“I know perfectly well that it can’t last. Whatever we think, we are courtiers in an oriental Sultanate, and there is a corps of janissaries, with bowstrings at the ready, at the palace door.” Hugh Trevor Roper Imagine half a million Australians, a record 501,876 … Continue reading A cancer on our democracy
Deck the halls with vows of folly. How good are good tidings, lies and promises you never, for a moment, intend to keep? All Aussies stranded overseas home by Christmas? Ho. Ho. Ho. Australia ‘among the first’ to receive the world’s most promising vaccine? “We … Continue reading A criminally negligent federal government beneath the festive schmaltz.
Australians swell with pride; hi-five each other – as they wait patiently to be ripped off at local supermarket duopoly checkouts, Monday – or vastly overcharged for cheap, dirty petrol amongst the worst in the OECD, over news that Abbott fan and Dutton numbers man, Belgian waffler … Continue reading Scotty gets gong while Cormann crashes jet set.
Australians all let us rejoice. For we are done with thee. Vexatious litigant and wage-thief, Clive Palmer, fools no-one with his yellow billboards of lies; targeted Facebook ads, texts and social media trolling about a Labor death tax in his eight million dollar campaign to “Give Labor the boot”. … Continue reading “It is the core that is lunatic, not the fringe.”
Australia, Coca-colonial US satellite and missile guidance base is abruptly distracted from its Dear Leader’s sweet dream of a gas-led El Dorado; a nation great again with tax cuts and other handouts to the rich; a people soon to be joyously back at toil in … Continue reading Trump is the architect of his own decline.
In any other universe, recovering from one public health crisis by worsening another would spark immediate backlash. An “asbestos led recovery” would be career-ending; as would a “tobacco led recovery” or a “AK-47 led recovery”. But fossil fuels have locked their harm so deeply into … Continue reading Stop the lies, Morrison. Your gas-led recovery is a toxic sham.
“Trump puts his stamp on the politics of other countries … both overtly and subtly. Populists, nationalists and authoritarians look to Trump and know that they may proceed unchecked. Countries more committed to the decades-long liberal international order scramble to respond to scrapped cultural, institutional, … Continue reading Just who are the losers and suckers, Mr Trump?
“We haven’t got everything perfectly right … we continue to learn from the experiences of previous events”. Richard Colbeck appears as this week’s poster-boy for the Morrison government of cruelty and neglect. Yet in a blink of an eye, he is eclipsed by Tony Abbott, … Continue reading Let our old folk die? Abbott sets the tone for a cruel and heartless government’s next act.
We have to think that we have to work together as a human species to be organized to care for one another, to realize that the health of the most vulnerable people among us is a determining factor for the health of all of us, and, if we aren’t prepared to do that, we’ll never, ever be prepared to confront these devastating challenges to our humanity.
Canadian Bruce Aylward, leader of independent WHO mission to study the spread of the virus in China:
In the dark night of the soul, the pall cast over us all by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2, a pandemic virus strain that causes coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19, a respiratory illness, which also triggers fear and despair, there is more than a glimmer of hope.
While the toll is shocking, COVID-19 infects almost 2.5 million and causes over 170,000 to die, (2:00 pm) Tuesday 21 AEST and puts our global economic and social interactions into deep freeze – and while WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warns “the worst is yet ahead” countless acts of kindness, courage, decency and humanity, shine through.
A Sydney local fills a wooden mailbox with books and pantry supplies, urging passers-by: “take what you need.” In the UK, over four thousand doctors and nurses come out of retirement; risking their lives to help in understaffed hospitals. Dr Alfa Saadu, 68, dies of coronavirus caught while volunteering at the Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital, in Welwyn, Hertfordshire. He is one of four – all minority ethnic doctors -to lose his life so far.
Rethink Food, a New York local non-profit organisation, launches a pop-up soup kitchen outside Salem Methodist church, forced to close its own kitchen because its volunteers are elderly and at too high a risk from infection, serves 600 to 1,000 meals a day, five days a week.
“We could easily do 5,000 meals a day,” Rethink founder Matt Jozwiak says. And lines would be even longer were it not for fear of infection. Endless numbers of other acts of compassion, altruism and self-sacrifice are taking place around the world as people follow their hearts.
“Tireless healthcare workers and researchers seek medical breakthroughs to prevent and cure this new disease. Countless healthcare providers care for the sick, often putting themselves at risk, particularly before the nature of the disease was known. Even the heartache of families who wait helplessly as a beloved family member dies alone quarantined in a nursing home reminds us of the deep bonds that hold us together,” writes Search Institute’s Eugene C. Roehlkepartain.
But Donald Trump’s Operation Re-open America is only about following the cash nexus.
“LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” “LIBERATE VIRGINIA.” He tweets. Crowds of protestors magically appear for news cameras in the streets of centres in key states. Give me Liberty or Give Me COVID-19 reads a sign held by a young man in a red cap in Austin Texas. He seems to have utilised a torn-up cardboard carton to add credibility to his improvised sign.
It’s certainly no improvised protest. The demonstrations are orchestrated by a group of far-right, pro-gun Facebook groups calling for anti-quarantine protests throughout the US, reports The Washington Post’s Isaac Stanley-Becker and Tony Romm. The images help skew viewers’ impression away from the reality that most Americans want the shutdown to continue.
Nearly 70 percent of Republicans say they support a national stay-at-home order, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll. Ninety-five percent of Democrats back such a measure in the survey.
The work of the work of Ben Dorr, “political director” of a group called “Minnesota Gun Rights,” and his brothers, Christopher and Aaron, the groups attract 200,000 members combined. They continue to expand rapidly in the days after Trump endorses such protests by suggesting citizens should “liberate” their states. Expect to see more images.
