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Tag Archives: Tony Abbott

Tony Abbott’s government was “remarkably underappreciated”, says Tony Abbott

That 1000 people would pay $130 each to attend a function to celebrate former Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s 25 years in Australian politics astonished me.

To find out that they had to turn many others away amazed me even more. Then to find out that most of the speakers reckoned he was underappreciated left me in a cold rage.

That anyone could find anything decent to say about a man who frankly was the greatest liar ever to walk the hallowed halls of our parliament was dumbfounding.

Our country is becoming worse than the US in our capacity to celebrate mediocrity I thought.

And to hear that many who spoke at the function described him as “undervalued” had me searching for a packet of valium.

Then when I read that Tony Abbott himself said that:

“I used to think that the Abbott government was a remarkably underappreciated one.”

“The great thing tonight is that finally I think it might be seen for what it really was — a good-faith effort to help our country to be the very best it could be.”

Well, what can I say, that had me on the phone to my psychiatrist.

Good lord, hadn’t he admitted that it was a chronic failure. “Good government starts tomorrow,” he was alleged to have said after he was threatened with the sack.

And when I read that many who spoke at the event in Sydney told guests Mr. Abbott had been equally undervalued, I went to the kitchen to look for a sharp edge.

Is this the same bloke who repealed the ‘carbon tax’: probably the worst policy decision by any Prime Minister since federation?

He went on to say:

“I used to think that the Abbott government was a remarkably underappreciated one.”

The Master of Ceremonies was no other than Alan Jones, who said there was so much love for Mr. Abbott that even with 1,000 guests attending, “hundreds” more had to be turned away.

At this stage, I was beginning to feel that dreaded taste one feels just before one’s throat erupts with the vilest of memories in liquid form.

“They cannot be talking about the same bloke?” I thought. I recall writing this about the man when he was Opposition Leader:

“When looked at in isolation the lies and indiscretions of Tony Abbott, his problems with women and even his negativity could perhaps all be written off as just Tony being Tony?

Or that’s just politics. However, my focus here is on character and whether Mr. Abbott had enough of it to be the leader of our nation.”

My contention was that because we are looking at a litany of instances of lying, deception and bad behavior over a long period of time he simply didn’t have the essence of character which is one of the main ingredients in the recipe of leadership.”

On a daily basis the negativity of Abbott, when Opposition Leader, spread like rust through the community. He sought to confuse with the most outlandish statements. Hardly a day passed without referring to the then Prime Minister, Julia Gillard as a liar while at the same time telling the most outrageous ones himself. And with a straight face, I might add. He sought to hamper all legislation with a pre-determined NO. Often without even reading it.

Abbott has taken lying and the frequency of it to a level in political discourse we have never experienced.

But here was Alan Jones talking about a man who very nearly destroyed his own party and who was credited with trashing many of Australia’s democratic conventions and institutions.

Jones went on to say that:

“It was a contradiction for a politician who had been defeated in a nasty and bruising campaign for the seat of Warringal.”

“Tony Abbott … has a heart which beats like everybody else and he’s been brutally wounded by appalling condemnation and vilification which no person of his ability should ever have had to endure,” Mr. Jones told a Liberal Party who’s who.

Mr. Jones described the campaign that unseated Mr. Abbott at this year’s election as “one of the most disgraceful chapters in Australian political history”.

All this about a man who vilified our female Prime Minister with the most misogynistic language his limited intellect could muster. “Send her out to sea in a chaff bag…”

Jones continued:

“It wasn’t the defeat it was the extent to which the personal vilification and undermining of the character and decency of this man was not only embraced by the electorate but condoned by people who should have known better.”

Good lord, I was becoming dizzy with the capacity of these people to believe their own bullshit.

Peter Dutton followed up saying that Mr. Abbott had been largely misunderstood:

“I think in fact it’s his intelligence and depth of thought that wasn’t properly appreciated (really) by many of the modern-day journalists,” he said, adding that most people who meet Mr. Abbott says he is nothing like what he seems on television.

“In fact that is the great tragedy, not that he’s a different person publicly but that he is portrayed as such by his opponents.

“Nevertheless Australians sensed a decency in Tony and they were right.”

That reminded me of the 2014 budget of which even conservative commentators agreed that it was the unfairest budget ever.

Mr. Abbott was also praised for policy achievements such as abolishing the carbon tax and the mining tax, and putting Australia “on the path to surplus.”

