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Tag Archives: Scott Morrison

Fear and loathing in the Tory Party

By Grumpy Geezer  

“Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.” (Hanlon’s razor).

As we enter year 7 of the biggest fustercluck in our political history the ongoing, mind-numbing incompetence of this “government” may lead some to overlook the malignant mendacity and grift that is archetypical of our Tory kakocracy. Hanlon’s razor may be valid in many contexts including the ballot box behaviour of about half of the voting public but it does not apply to the malicious L/NP nightmare itself.

The primary, defining characteristic of a Tory is avarice. Many of them even reimage their deity to accommodate their greed and selfishness. The party once shaped by an old-fashioned protestant work ethic is now captive to hypocritical religious nutters of creationists and exit-through-the-gift-shop Mammonites.

Hand in glove with their covetous, bespoke piety is their fear and paranoia. Fear of the unknown, fear that science challenges their ooga-booga superstitions and biases, fear that change will threaten the inherent privileges of the status quo, fear that equality jeoparises their rightful place at the top  of the pile. Their paranoia is that for them to win others must lose. Where rational people see opportunity in change and equality they see only danger.

They fear anyone with alternative opinions, they fear those with facts and figures. They fear dissent, they fear Labor, the Greens, greenies, unions, GetUp, Extinction Rebellion, knitting nannas, Lock The Gate, school kids, Greta Thunberg, the ABC, the CSIRO, the BoM, NASA, social media, moderates, lefties and anyone not like them. They fear you and me.

Their fear manifests itself in their attacks on scrutiny, their autocracy, their bullying, their constant lying and misrepresentations, their abuse of trusted institutions and conventions, and their protection rackets for their fellow-travelling carpet baggers, corporate grifters and thieves. But above all, what they fear is being found out.

What they want is “quiet Australians” – the uninterested, unquestioning, complacent sheep who’ll keep them in power. Unfortunately for them the signs of a ruined environment and its consequences are becoming too obvious for all but the morons to ignore. This is THE issue that will remove these malicious, corrupt cretins from power. Unfortunately for us, until that happens, irrevokable damage will be caused to the planet and to democracy. It’s up to the noisy Australians to make sure the Tory’s worst fears are realised and that collectively they all shit their pants one last time.

This article was originally published on The Grumpy Geezer.

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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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Now is the time, Mr Morrison.

“In this bucket is my house”, Aaron Crowe tells other unquiet Australians rallying in Macquarie St, Sydney, Tuesday. He lifts an organic compost bin, a repurposed twenty-gallon steel red drum with hand-made wooden lid, a homely relic of former peaceful, rural domesticity, now, destroyed forever, aloft.

The 38 year-old-father tips a few charred, remnants of the two-bedroom home he once built, himself, on to the footpath outside NSW’s Parliament. Crowe and his wife, Fiona Lee, journey 323 kilometres, from Warrawillah, near Bobin, SW of Port Macquarie, to call MPs to account; confront them with the truth.

A powerful, personal, rebuke to the spin-doctors and MSM who drown real voices out of public discourse

Crowe’s gesture is eloquent testimony to a terrifying new bushfire season and a call to authorities, especially NSW state politicians in charge of funds and resources that it’s time to get real about climate science. Communicating climate science through our commercial media with its spectacularisation at the expense of underlying issues, its government media drops and its climate denialism is now impossible.

The challenge of communication has been taken up by independent media, social media, conferences, public meetings and personal protests. No wonder our anti-activist PM has these in his sights.

Crowe testifies to how global warming has bred extreme bushfires against which there is no defence.

“We had ample time to prepare and they’re talking about hopes and dreams, thoughts and prayers, miracles and heroes – it’s not realistic. This is not about unicorns and fairies, this is about people’s lives, it’s only going to get worse.”  Yet Aaron Crowe’s plea is waived aside by his premier and his PM.

Now is not the time to talk about climate change chorus NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and PM Morrison, Tuesday. Bushfire survivor, Badja Sparks contextualises this for The Guardian Australia.

“Today is not the day to talk about climate change.” No, yesterday was, or the day before, or the month before, or the year before. But it didn’t get a mention.

Now we have the reality, and the mention it gets is: “Don’t talk about it now.”

So the politicians (and the media) turn the talk to hazard reduction burns, or the lack of them, as something else to blame on the “inner-city raving lunatics”.

“We had a bushfire two months ago that burned most of our property. It didn’t matter. It burned again.”  Badja attests to a terrifying new type of fire that defies traditional means of control. A crown fire roaring in from the west on a hot afternoon with an 80km/h wind – it wasn’t on the ground. It was a firestorm in the air – raining fire. There was no fuel on the ground; it was already burned.

“Now is not the time” is a tactic the US National Rifle Association (NRA) uses to silence of debate.

NRA “spokespersons” or “public faces” such as Dana Loesch are quick to claim  “now is not the time to talk gun control” after so many of the 36,000 plus annual fatal shootings that make USA’s rate of death by firearm the highest in the developed world. Clearly, not talking works – for the gun lobby.

And for the government. Coalition shill, Chris Kenny in The Australian declares, “Climate alarmists are brazen opportunists preying on misery.”  Pushing the Morrison government’s political barrow he writes,

“Climate alarmists are using tragic deaths and community pain to push a political barrow. Aided by journalists and others who should know better, they are trying to turn a threat endured on this continent for millennia into a manifestation of their contemporary crusade.” 

In “more of the same just more of the same” false equivalence, Kenny’s failure to research any of the characteristics that make the current fires unique does his readers a dangerous disservice.

So, too, does what was once the party of the bush, The Nationals. Now the burnt out people of the bush feel increasingly betrayed by National Party MPs. All MPs. Crikey’s Guy Rundle argues that the Nationals have made themselves the enemy of rural Australia’s survival. Catastrophic fires occur so often now that they are “beginning to wear down the resistant scepticism of large areas of rural Australia”.

When country folk could once pride themselves if not define themselves on the thought that city folk didn’t know what they were talking about, the reality of drought and bushfire has caused a re-think.

Increasingly extreme weather; the lived experience of rural voters tests their dogged loyalty to The National Party and its blind faith in climate science denial. It’s at odds with their own everyday reality.

Undermined is the nub of rural identity which values bush experience and concrete realities over abstract science. Now that rural National voters’ bushfire experience is matching scientists’ warnings, Rundle perceives a weakening of “folk denialism”; traces an awakening of respect for climate science.

It’s complex. Adding to voters’ alienation is the Nationals’ support for mining over farmers. On Channel 10’s The Project, Waleed Ali stumps Michael McCormack in March when he challenges the deputy PM,

“Could you name a single, big policy area where the Nats have sided with the interests of farmers over the interest of miners when they come into conflict?”

Within the network of influence and lobbying which mining holds over the Coalition, Rundle traces a moment when the Nationals as an organisation lost interest in representing their agrarian community.

“Former party leader Anderson became chairman of Eastern Star Gas. His successor in the Nationals, Mark Vaile, now sits on the board at Whitehaven Coal, against which farmers in the Liverpool Plains have staged hundreds of days of blockades. Party scion Larry Anthony was a lobbyist for the Shenhua Watermark mine.”

John Anderson pops up like the White Rabbit on ABC’s The Drum last Friday to falsely claim that “the scientists cannot directly link extreme weather events with climate change”. But they can. And do. And our leaders – must heed them. The Australia Institute economist, Richard Dennis sums up,

Climate change makes bushfires worse. Even if we catch an arsonist who lights a fire, the fact is the fires they light will burn further and faster than they would have if the world had burned less coal, and the temperature was lower than we have made it.

We can manage fuel loads; cut firebreaks, but a fire lit by an arsonist will spread further today. Embers from hotter fires, race across drier ground; spark new fires further from the fire front than ever before.

First the women, younger folk and community leaders are sceptical of the Nationals’ bush mythology. Now, Rundle believes Nationals’ voters’ crisis of faith may harden into one final act of resistance before it cracks irrevocably. Attacking The Greens is one last populist move to regain a show of leadership.

On Monday’s RN Breakfast, McCormack is stung by Greens MP Adam Bandt’s claim that Morrison’s coal-promotion makes him complicit in the suffering of those currently being burnt out by extreme bushfires.

What people need now, the Deputy PM says, is real practical assistance, not “the ravings of some pure, enlightened and woke capital-city greenies”.

To Mid-Coast Councillor, Claire Pontin, McCormack is “just saying silly things”. He and Joyce may have missed this pivotal change in their own constituencies, notes The Saturday Paper’s Paul Bongiorno drily.

The best real, practical assistance McCormack could offer would be to embrace the science. Then he might ask NSW’s premier to reinstate the tens of millions the NSW has cut from state fire services.

Denial, downplaying and disinformation costs lives – especially the myth of false equivalence which holds that both sides are too blame for inaction on climate change, a term which is itself spin-doctored because it’s a neutral substitute for global warming. In fact, it’s pretty much all the Coalition’s own work.

And much of that work was achieved by one man. Tony Abbott seized a personal political chance in 2009, writes The Monthly Today’s Paddy Manning, “sold the truth down the river” and in 2014, pre-figured Trump in becoming world’s first political leader to repeal a carbon price. Abbott then agitated against the NEG, creating waves of instability that helped Morrison topple Turnbull. Not only did Abbott put the nation back at least a decade, his legacy continues in Morrison’s lack of energy policy.

To adapt Katharine Murphy’s phrase, no wonder Morrison’s government doesn’t want anyone to talk about climate science, its own record is one of unmitigated shame and ignominious failure.

Yet McCormack insists we shouldn’t be talking about climate change. “Australia’s always burned”, he says. Nothing to see here. Just bushfires that come earlier, stay longer, burn hotter, higher and spread faster; evolving into a threat, unlike anything we’ve had to deal with before.

The deputy PM follows up with NRA tactic stage two: shift the blame. If only greenies weren’t locking up our state forests for ecotourism, we could get in and cut the fuel load. Yet only nine per cent of NSW is “locked”. Only Queensland is lower with a shameful eight per cent.

Greenies, moreover, have no issue with hazard reduction. It’s climate change itself which increasingly restricts burning off. As the fire season extends, south-east Australia dries out. Opportunities to use controllable, low-intensity fire to burn off the litter become fewer.

Above all, not all forest types are amenable to hazard reduction.  Wet sclerophyll and rainforest, for example, are not fire-adapted and most of the time are too moist to ignite. When they are dry enough to burn, it is too dangerous to burn them explains Brendan Mackey, director of the Climate Change Response Program at Griffith University.

This is what the ecological and climate emergency looks like,” says Fiona Lee.  It’s a young couple’s way of calling out the Morrison government for recently voting down an Opposition move to declare a state of climate emergency. Dismissing Labor’s bill as “symbolic” and impractical, Energy Minister, Angus Taylor says its “emotive language” ignores everyday Australians’ practical needs. He would know.

Taylor belongs to a government that wilfully ignores practical needs. 23 former emergency service chiefs wrote to Scott Morrison, in April, seeking an urgent meeting to discuss the serious threats facing communities this fire season due to climate change. In September, they wrote again. All were rebuffed while federal MPs rubbish any attempt to have a national state of climate emergency declared.

A hyper-partisan, Morrison government irretrievably stuck in campaign mode politicises the issue:

Labor is making a huge song and dance about declaring a climate emergency, but refuses to commit to a single policy in this area from the last election,” jeers Taylor.

Meanwhile, a ferocious new fire burns across the land, defying all traditional forms of management and causing the NSW government to declare a state of emergency, Monday. 500 homes are destroyed in one week. The fires are unprecedented in length, extent and intensity.

62 fires are burning across NSW, 56 of which have not been contained, ahead of a heatwave predicted for Tuesday which could see temperatures reach the mid-40s.

A “once in a century fire” is burning for the third time in ten years, a frequency which threatens even the false complacency nurtured by National Party retail politicians, such as Barnaby Joyce whose mantra is that bushfires and drought are just a feature of life in the bush, or that someone or something else is to blame. This week it’s The Greens again and or the sun’s magnetic field and or bad hazard reduction.

As it destroys life, property and virgin natural bushland, however, the terrible new fire threatens one of the bastions of climate change denialism itself, The National Party of the bush which is also under siege from drought and double-digit unemployment is losing credibility as its constituents experience first- hand the conditions climate scientists predicted. Will it also be the death of the National Party? If so, reflects Crikey’s Guy Rundle it will be the only death that is deserved.

“The pressure is now on Scott Morrison to resolve the fierce resistance in his own government’s ranks and respond with policies that persuade voters – thousands of them victims of this week’s inferno – that the federal Liberals and Nationals get it.” Paul Bongiorno notes.

Eastern NSW is ablaze. Bush fires, bigger and more ferocious than any Australia’s experienced before, include crown fire, an eighty kilometre an hour aerial firestorm – there’s no fuel left on the ground – raze a million hectares; cut a swathe of destruction already equal to that of the last three fire seasons combined. Areas burn at an intensity and in a season never seen before, says ecologist, Mark Graham.

