Australia’s home-grown terrorist a threat to all of us.

jacinda

“We were not chosen for this act of violence because we condone racism, because we are an enclave for extremism,” Jacinda Ardern told New Zealanders in the confused hours following the attacks.

“We were chosen for the very fact that we are none of these things. Because we represent diversity, kindness, compassion, a home for those who share our values, refuge for those who need it. And those values, I can assure you, will not and cannot be shaken by this attack.”

 


Fifty unsuspecting men, women and children attending Friday prayer at 1:00 pm in the leafy, peaceful, central Christchurch Al-Noor mosque and in the nearby mosque at Linwood, New Zealand, are suddenly brutally, cold-bloodedly shot at point-blank range by Brenton Harrison Tarrant, a 29 year-old Australian alt-right terrorist using an AR-15 semi-automatic, the weapon of choice in US mass shootings from Sandy Hook to San Bernardino.

Surgeons, who have treated wounds caused by AR-15 semi-automatic rifles, call the weapons perfect killing machines that can tear a body apart and create massive haemorrhaging. Many medicos call for it to be banned.

The assault is a callous, calculated hate-crime which leaves fifty Islamic worshippers dead and wounds fifty others, thirty-six of whom remain hospitalised, twelve in critical condition and a community utterly traumatised. Broken. Police arrest Tarrant, an Otago rifle-club member; charge him with one count of murder. Other charges will follow on 5 April. Despite earlier reports of a group of terrorists, police say Tarrant is the lone gun-man.

If only he were. Not for a moment, does Tarrant behave as if he is on his own. It’s in his demeanour in court, where he smirks at reporters and flashes an inverted white power symbol- it’s in his “manifesto”; the in-jokes and ironic references to fellow “shit-posters” on white supremacists’ websites; his prior posts to social media; his decision to film his pathological odyssey of destruction.  He is living proof of the myth of the lone wolf terrorist.

In his own, narcissistic, bubble-head, Tarrant’s gone from “zero to hero” appeasing the savage god of alt-right celebrity social media notoriety in thirty-six minutes. But he’s not got anywhere on his own. “Lazy talk of lone wolves obscures the nature of the real threat and makes us all less safe”, writes The Guardian’s Jason Burke.

“The truth is much more disturbing. Terrorism is not something you do by yourself, it is highly social. People become interested in ideas, ideologies and activities, even appalling ones, because other people are interested in them.”  Increasingly, however, links are tenuous. Networks, autonomous cells and “in rare cases” individuals have replaced groups with chains of command. Sadly, our AFP and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton’s other anti-terror forces appear still to be busting down doors in Grafton, Monday, looking for a mythic Tarrant terror cell.

Tarrant exudes complicity; a sense of co-conspiracy; a psychotic, anti-heroic triumphalism of “us” against “them”.

Has the tolerance given the alt-right by governments and mainstream media in Australia, misled him to believe he is starring in his own movie? That he’s untouchable? Or does he simply have the psychopath’s empathy by-pass? Yet rather than seek out a terror cell as his mentors, we need look no further than the federal government.

“Some politicians in Australia have for years been whipping up anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment,” Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi tells ABC Television’s News Breakfast, Monday, “and for years, Muslims have also been warning; we’ve been speaking out and saying this is damaging and hurting the community, and that this does have consequences – this doesn’t happen in a vacuum. And when I talk about politicians, I have to say I’m not only talking about the usual suspects like One Nation’s Pauline Hanson, or Fraser Anning.”

Faruqi spells it out, later on Radio National “… politicians like Peter Dutton have actually contributed to creating an atmosphere where hate is allowed to incubate in our society. They can’t shrug off their responsibility.

What they’ve been doing does come with a cost, it does come with consequences, because really they’ve been playing games with our lives.”

Peter Dutton takes this gentle rebuke with typical good humour. He quickly accuses Faruqi of making political capital out of the NZ shootings. Dutts says it’s “a disgrace” that people “on the far left or far right [are] trying to extract advantage” while families are “burying the bodies of those who have been massacred in Christchurch”.

“He still refuses to take responsibility for his role in demonising Muslims, migrants and refugees,” Faruqi tells Guardian Australia.Trying to claim that my response to the horrific massacre and Senator Anning’s disgraceful comments that harm our community are in any way equivalent is just vile.”

Anning blames the New Zealand victims in a bizarre tweet which asks “Does anyone still dispute the link between Muslim immigration and violence?” His asinine comment causes the Indonesian Foreign Ministry to summon the Australian Ambassador in Jakarta where foreign ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir has some helpful advice,

“Acts of terrorism, he says, are not associated with any religion.”

“The thought conveyed by the Australian senator is inappropriate and does not have a place in the modern world, whether in Australia, Indonesia, or elsewhere,” he says. Anning, meantime has over a million votes on a GetUp petition in favour of his standing down from parliament. His attention-seeking stunt is working marvellously.

As for acts of terrorism, if we look, as we do to the US, violent extremism driven by right-wing, racially motivated ideologies is growing at an alarming pace – ahead of the capacity of public understanding nor government action to keep up or to combat it. Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, calls upon leaders to wake up and to mobilise the necessary resources to deal with right wing terror. In Australia, we lag further behind.

Marvy Morrison is mugged by reality. Yet when it comes to “Muslim extremism” he has the answers all off pat. ScoMo echoes Abbott and most of his other MPs when he says the Muslim community in Australia must be more “proactive” in tackling the threat of terror attacks. Why?  Because “in many cases” imams and community leaders will know who is infiltrating and radicalising members of their flock. It’s reductive, patronising nonsense.

But Brenton Tarrant’s radicalisation is difficult to blame on anyone else but himself and his anti-Muslim, Islamophobic government. Not that ScoMo doesn’t give the hand-pass a try. He’s surprised, he says, that NZ authorities didn’t have Tarrant on their radar.

Jacinda Ardern replies that she’s surprised that Australian authorities, so much more advanced at this anti-terror stuff, weren’t on to Tarrant way back. Why weren’t his community leaders more proactive?

Proactive? Given our first major terrorist turns out to be a white supremacist, Neo-Nazi, why is ScoMo now not calling Anglo-Celtic community leaders to account? Because it’s nonsense? If there’s any good to come out of the tragic horror of Friday’s shootings, it’s the way that it exposes the Coalition’s preposterous supposition that Muslim “communities” are run by imams as some sort of theocratic state.

It also exposes a chilling truth. Paranoid nonsense about white genocide to one side, Tarrant’s intolerant ranting manifesto has many parallels with Coalition anti-immigration and anti-Muslim polemic. Tarrant’s immigration phobia; his scapegoating of Muslims, echoes ScoMo’s government’s own Islamophobic prejudices.

When a clearly deluded and paranoid Hassan Khalif Shire Ali killed one person and injured two others in Bourke Street, the PM identified the “vile presence” of radical Islam as the cause of the attack, dismissing the suggestion that mental health issues negated that primary cause as a “lame excuse”.

Tony Abbott insinuates Muslim leaders do not condemn terrorism: “I’ve often heard Western leaders describe Islam as a ‘religion of peace’. I wish more Muslim leaders would say that more often, and mean it.”

What messages did Abbott think he was sending when he allowed his government to send National MP “gorgeous” George Christensen to address an anti-Islam rally – Reclaim Australia? Perhaps Tarrant was even in attendance? The title of the address is remarkably similar to the theme of Tarrant’s cracked manifesto.

If it takes a whole village to raise a child, how many does it take to raise a genocidal, white supremacist gun-man? At the family level, Tarrant’s devastated relatives offer their profuse apologies to the families who have lost brothers, sisters, uncles, nephews, nieces, husbands and wives who until last Friday were teachers, engineers, accountants and scientists.

And children.  Two young children are among those gunned down in cold blood. Mucad Ibrahim, aged three, dies in his father’s arms. Abdullah Durie, aged four, is caught in the cross-fire and later dies in hospital, explains Abdulrahman Hashi, his uncle. Nothing anyone can ever say will ease their parents’ grief.

Suddenly, we are exporting terrorism. ScoMo’s government has the wrong script. Scott Morrison has said the Muslim community in Australia must be more “proactive” in tackling the threat of terror attacks because “in many cases” imams and community leaders will know who is infiltrating and radicalising members of their flock.

No Australian politician, however, steps forward to take responsibility for his or her role in contributing to the toxic miasma of Islamophobia; the anti-Muslim hate-speech that they nurture as part of Australia’s contemporary political discourse with its blaming, its scapegoating, its fear of the other.  No-one in government apologises for raising terrorist Tarrant, let alone allowing him out of the country to commit his hideous act of carnage.

Scott Morrison offers his condolences but his words ring hollow given how, in December 2010, ScoMo allegedly encouraged the shadow cabinet to exploit populist Islamophobia; growing concerns about “Muslim immigration”, “Muslims in Australia”, how “Muslims” were not assimilating – suppressing their culture, subjugating custom, thought and belief much as Australia’s aboriginal peoples are in many ways still expected to behave.

Julie Bishop and Philip Rudd allegedly remonstrated, but in 2011, Morrison asked why the Australian government should pay the fares of twenty-two mourners to come to the Sydney funeral of family drowned when an asylum-seeker vessel, SIEV 222, (Suspected illegal entry vessel) in our Orwellian terminology, evoking anonymity, illegality and illegitimacy, broke up and sank off Christmas Island’s Rocky Point, with the loss of over fifty lives.

Tony Abbott was censured by Wayne Swan for “parroting Pauline Hanson” in Abbott’s backing of Morrison.

ScoMo was persuaded to apologise or at least he made a contrived statement of contrition,

“I made the suggestion (the funeral) should have been held on Christmas Island. That wasn’t the right time to make that comment. I accept that. I have to show a little more compassion than I showed yesterday.”

Luckily, former accountant-cum-ethicist, Barnaby Joyce is on hand in 2011 to protect the borders of our humanity. The price of compassion is “not limitless’‘, he says. “You can’t do it with a completely open cheque book.”

Making his atrocity even more horrifying is that Tarrant live-streams his killings on the internet and posts an online manifesto, “The Great Replacement”, a deranged treatise on white supremacy: the high volume of immigration now seen in the West is bringing about a “replacement” of host populations by immigrant – and of course, inferior – cultures. The influx of newcomers is causing a “white genocide.”

Kiwi politicians get a copy of the treatise minutes before his attacks. Both his email and his Go-Pro live-streamed film convey not only his bizarre deliberations but suggest that the “entire attack seemed orchestrated for the social media age” suggest CNN reporters, Jenni Marsh and Tara Mulholland. It’s an ISIS-like recruitment tactic.

Before Tarrant’s attacks, a post on the anonymous message board 8chan — a forum featuring racist and extremist posts –previews the horror. It links to his 87-page grab-bag of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim slurs, and directs users to a Facebook page hosting the live stream. He also uses a new Twitter account to herald the attack. Yet no-one in any anti-terror police unit either in Australia or New Zealand notices his declaration of intent to murder.

Facebook claims that within 24 hours of Friday’s shooting the company had removed 1.5 million videos of the attack from its platform globally. Naturally, Scott Morrison has this contingency all under control.

“We will be seeking to get assurances from the social media companies about their capabilities to ensure that this tool cannot be used by terrorists,” ScoMo says, keen to be seen to impose “a tough on Facebook borders” solution. However, he reveals an astonishing ignorance of how social media works. As Mark Zuckerberg explains, his company could not have stopped Russia manipulating the outcome of the last US presidential election,

“We don’t check what people say before they say it, and frankly, I don’t think society should want us to. Freedom means you don’t have to ask for permission first, and by default, you can say what you want.”

The slaughter is quickly labelled “one of New Zealand’s darkest days” and “an act of terrorism” by Kiwi PM, Jacinda Ardern. Other world leaders offer sympathy. Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan goes further; arguing that Muslims worldwide have found themselves targeted and “demonised” since the 9/11 attacks on the US.

“I blame these increasing terror attacks on the current Islamophobia post-9/11 where Islam and 1.3 bn Muslims have collectively been blamed for any act of terror by a Muslim,” he tweets. “This has been done deliberately to also demonise legitimate Muslim political struggles.”

It is the largest massacre in New Zealand history since 1943, when forty-eight recently-arrived Japanese prisoners of war staged a sit-down strike at a POW camp in Featherston, a Wairarapa town in the Wellington region of the North Island. Guards fired a warning shot wounding Lieutenant Adachi Toshio. The prisoners rose. Forty-eight were shot by guards. A guard was killed, possibly by the warning shot. A further 63 prisoners were wounded.

Acting out his warped fantasy, Brenton Harrison Tarrant straps on his Go-Pro helmet camera, packs three semi-automatic rifles, two pump action shotguns and a bolt-action rifle in his Subaru before driving four and a half hours north from his home in Dunedin to Christchurch where he opens fire on unsuspecting innocents.

As Waleed Ali has written, it is “slaughter by appointment”. The true threat posed to us by this new form of terror; the true obscenity of the killings lie less in any alt-right madness about white genocide or Islamophobia but in the abuse of human trust and instinctive hospitality. The killer would have known how profoundly defenceless, how vulnerable, his targets would have been as they gathered in peace to begin their prayers. How vulnerable in their humanity and the innocent rituals of their faith.

“Hello Brother,” one greets Tarrant before the Australian terrorist shoots him dead.

 

 

 

ScoMo’s cynical Christmas Island stunt is an assault to our democracy and an affront to our humanity.

scott morrison on christmas island with fuehrer salute

 

“I will do everything in my power to ensure that these suggested changes … never see the light of day… I will fight them using whatever tool or tactic I have available to me … .” Scott Morrison

 

Flanked by a trio of Border Force black-shirts and a lone, grim digger in camouflage, Scott Morrison morphs into Colonel Kurtz of Christmas Island, Wednesday. Consumed by his delusions. In a spectacular mid-week flight of fantasy, he becomes Colonel Kurtz of Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola’s phantasmagorical 1979 Vietnam war film loosely based on Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness. For Kurtz and ScoMo  Horror and moral terror are your friend. 

Morrison is up for another stunt if only to drown out the erupting chaos and crisis of confidence in its leadership which, yet again, engulfs the Coalition. He’s also working up to a sensational International Women’s Day address Friday “so tone deaf so terrible” – so bad it makes international news. Is it the Kurtz method acting? Or is it just ScoMo’s ear of tin?

Pet black rock-star Morrison tells a flabbergasted audience at the Chamber of Minerals and Energy in Western Australia, a bastion of women’s emancipation, that it is “not in our values” to “push some people down to lift some people up”.

“That is true of gender equality,” he says. “We want to see women rise. But we don’t want to see women rise only on the basis of others doing worse. We want everybody to do better, and we want to see the rise of women in this country be accelerated to ensure that their overall pace is maintained.”  Clearly, ScoMo has no idea what equality means. But that doesn’t stop him “telling women not to get ahead of themselves” as Sarah Hanson-Young tweets.

Feminist, Malcolm Turnbull embarks on a finely nuanced new offensive against those who knifed him in the least successful coup in Liberal history by telling the BBC, his MPs dumped him because they knew he could win the election.

“Basically you could argue that their concern was not that I would lose the election, but rather that I would win it.”

