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Tag Archives: Robodebt

A Whale of a Taylor – too.

“People aren’t spending” sighs Fran Kelly at the end of ABC Insiders Sunday, blaming us for the government’s epic failure to manage the economy. It’s always the victim’s fault. Yet if you don’t have it, you can’t spend it.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) records a snail’s pace in the latest increase in household incomes. ABS data shows a healthy increase from 1995 through until 2012, the period of the Howard and then Rudd/Gillard governments. Then it collapses in 2013. It is yet to recover. No wonder 9,300 retail stores will close their doors this year.

Average wealth per adult Australian, also fell by $US28,670 in 2018-2019 reports Credit Suisse in its annual global wealth report. Although Credit Suisse’s calculation includes falling house prices and a falling Australian dollar – and despite Australians remaining among the wealthiest in the world, the report confirms economic mismanagement.

We are one of a tiny minority of countries with wealth per adult lower in 2019 than back in 2012.

Vast amounts of wealth are being shunted offshore with little or no benefit to the people of Australia.

“There is no mineral resources rent tax, no other scheme to retain wealth in Australia, tax avoidance and evasion are rife, the Tax Office’s audit and enforcement divisions are severely understaffed and the Government keeps giving handouts to its foreign corporate mates,” writes Alan Austin.

What is improving is the Coalition’s strangle-hold on the media, helped in the ABC’s case by $84 million budget cuts, intimidating calls to head office, stacking of the board and a PM’s captain’s pick of Ita Buttrose as ABC Chair. AFP raids on working journalists help to increase the state’s pressure on everyone not to criticise; step out of line.

Journos pick up the vibe. Last week, Kelly’s love-in with work experience kid, Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg aids and abets Coalition’s lies about its comprehensive, colossal failure to manage the Australian economy.

“When we came to government, unemployment was 5.7%. Today it’s 5.3%. We have a record number of Australians in jobs. We have just produced the first current account surplus since 1975 … the budget is back in balance, already delivered, for the first time in 11 years. And we’re going to deliver a surplus. That means paying down Labor’s debt. Right now we have an interest bill of around $19 billion a year …”

 “So what we need to do is build the resilience of the Australian economy and face those domestic and global economic headwinds that all countries are facing, particularly the trade tensions,” Frydenberg lies.

OK, Josh. Perhaps you’d like to take credit for at least half of that debt and rising interest yourself. Hey Big Spender, your government spends like a drunken sailor. Since March, Australia’s gross debt was $543,409,430,000. Double all debt accumulated by every government from Federation to the 2013 election. Just tell the truth.

Global headwinds? Mathias Cormann – who’s never been the same since his arithmetic failed him as Dutton’s numbers man in the Liberals’ last leadership coup – has been wearing out this excuse since he become finance minister. Luckily, he need suffer no longer. He’ll quit politics at the end of this parliamentary session according to Paul Bongiorno. Cormann should go. Ten years ago, the nation was praised for its success during the GFC.

Now we lag the field. Global wealth grew during the past year as the five-year international boom in trade, jobs, investment, corporate profits and government revenue continues, although Alan Austin reports some easing with the new record high adult wealth reaching $70,850 or just 1.2% below last year’s record.

There are no global headwinds. The excuse is invoked whenever jobless figures rise, interest rates are cut, GDP per capita is lower than last year and declining productivity, among other factors, show our local economy stalling.

We’re all at sea. The mutinous dog in the captain’s rig may have seized the helm in last year’s dirty double, double-crossing of Turnbull. But the usurper has no charter; no vision. His first mate can’t read a compass and the crew are frigging in the rigging or sleeping in a cabin far below. No wonder Chief Purser Cormann is about to jump ship.

With Fran’s help, Frydenberg’s farrago of lies includes his party’s whopper that it has a record number of Australians in jobs. Yet Australia’s population growth of 1.7 million people (over 15 years old) during the same period, “created” those jobs. And a record number of deaths, too, not that you hear any boasting on that score.

Even if you take figures at face value, ABC, you could query the quality of those jobs. As in the US, many Australian workers are waiting up to a decade for a pay rise, income inequality is at record levels, working hours are long or unpredictable and penalty rates are being cut or do not exist. Conditions are also rapidly getting worse.

Wage theft is becoming the new normal as every month another corporation is found underpaying its workers.

“For many workers, there is no on-the-job training or chance for career progression, stress related illnesses due to intense work pressures are common and large sections of the workforce live in fear of being sacked without notice or redundancy pay because employment security provisions have been eroded,” reports the ACTU.

