Turnbull dog-whistles on Aussie values while Trump bluffs and blusters.

US Vice President Mike Pence Visits Sydney - Day 1

Mr Turnbull identified Australian values as freedom, equality of men and women, the rule of law, democracy and “a fair go”, and claimed these were “uniquely Australian”.

“They are shared with many other democracies but they are in and of themselves unique. There’s something uniquely Australian about them,” he said.


A haze of fake tan and a whiff of panic hangs over Canberra this week as Malcolm Turnbull vows Australian values be put first. He plays an anti-migrant card to inflame the same blind fear of others as John Howard’s desperate lie of 2001 that asylum seekers were throwing babies overboard. 457 Visas will be scrapped to ensure that any migrant who gets an Aussie job can speak English. Pass an Aussie values test – even if he can’t define those values himself.

The fair go he speaks of certainly does not apply to women who as Michael Short reports continue to be paid less than men, on average $27,000 and $100,000 if we’re talking about executive salaries, according to Tax Office figures. The gender gap, on average 26,000 a year in wages, he reminds us, is unchanged after 20 years.

Australia’s take on a fair go and equality of opportunity ensures that it’s a blokes’ world where men have more power, earn more while women not only earn less and are more likely to be passed over for promotion. Women continue to carry out two thirds of all unpaid domestic work, three quarters of child care and 70 per cent caring for adults in Australia.  Unpaid childcare alone is estimated by PwC at $345 billion a year.

A fair go is a pet rhetorical device for our politicians. A fair go had a fair go from Kevin Rudd when he opposed Howard’s WorkChoices. Julia Gillard wove “mateship” into the skein when she spoke of the ways the NDIS could offer a fair go, a scheme now imperilled by our current government which pretends that there it is unfunded.

Turnbull gave it a whirl when he blathered on about tax reform in 2015. Menzies and Fraser also both hopped into it. It’s at best an appeal to fairness and justice. Equality of opportunity is in there, too. Clearly, however, it’s not something to be taken too seriously although the ten to fourteen per cent of Australians living below the poverty line would disagree.

Above all, Indigenous Australians whose life expectancy is lower than other Australians; whose children are more likely to die as infants; whose health, education and employment outcomes are poorer than non-Indigenous people would , sadly, have plenty of evidence to dispute the sincerity beneath the PM’s glib rhetoric. The irony for Malcolm Turnbull is that his trumpeting of Australian values, as Michelle Grattan points out, raises serious questions about his own.

Is he tapping into community fears; reaching out to ordinary Australians, widely believed to be Hanson supporters – spurned in an age of identity politics? Or is he willing, once again, to forgo his own beliefs to save his career?

There is nothing uniquely Australian about the values which Malcolm Turnbull is able to instance in a patronising interview with Leigh Sales on ABC 7:30, the PM reveals that respect for a woman with a different point of view is often conspicuously lacking. Indeed, viewers, would be forgiven for concluding Australian values include arrogantly talking over the top of your (female) interviewer and chiding, belittling or mocking your adversary’s commitment.

“I’m surprised you’re challenging this on the ABC,” he says. “I don’t think your heart’s in it actually, Leigh. I think you agree with me.” Daddy knows best, dear. Of course, if Turnbull were really concerned to preserve our uniquely Australian freedoms, he’d not only be practising what he preached, he’d be pushing for a bill of rights.

Instead, what’s clear is that his own heart is not in it. He’s toying with populist rhetoric. It’s also a dog-whistle to those who like Peter Dutton would have us believe, against all evidence, that migrants were taking our jobs. That all our problems are caused by people from other countries who don’t know Don Bradman’s batting average.

That’s it! He’ll set a harder test – only three tries allowed – as if migrants need further tests; as if the questions mean anything; as if any test which rests on cultural  assimilation is not at odds with even his lip service to multiculturalism.

Doubtless a focus group or a think tank told him this is how to win over Pauline Hanson’s fans. It’s not going to work. Yet there’s an awkward echo to Australia first. An orange ring around the rhetoric. An echo of the yam that talks.

The PM is, of course, paying homage to another weak, vainglorious lout, Donald Trump, who’s also muscling up, bigly.  Abruptly switching from America First or self-interested isolationism, to an intrusive, if not, trigger-happy foreign policy involving missiles and bombs, a violent right turn in desperate attempt to stem a rocketing disapproval in opinion polls, the Trump administration marks its hundredth day of chaos and dysfunction by picking a fight with everyone this week.

All the old foes cop a serve: China, Russia, North Korea, Iran. Russia’s “vassal” Syria is threatened with regime change. China must pull its spoilt brat, North Korea, into line; stop its “illegal activities” on the Spratly and Paracel Islands in The South China Sea. Pipsqueak Montenegro is pulled into NATO, adding an extra US base in Europe, antagonising Russia.

Yet a US alone in a world of threats is an illusion, a paranoid collective delusion. America’s real enemies are injustice, inequality and ignorance fostered, as in Australia, by a Neoliberal domestic policy which puts profits over people.

Trump promises “massive tax cuts” which would boost the rapid transfer of wealth from worker to capitalist, benefiting the top one per cent on average $214,000. Eight million low-income and single-income families would suffer financially.

It is not clear, however, that he will be able to deliver. Even Republicans – especially Republicans – want to see something revenue neutral. What he has accomplished is a Cabinet of billionaires and millionaires, the wealthiest in US modern history which stars Education Secretary Betsy de Vos, an opponent of state education, a woman who helped Michigan expand private schools with public funds. Students in Detroit now finish last in US tests of numeracy and literacy.

At the top, its role model is a president who knows no better than to claim in public that Korea was once part of China.  Not that it worries him. He has money. “Part of the beauty of me is that I am very rich”, he once told an interviewer.

We don’t care. US allies fawn approval. Mike Pence is feted by the Turnbull government this week as “wise and stable”.

Like Trump, who paid his own business $8.2 million out of campaign funds, Pence has also helped himself. 1990 campaign finance records show that Pence, then 31, was using political donations to pay the mortgage on his house, his personal credit card bill, groceries, golf tournament fees and car payments for his wife.  Not that it was illegal, then.

Turnbull may see this as wise and stable but it cost Pence an election. Public records also reveal as Governor of Indiana, Pence communicated with advisers through his personal AOL account on homeland security matters and security. Yet he’s despatched to Australia on a goodwill tour and to help us tell China to tighten the screws on North Korea.

It’s a rapid, dramatic change of role for the US. Exit stage left, Barrack Obama’s “pivot to Asia”. Enter stage right, Trump’s Team Heavy, a loosely affiliated gang of self-interested thugs united by their insecurity and a desire to kick heads.

Not that anyone can claim to have worked out Trump’s Foreign policy. It’s still a work in progress; a baffling, blustering incoherence based on boosting an already hugely unpopular, geopolitically ignorant President’s bellicose campaign rhetoric which usurps any rational policy based on negotiated mutual interest or calculated strategic initiative.

The US wants Russia out of Syria while it adds Montenegro to NATO.  Another link is added to a ring of bases it has established in spite of its 1990 agreement with Russia not to add a single one. It mouths off at Iran over its landmark nuclear test treaty. Iran, it says, is a threat to the entire civilised world. It’s a pivot to a hard core Neocon agenda which earns it gushing praise from a Turnbull government, desperate to arrest its terminal unpopularity by any means.

America’s reverse charm offensive is unique in US foreign policy history, at least in tone.  Cue VP Mike Pence, the smooth-talking former talk show hate radio host, who styles himself “Russ Limbaugh decaf” Hailed as a moderate, a safe pair of hands, (only by contrast with Trump?), Pence is an “evangelical social conservative“, a climate change sceptic determined to undo 40 years’ progress on abortion, gay rights, civil rights, criminal justice reform and race relations.

Anti-abortion, homophobic, Tea Party Pence is an oddball who won’t dine alone with any woman, a man who must have his wife by his side at events featuring alcohol. As a Congressman, he opposed federal funding to support HIV and AIDS sufferers unless it were matched by government investment in programs to discourage same-sex relationships.

Pence was one of only 25 Republicans to vote against George W Bush’s signature legislation No Child Left behind because he feared its Federal intervention in education. He visits Australia Saturday, with his family, to rapturous applause.

Turnbull is all over him like a rash. Over-zealous US sycophants feature large in the fawning over America that is our political leaders’ response to the US-Australia Alliance, an agreement which binds the US to do no more than consult with us in time of danger, but never has any PM been so keen to gush over a Vice President so far to his right.

Desperate for a bounce in the polls, in thrall to his own powerful conservative party rump, Turnbull dotes on Pence; rashly parrots US anti-China nonsense.

“The real obligation, the heaviest obligation, is on China because China is the nation that has the greatest leverage over North Korea,” Turnbull said. “It has the greatest obligation and responsibility to bring North Korea back into a realm of at least responsibility in terms of its engagement with its neighbours.” 

Does North Korea pose a problem for China? Noting its “medieval leadership” run by a family dynasty with “a habit of murdering its family members”, is problematic, Former Foreign Minister Bob Carr counters that China’s got less influence over North Korea than it has over any of its other thirteen neighbours on its 22,000 km borders.

China does fear, however, he says, that a DPRK collapse would leave US ally South Korea’s army on the Chinese border.

Yet nothing has changed in the behaviour of the leader of the DPRK. The only change has been Trump’s bluster.

Now that The Donald’s got his rockets off over Syria or Iraq, he’s not quite sure where, and the USS Carl Vinson is found to be nowhere near the Korean Peninsula but heading to Australia for war games instead, the confrontation is revealed to be a fake face off or a bluff, neither of which does much for Trump’s credibility. Nor our local media.

