Trashing our democracy.

eric in shock

“They are trashing our democracy in the way they are dealing with this disgusting political cover-up,” Penny Wong [says] on Wednesday. “… This is all about protection of the prime minister, who is up to his neck in the sports rorts scandal. Well, I’ve got some news for the government: it’s too late. It’s too late for a cover-up when you’ve already been caught.”

Is it consternation or apoplectic rage? The shocked disbelief on Senator Erich Abetz’s typically saturnine features, Thursday, at a senate select committee on Administration of Sports Grants, or sports rorts sums up a disastrous fortnight for the Morrison-Gaetjens duumvirate that rules Australia when it’s not blaming the states, the COVID-19 Coronavirus, The Greens “creeping environmentalism” or Labor for its own failures.

“I seek to clarify, you did find that no ineligible project or application was funded?” leads the Tassie Liberal Party Czar who proceeds, in faux legalese, to verbal Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) boss, Brian Boyd, Friday 14 February, a joust sure to enter the lists of epic political failure as Eric’s Valentine’s Day self-massacre.

Seek to clarify? It’s a clumsily disingenuous attempt which even Samantha Maiden sees as Abetz’ bid to lob a Dorothy Dixer which will let him repeat the lie that all projects were eligible. It’s the PM’s favourite talking point.  Albo reckons Scotty’s misled parliament by repeating this disinformation sixteen times in the house.

Government by spin spawns MPs who believe their own propaganda. Originally billed in a blizzard of press snow drops as “a reset” and a chance for our jelly-back PM to re-assert himself, the parliamentary fortnight ends in a debacle.  Abetz is gob-smacked when he collides with reality at the sports rorts senate inquiry.

David Speers exposes ScoMo’s sophistry in ABC Insiders. The AG says, “no applications assessed as ineligible” received money. Morrison spins this into, “every single one of the projects that was approved was eligible”.

Morrison conveniently conflates application with project. It’s lie which Abetz discovers to his chagrin.

“No, Senator, that’s not what we found,” Boyd replies. “… around 43% of those which were awarded funding, by the time the funding agreement was signed were ineligible.”

Abetz, clearly, hasn’t bothered to read the report, a practice not uncommon amongst Coalition Senators. In 2015 Chair into the Forgotten Children report, Ian MacDonald, declared he hadn’t read Gillian Triggs report. Nor did he know what the Human Rights Commission was. April 2016, Triggs observed in The Saturday Paper that politicians were “usually seriously ill-informed” and had “lost any sense of the rule of law”.

For Samantha Maiden it’s a spectacular political own goal, “inadvertently demolishing the PM’s central sports rorts defence and revealing a stunning 43 per cent of projects that secured funding were ineligible.” Abetz’ stunt is nearly as inept as Mick-Mack’s dying duck in a thunderstorm performance on ABC Insiders Sunday.

Many projects were ticked off by Sport Australia as meeting the criteria, but 270 clubs over-eager to receive funds disqualified themselves by starting building works before the final paperwork was completed. Grants were restricted solely to clubs who were yet to begin works. A few others disqualified themselves by completing work before receiving funds or amending their applications or missing the application deadline.

In brief, Sport Australia got hundreds of applications from clubs. Some were eligible. Others were not.

In addition to the 100m scandal which has cost (then) Sports Minister Bridget McKenzie her place in the ministry, details of a $150m rort obtained, by Labor, through FOI, emerge this week.

Poorly entitled, the “female facilities and water safety stream program”, when it clearly was aimed at women, it was announced by the Coalition less than two months before the election. Funded in the 2019 budget for providing women’s change rooms and swimming pool upgrades, it was supposed to go to regional and remote communities.

In reality, only $10 million went to rural projects in four electorates held by National Party MPs. The bulk of the money – nearly $110 of the total four year fund was spent on projects in urban Liberal-held electorates

Pearce and Corangamite, two key marginal seats were given almost 40% of the total funding pool.

Women’s change rooms pose a particular problem. Scott Morrison and deputy Mick-Mack seem obsessed with evoking images of women changing behind trees and in cars. Why this fixation? No-one in his staff of fifty-odd boffins can stop the PM and his deputy? The scenario is insensitive, if not totally inappropriate.

And dishonest. Grants were rushed along or even stream-lined to protect women’s modesty, or so they seem to leer;

“because we didn’t want to see girls changing in cars or out the back of the sheds rather than having their own changing facilities”. The verb “see” puts the male gaze where it should not be. Try “make” or “have”.

The alacrity with which the claim is made suggests it may have been part of a focus group but when repeated, ad nauseam, the image evoked betrays a pre-occupation; almost a type of voyeurism on behalf of the PM and his Deputy – an attitude to women which not just women find repugnant.  The claim is also based on a lie.

Sports rorts were not a flood of money to respect women’s needs to have their own change rooms. The PM dwells endlessly on women’s change rooms, in the hope that this issue will distract us from his vote-buying.

In fact, as Christopher Knaus and Sarah Martin report for The Guardian the Coalition rejected Sport Australia recommendations. At least twelve proposed grants for women’s change rooms at local sport grounds were overturned by the minister, including one where women and girls are currently changing in tents.

Making stuff up, includes inventing new reasons to avoid any kind of scrutiny. Or gaslighting the nation that its approval of 290 ineligible sports grants, through Bridget McKenzie’s office is all OK. Phil Gaetjens says so.

Morrison’s former Minister for sport is not allowed to be a good sport. Rather than accept the National Audit Office umpire’s decision, her PM has a vested interest in arguing the toss. Now clear links emerge between McKenzie’s office and his office, Canute-like, he foolishly tries to countermand the ANAO.

Morrison’s own dodgy inquiry adds injury to injustice as he hand-balls to his pal, Phil Gaetjens, the task of being his alternative fact-finder in a secret inquiry. New sophistry, casuistry and specious argument don’t help.

Morrison and Gaetjens demean the PM’s office and the nation. Worst is “fixer” Phil Gaetjens’ straw man that McKenzie is exonerated by ignorance. She didn’t even see the colour-coded spreadsheet designed to guide her department fund projects, not on merit, but in areas where they might buy Coalition MPs a few more votes.

“Her Chief of Staff also told the Department of the Prime Minster and Cabinet that the Adviser had categorically stated she had not shown the spreadsheet to the Minister.”

Gaetjens’ claim is absurd.  The former Morrison and former Costello chief of staff hopes to hoodwink us into thinking that the sports minister handles every piece of correspondence personally or that her former ministerial responsibility somehow excluded colour-coded spreadsheets which her staffers may have used.

Ministers “have large staffs of advisers, liaison officers and media people to handle their paperwork … the whole point is that, if you’re going to rort something, you make sure the minister doesn’t have direct oversight of it. Staff (who, conveniently, can’t be called before Senate committees) do it.” Writes Bernard Keane.

New lies abound. These include the lie that an inquiry into ministerial misconduct (a code of conduct said to embrace integrity, fairness and accountability) is automatically elevated into the status of a cabinet document and is thus protected by the pixie-dust of cabinet confidentiality – unless, as in Abbott’s case you leak the lot to damage then opposition leader Kevin Rudd over the pink batts affair, where four young installers lost their lives in a highly successful 1.1 million home insulation initiative which the Murdoch press mercilessly pilloried.

Morrison’s cover-up is a bit of shadow puppet theatre in which McKenzie gets sent back to the back bench for her gun club misdemeanour as part of his regime’s constant stream of disinformation, lies and secrecy.

Minister for Sports Rorts, Bridget McKenzie is found guilty of a breach of ministerial standards, but Morrison, unlike Trump, cannot prevent public servants from testifying at the senate inquiry. In his best SNAFU tradition, his Gaetjens’ fix serves only to highlight tell-tale signs that the $100m pork-barrel was run out of his office.

Clearly, Morrison should stand aside himself. But then, so, too should gorgeous Gussie Taylor Minister for Energy and Emissions reduction who has never satisfactorily explained his role in the uttering of forged documents, published in The Daily Telegraph to discredit Sydney’s Lord Mayor, Clover Moore after Moore declared a climate emergency in 2019. An AFP investigation would up on 6 February

“The AFP assessment of this matter identified there is no evidence to indicate the minister for energy and emissions reduction was involved in falsifying information,” an AFP spokesman says.

“The low level of harm and the apology made by the [minister] to the Lord Mayor of Sydney, along with the significant level of resources required to investigate were also factored into the decision not to pursue this matter.”

Taylor has also failed to offer convincing explanations of his role in water buybacks to the total of eighty million dollars, which has yet to materialise. Then there’s his intervention in the clearing of protected native grasses on behalf of a constituent or so he claims but one which benefited a company in which his family holds a financial interest.

But with a quick application of lipstick, the Coalition government pig is transformed by a fabulous free trade deal with Indonesia. A Gamelan orchestra of Aussie spin-doctors begins gonging on endlessly. We hear them spin the usual inanities; how near, how big, how good is our is our trading neighbour? In the meantime, the highly protectionist Indonesians view Australia through narrowed eyes.

Gamelan derives from the Indonesian word to hammer, a perfect verb for the Coalition’s frantic attempts to ear-bash us into submission with talking-points, inane slogans and saturation media drops. Yet MPs insist their self-interested, self-deceiving indoctrination and propaganda campaign is a “national conversation”.

And how good is Jokowi, a human rights abuser who gets to travel to Canberra like some travelling saint of free trade? How good is an Indonesian free trade deal years in the making which is now re-announced? You’d swear the government were looking for a diversion. Megawati’s puppet, Joko Widodo fits the bill.

In 2015, on the day of his inauguration, Jokowi, as he is known, sat in the front row, party chairperson, Megawati Soekarnoputri, harangued him from the lectern. He owed the presidency to her, she said. He was to do as he’s told. Perhaps there’s a message in Jokowi’s visit for our National Party leader.

The free trade deal which is neither free nor about trade, has that nifty investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) clause to it which will help transnational companies sue our government should our laws imperil any of their profiteering. Sheer democratic genius.

The deal will also promote a flood of compliant temporary visa workers in 400 occupations who will be able to call Australia home, a move sure to cheer “chefs, nurses, plumbers, carpenters, bricklayers, tilers and many more workers who are already struggling to find enough work,” ACTU President Sharan O’Neil observes.

It’ll help put downward pressure on wages to use a favourite government slogan which is just what the economy and working families don’t need but employers and other wage thieves will be tickled pink.

Amnesty International Australia and Indonesian human rights lawyer Veronica Koman urges the Australian government to raise the human rights situation in West Papua during bilateral talks this week.

Koman’s has many concerns about the Indonesian government’s human rights abuses:

A joint military and police operation in Nduga regency of Papua province has taken place since early December 2018. As a result, according to a regency official, as many as 45,000 people, half of the regency’s population, are displaced in neighbouring areas.

The Humanitarian Volunteer Team, a local grassroots community, has been collecting data on the operation’s casualties and reported that as of 2 February 2020, 243 civilians have died due to violence by the security forces and hunger and illness from the displacement. 

Fifty-six indigenous West Papuans and one Jakarta-based Indonesian were arrested merely for expressing their opinion during mass protests against racism and for the independence referendum in August and September 2019 and during commemoration of West Papua’s national day on 1 December 2019, Konan notes.

They are currently awaiting trial and face life imprisonment. Yet on 10 February the Indonesian leader gives a speech in our House of Representatives in which he urges

“We must continue to advocate the values of democracy, human rights, stop intolerance, stop xenophobia, stop radicalism and stop terrorism.”  In a sign of the Morrisonian times, journalists could not ask questions.

Nor does anyone in Canberra talk about Pork’n ‘Ride. Car parks in the air. Michael West’s Jommy Tee, writes of a $500m Commuter Car Park Fund (CCPF) set up ostensibly to provide car parking at rail stations which turns out to be a brazen vote-buying gambit. Thirteen lucky winners are announced in the pre-election pork-fest. It’s big; $149 million worth of projects. All are Liberal-held seats with six in marginal NSW and QLD electorates.

Yet state governments and councils cannot say where exactly any of these mysterious new spaces will be.

A miracle of modern micro-targeting is at work. As Jommy Tee explains, micro-targeting is as simple as it is cynical.  Ask a member or candidate to spot a public need. Develop a petition around that issue. Use the data collected (names and addresses of constituents). Mine that data accordingly, fund the project, and then promote the outcome to the petitioners. Generate publicity. NB: Labor seats along the tracks get nothing.

But Banks gets $15m, Dickson $11m , Petrie $4m, Robertson $35m. Everyone is told the value of the pork on their fork. But the parks just don’t seem to exist. Funds just go to swell local party campaign coffers.

The Age calls out Pork ‘N ‘Rides in Victoria. It’s got the ring of a Ponzi scheme to it – except that taxpayers pay.

“So sparse were details of exactly how these six parking lots would grow, neither the state government nor in large part local councils could say where the expansion would occur”.

Nor do experts ever suggest that busting urban congestion is ever achieved with car parking or road space alone. It’s about the quality of the public transport service; its quality and interconnectivity.

The rorty story is a gift that keeps on giving. Thursday, the ANAO makes it clear at the senate committee on the Administration of Sports Grants that the PM’s Office worked closely with the sports minister’s office over six months, between October 2018 and April 2019. Yet it’s Bridget McKenzie who is made the scapegoat.

Porkie pies fly in all directions once the pork-barrel is busted. Like his mentor Trump, Morrison just makes stuff up to cover his hide. Here are two of examples of his insidious disinformation.

“all we did was provide information based on the representations made to us, as every prime minister has always done”.  It’s a lie. 290 projects, 43 per cent of all approved, were ineligible under program guidelines.

“the auditor-general found that there were no ineligible projects that were funded”.

Another lie which just re-hashes his notorious – “every project which was funded was eligible.”

Aloha Scotty, our fair weather PM, and his beleaguered crew’s legitimacy and credibility cop a hiding as reports of rorting and pork-barrelling confirm vote-buying is the Coalition’s sole campaign strategy.

Adding instability, is the Nationals’ failed DIY arsehole transplant, to apply former Minister for Digital Transformation, Michael Keenan’s parting shot at his “absolute arsehole” leader, Scott Morrison.

In other words, Barnaby Joyce’s abortive coup deals Mick-Mack’s leadership a mortal blow while three resignations and a spill put the skids under the Nats while Scotty’s numbers are looking crook. And it’s only February, two weeks into the parliamentary year, as brief as that may be under a Morrison government.

“In three times in less than two years I’ve been endorsed” says McCormack, who gets votes because he’s not Barnaby. Yet Mick-Mack claims that Joyce and Canavan have said they will support him.

Do you believe them? “Speersy” asks. “I always believe country people when they look me in the eye and say something and you’ve got to take people on their word.”

“The fact is, I’m the leader and I’m going to lead the Nationals to the next election,” Mick-Mack says scotching all hope of his announcing his retirement in order to devote himself to his Elvis impersonations.

“I haven’t thought it, I haven’t said it, [stepping down] and I’m not quite sure why it was written in that way, he deftly ticks off the media whom everyone knows should only write what is first authorised by politicians.

It’s a direction of state known all too well to our ABC which learns from Justice Wendy Abraham of the Federal Court, Monday, that its legal challenge is dismissed. The ABC must now pay costs. An appeal is being considered. ABC careerist who worked his way up to news director, Gaven Morris ruminates

The decision is “really disappointing” and a blow to press freedom and the public’s right to know.

