Our politics is not a reality TV show?

Dutton and Morrison looking shifty

“Politics is not a reality television show,scowls ScoMo, in a cameo piece to camera, Thursday, in the “most hysterical presser in our nation’s political history” according to Shadow Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus.

Labor doesn’t help with its smart-arse stunt news conference late Thursday proposing to support the Coalition’s botched and dodgy encryption legislation unamended given that the government has packed up and gone home. Appearing on ABC, the duo repeat the observation that the government has simply walked off the job.

Walked off. They can’t help repeat it. It’s a political point-scoring stunt but most media report a Labor cave-in.

The Morrison government’s final parliamentary fortnight is its first taste of a hung parliament and by Thursday, it is clear to even ScoMo’s few remaining supporters that everywhere are signs of collapse if not ruinous defeat.

Almost. ScoMo’s big on coal. So, too, is his Chief of staff John Kundel, former deputy CEO of the Minerals Council of Australia. Hence the lacquered lump of coal supplied to former Treasurer. If Morrison could wave his pet rock around parliament last February, in the middle of a drought, who knows how he may reach out to Adani?

His ministers possibly do. Some, may themselves, find employment with Adani after the May Federal Election.

Yet not even the latest re-announcement, by Adani, that Adani’s mine construction, albeit in a convenient, user-friendly, shorter, cleaner shovel, Adani-lite format “is imminent” again and will go ahead as a self-funded enterprise (with Indian government subsidies in Gujarat, paid for by imposing higher tariffs on the ever-grateful, local poor; subsidies which may help get Adani an Indian bank loan) is enough to fire up the troops.

Even George Christensen is diplomatic; sublimating his own joy in the interest of unity and nation-building.

“I say to the reckless law-breaking extreme greens and your Labor mates – accept defeat because it’s all go as far as Adani is concerned.”

Non-Adani readers will note that Adani is not all go. Adani still has a number of hurdles to clear, including getting approval from local indigenous land owners, a land use agreement and a Queensland government water licence.

Green Career reports, moreover, that environmental group Coast and Country has high resolution satellite and drone imagery showing “illegal” dewatering bores at the site of Adani’s controversial Carmichael coal mine project in north Queensland near Doongmabulla Springs.

A nationally significant wetland of ‘exceptional ecological value’ and home to 11 endangered or vulnerable species, the springs have cultural significance to local indigenous groups and have been described by ecologists as one of the world’s last remaining pristine oases.”

Environmental Defenders’ Office, QLD, reports that Adani’s environmental conditions require approval of a Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems Management Plan (GDEMP), which must include research to identify the source of water for the Doongmabulla Springs before the commencement of ‘Project Stage 2’. ‘Project Stage 2’ is defined to include ‘site clearance’, ‘new access roads’ and ‘commencing dewatering operations’.

All coal-fired up, nevertheless, is the euphoniously-named Melissa Price, our Federal Environment Minister, formerly of WA mining, who, bravely, insists that we will meet our carbon emissions targets at a “canter”.

Price will trot out her case at The UN climate conference in Katowice, Poland, a nation with a right wing government which, she can tell Craig Kelly, has been able to make a 180 degree turn to embrace renewables.

Yet 91 international leading reason-crazed, haplessly empirical scientists differ. As The Saturday Paper’s legal eagle, writer Richard Ackland reminds us, the UN’s Emissions Gap Report 2018 concludes:

“There has been no improvement in Australia’s climate policy since 2017 and emission levels for 2030 are projected to be well above the [Nationally Determined Contribution] target. The latest projection published by the government shows that emissions would remain at high levels rather than reducing in line with the 2030 target.”

The Coalition’s energy policy is also a dud, its “religious freedoms” (read further discrimination) nutters who rule its energy policy are aggrieved and the government is perilously close to a de facto vote of no confidence given some MPs’ determination to help kids off Nauru; a political crisis tailor-made for its tactical evasion and delay. The Australian embassy in Israel remains in Tel Aviv. But of course, there’s a committee looking into that.

Ever thinking outside the box, ScoMo’s proposes to deal with the protection of religious freedom, in schools by a conscience vote. He’s even got up his own private member’s bill.  Religious freedom, does not, however, appear at risk in Australia. Although he was quick to declare it as his number one issue, it seems little more than just a sop to the party’s right wing and others disappointed to be in a minority on marriage equality. Bugger.

A panel reported to Turnbull in May. Will the Ruddock Committee’s report be made public before Christmas?

No rush. As Bernard Keane notes, Morrison has already broken his promise to end the possibility of religious schools discriminating against LGBTQI students. It was, Keane, reminds us, to be done by October.

Yet can it ever be accomplished, given the mission is inherently flawed, as Keane kindly points out.

“Think about that for a moment — religious organisations say they’re perfectly happy not to expel a gay or transgender student, but want the freedom to teach those students that homosexuality is evil, or that transgender people are somehow unnatural.”

Happily for investors, power prices are set to rise, carried upward by a surge in the price of gas, as much as 40 per cent higher by January next year than the 2018 average, The Australian reports, while despite all the bluster about forced divestiture, the “big stick” is now being whittled down in the face of industry (and Labor) opposition.  A toothpick? The Guardian’s Katharine Murphy says it’s now so small as to be invisible. Just how business likes it.

Or is Trevor St Baker, Liberal patron, no longer keenly interested in buying up plant Frydenberg forces off Alinta?

Also shrinking is our GDP. Wednesday’s Bureau of Statistics release shows only 2.77% annual growth in gross domestic product (GDP) to 30 September 2018. That puts us 106th among the world’s 183 economies; our lowest ever ranking. Our real household disposable incomes are lower than in 2010. Australia is lagging the world on almost all economic indicators, reports Alan Austin.

Happily, mainstream media will uncritically accept anything the government tells them, including the whopper that we will be in surplus in 2019 and the mantra of economic management, now coalition canon law.

‘Because of the Coalition’s strong economic management we will deliver next April the first budget surplus in more than a decade,’ Frydenberg fibs. You do a bit of that when you are the work experience boy. And make the tea.

In fact, Austin calculates the budget deficit to be around $14.5 billion, 30 June 2019. Josh Frydenberg can, of course predict a surplus in May, as he promises, but in April, he will say it may arrive in 2020. It may not. Who can fathom the effect of Trump’s trade and tariff wars? Certainly no surplus will be delivered in April.

Prudently, Morrison’s government ignores a mouthy Malcolm Turnbull’s advice to call an election at once, (the former PM is more famous for his wearing a leather jacket on Q&A than any other act of political judgement). Instead it will meet for nine days in 2019. It can’t evade the inevitable. As Kerryn Phelps tells Sky,

“I am sad that we didn’t get this through today … because I believe it would have gone through on the numbers … But you know if we have to wait until February, at least I believe that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Facing defeat on the floor of the house, ScoMo pulls out all the stops. “I will do everything in my power to ensure that these suggested changes, that would undermine our border protection laws, never see the light of day.”

Or as they say on Big Brother, Australia’s Next Top Model or even My Kitchen Rules, it’s “game on moll”.

Undermine? It’s a wicked, wilful misrepresentation of a proposed act of humanity. How can this PM call himself a Christian? Where is his compassion? Why must children suffer? Following his mentor, Trump, Morrison effortlessly, crosses from florid embellishment through delusion to grotesque and wilful disinformation.

“They’ll hear the people smuggler who sails up to them and says, ‘Guess what, the Australians have changed the legislation, you won’t have to stay on Nauru or Manus, all you have to do is get some doctor in Australia to sign it off and it’s all good mate, it’s all good’,” Morrison mimics a mythical demon people-smuggler who speaks Strine .

In the senate, Labor, the cross-bench and The Greens amend the Home Affairs Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2018  to allow medical evacuation of refugees stranded on Manus and Nauru.

How can this encourage people smugglers? The government’s already removing kids from Nauru, it boasts, only skipping how it’s squandered over half a million dollars in the last two years contesting medical decisions in court.

But Morrison has a lot on his plate. Now he must stall the medical evacuation bill – at all costs. He calls a presser.

Not a reality TV show. Show-Mo’s ironic spoiler alert frames this week’s episode of the Coalition’s long running low-rating hyper-reality politics show. Stage right, in “the other place”, lunatic right odd couple Hanson and Bernardi, who bask in their government attention in the senate, team up in a slow bicycle race which sees a wobbly Morrison minority government delay Labor’s attack on not only border but national security.

Morrison’s border security takes us back to the future. In 2001 the Liberals’ St John Howard won a fabulous victory with his babies overboard episode. The following year, Howard went on to deceive parliament and the Australian people over whether we were fit and ready to join the US’ illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003, a war crime which over eight years claimed the lives of half a million Iraqis. He falsely claimed he had legal advice.

His “legal advice”, based on the opinions of two junior public servants, Bill Campbell and Chris Moraitis appears to have been obtained by silk shopping; avoiding other more prominent senior authorities, such as Professor James Crawford SC, Professor of International Law at Cambridge University who had on previous occasions advised the Australian government and appeared for it in international law proceedings.

Crawford was one of sixteen distinguished international experts who held that any invasion of Iraq was illegal.

Lord Goldsmith, UK Attorney General held that any military action required the explicit authorisation of the security council, yet lying rodent, Howard claimed his experts’ advice was consistent with Goldsmith.

More lies emerge. A secret study surfaces which proves that the former PM misled the nation over when the invasion was planned. University of New South Wales Professor Clinton Fernandes, who first secured the study, says it details how ADF personnel were quietly dispatched to US CENTCOM headquarters in Florida in 2002 to begin planning the Iraq war, a year before John Howard announced Australia’s involvement.

Central to our politics for over a hundred years is the convention that foreign policy is the prerogative of the PM alone and a PM confident of cabinet and house of reps support can act without the need to consult parliament.

The history of our border folly cannot be so easily evaded. As megalomaniac Morrison took the helm – and at times commandeered part of the navy – the Abbott government militarised “border control”; creating Operation Sovereign Borders, throwing all fiscal constraint overboard, to create a paramount, paramilitary Border Force.

Precise figures are few, given the vast tentacles of Warlord Morrison’s private armed force but Save the Children’s Lisa Button and Shane Evans, estimate the cost between 2013-16 alone at nearly ten billion dollars.  

Decoration is not cheap. ABF staff medals have for the last few years cost more than for the entire Defence Force.

And the ABF has its fingers in many pies. Operation Sovereign Borders and Australia’s immigration-related functions span many different departments, from fisheries and foreign affairs to the department of prime minister and cabinet, the Australian Crime Commission and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

“A lack of transparency in reporting and aggregated budget allocations make it difficult to accurately describe the cost of Australia’s asylum framework,” Button and Evans caution.

Does it work? Barely a year later, Border Force takes over the Australian Immigration and Border Protection Department, the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, the Australian Quarantine Service, and Operation Sovereign Borders – despite none of these agencies having worked together before.

Leaked reports of chaos, corruption and disaster, are managed by a cloak of secrecy and the evasion if not erasure of accountability given these were “on water matters” or matters of “national security”.

Also ignored are reports this week of poor morale and a “rampant” culture of bullying and harassment in the ABF which can only be enhanced by the announcement of staff cut-backs over Christmas, the ABF’s busiest period.

We will never control our borders. Off-shore detention is double-speak for the torture of hapless boat people to whom we are legally and morally obliged to offer refuge if not compassion. But the show must go on.

Morrison’s shtick is pure reality TV for all his faux denial. So much of our politics is. ScoMo knows it full well, tsk-tsks Guardian Australia’s Political Editor, Katharine Murphy, who suggests “their hothouse intrigues … petty sagas, and self-indulgences” as “some ways our current cast of MPs have helped morph our politics into reality TV”.

But not all on their own. For Murpharoo, who along with most of our media is inextricably part of the transformation, politics is “the grimmest reality television in the franchise, full of attention-seekers and desperados, looking for a plot twist to propel the battered enterprise into the next season”.

The Australian helps stir the plot by eagerly denouncing Labor’s heinous duplicity, especially their class treason. Labor MPs are shape-stealing, social-climbers parking their Blundstones under Pratt family tables.

Amazingly, they are simultaneously union-catspaws whose moral turpitude seals an all-round unfitness for office.

This includes having evil factions, something alien to the virtuous broad church of the Liberals. The Oz Saturday “reveals” “Labor’s Left faction will push to fast-track refugee medical transfers to Australia through a change to the party platform at next weekend’s ALP national conference as Scott Morrison sets up an election showdown on border security.”

Australian’s great and powerful fiend, the US, also shapes our politics with its postmodern, post-truth universe, currently featuring none other than the “useful idiot” Donald John Trump. Trump inspires many a local politician.

Rusted on is the small, rapidly self-extinguishing Federal One Nation micro-party, united under President for Life Pauline but an even bigger fan, a fully paid up Trumpista in thought, deed and wardrobe is Scott John Morrison.

