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Tag Archives: Tony Abbott

Australia’s Orban Sycophants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This was first published in Pearls and Irritations.

 

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A Tinpot Dictator?

When Scott John Morrison takes his Sunday fly-drive to leafy Yarralumla to visit His Excellency, David Hurley, AO, a former NSW Governor and his “captain’s pick” for GG, the jig is up; now everyone knows a federal election will be held 21 May and, sadly, the guess-the date-games must end, despite Morrison’s addiction to secrecy, quibbling and game playing. Things that help him lord it over other people.

Morrison loves evading or concealing truth as much as lying. “I just don’t care”, he tells ABC’s Annabel Crabb. It shows. Politics is mostly just a game to him. At the hint of a threat to his power, however, his game morphs instantly into Mortal Kombat.

ADF crew salute him, a Morrison idea, as our malignant narcissist-in-Chief alights Shark One, the QANTAS A330 VIP executive jet, his favourite boy’s toy, a Big Dick clubhouse with wings, done up to look like a business executive’s office suite with $250 million of public money. It’s more than PR. He loves to pretend he’s not just a sad, gutless, gas industry puppet. He’d take his jet to fetch the girls from school if he could.

Following protocol, Morrison knocks up his vice-regal manservant, low profile Governor-General, Dave Hurley to kick-start the election. It won’t be about policy, or even playing the game, it will be a rabid hyper partisan attack on Labor, especially its leader, Anthony Albanese. And pork-barrelling. While Shark One may soar, Morrison’s politicking plumbs the depths of the lowest gutter.

In a damaging flashback, former rival for Cook, Michael Towke, pops up to accuse Morrison of racism. Towke accuses the PM of resorting to “racial vilification” to overturn the initial ballot which Towke won convincingly. Morrison allegedly insinuated that Cook’s voters wouldn’t accept a Lebanese Australian candidate.

“At the time [in 2007] he was desperate, and it suited him to play the race card,” Towke tells The Project’s Waleed Aly,

By remarkable coincidence, during the 2004 federal campaign, when Morrison was state director of the Liberal Party, racist tactics were used against Labor candidate for Greenway, Ed Husic, not a practising Muslim.

A day before the election, a fake ALP brochure was distributed in Greenaway. “Ed Husic is a devout Muslim. Ed is working hard to get a better deal for Islam”.

Morrison wins no friends by leaving his GG call to the last possible moment – but that’s his trademark. He’d be late to his own (political) funeral. As events may prove, given the way he’s alienated women across the nation and more than a few in the Liberal branch of NSW, once a powerhouse the Coalition hoped might counter losses in other states.

Then there’s the pandemic failure. Going AWOL during the bushfires. The submarine fiasco which cost us at least $5.5 billion. The trade war with China that’s helping ruin our export trade and a fair bit of tertiary education. Morrison’s list of failures is huge.

Loyal Deputy Barnaby Thomas Gerard Joyce keeps the faith, however, if only with his followers who count on him to pick a winner. In a sensational leaked text from the Nationals’ leader composed in March 2021, Joyce confides that he does not “get along” with Morrison.

“He is a hypocrite and a liar from my observations and that is over a long time. have never trusted him, and I dislike how earnestly [he] rearranges the truth to a lie.”

A High Court challenge mounted by Matthew Camenzuli, from Parramatta, an IT mogul from the NSW Liberal conservative faction, aligned with former Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells slows things up but, here, Morrison’s only himself to blame. Getting his envoy, Alex Hawke to stall and delay local pre-selection meetings until the Federal executive would have to step in has not endeared him to everyone in the NSW branch nor nationally. Hawke is widely reviled.

Many Liberals resent his high-handed intervention in branch pre-selection. Retiring senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, stiffed for a winnable place on the ticket, calls Morrison a tyrant and a fraud who hides behind the façade of his church-going.

Others accuse him of remaking the party in his own image. Departing NSW Liberal, Catherine Cusack, joins a swelling chorus of women in Liberal politics who call Morrison a bully. He’s “ruined” the Liberal party, she says. She will not vote for him or the party at the federal election.

If you can’t run a Liberal branch, how can you run the country?

But there’s a ray of hope for ScoMo. Camenzuli’s lawyers fail to overrule Morrison’s intervention to save Environment Minister Sussan Ley, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke and North Sydney MP Trent Zimmerman from a local preselection battle that could threaten their political futures. Camenzuli sought an injunction to block the preselection of nine Liberal candidates which would bar the party from printing their names on the ballot paper.

Keeping everyone else waiting while he gets his act together gives Morrison time to win his high-stakes game. Pick his favourites. Remake the party in his own image. Above all it gets him attention. Forget the daggy dad act. This PM is a ruthless Machievallian.

Will he pull the fat out of the fire? Critics of our PM’s self-abrogating demeanour still decry the way Morrison hogged the show at last January’s Australia Day awards ceremony. Worse, Grace Tame was threatened by someone from the Office. Women vote. They won’t forgive or forget the Morrison government’s record of sexism and misogyny. Nor will they overlook the spate of Liberal women who have recently spoken out against him.

Former commercial rose-grower, Minister for Family Service and manager of government business in the senate, Anne Ruston, Minister for Women’s Safety, fails her first real test. Who threatened Grace Tame? The former Australian of the year used a Press Club Address to explain that someone from “a government-funded organisation” rang to tell Tame she must not say anything “damning” about Morrison so close to an election.

Mystified. Jane Hume adds a bit of hand-wringing. We don’t even know if it were a man or a woman, she wails. Clearly, no-one’s tried very hard to find out. Tame says that she’d prefer that the person who felt they needed to make the call should out themselves. An investigation into the call is “the very same embedded structural silencing culture that drove the call in the first place and misses the point entirely. It’s not about the person who made the call, it’s the fact that they felt like they had to do it”, Tame explains.

It’s sexism; the age-old gendered response of doubting and discrediting the victim’s story when the victim is a woman. But it’s no vote winner for over half the population.

Yet the PM seems happy. Morrison promotes Ruston to Liberal Campaign Spokeswoman. Her Labor counterpart, Katy Gallagher will not give up on women so readily.

But look over there – how good is our invisible Governor General? A big gig every three years, if only to help a PM call a fresh election or witness signatures whenever Ministers are appointed. Morrison loves pomp and ceremony. It adds a legitimacy he craves and a distraction he badly needs. Dave Hurley’s happy. He’s hoping to win a trifecta.

The Governor General’s hazy job profile makes Morrison appear almost industrious by contrast. Being GG, on the other hand, keeps you busier than “the arts” or in tertiary education, both spurned by Frydenberg in JobKeeper, despite his forty billion dollar (Joe Aston calculates) windfall, for businesses in profit despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Fan-boy Greg Jennett, a Tarzan of adulation, if not fatal attraction to the PM, and Jane Norman, the John and Betty of ABC afternoon political television, become a hot mess of running commentary on the twenty minute meeting, breathlessly spilling the beans on such essentials as Morrison’s coffee with the Governor General.

Greg and Jane kindly remind us that Yarralumla sits in 58 hectares of Canberra prime real estate, in case we miss how the trappings of office are lavished on our ruling class, while others die of malnourishment, neglect and the latest mutant strain of coronavirus in “aged care facilities” a gulag of misery where our poor, wretched, vulnerable elders pass their final days in a fog of antipsychotics in state subsidised granny farms staffed by some of the lowest paid, most highly casualised workers in Australia.

The Coalition’s Aged Care Act 1997, ushered in a flood of private investment in the exploitation and commodification of the elderly. Private equity firms, new foreign investors, superannuation and property real estate investment trusts “entered the residential aged care market.” Data on residents’ safety and wellbeing must be kept top secret.

Our current aged care crisis stems from Howard’s Aged Care Act, writes Dr Sarah Russell. His government subsidised private health insurance is still helping scupper Medicare.

Amazingly, Dave, a spry 68 year-old corporate state welfare beneficiary with all his own teeth, is at Yarralumla this weekend and not entertaining Prince Andrew, who’s been known to slip in, sans fanfare, for a quick visit, as he did in 2018, to promote Pitch@Palace, his matchmaking of investors and corporate partners with startup companies. Now it’s wound up after Andy’s misadventures with underage women abroad, stories which his mother, Queen Elizabeth II refuses to believe, preferring the much more plausible “I was at Beatrice’s Birthday at Woking Pizza Express” alibi.

Pitch generated £1.345 million in economic activity, 6,323 jobs and 39% of its winners were women. Andy did quite well, too. Pitch@Palace Global Ltd, the private company set up to run the events, had a clause in its terms and conditions about its entitlement to a 2% equity share for three years for any company that went through its program.

Other royals also are put up at Admiralty House, the GG’s other historic pad on Sydney harbour with ten bedrooms enjoying views of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Hosting VIPs keeps the Hurleys busy. Then there’s Linda’s staff singalongs.

And her serenades. The Guardian Australia reports Hurley wandering betwixt tables of war widows (average age 81, according to Dave), microphone in hand, leading them in song over cucumber and smoked salmon sandwiches. Bit of dill with that, dearie?

“You are my sunshine” is the unofficial vice-regal national anthem – but only the chorus. The verses are a bit downbeat if you Google them. Don’t try this at home.

A staff of seventy-six don’t just run themselves and there’s travel involved in GG. All adds up. Representing HM at home and Australia overseas costs a million a year.

But the nation has to look after its investment. Hurley’s annual salary is around half a million. Of course, a governor general does get a generous pension scheme with that.

As Morrison arrives, his white BMW 7 Series Prime Ministerial limousine with AFP escort ghosting up the long drive, Dave’s lurking purposefully near the entrance to Yarralumla, a “colonial revival” pile set in what remains of an historic sheep station.

The property retains the original shearing shed atop a tumulus of a century and a half of merino droppings. A heritage overlay of decaying sheep shit is a fitting tribute to the types who led the colonial frontier wars waged by European imperial invaders on indigenous Australians in the name of the same British Crown that Governor-General Hurley represents.

The GG has his Mont Blanc Meisterstück Gold-Coated Fountain Pen uncapped, ready to sign a chit to let Morrison dissolve parliament and call a federal general election, a minefield of lies, furphies, turpitude and gratuitous character assassination which our GG can avoid entirely by express permission of the electoral commission. But he does get to look on.

A federal election campaign is a made for TV event just like Master Chef or Hard Quiz or The Melbourne Cup and corporate media regale us with the day’s political stunts.

There’s a scorecard on performance in The Herald Sun and The Daily Telegraph and The Australian as in any horse race commentary. Tallying up the pratfalls displaces any more insightful commentary on commercial TV – Buckminster Fuller’s “bubblegum for the eyes”.

Analysis of issues and policies is supplanted by spectacle and mindless Vox Pops. In a rare departure, this year, however, the Sydney Morning Herald takes Morrison to task for his broken promise over a federal ICAC. Attempting to blame Labor doesn’t pass the pub test.

Imagine if Dave Hurley were to put his mouth where his money is. Our GG, would refuse Morrison permission to hold an election. Nope, ScoMo you’ve abused the trust of the Australian people. Piss off back to Bronte and stop wasting my time.

If only. A relic of colonial rule, a GG hasn’t colluded with the judiciary and The Palace to remove a PM since Whitlam, but it pays to keep him on side and avoid bagging Pine Gap, 16 km south west of Alice Springs, the eyes and ears of the US military, since it went on line in 1969. One of its uses is to provide information to aim drones.

If there’s a moral problem with hosting an outfit which is staffed largely by employees of Boeing Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics – along with niche companies that work exclusively for the CIA and NRO, such as Leidos, Scitor and Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) our government doesn’t see it. Put simply, we host companies who profit from war and enable them to collect the data they need to make war.

In fascinating technological updates the satellites have multiplied to at least thirty-eight, which have the capacity to monitor everything from your text message to Dominos to thermal evidence of Chinese hypersonic missile launches. All of this vastly increases our value as a nuclear target. It could give us leverage in a more equal relationship with the US but given our lickspittle foreign policy don’t hold your breath.

Above all, Pine Gap makes Australia complicit in war crimes. Last December, the New York Times lists over 1300 reports of civilian casualties since 2014. Many are children, in wars that the US portrays as being waged by all-seeing drones and precision bombs.

Yet, ‘American air wars in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan have been plagued by deeply flawed intelligence, rushed and often imprecise targeting, thousands of civilian deaths – with scant accountability.”

But does our GG task our PM with this problem? Nope. Dave’s famous for his saying “the standard we walk by is the standard we accept”. He’s a big fan of ethical leadership, a political oxymoron “borrowed” by David Morrison in a sermon on another unicorn, gender equality in the army. Dave M later confesses on Q&A he’s “pinched” the line.

The PM just loves Dave H and the whole vibe of the ethical leader thing, which like cleanliness, is next to godliness and getting professionally photographed at a Hillsong service, eyes wide shut. Photographed? At least one former member of the parliament has read her King James Bible,

“And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites. are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and. in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men.”

“His actions conflict with his portrayal as a man of faith; he has used his so-called faith as a marketing advantage,” says senator Concetta Fieravanti-Wells.

Federal Election 2022 is to be a forty-one day endurance event, not simply in order to dazzles us with hi-viz photo-opportunities, vapid talking points, or disgruntled punters in pubs, but to buy time, a gamble given incumbents generally decline in popularity over a long campaign. Opinion polls predict a Coalition defeat, Liberal/National 34%, ALP 36%. -7% swing against the Coalition but just a 2.6% swing in favour of the ALP

Perhaps, like Mr Micawber, Morrison is hoping something will turn up. As it does. Albo doesn’t know what the cash rate is and he can’t recite the official unemployment rate.

Of course there’s outcry from the usual suspects,“Unfit to be PM,” decrees Murdoch’s top toadie, Terry McCrann in the expatriate billionaire’s Australian, while AFR, shocker, Phil Coorey gasps “A horror,” leaving Professor Judith Sloan, alone, to hype the Labor leader’s howler into his “Party’s complete misunderstanding of the jobs figures”.

Seriously? Even John Howard who failed the same gotcha in ‘07 is underwhelmed. Babies Overboard Howard bobs up in WA to spare Morrison getting the bum’s rush. Again. Abbott has Covid. Or he’d be there with (bicycle) bells on. Don’t discount a late showing.

True, the Man of Steel’s got other things on his mind like minding Ken Wyatt in Hasluck – it’s not so long ago that Joe Aston had word Kenneth might defect to Labor.

And Swan’s Kristy McSweeney is busted misquoting herself on how if you can’t tell a bloke from a sheila just walking down the street, you probably shouldn’t be aiming for Canberra.

Is that a serious question? Okay, well Anthony Albanese didn’t know the unemployment rate. So what?”

Morrison’s first gaffe is a big one. He fudges when asked whether Alan Tudge, guardian of the curriculum from the left-wing, is currently education minister – (a Tudge of class?)

His reply that Al is “technically” still in cabinet is at odds with earlier assurances that he’d resigned. Of course, this could be merely another Morrison lie, but it does seem to be a clumsy attempt to divert press from a half million payout to former staffer Rachelle Miller which fails to keep the (unconsummated) affair off the front page.