And his many volunteering and fundraising efforts, including his annual support of the Pollie Pedal, were acknowledged. (And the taxpayer paid all of his expenses). (His fire fighting volunteering was nothing more than photo opportunities).

Scott Morrison was next praising Abbott for identifying Islamic State as a threat to Australia before many leaders in the Western world had thought to, and for his compassion and drive towards improving Indigenous lives.

Again, his interest in our First Nation Peoples was purely for photo opportunities.

Former Prime Minister Howard reckoned his greatest policy achievement was “restoring Australia’s border protection regime.”

And yet today we have asylum seekers coming up for 7 years in jail for not committing any crime. How shameful.

Joe Hockey’s contribution, in a video, was to say that Abbott was a man for others.

“Whatever you do or say in the future will most definitely be for others — you are genuinely a man for others.”

Just who the others are is debatable, but they certainly weren’t the underprivileged.

To conclude the night Mr. Abbott chose not to blame anyone other than himself for the loss of his seat.

“If anyone wants to know who is to blame for the Warringah result it was not the campaign — it was just the candidate.”

And that was one of the rare times the truth escaped its prison.

For me, it says much about the conservative party that a man so much an abject failure as a Prime Minister could attract a crowd 1000 people to celebrate it.

That they let historical facts so easily go through to the keeper never ceases to amaze me.

My thought for the day

In Tony Abbott did Australia ever elect a Prime Minister so ignorant of technology, the environment and science? So oblivious of the needs of women and so out of touch with a modern pluralist society.

Enough said.

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Now is the time, Mr Morrison.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

How very dare he get in first?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Somehow it must keep us from the Light of Day.

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

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

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

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

 

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ScoMo no leader at all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ScoMo alienates half his audience with his gaffe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Morrison’s monumental dysfunctional Pacific “family” failure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Malcolm And The Art Of The Selfie…

Now sometimes I’m a bit slow…

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then it hit me…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The List Of Strange Bedfellows – If You’ll Pardon The Expression.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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?
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Tony Abbott, a free enterprise champion, suggests bringing in the army to take over gas supplies.
  6. 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?”
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

The list goes on…

I have a plane to catch.

See you in a week or so!

Abbott Supporters Still Pyning Away!

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.

  1. 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.
  2. Even though this was not a public forum somebody leaked it to Andrew Bolt.
  3. 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.)
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. There is still anger towards Christopher Pyne for suggesting that he supported something that isn’t government policy.
  7. 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.

Surprises Are Surprising – Just Ask Theresa May, Tony Abbott Or Campbell Newman!

A few weeks ago I suggested that I couldn’t understand why Theresa (Dis)May called an election. She had everything to lose and very little to gain.

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:

  1. In 2015, David Campbell’s Conservative Party is re-elected in a surprise result.
  2. He surprisingly calls for a vote on leaving the EU.
  3. The “leave” campaign surprisingly wins in spite of having Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson arguing for it.
  4. 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:

  1. Empirical evidence is the only thing that matters.
  2. Because I know this, I must be clever.
  3. Because I am clever, I must be right.
  4. This is empirical evidence, and if you don’t see that, then you are ignoring the facts.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Honour The Sabbath, But Clearly In A Clearly Optional Way OR Why Tony Is The Only True Conservative Left!

Recently I’ve speculated on how the Christian Right have found clear evidence about the Bible’s opposition to gay marriage based on highly ambiguous readings of obscure verses here and there, but not one of them has come out and condemned the reduction of penalty rates on Sundays. I suppose one could argue that they see it as a sin anyway and whether one is paid double time or not is hardly the issue. However, I would expect that someone like Neil who graced us with his presence in the comments, or Lyle Shelton would have been jumping up and down and complaining about the abolition of penalty rates leading to more sin…

Yes, the wages of sin is death… But you do get to pick your own hours and the working conditions are pretty good!

I don’t know why I chose to start talking about penalty rates. I’m really much more interested in the coming leadership challenge which leaves us with a Liberal Party 100% behind Scott Morrison… Or Peter Dutton, if they decide that he’s the only one who’s still friendly enough with the Tony to convince him to take the effing job in London before they have to revoke his citizenship under the recent changes allowing us to cancel it when dual citizens commit crimes such as sedition… Sedition can loosely be defined as trying to bring down the government, and they could even get a jury to convict Abbott on that.