Yes. Our colossus even shares the same middle name. Of course there are the baseball caps, lapel pins but note also his unctuous toadying to The Donald, whom he praises as a “very practical” leader … “who’s not going to waste a day” in office. ScoMo even boasts to The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd that he and the US president have a special bond. They both share an instinct to help those forgotten by the forces of globalisation.

And on bushfires. Trump berates Californians for not raking up leaves while Morrison castigates the Queensland government for its recent belated attempt to put the brakes on land clearing. An inquiry will be held. Bugger the environment. Leaving trees in the ground is just inviting wildfires.

Hamming it up shamelessly, former child TV actor and Vicks’ Love Rub commercial kid, former Boat-Stopper Morrison is once again the nation’s fearless protector of the week in his performance Thursday,

“I will do whatever I can, whatever I can. I’ll fight them using whatever tool or tactic I have available to me.”

ScoMo’s full of fighting talk. After nearly six years, does his government really thinks it can finally wedge Labor as soft on borders, or make voters fear being swamped by refugees? It last worked seventeen years ago.

Yet what he opts for is a slow bicycle race in the senate, a series of filibusters and delaying tactics with the support of the pliant Pauline Hanson and the awful Corey Bernardi who remain perpetually bewildered by modernity. Or anything beyond expedience, xenophobia and self-promotion.

Meanwhile, the Morrison government’s dangerously ill-conceived and poorly written data encryption laws, its latest in at least a dozen “national security” laws which propel the nation ever closer to becoming a police state are rushed through parliament, yet again, on the pretext of a dire, top-secret national emergency.

Will we notice as we slumber deep in re-runs of Bad Santa and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation?

But credit where it’s due. In the credits to this week’s show, “I just get on with the job” Scottie has his nose to the grindstone, his back to the wall and his finger in the dyke. It’s a fair-dinkum show-stopper.

A tsunami of compassion looms as Labor’s anti-Christ, Bill Shorten, “a clear and present threat to Australia’s safety” perfidiously proposes a bill to Medi-vac sick children off Nauru, a move which would see us overrun with boat people by Christmas. Not only that but he dickers with the government’s fatally flawed anti-encryption law before abandoning all attempt at amendment. Perhaps he’s read the member for Sturt’s tweets.

Labor has chosen to allow terrorists and paedophiles to continue their evil work in order to engage in point scoring. – mouth that roars, Defence Minister, Christopher Pyne tweets during 2018’s last Parliament’s valedictories.

In reality, Labor is just as keen on turning Australia into a police state, a process it aids and abets, Thursday in a theatrical news conference stunt held, it points out, in best political point-score, after the government has given up and gone home by agreeing to support The Coalition’s flawed data encryption law which does nothing to make the nation safe from criminals, terrorists and paedophiles but which does vastly extend state surveillance.

A nation is inspired by Scott Morrison’s conscience vote to allow MPs to discriminate against school-children on the basis of gender or sexual orientation. Surely this is peak practicality with its sleeves rolled up; the pinnacle of “getting on and doing”, a phrase the shouty, Quiet Achiever, ScoMo has lifted from an old BHP commercial.

All of which the multi-tasking PM manages to fit around his leaks and manic, midnight, media drops to Murdoch newspapers and his regular visits to 2GB radio in which he talks himself up and the opposition down.

By Friday, ScoMo’s won a huge victory. Huge. He’s had to drag Bill Shorten kicking and screaming into line on data encryption. Labor’s attempt to destabilise the government over refugees has “failed”. He tells Channel 9’s Today programme the “cocky” Labor party claimed “all sorts of bills and all sorts of motions … were going to pass but none of it happened”.

“So all the doomsday scenarios that were put about by the Labor party to undermine confidence, they were all proven to be false and Labor failed on every occasion and the government prevailed.”

Yes, yes, we know, you’re an inspiration to the nation, ScoMo and politics is not a reality TV show.

 

Morrison out of depth at G20 while his government tears itself apart at home.

morrison and trump

Scott Morrison is a man on a mission. The chips are down, down, down but fixed is his shit-eating grin – at least in public. It’s not just his government’ unpopularity and manifest ineptitude. Even NewsPoll has the Federal Coalition on only 34% of the primary vote; a twenty seat loss. It’s also his poor leadership and charisma bypass. Julia Banks, MP for Chisholm resigns Thursday stealing the PM’s cunning re-set plan in which he promises an April 2 budget with surplus.

Banks is so alienated that she does not even warn her party. Perhaps she expects only further rebuke. She’s not disappointed, “Lazarus with the triple bypass” as deathless John Howard styled himself once, but now more of a Grim Reaper given his universally toxic effect on any Liberals he’s recently chosen to campaign for – is on ABC TV – not to offer any commentary, a promise which seems to allow him to put his boot in. Add judgmentalism. Banks is an ingrate.

After all, Howard campaigned for her during the 2016 election. She “owes a lot to the Liberal Party”, Perhaps Banks will get an invoice. Bizarrely, he urges the party not to divide itself along ideological battlelines, (he failed at this as PM).

Speaking of social division, Gavin Silbert, QC, who retired as the state’s chief crown prosecutor in March, accuses the Department of Human Services (DHS) of ignoring its legal obligations and acting like a bully towards some of the nation’s most vulnerable people. There’s talk of a challenge to Robo-Debt which is all set to claw back up to $4.5 billion in “overpayments” – the DHS gets to make the call. You, the neoliberal client, must prove your innocence.

Not so says University of Sydney’s Professor Terry Carney. The “failure of a person to ‘disprove’ the possibility of a debt is not a legal foundation for a debt”. Carney releases a report claiming that Robo-Debt wreaks legal and moral injustice.

A member of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for 40 years, reports Fairfax, Professor Carney accuses Centrelink of failing to defend the legality of the debts in the AAT, where several welfare recipients had made appeals. He claims their conduct “arguably breaches” the model litigant obligations of a government agency.

Professor Carney understands how it furthers the Coalition government’s war on the poor.

“When confronted with suggestions of having an overpayment, often up to seven years ago, the least literate, least powerful, and most vulnerable alleged debtors will simply throw up their hands, assume Centrelink knows that there really is a debt, and seek to pay it off as quickly as possible,” Carney writes in the UNSW Law Journal published in March.

Out of nowhere, Malcolm Turnbull appears in full war-bonnet. He attacks ScoMo’s attempt to fix Craig Kelly’s pre-selection woes. According to The Australian, the former PM calls upon Senior Liberals to “defy” Morrison; vote down a plan to save Craig Kelly from losing preselection. This would save the Berejiklian government, claims Turnbull.

The Oz sees this as “a ­brazen intervention” – which it is – but only if you ignore Tony Abbott’s guerrilla war on Turnbull. Or if you think John Howard’s public admonishment of former Liberal Julia Banks via the 7:30 Report is not totally out of order and a classic use of male power and prestige to publicly bully a woman who is given no right of reply. And surely Malcolm Turnbull, as a former PM and as a senior Liberal has a right, if not an obligation, to speak up for justice.

“It has been put to me that Mr Kelly has threatened to go to the crossbench and ‘bring down the government’. If indeed he has made that threat, it is not one that should result in a capitulation. Indeed it would be the worst and weakest response to such a threat,” Turnbull claims. “It is time for the Liberal Party members in Hughes to have their say about their local member and decide who they want to represent them.”

Luckily, the Libs’ wipe-out in Victoria’s state election has nothing to do with the collapse of federal government. As PM, he’s kept his distance.  To voters, however, it looks like the Liberal denialism that may be found in its blinkered attitude to the realities of climate, energy policy, religious freedoms, environment, social justice, investing in social welfare, gender equality, wage parity, trickle-down or the folly of tax breaks for the wealthy – just to name a few.

State issues account for Labor’s victory, chorus Federal Liberals, mostly on cue. Yet some state MPs blame the leadership spill. None speak of Dutton’s African-gang scare, boosted by Murdoch media, which also dubs Victoria, the “terror capital” of Australia. Unlike Guy, who enjoys a lobster with a mobster party donor, Andrews is way too soft on crime.

Ivanhoe voters receive a black envelope with an image of a black man in a hood. A caption asks if voters feel safe.

Wisely, Scott and Matty keep out of each other’s way. Mostly. Yet both manage to crash Pellegrini’s with a massive media pack in tow. A saccharine platitude is never far from the PM’s lips, as we’ve seen with his huge, largely empty, blue bus-tour odyssey of comfort and promises of drought-proofing loans to Queensland farmers.

“We’ve all got to find our Sisto smiles; that’s the best message we can send,” our PM preaches. He rejects a question suggesting he’s intruding; politicising a personal tragedy by campaigning with Matthew Guy at a site of mourning.

“I’m not. I’m here to pay my respects and talk to the very issues that took place right here in this street,” he says, losing his Sisto smile for an instant. He clearly wins no votes. ScoMo may “talk to the issues” but no-one’s listening. No-one tells Liberals that messaging is a reciprocal process involving speaking and listening and mutual respect.

Early this week, key liberals such as Josh Frydenberg were persuading themselves in public of the lie that nothing has to change with the Liberal Party or Morrison’s Coalition government – “we just have to get the message out”.

NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, who does her own messaging, has a state election scheduled for 23 March 2019, texts toxic Scott Morrison that she is OK to campaign all on her own even though polls put Labor in front, ReachTEL: 51-49 to Labor in New South Wales; YouGov Galaxy: 52-48, The Poll Bludger, William Bowe reports.

New Labor leader, Michael Daley, leads Gladys Berejiklian 54.2-45.8 on the meaningless but mindlessly media popular nonsense of preferred premier, which will cheer Daley as the non-incumbent as much as it will chill Gladys.

Doubtless ScoMo will take the hint, despite his history of close involvement in his home state’s politics, which goes back to before his contest for Cook in July 2007 where, after a series of damaging articles in The Daily Tele,  Michael Towke, the Liberal candidate was disendorsed – allowing Morrison, despite his eight votes, (Towke polled 82 on the first ballot) to be pre-selected in Towke’s place. Not even ScoMo could believe he was given a go because he was having a go.

Prior to his becoming MP for Cook, ScoMo knocked the socks off John Howard as NSW Liberal Party State Director, 2000-2004. Apart from his fondness for party fund-raisers, Howard also has a soft spot for evangelicals yet is never questioned in the media on his role in the increased influence of the religious right on the parliamentary Liberal Party.

Morrison’s more of a Liberal apparatchik than a salesman despite his media unit’s insistence he’s a marketing guy, a lie he must, of course, repeat – ad nauseam- himself. According to former staff, his sacking as MD of Tourism Oz, mid-way through his contract attests to a self-abrogating, if not bullying, selfish, management style and an irregular approach to some key contracts which has led the Australian National Audit Office to query his adherence to established protocols.

It must be weighing on his mind a little bit. Thursday, The Senate supports Labor’s motion to order the government to produce “all documents” relating to any contracts Tourism Australia entered between January 1, 2004 and January 31, 2006. It demands the contracts be tabled by 10am on Monday. As his mentor Trump says, “We’ll see what happens.”

Morrison refuses to publish details of two missing advertising and media contracts worth more than $100 million that preceded his sacking as Tourism Australia’s managing director in 2006. The PM insists they are confidential quibbling that the services they covered were delivered overseas. Yet Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines state otherwise.

Karen Middleton’s two articles in The Saturday Paper are a fair and reasonable case that ScoMo account for his actions.

Account for his actions? It’s easier to blame Julia Banks and rats like in the ranks. Yet the government is stuffed with all the decisions the PM’s put on hold over his hundred day reign. Yet it won’t stop his boast that “I just get on and do”.

On hold includes his embassy shift to Jerusalem, a captain’s call, he’d hoped would win the Jewish vote. Everyone knows Jews vote en bloc on such issues; as do all Christians and Muslims.  Joko Widodo, Indonesia’s Sukarno dynasty current Presidential puppet, won’t sign the Australia-Indonesia free trade agreement, a single page of platitudes which has been under negotiation since 2012, unless he hears Scott flip-flop; decide to keep the Oz embassy in Tel Aviv, a move which would save $200 million, among other benefits such as conforming with international law.

First he must he snatch catastrophe from chaos this week as he counters the risks of minority government. Ignoring Turnbull, (so far) he gets his staff on to NSW Liberal Party Vice President Kent Johns, who could beat the PM’s fellow evangelical and climate change denier Craig Kelly for pre-selection in the southern Sydney seat of Hughes.

If Derby Kelly goes belly-up in pre-selection, he’ll join the cross bencher but support the Morrison government anyway, despite Turnbull’s dire warnings that the worm may turn. Kelly is taxed just keeping up with government policy.

Craftily, ScoMo culls the 2019 parliamentary calendar. He has to make way for an April 2 budget, he says, in which he predicts a surplus, largely achieved by making it harder to qualify for the NDIS, something Christian Porter boasts is ending welfare dependency, but it’s more a case of denial, a move that saves the budget $2 billion dollars.