Above all, as The Australia Institute’s Richard Denniss asks, “… if the Coalition is managing the economy, why did they grow the population rather than create jobs for those who were already unemployed?” We need to explode the pernicious myth of the coalition as good economic managers.  And as Denniss puts it, the economy’s effect on the budget vastly outweighs the effect of any budget on any economy.

Budgets are important but budgets are not central to the management of the economy.

Context matters. Unemployment was indeed 5.7% at the end of the financial crisis or global recession of 2013 but that rate still put us eighth in OECD rankings – as contrasted with our 21st place today at 5.3% as shown in last month’s ABS data. That’s our lowest ranking since records have been kept. But no-one holds Josh to account.

The budget is not back in balance. As Finance Dept data reveals, the deficit at the end of October is around $14.7 billion. A surplus is predicted for next June. Alan Austin spells it out, that’s seven months away.

Above all, as Ross Gittins and others point out, any surplus requires a series of heroic assumptions which include expecting government spending to grow by just 0.1% in real terms – as opposed to 4.9% last financial year.

Then there are the decidedly unheroic calculations and assumptions of this government. Helping create a sacred surplus are cuts to NDIS, although the preferred term is “underspend”. Chief amongst these is the $4.6bn that has not been spent on NDIS, or to use the bureaucrats’ jargon, the “… slower than expected transition of participants into the NDIS and lower utilisation of participants’ individual support packages”.

In other words, our most vulnerable experience delay or denial as more stringent assessments reduce the numbers who qualify for NDIS. Wheelchair Basketball and Tennis, Paralympian Dylan Alcott is disgusted.

“I see the heartbroken families of people who try and try to get funding but can’t, robbing them to be independent, contributing members of society. Fix it.”

Then there’s the timing of receipts. Bringing forward the collection of tobacco excise collections, for example, Shane Wright reminds us, boosts the bottom line by several billions in the new financial year. But wait!

Look over there! In an “explosive allegation”, a Chinese spy ring, exposed by Nine’s 60 Minutes, Sunday, may involve the late Bo “Nick” Zhao, (32) a former luxury car-dealer in leafy Glen Iris in Melbourne’s sleepy eastern suburbs who was offered one million dollars to be a Chinese agent of influence in Australian federal politics.

Or so the self-professed Manchurian candidate, Bo told ASIO a year ago. Is Glen Iris the den of sedition, our ex-pat local sage and dramaturge Barry Humphries, has always warned us about?  Sandy Stone now a suburban guerrilla?

A nation is shocked to learn of the plot to parachute Bo into the Liberal seat of Chisholm. Bo would then be injected like a bacillus into the fibrillating heart of our body politic, our parliament, like Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (Lenin) in the train to the Finland Station in April 1917. Seriously? More panic from Canning MP, Andrew Hastie.

“I heard that he was a 32-year-old Melbourne resident cultivated by the Chinese Government to run as a Liberal Party candidate,” Chair of Parliamentary Joint Subcommittee on Intelligence and Security Hastie breathlessly tells Channel Nine whose chairman is former Liberal Treasurer and current chair of the Board of Guardians of our $148 billion (that won’t be invested in education, health or welfare) Future Fund, nest-egg, Peter Costello.

Sadly, it turns out Bo’s in jail awaiting trial for fraud in October when Chisholm’s preselection takes place. Gladys Liu, who also boasted she could raise a million dollars for the cause, takes his place. Bo’s bid would be a Chinese Communist Party long-term strategy, helpfully suggests Alex Joske, Australian Strategic Policy Institute analyst.

Did Bo know too much? Tragically, he is found dead of a drug overdose in a Mount Waverly motel after tipping off ASIO that Chinese intelligence operatives would give him a million dollars to run for Chisholm. What could possibly have gone wrong? The party would even have given him a hand with the odd fake AEC polling booth or two.

Mandarin language electoral booths in Chisholm and Kooyong and in several other electorates with Chinese speakers instruct unwary voters to unwittingly tick the box to elect the Liberal candidate. These appear to be authorised by the Australian Electoral Commission. Prove they affected one vote say government lawyers.

Cases have been brought against the two candidates by climate campaigner Vanessa Garbett and unsuccessful independent Kooyong candidate Oliver Yates. The fake poll booth case is currently before the full federal court.

