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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turnbull government a dead parrot as power-crazed Trump cuts loose

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It’s been a shocker of a holiday for a Turnbull government which slunk off to lick its wounds after being routed by its own ludicrous 2016 energy policy debacle – only to be rocked by MPs’ travel scandals and the debacle of the Centrelink Robo-debt-clawback debt extortion scheme which may, it seems clear this week, have a ninety per cent error rate.

It doesn’t help when The Australian National Audit Office reports that the Department of Immigration and Border Protection spent $2.2 billion without permission. Nor when Scott Morrison trumpets he’s, “putting Australia first”, but has to go to London to announce he’s helped us grow a $500 billion gross public debt; outspending Labor two to one.

But, look over here, Scomo’s got a beaut new trade deal up his sleeve, says The Herald Sun. Just as soon as the Brexit dust settles, he’ll be laying the foundations for a new trade agreement. Perhaps there will be stuff for backpackers who can also take in the washing in a transitioning economy based on services more than digging up coal and iron ore.

Much clearer, is the proposed mid-year export of George Brandis to London to get him out of harm’s way and to become Australian High Commissioner. It is being treated as an “open secret” at DFAT. Lord Alexander Downer who expected, at least, another term on the grounds that he is born to rule and that Daddy was Commissioner before me will have to be dragged kicking and scheming from the Australia House mansion by the usurper. At least with Crown backing, the Colossus of toads’ deposing of Downer should be less fraught than his demotion of a previous solicitor general.

Demotion is something the Coalition knows intimately, after its shock election result and its decline in opinion polls. As the Chinese Year of the Rooster dawns, Malcolm Turnbull and his government are already feather dusters.

Rude shocks continue.  The Coalition of capons pulls its head out of the sand, only to be eye-gouged by newly proclaimed US Vandal-king, Donald the Red, a power-drunk, politically illiterate knuckle-headed tyrant eager to show he’s king of the playground at home and top dog on the world stage by abuse of his presidential executive powers.

Trump, the campaign blowhard, was meant to morph into a Republican pussy-cat. That was the Coalition plan; its reality-denying rationale for inaction and inertia secured by yet another Julie Bishop charm offensive- now exposed as woefully inadequate.

Instead, Trump is rushing to honour his threats including tearing up the TPP, banning Syrian refugees, closing the border to all Muslims and leaving Australia no “great and powerful friend” to cosy up to at the arse-licking end of the world.

The deal to re-settle, in the US, refugees from Manus and Nauru, struck under Obama, is also dead in the water, Labor argues, but, world leaders in Direct Action, trickle-down, the NBN, scrapping a carbon tax and other modes of reality denial, the government remains confident, the PM announces Saturday, deep within the Coalition’s virtual sinkhole, it has found a loophole “deep within” the President’s anti-Muslim executive order.

The loop-hole, said to have been inserted by a cutting edge PMC allows a case-by-case exemption to allow the US to “conform to pre-existing agreements” provided Trump understands any of it or has read his own executive order.

Heroically, Turnbull phones Trump Sunday, on the number he got from Greg Norman, to probe the inner incoherence of the nuanced and profound understanding that has characterised The Donald’s diktats so far.

Doing a typically magnificent job as back-up, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce adds his own natty touch of policy incoherence and disunity. He tells 2GB listeners – the radio station that governs Australia – that it would not be the end of the world if the deal did not go ahead.

Finding his own loophole meanwhile, Loghman Sawari flies from Manus to Fiji, to seek asylum on the grounds of his certain persecution should he return to PNG. The 21 year old Iranian is the first to seek protection from Australia’s punitive offshore detention regime which has meant years of suffering beatings, bullying, imprisonment, illness, suicide attempts and being threatened by a PNG official.  He fears that Trump will tear up the resettlement in the US plan.

Border Supremo, Generalissimo Peter Dutton has yet to comment – and won’t because operational secrecy trumps open and transparent government. Just imagine how the people-smugglers’ business model would benefit once people realised they could smuggle themselves DIY-style. Expect refugee advocates to be blamed for what is yet another indictment of offshore detention and evidence that Turnbull’s US resettlement plan is a cruel and dangerous hoax.

The ANZUS hoax is still intact. Trump hasn’t torn up the ANZUS Treaty yet, but given its nebulous wording only “to consult” he doesn’t have to. Turnbull’s wait and see tactics mean his government is flat-footed; floundering. Blind Freddy can see he’d be mad to expect any favours from a US President whose anti-Muslim ban is creating chaos around the world. He books a call for 9:00 am Sunday (5:00 pm Saturday in Washington) anyway.

Australia does receive from the US State Department a culturally sensitive Happy Australia Day message which claims that the US has “no better friend than Australia”.

