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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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 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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If all they expect of him is the repetitious shaking of hands and gratis smiles at garden parties then he is probably their man.
I expect that the job would demand all the attributes of a leader he never showed as Australia’s number one man.
In that role he was about as useless as an ashtray on a motor bike.
Of course, he was born in England in 1957 and later attended Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. So draped, was he in his Englishness, that he even, as prime minister, gave the Duke of Edinburgh an Australian knighthood.
The sheilas and blokes of good old Oz were completely gobsmacked with the decision, at the time, and demanded he get a new manager. He has been handling himself for far to0 long was the word from the main bar at Young & Jackson.
Nobody could see what services the Prince had done for us that might justify us giving the wanka a title that we couldn’t receive ourselves. I hope that makes sense.
Well unless you were still a British citizen, you were still eligible for a knighthood. Perhaps a discreet meeting had taken place with Sir Lynton Crosby. Do you get my drift?
There is nothing in Abbott’s background that suggests he is remotely qualified for this job. I mean, one wouldn’t dare put the mother country through such an ordeal.
The UK’s shadow trade secretary, Emily Thornberry was aghast at the appointment, saying:
“I just find this appointment absolutely staggering,” Thornberry said. “On a personal level, I am disgusted that Boris Johnson thinks this offensive, leering, cantankerous, climate change-denying, Trump-worshipping misogynist is the right person to represent our country overseas.”
“He is a misogynist, he has very poor views on LGBTQ rights, I just don’t think this is a man who should be anywhere near our Board of Trade”
In fresh news The Guardian reports that Abbott had admitted that in signing trade deals while he was Prime Minister he never allowed himself to become “side-tracked by peripheral issues such as labour and environmental standards.”
Which is of course in direct opposition to Boris Johnson’s insistence that “workers’ rights and environmental standards would be maintained once Britain leaves the single market and customs union.”
Just to finish off the former Prime Minister put the throttle down. In a speech to the Policy Exchange think tank he said that the economic cost of lockdowns meant families should be allowed to consider letting elderly relatives with the coronavirus die by letting nature take its course.
“Letting nature take its course.” Those words make me feel sick in the labyrinth of my guts.
Abbott claimed it was costing the Australian government as much as $200,000 (£110,000) to give an elderly person an extra year’s life, substantially beyond what governments would usually pay for life-saving drugs.
Abbott said not enough politicians were “thinking like health economists trained to pose uncomfortable questions about the level of deaths we might have to live with.”
That the man could have been a priest is beyond my physical and mental capacity to cope with as I try to manage my way through this crisis.
This conservative thinking of money before lives makes … me want to vomit.
But Abbott’s proposed appointment hasn’t been the only controversy of late.
2 Last Monday, in a bid to redirect attention from the economic bad news he is about to deliver, the treasurer chucked the greatest political hissy-fit since Pauline Hanson objected to vaccinations.
That is the greatest load of hogwash l have ever heard. Menzies got us involved in Vietnam. It cost our country 500 young lives and millions of dollars. Then there was Iraq.
That’s what I call policy failures.
3 Unless there is something I’m missing, I fail to understand all the goings on about Facebook and free news.
It seems to me that If I share something from a Murdoch newspaper on Facebook is it news or free advertising? A link to the newspaper ensures that you are directed away from Facebook to the newspaper in question.
Perhaps they should be paying Facebook. What am I missing?
4 Now let me move onto that never-ending question as to when we might get an anti-corruption bill. Well on Tuesday Paddy Manning wrote inThe Monthly that Helen Haines, the independent member for the regional Victorian seat of Indi, put two new bills on notice in the lower house: the Australian Federal Integrity Commission Bill 2020 and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Standards Bill 2020.
It is said that the decisions our politicians make now and upon the ending of this pandemic will shape our future for decades to come.
Therefore, we must rise to the occasion and install an integrity commission. After two years it is obvious the government has no intention of doing so.
I wish the Member for Indi all the very best.
My thought for the day
I find it impossible to imagine that the Australian people could be so gullible as to elect for a third term a government that performed so miserably in the first two and has amongst its members some of the most devious, suspicious, cruel and corrupt men and women… but they did.
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“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.
“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”.
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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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 TheUsual 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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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.
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.
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.
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!)
