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.












Turnbull Cooks up White Supremacy for Australia Day.

cook with bird number 2


“The very ink with which all history is written is merely fluid prejudice.”

Mark Twain


As Australia Day breaks upon Catani Gardens, St Kilda, the morn “in russet mantle clad” reveals Cook in the pink – not a trick of the light -but the victim of a “paint attack”, a casualty of a culture war we gaily wage each January.

It’s a brief respite from our energy wars or our government’s “humanitarian” war on refugees, asylum-seekers, our workers and our poor. Only IPA stooge, Tony Abbott, a self-styled conservative, a type of Aussie Tea Party martyr to a mindless cause, steps up his war of revenge on Malcolm Turnbull.  Hell hath no fury like an Abbott spurned.

An empty vessel makes the most noise, our father used to say. Not that Turnbull is a stranger to vacuity himself.

I’m disappointed by those who want to change the date of Australia Day,” the PM scolds, driven ever further right,  “seeking to take a day that unites Australia and Australians and turn it into one that would divide us.”

The day is not for changing, any more than our constitution will change  to recognise first peoples or their right to a voice to parliament.  Worse, Aboriginal Affairs Minister, Nigel Scullion claims “not a single Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person has approached him about changing the date of Australia Day”.

He’s the same minister who didn’t bother to read his department’s reports; four briefings on child abuse and breaches of the Youth Justice Act at Don Dale. “Nobody told me” is Turnbull’s code of ministerial responsibility 2.0.

Sack them, says Matthew Guy, Victorian Opposition leader, whose career will never recover from his lobster with a mobster dinner  with Liberal Party donors who included Tony Madafferi, whom, police allege, is the godfather of Melbourne Mafia. An error of judgment, says Guy. So is his call to sack councils who disrespect Australia Day.

Guy’s been inspired by the Federal government’s despotic decision to strip Melbourne’s Darebin and Yarra councils of the right to hold citizenship ceremonies because they’ve chosen another date for Australia Day.

An endangered species, Turnbull’s old, sclerotic, white male, mob must deny the fundamental truths of invasion, dispossession and subjugation lest the whole edifice of vested interest and ill-gotten privilege, be revealed to be rotten to the core.  Our PM calls a halt to all subversive date-changers. Gives them a stiff finger-wagging.

Wimpy Bill Shorten agrees. He’s for “Australia Day staying on January 26”; another vote for the house of cards.

Last August, when Lachlan Macquarie and Cook were tagged with “Change the date” and “No pride in genocide” Malcolm Turnbull’s over-reaction to “this cowardly criminal act” was more bizarrely alarmist. Then, it was “… part of a deeply disturbing and totalitarian campaign to not just challenge our history but to deny it and obliterate it.”

This year, Turnbull’s wrong-headed rhetoric evokes a school principal lecturing Year 9s for their lack of team spirit.

Unites us? Our wholesome, multicultural Australia Day ceremonies unite us by celebrating exclusion, cultural assimilation or token inclusion. How we love to keep outsiders out; and how great our state is at protecting us from the un-Australian and non-Australian are key themes. Next up will be flags with Major-Domo Peter Dutton’s face so we can wave away strangers – and blowflies – on the day; celebrate our intact border, our ring of steel.

Australia Day is set aside for conferring citizenship but numbers are down this year. Typically 16,000 and 17,000 migrants a year became citizens on January 26. This year it’s down to 12,887. Take a bow, Peter Dutton.

Protector Peter’s big on reinstating tough new language tests for prospective citizens but he’s not quite there yet. The old one would inspire anyone. From 1901 to 1958 the following dictation test effectively screened out non-Europeans. Even if you passed, the immigration officer had the right to test you in another European language.

If the land is ploughed when wet the furrows may, and in all probability will, wear a more finished appearance, and will be more pleasant to the eye, but land so ploughed will be more inclined to become set or baked, and when in this state will not produce a maximum yield.

More alarming, however, than language test plans, Australia Day is distorted into something it has never been – a test of loyalty to the state. Fortunately, the PM is upstaged by Melbourne’s Invasion Day protest, a show of support for the pink paint push; doing away with all celebration, as organiser Tarneen Onus-Williams explains,

“People who celebrate Australia Day are celebrating the genocide of aboriginal people, waving Australian flags in our faces. It’s disgusting. We don’t want the date changed. We don’t want to celebrate Australia Day at all.’’