Former acting Victorian Liberal party state director, Simon Frost, has testified that signs written in Chinese at polling booths on election day were designed to look like official Australian Electoral Commission signage. Preliminary comments from the bench are not encouraging. At least the spy scandal gets our PM’s attention.

“Deeply disturbing”, Scott Morrison finds the spy claims, he says, while Liberal MP for Canning, first talent-spotted by Greg Sheridan, and an Abbott, captain’s pick, former SAS Captain, Andrew Hastie, cranks up the hysteria.

A state-sponsored attempt to infiltrate our Parliament using an Australian citizen and basically run them as an agent of foreign influence in our democratic system,” cries Andrew “handy Andy” Hastie, who chairs the Australian Parliament’s oxymoron – its intelligence and security committee.

It seems to give Hastie a lot of prominence if not power.

Incredibly, another self-proclaimed Chinese spy, Wang Liqiang, who also comes to Hastie’s attention, is the star of a 60 Minutes’ show when he comes forward with sensational allegations. Wang claims he worked as a secret Chinese operative for five years. Worse, Beijing has directed overseas assassinations, including on Australian soil.

Yet barely a week passes before our spooks conclude the self-proclaimed Chinese spy is not a highly trained intelligence operative dispatched by Beijing to wreak havoc on China’s enemies. At most, they suggest, he may be a bit player on the fringes of the espionage community. But what a star. Let’s hope he’s awarded asylum.

“We develop friendly co-operation with Australia and other countries based on mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit,” a foreign ministry spokesman says. “We have not interfered and are never interested in interfering in other countries’ domestic affairs.”

That settles that, then. Meanwhile, it seems Wang may have some charges to face should he return to China. The Chinese Embassy insists he is merely a “self-proclaimed intelligence agent” and a convicted fraudster who was sentenced to one year and three months in prison, with a suspended sentence of a year and a half.

The embassy cites a Shanghai police statement of an investigation into Mr Wang they opened in April, after he allegedly cheated 4.6 million yuan ($960,000), in a “fake investment project”, involving car imports in February.

Chinese spies is the latest episode of Morrison’s Police State which stars our fearless anti-hero the PM as daggy-Dad, a NSW copper’s son, making yet another dud judgement call. Rather than get his Minister for Energy, Emissions, water-rorts and Round-Up, Angus Taylor, to explain who cooked up the dodgy document Taylor used to falsely impugn Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore – he rings Mick’s mobile. Is Mick’s number on Scott’s speed dial?

So our PM phones a friend; his former neighbour and bin brother, top cop, Mick Fuller. Mick’s NSW Police Commissioner, a passionate advocate of strip-searching minors, the separation of powers and augmenting the rule of law with a little bit of fear.

Young people should have a “little bit of fear” of police he tells the fear-mongering Sydney tabloid The Daily Telegraph. It’s a view which former AFP chief Mick Palmer does not share. He says it is frankly frightening.

Morrison tells parliament that Strike Force Garrad (SFG) won’t be going anywhere. He implies Mick’s told him.

SFG is the NSW police investigation of Gus Taylor’s use of doctored documents to ridicule Sydney’s Lord Mayor, Clover Moore for declaring a state of climate emergency over some forged travel figures, Gus swears were downloaded from Sydney City Council’s website, a claim contradicted by the council’s website metadata.

Doubtless, no crime will be found to have been committed but no-one will believe Morrison hasn’t leaned on Fuller to back off.

Happily, our spooks are up to snuff. The Australian even suggests that Morrison could learn from their approach. Don’t turn crisis into catastrophe.  Spymaster, ASIO Director-General Mike Burgess looms up late Sunday night to assure all loyal Australians that not only is ASIO aware of the matters but is “actively investigating them“.

A former Telstra information security chief, Mike’s a top bloke says Peter Dutton. Last August Mike “moved across” to head ASIO after heading the Australian Signals Directorate, (ASD). He was on deck to News Corp Annika Smethurst whose scoop, April last year busted an ASD plan to spy on all Australians. Mike says it’s bollocks.

Mike Burgess and two departmental heads, (always better than one) issued a rare public statement disputing the report. Later Smethurst’s home was raided by the Australian Federal Police, reports Michelle Grattan, looking for anything which would lead them to her source.

Since then, there’s been a lot of fuss and bother about the role of the free press, a debate in which News Corp is handicapped by the baggage of having urged Coalition governments to increase state powers to spy on us all.

