Turnbull government drowning by numbers.

turnbull and homeless man


A fistful of dollars at the ready, our PM stoops to help a man begging on the steps of the Grand Hyatt hotel atop the Paris end of Collins Street in Melbourne, Wednesday. Turnbull is on his way to his first big speech since 2 July but this image may outlast his political career.

The PM’s random act of charity almost distracts the nation from an Olympiad of muggings, misogyny, drug-cheats, beach volleyball and a bankrupt nation prostituting itself for sport.

Tightwad Mal will endure long beyond memory of the Long Tan commemoration fiasco, cancelled at the eleventh hour by a Vietnamese people astonishingly ungrateful to their former aggressor who “liberated” them from themselves, killing two million civilians, following a US-engineered coup in the South in 1963, or PNG’s closure of our Manus Island gulag or Peter Dutton’s paranoid claim that an ABC-Guardian Australia conspiracy is afoot to close Nauru.

Little wonder that show pony foreign minister Julie Bishop appears to be in witness protection.

Yet to register is news of the cost of the gulag. Parliamentary library analysts report Sunday that Manus Island has cost $2 billion or one million dollars per detainee since opening four years ago, plus a few hundred million in last year’s capital costs and the last quarter’s operating costs.

Luckily Manus Island centre is now amicably closed, it is announced mid week. PM O’Neill and Minister Dutton concoct a face-saving press release. Peter Dutton declares “no-one” of the 854 men “will ever be resettled in Australia.” His face contorts with fury for extra gravitas.

Where will they go? PNG has no safe environment. A Kiwi offer is knocked back. While half of the men have yet to be processed, 98% of those who are have been pronounced “genuine refugees” and thus cannot be repatriated for risk of “refoulement.” It is a ticking time bomb under the Turnbull government placed there by its juvenile predecessor which was equally unwilling to allow reality, compassion or humanity to spoil its political game.

Another bomb ticks Sunday, when Turnbull breaks his election promise to hold a plebiscite on marriage equality, a device Tony Abbott, grasped to evade responsibility. It can’t be this year, explains Scott Ryan who blames the AEC, clearly a superior power.

Kelly O’Dwyer comes on Insiders to repeat the talking point and tell Labor it has to support its omnibus zombie legislation of savage cuts because it promised the people in the election.

You would be forgiven for thinking that the PM would be on the back foot over all of this.

Instead, King Midas in reverse, Malcolm Bligh Turnbull, whose quest for fiscal surplus is an epic journey of heroic misadventure through pantomime, farce and monster show, is forced to defend his gift of five dollars to a homeless man, against Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle’s wishes.

It was, he says, “a human reaction.”

Beggars should be ignored says Doyle, a former State Liberal Opposition leader and model of privileged self-righteousness. Handouts merely encourage them. It’s a pernicious myth based on wilful ignorance of the causes of homelessness and matches our asylum seeker stupidity.

Yet the nation’s attention is piqued less by the PM’s errant act of spontaneous charity than by the wad of notes he withholds in his other hand, an image captured by an AAP photographer. The millionaire cheapskate look will not reboot the hapless PM’s rapidly flagging career.

Ignoring beggars comes naturally to Turnbull as the last COAG fiasco shows. Indeed, it’s part of his cost cutting quest. The PM wants states to beggar themselves to meet their own education and health expenses. Raise your own taxes, he cries. The move would shrink federal government and induce crisis as states fail to fund schools and hospitals. It’s his one big idea.

CEDA would approve. Exercising his humanity aside, the PM is in Melbourne for The Committee for Economic Development of Australia, one of a push of powerful busybodies who lobby for government handouts on behalf of itself and other wealthy beggars. It has a lot of clout.

So powerful is CEDA that it gets reported uncritically as if it’s above media analysis, as in the 1970s when it led an attack on unions and argued government should cut workers’ wages.

CEDA’s call for lower wages became an unarguable case eagerly taken up by the Hawke-Keating Labor government which cut wages and restored profits as part of a neo-liberal restructuring program. Corporate taxes were cut by 16 per cent from 49 to 33 per cent; the top personal income tax rate was slashed from 60 cents to 47 cents in the dollar.

As a result, wages’ share of GDP fell from 61.5 per cent of GDP to less than 55 per cent, or a transfer of $50 billion from workers’ pockets to the wealthy elite. Now that’s a handout.

Today CEDA’s calling for massive cuts to government spending. These are above cuts already taking place and the claw back of pensions from the poor and elderly under former WA Treasurer, now Federal Social Services Minister, Christian Porter who makes this week’s news for having squandered his state’s mining boom, causing WA to beg for more GST.

The poor are made to pay in other ways, too. Removal of the clean energy supplement will leave Newstart recipients $3.60 worse off, which saves the government 1.25 billion which is now funding board walks, picnic tables and other giveaways in its marginal electorates.

And by not cutting the 3.2% deeming rate (the way it over estimates the 2.5% interest pensioners are receiving on Commonwealth bank senior saver deposits, for example), the government is able to pocket the difference.

The CEDA show is typically a safe gig for the Coalition as is evident in the non-existent security. It’s less auspicious for careers. Assistant Treasurer O’Dwyer wowed the committee in February, before being demoted. The PM is, however, about to be mugged by reality. It’s an occupational hazard in a government in retreat from the will of the people; takes refuge in secrecy and denial.

“For fuck’s sake, close the bloody camps,” shouts a woman. Startled, Turnbull is made painfully aware he is no longer alone on stage. Someone turns his microphone off before he’s even got to the bit in his speech where he warns against a growing sense of disenfranchisement. The protestor waves a placard spelling it out: FFS Close the Bloody Camps. Suddenly the place is swarming with protestors, each wearing a home-made press label. They are chanting.

“For God’s sake, Malcolm, close the fucking camps.”

The people locked up on Nauru and Manus don’t even get five dollars from the PM. As a woman captive on Nauru explained to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch researchers,

“People here don’t have a real life. We are just surviving. We are dead souls in living bodies. We are just husks. We don’t have any hope or motivation”.

The business-suited ratbags who disrupt the PM’s CEDA speech actually do him a favour claims, The Australian’s Paula Matthewson who questions the calibre of his advisers. We would never know, otherwise, that Turnbull was even making a major policy speech to warn us of a

“populist politics that denies reality — hiding under the doona hoping the real world will go away”.

A government which fails to heed the will of the people may count on a rude reminder. The Melbourne protest also calls attention to the government’s secrecy and its evasion of accountability in a week where Science Minister Greg Hunt is asked on Q&A how many CSIRO scientists have been sacked. Abdicating all ministerial responsibility, Hunt is able to reply with:

“I’ll leave someone else to go into the history.”

We must respond to Hunt’s invitation. The numbers are: 110 climate scientists in Oceans and Atmosphere divisions with similar cuts to the Land and Water division. Staffing in Data61 and Manufacturing divisions will also be slashed. 350 jobs will go over two years.

Off the hook, huckster Hunt recites Coalition Border Force spin. 1200 people, “1200 beautiful souls,” he extemporises, “drowned.” How little each soul means to his government is seen in the way it destroys the lives of survivors in concentration camps. No-one challenges his hypocrisy.

Hunt could add in a spirit of scientific objectivity that between 400 and 700 are estimated to have drowned under Coalition governments. He’s a model of misleading and false information.

“Why call a Royal Commission into the abuse of children in the NT and not into Nauru?”, asks Jones. Master of the non-sequitur, Hunt replies that “it was the right decision” and waffles, somehow suddenly coming out with the Little Children Are Sacred Inquiry of 2006, coyly clipping its full title. Next some mad bastard will suggest the RC include all states, especially Queensland’s Cleveland Youth Detention Centre whence reports of abuse surface this week.

The inquiry into child sex abuse was a model of cultural insensitivity and a massive intervention which heavily regulated Aboriginal people’s lives without consultation, leaving them ashamed and angry, yet Hunt is riffing to avoid answering the question about Nauru. Jones repeats it.

Human talking point Hunt can only repeat the line that each of the reports “will be investigated,” adding to Peter Dutton’s false claim, rejected by Gillian Triggs, that these are old and trivial cases. As a despairing Linda Burney observes, “it’s almost as if humanity doesn’t exist.”

Science is scarce, too. The ABC’s Q&A Science Week freak show Monday night is an insult to empiricists everywhere as well as cheap and tacky television, yet it performs a community service in warning of the end of the world as we know it – and those reality denying, utterly unscrupulous political opportunists who would lead us there.

Up and down, like a turd in the surf at Bondi, bobs the unsinkable Hunt. His work is done as Environment Minister and so he’s on to Science. Drownings at sea have stopped, he recites, yet all that’s stopped is the reporting.

In Q&A we are also treated to a public service preview the 45th parliament’s vibe, in a reality TV show format featuring Tony Jones’ quest to ridicule One Nation Senator-elect Malcolm Roberts whose pathological inability to understand climate science, like the government’s resistance to the case for investing in renewable energy generation, is disturbingly irrational.

Incredulously, Jones asks Roberts to repeat his rejection of science. Q&A has somehow morphed into The Biggest Loony or an episode from Micro-Mind, (a series still in development.)

Luckily for the camera, celebrity physicist Professor Brian Cox, has two graphs handy.

His graphs, which depict global warming increases tracking rising carbon emissions, are instantly dismissed by the senator, whose senate seat rests on seventy seven first preference votes. The data’s manipulated by NASA, he says, as if such a fraud were even achievable.

The world stopped warming years ago, according to One Nation. Vested interests such as wealthy Jewish bankers are lying about it to make money out of carbon trading. It’s a UN plot to take over the world. Yet whilst it may be good tabloid TV, it is unwise and unfair for Jones to punish just Roberts for all his decerebrate rigidity with a rubbishing.

Faith based science, such as Roberts professes, if we take the Rothschild-NASA conspiracy theory out of it, is still wildly popular amongst Coalition MPs, a third of whom still believe Tony Abbott got it right when he said that “climate change was crap.” And a wanton disregard for empiricism extends right into the Turnbull cabinet.