Expect an “easing of the tax burden”. An early budget may buy some voters before the May 18 Federal Election. Who would not be chuffed to find a few extra bucks’ tax cut resulting from denying the needy?  The House of Reps meets for one week whilst in the other place, senators not required for the four days of Senate Estimates committees, three days.

Parliament, Bill Shorten jeers, Thursday, is  “part-time under this prime minister, but the civil war in the Liberal party is a full-time occupation”. He also notes that a Liberal Party Room meets with each parliamentary session. Is safety an issue?

Blood is being shed. Jacqueline Maley sees cannibalism: “the Liberal Party is eating itself amid an atmosphere of blame and blind hatred”. Kelly O’Dwyer tells a “crisis” meeting that many view the Liberals as “homophobic, anti-women, climate-change deniers”. None of this is possibly a result of the Federal Liberal Party culture or the PM’s botched leadership coup in which he simply replaces one right wing puppet with another even less popular, more limited model.

ScoMo has to get away. Fobbing off women MPs with promises he’ll look into the Liberals’ culture of bullying and paternalism is catching up with him. After three months he’s done nothing. It’s enough to make Julia Banks leave the party. Happily, he’s off the hook. The Australian manages to find conspiracy theory evidence that Malcolm Turnbull is up to his old tricks. His hands are all over Julia Banks’ defection.

Worse, the Fizza’s been communicating with Kerryn Phelps. And using social media, too, the ingrate.

Then there’s the Wentworth move-the-embassy-to-Jerusalem thought bubble. Morrison’s told Joko Widodo, it’ll all be fixed, fair dinkum, by Christmas. But enough of squalid, petty local concerns such as having no real legislative programme and nothing really for government to do – Morrison’s ego responds to the thrill to a higher calling.

The G20 needs him. He’s not just looking for sympathy, although Labor’s wrecked everything forever. And in Victoria. Nothing to do with federal politics. Nothing.  All state issues. But now Kroger’s just quit, who will sue the Cormack foundation for Liberal funding? Where’s the election war chest now they’ve decided to do their funding directly?

Buenos Aires beckons alluringly, even if ScoMo dare spend only a couple of days.  The G20 may be split down the middle between those like Trump and Xi who may say they are all for tariff hikes and those who oppose them. Masterfully, Morrison works out his own bottler of a compromise; a fair dinkum Clayton’s tariff and protectionist censure – that won’t impugn – or impress anyone, although spoiler alert, it may bring tears to the eyes of the unwary reader.

“I don’t think anybody is about protectionism. The allegations that have been made against the United States about protectionism, I don’t buy. What we are trying to achieve here is a modernising and an improvement of the world’s trading system.”

Don’t cry for me, Argentina. The nation is rapidly going bust. Inflation is rampant. Buenos Aires is a perfect setting for the surreal tenth G20 tango, a tryst of international big-noters where everyone is out of step since Trump ended to any pretence at US leadership; America’s authority wanes and oligarchs pick over the carcase of neoliberal capitalism.

Anything to get away from the reality of his government’s unpopularity; his dud political judgement. “Given that his minority government is consumed by division, dysfunction and chaos, was it a mistake for the current prime minister to replace Malcolm Turnbull?” Shorten asks. Is it a mistake for him to leave the country?

Who can blame ScoMo? Certainly not himself. The Liberals’ rout in Victoria has nothing to do with his knifing Malcolm Turnbull and replacing him with an even more pitiful, pliable, right wing puppet, himself. No he’s telling the G20 that everyone’s behaving beautifully and all that’s needed is a new rule book, a G20.2.0.

Regard our host Mauricio Macri, an Argentinian Malcolm Turnbull with a “high profile business career” from a wealthy family who rose to power in 2015 boasting how his business-savvy, business friendly, neoliberal government would soon have the economy pumping. Alas, Macri, too, proved a Fizza.  Free trade doesn’t seem to be doing him a lot of good.

Buenos Aires. Who better to show-case international capitalism with its free-market-but-with tariff wars, economic order? Argentina’s peso is down 18 percent so far this year. Macri’s government has put up interest rates to 40 percent. But a lack of cash or a bit of inflation is nothing to do with solvency, credit rating, or any inability to pay its financial dues – his economic team insists. No Argentinians are reported massing after a long walk to the US-Mexico border.

Trumpism, moreover, has done the country a favour. In retaliation for Donald Trump’s tariff protectionism and border wall plan, Mexico is turning away from the US to import corn, rice, soy, and wheat from Argentina and Brazil.

All is well with the economy’s fundamentals, however. All Macri needs is an IMF hand-up of $30 billion followed by decades of character-building austerity measures. Worked so well for Greece. In fact, the IMF made itself hated in Argentina last time it stepped up to assist the invisible hand of the (almost) free market. But it’s the vibe that our Prime Minister is able to imbibe. As ABC News 24 gushes, Scotty is able to take his place among the “heavyweights” as they do deals, free up trade or wait to face off in top level spats. Perhaps, he’ll be able to swap the odd lapel badge.

But it’s not just (mostly) male bonding. While Scotty and his numbers man, Matty Cormann get to hang out with the big boys; talk each other up, bitch about Julia Banks, Kerryn Phelps and demonise Bill Shorten, they renew their vows to the fraternal oligopoly, the rules-based brotherhood of multinational capitalism.

G20 is a ritual obeisance to free trade, free markets and their bosses. Yet it’s also a freak-show. Putin, Trump and Xi, our bad boys who are currently vying to break every rule of the “rules-based order” they confer upon the globe.

In the end daggy dad and everyman, Scott the Popular baseball-caps another busy week, “just getting on with doing” – so busy that he is quite unable to account for two $100 million contracts which The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) lists as still missing from Morrison the marketing guy’s dismal failure as MD of Tourism Australia.

But who knows? Morrison may come back with yet another makeover or another lapel pin or a fabulous free trade deal.

What seems certain is that the local crises of our local Liberal Parties emanate from the breakdown of neoliberalism itself which has enabled a wealthy elite to increasingly profit by the plunder of finite global resources. These include even the air we breathe. The pursuit of ever more growth or GDP comes at the expense of the health and well-being of all of us but especially the poor, a working poor who are increasingly deprived of fair wages, conditions and prospects.

As for dealing with the rise of erratic protectionist leaders such as Trump and proto-fascists such as Xi and Putin, we are ill-served by a local polity dominated by one PM in cabinet in camera, a world outlook wedded to an outmoded dependency on the US and its vacuous, cynical ideologies of free trade, free markets and workplace flexibility.

 

 

Business as usual for the banks despite Frydenberg’s faux outrage and finger-wagging.

frydenberg royal commission

Our nation sighs with relief this week. Our banks are safe. Federal Treasurer, former Minister for resources and Northern Australia, energy, environment, serial failure and currently unelected Prime Minister, Scott Morrison’s Deputy, Josh Frydenberg, will not get tough on financial companies just because a Royal Commission uncovers incompetence, theft, forgery, impersonation, fee-gouging, usury amongst other criminal conduct while regulators looked the other way.

“Getting stuck into banks could hurt the economy”, he warns. Ah, yes. The economy – that lonely little petunia which blossoms on the dung-heap of consumption. As Richard Denniss observes, Australians have been told for decades that as long as the amount of stuff bought is growing we must be doing well. Yet it’s clearly never been the case.

The same mentality has the Coalition Monash coal cult calling for us to open new coal mines – if only we could find a single investor. Or even if we have to fund them ourselves in a bizarre hybrid state Liberal/National socialism.  While buying more coal, if we could, would “grow the economy”, (another neoliberal nonsense) buying stuff that harms us and harms the planet is not going to make us any better off. It’s what we buy, not how much we buy that matters.

But you can’t tell our tyro Federal Treasurer. Keenly attuned to the need to provide the right pastoral care to markets, Frydenberg hints darkly to The Financial Review of the perils of layering new rules on trustworthy institutions such as banks and insurance companies which laboured mightily to sell us harmful products, such as mortgages we can’t afford or junk insurance or even charge us for services they don’t even bother to provide.

Either Josh doesn’t know, or he’s wilfully misleading, but Justice Kenneth Hayne QC is not suggesting any new rules. He makes it clear he knows that the banks are bigger than the paper tiger regulators, ASIC and APRA. Why impose new rules that will just be ignored? What’s needed is no new set of rules but the will to impose existing legislation.

At present, all banks have had cosy chats with their corporate regulator. As they break the rules, they get a warm inner glow over putting things right by negotiating “Enforceable Undertakings.” Any tiny fine is factored into business costs.

Banks agree to sign a statement which says the regulator is concerned they have been bad boys, or rarely, girls. In return, our fearless corporate regulators, the “tough cops on the beat”, which Scott Morrison was only recently assuring us were more powerful than a Royal Commission, simply agree the banks have not really done anything wrong and they agree not to prosecute them. Occasionally there’s a token financial “penalty” thrown in for good measure.

Doesn’t this process pre-empt the whole Royal Commission? A get out of jail free card? That’s the whole idea.

As Justice Hayne’s three volume interim report makes clear: Enforceable undertakings have been negotiated and agreed on terms that the entity admits no more than that ASIC has reasonably based ‘concerns’ about the entity’s conduct. ASIC has issued infringement notices. But by paying the infringement notice the entity makes no admission. It is not taken to have engaged in the relevant contravention. Yet, ASIC and the Commonwealth are prevented from starting a civil or criminal proceeding in relation to the contravention that caused ASIC to issue the infringement notice.

But it’s reassuring to learn that Josh won’t rock the boat. He already knows the ropes. It will be business as usual. Just as it was with all six decades of previous inquiries up to the 1997 Wallis Inquiry report – which led to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and agreement that “light touch regulation” and the magic wand of market competition would best keep light-fingered institutions honest in a dishonest non-competitive system.

At heart was John Howard’s neoliberal fantasy as Bernard Keane describes it, a blueprint for a free market Utopia based on an ideology of competitive forces, rational consumers and information symmetry and the Howard government’s dream of a shareholder democracy (where ) ordinary Australian workers would be transformed into McMansion-owning, private school- and healthcare-using, investor-contractors enjoying the fruits of unfettered (but taxpayer-subsidised) markets and endless asset price growth. But just to be on the safe side, he blew a mining boom on middle-class welfare.

Instead lives were wrecked; ordinary Australians were ripped off; robbed blind, ruined, some even paying fees for services, they never received, plus fees for reviews of their non-existent services long after they themselves had expired.

ASIC’s light touch was lightened even further by funding cuts of $120 million over four years in Tony Abbott’s 2014 budget. Scott Morrison’s recent Federal Budget further cut ASIC’s permanent funding by $26 million to $320 million by 2020-21. Staff at the agency have been cut by 30 investigators. What could possibly go wrong?

Competition? The banks quickly became an oligopoly, colluding rather than competing. So much more profitable.

Oleaginous Josh is a capital chap who sounds in top form as a result of elocution lessons which slow his pace and lower his pitch. The kid gloves are on – no kidding. But have they ever been off? Is our system a world’s best protection racket?

Certainly there’s ample evidence of malpractice. Last week, for example, asthenic Kenny Hayne’s Royal Commission into misconduct in the (monolithic) Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry heard that mug punters who trustingly invest their life savings in cash in AMP’s subsidiary NM actually lose money because the firm charges its clients more in fees than they receive in their accounts from interest, or in bankers’ jargon, return on their investment (ROI).

Why? Because they can – and because this is what the system is designed to do. In Ken Hayne’s words, it puts “profit before people”. Naturally, as they explain their conduct to the commission, the banks or super funds blame the victim.

Above all, the negative return rip-off is all the customer or client’s fault. Caveat emptor. Witness the interaction between counsel assisting Michael Hodge and NM Super chairman, Richard Allert, at the royal commission 16 August:

Hodge: “Your point is why are they foolish enough to invest their superannuation with AMP?”

Allert: “(laughs) … no that’s not what I’m saying at all.”

Hodge: “But isn’t that your point?”

Allert: “You have to ask the client what’s in their mind when they put money into a cash account, and as you’ve pointed out, this person has had a cash account with AMP at least from March 1, 2014 to February 28, 2018. They’ve left the cash there knowing the return they’re getting.”

The exchange is pure Monty Python. If it did not cause such suffering. AMP alone acknowledges to the commission that inappropriate advice by fourteen advisers between 1 January 2009 and 30 June 2015 had resulted in compensation to 1,079 customers.

AMP also acknowledges a licensee continued many times to charge a customer fees for services that were not provided.

Unfair, unjust or just outrageous fraud? The scam is familiar to millions of us who see account balances steadily decline with annotations on statements such as “fee for service” even when there’s been no service. But at least we are alive.

