From the conundrum of the SA Election to the riddle of The ASEAN Way

Hung Sen looking ugly

Could Adelaide, or “Adders”, as Jeffrey Smart loved to call the Athens of the South, the staid city of churches and canon law, now be under Marshall law? How dare Labor lose when it was electric light years ahead of everyone in Tesla batteries; renewable energy?

Cue our ABC. The national broadcaster is a staunch SA regime change supporter when it’s not gunning for soft-on-crime Dan Andrews and his African gang crisis in lawless Victoria.

Chris Uhlmann led the charge; blaming renewable energy for SA’s blackouts caused by natural disaster but there has been some solid pro-Liberal teamwork from our state broadcaster, including Fran Kelly’s trifecta of power-crisis, the demise of the car industry and rising regional unemployment, all of which are Labor’s fault, Thursday, on RN Breakfast.

Labor is howled down for its “ideologically driven” embrace of “aggressive” targets for wind and solar energy; an “experiment” in a clean and sustainable source of electricity which can can never be as affordable or reliable as good old coal. Or coal industry Liberal Party donations. Or a Liberal plug from the IPA with its secret list of big mining, big Rupert donors.

Labor’s SA was a plucky little state, of 1.2 million, scapegoat in a cynical attack on behalf of big coal and gas. It stood up to Canberra’s bullying over the federal government’s National Energy Guarantee, (NEG), a thought-bubble masquerading as an energy policy.  

What energy policy? Jay Weatherill was never afraid to let everyone know the emperor wears no clothes. Renew Economy’s Giles Parkinson reports growing ranks of critics who argue that the NEG is all negative. It will do nothing to address Turnbull’s “energy trilemma” of emissions, prices, and reliability. In fact, it is more likely to make each of them worse.

It has the capacity to kill investment in storage and to leave businesses with stranded assets.

Utilities, analysts, and activists have already criticised the NEG for doing little on emissions, putting an effective freeze on renewable investment, and creating a scheme of such complexity it would likely push up prices and reinforce the power of incumbent utilities.

Jay Weatherill quickly resigns as SA Labor leader, Sunday, soon after he concedes victory to Steven Marshall, leader of a Liberal Party whose inscrutable win was founded upon an extensive redrawing of electoral boundaries which psephologist, William Bowe and other experts predicted would help its chances in four seats.

Context matters. As do key actors. The SA Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission was chaired by Supreme Court Judge Ann Vanstone, sister-in-law of former federal Liberal minister Amanda Vanstone, appointed in October 2015 under state laws requiring the chair to be the court’s most senior judge. Labor appealed against the redistribution and lost.

A unique, “electoral fairness”, clause in SA’s constitution requires the commission to attempt to set new boundaries so that a group of candidates which receives more than 50 per cent of the popular vote “will be elected in sufficient numbers to enable a government to be formed”.

On ABC Insiders, Sunday, a guest recalls an ABC 2016 report that The Liberal Party’s chances of winning the 2018 South Australian election were greatly improved by a boundary redistribution which “notionally handed the party up to four additional seats”.

398,000 voters were affected by the changes and our ABC predicted Labor would need to secure a 3.2 % swing to stay in Government at the 2018 election.

Was it time for a change? Our ABC repeats a slogan which evokes Whitlamesque reform to misreport the state’s reversion to rule by the coal and gas barons; the oligarchy of corporate captains of industry and finance which commands the ear of our federal government.

Can the barons trash our national conversation? Is our democracy in peril?  Certainly SA’s Liberals ride a wave of industry-sponsored nostalgia for the good old days of paternalistic government delivering mythic certainty for investors with lashings of energy security, all guaranteed free of sovereign risk, as SA 2.0 hops aboard the Coalition’s flight from reason.

Business and mining interests are, nevertheless delighted to see little SA come to its senses; elect a government keen to take it back into the 1950s. A roar of approbation follows from the right, boosted by what Richard Denniss warns is “econobabble bullshit”.

Not so noisy, mow, however, are those at Aunty such as Leah MacLennan who, but six weeks ago predicted a premiership for Nick Xenophon and a majority for his SA Best, a party which fails to win a single seat. Was it a bold call? Or relaying a shrewd Liberal spin unit scare-tactic to panic voters into sticking with the devil they fondly imagine they know?   

Yet MacLennan is not the only pundit undone. Many a News Corp scribe confidently forecast a swing to “the minor parties” or on ABC’s The Drum beat up a bold showing for the tirelessly self-promoting, reactionary, throwback, Cory Bernardi and his atavistic Conservatives.

One social good is achieved. Hardening into orthodoxy is speculation that disaffection with the major parties’ snake oil salesmen causes voters to flock to more overt shonks; even wackier, crackpot candidates. SA’s result offers no evidence to help such theorising.

But let’s not get too warm and fuzzy about South Australia’s former government. Wind and solar aside. Labor has less of a lead on Liberals in nature conservation.  The Liberals’ ten-year moratorium on unconventional gas extraction, includes fracking, in the rich farmland of the state’s south-east while Labor supports an expanded gas industry there.

And when it comes to letting multinational corporations drill for oil in the pristine waters of the Great Australian Bight, the two parties are neck and neck in their rush to wreck the precious ecosystems of a unique environment. Liberals are gung-ho,while Labor merely insists that companies “follow regulations”, an approach which does nothing to avert an oil spill accident.

Oil spilled, experts caution, could wash up on the shores of NSW. BP and Chevron may have shelved their plans but international oil giants Statoil and Murphy, still hold exploration titles. Expect a lot of propaganda about jobs but don’t expect either to pay company tax.

South Australia’s election result is the week in politics’ riddle wrapped inside a mystery inside an enigma; rivalling the inky, darkness at the heart of ASEAN, ten Southeast Asian supremos in search of a soul attending Turnbull’s monster mash in Sydney this weekend.

The result is also a black hole which sucks energy out of ALP candidate, former ACTU President, Ged Kearney’s winning 54.2% of the primary vote and a 3.2% swing to Labor in Batman, Victoria, a by-election, Labor was widely tipped to lose to The Greens’ Alex Bhathal, who receives 45.3% – with 80% of the vote counted, late Sunday afternoon.

Sabotage, fumes browned off Greens’ leader, Richard di Natale. He blames “internal sabotage”, presumably referring to the leaking of bullying complaints against Bhathal.

Less paranoid, party strategists attribute the Green’s loss to their candidate’s focus on national issues such as the proposed Adani coal mine project and refugee policy while conceding that they were up against Ged Kearney’s popularity. Nor were they helped, they mutter, by Labor’s Faustian preference deal with Conservative candidate, Kevin Bailey.

But look over there. Shifty Bill Shorten is picking pensioners’ pockets. Rolling old grannies for their savings. Howl down, the scoundrel. Howl him down. Labor’s aim to reform dividend imputation becomes the mother of all scare campaigns.

Raving Scott Morrison is a froth of confected outrage. As always, parliament’s worst ham actor, he lampoons his own case, forfeits any credibility by over-egging his hyperbole.

“It is unfair to steal someone’s tax refund, I wouldn’t do it on your tax refund as a normal income tax payer and I’m not going to do it for pensioners and retirees who are simply making smart decisions in an environment like this where they can get a better return on buying shares,” Morrison rants, conveniently overlooking these investors don’t pay tax.

Only Morrison can turns a cash handout rort costing taxpayers $6bn into a tax return.

Not only is Labor out to sabotage SA’s power grid, then, it is intent on stealing pensioners’ nest eggs.  Reform dividend imputation? Labor is mad, bad and dangerous to know.

In fact, Labor proposes a change which the Parliamentary Budget office calculates “will have a minor impact” on 10% of our 2.5 million age pensioners who receive a part pension and only 1% of those receiving a full pension. But facts don’t matter to Morrison. Labor’s reform, something which the Liberals themselves considered in 2015 is demonised in mainstream media (MSM) as “Shorten’s cash grab”.

The servants have been nicking the silverware again; you just can’t trust Labor, is the major MSM theme. Yet Treasury estimates the average cash refund for age pensioners holding shares to be $900 a year per person. Any cash grab came in 2015 when The Greens sided with the Coalition to deprive all pensioners of up to $12,000 PA by changing the assets test.

.In Tasmania, however, the prospect of a Greens alliance with even Labor is held to deter swing voters from voting Labor, explains The Guardian’s Ben Raue, arguing that Labor is destined to struggle to win elections until this dilemma is resolved. Yet for your average mug punter, in all other respects, Tassie, aka Woolworth’s Island Inc., is thriving.

The post-Vandemonian pandemonium over Big Gambling’s buying of last week’s Tasmania’s election is quickly drowned out as souped-up chainsaws rev up to tear into Tarkine timber whilst the staccato rattle of automated fire destroys the natural tranquility as cockies, graziers and sporting shooters get bigger, quicker guns in their war on nature.  

But let’s be fair. Lethal, rapid-fire assault rifles are vital if farmers are to have a sporting chance against the lethal,feral fauna threatening their livelihood, or, if they just lust, lawfully, to enjoy the thrill of the kill, like any other normal, red-blooded, responsible sporting shooter who never had a rifle stolen. Or had to lend or even sell one or two to a mate.

Tassie’s battle with the bush and the irksome dictates of democracy are upstaged by Home Affairs Supremo, Scipio Africanus Dutton, who tears himself away from sacking former Queensland Drug Squad colleague, Roman Quaedvlieg, six months’ too late.

Roman, it seems, has been sold down the (Murray Darling) River, lock, stock and barrel, in Turnbull’s open season on bosses who bonk. He’s dismissed over allegations he got his girlfriend a job at Sydney airport. If only he’d been more discreet; asked Matt Canavan or Damian Drum.  It is all part of an adult soap opera entitled Barnaby’s Choice.

Unlike Sophie’s Choice (1982) which stars Meryl Streep, Barnaby’s Choice involves impaling yourself on the horns of a dilemma by pretending your paramour is not your partner even if you do promote her to a series of well-paid posts in your government, said to involve teaching staff about email even though she, herself doesn’t merit an email account.

In another shotgun marriage, Peter Dutton springs a firearms advisory council proposal, a move to allow our burgeoning gun lobby to bypass tedious democratic process and buy itself “a seat at the table” of government. All’s fair in love and war. What could possibly go wrong?

A proposal to allow white South African farmers, a persecuted minority, special Visas to enter Australia? Our Home Affairs supremo jumps the shark, given the dispossession of white farmers is part of a proposed amendment, as barrister Greg Barns explains in Crikey.

Worse Dutton makes a case for preferential treatment in a statement which has clear, racist overtones. Not only does he claim the farmers share our values, he tells 2GB listeners.

“We want people who want to come here, abide by our laws, integrate into our society, work hard, not lead a life on welfare. And I think these people deserve special attention and we’re certainly applying that special attention now.”

Dutton’s misunderstood that the brutal dispossession is, in reality, a recent move by the South African Parliament to recommend an amendment to that nation’s constitution to allow for expropriation of agricultural land without compensation.

Yet, as Barns points out ,had Dutton bothered with any research, the resolution provides ways around the proposed change in a law which is a long way from being enacted.

Farmers and big agribusiness stakeholders can cut a deal with the Ramaphosa administration. Dutton’s act of clemency is in effect a calculated dog-whistle to right wing racists at home. It is the Home Affairs Minister’s White Australia Policy 2.0.

Late Sunday, Julie Bishop disputes Dutton’s claim that the white farmers merit special treatment and their alleged persecution. She pretends that the Home Affairs Minister was referring to Humanitarian Visas which she says anyone can apply for at any time.

Above the chatter of the automatically weaponised, dog-whistling ruling classes, all eyes turn to Sydney by the weekend. The city of bread and circus, is abuzz with fuzz this weekend as it plays host to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, (ASEAN), another fabulous gabfest about business opportunities just waiting on our doorstep and how more state power and secrecy will keep us all safe from ISIS in a “Special ASEAN-Australia summit”, a diversionary circus called by a Coalition which, so far, can’t win a trick.

Shunting aside a hapless ABC News 24 presenter, Friday afternoon, Turnbull mugs on camera with old pal, Singapore Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong in an impromptu infomercial where our PM prompts his guest to mouth incoherent platitudes about the great regional leadership Australia is showing already. It’s an inspired vignette of The ASEAN Way.

A big-noting, do-nothing club, ASEAN is an outfit where nine out of ten members are tyrants whose mutual contempt for human rights is protected by a mind your own business pact.

Like the fabulous Kray brothers who terrorised London, ASEAN’s strong men are harsh but fair. Cambodian PM Hung Sen obligingly warns any would-be protesters that,

“If they burn my effigy … I will pursue them to their houses and beat them up”.

The ASEAN Way means members vow not to meddle in any other member’s internal affairs. These include Myanmar’s genocide, or the 12,000 plus, Human Rights Watch calculates to be the current tally of victims of Duterte’s “war on drugs”, in reality, a war on the poor.

Sadly, psychopath, Duterte is unable to be with us this weekend because he’s busy pulling The Philippines out of the International Criminal Court (ICC) by withdrawing from The Rome Statute, the treaty which established the ICC. He’s furious with ICC criticism of his ways.

It’s inspiring leadership. Our own tin-pot government, a front for big mining, banking and other multinational business interests is already well along The ASEAN Way as Julie Bishop and her funky DFAT backing group refuse to condemn Myanmar’s genocide of Rohingya  or utter a peep at China’s Xi becoming President for life.

Still it’s hard to claim the high moral ground. We have glaring human rights violations of our own, in our offshore detention regime and in our treatment of Australia’s indigenous peoples while our Coalition government increases state surveillance and secrecy.

The ASEAN club fondly imagines itself to be the hub of Asia Pacific regionalism which could  put a spoke in China’s wheel, in an airy grand design that provide a beaut opportunity for our government’s foreign policy wonks to compose carefully worded statements pious intent that lack all specificity; an archly non-committal commitment, the epitome of postmodern politics.

“Australia places high priority on our bilateral relationships in Southeast Asia and on our support for ASEAN. The Government is enhancing engagement with the region to support an increasingly prosperous, outwardly-focused, stable and resilient Southeast Asia.”  

The statement, like ASEAN itself defies parsing. Just think of APEC without the silly shirts. But it’s a ripper of an opportunity for “Little” Malcolm Turnbull to pose as a regional statesman amongst a bunch of crony capitalists, nepotists, despots and thugs -(strong men is the favoured euphemism) -who preside over governments that deny basic liberties and fundamental freedoms to their citizens. Especially in Myanmar.