Some media companies put up their news content for free; others have a paywall.
Because news is available on the internet, advertising revenues are down for traditional news outlets.
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:
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.
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.
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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“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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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.
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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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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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.
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.
“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.”
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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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.
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”?
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.
Sorry, but I’m off to New Zealand in a couple of days and this may be my last post for a couple of weeks. The trouble is that I’m having difficulty working out which of the interesting potential targets to write about. I’ve started to compile a list.
Peter Dutton calls asylum seekers, “Armani refugees” and tells us all that they’re not fleeing war but are, in fact, economic refugees. How then have they been judged to be worthy of asylum? Surely this is a failure of his government to identify them and send them back.
The “No” Campaign expresses outrage that people are being sent one text message urging them to vote “Yes”, labelling it an invasion of privacy. Cory Bernardi announces his intention to robocall a million homes with a two-minute recording of him speaking, which he then follows with a survey of voting intentions. I suspect that he’ll achieve a 100% “No” vote with his survey, as nobody else would listen to him for three minutes. Actually I suspect that he’d get close to 100% if the question was are you my wife or a paid supporter?
Tony Abbott has a column in the paper telling us that Australians don’t like being told what to do and think and the fact that the “Yes” campaign is trying to influence us could backfire. Leaving aside the obvious point that the “No” campaign is also telling us what to think, this could be a valid point. Abbott follows it up, however, by telling the NRL that they shouldn’t have Macklemore at the Grand Final. Apparently, only ex-PMs are allowed to tell us what to do… And only if they aren’t members of the Labor Party.
Malcolm Turnbull goes on “The Project” and gloats that Waleed Aly was wrong about suggesting that Australians couldn’t conduct a civil debate on marriage equality. When Waleed says hang on and points out that there’s been violence and bullying and some really nasty comments, Turnbull bristles and tells him that this has only been from a minority and most people have been ok. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think that anybody was suggesting that the majority of people would conduct themselves badly; it was always about the minority.
Tony Abbott, a free enterprise champion, suggests bringing in the army to take over gas supplies.
Malcolm Roberts argues that a) he believed that he was never a British citizen and b) that he attempted to renounce any claim by sending of an email headed “Am I Still A British Citizen?” This is akin to arguing that I’m not guilty of bigamy because I never believed that I was married and sending off an email with the words, “Has the divorce come through yet?”
Andrew Bolt. Almost anything he says about the Liberal Party/Churches/big companies when compared to anything he says about the Left/Bill Shorten/The Greens/companies that aren’t doing what he thinks that they should.
Turnbull tells us we have a gas problem. Then he tells us it’s Labor’s fault because they should have done something about it four years ago even though, nobody in his government has done anything about it in the past four years. Then he tells us that it’s worse than he thought. Then he tells us he’s solved it becasue the gas supplies have agreed to sell to Australian companies for only a little bit more than what they’re selling to overseas companies.
Well, thank god those days of dysfunctional government are over and the adults are back in charge. No, really, they’ve told us many, many times that they’re the awesomest government and they’re really good and besides Bill smells and has no friends and nobody likes him and we’re going to call him names until he cries because that’s the way adults do things…
Anyway, I must say that the events of the past few days remind me yet again of why people are rather cynical of politicians. For those of you who haven’t followed the events surrounding Christopher “The Fixer” Pyne, it goes something like this.
Pyne was speaking to a group of like-minded Liberals. An amazing thing in itself. He not only mentioned that he and George had always voted for Malcolm the Magnificent, but that changes to the marriage laws may not be all that far away.
Even though this was not a public forum somebody leaked it to Andrew Bolt.
Tony Abbott immediately suggested that Pyne’s “confession that he has made to his close colleagues in the Left faction” demonstrated that he’d been disloyal while a member of his leadership team because, well, you shouldn’t be allowed to vote for someone else when you’re a member of Cabinet apparently. (Let’s leave aside the rather strange idea that there is a “left faction” in the Liberals. Ok, there may be some that are less right, but it’s a bit like talking about the intelligent faction of One Nation.)
There are lots of anonymous sources suggesting that Pyne must be replaced because his comments suggested that he wanted to change government policy and that he should support government policy at all times.