Not content with generously helping themselves to our life savings, banks also charge fees to the deceased while their investment tentacles or subsidiaries cop a blast from Justice Hayne over charging “fees for no service”.

“Fee for no service” is one of many modern euphemisms and weasel-words for bare-faced fraud. ASIC defines it as, “… the failure to deliver ongoing advice services to financial advice clients who were charged fees for those services”.

Even better, it covers an additional fee you may pay for not getting a review – in effect advice about the advice you are not getting. ASIC calls it “failure(s) to deliver an annual (or other periodic) advice review that was promised to a client.”

The consequences of banks’ behaving badly is staggering – apart from the boost it provides to executive salaries. Some clients commit suicide. Others’ lives are ruined. But my, how investors, governments and banksters love it. Happily, we have the right chaps, and the odd lady chap, in Canberra who see the need to crack on with the racketeering.

And Kenneth Hayne’s Royal Commission interim report? It’s a type of post-modern show trial where the guilty pretend to be publicly shamed. Pure performance theatre. Nothing will come of it.  Michael West sums up, “Driven by greed, the banks behave with appalling dishonesty. Secondly, bankers exploit their customers for personal financial gain, often behaving illegally. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), is “captive” to those it regulates.

Captive also is the Coalition. Fabulist Frydenberg whose heroic failures include doing nothing to fix our fee gouging, planet poisoning coal-fired power grid and the laying waste of vast tracts of countryside, helping kill one world heritage reef, in what is archly termed “land-clearing” amongst other triumphs, is solicitous about the need to spare the rod.

Appearing on ABC RN Monday Frydenberg is as quick to posture and wag his finger about the shocking wrong-doing uncovered as he is to find a scapegoat, even if his script does sound like a quick precis of Justice Hayne’s own obiter dicta.

“Reading the 1,000-page interim report is one that shows a pretty frank and scathing assessment of the culture, the compliance, and the conduct in the sector.

And for me, Sabra, there were really two take-outs: firstly, that greed was the motive here and that the banks put profits before people; and secondly, that ASIC (Australian Securities and Investments Commission) as the regulator was too timid, preferring negotiation over litigation, even though they’ve had a greater than 90 per cent success rate in the cases that they’ve taken through the courts.”

Too timid? Frydenberg overlooks the Coalition’s savage cuts to ASIC’s funding. Or is this a case of psychological projection of his own mentality? Oddly Sabra doesn’t ask him about the nearly $150 million or the staffing cuts which have crippled the corporate watchdog to the point where it’s not even able to bark, let alone bite.

Of course it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog that matters, but as this section of the ABC transcript shows, Frydenberg is more than happy to lamely let the failed system fix itself. Sabra Lane asks

What have you said to ASIC’s chief James Shipton and APRA’s Wayne Byers about muscling up?

JOSH FRYDENBERG: Well, I’ve said that the public expect them to do better, and we, as the Government, stand ready to provide them with the support that they need.

But let’s not forget — the regulators should be enforcing the law, but we should also see greater compliance from the banks and the financial institutions themselves, and this greed —

SABRA LANE: But it’s clear that the banks and the financial institutions just didn’t fear being… You know, they just didn’t fear any consequences at all, that they regarded these watchdogs as toothless chihuahuas.

Hayne’s final report is due February 2019 and will include his findings on superannuation, insurance. It will also contain his recommendations, which can include recommending criminal prosecution.

What is clear, nevertheless, from the Coalition’s responses to a Royal Commission it vigorously and repeatedly opposed twenty-six times is that this government is happy to proceed with the theatre of its thoroughly post-modern show trial – even comply with a few token prosecution as long as it leaves the rest of the highly profitable and rotten edifice intact.

Above all, it shows itself firmly wedded to John Howard’s neoliberal vision of the past and as much in thrall to the powerful banks as any Coalition government.

================================

Urban will be taking a break to undergo coronary bypass surgery. He looks forward to returning to writing as soon as possible.

Lose our democracy? It’s as easy as ABC.

trump at un.jpg

“We need a president who isn’t a laughing stock to the entire world. We need a truly great leader, a genius at strategy and winning. Respect!” Donald Trump tweet, August 2014.

 

They laugh in Trump’s face at the UN, Tuesday. Twice. Is it a sign of rude good health in an international set too keen to kow-tow, suspend judgement or collude in the vainglorious delusions of the self-styled “stable genius”?

Trump is visibly taken aback; retreats into Security Adviser “barking” John Bolton’s bonkers script; pulls his head into his shell in Turtle Bay, midtown Manhattan NY site of UN Headquarters, a metonym for the UN itself . It’s Trump’s worst nightmare; his speeches are strewn with tell-tale images of being the laughing stock of the world.

The world? A hundred world leaders, ministers, ambassadors and dignitaries are present. Their laughter is an unprecedented breach of decorum. Never before have they laughed out loud at the most powerful man in the room. Or the least stable. It is not unreasonable to wonder how and when Trump will seek his revenge.

Our universe is also turned upside down. Not only is Turnbull’s pick to be ABC MD, Mal’s pal, Michelle Guthrie, unceremoniously dumped overboard shortly after she’s been made to walk the plank- an amazing coincidence as many have noted – the execution is so badly botched that ABC Board Chairman Justin Milne is forced to resign.

Intriguingly, neither Milne, nor the Minister for (mis)Communication, “bitchin'” Mitch Fifield, a minister who has made a record six complaints against the ABC in five months, can articulate why Guthrie has been boned. It’s something to do with her “leadership style”, Milne faffs around endlessly in response to pointed questions from a forensic Sales. It’s painful and damning. Incredibly, he clearly believes he has no obligation to explain himself.

Sales grills Milne on ABC 7:30 after his resignation Thursday. Weirdly, parts of the interview are used as ABC promos all that day. Did Milne resign in the studio before informing the board? Is Sales a Liberal fixer? Sales seems to push it uphill with her notion that his board stooges must explain why they didn’t act on damaging emails they had been shown between him and Ms Guthrie until after they were revealed by Fairfax Media.

Of course, she does obliquely make the point that his board is just there to rubber-stamp Milne’s decisions. Later, the nation is overjoyed to learn that one of the board, Kirstin Ferguson is to become acting deputy-chairman, meaning that she will fill Justin Milne’s shoes, at least, as the fiction goes, a new Chairman is appointed.

Or however long it takes before Ferguson’s history with Theiss is in the public domain. Thiess was involved in a 2010 bribery scandal over a $6bn Indian coal mine deal. A whistle-blower contacted Leighton’s ethical committee chair and then Thiess advisory board chair Dr Kirstin Ferguson about the payments, but no action was taken. Instead, the whistle-blower was dismissed in accordance with our new rules of corporate and offshore detention.

“I’m really glad to have you in that role. I really am,” Dr Kirstin Ferguson her whistle-blower. Ferguson was speaking to David (not his real name) who for more than two years had been working to stamp out alleged corruption and misconduct within his company, Thiess, part of the Leighton group which is implicated in serious foreign bribery and corruption cases involving negotiations over the $6 bn Indian coal mine concession.

David was suffering stress and anxiety because he feared – with good reason – that his boss was cutting him loose. Two weeks later, he was given three months’ notice and told to go immediately on “garden leave”.

Perhaps Malcolm or Lucy Turnbull are interested and available? Julie Bishop may be at a loose end soon. So, too, if predictions are accurate, could be Peter Dutton. Judging by Milne’s stonewalling and evasion, not to mention how he’s let it be known that the ABC as it stands is “dead to me”, the totally hands-off Dutto would be ideal.

The plan to combine the SBS and ABC, which Morrison magnanimously refuses to rule out, would suit someone of Dutton’s megalomaniacal temperament or would be an ideal add-on to his current suite of responsibilities. His appointment would be a logical extension of installing the PM’s mate as the government’s man on the board.

Milne, whom Fairfax media reports, refers to female colleagues as “chicks” and “babes”, finally quits after sacking MD Michelle Guthrie, “the missus”, as he refers to her in a Trump-like infantilising and objectifying of women.

Not that he’s been told to interfere or end journo’s careers. Like ScoMo, his hands are clean. Honest Injun. Evidence emerges that, in fact he’s been very “hands-on” voicing displeasure with the work of Emma Alberici, Tom Ballard and Andrew Probyn. (Curiously those like Laura Tingle and Phil Coorey who have written for other publications to express similarly heretical viewpoints have escaped unscathed.)

The singling out of ABC journalists tends to confirm that it is not just a matter of correcting errors of fact as the government maintains but, rather, a desire to eliminate dissent, as Waleed Aly writes for Fairfax. Aly contends that the week is one in which the ABC has been recast as an organisation more concerned with keeping the government happy than with the non-negotiability of journalistic independence.

For Ali, “it’s about a civic culture that is slowly falling apart: a political class with fewer civic boundaries, less concerned with the independence of institutions, and a muscular intolerance of dissent.

It’s also a ruling class is happy to cling to power by mounting increasingly legalistic, hair-splitting defences.

“I never provided instructions that anyone be sacked he tells ABC 7:30…I have never sent an email to Michelle Guthrie or anybody else, which says you must sack Emma Alberici or Andrew Probyn or anybody else.’

Yet that’s exactly what his email to Guthrie, republished by Fairfax shows he did do. Other excuses follow. His “email was taken out of context.” Astonishingly, a former PM and his personal friend is quick to back him up.

Nor, stresses Turnbull from his pad overlooking Central Park in NY, did he ever issue any such instructions. Not that he had to. Being the PM’s bestie and former OzEmail business associate would help him pick up the vibe.

Calling, hands-free, from New York, Turnbull denies instructing anyone to sack anyone. All he’s done is appoint Milne to the board; a friend he could then harangue about the performance of various journalists and their stories. Did he also get stuck into Guthrie? Who knows? Turnbull’s personal hotline to Milne would do the trick.

A lot of tosh fills the airwaves on chat shows like The Drum which help Liberal stooges to deceive voters that ABC journalists are never directly berated by politicians, an illusion Jacqueline Maley is quick to dispel. She notes our nation’s “sharp segue from a national conversation about media interference in the politics, following the (latest) spill, to political interference in the media.”

It’s less a national conversation – more that the nation is dumbfounded by a collective sense of outrage.

Incredibly the rest of the ABC is struck dumb. Not a peep is heard from other Liberal stooges on the broadcaster’s board – five of whom were appointed directly by Communications Minister, Mitch Fifield- aka “the talking toilet brush”, who appears also to be able to bypass regulations designed to ward off political influence with impunity.

Just as they sat on Milne’s email since Friday. The chairman was making an inappropriate if not illegal request. Were they so in thrall they were powerless? What was stopping any one of them from blowing the whistle?

Breaking rules with impunity are our usurious robber-barons of banking. Commissioner Kenneth Hayne’s interim report of his banking and financial services Royal Commission hammers banks and slack regulators,

“… the conduct identified and criticised in this report was driven by the pursuit of profit – the entity’s revenue and profit and the individual actor’s profit. Employees of banks learned to treat sales, or revenue and profit, as the measure of their success.”  (And not just banks.) He should next have a word with Centrelink about Robodebt.

“Too often, the answer seems to be greed — the pursuit of short-term profit at the expense of basic standards of honesty,” he says. “How else is charging continuing advice fees to the dead to be explained?” 

Part of the answer is that neoliberalism itself is dead. Hayne would do well to refer to The Australia Institute’s Richard Denniss, How Neoliberalism Ate Itself. Yet, as Denniss concludes, even as a corpse, the false idea that what is good for business is good for the country has so much rhetorical and political clout in Australia – it has vitiated if not utterly corrupted healthy social relationships. Even caring has become a “service delivery industry”.

Hayne sees a problem in bankers’ pay structure; a base salary supplemented with incentives or bonuses an inducement to greed. “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works,” chortles the deluded

Gordon Gekko, a satirical character in Wall Street (1987.) While Wall Street foresaw the era in which we live, one defined by greater inequality and the normalisation of corporate greed, Gekko is not a role model.

Greed is not good for us; let alone our banks – despite the claims of parliamentarians and The Business Council of Australia who witter on endlessly about “flexibility”, code for even more casual, underpaid, underemployment.

Claims? Two years ago, Arthur Sinodinos gave a gold standard definition when he railed against entitlements, defending Steve Irons who spent thousands on airfares and accommodation to attend Melbourne’s Derby Day and a golf tournament on the Gold Coast. On another occasion, Steve charged taxpayers to get to his own wedding.

 “These are work expenses which are paid for by the taxpayer.” Some say MPs work hard and are entitled to everything they get – or it prevents bribery. It’s as specious as the claim that bankers won’t work properly, or even stay in Australia, unless they receive special incentives or help to profiteer.

Irons’ claims were all honoured. Haynes is not having a bar of it. Even his interim report has stirred the possum.

