A double agent in the house? It’s the least of our worries.

dutto2

 

Loud hosannas resound in Canberra. Hallelujah. Could it be the joyous news that Harry and Meghan Markle will grace us with their royal presence at a charity polo match in Marvellous Melbourne early next year?

Or is it Dotard Trump’s Middle East diplomatic masterstroke? Swayed by Zionist lobbyists and fat-cat Republican donors’ demands he moves the US embassy to Jerusalem? Images of rioting, protesting Palestinians appear immediately. Any moment, son-in-law, slumlord Jared Kushner, will “deliver peace” in the Middle East on cue.

No. It’s our own joyous ritual bloodletting. The killing season is upon us. A PM should watch his back. Beware Daily Telegraph claims that Turnbull is “turning the tide on Labor”.  Which tide? A chorus of MSM hacks ignore NewsPoll and Ipsos showing the Coalition lagging Labor 47:53, while Essential has the government 45-55 to Labor.

Yet Turnbull insists he’s ending the year on a high. Even lurching from crisis to catastrophe, a Coalition government always gets a fabulous press. It has the best connections.

Or it just helps itself to credit due to others.  A week before parliament plunges into recess, the government covers itself in stolen glory. In a stunt worthy of a Mean Girls’ character, little Malco takes credit for the Yes vote himself, despite leaving all advocacy to others. It’s his big win. This does not endear him to any LGTBI advocates.

More worryingly, Turnbull shows no sense that the survey was a delaying stunt. Nor is there any hint he feels sorry – or some responsibility for all of the injury done. Mental health expert, Professor Patrick McGorry – reports that, for many, the campaign revived traumatic memories of bullying and discrimination they faced at school.

Online agencies report a similar pattern. Digital Youth service ReachOut, a Frontline Service which attracts 1.5 million unique visitors to its website annually, reports its online forums recorded a sharp increase in activity, with young gay people reporting feeling scared and tired of personal attacks.

Many other agencies report distress. A key source of psychological suffering stemmed from the flaw in the survey’s conception. Many share Dennis Halloran’s anger that other people get to vote about his personal life.

“It’s insulting,” says Halloran a voter in Turnbull’s Wentworth electorate . “I believe equality is a human right.”

In other aspects, Turnbull’s support of marriage equality is equivocal; inconsistent. In 1997, he wrote a case against a postal vote because “it flies in the face of Australian democratic values”. In 2012 in Julia Gillard’s conscience vote in parliament, he voted against marriage equality. Bill Shorten voted in favour.

Turnbull has not been honest about the concept. The postal survey was not Dutton’s idea but came from Andrew Laming, an MP who drew up many surveys, which, when trialled always managed to get a negative result.

Most tellingly, Turnbull has never been keen to canvass the thoughts and feelings of those whose interests and experiences are most relevant.   Last August he ignored calls to consult with the LGTBI community before introducing his postal survey which, in inception at least, was a Trojan horse to forestall marriage equality.

Congratulations? The PM will be lucky to receive a Mean Girls  Spring Fling plastic tiara a cheap, hollow crown.

Yet a euphoria descends upon weary but relieved yes supporters. Even IPA tool, former anti-human rights commission, human rights commissioner Tim Wilson proposes to partner Ryan mid-debate.

You can read it in Hansard. Then, quickly compartmentalising joy as all male-dominated outfits must; it moves on to pride. The Coalition channels its inner Trump, boasting over its glorious, historic victory in the New England by-election.

The Coalition  crows. Biggest swing to a sitting government in history, even if it must say so itself – repeatedly.

This “wasn’t a Newspoll”, this was “a real poll” shouts a PM whose credibility is in free fall as a nation has just seen him cynically cancel a week of parliament on the pretext of making room for marriage equality law-making. The hiatus is a desperate move to ensure his own political survival. So, too, is his over-promotion of Peter Dutto.

Yet joyous exultation froths out of the Liberal spin machine over the imminent elevation of our Lord High Protector Peter “Spud” Dutton to his new Home Affairs gig. His installation is fast-tracked not by popular demand but by Turnbull’s need to appease right wing party bullies intent on total domination via ownership of the PM.

Dutto, too, kicks along the nation’s ersatz euphoria as Dastyari-bashing, a national blood-sport, is back in season.

“Sam Dastyari is a Chinese spy. A double agent”, dirty Dutto dog-whistles in Question Time. It’s a slur speaker Tony Smith doesn’t hear, he says, but it’s clear enough to 2GB listeners when Dutto first makes it a week earlier.

“You can’t have a double agent in the Australian parliament. It’s simply not good enough, Ray.”  

Government MPs love a lynch mob – especially with a racist vibe. All week, MPs pile on; raid the Liberals’ stock of Yellow Peril formula from the Cold War to whip up a fresh brew of Sinophobia. They howl Dastyari down, a Labor traitor in our midst, while putting the wind up the 44341 Bennelong residents who identify as Chinese-Australians.

Political piñata he may be, but Dastyari’s bashing goes too far. And not just in Sydney. China is “astonished” by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s statements which risk “poisoning” our bilateral relationship.

Less puzzled, however, is Martin McKenzie Murray who reports in The Saturday Paper that senior Labor Party figures believe the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) leaked the audio of Sam Dastyari’s 2016 press conference in front of Chinese media, but possibly did so following pressure from a disgruntled US.

Like the giant panda in the room, the issue of how the media gained report of Dastyari’s diabolical treachery is largely ignored in our MSM. A security agency’s spook may have leaked intelligence to the media in order to damage Dastyari and Labor but the story of the week has been largely ignored, save by McKenzie-Murray.

A hostile US embassy concerned with Labor’s links to China – and a willingness to co-operate may have stitched up Sam – and his PM.

How this Chinese-whisper stacks up against Andrew Robb, for example, or countless other money-grubbing Coalition figures is problematic. Dastyari’s breach of protocol is nowhere as serious, for example,  as Stuart Robert who, as assistant minister of defence, oversaw a mining deal between Nimrod Resources – run by his close friend, major Liberal Party donor Paul Marks – and the Chinese government-owned company Minmetals.

In a review conducted by Prime Minister and Cabinet (PMC)head, Dr Martin Parkinson, it was found that Mr Robert had acted inconsistently with the Statement of Ministerial Standards, if unwittingly. Parkinson also notes Mr Robert appears not to have received any financial benefit from the deal. Unlike Andrew Robb.

Andrew Robb’s contract with Chinese company Landridge, a document shrouded in confidentiality,  effectively guarantees him $800,000 per year with little in the way of prescribed, part-time  duties, – beginning shortly after he left parliament in 2016 – a contract revealed by Fairfax Media and Four Corners in June.

Billionaire Ye Cheng owns Landridge, which controversially acquired a 99-year lease for the Port of Darwin in 2015. In brief, any investigation of China’s influence in Australia would begin with far bigger firms and entrepreneurs.

And agents. McKenzie Murray reports sources who suggest that the damaging leak against Dastyari may arise from his association with Chinese businessman Huang Xiangmo. ASIO had forewarned major parties Huang was a likely agent for the Chinese Communist Party. Some suggest the NSW Right may have leaked the story.

A separate leak against Shorten was made quickly after the Dastyari tape went public. The Opposition leader is reported to have visited Huang prior to the federal election – months after an ASIO warning – for a campaign donation. The NSW Right may have leaked to warn Shorten to acquiesce with the pro-China faction.

All of this is damaging to Labor. Yet more than some of the story beggars belief.

Getting great airplay in parliament and in MSM is the PM’s story that Dastyari visited Huang at his home. He suggested to Huang that his phone may be tapped, or its microphone remotely activated. The story depends on the willing suspension of belief that neither man would simply turn his phone off.

Or that neither uses Telegram or some similarly secure popular messaging device. But we mustn’t spoil the story.

Being bugged by a phone which is  turned off taps vast reserves of fiendish oriental cunning and other Sinophobic prejudices. It is also fed by popular mythology of all-pervasive, ruthless modern cyber espionage, currently fanned to fever pitch by dynamic Dan Tehan and his PM on behalf of a government keen to crank up fear of Cyber-attack.

Hysteria beckons. MSM report stories of people fearing they are being spied on by their microwave ovens.

The attacks on Sam are problematic. It is unwise, however enjoyable, to speculate on motivation. Yet they are odd and appear orchestrated.  Are they US inspired? Shopping a spook – or a double agent could help the coalition show its fealty to the US and also be part of an attack on Shorten, an MP who has been pilloried mercilessly since Abbott in a prolonged and damaging process of character assassination and personal slur.

What is alarming is the number of MSM stories which now suggest Shorten faces troubling times.  Even more disturbing is Peter Dutton’s promise that he has more dirt to dish on Dastyari.

There will be more revelations to come out on shady Dastyari, he threatens in that menacing generality one expects from a super minister about to run a Home Affairs super ministry. Or a drug cop about to fit you up.

Huge damage has been done, despite Labor’s strong opinion polling. So effective has coalition sledging been, alone, the name “Bill Shorten” has in some contexts become a type of gag-line; a means to invoke derision or worse. Barnaby Joyce loves to make himself useful with such attacks. Nationals exist to bait Labor.

“You might be leader of the Labor Party, but it looks like you’ve never done a day’s labour in your life.

“He couldn’t run a pie shop and the thought of him running the country fills me with dread.”

Lapdog Barnaby is eager to follow Turnbull’s lead in preferring personal insult to political debate. Character assassination takes far less preparation than refutation or rebuttal or any other of the arts of debate. Far more damaging, too.

Yet there’s another twist. Mal’s cunning plan is to crank up the war on Dastyari to smooth the passage of a bill or several –he talks loosely of laws – which will restrict foreign influence- not just Chinese interference- while it prevents charities from advocacy (which entails criticising government policy) and nobbles GetUp!

More worrying is that the new legislation appears directed against Sam Dastyari, our Labor opponent du jour.

“In my view, the conduct alleged against him does not reach the threshold of the existing laws of treason and espionage, but that is why we are introducing – because of the gap in those laws, a new offence of unlawful foreign interference,” argues Attorney-General Brandis, a Queensland QC who argued in August that ignorance would save Barnaby Joyce.

Ironically, Australia takes further moves to silence dissent and to diminish agencies of advocacy or criticism, while China, with a long history of such measures  including persecution of dissidents, is quick to voice its displeasure.

Yet Turnbull’s gone overboard – or thrown the Dastyari out with the bath water. Whipping up anti-Dastyari hysteria so keenly as to offend a major trading partner amounts, is another poor judgement call from the PM. Happily the Liberals’ broad church can celebrate Barnaby’s brain farts instead.

Joyce to the world. Barnaby is not just Tamworth’s Salvator Mundi, says the PM although BJ says he’s no saint.

New England writs return in record time; Turnbull urgently needs BJ’s vote. By Wednesday, Joyce’s back at the despatch box ranting at Labor in a mongrel attack bagging Shorten for not sending MPs straight to the High Court .

 “Even after seeing the decision in the High Court where it is black and white, they (Labor) still made it a resolve of theirs to hide, to obfuscate and treat us all as fools,” he thunders his face all beetroot borscht and no cream.

“To Mr Shorten, to the Labor Party, to those being led around by the nose by the Labor Party, who actually took them on good faith to what they told you. I think now is the time that you should truly hold the Labor Party under the tutelage of Mr Bill Shorten well and truly to account.”   

There’s more of this from the former bean counter but the jig is up. Joyce is rewriting history. Preposterous is his outrageous claim that his delayed appearance in the High Court was not an attempt to hide, obfuscate and treat judges like fools. But he knows, as well as his government’s dirt unit, that it’s the big lies that work best.

Mangling syntax, forging tortuous metaphors, BJ rivals Bob Katter for wrangling language into nonsense.  Barnaby has his own wordsmithing ways and he’s not afraid to enter the smithy. Even if it gets him into serious trouble.

In October 2014, Barnaby corrected Hansard  His drought assistance answer claimed farmers received immediate help. He added disclaimers and qualifiers – “unless it is a new application,” and “if you were also a recipient of the Interim Farm Household Allowance”. He later had the changes struck out, blaming his staff for the error.

In  March 2015 his secretary Paul Grimes wrote to the now-Deputy Prime Minister telling him he “no longer [had] confidence in [his] capacity to resolve matters relating to integrity” with him. Grimes resigned. Fudging Hansard is probably not something to put on a CV but Barnaby’s absolved of all sin by his latest, greatest, glorious win.

The government has Joyce sworn in just before Question Time Wednesday and uses his crucial vote to stymie Labor’s attempt to send a joint referral of its current crop of nine MPs with dual citizenship to the High Court.

Turnbull does another flip-flop, back-flip. His political gymnastics are guaranteed to convey stability; strength.

For all its hype about a bipartisan resolution of the citizenship crisis , the government is now adamant that only Labor MP David Feeney and senator Katy Gallagher will be referred to the High Court. Given a chance to clear up an unpopular and time-consuming crisis, Malcolm Turnbull has chosen to prolong it indefinitely.

Yet, just as big, is the news of the elevation of Liberal top banana, former QLD drug squaddie “Dirty” Peter Dutton.

Riding high on the runaway success of his off-shore detention regime of deterrence and the genius of his Manus’ final solution, Dirty Dutto’s long overdue promotion to a Home Office super-ministry is tipped for 17 December.

The move strengthens talk that Santorin George Brandis, our Attorney-General, will slope off to Old Blighty to replace High Commissioner to the UK Alexander Downer even if he does have to evict Downer kicking and screaming out of his High Commissioner’s mansion. At least Theresa May will receive some free entertainment.