“There is still a level of uncertainty about the impact of carbon emissions on global warming” says our new Resources Minister who says the monster stranded asset that is the Adani Carmichael mine will be “an incredibly exciting project for Australia.”

Strangely missing from the programme tonight, fantasist Canavan has also called for funding of climate change sceptics amongst scientists. Yet when a coalition climate change committee met to hear both scientists and change deniers, many MPs simply walked out on the scientists, a response not a long way from Malcolm Roberts’ own deeply flawed approach to enquiry.

Greg Hunt, Clayton’s Minister for Science is also on the show for a bit of light relief and to help point up the difference between the government’s position and that of a real nutter. Like his government’s commitment to curbing carbon emissions it’s too small to make any difference.

Not all of Hunt’s contributions are coherent but “not on my watch” is clearly his mantra unless it is merely one of those generic Coalition talking points. Eat your heart out, Clark and Dawe.

No good quizzing Hunt on whether Tiwi’s refuelling port, built without permission, has anything to do with an oil spill seen in Darwin harbour. Not on his watch. But his leader’s on the warpath. “Heads will roll,” the publicly humiliated PM repeats but he’s still banging on about the census.

The Coalition’s acutely under-staffed and chronically underfunded ABS collapsed like the donkey in the Tales of the Hodja whose master reduced its diet, “Everything was going so well and now, just when I taught him not to eat at all, the donkey died.”

It is clear that the ABS census fiasco is just one consequence of neo-liberal cuts to government spending and the underfunding of critical infrastructure. Yet there’s no time to explore the bigger picture. The donkey died. Heads must roll to shift the blame away from himself and his own government. We look forward to the slowest head count since Joseph led Mary on a donkey to Bethlehem.

Heads will roll? In 1984, the interception of an undeclared Paddington bear in cabinet minster Mick Young’s luggage was once enough to cause him to be stood down. The nation awaits on tenterhooks, agog with expectations of ministerial accountability and corporate responsibility.

In the meantime a government which takes its science lite, is drowning by numbers in a sargasso sea of weedy crackpot climate change deniers and wannabe ministers whose portfolios will never fit them, competing to disavow responsibility while hot-eyed neoliberal zealots in CEDA and other tanks of thought lobby crawl shamelessly to the top end of town.

Buffeted by external forces as China’s credit bubble shrinks and export earnings flop, the decks of the ship of state are crowded with madmen pretending to be crew spouting Hayekian nonsense about cutting government spending and balancing the books.

With no moral rudder, a captain who cannot plot a course beyond the one-per-centers nor command a crew, the ship will be lucky to stay afloat until Parliament resumes.

 

Turnbull government in diabolical trouble.

Dutton looking nuts

 

Barely a month after being sworn in, the Turnbull government is in diabolical trouble: its census, sensationally botched; its gulag on Nauru suddenly exposed in 2000 documents leaked to public view while Tony Abbott makes trouble for his equally inept successor by condoning hate speech inflaming a body politic well-infected with prejudice and dissension.

Legacy issues also loom large. Barnaby Joyce says he is moving an entire government department to his electorate while George Brandis refuses to let anyone see his diary, despite the Federal Court’s advice, after failing his appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

Will the diary reveal he consulted no-one before slashing legal aid funding? Showing it would be too much work for himself, he says, a case he will take to the full Federal Court at our expense.

Barnyard Barnaby Joyce moved the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority to regional New South Wales to boost his election prospects without his Prime Minister’s approval.

Trouble is brewing, however. Two thirds of the staff would quit, according to their union. There is also the cost. Relocation will cost $24.1 million and potential redundancy up to $10 million.

But let’s be fair. It is easy for a newly-elected Coalition government to falter as its first, feckless steps towards being in charge lead it to betray its election promises as it seeks first to please Gina Rinehart, her IPA and others. Scott Morrison is already watering down the changes to superannuation tax concessions his party took to the election to protect the wealthy. What’s the odd broken promise among friends?

Conservative governments must look after their backers, the banks, News Ltd, King Cronulla, Alan Jones, The Minerals Council and other industry associations, special interest groups, plus the six hundred or so professional lobbyists for the rich and powerful who run Australia without being required to declare who funds them. It’s a full dance card even if you’re hot to trot.

Nor is it uncommon – given its rush to get governing- and a PM who wants to “hit the ground doing”, for the odd detail to be overlooked – such as the picayune need to first govern itself or to do the irksome due diligence required to ensure first pick royal commissioner Brian Martin is, indeed, retired, as George “My Secret Diary” Brandis wrongly claimed.

Martin may well have been seen to be conflicted by His Honour’s employ in the NT Justice Department or his daughter’s work as a justice adviser to the NT Attorney-General in 2011.

 But nothing – not even the Abbott mob’s sublime incompetence can match the Turnbull’s government’s capacity for catastrophic decision-making; its eagerness to dig its own grave.

The Coalition’s e-census is just such a black hole; an unmitigated disaster for all concerned, the ABS, the public and the PM. It will help to torch whatever remains of Turnbull’s credibility.

Boosted as a secure online survey, an oxymoron which just happens, for the first time, to contain your name with records to be kept for ninety-nine years, the online census is suddenly hugely compromised mid-week along with the government as its on-line triumph of cost-saving efficiency is revealed to everyone as almost as much of an costly fiasco as its NBN.

  Like the government’s week in politics itself, the census fiasco is one of those theatres of engagement where nothing goes right. A series of failures to communicate and to plan its implementation effectively means that the government’s census is resented as an invasion of privacy before any of its many technological shortcomings are taken into account.

Were ministers over confident or was everyone conned by IBM spin doctors again? It conned the Queensland into a $60 million online solution that cost that government $1.2 billion to fix before it could enable health workers could be paid properly among other functions. Not that this deterred Hockey and Abbott from giving IBM the nod with the ABS Census contract.

They were certainly complacent. In three years, the Coalition assigned no fewer than three ministers to the census. Current chump, Michael McCormack has three weeks’ experience to draw upon to manage the disaster, a process which entails boasting how well everything is going and how everything is safe and that no data was compromised despite what the experts claim.

No-one will step up to take responsibility but its failed census is a massive own goal for the Turnbull government before the other team has even taken the field. Its promises and reassurances, exploded, the PM and his team have shredded their credibility and trust.

Adding to the disarray, MPs publicly carp and bicker over what went wrong, whose fault it is – even whether the cyber-attack comes from within Australia, as Christopher Pyne asserts on Friday, or the USA as other ministers and the PM have claimed. Finger pointing continues.

Could we be heading for another AFP raid on Labor staffers’ homes in the small hours with full media presence? Will the minister dismiss reports of failure as “unsubstantiated allegations?”

Uncertainty rules. Even by the week’s end no-one knows whether the ABS will have the seven million responses it says it needs to make the $470 million exercise “statistically significant.”

Time for agility. Whatever went wrong, or however much, Turnbull is quick Thursday morning to tip buckets over the ABS and IBM; both of whom earn his rebuke on commercial radio for not being prepared. Like a peeved school headmaster, he says he is “bitterly disappointed” by their lack of preparedness for an “entirely predictable” attack. Or whatever it really was.

Should we be so paranoid? Mick Young famously advised that when there’s a choice between a conspiracy and stuff-up; go with the stuff-up every time. Applying Young’s Razor, it is likely that the website was not designed to deal with six million, simultaneous log-ins and crashed. This does not preclude some suspicious activity also taking place but it does rule out such feverish speculation which has led some to blame the Chinese.

It’s an ill wind, however. The failure of the website has been a boon to the paranoid and has boosted the climate for wild and often bizarre speculation nurtured by some Coalition MPs on Safe Schools or marriage equality, or climate change and surely adds a few more dingbats to a drama that is just begging to be dubbed our mature conversation on irrational hysteria – soon.

Melbourne University cyber security expert Suelette Dreyfus is even prepared to name names. She detects the work of “Chinese citizens unhappy about Australian swimmer Mack Horton calling his Chinese rival Sun Yang a drug cheat.” Settle down. Patriotic geeks who follow sport?

Less in doubt is how far our Attorney General will go to conceal his affairs. Brandis refuses to supply his diary as requested under FOI by Labor’s Mark Dreyfus, who wants to check that Brandis consulted any community legal services before he axed their funding two years ago.

The 2014 budget slashed $6 million from community legal centres, along with $15 million from legal aid commissions and $43 million from advocacy services. A Human Rights Law Centre (HLRC) report argues that such decisions were “undermining the nation’s democracy.”

Brandis has argued, unconvincingly, that sharing his diary is too big an administrative burden and will interfere with his workload, a case the Administrative Appeals Tribunal has rejected. An unhappy Brandis is now appealing to the full Federal Court, at a cost $30,000. As Richard Ackland observes, it is an expensive way of hiding information; especially by a man in charge of our freedoms.

Freedom is of course just another word for nothing left to lose to those who come by sea to seek our asylum. By Friday, the government faces calls to widen its NT inquiry to include asylum seekers on Nauru. Resourcefully, three non-government organisations send legal advice to the commission, showing that it could examine incidents of child abuse on Nauru.

Its NT Royal Commission containment operation fails utterly as the uncovering of the truth about Nauru prompts experts to uphold a responsibility the government would rather duck. Real leadership is clearly called for.

Luckily, others are keen to lend a strong right hand. Rapprochement already over, Eric Abetz helpfully tells Turnbull that a real cabinet would include himself and his mates Kevin and Tony.

Former Employment Minister, Abetz, who once helped ensure no Tasmanian was out of work, has also more recently been able to help keep them out of Cabinet. The self-appointed head of the Apple Isle’s arch-conservatives assisted with the booting of Turnbull supporter and former Tourism and International Education Minister Richard Colbeck into an unelectable position five the ballot paper.

Outrageous, unfair but topical amongst some embittered Liberals this week, is the harsh but fair view that Abetz helped Tassie Liberals lose all three of their seats in the House of Reps.