Our media eagerly, uncritically recycle the US show of force narrative and its dramatic brinksmanship. Is it a bluff or, perhaps, a double bluff, a signal that the Pentagon has no wish to let North Korea put the wind up it; spring a Thucydides trap? The risk or the trap is that the US will be drawn into war with China, as Karen Middleton notes.

Egg permanently on face Press Secretary, White House fall-guy, alternative factotum and, now, hapless casuist, Sean Spicer, is left to split hairs in the faint yet undying hope that he can claim black is white.

“The president said that we have an armada going towards the peninsula. That’s a fact. It happened. It’s happening, rather,’ he tells a scowl of reporters. “We never said when it would get there.” He could have made a virtue of a calculated delay. When we’ve finished bowls worked for Drake in 1588. But Trump’s White House is in 1984 mode.

War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength and Spicer is credible in the Orwellian world of modern politics.

While The Donald’s armada is found and turned around, our nation’s appetite for hate is regaled, ad infinitum, by a volley of shots of North Korea’s missile exhibitionism.

Scenes of last Saturday’s DPRK massed parades and assorted military porn help imprint an image of a “reclusive, rogue state” which is, paradoxically, never too shy to threaten nuclear Armageddon or put its people in gulags worse than anything Australia has on Manus or Nauru.

At least, that’s how our press packages its hate, served up with double-helpings of demonisation and lashings of fear.

Sample questions are produced to illustrate the type of thinking that will keep us safe from those who don’t share our values. Oddly they are all aimed at Muslims. Fear of 457 fraudsters, a type of visa which is all Labor’s fault, is whipped up in Canberra. Happily our heroic PM will save the day. Clean up Labor’s mess. He’ll rebadge the visa. It’s name will change and there will be some tinkering but the changes will affect only nine per cent of current 457 visa holders.

The PM hoses down any expectations his government’s budget will do anything except talk about housing affordability. It’s re-run of his all talk and no show tax summit.

Not talking, however, Monkey-Pod Top Banana, Immigration Minister and Border Enforcer, former Queensland drug squad copper Peter Dutton puts report of PNG soldiers shooting at asylum seekers on Manus on Good Friday down to a payback for sexual abuse of a young boy. It’s a rumour he starts. His facts are wrong.

But he’ll leave the commentary to others, he says, deflecting any questions.

Dutton should resign. He’s prejudiced any inquiry on Manus. He’s smeared asylum seekers’ motives as John Howard might. The implication of sexual abuse is a despicable attempt to blame the shooting on the victims.

It would seem, moreover, Dutton’s got the date wrong, the boy’s age wrong and that he’s refusing to admit PNG police evidence. He’s conflated two incidents. The boy who entered the camp was begging for food and was given some fruit.

Interviewed on ABC’s Insiders, Sunday, Peter Dutton won’t hear Barrie Cassidy’s protest that the incident involving a young boy was a separate matter; a week apart from when asylum-seekers were fired upon by an intoxicated mob of PNG solders after a football match at which asylum-seekers had refused to leave the field , according to local police. Dutton perpetuates the lie that the centre is run by PNG, to dodge responsibility for an unsafe environment.

The only proper solution would be to bring the asylum-seekers to Australia and out of harms’ way but Peter Dutton’s more interested in blaming the ABC for “commentary”. It’s un-Australian to expect him to account for his actions.

In the deeper international waters of intolerance and mindless enmity, however, a Leni Riefenstahl Logie goes to MSM, for its sensational scenario of a North Korea a goose step away from world annihilation, in a televisual extravaganza set up to loop endlessly, effortlessly across our screens, as George Orwell foresaw, a cheap and easy means of social control in a world of fear, hate and scarcity made possible by perpetual war. Neocons take a bow.

News editors are spoilt for choice of long-running conflict. There’s more dirt to dish on Syria as it dives for Russian cover, fear that ISIS will link with Al Qaeda in Iraq while Iran is back in the US hit list as public enemy number one.

After a cordial meeting with US Saudi leaders and pals who fund and export extremism, Rex Tillerson accuses Iran of being the mother of all evil with its alarming and ongoing provocations that “export terror and destabilise” the world.

“Allowing this dictator to have that kind of power is not something that civilised nations can allow to happen,” says Paul Ryan Speaker of US House of Representatives. He’s talking about North Korea’s Kim but it’s a nifty confection of moral outrage that would suit any number of contemporary US allies including Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi who seized power in a coup and killed more than 800 protesters in a single day.

A similarly US-favoured strong man is Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan whose recent referendum win means a sidelined parliament and judiciary. Erdogan can now just get on with the business of growing the economy, cracking down on dissent and providing arms and other support to Jihadists in Syria.

Allowed far too much power, nominal leader of Rogue Superpower US President Donald Trump swears, on the other hand, he’ll put an end to nasty North Korea’s nuclear testing all by himself if he has to. Horrible. “The shield stands guard and The sword stands ready,” fearless leader, dimes in his sidekick, bloodless hulk VP Mike Pence, a villain fresh from a Marvel Comic Universe. International law? We make the rules, boss.

The words get worse. The “era of strategic patience” is now over. Why, he’ll even snatch Kim’s missiles out of a falling sky, while as for Syria, bad-ass Bashar al Assad will get his regime changed on him any day now. Or sometime soon. OK.

Will North Korea launch a nuclear attack? Can China tighten the screws on its wayward neighbour, the DPRK? Will Iran prove itself the mother of all evil by pursuing its own nuclear programme? Can Bashar al Assad continue to defy Trump’s threats of regime change? Will Russia take Trump’s Tomahawk hint and pull out of Syria?

The essence of US foreign policy currently is to keep everyone guessing. What is clear, however, is that beneath the spin, the bluff and bluster and the breathless, apocalyptic reporting is a president whose opinion ratings are at record low.

Only 41.9 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s performance as President. 52.3 percent disapprove, according to the FiveThirtyEight aggregate of polls. Polls from swing states similarly show Trump’s approval rating under water, making him the least popular newly elected president in decades.

Most reassuring – but not to The Donald was that national polling showed that after his Syrian attack, euphemistically referred to everywhere as a “strike”, his polls remain flat. Trump is enough of a dud and a disappointment already to be denied the traditional bounce in approval enjoyed by presidents after ordering military action.

Turnbull should take note. Yet this week his grandstanding and dog-whistling on Australian values and his 457 visa rebadging stunt together with his embarrassingly over exuberant greeting of one of the least distinguished and most disturbing Vice Presidents ever to reach our shores is a signal that our PM’s in full panic mode.

As with our great and powerful friend, the US, Australia’s voters are not going to be fooled by a random attack of misty-eyed patriotism or any con-job about Aussie values. Another babies overboard in disguise at this late stage will not help a government which is so divided, so uninspired and so poorly led it just cannot deliver.

Spare us the embarrassing rhetoric, Mr Turnbull. Your frenzied embrace of a fair go and an Aussie freedom, you and your government are not remotely committed to betrays a lack of good faith and good judgement.

Similarly your adulation of Mike Pence and all he represents will do you no favours. Above all, your supercilious and patronising response to Leigh Sales on the 7:30 Report betrays your real values. Australians, especially women can spot a con.

Give up the fear-mongering. The enemy is not the migrant or the asylum seeker or the terrorist. It is within the neoliberal policy of your government which puts profit before people, a government which wages war on the poor and provides tax cuts for the rich.

Australia doesn’t need a new citizenship test. It does need a government which can honour its commitment to meet the needs of its people.

This means providing access for all to good health, welfare and education; ensuring equal opportunities, equality and justice for all; a fair go for all, if you like, but not just more empty talk or posturing while your policies deny these rights.

 

 

 

US lapdog, Australia, blindly follows Trump in Syrian and North Korean errors of judgement, morality and legality.

posturing trump and turnbull


The Donald follows rave reviews of his hugely popular Syrian bombing this week by trashing his “America First” isolationist foreign policy. “Just a jump to the left then a step to the right” continues his recent Time Warp homage and conveys all the chaos and conflict of the Trump team’s horror show domestic policy on to a world stage.

In one week, Trump has discarded half a dozen major campaign pledges on foreign policy. Happily Australian foreign policy is just as fluid: Trump’s left wheel – right about turn wins instant approval from Malcolm Turnbull and his crew of US cheerleaders, environmental vandals, climate deniers and mindless multinational corporate lackeys.

North Korea is “reckless and dangerous” says Malcolm Turnbull from India while he rashly promises government funding for an uneconomic, environmentally disastrous, toxic coal mine Australia neither needs or wants.

In words that echo Washington, Turnbull says China is “clearly not doing enough” to control North Korea. Astonishingly, the new Donald Trump has been trying to get the same message through to the Chinese President.

“From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first”, Donald Trump promised at his inauguration. It has taken until Easter for his show’s new directors, US Neocons to take him down their rabbit hole; turn him around.

It’s a big turn. Now, despite his campaign stump stuff, Trump must “reverse (Obama’s) downward spiral” of US power and influence, not only in the Middle East, but throughout the world, orders right wing Brookings Institute’s Robert Kagan in The Washington Post. Trump is warned that one missile strike doesn’t cut it. Press on, Donald.

Flip-flopping bigly, Trump tells NATO that it’s no longer obsolete. He crosses currency manipulation off the long list of things the US holds against China. Next, the US drops the Mother of all Bombs in Afghanistan before boxing itself into a corner by threatening North Korea with military action unless it stops its nuclear tests. North Korea responds by what Australia’s The Daily Telegraph, downplays as “a threat to unleash nuclear hell”.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop loves US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s proposal of a pre-emptive military strike against North Korea. She sees it as just an “all options on the table” thingy, a policy posture as familiar to the government as the flip-flop.