“Jesus is my vaccine,” reads a message on a tractor, driven past the crowded statehouse in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Monday. “Shutdown the Shutdown” says a Maryland sign.
Like Scott Morrison’s Pro-Growth Agenda, Trump’s campaign to shut down the shutdown implies a false choice mimicked in Australia and elsewhere; we need to get back to work; back out into social circulation, rather than remain at home for everyone’s safety or we blow up the economy. Trump has his devotees here. Our Prime Minister is a big fan. So, what is going on?
Health crisis or economic crisis? An open letter published Monday is signed by 157 economists who call it a “false distinction”. While the economists, who include RBA board member Ian Harper and former member Warwick McKibbin, back the government’s $200 billion-plus spending measures they oppose prematurely loosening social distancing restrictions.
They also warn of the consequences of a second wave of infections: “We cannot have a functioning economy unless we first comprehensively address the public health crisis.”
Is the President of the United States actively promoting insurrection? A second Civil War? Washington Governor, Jay Inslee, accuses Trump of encouraging “illegal and dangerous acts”.
Or is Trump merely campaigning in his typically gonzo fashion? Each state has a Democrat Governor; Michigan could be crucial to Trump’s re-election campaign in November’s General Election. As a rule, it’s all about Trump. And as another rule you can’t trust a word he says.
“It’s not about me,” Trump says during Sunday’s briefing. Yet he just has to be at the microphone for all but 13 of its 90 minutes. “Nothing’s about me.”
If the Donald doth protest too much, his toxic tirades are over the top. “He is putting millions of people in danger of contracting COVID-19. His unhinged rantings and calls for people to “liberate” states could also lead to violence. We’ve seen it before,” Democrat, Inslee tweets.
The reality TV star has completely politicised this pandemic, writes Charles M Blow for The New York Times. Blow argues Trump’s “briefings” are his political tool to achieve this. “He is standing on top of … 40,000 dead bodies and using the media to distract attention away from them and instead brag about what a great job he’s done.”
Trump’s call to citizens to rise up against state governors does little to comfort those friends and family mourning over 42 thousand deceased. Nor does it inspire hope in the 792,913 victims of COVID-19 (Tuesday 21, 3:30 pm AEST) yet another scourge of globalisation, the destroyer of space and distance which surged in 2001.
Why? China joined the WTO and modern India forsook its nationalist economic and social ideals to embrace neoliberalism, an ideology which puts the market above the state and which commodifies human relationships. By 2001, global travel and globalisation had ceased to be the privilege of an elite and began to reach deep into the hinterland of these vast populations, as Guy Rundle reminds us. Coronavirus coincides with this new level of globalisation.
The coronavirus is now setting off a cascade of health, economic and social effects that may lead to a collapse of economic globalization, writes Anthea Roberts. This may play out better for Trump than his bungling of America’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. He knows his re-election depends on voters’ perceptions of his handling of the crisis. So he has a cure.
The golf-cheat-in-chief, himself, unable to play in lockdown is quick to exploit a snake oil sales opportunity. Trump promotes the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a possible cure for COVID-19. It’s untested – clinical trials are too small and inconclusive. Experts warn against it.
Some of the twenty-two million Americans, who are now out of work, doubtless, will rush to be guinea-pigs. In Australia, we’ve fast-tracked it so that it can be used in hospitals. After all, anything Trump is spruiking has to be good. Our Chief Medical Officers appear impotent.
Clive Palmer has invested a lazy million dollars of his own money to a “coronavirus action fund” to develop the anti-malaria drug which has toxic side effects when used inappropriately.
It’s OK when treating malaria or lupus or rheumatoid arthritis but perpetrating the myth that it is a cure for COVID-19 is reckless endangerment. It also has led to stockpiling of the drug with the result that those who genuinely need the treatment cannot obtain it.
“Liberate” is more than a bizarre word for men, women and children who are merely obeying the advice of their public health officials and their state government; citizens who are not being repressed or incarcerated but merely complying with advice to self-isolate for their own sake, their community and the nation.
It is pitched to resonate with the alt-right, a dog whistle to all gun nuts, psychopaths and others who mistakenly believe the Second Amendment was written to enable the citizenry to violently resist the government of the United States.
“Liberate” is an abdication of responsibility, by a malignant narcissist who cannot feel for others but who is acutely attuned to the stock market. Trump is gambling that a return to work will somehow restore the nation’s prosperity. He never ceases to fret about his own.
The Trump Organisation needs to service its debt. With some Trump golf courses and hotels closed in the coronavirus lockdown, the family firm, trading since 1923, is seeking to defer payments on some loans and dues such as its lease payments to Palm Beach County to run its golf course on county land. But it’s all cool. Trump calls himself “the king of debt”.
To safely reopen businesses, shops, schools, more COVID-19 tests need to be done. Because tests are scarce, largely due to Trump’s bungling administration, they are rationed to America’s sickest people. In order to liberate; re-open closed businesses and revive social life, those tested must include all those likely to spread the disease – not just the sickest.
Trump’s option is a type of roulette, a gamble on herd immunity, a phenomenon which first requires a vaccine to be invented, a breakthrough which may never come. Even then, experts warn, herd immunity may not even exist for COVID-19. If the four coronaviruses in the common cold are a clue, immunity may be ephemeral, lasting only a few months to a year.
Too little is known about the novel coronavirus and too much is known about other coronaviruses such as SARS and MERS to make it safe to assume that exposure will confer lasting immunity. Too little credence is given to the fundamental truth that a healthy population is the key to a prosperous economy. Much time and money are spent in media worldwide prompting us to choose jobs crisis from the false dichotomy jobs or health.