Yet Dutto has a tough gig. Long overdue is Australia’s response to the UN Human Rights Committee, a body which harshly condemns of Australia for failing in its treatment of refugees, Indigenous rights and inadequate protection of human rights, including the lack of a national human rights act.  On past form, Dutto will ignore all this.

His pal Tony Abbott provides a clue. Going on the offensive, Abbott declared that we were sick of being lectured to when a 2015 UN report found Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers breaches an international anti-torture convention. It was just after he called Professor Gillian Triggs report on children in detention a stitch-up.

The UN’s special rapporteur on torture finds Australia is violating the rights of asylum seekers on multiple fronts under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, a notion which Eric Abetz calls deluded when Tasmanian Senator Lisa Singh repeats it on ABC Q&A last Monday.

Dutto will be champing to get this bit between his teeth. His  super ministry will combine Australian Federal Police (AFP), spy agency Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), and the Australian Border Force (ABF).

But the week has a happy ending after all.

All hail New England’s conquering hero, former dual Kiwi, bar-storming, Barnaby Joyce, a man of the Tamworth world, who returns to Canberra in a blaze of glory, a cloud of bull-dust and his Akubra Cattleman hat. He’s back in parliament in a flash. His government’s majority rides on his RM Williams hand-tooled dynamic flex boots.

A boisterous, brawling government is abuzz with something more than the size of the New Election by-election win, a win which Turnbull instantly appropriates for the coalition – as he does with the marriage equality Yes vote.

Meanwhile, true-blue, Aussie battler and patriot Barnaby is pitted against Sam Dastyari public enemy number one.

Or that’s this week’s national mythic contest. It doesn’t pay to look closely. Barnaby may be Australia’s best retail politician but he’s a mining lobbyist who would help pollute the Great Artesian Basin, the world’s largest and deepest and our island continent’s biggest water source is extolled as a paragon of Aussie loyalty and fidelity.

“If you want to focus on the person in the weatherboard and iron they will give you the grace of their vote,” says the MP with a touch of Huey Long a politician who like Donald Trump appeals to the battlers and does nothing for them. And almost everything against them. Barnaby’s backers include billionaire Gina Rinehart

A deputy PM in charge of resources and water, he has no issue with spruiking for Santos on the local radio despite the damage done by fracking to local water.

Amidst the crush to cheer on Barnaby and install him in Tamworth’s pantheon as a cultural icon and appropriate his victory as the greatest swing to a sitting government ever, a frantic Canberra reaches fever pitch Thursday as religious freedom fears or time-wasting “pious amendments” such as Tony Abbott proposes are brushed aside and it becomes legal for same sex couples to marry. The winners’ circle is swamped by raucous gate-crashers.

Much of the ruckus is joyous celebration over the removal of an injustice and the recognition of a human right but there is also a desperate rush by a crush of unlikely MPs – rent-seekers eager to claim the victory of marriage equality, hitch their star to true-blue Barnaby’s iconic victory – while Dutton’s hot-eyed zealots pool resources, horses, water and feed and prepare to run any double agents right out of town.

Activists, lefties, greenies, advocates and dissidents all need to sit up and take notice.

 

A shameful betrayal of trust and responsibility.

turnbull and barnaby in hats at tamworth

“Yes we have no bananas. We have no bananas today.” (Frank Silver, Irving Cohn from, Make it Snappy 1922.)

“For every person who voted for us … I just want to say how completely and utterly humbled I am,” lies Barnaby.

“This has been a stunning victory and a great demonstration of the strength of the coalition,” says the PM.

A surreal political week reaches peak bullshit, the communications strategy of our era and one of the greatest dangers we face as a people and as a nation, Saturday.

It’s the talking up of Barnaby Joyce’s victory in the New England by election Saturday. Professional political con-artist, Malcolm Turnbull gives four cheers for his side-kick Joyce. Two stooges in concert in Tamworth, he and his deputy are dressed like stock agents on a Saturday night out. Costume is vital to any Nationals’ occasion.

The duo shriek Collins St farmer chic in matching blue checked shirts and nattily contrasting cowboy hats, light for the local and dark for the Canberra ring-in dude. Turnbull grins like a barracuda. Busts his chops as if he’s just won Lotto. There’s a holler and whoop from the crowd before he’s back on the mike with another crock of whoppers.

“Thank you for getting the band back together”, says the PM to his ruddy-faced sidekick. More whoops.

The nation looks on warily. Joyce’s re-election rubber-stamp after 16 years of ineligibility in Senate and Reps is the end of a bizarre anti-campaign in which our unseated sitting candidate rarely appears outdoors. He deigns to appear in public, let alone debate the other 16 candidates. Cannily, he calculates, it’s not worth his while.

None of the out of town blow-ins, he knows, offers any real competition to Himself, a sitting member who is owed a massive Section 44 victim sympathy vote. He sets up his victimhood well. Cleverly makes it all about injustice.

It’s a complex, paradox-ridden balancing act and is part of the key to the paralysis afflicting national politics.

Despite being top dog, BJ plays the underdog who’s been cruelly and unfairly thrown from office. The ABC encourages this view.

Other media also obligingly depict BJ as another victim of ‘the citizenship crisis’, as if it were some rogue virus; negating his own responsibility. Like many other MPs Joyce was just too slack to check his own citizenship eligibility. Yet government chatter turns now to changing to law to protect the negligent.

By Saturday, Turnbull will crow. His deputy PM’s re-election represents a thumping endorsement of federal government policies.  And the wisdom of allowing candidates to check their own eligibility. But who are The Nationals? Do they even know themselves? How does Barnaby re-take New England? Time for a closer look.

“Bananas” Barnaby Joyce, New England’s celebrity MP, leads a motley rural mob of likely lads, ladettes in hats, self-interested mining shills and big-noting populist con-men like himself. Despite their pretentious name, the Nationals are local and parochial. Little is as it seems in the hugely over-promoted  victory in New England.

As with Donald Trump’s supporters, Nationals’ contradictions are endless.  For one, the Nats’ electorates offer refuge, of sorts, to a growing rural poor, whose numbers are swollen by increasingly transient Australians forced by rising rents, falling real wages and skyrocketing utility prices to migrate to regional and country towns.

Yet our poor folk in the bush get little joy from their MPs, although George Christensen did cross the floor, in June, to vote with Labor against the abolition of Sunday penalty rates for retail and hospitality workers. Nationals are generally right behind the Liberals’ crippling war on the poor, a plan that has seen wages and welfare stagnate.

The Nats’ big role is to add a second anti-Labor party to our politics – and joy to the hearts of our business class.

Mining interests love them. Ironically, Nationals MPs obsess over their own patch of turf while remaining hostile to those environmental and climate change policies which would help them conserve it.

Naturally, like former leader John Anderson some go on to top PR jobs in resource extraction after politics. Matt Canavan, who effortlessly relays Peabody and Adani Coal propaganda is already almost a full-time mining lobbyist.

Yet they are mysterious. Barnaby Joyce is privy to the top secret Coalition agreement which gives his party total control of the Prime Minister.  The government won’t show it to Labor, even under Freedom of Information. Opposition Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon mounts a legal challenge.

And they are conflicted. The Nats say they represent farmers but as primary production dwindles to 2% of GDP, they are far more likely to be lobbyists for Big Cotton and other rural, corporate interests which need the likes of Barnaby to help them suck the life out of the Murray Darling Basin, for example, at scandal-ridden Goondiwindi.

Their loyalties can be murky. Barnaby’s our nation’s Minister for Water. Yet when ABC’s Four Corners alleges Barwon-Darling valley farmers are taking more water than they are entitled to, it’s nothing to do with him, or federal government. “State issue.”

Yet in a Shepparton pub-talk, he’s every farmers’ champion, backing irrigators against greenies. Farm profits are more important than the environment. A recording shows him making extraordinary promises.

“We’ve taken water and put it back into agriculture [ministry] so we can look after you and make sure we don’t have the greenies running the show, basically sending you out the back door.”

Happily, no-one asks Barnaby about water in the campaign. But up in Goondiwindi, farmers report rorts in the “Healthy Headwaters” program. Irrigators replace water sold back to the Commonwealth with extra floodwaters caught off the plains, utterly subverting the Murray-Darling Plan’s aim.

Phlegmatic to the core, Barnaby’s not fussed. It’s not a matter for the commonwealth he maintains.

Healthy Headwaters appears to have been falsely entered on Goondiwindi invoices currently under investigation by Queensland’s major organised crime squad (rural). While Barnaby’s been looking after irrigators, there’s enough accrued evidence of corruption for SA to order a Royal Commission. “A states’ issue”, he insists.

Joyce is untroubled by awkward questions on his anti-campaign trail. A no-show means no-one holds him to account. Yet river issues form only part of Barnaby’s story. Nats are also big on fracking, a process of hydraulic oil and gas extraction known to contaminate, deplete and ruin the water table for farming and safe drinking.

In March, he endorsed a South Australian government plan to pay farmers 10 per cent of royalties for allowing gas wells on their land. The scheme should be rolled out nationally, with an exclusion of prime agricultural land.

“I can’t see people who start making hundreds of thousands or possibly millions of dollars a year having a backlash,” Joyce tells Fairfax Media. Bugger the environment, Barnaby. Buy complicity in eco-vandalism.

Joyce has also been accused of conflict of interest. In September, the Turnbull government demanded NSW accelerate approval of the Santos project at Narrabri, north-west of Sydney, to “ease a looming gas shortage”.

So its spin machine claims. Barnaby lists land at Gwabegar, west of Narrabri as part of his pecuniary interests.

He downplays his purchase of the land. He had no idea he’d bought CSG reserves when he paid $572,000 dollars for a thousand hectares of mongrel country on two blocks in 2006 and 2008. He denies receiving advice from his pal former Nationals leader, John Anderson, who became chairman of Eastern Star Gas in 2007.

Eastern Star co-owned explorations rights to PEL 428 a neighbouring area- before being taken over by Santos.

Given all his power, influence and sheer hide, however, Teflon Barnaby causes a stir with his invisible campaign stunt.

On the stump, it’s deathly quiet. You can almost hear the boys from the banks duffing cattle and forging signatures on contracts as they foreclose on farm mortgages in Tamworth’s main drag. Even the $9 per week Fijian fruit-pickers turn down their radio. Trust crafty old Bananas to run a silent auction instead of a campaign.

BJ’s fifty but the old stager uses a New Age, anti-campaign approach. Innovative. He stays up-tight and out of sight until voters re-elect him and the next episode of Barnaby goes Bananas begins all over again. Or when Turnbull goes down in harness. BJ’s mob will make a bold showing in any new coalition opposition portfolio carve-up.

New Age? No self-respecting modern local hero or anti-hero wants to risk over-exposure. Appear on the hustings? Debate the other 16 candidates? Don’t waste my time. Sagely, BJ stays right away from public fora.

His campaign team confirms the former deputy PM  is “not be participating in any public forums or debates”. It’s all due to the Melbourne Cup Field of “out-of-towner” candidates, volunteers The Armidale Express.

Not even BJ can keep it up. Duty calls. He must flip off a man’s hat in The Graman Hotel near Inverell Monday. The Deputy Prime Minister then calls his bare-headed victim a “fuckwit” reports the jihadist Labor-left- wing-greenie ABC news.

“A line was crossed. The man was bringing up family matters“, Barnaby tells Fairfax.  It’s a win for New England gallantry. The Nationals’ leader also sets a new community liaison benchmark to his followers.

Certainly, The High Court’s upset him. Barnaby’s stripped of his office by seven judges dim enough to claim he’s a Kiwi despite his First Fleet ancestors in the local cemetery. So unfair. No-one’s more ‘Strayan. Even Malcolm Turnbull knows that. So why is Barnaby not on the hustings? His nation needs him. The suspense is incredible.

Everything rides on BJ’s re-election, an RM Williams-Gina Rinehart-Santos-Murray-Darling cotton joint-production. But Nats are more than lobby group sock puppets. Our gerrymandered electoral system, helps too.

Nationals get seven times as many seats in parliament as The Greens for less than half the votes. Nats get at best seven per cent of the national vote, David Marr reminds viewers on ABC Insiders Sunday.

But our democracy loves a helping hand. New England  receives $170m in community grants from the Federal pork-barrel, for example. Labor-held NSW seats average $3m. And Barnaby’s got some powerful sponsors.

Gina just wants to give her old pal, Barney, more money: he’s the Minerals Council’s nation’s best ever farmer. Santos needs the Resources Minister’s silver-tongue to keep spruiking the benefits of fracking while the Nats go ape-shit without a top banana in control. When Barnaby’s not on top of them, his sidekicks run amok.

NSW Nats’ leader, State Deputy-premier John Barilaro tells 2GB the PM should give the people his resignation as a Christmas gift. Barilaro’s compliments of the season come as renegade Nationals rampage without “strong leader” Barnaby. They side with Greens and Labor to force Turnbull into ignominious retreat over his long-held opposition to a banking royal commission. And it’s all his own fault.

“Turnbull is the problem, the Prime Minister is the problem,” Barilaro tells 2GB who assume he’s speaking only for himself. “He should step down, allow for a clean-out of what the leadership looks like federally. And whoever governs the country needs to make sure that they put the country and its people first.”  

Quickly, “barrel of laughs” Barilaro gets a slap-down from serial cabinet leaker Julie Isabel Bishop, an aspiring leadership contender herself, it is whispered – if mainly, at this stage, by Peter Hartcher and Latika Bourke.

