Jay Weatherill speaks truth to power; while Turnbull comes up with NBN 2.0

weatherill talks to josh frydenberg

Our parents toiled to make a home hard grubbing t’was and clearing 

They wasn’t troubled much by lords when they was pioneering 

But now that we have made the land a garden full of promise 

Old Greed must crook his dirty hand and come and take it from us 

So we must fly a rebel flag as others did before us  

And we must sing a rebel song and join in rebel chorus 

We’ll make the tyrants feel the sting of those that they would throttle 

They needn’t say the fault is ours if blood should stain the wattle 

From Freedom on the Wallaby  Henry Lawson 1891


Sparks fly, shots ring out. A whiff of grapeshot wafts across the nation’s political stage this week as South Australia, fair maid of liberty, flower of Athens of the South, rebels against Canberra’s dark, despotic cruelty.  The crisis goes viral as Minister for Energy and Environment, Josh Frydenberg tilts at SA’s windmills; blaming them for its power outages Thursday at a press conference set up to upstage, bully and humiliate its junior commonwealth partner. 

Frydenberg, the man with a plan from a government without an energy policy, is there to spruik his government’s Snowy 2.0 scheme, a pie in the sky project akin to Malcolm Turnbull’s NBN, a scheme which will take too long to complete, cost too much and fail to deliver. No. Let’s be clear. Snowy 2 is not designed to help anyone except the PM himself and his image-building PR team who must now reinvent the merchant banker as a nation builder.

It says a lot about your need for spin when even your hydro needs pumping. Weatherill is justly disgusted.

“I have to say it is a little galling to be standing here next to a man who has been standing up with his Prime Minister bagging SA at every step of the way over the last six months to be standing here on this occasion, him suggesting that we want to work together,” Jay Weatherill sprays. He wants a divorce. And he’s taking the kids.

The spat has commentators clutching their pearls or reaching for their smelling salts. “Unedifying” huffs Aunty, a word deftly dropped into the mix by the coalition spin team. Unedifying? Are we to believe the Prime Minister’s personal attacks on Bill Shorten are edifying? Was Malcolm Turnbull’s victory whinge where he blamed Labor for the mess he himself led his government into – edifying? On the contrary, Weatherill is inspiring.

It’s a dramatic scene which presents a clear choice between truth and more of the same old bullshit. Weatherill not only opts for truth, he  strikes a blow for freedom from the yoke of commonwealth. Yet it’s freedom from neglect and mismanagement as much as oppression.  The power price scam; the fake gas shortage rort are just the final straws. A nation applauds as SA walks away from an abusive relationship. Other states may follow.

Let the PM blow hard about our energy crisis. We’re about to overtake Qatar as the world’s largest producer of LNG.  No. We have more than enough gas for all our needs but we’ve let corporations sell it offshore and jack up our prices.

We are not paying international prices. We are paying an artificially inflated price jacked up by a cartel of companies. Who needs a federal government whose role is to just stand by and let price gouging and price fixing happen? Or aid and abet it? Blow smoke about how a rigged electricity market fairly decides consumer prices?

SA declares its independence over its electrical power. Pulls the plug. Consigns fossil fuels to the rubbish bin of history. It’s a bold move that rocks state and commonwealth bonds. Forget Snowy 2.0. This is federation 2.0 It also highlights the Coalition’s craven gas and coal corporation co-dependency.

SA Premier Jay Weatherill vows to build his own gas-fired plant. Generate his own backup capacity. Australia’s largest battery farm will store the electricity. Flamboyant TESLA CEO Elon Musk, whose very name conjures romantic heroism, pledges a money back guaranteed 100 mw battery farm in one hundred days.

But it’s as much a hard-headed business deal as an act of disruption which puts the skids under fossil fuel. With a toe-hold in the local market, Musk could make billions supplying households with his TESLA batteries.

The battery beats another gas plant. Or new gas production. SA farmers will never abandon all their fears about water contamination and environmental degradation. Weatherill’s offer to pay farmers for what gas companies can take out of their land will never lead to a new wave of gas production. Who’d embrace fracking or gas wells for a pitiful ten percent royalty? You’d need more than that just to repair the damage to your land.

In fairness, the long lead-in before any new gas would flow, the cost of new exploitation weighed against the falling cost of renewables and storage make new gas supplies the state’s least likely option. Weatherill’s having a bet each way. Gas giant Santos, for example, is choosing now to invest in a solar farm rather than drill any new gas wells.

Santos says the cheapest way to free up gas is not to drill for more, but to build a solar plant? We should listen.

Weatherill still needs the gas plant backup, however, because the state no longer has faith in the market operator to act in the state’s best interests. It will give itself emergency powers to fire up the plant when it is needed. And just to make sure, it will order emergency diesel generators to be on standby until the gas plant is operational.

Even more contentious is Weatherill’s promise to give SA new powers over the National Electricity Market, a price-rigging scheme designed to boost multinational power company profits at consumers’ expense regardless of reliability of supply.

The lines of authority are complex. The National Energy Market, NEM is governed within COAG’s Energy Council, a body which comprises federal and state energy ministers. It’s a dog’s breakfast.

The Australian Energy Market Operator  is supposed to look after System security and reliability while network investment is the responsibility of private network businesses, overseen by the Australian Energy Regulator.  

It’s a great management model if you want to run a business by means of a committee without a CEO. The prime bodies charged with delivering electricity and gas to the NEM have done very poorly because they lack a chain of command or strategic plan; no idea of what they want or how to get there. David Leitch Renew Economy.

“There are no real metrics for the success of the system and no shared vision of the appropriate direction or how to get there.” It’s almost a definition of the coalition’s approach to commonwealth government.

The privatised electricity system is a complete failure. In a damaging revelation, close to Neoliberal heresy, the Grattan Institute reports another open secret , Monday. The so-called competition of privatised electricity markets has failed, or in an odd admission from a mob that believes in markets, “has failed to be managed properly”. Up to 43 per cent of household power bills are profits which line the pockets of electricity retailers. 

Weatherill’s defiance drives the coal-powered federal Coalition government into a flat spin. It will seek legal advice, it huffs, to see if SA’s threats are lawful. But it can deal its legal mates in as much as it likes. Nothing can disguise its confusion. Energy Minister Frydenberg falsely claims that states are responsible for the stability of their power system.  That’s AEMO’s job. 

Terminally conflicted and confused, Josh Frydenberg whose cruel fate is to be Energy and Environment minister in a government which lacks a policy for either, is dispatched to upstage the unplugged upstart by re-announcing AGL’s 5 MW 2016 household battery farm. True to form, his fearless leader Malcolm Turnbull wimps out, opting instead for a nation-building image makeover, a Snowy chopper ride and a chat with the gas industry.

Tough-talking, trouble-shooting Turnbull goes the full tea-bag. He rebukes gas corporate CEOs by giving the lads a cuppa and a heart to heart about saving a bit of gas for Australia. The tactic works so well with the banks. His script is similar. Abandon your cartel and your price-fixing boys. So you over-invested $60 billion in plant? So you plan to gouge the Australian customer to recover that debt? Stop it now. Walk away, boys, walk away.

What could possibly go wrong? Richard Denniss, chief economist of the Australia Institute explains to Crikey:

that for the gas industry, everything is going to plan. “It took 10 years and $60 billion building three enormous gas liquification plants in Gladstone with the specific goal of increasing the domestic price to Asian levels,” he says.

The gas industry is frustrated prices aren’t even higher. Once local prices were linked to international princes, global prices fell. Turnbull’s meeting agree to another meeting. It’s difficult to see any more productive outcome.

Luckily Turnbull has some crack troops in the rear. Tea party crackpot James McGrath on ABC Lateline witters on about how state issues caused the Liberal rout in South Australia despite abundant evidence to the contrary.

It would foolhardy for the federal government to imagine national factors had no bearing on the vote at least in marginal seats. Apart from his energy fiasco, these include lame duck PM accelerating unpopularity, his capture by party reactionaries, the Centrelink Robo-claw extortion, the PHON deal and weekend penalty rate cuts.

As for the PM, terminal Turnbull is wedged by a fatal trend which Bernard Keane and Josh Taylor delineate. A parliamentary leader reflecting the party’s base will lose touch with voters as Tony Abbott discovered; while a leader even briefly popular with voters, as in Turnbull’s case is likely to alienate the hard right in the party base. 

Yet again there’s help from the crack troops behind the leader. Never to be deterred by research, former dud Health Minister, Peter Dutton, a Minister only nominally in charge of Immigration, boosts his leadership stakes, or so he calculates, by attacking Alan Joyce and thirty other CEOs for daring to exercise their right to free speech in a letter urging government to act on same sex marriage.

Dutton argues that businesses best leave such issues to our elected political representatives. We’ve all noticed how well that’s working.

Yet all eyes remain on plucky little South Australia, the giant-killer as it shapes up against its oppressor and tormentor.  It is a thrilling new twist in the faction-riven Federal government’s Energy Wars, an electrifying series which pits big business against the powerless, miners against all-comers –  and ministers against each other.

Resources Minister Matt King Coal Canavan, for example, departs his Coalition team plan, the bogus clean coal staging horse for prohibitively overpriced gas in favour of reverting to a mythical “cheap coal”. The cost of pollution and the un-investible cost of building new plant, mean that cheap coal is just as much of a myth as clean coal.

No-one seems to have told Canavan that the coal advocacy part of the cunning plan was yesterday. Gas is today. The nonsense with the lump of coal; the PM’s Press Club carbon fuel vision were all devices to make gas madly attractive. Except that it’s not working. The Coalition’s team plan is every man for himself.

Immune to empiricism, impervious to fact, as coal-lobbyists invariably are, Canavan appears on ABC Insiders Sunday to bag South Australia and peddle dangerous nonsense about how coal-fired electricity is more stable, cheaper and a vast source of safe, clean jobs. How it’s manufacturing’s saviour. It’s an alarming demonstration of a narrow mind closed tighter by ideology. Equally disturbing is the extent to which he is feted by the media.

One of the beaut things about Insiders, the 7:30 Report, The Drum or ABC 24 is that a government minister knows he’ll be indulged. On the couch. After an obligatory time-waster about gay marriage, broad-brush Canavan gets a quarter of the program to regurgitate as many asinine assertions about clean coal as he can remember from Peabody Coal’s press kit. He even gets to repeat the lie that his government will act to lower energy prices.

University of Melbourne’s Climate and Energy College, recently reported that the average wholesale electricity price soared to $134 a megawatt hour last summer, compared with $65-$67 in the two summers the carbon price was in place. The biggest rise has been in Queensland and in NSW, states which rely heavily upon coal power. 

“High prices have nothing to do with renewables or state government [renewable energy] targets and everything to do with the Liberals’ failure to properly run our national energy network,” says Adam Bandt but the fiction of a Coalition standing for lower energy prices is unassailable if you say it on ABC or on MSM generally.  

“We need to act to keep power prices down”. A straight faced Canavan gets a nod and a wink from Barrie. What Canavan has in mind is a beaut artisanal, low-emission boutique coal mine industry boosting Queensland’s tourism potential.

If only he could get his head out of his coal pit and look at the vast solar farms setting up in North Queensland, he would realise that there is simply no business case for investment in coal-fired baseload power generation.

No bank will invest in it. Clean coal is nothing but an industry fiction. “Wanna maintain a manufacturing industry in this country,” he bleats. As we’ve seen with the car industry. But it’s way too late. The bird has flown.

In brief, frantically, up against this Monday’s Newspoll, Turnbull over invests in a rushed competitive bid: a nation-building stunt, he dubs Snowy Mountain 2.0, in a move worthy of the ABC satire Utopia.  NBN 2.0 would be closer. The PM’s announcement has every sign of haste. NSW and Victoria, both shareholders in Snowy Hydro, didn’t know about it, while the company itself has no proposal for pumped hydro in its Finkel submission. 

Newspoll does reflect a Snowy improvement. Labor’s lead is now 52 to 48 per cent in two-party terms and the Prime Minister’s personal ratings are up but the government is perilously below its July election support levels. There is a big risk that the hastily assembled promo will fall to bits as voters discover the plan is a thought bubble.

The government has had a study by ANU academic Andrew Blakers for some time, which accounts for the persistence of “pumped hydro” in the government’s energy lexicon in recent months. It seems to have swept its announcement forward to compete with Jay Weatherill’s initiative, a master of practicality by contrast.

“I am a nation-building Prime Minister and this is a nation-building project,” grins the Mal from Snow River. “This is the next step in a great story of engineering in the Snowy Mountains and the courageous men and women who are confident and committed to Australia’s future.”

Yet only a few weeks before he was all for clean coal at the Press Club. His Treasurer was even more dramatic.

