No, ScoMo, we don’t want Tampa 2.0 or a 90 day season of Kill Bill.

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There’s something about the debate around asylum seekers that taps into the darkness in the souls of millions of Australians. There’s a reflexive suspicion and bigotry which is being manipulated and forged into hatred by wordsmiths on the government payroll.

 

It’s a practice of the black art of propaganda which is despicable and verges on the evil. It comes from those clever enough to know the power of language to manipulate and immoral enough to care little of the consequences.

Walkley Award–winning ABC journalist, David Hardaker

 

A pit-bull about to snap his leash, at least in his own fantasy, “Walter Mitty” Morrison lunges at Bill Shorten, across the despatch-box. ScoMo scowls, hunches, juts his jaw. The corners of his mouth turn down. He stabs the air with a forefinger; face twisted in fury and frustration. No nuance here. It’s less dog-whistle than honking fog-horn.

But it captures the tone of a week in which the government abandons any policy platform for a fear campaign based on a farrago of lies and a swill of wilful disinformation eagerly relayed by Rupert Murdoch, Kerry Stokes and others. Honk. Welcome to Tampa 2.0, the Coalition’s all-new recycled Kill Bill campaign with embedded media.

ScoMo will kill Bill Shorten on border security. You can read about his tactical genius in The Australian or anywhere in mainstream media, (MSM). All follow Murdoch’s lead. Nothing is said of ScoMo’s contempt for parliament, no protest over a PM with so little regard for democracy that he said weeks ago if the bill was lost he’d just ignore it.

ABC News Sunday night even has a segment allowing ScoMo to trash Labor for being weak on border protection after some nonsense poll that Kerry Stokes’ IPSOS gets up.

You guessed it. There’s a bounce for the Coalition! Already editors say it’s caused by Labor’s position on asylum-seekers. Cranking up the fear factor as we steam back to the future, is Attorney-General, Christian Porter, a name Charles Dickens would have loved for any character with a compassion bypass or a Centrelink, Robo-debt, bagman.

“Hundreds of asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru will undergo fresh security and character assessments as the Government prepares for an “influx” of medical transfers, AG Christian Porter says, reports Jane Norman for our ABC.

There’s no time to ask him about his contempt of parliament in trying to collude with Speaker, Tony Smith in supplying not-to-be-tabled legal opinion that Labor’s proposed Medivac Bill was unconstitutional.

In a rare win for democracy, Tony Smith tables the opinion that the Medivac Bill required doctors to be paid and therefore is unconstitutional because the senate can’t make bills which involve increasing expenditure. Labor’s response is an amendment stating that panel doctors would not get paid; making their positions voluntary. It is beyond scandalous for an Attorney-General to connive at such tactics but he’s not part of the MSM narrative.

No right of reply from Labor. Just another reminder of the way our national broadcaster has been subjugated through funding cuts and PM and Cabinet phone calls to the top floor of a corporatised ABC. Journalists’ union the MEAA is calling for a shake-up of the ABC to try and protect it from political interference, seeking a Board with more “independent, accountable and experienced” directors. It won’t happen under this government.

In a moment of epic self-parody, Communications Minister, Fifield offers to do an independent review himself.

Little is made of the Coalition’s historic defeat in the House over the Medivac Bill. Yet others are on their way. There’s a bill about making small business lawsuits more small-business friendly where they won’t have to pony up if they lose the case, which they mostly do, against a corporation with a big enough kitty to buy the best silks.

Disgraced former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce, making a comeback, is prepared to rip the Coalition apart to get this bill through he says (or words to that effect) if need be because when he’s not spruiking for SANTOS or backing Big Cotton against the survival of the Murray Darling Basin, he’s always been a supporter of the little man.

Barnaby is also keen on the big stick, until recently part of the Coalition energy plan – it doesn’t have a policy but it does have a series of postures. Errant companies would be forced to get their prices down and to lift their game. Now work experience treasurer Josh Frydenberg has tried to soft pedal the hard paddle. Joyce won’t let him. Expect a hoo-ha over the big stick resolved by some judicious media leaking of Barnaby-busting bombshells.

There’s also Greens’ Senator Jordon Steele-John’s motion calling for a Royal Commission into the abuse of the disabled. Expect ScoMo to embrace it now and just shelve it next to The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry which will also gather dust unless he can do something to nobble industry super – unlikely now the Coalition is a minority government.

Braver to shelve rather than face another embarrassing defeat, or risk being seen to lack mettle or bottle.

By Sunday, it’s all ScoMo’s show. Super-ScoMo will run rings (of steel) around a limp Labor leader who

“…cannot be trusted on our borders and Australia cannot trust Bill Shorten on border protection,” despite their being not a cigarette paper between the two parties on the absurd fiction of border protection.

Protect 25,760 km of coastline? We can’t even protect Australia’s greatest river system, the Murray Darling Basin. And isn’t Australia over the demonising of refugees? Polls suggest that we have rediscovered our humanity. (Unless you count Kerry Stokes’.)

But not ScoMo. Dropping his bundle, Morrison unleashes a Kill Bill missile of character assassination, mangling metaphor, misquoting mentor John Howard and causing untold collateral damage to his own credibility.

Yet it’s a one stop shop. The sloth in ScoMo is cheered that all he need do is assassinate Shorten’s character. Paint him as an untrustworthy union-thug-puppet; or an arriviste who is somehow also flexible enough to be a class traitor who parks his shoes under the Pratt family table, (a Turnbull-News Corp creation), a straw man which those sedulous echo-chambers the ever-reliable and totally authoritative Liberal focus groups or party polling respondents claim to loathe.

“You’ve got to have the mettle, you’ve got to have the ticker, you’ve got to have the resolve (he can’t remember bottle) to actually see things through and implement these decisions and not roll over to whatever wind might blow your way to make you compromise Australia’s national security and trade it away,” ScoMo preaches.

The unsubtle subtext is ScoMo’s public pat on the back by himself for himself about himself; his own mettle; his ticker. Where was that ticker in February 2014, when Iranian Reza Barati was clubbed to death on Manus Island? Morrison told parliament that Barati was outside the compound. It took him a week to correct the record.

Behrouz Boochani, winner of this year’s Victorian premier’s literary prize, who has been held captive on Manus for six years gives eloquent testimony to the regime of sadistic cruelty which began on Morrison’s watch.

“For days on end after the riot the Manusian residents and local guards told the refugees that they were just following orders. They claimed they were not to blame and it was all the machinations of the Australians. This was a well organised plan. They wanted to put the refugees in their place; people who only wanted to know how long they had to remain in prison. There was just one objective to their plans: to make the refugees return back to their countries by giving them a severe beating.” 

ScoMo’s campaign strategy is a captain’s call. In a flash, ambitious sycophants leap up to praise the idea. Scott Morrison? Why, he’s a virtual Clint Eastwood. The Saturday Paper’s Karen Middleton reports that former Howard (man of steel) advisor, David Gazard tells Sky News this week: “I reckon it’s ‘make my day’ [for] Scott Morrison.”

If it’s on Sky it must be true. Mainstream media, or the Rupert and Kerry Show recycle the preposterous line that being defeated on the floor of the House of Representatives allows ScoMo to focus on William John Shorten’s weak, untrustworthy character. Call out Bill for being flaky on borders and national security?

Genius. Checkmate in one move.

Yet, sadly for the Coalition, it’s not 2001. Winds of change are blowing  – and Peter Dutton’s fate blows in the wind. His dysfunctional Department of Home Affairs is again in damage control after it’s revealed that it has awarded a contract via something called a “closed tender” to Paladin, a mob which operates out of a beach shack on Kangaroo Island – which is a step ahead of the reef foundation that didn’t even apply for its $444 million grant.

Nor did The Great Barrier Reef Foundation – an idea floated by a group of businessmen while waiting for a plane – even have to go through “a tender process”. But then its board members were all models of probity, supported by corporations which are bywords for integrity and tax minimisation: BHP, Qantas, Rio Tinto, Google and Orica.

Paladin, naturally, also boasts a post office box in Singapore, a handy tax haven which does not tax capital gains.

An Australian Financial Review scoop finds that as Australians return to work, the Coalition pays $109 million to the Paladin Group, which is clearly being given a go for having red-hot go, as ScoMo loves to say. Pick winners; damn the bludgers.  Bugger any social contract nonsense that gives a go to those who can’t have a go.

Having a go? In 22 months, Paladin gets paid $423 million for security on Manus Island, an oxymoron, which includes gangs of drunken PNG soldiers who shoot up the old detention centre just to keep Australians safe.  No biggie. Peter Dutton has secret information on why that’s all OK. Psst. Paedophiles. A local five year old boy.

“There was concern about why the boy was being led or for what purpose he was being led away back in the regional processing centre,” Dutton later says although his slur is refuted by PNG police and refugees who point out that in fact a ten year old boy was escorted to the camp and given fruit to eat. Dutton never retracts his defamatory claim.

Alarmingly, Dutton, who is head of far too much to monitor any one thing, (namely ASIO, AFP, Australian Border Force, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC)and Office of Transport Authority) claims he had “no sight of” Paladin’s closed tender processes.

He freely concedes to Sky News that there are “very few people who can deliver services in the middle of nowhere on an island”, which is his nuanced way of blaming his departmental officers and handballing to Christian Porter who dutifully appears on ABC Insiders saying how fair dinkum Paladin really is. Nothing to see here.

Perhaps “Dutts”, as he is known to his mates, is working on a reverse Nuremberg defence: “Don’t blame me. I was just giving the orders.”

Whatever the explanation, OSB’s obsession with secrecy began with Scott Morrison who elevated his rank and status as Minister for Immigration into that of a tinpot military commander who was immune to the requirements of mere ministerial responsibility, an unaccountability, he buttressed by pretending that any information would be seized upon by demon people-smugglers. (DPS) Beyond despicable, DPS were so savvy with their depravity that they even had a “business model”.

And probably a Post Office Box in Singapore.

Answering questions was out of the question. ScoMo just gave up giving press briefings. Now he just harangues, sloganeers and evades questions unless it’s an on-air rub-down with Ray Hadley. Dutts just loves them.

Dutts is no slouch, either, when it comes to getting aeroplane people settled here. Who would have thought that people smugglers would switch to planes after boats? Or people would smuggle themselves, to the profit of people-smuggler Alan Joyce and his antique QANTAS fleet?

Well, certainly not Dutts but at least he can claim the record for biggest asylum-seeker migration. In 2017-18, 27,931 asylum seekers flew in to claim protection visas.

Only 18,365 asylum seekers came by boat in 2012/2013 at the peak of the inflow in the Gillard/Rudd years. Clearly, this fact is too nuanced for ScoMo and co, and well beyond the remit of News Corp.

The government’s argument – if we may flatter it with that term – has more holes in it than any of the bodies in the execution of Corleone’s enemies scene in The Godfather.

May 2018, 460 people are moved to Australia.  By last week, it’s 879.  But there’s no new flotilla of boats. Not a glimpse even of a demon people smuggler’s horns. Big Brother Scott mounts the mother of all scare campaigns including a video remake of K. Rudd’s 2013 classic sermon, No boat people will ever be settled in Australia!

Even more damaging for Morrison is that his claim to have stopped the boats is fraudulent. As John Menadue and others continue to point out, the boats stopped when Kevin Rudd declared in July 2013 that no asylum seeker would be settled in Australia. Yet a ruthlessly pragmatic Coalition, seized the chance to claim victory.

Fellow imposter, Tony Abbott, of course, needed to create his own high camp paramilitary force, giving his political chicanery high-sounding nonsense titles – Operation Sovereign Borders (OSB) – even though dealing with refugees in boats could be handled by our navy, in co-operation with Indonesia. But (OSB) took time.

And money. (Now “offshore detention”, or illegal, indefinite imprisonment in gulags -to cut the double-speak – costs over $4 billion a year.) And a shift in focus to boat turn- backs in violation of UN 1951 convention which has at its core a commitment to prevent refoulement. Our boat turnbacks violate this core principle.

We cheerily turn back boatloads of refugees; returning them to their persecutors. Innocents then face imprisonment, torture and death.

Stopped the boats? Operation Sovereign Borders did not gear up to turn back the first boats until 19 December 2013, when boat arrivals dropped from 48 in July 2013 to only seven in December 2013. That Morrison and Abbott stopped the boats is a lie we’ll hear a lot between now and the election. It needs to be called for what it is.

Similarly, the flood of asylum-seekers which the Coalition will continue to blame on Labor was, in fact, boosted by Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison in a cynical ploy to embarrass Labor. John Menadue sums up,

“Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison in Opposition gave the green light to people smugglers by opposing the implementation of the Malaysia Arrangement in September 2011.  Following the defeat in the Parliament of legislation to give effect to the Malaysian Arrangement there was a dramatic increase in boat arrivals. Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison gave the green light to people smugglers to really step up their activities.”

Thursday, Morrison’s macho plan is to filibuster. Fatuous Dorothy-Dixers and haranguing extend question time to a record 150 minutes to avoid Labor’s motion for a Royal Commission into abuse in the disability sector. It shows contempt for parliament process and an epic thumbing of the nose at our democracy which is a living, evolving and vulnerable institution- not as is commonly supposed – an immutable good or some fixed asset.