Organisers estimate the Invasion Day Protest may number 60,000, a big turnout paralleled in other major cities. Melbourne’s vastly outnumbers the official Australia Day Parade, despite the State government’s alluring promises of an Official Flag Raising and other, fun, cultural stuff. And, boy, do they know how to sell their show.

After the Official Flag Raising Ceremony, spectators will be treated to a vibrant public display of our diverse community with more than 1,000 participants from over 80 community and cultural groups taking part in Melbourne’s annual Australia Day Parade. Diversity? It’s a veritable fiesta of multicultural efflorescence.

A 21-gun salute at the Shrine of Remembrance at noon helps our adulation for the military, a Coalition fetish which has grown from Howard’s khaki and cricket whites prime ministership through Abbott’s militarisation of compassion, in creating a uniformed Australian Border Force, whose dark blue shirts may as well be black.

Undeterred, or even spurred, by the thunder of big guns in the background, the Invasion Day Melbourne crowd chants “always was, always will be Aboriginal land”. History is on their side. While Fairfax shows new research suggesting only a third of Australians realise the date is offensive, most of us are happy with a change of date.

A year ago, only 15 percent wanted a date change. By September, it was 26 percent. A survey this month finds 49 percent of people agree that Australia Day should not be held on a date Aboriginal people find offensive.

Back in St Kilda, Cook looks as if he’s been anointed with a vat of strawberry yoghurt. Or a chef who’s had a bad accident with an exploding pastry bag. His periwig is plastered pink. Lavender pink daubs his high forehead, cheeks and nose in unwitting, ironic homage to the Aussie surfer’s iconic slip-slop-slap, ritual face-painting sun-screen.

A mess of thick pink paint dribbles down Cook’s front; dispelling, forever, any hope of gravitas, order or decorum.

What is decried as desecration or vandalism, appears instead as a timely commentary, if not an art form of its own as much as it may offend fans of replicas of early twentieth century British Edwardian academic memorial sculpture. Sculpture buffs will be delighted to know there’s another replica in Hawaii if all pink paint is not entirely removed. Others may be pleased to learn that Hawaii’s obelisk marking Cook’s death is  almost inaccessible.

The lava of pink paint also subverts the authority of Cook’s captain’s coat, his embroidered silk waistcoat beneath, the heroic fortitude of his set jaw and his imperious, surveyor’s gaze above. Yet history, as always, is even crueller.

The festive season of Cook’s first visit to Hawaii had ended. He returned early in 1779, left, then was forced back by gales, beyond his, by now, well worn-out welcome, during a time of worship of the god of war Kūkaʻilimoku.

But it was not just bad timing. Cook had also provoked the Hawaiians, killing several men and breaching kapu in a bungled attempt to kidnap their King Kalaniopuu to hold hostage in order to recover a stolen cutter. As you do.

Crew member John Ledyard’s journal‘s entries are not only ominous, they resonate with the cause of today’s Australia Day pink pot culture warriors.  “They had been oppressed and were weary of our prostituted alliance…”

Cook was clubbed and stabbed to death on Valentine’s Day 1779 on a wood-fringed shore, lapped by the musical, turquoise waves of Kealakekua Bay, on a return visit to Hawaii’s Big Island. His body was dismembered, cooked and burnt and the long bones returned to his crew, part of Hawaiian ritual respect to any chieftain slain in battle.

The cooking of Cook softened his flesh to allow the bones, in which a man’s power resided, to be more easily cleaned but accounts of his cooking have given rise to the myth that the British navigator and explorer was eaten.

His remaining, unspoilt, clothes were sold among the officers, following the Royal Naval tradition after a burial at sea, a practical custom, given any sailor’s rig became threadbare after a three year voyage, officers and men alike.

Ritual cannibalism is out of vogue today, but “No Pride” in big blood-red letters at the base of Cook’s statue suggests a waning appetite for the mindless veneration of the arrival of Lieutenant Cook, his rank when he came ashore in New Holland, as this land was known in April 1770, and proclaimed the whole east coast for mad King George III, a ruler who not only lost the American colonies, it is said but also his mind.

