Manic Morrison in frantic, futile, climate and bullying denial.

morrison and guy

 

Come on, come on

Do the ScoMo-motion with me

Ye-ye-ye-yeah …

The Locomotion, by Little Eva.

 


Bullying, standover tactics, sit-ins – allegations of misconduct flow thick and fast in the aftermath of Peter Dutton’s botched Liberal Party leadership coup, a fiasco which Scott Morrison helped create – then exploited in his ambition to topple Turnbull.

Morrison’s plotters voted for the spill only to switch their allegiance in the next round. Lucy Gichui maintains, moreover, Morrison’s mob had been planning to knife Malcolm Turnbull, at least, since June.

The revelations do nothing to mollify members of the Coalition’s hard right rump, whose mistrust of Morrison goes back at least to his betrayal of Tony Abbott in 2015. Abbott declares he’s still up for a leadership bid. No-one takes seriously his pious piffle that “the era of the political assassin is over”. It simply echoes his “no sniping”.

Then again, he did explain that no promise of his was to be believed – unless you had it in writing. Pathological liar or not, deeds do speak louder than words. Abbott’s are still speaking.

Who can forget his inspiring leadership in bullying Julia Gillard, “ditch the witch” or his services to party misogyny – well before he even contrived to insult all women in Australia by appointing himself the minister for women? His legacy may still be seen today.

This week women MPs speak of a culture of bullying in the Liberal Party. Male MPs, lobbying for Dutton, enter women’s offices early and refuse to leave in an intimidating and bizarre type of sit-in, unless the MPs sign up to Dutton’s faction. Some women MPs are told they must sign or they would lose their pre-selection, they allege.

“… I’m talking about senators and ministers who were in tears because they were at the crossroads where they could not choose, especially the ones from Victoria went through a very, very rough time because they were holding a carrot … like this is your preselection — ‘hey you do this, we do that’,” Liberal senator Lucy Gichui alleges.

Gichui threatens to name names under parliamentary privilege next week. MP for Chisholm, Julia Banks says she will resign from parliament and not re-contest the next election. For her, the spill was “the last straw” and “women have suffered in silence too long.” Dutton and his henchmen disavow all knowledge. So, too do party leaders.

Scott Morrison dismisses the women’s claims. Appearing on The Project, he denies there’s a bullying issue.

“I believe there was a lot of pressure, that it was applied over a very intense period, okay? Australian politics had been “ferocious” and “tough” but he would not describe any behaviour as bullying. Problem solved. It’s all a matter of how our Humpty Dumpty PM defines a word. And power and gender politics.

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

Morrison has another go. Votes may be lost over this. The Australian reports that he’s going to be a bully-buster.

“I have laid down the law to my cabinet. I have laid down the law to my ministry and to the parliamentary secretary ranks of my government. They know what I expect and I have every confidence they will live up to what I expect,” Morrison says.

Bully the bullies – get them to live up to “my standards”. What could possibly go wrong?

Cue the big guns. Victorian Liberal Party President and expert feminist Michael Kroger dismisses the women’s evidence, Monday on our ABC RN. There’s no bullying problem in the Liberal Party. It always helps to be dismissive in conflict resolution as in dealing with complaints but Kroger’s also patronising. The females are imagining it.

Why, if it were, true, President Kroger would be the first to do something about it.

Also in denial, is his wife, former Liberal Senator for Victoria and president of the Federal Women’s Committee, Helen Kroger. She blames the victim. Toughen up buttercup. It’s just “part of the rough and tumble of politics”.

The euphemism “robust” is abused all week. It’s now code for rude, abusive and distressing. An example will help.

Alexander Downer in July 10 2007 used The Australian, to call then Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd shallow, cynical, immodest, mealy-mouthed, duplicitous, a boy in a bubble, a foreign policy imposter and unfit to lead the nation. That’s robust. Morrison merits all of these insults and more but it’s unlikely they’d upset him either.

Craig Kelly’s language doesn’t help any attempt at denial. The women should “roll with the punches”, he says.

As for living up to his expectations, Morrison’s 45-40 victory divides the party. So, too does his apparent duplicity. Parliamentary Liberals are furious. Voters are also angry. Why and how is Morrison our new PM?

Morrison has no answer. As Paul Bongiorno reports in The Saturday Paper, ScoMo is quickly the target of a vicious “scuttle Scott” campaign from within his own party. A flood of leaks this week undermine him.

The Herald Sun Monday has his infrastructure plan, $7.6 billion that Turnbull had handy to splash in marginal electorates around election time. Tuesday he reads details of his former boss’s now not so secret $4.4 billion deal to buy off Catholic schools over the next ten years. Wednesday, The AFR, leaks details of how Turnbull planned to use $3.6 billion of the blocked corporate tax cuts to provide “accelerated relief” to small business.

The Sydney Morning Herald publishes Liberal polling, midweek, suggesting that the party not over-react to the Longman byelection. The candidate’s false medal claim and poor campaigning are more to blame.

It’s clear that Morrison has already made enemies but there’s nothing new about that.

Even Sydney Boys High School alumni- (SBHS Old Boys) has had its robust Facebook page public forum locked by moderators after former students said they were “embarrassed” to be associated with their former classmate.

“His political actions are a disgrace to humanity and his Christian hypocrisy is mind-boggling. Hardly someone to hold up as a model of what SBHS turned out.”

It’s not a new phenomenon. The Guardian reports that in 2015, 300 alumni signed an excoriating open letter when Morrison was invited to speak at a school fundraiser. SBGS Old Boys, including former supreme court judge Hal Wootten and acclaimed journalist John Pilger, criticised Morrison for “flagrantly disregarding human rights”.

Parliament resumes next week. Labor will challenge the PM’s legitimacy with the help of Liberal leaks. Given the government’s lack of a majority, Labor could move that Peter Dutton be referred to the High Court.

The Opposition may allege that Dutton’s financial interest in RHT Family Trust, which runs two childcare centres, and his failure to recuse himself from cabinet discussion of childcare funding, puts him in a position to profit and in breach of Section 44(v) of the Constitution. The centres have received government subsidies since 2 July.

Meanwhile, Dutton publicly bullies his former head of Border Force Roman Quaedvlieg, over his testimony that on at least three occasions, Dutton as Minister for Immigration, intervened in the granting of visas to au pairs. Dutton responds that his friend and former protégé is mentally unwell. Calls on his employer to arrange medical help.

It’s a form of bastardisation which leading medical experts condemn in The New Daily. Dutton, they allege, is “lowering the tone of public discourse, seeking to delegitimize another person by way of stigma, damaging years of work to improve public attitudes, and breaching his duty of care.”

But it’s up our new Prime Minister to dig deep into his own faith-healer’s medicine bag to give the nation some of that old-time religion and good, old fashioned, self-righteous judgmentalism that will get us all out of trouble.

ScoMo-locomotion grips the nation this week as Uber-Pastor Morrison and his travelling revival show make a mad dash back to Canberra after freeing our trade in Jakarta. It’s the big deal Turnbull vowed he’d conclude in 2017 but for the teensy problem that apart from a million tourists to Bali, we don’t produce much Indonesia needs.

Indonesia ranks us lowly in trade. Suharto family and ruling elite sock puppet PM Joko Widodo is blunt.  “You need us more than we need you”, he says. The left has not recovered since the 1960s when the military massacred hundreds of thousands of “radicals” crushing opposition to the ruling class and suppressing democratic reform.

Do we care? Our 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper barely mentions Indonesia. Abbott and Hockey cut Australia’s foreign aid by a billion dollars in 2015.  Indonesia’s aid was slashed 42% from $542.5m to $323m. But no biggie.

Enter “power-housing”, a breakthrough which lets both parties talk about “leveraging access” to third markets that neither could access on their own, a bit like ScoMo’s PM coup in which he leveraged himself off the back of Dutton’s plotters, duping everyone, at least for a week or so. Indonesia? After eight years, a one page outline.

Off like a frog in a sock on to Sydney, ScoMo’s all over soul bro, Alan Jones, where our accidental PM attacks Safe Schools’ “gender-whisperers”. Alan loves a PM who gets how schools brainwash children about sex – and gender.

“I don’t want the values of others being imposed on my children in my school and I don’t think that should be happening in a public school or a private school.”

Morrison’s clearly a big picture man, too. He exudes tolerance, insight; a profound grasp of a balanced curriculum.

“When it comes to public schools, as you know they’re run by the state governments, but how about we just have state schools that focus on things like learning maths, learning science and learning English?”

Too bad, he’s criticising “respectful relationships” an optional case study which is part of the Victorian curriculum.

But who expects our self-appointed PM to know what he’s talking about? He comes up trumps when the parrot mentions unions. Scott’s into John Setka and his kids using an obscenity to mock the obscenity that is the ABCC, head, whose predecessor Nigel Hadgkiss, despite a salary of $426,421 per year, broke the Fair Work Act.

“You know, when you see children being used in these sorts of protests, and we saw it in some of those horrific things in relation to the protests around terrorism, this kind of stuff just makes your skin crawl,” says Morrison.

It’s the type of incoherent babble Trump deals in but ScoMo passes The Parrot’s on air values test, well before his Thursday pilgrimage to Albury, NSW, birthplace of The Liberal Party in 1944 for a sermon on the Murray.

And to pray for rain. “Voters should love all Australians” he preaches. But especially himself.

“I’ve come to talk to you today about what’s in here,” says Morrison, pointing to the black rock of his heart. It’s a set-piece for your average high-functioning sociopath. In Albury, it’s also an excuse for fluff. How he loves Australia. How he and Jenny know all about ritual and how this connects them with Aboriginal peoples.

His homily, entitled “until the bell rings”, in subtle homage to Menzies, (not Pavlov) is over-praised by Katharine Murphy and Gareth Hutchens in The Guardian as “trialling a new anecdotal approach to political communication”.

No. It’s story-telling. His colleagues’ body language is wary but few appear asleep.

As for Menzies, he was just as much of a hypocritical blowhard, who built the Liberal Party out of eighteen different political parties and groups who were united only in the determination to defeat the Labor Party.

“No party seizes the imagination of the people unless the people know the party stands for certain things. And we’ll fight for those things until the bell rings.”  RG Menzies

No-one does vacuous platitudes like Morrison. Billed by our ABC 24, breathlessly as “a major speech by the PM”, Morrison’s sermon on the Murray is a cliché-ridden homily full of banalities about a fair go and having a go. But even at the end of it, exhausted listeners still don’t have a clue what the man or his government stand for.

“I don’t believe that for you to do better, that [others] have to do worse. I don’t think you need to be taxed more for [others] to be taxed less,” he says. It’s a mantra you could chant at any flat tax magic pudding Tea Party.

“I don’t think that, for someone to get ahead in life, you’ve got to pull others down. I believe that we should be trying to lift everybody up at once, that we get away from this politics of envy.”

As he’s just amply demonstrated with his knifing of his former Prime Minister.

Like the notoriously treacherous reaches of the Murray itself, however, there are dangerous undercurrents and snares as he evokes a society of lifters and leaners. ScoMo is doubtless inspired by Menzies’ gold standard:

“The great vice of democracy … is that for a generation we have been busy getting ourselves on to the list of beneficiaries and removing ourselves from the list of contributors, as if … there was somebody else’s wealth and somebody else’s effort on which we could thrive.”

The “love” Morrison preaches is far from inclusive, humane or enlightened. Instead it seeks to exclude the poor and disadvantaged; divide our nation into worthy and unworthy according to our need for welfare.

Social contract fixed, ScoMo scoots off to the arse end of the Frankston line, Morrison’s venue of choice to meet Melbourne media for the first time since he deposed Malcolm Turnbull and stitched up Peter Dutton.

“Congestion-busting” is his mission, ScoMo tells reporters at Leawarra station. It’s also Alan Tudge’s new portfolio, but Morrison’s a man of vision; he’s also on a mission. There are prejudices to massage; policy to be made on the run; climate change denialists to reassure. As Giles Parkinson notes, there are huge concerns here.

This week, Australia tries to water down the language of the Pacific Islands Forum declaration on climate change. In Bangkok it sides with the Trump administration and Japan in attempting to weaken climate finance obligations in a move Parkinson says “that has horrified some observers.”

The NEG is dead, because, he lies, we’ll meet our (inadequate) Paris commitments at a canter. Bugger climate change. Or the environment. In reality, it’s a sop to the right wing, a tactic which is eerily familiar of his predecessor.

Morrison’s lack of interest in climate change is matched only by his profound ignorance. He tells new energy minister Angus Taylor, a wind energy hater and a climate change sceptic, despite his protestations, to focus only on “bringing down prices”. Ensure the nation retains as much “fair dinkum” coal in the system as it can.

What could possibly go wrong? OK. The rest of the world won’t continue to trade with us if we can’t show we’re serious about curbing emissions – and we’re coming under increasing international scrutiny. Pray for clean coal.

Morrison’s next choice is even more alarming. New environment minister Melissa Price, a former mining company lawyer is responsible for emissions. She’s spruiking new coal-fired generators?

We’ve scuttled back into Abbott’s foetal position on energy and environment. It’s all too hard, not settled and besides those coal companies give your party such wonderfully generous political donations, don’t they? Great talking points, too.

Energy and environment fixed, midweek, ScoMo appears on Seven to backflip on his promise to make us work until we’re seventy, a “reform” he once swore was vital to protect the national economy going bust from funding elderly work-shy bludgers.

When you’ve just knifed your PM and put down your colleagues as “a Muppet Show” which somehow you are not part of, a few running adjustments help you keep yourself nice. Even micro-popularity needs a boost.

“I was going to say this next week but I may as well say it here … I’ve already consulted my colleagues on that. And next week, cabinet will be ratifying a decision to reverse taking the [pension] age to 70. It will remain at 67 …”

Announce publicly first, obtain consensus later. ScoMo’s has rule by cabinet consensus all under control.