It fits well within its steadfast determination to normalise Trump’s aberrance within its role as US sycophant; Australia’s great and powerful friend. All the way with the USA whatever, wherever.

Bishop does have six decades of history on her side. In 1950 McArthur aimed to use six atomic bombs on North Korea. In 1951 Truman signed off on the plan.

Some estimate that the nation may have lost as many as 8 to 9 million people to US bombing, while others put the figure at 3 million close to thirty per cent of its population between 1950 and 1953. With no official statistics it is impossible to know precisely.

What is certain is that the suffering inflicted is seared into the nation’s consciousness.

Carpet bombing was deployed to rase cities.  The US dropped more bombs in North Korea than in the Pacific theatre during its part of World War Two. 29 000 tonnes of Napalm were used in campaigns which level entire cities.

In 1969, Richard Nixon put nuclear-armed warplanes on 15-minute alert. In the 1990s Bill Clinton weighed up nuclear strikes against North Korea’s nuclear facilities while George W Bush added the “rogue nation” to his axis of evil, a list of rogue states to be annihilated after Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had been dealt with.

Wednesday, mouth that roars, Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne is on Trump’s new page.  North Korea, is “the most dangerous situation” in the world right now and “worse than the situation in Syria”.

Pyne implies we are at war with North Korea whose erratic regime causes “significant consequence to Australia”.

“I know it seems surprising to say so, but there is a predictability about the war in the Middle East, in Syria and Iraq, and of course the allies there are winning that war slowly but surely,” he tells Adelaide radio 5AA.

The unpredictable slur fits neatly into the portmanteau stereotyping and demonising of North Koreans as erratic, crazy, deluded or buffoons, all ways the Chinese were portrayed in the fifties and early sixties in Western media until China acquired atomic then hydrogen nuclear weapons 1964-7 with the help of the Soviet Union.

The “unpredictable” charge is doubly ironic in the light of the flip-flop foreign policy of the United States or a vassal of a nation which has had five PMs in five years and a government hard to fathom on energy or environment.

A US naval strike group steams to the Korean Peninsula, a show of force that has sections of the media talking war. Is this a showdown between Pyongyang and Washington? No. It’s more show than showdown.

Will “rogue state” North Korea- as MSM love to call it, often adding “hermit” or “secretive” defy the US? Launch another nuclear test? It’s Kim Il-sung’s 150th anniversary.

“Rogue state” was a favourite Neocon term in the Bush, Rumsfeld era. It helped demonise Iraq which failed to respond to cold war deterrence and helped justify illegal military intervention. If North Korea won’t play by the rules, it can’t expect to be dealt with in like manner.

As Bush warned, missile attacks are justified against WND held by rogue leaders in “rogue nations who hate America, hate our values, hate what we stand for.” The same rhetoric is still used by our own government.

In the end, Kim celebrates the birth of the nation’s founder, his grandfather with a parade that helps remind everyone how many missiles North Korea can put on show. There’s a fizzer of a missile launch on the coast. No-one starts a nuclear war, however much representatives of the tabloid press may suggest it’s imminent.

US Defence Secretary, Jim Mattis issues a statement: “The President and his military team are aware of North Korea’s most recent unsuccessful missile launch.”  ”Mr Trump was not making any further comment.”

Yet Trump has been commenting, correcting the record on his dinner with the Chinese president. The correction helps set a context for the week’s brinksmanship with North Korea, an event which ends badly for The Donald who had a notion he could press Xi to call his North Korean pups to heel. Until Xi disabused him with a history talk.

Just as in a February phone call he had talked him out of his nonsense on Taiwan. Xi set up the summit. He’s two strikes up on Trump already. Xi has Trump’s number.

Earlier reports put the pair mid-way through the pan-fried Dover sole with champagne sauce, when Trump chose to tell his Mar-a-Largo, dinner guest, China’s President Xi Jin-Ping he had just gazumped their summit by bombing Syria, or wherever, The Donald now advises that he and Xi were, in fact, on to their sweets.

“So what happens is I said, ‘We’ve just launched 59 missiles heading to Iraq, and I wanted you to know this,'” Trump says in the interview. “And he was eating his cake. And he was silent.”

“Syria?” Fox Business Host Maria Bartiromo corrects.

“Yes, heading toward Syria,” Trump says. He follows up by mentioning Xi finished his dessert.

Savouring “the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you have ever seen”,  Trump fills Xi in on his latest take on isolationism: he’s just launched 59 Tomahawk Cruise missiles at Syria. Doubtless, Xi’s tickled pink with the Von Trump family’s Tomahawk missile-barrel diplomacy. Learning that China’s last to be told is the icing on the cake.

Xi drops his cake fork. An interpreter has to repeat The Donald’s bombshell.  Not only is it a complete flip-flop, a 180 degree turn on Trump’s campaign rhetoric, it’s a diplomatic gaffe; a breach of protocol, an insult to China.

It’s like breaking off a dinner party conversation with your boss to berate your neighbour, suggests Foreign Policy‘s Asia editor James Palmer.

Above all, China experts agree, no Chinese leader is likely to mistake unpredictability for strength. What Trump claims as tough, a shirt-front victory, the Chinese dismiss as stupidity. Yet a wily panda will not block a US rush to self-destruction in another costly, protracted and unwinnable Middle Eastern war.

In a United States of self-righteous spin, The Donald simply has no choice. “If you gas a baby then I think you will see a response from this president” explains White House word-splicer, Sean Spicer. Satanic Bashar-al Assad, is a poison gasser and a bad man worse than Hitler, he adds. Assad gets his just desserts.  Trump is pumped.

So, too are the decision makers in the alliance between arms’ manufacturers and armies influencing political policy which the US military-industrial complex, as Eisenhower termed it when he warned of its power in 1961. Syria, Iran, North Korea, all present alluring business opportunities. Above all, his son cheers on his father, his hero.

Eric, an affectionate but clumsy pup, eagerly volunteers how the strike shows how tough his father is. He’s not frightened by Putin’s threat of war. He won’t be pushed around by Putin. Just for measure he throws in a threat of his own. There’s “no one harder” than my Dad, the President if they “cross us”. It proves, he adds breathlessly, that his dad is not in league with Russia.  Well, that’s cleared that up, then. Much rejoicing follows in the free press.

“I think Donald Trump became president of the United States,” gushes CNN’s Fareed Zakaria as her nation is smitten by strong man love – and its love of vigilantes bearing arms. Forget policy, integrity or merit, all you need to do to become President is order up a bombing somewhere. NBC’s Bryan Williams waxes Leonard Cohen-lyrical:

“We see these beautiful pictures at night from the decks of these two U.S. Navy vessels in the eastern Mediterranean,” he swoons.  “I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen: ‘I am guided by the beauty of our weapons.”

Guided? Try dazzled. Blinded. America swoons over the attack. It falls back in love with Trump, a type of Lone Ranger with more big hair than white hat. The “liars” and “enemies of the people”, as he calls the press, now rush to cheer on The Great Disruptor.

Lost in the rush is any case for the bombing. No need to bother with Congress or dreary international law. Forget briefings. To hell with intel. Foreign policy is now decided by whatever TV show upsets the President – or his daugher, Ivanka.

Ivanka Trump, Anne Summers suggests, is the most powerful staffer in The White House. And dangerous. Superbly equipped for a profound and nuanced understanding of foreign policy by her real estate and jewellery business background, “heartbroken”, “outraged” she urges Daddy to bomb Syria when she sees the babies on Fox news.

Her compassion is oddly selective. Did Ivanka reproach her father when he boasted he could look Syrian children “in the face and say, “You can’t come here”? Did she demur when one of his first acts as President was to sign an executive order to indefinitely ban Syrians, even beautiful babies, from seeking refuge in the United States?

“Rather than pay lip service to the plight of innocent Syrian children, President Trump should provide actual solutions for the children who have been languishing in refugee camps for years,” reads a statement released 7 April from the New York based International Refugee Assistance Project.

“Many refugee children have been left in life or death situations following the President’s executive order, which suspends and severely curtails the U.S. resettlement program.”

Former Trump supporter, Republican Pat Buchanan suggests that Donald Trump was independently moved to act, before he was influenced by his daughter’s feelings. In other words, he was impetuous, emotional and uncritical of what may well prove to be a series of propaganda images and at a time when his National Security Adviser warned him that the intelligence services had their doubts about Assad’s culpability?

We do know, from multiple sources, that many in CIA and DIA, including those on the ground, did not accept that President Assad was responsible.

Leading rocket scientists, national security advisor, and former scientific adviser to the US Chief of Naval Operations, MIT Professor Theodore Postol, who has won awards for debunking claims about missile defence systems says in a nine-page report that we should be cautious.

A four-page report released by the Trump administration intended to blame the recent chemical attack in Syria on the Syrian government, Postol concludes, “does not provide any evidence whatsoever that the US government has concrete knowledge that the government of Syria was the source of the chemical attack”.

Postol is not convinced by such evidence. “Any competent analyst would have had questions about whether the debris in the crater was staged or real,” he wrote. “No competent analyst would miss the fact that the alleged sarin canister was forcefully crushed from above, rather than exploded by a munition within it.”

Australia’s response is similarly conveniently emotional and selective; visceral to the point of being anti-intellectual – unfussed by the illegality of Trump’s bombing and naively accepting of allegations against al Assad, a case which official Washington sources now concede is one of “high confidence” in a supposed intelligence assessment.

In other words, as Robert Parry decodes, “high confidence” usually means “we don’t have any real evidence, but we figure that if we say “high confidence” enough that no one will dare challenge us.” Parry is one of the reporters who helped expose the Iran-Contra scandal for the Associated Press in the mid-1980s.