Ok, ok, I know that Abbott isn’t really a dual citizen and that he revoked his British citizenship some time ago, but he won’t tell us when because it’s a deeply personal thing and therefore an operational matter. Of course, when I say that I know, I’m using the words “I know” in the same way that Donald Trump knows that nobody understands the world like him and he knows that climate change is part of a conspiracy between Hillary and the Chinese to destroy Trump Tower!

Anyway…

Tony decided to warn his colleagues that they were in danger of losing the next election because they weren’t conservative enough. The Tone decided to do this – not in the Party room where he was concerned that his mates may be asleep or not paying attention – but via the media. In the everyday world where most of us live this would be the normal way of doing things. If you had a problem with your boss, you wouldn’t blurt it out at a staff meeting. No, you’d publish it on social media in the hope that someone would bring it to his attention and he’d go, “Yes, that person had a point, I’ll change my ways!”

Peta Credlin rushed to Tony’s defence. He wasn’t being disloyal. He was just frustrated. She quickly added that she was no longer working for Tony and her reflections were just to help us all understand that it was his pent-up frustration and that she wasn’t speaking on his behalf. No, she was just presuming that he was frustrated, and she was just trying to explain what he gets like when he’s frustrated by not having his own way. No, she may no longer be his Chief of Staff, but she knows where he’s coming from!

Tony, we’ll all have you know, is simply trying to keep the Liberal Party together. And we all know that the best way to keep a party together is to criticise it in public…

Yes, Labor has disunity; the Liberals have “a broad church”.

And part of this broad church, in the Gospel according to St Tony, tells us that we should just get rid of all the nonsense that we pretended to believe in when we were trying to get elected. You know, like all that nonsense he pretended to believe in when he was studying to be a priest before he realised that he’d never be Pope.

I mean, don’t you all understand the threat of One Nation?

No, not the One Nation which encourages songs like “We’re all in this together” or multicuturalism. No, the One Nation that wants to exclude most people in our nation from anything approaching rights and thinks that penalty rates should just be abolished altogether and women get pregnant for the money!

You know, One Nation…

Remember, Tony did his bit by meeting with Pauline where they had a jolly good laugh about how he raised the funds to have her put in jail.

You know, One Nation…

Who’ve hired James Ashby. Remember him? He left the Liberals to go and work for Peter Slipper. That worked out badly and he had to leave because he alleged that Slipper was sexually harassing him, but his case sort of fell down when his reaction to a text about being spanked was to reply that he might like it. (This is not a joke. Unless Winston Smith has started to work for the government it’s easily searchable!) Now James is working for Pauline and Tony is saying that we need to be less consistent to what we believe and more like PHON!

You know, One Nation…

Whom Abbott seems to believe may take votes off the Liberals and are a threat.

You know, One Nation…

The Party that the Liberals decided to preference above their Coalition partners in WA. Of course, helping them get elected doesn’t mean that we support them and agree with them. We’re just doing it because we’d trade preferences with the devil himself if he it helped us get elected. I mean, at least we have sunk so low as to work with The Greens!

Yes, it’s a worry that people may start to agree with One Nation whose candidates have done such wonderful things as suggesting that a termite repellent can be used to treat skin cancer (or could, were it not for the fact that silly regulations have stopped it’s import, just because a few people have needed hospitalisation because they have large holes in their face) and the idea that gay people are using “Nazi mind control” to change our thinking. I can see more votes leaking to One Nation than the Labor Party or The Greens. God, doesn’t Donald Trump show how dangerous the left can be?

When I suggest that the Liberals will call a spill this week, it seems highly unlikely at the time of writing. However, in a world where Abbott was elected as PM and Turnbull is praising the virtues of coal and Bill Shorten looks the most sincere of the three*, then it’s a risky call to bet against me unless you’re getting good odds. Do I think, Malcolm will be PM by the end of the week? Probably… But I am prepared to suggest that the person who suggested that Turnbull would go on to be one of our longest-serving and most successful Prime Ministers must be wishing that they’d decided to write a column about the achievements of Lachlan Macquarie instead!

*I only said, of the three, AND I do know we could have a long discussion about it, but the idea that it’s even debatable is EXACTLY my point!

Abbott & Turnbull – It’s on like Donkey Kong!