Turnbull and Pyne both come out and say that there’ll be no change to government policy, which is nicely ambiguous because the suggestion from some was that a couple of Liberals were going to introduce a private member’s bill and attempt to get legislation through with a few committed souls crossing the floor. That, of course, wouldn’t require a change to government policy.
There is still anger towards Christopher Pyne for suggesting that he supported something that isn’t government policy.
Tony Abbott puts aside his anger to publicly release a manifesto of exactly what the government should do, which is somehow different from Pyne’s sin of saying it behind closed doors, because nobody has a problem with this at all, even though, at face value, suggesting that the government policy needs to change doesn’t seem to be supporting current government policy.
That about catches you up. So now we can carefully examine Tony’s manifesto without being all caught up on whether Malcolm will sack Christopher or whether a whole bunch of Liberals will join Cory Bernardi’s party and bring down the government.
I did notice that the headline on one of the articles about Tony’s plan implied that it was a plan to help the Liberals get re-elected. Now, if he simply wants to help the Liberals get re-elected, I have a very simple one for him. It’s what they told the sheep farmer: “Just shut the flock up!”
However, I’m sure that Mr Abbott would argue that his ideas are not simply about being returned at the next ballot (whether that’s the ballot for Liberal leader or the next federal one), but that they’re real solutions that will take Australia back to its glory days when men were men, the Queen was beloved by all and we all rode on the sheep’s back… in a purely economic sense, of course, because nobody – not even Cory Bernardi – would have even thought to suggest that we were on a slippery slope toward bestiality.
Mr Abbott, as he usually does, covered a range of ideas. Yep, that is a euphemism for saying that the poor man is unable to stay on any given topic for more than a couple of minutes without exhausting his knowledge. Young Tony asserted the need to cut immigration before following up with complaints about political parties surrendering to populism. Now, I guess some will think that this is a bit hypocritical, but let me remind you that it’s only when somebody else does something that a lot of people agree with that it’s populism, when one does it oneself, it’s bowing to the will of the people in line with democratic principles. Along with Mr Abbott’s misgivings about populism and the whole political spectrum moving to the left, he was also concerned about school funding and energy targets. School funding, he speculated, had moved in the wrong direction, although he wasn’t clear about what he meant by that, although he has made it clear in the past that he thinks that private schools should be getting a lot more than they are. And the Senate shouldn’t be have so much power to block the government and he proposed measures that would enable a joint sitting without the need for a double dissolution. Nobody asked him why he tried to block so much government legislation when he was in Opposition, if he felt that the Senate was an unnecessary obstacle. Similarly, nobody suggested that this might be a problem when those silly Labor people get back in. Perhaps, Tony has a plan to ensure that only conservatives can be elected in future; perhaps he’s quite happy to allow Labor to introduce all those things that the Senate has rejected in the past. Whatever, it surely couldn’t be because a man who was once our PM wouldn’t have thought his idea through.
And then, there were his ideas on energy. Listening to Finkel – whom the current government commissioned to work out the best solutions, or at least some solutions, because we’ve already rejected some even if they are the best – would be a terrible mistake. No, it’s better just to make up your own mind because that way you don’t get confused by a lot of nasty facts. No, we should freeze the renewable target at 15% and stop any new wind farms because we may have an energy shortfall and building more wind farms would help reduce this shortfall, but not by using coal and so, therefore, it doesn’t fit the criteria of good energy policy. Let’s be quite clear here, renewables are being subsidised and we don’t like that. We think that the market should decide and if the market doesn’t want to build any new coal-fired power stations then the government should go it alone and build one itself. There now, that’s perfectly consistent, isn’t it?
A spokesman for Mr Turnbull said that he had no plans to change government policy. When asked if he had any plans at all, the spokesman said that he’d check with the PM but he was almost certain that he had been talking about his intention to develop a plan at the first available opportunity.
Ok, she was riding high in the polls and, even though she had three years before she had to face the people – in her case, for the first time as PM – she decided that she needed to shore up her support and get a “strong mandate” for Brexit. While some saw it as a cynical attempt to take advantage of Corbyn’s supposed lack of electoral appeal, it was generally thought to be a good political move. And, just like when the US banks were bundling loans together and selling off the risk before the GFC, there was no risk.