He’s “irrelevant”, Bishop lisps. He’s not even in our party room.  So there. Yet Barilaro can give the PM as much cheek as he likes. Besides, Turnbull’s runt of a government needs Bananas for its lower house majority.

Barnaby rallies to his PM’s cause. Turnbull is a mate, he says. Besides, he did not know what Barilaro was going to say about Turnbull. If he had, he’d have told him not to. Yeah. Nah. That’s the leadership you get with Bananas. And the loyalty. Then, just so you know you can trust his judgement, Barnaby goes barking. Foams at the mouth.

Barilaro’s comment is the “worst possible insult in politics … worse than drowning a dog, worse than murder”. 

Barilaro almost distracts the nation from the government’s weekly witch hunt of “Shanghai Sam”. Yet even Dastyari-bashing, 2.0 is upstaged briefly by the most bizarre PM’s presser in Australia political history, Thursday.

The PM backflips over banks. He has to. The Nationals sans Barnaby threaten to cross the floor unless they get a royal commission and he hasn’t got the numbers. Yet if he’s forced into it, he’s had time to tip off the banks.

It’s a sensational performance; a double back flip with pike. Ayatollah Turnbull and ScoMo – Where the bloody hell are you? -his all-singing, all dancing former tourist tout cum refugee jailer cum treasurer steal the political show with an amazing improvisation. It’s incoherent, illogical and ultimately inexplicable but ScoMo tries his best.

“S’ a lot of politics in this. That politics was damaging our economy. It was damaging the credibility of our banking system,” Morrison tells Coalition megaphone and One Nation comfort station, Channel Seven’s Sunrise next morning. He sticks his chin up for the camera in an alarming Benito Mussolini impression.

“Sometimes in politics you’ve got to take the least worst option.” He waves a letter from the banks. So he claims.

The truth is that the Nationals have helped force the federal government into an inquiry it doesn’t want. Labor gets blamed, of course, but no-one sees it as anything but an attempt by a PM desperate to save his political skin.

The letter is a theatrical prop too far. “Is that a permission slip?”, snorts Bill Shorten, warming up. He’s close. Yet the government has chosen terms of reference which include superannuation, one of the few areas of financial industry doing the right thing for members, as The Australian Financial Review’s Laura Tingle points out.

Tingle calls the targeting of industry super an “ideological fatwa”. It clearly an extension of the government’s war on workers and their attempts to organise their labour to protect their rights and conditions through unions.

Not only has the government allowed the banks to dictate the terms of its own inquiry, it has connived at a Clayton’s Royal Commission to take aim, equally, at the banks’ only competitor, industry super funds. It is an outrageous political stitch-up. To make it more absurd, it blames Labor.

We just couldn’t allow a politically hi-jacked inquiry to be taking place” says Matthias Cormann Thursday with a straight face. Yet that is precisely what the government has delivered.

An in-form Shorten calls it a “bank flip”.  A “super bank-flip”, perhaps, also, given its designs on industry super? A super-size me (broad and vague) commission?

Of the $2.6m banks donated to the major parties last year, Labor received $1m, however. Even if the attack on workers’ savings provides fresh resolve, on past form, the Opposition is unlikely to pursue banks too far.

Best total bank receipts for a party in government, however, go to the Liberals who received at total of $12,716,470 in donations from Macquarie, NAB, CBA, ANZ and Westpac between 2013 -2016.

Money talks but best colour and movement goes to “dragged kicking and screaming” to a Royal Commission a popular offering by Nationals MP, George Christensen, who vowed he’d cross the floor to vote for a Commission and who now not so secretly promises to resign if his PM does not. He later reneges as expected.

At least he can be credited with helping supply the right imagery even if turns out he hasn’t forced Turnbull into doing anything. Is it all a sham? So far all signs suggest a bravura confidence trick. Amazingly the PM calls a Royal Commission the very day the banks write to him begging for one.

Their letter shows that the banks will set their own terms of reference. Clearly, this is no royal commission. As the terms of reference, the year limit and the appointment of Ken Hayne, QC, Dyson Heydon’s stablemate as its Chief Commissioner make clear, it not about fixing the banks but about helping banks access union super funds.

Will an inquiry damage the credibility of the banking system as Morrison and his PM maintain? The banks have done a good job of that themselves; they can thank their own conduct. Since the GFC, our Big Four banks have paid out over a billion dollars in fines and compensation for rorting their own clients.

Ian Verrender, points out, moreover, our regulatory authorities have a track record of letting banks off lightly.

Are they “too big to fail or too big to jail?”, asks former Deutsche Bank analyst Mike Mangan now CEO of funds manager 2MG. Mangan  summarises our banks’ transgressions during the past decade from the Storm financial crisis to rigging Malaysian currency markets and providing bad financial advice.

Complaints are broad and range from farmers to small business and households. Issues  include banks’ usurious profiteering, their fee-gouging, money-laundering and their almost complete contempt for the law.

On ABC Insiders, Mark Riley warns the government will be challenged by “expectation management”. He means the nation will be angry at its betrayal when it discovers that the Royal Commission into the banks is not the Royal commission everyone was hoping for. Already any change in regulation is ruled out as is any change in policy.

“… the Commission is not required to inquire into, and may not make recommendations in relation to macro-prudential policy, regulation or oversight… ”, 

No-one but the banks and a government desperate to buy time will be happy with a Clayton’s inquiry with terms so wide and vague as the one outlined Thursday. The Coalition will quickly live to rue its chicanery.

Above all, as Marr points out, there will be no forum for story-telling, a place for farmers, for example, to share their stories of how they were sold financial products they couldn’t manage and then thrown off their land.

In stories there is part of the path to healing; part also of the process of calling to account those government subsidised and protected institutions we have allowed to grow into monsters preying upon our lives.

In its absurd theatre of calling a royal commission it didn’t want but its weakness forced it into, as in its faux self-congratulation in the New England by-election on a victory it didn’t win for policies which continue to fail even the popularity test, the government again reaches peak bullshit. The nation is ill-served by such duplicity.

Its banking commission is clearly a hoax, a poorly disguised way of pretending to heed calls for an inquiry while providing the means for banks to access Industry super while it furthers its ideological war on unions. More than duplicitous, it is an attack on some of the most vulnerable members of society in the interests of profiting the rich.

It’s shameful betrayal of trust and responsibility.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turnbull hides but fails to avoid disaster.

turnbull looking exhausted

 

When the going gets tough, the tough burrow under the bed-covers.  Malcolm Bligh Turnbull, “a good man in a crisis”, and a “strong leader”, as he insists, scents a mutiny brewing over his indulgence of the banks. And runs away.

Or rather, he stays away – and makes sure no-one else turns up. Sensing dissent within his government, Mal delays resuming the lower house, depriving an avid nation of four days of Dorothy Dixers, Bill Shorten zingers and the cunning equal opportunity illusion of women arrayed behind the PM as the camera tracks him in television’s Question Time.

Perhaps Mal channels his inner Mugabe, a kindred strong man in a wind of change, a leader who’d prorogue parliament at the drop of a hat or another assassination attempt. Robert Mugabe, a Malcolm Fraser protégé, is feted all week by ABC spinners and other fascist apologists as a fun-loving, big, black Bwana revered by his smiling, grateful people.

Such is the power of our modern media that only a heretic dare suggest Zimbabwe’s story is of a military coup replacing one corrupt, brutal dictator with another. Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s former deputy, enforcer, head of security and successor, dubbed “The Crocodile” for his survival skill, ordered the deaths of 20,000 civilians in the Matabeleland massacres of the 1980s.  All in the past? As William Faulkner observed the past is never dead; it’s not even past.

By contrast, the media is out of love with Turnbull. Mal’s call proves shockingly ill-judged. It may be a career worst judging by the hate mail it produces. Everything about its proclamation betrays fear and blind panic.

The Press is told first. 10:33am Monday, Christopher Pyne’s office emails media. Next, Party Whip, the sublimely named shepherdess, Nola Marino, (whom the High Court will show not to be a dual Italian citizen along with Canavan, insists the PM, in some two for one special he imagines), messages MPs almost an hour later. A riot of derision erupts.

“Malcolm Turnbull won’t come to Bennelong, won’t come to Queensland, won’t even come to Parliament”, taunts Bill Shorten, back in full zing all week. ” If you can’t run the parliament, you can’t run the country.”

Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek says it’s “the sort of thing that happens in a dictatorship”.

Shorten vows to turn up, anyway, 27 November, bringing the entire Labor parliamentary party with him, a stunt Bob Katter wants in on, too. Later there is some demurring over billing the taxpayer for a political gesture.

“Turnbull must be the only employee in Australia trying to keep his job by not turning up to work”, tweets refugee advocate Julian Burnside, AO, QC, disgusted by the brutal, forced relocation of 300 terrorised men on Manus Island.

“Gutless”, Pauline Hanson, piles on. She’s up in Townsville autographing her nation’s flag but always ready to put the boot in when a man goes down. No time to contact the UK Home Office to check she’s not a dual citizen.

Happily for Hanson and others with similar issues over eligibility, the deadline for MPs declarations is extended four days to 8:00pm, Tuesday 5 December. The federal government’s oil-fired, ocean-going you beaut citizenship 2.0 is essentially a rebadged “as you were” or the old rules in a new spin, the quintessence of the Turnbullian revolution.

All MPs and senators must provide a declaration of their citizenship and details of any former and renounced citizenship within 21 days of election. Or else. Perhaps this is why the PHON leader accuses the PM of lack of intestinal fortitude.

Yeah, Nah. Pauline, it transpires, is blasting our fearless leader for failing to invade Syria to behead the ISIS hydra, before its “tentacles” spread worldwide. It’s a typical One Nation hallucination but, as always, it’s the vibe of the gibe that matters. She’s “bigged-up” by predictions her party will win ten seats in Queensland’s poll; hold the balance of power.

Critics like Pauline miss Mal’s strategic genius. Postponing the lower house of parliament helps avoid Nationals Senator Barry O’ Sullivan’s push for a Royal Commission into the banks. Bazza has the backing, he bluffs ABC radio, of “four other” nameless MPs, a theme taken up by hacks who call him a “power-broker”. No wonder Turnbull calls the week off.

A gap week helps skip the dip in Coalition numbers in the House of Reps now The High Court is forcing  jokester John Alexander, former national tennis champ to recontest his seat, a fate which also befalls an outraged Barnaby.

So unfair. Barnaby harps on the injustice. He even tours the family plot at Tamworth cemetery for TV in a rip-off of Who Do You Think You Are in a bid to help show his family goes back to the First Fleet. Apart from his Kiwi father.

Joyce just doesn’t get it. Nor is he helped by an indulgent PM who claims “you couldn’t be more Australian than Barnaby Joyce”, a dangerously facile assertion in times when national stereotypes help populist bigots demand cultural assimilation and decry diversity. No, Mr Turnbull. Barnaby is a ham’s caricature of a true-blue Aussie – that’s his shtick.

By 1 December, Barnaby “Bowyangs” Joyce, a dinky-di Aussie production from his Akubra to his RM Williams boots, will be back on the Coalition front bench as MP for New England by acclamation and will be caught on camera struggling to stay awake. Or at the dispatch box ranting incoherently. Yet the mail is not good from his New England electorate

Rum doings feed bush rumour mills. BJ’s campaign ute is commandeered by a family member who tools up and down the main drag of Tamworth urging people not to vote for him. Like his PM, Barney wisely stays home under a doona.

Ironies abound. Joyce’s campaign may well be enriched by his non-appearance on the hustings, his refusal to appear in any New England public forum and an embarrassing moment when Gina Rinehart presents the Santos fracking spruiker with $40,000 and award for being “a champion of farming”. It’s something she’s whipped up at home.

The National War Memorial is a top setting for the tireless agricultural warrior and son of the soil. And it’s a perfect excuse for Barnaby to skip another local public forum with the other 17, hopelessly outclassed New England candidates.

But is it wise to be seen as The Rinehart Cowboy? Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Joel Fitzgibbon tells ABC people have “long been concerned” about the “undue influence” of Mrs Rinehart over the former deputy PM. Worse, The National Farmers’ Federation, says it was not consulted. Tempers fray but our bullish PM, oddly, does not buy in.

Nor is Turnbull  prepared to do much about his deputy’s comments condoning water rorting.

“Water theft is a crime – pure and simple. All Australians need confidence the rules governing water use are applied fairly, without fear or favour,” says the PM. But no-one expects him to do anything about it.  He makes it clear that it’s all the responsibility of states. It is left to SA Premier, Jay Weatherill to call a Royal Commission, this week.

Discretion is the better part of Malcolm’s valour. Staying in bed not only prolongs his survival, it allows the PM to build up his strength. Denial is so tiring. As with any form of lying you have to remember what you’ve said – for starters.  Then it needs tedious repetition. The LNP fails again in Queensland, its first foray into compulsory, preferential voting.

Disunity is palpable. Many Queensland Nationals blame Malcolm Turnbull for Saturday’s loss. Barry O’Sullivan says the result has strengthened his resolve to push ahead with his private member’s bill calling for a banking royal commission.

Some mutter about the wisdom of the 2008 experiment, when progressive Liberals of the south-east joined conservative Nationals of the north and centre to form the LNP. Others see One Nation as poaching conservative votes. LNP leader Tim Nicholls blames One Nation for preferencing sitting members last.

The LNP suffers an 8% slump in the primary vote, and is headed for defeat on the state-wide two-party vote which Labor should win 52-48 or better. But the loss can’t possibly be Turnbull’s fault, however much the deep North belly-aches.