I can imagine Abbott reading the latest dismal polling figures for Turnbull and dancing around reminiscent of his 2013 election victory screaming “The Leadership will change! The Leadership will change!” After today’s revelation; is it now on like Donkey Kong?

Reports emerged this morning that Tony Abbott tells UK Tories he believes he can be PM again.  The article describes Abbott is aiming to channel a Rudd like comeback, with Senior Liberals stating he ‘has a good chance, as he is popular amongst the Liberal Membership.’

An interesting revelation though is if Abbott is successful, it appears Julie Bishop will be gone, with Abbott describing Bishop in ‘unflattering terms‘ to his colleagues abroad. The sniping already seems to have begun.  In traditional form, Abbott may as well start with sniping about a woman, before he warms up to sniping openly about Turnbull.  He does need to get back into practice.

If Abbott pulls this off, who will be his Deputy? Andrews? Perhaps. His loyalty to Abbott would make him a favourable candidate.

Will Barnaby be pushed to move over to make room for Christensen as leader of the Nats? In all fairness, it has been Christensen twisting Turnbull’s arm to get him to bow down to the conservatives and nationalists on key policy.

Will Peta Credlin return as Abbott’s adviser?

People may laugh at the thought of an Abbott return and laugh harder at an Abbott/Credlin return. However, Credlin is a highly intelligent woman and an exceptional strategist.  As Howard channelled Hanson’s policies to appease the Nationalists in the 90’s; don’t take it for granted Abbott would fail.

If Abbott follows Howard’s lead and channels the same type of Hanson rhetoric and policies, in the unique Abbottesque-style conservatives and nationalists love; it will be an entire new ball game for Labor, as Abbott will be in his element.

Abbott has the capacity to take over this space and make Hanson sound like an unnecessary annoying blip.  Sunrise will be paying to keep her OFF the show.

The other day I was watching Andrew Bolt’s thoughts on the Presidential debate and another video popped up after that. I watched it with interest. The topic: “Could Malcolm Turnbull be turning into a conservative?” In the video, Bolt noted that Turnbull may be reinventing himself as a ‘more media friendly Tony Abbott.’

The video goes on to discuss changes in Turnbull such as his stance on Daesh and his decision to take less Muslim refugees. Attacking Labor with some ‘rare passion’ on border security and an attack on Kevin Rudd, were duly noted by Bolt.

Bolt then goes on to point out how Turnbull has bowed to the pressure from conservatives on superannuation and same sex marriage.

Bolt even asks the viewer to ‘watch this transformation.’  I’ve pointed a similar thing out before. So it isn’t just because I’m a laborist cynical about the right; the same observations are coming from the most prominent conservative in the Australian media.

The reason for Turnbull’s transformation to conservatism? As Bolt rightly points out: “It is the conservatives who can kill his Prime Ministership.” 

Are there already whispers around the halls of Canberra? Is this transformation Turnbull readying himself for a full on challenge?  Have the monkey’s been released from their pod and are they ready to cause real havoc?

After a very strong theme from Bolt that Turnbull is a dud; could it be that Bolt is actually stirring Turnbull here?  Pointing out to him via this medium that there is a challenge coming and to save his leadership he needs to walk the righteous path to conservatism and beg for mercy at the feet of the likes of Christensen? It is like Bolt is pointing and laughing at Turnbull and letting him know, that he knows his game is up  (hahah I see you, you can’t fool me!)

Only those on the inside will know for sure and no doubt they will feed us snippets; but if this is finally starting, it is going to be glorious to watch.

For those who enjoy studies of organisational behaviour and leadership like myself, watching Turnbull’s increasingly obvious grapple with getting his surface acting under control as he continues to pretend to be an authentic leader, will be absolutely delicious once the pressure is really on!

In my last article, I suggested that Turnbull may be Australia’s first ever shape-shifting politician. With a challenge looming and now picked up by the media, it will be interesting to watch how rapid Turnbull’s shape shifting to fully fledged nationalist conservative will be. Is it time to start counting the number of flags at media stops yet? Perhaps.

Yep, it seems it is going to be on like Donkey Kong. Will Turnbull get barrelled? Or will he save the Princess and take the crown?

Originally published on Polyfeministix

The year that made me

As I listened to Attorney-General George Brandis today unconvincingly bellow (shout loud: argument weak, as the father of my children used to say) that Malcolm Turnbull will be remembered by history as one of our great prime ministers, I reflected that while it’s sadly apparent Brandis is a fool, what is most unsettling is that he apparently believes the rest of us to be even bigger fools.