Like Morrison’s lump of coal, Turnbull’s announcement is a stunt. The project would take too long, cost too much and deliver too little to solve immediate generation challenges. Snowy 2.0’s business model is to buy cheap and sell dear. It won’t increase capacity but could become an expensive backup. The government is evasive on costs, funding and completion date.

Yet the Coalition puts maximum spin behind it. It has blasted SA for its unstable energy policy now it is gazumped when Weatherill acts to build capacity and stability. Its response is hasty and vague, a sketch of a feasibility study drawn with a very big brush and some loopy strokes.

The government has only itself to blame. Not only has it wasted years failing to come up with a successful energy policy, it’s backed SA into a corner.

Bullied, publicly pilloried for its reckless, “ideological” embrace of renewable power, South Australia is victim of an orchestrated bullying campaign by federal government as its mining backers label wind and solar as expensive and unreliable, spinning the colossal lie that fossil fuel-powered generation is stable clean, cheap and job generating.

 Mouth that roars, Christopher Pyne, helpfully lies about the Australian Submarine Corp being forced to build a $20 million diesel plant to make sure the lights stay on in risky renewable South Australia.

When asked, however, its CEO says “I don’t know anything about that.” Jay Weatherill’s stand is not so easily assailed. The risk for the government is that its anti-renewable propaganda and bagging of South Australia’s ideological fix on renewables will backfire. The Coalition’s lies are more easily exposed now and the nation has sympathy for the underdog. 

 As luck would have it there is another distraction. Look over there. Sally McManus, newly elected ACTU secretary, and the first woman to head the organisation says she will break unjust laws if she has to. 

“I believe in the rule of law where the law is fair and the law is right but when it is unjust I don’t think there’s a problem with breaking it,” she tells Leigh Sales who is out for a gotcha moment on the CFMEU’s fabled thuggish disregard for the rule of law.

Exposed for a rare moment is the monumental hypocrisy of those who attack Sally from the Business Council with its tax sharp practices and in the case of News Corp UK, illegal industrial action to Malcolm Turnbull himself whose Liberal Party received millions of dollars of illegal donations. And would Spycatcher have seen the light of day without laws being broken?

There is also a pretence that the law is some inviolate, separate body of holy writ immune from human affairs. Or, as Sally herself, puts it. “Australia has been built by working people who have had the courage to stand up to unfair and unjust rules and demand something better.”

Now we can’t have that, can we? It’s just as crazy as expecting a commonwealth government to nurture its dependent states rather than bully or exploit or defame them. Or a federal government to be above petty politicking and scapegoating, dishonesty and manifest hypocrisy on something as vital as energy provision.

Yet the week has seen a line drawn in the sand with regard to energy if not states’ rights while Jay Weatherill has used the national stage to dramatically re-enact the need to speak truth to power. All the Snowy 2.0 or NBN in Australia can’t put that genie back in the bottle.

WA Labor Landslide spells curtains for Turnbull’s leadership; undoes Pauline Hanson.

turnbull and barnett in wa


It’s a Labor landslide in WA. Mark McGowan’s party may end up with 41 seats as the Liberal primary vote collapses 15% , and it’s all over bar the infighting and the recriminations. Yet one thing is sure. The fall of “Emperor” Colin Barnett can have nothing to do with Malcolm Turnbull; no blame no responsibility is accepted. Nothing to do with Turnbull’s support for the One Nation preference deal or his government’s dud policies. Instead the WA Premier invokes Whitlam.

It’s an overwhelming “it’s time factor”, Colin Barnett lies as WA Liberals openly wish they’d dumped him. Shit happens.

The ineluctable truth of Turnbull’s blamelessness emerges on ABC Insiders as “How the West Was Lost”, a gripping media mystery drama, reveals a mob of scapegoats for Liberal failure in a week of dodgy deals and reversals in which our anti-scare tactic PM’s Great Big Energy Crisis is gazumped by electron-magnate Elon Musk who offers a stack of Tesla batteries to keep the lights on in South Australia, a rashly wind and sun powered renewable rogue state.

Peter Georgiou, who takes his brother-in-law Rod Culleton’s senate spot, catches measles, a setback concealed during the campaign lest anyone laugh; or cast nasturtiums at One Nation’s crusade against childhood vaccination. There is no hope Georgiou can match the gifted buffoonery or performance art of his bankrupt predecessor but he is already off to a brilliant start not only with the measles but with his all-in-the-family route to power.  One Nation is a one-ring circus.

Not to be outdone, moreover, La Hanson suddenly falls arse over tit. Everything is going so well, too. She’s set to be crowned Queen of WA by an adoring media, when she inexplicably trips over her lip; declares herself both a Putinista and a passionate anti-vaxxer. Naturally. All Trump torch carriers are virulently anti-jab and pro Putin, too.

Hanson’s revelations cause a stir. Some PHON dingbats flee the belfry. Brazen hussy. Traitor. What became of Pauline’s Celebrity Apprentice bikini-bottoms with the Australian flag on? Worse, she self-aborts her mission. Her WA Liberals’ preference deal reveals to even One Nation voters that Pauline is just another conniving politician. It’s a fatal error. Half her predicted supporters turn against her. Beliefs, Peter Ustinov said, are what divide people. Doubts unite them.

Not that Hanson is wearing any of it. Quickly, the Liberal’s senate stooge finds a handy scapegoat for her failure.

“I don’t think it was the Liberal Party, I think it was Colin Barnett. The people here did not want Colin Barnett — he should have stepped aside.” Or thrown out. Like milk in your fridge that’s started to go sour, she says. It’s easy to see why Turnbull confidante and inner cabinet member Arthur Sinodinos praised One Nation’s sophistication recently.                                                                                                                                                                                           The truth is voters have stepped aside –  and not only from Colin Barnett. They’re not that sweet on Pauline either.

Not only does Pauline’s pixie dust suddenly wear off, however, lame duck Turnbull’s fate is sealed by the sand-gropers’ no-vote, based in real fear that the Coalition is just an ill-disguised front for business, bankers and miners with its coal-war on the climate and environment and its class-war on the poor.  Turnbull’s leadership is terminal. No ABC-led defence can help him now. He is a dead man walking even if he dare not show his face before noon.

The PM goes into witness protection, yet a piece by a Malcolm Turnbull appears 9:00 am in The Sunday Telegraph with the Dubai World’s Best Minister Greg Hunt threatening to bar unvaccinated kids from childcare and preschools. “No jab no pay will be matched by no jab no play.” Mal’s even written a letter commending his idea to state and territory leaders.

Sky News calls it the PM’s “hard stance on vaccinations”. Hunt repeats the word “tough” twice. It must be a stiff letter. The Liberal party’s storm-troopers are scrambled to put Humpty Dumpty back together again starting from the tough up. Sturmmann Matthias Stormin’ Cormann is despatched to stonewall on ABC TV. He belabours the Liberals’ preference deal’s impeccable logic.  It would put a floor under a declining primary vote of 29%, he repeats ad nauseam.

Cormann’s the Liberals’ master tactician and powerbroker. His recent master stroke was to be seen walking out with Peter Dutton recently. Dutton wants to head up a new uber-department of Homeland Security an idea which many of his colleagues dismiss as a naked power grab by the Border Enforcer and his boss Mike Pezullo who amalgamated Customs and Border Protection without over troubling to get them working together properly. Or communicating.

Some see Dutton keenly building a power base from which to challenge Turnbull. Homeland Security would take what is laughably called oversight of ASIO from Attorney General. Others see Turnbull so beholden to the right and so keen to be free of Brandis that he will agree. It will not be a path to the top but to the bottom. Dutton struggled to run Health. He is overwhelmed by the tasks of winding up Manus and running down Nauru. His refugee deal with Trump is stalled.

Out of his stall and a law unto himself as ever, deputy leader Barnaby Joyce calls the preference deal “a mistake” before offering some colourful opinions on ABC Radio about One Nation’s senate candidates. “Mad”, he says.” Lucky this is not being broadcast.” Labor simply replies swiftly that Fizza Turnbull failed to act on his power to veto the deal.

Of course there are local factors. Barnett’s switched-on plan to privatise state electricity in WA seems a turn off for voters. It’s worked so well in other states. In Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, prices soar as systems become less reliable. The “Junior, sweaty, Navy Lawyer” attack on McGowan by the typically sensitive Minister for Welfare Extortion and sandgroper, Christian Porter may have not struck the right note early in the campaign.

But in a post truth, fake news Trumpocene age, personal abuse beats rational argument any day. Besides, didja hear what Turnbull called Shorten?

Like their federal counterpart, the WA Liberals are lean on policy.  Astonishingly, also, Colin Barnett fails to convince anyone that he should waste a third term pretending to be an effective State Premier after blowing the proceeds of the mining boom, driving up the state debt and causing credit ratings and property prices to fall.

The Department’s pre-election budget update forecast total public sector debt will reach $41.1 billion by mid-2020.

Then there’s the elephant in the room of WA’s dodgy queue-jumping tax grab. Barnett’s government passed legislation in late 2015 to seize control of the $1.8 billion assets from the Bell liquidation — potentially jumping ahead of the ATO and other creditors. Somehow Joe Hockey and Attorney General George Brandis led them to believe that the federal government backed WA’s strategy. The High Court threw out the legislation on appeal, humiliating the WA government.

Sadly, Brandis’ inability to recall the nature or the precise date of his involvement may have misled parliament over the issue. The AG seems to have confused everyone. The case may also have cast a cloud over the Barnett regime. Certainly it has led to calls for Brandis to resign. Whatever else may be said, however, the Premier is clearly not short of big ideas.

You can’t fault Barnett for innovative policy. He’s out there doing the hard yards  promising ripper statues of sporting heroes at the new Perth Stadium, not just a digital tribute, but a whole new statue every two years, plus a whole bunch of other stuff in aquaculture, Aboriginal rock art and tourism along with a pledge to see the federal government’s wonderful new Sunday penalty rate cuts translated into state awards, too. Plucky? “You bet you are. You bet I am.”

But you can’t fight city hall. Barnett is blown away by the Tsunami of unpopularity that is the Turnbull government.

Despite all the spin, the WA result is clearly a rejection of the Turnbull government’s Centrelink Robo-debt extortion of the poor and its equally cruel penalty-rate cuts. The state with 6.5% unemployed and rising, the nation’s highest, even measured by the government’s rubbery figures, also smarts over the barefaced robbery of Coalition tax cuts for the wealthy, while International Women’s Day this week reminds us that we remain one nation divided by entrenched gender inequality.  It’s even more keenly experienced in the new mining industrial rustbelt of WA.

Women with children, workers least equipped to find childcare other days in the week, suffer the most from the government’s cutting Sunday penalty rates. They bear a disproportionate part of the social, emotional and economic brunt of the government’s push to have more Australians under-employed in an increasingly part-time casualised workforce where hours may grow, wages are stagnant and penalty rate cuts increasingly undermine household budgets.

Things are likely to get worse. Legal opinion for the ACTU released Friday by lawyers Maurice Blackburn finds that the Fair Work Commission case to consider consumer expectations and not to actively deter weekend work could be used to reduce awards in nursing and health care, transport, security, cleaning services, construction, clerical workers, laundry services, hair and beauty industries, trainers, mining and factories.

Employment Minister and Minister for Women, avid part-time property investor and lip readers’ gift, Michaelia Cash says it’s all a Labor lie but since her claim to have overlooked registering her 1.5 million property investment next door, no-one can believe a word she says.  She’s a big fan of penalty cuts but you’d never know it – now. She’s in witness protection for the duration. Or at least until there’s no risk of being questioned about her property management skills.

At least Pauline tells it like it is. Even if the big ideas don’t always fit the sentence. Hanson’s support for penalty rate cuts goes back to running the Ipswich fish shop. Labor’s to blame. McDonald’s undercut her minimum wage. She had to pay eight dollars an hour more. EBA’s are to blame. It’s not the sort of pitch the average WA worker can relate to.

Yet the jabs break through. Not every mother owns a small business but all mothers know what is to have sick children.

Along with her dangerous advice to parents to make up their own minds on vaccinating their children, a song from Donald Trump’s hymnbook, she professes love for Russian despot Vladimir Putin, whom she naively praises as “a strong leader” who “stands up for his country” – not one who invades others to seize lands where ethnic Russians may live  – as indicated by his incursion into Georgia, his seizure of Crimea and his role in the “frozen conflict” in eastern Ukraine.

28 Australians were among the 298 passengers killed when MH17 a Boeing 777 flying civilians was blasted out of the sky over Ukraine by a Russian missile, an act for which Hanson’s beloved strong leader, Vladimir Putin, refuses to take responsibility.