Human Rights Watch reports,

Since late August 2017, more than 688,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Burma’s Rakhine State to escape the military’s large-scale campaign of ethnic cleansing. The atrocities committed by Burmese security forces, including mass killings, sexual violence, and widespread arson, amount to crimes against humanity.

Those who expect to hear a statement from the Australian government censuring Myanmar for its policy of genocide towards The Rohingya come away from the weekend sadly disappointed.

It is left to a group of local lawyers to file a private case against Aung San Suu Kyi, state counsellor and de facto leader of the Myanmar government.  

Ron Merkel QC, a Melbourne barrister and former federal court judge, international lawyers Marion Isobel and Raelene Sharp, and Sydney human rights lawyers Alison Battisson and Daniel Taylor file the private prosecution application in the Melbourne magistrates court late on Friday, reports The Guardian’s Ben Doherty

The lawyers’ application, which faces many barriers, including the approval of the attorney general, Christian Porter, accuses Aung San Suu Kyi of crimes against humanity for the deportation or forcible transfer of a population in relation to widespread and ongoing human rights abuses inside Myanmar.

May the applicants be blessed with miraculous success. Their action is inspiring as much as it shows up the Turnbull government’s reluctance to assert any real leadership at all.

The last word for the week could be a motto for the ASEAN Way and our own ruling elite’s self-interested, cynical – often amoral but high-handed behaviour comes from Trump’s new economic adviser Larry Kudlow who takes the spirit of neoliberalism to a whole new level:

The wealthy, he claims, “have no need to steal or engage in corruption” because “they know how to achieve goals and convince skeptics that good deals can be made to the benefit of both sides.”

Our nation abounds this week, with examples of how deals can be good because the wealthy are by definition virtuous.


“Despite the light at the end of the tunnel, the journey ahead will not be smooth.”



“Despite the light at the end of the tunnel, the journey ahead will not be smooth.” Wang-Yi, Chinese Foreign Minister.

China’s philosophical Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, dips into the fortune cookie jar, this week, for a homespun mixed metaphor to sound a diplomatic note of caution, when, in an extraordinary turn of events, North Korea agrees to meet South at the negotiating table.

Wang’s multi-layered killer riff also wraps politics at home from Barnaby Joyce’s “grey area” paternity, to the fracas in Tasmania as “slick” Willy Hodgman’s Liberals sensibly announce their policies after winning the election, thus sparing Apple Isle voters the Sisyphean agony of choosing between parties according to policy manifesto; promises made to be broken.

Shoot first. Ask questions afterwards. Even Tasmanian nasty party veteran, Eric Abetz must be shocked by the state Liberals’ Willy-nilly approach to democracy. Returned Premier Hodgman openly admits that 200 of its 300 policies were released after election day. Yet he’s claiming an electoral mandate even for policies which were hidden from voter scrutiny.

Fast-talking Michael Ferguson, Tassie Liberal campaign manager and master of spin, claims his party simply had too many good ideas. Of course. The “sheer volume of policies released during an election campaign makes it impractical to widely promote all of them during the campaign period”. Or explain them. Or get them to Treasury on time. Or cost them.

Treasury documents, released Wednesday, reveal that Hodgman has opted to follow Barnaby Joyce’s example of improving a party’s electoral appeal by not costing new policies. Tassie Liberals win a Barnaby award for most un-costed election commitments.

Showing contempt for evidence is one way the National Party’s former leader once rallied his party. As shadow water minister, in 2010, he said he’d use for toilet paper, the Productivity Commission Report on water recovery for the Murray Darling Basin.

Insufficient time or information leaves Tasmania’s Department of Finance unable to assess 161 Liberal pledges. Joyce, readers will recall, billed the taxpayer $40 million to move an entire government department, appropriately a regulatory authority which deals with pests, without even what is fondly called “modelling” and despite the wishes of the staff.

This week, the wonderfully named David Littleproud, Minister for Agriculture confirms the move will continue, despite the discovery that the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority will spend nearly $1 million on leasing and fitting out its temporary digs in Armidale for more staff, as it prepares to move into its permanent new home by mid-2019.

ACT MP Gai Brodtmann warns that the move “has cost the Australian taxpayer $26 million already and is likely to cost the Australian taxpayer $60 million”.

A mere 42 staff, including nine scientists have left the APVMA since Barnaby’s brainwave and Dr Parker, New CEO of the regulatory authority claims most have been unable or unwilling to travel north from Canberra, the original location of their workplace. Nothing to see here.

Less is heard this week from  industry groups who have complained that the authority is unable to cope with its workload, but Ms Brodtmann reports that the move is opposed by industry groups and peak associations, including CropLife Australia, Animal Medicines Australia and the National Farmers Federation.

The vibe was right; the pork barrelling perfect. Bugger the key stakeholders. Too much consultation simply spoils the populism. So, too does the over-sharing of personal details, as Joyce discovers to his cost.

Barnaby’s intimate affairs may be the new wet patch of national politics. Monday, Joyce calls yet another public, press conference to keep his life private. The paternity of his partner Vikki Campion’s child, he says, is a grey area. Joyce is a dead, buried and cremated man walking.

How quickly, the gold rolls off the “rolled gold promise” he would survive as Nationals’ leader.

Already regretting her rolled-gold pledge is Nats’ Deputy, Bridget McKenzie, whom a well-oiled Joyce (“I wasn’t drunk”) once publicly admired in a late night senate session,

“Madam acting deputy president McKenzie, you are looking wonderful tonight,” Joyce said at 9:00 pm July 2012. “You are a flash bit of kit in this chamber; there is no doubt about you.”

 In the spirit of International Women’s Day, last Thursday, it must be remembered that Barnaby rounded off his compliment by asking McKenzie to “roll with me on that one”.

Impotent, “inept”, but as yet unrolled, Liberal leader, Turnbull, meanwhile, wears his PM’s hollow crown uneasily. Eagerly awaiting Newspoll number 30, Abbott reminds him he will need to show due cause why he should remain Prime Minister, next month – if not sooner.

Michaelia Cash, darling of Western Australia’s hard right, continues to cause grief with her “brain-snap”, or attempt at debate by personal innuendo and slander but Turnbull cannot afford to lose her support. His contortions to keep her onside, on board, or behind a white-board have been pure high farce and highly damaging. If only he could white-board Abbott.

The white-board parodies a government which boasts it is open and transparent. Damaging also is Turnbull’s brain-snap defence of Cash. Betraying his need to support her at any cost, he absurdly accuses Doug Cameron of bullying. At least the dud GDP figures can be hushed up.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), reveal real GDP grew by 0.4% in the December quarter of last year. Even the best spin can’t disguise a drop over the year to 2.4%, below what the government claims is the economy’s potential trend growth rate or around 2.75%.
Malcolm chokes on the sulphurous stench of his 28th consecutive bad Newspoll, a modern medieval Hell’s mouth, which, this week, even devours his precious but irrelevant preferred PM lead. He drops eight points. Now he’s statistically equal to Bill Shorten.

Since 2016 the government has lagged behind the opposition by 6.6 per cent on average. The Turnbull experiment is a failure.

Even Turnbull must concede that a thirtieth dud poll is inevitable, next month. “Senior Labor figures” are said to be calculating on facing another Liberal leader, next election. Nothing for it but once last fling at being Super-Mal. Mal gets his office to call Greg Norman to be Robin.

As he dons his tarnishing Super Mal outfit; the showman in Turnbull senses a last chance to pose as a super statesman by wringing exemptions from the president’s dumb 25% tariff on steel 10% tariff on aluminium – that is if no-one at home notices that US tariffs won’t make much difference to our industries. We don’t export much of either metal.

What we do export, moreover, is covered by the Australia United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSTFA) our much-vaunted dud Trade Agreement with the United Sates.

Dynamic Dan Tehan rushes to air Friday informing ABC RN listeners of his mission to save Alcoa’s Portland aluminium smelter, which is in his electorate. He neglects to say that the business is a basket case, propped up only because the state and federal government use $250 million of tax-payer money to pay the smelter’s electricity bill.

Of course, there’s more. Now concessions have been granted –or appear to have been granted, Trump expects Australia to “join the US in sending a signal to China about the South China Sea”, or play chicken with the Chinese Navy, an option favoured by new US ambassador to Australia, Pacific commander Harry Harris formerly of Guantanamo Bay.

It’s a high price to pay for concessions which appear to have been unnecessary and which, in any case, won’t protect us from the effects of a trade war between China, USA and the EU. Turnbull’s stunt may prove a pyrrhic victory; another example of his poor judgement.

Another fan of poor judgement, Trade Minister, Steve Ciobo, pops up on Sunday’s ABC Insiders to spruik US lickspittle, John Howard’s, dud trade agreement with the US as the best thing since smashed avocado. Yet three years ago, ANU research confirms that the Australian Free Trade Agreement, (AUSTFA) is a lemon. But how would Steve know?

Everyone on Insiders is too polite to ask the Neoliberal blowhard what’s happened to the wondrous free trade deal with Indonesia he promised a year ago. Ciobo’s work on our Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA), which began in 2016, is a game well into extra time, as negotiators add an 11th round in December, its seventh extension after negotiations in November failed to finalise any deal whatsoever.

Ciobo’s lies about the benefit of AUSTFA are unchallenged. Ciobo even drops the name of the Liberal party’s patron saint, Neoliberal Saint John of the double-cross of Tampa, the un-Fair Work Commission, cheer-leader of the illegal invasion of Iraq Howard, Amen, as geriatric living proof that AUSTFA is a good thing. It has, in fact, cost us billions.

Shiro Armstrong Co-Director of the Australia-Japan Research Centre at the Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU notes the agreement diverted Australia’s trade away from the lowest-cost sources. Australia and the US reduced their trade with the rest of the world by US$53 billion and are worse off than they would have been without the agreement.

Imports to Australia and the US from the rest of the world fell by $37.5 billion and exports to the rest of the world from the two countries fell by $15.6 billion over eight years to 2012.

Praise for AUSTFA is “complete and utter nonsense on stilts” to purloin Nick Clegg’s recent dismissal of Julie Bishop’s proposal of a UK-Australia free trade (FTA) which would be “value-added” by creating a bridge whereby the Old Dart could become eligible to belong to another impending disaster, the TPP.

The TPP will enable companies to exploit “temporary workers” brought from overseas, says the Australian Council of Trade Unions, which slammed the deal on February 21. It also warns that the agreement also allows foreign companies to sue Australian governments for making decisions, such as the plain packaging laws on cigarettes.

Never to be outbid, our Prime Minister, Malcolm Bligh Turnbull echoes Wang’s cryptic warning. “There have been many false dawns”, Turnbull responds. He should know. His epigram avoids trains, tunnels and journeys but unwittingly voices his own political epitaph.

Turnbull doesn’t mention false claims. The week witnesses a bizarre tussle as three nations compete for kudos in wrangling “rogue state” North Korea to its senses. Things turn ugly.

In a shocking three-way heist, China, snatches credit from the US which snatches credit from South Korea, which cops a lot of stick, for painstakingly setting up its first talks since 1953 with North Korea’s Fatboy-Kim III, as Kim Jung-un is known, in Chinese cyberspace.

The breakthrough results from South Korea’s hard yards. Despite US opposition, President, Moon Jae-in has laboured long over his courageous personal diplomacy in search of peace.

Moon’s initiatives include high-risk ventures: he hosted Kim’s sister and a chorus of cheerleaders for the Winter Olympics. He defied US opposition to his mission. And a senior delegation sent to Pyongyang, gets a terrific surprise to find their dinner host is Kim.

Moon will meet Kim next month on the south of the demilitarised zone, a brutal reminder of when the US divided North and South Korea after dropping half a million tonnes of bombs on the north. Chemical weapons and Napalm were included in a “long, leisurely and merciless” bombing campaign killing three million people, about half of whom, were civilians.

Koreans remember “the forgotten war”, a war the US lost against largely peasant armies, “forgotten” by the US and Australia only because it went unreported at home. One post-war detail, at least, helps contextualise the view of those who charge Kim with nuclear blackmail.

Nuclear blackmail? From 1958 to 1990, the US stationed hundreds of nukes in South Korea with standard plans to use them in the early stages of a North Korean invasion.

Moon pressures the US to relax its demands for talks with North Korea. He sends his emissary to Trump, Thursday, relaying “an undisclosed personal message” from Kim. It is this initiative which results in The Donald trumping his efforts and claiming all the credit.

Yet Wily Wang Yi is uncannily prophetic. Before week’s end, two desperate imposters, the hopeless, hapless, narcissist Trump and his embarrassingly eager “inept” fan-boy, Turnbull, big-note themselves abroad in desperate attempts to divert impending domestic disaster.

Trump jumps the shark. As his staffers spin the old, tired myth of The Donald’s deal-making mastery, he gazumps the South Korean engineered offer to talk with “little rocket man”, his pet pejorative term for Kim Jong-un, and pretends to propose a pow-wow in May, provided, of course, Kim completely disarms and crippling sanctions stay in place.

Deal-making? It’s just a stunt. Yochi Dreazen sets the record straight in Vox.

It’s not just that Trump hasn’t been able to nail down deals on domestic issues like health care, trade issues like NAFTA, or foreign policy issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It’s that he hasn’t really even tried, avoiding direct talks with political rivals or foreign leaders and instead preferring to simply sit on the sidelines and see what his aides could come up with.

 Sit on the sidelines? Trump slaves night and day over his signature phrases “We’ll see what happens … we’ll see how it all comes about”. Flattery helps. “Uncle Trump” or “Donald the Strong” or “The Commander” his Beijing fans call him. They follow state media in paying tribute to his “decisiveness; his fearless risk-taking”. China has got Trump’s number.

The Chinese play Trump at his own game. The self-proclaimed master deal-maker would rather have a bad deal than no deal at all. Even a compromise allows him to declare a “win.”

“Tell him yes”, “I’ll do it,” The Donald rudely interrupts a trio of South Korean officials, visiting The Oval Office to weigh the diplomatic options of Kim’s offer to talk. Trump has no inkling of what he’s up for. No-one could remotely prepare him for such an encounter by May. But his instinct prompts him to snatch kudos for himself, regardless of protocol. His racism helps, too. Instantly, he usurps Moon’s role; brazenly claiming his diplomacy as his own.

Light at the end of the tunnel may, of course, be an oncoming dragon. Or the devil’s venom, the dangerously volatile rocket fuel, unsymmetrical dimethyl hydrazine (UDMH), which China and Russia have obligingly supplied Kim since George W Bush restored trade tariffs to protect the US steel industry in 2002, a calamitous failure, abandoned a year later.