A million hectares burn in NSW alone. Queensland and other states face the biggest fire front in Australia’s history. Catastrophic conditions are forecast for Sunday in four WA regions: east Pilbara coast, west Pilbara coast, east Pilbara inland and Ashburton Inland.

Catastrophic fire conditions is a recent forecast category which arose from the inquest into Victoria’s 2009 Black Saturday Fires in which 173 people died.

“It’s a treacherous combination of gusty winds, high temperatures, low humidity and extreme dryness. Any fire that ignites will quickly reach intensities and move at speeds that place properties and lives in imminent danger,” writes Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, ARC Future Fellow in the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of NSW. Her definition could be a summary of global warming’s role.

So far in NSW, six people have died, nearly 500 homes have been destroyed, reports the Rural Fire Service (RFS).  That’s more than double the previous most severe bushfire season in 2013-14, when 248 homes were lost. More than 1,650,000 hectares have been burnt across the state — more land than during the past three bushfire seasons combined. And the fires could rage for weeks.

“It is likely that the fire threat in Northern NSW and South East Queensland will continue for weeks unless significant rainfall occurs assisting fire fighters to extinguish blazes,” says Andrew Gissing emergency management expert with the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre.

Up in smoke goes any hope that our nation’s leaders may provide for or protect us. Instead, state and federal MPs rush to hide their blame; circling their wagons to defend their own shameful record of wilful neglect, climate reality denial and how their loyalty to big donors in mining eclipses any civic duty.

Avoidance is the Morrison government’s default position on issues which might involve taking responsibility; facing the fact that anthropogenic climate change is creating droughts, floods and fires.

More alarming is the censorship attempted by the NSW government when it tells its public servants attending a conference on adapting to climate change not to make any link between climate and fire.

It’s all too much for Morrison who vanishes Tuesday afternoon only to bob up Friday in praise of model corporate citizen QANTAS’ 99th birthday and to greet George Brandis returning on the Dreamliner which makes an historic nineteen hour nineteen minute non-stop flight London to Sydney. That’s at least 300,000 litres of fuel return.

The IPCC estimates that aviation is responsible for around 3.5 percent of anthropogenic climate change, a figure which includes both CO2 and non-CO2 induced effects. Luckily MPs have scapegoats.

Joyce adds to the myth that the latest bushfires are caused by The Greens’ curbing back-burning and fire-hazard reduction despite the fact that climate change has made back-burning too dangerous.

Ever the conservationist, Barnaby recycles the voice of disinformation, populist shock-jock and LNP parrot Alan Jones who blames the fires on The Greens, falsely claiming they had prevented controlled burns. In fact, it’s global warming itself which is preventing controlled burning. Such measures are impossible due to the unique nature of the drought and the very dry conditions.

“Honestly, not today” calls NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian as a reporter, who had previously been speaking to couple asks Scott Morrison about climate change. ABC News interrupts Morrison’s response.

“In this bucket is my house,” Crowe tells the crowd. “When’s the time to talk about climate change then, if I’m standing in the wreckage of my own house?”

“The time is definitely right for talking about climate change – for me, there has never been a better time to talk about climate change,” his wife tells the crowd outside.

Morrison’s absence for most of last week is an indictment of his failure to lead – as are the comments of his ministers, McCormack and Taylor. What is urgently needed is an embargo on the spin-doctors and a willingness to accept the facts; confront the reality that global warming means a terrible new type of bushfire that demands all of our resources not more of the Federal Coalition’s division and scapegoating.

Above all it means heeding reality; the stories of people like Aaron and Fiona have much to tell us. We cannot afford to brush them aside any more than we can ignore their cries for help.

As veteran firefighters have told Morrison, we will need to put in a lot more resources if we are to deal with the new levels of devastation, the new fires are bringing. His government and all state governments need to start listening. Act on expert advice. Twenty years ago would have been good but now is the next best time.

 

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Labor’s “brave” review fails to upstage Morrison’s incompetence.

Were politics reset in keeping with the times, the parties would concede that it is not a contest between social democracy and a capitalist free-for-all, or “the light on the hill” and “the forgotten people”, or even conservatives and progressives, but one in which the ghosts of organisations that once had some claim to represent these passions compete to prove themselves the superior financial managers. Don Watson

Attack of the Labor Zombies: “Review of Labor’s 2019 Election Campaign”, the ritual killing of Bill Shorten by hungry ghosts, premiers nationally, this week, six months after Bill’s political death, a fate which the commentariat is still finalising for him despite his promising to “hang around” for another twenty years.

Karen Middleton scoffs at Shorten’s pledge. “He’ll be in his seventies”, she sighs, on ABC Insiders Sunday. Bill will be 72. Four years younger than Joe Biden. Elizabeth Warren’s 70. Billy Hughes served for 51 years; died at 90 before he could get around to thinking about retiring. But it’s not about age.

It’s … the chutzpah. “He’s got to win all those elections.” Shorten won almost a five per cent (4.99%) swing to Labor in his Victorian seat of Maribyrnong, last election. Next, he’s at fault for making his twenty-year pledge before the review comes out to help others decide his future for him.

How very dare he get in first?

MSM is consumed by the review; the review of the review and any excuse at all to kick Bill Shorten.

Kill Bill has become a national sport since Tony Abbott contrived to make “Bill Shorten” a pejorative term, a project taken up shamelessly by Malcolm Turnbull and with glee by bully Morrison.

Interviews with Morrison normalise his bullying, as Dr Jennifer Wilson argues, in analysis of the PM’s manic scattergun barrage of bullshit to cover his running away from the question guerrilla tactics.

Julia Banks quit parliament after only a term because of the level of bullying during the leadership spill.

What’s even more alarming is the subtext that Morrison, miraculously, got everything right. Scapegoats help with that. It’s a by-product of reducing party politics to the popularity of the leader, part of our brave new age of populist personality politics where policy and reasoned argument count less than spin and image. And Morrison’s fevered hyper-partisanship makes Tony Abbott look like a peace-maker.

Albo offers to accompany Morrison to NSW bushfire areas, he tells Fran Kelly, Sunday. His offer is brushed aside. Something about not getting in the way of “the rescue effort”. Later media images show Morrison, alone, comforting victims, as he did with his drought series of visits, grandstanding on grief.

But Labor doesn’t seem to have got the memo that there’s a war on. Blending psychic surgery with forensic post-mortem, Labor eviscerates itself for a ritual cleansing. Bares its soul. And then some. The Review … is an unparalleled, almost naive act of faith. No wonder it gets everyone’s attention.

But why? Is this orgy of over-sharing prompted by some rush of utopian socialism which only true believers can call into being? Or is it folly? It’s unique, says ABC’s Laura Tingle, her take on “brave”.

“That’s very brave of you, minister. An extremely courageous decision,” as Mr Appleby would say.

Yet Labor’s purpose, beside officially defining what went wrong, is to draw a line under its defeat.

Fat chance. Just because closure is a tabloid TV victim’s top buzz-word doesn’t make it achievable. Somehow, there’s something for everybody because, you know, Labor lost. By Sunday’s ABC Insiders, a  narrow loss morphs into a rout. Labor can’t even pass its own post-mortem exam, Fran Kelly implies.

It’s not easy. Former Keating speech-writer, Don Watson, notes that Labor’s changing constituency increasingly includes service-sector employees, lower-level managers and healthcare workers, as the middle class itself is changing. Labor’s review even detects an influx of woke, affluent, graduates in Southern states, whom, it contends can afford the luxury of idealism. It’s a dangerous hypothesis.

“Since university graduates, on average, earn higher incomes and have more secure jobs than those without tertiary qualifications, they are more readily able to think about issues such as climate change, refugees, marriage equality and the rights of the LGBTQI+ community.”

But a few rich grads didn’t win Labor any seats, Emerson and Wetherill are quick to note. And if your idealism or concern for justice and the survival of the planet is in proportion to your wealth, heaven help the rest of us. Paul Keating reckons Labor lost because it failed to understand the “new middle-class”.

New? Watson sees a class with no ideology nor even consciousness of itself as a class. Being new it has “no roots beyond its self-interest”. He hopes Morrison hasn’t already press-ganged it into Quiet Australians, another bogus, Silent Majority.

But who needs analysis? Nuance is banished from our national conversation. Labor’s review simply has to make Bill the villain. You can’t trust Bill Shorten. It’s the old Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison melodrama.

News Corp prefers a shifty, shorthand, “dud leader, dud policies, dud strategy”, summation which bears no resemblance to the subtler findings published by Dr Craig Emerson and Jay Weatherill who chair Labor’s inquiry. But given Murdoch’s stranglehold over our media, it will soon become gospel truth.

Paul Kelly, The Australian’s editor at large, wilfully misrepresents the report.  Eagerly, he invents a turf war. Two Labor constituencies are at war with each other. Father Kelly fears for Labor  – a fear which Fran Kelly and others put to Albo. How can Labor possibly bridge the gap between blue-collar and gown?

“The Labor Party now resembles two rival constituencies fighting each other — their origins embedded in the party’s past and its ­future — a conflict that extinguished Labor’s hopes at the May election and a chasm that nobody knows how to bridge,” Kelly fantasises. But it’s never had any trouble in the past.

Rupert’s troupers can’t labour Labor’s factionalism enough. It diverts from Coalition disunity. All is not well, for example, in Cockies’ Corner. Nationals Deputy Leader and Minister for Agriculture, Bridget McKenzie, “couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery” one MP tells ABC’s, Lucy Barbour.

McKenzie is under pressure to perform; step up to the plate or step aside. Pauline Hanson’s taken all the credit for saving the dairy farmers and the PM seems to own drought the relief compassion show.

Barnaby Joyce is still agitating for promotion despite spending $675,000 for only three weeks in the field and not providing any reports as special drought envoy. But as media keep the focus on Shorten’s failure and the myth of Labor’s imminent descent into civil war, the Morrison miracle spin gets a further tweak.

(By the magic of implication, the current struggle between Nats and Libs – witness the spat over who owns the theatre of drought relief, or the Liberals capture by climate change denialists – means the Coalition with its three Prime Ministers in six years, rivals The Mormon Tabernacle Choir for harmony.)

Not the Puritan Choir, that’s another, evangelical, faction led by Mr Probity, Stuart Robert, architect of the Turnbull assassination plot. But all is forgiven. He’s repaid $37,975, only $8000 shy of what he had previously claimed as ‘residential internet expenses’.  Streaming Christian TV from home is not cheap.

Be fair. Stu’s wife, Peoples’ Pastor Chantelle, can’t run her Pentecostal online evangelism without a decent broadband connection. Robert also says he’s returned a brace of gold Rolex watches, he and his wife – and other Coalition MPs received in 2013 from Chinese instant noodle billionaire Li Ruipeng.

Robert, Abbott and Macfarlane thought the $250,000 worth of watches were fakes, they say. As you do, whenever any oligarch tenders a token of his esteem in expectation of a return favour. Or perhaps not.

Or perhaps you do – if you’re an Australian MP seeking favour. Robert resigned from Turnbull’s ministry when he breached the Ministerial Code of Conduct on a business trip to China for Nimrod resources in which he somehow gave his Chinese hosts the false impression he was in China in an official capacity.

In 2017, Robert’s eighty-year-old father, Alan, discovers that he is a director of one of his son’s companies and that his son has used his Dad’s address on one of his businesses. Without telling him. The private company in question is doing rather well in winning government contracts, until then.

You won’t catch Robert or Morrison holding any public review. It’s against their religion. Look at the trouble Morrison’s mentor Brian Houston is having just complying with NSW police investigation. He’s refusing to answer questions about his father’s child abuse. The tactic seems to be working perfectly.

Frugal with the truth, lest Satan strike you whilst your guard is down, God’s hot-eyed warriors know when to keep stumm. Just as they know that God put coal underground for our blessing and just as they are happy to burn for mining while awaiting the rapture, believing they will be saved by their faith.

Thou shalt not fear fossil fuels preaches Pentecostal Pastor PD King in The Christian Post.

Yet Robert’s god-botherers and coal warriors are not symptoms of deep division in the Coalition. Nor are Tim Wilson, Dave Sharma, Jason Falinski, Katie Allen, Angie Bell and Trent Zimmerman who sign on to parliamentary friends of climate action, “a safe place away from partisan politics”, which has Greens, Labor and cross-bench supporters, only to snub their very first meeting 14 October.

But not all MSM scribes are bluffed. Do what Father Morrison does: walk both sides of the chasm at the same time. Granted, “Shut up and eat your peas, dad is talking” is Morrison’s leadership style, as The Guardian Australia’s Katharine Murphy astutely discerns, but don’t let a paternal despot pull the wool.

“… look at Morrison, who manages to walk every side of every street simultaneously and talk out of both sides of his mouth and suffer no apparent penalty.”

Murphy’s amused by Morrison’s hypocrisy in his illiberal lecture to the mining mafia last Friday week in which he threatens yet another new clampdown, (number 84 and counting) on the civil liberties of illiberal protesters who are exercising their right to boycott businesses who collude with coal-miners to extinguish the planet. She believes he just says this sort of stuff for effect and hopes nobody notices.