The media turn. Even ABC Insiders Barrie Cassidy can’t let her ignorance go unchallenged. Turnbull himself weighs in later and has another dab Sunday while Bill Shorten makes a bipartisan show of support for a factually based public health policy. It’s the high point of the political week – if you don’t count Colin Barnett’s comeuppance. Or Georgiou.

A concerted stand against Hanson may be good news for the nation this week even if the ABC gets its nose rubbed in its mess. In retaliation for holding Australia’s Trumpista to account, the ABC is barred access to her WA election wake where party members console themselves that their dismal showing was all the fault of Barrie Cassidy. Doubtless the banks and those international financiers who created the climate change hoax for profit have a hand in it, too.

Hanson’s “humilating flop” as Malcolm Farr calls it in WA parallells her failure to coordinate a handful of senators and makes a complete mockery of her leadership pretensions. But it’s not what people are telling her she says. It’s not what she hears from the voters. Like Corey Bernardi, she claims a type of clairaudience. She intuits the people’s will. Incredibly, no-one else can do this.  Amazingly, ordinary people who lack her access to the media always agree with her.

No rebuke will easily dint Hanson’s rock-star popularity. Like her idol Trump, her fans are nurtured more by mutual ignorance, fear and hatred than petty details such as factual accuracy. Yet  the preference deal with the Liberals, goes badly. She admits as much Saturday as she acknowledges PHON has won less than five per cent of the lower house vote and seven per cent in the upper.

Gone is any hope of the swag of seats predicted earlier. Gone is the prospect of holding the balance of power. PHON will be lucky to get one or two seats in a big Senate cross bench. Yet straight-faced she blames the Liberal Party.

Hanson, Labor helpfully reminds voters, is supposed to be above preference deals; that type of politics.  No-one says that her WA bid is preposterous; no-one whispers she is utterly, ludicrously out of her depth; not waving but drowning.  Luckily, however, there are others competing for Australian politics Darwin Award for individuals who contribute to improving the evolution of our national politics by selecting themselves out of the gene pool by self-destruction.

Perennial Darwin Award contender and sole survivor over his 2016 how to vote Liberal in the Senate fiasco plucky Tassie Senator Erich Abetz jostles to the front of the pack this week with some beaut new views on how women win respect.

“Queen Elizabeth II has demonstrated that hard work and commitment earn you far more respect than demanding that people make way and artificially promote you simply because of your sex,” tweets the budding local female emancipist, pocket philosopher and inveterate attention seeker Abetz who trips badly in his run-up to achieving his own unique insight into International Women’s Day. Abetz succeeds once again only in putting both feet into his mouth.

Last October, Abetz was berating the media for bias in failing to celebrate those who come out straight.  “Ever thought why there is no celebration for those that decide to go from the homosexual to heterosexual lifestyle? Are they not honest? Are they not coming out as well? … just one of the examples of the one-way traffic and bias from the media.”

HRH, one hopes, will overlook Eric’s slight on her inherited privilege, status and wealth – just as women whose hard work and commitment has not yet made them members of the royal family may now safely overlook anything the senator says as the blathering of a manifest idiot who has no clue about gender inequality and less about gender politics.

Media bias, however, to be fair to Eric, is firmly entrenched although the traffic follows the money; flows Eric’s way.

An ally, of sorts, for example, in Abetz’ quest to misrepresent, dismiss or deny the gravity of gender inequality is to be found on what Peter Dutton sees as the jihadist conspirators’ ABC’s The Drum where one of a panel of “successful businesswomen” points out that the surest path to equal opportunity is to have your stockbroker gal pal on your speed dial. She’ll be the one with the best baby-sitting contacts. Abetz is right about the bias; The Drum is an exclusive club where success talks to itself in public.

In the same way, politicians talk to themselves in the media, or over each other or the interviewer, a process they fondly describe as “having a national conversation”.

None of these token successes have anything remotely useful to offer ordinary women whose lives in their own ways deserve every bit as much celebration and affirmation. Their presence is a reproach to all those who are trying to run a home and a family on a hopelessly inadequate and shrinking part-time wage.

Our media promotes inequality in privileging the discourse of the successful as it does by ensuring the dominance of a white male middle-class elite. If you are a woman, for example, you have a one per cent chance of being interviewed in a newspaper, on TV or radio or any other form of media. And in news coverage, three quarters of all women are invisible. Only about 24% of all people seen, heard or read about in the news are female.

Although women make up 46 per cent of all employees in Australia, they take home on average $283.20 less than men each week (full-time adult ordinary time earnings). The national gender “pay gap” is 18.2 per cent and it has remained stuck between 15 per cent and 18 per cent for the past two decades.

The PM honours International Women’s day with community legal centres in Australia, facing a 30% funding cut from the federal government next financial year. Tasmania’s state government recently announced they would make up the difference.

Nothing is heard from Minister for women Michaelia Cash about penalty rate cuts which hurt women the most. Nor does the government express any compassion or concern for the consequences of Robo debt clawback – although the ten per cent debt recovery surcharge may well be illegal – as too are its methods of discouraging protest.

News comes this week that the department pulls the files of those who make a fuss and sends their personal details to the Minister, who then may pass them on to be used against the ungrateful welfare recipient. It’s an extraordinary admission of another step towards a totalitarian state. It fits with Brandis’ recent admission that the AFP accesses certain journalists’ meta-data in order to hunt down whistle-blowers.

Soon this may all be under the aegis of Peter Dutton. What could possibly go wrong?

WA is at the very least a slap in the face for the federal government. It is almost certainly the end of Malcolm Turnbull. It may well be, also, that it is the beginning of the end for Pauline Hanson whose attempt to make it on the national stage has not got much beyond a seat on the cross-bench.

Or is it the end of the beginning? Certainly the curbing of the mainstream media’s fawning indulgence of a celebrity politician with some dangerously false ideas is a welcome corrective against infectious ignorance and division.

Now the same process needs to be sustained on the wilful disinformation of those in the major parties who would divide and dupe us for their ends and their backers’ profits.

Turnbull government loses all credibility legitimacy over Fair Work fiasco.

turnbull-thrashed

If there were an Olympic event for the side-step, handball or back-flip, the Coalition would win all three at once this week. Mugged by reality, former small business champions, Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull, duck for cover after the Fair Work Commission’s cuts to Sunday penalty rates for Retail, Pharmacy and Hospitality workers. Once righteous penalty cut crusaders, wild-eyed Coalition MPs now stampede in all directions. The PM wears his best shit-eating grin.

No-one is game to applaud the business lobby’s win over workers’ rights to a fair day’s pay.  Once penalty rate cuts were an elixir for every ailing government. Now they are electoral poison. Gorgeous George Christensen, who hovers at large in a halo of self publicity – like a botfly forever on the edge of defecting from a government he seldom deigns to support, fears penalty rate cuts will cost him his seat unless something is done.

Nationals cat-herder Party Whip Christensen is big in the news this week for tossing in his tawse. And professing loyalty.

Abbott loyalist, Eric Abetz shows why he is the former Minister for Workplace Relations by rushing to the rescue with an absurdly unworkable grandfathering proposal for new workers only to be paid less than they are worth.

“The Fair Work Commission should use the powers that it already has to grandfather current employees’ salary rates so that only new employees are covered by these new salary rates. The Fair Work Commission, under current law, already has the ability to do this,” Senator Abetz writes in Thursday’s Fairfax papers

Cheaper workers would displace more expensive as the boss laid off old hands and hired new. It’s the Gresham’s Law of employment. But relax. Experts, ever generous with jargon, rush to tell us that “red-circling” is not practicable while most of us didn’t even know it was a phrase. What they mean is businesses could not possibly keep books which have workers on different pay rates. Way too complex.

Turnbull dismisses the proposal as impracticable. This does not mean, of course, that nothing is happening “in this space” to use another of the jargonistas’ favoured phrases.

The best course of action for the nation would be for the government to show leadership and reject the commission’s recommendation. The FWC is not meant to further disadvantage our lowest paid, least secure workers.  And our latest current accounts are an argument for a pay rise not a pay cut.  The rising tide is not floating all boats.

The December quarter accounts show a rise in productivity but wage growth is in decline; the worst set of figures for workers since records began. While the economy grew nominally by 3% in the December quarter, the third best result in twenty eight years, according to Guardian Australia’s Greg Jericho, the amount of money flowing to employees fell by 0.5%, the worst since the ABS began measuring quarterly GDP statistics in September 1959.

The results torpedo the government’s mantra of jobs and growth. They are a slap in the face to trickle-down theorists on both sides of the House. Never before have our nation’s leaders been so publicly rebuked by the statistics. Wealth in the nation does not trickle down; it trickles up. What is a government to do?

Luckily a philosophical Scott Morrison is on hand to offer a healing gloss.

“… we must continue to remember that our growth cannot be taken for granted and is not being experienced by all Australians in all parts of the country in the same way.” Or the rich get rich while the poor get poorer. Shit happens, as his illustrious former Prime Minister put it so sagely. No inkling that governments might lend a hand to those in need.

Leadership is the first casualty in the Fair Work Commission’s war on the poor. To be fair, the PM has another Abbott attack to fend off. A La Trump, he says Tony Abbott causes the latest Newspoll which gives his government its eight straight set of dud results in a row and puts his approval rating at record low.

Having comprehensively established that rather Tony Abbott is the sole cause of his inept, dysfunctional government’s and poorly led government’s bad performance in the polls, Turnbull gets on his high horse and rides off in all directions.

In the week after the Fair Work Commission’s decision The Coalition embraces five different, contradictory, positions, as  Bernard Keane notes. It’s the decision of the independent umpire, it’s Bill Shorten’s doing, it’s good for jobs, it has no position at all, it is good for jobs but existing workers should be protected, a grandfathering proposal from Eric Abetz which the PM dismisses as unworkable. By Sunday, Murdoch hack and addled agent provocateur Piers Ackermann not only calls Turnbull’s leadership “terminal” he backs a plunge on Portsea Polo princess Ms Julie Bishop as successor.

At least the Labor party’s posture  is consistent.  Despite its crippling Neoliberal infection, the workers’ party which long ago sold workers down the river, the party which helped rich rob poor under Hawke and Keating, is here to help. Labor pledges to fix things up by proposing new laws to protect low paid workers’ penalty rates. It knows it’s riding a winner. Yet, as Turnbull calculates, it is also compromised; vulnerable to attack however loudly it may protest its loyalty.

“Quite frankly, last Thursday, when Bill and I looked at the decision, we were – to say the least – surprised and disappointed that there was a significant net loss to workers without compensation whatsoever and we felt we had no option but to stand on the side of workers,” says Shadow employment Minister Brendan O’Connor.

Solidarity is well-nigh irretrievable. The Hawke-Keating government reduced corporate taxes by 16 per cent from 49 to 33 per cent. It cut the top personal tax rate from 60 cents to 47 cents in the dollar. Union membership fell from over 48 per cent to below 31 per cent.  By September 2016, Roy Morgan estimates,  national union membership was around 17.4 percent, the lowest result since the research firm began collecting union membership data in 1998. Gloating, the IPA calls it “terminal decline”. Workers are increasingly part-time, casual, underemployed and non-unionised.

Under Hawke and Keating the wages share of GDP fell from 61.5 per cent of GDP to less than 55 per cent, a transfer of $50 billion from poor to rich. Encouraged by such betrayals, Turnbull works all week to frame Shorten as another working class traitor. It’s ill-judged. Those suffering rate cuts don’t get much comfort from killing Bill. Forget the spin. But a Work Choices style campaign would cut through. Workers know all about the real decline in their pay packets.

Under the Coalition, real wage growth has reversed: increases in nominal weekly wages haven’t even kept up with inflation. It’s the worst wage performance in Australia’s postwar history, reports The Australia Institute.

Yet there is an astonishing lack of empathy or compassion for those affected, in government ranks. The Opposition, on the other hand, to its credit, chooses to focus on the workers’ stories. It reads case studies of men and women whose earnings have been cut, a powerfully eloquent testimony to the real suffering unleashed by the Commission’s decision.

For Tony Abbott, however, another week brings another sniping. Who gives a fig for the working poor when there’s yet another opportunity to knife your nemesis? And he’s a veteran arm chair general. He’s a dab hand at giving Turnbull the very advice that he could never take himself in his own brief reign of failure as the IPA’s best Prime Minister.

“Against Labor’s pitch of ’high wages’ versus ’low wages’, we need to pitch ’high wages’ versus ’no wages’,” Abbott tells The Australian Friday turning exploitation into a zinger. “The issue is not higher wages versus lower wages.” “It’s about making it possible for more businesses to stay open because if the business is shut no one gets paid anything.”

Abbott, typically, deigns to offer evidence that any business has been forced to close because of penalty rates but it’s a bit of rhetoric which Turnbull picks up gratefully late Friday. Much of his week, however, is wasted blaming Labor.