ABC Managing Director David Anderson goes to the heart of the matter in this part of his statement.

“When the AFP executed its search warrant here at the ABC last June 5th, its raid was seen – internationally – for exactly what it was: an attempt to intimidate journalists for doing their jobs.

Not just the journalists named on the search warrant, but all journalists.”

Back in Mick-Mack land, our deputy PM is on thin ice. For Wagga’s Elvis, “There’s a whole lotta shakin goin on.” Like Turnbull, he believes he can count on ScoMo.

“I have the prime minister’s full support.” But so did Bridget McCormack – and look at her now. Besides, the country can’t even count on the PM’s full attention when it’s on fire. Good luck with that, Mick-Mack.

Clive Palmer could make the same claim here now it’s clear from even the limited reporting by The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) on 3 February.

Despite publishing too little, too late, of political campaign donations, it’s clear from the AEC just how much Morrison owes him. Via his flagship company Mineralogy, Palmer spent at least $83,681,442, much of which went to fund targeted social media publication of anti-Labor lies.

His propaganda was alarmist and untrue: Bill Shorten’s economic policy would make “four million older Australians homeless and destitute”.

Palmer helped defeat Labor through harvesting preferences for the Coalition. He says he decided to polarise the electorate to ensure a Coalition win. Palmer says his shift to attacking Shorten and Labor immediately “improved the government’s position” and that they won a majority on the back of his preferences.

“Ninety per cent of those preferences flowed to the Liberal party and they’ve won by about 2% so our vote has got them across the line.”

The authoritative Australian Election Study (AES) reports,

“Measured by first preference votes, there was a swing against both the Liberal-National Coalition (-0.6%) and Labor (-1.4%) in the election. The Coalition managed to secure a greater number of seats than in 2016, despite the lower primary vote. The Coalition won the election through preferences flowing from the minor parties;” specifically, UAP and One Nation, which won 6.5 per cent of the primary vote between them.

Is it a flying pig? A pork barrel bigger than our parliament itself? Or pig ignorance? Protecting government from being accountable, this week, is Pauline’s party of two performing its traditional back-flip with pike.

“What I’m concerned about is setting a precedent here in this chamber where a senator can be thrown out of the chamber by the majority,” blathers Hanson. What the senate motion seeks to do is beyond her ken. It’s an attempt to get the Coalition to release Phil Gaetjens’ report – if any such report exists.

“Senator Cormann is an elected member of this chamber,” La Hanson declares, in a desperate lunge at high-sounding principle; only to lapse into pious piffle. “He has a right to his place in this chamber. It is not up to us to take away that right that was given to him by the Australian people when they voted for him.”

No-one is taking away Cormann’s rights. One Nation’s two votes torpedo the Senate motion. A corrupt government escapes accountability for its brazen bribing of electors in marginal electorates or sports rorts.

Worse it gaslights the nation. We are to believe that the Auditor-General’s ten month report is inferior to something quickly whipped up by the PM’s former chief of staff, Phil Gaetjens; a secret report which somehow exonerates dishonesty and duplicity. And which earns Gaetjens a promotion. The Liberal Party apparatchik is Morrison’s captain’s pick to be the most politicised, least qualified Secretary of the Treasury in history.

At the end of his first two weeks, Scotty may shout a lot about how his government is honouring the promises it took to the people. But surely that’s irrelevant when you buy the election. Surely also, given its record of deception and ineptitude, any credibility the nation may have extended toward this government is now completely shot to pieces.

Above all, at every opportunity on parliament’s return, this Coalition of secrets and lies which rorted and bought its “miracle election” shuns all accountability.

Now as it suppresses and intimidates the press, Christian Porter announces legislation to further silence dissent. At each turn, this government is trashing our democracy.

Humiliated, Morrison flogs his adaptation and resilience con

mick mack talks to O'brien

 

“We have just seen the stability of the Coalition on full view, for all to see – government members running against each other for a position of deputy speaker … and for the prime minister to stand up and to pretend somehow this is a win.”

A Prime Minister rises to his feet to claim his humiliation, if not his rout, is a victory for parliament and for the voter? The death of shame infects our politics. Hypocrisy is no longer a thing. Shame is now just something only the other side should feel, while telling the truth when it doesn’t suit you is seen as a type of madness.

It wasn’t always thus. During the reign of Elizabeth I, the Earl of Oxford farted while bowing low before the Queen, records John Aubrey . So utterly mortified was Oxford, that he fled the country for seven years.

On his return, Elizabeth welcomed him but could not resist the quip “My lord, I had forgot the fart!”

Labor’s Anthony Albanese, may be a raving woke, latte-sipping, inner-city greenie to the Coalition’s pixilated right wing. This includes some Nationals who rebel, this week, against lame-duck leader, Michael McCormack. It adds a riot of colour and movement to the orchestrated litany of lies and chaos that is the Morrison government.

Yet, unlike the government, not only does Albo have a sense of humour, he can summon a dry wit,

“I congratulate the prime minister on his capacity to make anything into a marketing proposal.”

Barnaby Joyce, having botched his leadership spill, has stirred up enough trouble to get a few of his backers to attack his nemesis, the hapless Michael McCormack. Mick-Mack and his puppet-master Morrison are blindsided by an unprecedented public display of wilful insubordination by some Nats and cross-bench MPs who help Labor to elect Llew O’Brien over ScoMo’s tame deputy of choice, Damian Drum.

It’s a useful, if unwelcome diversion, to Morrison’s plight. The PM performs some shabby sleight of hand where he hopes to trick the nation into accepting that Phil Gaetjens’ quickie report on Bridget McKenzie’s Sports Rorts trumps the lengthy, forensic, investigation carried out according to due process by Auditor-General, Grant Hehir.

Or the AFP gives up on Gus Taylor, or someone from his department, uttering a forged document designed solely to discredit Sydney Lord Mayor, Clover Moore by leaking it to The Daily Telegraph. It couldn’t have been Taylor’s staffer, Josh Manuatu, formerly of Eric Abetz’ staff, who is now promoted Director Canberra’s Liberals.

Only a “low level of harm” AFP decides, deploying its Star Chamber function. Anyway, the minister apologised. Take too many resources. Case closed. Unlike the journalist Annika Smethurst, whose investigation is, ominously, still ongoing.

The duelling reports as News.Com.au misrepresents them (implying they are equal) evoke Trump’s Counsellor to the President, Kellyanne Conway 2017 defence of Sean Spicer’s absurdly inflated estimate of attendance at the President’s inauguration.

“I have alternative facts.”

Let the AG find that McKenzie flouted guidelines and broke the law with her abuse of her authority as sports minister in allocating funding solely according to colour-coded criteria for political advantage, the PM can whistle up an alternative secret report and find McKenzie guilty only of a minor breach of ministerial standards.

Similarly, Attorney-General The Christian Porter argues that the AG is wrong but refuses to publish his own argument. Now, McKenzie stands aside, clearly convinced all she has done wrong is give funds to a gun club of which she was a member. Her penance will be brief. Soon, she’ll be back in cabinet. But what of Mick-Mack?

Will our deputy PM survive? Barnaby is emboldened by O’Brien’s contempt for Mick-Mack’s authority. It’s all going to plan for BJ’s next assault on the top job.

Mick-Mack leads a double life as a casual Elvis Presley impersonator. Will Elvis now be forced to leave the building? Or will he just have to quit his day job impersonating a party political leader? McCormack may squawk a lot at the despatch box. Puff his feathers. Flap his wings. But he’s kidding no-one. Least of all himself.

A former editor of Wagga’s Daily Advertiser, who was sacked in 2002, prompting him to set up the now defunct online MSS Media, Mick-Mack will never truly be Boss Cocky of the regional rednecks, pork-barrel populists and climate-denying, mining lobby shills and agribusiness spivs who masquerade as a National Party.

Yet unlike Barnaby Joyce, McCormack poses no threat whatsoever to Scott Morrison, apart from when the Nationals’, neoliberal puppet leader falls off his perch as he did when Joel Fitzgibbon said that the Nationals should stop banging on about how tough it is for farmers. And “do something about it.”  For years, the Nats have been lickspittles to Agribusiness and have eagerly helped Liberals get stuck into welfare and unions. Opposing raising minimum wage, penalty rates or increasing NewStart.

Is it the tail that wags the Coalition dog once again?  The noisy Nationals’ are the coalition’s uppity rump, zealously promoting the myth, even at its inception in 1920, that we are an agricultural nation awash with pioneer spirit, despite the fact that most of us live in suburbia and work in health and social services.

The Nationals’ tail also wags the electoral dog; the party gets seven times the number of seats for fewer than half the number of votes won by The Greens, thanks to our atavistic, gerrymandered, electoral system, based on location; a scheme that assumes where you come from is more important than who represents you.

But help is always at hand whenever the poor, innocent, vulnerable handmaids and manservants of capital are attacked. Fran Kelly, a stalwart ABC RN Coalition advocate, naturally blames Albo, Tuesday, for the chaos in Coalition ranks. How very dare he vote for O’Brien, knowing the trouble it would cause? Isn’t that politics? What is she implying? Why can’t he be more like Tony Abbott, that icon of positivity, in opposition?

On cue, MSM are a forum for those who blame the climate megafires on The Greens’ “creeping environmentalism” as Matt Canavan calls it, in a flurry of news conferences Tuesday morning. His scapegoating is boosted by the PM’s bogus call for more fuel reduction firms – a cynical deflection which Victorian Fire Chief, Steve Warrington dismisses as “an emotional (and combustible) load of rubbish.”

Fran’s antsy about Labor’s backing Nat rat Llew (Who?) O’Brien who wins deputy-speaker over Coalition patsy Victorian MP Damian Drum, a Mick-Mack man. O’Brien quit the Nats after Joyce’s spill was unsuccessful. It is hardly the Abbott Opposition’s relentless pursuit of speaker Peter Slipper via James Ashby and Mal Brough.

Writer and lawyer, Richard Ackland, terms this “one of the grubbiest assaults on a government in recent memory.” The Coalition has no moral high ground to take over the O’Brien stunt. But it will try. And try. With a bit of help from its Murdoch pals.

Labor’s National Party Deputy Speaker tactic is an act of open defiance of Mick-Mack, the spectacularly inept Nationals’ leader. And his leader, the PM. For those who support O’Brien, it’s an act of open insurrection. Nats’ rats include Barnaby Joyce, Llew himself – and Ken O’Dowd, who, as Nats Whip, is responsible for party discipline.

Ken blots his copybook by openly confessing that he voted for O’Brien. Will Mick-Mack take the hint?

It’s a proxy war over the government’s direction, trumpets Nine Newspapers, as if the Morrison omnishambles has a direction – unless running from truth, science and brazen, bare-faced rorting – or “fraud, theft and massive corruption” – as lawyer, Michael Bradley, calls it out in Crikey -mutates like Orwellian Newspeak into policy direction.

The MSM narrative, being obligingly framed for Morrison, is that the Nats want more coal-mines whereas the Libs want fewer, a lie which conveniently overlooks a slag-heap of coked-on Liberal coal-holers from the PM down.

Scotty’s spin doctors have the Coalition “planning to set a 2050 strategy this year” to go beyond its (laughably inadequate) existing reduction targets. It’s billed as some sort of breakthrough in its climate denialism. Incredible initiative. Especially since each state has already set a target of net zero emissions by 2050. But hang out the flags.

There’s dancing in the street this week. Not just vague promise of a plan to set a 2050 strategy sends us wild with delirious joy. Unless you’re in Far North Queensland or NSW or other parts of our wide brown land’s east coast where the heaviest rains in twenty years bring flash floods forecast years earlier in the BOM’s warning on the freakish consequences of global heating on Pacific weather patterns.

Weekend storms devastate eastern NSW; causing flooding, power outages and commuter chaos. 391.6mm of rain falls over Sydney in four days, reports the BOM the most since 414.2mm fell from 2 to 5 February 1990.

Will our PM for all seasons, Morrison scramble a squad of ADF Super Soppers to mop up the deluge? Build more dams? Fund a totally redundant four million dollar Collinsville coal-mine study? Nope. This week Coach Morrison’s wholly focussed on practicality. He gives us all a pep talk from the sidelines. Bugger reducing greenhouse gas emissions, resilience and adaptation are what we need to survive climate catastrophe.

Better, he channels “don’t you worry about that,” Joh Bjelke Petersen and Liberals’ St John Howard who led our nation toward being “relaxed and comfortable” as he helped big business and banking do us over; squandering the mining boom on buying votes and allowing miners to be lightly taxed.

Howard’s toxic legacy lives on in many battles Australians face today; the casualisation of the workforce, underemployment and low wages growth produced by his industrial-relations policies, culminating in WorkChoices, Crispin Hull pointed out in the Sydney Morning Herald, three years ago. But it’s back to the future with Morrison.

Waffle-gab world champion, Morrison claims Australians want to have a ‘level of comfort’ and have confidence about our level of resilience. “We need to have a good stocktake of that …” whatever that means. In other words, while he disconnects the petrol gauge and closes gas stations, it’s up to us to check that we have enough fuel in our tanks.

“It’s remarkable, notes Dr Jennifer Wilson, “that the least resilient, most non-adaptive Federal Government in living memory should now urge its citizens, in the face of horrific bushfires, to prove our resilience and adaptability by learning to put up with weather conditions that are hostile to human life.

Remarkable? It’s an outrageously cynical con. Morrison has no intention of reducing emissions or alter one iota of any other aspect of our ecocide. Rather it is every one of us who must adapt and show resilience so that he and his minders may profit.

There is shameless, hypocrisy here, too. Witness how the Coalition slashed funding to the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) in 2017.

Crippling this vital adaptation research body three years ago has left Australia “not well positioned” to deal with fires, the “silent killer” of drought and other global heating impacts, its director, Jean Palutikof, explains.

Morrison, as Treasurer, took the axe to funding which gutted the research community. This means that our “capacity to take action on climate change is smaller than it was decade ago”.

The Guardian’s Paul Karp reports that the NCCARF, a Griffith University research facility, began under Howard and was funded in the 2008 budget by the Rudd government. It continued under the Abbott government with $9m over three years in the 2014 budget. The environment department reports that the body has produced 144 adaptation research projects since 2008 with a total of $56.3m in federal funding.

Yet in 2017, Morrison reduced its funds to $600,000. On this pittance, it had to continue its existing online platforms that inform decision makers seeking to adapt to changes in climate. But there would be no ongoing federal funding from 2018.

“I worry if it starts to rain and bushfires cease to be an immediate risk some money will be pumped in and then we’ll forget about it. The government will call it adaptation and resilience but people will be left in the same vulnerable state they were when these bushfires hit,” explains The Australia Institute’s (TAI) deputy Director, Ebony Bennett.

Bennett adds that the government’s new embrace of adaptation and resilience is the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff approach.

“To reduce the amount of gas and coal mined and burned in Australia is the [better] response … to prevent hotter and drier summers in future.”

Labor’s climate spokesman, Mark Butler, says: “The Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison governments have cut funding for significant adaptation work at CSIRO, completely de-funded the NCCARF and produced a national disaster risk reduction framework that failed to take climate change seriously.”