First up, Tudge claims, “we never had sex.” They were “intimate” four times; sleeping naked together but there was no funny business. Sounds very plausible.

The minister without portfolio may be inspired by Gandhi’s tales of sleeping naked with young women who also took their clothes off just to test his chastity.

With Tudge mounting such an impregnable defence, it is little wonder that Morrison has had to pivot on his earlier version of events in which the Education Minister had surrendered his portfolio for his own sake.

No point asking why Miller was paid “well over $500,000”, if nothing untoward transpired between minister and media adviser. $500,000 is the sum whispered to have been his payout when Morrison himself was sacked as head of Tourism Australia citing irreconcilable differences with boss, Fran Bailey amidst claims tendering processes were not adhered to.

As for any ministerial code violation, the non-bonking occurred before the advent of Morrison’s code. Yet Miller was promoted while in an intimate relationship with her boss. The PM is OK with that. Yet Miller wants the details released. Samantha Maiden reports that legal costs in six figures are also to be paid by the Morrison government.

“He has chosen for the sake of his health and his family for a period of time to stand aside from the ministry,” Morrison claims.

“But here’s been no other education minister sworn in, no-one went out to the Governor-General, we’re very transparent about all of that.”

Morrison is creating an issue for himself in refusing Miller’s request that he release details. Unwisely.

Moonlighting as Education Minister, albeit unsworn, is Stuart “Rolex” Robert, the PM’s prayer partner, a tricky phrase now, given recent whistle-blower revelations that senior Liberal Party figures abuse the parliamentary prayer room for congress of a baser nature.

None of the parties implicated: MP Tim Wilson, former defence minister Christopher Pyne and others, or the investigating law firm Sparke Helmore, even try to rebut the story, notes Michael West. Give it time.

More of a problem to his own side than any scandal involving rent boys plying their trade in consecrated space within the House is Mendacity Morrison’s contempt for democracy and his addiction to micromanagement.

Notorious for his pledges that never eventuate, the PM is now hated by NSW Liberals for being too “hands on”.

Former Cook MP, Stephen Mutch, a self-styled moderate who credits himself with inventing the term if not founding the group, calls Scotty a “tinpot dictator” for riding rough-shod over democratic local branch pre-selection processes, to choose his own candidates for key NSW seats. Mutch is shocked at the way the moderate minority now runs the branch.

“Over decades … I saw how the faction changed from a relatively informal group of friends with a fair degree of collective decision-making into a more formalised operation run by politicians, staffers and some party activists,” Mutch tells The Saturday Paper.

As the former moderate explains, the moderates became more high-handed, serving the personalised agendas of a few at the top. Later, the faction morphed into “a professionalised, essentially privatised operation, run by a small coterie of business lobbyists.”

Which is where we are today.

All is not lost, however. Scotty is still a useful tool to the fossil fuel lobby, an old mate of Big Mining and our media oligopoly, Rupert, Kerry and tagalong Peter along with other shonks, shills and big-shots in Australia’s oligarchy.

But just to nip it in the bud, a few of his man-servants in the PMO, big up Morrison with Bushmasters and coal, while Rio shows it hasn’t blown up all its moral high ground along with the 46,000-year-old rock shelters at Juukan Gorge, by taking over RUSAL’s twenty per cent share in QAL’s aluminium smelter, in response to Russia’s attempt to obliterate Ukraine. That’s fixed Putin’s wagon.

How good is a Morrison government which struts the world like a colossus, punching above its weight? Shirt-fronting Putin. “Keeping Australia Safe” is not just hairy-chested electioneering or the Crosby-Textor textbook stunt of creating an external threat tactic.

Nor is this self-interested opportunism by Morrison’s omnishambles of a government plumbing record lows in all the opinion polls. Throw another dead cat on the table. We are the hawks of AUKUS keepers of the sacred flame of the temple of the rules-based order to which Australia, as US deputy Marshall, is so solemnly and selflessly pledged.

Not only does ScoMo continue to wow the international community with his statesmanship, he buys seventy thousand tonnes of Whitehaven coal which the big Liberal donor can’t sell, it’s still sitting in Newcastle until a hapless crew is press ganged into taking it to Odessa, currently in range of Russian rocketry, and on to Ukraine.

True, he’s copped a few shockers recently, including that’s just the price of decisive leadership. OK he may be “a complete psycho”, a “hypocrite and a liar “a fraud” to his own team, but a clutch of Liberal women, his “crumb maidens” as Amy Remeikis calls the women who support Morrison’s patriarchy for scant reward, step forward to back up his latest claim that his high-handed intervention in NSW politics stems from his unbridled feminism and his need to step in to protect a few good women.

It’s farcical, writes The Monthly’s Rachel Withers that Morrison can claim that he stood up for women in an intervention intended to save the seats of two men and woman.

Is he all fake religion and no moral compass? Morrison simply cannot be trusted, warns Fierravanti-Wells who is dropped to an unelectable spot on the Liberal senate ticket in favour of party apparatchik, Marise Payne, in number one spot for time-serving, with another former army officer, Jim Molan, butcher of Fallujah, in at number three.

It’s already turning nasty: in second spot is Nationals’ top NSW Senate candidate, Ross Cadell, another Nat in a hat, who threatens to “drop shit” on the party’s Hunter candidate James Thomson in a public row at Warners Bay Hippo Espresso cafe 20km south of Newcastle, if Thommo does not redistribute $120,000 in donations.

You can see why Cadell has beaten the venerable, born-again John Anderson, Joyce’s mentor, a man with a Big Mining background as well as a former Nationals leader.

“While professing to be a man of faith,” the retiring senator says, sporting a huge crucifix in her bitter Goodbye To All That speech, he is “adept at running with the foxes and hunting with the hounds, lacking a moral compass and having no conscience”.

Don’t hold yourself back, Connie. (As Morrison and his team insist on belittling the former Liberal senator, much as the PM does with “Grace” and “Brittany”.)

Team Morrison rushes to point out that hell hath no fury like a NSW senator relegated on the ballot paper. Connie’s just disappointed. A pile-on of other furious colleagues ensues, including much of the NSW Liberal Party. But ScoMo, a work of performance art in progress, won’t let a few dud reviews put him off his game.

Good Friday, Morrison tells national media how Jen and the girls go to church at Easter. Albo, Tony Abbott and 5000 others also attend Sydney’s Maronite Christian Mass. Easter is a time of hope he says, while claiming on national TV, religion is such a personal thing for him.

But there’s revived interest in how the PM deposed Lebanese-Australian and Maronite Christian Michael Towke in a dirty bid for pre-selection in Cook in 2007. So Morrison chooses a service in Victoria at Syndal Baptist Church with Gladys Liu MP, who failed to disclose her links with the Chinese government before preselection in Chisholm, a marginal Liberal seat.

There were also issues with an undisclosed donation to the Liberals of $37,000, together with questions as to how exactly the MP raised a million dollars for the party.

But Easter is a time of hope. No doubt Dave gives Scott a few pointers on the PM’s integrity commission model. Its architect, former Attorney-General, Christian Porter resigned over an anonymous donation or blind trust he’d accepted to pay his legal fees in a defamation case against ABC investigative journalist, Louise Milligan, a case he abandoned.

Ethical leadership is costly. The PM spends big money to get his own way in a high stakes poker game which goes right to the High Court over whether he can override local branches’ preferences in Liberal preselection in NSW. Chief Justice, Susan Kiefel says he can.

Not that Morrison gives a toss. It’s our money he’s spending. Has there ever been a bigger spending, higher taxing government? But the political cost of alienating so many NSW Liberals is huge. It’s already undone him in Warringah where his transphobic captain’s pick, Katharine Deves, proves a dud, with her social media post about “surgical mutilation”.

Having the arrogance to believe you know best and bypassing the local democratic process (with a bit of help from Premier Perrottet) leads to a poor choice?

Who’d have known?

Anti-trans activism could derail the Coalition’s election campaign. It triggers a pivot. Morrison backflips on his plan to dog whistle prejudice, intolerance and ignorance. He withdraws his support from Tassie Senator Claire Chandler’s bill banning transgender women from playing women’s sports, after he cops flak from Liberal “moderates” and independents.

Incredibly, the PM lies about why he pulls rank on NSW pre-selectors. The “menacing controlling wall-paper”, as former Liberal MP Julia Banks calls him, pretends to ABC 7:30 he’s a knight in shining armour rescuing women from “factions” whom he leaves unnamed, as if he’s just being protective; one of his most outrageous lies to date.

“Sussan Ley, one of my finest cabinet ministers and one of our most successful women members of parliament, was under threat. She was under threat from factions within the Liberal Party and I decided to stand up to it,” Morrison says.

“I’m very serious about having great women in my ranks…Fiona Martin was another.”

But Julia Banks tells a different story. “It was the three months of Morrison’s leadership that … was definitely the most gut-wrenching, distressing period of my entire career.”

Morrison an advocate for women? It’s risible and – as The Monthly’s Rachel Withers notes, it’s insulting to women.

“The claim is laughable. If there’s anyone Morrison was trying to save it was factional consigliore Alex Hawke in the seat of Mitchell, and his overarching aim was to maintain control of the numbers in the party. At the end of the day, the only person Scott Morrison truly stands up for is Scott Morrison.”

 

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Morrison’s Coup De Grâce

“Human beings are social beings, who need to be able to rely on each other. That requires trust, and trust requires truth-telling.” (Quassim Cassam).

Grace Tame looks daggers as the PM fakes cordiality and avuncular affability for the camera. A black belt in subterfuge, deception and betrayal, ScoMo™ has also mastered the dark political art of baring his top teeth whilst feigning conviviality, positively radiating goodwill and patent insincerity. His office invites 2022 finalists for Australian of the Year for a cup of tea and photo opportunity at The Lodge, his Canberra pad – on occasions when his main place of residence Kirribilli doesn’t suit.

It also sets ScoMo™ up to pretend to Brisbane 4BC, later, that Ms Tame’s an ingrate who’s abused his hospitality whilst he and Jen have invited her into their own home. A farrago of lies of course. Passive-aggressive and patronising, he diminishes and demeans her.

“Grace is a passionate person who’s raised important issues. She’s had a terrible life ordeal, you know, things happen to her, her ordeals, the abuse. It’s just awful.”

Back at the Lodge, Morrison’s toothy rictus evokes the look he had for press gallery cameras just before he knifed Malcolm Turnbull in August 2018, declaring “this is my leader and I’m ambitious for him.”

With no policy achievements and a catastrophic failure to protect us from the pandemic, The Coalition knows the election campaign must be a horse race between ScoMo™ and Albo. Of course, as Paul Bongiorno warns, the Coalition may hold the half senate election in May as it is obliged to. Leave the lower house until September. Punt on the pandemic receding. But odds are long.

For now, it’s character. Whom do you prefer? And therein lies the problem. As Laura Tingle implies, whilst Murdoch’s claque is busy with the myth that we don’t know who Albo is, Faux-Mo’s problem, as a public figure made entirely of smirk and mirrors, is that we do know who he is.

Tame’s face, moreover, evokes some of the ways we know, notes Laura Tingle:

“… other unfortunate handshaking incidents during the bushfires; the excruciating moment when banking royal commissioner Justice Kenneth Hayne refused to be part of Josh Frydenberg’s photo opportunity by shaking hands and smiling with him; the widely circulated photo of Scott Morrison looking at his phone in the Parliament, having turned his back on Labor’s Tanya Plibersek as she addressed him across the chamber.”

There are many others. It’s Cobargo 2.0. Cue the NSW south coast, destroyed by freak bushfire fanned by his government’s policies of climate change denial. Local mother, Zoey asks questions only to have the PM turn his back and walk away from her in early January 2020.

“I have lost everything I own,” Zoey says in a social media post, with footage of the destruction. “My house is burnt to the ground and the prime minister turned his back on me.”

Given his government treats women as second-class citizens and worse, Ms Tame is in no frame of mind to be called into Morrison’s shonky photo-op. Be compromised. She’s brave. On cue, boys’ club commentators and big swinging dick club apologists, rush to attack her display of integrity.

“Sourpuss” sneers Miranda Devine. The News Limited flack, currently based in New York, accuses “Graceless” Tame of “ignorance, petulance” and “churlishness”. And a great deal more.

Morrison is “a leader of a middle power”, Devine ventures, as well as “our elected representative” who is owed respect for his high office alone, a gibe based on a lie about how we choose our PM, whilst she claims a former Australian of the Year (AOTY) is just an ambassador for a specific cause.

The “historic” Lodge also is defiled in Devine’s view. Sacrilege? Clearly, in the next phase of Murdoch’s Americanisation of our politics, it will be sacred. Our White House. A sacred shrine.

Devine’s rant in The Daily Telegraph, also trashes AOTY in a swinging denunciation, a hatchet job worthy of a PMO in full campaign mode. She dog-whistles culture warriors and the hard right.

“The AOTY is rarely representative of the Australian people but instead caters to a tiny base of Twitter brokens obsessed with prosecuting boutique ideological issues borrowed from overseas, usually to do with identity politics, “existential” climate alarm, the evil patriarchy, “toxic masculinity” and “systemic” racism.

Even if the AOTY were to start off as a normal person, by the end of their year in the spotlight they will have been thoroughly shaped into a left-wing activist by the media.”

“Ungracious”, Professor Peter Van Onselen also puns on her name, “rude” and “childish”. James McGrath, dropped in 2008 from Team BoJo for his comments in The Spectator calling African-Caribbean immigrants, “picaninnies” weighs in with “partisan, political and childish.”

There’s much more in this vein but a wave of approval far outweighs the sexist carping and character assassination, rejects Devine’s grotesque exaltation of our least trustworthy PM into an iconic national leader. Devine claims that to snub ScoMo is to insult the Australian people.

Most observers applaud Tame’s integrity. And how would Murdoch’s partisan hacks know what integrity looks like? ScoMo represents everything Ms Tame opposes. Such a pile-on, does, however, suggest a PMO aware that Tame is a major threat to their campaign to re-elect Morrison. A shonky product, which never really passed the sniff test, now smells well past its use-by date.

Perhaps Tame recalls ScoMo™’s office leaking against Brittany Higgins’ partner, David Sharaz. Or Chief of Staff John Kunkel’s “review” that found he was “not in a position to make a finding that the alleged activity took place”. (Sue Gray, take note for your Boris’ knees-up report.)

A helpless young woman is allegedly raped near his office, but the PM doesn’t know, let alone take any responsibility. God forefend he owes any duty of care. Or honesty.

But Morrison’s lies are world-renowned, largely thanks to Emmanuel Macron, and, for him, everything is someone else’s responsibility.

Almost. He’s a dab hand at captain’s calls and gratuitous cruelty. His appointing Amanda Stoker as Marise Payne’s underling, assistant Minister for Women to an invisible Minister for Women looks like an act of sadistic revenge.

The Queensland senator supported a “fake rape crisis tour” that inflicted great suffering on survivors, such as Ms Tame.