With no dragon’s venom, Kim’s missiles could not fly but that’s not in either Russia or China’s strategic interests. Our US vassal nation rejoices to learn that China has sorted North Korea, even if, as Wang Yi suggests, we may all be in for a rough trot.

Amazingly, the Pussy-Grabber in Chief is able to extricate himself from his duties; tear himself away from getting lawyer, Michael Cohen to put a restraining order on adult film actor, Stormy Daniels, (Stephanie Clifford), who wants to reveal details of her alleged affair with Trump, a fabulous audio-visual performance piece, which may include images and texts.

Juggling the rigours of golf, firing more staff and the other pressing needs of a B-Grade reality TV presidency, including waging a world trade war, simply because, he mistakenly believes it will win him Pittsburgh, Trump stops the show by announcing he will meet Kim.

It’s huge. The Donald’s talk of talks with Kim, “in May, sometime” on a set yet to be chosen is given a standing ovation by local media happy to pretend a meaningless stunt is, in fact, an amazing breakthrough – before any meeting has even taken place.

The Donald is hailed locally as “The first serving president to meet a North Korean leader”.  Some of our local politicians from Tamworth to Tasmania will be delighted to see Trump get the accolade before he’s even met Kim Jong-un or without a scrap of evidence to suggest the US President is capable of any intelligent, informed, strategic dialogue.

What do facts matter in a post-truth world? Or a world in which lies are merely alternative facts? Or a world where real statecraft takes a back seat to parochial politics; how it looks at home for Wang, Turnbull and the photo-opportunity, reality TV president Trump?

No-one expects Kim to give up his nuclear weapons, his nation’s life insurance policy. Nor does China want a weakend North Korea on its border.

It’s clear, above all, from Wang-Yi’s cryptic fortune cookie comment that it’s not the light at the end of the tunnel but the long rough journey ahead – the drawn-out, time consuming, endlessly protracted time wasting process of talks that’s China’s real objective.

Upsetting the bad-apple cart, is South Korean President, former student activist and human rights lawyer, Moon Jae-in’s inspiring personal quest for peace and justice against the odds; a rare quest fuelled by principle and ideal in a world where cynical pragmatists abound.

The cheerleaders, whom Moon kindly billeted, over a Winter Olympics, will have long left to go back to their homes in the North, but he could certainly do with some cheering on.



One-armed bandits rob Tassie election while Cash loses plot and Barnaby finds paternity a grey area.

And it is money that has come out of the pockets of some of the poorest people. It is money that comes from human hardship. These machines are located in pubs and clubs in areas of economic disadvantage deliberately. And that is why we have fought so hard, so hard, to get poker machines out of pubs and clubs in Tasmania. We know they are lethal and toxic machines. Cassy O’Connor Tasmanian Greens’ leader

Like rabbits caught in the headlights of a juggernaut of pro-pokie Liberal Mad-men, Tasmanians vote, Saturday, mostly to do as they are told. It’s a win for pokies’ owners by pokies’ owners. Bugger the people. Yet it’s not the crushing victory being sold on mainstream media. What is clear by Sunday is the Liberals will stay in power.

Premier Will Hodgman’s government wins 13 of the 25 state lower house seats on Saturday, a loss of two, or down 0.8 %, but still enough for his Liberal Party to govern in its own right in a large late surge over the last month.

Labor’s vote is up 5.4% with 84% of the vote counted Sunday. The Hare-Clark, Robson system means that several seats remain in doubt in contests between candidates from the same party. What is not in doubt is the size of the Liberal war chest which some say is ten times Labor’s. Did wealthy Liberals donors help the party buy its victory?

Bedazzled by bill-boards, newspapers and TV screens, in a saturation ad blitzkrieg, voters succumb to sentimental slogans such as “love your local” and fear of paternalism, the dreaded spectre of Labor-Green despotism.

And the jobs’ lies. “I’ll have to go to the mainland for a hospitality career if Labor gets in,” whinges a teenager on the radio, a model of self-pitying misery and entitlement, already a perfect fit for any career in customer service.

Bad news, kid, the “hospitality industry” is rife with wage theft and exploitation. Better you should stay at school.

“Whether it’s a big, small or medium business, the most common worker is young, unskilled or a migrant so really it’s a hotpot for exploitation. When you put all these things in the mix, people aren’t aware of their rights — people are desperate to work, and it’s a recipe for exploitation,” says Shine Lawyers employment law expert, Will Barsby.

When it comes to wages, Tasmanian workers share the predicament of all Australia’s workers. Wage earners’ share of the national pie has shrunk dramatically to the lowest point since the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) began recording this data in 1959.

Roy Morgan reports that our workforce is 13,410,000 comprised of employed and unemployed, up a whopping 518,000 on a year ago, a context omitted in Scott Morrison’s misleading claim that “2017 was a year of extraordinary jobs growth in Australia, over 400,000 jobs created in the year”.

1.312 million Australians were unemployed (9.8% of the workforce); an increase of 126,000 (up 0.6%) on a year ago, but Morrison chooses to hide this from us in the hope we are all mugs. ScoMo or Michaelia Cash never talk about numbers of unemployed.

Furthermore, despite Liberal shills on ABC and mainstream media who pretend there is some miraculous recovery happening ,Tasmanians are in fact more likely to be out of work or underemployed than workers in any other state.

Tasmania’s unemployment rate is 10.7% while 11.5% of the workforce is under-employment 11.5%. 22.2%, or one in five, Tassie workers have either no work or not enough. Abolishing pokies is not going to cost 5000 jobs – as claimed by Hodgman’s Liberals – when there are only 370 workers in the industry – or about 1000 in gambling overall. And other jobs are likely to be created as a result of money not spent gambling.

The new gaming laws will bring a windfall for casinos reports The Australia Institute, cutting their taxes in half if they are put on the Federal group rate. Taxes for pubs and clubs, on the other hand, will rise by $10 million. Yet, in a typically caring, sharing, token concession to pokies’ toxicity, taxpayers will contribute an extra $1.7 million to the Community Support Levy to counter the costs of problem gambling. The casinos are the big winners while the punter loses out yet again.

The Liberals’ big Tasmania vision is not solution, either, for unlucky punters. Population growth is at its highest rate since the GFC, but that doesn’t “grow” jobs. Nor is it a state economic windfall. It’s the structure of the population that counts. Each year Tasmania has fewer young and more older people compared to the rest of Australia, even when population “booms”.

Will Hodgman has had a population push since 2014. Yet Tasmania has always gained more people over 45 and lost more younger, working, fertile, 19-39 year olds due, mainly, to the state’s lack of employment opportunities.

Older folk create jobs and actively contribute to society and economy, but they also will create increasing demand for government services, such as pensions and healthcare, areas in which Liberals have a poor track record.

The Government has made sweeping job cuts in health, reports ABC Fact check with the Treasurer stating publicly that while the Tasmanian Health Organisations gained 80 full-time equivalent staff, the Health Department shed 200 positions between June 2014 and March 2016.

But bosses and government never gull young people, it’s always unions and greenies who are out to con you.

“Labor and the Greens think you’re stupid. What’s next? Don’t let them tell you what to do”.

This richly allusive Liberal rhetorical campaign gem shrewdly taps Tasmanians’ memory of the unpopularity of its last Labor-Greens coalition cabinet of 2010, a coalition which psephologist, William Bowe, dubs an electoral disaster.

Be it inertia, bewilderment, blind panic, cynical manipulation, disinformation or a toxic cocktail of the lot, in the end, voters elect Will Hodgman’s Libs, a shady cabal of big business, big gambling and Big W, in a result which will further erode Tasmanians’ control of their own lives, expand state power, boost  gun-power and feed the canker of poker machine blight, introduced to the Apple Isle by Ray Groom’s, 1993 Liberal government.

Can Tasmania, our most beautiful, most wondrous state, Australia’s own Serendip, now be rotten at the core?

Ministry of Truth, our ABC in its Insiders cosy Sunday hack-chat-show, a forum which artfully evades the real issues, or real depth, says the Liberals win as Tasmanians flock to sunny uplands of neoliberal prosperity. Hodgman’s Liberals, they say, deliver an “economic upturn” a myth based on the island state’s property boom, or bubble.

It’s a tall story which can only grow taller, as the federal Liberals’ spin doctor army toils to turn the result into a vindication of the Turnbull government’s futile attempts to revive neoliberalism’s corpse; its corporate tax cut payola to its donors, and austerity budgeting, a campaign of calculated impoverishment of innocent and vulnerable victims of its policies, which daily widens the gulf of economic inequality, in its war on the poor and elderly.

By Monday, Tassie’s results will become a sign of upturn number 365 in the Turnbull government’s popularity. There is always a reboot, a recovery around every corner.

Yet, apart from real estate sales, any other economic upturn is hard to find. So why the sudden turnaround? A month ago, polls had the two parties neck and neck, on 34% of the vote, but in more recent polls Liberals soar an alarming 12 %.  in a shocking corruption of the popular will, which, William Bowe, worries, means,

The election could join federal Labor’s mining tax debacle in 2010 as a cautionary tale about the dangers of taking on deep-pocketed interests in an election campaign.

A key issue at stake is many Tasmanians’ opposition to Federal Hotels’ pokies monopoly. Federal owns all 3500 machines (plus Wrest Point Casino, some luxury wilderness accommodation and the Henry James Hotel). Labor and The Greens’ want to remove pokies from all pubs and clubs by 2023. But end the firm’s half-billion dollar revenue stream?

Also not sitting well with voters is Federal’s breath-taking, back-flipping duplicity. Anti-pokers veteran, Pat Caplice sums up Federal’s hypocrisy.

 “The clubs and hotels pushed for pokies back in the ’80s. Federal opposed it totally, used all the arguments about dependency they now deny. Then, when it was being debated in 1993, there was a huge backflip, within days, and Federal itself was gifted a monopoly licence.”

Saturday’s election result ushers in a new “gaming” agreement, an industry euphemism for ripping off unwary, vulnerable, punters. The state will revoke Federal Hotels’ monopoly and gift licences to pokies pubs, in a move which will result in cashed-up Federal and Woolworths buying up dozens of pubs, allowing Woolworths a 30-40% stake in gambling in the state. The result is guaranteed to increase personal misery and social breakdown.

Meanwhile, the pro-pokie promotion create a ruckus that sucks the oxygen out of many other areas of debate.

Protecting what remains of The Tarkine is a huge political issue. Speciality timber logging permits granted in 2014 by Hodgman’s government reduce the area’s reserve to five per cent of its former area. Liberal candidate for Braddon, Adam Brooks’, media release reads “Only the Liberals would stop a Tarkine National Park”.

The Liberal election pledge is an indictment of the party’s senseless environmental vandalism; its contempt for Aboriginal cultural heritage, history and the legacy of shell middens, stone quarries, hut depressions, seal hides and rock carvings that remain and its failure to consult with local Aboriginal people.

17 coupes are still being logged while the 4WD fraternity, bush-bash on expensive temporary road mats. In Hobart, around two thousand people protest the abuse of the unique wilderness, in a gathering led by the Bob Brown Foundation. The group calls for permanent protection for the 447,000 hectares of the Tarkine.

One-armed bandits backers make such a racket they drown out late news that the 45th Tasmanian premier, William Edward Felix Hodgman, promises the quaintly termed sporting shooters and farmers, a hard-nosed gun lobby, an easing of gun control laws, extending licences from five to ten years and permitting automatic weapons.

But if it’s a victory for guns and money, it’s also another stage in the ascent of the corporate oligarchy Woolworths, which, Guy Rundle writes, will wield power over Tasmanians “from controlling prices to suppliers, to selling them their food back as consumers, and taking the cash of people who never quite make it to the shops.”

At the same time, Tasmanians surrender their own say in their own affairs, as Hodgman’s big government proposes major projects legislation and a state-wide planning scheme which shuts out community input.

Tasmania, fruit of the fruit machine, rolls with the dice, as the state’s obscenely powerful gambling lobby pours millions of dollars into Liberal party campaign coffers, vastly outspending the Labor Party. Some estimate a Liberal war chest up to ten times larger. We may never know. The state has the nation’s slackest campaign donation disclosure rules.

What is unique – and refreshing about the Tassie election campaign is the respect between the Liberal and Labor leaders, a tradition that is dead, buried and cremated in federal politics this week when Michaelia Cash suddenly threatens to name young women in Bill Shorten’s office – about whom there have been rumours “for many, many years.” The idea that she should “slut-shame” nineteen women working in Shorten’s office is bizarre, wrong and a sign of an ugly decline in federal politics.

Worse, Cash makes it clear that she proposes to name names and then Shorten will have to prove his innocence. It’s a perversion of legal process and a cheap, demeaning stunt. Worse, it plumbs new depths in character assassination as political strategy.

And it’s part of Liberal team plan: Peter Dutton is soon off the leash on 2GB attacking loose, louche, philandering Bill and two-timing Tony Burke.

“I think we’ve sat here taking a morals lecture from Bill Shorten in relation to Barnaby Joyce over the last few weeks and people know that there’s a history of problems in Bill Shorten’s personal life, Tony Burke’s personal life. And to be lectured by the Labor Party really sticks in the craw.”

As is Dutton’s wont, he is undeterred by being factually incorrect and totally out of order. Labor scrupulously abstained from criticising Barnaby Joyce’s affair with his staffer Vicki Campion.

It was, in fact, Malcolm Turnbull who took it upon himself to deliver a finger-wagging moralising, which was backed up with what can only have been a National to Liberal Party hand-ball leaking of the name of a woman who is bringing case of sexual harassment or serious misconduct against Joyce to the National Party – from whom we have heard nothing further.

Above all it’s not Joyce’s dangerous liaisons that are the critical issue – not his fidelity or his personal morality but how he could create or cause to be created not one but three jobs for his (non-partner) paramour Vicki Campion. And his boondoggle inland rail. Plus his Murray Darling basin water for rich cotton irrigator National party mates scandal.

As the week closes, it is clear that the Coalition’s mud-slinging will continue as part of the Kill Bill strategy – but also as a splendid diversion from any alleged peculation, nepotism or misuse of public funds including travel allowances, a net which seems to be closing rapidly on Julie Bishop, whose non-partner, David Panton, is somehow able to travel at taxpayers’ expense.

The situation is clarified late in the week when Bishop changes her mind; agrees the two have been partners for six months. At least that’s cleared that up. Will Panton now repay his trip to the UN or any other trips he took with her prior to that period? At least it’s not “a grey area” as Barnaby Joyce calls his paternity.