If only the reverse were true. The message coincides with Invasion Day rallies involving hundreds of thousands of Australians in major centres throughout Australia which are generally reduced in the media to reports of “clashes” rather than for any statement they seek to make.

Barnaby Joyce helpfully adds “protesters should crawl under a rock and hide a little bit”, as he does his best to promote ignorance and intolerance from the top – doing his own bit, as always, to disgrace and dishonour the Coalition in the eyes of increasing numbers of Australians who would vote this mob out tomorrow if they could.

His government in free-fall in opinion polls – 46% to Labor’s 54% in Essential’s poll this week, Mal the Vaccillator, the PM of convenience, whose total surrender to the right has neither quelled rebellion, nor inspired followers, is in deep trouble. Adding to his fix, an outbreak of Trumpophilia – with some MPs already Trump-struck.

Scott Morrison vows to “put Australia first” while right wing nut jobs get out their dog-whistles and Barnyard Barnaby descends to rocks and stones. Never to be outdone in delusions of grandeur, Pauline Hanson is reported to believe she has a serious chance of winning government in the Queensland state election.   Or hold the balance of power.

Or something very big, important, something just “yuge” whenever her Svengali, micromanager and political aspirant himself, James Ashby, gets around to providing that talking point.

Beastie-Boy Cory Bernardi and George Christensen, geed up by Trump’s public humping of democracy and all decorum threaten to come out publicly as anti-Halal 10 February at anti-Islamic Q Society’s fund raiser while sniper Abbott’s latest gibe is that the PM ought to stop talking about agility and show some. Somehow, Abbott’s taunt gets a result.

Rocked by rorting revelations, so serious Pythagorean numerologist Sussan Ley’s inquiry must be kept secret, and with no policy agenda for 2017’s parliamentary year, the Coalition digs deep within its existential absurdity to find its own, inner, dead parrot.

Monty Python’s dead parrot sketch is reworked as a live TPP no-one else can see – an invisible friend with benefits. Frantic for distraction, the PM pretends that Trump has not killed off the TPP. Behold! It is reborn; our Free Trade saviour. Bill Shorten must die for his “cowardly” and “gutless” lack of faith and his heresy in refusing the communion of holy free trade – and his allegiance to populist, protectionist, powers of darkness.

Novel? It is politics as usual in the asylum; a mad theatre of the absurd run by the inmates, largely for their own benefit with a few indulgent words of praise from captains of industry bankers and the odd media mogul.

A couple of Liberal shills are called in to attest to the TPP resurrection. There was still “a lot to be gained” from the TPP and “we intend to pursue that”, Mad Dog Scott Morrison, our Federal Treasurer and revenue problem denialist says mid-week from a UK where he has discovered the secret to housing affordability – as you do –  is to stay in bed with property developers, an amazing breakthrough he and his PM call “increasing supply”.

Trade Minister Steve Ciobo, who recently revealed that he can’t tell a trade deal from a Grand Final, chimes in with a catchy “12 minus one” arrangement, a sort of reverse baker’s dozen, rather like leaving the US out of its own stag night.

Japan, on the other hand, still raw after being dudded over Abbott’s submarine building deal, sneers. The TPP is “meaningless without the US”. Pursuing the TPP is a “pointless waste of time” agrees Shorten.

But Labor becomes the whipping boy. For days Shorten is howled down, publicly flogged for being a “cowardly” wimp and a free trade heretic and not upholding a TPP that has expired – a TPP that never was. An alternative factual TPP. What’s going on?

Turnbull’s farcical TPP diversion is a desperate bid to wedge Bill Shorten as anti-trade or for being weak- and in yet another echo of Tony Abbott’s character assassination – just for being Bill Shorten – a slur in itself now, thanks to Murdoch media and Abbott’s Royal Commission show trial which have both helped demonise the Labor leader.

This week, Turnbull taunts Bill Shorten over the dead parrot of the TPP which anyone but gutless Bill, weak Bill – can tell is not dead but just resting, shagged out after a long squawk. Labor’s honesty is heresy, treason and no cojones combined, in the PM’s hysterical denunciation.

OK, it might be clinically dead – but it will prove a phoenix rising from the ashes of Trump’s trade treaty bonfire. Or Trump could change his mind. Or a re-jigged TPP will lead us to a fair bit of eternal prosperity for the time being.

In a post-truth Trump universe of alternative facts, no-one dare mention the truth. The TPP, like all other so-called “free trade agreements” is about trade protection. It is chock-a-block with lists of free trade exempt items such as digital goods and medicines. It seeks to increase copyright protection over these goods. Extend trademarks.