“The 2017 review of climate change policies completely excluded climate adaptation.”

The government holds a press conference in Canberra announcing extra bushfire payments to families, where Morrison Gish Gallops, a favoured evasive tactic named after US Creationist Duane Gish. Gish would spew as many half-truths and untruths as he could fit in his answer time so that questioners became overwhelmed.

You have no time to respond to each point, let alone refute its inaccuracy or challenge its relevance. Here’s Morrison’s original Gish Gallop, then, we’ll break it down exposing its monstrous lies.

At a press conference in Canberra announcing extra bushfire payments to families, Morrison says the hazards of “longer, hotter, drier summers” had “always been acknowledged by the government”.

He says that adaptation measures including hazard reduction, building dams and learning from Indigenous burning practices are “a part of that important response”.

“Our policy is to reduce emissions, to build resilience and to focus on adaptation,” he said. “All of these are the necessary responses to what’s happening with our climate. They are not either or, they are not one instead of the other.”

Here’s a bit of decoding. It’s a service which could be provided in the ribbon that runs across the bottom of TV broadcasts. It should be part of every journalist’s toolkit.

 

  • Morrison claims the hazards of “longer, hotter, drier summers” had “always been acknowledged by the government” which is OK if it were not on record as denying or minimising those hazards. He follows this lie by proposing facile solutions which are then followed with a medley of buzz-words and platitudes.
  • “Adaptation measures including hazard reduction”, except for all the expert advice showing that hazard reduction has no effect on megafires. Indeed, the current bushfire crisis has reached catastrophic severity in former logging areas.
  • … building dams and learning from Indigenous burning practices are “a part of that important response”. Here ScoMo yokes two entirely separate proposals.

The Australia Institute’s Maryanne Slattery has tirelessly exposed the errors behind advocating dams. It doesn’t make it rain. First, there’s already been a spate of dam-building. Twenty or thirty at least, but the government won’t talk about those – event though tax-payer funds helped build them. Why? They go to irrigation; not towns.

Second for each dam built, an adjacent dam or aquifer must compete for groundwater.

Above all, dams which are built are drained by agribusiness giants such as Big Cotton. The additional water reserves are not the issue. It’s all about the fairness of that water’s allocation. It’s pointless building more dams so that billionaire companies can continue to plant water-intensive almonds or rice or cotton, what is needed is policy that works to fairly share the water with the community and with the environment.

 

  • “Our policy is to reduce emissions, to build resilience and to focus on adaptation,” Morrison burbles.

 

Again he’s diminishing the vital task of emission reduction by linking it in the same breath to buzz-words that are in fact excuses for not addressing causes but which in effect transfer responsibility to victims.

This, as Dr Wilson notes, fits neoliberalism’s central tenet that individuals work out their own solutions with as little help as possible from governments. Above all governments can boost resilience by cutting welfare. This toxic nonsense has already corrupted our welfare, age pension and disability services – boosted by the need to take from the suffering, the poor and the vulnerable so that the government can create a surplus.

  • “All of these are the necessary responses to what’s happening with our climate.” Morrison deploys the shabby trick of imputing false equivalence. They are not either or, they are not one instead of the other.”

But they are. Let’s get back to basics. Putting a price on emission such as the Gillard government successfully achieved resulted in a drop in greenhouse gas emissions.

Since Tony Abbott decided to play political games at the expense of our planet’s survival; since his cabinet’s group hug on the axing of the carbon tax – a tax which his Chief of Staff admits was just a rhetorical device, a lie to help build confusion and opposition, emissions have risen.

So let’s see the party games in Canberra for what they are – a diversion – albeit a significant attack on both Morrison’s authority and that of his decoy deputy, McCormack. Mick-Mack may go soon but whoever replaces him will do even less to help us understand and respond to global heating and the climate wars.

Let’s also reject the false MSM dichotomy – Nats bad vs Liberal moderates or changes of policy; there are many Liberal die-hard climate denialists, including Scotty himself. We must not be softened up to believe that Morrison’s government has the slightest intention of doing anything significant to mitigate global heating.

Above all, a critical reading of Morrison’s adaptation and resilience buzzwords is vital. Jennifer Wilson writes brilliantly about how this shifts all the responsibility on to the individual citizen while Scotty and his corporate state continue business as usual; laughing (and smirking) all the way to the bank.

Finally we must not let Morrison get away with the Gish Gallop, a cynical tactic to defeat any form of accountability and to evade questions which might expose his government’s duplicity, dissembling or disastrous wilful ignorance.  Call him out on it. Blog it. Tweet. as Bret Walker notes here, it’s your right. Social media and non MSM are vital.

“I don’t care if it’s the first or only time they publish … they should have the same protection [as journalists]. The idea that people’s right to know should be filtered first by government and then an intermediary class of journalist I find really offensive … I’ll be damned if I’m going to give a monopoly to [officially approved] journalists. I don’t want the government to be giving badges to people, here are our licensed critics – that’s nonsense.” Brett Walker

Scotty: a hollow man hollowing out our democracy.

scotty from marketing

 

“There are many “rules”, and none of them support making grant decisions based upon the location of recipients in targeted and marginal seats for party-political advantage. This is because the primary rule, as recognised by the High Court, is that Members of Parliament and Ministers are obliged to act at all times, in fulfilling their official duties, in the public interest.”

Anne Twomey, Professor of Constitutional Law, University of Sydney.

 

“There’s always a bit of heaven in a disaster area,” Hugh Wavy-Gravy Romney told Woodstock fans in 1969.

Expert in turning crisis into catastrophe, Aloha Scotty from marketing, an artisanal wool-puller, hand-crafts the most disastrous start to a parliamentary year in Australia’s political history. It’s quite an achievement. A catalogue of political failure.

Highlights include Scotty’s pissing off to Waikiki to keep the family happy while Australia burned in its worst bushfire crisis yet – something he says he can safely leave to the states –  to his “Fuck Off Morrison” failed charm offensive on return.

Scotty’s empathy by-pass, his dud political judgement and leadership deficit disorder are all compounded by his government’s ignoring requests to support aerial fire-fighting which were made in 2017, a contempt echoed in Scotty’s eagerness to spurn expert advice on return, all dividends on his hefty investment in climate denialism multiplied by his breath-taking inability to even recognise, let alone respond to a crisis.

A wen of incompetence and corruption, the Morrison government begins 2020 mired in sports and sundry other rorts scandals. MPs spend as if there’s no tomorrow; dole out sports and other grants solely to buy marginal political seats. Buy-back, not fight-back is the PM’s brazen strategy.

Yet a strange elation stirs the nation. Cheers, cat-calls and shouts of unbridled joy erupt across our mega-fire-burnt land for Nationals’ favourite son, Barnaby Joyce, a fearless defender of the Weatherboard Nine” and oppressed peoples in regional Australia everywhere. Joyce will step up to the top job, if his party asks him. Or not.

Raised in a world of privilege and entitlement, the Riverview old-boy and family-trust silvertail, Joyce is lightning-quick to announce his bid to recover his rightful role as Nationals’ leader for life. Its saviour. Perhaps he’s channelling Chris Kenny’s lickspittle piffle that Joyce is the “spiritual head” of the National Party.

Others buy Abbott’s “greatest retail politician” tag, which is just as preposterous, given Joyce and his party clearly alienated many voters in his electorate, especially women, when 2012 WA Rural Woman of the Year and Broome Councillor, Catherine Marriott’s sexual harassment accusations against Joyce were leaked to the press. Joyce has always denied all accusations. On ABC Radio this Tuesday he dismisses them as slander.

The Nationals NSW Branch was unable to make a finding “due to insufficient evidence” after a long delay. It’s not a problem that holds Jim Molan back. “I’m not relying on evidence for climate change” he tells Q&A, Monday.

Whilst Joyce may pose as a man of the people, it’s just retail politician bullshit. In reality he’s voted against issues such as increased support for childcare, marriage equality, a Royal Commission into violence against people with a disability, increasing funding for legal aid, increasing housing affordability.

He’s voted strongly against increasing the age pension and increasing trade union powers at work. He does not support public transport and he opposes public protest. Increasing the Newstart allowance? He abstains.

In fact, Joyce has a track record of being hostile to the battler. Yet he cosies up to big business. He has many close links with the mining lobby including prominent former Nationals leader, John Anderson. BJ’s a member of the pro-coal Monash Group along with Eric Abetz, Craig Kelly and George Christensen. Despite his populist rhetoric, Joyce is a well-heeled, big fan of big mining, who has spruiked for Santos on radio.

In December 2018, Joyce announced that he was selling up over 1000ha of marginal NSW farmland covered by a coal-seam gas exploration ­licence that he vowed to sell more than five years ago because of conflict-of-interest allegations. He has yet to allay those concerns. He told The Australian he was selling the land, with an asking price of $878,000, to free up cash for his divorce settlement with wife Natalie.

Joyce claims that he didn’t realise the blocks in the Pilliga region between Coonabarabran and Narrabri were subject to a petroleum exploration licence (PEL) when he bought them, despite his friendship with former Nationals leader, John Anderson. Anderson became chairman of Eastern Star Gas in 2007. Eastern Star co-owned explorations rights to a nearby area – PEL 428 – before the company was taken over by Santos.

Rohann Boehm, co-founder of Anyone But Nats a group which campaigned against Joyce last election, adds

“For the last 10 years the Nats have been very, very clearly in favour of coal seam gas. The Nats have been absolutely going really hard on supporting new mines and new gas fields, and the community has been universally against those proposals.”

Joyce is a mate of Gina Rinehart’s. She’s presented him with two cheques, one for $50,000 in 2013, which he kept; one for $40,000 in 2017, which he returned. Should Adani, Rinehart’s G V K Hancock joint venture partner proceed, her firm will benefit from the rail which will allow her company to mine the Galilee Basin, an act of ecocide.

He’ll run on his record, Joyce declares of his bid to depose McCormack. Not his backing of Santos or Rinehart. Not just his silver-tongued oratory and debonair charm. Joyce points to “… huge changes (he’s) delivered.”

What changes? Well, the Inland rail boondoggle, Regional Investment Corporation pork-barrel, country of origin labelling, (after extensive lobbying as part of a CHOICE campaign initiative of CHOICE). Water rorts.

It’s a record that speaks for itself – and often has to – which brings us to BJ’s Drought Envoy gig where he racked up a record $675,000 in expenses  – plus two staffers at $200,000 but spent less than three weeks on the (dry) ground. Joyce submitted no final report but says he sent an “awful lot of texts” to his PM, which, Scotty says, will be kept top secret along with Phil Gaetjens’ report exonerating Bridget McKenzie.

Also speaking volumes are several “prominent women” who beg the National Party not to reinstate Joyce because he has too many skeletons in his closet. Scandal could return to haunt the Nationals? Seriously?

Founder of Australian Women in Agriculture, Alana Johnson, says “the rehabilitation of the former deputy prime minister would send the wrong signal to regional communities, and particularly women.”

But Barney’s got himself a flash new RM Williams kit. It’s two years now since his former wife, Natalie, tipped his entire wardrobe out on the lawn and mowed down the louche Lothario’s best moleskins, shirts, brass-button blazers, fancy belts and men’s chinchilla-cognac boots with the ride-on mower.

It was Natalie’s considered response to news that Barnaby was expecting a baby with former staffer Vikki Campion.

Barney tells his pals at The Australian that he’ll stand for the leadership, if there’s a spill, Tuesday. Akubra-wearers throw their hats skyward while others punch the air, or knuckle each other, in sheer delight.  Bernard Keane is left spluttering,

“On a day that was supposed to have been given over to the political class paying respects to the victims of the bushfire catastrophe, a significant section of the Nationals decided that a climate denialist and target of serious accusations of sexual harassment should be elevated to the second highest political office and restored to cabinet.”

Less generous critics see a PM grandstanding on grief, buying time before the hyper-partisan shouting and finger-pointing resumes. His government has a lot to answer for. But it’s not that type of government. To answer entails accepting responsibility.

Late Monday, Joyce’s former chief of staff, Matt Canavan whose brother John is MD of miner Winfield, announces he’s resigning from cabinet to back Barnaby’s bid to be leader. The plot thickens. But after Tuesday’s party room meeting, dynamic Michael McCormack retains the leadership by eleven votes to ten – not that these figures will be made public because the open and transparent Nationals never release spill figures.

It’s a stunning result for McCormack who now can refute critics who accuse him of being only half a leader with empirical evidence that he has fifty-two per cent of his parliamentary party solidly behind him.

If Canavan stays. Senator Canavan says he has referred himself to his PM over a possible conflict of interest having failed to disclose a membership. It slipped his mind that as a regional supporter of the North Queensland Cowboys, he’s entitled to a membership of its leagues club. Incredibly, only last November the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) gave a loan to the same club.

By what stretch of even the northern imagination is a football club a NAIF infrastructure project? Surely there are other grants for sport? Commercial sponsors? The club was granted a $20m loan for a community, training and high performance centre next to its Townsville stadium, on top of a $15m grant extended in March 2019.

The latest baroque twist in the tale of Barnaby’s comeback dovetails beautifully with the labyrinthine plot of the Morrison government’s sports rorts scandal. After Bridget McKenzie steps down as Agriculture Minister and Deputy PM, suddenly the Coalition is awash, if not drowning, in a slurry of slush fund scandals.

It’s clear that given the betting odds of a loss last election, the Coalition threw money around like confetti – and now at least four funds are implicated; exposed. Increasingly, Morrison’s win looks less miraculous and more like vote-buying, augmented by Clive Palmer’s anti-Labor $90 million negative advertising campaign. $165 million in donations to the Liberals in the year prior to the election, helped a tad also.

In the spotlight now is Building Better Regions (by buying votes) Fund, (BBR) another “regional infrastructure grants program” – nudge, nudge. Say no more. In a spooky coincidence, this pork barrel is run by Mr 52 per cent, Deputy PM Michael McCormack. Amazingly, Macca’s BBR awarded 94 per cent of its grants to electorates held or targeted by the Coalition in the months leading up to the federal election.

How good are colour-coded spread-sheets? But let’s get sports rorts, NAIF pork-barrel and BBR into perspective. May 17, one day before the 2019 federal election, the Morrison Government gave over $15 million to a major political donor. The funding had been set aside to alleviate grinding Aboriginal poverty.

The grant is made through the Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS), the Morrison government’s controversial main Aboriginal affairs funding pool. Just three months prior, its recipient– Wesfarmers, one of the wealthiest corporation in Australia – announced a record half-yearly profit of $4.5 billion.

The nation’s largest private employer in 2018, with over 222,000 staff including, it claimed, over 5,200 Indigenous staff. An IAS “funding stream” the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet calls the ‘Employment Parity Initiative’, means governments grant large corporations funds to employ Indigenous people.

Does it work? An Australian National Audit Office report shows the IAS lacks any effective framework to evaluate outcomes. Yet it’s spent $5 billion over five years, Chris Graham reports in New Matilda. A great hue and cry is raised over $100m of sports rorts but where’s the outcry over rorting $5 bn sensitively ear-marked for “Indigenous Advancement” and supposedly intended for our Indigenous peoples’ benefit?