A new tune to add to his brilliant riffs on playing the innocent victim, Joyce tells media that everyone assumed he was the father of Vikki Campion’s child. He may not be. The Daily Tele never asked, despite there being an email from the paper to Joyce asking that very question according to Fairfax.

Now it seems Barnaby and non-partner Vikki were mostly geographically apart with some togetherness during the putative conception date of the unborn child, whom Barnaby, nobly, says he will love anyway. And no. He has no intention of taking any paternity test. Perhaps it may turn out to be an immaculate conception.

In Tassie this week, the Liberals win by throwing buckets of their sponsors, the gambling mob’s – (wrongly dignified as an industry)-  money at advertising promoting fear and loathing of Labor, while, in the senate, Michaelia Cash dishes the dirt as a diversion from her own alleged collusion with the AFP to contact media to help her conduct a witch hunt in an illegal raid on the Melbourne office of the AWU, a union Michael Keenan says gave a donation to Bill Shorten’s campaign – as it is perfectly entitled to do.

The AWU has not yet been charged with a single criminal offence. Probably because none has been committed. In the meantime, politicians from Tasmanian to the nation’s capital compete this week, as Hamlet almost says, stewing in corruption, honeying and making love – while tipping buckets of excrement over their opponents in a debauched, degenerate, parody of a competitive party political system which was once based however loosely around policies and reasoned argument and rational rebuttal.

The nation moves beyond policy, principle or even the fan-club of identity politics to savage character assassination, innuendo and vituperative personal attack. Each day we draw closer to the politics of Trump’s USA, the nation our PM wishes to sedulously ape and not only in tax cuts for corporations but in health and welfare, too.









100 Years of Mateship? A Week of Empty, Desperate, posturing from a government in crisis.

turnbull trumped by trump

“It’s not about me. It’s about the Weatherboard Nine”, Barnaby riffs. He’s working up to standing down. It’s the best thing he’s done in politics but it’s not done well. Not about me…invokes the little people in whose name monstrosities are committed in populist identity politics. It’s a suitably tacky grand finale to Barnaby-Dada!, our current Canberra soap opera, whose title nods to surrealism while paying tribute to the blessed gift of paternity.

Some say Barnaby-Dada! sucks all oxygen out of our national conversation but it’s a rewarding show. We are miraculously distracted from the national agenda of how best to give the Coalition’s rich pals tax cuts at our expense, or how incredibly well-protected we are from ISIS Jihadists, who almost blew an Etihad jumbo right out of the sky but for our fabulous mincer bomb Mossad intelligence. And Dutto’s jihad on Melbourne’s African gangs.

Yet Barnaby-Dada! and its side-splitting sequel Mal bans bonking the boss offers more than entertaining diversion; a wretched Turnbull government, for example, may be put out of its misery by Barnaby’s big dummy-spit Friday.

It may be just the end of the beginning of Barnaby Busted our next enthralling episode featuring Barnaby in his role as The Red Octopus, as women call the man with the roving hands but the beginning of the end for Turnbull.

There’s a lot to be learned, for starters, about the man, his mob and our politics from the manner of his going.

Flash as a rat with a gold tooth, all togged up in a shiny new navy suit; trouser legs ruched up untidily over stockman’s boot-tops and a cattleman’s hat, always a size too big, Nationals’ love-rat, Barnaby, Thomas, Gerald Joyce, calls a 2:00 PM – put the trash out- presser. He’s stepping down as deputy and party leader.

But only to protect others. Barnaby has done nothing wrong: “Over the last half a month, there has been a litany, litany of allegations. I don’t believe any of them have been sustained. A litany of allegations,” he repeats in a mea non culpa rib-tickler that follows his earlier number I did not partner that woman ( it’s a bad joke, Joyce).

The latest allegation, is, in fact, a formal complaint of sexual harassment. Catherine Marriott whom The Australian describes as a ­respected leader in the agricultural sector and a former West Australian Rural Woman of the Year, says she wants Joyce held to account.  So she tells his party’s federal executive. Joyce wants to call in the police.

“I requested that a formal and confidential investigation into this incident be undertaken by the National party to ensure there is accountability in relation to the incident I raise, and to prevent this type of inappropriate behaviour towards women in the future,” Marriot tells The Oz which reveals her identity, against her wishes, Saturday.

Marriott is determined that the Nationals follow her complaint through to its conclusion, her lawyer, Emma Sal­erno, says yesterday. Joyce, who insists he’s the victim in this whole marriage breakdown thing, asks his party

“… for the right of that person who’s made the allegation, and I’ve asked for my right to defence, that that be referred to police.” In the meantime he’s publicly called the allegations, “spurious and defamatory”, just in case his party or any other authority need a little gratuitous bush-lawyer advice to guide their independent adjudication.

ABC Insiders scribes nod wisely, Sunday. “She tried to do it the right way,” they agree. In 2018, the woman should not go to the police but keep her serious allegation of sexual harassment quiet; tip-toe to the offender’s party boss? What have we come to? Bridget McKenzie denies that the Nationals leaker Marriot’s name to The Australian. “Who else would have done it?”, panel members ask. They get that bit right. Barnaby plays victim.

It’s all a witch-hunt but he cannot stand by and let the innocent suffer. Sadly his PM cannot be present, either.

Safely in an open-for-business Washington, protected by a posse of fellow biz-millionaires whom he co-opts to hail Trump’s fake economic miracle. (It’s part of his wheeze to push his own plans to put $65 billion in their pockets on return), our Prime Minister of cunning stunts, looks on, from afar, as Barnaby falls like Brueghel’s Icarus.

A poker-faced PM imagines his deputy drowning; a red stain spreading in the lower right of the national canvas as he bides his time waiting for Trump’s nanosecond attention-span to register his unctuous fawning. Coalition policy is to normalise Trump while playing up our dangerous, grovelling, dependency on the US as 100 years of mateship.

“The economic stimulus that your reforms have delivered here in the United States is one of the most powerful arguments that we are deploying to persuade our legislature to support reducing business tax,” our PM tells Trump. “Because, as you are demonstrating and as we all know, when you cut company tax, most of the benefit goes to workers. It produces more investment. And, when you get more investment, you get more jobs.”

Turnbull tells an outright lie. There is no evidence of economic stimulus. Nor is it reasonable to expect any, experts reckon, until at least a year has passed. And not even then. Most of the benefit goes to shareholders who see the value of their shares increase as the extra cash is spent on more stock buybacks or dividends.

US companies have not only overwhelmingly used the tax cut to buy back shares, wage increases turn out to be mainly one-off bonuses rather than an actual pay rise. $5.6bn has gone towards employee bonuses awarded on the basis of years served with the company while $171bn has gone into share buybacks.

Turnbull, nevertheless, persists with the palpable lie that trickle down does not in fact trickle up. And stay there.  A few embedded journalists who travel with Turnbull repeat his fiction so that by Sunday’s ABC Insiders, the lie that 70% of US corporate tax cuts go to workers is reified, and will go on to become a canon of mainstream media (MSM) belief as our media sets the “national conversation” about tax. It’s wilful, fraudulent, disinformation.

Trickle-down is a joke. Comedian Will Rogers, poked fun at President Herbert Hoover’s Depression-era recovery efforts, with the line that “money was all appropriated for the top in the hopes it would trickle down to the needy.”

It’s still a joke today. In 2015, the IMF published a scathing indictment of the ways trickle-down theory has been used to justify growing income inequality over the past several decades. As for growth, the authors of the report write, “Income distribution matters for growth. Specifically, if the income share of the top 20 percent increases, then GDP growth actually declined over the medium term, suggesting that the benefits do not trickle down.”

Trump looks at Turnbull. He’s demolished the triple cheeseburger. Our PM cutely seizes his moment.

“We have been inspired, I have to say, by your success in securing the passage of the tax reforms through the Congress,” Turnbull flushes and gushes over Trump’s A$1.9 trillion tax cut for corporations and the wealthy.

Never mind that Treasury is reserved while the Reserve Bank thinks the “reforms” stink and economics boffins worry about where the money’s not coming from; how tax cuts funded entirely by debt may be a recipe for financial instability both in the US and at home. Trump just wants to hear praise for his guns in schools idea.

Fixing his trademark shit-eating grin in that awkward side-on-body-head-turned-to-the-camera handshake pose, a figure in an Egyptian frieze, Trumble offers best buddy Trump fearless advice on his latest show of stable genius: how to end school gun violence by arming teachers.  Or does he? He could follow Sarah Chadwick’s example.

Sixteen year old Sarah, a survivor of the February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, tweets to the Tweeter in Chief in language he understands , reports Richard Ackland

“I don’t want your condolences you fucking piece of shit, my friends and teachers were shot. Multiple of my fellow classmates are dead. Do something instead of sending prayers. Prayers won’t fix this. But gun control will prevent it from happening again.”

So what is, ” I am a strong leader”, Malcolm Turnbull’s fearless advice to our great and powerful friend?

“We certainly don’t presume to provide policy or political advice on that matter here,” he says bravely.

Keen to win back The Donald’s goldfish attention-span and knowing how the odd trillion helps buy the right type of friendship, Turnbull flashes some cash to revive the President’s flagging concentration.  Some of Australia’s $2.53 trillion superannuation pool, he says, could “help unlock funding” for Trump’s infrastructure thought bubble.

Money can’t buy me love? OK, Trump may be fiscally illiterate. Senile. But what could possibly go wrong? In an a meaningless gesture costing nothing, the US will jinx its latest warship by naming it Canberra, the snafu capital of Australia, a city which is, moreover, synonymous with all manner of ruinously expensive combat and overkill.

Back in New England, Joyce is not feeling the love from all of his party. Mallee MP, narrow Andrew Broad who nearly resigned on account of the notion of granting gay people their right to marry and Andrew Gee, MP for Calare NSW, another MP stuck in the 1950s, join WA Nats leader, Mia Davies in telling Joyce publicly to resign.

Seasoned thespian, Barnstorming Barnaby Joyce, The Nationals’ chief bull-moose lunatic, dons his fustian and heroically soldiers on, as he struts and frets his last half-hour as leader; upon an outdoor stage. It’s a hill somewhere, there are no programme notes, a Tamworth Mount of Olives perhaps. Great setting, Barney.

Of all roles, he chooses an old standard, St Barnaby of the double cross to embrace his own, noble martyrdom.

A martyr to the rural poor, St Barnaby’s “Weatherboard Nine” is his Ocker-Strine bush dialect for weatherboard and iron. His protestation of selflessness is also pure Tamworth ham. In the end – and right from the beginning of the end, his speech is all about himself, whatever he may claim. Yet it also embodies core Nationals’ chicanery.

Self-pitying, self-serving, self-parodying to the end, only Barnaby could call a presser to draw attention to his own humility; his self-effacing public life of self-sacrifice and big-noting. His swan song echoes the strangled syntax and populist pretensions of his mentor, corrupt hill-billy dictator, Queensland Nationals’ Premier, Joh Bjelke-Petersen.

“Can I say right from the start, this is never about me. It’s about the person in the weatherboard, something that manifestly expressed what the National party is about. It’s about the person in many places, their right to transcend through the economic and social stratification of life.” Now, parse that, you bastards he implies.

Incoherent, indulgent, unfathomable, Barnaby publicly salutes himself as the rural underdog’s top dog, the poor man’s champion. His hypocrisy rivals anything by Tony Abbott, also a Riverview old-boy with a privileged upbringing, although unlike Abbott’s parents, Joyce’s mother and father, he freely concedes are millionaires.

So, too are most of his pals. There’s mate Greg Maguire who lent his luxury apartment so Barnaby didn’t have to sleep on his sister’s couch. Greg also gave Barnaby and his partner Vikki a free holiday last month at his $4000 a week beachfront pad. Only last November, Gina Rinehart gave him a $40,000 cheque in public for his services to agriculture and in a heart-warming show of support she once bought a lazy $100,000 worth of raffle tickets.

John Anderson, a former Nationals’ leader also made a mozza. He got a plum job in mining company Eastern Star Gas in October 2007, just after leaving politics and  according to Michael West, made $9 million when in 2011 the company was acquired by Santos.

Joyce still maintains he had no idea Eastern Star had a petroleum exploration licence over the Pilliga, including his properties at Gwabegar which he bought in 2006 and 2008. He’s been telling reporters that the land is up for sale for the last five years. Wags notice that the inland rail route now goes close to the property hugely boosting its value to any company such as Santos which may be interested in the gas beneath the land the mongrel land.

So it’s touching of Barnaby to remember his battlers, Friday.  Looking out for the little bloke. He’s been recorded boasting in the bar of the Shepparton Hotel how he has helped billionaire cotton irrigators rort their Murray-Darling water allowances at the expense of poorer people relying on the water downstream – and of course, to do “the greenies down” because the last thing poor people deserve is a clean and healthy environment.

Barnaby’s also a Santos mining shill appearing on radio 2GB last September to spruik the advantages to farmer and environment of coal seam fracking, a service of great benefit to the billionaire multi-national corporation. True, his own government’s  independent expert scientific committee recently finds significant “knowledge gaps” in the environmental impact study put forward by Santos. But it’s only fair that Barnaby gives the company a plug.

And one day soon, he really will sell that land he owns and there won’t be a whiff of conflict of interest.

On Friday, he’s selflessly standing aside for the battler. It’s only fair on those people on the weatherboard and iron, it’s only fair on that purpose of trying to make sure we continue that advancement of the person so that – if they are on the periphery of society, they can have the best opportunities – that there be some clear air.

Howard also invoked his mythic “battlers” as he gave away their birthright, including squandering a mining boom on tax handouts for rich businessmen while slashing worker’s pay and conditions with Work Choices, funding private schools at the expense of public and undermining Medicare by subsidising private health insurance.

Families suffered as child care rebates coincided with a shift to more expensive, privately owned for-profit child-care centres. In brief, Hosking argues, Howard created dependency, not just of the poor and disadvantaged who were scapegoated and stigmatised for much of his period of governance as they are today, but the heavily indebted, time poor, middle classes increasingly reliant on two incomes and welfare to stay solvent.

Barnaby’s back-block battlers have a right to get ahead, he says, despite his backing every Coalition initiative to suppress wage growth, cull full-time jobs, cut wages and conditions via a rigged Fair Work Commission, abolish Medicare by stealth and terrorise the poor with Centrelink’s robo-claw on the unemployed. It’s pure myth.