Modern research, however, suggests bi-polar disorder rather than Porphyria, an earlier, popular conjecture.

Cook declared the land Terra Nullius, beginning the legal fiction that Australia was waste and unoccupied, a lie that prevailed until the High Court decided that a form of native title existed in The Murray Islands in a case, (Mabo v. The State of Queensland (1992)) which overthrew Terra Nullius some two hundred years later.

Disaster for indigenous peoples swiftly, inexorably, followed Cook. Populations were rapidly decimated by smallpox, syphilis, TB, measles, typhus, influenza and even the common cold; diseases introduced by sailors and convict settlers for which Aboriginal peoples had no natural immunity. Natalie Cromb for IndigenousX takes stock,

“From that date forward we have been subjected to murders, massacres, mass poisonings, sexual violence, child removal, erasure of rights, decimation of language, identity and the means to collectivise and assert sovereignty.” 

Cook also brought sickness and death to Hawaii. University of California’s David Swanson estimates, one-in-seventeen Native Hawaiians had died within two years of Cook’s arrival. By 1800, the population had declined by 48% since Cook set foot on Hawaii. By 1820, it had declined 71%; by 1840, it declined 84%.

Smallpox killed over half the indigenous population living in the Sydney Basin in one year. Aboriginal land was then stolen and cleared for settlements and farms. Genocide followed.  The Australian frontier wars from 1788 to as late as 1934 saw settlers engage in systematic massacres and other forms of brutal dispossession.

In his 2013 book, Forgotten War, Historian Henry Reynolds estimates that about 30,000 Indigenous people and approximately 5,000 Europeans died. In research published in 2014, two Queensland University researchers suggest the death toll may have reached 60,000 Indigenous people in Queensland alone. Then there was grog.

“Dispossessed of the land that had nourished them for so long, the Aboriginal people became dependent on white food and clothing. Alcohol, used as a means of trade by the British, served to further shatter traditional social and family structures.”

For Tony Abbott, however, and other thinly disguised Aussie white supremacists, Australia Day is a chance to parade populist historical illiteracy, talk more nonsense about “Western civilisation” and to dog-whistle racists,

“What happened on January 26, 1788, was, on balance, for everyone, Aboriginal people included, a good thing, because it brought Western civilisation to this country, it brought Australia into the modern world.”

750,000 to a million Aboriginal peoples are estimated to have inhabited this land in 1788, yet only 30,000 were recorded in the British colony’s first national census in 1911. Yet Abbott’s mentor, Howard seized upon Geoffrey Blainey’s phrase others to consign such realities to the “black armband view of history”. Turnbull is not far behind.

All right-thinking Melburnians are outraged to discover yet another act of desecration has been perpetrated upon another statue of an old white male invader. A chorus of disapproval erupts across the nation. It’s sacrilege.

Worse, Burke and Wills are found to be splattered with green pain. “Stolen” is written across their plaque.

“The vandalism is a disgrace,” thunders Alan Tudge, our Federal citizenship minister.  “These people are trashing our national heritage by doing what they’re doing and they’re achieving nothing in the process,” he helps make up the minds of listeners to Coalition echo-chamber, Radio 3AW. (He may as well say “these pinkos”.)

“You can’t rewrite our history.”

But of course you can. History is continuously being re-written; a constant dialogue between the past and present.

Sir John Tweed, R.A., whose original statute at Whitby, the 1914 St Kilda statue replicates, would doubtless be tickled pink at the love and care lavished upon this antipodean copy of his hat-off- for- action Cook, maps in hand.

The Times publishes a photo of a worker giving Cook a facial with a Bunnings high pressure water cleaner.

cook's water facial

Another image shows a pigeon atop the haughty Yorkshireman’s pink pate completing Cook 2.0, transforming the staid effigy into an installation all its own, a surreal homage to the need for a subversive reading of history.

Above all, it’s an image of profound absurdity – like so much else in our narcissistic national veneration of ourselves, our lazy navel-gazing, our loutish Ocker jingoism, our trumpeting of our achievements and the decoration of heroic Aussies who appear in the Australia Day Honours List who “have contributed so much”.

Or whose forbears have taken so much.