News of the Chinese plot is enough to put a nation off its Uncle Toby’s Weeties, Monday morning and quite upstages Evangelical Stuart Robert’s frantic attempts to hose down the government’s dumpster fire which erupts when, as it knew would happen, its Robodebt assessment or extortion of the poor is ruled illegal Wednesday by the Federal Court. The Morrison government may have to repay hundreds of millions of dollars.

While MSM faithfully report that it’s a shocker of a week for Morrison, it is, in fact, a very positive week for the Australian worker. Bill Shorten also is in top form. He raises the following matter in parliament. He asks

“Given that the government has now suspended robodebt after three years of operation, is it because the Coalition government at the time of creating it either, a) didn’t seek legal advice, or b) had inaccurate legal advice or c) received legal advice but just didn’t think that Australians would notice the government unjustly enriching itself at the expense of the most vulnerable in Australian society.”

It’s a bad week for Scott Morrison chorus Nine Newspapers following News Corp’s lead. But it’s far from that. It’s a good week or at least a hopeful week for ordinary Australians. What is bad is that Ensuring Integrity and repeal of Medevac are not remotely necessary.

Worse, Jacqui Lambie and Pauline Hanson note the hypocrisy, the double standard applied to workers and Westpac bankers who have just been called out by AUSTRAC on twenty-three million counts of money-laundering.

“The Prime Minister himself came out and said ‘it’s not up to us to deal with it, it’s up to the board to deal with the banks’ – but that’s not good enough,” senator Hanson says.

In the end, the Morrison government’s just not good enough, Pauline Hanson nails it. Or big enough.

One bill before the senate extends the government’s campaign to cripple unions; reduce further the power of workers to organise and exercise industrial action while the other is more a fit of pique – a sure sign that petty political point-scoring matters more than the human rights of asylum-seekers – or our compassion, humanity – or our doctors’ Hippocratic oath. Morrison’s government hates any law that Labor may have had a hand in.

Finally, there’s the robodebt debacle. The government has been happy to connive at extortion but even when called on it’s illegal averaging to raise a debt, all its Government Services Minister Stuart Robert can offer is;

“This government does not apologise -” Yet apologise it must. And fitting restitution must soon follow. No government can treat its people with such contempt; nor in reversing the onus of proof put itself above the law.

As for Yellow Peril 2.0, its spy drama, cooler, wiser heads must prevail. Andrew Hastie’s Sinophobia has all the hallmarks of an orchestrated diversion, designed to distract us from a government in deep trouble.

This week Scott Morrison reveals he understands neither the separation of powers nor the rule of law in our democracy; he acts the can-do PM; markets himself as a man of action. Yet this does not give him permission to ring the NSW Commissioner of Police in the midst of a parliamentary sitting to seek details of an investigation it is not his business to ask nor the Commissioner’s business to tell. Both parties are now irrevocably impugned.

Viewed in conjunction with his eagerness to silence dissent and his government’s passage of at least eighty laws increasing the powers of the state to spy on its citizens, his behaviour is not only entirely inappropriate it is truly alarming. The road toward a police state is paved with such incursions into liberty, democracy and justice.

Just as the incessant repetition of party propaganda and lies mask a grave unwillingness to consult others, let alone fairly and effectively manage our nation’s economy and resources whilst elevating illusion over truth.

Yet this tyranny is not inevitable. Armed with knowledge we can resist. We must. Our democracy depends upon it.

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Just not cricket, Mr Morrison.

“Going to be a great summer of cricket, and for our firefighters and fire-impacted communities, I’m sure our boys will give them something to cheer about,” Morrison tweets Wednesday, at the Gabba, prompting former Wentworth MP and AMA President, Kerryn Phelps, to reply that it must be the empathy consultant’s day off.

Reading between the lines, the PM is overwhelmed by nostalgia for a simpler, quieter, Boys’ Own Australia where flannelled fools at the wicket and muddied oafs at the goals” commanded a man’s full attention and respect.

Australia’s Dear Leader is looking forward to kicking back at the end of a big year of getting in touch with his inner totalitarian; denouncing Labor at every turn in a perpetual campaign of hyper-partisan hysteria, union-bashing, evading scrutiny if not accountability and reforming his Party Room. Discussion and debate are all but eliminated.

Now MPs meet to view a PM’s PowerPoint of his latest talking points and vacuous slogans in silence. No smartarse remarks. Apart from his own. Morrison continues to put his foot in his mouth whenever he goes off script.