Stunt-master ScoMo, later, says he feared Labor would pull a stunt. Feared? Later, realising he has made a prat of himself, he says he has no problem with the legislation. He lies that he failed to receive notice of the bill. Yet the Coalition has, itself, abused disabled Australians by effectively redefining disability and tightening eligibility.

Last year, Industry Super Chief, economist Stephen Anthony reported that our federal government has created a “false economy” by restoring the budget bottom line through cuts to the disability support pension, forcing people on to the New Start allowance of $245 a week and potentially pushing more people into homelessness.

A 63% drop in successful claims for the disability pension between 2010 and 2016 was the result, Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) reports. A government that can do this is not only cruel and heartless, it is sadistic. Cue ScoMo’s gaze.

ScoMo’s eyes turn obsidian, a spectacle all the more chilling now he’s back in rimless specs after flirting with Turnbull horn-rims. Much too patrician? Clashed with his natty PRATT baseball cap?  His inner junkyard dog?

(Pratt Holdings paid no tax 2015-6 on a total income of $2.75bn yet donated $850 million to political parties.)

722 major corporations pay no corporate tax in Australia in 2016-17, despite one hundred firms reporting earnings  of over $1bn in total income. No problem. The Coalition simply takes more -and more from the average wage and salary earner to compensate for its scandalous unwillingness to expect the top end of town to pay its fair share. And it saves a fortune; denying most disabled Australians their rightful pension.

A maestro of mixed messaging and a muddle-class champion Morrison is incensed at the passing of the Medivac Bill which permits sick asylum seekers to come to Australia for treatment subject to approval of a medical panel and then only at the Minister’s discretion.

Wednesday, he loses control. Control of the parliament; the argument and of the beast within himself.

Now, I cant describe to you the fury that is within me that I have to now go spend money on opening a centre that I didnt need to open a week ago,

ScoMo morphs into some petulant put-upon national boarding house matron pouting and sulking at the prospect of suddenly being asked to put up extra guests. But devious. He’ll reopen Christmas Island. Frog-march the sick parade malingerers there. It’s an Australian territory, so technically, he can avoid bringing them to the mainland.

Yet the Coalition was happy to blow $275,000 in legal costs last financial year on challenging, in court, requests for urgent medical transfers of asylum seekers and refugees on Nauru and Manus Island. This figure doesn’t include the cost of air ambulances and subsequent treatment for critically ill patients, figures Peter Dutton must keep secret.

This year it will be more. Morrison cannot be taken seriously if the bleats about the cost of Christmas Island.

Nor does his government’s campaign impress those sampled in opinion polls. The latest YouGov Galaxy poll shows that the PM’s-all my own work -Tampa 2.0 stunt has lost support in Queensland, which pundits insist is a key election battleground, while overlooking Victoria where fear and division failed in November’s state election.

The QLD poll shows the Coalition down 3 to 35, while on a two-party preferred basis Labor is ahead on 52, to the LNP’s 48.

Worse, William Bowe’s Poll Bludger track’s aggregate of Newspoll and Essential Research shows 53.8 to 46.2 to Labor in a solid shift to the Opposition this week, much to the chagrin of The Australian and other right-wing media who were recently crowing about a Coalition “bounce” and fondly predicting a “re-set” as The ScoMo Show. By Monday, MSM will crow about a re-set based on Kerry Stokes’ aberrant IPSOS poll.

Morrison’s view in Opposition was ‘the more boats that come the better’. Nothing’s changed. Megaphoning the re-opening of Christmas Island is a blatant invitation to people smugglers. ScoMo is a desperate, ruthless Machiavellian pragmatist bent on boosting boat arrivals. What if a turnback somehow fails?

“Be it on your head,” ScoMo shrieks. In the politics of finger-pointing, malediction always triumphs over reasoned rebuttal.  If you have any kind of authority. Instead, all Minority Morrison can manage is an impression of a grown man throwing a tantrum. Now the beast takes him over. He leers at Labor’s front bench, his face a twisted mask of malevolent guile, a transfiguration evoking a Notre Dame gargoyle or Tony Abbott axing the tax in opposition.

The beast is stirring? Could the PM mean our wage crisis; the blatant beast that devours Since 2012, wages growth has slumped to record lows, with increases of only two per cent each year – well below previous levels of 3.5 per cent. This stagnation is affecting all states and territories, all industries and all types of work.

No. It’s Pandora’s Box. Heroically, our prophylactic PM boasts to Canberra’s national Press Club not only about his government’s solicitude for our well-being – there’s a plan. “Our plan for keeping Australians safe and secure.” ScoMo government will protect us from modern living, where calamity awaits at us all at every turn.

Or mouse-click and digital swipe. “The online world has opened up a dangerous place for our children. It is the terror of parents everywhere, including Jen and me.”  It is? Seriously? The terror of parents everywhere? No chance then, of teaching your children safe online behaviours – they have courses in most state schools.

“People smuggling, natural disasters, organised crime, money laundering, biosecurity hazards, cyber security, the evil ice trade, violence against women,” he declaims. Not a word about climate change – nor its devastating effects on our fauna, our fragile ecosystems, our environment that gives us life. Nor the vast new powers of the state. And nothing at all about the rise of lobbyists, the decline of democratic process and the rapid death of a free press.

Yet you can’t fault Morrison’s cheap theatricality, his hammy patent insincerity – the pantomime villain of our political stage. What a performer!  But will his voice hold out? Can he keep this up for ninety days?

Highlight of a week of lowlights is our Shaman-PM’s thrilling ritual invocation of the beast in parliament Thursday. Calling up The Beast is a climax to his bizarro shock-horror show to a non-plussed mob at The National Press Club. ScoMo eagerly poses as our nation’s Red Cross Knight, a crusader against a world of unfathomable evil, from whom our virtuous, if not saintly, Coalition noblemen and women in government will ever protect us. Journos yawn; check their smartphones.

Protect us? It can’t protect itself. Naturally we are obliged to overlook the Morrison government’s recent run of minor setbacks, which include its engineering of its own defeat in The House, mid-week, an epic feat equalled only twice previously, in 1929 and 1941 by two other governments who’d lost the plot.

Both were promptly voted out of office. Morrison’s mob should call an election now.

The federal government is now floundering; threshing and gasping like a Murray Cod in its death throes in the shallows of a dying Murray River at Menindee. Yet stand by for a miraculous resurrection as Kerry and Rupert breathe life into the Coalition corpse.

Despite the odd spot of bother, not to mention ineptitude, impotence and difficulty with arithmetic, our Broad Church Coalition will leap to the nation’s defence with an invigorating new production, of John Winston Howard’s 2001 catchy standby, The Babies Overboard or Tampa Crisis election, a classic Liberal victory if not a stroke of genius in Liberal annals, is also wrongly credited with winning Howard the election.

The Coalition has some dazzling theatrics up its sleeve. Yet amongst the hysteria and the rabid scare-mongering there are many issues on which it is to be held to account. It cannot base an election campaign on the lie that it stopped the boats. Or the lie that medical help will cause us to be flooded with an armada of boat people.

Nor can it conduct a campaign with no policy to speak of, especially in energy, education, environment and climate change. Australians will not tolerate a ninety day episode of Kill Bill, the Coalition’s favourite show.

Above all Morrison’s government needs to be held to account for its contempt for parliament, the Paladin scandal, its refusal twenty six times to hold a Royal Commission into Banking and the secret deal that seems to have been done between Ken Henry and itself over the terms of the commission and above all its evasion of responsibility for the death of the Murray-Darling Basin system.

These are just a few issues to begin with. The last thing the nation needs is a ninety day season of Kill Bill. Or a Tampa 2.0. Or anything with Scott Morrison’s beast in it.

 

Climate change is already making a bad situation catastrophic without ScoMo’s government’s denialism.

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Photo: Helicopter battles bushfires in Tasmania’s Southwest wilderness.

“Finished, it’s finished, nearly finished, it must be nearly finished Grain upon grain, one by one, and one day, suddenly, there’s a heap, a little heap, the impossible heap.” Samuel Beckett, Endgame.

 

Politicians fiddle as Tasmania burns. Freakishly new infernos blaze across 200,000 hectares; three per cent of the Apple Isle. Climate change fuels fires which now ravage fragile, ancient, high-altitude ecosystems that are not adapted to fire at all — relict forests from when Tasmania was a part of the vast Gondwana supercontinent, 180 million years ago at least.

Tragically, stands of pencil pines and magnificent King Billy Pines are gone forever.

Like an arsonist who must return to the scene of the crime, ScoMo-FIFO pays a flying visit to the Huon Valley, Monday. His quick pit-stop photo-op earns him a serve from The Greens’ Nick McKim who tells Scott Morrison to stop the nonsense; accept responsibility. And climate science. Stop pretending the Coalition has a climate policy.

Climate science is clear that Tasmania will face more bushfires and they will be more dangerous as a result of burning fossil fuels. Fossil fools like Mr Morrison should stay out of Tasmania until they are prepared to accept the science and adopt a decent climate policy,” McKim tweets. Ouch. ScoMo sulks and sooks; gets all huffy.

Morrison’s untimely riposte is to tell Nine Media that “many bushland areas in the state were unaffected by fire.”

Yep. Another captain’s call. Be of good cheer, me hearties. There are still parts of RMS Titanic not under water.

Labor’s leader, William Richard Shorten, whose party’s policy platform promises an emissions target of a 45 per cent cut and a renewable energy target of 50 per cent by 2030, pays Tassie a visit, too. He’s been there before. He knows the Beaconsfield Mine quite well. Bill’s no dill. He gives the conflicted Liberal leader permission to get real.

“Even the most extreme climate deniers are probably at the point of acknowledging that we are having more and more extreme weather events. New weather records are being set and the economic cost is growing … I think it is legitimate to talk about climate change.” 

Shorten knows Morrison’s Coalition leadership rests on his continuing the party line of climate change denial. Just after ScoMo knifed Turnbull, deftly riding the wave of instability; cutting in on Hunt and Dutton’s plot to make “Dutts” PM, Turnbull held a final press conference before he had to leave to attend to pressing, sniping business.

Turnbull’s lame excuse for failure on climate change policy is to blame his oddball colleagues; climate change is “very hard” for the Liberal-National Coalition because MPs have “bitterly entrenched” views, “actually sort of more ideological views than views based, as I say, in engineering and economics.” Or, God, forbid, science.

Ideological? Try ignorance. Last September, Party climate guru, cuddly Craig Kelly, the electric chair of the Coalition backbench environment and energy committee stood in for a no-show Tony Abbott. He knocked the socks off Mosman’s true blue-rinse Liberal branch by claiming that fossil fuels make us safe from climate change.

“The reality is we live in a time where our generation has never ever been as safe from the climate because of fossil fuels, concrete and steel,” Kelly confabulates.

“The climate was always dangerous. We didn’t make it dangerous.”

Emboldened, by November 2018, Malco spells it out. “The truth is … the Liberal Party and the Coalition is not capable of dealing with climate change,” Turnbull tells the Australian Bar Association’s Annual Conference. He adds, helpfully, that many of his former colleagues are convinced, like Trump, that climate change is a giant hoax.

Climate science denial is a huge electoral liability, according to the polls – even if – as Pyne threatens on ABC Insiders – to wheel out their totally discredited Direct Action, Emissions Reduction Fund, boondoggle again.

(Governments pay farmers to plant trees they would have planted anyway.)

But there’s a bit of ground to make up. Forest-clearing elsewhere in the country created enough emissions in two years to wipe out the gains of the emissions reduction fund.

Bazza Cassidy politely fails to mention that after the abolition of Gillard’s price on carbon – and despite the daylight robbery of the Direct Action fantasy, our greenhouse gas emissions are sky-rocketing. As are our electricity and gas bills.

ScoMo’s burning issue is less how to protect his own and his party’s ignorance than his politically sensitive skin, an engaging conundrum given, like Craig Kelly, or Abbott, he has the hide of Dürer’s Indian rhinoceros. He’s offended by Nick McKim’s tweet, he says. It’s always about him; never climate change, policy or any other issue at hand.

The Monthly’s Sean Kelly writes brilliantly about how Scott Morrison has made a career of never being responsible for anything that goes wrong; how he adroitly always removes himself from the frame.

“Morrison, in his own telling, is so often a mere observer. When reckless and false accusations have been made, it turns out Morrison has only presented the facts as presented to him; when offensive comments have been made, he has been only the dutiful messenger of the sentiments of others; in the rare cases he has made mistakes, they have been minor errors of timing. Events occur, but Morrison’s involvement is passive, tangential, almost accidental. He may be the minister, but he is not an instigator, only a vessel through which others’ bidding is done.”

ScoMo keeps shtum about Premier Will Hodgman’s requests for help with funding beyond the Commonwealth’s National Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA). While the Federal Government will fund up to 75 per cent of the damage bill, it applies only to people, public assets, some business grants and the clean-up.

Thousand-year old pines, and many older, not only burn; their seeds are destroyed, their soils incinerated, notes science writer, Nature’s Emma Marris. The pines represent species which have survived only because of their cooler, wetter microclimate. Now, extinction beckons, as drier, warmer weather is wrought by global warming.