Instead, we stampede to trust images provided by Al Qaeda-related propagandists and to overlook documented prior cases in which the Syrian rebels staged chemical weapons incidents to implicate the Assad government in the context of what former British diplomat Alastair Crooke calls the most intensely fought propaganda war in history.

Malcolm Turnbull strongly backs U.S. military action in Syria in response to the “abhorrent” chemical weapons attack.

Defence Minister Marise Payne is “open to Australia increasing its commitment” in Syria with no independent assessment of the worst man-made disaster the world has seen since World War II, according to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in a statement to the Human Rights Council March 2017.

No-one bothers much either with the hypocrisy of the confected moral outrage. The US used agent Napalm in Vietnam and its use of Agent Orange is estimated by the Vietnamese to have killed or maimed 400,000 people.

Vietnam claims moreover half a million children have been born with serious birth defects, while as many 2 million people are suffering from cancer or other illness caused by Agent Orange.

In the end, Trump gazumps only himself. He’s boosted expectations. “A very difficult meeting” will not only fix the US trade deficit with China, settle North Korea’s nuclear nonsense but do a whole bunch of other things including blowing the whistle on China’s currency manipulation, slapping a 45% tax on imports and arresting its theft of US jobs.

By Friday the US President retracts his slur about the currency. Heck, he’ll even praise NATO when he has to.

Upstaged by the US president’s illegal Syrian sortie, by Friday, the US-China Summit’s a dud. Xi and Trump mumble goodwill and mutual respect; motherhood clichés cloak a woeful non-event. Required to negotiate, a skill he will never possess, Trump squibs; settles for a stunt, a token show of force. Call North Korea to heel or the US will fix the problem itself. Does Trump really believe he can coerce China’s cooperation?

Did Trump mean to torpedo the talks? Some commentators spin Trump’s blitzkrieg as a calculated plan, even a Nixonesque “strategic unpredictability.

Henry Kissinger would privately let world leaders know that Nixon was an erratic madman who best not be trifled with. It ended badly, however, for Tricky Dicky in impeachment. Does the same fate await The Donald? Certainly, he’s no diplomat. He’s decided offense is the best defence with China.

“The Chinese government is a despicable, parasitic, brutal, brass-knuckled, crass, callous, amoral, ruthless and totally totalitarian imperialist power that reigns over the world’s leading cancer factory, its most prolific propaganda mill and the biggest police state and prison on the face of the earth”

Taking the cake in studied slights and calculated offence is academic Peter Navarro, author of Death by China, newly appointed head of Trump’s new National Trade Council, a body the President has set up to fix industrial stuff and do great deals so America can become great again. Sweet talking Navarro’s begun by attacking China.

It’s been a big week for Trump and for its Australian satellite. Happily for both parties Trump’s erratic and unpredictable reversals departures have not strained the relationship with our Great and Powerful Friend.  Its dog like devotion does not bode well, however, for any expectations of a mature and mutually beneficial relationship.

Given the rapidity with which isolationist Trump has now been overtaken – strong armed by Washington’s hawks, it is possible that this outcome has not surprised our government. Perhaps it was betting this way all along.

On the other hand, it may simply be that chance has dealt a totally unprepared-for-Trump-or-anything-else Turnbull government a favourable hand; a Neocon US foreign policy it can at least understand.  Even if it cannot fathom the cost.

What is truly shocking, moreover, is that the Turnbull government is simply repeating the mistakes made in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq.  It is 2017. Its aggressive tone with China. Should we still be the USA’s humble and obedient and uncritical servants?

Alarming indeed is our incapacity to exercise our critical faculties or perform due diligence on the case for attacking Bashar Al Assad. Similarly with our gung-ho anti North Korean propaganda. Australia, the world, deserves better.

Turnbull government blindly follows Trump in fake Syrian regime change case delusion disaster.

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“What the world saw last night was the United States Commander-in-Chief, and also a father and grandfather,” explains Kellyanne Conway, Counsellor to the President, on Friday. “The world recoiled in horror at babies writhing and struggling to live. And who could avert their gaze – and that includes our very tough, very resolute, very decisive President.”


 

Choked-up, yet resolute and tough, hunkered down in his Mar-a-Largo bunker, the man who walked right off the set of Celebrity Apprentice and on to a world stage, Donald J. Trump, shows everyone he’s made of the right stuff, bigly. Ham.

Trump mugs the camera; a Ronald Reagan parody of fake sincerity. He’ll stop Bashar Al Assad from gassing children. Why, Assad has affected him profoundly, personally. “… a chemical attack that was so horrific in Syria against innocent people, including women, small children and even beautiful little babies, their deaths were an affront to humanity.”

The President is responding to reports of a chemical attack on a building in Khan Sheikhoun, north-western Syria, that killed 80 civilians and left hundreds wounded. The Syrian Air Force is blamed for the bombing. Yet there is no proof.

Syria denies any involvement. Those responsible for the original report, the “White Helmets” function as a propaganda branch of ISIL and have long been discredited by Eva Barlett at the UN. for their fake videos and disinformation.

The Shajul Islam video which purports to document Sarin gas in the  Khan Sheikhoun attack is examined in detail by pharmacologist and lawyer Dr Denis O’Brien, author of Ghouta Massacre Murder in the SunMorgue, a detailed, forensic-pharmacological analysis of the Ghouta Massacre near Damascus, Syria in August, 2013.

O’Brien finds little or no evidence of Sarin gas but identifies symptoms consistent with cyanide poisoning. His reservations are echoed by other experts and critical observers. The “Sarin gas video” nevertheless receives widespread uncritical screening on MSM.

Trump is convinced. He orders a missile strike. It is set to launch during the main course of his welcome dinner for China’s president, for which he selects the a pan-seared Dover sole with champagne sauce and herb-roasted new potato from a plain menu which signals business function as much as an impressive lack of inspiration. He has a deal to seal with Xi Jinping. He’s already threatened that the US will “solve” North Korea alone, although experts are sceptical.

A mid-dinner missile strike on Syria ups the ante. Will North Korea be next? “I am not going to tell you” is all he will say. His deputy security adviser, KT McFarland, talks up North Korea’s nuclear threat. Trump says he wants China to “rein in” North Korea. “Trade is the key.” Yet he’ll need more than bluff and bluster if he is to seal any kind of deal. And he’ll need to deliver on his promises to put America first if he is to arrest his declining support at home.

“The Art of the Deal” author (ghost-writer Tony Schwartz) Donald, has always been an approval seeker. Now he’s keen to arrest his plummeting popular opinion ratings. Only 34 percent of Americans currently approve of the job Trump is doing, a figure two points below Obama’s all-time low, reports Investor’s Business Daily/TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence (IBD/TIPP), a ten percent drop since March. He’d do anything to get America to like him again.

Setting up a Syrian strike to upstage his dinner with Xi Jinping certainly gets a rise out of China’s state media:

“This is his first major decision on international affairs, and his haste and inconsistency has left people with a deep impression,” says the Global Times. It’s hardly an auspicious beginning but the US still puts on an incredible show..

Australians are visually carpet-bombed Friday with sensational saturation video loop coverage of the firing of 59 long-range, all-weather, subsonic, Tomahawk cruise missiles Al-Shayrat air base in the Western Syrian province of Homs.  A barrage of assertion, speculation and general ignorance is lined up in support. A case for regime change is brewing.

Across the nation, lounge rooms flicker in the ghostly glow of endless replays of giant missiles twisting skyward in early morning Eastern Mediterranean inky darkness. Swirling trails of thick smoke transform the Arleigh-Burke destroyers USS Ross and USS Porter, two of a US fleet of seventy-five, into ghastly fire-breathing, death-dealing, vengeful dragons.

It’s a top quality performance, a Pentagon son et lumière; a spectacular display of righteous might intercut with images of gas attack victims supplied by US-UK and NATO funded White Helmet rebels in Syria who always put on a good show in return for a retainer of $123 million a year.  What it lacks in narrative coherence, it makes up for in special effects.

No expense is spared, although a 3.5% US Navy budget cut back to $152 billion in 2017 mean crews are halved to find savings. Replacing one destroyer would cost $1.8 billion. Each missile has a million dollar price tag. Yet inestimable;  beyond all calculation is the value of each one of the lives of seven civilians, including four children who have been killed in areas nearby who remain unnamed statistics in a Reuters’ relay of a Syrian state news agency report.

The pipeline wars have taken a massive toll. More than 1 in 10 Syrians have been wounded or killed since the beginning of the war in 2011, according to the Syrian Centre for Policy Research in 2016 which finds the conflict has killed 470,000 either directly or indirectly. The United Nations stopped counting Syrian war dead in 2014.

Given these circumstances, it’s incredible that Trump’s humanity is affronted so late in the day. Also worrying is his blindspot – unless he’s seeking a diversion. Last month alone, 1472 civilians have been killed in his war on ISIS a result of his decision to alter risk/reward ratio calculations. Yet none of this dints the President’s Australian support base.

Down under we’re gung ho. Huzza huzza, four cheers for Trump. Trump has done something. Thumped Syria. He’s OK. Local commentators love a bit of biffo. Suddenly we are all applauding the man with a plan. Loving that line in the sand.

Panels of experts are mobilised instantly. Cobber Kim Beasley gets a guernsey. Kim loves guns and knows stuff about America. And can he talk! Bobbing up everywhere is model of compassion, jolly Jim Molan, architect of “Stop the Boats” (at any price) and our resident chemical weapons expert, a Major General seconded from the ADF to the US command who deployed white phosphorous in Fallujah in late 2004, a choice corroborated by U.S. Colonel Barry Venable in 2005.

The attack on Fallujah was launched by seizing the only hospital. Oddly, no-one asks for Jim’s special insights.