Malcolm Turnbull will be remembered by history as one of the weakest men ever to hold the nation’s highest office: I’m damned if I can think of many who’ve been more ineffective, more blustering, more incompetent and more so obviously at a total loss as to what to do next. No amount of Brandis’s maniacal talking up is going to change that situation, as we saw with failed and sacked prime minister Tony Abbott, also marketed as great and in the process of leaving a powerful legacy, as his popularity hurtled off a cliff like Sidney Nolan’s upside down horse, his death cult followers clinging to the saddle, three-word slogan at the ready: Nothing to see! Nothing to see!

There’s a pattern here. Talked up one day, compost the next.

No one can make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear, least of all the meta data-challenged Attorney-General who will himself be remembered largely for his technological ignorance, his ludicrously expensive bookshelves, and his elitist notion of what constitutes art.

Turnbull’s deplorable decision to carry on with predecessor Tony Abbott’s (the one who will be remembered for giving Prince Philip a knighthood, just one of a vast array of incomprehensible acts of wilfully destructive stupidity) ill-willed and non-binding plebiscite on marriage equality demonstrates yet again that the Prime Minister is haemorrhaging principles from every orifice, in a kind of spiritual Ebola that has afflicted him since he took office.

I am unable to think of one reason why the Australian public has a “right” to vote on the right of citizens to marry or not. This is not a question of protecting the Australian public’s rights: no member of the Australian public will suffer during the enactment of same-sex marriage. Marriage equality is a human rights issue, and it is an outstanding example of heterosexual arrogance to reframe it as an issue on which “the people” are entitled to have their say. Why are they entitled to have their say? Give me one good reason.

If “the people” are “entitled” to “have their say” in plebiscites on all matters regarded by politicians as “too important” for them to simply do their jobs, why bother having a parliament at all? We’ll use their salaries and perks to fund opinion polls instead, then all they’ll need to do is pass the legislation.

The High Court ruled that parliament already has the authority it needs to simply amend the Marriage Act to include same-sex marriage, without consulting anybody. Why are we paying the idle swine to hand the job back to us?

Trust me, said George Brandis when asked if his party would honour a *yes* vote, and that’s where I fell off my chair and rolled on the floor laughing my arse off.

It used to be that when Abbott said anything good about someone we knew they’d be in the dumpster fairly soon. It’s very hard to believe that Brandis is serious about Turnbull’s strength as a leader. I don’t think he is. He’s shouting loud because his argument is, like its subject, weak. His exaggerated praise of Turnbull is turning the corner into mockery. Brandis knows what’s coming.

Some of you may be familiar with the segment on ABC broadcaster Jonathan Green’s Sunday Extra, The Year that Made Me. A guest who has achieved chooses a year from her or his life which to them was highly formative. Malcolm Turnbull could do this gig.  He could call it The Year that Made Me lose every principle I’d ever held, and left me a dusty, creaking husk of a man, and taught mean the true meaning of the phrase, laughing-stock.

Excoriate! Excoriate!

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

 

The Emperor’s New Truth

So there’s been another boat.

Never mind that Peter Dutton, Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison have been insisting for years that “the boats have stopped”, now, during a contested election that’s not all going the Coalition’s way, suddenly the people smugglers have started up again. Bit of a coincidence, that.

One might be tempted to suspect that perhaps the boats had not stopped at all. As all knowledge of such matters falls into the Coalition’s “on-water” black hole, there’s no way we would know. Reasonable people may entertain the glimmers of doubt about the information we’re being fed. But the Coalition’s latest announcement is not aimed at reasonable people.

On any reasonable metric, the Abbott/Turnbull Coalition government has been an abject failure since 2013.  On the domestic issues, whichever your primary priority – economic success, reduction of the deficit, unemployment rate, government spend as share of GDP, real wages, broadband speed, and even general standard of living – every metric has declined since Abbott toppled the Gillard/Rudd government. If you turn your attention to the “moral” issues – those that have no immediate, material impact on the national economy – the Abbott / Turnbull government is similarly unimpressive. From environmental protection, to action on climate change, to refugees and immigration – both in how we “stop the boats”, and in how we treat those who have reached our shores – Australia’s performance over the past three years has dropped from substantial to dismal. So why would people still choose to vote for the Coalition, with this litany of failures behind them?