It’s all Bill Shorten’s fault, screams the PM, his voice hoarse from a week of hurling abuse at Labor’s leader. “Labor appointed all of the full bench who made the decision.” Labor’s to blame. Blaming others  is this government’s signature.

Just as Labor’s Mediscare campaign disrupted Turnbull’s “powerful and positive campaign” causing the Coalition to be returned with a piddling one seat majority – just as Tony Abbott caused the government’s eighth consecutive dip in Newspoll, the causes of adversity are always someone else’s fault. Come what may, penalty cuts, whatever its latest self-inflicted injury, the Coalition always has Labor or someone else to blame. It’s a strategy that shrieks weak leadership.

By Tuesday it’s the fault of the independent umpire, a phrase which the PM wears out with overuse. The independent umpire, he labours the phrase, almost leering, like some knowing Pantomime Dame. What he’s hinting? Is it ironic? Just how independent is the FWC?

Liberals say it’s stacked by Labor. Former Deputy President Brendan McCarthy, a Howard appointee, stepped down from the FWC in December 2014, telling The Australian the Fair Work Commission “is not the appropriate body for the setting of minimum wage and awards. No longer has it the best experience to set Australia’s minimum workplace standards.”

McCarthy gave his serve following the resignation of FWC vice-president Graeme Watson who complained to Employment Minister Michaelia Cash that the industrial umpire was becoming “politically compromised and dysfunctional” under President Iain Ross’s leadership. The jibe moved Tony Abbott to write glibly that the FWC was “pro-union and anti jobs”, typically without being pressed to explain the contradiction.

Hence Turnbull’s glee – a schadenfreude that is his undoing.  He sees a commission which Abbott and others call too left wing to ever get it right now giving a decision to the right. But is it a victory? The focus on the FWC risks shattering any illusion that the body has any effective role in protecting workers. Surely the government has some role here, too?

Certainly a week passes before Turnbull manages to affirm the decision. He croaks out the patent lie that cutting penalty rates makes for more jobs, instead of just forcing low wage earners to seek an additional job or more hours to survive.

By Sunday he claims airily that “masses of evidence” exist to support a reduction to some penalty rates by the Fair Work Commission, saying the changes mean more businesses will open; jobs will be created.

They won’t. According to experts including University of Melbourne’s Mark Woden, “The most likely scenario is that some businesses, not all, will now have their existing staff offered a few more hours.”

Given the government’s long war against penalty rates and its carte blanche to the commission, its contortions and its buck dodging are ugly and unedifying.  Its default option is to scatter – as it did when Minister for Coal-fired energy generation, Josh Frydenberg hinted at a carbon pricing scheme hint recently. Scatter and finger Bill Shorten. Has there ever been a more gutless or ill-disciplined government?

Turnbull himself once crusaded for cuts. “Penalty rates are an anachronism” he bellowed in 2015. A mob of other MPs have been just as keen to do the business lobby’s bidding. Michaelia Cash claimed they were a brake on weekend work. Wokka Entsch reckoned penalty rates closed businesses. Hard to fathom, Bernard Keane notes given the mini-boom in hospitality over recent years. But now there’s a deafening silence. Above all, no-one owns the government’s choice not to make any submission to the Commission –  effectively handing it a blank cheque.

The government is caught flat-footed again. No plan is at hand, oddly, to spin business’ victory; explain any “benefits to the economy”.  Other fumbles follow. World’s loudest treasurer, Scott Morrison flubs his latest undeserved lucky break when growth, of sorts, returns, on his watch. But it’s no cause for celebration.

While MSM cheer our escape from a “technical recession”, the quarterly account figures show workers, hardworking Australians are increasingly excluded from sharing in any new productivity or economic growth. The truth hurts. This is a government which has helped wages to decline while enabling company profits to soar twenty per cent.

No-one challenges the Coalition and business lobby backers’ false report of a dying Hospitality trade. As Bernard Keane regularly reminds, us far from being “crippled” by penalty rates, Australia’s cafe and restaurant sector is growing so fast it will soon overtake manufacturing.

Many open-on-Sunday businesses are booming. It’s their workers who are being sent to the wall. The issue is not about who is to blame or whether the umpire is fair, but about exploitation; the inexorable decline of wages and job security.

From 1 July, a retail worker on an hourly rate of $19.44 will lose $77 after working an eight-hour Sunday shift, all because the FWC deems Sundays to be “less important” to us today. Not how important rates are to workers’ pay. Absent from the FWC’s calculation is any notion that poorly paid workers depend upon penalty rates to pay bills and buy food. By contrast, bosses will get tax cuts to boost their profits. Our agile PM can’t skedaddle fast enough.

The decision to cut penalty rates helps legitimise our cash economy, a labour market where Chinese workers may be paid as little as six dollars an hour. While the 700,000 workers affected are among our lowest paid, there are hundreds of thousands cash in hand workers even worse off. In a Fairfax investigation, hundreds of thousands of workers were found to be exploited. The ATO estimates about 1.6 million businesses (mostly micro and small businesses with an annual turnover up to $15 million) operating across 233 industries make up our expanding illegal cash economy.

This sordid truth underpins the “transitioning” economy, a favourite phrase used by a treasurer whose government is increasingly adept at turning a blind eye to human suffering and distress. Never have our two nations; the two Australias – the worlds of the haves and the have nots been so far apart.

While the PM claims $273 per night to stay in his wife’s Canberra apartment, the average accommodation and food services worker earns $524 a week. Retail workers earn just $687 – compared with $1,163 for all Australian workers.

“It’s not a decision of the government,” Turnbull says like Pilate washing his hands. “It’s a decision of the FWC, an independent commission.”  Yet he has done nothing to preserve that independence. Since gaining power, the Coalition has not appointed a single workers’ representative to the commission.  In not making any submission, moreover, the government has effectively given the green light to penalty rate cuts unlike Labor whose submission opposed cuts.

Claims of independence also ignore the eight members the coalition appointed to the FWC in 2015; four in September by Eric Abetz and four in December by Michaelia Cash 2015. It’s also a spectacular backflip. After years of bleating about the need to cut or abolish penalty rates to “grow businesses” the Coalition seems caught out by the decision; with no real plan to sell penalty rate cuts to the electorate.

That’s been left to businesses themselves. Yet it’s not happening. A defensive Employment Minister Michaelia Cash denies that she has fumbled the handball; businesses will step up and sell the cuts on behalf of a gutless government.

Worse, the Turnbull government, soft on banks, hard on welfare recipients, has wedged itself between its $50 billion business tax cut largesse to the wealthy on the one hand and its swingeing pay cut to the poor on the other.

The Commission’s decision to cut penalty rates beginning 1 July not only lowers the take home pay of some 700, 000 workers it leaves others nervously wondering when their wages will be cut too.  Restaurants, Fast Foods, Clubs and Hair and Beauty Awards remain the same but the commission invites interested parties to “express a view”. The lower rates will also influence enterprise bargaining from 1 July this year. No wonder Labor sees it as the thin end of the wedge.

Turnbull settles for calling Shorten a “double gold medallist on backflips on penalty rates”.

Last week despicable Bill was a “social climbing parasite”, this week, he is a hypocrite who flip-flops from support for the FWC’s decisions to contesting them. Won’t respect his own Fair Work Commission’s decision or the umpire’s independence, honks Malcolm Turnbull. Why he even traded away penalty rates. And the money went to the UNION.

Turnbull’s desperately confected indignation, outrage and derision, serves to drive him deeper into the politics of denunciation and character assassination. By Thursday and the finale to this week’s episode of our record-breaking national political melodrama, Question Time. Killing Bill is the answer to everything again.

Turnbull riffs about Cleanevent and Chiquita mushrooms, firms and workers Shorten sold down the river, he screams. He loves the sound of his own baritone, as he goes loud and long on mock outrage. His fog carries him beyond reality to an upland plain where he is a dragon-slayer. He lies about the commissioners, eight of whom are Liberal appointees. Ignores the times he’s walked all over other independent umpires such as in the CFA dispute. Or sacked them.

If only shouting abuse could make turncoat Bill the scapegoat for his government’s own incompetence.  By Thursday, not only is Shorten a class traitor he’s  “He’s moved into the post-truth environment.” Is this politics or some surrealist poetry slam? 700,000 workers who find themselves suddenly unable to pay rent or buy food could tell him.

Sneering at the Labor leader won’t disguise his government’s pathological inability to make a decision.  Turnbull’s a dead man walking – not so much because his colleagues have their knives out but because of his own crippling indecision. By Thursday, he’s lecturing the FWC about the need to protect low-paid workers, hinting that the decision may be delayed or somehow fairly phased in. Apparently he’s changed his mind but only if you trust the rhetoric.

Caught napping by a Fair Work Commission decision to cut penalty rates, the Prime Minister leads his government along a well-worn goat track where everything from the energy crisis to refugees on Manus and Nauru are all Labor’s fault.

Blaming Labor doesn’t require a lot of preparation or real team work. And it’s the of the few things the crew can agree on. But it may serve to make the Coalition’s headache only worse as the focus shifts to the plight of the low paid workers whom through incompetence and ideology it abandoned or assumed it could safely ignore. It is a huge miscalculation.

It is also a huge disservice to women who will bear the brunt of the cuts: “For many women, working on weekends is their only option because conventional career work on weekdays is too inflexible for them and there is no childcare,” says Marian Baird, Professor of Gender and Employment relations at the University of Sydney business school.

The 700,000 workers whose earnings are cut plus those many more whose wages will drop as a consequence and the millions more who know or depend upon them and anyone with a sense of justice will remind them an Australian government with no clear plan or policy; a government which exists merely to meet the needs just of the rich, the privileged and the powerful soon forfeits its right to govern at all.


Further reading:

How Women are hurt the most by penalty rate cuts

 

 

Turnbull embraces Netanyahu; lets everything else go to hell.

turnbull-and-net

Sydney Harbour swells in the morning sun, a wash of blue velvet; a perfect backdrop for the azure ties and matching navy Zegna suits of power-dressers Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu and Malcolm Turnbull who step out together in Admiralty House gardens at Kirribilli; wives Sara and Lucy, their minders, handlers and backers in tow like seconds at a duel.   Camera men scramble backwards up tracks risking injury to keep it all in frame.

A riot of photo-opportunities beckons a government of endless self-promotion where image and spin utterly upstage vision; where government can seldom move far away from the politics of the campaign stump. But what is Malcolm Turnbull doing inviting one of the most reviled leaders in the world to Australia for a week?

Is it part of the deal Turnbull denies striking with Donald Trump? Could our PM have agreed to back up US  support for Israel in return for The Donald’s re-consideration of the controversial refugee swap between Australia and the US agreed under the Obama regime, a deal the President has dismissed as “dumb” and “stupid”? It would seem that our military commitment to fighting ISIS in Syria is about to be increased. Just out of the blue.

Certainly Bibi-love is in the air. We can’t make too much fuss over him. Helicopters hover above. Police boats patrol below. Armed police are everywhere. Security forces haven’t been this busy since 1967 when Holt invited Air Vice Marshall Nguyen Cao Ky, playboy US puppet boss of South Vietnam in another politically and morally bankrupt gesture of goodwill. But none of the force on display will protect us from the enemy within, however, much he tries to “look like the innocent flower”.

“This is magnificent,” says Sara, admiring a place Mark Twain found “superbly beautiful”. Yet all the beauty in the world cannot undo the terror inflicted, the suffering wrought by the monster just ahead, her husband the “butcher of Tel Aviv”, flash as a rat with a gold tooth in his finely-cut Italian suit. Despite all of the security patrols on show on land sea or air, Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit extends a welcome mat to state terror.

Operation Protective Edge saw Netanyahu’s Likud government kill 2,251 Palestinians including 1462 civilians, 299 women and 551 children in the bombing of Gaza between 8 July and 27 August 2014. 142 families lost three or more members. Sixty-six Israeli soldiers and seven civilians in Israel also lost their lives.

Over 11 000 Palestinians were injured according to an independent UN report which found that while both Palestinians and Israelis may have committed war crimes, hundreds of Palestinians – many of them women and children – were killed in their own homes.

But we all need to toughen up, Netanyahu explains. The bodies were arranged by Hamas to display “telegenically dead Palestinians” for their cause. Ironically, the same propaganda technique was deployed in Goebbels’ 1941 propaganda piece ‘the Jews are guilty’. It’s not too far from John Howard’s 2001 “babies overboard” claim.

Sixty prominent Australians pen a letter of protest that Netanyahu’s government sets out to “provoke, intimidate and oppress” the Palestinian people. Netanyahu defends the Nakba, the Israeli colonisation of Palestinian territory, as a bulwark against radical Islam. A tape from 2001 leaked in 2010, however reveals his own form of terrorism.