It’s absurd. Obligingly, however, Turnbull also lets the world know that the Liberals definitely has a woman problem; a serious gender inequality issue. ScoMo will be thrilled. But Turnbull slaps down Tony Abbott for his “innumerate idiocy” in his carbon emission triple back-flip and snipe. The suppository of all wisdom declares he’s all for following the Paris climate-in-a-canter agreement now. Why? “Because the party’s leader and energy minister have changed.”

Nothing to do with being likely to lose his seat of Warringah where his chief adversary Zali Steggall confirms that Tony is being his “rude, aggressive, self.” He’s also lying, she adds. Who says there’s no consistency in politics?

Bonkers Barnaby Joyce is up for a change; he’s making ready to depose Nationals Leader Michael McCormack. The fracas will be very helpful to ScoMo in diverting us from Josh Frydenberg’s April stunning budget tax-cut bribes.

Joyce is close to a shoo-in. Few even in his own electorate have heard of McCormack. The Nationals are miffed by their lame-duck leader’s train-wreck interview with Waleed Ali on Ten’s The Project which goes viral on social media.

It’s a simple question and one that Barnaby Joyce would struggle with. “Could you name a single, big policy area where the Nats have sided with the interests of farmers over the interest of miners when they come into conflict?”

Macca just can’t name a single way that the Nationals Party stands up for the farmer rather than for mining interests.

Naturally, Macca is also attacked by “Joyced-up” Queensland Nats-rats who demand he underwrite Matthew Canavan’s “about ten” new coal-fired power stations before the Budget. For now, the agrarian socialists simply want state power over power companies; Angus Taylor, bring you big stick back. Or is this Barnaby’s cunning plan to win his old job back?

Macca kicks another own goal by telling the ABC, Sunday, that night-time sport would have to be cancelled given Labor’s emissions targets. McCormack calls Bill Shorten “nuts” and “living in fairyland” for pursuing a 45 per cent reduction in carbon emissions. “I mean sure, go down that path, but forget night footy, forget night cricket.”

Given this surfeit of absurdity, disunity and ever-mindful to lead by inspiring, ScoMo takes his shock-horror show on tour to Christmas Island, pressing a hand-picked media claque aboard an RAAF 747; a virtual, portable Canberra bubble. He says nothing he couldn’t have said in Canberra but he knows exotic settings make the news. And the value of escape.

“Anyone who wants to game the system, understand you won’t be able to game your way to the mainland if I have anything to do with it. This is why we are here,” he blusters. Border Force cutbacks are not mentioned. Yet David Wroe writing for Nine Newspapers quotes a leaked Defence Department classified briefing paper warning,

“The Australian Border Force has been falling short of its sea patrol target by 20 per cent, which has posed an increased risk” to maritime security. Anti-terror work has been cut back just because the ABF hasn’t been out there doing its job. Budget cutbacks and crew shortages are cited as reasons in Wednesday’s Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

It’s a far cry from the halcyon days of Tony Abbott’s boat-stopping, a feat he didn’t achieve, which he has never ceased to take credit for. The depersonalisation stuck, as well. Stopping boats or “illegal maritime arrivals” is so much easier than owning sadistic cruelty to vulnerable people. As for Abbott and Morrison’s boat-stopping fiction, asylum-seekers, in fact, stopped attempting to reach Australia when Kevin Rudd made it clear, in July 2013, that they would never be settled here. By the time Morrison was in charge, the flow of boats slowed to a trickle. Yet one or two still try.

What Morrison can take credit for is a culture of secrecy and lies. As Immigration Minister, he showed contempt for the press – and with it – for normal measures of accountability in a democratic society. ScoMo would simply walk out of formal press-conferences when he didn’t like the questions – or scrutiny of openness and accountability.

At times, he would resort to the fiction that we were at war with asylum seekers and people-smugglers, a fantasy in which he was indulged by Abbott, a ruse to claim that “on water” or “operational matters” were top secret as a matter of national security. Yet, as his government’s exit, stage right, draws ever closer, his legacy will be his inhumanity.

Under Scott Morrison, Australia’s Migration Act was effectively entirely eroded: all affirmations of the rights of asylum seekers that applied in international law under the United Nations Refugee Convention were stripped from the Act.

Today, 1015 innocent men and women are deliberately being driven mad by the misery of indefinite offshore detention. Some are pushed to suicide and self-harm by our government’s policy of punitive incarceration; or sadistic cruelty.

Yet human beings with needs and rights do not feature in Morrison’s message to the press, midweek. There’s a lot about himself, of course. And pointing. Feeling of steel mesh. He points to where a refugee boat sank in rough seas in December 2010. Forty-eight died. But it’s only to reiterate the lie that Coalition policy is based on preventing drowning.

Does this humbug deceive anyone? Coalition policies are founded in crass, political advantage. Deny refugees’ rights. As John Menadue puts it, the Coalition’s political objective in opposition was to stop Labor stopping the boats. In co-operation with the populist Greens, it voted against the Malaysian Solution. A surge of boat arrivals followed.

Nowhere does ScoMo admit we must render others urgent medical help; our non-delegable duty of care. Instead, all he can talk about are those who will “game the system”. Fake illness. Like Dutton, he must dwell on duplicity; deception.

If not some type of disorder, the obsession with deception or lack of good faith destroys the Coalition’s promises to keep us safe. As do its laws preventing whistle-blowers. We’re safe until we blow the whistle. We’re not safe if we can’t trust government. As for deception, we have no idea how many boats have been turned around, give the level of secrecy surrounding Operation Sovereign Borders. Secrecy hardly encourages us to trust the Coalition’s official statistics

What is clear, is that punitive detention has no effect and the “successes” – if we can talk of abrogating our humanity and our responsibility to others in such a way – have come from boat turnbacks. No-one at the press briefing challenges Scott Morrison’s basic assumption – just how mainland medical aid to men on Manus or men and women on Nauru, which his government will deny by sending the suffering to Christmas Island, can attract more boats.

Talk of “illegals” crops up frequently in Coalition spin on “securing our borders”, a nonsense useful for wedging Labor. It’s repeated so frequently it’s become part of accepted truthiness. The word dehumanises but it is not illegal to seek asylum. Secondly, our borders are naturally insecure given our 25,760 km coastline. And more porous than they’ve ever been. In 2018, 9.2 million overseas residents flew in for a short-term stay say the ABS’ official statistics.

It’s high time we gave up the fiction of border control. Helping us, the formation of the Home Affairs (HA) super-ministry is already imploding. Size imperils co-ordination and communication. Home Affairs is so huge it took a senate committee two and a half days just to scrutinise Peter Dutton’s empire May last year, reports ABC’s Laura Tingle.

Home Affairs swallowed The Department of Immigration and Border Protection – itself a shotgun wedding of customs and immigration created by the Abbott government’s 2014, which Scott Morrison failed to manage well. One change was simply a captain’s call; desk-bound bureaucrats were suddenly kitted out in paramilitary uniforms.

Our refugees do not deserve our compassion, is Morrison’s subtext.  They do not merit being treated at “Bondi” he explains to Ben Fordham on 2GB’s bubble. The sick will be sent to suffer further on Christmas Island with its six bed hospital and its inadequate facilities. All that remains, is to demonise those whose only mistake is to seek our mercy.

The Coalition continues its warped fearmongering all week. Morrison has long accused asylum-seekers of carrying all manner of diseases from Hep B and TB to Chlamydia and syphilis. Now his government claims that those identified as eligible for treatment under Medevac include “paedophiles, terrorist sympathisers and an alleged murderer”.  

ScoMo’s speech could be made in Canberra but, instead, the Coalition flies its PM and an embedded media team by RNZAF 747, 5000 km to Christmas Island. It’s a bizarre and expensive stunt – even for the architect of Abbott’s 2014 “Cambodian Solution”, an abortive deal with one of the world’s poorest and most corrupt nations, which led to two refugees being resettled with no human rights guarantees at a cost of $55 million.

But Apocalypse Morrison sees only the horror.  Horror? “Labor will start the boats again. Every arrival is on Bill Shorten’s head.”  Last time it was in office, Labor brought 50,000 asylum-seekers in boats. Even if this inflated figure were accurate, his own government has seen 64,000 people claim asylum in the last three years. They flew here.

Today they are part of an oppressed, exploited, invisible underclass of worker on farms, in factories, restaurants, building sites, franchises and other businesses, as The Saturday Paper’s Mike Seccombe details.

ScoMo’s promo draws all the attention he can to Christmas Island’s ignoble re-opening. Does the PM hope that a boat might chance indefinite offshore detention or turnbacks, on the off chance that some asylum-seekers may be sick enough to be treated on the mainland – despite the new legislation clearly applying only to refugees from Manus and Nauru?  It’s highly unlikely but he does makes much of the people-smugglers’ lack of nuanced understanding.

Why else, apart from pure political bastardry, re-open another island prison in Australia’s gulag archipelago of cruelty?

On Bill Shorten’s head? It’s a desperate projection. As former Immigration Minister and distinguished public servant, John Menadue notes, by defeating the means to implement the Malaysian Arrangement, Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison triggered the surge in boat arrivals from September 2011 onwards. The more boats the better for him.

In November 2009, the issue of asylum seekers was “fantastic” for the Coalition and “the more boats that come the better” a key Liberal Party strategist” told a US diplomat in Canberra.  Scott Morrison was the ‘strategy director’ for the 2007 NSW election campaign. The comment was published 10 December 2010 by the SMH reporting from Wikileaks.

Our onshore detention centres (gulags) are full, he lies.  Shorten’s new law means ScoMo must reopen Christmas Island Detention Centre, (a prison), because 57 “adverse characters,” require a “hardened centre”, (a fresh bit of jargon to help with the message that refugees are rapists, terrorists and worse. Some are Armani-wearing con-artists – just ask Dutts.)

“Somebody once said to me that we’ve got the world’s biggest collection of Armani jeans and handbags up on Nauru waiting for people to collect it when they depart,” Dutton told 2GB’s Ray Hadley two years ago, using the dodgy “somebody once told me…” propaganda strategy in the government’s squalid bid to smear our refugees as dishonest and undeserving – when it’s not demonising them as carriers of STDs or terrorist sympathisers.

Horror of horrors. There is room on the mainland. In a government of secrets and lies, truth, like science, is a dirty word. Home Affairs own monthly newsletter shows three mainland “hardened centres”. One alone has 200 spare beds. If every one of ScoMo’s 57 “adverse characters” were sick, we’d fit them all in. So far, not one has sought assistance.

And why ignore local residents of the Australian territory? They have a democratic right to be consulted,

Museum attendant, Roxanne Wilson, complains that ScoMo’s detention centre media blitz is certainly no advertisement for Christmas island. “I’m just concerned that any tourists on the island or [who] would like to come to the island, are thinking it’s a detention island. I would just like them to see the beauty of the island: we get bird watchers coming here quite regularly, the island has endemic bird life that is not found anywhere else in the world.”

Yet ScoMo flies 5000 kilometres to an Australia external territory, acquired in 1958, which his mentor, John Howard, rat-cunningly excised from our migration zone in September 2001.  An exhausted phosphate mine, Christmas Island is 1400 km north-west of Australia but only 360 km south of Java; alluringly close for Indonesian people-smugglers.

Is ScoMo hoping to reboot its allure? Another asylum-seeker boat or two could turn the May election into Tampa 2.0.

Or could it? How likely are demon people-smugglers to forget history? Tampa’s 438 passengers were taken to Nauru and Manus. Not to be outdone by the lying rodent, Howard, moreover, the Gillard government, excised the mainland of Australia from our migration zone in May 2013. Even if you do make it to Australia, you’ll end up being “processed” or in indefinite detention on Manus or Nauru. Only ScoMo could pretend the Medevac bill opens any “loopholes”.

Yet, blast the trump, Christmas Island is open for business again. What better spot for ScoMo to declare war on the Medevac Bill and humanity; protect us all from those who may “game the system”? Dog-whistle people-smugglers?

Morrison does boost Australia’s reputation for gratuitous cruelty and abuse of human rights via off-shore detention. Our democracy cops a hiding, too. Cap’n ScoMo’s determined to subvert the will of the Australian people as represented by parliament’s passing of a bill to allow asylum-seekers held on Manus Island and on Nauru to be treated on the mainland, a bill which received royal assent last Friday. No-one puts up a fuss. He’ll send them to an island where medical facilities are inadequate but thanks to Howard, the law doesn’t reach. It’s an act of pure political bastardry. And it’s not cheap.

All up, Monty Morrison’s flying circus costs taxpayers $2000 per minute, reckons Nine Newspapers’, David Crowe.  But that doesn’t begin to count the cost to our humanity nor to our capacity as sentient beings to find our way in the world.

The result of a consistent and total substitution of lies for factual truth is not that the lie will now be accepted as truth and truth be defamed as a lie, but that the sense by which we take our bearings in the real world – and the category of truth versus falsehood is among the mental means to this end – is being destroyed.  Hannah Arendt

 

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Note

 From the Attorney-General’s Department, Laura Tingle reports, Home Affairs has taken carriage of national security, emergency management and criminal justice functions. The Office of Transport Security has been plucked from the Infrastructure Department. Multicultural affairs has been absorbed from the Department of Social Services. And from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Home Affairs has taken control of counter-terrorism coordination and cybersecurity. The super-ministry also assumes responsibility for key agencies including ASIO, the Australian Federal Police, Australian Border Force, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and AUSTRAC.

No, ScoMo, you can’t have Snowy 2.0 and coal-fired power stations, too.

scomo hydro

“What we are talking about here is reliable, renewable, energy,” gurgles a pumped PM , Tuesday. He stands in the same spot as Turnbull, before ScoMo deposed him; the same huge penstock steel pipes arch back behind him like some gigantic, shamanic, horned headdress.  The pose gives pause for thought. As does ScoMo’s pivot; his sudden switch from bearer of the black rock in parliament to ScoMo of Snowy 2.0, a study of calculation in concrete brutalism.

In an incredible back-flip, Faux-Mo re-invents his carbon-emitting, coal-powered government as climate and environmental custodians. Snowy 2.0 is the site of Turnbull’s nation-building pet project. Is his an act of homage, or  usurpation? Yet it could be a lemon. Neither the Coalition, nor its wholly owned Snowy Hydro, will reveal any financial models. Giles Parkinson notes that there’s a fair bit of red tape to clear, not to mention environmental issues to resolve.

No financial modelling? No worries. Whether nation-building with your ego or your energy policy, it’s the vibe that matters. And the mix. A “technologically neutral” ScoMo-government may green-wash itself overnight but it’s careful to leave black or brown coal-fired power generation still in the energy mix. It prolongs the hoax that coal and wind and solar can somehow co-exist, whatever the market is saying about the need to invest in renewables to make a profit.

Naturally a few false prophets must be ignored. The Australian‘s Chris Kenny is all for a nuclear option, safe, cheap; a boon, environmentally, as Fukushima and Chernobyl attest, with only a few drawbacks including toxicity, short life-span, long build time and prohibitive price as demand for electricity diminishes. Nuclear is so yesterday. As for green, any saving in daily running cost is offset by a large environmental debit incurred in the massive concrete construction.