Myth creates a blissful clarity and natural justification without explanation or depth, wrote Roland Barthes.

Myth can be deadly. Even The Grattan Institute estimates that on current policies it will take 65 years before people in many parts of rural and remote Australia have the same access to GP services as city people.

Or is it the right to fight to get ahead? Must Joyce’s battlers pull themselves up by their own bootstraps?

Their right that even though they might not have had inherited wealth or might not have been born to the best family, or might not have had the best education, their right to advance, limited only by their innate abilities, to get as far as ahead in life as they possibly can by the sweat of their own brow.

Barnaby sounds as if he’s channelling John Howard’s aspirational voter. As Sean Hosking writes in New Matilda

Aspirationals were said to be upwardly mobile, independent, hard-working battlers bereft of the egalitarian character, welfare dependence and class based political identifications of the traditional Australian working class battler. As such they represented an attempt to shoehorn the values of the free market and political right onto the Australian working class.

It’s not the rip-snorting, water rorting or the pork barrel or even the mongrel land at Gwabegar he still swears he didn’t know had gas reserves, or his spruiking for Santos. Nor is it the $10 billion boondoggle of his Inland Rail Project, a white elephant even Treasury experts tell him will never turn a cent of profit. In the end Barnaby’s been stitched up by his party’s senior partners, The Liberals, leaking scandal after scandal to the Daily Telegraph.

Ironies abound but in the end True blue, bull-dust Barnaby, aka “The Red Octopus” may be finally felled by Catherine Marriott who lodges a “serious” sexual harassment complaint against him with National Party President Larry Anthony, scion of the powerful bush newspaper family and son on Nationals MP, Doug Anthony.

Larry  Anthony who lobbied for the $1.2 billion Shenhua Watermark coal mine is still listed as a Director of the firm SAS Consulting Group, which counts the Chinese state-owned Shenhua group among its client list. Financial institution Indue Limited, which operates the Government’s cashless welfare card, is also a client.

How will the show end? It never ends. For Malcolm Turnbull, however, there is a chance to reset his special, secret relationship with the Nationals whereby he surrenders any right to independence and swears to follow a Tony Abbott hard right political agenda. So far all his public comments suggests he won’t rock the boat.

Turnbull’s government desperately needs the Nationals’ co-operation and that vital vote of Barnaby’s. But that can no longer be counted upon. Joyce did cross the floor thirty-eight times under Howard. Nor can Joyce be counted on to remain in politics. A lucrative job in mining may well be Barnaby’s new career. He can still wave cheerio to the battlers as he fracks their land and pollutes the local water supply to obtain gas to warm the atmosphere.

Sadly, for the PM and the leaking of Marriott’s name to The Australian may encourage other women to come forward, Tony Windsor, on social media lists several other cases of impropriety – all grist to the bush telegraph rumour mill. And also accessible to The Daily Telegraph, no doubt, should the masters of Joyce’s political universe decide it’s time The Nationals were taken down a peg. Already there are signs of movement at the gas station.

In the meantime, Turnbull has doubled his back-bench snipers adding a rancid Joyce to a rabid Abbott.

Ominously, Joyce has already promised “he won’t snipe”. As did Abbott. Their cat-calls and raspberries will make it even harder for Trumble to pay sufficient attention to his political masters, especially the holy trinity Shell, Origin Energy and Santos, an oligopoly that runs the National Party and much of the rest of the Coalition.

Even Nationals’ Andrew Broad, who chairs the House of Representatives moribund Environment and Energy Committee can see trouble looming. Turnbull may have sold the MSM his gas deal but Broad told the ABC last October that whilst it says it’s guaranteed supply, the Coalition’s done little or nothing about higher prices.

Finally, Turnbull has not exactly come out of the dust-up with his deputy as a stronger or more powerful leader.

if Turnbull does manage to get his $65bn corporate tax cuts through parliament – money that is being stolen from taxpayers to be given to some of the world’s largest corporations in a demonstrable hoax that the money will increase investment and worker’s wages, he does not have the credibility to sell his latest tactical diversion, a re-serving of the stale shit sandwich of the Coalition’s sycophantic relationship with its great and powerful friend, the USA especially when 80% of us regard Trump as either an important or critical threat to Australia.










One way or another Barnaby’s cactus. The Turnbull government may be, too.

Barnaby bunny blinks in the spotlight centre stage in our national political show, this week, as our Deputy PM shrewdly plays the victim in his marriage break-up while he muffs his special pleading self-defence for begging his Tamworth mogul pal, Greg Maguire, to be allowed to crash for six months at his millionaire mate’s luxury pad at mates’ rates.

So wrong; so unfair, Joyce pleads, leading his supporters in hand-wringing over how his private life is his own business, hoping the rest of us will miss bigger issues such as alleged abuses of public funds for travel and accommodation.  He’s also punting on our confusing workplace exploitation and his abuse of power with an innocent, mutual, private affair.

It’s a captivating performance which helps divert the nation from the Turnbull government’s response to the Closing the Gap steering committee’s finding that the programme, launched after Kevin Rudd’s apology was effectively killed when Abbott ripped over half a billion in funding out of it in 2004- and cancelled an Aboriginal housing programme.

The policy, they report, has been “effectively abandoned” by extensive budget cuts since 2014.  Turnbull’s response echoes his initial response to Don Dale; he fobs off the nation with another select joint committee inquiry which will seek how to “refresh the policy”; while holding a new inquiry into the issue of constitutional recognition.

As Jack Waterford, former editor of The Canberra Times writes,The government has never narrowed the gap. At present rates, Aboriginals will remain the poorest, sickest, least employed and least educated group in the community 80 years from now – and still without a plan, as opposed to a vague hope and intention, to make it different.”

Happily for the PM, there is a distraction. Poor, rich, white, boy, Barnaby, a lad who enjoyed a privileged upbringing, a St Ignatius College Riverview private school boy, – one of Sydney’s most expensive schools – who at home could roam Rutherglen an 1821 hectare farm estate, a New England University accountancy graduate who loves to play the battler from the bush is now acting hard done by. It’s all about soliciting free accommodation; favours from a mate.

Not only is BJ the victim of a marriage break-up, he hasn’t broken any rules, he wails. He didn’t ask to be put up free, he claims, contradicting the story his millionaire mate Greg has given The Daily Telegraph and put about the town.

Ex-wife Natalie dents BJ’s victimhood a tad revealing to Miranda Devine that her former husband is a serial philanderer. Whilst he may be “a hard pooch to keep on the porch“, to quote Hillary Clinton, he “always comes back”. Worse, he told the nation of his separation four days before he could face his wife. And he has to tell her Vikki is expecting a boy.

Not all of Joyce’s mail is from fans either. “Somebody sent this letter to my office today,” he guffaws to Fairfax’s David Robson last year. “It ran like this: ‘I don’t know who’s a bigger c…, you or Trump. But I think you win.’ And that was it!”

Nat’s no longer a fan either. Neither are many Nationals, including Veteran Affairs Minister, Michael McCormack  who may have a crack at the leadership himself at Monday week’s party room meeting. Iain Macdonald, The Nationals’ attack dog, in senate committees an easy rival for Joyce’s fan mail award, tells Barnaby to take a back-bench seat.

Liberals call for Joyce to resign, while Labor’s leader, Bill Shorten, says neither Joyce nor Turnbull are fit to hold power.

“One way or another, Barnaby’s cactus. It’s just a matter of when.” says a senior National who tells The Saturday Paper‘s Karen Middleton that traditional National Party supporters are likely to be “extremely unhappy” – especially women.

A third of those who backed Joyce in December’s by-election no longer support him, according to a ReachTel poll last Tuesday night; fifty per cent believe that he should resign either from parliament or go to the back bench. A petition to demand his removal from his New England seat has received almost 7000 votes in five days, says The Herald Sun.

Happily, despite polls which suggest his electoral popularity is now down from 65% of the primary vote to 43%, a quarter say they’d be more likely to support him after his affair. Clearly, Barnaby still has a few mates left around the place.

Mates? ‘Mates don’t pay for things when they’re helping other mates out,’ Barney gargles in Question time. And they return favours. In a moving mateship tribute, the nation learns that Greg also does very well out of putting up public servants as Pork-barrel Barnaby moves a whole government department to New England  to boost his local vote.

In true Nationals’ fashion, a mob of rugged if not roughshod individuals, whose contempt for bureaucracy matches its war with science and the environment, Barnaby decided to relocate the Australian Pests and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) from Canberra to Tamworth. It’s a cheap pork-barrel at a mere $26 million when you compare it with $10 billion for Joyce’s Inland Rail boondoggle which will never turn a profit either but which is also a nifty source of pork.

Joyce’s plan lacks cost-benefit analysis and is entirely off his own bat. Most of his work is like that. The Inland Rail, is really not that much of an exception.  It’s all going brilliantly, of course, apart from those who work in the APVMA, including scientists who can’t or won’t leave Canberra. One in five positions are still unfilled.

Twenty regulatory scientists plus 28 staff members, with a total of 204 years’ service, left the agency between July and February, Fairfax reports in a staff exodus which has halved the authority’s approval rate for new products meeting. “Required timeframes” plummeted from 83 per cent in the September quarter to 42 per cent in March 2017.

It’s the worst rate in history says Monsanto pesticide industry leader, CropLife’s CEO, Matthew Cossey who warns of billions of dollars of lost farming revenue. He urges a return to Canberra. But he’s just a key corporate stake-holder.

At least APVMA boffins can count on food and shelter. Enter Barney’s flash mate Greg with his modestly named Quality Hotel Powerhouse, a pub which gratefully receives $14,700 spent by the APVMA relocation fund, money it controls to accommodate the wayfaring strangers whose business will help turn Tamworth’s (and Greg’s) fortunes around.

The APVMA invites an advisory committee of 20 odd to stay, reports ABC Saturday AM. Of course, as public servants, all are parched and on the tooth and primed for wining and dining. My, how they enjoy a welcome dinner of prawns with kimchi, truffle oil risotto, New England lamb and sticky date sponge; great value at $80 per head. Our shout.

The APVMA won’t divulge the total bill. Could it be an on water into wine matter? Greg’s joint is only one of several Armidale accommodation providers used by the regulator, a APVMA spokesman sniffs. “We don’t have a preferred provider”. The Neoliberal “provider” tag went feral long ago; instead of community support we buy and sell each other.

In a reverse planning move akin to putting the wings on an aircraft as it taxies down the runway, the committee, made up of APVMA and department of agriculture staff, as well as peak industry bodies, meet to work on the relocation plan.

The mad monk, Tony Abbott once buttered up Barnaby as “a great retail politician”, an MP who ranted about $100 lamb roasts resulting from a price on carbon. The term means a politician whose strength lies in cultivating his own popularity with his electorate. Coming from fellow egomaniac and walking three-word slogan, it means nothing but, alas, it’s stuck.

Every talked-up populist-capitalist running dog has his day, however, and Turnbull almost steals Barnaby’s thunder in a show-stopping finger-wagging in a new role as parliament’s head prefect or moral policeman on Thursday. The PM holds a special presser to scold Barnaby for leading a fluffy young bunny astray and to ask him to consider his position.

During intermission, Turnbull censors the ABC again – but no biggie. Happens all the time. The Guardian Australia reports “ABC News management has been in crisis meetings for two days” after the PM courageously attacks the articles in question time before getting Fifield and Morrison to join him in penning formal letters of complaint to management.

The Ayatollah, as he was mocked at Goldman Sachs, the PM succeeds in suppressing Chief Economics Correspondent Emma Alberici’s heretical analysis of how tax cuts to business don’t stimulate jobs or growth.  One in five don’t pay tax for the past three years at least. Those who do, moreover, pay a seventeen per cent tax rate, on average.

Naturally, Qantas CEO, the silver-tongued leprechaun, Alan Joyce, is quick to grab ABC Radio’s ruling class megaphone to defend his company’s non-payment of corporate tax for nine years. He argues it is legitimate under rules that allowed it to carry forward losses from previous years. His words immensely cheer our aged pensioners on $671 a fortnight.

Workers on the minimum wage of $18.29 per hour are also heartened to learn that they’ve helped QANTAS to clock up its tenth tax-free year while Joyce’s salary nearly doubled in one year to reach $24.6 million in 2017. Can we afford the $65 billion, Alberici asks cheekily. Or could it be better spent on health, education and pensions?

She dare not mention raising the minimum wage or putting some of the money back into Aboriginal housing.

Above all, Alberici joins other economics writers in putting the lie to Treasurer’s Scott Morrison’s hoax that lowering tax rates makes us more internationally competitive when it comes to attracting investment. Now he and Matthias Cormann are promoting the falsehood that company taxes have to be cut or workers won’t get wage rises.

Before Trump cut US corporate tax earlier this year, the rate was 5 to 9 percentage points higher than our own. Yet Australian companies still preferred to invest in the US rather than Ireland, where the corporate tax rate is less than half ours (12.5 per cent), or Singapore (17 per cent). The truth is that many factors beyond tax rates guide investment.

Alberici’s piece is pulled because ABC management says it doesn’t meet editorial standards. Whilst ABC finds no inaccuracies in the articles, in the opinion of Director of News, Gaven Morris, “it sounds too much like opinion”.

Did Morris miss Chris Uhlmann’s opinionated reporting of SA’s power blackouts, wrongly blaming the Labor government’s reliance on renewables? The same lie is reprised this week in ABC previews of its SA election coverage.

All of Uhlmann’s factually incorrect SA blackout articles remain up, moreover, but, amazingly, it takes the ABC only 48 hours to remove accurate and factually correct reporting because it is unpalatable to the government of the day.

Alberici’s views are in line with leading economists including at The Australia Institute and at Treasury. Greg Jericho in The Guardian protests that she’s said nothing that many other writers haven’t been saying regularly. But as Mal’s new pal Donald Trump would say, a leader doesn’t need fake news or expert opinion to spoil his policy-making.

A calculated strategy of funding cuts, a constant stream of derogatory remarks from Liberal attack dogs, has crippled the ABC’s independence. Lest we forget, these attacks include Home Affairs Protector, Peter Dutton, and his “one down many to go” gibe at ABC presenter Yassmin Abdel-Magied’s dismissal.

Gibes and taunts add to the pressure of direct protests whenever The ABC holds government too much to account. Now Turnbull’s virtual appointment to Managing Director of pal Michelle Guthrie, who says her former 14 years career with Rupert Murdoch does not maker her a hatchet woman, the national broadcaster has become a Liberal trumpet.