Senator Pat Dodson says the IAS has ‘basically folded up Aboriginal controlled organizations’ and set out competitive tenders for people to fight for funding amongst private business and non-government organisations. It is the result of Tony Abbott’s scandalous 2014 budget captain’s call which collapsed over 150 programs into five funding streams, without consultation and cut $500 million from indigenous spending.

Could Macca be in the gun? And if Bridget McKenzie has to resign, why not Angus Taylor? And Matt Canavan?

Phil Gaetjens bones Bridget McKenzie. It’s announced Sunday.

Incredibly, Scotty’s mate – and former Chief of Staff – Gaetjens’ secret report finds no wrongdoing in the way grants were distributed, overruling Auditor-General, Grant Hehir, who finds McKenzie handed out $100m in sports grants before last year’s election without apparent legal authority, favouring marginal seats.

“Triply outrageous” fumes The Monthly’s Paddy Manning. How can partisan piss-ant Phil Gaetjens, OK a $100 million Community Sports Infrastructure grants program in a report that will remain secret?

Doubly outrageous, is PM and Deputy PM McCormack’s Trumpist love song of duplicity duet: McKenzie exercised her ministerial discretion over the scheme? Nothing wrong with that. Liberal Phil Gaetjens says so.

Grant Hehir, clearly condemns it? Scotty’s alternative expert – Attorney-General Christian Porter simply says the Auditor-General is wrong. As Groucho says, “These are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others.”

However, constitutional expert, Anne Twomey, cites a series of clear legal constraints to the exercise of ministerial discretion, all of which McKenzie has ignored.

It is triply outrageous for Scotty to preach high ministerial standards and keep Energy and Emissions grifter Angus Taylor in cabinet. It seems to upset even the Nats.

Peter Van Onselen tweets. “Nationals MP to me: if McCormack is prepared to let the PM throw Bridget under a bus for something his office was part of, yet protect Angus Taylor, it’s time our party stops being a lap dog to the Libs.”

You came to Casablanca for the waters? Taylor forgot to let on about his ties with a Cayman Islands company that benefited hugely from the Commonwealth in a miraculous waterless, water buyback scam.

Also slipping Gussie’s memory is Taylor’s duty to disclose his interest in Jam Land a company that stood to benefit from removal of restrictions on grass clearing that he was lobbying for.

Add the hilarious Keystone Cops ruse where Gus Taylor could be subject of an AFP Flying Pig Squad investigation into who gave the forged documents to The Daily Telegraph in a bid to put Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore’s weights up. Is there one rule for McKenzie, but no rules at all for Taylor?

Since its inception in 1979, the AFP has never made any investigation that embarrassed a sitting government.

Piss-ant Phil, a Liberal staffer, becomes Australia’s most politicised head of Treasury, overnight, for services rendered. We’re teetering on the edge of recession so a party hack at Treasury’s helm could be just the ticket.

Josh Frydenberg take a bow. It hasn’t been easy, but his government has now taken Australia’s federal net and gross debt to record levels.  The Coalition has added 52% of all debt accumulated by the nation since 1854.

The “Flash Bit of Kit” as suave, sophisticated icon of urbanity and wit, Barney, a hard pooch to keep on the porch, once publicly praised McKenzie in a late night sitting – has proved a flash in the pan.

Dashed are the hopes of those awaiting the gun-toting, straight-shooting Senator for Elwood to also do some plain speaking. She could name staffers in Scotty’s office who appear to have been closely involved in the Sports Rorts Scandal and whether or not the sports pork-barrel was part of Scotty’s miracle election-winning strategy.

At the National Press Club, Wednesday, Morrison’s government by rort turns up in force to help Scotty from marketing make his pitch. Old wine in new bottles. A babble of righteous indignation and self-entitled arrogance. Why can’t Coalition MPs fund gun-clubs and phantom women’s rugby clubs in marginal seats?

Pork-barrelling is all about buying votes. Perfectly legal. MPs know where the money should go; why should Sport Australia put its oar in? Does it matter to the modern neoliberal? Ian McAuley offers this explanation.

“If you believe that nothing of value comes from the public sector, it doesn’t matter how public money is spent. A grant to a gun club, a new railway, Medicare… it’s all waste, and may as well be spent in order to maximise the government’s chances in the next election.”

It’s part of political economy theory dubbed “public choice,” a theory that arose in the US in the late twentieth century but which, he notes, took off in our universities in the 1980s. Or is it superseded in the post-fact era?

The Auditor General got it wrong, Attorney-General Christian Porter snorts. But no-one’s allowed to look at his reasons. If he has any. No laws were broken; every application had merit, Morrison bullshits.

In fact, the Senator for Elwood presented Sport Australia with a list of 236 projects for funding. Only 73 of these met the original merit-based criteria in Round Two according to independent analysis.

But hark! It’s a RESET, chorus spin doctors and media minions. Flashback to Wednesday’s rally at the Canberra Press Club and witness the miracle of a Morrison government reset which looks and sounds exactly like the old set. Cheerleader Scotty from Fossil fuel and Climate Science Denial Marketing suddenly appears, swinging his pom-poms, punching up and doing the high V.

The crowd goes wild. How good’s Scotty’s “2020 Opening Address”? Stacking the gathering with his professional Liberal claque helps. So, too the blizzard of press drops from his office. Climate Action Now (CAN) is Scotty 2020’s brand-new Orwellian slogan. But only the slogan is new. Morrison has no intention of curbing emissions or easing back on cooking the globe. He’s full of bullshit about mitigation and adaption. And gas. It’s more dangerous than coal when it leaks methane during mining.

“… there is no credible energy transition plan, for an economy like Australia in particular, that does not involve the greater use of gas as an important transition fuel … ” Morrison bullshits.

But look over there! How good is Scotty’s calling out of ADF reserves? True, one MRH-90 helicopter did cause Canberra’s most serious bushfire since 2003, by setting fire to grass in the Namadgi National Park while landing with lights on to help visibility in smoky conditions. But it’s our first bushfire lit by a copter landing light. Another first!

There are other firsts to follow. Morrison’s government will fast-track new law to make it easier for him to call out troops to disaster areas or help quell anti-mining demonstrations or extinction rebellion protests. It’s hard, unglamorous work but police states don’t just happen by themselves, you know.

During question evasion time at the end of Scotty’s embarrassing failure to come up with any vision while embracing all the old lies, Morrison’s bullshit is briefly slowed by The Guardian’s Sarah Martin who asks if it is wrong to misappropriate public funds.

Does he think it wrong, “as a matter of principle”, Martin asks, for public funds to be spent on party political pork-barrelling? Morrison gaslights. “That is not what the government has done,” he lies.

It’s precisely what Scotty’s government has been doing. It doesn’t think it’s wrong. Morrison’s government continues to abuse its elected authority; betray the public’s trust that it will act in the public interest.

“I am asking as a matter of principle, if you accept that,” Martin asks.

“It is — of course. That is like, do I believe the sun should rise tomorrow? Yes I do, and it will,” he smirks.

Climate action? Scotty’s climate science denial and his government’s inept handling of our bushfire crisis won Australia First Fossil of the Day from the Climate Action network of 1300 nations, COP25 in December. Nothing has changed. Nor will it. Ministerial responsibility? We’ll refer Angus Taylor to an AFP that will take forever to do nothing. Bridget McKenzie? An icon of integrity for upholding ministerial standards by resigning.

This is not a Prime Minister who merely lacks credibility. Nor one who just breeds cynicism, distrust and denialism, although he excels at all of these. This is a hollow man; an utterly vacuous man with neither policy, practicality, real plan nor moral compass, a smirking, spinning, vortex of self-righteous egotism.

Sarah Martin raises a matter of principle. It’s clear that the Prime Minister has no idea what she’s talking about. For Morrison and his MPs the notion holds no meaning.

 

 

 

Morrison rebuilds trust with a farrago of lies; pushes McKenzie under a bus.

bridget with rifle

“The link between the fires, drought, and climate change is clear. For decades, climate models have predicted a hotter, drier Australia thanks to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. Were greenhouse gases at pre-industrial levels, natural factors alone would produce a year as hot as 2019 just once every 360 years. But add the effect of human-emitted greenhouse gases and the probability drops to one year in eight—a forty-five-fold increase in probability.” Tim Flannery

Scotty from Marketing, as The Betoota Advocate  dubs our Schlockmeister of spin, is busier than a one-eyed cat watching two rat-holes. The parliamentary year from hell awaits. After his “miracle victory” pitch, an upset helped hugely by political cane toad, Clive Palmer, and his gift of sixty million dollars of anti-Labor negative advertising plus Scotty’s own campaign of outright lies about Opposition policy and endless defamatory attacks on Bill Shorten’s character, Scotty’s political future is already in extremis.

“PR is the place people end up when all other professional options fail, writer and lawyer Richard Ackland, unerringly, observes, “and now Schmo has failed at the failures’ last resort.”

Arrogant, hopelessly out of touch, fearless cheerleader, Scotty, has botched his one big chance to fake empathy and leadership, opinion pollsters suggest. How? A lot of it is simply not turning up to the gig. Going AWOL. Hanging loose on Waikiki. Catching up with his loopy QAnon pal, Tim Stewart who believes that the world and its media are run by a conspiracy of Satan-worshipping paedophiles.

Woody Allen reckons, eighty percent of success is just showing up. Murdoch’s latest News Poll, fresh out of rehab, and Guardian Australia oracle, Essential, both agree that Morrison’s on the nose. His government, like a fish, is rotting from the head down – despite Scotty’s best charm offensive; repairing trust by forcing bushfire victims to shake his hand; visiting fire-ravaged areas only to be told to “fuck off”.

Who would have thought? Why should our worst bushfire crisis ever deprive Scotty of his right to a Waikiki Holiday? Who’d have guessed blaming Jen and the girls would have alienated the Australian nation? Will blaming Bridget McKenzie for his own sports-rorts pork-barrelling similarly backfire? Will the Senator for Elwood get the last laugh?

Even Simon Benson, The Australian’s top Coalition flack, notes 12 January’s News Poll has produced the worst numbers for Scotty since he knifed Turnbull in August 2018. Morrison’s now on par with Bill Shorten at his least popular. Now, Labor’s Anthony Albanese easily pips Morrison as preferred PM.

Essential’s Peter Lewis notes that “good in a crisis” is down 35% amidst a decline in Morrison’s personal standing. One in seven Australians have changed their minds about Scotty from Marketing in a month – but the surprising thing is not that he’s “taken a personal hit but that it isn’t a walloping.”

Yet there’s hope. Blaming Greens and arsonists cuts it with Morrison’s base. In a parallel with Trump supporters, just when the leader is most conspicuously not a leader’s bootlace, his base locks in.

Scotty will claw back some kudos by blaming arsonists and demonic Greens who oppose hazard-reduction, despite expert evidence that catastrophic fires burn even where the forest floor is clear. ABC Fact Check experts concur that it is highly unlikely arson is the cause of most of the current bushfires.

Scapegoating aside, Scotty will rebuild trust with a farrago of lies. He tells ABC viewers,

“It is, and always has been, the policy of our government to understand the need to take action on climate change and the impact that has on the world’s broader weather systems and climate systems,” Morrison bullshits to Michael Rowland on ABC 7:30, more an on-air massage than an interview.

Understand the need to take action? Morrison makes not cooking the planet sound like remembering to floss your teeth. The coalition government has no climate change policy. The claim is absurd. Look how quickly it got rid of Malcolm Turnbull when its right wing rump feared that he might adopt one.

Turnbull previously lost his party leadership to Abbott in 2009 by supporting carbon emissions-trading. Nick Feik, editor of The Monthly sums up some of the other inconvenient truths undermining Morrison’s hollow claim. Far from understanding the need for action, his government has opposed it at every turn.

“(It) killed the emissions trading scheme and the climate change portfolio; tried to kill the renewable energy target and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation; defunded the Climate Council; supports Adani’s massive proposed coalmine; has no significant emissions-reduction or energy policy; and is populated with climate deniers.” And those deniers show no sign of any Damascene conversion.

Someone needs to call bullshit on Morrison’s brand new mantra, “it has always been our policy.”

Last September, for example, David Littleproud professed not to know whether the global heating crisis was man-made. This month, Science Minister, Karen Andrews, says the “science is settled” but the Coalition will do nothing to lift its woefully inadequate carbon emissions targets.

And only last September, Ms Andrews was making the big pitch that

Harnessing new technologies in the mining, oil and gas industries will add $74 billion to the Australian economy by 2030 and create more than 80,000 new local jobs. Jobs and growth? All sorted then. But ABS figures suggest nothing like this.

Time to phone a friend. Federal energy minister Angus Taylor has an “expert panel” –led by former Origin Energy CEO and president of the Business Council of Australia, Grant King, along with Susie Smith, the CEO of the Australian Industry Greenhouse Network, which represents many of Australia’s largest emitters.

Taylor claims his panel will identify new opportunities to achieve emissions reduction – without explaining how. The panel has undertaken a closed consultation to which the public has not had input with Taylor’s handpicked group of representatives heavily stacked towards the fossil fuel industry and Australia’s largest emitters, reports Renew Economy’s Michael Mazengarb.

Angus Taylor’s list clearly indicates a government in cahoots with the polluters causing global heating. But Taylor’s case is fair and reasonable compared to Matt Canavan’s.

How does Scotty explain Canavan, the self-styled “Mr Coal from Australia” who tells Sky News calls to reduce emissions, especially by Greta Thunberg, are about social engineering than climate change?

“Their policy prescriptions aren’t actually about reducing carbon emissions, it’s about the radical massive changes to our economy and society and culture.” 

Seriously? As opposed to the radical changes caused by doing nothing?

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists executive chair of its Science and Security Board, former Governor of California, Jerry Brown, exposes Scotty’s posturing. “The Australian government is in utter and complete denial. Under its current leadership, Australia is fostering denial in an incredibly mendacious way.”

Now is not the time to talk about Greg Hunt’s soil magic but our ABC could at least hold the PM to account on how our bushfire catastrophe burns a hole in Hunt’s Direct Action tree-planting boondoggle.

“Carbon credits counted in government projections can, quite literally, go up in smoke and blow out the emissions side of the CO2 ledger,” ANU climate scientist, Will Steffen explains.

There’s also more bullshit of “evolving” climate policy and other ScoMo-hoaxes to cloak the reality that his mining lobby muppet government has no intention of curbing emissions or fostering renewables.

True, the PM’s crafty plan runs up against a raft of inconvenient truths such as The Greens not actually being in power or billionaire climate science denier Michael Hintze’s funding of Liberals for years, but, as Lewis points out, supporters will grab on to whatever they can in order to maintain their world-view.

The PM could explain why Hintze, a crusading Neoliberal who disputes scientific evidence that carbon emissions are rapidly helping cause irreversible global heating, donated $75,000 to former, fellow dud Prime Minister, Tony Abbott’s 2013 election campaign – amongst other Liberal Party support over the years. Hintze also enjoys a cordial long-running business relationship with Energy Minister Angus Taylor.

Only a year ago Morrison was preaching to us in The Daily Telegraph that Australians can always be counted on to make and keep our commitments. Exposed is his own utter lack of commitment to lead or to plan or to heed climate scientists’ or accept expert fire-fighters’ advice. Instead, he is a total liability.