Something for the burnt-out to cheer about? It’s a shocker. Any self-respecting empathy consultant would run sobbing from the room, in search of another job. A gig with the Duke of York’s media team holds more appeal.

Opportunity beckons. Bond University and RMIT are cutting ties with Pitch@Palace, the disgraced Duke’s business mentoring charity, which once held a business pitching contest every October at Government House in Perth. The UK’s The Daily Telegraph reports that Andrew is no longer leading Pitch which will continue sans royal support.

Ironically, Bond could not recall $50 million stashed overseas when he appeared in Sydney’s Federal Court in 1994. Later, he served three and half years in prison, for stealing $1200 million from Bell Resources’ shareholders. It is the biggest fraud in Australia’s history, maintains Paul Barry. But Bond University still bears his name.

Shocking memory problems also now plague Prince Andrew, former host of Pitch@Palace, who claims he has no recollection of having ever met Virginia Roberts, a seventeen year old, whom convicted paedophile and financial hustler, the late Jeffrey Epstein, is alleged to have procured for his royal highness. His account is hotly contested.

Roberts, now Virginia Giuffre, tells the BBC’s Emily Maitlis the Duke had sex with her three times. The interview will screen 2 December. Giuffre claims Epstein trafficked her to powerful people and then used her as blackmail.

In New York court documents, prosecutors allege Epstein “enticed and recruited, and caused to be enticed and recruited, minor girls to visit” his homes “to engage in sex acts with him, after which he would give the victims hundreds of dollars in cash”. They say that “to maintain and increase his supply of victims, Epstein also paid certain of his victims to recruit additional girls to be similarly abused by him.”

The Duke insists, in an interview with The BBC’s Emily Maitlis, he was at home after a family party, a right royal pizza with the lot at Pizza Express in Woking? He can remember the day, date and year. It’s a lot to swallow. Never met Ms Roberts, no. Sex? No. He’d know “… if you’re a man it is a positive act to have sex with somebody.”

Naturally, The Duchess of York, a title she may keep as long she does not remarry, Sarah Ferguson, rushes to Instagram to defend her ex-husband. Andrew’s “a giant of a principled man” but after his gigantic train-wreck BBC interview, he may need a little professional help. As could our cricketers – with a very different type of pitch.

With “our boys”, Morrison instantly dismisses women’s cricket as anything uplifting. Australia is number one in the world in women’s cricket but you’d never know it from his utterly thoughtless and insensitive comment.

Does he not know, moreover, that our boys’ ball-tampering scandal in Cape Town, last year, has brought the men’s game into grave disrepute? Cricket Australia (CA) itself is in trouble.

Last year, an independent review found that players live in a “gilded bubble — disconnected, for much of each year, from families, friends and the grounding influence of community”.

CA’s review findings are resonant with meaning for all walks of corporate life and contemporary politics.

Cricketers, today’s gladiators, see themselves as being part of a “machine that is fine-tuned for the sole purpose of winning”, reviewers tut-tut, deploring CA’s win-at-all-costs culture. Imagine.  “The reputation of the game of cricket as played by men has been tainted.” Moreover, CA has an “arrogant, controlling and commercialised” culture which reacts to adversity by bullying or ostracising. In brief, it acts like any other corporate enterprise.

Above all, however, CA lacks accountability to its stakeholders, the public. Its independent report is redacted despite all promise of transparency from CA chairman, David Peever. Nor will it publish minutes of its meetings.

It’s not just cricket. CA’s reviewers could be talking about the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Coalition government or its backers, the banks, especially Westpac, which is also in the news, this week, over twenty-three million breaches of money-laundering laws. Happily, after an emergency meeting, CEO, Brian Hartzer, gets to keep his job.

As do the board of directors and the “senior executive team”. The show must go on. And on. The best the PM can manage is to tell 3AW’s Neil Mitchell and ABC Radio’s AM that it’s not up to the government.

“It’s not for the government to say who should be in those jobs or not, but they should be taking this very seriously, reflecting on it very deeply, and taking the appropriate decisions for the protection of people’s interests in Australia. These are some very disturbing, very disturbing transactions involving despicable behaviour.”

Work experience boy, Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg is asked on ABC Insiders what would he do. Do? “Hard Discussions,” is all he can manage. No-one now seriously believes he has the will or the authority to take a bank to task.