 “Packed into an artillery shell, white phosphorous explodes over a battlefield in a white glare that can illuminate an enemy’s positions. It also rains balls of flaming chemicals, which cling to anything they touch and burn until their oxygen supply is cut off. They can burn for hours inside a human body,reports the New York Times 

Prior to George Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003, there was no ISIS; no civil unrest in Syria. A lot of explaining is left to do. Yet all the talk is of “bringing the Assad regime into line”, as Malcolm Turnbull puts it. Pressure must be put on Russia because Syria is a vassal state, he says. The Daily Telegraph raves about Donald Trump’s “well-considered” attack which it sees as a “circuit-breaker”. Words come cheap but it sounds ominously as if regime change is in the wind.

There is precious little discussion of the gas attack itself; no pause to consider why Syria’s president might gas his own people at a time when things were going very much his own way. The people of Syria would decide their own future leader said US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as recently as 30 March.

A more plausible scenario which fits history and circumstantial evidence is that al-Qaeda, ISIS and/or other anti-Assad factions supplied the chemical weaponry. The White Helmets may have orchestrated the attack leaving US Neocons to supply the script. Yet our response has been largely uncritical, pliant and alarmingly receptive to official US propaganda.

More entreprenurial types want to take the false flag and run with it. Celebrity politician Christopher Pyne effortlessly blends expedience with rooting for Trump as he heroically battles over exposure and relevance fatigue to meet US Defence Secretary James Mattis. Like a rat up a torpedo tube, Pyne sees new opportunities for our “burgeoning defence industry” now Trump has upped US defence spending ten per cent.

How quickly we move on. In 2014, former Defence Minister David Johnston disgraced himself by saying he wouldn’t trust the ASC to build a canoe. Jim Molan saw red. Now we are touting our defence industry to the United States.

Other urgers are waiting.  Kevin “boots on the ground” Andrews, a big fan of the US from its wacky fundamentalism to its divine right to regime change in Iraq, is saddled up, incommunicado, on Pollie Pedal with pal Abbott. Wild horses wouldn’t get his Grecian head on the box now. But he’ll be back to argue our need to boost our commitment in Syria.

In brief, with incredible unanimity, once again, our commentators, like our politicians are overwhelmingly, a pack of hawkish US sycophants or apologists. US cheer-leader Marise Payne appears on ABC Insiders Sunday to spin the sudden US flip-flop or Trump’s latest impulse as a  “considered, calibrated and proportionate” response.

A new world disorder is born. Nothing is certain; everything is cast into doubt. Michaelia Cash will proceed with internships regardless of Senate approval and against all advice that it’s exploitation because it helps businesses, Amen . Turnbull’s Adani coal safari will still go ahead but that’s locked in by his coal lobby bosses.

Never to be upstaged, or to pass up on a slogan, “Bashar Al Assad has to go”, the PM says, finding his inner Tomahawk.

Trump’s Operation random Tomahawk attack would upstage anyone. Each missile carries 450 kg of explosive in its nose. Fittingly, for an era of leaders who worship technological disruption, or for the growing army of critics of a US President who has proved an inept stooge, tomahawk comes from Powhatan tamahaac,’to cut off by tool’.

The attack is not a random act of gratuitous violence to distract from investigations into his Russian connections. He may owe billions to Russian banks but who cares? No-one else would lend the multiple bankrupt the money.

Instantly Trump is a moral hero. No longer is he stunningly inept, an accidental president desperate to be taken seriously. He’s drawn a line in the sand, Barnaby Joyce, our man in touch with nature suggests, a signal to Syrian President Bashir Al-Assad that he’s gone too far. It won’t stop at a Tomahawk warning. Regime change is in the wings.

Not only is Assad’s responsibility for the gassing not established, Trump did not bother to check. What is clear is that Trump has violated international law. University of Sydney International law expert international law expert Professor Ben Saul says that force is legal only in self-defence or with the authorisation of the UN Security Council.

A Mexican wall of enmity is rising against him in Syria, if not throughout the Middle East. Russia threatens to shut down its “deconfliction channel” with the US a means by which the two nations co-ordinate their efforts in Syria. Friday Russia’s TASS news agency reports that the Admiral Grigorovich, a frigate armed with Cruise missiles has been despatched from the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Calling upon Russia to bring Syria to heel is having the opposite effect.

Russian defence ministry spokesman Maj Gen Igor Konashenkov suggests a “complex of measures” to strengthen Syrian air defences will be carried out to help “protect the most sensitive Syrian infrastructure facilities.” Not that he is impressed by the last attack.

Only 23 of the 59 missiles reached the Shayrat air base Konashenkov says “the combat efficiency of the U.S. strike was very low”. Photographs on Syrian and Russian media confirm that the airbase is still operational.

The attack has been a wonderful opportunity for our PM, leader of “a government that gets things done”, to posture patriotically, invoke sacrifice and to not so innovatively call for regime change in Syria, the very same mistakes John Howard made when he was seduced by propaganda about the existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

There’s a bit of Anzackery to take care of with stirring speeches from Kokoda before Mal must dash to India, doubtless, a mercy mission to soothe the pillow of the dying in a nation where coal smoke fed pollution brings premature death to 3000 people every day.

He leaves his trusty deputy PM, Air Vice Marshall Barnstorming Barnaby Joyce on hand to deal with the more nuanced parts of governing and getting things done such as why Assad would gas his own people.

Joyce doesn’t make a lot of sense but you can tell he’d be keen himself to put a Tomahawk up Assad’s clacker.

To Barnaby, it’s all about a line in the sand, code for a finger wagging ultimatum, a foreign policy strategy not known for its success rate, historically, especially when dealing with leaders whose nations are already a hotbed of insurgency.

Effortlessly, Kaiser Barnaby, who has moved an entire government department single-handedly to shore up his own electoral prospects, grasps the nettle. He has the runs on the board when it comes to the high-handed, patronising arrogance and hypocritical posturing that a nation needs in a crisis. Not that there’s any crisis in our well-oiled economy.

Empiricism is so yesterday. But raise a glass. Government policy passes the pub-test this week. Despite its death spiral opinion polls and signs of an unbridgeable credibility gap in energy, environment, education and welfare and trickle-down economics, almost any policy area you can poke a stick at, really, the government has something to shout about.

Not only does the pub test trump all other forms of evaluation, – as everyone knows, it also means the Coalition won’t bother to explain its company tax cuts for firms with turnovers up to $50 million. This frees up government no end. We’ve already had a taste of how it liberates foreign policy from the dreary burden of proof into mindless sloganeering.

No need to commission another dodgy report like BIS Shrapnel’s March 2016 calculation that cutting negative gearing would drive up rentals and push down prices, a case based on some rubbery figures including shrinking GDP to $190 billion from its true figure of $1 trillion per year.

Treasury said of the whole government company tax project it would deliver a 1 per cent growth dividend and a wage increase of $2 a day – and that wouldn’t be for 20 years.

Even right wing Economist Saul Eslake is among the many experts who dispute that giving smaller companies a tax cut will generate the claimed benefits in jobs and wage increases. He points to much evidence. Joe Hockey rushed to give small businesses breaks. He gave a 1.5 per cent tax cut and an enlarged instant asset write-off in his second budget. Wages are stagnating; not growing. Unemployment and underemployment expand while our budget deficit soars.

A clearly elevated federal Treasurer Scott Morrison explains his government need not release any more fatuous fact-based projection, prediction or any other form of assessment to support its company tax cuts. It’s just not what small business folk are concerned about. He knows what’s best for us. Don’t you worry about that.

“If you go down the pub and you talk to small-business people, they’re not talking about econometric models. What they’re talking about is how they are going to grow their businesses.”

There’s a hint of Turnbull’s old saw, “the vibe of the thing” dressed down a bit as well as a flash of the old born to rule arrogance that is helping this government seal its fate.

Rivalling Pauline Hanson’s powers of clairaudience – or perhaps they are contagious, Morrison now claims he knows what’s on the minds of the Mum and Dads who own the businesses that are this nation’s backbone.

From your local Jim’s mowing to the bloke who fixes your car; from your corner hairdresser to your mobile nail technician, none can stop talking about growing their businesses.  As a unicorn is always talking about growing its horn. Everyone is planning to expand. Sounds absurd, impossible? It’s because it is. But Morrison won’t hear a word against it.

In fact many small businesses are unincorporated and their proprietors will continue to pay tax at personal income rates.

Bugger the evidence. Truth is unassailable. Besides, who needs facts when you can hear the fat cats purring?

Sinking in the polls with not a stitch of useful policy to its name and just less in the way of a programme, a failing government grasps with both hands the news of Trump’s crusade against the bad, mad Aassad with his gas attacks on his own people without exercising due diligence, independence of though or even a modicum of common sense.

It is a disturbing sign. An all-consuming self-destructive collective madness stirs, a type of folie a foule which is totally immune to reason’s dictates. Writ small it expresses itself in a crusade for tax cuts, lower wages and a pogrom on the poor. Writ large it leads to foreign intervention and regime change; in brief, unholy, unmitigated disaster.

 

Turnbull tax cut a joke, just like his energy policy and his treasurer.

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“We have a plan.” Scott Morrison, has ABC listeners in stitches Monday with yet another of his funny but freaky comedy routines. “… The Government,” gags the Coalition’s creepy clown, as he effortlessly tosses off a penicillin metaphor, “is working right across the spectrum to deliver more affordable, more secure, more sustainable electricity prices.”

Affordable? Howls of laughter and snorts of derision are heard across the nation. Pensioners and penalty cut-rate workers laugh especially long and hard. Power bills are rising steeply since privatisation and “marketization”, the selling off of state assets to private companies by Coalition governments keen to do the bidding of powerful business interests and the Neoliberal “think tanks” and lobby groups that serve them such as the Business Council of Australia.