Recent Australia Institute polling leads senior researcher, Tom Swann to conclude.

“Australia is in the grip of a national climate disaster. The social, economic and medical impacts are vast and only just starting to become clear,”

“Our research shows that it’s likely more than 5 million Australian adults, along with many children, have suffered negative health impacts as a result of the fires and at least 1.5 million have missed work.”

Lying about climate policy is taxing. Yet Scotty suddenly has a crisis on his hands – the Coalition’s $100 million sports rorts scandal reveals a government avidly milking the till, ripping off the taxpayer and other more deserving local sports clubs in favour of buying support in marginal seats.

In brief, then Sports Minister, Bridget McKenzie took it upon herself to decide which clubs got the grants. It turns out that she has no legal authority to do so. The Auditor-General, Grant Hehir is underwhelmed.

If only, in 2019, Georgina Downer hadn’t flashed a giant polystyrene cheque for $127, 373. Downer wished to “make sure the Yankalilla Bowling Club’s Community Sport Infrastructure grant application was successful”. It was. And battling Adelaide Hills Council also got almost $500,000 to upgrade change rooms at the oval.

Downer’s oversized cheque leads the Auditor-General to uncover a $100 million pork-barrel racket under the aegis of then Minister for Sport, Bridget McKenzie, with the help of two members of the PM’s staff.

Australians are still coming to terms with Morrison’s deceit and his fake apology and whilst the sociopath in him would like to con us that we’ve “moved on”, it doesn’t work like that. The rorts will do little to curb growing suspicion of his government’s corruption, incompetence and sheer contempt for due process.

“The past is not dead. It is not even past”, William Faulkner observed. Scotty’s shameless dereliction of duty, his substitution of PR strategy for policy and his contempt for accountability continue to eat away at his credibility as the bushfire crisis and the sports rorts scandal take their toll. As do his gaffes.

Monday, he stuffs up comprehensively, promising Nine’s Today that over ten years, “Our per capita emissions will fall by half”. This adds up to a massive forty-two per cent reduction. Even his own Environment Department boffins predict only a four percent over the same period – a decline from 532 million tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent in 2019 to 511 million tonnes in 2030.

Michael Pascoe boggles: not only does the PM clearly not know what he’s talking about, his hosts, Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon don’t notice. Hosts are only there to fawn over the most inept PM in our nation’s history. Show business for ugly people, celebrity back-scratchers.

As Pascoe notes, no-one pays attention, cares or follows whatever inanity comes out of the PM’s motor mouth. And to be fair, you do tune out after a while.

When he promised to “burn” for us, Morrison’s vision did not include megafires for which he’s completely unprepared. Then there’s his sports rorts; the scandal of doling out grants he isn’t entitled to. Will these prove to be his minister’s auto da fe?

Now Scotty’s doing the hard yards, slaving away back at the PM’s office, signing press drops disclaiming all responsibility for sports rorts or doing nothing at all to curb global heating and less than nothing to heed expert advice that we need to prepare for a terrible new type of bushfire. But, seriously, what would a mob of dedicated, distinguished and experienced former fire chiefs know about anything?

Also missing in action is Il Duce, Peter Dutton, our ambitious Home Affairs Czar whose duties include “Commonwealth emergency management and natural disaster relief, recovery and mitigation and financial assistance”. More powerful than the PM, Dutton has yet to do a tap – a sure sign that he’s keen to foster resilience and promote self-help by doing nothing at all for bushfire victims.

Dutto oozes natural leadership with his Queensland Drug squaddie jollity, his compassion and his endless hypervigilance over scoundrels who might rort our Border Protection by faking illness just to get into a mainland hospital but his emergency role, so far, is limited to accusing Labor of pork-barrelling, too.

Morrison’s nemesis, Malcolm Turnbull weighs in, Wednesday. Scotty double-double crossed his PM with the most brazen lie in our political history on 22 August, 2018. Morrison threw an arm around Turnbull, “This is my leader and I’m very ambitious for him”, he said in a rare break from plotting to knife his PM in the back.

Still wounded by the betrayal, Turnbull can’t fathom Morrison’s conduct, he helpfully tells BBC listeners. Revenge is a dish best served cold.

“I can’t explain why he didn’t meet the former fire commissioners who wanted to see him in March last year to talk about the gravity of the threat. Everybody knew we were in a very dry time and as a consequence the fire season was likely to be very bad.

“So rather than doing what a leader should do and preparing people for that, he downplayed it and then of course chose to go away on holiday in Hawaii? At the peak of the crisis? I just can’t explain any of that. It’s just not consistent with the way in which a prime minister would or should act.”

In the far pavilions of Victoria’s Liberal festering wen of corruption, rising evangelicals and intrigue, the lobster with the mobster crew in Victoria are no help at all. Current leader Michael O’Brien, elected for not being Matthew Guy, calls on the federal government to adopt long-term “sensible” emissions reduction targets. Communities and businesses need certainty beyond 2030. It’s the old, trite, tired slogan.

And it’s bullshit. O’Brien still wants native forest logging, so vital to micro-climate, ecology and to species survival and he’s full of guff about how gas is heaps better than coal because – you know … transition to renewables. He’s just another Liberal fossil fuel shill pretending to take global heating a little bit seriously.

Natural gas is a bridge to nowhere. It comprises mainly methane, a greenhouse gas that plays a big role in cooking our planet. When it first enters our atmosphere, it’s 120 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in trapping heat. Over twenty years, it’s eight-six times more powerful.

Methane leaks from natural gas extraction and production. This may make natural gas extracted from shale rock worse than coal in terms of its greenhouse gas footprint. The chemicals used in fracking fluid can easily end up contaminating groundwater. And drilling can be enormously polluting.

But it’s all OK, Scotty knows what to say. He deploys the lame “if anyone’s offended” cop-out to cover absconding to Hawaii. Besides, as everyone knows, bushfires are totally a state matter. Expect a piece in the Murdoch press quoting unnamed high-ranking Liberals exposing O’Brien as a hopeless bed-wetter.

Above all, not one catastrophic inferno could ever be linked to Morrison’s government’s crusade to mine, sell or burn coal, for its fossil-fuel industry robber baron sponsors. Long may their tax-payer funded subsidies suck dry the funds that should go towards  running schools, hospitals and making payments to disability pensioners.

No-one’s making the absurd claim that any single fire is solely caused by climate change but Morrison just loves the straw man logical fallacy – almost as much as he loves scapegoating and slurs.

As everyone knows, everything is always Labor’s fault. Tim Wilson, IPA MP for Goldstein instead of IPA fellow Georgina Downer, bags Daniel Andrews for slack hazard reduction. It’s as dishonest and as baseless as Tim’s election campaign franking credits farce. But it fits the PM’s lie that bushfires can be blamed on Greens, Labor -anyone. For seven years, Wilson was IPA Director of Climate Change Policy to protect mining.

Look over here, calls Morrison, Tuesday. I’ve got a little list. It’s more than a bid to look busy. Morrison is out to create a fake climate agenda by proposing a “national register to ensure hazard reduction transparency at a federal level”.  Karen Andrews has also been on the front foot to ensure that we just stop talking about how fossil fuels are helping us to fry the planet and instead talk about land-clearing.

“My starting position in the discussion tomorrow will be that the climate has changed and it continues to change. We need to focus on the steps to adapt and mitigate the impact of those changes.” Karen is Morrison’s Science Minister, a captain’s pick which confirms his perverse delight in choosing MPs whose views are antithetical to the portfolios they are assigned. Adapt and mitigate is coal lobby nonsense.

And it’s disingenuous. Australia is experiencing unprecedented, unpredictable and devastating climate change and we should be taking steps to reduce the carbon and other emissions that are part of its causation. Her “discussion” is a version of Morrison’s NRA gun lobby mantra: “Now is not the time …”

The national register is all part of Scotty’s team plan to divert attention from his government’s monumental failure of leadership in all aspects of the current bushfire crisis by blaming the states for not preventing the fires.

After unprecedented, catastrophic fire consumes 10 million hectares, destroys over 2,000 homes and kills at least 28 people, destroys some of the oldest forests in the worldkills nearly 500 million animals and causes the loss of sites that hold the timeless history of First Nations’ cultures, there’s nothing like a bit of scapegoating to restore the nation’s faith. Cue hypocritical hand-wringing from the Murdoch press.

Fearless advocate of fossil fuel and an early champion of “axing the tax: as Australia’s successful price on carbon, 2012-2014  was cynically misrepresented, The Australian now laments part of the costs.

The Oz estimates that the bushfire crisis has cost $2 billion in lost business revenue, forward sales and the physical destruction of tourism facilities, and could cost an additional $4.5 billion by season’s end.

Scotty’s non-apology helps us all heaps. We treasure his “regret” for “any offence caused to any of the many Australians affected by the terrible bushfires by my taking leave with family at this time”.

Scotty’s always got a glib comeback; an adman’s spin. He totally gets that we all like to see him take charge in times of crisis. Besides Jen and the girls needed a break. He pushes them under a bus. It’s something he’d like to do with Bridget McKenzie, but can’t – yet – because she’s a National and can do more or less what she likes according to the secret agreement that lies at the Coalition’s sclerotic heart.

In the end, Scotty spins. Wednesday, he makes a big deal out of announcing that the Auditor-General’s adverse finding that the allocation of funds intended to be awarded by Sport Australia is a process which appears to have be ignored or suborned by the then Minister for Sport and her PM.

It’s a headache. Not only did McKenzie hand out $100 million without legal authority on the basis of her own, political criteria, more worthy but unsuccessful grant applicants who followed a merit-based process could sue. Slater and Gordon is looking into a class action for those who missed out on grants.

Morrison refers former sports minister McKenzie’s handling of the $100m sports grants program to his own department to investigate whether ministerial standards were breached – even though the Auditor-General is concerned that it’s a tad more serious. Neither McKenzie nor Morrison have legal authority to hand out sports grants.

But don’t think the big guns aren’t being brought in. Attorney general and national paper tiger, our nation’s legal guardian, Christian Porter pretends to defend McKenzie after it’s revealed that she approved a $36,000 grant to a shooting club of which she is a member, claiming being a “paper member” of a club raises no probity issue.

The “only a paper member” defence is a stroke of forensic genius.

Sheer genius also is Ms McKenzie’s claim that she did not know she was a member of the club until her mother told her, a variation on Signor Matt Canavan’s “my mother made me an Italian” defence.

By Sunday, in the cross-hairs at Scotty’s political roo-shoot is the incredible Bridget McKenzie. McKenzie is already a VIP as a former sports minister. Does it get any more important than sport? OK, there may be a few minor peccadilloes such as our modern gladiators’ doping scandals, off-field homophobia, misogyny, match-fixing, substance abuse and FIFA’s corruption -but sport is huge.

And you’ve got to be in it to win it. Bridget packs a double-barrelled Beretta Silver Pigeon over and under shotgun. Loves being a sporting shooter. Killing puts her in touch with nature.

“I know it will sound incongruous to people but hunting is about connecting with nature and the outdoors. You have to understand nature to reap the bounty of it,” she tells The Age’s Matthew Knott.  Or have powerful automatic weapons such as the Adler A110, a banned rapid-fire shotgun.

Nothing says understanding nature more than the wild terror inflicted by the fearful noise of the shotgun. Just the sound of exploding black powder severely interrupts feeding and breeding. Quick kills are rare. Many animals suffer prolonged, painful deaths when hunters severely injure but fail to kill them.

The prohibition of the A110 was no real problem for McKenzie and our gun lobby to overturn quietly. Nor was there a single comment from then Attorney-General George Brandis or then Justice Minister Michael Keenan, who drew fire for heeding the gun lobby. In the year to March 2017, political parties pocketed over $300,000 in donations from the firearms lobby, gun suppliers and manufacturers.

Above all, McKenzie commands respect because she’s deputy leader of a mob of regional, parochial, benighted, mining Muppets who absurdly posture as The Nationals. Without the Nats to make up the Coalition’s numbers, however, the Libs are cactus.

Scott’s non-apology sets the tone for his government and for what is already proving to be a beaut new year of Coalition incompetence, evasion, denial and outright lying. Who will ever forget the inspiring leadership Morrison showed when he expressed “regret” for “any offence caused to any of the many Australians affected by the terrible bushfires by my taking leave with family at this time”.

Leading from the front this time, Scotty, himself, seems to have found $200,000 for a local Sutherland Shire Lilli Pilli Soccer club at least three weeks before grants were decided. A series of experts point out, yet again, that the PM has no legal authority to disburse funds designated for Sport Australia.

Nor does Bridget McKenzie. If he plays his cards right, Morrison will be able to handball Bridget McKenzie’s demotion to his own office’s Phil Gaetjens while he continues to snub a nation increasingly concerned that his government has no policy on greenhouse gas emissions.

Adding insult to injury, he will insist that his government “is evolving its policy” on climate change.

Scotty’s case is helped immensely, Monday, by his ugly personal and political attack on NSW Liberal Matt Kean, a state environment minister, who dares suggest that the federal government heed those voters who want the federal government to do something to protect our environment.

Other Liberal coal lobby shills, such as NSW deputy-leader John Barilaro quickly put the boot into Kean. As does Samantha Maiden in The New Daily who attacks the “Senator for Elwood”, as Bridget McKenzie is known in a helpful piece that will buck up the government’s spirits no end. It begins,

“Accused pork-barrelling minister Bridget McKenzie accepted a free Christmas ham from the pig industry, but took three months to declare her purchase of a $2 million investment property in beachside Melbourne.”

Looks like Bridget’s in deep trouble but will Morrison once again walk away – miraculously – Scott-free? Or will the Senator for Elwood have the last laugh after all?

 

As straw men in a firestorm.

fire over water

 

“There is no link, the facts that cause the fires are the drought and the drying of the environment,”

“I follow the science,” lies Craig Kelly, MP for Hughes, who lobs on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, a pulpit for Piers Morgan, a Daily Mirror, former editor, sacked in 2004, for publishing fake images purporting to show British soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners.

Kelly’s claim is as ludicrous as his PM’s own palpable falsehood. It’s in this week’s talking-point kit. Suddenly government MPs are all trotting out the same bullshit.

“Our view of climate change is that it’s real. We accept the science,” Josh Frydenberg lies in a drop to every media outfit in Australia. Yet the Coalition, steadfastly, ignores all scientific advice linking global heating to climate change.

Scott Morrison’s government favours the straw man fallacy. No-one accuses them of denying the reality of climate change – that’s a distortion of the argument that climate change or global heating contributes to the new bushfire holocaust we are suffering – a fire so severe; so intense that it defies all conventional means to bring it under control.

Can Piers Morgan or co-host meteorologist, Laura Tobin tell Kelly that climate change causes the drought and dry? It’s difficult given that Kelly holds that there’s no evidence that climate change is making Australia hotter and drier. It’s woeful, wilful ignorance.

An exasperated Tobin berates Kelly for ignoring scientific reports that 2019 is our hottest and driest year on record.

“At the moment we want everyone to commit in the world to be one and a half degrees to lower our global temperature rise,” Tobin says. “You can’t even commit to two degrees.”

Kelly’s as plausible as an arsonist with a box of matches and a jerry-can of petrol who says he’s only helping other volunteers put out fires. Some punters say he’s been banned from Q&A so he’s now speaking out on “Pommy” TV as he calls it.