Always keen to keep himself relevant, Coalition junkyard dog, former Minister for Women and Gillard witch-ditcher Tony Abbott, gives a talk to the Samuel Griffith Society in Adelaide on Friday regretting opposing Julia Gillard’s government’s proposed Malaysian solution in 2011.

A “gobsmacked” Stephen Conroy says sending 800 asylum seekers with Malaysia in return for 4000 genuine refugees would have made both Manus Island and Nauru centres unnecessary.

A late addition to the programme of the society which aims to defend the Australian Constitution against all who would attempt to undermine it, junkyard Abbott keeps a straight face as he deplores hyper partisanship even helpfully offering his public support to those cross bench nut jobs who want to change section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975.

Dog-whistling on 18c, or George Brandis’ “right to be a bigot,” brings comfort to bullies and lovers of hate speech who maintain its exercise ignores all power relationships and assumes erroneously and dangerously, as former vet David Leyonhjelm and another nutter on the senate cross bench put it last Sunday on Insiders that offence is “never given it is always taken.”

Just to test, Mark Kenny calls David Leyonhjelm a “boorish, supercilious know-all with the empathy of a Besser block,” recalling an episode of The Chaser in which the libertarian told satirists to “fuck off” when they exercised free speech to challenge his hypocrisy.

Leyonhjelm takes offence easily. Thin skinned or not, he’s sure to heed Abbott’s whistle.

 Abbott’s dog whistle will also stir up enough of the rest of the rabid right wing pack in the Coalition to worry Turnbull lest he overdo his mission to achieve good government. In brief, he lets Turnbull know he is coming after him. And he gets some assistance from on high.

Liberal Party commentator du jour, world’s most profligate treasurer, a self-proclaimed expert on fiscal restraint, budget balancing and sweet-talking Pauline Hanson and other cross-benchers, Peter Costello bobs up on Four Corners to join Abbott’s dots.

“I don’t think, you know, Tony plans to be a backbencher for the rest of his life.” Costello adds ponderously, greatly enriching Monday’s Four Corners open-ended investigation entitled Man on a wire, how much longer can Malcolm Turnbull survive? Not that Abbott survived long.

Abbott met the demands of office with a quick surrender. As Niki Savva has detailed, he abdicated command to his Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin whose petty despotism, combined with her PM’s own innate lack of leadership and poor judgement, conspired to quickly lose him his Prime Ministership, but not before setting its own record of ineptitude in a dump of dud decisions including cutting $68 million ABS funding and leaving it with no head for a year.

A decimated ABS is publicly upbraided for its e-Census stuff up by a duck-shoving PM in damage control. “Heads will roll,” he says, a phrase with chilling international resonance.

 Bill Shorten maintains the e-census fiasco is “gold medal incompetence: but it’s probably not wise to crow, especially for an opposition leader who is unable to respond to this week’s leaking of incident reports showing cruelty and sexual abuse inflicted on those who came begging our asylum whom we choose instead to lock up or expose to abuse and send mad on Nauru.

Shorten calls for an independent child advocate, doubtless in the heat of the moment unable to recall Gillian Triggs’ name or her National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention 2014.

Turnbull and Dutton deny “unsubstantiated allegations” as they call the 2000 official incident reports of responsible officials, detainees and other eye-witnesses on Nauru, saying the government would review the reports to decide what action should be taken, but not before Dutton tells media “only twenty of them are urgent.”

Later Dutton goes completely overboard in blaming the victim and in continuing the Coalition line that asylum seekers are illegals and therefore anything they say is illegitimate, by claiming that some have “self-immolated” or self-harmed in order to reach Australia.

It’s a line that goes all the way back to October 2001 when John Howard lied about babies being thrown overboard. He closed Christmas Island port to prevent independent observation.

For despicable nonsense Dutton can’t be topped but pop goes the word weasel Scott Morrison who is quick to try diminishing the legitimacy of the reports with a spurious distinction. Although the reports are objective records of those actually involved in the camp he claims,

“It’s important to stress that incident reports of themselves aren’t a reporting of fact; they are reporting that an allegation has been made of a particular action.”

On his first day in office Turnbull promised ” … an open government, an open government that recognises that there is an enormous sum of wisdom both within our colleagues in this building and, of course, further afield, echoing the Liberal Party promise before the 2013 election to “restore accountability and improve transparency measures to be more accountable to you.”

What we get this week instead is a lame duck Prime Minister ducking for cover at every opportunity unable to take charge of his own party let alone meet the challenges of government.

Nothing to fear but fear itself in Turnbull government’s week of chaos and confusion.

terror suspect

 

A month after claiming victory, a hollow boast in the best of political times, two weeks after PM Turnbull urged all MPs to “hit the ground doing”, our would-be Coalition discovers its narrative of good government is unravelling faster than the business plan for Shenua or Adani’s Carmichael mine.  If our PM has a plan, why does Scott Morrison contradict him publicly all week?

Stray threads from its ripping fabric of heroic deliverance catch in the wheels as our P-plater PM, always an accident waiting to happen, despite his stylish Isadora Duncan silk scarf – backs the Liberals’ Ming charabanc out of a tight parking spot into the path of Kevin Rudd’s UN Humvee.

What follows is a week of dangerous affectations, avoidable collisions and self-inflicted injuries including a mob of tin-foil hatters on the senate cross benches united only in their mission to repeal 18C of the Racial Vilification Act. As One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts explains “people are afraid to speak up on tax Islam and the economy,” not that this has ever stopped him.

Banks and backbenchers all over the road quickly bring our lame duck PM to a halt after being side-swiped by a runaway Royal Commission into as little as possible in NT’s juvenile justice system. Young Greg Hunt is sent out to redirect traffic wearing his brand new eye-catching science minister’s jacket which is clearly several sizes too big for him – as befits a clown suit.

After three years of funding cuts, the destruction of scientific careers and inestimably valuable research, the Federal government, keen to spin good news where there is none, executes a stunning back flip timed surely to coincide with the opening of the Rio Olympics or to distract from the week’s mess or the one third of MPs who refuse to accept that climate change is real.

Labor’s Kim Carr is outraged. He says Hunt’s claimed $37 million is in fact to replace $249 million that the Parliamentary Budget Office says was the consequences of the government’s budget cuts,’ The government’s 15 new climate jobs, comes after it has taken 75 climate jobs out of the CSIRO, part of the 300 jobs taken out of the CSIRO as a whole.

Quick off the mark as always, Tassie empiricist and exponent of the link between breast cancer and pregnancy termination, Senator Eric Abetz voices his concern that new Science Minister Greg Hunt’s “reversal of policy on CSIRO climate research is based on science, not ideology.”

The Senator is to be commended on his vigilance and must continue his empiricist’s mission to demand his government de-fund its National Wind Farm Commissioner into the non-existent harm caused by wind farms and put the $205, 000 salary into real research.

CSIRO’s new Climate Science Centre in Hobart, will proceed as announced in April although climate science research will still be significantly under-staffed and could find a use for the funds which could be augmented by the termination of the $5 billion in fuel subsidies and tax concessions so generously extended to the multinational companies engaged in mining.

Eric’s bickering echoes the dissension in the Turnbull government’s cabinet over Rudd abruptly nipped in the bud with a dud captain’s call. Where now is stable, consensus government, star of its grand narrative in which it publicly deluded itself it  – and conned not a few others – that it would heroically save the nation?

In its place is chaos and confusion. The Rudd stuff up has everyone wondering if Turnbull will last out the year. The party’s hard right bully boys begrudge him three months grace before he’s spilled. No map at hand and beset by chaotic decision-making, Turnbull’s badly shaken team is already picking fights and playing up four weeks before the 45th Parliament sits.

In the meantime, the oxymoronic NT government may have failed to get its nominee Brian Martin QC up as Royal Commissioner but First Minister Adam Giles is still able to combine dark humour with light relief as he adds helpfully that Dylan Voller has not escaped torture entirely and that the spit hood and chair await him as any other prisoner now that he is in an adult jail.

“A society should be judged not by how it treats its outstanding citizens, but by how it treats its prisoners,” Fyodor Dostoevski’s voice of experience reminds us, a point Brian Martin raised in 2002 when David Hicks, was locked up and tortured in Guantánamo for five years before being released without charge into Australian custody where he could still remain had the government’s Counter Terrorism Amendment Bill (No. 1) been in force then.

The proposed Bill, which attracts bipartisan support and is somehow spun as a good news story this week, amends the control order scheme to apply to young people from the age of 14 years, with some restrictions, and introduces a new offence of advocating genocide. No-one questions that the new offence is about two hundred years too late to protect the indigenous Australians.

Dostoevski’s clearly lost on Attorney General George, lock-’em-up-and-throw-away-the-key Brandis or First Minister Giles and his “tough on crime” followers who advocate increased sentencing and eagerly demand prisons where even children are made to suffer. 

Giles, whose CLP faces oblivion in the NT election on 27 August, takes a leaf out of the federal playbook and blames Labor, despite his government introducing in April the barbaric means of restraint in the Youth Justice Amendment Bill 2016 which notes in its second paragraph how,

“In recent years, children in custody have become increasingly violent, dangerous and irresponsible,” although it fails to provide any empirical evidence.

The law authorises increased unspecified restraint, or the use of further coercive force on children leaving the means at the discretion of the Commissioner of Correctional Services.

It’s a recipe for disaster, however well it may play in the politics of law and order according to Vincent Schiraldi, Senior Research Fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School, “I think these institutions poison everyone they touch,” he tells Australian reporters earlier this week.

Schiraldi’s stint in charge of Washington D.C.’s juvenile corrections program revealed a system in which abuse was not merely enabled but embedded.

“Don Dale cannot be fixed,” he says. “They need to destroy it, pour salt on the ground and come up with another model that fits the local area.”

Giles, however, believes he’s been stitched up. Territorians should know of his heroic quest.

“Labor have got their hands all over this, I’m the only bloody person who’s got the balls and the guts to stand up and try and deal with it, and I’ll do that every day for the interests of Territorians and kids.”