It’s put the wind up Scott Morrison who voted against a Royal Commission 26 times. ASIC, he falsely claimed, had greater powers. Yet now, novice-Treasurer Josh Frydenberg makes ASIC the scapegoat. Another stunning reversal.

Frydenberg blames the regulators, namely ASIC for seeking “negotiated outcomes” instead of pursuing litigation or forcing entities to face the courts. This strategy saw ASIC working too closely with the sector it was regulating.

Yet, as Kaye Lee reports in The AIMN, ASIC was crippled by Coalition funding cuts. And it gave fair warning. After Tony Abbott cut ASIC’s budget $120 million in 2014, she notes, its chairman Greg Medcraft, warned that over 200 staff would be cut. Worse. The regulator just couldn’t do its job properly.

 “Our proactive surveillance will substantially reduce across the sectors we regulate, and in some cases stop.”

In many cases it did. In 2016, Scott Morrison was inspired to announce “reforms” to shift the regulator to a “user-pays” funding model – in which the institutions it regulates are forced to pay for the ongoing cost of their regulation – so taxpayers no longer have to fund its operations, a brilliant incentive to ignore infringements.

Similarly, as with recent Coalition governments, a culture of evasion, secrecy and lies is nurtured. Hayne warns.

“If the short term incentive scheme reduces the amount allowed if an employee does not meet some standard (of accuracy, or behaviour) the employee may focus as much upon avoiding error being discovered as upon avoidance of error.”

May or will? In his bravura performances of the week, banking royal commissioner, captivating Kenny Hayne, concludes, in his sonorous, gravel baritone, the interim stage of his mini-morality play by finding vice is to blame. Vice is leads to usury, theft, extortion not to mention collusion over interest rate fixing or an oligopoly itself.

“Too often, the answer seems to be greed — the pursuit of short-term profit at the expense of basic standards of honesty,” he writes. It’s not his lines so much but the way he delivers them that make him such a crack-up.

Another funny man, Donald Trump is laughed at by the UN, the butt of an entire world’s jokes. But not by its loyal cultural colony of Australia, a satellite of mateship to whom, as Turnbull says, the US is “joined at the hip” and not the funny-bone. Raised in a Queens mansion, Trump remains an outsider in Manhattan, an unwelcome, parvenu. Yet the polite titters and Bronx cheers he receives are unprecedented, if not shockingly un-Australian.

When Trump proceeds to assert – “Germany will become totally dependent on Russian energy …” he draws a similar response. Germany’s delegation laughs and snickers. But it’s sacrilege to us fair dinkum, down-under allies.

We must suck up to Trump, our Siamese twin, culturally, economically, politically; ape America’s decadence and double-speak, fawn over its hypocritical “rules based world order”; just as we cheered its illicit attacks on a base in Syria in 2017 and its three further, more expansive strikes on what it claims were chemical weapons sites in 2018.

How we eagerly joined its illegal 2003 invasion of Iraq. PM Howard only had to pretend he had legal authority . Few brave our patriotic press to explain that the failed invasions have created a refugee crisis, let alone colossal human suffering, which we have no hope of dealing with. Perhaps guilt helps fuel our anti-refugee hysteria.

As obsequious, fawning lickspittles we help normalise Agent Orange, as Trump is sometimes known.

And we love a stoush. A frisson of anticipation runs round our island nation’s high command at the merest hint of a role to play in invading North Korea, Syria or Iran or wherever the flower of democracy must next be tenderly preserved. As the needs of the military-industrial complex, as Eisenhower warned in 1961, demand.

Imagine, as Orwell puts it, whenever you think of the future, a boot stamping on a human face forever.

We’ve just put our hands up to join a NATO-led mission in Iraq “to improve the country’s military academies”. How else to stop the return of ISIS or a resurgence of terrorism? We’ll “train the trainers” who’ll teach Iraqi soldiers how to counter suicide bombers and detect, defuse and dispose of terrorists’ improvised explosives.

At least that’s the official spin, loyally and faithfully reproduced by Fairfax and our ABC over the last five years.

The Donald may be a joke to the rest of the world. But not us. We are remaking our politics in his own image. It’s not just how we’ve taken to fake news increasingly found in Murdoch tabloids and Sky after Dark. Even our ABC dare not put a foot out line in singing the praises of the wisdom of toxic, expensive, coal-fired base-load power.

Think Great Barrier Reef Foundation where we tip a bucket of money over a group of fossil fuel executives, coal lobbyists and other climate change deniers. We have to give them $444,000, to meet UN requirements regarding deadlines set for spending and amounts to keep the reef registered on the world heritage list. The chief advocate for this decision has gone on to knife his PM and wear a Trump-like cap.

Our own unelected PM, Scott Mad Max Morrison is so utterly converted to Trumpism that he’s taken to wearing baseball caps – all that’s missing is the MAGA logo.  Or is it? A closer look at the UN laugh-in is instructive. The rest of the world is less prepared to pretend that the emperor wears new clothes. The worm may be turning.

Deluded narcissist, monster-baby and first US President from Russia with love, Trump takes his Fox-populist Neocon shtick on the road, Tuesday, only to have United Nations General Assembly delegates, laugh at his own trumpet-blowing; chutzpah solo, the hollowest boast UN members have ever heard from any president.

And the most far-fetched fantasy. “In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country.”

Delegates laugh at the leader of the free world. Fifty-five per cent of the UN’s 193 members represent dictatorships – or in UN double-speak “not fully-fledged democracies” evoking Dryden’s nod to Aristotle’s view of man as an unfeathered two-legged thing. Tyranny and despotism are equally plucked; featherless.

But common to all democracies is a free press. Some of these even have a proudly independent national broadcaster free from political interference. And they’ve cut away the dead albatross; the decay corpse of neoliberalism from around their necks leaving them to invest in schools and hospitals not the service delivery of privatised and outsourced health care and educational options. And banks set up not to profit out of need and vulnerability but to supply the funds to develop a civil society.

Morrison as PM, terminally conflicted compromised and confused.

QUESTION TIME

 

It’s been a big week for helmsman ScoMo, who urges a scurvy crew to make the Coalition boat go faster, according to Laura Tingle.

Playing an average suburban joe, Trumpista Morrison, whom Maureen Dowd notes in The NY Times, is devoted to The Donald, apes his mentor by affecting a fair dinkum vernacular and a daggy baseball cap to match.

Carn the Sharks!

Morrison claims Monday, in The New York Times, “many people in both the US and Australia feel left behind by the powerful economic forces of globalisation, which have brought massive wealth to some but left others feeling poorer and disenfranchised.” What he skips is his own role in the advocacy, implementation and local design of this process.

He could confess his own role in opposing 26 times, calls for a Royal Commission into banking, a key agent of the very forces, which, he hypocritically implies, he will mitigate. Similarly, he has opposed raising the minimum wage, the age pension, penalty rates, Newstart and insists on referring to tax as a burden and welfare as a safety-net.

What he won’t do is acknowledge that Donald Trump has done nothing to allay the concerns of his supporters. And even less to make decisions to improve their lives.

Above all he is a big fan of what he fawningly praises as Donald Trump’s practicality. Trump? Practical? It’s an impossible oxymoron. Yet, inspired by Abbott’s you-beaut barnacle removal of 2014, ScoMo’s trimming our ship of state. But not before he’s got a Crosby-Textor dead cat or two on the table and a handy, grandstanding opportunity.

Thirty inquiries have been held into aged care since Bronwyn Bishop’s kerosene bath scandal of 1997. Yet Morrison’s blitzing the airwaves, Monday; announcing a brand new Royal Commission. Oddly, his Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care, Ken Wyatt, tells the ABC that a Royal Commission would be a waste of time and money.

The Great Strawberry terror crisis of 2018 is a godsend to Morrison the grandstander.

“We have a real issue going on here … I’m not going to get distracted … I’m going to stay 100 per cent focused on those issues.” Not the real issues – such as energy- climate – education  – the rise of China’s global influence and an increasingly erratic US foreign policy ; Irrigation, drought, or our growing economic inequality which sees wages frozen and profits soaring – all risks to his government.

Liberal and National parties snub their electorates on climate change and on inadequate regional services in their stampede to heed the wishes of mining.

Outside metropolitan areas, both Coalition partners now depend on miners and not farmers in their electorate for funds and ideas. The Coalition also ignores country voters’ concerns – climate change, NBN, rural poverty including substandard, cut-down or run-down health and education services.

As Ms Dowd notes, company profits approach record levels yet wage growth remains stubbornly anaemic, and cost-of-living pressures, particularly around housing and power, leave millions feeling poorer, rather than better off. Does ScoMo want to know?

“Why don’t we talk about strawberries and not politics for a second?” The PM asks peevishly. Carn the sharks!

Weaponised fruit? A new act of depravity. Morrison goes into outrage mode. It’s an over-hasty, over-reaction. Penalties for food tampering are increased overnight, despite little evidence that stiffer penalties diminish crime.

The Criminal Code Amendment (Food Contamination) Bill 2018, increases the maximum penalties for the offences of contaminating goods (section 380.2), threatening to contaminate goods (section 380.3) and making false statements about contamination of goods (section 380.4) from 10 years’ imprisonment to 15 years’ imprisonment.

It will also introduce new offences that will apply where a person contaminates goods, threatens to contaminate goods or makes a false statement about contaminating goods in circumstances where the person is reckless as to whether their actions will cause public alarm or anxiety, economic loss or harm (or risk of harm) to public health.

After the House of Representatives passes the brave new anti-food tampering legislation, Thursday morning, but just before MPs debate a motion of no confidence in Dutton over the au pairs scandal, which he wins again only by his casting vote, the Home Affairs minister introduces the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Bill 2018.

It’s another big step towards becoming a police state.

A new Office on National Intelligence within the Prime Minister’s Department will help to increase surveillance of citizens; bypass personal privacy laws and expand into monitoring domestic activity. It’s the biggest expansion of our intelligence operations in decades, argues Karen Middleton. A key change redefines public information.

Public information is broadened by legal definition. This allows ONI to collect some online data that we might typically assume to be private. It defines this as “information relating to matters of political, strategic or economic significance to Australia that is accessible to any section of the public”. This definition will allow it to include accounts on social media sites such as Facebook, even those which are set to private.

Middleton also warns that the new law ushers in a new era of intense scrutiny of domestic political activity – in conjunction with new laws on foreign influence, interference, espionage.

Along with the theatrical diversion of the 2018 “terrible”, “criminal” strawberry terror show, ScoMo’s a desperate, ruthless pragmatist. All week, he junks unpopular policy that might scupper the mother-ship.

Does this make the boat go faster? Morrison urges MPs ask themselves before commenting in public. He cuts Herb Taylor’s Rotary four way test down to one.

If only Malcolm had shown such command! Such business smarts! If only MPs could exercise restraint. Ticky Fullerton raves over ScoMo’s sales background secret weapon in The Australian.

We have an election coming. And this time it’s different — our sitting prime minister is a marketing man.

“A simple campaign strategy is emerging. Stripped down, this strategy is systematically to go through all the pain points of the Coalition out there in voter land and remove them. This is more than barnacle scraping because these pain points are not just slowing down the good ship ­Coalition — the ship is taking on water after a bloody mutiny.”

Ticky’s on to something. Bugger platform, policy or vision. Ditch everything that voters don’t like. All hands to the bilge pumps. Politics is just a reality TV show. MPs do anything they can not to get themselves voted off. In Peter Dutton’s case, Thursday, this involves using your own vote to prevent a censure motion for misleading parliament.

ScoMo loves his pep talks. Someone has to. In Tuesday’s party room meeting, Morrison tells incredulous MPs that “we have momentum”. One realist responds: “Yeah, the sort of momentum you get when you jump off a cliff.”

Is our current Prime Minister just a crowd-warmer until the coalition loses government in the May election?

If not, motivator Morrison will need to refine his pitch. In the senate, for example, the government is becalmed. It runs out of legislation. Stalls. Senators filibuster their own bills; even debate the Governor-General’s 2016 address-in-reply.

There’s also a bit of backlash about bullying. ScoMo invalidate the complainants. Gaslighting helps. There’s no bullying in the Federal Liberal Party. It’s all part of the rough and tumble of politics.  Now it’s all hands on deck.

Heeding the call, at least on the poop deck, Supercoach ScoMo’s throwing energy, education and any other useless policies and principles overboard; clearing the decks for re-election. Anne Sudmalis is packed off to the Big Apple.

She’s being temporarily deported for naming names; her second secondment, although her first as an MP.

Bullying, betrayal and backstabbing have been the hallmarks of one of my state Liberal colleagues, Gareth Ward, over the past six and a half years, she says. There is every reason to believe that the culture is entrenched. Yet Morrison remains staunchly in denial. Not one male Liberal MP comes forward to support Sudmalis.

The same is true of Linda Reynolds and Julia Banks, who is resigning from politics because of bullying.