In South Australia, for example, five years after the state privatised electricity in 1998, helped by independent, former Liberal “nifty” Nick Xenophon, who voted with the government, prices increased on average by 23%. Across the nation from 2000 to 2014, the Australian ABS Electricity Price Index (EPI) shows household electricity prices rose by 174%. 

Expensive electricity, is not, as we are told, a matter of supply and demand but a tale of private profiteering. Demand began to flatten in 2004 and has been falling since 2009. More than anything, higher network charges, boosted in 2005 by John Howard’s ironically titled Australian Energy Regulator (AER) have caused power bills to skyrocket.

In 2009, the AER ruled NSW distribution networks could claim 8.78% per annum capital cost on money they could borrow securely from a triple-A-rated state treasury for half that amount. The rate quickly became ten per cent.

It was a licence to print money. ABS data shows that the electricity industry’s profits rose by 67% between 2007–08 and 2010–11. In the same period, electricity bills rose 40%.

Privatisation, it was claimed, would lower business taxes and boost investment: the same specious arguments and faith- based assumptions used today to defend company tax cuts, minimum wage restraint and lower penalty rates.

Instead it has helped low-income and vulnerable households across Australia to be increasingly enslaved by energy poverty. The poor spend more and more of their income on energy. Deprivation and social exclusion are the results.

Low income households lose 12.4% of their income to utility bills and fuel each week, calculates The Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre compared with 2.9% for high income households. Modelling by St Vincent de Paul based on 200,000 disconnections in the four largest states reveals some poor families are disconnected five times in three years. Towns in rural New South Wales and outer Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide suburbs experience the most disconnections.

Six per cent of us must join electricity hardship programs just to keep the power on. Last June, 18,423 ­residential customers in Queensland and 32 000 in NSW joined 33,000 Victorians in hock to a power company. A rising tide of power debt swamps low wage workers and welfare recipients. Tasmanians have the highest per capita electricity debts.

It will get worse. Bills will rise $28 to $204, depending on area. And worse. Morrison’s “more affordable” energy plan will abolish energy supplements: single pensioners will lose $366.60 per year and couples $551.20 for a couple.

Not to worry. NSW Water and Energy Ombudsman, Janine Young, is almost as upbeat as the vapid Federal Treasurer.

“Most (consumers) quickly reconnect through family loans, payday lenders and forgoing food, but others may experience a longer term off supply,” she says, reassuring all those who may worry that power companies are price-gouging themselves out of the market. While starving to keep the lights on is always an option, not every poor person can borrow from family and payday lenders charge exorbitant interest rates.

A family which borrows $2000 from a payday lender will pay back $3,360 over a year according to ASIC’s calculator. In SA last year it was reported families who can’t pay immediately are paying up to $586 per year more than those who can.

ScoMo set the bar high when he worked coal-tossing into his parliamentary stand-up, but Monday he surpasses himself. Like John Howard’s original gift to allow to companies to electricity as a luxury item and his farcical national electricity market, a device for companies to rig the price, this is gold standard satire, self-parody and slapstick all in one.

No-one suggests that instead of his corporate tax break, he invest $2.6 billion in solar energy for the poor, like Bangladesh and Mongolia. 3.5m solar homes systems installed in 2015 in rural Bangladesh, created 70,000 direct jobs.

Morrison’s power plan spiel is indulged Monday in an on-air massage on Fran Kelly’s RN Breakfast show, a comfort station for Liberal politicians and backers, which doubles as a government megaphone. An ambulance chaser follows, bringing listeners the full gory details of the Hazelwood Power station’s head-on collision with economic reality. ABC TV continues the shameless Peabody energy propaganda that falsely posits energy as a choice between coal or jobs.

Hazelwood: a dirty business, is weepie of the week; a full-scale tear-jerker noir with endless grainy close-ups, interviews with stoic, blokey workers, Stakhanovite-style amidst stacks of angst and long shots of idle but uplifting chimneys.

Overlooked amid the melodrama of coal stokers cast off by cruel fate, victims of Labor’s green ideology is the fact that each worker will receive an average redundancy payout of $330,000 largely thanks to their union and state government.

By week’s end, a filthy Malcolm Turnbull trashes his earlier commentary and any residual integrity to lash Dan Andrews’ socialist Victorian state government for doing the dirty on workers in choosing clean renewables over brown coal.

He lies. Turnbull the coal-burner contradicts his earlier rebuke of Abbott that the closure is a hard-nosed commercial decision by the plant’s joint private owners, Engie and Mitsui and Co Ltd. Hazelwood has been privately owned since Jeff Kennett, another visionary Liberal politician, sold it to the sensitive, caring multinational corporations in 1996 for $2.35 billion. Had it not sold, it was set to be closed by the State Electricity Corporation of Victoria in 2005.

Expunged from Coalition nostalgia is the uncontrolled fire in Hazelwood’s lignite mine, a fire which burned for 45 days near Morwell in 2014 and which led to its owner being charged with 10 breaches of the Occupational Health and Safety Act – including failing to provide a safe workplace and failing to provide a safe environment for the community.

In a huge stretch, Sunday, on ABC Insiders, Morrison uses the word “plan” to dignify his tax cuts for businesses. It’s not a plan – more of a kneejerk capitulation to the government’s business backers. Money will go to the government’s mates instead of schools or hospitals. Cutting business tax has no economic justification. It did not boost employment under Howard. Nor will it now. Treasury modelling shows that all the benefits of a company tax cut go to companies.

The nonsense that it will boost investment in Australia is refuted  by Australia Institute research showing 97 per cent of the applications to Australia’s foreign investment review board come from countries with lower company tax rates.

Let’s call it for what it is. A reward to its supporters. And if it’s no fillip to wages or growth it’s ill-timed. It’s a $26 billion cash splash on its electorate while it cuts penalty rates and opposes upping the minimum wage for all other Australians.

But ScoMo’s always entertaining. The way he works his man with a plan gag is a crack-up. It’s going to grow the economy. Boost paypackets. Businessmen with less tax to pay will increase wages in his manic flights of pure fantasy.  Elliptical as ever, suddenly, he’s praising a humble local artisanal chocolatier, an inspiration to us all.

I mean put yourselves in the shoes of a company like Zokoko, they’re a chocolatier out in Penrith, a small business, between $2 and $10 million. They are not only getting a 27.5 per cent tax cut, they are getting access to pool depreciation, the instant asset write-off, they can do their GST on a cash basis. That means they can invest, they can look at new markets, they can look at taking more people on. 

Let them eat chocolate. Great. And all from the creator of the $55 million dollar Cambodian two person refugee resettlement scheme; a minister whose government is a mare’s nest, a government which quickly dropped its vows of dialogue to revert to Abbott’s mindless sloganeering even aping his inane braying and bullying, lately.

Morrison may howl “jobs and growth” like a man snorting powdered unicorn horn but it’s only corny performance art. This week The Brotherhood of St Lawrence reports that youth underemployment is the highest it’s been for forty years.

ScoMo’s “working” pun is just as much fun. This government is as unworkable as Abbott’s.  Voters punish it, accordingly, in opinion polls. Monday’s Fairfax Ipsos Poll puts Labor ahead by a massive 56-44 two party preferred while the PM has a 40% approval rating, his lowest since he deposed his former leader. 48% disapprove of his performance.

Increasingly unpopular, conflicted and chaotic, the Coalition continues to inflict inury and insult upon itself as much as others whether it be moving to extinguish Victoria’s tiny Leadbeater’s possum or offending our giant trade pal China.

Barnaby Joyce accuses a wanton, socialist Victoria of putting possums before people. Daniel Andrews rejects mill owners’ request for a $40 million to keep his state’s Heyfield sawmill running. His government also cuts back mill access to native forest to a third of that previously over-promised by a pro-logging Coalition predecessor. He tells the community “the timber is just not there”. Barnaby bores on bemoaning timber job losses. Bugger the environment.

Joyce claims new evidence shows Leadbeater’s possum thrives in the Central Highlands, a claim conservationists contest. He  writes a letter to Daniel Andrews requesting Dan consider easing protected areas indirectly pressuring Environment Minister Josh Freydenberg to review the possum’s critically endangered status, a task he cannot do without state government participation. Now a state premier, farmers and conservationists are all at odds.

Divisions also help photo opportunist Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to botch the ratification of an extradition treaty with China after a meeting, Monday, with twelve backbenchers hostile to the deal. Abbott-lackey Eric Abetz threatens to cross the floor. Others could follow. Bishop is blamed for high-handedness; a lack of due consultation. Embittered back-benchers are heard to mutter about the depth of the minister’s preparation and her effective commitment to process.

Turnbull, however, unseals the deal by alienating Labor support when he links the fate of Australians already in Chinese custody into the deal. While the fiasco will dull Bishop’s potential leadership appeal, Turnbull is blasted in The Australian by Abbott pal, Greg Sheridan who wins best over-kill calling it “the single worst foreign policy fiasco in the Turnbull government”.  Get a grip; get with the program, Sheridan. Without self-injury, Turnbull’s government is nothing.

Far from Morrison’s working plan fantasy, the Coalition blends chaos with catastrophe. As its chocolatier-led economic recovery anecdote reveals, its feet are firmly planted in the clouds. Or its permanently out to lunch. It is a dysfunctional, faction-ridden, delusional, policy-free zone run by mining, business, banking and Neoliberal IPA stooges. It is a right wing rabble animated only by self-interest, ambition and the maintenance of privilege. And a sense of grievance.

George Brandis roars like a wounded walrus in the senate this week when someone insults him about his obsession with changing 18 and pretending it’s about free speech.