George Brandis, whose unfailingly dud judgement rivals his PM’s, helps Turnbull by repeating that the result has nothing to do with a Turnbull government whose unpopularity is in free fall and a PM who is now less popular than Bill Shorten.

Has the PM forgiven Brandis for his embarrassingly dud advice that the High Court would exonerate Barnaby Joyce?

Brandis ignores all evidence. Getup!’s exit polls, for example, suggest the Adani overture stinks. Queensland voters are miffed that government should lend a billion of our dollars to speculators who have no money of their own to invest.

Many are unhappy that the vast Carmichael Mine will create a toxic hotspot on the environment which will also boost global warming; bugger the Great Barrier Reef, despite Greg Hunt’s claim that coal burnt in India doesn’t count.

Most Australians polled can see renewables as the way of the future. Christiana Figueres, former executive director of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, says the world is at the Kodak moment for coal. The

Palaszczuk government will retain the state’s 50 per cent renewables target.

In panic at the backlash to cancelling parliament, the federal government rushes to announce tax cuts, or “free beer tomorrow”, as Bill Shorten zings. Such haste and lack of detail give the cuts all the substance of “a thought bubble about a thought bubble” says Bernard Kean. How will they be funded? Further cuts to services must, inevitably, follow.

Alarmingly, the PM parrots pernicious Tea Party slogans of reducing “the burden” of tax, a phrase based on the popular lie that we all resent paying our fair share of the cost of hospitals, schools and welfare and other community essentials.

By Wednesday, former Attorney General Philip Ruddock, the MP whom Amnesty forbade to wear his badge at work, as so much of what he did demeaned human rights, is hailed as the arbiter of a brewing Liberal stoush over how best to amend Dean Smith’s Marriage Act amendment bill to enshrine new forms of discrimination against marriage equality.

Many SSM supporters fear amendments in the name of “religious freedoms” already proposed to be later withdrawn by the IPA’s pallid Aryan Ubermensch, James Paterson, are stalking horses for No-Posters to allow celebrants the legal right to refuse to marry gay couples, for example, a right which celebrants themselves say they don’t want.

IPA shill Chris Berg appears on ABC’s The Drum to voice the spurious case that the nation has granted “massive freedoms” to same sex couples in allowing them to marry. It’s only reasonable that they forgo a few freedoms in the interest of balance.

It’s a pernicious argument which overlooks the case that in legitimising equal marriage, the state is merely restoring a right that has wrongfully been denied but the line of thinking is popular amongst those such as Tony Abbott or Lyle Shelton who mounted scare campaigns to distort SSM into a threat to the well-being of children.

Turnbull’s pick is ominous. Bloodless Philip Ruddock, architect of the Pacific Solution, an MP disowned by his own daughter,  introduced legislation to ban same-sex marriage in 2004 to “protect the institution of marriage” and “the stability of our society”, in order to help John Howard build up a religious right for his own political advantage.

Ruddock, it is announced, will help the PM review religious freedoms. Marriage equality supporters are dumbfounded. As one tweets, “I voted for marriage equality in the postal plebiscite. I end up with Ruddock”. Others ponder what would have become of the whole exercise if the nation had known that the process would be given over to Philip Ruddock.

On Thursday, the government releases Australia’s first foreign policy white paper in 14 years. It’s a fizzer. It brims with wishful thinking unsullied by any merely practical strategy, beyond its alliance with Vietnam which Damien Kingsbury notes would be better if it were more independent of the US alliance with the same country.

Vietnam, he notes appears to resist China’s strategic advances while building diplomatic ties. Australia needs to learn how to achieve this.

The paper worries about change and of course the growth of China; the need to build regional alliances but in failing to propose much in the way of solutions it is, in its own way, an extension of Turnbull’s ostrich Prime Ministership. It is, moreover, as Kingsbury points out, vital to our democracy that a bipartisan approach to foreign policy be restored.

A meeting of state and federal energy ministers Friday agrees to keep working on Malcolm Turnbull’s proposed National Energy Guarantee, NEG an agreement which includes the Victorian Labor government. Alan Finkel helpfully points out however that all is not what it seems. The NEG may just be a way of funding Turnbull’s vanity Snowy Hydro 2 project.

An attractive acronym as it may be, the NEG will not achieve any emissions reductions beyond doing nothing; it will rely almost entirely on the renewable energy target for the assumed reductions in consumer bills and it is unlikely to encourage any new renewable energy investment, argues Giles Parkinson.

Nor will it address the issue of reliability, although the slogan will not get any less of a workout. The NEG, it turns out is an entirely futile exercise, which like Turnbull’s own prime ministership may even be worse than useless because it displaces useful policy – or in our leader’s case the capacity to shape useful policy.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance is scathing it is appraisal of the Coalition’s proposed National Energy Guarantee. It is akin, they say, to signing up to a gym membership, but not lifting any weights. Like Coalition banking reforms.

Something dressed up as “the next stage of banking reforms” is foreshadowed Friday, perpetuating the spin that the Turnbull government has any intention of holding banks to account. Again there is a parallel.

Our all-powerful banking oligopoly continues to alienate voters. The Big Four banks’ collusion over fixing interest rates, their usurious money lending practices  and their undue political influence with politicians of all stripes have made banks as unpopular the Turnbull government. By the end of the week, desperation is evident in the embattled PM.

Friday, campaigning for Bennelong MP, John Alexander, a parliamentary seat-warmer who failed to renounce his dual citizenship and who now has to apologise for making “crude and inappropriate” rape jokes in the 1990s, the PM warns Bennelong voters that Labor’s Kristina Keneally will “bring all those asylum seekers from Manus to Australia”.

He also blames Muslims for the No vote in the marriage equality postal survey. “The numbers speak for themselves, and you can see the biggest No votes were in electorates with a large migrant population, and in particular with a large Muslim population, like several of the seats in western Sydney and in Melbourne,” says Turnbull in a radio interview.

“In some of those seats you’ve got a very big Muslim community who are very conservative on issues like this and very little support for same-sex marriage.”

The PM’s xenophobic dog-whistling comes amidst disturbing reports of brutality on Manus Island where Immigration Minister Peter Dutton’s duty of care sees refugees and asylum-seekers finally forced to leave the detention centre.

Despite Dutton’s assurances it is clear that at least one of the transit centres is still under construction. Even if it were a genuine alternative accommodation centre, it is impossible to see any long term plan. New Zealand’s offer to take 150 men has been spurned and their attempts to negotiate directly are met with threats from Dutton.

“New Zealand,” he warns, ‘would have to think about their relationship with Australia and what impact it would have’. ‘They’d have to think that through, and we’d have to think that through.’

In the meantime, reports alleging sexual impropriety by the Manus refugees have recently appeared in NZ media via the Australian press. These include claims of paedophile behaviour; men luring ten year old girls for sex. The reports are said to be based on a leaked diplomatic cable and further verification of the cable’s contents is not possible.

The timing of the leak and several others in Australian publications suggest Turnbull government frustration at Jacinda Ardern’s intervention. If reports of the violent eviction of the men were not shameful enough, the attempt to smear the reputation of those men whom New Zealanders would seek to help is despicable.

Yet the PM and his Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop repeat the mindless mantra that the refugees “have options” when clearly they cannot return home nor can they settle on Manus.  Human Rights Watch warns that refugees face “unchecked violence” from locals.

Force is supplied by thugs in PNG’s Mobile Squad, a notorious paramilitary group responsible for rape and murder, who are also deployed as private armies by logging firms and other extractive industries. The Mobile Squad is condemned by Amnesty and Human Rights watch for serious human rights abuses.

Squad members wield steel batons as PNG police finally forcibly evict 350 terrified refugees, who are afraid to leave the gulag to which they have been confined – many for over four years for fear of what will become of them.

What is happening on Manus offers a disturbing glimpse into a government which is prepared to descend into overt violence and beyond in its desperation to maintain its pledge that no refugee will be settled in Australia.  Yet there is no sign of any solution to the problem of finding suitable long term accommodation whilst the barbaric cruelty of the brutal treatment meted out to the refugees is in direct contravention of international law including UN refugee conventions.

Worse, Peter Dutton’s gibes at Labor’s leader make it clear that the government is attempting to politicise the Manus Island refugees’ plight. Use it in for the short term gain of helping it win a byelection in Bennelong – so desperate is it to cling to its one seat majority.

“Mr Shorten has not sought any briefings on the government’s work to clean up Labor’s Manus legacy,” Dutton says.

“It is … a reminder to Australians that Labor under Bill Shorten would fold to internal pressure once again and it would be a green light for people-smugglers.”

If Turnbull’s week begins badly, it ends in unmitigated disaster.

Turnbull’s worst week ever.

turnbull and netanyahu jerusalem

 

Warwick: See how the pangs of death doth make him grin. William Shakespeare, Henry IV Part 2, Act iii.


Our PM and Opposition leader start their week with a flying visit to Israel to commemorate the Battle of Beersheba, a joyous trip into history and myth. Time to salute again the legendary, bronzed, invincible Digger, fearless in his duty to his King, his country and British Empire. Keeping Australia white. Inspiring. But somehow Mal can’t stay focused.

It’s a battle for Turnbull just to leave home. All hell is breaking loose. A Beersheba centenary bash doesn’t happen every year. But his sinking Prime Ministership needs him. The dual citizenship debacle is destroying his government.

Labor maintains an election-winning lead in opinion polls.  Essential Research has Labor’s two-party lead bouncing back to 54-46, a result which mirrors this week’s Newspoll.  A leadership spill is imminent, surely.

Meanwhile insurrection rears its neatly tonsured head. Kevin Andrews, Abbott ally and fellow-travelling malcontent, “father of the house”, suddenly has his Tintoretto head on all channels. Mal’s “the leader at the moment”, he snipes. “Voters are unhappy with inadequate leadership.”  Is he echoing Turnbull’s rationale for toppling Abbott?

Kev’s not advocating (much) for a change of leader but Australians want clear, decisive, stable leadership. Not a fizza.

Above all, is the issue of Mal’s accursed poor judgement even if Father Kev is too kind to spell it out. Another day, another dud call is the Turnbull story so far. But all duds are not equal. His spectacularly bad call on The High Court’s dual citizenship of his deputy, in particular, is causing his prime ministership to explode in his face like a trick cigar.

Choosing to tough it out with Joyce’s eligibility in doubt is the PM’s most costly misjudgement yet. Some, at least, of his deputy’s decisions are now open to challenge, especially his casting vote for cutting penalty rates for some workers.

Penalty rates are part of his government’s war on workers. And unions. After creating her own credibility crisis, anti-worker, anti-union Employment Minister, Michaelia Cash, has yet to come out of witness protection after misleading parliament about her registered organisation commission (ROC)’s illicit AFP raid on AWU offices seeking documents already tendered to Abbott’s witch hunt on Shorten, the $61m Trade Union Royal Commission.

The AFP were seeking the minutes of an AWU meeting 12 years ago when Shorten was boss. The AWU voted to give $100,000 to what was then a brand-new progressive activist outfit calling itself Getup! It was a legitimate donation. No law was broken. Instead the ROC – AFP raid itself was illegal and clearly nothing more than an ugly, political stunt.

If the botched AFP raid is not enough, add Nigel Hadgkiss. The rule of law clearly didn’t trouble Cash or the government when appointing Hadgkiss to head the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), the “new tough cop on the block” to keep workers honest. Hadgkiss had broken the Fair Work Act himself. And Cash knew.

Some good has been done. Cash has helped spotlight the injustice of the Coalition’s war on workers. Since 2013, it has used politicised commissions and investigations to pursue its sworn enemy the unions and The Australian Labor Party, with extreme prejudice toward Julia Gillard and Bill Shorten, in show trials assisted and amplified by a tame MSM.

Cash may well have done her dash. Certainly she has put her government and her PM between a ROC and a hard place. She is one of the few cabinet ministers who don’t show up in Jerusalem – apart from Turnbull who misses the start.

Dithering only for a couple of days, agonising whom to leave minding the red teapot, Turnbull opts to put Ms Julie Bishop in charge. It’s no easy delegation. The Foreign Minister’s diary is already chockers with work-related Flemington Spring carnival engagements. Still, Julie will read out the day’s talking points and evade any ABC questions splendidly.

At last! Mal makes his mad dash to Jerusalem, where he buddies up with his bestie, Bibi, the terminally scandal-ridden Israeli PM who needs him in his quest to recruit history to the Zionist cause while he continues Israel’s war on Palestine.

Turnbull plunges into a speech mangling history; heavy on the brotherhood of battle between Israel and Australia and our two nations’ shared values. The Turnbull government’s commitment to the rule of law also cops a lot of repetition.

Reporters fidget with phones and microphones. The PM’s speech-making so often mires itself in the no man’s land between homily and harangue. He’s sonorous but sincerity and conviction suffer. At the end he takes media questions.

“Do you ever feel you’ve had enough? You’d just like to — it’s all been too much?”  I’ve never had more fun in my life, he replies. A cheeky scribe wants to know why the PM hasn’t just resigned, given his record of epic, inglorious failure. Why, like disgraced employment minister Michaelia Cash, doesn’t he just lie down and pull the doona up over his head?

Mal puts on his brave smile, something Katharine Murphy calls a rictus, – an allusion to the death rictus. A harsh Jerusalem sun which somehow finds the gaps between the olive leaves at The Grove of Nations reveals too much ugly sinew. His thin, dry, skin puckers at the cheekbone betraying a face ravaged by age and the vicissitudes of fate.