Soon we will have a tabloid ABC with commercials, devoted to car crashes, stabbings, how hot or how cold the weather is for the year and endless relaying of superficial USA political news and shootings, which can then be knocked down to the highest bidder as requested by the Liberal Party’s key think tank and policy unit, The Institute of Public Affairs (IPA).

Turnbull, like his predecessor, aims his performances to the tabloid media. We saw Turnbull play huckster and shyster early. Now he adds his strait-laced Presbyterian minister routine knowing it will get full coverage in The Daily Telegraph. The moralising, holier-than-thou Reverend Mal (Turnbull 2.0) emerges this week in the midst of the Barnaby barn dance.

Thursday, Mal swoops right after Barnaby’s Aint nobody’s business to ban all Canberra office Rock ‘n Roll, along with jiving and swiving. Canute-like, he vetoes all sideways samba, jazz or jelly roll; sex between all ministers and staffers.

“Turnbull bans sex”, MSM wags say. No more fornicating, fraternising or horizontal folk-dancing between ministers of the crown and their underlings. Loins are to be girded at all times. To show he’s serious about ending the funny business, he’s put his bonking prohibition into the Ministerial Code of Conduct, every Cabinet Minister’s bible.

It’s risible but then it’s meant as a show of authority. Nobody in Canberra believes that the Code of Conduct carries any weight. Shorten says it’s not worth the paper it’s written on. Perhaps it will work if staffers keep it between their knees.

Fawning is still in, of course, as is flattery and obsequious devotion; essential to any staffer’s tenure. These are transferrable skills. Moguls, miners, anything in uniform, bankers, think tankers and lobbyists are still to be lusted after.

Equally, business big and small -like the US Alliance- is there to be serviced. But ministers and minions must, at once, stop bonking each other, especially “that stubborn bastard with rhinoceros hide”, as a senior Liberal calls Barnaby.

“If you want to be in power, you can’t afford to fuck around,” is how a real PM once put it. Sadly, Mal is no PJ Keating.

Compounding his ludicrous finger-wagging, the PM makes himself look even more inept, ineffectual, absurd, by calling out Joyce publicly for his predatory behaviour as well as his poor decision-making in his affair with Vikki Campion, his staffer.  Worse, the lubricious leader of The Nationals, “the family values party” has got Ms Campion in the family way.

By Thursday, after trying a Kamasutra of new positions on the Joyce affair, Turnbull turns chaos into catastrophe when he blasts Barnaby with both barrels in a public bollocking of his own deputy, unique in Australian politics.

After the” private matter” position; the even trickier “not his partner” defence. Not his partner?

Women across the nation, including Campion, who is carrying Joyce’s fifth child, are cheered to hear her status reduced to a casual shag, a quick roll in the hay; as meaningless and ephemeral as a politician’s promise. Even Playboy bunnies had contracts. But what “those women” of Australia will hear from the PM on Thursday is even more alarming.

“My wife ironed my shirts this week… does that make her staff?” responds deep Andrew Broad, Nationals MP for Mallee.

Vikki and Barney are split up because of their madly passionate affair and she is promoted out of his office, twice, but they were not partners because they were not living together. Turnbull expects us to accept that?

Ducking and weaving, a desperate PM channels his inner Bill Clinton, (aka Slick Willie), to redefine a dangerous liaison to save his own bacon. Barnaby, he argues, did not have a partnership with that woman, his former staffer, Vikki Campion.

The PM needs to dodge responsibility for breaking the Ministerial Code of Conduct in promoting Campion, Joyce’s paramour to a couple of plum jobs to get her out of Joyce’s office to hide a rapidly all-consuming scandal.

Someone clearly thought a tricky definition was a winner. At least the Joyce debacle has helped expose the process by which Ministerial assistants are appointed and promoted out of fealty, fear and favour rather than any qualification for the job. Advisers are thus both partisan and beholden to their bosses. You see it in the quality of their advice.

Monday’s circus establishes a catchy reality TV show format: “So you think you’re a partner?” Will Team Malcolm’s cunning plan to unhook Vikki and Barney get the PM and his government off the hook? By Thursday, Newspoll will need something stronger. Cue strong leader, moral guardian of the national flock: Turnbull lowers the boom.

“Barnaby made a shocking error of judgement in having an affair with a young woman working in his office,” the PM scolds. “In doing so he has set off a world of woe for those women, and appalled all of us. Our hearts go out to them,” 

So sayeth The Reverend Mal, at a special Barnaby-barrelling press conference, Coalition shot-gun divorce combo.

The PM’s excoriating sermon; his moralising, judgemental excommunication is too little, too late and too low.  He stops short of dismissing him as deputy which ABC News 24 reminds us is something he cannot do. Secret agreement stuff.

At least Joyce’s had his bat and ball taken off him before he’s sent home. Barnaby won’t be acting PM when Turnbull treats coal-mining, non-tax-paying – at least for the last ten years – CEO of multinational Glencore to a five-day junket to the US. Joyce will take a week’s leave “to consider his position”.

Considering her position also will be Julie Bishop who is abroad at the moment but who has sent messages letting it be known that she could fly home at once if need be. Perhaps she could console Barnaby; coach Cormann by emoji?

Hearts do go out but not all, like the PM’s, appear to be worn on sleeves. Consternation erupts. Mark Kenny and other Turnbull toadies rush to praise the new, resolute and decisive PM but even Kenny concedes Mal’s ban is empty.

Barnaby Joyce calls an extraordinary conference to call out his boss for his “inept and unnecessary” attack on Friday.

Unnecessary? Paul Bongiorno notes, wryly, the PM gifts Joyce with a unique opportunity to show who is truly in charge.

Turnbull’s public rebuke and call for Barnaby to resign helps highlight the Nationals’ power. The Turnbull government’s subservience, if not its impotence, lie in its 2015 secret Coalition Agreement, whereby Turnbull secured the Prime Ministership by capitulating his own political ideals in favour of Joyce’s right-wing Abbott political agenda.

Others sniff hypocrisy. Others deplore the public blaming and shaming. Imagine if Goldman Sachs were to call out Turnbull for the $500 million it is reported to have cost the banking firm to settle out of court in 2009 after HIH collapsed taking many small investors with it after buying an overvalued FAI due in no small part to Turnbull’s dud advice.

Some may even ask is Turnbull still has no knowledge of logging when he was chairman of a company in the early 1990s whose Solomon Islands’ subsidiary was described as having some of the worst logging practices in the world.

Turnbull flits to Tasmania; seeks the high moral ground by going to water. He appears later on ABC energetically talking up the twelve great projects of the Tamar Estuary Water Management Task Force. Pity BJ is no longer water minister.

A nation is caught on the hop. For three years, our carefree, sun-drenched continental island home has thrilled to the rhythms of Flash Mal ‘n Barnaby bull-dust’s bush-bash band. They do all the old Tony Abbott standards as laid down in their secret coalition agreement but, suddenly, something’s up. Mal thinks he can pick a fight with Bulldust and win?

Is the band breaking up just over Barney’s latest dancing partner, Vikki? Slugging wildly at each other out the back of the outback country hall that is our national parliament, Mal and Barney our two Coalition band-leaders trade haymakers.  Neither is in what you could call tip-top condition. Neither could fight his way out of wet paper bag.

The stoush lasts three days. Then a press release of a kiss and make-up saturates media mid-Saturday. Ominously, Scott Morrison, who couldn’t tell the truth about Reza Berati’s 2014 murder on Manus Island is sent on to ABC Insiders, Sunday to proclaim a “frank” clearing of the air but the PM has not walked away from his earlier comments. Nor has Barnaby Joyce who is quoted later in media reports saying he has nothing to apologise for.

Why the big bust up? The boys got the band back together in Tamworth only last December. New hats and boots, too. Will Barnaby Joyce survive a Nationals’ leadership spill. The signs are ominous. Yet, even worse are the portents for a Turnbull government which has been unable to deal with a matter it knew was coming at least six months ago.

The spectacle of the public spat; the utterly inept handling of Joyce’s affair with a staffer and of Turnbull’s moral denunciation and his patently impractical ban on sex between minister and staffer can only serve to highlight how rapidly his government is unravelling.

The PM is taking twenty Aussie tycoons to the US for five days. They can talk rich man’s stuff; Cayman Islands; investment portfolios; things he’s really into. Not politics; certainly not people. Perhaps they will also form a cheer squad while he begs Rupert Murdoch to give him one more chance. One thing is certain. The Barnaby brouhaha will not have died down on his return and the damage it has caused will be permanent.

Turnbull’s Joyce will cost him dearly.

barnaby angry

“There’s no-one more Australian than Barnaby Joyce”, blusters Malcolm Turnbull, his fair-weather defender in happier – well – slightly less miserable times last November when Joyce, another appalling ham, in RM Williams and stockman Akubra, playing an outback whip-cracking caricature from central casting turns out to be a Kiwi, too.

By week’s end it’s clear, as Oscar Wilde, on his death-bed, famously remarked of the wall-paper, “One of us has to go.” Not that Mal hasn’t put on a good show of support. Or milked Barnaby’s ” landslide” by-election for all it is worth and more –  despite Barnaby going MIA, turning campaigning into pub crawls, refusing to debate the other candidates and talking of death threats. Hacks still misread the victory as a Turnbull comeback.

Cue the night of the New England by-election, a couple of old con-artists in a show about snake-oil salesmanship.

“We’re getting the band back together,” crows a PM who presides over his dysfunctional moribund leadership. How he loves to talk up renewal, unity. MSM follow his lead. He looks the part – all kitted out in blue flannel shirt and moleskins, the compleat Collins Street farmer. He tilts his pristine Akubra back to form a buffalo-hide halo.

A deafening roar of beer-sodden catcalls, stamping and two-fingered whistling buoys his spirits at the Nats’ election piss-up in Tamworth that Saturday night last December.  But Turnbull knows truth will out. The “open secret” of 50 year old Barnaby’s affair with a 33 year old married woman cannot kept out of the news forever.

Always solicitous of our well-being and a stalwart Coalition megaphone, The Daily Telegraph toils virtuously in the public interest, all week, photographing Barnaby’s new partner’s baby bump after previously deploring the intrusion of gossip into Barnaby’s personal life, his privacy and the New England by-election.

Now the two old stagers face their final curtain. Even Turnbull must know it’s over. He’s signed off twice on two plum jobs,  for Joyce’s new partner, Vikki Campion, just to get her out of BJ’s office; keep her out of the public eye.

One is with Matt Canavan, the other as “second media adviser” to National Party Whip Damian Drum.

It’s hardly a subtle cover-up. Even Graham Richardson ponders in The Australian why the Nationals Whip needs one media advisor, let alone a second high-flyer. Puzzling Richo, also, is why Joyce should promote Drum to be his assistant minister.

A salary of $191,000 for Vikki is now in the news. So, too is The Daily Telegraph‘s Miranda Devine writing about Barnaby telling his estranged wife, Natalie that Vikki is expecting a boy. “A dagger to Natalie’s heart.”

Even Murdoch’s purple press has turned. 26 dud Newspolls plus one Barnaby fiasco may be too much for Rupert Murdoch. The Coalition’s major backer may be turning sour over Turnbull’s bungling ineptitude.

Creating national heroes can be hazardous, Turnbull discovers to his cost but he can’t help himself. When the Greens question Jim Molan’s involvement in the dirty battle for Fallujah in Iraq in 2004, Senator St James Molan, our PM thunders, fought for Aussie values against the ISIS Infidel and thus must be above all earthly criticism.

In his own way, too, Turnbull’s Aussie icon Barnaby Joyce is a self-styled Cultural Warrior on his own crusade for moral decency. Why, he even fought against girls being inoculated with anti-HPV vaccine Gardasil lest it promote promiscuity. He opposed gay marriage claiming it went against traditional family values. Now look at him.

Some unkindly call Joyce a hypocrite. It’s not playing out well in Tamworth, says The Daily Telegraph. Others raise the way the affair has been kept out of the news where Julia Gillard or Cheryl Kernot were hounded. “What if this MP were a fifty-year-old woman having an affair with a man half her age?”, asks Clem Ford in Fairfax. The media would have leapt instantly to judgement. Now the Tele has broken ranks, expect a ton of moralising to follow.

Moral posturing may be a key part of Joyce’s rural populist politics – his idol is former Queensland premier, the bible-bashing, corrupt hillbilly dictator Joh Bjelke-Petersen –  but it carries grave risks of self-betrayal. Joyce, for example, campaigned against same sex marriage for years. In 2011, he addressed a rally organised by the Australian Christian Lobby and The Australian Family Association, posing as a protective father of four girls.

“We know that the best protection for those girls is that they get themselves into a secure relationship with a loving husband and I want that to happen for them. I don’t want any legislator to take that right away from me.”

How Barnaby thought same-sex marriage could do this is unclear, but he is one of fourteen MPs who abstained from voting on the same-sex marriage bill, Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017. What is clear is that in presenting himself as a family values campaigner, he has set himself up for a big fall.

Or has he? On ABC Insiders, Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek notes that the PM’s office signs off on jobs. Labor will pursue the only legitimate line of inquiry: she calls on Joyce and Turnbull to be “fully transparent” about the expenditure of taxpayer funds, which she said was the “only area in which there is a genuine public interest”.

In the end, the jobs will undo Vikki and Barney; the thin red line of the Prime Minister’s Office debit accounts, as much as Tamworth’s wrath.  Joyce’s soap opera, moreover, makes Turnbull’s leadership look inept, weak and ineffectual. But right on cue, look over there. Our great and powerful friend, the USA graces us with Harry Harris.

We’re just mad about Harry. Our nation is overjoyed to learn, at long last, we have a US Ambassador. “Great Wall of Sand”, Admiral Harry B. Harris Jr, a Sinophobe, who doesn’t trust our largest trading partner.

“In my opinion China is clearly militarizing the South China Sea,” Harris tells the Senate Armed Services Committee in February 2016. “You’d have to believe in a flat earth to believe otherwise.”

Harry’s “shithole” posting tells us he is no favourite of Trump’s but it does send a warning to China. A former Gitmo head, Admiral Hal also brings a unique record of duty of care to inmates of the USA’s “extra-constitutional prison camp”, Guantánamo Naval Base whose role, he explained to ABC in 2007, is not to be confused with justice.

It’s not about ” guilt or innocence” he told the late Mark Colvin, it’s about “keeping enemy combatants off the battlefield”. Harry’s past may help him advise Border Force in its own illegal, indefinite detention practices.