In Canberra, Trump’s satellite of love and public health pioneer, our PM aka “steam me up Scotty”, star of “The Love Rub”, a 1970s Vicks Vaporub commercial, now re-appears as Our Nation’s Saviour, a miracle play from Pandemic Promotions. Scotty’s just busting to follow Trump’s lead. Saviour is a show with two flags, medical experts and regular egging-on from Health Minister, the unctuous Duttonista, Greg Hunt, who patronises us for our obedience; praising our curve-flattening, as if we’re all on some bizarre weight-loss contest.
Saviour makes a beaut distraction from reports of shortages; stories of doctors and nurses who are forced to re-use single-use masks or who are told to wear plastic aprons because there are no gowns. Psychiatrist Karen Williams’ survey of 245 Australian frontline medical workers finds sixty-one per cent of doctors feel pressure from other staff not to wear a mask, and more than half feel guilt or shame for wearing one.
“The chickens have come home to roost” for Tasmania’s healthcare system and a “decade of austerity” explains Tim Jacobsen, Tasmanian state secretary of the Health and Community Services Union, who reports to The Saturday Paper’s Rick Morton of such dire shortages that staff are forced to rob Peter to pay Paul; “strip” supplies from some parts of hospitals in order to plug gaps in more exposed areas.
“No one has said this overtly, but we clearly have national shortages of personal protective equipment,” Jacobson says. “Masks, gloves, the protective jumpsuits: they have all been very, very difficult to source. It is all being rationed. We have seen mixed messages going out to staff over the last three weeks. Reuse your masks, you need to keep your masks, that sort of thing…”
Yet, however much Hunt pats us on the head, for the “sustained and genuine” way we self-isolate, his PM quickly queers his pitch. Morrison shrinks his six-month lockdown into “a four-week minimum”. Saving jobs outweighs saving lives. Besides if Trump’s America is open for business, how can its client-state stay closed?
Helping the Health Minister succeed, former PM, Malcolm “Fizza” Turnbull’s memoir, “A Bigger Picture” doesn’t flatter Hunt; painting him as a potty-mouthed prat whose abusive, vulgar language and overweening ambition helped everyone to hate him, while Morrison is merely untrustworthy. Scotty damaged his government with leaks that put the government on the back foot, Turnbull reports. Yet Morrison was offside with some major players.
“Mathias regarded Scott as emotional, narcissistic and untrustworthy and told me so regularly,” Turnbull writes. Dutton was also hostile to Morrison. “Of course, if Mathias had a poor opinion of Scott, Dutton’s dislike of him was even stronger,” he says. It’s evident in the strained working relationship between the pair in drought and pandemic.
Yet Greg Hunt seems to have made himself universally detested. Turnbull recalls the day his successor, the Machiavellian Morrison, won the Liberal leadership ballot over his challenger Peter Dutton, the Home Affairs Minister.
“If looks could have killed, Hunt would have fallen over dead. He’d been Dutton’s wannabe deputy and had been working towards this day for months. Never liked, he’d never been more despised than he was at that moment.”
“None of us are perfect, I absolutely acknowledge that,” Hunt says archly. Tellingly, no Liberal MP contests Turnbull’s verdict on Scotty. Or Dutto. Or Hunt. Marise Payne, fails to persuade ABC Insiders’ host, David Speers, or any of his viewers, with her lame claim that she “received and deleted” her pirate copy of A Bigger Picture. When she declares she did not receive her emailed copy from the PM’s office, she reveals that other Liberals were emailing, too.
It seems to have been a bit of a hoot. Take the Toff down a peg. But nothing Turnbull says, now, will dent the commanding fictional narrative the Morrison junta has established; how it acted quickly and, in the nation’s, best interests and how citizens have been so compliant that we’ve stopped the toxic pathogen in its tracks. Besides, Hunt rises to the occasion; takes any high road he can salvage by saying he won’t be reading Turnbull’s The Bigger Picture.
A blizzard of electronic copies of Turnbull’s book is pirated by a staff member in the Prime Minister’s Office, publisher, Hardie Grant alleges, Saturday. Recipients obligingly forward them on. For Hardie Grant, it’s malicious conduct and a massive breach of copyright. Not only were unauthorised copies freely distributed, recipients were urged to forward them to others. Some MPs report receiving five or six copies reports Malcolm Farr for The Guardian Australia.
A letter of complaint is sent on Saturday to senior Morrison adviser Nico Louw by Nicholas Pullen of lawyers HWL Ebsworth, on behalf of Turnbull and his publishers. Louw admits to forwarding 56 copies. Pullen writes that he has been instructed Louw was “responsible for unauthorised distribution of my client’s book” in digital form.
While the publisher threatens to refer potential criminal breaches of the law to the AFP, copyright lawyers advise a civil lawsuit may be more productive. Hilarious. The AFP has never, since its inception in 1979, brought a case that would embarrass a sitting government.
A journalist receives half a dozen. It’s a rip-off on “a massive scale”, say Turnbull and his publisher’s lawyers, a state of affairs that would trouble legitimate purchasers seeking Turnbull’s explanation of his National Broadband Network (NBN) debacle, a $51 billion catastrophe which has spectacularly failed to deliver.
Readers pay good money expecting to learn Turnbull explain why for at least twenty years, Snowy 2.0 will store coal-fired electricity. Not renewable. Snowy 2.0 will also create additional demand for coal-fired generation; increase greenhouse gas emissions. Why? ABC 7:30 Report’s Leigh Sales fails to put these posers to Tuesday night.
A letter of complaint is sent on Saturday to senior Morrison adviser Nico Louw by Nicholas Pullen of lawyers HWL Ebsworth, on behalf of Turnbull and his publishers. Pullen writes that he has been instructed Louw was “responsible for unauthorised distribution of my client’s book” in digital form.