He flashes a shit-eating grin, so brightly polished it could light up the entire east coast of Australia. It’s his cue to stride away manfully. End the presser in a triumphant display of strong and resolute leadership.  Another shutdown.

But the PM makes a gaffe. Is it jet lag or just poor judgement? Somehow he thinks it would be a top occasion for a prank. The PM pretends, puckishly, to confuse Bill Shorten with “Bill the Bastard”, a notorious old war horse.

“Bill the Bastard – that was a horse, that was a horse, I hasten to add – he was un-rideable. He was a rogue“, he sniggers.

Yet Bill the Bastard was fractious, fierce and built like a rhinoceros. Turnbull’s ironic insult won’t harm Shorten.

Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag. Smile boys that’s the style. No festering enmity while paying respects.

Mal and Bill are at war with history in Jerusalem, helping war criminal Israeli PM, Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu pretend that the 1917 Australian Light Horse charge on Beersheba struck a blow for Israel, a state created 31 years later.

Turnbull will pose as a patriot, this time in a vote-winning re-creation of the Battle of Beersheba as an Australian-led victory, a version of events which discounts the heavy and decisive fighting of British infantry and artillery and other colonial forces. To be fair, he does also briefly mention New Zealand but it won’t please our ANZAC partners.

The Australian raid was made possible only when the Kiwi Canterbury Mounted Rifles Regiment enabled Auckland Mounted Rifles to capture of Tel el Saba, a Turkish fortified hill overlooking the plain 3.2 kms north-east of Beersheba.

“It was a great victory, a great charge, the last successful cavalry charge in military history, and certainly one that rings through the ages, profoundly Australian in every respect, deeply etched in our national psyche,” Turnbull claims.

Military historians cringe. The Fourth Light Horse Brigade, confused on Channel 7 with the Light Brigade were not cavalry but rather, mounted infantry who would ride into battle; dismount and fight on foot. Other errors are legion.

It’s the last successful cavalry charge apart from all those which came after it. These include the 18th Pomeranian Uhlans, a Polish cavalry charged charge against a German infantry regiment at Krojanty, routing a larger force with lance & sabre. Or the Battle of Schoenfeld, March 1945 when Polish cavalry overran German antitank gun positions.

Beersheba would have fallen anyway. Yet the PM takes another vital step in the long march of what Henry Reynolds describes as “the progressive militarisation of Australian history”. He declares open the ANZAC history museum endowed by the Pratt family monopolists and others, who also set up the 2008, (theme) Park of the Australian Soldier.

Yet it’s not just a fake history excursion. Big-note club veteran, Turnbull “beefs up our defence and security ties with Israel” which involves signing a memorandum of understanding on defence industry co-operation. Dan Tehan looks on.

Any excuse to use the word cyber and to parade danger mouse, Dan Tehan, The Minister for Anzackery and cyber security amongst other portfolios. Dan heads a Melbourne Cup field of MPs on the junket.  Frydenberg is even sighted.

The PM reminds everyone that we are already at war; brothers in arms with Israel. A band of brothers and sheilas.

“We are all fighting together against militant Islamist terrorism,” the PM says, relaying a cheap shot at the ethos of Islam, part of the obligatory public bellicosity or Trump-grovelling that being a US ally demands from this government.

“It’s a threat to Israel, it’s a threat to Australia and it’s a threat to all who value and cherish freedom.”

Demonising is a great way to alienate the 2 billion people of the world’s second largest religious faith. Most Muslims feel insulted, wronged, or angry at hearing expressions which seem to blame terrorism on Islam.

Keeping us safe, Turnbull helps terrorists by reinforcing the idea that the West sees Islam as a source of evil.

Of course there’s a lot of jaw-boning about our shared values. The f-word gets a huge work out.

Bibi knows his bestie will understand that for Israel, freedom is a relative term. A 2015 US Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, shows Israel faces significant human rights problems regarding institutional discrimination of Arab citizens of Israel, many of whom see themselves as Palestinian, a type of apartheid, Ethiopian Israelis, women, and the treatment of refugees and irregular migrants.

Non-Orthodox Jews face institutional discrimination as do intermarried families. Abuses of Labour rights are experienced by foreign workers.[3] Then there’s freedom of speech, a work in regress in Australia and in Israel.

On top of all is the elephant in the room, the Israeli dispossession of Palestinians in the occupied territories. Or the 2014 attack on Gaza, its offensive against Hamas, in which killed more than 2,200 Palestinians and 73 Israelis.

According to the UN, Israel conducted 6,000 airstrikes and fired over 50,000 tank and artillery shells in its war on Gaza.

Al Jazeera reports that the Israeli army indiscriminately and deliberately targeted civilians during a brutal 2014 assault known as “Black Friday”, according to a 2015 report on the Gaza war. Save the Children reports that in a survey of 300 families, 70% of children suffer post-traumatic stress symptoms.

Netanyahu banned Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem bureau chief from a recent state-sponsored event on freedom of speech.

“Bibi”, as Turnbull and other big-shot Zionist pals call the Israeli PM, is at war with the free press in his own country. Last year, Freedom House, a US democracy advocacy organisation, downgraded Israel’s press freedom from free to partly free. Turnbull could proudly share how he allows only News Corp reporters on to Manus Island.

Or how he could brag how he and his ministers can ring up to roast the ABC if they see a dangerous Muslim like Zaky Mallah in the Q&A audience or when Four Corners reports the truth on Nauru without putting the other side.

Mal may even brag how soon to be Home Affairs Super-Minister, top dog, paranoid Peter Dutton accuses The Guardian of jihadist, left-wing conspiracy in his regular media bullying. How he can complain the “activists have taken over” at the ABC. But chin up Dutto. This week ABC screens a programme showing us how Border Force is keeping us all safe.

Beersheba’s commemoration is not only the culmination of our government’s three year, $600,000 commemoration of World War One, it is highly symbolic. Netanyahu knows his propaganda. When Israel bombarded Gaza, he said

“They want to pile up as many civilian dead as they can. They use telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause. They want the more dead, the better.”

There’s a parallel here with John Howard whose “babies overboard”, demonised asylum-seekers. An echo also of Josef Goebbels who wrote in 1941, “One suddenly has the impression that the Berlin Jewish population consists only of little babies whose childish helplessness might move us, or else fragile old ladies. The Jews send out the pitiable.”

Despite all his demonisation and his recent claims that refugees are wealthy Armani-wearing frauds or child abusers whom the locals quite rightfully want to kill, Dutton’s epic Manus Island failure is a humanitarian crisis, says the UN.

Sunday, the PM rebuffs Jacinda Ardern’s offer to take 150 refugees yet PNG tells Al Jazeera Australia ought accept it. Turnbull tries to make a case for his US deal taking priority, playing down the urgency of the situation. Is the government rejecting New Zealand’s offer, which Labor urges it to accept, just to paint the opposition as soft on border protection?

Manus represents Peter Dutton’s department’s total failure to plan for the needs of the 600 or so refugees and asylum seekers when there has been adequate warning that PNG was closing the centre. In April 2016, PNG’s Supreme Court ruled that the detention of refugees on Manus was illegal and in breach of fundamental human rights.

The men on Manus have no facilities; no power, water or food. Attempts by others to bring food and water have been rebuffed by a government prepared to adopt the heartless and inhumane expedient of starving the men out.

The men are terrified to leave the centre. They fear for their safety in the unfinished camp the Australian government is building at Lorengau, after no consultation with local people as part of a process of moving them into a hostile PNG community with which they have no ties. Lives are at risk. The suffering has gone on too long.

As Tim Costello argues, after four years no other solution has been found. The government needs to come to its sense and  bring the refugees and asylum seekers to Australia. There is no other option than to resettle the men here.

The PM seems unmoved. He does makes an emotive appeal on behalf of Josh Frydenberg who may be Hungarian.  His rhetoric seems designed to distract from the fact that in 2011, Hungary’s new constitution restored citizenship stripped from Jewish people by the Nazis. It also conferred nationality on their children.

“We must not allow ourselves to be dragged into a sort of lynch mob, witch-hunt, trial by innuendo and denunciation,” the prime minister rants from Perth forsaking all outward sign of sobriety and rationality himself. It’s unfortunate that AWU witch hunt organised by Michaelia Cash and her ROC is fresh in the nation’s memory.

Yet the genie is out of the bottle. “Business as usual” will see other dual citizen MPs pressed to confess to lying low while the High Court got it sorted. Or somehow the dogs are called off.

Ma’s just mad about Parry.  Stephen Parry, former undertaker by trade, and now ex-Liberal Senate leader kept a long time mum about his English dad. Parry clearly punted on the High Court voting the way his PM tipped it. And lost.

Turnbull publicly laments Parry’s delay. It’s a lame leadership strategy from a lame leader. Parry tries to justify himself.

The High Court’s decision on Friday had provided, he says in a statement, “absolute clarity about the application of section 44 of the Australian constitution” and that he had written to the British Home Office to clarify his status.

Assistant Immigration Minister, Alex Hawke is the latest MP to face calls to prove he is not a dual Greek-Australian citizen. There is also chatter about MP Ann Sudmalis not having renounced her British citizenship. Yet whilst Labor has better procedures, neither major party wants to take up The Greens  audit proposal. There is clearly too much to lose.

The Turnbull government is one by-election in a marginal away from political extinction. Astrophysicist Colin Jacobs calculates the mathematical probability of additional “dual” citizens in 150-member lower house as 99.96 per cent.

The Australian an anti-Turnbull journal which counts Tony Abbott amongst its contributors, helpfully concludes that his Prime Ministership is built on pillars of sand and “can no longer be assured” and gives the nod to Turnbull party room loyalists such as Scott Ryan and James McGrath who are beginning to “crab-walk” away from their leader.

Julie Bishop’s leadership chances get yet another spin while there is talk of Dutton-Hunt ticket. (To be fair several “senior Liberals” – say they would rather go into Opposition than serve under Julie Bishop.)

Worms will turn. Barnaby Joyce now says he knew in his gut he was done for. But the Solicitor General, (read PM) made him stay. Why, if it’d been up to him, he’d have done the decent thing. Got this by-election over with months ago.

Joyce is openly disloyal to Turnbull. Already a stink is brewing over who gets to replace Fiona Nash. Joyce also bleats about how the Nationals won the last election and how somehow that makes them dominant partner in the Coalition why, they ought to be leading the senate, now that Tassie Senator Parry’s come out as a Pom.

Turnbull’s Battle of Beersheba excursion may prove a costly diversion from his local problems. Without any strategy in place to stem the dual citizenship catastrophe and without any plan to acknowledge, let alone end the humanitarian crisis on Manus and his anti-union witch-hunt unravelling, he has just given opportunity to his opponents to lead a movement against him.

Whatever they may achieve now, his enemies certainly have plans to stall any change to the Marriage Act when the postal survey result is known.  Given that he has nothing whatsoever to lose, Turnbull should bring those on 600 or so suffering acutely now on Manus Island home to Australia immediately.

Turnbull government blunders from crisis to catastrophe.

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I don’t know what I’m doing, but my incompetence has never stopped my enthusiasm. Woody Allen 

The nation is spellbound this week as a Turnbull government, long-acclaimed as a leader in mismanagement and dud judgement, breaks all former records in a crop of epic, self-inflicted disasters which begin with a bungled police raid on the Australian Workers Union and ends with an inept government in catastrophic trouble.

First, the government woos us with a shaggy dog story. David De Garis, Employment Minister Michaelia Cash’s bat-eared Man Friday, hears the Australian Federal Police are about to raid the Sydney and Melbourne AWU offices. The AFP have been tipped off: The AWU is about to destroy some ten year old receipts for donations to GetUP!

Instantly, a squad of 30 AFP wallopers swings into emergency receipt rescue formation. No-one gets between an AFP and paperwork in danger. Danger? Incredibly, it turns out the AWU is diabolical Bill Shorten’s old union.

David phones journos. Happily, he gets everyone in time to make the evening news. SKY and ABC have cameras rolling at 4:30 pm just as the AFP arrive. As with all classic comedy routines, timing is everything.

Employment Minister, Michaelia Cash who has a lot on her plate managing her property portfolio as well as growing all those jobs every month, says she took Dave to lunch with Mal, Wednesday.

As the PM’s red teapot is her witness, Dave didn’t say a word about the AWU stunt, much less fess up to having orchestrated the whole damn catastrophe. It beggars belief but Cash won’t budge from her story.

Cash returns to the Senate Estimates Committee where she lies five times that no-one from her office called the cops or got the media on to the AWU witch hunt raid stunt. No-one believes her – clearly the tip-offs have got to senators, too although, by Sunday, Phil Coorey a big Cash man on ABC Insiders, will charge to her defence.

“I can also assure you that my office did not find out about the raids until after they were conducted. It is a very serious allegation that you are making and I refute it completely,” she tells a Senate estimates hearing.

Liberals do moral indignation so well. On the other hand, they do get a lot of practice. Butter wouldn’t melt.  Cash’s shocked denial is a haunting performance.

By tea-time, Cash changes tune. De Garis did it, she says. He’s gone off and done it all off his own bat. Not told a soul. Not me. Not the PM. Not even the Daily Tele. Turnbull, in it up to his neck, says Shorten, clinches his complicity by faking moral indignation. It was, he finger-wags,  “a very, very wrong, improper act of indiscretion”.

Keeping a straight face, Cash suggests the AFP look into it. Brilliant. The AFP should investigate the AFP. She deploys what Mark Kenny sees as the Sharon Strzelecki defence from Kath and Kim, “I didn’t know”

More credible is the pithy, down to earth Labor Senator Doug Cameron who tells the hearing: “She’s thrown her staffer under the bus”. In the process she has misled parliament, her department has clearly busted the ROC as a political witch hunt, she’s blown the Coalition’s latest Kill Bill strategy and a staffer’s career is ruined.