But is our new ScoMo Coalition with clean, green, pumped snowy hydro 2.0 fair-dinkum? Giles Parkinson drily notes,

“…a government that “scrapped the carbon price, tried to kill the renewable energy target, defenestrated the Climate Change Authority and tried to scrap the Clean Energy Finance Corp and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency appears to be taking note that climate focused independents are posing a real threat to incumbent MPs.”

Is it green? Will our unreliable, coal-fired clunkers such as Liddell be taken off life support? (Liddell’s expected life-span was 25 years, when built in 1973.) Will filthy, new, polluting smoke stacks rise phoenix-like from the ashes, as the Coalition honours Matt Canavan’s recent pledge to fund ten new coal-fired power plants? Funding? Banks won’t touch them. China doesn’t love us any more and the Russians have already been well-tapped by Trump.

Government funding is promised to those keen to build new coal-fired power projects – but is it legal? In a startling new piece of legal advice from barristers Fiona McLeod SC and Lindy Barrett, The Australia Institute reports  McLeod and Barrett argue that the government will need parliament’s approval before it can underwrite any new coal fired plant.

The only existing authority for such appropriation of funds is the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, a body set up to encourage investment in energy-efficient; low energy or low emission technology. Coal or gas projects are excluded.

The barristers hazard that “Energy Minister Angus Taylor is in such a rush to funnel taxpayer funds to new coal fired power stations before the election, he seems to have overlooked that he has no constitutional authority to do so.”

Assistance for new coal fired power projects, it is argued, will require “some form of supporting legislation”, reports Katharine Murphy, either new or existing, to operate and fund the program, otherwise the arrangements would be open to a high court challenge. Certainly, Energy Minister Angus Taylor is coy about new build details.

Taylor, is tight-lipped on ABC Insiders, Sunday. Incredibly, after six years in government and with an election in May, he acts as if he is being put on the spot by a key question on major policy. Perhaps he is. Has no-one done the research?

“I’m the energy minister, I am not going to commit to a number here and now.” An evasive Taylor sees fit to use the Westminster code of ministerial responsibility to parliament to weasel out of a simple question in the national interest.

Instead, Trump-like, the Energy Minister spins a web of lies. He risks ridicule in pretending that the Coalition is reducing its carbon emissions. The government’s own figures show a five-year increase. (Emission rose again when, then PM, Abbott “axed the carbon tax: a lie which even former Chief of Staff Peta Credlin now admits was untrue – “just brutal retail politics” – by which she means ruthless, self-serving, pragmatism. Any means to win an election is OK.)

Yet Taylor’s cool with coal and pumped hydro competing. Has he read Tassie’s Project Marinus’ feasibility study? It’s clear from the project brief that the interlink will be economically viable only if coal is taken out of the mix – and soon.

“… when approximately 7,000MW of the national electricity market’s present coal-fired generation capacity retires”,

Pouncing, like a terrier, on the word “competition”, the topic of his M.Phil from Oxford where, like Abbott, he was a Rhodes Scholar, Taylor offers a touching non-sequitur, “You put your finger on it – we want more competition, Barrie.” Perhaps coal can compete with pumped hydro in the parallel universe of the coal lobby shill or the Kelly “ginger group”.

Taylor has ScoMo’s biggest lie off pat. “We will reach our Paris targets in a canter.” The Coalition knows that with repetition the lie will become orthodoxy  – as has the false narrative that our energy policy is a failure because “both sides” have been bickering, a point repeatedly made by Coalition MPs and their supporters on mainstream media, including the ABC’s The Drum and Q&A. No. It’s a Coalition wedded to its coal sponsors causing the damage.

There are no reputable scientists or economists who believe we will meet our Paris target to reduce our emissions by 26%, based on 2005 levels, by 2030 in a canter. Now the talk is of carry-over credits.

The question has Taylor talking about The Kyoto agreement to Australia fudging its figures; being allowed a credit for land-clearing and forestry in article 3.7 of the Kyoto Protocol, known but not fondly, as The Australian Clause and inserted at the behest of Senator Robert Hill. In brief, we chose 1990, a year when land-clearing had been high as our base, thus giving the impression of progress even if we did nothing. The Coalition’s attitude remains unchanged.

We did not do nothing. The Hawke government introduced policies to restrict land-clearing and established Landcare. When Kyoto was officially ratified in 2008, under Rudd, Australia was able to claim “emissions from Land-use, Land-use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) had fallen by over 80 million tonnes CO2-e … an almost 15 per cent reduction in Australia’s emissions – enough to offset the significant growth in emissions from electricity generation over the same period, which had added 82 million tonnes CO2-e by 2009.”

Because we will beat our 2020 Kyoto targets by 240 million tonnes of CO2, the Morrison government will carry these forward against our 2030 Paris pledge, if other countries are weak enough to allow this. The 26 to 28 per cent target effectively turns into a 15 per cent cut on 2005 levels.

It seems like sharp practice – and in terms of our real contribution to curbing global warming it is a shamefully weak effort, yet our environment minister, “Invisible” Melissa Price, says “it’s a great result for the environment and for the economy”, helping prosecute the fallacy that curbing emissions acts as a break on prosperity, a myth so widely and frequently circulated that it is Coalition and mainstream media orthodoxy.

Bill Hare, director of Perth-based global consultancy Climate Analytics, says there’s no chance we can meet our target without new policies.   Most other experts agree. Yet the Coalition is a policy-free zone, especially around energy.

Barrie tries to chat about rats leaving the sinking Coalition ship. Ten faux-green bottles no longer hanging on the wall. More to accidentally fall? Taylor recycles ScoMo’s spin that while the faces may change, the policies remain “focused”. Yet  coal is in now out of-focus while hydro gets a spin.  And since Taylor’s debut in August, energy is an enigma. Even Frydenberg didn’t try to ride two horses at once. You can’t burn coal and pump hydro. It’s one or the other.

Unless it’s for show. This week the Coalition puts another $1.6bn into the kitty for Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro. Invests $56m in interconnector 2.0, or the Marinus link to make little Tassie a powerhouse; “the battery of the nation”.

Marinus will carry power not only from pumped hydro, moreover, it will be able to conduct electricity from wind-power projects in the pipeline. But it won’t be economic; it can’t pay its way unless coal-fired power generation is retired. The costs of the poles and wires are extra.  These, ScoMo generously makes clear, are to be borne by the relevant states.

For Tassie’s Marinus 2 project to work, however, its feasibility report says its necessary or our nation to get out of coal-fired power generation. Fast. 2020 is suggested. Yet Angus Taylor suggests there may be ten coal-fired plants which the government may subsidise. Again, it’s impossible to have an each-way bet. Giles Parkinson sums up: Snowy 2.0 and the Tasmanian scheme only make economic and financial sense if coal-fired power production ceases.

“There is no place in the schemes if coal-fired generators remain.”

That’s entirely at odds with Coalition policy. This includes a type of state aid to Trevor St Baker, the billionaire who bought Vales Point from the NSW government for a song – and poised to set up some new ones; a white knight of the black rock and a Liberal Party donor just battling to make a quid by keeping old stations such as Liddell running well past their use-by date.   No wonder the government is releasing no feasibility study. What they propose is impossible.

At base, however, Snowy 2.0’s just another show.  “Getting on with the job”, as Showboat ScoMo pitches his cynical faux humility. Typically, “the job” entails the hard slog of deception, disinformation and spin but the old stager knows no sort of performance can distract from the reality that at least ten of his Coalition crew are madly stampeding for the exits.

“Jobs for the boys” are what we are in fact talking about, as Labor’s Penny Wong never tires of reminding us.

Wait, there’s more good news. “A record seven women in cabinet”, boasts Nine news. ScoMo boldly overpromotes rookie WA Senator Linda Reynolds straight from assistant Minister for Home Affairs, to Minister for Defence Industry.

“When you can call up a brigadier, in the form of Linda Reynolds, to take on the role of defence minister, it shows we have a lot of talent on our bench to draw from” Morrison lies. It does show the Liberals’ fetish for militarism. Above all, it rewards Reynolds for quickly abandoning her complaints of bullying in the Liberal Party.

“As a soldier I believe you go through a chain of command and you do things internally,” she says. Her cryptic comment may make sense to a part-time army reservist on a weekend camp but how is this Liberal individualism?  Of far more concern, is how the potential Minister of Defence would respond to whistle-blowers.

Alarmingly, Reynolds repeats Morrison’s myth that voters have no interest in the internal workings of the party – a nonsense given the party’s commitment to transparency  – and given the ways our choices of candidate and party are justly informed by insights into party culture – or as Kelly O’Dwyer put it, ways votes are lost by a popular perception that the Liberal party is a mob of “homophobic, anti-women, climate-change deniers”.

ScoMo promises to make Reynolds Defence Minister after Christopher Pyne tidies up his sock drawer and ties up a few other loose ends such as our $79 billion submarine contract. Can he get the boats built in Australia by Australians – preferably in his own state, if not his own electorate? How will we provide crews? A lot for the Fixer to work through.

Reynolds is also – gasp – a woman and a Brigadier in the Army Reserve – irrefutable proof of the Liberals’ egalitarian democracy, despite only nineteen MPs being women.  And a reservist Brigadier will instantly win over any full-time ADF member. Yet the PM fails to cut a dash given the splash as rats desert HMAS Chum-bucket his sinking submarine.

The week in politics sees the federal Coalition frantically green-wash its cred – even recycling the direct action scam, a monster magic soil boondoggle only Hunt could flog, as it struggles to “get on with the job” as ScoMo puts it.

Everyone else lost interest long ago. Or they’re jumping overboard or already off-grid, as a weary nation battles fair-dinkum fatigue, a torpor not even Snowy Hydro 2.0, a Sisyphean marvel now bigger than ANZAC, Phar Lap and Kokoda put together can shift.

“It’s absolutely fair-dinkum power. It doesn’t get more fair dinkum than this,” gurgles ScoMo, who transforms, this week, into state socialist as he widens the sluice-gate of government funding on a project which has already cost a mozza; $6 billion for the Commonwealth just to buy out NSW and Victorian states’ investments.

This week’s capital transfusion transforms Malcom Turnbull’s pipe-dream into a Ponzi scheme. Snowy 2.0 will pump water uphill when power is cheap and let it rush downhill again when the price is right driving whirling turbines to produce top dollar power which cannot but help drive up power bills.

“We don’t need Morrison’s money”, carps Snowy Hydro CEO, Paul Broad, to News Corp, rejecting the Coalition’s sudden, unbidden injection of $1.4 billion part of a largesse which includes glad-handing $440 million to The Great Barrier Reef Foundation, a sign that the outfit may be struggling to stay afloat; struggling to make its numbers add up.

Pumped hydro schemes are generally not profitable, reports Giles Parkinson. Last year, data from the Australian Energy Market shows that existing pumped hydro schemes made almost no money from this activity. In the last quarter, they actually lost money and over the previous four quarters made virtually no money. Paul Broad is less expansive.

“The government decided the way it wanted to balance out the funding. It wanted to sustain dividends,” Broad says. “It wanted to support the project with equity. These things are part of negotiations that go on. We never asked for it. We never asked for anything.” Keeping financial modelling secret only fuels suspicion that Pacific Hydro’s in trouble already.

 Our PM quickly whips up a succession of other phantasmagorical stunts, this week, ranging from Monday’s Climate Solutions fund to spruik the ERF’s resurrection, an Abbott scam for channelling funding to Big Agriculture and even Big Coal amongst other worthy Liberal donors and supporters. It would cost $200 bn to use it to reach our Paris targets.

In other words, it’s “a recipe for fiscal recklessness on a grand scale and a fig leaf to cover its determination to do nothing”, as Malcolm Turnbull proclaimed of Abbott’s ERF plan prior to the 2013 election.

An emission-abating nation gasps as “showboat” ScoMo simultaneously flogs a dead horse, puts lipstick on a pig and executes a reverse pork barrel dive with pike all in free-fall off Mount Kosciuszko in the Snowy Mountains region.

“Magic-soil” Morrison rebadges Abbott’s quick and dirty emissions reduction fund (ERF) boondoggle as a $2bn Climate Solutions Fund (CSF) whilst slashing its annual budget from $510 million to $200 million.  Sheer genius.

It’s half of the funding Abbott committed in the 2013 election campaign. The Kiwis are right. ScoMo’s a phenomenon; a force of nature; a cunning stunt and not a one trick pony after all.

If there’s less pork to fork, what’s left is spread more widely; farmers, whose fingers are already worked to the bone filling in drought-relief forms can now apply for a CSF handout to “drought-proof” their farms, whatever that means, or just do a bit of re-vegetation. Businesses get handouts for “energy efficient projects” and not just planting for trees they would have planted anyway. Given that ERF farmers are agri-businesses, also, a double dip may well be possible.

The Wilderness Society calls on the invisible Environment Minister Melissa Price, former  to review the channelling of funds into paying farmers to protect native vegetation after Queensland satellite data suggested recipients of such money were clearing other parts of their land. What could possibly go wrong?

“Our analysis shows that 13,317 hectares of forest and bushland clearing has occurred across 19 properties in the same year or years subsequent to winning ERF contracts for funding under vegetation methodologies,” Glenn Walker, climate campaign manager for the group, says in a letter to Minister Price.

Not to be outdone, Home Affairs Super-Minister, one trick pony, Peter Dutton doctors up his fear campaign Thursday, with another populist dog-whistle from Dutts Unplugged, a long-running White Australia revival tour.

“People who need medical services are going to be displaced from those services, because if you bring hundreds and hundreds of people from Nauru and Manus down to our country, they are going to go into the health network,” Uncle Dutts tells a fawning of loyal reporters in Brisbane. Doctors respond that the claim is nonsense.

Oddly, not a word of support is heard from anyone, not even Craig and the rest of the Kelly gang, a sect whose job it is to invite climate-change deniers to parliament to mislead policy-makers and to hold Morrison to ransom on energy, a kindness paid forward by the PM and his federal energy minister, Angus Taylor in dictating to the states.

Nobody’s talking. It’s an “announceable” – not a discussion topic. Flanking his PM in the photo opportunity, is Angus, “Squizzy” Taylor, our federal energy enforcer. Was he in witness protection since his rout late last December’s COAG meeting? Then he refused NSW energy minister, Don Harwin’s call for a new national zero emissions policy?

“Industry is spooked by poor policy”, Harwin holds; a circuit-breaker is needed. Squizzy shoots him down. Out of order.

December’s COAG meeting does not even hear NSW’s point of view. Taylor tells Harwin to zip it, citing procedural grounds. Vetoes discussion. “It got ugly very quickly. It was a full-on revolt”, a source tells Fairfax, now Nine Newspapers.

Happily Craig Kelly’s not worried. “I know how [Taylor’s] mind works”, he explains to Guardian Australia’s Katharine Murphy. Murphy wisely leaves this alone. On Sky, Taylor won’t divulge how many Coalition coal projects are planned but Matt Canavan blabs that the government is looking at including ten in the underwriting scheme. Someone needs to talk to Canavan but only after voters are sold on the wave of jobs that will flow from so many new automated hell-holes and black-lung health hazards.