Threatened also are pockets of a smaller but no less iconic tree, the Southern Beech, Nothofagus gunni, Tasmania’s only deciduous native with its spectacular rust-red to gold Autumn display whose relatives are found in New Zealand and South America, a distribution which provided first clues that the landmasses were once joined.

Climate change also brings its own tinder box; dry lightning strikes in the Southwest, now, while nearby logging and the record dry of 2015 leaves trees which surround the alpine forest with less capacity to act as a firebreak.

“There was no doubt pencil pine was on the mainland, but the fire and climate regime meant it couldn’t persist,” says David Lindenmayer, a professor of ecology and conservation biology at Canberra’s ANU.

“If Tasmania is going to become more like the mainland, there is a distinct possibility that its time is going to be done. That is a huge loss for the world.”

But the biggest loss is to ourselves and our federal government afflicted by the mental and moral blight of denialism, men (mostly) for whom climate change is “absolute crap” to quote Tony Abbott, the most destructive MP in politics today, whose ignorance and obdurate stupidity not only cost us a carbon price, but which inspire a small band of fellow saboteurs just big enough to abort Coalition climate change, energy or environment policy.

Lyndon Schneiders, federal director of the National Wilderness Society (NWS) says the Coalition is “missing in action” after five years’ undermining environmental protections. The Society targets former PM Abbott, former environment ministers Hunt and Frydenberg in its first major federal election campaign in a decade.

Tony should worry. A poll commissioned by GetUp! has Abbott losing his seat to Alpine skier, Zali Steggall. She’s leading the former PM 54% to 46% on a two-party-preferred basis, according to a ReachTEL poll of 622 residents commissioned by activist group GetUp and published in the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on Sunday.

AFR’s Phil Coorey sneers on ABC Insiders Sunday, The poll’s too small to be significant. Yet in Warringah, in the 2016 election, after preferences, Abbott got 61.55% of the vote vs 38.45% for the Greens candidate.

Abbott was saved by his nemesis. Oddly, last April, it was Coorey who reported Turnbull intervened personally by making robocalls during the final week of 2016’s election campaign to help save Tony after internal party polling showed the former prime minister was so unpopular in his own seat of Warringah, he risked losing it in a landslide.

The Guardian reports that Warringah’s voters worry about climate change. “Private polling conducted for the environment movement and for the major parties suggests community concern about climate change is currently sitting at levels not seen since the federal election cycle in 2007. Abbott, our own Dr No, naturally, denies this.

Morrison’s government needs to stop obsessing over photo-op politics and look south. Drop its populist posturing and  take responsibility. But that would require an open mind. And heart. The heart of Tasmania’s World Heritage area is dying, reports Richard Flanagan. The island’s sea waters are warming at two to three times the global rate.

Giant kelp forests which once dominated Tasmania’s east coast are dying. 95 per cent have been lost over the last few decades. They may soon become extinct, despite some brilliant long-term programmes to restore them. Kelp forests are vital to forming habitats on reefs around temperate Australia, and have been home to hundreds of species of animals and plants, Hobart-born journalist Lucy MacDonald reports for the ABC.

Yet ScoMo can manage only a token show of interest. The quick change artist dons another outfit. Heads north. He lobs in Townsville wearing an unbuttoned camouflage jacket. It’s useless. His blue shirt shows through; betrays a Liberal vainly trying to hide.

He’s photographed in a tank. A tank? It’s supposed to help with his posing as one of the troops cleaning up after floods, Tuesday. Abbott couldn’t resist dressing up in uniform either. Apart from macho image, it’s a prop to help him with his faux populism, a cunning way to evade any real engagement; answer any of the real issues of the day,

“My thinking is the support for Townsville people,” he puffs in his trademark humbug. “I’m not engaging in broader policy debates today. I’m engaging in the needs of people here on the ground, people in evacuation centres.”

ScoMo never engages in broader policy debates. When not plotting, his effort goes into scripting absurd Trump-like scare campaigns to prevent Kerryn Phelp’s bill to allow medical evacuation.

We’ll be overrun with refugees. Our national security is at stake. Murderers, terrorists, rapist will all race to the mainland if we allow sick refugees medical evacuation. We’d even have to spend over a billion dollars opening Christmas Island to contain them all.

Meanwhile, Tasmania’s wilderness is burning. Our greatest river system, The Murray Darling Basin is mortally wounded by mismanagement, maladministration and a man-made drought. 1,200 billion litres of water were extracted for irrigation in 2014-15 in the Northern Basin yet only about 35 billion litres, actually arrived at Bourke from upstream in the past year, according to the latest data.

Former Water Wallah – or Water Wally, ex-minister Barnaby is in witness protection.

Freak floods deluge Townsville. Two million hectares of Queensland forest have been cleared in the past five years. In the past three years, land clearing in NSW has increased by 800 per cent.

“The Darling River is dying, the Tassie wilderness is in flames, two million hectares of forest have been cleared in the past five years in Queensland alone and iconic species such as the koala are hurtling towards extinction,” NWS head, Lyndon Schneiders says. “Climate change is making an already bad situation catastrophic.”

Schneiders says the Coalition government has been “missing in action” after five years undermining environmental protections. Of course, it’s easier and more fun to put on RM Williams gear and be photographed “drought-proofing”. Flood-busting. Deal with climate change and its dangers? Our PM and his colleagues are in denial.

Or worse. Then Environment Minister in the Abbott-Credlin government, Greg Hunt, rings Tim Flannery personally to sack him; nuke the Climate Commission in September 2013. But brute force and ignorance fails. The Climate Council rises like a phoenix from the ashes. Like its predecessor, but with no government funding, the Commission’s mission is to warn us of effects of global warming and to advise us of possible ways to deal with it.

In the meantime, Tasmania is the canary in the climate change coal mine. The federal government can gain much by pledging its unconditional support and as much expert help as it can muster. It can help in other ways, too. And it can learn a lot about climate change and the dangers of mining and gambling on people and habitat.

This week sees an ANU report once-believed pristine lakes are contaminated by mining. Then Tassie’s a case study of a government captured by corporations some even donating proceeds of gambling, revealed only this week by virtue of lax political donation disclosure laws.  But the commonwealth can’t criticise, the laws are as effective as expecting ASIC to hold our banksters to account, the most risible proposition in Royal Commissioner Justice Kenneth Hayne’s report.

Spending four million dollars, but reporting only a quarter of its war chest, Tasmanian Liberals were able to buy the election. And lease political power. Wealthy corporate donors buy influence, off the record. in other states, too. It’s a major threat to our democracy. Yet no-one can buy time from the inexorable progress of global warming.

Or fathom its cost. The Council reports that extreme weather cost Australia $1.2 billion last year alone. While ANU scientists try to break the nation’s obsession with The Clayton’s Royal Commission into Ken Henry, with a bogus claim that solar and wind will mean we meet our Paris targets, the spotlight falls on the frenzied fear-mongering of a Morrison government unable to cope with any opposition, let alone the prospect of a whole ten sitting days until the election although Tasmanian Labor’s backflip on “gaming” – industry spin for gambling, our nation’s destructive $200 billion a year love affair with the punt -does raise the attention deficit stakes for a moment.

Tasmanian Labor abandons a policy to put pokies out of pubs and clubs by 2023. Did they cave in to federal Labor policy? Were they worried they’d shut themselves out of power? Whatever the reason, Tasmanians will suffer. Tassie Labor will suffer.

Along with the rest of us. Australians lead the world in wagering a staggering $11,000, per person, per year. Gambling ruins at least 200,000 Australians; causes families to suffer. Pokies’ addiction, can lead to self-beggary, theft and interpersonal violence (IPV) commonly, misleadingly, termed “domestic” rather than male violence.

Another ANU report, this week, has it that Tasmania, Hodgman’s Poker Machine state (Inc), a rambler and gambler’s natural paradise, has poisoned the water of its Highland Lakes – but it’s OK because it happened long ago.

Allowing miners to freely use lead, copper, arsenic and cadmium to extract precious metals, is a legacy of the environmental disaster our nation knows as “the mining industry”, Hodgman, dynastic Premier of the land of the eternal punt, takes pains to explain it’s just the way they did things in the past, by which he means 1893-1994.

Mining’s toxicity is a century old mystery? But there’s good news, too. TasWater says it’s OK; boosting Tassie and the nation’s global reputation as a budget holiday destination, with only 2000 natural species at risk of extinction, a third world country where it’s safe to drink the water – if you’re OK with slow, expensive, NBN broadband.

Fortunately, our country’s run of luck continues, The Royal Commission into Ken Henry has a happy ending. Banksters are sent to the naughty corner to be licked to death by ASIC, our toothless corporate watchdog which Kenneth Hayne criticises for hopping into bed with banks rather than litigate.

The Royal Commission show helps distract us all from our self-inflicted and our natural disasters and the love that dare not speak its name; our coal-lobbyists cum leaders’ climate change denying nihilism.

Two cheers for Kenneth Hayne! Happily there’s a big win for banks this week as Hayne’s Clayton’s report, a thorough flogging with a wilted celery stick, recommends that borrowers pay brokers’ fees upfront, a nip and tuck in the usury and extortion racket that is our banking oligarchy that will save our banksters $3 trillion dollars

Deputy PM Macca (Michael McCormack almost has the last word –“We are looking at climate, of course, (but) climate has been changing since year dot,” he says, before adding: “We don’t want to go down a path of renewables, which is not going to solve anything apart from de-industrialising Australia and making sure we don’t do manufacturing here and pushing electricity bills into the unaffordable state.”

Put that in your coal-fired chimney-pipe and smoke it. But lucky last word goes to cranky Kenneth Hayne whose wonderful performance of forensic irritability during the hearings, most capably assisted by the formidable Rowena Orr, was mistaken for the prelude to heavy penalties for banksters clearly capable of criminal misconduct.

His image has tarnished rapidly since the ACTU obtained a copy of a letter from Ken Henry to Josh Frydenberg laying down the scope and time frame of the commission. We’ve been had. Who knows if longer, better resourced commission would have led it to impose more serious penalties; more effective deterrents. What’s sure is that the government got the report it wanted rather than the one the industry needed.

“Experience shows that conflicts between duty and interest can seldom be managed,” Hayne observes. “Self-interest will almost always trump duty.” 

The Royal Commission, our favourite national theatre?

hayne and frydenberg

There is no scientific, intelligible or rational justification put forward for the reduction of 70 GL. The obvious inference to be drawn is that political considerations largely drove the NBR, not science. This is not only unlawful, but is deplorable.

Bret Walker SC, MDBA Royal Commission Report, p.63

The reek of corruption and decay mingles with the stench of another mass fish kill at Menindee this week. The  nation gags in shock and disbelief as not one, but two, of our favourite forms of national theatre, the Royal Commission Show, conclude with the obligatory self-flagellation in the form of tabling excoriating reports. Traditionally, this leads to a frenzy of self-exculpation in the uplifting and compelling “Don’t blame me” chorus.

Officials, everywhere, are left gasping for breath; floundering like a forty-year old Murray Cod left to perish on the bed of a Darling River whose waters have been sold off to profit wealthy rice and cotton farmers upriver.

In his report, SA’s royal commissioner, Brett Walker, SC, a distinguished constitutional lawyer, throws the book at NSW and Federal governments for their “gross negligence” and their failure to follow scientific advice.

In particular, he is scathing about how MDBA modelling failed to factor in the effects of climate change certainties into how much water was a “sustainable” amount to be taken from the river system for commercial reasons. The failure is systemic, historically traceable to at least 2009. It may prove catastrophic. Walker notes, however,

“The damage and depletion of the water resources, ecosystems and biodiversity of the Murray-Darling Basin since European colonisation, and the trauma and dislocation experienced by Aboriginal people, are part of the same story. The necessary work to protect and restore the river systems must go hand in hand with the necessary measures to include Traditional Owners centrally in decision-making about water planning and management.”

Walker castigates politicians for their “head in the sand” attitude to climate change and also buckets the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) for its unfathomable predilection for secrecy; its history of “grossly inadequate disclosure, explanation and consultation” in the handling of its responsibilities under the Water Act (2007) which regulates how water is allocated to irrigation or environmental flows in Australia’s largest river system.

In a world record water rort, The Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) has contrived to lower the required environmental release; deny the river its allotted 70 billion litres of water. No wonder fish are dying. Yet NSW wants to take even more.

NSW regional water minister and deputy leader of NSW Nationals, Niall Blair cops a personal serve, Friday, from Walker for his “grossly irresponsible” and crude remarks in promising to stick the state plan in response to the Menindee kill. Anything less would “blow up” the Murray Darling Basin Plan.

It’s an alarming sign of the inertia, ignorance and hostility to sound advice as much as the vested political interests that threaten the adoption of the Royal Commission’s recommendations.

Blair wants to press on with the controversial Menindee Lakes project, a water-saving scheme to reduce the size of the lakes and empty them more often, a proposal which federal authorities caution would not help the environment – or as Walker puts it “threatens the national plan to save the Basin from irreparable degradation”.

NSW Nationals worry they’ll lose the local seat of Barwon as a result of the fish kills. Enter The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party whose donors include The Shooting Industry Foundation, a well-funded lobby group for relaxed or “simpler” gun laws and more gun sales. The party’s website takes pot-shots at “extreme” animal activists.