Australians would continue to pay more for these under the TPP. Leaked documents from the largely secret treaty, a lawyers’ picnic that was seven years in the making reveal that the TPP would extend US copyright laws over Australian businesses, hindering innovation and adding compliance costs, according to intellectual property experts.

In brief, one big lie inhabits another. Shorten is demonised for not valuing a dead TPP. It’s a bizarre contortionist performance from a frantic PM who is scaling new heights of absurdity in his will to convince us, against all evidence, that the dead parrot sings.  How can he keep a straight face? Yet his resurrection dream is even sillier.

Not only is the TPP alive and well, with a quick re-jig and a few shanghaied new crew members from China, Indonesia, or wherever, we’ll be in easy street, rich beyond belief by rivers of free trade wealth trickling down from fat cat exporters. Pity no-one apart from Turnbull seems to see his point. Or would ever believe a Coalition promises.

Unlike Turnbull, however, Donald Trump seems to be keeping his pledges. Or his threats to tear up everything Obama achieved, everything progressive or enlightened or wise. So much to undo. So little time.

Certainly he is backing out of the TPP as promised as soon as he takes office. Most see this as the kiss of death. The US is a whopping 40% of the TPP which is less about trade than enabling big pharma, big tobacco and other US corporate interests to dictate to Australia and other nations how local politics best protects US investments. With a TPP, for example, plain packaging of cigarettes would fail. The investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) clause gives corporations power over its signatories; all sovereign states.

The other aim of the late, lamented TPP was strategic. It would balance China’s growing regional political and economic power. Act as a bulwark against the rise of the (not-so) Pacific Panda with its military installations in disputed territories and its muscular global diplomacy. Yet that TPP is not the make-believe TPP which our government wants resurrected.

To hear Turnbull or Ciobo spruik it, the TPP’s not about strategy or investment it’s all about trade, and not just trade but free trade, Amen.  Look at all the deals that will go West if we walk away from the TPP at this stage. It’s bunkum.

In 2010, our own Productivity Commission found the benefits of the TPP to be negligible. No-one in government admits that TPP nations are already our trading partners. As for economic benefits, we didn’t need a TPP to have a resources boom from our trade with China.

Shorten ought to get real, Turnbull jeers. Any fool can see that the TPP is still alive. A quick ring around the neighbours and we’ll top up the numbers. Give the TPP skeleton the kiss of life. Put Humpty Dumpty together again. Get the gang show back on the road.

Of course, he’s got a lot to deal with – there’s a rift between the nervous nellies of the back bench who fear electoral annihilation through sheer incompetence and own goals of a cabinet you could drive a panzer tank division through. Or drag a Trump tower. Sideways. But his latest outrageous display is insane. Of course, there’s a lot on his disordered mind.

Factor in a damaging rorting crisis with the recycling of World’s best Greg Hunt, a fan of the US Health system, as Health Minister and a perfect, scrap-Medicare patsy. Blend in a complete absence of any plan or policy to speak of beyond tax cuts for the rich. Add a dash of Narcissus Trump who doesn’t give a toss for all our diplomatic grovelling, fawning and our mindless US-Alliance fetishising.

All he cares about is the size of his inauguration crowd and throwing his weight around.

Presto! Desperation is bound to break out. You might almost feel sorry for a PM who once had to say that he and The Donald were peas in a pod with their business backgrounds and their late entry politics – even if neither of these is true. Alternative facts, rule, OK?

We have come to expect the unexpected from a government with no real plan and less demonstrated competence – beyond a genius for turning crisis into catastrophe. Yet, as the year of the Rooster dawns, everywhere is chaos and cock-up. Trump-mania afflicts his crew, the new US president turns out to be mad, bad and dangerous to know, a monster intent on proving he’s boss at all costs. No wonder Captain Mal is showing a bit of strain.

But who would have thought he’d reprise the Monty Python dead parrot sketch in his madness- his manic quest to wedge Bill Shorten on the TPP; an ex-treaty, an agreement which even Shinzo Abe, never the sharpest knife in the sushi kitchen, can tell you is deceased.

Or could it be that the dead parrot represents the Turnbull government itself that is deceased, DOA at the beginning of 2017 parliamentary year; all over bar the squawking?

 

Trump’s new world disorder catches Turnbull government napping.

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“Watching Donald Trump take the oath of office is like seeing Bobo the Clown Photoshopped into the Last Supper,” writes the ABC’s Simon Royal. Many Americans are equally shocked. A narcissist with no concern beyond himself and his wealth, a political simpleton, with no experience in public life and little understanding of public issues, an egoist who poses as a populist reformer, a redneck who made his contempt for tradition, protocol and taboo his byword, the 45th President of the United States is a shocker.