“Beat them up, not once but repeatedly, beat them up so it hurts so badly, until it’s unbearable”, he says on tape.

If Turnbull has been expecting reasoned moderation or compromise, he is rudely disabused. Now he must also take responsibility for isolating Australia from mainstream international policy in cosying up to a monster and pariah. The stakes are high both the PM and for the nation. Yet he seems to go to excessive lengths.

Turnbull uses The Australian to lecture the UN not to be “hypocritical” over its Resolution 2334 which condemns Israeli settlements as a flagrant violation of international law. He does his best to push the two state formula.

“My government will not support one-sided resolutions criticising Israel of the kind recently adopted by the Security Council and we deplore the boycott campaigns designed to delegitimise the Jewish state,” he writes.

“We support an outcome which has two states where Israelis, the Israeli people, the Palestinian people live side by side as a result of direct negotiations between them — that is the fundamental point — and live together in peace and the security that they are entitled to expect,” he adds. But Bibi won’t have a bar of any two state juju.

Netanyahu’s a realist, at least. The two state formula is a con, Bernard Keane notes. It lets nations turn a blind eye to Israel’s illegal occupation and control of the West bank by settlement and military force.

What Netanyahu wants is Australia to support his current policy of Illegal colonisation by settlement. And he gets it. What Turnbull gets for going out on a limb risking international isolation- even from New Zealand which moved the resolution –  and censure is another drubbing, another foreign policy humiliation.

No-one mentions the siege of Gaza.  Israel has besieged Gaza by land, air and sea since 2007, following Hamas’s takeover from the Palestinian Authority’s security apparatus. 1.8 million Palestinians are “locked in and denied free access to the world,” the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported in July 2015. Does Malcolm Turnbull believe that the UN is being hypocritical here, too? Where does the accommodation end?

All that matters, then, is the Bibi and Malcolm and Sara and Lucy show, a feel-good story. It’s a simple script. The foursome get on so famously that they hang out together all week. Turnbull hopes Brand Netanyahu will rub off on him a bit; help boost his own anti-Islam, anti-terror standing with his insatiable hawkish right wing.

Somehow the PM trusts that despite his failure to stand up to Netanyahu, Bibi’s company will make him appear stronger. Is he thinking straight?

The official rationale of the visit includes vital agreements needing to be signed on technology and air services. Then there’s airy talk of expanding co-operation in areas including cyber-security, innovation and science. Free trade agreements, too,naturally.

Why we could triple our trade with Australia, says Netanyahu on cue. With bilateral trade between Israel our 44th trading partner and Australia currently worth around $1 billion, the benefits would still not offset the costs to Australia’s reputation. Or the potential offence we may give to Arab nations. Ultimately it comes down to a botched strategy. The visit was only ever about Turnbull’s need to look butch on the domestic front.

Instead he’s compromised himself and his nation, especially given the contrast with the reception given to Indonesia’s leader – and especially given the criminal charges hanging over Benjamin Netanyahu.

When Joko Widodo arrives Saturday, no formal dinner awaits him. He’s left to rustle up a bucket of Point Piper Kentucky Fried for himself.  But he’s cool. And he needs to stay cool. In ways “too painful to explain”, an irreverent Perth army base training manual discovered in January discredited Indonesia’s military, its people and its ideology, claims his hard-line military chief Gatot Nurmantyo who has little love for Australia.

Any thaw in relationships has to be staged carefully. Unlike the Netanyahu love-fest which runs all week.

Clearly, Benjamin Netanyahu PM of Israel, a much smaller and more remote rogue nation than Indonesia, is much more fun to be with.  Mal and Lucy have all the time in the world for their new pals.  War criminal Bibi, in return, must appreciate time out from charges of improper use of state funds and criminal corruption for hurting a rival newspaper and accepting illegal gifts the Israeli PM faces at home. The case is likely to go court.

In the best news money can’t buy, Israel’s Channel 2 reports police have a recording of Netanyahu offering to curb the circulation of Israel HaYom, a critical newspaper, and also to broker billionaire investment in rival newspaper Yediot Aharonot if its publisher, Arnon Mozes, would make its coverage more pro-government.

Caught in the headlamps, also, is neighbour James Packer, one of Bibi’s inner circle of billionaires. The casino owner’s quest for Israeli citizenship may be unrelated to his buying a beachfront house next door to the Netanyahu shack. Similarly Packer may not be one of the billionaire investors teed up to buy the paper.

Police have questioned Netanyahu about his close relationship with Packer, who is reported to have financed trips abroad and hotel stays for Netanyahu’s eldest son, Yair.

Here a fulsome media embrace is orchestrated. Breathlessly, endlessly, every channel tells us that this is the “first visit to Australia” by a sitting Israeli Prime Minister. Trade deals are touted breathlessly, as always, as if, somehow, governments must clear the way before any enterprising trader may succeed in a free trade environment. They don’t. Not a word is heard of Israel’s war crimes and current charges against its PM are soft-pedalled.

Happily a leadership lunge by a punch-drunk Tony Abbott provides media with a great story, Thursday, when he uses a Sydney book launch Making Australia Right a collection of essays by conservatives edited by James Allan, and an appearance on his pal Andrew Bolt’s show to outline his own five point plan to win the next election. Some journalists describe his thought bubble as a major speech. 

It’s more of a kamikaze attack which will further alienate any support which remains for him but which is bound to damage Turnbull and to accelerate rapidly dwindling public affection for a clearly divided, dysfunctional Coalition government. Some, including Bernard Keane, suggest that the hard right’s leader in waiting, Peter Dutton, will be the chief beneficiary of Abbott’s open assault on his leader. It is a fair stretch, however, to tip Dutton for PM.

David Marr, however, on ABC Insiders, Sunday, finds the prospect laughable. Yet, years ago, Abbott was similarly dismissed as having shown little of the requisite qualities of mind and spirit to become leader. It may well be, also, as Carl Bernstein has written of Trump, that Abbott’s achievement has been to break the civic consensus as to the qualities required in successful political leader. Or the behaviour expected.

Astutely, Abbott observes there is disappointment ‘perhaps even despair’ with Turnbull’s government. He notes nearly 40 per cent of Australians didn’t vote for the Coalition or Labor in the 2016 election before spoiling his speech by claiming: “It’s easy to see why”. In reality, he still has no idea as his solution shows.

In short, why not say to the people of Australia: we’ll cut the RET [renewable energy target] to help with your power bills; we’ll cut immigration to make housing more affordable; we’ll scrap the Human Rights Commission to stop official bullying; we’ll stop all new spending to end ripping off our grand-kids; and we’ll reform the Senate to have government, not gridlock?

Abbott’s plan is just a series of empty rhetorical assertions. Is anyone surprised? The lie about lower energy bills has already been tried and recent polls show most Australians do care about renewable energy targets.

Immigration cuts will not lower house prices and would help further suppress economic growth. Scrapping the HRC, a body his government attacked savagely is not going to end official bullying, especially when Centrelink is doing a magnificent job of that already with its Robo-claw automated debt-recovery debacle.

Stopping spending is rich, as Christopher Pyne points out, rashly, when he observes that Abbott’s was a big-spending government which raised taxes, too in the form of a deficit levy and a fuel excise rise. How exactly reform of the senate would proceed is left up to the listener to imagine in a series of points which is less of a “manifesto”, as some in the press have helpfully dubbed it, than a few more empty slogans.

On savage counter attack, Turnbull taunts Abbott for being all mouth and no trousers. The PM’s dresses up his ABCC, his removal of MP’s travel Gold Pass and his tax cuts to show that what he says he does. Solid achievement.

It’s risky not only because the claims of achievement are risible, especially with an ABCC modified beyond all recognition. It’s laughable to claim that in its new form that the ABCC will restore law to the building sector.

Research published this week by Alan Austin in New Matilda shows that despite Abbott’s promises and Turnbull’s assurances, construction has dramatically contracted under the Coalition. Yet it has become more dangerous.

“Weighted for actual activity, construction deaths increased from an average of 24.7 deaths per 100,000 chain volume units of construction activity under Labor, to 30.3 under the Coalition. That is an increase in the death rate of nearly 23%. That represents an extra six fatalities each year.”

And flip flops are always risky. Out with the bathwater goes the Coalition’s previous claim that Turnbull’s government represents some form of continuity with its predecessor.

Abbott’s outburst sets a course further to the right when there is no evidence it will win more Liberal votes. Tracking even further to the right would only further reduce his party’s appeal to, what opinion polls reveal, is still a moderate electorate.

Even more distasteful to voters, however, is the recent decision of the Fair Work Commission to dock the pay of some 700,000 of our lowest-paid workers by reducing Sunday penalty rates. Many will find themselves $6000 out of pocket in July when the decision takes effect but many others will know or depend on those whose earnings have been reduced.

The concept of penalty rates is well supported by most Australians in Essential’s opinion polling. the decision will be seen as unfair and a capitulation to the business lobby’s crusade against penalty rates.  Claims that lower wages mean expanded business and more jobs are not supported by hard evidence,  while economists point to the slowing effect on the economy of the reduced purchasing power of low-paid workers.

The government chose not put in a case to the commission and its bizarre claim that the decision is all Labor’s fault will not wash. The rhetoric of an independent umpire will also be tested given the slew of pro-business appointments to the commission made by lipreader’s friend Michaelia Cash.

While the cut is restricted to retail, fast food, hospitality and pharmacy, other sectors may follow using the decision to effectively cut Sunday rates in new enterprise bargaining .

By week’s end, the government is again in crisis, hosing down its former PM’s challenge and attacking Labor in a hopelessly long-shot attempt to pin the Fair Work Commission’s decision on the Opposition. In the process, it has shot itself in the foot by bagging Abbott’s lack of achievement and pointing to his big spending and high taxing government – a trend continued by Turnbull.

Turnbull’s failure to manage Abbott, on the other hand, only serves to draw more attention to his Pyrrhic victory over the budgie smuggler; how hopelessly and fatally, he is encumbered by the circumstances of his leadership coup.

On top of the Coalition’s domestic problems sits its foreign policy debacle with the United States. Deal or no deal with refugees, it must now contend with the international response to being Israel’s new best friend at a time when investigations into Benjamin Netanyahu’s dealings are likely to lead to, at least, to a court case.

Should a new troop commitment against ISIS be announced, it will become immediately apparent that Turnbull has been trumped by the US president and that the PM’s determination to succeed with a deal to palm off our offshore refugees on to our great and powerful friend could in the end put many more lives in danger.

The Coalition’s  immediate challenge, however, will be to deal with the fallout from the decision of the Fair Work Commission which may help put dollars in bosses’ pockets but which will punish lower paid workers and send shock waves much more widely affecting all families with children with part time jobs. Above all it will most profoundly affect the lives of women.

Turnbull still has time to reject the Fair Work Commission’s decision. He also has time to back out of or postpone his promises of 50 billion tax cuts to companies. Anything less will be fatal to his government’s chances of re-election.Yet one thing Tony Abbott has right, it may be too late to arrest his decline in the polls.

Turnbull follows Trump’s lead in week of politics of personal abuse and campaign of lies.

Malcolm Turnbull....Donald  Trump.......Pax Americana Illustration: Don Lindsay


“Don’t be a Malcolm”, warned The Toronto Star, as it urged Canadian PM, Justin Trudeau, not to ruffle Mr. Trump’s feathers as Malcolm Turnbull had done by trying to hold him to account over a refugee deal recently. The US President seemed ready to pull the pin on the US-Australia alliance when PM Turnbull foolishly expected him to commit to a pre-existing agreement. Hung up in his ear. It put the wind up the Turnbull government and other post-colonial toadies.

In a sense, the advice is old hat in Canberra. “Don’t be a Malcolm”, is a tip the Australian PM has long since deployed to advantage. This week he looks a lot like The Donald as he continues to turn himself inside out endorsing by evasion WA Liberals’ plan to do a preference swap with One Nation candidates in March.

“Preferences, he says, craftily, are a matter for the party organisation. In a state election, it is a matter for the organisation in Western Australia.”

WA Liberals will deal PHON its preferences in upper house multi-candidate electorates it may win in return for PHON preference support for Liberal candidates in single-member lower house seats, where One Nation victory is unlikely. What Turnbull is evading is the legitimacy, authority and credibility conferred by the deal upon One Nation.

Arthur “safe hands” Sinodinos, telegenic smooth operator and fixer for Coalition media damage control is sent in to peddle the lie that today’s One Nation is a “more sophisticated” party than it was twenty years ago. It’s an astonishing claim for a party which has merely shifted its scapegoats from “The Aboriginal Industry” and “Asians” to “Muslims”.