But it’s not Handbrake Kelly’s backbench committee to abort any change in energy or environment that Morrison really needs to win over. Nor is it the cabal of climate deniers Buzzfeed dubbed “The Dirty Dozen”, in 2016. Still in parliament, at least until May, are Tony Abbott, Eric Abetz, Craig Kelly, Zed Seselja, Peter Dutton, Barnaby Joyce and George Christensen. Senator Linda Reynolds must surely get a Dirty Dozen supporter lapel pin for disinformation,

“Remember when the coalition repealed the carbon tax? It led to the largest fall of electricity prices on record,” she lies.

ScoMo’s Snowy Hydro 2.0 reboot is a bid to woo Kooyong, Warringah, Wentworth, Higgins and Tasmanians who’ll be pumped to be included, even if they’ll have to pay for the bits to make the interlink link anywhere. Knit their own cables.

The media narrative that both major parties’ squabble threaten the development of a sound energy policy is a myth invented by those reactionaries and others who call themselves conservative parties. Conservative?

The lack of progress towards renewable energy is no fault of partisan politics or any 24-hour news cycle, but an outcome actively planned and funded by key stake-holders whose institutes, associations and think tanks enjoy remarkably success – if you can count the win of the mining lobby, (just for example), as a win and not an irretrievable, egregious loss in terms of global warming, environmental vandalism and humanity.

HMAS Chum Bucket almost scuppered in a week of sabotage and self-destruction.

Morrison-PM-NZH-Getty

 

Loose lips sink ships. “Hockey owes me”, a brief indiscretion over a mate’s favour – now disputed by both- almost blows HMAS Chum Bucket, the Coalition’s yellow submarine out of the water, this week. Yet “chum-gate” is merely the latest scandal in a series of political depth-charges that threaten to sink the rudderless tub that is the Morrison government.

Trump-like, Morrison retreats into howling down shonky Bill Shorten. No-one can trust Bill. His policies mean bigger taxes, sky-high power prices and a government run like a union (of thugs). He recycles Howard-era fear of boat people and blends in a bit of the budgie smuggler’s carbon taxing, big spending big Labor Scare Campaign of 2013.

No-one can get a straight answer out of ScoMo. He doesn’t run commentary, he says, or he’s just getting on with the job when journalists dare venture a question about Helloworld Travel. He denies that Joe Hockey instructed staff to meet on 26 April 2017 with Helloworld travel subsidiary QBT before it lobbied for government.

“I’m advised embassy staff did not meet QBT or other staff in relation to the tender and embassy staff have met and corresponded with a whole range of travel providers to discuss the embassy’s travel requirements.”

Labor’s Jim Chalmers responds that DFAT has documented Hockey’s request.

“The prime minister is denying something of which there are reports of documents which exist from officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade – that is a very serious matter.”

Morrison shrugs it aside. Always he’s got better things to do than be accountable. He simply repeats his facile, clapped-out Canberra bubble mantra; nobody outside the Canberra bubble cares (about dodgy, dirty deals or wanton profligacy).

ScoMo goes OS. No. Not to China where mystery shrouds major Chinese port Dalian’s decision to ban further imports of Australian coal. That would require leadership and independence from Trump’s US China-bashing policy. He pays a flying visit to New Zealand, his maternal grandfather, Sandy’s homeland, but he’s careful not to outstay his welcome. Not every Kiwi is thrilled to see him given the Coalition’s deportation policy. And not all former colleagues love him.

In 1998, Morrison was inaugural Managing Director of New Zealand’s Office of Tourism and sport, a body offering advice to government where he reported to NZ Tourism Minister, Murray McCully but was not universally popular. “Hard man” ScoMo, as he was seen, takes credit for the 100% Pure NZ campaign, for which he contracted M&C Saatchi- whose services he sought for his later controversial campaign at Tourism Australia “Australia, where the bloody hell are you?”

Morrison and McCully clashed with the independent NZ Tourism Board and a number of officials and board members resigned during his tenure. Morrison, himself, resigned in 2000, one year before his contract was up. As with Helloworld Travel, or with his termination from Tourism Australia he himself has never given a satisfactory explanation.

In 1999, the NZ Auditor General challenged Morrison’s handling of an independent review and found two payouts of staff in 2008 to be unlawful. The auditor’s report was critical of Morrison’s job performance in ways that are echoed by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO), nine years later, which finds his management of Tourism Australia marred by non-consultation, making unilateral decisions, not observing due process and restricting board access to information. Little appears to have changed since.

Not everyone hates him. Tim Fischer is a big fan – as is Martin Ferguson but Fran Bailey, Tourism Minister at the time, observes of Morrison, “I’m sure he’s learned how to work with people better these days. His career has certainly had a few twists and turns.”

In his quick trip across the ditch, Friday, Morrison cops an earful from Kiwi PM Jacinda Ardern about all the Aussies born in New Zealand his government is repatriating, even though most have no family in the land of the long white shroud. It’s another diplomatic triumph as he cops a mouthful from Ardern. The NZ Herald reports,

“Ardern didn’t mince words. She employed the strongest criticism yet of any New Zealand Prime Minister or foreign minister about deportations of Kiwi offenders… The New Zealand people have a dim view of the deportation of people who move to Australia as children and have grown up there with often little or no lasting connection to here.

Ardern’s referring to 1,500 NZ citizens deported since 2015. Coalition “immigration reforms” grant the Department of Home Affairs power to deport foreigners on nebulous ‘good character’. Last year, 600 Kiwis were deported on this criterion alone. It can be a death sentence. In the last three years, at least four people have died in Australian detention centres (where Kiwis are now the largest group. Before 2015, they were not even in the top ten).

Or they die immediately following deportation. Fatalities may be higher. Neither nation keeps records of deaths. 15,000 Kiwi citizens will be deported in the next ten years. Morrison is not receptive to Ardern’s appeals. She will not give up.

Nobody cares, ScoMo?  For all your nihilism, your Trumpista populism, the week sees the Canberra bubble burst by a series of sensational revelations. Top of the bill is the hyper-reality melodrama of “Hockey owes me” a rip-roaring, cigar-chomping, trough-snouting show of cronyism and corruption which Mark Dreyfus dubs “chum-gate”, in which Joe Hockey’s bestie Andrew Burnes’ Helloworld Travel company appears set up to win a billion dollar government contract.

Not all contracts are open, especially when the Commonwealth seeks “procurement” on Manus Island. Officials use a “limited tender” meaning no other bidders. They have to, they tell senate estimates. There are no other bidders. No-one good wants the work.

Yet this is a side issue. As the Australian Financial Review (AFR) investigation puts it, the committee wants to know “how Paladin, despite its lack of capacity, expertise or track record in the sector, appointed as the government’s main service provider on the island, becoming the recipient of contracts worth $423 million over 22 months.”

Yet journalists at the AFR quote locals who contest the government’s version and who suggest there were others who would have liked to tender for the contract. Greens senator Nick McKim gives Home Affairs a serve.

“The Paladin contracts, and the unexplained increases, yet again raise serious questions about lack of probity and due diligence inside Home Affairs. It’s an absolute disgrace that a shonky operator like Paladin is raking in the millions while comprehensively failing to provide even the most basic support for many hundreds of vulnerable refugees.”

Former CEO Craig Coleman broadly agrees with McKim. Three weeks before they gained the contract, he alleges, Paladin was,

“not well prepared to perform the role provided for under the Proposal” . He puts his view in documents he has filed with a court as part of an employment dispute with Paladin. Home Affairs cannot, of course, offer any insight and any further comment would be inappropriate given that the firm is to appear before a judge later in the year.

Yet more news does emerge of the shadowy Paladin Group’s receipt of over $A420 million over two years. A security firm is paid $1600 per refugee, per day, to pay locals to watch over men on Manus who pose little threat of escape? At least that’s the theory. News comes this week from two Manus detainees that Paladin does nothing.

Winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Prize, Behrouz Boochani, who has been held on Manus for six years reports,

“What I am seeing on the ground is that Paladin, they … are doing nothing,” he tells Guardian Australia. “In Australia, people ask this question now. But this question for us is for years, not only for Paladin, but all of the companies. How do they spend this money? It is a question for us, not only Paladin, [but for health contractors] IHMS, PIH.

Paladin is part of a pattern where major “offshore processing” contracts are awarded in a limited tender process. Home Affairs deputy-secretary Cheryl-Anne Moy, explains to a senate estimates committee, this week, that companies are reluctant to run our gulags where human beings are illegally detained indefinitely without charge; with no other cause than they desperately needed to flee their country of origin by boat, instead of being part of the sixty thousand or so who successfully fly in with QANTAS and other airlines. Border protection or punishment? It’s sadistic cruelty.

“Primarily the people who expressed some interest early on and then decided that they wouldn’t tender gave us the reason that there was too much noise for their organisations – they were international companies – around regional processing.”

Too much noise? Try a reluctance to be part of a punitive, illegal scheme to deny refugees human rights.

Dutton’s mob is conceding that it can’t find competent contractors because no-one good wants to work on Manus? Time to close the camps. Bring the men to Australia. Let some take up residence in Australia – but shut down Manus.

The Guardian reports major flaws in the work of Pacific International Hospital, (PIH), a PNG healthcare provider which receives $21.5 million for ten months’ service from the Australian government to look after men we placed on Manus six years ago, despite its chairman, PNG Deputy PM being found guilty of misconduct in the use of public funds.

More alarming, PIH’s expertise, competence and treatment standards are a grave cause for concern amongst refugees remaining on Manus. Coroner,Terry Ryan, confirmed their worst fears during his 2016 coronial inquest into the death of twenty-four year old Hamid Kehazaei, who died in September 2014 from a treatable leg infection. His inquest found that PIH staff did not understand that Kehazaei was critically ill, despite hearing the alarms from his life support machines.

PIH staff failure to respond directly contributed to Kehazaei’s subsequent cardiac arrest. Equally disturbing, however, bureaucrats failed to book him on the next available flight to Brisbane. As Ryan reports,

“An urgent transfer request from a doctor had languished while an immigration official queried why medication could not be sent to the detention centre instead, and then referred the request to a superior who did not read it until the next day.”

As the Coalition prepares to take asylum-seekers to Christmas Island for treatment, will it follow Coroner Ryan’s eight recommendations? These include proposing that Home Affairs enact a new written policy which puts the clinical needs of detainees first when medical transfers required the approval of Australian immigration officials.

Ryan’s 140 page report also recommends that clinics treating asylum seekers offshore be accredited to a level equivalent to Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) standards. He recommends the Department of Home Affairs also conduct annual audits of clinics “in conjunction with” the RACGP.

Happily for the Morrison government, which has sensibly shut down parliament, Paladin is likely to be eclipsed by China.

The elephant in the news-room and the dark shadow over HMAS Chum Bucket‘s chartroom is, of course, China which, we learn this week, bans ship-loads of Australian coal, at Dalian, a north-east port where ninety per cent of our iron ore goes ashore. From its posturing, it’s clear no-one in government knows why China should give us the coal shoulder- but suddenly everyone can explain it all away. Alarmed? Relax. Sheesh, it’s a hole in only one end of our trade flagship.

Worth around $58bn, the coal trade is Australia’s largest export earner next to iron ore ($57bn). In 2018, we exported 89 million tonnes of coal to China, worth $15 billion, almost a quarter of our nation’s total coal exports.  Now they’ve suddenly cooled off on us despite our “you beaut” free trade agreements stuck five years ago. Then it’s not a ban but just a slowing up of the process of unloading while quality control checks are carried out. Then it’s a Chinese whisper joke.

You were saying coal not cow, right? China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, has a laugh at our expense. Yet in the China Daily, he upbraids ScoMo for alleging that “a sophisticated state actor” (read China) is behind the recent hack attacks both on parliamentary computers and those of major political parties.

China Daily responds by calling Scott Morrison a conspiracy theorist. ScoMo is rebuked for his Trump-like public accusations and for being a US lackey- or at least rashly irresponsible.

“… this is not the first time that Canberra’s anxiety-driven willingness to emulate Washington has prompted it to lay the responsibility for alleged spying at Beijing’s door… No matter whether he was assigning the malevolent acts to China or another country, it is irresponsible of him to cast aspersions in this way.”

Ian Verrender reports a Chinese go-slow on coal imports began months ago. Dozens of coal-laden ships are queued off ports across China as delays extend beyond 40 days.

Five harbours are under Dalian customs control but Phillip Lowe, governor of our politicised Reserve Bank -which even cautioned the Morrison government to avoid any “regulatory response” to the Banking Royal Commission which might put the brakes on lending to home buyers and businesses –  is quick to point out that it’s only a few months of our exports. A drop in the national coal bucket, really.

On the other hand, (Reserve Bankers are masters of understatement; the measured anti-inflammatory, anodyne),

“If it were to be the sign of a deterioration in the underlying political relationship between Australia and China, that would be much more concerning.”  Nothing like a passive, subjunctive construction to sound the non-alarmist alarm.

Given coal from Russia and Indonesia is still welcome in China, our finest political minds work feverishly overnight to assure us not to take the ban personally. This type of thing happens all the time; there’s nothing to see here. In brief, no-one has a clue what’s going on and China isn’t about to enlighten anyone. If it were a shrewd move to slow down coal consumption, then others would be subject to the same bans and caps.

Other commentators, including Verrender, see the bans as serious. Despite involving about ten per cent of our coal exports, Dalian’s indefinite ban on Australian coal imports marks a significant deterioration in Sino-Australian trade relations. As Greg Jericho notes, the incident exposes the Coalition’s spin about its Free Trade agreement with China. Revealed beneath the hyperbole is the vacuous rhetoric and the hollow promise of the free trade “breakthrough”.

“A major step in cementing closer economic relations with China” that would “be the catalyst for even further mutual gain between our two countries”, raved our then foreign minister, Julie Bishop, in 2014. Jericho calls bulldust. Had Bishop tarried after her valedictory on Thursday, someone might have asked her how it could have gone so wrong.

John “always look on the bright side” “Noddy” Birmingham, an underwhelming former education minister turned Trade Minister exudes insight and reassurance, telling an anxious nation that “it’s not an all-out ban“.  Whew! Not yet. Unlike the latest case against indefinite detention on Manus and Nauru just delivered to the High Court.

Prominent refugee lawyers are preparing to prick the government’s latest thought bubble – the moving of sick refugees and asylum seekers to Christmas Island. In addition, two new legal actions will also be heard in the High Court, explains ACU Allan Myers Professor of Law, Spencer Zifcak, a former president of Liberty Victoria – class action cases which argue that the Commonwealth has acted negligently; breached its duty of care.

The lawyers will argue that the negligence is constituted by crimes against humanity.

The Commonwealth Criminal Code 1995 criminalises certain crimes against humanity recognised in international law. These include:

  • Imprisonment or other severe deprivations of liberty.
  • Severe deprivation of a person’s rights under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. These include freedom from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, freedom from arbitrary arrest , the right to take a case before a court if deprived of liberty, the presumption of innocence, freedom of expression, and freedom from national, racial or religious discrimination.
  • Inhumane treatment i.e. treatment engaged in intentionally that causes great suffering, serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.