His vision of an Australia, girt by xenophobic seizures, a federation of homophobia and paranoia that ends at the parish pump and his gospel of self-help or as he puts it “having a go” are not to be hidden under a bushel. His frantic, manic pace and his parochial vision are guaranteed to make us relaxed and comfortable

By Friday, the ScoMo show and its all-star cast including Jenny and the kids, gets rave reviews in ScoMo’s promos; his office’s dumps to favoured news outlets. But it’s not without sacrifice. He’s had to turn down a leadership role in the Pacific Islands Forum on Nauru to hang with his Sydney talkback radio pals on 2GB and 3AW, shock jocks Alan Jones and Raving Ray Hadley. And he’s had to cram for his sermon on the Murray and the Frankston whistle-stop. Especially Frankston. It’s a huge performance.

Up front is bantam opposition leader, a former Baillieu government’s bodgie planning minister and mobster’s mate, natty Matthew Guy, while Scott Morrison is a knockout as a not so daft as daggy, demented father figure spitting Chips Rafferty fair dinkums and other stuff he just makes up like “Tulla”, which like the word “mate” he repeats.

Endlessly, Mate. Is he auditioning to be the host of ABC’s Macca All Over? Morrison loves the show and has already won Annabel Crab’s admiration for record number of mate in a sentence, mate. Spare us the faux, folksy bonhomie, you monster.

Tulla turns out to be a reprise of Turnbull’s promise to build a railway from Melbourne to Tullamarine Airport, a project certain to appeal to every Frankston voter. Is that Dunkley’s, too cool for school, Chris Crewther over there? Or is it some Year 12 student from Flinders Christian College dressed up in a suit for work experience week?

Fresh from his sermon on the Murray where he tells astonished multitudes that all you need is love, Rev Morrison segues effortlessly into fixing “decongestion”, his government’s patent medicine for curing Victoria’s public transport ills by electrifying the eight kilometres of the Stony Point track which runs between Frankston and Baxter. It’s also used by diesel trains to Bluescope Steel at the Port of Hastings. Sheer genius.

It’s the same exciting new announcement Malcolm Turnbull made six weeks ago when he was still allowed to be Prime Minister. Fair go? It’s been a Frankston Council project since 2012 but in 2016, the Turnbull government committed an incredible $4 million dollars. Now motormouth Morrison’s having a go, mate.

A woman journalist spots the similarity between the Pastor’s spiel and Turnbull’s. She asks, quite reasonably, if ScoMo plans to re-announce all of Turnbull’s projects. Will she now ask if he’s stolen not only Malcolm’s job but all his talking points?

You can tell by the way he overdoes his head-nodding that Morrison takes an instant dislike to her.

“It’s a great opportunity to affirm the continuity of the commitment, here,” the new PM says.

Skip the flag pin, Morrison, we already know whose side you’re on.

morrison and dog fence

Stunned silence blankets Canberra, this week, on the set of Kill Mal, the Turnbull government’s orgy of self-destruction. Even seasoned backstabbers and plotters in our political class are shocked to discover how our new PM played them; urging unpopular tax cuts before the Longman byelection to damage Turnbull and deceiving Dutton over numbers.

In The Saturday Paper Karen Middleton reveals“a story of ambition, doublecrossing and outfoxing, with (Peter Dutton) as an unwitting stooge.” “Senior cabinet sources” say Home Affairs Minister Dutton, was just a stalking horse for ScoMo.

Both leadership contenders were undermining Turnbull for their own purposes. Middleton alleges Mathias Cormann gave Dutton tacit support, an allegation Cormann rejects. Promoting himself as the moderate compromise candidate, Morrison was able to play each faction off against the other. The first spill ballot was critical, explains Middleton.

“Supporters for both Dutton and Turnbull say they believe it was actually Morrison’s backers who secretly forced matters to a head, voting for Dutton in the first ballot to boost his numbers and generate a crisis for Turnbull, while intending all along for their man to prevail.”

Middleton quotes a Liberal on how ScoMo fiddled the spill. “Assuming the Dutton vote was 40 [based on his result in the subsequent ballot], where did the other five come from? They were Morrison people who voted for the spill.”

Of course, the serial incompetent Morrison, had a bit of help from his friends and others who thought they were. As Richard Denniss points out, interest-based politics rule and Morrison is a poster boy for coal, at least for now.

In the end even Turnbull, a skilled back-flipper, almost in the same class as Tony Abbott, the contortionist’s contortionist, was fast losing his appeal to a coal lobby worried he’d lose the next election or honour our pathetic emissions target under the Paris Agreement or something else terrible. In vain, he desperately jettisoned the NEG.

“Coal has had this cabal by the balls for a decade. Their weakness in the face of the miners has been pitiful. Compelling Turnbull to abandon his latest effort to deal with emissions was not enough. He was getting nowhere but he had to go because there was no trusting he wouldn’t somewhere down the track once again irritate the coal industry.  Writes David Marr also in The Saturday Paper.

But who can tell what all the gratuitous violence in Kill Mal is about? Abbott’s hatred of Turnbull plays a big part. Alex Turnbull has freely offered his analysis, that the coup was caused by a government right wing desperate to stop action on climate change. Their fervour he attributes to the “undue influence” of a small cabal with vested interests in the fossil fuel industry. Finally, elements of the media helped immensely – especially Murdoch media.

The baroque plot expands to reveal a stalking horse inside a stalking horse. Coup support is a high stakes game favoured by punters who play to win. “Rupie” (as Donald Trump calls Murdoch) owns papers ever ready to word up the cause of our Mining and Business cabals such as that led by “affordable, reliable”, Gina Hancock. And to demolish opponents.

Yet Clive Palmer also has a runner in the race. His $6.5bn Waratah Mine is all set to go Adani or no; Adani, he tells the AFR, ultimately, was just a stalking horse.

“We have a whole team of people working on our project all the time. I think we can develop that. But unlike Adani we don’t need to raise as much money as them. All the fuss about Adani getting federal government approvals. They took all the heat and we sailed through after them.”

Gina’s three mines in the Galilee Basin will produce 90 million tonnes of coal a year and Palmer reckons Waratah could produce thirty percent more than Adani’s proposed monster. But neither is commercially viable without a railway.

All it needs is a federal government to give the Northern Australia Infrastructure (NAIF) piggy bank, a slush fund for the fossil fuel industry a bit of a shake and our local mining billionaires will have the funds to build the railway required.

But it’s all kept quiet. As Greens senator Andrew Bartlett reported after the senate inquiry into the NAIF, 6 July.

“Both the NAIF and the Coalition have refused to answer questions about who has applied to the NAIF, how decisions are made and what the loan conditions are to access public funds. It’s difficult not to conclude that the NAIF is really just a slush fund for the fossil fuel industry that bankrolls the Coalition.”

Nothing is forever, but the MP who once brought his pet black rock into parliament, “Coal scuttle” Morrison, the bankers’ and miners’ friend, our sixth Prime Minister in eleven years, could be in the Lodge for the next nine months, at least. Of course, like any seasoned performer, he’s had shorter gigs but his career could do with a bit more scrutiny.

A child actor who played The Artful Dodger to his father’s Fagin, Morrison is the spitting image of the Vicks “Love Rub” kid in the 1970s Vicks Vaporub commercial, although he is evasive on the subject. He also did voiceovers and sang.

None of this wins hearts and minds with his countrymen nor at The Pacific Islands forum held on Nauru this year. Pacific leaders want answers. Australia must explain why twenty refugee children refuse to eat or drink. Hint: ScoMo- they are traumatised by war and worse, in illegal indefinite detention and terrified they’ll be there for the rest of their lives.

Most media are banned on Nauru  which after a chequered history in the fertiliser industry, derives almost all of its income from housing Australia’s “boat people” or refugees who arrive by sea. Guardian Australia‘s application was rejected; The ABC was also told it would not be allowed on the island, effectively, a vassal state of Canberra.

The Pacific Islands Forum says there’s only room enough for three journalists from each member country.

Yet in the last three years, Australia incarcerated over 1,200 men, women and children on Nauru. Perhaps if he turned up, Morrison may have to answer questions about his former behaviour. And not even he could put a gloss on that.

As Immigration Minister, Morrison’s response to reports of children self-harming on Nauru by claiming that Save the Children workers were making false claims, and even coaching children to self harm, in order to undermine the government. Independent reports later found his claims to be false. Peter Dutton still repeated them.

Nor do his claims to have stopped the boats hold water. As John Menadue and Peter Hughes point out

Abbott and Morrison actually kept the door open for tens of thousands of boat people arrivals by opposing legislation that would have enabled implementation of the Malaysia Arrangement of September 2011.

They also explain that Tony Abbott’s and Scott Morrison’s role in ‘stopping the boats’ was at the margins and vastly overstated. By the time Operation Sovereign Borders was in full swing, numbers of boats had slowed to a trickle. There were forty-eight in July 2013 but only seven in December 2013.

The real boat stopper was Kevin Rudd’s announcement that people arriving by boat after July 2013 would not be settled in Australia. Menadue sums up:

Tony Abbott  and Scott Morrison in Opposition gave the green light to people smugglers by opposing the implementation of the Malaysia Arrangement in September 2011. In Government, Operation Sovereign Borders, had a marginal effect on boat arrivals. By the time OSB came into effect, the number of boat arrivals had been dramatically reduced.

Fortunately, our tough new cop on the beat, Scott Morrison, is way too busy in Indonesia where he hypes a one page statement of general intent as a “game-changing” breakthrough in our vague agreement to improve our trade or something with Indonesia, a nation which accounts for 2.3% of our total exports and $7bn of Australian goods.

It’s tiny. It’s about the same as our export trade to New Zealand, a nation with one fiftieth of the population. Yet even smaller, it seems is what Turnbull leaves behind him as he departs the political scene.

Malcolm Turnbull’s legacy? No-one on The Drum, on Mal’s muzzled ABC can find a good word to say. Or anything.

True. Massive income tax cuts are Super Mal’s great leap forward to a more unequal, less democratic society. But it won’t be until 2024 that the rich will pay far less tax than they do now, a vital reform which will cost us $144 billion in foregone revenue, while the rest of us have to make do with fewer teachers and schools; more suffering, poorer health.

By 2024, a worker earning $200,000 a year will pay the same rate of tax as someone earning $41,000. The National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) modelling calculates that “a couple both earning twice the average full-time salary can expect an extra $13,000 in 2024-25”. Heart-warming to help the needy get their just rewards.

Of course it’s unfair, but as Ben Eltham claims growing injustice and inequality are only some of the effects of ripping the guts out of our progressive tax system, a fair system. The main aim is to collect less money. Then you have less funding for infrastructure, defence, welfare and all the other nasty nanny statism (au pairism?) which the right abhors.

“…lower revenue is all part of the Coalition’s plan. The Turnbull government wants to give away all this money – not just to reward high-income earners in its political base, but in order to permanently reduce the federal tax base.”

Richard Denniss begs to differ. The Australia Institute Chief Economist argues that, despite its rhetoric, in thirty years the Coalition has made no attempt to lessen government regulation, spending or decrease the tax take, the problem is that

“for 30 years Australian political debate has revolved around “what the economy needs”. The simple truth is that economies don’t need anything. People do.”

Of course, Fizza’s left a lot to be going on with. Some of it’s OK.

Industry Super is gaining from the Royal Commission Morrison and Turnbull voted 26 times not to have. The AFR reckons rivers of gold are pouring out of bank-owned superannuation funds and into industry funds in response to revelations of misbehaviour at the banking royal commission.

AustralianSuper says it received more than $1 billion from new customers in July and August – double the amount of the same time last year. It’s a snafu in a commission the government hoped would have the opposite effect.

History will not spurn Turnbull, the J Alfred Prufrock of Australian politics, however, for all the brevity of his tenure, his indecision and his incapacity to lead. He wins the Honey I Shrunk the Kids Award. Even hobbled by his Faustian pact with the Nationals, his “smaller government” diminished us; making us a smaller, meaner, sneakier, crueller society with increased state surveillance, persecution of dissenters, especially whistle-blowers – not to mention the pressure brought to bear on charities lest their advocacy for the poor and marginalised lead to any criticism of government policy.

Critics were also put on notice that DHS may leak their personal details to the press to “correct media claims.

Centrelink briefed a journalist about the welfare history of blogger Andie Fox, who wrote an opinion piece for Fairfax Media claiming the agency had “terrorised” her over a debt she claimed she did not owe.

Unfounded allegations unnecessarily undermine confidence and take staff away from dealing with other claims,” a DHS spokesman explained, keeping a straight face. Unfounded allegations? Centrelink itself concedes that one third of appeals relating to its contentious robo-debts scheme have resulted in the debts being set aside by a federal tribunal.

Centrelink’s Robo-debt automated persecution of the innocent is also no small feat. A government department that holds you guilty until you prove your innocence, not only reverses the onus of proof, it’s a real money-spinner. Terry Carney, a former member of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal argues that the Turnbull government’s robo-debt program involves enforcement of “illegal” debts that in some cases are inflated or non-existent. Money for jam.

Politics is of course about more than power for its own sake but the Liberals remind us it can also be about so much less.

Abbott’s petty vendetta towards Turnbull is worthy of a Maupassant story, the monstrous dwarf’s, all-consuming, insane power of revenge.  Turnbull bears responsibility as PM for not confronting Abbott on his overt sabotage campaign. He preferred the passive-aggressive right to his final quip that “past prime ministers should get out of parliament”.

Above all, in the short term, Turnbull’s weak leadership has helped deliver us unto ScoMo, even if the new Prime Monster’s pathology ultimately has a deeper and broader aetiology.

In the end, the delusional right’s nostalgia for an old, white, male Australia doesn’t let the Liberals give much thought to Turnbull’s legacy – although there were signs of a party reported in Dutton HQ when it seemed that the merchant banker was at last cast out. And as for the nation – it’s too distracted replaying the ScoMo show, whose plot features a thoroughly post-modern coup where winner loses all as his party gives up on heeding what the nation wants.

It’s attuned instead to coal lobby propaganda and the music of its banking and business lobby’s donations.

Peter Dutton stars as Morrison’s useful idiot, in the on demand replay of Scott Malcolm, a whodunit with a baroque plot in which Mal’s backers help Morrison to seize his job and blow up the Liberal Party. Explosive revelations, recriminations and exclusive off the record, well-sourced accusations rock Canberra, this week, as a volley of aftershocks threatens to demolish what remains of the smoking ruins of the Turnbull government. ScoMo will finish the job.