All up, the Shooters just shriek conservation and climate change science. Far too green for a National Party voter.

On the federal stage, The Nationals’ Big Dave Littleproud, Minster for Agricultural Resources and Water rorts, walks tall on the side of climate science denial. Last August, he told a Q&A audience and ABC viewers always eager to hear ignorance paraded in the interests of “balance” that he doesn’t understand the link between climate change and drought. Making the link is a “big call” for Dave. He does not “give a rats if it’s man-made or not”.

In minutes, it’s clear that for Littleproud, burning coal is the only way to safely generate reliable electricity.

This week’s fish kill? Dave is quick to blame the drought, but Walker painstakingly details a man-made river drought.  Busts a National Party billion dollar boondoggling triumph. At least four billion dollars of taxpayers’ money, has been given by the commonwealth, over the last few years, to farmers and agricultural groups for water-saving infrastructure projects that don’t work. Water buybacks are cheaper and more effective.

Brett Walker calculates that projects cost taxpayers two and a half times more than water buybacks to put the same amount of water back into the system. Over ten years, the cost of buybacks was $2026 per megalitre. $970 was the cost of purchasing a megalitre of water through efficiency upgrades funded under the Sustainable rural water use and infrastructure program (SRWUIP). As Bernard Keane notes it’s a lot of “free money for irrigators”.

Can the boondoggle, in fact, be busted? It’s not shaping well. Does the Federal Minister have the independence, authority and experience? DLP, as Littleproud is known to mates and staff, was Barnaby’s pick, a shrewd move that excluded the vastly more experienced Darren Chester in favour of the work experience boy; someone who’d mind his seat until Barney regained the leadership and the water portfolio for himself.

And Joyce is especially proud of his boondoggle. In his 2015 white paper, he brags

The Government is funding the largest investment in upgrading and refurbishing irrigation infrastructure in Australia’s history, investing in the future of competitive irrigated agriculture, as well as community sustainability. To implement the Murray–Darling Basin Plan, the Commonwealth has committed almost $13 billion through a range of programmes in the Basin through to 2024.

Clearly, Dave’s backers give him a boost. Sort of. Fairfax’s Mark Kenny gushes in a puff-piece how the “nerdy and bookish” looking Littleproud looks much bigger in real life he is than on TV and how his electorate Maranoa, the only National electorate to return a No vote in the same sex marriage survey, is three times the size of Victoria).

But the key is SA. Premier, Steven Marshall, who hollered for a Royal Commission while in opposition, says Walker has exceeded his brief. He claims the commissioner was supposed to look at a bit of water theft and leave it that. Still, it’s something he and Scott Morrison will get around to looking at later in the year. If Morrison’s still around.

Unafraid of doubling up, he’ll also look into the legality of the plan, something, it could be argued, Walker has just done. But Steve’s a crack-up as he wraps up with his dead-pan stand-up routine: “But I can assure every single person in this state, we are taking this royal commission report extraordinarily seriously.”

“Extraordinary and serious” doesn’t begin to describe the icy look given Josh Frydenberg by Kenneth Hayne, QC, who responds with a wintry glare as Josh Frydenberg tries to trap him into a photo-opportunity, Friday, as the Commissioner hands over his report to a Minister whose government is a big part of the problem. And let’s not forget that for a year in 2005-6, Frydenberg worked for Deutsche Bank as Director for Global Banking.

Hayne’s interim report depicts a finance industry rotten at the core by a culture of rampant greed and regulators too ineffectual to do anything. It’s safe to assume the theme continues in the final report. What’s wrong?

As Hayne puts it “Too often, the answer seems to be greed — the pursuit of short-term profit at the expense of basic standards of honesty. How else is charging continuing advice fees to the dead to be explained?” the royal commissioner writes.

Frydenberg is all smiles and faux-jovial affability; a rictus of offensive charm imposed over a shit-eating grin while former High Court Justice Commissioner Kenneth Hayne AC QC, skewers him with an icy disdain.

Hayne, a blackletter, black belt, in forensic dissection of fool and fraud, quite properly deigns a request to shake hands with jolly Josh, currently our federal treasurer, who had to be dragged kicking and screaming to accept a royal commission into banking. Twenty six times you denied me, Hayne’s face says. Spin collides with integrity as Frydenberg’s charm offensive blows up in his face. It may be the most damaging encounter of a damaging week.

“Nope” is all Hayne needs to say in a salutary display of personal authority, integrity and laconic brevity when a photographer suggests the pair shake hands. It’s a refreshing contrast to our palaverous political discourse.

Frydenberg may be frozen out Friday but an eerie silence stalks the land. Two dragon-slaying royal commissioners bust banksters and expose the Murray Darling Water allocation system as a billion dollar water-rorting scandal. But no-one stands up for their nation. Instead there’s a rush of weaving and ducking for cover.

Royal Commissioners Hayne and Walker file reports no-one in government could like – even a fit and functioning NSW state or federal government that could be held to account. There’s a slow bicycle race by states and Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) to say the least they can. Then it’s only to disavow responsibility.

Faux-Mo, our PM for standards, applies the choke-hold. He won’t release Hayne’s report, until Monday, giving himself  time to remind us how to trust our banks. Swiftly, shiftily, he fills the gap with his own spin on that old standby trope – the table – as if a royal commission alleging criminal negligence and fraud is somehow an ambit claim; a matter for negotiation. He also pretends he doesn’t know what’s foreshadowed in the interim report.

“It will be a question of what suggestions or measures they put on the table but I will be very mindful that I want to see the oil that lubricates our financial system – which is access to credit – continues to flow, otherwise the consequences would be quite significant,” Mr Morrison tells Nine’s increasingly pliant newspapers, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age in Brisbane. He’s protecting the banks before the report is even published.

ScoMo’s propaganda 101 technique misrepresents the issue as a choice between not being able to borrow at all and seeing banks held accountable for a series of criminal acts exposed by the commission which include charging fees to dead people and banks and super funds charging fees for no service. As Bill Shorten says on ABC Insiders, Sunday, the choice ScoMo offers is between an unethical banking system or no system at all.

Prosecutions may well be one outcome; civil or criminal referrals to state prosecutors could be made.

On the water front, or ruined, dried-up backwater as it is now, there’s another massive fish kill at Menindee but shit happens according to David Littleproud, the former rural bank manager, whose RM Williams gear helps show he really knows the many hardships faced by those who live in the bush.

“Save the Gravy” Dave fronts the cameras again; reminds greenies, Guardian-readers and townies to stop carping. Again, the choice he offers is between a corrupt, unethical system and no river water allocation scheme at all.

“The basin plan is lawful and was lawfully made”, he blusters, despite Brett Walker SC’s excoriating report which accuses the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) of negligence and being “incapable of acting lawfully”.

There’s little chance Littleproud has time to read the report. Gross maladministration, negligence and unlawful actions by Commonwealth officials are just some of the multi-billion dollar failures of the MDBA to save Australia’s largest river system, according to Walker. Walker has to name names, including, of course that of Barnaby Joyce.

Star of the aquatic show, former Minister for water-rorting, Barnaby “boondoggle” Joyce is invisible, either white-anting Michael McCormack or busy showing prospective vendors around his property at Gwabegar which he bought for 12 years ago for $572,000 but must now sell, for family reasons, for a modest $878,000.

Those interested should note “the dams are full and cattle and sheep prices are very good”, a detail which will greatly cheer other farmers in drought, especially those downstream on the Darling. Above all the two parcels of land are openly advertised as being covered by an as-yet unused coal-seam gas petroleum exploration licence, PEL 428, owned by resources group, Comet Ridge, a detail old Barney used to shy away from.

Nothing to see here, says a government which has nothing to say for itself either. ScoMo’s “major” speech, another modest “headland”, “landmark” production, Tuesday, gets even less attention. Voters can’t stop yawning.

By Sunday, Nine newspapers publish a drop announcing that the last kids will leave Nauru for the US. Heaven. Not only will it ensure they don’t see their families, they can join government workers in living off food stamps. How does this square with “Peter Dutton has revealed that 13 refugee children on Nauru are with parents deemed national security risks by the US” late last year, tweets Michelle Grattan. But no-one’s over-impressed.

No-one listens. Fewer take ScoMo seriously.  John Hewson jokes the PM’s “preaching to the deserted”. His slogans about growing 1.2 million jobs don’t match the lived daily reality of voters whose wages have flatlined for years.

Experts point out that jobs are not created by governments overnight. It takes decades to create the conditions favourable to a buoyant labour market. Others note that the promise is hollow. Our average job growth is around 200,000 a year for the last ten years. And how many of these are full time? Another evangelical gets this handball.

Party paragon of integrity and icon of probity, the unofficial minister for truthiness, Stewart Robert, is brilliantly deployed to assure voters that all the new jobs will be part-time, a claim he has to retract. Quickly. A truer figure, he admits would be around half. Even Leigh Sales is on to how ScoMo talks out of the back of his neck, pointing out to him that half his jobs will be taken up by migrant workers. Yet Morrison has promised to cap immigration.

Diversion! Furiously, Morrison flogs Labor with the big stick he has left over unused from his power company standover stunt. Energy corporations are laughing all the way to the bank. Energy Australia posted a 200% profit last August, a rise in earnings for the Hong Kong-based utility company from $129 million to $375 million.

Of course the taxpayer effectively gives our battling power companies generous support. Investigative journalist, Michael West reports Victoria Power Networks, paid no tax at all on a four year income of $6,120,404,139.

It should pay tax. Just the health problems caused by coal-fired power stations cost the nation $2.6 billion a year.

As a user of fossil fuels, Victoria Power and Energy Australia are both also eligible for the fabulously generous fuel tax subsidy scheme, and a range of other subsidies, which, last year, totalled $11,692 million dollars – that’s around $12 billion each year that won’t be spent on schools, hospitals or age pensions.

Labor will put up your power bills. Taxes.  Run by union thugs. Tie businesses up in union knots. You can’t trust ’em. He fondly reprises the golden oldies from Abbott’s glorious but pyrrhic victory of 2013 when all you had to do was oppose everything Labor proposed – and promise to scrap a carbon tax that wasn’t a carbon tax to lower electricity bills – which it could never do and lie about no new taxes. And make up absurd scares.

Whyalla was going to be wiped off the map. Lamb roasts would cost $100. Barnaby Joyce’s incredible carbon tax-boosted price estimate of abattoirs having to charge $575,000 per beast at least is worth a re-run, ScoMo.

A fatuous two per cent News Poll rise puts lead in ScoMo’s pencil. But that’s only two party preferred. His approval rating is slumping along with his spectacularly bad captain’s call to parachute Warren Mundine into Gilmore. ScoMo sends an email the Gilmore Liberal Party, half of whom have resigned in disgust. It’s another master-stroke. Sheer genius. The old impersonal unsolicited self-justifying generic email template is bound to win everyone back.

Tuesday, The Australian reports its latest Newspoll is a “lifeline” for Morrison, with a “bounce” in the polls – a lift of two points on a two-party preferred basis (Labor on 53, the Coalition on 47). It’s coy about how many it contacted but typically it contacts up to 2000 people – a sample size with an error rate of two to three per cent.

Once this is factored in, the so-called bounce of two per cent immediately is meaningless. A distracting public stoush always works wonders. Team ScoMo brawl openly over rats in the ranks as lone wolves appear.

At war with itself over climate change, energy, refugees, the government is hopelessly divided. Homophobic reactionaries still smart from losing their gay marriage gambit, but have yet to demand action on the religious freedoms ruse to reintroduce discrimination. The election plan is to bag Labor and to kill Bill Shorten. And scare. Scrapping dividend imputation and reducing negative gearing will cause the economy to tank.

Christopher Pyne says that Labor will cause a recession which is the Liberal party version of Pauline Hanson’s eminently sensible plan to get everyone to use up all the electricity to bring the grid down.

Truly sensible would be for ScoMo to call an election as soon while he still has candidates to field. Delaying further is not going to give him any election policies, his party’s too divided for that. And the hard graft of dealing with the Royal Commissions – both its recommendations but especially the issues they address cannot simply be left.

Neither democracy nor integrity, ScoMo? Even the rats get it right.

mundine and morrison

“For years – decades – we have had political correctness in this country, which I fear is raising kids in our country today to despise our history, to despise how we have grown as a nation and I am disappointed that Bill Shorten would want to feed into that.” Scott Morrison

Australia Day is not for moving, despite protests from thousands of Australians across the nation – and as far as London’s Westminster Bridge. At least this is the view of our current PM, Scott Morrison, who won’t move the date because, as he says Cook might have made the odd mistake, (ask the Hawaiians) but to change the date would be to kowtow to political correctness. The wishes of indigenous people don’t seem to count at all.

Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples see the commemoration of 26 January as a day of mourning, less a reminder of the arrival of Arthur  Phillip’s first fleet than a harbinger of the genocide, alienation, dispossession and brutal oppression that followed. Nevertheless, Morrison’s government is seeking to keep the day and to deify Cook, in policies which seem calculated to celebrate white supremacy, invasion, slavery and forced colonisation.

Morrison’s recourse to “political correctness” is dangerous nonsense, a dog-whistle to the alt-right who us the term to invoke an imagined conspiracy to silence them. To be politically correct in its original sense means respecting diversity, modifying language to avoid giving offence to others. But Morrison is a Trumpista.