Or is it his failure to provide a safe workplace? Tame may have had in mind, Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins’ finding that sexual harassment and assault were so pervasive in Parliament with its toxic workplace culture that, “women told us they felt ‘lucky’ if they had not directly experienced sexual harassment and assault.”

Who’d want to shake the hand of a PM who pats women on the head and tells the nation “we are dealing with this as no other government has done before”?

Saying “she’s had a terrible life” is the most condescending, ignorant & utterly disempowering comment to make about Grace Tame.

Grace’s whole message is that as survivors, we are not defined by our experiences of sexual violence,” tweets Nina Funnell who worked with Grace Tame on her original campaign #LetHerSpeak,

ScoMo’s government’s record is of evasion, inaction, lies and leaking against victims and their families. Contempt is only part of its orchestrated disempowerment of women.

Dealing with? Jenkins, in a separate process, recommends imposing a duty of care on employers to stamp out sexual harassment – only to have this rejected by the Morrison government.

Senator Jenny McAllister reminds us that, in 2013, Tony Abbott appointed himself Minister for Women. Eight years later, the contempt continues. ScoMo says women who march on parliament to publicly call for justice, equality and safety are lucky not to be shot. He snubs them anyway.

“This is a vibrant liberal democracy, Mr Speaker, not far from here, such marches, even now, are being met with bullets, but not here in this country, Mr Speaker,” Morrison says to boos, jeers and looks of total incredulity.

Why should Ms Tame, a passionate advocate for victims of sexual violence compromise everything she stands for by being a prop in the PM’s propaganda photo? Even in his words to those invited to the Lodge, ScoMo acknowledges Tame’s engagement to her fiancé, Max Heerey, not her work.

As with his struggle to understand that rape is a crime, ScoMo might need his Jen to clarify his slight – on all women. He’ll have plenty of time after May. Or September, should he take the punt.

Labor’s Jenny McAllister does acknowledge Grace Tame’s work, “together with other survivor advocates, she has driven a lasting national conversation about the treatment of women, and the prevalence of physical, emotional and sexual violence against women and children.”

It’s the eve of Invasion Day or ‘Straya Day as Morrison’s Ocker avatar outside The Lodge would have it. ScoMo’s™ moved on, prompted by focus groups. Sixty per cent of Australians support a change of date, according to a Guardian Essential Poll, taken a few days ago. Meanwhile, his commentary shifts to that of some didactic voiceover to a whitewashing of war and dispossession.

“A story,” he pens for Nine’s claque, mustering his typical fog of abstraction, cluttered with buzzwords and double-speak, “of strength and resilience that spans 65,000 years, of a continent that we love and contend with, and of a free and fair people who live in relative harmony.”

“Remarkable” would have been better than “relative”. And speaking of relatives, Morrison’s great-great-aunt, utopian socialist, poet and former Paraguayan commune member (in 1896), Mary Gilmore, a Dame who wrote for a communist newspaper, would turn in her grave.

Yet only his pet rag, The Daily Telegraph, runs the line that “the arrival in Australia of the First Fleet in 1788 was the initial step towards multiculturalism.” Shades of Tony Abbott’s defining moment.

Grace Tame’s “side-eye” defines our times. Why collude in a photo-op to normalise our criminally, negligent MPs with their hands in the till or doing favours for rich mates? Why approve of skiving off to Hawaii, padding travel allowances or taking a few days off to watch the cricket. Sam Maiden reports Tim Wilson Liberal MP Tim Wilson leaves Victoria for 95 nights, charging taxpayers $37k.

A vibrant liberal democracy does not normalise corruption while it disenfranchises women, the aged, the poor and first nations. It is not a regime of coercive control by old white men that opposes constitutional recognition of first peoples and rejects The Uluru Statement from the Heart.

A voice to parliament enshrined in the Constitution is not only long overdue, it would also enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to provide advice to the Parliament on policies and projects that impact their lives. Instead, ScoMo™ & Co. come up with a co-design report. What does it do? It sets up further consultations to establish regional and local voices.

“The only thing the government has managed to achieve is more delays and more processes. What the government is proposing gives the Voice no security. They even banned their co-design committee from speaking about constitutional recognition,” Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney calls out the time-wasting duplicity inherent in the process.

Why help normalise a clown? The PM’s “vibrant liberal democracy” allows Clive Palmer to boast he’ll outspend his $93m last election, lying about Labor’s policies. Paul Bongiorno reports Labor strategists who call out Australia’s Clown Prince of Politics for what he is – a way of extending the Liberals’ media campaign budget, which, scandalously, remains uncapped.

“He’s a Liberal and will shovel votes back to them at the end of the day.”

Bongiorno is outraged:

“…the government has done nothing to contain the obscenity of a billionaire being able to distort the democratic political contest in such a blatant way.”

Australia’s reputation for corruption is at its lowest level since ratings began in 1995, reports Transparency International. Morrison’s Covid Commission is a sterling example. A mob assembled by the PM, ostensibly for Covid crisis management turns out to be a gas industry support group.

The scandal of our RATs instant millionaires is another.

Pandemic rages, with at least ninety-eight deaths, Friday, as a government, “getting out of peoples’ lives,” stops sitting on its hands only to point the finger of blame.

Omicron spreads to more than 700 aged-care homes, Rachel Withers reports for The Monthly. Staff struggle to cope in over half of all facilities in NSW. A grieving daughter tells SBS News that her father died of COVID-19 alone in his locked-down aged-care home, while waiting for an overdue booster shot, on the day after Aged Care Minister Colbeck takes three days off to watch a cricket game. Morrison defends Colbeck by telling us we don’t know how hard the Minister works.

Lives have been lost but Colbeck will “take this on the chin,” he adds obliquely. Accountability is not part of his vocabulary. An incompetent spared, ScoMo hopes is a future ally; bound to him in gratitude.

Students will return to school so parents can get back to work. Teachers are put at risk and their value impugned by being seen solely as babysitters in a post-industrial society. And expendable. Vulnerable retired teachers and inexperienced graduates are said to be ready to fill the gaps.

It’s an era of personal responsibility, ScoMo and Perrottet claim. But just try to buy a RAT. Unless you happen to be Motion One, a firm run out of a two-roomed apartment in Sydney’s Elizabeth Bay where Pilates franchise CEO, Austyn Campbell secures a $26 million contract to import RATs.

She flogs them online for $12.50. Identical tests are purchased by importers and sold to Australian retailers for as little as $5 per unit.

A former Liberal Party “digital strategist”, Campbell runs a communications firm, Agenda C, with Parnell Palme McGuiness, another lucky punter who’s also done work for the Liberal Party.

Also doing nicely is Julie Bishop’s beau, David Panton, formerly an all-night chemist in Mornington, Victoria, who with his daughters runs Pantonic, a pharmaceutical supply company. Tests start at $11.

Will it be a RAT-led economic recovery? An overvalued stock market totters, tech stocks shedding value first – Barnaby fan, Georgina Hope Rinehart gets a gong for services to mining, community and sport, just before she’s declared an Olympic sponsor.

Hang on. Help is on its way from BoJo.

So touching to discover that the mother country still loves her delinquent ex-colony. Or not so ex.

Thank God, Queen and her palace that John Kerr, her GG could keep the con in our constitutional monarchy as we were weaning ourselves off the breast of empire, onto a neo-colonial formula.

Our co-dependence helps us feel relaxed and comfortable about the capitulation of national sovereignty that is AUKUS, a pact yet to be defined, but which has a very colonial nostalgia vibe.

Not everyone loves Kerr. A ”rorty old, farting Falstaff …” an elderly lizard” is Patrick White’s vivid impressions of the Governor-General, a respected jurist and former Chief Justice of the NSW Supreme Court, who invoked his “reserve powers” to dismiss Whitlam’s Labor government in 1975, to the immense good fortune of Liberal Malcolm Fraser, a Western Districts grazier. How we miss such giants.

Mal is the last farmer to become Prime Minister, something the Nats have never got over and the only PM to visit to a seedy Memphis hotel, only to lose his trousers – just one leg of which, could be pressed into service as a shroud for his chief legacy, his treasurer. John Winston Howard, monarchist, devout Neoliberal and US lickspittle, who did so much to dash the hopes of voters who sought enlightened, progressive, federal policies which might heal division, promote equality and independence.

As for the AUKUS submarine plan, it’s a fiasco. Eight nuclear subs we cannot crew, or fuel, which need a whole new industry to maintain, with a price tag of at least possibly $170 billion, allowing for inflation, are thrust upon us much to Macron’s chagrin, or emmerdement, a word our prissy press pretend is “piss off” but any Frenchman will tell you means shat upon.

Macron hates our PM for lying to him that the sub deal was real until one day before it wasn’t. It’s a breach of good faith which will set back our trade with the EU circus, of which La Belle France is 2022’s ringmaster. Carbon tariffs could be slapped on our exports. Also, we alienate another power with a presence in the Pacific.

In the meantime, we may have to retire the Collins class subs which will be rust buckets well before our “new” nuclear submarines are ready in the early 2040s. By then, crewless subs and drones will have superseded anything AUKUS hawks us.

But all is not lost. Diplomatic genius, carbon tariff expert and Joke PM, Tony Abbott has been seconded to the BOT, Board of Trade, an outfit long dead in the water until revived by Teresa May as something she could announce that might offset the stench of a hard Brexit.

Tony’s bound to come up with something. Always does. Even if it’s only shirt-fronting Macron.

His work is cut out for him. Career liar, Boris Johnson brags that:

“… our ambitious trade deal with Australia will include a substantive article on climate change which reaffirms both parties’ commitments to the Paris Agreement and achieving its goals, including limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees.”

Tony’s carbon tax expertise will add a bit of finesse to the UK Australia Free Trade Deal virtually inked last month. It’s worthless according to Moody’s. Our beef and veal are more likely to go to more accessible markets which offer higher prices. As Moody’s puts it:

“Australian exporters garner higher prices for their beef products in countries like South Korea, Japan and the US. Also, Australian beef exports recently dipped because of drought conditions. Such conditions are expected to occur more regularly in the future and could restrict exports.”

Glen Dyer and Bernard Keane note that the Coalition refuses to allow the Productivity Commission or any other objective body to analyse the agreement because the benefits are minuscule. Even these dwindle in the light of the extra paperwork required to meet bureaucratic country-of-origin requirements for accessing the deal.

“Given the trivial economic impact of the UK-Australia free trade agreement, we won’t be updating our growth forecasts for the UK economy,” Moody’s conclude.

But it’s worse than nothing. Boris gets rolled. Barnaby Joyce’s carve-out means Morrison won’t have a bar of any deal that breathes a word about net-zero.

Australia’s negotiators demand that temperature targets have no part in the trade deal. When the Brits insist that The Paris Agreement to keep the global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees, and preferably to 1.5 degrees at least gets a mention, that’s all it gets and only over Morrison government objections.

But who’s going to notice the cave-in when the party’s all agog at revelations that Boris has lied about at least eleven parties that broke Covid isolation rules?

Party piece of party gate is surely BoJo’s glorious anniversary of his own birth, alas, another mental blankety-blank which he either can’t recall or, like fellow amateur casuist, ScoMo, argue wasn’t a party at all.

Boris’ colleagues are a riot of goodwill, a British ten-minute effusion of camaraderie, a happy birthday dirge and a cake with a Sue Gray file in it.

BoJo’s birthday party that his (fairly) newly-wed, a May bride, organised for him is the latest episode of Carrie On Upstairs, a fitting sequel to the mystery of who paid for the 840 pound a roll golden wallpaper in the refurbishing of Boris and Carrie’s flat over number eleven Downing Street, traditionally reserved for the chancellor of the exchequer except when Boris needs it for himself, his partner and growing family.

If we are conned on trade and it looks as if we’re roped into buying obsolete subs we won’t have any time for our war on Beijing, Keane suggests we just tell China to hold off for a couple of decades while we get our nuclear underwater shit together. What could possibly go wrong?

It’s not clear which of our neo-colonial masters will actually supply the ships. Morrison loves secrecy as much as indecision. DFAT tells us that by 2020’s end, Australian investments in the US totalled $864 billion – almost as much as the Great Satan – as America is revered in Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan whose peoples it has liberated, with our assistance – the USA has invested in the Land of Oz while our investment in the UK was $615 billion – and the Old Dart has $737.6 billion invested here.

All of this is a prelude to hope. Amidst the amazing Grace Tame’s refusal to grin and bear the PM’s charm offensive, a perfunctory line congratulating her on her engagement rather than her work as Australian of the Year, the shortage of RATs and ScoMo™ & Co’s abandonment of all pretence at protecting us from Omicron, the arrival, Friday, of UK Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, aboard a Global Britain private Airbus jet is a cunningly orchestrated stunt that gets BoJos rival out of his hair while providing audio-visual proof of ScoMo and Cos trade deals.

True, Little Britain’s Labour Party is outraged at the A$1 million price ticket but wait until they discover that the Free Trade Deal with the land Downunder is just another bit of window dressing.

Hawk Talk is also a big part of Truss’ mission. Eager to be Boris’ replacement and one of our neo-colonial mistress’ Britannia’s debauched ruling elite, Truss pops in to warn us that the Chinese Panda is plotting with the Russian Bear to blow us all up, a warning that Paul Keating calls demented.

Truss attacked Dan Tehan last year, because she felt slighted but now, she is practically one of us after being made honorary Ocker of the Year, last year by The Australia Day Foundation.

The dodgy Foundation is a cabal of climate deniers, mining shills and lobbyists with links to the ultra-right Policy Exchange, a group affiliated with those who spread disinformation on climate change and covid.

Many see Liz as Little Britain’s next Tory PM, if only party animal and pants-man, Boris Johnson would admit the carnival is over. Or Sue Gray busts him for breaking his own social distancing rules by holding parties. Seriously.

Her man bag, Ben Wallace, is a Boris-follower, too, over-promoted for his loyalty to Defence Secretary.

Ben and Liz are AUKUS hawks who talk up a Blairite WMD-type case for declaring war on Russia, just because America wants them to, a scenario, the invisible Marise Payne and Minister for Defence, Peter Dutton find incredibly compelling and not just as an election campaign stunt.

All is well in the Land of Oz, even “a smoking ruin” of democracy as Guy Rundle praises us. Deputy PM and MP for Santos, Barnaby Joyce tells ABC RN Breakfast’s Patricia Karvelas that “people aren’t dying” in the Lucky Country of Covid. Rats are wrecking his government’s superbly orchestrated pandemic testing kit rollout by hoarding their RATs (Rapid Antigen Tests) – or flogging them at prices to rival the can-do capitalism of professional gougers and your local Chemist Warehouse portal.

Finally, Labor’s leader responds to Andrew Probyn asking who he is:

“My first campaign, I was 12 years old,” Albo tells the Press Club. “We organised a rent strike. We took petitions around to everyone. That was my experience of that. That drove me. That was my first political campaign. And, by the way, we won.”

“Just ‘pushing through’ this pandemic is not enough,” he argues. “We need to learn from it, we need to use what the last two years have taught us to build a better future.”