Turnbull himself wisely kisses politics goodbye and jets off to the Big Apple where he and Lucy own a modest luxury apartment on the Upper West Side which overlooks Central Park. At least it will have reliable, high speed broadband.

Whilst the Cayman Islander, himself, calls his political assassination “a malevolent week of madness”, in a touching farewell letter to his Wentworth constituents, it is just another day at the office for the megalomaniacal, stop-at-nothing, frothing Morrison.

In his first stand-up routine as leader and Liberal Top Rat, Morrison hands out Aussie flag lapel pins. He wears one, ScoMo explains, to the most divided Liberal party room in history, because it helps him remember which side he is on.

“The reason I wear it is because it reminds me every single day whose side I’m on. I’m on the side of the Australian people, that’s what I’m saying to myself, that’s who I think about first.”

Flags? Side? It’s a brilliantly subversive, richly allusive, Freudian piece, an ironic homage to Ten- Flags-Tony Abbott’s ersatz nationalism, while flagging that a race-baiting, bigot-whistling immigration election is on the menu. All other futile pretence at policy, from The NEG, to the banking royal commission is finally about to be swept overboard or scuppered as the brave new leader clears the decks of all detritus and Dutton supporters. Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead.

“This is about giving up on the country, on what it wants, because a stubborn few cannot give up on coal and traditional values. The Coalition would sooner forsake electoral success than reckon with the realities of climate science or engage with the leadership asked for by multiculturalism.

Scott Morrison is prime minister not because he has a better chance than Malcolm Turnbull of winning the next election. He is prime minister because he is willing to govern against the desires of the electorate.” Writes Erik Jensen.

Our screens soon clog with images of our dear leader in a Hurley cap and shirtsleeves, a sly rebuke to Turnbull’s Collins Street Akubra and RM Williams moleskins. Gonzo Morrison is an antipodean Gomer Pyle in a frenzy of emoting consoling and mad gesticulation amidst drought-porn images of dying stock, parched paddock and stoic, laconic farmers.

Of course it’s all about keeping us safe. News of a terror plot is a timely reminder of our super security. Somehow, somewhere is a shot of a dog-proof fence for ScoMo to reach right up and hold on to, another ironic parody of all those images of Turnbull strap-hanging in railway carriages, a millionaire public transport aficionado, man of the people.

Morrison’s more at ease with the fence, the fear and the dog-whistle.

Meanwhile after-shocks from ScoMo’s coup continue with complaints about bullying, his buying-off Abbott and Joyce as special envoys at rates which may even equal Ruddock’s $274,507 plus pay for his own hugely successful stint as special envoy for human rights. Above all, a mysterious flood of leaks threatens to drown Dutto in an au pair scandal.

A former drug squad detective, Peter Dutton shouldn’t have to work too hard to suss out where they’re coming from.

You’ve got to hand it to Morrison; before he takes all the credit himself.

scomo with mouth like a trout

“Lay on, Macduff, and damned be him who first cries ‘Hold! enough!’” Macbeth Act V Scene viii.

It might have been heroic. Given another time, place or PM, Malcolm Turnbull’s call for a Liberal leadership spill Tuesday, might have been inspiring -“Turnbullian”, as Turnbull torch-holder, fan-girl Annabel Crabb would have it. Perhaps she could run a new hit TV series: “Kitchen cabinet makeovers you can safely enjoy at home.”

As it is, Turnbull makes a typically, ill-judged, call. Rattled by the jungle drums of the Dutton camp, amplified in True HD Dolby stereo in the Murdoch media, Turnbull demands a Liberal leadership spill, Tuesday. It is his undoing.

He gains 48 votes, 57.8 percent of all ballots cast. Making public his meagre victory, however, serves only to advertise how many oppose him. It helps prematurely end his own vexed term as the 29th PM of Australia by Friday; a mixed blessing.

Dutton says he’ll challenge again, (and again) Turnbull demands his Home Affairs Supremo supply 43 signatures by Friday.

Calling a spill may throw Dutton off-guard, but with Turnbull’s modest support now public, his insurgents have some useful vulnerability to work with as they hit the phones, twisting arms, tweaking role descriptions, even promising portfolios.

Don’t be sucked in. Monstrous, soulless, merciless, the Coalition is a horror-show, Labor Deputy, Tanya Plibersek warns the house.

“This is a Frankenstein’s monster of a government. It has the face of the member for Wentworth, the policies of the member for Warringah and it has the cold, shrivelled soul of the member for Dickson.” 

Others, out of right field, voice disappointment that Tuesday’s coup has not delivered Mal’s head on a platter. Or under a strappado. Some may be heard getting pilliwinks ready.

“… in its current state the Liberal Party cannot even organise an assassination, let alone run the country,” Catherine McGregor carps in Fairfax, disappointed that Abbott and his monkey-pod rebels or his Monash Mensheviks have been so overtly unsuccessful. Rasputin’s hit job is beginning to look more professional.

Rasputin was poisoned, shot three times, bludgeoned with a dumb-bell, before he was bound and thrown from a bridge through the ice and left to drown in the river Neva. Even so, when his corpse was recovered, the position of the hands suggested he was trying to untie the bindings. The Turnbull government is just as messily despatched.

The final twist of the knife, happens mid-morning Thursday. Three cabinet ministers claim publicly that Turnbull has lost majority support among his colleagues and that they have to bring the leadership dispute to a head. Had they not defected, their three votes would have been enough to thwart Friday’s spill. Turnbull would still be PM.

Ultimately, Turnbull is undone when his three loyal lieutenants desert him. Cormann, Fifield and Cash all defect to the enemy en masse. Why? There’s no logical reason to pull their vital support. “It’s just the vibe of the thing”, Tony Wright writes in Fairfax. Do the three musketeers nobly elect to go with the flow in order to purge their party?

True, the Liberal Party, itself, is paralysed by division; gripped in a “cataclysmic, existential” fight, as Liberal shill, Terry Barnes, adviser to former Health Ministers, Abbott and Medicare levy Michael Wooldridge, hypes party discord to Fairfax.

Malcolm’s political miscalculation; misjudgement plays into Labor’s hands: Shorten calls a vote of no confidence. Pity there’s no vote of over confidence.

“The conduct of this narcissistic government is both shocking and selfish and undervalues the Australian people.”

This house should vote for no confidence because the prime minister has no authority, no power and no policies. And the reason for that sits behind him. If nearly half of his own government do not want him to be prime minister, why should the rest of Australia put up with him?”

Shorten echoes former Howard adviser, former QLD and SA state Liberal Party President, Geoffrey Green, a “senior Liberal” strategist who told The New Daily astutely and fearlessly last year that,

“The Turnbull government is at war with the people. This is a government which hates their own constituents. The Liberal Party has lost touch with what it stands for and will be decimated unless it changes tack.”

“The Turnbull government has attacked every core constituency, small business, superannuants, pensioners, families with children, all because they have a budget that is out of control.” OK there’s a class war they have to win too but he leaves that out.

“They have not done anything about their own backyard. Public servants still fly at the front of the plane.” Or anywhere in the plane if it’s a chartered RAAF jet to the football.

Far from having his knuckles rapped, Greene, moreover, now runs Peter Dutton’s campaign in the seat of Dickson which he holds by a margin of 2%. But he’s going to have to hose down Spud’s coup-mania, or his urges toward auto da fe.

Even for the modern Liberal Party, an oxymoron which rivals “Turnbull government” as a contradiction in terms, Tuesday’s botched right wing coup is a colossal cock-up. It sets in train a farcical series of miscalculations, aided and abetted by Murdoch’s media, Australian politics king-maker supreme. And by its own, internal fifth column.

Be it group madness or poor arithmetic, or Turnbull’s sheer bloody-minded revenge on Dutton, Scott “where the bloody hell are you?”, Morrison wins narrowly 40-45 against Dutton, Friday, after Julie Bishop is unfairly eliminated first ballot with only eleven votes.

A leaked WhatsApp reveals the party is instructed not to vote for Bishop in round one as this is a ruse to enable shonky Morrison to drop out and give all his votes to Dutton.

Dirty Tricks? Morrison is victorious 40-45. The MP whose capacity to foster racism and resentment makes him the “greatest grub in Australia’s political history”, according to Peter Hartcher, is sworn in as Prime Minister, Friday.

A divided, dysfunctional, party musters all its sublime ineptitude to transform chaos into catastrophe. Above all, as David Marr argues, the fiasco reveals an atavistic right wing desperate to wrest control of a party it doesn’t reflect.

Trouble is already brewing for Morrison if it is true that Peter Dutton, is – or was a stalking horse for Tony Abbott’s own return from exile. Morrison has already wisely excluded Abbott from his cabinet, fobbing him off with a job as Coalition water-boy.

The latest Newspoll shows a massive blowout in what Turnbull bragged, this week, was a closing of the gap – but which is more likely to have been an aberrant result. The two party preferred split showed a slim two point gap of 51/49 in favour of Labor a fortnight ago. Now it’s blown out by twelve points. Labor now leads 56/44.

For the first time since 2015, Bill Shorten emerges as preferred PM, reversing a 12 point lead by Malcolm Turnbull, two weeks ago, into a six-point lead (39/33) for the Opposition leader over Morrison.

As The Australian’s Simon Benson puts it mildly, popular support for the Coalition has crashed to the lowest levels in a decade with the newly elected Prime Minister Scott Morrison now faced with leading a shattered government out of the wreckage of last week’s leadership coup and rebuilding a Liberal Party in crisis.

Yet there’s a lot to Morrison’s rebuilding of his own background before we even get to his party leadership or to his fitness to be Prime Minister. His success as state director of the NSW State Liberal Party 2001-4. His subsequent $350,000 PA post as head of Tourism Australia, bestowed by a grateful then Tourism Minister, Joe Hockey, is widely seen as cronyism or part of the Liberal tradition of jobs for the boys.

Morrison soon, however, ran into trouble with the nine man board of Tourism Australia inspiring complaints which echo those from Immigration Department Officials when he militarised the nation’s compassion by setting up Border Force in what it suited the xenophobic Abbott government to pretend was “strengthening our borders”.

Nick Bryant reports of Tourism Australia in The Monthly, “Its members complained that he did not heed advice, withheld important research data about the controversial campaign, was aggressive and intimidating, and ran the government agency as if it were a one-man show.”

His contempt for then Minister, Fran Bailey, also reveals qualities of mind and spirit that do not augur well for any neophyte Prime Minister. Morrison boasted that “if Bailey got in his way, he could bring her down”. In the end Howard backed his minister. Morrison was paid out in an “agreed separation” believed to have been A$300,000.

Much of the secrecy and the absurd officialise and bureaucratic jargon of “operational matters” and “on-water” matters are part of Morrison’s lasting legacy to obfuscation if not secrecy. Morrison’s incoherence owes a great deal to meaningless jargon.

Morrison’s dealings with the media and accountability to the public have been widely criticised. A 2014 Australian Human Rights Commission report to government found that Morrison failed in his responsibility to act in the best interests of children in detention during his time as minister.

In 2014, he also succeeded in passing a bill through parliament which gave him more power than any previous immigration minister. He could now return asylum seekers to their place of origin, detain asylum seekers without charge, and refuse any asylum seekers who arrive by boat. No-one made much of a fuss. Unless it was all hushed up.

In his two-year career as Immigration Minister Morrison saw at least one major incident where he was shown to lie about an attack 17 February 2017, on a 23 year old refugee Reza Barati, who, Morrison maintained for days, was outside the compound of the Manus Island detention centre, until incontrovertible evidence emerged later that the young Iranian man was in fact attacked by a gang of guards inside the compound.

Witness and fellow Iranian refugee, Behrouz Boochani writes: “Even though four years have passed, the killers have yet to be brought to justice, and there are still no clear answers to the fundamental questions concerning the riot.”

Reza Barati’s parents still hold Morrison completely accountable for their son’s death. A senate inquiry found  the cause of the riot to be a failure to process asylum seeker claims, stating the violence was “eminently foreseeable”.

It also found that the Australian Government failed in its duty to protect asylum seekers, including Barati. Morrison accused Labor and the Greens of using the report “as a blatant attempt to whitewash their own failures in government“. Nice.

Many similar miscarriages of justice and neglect of duty of care are documented in the 2000 leaked reports which detail the abuse of women and children on Nauru Island during May 2013 to October 2015. Morrison was Minister for Immigration and Border Protection 2013-2014.

Other examples of Morrison’s behaviour suggest that he is not a fit and proper person to be Prime Minister.

These include politicising suffering. When 48 people died in the Christmas Island disaster of 2010, Morrison objected to the Gillard Government offering to pay for families’ fares to the funerals in Sydney. The cost of the fares would have amounted to a few cents per Australian taxpayer.

Morrison did admit later that his comments were insensitive and in appropriate. But how many incoming PMs have hung with Hun Sen? Or sipped champagne with Pol Pot’s former Khmer Rouge battalion commander, a mass murderer and his cronies in Phnom Penh, just four years ago, as he sealed a bargain A$55m deal, whereby they would take five of our refugees off our hands?

The corrupt regime got A$40 million vaguely described as “development assistance’. In other words we bribed a corrupt Cambodian government to take our refugees, aka “illegal maritime arrivals”, whom our domestic political theatre has been taught are illegal aliens, persons we cannot accept because of their links with Islamic terror and their capacity to encourage demon people smugglers and other monsters of our leaders’ febrile imagination.

Finally, together with this selective account, offered as a clue to “Scott Morrison: Who the bloody hell are you?” (as Nick Bryant entitles his Monthly essay) must be included the means by which Morrison secured preselection for the safe Liberal NSW seat of Cook, prior to the 2007 federal election.

Michael Towke, a Lebanese Christian from the right faction, won with eighty votes. Morrison managed only eight. Four days later, amid allegations of branch stacking, Towke became the victim of a smear campaign, suggesting he’d inflated his CV, along with a series of damaging personal stories alleging his family has unsavoury connections leaked to the Daily Telegraph. (After mounting a legal fight, News Limited offered him an out-of-court settlement).