Trump constantly abused the term. Political correctness was to blame for everything in his 2016 presidential campaign. A Muslim with a gun killed forty-nine people at a night club in Orlando. Trump blamed Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton. They had “put at risk the lives of ordinary people.” Why? Political correctness.

“They have put political correctness above common sense, above your safety, and above all else,” Trump raved. When Fox News’ Megyn Kelly asks him if he were part of the war on women, he rants,

“I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct. ”His audience applauds. “I’ve been challenged by so many people, I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either.”

Ironically, Trump’s own rise to success comes from a nation where voicing criticism of your government could put you in gaol, as Pussy Riot discovered, gaoled for hooliganism for two years in 2012 because they had challenged the support of Russian clergy for Putin and his regime.

Or it could be fatal. Twenty-one journalists have been killed since Putin came to power in March 2000. In most cases, no-one has been held responsible for the murders. Now the press is too frightened to tell the truth.

Only the RBC media holding, made a name for itself over seven years by its investigative coverage of business and politics, including Putin insiders. Otherwise a fearful Russian press ignored the Panama Papers.

A few weeks after its Panama Papers report, RBC’s top editors were dismissed. RBC holding changed ownership a few months later. It was bought by pro-Putin Onexim Group, controlled by metals magnate, Mikhail Prokhorov.

Trump became president with a little help from his friends; Russian oligarchs whom the West helped install in the carve-up of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. Their funding helped rescue The Donald from himself; a series of disastrous business failures. Yet who could have predicted he would become a role model for Morrison?

“I think we both get it”, ScoMo tells The New York Times’, Maureen Dowd. Even though Australia did not get rocked by a recession like the US, some people feel forgotten, left off the globalism gravy train. “And that’s what we get. The president gets that. I get it.” What gravy train? No, ScoMo, you just love the propaganda technique.

Despite his posturing as battlers’ hero, Dowd sees ScoMo as a lucky chump, the Stephen Bradbury of Oz-politics.

“In 2002, ice skater Steven Bradbury became the first Australian to win a Winter Olympic gold medal when his three top rivals crashed in a last-minute pileup. The right-wing Peter Dutton kicked off the coup that felled Malcolm Turnbull, but then the slimy Dutton and the soignée Julie Bishop crashed in a pileup that allowed the unprepossessing Morrison to glide across the finish line.”  Not that ScoMo didn’t have his skates on, already.

Heroic hamster-in-a-wheel, ScoMo the party apparatchik, remembers a forgotten people he never knew; ordinary folk, average workers, whose interests neither he, nor Trump, will do anything to promote; everything to imperil.

Wages are flat-lining and despite all the turd-polishing from government media spin units, workers are increasingly likely to be part-time, underemployed, underpaid and in casual, insecure jobs. They feel ripped off.

Overall, Australia may be richer but the rich are the winners. Alan Austin reports that Credit Suisse’s annual global wealth report and wealth data-book — which show more Aussie millionaires  — confirms that since 2013, wealth continues to flow from the working- and middle-classes to the rich.

For the Coalition, Frydenberg argues it’s just not happening. As for ScoMo, he’s too ordinary to be elitist.

Morrison’s minders script a PM of faux-mundanity who spends Australia Day with Jen and the kids at the Shoalhaven Heads Hotel, having a feed of flathead and chips as he savours a beer and his own propaganda-show.

“Can this cloying folksiness be any more unconvincing than his policies on energy, climate, anti-discrimination, anti-corruption and refugees both offshore and onshore?”, asks The Saturday Paper’s Richard Ackland.

Unconvincing or contrived? What is the Coalition’s climate, energy, immigration, population or water policy? As with economic and environmental policy, it is non-existent. Anne Summers finds “…so many policy deficits in Canberra, it is difficult to know if there are any established, well-based and effective policies still in existence.

Faux-Mo overlooks how Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan sheltered us from the GFC. Even if prompted, he’d rant about Rudd’s pink batt disaster or school hall folly, Abbott-Murdoch lies, which demean both projects’ role as community assets and as economic stimulus. But Faux-Mo is a post-fact poster boy. Spin is everything.

Part of his act is ignorance. This week Morrison imagines James Cook RN circumnavigating Australia, a school boy howler. Those who know their nation’s history shake their heads. Yet it is also a wilful re-writing of history in the service of white supremacy, evident in Morrison’s $5.7 billion fetish for all things Cook, an imaginary or fantasy Cook – the bearer of civilisation. It’s a calculated gesture of contempt for all indigenous peoples.

The racist Donald Trump whose real estate company in the 19770s avoided renting apartments to African-Americans, in favour of whites, in the 1970s would be proud of him. If he were interested in anyone but himself.

Or if he could read. Or if his inattention span or his narcissism permitted. In other words, were he not a bigoted, boorish, pre-literate, vainglorious lout. Or wooing his “base” with follies such as his hard-line on the Mexican wall, his potentially disastrous trade wars with China, his isolationist foreign policy – less policy than populist retreat.

And here’s the rub. It’s not so much that ScoMo admires Trump’s discovery of the people who “fell off the global gravy train”, whose interests both Trump and Morrison imperil in their mission to service the rich. It’s the bully.

ScoMo and some other locals – including what’s left of One Nation – have become fans. They are drunk on Trump’s contempt for convention and misread his wilful ignorance as licence to misbehave badly. Because it works: just look at Fox. Or Sky. Or anything by Greg Sheridan. It’s the vulgarian Trump’s bad-boy behaviour that appeals.

Trump peddles a heady but pernicious mix of philistinism, prejudice and brute ignorance, often confused with iconoclasm, strength or independence, by the naïve, immature or uneducated who form most of his base. Their uncritical adulation fits hand in baseball mitt with our US Alliance, a one-sided, unrequited love affair with the US as our protector when, in reality, the relationship is a liability. Seriously. Both, moreover, require maintenance.

The Coalition is “joined at the hip” to our once-great and powerful friend, the disunited states of America whose current decline into anarchy is presided over by a clapped-out, TV celebrity game-show host, Donald J Trump, heir to a real-estate fortune; a grifter whose career peaked when he appeared on a 1990 Playboy magazine cover.

The playboy who would later be drafted into The White House, in the emperor’s new clothes, is depicted in black tie, minus his jacket which he’s chivalrously given to Brandi Brandt, his Playmate companion. It’s all she’s wearing.

Oddly, there is no comment from Morrison’s government now that the fake president has hit a wall – in Mexico. You’d think there’d be a bit of applause from a PM who built a career on demonising immigrants and colluding in off-shore incarceration on Manus and Nauru so cruel, the UN says it’s torture. Or refusing medical treatment, especially to sick children, many of whom have been driven mad by five years of imprisonment, neglect and abuse.

Morrison could turn a blind eye to Trump’s lie that Mexico would stump up $5.7 billion, or so, to wall themselves in – just as he’s made no comment on Trump’s Mexican stand-off with congress. Morrison or Marise Payne could offer congrats – not that Trump’s backed down on his government shutdown, but on his bullying Congress that it had better pay for the wall come 15 February or he’d declare a state of emergency.

800,000 government workers are on leave or working without pay. Trump tells them to get credit at the store.

But still not a peep, not a word in any tongue from ScoMo or his government. Could it be that “chaos is reigning; the PM is jumping at shadows and doesn’t know what to do?” as a Liberal “hard-head” tells Paul Bongiorno.

Rats continue to jump ship. Nigel Scullion joins Michael Keenan in the rush to desert the sinking, stinking, Liberals.

Trump has hit a wall or two before, of course. After squandering the $413 million bequeathed him by his builder father, Fred C Trump, a bankrupt Trump Jnr allegedly sought help from Russian financiers.

Craving approval and control, Trump surrounds himself now with sycophants and incompetents. In his court are enablers and rent-seekers such as VP Mike Pence, who this week crowns Trump,  – as a type of King.

Colluding in Trump’s paranoid delusion of invasion by a migrant caravan, Pence claims Martin Luther King, would support the President’s empty threat to build a wall along the US-Mexico border. “Now is the time to make real the promises for democracy,” Pence quotes King on the weekend of King’s birthday. It’s sycophancy on steroids.

It is a week of mutual Endeavour. In the US, The Donald’s rabid fearmongering about how the land of the brave and the free is to be invaded by drug-crazed, diseased and dangerous criminals aka “many gang members and some very bad people” – from South of the Border, is boosted by his VP. Pence calls it an epoch-making speech, an epic, if not heroic, evocation of human rights worthy of the late great, civil rights leader himself.

For Trump’s small and powerless pal, ScoMo, too many Cooks are never enough when it comes to invaders. What’s left of Morrison’s government goes cuckoo over Cook. James Cook that is.

In Cairns, the PM busies himself setting the record crooked reinventing the doughty Scots-Yorkshireman as an icon of Western Civilisation, a scientist, whose mission was not to observe the transit of Venus or to make his men eat sauerkraut but to bear the precious gift of The Enlightenment to the poor, benighted inhabitants of this land.

The myth that Cook discovered Australia has been taught in schools for decades – too long-established to quickly challenge. ScoMo may know this. He has a solid base of disinformation to build his culture warfare on. Just for the record, however, James Cook never held the rank of Captain. The British navigator was a Lieutenant when he landed in Botany Bay in April 1770 and was promoted to Commodore soon after his return to England in 1771.

Not to be outdone in cooking the books, Nationals’ deputy leader, Bridget McKenzie, a “flash bit of kit”, according to former Tsar, Barnaby Joyce, not only wants to keep Australia Day on 26 January, she wants to rewrite history.

“That is when the course of our nation changed forever. When Captain Cook stepped ashore,” Senator McKenzie tells Sky News viewers on Tuesday. “And from then on, we’ve built an incredibly successful society, best multicultural society in the world.”

Australia Day commemorates the landing of Arthur Phillip in January 1788, nine years after Cook’s death. “The best multicultural society” boast is rhetorical nonsense; impossible to quantify. Yet it also slights or treats with contempt the migrant experience of racist rejection, exclusion, scapegoating and discrimination, at school, in the workplace and in society at large from the treatment of the traditional owners of the land through the Chinese gold-diggers, forced to walk 900km from Sydney southward across the Murray River to the goldfields to avoid the 1855 Victorian poll-tax, to Dutton’s African gangs. And the White Australia Policy is the elephant in the room.

Sadly, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young also errs. Incredibly, she hadn’t time to read her release before publication, she says. “Despite an important national debate about changing the date of Australia Day away from Captain Cook’s landing at Botany Bay, the Government has decided to spend taxpayer money it is stripping from the ABC on yet another monument to Captain Cook on the land of the Dharawal people,” her statement reads.

ScoMo will go ahead with his captain’s call, the commission of a replica of HMB Endeavour, a replica of James’ Cook’s barque, itself a copy of a Whitby collier, broad in the beam and shallow in the draft, ideally designed to navigate the shallows, or cope with running aground, even survive a collision with the Great Barrier Reef.

Top of the list it has a generous storage capacity for coal – a happy metaphor for Morrison’s government itself.

Oddly, Morrison’s second captain’s call is not going so well. Drafting wily Warren Mundine from his pay-TV show on Sky Mundine Means Business as candidate in the NSW ultra-marginal south coast seat of Gilmore, over the heads of the local Liberal Party branch may not fare so well. Ann Sudmalis was ejected from the seat in favour of Grant, “you better watch out” Schultz, the real-estate agent son of former Liberal party MP Alby Schultz.

Already there’s a bit of a fuss over the fact that Wokka’s company has received half a million government dollars to date, in two government grants in 2017 and 2018, in a process cryptically described as being “a closed process”.

Schultz quits the party and will run as an independent but not before firing a fine parting shot.

“I can no longer be a member of a party that does not support democracy or act with integrity,” he tells reporters.

Sometimes the rats get it right.

ScoMo where’s your trousers? A week of epic failure.

frank-bainimarama-points-to-australian-prime-minister-scott-morrisons-sulu-vaka-taga-as-he-arrives-in-traditional-bula-dress-with-hi

Some think, that the Rationall Spirits flye out of Animals, (or that Animall we call Man) like a swarm of Bees, when they like not their Hives, finding some inconvenience, seek about for another Habitation: Or leave the Body, like Rats, when they finde the house rotten, and ready to fall.

— Margaret Cavendish Newcastle, Philosophical Fancies, 1653


There’s not a dry eye in the house, Saturday, as a weary, teary, Kelly O’Dwyer, MP for Privilege (Higgins), minister for women, jobs and Neoliberal industrial relations, yet still seen as a Liberal “wet” makes her “shock” announcement. Internal polling suggest she’ll get the bum’s rush next election. A ReachTEL poll of about 1000 voters in Higgins published by the Herald Sun in November also indicates Ms O’Dwyer may “lose her seat to Labor on a two-party vote of 53-47″.

But it’s not in the official script which instead re-iterates the epic delusion of the Libs winning the next election.

In between her standard Liberal MP stand-up routine: the talking-point bot, Kel goes rogue, looks up a bit from her notes; talks of quitting for “very personal reasons” which she quickly makes public, using economic jargon. The O’Dwyers want to “grow their family” while there’s still time. In an exclusive in The Herald Sun she talks of a recent miscarriage.