Also hypocritical is Morrison’s message that he’ll do everything for coal. Only a few days earlier, he makes a billion-dollar grant to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC). Abbott tried to close down the CEFC along with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), a move Turnbull reversed.

Morrison’s CEFC grant will help fund new transmission infrastructure to help clean energy access more of the national grid. Next, he agrees to help underwrite the main NSW-Queensland interconnector.

Murphy rightly asks why Morrison is able to shape-shift every day of the week but Labor is excoriated for selling out when it tries to straddle two constituencies. Worse, it must get a real leader, like ScoMo, the actor playing the daggy suburban Pentecostal dad with the Stepford wife, a man we can all identify with.

Shorten’s unpopularity has more to do with his crucifixion by News Corp and its lackeys including, sadly our ABC, than any political reality. Labor’s review concedes, however, that damage has been done.

Labor’s review sums up Labor’s loss as a combination “of a weak strategy that could not adapt to the change in Liberal leadership, a cluttered policy agenda that looked risky and an unpopular leader” –  a verdict, writes ANU’s Frank Bongiorno “which belies the sophistication of the report as whole”.

But everyone in the gallery – from Michelle Grattan to Mark Latham – gets to twist the knife. It’s a massive pile-on; way more popular, than Melbourne’s Spring Carnival. Bagging Labor’s failings easily upstages the Melbourne Cup, the race that barely slows the nation, our increasingly anaemic, ritual national blood-sport. Besides schadenfreude is surely part of our tall poppy syndrome.

But like the curious incident of the dog in the night time, nowhere is there mention of News Corp.

“The Murdoch media didn’t merely favour the government over the opposition. It campaigned vigorously for the return of the Coalition. And it is a vast empire, with a monopoly through much of regional Queensland, for instance. It is hard not to see in the review’s silence on this matter a clearing of the way for a future kissing of the ring of the familiar kind.” Frank Bongiorno writes.

Everyone wants to wag the finger; tell Labor where it went wrong and by implication how Morrison’s miracle campaign was so inspired – when in reality it was almost totally negative; long on disinformation and attacking Shorten’s character – including the Daily Telegraph’s attack on his mother’s integrity.

A review of the Coalition campaign? Nasty, brutish and short on policy beyond the promise of tax cuts. The $1080 tax cut may have bought a few votes but it is proving a total failure as a fiscal stimulus.

The retail sector is in its third year of per capita recession. While Frydenberg and Morrison seek to explain it away by online sales, as Alan Austin notes, the ABS figures include online sales.

“Retail sales for the September quarter came to $82.6 billion, up just 2.48% on the same quarter a year ago. With inflation at 1.7% and population rising 1.6%, that is a decline in real terms relative to population. So the sector is now in its third year of per capita recession.”

Luckily Labor Zombies … is a sell-out performance, upstaging the government’s own show, “Geronticide! Hell ain’t a patch on the ways you will suffer in God’s Waiting Room; dying of abuse and neglect in our private aged care homes”, brilliantly scripted by commissioners Lynelle Briggs, AM, and Richard Tracey, AO, in their three-volume Interim Report into Aged Care …, “…a shocking tale of neglect”.

Everything’s apples with aged care with just a few rotten fruit spoiling everything. Besides, Morrison says there’ll be more funds by Christmas. He can’t say how little. No-one would expect his government to have been briefed so soon, given that it’s only Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison’s sixth year in government. Expect Santa Hunt and Morrison to stuff the announcement in a stocking late on Christmas Eve.

In the meantime, despite the commissioners’ finding that commodifying aged care is the core of the problem, the Coalition is proceeding with its plan to privatise the staff who do the assessments.

Amazing new efficiencies will follow; such as we’ve seen in the NDIS, where $1.6 billion is being saved by shunting disabled Australians on New Start instead. Private enterprise is a miracle of profit-driven efficiency. And care. No funds will be wasted on gratuitous compassion or humanity. Or spent in haste.

“We are six years into the rollout and we have heard of people waiting two years for a wheelchair, so it needs concerted attention,” says Kirsten Dean from disability advocate group Every Australian Counts.

Expect the reforms to raise the bar; reducing the number of our elderly folk who qualify for homecare “packages”, which are already very limited in scope and difficult to access even at their most basic level.

Above all, Labor Zombies … is a great diversion from the long list of latest revelations of wrong-doing by Morrison’s mob, especially the Australian National Audit Office’s (ANAO) censure of the pork-barrel party coalition for its shonky award of funding under its $200 million regional jobs and investment packages.

Conceding it might have a bit to hide, a furtive, federal government chooses to release its ANAO report on Tuesday afternoon when it hopes all eyes and ears will be turned to the track at Flemington.

The ANAO is scathing about the Morrison government’s disregard for advice provided by bureaucrats. It is also unhappy with ways the Coalition chooses to ignore guidelines regarding merit and eligibility.

Untrained ministers took over the process, making decisions on their own, unaided by expert advice. No. Of course, they did not bother to take minutes. 64 of 232 applications were scrapped. A total of $75.9m in funding is declined. Yet $77.4m in requested grant funding is approved to 68 applicants, not on the departmental list. Over half the funding is pork forked out of the barrel.

While program guidelines require applicants to declare any perceived or existing conflicts of interest, or declare that they had no conflicts – “no action was taken to give effect to this element of the program guidelines”.

Doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results, is one definition of insanity. Yet, when the Coalition rolls out the pork barrel, this week, in yet another round of drought relief; a billion-dollar “suite of measures” to its backblock pals, as it grandiose handout, once again, to entice farmers to do more of the same, is there method in its madness? Or is it merely Groundhog Day again?

The groundhog factor cannot be ignored. Mugged by an Anthropocene reality; Morrison’s mob have no idea what to do. No policies; no plans. No future. They can only fall back on past practice. And buying votes. Along with nostalgia, the pork barrel is part of every Coalition MP’s mental furniture; it’s in its DNA.

And craving more of the same old, same old means it’s only natural to look backwards; unerringly repeat the same mistakes of the past.  Five years ago, then PM Tony Abbott, and his Minister for Agriculture and Water rorts, Barnaby Boondoggle Joyce, announced – a suite of measures offering financial, social and mental health support. Bingo!

But there is method or shrewd craftiness. Evading accountability for starters. Is there any area of public funding less scrutinised than drought relief? wonders Bernard Keane.

Australia would still have a car industry and 50,000 secure jobs for only a third of the amount that the Coalition is prepared to pony up for loans to farmers and small-businesses in drought-affected towns.

But imagine the outcry from News Corp and its claque if workers, or manufacturers, could borrow up to two million interest-free for two years; with no need to pay back the principal until the sixth year.

“Rural communities can’t function without these small businesses – that’s why we’re stepping in to provide this extra support,” Morrison says. But in its Abbott incarnation, the coalition government was perfectly happy to deny SPC Ardmona $25 million just five years ago?

Many workers and their families in other sectors would be glad of the support. Manufacturing, for example, lost 100,000 jobs, or a third of the entire agriculture workforce, in the year to August.

But extra support has limits. State schools won’t be eligible for $10m in new education funding announced in Thursday’s drought package, an “elitist and unfair” if not downright cruel decision.

Australian Education Union president, Correna Haythorpe, argues it’s “another slush fund for private schools” on top of the $1.2bn Choice and Affordability fund for Catholic and Independent schools, which Lenore Taylor reports also included money for drought-affected areas.

In its encore, Drought Relief 2.0 “Suite of measures” this week, Morrison’s travelling roadshow hopes, above all, that the hullabaloo will distract punters from its own Drought Response, Preparedness and Resilience a report which it commissioned from top brass Stephen Day, DSC, AM, the very model of a modern Major General and former Drought Co-ordinator-general.

Somehow it must keep us from the Light of Day.

Drought is not a natural disaster, it’s an enduring feature of the Australian landscape, reports Day. Yet instead of launching into the droughts and flooding plains of Dorothea McKellar’s My Country – and a staple of The Nationals’ MP interview press-kit, Day breaks with climate-denialist tradition.

“While droughts are normal for Australia, drought conditions are likely to become more frequent, severe and longer in some regions due to climate change.”

It’s plain as day that we’re responsible for the drought, with our love of coal-fired power stations, coal mines and our mania for land clearing. It’s a far less romantic notion than playing the hapless victim – Abbott’s “Shit Happens” philosophy, a helpless victim of natural disaster.

But accountability is apostasy, heresy even in the broad church of the Coalition Party Room and especially to the reality denial cabal in the driver’s seat, to say nothing of the God-made-coal-so-we-should-profit-from-his-divine-providence, Pentecostal push that has a hot-line to the current tenant in Kirribilli House.

 

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Pauline rushes to rescue farmers while the coalition falls apart.

“I want to put out a call to these farmers; please don’t give up hope,” Senator Pauline Hanson says shortly before breaking down in tears on her old pal, Alan Jones’ 2GB radio show, Friday last week.

Laugh and the world laughs with you. Weep and you weep off microphone. But no longer need you weep alone, Australia. Help is on its way. No. Not Joel Fitzgibbon’s outrageous suggestion of a bipartisan “war cabinet” approach to drought relief. Drought relief is for ScoMo & Co to pork-barrel; grandstand on grief. The government has no drought relief policy. The last thing it wants is Labor to show it up.

ScoMo ridicules Fitzgibbon in Question Time, an institution now entirely corrupted by a government in perpetual campaign. Vitiated by Dorothy Dixers, Labor-bashing and political assassination by quoting News Corps, the nation’s most powerful political party. Monday, ScoMo quotes Troy Bramston of The Australian on Anthony Albanese’s hopeless leadership.

“A Labor frontbencher told me …” is Bramston’s prelude to back-stabbing Albanese. Trump uses ” people tell me…” When no specific authority or evidence is given, the slur may be mere confection or confabulation. But it is also impossible to refute.

“For a guy who wanted to be leader so bad, and couldn’t wait to announce he was running for it less than 24 hours after the election, he does not know what to do with the job.” A Labor frontbencher?

Sure he did, Troy. Sure. Look. It’s uncanny. ScoMo’s cock a hoop with your “scoop”, first up Tuesday.

Labor couldn’t be trusted when it was in power, Mr Speaker, Morrison scoffs. It’s vital to repeat the one big lie of Labor’s hopelessness with money. As experts now, daily, attest to ScoMo and Co’s economic incompetence and the Reserve virtually begs for some serious stimulus measure, it’s especially important to repeat the lie that the GFC didn’t happen here or that we are still paying for Labor’s mess.

As The Guardian Australia’s Greg Jericho notes, Mathias Cormann now claims absurdly that Labor’s GFC stimulus drove up interest rates and the value of our dollar.

“If interest rates went up due to the stimulus then that meant it had helped improve demand in the economy, which was the whole point.”

Hang on. Help is on its way. Good news this week. Dairy farmers struggling to squeeze out $3.00 an hour in an industry milked dry as de-regulation, duopolies and globalisation lead to ruinous farm gate prices – while many suffer drought and ScoMo photo-ops – rejoice to learn that Pauline Hanson has their backs.

“Give me an opportunity to keep fighting. I don’t want these farmers to give up.”

The plucky One Nation leader heroically battles on at Jones’ microphone before it’s all too much and she’s led, sobbing inconsolably, off-air. But not before a word from her sponsor. Pauline’s “upset”, Big Al explains to listeners, “for the farmers” and exhausted as she “fights the bureaucrats” in Canberra.

Pauline is tirelessly fighting up hill and down dale to get our honest, hardworking, dairy farmers a fair price for their milk, a long-lost cause she shows no sign of understanding.

Fairness would involve the dismantling of global price-fixing and regulating the Fonterra-Saputo duopoly that dominates our milk-processing. (Canadian giant Saputo, which enjoys a monopoly in British Columbia bought out a troubled Murray Goulburn, our largest milk processor in April 2018.) Murray Goulburn had contracted with Coles to supply one dollar milk to 2023.

None of this matters to Hanson’s quest for self-aggrandisement. But Pauline’s plan will entail having Canberra bureaucrats very much on side. And supermarkets. Not to mention Saputo and Fonterra.

“It’s hard to say this but it makes no fucking sense,” sweet-talking Saputo boss, Lino Saputo Jnr admits freely. “$1.10 still doesn’t make sense when you can buy water at $3 a litre, when you can buy soda pop at $4 a litre, when you can buy Gatorade at $5 a litre.”  No? Never heard of a loss leader, Lino?

Yet loss-leading supermarkets are not the only bad guys. More than half Australia’s milk is sold overseas. The same neoliberal ideology that has us paying export prices for our own gas works with milk, too.

Even if the price of milk on the supermarket shelf were to double, the extra profit wouldn’t go to farmers directly as the ACCC found in its 18 month report on the dairy industry last year.

Dollar milk is the scapegoat, regardless. Even those who may be expected to understand how farmers contracts are set by producers play along with this. Yet never in Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie’s howls of outrage (or Drought Minister David Littleproud’s) does either stop to recall that Labor’s policy last election was to set a minimum price dairy farmers can be paid for the milk they produce.