“Everyone changes in sixteen years” chimes in eternal opportunist John Howard, Great Helmsman of Liberal bigotry and One Nation dog-whistler, whose “babies overboard” lie demonised refugees; helped deny them rightful asylum.

On cue, One Nation anti-Gay Nazi mind control candidate Michelle Meyers, in the WA state seat of Bateman uses Facebook to warn voters abortion creates “societies of cannibals that consume our own progeny”. “Sexually confused” LGBTI people are “indoctrinating our kids” and transgender people are “broken”. In a nod to The Donald, “All terrorists ARE pretty much Muslims” and “the ‘peaceful’ majority [of Muslims] DO support them [terrorists]”.

The PHON preference deal is unlikely to shore up a WA Liberal rout. It may even cost Liberal votes. The PM’s main aim is to woo Pauline. Never in our political history has a PM so completely abandoned what he stood for prior to taking office. Malcolm Turnbull sheds his earlier progressive political identity as if it were a trendy leather jacket.

Not so easily cast off, however, is the historical record. In 2011 Turnbull blew the whistle on his future self.

“Some people would say that as we have a vested interest in coal being burned, we should oppose action on climate change and … muddy the waters on climate science in order to prolong the export billions from coal mining.” 

What Turnbull warned against six years ago is precisely what he is doing now. Daily, he steers himself and his government ever further towards the rabid right. His treasurer, Scott Morrison, fondles a lump of coal in the house. His government mounts an energy scare campaign based on outrageous, irresponsible lies and a fortune in coal funding that renewables threaten something he calls “energy security” and promoting a clean coal that doesn’t exist.

Peta Credlin attacks the scare campaign. She helpfully confesses on Sky the claim was groundless: “It wasn’t a carbon tax, as you know … but we made it a carbon tax. We made it a fight about the hip pocket and not about the environment. That was brutal retail politics.”

Josh Frydenberg is sent on to ABC Insiders Sunday to pretend that Turnbull isn’t following Tony Abbott in “making energy about the hip pocket and not the environment”. He patronises Barrie Cassidy and unleashes a torrent of Trump-like inconsistencies and non-sequiturs a morass of logical incoherence to confuse known as Derrida’s Kettle.

“See Barrie, politics is about ideas and when we see a bad idea, we will call it out. And just 18 months ago we had a deal with the Labor Party and legislated through the Parliament a 23.5% Renewable Energy Target. Bill Shorten then fell under the spell of the deep Green left-wing of his party and produced a 50% Renewable Energy Target. And now the Government is prosecuting the case against that target because we believe not only will it lead to higher electricity prices and hurt the hip pocket and cost jobs, but it will also destabilise the system like we have seen in South Australia.”

Frydenberg continues to repeat the false claim that coal is the cheapest source of energy. Cassidy does not counter that coal is cheap only because it is subsidised. Without fossil-fuel subsidies, wind and solar would be instantly cheaper in Australia today. He does, however, tell Frydenberg he’s ignored  the environmental costs of coal.

The Minister’s aim  is to dump a load of disinformation. A few examples will suffice. He blames renewables for the rising cost of electricity when network costs and soaring gas prices are chief causes. Solar drives down costs and provides huge benefits to the economy. 24, 000 jobs have been created so far. His claim of unreliability is refuted by scientific reports which show that reliable systems need only a mix of solar and wind. As the sun goes down wind generally increases and as winds drop in one region they pick up in another.

Author and essayist and one of Canada’s leading public intellectuals Jeet Heer summarises the government kettle technique as spreading lies while creating a state of dream-like delirium whereby reality and lies cannot be separated, where everything is just a pretext, an excuse or a rationale, and nothing is ever argued in good faith.

With his lies, his gibes at the media and his desperate right wing opportunism, his surrender to the mining industry and powerful backers in business and finance, Turnbull looks and acts more and more like an acolyte of Trump. The parallel extends into the use of invective.

Turnbull echoes The Donald’s attack on “crooked Hillary” as he leads his front bench in name-calling in a puerile assault on Bill Shorten’s phony, parasite and sycophantic character. Liberals bravely say it’s because “he started it” with “Mr. Harbour-side Mansion” but the taunt is Peta Credlin’s. He is on dangerous ground with “phony”.

After boasting of his leadership of the national conversation on the issue of domestic violence at the Parliamentary International Women’s Day Breakfast Thursday there are cuts proposed to women’s refuges. Turnbull vaunts the $200 million to be spent by his government over three years, as Anne Summers reports on advertising, research, information sharing, help lines, counselling services, trials of technology to improve victim safely, training of frontline staff, efforts to stop “revenge porn” and other worthy measures. Yet his government will cut $100 million from women’s refuges in May’s budget by axing the National Affordable Housing Agreement according to a leak last week.

As he fearlessly leads Christian Porter’s monstrous Robo-claw war on the poor, the sick and the vulnerable, Turnbull stands exposed as Tony Abbott in more expensive suit, another junkyard dog but with a more exclusive postcode.

“Don’t be a Malcolm” is, of course, meant as a wry caution to Trudeau not to stuff things up with shirt-fronting stunts. Yet when the lap dog is savaged by the top dog, the world is out of joint.  Australia’s “special relationship” with the US is sufficiently notorious to make even Canada wary of its own reception in King Donald’s court.

Can you believe Trump hung up on the Australian Prime Minister?, boggles The Washington Post in the subtext of a piece written when a “high ranking White House official” leaks the call. Now all is thrown into doubt. A terrible, new, world disorder, an anti-Pax Americana, is born out of Mar-a-Lago and New York.

Even dud former treasurer, now work for the dole Ambassador to the US, Joe Hockey is worried by Wednesday.

“When America says ‘America First’, as someone with nearly 20 years in politics, I get that . . . but what the rest of the world is hearing is that they’re coming second and they’re the losers and America is the winner,” he tells the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, before hosing down Turnbull’s failure to get Trump’s nod to the refugee deal.

“Some countries unfairly look to the US to solve every problem the world faces.” We don’t expect leadership.

Hockey even lies that our Manus and Nauru detainees are “economic refugees”. He’s picking up the vibe of the Donald’s approach to truth. Even if his 2014 budget cuts are now “zombie measures”, Joe’s not slow to catch on.

Seventy years of a US-led alliance system may now be undone as The Donald, a con-man occupies the Oval Office, the most inept, insecure and least qualified person ever to have nominally become president lashes out at world leaders and the media; blunders around a Washington he cannot remotely fathom.

His first press conference is train wreck of incoherence, misinformation and bullying in which he attacks the press publicly, even upbraiding the BBC. The “media is the enemy of the American people”. Foreign policy is also a disaster. A US naval ship is buzzed by the Russians in the Black Sea. Russia tests a missile, flouting an agreement and a 300 foot surveillance ship snoops along America’s east coast. Somehow, despite DFAT and our best intel we are blindsided.

Not everyone is afraid, however. The Coalition is in such trouble that it could use the distraction of another military adventure. Clearly a deal is being done with The Donald’s administration to supply more Australian troops to “fight ISIS”. Using the same words every government uses, the Prime Minister and Defence Minister Payne say a US request for troops will be “looked at carefully”. Historically this is code for unqualified approval. Tony Abbott wanted to send even more than requested and made creative suggestions about a crack squad of Aussie troops invading Syria.

Domestically, also MPs take heart. The Donald-monster, a seven year-old in a seventy year old body, inspires our own reactionaries to unleash their own inner enfant terrible; inspires the Turnbull government to greater depths in the politics of denunciation and deceit. Killing Bill Shorten is now the Coalition’s only coherent policy. It’s a tag team free for all wrestling match and the bovver-boys wade in all week.

“Counterfeit Bill” sneers Steve Ciobo while Mouth-that-roars, Christopher Pyne wants us all to know that Shorten, the social sycophant and parasite, holidayed with millionaire Dick Pratt, the cardboard packaging king.

Worse, Pyne, boxes on, as national secretary of the Australian Workers’ Union Shorten signed an agreement with Pratt’s company VISY “which removed maternity leave rights and turned them into unpaid maternity leave”.

It’s a lie. The Labor leader kept maternity leave in the 2002 agreement but the new world disorder discourages truth.

In a Trumpian universe of discourse every little fact must fend for itself against mad King Donald’s whim. No shot is too cheap, too wild or too low for the billionaire vulgarian. Nothing is what it seems. Ears pricked in Canberra, new, improved, Malcolm Mark III, unleashes his own inner pack leader. Now with extra junkyard dog, he sniffs the wind, reverse-engineers himself before our very eyes to maul Shorten and cock a hind leg over Labor’s track record.

Pausing his snarling and yapping only to beg a biscuit from his backers in media, mining and banking while Pauline Hanson’s political love child, the anti-halal crusader gorgeous George Christensen threatens to defect from Mal’s kennel; the Coalition’s Church of infinite breadth which, he says, needs narrowing because it’s squeezing voters and conviction politicians like himself out. Things are crook. The chief National Party whip is its least disciplined member.

“Don’t be a Malcolm” in the original context evokes Turnbull’s unparalleled gift for SNAFU, self-sabotage and gratuitous insult, all in play this week. The PM, whose own election night dummy-spit dismayed a nation, jeers Thursday that Bill Shorten is “defender of the biggest glass jaw in Australian politics”. All hail the crystal mandible.

Yet it’s Turnbull, not Shorten, who appears fragile lately despite the cheering-on he’s received from a tame ABC and others for shouting insults at Bill Shorten. The Coalition believes that painting the Labor leader as a working-class traitor and a social climbing brown-nose will win over an electorate already fed up with petty personality politics.

Desperate to arrest his government’s continuous decline in the polls, Malcolm’s been making a Donald of himself by descending to character attack and ever wilder claims in the manner of a president who publicly upbraids journalists at his first Press conference; lashing out at the lying hounds who report non-fake news merely to attack an administration which, any fool can see on Fox or read on Breitbart, is running “like a fine-tuned machine”.

All is going well according to the Turnbull spin machine which nearly blows a gasket as Scott Morrison goes up river like Mr Kurz and bullies the cross-bench, threatening new taxes if members fail to pass its childcare bill which cuts welfare to fund childcare. It’s a streak of SNAFU genius that only the Turnbull government could achieve and a sign of poor discipline and teamwork under the Prime Minister’s leadership.

Nick Xenephon and his senate duo get it right when they announce they would vote against the bill, saying “pitting battling Australians against Australians needing disability support services is dumb policy and even dumber politics”.

Despite his attack on Shorten, however, Turnbull finds himself boxed in like Tulloch as he wedges himself between his war on the poor and his tax cuts for the rich; a tricky spot he makes impossible by his failure to persuade anyone but the rich that trickle-down economics works; or that Centrelink’s Robo-claw debt collection is a riotous success.

A full third of the benefit of a company tax cut would be enjoyed by just 15 companies in Australia. Once phased in the cut would be worth $6.7 billion per year to these companies, reports The Australia Institute.

On top of that the government has to justify a $50 billion splurge right at the time it’s urging savings, threatening taxes and repeating the meaningless mantra of budget repair. Turnbull bats away the growing pressure for a Royal Commission on banks because Royal Commissions are lengthy and don’t achieve anything, which was no impediment to the $80 m Heydon Royal Commission to get Shorten which was actually extended, at great cost, by Tony Abbott.

Turnbull also bats away an allied proposal that the company tax cuts not apply to the big four as “not practical”.

Having increased debt by $100 billion since Labor left office and with its petrol excise tax and its budget repair levy tax, the Coalition is the big taxing, high spending it accuses Labor of being. Despite its rhetoric, the only jobs created are part time and casual and the economy contracted last quarter. So much for growth and hollow slogans.

Its war on renewables means the team must argue Abbott’s case that it’s only about the hip pocket, not the environment but Credlin’s blown the whistle on that. And you can’t build coal-fired power stations unless you can find investors, no matter how much you fudge the rules of the Clean Energy Foundation’s loan book.

A farrago of lies boosting fossil fuels over wind and sun vitiates debate as a Turnbull government blind-sided by Trump the disruptor and the dawn of a new world disorder, seeks to please its corporate backers and appease its insatiable right wing at any price. No truce is called in its class war on the poor while profiteering banks bleed the nation dry; escape all censure. Heartened by Trump’s trashing of covention, Turnbull’s jeering mob puts the boot into Shorten demeaning itself, the nation’s parliament and all “hardworking, ordinary Australians” it claims to represent.


Turnbull government reveals a lump of coal at its heart in a disgraceful week of name-calling.

turnbull-bullying-while-others-crow

“He has no respect for the taxpayer any more than he has respect for the members of the Australian Workers Union, he betrayed again and again. He sold them out. He sold them out.”