A Lebanese Australian could never win a seat that had recently witnessed the Cronulla riot, it was muttered. Consequently, the NSW state executive refused to endorse Towke’s nomination, and demanded a second ballot. The beneficiary was Scott Morrison, a cleanskin in the factional fight, who was parachuted in as a unity candidate.

Turnbull looks relieved. In part he is happy, no doubt, to see Dutton come unstuck. Some part of him also must be relieved to be rid of a role no-one could master; a straightjacket imposed by the Nats’ former leader, Warren Truss who, in the secret Coalition Agreement, dictated Turnbull’s Faustian compact: Malco could be PM just as long as he was never himself – especially on such matters as climate change, energy, water or same-sex marriage.

There’s a lot of the thespian in the PM; a ham actor. Yet quitting office is quite the best thing Turnbull’s done to date, a measured, if not restrained performance, not that he’s likely to get any thanks for it. The right wing mistrust him as a dangerous leftie, a threat to the purity of their Menzian ideological mish-mash. He’s not one of them.

Our media, once again, rush to air with “vox pops” interviews with “ordinary Australians” (there is no such thing as an ordinary Australian” – “ordinary people” are extraordinary – but that heresy is never part of the narrative).

The narrative is to deplore the change of Prime Ministers. In the next breath, it is time to bag Labor. Sheesh, the Coalition’s caught the Labor disease. Enough said.

Yet for all the truth that people like to get the PM they vote for and for all they suspect that a change means they’ve been sold a dud, the notion of betrayal is nonsense, a cheap and easy way to expose a raw nerve. We all know that our pollies our parasites. How much joy it gives to express our futile righteous indignation. And envy.

Aussies love to take the mickey out of those with tickets on themselves – even if we’re paying for them. We love to puncture the pomposity of the over-exalted. There’s nothing wrong with that. But Shorten’s on to something when he claims Turnbull’s government undervalues the people. We’re all ripped off.

The popular narrative has two skeins. Men and women in the street obligingly decry the incessant changing of our PMs, while behind our backs, other parts of the media find virtue in a new pretender, a process ScoMo helps with a brilliantly timed set of releases including a puff piece in the Australian Women’s Weekly that takes the cake.

You have to hand it to Morrison. His knack of being in the right place at the right time, his Zelig-like shape-stealing self-camouflage, his overweening ambition, his lust for realpolitik and his PM’s backing all help him see off his rival. ScoMo riskily insinuates himself between Dutton’s coup and victory; snatching the nation’s thirtieth Prime Ministership all for himself. For now at least.

Dutton is undone. ScoMo robs an ugly mob of reactionaries, opportunists, and the malignant malcontents of the monkey pod room, Monash groupers, a scurvy crew of climate change deniers orchestrated by Tony Abbott and Peta Credlin in league with Sky, The Australian and other Murdoch media outlets out to depose Turnbull.

Just how many days will it take before they turn on him? How long before telling the truth about a prime or any other minister will become an indictable offence?

 

 

 

 

Dutton senses Turnbull’s blood in the water; circles poised to strike.

Dutton-African-Gang

A conga-line of suck-holes and the odd cross-bencher form a blue-grey-suited crush up the raspberry carpeted steps of the senate, Tuesday, as members of our government’s upper house file up to shake Aussie racism’s latest White Australian, Fraser Anning, by the hand. Are they spell-bound by his five thousand word maiden speech fantasy?

“Fifty years ago Australia was a cohesive, predominantly Anglo-Celtic nation. Most people thought of themselves as Christian of some sort, although most of us didn’t go to church all that often. Everyone, from the cleaners to the captains of industry, had a shared vision of who we were as a people and our place in the world,”

They did? In 1968 when anti-Vietnam demos were at their height here? A year of seismic social and political change around the world? A time when single, aged and invalid pensioners were grateful to get another whole dollar rise to fourteen dollars a week? When a quarter of the population lived on less than $58 per week?

Bear with Fraser; nostalgia isn’t what it used to be. Behind him, Tory Cory Bernardi nods agreement. Cory’s part of a tinpot Oz-Tea Party troika with Fantasy-fabulist Anning and deluded David Leyonhjelm. They have a lot in common.

“We want stronger families, limited government, lower taxes…we want to re-install personal responsibilities front and centre of public life,” Bernardi claims. Seriously? Is this code for Leyonhjelm’s “slut-shaming”, now the subject of a defamation case in which, as he admits, he told Sarah Hanson-Young that “… she should stop shagging men”?

In the topsy-turvy, inside-out and back-to-front world of our upper house of mirrors, reality is bent, shrunk and stretched while ignorance, bigotry and even crypto-fascism, defy government tax-cut theory to trickle up. And up.

Anning’s not only out to romanticise White Australia, he calls out Labor as the serpent in the worker’s paradise.

“I think – a European based immigration program has … been a very good policy and it’s been of great value to us … This continued until 1973 when Whitlam and his hard Left cronies adopted Soviet inspired UN treaties on discrimination and banned preferential selection of migrants based on their ethnicity,” Anning rants.

Whitlam had hard left cronies? Whitlam was always on the right of the Australian Labor Party.

But it’s Fraser’s “final solution”, Nazi dog-whistle which earns most censure. Of course, it’s all unfair. Political correctness gone mad. Anning cannot apologise. He casts himself as the victim. He babbles to Sky, which is madly Foxifying Australia’s news that he refuses to apologise. His innocent “final solution” is totally taken out of context.

Besides, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean the bastards aren’t out to get you.

“It was just two words, and the thought police have jumped on it,” he whinges. Andrew Bolt pretends that the words final solution refer only to the last in a series and that the new boy meant nothing by them. Blot aka Bolt, blames vegan cultural Marxists in mung bean sandals on the left for their incessant thought policing, political correctness and witch-hunting.

Sheesh! You incite hatred with a farrago of lies, favourably reference the Holocaust, spread disinformation and people have a go at you. Politics today is so unfair on right wing demagogues. No-one gives you air time. Equal treatment.

Even Pauline rushes back to her spot on Channel 7’s Sunrise to denounce Anning as “appalling” or that could be “a Pauline”, poorly transcribed? It’s a cut-throat business, this stampede to the bottom. Anyone, even a moral politician, could go a bit silly.

By the next day, however, Hanson is tickled pink by the notion of a plebiscite. She totally backs his idea on air.

It comes from a part of Anning’s rambling which would delight arch racist, Babies Overboard’s John W. Howard:

“The final solution to the immigration problem is, of course, a popular vote. We don’t need a plebiscite to cut immigration numbers; we just need a government that is willing to institute a sustainable population policy, end Australian-job-stealing 457 visas and make student visas conditional on foreign students returning to the country they came from. What we do need a plebiscite for is to decide who comes here.”

Making it easier for more dingbats to come into the senate is Turnbull’s 2016 dud double dissolution which halved the number of votes senate candidates required to get a seat. Add a Turnbull government’s sexy decision to take a hard line on dual citizenship and the result is the least representative senate in our nation’s history.

As for the competition to be outrageous, there are other new rules which mean that you have to do a bit of self-promotion if you want to get re-elected; not like the good old days when preference whispering was king.

Happily, Anning’s antics distract from accident-prone Mal Trumble whose own slip-ups mean he is battling to remain top banana. The $444 m Great Barrier Reef Foundation rort explodes in his face, the Hayne Banking Royal Commission, a concept the Coalition vigorously opposed for years, continues to expose such egregious criminal behaviour that the Coalition’s earlier opposition looks increasingly like collusion, while bovver-boy backup group Benito and his Budgie-smugglers go all out to bag their PM as a useless dilettante, a merchant banker, or a closet leftie who even believes in climate change.

“Not every Muslim is a terrorist, but every terrorist is a Muslim” Anning cribs from Pauline Hanson’s response to the 2015 Paris terror attacks, a lie she’s copied from a US 9/11 hate-slogan, debunked in 2005 by the FBI.  Anning’s shtick is a tribute to the new senate system which now relies on being noticed. Brand recognition. It’s also his big chance to win Best Bigot from former Dancing With the Stars, celebrity and Sunrise TV regular, Pauline Hanson.

Anning’s done his homework. And nifty Jim Savage of Queensland’s One Nation gives him a vital bit of advice.

“… when you make your maiden speech Fraser – you gotta get up there and say something really controversial…really … hit that fucking nerve, otherwise you’ll be forgotten, no one will know who you are.”

A former National Party supporter, Anning is a big Joh fan-boy. Queensland’s hillbilly dictator, Joh Bjelke- Petersen’s fiefdom is synonymous with endemic political corruption and state repression of protest and dissent. Yet Fraser praises the time when the Kingaroy peanut farmer ruled the Moonlight State as “a golden age”.

And the worst? Gough Whitlam. Why? Because … “he didn’t ask if the nation wanted non-European Migration“?

Cue the Monty Python skit – what have the Romans Empire ever done for us? What did Whitlam ever do for us?

Damien Murphy published a list in The Age four years ago. Whitlam’s reforms include: ending conscription; bringing troops home from Vietnam. His government recognised China a week prior to Nixon in July 1971.

Then there’s Medibank, Medicare’s forerunner, yet to be destroyed by shonky private health cover and the six billion dollars a year subsidy taxpayers generously provide by means of subsidy. Under Whitlam, supporting mothers gained benefits and the homeless could get welfare payments. Humanity in social welfare? Shocking.

Equal pay for women? Abolition of capital punishment? Both arose from the one three year term of office. Turnbull’s managed only to bugger up one energy policy in that time.

The Whitlam government’s Family Law Act 1975 introduced non-punitive divorce laws. He brought in needs-based funding for schools. His free university education initiative hugely benefited women. A 25 per cent cut in tariffs across the board opened up trade. His government set up a precursor to the Productivity Commission, adding the Trade Practices Act and a predecessor of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Whitlam’s Australian Assistance Plan funded regional councils and employment projects. It continues in the concepts of “social planning” and “community development”. His government reduced the voting age to 18 and provided the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory with representation in the Senate.

The Racial Discrimination Act 1975 conferred rights to equality before the law and bound the Commonwealth and the states to the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, a fact which our current government mob and its allies could do well to dwell upon.

The Department of Aboriginal Affairs was set up and the first Commonwealth legislation to grant land rights to indigenous people was drafted. Land title deeds were handed to some Gurindji traditional lands owners in the Northern Territory in 1975, a real and symbolic gesture that became a touchstone for the land rights movement.

The Whitlam government also established the National Gallery of Australia, the Australia Council for the Arts, the Australian Heritage Commission. It introduced FM radio, pushed for the setting up of 2JJ, a radio established to support Australian music and connect with young Australians. It set up multicultural radio services – 2EA Sydney and 3EA in Melbourne – and issued licences to community radio stations for the first time. Oddly none of these are preaching hate-speech or demanding that their audience assimilate. That’s the Tory politicians’ job.

It’s handshakes, hugs and kisses Tuesday; the Tories are all over Fraser. But will they still love him in the morning?

Wednesday, many go on air, stricken with morning after remorse. Regret after a Bex, a good lie down and a sniff of the political wind. Derryn Hinch says he felt “trapped in a Ku Klux Klan rally”. For the former shock jock …it’s one of the most disgraceful, racist, homophobic, divisive, misogynist, spiteful, hateful speeches… I’ve ever heard”.

In a touching, post-modern homage to Thomas Cranmer who in 1556 – thrust the hand that signed his recantation of his Protestant beliefs into the flames as he was burned at the stake for heresy and treason; Derryn tells a fawning press gallery, how he heroically went home and washed the hand that shook the hand of Fraser Anning.

Others claim a post-maiden-speech hand-shake’s compulsory. Don’t shoot the speech-writer, Richard Howard who has also spun gold for former One Nation senator, now Hanson staffer, Malcolm Roberts. Howard also helped Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm to infamy. Not that there’s anything offensive in Fraser’s phrases.

Echoing lying rodent John Howard, Dick Howard helpfully sets the record straight in The Australian Friday,

“This appears to be a beat-up by One Nation to distract attention from senator Fraser Anning’s message that the Australian ­people are entitled to choose who comes here.”

Who can blame the early responders’ re-think? Turnbull, himself, can do a 24 hour U-turn, as he does this Sunday in dumping any carbon emission target for the NEG and changing his mind back to legislation rather than regulation.

In brief, Fraser Anning is merely following the lead given by other racists. His stunt is neither bi, nor tri but poly-partisan, building as it does on the solid foundations of intolerance, bigotry and racial hatred laid by John Howard and so capably continued by Tony Abbott, Peter Dutton, Malcolm Turnbull and other leading Liberals.

And, sadly, some of it is tacitly condoned by the Labor Party which doesn’t dare rock the boat on immigration.

Even his form has form. Anning’s grab bag of platitudes is a gallimaufry of false assertions, assumptions and is just as incoherent as the Turnbull government’s energy (a work in regress) or its immigration policy. Or its uncosted tax cuts to business.

It may be the political virgin’s maiden speech but he’s already been around the block. The former One Nation, nineteen-vote-wonder, a former Gladstone publican, quit Pauline Hanson’s party two months after being appointed. He turned independent after a blue with Hanson over his elevation to the senate.

Pauline threatens to put his weights up by writing to the senate dobbing him in as ineligible in case the court let him off his pending bankruptcy charges because they saw he’d soon be earning $200,000 PA plus travel and other expenses not to mention a generous parliamentary super scheme, but nothing comes of it. Nor could it.

Anning’s been able to sort the bankruptcy proceedings against himself and his wife, Fiona, last October. Now for the harder task of settling his score with Pauline. Part of this is to poach her anti-immigration extremism; upstage her natural fascism.

Anning is snapped up by another vanity political party, “barking” Bob Katter’s Australian Party (KAP). Mad Bob backs his star recruit “one thousand percent”. “Solid gold.” KAP may or may not boost Anning’s political fortunes.

Fraser’s big legal win enables him to replace Senator Malcolm Roberts and pre-empt the elevation of Judy Smith, Pauline Hanson’s sister. It’s a bitter pill for her younger sister to swallow. Without Anning’s ascension One Nation might have become The Pauline and Judy Show a potential runaway success on Sunrise.