It may even be the end of the ROC, experts tip. Apart from that, the AWU raid’s a stroke of genius.

What better than an Australian Federal Police raid on AWU offices in Sydney and Melbourne, Tuesday, to blood the ROC (Registered Organisation Commission) the new union-bashing lynch mob on the block, smear Shorten, puts the wind up GetUp! and help disguise Turnbull’s “game-changing” brain fart as an energy policy.

Nothing shrieks “gotcha” like a shot of a burly cop lugging a bulging plastic bag of receipts. Wonderful optics.  Get the photographers from the Jihadi mincer plot on to it. They have a wonderful eye for guilty before charged.

Years of images of terror busts have, doubtless, helped soften us up to accept random AFP raids. Yet AFP powers are limited to investigating crimes which fall under Commonwealth laws. Most crime is a state law matter.

In May last year, The AFP raided the home of then shadow communications minister, Jason Clare, and senior Labor Senator, Stephen Conroy in connection with what were claimed to be leaked government documents. Don’t ask what became of the inquiry. The AFP bust like all performance art won’t be rushed liked that.

Then, as now, the Prime Minister rejected any suggestion of Government interference, claiming the AFP operates “entirely independently of the Government”. His assurances ring as hollow as his energy or NBN guarantees – or indeed the heavy-handed, ham theatricality of his patently insincere censure of the dynamic David De Garis.

In a travesty of due process, the ROC says it ordered this week’s raid solely “on the basis of an anonymous call”.

No lawful reason exists for the raid. The documents the government seeks are not required to be held beyond seven years. They were documents, however, which the union was making available to the ROC.

“We were cooperating before we ended up in this remarkable situation yesterday. For our 131 years, there has not been one occasion that the AWU has not cooperated with any investigation and we don’t have any ideas of changing that,” National Secretary, Daniel Walton tells ABC’s AM.

Nor has any law been broken: this is not a criminal matter but just a routine ROC-AFP bust to see that the AWU is following its own rules. No wonder the coppers on camera are scowling.

Attorney-General George Brandis, who is still wiping the egg off his ample face over his disastrous advice to his government over its dual citizenship debacle, adds his own hint that the ROC is a kangaroo court.

“Its job is to enforce the law and if it finds the law has been breached, then its obligation is to pursue that,” Brandis, our legal Mr Magoo, tells Sky News. No law has been breached? The government does not care.

So what if the AWU says it’s happy to share the documents? It has already made them available to Dyson Heydon’s Trade Union Royal Commission, an $80 million witch hunt into Bill Shorten which spawned the ROC concept?

Nobody in a post-truth, Trumpian world is bothered by evidence any more. As the Productivity Commission’s rules this week, on its yen to change GST distribution, “An absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”.

It is an alarming trend – even if the phrase is a gift to the t-shirt slogan industry. The title of the Commission’s report – ‘Shifting the Dial’ is a clue to our brave new government’s desire to march to the beat-up of a different drum; its rush to tune out empiricism in favour of a more pliant metaphysics; the vibe, the smear and the spin.

Equally alarming, as Mark Kenny notes,  is the tally of Turnbull government ministers who have entered the plea of ignorance as their defence and who have freely admitted, as coal puppet Matt Canavan does, after blaming his mother and updating his story several times, that they were prepared to stand for election and to bank the 300-400,000 salary but that they weren’t fussed checking whether they were eligible for the job.

“For … institutional conservatives, the trashing of basic parliamentary and ministerial standards through these events is even more depressing. Having lawmakers deploy the ignorance defence fundamentally erodes the power of law, and materially weakens the very project of parliamentary representation.

At the ministerial level, it renders the sanction of executive resignation hollow, by allowing a minister to simply stand with everyone else, among the great unknowing. This lack of knowledge and basic curiosity makes a mockery of the accountability mechanism central to the Westminster tradition.” He writes.  And then there’s the lie of spin.

Spin? Anti-worker Employment Minister, Michaelia Cash, insists the ROC will just subject Unions to the same rules as company directors. Sure. Every day we see directors of banks, mining companies, casino operators and betting agencies being raided by AFP officers and sundry men in suits just to help accountancy teams with their filing.

Like extreme vetting, an AFP raid on your archives is positively therapeutic; a type of clerical, colonic irrigation or a form of shock treatment. Or both.

In fact, the ROC has markedly more extensive investigative powers than Fair Work, the power to lay criminal charges and impose financial penalties harsher than those applicable to businesses under the Corporations Act.

Slater and Gordon caution that ROC and supporting laws represent a significant attack on the rights of unions to self-govern. Imposing a dedicated regulator focussed squarely on Unions is an attempt to ensure that Unions are focussed on compliance with costly, unwieldy regulation at the expense of organising and representing members.

ROC aids and abets union bashing. Former shonky jobs figures shill, Senator Eric Abetz, a veteran GetUp! foe takes time out from fighting safe schools, same sex marriage and encouraging gays to come out as straight, Sunday, to explain that if the (perfectly legal) GetUp! funding “was proved inappropriate”, it raises serious questions.

” … finally issues relating to potential trade union corruption are being taken seriously and thoroughly investigated,” he says “Honest union members have the right to know that their money is being spent correctly.”

Proved inappropriate? Since 2010, Eric, who is convinced the organisation is a Greens/Labor front run by George Soros, has reported GetUp! unsuccessfully to the AEC and the ACCC. It is disingenuous to continue the smear given the publication of clear refutation by both bodies. But Eric has a record of being fast and loose with facts.

On a local radio station last year he argued that GetUP! should have its charity status revoked.

“If an organisation becomes involved in the political debates, they shouldn’t be allowed to get charitable donations — which means tax-deductibility — in circumstances where the political party against which they are campaigning cannot get that sort of tax-deductibility and charity status for their donation.”

Sadly, for the senator’s rapidly dwindling credibility, GetUP! Is not a charity.

Issues relating? While they’re after the GetUp! paper work, the police seek evidence of a $25,000 payment made by the AWU to Mr Shorten’s election campaign in the Melbourne seat of Maribyrnong in 2007, and another two payments to campaigns in the seats of Petrie (Queensland) and Stirling (WA).

Unions legitimately support Labor candidates but the raid helps create suspicion of criminal misconduct.

No-one will worry it’s a stunt. All that matters is that Shorten be smeared, somehow, because the AWU openly and legitimately donated $100,000 to GetUp! when the Opposition leader led the union over 10 years ago.

The law is now on side, too, thanks to nifty Nick Xenophon and dreadful Derryn Hinch’s vote in May. The ROC, a double dissolution trigger last election, is nothing less than a state attack on workers.

AWU national secretary Daniel Walton calls the raids “an extraordinary abuse of police resources”. “It is clear the Registered Organisations Commission has been established, not to promote good governance, but to use taxpayer and police resources to muckrake through historic documents in an attempt to find anything that might smear a future Labor prime minister,Walton tells AAP. 

Wages stagnate, work becomes increasingly deskilled, part-time and casual while inequality becomes more deeply entrenched, yet the Coalition responds by attacking working people, their representatives and the many volunteers who give their time to be delegates and to generally support unions in their work.

Unions are already covered, moreover, by the Corporations Act, and lately by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Now the Coalition has imposed a third tier of union oversight. While it claims to be after union corruption, the government is interested in union governance; donations and superannuation funds.

For a divided Coalition at odds on energy, education, environment and marriage equality to name a few, policy debate yields readily to dirty pool. It’s week of defamatory personal attacks on Sponge-Bob Bill Shorten whom the PM jeers, is “Melbourne’s greatest sycophant, one of the union movement’s great sucker-uppers.”

Worse, in that perverse projection Turnbull favours, Shorten is one of Labor’s “hereditary union princelings”. “Not everybody has a privileged ride to power through a union job,” he sneers, baring bottom teeth.

The politics of sledging is a legacy of junkyard dog, Tony Abbott, whose grasp on any policy is, still, at best tenuous and whose sole, intelligible claim to remain leader, was that he could “beat Bill Shorten”.

If only politics could be reduced to a boxing match between the two leaders. If only we could sucker punch the entire Labor mob. Kill Bill with one knock-out punch. The team is working on it. Sadly, Rupert Murdoch’s rags have far less influence now.

Gutter politics are almost eclipsed, however, by the Coalition’s secret strategy to deal with Friday’s High Court verdict: complacency and entitlement. Ayatollah Turnbull, as he is known to his former fellow merchant bankers, has let his ego do the talking. You can tell he’s still personally outraged at the court’s lese majeste.

This was not the plan. Now he dithers for two days about whether he can trust Julie Bishop to act PM.

A High Court wowed by the PM’s parliamentary chutzpah ,”… the High Court will so hold…” was meant to clear Kiwi Barnaby and as many of the remaining six dual nationals as it cares, leaving himself and Lucy free to jet to Israel where he could pose as an international statesman and explain how the charge of the Fourth Light Horse Brigade at Beersheba in 1917 allows Australia to lay claim to founding Israel.

“The capture of Beersheba allowed British empire forces to break the Ottoman line near Gaza and then advance into Palestine, a chain of events which eventually culminated in the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948,” Australia Post said in 2013  It’s a popular new reimagining of the past to give Israel another link with Australia.

Clayton’s Deputy PM Julie Bishop will now hold the fort. She can deal with the backlash over Turnbull’s decision, announced Wednesday, to reject any plea for a constitutionally recognised voice to parliament.  Cabinet rejects The Uluru Proposal  five months on from the historic constitutional summit in Central Australia.

The Uluru statement is a rejection of symbolic constitutional reform in favour of a constitutionally enshrined voice to parliament, which would sit outside the parliamentary structure but provide advice and consultation on issues and legislation affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Establishing a Makarrata commission with a view to establishing a treaty, or treaties, between Indigenous people and Australian governments is a second, vital component of the Uluru statement.

As Paul Daley notes, the rebuff is a slap in the face to “all the linguistically and culturally diverse urban, regional and remote communities that comprise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australia”, a breach of trust and a rejection more pointed  by making the announcement, from on high, in cabinet on the cusp of the PM’s departure and at a time when parliament is in recess.

Above all it sends a clear signal that the Turnbull government lacks humanity and common decency as much as it lacks vision and leadership. It is by far the biggest failing of his utterly disappointing prime ministership and will be cost him dearly.

Indigenous leaders rightly feel betrayed if not duped. The Coalition has let indigenous Australia, indeed all Australians down first by having no plan for constitutional recognition of its own when it came to power  – then by asking leaders to consult with communities to come up with a model – only to reject that model when so much hard work is done. At the very least, it is a consultation in name only, an act of gross bad faith and betrayal.

The PM rejects embedding an indigenous voice in the constitution as “too ambitious”. While The Referendum Council’s proposal for an Indigenous representative assembly, or Voice, is a new concept constitutional change, the PM must acknowledge the extensive and valuable work of the past decade – largely with bipartisan support.

It is a poor thing to say “too ambitious” or that the model lacked detail. A good government, committed to equality and partnership, committed to community works with people to find that detail. It is mutually demeaning, moreover, for Turnbull to retreat to a symbolic recognition.

Turnbull himself is now also disgraced by his poor form in prompting the High Court in parliament to find in favour of his deputy PM in an extraordinary moment of poor judgement when he took it upon himself in Question Time in the House in August to predict – if not lead -the High Court in its judgement.  The High Court will so hold what the High Court decides and not what any jumped up Prime Minister may try to dictate.

Similarly, the AFP raid on the AWU reeks of the same poor judgement that indulged Godwin Grech in Utegate in 2009. Instead of blowing up Bill, the PM has effectively blown up his own government.  By Friday, gone is his parliamentary majority, two cabinet ministers and any sign of an acting deputy PM.

No-one knows what challenges will be mounted to decisions taken by ministers who were allowed to continue while their eligibility to be in parliament remained in doubt.

Worse, Michaelia Cash has disappeared into WA for a good lie down gifting politics with an open season on backstabbing, bitching and petty vendetta, especially given she’s widely tipped to be next Attorney General.

The week ends with a government in crisis, its credibility in tatters, its majority shot and with serious questions hanging over the legitimacy of its decisions after The High Court rules comprehensively against its brilliant case that for MPs caught in the trap of dual-citizenship, ignorance is somehow an excuse, an argument which is itself indicative a deeper, postmodern malaise in which truthiness displaces truth and all is spin.

Turnbull government fails Australians on jobs and energy.

 

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Super Mal, our super-antihero PM, the down-under “wonder-gunner” blitzes Canberra’s political firmament this week, lighting up the sky with yet another dazzling flash of super-power in “Keeping The Lights on” – a love duet with the BCA and for history buffs an homage to the Liberal Party’s naff 1975 election slogan, “Turn On the Lights.”

In a week where our role in world affairs includes the shameful abandonment of our gulag on Manus Island to our ignominious failure to censure Myanmar over Rohingya genocide and where our embarrassments extend to our Foreign Minister having to eat her words about never being able to trust a Kiwi Labour government, the PM’s energy fix and Michaelia Cash’s jobs windfall are played for all they are worth. And then some.

First, to Turnbull who talks up his NEG, a National Energy Guarantee – a type of energy policy on steroids to judge by its promotion – which promises cheaper, reliable, cleaner electricity. Cheaper? NEG has a way with words:

“It is expected that following the guarantee could lead to a reduction in residential bills in the order of $100-115 per annum over the 2020-2030 period.”