But amidst Turnbullian threats by the publisher to refer potential criminal breaches to the Australian federal police, copyright law specialists say the company and the former PM might have a better chance of bringing a civil lawsuit. But look over here!
When all else fails, cue the spin-machine. Or the dead cat on the table. Forget quarantine, or social isolation, Scotty’s fellow evangelical, prosperity gospeller and prayer-mate, walking disaster area, Stuart Robert has knocked off a fabulous app from Singapore we can all put on our blue-tooth-enabled phones. Download. If we want to.
It’ll be an opt-in thing, Scotty says, airily, back-flipping only one day after threatening to make it compulsory. He’s working hard at what he does best, stirring up a diversion.
Apart from the ten per cent of us who don’t own a mobile phone. It’s “a big Team Australia moment” says the Services Minister, wowing us with his oratory and his capacity to reference notorious Liberal Party Luddite, a keenly contested title, tiny Tony Abbott.
“There is no geolocation, there is no surveillance, there is no tracking,” Robert promises. Besides, a lot of that stuff can be got from the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) which has been spying on citizens for years. As Sally McManus says, you expect your phone to be tapped.
Various other intelligence agencies pitch in. Federal and state police, can also request access to your telephone and internet records. These can reveal information about your whereabouts and whom you talked to, emailed or messaged. As Turnbull boasts in A Bigger Picture, as he takes credit for creating the Office of National Intelligence (ONI), PM had access to the collective wisdom and insights of our 7000-person-strong intelligence community.
Yet as Singapore’s increasing rate of infection shows, either contact tracing is too slow, or SARS-CoV-2 is too fast to enable intervention to slow community transmission.
At least the app will help keep more tabs on us. What could possibly go wrong? Above all, Morrison loves the war-talk his mentor, America’s most revered Vietnam bone-spur deferment veteran, uses to inspire states to rebel.
It’s no less than an … “historic battle against the invisible enemy” that amounts to the “greatest national mobilisation since world war two”, says Trump’s autocue.
It’s rhetorical nonsense, probably penned by slumlord millionaire, and “tier-one predator”, son-in-law Jared Kushner, Trump’s fixer on Middle East peace, or Opioid crisis which may have killed 450,000 Americans since 1999, or winning hearts and minds by dithering with COVID-19.
Six weeks are lost as a result of Trump’s dithering and downplaying of the crisis when the virus first struck. His administration’s initial response is “one of the greatest failures of basic governance and leadership in modern times” says Jeremy Konyndyk, a central figure in the US battle against Ebola. The Morrison government dithered, too, before the secretary of the Treasury, aided by Labor and the Unions pressed for a stimulus package.
Trump’s number one fan Downunder, Aloha Morrison is keen to match his mentor’s rhetoric while basic governance and leadership have eluded him from the start. He’ll never recover from his Hawaiian holiday nor his plan to go to a Rugby League game.
Now he’s channelling Trump in his bullshit that we must put the economic crisis ahead of the pandemic; rush back to the workplace just in time to catch or infect workmates with the ‘rona.
The next few weeks will severely tax the PM. Lacking his party’s trust, unable to delegate, let alone work with others, Morrison’s done well recently out of letting the real leaders, particularly Labor Premiers tell him what to do, especially over schooling.
Now he’ll have to do some work himself; something he can’t abide. Being awarded Turnbull’s Plumber’s mate award for his leaks, is unlikely to deter Scotty from his “front-running” – media leaks that weaken the government during high-stakes cabinet debates. After all, his office leaked advance freebies of Malco’s new e-book.
Being “emotional, narcissistic and untrustworthy” won’t bother Morrison, either. Since when did he give a fig? Besides, he’s already got his revenge. The bootleg preview of A Bigger Picture came from a senior staffer – before being forwarded so eagerly to a cast of thousands – copyright given such a thorough thrashing that the memoir, its author and his entire political career became some sort of electronic piñata.
But pushing Trump’s rush-back-to-work barrow is going to be hard yakka. Especially when there isn’t any work for millions of workers to return to, in an economy bled dry after six years’ Coalition mismanagement – before the virus helps tip it into recession.
Above all, his “pro-growth agenda” which is austerity budgeting under an Orwellian name is nothing but a desperate attempt to walk two sides of the fence. Granted it’s Morrrison’s speciality but no good can ever come of it. The Keynesian stimulus giver cannot reveal himself “on the other side” as a monetarist with a closed fist.
“On the other side of this virus and leading on the way out we are going to have to have economic policy measures that are going to have to be very pro-growth, that is going to enable businesses to employ people, that is going to enable businesses to invest and businesses to move forward”. Scott Morrison
It’s going to take a lot more than stale rhetoric. Or platitudes about growth. Lies about the “other side” don’t cut it either. Australians expect the truth, harsh as it may be, not some pie in the sky. There can be no snap back. The world has changed forever.
Morrison’s hollow words reveal that he has no idea what to do to get Australia open for business again. He knows only how to close things down. The nation deserves better; real leadership – for starters – of the sort we’ve seen from some state premiers.
Humanity is a big part of the leadership required. We see it everyday from extraordinary “ordinary” people just doing their best; doing their jobs. Taking care of one another. That’s where true hope lies. Not in sucking up even more to the business class.
Keep the National Cabinet going until 2022, Scotty; you just keep low in the back seat.
The ritual killing of a water buffalo, by Ifugao villagers of northern Luzon, Philippines, the bloody, brutal slaughter of an innocent, sentient creature, a shocking intrusion of cinéma vérité (filmed by his Francis’ Ford’s wife Eleanor) spliced into the last, dark scenes of Coppola’s self-indulgent masterpiece Apocalypse Now presages the savaging of our body politic to keep us safe from COVID-19.