However, Theresa (Dis)May got a surprise. Who would have thought it? (Ok, well I did suggest that it was possible a few weeks ago, but nobody takes me seriously!) Of course, that’s the thing about surprises: They’re surprising. Otherwise they wouldn’t be a surprise and they’d be that other thing which we call predictable. If a thing is predictable, it’s not a surprise. But to me the surprising thing is that anybody is actually surprised about the surprise.
To explain what I mean, let’s look at the world of the past few years. Ok, we can’t expect a British PM to have heard about Campbell Newman going from a record majority to losing the next election when the only thing he’d done wrong was to be a complete dickhead, but we could expect that she’d be more familiar with British politics where the following things have happened in the recent past:
In 2015, David Campbell’s Conservative Party is re-elected in a surprise result.
He surprisingly calls for a vote on leaving the EU.
The “leave” campaign surprisingly wins in spite of having Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson arguing for it.
David Cameron quits as PM less than a year after being re-elected. Perhaps not a surprise after the vote, but certainly not expected at the start of the year.
So, in 2017, thinks Theresa, let’s call an election because I’m not expecting a surprise. After all, Donald Trump was elected in the USA, so it’s not like anything is possible. No, I’ll go to the polls, increase my majority and I won’t even need to debate Corbyn because nobody likes him. Yes, half the country did vote against Brexit, and, yes, we don’t have compulsory voting, but I am expecting all those people who voted for David last time and who voted against Brexit to come out and vote for me to give me a massive mandate. And no, I’m not expecting any protest vote because some people think we’re going to win so they feel safe voting for other parties just to let us know that they think we’re a bunch of out-of-touch wankers. I’m sure that my support for the re-introduction of fox hunting will be the sort of policy that shows that we understand that people are doing it tough…
But in a world of such unpredictability, it’s good to know that there are still some things you can rely on! Take Tony Abbott.
While both major parties, business, scientists and others all agree that we need to find some sort of bipartisan policy on energy, Tony decided to pre-empt the Finkel Report by declaring that the Liberal Party needed to be the party of “cheap power”… Rather ironic, when I think about it.
Anyway, Tony was concerned that the Finkel Report could lead to coal-generated power going from its current 65% to around 20%. Given that a large chunk of the report was about ensuring energy security, I haven’t been able to work out why it’s a concern, beyond the current fetish that some Liberals have for handling lumps of coal. If battery storage gets to the point when renewables could deliver 100% of our energy needs, why would need to send men into the mines to dig up coal? (Actually, even if we still needed coal, it’s far more likely that all mining will be automated, depriving our workers of not only jobs, but fringe benefits like black lung disease and industrial accidents!)
But no, apparently coal will still be good for humanity and any attempt to replace it isn’t just unrealistic, it’s also somehow wrong. We have a moral obligation to sell our coal. If God hadn’t wanted us to mine it, he wouldn’t have put it in the ground! (By the way, you can have a lot of fun with the same argument when you apply it to sex, drugs, alcohol or just about anything considered sinful by the person proposing the theory. For example, “If God hadn’t wanted me to practise bestiality, why did he make sheep so damned attractive?”)
And, of course, let’s not forget Malcolm Roberts when talking about certainty in an uncertain world. You can be certain that Malcolm’s argument will go like this:
Empirical evidence is the only thing that matters.
Because I know this, I must be clever.
Because I am clever, I must be right.
This is empirical evidence, and if you don’t see that, then you are ignoring the facts.
If you bring up evidence that doesn’t agree with my point of view, it must be from some organisation that is pushing a political agenda and can be safely ignored because it’s not empirical evidence.
If you attempt to argue with me, we shall go back to Point 1 and start all over again.
Yes, it’s good to be sure of some things in a world full of surprises. I mean, lots of things are uncertain but at least we know we can rely on people like Tony and Malcolm Roberts. Just like we know that when Malcolm Turnbull goes into the party room to argue that we need to find a bipartisan policy on energy, that he’ll be rolled and have to find some way to spin it as though it was Labor’s fault. Of course, this gets harder each time he has to blame Labor because, as Tony found out, you can only do that so many times before people start asking when you’re going to do something to actually fix things… Or in Turnbull’s case, when you’re actually going to do something.
Perhaps a new leader could blame Labor another dozen times before they start to look incompetent too.