Or, as in Brian Loughnane’s case, being director of the Federal Liberals for twelve years, an exercise in fatuity.

Australia Days of our Lives, a long-running political soap-noir, divides the nation again this week. Some underpaid, underemployed workers may be lucky enough to get a day off from their increasingly underpaid, part time, uncertain work . Our ABC and other MSM whip up a froth of fluffy, fun stuff. Show us all sinking tinnies; have a splash of the white; enjoying our holiday.

Many, however, rage against a government, whose indifference to Indigenous peoples amounts to contempt in its rebuff of any constitutional recognition, whose failure of human compassion and denial of historical reality can enable it not only to hold a national day on a date that marks an invasion, a day which led to dispossession and genocide, but to strenuously defend its prerogative, its shabby, specious case or “right” to do so .


Turnbull continues to attack our democracy.

turnbull 18 jan

“We are very concerned at the growing gang violence and lawlessness in Victoria, in particular in Melbourne …This is a failure of the Andrews Labor government.” Malcolm Turnbull 1 January

The PM’s uplifting, personalised New Year goodwill message, vilifying public enemy Andrews and belittling the Premier for causing The Herald-Sun’s fake African gangs crime wave, fuels another wave of racist xenophobia and shit-holery.

Top Dog Peter Dutton savages Victoria’s judges for their lax sentencing at home this week, while Trumpista Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, shit-holes China, our biggest trading partner for poaching our Pacific Island pals.

A born megaphone diplomat, hard right wing warrior, International Development Minister Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells on Wednesday bawls out China for building “roads to nowhere” and “useless buildings” in the Pacific. Even worse, they’ve been duchessing local politicians and promising a slew of new jobs, practices abhorrent to Australian politicos.

Australia is in no position to criticise. First, as ANU’s Development Policy Centre research shows, where our aid funds once gushed, there is now a mere trickle. And it goes against the flow. Other OECD nations now pump up aid; do their bit for global security if not humanity. Yet for every $100 we earn as a nation, we now give only 20 cents in overseas aid.

And our giving is not selfless. Our aid program boosts Australia’s commercial interests at the expense of genuine local poverty eradication. Neoliberal, “Aid for trade” programs, first adopted by Howard, benefit Aussies far more than Islanders. “Creating a favourable environment for business”, or giving to the rich increases local poverty and inequality.

Of course there’s more to aid than helping others. We like to be “geostrategic”, or keep other nations off our patch.

But it costs. There’s some concern in Canberra and Washington over China’s rapidly growing influence in the Pacific since Hockey and Morrison plundered our aid programme’s piggy-bank but Connie’s on to the Chinese. She’s not holding back on how she sees China’s aid programme as a type of indentured servitude or neo-colonial expansion.

Rising sea-levels should worry Oceania less, she contends, than its rising sea of crippling debt. Islanders are in hock to China over their heads. And Beijing’s influence can only grow.  Sri Lanka handed over its strategic southern port of Hambantota in a 99 year lease to the Chinese government last month because it couldn’t meet debt repayments.

Similarly, Landridge, a Chinese company, now has a ninety-nine year lease on the port of Darwin, because NT Chief Minister Adam Giles saw the deal as a fiscally responsible way of reducing the Territory’s indebtedness to Canberra.

There’s been a bit of a fuss since about the lack of due diligence, but given Darwin is not exclusively a military port and we are all one free trade, neoliberal, global fraternity, the government argues, what could possibly go wrong?

In 2009, Tonga’s debt to China was $US100.4 million ($A132.9 million) or roughly one-third of its national income.   Samoa and Vanuatu are also over-committed with big debts to China. In 2013, The World Bank warned Samoa of about “debt distress” where public loans repayments would exceed 56 per cent of Gross Domestic Product each year.

It’s all part of China’s One belt One Road plan to buddy up with foreign governments and companies to channel $trillions into ports, roads and other big infrastructure to boost its sea power or as it says “counter its maritime vulnerabilities”.

The Lowy Institute estimates China has poured $2.3 billion in aid to the South Pacific since 2006 – almost half Australia’s commitment. It’s expanding while our aid budget is the lowest it’s been in half a century and it’s still being trimmed.

