deathless prose, Porter’s department appeals to lobbyists of a “parliamentary and general political nature” but includes those involved in “communications activity” and “disbursement activity”.

Transparent? Sheer genius. Sadly, this little list is in its infancy. And it’s a one way mirror. It does not run to how we influence other nations such as our ASIS agents’ spying on Timor Leste’s cabinet in 2004.

Given the high esteem with which they are held in Timor Leste, you might expect the whistle-blower, Witness K – as the ASIS officer has become known – and his lawyer, Bernard Collaery to feature. These men represent our finest, as former Timor-Leste president José Ramos-Horta writes in August.

“Individuals with a conscience and courage, representing the very best of Australians as I know them – instinctively sympathetic to the underdog, the weak and vulnerable.”

The tribute is a salutary corrective to ScoMo’s rhetoric. The men should be venerated as public heroes.

Yet their secret trials, revealed by Andrew Wilkie under parliamentary privilege, in June 2018 and currently under way in two Canberra courts, the Magistrates Court for Witness K and The Supreme Court for his lawyer Collaery, represents “… the national security state’s assault on Australia’s democratic culture”, writes Clinton Fernandes, University of NSW Professor of International and Political studies.

Both face lengthy prison sentences. An example must be made of whistle-blowers to discourage others. Some suggest that given some unexplained questions in his past careers and the fact the someone knows the answers, Morrison is keen to diminish the likelihood of the whistle being blown on himself. Whatever his personal investment, national security agencies are keen to punish whistle-blowers.

It’s not citizens in Queensland and Melbourne exercising their rights to protest but the state itself which is attacking the rule of law, a corner-stone of our democracy. A police state? To Fernandes, it’s more.

These prosecutions come at a time of vastly increased powers for police and intelligence agencies, raids on the homes of journalists and news organisations, and the deployment of technologies of mass surveillance. The aim of this power grab must be understood clearly, if it is to be resisted. The national security bureaucracy doesn’t want a police state. It is more ambitious than that. The hope is to return Australian culture to the conformity and political quietude of the 1950s.”

In this context, Porter’s Registry is but one small step but could well escalate into a flight of stairs.

In the last decade, 81 per cent of political donations from the mining industry have been to the Coalition; 71 per cent to the Liberal Party. The Grattan Institute reveals that mining has the most lobbying contacts with government. Many of these are foreign-owned firms. Surely these should appear on the registry?

Nowhere does the registry list other influential foreign companies who run local branches to great tax advantage. These include household names: Uber, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, McDonalds, Ikea and Aldi. Perhaps they need more than four weeks to gauge their influence. If it can be done at all.

Multinational parent companies do not register their Australian operations as branch operations. Consequently they do not comply with ASIC’s disclosure and reporting obligations. In fact, we generously give them a tax deduction when they send royalty payments to arms of their own company overseas.

Are we Thinking Big enough? Perhaps, given the meagre 194 entries, so far, there is room for our own agents of influence abroad to declare themselves. Scott Morrison would doubtless be keen to explain what he did to get the flick from his job as head of NZ Tourism and Sport in 2000.

It would help greatly with our close trading neighbour – where Think Big was a state intervention strategy – and it would clear up a mystery or two. The Saturday Paper’s Karen Middleton reports that a Kiwi Controller and Auditor-General audit found that ScoMo hi-jacked the NZ Tourism Review.

It is early evidence of ScoMo’s gift for taking charge and his top-dog inter-personal skills. Not for him the namby-pamby consensus type or a democratic style. “Absolute arsehole” is former MP Michael Kennan verdict. Keenan served as Justice Minister when Scott Morrison was Immigration Minister.

His comment is recorded by Niki Savva in Plots and Prayers as having been made to colleagues at lunch at Garum Restaurant in Perth in April 2018 just before Morrison deposed Malcolm Turnbull.

“Porter joined in, saying he did not think Morrison was a team player. Cormann said he had seen Morrison up close now, and, in his opinion, Dutton was better,” Savva writes.

Similar charges would be made by the Australian National Audit Office, (ANAO) nine years’ later when it looked into his management of Tourism Australia. ANAO found “non-consultation, making unilateral decisions, not observing due process and restricting board access to information.”

But Morrison gets off Scott-free. Not so one of his illustrious predecessors. All hot and bothered this week, Tony Abbott, The Australian’s Prime Minister-in-exile is asked to sign The Registry…

Abbott is incensed by Christian – (but a Jedi on his census) Porter’s department’s recent demand that the budgie-smuggler register as “an agent of foreign influence”, just the day before CPAC, in Sydney, last August. The department of the Attorney-General is not one to rush matters. But it has improved.