Or is he sent by the PM? Fair dinkum, says Craig. Australia’s fire catastrophe was no reason for Morrison to cancel his planned family holiday in Hawaii. The situation is totally under control and besides, fire-fighting is a state matter.

Neither Morgan nor Tobin ask why a plan to prepare for climate change-related natural disasters was left to gather dust in Peter Dutton’s Department of Home Affairs for eighteen months before catastrophic bushfires hit last month.

The bushfire crisis now includes a “mega blaze” of half a million hectares on both sides of the Murray in the Snowy and Upper Murray. The flames have cost twenty-seven lives, destroyed at least 2079 homes, damaged over 800 others and have burned or are currently burning 8.4 million hectares – an area the size of Ireland or Austria.

We can only guess at the loss of wildlife. Above and beyond the human trauma and loss in fire grounds, Australian Academy of Science Fellow, Chris Dickman estimates that 1 billion animals have now been killed in the bushfires — a figure that includes mammals, birds and reptiles, but not bats, frogs, insects or other invertebrates.

A National Disaster Risk Reduction report containing a national implementation plan was published just before Malcolm Turnbull was double-double crossed by Morrison. Then Dutton put it away. But you can bet he was under instruction from his new PM.

Kelly can claim he’s following the science, but follow the (current) leader appears to be the only Liberal game in town. Morrison leaks against you otherwise, as his government has with Gladys Berejiklian, claiming she’s being obstructive of federal efforts to help.

As luck would have it, Good Morning Britain is another show with no scruples at all. Self-styled “climate science-follower”, a dubious generic tag evoking a voyeuristic ambulance-chaser, Craig Kelly does not expect a hostile reception. More a back-rub.

A former editor of Murdoch’s now defunct tabloid rag, News of the World, whose then editor, Andy Coulson, resigned before it closed in 2011 after he’d been caught hacking the phones of dead children, Morgan admits to BBC Desert Island Discs in 2009 that gutter publishing corrupts much of Britain’s print media – as it does in Australia.

“I simply say the net of people doing it was very wide, and certainly encompassed the high and low end of the supposed newspaper market.”

The “everybody does it”, argument is hugely reassuring to all who expect a bit of truth in their news and a few less monsters in their politics, but Morgan, like Morrison and Trump are creatures of a post-truth era in which everyone just makes stuff up.

We must be careful, however. When a thousand people believe some made-up story for one month, that’s fake news. When a billion people believe it for a thousand years, that’s a religion, and we are admonished not to call it “fake news” in order not to hurt the feelings of the faithful. Not that it ends there. Morrison’s priority as PM, he claims, is to protect freedom of religion, even though this is already guaranteed in our constitution.

Christian Porter is slaving over a new bill to allow churches to discriminate against workers provided that the school or hospital or op-shop “publish policy” explaining its ethos and rules, (something of a challenge given explaining exclusion implies that it stems from reason and not faith or prejudice). But it’s all very fair and merciful.

Religious hospitals, granny farms and retirement homes will “preference” members of their own faith to preserve their “religious ethos”. Unbelievers can die on the streets.

Dutton supporter, Kelly looks more pub bouncer than MP in blue suit and red tie rucked up under a thick, red, neck. He’s eager to get his mug on ITV to help repay the favour he owes the PM by acting as mouthpiece for Morrison’s own climate science denialism.

Big Craig is the founder of bipartisan buddy-club, Parliamentary Friends of Coal Exports, (PFOC) a climate criminal and mining lobby catspaw self-help group which includes Joel Fitzgibbon. Mike Freelander, who holds the south-west Sydney seat of Macarthur, swells the throng, as does the invisible Member for Paterson, Meryl Swanson, and the Member for Oxley, the euphonious, Milton Dick.

Kelly continues to bullshit Morgan.

“On this, climate scientists down here have been very clear and they have said there is no link between drought and climate change.”  Kelly outdoes even his PM.

Kelly, as Morrison’s emissary and coal lobby shill, already has zero credibility before he even gets to his own batshit crazy blame-it-on-the big dry and I-follow-the-science big fat lie. His hosts do their homework. Laura Tobin, the woman Kelly calls a “Pommy weather girl” has a degree in physics and meteorology.

A former RAF forecaster for four years, Tobin has also worked as a broadcast meteorologist for twelve years. She’s completed a climate course with the World Meteorological Organisation. Kelly’s sexist weather girl slur is superbly misjudged.

But Kelly barely gets to open his mouth before Tory pit-bull and professional bully Piers Morgan, leaps down his throat. Morgan’s the other co-host of Good Morning Britain ITV’s daily carnival of interrogation, right-wing rants celebrity gossip and fashion tips.

Morgan attacks Kelly for taking a “nothing to see here, nothing to worry about” approach as “your entire country is eviscerated by fires”.

“You are facing now one of the greatest crises you have ever faced, and there is you Mr Kelly, with respect, a senior politician who still doesn’t think this has anything to do with a heating-up planet,” Morgan snorts and rages. Senior?

Kelly, who’s been warned off spruiking climate science denial on SKY, bobs up like a turd in the surf off Bondi, on Morgan’s show. But is there a bit of divine intervention, behind the scenes, to help Craig get a live TV link to London? If he’s free-lancing, it’s not going to help Humpty-Dumpty Morrison win back any credibility as a leader.

“I did @BBCRadio4 against him Sunday. The producer said they had asked for a senior government rep and this is who @ScottMorrisonMP thought was the best person to represent his government,” tweets Labor’s Catherine King.

Kelly denies it. He’s never said anything to the PM but Morrison did warn him off SKY. A “government spokesman” bags the suggestion as“fanciful”.  But it’s way too much to swallow. The same PM’s staff denied that he had deserted the nation in its hour of need when he nicked off to Waikiki. Sprung, he blames Jen and the kids – as he blames our failure to reduce fire hazards and arson as the causes of our worst bushfires ever.

Kelly’s interview is widely written off as a car crash but sometimes people do survive car crashes. Both Kelly and his PM have the skids under them. Aloha Morrison is done for.

“Car crash” also unfairly diminishes the salesmanship of our crack elite of climate science denialists. They’re out to crash the planet. Every time Kelly repeats a lie, it gains legitimacy. And like a rat up a drainpipe, Josh Frydenberg’s able to bucket us in more bullshit by publicly correcting Craig and boosting the red-herring of fuel load.

Frydenberg rat-cunningly corrects Kelly. The “government’s view is that climate change is causing hotter, drier summers”, but he shrewdly endorses the popular troll-bot myth that fuel load is “a contributing factor” to the bushfires.

“Hazard reduction is just one way of preparing for bushfires – it doesn’t remove the threat of fire,” explains a spokesperson for the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment. And the terrible new fire leaps fire breaks.

Kelly’s a useful idiot. The former Rugby knucklehead would be back selling furniture, had not Scott Morrison lobbied NSW Liberals to skip pre-selection for all sitting Liberal members; torpedo party democracy just to keep Kelly on the team. And out there selling denialism. As Chris Graham argues in New Matilda, there’s nothing that Craig Kelly recites in his Liberal talking points that Aloha Morrison hasn’t already said since he rinsed the sand out of his budgie smugglers on return from Waikiki.

Of course, there’s more to it than Morrison’s need to keep Kelly on board. Malcolm Turnbull weighed in to lobby the NSW Party Executive to waive its emergency powers; drop the Morrison plot to help Kelly dodge a bullet. Had pre-selection proceeded, a more moderate Lib/Lab MP, Kent Jones, would have unseated Kelly.

“Today I learned there was a move to persuade the State Executive to re-endorse Craig Kelly as Liberal candidate for Hughes in order to avoid a preselection – in other words to deny Liberal Party members in Hughes the opportunity to have their say.” Turnbull tweeted just over a year ago.

Besides, Kelly threatened to stand as an independent and cross the floor if he didn’t get pre-selected. Malcolm Turnbull weighed in on behalf of his imaginary friends, the Liberal moderates of Hughes, a south Sydney electorate, who are stoked to have a coal lobby shill represent an electorate where the monstrous new bush fire still rages today.

Hold it right there. Kelly is quickly gagged in the name of transparency and broad churchiness that is today’s Liberal Party- where any MP can say anything – provided his PM agrees. Sky News “Political Editor” Andrew Clennell claims, on Thursday, control freak Morrison, “… requests MPs don’t do any international media interviews …”

It’s a dig at Kelly. But only if Sky News had a skerrick of credibility. The supposed ban could well be a PM’s office drop to help boost Morrison’s floundering leadership. There’s no real evidence that this PM has any more sway over his right wing than Turnbull.

Above all, the government insists, now is not the time to talk. Unless you are the PM who gets a fab, fur-lined, fully scripted, designer interview with David Speers on ABC, Sunday to help narcissistic Scott Almighty from marketing to sing his own praises.

My, he’s called out the military. (Reserve). No-one’s done that before. He lies. Black Saturday in Victoria 2009 saw 600 ADF personnel deployed. But Speers can’t go there. Victoria doesn’t exist in the Canberra bubble – nor can the past intrude upon the eternal present of “news”. But, man, can motormouth Morrison talk up one simple phone call.

“I mean, the scale of these fires going across two very large jurisdictions reached an unprecedented level and that required an unprecedented response at that time and one was delivered and delivered very quickly.”

How many reservists have been deployed? If employed they have to get leave from work. “You may not be forced to take any form of paid or unpaid leave.”

How well trained are they? What was the call-up? “We are caught up in an unprecedented, catastrophic and uniquely dangerous bushfire crisis. Drop whatever you’re doing and join us?” A rapid, mass deployment may not be easy.

Morrison expects applause for a desperate afterthought after four years of his government ignoring warnings. Friday, over 30,000 people march in Sydney, alone, in a series of nation-wide demonstrations, quiet Australians take to the street to demand Morrison be sacked over his government’s lack of action on climate change.

Overseas protests are held from London to Lima. Morrison sooks on 2GB. John Stanley’s minding the mike while Alan Jones is on holiday. Oddly, the PM’s courage evaporates when Stanley asks him to book an ear-bashing with Alan on his return.

It’s “disappointing” that people are conflating the bushfire crisis with Australia’s emission reduction targets, ScoMo-Pinocchio tells 2GB Friday.

“We don’t want job-destroying, economy-destroying, economy-wrecking targets and goals, which won’t change the fact that there have been bushfires or anything like that in Australia,” he dog-whistles up a farrago of lies.

We? Only the federal government wants inaction on carbon and greenhouse gases. In fact, every state and mainland territory government in the country has made either aspirational or legislated commitments toward zero-emissions. Victoria has legislated a target of net zero emissions by 2050, while the ACT aims for net zero by 2045.

Job destroying; economy wrecking? The coal industry employs less than 0.4% of the Australian workforce and its royalties contribute just 2% of revenue to NSW and Queensland budgets. That’s before we subtract national, annual tax-based subsidies of $12 billion to boost fossil fuel production and consumption. Tax-payers subsidise wealthy companies?

Abreast of science; prompted by years of first-hand observation and experience, former emergency chiefs step up to write the PM an open letter warning about funding cuts to fire services, the coalition’s criminal negligence of the facts of global heating and the fatal consequences of following ignorance, self-interest and the sirens of the coal lobby.

“In the last year we’ve seen unseasonal fires in Tasmania, Victoria, NSW, Queensland and Western Australia, floods and twin cyclones in parts of northern Australia, longer bushfire danger periods and fires burning in rainforests,” the statement, signed by 23 representatives from each state and territory, says.

“Rising greenhouse gas pollution from the burning of coal, oil and gas is worsening extreme weather and putting people in danger.”

Now “pants-on-fire” Morrison gallantly blames yet another woman. (First it was Jenny and the girls.) This time, it’s NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. She’s refusing federal help to fight fires. Gladys is furious.  NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner, Shane Fitzsimmons simply says “it just didn’t happen”. Senior Liberals rush to support their premier, united against the PM’s dishonesty; his latest act of evasive misogyny.

Greens are to blame, lies barking Barnaby Joyce, throwing a hissy fit of relevance deprivation to divert a bit of heat off the PM. Always keen to recycle disinformation, Joyce repeats the old canard that “green caveats” for preventing hazard reduction burns led to the current bushfire catastrophe. Fitzsimmons rejects Joyce’s claims, saying the biggest challenge with hazard reduction is the “weather and the windows available” to do it safely not “environmental clearances.”

On Saturday, his shifty PM is keenly scapegoating, saying people “who say they are seeking those actions on climate change” could also be the same people who “don’t share the same urgency of dealing with hazard reduction”.

None of this is true. It’s easier to blame arsonists and greenies than to act on expert advice. It may divert attention from the government’s lack of consultation and its failure to delegate or deliver collective action, as Monash University’s James Walter observes.

But it highlights Morrison’s own incompetence; his preference for divisiveness in a crisis. This is a government without a clue and a leader without a plan beyond diversion, evasion and scapegoating, lying and gaslighting. It is a travesty of the notion of governance in the public good. Australians deserve better than this grifter.

Above all the ScoMo show has no scruples. A PM who is happy to recycle lies is not a leader – just a dangerous bullshit artist. Up there with Trump and his BFF Putin.

US philosopher Harry Frankfurt argues that whereas the liar cares about the truth – their aim is to prevent others from learning it – the bullshitter does not care about the difference between the truth and falsity of their assertions. They just pick ideas out, or make them up, to suit their purpose. This makes them more dangerous than liars.

“Bullshitters seek to convey a certain impression of themselves without being concerned about whether anything at all is true. They quietly change the rules governing their end of the conversation so that claims about truth and falsity are irrelevant.”

But it can’t happen so easily without a servile press. Hero of the week is Emily Townsend who leaves The Australian under a cloud – with a silver lining.

“I find it unconscionable to continue working for this company, knowing I am contributing to the spread of climate change denial and lies. The reporting I have witnessed in the Australian, the Daily Telegraph and the Herald Sun is not only irresponsible, but dangerous and damaging to our communities and beautiful planet that needs us more than ever now to acknowledge the destruction we have caused and start doing something about it.”

Commercial finance manager who reads between the lies, Emily Townsend emails executive chairman Michael Miller in a sensational open email to all staff.

News Corp papers highlight issues such as arson and hazard reduction to divert readers from climate change’s role in creating longer, more severe fire seasons. Arson may be responsible for one or two fires so far but it’s a major cause in the Oz.

Hazard reduction is no longer quite so relevant to today’s climate. Former NSW fire and rescue commissioner Greg Mullins tells ABC 24 climate change means it’s often too dangerous to burn: “Extreme drought like this, underpinned by 20 years of reduced rainfall, has meant the window for hazard reduction is very narrow now.”

Cutbacks in forestry and national parks personnel mean hazard reduction has fallen to volunteers. But in the end, the best hazard reduction is in calling bullshit to climate science deniers, for ultimately they are a type of arsonist, too.

Naomi Wolf is checking Bullshit Morrison’s dubious claims that the Australian government has sought overseas fire assistance. Dr Wolf calls Morrison’s office. It stonewalls. She’s amazed at how we Australians just take this lying down, tweets indefatigable, investigative reporter Ronni Salt.