Doubly unhappy is Bridget McKenzie, the Nationals’ “flash bit of kit” (as Barnaby once described his party’s deputy leader during a late night senate debate). Ms McKenzie cops flak for letting Hanson grand-stand as the cow cockies’ saviour. It’s not just a turf war; everyone knows that hand-wringing over drought or flood or farmers being robbed blind by multinational middlemen is the Nationals’ pitch.

Below the topsoil, the post Barnaby-era party writhes in existential crisis. It lacks leadership, identity and others are muscling in on its patch. Things quickly go bad – with a little help from New England. Friday, the Nationals split with their Coalition partner by leaking a $1.3 bn drought funding policy without approval from Michael McCormack – aka Mick-Mack. Scott Morrison is gob-smacked; blind-sided.

So much for the tremendous authority which pundits confidently predicted Scott Morrison was sure to wield over the Coalition after his miracle win. Or is that all spent in gagging and finger-wagging? The National backbench policy committee, which includes Barnaby Joyce, is the author of the rogue policy.

Such perfidy will not go unpunished – but, that it occurs at all – indicates how weak is ScoMo’s hold on Coalition reins. Are the Nats paying him back for crowding them out of his drought-porn photo-ops? Or did Pauline Hanson’s calling them weak and ineffective” do the trick? The Oz thinks so. The truth hurts.

Extra funding? It’s part of a ten-point plan. This includes setting up committees to oversee who gets their forks into $10m pork barrels, help with boarding school fees and other thought bubbles which will do less to alleviate drought suffering than improve the Nationals’ political identity. Rivals appear, artfully clad in Collins Street bushman’s kit of RM Williams’ moleskins and boots. Topped with spotless Akubra.

Is it identity politics? The Nats argue that their cash-splash will send a message. Or a vibe. It would “appear as an unambiguous package that is clearly labelled Nationals” they claim. Naturally. Nothing shrieks National Party so clearly and plainly as a barrel clearly labelled “pork”.  But even a simple lack of ambiguity can come back to bite you in the bum, as the trepid party deputy leader discovers.

Adding to the Nationals’ woes, Bridget McKenzie’s brazen pork-barrelling of grants has rejected 618 applications for community sports facilities. Labor’s sports spokesman Don Farrell cuts to the chase;

“The minister, we now know, rejected advice from her own department, Sport Australia, as to who should get these grants, and she imposed her own favourite grants in their place.”

Above all, despite McKenzie’s promising the ACCC’s recommendation, a dairy industry code of conduct by 2020 – hey – presto -to keep Hanson’s vote, the code will miraculously be available later this year.  So far, Hanson seems happy. Early report had her demanding re-regulation of the dairy industry.

Mathias Cormann must be a sweet-talker if Pauline’s being fobbed off with a code of conduct.

How bad are codes? Hopeless -if the PM’s own code for MPs, Morrison’s Statement of Ministerial Standards, tabled last August, is any guide. Gus Taylor just goes ahead and does what he likes. Clearly. Attacking Clover Moore is part of a rational plan?

Oddly, all hell breaks loose. Gus ducks and weaves. Evades all responsibility for the patently false figures in his bizarre letter lecturing Sydney’s lord mayor, Clover Moore on her travel. Tries to claim that the City of Sydney published fake figures on his website. Yep. The old “fake figures made me frame you” defence.

Worse, his PM supports Taylor, a serial offender, yet again, refusing to sanction his Energy Minister. It’s yet another sign of weak leadership and utter lack of integrity.

By his own code of rules, ScoMo should at least sack Taylor from cabinet; report him to the police.

Shadow climate minister, Mark Butler, tells an Adelaide presser Friday,

“Instead of the prime minister actually putting his words into action and putting this into the hands of the New South Wales police, he has shown that there is one rule for one group of Australians – cabinet ministers in the Morrison government – and another rule for everyone else, including the journalists who are currently under threat of prosecution for doing their jobs.”

Gus is helped by The Daily Telegraph, which publishes an article claiming hippy, tree-hugging, bicycle-riding, Clover Moore is not merely a progressive and independent pain in the establishment’s bum, a theme familiar to Telegraph readers, the Lord Mayor has been “told by the federal government to rein in the hundreds of thousands of dollars her council is spending on international and domestic travel if she is serious about lecturing Australia on climate change”. It’s madly untrue, of course, but well-timed.

Trump-like, Taylor uses what seems to be a forged City of Sydney council document to accuse City of Sydney council of spending “$1.7m on international travel and $14.2m on domestic travel” for councillors. The real figures are $1,727.77 on international travel and $4,206.32 on domestic travel.

Taylor’s dead cat on the table, distracts from Morrison’s stuff-up: his upstaging of the Nationals’ announcement of the breakthrough on the dairy code, Thursday. Experts warn that ScoMo’s holy surplus may now never eventuate. Or if it does it may come smack dab in the middle of a recession. Bad look.

But a line has to be drawn in the sand. News surfaces, Sunday, that Scott Morrison told Craig Kelly, chair of the Coalition’s backbench energy and environment committee, not to appear on Q&A with his daft graphs that show that climate change is a hoax. So much for Howard’s broad church Liberal Party.

Gagging Kelly is as much an extension of ScoMo’s naturally despotic leadership style as it is his way of “moderating public perception” to use Michael Koziol’s euphemism for the PM’s hiding an inconvenient truth from voters. ScoMo’s keen to conceal his climate change deniers and cover up the fact that they control the black hole that passes for government policy, a course largely determined by the coal lobby.

Kelly was due to wow ABC audiences with his insights on 16 September. A week prior, the climate denier regaled the multitudes who packed into an Australian Monarchists League function with the amazing news that the South Pacific island nation of Tuvalu is “floating, not sinking [due to climate change]”, because it was a coral atoll and “a coral atoll actually floats on the ocean”. Seriously.

It’s not clear that Kelly is aware that coral is acutely sensitive to sea-level changes. Or that Tuvalu is sinking. Already two of its nine islands are on the verge of going underwater swallowed by rising sea-levels and erosion. Scientists predict Tuvalu will become uninhabitable in fifty to a hundred years.

Porous, salty, soil is already useless for planting crops while Tuvalu’s water supply is now contaminated by rising seawater leaving Tuvaluans entirely dependent on rainwater. Even the fish are now toxic. Ciguatera poisoning affects reef fish who have ingested microalgaes expelled by bleached coral.

When fish infected with ciguatera toxins are consumed by humans, it causes an immediate and sometimes severe illness: vomiting, fevers and diarrhoea. Someone should tell Kelly and his committee but communicating scientific information is heresy in a government devoted entirely to spin.

Clearly, Morrison doesn’t talk to Mick-Mack, his pet name for his deputy Prime Minister. Mick-Mack is also in danger of being drowned by a rising tide of nostalgia for the good old days when Barnaby ruled.

For the Nationals, another backward-looking party firmly rooted in the past, Barnaby can do no wrong.

Yet it’s not what the historical record suggest. It’s never perfect with agrarian socialism or any other cult. Never ends well. Investigative journalist Jommy Tee sums up a topical part of Saint Barnaby’s legacy.

As Minister for Water and Agriculture, Barnaby was responsible in 2017 when the government coughed up $80 million in water buybacks to Eastern Australia Agriculture (EAA), the company where Angus Taylor had been a director and consultant. Eastern Australian Agriculture, a company founded by Gus Taylor made a two hundred percent profit out of Australian water and cotton farms.

Barnaby offered Clyde, a cotton-growing property to the LNP QLD government in 2006. Queensland  approached the federal government only to have the sale knocked back by Malcolm Turnbull, then parliamentary secretary to the PM. The federal government deemed the $20m price tag – for both property and water too high, given the water flow’s unreliability and its high price.

Joyce, Taylor and the current federal coalition government have much to explain. This includes:

“Why in 2017, did Barnaby Joyce, as Minister for Water, engineer the purchase of that same water from Clyde at the exorbitant cost of $40 million to taxpayers?”

Doubtless, refreshed after their five week break, our Coalition MPs will rush back to Canberra to clear up the stench of Watergate. Resignations will be tendered. Heads will roll. On the other hand, if Home Affairs top shiny-bum, Mike Pezzullo has his way, people will be jailed for leaking government information to the media.

But at present, it seems, neither partner in the coalition can even synchronise their diaries. Snap! Morrison holds his PM’s presser Thursday, on 2SM Radio.

ScoMo’s broadcast is heard just as the Nats gather at parliament house to simultaneously announce the good news on the code and cheer on the same pitifully small cash grants of $7000 and $13000 to farmers coming off the totally inadequate Farm Household Allowance (FHA) of up to $600 a fortnight.

Centrelink grants FHA to those who can pass its convoluted and protracted application process. Most applicants give up. Of 26,000 eligible households, only 2000 apply.

But of those 2000 who have persevered against all expectation – all will be overjoyed to receive a pittance extra, provided they don’t want to do anything rash like buy feed or replace a set of tractor tyres. See a dentist. Or pay the rates or the electricity bill.

Yet help is on its way. Professional empathy consultants, Futureye, are out in the field, helping ScoMo & Co win hearts and minds; forge its social licence in the bush. It’s not all photo-ops up dry creek-beds and matching green shirts.

Revealed by senate estimates committee questioning, this week, the ever more marvellous Morrison government approach to forging consensus.

Queensland Labor senator Murray Watt asks how Futureye works. Senior Inland Rail project officer Dr Garth Taylor is keen to explain, a rarity in the week’s proceedings where across four committees, ministers and mandarins take hundreds of questions on notice.

“Three key areas come to mind. “One is around empathy, around getting the right tone of voice to deal with landowners along the way … We start with getting the tone of voice right and getting the narrative right, and that leads to empathy. I think that along the way, with the landowners we’ve been dealing with, there has been an appreciation that there has been a more empathic approach taken since the social licence initiative.”

Picking up the $190 million tab to help ScoMo and Co build empathy along the tracks across the backblocks is the Department of Infrastructure’s Train to Nowhere, its Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail Project, a $10 billion boondoggle which is battling to establish its credentials, let alone goodwill. Even the government’s own hand-picked experts told it, the inland rail would never pay its way. It went ahead anyway.

The week ends with Matt Canavan being sent out on damage control. Canavan talks all over Fran Kelly on ABC Insiders, Sunday, to demonstrate his party’s superior empathy. Instead he gives a virtuoso display of gaslighting; arguing black is white. It’s his Prime Minister’s if not his government’s favourite tactic.

Instead of an utter disaster, a catastrophic rout by its own incompetence, in brief in spite of all the damning evidence, we are to see the week as the Nationals’ finest hour?

Finest hour? The reality is that the Coalition is unravelling as the going gets tough,with bad news on the economy that is ever harder to explain away and no sign that any of its carefully choreographed show of concern for drought victims is yielding any result.

Fighting over who gets credit for what is at best a band-aid solution or a PR stunt is not an edifying end to a parliamentary term. Nor does it augur well for the next.

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Golan Heights – Questions on Australia’s role still unanswered

By Hungry Charley  

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s recent statement on a new role for Australian peacekeepers in the Golan Heights, where they would join an existing Fijian force already deployed by the UN was painted largely as boosting Australian – Fijian relations by the Government, while the scope of the Australian mission is still unclear.

The Prime Minister stated that Australians would be part of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights which has been operating since 1974 following escalation of Israeli-Syrian hostilities.

He indicated that Australian troops would be sent to ‘train and support’ the Fijian contingent deployed to Syria. The Fijians (194 in number) are already present in the Golan Heights, contributing significant numbers of peacekeepers since its first deployment in 2013.

Fiji has maintained its commitment in the Golan Heights despite around 50 deaths in the UNDOF over its mission history and an incident in which 45 Fijian peacekeepers were held hostage by militia in 2014.

UN documents released in September show the current positions of forces within the UNDOF deployment, including Fijian forces.

The announcement by the Prime Minister was given within the context of the Fiji–Australia Vuvale Partnership, signed by Morrison and Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama in September this year and the increasing interest in joint military cooperation since the announcement of Australia’s role in redeveloping the Black Rock training facility in Nandi.

Fijians embarking for Golan Heights mission (image from aspistrategist.org.au)

But despite the statements made by the Prime Minister, the size of the Australian force and its function remains unclear. There have been no media statements on this deployment by the United Nations Peacekeeping Force or any other information available from UN Information sources in Australia, despite being contacted a week ago. Similarly, there is no information forthcoming from the Australian Defence Force on the scope of the engagement, which itself is unusual, peacekeeping forces are not meant to be secret, the success of operations depends to a large extent on a high profile being maintained. Assertions that the increased Australian role will be supportive is also evidenced by the presence of an ADF officer who has been deployed since March this year with the UNDOF, presumably as an advisor, but again this is an assumption.

While deploying peacekeeping missions provides nations credit as being good international actors, the timing of the Australian participation is not consistent with Morrison’s critique of the UN in his speech earlier this month at the Lowy Institute and comments regarding ‘negative globalism’ he has recently given. Australia has been winding back its peacekeeping commitments over the years of the Coalition Government and in this sense, the mission announcement came as somewhat of a surprise.