The reason, of course, is that voters do not vote on the basis of performance and record. They’re voting on the basis of promise and expectation. But the promises of the Coalition don’t fare much better than their record of successes. Delving deeply into the government’s budget and forecasts, it’s reasonably fair to say that their entire policy platform rests on a single “innovation” – a $50bn tax cut for businesses.  In all other areas, they promise more of the same. More of the ineffective, expensive Direct Action plan – a plan which Liberal true believers still think is efficient, but which most of Australia has recognised as wasteful and well insufficient to the task. More attempts to implement the 2014 budget of cuts to health and education. More attempts to establish a co-payment by stealth, more attacks on Medicare, more invective directed towards those who haven’t been successful in acquiring one of the increasingly sparse jobs in our “exciting” economy. But thank goodness, no more of those juvenile “knights and dames”, so that’s okay.

For some, the pertinent measure of a good government is stability. For these voters, the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd years were a debacle to be resolutely punished, and punished the Labor government was. It’s a good thing that the Abbott government is so committed to stability. Sorry, the Turnbull government. At least their policy platform is stable – it has barely changed since the 1950s, and the Coalition parties wouldn’t dream of proposing half-baked policy.

So if people aren’t voting on the basis of what the Government has done so far, and they’re not paying attention to what the Government is promising to do should it be returned, why then does Malcolm Turnbull stand a good chance of being reelected in his own right on July 3?

The reason is that voters are voting on the basis of a fiction. They’re playing a game of Fantasy Government in their heads and they’re voting for their imagined Good Government. Their vision of governance is informed by the established truths that attach to each of the major parties. For Coalition supporters, this might be the established truth that the Coalition is better at managing the economy and that Labor will put the country further into unsustainable debt. For Labor supporters, it might be that workers’ unions always act in the best interests of its members. Greens supporters cling to the belief that the party is above normal politics, and every action and position is taken on the basis of the best outcomes for the environment and social equality rather than grubby vote-grabbing. All of these established truths are at best open to debate, but to the true believer they are sacrosanct.

To someone with an interest in politics and attention to the actual facts and statistics, it can be eye-gouging to watch voters in critical electorates responding to voting intention questionnaires with platitudes about Labor’s debt and the Coalition’s savings. On this site and others, the usual suspects may be relied upon to always populate the comments section with their opinion on any political topic of the day, and their opinions are always the same and undented by being shown proven, empirical evidence that what they’re claiming just isn’t true.

It is well known that people seek out and pay credence to evidence and opinion that matches or reinforces their own beliefs. Confirmation Bias is a phenomenon recognised sufficiently to warrant its own term in psychological textbooks.  However, it doesn’t work alone. Recent research shows that attempting to debunk a political rumour – or an entrenched belief – may have the contrary outcome of making them stronger.  Possibly, this is due to the believer discounting the efforts of the debunker because of perceived bias. Once Fairfax media acquires a reputation as a left-wing outlet, nothing printed in one of its mastheads is likely to change the minds of a conservative voter and may instead reinforce perverse beliefs in the face of published evidence.

So it seems that propaganda exists in two phases. The first phase is the implantation of an idea. Think about it in terms of “brain ownership”: once you’ve acquired someone’s loyalty, it’s extremely hard to dislodge. Political strategists know this. There is strength in the approach of lying with impunity, in order to seed a belief in the understanding that it will become a new truth. Tony Abbott’s government was a master at this technique, but really it’s been a modus operandi for conservative politics for decades.

Once seeded, repetition is the fertiliser that helps it to flower. Repetition of an idea plays directly into confirmation bias, and every repetition makes it harder for a contrary idea to cut through.

Finally, once the idea has been seeded and watered and has taken root in the desired electorate, it is important to discredit all potential sources of contrary information with allegations of bias. This explains why Gillian Triggs has been represented as such a threat. Her empirical report into offshore processing camps had to be discredited, and the best way to do that is to taint the figurehead with allegations of bias. The Coalition succeeded in creating this impression, and from that point on any reference to her report simply reinforces the Coalition’s position of the necessity and tolerability of those camps.