Much has been ventured about the new low, the new depth of disrepute Anning’s “Final Solution” speech has brought to the senate. In truth it’s more of a logical extension of the tactics already favoured by an increasingly xenophobic, racist, dog-whistling government. It bodes not well for the tenor of the next election.

As Paddy Manning notes in The Monthly,

“We have been building up to this steadily. From Pauline Hanson’s return to parliament, to Tony Abbott’s dog-whistling on immigration policy, to Peter Dutton’s attacks on “African gangs”, to Andrew Bolt’s comments about Chinese, Cambodian, Indian and Jewish communities“changing our culture”, to Sky News airing an interview with neo-Nazi Blair Cottrell, the trend is clear: we are sliding ever-faster down a slippery slope towards an ugly, divisive race-card election.”

What is certain, however, is that Katter’s backing of Anning will cost him union support. Katter’s sponsors such as the ETU and the CFMEU are walking away from the KAP. It remains to be seen how much damage it may do him.

Also walking away is the Prime Minister who drops his NEG Sunday in the face of gathering opposition from the moderates, few as they may be – and the right of his party. It is clear that he is in trouble, even if he takes out the carbon emissions target, a legacy dud from Tony Abbott’s cynical attempt to set a ludicrously low and patently unhelpful target in Paris – where Australia pledged under a Paris Agreement, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

And even if he “walks back” his earlier announcement that he’d regulate rather than legislate – making it harder for a Labor government to later increase the NEG’s emissions reduction target – he will not appease his critics. What is clear is that he is facing the toughest test of his Prime Ministership as he sits down to a cabinet dinner at the Lodge Sunday night. Overcooked goose, perhaps?

Somehow, be it his vacillation, poor judgement, poor policy or poor polling, Turnbull has managed to alienate or alarm a substantial portion of his party. A number of MPs are speaking of crossing the floor. The PM’s supporters are trying to avert conflict when the Party Room meets Monday.

Worryingly, Barnaby Joyce’s “flash bit of kit”, The Nationals’ Deputy Leader, Bridget McKenzie expresses support.

“I think Malcolm Turnbull is our Prime Minister and I would like to see him stay as our Prime Minister and that is actually a decision for the Liberal Party,” she tells Sky News, adding ominously,

“And I haven’t heard anything personally that would suggest that that’s not going to continue to be the case.”

Meanwhile, Peter Dutton, Minister for Home Affairs, who earlier in the week ominously takes time to explain he’d resign his commission if he could no longer support the government has his own message on Saturday,

“In relation to media stories today, just to make it very clear, the Prime Minister has my support and I support the policies of the Government,” he tweets.

In the meantime, Turnbull’s ship may run aground on the Great Barrier Reef given that it is clear from statements made by its Managing Director, Anna Marsden, that despite Josh Frydenberg’s assertions last Sunday, there was no consultation.

As if the Great Barrier Reef Foundation’s unexpected no-strings-attached gift of $444,000, with no tender, no application or any other due process were not scandal enough, the government lies to protect its Energy and Environment Minister who appears to be as loose with the truth as with treasury purse-strings.

“It’s a most cynical piece of accounting trickery …a  piece of chicanery. That’s the only way I can describe it,” says Geoff Cousins, of the Barrier Reef grant. Cousins is a former president of the Australian Conservation Foundation.

More ominously for the Turnbull government, as Mike Seccombe points out in the Saturday Paper, Cousins is a corporate boardroom heavyweight. For 10 years, he was an adviser to John Howard.

The haste to deposit the funds comes, Cousins believes from the government’s promise to UNESCO.

“They made a commitment, the Australian government, to the World Heritage listing committee, to spend $716 million on the Barrier Reef, prior to 2020,” Cousins says. “But they have spent just a fraction of that, and there is no way that in the remaining 18 months or less that they can reach that target, which raises the potential of the reef being put on the endangered list.”

Even if there’s no chance of the money being spent, depositing the funds technically fulfils the Coalition’s promise.

As for due diligence, Cousins has no doubt that this assertion of Frydenberg’s is a palpable lie.

“For the Department of the Environment and Energy to grant over $440 million to a small charity that didn’t even prepare an application form or ask for the grant is inconceivable!”

Government attempts to condemn Fraser Anning appear artificial and hypocritical and serve only to draw attention to Turnbull and Dutton’s African gang scaremongering or Dutton’s earlier charge that immigrants were taking jobs which should go to Australians whilst simultaneously soaking up Centrelink payments.

As it deals with the stench in the senate, the Turnbull government must clean up another mess of its own making, its rejigged energy policy 2.0 or “The Broken NEG” which is now so far from the victory over the party room touted last Monday that it may well be the catalyst to unleash a Coalition hostility, division and mutual recrimination whose only common point may come be its lack of faith in its Prime minister – accentuated by his inept handling of the self-inflicted Great Barrier Reef fiasco.

Late on Sunday, David Crowe reports in The Age that Peter Dutton is readying to challenge his PM like a shark circling, sensing blood in the water.

In the midst of crisis over energy policy and in the wake of a horror new Fairfax-Ipsos poll showing support for the Coalition has slumped from 39 to 33 per cent of the primary vote, Dutton’s supporters claim he has the numbers to win.

 

Turnbull’s leadership a sham as he seeks to evade GBRF scandal, climate change with a dodgy NEG.

macolm in trangie

“Our efforts to deal with climate change have been betrayed by a lack of leadership, a political cowardice, the like of which I have never seen” — Malcolm Turnbull 2010

Country folk up and down our fly-blown land give thanks this week for a federal government whose devotion to the plight of stock on drought-stricken New South Wales and Queensland to Tasmania is everywhere on display. Or not as in the case of rural spots still with poor TV or NBN coverage.

Since Will Hodgman upped the supply of pump action shotties and automatic rifles so vital to a good day’s work in the Tassie paddock, an election eve promise, Apple Isle farmers are doing so well they can now truck feed to Tamworth, where the PM comforts cockies battling a baffling absence of rain.

Clearly, in times of continuous national crisis, everyone has to get behind their national or their state government and to that end, Tassie’s Hodgman government has a plan to deal with workers who want to vent online about their stupid boss, low pay or government job. It’s just not on.

Hodgman and his crew hand-craft a beaut “new social media policy” to keep its servants civil.  Government employees will be forbidden to whinge or carp online. Ideally there should be no criticism of politicians over the internet at all, just an applause button or an emoji for job well done!

As rigorous as it is vigilant, the Tasmanian government also plans to ban staffers associating online with “groups or individuals”. No likes or shares. To like or share a post is the same as creating it.

By Wednesday, Will walks it back. “The draft social media policy has a number of unintended consequences that are clearly out of step with community expectations,” he says. Tasmanians are overjoyed to hear the policy is to be reviewed to “ensure a common-sense approach prevails”.

Common-sense flies out the window… 

Further north, common-sense flies out the window as Malcolm Turnbull pulls on his RM Williams. Faced with crisis and catastrophe over energy and a Great Barrier Reef debacle, the PM hits the road on a mission to win hearts and minds in places where he’s not going to be asked about coral reefs.

“Stay strong.  We’ve got your back,” our PM consoles teary central NSW farmers, in his role as tribal leader, as he selflessly helps media and agricultural lobby groups establish the dominant narrative that our farmers are merely hapless victims of the worst drought in history.

Not a word is spoken of climate change. And the farmers? They must get as much government support as possible in learning to rely not on welfare but on charity. Take it from the PM.

Moleskin Mal knows all about farming and hardship. He hunkers down. Scoops up a bit of dry, sandy topsoil, lets it trickle through his fingers, in his role as Agronomist-in-chief. Squints into the distance.

“Luce and I are in the sheep and cattle business in the Upper Hunter,” he declares. The Pitt Street farmer instantly wins over local cockies who are “doing it tough” with his self-reliance, his hard graft with fencing and fly-strike; fire, flood and drought. And his reckless generosity.

Taxpayers’ are still agog at Mal’s gift of their money to his pals at the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, (GBRF). The Foundation didn’t even have to ask. Malco always has his mates’ backs; anticipates their every need.  It’s a matter of principle, whatever his principles may be at the time.

He gives to all sorts of worthy causes; looks after the top end of town;

No government handouts for him – just tireless, selfless, self-help, trusts and tax breaks. He gives to all sorts of worthy causes; looks after the top end of town; The Sydney Biennale, The Australian Chamber Orchestra, Rhodes Scholarships and The Scots College. Above all, he looks after the odd needy family – especially his own.

Mal donates all of his $587,852 parliamentary salary to his own charity The Turnbull Foundation, or so he says. Like his pal, Donald Trump, he’s never made his tax returns public.  Unlike his giving. “I’ve always been a philanthropic person. We’ve always been very generous.”

The Turnbull Foundation, appears in the Australian Business Register as a “private ancillary fund”, (PAF) a scam invented by the Howard government, in 2001, with all the tax perks of a charity. Only 5% of the value of such funds need be donated annually to other non-profit organisations, who, themselves, hold deductible gift recipient (DGR) and tax concession charity (TCC) status.

What happens to the rest of the money? Historically, such funds average 8% in donations to such non-profit outfits, a trend which would leave Turnbull a handy 92% tax-free nest-egg. But there’s more. As directors, he and Luce are also entitled to draw tax-free directors’ fees.

Along with modelling altruism and advocating charity over government handout, Turnbull’s out to hose down alarmist speculation that climate change has something to with droughts and that governments have something to do with climate change. Or that the Coalition has no climate policy.

Mal tweaks this part of the official Big Dry story. He channels Abbott’s tin-foil hatter Maurice Newman as he continues to court the Liberal Party dries who don’t get climate change.

“The reality we face is rainfall has always been variable in Australia. It appears to be getting more variable, certainly in this part of the world and back where Lucy and I are in the Hunter,” he says modelling precisely the lack of leadership and political gutlessness he deplored eight years ago.

The coal-lobby sponsored, climate change denying, Coalition lacks the will to do anything but ignore expert consensus…

Worse, he and his government are adding to the problem. The coal-lobby sponsored, climate change denying, Coalition lacks the will to do anything but ignore expert consensus, be it in the parched paddocks of central NSW and QLD or on the Great Barrier Reef where governments have allowed record levels of bush-clearing for farming to create run-off which is helping to kill the reef.

Enter stage right The Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF) whose foundation chairman’s panel comprises big polluters; CEOs of BHP, Commonwealth Bank, Deloitte Australia, Lendlease and Deutsche Bank as well as representatives from Rio Tinto, Shell, AGL and Peabody Energy.

Australian Conservation Foundation’s Matt Rose nails it. “The links to companies such as Peabody Energy, which has funded climate denial groups in the past, doesn’t sit comfortably with us.”

The GBRF is a captain’s call by a PM desperate to greenwash a problem he knows he can’t fix.

Will greenwashing help? Despite Josh Frydenberg’s unbelievable performance on ABC Insiders Sunday, where he claims “extensive due diligence” (like extra virgin snake oil?) led, incredibly, to the selection of a group which just happens to represent the nation’s major polluters, few are bluffed.

Even Barrie Cassidy asks why the Great Barrier Reef Foundation (that word again) got the gig.

“Maximum leverage” Frydenberg blusters. Whatever it means, he hopes to silence the howls of outrage which erupt across the nation. Jargon’s good that way. And he could use a few levers.

Frydenberg … is totally unable to explain to Barrie Cassidy why $444 million was given in a lump sum …

Frydenberg, whose lack of accomplishment has not yet impeded his career, is totally unable to explain to Barrie Cassidy why $444 million was given in a lump sum to be used over six years to an obscure group of six mining and finance industry CEOs whose backgrounds create a palpable conflict of interest, without any tender, invitation, application or any other form of due process.

It doesn’t matter how much Frydenberg may claim that the foundation has delivered excellent results, its aims speak for themselves. There is nothing in the Foundation’s brief which mentions climate change. Immediate aims are to enhance water quality, cull outbreaks of invasive crown of thorns starfish and boost scientific research funds that might aid the reef’s “resilience”.

The reef is dying. It’s lost half its coral in the last two years. Global warming and the strongest El Nino effect ever recorded in 2016 caused the water temperature to rise, killing one third of the coral in a nine-month span between summer and autumn 2016. It would take decades for the coral to regenerate even if rising sea temperatures were brought under control.

A desperate government is wedged between the need to appease its coal-huggers who expect Adani to open and for Abbott Point to expand and an electorate which will not respond well to further bad news about the reef’s decline. It has gone for a spin solution, out of sheer political expediency.

Did Adani collude with Queensland’s state government to break the law? The Guardian reports that as Cyclone Debbie approached, 27 March, Adani leapt into damage control – by changing the rules – obtaining a temporary licence to pollute wetlands near Abbott Point. It’s a worrying sign. Doubtless there’ll be a move to recruit Adani to the GBRF in the light of its environmental concern.

“Shocking and almost mind-blowing” Michael Myer, a former founder of The Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF) terms the growing scandal surrounding Mal’s gift of $444 million to a group which is clearly still stunned at the PM’s unexpected, unbidden largesse; reefer madness.

“It was like winning lotto” says MD Anna Marsden. Truly. When you didn’t buy a ticket?

He quit in part over concerns about its “corporate” direction and the growing involvement of figures from the fossil fuels industry.

Myer, a member of the Myer family dynasty, was a financial supporter and board member of the GBRF for two years until 2002. He says he quit in part over concerns about its “corporate” direction and the growing involvement of figures from the fossil fuels industry. Now they run the outfit.

He tells the ABC Thursday that it is “unthinkable” for the Government to award the largest ever non-profit grant to an organisation with six staff members “without due diligence, without a proper tender process, without a request”. The GBRF albatross will rot around the Coalition’s neck.

Luckily, in the week’s good news, conflicted Energy and Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg fails to bully the states into accepting the National Energy Guarantee (NEG), Friday, thus avoiding locking in Tony Abbott’s inadequate emissions reduction target of 26% of 2005 levels by 2030.

Frydenberg will now have to battle Abbott’s faction to get Liberal Party Room agreement next Tuesday. Not that you would know from his spin. “We had the victory. The national energy guarantee goes through the gate to the next stage,” he lies.