Also, the Prime Minister’s words regarding the suitability of the mission due to a low level of risk to Australian forces does not reflect what has been happening on the ground over the last year. A UNDOF report from September this year shows that UN forces have been witness to substantial military actions between combatant forces, on both the Syrian and Israeli sides, as reported in the UNDOF September 2019 report:

“I am particularly concerned about the firing on 12 June of missiles across the ceasefire line by the Israel Defense Forces. Furthermore, I remain concerned by the continued presence of the Syrian armed forces in the area of separation. There should be no military forces in the area of separation other than those of UNDOF. The Israel Defense Forces should refrain from firing across the ceasefire line and crossing the ceasefire line. The continued presence of unauthorized weapons and equipment in the area of limitation on both the Alpha and Bravo sides is also of concern. These developments have the potential to jeopardize the Agreement.”

The area of ‘limitation’ is the area where military actions are forbidden under the UN mandate, though currently the UN only has access to 50% of the area of this area, according to the UN report. In fact the political situation in the Golan sites is much more unstable than it was a year ago, thanks in large part by Israel’s action to annex the Golan Heights in 1981 and ongoing Israeli occupation that was ratified by Trump in March this year. This is despite the area being claimed by the Syrian Government due to its location in relation to the 1967 truce line. So Israeli occupiers are technically in breach of UN resolutions on this matter.

The UN responded by declaring in March that its mission would not hindered by these political developments and that, “A majority of Security Council members on Wednesday stressed the importance of upholding international law regarding the occupied Golan , in the face of the unilateral move by the United States to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over them.” But according to UN reports Israeli forces have also been erecting barriers to movement in area of the ‘Qunaytirah crossing’, subjecting UN personnel to security checks and restricting access to the areas of ‘separation’ and ‘limitation’ in the north of the zone.

What is the Israeli/US interest in the Golans that has prompted Israeli occupation and such strong support from the US (and Australia) in violation of UN resolutions? The answer is partly settlement opportunities for Israel, but the other is oil. According to the Israeli operated Afek Oil and Gas there is ‘billions of barrels of Israeli oil’ under the ground. Except it is Syrian ground.

As reported in the Jerusalem Post, Afek has a permit to explore for conventional oil at up to 10 sites in a 39,500-hectare zone south of Katzrin (Qatsrin). This area lies within the Israeli area of control to the west of the de-militarised zone administered by UNDOF. The other key point here is that Afek is a wholly owned subsidiary of Genie Energy, a company with some by some powerful people on their strategic advisory board, Rupert Murdoch, Jacob Rothschild, former CIA Director James Woolsey and former Bush Secretary of State, Dick Cheney. Genie in turn is part of the larger parent company and many of the same owners IDT Corporation, an American tele-communications company and in their words, “… IDT’s Wholesale Carrier Services business is the largest independent carrier of voice traffic globally.”

Step in Newark lawyer and Genie Energy Acting President, Ira Greenstein. Greenstein was an official in the presidential transition team member for the incoming Trump administration. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner was also a member of this team and later became Trump’s “Middle East Envoy’. Greenstein was still Genie Energy’s acting President and according to the Millenium Report published in April this year, a breach of the conflict of interest rules for government employees in the US. Nonetheless Greenstein’s position on the transition team meant he had influence on government and UN appointments for the emerging Trump Administration and seems to have had influence over military actions Trump took against the Syrians following his election.

To give you an idea on the power of this conglomerate, Ira Greenstein has several corporate connections with Jared Kushner as well as within the pro-settlement organisation in Israel, Mosaic United, being the President and Treasurer of American Friends of Mosaic United in the US. Both Greenstein and Kushner have been involved with Israeli development of illegally settled areas on the West Bank, it seems now the Golan Heights is the next settlement front. Genie Energy is populated by strong pro-Israeli nationalists, such as the current President of Genie Oil And Gas, another subsidiary of Genie Energy, Efraim Eitam, who seems to be the one spearheading exploitation of resources in the Golan Heights and has strong relationships the within Israeli administration. He was a Brigadier General in the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) Reserves and has previously called all Arabs in Israel a “cancer.”

Jared and Rupert – good friends

Rupert Murdoch is another key Genie Energy connection to the Trump administration, sharing a long-time and close friendship with Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump, as well as seemingly gaslighting Trump’s military actions against Syria. In fact Murdoch is on the record saying that Genie would help spur a “global, geopolitical paradigm shift.”

Genie Energy suspended exploratory drilling just prior to President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in March. As UN reports show there has been an increase in Israeli military activity in the Golan Heights perimeter, particularly after an Iranian drone allegedly entered “Israeli airspace.” Trump has also been to the Golan himself raising feelings of Israeli nationalism amongst settlers and politicians alike, declaring a new “Trump Heights’ settlement along with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, all contrary to UN resolutions.

Given the tensions in the Golan Heights, Scott Morrison’s claims of the peacekeeping deployment being a low risk operation seems to be playing down the risks. In fact, given the recent politicking, it seems it has the potential to be a powder keg waiting to go off. A belligerent Israel with US support and an agitated Assad in Syria with increasing levels of Russian involvement due to Turkey’s recent intervention, do not add up to a stable situation for this part of the world.

Another key matter of interest is Morrison’s relationship with Trump and the Israeli administration, helped here in no short measure by ex-ambassador David Sharma. Morrison’s stance on Israel has generally been to follow the US position, herein lies the tension with the UN mission and why questions regarding our future involvement in the UNDOF need to be clarified.

It’s a shame Australia couldn’t show the same commitment to ensure the safety of Australian children and their mothers in northern Syria, not a priority it seems, but according to Morrison, neither is the peacekeeping mission.

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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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Glad all over?

Is “One Million Dollar Woman” Liberal Party “gun” fund-raiser, Gladys Liu, a catspaw of the Chinese Communist Party’s 2005 huaren canzheng, a policy of “ethnic Chinese participation in politics overseas” which has seen Beijing support ethnic Chinese politicians in gaining office in Canada, New Zealand, Britain and Australia?

Or is Ms Liu just another reactionary, evangelical, Coalition homophobe to whom LGBT issues, Safe Schools and marriage equality are “ridiculous rubbish”; a former fifteen-year Victorian Liberal apparatchik, who leads the Liberals’ ruse to legalise discrimination under the pretext of “protecting” an already constitutionally protected religious freedom?

In 2016, Liu attracted national attention, if not notoriety, with her social media campaign against Safe Schools, an anti-bullying programme designed to ensure schools are safe places for all students, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) students, and are free of discrimination. It was her way of getting attention.

Safe Schools originates from school communities, parents and teachers who identify a need for greater support for LGBTI students – students at higher risks of bullying and suicide, and to ensure that schools create safe and inclusive environments. It’s been the subject of much disinformation and misrepresentation from our reactionaries, such as Cory Bernardi or George Christensen who proclaim themselves conservatives. But to campaign against it is damning.

In her orchestrated attack on Safe Schools, Liu aligns herself with ignorance, bigotry, prejudice and injustice and her PM, Scott Morrison. His children go to private school, he tells The Guardian Australia to avoid what he wilfully misrepresents as “skin-curling” sexuality discussions. But not all Glad’s agenda is reactionary. She’s progressive on foreign investment.

Liu calls for Australia to water down its foreign investment limits? China’s just announced it will do the same.  Her vote against treating government action on climate change as a matter of urgency? She’s just toeing the party line.

A whiz on WeChat, Liu’s 2016 social media campaign helped Julia Banks get elected only, in the end, to be bullied out of the Liberal Party. Liu’s pitch on Chinese social media is to claim Chinese Australians worry that future generations will be “destroyed” by “ridiculous rubbish” such as “concepts of same-sex, transgender, intergender, cross-gender”.

Liu continued her attack in an article in The Age Liu in 2016. Above all, subversive Safe Schools undermined conservative Chinese values and “we are concerned it will change society and the moral standard [of] the culture”.

WeChat also ran other fake news including the scare that immigration under Labor would rise to 320,000 in ten years; “surpassing the entire Chinese immigrant population.” Liu’s mentor, Morrison’s legacy as Immigration Minister, 2013-4, incidentally was a program of 190,000, a figure he bizarrely locked in by tying the size to budget calculations.

The nation plays Chinese whispers this week with the Liu debacle. We’re Glad all over. MSM is abuzz with scuttlebutt about the MP for the Victorian seat of Chisholm, a marginal seat where 23,000 residents were born in mainland China.

As Niki Savva says on ABC Insiders Sunday, we need to know more about her miracle fund-raising, which Sam Dastyari happily inflates to $3 million. Where does the money come from? How does she suddenly get her precocious skill in political organising? It was this skill which finally won her pre-selection after nine years of knock-backs and failure.

But Gladys is in good hands. Her senior adviser is the arch-conservative, Graham Watt, former Liberal MP for Burwood, who in eight years in state politics, is remembered as the only MP who refused to stand for Rosie Batty’s standing ovation when the Domestic Violence Campaigner and Australian of the Year, visited Victoria’s Parliament in 2015.

Watt is not in Canberra, Tuesday when all hell breaks loose, after Gladys strays into Andrew Bolt’s lair; his Sky Studio. As a Liberal, never did she expect to be held to account. And certainly not by Bolt. A similar perspective appears to have been behind her interpretation of AEC rules regarding polling booth signage.

A case before the High Court challenges Liu’s Chinese-language posters’ how-to-vote advice which effectively directed unwary voters to vote Liberal. Oliver Yates, the unsuccessful independent candidate for Kooyong, Hungarian Josh Frydenberg’s seat, has teamed up with a voter in Chisholm to have the election result ruled invalid. Yet the current crisis, capably boosted by MSM’s Sinophobia, is self-inflicted, like so much of ScoMo & Co’s political franchise.

The latest buzz stems from Ms Liu unplugged. Un-minded. In sensational disclaimers to an incredulous Andrew Bolt on Sky, Tuesday, Liu fails to recall her twelve-year membership of key agencies of China’s bid to influence local politics; organisations linked to the CCP’s United Front Work Department. Add in failing to disclose a $39,675 donation to the Victorian Liberals, three years ago. Liu’s s also three years late in declaring a second donation of $25,000.

Victorian Liberals quickly claim the $39,675 is not in fact a donation after all. “As these payments were for attending events, Ms Liu did not have an obligation to submit a return to the AEC,” the party says. That clears that up then.

The member for Chisholm evades questions critical of China’s foreign policy. Her name might well have been added to the organisations without her knowledge, she conjectures, a fanciful narrative she abandons next day.

The media pack is baying. The Victorian Liberal Party was warned, by “men in grey suits”, against pre-selecting Ms Liu, trumpets The Herald Sun, while The ABC reports this week, that in 2018, then PM Turnbull was advised by ASIO not to attend Ms Liu’s “meet and greet” function whose guest list contained “thirty names from the Chinese Community”.

Is ScoMo spooked? It’s just another day at the spin machine for our PM who opts for a ludicrous downplay – as he did recently with his presence at Nine’s fund-raiser – which Jennifer Duke and David Crowe report in The Sydney Morning Herald, a Nine newspaper, netted the Libs $700,000. All that happened was Nine gave a function and he was there.

It’s part of his government’s Trumpist gaslit-nation strategy. Fraser Anning uses it too. There were no fascists at a Blair Cottrell, Neil Erikson organised rally, he attended, despite images clearly showing protesters exchanging Nazi salutes.

“I think the problem here is Gladys Liu has given a clumsy interview,” Morrison says. “That is all that’s happened here.”

“Everyone has a bad day in the office and that was one,” Barnaby “bad-day” Joyce throws his own, huge, personal, authority into the mix on Patricia Karvelas’ RN drive. Nothing to see here. But how good is Mick-Mack’s melt-down!

Look over there: Deputy PM, vacuous Michael McCormack, stages a meltdown in question time, Wednesday, in case Liu sabotages ScoMo & Co’s smooth roll-out of Labor-bashing bastardry and wedging. Attacks on Labor fill its policy vacuum.  It also presses on with Ensuring Integrity, another zombie bill. ACTU’s Sally McManus says it’s some of the most draconian anti-union legislation in the world. ScoMo & Co’s war on workers must proceed until every union is crushed.

The nation is suffering the economic consequences of Coalition governments’ – and some of Labor’s – long-term strategy of de-unionisation. Labor may claim to represent working class interests. But in office, both federally and at the state level, it has consistently implemented neoliberal, anti-working class policies over the last three decades.

Take a bow, John Setka. Setka is a gift in ScoMo & Co’s demonisation of organised labour and their attack on Labor’s credibility and Albo’s authority. Yet it’s not about Setka. Our average unionist is a thirty-nine-year-old female nurse.

Wages remain frozen at 2013 levels, according to ABS data published in April. Workers and their families are suffering while others prosper.  Our top 20 per cent of households’ average net worth is over 93 times that of the lowest 20 per cent — some $3.2 million compared to just $35,200.

Yet workers are never valorised by this government the way it makes saints of farmers and small business owners, both groups prominent in recent wage theft cases.

“I don’t know why you’re yelling. The Member for Hunter. It’s time you came to the table and just behaved yourself occasionally,” Mick-Mack yells at shadow agriculture minister, Joel Fitzgibbon. There are country people doing it tough. You won’t ever stop yelling out. You should behave yourself. You are a disgrace. You know you are!”