Yet it’s a serious breach and it exposes major flaws in the system. Banks are exploiting loopholes. Anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws have been broken by Westpac, alleges AUSTRAC – on 23 million occasions. This includes failing to adequately monitor the accounts of a convicted child sex offender who was regularly sending money to the Philippines. Morrison says it shows the system is working.

Westpac more generally failed to “carry out appropriate due diligence on customers sending money to the Philippines and South East Asia for known child exploitation risks,” the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre – Australia’s financial intelligence unit and its anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regulator, AUSTRAC alleges.

Westpac is unlikely to be alone, writes regulatory expert Nathan Lynch. The story behind the story is industrial scale tax avoidance, the concealing of enormous cross-border payments. Yet it’s not up to the government?

Morrison’s hands-free policy with a bank is in complete contrast to his government’s Ensuring Integrity (EI) bill which seeks even greater state regulation of unions and a further curtailing of workers’ rights to organise.

If passed into law, the provisions of the EI Bill would directly interfere with the rights to freedom of association and independent functioning of trade unions guaranteed by, among other international instruments, the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, writes Anthony Forsyth, Law Professor in the Graduate School of Business and Law at RMIT University.

Granted, all this could take your mind off the odd bushfire – including the monster in NSW which, at its peak, had a front stretching 6000 kilometres- or from Sydney to Perth. And back. But Morrison is making a grotesquely tone-deaf proposal with “… our boys will give them something to cheer about.”  Does he lack all compassion?

Can Morrison, or any member of his government or PMO seriously believe, that those suffering bushfire’s devastation, the six hundred and twenty-three traumatised by losing their homes; all their earthly goods, or livelihoods, or the six households grieving the loss of a family member will be diverted by a game of cricket?

Because nothing fixes broken people in anguish, & blackened communities & animals in pain like random blokes doing something meaningless on an oval somewhere. “Fire trucks anyone?” “Nah, just some cricket thanks” tweets independent researcher and writer, Ronni Salt.

At least the Pentecostalist PM hasn’t repeated his promise to burn for Australians every single day. Yet.

Our “Prime Minister for standards” as Australia’s Prime Buck-Passer proclaimed himself last January, may be a sandwich short of a picnic when it comes to personality, policy or people-skills but you have to hand it to him, he certainly has the gift of the gaffe. Plus a tin ear. Tone deaf. It will prove his undoing.

Cook’s circumnavigation of Australia? You heard it first from The Gaffer. All Asians look the same? Morrison’s cheery “Ni Hao” to a Korean woman in Strathfield, the little Korea of Sydney’s inner-west. Understandable. He’s got China on his mind, after his mid-year monster diplomatic gaffe when he declared it “a developed country”.

Some gaffes suggest a malignant narcissism. In 2014, something more than a compassion bypass was evident in Morrison’s hostile response to allegations that underage asylum seekers on Nauru had been forced to have sex in front of a guard, and that women were being told to strip in exchange for showers of longer than two minutes.

Morrison announces an inquiry into the allegations but adds that the review will also look into whether the allegations had been concocted. In the meantime, he will remove ten Save The Children staff from Nauru?

“Making false claims, and worse allegedly coaching self-harm and using children in protests is unacceptable.”

They are “employed to do a job, not to be political activists”, Morrison makes his own false claims in a written statement, repeated verbatim at his press conference. Political activists? It’s a damaging and false slur.

Later the Immigration Department, he heads is forced to admit that there is no cause for the staff members to stood down.  “No reason to cause doubt to be cast.” The review results in full compensation being paid.

No censure or penalty is imposed on Immigration Minister Morrison, who goes on to become Treasurer.

As Treasurer, Morrison is questioned by Barrie Cassidy on ABC Insiders. Typically, Morrison denies all responsibility for his error of judgement, his fabrication of a damaging slur. He is as intractable as a mule. Morrie the mule.

“I drew no conclusions on the material that had been presented to me at the time.”

Cassidy tries to hold him to account. “Well, yes, you did.”

“No, I didn’t, Barrie.” He tells Cassidy to go back and check the transcript. Cassidy: “I have.” Shrugging aside all ministerial responsibility, denying any personal accountability, Morrison resorts to the Nuremberg defence:

“I did the job that I had to do in that situation, just as I am doing the job now as treasurer …”

Under pressure, this week, Morrison retreats into climate science denialism, a tactic which John Hewson hazards in The Sydney Morning Herald is “doubling down”, a phrase which originates in blackjack. If you are confident of winning after being dealt only two cards, you can double your bet but may take only one extra card.