The Abbott-Turnbull government cut a whopping $11 billion from our aid budget. “Unmet and unfunded”, moreover, remain our promises of climate change aid.  Oxfam Australia reports, Australia’s average annual contribution of $200 million to international climate finance has not increased since 2010. Little wonder China has been able to buy in.

Oxfam is calling for Australia to boost its contribution to climate finance to $3.2 billion by 2020.

Fierravanti-Wells, however, is a bull in a China shop. The best defence is offence. At least her panda-bashing will win US approval. And it’s a perfect fit with US-sycophants-R-US and Project Normalise Trump, the Coalition’s team plan.

Beijing is not bluffed. Australia is “the daring vanguard of anti-China forces” says the Global Times, Chinese edition.

China’s influence must be pegged back. Trump even threatens trade sanctions. But must we copy his combative communication style? Are we infected with Trumpism? Our Minister, it seems, cannot help herself.

Nuance, subtlety and indirection may be China’s diplomatic bag. Our Connie prefers a Trumpista style. A vociferous foe of abortion, marriage equality and coy reserve Concetta is a self-proclaimed loudmouth of the silent majority. She prides herself on speaking out – venting preconceptions, prejudgements and, in this case, insults.

“I think in politics it’s good to be upfront about what you believe in”, she says, as if communication were really that simple. As if all beliefs were rigid, unchangeable. Already she’s lost her PM, a politician who struggles more than most with knowing what he believes and how to voice his equivocation. Yet like Concetta, he’s quick to strike a pose.

Holding that pose is harder. Turnbull is a notorious flip-flop.  New Year’s Day, he proposes a postal vote on a republic. The next day it’s off the agenda. Doing a Turnbull will enter the language for a volte face; an abrupt reversal of position.

Like most MPs he’s constantly changing beliefs and seeking ways to hide, disguise or deny them. Little wonder he leads a government which has taken years to admit to its hoax about a carbon tax. The upfront plain speaker theory is bunkum.

But that’s not what Concetta’s really saying. What she means in this context is that it’s OK to be tactless or calculatedly offensive. Why, it’s now almost compulsory, as MPs are thrust on to a global stage, awash with Trumpist, “shithole”, anti-diplomacy. Yet Fierravanti-Wells dresses up bluntness or insensitivity as a virtue. Firstly, it’s a time-saver.

“It means that people don’t waste time. It means that they know where you stand,” says the MP. If only. As it stands, she’s offended both Pacific leaders and the Chinese. Prolonged hostility, not communication, results, despite the best efforts of our celebrity Foreign Minister and polo aficionado to step in with her talking points and smooth things over.

“Australia works with a wide range of development partners, including China, in pursuit of the goal of eliminating poverty in our region and globally.” Bishop refuses to endorse her development Minister in The Australian  which reports the Foreign Minister’s intervention as a slap-down. Samoa is not placated. Nor is China.

“The comments … have certainly surprised me, indeed, they are quite insulting to the leaders of Pacific Island neighbours,” St Paul’s College Old Boy, the urbane Samoan PM Tuilaepa Sailele, Auckland University’s first Samoan Commerce graduate  tells the ABC, “they have the capacity to “destroy” Australia’s relationship with the region.”

China lodges a formal protest. A diplomatic slanging-match breaks out. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang calls the Minister’s comments “nothing but irresponsible” complaining they show “scant regard for the facts”.

Xinhua News, which SBS and ABC, our own state news agencies love to demean as China’s state news agency, publishes an angry editorial accusing Australia of acting like an “arrogant overlord”.

“If Australia really cares about its Pacific neighbours, it should first learn from China’s to treat those much smaller neighbours as equals and refrain from behaving like an arrogant overlord,” Xinhua retorts.

“Then it could learn, again from China, to contribute constructive ideas, if not funds, to address the real concerns of the peoples in those countries.”

It’s a fair call. The diplomatic fracas intensifies. Doubtless, the PM will call in his right hand man, Peter Dutton, whose sensitivity to climate change sea rise faced by Pacific Island nations was immortalised, along with his condescension and indifference in his witty joke two years ago.

“Time doesn’t mean anything when you’re about to be, you know, have water lapping at your door.” 

Dutton, however, has a home fire or two to keep burning. He is busy branding Daniel Andrews an enemy of the people.