A powerful, privileged white male of the ruling elite finds it “deeply offensive and insulting” for Labor and Greens senators to suggest he supported weakening race hate laws because he was a white man. Most reasonable community members would say they were spot on.

Good news this week comes when the government loses its cynical crusade to water down our racial vilification laws. It may be more successful however, with a proposed procedural change for the AHRC which adds a reasonable community member clause to discourage complainants like George Brandis. The Australian spins it as a partial victory.

The Coalition spin machine never stops. As it flounders, flip-flops and comes unstuck, the Coalition spins itself, Pravda-style as “a government that gets things done.”  Beginning the political year with an agenda so thin, it had to stretch its parliamentary breaks, it now harangues us about how much is on its plate. These include Abbott’s unpalatable leftovers rehashed in the Omnibus Savings Bill .

Helen Gibbons, assistant national secretary of United Voice, has told a senate committee it was disappointing that a boost in childcare funding was only being discussed when cuts where being made to other areas, including Family Tax benefits, Youth Allowance and Newstart unemployment benefits. So many to disadvantage. So little time.

There’s a budget to fudge. Races to vilify. A war on Shorten and the poor to be fought; a tax on the rich to reduce. All richly fulfilling stuff. Longer term, if the phrase may be applied to the Turnbull adhocracy, a prolonged fit of absence of mind, it’s kill Bill. Paul Bongiorno cites an anonymous Victorian Liberal who tells a Labor MP on the flight to Canberra.

“Nothing personal, but we are going to try to destroy Shorten over the next six months, and if that doesn’t work we may have to destroy Turnbull.” Yet even his RN admirers would agree Turnbull is doing a good job of destroying himself.

Friday sees Australia’s shortest parliamentary sitting last less than sixty minutes. Luckily the stuff-up goes largely unremarked by a media awash in Cyclone Debbie’s tabloid depths and the eternal wake our ABC conducts for the jobs lost by the rash closure of the Hazelwood power station, something Tony Abbott tries to pin on doctrinaire froggy climate politics and which Aunty successfully implies is both unexpected and all the fault of a state Labor government.

Yet cheek of the week goes to the Treasurer. Not even Julie Bishop’s insult which angers China, our largest trading partner can compete. Not even a mutiny stirred by ex-Liberal now gang-of-one (seldom) silent-majority-Cory Bernardi can match it. Let running junk-yard dog Tony Abbott blithely tell media this week that he made China a promise he never meant to keep, as only hypocrites and liars can. None can hold a candle to ScoMo’s shtick.

Not even Iron Chef Turnbull plying a sizzling Fizza-wok at his all you can eat cross-bench banquet this week – a well buttered combination stir-fry race hate speak with a corporation tax cut sauce – can rival Morrison. The Treasurer is power-mad, certainly, but his line that his government stands for cheaper electricity is hilarious.

The Neoliberal bigot stops ranting. Sotto voce, he pitches the amazing work his government does to keep the lights on. Despite his utter lack of credibility, camp theatricality and his problem with intelligibility, the interview goes swimmingly.

Has privatisation of the energy sector failed Australian consumers? Sabra Lane asks earnestly.

“Well I don’t think you can necessarily draw that conclusion,” replies Morrison. (Only when you look at the evidence.)

The Treasurer becomes the hookah-smoking caterpillar in Wonderland. He drags in a Hazelwood of dense smoke; puffs out a vast, thick, cloud of spin – and disappears into it. A lot of pompous, lofty, do-nothing, big-noting will surely follow.

“I think what’s important with what the Prime Minister and I will be announcing later today is that to deliver energy security, affordability and sustainability, you’ve got to work across all the different areas.” (Stereo twaddle alert.)

“And we’ve been working on the gas side of things, as you know, getting all the big gas producers in to ensure we get an assurance about their supply to the domestic gas industry.” (Always focus on process if you have nothing else to offer.)

“On top of that, there’s the work being done on pumped hydro,” he lies, avidly appropriating someone else’s work. It will take ten years to build Snowy 2 and even then there are problems with the economics, the engineering and raising the capital. The only work that’s been done is by Professor Andrew Blakers of ANU’s Energy Change Institute.

There is no Federal plan to help keep Australia’s lights on. Nor is there any thought given at all to supporting the energy poor who are rapidly being priced out of the market.  The government is hiding behind a Snowy 2 feasibilty study while desperately talking up its leader’s chat with the gas corporation CEOs as some kind of solution to the nation’s gas profiteering racket. In the meantime, the states are taking the initiative with solar farms, wind and battery storage.

By Sunday, the government has got half of what it wanted in its tax cuts and the failure it deserved on 18C.  While  others in his newspaper mark the China fiasco as an epic fail of principle and process management, Paul Kelly at least has Turnbull “snatching a surprise victory from the jaws of defeat”; “pulling off a face-saving deal.”

But those jaws will still snap, tax cuts for fat cats or not. What the government likes to call average “hard-working Australians” will not be appeased by the spectacle of an inept, remote, bosses’ government taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich. Nor will those whose business interests lie with affordable energy and good relations with China – if only in trade –  tolerate the chaos and dysfunction of an unpopular dysfunctional government with no plan.

For when all a Federal Treasurer has to show for himself is a tax cut and cuts to low-paid workers’ wages, together with a war on welfare and the poor, he clearly has no economic plan at all. Unless you count his dazzling comedy routine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barnaby Joyce’s donkey skin trade eclipses Malcolm Turnbull’s 18C, freedom of speech lies.

turnbull and brandis for 26 march blog

 

“It was miraculous. It was almost no trick at all, he saw, to turn vice into virtue and slander into truth, impotence into abstinence, arrogance into humility, plunder into philanthropy, thievery into honour, blasphemy into wisdom, brutality into patriotism, and sadism into justice. Anybody could do it; it required no brains at all. It merely required no character.” Joseph Heller Catch 22 


 

“Bat poo crazy”, sneers loyal Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce. “Just plain stupid. Just plain dumb.”

A dab hand at restoring sanity to the national conversation, Joyce takes time out from urging the export of edible donkey skins to China, the next big thing logically, now returns on iron ore and coal are down a bit, to jeer at Pauline Hanson for her call, Friday, for ‘Straya to be “vaccinated against Muslims”.

The 18C law is an ass.  Imagine if Putinista Pauline and other Islamophobes could say what they really think. Yet Barnaby’s Hanson slap-down applies equally to his PM’s own bat-shit maniacal mission to drop energy, budget preparation – everything –  to make Australia bigly bigot-friendly this week.

Nothing special is required. No trick. All you need to turn hate speech into free speech is no character.

Turnbull sucks up to the 18C brigade. Next he’ll be rewriting the national anthem: “Australians, all let us rejoice in our dem-o-cracy. O-ffend, in-sult, hu-mil-iate; for these deeds make us free.”

Mad as a March Hare, the PM darts about the national stage. A lot of shouting is involved. He exceeds even his Shorten-bashing, in forsaking decorum. And it works. Sort of. It impresses the odd critic.

Mark Kenny, National Affairs Editor for Fairfax, writes inscrutably of a “growing sense around the halls of power that Malcolm Turnbull is finally starting to get somewhere.”

All week, Turnbull extols the nation-building virtues of racial vilification, the acid test of free speech.

It’s an extraordinary contortion even for a practised back-flipper, a retail politician who sold his soul to the National Party and who hasn’t looked back since. Or forward. Just sideways. But now he’s hydro-pumped. Free speech, he blows all week, is not just intrinsic to insult and injury, it’s a core Liberal value. Somehow he’s persuaded by his Snowy 2.0 propaganda that he’s nation builder and elder statesman.

“Our freedom of speech is the foundation of our great democracy that has caused people from every corner of the world to join ours, the most successful multicultural society in the world,” he honks loftily, rashly cramming three lies into one canard. Vapid, pretentious nonsense enchants him. Becomes him.

All week he pretends he doesn’t know that the Racial Discrimination Act’s section 18D protects freedom of speech.  It goes down well. The Australian’s Paul Kelly and gang gush thousands of words in applause.

Turnbull’s performance reminds us free speech in Australia is a ruling class privilege. He intends to keep it that way. If he were serious about free speech for all, he’d repeal the secrecy provisions of section 42 of the Border Force Act 2015. These led the UN special rapporteur on human rights to abandon a planned visit to Australia that year. The Act would prevent workers from providing any information.

Free speech? Anyone is free to report on Nauru if Dutton approves of you and you can pay an $8000 fee.

If he were serious about protecting free speech, Turnbull would stop Centrelink divulging personal details of clients to silence those victims of Roboclaw extortion who dare criticise its operations.

He’d rescind his government’s permission for ASIO to trawl through journalists’ metadata to discern sources.  He’d be outraged at the way the ABC, our national broadcaster, has had its independence destroyed through budget cuts and government interference. He’d recall Michelle Guthrie.

A government committed to free speech would establish a bill of rights to protect this inalienable human right, article 19 in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It would reform our defamation laws exploited by rich individuals and corporations who successfully threaten to sue to silence critics.

It would repeal the 2014 law which allows the Attorney General to define a “special intelligence operation” making it a crime for journalists to report on the operation.

The government would also persuade to its cause State governments, who restrict free speech.

In 2014 the Tasmanian government enacted new anti-protest legislation to prevent anti-logging protesters from objecting to clear-felling of native forests in January 2016. Bob Brown has launched a High Court legal challenge.  WA and NSW also have laws to muzzle protesters.

Beyond the law, there are countless informal ways freedom of speech is denied Australian people because of their colour, class or gender. Despite Turnbull’s week-long harangue – and partly because of it – our nation excludes the voices of those who do not belong to the dominant elite.