High risk can yield high reward in blackjack. Figuratively, the phrase means to “to engage in risky behaviour, especially when one is already in a dangerous situation.”

Doubling down is now applied to any fit of intransigence. Hacks abuse it trying to explain the equally bizarre behaviour of Morrison’s mentor Trump who is now totally consumed by his own impeachment. Gone is all pretence of a Presidential role.  He emerges from his obsessive monitoring of coverage only to whinge to his aides.

Or he doubles down; repeats his allegation that it was “Ukraine not Russia”, a political interference conspiracy theory which nobody is buying. Even Republicans have trouble with it. In desperation, in a phone call to Fox, Trump admits he demanded a quid pro quo from Ukraine, tantamount to a public confession that as US President he resorted to extorting another nation to support his own political witch-hunt of Joe Biden’s son.

Doubling down can be admirably bold or woefully foolhardy. Morrison’s resort to a palpable lie about Australia’s contributions to greenhouse gases shows a contempt for his audience’s intelligence that will be his undoing.

“To suggest that with just 1.3 per cent of global emissions that Australia doing something differently — more or less — would have changed the fire outcome this season, I don’t think that stands up to any credible scientific evidence at all,” he tells ABC radio the following day.

It’s a nonsense response you might expect from a Craig Kelly, not a Prime Minister, deeply flawed in its logic and at odds with the evidence. Imagine if all the “little polluters” continued burning coal – worse, expanding their coal mining as Australia proposes.  Or just be honest with the facts, Morrison.

As AIM writer, Kaye Lee, explains, “in 2016, we were the fifteenth biggest emitter in the world. If we don’t have to worry about our measly contribution, then neither do 180 other countries including the UK, Turkey, Italy, Poland and France, all of whom have smaller emissions than us, and I am not talking per capita.”

As for the evidence, RMIT’s fact check, for example, estimates that Australia’s domestic emissions plus the emissions embedded in its exports added to 1,712 million tonnes in 2016. This represents roughly 3.6 per cent of total global emissions for that year, the latest reliable figures for global emissions.

It’s inspiring stuff. Or contagious. Government by bullying, extortion, deception and denial. Only an Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government could send 6600 menacing debt letters to wrong addresses. When no-one responds, it uses income averaging to raise dodgy debts. Some are referred on to debt collectors.

Professor Terry Carney’s research finds when Centrelink asks for payment of alleged debts or evidence to disprove them, “most vulnerable alleged debtors will simply throw up their hands, assume Centrelink knows that there really is a debt, and seek to pay it off as quickly as possible”.

This week, the centrepiece of its three ring circus surplus-mania, the Robodebt extortion of over a million Australians – of money we mostly didn’t owe – is put on hold pending a class action from Gordon Legal, championed by Labor which is officially launched Wednesday, while Morrison is making his cricket pitch.

“There are a lot of our fellow Australians – single mums, pensioners, people who’ve been unemployed, people on Austudy, students – who’ve been forced to pay up under a regime which, in my opinion, is not validly based in law,” argues shadow Government Services Minister, Bill Shorten, who confirms that a separate class action will continue to argue that the government is “unjustly enriching itself at the expense of social security recipients”.

Government services ought to include “shakedown, outwrestling and exaction. Seven hundred thousand cases may now be opened to review should this single class action succeed.

Also still proceeding, is Deanna Amato’s imminent federal court case, which is due to be heard on 2 December, reports Victoria Legal Aid. The test case will continue to seek a declaration that the debt raised against Ms Amato is unlawful, despite the government’s announcement that it’s giving up granny-bashing and standover tactics in an unparalleled pause in its war on the poor.

It will, it promises solemnly, no longer rely solely on income-averaging to determine debts. No sense that it abused its duty of care in proceeding with an inherently flawed, cruel and unjust scheme which reverses the onus of proof on to the pensioner to disprove the alleged debt. No sense that it will compensate those whom it terrorised.

Some see the abandonment of Robodebt as likely to put paid to any surplus. The truth is that its net benefit never amounted to much any way. Crikey reports this week, debt-collectors have done very well out of Robodebt.

Over $2 billion worth of so-called debt has been outsourced. Yet it’s cost government $534 million – almost as much as the $658 million that has been collected. The model is deeply flawed as Paul Bongiorno observes

“This model of outsourcing government services, which so often sees taxpayer funds being funnelled to some of the government’s biggest friends and supporters, is increasingly problematic. It is operating in the National Disability Insurance Scheme and in the aged-care sector – where, as the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has shown, millions of dollars of public money is going to the private providers’ profits.”