Yet what Fitzgibbon has to say encapsulates the Coalition crisis and its dire need to seek diversion in the Gladys Liu soap opera and the up and coming return of the living dead drug tests for welfare cheats and useless, cashless credit cards.

“We’ve had the drought coordinator, the drought envoy, the drought task force, the drought summit. Now we have a drought minister …. (but) what hope does the Australian community have when their drought minister denies the connection between our activity and what is happening in our natural environment and with our climate?”

So much to evade; so little time. ScoMo & Co have economised on parliamentary sittings to save face.

Peak stupidity is reached when the Nationals’ leader Mick-Mack claims new dams would improve things for farmers. It’s a response to a typically tedious “Dorothy Dixer” which elicits the climate change denier’s default evasion.

“That is Australia – a land of droughts and flooding rains,” the Deputy PM says. Profound. Literary. Urbane. Or so he believes.

Fitzgibbon interjects to ask what the government is doing to help country people. ScoMo doesn’t blink.  But things go bad for the PM when Andrew Bolt gives him an earful in his Thursday morning sermon from Sky’s moral high ground.

Morrison is forced to pause his crusade to wedge Labor by legislation or “wedgislation” as Albanese wittily puts it, abusing parliament with a series of bull-shit bills such as reviving yet another trial of the cashless debit card, the war on vegan terror, which would outlaw on-farm protests by animal liberationists, drug-testing dole bludgers and the populists’ perennial -mandatory sentencing of child sex offenders  – all designed solely to give Labor an atomic wedgie.

No chance of ScoMo & Co tackling real issues; our “existential environmental crisis” or our incipient economic downturn. New Matilda’s Ben Eltham notes, “if the climate is heating the economy is cooling; the jobless are obviously to blame.”

Digging deep into his shallow but well-exercised desperate tactical response lobe, Trumpista ScoMo chooses to impugn Labor’s motives in holding Gladys Liu to account. ScoMo’s dud political judgement rivals that of his predecessor.

Morrison denies the allegations. Calls Labor racists. His mentor, Trump, whose latest claim to victimhood, is to claim his fake orange tan, is due to low-energy lightbulbs- deployed by Greens’ traitors everywhere, would be proud of him.

ScoMo! There’s flies in the buttermilk. What will you do? Liu, Liu, skip to Ms Liu. Skip to Ms Liu my darling.

ScoMo barely has time to take visiting Fijian PM pal Frank Bainimarama, another big fan of guided democracy, for a happy-clap and a singalong at Horizon. Horizon, which, oddly, shares its name with an Imperial Tobacco cigarette brand.

Horizon must be rapt when a PM deploys his prosperity gospel church; his religiosity, as a multipurpose political tool. But no sign so far of rapture from fellow evangelical Bainimarama. In fact, Frank seems to be inwardly seething.

Climate change advocate Frank’s no fan of Australia’s coal baron government. He sees our PM’s Pacific Island Forum refusal to agree to phase out coal-fired power as “insulting and condescending.” Yet a puff piece from the ABC’s Michael Walsh, helps us all to forgot human rights’ abuse in Fiji. Frank is a noble reformer who is restoring Fiji to democracy.

Big Frank’s glad to get out of Suva after being captured on camera assaulting Opposition leader Pio Tikoduadua in what is loosely known as the Fijian parliament’s car park; breaking Pio’s spectacles. Incredibly, local police make no inquiries. Pio, on the other hand, gets suspended from parliament for bad-mouthing his Prime Minister. ScoMo is inspired.

Bronte’s brontosaurus, (thunder lizard) the small-headed, whip-tailed, political dinosaur, Morrison goes in low. Our nation’s top grub, owes his own 2009 pre-selection, solely to a smear campaign. In 2009, The Daily Telegraph published four stories about the successfully pre-selected Liberal candidate for Cook, Michael Towke which defamed him, destroyed his political career, caused untold stress to his family and led to his dis-endorsement and ScoMo’s free walk.

”These stories sent my mother to hospital. They demonised me. I wanted to confront them in court,” Towke explains.

ScoMo’s smear’s a silencing tactic; the very tactic used by The Chinese Embassy, notes Charles Sturt’s Clive Hamilton.

Critics of the Hong Kong-born MP are guilty of filthy racist slurs, ScoMo howls. It’s an outrage. Morrison follows his parliamentary gutter politics – (“disgusting”, Mark Dreyfus dubs them), with Standing Up for All Chinese Australians, a video he releases on Chinese social media, WeChat, now a Coalition propaganda, go-to. It’s a sequel to his April love-in, when after years of failed attempts, but vast increases in donations, Liu was finally pre-selected for Chisholm in Victoria.

“How good is Gladys Liu? Gladys Liu is a force of nature.” ScoMo crowed in April at her pre-selection. And he’s right. And she may have a right to be a bigot provided she doesn’t harm children who need safe schools. Or if she stays away from promulgating lurid lies and fantasies on social media which impede the voters’ right to make up their own mind.

But it’s fair to ask who her political mates are. Her connections. What are her links to United Front Work Department’s Guangdong provincial branch of the China Overseas Exchange Association, an overseas propaganda and influence outfit headed by high-ranking party officials? Documents show that Liu has been a council member of this outfit.

Liu also confirms she was honorary president of the United Chinese Commerce Association of Australia. All done and dusted? Not yet. There’s a torrent of abuse from what is mysteriously called the other side of politics. Bolt’s side.

Bolt goes nuts. “The way that the Prime Minister played that race card five times this morning, well I can only say the Chinese regime should be sending him a thank you card,” he says in his opening harangue on Thursday. Classy irony.

“Prime Minister why was it racist to question Gladys Liu’s connections to China but it wasn’t racist to call Sam Dastyari ‘Shanghai Sam’?” asks a Ten Reporter. Liar from the Shire, ScoMo denies using the phrase but social media lights up with evidence to the contrary. Hansard also records Morrison stooping to racist taunting of Dastyari on several occasions.

So who is being racist? “Questioning by Labor and the crossbench members of Parliament on this is legitimate and reasonable,” Australia’s former Race Discrimination Commissioner, Tim Soutphommasane, tells The Sydney Morning Herald; Nine Newspaper’s Peter Hartcher. Hartcher dismisses suggestions ASIO warned his paper’s Liberal Party pals ScoMo or Fizza Turnbull. So neither PM or their departments could join the guest list warning dots? We are in trouble.

In trouble also are Chinese communities, here and in other nations. Already under-represented in parliaments, they must now suffer being represented by MPs of dubious loyalty, observes Clive Hamilton.

And how fares our democracy where pre-selection is determined, at least in the Liberal Party, by how much money you can raise? Your ability to chat up rich-listers – and not by the calibre of your thinking, your humanity, or dare it be said, your capacity to contribute honest, constructive, socially cohesive ideas to policy or your demonstration of good faith.

A bit of concern for the planet doesn’t go astray either. Does our nation really needs another climate change sceptic?

The Liu case is far from closed. Word is that Gladys will be minded by the PMC – reduced to another bot from head office. The well-oiled, back-biting, faction-riven fossils in the Victorian Liberal Party will fall over themselves to help.

Micro-managed, scripted, she will win more time to be a WeChat warrior. But there are still few wild cards to be played. Her bully-PM has the diplomatic skills of a demented warthog and a hide to match. No patience for high maintenance.

If, on the other hand, it turns out that Gladys is of no further use to the United Front Work Department they may cut her loose. Beat ScoMo to it. Recall her. Some irregularity with her residency. Before even Morrison’s office works out that she’s more a political liability than an asset. A conga-line of suitable replacements will already be putting itself forward.

Or the High Court may be pleased to find her election invalid. But don’t hold your breath.

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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.

When will Morrison and his government be held to account?

“With everything that’s going on at the moment we need to be in the tent and we need to know what’s going on – and we are,” Scott Morrison spruiks his star role as a fly on the tent wall, a vital bit part in the latest instalment of the G7 soap opera, a chic, dysfunctional clique; a G6+1 held this year in Biarritz, artificial pearl of the Basque coast.

Next year, Trump wants them to kick back at his Trump National Doral in Miami, one of his top golf resorts in Florida. Invite his old pal Vlad Putin. Get a few holes of golf in. “It would be better to have Putin inside the tent than outside the tent,” Trump says. He doesn’t explain. Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine and its illegal annexation of Crimea are but two stumbling blocks for most G7 members. Putin won’t attend as guest. He wants full membership again.

Tent? Is ScoMo being droll? Few at the G7 know what’s going on – neoliberalism is dead for starters. The post-war world that spawned the Group of Seven, “advanced” non-communist economies the UK-Atlantic alliance is long gone. So, too are some G7 economies. Is France “advanced” or merely held up by transnational receipts, asks Crikey’s Guy Rundle.

Others will never know. The terminally bewildered include Donald Trump who may or may not attack Iran any minute, “bonkers”, Boris Johnson, whose EU ignorance may take the great out of Great Britain and Jair Bolsonaro who puts a sixty-day ban on lighting fires in the rainforest, while the Amazon, the lungs of the planet, burns out of control.

Did you see that tie-dye that Melania wore? It gets more ink that any international political or environmental or climate crisis. Or the fact that her husband doesn’t even deign attend the climate conference. Thank God we had ScoMo there, beavering away at “rules-based order” or keeping extremists off the net. It’s too late for The White House. Hopes that monster-baby Trump will pick the toys he threw out of his playpen, abandon the trade war with China – which he thinks he’s winning or the plan to attack Iran which he’s happy to leave out there – are dashed from the start.

After Trump repudiated last year’s motherhood statement, there is no attempt at a 2019 G7 consensus communique.

This year, he also vetoes ScoMo’s proposal for self-regulation of social media, an ineffectual, if not futile proposal to counter online extremism, which will collect data from law-abiding citizens and do nothing to curb extremists. It’s a quality thought–bubble that in the end, Trump sycophant ScoMo, sniffing the wind, doesn’t even vote for himself.

Luckily Morrison, still gets to wow leaders with our space research, a type of astral Spakfilla which “will fill space infrastructure gaps to support businesses and researchers to participate in the global space economy.”  Or at least his latest BFF, Boris bird’s nest head Johnson, Britain’s professional clown who is also putting in a top performance in vacuity as clueless Prime Minister tells him “it’s a fabulously interesting, brilliant and exciting project, Scott.”

Morrison is in Biarritz because, France’s President, Emmanuel Macron invited him to observe- along with India’s PM Narendra Modi and G7 pariah Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister. Despite reporting how Boris Johnson, is absolutely gob-smacked by Australia’s space agency space, ScoMo totally assures everyone he’d rather be at home.

“As Australia’s Prime Minister, I always prefer to be in Australia dealing with issues on the ground domestically,” says our most evasive PM since Abbott and the least accountable ever. He’s pleased to be out of the country when his government’s religious freedoms bill is finally published. It’s superfluous – religious freedom is not under threat; but it’s a sop to those who were out-postal-voted on marriage equality but who still claim they have a right to discriminate.

The bill, which skips the tricky stuff of actually defining religious belief, upsets progressives and conservatives alike, while dividing the broad church of the Liberal Party including some of its de-facto partners in the open marriage of convenience with the National Party (and anyone else it can bed), a secret agreement which has, at its core, an uneasy juxtaposition of mutual suspicion and condescension but which both sides pretend is a viable coalition government.

Laura Tingle warns, Morrison’s biggest domestic political challenge yet may be his need to deal with MPs such Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells who claims, Friday it is “clear from my ongoing consultation and engagement with religious leaders that the bills are likely to fall far short of properly and fully addressing their requirement”.

If Morrison moves to appease the reactionaries, he is in danger of alienating the conservatives whose support he courted when he declared religious freedom to be his key priority at the outset of his accidental prime ministership. On the international front, his government is choosing to fall in with Washington’s plan to wage war on Iran, a reflex appeasement of the Trump administration’s bullying which may well lead to catastrophic consequences.

In a brilliant show of legerdemain, a triumphant Macron produces the Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif from behind a screen, a move which is reported to surprise Trump and other leaders despite their prior warning.

Will Trump and Zarif talk? No. Iran’s PM Hassan Rouhani wants the US to lift sanctions first. Trump says he’ll meet Iran’s leader because “We’re looking to make Iran rich again.” US sanctions on Iran under the Trump administration have caused the rial to lose 75 per cent of its value this year.  Yet Trump rules out direct US financial assistance.

“No we are not paying, we don’t pay,” Trump says. “But they may need some money to get them over a very rough patch and if they do need money, and it would be secured by oil …, so we are really talking about a letter of credit. It would be from numerous countries, numerous countries.”

But all is not lost. Love is in the air. Bromance blossoms between BoJo, (Boris Johnson) and DoJo (Donald John Trump) two confirmed narcissists who praise each other to the skies and promise all manner of fabulous trade deals guaranteed to make Britain great again. Again. Hugely.

No-one bothers Trump with picayune details such as the way he depresses world markets and how he is a huge drag on the global economy with his mindless trade war with China.  Or his conflict of interest in next year’s proposed venue.