Giles’ man Brian Martin stands down. He says he does not have the confidence of all sections of the Indigenous community and he is not prepared to compromise the inquiry, despite George Brandis’ blandishments and attempts to talk him out of what appears to be an entirely reasonable and responsible decision. In other ministries, Brandis also would be stepping down.

Royal Commission Mk II, which features two commissioners, former Queensland Supreme Court Judge Margaret White and Indigenous leader Mick Gooda  induces Corey Bernardi to attack Mick Gooda for being Aboriginal in the senator’s weekly “common sense” newsletter to supporters,

“I am most surprised that ancestry seems a more important qualification than judicial experience,”

No-one is surprised, however, at the banks giving the government the finger and keeping most of the week’s interest rate reduction the Reserve Bank hopes will boost our struggling economy.

Busted flat, however, is the Coalition’s conceit that it represents the only economic managers with a plan when not only must the Reserve Bank intervene by cutting interest rates, the banks can take advantage of a weak, government, beholden to them for funding and keep most of the interest rate cut for themselves.

As the Australia Institute’s research in June found  – across a broad range of economic measures, the Abbott/Turnbull government has performed the worst of any Australian government since 1949. Economist Jim Stanford’s report examines economic performance across 12 indicators – including GDP per capita, the unemployment rate, employment growth and the growth of real business investment and intellectual property investment.

We are growing at 3.1% says Morrison – yet while GDP did grow largely thanks to property investment and a rise in export earnings as communities rose -real net national disposable income fell by 1.1% as Bowen pointed out a record eighth consecutive decline – the most sustained decline in our history.

The poor are hurting the most as inequality grows as a result of the government’s decision to cut the clean energy supplement to a range of new welfare recipients. The Turnbull government will drive the poorest incomes down to as low as 32 per cent below the poverty line within three years, according to the Australia Institute’s most recent research.

Being soft on banks doesn’t cut it either. The institute’s paper notes little historical correlation between “business friendly” policies and economic performance.

Rudd’s UN candidacy, “hardly a matter of first importance”, as Turnbull himself observes, blows up into a storm which rocks the whole boat. Leaks appear over night. Deputy dog helpfully volunteers cabinet votes narrowly favoured Kevin 016 but Turnbull is spooked.

Rattled, Turnbull tosses collaboration and consensus overboard. Like Captain Qeeg, he fixates on triviality, forsaking real leadership for impulsivity and a rash of bad captain’s calls on Rudd, the banks and Manus Island.  

How best to deal with bastard banks for not passing on the full interest rate cut of a quarter of a per cent? A chat over a cup of tea and an iced VoVo! Kevin Rudd couldn’t have put it better.

Laughing all the way to and from the bank, NAB, CBA, ANZ and Westpac’s chaps in suits are very happy, they chortle, at the thought of a rorty road trip to Canberra for a chinwag with old pal Mal. Chew the fat with any pack of backbenchers such as the PM may muster.

Why some may even find time to give themselves a public flogging with a limp lettuce leaf. Or defend usury or explain why they must collude to fix interest rates and or lower the odds when they chance their insurance arms by disallowing claims and contesting medical opinions.

Inviting the banks to do lunch with Turnbull in Canberra once or perhaps more than once a year is a much better idea than a Royal Commission says Scott Morrison because it is “transparent”. Above all it will preserve that mythic confidence in our banks which only he can see.

The big four banks enjoy a hold over more than 80 per cent of home mortgages – 82 per cent of the nation’s $937.8 billion in owner-occupier loans outstanding last month and 85 per cent of the $523.8 billion housing investment loans. No-one in government questions this over concentration of investment in real estate in the face of an approaching economic downturn or the wake of a GFC we really never got out of.

If the banks are in need of protecting it is from themselves. If the Coalition’s plan for keeping the banks honest is ludicrously ineffectual, however, it is a gutsy effort when compared with its head in the sand approach to solving its Manus Island dilemma.

PNG’s Supreme Court orders the Australian government to provide a resettlement plan for immigration detainees being held on Manus Island by a 4 August deadline. Border Supremo, Dutton and his PM are all over it. Their plan? Australia simply does not show up in court.

It’s a while since Greg Hunt defended the government’s interest in trading coal with India and other underdeveloped countries on the grounds that it was “not a colonial power.” PNG’s legal team have just been given cause to believe otherwise. 

“His ABC” and other mainstream media help spin Captain Mal’s action as a virtue in itself, in case the PM’s decisions might again prove over-hasty or ill-advised. Otherwise we may get misty-eyed over the need to be cruel to children in indefinite detention or fail to see that Manus is PNG’s responsibility.

Trade minister Steve Ciobo is despatched to Indonesia where he will forge another you beaut free trade deal that his predecessors have somehow missed in the hundred years or so we’ve been trading with our neighbour – an opportunity not spotted by Andrew Robb’s 360-strong trade delegation last November.

Before we can ask why the hurry, we are moved along. Before we have time to dwell on Rudd’s comeuppance, Brandis’ utter cock-up over the Royal Commission or digest the news that the new senate will generally be less easy to manage than the impossible lot Turnbull just tossed out we are hurried along. Nothing to see here.

Or look over there, a 31 year old terrorist has just been arrested in Braybrook. Great to know our stable government is keeping us secure. Nothing to fear but fear itself.

Turnbull government raises serious questions of judgement.

Turnbull and Martin

 

(Submitted to Tasmanian Times.)

Senator Lisa Singh’s re-election provides a rare beacon of hope in a week clouded by injustice, ignorance and petty recrimination as the nation is shocked by ABC Four Corners’ expose of child abuse within the juvenile detention in the Northern Territory and disappointed in PM Turnbull’s decision not to endorse Kevin Rudd’s nomination for the UN Secretary-General a mutually demeaning betrayal which Barnaby Joyce blames upon the Labor Party.

Labor is of course totally to blame for the shock news of the week announced by the AEC Sunday morning – which is that Labor’s Cathy O’Toole has won Herbert, a turn of events which MSM have spun as unlikely in an echo of the Prime Minister’s ugly election night victory speech at Sydney’s Wentworth Hotel in which he claimed the coalition would have “a solid majority”.

O’Toole’s victory means the government will have 76 seats in the House of Reps with Labor and independents 74, making management of the 45th Parliament a challenge, especially if the Coalition provides the speaker and leaving the government’s legislative programme highly vulnerable to the views of maverick MP Bob Katter and other independents.

The Herbert news is softened, Sunday, with warnings the LNP “is considering an appeal to the court of disputed returns” as if it’s not a real win or as if a subsequent Herbert by-election would buck all precedent and not punish a government in a climate of declining popularity.

Essential Research this week shows Labor increase its two-party preferred polling, to record a lead of 52-48 over the Coalition. Media spin aside, Turnbull would be foolish to try his luck.

As with Lisa Singh’s win over the odds in Tasmania, many Australians will be celebrating O’Toole’s victory in Herbert as a win for the ordinary voter in an election in which the government campaign rested on tax cuts for the wealthy and with little for anyone else but a vague promise of a stability which it has no means to deliver.

Unemployment in Townsville, Herbert’s heart, has almost trebled to 13.9 per cent, 2011-16.

A triumph of people power over an ALP machine which had relegated unaligned-left Labor independent Ms Singh to an unwinnable number six position on the ballot paper, the senator’s victory is also a call for action on climate change, asylum seeker justice, racial equality and religious tolerance, all of which are endangered in other events of the political week.

A blast of anti-Muslim, One Nation-type dog whistling erupts Monday from the office of Eric Abetz who endorses the bigotry of staffer Josh Manuatu’s defence of Sonja Kruger’s ban on Muslims as,

“A great article from a member of my staff on why we need an open and frank discussion on the future of immigration.”

“Open and frank” is code for closed-minded prejudice and cloaked xenophobia and wilfully misrepresents his staffer’s desire to restrict Muslim immigrants because of their homophobia and discriminatory beliefs and cultural practices against women. In brief, – as Max Chalmers puts it, “Muslims must be discriminated against in the interests of advancing tolerance.”

Open and frank discussions are of course breaking out all over the nation while the phrase threatens to overtake our “national conversations” about tax so keenly favoured recently.

After talking frankly and openly with former Liberal candidate Pauline Hanson, the Prime Minister refers reporters to the number of people who voted for her. 584,000 Australians gave One Nation their first preference, almost as many as voted for the National Party which received 600,000 first preferences and now dictates the pace and shape of Turnbull’s government.

The PM must get One Nation support for its legislative plans which include the ABCC, a bill which violates such legal principles as the presumption of innocence and which presumes guilt by association. It also needs support for “zombie” economic measures still on the books, largely cuts to services and benefits it calls savings which it included in its 2016 budget calculations.

As former Leader of Government Business in the Senate Eric Abetz sees it, he has the skills and the experience to help but the Abbott supporter has unaccountably been left out of cabinet.

Abetz’s political genius is highlighted in his role in the numbering of Liberal candidates on the Tasmanian senate ballot paper a move which helped former Tourism Minister, Richard Colbeck’s lose his senate seat to The Greens despite receiving nearly twice Abetz’s vote.

Demonstrating his superior analytical skills, however, Abetz maintains blame lies squarely with the grassroots campaign to get Colbeck elected, which he calls “a destabilising campaign” that undermined the message of stability and cost the party five seats.

Destabilising the Prime Minister quite nicely in government, Eric re-joins his fellow Delcons, (those delusional conservatives committed to returning Tony Abbott as PM) who now form a type of puritan choir harassing a hapless Malcolm Turnbull who is already hostage to the Nationals by secret agreement – and nudge the lame duck leader ever further to the right.

The rumbling of Rudd this week reflects – and worsens Turnbull’s predicament. The PM’s failure to honour his earlier commitment to back Kevin Rudd for the UN, now revealed to in several letters which Rudd has duly released to the media, reflects how far he has stymied himself.

Unwilling to prune dead wood such as the disturbed Minister for the Northern Territory, National (in Canberra) Senator Nigel Scullion, a politician who travels with three loaded guns beside him in his car and unwilling to make hard decisions, the PM has constructed a cabinet which is too big and too over-upholstered with blue-tie conservatives to help him make the hard decisions.