But this time, Morrison The Congestion-buster, can’t blame his office, which is whittled down to a skeletal staff of fifty mandarins -(where one in five is a former coal industry shill) – as he did, last month, when all thirteen pages of the day’s talking points were emailed to the press gallery.

A conversation scripted to reassure us about a prince’s judgement has the opposite effect. A chance to connect the royal family with the modern world reveals that it is marooned, remote and criminally out of touch.

Similarly, Morrisons tin-eared tweet about cricket reveals a PM who is in another world, a malignant narcissist who is pathologically incapable of feeling for others, a would-be tribal leader who has no moral compass; whose energies are invested solely in maintaining power at any cost and increasingly in the politics of division.

As the economy tanks and households find it harder to make ends meet, after six years in power, the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government has only more coercion to offer the average Australian. And cricket.

Above all, the Robodebt debacle shows a government which has no scruple in waging war on the poor. It has, moreover, connived at diverting funds from schools and hospitals to boost the profits of private providers.

As Christmas, a festival of giving approaches, a cruel and tricky government prepares to further punish workers with a law that is certain to reduce their power to negotiate a living wage.

Yet there is hope for some. The million – plus pensioners who have been caught up in Robodebt may take heart in the fact that the government has been forced to abandon the scheme, at least for now.

Just don’t expect any real reform from the banks under a Morrison government.

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An Open Letter to Stuart Robert

The Hon Stuart Robert MP
Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme
Minister for Government Services
Parliament House
CANBERRA ACT 2600

Dear Mr Robert,

My name is Elliot Dolan-Evans and I am a voter in Footscray, Melbourne. I am currently completing a PhD at Monash University in political economy and feminist studies, I am a registered medical practitioner, and a law graduate awaiting admittance to the Supreme Court of Victoria.

I write this open letter to condemn the Robodebt Centrelink Scheme unequivocally and urge you to stop enforcing the unsubstantiated debts of vulnerable Australians. If this scheme is to continue at all, which it should not, then any Australian being contacted by Centrelink must be provided with all documents (including the Debt Schedule) that demonstrates the alleged debt, along with calculations and notes determining the alleged debt made by Centrelink, and free legal advice to effectively and fairly challenge it.

As a legal graduate, I am greatly concerned that the hundreds of thousands of Australians who have been contacted by Centrelink have not been given due process under the law. There is a lack of information provided by Centrelink in the first instance to their Robodebt, and even on subsequent requests for proof, Centrelink do not provide the required documents. I have been assisting several friends, colleagues and vulnerable members of the community, and not once has the Debt Schedule of the person alleged to have a debt ever voluntarily sent by Centrelink. Only through FOI requests does this occur, which is a process most Australians do not know how to initiate. Then, when the Debt Schedule is provided, there are no notes, no workings, and no indication as to how the Robodebt has been calculated. A vast majority of Australians do not understand their rights concerning Robodebt claims, do not know the correct process in obtaining documentation, and community legal clinics are so under-funded in this country, by the Australian government, there is no capacity to assist.

As a medical doctor, I am severely concerned that the harassment of vulnerable Australians with Robodebt claims is having a deleterious outcome on mental, and subsequently, physical health. The number of people that I have assisted, who are all predominantly university graduates and young, have been devastated mentally by the ordeal of Centrelink harassment and the quick referral to aggressive debt collectors. This is undeniably translating to poor physical health, and I have serious concerns for those more vulnerable. This is without mentioning the incredibly burdensome financial costs of unproven and unsubstantiated Robodebts. I assert, again, that these debts are unproven and unsubstantiated until Centrelink properly provides all documentation and explanation to those it is trying to extract money from. Otherwise, it is a complete abuse of government power and intimidation, towards people who generally do not have the tools and knowledge to challenge these Robodebts.

Again, I demand that the Centrelink Robodebt Scheme is immediately halted. The physical, financial, and mental impacts that it is having on Australians is absolutely and unequivocally damaging and is fundamentally unjust. For all of those who have been accused of having a debt, whether paid or not, Centrelink must provide all documentation relating to their debt immediately and provide free legal advice to help navigate these damaging accusations.

Kind Regards,

Elliot Dolan-Evans MBBS, LLB (Hons), BAppSci (Hons)

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