Doubtless Harry would admire our Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (resolving the asylum legacy caseload) bill 2014, a Scott Morrison masterpiece which gives the immigration minister, now Peter Dutton, unprecedented, unchallengeable, and secret powers to control the lives of asylum seekers.

Tragically, Harris is linked to the possible homicides of three young men in his care, June 9 2006; Salah Ahmed Al-Salami, a Yemeni aged thirty-seven. Mani Shaman Al-Utaybi, a Saudi, aged thirty. Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani, also from Saudi Arabia, was twenty-two. None had been charged with any crime but all were found hanged in their cells.

The three men were found to have stuffed rags into their throats; put on masks, fashioned nooses out of cotton fabric they, alone, mysteriously had access to and reached an eight foot high ceiling to hang themselves.

Harris declares the deaths “suicides.” Channelling a Big Brother hate session, he then attacks the dead men.

  “They are smart, they are creative, they are committed,” Harris says. “They have no regard for life, neither ours nor their own. I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us.” 

Naval Criminal Investigative Service records suggest, instead, death from torture. New evidence, published in Harpers, includes an eyewitness account of al-Zahrani, on the night of his death, which indicates torture and suffocation during questioning at a secret black site facility at Guantánamo known as Camp No, or Penny Lane.

Our MSM say nothing about “Gitmo” but a fluffy ABC gushes over the posting of “the first security professional” hinting at some pastoral care role for the new US Ambassador to Australia. Certainly, Harris will be a perfect fit to be joined at the hip, as our PM sees our US alliance, with Canberra’s tough on border protection boffins.

The big lie is that the US Alliance is a mutual security pact.  Despite our political leaders’ bipartisan spin, all ANZUS entails is a promise to consult. JFK refused our plea for help against a “communist crisis” in Indonesia in 1962.

Before Trump, Nixon put us on his “shit list”, because he didn’t like Whitlam’s robust nationalism and when Man of Steel, US brown-nose John Howard asked for help in East Timor in 1999, Clinton told him to bugger off.

Thank God we’ve got soldiers like Jim Molan to protect us and to hire out to the United States; win its illegal wars.

Liberal Senator “Jingo” Jim Molan, is sworn in Monday and wastes no time in urging even greater expenditure on the  military. A thoroughly modern former major general, Jim’s memoirs modestly entitled Running the War In Iraq, reveal his glee in using drones to direct 200kg bombs that could “pick up a house and land it in the street”.

Jim’s no slouch on Facebook or war by social media. Yet while he posts racist videos on Facebook and retweets  a racist, Islamophobic joke, he can’t be a racist, insists the PM, because he’s been a soldier and freedom-fighter.

Turnbull rounds on Bill Shorten’s suggestion that he discipline our Aussie war hero Jim as “deplorable” and “disgusting”. Yet what is more deplorable and disgusting is the extent to which Turnbull must overreach; grovel publicly to a new Abbott supporter.  He falls back on the last refuge of scoundrels, patriotism.

Jim is a “Great Australian” brays the PM, who claims the former soldier (in 2004) ” … led thousands of troops in  the battle for freedom against terrorism”. Others know it as the 2003 illegal invasion of Iraq, under the twin fictions of regime change and ridding Saddam Hussein of his weapons of mass destruction, while wresting control of Iraq’s oil-fields and utterly destroying Iraq, fuelling anti-Western terrorist extremism into the bargain.

As the late Chalmers Johnson warns in Blowback, the appalling blundering by US strategists in Afghanistan and the Middle East is the prime motivator of terrorist organisations like Al Qaida and ISIS.  Jim may think he won Fallujah but he lost the war. Yet the monstrous lie of Iraqi liberation is central to Turnbull’s government world-view.

Experts estimate around half a million Iraqis died in the Bush-Blair invasion; A Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Survey published in the Lancet, and the Iraq Public Health Survey published in the New England Journal of Medicine, give figures of 655,000 and 400,000 excess deaths respectively.

In 2013, birth defects for the city of Fallujah surpass rates for Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the nuclear attacks at the end of World War II. Scientists suspect the white phosphorous and depleted uranium in US munitions.

The use of white phosphorous was illegal because it is arguably a chemical weapon, riot control agent, or  incendiary weapon. Furthermore, the methods and means of its use in Fallujah violated the laws of war.

Greens MP Adam Bandt has, however, apologised to senator Jim Molan, for saying he could be a war criminal.

Inexplicably, the PM skips Jim’s winning  “2009 Australian Thinker of the Year” an inestimable gift of appreciation which unlike our Border Force and the militarisation of compassion, another of Jim’s great Australian contributions “carries with it no responsibilities, commitments or obligations of any kind”.

The fuss over Jim helps distract from the revelation that the Coalition has been lying about Treasury advice. Our ABC reveals how Turnbull’s government lied in 2016 about Labor’s negative gearing plan. Our sensible centrist PM calls it “the most ill-conceived, potentially destructive policy ever proposed by any opposition“.

The ALP wanted to limit the tax deduction and halve the capital gains tax (CGT) discount, a modest proposal. Yet Coalition MPs went into howls of protest: Labor would take an “axe”, a “sledgehammer” or even “a chainsaw” to the housing market. Such wanton vandalism would bring Australia’s booming economy to a “shuddering halt”.

Of course, the Turnbull government lied. And it lied that its lie was based on “confidential Treasury advice”.

It was a scare tactic straight out of Gitmo or Abbott’s carbon tax hysteria playbook and almost as damaging.

It’s taken a mere, two-year legal battle to find out the lies. Treasury advised in 2016, that Labor’s plan “might exert some downward pressure; a (possible) relatively modest downward impact” on house prices. The lie was a key campaign issue in the 2016 election. Newspeak virtuoso, Scott Orwell Morrison, is not, however, a whit abashed.

ScoMo still lies about who benefits from negative gearing. Treasury advice is that negative gearing and the capital gains tax mostly benefit high-income households. Treasury calculates, 52.6% of the tax benefits from negative gearing are reaped by the top 20% of income earners, while 54.3% of the tax savings from the capital gains discount go to the top 10% of families ranked by income.

Despite this, an Orwellian Coalition and its housing lobby pals claim the opposite.  “Teachers, nurses, and police officers” stand to benefit the most or it’s that sentimental family favourite “Mums and Dads trying to get ahead”.

The Grattan Institute finds 12% of teachers negative gear and 9% of nurses. Yet 29% of surgeons and anaesthetists benefit. Doctors also get a much higher average tax benefit. $3,000+ compared to nurses, who benefit by a mere $226 and teachers who benefit by $289. But ScoMo never listens. Nor does his government.

Treasury is wrong, ScoMo maintains. ScoMo knows because he was once “a research economist in the property sector”. From 1989-1995 he was, indeed, a manager for The Property Council of Australia, a housing industry lobby group, a role guaranteed to give him halcyon independence, objectivity and peerless, impartial advice.

Morrison’s chutzpah, his Trumpery, his flaky claim to credibility, allows him to dismiss Treasury experts; spurn Productivity Commission research that Labor’s proposal will have little, if any, effect on housing supply.

The Treasurer’s big lies, of course, include the fiction that his government are good economic managers and that we are in the middle of a jobs bonanza. Public opinion, he says, agrees – another lie.

It’s not that every opinion poll is rigged, although Clive Palmer candidly admitted paying for the results the Liberals wanted when he was state director. It’s not just that MSM is always ready to repeat the monstrous falsehood – some defending it on the grounds that it’s a widespread perception – or it’s what voters think. Voters think?

The reality, Alan Austin notes, ” … is that the economy collapsed inexcusably during the two years Joe Hockey was treasurer. But it has tanked even further, except for the very rich, since Scott Morrison replaced him. The Australia Institute research indicates Abbott and Turnbull are Australia’s worst post-war economic managers on record.

Less forgettable or, as Orwell has it, less worthy of erasure, is Scott Morrison’s preselection; how The Daily Telegraph got the MP pretending to be an effective Federal Treasurer launched into politics in 2007. The extraordinary circumstances of Morrison’s entry into the political arena are almost cause, in themselves, to be cautious of any of his subsequent claims. No other MP, surely, is less credible; has such a flaky threshold of power.

In 2007, Morrison loses 82 votes to 8 to Lebanese-Australian Michael Towke, a telecommunications engineer  member of the Liberals’ right faction, in pre-selection for the safe Liberal NSW seat of Cook.

Enter The Daily Telegraph. In four articles, The Tele falsely accuses Towke of branch stacking & faking his resume. Towke is disendorsed. The  Liberals hold a new ballot. Morrison wins; parachuted in over the politically dead body of his rival local members gossip. Towke sues The Tele for defamation; settles for an undisclosed sum.

Glad tidings round off the week in politics as US fiscal genius Donald Trump’s tax cuts help panic the stock market  into wiping off $2.49 trillion in a 10 percent fall by Thursday from a record on Jan. 26. Global stock markets follow, losing $5.20 trillion.

Trump’s cuts are acclaimed by our economically illiterate government which seeks to emulate Trump’s economic wizardry and his war on  truth. Morrison, recently returned from the US, claims to have witnessed for himself the miracle of massive company tax cuts creating jobs. But the only example he can give is Walmart.

Yet Walmart on 12 January said it would raise entry-level wages for U.S. hourly employees to $11 an hour in February as it benefits from last month’s major corporate tax cut and on the same day announced it would shut stores and lay off thousands of workers.

Of course, Morrison will dispute this. He will know better than the experts. Better than any authorities or any so-called facts. He always does, just like his Prime Minister. It’s the signature theme of the Turnbull government. The future looks impossibly rosy. Especially when you are making it up. But the key lies in erasing the past.

As Malcolm Turnbull himself quoted from George Orwell, this week “The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became the truth”. It was not yet our reality, he says, but no longer entirely fantasy.”

He and his government are seeing to it, personally.


Arms deals, cabinet leaks and fake jobs figures reveal a desperate Turnbull government.

pyne and bushmaster



Return of The Fixer opens to a stacked house this week in Canberra’s political theatre. The show has everything, arms-dealers, a PMC mystery Cabinet of Dr Caligari homage in which a somnambulist MSM “predicts” a Labor leader’s death. Are they accomplices; in on Bill’s kill or, do they, incredibly, for the first time, predict the future?

Of course, there’s more. ASIO makes a ritual midnight raid on our ABC to retrieve Commonwealth property once all dirt on Labor is copied; Turnbull over-eggs the pudding of presumption of his innocence by declaring 

“This is a disgraceful, almost unbelievable act of negligence.” Almost unbelievable? No. Downright implausible.

The totally implausible Scott Morrison, Monster of Manus, colludes with ASIO to deny 700 refugees rightful permanent settlement in Australia and our Lord Protector Peter Dutton continues to white-ant the judiciary.

Suspense builds. Why is Dutton silent on Morrison’s collusion with ASIO?  Will Morrison get off Scott-free?

Cue counter-tenor Turnbull who reprises an old Howard/Abbott standard, the ballad of the demon(ised) people-smuggler, a typical non-sequitur, a lame, cynical, evasion of ScoMo’s conspiracy to deny refugees their rights.

More examples emerge of torture by ASIO security assessments and their mysterious, arbitrary revision. Karen Middleton reports in The Saturday Paper that all 57 refugees detained since 2012 because of adverse ASIO security assessments have now had their assessments downgraded. Some have been released. Into limbo.

Many are now on bridging visas and are applying for temporary visas – not that these offer much security but it’s their only option since Border Supremo Scott-Almighty Morrison abolished permanent visas in 2013.

Others remain virtual political prisoners. Middleton documents tragic individual stories showing the human suffering caused by Immigration and ASIO’s despotic, secret regime of terror. Two Sri Lankans, one in Melbourne, the other in Sydney have been imprisoned for 8 years. Yet our PM, puppet of the right, must back Morrison.

“We make no apologies for sending the clearest message to the people smugglers and to their would-be customers; if you want to come or think you can come to Australia on a people smugglers’ boat, you’re wrong.”

No apologies for the cruel perversion of our obligations under international law. Shelter? We torture refugees as a deterrent.  No apologies either for dog-whistling or rewriting of history. The boats had slowed to a trickle under Labor. And let’s not forget the times the Coalition paid people smugglers, a collusion Tony Abbott freely admits.

From root-vegetable to the recruiting of Lucy Gichuhi, Fixer is jam-packed with postmodern, post-truth zeitgeist and vibe, Bill’s zingers- a “left behind” –  (as opposed to a total arse?)- society, tax-cut throwaway lines and the launch of the official 2018 season of Kill Bill where Canberra’s press gallery forms its traditional conga line of suck-holes number with the ruling Liberal Junta, to rave about our democratic depots’ success, growing jobs and stuff, while attacking Labor for having ” anti-business, anti-jobs, anti-Christ”, sledge-hammer wielding on house values but still wimpy, Bill Shorten as leader in an upcoming election, everybody knows he cannot possibly win.

Cannot? In any ambiguous, post-modern narrative, paradox abounds; safe Liberal seats are in danger. Like Sturt.

Bringing on the big guns, opening act, Mouth that Roars, Minister for Defence Industry, the visibly excited, “Fixer”, Christopher Pyne, MP for Sturt, has a rocket in his pocket as he over-pitches another fabulous Coalition plan to clean up Labor, create zillions of jobs, even give him some slight chance of re-election in his own seat, where swelling hordes of SA voters see him variously as a privileged prat, a twat or simply a sad little wanker.

Some make fun of Pyne. A “wet” Liberal who runs a hard right agenda to get ahead is open even to self-parody.

His mannerisms also make him an easy target for cheap shots, especially since Julia Gillard’s “mincing poodle” gibe – which has dogged him ever since. Not to be overlooked, however, is the central role he plays in the Liberal Party, his embodiment of its “I’m all right Jack” values and how he represents its profound existential crisis.

He’s one of the architects of Liberal disaster. Five years ago, Pyne helped Abbott drive the Liberal bus off a cliff, wrecking any last vestige of integrity or credibility. Now, thanks to the incredible magic of corporate tax cuts, trickle down, the just-having-a-Laff(er) Curve, all the Liberal Party needs to do is cure its terminal cancer of internal division, get rid of the mad monk Abbott – erase its past, find a leader in a hurry, get some workable policies on energy, environment, education and wages and/or become gun-runners. Simple, really.

Badly miscast, then, as Education Minister, Pyne opined on the value of schooling. He even promised the Libs were “in lock step with Labor on Gonski”. Lock step for a few paces only.  Paul Bongiorno traces a rapid and irrevocable decline in Coalition credibility from Abbott’s notorious 2014 Budget of broken promises, (BOBP).