Porter’s predecessor, George Brandis dithered for two years and three months over prosecuting Bernard Collaery and Witness K. Then he got posted to London as our High Commissioner. Porter, on the other hand, took the decision to prosecute only six months after coming to office. But Abbott’s underwhelmed.

The Incredible Sulk is happy to ear-bash fellow reactionaries at non-events such as CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, an oxymoron on steroids. Tipped to be the next Director of the weapons industry sponsored National War Memorial in Canberra, he’s clearly still a VIP.

But foreign influence? The former Riverview boy ­refuses the request, labels it ­“absurd” and in a direct dig at the Jedi claims “senior officials of the commonwealth have better things to do with their time.”

If only.

Scott Morrison’s pledge to crack down on climate protesters is in part a deflection, a ruse to encourage climate change deniers by implying that there’s nothing wrong with building more coal-fired power station; it’s the extremist, radical activists” who are out of line. And it’s a way of wedging Labor. Yet it would be wrong to see it merely as an act of bellicose posturing from a wannabe populist strong man.

Morrison’s past record suggests more than a hint of an authoritarian, if not autocratic, personality beneath the evasions, the secrecy and the cultivated, folksy veneer of the sport-loving, cap-wearing , beer-drinking suburban dad as populist leader.

Given the proliferation of national security laws which have hugely strengthened the power of the state, since 2011, moreover, we must challenge Morrison’s latest florid, rhetorical assault on democracy; resist all attempts at division and the silencing of dissent. Our future as a civil society; our freedom depends upon it.

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ScoMo no leader at all.

Capping a week of wacky stunts is Drug-test dole Bludgers a first episode in The Return of the Undead, a schlock-horror series in which the commonwealth is attacked by zombies; bad policy ideas the Coalition has already killed off. Twice. Or so we thought. Totally lacking policy or even vaguely useful ideas, the Morrison government digs up its dead, while dodging shocking reviews of its theatre of cruelty drama, Tamil Family.

Dole Bludgers helps deflect us from Did Treasury shrink the Economy? a Frydenberg-Lowe whodunnit playing centre stage, helped out by “Police State 2.0″ a cop-show sequel involving more raids on whistle-blowers’ homes.

Secrecy, mystery and shock are key to ScoMo’s Police State 2.0, which, like Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition, thrives on fear and surprise. All we see is a dawn raid. Cops haul black polythene bags. “As this is an ongoing matter, it would not be appropriate to comment further at this time,” an AFP “spokesperson” intones.

Weird? Normal procedure for the AFP, as veteran Canberra Times editor, Jack Waterford, observes, is to tip off selected journalists well in advance of any raid. Not so much better sound but great optics.   Waterford notes,

“It is part of the AFP’s media modus operandi to claim that operational or sub judice considerations prevent it from discussing anything damaging to the force’s image. Such considerations never inhibit the AFP if it expects good publicity from trusted journalists.” Uncannily, ScoMo & Co follow much the same protocol.

This week, Home Affairs Minister Dutton and Morrison are free with all kinds of abuse to help their case, even though the Biloela family would normally be off limits as “an operational matter” or “an individual case”. By Friday, even though the case is before the Federal Court, Dutton tells Nine,

“I would like the family to accept that they are not refugees, they’re not owed protection by our country.”

Yet the same day, Federal Court judge, Justice Mordecai Bromberg, orders Immigration Minister, David Coleman, to provide more evidence to support claims the youngest child has no right to protection. This case returns to court for an interlocutory hearing, 18 September, but a full and final hearing will require extensive preparation. An increasingly out of control Dutton would do well to pull his head in; take a hint from his pals in the AFP.

Suddenly it’s clear that ScoMo has even less power over Dutton than Turnbull, who created Home Affairs just to appease Dutton and his monkey-pod cabal. His capitulation to the bullies, condemned by experts then, is an utter failure now. Above all if we’re going get Police State 2.0 right, the AFP, need to know which boss gives the orders.

The AFP has an unblemished record of being lapdog of the government of the day. Only once in thirty-eight years since its inception has it embarrassed a government. The exception is the case of the investigation and prosecution of Liberal renegade – and Labor-appointed speaker, Peter Slipper, which did not result in a conviction.

The AFP keeps mum on Wednesday’s raid of the Canberra home of a diplomat and defence adviser, Cameron Gill, reports the Canberra Times. But the optics are eloquent. Shots of a burly plain-clothes cop, carrying a couple of black garbage bags or loading the bags into the boot of a black car look ominous at least. “AFP cleans up democracy while trashing Gill’s reputation” is the main pictorial message implied on national news.