Unable to reach consensus on Rudd, Cabinet refers the decision back to the PM who must now break his word to the former Mandarin-speaking PM, a move which he hopes will appease the Right but which cuts his Foreign Minister and deputy party leader Julie Bishop adrift and which is likely to encourage the right to further test his authority while ensuring Rudd’s undying enmity.

But hold the tomato sauce! Rushing to the rescue is none other than resident mutt-catcher, Deputy dog Barnaby Joyce. In a breath-taking redefinition of ministerial responsibility and collegiate decision making, Joyce exculpates his government from the decision to not endorse Kevin Rudd in his bid to nominate for secretary general of the UN, by pointing out that the decision was in effect made by the Labor Party, a group which has also erased Whyalla from the map, put lamb roasts up to $100 and saddle Australia with debt and deficit disaster forever.

Joyce calls on Australia to blame Labor for Rudd being dudded out of getting endorsed by the Coalition government Cabinet. It was all Labor’s fault because there were “… a whole range of reasons articulated by the Labor Party themselves” which disqualified Mr Rudd from the job.
Apart from his amazing logical loopiness, Joyce sets a new low in political assassination which an MP is clearly now only as good as the invective of his worst opponent on a bad day. It is also an end of the bipartisan tradition in which Australians supported their own in international forums.

There was a hint of this when Steve Bracks was abruptly recalled shortly after the Abbott government came to power in 2013 – and before he’d even had a chance to do lunch as Australia’s consul-general in New York by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop who said Labor had been “arrogant in not consulting” the then opposition on the appointment.

Tanya Plibersek was prescient when she protested

“It is telling that the first act of an Abbott government is to play party politics in international affairs.”

The more things change, the more they stay the same with stable Coalition government.

Much less newsworthy a betrayal than a busted Rudd, because it involves the plight of ordinary people, is Christian Porter’s failure to honour the Coalition’s undertakings to protect low income people and to increase unemployment benefits, a promise which it gave to ACOSS and other groups at The National Reform Summit in August 2015.

Social Services Minister Christian Porter is beating up the $5 billion he says he will be able to take back from Australians who receive Centrelink payment as the government moves to soften its stance on super to appease the IPA and other powerful opponents on the right.

Porter’s full of euphemisms for bullying the poor, the needy and infirm using phrases garnered from corporate jargon such as “data-matching recipients”, “increasing disclosure requirements”, “reviewing” – read refusing – support to disability support pensioners, reducing carer payments and halting carbon tax compensation for new recipients.

None of the Minister’s bold new plan to punish the poor has been subject to any form of consultation, despite the government promising this a year ago at the summit. All that’s offered by way of explanation is a Social Services spokesman who says that legitimate recipients have nothing to worry about.

For ACOSS’ Cassandra Goldie, however, the government’s approach is ill-conceived.

“At the absolute minimum, given that we are talking about some of the most vulnerable people, the government should be sitting down with the community sector which has the direct experience with this system to make sure that its plans won’t create really harsh outcomes for people,” she says.

Apology there may be none but there is, as always, no end of feeding the chooks this week; breathless press release and media blitz has long usurped communication or listening.

Man of climate action, Kooyong Mitsubishi Colt, Josh Freydenberg, races into all available news studios mid- week, tooting his horn. He flashes his lights and spins his wheels for renewable energy in a Targa Rally damage control stunt that may easily end up a demolition derby.

Mr Coal, as Andrew Bolt flatters the younger fossil fuel fan, is clearly out to counter cynical criticism that he is not the man to clean up our act in energy at least. Fittingly, he seems to have left his “strong moral case for coal” somewhere in his party’s vast lost luggage repository.

Churlish onlookers object that not even “world’s best minister” Greg Hunt, who wowed the socks off the 21st Century energy Emirs who run the petro-chemical state of Dubai, could do justice to both energy and environment and that Freydenberg’s joint portfolio was conceived in spin.

Attempting to juggle both will inevitably lead to his dropping one of them, says Bernard Keane, although this does not take into account the way Hunt greeted news of his demotion.

“My work is done,” said the world’s greatest minister, thus leaving Freydenberg little to do on the environment other than perhaps to lock up, switch the lights off and put the bin out.

Cynical listeners to the Freydenberg spiel, observe that the new environment combo with the lot minister is loud in praise of renewable energy while fracking all credibility by simultaneously endorsing coal seam gas extraction.

Freydenberg was also last heard boosting a plan to build a $5 billion railway for an Adani coal-mine that would otherwise never attract sufficient investment capital in his capacity as Minister for Northern dreaming, having been persuaded, doubtless, by his predecessor Hunt, the government’s climate intellectual, according to George Brandis, that the project was good to go.

Hunt’s brilliant argument is that emissions produced in the burning of Carmichael coal, cannot possibly be included in any environmental cost equation but then, as the nation was painfully reminded this week they do things differently in the Northern Territory.

Northern Territory Nigel Scullion drives around with three loaded firearms in his car, Paul Bongiorno reports of the minister who once tied to ban the sale of Vegemite in the Top End because dry communities were using it to make home brew.

“We try and do the right thing by youth,” NT First Minister Adam Giles wrote on his Facebook page in April, justifying legalising extra means of restraining youngsters whom it turns out have not been charged with any offence but who are by and large in a detention centre on remand.

In 2010 Giles bid to become correctional services minister was, he said, so he could “put all the bad criminals in a big concrete hole”, even if he broke “every United Nations convention on the rights of the prisoner” as we were to go on to do in our offshore detention centres.

The Youth Justice Amendment Bill was introduced into the NT parliament in April and passed in May defined and expanded the use of violence against youngsters as young as ten years old.

Minister for Justice John Elferink, a former policeman, made the case for the amendment which would also circumscribe handcuffs, waist belts and “other systems by which you restrain hands to waists”, including the use of a mechanical chair.

The “spit hood” was a protective measure with no hint of sensory deprivation for the child whose head it would cover for hours. It would prevent officers from contracting Hepatitis C although the disease is only spread by blood to blood contact. Only in this way could 17 year olds like Dylan Voller be prevented from harming themselves and the good order of NT’s department of correctional services be preserved.

“Nobody wants to see a kid in jail, but nobody wants to see our cars getting smashed up and our houses getting broken in to. That’s it. Had enough.”

“They’re not kids, they’re mini-criminals and kids have to face up to the consequences of their actions,” a colleague offered helpfully.

With this refreshingly classical view of its young offenders and more than a whiff of the lynch-mob vigilantism sometimes called zero tolerance or getting tough on crime, staff at the Don Dale Youth Detention centre in Darwin, a 21st century innovation, a maximum security prison for juveniles, needed only to be supplied with the odd mechanical chair, a few spit hoods, a supply of tear gas, cable ties and they were set to “pulverise the fuckers”.

Fully equipped and sanctioned by the state, grown men could take their charges on personal journeys to reform or retributive punishment or keeping cars and houses safe, whatever their level of understanding of the goals of the NT penal code including their duty of care.

When it is shown on 4 Corners this Monday the video reveals men beating children, hurling them, stripping them naked; tear-gassing them. The footage is not new. There have been two reports on Don Dale. Yet when they are asked no-one in charge in the NT government remembers seeing the footage.

Nigel Scullion is asked by the PM to watch Four Corners but, as he explains in his apology Sunday, he has another urgent family appointment to attend. When pressed, he says he does recall mention of Don Dale but it didn’t “pique” his interest.

Any other Prime Minister would have asked for the minister’s resignation. Instead Malcolm Turnbull who cannot afford to lose another number in the house and who has been stung by accusations that he’s indecisive, consults Warren Mundine and within hours announces a Royal Commission which he makes clear must do its job as quickly as possible.

Against all advice this RC will be confined to the NT and conducted in conjunction with the Northern Territory, in a unique self-policing arrangement.

Who better, then, to appoint as Royal Commissioner than former NT Chief Justice Brian Martin whose previous sentencing includes a one month jail term for a man who raped a fifteen year old girl?

Martin presided over a manslaughter trial in Alice Springs where five men pleaded guilty to attacking and leaving Aboriginal man Kwementyaye Ryder to die in 2009. The men, all in their 20s, received non-parole periods of between 12 months and four years.

NT indigenous groups unite to condemn the Royal Commission as compromised from the start.

“Prime Minister Turnbull has comprehensively failed us,” says AMSANT Chief Executive John Paterson on behalf of the Northern and Central Land Councils and the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (AMSANT).

Deputy Chair Olga Havnen says:

“This appointment is wrong for all manner of reasons, and Aboriginal people in the Territory will not have confidence in the appointment of Brian Martin. As Chief Justice, he sat at the apex of the NT’s justice system. He presided over all judicial officers who sentenced young Aboriginal offenders to detention, and he knew them all; he himself sentenced juveniles to detention.”

The week ends amidst a din of further questions about the Coalition’s new stable, consultative, consensus style cabinet government and the vexed issue of its Prime Minister’s judgement.

Royal Commission, Rudd: How could Malcolm Turnbull get it so wrong?

 

Brandis, Turnbull present Brian Ross Martin

Three amigos bond in public display of their mutual quest for justice and cover-up.


How could he get it so wrong, so soon? Coalition circus ring-in ringmaster – an astonishing Abbott look alike in the right light or if you just look at the policies, Turnbull, the incredible shrinking man began brilliantly with his death-defying Cabinet-making show. Now it’s all gone belly up.

Political dwarfs were tossed, duds and duffers were reshuffled and an attempt was made on the Guinness book of records for how many anti-abortionists, marriage equality opponents and other “rising stars” of the right may be stuffed into a receptacle already over-filled with incompetents, pretenders, intellectual pygmies and a vast flock of screeching, headless capons.

It all looked fabulous for five minutes, just like the PM himself. No-one knows what went wrong. Perhaps Malco the human calculator did not count on the ways ascendant luminaries which include Ted Selesja and climate change sceptic Matt Canavan can bugger up an otherwise flawless decision making routine – especially when they interact with the likes of Peter Dutton.