Expect Josh to talk long; keep questions short – especially from “The Monash Group”, a mutant Monkey Pod, a cabal of anti-Turnbull plotters comprising Tony Abbott, Eric Abetz, Kevin Andrews, Craig Kelly and the resourceful George Christensen whom Matt Canavan sent to Tokyo to badger baffled Japanese bankers with his pitch to put their money in the rebels’ plan to build hugely expensive, new, loss-making, toxic coal-fired power plants.

The COAG rout is touted as a win in principle, a spin repeated by a fawning mainstream media who keep us distracted meanwhile with shocking images of parched paddocks and starving stock. It’s the Lynton Crosby distraction strategy of throwing a dead cat (or dying sheep or cow) on the table.

It’s an artful dodge. A conga-line of camera-men whose shadows appear clearly in-shot; a post-modern chiaroscuro, create a Brechtian alienation effect as Super Mal blitzes our screens last Sunday night, live from Trangie, a quiet, rural service town on the Mitchell Highway between Narromine and Nyngan, 493 km NW of NSW capital, Sydney.

Super Mal is paying a flying visit to Trangie whose name is an indigenous word meaning “quick”.

Sadly, Trangie relies on the Murray Darling Basin for water …

But not so fast, Super Mal. Sadly, Trangie relies on the Murray Darling Basin for water and as Karen Middleton notes in The Saturday Paper, its suffering in Australia’s last severe drought in the early 2000s, a “devastating dry spell, the worst on record, prompted calls for a management plan of the basin and the water it holds”.  The basin’s mismanagement cannot be so easily shrugged off.

Given the Coalition government’s record of Murray Darling mismanagement under former Minister for Water and irrigators’ pal, Barnaby Joyce, Turnbull quickly finds himself not waving but drowning. Naturally it doesn’t stop him talking up the ways his government is listening.

Flash Mal’s all care and no responsibility. Keen to escape the GBRF stench, his whirlwind “listening tour” of drought-stricken NSW and QLD allows him to plug an insultingly inadequate “drought relief package” of $12,000 and an easing of Centrelink rules so farmers qualify for a paltry $16,000 PA.

Some locals find his visit offensive. They’re fit to kill over the PM’s do-nothing, self-promoting political photo-opportunity tour, yet there’s more to his caring than exploitation.

Riding shotgun with his PM, Minister for Agriculture, David Littleproud, surely a world’s best case of nominative determinism is jeered on Q&A Monday when he says that it’s “a big call” to own responsibility for climate change and that he doesn’t “give a rats if it’s man-made or not”.

Littleproud then quickly ducks for cover: There’s no silver bullet to this apart from rain. We can’t make it rain,” he says opting for the bleeding obvious in a dismissive non-sequitur.

No-one expects any mea culpa; acknowledgement that the Coalition’s lack of any real energy policy is boosting global warming nor that anthropogenic climate change is helping to cause the drought. 2017 was NSW’s hottest year ever. Autumn 2017 in southern Australia was the driest for 116 years.

the PM is not about to blind the locals with climate science,

This is all the more remarkable given there was no El Nino effect in 2017.  Yet the PM is not about to blind the locals with climate science, as he would have eight years ago. Now he’s warm and fuzzy.

“We’re here with love and practical help …” Practical help? Or another vacuous platitude? The Coalition has spent years evading any form of practicality when it comes to energy or climate. And meanwhile, its social welfare practices have morphed into an automated Robo call extortion racket.

Thank heaven for the photo-opportunities. Super Mal is all heart and hat as he clutches One Bucket’s Edwina Robertson in a stiff embrace, a medium close-up shot. The Toowoomba wedding photographer, turned drought awareness campaigner, tears up as she confronts the PM.

Ms Robertson, who is on week five of her own drought awareness campaign tour, tells the PM the federal government’s last Sunday morning assistance announcement is “underwhelming.”

Worse. She tells reporters, his package is “short sighted”. “He needs to acknowledge the long term effects of this.” PM and campaigner concur it’s a big bastard; the biggest drought in history.

Yet she’s on song with the Coalition’s creed of small government and in tune with Turnbull’s own crusade for private philanthropy. Robertson calls on people to donate to charities around Australia.

“We all need to be consistent in our message of how bad the drought is,” she said.

“Our money is going to come from charitable help, we need Aussies to get together. [It] is not going to come from the government.” 

Mal bravely takes aim at the rabid black dog of despair down on the drought-stricken farm…

A modern Atticus Finch, Mal bravely takes aim at the rabid black dog of despair down on the drought-stricken farm as he reveals his African gang-busting, welfare-cheat-exposing, Emma Husar slut-shaming, Murray Darling Basin Authority bullying, COAG coercing, anti-immigrant racist dog-whistling, Bill-killing, witch-hunting government’s tender, nurturing side.

Mal pats her back in a touching, fatherly, gesture just perfect for TV replay. Nothing too patronising.

For Fiona Simson National Farmers’ Federation head, the show is no substitute for policy.

“We are certainly concerned that as a Commonwealth we don’t have a Federal drought policy in place. The Intergovernmental Agreement on Drought expired in July,” Simson snipes.

Perhaps the former, former Minister for Agriculture, (Malcolm Turnbull held the fort for 57 days) Barnaby Joyce was pre-occupied. Weatherboard and Iron, Joyce’s book launch comes with lurid details of his dissolute behaviour, inspired perhaps, distantly, by the confessions of St Augustine.

When it’s not over-sharing his own battle with booze, suicidal depression and philandering, Weatherboard and iron perpetuates the myth that Joyce and the Nationals somehow represent the interest of the rural worker, or the poor rather than the mining lobby or Big Agriculture. Nothing in Joyce’s voting record suggests he’s interested in preserving penalty rates or increasing Newstart.

Proposals which might benefit the poor he’s voted against. These include increasing housing affordability, the age pension, trade union powers in the workplace, funding for university education, public transport.

He’s opposed the right to protest and the use of natural resource wealth for the benefit of all.

Joyce was happily spruiking on the radio for Santos to develop its coal seam gas project at Narrabri…

Last September, Joyce was happily spruiking on the radio for Santos to develop its coal seam gas project at Narrabri, maybe thirty- maybe fifty kilometres from his own land holdings, he says although he says he won’t make any financial windfall.

Nor will Weatherboard and Iron. Australian readers are not so easily duped. Joyce’s exploiting the rural poor for his own political advancement just as Turnbull is exploiting the drought crisis for photo opportunities and as a distraction to his reef, energy and Royal Commission disasters.

Joyce flogs his book on every channel. He tells Charlie Pickering he needs the money. Charlie is too polite to demur. Barnaby has a wealthy family; whose main property is Rutherglen, in Woolbrook, which sprawls across more than 1780ha north of Tamworth. True, there are other siblings, but The Joyce Family trust fund administered by his parents Beryl and James, has Barnaby as a beneficiary.

Monday, it rains. Trangie receives five millimetres according to the new, sleek, efficiency dividend beneficiaries, The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), currently on the fifth year of a wage-freeze.

Turnbull’s team compassion is all over the airwaves, Monday, with its tough love. “Not everyone is going to survive,” federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud tells ABC’s RN, Monday morning.   “You can’t enjoy the fruits of the market economy without fear of failure.” Toughen up buttercup.

Meanwhile, full of fear of failure, Josh Frydenberg must do without the support of the states. – now he’s going into the party room Tuesday with no “leverage”; even less hope of forging consensus.

The Turnbull government spins another failure as a success – with a switch into vaudeville as Frydenberg “singles out hydrogen as a point of discussion” – about as practical as Greg Hunt’s Direct Action and just as outrageously expensive.

federal and Victorian state government are spending $500 million to build a pilot…

Yet our federal and Victorian state government are spending $500 million to build a pilot plant that will operate for only one year and produce “up to” three tonnes of hydrogen over the whole year.

We are beyond Carbon lock-in” – the self-perpetuating inertia created by large fossil fuel-based energy systems that inhibits public and private efforts to introduce alternative energy technologies.

What we’ve seen instead this week is a PM prepared to seek any distraction from his GBRF scandal and his party divided on the fundamentals of an energy policy which would meet our Paris commitments.

Instead his Energy Minister is peddling a NEG which is so complex and so rushed that no-one fully understands it but one thing is clear, it will lock in Abbott’s inadequate targets for ten years; a NEG which is worse than no NEG at all which is being presented as our only way to move forward and a framework which can be modified into something workable later.

It is neither of these but a shameful attempt to forge Coalition consensus and coerce the states.

Turnbull’s need to seek distraction and his natural evasiveness has led him on a lightning tour of drought-afflicted country towns where the focus is emotive with countless images of suffering animals and distressed farmers but which obscures the link between the big dry and climate change.

It will not be long before his GBRF scandal catches up with him and party disunity erupts over emission targets, and the NEG, like his tour of compassion is exposed as a transparent sham.

 

Turnbull snatches defeat from the jaws of victory.

turnbull drought

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, in its Super Saturday massacre 28 July, (National Drowning Prevention Day) the Coalition is quick to spin its five seat rout in Braddon, Longman, Mayo and its uncontested by-elections in the Labor electorates of Perth and Fremantle into a “typical by-election swing of five per cent against the government”.

It’s “normal”, Liberal MPs’ chorus; all on song from their dot points Monday as they sally forth in damage control; voices strident with performance anxiety. Inwardly all are inconsolable; mourning unexpected, unfathomable loss. Corporate tax cuts are on the nose with voters but can the party heed the feedback? So far it is incapable of listening.

Worse, the hoax that The National Energy Guarantee, (NEG) which is said to be “technology neutral” yet deliver cheaper, more reliable, electricity is rejected by most voters as just another coal-lobby con, aimed not at them but at Abbott’s black rock cult that rules Turnbull’s government, a “ginger group”, Peta Credlin calls them, that is deluded, misinformed and in thrall to mining company propaganda and funding.

Their mutual ignorance will shape the nature of our next ten years of energy policy.

It’s NEG week, an arbitrary deadline imposed to forge consensus on a National Energy Guarantee agreement so complex, lengthy and so recently handed down without consultation that few who will vote on it have read it, let alone understood it.

Yet the Liberal spin machine this week is all over the media telling us it’s all or nothing; now or never. Sadly the push coincides with the release of government data revealing that we’ve just wasted a billion dollars planting trees and restoring degraded habitat under Greg Hunt’s fabulous Direct Action emissions reduction fund climate policy.

Increased forest-clearing in other parts of the nation since 2015 has released over 160m tonnes of carbon dioxide wiping out any Direct Action carbon abatement gains. Emissions projections data estimates another 60.3m tonnes will be emitted this year – equivalent to 10% of national emissions. Hunt’s policy’s a costly, ignominious failure.

In NSW, data obtained under FOI by The Guardian and only after an eight month battle from the Berejiklian government which had not published information for three years, shows it gave permission to clear over 7,000 hectares of native vegetation in 2015-16, the second highest rate of clearing in a decade, while the creation of new conservation areas and restoration of bushland has slumped while it has held office.

Environmental groups and the government’s own Office of Environment and Heritage warn that the new regime will lead to a major increase in loss of habitat, on a scale only seen in Queensland, our nation’s worst state for land clearing and degradation.

To be kind to Hunt, rates of land clearing have been underestimated. In Queensland, moreover, LNP politicians pressured government to withdraw federal department of environment notices demanding landowners explain suspected of illegal clear-felling.

All of this provides context to the Coalition’s urging the states to accept a NEG with woefully inadequate emissions targets of just 26% below 2005 levels for the electricity sector, by 2030. Not only will new investment, least of all in renewables receive no clear signal, the NEG effectively will lock in Tony Abbott’s targets for ten years.

Breezily, commentators and government spin merchants urge states to sign up to targets which can be increased later. It’s a bit like a mobile phone sales pitch.

Sign up now, change your plan later. But it’s not that easy. A federal government committed to higher emissions targets may struggle to gain senate support.

Our total national carbon emissions continue to rise. The most recent national greenhouse accounts showed a 1.5% increase last year. More than $1bn of public money spent on cutting greenhouse gas emissions by planting trees and restoring habitat under the Coalition’s fairies at the bottom of the garden Direct Action climate policy will have effectively been wiped out by little more than two years of forest-clearing elsewhere in the country, according to official government data.

Could the coal warriors snap out of it? Is the Coalition seduced by its own party spin machine? Can it not abandon its futile Kill Bill strategy? Will it stop its tiresome pantomime that Anthony Albanese is after Shorten’s job? None of this is working for it.

Nor does insisting that unfunded tax cuts help the whole nation to prosper win over those who experience at first hand wage theft, the loss of penalty rates, too little work, dangerous work or the half of all workers who are now in insecure employment.

Trump’s American provides clear evidence that corporate tax cuts go into share buy-backs, executive bonuses – anywhere but increased wages or the creation of new jobs.  History in both Australia and the US suggest wage rises are highly unlikely.

By Sunday, a new diversion is required. Turnbull announces the government’s $12,000 drought assistance package to farmers. Yet he’s mugged by reality. Ashley Gamble, a Toowoomba Queensland farmer says the cash payments promised by the government for struggling farms are inadequate. He could add insulting. Heartless. Cruel.

“To be honest, that’s absolutely nothing. $12,000 doesn’t even buy a load of grain.” Gamble’s completely out of stock feed. Nothing in the package for him. Nor many others like him. The government’s package looks like a stunt.

Turnbull spins the federal government’s generous plans to provide immediate financial support to farmers with a “$190 million package” to help farming communities fight one of the worst droughts of the past century. You can get one inadequate handout or you may qualify for a type of Centrelink support. It’s a whopping $16,000 PA.

99% of NSW and more than 58% of Queensland is now officially in drought, yet no-one in government is bold enough to publicly make any links between land-clearing, drought and other extreme weather and climate change. We’ve politicised our own survival.

Capitalism is also unquestioned. Farmers now face unprecedented prices as feed becomes scarce, just as transport costs rise steeply as they are forced to seek sources further and further afield. Then there’s higher fuel and power costs.