Could Americans have chosen a more divisive, more unfit figure? The inauguration, 20 January of the seventy-year-old, reality TV star, real-estate hustler, former beauty pageant entrepreneur, six-times bankrupt and one time professional wrestler installs a president with a 40% approval in opinion polls, the lowest on record.

Trump gained 3 million popular votes less than his rival, Hilary Clinton. It shows. Washington public transport figures reveal fifty per cent fewer locals turn out for Trump than Obama. Protesters take to the streets.

Trump already has half the population offside – and not just in the USA. Eclipsing the inauguration crowd, half a million women in pink knit “pussy hats” march on Washington, the following day in the largest protest demonstration in US history while around the world 1.5 million more march in support in 161 cities across all seven continents. “You can’t comb over misogyny reads one sign.” “Make America compassionate again” reads another.

“It’s been a heart-rending time to be both a woman and an immigrant in this country, says activist America Ferrera. “Our dignity, our character, our rights have all been under attack and a platform of hate and division assumed power yesterday.”

“You are really special, amazing people” Trump tells the CIA the next day, ignoring the Women’s March. He makes a beeline for the CIA HQ in Langley Va; after the National Prayer Service. He’s going to need to build some bridges, at least, with the CIA, having trashed their reputation in dismissing evidence Russia intervened in his election.

The “amazing special people” will require more persuasion than empty flattery, however. Sadly, it’s all Trump knows – along with contesting the truth of anything unflattering to himself.

The newly inaugurated president has already gone to work on his attendance figures, attacking reports of poor attendance. The media’s lying, he says of estimates of 250 thousand. He’s sure it was over a million people. His media people are working on it. Give them a few weeks and it will be at least a million and a half.

White House press secretary, whining Sean Spicer uses his first White House briefing to lecture the press on its “deliberate false reporting” for ten minutes before walking out without taking questions. This administration will be holding the media to account, he says.

It’s an alarmingly adversarial start to the Trump Presidency’s relationship with the press, yet it continues the Trump campaign theme that bad news is fake news and the tactic of disputing all reporting which may be critical or hold Trump presidency to account.

Trump can, however, count on a Mexican wave of support down under. Luckily for the new president and for the “ordinary Strines” she claims to represent, (while consistently voting with the government), Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party has sent its envoy Brian Burston to give the 45th president its own special blessing.

Burston’s already in the press with his endorsement of the new type of One Nation candidate and how they are heaps better than the 1998 train wreck, QLD PHON party. For starters, this time the party is way smarter. Any fool can see that unlike today’s breed,

They ran dopes, unemployed, inexperienced, not all that intellectual

Hanson’s too busy, herself, she says with state election matters involving travel which she books up to her federal government account, unable or unwilling to see when challenged that this is a rort. Burston pays his own way to the US Trump mother ship.

Busy indeed. Hanson assembles her WA candidates but refuses to speak about them, in a Trump-style attack on right of the press to scrutinise public life. “I’m not going to have trial by media here, with all of my candidates. If this interview is going to be all about the candidates that represent me, I’m sorry, but this interview is finished,” Hanson says.

Piquing interest, is One Nation’s candidate for Dawesville, Pastor Lawrence Shave, whose Bikini Baristas business plan will enable consumers to ogle women in swimwear while they satisfy their caffeine fix. Pastor Shave also professes divine, healing powers but Hanson stops the presser.

Hanson’s new WA breed of candidate is a step up from the old guard including former PHON Senator, stand up comedian Rod Culleton whose latest routine is to refuse to accept the Federal Court and Senate ruling that he should be removed from his seat because he is bankrupt. He says he is solvent and will not leave his office. He could now face prosecution for impersonating a government official. It’s a sobering prospect. Yet Pauline’s distracted.

A Trump-struck Hanson shuns the former sheep farmer to put tickets on herself.

So keen is PHON to be invited to Trump’s big bash, empiricist Malcolm Roberts badgers DFAT to find them some spare tickets. Later, these are flourished as evidence of One Nation’s hotline to The Donald and of PHON’s clout in US-Australian relations. Now all Strines can see how big PHON is. Earlier Hanson, or James Ashby on her account, tweets:

“Would you believe it? I have been gifted tickets to the Presidential Inauguration Ceremony of Donald Trump – What an honour!” Of course it’s not. Reports quickly emerge of masses of discarded tickets at the under-subscribed ceremony. “Gifted”, also, is a big stretch.

SBS journalist, Lee Lin Chin is quick to attack Hanson’s grandstanding: “Who hasn’t got tickets? No actual Americans want to go so they’re just inviting everyone. I’ve got a +8 for my man harem,” the pint-sized presenter replies.

The Donald’s Oz cheer squad extends beyond One Nation, or Lee’s man harem, however. It’s a mile wide and an inch deep before you even consider Corey Bernardi.