Now he’s cooked his golden egg-layer. Not only has the newly sworn in PM just gratuitously insulted Rudd, he has set up a Royal Commission into juvenile detention where the terms of reference are decided in conjunction with the NT government the outfit under investigation. It beggars belief. Imagine if Labor had got the same offer over the TURC?

Labor’s offer of bipartisan backing has been spurned as assiduously as the NT has been invited to share the joy of a collaborative DIY objective legal inquiry not to mention the obvious political bromance as may well develop between NT First Minister Adam Giles, Attorney General George Brandis and Malcolm Turnbull, given their bonding as demonstrated when the three amigos awkwardly faced cameras today.

Already the two teams are united in gnosticism; just how much neither of them had any idea what was going on, especially Nigel Scullion whose job it was to know, who defended his ignorance on the grounds that he knew of the matter but it did not “pique his interest”.

It seems inconceivable that the government did not know of the use of tear gas at Don Dale Detention Centre or any of the other well-documented abuses there. If Minister for the Northern Territory and Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister since 2013, Nigel Scullion was unaware, or the PM was not informed, the abuse was well documented in the press in 2015.

Perhaps, like Bob Katter, he doesn’t read the news or watch television.

Above all big white Bwana Tony Abbott held one week publicity stunts in the bush just to help him let us know how enormously committed to helping Aboriginal people he was while his own department of PM&C cut 13.4 million from The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Aid Services (NATSILS). But that was only part of the tough love.

Its chaotic Indigenous Advancement Strategy which was administered by the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet cut $500 million from the Indigenous Affairs budget and collapsed 500 programs into five broad funding streams from which NATSILS then had to apply.

Given this sort of hands-on benevolence and commitment to equality and justice it beggars belief that neither politician was briefed by the elite staff of the PMC.

Perhaps that’s why the Turnbull government is in such a hurry. The PM and his Attorney General are clear that there’s neither time nor money to consult the Aboriginal community, a point accepted philosophically by media celebrity and Liberal apologist Warren Mundine on The Drum Friday.

According to Senator Brandis, the government did not have time for an “endless public seminar” on establishing the inquiry but that he and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull “did consult” with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda and Indigenous Advisory Council chair Warren Mundine.

Gooda later made clear that he rang the Attorney General but let’s not get legalistic about consultation or that would leave only one indigenous person consulted, Tony Abbott’s mate and beneficiary, Warren Mundine. So it’s either two whole people or one or not even one who can attest to the workings of Turnbull’s much vaunted consultative government in action. But it’s not all bad.

Making a virtue out of necessity, Turnbull has the chutzpah to style himself as decisive leader. On some level, he must know it’s already too late. He’s in frantic damage control. ABC’s Four Corners program has conveyed horrifying images of cruelty and monstrous abuse of aboriginal children in custody being hooded, cuffed, stripped or strapped to a mechanical chair and gassed across the nation and to shocked viewers around the world.

UN special rapporteur, Juan Mendez tells ABC Radio National Thursday that video footage showing mistreatment of six aboriginal boys at the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre indicates a “very worrisome development that can amount to torture.”

Is anyone surprised? When you don’t know what to do; when your cabinet can’t or won’t tell you and, when, frankly, you’ve never liked taking advice from anyone, it’s all too easy to stuff up. Turnbull’s set himself up to fail, even if his ill-judged election gambit hadn’t cost him his authority, credibility and so many of his party’s MPs their seats.

Now the right wing leads him by the nose. His captain’s call to humiliate Rudd is a fiasco. Petty, unnecessary and mutually demeaning, it makes sense only in terms of his own abject efforts at survival.

No wonder that he sets up a quickie Clayton’s Royal Commission into juvenile detention in the NT so utterly lacking in credibility and legitimacy that it shrieks of expediency.

Worse, Warren Mundine bobs up Friday on The Drum in defence of the government. A distant relative, Gary Foley calls Mundine “the white sheep of the family” A former ALP National President, Mundine surprised some when he buddied up with grandstanding token PM Tony Abbott at the beginning of the Coalition’s 2013, sweet light of reason election campaign.

Mundine cemented his allegiance with the right of politics when he married Elizabeth, Gerard Henderson’s daughter in 2013 and took his place at the head of Tony Abbott’s newly created Aboriginal body, The Indigenous Advisory Council which like John Howard’s was hand-picked by the PM. Gerard Henderson became his second in command.

None of this is made clear on The Drum where Julia Baird has fun flattering her guest with the notion that he and Gooda are the two most influential Aboriginal leaders in Australia today.

Harsher words have been used. To then NSW Labor Minister Linda Burney Mundine was a hypocrite for accepting membership of John Howard’s National Indigenous Council before he could even take up his position as ALP National President.

Now Mundine is the only Aboriginal man in the land in favour. Powerful, representative bodies the Northern and Central Land Councils and the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT and legal groups, reject the appointment of Brian Martin, former NT Chief Justice as Royal Commissioner. “Turnbull has failed us” they say. “Turnbull has failed the nation.”

Welcome to stable government, a Liberal minority government in thrall to a National Party and a rampant right wing in which every little thing rapidly turns into a vote on Turnbull’s leadership.

Welcome to inertia and policy paralysis where the right defies anyone to do anything worth doing. And it’s groundhog day on the environment. Turnbull’s cabinet preserves the undistinguished Minister for Aboriginal Affairs National MP Nigel, “pique my interest”, Scullion and puts “Mr Coal”, Josh Freydenberg, in charge of both energy and environment – despite advice that at least one of these ministers could be better suited elsewhere.

It’s a government which has no real plan for any vital issue. Besides, is there anything on the environmental front left to do after Greg Hunt’s “My work is done”?

Instead Turnbull has created an over-sized, unwieldy cabinet by adding a few right wingers to some proven underperformers featuring a Treasurer who no wants to “double down” on the benefits of free trade when all around the world the benefits are being exposed as a hoax.

And recyled failures. Just how many times will Pyne be given another chance to stuff up?

We are already sharing the pain of Turnbull’s dilemma. His cabinet-making has created an advisory council that won’t advise him. Part of this arises from his failure to retire some duds. He is of course unable to cull any Nationals even the underwhelming Scullion who made news with his claim that dry community members in Queensland were making home brew out of Vegemite.

Linda Burney says that Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion is a failure, pointing to recent cuts to Indigenous funding and his hostile relationship with advocacy group the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples. But she fails to do justice to his creative imagination.

In August last year, under the steady hand of good Captain Abbott, Scullion was about to ban Vegemite from the shelves of stores in the Northern Territory because he’d heard that it was used to make home brew. News of the move went viral.

The unhappy little Vegemite was making a stand. The minister said he was tired of hearing about “people’s rights’’, and wanted people to think more about alcohol-fuelled domestic violence and child neglect. And to notice him.

Experts pointed out that the cooking of the yeast extract and the salt in the product left nothing alive which you could make beer out of. Yet Scullion was adamant, “I have seen first-hand the impact of home brewing which included Vegemite as an ingredient and many community members have told me about the problems it is causing,” he said in a statement.

One problem is Scullion is the only one ever to make this claim. Media Watch contacted every dry community in Queensland only to find them laughing at Scullion’s gullibility and casting into serious doubt his capacity to make sense of more complex issues – or to do his job properly.

Now Turnbull’s made a dud captain’s call in not backing Rudd’s bid for the UN; he’s insulted indigenous Australia by failing to consult with the Aboriginal community over his NT-friendly Royal Commission – and, above all, he’s agreed to keep the coalition agreement with the Nationals secret. Welcome to open transparent and consultative government from the only party with a plan. And a mob of diabolical liabilities in cabinet.

Turnbull is a sitting duck.

Turnbull addresses party room


Cabinet maker, nation builder, architect of our future, seer, Malcolm Bligh Turnbull squints into Monday’s winter sunshine in the courtyard where Tony Abbott used to park his bicycle and proclaims a mandate. A depleted Coalition stares back at him in disbelief.

Eric Abetz is scowling.

The bruising eight week ordeal on the hustings is a solid victory, he says. He has a vision, he insists. MPs will ask him in three years about KPIs, (key performance indicators), because “we have set out our plan”. Even Howard would struggle to be this dull. Not even Abbott would be this transparent.

“This is all about delivery,” he continues, as if addressing Eagle Boys Pizza, a PM who surely holds the record for the most over-promised and under-delivered election performance in history. His authority in tatters, his credibility shot, many MPs doubt Fizza will make it to Christmas.

“He’s a sitting duck and he knows it” one Liberal tells Paul Bongiorno adding that the Coalition’s plan will be to sit parliament as little as possible, planning only seven weeks’ sitting before December. Turnbull’s small target campaign will evolve into a small target parliamentary strategy.

The plan will be to say they have a plan that fixes everything and a mandate.Tactical evasion comes naturally to a leader whose approach to tax reform showed a genius for equivocation and indecision.

“We were fucked by February,” campaign guru Mark Textor confides after the party room meeting to one of the few female MPs to survive. Doubtless there will be no discount to his fee for services to the lost cause.

By Wednesday despite colossal media spin about mandates and plans even ducking and weaving looks risky. Chairman Mal’s heroic victory over the “outrageous lies” of scumbag Labor’s Mediscare dims with news that his government’s “solid majority” of 77 in the House of Reps of the 45th Parliament now amounts to only one seat. Eric Abetz did say, Monday, his campaign was crap.

In a flash of old Malcolm, the PM snaps back. How many members are in the Tasmanian branch? 1200? The senator claims Turnbull is 800 shy of the mark but the point is made. The party ran dead not only because its leader ran dead but also because its grassroots support is dying. Like all true leaders, Malcolm is quick to blame someone else, even if Abetz has a lot to answer for.

It ran out of money. Its policies did not connect with electors. And shockingly to all of us who hold that democracy is not for buying or selling, late in the day, Turnbull dipped into his own pocket.