On the contrary, Liberal power-broker and Victorian Liberal president Michael Kroger respond that “people do speak strongly” in politics while Scott Morrison says he is concerned for “Julia’s welfare and wellbeing”. Neither acknowledge bullying is a problem in the Liberal Party.

Vice president of the federal Liberal Party, Teena McQueen, says of quotas for women in politics, “Women always want the spoils of victory, without the fight”.

Liberal Senator, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, is similarly, all compassion. “Politics is a tough businessif you can’t stand the heat you should get out of the kitchen” she blames and bullies the victim.

Likewise, other victims of bullying are bullied into line. Men control Liberal preselection, women are reminded.

But help is at hand. In NY, Sudmalis won’t be such a vocal critic of party bullying – the sort ScoMo denies exists. Instead, she can blow raspberries at the UN, in person, as she swans off on a three month secondment-junket, a cunning plan to inflict her on the international body the Coalition loves to hate. Sudmalis may have attended the secondment when advisor to Jo Gash, the former member for Gilmore*

Morrison’s denial and evasion are unlikely to do anything but solve his short-term problem. But then, his approach has been less compassion or true concern and more about himself and potential political embarrassment. Regardless of how many times he refers to “Jenny and the girls”, women are unlikely to forgive or forget his role.

Meanwhile the PM jettisons all vestige of energy policy. Neophyte Energy Minister Angus Taylor proudly announces, “the renewable energy target is going to wind down from 2020 … and we will not be replacing that with anything”.

Climate change isn’t happening. Education? Overboard goes all rhetorical abhorrence of special deals with private schools as the Coalition blows $4.6 billion dollars, including a $1.5 billion dollar slush fund, as Labor fairly calls it.

Enrolments that were once growing at a rate of 20,000 a year will slow to as little as 3000 by the middle of the next decade, according to ABS data, presenting a stark marketing if not survival challenge to private schools. $4.6bn is not a need; it’s a bribe.

Buying off private schools is also jettisoning a potential electoral headache but it’s likely to create others. NSW education minister, Rob Stokes, responds by arguing that “we don’t want a return to the school funding wars of the past that pitted private schools against public schools, and urge the federal government to provide equal treatment for all schools, public and private”.

No chance of that. Morrison works all week solely to clear the decks. Religious freedom-fighter, decorated boat stopper, Cronulla Shark number one ticket-holder, he now promises to free his (Christian) peoples’ speech. And religion. But as Brian Morris points out, Australians currently have religious freedom.

Australia is a signatory to the International Covenant of Civic and Political Rights which states: “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”

This may be OK now, for Morrison, but will it be good enough in future? The PM’s logic is magical, irrational. He is proposing laws to protect what may happen; an event which only he can foresee and not even he is prepared to name.

This is not how a Prime Minister should behave.

Morrison’s “not happy with the last ten years’ trajectory”, he tells Sky, cryptically and misleadingly. But there’s more. Christians will all be able to sit on the boards of big companies or law firms whose policies may conflict with their beliefs. Serco, perhaps. Big Coal? Fabulous. Nothing is so compelling as a solution in search of a problem.

Is there a problem? Trajectory-busting Scott’s on to it. A weasel word to the wise. You prove him wrong.

“It shouldn’t happen in this country. Now, I’m not saying it is, necessarily. People say ‘oh well, if there’s not this great problem, why do you need to do it?’ [But] can they guarantee me it won’t happen in the future?

In a television interview with Sky News on Monday night, Morrison says he is displeased with the level of free speech given to Christians and freedom of religion generally; “So there’s nothing wrong with a bit of preventative regulation and legislation to ensure your religious freedom in this country.”

Except that it’s not under threat. Except that it’s been since May that Ruddock formulated his twenty recommendations and still the Coalition has not seen fit to share them with its key stakeholders, the people. Except that such a radical step could at least proceed openly and in a widely canvassed and unhurried, consultation.

The latest Newspoll will do little to cause any reassessment. The Coalition’s primary vote is up two points to 36 per cent. There is a two point improvement in the two preferred vote with the Coalition now trailing 46/54 following a three year low of 44/56 over the past two Newspolls. Morrison’s government will spin this as a win.

It’s not. It may be aberrant. Even if it’s not, on these statistics, the Coalition stands to lose 20 seats at an election on a uniform swing. Yet the week has seen a dysfunctional willingness to discard well–established positions, especially in funding private schools but also in due process with regard to bullying accusations made by Liberal women against their male colleagues. These suggest the problem is entrenched in party culture. A boorish, sexist, inequality, if not overt misogyny, appears to be institutionalised.

Similarly, the PM has shown such blind support for Peter Dutton that his capacity to act with independence and integrity is already severely compromised. Nowhere is this more evident than in his making his main goal the securing of gratuitous further legal guarantee of esoteric religious freedoms – freedoms he can neither identify nor make any rational case for.

Like his failed predecessor, Turnbull, but after only a few weeks in office, Morrison appears to be just as much a puppet of Big Mining, Banking, Big Dutton and his right wing push. Add in his church and other vested interests and Morrison’s capacity to succeed as PM appears doomed.

 

ScoMo’s debut ruined by his own treachery.

scott_morrison dork

“You are a fucking mendicant,” Scott Morrison tells Tassie Treasurer, Peter Gutwein, reports Paul Bongiorno who quotes a Herald Sun article, Wednesday, citing “senior Liberal sources”. Gutwein doesn’t dispute the claims.

Bean-counter Gutwein can’t find a good word for Morrison when asked how it feels to be so bullied and abused by his new leader. He fobs off reporters’ impertinent questions. He has “a constructive and positive working relationship” with Morrison, he lies, before falling back on that hoary political standby, “we don’t comment on private conversations”.

Yes Minister. Our politics is choked with such double-speak. In time, it will be a “robust discussion”, part of a “national conversation” or “a healthy exchange of views” but to witnesses it’s the Liberals’ St Valentine’s (four) Day massacre. Luckily mainstream media, mostly, happily agree to report this nonsense at face value. It’s an extension of the pact to report flawed employment statistics and falsehoods about uninterrupted economic growth as if these were facts.

Morrison may bray about “creating a million jobs since 2013” but he doesn’t give any detail of the quality of those jobs. Nor is any government ever directly responsible for creating jobs outside the government sector. No-one in government mentions population increase or net job growth. Above all, his boast wrecks the government case for company tax cuts. The miracle million has been created without these. Finally, as every household knows, wages remain stagnant.

Roy Morgan reports the workforce which comprises employed and unemployed Australians is now 13,416,000, up 407,000 on a year ago. He calculates that 1,476,000 Australians are unemployed (11% of the workforce); an increase of 152,000 (up 0.8%) on a year ago and the highest level of unemployment for over two years since March 2016.

And the jobs which shouldn’t be happening without expensive corporate tax cuts? Turns out the huge growth in jobs is in education and healthcare which also accounts for a boost in women’s participation. It may just be, of course, that Labor’s NDIS has boosted women’s employment. So much for small business being the engine of the economy.

So much for his government’s fetish for small business, (amen) forever praised (wrongly) as the nation’s biggest employer. It seems the government sector plays a vital role, after all, despite all the fervid neoliberal faith.

None of this fits ScoMo-a-go-go’s mantra of “a fair go for those having a go”, an echo of nineteenth century self-help. Critics have relegated him and his party to the 1950s. This is a bit mod. His social philosophy goes back to the 1850s.

“Daily experience shows that it is energetic individualism which produces the most powerful effects upon the life and action of others, and really constitutes the best practical education,” wrote the ever popular Samuel Smiles in 1905.

The fair go for those having a go carries its own sanction or disapproval of the slob, or those unable to have a go. It’s a hopelessly limited and outdated ethic but it’s clearly still got a lot of self-righteous political mileage left in it. But whatever happened, pray, tell, Mr Morrison to the Christian ethos of unconditional love?

Beneath the sentimental façade, it’s war out there. Each week brings further news of welfare crack-downs in the Coalition’s war on the poor. Or of bludgers. In 2016, three quarters of the bludger bashing in the Daily Telegraph included government statistics and interviews with prominent ministers. It’s a Coalition government strategy to alienate public support by poisoning our natural empathy with myths about the unworthy poor. Then cut their allowances.

But no Australians are being prevented from having a go. Or restricted to having only a bit of a go. Morgan finds 1,071,000 Australians (8.0% of our workforce) are under-employed, working part-time and looking for more work, a fall of 170,000 in a year (down 1.5%); The meagre increase in employment is driven by an increase in full-time employment which was up 323,000 to 7,761,000, while part-time employment fell 68,000 to 4,179,000.

The hand-ball to Frydenberg is so smooth it is disturbing. An over-achiever he is already out of the blocks contesting Labor’s thesis that inequality is growing. Except it’s not Labor’s thesis but the work of a body of respected economists. But what matters is that he’s already playing politics with the statistics.

“The Productivity Commission said exactly the opposite,” he cries. “It said we had made strides in recent years in reducing inequality.”

He’s referring to September’s report which, Ross Gittins explains, doesn’t strengthen the government case for tax cuts and trickle-down at all. In fact, it says inequality is not as bad as it could be but only because of measures we have taken which are not to the liking of the right wing of the Coalition at all.

Above all, it assumes that the inequality we started out with was acceptable. It bases its conclusions on a version of the Gini coefficient which has the nifty in-built flaw of making inequality appear much smaller than other measures.

The relative Gini assumes that inequality stays constant—growth remains ‘inclusive’—if everyone experiences the same rate of growth, and rises only when upper incomes grow faster than lower incomes. Accordingly, inequality stays constant if a two person distribution x = (10, 40) becomes y = (20, 80). But the poor are relatively poorer.

The income gap has grown from 10 to 40. Moreover, it’s just as plausible to argue that inequality remains constant under The Absolute Gini, if incomes grow by the same amount; when individuals receive the same additional amount to the initial measure. If, as is happening, richer individuals receive more, then inequality will grow.

In brief, we should not ignore trends in absolute income gaps when making inequality comparisons, as most of neoliberal governments, and our new Federal Treasurer does. To Frydenberg’s joy, the Commission’s report implies nothing need be done to reduce income and wealth inequality. The rich would stop wanting to get richer.

At the bottom end, government should help only those poor people whose disadvantage has become “entrenched”.

As Ross Gittins explains, “In other words, don’t acknowledge that poverty is being kept high by successive governments’ refusal to lift the freeze on real unemployment (and age pension) benefits.”

Research published by The Australia Institute, shows despite record business profits, workers’ share of GDP is at a post-war low. From 58 per cent of GDP in the mid-1970s labour compensation — including wages, salaries, and superannuation contributions — declined to just 47 percent in 2017, their lowest level since 1960.

Even more concerning is that real wages have consistently lagged behind the ongoing growth in labour productivity. This means workers do not get paid enough to buy back the goods and services they produce.

It’s a lesson in trickle up. The loss of labour’s share of GDP translates into the redirection of over $200 billion in income per year from workers to other groups in society (mostly corporations).

None of this reality is of any cause for concern to a Coalition government at war with itself and with economic reality.

A week of wicked leaks almost drowns out ScoMo’s shouting and slanging, his chief gift to our body politic, exceeded only by his rat cunning and his talent for suppression, secrecy, evasion, prevarication and lies. To be fair, yes, ScoMo does put in a bravura absurdist-Dadaist performance on ABC 7:30 Report. He simply cannot explain why we need new laws to protect our religious freedoms, why it is his number one priority, nor why he is PM; why he rolled his PM, Leigh.

(Chumming up with your executioner was a Hawke strategy. The New Generation Morrison would do well to leave the ingratiating use of his interlocutor’s first name alone. But it adds rich nuance and subtext. You can tell she hates him.)

Why is Morrison PM? Because he is not that dangerous lefty Malcolm Turnbull. OK, there’s his overweening ambition.

 I have no spur / To prick the sides of my intent, but only / Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself /

And falls on th’ other.

But unlike Macbeth, ScoMo is not big on insight even if he is as ruthless. He’s a verbose Tony Abbott from the suburbs.

Happily, deputy dog, Michael charisma-bypass McCormack, Barnaby’s placemat, tells the truth – in his own fashion:

“But, you know, when you combine those sorts of things – ambition, and Newspolls and the like, opportunity – people take those opportunities and we’ve got a new Prime Minister.”  They pullulate like mushrooms after rain, it seems.

Thanks for the heads-up, deputy. We’ll keep our eyes peeled. You never know when another new PM will pop up.

ScoMo loses all hope of authority or legitimacy the moment parliament resumes. It’s not just that he looks like that daggy bloke from the butcher’s who raffles the meat tray in the pub. All he needs is a striped apron and a scabbard.

His debut is ruined by own his treachery. MPs tot it up. He’s knifed a PM whom he’d just publicly embraced as “his prime minister”, a PM whom “he had ambitions for”; a PM, for all his fizz, far more popular than himself. Turnbull and his camp now sees clearly what those ambitions were. Or now feels brave enough to put a spoke in ScoMo’s wheel and offer legal advice from NY on what to do with Dutton – an intervention which only a few weeks ago he voted against.