Multiple Joyce, puns The Courier Mail‘s Sunday front page, meanwhile, sensitively reminding readers of the former Deputy-Prime Minister’s fecundity, given having a family is so much more interesting than dull stuff like whether our government’s lack of policy on climate or energy or environment will leave us a nation fit to raise a family in.

Barney’s partner, Vikki Campion is expecting their second child in June, a boy to be named Thomas, after his grandfather. Will Barnaby now quit politics for fatherhood?  Murdoch’s Tittle-tattle rag, The Herald Sun notes “family sources” say Joyce’s four daughters are “furious”. Dad is squaring off, meanwhile, for another tilt at being Nats leader.

ScoMo is frantic. How will his government survive?  Will other rats desert the rotting house? Seer, Samantha Maiden reckons Cabinet colleagues say Julie Bishop is only hanging around to spite Christian Porter who has his eyes on her seat. Blue ribbon Curtin is certain and has more cred than his marginal WA seat of Pearce to Porter, an aspiring Liberal leader.

Some Liberals are happy to see O’Dwyer go. Victorian Liberal Party Hawksburn branch president Thomas Hudson tells The Australian Ms O’Dwyer’s decision could be a “fresh start” for Higgins. “We have been losing Liberal voters disappointed with Ms O’Dwyer’s lack of involvement in the electorate,” he explains. ScoMo counters with fantastic spin.

O’Dwyer is a huge loss. There’s much talk of her massive legacy of tireless work for women and for workers. And banks. Who else but O’Dwyer, a former NAB investment banker, could have fought off a banking Royal Commission for so long? Who else could have drafted twenty Coalition-friendly employer representatives in a row on to the Fair Work Commission? When Fair Work’s president, Iain Ross, recommends only one new appointment, O’Dwyer makes seven.

Who could so stoutly deny workers penalty rates? Women are hit by penalty rate cuts more than men. Director of The Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work, economist, Dr Jim Stanford, points out that women make up 60 per cent of Sunday workers in retail, and 54 per cent in hospitality, according to current data from Australia’s statistics bureau.

More women are also likely to work part-time. Seventy per cent of women in food and beverage services, and 60 per cent in retail, work part-time, compared to only 52 and 35 per cent, respectively, for men, concludes Stanford.

Quit politics, Kel must, however, even if it means leaving “the natural government for women” without a Minister for Women. Perhaps Abbott could be drafted into another special envoy posting? He has the runs on the board. And time on his hands. Nope, nope, nope? Make that a definite maybe, Tone has a battle on his hands just to win Warringah.

Natural government for women? O’Dwyer’s nonsense comes hard on the heels of her public reflection on how the Liberal Party’s “homophobic, anti-women, climate-change deniers” image cost votes. Only cynics would conclude that O’Dwyer has been “counselled” into being more upbeat about the toxic culture of the Liberal Party. Surely she has not been bullied into making some sort of unconvincing correction or retraction?  Or bullied out of the party?

At least, Kel gets a gig on the Scott and Jenny show, a special Saturday edition, a post-modern press conference with no questions but with dollops of emotional support from First Lady Jenny Morrison, who is suddenly seen everywhere in public with her husband and lashings of micro-management from minder ScoMo, who smirks and grins vacantly into the middle distance, displaying his nurturing nature in between bouts of affirmative, paternalistic nodding for the camera.

“Supportively” is the word reporters choose, desperately hunting for a term to put spin on ScoMo’s rictus with a tic.

Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them in a Saturday presser.

Kelly is a “great woman who’s done a great job for her country and community” and has “made a great choice for her family”, Morrison gushes over her trifold greatness.

“There is no one I know who has worked harder or achieved more than Kelly O’Dwyer,” ScoMo lays it on so thick and chunky you could carve it. His hyperbole entirely discredits himself and his subject, regardless of his intention.

Some note on social media that ScoMo’s face reminds them of when he stood supportively behind Turnbull shortly before knifing him. Now he hovers, a looming, controlling, sinister presence, upstaging and overshadowing. O’Dwyer’s resignation announcement is not allowed to be a speech. He cuts her off. No questions. He hauls her off-stage.

There’s a lot more to run away from this week. The stench of the Murray Darling Basin scandal continues but despite a Royal Commission and a report from the Productivity Commission – and a wealth of expert advice that the river system is being killed by the extraction of water for irrigation by Big Cotton and other corporate farming oligarchies – Morrison stalls. His tactic is straight out of Yes Minister. He’ll call for more information. Meanwhile, the river system is dying.

“I think we need to look carefully at what is actually occurring,” ScoMo says. “Of course, the drought, as the deputy prime minister has said, has had a devastating impact on what we’re seeing, and there has been a perfect storm of other environmental factors, which has crystallised into the serious fish death that we’ve seen.”

“But before we start ripping up bipartisan agreements that have been very important to how we manage that area, I think it’s important that we inform ourselves more.”

Managing? A neon sign warning of the Coalition’s paralysing inertia and its collusion with corporate agribusiness to the detriment of the small farmer, local fauna, the environment and the national interest, the Murray Darling Basin is poisoned by greed and graft. Naturally, the catastrophe is all too much for ScoMo. Suddenly, overwhelmed by the need to find some high moral ground overseas, our self-declared “Prime Minister for standards” has to flit to Fiji.

A human chameleon, our protean ScoMo, who also moonlights as a lackey of Big Coal, Big Cotton, Big Gina and all other bigwigs of Australia’s corporate oligarchy, has to let China know that the Pacific is our back yard; draw a line in the sand drowning from global warming. So it’s off to Suva to drop his trousers and don a Fijian kilt, the sulu vaka taga.

“We are family”, ScoMo tells Fiji, thawing our diplomatic deep freeze which began with then Head of Fiji’s military, Commodore Frank Bainimarama’s coup in 2006. Bainimarama declared himself Acting President deposing President Josefa Iloilo. In 2007, he reinstated Iloilo who then endorsed the coup and appointed Bainimarama PM.

In 2014 his FijiFirst Party narrowly wins the first election since 2006. Just over fifty per cent of voters turn out.

Now petty despotism is cool again, especially as China waves its chequebook in the region. China is set to quadruple Australia’s outlay on aid to the Pacific region after pledging $US 4 billion in 2017, most of which is accounted for by loans to an eager PNG, according to Lowy Institute calculations. Other nations are not so keen on racking up more debt.

Of course, there are other items on the agenda. We must hush-up Peter Dutton’s stuff-up over Neil Prakash not being Fijian. The subject did not even come up beams ScoMo. In return, Australia will train Fijian soldiers should Fiji be required to defend itself against China, for example – or once again help another local despot seize power in a coup.

ScoMo frocks up in the sulu. The loin-cloth was introduced by missionaries from Tonga in the nineteenth century and was worn to indicate conversion to Christianity. It’s a typically bold if not risky gesture for our seat of the pants PM.

Notorious for his bizarre dress sense, decorum bypass and cornball humour, ScoMo almost veers into blackface. But what is our PM without his daggy dress-ups, his cheap stunts; his desperate attempts to ingratiate? His ear of tin?

A faux-Fijian ScoMo wags the White Man’s Finger; lectures the benighted Fijians on how to deal with climate change. It’s a remarkable stance even by ScoMo’s standards. His government won’t commit to lower emissions, even though this is what Pacific Islanders beg, nor will it commit to renewable energy, as Fiji suggests. Climate change deniers dictate policy. Accordingly, ScoMo’s party has no climate change policy. He rebukes Aussie school children for protesting about this.

Above all, Morrison has a feature role at home as a fossil fuel shill, the only MP to worship a lump of coal in parliament; the only PM to select former coal industry boss and Rio Tinto lobbyist, John Kunkel, as his chief of staff.

“We’re very committed to funds in the Pacific to deal with programs to deal with the impacts of climate change here,” ScoMo patronises leaders in Fiji and Vanuatu and any other Islanders who miss the ABC radio cricket broadcasts along with the odd tsunami warning since Australia stopped its short-wave broadcasts to the Pacific, January 2017. Another round of ABC funding cuts, cunningly dubbed “efficiency dividends” in Newspeak, ended the eighty year service.

Our ABC, claims to be “seeking efficiencies” – of course – and doing Pacific Islanders a favour by upgrading their service. Yet its shift from shortwave to FM transmissions and digital and mobile services, overlooks the reality that in the remote Pacific, particularly Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands, there is no access to an FM signal, limited internet and, where internet is available, it is prohibitively expensive. Yet it’s a boon to any tin-pot dictator.

FM frequencies can easily be shut down by a self-appointed prime minister, as Fijians discovered in 2009.

But it’s not just empty rhetoric; linking vacuity with platitude, ScoMo is a master of artful meaningless jargon.

“To address the impact it’s having on particular communities, and to ensure we can put in place programs which protect those communities, and to ensure the continuance of lifestyle and the way of life,” he soars, way past peak bullshit.

Fiji’s PM, former military dictator, Frank Bainimarama points at the Australian Prime Minister’s nether regions. It is not clear from images published – Fijian press is even more heavily censored than our ABC – whether Frank is laughing or crying. Certainly he manages to work a sense of “You obsequious hypocrite” into the subtext of his welcoming speech.

“Australian coal is killing the Pacific; Australia must not put the interests of a single industry above the lives of Pacific nations battling climate change,” Bainimarama barrels the hapless, trouser-less, Australian Prime Minister. He kindly refrains from bringing up ScoMo’s snub of the South Pacific leaders’ forum last year. Or he didn’t really miss him.

Luckily, despite battling invisible charisma, ScoMo has a fantastic Kanaka 2.0 Pacific Islander labour recruitment scheme up his sleeve. It turns out to be merely an extension of the Pacific Labour Scheme, begun 1 July 2018, but in a fabulous new neo-colonial cultural twist, Fiji will get “a thousand hours of television” – Australian content for three years!

But wait, there’s more, Morrison promises Kanaka 2.0 will help Aussie farmers as well as pay Pacific Island workers so handsomely they can support their families at home. It matters little that after three years of investigation, the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) found that many migrant workers are exploited, overworked and underpaid. And bullied.

In 2016, Seasonal workers from Fiji who were paid less than $10 a week, were told by government officials they must return to work for the contractor who exploited them or leave Australia. An ABC investigation then revealed many received little or no pay after deductions while picking fruit and vegetables for AFS Contracting, in northern Victoria.

“Bonded like a slave,” the FWO says in its report, compiled after its Harvest Trail investigators visited hundreds of farms, speaking with workers and farmers. “In some cases a person is virtually bonded like a slave to a particular [labour hire] provider, on the basis they have been told they won’t have their visa extension signed unless they see out the season with them,” says the sublimely named Jennifer Crook, Assistant Director, Compliance and Enforcement branch.

It’s an excoriating report but nothing, however, compared to Concetta Fierravanti-Wells’ free critique. She gives ScoMo a serve over being demoted after punting on Dutton in last August’s Coalition two-horse race to be Australia’s least worst leader. Like most of the ginger group who run Morrison and his government, she fears the Liberals drifting to the left.

Now she also hates the “socialist termite” – a right wing term for those who lean to the left even if they are just adjusting their seatbelts- Morrison for not being Dutton and mourns the loss of her former portfolio and fatter salary.

The former Turnbull Pacific affairs and international development minister, claims it is “disingenuous” for Australia to announce a loans program late last year for island nations while complaining of Chinese “debt-trap diplomacy”.

Concetta vents in an opinion piece for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Fairfax has not yet become solely Nine-infotainment, its rapidly approaching fate. It can still publish the odd piece critical of the government, something you would never get away with in Suva.  Or in Beijing. The gist of her excoriating public attack on her PM is quite fair and reasonable if not authoritative and well-informed, even if, as David Wroe coyly notes, she “breaks ranks”, the rat.

“A region that already owes about $5.5 billion to international creditors,” she says, “doesn’t need to be saddled with more debt.”  Yet selling debt turns out to be only part of ScoMo’s amazing sales pitch.

In a fresh new episode of ScoMo Goes Weird (Again), Morrison tries a bit of self-deprecating and insulting flattery, “We’ve done pretty well you and I, maybe punching above our weight”, ScoMo says ogling Mrs Maria Bainimarama.

It’s a compliment on the beauty of their wives, Jenny Morrison and Maria Bainimarama. How much better looking the wives are than their husbands. How both are in the ugly-bastards-with-beautiful wives joy luck club. What a hoot!

His island jet-away dictator love fest allows Morrison to leave the Murray Darling Basin clusterfuck – an environmental, economic and political catastrophe, a scandal without parallel in the nation’s history, in the safe hands of David Littleproud whose father Brian was Minister for Education, Youth and Sport in Bjelke-Petersen’s moonlight state-brown -paper-bag government and who is related by marriage to John Norman, the operator of Norman Cotton Farming.

What could possibly go wrong? Water Resources Minister Dave’s a great climate change denier and blames the drought, a laughably dishonest fob-off and a wilful misreporting of the detailed reports that have been sent his way. Labor is to blame. ABC News 24 Sunday runs an item which wrongfully implies Julia Gillard wasted $13 billion on a scheme that doesn’t even work.  Next, a lover’s tiff erupts between the Coalition partners, but what’s new?