The argument is that the Commonwealth government has committed each of these crimes offshore.

As for Christmas Island, Human Rights Law Centre executive director, Hugh de Kretser, tells Nine Newspapers’ Sydney Morning Herald, “the legal basis for a challenge would be that the government had breached its duty of care by sending refugees and asylum seekers to a place where inadequate treatment was available”.

National Justice Project’s George Newhouse concedes a legal challenge over Christmas Island, which has inadequate medical facilities, is more likely to succeed than a challenge for those in offshore detention on Nauru or Manus.

While ScoMo is busy rehearsing his Kiwi charm offensive, Friday Labor also fires a warning shot across the bow of the Chum Bucket. And upstages him. The Opposition’s Immigration spokesman, Minister Shayne Neumann tells AAP,

“Labor, if elected, will accept New Zealand’s generous offer to resettle refugees with appropriate conditions similar to those under the US arrangements and negotiate other third country resettlement options as a priority.”

Labor reaffirms its pledge to accept New Zealand’s offer, a strategic policy announcement which wedges Scott Morrison, a puppet of his right wing, into defending an immoral, illegal and unsustainable, punitive, indefinite, offshore detention regime on the grounds that any change to it is “not in Australia’s interest”.

Opinion polls and the Coalition defeat in Wentworth suggest he’s increasingly out of touch with popular opinion. Sixty per cent of voters polled by GetUp! last Thursday support Medevac Bill reports The Guardian Australia.

Yet the nation so often learns of government by snafu, it may become inured to scandal and incompetence. Paladin alone or Chum-gate alone would be sufficient to bring other governments down. Now there’s dinnerplate.

The Morrison government must, navigate reefs of hazards as scandals arise from as far away as Manus Island and as near as the plush executive suites of our big bean-counters’ head offices with their billion dollar Sydney harbour views

Dinnerplate, involves CEOs from the nation’s Big Four accountancy firms, EY, KPMG, Deloitte and PwC meeting regularly for private dinners, as Labor’s shadow assistant treasurer and former ANU economics professor Andrew Leigh discovers.

Naturally such gatherings lend themselves to admiring the view, praising the catering and appreciating the wine list, but Leigh’s curious to know what else is on the menu – and has asked to ACCC to look into the meetings.

Allegations of price fixing; collusion over fees and monopolising markets, such as Hayne found among our banks are not easy to prove. Doubtless the bean counters are celebrating their colossal good fortune in being blessed with a Coalition government which has been prepared to pay them $1.7 billion between 2013 and 2017 for their services.

Dining together may have in no small way contributed to any or all of the big four looking after their other three mates. A similar cosy mutual self-help arrangement also appears to have been part of the Helloworld Travel pitch, although all parties vociferously deny any allegations of impropriety.

Joe Hockey, our Ambassador to the US and occasional Trump golfing partner, a former treasurer who once defended a hike in the petrol excise on the basis that poor people either don’t own cars or don’t drive very far buys $1.3 million dollars’ worth of shares in a company run by his bestie, Andrew Burnes.

Burnes, who just happens to be federal Liberal Treasurer is CEO of a travel company Helloworld Travel which stands to win a billion dollar government contract if the Coalition scraps Labor’s red tape and goes with a single travel agency.

Tragically, after the rude intrusion of Labor and sections of the media, Joe’s holdings have dropped a tad. Shane Wright on Insiders brings it up.

Cursed by a run of bad luck and mismanagement, the Chum Bucket fetches up high and dry on a dying Great Barrier Reef after freakish cyclone force winds bring a perfect storm of graft, cronyism and catastrophic incompetence. As Jim Chalmers puts it

I seek leave to move the following motion:

That the House

(1) notes that:

(a) yesterday, it was revealed the Finance Minister received free flights to Singapore from Helloworld, which he booked by calling the CEO of this ASX listed company directly, just before it was awarded a multimillion dollar whole-of-government contract by the Minister’s own Department;

(b) today, it’s been reported that US Ambassador Joe Hockey – who has a million dollar shareholding in Helloworld – helped a Helloworld subsidiary lobby for the Embassy’s travel contract;

(c) the CEO of Helloworld and one of its largest shareholders Andrew Burnes is a Liberal Party heavyweight and current Liberal Party Treasurer, with connections to a number of Liberal Party politicians;

(d) the Finance Minister told Senate Estimates yesterday that he had “a close personal relationship” with Mr Burnes;

(e) Mr Burnes was previously a colleague of the now Prime Minister during the Prime Minister’s time at Tourism Australia;

(f) since being awarded Government contracts, the share price of Helloworld has skyrocketed, making shareholders like Mr Hockey and Mr Burnes rich; and

(g) this morning, it was reported that the Herald Sun asked almost all of the 82 Liberal MPs in Parliament whether they had received free travel from Helloworld, but only 14 said they had not; and

(2) therefore, calls on the Prime Minister to investigate and report to the House how far this Helloworld scandal reaches into his Government.

The PM hunches over his papers. Gets Christopher Pyne to answer.

Luckily, ScoMo’s unplugging the nation’s parliament for six weeks. The Coalition’s lost the remote. No-one’s seen it since Morrison lost Wentworth, plunging his government into minority. At least Hockey Owes Me should now get a good box office. It will run back to back with Tampa 2.0, the Coalition’s end of term pantomime; another terrific show to follow up Paladin’s Cave, a $423 million mystery saga attracting rave reviews this week over at Senate Estimates’ theatre in the round.

Hockey owes me turns out to be a big show with a huge cast, stunning song and dance numbers and some beaut ensemble work from veteran performer Hockey and his a star-studded chorus. A drop-dead gorgeous performance of injured innocence from Helloworld’s CEO Andrew Burnes, who also manages to double as the Liberal Party’s federal treasurer steals the show. Forming a brilliant counterpoint to Burnes’ aria Hockey Owes Me is the pathos of the poignant testimony of disgruntled former executive, Russell Carstensen. The production is every bit as good as Tampa 2.0.

Tampa 2.0 is modelled on the false assumption that John Howard won in 2001 by getting commandos to prevent the Tampa, a Norwegian vessel from docking at Christmas Island to put ashore 433 refugees it had rescued from the water.

The popular fiction is that Tampa robbed Labor of an easy election win. In reality, as statistician Adrian Beaumont and analyst Peter Brent point out, the polls were closing after Labor’s 57-43 lead in March to 52-48 in August when Howard denied Tampa permission to its human cargo. And while the Coalition may have gained a two point lead from Tampa, it gained five points from September 11 gaining a 55-45 lead which abated to a 51-49 win in November.

And HMAS Chum Bucket? The craft is modelled on US civil warship, CSS Hunley, one of the earliest fighting submarines sporting forty feet of bulletproof iron but a most dangerous vessel to be inside.

Morrison’s crew, duck down the hatch; all hands to the pumps. Chum Bucket is leaking badly; listing starboard.  Sharks circle asylum-seeker policy writes Laura Tingle who also notes that “chum buckets are buckets full of fish guts and heads and other smelly stuff” which fisher-folk cast overboard “to attract a feeding frenzy of fish, particularly sharks”.

Chum bucket first hove into view with ScoMo ranting that Labor had “gone to the bottom of the chum bucket” in seeking the truth behind Helloworld, a scandal which could blow any government out of the water. Chum bucket is Sutherland Shire satire; rebarbative wit. You can take the boy out of Bronte but you can’t take the Bronte out of the boy.

Julie Bishop, jumps ship, another rat joining a slew of deserters, including ship’s purser Kelly O’Dwyer, a former NAB banker whose bon voyage bon mots are missed by many Liberals, including Tony Abbott who choose to slink out precisely as O’Dwyer rises to give her valedictory.

It may be payback for her one good speech given to Victorian Liberals where she recently excoriated her party telling her colleagues the Liberals are widely regarded as “homophobic, anti-women, climate-change deniers”.

Displaying all the true grit and instinct for self-survival which has made her a household name, along with her enormous capacity for business travel, Princess Mesothelioma, aka Julie Bishop, a former corporate lawyer, whose sterling work for Perth legal firm Clayton Utz in the 1980s helped CSR delay compensation payouts the courts had already awarded to victims of its asbestos mining at Wittenoom.

“Even if the workers die like flies, they will never be able to pin anything on CSR,” wrote Norman Irving, the mining corporation’s personnel manager in 1977, expressing a contempt for its wage slaves distressingly familiar to students of modern industrial relations. Bishop, or Julie Gillon as she was then devised her own echo of Irving’s solicitude.

As Peter Gordon, recalls, “(She) was rhetorically asking the court why workers should be entitled to jump court queues just because they were dying.”

Gordon’s words sum up so much of the inhumanity, injustice and indifference to those lower on the social ladder as much as they foreshadow the sense of privilege and entitlement and arrogant superiority that will ultimately be the undoing of this Liberal government, a Liberal government, as Bill Shorten put it, of the donors, by the donors for the donors.

Time democracy and humanity got a look in.

No, ScoMo, we don’t want Tampa 2.0 or a 90 day season of Kill Bill.

scomo3

There’s something about the debate around asylum seekers that taps into the darkness in the souls of millions of Australians. There’s a reflexive suspicion and bigotry which is being manipulated and forged into hatred by wordsmiths on the government payroll.

 

It’s a practice of the black art of propaganda which is despicable and verges on the evil. It comes from those clever enough to know the power of language to manipulate and immoral enough to care little of the consequences.

Walkley Award–winning ABC journalist, David Hardaker

 

A pit-bull about to snap his leash, at least in his own fantasy, “Walter Mitty” Morrison lunges at Bill Shorten, across the despatch-box. ScoMo scowls, hunches, juts his jaw. The corners of his mouth turn down. He stabs the air with a forefinger; face twisted in fury and frustration. No nuance here. It’s less dog-whistle than honking fog-horn.

But it captures the tone of a week in which the government abandons any policy platform for a fear campaign based on a farrago of lies and a swill of wilful disinformation eagerly relayed by Rupert Murdoch, Kerry Stokes and others. Honk. Welcome to Tampa 2.0, the Coalition’s all-new recycled Kill Bill campaign with embedded media.

ScoMo will kill Bill Shorten on border security. You can read about his tactical genius in The Australian or anywhere in mainstream media, (MSM). All follow Murdoch’s lead. Nothing is said of ScoMo’s contempt for parliament, no protest over a PM with so little regard for democracy that he said weeks ago if the bill was lost he’d just ignore it.

ABC News Sunday night even has a segment allowing ScoMo to trash Labor for being weak on border protection after some nonsense poll that Kerry Stokes’ IPSOS gets up.

You guessed it. There’s a bounce for the Coalition! Already editors say it’s caused by Labor’s position on asylum-seekers. Cranking up the fear factor as we steam back to the future, is Attorney-General, Christian Porter, a name Charles Dickens would have loved for any character with a compassion bypass or a Centrelink, Robo-debt, bagman.

“Hundreds of asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru will undergo fresh security and character assessments as the Government prepares for an “influx” of medical transfers, AG Christian Porter says, reports Jane Norman for our ABC.

There’s no time to ask him about his contempt of parliament in trying to collude with Speaker, Tony Smith in supplying not-to-be-tabled legal opinion that Labor’s proposed Medivac Bill was unconstitutional.

In a rare win for democracy, Tony Smith tables the opinion that the Medivac Bill required doctors to be paid and therefore is unconstitutional because the senate can’t make bills which involve increasing expenditure. Labor’s response is an amendment stating that panel doctors would not get paid; making their positions voluntary. It is beyond scandalous for an Attorney-General to connive at such tactics but he’s not part of the MSM narrative.

No right of reply from Labor. Just another reminder of the way our national broadcaster has been subjugated through funding cuts and PM and Cabinet phone calls to the top floor of a corporatised ABC. Journalists’ union the MEAA is calling for a shake-up of the ABC to try and protect it from political interference, seeking a Board with more “independent, accountable and experienced” directors. It won’t happen under this government.

In a moment of epic self-parody, Communications Minister, Fifield offers to do an independent review himself.

Little is made of the Coalition’s historic defeat in the House over the Medivac Bill. Yet others are on their way. There’s a bill about making small business lawsuits more small-business friendly where they won’t have to pony up if they lose the case, which they mostly do, against a corporation with a big enough kitty to buy the best silks.

Disgraced former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce, making a comeback, is prepared to rip the Coalition apart to get this bill through he says (or words to that effect) if need be because when he’s not spruiking for SANTOS or backing Big Cotton against the survival of the Murray Darling Basin, he’s always been a supporter of the little man.

Barnaby is also keen on the big stick, until recently part of the Coalition energy plan – it doesn’t have a policy but it does have a series of postures. Errant companies would be forced to get their prices down and to lift their game. Now work experience treasurer Josh Frydenberg has tried to soft pedal the hard paddle. Joyce won’t let him. Expect a hoo-ha over the big stick resolved by some judicious media leaking of Barnaby-busting bombshells.

There’s also Greens’ Senator Jordon Steele-John’s motion calling for a Royal Commission into the abuse of the disabled. Expect ScoMo to embrace it now and just shelve it next to The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry which will also gather dust unless he can do something to nobble industry super – unlikely now the Coalition is a minority government.

Braver to shelve rather than face another embarrassing defeat, or risk being seen to lack mettle or bottle.

By Sunday, it’s all ScoMo’s show. Super-ScoMo will run rings (of steel) around a limp Labor leader who

“…cannot be trusted on our borders and Australia cannot trust Bill Shorten on border protection,” despite their being not a cigarette paper between the two parties on the absurd fiction of border protection.

Protect 25,760 km of coastline? We can’t even protect Australia’s greatest river system, the Murray Darling Basin. And isn’t Australia over the demonising of refugees? Polls suggest that we have rediscovered our humanity. (Unless you count Kerry Stokes’.)

But not ScoMo. Dropping his bundle, Morrison unleashes a Kill Bill missile of character assassination, mangling metaphor, misquoting mentor John Howard and causing untold collateral damage to his own credibility.

Yet it’s a one stop shop. The sloth in ScoMo is cheered that all he need do is assassinate Shorten’s character. Paint him as an untrustworthy union-thug-puppet; or an arriviste who is somehow also flexible enough to be a class traitor who parks his shoes under the Pratt family table, (a Turnbull-News Corp creation), a straw man which those sedulous echo-chambers the ever-reliable and totally authoritative Liberal focus groups or party polling respondents claim to loathe.

“You’ve got to have the mettle, you’ve got to have the ticker, you’ve got to have the resolve (he can’t remember bottle) to actually see things through and implement these decisions and not roll over to whatever wind might blow your way to make you compromise Australia’s national security and trade it away,” ScoMo preaches.

The unsubtle subtext is ScoMo’s public pat on the back by himself for himself about himself; his own mettle; his ticker. Where was that ticker in February 2014, when Iranian Reza Barati was clubbed to death on Manus Island? Morrison told parliament that Barati was outside the compound. It took him a week to correct the record.

Behrouz Boochani, winner of this year’s Victorian premier’s literary prize, who has been held captive on Manus for six years gives eloquent testimony to the regime of sadistic cruelty which began on Morrison’s watch.