NEG gets generators to clean up their act. No blackouts; keep costs and emissions down. Generators must meet two guarantees; one on reliability and one on emissions.

After that, the proposal gets hazy. Reliability is tricky because coal is “in the mix” along with other ready-to-use sources such as coal, gas, pumped hydro and batteries”. Yet coal is less and less reliable, given the age of Australia’s ageing power plants. Unless it’s running all the time, moreover, a coal-fired plant is inflexible.

Coal fired stations can’t rapidly ramp supply up and down and they are costly to start. Furthermore, high capital costs mean that the less often they operate, the higher the electricity price they need to obtain when they do.

The emissions guarantee, we are told, “will be set to contribute to Australia’s international commitments. The level of the guarantee will be determined by the Commonwealth and enforced by the AER.”

If, as seems likely, the new scheme allows for trading of credits liked to coal generation, the result will be a market in subsidies for dirty energy: “dirty energy credits”.

How it all works is anybody’s guess: no details are available. It’s a Turnbull big picture thing. But for an eight-page thought bubble, a document whipped up in two weeks by a government desperate for a plan B for a flagging Finkel Report, the NEG vibe is just incredible. Huge.

More than a few greenie nay-sayers may be throwing mung bean sandals or waving their Dakota dream-catchers, if we are to heed barking Barnaby Joyce whose tenuous grip on decorum and reality slackens every Question Time.

Won’t the NEG just protect the fossil fuel industry and slow the uptake of renewables? Experts such as Giles Parkinson have not been slow to voice their reservations. Giles mildly ventures that the proposal is:

” … the most ill-considered, poorly detailed and potentially useless policy that anyone can remember – the work of Australia’s so-called ‘energy mafia’ hungry to defend the power of the incumbent oligopoly, commercial interests and their ideology.”

Let yourself go, Parkinson. Tell us what you really think. The Opposition also has some major misgivings.

Labor’s Mark Butler worries: “For Turnbull’s plan to work there would be no new large-scale renewable energy projects and a cut of at least two-thirds to current rates of rooftop solar installation.”

The ESB  proposes a piddling 28 per cent to 36 per cent renewable share by 2030 a means to pacify a Coalition right wing, which already has the scent of victory in its nostrils.

Isn’t the NEG just another back-down? Hasn’t the right wing forced the government to junk the carbon price, reduce the renewable energy target, reject an emissions trading scheme, and dump a clean energy target?

Our PM quickly calls out any such heresy as “ideological”. Reckless unbelief such as this caused the SA blackout, remember? Besides NEG’s been designed by experts. Turnbull savages ABC RN’s Sabra Lane, Wednesday. How dare she (or anyone else) “attack” the “distinguished and expert” Energy Security Board?

Ayatollah Turnbull’s always been a bit iffy about impertinent questions but COAG’s set up a flash new ESB to hide behind. The ESB amounts to five independent experts who know everything. Gold-plated poles ‘n wires R US.

Dr Kerry Schott, former head of NSW and ACT network operator Transgrid fronts the gig, helped by deputy Claire Savage of the Business Council of Australia, a rent-seeking body dedicated to looking after the needs of some of our biggest polluters, a body which, in 2008, warned Rudd that a carbon price was “a company killer”.

Savage is highly regarded but has for the last decade worked as an advocate for big utility companies such as the industry association ESAA, then with EnergyAustralia before her work with the BCA.

Making up the rest of the impartial, independent, business brains trust are the heads of the Australian Energy Market Commission, the Australian Energy Regulator and Australian Energy Market Operator, or, as Sabra Lane puts it:  “… bodies that oversaw the last ten years of disastrous energy policy in Australia”.

Lane’s thoughts are echoed by Parkinson:

The scheme will, ostensibly, be monitored by the same useless regulators that allowed the networks – and latterly the generators and retailers – to gouge consumers over the last 10 years, and enabled them, more recently, to ‘play’ the market for certificates in the renewable energy target.

Our PM’s a gunner from way back. In June, for example, he was still “gonna” introduce a Clean Energy Target. Until it became a test of his leadership. Still going to get water to run up hill in his Snowy Hydro 2.0 pipe dream, though.

Amazingly his Snowy Hydro 2.0, a feasibility study on a massively expensive project at least ten years away is spun as somehow coming on stream tomorrow. A mad, manic delusional optimism seizes the entire front bench.

Turnbull, the disruptor, promises an energy game changer. It’s a masterly performance with report of an Abbott Party Room slap-down.  Josh Frydenberg intercedes. Abbott is a “conscientious objector”. The press gallery drools.

But Mal’s light on for detail. What is the plan? Is “coal in the mix” a sign that this is just another NBN-type hoax? Will coal play the role of copper in the PM’s disaster of an NBN project, devised solely to take down Labor’s?

Dave Donovan argues coal is to Turnbull’s new National Energy Guarantee what copper was to Turnbull’s major debacle; his  underpowered, oversold, over-budget version of the National Broadband Network.

Yet, judging by the saturation press, the PM lays his NEG, a “national energy guarantee” upon a grateful nation. It will, he promises, speaking quickly, cut electricity bills, lower carbon emissions and boost reliability. And look. There’s no modelling. And … that’s not all. The new NEG comes with its own, in-built political point-scorer.

The PM vows without hint of a twitch of upper lip that he will take the politicking out of the energy debate.  Born to silence the right wing and designed to wedge Labor, the NEG is as political as it gets. The rest is hypocrisy.

“How do we break out of these climate wars, of this dreadful cycle of ideological argument — and frankly idiocy or stupidity. There is no other way to describe it,” Turnbull pretends, invoking a thoroughly well-thrashed scapegoat for his own party’s paralysis on energy policy.

The lie that political squabbling is to blame for the Liberals’ own policy inertia, a result of its complete capture by the coal lobby, is repeated so often it is now gospel according to ABC Q&A, The Drum and others in MSM.

Yet, as Naomi Klein says, “It’s hard to tell where the Australian Government ends and the coal industry begins.” Increasingly we are fed the lie that somehow the Liberals’ purity of motive is thwarted by its political opponents’ treachery, especially Labor’s fetish for cheap, reliable, affordable clean energy that won’t destroy the planet.

Equally specious is the lament that squabbles deny our great god industry the certainty it is due; the certainty that is fundamental to investment. As Richard Denniss points out between 2009 and 2015, Santos and its international partners spent $10,000 a minute on a $25bn mistake when they hoped a massive gas export plant at Curtis Island, near Gladstone in Queensland would be profitable. So, too, did two other consortia, boosting cost to $80bn.

Denniss notes: “Australians have been told for decades that “businesses need certainty”, and that uncertainty is a barrier to investing in renewable energy. Unfortunately the gas industry’s inability to predict the future with any certainty didn’t prevent its managers from taking a massive risk with their own shareholders’ money.

Turnbull’s on the same tram. “We’ve got to stop this ideological, theological nonsense about energy,” he preaches to IAG business leaders in Canberra Thursday. This is a time for clear-eyed, hard-headed, businesslike leadership.”

It’s an alarmingly delusional affectation and a well-worn cliché of conservative government rhetoric that only businesses know how to make sound decisions in energy when the evidence from our own gas industry catastrophe alone, a major cause of our own disastrous energy bubble should give pause for thought.

Turnbull must take us for fools if he believes we will mistake his government’s impulsive decision-making (or as he flatters it a “plan”) a proposal whipped up in two weeks without any proper modelling for a clear-eyed or hard-headed policy. It’s another in a long line of capitulations dictated by the government’s industry sponsors.

Yet it is his trademark wild-eyed evasion, Turnbull models in his leadership when he appears on ABC RN.

“Will you guarantee those price reductions?” asks AM host Sabra Lane.

“Well, what I can guarantee” replies PM Turnbull, “is that we’ve got those price figures, those cost figures ‒ in fact, which is based on their estimate of a 20 to 25 per cent reduction in wholesale generation costs ‒ we’ve got that. I can guarantee that the people that are giving those figures are the best informed and the most knowledgeable in the industry.”

No modelling? Instantly, the Opposition pounces in Question Time. Happily, Speaker Tony Smith interprets relevance so broadly as to allow Coalition MPs free rein to indulge in yet another round of Labor-bashing.

The plan is to paint Labor as the party of higher prices in a reprise of Tony Abbott’s pernicious great big new tax on everything 2013 attack on a price of carbon, a stunt which minder, Peta Credlin, now freely concedes, was a hoax.

It’s a work of consummate con-artistry which will continue the “energy wars” on the Labor Party whose reckless pursuit of renewable energy targets, as everyone knows, got us into this mess. Yet Labor fires back.

“In just the last 12 months, the Prime Minister was for an emissions intensity scheme until the Member for Warringah came out against it and he supported a clean energy target until the Member for Warringah came out against that,” Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Mark Butler, says.

“Given reports that the Member for Warringah spoke against the Prime Minister’s latest energy policy in the party room today, when will the Prime Minister announce that he’s against this one too?”

Not only is the NEG a runaway success, the week ends on a high – at least for employment minister, Michaelia Cash and her groupies who swoon over the government’s latest fresh-baked batch of employment figures.

These confirm how hugely successfully it always is in “creating jobs”, the corollary of “growing the economy” provided no-one looks at population growth, hours worked, wages or any other meaningful measure.

“Employment has increased by 371,500 over the last year – more than four times the jobs growth in Labor’s last year in government …” claims Cash, shrewdly manipulating the time period. Over the Coalition’s four years,  only an average of 206,400 jobs have been added per year.

Given, our adult population growth of  293,700 per year over the last four years, jobs have failed to keep up.

Jobs? ABS records reveal that Turnbull and Abbott are the worst economic managers since Menzies. Wages have languished for four years. Conditions decline steadily. A quarter of Australian workers now have no leave entitlements whatsoever.

A year ago, 716,600 Australians had no work at all but unemployment is no longer something the government mentions in public. Nor is it big on admitting a relentless decline in the quality of our working lives. The Coalition presides over record unemployment, underemployment, underpayment and the systematic casualisation of work.

But it’s on with the Cash Show. It’s all vital part of the pantomime theatre of work in which a neoliberal government can worship in the church of the free market, yet take credit for its own benign intervention.

12 months’ consecutive jobs growth – employment at a record high runs this month’s media massage.

Oh, my! 19,800 – in just four weeks! Just look how many JOBS our Magic Pudding policies have cooked up since our last sensational gingerbread bake-off. MSM reporters fall over themselves to toast another Coalition triumph.

An “extraordinary achievement” gurgles Malcolm Turnbull. Best run of monthly gains for nearly twenty-five years. A chum on The Drum obligingly beats up the myth of infrastructure spending the government keeps spinning and spinning as the cause of our workforce suddenly awash with well-paid, secure employment.

Getting in early, Judith Sloan posts a puff piece about how unassailable government employment statistics are. The former director of Santos a firm which deceived the nation about how much domestic gas it would sell off-shore, howls down “ABC talk-back hosts” for spreading doubt about official figures. It’s a dead giveaway.

Of course there are more people in work. There are more of us. What the minister’s orgy of self-congratulation never acknowledges is how jobs are increasingly part-time, casual and insecure.

But you’ll never hear Cash stop to factor in population growth – or any other fact that would help us to contextualise her meaningless statistics. She breathlessly reels off her talking points oblivious to their nonsense. The population increases; the economy expands. Yet, as Alan Austin, notes, MSM is taken in by her spin.

JOBS announcements are what Ms Cash endlessly, dramatically, provides in her role as Employment Minister, a cameo role she effortlessly fits in with her day-job of growing her own property investment portfolio.

As with most Turnbull government roles, her duties are now chiefly theatrical.  Cash applies her prodigious energy to being our national cheer-leader for all hardworking Australians in her indefatigable, virtue-signalling war on job-snobs, welfare-bludgers and other shirkers. It’s a ritual drawing of the battle lines between lifter and leaner.

For those viewers who don’t speak gush, ABC News 24 obligingly runs a synoptic ticker bearing the whopper: “jobs bonanza”, part of its lip-service to statutory fairness and balance.

As with so much else released by the government and especially with economics, the Employment Minister’s press release includes a Newspeak-style mission statement concocted entirely of false or misleading information.

“We are focussed on our plan to secure a stronger economy with more jobs, including lower taxes for small businesses, a record investment in infrastructure, reliable and affordable energy, new export agreements and an ongoing focus on ideas and innovation”.

More jobs? Alan Austin notes there were 711,500 people out of work in September, the eleventh consecutive month the total has been above 710,000, a figure not seen before the Coalition’s victory in 2013, since 1997.

Hours worked per month, the most reliable employment indicator, were 86.17. It has been below 86.5 for 48 consecutive month since the Coalition was elected. Under Labor it rarely fell below 87 even during the GFC.

Cash also delivers the obligatory attack on Labor. Yet under Labor, Australia ranked sixth in the developed world on the provision of jobs. We now rank 16th.

The Minister for Misleading Employment Statistics has an alarmingly over-expressive delivery easily mistaken for liar’s hype.  While Cash is doubtless a boon to even visually impaired lip-readers everywhere – especially those who yearn for misleading disinformation, her performance demands closer critical scrutiny.

Turnbull’s all-singing, all dancing brand new energy policy, is an insult to the intelligence of the electorate. It lacks detail and any semblance of integrity. Beyond its function as a kowtow to the coal lobby which pulls the party’s strings, it is a desperate, flimsy attempt to wedge Labor whilst appeasing the party’s right wing.