Or they see no point in raising it during his bromance with Boris. Luckily, BoJo and ScoMo are also now best friends forever. “Let’s just say that we’re going to have a great relationship,” Morrison sighs after his speed-date with Boris. Our nation is overjoyed by the potential outcome of the marriage of two such uncannily alike minds.

ScoMo caps his G7 gig in Biarritz, a world first for Australia, according to the hype but only if you ignore Kevin Rudd’s presence at a G8 in Japan in 2008, with a bromide on how the G7 team should root out violent, extremist, anti- social media, (but still allow its MPs to attend extremist rallies), with a quick Dili-dally on the way home to take care of business while upstaging the 20th anniversary of Timor-Leste’s democracy. Oozing unfunded empathy, our Neo-colonial Big White Bwana, reprises his brilliant Pacific shtick. Celebration? Locals should be grateful to Australia, he suggests.

Super-ScoMo, now with added whiteness power, repeats lying rodent John Howard’s fib that Australia protected and liberated Dili from Indonesia which invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975 in an illegal, genocidal annexation, massacring 2000 Timorese in the first weeks alone in a campaign of savage brutality in which 200,000 were killed.

Morrison’s chief mission is to see Woodside, or some other capitalist-crony, still gets to rip off Timor Leste’s oil and gas reserves while warning locals about Yellow Peril 2.0. It goes over nearly as well as when our PM also tells locals Australia won’t refund $5bn in royalties, already fraudulently gained by deception by bugging Timor-Leste’s cabinet in 2004.

Whip-smart, Morrison’s charm offensive includes telling locals that his government’s secret star chamber trial of Dili bugging, whistle-blower, former ASIS agent, “Witness K” and his lawyer Bernard Collaery, a case of international espionage is “a domestic matter” . Besides, how good is democracy, truth, justice and the Quiet Australian way?

Locals know the truth. If John, “The Liberator” Howard’s pro-Jakarta government had got its way on 30 August 1999, when it let Indonesian- backed paramilitary militias punish East Timor after daring to vote for independence from Indonesia in its 30 August 1999, referendum, there would have been no democratic state of Timor-Leste for Australia’s paternalistic PM, Scott Morrison, to pat on the head this week. Yet that’s not ScoMo’s narrative.

Instead, the thoroughly postmodern, post-fact, post-truth, Trumpist Morrison government; peddles an ancient myth. Australia played a major role in that period when East Timor broke away from Indonesia. A letter from former PM John Howard and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer led to Indonesia holding the vote,” Seven mis-reports, helpfully. The story is the subtext in every photo opportunity as ScoMo happily takes credit where it most certainly is not due.

It’s pure fiction, a lie confirmed, this week, when a ruffled Downer howls down the unequivocal evidence of newly declassified US intelligence documents, published by The National Security Archive based at the George Washington University Washington which cast fresh light on Howard’s letter to B. J. Habibie, then Indonesian PM.

The US, in fact – not Howard – leaned on Jakarta to call off its dogs of war; rescuing East Timor’s independence referendum of 30 August 1999. 78.5 per cent voted for independence. Almost every East Timorese adult voted.

Brutal was Jakarta’s reprisal. Indonesian military and police forces and their local paramilitary allies retaliated with a scorched earth campaign which killed over 1,500 Timorese and displaced nearly half the population. 100,000 were forced across the border into West Timor. Much of East Timor was razed to the ground. Australia looked the other way.

Australia had no plan for peace-keeping and acted only after the US. Howard and Downer’s hopes of cleverly engineering Indonesia’s permanent incorporation of East Timor, a bogus, special autonomy ruse had failed.

There’s no apology. ScoMo soft-soaps his hosts, congratulates them on the anniversary of their independence and proffers other heavy-handed platitudes. How good is democracy? How good is the people’s voice?

How good is the secret trial of Witness K and Bernard Collaery who are currently being punished in a star chamber?

Their crime, as all of Timor-Leste’s leaders know, is that Witness K had the conscience to blow the whistle on his government’s illegal bugging, in 2004, of the, then, East Timor cabinet during negotiations in which Woodside Petroleum was going to do very nicely out of fudging a boundary that gave Australia a 50 per cent share of oil and gas resources – located 150 kilometres from Timor-Leste’s shore but 400 kilometres from Australia’s.

His hosts mostly feign a polite tolerance but local hero, former independence leader and first President of Timor-Leste,

Xanana Gusmão threatens to come to Canberra to testify in person – not that Christian Porter’s kangaroo court could cope with something as fair and just as expert testimony.

No, ScoMo says, speaking quickly, Australia won’t pay back the $5bn in gas revenue it rorted from the government of East Timor. An earlier, treaty gained Australia an unfair advantage, thanks to information obtained by the illegal bugging of East Timor cabinet meetings in Dili. The bugging was allegedly ordered by then Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer. Downer denies it. Timor Leste successfully appealed to the permanent court of arbitration in The Hague

There is nothing to be proud of historically. Despite John Howard’s claims, Australia wanted East Timor to remain Indonesian and lobbied to exclude peace-makers. Howard’s backflip was forced on him only after the US stepped in on 9 September, 1999, to halt the carnage after the 30 August referendum in which 78.5 per cent of East Timorese voted to become independent. Nor is there anything to be proud of today.

A world statesman, whose presence is now du rigueur wherever heads of state may gather, our internationally- acclaimed, but “just a normal guy”, PM disappears when he returns home to Kirribilli House right after telling reporters at the G7, he’d rather be keeping the home fires burning, some fantasy about “dealing with issues domestically”.

Dealing or dodging? Despite nation-wide protests, ScoMo has nothing to say on “The Tamil family”, as newshounds call Peter Dutton’s paramilitary Home Affairs’ latest victims, now banged up on Christmas Island, before deportation, gaol and torture in Sri Lanka. Once in Colombo, they’ll be arrested for “illegally leaving the country” – despite it being completely legal, under international law, to seek asylum. Even in boats. Sri Lanka’s human rights abuses are legion.

If world leader ScoMo knows what’s going on, he keeps it to himself – until Monday, midday, when he resurfaces to call a press briefing. Fluently, he repeats his government’s lies that Kevin Rudd was soft on borders. Labor caused children to drown. Incredibly, Richard Ferguson writes almost a verbatim account of ScoMo’s spiel in The Australian, minutes later.

Deporting the Tamil family is ScoMo’s only honourable option, he says. The PM claims his period as Immigration Minister means he cannot “in good conscience” allow the family to stay since they came by boat and have been found not to be refugees. No evidence is given; nor do Sri Lankan authorities provide a guide to who is likely to be persecuted.

Aran Mylvaganam of the Tamil Refugee Council tells The Guardian Australia that our legal system fails to investigate asylum claims. Tamil asylum seekers have no means to prove claims of persecution, yet they are still being “disappeared” in northern Sri Lanka, where the ethnic minority is under the world’s most intense military occupation.

In Mullaitivu District, a 2017 report found at least 60,000 Sri Lankan Army personnel among just over 130,322 civilians.

Sri-Lankan family, Priya and Nadesalingam and their two Australian-born children Kopika, four, and Tharunicaa, two, lived in Biloela, Queensland until Border Force put them into Melbourne detention seventeen months ago. A wave of public sympathy is joined by family man, Barnaby Joyce and noted humanitarian, Alan Jones. But look over there – suddenly, reports The Australian’s Coalition hack, Simon Benson,  “a surge” of six Sri Lankan asylum seeker boats.

Who needs evidence? ScoMo’s government works by bald assertion, the endless recycling of lies and racist dog-whistling. Borders must be enforced. It’s all a matter of national security. Sovereignty. People have to come to Australia through the front door. The Medevac Bill will be fast-tracked; repealed when parliament resumes (for two weeks) next week. But not if Jacqui Lambie’s bluster is to be believed. She wants a parliamentary inquiry to proceed as planned.

“Use your bloody manners,” Burnie blowhard, Tasmanian Senator, Jacqui Lambie milks press attention with another of her plain-speaking truth-seeking, salt-of-the earth, Senator For-Ordinary folk performances. Lambie has a solid record of walking back her rhetoric and capitulating to the government. Who knows how she’ll vote this time?

The Australian also carries another piece from Morrison’s office which states that the PM will not intervene to stop a Tamil family being deported from Australia. An “exception here or there” would only kick-start the people-smuggling trade. Yet Peter Dutton is happy to allow exceptions for au pair visitors and others. And ScoMo’s first speech as PM in August after his double, double-cross and back-stabbing of his leader, Turnbull, was a pledge to populist solidarity.

“We’re on your side because we share beliefs and values in common. As you go about everything you do each day …”

Sharing? ScoMo totally ignores thousands of people demonstrating in the streets, or those petitioning his government to show some humanity. Opinion polls – for what they worth – given an issue strewn with wanton disinformation and misunderstanding – show Australians are at best divided on the Coalition’s hard-line policy. Morrison’s government is back to the dark old days of Howard’s babies overboard, exploiting and generating division for political advantage.

Most telling is eminent criminal lawyer, Robert Richter QC’s opinion on ABC 774, that the Morrison government’s wilful neglect of the duty of care constitutes a criminal offence. Since all detention facilities are Commonwealth workplaces, the Commonwealth Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act), applies to them, across Australia and its Territories.

Above all, former Worksafe Prosecuting Solicitor Max Costello writes, section 19 imposes on workplace operators – in this context, Peter Dutton’s Department of Home Affairs – a “primary duty of care” for the health and safety of not only “workers” but also any “other persons” at the workplace – such as detainees. The relevant government agency to police the legislation is Comcare.

Whisked away to Christmas Island is two-year-old Tharunicaa, the little Tamil girl whose rotting baby teeth had to be surgically removed, a stark and compelling reminder of Peter Dutton’s department failure to provide duty of care.

Other cases are tragic. Damning. Manus asylum seeker Hamid Khazaei arrived brain dead at a Brisbane hospital in August 2014. An infected cut on his leg was not responding to treatment. He was developing blood poisoning. His airlift was delayed by the Department under then Immigration Minister Scott Morrison. Yet Comcare found no fault.

Costello reports, “Comcare’s Khazaei Inspector Report EVE00229456-0001 found “no evidence … that the [airlift] delay … was a contributing factor to the final outcome …”, and said “there were no apparent breaches of the legislation” (see Senate submission 47, pp 35–36).

Yet Queensland coroner Terry Ryan’s inquest report, 30 July 2018, concludes that the “overly bureaucratic” airlift process which involved no fewer than four levels of public servants, did, in fact, contribute to Khazaei’s death.

The department’s failure to stock the Manus clinic with Meropenem also contributed to the Iranian man’s death.

Costello cites four other cases and concludes, “If Comcare prosecuted the Department and a senior officer in, say, 2015, over alleged RPC-related offences; so that by, say, July 2016, both were found guilty, with the Department being fined $2 m and the officer jailed for 2 years, the (disgraced) offshore cruelty regime could’ve ended by, say, 1 October 2016.

If that had happened, six deaths would’ve been prevented, and the remorseless mass destruction of physical and psychological health would’ve been curtailed.

Finally, ScoMo must also keep mum about Attorney-General Christian Porter’s rip-snorting new religious discrimination draft bill which pleases neither progressives nor reactionaries and which may prove a bridge too far for our star of Dili, Pacific and European diplomacy. Or our globe-trotting PM may just be plumb tuckered out; a daggy dad with bad jet-lag. On the other hand, he’s been exceptionally ineffectual and deceptive, even by his own government’s yard-stick.

The key question is when will he and his government be held to account?

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Pell appeal verdict unleashes a perfect storm for our Tory ruling class

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Howard also wrote a glowing reference for George Pell.

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Morrison’s monumental dysfunctional Pacific “family” failure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bloody Fair Dinkum Power, Where The Hell Are You?

To me, the great thing that Scott Morrison had going for him as Treasurer was his capacity to be boring. Let’s be real, one only has to use the words “fiscal”, “nominal expenditure”, “Gross Domestic Product” and “Consumer Price Index” in the same paragraph and not only does it seem like one knows what one is doing, but most sane people are too bored to pay much attention. Certainly I don’t want the person doing my tax to sound too interesting; it makes me worried that they’re up to something.

I expected this boredom bonus to carry over once he became PM, giving Scottie a little bit of a honeymoon period, where we were comparatively content that – unlike erratic Abbott or flashy Turnbulll – we had a boringly safe pair of hands on the tiller, sailing us through the calm waters till there’s a change of government. Unfortunately, for the Liberal Party, it seems as though he’s chosen to spend his honeymoon at the Ettamogah Pub, that fictious chaotic hotel which was turned into a reality by some enterprising businessmen.  Similarly, Scott seems to want to turn us into the ficticious fifties Australia where we were all fair dinkum and there was a fair go for all… so long as you were an Anglo-saxon male.

I could overlook his use of the phrases “fair dinkum power” and “a fair go for those who have a go” if I thought they’d just slipped out in the way that your offensive uncle’s views slip out at Christmas after a few drinks. Unfortunately, they both seem to be a carefully crafted slogan and part of a marketing campaign. As such, it makes his “where the bloody hell are you campaign” for tourism seem like the epitome of good taste and intelligent marketing. While “jobs and growth” was bad enough, at least they were three words I’d heard in normal conversation this century. Stone the bloody crows, I’m waiting for him to casually drop “sheilas” into an interview about women in the Liberal Party or to tell us that the unemployment figures are just “bonza”. Yes, I’m fair dinkum about that!