“The Nats are plagued by scandal, vested with bullies and riddled with incompetence … The one thing they were supposed to be good at were [sic] looking after farmers and they have failed at that. Look at the management of the Murray-Darling,”  says Liberal Party Wagga branch president Colin Taggart,  who adds

“The Nationals are a barnacle on the backside of the Liberals.” Don’t hold back, Col. Tell us how you really feel.

Pity poor ScoMo the most clueless Liberal PM since McMahon. His government is imploding, rotting at the core. It reeks of rotting fish and all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little band of climate change denying, environmental, ecological vandals. There are rats in the ranks and frigging in the rigging aboard HMS ScoMo-go-slow whilst civil war and insubordination breaks out over our aid to Fiji. In Victoria the blokes are crowing over their victory over Kelly O’Dwyer.

Teach her to suggest they are misogynists and bullies.  Next up: how to stop ScoMo parachuting another dud woman into Higgins. Rational spirits are flying out like a swarm of bees as chaos reigns in Morrison’s misgovernment. If he’s got any sense he’ll go for a March election – linger longer and other rats will surely quit the rotting house. Or rat on him.

Cry Me a River; the Murray-Darling is being destroyed by ignorance and greed.

roo at menindee

A stench of putrefaction wafts over a troubled nation, this week, all the way from the tiny, dusty, outback settlement of Menindee, in far west NSW. Mass media is full of shocking images of an horrific mass fish kill in the millions and distressed, hapless, trapped wildlife; hopelessly mired in the deep mud of a dessicated  Lake Cawndilla, nearby, confronting Australia with the catastrophic failure of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, (MDBA), a $13 billion lemon.

The MDBA’s failure is a metaphor for our nation’s ruling elite, who, like Trump, inhabit the eternal now and are in politics solely to look after big cotton, big mining and their other corporate sponsors. Bugger the science. Bugger the future. Just like Trump, Melissa Price, our own climate change denying environment minister has mining connections.

The environment can look after itself.

Or not. Set up by the 2007 Water Act to rescue the basin’s fragile ecosystem, by returning water to the ailing rivers, the MDDBA, its conflicted, compromised and corrupted, dark angel, instead, is achieving “perverse outcomes” – jargon for making things worse. It is, as some locals suggest, as if we’ve put mother in a home notorious for elder abuse.

Evasiveness, secrecy and deceit, experts testify, are part of the rotten culture of the MDBA – a test case in good policy stuffed up at every turn; a clusterfuck from foundation to nearly every stage of its implementation. It’s almost (apart from the policy) in the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government DNA. Except that Labor had a spanner in the works, too.

The MDBA is  “a fraud on the environment”, Royal Commission lawyers declare, on the other hand. Put simply it has not merely watered down a noble plan whose rational aims are enshrined in The Water Act of 2007 – it has subverted it.

The Water Act 2007 recognises that too much water is being extracted from the river system and seeks to reset the balance between the amount required for human consumption and the amount needed to sustain the environment. By 2011, however, as the Royal Commission will find, The MDBA seems to have subverted the intention of the act with the support of key National Party figures including current leadership rematch contender, Barnaby Joyce.

Psst… No-one says nothing. The 2017 Royal Commission is due to report in a few weeks, but it’s stymied by states and authorities’ refusal to cooperate. Had the banks behaved in this fashion during the Hayne Royal Commission there would have been an uproar. Not so rotten in the state of Renmark, South Australia, alone, agrees to give evidence.

Unimpressed, Counsel Assisting, Richard Beasley S.C, an eminent specialist in environmental law notes, acerbically, in his summing up for the Commissioner, Brett Walker S.C., that the state governments’ submissions were,

“..either totally unhelpful or not particularly helpful.”

The MDBA itself excels in chutzpah and contempt by writing to the Commissioner saying it is unavailable because it is “busy”. Our finest scientists, on the other hand, provide the commission with a wealth of expert, testimony.

“Systematic mismanagement, cover up and maladministration has undermined the proper implementation of the Murray Darling Basin Plan”, Maryanne Slattery, a Senior Water Researcher at The Australia Institute sums up.

“Implementing the Plan for political expediency, without transparency or accountability by the Murray Darling Basin Authority, has resulted in a fraud of a Basin Plan. It has benefited big irrigators, at the expense of everyone else, including Aboriginal people, regional communities, floodplain graziers, small irrigators and the environment.

MDBA has ignored the science it was set up to apply in favour of pleasing its political masters. Now, the fish kill creates a big stink for both major parties but especially for Barnaby Joyce, former Minister for Agriculture and Water resources, who is on record boasting publicly to farmers in a Politics in the Pub-demonise a Greenie session in Shepparton, Victoria of how his mob, heroically, was able to take the water meant for the environment and return it to agriculture.

“We have taken water, put it back into agriculture, so we could look after you and make sure we don’t have the greenies running the show basically sending you out the back door, and that was a hard ask,”

Former Director of National Farmers’ Federation, Mal Peters, claims Joyce tilted the Murray-Darling Basin Authority towards irrigation interests over the environment when he was agriculture minister. It may be impossible to tilt back.

Joyce is popular with irrigators for killing off water buybacks and substituting subsidies for efficiency, effectively government handouts but efficiency reduces the run-off back into the river system with predictably disastrous effects.

Above all, “hard ask” Joyce insists on his rhetorical triple bottom line which gives economic and social needs priority over environmental; subverting the environmental aims and the entire intention of the Water Act.

“It’s a public relations sound-bite made up by the Basin Authority” says Counsel Assisting Beasley. There can be no trade-offs between environmental objectives and socio-economic ones, as the environmental objectives of the Act are subordinate to Australia’s international environmental treaty obligations. We are committed to Ramsar, a treaty to preserve wetlands, which takes its name from the small Iranian town where in 1971, the agreement was drawn up.

The Productivity Commission, notes in its recent report available in draft form – (its final report is with government on the understanding that it will be released in 2019) that cancelling buybacks has resulted in more than doubling the cost of water savings. The commission concludes that the current progress on implementing water efficiency measures “gives little confidence” they would be completed by 2024, as planned. But when will the report be released?

Joyce, Morrison’s government, the states and the authority itself show true leadership by keeping eerily shtum.

Hilariously, ScoMo, our chameleon PM becomes “Prime Minister for standards”, he declares, at the end of the week, as he cynically but shrewdly comes up with another spectacular diversion; a truly cunning stunt. Sunday, our own political head prefect decrees, that Australia Day citizenship ceremonies will be compulsory. And formal. No flip-flops.

Not only must councils run ceremonies for new Aussie citizens on Australia Day, they’ll have to hold another on 17 September. But watch what you wear. ScoMo’s bold new citizenship shindig has a dress code. No thongs and shorts. In brief, you can become an Australian at a citizenship ceremony only if you shun Australian casual national dress. It’s bonkers, but it has to be to distract from the biggest stink of the Coalition’s odoriferous last five years in office.

Bill Shorten sniggers at ScoMo’s cynical ploy. “You sort of know when Australia Day’s coming up don’t you, when a couple of weeks before we get the annual conservative outing to put politics into Australia Day,” the Labor leader tells reporters in Melbourne Sunday. “It’s what the conservatives do to keep their base happy.” As do the reactionaries.

Edicts and bad odour are no novelty to our nation’s history. Menindee also felt the full force of government authority on January 26 1935 when, during the first rally against Australia Day, twenty-give Aboriginal men were nicely told if they did not perform the role of ‘retreating Aborigines’ in a re-enactment of the First Fleet, their families would starve.

Echoing Morrison’s current concern for a good show, officials were to recruit the best singers and dancers and take them back to Sydney to perform. Their women were terrified. Ngiyaampaa elder Dr Beryl (Yunghadhu) Philp Carmichael, born and raised on the mission, was only three at the time, but her memory of the fear in the community never left her.

“Whether they were taking them away to be massacred or what, no-one knew. The community went into mourning once they were put on the mission truck,” she recalls.

Menindee is a richly resonant site, historically, politically, ecologically and countless other ways including our vast, interminable, inscrutable legacy of heroic colonial stupidity – and our forbears’ barbarous cruelty to Aboriginal peoples.

In the light of Morrison’s decree on the observance of Australia Day, another typically vacuous, bogan slogan which reveals his ignorance of his nation’s history, (“I think people want Australia Day to be Australia Day, it’s for all Australians”,) it is timely to acknowledge the testimony of Edward Wilson who wrote in The Argus, 17 March 1856,

“In less than twenty years we have nearly swept them off the face of the earth. We have shot them down like dogs. In the guise of friendship we have issued corrosive sublimate in their damper and consigned whole tribes to the agonies of an excruciating death. We have made them drunkards, and infected them with diseases which have rotted the bones of their adults, and made such few children as are born amongst them a sorrow and a torture from the very instant of their birth. We have made them outcasts on their own land, and are rapidly consigning them to entire annihilation.”

Menindee unwittingly played its role. The first town on the Darling, Menindee is the oldest, European colonial settlement in western NSW and was the advance base for Burke and Wills’ 1860 expedition, a grand folly half-cocked, a noble failure, which, not unlike the MDBA, or the Morrison government, set out before its instructions were finalised.

Today, the putrid smell of decomposing carcasses of millions of golden perch, bony herring and Murray cod drifts up over the Darling River bank and into Maiden’s Menindee Hotel whence on 19 October 1860, Robert O’Hara Burke and his third in command, William John Wills, set out into terra incognita; their fatal expedition and the beginning of the end; a shocking new chapter of disease, dispossession and genocide for the traditional owners of the land.

“It opened up the way for the pastoralists,” says Joshua Haynes from Newcastle, a director of the Yandruwandha Yawarrawarrka Traditional Land Owners Aboriginal Corporation -, “and the moment someone took up ownership of the land we could be moved on, or disposed of, just like a kangaroo.”

After the pastoralists came the irrigators; cotton and wheat farmers who took both water and land. “Without the river, us Barkandji people, we are nothing. We’ve got no land, no name, nothing. This is our lifeblood, this is our mother,”

Barkandji Elder “Badger” Bates laments in a letter read in NSW parliament by Independent MP. Jeremy Buckingham.

After waiting 18 years for their Native Title to be acknowledged, his people watch the Barka (Darling river) dry up.

Menindee, today, is thus, the site of a massive environmental disaster, a site layered with all the historical associations of dispossession, alienation and worse; of Burke and Wills grand folly, now overlaid with the folly of irrigated agriculture, unsustainable – environmentally and economically not only here, but throughout Australia. Add a failure of political will.

Big irrigators with big party donations have recruited politicians of all persuasions. It’s a dramatic, tragic reminder in microcosm of how poorly governments of a corporate state have mismanaged energy, environment and health for example when too much power resides in a few massive corporations and oligopolies. Yet we don’t lack in ideas.

In 2006, a meeting of western NSW mayors, chaired by local state MP Peter Black, voted for the Commonwealth to buy the 96,000 hectare Cubbie Station, in southwestern Queensland, the largest landholding in the nation and also the biggest irrigation property in the southern hemisphere, enjoying rights to 400,000 megalitres of water, equivalent to all the water licences downstream in north-west NSW, but it was sold to a Chinese-led consortium. It’s a scandal.

There were two Australian bids on the table, both more generous than the $240 million winning bid, as the ABC’s Stephen Long reported on Radio National’s PM programme in 2012. At the time Fairfax’s Ann Kent puzzled,

“There is something odd about Australia. Our politicians expend huge resources and even more hot air wrangling over how to exclude a pitifully small number of legitimate Asian and Middle Eastern refugees from our shores, while they allow, almost without a murmur, the purchase of Cubbie Station, the largest landholding in the country, comprising a number of properties the size of the ACT, by a consortium headed by a Chinese enterprise, Shandong Ruyi.”

What’s not odd is the all too familiar way authorities rush to scapegoat. They duck and weave to evade responsibility. In this popular political pantomime, it is forbidden to admit the role of climate change or of disastrous mismanagement.

Officials are quick to claim the fish are killed by a toxic algal bloom but locals say the primary cause of the catastrophe is poor water management and irrigation agriculture. The drought and algal bloom are secondary stressors on a system which has failed to use water specially allocated to protect the foundations of the river’s aquatic ecosystems.

“Droughts would have contributed to the blue green algae outbreak,” says Richard Kingsford, Director of the Centre for Ecosystem Science at the University of NSW,  “But the river droughts are happening more often and they’re more intense as a result of the irrigation industry in the Darling diverting water from the river over the last 10 to 20 years.”

Leading scientists agree.

The NSW Irrigators Council would have us believe it is all about the drought. It isn’t. It about taking too much water upstream so there is not enough for downstream users, and the fish,” says Professor Quentin Grafton, UNESCO Chair in Water Economics and Transboundary Water Governance.

What would Grafton know? He’s just a scientist. In the media show which follows, it’s all the fault of the drought of course. In a rare display of synchronised swimming, Agriculture and Water Resources Minister, climate change denier David “don’t give a rat’s” Littleproud, ducks for cover, as does his counterpart, NSW Primary Industries and Water Resources Minister Niall Blair in a hilarious visit to Menindee, where he is seen in a boat speeding past a group of local protestors – only for safety reasons, of course, a technicality which local police do not support.

Unsafe at any speed, The MDBA has, of course, long been warned by scientists that things are hotting up in the basin; hotter periods are lasting longer. Climate change can happen very rapidly and abruptly. Even to denialists.