A volley of cheap shots rings out across the chamber this week as a beleaguered Malcolm Turnbull begins the new parliamentary year in a flat spin. He’s under attack on all sides, travel rorts, Trump’s dumping on him, Bernardi’s defection, Abbott’s sniping, a seven-month losing streak in the polls and what to do about George Brandis and his diary.

What do you do with an Attorney General, an officer in charge of freedom of information who refuses a court order to make his appointments public as Mark Dreyfus, a real QC, has requested? The London posting  can’t come soon enough.

Peta Credlin, Abbott’s all-powerful, all-seeing former chief of staff helpfully puts the skids under the PM she dubbed “Mr Harbourside Mansion” when she tells Sky viewers the Coalition is broken by “an unbridgeable ideological divide”.

Add in to the mix electricity blackouts, a failure to curb power sector emissions and an energy market crisis which has been simmering unattended for years. Luckily energy is all Labor’s fault. It’s their ideological belief in the future of the planet instead of doing whatever it takes to protect the wealth of the coal industry and its many rent-seekers.

The power crisis is caused by Labor because Labor is led by Bill Shorten, a Labor leader who has dinner with rich people!

Desperately, the PM who sold out to his right wing, aims to divert his critics and snatch back credibility by assassinating Hypocrite Bill’s character. Yet Turnbull aims so low he destroys any vestige of credibility; shoots himself in the foot.

The other foot is in his mouth. With nothing left to lose, a gung-ho meets gonzo PM Trumps up his invective; indulges his inner bully in an assault on the man, not his policies, complete with gratuitous, archly homophobic insults.

“This sycophant, blowing hard in the House of Representatives, sucking hard in the living rooms of Melbourne, what a hypocrite,” Turnbull sneers. The “simpering” “sycophant” “sucking up to Dick [Pratt]” “tucked his knees under… tables” jeers the PM. The dig is unlikely to boost his stocks in his inner-Sydney electorate of Wentworth, however many sniggers it gets from his party. Nor will his prejudice play well with his broader constituency.

But why be resolute or decisive when you can be abusive and impulsive? It works for Trump.

Desperate, the orator with an ear of tin leaps, misses his footing and plunges to dangerous depths. He unleashes a raging, ranting, ten-minute volley of personal abuse and defamatory accusation on the Labor leader –  lowering himself to ape Tony Abbott, the leader he deposed because he was incapable of anything but junkyard. Doubtless, he plans to hide, in the fray, how deep in crises he has mired his government.  Instead, Turnbull highlights his own bad judgement.

Bellowing, braying, belittling, the PM calls Shorten names in a spray of spittle. He contorts his face fit to out-butch a bull seal bugling. Shorten is a “a climber”, “a social-climbing sycophant”, a “parasite and a hypocrite”, terms of abuse the PM finds on a prompt helpfully handed up to him by his batman, Christopher lickspittle Pyne, obsequious to a fault.

Sadly, all Turnbull achieves is a grotesque Abbott travesty, an homage to another self-made loser who often parodied himself in his puerile taunting, name-calling, monstrous lies, absurd assertions and bullshit braggodoccio until it cost him his job.

Turnbull is wasting his time trying to impress his party’s puritan choir; the Nationals and the Liberal right. They hate him with a passion. He may as well be Labor. No concession will ever be enough to buy their approval. Nor win their trust. For most other observers, the PM’s ill-advised and hammy performance is a shocking demonstration of just how far he will stoop to conquer. Pollster Hugh McKay believes Turnbull has sealed his fate. Disintegration and ruin can only follow.

Turnbull’s big problem is the plank in his own eye. “No consistency, no integrity. This sycophant, this simpering sycophant,” sneers a PM who hosts Rupert, a PM whose merchant banking venture was funded by sucking up to Kerry Packer whom Turnbull had saved a fortune on tax, a PM whose sell-out to his party’s right wing cost him all credibility.

Almost as big for the toff is the vexed politics of class. As Bernard Keane and Van Badham note, Turnbull’s attack is a slap-down for Shorten getting above himself. Essentially, Turnbull’s case is that he’s Prime Minister because, unlike the Opposition leader, he’s a better class of person.

Yet it’s a no win situation. Keane also notes that after decades of berating union leaders for being anti-business and being unwilling to work cooperatively with bosses, suddenly Shorten is fair game for being too close to corporate leaders. Yet none of this matters to the parliamentary party whose blood-lust is up.

Excited by his show of aggression, his colleagues cheer on Turnbull’s Shorten-bashing with school-boys jeers, grins and much thumping of desks. It is an unedifying display of arousal which can only cost the party popular support.

Equally disturbing are those many Press Gallery hacks who applaud Turnbull’s lapse, gushing approval over his “flash of steel”, his “withering putdown”. One scribe sees the theatrics as an “aggressive new course.”  Another sees it, somehow, as Turnbull’s version of Gillard’s misogyny speech. Is politics merely blood sport entertainment for a jaded Canberra Press Gallery? Certainly, their praise encourages the PM to further excesses.

By Friday, Turnbull is on 3AW denouncing Shorten as a hypocrite who pretends to be a “horny handed son of toil”.

Horny or corny, it’s all part of a bizarre, ill-judged attempt by a desperate Prime Minister beset by more problems than a junkyard dog has fleas. His government is dead in the water say pollsters. Newspoll has Labor 46-54% on the two-party vote and the Coalition’s primary vote falling four points to 35%, its seventh-straight loss and worst result so far under Turnbull’s leadership. Essential polls 53-47 in Labor’s favour. It would take a miracle to come back from here. Instead, the Coalition declares it is truly, madly, deeply in love with coal all along despite making sheep’s eyes at renewables.

True, not all are on the same page with their passion. There’s a lot of codswallop about being technology neutral, the official Peabody Energy talking point subterfuge and some daggy hamming from Energy Pretender Josh Freydenberg who even promises a new cabinet subcommittee to “oversee the progress”.

Partly Turnbull’s tanty is to cover Coalition hypocrisy in two-timing its 2030 carbon emissions targets with its affair with coal. Federal Treasurer, Mad dog Morrison, a natural buffoon, follows his PM’s lead in the race to the bottom Thursday by bringing a lump of coal into the chamber. It suits him to clown while people die of black lung and other respiratory illnesses. It worries him not a jot that an army of scientists could tell him that burning coal to generate electricity will destroy the planet. Instead he and his party proclaim the sick fantasy that coal is a cheap and clean source of energy.

Ultra super-critical coal-fired plants would cost double renewables reports Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The Melbourne Energy Institute agrees. And who could cost their emissions? New analysis from the government’s own research institutions reveal emissions from USC would exceed the current Australian average of 820g/kWh.

Of course we don’t have to burn coal ourselves to contribute to global warming. Currently we export enough coal each day for others to burn and create emissions equivalent to a 500-megawatt coal-fired power station, or 570,000 cars, in a year. Yet we don’t factor in our CO2 exports into our climate policy. It’s been our dirty little secret for thirty years.

Not a single company has any plans to build new coal power plants. No bank will lend any money. The Turnbull government may wave its shotgun as much as it likes but it may never get coal and banks up the aisle again.

Of course, it has a patent remedy which climate change sceptic and front bench coal-tosser Barnaby Joyce has already forecast. The Clean Energy Foundation, established to fund innovative approaches to power generation,  will be raided to pay for energy which is neither clean nor a good investment in the future. Who could possibly find fault with that?

At least, finally, some of the Coalition has stopped pretending it is only a litlle bit pregnant to Peabody Energy. Indeed, the Turnbull government’s recent embrace of coal-fired power shows it has “abandoned all pretense of taking global warming seriously”, Climate Change Authority member Clive Hamilton explains as he resigns from the agency. Professor Hamilton, who teaches ethics at Charles Sturt University, fires a parting shot. He says it is perverse to be advocating coal when 2016 was the hottest year in history.

Bernie Fraser resigned before Hamilton in disgust at the feeble emissions-reduction targets the government was prepared to set. Fraser, a man of principle, pointed out that the government’s post-2020 carbon reduction efforts – a pledge to cut 2005-level carbon emissions by 26-28 per cent by 2030 – as put Australia “at or near the bottom” of comparable countries.

The Climate Change Authority itself soon got five new you beaut members in October 2015, one of the first reforms of young turk Turnbull who is always quick off the blocks when it comes to doing the bidding of his minders, be it his National Party minders or- as in this case -a toady to the coal lobby. The five new members had been appointed by “coal is good for humanity” Tony Abbott and remained to be approved by Macolm Turnbull.

Described at the time as being as “more sceptical of climate change” the five coalition appointments stacked the committee in favour of government policy and removed the vexed Left-Greens ideological commitment to the continuation of humanity and the troublesome notion of taking responsibility to reduce emissions and redress some of the damage already caused to the environment through global warming, noxious emissions and other pollution.

It is timely to review the government team players.  Assisted by former National Farmers’ Federation’s head Wendy Craik the committee gained Kate Carnell, former CEO of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and former ACT Liberal chief minister; Danny Price, economist and managing director of Frontier Economics, who advised the government on its Direct Action policies; John Sharp, a former Nationals politician and federal transport in John Howard’s government before stepping down after questions raised over his use of ministerial travel expenses; Stuart Allinson, the chief executive of Bid Energy.

No-one can pretend these worthy figures, however deserving they may be as representatives of their constituents, have been chosen for their halcyon impartiality. To use Turnbull’s term du jour Australia has been sold out.

Those who were shocked by gonzo Scott Morrison’s pet rock in parliament Thursday – and it’s impossible not to be shocked by the graphic abdication of responsibility to future generations not to mention a contempt for science and a cavalier disregard for all of the economic and environmental benefits of investment in renewables should thank him for so dramatically revealing the government’s hand, a hand which has been prepared ever since Turnbull took office despite all sentiment and nostalgia for the Old Leather Jacket. Get real. This government has always been pro-coal.

But it’s not all plain sailing or committee stacking. Coal is a big blow to the Prime Minister’s new self-appointed role as Parliament’s Grand Inquisitor determined to root out hypocrisy and energy heresy in the opposition. Why, only seven years ago he, himself, was urging Australia to move to a “a situation where all or almost all of our energy comes from zero or very near zero-emission sources” to avoid the risks, laid out in the science, of catastrophic climate change.

Along with Groucho, Turnbull has principles and if you don’t like those, well … he has others.

“You don’t quit a party you already run, protests Sam Dastyaryi when Cory Bernardi, the man who single-handedly, caused Malcolm Turnbull to drop all mention of any form of ETS in 24 hours flat, leaves the Liberals this week over principle, he says. Principle. Yet he is unable to say what the principles are beyond a bit of mangled metaphor about broad tents and churches and pegs. Fearlessly exercising his new role as moral guardian, Turnbull tells him the honourable thing to do would be to resign. The PM gets one thing right. Hasn’t Cory already caused enough trouble?

Cory Bernardi helped Tony Abbott change from an ETS wuss to an axe the tax crusader in 2009. If there were one man we could thank for Tony Abbott becoming the worst Prime Minister Australia has seen, Cory would be right up there. And weather vane Abbott is quick to take any opportunity now to put the boot into Turnbull.

“… While Cory and I have sometimes disagreed I’m disappointed that more effort has not been made to keep our party united. The Liberal Party needs more people, like Cory, who believe that freer citizens will make a fairer society and a stronger country and who are prepared to speak out and make a difference …”

Now a man of principles he can’t articulate, Bernardi will continue his vanity politics while his quest for relevance becomes even harder, however many anti-halal meetings he attends. The harsh truth is that Cory Bernardi represents Cory Bernardi and while he may indeed enjoy the support of Gina Rinehart, it will take more than the backing of the coal lobby to make him a real political force now he’s out on his own and competing with quite a range of other right wing nut jobs for the reactionary and the protest against the two major parties’ vote.

The South Australian senator is, however, a powerful emblem of the disunity and lack of discipline in Turnbull’s parliamentary party and his weak leadership. It is also a reminder of the parlous state of the Liberal Party when it comes to principles.

As poor Cory comes to leave and make his stand on principle, he can’t clearly articulate a single principle. Looking at the government’s disastrous week, its hypocritical bashing of Bill Shorten and its theatrical flourishing of a lump of coal in parliament, most Australians would also have trouble identifying a single principle – apart from its steadfast loyalty to the mining lobby –  in the Turnbull government’s shameful behaviour this week.

 

Turnbull fails to reset his leadership: appears a capon in the year of the Rooster as Trump dumps on US alliance.

turnbull-and-trump-on-the-phone

 

It’s fake news. After a shocking week in which Australia has its nose rubbed publicly in its own mess by the US, Donald Trump makes Islamophobia official US policy, threatens to invade Mexico and our PM confesses he paid $1.75m out of his own Cayman Island account to buy his own mandate – as you do- a grateful nation can at last heave a sigh of relief. Malcolm’s incredible slap-down – and its leaking to the Washington Post never happened.  Hit the reset button.