He means well. Grand Poo-bah, Home Affairs Supremo, Dutto sheds buckets of crocodile tears over “a small element of The African Community” who tarnish others’ reputations as he gangs up with News Corp to slander Victoria’s Premier for creating lawlessness by appointing limp, left-wing ideologues; wimpy civil-libertarian judges and magistrates.

It’s a rehash of last week’s outrageous attack, reheated and served up with calculated malice aforethought. He’s goading Andrews and the judiciary if not the whole legal establishment to see how much he can get away with. It’s also a stunning display of just how much authority he has over Malcolm Turnbull. Would any other PM indulge him thus?

Dutton also follows his leader’s Trumpism. His libellous allegations are utterly unfounded. Of Victoria’s 57 Supreme Court Judges, Associate Judges in Victoria, the state’s Attorney General, Martin Pakula has appointed 10. Out of 126 magistrates, he’s appointed 17 and out of 68 County Court Judges, a mere 17. But do the facts matter?

Our Home Fires Super Minister, whose interpretation of his role owes much to Tony Abbott’s junkyard or attack dog routines is not just the PM’s bodyguard and Party Room door butch but is already acting as Turnbull’s chief head-kicker.

He’s also treading thin ice. Even a Grand Poohbah can be charged with contempt of court. Is it macho bravado? Is he “going the niggle”  or does our newbie Home Affairs Tsar not understand the separation of powers? That the act is not more complex than it seems is betrayed by his decision this week to attack Lex Lasry for making fun of him in a tweet.

Thin-skinned as his mentor Trump, Dutton personally attacks Victorian Supreme Court Judge Lex Lasry. “Mr Lasry, who is a left-wing ideologue appointed to the court, is dismissive the other day of some of the comments I made.”  

Lasry tweeted that “citizens are out to dinner in Mansfield tonight and they are not worried.” In an alarming show of lack of proportion and decorum, Dutton goes nuts. His rebuke of Lasry is tellingly less than coherent.

“If you’ve got that sort of attitude towards the public, these people who think they’re above the public, it’s a complete nonsense.” 

Dutton is more offended by being mocked than by any legal issue, although he implies that judges should echo public opinion, a dangerously superficial interpretation of the role of the judiciary, especially from a Home Affairs Minister.

His attack earns him swift rebuke. President of the Judicial Conference of Australia, Supreme Court Justice Robert Beech-Jones, says “personalised attacks on judges and magistrates as opposed to individual decisions are unfair and unwarranted. (They) …  cannot respond, and the comments undermine the capacity of the judiciary to apply the law impartially.” 

The JCA rejects Dutton’s claim there was a “problem” with some of the state’s judges and magistrates, describing it as “generalised sledging” that “does not add to the debate”.

Sledging? Dutton’s certainly detracted from so many debates so regularly that his promotion to a Home Affairs super-ministry can only be explained as a leading example of Malcolm Turnbull’s incomparably poor political judgement.

A few examples will suffice. Dutton lashed out at Amnesty International for bullying him, when in October 2015,  Amnesty alleged Australian officials paid $45,000 to six crew to return a boat of asylum seekers to Indonesia and that money was also paid money to the crew of a boat turned back in July. Amnesty’s report describes Australia’s secretive Operation Sovereign Borders as “a lawless venture that should be fully exposed through a royal commission”.

After a spate of horrific incidents in May 2016, Dutton alleged that refugee advocates were “teaching asylum seekers to self- harm”. Refugees leaving Manus for the US were “economic refugees” who could afford Armani luxury fashion items, he claimed in September, in his on-air rub-down with Ray Hadley.

“Somebody once said to me that the world’s biggest collection of Armani jeans and handbags [is] up on Nauru waiting for people to collect when they depart.”

He’s accused men on Manus of paedophile behaviour to explain why drunken off-duty troops in PNG opened fire on the detention centre.  He’s been prepared to violate UN conventions on refoulement. Yahya Tabani, a 32-year-old Rohingya man who arrived in Australia in 2013 but was sent to Manus Island, told Guardian Australia he had no choice but to return. He said he had been promised $25,000 by the Australian Border Force.

Pressed by ABC 7:30’s Leigh Sales to say whether it was safe for Rohingya to return to Myanmar presently, given close to 400,000 Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, many with bullet wounds and stories of mass killings, Dutton says “it depends on the circumstances”.