Never to be upstaged, former Labor PM and UN leadership hopeful, Kevin Rudd calls for a fair go for Trump. Patronises him. Like a child with a tantrum, Trump, should “calm down” his dangerous talk on China and Taiwan, seize our help with nuclear disarming North Korea and bring back the TPP, suggests “One Kevin” Rudd ever bubbling with practical ideas.

Always at arms’ length from practicality, PM Turnbull is upbeat about the TPP. Why, he’s been on the blower to The Donald, jumping the Trump shark, thanks to Greg Norman. Bill Shorten says it’s “a waste of time” and “a distraction” from a PM who has no plans for jobs.

Shorten is proved correct on the time-wasting when an unusually coherent White House statement that is not a lecture or a tirade confirms Trump’s promise to withdraw from the TPP is one of the Administration’s first acts. So much to undo, so little time.

Oz-media’s made itself look silly smoothing the way for Trump, the vulgarian at the gate. The ABC’s inauguration commentary is saccharine with mindless Coalition optimism, which is quickly revealed as so much wishful thinking from a government caught on the nod.

The official ABC spin seems to be that now he’s thrown his rattle out of his playpen and he’s got what he wanted, The Donald will morph into a sensible and moderate monster who only wants our constant undivided attention and who has the nuclear codes to do it with.

Nothing in the Donald’s inauguration speech, not even an echo of Batman, The Dark Knight Rises “…and we give it back to you, the people,” suggests that Trump will soften his campaign rhetoric in favour of more statesman-like role once in power. Everything he says about isolationist foreign policy, in his “dark and inward-looking” fourteen minute speech, his “America first, only America first” is an alarming departure from US interdependence.

So much for the Turnbull’s government’s agility. Its foreign policy, like its domestic planning is rooted in inertia; do nothing, or as little as possible, repeat mindless Abbott era slogans, bag Bill Shorten and see what evolves.

Now it’s caught flat-footed. Foreign Affairs light-weight Julie Bishop says she’s been on the job, briefing Trump’s team on Australia’s requirements but that could mean anything and besides, there’s no evidence whatsoever anyone’s listening. Or ever will. Even the national broadcaster struggles to spin that.

To be fair, Aunty is distracted by the shock resignation Friday of Director of TV’s Richard Finlayson which comes at a time of deep unrest within the ABC, under former Murdoch executive, Managing Director Michelle Guthrie, a Turnbull appointee, whose reign is mired in job losses, cost cutting and ringing accusations of “piss poor management”.

Guthrie is critical of Four Corners-type programs and seems not to understand the role of investigative reporting at all; wants to do “more about successful businessmen”. It’s a work in progress. Already ABC news is lurid with tabloid stories; sensation displaces information.

Expect a puff piece soon on Mr Donald Trump, the people’s president and the inspiring business types who comprise his cabinet. When it’s properly run down and ready to be privatised as the IPA wishes, the ABC could be flogged off to an American. Rupert Murdoch is reported to be currently enjoying Malcolm and Lucy Turnbull’s harbour-side hospitality.

Other media outlets are also complacent; Donald-conciliatory. The least predictable presidency, the least qualified and most divisive figure on the world stage ever is spun as more of the same. Nothing to see here. Business as usual.

“The fair-minded thing is to give the guy a go,” a folksy Rudd tells Seven’s Sunrise on Friday, aglow with sanctimonious hypocrisy given his undermining of Julia Gillard. Rudd’s voice upstages Turnbull as intended – briefly- but fails to quell what is reported to be hundreds of Americans who try to block the entrances to the Inauguration. Dump-Trump demonstrations take place in other cities in America and throughout the world.

“Illegitimate, bastard” shouts Code Pink women’s rights organiser, Madea Benjamin, who makes it into the section reserved for honoured guests and journalists and Joe Hockey before she is thrown out by police. A protestor gets dangerously close to the new president, if not quite in The Donald’s orange face, at least not far below it.

“Trump is not going to be stopped at the top, he’s going to be stopped from the bottom, from people rising up,” says Ben Allen, a thoughtful 69-year-old retired teacher from San Francisco.

“We support the right of everybody in this country, no matter what nationality, what religion, the colour of their skin, to be respected as a human being, and this guy doesn’t respect anybody.”

As he speaks, removed from the web is the Department of Labor’s report on the rights of lesbians, bisexuals, gays and transgender people. The White House’s exposition on climate change and efforts to combat it are also excised. Police hurl flash bang grenades to banish protestors from the inauguration parade route. The smell of tear gas wafts over K street, the heart of Washington’s lobbying district. So much to undo. So little time.