Surely Malcolm Turnbull would provoke no-one to hang up on him – not even a fellow egotist. As Phillip Adams puts it.  “ …Turnbull doesn’t suffer fools, the only problem is that to Malcolm we are all fools” while Peta Credlin observes a rich businessman turned politician who can bully and leak is hardly new to politics.  But it never happened, OK?

Relief comes late in the week from the man who has changed US diplomacy to 140 characters or less. US President and  playground bully, Donald Trump tweets that “fake media has lied” about “a very civil exchange” over what he still calls “a dumb deal”; “the worst deal ever” to swap our largely Muslim refugees for US Latinos, a deal he views with extreme prejudice, calculated ignorance and stupidity.  “They want to send us the next Boston bombers.”

Eureka! Scott Morrison high-fives Peter Dutton. The pernicious lie that our refugees are terrorists is one their party has actively fostered for years along with the myth that turning away refugees reduces the chance of terrorist attack.

No matter, moreover, that the Boston bombers were Chechen migrants, a people excluded from Trump’s Islamophobic travel ban. Mad Mullah Morrison rushes back to his 2GB pulpit to praise the US travel fatwa which excludes Trump’s business pals, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia and Afghanistan.

“We have got a good history around this and really the rest of the world is catching up to Australia now,” ScoMo crows.

It’s a lie Turnbull told at the UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants last September. That “good history” has cost us a massive $9.6 billion in three years, not to mention the incalculable cost to Australia’s reputation, putting us in breach of international human rights law 40 times. Children have fled conflict; sought our asylum –  only to be illegally detained for years in conditions which expose them daily to abuse, neglect and violence.

Oddly, information about our “good history”: is suppressed. Criminal sanctions apply to anyone who reports abuse on Nauru and Manus. Good history? In a world which has over 21 million refugees, Australia takes 13750 annually.

But it’s all sweet, now The Donald makes nice. White House Press Secretary Sean “Slice-n-dice” Spicer stresses in a presser, Friday, that the US will honour the deal “in some way”. “We’re going to vet these people in accordance with the agreement that happened and we’ll continue to have further updates as we do,” says a man whose debut was to convey “alternative facts” to boost the size of his President’s inauguration crowd. What could possibly go wrong?

Being Trump-chumped takes the gloss off born diplomat Turnbull’s master-stroke of the week. He’s rebooting and reinventing himself. Again. Hacks helpfully remind us Kerry Packer once threatened to kill him. Hairy-chested Malcolm threatened to whack Packer back. Turnbull hagiographer, Annabel Crabb records his response: “Well, you’d better make sure that your assassin gets me first because, if he misses, you better know I won’t miss you.” Such a way with words.

It is going to be a big speech. Huge. A nation is on tenterhooks; walking on egg-shells, awaiting the master tactician’s much-vaunted reboot at the National Press Club Wednesday. Everything is put on hold. Somehow the windy, wittering, toff-waffler will pull out all his stops in a heart-warming, soul stirring; inspiring, visionary, headland speech.

A bold new policy agenda has been slow-cooking in the Point Piper kitchen where Turnbull’s inner circle holds court under former Sydney Mayor Lucy who wields the wooden spoon, helped by the unimpeachable Arthur “safe pair of hands” Sinodinos, numbers man James McGrath, whose maiden speech called for the sale of the ABC and “keep Tertiary policy out of the campaign”, anti-Gonski Education Minister Simon Birmingham.

Malcolm will descend from the mount like Moses. Or so we are led to believe by the  army of scribblers contemporary LNP PMs can count on to puff any little fluff into a divine wind. Especially Turnbull, Australia’s eternally re-rising, self-saucing soufflé. Gunner Turnbull is always in the wings somewhere, about to morph into Super Mal. Some Press Gallery hacks make Apple fanboys look fickle. Yet, now, even Laurie Oakes calls for Turnbull to TPP or get off the pot.

Unaccountably, Turnbull’s address is a Fizza; another grab bag of flatulent platitudes, false or meaningless assertions and hollow boasts – “we are the most successful multicultural society in the world.”  Plumbs new depths even for a PM whose ear for rousing speech is pure tin. Who else could draw attention to his own dullness?

“Balancing the budget can sound a bit prosaic – something to satisfy the tidy instincts of the bean counters – but it is a profound moral issue,” he waffles.

Who else but Turnbull could seek the high moral ground as he churns out Liberal fiscal fetishism, an affliction which goes back all the way to Peter Costello’s “black hole”? Forget that deficit spending got us out of a hole in the GFC.  No matter that balancing the budget is irresponsible economic nonsense, a type of voodoo now widely held, along with austerity budgeting, to have dragged Europe into deflationary quicksand. It’s become a Liberal article of faith. The PM is giving his party what he thinks they want to hear.

Budget balancing is a profound moral issue? God help all of us -even the bean counters. Nothing about a fair and just society, arresting the galloping inequality fostered by decades of neoliberal stupidity and rule by mining, business and finance lobby which is irreparably destroying our social fabric? Nothing about the dire need to release 1250 refugees detained illegally on Manus and Nauru, islands of abuse and torture which infect our body politic and demean us all?

A pregnant Kuwaiti woman detained on Nauru, hostage to our own xenophobes’ morally bankrupt domestic political agenda urgently needs hospital treatment. Help is held up on the whim of our combined Border Force and Immigration department before she is flown to The Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital for treatment. Peter Dutton says nothing lest people smugglers update their business model. An 82 strong communications unit helps him keep stumm.

Turnbull needs a word with his wordsmiths. They’ve helped him over-promise and under-deliver. Again. Context is not so easily ignored. Turnbull’s empty rhetoric is upstaged by such pressing realities as his war on the poor and the vulnerable under Centrelink’s Robo-debt Clawback while corporations avoid tax. Education is now reduced to bean counting. Health is all flexible delivery options while pensioners put off doctor’s visits they can’t afford and people die on gurneys. Newly appointed Health Band-Aid, Greg Hunt wants a US-style system, a prescription for disaster.

Even Peta Credlin, who suffered Abbott’s agonising 2015 reset can tell Turnbull his “… speech lacked a plan, and clear deliverables, to demonstrate to ordinary people that the government was focused on the things that matter to them.”

A final word on Turnbull’s high-sounding nonsense. Australia is “A beacon of harmony in the midst of diversity, founded on a deep tradition of mutual respect in a world of rising intolerance.” It must be why we are cherry-picking Christian refugees from Syria. Canada has rescued 800 times as many. Turnbull’s words help explain why last September, Essential pollsters found 49% of respondents in favour of a ban on Muslim immigration.

Turnbull tricks up his makeover with ornate garnish but nothing can disguise stale leftovers. His speech serves up his dud 2016 policies and warns us off Bill Shorten and Labor who will trash our energy security and give us big power bills with their mad belief in renewables. It’s rehashed and reheated with a fresh topping of unicorn droppings; new clean coal. Clean coal is a fiction; a climate-denier’s fantasy. A Jay Gatsby, the rock of Malcolm Turnbull’s world is fastened securely to a fairy’s wing.

Just as with Abbott before him, nothing can save the PM from his re-set failure, not even the whole Liberal front bench, it seems, a nodding, smiling claque, a unique and disturbing- turn of events in itself. Yet luckily, the rest of the week in politics is utterly consumed by the scandalous canard that Trump has hung up in Turnbull’s ear; called his refugee resettlement deal “dumb”, the “worst possible deal”.  Apologists are all over this like a rash.

Turnbull has the guts to stand up for his nation sucks Mark Kenny, doubtless eyeing off the PM’s media backgrounders’ stock PR image  in Saturday’s The Age, again. The PM is depicted bolt upright, jaw down, a deal-broking pose, dwarfed by a clunky handset from a fixed line telephone that appears to pre-date John Howard. It looks as if the PM is jumping to attention at the sound of his master’s voice. Or he’s strayed into a remake of Get Smart.

Turd polishers and pig lipstick appliers go into overdrive. Laurie Oakes sees the great vacillator “showing his mettle” while for The Guardian Australia’s Jacqueline Maley, Turnbull is the “grey rock” of textbook responses to malignant narcissists. Much speculation ensues. Did Turnbull stand his ground?  Will the deal proceed?  It seems highly unlikely. As it stands, the deal only commits the US to allowing refugees to “express an interest” in being resettled in America.

What is certain is that Turnbull’s call was leaked by a senior White House official who intended to humiliate Turnbull. Also certain is that “extreme vetting” – a bit of campaign rhetoric is now a thing without any further explanation. Unless, as Peta Credlin wickedly suggests, he may have leaked it himself. He’s been known to play the victim. Just look at his campaign video depiction of himself as son of sole parent Bruce a battling hotel broker suffering poverty in Double Bay.

What is extreme vetting? How long will it take?  Surely the three years of “processing” endured by those on Manus and Nauru is enough? Is it that no-one dare speak out in case we offend the bully in The White House? Julie Bishop argues with Reuters; pushes the line that US representatives are still interviewing refugees on Manus and Nauru. Perhaps rather than remain in LA taking photos with celebrities, she should have been dispatched to The White House.

One thing is clear. You don’t beg a bully. An attitude of supplication is no way to begin a relationship with Trump. The best thing Turnbull could do is to bring the refugees home. And he’s got nothing to lose and everything to gain by adding his voice to the many world leaders including France, Germany and the UK who have protested The Donald’s anti-Muslim travel ban, a ban which has successfully been suspended thanks to courageous Seattle Judge, James Robart who finds legal grounds to challenge the ban, legal opinion Donald Trump dismisses as ridiculous and one he will overturn.

Turnbull says he’s just “doing what a good Prime Minister does”, a job description which includes buying his own mandate as he later tells ABC 7:30’s Stan Grant. Grant leads him to confirm his $1.75m donation to his own party when it is clear campaign funds were running critically low – not that this is his gloss on it.

At $1.75m it was just one of those regular philanthropic things that he and Lucy get up to, a donation to a good cause – a theme later continued by screaming Scott Morrison on 2GB, a benevolence to warm the cockles of your heart if you overlook the calculated self-interest.

It may well have helped him over the line. Certainly it will provide Labor with ammunition even if only to attack his judgement and how his immense fortune isolates him from the real needs and issues of everyday Australians.

By week’s end, his ignominious dumping by Trump is so big it does Turnbull a favour. It helps sink his reboot and takes attention off his lame policies  – but at the cost of a focus on his diplomatic rebuff; his skills as a negotiator; even his ticker. He’s walked softly but copped a lot of stick. His government again seems upstaged by events it could have reasonably foreseen. The Coalition begins 2017 with its inability to plan; its retreat from the real world highlighted.

While no-one could predict exactly how Trump might jump, there was every reason to suppose he’d hate the deal.

Similarly, with Trump’s anti-Muslim travel fatwa. Turnbull’s bid to defend his silence in the face of expressions of outrage from leaders around the world as permitting a quiet and effective personal word with the president rings hollow in the light of Trump cutting the phone call short, hanging up on him and allowing details to be leaked to the press.

Turnbull’s even caught napping; upstaged at the National Press Club Liberal Party love-in Wednesday. Bill Shorten has beaten him to it only the day before, calling him phony nine times in the course of his speech and in answers.

Turnbull is pilloried for his appeasement of Sun King Donald Trump.  In vain, he claims that he does not comment on other nations’ domestic affairs. His record clearly shows otherwise.

Only last April his commentary on domestics included urging the Chinese leadership towards “continued openness and the rapid development of the rule of law”, which, he argued, “is a fundamental requirement of progress”. Many times has he lectured  PNG, Syria, Russia and North Korea.

The Chinese are unimpressed. They’re on the UN Human Rights Council. They know how we run our gulags on Manus and Nauru.  Not that they would welcome any commentary on their denial of freedom of speech, religion, and association; extrajudicial killings; repression of civil society; discrimination against Tibetans and other minorities.

The truth lies closer to home. Turnbull’s right wing will give him gyp if he goes soft on terror now. He dare not utter a peep over Trump’s Islamophobic travel ban; the persecution of a Middle East diaspora largely created by decades of US foreign policy; its war on terror. His policy reset has failed. His diplomacy has been trumped. He has been made to look a capon in the Year of the Rooster when it comes to exercising his authority in the international community.

The spotlight has swung back on his judgement, his leadership and above all his capacity to prosecute a plan. Parliament will begin next week and already the PM is on the back foot; he has been tried domestically and abroad and found wanting. Another dud Newspoll awaits him. As Prime Minister he is a dead man walking.