“Enacting laws in the name of national security without testing them can result in overreach and the erosion of basic freedoms,” warns Australian Law Council president, Arthur Moses, in his natter to the National Press Club.

Australia leads the free world in beefing up existing and creating world-class, new anti-terror and security laws. In the eighteen years since September 11, 2001, we have encumbered ourselves with no fewer than 54 new laws.

“There’s been a massive amount of legislation passed that prior to then (2011) would have been unthinkable”, Pauline Wright, President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties says.There have been incursions into freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of movement, right to protest, all basic legal rights that underpin our democracy”. It’s almost as if she’s stumbled on the real point of the war on terror.

“Do not be quiet Australians. That is not your job,” warns Moses to the assembled hacks and flacks.

Moses is keen for reporters to “continue questioning” the Commonwealth’s growing national security powers, and “not just those that are threats to your freedoms”. Yet News Corp, from which all other media take their lead, has been actively encouraging the Coalition’s radical expansion of a police state in Australia in the last six years.

Drug test … is more than a government out of ideas. It blends ScoMo & Co’s yen for mindless cruelty, with its signature impracticality – as seen, for example, in its coal fetish. Blend in its shouty populist campaign to deprive the poor and vulnerable of any form of support, let alone compassion – and the drug test ploy may just upstage news that not only have ScoMo & Co given us the worst financial year since 1990-91, they have no plan.

“We have a plan – and only the Coalition has a plan” is Matthias Cormann’s mantra. But there is no plan. Greg Jericho calls on the government to wake up.

“It spent the entire election campaign telling us the economy was strong despite clear evidence that was not the case, and now in the light of some of the worst economic growth figures this century it would have us believe all is going to plan.”

Alan Austin notes “The increase in GDP for the June quarter, announced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics yesterday, was a miserable 0.48%. This brings annual GDP growth to just 1.44% for the year to the end of June if we use seasonally adjusted figures. Trend data, preferred by some, show even worse outcomes.

This is the lowest annual growth for a financial year since 2002-03, during the early 2000s global recession. Prior to that, the year with lower growth than now was back in 1991 during Paul Keating’s “recession we had to have”.

ScoMo calls on us to spend our way into prosperity. But what with? With frozen wages, lost penalty rates, rising utility and fuel costs, not to mention a steep hike in fruit and vegetable prices, given drought, flood and heat has cut supplies, means most households will use their meagre tax refund to pay down debt and on daily essentials.

But look over there! A drug test for Centrelink beneficiaries beckons.

Enter the trial drug testing of 5,000 new recipients of Newstart Allowance and Youth Allowance.  Job-seekers would be tested for a range of illegal drugs in a two-year trial at three locations – Logan, Queensland, Canterbury-Bankstown, NSW and Mandurah, WA. Vital trial details are scarce in the news cycle.

The drug test idea is a neat way to scapegoat those trapped in a cycle of poverty. It recycles a farrago of Liberal lies: job-seekers are not only unsuccessful because they are high on drugs, they are also decadent. Unworthy – a popular slur also seen in refugee demonising. Un-Australian. Seeking pleasure instead of work?

The best form of welfare is a job, ScoMo crows. 722,000 Aussies struggled to get by on Newstart’s $278 per week or less than forty dollars a day in August. ABS figures show expenses, especially rising fuel prices – up 4.5% mean we are going backwards. Half a million of us haven’t worked for over 12 months. ScoMo’s “conservative compassion” means job-seekers just don’t eat; 84 percent of unemployed workers report skipping meals.

Implied in ScoMo’s slogan is a rebuke; neoliberalism’s favourite lie, there are plenty of jobs out there- all you have to do is try harder/re-skill/move to the regions/not be a job snob. It’s absurd but hurtful; cruel nonsense.

It’s not just that are far fewer jobs than job applicants, while jobs are increasingly casual, part time and wage theft and underemployment is rife, drug-testing of welfare recipients has failed everywhere it’s been tried.  And the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison show knows it’s a failure, as Josh Butler in The Huffington Post pointed out in 2017.

Jurisdictions in Canada and the U.K. proposed then scrapped the idea. In the US, a few states gave up their trials as few as 0.01 percent of those tested actually returned positive drug tests. Above all, an Australian government-funded report from 2013 found there was “no evidence” of any positive effects in drug testing welfare clients, citing social, economic, legal and ethical concerns which meant such a scheme “ought not be considered”.

But “Just because something has been trialled elsewhere and has not worked does not mean it should not be tried again,” argues Senator Scott Ryan, for the Minister for Social Services. No. Just don’t expect it to work.