“For days on end after the riot the Manusian residents and local guards told the refugees that they were just following orders. They claimed they were not to blame and it was all the machinations of the Australians. This was a well organised plan. They wanted to put the refugees in their place; people who only wanted to know how long they had to remain in prison. There was just one objective to their plans: to make the refugees return back to their countries by giving them a severe beating.” 

ScoMo’s campaign strategy is a captain’s call. In a flash, ambitious sycophants leap up to praise the idea. Scott Morrison? Why, he’s a virtual Clint Eastwood. The Saturday Paper’s Karen Middleton reports that former Howard (man of steel) advisor, David Gazard tells Sky News this week: “I reckon it’s ‘make my day’ [for] Scott Morrison.”

If it’s on Sky it must be true. Mainstream media, or the Rupert and Kerry Show recycle the preposterous line that being defeated on the floor of the House of Representatives allows ScoMo to focus on William John Shorten’s weak, untrustworthy character. Call out Bill for being flaky on borders and national security?

Genius. Checkmate in one move.

Yet, sadly for the Coalition, it’s not 2001. Winds of change are blowing  – and Peter Dutton’s fate blows in the wind. His dysfunctional Department of Home Affairs is again in damage control after it’s revealed that it has awarded a contract via something called a “closed tender” to Paladin, a mob which operates out of a beach shack on Kangaroo Island – which is a step ahead of the reef foundation that didn’t even apply for its $444 million grant.

Nor did The Great Barrier Reef Foundation – an idea floated by a group of businessmen while waiting for a plane – even have to go through “a tender process”. But then its board members were all models of probity, supported by corporations which are bywords for integrity and tax minimisation: BHP, Qantas, Rio Tinto, Google and Orica.

Paladin, naturally, also boasts a post office box in Singapore, a handy tax haven which does not tax capital gains.

An Australian Financial Review scoop finds that as Australians return to work, the Coalition pays $109 million to the Paladin Group, which is clearly being given a go for having red-hot go, as ScoMo loves to say. Pick winners; damn the bludgers.  Bugger any social contract nonsense that gives a go to those who can’t have a go.

Having a go? In 22 months, Paladin gets paid $423 million for security on Manus Island, an oxymoron, which includes gangs of drunken PNG soldiers who shoot up the old detention centre just to keep Australians safe.  No biggie. Peter Dutton has secret information on why that’s all OK. Psst. Paedophiles. A local five year old boy.

“There was concern about why the boy was being led or for what purpose he was being led away back in the regional processing centre,” Dutton later says although his slur is refuted by PNG police and refugees who point out that in fact a ten year old boy was escorted to the camp and given fruit to eat. Dutton never retracts his defamatory claim.

Alarmingly, Dutton, who is head of far too much to monitor any one thing, (namely ASIO, AFP, Australian Border Force, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC)and Office of Transport Authority) claims he had “no sight of” Paladin’s closed tender processes.

He freely concedes to Sky News that there are “very few people who can deliver services in the middle of nowhere on an island”, which is his nuanced way of blaming his departmental officers and handballing to Christian Porter who dutifully appears on ABC Insiders saying how fair dinkum Paladin really is. Nothing to see here.

Perhaps “Dutts”, as he is known to his mates, is working on a reverse Nuremberg defence: “Don’t blame me. I was just giving the orders.”

Whatever the explanation, OSB’s obsession with secrecy began with Scott Morrison who elevated his rank and status as Minister for Immigration into that of a tinpot military commander who was immune to the requirements of mere ministerial responsibility, an unaccountability, he buttressed by pretending that any information would be seized upon by demon people-smugglers. (DPS) Beyond despicable, DPS were so savvy with their depravity that they even had a “business model”.

And probably a Post Office Box in Singapore.

Answering questions was out of the question. ScoMo just gave up giving press briefings. Now he just harangues, sloganeers and evades questions unless it’s an on-air rub-down with Ray Hadley. Dutts just loves them.

Dutts is no slouch, either, when it comes to getting aeroplane people settled here. Who would have thought that people smugglers would switch to planes after boats? Or people would smuggle themselves, to the profit of people-smuggler Alan Joyce and his antique QANTAS fleet?

Well, certainly not Dutts but at least he can claim the record for biggest asylum-seeker migration. In 2017-18, 27,931 asylum seekers flew in to claim protection visas.

Only 18,365 asylum seekers came by boat in 2012/2013 at the peak of the inflow in the Gillard/Rudd years. Clearly, this fact is too nuanced for ScoMo and co, and well beyond the remit of News Corp.

The government’s argument – if we may flatter it with that term – has more holes in it than any of the bodies in the execution of Corleone’s enemies scene in The Godfather.

May 2018, 460 people are moved to Australia.  By last week, it’s 879.  But there’s no new flotilla of boats. Not a glimpse even of a demon people smuggler’s horns. Big Brother Scott mounts the mother of all scare campaigns including a video remake of K. Rudd’s 2013 classic sermon, No boat people will ever be settled in Australia!

Even more damaging for Morrison is that his claim to have stopped the boats is fraudulent. As John Menadue and others continue to point out, the boats stopped when Kevin Rudd declared in July 2013 that no asylum seeker would be settled in Australia. Yet a ruthlessly pragmatic Coalition, seized the chance to claim victory.

Fellow imposter, Tony Abbott, of course, needed to create his own high camp paramilitary force, giving his political chicanery high-sounding nonsense titles – Operation Sovereign Borders (OSB) – even though dealing with refugees in boats could be handled by our navy, in co-operation with Indonesia. But (OSB) took time.

And money. (Now “offshore detention”, or illegal, indefinite imprisonment in gulags -to cut the double-speak – costs over $4 billion a year.) And a shift in focus to boat turn- backs in violation of UN 1951 convention which has at its core a commitment to prevent refoulement. Our boat turnbacks violate this core principle.

We cheerily turn back boatloads of refugees; returning them to their persecutors. Innocents then face imprisonment, torture and death.

Stopped the boats? Operation Sovereign Borders did not gear up to turn back the first boats until 19 December 2013, when boat arrivals dropped from 48 in July 2013 to only seven in December 2013. That Morrison and Abbott stopped the boats is a lie we’ll hear a lot between now and the election. It needs to be called for what it is.

Similarly, the flood of asylum-seekers which the Coalition will continue to blame on Labor was, in fact, boosted by Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison in a cynical ploy to embarrass Labor. John Menadue sums up,

“Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison in Opposition gave the green light to people smugglers by opposing the implementation of the Malaysia Arrangement in September 2011.  Following the defeat in the Parliament of legislation to give effect to the Malaysian Arrangement there was a dramatic increase in boat arrivals. Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison gave the green light to people smugglers to really step up their activities.”

Thursday, Morrison’s macho plan is to filibuster. Fatuous Dorothy-Dixers and haranguing extend question time to a record 150 minutes to avoid Labor’s motion for a Royal Commission into abuse in the disability sector. It shows contempt for parliament process and an epic thumbing of the nose at our democracy which is a living, evolving and vulnerable institution- not as is commonly supposed – an immutable good or some fixed asset.

Stunt-master ScoMo, later, says he feared Labor would pull a stunt. Feared? Later, realising he has made a prat of himself, he says he has no problem with the legislation. He lies that he failed to receive notice of the bill. Yet the Coalition has, itself, abused disabled Australians by effectively redefining disability and tightening eligibility.

Last year, Industry Super Chief, economist Stephen Anthony reported that our federal government has created a “false economy” by restoring the budget bottom line through cuts to the disability support pension, forcing people on to the New Start allowance of $245 a week and potentially pushing more people into homelessness.

A 63% drop in successful claims for the disability pension between 2010 and 2016 was the result, Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) reports. A government that can do this is not only cruel and heartless, it is sadistic. Cue ScoMo’s gaze.

ScoMo’s eyes turn obsidian, a spectacle all the more chilling now he’s back in rimless specs after flirting with Turnbull horn-rims. Much too patrician? Clashed with his natty PRATT baseball cap?  His inner junkyard dog?

(Pratt Holdings paid no tax 2015-6 on a total income of $2.75bn yet donated $850 million to political parties.)

722 major corporations pay no corporate tax in Australia in 2016-17, despite one hundred firms reporting earnings  of over $1bn in total income. No problem. The Coalition simply takes more -and more from the average wage and salary earner to compensate for its scandalous unwillingness to expect the top end of town to pay its fair share. And it saves a fortune; denying most disabled Australians their rightful pension.

A maestro of mixed messaging and a muddle-class champion Morrison is incensed at the passing of the Medivac Bill which permits sick asylum seekers to come to Australia for treatment subject to approval of a medical panel and then only at the Minister’s discretion.

Wednesday, he loses control. Control of the parliament; the argument and of the beast within himself.

Now, I cant describe to you the fury that is within me that I have to now go spend money on opening a centre that I didnt need to open a week ago,

ScoMo morphs into some petulant put-upon national boarding house matron pouting and sulking at the prospect of suddenly being asked to put up extra guests. But devious. He’ll reopen Christmas Island. Frog-march the sick parade malingerers there. It’s an Australian territory, so technically, he can avoid bringing them to the mainland.

Yet the Coalition was happy to blow $275,000 in legal costs last financial year on challenging, in court, requests for urgent medical transfers of asylum seekers and refugees on Nauru and Manus Island. This figure doesn’t include the cost of air ambulances and subsequent treatment for critically ill patients, figures Peter Dutton must keep secret.

This year it will be more. Morrison cannot be taken seriously if the bleats about the cost of Christmas Island.

Nor does his government’s campaign impress those sampled in opinion polls. The latest YouGov Galaxy poll shows that the PM’s-all my own work -Tampa 2.0 stunt has lost support in Queensland, which pundits insist is a key election battleground, while overlooking Victoria where fear and division failed in November’s state election.

The QLD poll shows the Coalition down 3 to 35, while on a two-party preferred basis Labor is ahead on 52, to the LNP’s 48.

Worse, William Bowe’s Poll Bludger track’s aggregate of Newspoll and Essential Research shows 53.8 to 46.2 to Labor in a solid shift to the Opposition this week, much to the chagrin of The Australian and other right-wing media who were recently crowing about a Coalition “bounce” and fondly predicting a “re-set” as The ScoMo Show. By Monday, MSM will crow about a re-set based on Kerry Stokes’ aberrant IPSOS poll.

Morrison’s view in Opposition was ‘the more boats that come the better’. Nothing’s changed. Megaphoning the re-opening of Christmas Island is a blatant invitation to people smugglers. ScoMo is a desperate, ruthless Machiavellian pragmatist bent on boosting boat arrivals. What if a turnback somehow fails?

“Be it on your head,” ScoMo shrieks. In the politics of finger-pointing, malediction always triumphs over reasoned rebuttal.  If you have any kind of authority. Instead, all Minority Morrison can manage is an impression of a grown man throwing a tantrum. Now the beast takes him over. He leers at Labor’s front bench, his face a twisted mask of malevolent guile, a transfiguration evoking a Notre Dame gargoyle or Tony Abbott axing the tax in opposition.

The beast is stirring? Could the PM mean our wage crisis; the blatant beast that devours Since 2012, wages growth has slumped to record lows, with increases of only two per cent each year – well below previous levels of 3.5 per cent. This stagnation is affecting all states and territories, all industries and all types of work.

No. It’s Pandora’s Box. Heroically, our prophylactic PM boasts to Canberra’s national Press Club not only about his government’s solicitude for our well-being – there’s a plan. “Our plan for keeping Australians safe and secure.” ScoMo government will protect us from modern living, where calamity awaits at us all at every turn.

Or mouse-click and digital swipe. “The online world has opened up a dangerous place for our children. It is the terror of parents everywhere, including Jen and me.”  It is? Seriously? The terror of parents everywhere? No chance then, of teaching your children safe online behaviours – they have courses in most state schools.

“People smuggling, natural disasters, organised crime, money laundering, biosecurity hazards, cyber security, the evil ice trade, violence against women,” he declaims. Not a word about climate change – nor its devastating effects on our fauna, our fragile ecosystems, our environment that gives us life. Nor the vast new powers of the state. And nothing at all about the rise of lobbyists, the decline of democratic process and the rapid death of a free press.

Yet you can’t fault Morrison’s cheap theatricality, his hammy patent insincerity – the pantomime villain of our political stage. What a performer!  But will his voice hold out? Can he keep this up for ninety days?

Highlight of a week of lowlights is our Shaman-PM’s thrilling ritual invocation of the beast in parliament Thursday. Calling up The Beast is a climax to his bizarro shock-horror show to a non-plussed mob at The National Press Club. ScoMo eagerly poses as our nation’s Red Cross Knight, a crusader against a world of unfathomable evil, from whom our virtuous, if not saintly, Coalition noblemen and women in government will ever protect us. Journos yawn; check their smartphones.

Protect us? It can’t protect itself. Naturally we are obliged to overlook the Morrison government’s recent run of minor setbacks, which include its engineering of its own defeat in The House, mid-week, an epic feat equalled only twice previously, in 1929 and 1941 by two other governments who’d lost the plot.

Both were promptly voted out of office. Morrison’s mob should call an election now.

The federal government is now floundering; threshing and gasping like a Murray Cod in its death throes in the shallows of a dying Murray River at Menindee. Yet stand by for a miraculous resurrection as Kerry and Rupert breathe life into the Coalition corpse.

Despite the odd spot of bother, not to mention ineptitude, impotence and difficulty with arithmetic, our Broad Church Coalition will leap to the nation’s defence with an invigorating new production, of John Winston Howard’s 2001 catchy standby, The Babies Overboard or Tampa Crisis election, a classic Liberal victory if not a stroke of genius in Liberal annals, is also wrongly credited with winning Howard the election.

The Coalition has some dazzling theatrics up its sleeve. Yet amongst the hysteria and the rabid scare-mongering there are many issues on which it is to be held to account. It cannot base an election campaign on the lie that it stopped the boats. Or the lie that medical help will cause us to be flooded with an armada of boat people.

Nor can it conduct a campaign with no policy to speak of, especially in energy, education, environment and climate change. Australians will not tolerate a ninety day episode of Kill Bill, the Coalition’s favourite show.

Above all Morrison’s government needs to be held to account for its contempt for parliament, the Paladin scandal, its refusal twenty six times to hold a Royal Commission into Banking and the secret deal that seems to have been done between Ken Henry and itself over the terms of the commission and above all its evasion of responsibility for the death of the Murray-Darling Basin system.

These are just a few issues to begin with. The last thing the nation needs is a ninety day season of Kill Bill. Or a Tampa 2.0. Or anything with Scott Morrison’s beast in it.

 

Climate change is already making a bad situation catastrophic without ScoMo’s government’s denialism.

helicopter big

 

Photo: Helicopter battles bushfires in Tasmania’s Southwest wilderness.

“Finished, it’s finished, nearly finished, it must be nearly finished Grain upon grain, one by one, and one day, suddenly, there’s a heap, a little heap, the impossible heap.” Samuel Beckett, Endgame.