“His office is not aware if either offers have been accepted”? In a working democracy the head of state knows if national offers of crisis assistance have been accepted. As does his office. “It’s alarming how they’ve tried to habituate people to no response,” she tweets. It’s even more alarming how the PM will just make up stuff.

War breaks out between NSW Liberals and Pinocchio Morrison, over his incredible story that the state government rejected offers of navy ships to help evacuate bushfire victims from Mallacoota and other fire-ravaged south coast towns. Further stretching credibility is that the story is dropped by the PMC to The Daily Tele’s Sharri Markson.

Labor also is losing credibility as an effective opposition on the need to get real about global heating. Terminally conflicted opposition leader, Anthony Albanese, wrings his hands in despair. Yet his recent advocacy of coal exports aligns him with other Labor MPs in the Kelly gang; the Parliamentary Friends of Coal Exports, (PFCE).

Albanese articulates his vision as shadow Prime Minister. He gets up to over-share his despair. No, Albo, no. Read the government and other, independent modelling that shows our economy will grow at just the same rate without coal.

“Despair not just that Craig Kelly has those views and continues to advocate them, not just here in Australia, but globally, and be seen to be representing the Australian government’s position, but the knowledge that he’s one of the people who has held back action,”

Albo sobs, backing the Coalition’s coal export toxic nonsense. Can our shadow PM not see how promoting coal makes him another “one of the people” to hold back action? Shut your coal-hole, Albo.

“I have seen a number of people suggest that somehow the government does not make this connection,” Morrison says deploying Trump’s favourite clapped-out bandwagon tactic “people say” followed by a fishy red-herring  “The government I lead has always made that connection and that has never been in dispute.”

The Bureau of Meteorology’s clear advice is that climate change is “influencing the frequency and severity of dangerous bushfire conditions in Australia and other regions of the world, including through influencing temperature, environmental moisture, weather patterns and fuel conditions”.

In the 2008 Garnaut Climate Change Review of the scientific evidence of the impacts of climate change on Australia and its economy, Ross Garnaut predicted that without adequate action, Australia would face a more frequent and intense fire season by 2020.

The bushfires that have ravaged our nation over the last four weeks, and which are likely to burn for at least a month more, are not just devastating farms, homesteads and forests. They also expose the wilful abdication of responsibility of a government in thrall to the coal-lobby and its servitude to a small but shrill group of climate science-deniers.

While Craig Kelly has widely been pilloried as a national embarrassment and a disgrace, he may have done us all a favour. His ITV interview debacle helps reveal the monumental ineptitude of the Morrison government he represents.

Above all, Kelly epitomises the Coalition’s dangerous, wilful ignorance, its mining industry muppetry as much as it helps expose the toxic nonsense of the climate science deniers and coal lobby shills which poison its ear and hence corrupt our body politic.

Scott Morrison and his government are as straw men in a firestorm.

 

A dangerously dysfunctional state of decay.

morrison in goggles

“The Prime Minister is testing the theory that the best way to resolve a crisis is to be as far away from it as possible,” Julie Bishop tells 150 “prominent” Liberals – in Nine Newspapers’ Michael Koziol’s view – who gather for The Liberal Forum (LF)’s annual, festive, pre-Christmas binge, whinge and back-stab over champers and canapés at former NSW Liberal president; serial company director, Fat Cat Kevin McCann’s, Mosman Gatsby mansion.

Her wicked dig is also an in-joke. Libs always cast Bishop as a “loyal girl” as Abbo aptly put it in 2009.

Bishop could also titillate guests with the PM’s other brilliant “out of sight out of mind” tactic of delaying or refusing FOI requests. How good is Morrison’s, latest attack on transparent government, a war begun by Tony Abbott, now a heroic Volunteer Fire-fighter bigging up his image in The Daily Mail at Morrison’s expense?

The PM, aka Scotty from Marketing, orders staff not to release texts which Drought Envoy, Barnaby Joyce says justify $675 thousand in expenses – rung up as he ventured outside his electorate for less than three weeks to assiduously report on The Big Dry. As with Brian Houston’s invite to the White House, Scotty clams up.

Joyce was demoted for violating Malco’s Ministerial code’s no bonking clause, but to keep Joyce on side, within days of knifing Turnbull, ScoMo bought the support of the former Nationals’ Leader by creating an important job, Drought Envoy with expense account and staff to find out how no rain affects farmers.

Joyce has filed no report. He did not know he needed to. But he “sent heaps of texts,” he tells Channel 7. 

“An awful lot of texts,” he tells our ABC.  But he’s not showing them to anyone. Nor is the Prime Minister. Barnaby’s insights will remain hermetically-sealed, like the top secret agreement between the Liberals who need the Nationals numbers, come hell or high water. It’s as if some secret Freemasonry is the heart and soul; the life-blood of our can-do Coalition government which is always rolling up its sleeves to set up inquiries.

And stymie others. “I’m not going to tell you what they said, they were directed to the Prime Minister, if he wants to tell you what they said, that’s up to him … I can assure you, I directly sent reports,” Joyce blusters.

Can-do? If it’s OK with the Nats and their Big Cotton, Big Mining bosses, the Liberals can do it. Or not.

The PM’s Office refuses a FOI request for “any correspondence, including text messages and WhatsApp messages” between Joyce and Morrison “regarding his work as drought envoy”. Why? It claims it “would substantially and unreasonably interfere with the prime minister’s functions”. What a crack-up.

But ScoMo’s a no-show at this function. The Big Kahuna is still rushing back from Hawaii as guests arrive. But should the right wing warrior and climate change denier, Dutton dressed up as lamb, even get an invite?

The Liberal Forum runs on pure idealism, unsullied by the Party’s need to please its mining and banking lobby bosses’, its bigamous marriages of convenience to the Murdoch Press – and to The Nationals, its day to day chicanery or its Machiavellian pragmatism.  It’s a platonic affair, not a cabal of leadership plotters.

An “ideas group” of pure, if not lofty, intent, formed in secret in 1985 to offset “the conservative tide”, The Liberal Forum‘s noble, clandestine, mission was, alas, rapidly outwitted by “forces of greed and self-interest” recalls former NSW Senator Peter Baume, a small-l Liberal known to cross the floor on issues of principle.

Nowadays, The Black Hand, as wags quickly dubbed the Forum, is like The Cheshire Cat, a creature which has disappeared, leaving only the grin of its good intentions behind. The LF’s reduced to organising social events for what it fondly imagines is the modern Liberal Party’s moderate faction; a species which is much talked about  – in awe but never sighted- a type of Sasquatch or Loch Ness Monster, as Greg Jericho so aptly puts it.

Conspicuously missing in action (or “doing a ScoMo”) was any small-l Liberal in last February’s vote on the Medevac Bill. (Before it was so heroically repealed, early this month, thanks to Jacqui Lambie’s secret deal.)

Back in February, not one MP appears from Liberal ranks to be in favour of human decency. Not a word of protest is heard. Not one MP even hints that this niggardly act of humanity was OK, let alone fair or right.

Not a word is heard from any Liberal pleading to help our fellow human beings – all vulnerable, innocent people fleeing war, rape, genocide, political repression and murder. No-one speaks up for those whom we illegally detain indefinitely – an ugly, morally repugnant type of sadistic torture in our offshore prisons.

All the Medevac Bill proposed was that MPs agree to get all who are sick, or driven mad to a doctor. Twelve people have died in offshore detention to date. Coroner Terry Ryan’s inquiry into the case of Hamid Khazaei showed that he died as a direct result of the Australian Government’s refusal to follow medical orders.

Similarly, not one moderate protests last February’s gaming of parliamentary process by extending question time in order to avoid a vote on a Royal Commission into disabled care. But they do know how to party.

A former Liberal deputy leader, whose deputising was also near invisible, Ms Bishop wows the crowd when she mocks Scott Morrison as a PM who disappears just when we might need him. How good is her aim? But has Morrison become just another political joke?  Is the king-tide of Liberal support now fast running out for “miracle” Morrison, given his calamitous captain’s call to holiday while Australia burns?

Chins wag. Heads shake. There is much clutching of pearls. ScoMo’s snafu is generally held to be a monumental cock-up, except by News Corp’s Peter Van Onselen, who believes that Aloha Morrison has erred “while still on a honeymoon of sorts”. But, then, Van Onselen did predict a stonking Labor victory in May.

For most others, however, Aloha Morrison’s now a hopeless joke. (Hawaiians use Aloha both to greet and farewell.) Will “met his Waikiki” also enter the political lexicon as a colossal failure of judgement? Will Morrison’s dereliction of duty in time of crisis, be the only thing voters remember at the next federal election? Is Miracle Morrison already morphing into a political liability in the view of many nervous Liberal MPs?

But, let’s be frank, our Bronte bogan, the bad dad-joke who plotted day and night to get himself installed as PM over Turnbull’s politically dead body, but who didn’t have a clue what to do next, would still be the butt of derision even if he hadn’t cruelled Julie’s run for the top job or double-double crossed her pal, Malcolm.

Since becoming PM, Morrison’s wasted an inordinate amount of time and energy avoiding doing anything. At least Bishop gets in touch with her small-l liberalism by being cover star of Financial Review’s LUXURY Magazine September issue in a photo shoot. But it’s not all glossy photographs of Bishop rocking designer frocks and gowns. The former Minister for Women (2006-7) explains how she uses fashion for politics.

So this is what small-l Liberalism has come to? A photo-shoot in the exclusive LUXURY fashion-mag?

Julie loves a party, too. The former corporate lawyer knows how to have fun, as we all know, from her taxpayer funded trips to the Portsea Polo in 2016, a year when she racked up $1.2 million in travel expenses to her 2011, Reddy family celebrity Indian wedding in Hyderabad, a frugal, three-day event involving ten thousand guests, an intimate group of Indian politicians, Bollywood stars and a swag of international fashionistas. Bishop, Barnaby Joyce, Teresa Gambaro flew over in Gina Rinehart’s private jet.

But not back. Waggishly, Bishop billed tax-payers for a $3445 flight home to Perth from Hyderabad because, although she concedes she did attend the wedding, she was on a “study tour” which involved her in fact-finding, high-level trade and investment discussions with local energy and infrastructure potentates.

Bishop’s droll humour precedes her career in politics. In the 1980s, she worked as a solicitor for Wittenoom building company CSR, fighting workers’ claims and successfully delaying payouts to victims of asbestosis.

As Peter Gordon, whose firm Slater and Gordon won an historic class action for the workers in 1989, recalls, Bishop, then Julie Gillon, was a barrel of laughs, “… rhetorically asking the court why workers should be entitled to jump court queues just because they were dying.”

As a junior lawyer, Gordon had been told that it was too hard to run a case for negligence for someone with an asbestos-related cancer because “the victims died too quickly”. With his senior partner’s support, Gordon successfully approached the Court to fast-track the process “for interlocutory processes, discovery and interrogatories” to make sure victims got a trial in their lifetime. It was a hard-won decision.

Peter Gordon recalls, “We had to fight even for the right of dying cancer victims to get a speedy trial.”

Robert Vojakovic of WA-based Asbestos Diseases Society says Bishop “had a take-no-prisoners approach”.

Bishop is out of politics now but her legacy lives on in Morrison’s malignant narcissism; his ruthless ambition. His hyper-partisanship. And beyond.

Not only is the office of PM and Cabinet re-fashioned in his own Machiavellian image, his government has further cowed the public service into serving the party rather more than the people. And its Big Kahuna.

Back in the swim of things after his spectacularly ill-judged top-secret trip to Waikiki for a bit of quality time with his girls and his AFP Close Personal Protection squad, our roving PM takes time out from the rigours of defending his going AWOL by penning a blistering op-ed in The Daily Telegraph denouncing “reckless” and job-destroying proposals to cut coal coal-mining. He also takes a top photographer to Sydney’s Bronte Beach to snap him in his speedos for the press drop his boffins in the office make in crises of image management.

Charcoal-black budgie-smugglers,” The Daily Mail’s Tita Smith gushes.

ScoMo in speedos? The image conjures up a Lucian Freud nude – but our PM and his team of turd-polishers will go to any length to reassure an anxious nation that a PM who claims in his national apology that our nation’s clergy engaged in “ritual sexual abuse” of children is just a normal bloke. Even if he’s full of bull-shit.

Or even because of it. Australians love a tall story. It may help explain our nation’s weakness for Coalition election pledges. The coal industry employs less than 0.4% of the Australian workforce while its royalties contribute just 2% of revenue to the NSW and Queensland budgets – and that’s before the payment of subsidies. This week, our miners are hit by biggest thermal coal price plunge in over a decade. High coal prices cannot continue; Morrison’s Trumpista diplomacy has alienated our best customers in China. They are now buying less from us and more from other sources such as Mongolia in reprisal. Nice one, Trump fan-boy.

Morrison’s claim that we must choose between coal or prosperity is worse than nonsense. He’s just parroting coal lobby spin. Modelling shows we’d have just the same or better GDP growth with no mines. And with the damage done by his government’s diplomatic anti-China charm offensive, his rhetoric is even more vapid.

Yet with no coal mines our climate would be less overheated. Less likelihood, then, of catastrophic fires.

Fires destroy 4.6m hectares, across New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia. They burn with a ferocity and on a scale we’ve never seen before yet there is no hint that the government will acknowledge the link between the catastrophic fires and global heating. The PM makes a token concession.

Volunteer firefighters in NSW will be able to apply for up to $6,000 in compensation from the Federal Government, Morrison announces. Up to? Only NSW? Despite the cunning lack of clarity in the Coalition’s pledge, right on cue, there’s a howl of protest from Murdoch media, forever vigilant over the nation’s purse-strings and always eager to publish a government drop or spin story. And put the boot into unions.

“All prime ministers try to manage the media but Morrison is an extreme example. He is shameless about his use of favourites, whether individuals or outlets. The government regards The Australian as its bulletin board for announcements, frets even conservative Canberra Press Gallery veteran, Michelle Grattan.

Morrison’s offer is immediately denounced as against the “spirit of volunteerism” by Victoria’s CFA chief Steve Warrington. “We are always keen to explore opportunities to manage and reduce potential financial burdens on our members. However, it is my view and that of the CFA board that paying volunteers in general terms is not in the spirit of volunteerism,” he tells The Australian‘s Rebecca Urban.

A chorus of hard right commentators including Peta Credlin howls down the proposal. Incredibly, the same “spirit” nonsense is invoked. Worse, it’s a slippery slope. Credlin reckons there’ll be a rush of other applicants with their hands out for money. Imagine how we’d go to rack and ruin if we paid people for the work they do.

I’m a community volunteer. I can attest to the small fortune that local communities save governments with an endless series of fund-raisers, the donation of labour and the seeking of donations. At our Christmas community dinner, we helped raise $5000 to replace the chairs in three classrooms in the local primary school.

Chairs our state government is too tight-fisted to supply are part of the walnut and the thimble trick of global budgeting where the state shrugs off its responsibility leaving local principals teachers and school councils to do the hard unglamorous yards allocating forever shrinking funds to classroom and other programmes.

Imagine how our system would fall apart if we had fair and adequate government funding. Each federal education budget sees a further decline in real terms, although the Coalition loves to boast about total amounts spent. Population growth does that for them. In reality it’s always a per capita cut for the average kid in a state school. Greater hardship for working families. And support services increasingly harder to access.