Drug-testing for welfare recipients was first proposed in the bizarre, 2014 Abbott-Credlin incarnation of the current government and again by the Turnbull iteration. It’s a great distraction from the imminent nation-wide trial of the Indue cashless debit card, a scam also known as “The Healthy Welfare Card” which is not a success in any trials. Still, it is a nifty business enterprise which could return $12,000 to the Liberal Party for each card issued.

Despite the dead cat on the table of the drug test (trial), ScoMo still cannot hide this week’s shocking GDP data.

Stalling Australia’s economic growth has taken six years of hard work. Morrison, in particular, can take a bow.

As Treasurer, he did keep barking that we did not have a revenue problem. No? Now most households do. And we carry record debt. A tax cut won’t help us. We are in per capita recession even if the government insists on applying US Census boffin, Julius Shiskin’s, yard stick of two consecutive quarters of negative growth.

Former RBA Governor Glenn Stevens says it’s, “not very useful”. Proposed in December 1974 by Julius Shishkin, then head of the Economic Research and Analysis Division of the US Census Bureau which publishes the US national accounts, it’s not used to identify recessions in the US. Saul Eslake points out,

It takes no account of differences over time, or as between countries, in the rates of growth of either population or productivity – which are the key determinants of whether a given rate of economic growth is sufficient to prevent a sharp rise in unemployment. This is something which most people (other than economists) would use to delineate a recession.

In brief, we are fooling ourselves, or allowing ourselves to be fooled, by an esoteric measure of what a recession is. By most other measures, we would be calling what Morrison and Frydenberg have engineered, a recession, now. Calling for Frydenberg to resign. As The Guardian Australia‘s Paul Jericho reports,

The 2018-19 financial year had the lowest growth since 2000-01, and it was the eighth worst year out of the 60 since 1960. In the past 35 financial years, only five have seen worse per-capita growth, and in the past 40 only four have seen lower productivity growth.

Happily, there’s always a Liberal love-in happening somewhere to take the sting out of the hard going. ScoMo insults half the population in one gaffe as he addresses the faction-ridden boys’ club of the NSW Liberal Party’s State Council in NSW, weekend conference, its “most vicious” for twenty years. It’s in uproar over abortion.

It almost upstages Monday’s fuss when the PM, Communications minister Paul Fletcher, Birmo and Senator Jane Hume and sundry other Liberal MPs rock up to a function held by Channel Nine at its Willoughby studios.

Nothing to see here, says ScoMo, “I mean they were happy to host an event and I attended an event.”  Prince Andrew could use the same defence of a photo of himself and a seventeen year old girl at a Jeffrey Epstein event.

Except it was a ten-thousand dollar a head Liberal Party fund-raiser which makes a mockery of Nine Newspapers, formerly Fairfax rags’ slogan “Independent Always”. Luckily, everything is OK, because, as CEO Marks explains, the shindig gave Nine time to voice its deep concern over press freedom while it raised money for the Liberals.

Michelle Grattan says it’s bizarre to engage with a government on press freedom, by raking in $100,000 in funds for it. Clearly she’s yet to get into the Trump-Morrison zeitgeist where the press is free to say whatever the government is OK with. This argument is made by Home Affairs Secretary, Mike Pezzullo in senate estimates.

Fortunately, by Saturday, the PM can change the agenda to gender. How Liberal ladies can step up to the plate.

Pro-lifers protest outside the International Convention Centre whilst inside, right-wing Liberals who wish to keep the current bad law, move a vote to allow debate on decriminalising abortion, a bid that threatens to de-rail the Berejiklian government’s bill to make abortion legal in NSW – as it is in all other states. The vote is lost 217-236.

The bill passed the NSW lower house 59 to 31, a month ago, but it created a split within the Liberals. 19 of the party’s 35 MPs voted against it.  Veteran public ethicists, “barking” Barnaby Joyce and “two-bob” Tony Abbott also protest, support which Sydney lawyer, Michael Bradley, writing in Crikey claims, augurs well for the reformers,

“It was sexist paternalism and disrespect that made abortion a crime and has kept it thus for so long. It is this same instinct that seeks to delay and confuse the remediation of that wrong. But, whether because of or despite the Tony/Barnaby Effect, it will shortly lose this battle.”

Amendments proposed will be considered when the NSW Upper House votes on the bill 17 September. Many of these appear to be disingenuous delaying tactics, including fears that a woman will use abortion to select the sex of her baby, a phenomenon that has never occurred elsewhere in the world. So why would it happen here?

ScoMo’s keynote address is about merit. Up to a higher plane. “I want to see more women in our parliament and I want to see the NSW division work with me and my team to deliver that on merit, on merit, that’s the key.”