Premiers hack away at our civil liberties. Our pass-the-parcel federal government hands over its job to a congeries of police proto-states where democracy is hollowed out. Unlike their counterparts overseas, our Federal MPs take a break while the pandemic wreaks its havoc. Genius. Much as it suits Morrison’s secretive style to run a closed shop, someone has to turn up to work, along with teachers and healthcare workers.
To be fair to Scotty, being mugged by reality is a relief. His government has always lacked any agenda. Its dearth of policy ideas, programmes, principles is embarrassing. Forlornly, it kicks a busted legislative can or two down the road. Where is that Morrison priority, his tits-on-a-bull religious discrimination bill? All that seems still in play are its stage two and three tax cuts – cuts it can’t afford and can’t afford to give up on.
Bernie Fraser tells The Sydney Morning Herald that Team Morrison’s policies plus tax cuts face a “reckoning” as public sector debt reaches $1.5 trillion. Plus a potential budget deficit of $200 billion this year, reports The Saturday Paper‘s Max Opray. New company tax cuts for sprats – firms earning under $50 million start next in 2020-21. Personal income tax cuts further bleed the budget by $132 billion over ten years begin the following financial year. None of this will help our economy over-reliant on mining in deep recession.
As Frank Bongiorno puts it, Morrison has governed like a political billionaire yet without a hint of a policy agenda thanks to his vacuous, platform-free election campaign. The rest of his team are back-slapping and high-fiving on the close of parliament’s token day back, Wednesday – as if they had something to celebrate.
Other democracies aren’t shutting down. Peoples’ representatives in the US, the UK, Canada and New Zealand will all return to parliament, later this April. Congress, on the other hand, hasn’t cut its schedule at all.
It’s not easy being Antony Albanese, you get bad press, cut off mid-sentence or mostly no press at all. Jokes about your combover? Yet Albo has it sussed. Parliament “wasn’t suspended during the Spanish flu, or World War I or World War II”.
Barry Jones argues cogently that it is precisely in times of crisis that we need our parliament the most. Without transparency and scrutiny, there is no democracy. He quotes lawyer and journo, David Allen Green.
“If it were not for this public health emergency, this situation would be the legal dream of the worst modern tyrant. Everybody under control, every social movement or association prohibited, every electronic communication subject to surveillance. This would be an unthinkable legal situation for any free society. Of course, the public health emergency takes absolute priority. But we also should not be blind to the costs.”
Who’s to help our Kangaroo National Cabinet and NCCC run the show? SA and WA adjourn their parliaments, mothball democracy, but for other states, it’s see you later (on the other side) and may the fuzz be with you.
“Don’t be surprised, this Easter, if you are stopped by the police and asked what you’re doing” warns Tasmanian Premier, party-pooper, Peter Gutwein who, at least, concedes that if “this were a game of football, we’re not yet halfway through the first quarter”. Apple Isle Peelers will be out in force over Easter. Anyone holing up in the shack; hunting eggs in holiday homes can expect a knock on the door. Or a boot.
Never one to be outdone, Victorian Premier, despotic Dan Andrews, in bed with Big Gas, suspends parliament indefinitely and – unlike Gutwein – seriously contemplates a bonking ban on couples living apart. Andrews warns Victorians high-tailgating it out of Melbourne to caravan parks or already at it like rabbits in their holiday homes to expect an Easter visit from a flop-eared friend in uniform. “…it’s not an Airbnb weekend.”
You can holiday with your family only in a property you own, says Dan. Own? That’s around five per cent of the state’s population. But there’s always been a better set of rules for the ruling elite. Get used to it. Inequality’s only going to increase.
For SA Easter hot cross bunnies, first the good news. Steve Marshall who like climate giant, Craig Kelly, ran a family furniture business before getting into politics and middle-class welfare is giving $10,000 to 19000 gyms, hairdressers, beauty and nail salons, restaurants, cafes and cellar doors, who’ve had to close their doors or who’ve lost income because of the CoVID-19 lockdown. It’s a handout to help you through a crisis which News Corp’s flat-curvers tells us will be done and dusted soon. It’ll buy a lot of chocolate at least. But does trickle-down really work?
Trickle-down is a delusion conservative economist Arthur Laffer sketched on a napkin at a free lunch in 1974 to bullshit Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, two giants of US Republicanism, a once-proud party which now panders to demented despot, aspiring-president-for-life, Pussy-Grabber in Chief, Donald Trump.
A senile Ronald Reagan fell in love with trickle-down. If governments cut business taxes and ease up on the rich, (or, give hand-outs like Scotty’s (Keep my own) JobKeeper or Marshall’s cash splash,) they’ll invest that extra money in productive enterprise, which, in turn, creates more jobs and growth, which will ultimately maximise both the return on endeavour and government revenue. Fantastic? Literally. It hasn’t happened yet.
For Ron Reagan Sr, revenues fell, the deficit doubled and government debt tripled. The US turned from the world’s largest creditor to its biggest debtor. But the theory thrives.
A huge body of evidence exposing the trickle-down myth is probably all fake news. At least if you’ve shut up your SA nail salon, you can buy a few Easter eggs. The bad news? Going away is “completely and utterly off”.
As it is for those in Queensland or NSW. But cheer up Crow-eaters. If at home in SA, the two person rule is just a recommendation – you can have up to ten attending your Easter rave parade and you won’t be busted. But don’t be surprised when your local coppers drop by just to count heads. Human, that is. There’s a rogue virus to patrol.