We need “a government that steps up to its responsibilities and fulfils its most fundamental roles: to protect our people, to act as a force for good, and to change people’s lives for the better.”

No wonder Morrison’s running scared. But pumping social media with Clive$’ lies about Labor’s failings is unlikely to cut it when your record reeks of corruption, ineptitude, dud deals and untrustworthiness. The worst PM of the century can’t even show some grace under friendly fire at a reception for Australian of the Year, a miserable morning tea, brightened only by a bevy of nominees for awards, any one of which is likely to show up his own inadequacies as a man and as a leader.

To pick a fight with Grace Tame, moreover, and to go on radio, later, to belittle her, may cost Morrison any last skerrick of credibility. His pot-shot at Grace Tame, Australian of the Year 2021 is by extension an attack on all women and every woman’s right to expect a government that offers equality, justice and safety for all Australians, instead of a racket run to benefit a privileged few.

Given his lies, his stunts, his broken promises, his empty promises, his protection of incompetent ministers and worse, together with his government’s catastrophic mishandling of the pandemic, his pot-shot at Ms Tame maybe his coup de grace.

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ScoMo plays Djoko but Dutton buys tanks

“Nine years long” reads a handmade sign in a sealed window of the Park Hotel, Swanston Street, Carlton, a grim, grey, makeshift, Melbourne gaol for forty-six refugees and asylum-seekers. Most were originally locked up on Papua New Guinea and Manus Island. Now the men are held against their will indefinitely, in contempt of international convention, compassion and human decency. Their food is mouldy and has weevils in it. A couple of floors catch fire in December, but no-one is allowed to leave the building.

Novak Djokovic also lobs here, Wednesday to Monday, a world champion reduced to persona non grata, after Border Force cancels his visa, but – in a sensational comeback – after Monday’s federal court hearing, he’s released into the care of his lawyer$.

The Park Hotel is a far cry from the Serb’s mountainside mansion in Monte Carlo, where he lives tax free. True, he has an incredible portfolio of luxury properties all over the world. New York. Miami. Soho. Even a penthouse in New Belgrade. But Border Force give him no option. Cancel his visa. Lock him up with the other poor sods.

But not for ever, Federal Court Judge, Anthony Kelly quashes the cancellation of Djokovic’s visa on procedural fairness. Border Force breaks a promise.

It’s a technical victory for the tennis star. Border Force fails to keep its word that Djokovic has until 8.30am to seek advice about his pending cancellation, instead cancelling his visa at 7.42am to finish the business before one officer’s shift ends.

Now the international tennis champion, antivaxxer, kinesiologist and property tycoon awaits a call from Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, a mate of the PM, a fellow evangelical and Morrison’s numbers man in the NSW party machine.

Mike Seccombe sees Hawke as a man made in the image of his mentor “hard-charging and abrasive”, an MP reviled by both wings of the party.

Seccombe, writes in The Saturday Paper detailing how Hawke’s leadership of Morrison’s faction in NSW, the centre-right, and his work as ScoMo’s delegate on the party’s state executive has been a catastrophe for the PM. An insider claims Hawke,

“has used his time as Morrison’s representative on the state executive in an endeavour to advance their factional position to the detriment of both conservatives and the moderates – to the point now where the conservatives and the moderates are in an alliance against Hawke. And that means against Morrison.”

In brief, Morrison’s Mini-Me is just the man to forge consensus and garner party support on the Djokovic fiasco, a blunder that splits a parliamentary party already frantic at the PM’s catastrophic failure on the pandemic, the economy, trade – everything he touches. Will the Serbian serve the coup de grâce to Morrison’s corrupted, clapped-out career?

It’s a mystery drama with a dilemma. Morrison’s Pentecostal pal, Hawke has the power to cancel Djokovic’s visa. Or Morrison, a notoriously sore loser, a man with a glass jaw, who hates us to see he’s a fool, looks a right royal prat. Which way it will go?

Hawke decides not to cancel Djokovic’s visa Monday night. He has four hours to use his personal power, under section 133 A or 133C(3) of the Migration Act 1958 if the Morrison government wants to try to keep the tennis champion in detention. Instead, he’ll let us know, Tuesday. In the meantime he discovers his party is divided.

Meanwhile it’s leaked that Border Force, our PM’s personal paramilitary is concerned the Serb or his agent may have lied on his travel declaration.

An alley cat toys with a six foot two mouse. It’s a PMO tactic to stretch out the saga; string us along. Distract. Helps distance Morrison from his minister’s act.

Meanwhile, Omicron ravages the nation while rapid antigen tests (RATS) and booster shots just can’t be found. Federal government policy in the face of a catastrophic rise in cases is a DIY testing regime. PCR test centres are overwhelmed, revealing yet again the wisdom of neoliberal outsourcing and privatisation of public health.

In an echo of its former inglorious failures, our Health Department didn’t order enough RATS. Or boosters. This helps shrink ballooning case numbers. As does the shrewd requirement that you phone in your result. Or making us pay. Other nations provide the tests free. But unless you’re a concession card holder, you pay. Or if you’re one of the millions in low paid casual work, the third of the workforce with no paid sick leave entitlement of leave, you simply do without. Such are your freedoms.

Reports of profiteering or “price gouging” as our “medium” prefers, proliferate. In an inspiring act of charity, the PM shares how his Jen is shopping for RATs, scouring Sydney’s more select suburbs, on a search and supply mission. Making herself useful. Having a go. Just one of us, really. It’s an uplifting fantasy of a Mum on struggle-street where Dad earns half a mill a year plus free board, lodging, transport and healthcare.

Also consoling to a nation wracked by coronavirus psychosis, a heady blend of fear, anxiety, depression and sheer despair is Spud’s uplifting shopping news.

Defence minister Dutton orders 120 yank tanks and other armoured vehicles, because you just don’t know when you’ll have to quell an ugly uprising by the poor. Suddenly submarines and long range anti-panda missiles are out Tanks and Humvees are in.

Spud finds a lazy $3.5 billion down the back of Abbott’s padded Defence Budget. The budgie smuggler pledged two percent of GDP to waste on war toys and other defence over-expenditure. Just for the optics. Make Labor look weak on national security.

Billions are wasted on new toys: replacing the ’59 Abrams M1A1s we bought in 2007, still in mint condition and unused in battle bar the odd ‘Roo shoot and bush bash.

As US imperialist running dogs of the century, we love buying America’s castoffs. Even obsolete military hardware can be a boon in a pandemic. A tank, or two, can help clear any congested supermarket carpark. Counter insurgency thrives in tight corners. Be just in time to quell bread riots as shelves empty across the nation. Besides hunger games, there’s the prospect of ugly insurrection over our fossil fuel mania, our ecocide.

Equally comforting in Morrison’s PsyOps is an image of the PM with a platter of two barramundi. Let’s just get Humpty Doo Barra home delivered like the Morrisons. It’s heady, aspirational stuff that helps us pull ourselves together in time of need. Almost as helpful as knowing we’ve got government ministers who can do what they like.

Hawke’s “personal power” as Immigration Minister allows him also to let the men banged up in the Park Hotel be released into the community. Or hospital. At least twenty are now sick with Covid. Not that you’d find space for ten now. Still, a triage in a taxi or a tent can save your life. If you can afford the fare. Or you can still walk.

But Hawke goes MIA. At The Park, medical care means you get one Panadol, dry, although a guard does say hospitalisation will be provided to the one or two who may need it, based on Omicron’s mild effect on the rest of the population. But that’s it.

A chap who asks for ginger to gargle to ease his Covid-affected sore throat is ignored.

Formerly, The Rydges on Swanston, The Park was May’s COVID-19 top super spreader, triggering Victoria’s second, deadly wave of coronavirus. Hundreds die. Almost all seven thousand infections, which devastate the state, are traced back to overseas arrivals at the hotel. Now it’s shaping up for an Omicron encore.

It’s a timely reminder of the Morrison government’s wisdom in not providing dedicated quarantine – and it also highlights our ongoing war on The Other which helps keep us safe, feeling relaxed and comfortable and gets Tory MPs re-elected.

Political prisoners, hidden in our midst, in shabby hotels, across Australia are suddenly thrust into the spotlight when Djokovic, Tennis World Champion, has his Visa cancelled by Border Force on arrival at Melbourne to play in The Australian Open. Is the refugee publicity an unforced error? Or are non-citizens now completely invisible?

We lead the world in secret prison camps. Calling them “detention centres” stops any hint that they are gulags. And how good is the word “processing” instead of indefinite, detention? But where we really shine is in throwing away the key.

On average, an asylum-seeker sentence in Australia is currently 689 days. Even in the US, it’s 55 days, unless they put you in Gitmo. In Canada it’s a fortnight. All you need do is arrive here by sea. It’s not a crime to seek asylum but the government still call you illegals. Neglect, maltreat and abuse you. Call you by a number, never your name.

Then PM, Abbott tells the UN to butt out in 2015, when Professor Juan Mendez, Special Rapporteur on Torture finds Australia’s asylum seeker policies violate the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Bugger rules-based order. Abbott is quick to declareAustralians are “sick of being lectured to by the United Nations.” Professor Mendez says Australia has failed to provide adequate detention conditions and that it should end the detention of children. Biloela? None of his business. Now the Park Hotel is a stark reminder on nightly TV.

Team Morrison banks on most of us not caring. Scoring points with the “tough on borders” voter. PMO advisers hope to capitalise on public outrage that a travel exemption has been made for a multi-millionaire sporting star, while families are unable to get together at Christmas. Time for a quick pivot on the politics of Djokovic’s entry.

“People are welcome in Australia. But if you’re not double vaccinated and you’re not an Australian resident or citizen, well, you can’t come,” the PM says 6 January.

Could this be the PM’s Tampa Crisis? A show of manly decisiveness. Upstage his pandemic catastrophe. Curiously, they said the same of Morrison in 2019, normalising Howard’s chicanery and cynical dog-whistling to racists, xenophobes and One Nation supporters. Yet now, opinion polls suggest that wedging your opponents with the politics of race to is unlikely to be the silver bullet Morrison so desperately needs. People just can’t avoid seeing him as a monstrous failure, a fraud and a career liar.

Guardian Australia’s Essential Poll finds that only 37 percent of us believe immigration levels are too high, down from 56 percent in 2019. Yet it remains a divisive issue.

But how good is a distracting scapegoat – especially one which lets Mo remind us all how he invented Border Force, border protection, boat turnbacks to politicise xenophobia, racism and total indifference to the plight of those forced to flee their countries of origin by boat? Two-year-wonder- PM Tony Abbott did much the same toward the end of his miserable prime ministership, largely run by his office.

“I stopped the boats,” Abbott reminds us, a lie that overlooks the Rudd government’s 2013 Pacific Solution announcement that “asylum seekers who come here by boat without a visa will never be settled in Australia”. Push factors such as the end of the Afghanistan war helped. Neither Tony Abbott nor Scott Morrison, stopped the boats.

Morrison is on to Djokovic’s extradition like a rat up a drainpipe. But it’s a rapid backflip even for a shit-house rat or a cunning, opportunistic politician. The PM hasn’t bothered to tell Home Affairs’ head, Karen Andrews. Someone has to go under a bus when there’s a country to run. Yet Andrews is on record as expressing a dissenting view.

Djokovic’s unvaccinated status disqualifies him for a visa but, somehow, in cahoots with one of our overweening, “peak bodies” in our pantheon of sport, the temple of Tennis Australia, (TA) Home Affairs Minister Andrews has written to the grand slam champion telling him that he has “a medical exemption”. Did TA dictate, ever mindful of its gate?

So powerful are our sporting organisations that they can tell federal governments what to do. Or at least they can try. And some are down on their luck in a pandemic.

Or was there federal government collusion to waive the big star through the visa process until it discovered that such an exemption did not sit at all well with fans?

Tennis Australia is said to be on its last $2.4 million after what The Australian (paywalled) reports as a $100 million Covid hit. Now TA’s borrowed $80 mill from the State of Victoria. It’s not only keen to get back in the game, clearly, it also has a formidable fan base. Our sports empires, or “governing bodies” as they are known are no strangers to wheeling and dealing. The game of mates. Or a bit of power play.

Tennis Australia puts the lob into lobbying.

Now things get messy. Health Minister, Greg Hunt, writes to Tennis Australia, CEO Craig Tiley, 29 November 2021, stating clearly that people who had tested positive to Covid-19 within six months do not meet exemption requirements to enter the country. But does he show the letter to Kaz? Does he ever intend to? It’s a line-ball decision.

Has Ms Andrews been set up? Morrison’s office is a Bermuda Triangle of careers that just disappear without trace -especially women’s careers -despite PMO lip-service to internal inquiry and promises, one day, to implement every one of Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins’ recommendations in her Set The Standard review.

Or could Home Affairs’ letter of acceptance be a figment of Djokovic’s imagination? His quack doctor has him on a weird diet. What he fails to provide is evidence in the form of a positive PCR test of his having had COVID-19 in the last six months. Or twice, depending on which account you read. Is he on some macrobiotic hallucinogen?

Or is it just testosterone? What is clear is the outrage from Belgrade. Is Serbia’s hero lured to Australia to be humiliated? Serbia’s President, Aleksandar Vučić says he’d do the same to Morrison should our PM ever visit. He’d have no trouble selling tickets.

Vučić vows to “fight” for Djokovic to be able to enter Australia. Another diplomatic shit storm brews. Morrison’s government alienated France after the PM lies about welching on our submarine deal in favour of AUKUS and nuclear subs we can’t even crew.

As for our biggest trading partner, China, President Xi won’t even speak to Canberra; responding instead with a trade war after Australia calls for an inquiry into the origins of the “Wuhan Flu”, pandering to conspiracy theorists and others who would like to blame China for the coronavirus pandemic. Sabre-rattling Defence Minister Dutton talks up war, Canberra must be prepared for whatever lurks “on or below the horizon”.

Across the ditch, Jacinda Ardern is miffed that we repatriate Kiwi-born Australian residents who break the law. Many were children when they left the land of the long white cloud. “Taking the trash out,” Peter Dutton calls his deporting of New Zealand offenders. If that sticks in your craw, kiwi crayfish are selling for a hundred dollars a pop in China as our federal government’s trade war sinks our own export businesses.

A $3 million marketing campaign by federal government to entice New Zealanders, is not going so well. Bookings are down 76 per cent year-on-year for the four weeks from April 19. Our pacific island workforce is also inexplicably smaller this year.

Migrant workers are critical to Australia’s farming sector and food security. What is shameful are the conditions leading so many to abscond, notes Deakin University’s Victoria Stead.

Is Morrison aiming for his own grand slam in alienating the world? Pay them back for treating him as a sick joke on curbing carbon emissions, flouting refugee conventions, and lying. Or does he just not care? As he tells Annabel Crabb on Kitchen Cabinet.

Lying? Djokovic does have a document bearing the Serbian Institute of Sport’s letterhead, which says he caught Covid 16 December. Yet there’s no medical test evidence, sniffs Home Affairs Supremo Andrews who is refused an extension to postpone the federal circuit court hearing of his case until Wednesday.