But, look over there! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it’s super-Pyne, Adelaide’s Adnan Khashoggi, (aka “The Whoremonger”; aka the Mr Fix-it of the Saudi royal family as they splurged oil wealth on weapons-buying sprees).

A dud Education Minister, albeit, in a party which values investing in death over learning, Pyne is now on a similar mission to expand our arms dealing. Monday, he flourishes a “Defence Export Strategy”, for what is quaintly called the Defence Industry rather than the death industry or the toady to America and buy their old, crap, hardware industry.

Our Defence Industry is also, largely, a foreign-owned, price-gouging oligopoly, where a few giant multinationals make billions out of our pathetically naïve defence pretensions and our dangerous fetish for anything military.

Bombs, landmines, drones? Few details of new weapons taxpayers will subsidise are spelt out, but Pyne is pushing local firms to help US giant Raytheon put missile launchers on Bushmaster and Hawkeis armoured trucks for the Australian Army. Toyota utes could be next. No-one questions why an uber-wealthy corporation needs a handout.

But it does pay a bit of tax. Raytheon paid $36m tax on the nearly $750m gross it earned in Australia last year.

In ten years, Pyne’s pipe-dream is for us to become one of the world’s top ten arms exporters. He’s always been a big picture thinker. With his urging, military exports licences increased 44%, every year for the last three years, although they were only $216m in 2016, the Stockholm Institute reports. Seed! What’s needed is seed capital.

Steve Ciobo rushes to the rescue, glad to get away from a clusterfuck of failed trade deals. Originally a pot of aid funds, The National Interest Account  gives trade ministers licence to approve any funding deemed “in the national interest”, a phrase opaque and subjective enough to allow arms makers a ready and reliable source of funds.

A “gun slush fund” if you like, it will underwrite the $3.8bn scantily clad, “Export Defence Facility” handout.

Pyne’s gung-ho. A rocket in every pocket is his aim. He is the very model of a modern major general in his total disconnect from consequences; his mad passion to supply weapons that can only cause harm: to kill and maim; to inflict pain, suffering and death not to mention the incalculable agony of dislocation and destruction. Refugees?

Our world’s most generous humanitarian refugee program will assist any displaced persons we may create.

Gun-Runners R AUS reflects Pyne’s poverty of imagination, his total lack of moral scruple. It is an indictment of his lack of humanity and his government’s amoral expediency and utter lack of principle that he should set his cap on making himself and his nation a major arms dealer. In blind pragmatism and more he is a model, modern Liberal.

Pyne’s also on song with Liberal idolatry; its veneration of profit; the bottom-line; its mindless materialism; above all its utter subservience and obsequious devotion to any corporation likely to make a donation to Party funds.

Corporations are keen on it, too. The government is rubber-stamping requests made by arms companies in  submissions to the December 2015  Inquiry into Government Support for Australian Defence Industry Exports.

Obscenely wealthy firms are unanimous in their demands that government assistance in the promotion and facilitation of overseas arms sales should be increased. A hand out; not a hand up? This entails deploying ADF personnel as advertising mannequins as in our PM’s presser. Above all, it involves massive government subsidies.

Subsidies? Hockey and Abbott refused to fork out a cent to save a car industry which could have continued on $300m a year.   Yet, today, it has no trouble finding $4bn of subsidies – “Export incentives” to benefit local subsidiaries of multinationals, Thales Australia (France), BAE Systems Australia (UK) and one of the big three, Raytheon Australia (US).

Lockheed Martin is worth $40.8bn, Boeing $29.5bn while Raytheon is worth $22.9bn. All deserving causes.

Above all it’s shameless pork-barrelling. The $4bn Export Defence Facility is on top of the Coalition’s massive $50bn spend on submarines that may not now generate even half the 90% Australian jobs first promised.

Governments helped gold-plate electricity networks but Pyne’s seat is solid gold. Michael Owen noted in 2016 that, “based on the geographical spread of ASC workers in key Liberal-held South Australian electorates, the Prime Minister’s $50bn spend on a per capita basis equates to $468,000 per potential vote in Hindmarsh, $490,000 for every vote in Sturt, held by Industry Minister Christopher Pyne, and $480,000 for each potential Boothby vote.”

A nation’s heart must gladden, above all, to learn we are upping our subsidy of the world’s wealthiest death-merchants instead of wasting funds on hospitals, schools, pensions or futile scientific research into climate or environment. The ADF must be delighted with materiel deals which include promotional obligations. This means our diggers not only get to pay top dollar for their gear, suppliers expect them to model it; advertise it as well.



Happily on display, looking for all the world as if they have stepped out of a 1981 Action-Man toy catalogue, are three mean-looking military dudes on a mission; all locked and loaded, ready to put the theatre back into “theatre of war” – such as the latest Kill Bill campaign which even features a couple of filing cabinets of dirt to dish.

Let the hostilities commence. The nation thrills to see a trio of trigger-finger-itchy hi-tech cyborg soldiers sprouting repurposed bits of field-glass or recycled roo-rifle sights from their frighteningly low staghorn beetle brows.

The soldiers do less to butch up the PM’s act than to highlight his ineffectuality.  Human chameleons, masters of stealth and surprise, the boys upstage their PM effortlessly even in their dog-shit and olive camouflage. Turnbull joins Payne and Pyne, moreover, at the risk of looking as if he can’t even run in his own presser unassisted. And such is our nation’s love affair with the military that the PM ends up playing gooseberry on a hot date.

Our national fetishising of the military, dead or alive, is also behind the PM’s presser . We lead the world, for example, in “bigging up the Digger” commemorative spending on the military disaster that was The Great War.

Thanks in no small part to Tony Abbott’s infatuation with the ANZAC myth, $8889 was lavished on each Aussie lad killed in the Great War. The Poms, our mythically incompetent colonial masters and cricket enemies, remember their Tommy on a budget of $109 per casualty while the Germans invest a mere $2 for each dead Jerry.

Are we commemorating? Or are we promoting war? John Menadue notes,  even The Australian War Memorial accepts donations from merchants of war. BAE Systems, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Rayethon, Thales and Northrop Grumman are all donors.  Accepting the war profiteers’ dollar, surely demeans the Memorial’s true function.

“The Memorial’s purpose is to commemorate the sacrifice of those Australians who have died in war.” Its mission is to help Australians “… to remember, interpret and understand the Australian experience of war and its enduring impact on Australian society”. 

War is a dirty business. Unlike Pyne, the arms sales evangelist, Menadue and others also warn that BAE Systems is a key weapons supplier to the Saudi Arabian government. The United Kingdom Ministry of Defence is investigating the Saudis for 282 alleged breaches of international law including bombing civilians and the use of cluster bombs – weapons which are likely to increase civilian casualties in its war against Yemen which has killed 10,000 people.

War is being normalised. Its remembrance is corrupted into celebration. Drenched in Anzackery, dripping with testosteronic male posturing, our collective reptilian brain stem has usurped our national sense of ourselves; our sense of who we are.  The shift has been lavishly nurtured and exploited by political scoundrels for decades.

In 2004 Michael McGirr warned “The remembrance of war is moving from the personal to the public sphere and, with that, from a description of something unspeakable to something about which you can never say enough.”

David Stephens notes, “It has led to projecting pictures of soldiers on to walls at the Australian War Memorial, promotions for “the rarest tank in the world,” battle-field tours and Gallipoli cruises and surf boat races, and boys and girls on their gap year wrapping themselves in Australian flags at Anzac Cove or getting drunk in the streets of Çanakkale and shouting “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi.”

We are normalising, if not nurturing, a perversion, a sentimental, nationalistic, jingoistic appetite for war bereft of any insight or understanding of war’s indescribably destructive horror, intensified in today’s horrific warfare.

Yemeni, Jamal shares her insight,

“This war is tearing the social texture in a way that makes it impossible to repair,” she says. “The double aggression we are under from the outside and the inside is creating cracks. I can see all my loved ones watching in pain knowing that things will never be the same even when this war ends, if it ever does.

“We have survived so many wars. We have been stripped of jobs, security and basic services before, however, this time we are being stripped of a home.”

Yet our governments’ funds for commemorative celebration of the joys of war are running like a tap, conditioning us; grooming us to accept war as normal and the arms trade as just another commercial opportunity.

The arms industry is delighted. Certainly no expense has been spared in Monday’s breathless announcement.

In yet another spell-binding PM’s presser, Turnbull and Pyne promise to “set aside” funding of A$3.8 billion to lift Australia into the world’s top 10 weaponry exporting nations. Our Defence Minister, the inscrutable Marise Payne  stands off to one side, transfixed, transported, doubtless, by the bigger picture. Or by Pyne’s petty rivalry.

We are now the 20th biggest arms supplier, reckons the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, with annual earnings of about US$1.6 billion. Yet it’s not a race any one of us volunteered to enter. Not even a plebiscite. Such is the nature of our political system, governments get to decide all that life and death stuff for us.

Exporting death is the Turnbull government’s latest innovation in its flawlessly orchestrated suite of manufacturing, trade and international relations policies. Expanding our arms trading, moreover, can only boost our status on the UN Human Rights Council, as we embrace the dirtiest business in the world and join the select group of international merchants of death where corruption, graft and deception are all part of the art of the deal.

There’s light and shade in every government, however, a truth which even Malcolm Turnbull can acknowledge with this week’s piece de resistance – at least until a power drill was sent for – the duet for two filing cabinets, a piece performed for (public played like a) piano and (tame MSM) orchestra.

Happily little is left to be said about the “discovery” of the cabinets in a Canberra store which specialises in recycled government office furniture which they have not already betrayed themselves.  It beggars belief.

Many questions arise. How did such a salacious selection of files spanning five governments fit into two cabinets? How come there’s such a bipartisan range; dirt to dish on both sides? Why is it that the damaging leaks attack Abbott, Turnbull’s nemesis, and Morrison, a potential rival and why do Rudd and Penny Wong get leaked first?

Why are our spooks so slow to act? Imagine if this were Labor and NBN files. ASIO eventually retrieves the files for the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, which states that they remain Commonwealth property. Of course. Why does the ABC not oppose retrieval on the grounds that these files are in the public interest?

The cabinets are returned to ASIO which will then investigate itself.  But the ABC will have access? How long did the ABC have the cabinets? Who bought them? How did ABC obtain them from that buyer? Why is it considered necessary to protect your “source”, ABC? Why did ASIO taken so long to reclaim Commonwealth property?

Sadly for Turnbull it all sounds like a Godwin Grech 2.0. The cabinets fell off the back of his ute, like a dead cat bouncing. Forget ScoMo’s collusion with ASIO to deny 700 refugees permanent residency.

Look over there. Pink batts. Look what Labor’s gone and done now. Penny Wong left some files in her office.

ABC radio totally compromises its integrity and credibility by leading news bulletins with the fiction that “new documents have emerged” showing Kevin Rudd had ignored safety advice over the Pink Batts scheme. They are old documents already submitted to a Royal Commission. Nobody at ABC bothers to check.

As Kevin Rudd acidly observes, “First, the cabinet document referred to by the ABC was given to and considered by the Royal Commission into the Home Insulation Program by the Abbott government in 2014.

“Second, the risks referred to in the cabinet document used in the ABC report refer to financial and administrative risks to the program for the commonwealth, not safety risks to workers. “The ABC was told of these facts before publication. For these reasons, legal proceedings against the Australian Broadcasting have now commenced.”

No wonder Malcolm Turnbull is tired and irritable on ABC Sunday Insiders. It doesn’t stop him repeating drivel-tickle-down nonsense about how company tax cuts make everyone richer and not just the boss. He still manages to make an ass of himself with his impromptu swingeing attacks on his pet straw man Bill Shorten.

But the dead cat strategy is working. Barrie does not ask him how he can defend Scott Morrison’s collusion with ASIO, a conspiracy to deny 700 refugees their right to live here. Not a question about the morality of our bid to be big in the global arms trade or the reality that any deals done will profit multi-national corporation with state of the art tax minimisation schemes.

Not a peep about his Home Affairs Minister, like Trump keeping us safe by sowing seeds of distrust in the judiciary.

Instead the PM’s lies about jobs get another airing. In fact 477,040 jobs were created in the last 15 months. This reduced the jobless rate 5.6% to 5.5%. Yet unemployment rose between 2014 and 2016 to heights not seen since 1996. There are 730,500 people unemployed, two monthly increases in a row on top of 51 consecutive months over 700,000, the worst figures since the 1990s.

As Alan Atwood explains  “2017 was a poor year for the Australian economy overall – and jobs in particular – when the numbers are examined in the global context …  the whole world is now in a phenomenal trade, investment and profits boom. All well-managed economies are reducing their pools of unemployed remaining from the GFC.”

Yet Michaelia Cash crows on Thursday that, in 2017, “the economy created 403,100 jobs and three-quarters of these new jobs were full-time”, yet they are not new jobs. They are jobs clawed back from the Coalition’s devastating job losses in its first three years of inglorious failure.

The week ends with two cheers for the MSM who pat themselves on the back at their mutual discovery that Labor’s really got no show now that Turnbull’s got so much done in parliament. Besides, he’s pulled off this amazing (fake) jobs miracle and the economy is just taking off.  And just look at Christopher Pyne go.

My, how he’s turned out to be quite the international entrepreneur. Found his niche at last.

Arms? If we didn’t sell them someone else surely would. Besides Labor hasn’t come out with any fully costed, modelled alternative. OK, the polls are looking dire right now but once Turnbull’s popularity gets boosted by our patronage, who knows ? And there’s bound to be more dirt on Labor. Then there’s the Batman by-election.

Return of The Fixer closes this week’s instalment with a government preparing to dish the dirt on Penny Wong when parliament returns next week, while crowing about its fake jobs figures, its corporate tax cuts, its arms trade and its uninterrupted economic growth – an orchestrated farrago of lies.

Beneath the noise, however, the sound and the fury, the roar of the greasepaint and the smell of the crowd, more and more Australians are buying less and less of the hyped-up rhetoric; seeing through the lies.

Times are tough for the average punter and no amount of theatrics in Canberra will divert, distract or bluff families struggling to pay increasing utility bills, workers increasingly underpaid, casualised and on short term, insecure contracts, while women juggle two or three part time jobs and a full time job at home just to make ends meet.

Despite the denial and diversion of the Turnbull government and the sheer volume of its MSM proxies, Bill Shorten’s Labor Party pitch to cost of living and social justice matters will prove increasingly resonant.