Every day, we become a less democratic nation, warns lawyer Michael Bradley. The PM and Premiers lecture us with a heavy-handed paternalism. Leaders don’t make sense? No. It’s the people who can’t be trusted to do the right thing. A novel coronavirus brings a brave new world, Bradley writes in Crikey. It’s a world with,
” … police cars circling inside public parks, lights flashing, ordering stationary people to either get on with their exercise regime or go straight home. A tense debate on social media about whether visiting your boyfriend who lives in a different house qualifies as a “reasonable excuse” to leave yours.”
Follow our leaders’ authoritative, timely advice? Listen as they clearly explain restrictions to us? Impossible. They’re experts in equivocating, spin and bullshit.
Eagerly, NSW, Victoria, SA and other tinpot dictatorships reach for the big stick; vying with each other to impose the strictest lockdown. NSW and SA put their top cops in charge. And they look the part. Overpower-dressing. Flaunt the braid; flash the badges, patches, epaulettes and the rest of their quasi-military rig. Inspire trust.
It’s not just the uniform. Our cops are increasingly militarised. Front-line officers in Queensland and Victoria, and specialist units across the country, are being trained in military-style tactics and thinking. Lawyer and former ADF officer, John Sutton warns of a slow and disturbing “convergence”. But is it a good fit?
“Typically, a close ideological and operational alliance between the police force and the military has always been associated with repressive regimes,” he says. Despite John Howard and Tony Abbott and other uniform-fetishists, “Australia has a very strong democracy and a very robust civic mindedness among its population.
Erik Jensen agrees. The Saturday Paper’s editor in chief, agrees that restrictive public health measures are vital. There’s just no evidence to justify any lurch to the right; any special powers of enforcement. “Australia is an exceptionally law-abiding country with a national character based on the false belief we are not.”
Nor is there any sign police have been trained to deal with the health measures detailed in the public health order. Worse, Bradley and others note, the “lockdown state” reverses the onus of proof fundamental to our legal system. In coronavirus times you need to prove you’re doing the right thing by others at all times.
To protect against wrongful convictions, the criminal law, ordinarily, requires proof “beyond reasonable doubt” and the onus of proof lies with the accuser. If there is no case to answer for, a defendant’s silence should be sufficient to render them innocent. Only after proof is brought, should the defendant need to present some defence to their supposed actions.
Old as the law itself, the presumption of innocence lies trampled underfoot. States vie on TV to signal their virtue as guardians of public health, a task neatly handballed, along with such responsibilities as the criminal investigation of the Ruby Princess by a Morrison government always happy to hand-ball trouble.
Are we flattening the curve or flattening freedom? Of course we need to self-isolate and observe other social distancing and health precautions. Self-quarantine is imperative in halting contagious disease. Surviving the coronavirus pandemic means following expert advice, but do we need to be coerced?
Michael Bradley makes a case for a less arbitrary more workable system of policing lockdown.
“I wouldn’t object to a regime under which I was required by law to remain home, with the proviso that I was able to lawfully leave home and go outside if I had a legitimate reason for doing so, subject to all the rules of physical distancing. I also wouldn’t object if that regime gave the police power to reasonably determine that my reason was not legitimate and to order me to go home; or to fine or arrest me if I refused and they reasonably believed that I may be presenting a danger to public health by my actions.
No-one disputes the need for a lockdown. It is a reasonable and proportionate response to the threat of community infection but are we really that complacent or recalcitrant? Or is our allegedly wilful disobedience simply the result of our leaders’ mixed messaging? Confusion abounds. Just look at Victoria.
Not every couple lives together. Can you visit your partner at his or her home? No says Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Brett Sutton. State Police Minister, Lisa Neville also says it’s not on. Well mostly. Sort of. That’s a definite mabybe, then.
“You cannot visit your partner for social reasons. There are select reasons you can go to the home of your partner.” Daniel Andrews, on the other hand, who knows a bit about public speaking goes off into a riff:
“That’s not work, that’s not caregiving, that’s not medical care, that’s not shopping for the things that you need when you need them. And you know, it does not comply with the rules. So people should not do that.”
Newsflash. The rules have been relaxed. It’s now OK. But there’s no guarantee things won’t change as the number of Victorians infected with COVID-19 continues to climb. And climb as they do when community transmission is under-reported thanks to a limited testing regime – (expanded since Monday).
Our leaders fail to communicate clearly; consistently. In part, they, themselves, are confused. Or prefer evasion. At the start, in his self-styled role as Bronte bogan, Ocker Morrison urged us to continue with our normal lives. He was off to watch his Cronulla Sharks, or so he planned. It’s vital to his self-marketing.
Being a macho Sharkies fan is vital to Morrison’s everyman branding – as Van Badham says, although he fools no-one, he’s a “fauxgan not a bogan” – a Sydney eastern suburbs spiv who needs the westie blue collar vote. Yet in February, there were echoes of his mentor Donald Trump in his message of business as usual.
“There is no need for us to be moving towards not having mass gatherings of people. You can still go to the football, you can still go to the cricket … You can go off to the concert, and you can go out for a Chinese meal. You can do all of these things because Australia has acted quickly.”
Yet there was a need. Morrison gave dud advice based on a lie. Australia did not act quickly, argues Bill Bowtell, adjunct professor at The Kirby Institute for Infection and Immunity at the University of New South Wales and architect of Australia’s world-leading response to the AIDS epidemic several decades ago.
The federal Government knew about the severity of Coronavirus three months before it did anything. It should have accumulated testing kits, brought in necessary emergency equipment and medical supplies, provided money for science and vaccine research and immediately begun a public educational campaign.