Clearly, she’s been left right out of the loop, standard operating procedure for Federal Liberals with their record of misogyny, sexism, secrecy and captain’s calls.

“The tail won’t be wagging the dog here”, Judge Anthony Kelly says

Kelly’s quip may be a sly dig at PistoI and Boo, Johnny Depp and then partner Amber Heard’s Yorkshire Terriers who, accidentally, helped us to show our borders are tough.

The stars forgot to quarantine their pets. In 2015, a righteously “tough on illegal immigrants” Barnaby Joyce threatened to euthanise the “illegally imported” pair of mutts (the pets not the actors) if they weren’t out of the country on the next plane. A document was alleged to be forged.

Heard has recently named one of her new dogs Barnaby Joyce in honour of the fiasco.

Djokovic is known for his dogged tenacity. Certainly, for a man with Covid, the star has wasted no time lying doggo in iso. A photo emerges on social media of the Serbian hero unmasked in public 17 December at a state ceremony to honour him by presenting him with a set of Serbian National postage stamps bearing his photogenic image.

For someone with a potentially deadly viral infection, Djokovic is quite the social butterfly, appearing not only to be in rude good health, but actively engaging with young people. Hugs and back pats. On December 17, he participates an open PR event. Images appear of the star embracing children at an awards ceremony at an event organised by the Tennis Association of Belgrade. Talk about infectious goodwill.

But that’s not all that’s caught in the spotlight; illuminated is an inept, cruel and increasingly desperate Morrison government which will do anything to divert us from its failures. Our PM threatens to shirt-front the Serb; put him on the next plane home. By Monday, this is toned down and Morrison’s office puts out word of amicable discussion between our PM and his Serbian counterpart – in which Morrison explains our rules.

But Djokovic is used to winning from behind. It’s his trademark. Along with abusing injury time out. With help from friends in high places in Belgrade “the Serbinator” successfully lodges an appeal against his extradition.

This is not the outcome that Morrison’s office had in mind. Or is it?

Djokovic’s lock-up is a political intercept; a stunt to distract from the Morrison regime’s disastrous mismanagement of the pandemic which by Monday, reaches 972,000 cases, after restrictions are abruptly eased in a backflip which Morrison calls Living with the Virus aka Playing with Fire as the Omicron variant rages through the population, bringing an already over-stressed hospital system to the point of collapse.

Welcome to Shitshow 2.0, an homage to Bill Shorten’s zinger: “it’s not a race” the Morrison government’s first, vaccine stroll-out fiasco, a display of extraordinary ineptitude, disinformation, outright lies and rapid back-flips.

In Shitshow 2.0 business meets the PM in secret to force sick workers in supply chains back to work. No workers’ representatives are present, nor is the ACTU invited, its secretary, Sally McManus warns. Not only does his “small” government mandate work for sick workers, it helps spread infection. Talk about sharing and caring.

But look over there! Border protection opportunity knocks. Dead cat on table time. Cancel Novak, Djokovic’s visa. What a stroke of genius.

Once again, despite a battalion of advisers and all of Scotty’s military escort, JJ Frewen’s much-vaunted, spit’n polish, military efficiency plus weapons-grade logistical expertise, it is painfully obvious that the Morrison government has stuffed up everything.

True there’s a bit of help from a friend, NSW Premier, Dom Perrottet who “lets her rip.” Now he must mend the tears to the fabric of NSW society and its tanking economy.

There are no Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) but the public must use them and phone in their results because PCR testing, heavily outsourced to private firms collapses. Boosters are dwindling. Hospitals are not coping. Doctors are angry and exhausted.

315785 active cases, underestimates the true number just in NSW. Self-administered tests are yet to be recorded, while others don’t bother to get tested. Some experts say the real number could be as much as 5-10 times higher.

  • 2,186 are admitted to hospital
  • 170 are in intensive care
  • 51 require ventilation

Hospitals are stretched. “Elective” surgery cancelled. Not only are too many cases being admitted, thousands of workers must be spelled because they have been exposed. Some simply resign in exhaustion and frustration; cross the border to work in Queensland where wages and conditions are higher and a government which is not infected with crazy libertarianism.

Everywhere there are long queues to get tested while RATs just can’t be found. Supermarket shelves are stripped bare. Customers stay at home while shops close their doors. Making it even harder on business and consumer, there’s no JobKeeper.

Yet to hear Scott Morrison, he’s a paragon of quiet, modest diligence as he quietly reassures those attending a Sydney Institute Dinner last week.

“What is most important to me as Prime Minister is that I seek to humbly do everyday things that make Australia even stronger than we are today, both now and in the future.”

Morrison’s hypocrisy is boundless. The humble housekeeper pose is laughable coming from the man who warned Julia Banks “I. am. The. Prime. Minister.”

The Bronte bogan loves a motivational slogan,

“There’s no guidebook to COVID. We all know that. And so what I think is important is the country just focuses on the task ahead. Keep looking through that windscreen. That’s where I’m looking. We’re looking forward.

Inspirational or terrifying? Government is not a self-driving Tesla. Shoulders right back, no hands on the wheel and eyes on the road ahead Morrison, is a black-belt in bumper-sticker wit and witless boosterism. And lashings of public self-adoration.

But no-one’s fooled. The task ahead is our Prime Narcissist’s own squalid political survival, not the public good or the welfare of the commonwealth. He’s a ruthless pragmatist, a truculent bully whose sole goal is to stay on top of the dung-heap; maintain his own undeserving, increasingly threatened ascendancy.

Today, Morrison wrests control of his party by appeasing its libertarians whose influence has grown since the charismatic John Howard inspired them to “big themselves up”. Despite presiding over our biggest government since Curtin, the PM declares stumps and pivots; announcing that it’s time for government to butt out of peoples’ lives.

No-one believes a word Morrison says but we all know he will say or do anything. And say and do something else tomorrow. Then deny both. Witness his witless excrescence at a cricket match, Saturday, “Australians taking wickets in the virus” while grandstanding in the Ashes commentary box on day three of the fourth Test at the SCG.

While shoppers fight over toilet tissue in panic buying and Australians are intubated in ICUs and hospitals are stretched beyond capacity and then some, only Scott Morrison would seek to buoy the spirits of a nation with a bizarre cricketing analogy.

Morrison excels in buck passing. Our fearless, leader’s fortune-cookie windscreen wisdom inspires a claque of fellow travellers; no ideas persons, moral pygmies, clowns, contrarian libertarians and fellow former apparatchiks in the confederation of dunces which passes itself off as Australia’s federal government.

Yet his latest move is to exhume the pernicious myth of personal responsibility, a version of Margaret Thatcher’s nonsense. No such thing as society, she declared.

2022, the Great Evader declares will be The Year of Taking Responsibility. AKA I’m all right Jack – and bugger the rest of you. There’s no guidebook for Covid, he lies. He’s an expert at not reading the map. Ignoring or contradicting expert advice. His ministers share a vision, an adolescent Hayekian fantasy that sanctions doing nothing .

Once we take personal responsibility for our own health, a free market will cure all. Cue the sound of one invisible hand clapping. A wag in the Canberra press gallery tackles health minister, Hunt, over his government’s lack of any clear plan to procure rapid antigen tests, last October. The Minister snaps “let that market develop”.

Living with Covid is Mo’s latest backflip, undoing two years of containment. No more nanny state. Buy your own bloody test kits. Under pressure, he backs down. Some of us may access ten free tests every three months. 6.6 million concession card holders across the nation are overjoyed. Such fun trying to find a test supplier.

Sensing a dip in credibility according to recent NewsPolls and still smarting at being an international laughing-stock because of his behaviour at last year’s G20 COP26 with its green hydrogen and “technology not taxes” claptrap, a green-washing of mining business as usual, Morrison opts for yet another cop-out. And a dead cat.

In a heaven-sent opportunity for distraction and tough-talking, his private militia, Border Force cancels anti-vax, health crank Djokovic’s visa and puts him up in the Park.

Acing the champion tennis player certainly gets everyone’s attention. An astute Djokovic clan member declares our PM “not a human being”. But Morrison loves a fuss, especially a heady brew of sport and the institutionalised racism of “tough on borders” rhetoric, despite some of the most porous borders in the world. If you fly in.

We’ll decide who gets into our Australian Open and the manner in which they do so.

Taking Personal Responsibility, a staple of Reagan and Thatcher political misrule, is a ruse to cover the Morrison government’s utter ineptitude. As it abandons all pretence at keeping Australia safe, it shifts the blame to the victim of the latest wave of the pandemic, a wave that appears fit to swamp us all.

Let ‘er rip. Politics trumps science, with the help of Neoliberal econobabble, the perversion of economics fetishised by such exalted local Tory politicians as NSW’s Dominic Perrottet or Josh Frydenberg, Treasurer of our nation’s federal Coalition of mining, business and finance Muppets. Omicron, the latest mutant variant of SARS-COVID-19 surges, bringing our infection rate to match the United States.

It’s a shameful, culpable dereliction of duty and abdication of responsibility that we also see in in fellow clown, Boris Johnson, muppet of the UKs Policy Exchange boffins, a front for corporate greed, fair wages and anthropogenic climate change denial.

Locally, our own mineral and Business Council flogs wag the dog of Morrison government. Rupert, Gina, Andrew and Kerry and their merry band of ruling oligarchs now urge sick workers to man the supply chains lest profits or fall or business founder.

To them, also Morrison must seem a liability. Morrison and his government may have been useful fools for a while but their future looks increasingly uncertain cloudy now they threaten to cost our oligarchs their profits.

Whilst voices with the sound of money in them call for an end to the Djokovic sideshow, there is a chance the debacle of the un-cancelling of a tennis player’s visa may alert the nation to other ways its federal government falls short in humanity and democracy. The Australian Open’s biggest drawcard may prove a Djoker in the pack.

The saga of a tennis star’s visa cancellation certainly serves to highlight the incalculable damage the federal government is suffering as it utterly fails to deal with a pandemic catastrophe which its own Libertarian easing of restrictions helped create. It also exposes a mind-boggling degree of incompetence and miscommunication, of posturing and dissembling that would be comic were it not so toxic to the health of the commonwealth.

 

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Can the Libs come up with someone even worse than Morrison? History says they will

When discourse between fair-minded people turns to speculation as to who has been Australia’s most appalling Prime Minister there are four names that are consistently short-listed – $3 Bill McMahon, fellow goblin John Howard, the feral friar Tony Abbott and Scott Spinocchio Morrison.

Arguing who is the worst of this noxious quartet is stepping into a steaming dollop of dog do and speculating as to whether it was a labrador, great dane or spaniel. A more appropriate take is surely along the lines of “how did we not smell that earlier?” Or, more perplexingly in the case of Howard, why did we step in it four times?

However, the trajectory of recent events turns such conjecture into a rhetorical question. We now have a clear winner.

The also ran

“I confess to a dislike of McMahon. The longer one is associated with him the deeper the contempt for him grows and I find it hard to allow him any merit. Disloyal, devious, dishonest, untrustworthy, petty, cowardly – all these adjectives have been weighed by me and I could not in truth modify or reduce any one of them in its application to him.” (Paul Hasluck, 17th Governor-General).

McMahon usually avoids a place on the podium of odium due to the passage of time and the level of egregiousness set by the other three finalists for munt of the century. McMahon was best known as a self-serving weasel and is remembered mostly from his wife Sonia’s split evening gown and rumours that it was she who legged it before Billy Snedden, one time Opposition leader, was discovered sans-metabolism in a Rushcutter’s Bay motel room wearing nothing but a fixed smile and a condom, his todger pointing heavenward in tumescent tribute to the best of possible departures to celestial reward. The gossip at the time also had Snedden’s son’s ex-girlfriend in the frame as a possible candidate for the coital causa mortis. I mention this for two purposes – it’s amusing salaciousness and because it’s tawdry ordinariness is in stark contrast to the depravity of the L/NP’s contemporary private school lager boys whose proud personal brand is rapey “swinging dicks“. The sign-in book in the Tory wing of Parliament House now serves as a defacto sex offenders register.

Let’s move on.

Bronze

The English language has embraced many colourful German words – putsch, gestapo, blitzkrieg, obergruppenfuhrer and others to which we’ve become attuned since a certain Aldo Kipfler assumed the role of head tuber of the various spooks and goon squads. The more obscure term “sockenfalter” (a man who folds his socks) brings to mind a certain suburban pettifogger, a man of fifty shades of beige and the physical manifestation of a migraine. John Winston Howard set a standard of calculated mendacity and duplicity so low that arch-conservative and fully Range Rovered member of the squatocracy Malcolm Fraser resigned from the party in disgust.

Howard’s pre-selfies duck-face was a fixed expression of sour disapproval and resentment; his 1950s, white picket fence vision of an Anglican Australia where migrants are British and the working class know their place could not be resurrected, with no prospect that his local butcher would doff his cap as John Winston picked up his order of a 1/2 kilo (damn metrics) of sausages for Janette on his way home from his power walk.

Dumb luck (ala the mining boom, Tampa, 9/11) and a talent for lying kept him in the big chair for 12 years and cemented his reputation as a Tory icon.

“He occasionally stumbled over the truth, but hastily picked himself up and hurried on as if nothing had happened.” (Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in prescient anticipation of his acolyte and namesake).

Silver

Fast forward six years past a promisingly progressive but ultimately self-destructive Rudd/Gillard/Rudd Cirque du Solipsists and entering stage right came a discordant cackle in a yowie suit, bow-legged from his macho affectations and bike-riders’ ball rash. Shepherded by his Amazonian keeper Peta Credlin, an angry, big-haired figure retrieved from a 70s EuroVision demo-tape rejects bin, Abbott trashed convention, decency and the country.

Abbott’s legacy is his tearing down of the achievements of others as a substitute for having to conceive of any of his own, a man for whom opposition was so habitual he took it into government. Destructive idiocy has a short shelf-life – Abbott was soon consigned to the stuffed shirt speaking circuit and BoJo’s bob-a-job offer to spruik post-Brexit trade in spotted dicks and toads-in-the-hole.

The brevity of what the man himself laughingly calls the “Abbott era” (as if his two years of toxic presence at the helm is akin to a royal dynasty or geological time span – the bozozoic?) does not take him out of contention given his talent for setting fire to his own hair and the nation’s self-respect.

Gold

The Tories were later torn between leadership options – a psycopathic yam with a fondness for drowning kittens or a prosperity gospelling marketing spiv. They decided by a small margin that a familiarity with duping the punters was what was needed to lead the nation in times of unprecedented challenges and opportunities.

Morrison is maintaining the Howard business model of exploiting any niche for private profit, further enriching cronies and punching downwards but he has added his own weird Je$us Inc. endorsed fervour as justification for his disregard for any responsibility to those outside his rich=righteousness bubble; a righteousness that bristles at scrutiny or questioning.

Morrison settled into the big, green swivel chair through deception and treachery, claiming he came into the top job incidentally with no involvement on his own part. This is the MO that defines him.