 

Politicians fiddle as Tasmania burns. Freakishly new infernos blaze across 200,000 hectares; three per cent of the Apple Isle. Climate change fuels fires which now ravage fragile, ancient, high-altitude ecosystems that are not adapted to fire at all — relict forests from when Tasmania was a part of the vast Gondwana supercontinent, 180 million years ago at least.

Tragically, stands of pencil pines and magnificent King Billy Pines are gone forever.

Like an arsonist who must return to the scene of the crime, ScoMo-FIFO pays a flying visit to the Huon Valley, Monday. His quick pit-stop photo-op earns him a serve from The Greens’ Nick McKim who tells Scott Morrison to stop the nonsense; accept responsibility. And climate science. Stop pretending the Coalition has a climate policy.

Climate science is clear that Tasmania will face more bushfires and they will be more dangerous as a result of burning fossil fuels. Fossil fools like Mr Morrison should stay out of Tasmania until they are prepared to accept the science and adopt a decent climate policy,” McKim tweets. Ouch. ScoMo sulks and sooks; gets all huffy.

Morrison’s untimely riposte is to tell Nine Media that “many bushland areas in the state were unaffected by fire.”

Yep. Another captain’s call. Be of good cheer, me hearties. There are still parts of RMS Titanic not under water.

Labor’s leader, William Richard Shorten, whose party’s policy platform promises an emissions target of a 45 per cent cut and a renewable energy target of 50 per cent by 2030, pays Tassie a visit, too. He’s been there before. He knows the Beaconsfield Mine quite well. Bill’s no dill. He gives the conflicted Liberal leader permission to get real.

“Even the most extreme climate deniers are probably at the point of acknowledging that we are having more and more extreme weather events. New weather records are being set and the economic cost is growing … I think it is legitimate to talk about climate change.” 

Shorten knows Morrison’s Coalition leadership rests on his continuing the party line of climate change denial. Just after ScoMo knifed Turnbull, deftly riding the wave of instability; cutting in on Hunt and Dutton’s plot to make “Dutts” PM, Turnbull held a final press conference before he had to leave to attend to pressing, sniping business.

Turnbull’s lame excuse for failure on climate change policy is to blame his oddball colleagues; climate change is “very hard” for the Liberal-National Coalition because MPs have “bitterly entrenched” views, “actually sort of more ideological views than views based, as I say, in engineering and economics.” Or, God, forbid, science.

Ideological? Try ignorance. Last September, Party climate guru, cuddly Craig Kelly, the electric chair of the Coalition backbench environment and energy committee stood in for a no-show Tony Abbott. He knocked the socks off Mosman’s true blue-rinse Liberal branch by claiming that fossil fuels make us safe from climate change.

“The reality is we live in a time where our generation has never ever been as safe from the climate because of fossil fuels, concrete and steel,” Kelly confabulates.

“The climate was always dangerous. We didn’t make it dangerous.”

Emboldened, by November 2018, Malco spells it out. “The truth is … the Liberal Party and the Coalition is not capable of dealing with climate change,” Turnbull tells the Australian Bar Association’s Annual Conference. He adds, helpfully, that many of his former colleagues are convinced, like Trump, that climate change is a giant hoax.

Climate science denial is a huge electoral liability, according to the polls – even if – as Pyne threatens on ABC Insiders – to wheel out their totally discredited Direct Action, Emissions Reduction Fund, boondoggle again.

(Governments pay farmers to plant trees they would have planted anyway.)

But there’s a bit of ground to make up. Forest-clearing elsewhere in the country created enough emissions in two years to wipe out the gains of the emissions reduction fund.

Bazza Cassidy politely fails to mention that after the abolition of Gillard’s price on carbon – and despite the daylight robbery of the Direct Action fantasy, our greenhouse gas emissions are sky-rocketing. As are our electricity and gas bills.

ScoMo’s burning issue is less how to protect his own and his party’s ignorance than his politically sensitive skin, an engaging conundrum given, like Craig Kelly, or Abbott, he has the hide of Dürer’s Indian rhinoceros. He’s offended by Nick McKim’s tweet, he says. It’s always about him; never climate change, policy or any other issue at hand.

The Monthly’s Sean Kelly writes brilliantly about how Scott Morrison has made a career of never being responsible for anything that goes wrong; how he adroitly always removes himself from the frame.

“Morrison, in his own telling, is so often a mere observer. When reckless and false accusations have been made, it turns out Morrison has only presented the facts as presented to him; when offensive comments have been made, he has been only the dutiful messenger of the sentiments of others; in the rare cases he has made mistakes, they have been minor errors of timing. Events occur, but Morrison’s involvement is passive, tangential, almost accidental. He may be the minister, but he is not an instigator, only a vessel through which others’ bidding is done.”

ScoMo keeps shtum about Premier Will Hodgman’s requests for help with funding beyond the Commonwealth’s National Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA). While the Federal Government will fund up to 75 per cent of the damage bill, it applies only to people, public assets, some business grants and the clean-up.

Thousand-year old pines, and many older, not only burn; their seeds are destroyed, their soils incinerated, notes science writer, Nature’s Emma Marris. The pines represent species which have survived only because of their cooler, wetter microclimate. Now, extinction beckons, as drier, warmer weather is wrought by global warming.

Threatened also are pockets of a smaller but no less iconic tree, the Southern Beech, Nothofagus gunni, Tasmania’s only deciduous native with its spectacular rust-red to gold Autumn display whose relatives are found in New Zealand and South America, a distribution which provided first clues that the landmasses were once joined.

Climate change also brings its own tinder box; dry lightning strikes in the Southwest, now, while nearby logging and the record dry of 2015 leaves trees which surround the alpine forest with less capacity to act as a firebreak.

“There was no doubt pencil pine was on the mainland, but the fire and climate regime meant it couldn’t persist,” says David Lindenmayer, a professor of ecology and conservation biology at Canberra’s ANU.

“If Tasmania is going to become more like the mainland, there is a distinct possibility that its time is going to be done. That is a huge loss for the world.”

But the biggest loss is to ourselves and our federal government afflicted by the mental and moral blight of denialism, men (mostly) for whom climate change is “absolute crap” to quote Tony Abbott, the most destructive MP in politics today, whose ignorance and obdurate stupidity not only cost us a carbon price, but which inspire a small band of fellow saboteurs just big enough to abort Coalition climate change, energy or environment policy.

Lyndon Schneiders, federal director of the National Wilderness Society (NWS) says the Coalition is “missing in action” after five years’ undermining environmental protections. The Society targets former PM Abbott, former environment ministers Hunt and Frydenberg in its first major federal election campaign in a decade.

Tony should worry. A poll commissioned by GetUp! has Abbott losing his seat to Alpine skier, Zali Steggall. She’s leading the former PM 54% to 46% on a two-party-preferred basis, according to a ReachTEL poll of 622 residents commissioned by activist group GetUp and published in the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on Sunday.

AFR’s Phil Coorey sneers on ABC Insiders Sunday, The poll’s too small to be significant. Yet in Warringah, in the 2016 election, after preferences, Abbott got 61.55% of the vote vs 38.45% for the Greens candidate.

Abbott was saved by his nemesis. Oddly, last April, it was Coorey who reported Turnbull intervened personally by making robocalls during the final week of 2016’s election campaign to help save Tony after internal party polling showed the former prime minister was so unpopular in his own seat of Warringah, he risked losing it in a landslide.

The Guardian reports that Warringah’s voters worry about climate change. “Private polling conducted for the environment movement and for the major parties suggests community concern about climate change is currently sitting at levels not seen since the federal election cycle in 2007. Abbott, our own Dr No, naturally, denies this.

Morrison’s government needs to stop obsessing over photo-op politics and look south. Drop its populist posturing and  take responsibility. But that would require an open mind. And heart. The heart of Tasmania’s World Heritage area is dying, reports Richard Flanagan. The island’s sea waters are warming at two to three times the global rate.

Giant kelp forests which once dominated Tasmania’s east coast are dying. 95 per cent have been lost over the last few decades. They may soon become extinct, despite some brilliant long-term programmes to restore them. Kelp forests are vital to forming habitats on reefs around temperate Australia, and have been home to hundreds of species of animals and plants, Hobart-born journalist Lucy MacDonald reports for the ABC.

Yet ScoMo can manage only a token show of interest. The quick change artist dons another outfit. Heads north. He lobs in Townsville wearing an unbuttoned camouflage jacket. It’s useless. His blue shirt shows through; betrays a Liberal vainly trying to hide.

He’s photographed in a tank. A tank? It’s supposed to help with his posing as one of the troops cleaning up after floods, Tuesday. Abbott couldn’t resist dressing up in uniform either. Apart from macho image, it’s a prop to help him with his faux populism, a cunning way to evade any real engagement; answer any of the real issues of the day,

“My thinking is the support for Townsville people,” he puffs in his trademark humbug. “I’m not engaging in broader policy debates today. I’m engaging in the needs of people here on the ground, people in evacuation centres.”

ScoMo never engages in broader policy debates. When not plotting, his effort goes into scripting absurd Trump-like scare campaigns to prevent Kerryn Phelp’s bill to allow medical evacuation.

We’ll be overrun with refugees. Our national security is at stake. Murderers, terrorists, rapist will all race to the mainland if we allow sick refugees medical evacuation. We’d even have to spend over a billion dollars opening Christmas Island to contain them all.

Meanwhile, Tasmania’s wilderness is burning. Our greatest river system, The Murray Darling Basin is mortally wounded by mismanagement, maladministration and a man-made drought. 1,200 billion litres of water were extracted for irrigation in 2014-15 in the Northern Basin yet only about 35 billion litres, actually arrived at Bourke from upstream in the past year, according to the latest data.

Former Water Wallah – or Water Wally, ex-minister Barnaby is in witness protection.

Freak floods deluge Townsville. Two million hectares of Queensland forest have been cleared in the past five years. In the past three years, land clearing in NSW has increased by 800 per cent.

“The Darling River is dying, the Tassie wilderness is in flames, two million hectares of forest have been cleared in the past five years in Queensland alone and iconic species such as the koala are hurtling towards extinction,” NWS head, Lyndon Schneiders says. “Climate change is making an already bad situation catastrophic.”

Schneiders says the Coalition government has been “missing in action” after five years undermining environmental protections. Of course, it’s easier and more fun to put on RM Williams gear and be photographed “drought-proofing”. Flood-busting. Deal with climate change and its dangers? Our PM and his colleagues are in denial.

Or worse. Then Environment Minister in the Abbott-Credlin government, Greg Hunt, rings Tim Flannery personally to sack him; nuke the Climate Commission in September 2013. But brute force and ignorance fails. The Climate Council rises like a phoenix from the ashes. Like its predecessor, but with no government funding, the Commission’s mission is to warn us of effects of global warming and to advise us of possible ways to deal with it.

In the meantime, Tasmania is the canary in the climate change coal mine. The federal government can gain much by pledging its unconditional support and as much expert help as it can muster. It can help in other ways, too. And it can learn a lot about climate change and the dangers of mining and gambling on people and habitat.

This week sees an ANU report once-believed pristine lakes are contaminated by mining. Then Tassie’s a case study of a government captured by corporations some even donating proceeds of gambling, revealed only this week by virtue of lax political donation disclosure laws.  But the commonwealth can’t criticise, the laws are as effective as expecting ASIC to hold our banksters to account, the most risible proposition in Royal Commissioner Justice Kenneth Hayne’s report.

Spending four million dollars, but reporting only a quarter of its war chest, Tasmanian Liberals were able to buy the election. And lease political power. Wealthy corporate donors buy influence, off the record. in other states, too. It’s a major threat to our democracy. Yet no-one can buy time from the inexorable progress of global warming.

Or fathom its cost. The Council reports that extreme weather cost Australia $1.2 billion last year alone. While ANU scientists try to break the nation’s obsession with The Clayton’s Royal Commission into Ken Henry, with a bogus claim that solar and wind will mean we meet our Paris targets, the spotlight falls on the frenzied fear-mongering of a Morrison government unable to cope with any opposition, let alone the prospect of a whole ten sitting days until the election although Tasmanian Labor’s backflip on “gaming” – industry spin for gambling, our nation’s destructive $200 billion a year love affair with the punt -does raise the attention deficit stakes for a moment.

Tasmanian Labor abandons a policy to put pokies out of pubs and clubs by 2023. Did they cave in to federal Labor policy? Were they worried they’d shut themselves out of power? Whatever the reason, Tasmanians will suffer. Tassie Labor will suffer.

Along with the rest of us. Australians lead the world in wagering a staggering $11,000, per person, per year. Gambling ruins at least 200,000 Australians; causes families to suffer. Pokies’ addiction, can lead to self-beggary, theft and interpersonal violence (IPV) commonly, misleadingly, termed “domestic” rather than male violence.

Another ANU report, this week, has it that Tasmania, Hodgman’s Poker Machine state (Inc), a rambler and gambler’s natural paradise, has poisoned the water of its Highland Lakes – but it’s OK because it happened long ago.

Allowing miners to freely use lead, copper, arsenic and cadmium to extract precious metals, is a legacy of the environmental disaster our nation knows as “the mining industry”, Hodgman, dynastic Premier of the land of the eternal punt, takes pains to explain it’s just the way they did things in the past, by which he means 1893-1994.

Mining’s toxicity is a century old mystery? But there’s good news, too. TasWater says it’s OK; boosting Tassie and the nation’s global reputation as a budget holiday destination, with only 2000 natural species at risk of extinction, a third world country where it’s safe to drink the water – if you’re OK with slow, expensive, NBN broadband.

Fortunately, our country’s run of luck continues, The Royal Commission into Ken Henry has a happy ending. Banksters are sent to the naughty corner to be licked to death by ASIC, our toothless corporate watchdog which Kenneth Hayne criticises for hopping into bed with banks rather than litigate.

The Royal Commission show helps distract us all from our self-inflicted and our natural disasters and the love that dare not speak its name; our coal-lobbyists cum leaders’ climate change denying nihilism.

Two cheers for Kenneth Hayne! Happily there’s a big win for banks this week as Hayne’s Clayton’s report, a thorough flogging with a wilted celery stick, recommends that borrowers pay brokers’ fees upfront, a nip and tuck in the usury and extortion racket that is our banking oligarchy that will save our banksters $3 trillion dollars

Deputy PM Macca (Michael McCormack almost has the last word –“We are looking at climate, of course, (but) climate has been changing since year dot,” he says, before adding: “We don’t want to go down a path of renewables, which is not going to solve anything apart from de-industrialising Australia and making sure we don’t do manufacturing here and pushing electricity bills into the unaffordable state.”

Put that in your coal-fired chimney-pipe and smoke it. But lucky last word goes to cranky Kenneth Hayne whose wonderful performance of forensic irritability during the hearings, most capably assisted by the formidable Rowena Orr, was mistaken for the prelude to heavy penalties for banksters clearly capable of criminal misconduct.

His image has tarnished rapidly since the ACTU obtained a copy of a letter from Ken Henry to Josh Frydenberg laying down the scope and time frame of the commission. We’ve been had. Who knows if longer, better resourced commission would have led it to impose more serious penalties; more effective deterrents. What’s sure is that the government got the report it wanted rather than the one the industry needed.

“Experience shows that conflicts between duty and interest can seldom be managed,” Hayne observes. “Self-interest will almost always trump duty.” 