Jobs and energy, the two big-ticket items of the week reveal a Turnbull government hooked on hype and spin, an embattled, incompetent and hopelessly corrupted regime whose sole response to its self-inflicted energy and employment crises is to turn up the loudspeaker on the propaganda machine.

It’s a frantic, futile bid for reassurance; as each Newspoll shows, fewer and fewer amongst us are taken in.

 

A government with no real interest in health or human rights or its people.

QUESTION TIME

 

“It is hardly necessary to say that the court is aware of the need to give its answers to these references with or without reasons as soon as possible,” declares High Court Chief Justice Susan Kiefel, Friday.

Kiefel is slapping down brash Matt Canavan’s barrister, David Bennett QC, whose client has changed his story several times after first blaming his mother for making him an Italian. Now expert esoteric Italian legal depositions are tendered.

Bennett, a former Solicitor-General has the chutzpah to remind the court of “the importance of an urgent decision”.

Snapping your fingers for service does not go well in The High Court. The lady’s not for churning,Susan Kiefel makes it clear. Nor is her court.

Ultimately, however, Kiefel succeeds only in bidding up the nation’s impatience in a political week filled with trepidation, the sick joke of Greg Hunt’s health policy “shake-up”, a capitulation to health insurance industry and the prospect of a national, Nationals New England by-election circus starring the incomparable, incomprehensible, Murray-Darling cotton-farmers’ darling Barnaby Joyce.

Politics could be put on hold for weeks, whenever The High Court gets around to delivering its verdict on seven little (alien) Australian MPs’ dual citizenship, should the PM finally decide to prorogue parliament while Barnaby Joyce is re-elected, a safe bet despite a Melbourne Cup field of candidates preparing to stand against him.

Centrelink clients, on the other hand, will be put through promptly, now that the government has outsourced its telephone calls to Serco, helping the international company rebuild trust after its 2013 scandal when it was discovered to have overcharged the UK government for electronically tagging criminals who were back in gaol, overseas or dead.

The government, meanwhile, brushes aside criticism of its Robo-call fiasco. It dismisses complaints made against the system as “third parties … aimed solely at scoring political points”. It’s a line it likes to apply widely to any call for accountability and thinking which informs a lot of its spin excusing its own lamentable failure in energy policy.

Quickly it scotches any suggestion it suspend its error-ridden data-matching Tuesday, while engaging an outside contractor with a dodgy reputation in the UK and in New Zealand. Chin up pensioners: what could possibly go wrong?

Left right, you know the drill. Look over there! Don’t you know there’s a war on? Or one about to go on in North Korea. What could break the Turnbull government’s log-jam of indecision and ineptitude better than a military adventure?

Abroad, in a scene worthy of Apocalypse Now, Julie Bishop jogs the DMZ dividing North from South Korea while urging an increasingly potty POTUS to declare war on North Korea as she dodges questions about Myanmar’s genocide.

Elected unopposed, Australia waits to play its part on the UN Human Rights Council which is waiting for us to condemn the human rights atrocities in Myanmar which Foreign Minister Julie Bishop insists arise from a “security operation”.

The Rohingya are to blame. Look where their insurgency has led them. What bother they’re causing Bangladesh.

Refugees? Rohingya refugees? No here. Not us. 11,000 flee in one day? We “need independent, verifiable accounts”.

Bishop’s outright refusal to acknowledge the existence of the humanitarian crisis posed by the Myanmar persecution of the Rohingya is a shameful demonstration of the Coalition’s complete disregard for human rights.

The Turnbull government’s compassion bypass, its cruelty and its wilful abdication of responsibility under international refugee agreements are an indictment of its lack of moral compass and inhumanity. Instead, its foreign minister falls back on the best hollow clichés her staffers can provide for her.

“Australia will bring a pragmatic and principled approach to working with other nations to find real solutions to complex global challenges,” she says. Elsewhere she is fond of talking of rules-based global order, a catch-phrase of our 2016 Defence White Paper but one which is wretchedly vague and subjective. What if China has its own rules-based order?

In a revealing lapse into Newspeak, on SBS TV Sunday, Julie Bishop claims her government will offer “principled and pragmatic leadership” in the UN Human Rights Council, as if principled and pragmatic are not mutual contradictions. Easy to say. Is she unaware that our pragmatism is on open display in how we treat others such as Rohingya refugees?

“What will it take for our government to draw a line in the sand with the Myanmar military so as not be to complicit in crimes against humanity in our region?,” asks Diana Sayed, Amnesty’s crisis campaigner in Australia.

Bishop may commend her government’s new UNHCR role but nothing can hide our shame on boat turn-backs or atone for the inhumanity of our offshore detention; our neglect of Indigenous health, education and incarceration issues.

Worse, neither she nor Peter Dutton will comment on reports that Border Force is offering to pay Rohingya men on Manus to return to Myanmar and certain persecution. Yet one Rohingya detainee has already reported that he was offered $25,000.  Luckily, threat of war provides distraction. North Korea is not happy with Bishop or Australia.

Pyongyang’s news agency, which our ABC must remind us is “state-run” personally criticises Bishop; accuses Australia of joining the “frenzied political and military provocations of the US” against Pyongyang. It warns that Australia would not be able to avoid disaster if it continues to support the US stance on Pyongyang. Yet does she even know what that is?

Julie Bishop puts on her runners. She warns reporters “little rocket man” may launch a missile next week. Nuclear war could follow, she purrs, or worse, unless we drag Kim-chi Kimbo kicking and screaming to the negotiating table.

Negotiating? Donald Trump, the star of The Art of the Deal or “Fucking moron”, as secretary of state Rex Tillerson, tenderly refers to him, is sulking in his room. The President hates everyone. Another day. Another tantrum.

“We’re totally prepared for numerous things,” Trump baffles media, Friday, in a briefing that is pure Samuel Beckett.

“If something can happen where we negotiate, I’m always open to that. But if it’s going to be something other than negotiation, believe me we are ready, more so than we have ever been.” 

Apart from that, Trump won’t tell. Won’t give his game away. Especially as there is no game – a deception our government, Julie Bishop take a bow, enables. Jim Schoff, former senior Pentagon adviser for East Asia policy, tells The Washington Post that there are no signs that “U.S. policymakers think we’re on the brink of all-out war.”

Nor are there any signs of evacuation of the 28,000 US troops stationed in Seoul or any other civilians in South Korea while, over the border, Kim’s latest speech bags the US but is mainly about economics. North Korean soldiers are getting in the autumn harvest. Civilians are not mobilising. Only Trump and his Australian fan-club are talking up any war.

Long past the brink, mad-dog Abbott makes war on his boss from London. Experts detect another Newspoll in the field. Beyond barking, (Tel-Aviv) Dr Tony attacks his PM and all post-Christian, goat-sacrificing climate change god appeasers from The Old Dart. Climate change is crap. But, hey, if it really is real – and I’m not saying it is – it’s good for you.

Abbott makes a crap speech littered with falsehoods, a rant riven by tortured logic and inconsistencies to a bogus think-tank of coal industry puppets who clap politely in relief at the end. Bernard Keane carefully lists seventeen changes in the former PM’s position on climate change. Julie Bishop says he backed Paris; now he should explain his flip-flop.

Not a whisper from her of her former leader’s flip-flops on health, education or cuts to the ABC at the time.

The budgie-smuggler’s lunacy boosts an uneasy expectancy which falls upon us all, a wary national pessimism born of disappointment and exhaustion; boosted by the dance marathon of the postal survey on marriage equality and Josh Frydenberg’s super-elephantine four year-energy, bugger-the- climate to please Tony policy pregnancy.

In a world gone troppo, an uneasy, existential foreboding bedevils political life; the nation is waiting for Godot.

But no-one’s saying Chief Justice Susan Kiefel won’t put on a good High Court show. The odd cuckoo may even be thrown out of its parliamentary nest, or, indeed, all seven – after hearing One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts at length.

It would be un-Australian, the senator with the epistemological bent pleads, to discriminate between natural-born Aussies and “natural-born Indians” like himself.  It’s a welcome break from his party’s campaign slogans.

Oddly, the High Court expresses frustration with Roberts’ SC, Robert Newlinds, Justice Bell interjects testily: “It is unclear to me where this argument is taking you.”

If you were a betting man – and Malcolm Turnbull certainly is to have let his Deputy PM stay in parliament while disqualified – risking appeals on every decision he is party to, you would have to offer long odds on Roberts.

If Kiwi, Barnaby Joyce, were also deemed ineligible, he’d be a by-election shoo-in for his north-western NSW electorate of New England given his 58% of the primary vote last year. His anti-greenie electorate loves a water-rorting frack-champion, too.  Joyce is a huge SANTOS supporter. He hits the airwaves to plug coal seam gas extraction at Narrabri.

Joyce contradicts a federal government-appointed recent independent expert scientific committee which finds significant “knowledge gaps” in SANTOS’ local environmental impact study. And he does so with impunity. Why?

Is it self-interest? Narrabri is near Joyce’s property at Gwabegar. The Nationals’ leader forked out $572, 000 for two blocks of 1000 hectares in “mongrel country” , fit for goats, the odd migrant flightless bird and not much else, in 2006 and 2008. He had no idea that there was gas just begging to be fracked right under his property.  Amazing.

There’s no chance, he adds, any gas is going to come off his blocks. No chance his pal, John Anderson, gave him the nod – either. Anderson, a former Nationals leader, left politics, as you do, to become chairman of Eastern Gas in 2007, a firm which co-owned exploration rights to the block next door to Barnaby’s. Petroleum licences? You’ve got to be joking.

No chance of the pals’ gas-bagging about fracking. Nah. Goats and bloat mostly. Farm yarns. Land’s up for sale anyway. A  check with the agent reveals not a single enquiry. Joyce tells reporters he’s not going to make a “windfall” on the land.

Local activists say petroleum licences for the whole region depend on progress at Narrabri. Even with Barnaby’s spin, however, or with Fran Kelly’s “model corporate citizen” puff on ABC RN Breakfast, Santos has a poor record in the Pilliga. 20 toxic waste water spills at least have destroyed forest, one aquifer has been contaminated with uranium and other toxic heavy metals. Yet few gas wells have been sunk, so far; it’s the exploration phase of the project.

Mercurius Goldstein, a euphoniously named local high school teacher and The Greens’ anti-SANTOS candidate received 2.9% of the primary vote last election.  His party explains it is in it for the long haul and will contest any by-election.

Barnaby’s prospects will be boosted, also, by the fast-tracking of road projects which were funded by Labor in 2013. These languished under the Coalition which is now only too happy to discover some Opposition pork in the barrel.

A close relation to the pork barrel is the $6.25 billion taxpayers provide to subsidise private health insurance, an industry boondoggle introduced by the Howard government in 1999. Pivotal was Howard’s Health Minister, Michael Wooldridge, an entrepreneurial company director after politics, who in 2014 was subsequently fined $20,000 and banned from being a director of any company when a retirement company collapsed in 2011, owing investors $500 million.

Wooldridge was one of five former directors and did not benefit financially from the collapse. In 2016, the full court of the federal court overturned the ban, ruling that much vaunted corporate watchdog ASIC took too long to bring its case.

Preserving links with the top end of town, public health gets a soft spotlight Friday near the putting out the garbage end of this week as St George Hunt capitulates to the dragon; the government subsidised private health insurance industry.

Billed breathlessly as a “major shakeup” of healthcare policy – the biggest changes for fifteen years, the Turnbull government’s “sweeping changes”, offer a huge cut of 70 cents a week to the less than half of us who pay an average $1800 a year for private health insurance – on top of our Medicare levy.

Underwhelmed? Wait. There’s more. Policy holders may now also trade off a higher excess of $750-$1500, individual or family for lower premiums which will still rise by at least four per cent per year. Of course other savings are promised.

Instead of paying on average 119% more for having your cardiac device, for example, fitted in a private hospital, the cost of prosthetic devices to private patients will come down. That’s a promise.

Not only would private health insurers save $1 billion over four years on cheaper prostheses, Hunt claims, the saving would be passed on to customers.  It’s a trickle-down benefit, he’d like to pretend you get in the operating theatre. There’s no evidence of this ever happening. Every year, private health insurance premiums inexorably rise.

Clearly, the Coalition’s better health slogan applies only for the industry.  It continues to wage war on the planet and on public health in its four year failure to come up with an energy policy which even remotely considers public health.

Expect the next week in politics to be brimming with promises of affordable, reliable energy which is what the spin doctors hope will confuse punters who may want to know what we are really doing to meet our Paris targets, weak as they are or to curb the pollution that each year takes lives in towns that host coal-burning power stations .

Research estimates that 24 people die for every terawatt hours (TWh) of coal burnt.

Expect to hear nothing about health risks, or environmental costs or the fact that 95% of LaTrobe valley pollution is caused by coal. Expect to hear about the cheap cost of coal power and nothing about the health costs.

A 2009 Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering report put the health costs of coal-fired power stations at A$13 per MWh of electricity generated from coal (about $2.6 billion a year). Climate change and other environmental costs were not included.

Of course when the going gets tough, there’s always the diversion of North Korea’s threats to nuke us all now that Kim has displaced Bashar Al Assad as international evil monster du jour. Expect great celebration and self-congratulation now that we’ve been elected unopposed to a UN Human Rights Council, even though we’re not worthy of belonging.

Just don’t expect leadership. Or honesty or accountability. The week shows just how far this government will kowtow to vested interests; its great and powerful friends and their lobby groups.

Whatever the rhetoric, in the end, its “principled and pragmatic leadership” translates into the ruthless pursuit of power by any means; by the powerful for the powerful.