Confusion from the top helps create a broader, underlying problem of vagueness at law. In the US a law can be unconstitutionally void for vagueness as former convenor of criminology, Deakin University’s Darren Palmer writes in The Conversation; a law becomes invalid because it is insufficiently clear.
People must have trust in any new powers given to authorities, he continues. New powers must be clear to all; applied consistently and transparently. Pandemic powers currently meet none of these criteria.
Pandemic powers are vague, inconsistent and opaque. A Victorian teenager is fined $1600 (later withdrawn by Victorian Police) for a driving lesson that is deemed non-essential travel yet NSW Police say the lesson would have been OK in NSW. Mick Fuller tells Fran Kelly that travel to a holiday home at Easter is not essential travel whereas in Victoria, it’s OK if quarantine is observed on arrival. And you own the home.
Do we really need to see soldiers in the street? Fine a man for eating a kebab? A homeless person is fined washing windscreens in south-west Sydney. Another man is pinged for drinking outside a closed pub. Exercise is OK but not elbow-raising.
But,sit on a park bench to catch your breath and you risk a fine in Victoria or NSW.
In SA, as in NSW, top cop, Police Commissioner, Grant Stevens, is the designated emergency co-ordinator. Accordingly, Stevens is practically licensed to kill.
He may use “such force as is reasonably necessary in the exercise or discharge of a power or function under this section or in ensuring compliance with a direction or requirement under this section.”
Not only are you are expected to quietly obey the new laws in SA, you forfeit your right to remain silent. “no obligation to maintain secrecy or other restriction on the disclosure of information” when you are “ … required to disclose information by a direction or requirement” issued under the new powers. Experts in civil liberties warn that we’re on a bit of a slippery slope – and we’ve been on it for about twenty years.
“Australia is now the only democratic nation in the world without a national human rights law such as a human rights act or bill of rights,” warned UNSW Professor George Williams in 2011.
Williams calculates that between the September 11 terrorist attacks and Howard’s end in 2007, a new anti-terror law was enacted every 6.7 weeks. Since then, increasingly draconian – and often unworkable – legislation has ballooned out well beyond any sane or reasonable response to its original worthy aim. Coronavirus extends the trend.
“There’s been a massive amount of legislation passed that prior to [September 2001] would have been unthinkable”, Pauline Wright, President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties says. “There have been incursions into freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of movement, right to protest, all basic legal rights that underpin our democracy”.
Luckily, we have a PM who is alert to creeping crypto-fascism. Scotty from marketing makes it clear he is sensitive to the term “lockdown”. He fears it may prompt panic buying of toilet rolls and hand sanitizer.
“I would actually caution the media against using the word ‘lockdown’ because I think it does create unnecessary anxiety because that is not an arrangement that is actually being considered in the way that term might suggest,” he says with typical laconic brevity. Yet Police Commissioner, Mick Fuller, who once took Morrison’s wheelie bin in for him, and is now the most powerful man in the state, begs to differ.
“You’re in a lockdown wherever you live,” Mick says last Tuesday after NSW announces its strict rules.
The latest lockdown laws in all states are rushed, unnecessary; “overzealous” writes ANU’s Peter Collignon, a professor of infectious disease. Not only do they seem a tad arbitrary and excessive, however, they are based on guesswork, extrapolation from extractions; cherry-picked, overseas data as Our Nation’s, Flat-Curve Saviour, Morrison confirms in his over-hyped, long-awaited, Release the Modelling show, Tuesday.
Asked whether the exotic modelling “indicated anything about the relative effectiveness of different measures” deployed in Australia. Chief Medical Officer Murphy replies: “It doesn’t, unfortunately.”
In brief, we’ve set up petty despots to protect us from spreading infection who don’t really know what they’re doing or why they are doing it. There is broad agreement on restricting movement but without any clear rationale to inform their arbitrary and inconsistent decrees to restrict the spread of the virus.
Duck-shoving responsibility to the states but taking all the credit for a flattening of the coronavirus pandemic curve, the federal government suspends parliament –
Even Jacqui Lambie’s not happy.
“This idea the government has of calling us in on a whim, whenever they feel they need, it’s not the most functional. They’re spending billions of dollars, so it’s time to apply a bit of scrutiny. We’ve been very nice to the government, we’ve played very nice. But with no parliament – is that a sustainable way for a democracy to go? No, it’s not.” The Independent Tassie Senator,makes the right call this time.
The Morrison government continues to hack away at the practice of representative democracy. Adding insult to injury, Federal Parliament is recalled, Wednesday, to rubber-stamp Job-Keeper. Labor is asked endlessly if it’s going to block the legislation – as if it has the numbers -when it’s already promised its support. The subtext in ABC news reports is that it would be heresy to challenge the Morrison government’s plan.
In fact, there’s a lot that needs challenging. Over a million Australians are ineligible. The Very Christian Porter doesn’t care. There has to be a line drawn somewhere he says. The Australian Bureau of Statistics report only 47% of businesses in the arts and recreation sector are still operating at the end of March.
But because short-term contract work is rampant in theatre, television, film, live shows and the wider arts sector of the economy, many of the 50,000 artists and 600,000 workers in the sector miss out on JobKeeper.
JobKeeper is touted as a $130 billion stimulus package, vital to Snap-Back, Morrison’s six-month miracle cure for our Coronavirus economic recession – which, amazingly, is yet another subsidy of the Liberal Party’s business pals. No-one asks where’s the money coming from; ask which spending will be cut or what additional revenue will pay for it. Few bother with the lack of any “mutual obligation” to bosses attached to it.
Yet the package will help Scotty counter toxic images of queues outside Centrelink offices, snaking along pavements and around the block. Not only will JobKeeper workers be kept out of unemployment queues, moreover, they won’t appear in statistics. Best of all, employers get to choose which workers to keep and which to lose. Workers’ gratitude will be lavished on big-hearted bosses, not endorse Big Government.