The Royal Commission, our favourite national theatre?

hayne and frydenberg

There is no scientific, intelligible or rational justification put forward for the reduction of 70 GL. The obvious inference to be drawn is that political considerations largely drove the NBR, not science. This is not only unlawful, but is deplorable.

Bret Walker SC, MDBA Royal Commission Report, p.63

The reek of corruption and decay mingles with the stench of another mass fish kill at Menindee this week. The  nation gags in shock and disbelief as not one, but two, of our favourite forms of national theatre, the Royal Commission Show, conclude with the obligatory self-flagellation in the form of tabling excoriating reports. Traditionally, this leads to a frenzy of self-exculpation in the uplifting and compelling “Don’t blame me” chorus.

Officials, everywhere, are left gasping for breath; floundering like a forty-year old Murray Cod left to perish on the bed of a Darling River whose waters have been sold off to profit wealthy rice and cotton farmers upriver.

In his report, SA’s royal commissioner, Brett Walker, SC, a distinguished constitutional lawyer, throws the book at NSW and Federal governments for their “gross negligence” and their failure to follow scientific advice.

In particular, he is scathing about how MDBA modelling failed to factor in the effects of climate change certainties into how much water was a “sustainable” amount to be taken from the river system for commercial reasons. The failure is systemic, historically traceable to at least 2009. It may prove catastrophic. Walker notes, however,

“The damage and depletion of the water resources, ecosystems and biodiversity of the Murray-Darling Basin since European colonisation, and the trauma and dislocation experienced by Aboriginal people, are part of the same story. The necessary work to protect and restore the river systems must go hand in hand with the necessary measures to include Traditional Owners centrally in decision-making about water planning and management.”

Walker castigates politicians for their “head in the sand” attitude to climate change and also buckets the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) for its unfathomable predilection for secrecy; its history of “grossly inadequate disclosure, explanation and consultation” in the handling of its responsibilities under the Water Act (2007) which regulates how water is allocated to irrigation or environmental flows in Australia’s largest river system.

In a world record water rort, The Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) has contrived to lower the required environmental release; deny the river its allotted 70 billion litres of water. No wonder fish are dying. Yet NSW wants to take even more.

NSW regional water minister and deputy leader of NSW Nationals, Niall Blair cops a personal serve, Friday, from Walker for his “grossly irresponsible” and crude remarks in promising to stick the state plan in response to the Menindee kill. Anything less would “blow up” the Murray Darling Basin Plan.

It’s an alarming sign of the inertia, ignorance and hostility to sound advice as much as the vested political interests that threaten the adoption of the Royal Commission’s recommendations.

Blair wants to press on with the controversial Menindee Lakes project, a water-saving scheme to reduce the size of the lakes and empty them more often, a proposal which federal authorities caution would not help the environment – or as Walker puts it “threatens the national plan to save the Basin from irreparable degradation”.

NSW Nationals worry they’ll lose the local seat of Barwon as a result of the fish kills. Enter The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party whose donors include The Shooting Industry Foundation, a well-funded lobby group for relaxed or “simpler” gun laws and more gun sales. The party’s website takes pot-shots at “extreme” animal activists.

All up, the Shooters just shriek conservation and climate change science. Far too green for a National Party voter.

On the federal stage, The Nationals’ Big Dave Littleproud, Minster for Agricultural Resources and Water rorts, walks tall on the side of climate science denial. Last August, he told a Q&A audience and ABC viewers always eager to hear ignorance paraded in the interests of “balance” that he doesn’t understand the link between climate change and drought. Making the link is a “big call” for Dave. He does not “give a rats if it’s man-made or not”.

In minutes, it’s clear that for Littleproud, burning coal is the only way to safely generate reliable electricity.

This week’s fish kill? Dave is quick to blame the drought, but Walker painstakingly details a man-made river drought.  Busts a National Party billion dollar boondoggling triumph. At least four billion dollars of taxpayers’ money, has been given by the commonwealth, over the last few years, to farmers and agricultural groups for water-saving infrastructure projects that don’t work. Water buybacks are cheaper and more effective.

Brett Walker calculates that projects cost taxpayers two and a half times more than water buybacks to put the same amount of water back into the system. Over ten years, the cost of buybacks was $2026 per megalitre. $970 was the cost of purchasing a megalitre of water through efficiency upgrades funded under the Sustainable rural water use and infrastructure program (SRWUIP). As Bernard Keane notes it’s a lot of “free money for irrigators”.

Can the boondoggle, in fact, be busted? It’s not shaping well. Does the Federal Minister have the independence, authority and experience? DLP, as Littleproud is known to mates and staff, was Barnaby’s pick, a shrewd move that excluded the vastly more experienced Darren Chester in favour of the work experience boy; someone who’d mind his seat until Barney regained the leadership and the water portfolio for himself.

And Joyce is especially proud of his boondoggle. In his 2015 white paper, he brags

The Government is funding the largest investment in upgrading and refurbishing irrigation infrastructure in Australia’s history, investing in the future of competitive irrigated agriculture, as well as community sustainability. To implement the Murray–Darling Basin Plan, the Commonwealth has committed almost $13 billion through a range of programmes in the Basin through to 2024.

Clearly, Dave’s backers give him a boost. Sort of. Fairfax’s Mark Kenny gushes in a puff-piece how the “nerdy and bookish” looking Littleproud looks much bigger in real life he is than on TV and how his electorate Maranoa, the only National electorate to return a No vote in the same sex marriage survey, is three times the size of Victoria).

But the key is SA. Premier, Steven Marshall, who hollered for a Royal Commission while in opposition, says Walker has exceeded his brief. He claims the commissioner was supposed to look at a bit of water theft and leave it that. Still, it’s something he and Scott Morrison will get around to looking at later in the year. If Morrison’s still around.

Unafraid of doubling up, he’ll also look into the legality of the plan, something, it could be argued, Walker has just done. But Steve’s a crack-up as he wraps up with his dead-pan stand-up routine: “But I can assure every single person in this state, we are taking this royal commission report extraordinarily seriously.”

“Extraordinary and serious” doesn’t begin to describe the icy look given Josh Frydenberg by Kenneth Hayne, QC, who responds with a wintry glare as Josh Frydenberg tries to trap him into a photo-opportunity, Friday, as the Commissioner hands over his report to a Minister whose government is a big part of the problem. And let’s not forget that for a year in 2005-6, Frydenberg worked for Deutsche Bank as Director for Global Banking.

Hayne’s interim report depicts a finance industry rotten at the core by a culture of rampant greed and regulators too ineffectual to do anything. It’s safe to assume the theme continues in the final report. What’s wrong?

As Hayne puts it “Too often, the answer seems to be greed — the pursuit of short-term profit at the expense of basic standards of honesty. How else is charging continuing advice fees to the dead to be explained?” the royal commissioner writes.

Frydenberg is all smiles and faux-jovial affability; a rictus of offensive charm imposed over a shit-eating grin while former High Court Justice Commissioner Kenneth Hayne AC QC, skewers him with an icy disdain.

Hayne, a blackletter, black belt, in forensic dissection of fool and fraud, quite properly deigns a request to shake hands with jolly Josh, currently our federal treasurer, who had to be dragged kicking and screaming to accept a royal commission into banking. Twenty six times you denied me, Hayne’s face says. Spin collides with integrity as Frydenberg’s charm offensive blows up in his face. It may be the most damaging encounter of a damaging week.

“Nope” is all Hayne needs to say in a salutary display of personal authority, integrity and laconic brevity when a photographer suggests the pair shake hands. It’s a refreshing contrast to our palaverous political discourse.

Frydenberg may be frozen out Friday but an eerie silence stalks the land. Two dragon-slaying royal commissioners bust banksters and expose the Murray Darling Water allocation system as a billion dollar water-rorting scandal. But no-one stands up for their nation. Instead there’s a rush of weaving and ducking for cover.

Royal Commissioners Hayne and Walker file reports no-one in government could like – even a fit and functioning NSW state or federal government that could be held to account. There’s a slow bicycle race by states and Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) to say the least they can. Then it’s only to disavow responsibility.

Faux-Mo, our PM for standards, applies the choke-hold. He won’t release Hayne’s report, until Monday, giving himself  time to remind us how to trust our banks. Swiftly, shiftily, he fills the gap with his own spin on that old standby trope – the table – as if a royal commission alleging criminal negligence and fraud is somehow an ambit claim; a matter for negotiation. He also pretends he doesn’t know what’s foreshadowed in the interim report.

“It will be a question of what suggestions or measures they put on the table but I will be very mindful that I want to see the oil that lubricates our financial system – which is access to credit – continues to flow, otherwise the consequences would be quite significant,” Mr Morrison tells Nine’s increasingly pliant newspapers, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age in Brisbane. He’s protecting the banks before the report is even published.

ScoMo’s propaganda 101 technique misrepresents the issue as a choice between not being able to borrow at all and seeing banks held accountable for a series of criminal acts exposed by the commission which include charging fees to dead people and banks and super funds charging fees for no service. As Bill Shorten says on ABC Insiders, Sunday, the choice ScoMo offers is between an unethical banking system or no system at all.

Prosecutions may well be one outcome; civil or criminal referrals to state prosecutors could be made.

On the water front, or ruined, dried-up backwater as it is now, there’s another massive fish kill at Menindee but shit happens according to David Littleproud, the former rural bank manager, whose RM Williams gear helps show he really knows the many hardships faced by those who live in the bush.

“Save the Gravy” Dave fronts the cameras again; reminds greenies, Guardian-readers and townies to stop carping. Again, the choice he offers is between a corrupt, unethical system and no river water allocation scheme at all.

“The basin plan is lawful and was lawfully made”, he blusters, despite Brett Walker SC’s excoriating report which accuses the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) of negligence and being “incapable of acting lawfully”.

There’s little chance Littleproud has time to read the report. Gross maladministration, negligence and unlawful actions by Commonwealth officials are just some of the multi-billion dollar failures of the MDBA to save Australia’s largest river system, according to Walker. Walker has to name names, including, of course that of Barnaby Joyce.

Star of the aquatic show, former Minister for water-rorting, Barnaby “boondoggle” Joyce is invisible, either white-anting Michael McCormack or busy showing prospective vendors around his property at Gwabegar which he bought for 12 years ago for $572,000 but must now sell, for family reasons, for a modest $878,000.

Those interested should note “the dams are full and cattle and sheep prices are very good”, a detail which will greatly cheer other farmers in drought, especially those downstream on the Darling. Above all the two parcels of land are openly advertised as being covered by an as-yet unused coal-seam gas petroleum exploration licence, PEL 428, owned by resources group, Comet Ridge, a detail old Barney used to shy away from.

Nothing to see here, says a government which has nothing to say for itself either. ScoMo’s “major” speech, another modest “headland”, “landmark” production, Tuesday, gets even less attention. Voters can’t stop yawning.

By Sunday, Nine newspapers publish a drop announcing that the last kids will leave Nauru for the US. Heaven. Not only will it ensure they don’t see their families, they can join government workers in living off food stamps. How does this square with “Peter Dutton has revealed that 13 refugee children on Nauru are with parents deemed national security risks by the US” late last year, tweets Michelle Grattan. But no-one’s over-impressed.

No-one listens. Fewer take ScoMo seriously.  John Hewson jokes the PM’s “preaching to the deserted”. His slogans about growing 1.2 million jobs don’t match the lived daily reality of voters whose wages have flatlined for years.

Experts point out that jobs are not created by governments overnight. It takes decades to create the conditions favourable to a buoyant labour market. Others note that the promise is hollow. Our average job growth is around 200,000 a year for the last ten years. And how many of these are full time? Another evangelical gets this handball.

Party paragon of integrity and icon of probity, the unofficial minister for truthiness, Stewart Robert, is brilliantly deployed to assure voters that all the new jobs will be part-time, a claim he has to retract. Quickly. A truer figure, he admits would be around half. Even Leigh Sales is on to how ScoMo talks out of the back of his neck, pointing out to him that half his jobs will be taken up by migrant workers. Yet Morrison has promised to cap immigration.

Diversion! Furiously, Morrison flogs Labor with the big stick he has left over unused from his power company standover stunt. Energy corporations are laughing all the way to the bank. Energy Australia posted a 200% profit last August, a rise in earnings for the Hong Kong-based utility company from $129 million to $375 million.

Of course the taxpayer effectively gives our battling power companies generous support. Investigative journalist, Michael West reports Victoria Power Networks, paid no tax at all on a four year income of $6,120,404,139.

It should pay tax. Just the health problems caused by coal-fired power stations cost the nation $2.6 billion a year.

As a user of fossil fuels, Victoria Power and Energy Australia are both also eligible for the fabulously generous fuel tax subsidy scheme, and a range of other subsidies, which, last year, totalled $11,692 million dollars – that’s around $12 billion each year that won’t be spent on schools, hospitals or age pensions.

Labor will put up your power bills. Taxes.  Run by union thugs. Tie businesses up in union knots. You can’t trust ’em. He fondly reprises the golden oldies from Abbott’s glorious but pyrrhic victory of 2013 when all you had to do was oppose everything Labor proposed – and promise to scrap a carbon tax that wasn’t a carbon tax to lower electricity bills – which it could never do and lie about no new taxes. And make up absurd scares.

Whyalla was going to be wiped off the map. Lamb roasts would cost $100. Barnaby Joyce’s incredible carbon tax-boosted price estimate of abattoirs having to charge $575,000 per beast at least is worth a re-run, ScoMo.

A fatuous two per cent News Poll rise puts lead in ScoMo’s pencil. But that’s only two party preferred. His approval rating is slumping along with his spectacularly bad captain’s call to parachute Warren Mundine into Gilmore. ScoMo sends an email the Gilmore Liberal Party, half of whom have resigned in disgust. It’s another master-stroke. Sheer genius. The old impersonal unsolicited self-justifying generic email template is bound to win everyone back.

Tuesday, The Australian reports its latest Newspoll is a “lifeline” for Morrison, with a “bounce” in the polls – a lift of two points on a two-party preferred basis (Labor on 53, the Coalition on 47). It’s coy about how many it contacted but typically it contacts up to 2000 people – a sample size with an error rate of two to three per cent.

Once this is factored in, the so-called bounce of two per cent immediately is meaningless. A distracting public stoush always works wonders. Team ScoMo brawl openly over rats in the ranks as lone wolves appear.

At war with itself over climate change, energy, refugees, the government is hopelessly divided. Homophobic reactionaries still smart from losing their gay marriage gambit, but have yet to demand action on the religious freedoms ruse to reintroduce discrimination. The election plan is to bag Labor and to kill Bill Shorten. And scare. Scrapping dividend imputation and reducing negative gearing will cause the economy to tank.

Christopher Pyne says that Labor will cause a recession which is the Liberal party version of Pauline Hanson’s eminently sensible plan to get everyone to use up all the electricity to bring the grid down.

Truly sensible would be for ScoMo to call an election as soon while he still has candidates to field. Delaying further is not going to give him any election policies, his party’s too divided for that. And the hard graft of dealing with the Royal Commissions – both its recommendations but especially the issues they address cannot simply be left.