Of course he doesn’t want free speech for all. The PM’s performance is a stunt to divert an insatiable rabid right wing. Yet the right will simply want more. Accordingly, Turnbull duly receives praise from Tony Abbott, another bumper sticker orator; Abbott knows an empty slogan when he hears one.

Yet Abbott, who’s busily alarming an adoring media about Victoria’s power crisis, ups the ante. He asks Turnbull to keep Hazelwood Power Station open until Snowy 2.0 starts pumping its hydro.

Turnbull quickly dismisses his rival’s latest mischief. It’s too expensive and unnecessary. He’ll put Abbott back in his box even if it means another U-turn from his catastrophising over renewables and his love of coal-fired power a week or so ago.  At least the truth is out. He doesn’t seem to have told Josh Frydenberg.

Turnbull also will tackle 18C – something Abbott failed to do – even though it was on his IPA-led agenda. What the PM proposes, however, has nothing to do with free speech and everything to with appeasing a few old, white, ruling class warriors feeling hard done by who love to beef about being bound by law; men whose privilege and power mean they will never suffer vilification or discrimination.

Or be overlooked. In a virtuoso display of duplicity and indirection, the Coalition devotes all Tuesday to diluting section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, 1975, a section added in 1995 to make it illegal to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate on the basis of a person’s race, colour or national or ethnic origin.

It’s a big back-flip. Leaving 18C alone was a Turbull campaign promise. He once told the IPA’s John Roskam “About 100 people care about 18C and there are about 16 million people on the electoral roll.”

The RDA helps the Australian Human Rights Commission, (AHRC) resolve conflict. Fewer than five per cent of complaints go to court. Yet critics claim fear of being dragged through court stifles free speech.

Never one to overshare, fearing leaks, or with his team plan still a work in progress, the PM neglects to mention the 18C changes he has planned when he addresses the full cabinet on Monday at 6:30 pm. Oddly, MPs come to feel excluded; slighted. Those in electorates with large ethnic communities fear that the issue will lose them votes. Some would cross the floor if they thought it would save their seats.

Turnbull’s timing is impeccable: 21 March is Harmony Day and the International Day of Eliminating Racial Discrimination. Harmony Day, moreover, is a Howard invention,  a day and a campaign dedicated to a truth self-evident to Howard’s band of reality deniers: racism could not possibly exist in Australia.

There’s a hint of this self-delusion in the statement on multiculturalism which the PM releases. It’s been doctored a bit to ensure that migrants know they have to assimilate. It’s almost no trick at all. Greens leader, Richard di Natale, however, calls him out on it; his One Nation dogwhistling:

Di Natale nails it.  New arrivals should adopt so-called “Australian” values?

“The new multiculturalism statement is an attack on multiculturalism,” Di Natale says in a statement.

Julian Leeser, David Coleman, Julia Banks, Russell Broadbent and Craig Laundy, oppose the proposed 18C re-wording. Only news that the law will go to the senate first, where it will surely be lost, persuades them not to cross the floor.

The group’s dismay illustrates how the PM wooing of his right wing is alienating the middle. It remains to be seen if the right will be appeased by a process where the new bill is set up to be lost in the Senate. It’s too tricky by half.

A snap Senate inquiry Friday by the legal and constitutional affairs legislation committee, to report back by Tuesday, is announced. Attorney General, George Brandis, whose previous reform proposals were ignored, has his submission quietly incorporated into Hansard. Also invited are the Australian Law Reform Commission, the Human Rights Law Centre and Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).

The inquiry allows Liberal senator Ian Macdonald to continue his bullying of the Commission’s President: “You’re here to answer questions, Professor Triggs, not to go off on a frolic of your own.” His belittling harassment of Triggs is a case study in freedom of speech at work in senate committee.

Triggs has been pilloried and accused of political bias since her 2014 report on children in immigration detention centres, The Forgotten Children was critical of government policy. Attacks have been mounted in parliament and Triggs’ findings have been howled down in Newscorp media.

Media attacks include accusations about her personal life and a piece by Piers Akerman alleging that she was an unfit mother. It’s an insight into the real constraints on our freedom of speech which the Prime Minister’s rhetoric ignores, and an illustration of the cruelty inflicted by the Old White Male brigade.

Macdonald is a veteran of the Coalition’s long-running war on the Human Rights Commission, begun by Tony Abbott and capably assisted by George Brandis who has insulted and demeaned Triggs mercilessly. He chaired the committee which looked into her Forgotten People report but he didn’t bother to read it.

“I haven’t bothered to read the final report because I thought it was partisan,” he told the committee. It is an insult not only to Triggs but to the nation. Macdonald doesn’t get it.

In March 2015, the Senate passed a motion declaring Brandis “unfit to hold the office of Attorney-General” over the Government’s criticism of the Human Rights Commission president. As Penny Wong noted at the time, Brandis failed as AG not merely to defend the AHRC as an institution but he actually led the charge attacking Gillian Triggs on charges that her report on children in custody was political.

Somewhere in the excitement, MPs misrepresent the change as sanctioned by the AHRC itself. It’s not.

“It’s very, very clear that we do not approve the changes to the substantive provision of the [act],” Gillian Triggs, AHRC President says on Friday.

“The current language has worked extremely well.” Inserting the word “harass” instead is “curious”, “an entirely circular process” and “highly unsatisfactory”, she says.

The Coalition’s amendments include substituting “harass” for the words “insult and offend”, a weakening which the PM pretends will make the law stronger, clearer, fairer. Inserting a reasonable member of the community test will discount minority experience.  It’s a disingenuous double-bluff.

In reality, the changes will weaken the law to “… give a free pass to ugly and damaging forms of racial vilification which do not satisfy the stringent legal criteria of harassment and intimidation”, say Greek, Armenian, Chinese, Indian, Aboriginal and Jewish communities in a signed statement to the PM.

Silence from the Kiwi migrant community, a whopping fifteen per cent of New Zealand’s population, does not equal consent. New Zealanders, along with the South Sudanese  report highest levels of discrimination in Australia, in a survey of 10,000 respondents, conducted by the Scanlon Foundation and Monash University and reported in August last year. Yet the Sudanese are twice as happy to be here.

It’s a report Zed Seselja, Minister for Multicultural Affairs, channelling John Howard “simply cannot understand”, exposing an inherent flaw in the “reasonable community member” test.

The Kiwi underclass is not asked to comment. Some may even be on Christmas Island awaiting deportation at Peter Dutton’s pleasure, courtesy of the character test an amendment to the Migration Act, of December 2014 which provides for mandatory cancellation of visas of anyone who has served a year in prison or who, “in the minister’s judgement” is a known associate of a criminal organisation.

Our immigration detention centres now hold more New Zealanders than any other national group. Kiwis are often held in detention for months awaiting “processing” of their deportation or appeal. Cut off from families and legal support, detainees report violence, abuse by guards, and a lack of medical treatment.

The government has no hope of getting its bill through the senate. At best, Turnbull’s bluff buys off bigots in his own party as well as those in the Murdoch press who deride his government for not making it easier for privileged white racists to abuse persecuted minorities. It is common knowledge now that 18C killed freedom fighter St Bill Leak, a racist cartoonist whom the PM has helped canonise.

“Political correctness did not silence Bill, any more than terrorists did, every cartoon he drew was an exercise of freedom.”

What the PM really hopes to do, however, is forestall a budgie smuggler putsch he fears is out to get him. Crazy? He’s read Catch 22. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.

Tactically, Turnbull’s batshit crazy; deluded. Every inch he yields, every capitulation he makes to his party’s right merely increases their demands and weakens his lame duck leadership of a government overwhelmed by such basic tasks as taking charge of its agenda. Yet after his cunning plan; his brilliant double dissolution disaster he lacks the political capital to defy his bullies.

Appeasing racists ought to be low down the list for a government with so much else that is pressing. It has yet to formulate a coherent energy or environment policy. It has yet to end Abbott era hangovers; zombie measures. It is racking up a massive deficit. It has no idea of what to do with the 854 asylum seekers on Manus Island once PNG closes the camp.

The refugee people-swap deal with an inept, crisis-ridden US administration appears flakier by the week.

Above all there’s the war on the poor, a crusade on behalf of the rich to cut up to $7,700 per annum from the wages of our lowest paid earners by axing Sunday penalty rates, a move which The McKell Institute reports, accelerates the mass casualisation of the Australian workforce which is now spreading, inexorably, into other workplaces and occupations.

The PM cannot bring himself to publicly announce his support for the pay cuts on the floor of the house but finds ways to announce that he’s in favour of a decision which he blames on Labor and the FWC.

Turnbull’s 18C stunt demeans the work of the bipartisan parliamentary committee which recently advised against any change and is yet another offence against democratic process committed as this government and its predecessor have sought to abrogate power into the office of the Prime Minister.

Increasingly, as one wag puts it,  what is good for the country is what is good for Malcolm Turnbull. His decision to devote himself to the repeal of a law he knows won’t get past the senate has to be the ultimate in cynical political manoeovreing.

In the process, his attempt to puff his posturing into a stand on free speech is likely to backfire and illuminate the extent to which his government is the catspaw of mining, business and media groups who are motivated only by the narrowest short-term, self-interest.

The PM’s hollow rhetoric this week is no substitute for vision or policy or leadership but is instead the desperate posturing of a hollow man intent on appeasing his right wing critics at any price.

Turnbull’s attempt to dilute the RDA’s section 18C to save his political hide, under cover of a fog of lies about freedom of speech and high-sounding lies nonsense about our multiculturalism makes Barnaby Joyce’s edible donkey skin trade with China honest and virtuous, a tangible public good by contrast.

 

 

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

weatherill talks to josh frydenberg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Freedom on the Wallaby  Henry Lawson 1891


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

turnbull and barnett in wa


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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