Plausible deniability and a portfolio of personas – the artful dodger is never responsible, never accountable, the finger-pointing avoidance of any error is what we could call the Morrison Effect. The Wriggle Room that is the well-resourced Prime Minister’s Office carefully crafts his alibis, zealously guards the ScoMo® brand and initiates empathy training as a risk mitigation strategy. And they keep a practised eye on the bus schedule; Canberra’s road kill includes whistleblowers, non-partisan public service mandarins, female MPs and abused staffers.

The normalisation of corruption through a schedule of eye-wateringly costly rorts, the squalid, illegal persecution of legitimate welfare recipients and the exploitation of grannies to bolster the bottom line of Lamborghini-driving wideboys and chancers would be enough to set this government’s place in infamy but there is no bar too low. The crimes get worse and more frequent, the perps are more numerous and the sleaze and sexism spreads wider and it is Morrison who cultivates that toxic, consequences-free culture.

I’ve had plenty of mates who’ve asked me if they can be my special envoy to sort the issue out with Pamela Anderson“… smirk. Scott Morrison, Nov 2018.

We want to see women rise. But we don’t want to see women rise only on the basis of others doing worse…” Scott Morrison, 8th March 2019 – hence the presence of such talent as Craig Kelly then?

Omitting “sex pest and potential rapist” from your CV’s list of interests and hobbies when applying for a job with the Tories is a rational move given its inclusion could be considered tautological when “racist, entitled, misogynistic prick” is seemingly a default essential attribute on the L/NP job application form. Having accusations that the highest law officer in the country is an alleged rapist blithely brushed aside as “I won’t hold an enquiry, mate … case closed, move along” is quite the misreading of the mood.

Morrison can only empathise when events are filtered through the lens of his own limited experience. He hit the snooze button on the Tudge/Porter wake-up call and here we are.

* * * * *

There was a 22 year gap between McMahon and Howard, a six year gap between Howard and Abbott and a two year gap between Abbott and Morrison.

The question now is can the Libs come up with someone even worse than Morrison? History says so, and arithmetic says it’ll be soon.

References

A complete list of the Liberal Party’s corruption over the last 7 years. The Chaser.

Achievements Of The Coalition Government. Matthew Davis.

Investigation reveals history of sexism and inappropriate behaviour by Attorney-General Christian Porter. ABC.

Inside the Canberra bubble – Four Corners

Christian Porter: the unshakeable belief of a white man born to rule. The Mandarin.

Malcolm Farr, political leaders and rumours

The Christian Porter is now out of the running and Spud Dutton’s ambitions seem to have been lost in the noise. Ruprecht Shadenfraud our Maggie Thatcher reincarnated Treasurer doesn’t have the numeracy skills for organised crime but he has the requisite artifice and the ambition to be a contender for Morrison’s tainted crown. Can he maintain the tradition?

This article was originally published on Grumpy Geezer.

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The Mad Monk Strikes: Tony Abbott, Taxi Rides and Coronavirus Despotism

This is a man who decries the use of experts. He prefers things rough, ready, pungent with vernacular promise and populist feeling. To be in the front seat of a taxi, no less, is considered a right. But former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott, made a trade envoy of Brexiting Britain to much consternation and now fellow of the right wing Australian think tank, the Institute of Public Affairs, is clear: the coronavirus regulatory world is despotic.

In a video presentation for the IPA, an organisation claiming with decidedly arbitrary taste that the quality of Australian life has declined by 28.5% since 2000, Abbott insists that Australia has “much to be proud of.” But coronavirus rules enacted “for our own good” were dangerous, threatening “freedom and self-reliance.” A virus had been allowed to “dominate our lives” for a whole year, “and in the process put safety before freedom, prudence before courage and avoiding danger before accepting risk.” Experts had become a high priest caste, with the populace “conditioned to have [them] give us all the answers and to have governments then tell us what to do.”

Abbott sees much gloom on the horizon for the “Australian way of life” under assault by “virus hysteria and health despotism.” Trodden upon were such entitlements as sitting in the front seat of taxis “along with singing, dancing and having too many friends and family around for a barbecue.” A closet Bohemian is old Tony.

From afar, there is much to say pandemic regulations have, in some of their variants, slipped into a form of authoritarianism, creating regimes of control and monitoring that will stubbornly linger. These come in various forms. Countries such as China have opted for fists and truncheons, the surveillance option and a good deal of mistrust over the behaviour of their citizenry. In contrast, the voluntary aspect of observing social distancing, minimising movement and keeping gatherings small in number has been a feature of such states as Sweden, with mixed results.

In Australia, a more punitive, coercive approach has been endorsed, with no better example being the state of Victoria. Abbott has previously described the Victorian response to COVID-19 as typical of a “health dictatorship” where “homes can be entered, people can be detained, and the ordinary law of the land suspended.”

Extensive, poorly circumscribed police powers have been exercised harshly, with the Ombudsman of Victoria clear about the consequences. The sudden lockdown of the North Melbourne and Flemington housing towers in Melbourne on July 4, 2020 “was not,” claimed the office, “based on direct health advice and violated the Victorian human rights laws.”

Ombudsman Deborah Glass at the time stated that, “Many residents knew nothing of the lockdown or the reason for it when large numbers of police appeared on their estate that afternoon.” Residents were left without food and medicine. “At the tower at 33 Alfred St., the focus of the investigation, residents waited more than a week to be allowed outside under supervision for fresh air.” Certain rights had been breached, including the right to humane treatment when deprived of liberty. “In my opinion, based on the evidence gathered by the investigation, the action appeared to be contrary to the law.”

In other words, Abbott is not totally bereft of sense in the matter. Where he tends to fall over and, it should be said, flat in the mud of argument, is his unqualified contempt for coronavirus regulations in general. The economic imperative, not to mention a good deal of social Darwinism and managed natural selection, tends to feature in the Abbott world. No one really wants the aged and frail to live beyond a certain point, so why not admit it? Youth and resilience must be given a chance. This much was said in his September 2020 speech before the Policy Exchange think tank in the UK.

This brings us to that problem of values, a term used with such regularity by politicians and pundits of all shades it loses shape. The jubilant Executive Director of the IPA, John Roskam, was happy to indulge this in announcing the appointment of Abbott as a distinguished fellow. “Mr Abbott has consistently defended mainstream Australian values, often in the face of tremendous hostility, and his 2013 election victory was a watershed that foreshadowed the cultural and political realignment seen around the Western world in recent years.”

Roskam fails to enumerate what these values are, but if they involve a pro-authoritarian, Fortress Australia mentality in the face of a global refugee crisis, he would be on to something. To cut to the chase, liberty and human rights are not for the swarthier types.

The director might well also thrown in remarks made by Abbott at the Third Demographic Summit held in Budapest in September 2019, one filled with jittery concern about Western Christian civilization and demographic decline before the dark hordes of Islam. As an example of Australian values, Abbott was all reproach of the English royals and the decision by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to stop breeding at two children. The royal family might well be “entitled to have as few or as many children as they choose. But having fewer children in Western countries will hardly make the climate better given all the children that will be born elsewhere.” Fine, cradle-to-grave values.

Such talk delighted his audience, all spears at the ready for the next invader waiting to breach the borders of Christendom. Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was glowing about Abbott’s “respect … for the brave, direct and Anglo-Saxon consistency” Australia under Abbott showed “on migration and defence of the Australian nation.” Racial and cultural purity, as fictions, are never far away.

As if often the case, Abbott slips up on the issue of what norms undergird his country. Being tenaciously Anglophile, he can still make the specious remark that Australians are distinct in not necessarily wishing to form queues. “Thanks to the pandemic, we’re now told to form orderly and socially distanced queues – as if we were English.” Given the fact that he has been, since the 1990s, a member of governments that insisted upon queues being the natural order of life, not to mention governing war zones, applications for asylum and detaining refugees indefinitely, this seems something of a retreat.

Sadly, then, constructive critique of the global coronavirus state goes begging, lost in the miasma of parochialism, mad pseudo-eugenics and the tangle that any talk of values always presents. But that is the Mad Monk for you, ever consistent in placing bombs of destructive despair into his own bed even as he chides others for the way they have made theirs.

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Let our old folk die? Abbott sets the tone for a cruel and heartless government’s next act.

“We haven’t got everything perfectly right … we continue to learn from the experiences of previous events”.

Richard Colbeck appears as this week’s poster-boy for the Morrison government of cruelty and neglect. Yet in a blink of an eye, he is eclipsed by Tony Abbott, a fellow colossus of incompetence who thoughtfully syndicates his timely advocacy of gerontocide to every paper in the land. But first to Dick.

Nearly a fortnight after displaying total incompetence, if not criminal neglect of his duty of care, former carpenter and onetime professional pokies’ lobbyist, Dick Colbeck has yet to toss in his claw as Aged Care Minister. Imagine if he were a Labor Minister. There’d be rallies in Canberra; demands to “ditch the Dick”.

While the PM bangs on about his invisible COVID plan for protecting us from the truth about his aged care debacle, discovery learning is all the go, insists Minister for Aged Care and enabler of elder abuse, Dick Colbeck, after freezing like a bunny in the headlights of a senate Covid-19 Committee inquiry 21 August.

How many aged care residents have died of coronavirus? Chair, Katy Gallagher asks. Incredulous. How many have coronavirus? Dick doesn’t know that, either.

“You don’t know how many people have passed away. You’re now telling me you don’t know how many people have the infection?” “… you’re the minister for Aged Care.”

Completely rattled; as bonkers as a Belgian Hare, bunny Colbeck swears he has the figure with him; just not in front of him. It’s a bravura display of abject ineptitude that rivals that of rolled gold Liberal dud, the recently anointed UK trade envoy and now de facto aged care spokesperson, Tony Abbott.

Abbott, too, was habitually ill-prepared. As Howard government Health Minister, 2003-7 he is described by Nikki Savva as attending meetings without reading his briefing papers. Indulged by a PM. who increased government subsidies to private health insurance corporations while exploiting a minister more interested in politicking than policy, he was a stooge to help keep health out of the news.

The greater truth, however, is that Colbeck’s now very reduced ministry is a poisoned chalice, offered him only by a PM who needed to ensure that there was at least one Tassie with a portfolio in his government. Dick was the least worst pick.

Now it’s all backfired. The ongoing dumpster fire that is Richard Colbeck’s continued tenure exposes new depths in the Morrison government’s signature evasion of responsibility. It shuns its moral and legal responsibility for senior citizens? It parades its irresponsibility. Is it a calculated slight or just more evidence of endemic corruption and incompetence? Hundreds of grief-stricken families mourn their loved ones.

The minister’s subsequent efforts to put things right include storming out of the senate and walking out of pressers. Theatrical? That’s the plan. He’s a walking advertisement for the Morrison take on Ministerial responsibility. Luckily, Colbeck is part of a government in which accountability is a dirty word.

Dick’s incredible run of luck continues, as does the misery of our lucky country’s pensioners, especially younger Australians, who must not only suffer cruelly inadequate payments but endure the predation of a parasitic job provider network. In 1998, a Howard government invented an Orwellian unemployment industry in which Jobactive job “provider” spivs profit from government subsidies at the cost of robbing job seekers of their dignity and sense of self-worth. With the pandemic, business is booming.

Rick Morton reports that the Jobactive caseload has more than doubled to 1.4 million people – up from 630,000 in February – while mutual obligations for job seekers were temporarily suspended because of the virus. If they have more clients on their books, however, there are also vastly fewer jobs.

Newcastle University Economics Professor, Bill Mitchell delineates the abuse even before COVID-19.

“There’s a whole industry of punishment and coercion and monitoring of the unemployed when there’s not enough jobs anyway.”

Then there’s the systemic cruelty which is the “aged care sector”, where a generation of unique and wonderful individuals gifted the wisdom of experience, who have devoted their lives to others, is dehumanised; reduced into a buzzword “sector”.

How good is the jargon of economics? Here it helps ensure our elders suffer an old age of abuse, neglect. Similarly, so many are destined for the scrap heap of aged care facilities – not “nursing homes” – for the latter term implies that a nurse is on the payroll.

Our elders are not a priceless living treasures to whom we owe at least a duty of care, but a burden on society – Liberal Party neoliberal attention-seeker; suppository of all wisdom, Tony Abbott reminds us today.

Abbott, bravely speaks from the safe distance of the Policy Exchange, a murky Tory NeoCon think tank, located in London and linked to former Conservative PM and Brexit genius, David Cameron. Policy Exchange comes 27th or bottom of the list for transparency in Transparify’s UK Think Tank Transparency report 2016. Kensington Wine Bar buff and Timor cabinet bugger, Alex Downer is chair of its trustees.

Abbott slams community lockdowns as Covid “health dictatorships”. It’s a chance to sink the slipper into Victorian Premier Dan Andrews’ for his “extraordinary ineptitude”, the only field in which the former PM is a world leader, in the orchestrated pile-on-shit storm that is the Morrison government’s answer to the pandemic. Dictator Dan is a character in lurid News Corp fictions that regularly slander the Labor leader.

For Abbott, the economic cost of lockdowns means families should be allowed to consider letting elderly relatives with the coronavirus die by letting nature take its course. He claims it costs federal government up to $200,000 to give an elderly person an extra year’s life, substantially beyond what governments would usually pay for life-saving drugs. Boris Johnson who has recovered from COVID-19 only thanks to intensive, expensive medical intervention should be personally, vastly cheered.

Abbott is on to something, however. In 2019, the OECD Pensions at a Glance 2019 report indicates that poverty rates for age pensioners in Australia are very high at 23%, a full ten percentage points above the OECD average. And if you are old or unemployed – or both, it’s all your own fault. At least that’s the dominant narrative subtext in the News Corp-led claque that is Australia’s mainstream media.

Why waste resources on the improvident elderly? They are lucky to get a Minister to represent them at all – although the aged care minister is in the outer cabinet which means he is seen and not heard.

Of course, even in a Morrison government, Dick Colbert is lucky to keep his job. Yet he’s led a charmed life as a politician. Good fortune, surely, is the main feature of this nonentity’s rise to office.The only feature?

Astonishingly, against all odds, Dick won top spot on the Tassie senate ticket in 2019, determined by a trim panel of only sixty-seven selectors. Colbeck’s elevation was helped by personal testimonials from Scott Morrison, Peter Dutton and other “high profile” Liberals; paragons of selfless generosity and integrity.

Mathias Cormann, Marise Payne and Noddy Birmingham also backed the little Tassie battler and not just because Shouty McShoutface Morrison told them to. No wonder Colbeck has yet to be asked to resign.

And why should he? Since when is not giving a stuff about knowing stuff all about your job a hanging offence in a Morrison government? It’s all part of the Roadmap™ Out.

Why, Alan Tudge jumped at the chance to help out in a portfolio well beyond his ken. Big Al was only too happy to step up from spruiking a (gravel) rash of shovel-ready projects in Population, Cities and Urban infrastructure to nurse Dave Coleman’s babies in Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs.