He has promised thousands to Rohingya refugees who agree to return to Myanmar, a country accused of carrying out genocide or what the ABC continues to call with barbarous euphemism, “ethnic cleansing” against the Muslim minority.

Dutton’s unsuitability to hold office as Home Affairs or any other cabinet post is enough for a separate article. Most damning recently is a report from Queensland police who are investigating an incident in which a South Sudanese-Australian family say were followed home, racially abused, and threatened on Thursday afternoon.

Dutton’s dog-whistling and disinformation may incite further racist violence. He is too powerful to be held in check by his week Prime Minister. Yet he represents a more general malaise as Peter Brent explains.

Australian politics is not in a healthy place. Donald Trump aside, it is difficult to think of national leaders and senior government members of other comparable democracies who regularly debase themselves, and their country, as ours do with these campaigns against minorities. Turnbull, once proudly above all this, is now so enfeebled he feels obliged to join in.

It’s a trend which Brent and others trace to John Howard’s deployment of the politics of division in 2001 with the Children Overboard lie and the notorious, meaningless and false slogan “we will decide who will come into this country and the circumstances in which they come”.

As Brent points out, Howard would have won the election without the arrival of Tampa. Perhaps when Dutton seizes the leadership from Turnbull, as he is manoeuvring to do, he can lose the next election comprehensively by beating the anti-immigration drum and put the lie to the hard-wired notion that stopping the boats and persecuting migrants is somehow an election-winner.

Dutton for PM! The right man to lead the coalition to the defeat it richly deserves.

Just before the last election The Guardian published an Australia Institute poll which showed that most Australians believe that refugees who arrive in the country by boat ought to be allowed to settle here.

Two-thirds of Australians believe doctors working in Australia’s offshore detention regime should be free to speak out about conditions in detention centres, and a majority believe New Zealand’s offer to resettle refugees from Manus Island and Nauru should be accepted.

What Turnbull’s government proposes, however, in a bill introduced in the House of Representatives in December when it would be overshadowed by the result of the postal survey, is the Coalition government’s broader crackdown on treason, espionage and foreign interference in a bill which interprets these matters so broadly it threatens democracy.

If passed into law, the bill increases tenfold the maximum penalties for anyone communicating information potentially harmful to the national interest, where that information is obtained via a government official without authorisation.

As Barrister Greg Barns and lawyer Anna Talbot write, it’s a law which is designed to prevent an incompetent government from embarrassment rather than from any real threats to national security.

Both espionage and national security are defined so widely as to allow almost any writer to fall foul of its provisions which also, alarmingly, uniquely, remove the notion of intent to commit harm before being found guilty of espionage.

The net is cast so wide that almost any writer revealing corruption or misconduct could be caught in it. There is no public interest defence.  Its severe penalties of 5 to 15 years imprisonment with up to 20 years for aggravated offences are out of all proportion to the circumstances or the threat faced.

As Turnbull’s government continue to lose the plot, it resorts to a primitive racist scapegoating and scaremongering it mistakenly believes will rescue it from certain defeat next election. In the process, it emulates the wilful disinformation denial and savage attacks on opponents, individuals and the judiciary that characterise the worst of Trumpism.

Its Pacific foreign policy is an embarrassing self-inflicted failure; its short-sighted massive cutbacks in aid have helped cede influence in the Pacific Islands to China. Trump-like invective and attacks on our greatest trading partner are no substitute for a rational, co-operative policy. Security means an increased investment in foreign aid, not cutbacks.

Similarly the proposed espionage laws represent “a creeping Stalinism” to Ethicos Group specialist Howard Whitton, who has advised governments and the United Nations ethics office on whistle-blower policy.

“The absolute protection of principled disclosure of wrongdoing – unfettered by government – must be preserved, or Australia will become a laughing stock internationally.” Especially a government which has preached the virtue of open and transparent government. But that’s the least of its worries.

The bill will allow government to forgo vital checks on its decency, honesty integrity, justice and efficiency and promote a culture of secrecy and lies which will inflict irremediable damage on our already faltering democracy.



Creeping Stalinism …

Turnbull’s terrifying new espionage laws endanger many innocent people