NSW Labor wants a special inquiry into the ecological catastrophe – as if there’s been no Royal Commission. They want a commission or an inquiry to determine why the Liberals and Nationals sought “changes to water rules that reduced river flows and allowed the over-extraction of water by lobbyist irrigators who were National Party donors”, while ignoring warnings from the Wentworth Group of Scientists and local communities.

Professor John Quiggan has the last word by reminding us that irrigation never was the solution. He notes that agricultural economists recognised long ago that the environment in Australia, especially in areas like Menindee, was not suited to irrigated agriculture. Yet, as he wryly notes, the converse recognition, that irrigation schemes are often disastrous for the environment, came much later. Or as in the case of the MDBA, or the National Party not at all.

The stink from Menindee ought to be enough to bring down any respectable government. On the other hand, it is clearly capable of distracting the Morrison government into outrageous, ill-considered and divisive stunts like his new edict for Australia Day.

In all the fizz and the fuss over the fiasco that is the MDBA debacle, not to mention the frenzy of finding scapegoats and blame-shifting and just plain lying it is worth taking a longer, broader view especially as Australia Day approaches, albeit still on the 26 January. Above all it is worth recalling the rights and the role of the traditional owners of the land and their suffering both past and present – for it far surpasses, in all dimensions, the losses of the corporate cotton farmer.

Women are the forgotten people of the modern Liberal Party.

linda reynolds and old scomo

Often, when good women call out or are subject to bad behaviour, the reprisals, backlash and commentary portrays them as the bad ones – the liar, the troublemaker, the emotionally unstable or weak, or someone who should be silenced …” Julia Banks, former Liberal, now Independent MP for Chisholm.

Julia Banks’ resignation speech is eerily prophetic. Spooky. In a flash, this week, a pack of Liberal women call her a liar – in effect. Worse, at least one of the women, Senator Linda Reynolds, is a victim of political bullying herself. So she says – but she’s happy for ScoMo to sort it all out. Naturally, he’ll pass it all on to an “independent” review.

In September, he told the party room the federal executive “would consider how they will take steps to ensure there is a rigorous and confidential process to deal with concerns and complaints from party members, including members of parliament”.

But he’s also declined to take any responsibility for the bullying, a dead give away, or, reports Fairfax’s Latika Bourke, to back allegations of bullying against female MPs during the leadership spill. His cop-out, his abdication of any kind of leadership, is that “both men and women were subjected to intense pressure during the episode”.

Even more alarming, is the way Reynolds quickly finds another MP to undermine Banks’ testimony with disinformation, an evergreen propaganda technique which can only further weaken our democracy.

Banks doesn’t know what she’s talking about snipes MP for Corangamite, Sarah Henderson. “In my view, being lobbied for votes does not constitute bullying,”

Henderson deploys the classic bully technique of invalidating the victim’s testimony by misrepresentation and selective misquotation.

“I can’t walk in anyone else’s shoes; I can only speak about my experience. But I can certainly say that being lobbied for votes is an integral part of a political process and it does not constitute bullying.”

No, Sarah. What Banks has trouble with is “supposed colleagues, “sniping” behind her back, spreading malicious rumours and then trying to shut her up by hustling her out of their way with an all-expenses-paid posting to New York. She accuses supporters of Victorian Liberal powerbroker Michael Kroger of backgrounding against her.

“There wasbackgrounding that I was an emotional wreck.”

Julia’s experiences deserve to be shared. There is a truth in her simple testimony that the bullies just cannot explain away and a Prime Minister exposed as a gutless wonder.

“The Liberal Party can be proud of its record on women,” Reynolds insists in The Australian. “Reform may be slow but it’s solid,” she claims in a whopper that monsters all credibility. It’s pernicious, too, with its Trump-like, duplicity- its utter contempt for truth. First fake news, now fake views. But how easily are we seduced?

Oddly, only last August, at the time of Turnbull’s knifing, Reynolds was “deeply saddened and distressed”.

The behaviour of some had “no place in [her] party or this chamber”. By contrast, she notes, “I greatly respect my friend and colleague Julia Banks who is an outstanding local member and a woman of great integrity.”

You can’t polish a turd. “Great integrity” won’t help there, either, Linda. The Liberal record is damning.

What is “solid” about a party that only gives female candidates seats they are unlikely to win? What is there to be “proud” of? Last election, only three women Liberal candidates, out of thirty-eight, were pre-selected for safe seats. With Banks’ defection, only 12 of the Coalition’s lower house of 74 are women.

Six may not survive May’s election, given many of the 12 are marginal  – and against record disaffection. News poll has the Coalition primary vote at 35%, lowest in the poll’s history, four months from an election. Labor is on 41%.

Oddly, Scott Morrison is upbeat, riffing about coming back like Whyalla. It’s a whole new trope for him. No-one has the heart to explain that Whyalla steel’s new owner, UK billionaire, Sanjeev Gupta, who’s made a fortune snapping up steel companies in the old Dart, others wouldn’t touch with a pair of tongs, is installing 780,000 solar panels.

Some UK papers report that bankers wonder whether Gupta has “too many plates in the air”, a very British way of hinting – (not that ScoMo or his work experience treasurer would listen) – that the brilliant billionaire whose plans rely on the heavy involvement of key Chinese corporations in Whyalla’s comeback may be a tad undercapitalised.

Whyalla Norrie and Port Augusta, along with Nullarbor and Coober Pedy have some of the highest rates of domestic violence offences in the state of South Australia. Police responses are, however, improving in both quality and promptness – but longer-term support such as mental-health therapy for victims – often falls by the wayside because of lack of resources. For this, the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government is responsible.

Tanya Plibersek is quick to instance some other ways the Coalition is culpable. “The Liberals argued against increases to the minimum wage that substantially benefit women … and they also tried to cut around $35m from Community Legal Centres that provide crucial legal services to family violence victims.”

No politician could possibly be proud of the national statistics. There is a war on women. Domestic violence? Try male violence. One woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner. Nine women were killed last October, seven allegedly in the context of a current or former intimate relationship.

One in three women has experienced violence since the age of fifteen. Intimate partner violence is the greatest health risk factor for women aged 25-44.

Indigenous women are 45 times more likely to experience violence than non-Indigenous women. The severity of the violence is also greater, with higher rates of hospitalisation. Yet for all women, there is no sign of action by government or any authority to effectively deal with the crisis.

Awareness campaigns such as the Federal Government’s Let’s stop it at the start are relatively easy to run and can help increase public understanding but changing public attitudes to violence is the critical challenge. And so far it has proved hardest to accomplish. A key factor, sadly, is the strength and persistence of victim-blaming.

Awareness campaigns are no time to be diverted by those who ask why male victims are overlooked. Men need to become a voice in this fight. Experts suggest that as role models, men’s voices are crucial in calling out violence against women. Any voice. Some campaigns explore holding the general public accountable for preventing.

Queensland’s #dosomething campaign, works along these lines. Similarly, Victoria has its Respect Women: Call it Out campaign. Yet there is no sign of any practical initiatives from the federal government. Just cuts to funds for refuges and advisors.

Silke Meyer, Senior Lecturer in Domestic and Family Violence Practice CQ University Australia writes in The ConversationIn order to make domestic violence everyone’s business rather than an issue solely for women, awareness campaigns need to follow these examples.”

“More importantly, they need to address how perpetrators manipulate victims, their families and their communities, and how we all play a role in speaking out against such violence”.

To the privileged, sheltered, old white males who run the party under instruction from their sponsors and who mould its patriarchal culture, gender inequality is like social and economic inequality. Or like climate change. Or renewable power. Not only does it not exist, or not work, it’s heresy to maintain otherwise.

It’s a threat to their world view, a denialist fantasy which in many cases hasn’t changed since the good old days the MP attended St Ignatius College, Riverview, for example, the exclusive Jesuit day and boarding school on the Lane Cove River, where senior tuition plus boarding fees costs $49,520 P.A. Both Joyce and Abbott are old boys.

There are few signs that their schooling helped them understand or relate to women but there are key events which can help us understand their real attitudes and values. One fertile example will suffice.

At Sydney University in 1977, an enraged Tony Abbott punched the wall either side of the head of Barbara Ramjan, his young student political opponent, when he was miffed at losing a student representative council vote.  Despite Ramjan’s sworn affidavit Abbott denies the incident. Old pal and Donald Trump fan, The Australian‘s Greg Sheridan supports him. “It was inconceivable”, he writes – and besides “there were no witnesses”.

In the 1970s, Menzies era throwback, Tony Abbott, set the Liberal benchmark on gender equality,

“I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons.”

Abbott’s on-air rubbishing of the Human Rights Commission’s bright idea that women should have equal representation on boards last year, shows he hasn’t changed his views much. When the HRC proposed that company boards work towards a 40:40:20 representation, the Riverview old-boy was outraged. King of wittering talkback 2GB’s Ray Hadley was dead keen to broadcast to his equally threatened old white male fans.

“Obviously we have to give women a fair go, but some of this stuff sounds like it’s just anti-men,” rants Abbot. “There are lots of things we can’t change but one thing we should never do is fail to call out politically correct rubbish.”

The “anti-men” canard may be an expression of Abbott’s own fear of women but even from a former PM, it is a dog-whistle, a covert and inflammatory signal to similarly threatened or misogynistic men to abandon all attempt at reforming their hostility to women. It is a shameful, reprehensible remark.

Proud of its record? When, in 2013, Tony Abbott made himself Minister for Women, a clear gesture of contempt for women in itself, (Michaelia Cash was to be his assistant), he promptly discontinued the Women’s Budget Statement, a measure of accountability and justice which now falls to volunteers to compile.

Gender bias towards men is inevitable in a budget which chooses to avoid explaining its impact on women. In March 2015, Abbott’s government then stripped $300 million from women’s legal services domestic violence advice and casework services and refuges. Some found themselves turning women away who couldn’t pay.

This year, the Coalition does highlight budget measures of interest to women in its 2018 Budget statement ‘Women’s Economic Capability and Leadership’. But it’s not a gender-based analysis of proposed policies, it’s a quick tick-and-flick list of initiatives that may benefit women.

As for reform, a weasel-word now used to denote any change while trading on the connotation of improvement, as in calling tax cuts for the rich tax “reforms”. The Australia Institute finds that men get twice the benefit from the income tax cuts compared to women – because men dominate the ranks of high-income earners. Previous spending cuts mainly disadvantage women because women are bigger beneficiaries of government services.

As for the Coalition’s sainted record on women,  Tanya Plibersek retorts,

Over the last five years, all Scott Morrison and the Liberals have done is deliver policies that disadvantage women. The Liberals tried five times to slash paid parental leave, and called working mums ‘rorters’ and ‘double dippers’.

Not to mention the defunding of women’s refuges and local legal aid centres. As Eliza Berlage writes, “in its 2018 budget the government could map out the costings of a seven-year tax cut package but wouldn’t secure that same forecast period of funding for frontline domestic violence services.

Plibersek could add much more. Household income is lower than it was in 2011. Part-time and multiple poorly-paid or casual, insecure jobs with too few hours now dominate our economy. 69% of part-time workers are women. Of 12.5 million workers in the workforce there are now at least 2 million casuals.

Underemployment, underpayment and even wage theft are becoming the norm for Australian workers and it is women who bear the brunt of the decline in wages, conditions and job security. Most commonly, it is the woman who must seek further casual work to pay the bills – on top of her regular work and work in the home.

Last July, Fair Work inspectors forced business to pay $472,000 to 616 employees after their audit of the hospitality industry in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. 72 percent of businesses had underpaid their employees.

The Coalition has helped keep wages at record lows by such means as stacking the Fair Work Commission with representatives affiliated with employers. Low wages may help boost profits in the short term but in the long term it is a recipe for social and economic decline. Raising wages boosts both family security and the economy.

Banks’ testimony and the accounts of other women MPs bullied during Turnbull’s political assassination, last August, are an indictment on the Liberal party. The women were betrayed; their silence bought by promise of an independent inquiry, as Kellie O’Dwyer insisted, which has ended up as a review. It will go nowhere.

Yet it won’t go away. As the new year begins Scott Morrison must deal with the albatross around his government’s neck. His own neck. Or is he bullying women into claiming there is bullying? Or at least persuading them to collude in the cover-up of a toxic Liberal Party bullying culture by propagandising that women get a wonderful deal?

It’s alarming to see Linda Reynolds, who complained of being bullied in August now leading a group of women who contend, bizarrely against all evidence  that the Liberal Party has done more women than Labor. What pressure are they under? What threats or promises have been made?

How have they been coerced into taking this stance? Or are they, as Jenna Price suggests, victims of Stockholm syndrome, in thrall to their captors and abusers?

One thing is certain. The Coalition’s unfair treatment of women in its own party, coupled with revelations of a culture of bullying and intimidation, if not misogyny, will cost it dearly at the next election. Its failure to craft policy to significantly advance the cause of gender equality and its shameful failure over its five years in office to address the crisis of male violence towards women – beyond raising awareness campaigns is reprehensible.

The truth is inescapable: women are the forgotten people of the modern Liberal Party yet without women’s support, the Liberals will be out of power for a long time.