“Fair dinkum power” is rather like their plan for jobs and growth. If we get fair dinkum power, it’ll be both reliable and cheaper. What’s the plan for achieving this? How do we get it? Just like jobs and growth, it’ll happen when our plan is put into place so it won’t be happening straight away, but it will happen. Similarly, I can cure your cold. Just pay me ten bucks and if your cold doesn’t clear up in the next four weeks, I”ll give you your money back. Yes, “fair dinkum power” is something that won’t occur until after the election, and it’ll only happen if you re=elect the Liberals. If you don’t, well there won’t be any fair dinkum power…. at least not for them.

The worst part of Scott Morrison is that he’s starting to get to the point where Tony Abbott is looking good. I know, I know, it’s a big call. But some of Tony’s worst captain’s calls were harmless things like knighting a duke. Yes, we all felt that Tony was like a kid playing with matches; Scott seems to be lighting them and trying to land them in the can of petrol.

Perhaps the best comparison for Scott would be Billy McMahon, a man once described as “a despicable bastard” and a “contemptible little squirt” but that was by other Liberals, Menzies and Sir Paul Hasluck. McMahon may be best remembered for his surprsingly accurate assessment of the situation when he told voters that after looking at the facts, they should vote Labor. He quickly corrected himself, but he may have been better to have stuck with his original statement.

Whatever, I suspect that the best move for the Coalition would be to go to the polls now and limit the damage. Over the next few months, I see one or more of the following things happening.

  1. The people of Wentworth grow to appreciate having an Independent who actually stands for something. They also realise that the Liberals won’t be in power after the next election and they might get more bribes from Labor if Phelps is the member, because there’s no incentive for a Labor government to do anything to help a sitting Liberal, but helping an Independent look good is one more seat the Liberals have to spend campaign funds winning back
  2. The National Party could change leaders. Even if they don’t go the full Barnaby, they may feel that they need a change because the current one has been there almost a year and they want to look like a major party.
  3. Scott Morrison will float an idea because a radio shock jock seems to think it’s a good thing. He will later get into more trouble by insisting that it’s just an idea and nothing is definite and it’s a great idea because Alan likes it and it’s just an idea and it’s worth discussing but don’t tell me there’s anything wrong with it because we don’t want to talk about it. (See the moving of the Israeli Embassy for a prototype. Even Turnbull who was sent to discuss it with Indonesia, wasn’t meant to discuss it!)
  4. Someone may actually notice the irony in outgoing minister, Simon Birmingham’s press release expressing his pride at being the longest serving Education Minister since Brendan Nelson. He was there for slightly less than three years, which is longer than your average PM, but not quite long enough to make it from one election to the next.
  5. There may be questions about whether the neo-nazis are being expelled from the National Party because they were too left wing for some in the NSW branch.
  6. Tony Abbott will say something that reminds people of why we got rid of him.
  7. Scott Morrison will say something that makes us wonder whether getting rid of Tony was really such a great idea.

Now, I’m not saying all these things will happen in the next six months. However, I suspect that if the Liberals haven’t acknowledged the trouncing they had in Wentworth, then there’s little hope for them. Yes, it’s true they can turn it around. They have in the past. But that required them to actually have a look in the mirror and say, “What are we doing wrong and how could we fix it?” While many of you may not have liked what they did, the point is that it worked electorally for them in a number of elections. For this one, they seem like a football side who are behind at three-quarter time deciding that they’ve won from this position before so there’s really no need  do anything differently – they don’t even acknowledge that they may need to try harder.

Still, I can understand why they wouldn’t want to take a look in the mirror. I mean, would you if you were going to see a reflection like that?

Scott Morrison Tells Us That The Bell Hasn’t Rung…

It was strangely ironic when Scottie told us last Saturday, “we will stand up for what we believe until the bell rings – the bell hasn’t rung.”

It was ironic because I’d been thinking that if the current government was a boxing match, the referee would surely have stopped the fight. I mean, when you have one boxer staggering around, not sure who he’s fighting, it’s clearly time to get the doctors to check him…

Although, on that basis, Abbott would have been gone years ago.

Of course, the trouble with the Liberals is that they don’t stand up for what they believe. Ok, they have a few times, but it’s been electoral suicide. Take Fightback ’93 as an example! Or Workchoices 2007, if you’re not that old.

In 1993, I wrote that the Liberals couldn’t work out what the lesson from Hewson’s loss in the unloosable election was. Ok, I wrote it on a bit of paper so I can’t find exactly what I wrote, but that simply means that – like the Liberals – I can pretend and nobody can call me out. Anyway, I remember writing that the Liberals couldn’t work out whether elections were about offering up a vision of an alternative future and if that vision was rejected, well, that’s democracy and we should change what we offer OR we take a stand on what we believe and we keep arguing for that until we bring the people along with us.

In the aftermath of ’93, they tended to explode and say things like, “We told them what we’d do and that was a mistake. We’ll never do that again!”

Ok, I’m not quoting directly, but if you want to search for quotes, I’ll bet you can find someone saying something pretty close… Actually, when I think about it, that’s pretty close to an accurate reflection of everything they’ve done since.

But back to the present…

There seems to be a strange view about the Wentworth by-election which goes something like this:

“No, we don’t need to reconsider our policies in light of the result because this is all down to one simple thing. It was a very, very silly thing to remove Malcolm as leader and that was all his fault, so we don’t need to think that maybe it was all about the policies and nobody gave a tinker’s cuss about Malcolm because clearly this was because everyone loved Malcolm but not because he seemed to want policies more in touch with the majority of Australia than the rest of us: it was personal. He was trying to push the party to the left so we got rid of him because people didn’t want that but unfortunately people didn’t realise that they didn’t want it and got angry because we got rid of this man because, well, he quit, we didn’t get rid of him…Sorry, what was the question?”

Yes, when Scott Morrison said, “This wasn’t unexpected,” on Saturday night, I had to wonder why wasn’t it? And not just because he used a double negative instead of saying, “This was expected.”  I mean, yes, if I have three glasses of scotch, finish off the bottle of wine, see how many times I can spin around and then try to climb onto a table and dance, when I fall over and do some damage, the line, “This wasn’t unexpected,” may be true for anyone that witnessed the previous ten minutes, but the people who asked me to babysit an hour or two before, would be thinking that, while the end damage wasn’t unexpected, the drinking and twirling wasn’t something that they factored in before they entrusted their child to me.

Ok, nobody, would be silly enough to let me babysit. Unless they voted Liberal where they entrusted the whole country to Scott Morrison. To be fair, at the last election they thought they were entrustring it to Malcolm, but at the previous one, they were giving Tony Abbott the keys to the Lodge…

Actually, Tony never made it to the Lodge owing to some renovations. Scott emulated John Howard and announced that he needs to be based in Sydney owing to his young family, Fair enough, I suppose, but one really shouldn’t put one’s hand up for a caretaker role and then expect to be able to work from home.

Whatever, the Wentworth by-election does make it clear that we have an entire government with about as much self-awareness as Donald Trump on LSD… Actually, Trump may have more self-awareness after dropping acid…

The Liberals have lost one of their safest seats, but they conclude it was only because they removed Turnbull as PM and they did that when he called a spill after Peter Dutton was counting the numbers and threatening to challenge. Then, after losing, Dutton’s backers assured everybody that they had the numbers. However, owing to the Finance Minister’s inability to count, the Treasurer slipped by and emerged victorious. Turnbull then did as he promised and left Parliament, leaving an unwinnable by-election because the Liberals only held it by a margin of 17%, so you’d hardly expect that not to be down to Turnbull’s personal following. No, that’s the explanation and we don’t need to consider changing any policies because Wentworth is out of step because they’re all well-off and not like the rest of Australia. No, we don’t need to change any policies…

Oh, have we mentioned we’re bringing eleven children from Nauru for health reasons. Not a change of policy. We’ve always been nice guys where people’s health is concerned…

No, there’ll be no change of policy on anything else.To quote Tony Abbott from 2014 after a few little hiccups: “Good government starts today.”

I must go and check the news to see if the rumours of a Bishop challenge are true.That’s Julie, by the way. Bronwyn’s left Parliament and she’d make a terrible PM…

Although, when I think about it, the Liberals seem to think that’s a prerequisite for the job!

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Wentworth Circus, Elephants In The Room, Jokers In The Pack And Too Many Ringmasters…

The Liberals have lost Wentworth for the first time and so the analysis begins.

We’ve already been told that Malcolm didn’t help. He should have been there, campaigning his little arse off out of gratitude that the Liberals made him PM. Ungrateful wretch.

And, in the washup, Sky News was telling us not to draw too many conclusions because Wentworth wasn’t typical of the rest of Australia…It’s one of the wealthiest suburbs and it does have a significant gay population. True enough, I suppose, but is one meant to draw the inference that other electorates have an insignificant gay population?

However, I keep coming back to a point I make over and over again. We only get to vote once every three years or so and we often make our choice based on who we think is the least worst. Our vote is sometimes the lesser of two evils, rather than a ringing endorsement of every single policy of the party we ultimately vote for. And sometimes, an electorate gets the chance to say, yes, you seem more in tune with what we actually think than either of the major parties.

It’s not that Wentworth is out of step with the rest of Australia on something like climate change. Wentworth has pretty accurately reflected the fact that most people think more should be done on climate change. It’s not that Wentworth is out of step with attitudes to LGTBI issues or children on Nauru; it’s more that the loudest conservative voices have managed to make it sound like they are speaking for the “ordinary” Australian. And it’s hard to get more ordinary than some of the people backing Peter Dutton.

Now, I always suggested that Malcolm Turnbull wasn’t all that left-wing. I know, it’s surprising that a Point Piper multimillionaire Liberal Party leader wouldn’t be an extreme socialist pushing for the overthrow of the corrupt system.  Yes, we’ve been told about leftie Malcolm, so often that we overlook the fact that most of his progressive views were consistent with the majority. Backing for the Republic, marriage equality, action on climate change. You name it, there was nothing that wasn’t a popular position. He was always positioning himself for popularity. That is, until he became Prime Minister, where his Faustian bargain left him unable to please either his party or his electorate. While it was one thing to paint Malcolm as progressive; it’s quite another to ask us to believe that a Liberal stronghold – one of its safest and most affluent seats – is a hotbed of out-of-touch elites who were simply angry at the dumping of their man.

It’s worth pointing out that they did so with the full knowledge that, unlike so many by-elections, they had the power to make the Coalition a minority government. If anything, this should have chastened them, made them more circumspet. And it’s not as though, this was a surprise like the 1999 defeat of Kennett in Victoria where people made a protest vote without any expectation that it would result in a change of government.

The electorate made a conscious decision to create a hung Parliament. But to hear Scott Morrison last night, it was all about Malcolm Turnbull, it was all about the “price” of switching leaders. But rest assured, the Liberals would rise again. (I’m sure I heard a few “hallelujahs” at this point from the crowd). Ok, perhaps not in three days, but it certainly sounded like an evangelical meeting at times. He went on to repeat his well-worn slogans of “Those who have a go, will get a go”, “The best form of welfare is a job”, “Jesus was a small businessman” and “I stopped the votes” and several other meaningless phrases, as though these had somehow helped deliver an electoral victory rather than the most embarrassing thing to happen to the Liberals in almost a week.

I guess it’s easy to be pessimistic and shake one’s head. We have a governent voting for a motion then realising that they didn’t intend to vote for it, floating ideas which are against all departmental advice, squabbling internally, considering a disgraced Barnbaby for a return to the Deputy PM role only a few months after his embarrassing admissions. And I know some of you will be worried by the assertions that this won’t flow through to the general election because of Rupert Murdoch or because the Liberals will “get away with it like they always do”.

However, I think that it’s always worth stopping and considering how many impossible things have happened. I mean, not only have the Liberals lost Wentworth – unthinkable just a few weeks ago – but they lost to an openly gay Independent. Yes, I know some of you are thinking, so what? But that’s the point. How long ago would it have been unthinkable for a candidate to have called their same sex partner up on the stage during their victory speech? If you go back to the beginning of this century it would have been talked about for weeks.

Progress may feel like two steps forward and one step back. And even, at times, the other way round. But because progress is slow, we often don’t see how far we’ve come. There’s still a long way to go, of course. For example, I was confused as to why the email suggesting that Phelps had pulled out because she had HIV was reported as being a “smear” and a “slur”. I don’t see having HIV is either of those, any more than a suggestion that she was cancelling an appearance because she had the flu. It was a nasty trick, sure, but why a “smear” as though HIV suggested something immoral about the person.

So, before the media starts talking about how terribly the Labor Party performed and tries to start leadership speculation about Shorten, let’s see this for what it is: a massive wake-up call for Scott Morrison. Unfortunately for him, his speech last night suggested he intended to just keep hitting the snooze button.

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