To borrow a Trumpism, its 45th president is bigly disliked already – before he’s even had time to” bomb the shit out of ISIS” or leave NATO or reverse Obama’s sanctions against Russia for hacking the election. He’s yet to slash corporate taxes, bring back water boarding, dismantle Obamacare or lift a brick to wall out waves of Mexicans.

Civil Rights leader, veteran Democrat Congressman John Lewis boycotts the inauguration also because Mr Trump is an “illegitimate” President, he says. Thin-skinned Trump takes this personally, as he does all criticism- even working into his speech an “all talk no action” gibe at “politicians” to echo his earlier tweet that “Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results.”

“All talk, talk, talk — no action or results. Sad!” Trump dismisses Lewis’ role in the protest movement which led to the landmark voting rights act of 1965 and the end of racial discrimination in voting in the US. Lewis has already achieved more for his people and for human rights than Trump ever will.

Malcolm Turnbull may not have been certain Tuesday just who would represent Australia at Trump’s swearing in but Ambassador Joe, Big Noter, Hockey clears that up with tweets that he, along with “all the chiefs of mission”, would attend all the events. We don’t hear that much from Joe: it’s good to know he’s still alive and tweeting. Doubtless he’s been busy saving the TPP and working on that people-trafficking asylum-seeker swap deal.

A messianic figure, in his own eyes, at least, Trump vows to be the greatest job producer that God ever created, a feat he will achieve by cutting taxes for corporations, a trickle-down con trick familiar to Australian voters deceived by similar promises. It’s a key detail in a fact free speech which is stuffed over-full of dreaming big and winning.

“We must think big and dream even bigger,” he says. “America will start winning again, winning like never before.” There’s no explanation of how this will be achieved or even what it means, just echoes of a former casino operator philosophy overlaid, perhaps, with the mindless Neoliberal cruelty which divides all human endeavour into winning and losing.

“We will bring back our jobs, we will bring back our borders, we will bring back our wealth and we will bring back our dreams.” Trump fist pumps. But expect delays. His transition team has only two of its fifteen cabinet members approved and has made only 29 of 660 executive appointments. Trump Inc. is nowhere near ready for government.

Big business is investing heavily in bringing back its wealth. Trump’s inauguration is awash with corporate donations. Chevron ($660,000) and Boeing ($1.3 million) are some of the big business donors who help the Trump team raise more than $131 million for their inauguration hoe-down — double any previous President’s send-on. A big donation secures an intimate dinner with the President and First Lady.

Doubtless, Trump aims to invest heavily in himself, (as did Turnbull with his $2 million donation to his own campaign.) Of course, he claims he won’t. Yet delegating his business affairs to his sons is no substitute for a blind trust. One expert on corporate governance warns that Donald Trump will be a “hopelessly conflicted president” whose unprecedented swag of commercial conflicts of interest will undermine his presidency.

“Parliament is set to return in just over a fortnight but why are they even bothering?”, asks Fairfax’s Adam Gartrell, who points out that MPs have little or nothing on their plates. The government’s legislative list is minimal. The new travel allowance and expenses bill shouldn’t take up more than six months.

As luck would have it, a new president of a newly Disunited States and a new world disorder will afford plenty of distraction, even if it’s only reading The Donald’s tweets. And being terrified.

 

Turnbull government ought to be shut down for fraud

 

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Former Howard Liberal government Minister for Social Services and other portfolios, Amanda Vanstone with  pup, Gus, a Weimaraner, who went on to bite the Pakistani ambassador.

 

Australia is way ahead of the game in terms of using government policies and processes to punish and isolate our most disadvantaged citizens so the Government can reduce its welfare spending a few million. We now allow our Government to implement the work of sociopaths and threaten poor citizens with imprisonment on the basis of half-cocked ‘automatic computer-matching’ algorithms that are allegedly tracking welfare fraud.

Bill Mitchell Professor in Economics and Director of the Centre of Full Employment and Equity (CofFEE), at the University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia.

 

“Bill Shorten’s skin is so thick it puts a rhinoceros to shame”, snipes Liberal hit-squad reservist, retired SA senator Amanda Vanstone who is rostered on this week to kick off the government’s perpetual rubbishing of the Labor leader.

She would know. Her own political style was brutal: “Let me put my dancing shoes on, ” she said on learning of the death, from stomach cancer, of fugitive Christopher Skase in 2001. At the time, she was the minister responsible for pursuing the fugitive. More recently, on Nine ‘s election eve commentary, she thrust her hand in Maxine McKew’s face.

“Talk to the hand, the face doesn’t want to listen.” The hand was almost as controversial as Turnbull’s victory speech.

She’s got her hand up again this week. Handy Mandy’s attack is a bid to help a government in crisis over its Centrelink debt collection disaster  while continuing the line that its policy failures are always Labor’s fault. Shorten and Tanya Plibersek invented the scheme, Vanstone writes, so they have no grounds, whatsoever, to criticise it.