JobKeeper is yet another “package” – Morrison jargon to help evade accountability. Many drought relief packages, for example, are yet to materialise. JobKeeper subsidises six million workers’ wages to keep one million in work, as Richard Denniss observes, in a cunning transfer of wealth to prosperous business owners.
Expect little debate. The News-Corp-led media Hallelujah Chorus hails the PM as the Messiah. David Speers on ABC Insiders is full of applause. Others ask: how good is our socialist government? But both are lies. By pumping hundreds of billions into existing businesses, there’s little capital for investing in projects that actually create employment. And Morrison expects things to snap back, once we’re on the other side.
It cannot last. The PM is very keen to impress this on us. “There is a snap-back there, a snap-back to the previous existing arrangements on the other side of this,” Morrison warns Thursday. “There is an intensity of expenditure during this period. And then we have to get back to what it was like before.”
Except, he has no idea how to do this. Or when. Turning off the economic stimulus tap too soon, however badly it’s targeted, would deepen any recession – and it’s likely to be a deep one. It’s wildly optimistic to talk in terms of a six months’ cure.
Other problems are just as intractable. How it will be possible to snatch back JobKeeper or “free” childcare or the JobSeeker allowance, a doubling of the not so new Newstart and tacit admission that its forty dollars a day was woefully inadequate? Meanwhile, JobSeeker still promises punitive “mutual obligation” requirements after 27 April 2020 which force unemployed workers to look for jobs that simply won’t exist.
Greg Jericho reports that Callam Pickering, economist at global job site Indeed, estimates that currently job adverts are running about 33% below what they were last year. “It would actually be surprising if they don’t drop by more – during the 1990s recession they fell by half.”
Some prosperous businesses will receive a big boost from JobKeeper, notes Richard Denniss, The Australia Institute’s chief economist. For example, childcare which underpays and overworks its staff, exploiting a largely female workforce. But for many, it is no help at all. Worse it further divides the working poor.
A glance at current ABS statistics on businesses in the hospitality sector, already rife with wage theft and underemployment and now hit by the coronavirus social isolation decrees, reveals that seventy per cent are forced to further under-employ their workers, reduce the hours of their staff. Forty three percent are estimated, by ABS sampling, to have either laid off workers, or placed them on unpaid leave.
Federal Parliament is suspended until 11 August at least, although as government leader in the House of Reps, Attorney-General Christian Porter makes clear, it’s not due to resume until September. The recession-busting brains trust running the joint has “better things to do” than sit in parliament.
Non-essential outings are banned in NSW and Victoria in a zealous interpretation of a recommendation by Morrison’s oxymoronic adhocracy, his National Cabinet; a marvel of self-promotion and self-preservation by a PM who’d struggle to raffle a duck in a pub but who is a past master of the duck-shoving of responsibility.
Scotty grandstands, whilst ensuring responsibility for containing the coronavirus pandemic lies with the states. But it will all be OK because he’s agreed to a senate committee which will provide oversight. Seriously.
We’ve seen too much already of the contempt for democracy and transparency displayed by his government and senior public servants called before senate committees – including the ADF’s top cop, Reece Kershaw, whose boast was that he’d set a record for taking questions on notice. In other words, avoid answering.
Nowhere is Scotty’s buck-passing more apparent than in the five star scandal of the monster cruise ship Ruby Princess, our Typhoid Mary, an eighteen deck behemoth linked to over a dozen deaths and up to a thousand cases of infection.
Is it a cop-out by federal government as NSW Senator, Kristina Kenneally alleges? She’s being diplomatic about dereliction of duty compounded by a very clumsy cover up of Dutton’s Home Affairs failure to stop the one boat that mattered.
The shadow minister for Immigration and Home Affairs, accuses the Coalition of ducking its responsibility by expecting the states to take the lead – albeit in co-operation with federal Border Force officers. The federal government’s “dragged its feet” on crucial border protection measures, such as temperature checks at airports or mandatory quarantine for cruise ship arrivals.
“The wider Australian community is now seeing the calamitous results of their decision to allow the Ruby Princess to dock in Sydney,” Kristina Keneally says, “a moment we have quickly realised was a tipping point in the spread of coronavirus in Australia.”
This will be regarded as the worst public health disaster in America in a century,” says Eric Topol, professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research in San Diego. “The root cause of the disaster was the lack of readiness to understand where, how and when the disease was spreading.”
It’s been much the same in Australia but now with Carnival and other companies’ ships of shame no longer visiting, there’s been a drop in our statistics. Whether we are flattening the curve, it is too early to tell but there are encouraging signs of a decline in reported cases although community transmission continues to be a major concern.
Finally Morrison’s snapback is an illusion. Many who lost their jobs in past recessions never found another another, even years later.
In the recession of the early 1980s the unemployment rate almost doubled, increasing from 5.5% to 10.5% in two years. The number of unemployed Australians increased by 330,000. An equivalent proportion of today’s workforce would be about 650,000. It took six and a half years, to the end of the 1980s, for the unemployment rate to claw its way back to somewhere close to where it started.
And there were other, deeper, consequences. During the recession of the early 1980s, the proportion of Australian males with a job fell by about 7%. Only half of that fall was reversed in the ensuing recovery. Then workers were hit with the recession of the early 1990s. In the following three years, the proportion of males with a job fell by a further 10%, Macrobusiness’ David Lewellyn Smith reminds us.
Morrison needs to step up, however, much he fears accountability. Parliament needs to be recalled immediately. The nation deserves no less. Our public health and the health of our body politic, our democracy depends upon it.