Cuddly Tudgie is all heart; the gift that keeps on giving. Stop Press. His website list of press releases and pork barrels details yet another “shovel-ready” Gold Coast roundabout project; a 10.7 million upgrade on one of the coast’s busiest intersections that will “spark” thirty four “city jobs”. Seriously.

Unless it’s a magic roundabout – eternally under construction, the average punter will be lucky to get some short-term casual labouring out of it. But the optics are there. Local MP, Federal Member for blue-ribbon Fadden, Savvy Stuart Robert is rapt. He can spot a good deal. Even the odd gold Rolex or two.

“The upgrade will benefit cyclists and pedestrians as well as motorists”, Morrison’s prayer-mate Roberts points out. Who would have thought? Crikey. No skate-boarders or roller bladers? Perhaps that will be the guts of a subsequent press release. But that’s the Morrison government through and through: no policies, just wall to wall announceables a sort of game of mates meets friends with benefits.

Big Al’s baby-sitting will further endear him to a nation forever grateful to his work as Human Services Minister three years ago. Benefit? In 2017, Al defined poverty out of existence. Who can forget Tudge’s tough love; his selfless determination to stem welfare payments and government services to the poor?

“Just continuing to put more and more government services into places, be they Aboriginal communities or not, and continuing to increase welfare payments, isn’t going to be the solution to the problems which exist in many dysfunctional locations today,” an utterly functional Tudge argues.

Big Al wants us to focus instead on his “pathways to poverty” – such evils as welfare dependency, drug and alcohol abuse, family breakdown and poor education standards. Admit it. Your poverty is your own fault.

And dole bludgers are actually richer than you think. He’s done the Maths. We should not be measuring poverty against a nation’s average household earnings, he contends. We should look instead at “absolute deprivation” – which is not being able to afford the basics, food, schooling, shelter.

By Tudge’s magic formula, the poor are 10 percent better off today than thirty years ago -in the golden years of The Silver Bodgie, the late Bob Hawke’s neoliberal nirvana. Doubtless, Tudge’s insights will vastly comfort all those Australians who find themselves booted off Job-Seeker come 31 December.

On JobKeeper? Toughen up buttercup. From September 28, your payment will fall to $1,200 a fortnight, followed by a further drop on 1 January 2021 to $1,000. But that’s only if you were lucky enough to be in the minority of workers on at least twenty hours a week before JobKeeper was introduced.

If, as is most likely, you are just a lucky part-timer, then your payment will be slashed in half to $750 a fortnight from the end of September. Three months later, it drops to $650 a fortnight. Happy New Year.

All extensions will expire on March 28, 2021. But you’ll be too busy to notice applying for jobs all day.

2021 will usher in a new round of the circus of mutual obligation (a theatre of cruelty in which you are forced to apply for jobs that don’t suit you that you know you’ll never get). Applications take time and money – not to mention the incalculable cost of being bullied by your parasitical job provider, always dead keen to collect lush government subsidies. And the Morrison government’s made it a whole lot easier for them.

“As the rest of the country descended into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the government made it easier for these agencies, known as Jobactive providers, to claim bonus “outcome” payments, fees and other rewards for the work of “servicing” the unemployed”, observes Rick Morton in the latest edition of The Saturday Paper.

Private job agencies have banked at least $500 million, reckons Rick from his reading of the government’s own data and payment schedules. The federal government has even paid agencies for workers who kept their jobs after its JobKeeper scheme was announced – at least according to one document.

“An Outcome may be payable where an Outcome was already tracking for a participant who moves onto the JobKeeper Payment through their previous employer or applies for/receives JobSeeker Payment initially then moves onto the JobKeeper Payment through their previous employer,” the government’s helpful guidance document explains – allowing job providers to double-dip.

But credit where it is due. Where would we be today without John Howard’s privatisation of employment services? And where would Sarina Russo be? Liberal Party pal and uncrowned “job queen” Russo’s modest empire includes Sarina Russo Job Access, Sarina Russo Apprenticeships, Sarina Russo Institute, Russo Business School, Sarina Russo White House and Sarina Russo Recruitment.

With $100 million, reputedly in personal wealth, Russo’s a Liberal Party’s mega-donor. Her companies have banked $2 billion worth of government contracts since 2006. Her most recent contract struck under the brief, ill-fated Abbott-Credlin duumvirate amounts to a cool $606 million. It expires in 2022.

Job providers such as Russo are clearly attuned to the day to day realities of job-seekers. In touch. The cost of getting to interviews comes atop rising supermarket and utility prices – while jobseekers get by on thirty-eight dollars a day. New research from the ANU estimates that while half a million fewer Australians live below the poverty line, 2.2 million will be added when coronavirus supplements cease.

3.8 million of our population will be thrown into poverty. If we don’t allow for accommodation. Using an ‘After-housing’ version of poverty, the 3 million becomes 5.8 million people. How will they cope? In the nineteenth century, Australia was feted as the working man’s paradise. What have we become?

Adding insult to inhumanity, JobKeeper 2.0, the new poor law, is passed by the lamest excuse for parliament we have ever experienced. As Michelle Grattan reports, under rules agreed for the current sitting fortnight, MPs can participate in parliament remotely and ask questions and speak but cannot vote. Who exactly does get to attend and vote is neither transparent nor democratic. Many Victorian MPs, for example, are locked down in the garden state. Even barking Barnaby Joyce is not happy.

“No disease in 2020 should interfere in your parliamentary democratic rights. Parliament in a half-life is not a parliament, it is merely a rather large building, kind of a new age palace in Canberra.”

Barnaby bullshits on about how New England doesn’t get represented if a vote is taken and he’s not present in the chamber. A glance at his voting record doesn’t help his case. His weatherboard and iron constituents, the growing rural and regional poor would be shocked to discover Joyce sides with big business and mining and against the worker.

If they give a stuff.

Joyce’s base is more inspired by the way he harvests their resentment at the way the cards seem stacked against them and how he gives them someone to blame; scapegoats the latte-sipping urban guerrillas, The Greens or an out of touch Labor.

(Morrison makes a similar play for his tradies who enjoy material success but are press-ganged into his anti-academic, anti-Arts and humanities philistine Team Ocker.)

Joyce exploits his notoriety, like Morrison’s mentor Trump. A perverse logic is at work. How he votes in parliament matters less than his performances. His schtick. The more erratic, outspoken or eccentric his behaviour, the more his fans’ faith in his independence is confirmed. Supporters like to think “that he’s a maverick”.

Local store owner Andrew Coventry is on to something. “Australians in general love an underdog. They love a local boy story. We kind of fall a little bit for that larrikin, or a villain. A lot of people up here feel he has been hardly done by – by the media and maybe crucified a little bit.”

Joyce, of course, who, like Morrison, is only in politics for himself, is actively undermining the PM’s sock puppet, the underwhelming Michael McCormack, nominal Nationals leader, whose charisma bypass and a secret agreement helps keep Liberals in power and is part of a type of a brazen gerrymander.

Where Joyce’s complaint really breaks down is on not being represented. A major indictment of our political system is how much the Nationals are over-represented. In 2019 they gained only 7.5 per cent of the vote, but this entitles them to 10.6 percent of the members of the house of representatives.

In total, the Nats boast 21 members and senators, six ministers and two assistants in portfolios vital to regional and rural Australia. The Greens, on the other hand, won 10.4 per cent of the vote but have only one member of the house of representatives (0.65 per cent of members) and nine senators.

Doubtless Scotty would love Joyce to resign. But you don’t even have to turn up for work to keep your job in a Morrison government. Granted there are extenuating circumstances but David Coleman fell ill last December. He’s granted indefinite sick leave: his PM can’t face another by election. Similarly, even miracle Morrison can’t find another patsy to tend Aged Care. Or can’t be faffed. Besides, dynamic Dick is doing a sensational job as Minister, Belgian shepherd, Matthias Cormann assures us.

“I am sure that he regrets not having had that number at his fingertips. I am sure he does,” Cormann, archly tells Canberra’s press-gang, hosing down the senator’s complete and utter cock-up. Or perhaps not. Coach Morrison has taken Dickie’s whistle off him. Colbert can’t blow up any emergency measures.

Similarly, back in African gangland, after sensational revelations of his leading role in branch-stacking for Victorian Liberals in search of a more Mormon Victorian party, Assistant Treasurer, Michael Sukkar is off Scott-free, while in a desperate bid to bury a Turnbull dud, Spud Dutton is being chipped sideways and consigned into the death-in-life of Minister for Defence, a sinecure which will be revamped to include Abbott and Morrison’s Village People paramilitary, Border Force, so there’s no hint of demotion.

Not in pay, anyway. Pete still has to help service the considerable outgoings on his multi-million dollar property portfolio built in part thanks to government subsidies to Queensland childcare centres. Dutton remained in cabinet meetings where childcare was discussed.

But, look over there. Victoria is ruining the economy. Yes it’s time to play the Dan not the ball. Remember that recession we had to have? Paul Keating, November 1990?

Turns out we never had it. Technically. Revised ABS data for the June 1990 quarter show Australia economy grew by 0.1 per cent. Two consecutive quarters of negative growth never happened. Yet now, even work experience boy, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg admits that after a 0.3 per cent contraction in ABS March quarter growth figures, recession is inevitable. That’s why he’s attacking Dan Andrews.

Frydenberg fears Wednesday’s National Accounts show a seven per cent decline in economic activity. Is that a recession or a depression? Newspoll’s no help. Its latest dodgy estimate suggests a 50 – 50 tie between Labor and Coalition. Morrison’s approval rate dips seven points to a net approval of +32

Naturally, in a government of duck and weave and spin, the recession we can’t avoid has nothing to do with the federal government’s failure to manage to economy. It’s The Coronavirus Recession. And it’s all Dan Andrews’ fault because instead of his lockdowns. After all, “letting her rip” has worked so well in the UK or the US which recorded 93.2 deaths per million in August — or more than 30,400 in one month.

While we recorded two deaths in June and 93 in July (3.6 per million), Australia’s August tally represents 455 (17.8 per million). Australia ranks 42nd out of the 54 highly developed countries on deaths per million in August.

Today, rising underemployment and falling private sector business investment are but two sure signs that we are in recession, a recession we did not have to have – if only Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison governments knew anything about economic management.

Or ever listened to expert advice.

A profound collapse in work available and hours worked in the economy can be blamed on ‘Rona. So, too with the big dip in private investment. The construction slump.

Granted, the coronavirus with its widespread disruption to all forms of economic activity globally brings its own deep malaise. Add to this its many risks to our mental health, not to mention corona mania, a type of group madness; a folie a foule, evident in the behaviour of many of our elected representatives.

Yet we enter a recession the pandemic has made worse. Hungarian Josh Frydenberg and his shysters need something to hide behind as the stench from assistant-Treasurer Mick Sukkar’s branch-stacking spree threatens to get into everything while weekend wok-botherer, Pappadum Morrison posts selfies of himself concocting another hokey, home-spun ScoMo self-promo with a Sri Lankan curry.

Or so he says. Catch it on Linked-In where our fearless leader describes himself as an “influencer”. Tell that to Malcolm Turnbull. Or Michael Towke, victim of a Daily Telegraph smear campaign from whom Scotty stole preselection in Cook in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire in 2007.

Dan’s the plan, as Paddy Manning observes, for the non-wok, workaday week. Morrison’s shit-can Dan campaign turns even dirtier, Monday, as the work experience federal treasurer accuses the Victorian Premier not only of wrecking the nation’s economy with his reckless disregard for disrupting the profiteering of our banking and commerce oligopolies but not having a roadmap out.

No Melways. No Google street view? Not even a trail of stale focaccia bread crumbs?

Look over there. Dan Andrews has wrecked everything. His pandemic lockdowns represent “… the biggest public policy failure by a state government in living memory”.

Wednesday, the Herald Sun prints its Morrison government press drop.

The Australian economy has officially entered into a recession with the latest national accounts figures confirming the worst contraction since the Second World War.

Australia’s gross domestic product (GDP) fell 7 per cent for the June quarter, revealing the financial wounds inflicted upon the economy from the initial lockdown sparked by the coronavirus pandemic.

This is no time to be cutting the spending power of the most vulnerable, as Greg Jericho notes. Can’t afford it? Nonsense. Can’t afford not to keep it going.

Nor should we abandon our senior citizens to the vagaries of the property investors’ marketplace. Yet it’s odds on that more austerity budgeting is on the cards. And while there is no doubt that pandemic has played havoc with our capacity to continue business as usual, there is no question that the failure of government policy meant that the economy was tanking well before the pandemic erupted.

This may be a recession we couldn’t avoid but neoliberal Coalition economic policy has done almost everything to invite. Even its stimulus package will be cut short. And Morrison’s junta, his COVID-19 committee of mining industry executives’ talk about a gas-led recovery is dangerous nonsense. In the meantime, expect the war on Dan Andrews to reach fever pitch. To say nothing of our cold war on our biggest trading partner.

As Richard Colbeck almost said, “We haven’t got everything perfectly right … we continue to learn (almost nothing) from the experiences of previous events.”

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Blunder from Down Under

According to Richard Denniss, the chief economist and former executive director of The Australia Institute, government spending is the key prop of the Australian economy.

Denniss’ stark observation comes on the day (02/09/2020) Australia slips to its lowest ebb since the Great Depression, and the day after the Federal Government throttled the Job Seeker and Job Keeper programmes.

This calculated shift to calamitous austerity comes at a time when the cost of money is at an all-time nadir. So low that at the start of the week Governor Philip Lowe of the Reserve Bank of Australia said, “fiscal and monetary support will be required for some time given the outlook for the economy and the prospect of high unemployment.”

So why is Australia plunging into a rapidly emptying summer swimming pool? The answer can be found in the mutterings of the far right extremists now in charge of the National and Liberal parties, and our national destiny

There is no stopping this wrecking crew. Thus far The Usual Suspects – Craig Kelly MP, Josh Frydenberg MP and Senator Richard Colbeck are blaming Victorian Premier Dan Andrews for the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. And calling for the use of a dangerous, ineffective drug to treat the disease, while denying responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of men and women languishing in a privatised aged care system.

But all this is as nothing when compared with the embarrassment of the Blunder from Down Under, the onion eating serial misogynist, and climate denying failed Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.

I do not intend to quote this English-born ex politician, but provide this link to one of many news reports documenting the ravings of this benighted twerp. For the record, when asked his opinion of Abbott’s appointment to a Tory sinecure in the Old Dart, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, “well done Boris! Good hire”.

With this vapid observation dutifully reported by Sky News we are hearing the death rattle of neo-conservatism.

There is no Plan B. No Snap Back. No stratagem for life after the pandemic. Nor is there a chance for an upswing in trade with China. Instead, science is ridiculed. Conspiracy theories rule the popular imagination while our future wealth and security – superannuation — is being dismantled.

Bush fires, a pandemic and the Liberal National Coalition are making 2020 one of the worst years in the nation’s history. The cruel irony is this did not have to happen. We are where we are because we made it so at the ballot box. We chose Rex Patrick, Richard Colbeck, Jacquie Lambie, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Bob Katter, Pauline Hanson; the list is long. We claimed to be sick of politicians yet chose to believe Clive Palmer’s lies.