This is why a boat has suddenly appeared on our borders for the first time in years. Logically, both things cannot be true: either the boats have stopped, or the people smugglers are still “trying our resolve” and sending the boats. But voters don’t think about it in this manner. The Coalition is having its cake and eating it too. For those who wish to believe the Coalition’s policies have been successful and should continue, the Boats have Stopped. For another part of the electorate, fear of the incoming hordes is the stronger motivator, and the news of a new boat reinforces that fear. Both things do not have to be true; one of these things simply needs to be accepted as true for the Coalition’s stance to be justified.

So how can a propaganda-driven New Truth be combatted by those with facts and data on their side?

First, it is important to be – and to be perceived to be – impartial. Opponents of the inconvenient facts will attempt to discredit them as biased. If possible, it is best to lead people to discover the facts on their own, rather than simply telling. Contrary to normal argumentative rhetoric, it may be most effective to find out first what sources of information would be regarded as acceptably impartial before presenting any facts at all.

A single instance of leading a horse to water may not be enough to make them drink. The second component of re-education is repetition. You can never allow a statement of New Truth to pass unchallenged. Much of the time this is a recipe for frustration: New Truth will regularly be spouted in the media and there is no immediate way to respond to this. But on a one-to-one basis, in daily communication with your friends, family and workmates, a response is possible – and indeed, the only ethical choice.

Whether you’re interested in the virtue of truthfulness and data rather than lies and misinformation, or you’re concerned for the future governance of the country, or if you just want to prevent the next generation being implanted with New Truth before they’re old enough to make up their own minds with the evidence, we must respond. We must do so carefully, without reference to the information resources we ourselves find so convincing. But respond we must. Otherwise the New Truth will live on to poison the next election – it’s probably too late for this one.

Day to Day Politics: The campaign has started – “It’s Labor’s fault” … “The GFC didn’t happen”.

Wednesday 20 April. -74 Days

1 Predictably the Conservatives have already started blaming Labor for everything. They inherited an enormous debt. We left them with none they say. They are the problem, not us. No mention of the Global Financial Crisis or why they doubled the debt.

In the meantime, now that the ABCC has been voted on, for which Turnbull allowed a fortnight, nobody seems to know what to do with the remainder of the time. There is no substantive business to debate. What will the members do? Stay or go. Perhaps they could adjourn to the bar on the public purse for a fortnight. Wouldn’t even need to take a vote on that one.

By committing to a date for the election he has, as Julia Gillard did, taken away the element of surprise. Naming the date so far in advance didn’t work for Gillard, it is unlikely to work for him.

In question time the Prime Minister said “the election would be about trust”.

I wouldn’t like to be backing that statement up with facts.

“It is an absolute principle of democracy that governments should not and must not say one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards. Nothing could be more calculated to bring our democracy into disrepute and alienate the citizenry of Australia from their government than if governments were to establish by precedent that they could say one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards” (Tony Abbott).

2 Sky News presenter Paul Murray has claimed to have seen the script of a TV add he says will be run straight after the budget saying that there are savings measures of $16 billion over four years. If this is true, what does four billion a year tell us? Well it tells us that they are not fairdinkum and unwilling to hurt their constituency. So much for fairness and budget repair. And guess who is paying for the advertisements? Well it’s not the Liberal Party. It’s illegal of course, but they will still do it.

3 The Morgan and Essential Polls on Tuesday came in with the parties on 50/50. Combined with the Ipos 51/49 and Newspoll 50/50 Monday it confirms the trend toward Labor which is of course a strange time to be going to an election. Added to this for the Coalition is the complexity of delivering a popular budget in the midst of a campaign. And of course running on policies of your predecessor rather that your own.

Morgan says that “If a Federal Election were held now the result would be too close to call and would likely result in a hung Parliament”.

What shouldn’t be overlooked is the fact that Labor needs a uniform swing of 4.3% and 21 seats if it is to win. My view is that on the current figures the Coalition would still win with a reduced majority.

Having said that, the majority of both parties’ policies are yet to be released. There are still 73 days to go.

In the Essential weekly survey 59% were in favour of a Royal Commission into banking with 15% opposed.

4 The power of public opinion. Telstra has decided to re-engage its support for marriage equality or to use their terminology. “Renewing its active position” on the issue. This comes only a few days after it said it no longer “drive further debate” on the subject.

My thought for the day.

Never be burdened by the negativity of others. Wear positively as if your life depended on it”.

PS Wildcards in the election. Bronnie and her lovechild still have scores to settle.

 

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