Not only must Holy ScoMo, technically our most charismatic Liberal leader to date, contend with the ghost of Malcolm, Peter Dutton misbehaves disgracefully, abusing parliamentary privilege to imply his former hand-picked Border Force supremo, Roman Quaedvlieg is a paedophile. Morrison sabotages any remaining credibility to unreservedly back Dutton and to dismiss calls that Spud be referred to the High Court over his eligibility to sit in parliament at all.

Morrison’s first week in parliament is a fiasco. He campaigned to be leader with the pitch that his hands were clean and he could hold the show together. Stop boats. In reality, he got votes because he wasn’t Dutton. No PM -even by dirty deed- demonstrates less authority, legitimacy or gravitas. Bernard Keane believes,

Elevation to the prime ministership has exposed his hollowness; he is a figure who has stepped straight from an ’80s lawnmower ad, bereft of policy on the economy, on energy, on wages, on climate change — but most of all, bereft of authority. His colleagues and former colleagues are not even according him the respect due the office; instead, they’re blithely carrying on their own wars with no regard for either the government or the electorate.

Not so much unpopular as reviled, mistrusted and afflicted by dud political judgement Sub-Prime Minister, shifty Scott Morrison alienates rather than inspires. He presides, says Bernard Keane, “over a world-class political circus; less over a party than an ongoing civil war”.  And after his Wentworth slap-down, he’s increasingly the party piñata.

Morrison’s angry Tassie outburst caused Turnbull to sideline him in GST talks with the Apple Isle, say the “sources”. Yet, in a chillingly Trump-like response, the new PM denies ever abusing Gutwein. Why, the claims are “offensive” he counter-attacks, trusting we have all forgotten all his offences against human rights; humanity as Immigration Minister.

Most found Morrison’s own actions offensive when in 2011 when he questioned whether taxpayers should pay to fly twenty-one friends and family of refugees to Sydney so they could the attend funerals of their relatives, who drowned off Christmas Island.

Faced with enormous backlash including from members of his own party including Joe Hockey, later Morrison did concede that his comment was “insensitive and inappropriate”. Like Abbott he prefers to act first and apologise after.

Offensive? What of his lies that Reza Berati’s death on Manus Island, February 2014 was caused by his being outside the compound. Offensive? Experts attest to Manus being set up and mismanaged. Violence was easily foreseeable.

Offensive, above all, is the way Morrison and Abbott played politics, seeking to blame Labor and fob off responsibility on to PNG, a shabby hoax it maintains to this day. It refused to accept that Morrison and his department had a non-delegable duty of care to ensure the safety of those it detains, as refugee lawyer Greg Barns argues, irrespective of the location of detention. Similarly, boats were turned back into almost certain danger.

Much was made of preventing drownings at sea by stopping boats but not a word was spoken of the risks to turnbacks’ occupants’ safety. Morrison brings to his new PM act a history of barefaced chicanery, hypocrisy, evasion and denial.

Is ScoMo our new Trump? He has the cap, the lapel flags and the murky past. Where is he leading us? Surely a Christian leader sees mendicants as blessed – not accursed? Or does he merely mean to remind us that beggars can’t be choosers?

Trump-like, he brushes aside all suggestion that Peter Dutton present himself to the High Court to clear up his eligibility to sit in parliament. As Trump would say, ScoMo claims the public doesn’t want the “lawyers’ picnic” to continue.

A nation puzzles all week over the contortions of the coal-lobby’s latest Liberal poster-boy who would gull us he’s an innocent abroad; just a suburban boy in the big city. “I’ve got clean hands. I can hold the show together” was his sales pitch in the second spill. Each claim was as bogus then as it is now. Yet now, he is the accidental Prime Minister.

What is he doing there at all? The inexplicable Morrison is utterly unable to account for his presence as leader despite being invited to do so by the Opposition all week. When he crows about jobs and growth and other so-called Coalition successes, he begs the question of why if things were going so well, Turnbull had to be deposed.

One thing is clear. Expect obfuscation, evasion and turbidity. A poor communicator, he’s more skilled ranting; shouting slogans at us than accounting for his actions. Posturing Morrison’s an enigma wrapped in cliché, inside a mystery. A caricature of cant, condescension, overweening self-righteousness, rigidity and denialism, he’s all front and no Myers.

His “new generation” team is set to take us back to the 1950s or even earlier, anywhere in the age of steam will do.

His denialism is not merely directed towards climate change, gender and marriage equality, it finds expression this week in his dismissal of any hint of bullying in the Liberal Party despite Julie Bishop, Julia Banks and Lucy Gichui making detailed claims. Bishop has even questioned whether some Liberals acted illegally during the leadership spill.

Bizarrely, however, the Foreign Minister praises the party for handling complaints internally in more theatre of the absurd. Despite Minister for Women, Kelly O’Dwyer’s pledge, the issue barely gets a mention in Tuesday’s Liberal party room meeting.

Despite his promise that bullying complaints would be dealt with internally, the Prime Minister’s office confirms no process has been established to investigate them – or, is even planned. Instead, the party’s whips have been charged with handling “future” complaints. Which probably will be suppressed and denied also. What could possibly go wrong?

Gichui, another devout Pentecostalist, confirms on ABC Radio National, that, “as a good Christian woman” she was pressed to vote for Peter Dutton in last month’s leadership spill.  Yet Morrison persuades her to drop her threat to name names when parliament resumes. Those who have been bullied are bullied out of making a complaint.

What is going on? Is it, as Bernard Keane suggests, the women have been reminded that men control the pre-selection and to shut up if they wish to work in Canberra again?

What is clear is the Liberals’ fabled broad church is narrowing. Morrison and other foot-soldiers of the religious right are capturing the party as former member for Moore, Mal Washer puts it

 “… on climate, on women’s rights, on freedom of choice on abortion, on new ideas about sexuality, about a whole range of things … Basically they are out of date and out of step with community views. They are bloody damaging, to be realistic.”

But man, can ScoMo duck and weave. All week, Morrison evades questions from Labor and Leigh Sales as to his legitimacy. He quotes stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf, the US general second only to McArthur in theatricality, whom he recalls, as having heard once at the Sydney Entertainment Centre. As you do.

‘When placed in command, take charge,” Our new PM sees his role as akin to a military commander? Alarming.

But Tinpot Morrison seized command. Now he promulgates the myth of acclamation. Greatness was thrust upon him.

He cunningly quotes lying rodent and inveterate plotter St John Howard. He’s invoked Ming last week – even visited Albury, birthplace of the miscellany of self-interested reactionaries and union-bashers that became the Liberal Party.

“John Howard used to say something quite simple and that is, the privilege of serving as the leader of your parliamentary party is the decision of your parliamentary party,”

His attempt to induct himself into the Liberal pantheon is embarrassing. None of his overreach has a shred of credibility.

Mal’s out for revenge. He’s also got it in for Dutton. He phones and texts key Liberals. He wants Peter Dutton referred to the High Court because of his apparent violation of the constitution’s section 44 given his wife Kirilly’s family trust, RHT Investments, of which he is a beneficiary, owns two childcare centres which have profited from the crown.

The Liberals’ civil war rages.

A daggy dad joke will fix it. In a bizarre twist to his existential nightmare, Morrison’s office tweets a meme it’s cleverly compiled showing coalition MPs in Question Time, Thursday, repeatedly raising their right hands. The frantic fascist arm action is dubbed with Be Faithful, a track from rapper Fatman Scoop, whose lyrics celebrate casual sex.

The chorus elevates the PM’s EM Forster-inspired “Only Connect” defence to a whole new level.

Who f***ing Tonight? Who f***ing tonight?

Who f***ing Tonight? Oh! Oh! Who f***ing tonight?

“We’re just trying to connect honestly with people, Morrison says in defence. Connect honestly? Bugger policy. Honest communication. Listening to the electorate. In ScoMo’s world a tricked up, meretricious, video clip is honest connection?

Bowen reckons the members of ScoMo’s Party room know he doesn’t have a clean pair of hands. In the first big test of his already comprised authority, Muppeteer Morrison favours party hack Katherine O’Regan for Wentworth. There’s great hand-wringing over quotas in the media. but the fact is that on current trends, the Liberals will soon be an exclusive white, male brethren.

Worse, party polling puts the Liberal primary vote in Wentworth at 39%. Minority government beckons. Our new sub-Prime Minister shrewdly plays the gender card, even though it’s against his religion. Throws a sheila on the barbie.

ScoMo is rolled by Turnbull and Howard. Their pick, Dave Sharma, a former ambassador to Israel, a long-shot, political and geographical outsider, is duly pre-selected. David Gonski’s reference helps.  Losing the seat to independent, Kerryn Phelps looks increasingly like a real possibility.

Morrison sends a fulsome, fawning tweet in which he gets Sharma’s name wrong. His name Devanand.

“Big congratulations to David Sharma. A quality guy with extensive experience and capability. The best candidate won. That’s how it should be.”

 

Manic Morrison in frantic, futile, climate and bullying denial.

morrison and guy

 

Come on, come on

Do the ScoMo-motion with me

Ye-ye-ye-yeah …

The Locomotion, by Little Eva.

 


Bullying, standover tactics, sit-ins – allegations of misconduct flow thick and fast in the aftermath of Peter Dutton’s botched Liberal Party leadership coup, a fiasco which Scott Morrison helped create – then exploited in his ambition to topple Turnbull.

Morrison’s plotters voted for the spill only to switch their allegiance in the next round. Lucy Gichui maintains, moreover, Morrison’s mob had been planning to knife Malcolm Turnbull, at least, since June.

The revelations do nothing to mollify members of the Coalition’s hard right rump, whose mistrust of Morrison goes back at least to his betrayal of Tony Abbott in 2015. Abbott declares he’s still up for a leadership bid. No-one takes seriously his pious piffle that “the era of the political assassin is over”. It simply echoes his “no sniping”.

Then again, he did explain that no promise of his was to be believed – unless you had it in writing. Pathological liar or not, deeds do speak louder than words. Abbott’s are still speaking.

Who can forget his inspiring leadership in bullying Julia Gillard, “ditch the witch” or his services to party misogyny – well before he even contrived to insult all women in Australia by appointing himself the minister for women? His legacy may still be seen today.

This week women MPs speak of a culture of bullying in the Liberal Party. Male MPs, lobbying for Dutton, enter women’s offices early and refuse to leave in an intimidating and bizarre type of sit-in, unless the MPs sign up to Dutton’s faction. Some women MPs are told they must sign or they would lose their pre-selection, they allege.

“… I’m talking about senators and ministers who were in tears because they were at the crossroads where they could not choose, especially the ones from Victoria went through a very, very rough time because they were holding a carrot … like this is your preselection — ‘hey you do this, we do that’,” Liberal senator Lucy Gichui alleges.

Gichui threatens to name names under parliamentary privilege next week. MP for Chisholm, Julia Banks says she will resign from parliament and not re-contest the next election. For her, the spill was “the last straw” and “women have suffered in silence too long.” Dutton and his henchmen disavow all knowledge. So, too do party leaders.

Scott Morrison dismisses the women’s claims. Appearing on The Project, he denies there’s a bullying issue.

“I believe there was a lot of pressure, that it was applied over a very intense period, okay? Australian politics had been “ferocious” and “tough” but he would not describe any behaviour as bullying. Problem solved. It’s all a matter of how our Humpty Dumpty PM defines a word. And power and gender politics.

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

Morrison has another go. Votes may be lost over this. The Australian reports that he’s going to be a bully-buster.

“I have laid down the law to my cabinet. I have laid down the law to my ministry and to the parliamentary secretary ranks of my government. They know what I expect and I have every confidence they will live up to what I expect,” Morrison says.

Bully the bullies – get them to live up to “my standards”. What could possibly go wrong?

Cue the big guns. Victorian Liberal Party President and expert feminist Michael Kroger dismisses the women’s evidence, Monday on our ABC RN. There’s no bullying problem in the Liberal Party. It always helps to be dismissive in conflict resolution as in dealing with complaints but Kroger’s also patronising. The females are imagining it.

Why, if it were, true, President Kroger would be the first to do something about it.

Also in denial, is his wife, former Liberal Senator for Victoria and president of the Federal Women’s Committee, Helen Kroger. She blames the victim. Toughen up buttercup. It’s just “part of the rough and tumble of politics”.

The euphemism “robust” is abused all week. It’s now code for rude, abusive and distressing. An example will help.

Alexander Downer in July 10 2007 used The Australian, to call then Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd shallow, cynical, immodest, mealy-mouthed, duplicitous, a boy in a bubble, a foreign policy imposter and unfit to lead the nation. That’s robust. Morrison merits all of these insults and more but it’s unlikely they’d upset him either.