Private schools continue to prosper but that’s all about giving parents’ choice as John Howard, pretended. Choice? Only for those who can pay. In a captain’s call, Howard also introduced poorly paid chaplains that schools must also raise funds to support.

What Credlin and Howard are about is the politics of division, where the wealthy prosper while the poor go begging, even though each spin their cuts as encouraging locally raised funds and community-building.

Decades of neoliberal management and federal funding cuts in education departments have seen countless rural schools become dependent for essentials on the “spirit of volunteerism“. Most teachers I know buy classroom materials out of their own increasingly casualised and contract salaries. Or go begging.

When the fires came for our place in regional Western Victoria, our local volunteers did a wonderful job. But if it hadn’t been for Elvis the giant Erickson S-64 Air-Crane, our little cottage in the woods would have gone up in smoke. Our neighbour M who is a former CFA chief gave us a video of Elvis dropping fire retardant on flames which licked across the dry grass, set fire to the trees, shrubs and fence-posts to within metres of our dwelling.

Three times the fire came and went; driven by high winds that switched north, south, north as they do in this area. After each wave of fire, local CFA volunteers, farmers with tanks on utes came to put out spot fires as ancient river red-gums along the road erupted into flame and century-old fence posts and battens caught fire.

The 2015 bushfire began in a vineyard, almost certainly started by a gas-powered bird-scaring device. I could see the smoke from our letter-box at the end of the street a kilometre away at lunchtime. I didn’t like way the wind was bringing it straight towards us. By the time I’d driven home it was time to leave. But you don’t just dash out. We had time only to pack up pets and a few essentials. We had to leave the chickens.

By 9:00pm the fire had burned more than 3,500 hectares. We stayed at our daughter’s place twelve kilometres away until we thought it safe to return. No way to tell if our place had survived. Just a line of cars crawling bumper to bumper. Each being stopped while ID was checked. Preventing rubber-neckers. Checking our destination. No time for police or CFA or SES to set up clear lines of communication to residents.

It is impossible to describe how it feels to drive through the smoke along your unsealed road while trees and fencing blaze. Or how it is to discover your gate posts are on fire but your house looks quite OK amidst a charred front garden which still has shrubs and mulch on fire and trees on the fence-line are burning.

The smell of eucalyptus leaves mingles with acrid smoke from the remains of your watering system burning.

We were lucky. Our house was spared. The fire came up within metres of the front and side. Thanks to the skill and sheer hard work of local volunteer fire crews and the expertise of our next-door neighbour. But Elvis was the star. Without the help of a leased US helicopter and its professional crew, our home would have been lost.

Now I note there is no sign of Elvis. Not for three years. No sign either of Morrison meeting with experienced fire chiefs who want him to get the gear to fight fires that in a few short years have rapidly grown into monsters. Heed the science of global heating. Invest in new equipment to cope with the new inferno.

The Coalition won’t offend its sponsors in the mining lobby or risk further internal friction by admitting there is a direct link between climate change, the genteel euphemism for catastrophic global heating. Nor will it imperil further its precious surplus, achieved partly by a contemptible underspending on NDIS. Because, in the end, the ideology of outsourcing has long usurped the desire to meet peoples’ needs. Exercise duty of care.

Wise up, Morrison. Global heating has wrought a terrible new type of bushfire. Cut the subsidies to miners and private health insurers; buy a few less F35s and submarines. Put the money into fire-fighting equipment that’s up the task of the monster bush-fires we have helped to breed.

Much fun has been had at Morrison’s expense over his unconscionable decision to leave Australia in flames while he took a secret holiday in Hawaii – and his scurrilous decision to blame the trip on his family. But it’s no laughing matter. While the Liberal Forum may make fun of the PM, his decision shows an arrogance, a lack of compassion, an alarming disconnection from reality and dud political judgement.

Worse, however, is his arrogant dismissal of former fire chiefs who call for a summit on the bushfire catastrophe. Morrison’s government is unwilling to listen. He can holiday in Hawaii but he can’t find the time to sit down and hear out those whose only motive is to help him save Australia from burning?

His Prime Ministership and his government are more than monumentally incompetent. Morrison’s intransigence and sheer perversity in preferring his own poor judgement to the advice of experts is dangerous.

As the year draws to a close some things stand out. The saga of the Medevac Bill reveals a government entirely devoid of humanity and human decency while the PM’s decision to embargo any text message that might have been sent from his faux drought envoy Barnaby “boondoggle” Joyce signal a government that has absolutely no intention of being accountable, whatsoever.

Instead it delights in thumbing its nose at democracy and transparency; turning its back on expert advice.

Above all, as the Liberal Forum annual gathering at Kevin McCann’s pad in Mosman last week so powerfully attests this is a government that has betrayed any ideals it may once have had in favour of Machiavellian pragmatism to keep itself in power for power’s sake and to serve the interests of its powerful corporate backers. It is not just a degenerate form of its earlier self; it is in a dangerously dysfunctional state of decay.

 

 

It’s not normal, Mr Morrison.

morrison on holiday in Hawaii

The nation heaves a sigh of relief as Hawaiian Airlines HA451, an Airbus carrying a Daggy Dad from Central Casting, Trump fan-boy and fellow crypto-fascist, Scott Morrison, finally touches down at 8pm after being delayed by thick clouds of acrid, catastrophic, bushfire smoke which choke Sydney Airport, limiting visibility.

“Where the bloody hell were you?” Effortlessly, the PM side-steps questions. It’s his signature move. Makes hokey, blokey, emotive excuses. He’d promised the girls a holiday. His office had to lie about where he was?

Security. Poor timing? Booked seven weeks ago. Bushfires were raging, then? Yeah. Nah. Who could tell how bad things would get? But he gets it how we’ve missed him. Need him. How good are empathy consultants?

“I get it that people would have been upset to know that I was holidaying with my family while their families were under great stress,” Morrison tells press at the NSW Rural Fire Service HQ in Sydney, Sunday. Great stress? Two volunteer fire-fighters are killed overnight. Two more are put in induced comas.

Seventy-two homes are destroyed in South Australia while little is left of Balmoral in the Southern Highlands, southwest of Sydney. NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner, Shane Fitzsimmons estimates that at least one hundred homes have been lost in the ferocious fires which hit the small town over the weekend.

The body language in the HQ control room is hostile. Tone deaf, Morrison is clueless about his chilly reception. Pity. His minders have him in RM Williams kit for bush credibility. His hands low on hips bolster his need to bulk up his personal authority but end up a tad on the aggressive side, creating a bullshit macho swagger.

“Stress” insults their families’ loss and grief; their trauma. But all spin-doctor props are in place. Images of Morrison, pointing at maps, head Sunday morning news; propaganda to be replayed throughout the day.

“Upset?” Morrison seeks to deflect anger by wilfully misreading others’ feelings. He diminishes. Invalidates. In fact, Australia is furious with the PM’s dereliction of duty. His cavalier attitude. His arrogance. Angry doesn’t begin to describe the nation’s outrage. Yet he’s not remotely contrite. And it’s all about him. Always.

Under pressure, Morrison’s malignant narcissism morphs into messiah-complex. His people need him.

“But I’m comforted by the fact that Australians would like me to be here, just simply so I can be here, alongside them as they’re going through this terrible time … and I apologise for that.”

Incredibly, Morrison’s monster ego lets him believe he now can draw a line under his deserting his post as PM; his epic lack of judgement in sneaking a secret holiday to Waikiki while instructing staff to keep schtum. They did better than that, ABC’s Andrew Probyn reports. Morrison’s staff were extraordinarily secretive.

No official public note was issued of the PM’s absence. Nor would the Deputy Prime Minister’s office confirm Michael McCormack was Acting PM. A journalist was referred back to the PM’s Office (PMO). Yet when asked, to confirm Morrison was in Hawaii, reporters were misled; told this was incorrect. But we have to move on.

“The time for that discussion is over”, Morrison declares, unilaterally. Or would – if he could seize control of the situation. Of course, it is not over. Nor will he ever move on. His monstrous lack of empathy; his staggering lack of political judgement will forever hang over his head, like the sword of Damocles.

The PM who skived off is denounced up and down the land. His own party room feels the heat. There’s talk of “moderate” Liberal climate rebellion. Even our Tory mainstream media attempts to hold the PM to account.

Reporter: “Are you sorry you abandoned Australia and secretly went to Hawaii on holiday while Australia burned?”

Morrison: “I already said that”

Reporter: “Are you sorry?”

Morrison: “I already addressed that.”

Also “addressed” is Morrison’s determination to defy reason and science and to deny the climate science of global heating. “I do not accept the suggestion that Australia is not carrying its weight,” he says. He doubles down; reverting to a climate science denialism which rules any MP who aspires to be Coalition PM.

Carrying its weight? Morrison is gaslighting; pretending that Australia is not blocking climate action – as it did recently, along with other hard-core chauvinists, USA, Brazil and Saudi Arabia at the twenty-fifth Conference of the Parties (‘COP25’) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (‘UNFCCC’).

Yet our Kyoto carry-over scam makes us one of a kind. The Climate Council confirms, even according to the Department of Environment and Energy, Australia, alone, of all other nations, seeks to use its supposed overperformance against previous goals as an offset for future targets. ‘Over-performance’? Australia over-reached its previous goals solely because they are among the weakest in the whole world.

In Copenhagen in 2009, Australia was proud to lead the world on applying climate science to fight our global heating crisis. A decade later, we are disgraced by our government’s switch to coal lobby spin and sophistry instead. Protect corporations. Look after banks, big investors and party donors. Bugger the planet.

“In Madrid Australia was “… potentially destructive… just really a self-interested righteous way of doing less,” frets The Australia Institute’s climate change specialist Richie Merzian who found it hard to watch.

“Your country is literally on fire because of climate change and your representatives are at the COP trying to water down the provisions for climate action,” Merzian says. “It’s kind of other-worldly.” Or barking mad.

Is anyone in the world fooled by Morrison’s specious 1.3% fig-leaf argument? Australia adds to global greenhouse gases, not only in the export of fossil fuels to be burnt overseas, but in a swag of other ways.

Other nations can see at once how Australian companies are today busily expanding their coal, oil and gas operations in some of the poorest areas in the world, reports ActionAid Australia. Mostly, it is women who pay the price. Australia has more mining companies operating in Africa than any other nation.

Above, all, ActionAid Australia reports, Australia’s growing global fossil fuel footprint shows that while the total number of projects is down, ASX-listed companies are increasing their reach in the furthest parts of the globe – with total carbon emissions potential up by 13% compared to last year.

These projects are likely to cause 2.8 billion tonnes of emissions — five times Australia’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. Whilst thirty-four projects, currently operating are owned either wholly or partially by ASX-listed companies, their annual reports reveal plans for an additional ninety-nine.

It’s insulting to other nations genuinely seeking climate action to insist Australia’s carbon emissions amount to only 1.3% of the global total, when our nation has one of the largest mining footprints in the world. Hypocritical, too. Our government’s failure on climate action is shameful; its denialism, reprehensible.

In brief, looking beyond our borders and even past our embarrassing performance at this year’s UN climate talks, our beggar-thy-neighbour role in global heating is far greater than Morrison’s government claims.

“Morrison’s touting of the 1.3% figure is his idea of a clever political tactic – it allows him to deflect responsibility. But the effects of climate change know no bounds. Women, poor communities, and other marginalised groups will of course be hit the hardest, but ultimately we all suffer the consequences,” writes ActionAid Australia’s Head of Policy and Campaigns, Katharine Tu.

Yet Morrison can’t wait to trot out his clapped-out rhetoric. The spin. The stale talking points. The lies. As Lenore Taylor writes in The Guardian Australia, Sunday, the nation urgently needs a credible climate policy. Stop pretending, she begs. It’s dangerous. Vast tracts of NSW are burning in a fire unlike any other.

Emergency-level fires also consume parts of South Australia and Victoria; fires so vast and so intense they create their own weather. Time to admit that global heating is fuelling our own catastrophic bushfire.

Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese, sees a government paralysed by complacency. “This government is complacent when it comes to climate change and energy. They do not have an energy policy and they sent [Energy Minister] Angus Taylor overseas to help to undermine international action on climate change, by arguing for accounting tricks rather than lowering emissions,” Albo tells reporters in Sydney on Saturday.

Morrison slinks back home to a bushfire and Liberal leadership crisis Saturday after cutting short – by a whole day – his surprise Waikiki family holiday. But there’s time to claim it was a working holiday. Regular bushfire briefings punctuate his QAnon conspiracy updates from close family friend, Tim Stewart, aka Burn Notice @BurnedSpy34 whose wife, Lynelle, works for bestie, Jenny Morrison, at Kirribilli House.

Mrs Stewart’s security clearance is a work in progress. But Jen and Lynelle were each other’s bridesmaids.

Former Fruit Loop proprietor, a failed online health food venture and former bankrupt, Tim’s a mate of Scott’s from way back. QAnon put him on to the secret cabal of paedophile-Satan-worshippers which rules the world.

Politics has its fair share of nutters but Tim’s clearly not without influence. Witness Morrison’s reference to ritualistic child sexual abuse in the PM’s national formal apology to survivors of institutional sexual abuse.

“The crimes of ritual sexual abuse happened in schools, churches, youth groups, scout troops, orphanages, foster homes, sporting clubs, group homes, charities, and in family homes as well,” Morrison told the politicians, supporters and survivors who packed the house.

The phrase was Tim’s idea, – or at least that’s what Tim claims. The word “ritual” introduced the idea of secret ceremonies with Satan’s involvement, which aligns with QAnon’s theory of global threats.

Perhaps his poorly-judged Hawaiian break attests to Scott’s loyalty to his mates. Or is it their power over him? If so, there must be a ray of hope. If only the nation could tap into Tim’s influence on his old pal Scott; gain some of the avid attention Morrison extends to his friend – then perhaps we could put the PM on to a real conspiracy, the mining lobby and its bizarre plan to dig us into extinction.

Extinction is also on the mind of a few Liberal MPs who are “becoming frustrated with the Federal Government’s inability to sell its climate change policies and believe the chief salesman, Angus Taylor, is part of the problem,” reports ABC’s Jane Norman.

It pays to have a scapegoat but Norman’s scuttlebutt draws attention to the glacial pace of the NSW Police Task Force investigation of Taylor over his alleged involvement in the publication of a doctored document in The Daily Telegraph which denigrated Clover Moore, Lord Mayor of Sydney’s green credentials.

“I think the biggest problem we face is not so much our suite of policy measures, it’s our credibility and sincerity and spokespeople,” says one Liberal.

Suite of policy measures? A set of trite slogans and a hyper-partisan party stalled in continuous campaign mode is a suite of policies? And it’s back to the old “selling the message”, regardless of how meaningless, or morally bankrupt. “Angus doesn’t have the ability to sell a positive climate change message.”

“This is not normal” says New South Wales Liberal Minister Matt Kean who is vilified The Australian for breaking ranks; noticing that Australia might be in the grip of record drought, heat and catastrophic bushfire.

Kean’s on to something.  Voters may, indeed, be expecting the Federal government to do more than send its PM on top secret holidays with his pal Tim. But credibility and sincerity? Morrison’s got no show.