We read The Australian, The Herald Sun, and The Daily Telegraph. We laughed at the cartoons of Bill and Johannes Leak, and called friends and family members with alternative views, left wing radicals. And we stood by and allowed our female political leaders to be characterised as barren.

Our ally the United States of America now normalises armed militias patrolling the streets of once great cities. We watch black men and women, strangled, bludgeoned, gassed and shot in the back, and yet we do not ask ourselves, ‘could this happen here?’ But this is life for many Aboriginal Australians.

On May 19 2019, I described the day after the election. Reading back I think I managed to capture the menace of the time:

“Dark morning air is crisp across southern Australia, warm and dry north of the Tropic of Capricorn. A short, late autumn day beckons. Communities recently described by their Federal electorate names; Corangamite, Dunkley, Hughes, Fraser, Deakin, Gilmore, Higgins, Dickson and many more, awaken to more familiar urban, regional and rural denominations. And though the election is over the outcome is unclear, at least in this electorate, or that Senate position. But certain certainties remain.

A young shivering tradie walks to his ute, fires up the motor and switches on talk-back radio.

A grumpy grey nomad passes driving duties to his wife. Their 4×4 and trailer swing northeast toward Kynuna. The couple is heading to Birdsville in the Maranoa electorate and a campsite near the Goyder Lagoon.

In the Grayndler electorate a young Balmain woman, trim in well-tailored sweat gear, promises to meet her friends in the Piccolo Bar for a skim latte. The pilates class is over. She is curious about an overheard, heated conversation. The Adani coal mine might actually go ahead.

Dry hoar frost crackles beneath the boots of a vintner surveying vines outside Wellington in the Federal seat of Calare in the central west of NSW. He waves toward a convoy of trucks laden with hay for drought-parched station owners and goodies for their children and wives. For an instant, he wonders if the trucks might stop at the Nanima Aboriginal Reserve where his great aunt once lived.

And so to Beamish Street Campsie in the electorate of Watson named in honour of John Christian Watson, an Australian prime minister in the early 20th Century. Few of Campsie’s citizens know Chris Watson led the world’s first “labour party” government, and believed to be the first social democratic government.

In Macleay Street Potts Point a poster of a smiling Kerryn Phelps, Federal Member for Wentworth, gazes at a batch of empty shop fronts across the road from the El Alamein Fountain.

Journalists wrote hundreds of thousands of words about this day in the life of the people of a nation, who for the past three years wrestled with notions of entitlement, a fair go, and the difference between leaners and lifters. As the morning stretches toward noon, citizens begin to ponder this new day within their respective bubbles, a word favoured by the Federal Member for Cook, Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

The grey nomad urges more speed to get to the campsite on the shores of the Goyder Lagoon in time to set up before the fast approaching sunset.

“You’re thinking about catching that big Murray Cod,” his wife says.

“Hope so. If there’s any left,” he replies, adding,”there’s plenty of water flowing into Lake Eyre. She’ll be right.”

“Yeah I know,” she says, “and we’ll have these memories to savour when we go into care”…

A red light begins to flash on the dashboard.”

Henry Johnston is a Sydney-based author. His latest book The Last Voyage of Aratus is on sale here.

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Josh Frydenberg Seems Confused But He’s Not The Only One!

When I saw a brief headline saying that Josh Frydenberg was calling for a roadmap from Dan Andrews, I thought, Josh obviously has trouble using that tricky GPS because anything that came after the 1980s is a problem for him. Then I read the article and I realised that he was actually wanting to know the plan for bringing Melbourne out of Stage-4 lockdown.

Mr Andrews rather pathetically suggested that it would all depend on future events which is not something that the Liberals ever do. They always have a plan even if it isn’t exactly clear what it is. And they can tell us about the future. I mean, who could forget Scott Morrison’s: “We’ve brought the Budget back into surplus next year!” They even have the coffee mugs to prove that it happened. Unfortunately, there was no Budget delivered in the May so the predicted surplus didn’t happen but that – like everything else – wasn’t their fault.

Dan Andrews has been upsetting quite a lot of people recently… although it’s mainly Liberals who are frustrated that some people are failing to blame him for not being in total control when he should be, because it’s only when he assumes control that they can call him “Dictator Dan” which is their best nickname for a Labor leader since “Electricity Bill”. Someone I know has accused Dan Andrews of a) trying to spread a vicious lie that COVID-19 is more deadly than your average cold, and b) completely incompetent because he let the various spread killing thousands… I’ve read somewhere that the mark of an intelligent person is the capacity to hold two ideas simultaneously so I’ve decided that said person is in the Einstein category.

However, 2020 has produced a number of people who seem similarly blessed. For example, just a few weeks ago, Sam Newman was suggesting that he might run for Lord Mayor of Melbourne on a platform of stopping the lawlessness and anarchy that this city has been witnessing. However, just recently he was calling for 250,000 people to ignore the lockdown and congregate in the city to protest the silly restrictions placed on Melburnians. It has since been discovered that Sam has donated his brain to science sometime in 2019 because he personally hadn’t found a use for it and very much doubted that he’d be using it at any time in the future.

Still, Sam was an ex-sportsman who recently lost his long time job as a resident idiot on “The Footy Show”, so it’s only reasonable that he should consider taking on the only other job where being an idiot is an advantage: politics.

And, while on the subject, isn’t it good that Tony Abbott is going on welfare in Britain. I mean he always said that the best form of welfare is a job and it looks like they’re going to give him one that suits his talents down to the ground. He’s going to be negotiating agreements and he has a lot of good form on that. Remember how successfully he negotiated with Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeschott, or his success at getting legislation through the Senate, or even convincing his back-bench to keep him as leader. Yes, it seems it’s one of those schemes to give a person a job just to keep them busy because there’s no way they’d get it on merit.

It’s been a confusing week all round, but the one thing that’s really got me confused is the suggestion that the MSM wants to be paid for Google or Facebook “using” their stories. I’m going to ignore Facebook for a second because it’s a bit more complicated but the basic point remains.

  1. Google started as a search engine which was just that. It made no money. It just gave you a way of finding things you wanted.
  2. Google became a capitalist and started doing things so that it could make money by getting people to pay it to advantage them in searches.
  3. Historically, media companies didn’t use the internet, but like everything if you’re not on the internet you don’t exist. (If anyone argues with that, I will make the obvious point that they are on the internet!)
  4. Some media companies put up their news content for free; others have a paywall.
  5. Because news is available on the internet, advertising revenues are down for traditional news outlets.
  6. The media now want Google to pay them because Google is sending people to media companies’ websites without giving them any money for sending people to the media companies’ websites.

Now there are a lot of implications and there are a number of things that need to be ironed out, like how do we keep investigative journalists going if there’s no money in it, however, when you boil it all down, it’s media companies’ business model that’s collapsed. The idea of making Google pay for sending people to the website is so contrary to the original concept of a search engine that you can only see it if you look it in principle. Consider these and explain the difference:

  1. Imagine that I run a chain of cinemas and business is down. I decide that film critics should pay me for reviewing any film in my chain.
  2. My clothing brand has its name on the T-shirts it sells. Business is down so I decide that people exhibiting my brands logo on the shirts should have to pay a fee every time they wear it.
  3. A judge on “Masterchef” recommended people eat at my restaurant. I want payment if he ever mentions it by name again.

In all these cases, you can see that the “get stuffed” element is likely to be very strong. Where does it leave me if nobody mentions me again?

Similarly, if Google simply changes its algorithm so that no Australian media company pops up when people do a search, what’s Rupert’s next step?

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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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 382 total views

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.

 248 total views

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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Malcolm And The Art Of The Selfie…

Now sometimes I’m a bit slow…

I mention this because what I’m about to write may seem terribly obvious to some of you and you’ll be going, “Yeah, so what!”

But I feel that I must post, in a spirit of full disclosure.

Ok, that’s my mea culpa, so if what I’m saying seems like I’m suddenly realising what everybody in Australia already knew, well, just call me Barnaby make me Deputy PM…

What? He’s no longer Deputy PM? What? Next you’ll be telling me that another National Party figure fathered Vikki Campion’s child? What? Barnaby already suggested that when he said that she was working in Queensland while he was overseas? Queensland? Does that mean the child will be foreign? Gees… Like I said I am a bit slow.

Anyway… Being a fairly charismatic sort of chap, there have been times that people have wanted a selfie with me. Generally, I oblige. I’m an obliging sort of chap. So I always felt like I was being a bit harsh by calling Malcolm the Minister for Selfies, because well, if I was at many public events then I’m sure that I might have lots and lots of people going, “Rossleigh! Hey, it’s Rossleigh, can we get a selfie?”

Ok, I thought that’s just vain. Most people wouldn’t recognise me and surely I wouldn’t get as many people asking me for a selfie as the PM.

And then it hit me…

Yes, yes, I know. I said that I’m a bit slow.

In every selfie of the PM, he’s the one taking the photo…

To be fair to myself, when he’s standing next to his good friend Donald or Cher or somebody who doesn’t make the cultural cringe seem quite as obvious, then the fact that he’s the one taking the selfie doesn’t make him like quite as pathetic.

However, when he’s standing next to some worker in a high viz vest or some kid who’s said, “Sure, you can take a selfie with me for ten bucks… Who are you again?”, then it just accentuates the fact that nobody seems to be asking Malcolm to be in their photo.

Who knows? If I followed the PM around, I may find as many people asking me to be in their selfies as the PM does. Certainly I can’t recall any photos of anyone saying, “Look who’s in my Instagram feed! Apparently he’s the Prime Minister and he let me take a photo of the two of us together.”

So, I wonder how it goes when he’s at those important events with important people like the President of the United States or Taylor Swift or the Pope or Kim Kardashian, and he says, “Hang on, can I take a selfie? Just so I can tell all my friends back home that I actually met you. God, this is awesome. I’ve always wanted to meet you… There…Thanks.”

Yep, it’s not quite as pathetic as wearing a T-Shirt saying “I’m PM of Australia and you can take a selfie with me – just ask.”

At least, I don’t think it is… But like I said, I’m a bit slow sometimes.

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The Magnificent NBN, Victoria’s “Right-To-Kill Bill” And It’s Just A Flesh Wound…

Writing in “The Herald-Sun” (and no, that’s not really an oxymoron) in May last year, Terry McCrann lauded the government’s NBN success:

 

“RIGHT now, over one million Australians are actually signed on to and using the National Broadband Network. When Labor lost office in September 2013 barely 100,000 were.

So in just two and a half years the number of active users has leapt tenfold — an extraordinary rate of increase in both access and use.

The total number of premises which are able to connect, when and if they choose, has similarly expanded at that spectacular pace, from around 250,000 then to approaching 2.5 million now.

The NBN is finally a done deal. There really is, or should be, no going back to the failed all-fibre $100 billion-plus fantasy of Kevin Rudd and Stephen Conroy.”

 

And just a few weeks ago were told by Malcolm himself, that the NBN was “doing an extraordinary job”. Yes, just a few weeks ago the board that replaced the one that Labor put in place had the situation well in hand and, while even one complaint was too many, now that so many people were being connected then, of course, there’d be more complaints. After all, people are such ungrateful wretches, why look at how some people are complaining about the closure of Manus. As Tony “the Legend” Abbott tweeted: “For years, Greens and Labor allies demanded Manus close. Now it’s closing, they’re still complaining. They just can’t be trusted on borders”. (N.B, NOT SATIRE. ACTUAL TWEET. I know that it’s sometimes hard to tell. Just like when the Australian Border Force told the Senate that sometimes a boat arrival was not a boat arrival. From what I could understand, a recent boat wasn’t an arrival because it happened and we haven’t had one in over a thousand days so,therefore it couldn’t be an arrival, I’m not sure if it was still a boat.)

But more on Tony later… Mm, that last bit should be read aloud. Anyway, just because in a handful of cases, people were being stuck without a landline, they complained. Don’t they understand that this is the “biggest, fastest” thing in the history of Australia? Nay, the world. Why, it’s the biggest, fastest thing since the big bang. (Not the TV show, the Big one!) Don’t they understand that it’s one of Australia’s shining achievements? Why, Turnbull himself listed it and the NDIS as the achievements of his government.

So it comes as a complete shock to me that Turnbull, the man who took over when there was but a “bare 100,000” signed on to the NBN, should suddenly decide that it was a “train wreck”. Well, in case you think that it’s a mea culpa, remember that Malcolm and his Merry Men, don’t need to apologise because nothing is ever their fault. You see, it was because Labor started the project. And they had to take over from where Labor had left it. It’s not like they could put in a whole new management… Oh wait, they did. But it’s not like they could renegotiate the contract and stop the fibre to the premises… Oh wait, they did that too. But I suppose it’s the 100,000 houses that had signed up under Labor who are having the problems… Oh wait, no it’s not.

Anyway, it’s Labor’s fault because it was their idea, like the problems with energy policy: they want a Clean Energy Target but we’ve put in place: A GUARANTEE. And we’re good at things like that. Who could forget “Our Contract With Australia”? You know, the one where we promised to “End the Waste And Debt”?

Mm. Perhaps I’d better move on to Mr Abbott and mention that he “stopped the boats”, which must have fixed up the hospital queues and the traffic problems in Sydney. A remarkable achievement. In a recent tweet, he told us:

Now, I think that we really need to object to his emotive language. Wherever you stand on the issue, the use of the phrase “right-to-kill bill” is an attempt to paint the legislation in negative light. Ok, he probably neither meant to reference Quentin Tarantino nor suggest that Victoria was declaring open season on Bill Shorten… No, it was a really pathetic way of framing a difficult decision as “killing”. Allowing a terminally ill person to end their own life is vastly different from giving people the “right to kill”. Still, one can see why poor Tones might be finding parallels with euthanasia and what the Liberals did to his leadership and that may be what’s making him behave so emotionally.

But perhaps, Tony just likes to impersonate the Black Knight from “Monty Python And The Holy Grail”. You know, “it’s just a flesh wound.” How else could one explain one of his other tweets: “Re AFR story. This isn’t over. There are five million Australians yet to vote and the NO campaign is appealing to every one of them!”

Mm, does Mr Abbott mean that they are making an appeal, or does he mean that the No campaign is appealing to all of them but they just haven’t got around to voting yet?

Whatever, ya gotta laugh. The only other option is for me to decide that I’ve died and I’ve been sent to this absurd Hell, where Donald Trump is president and even after taking the leadership of Abbott, Turnbull behaves like he’s not only betraying all his previous principles, he’s putting his hand up to be the most inarticulate PM since Billy McMahon famously urged people to look at the facts and vote for the ALP… Billy did quickly correct himself, but history would have judged him less harshly if he’d pretended that he meant it. Whatever you think of Tony, he at least gives the feeling that he does have some misguided belief in the things he’s saying, while Turnbull sounds like an understudy who didn’t bother to learn his lines properly, let alone develop an emotional truth.

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