Craig Kelly’s language doesn’t help any attempt at denial. The women should “roll with the punches”, he says.

As for living up to his expectations, Morrison’s 45-40 victory divides the party. So, too does his apparent duplicity. Parliamentary Liberals are furious. Voters are also angry. Why and how is Morrison our new PM?

Morrison has no answer. As Paul Bongiorno reports in The Saturday Paper, ScoMo is quickly the target of a vicious “scuttle Scott” campaign from within his own party. A flood of leaks this week undermine him.

The Herald Sun Monday has his infrastructure plan, $7.6 billion that Turnbull had handy to splash in marginal electorates around election time. Tuesday he reads details of his former boss’s now not so secret $4.4 billion deal to buy off Catholic schools over the next ten years. Wednesday, The AFR, leaks details of how Turnbull planned to use $3.6 billion of the blocked corporate tax cuts to provide “accelerated relief” to small business.

The Sydney Morning Herald publishes Liberal polling, midweek, suggesting that the party not over-react to the Longman byelection. The candidate’s false medal claim and poor campaigning are more to blame.

It’s clear that Morrison has already made enemies but there’s nothing new about that.

Even Sydney Boys High School alumni- (SBHS Old Boys) has had its robust Facebook page public forum locked by moderators after former students said they were “embarrassed” to be associated with their former classmate.

“His political actions are a disgrace to humanity and his Christian hypocrisy is mind-boggling. Hardly someone to hold up as a model of what SBHS turned out.”

It’s not a new phenomenon. The Guardian reports that in 2015, 300 alumni signed an excoriating open letter when Morrison was invited to speak at a school fundraiser. SBGS Old Boys, including former supreme court judge Hal Wootten and acclaimed journalist John Pilger, criticised Morrison for “flagrantly disregarding human rights”.

Parliament resumes next week. Labor will challenge the PM’s legitimacy with the help of Liberal leaks. Given the government’s lack of a majority, Labor could move that Peter Dutton be referred to the High Court.

The Opposition may allege that Dutton’s financial interest in RHT Family Trust, which runs two childcare centres, and his failure to recuse himself from cabinet discussion of childcare funding, puts him in a position to profit and in breach of Section 44(v) of the Constitution. The centres have received government subsidies since 2 July.

Meanwhile, Dutton publicly bullies his former head of Border Force Roman Quaedvlieg, over his testimony that on at least three occasions, Dutton as Minister for Immigration, intervened in the granting of visas to au pairs. Dutton responds that his friend and former protégé is mentally unwell. Calls on his employer to arrange medical help.

It’s a form of bastardisation which leading medical experts condemn in The New Daily. Dutton, they allege, is “lowering the tone of public discourse, seeking to delegitimize another person by way of stigma, damaging years of work to improve public attitudes, and breaching his duty of care.”

But it’s up our new Prime Minister to dig deep into his own faith-healer’s medicine bag to give the nation some of that old-time religion and good, old fashioned, self-righteous judgmentalism that will get us all out of trouble.

ScoMo-locomotion grips the nation this week as Uber-Pastor Morrison and his travelling revival show make a mad dash back to Canberra after freeing our trade in Jakarta. It’s the big deal Turnbull vowed he’d conclude in 2017 but for the teensy problem that apart from a million tourists to Bali, we don’t produce much Indonesia needs.

Indonesia ranks us lowly in trade. Suharto family and ruling elite sock puppet PM Joko Widodo is blunt.  “You need us more than we need you”, he says. The left has not recovered since the 1960s when the military massacred hundreds of thousands of “radicals” crushing opposition to the ruling class and suppressing democratic reform.

Do we care? Our 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper barely mentions Indonesia. Abbott and Hockey cut Australia’s foreign aid by a billion dollars in 2015.  Indonesia’s aid was slashed 42% from $542.5m to $323m. But no biggie.

Enter “power-housing”, a breakthrough which lets both parties talk about “leveraging access” to third markets that neither could access on their own, a bit like ScoMo’s PM coup in which he leveraged himself off the back of Dutton’s plotters, duping everyone, at least for a week or so. Indonesia? After eight years, a one page outline.

Off like a frog in a sock on to Sydney, ScoMo’s all over soul bro, Alan Jones, where our accidental PM attacks Safe Schools’ “gender-whisperers”. Alan loves a PM who gets how schools brainwash children about sex – and gender.

“I don’t want the values of others being imposed on my children in my school and I don’t think that should be happening in a public school or a private school.”

Morrison’s clearly a big picture man, too. He exudes tolerance, insight; a profound grasp of a balanced curriculum.

“When it comes to public schools, as you know they’re run by the state governments, but how about we just have state schools that focus on things like learning maths, learning science and learning English?”

Too bad, he’s criticising “respectful relationships” an optional case study which is part of the Victorian curriculum.

But who expects our self-appointed PM to know what he’s talking about? He comes up trumps when the parrot mentions unions. Scott’s into John Setka and his kids using an obscenity to mock the obscenity that is the ABCC, head, whose predecessor Nigel Hadgkiss, despite a salary of $426,421 per year, broke the Fair Work Act.

“You know, when you see children being used in these sorts of protests, and we saw it in some of those horrific things in relation to the protests around terrorism, this kind of stuff just makes your skin crawl,” says Morrison.

It’s the type of incoherent babble Trump deals in but ScoMo passes The Parrot’s on air values test, well before his Thursday pilgrimage to Albury, NSW, birthplace of The Liberal Party in 1944 for a sermon on the Murray.

And to pray for rain. “Voters should love all Australians” he preaches. But especially himself.

“I’ve come to talk to you today about what’s in here,” says Morrison, pointing to the black rock of his heart. It’s a set-piece for your average high-functioning sociopath. In Albury, it’s also an excuse for fluff. How he loves Australia. How he and Jenny know all about ritual and how this connects them with Aboriginal peoples.

His homily, entitled “until the bell rings”, in subtle homage to Menzies, (not Pavlov) is over-praised by Katharine Murphy and Gareth Hutchens in The Guardian as “trialling a new anecdotal approach to political communication”.

No. It’s story-telling. His colleagues’ body language is wary but few appear asleep.

As for Menzies, he was just as much of a hypocritical blowhard, who built the Liberal Party out of eighteen different political parties and groups who were united only in the determination to defeat the Labor Party.

“No party seizes the imagination of the people unless the people know the party stands for certain things. And we’ll fight for those things until the bell rings.”  RG Menzies

No-one does vacuous platitudes like Morrison. Billed by our ABC 24, breathlessly as “a major speech by the PM”, Morrison’s sermon on the Murray is a cliché-ridden homily full of banalities about a fair go and having a go. But even at the end of it, exhausted listeners still don’t have a clue what the man or his government stand for.

“I don’t believe that for you to do better, that [others] have to do worse. I don’t think you need to be taxed more for [others] to be taxed less,” he says. It’s a mantra you could chant at any flat tax magic pudding Tea Party.

“I don’t think that, for someone to get ahead in life, you’ve got to pull others down. I believe that we should be trying to lift everybody up at once, that we get away from this politics of envy.”

As he’s just amply demonstrated with his knifing of his former Prime Minister.

Like the notoriously treacherous reaches of the Murray itself, however, there are dangerous undercurrents and snares as he evokes a society of lifters and leaners. ScoMo is doubtless inspired by Menzies’ gold standard:

“The great vice of democracy … is that for a generation we have been busy getting ourselves on to the list of beneficiaries and removing ourselves from the list of contributors, as if … there was somebody else’s wealth and somebody else’s effort on which we could thrive.”

The “love” Morrison preaches is far from inclusive, humane or enlightened. Instead it seeks to exclude the poor and disadvantaged; divide our nation into worthy and unworthy according to our need for welfare.

Social contract fixed, ScoMo scoots off to the arse end of the Frankston line, Morrison’s venue of choice to meet Melbourne media for the first time since he deposed Malcolm Turnbull and stitched up Peter Dutton.

“Congestion-busting” is his mission, ScoMo tells reporters at Leawarra station. It’s also Alan Tudge’s new portfolio, but Morrison’s a man of vision; he’s also on a mission. There are prejudices to massage; policy to be made on the run; climate change denialists to reassure. As Giles Parkinson notes, there are huge concerns here.

This week, Australia tries to water down the language of the Pacific Islands Forum declaration on climate change. In Bangkok it sides with the Trump administration and Japan in attempting to weaken climate finance obligations in a move Parkinson says “that has horrified some observers.”

The NEG is dead, because, he lies, we’ll meet our (inadequate) Paris commitments at a canter. Bugger climate change. Or the environment. In reality, it’s a sop to the right wing, a tactic which is eerily familiar of his predecessor.

Morrison’s lack of interest in climate change is matched only by his profound ignorance. He tells new energy minister Angus Taylor, a wind energy hater and a climate change sceptic, despite his protestations, to focus only on “bringing down prices”. Ensure the nation retains as much “fair dinkum” coal in the system as it can.

What could possibly go wrong? OK. The rest of the world won’t continue to trade with us if we can’t show we’re serious about curbing emissions – and we’re coming under increasing international scrutiny. Pray for clean coal.

Morrison’s next choice is even more alarming. New environment minister Melissa Price, a former mining company lawyer is responsible for emissions. She’s spruiking new coal-fired generators?

We’ve scuttled back into Abbott’s foetal position on energy and environment. It’s all too hard, not settled and besides those coal companies give your party such wonderfully generous political donations, don’t they? Great talking points, too.

Energy and environment fixed, midweek, ScoMo appears on Seven to backflip on his promise to make us work until we’re seventy, a “reform” he once swore was vital to protect the national economy going bust from funding elderly work-shy bludgers.

When you’ve just knifed your PM and put down your colleagues as “a Muppet Show” which somehow you are not part of, a few running adjustments help you keep yourself nice. Even micro-popularity needs a boost.

“I was going to say this next week but I may as well say it here … I’ve already consulted my colleagues on that. And next week, cabinet will be ratifying a decision to reverse taking the [pension] age to 70. It will remain at 67 …”

Announce publicly first, obtain consensus later. ScoMo’s has rule by cabinet consensus all under control.

His vision of an Australia, girt by xenophobic seizures, a federation of homophobia and paranoia that ends at the parish pump and his gospel of self-help or as he puts it “having a go” are not to be hidden under a bushel. His frantic, manic pace and his parochial vision are guaranteed to make us relaxed and comfortable

By Friday, the ScoMo show and its all-star cast including Jenny and the kids, gets rave reviews in ScoMo’s promos; his office’s dumps to favoured news outlets. But it’s not without sacrifice. He’s had to turn down a leadership role in the Pacific Islands Forum on Nauru to hang with his Sydney talkback radio pals on 2GB and 3AW, shock jocks Alan Jones and Raving Ray Hadley. And he’s had to cram for his sermon on the Murray and the Frankston whistle-stop. Especially Frankston. It’s a huge performance.

Up front is bantam opposition leader, a former Baillieu government’s bodgie planning minister and mobster’s mate, natty Matthew Guy, while Scott Morrison is a knockout as a not so daft as daggy, demented father figure spitting Chips Rafferty fair dinkums and other stuff he just makes up like “Tulla”, which like the word “mate” he repeats.

Endlessly, Mate. Is he auditioning to be the host of ABC’s Macca All Over? Morrison loves the show and has already won Annabel Crab’s admiration for record number of mate in a sentence, mate. Spare us the faux, folksy bonhomie, you monster.

Tulla turns out to be a reprise of Turnbull’s promise to build a railway from Melbourne to Tullamarine Airport, a project certain to appeal to every Frankston voter. Is that Dunkley’s, too cool for school, Chris Crewther over there? Or is it some Year 12 student from Flinders Christian College dressed up in a suit for work experience week?

Fresh from his sermon on the Murray where he tells astonished multitudes that all you need is love, Rev Morrison segues effortlessly into fixing “decongestion”, his government’s patent medicine for curing Victoria’s public transport ills by electrifying the eight kilometres of the Stony Point track which runs between Frankston and Baxter. It’s also used by diesel trains to Bluescope Steel at the Port of Hastings. Sheer genius.

It’s the same exciting new announcement Malcolm Turnbull made six weeks ago when he was still allowed to be Prime Minister. Fair go? It’s been a Frankston Council project since 2012 but in 2016, the Turnbull government committed an incredible $4 million dollars. Now motormouth Morrison’s having a go, mate.

A woman journalist spots the similarity between the Pastor’s spiel and Turnbull’s. She asks, quite reasonably, if ScoMo plans to re-announce all of Turnbull’s projects. Will she now ask if he’s stolen not only Malcolm’s job but all his talking points?

You can tell by the way he overdoes his head-nodding that Morrison takes an instant dislike to her.

“It’s a great opportunity to affirm the continuity of the commitment, here,” the new PM says.