The meagre drought assistance looks like a cheap publicity opportunity, especially given last week’s news that the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, a hitherto obscure “charity”, run by wealthy business leaders, receives $443 million from Malcolm Turnbull and Josh Frydenberg without prior consultation or even being required to apply.

There are no set expectations of accountability and the donation appears to have bypassed cabinet or the party room in a captain’s call.

Again, Turnbull’s government is remote, aloof and high-handed. It’s not heeding the people, nor serving the people, however sensitive it may be to Newspoll and media opportunities. Yet rich corporations get a $65 billion handout in a tax cut.

But look over there! Senses heightened by fear, the Coalition pack is hot in pursuit of Emma Husar; MP for Lindsay, a Western Sydney electorate. The single mother of three, they allege, bullies and abuses her staff. Not only must staffers walk her pet Labrador, they have to pick up dog poo and pop into Aldi for bread, milk and toilet-paper.

Husar has misused entitlements such as the Comcar travel service, some staff allege. Yet there’s no hint of any chartered helicopter hire, such as helped to ground Bronwyn Bishop. Husar’s not used RAAF VIP jets, such as Tony Abbott would use to fly to Melbourne, to attend a March 2015 birthday party of mining millionaire and top Liberal donor Paul Marks.

Nor is there any allegation that Emma’s abused her role to secure a job for anyone not-her-partner-at-the-time; nor a whiff of any dubious paternity, a “grey area” for Barnaby Joyce who has been cleared of wrongly procuring jobs for his paramour.

Nor has Ms Husar broken Turnbull’s “no bonking ban” which admonished our former deputy PM indirectly; unfairly over his affair with staffer Vikki Campion. “You can’t help who(m) you fall in love with,” Barnaby, the helpless victim explains.

The pursuit of Husar is a magnificent distraction, however, and a pent up Coalition fond of blood sports pounces on it.

Damned by her accusers, prejudged in the media, Husar takes leave after threatening messages are left on her phone. The bullying allegations are being investigated by the Labor Party with expert assistance from barrister, John Whelan.

Whelan, who has a reputation as a straight-shooter, previously worked for Labor leaders including Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Kim Beazley and Bob Carr before he set up his mediation business which specialises in workplace issues.

Turnbull calls for Shorten to stand Ms Husar down but he risks ridicule as a hypocrite, given recent Liberal history. Some prominent staffers have gone beyond the call of duty.

Niki Savva’s revelations in Road to Ruin quote an unnamed Liberal who witnessed Ms Credlin feeding then PM Tony Abbott food from her fork in public at a restaurant; resting her head on his shoulder.

Savva, who is married to veteran Liberal staffer Vincent Woolcock, records an insider’s poetic observation of a Credlin Abbott relationship moment which appears unusually intimate. “She fed him tenderly as if he were a baby bird.”

Was this duty detailed in Credlin’s job description? Capping her image of tender familiarity of not intimacy, Savva cites an anonymous minister who says he saw Mr Abbott slap Ms Credlin on the bottom not knowing he was watching the scene.

Emma Husar’s alleged misconduct, includes revealing herself to Jason Clare in a “Basic Instinct” move. Buzz-feed is agog despite Jason’s refutation.  Can a woman “reveal herself” to a man who does not notice her? (So he swears.) What law is broken?

So far, despite the best efforts of The Daily Tele and other News Ltd papers, the allegation is baseless. But none of it need be true. All that’s required is a series of unfounded allegations and assertions. Mud sticks.

Metaphysical conundrums aside, Husar is a gift to apparatchiks eager to divert attention from the Coalition’s by-election flop. Her case evokes low journalism in support of a government over-eager to smear Labor. The lynch mob is a beast which feasts on salacious gossip; kindergarten tittle-tattle rather than rational political reporting and analysis.

Expect more of this type of “reporting” as Nine’s takeover of Fairfax, which is already forcing the share price of both companies down, forces Fairfax to “let go” its investigative reporters in favour of infotainers and ambulance chasers.

Will gossip also prevail on the ABC? In the run up to its IPA-ordained privatisation, the ABC announces the launch of ABC Life its new “lifestyle” website, next Monday, in a move which will make it more attractive to prospective buyers when the government privatises the national broadcaster. Lifestyle programmes outnumber all others categories.

Already there’s a fuss over the nonsense dignified by “competitive neutrality” which boils down to the government’s diktat that the ABC not compete with Murdoch’s’ or any other commercial oligarch’s rival lifestyle media “product”. It’s unfair. Our government-protected commercial media oligopoly rules. An inquiry is in place but no-one is certain of what it is or why, except that it is a Pauline Hanson condition on her accepting the first tranche of the Coalition’s brilliant new tax cut legislation.

What happened to the Productivity Commission? It has a section set up to hear competitive neutrality complaints. It’s been gazumped by an ad hoc inquiry.

Happily the Husar hue and cry also takes some of the heat off Malcolm Turnbull who has yet to explain how he could dole out a grant to Liberal Party mates who form the board of The Great Barrier Reef Foundation, a little-known charity comprising captains of industry and finance such as John Schubert, former CBA chair and Australian Business Council’s chairman, Grant King who also chairs the foundation’s board. Chalk it up to a captain’s call.

Along with many in the Business Council of Australia, Grant King is always calling for accountability from government but, as Bernard Keane notes in Crikey, he is not available to answer questions about the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. Perhaps he can’t comment on underwater matters.

Joining Grant is John Schubert also of the Business Council, and also “not available”. On board also is Suncorp’s Michael Cameron, toughing out a 16% drop in profit on a “weather and strategy spend”.

Powerful gold-plated poles and wires head honcho, Origin director, Steven Sergeant brings our warm and fluffy but hard-nosed electricity racketeers into the reefer madness zone, while Boeing Australia head Maureen Dougherty is there to represent a company which is a big arms manufacturer and totally non-polluting major global aircraft builder.

The Foundation is set up to allow our biggest polluters to greenwash their inevitable destruction of the reef, a scandal in itself, but this week, Turnbull feels the pressure over his unsolicited gift of $443 million of taxpayers’ money. He could begin by getting the body to undertake studies into the run-off from the land newly-cleared in NSW and QLD which will help accelerate the destruction of the reef.

Turnbull is long accustomed to spontaneous displays of support for experimental schemes. Or duds. Most memorable is his 2007 donation of $10 million, when, as Environment Minister, he financed Rupert Murdoch’s nephew Matt Handbury for his rain-making testing scheme, despite expert advice from Environment Department experts that the scheme would not work and was worth perhaps $2 million at best.

Handbury, in turn, strenuously denies any relationship between the grant he received from the then Environment Minister Turnbull and personal pal and his subsequent donation to Turnbull’s campaign for the seat of Wentworth.

Normalising electoral defeat helps re-build esprit de corps; a nod, perhaps, to the spirit of ANZAC, another nation-building catastrophe. At least it’s a public show of courage against the odds, as Dutton and at least seven other LNP MPs whose electorates adjoin Longman have reason to fear losing their seats, sneers Abbott’s soapbox, The Australian.

Axe the tax cut, some whimper privately, while yobbo Tony Abbott and others go public, white-anting their PM’s leadership, in the cheeky larrikin spirit of defiance of authority that marks out the true blue Aussie hero but with an obsession that betokens mania.

The anti-Turnbull pile-on via Sydney talkback radio helps ease the stigma of being infected by the viral disease of climate change denial, a malignant metaphysical meningitis, which causes rapid atrophy of the critical faculties.

Climate change denial helps incubate an aberrant strain of “thought”, as Greg Jericho flatters our current Coalition psychopathology in The Guardian “that has decided the way forward is to ignore evidence and instead pursue an ideology of wilful ignorance.”

Of course the government’s ruling Monash Five’s retreat from reason and its climate madness may both stem from larger causes, but the effects of wilful ignorance are pernicious.  Giving the top end of town a tax break is another corporate sponsorship we can’t afford, which, judging by its record profits of 6% quarter on quarter, big business clearly doesn’t need. Profits increased faster for mining (10.9%) and electricity and utilities, (11.9%).

A record 94% of companies reported a profit this year.

By Tuesday, MPs return to backbiting, sniping and finger-pointing. What’s left for the desiccated dries and the dissidents of the Monkey Pod room who dictate government policy on environment and energy to fall back on but Dutton’s African gangs and Andrew Bolt’s rabid racist scaremongering and immigration?

Another dramatic scandal-ridden week in national politics sees further breaking of the ranks in the Turnbull government. Some call to walk back its tax cuts while others remain steadfast; loyal to their principles of looking after their wealthy corporate mates, the sainted capitalist entrepreneur at the expense of everyone else; a retreat into economic folly which entails abdicating their obligation to a just and fair society.

“Everyday Australians would be appalled to know that the annual company tax saving for just one company could pay for 7,610 teachers, 8,450 nurses or 6,310 police officers, says Executive Director, Ben Oquist.

The Australia Institute’s (TAI) new Revenue Watch Initiative calculates that based on Rio Tinto’s half year report, the Coalition’s company tax cut would represent a $7.67 billion gift to Rio Tinto over the first decade of the cut.

Oquist maintains that his institute’s research shows that the company tax cuts are “economically unsound.” Cutting company tax will reduce revenue available for community services and productivity enhancing public infrastructure.

Others duck and weave to dodge the brickbats from Super Saturday as rifts widen within the Coalition over energy and tax cuts for the rich, which Abbott wants to ditch, Scott Morrison wants to keep and which Dutton won’t commit to.

Caught between snafu, self-sabotage and frantic damage control, the PM’s unsolicited $443 million largesse to his party’s mining and finance pals in The Great Barrier Reef Foundation blows up in his face, whilst Health Minister Hunt is left looking unwell when he’s proved wrong on the ease with which others can access patient data on MyHealth.

Of course, he’ll simply fiddle with the wording of the legislation. The opt out concept violates patient’s rights.

Figures for the first quarter of 2018 from Australia’s data breach notification scheme show that over all sectors, around half of breaches were caused by human error.

The scheme found most breaches came from the healthcare sector, reports ABC’s Ariel Bogle.

What could possibly go wrong?

“No-one should be punching the air in the Labor Party. There is not a lot to crow about”, says Turnbull when he finally emerges from his blue funk, Monday. Party Pollyanna, Christopher Pyne, surpasses peak absurdity, in his verdict on Georgina Downer’s crash and burn in Mayo. He’s almost as upbeat over his party’s overall performance.

Downer, Pyne opines, has “created a good base to win in May next year”. Just a little more public contempt for the electorate’s intelligence, should help seal her victory. In all three seats, he lies, it’s “a good result” for the Liberal Party.

Good? It’s a disaster. And it’s unprecedented. Until Saturday, a five per cent swing against the government has never occurred in by-elections in Opposition-held seats, as all five, on 28 July, were. Sixty such byelections have been held since Federation, writes Peter Brent. Half were uncontested. Results from the remainder range widely.

In the thirty seats which were contested, fourteen swung to the government. Of the remaining sixteen, the size of the swing to the opposition averages 1.5% while the mean is a meagre 1.2%. Yet the Liberal spin is quickly, widely repeated.

Incredible Sulk, Tony Abbott is on air with Ray quick as a rat up a drain pipe. Although 2GB boasts it’s number one with 11% of Sydney’s radio audience, according to its own figures, nearly ninety per cent of listeners listen to someone else.

Yet Abbott and Dutton love 2GB’s shock-jockery. Or used to. Monday, Abbott tells Hadley’s fans that his government needs to change policies after its disastrous showing in the three by-elections it bothered to contest. Its policies are just as much of a problem as its leader, Abbott tells listeners. Who’d invent a 30 dud Newspolls’ test of success?

“One of the things you learn as leader over the years is don’t set yourself up to fail, don’t set tests for yourself that are going to be very hard to pass.”  Abbott should know. His own government dishonoured 85 policy promises in 88 weeks.

“There will be no new spending under a Coalition government that’s not fully-costed and fully-funded,” was one of his hollowest election pledges. Once elected, Abbott’s government proceeded to spend more relative to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) than even the notoriously profligate Howard government. Unfunded or deficit spending doubled.

Thursday, Hadley calls Scott Morrison and Turnbull “numbskulls” and gives even Home Affairs supremo Peter Dutton a serve. Channelling Abbott, he bags the PM and his Treasurer for continuing to pursue their policy of tax cuts for businesses with turnover of more than $50 million, following the Coalition’s failure to win seats in Saturday’s by-elections.

Last week Abbott was beating Dutton’s drum. … why do we store up trouble for ourselves by letting in people who are going to be difficult, difficult to integrate?” 2GB Radio regular malcontent, Toxic Tony asks his “big question” relentless in his quest to destroy his nemesis, Malcolm Turnbull, even if it means cruelling the coalition’s chances in the process.

Abbott drips poison as he dog-whistles up racists.

It’s as good as anything his mentor, John Howard, ever managed, when in 1988 he began attacking the Asianisation of Australia, ending years of bipartisan agreement not to play the race card. Howard called for “One Australia,” neatly appealing to the followers of One Nation, which the Liberal candidate for Oxley created the year before when she was disendorsed by her party for racist comments which would be defended as “freedom of speech” today.

Confounded by reality failing to live to its rhetoric in Super Saturday’s debacle and the scandal breaking over Turnbull’s Great Barrier Reef Foundation scam, the accelerating land clearing that is helping kill the reef and the anxiety and stress that Health Minister Hunt is bringing to all of us over our medical data, not to mention Abbott’s sniping at his PM, the government retreats into dissension, reality and climate change denial and the comfort of reverting to the simpler, safer times when elder statesman and war criminal John Howard looked after us all by stopping the boats and rekindling our racism.

Not so super Saturday for Mal but silencing dissent a winner.

turnbull and big trev

Love is in the air is on endless loop at PM’s eleven-week, five by-election, 500,000 voter dance marathon. It’s a bizarre, grotesque, contest as bone-weary MPs fight to stay upright to the end this week.

Turnbull, meanwhile, flits among the “crucial” by-electorates of Braddon, Longman and Mayo, boosting morale. Spinning. Sloganeering. Grandstanding. It’s Mal’s take on campaigning. Australians hate it.

All they see is another rich, Sydney blow-in with tickets on himself.