Centrelink “does an outstanding job,” she dashes off, in pursuit of a red herring, because it is so big and complex and deals with 4.5 million (sic) “mindboggling permutations”. She reckons she knows. She once “had the welfare portfolio.”

Someone else can tell her it’s now more like 7 million. If they can get past the hand.

Vanstone and Welfare? Now there’s an winning double. It must be Liberal policy to choose the worst possible fit, like Greg Hunt, the Minister for killing the environment, for Health. Dutton for refugees. Who would have thought, Alan Tudge, another MP, like Ms Vanstone, with an empathy bypass, whose robotic delivery so perfectly suits an automated debt recovery system, would be Human Services Minister today?

Who would have thought a government could be so utterly out of touch that it would follow its debacle, this week, by extending Robo-debt to age and disability pensioners?

Vanstone’s bull-dozing joins Alan Tudge’s verbal sludge. The system is working perfectly, he crows. It’s meant to have a twenty per cent failure. That’s how it works. Fear and surprise worked for the Spanish Inquisition, too. Who knows how much more harm is yet to be done when the scheme is unleashed on age pensioners and the disabled?

Apart from its gratuitous cruelty, Centrelink’s “outstanding job” has public servants pitted against each other by managers, competing for the highest daily quota of debt notices, according to Tasmanian Independent Andrew Wilkie.

There’s a lot of “talk to the hand”, moreover, as thousands of Centrelink clients report, as their attempts to seek help or appeal mistakes and miscalculations are brusquely pushed aside. Fobbed off. Threats to seize or garnish bank savings have been reported. The “outstanding job” clearly includes extortion and obtaining advantage by deception.

“If the government was a private company it would go out of business or be shut down by regulators for fraud over the Centrelink debacle,” says former Digital Transformation Office head Paul Shetler. Talk to the hand, says Vanstone.

Vanstone is an expert in the straw man.

“What is it about us”, she writes, “what kind of bongo juice are we on when we fall for some schmaltzy rubbish suggesting that everyone should be allowed to keep overpayments?”

But no-one is making that suggestion. Liberal MPs caught in travel rorts defend rorting, it is true. Look at Steve Ciobo’s absurd claim that a Grand Final is a business meeting if you are an MP . Sussan Ley says she’s broken no rules. But that doesn’t mean everyone tries to cheat.

Keep overpayments? It’s a tactic to blur the issue, divert criticism. It’s a low ploy that can only increase suffering; further harden the dehumanising nurtured openly by Joe Hockey. the prejudice that the poor are leaners. Take away their humanity: take away their human rights. Scapegoat. Its demonisation of the poor is a domestic version of a cruel government’s denial that asylum-seekers are “legal” – have human rights, are entitled to care and compassion. Vanstone’s mob  helped start that with babies overboard in 2003.

Scapegoating helps bury the hoax of broken promises. When authoritarian structures or figures can’t keep their promises to their constituency, they scapegoat, Noam Chomsky warns. “Let’s blame it on people who are even more vulnerable and who are suffering even more than you are. Let’s make it their fault.”

At issue is an employment data matching system between ATO and Centrelink which crudely calculates client’s fortnightly earnings by assuming annual income is earned regularly over a year and generates letters demanding repayment of debt when it discovers or it miscalculates a discrepancy between the two agencies’ records.

Twenty per cent of demands from Centrelink are wrong. Yet many recipients are bluffed or frightened into paying up. 200, 000 letters have been sent since September. The pain and suffering is unprecedented.

In a reversal of natural justice, you are deemed guilty until you prove yourself innocent. Proof may be hard because the Robo-debt claw-back system can search back six years. Workers may not keep their records that long; ATO rules do not require it. Most don’t and the government is counting on it. Yet in contempt of reciprocity, fairness and good faith, if Centrelink owes you money, however, you have only two years to claim it.

Being bullied is the first approach many report. A threatening letter demands debt repayment with a ten per cent processing fee. Alan Tudge, appears elsewhere, to make it clear that defaulters could go to gaol. Attempts to clarify or rectify mistakes are often met with delays. In brief, Robo-debt claw-back is a flawed system, a wrong system, an illegal system before we even begin to consider the social or economic effects.

Bill Mitchell warns that the letters violate recipients’ human rights. Ben Eltham sums up.

Like the government’s last data debacle, the 2016 Census, it’s clear that there are massive IT failures here. This is not just a few glitches and bugs. A government department is sending out tens of thousands of erroneous communications accusing welfare recipients of over-payment. The government is falsely accusing some of the most vulnerable members of our community.”