Just how much Turnbull’s own contribution affected the election result will remain a matter of conjecture. How much proprietary authority it buys him in terms of his own leadership is impossible to reckon. The amount, however, may not be one million as reported in The Australian but two. When ABC’s Leigh Sales presses the PM on his donation he, typically, brushes her aside.

All of the donations I’ve made in the past to the Liberal Party and any donations that will be made or have been made will all be disclosed in accordance with the Electoral Act.”

The future looks grim. Unlike Labor, the Liberals cannot count on unions or idealistic young people with notions of social justice and community service to build support. And in a glimpse of things to come, in Tasmania recently, some power mad young Liberals seem to have lost the plot.

Eric Abetz had to abandon his address to a hundred bright young things attending the Australian Liberal Students’ Federation dinner in Hobart when students, dressed as security guards blocked delegates, claiming that they had not registered in time to vote for the new executive.

For Turnbull it is the opposite tactic. Rather than make hard decisions in allocating or re-allocating portfolios, or kick up a stink by replacing Liberals with Nationals, he has simply had a bit of a tinker with Environment and Defence and then let everyone in. His cabinet is the biggest since Whitlam. What he gains in patronage, he must surely lose in unworkability.

Gone is any faint hope of authority over his bitterly divided party. Helpfully ABC’s 7:30 Report Friday beats up Bill Shorten’s “factional war” but the Labor leader has just consolidated his leadership while Turnbull has open insurrection and belly-aching back-stabbers to contend with.

Munificent Mal must stare down the likes of gutsy George Christensen who threatens to waddle across the floor over super, in a social media spray two days after Monday’s party room meeting. Gorgeous George sees the proposed changes as Labor-style policies in a Tea-Party worthy swipe.

“It’s not the government’s money, it’s YOUR money. We in government need to remember that.” 

Union supporter, maverick Bob Katter has warned that he will not support an ABCC and is quick to tell the PM through the media that he will not stand for any union bashing. ACTU Head Dave Oliver applauds. Katter could be a handful on marriage equality too since he once said he’d walk backwards to Burke if there was a single gay in his electorate.

Simmering on the backbench is a potent brew of confused, imported populism, racism, climate denial, wilful ignorance and confected Trump-style resentment which finds expression in scapegoating all manner of outsiders from Muslims to marriage equality advocates. Some like Cory Bernardi interpret the election fiasco as evidence of a need to shift the party further to the right.

Into this mix, with his double dissolution Turnbull has delivered Pauline Hanson, former 1996 Queensland Liberal Party candidate, populist politician and celebrity bigot who claims clairvoyantly that she “just says what everyone is thinking,” such as – No more Muslims for Australia. Muslims should be prohibited because “like pit bull terriers they are a danger to our society.”

The gift of sensing “what everyone else is thinking” brings with it the delusion that her crackpot notions are mainstream views, an attitude also struck by Cory Bernardi and George Christensen and others whose sexual phobias are nurtured by the propaganda of the Australian Christian Lobby. Claiming to channel the mainstream is a specious bid for legitimacy and Turnbull will need to call her on it, although it is far from certain that One Nation senators will oppose the ABCC.

Turnbull’s capitulation to his party’s lunatic right wing’s witch hunt against Safe Schools suggests that he lacks the means or the will to cut through the toxic miasma of irrationality he has stirred up. Nor does he have much in the way of Liberal party political precedent to enable such a stand.

Despite her disclaimer, Hanson in fact channels prejudices popular amongst small sectors of the Australian community for generations, her incoherent, irrational, wittering discontent is much more closely linked with Liberal Party demagoguery than Turnbull and others voicing public disapproval would care to admit. It is to be heard, for example, in the nonsense expressed by Peter Dutton that migrants take our jobs while simultaneously being a drain on welfare.

It resonates with John Howard’s claim of babies being thrown overboard, an election winning gambit to demonise asylum-seekers as subhuman and unnatural. Hanson also taps the vein of fear nurtured by Tony Abbott who proclaimed that ISIS was “coming after each and everyone of us. She draws sustenance from the militarisation of our duty to refugees in Morrison’s Border Force and the pernicious myth that our borders are somehow under threat those who seek our asylum.

The myth of the dangerous Muslim is reflected in the Abbott government’s decision to offer haven to only those Syrian refugees who are Christian, a stipulation which has led to UN censure and to unnecessary and inhumane delay in our accepting our fair share of the world’s displaced peoples.

A lame duck leader mortally wounded by his deal with the Nats and despised by all for his arrogance; his imperious mien, his fatal combination of overpowering entitlement and poor judgement, the Chairman is now at the mercy of every desperate party renegade with an axe to grind. Reluctantly Liberal MPs gave support to a coup leader they didn’t like or trust in the hope that he would deliver them from certain political oblivion under Abbott.

Now he has doubly failed them. He will seek to appease the rebels over the proposed $500,000 lifetime cap on non-concessional superannuation contributions. Yet the price of peace will be an even less egalitarian society. Morrison is said to be working on it already.

Expect exemptions for when your Dad dies and leaves you a few mill and a farm in the Upper Hunter or for when you make a mozza out of a divorce settlement, as you do, especially women.

“Life events”, these windfalls will be called as if inherited wealth can never be taxable or as if granting tax exemption under duress is not the perpetuation of privilege, inequality and the power of vested interests.

But Turnbull doesn’t let it show; even if he could afford to. Long live Chairman Tang Bao, sweet custard bun! It’s not a backdown on an election commitment, just a bit of fine tuning because that’s what good government is about.

Mad Dog Morrison is fit to kill. On a mission to restore Australia’s AAA rating when experts reckon the ratings agency Standard and Poor’s is not worth taking seriously given its flawed record in the GFC, Morrison wants us to believe that he’ll have us return to balance by 2020-2021.

Moody’s told him in April that budget cuts alone would not return us to surplus. None of the ratings agencies believe his projected iron ore prices nor do they approve of his counting in zombie measures yet to pass the senate. In other words his budget calculations don’t add up.

Morrison’s furious to learn secondhand of Turnbull’s turnaround on Medicare from AMA’s Dr Michael Gannon who’s got the nod from Health Minister Sussan Ley. A $2.4 billlion dollar nod over four years according to Labor’s Parliamentary Budget Office costings.

“I would be gobsmacked if the government took an ongoing freeze to the next election. They got the scare of their life on health, and that was probably the policy which hurt them the most,” says Dr Gannon leaving a smiling Ley who also says “consultative and collaborative” for the camera.

“Loose lips” Morrison is left out of the loop again, as he was on the date of his first budget. The Great Helmsman clings to the tiller of the ship of state, his knuckles whitening.

Bad news from the Sombrero Belt midweek threatens to throw Chairman Mal off course. Herbert’s electors may fail in their duty to return sitting member, LNP’s Ewen Jones.

Voters do not embrace a tax cut for the rich – key to the great Economic Plan for jobs and growth on which our nation’s prosperity depends. One in five young people in Townsville is unemployed.

Worse, Labor’s Cathy O’Toole may be elected instead. Hawk-eyed Attorney-General George Brandis is urgently dispatched to scrutineer in frantic over-kill, doubtless, an early example of a good, stable government in action.

Herbert is instantly downplayed by national media outlets and the ABC, whose news packaging assumes that Herbert will come to its senses following a recount of all of its 104, 181 ballots.

Should Labor win the seat, leaving the Coalition with a majority of one, Ayatollah Turnbull will be utterly at the mercy of his back bench. Unable to muster numbers on a no confidence vote on same sex marriage, for example, could see his term of office over by Christmas.

Earning the nickname “The Ayatollah” for his autocratic management style in merchant banking, the PM is no natural negotiator. He is going to have to learn more than the hand chopping body language he has recently picked up if he is to master the requisite consensus forging skills to survive. Luckily he is able to play Father Christmas and buy some support as he hands out a record number of ministries.

Turnbull is a model of largesse and jobs and growth in action as he creates the biggest cabinet in forty years, with jobs nearly half the party. Only Eric, Kevin and Tony The Incredible Sulk Abbott are left to cool their heels in the corridor and plot mischief.

Promoting conservatives Matt Canavan and Zed Seselja and putting Christopher Pyne in a new role as defence means a hard right turn in policy with a left back twist in protectionist submarine building in the Turnbull government’s new ministry, officially Australia’s 71st as the million dollar PM boosts the Nationals and rewards his own backers over Abbott faction members.

An anti-abortion campaigner, Canavan doubts climate science is settled while Seselja will abstain from voting should the marriage plebiscite go ahead while the appointment of the conservative Josh Freydenberg to a combined energy and environment portfolio is the kiss of death to those who have been hoping for a progressive approach to either.

But like the jobs and growth slogan itself, this cabinet is no new era in policy or government or anything else much beyond an attempt at appeasement; a calculated buying of time and support so that the man who would be Prime Minister can achieve his dream.

Even if the rest of the country goes to hell in a handbasket, if the economy nose dives and the social contract is torn up while rabid right wing nut jobs argue the toss, Turnbull will be able to claim that he was an elected Prime Minister. Even if he has Buckley’s chance of lasting until Christmas.

Historians will take the view that like his predecessor, Turnbull never had what it took to be a Prime Minister but that his tenure represents the last desperate gamble of a Liberal party which came to have no effective popular support base and no clear idea of what it stood for above servicing the requests of business, a party which spent its political capital as freely and unwisely as it did the proceeds of the mining boom leaving no-one fit to mind the shop and the barbarians an open gate.

abbott clapping

Abbott out; Turnbull buys in as Coalition heads toward civil war.

Kevin Andrews father of the house began crackdown on pensioners

Father of the house, Kevin Andrews conceived crackdown on pensioners.

Tasmanian senator Eric Abetz fearlessly leads the charge of the right brigade this week into a stoush between his beloved team Abbott and the Pollyanna faction led by tub-thumping, sub-stumping $50 billion dollar man Christopher Pyne. Eric is out to keep the bastards honest

Abetz takes a pot-shot at the Turnbull’s government’s legitimacy, the issue of the political week if not the forty-fifth parliament’s lifetime, after sub-Marathon Mal’s hamstrung election performance, which saw the PM forced to fund his party’s manifest destiny to the tune of a million dollars.