Similarly, Alexander John Gosse Downer does his daughter, Georgina, – (“out of towner, Downer”) – locals dub her, no favours in Mayo. Or is she too good for them? Maserati-driving, Alexander the great, modestly muses on his family’s legacy in Facebook:

“I would say our family have been nation builders. We’ve helped make this nation great. And you can abuse us and you can criticise us and we’ll take it. We’ll take it, we don’t mind, because nation building is in our blood.”

Downer’s nation-building includes his backing of Australia’s illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003. Iraq, he said, had weapons of mass destruction. Australia, therefore, had legal authority to invade. Both assertions later proved false.

In 2004, as Foreign Minister, Downer ordered ASIS to bug East Timor’s cabinet in order to cheat the impoverished, developing or in Downer’s diplomatic terms “busted arse” nation out of its fair share of recompense for its oil and gas reserves.

A former Portuguese colony, East Timor suffered some of the worst atrocities of modern times, losing 200,000 lives, a quarter of its population, in its fight for self-determination against Indonesian occupation in 1975.

This Wednesday, in the ACT Magistrates’ Court, proceedings begin against two whistle-blowers, one known only as Witness K – and his lawyer, Bernard Collaery, a former deputy chief minister and attorney-general of the ACT.

The case is brought by the government’s hand-picked Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions — former Trade Union Royal Commission counsel, Sarah McNaughton, a decision which raises questions about the motives for the prosecution in a week which sees Turnbull attack the ABC for daring to suggest that Australia would be part of any future “air-strikes”, as they are cutely termed, on Trump’s new nemesis, Iran.

Firstly, the DPP requires Attorney-General, Christian Porter’s, assent. Porter says his hands are tied: he has been briefed by predecessor George Brandis, yet Greg Barns, barrister and president of the Australian Lawyers’ Association, says this is to reduce the AG to a rubber stamp. He argues that the AG can and should exercise his discretion.

Witness K and Collaery face charges of conspiring to commit offences against section 39 of the Intelligence Services Act 2001, which prohibits the unauthorised disclosure of information about ASIS activities.

The pair are being prosecuted by the government for “revealing information about its own crimes”, says Clinton Fernandes, Professor of International and Political Studies at The University of NSW.

And as if whistle-blowing isn’t bad enough, they’ve gone and told The ABC.

One problem, as Crikey’s Bernard Keane and The Saturday Paper’s Mike Seccombe point out, is that the government is charging Collaery with talking to the ABC 13 December 2013 when The Australian published an interview with him on the same matter in May 29 2013.

Why? As the government wishes to keep proceedings secret, we may never know.

Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie suggests, in parliament, that the government has held off until it has reached its new agreement with Timor-Leste and that “with the diplomacy out of the way, it’s time to bury the bodies”.

Downer whose subsequent position with Woodside petroleum, the major firm involved in East Timor gas and oil has nothing to do with his work as Foreign Minister, was also implicated in the 1999-2004, AWB $300 million Iraqi wheat for oil scandal while in 1994, as Liberal leader, he parodied his party’s slogan, The Things That Matter and its domestic violence policy with a witty word play, which he clearly thought would bring the house down, “the things that batter”.

His boat stopping was no joke either. In 2001, as Howard’s Foreign Minister, Downer was instrumental, with Mandy Vanstone, in turning back to Indonesia, 14 Kurdish asylum seekers whose boat had reached Melville Island, by falsely alleging that not one had asked for asylum. Abuzer Goles, one of the Turkish Kurds, testified otherwise.

“Thousands of times, thousands,” said Abuzer Goles“I begged them, I pleaded down on my knees. They sent a Turkish interpreter and I pleaded with him saying I’ll do anything not to be sent back. We spent four days on the water, 10 days without sleep, it nearly killed us. I’m human, I’m a human being. I’m a refugee.”

He then broke down, crying.

There’s been the odd bit of anti-immigrant and African gang hysteria from Tony Abbott, Peter Dutton and his enabler,Turnbull. At a time when One Nation candidates in QLD threaten to take by-election votes away from the Liberals, a bit of strong-on-borders rhetoric doesn’t hurt. Yet it’s only recently that Turnbull has joined the racist choir.

Hitting the selfie trail and the nation’s airwaves, copping the wrath of the odd age-pensioner in Longman, the PM effortlessly blends a boyish, artless, narcissism with an heroic narrative that is all about him. Only when it all ends badly does our anti-hero duck for cover. Up until then he’s got more front than Myers. And Mark Foy. Combined

“The … contest is between me and Bill Shorten as the prime minister and the opposition leader,” he huffs in Brisbane.  He offers the same reductive puffery in The Australian later.  Again, it’s uncanny. It could be testosteronic Tony Abbott, himself, speaking.

It’s fashionable to decry personality politics as a modern curse, but it’s been with us forever. So has the golden rule that you should only pick a fight you can win. And pride, if not macho chutzpah, goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.

Is it hubris? Or vainglorious vacuity? Are his long-suffering staff to blame if Truffles loses the plot? Goes off script. Since 2017, Turnbull has a meagre 58 staff; each averaging $233,000 PA.  Turnover is high.

February, Penny Wong queried stability in the Prime Minister’s department, noting 28 staffers hold mere acting positions in the senior executive service.

Just don’t hold Turnbull personally responsible. Friday night, as all five by elections go against him. Mal duck dives. The (self-styled) party Fixer, Christopher “Periscope” Pyne surfaces on ABC Insiders Sunday. Turnbull never called it a leadership contest, he lies. When even Barrie Cassidy tries to remonstrate, Pyne trots out the party line.

“It was just a typical by-election swing of 4%”, he squibs – except that in Longman it was at least 10%. Things look bad now for Dutton’s adjacent seat and in three other Queensland seats the government holds by narrow margins. If the Coalition continues to alienate voters in these seats, it is on track to lose the March 2019 general election.

Expect further turnover in Prime Minister and Cabinet.  Turnbull finally comes up for air around Sunday brunch. You can’t keep a straight face on an empty stomach.

“We will look very seriously and thoughtfully and humbly at the way in which voters have responded,” he tells Sydney media. “We will be carefully considering the analysis of the byelections, particularly in Braddon and in Longman.”

We will? Turnbull is the compleat political chameleon: Woody Allen’s Australian Zelig. All voters care about, he declares in a Devonport pub, earlier this week, is “jobs-and-growth”. Voters hear a less nasal, more fluent Tony Abbott with plummier vowels.

Coalition spin-doctors make “Super Saturday”, a referendum on Bill Shorten. It’s a cunning plan. Enduring, too. ABC RN even leads its byelection reporting, Sunday, pondering “what this means for Bill Shorten” – when the real question is how can Malcolm Turnbull survive?

Even after Labor wins all four seats, mainstream media groupthink is still obsessing over the fate of the Opposition. Yet privately government MPs are worrying.

The curse of Malcolm’s dud judgement rears its ugly head again. Why did his government does not contest Perth or Fremantle? OK. Fremantle you can understand – but Perth? Perth casts more votes for Liberal than Labor.

Then there’s the issue of whether it’s wise to chum up to One Nation and lose votes to it, or to “take it on” as Cassidy says. First you’d have to take her off Sunrise.

And Hanson’s everywhere. A  man in love with himself will have no rival, but Mal must contend with fifty life-size cardboard cut-outs of Pauline Hanson. Scandalous allegations emerge that One Nation’s Longman candidate, Matthew Stephens, has failed to pay workers and subcontractors he promised to recompense out of a $66,000 settlement in a long-running legal dispute.

Adding piquant mystery to the romance, One Nation needs to please explain. Just what did happen to the $66,000? Pauline certainly knows how to pick her candidates.

No use asking Queen of vanity politics, Pauline. The government’s loyal cross-bench little mate, is currently enjoying a luxury cruise around Ireland. Unaccountably, she’s missing in action. Perhaps it’s the only moment she can get to reward herself for her long service to Turnbull. Did he or Cormann pay her fare?

Happily, Hanson’s absence leaves Mal free to bang on about his government’s media “reforms” without needing to fuss over how much One Nation’s dogged support has made them possible.

Credit is of course also due to others. There’s the talking toilet brush, as he is known at home in NZ, Derryn Hinch, senate slut-shamer and gun-slinger, Tea Party potty mouth David Leyonhjelm and the stunt-loving but ephemeral NXT.

Mal’s blowing his bags about his government’s fabulous record-breaking job-creating success and the buckets of money it’s throwing at essential services, hospitals, schools, infrastructure; even the odd little charity such as The Great Barrier Reef Foundation which is just the ticket to fix the largest coral reef ecosystem on earth from its inevitable destruction under Coalition tolerance of massive land clearing, acceleration of global warming and other anti-environment policies.

The Foundation, is a charity whose board is headed by the Business Council of Australia’s Grant King. It includes other merchant princes, princesses, bankers, corporate tycoons; all Liberal Party-loving gals and pals in line to get a $433 million dollar government handout; without a tender process or any other skerrick of public accountability.

The United States Studies Centre can also thank its lucky stars. Set up by Howard, it’s the foreign policy think tank the ABC dips into it whenever it needs the ubiquitous John Barron to comment on what Donald Trump is up to now. It has close links to the Turnbull and Murdoch families and it gets a generous $12 million from the federal government, Monday.

James Brown, Malcolm Turnbull’s son-in-law was the Centre’s research director from 2015 until recently when he took up an unpaid position as head of the NSW RSL to help it sort out its current financial scandal. Lucy Turnbull is the Centre’s patron.

Similar largesse, was shown by the Coalition to Foxtel. “News Corp is refusing to explain exactly how it will spend taxpayers’ money more than six months after the Turnbull government granted Foxtel $30 million,” reported Fairfax in February.

Secrecy is a Turnbull government byword. Accordingly, the reef biz-boondoggle will not have to divulge how it spends our money to “lever” more funds from the private sector. Its three directors, moreover, are all too busy to comply with requests to appear before a senate committee hearing into the body, which holds its first meeting in Brisbane Monday.

“How much of it is going to be used to promote the companies and essentially greenwash some of these businesses that are key polluters?” asks Greens’ Oceans spokesman, cheeky Peter Whish-Wilson, who is not a big fan of secrecy. Imagine wanting to know what influence businesses would exert over how the grant was spent.

The government’s own expert agencies were invited not to apply, reports investigative reporter, Nicole Hasham of what, until this week, was known as Fairfax, but which will now be known as Nine, in a “merger” the PM heartily approves of.

Why, he takes full credit for Nine’s takeover of Fairfax. Fewer voices mean It’s a huge step forward for our nation’s democracy which for, too long, has been frustrated by independent nay-sayers in the jihad against the Turnbull government conducted by the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age

“It’s been made possible by the changes in media ownership laws we made,” Mal swanks to Brian, “Spoonman”, Carlton in their bromantic duet on Tassie talkback, Thursday morning.

“To be frank, I welcome the announcement.”

You bet he is; he does, to paraphrase Tony Abbott. The loss of Fairfax in a takeover by Nine will remove one of the few remaining papers, available to the nation, which would protect our democracy by speaking truth to power. And in many other ways.

Andrew Jaspan, a former editor-in-Chief of The Age notes “A well-informed democracy needs to be underpinned by the pluralism of ideas and outlooks that comes from strong, independent news outlets. The well-respected, grown-up and independent journalistic voice of Fairfax journalism will be the casualty of this deal.”

Instead, expect infotainment.

“From now on those remaining Fairfax journalists will answer to the whims of Nine Entertainment. That means news values framed by those of A Current Affair and 60 Minutes, tightly laced with the blokey culture of the Footy Show, with cultural cues set by the programming giants behind Love Island, Married at First Sight and Ninja Warriors.”

Best of all the deal’s a steal. It will cost Nine nothing, reports Jaspan. Nine’s $4 billion Fairfax takeover is just a scrip deal which values Nine at $1.96 billion and Fairfax $1.92 billion. With a bid premium to get to $4 billion. Nine gets 51 per cent and all the power.

Fairfax loses it all despite gaining fabulous former Liberal Treasurer Peter Costello as chairman. Smirking Pete will bring just the right skill-set and networks to help the paper navigate the turbulent seas of competitive neutrality and impartiality.

The merger is unlikely to be a commercial success, however, if the history of media mergers is any guide. Glen Dyer writes in Crikey that “the highest value is always on the day of the merger and then slides from then on.”

He argues that media merger deals fail to create value because they are set up to protect the interests of the moguls or investors and not the position of employees or consumers. Kerry Stokes’ Seven West Media, for example, was worth $4.1 billion at its inception in 2011 but it was worth only $1.3 billion Thursday.

Most observers are too polite to mention the servility the newly merged Nine will be keen to show as it grovels to its latest benefactor.

You can glimpse the future in the crawl and response enacted back on Tasmania Talks, where Carlton is spoon-feeding his PM the best lines. It’s like having a human tele-prompter. “I just wonder”, says Brian, “to what extent we need to more greatly connect the economic success of Tasmania at the moment and the flow-on benefits to people in the state.”

The battlers doing the hard yards in Braddon can’t get enough of this. Beats having enough money to feed your kids or have your teeth fixed.

Bugger the electricity bill, we’ll bask in the warmth of trickle-down and the flow-on benefits of Mal’s miraculous reforms which amount to cutting taxes for the rich while keeping workers’ wages frozen and helping the workforce to become increasingly casualised, part-time, underpaid, unprotected by unions and under-employed.

Two cheers, then, for the Turnbull government’s media reforms. Our media landscape is diminished as is our chance of reading the truth, thanks to the help of a few confused cross-benchers, led by the wily servants of the oligarchy that runs the joint to whom no news is good news unless it’s a feelgood story or an advertorial or an infomercial.

Or a piece which puffs the government’s latest, greatest victory in slashing corporate taxes or invading Iran with Donald J Trump.

Turnbull’s cunning plan of a Super Saturday of five byelections to help destabilise Bill Shorten’s leadership hits a bit of a snag this week, when voters refuse to co-operate. But with the help of a more compliant less diverse press, who knows what amazing achievements await us? And we haven’t even got on to Media Reform 2.0; the privatising of the ABC. Yet.