Cruelly and irresponsibly, Vanstone misrepresents the issue, smears welfare recipients as cheats, parodying Shorten’s case for an inquiry as “We don’t give a hoot if you get overpaid, by accident or design; it doesn’t matter. Keep the lot. You’ve figured out how to get more than your neighbour? Good on you. There’s plenty more where that came from.”

How to get more than your neighbour? The pernicious lie of widespread deliberate welfare fraud is lightly tossed into the mix. It’s an assumption which underlies the whole clawback policy yet it is egregiously, wilfully wrong. Your prejudices are showing Ms Vanstone. DHS reports show a decline over the years in cases brought for fraud. In 2008-9, it recovered $113.4 million out of $87 billion in payments – 0.13 per cent.

There is no evidence to support $4.5 billion is available to claw back. That pot of gold your government is chasing just doesn’t exist, Ms Vanstone. But you can frighten people into paying anyway. Nowhere is there evidence of widespread rorting – for that you would have to look at politicians and their travel allowances.

Familiar also is her emotive plea that welfare is a burden on the taxpayer, yet Vanstone can add a loopy twist. “Take a $3000 Centrelink debt, she says. A person who pays about $26,000 a year in tax has to work for about six weeks to give the taxman that $3000 to dish out in the first place and certainly wants it paid out according to the rules.”

Yet only half of government revenue comes from PAYE tax. The rules? A tax system is part of a fair society it is not about resenting responsibility – “giving the tax man” but a way those who can work are able to help those who can’t. A real drain on the system, on the other hand, is the third of big businesses who pay tax. Yet Vanstone’s mob will give companies a $50 billion tax break.

Putting in the boot comes naturally to Vanstone who holds her own in a Coalition stable which boasts such feral attack dogs as Tony Junkyard Abbott or Senator Ian Macdonald or Peter “Nutso” Dutton. Indeed, her prowess in sinking the slipper once caused a mild-mannered Wayne Swan to call her a political hyena who takes delight in attacking society’s most vulnerable”.[4] Swannie’s too much of gentleman to tell us what he really thinks. Nor does he need to remind us that hyenas hunt in packs.

While she is unlikely to get under his skin, Amanda knows full well that Kill Bill is the only strategy the Coalition has going for it. OK it may well be derivative, out of date and increasingly ineffectual – like the Turnbull government itself but, hey, it’s fun and why debate the issue when you can play the man? Or all that you know.

Vanstone’s attack on Shorten, is a crude bid to redeem Clawback; to rehabilitate the Coalition’s automated debt-collecting process, a process which is part of its war on the poor and allied to its demonisation of welfare recipients – a process which is so wrong on so many levels that it has already done incalculable harm to thousands of Australians .

Vanstone’s chief tactic is to pretend that the only alternative to clawback is to leave overpayments alone entirely. You don’t pay the money back at all. Showing she’s all class – ruling class, the former Howard government minister charmingly manages to combine this misrepresentation with a dishonest slur of dishonesty on all Centrelink beneficiaries.

Yet Amanda is a welfare recipient herself. After retiring from the senate in 2007, she spent three years on the nation’s tit as Australia’s Ambassador to Rome. The job comes with a few perks such as subsidised accommodation, utilities and travel. Taxpayers lavish on the incumbent a multi-storey Italian mansion perched in the hills above Rome’s Piazza del Popolo.

This is not about Amanda, primarily, but the thick-skinned, wrong-headed, morally bankrupt government she represents. Never in Australia’s history has there been such utter heartlessness by the government department cruelly, ironically entitled, Human Services. Never has it been clearer to the Australian public that their government, unwilling and unable to chase revenue from company tax defaulters is prepared to go to war on the poor.

Most victims of Centrelink’s abuse in its Robo-debt-scam-the-poor-the-weak-and-helpless scheme have nowhere to go to get legal help. The basic legal help available from Centrelink will be axed in July. is Last year 150,000 of those who asked for help though community legal centres were turned away. Centres have had their funding cut.

Spare us the barracking, Ms Vanstone. Spare us the lie that the poor are worthless, lazy, dishonest and underserving. Save us your talk-to-the-hand endorsement. No need to put your own boot in. Your government is doing enough of that already. If you are worried about overpayment, how about refunding your government pension for the three years you were Ambassador to Rome. Remove the grounds for accusations of double-dipping.

The money could fund a legal aid centre for poor people falsely accused of fraud because Centrelink has made a mistake and that they are guilty until they prove themselves innocent. Call that an outstanding job all you like Amanda but it’s illegal, it’s immoral and it’s dangerous. Best of all you could back off with your attacks on the poor and turn your journalistic pen to ending rorts in your own political party. Reform is so badly overdue, they are about to undo themselves entirely.