Can he just do that? Millionaire Mal’s DIY fund-raising does not raise an eyebrow on ABC Insiders Sunday. Fran Kelly, Nikki Sava, Karen Middleton, all senior journos, see no problem posed to our democratic processes by a rich man buying a prime ministership. If Laura Tingle has reservations she keeps them to herself. “Do I look bothered?” Catherine

Tate would say.

“He’s done it before,” Karen Middleton sighs, “and he’ll do it again.” Perhaps she recalls Turnbull’s desperate battle for Liberal preselection for the blue-ribbon seat of Wentworth thirteen years ago, when his opponent, Peter King, says Turnbull told him to “fuck off and get out of my way.”

Money talks – and often in the Turnbull story. In 2003, Turnbull paid Alan Jones $5000 a plug to support him on radio and won. Perhaps this time, too, his million dollar investment may help to stem rising Liberal Party disquiet. The election’s cost him too much personal authority to do it any other way.

…wept on camera…

Some say millionaire MPs do this sort of thing. Queensland Nickel donated $288,516 to PUP last December, a fortnight before sacking staff at the Yabulu refinery near Townsville. Nothing was left in the kitty to pay wages. Ewen Jones, then member for Herbert, wept on camera.

Pity us poor Liberals, Julie Bishop pleads on ABC’s Insiders, “we don’t have the rivers of gold that come from the union movement.” AEC ALP records do not match the Foreign Minister’s fantasy, showing instead a broad set of donors. In 2015, the CFMEU donated $50,000 yet WestPac gave $1.5 million. No-one challenges Bishop.

Most likely, however, Turnbull’s party was just caught short as its uber-rich supporters; fearing penury if super rules were to change, withheld donations.

A $500,000 lifetime limit on how much of one’s after-tax contributions one can make to one’s super is at issue. Currently the limit is $180,000 a year.

The IPA opposes the “diabolical” changes along with Coalition plans to impose 15% tax on income generated by balances above $1.6m. Director, John Roskam, says the changes are also clearly retrospective. So central is the IPA to controlling Liberal policy, this means the government is at war with its own brain stem.

Its civil war with the IPA aside, most of the Liberals’ pain is self-inflicted.

…Arthur is unable to recall.

In March the NSW Electoral Commission denied the party $4.389m in public funding because it accepted illegal developer donations for the 2011 NSW election via its “Free Enterprise Foundation”, a matter the ICAC needs expert help to sort out, hence its request to then Liberal Party Treasurer and President, now Coalition Cabinet Secretary Arthur Sinodinos. As yet Arthur is unable to recall.

No big fan of Arthur, who was numbers man in Turnbull’s coup, an ear to the ground Abetz reckons the super changes were never properly ventilated and massively cost Liberal votes in Tasmania, an insight he has gained by door-knocking and national report.

“From right around Australia I got very strong feedback that that was not the way to go forth and I trust that we will revisit aspects of that policy.”

Can a party change its policy after the campaign? Abetz seems to think so. He’s not alone. Mad dog Morrison, our reverse Robin Hood Treasurer, is on standby with a solution which may see the super changes watered down. Protect the rich.

In the real world over 31,000 people have lost their disability support pension in the past year, the biggest annual drop on record as several years worth of government crackdowns begin to bite. 90,000 may expect to undergo a medical review in the next three years. More “savings” are promised as Mad Dog Morrison has promised to find another $3.5 billion.

Don’t expect schools or hospitals…

It costs money to keep negative gearing for speculators and then there’s the cost involved in “fine-tuning” its super changes to protect the wealthy. Don’t expect schools or hospitals from this mob.

All of this challenges the notion of a mandate on policy his party took to the election; the current Liberal Party mandate mantra. “What mandate?” says Eric.

Unhappy Abbott camper Eric is bucking his party’s line on its campaign, a failed gamble on an early election double dissolution which has left its PM’s authority in tatters; its future on a knife edge.

“A lot of our colleagues see the election result as the barest of victories, if we can a call it a victory having declared victory two weeks out,’ he growls.

For Turnbull toy dog Christopher Gertrude Stein Pyne, however, “a win is a win, is a win” and the whole election thing is just a game of footie, really. Bugger what the people actually wanted or what they thought they were voting for.

Mincing poodle, as Julia Gillard so aptly dubbed Pyne for his performances as Abbott’s yap dog in three years of relentless negativity in opposition, has done well out of our defence policy.

Pyne’s SA seat of Sturt is now secure thanks to the government’s astonishing flip-flop on protectionism to the tune of a $50 billion industry subsidy. The ASC will assemble a dozen frog submarines in the SA rust belt state, when it would be so much cheaper to have them made in France.

For half the price we could have had them made in Japan and Germany quoted $20 billion and the subs to be delivered six years earlier.

…$490,000 for every vote…

Winning has not come cheaply. The $50 billion amounts to to $468,000 per potential vote in Hindmarsh, $490,000 for every vote in Pyne’s Sturt and $480,000 for each potential Boothby vote.

It may sound expensive but it’s an investment in not just Pyne’s seat but in the democratic pork barrel itself so vital to mandate creation. And it’s not a subsidy to car-makers, a prospect former Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey, amen, hated.

For one per cent of the sub investment, car manufacturing would still be able to employ 200,000 Australian workers, directly and indirectly.

To be fair it wasn’t all about boats. Pyne does admit,along with dog-catcher Barnaby Joyce and other National Party campaigners that they threw campaign talking points away – departed from the official script. Yet although success came from not plugging policy, he does not hesitate to claim a mandate.

Also leading the charge in the battle of the mandate is lynx-eyed Attorney-General George Brandis, a chap who may have failed to explain metadata and who was unable to open a spreadsheet warning of a terrorist threat but who has got a safe pair of hands on everyone’s metadata, nevertheless.

…signed letter of permission…

Just in case, four days before the election, Brandis elevated the attorney general’s status. Anyone, including the PM, who needs to see Justin Gleeson, the Solicitor-General now has to get signed letter of permission from himself, a move which has legal experts legal experts describe as an “unnecessary impediment” to expert advice.

Members of the legal community point to a growing tension between the nation’s first and second law officers over matters, including the 2013 same-sex marriage High Court case, the 2015 advice Mr Gleeson provided over changes to citizenship laws and over the drafting of same-sex marriage plebiscite legislation, a matter which Brandis is overdue to report back to government on.

One of the new Cabinet’s first tasks after Governor General returns from France to swear them in after arranging armed transport and a special security detail for Mitch Fifield’s massive family Bible will be the wording of the plebiscite so that it is unlikely to succeed.

Of course, it may be that we never see the plebsicite at all just as we will never see the secret agreement between the Liberal Party and the Nationals. It may request the government not to budge on same sex marriage, given that it can lead to polyamory, as Eric Abetz attests, or to bestiality, one of Cory Bernardi’s big bugbears. There is no mandate for a secret coalition agreement.

What the secret agreement is also likely to reflect is a Nationals push to nudge the Coalition even further towards Hansonism, given that One Nation’s support base comprises an fair muster of alienated single fathers who blame their marriage and relationship breakdowns on the Family Court.

…a kangaroo court…

One Nation, which apart from its familiar figurehead, is now a blokes’ party, attracts such voters with its policy of abolishing the Family Court and replacing it with a kangaroo court which it calls a community panel.

A mandate man, Brandis is under the illusion on Monday’s Q&A that this is Turnbull’s second term as elected PM. His memory lapses are eclipsed, however in the company of Cabinet secretary Sir Arthur Sinodinos, who is appearing all over the media to talk up his government’s mandate while awaiting a call back from ICAC on Australian Water Holdings and the Free Enterprise foundation.

Now that the Turnbull government may attain a whopping seventy-seven seats in the House of Representatives of the forty-fifth parliament as the vote count continues in the Townsville-based seat of Herbert, shows Labor’s candidate Cathy O’Toole behind the LNP’s Ewen Jones, by only a dozen votes, Liberals have been vigorously pumping the handle of the mandate organ.

Soon hagiographers rewriting the history of Australia Pty Ltd will be telling us this is Chairman Mal’s finest hour. Expect ballet and epic theatre to be commissioned in the great helmsman’s favour.

Mandate? Michaelia Cash is dashing into TV studios to madly impress us with her claim that the government has 700,000 more votes than Labor. Yet it is only true as a Coalition. Labor’s 4.3 million first preferences put it ahead while if you total all minority parties, the government is outstripped.

As Guy Rundle points out, the mandate issue becomes even more vexed if you consider the fundamentally flawed nature of our democratic voting process where The Nationals with one million votes get 23 seats while The Greens get one seat after receiving 1.2 million.

…almost another million dollar man…

Amazingly making the same claim to a mandate is a pin-striped Malcolm Turnbull who is careful to be photographed with Martin Parkinson, Head of Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and on $860,000 PA almost another million dollar man proving to all Australians that because they are both using Ipads, this whole 21st Century innovation thing will be just a doddle.

What they are doing is not revealed because like the Coalition agreement it is secret and like our imports of asbestos in portables from China none of our business. What is likely to be on the iPad, however, will include the promotion of Zed Seselja whose opposition to same sex marriage is but a small element of his valuable contribution to good government in the forty-fifth parliament.

Team player and good captain, Tony Abbott will not be attending The Lodge for pre-blood-letting drinks Sunday night says Julie Bishop. Nor will he find himself back in the cabinet, in a welcome sign that some sanity at least has prevailed in Mr Harbourside Mansion’s Point Piper decision making processes. Expect press releases to tell us he has a contribution to make in other areas.

Expect to hear a lot about the Coalition’s mandate to provide stable government; how we must knuckle under; pull together; go without to get us all on a “credible path back to surplus” and other unreal stuff. Watch out when Eric, Tony and Kevin find themselves surplus to requirements.

What is real is that the first shot in the Turnbull government’s war with itself has just been fired.