ScoMo alienates half his audience with his gaffe.

Who better to lecture Liberals on merit and equity than ScoMo? His advocacy for women is now the stuff of Liberal Party legend. He’s got daughters, he says. Enough said. And, my, just look at the way he acted on serious allegations of a party culture of misogyny and bullying, which came to a head around last year’s spontaneous hands-free leadership spill that accidentally, led to ScoMo becoming PM – and without any plotting, lobbying or double-double-crossing. So he says. It caused at least one MP, Julia Banks to resign.

All packed off to an inquiry or review or report or something. And denial from Linda Reynolds who has now gone on to do a mighty job in Defence and Sarah Henderson, who is parachuted back into parliament into former Senator Mitch Fifield’s policy-free Victorian senate seat, this Sunday, despite smears and slurs from religious groups following her support of marriage equality.

Henderson’s not beaten Sophie Mirabella’s hubby, Greg, more of a conservative, but she’s battled vicious email. One accused her of being “a Malcolm Turnbull, gay marriage and abortion supporter”. Unholy Trinity.

Sunday, she wins a 234-197 a vote from five hundred Liberal Party delegates to the NSW conference. Despite intense lobbying from government MPs, the result still suggests as deep a division in Victoria between small ‘l’ liberal Liberals and the rip-roaring right as in NSW. In the end, however, ScoMo has one more token woman MP.

So it’s fitting the PM should be there. Not for the abortion vote – he’s pro-life – but as a father figure who can tell Liberal women they just need to improve their merit; lift their game and work on their CVs, their networking and interview skills. It’s an old lie but it helps explain why today there is the same number of women Liberal MPs as there was in 1996. At the end of the end of the day was it Henderson’s merit or ScoMo’s orchestrated lobbying?

Women everywhere will be chuffed to know that our current crop of mostly male Liberal MPs is a meritocracy.

Merit just shines out of Josh Frydenberg, this week, for one, as he tries to fudge the worst set of GDP figures this century, while blaming Treasury for not getting its forecasts right. And claiming he and his government did.

Merit is also the word that leaps to mind to describe the work of Stuart “Rolex” Robert whose business empire is in a big chill this week, according to reports that he and his partner may lose over $400,000 due to the tragic collapse of Cryo Australia, one of his cooler company investments which have attracted the interest of ASIC.

No inference is given nor suggestion made that Robert has done anything wrong in relation to Cryo Australia, which offered customers therapy sessions in a human-sized cooler. When it was working. Robert does seem dogged by business troubles, however, and it just bad luck given his cabinet role and his duties in charge of both government services and NDIS, two portfolios, which demand sound judgement and due diligence.

Liquidators are investigating whether crimes may have been committed by directors of the company, Cryo Australia, where Robert briefly sat on the board alongside rapist Neran De Silva, reports The Guardian Australia.

“Merit” Morrison himself, whose MPs snubbed rival contender for PM, Julie Bishop, because the blokes said she was a lightweight, won Cook in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire, fair and square with just a little bit of help from The Daily Telegraph’s, four article slander of Michael Towke, a Lebanese Christian Australian, who, in July 2011, was democratically pre-selected rival in Cook- until he was disendorsed by the Party after the articles were published.

Dazzled by the display of merit currently on show in the Liberal party room of our faux-Coalition, an unrepresentative secret agreement which includes a mandatory quota at its core, it’s difficult to tell whether the women members of the Liberal Party are laughing or crying. Just don’t expect a petticoat revolution just yet.

In the meantime, despite its diversions, the week exposes the Morrison government’s false claim to any economic expertise.  It is just another Coalition government; hopeless with money, clueless about women or gender equity, run by the top end of town for the top end of town and increasingly keen to control us by drawing us into the politics of division, unreason and fear.

Helping this control is the apparatus of a police state developed under the aegis of a war on terror, which like the war on drugs, is another toxic US import which can only cause us harm – as it has caused that nation immeasurable suffering and created unimaginable death and destruction for millions of others it has illegally invaded.

The threatened deportation of the Biloela family is an act of gratuitous, if not shockingly sadistic, cruelty which demeans us all. If the Tamil family are returned to Sri Lanka, they will be imprisoned and tortured. Yet even if they were to escape this fate, repatriation would be immoral, illegal under international law preventing refoulement and egregiously wrong in its calculated lack of humanity.

What kind of monsters have we become when we seek to punish innocents, make an example of a traumatised family who have already endured unfathomable suffering whose only mistake is to throw themselves on our mercy and seek our compassion?

Morrison must get Dutton to rescind his decision. Unless he can show the moral courage and the authority to act decisively on this, he is no leader at all.

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