No emerging crisis so big the government can’t find a way to look past it.

scott morrison and michael mccormack in business attire at dry dam

A massive pall of smoke cloaks NSW and shrouds Canberra as the state burns in a catastrophic mega-fire already the size of greater Sydney. Too big to put out, it could last for weeks. Or until rain falls. Meanwhile, Sydney itself joins the world’s top ten most polluted cities as air quality declines as a result of bushfire smoke over the last few weeks.

Some schools are forced to close while others cancel playtime and sports because of polluted air. Red dust and ash waft 2000 km across the Tasman. Smoke also reaches South America. Yet Coalition MPs back-slap and high-five each other on parliament’s last sitting day over their secret deal to repeal Medevac and endanger asylum-seekers’ lives.

“Australia is the best country in the world” government MPs chorus Thursday. “I, too, am confident about Australia’s future.” A claque performing fawning self-applause begin a raucous crowing over Medevac, job creation, congestion-busting, meeting our Paris emissions’ pledges in a canter, our drought relief plan among other Morrison government pretences. In counterpoint, fire alerts and other real warnings run in the crawler under coverage on our TV screens.

“The disconnect [is] emblematic of the week. Indeed, it’s a … motif of the Morrison government. There is no emerging crisis so big that the government cannot find a way to look past it,” even Molan fan-boy Peter Hartcher warns.

Hartcher himself has his blind spots. He hails Jim Molan’s return to the senate where the coal-warrior will replace renewables advocate, amnesiac Arthur Sinodinos who’s off to be our US Ambassador. Amazingly, Hartcher backs Molan to lead a Liberal charge for democracy whilst being uniquely valuable to national security. It’s hard to see how or why.

March 2003 to June 2006 alone 601,000 Iraqis were killed. Since 2007, four million Iraqi refugees had also been created.

Allegedly, Molan was in command when war crimes were allegedly committed in Fallujah 2004 after the US illegally invaded Iraq, a military mis-adventure to which we were joined at the hip. The greatest failure of Australian foreign policy, our involvement in Iraq was based on a farrago of lies. John Howard lied to the nation that he had proof that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction that could end up in the hands of terrorists.

We are still all paying the price in all sorts of ways.

Howard ignored advice in 2002 and in 2003 from Australia’s Defence Intelligence Organisation that there was no evidence of Iraq having chemical weapons nor nuclear weapons. He lied that we had to disarm Iraq to have any hope of disciplining North Korea – another palpable lie. And he fabricated a link between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.

There are votes in being tough on terror. This week, in similar duplicity, Home Affairs Tsar Peter Dutton deploys police to patrol our airports as if an extra 135 AFP officers armed with MK18, short-barrelled rifles will protect us from terrorists.

While our PM rants about suicide prevention amongst veterans, he would do better to attend to possible causes. These include growing evidence of moral injury. Fighting in conflicted wars is increasingly being seen  – even by US Operations Special Command – as contributing to soldiers experiencing moral conflict or feeling morally damaged by their service.

Moral injury is the lasting mental and emotional result of an assault on the conscience — a memory, as one early formulation put it, of “perpetrating, failing to prevent, or bearing witness to acts that transgress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations.” 

Whilst current research is based on military contexts, there is every reason to suppose that moral injury is also part of our modern human condition, not only a result of our war on terror, but of our climate wars which are mis-named attempts to downplay the wilful moral injury inflicted on those whose concern for humanity opposes the extinction of the planet via global warming boosted by the continued abuse of fossil-fuels in transport and electricity generation.

New Zealand’s once-pristine South Island glaciers are turning pink. Kiwis in Auckland and Wellington cough up our soot. But none of this alters Morrison’s mission to lie about climate change. And nothing can hide his hapless government’s monumental ineptitude in grasping the nature or scale – let alone its incapacity to respond appropriately to catastrophic bushfires which have so far killed six innocent people; destroyed over a thousand homes. Keep calm and carry on. Lying.

No credible scientific evidence links climate change and fires, Morrison insists. Besides, he just gets on with the job.

Accordingly, a can-do Morrison-McCormack government pledged to “meaningful practical action without damaging our economy or the family budget” rolls up its sleeves. Jumps in a ute. Gets its teeth into another bush photo-shoot.

Our PM and his dapper, deputy fashionista, Michael McCormack, a former editor (1992-2002) of The Daily Advertiser, a deeply homophobic bloke’s bloke, pose in a drying dam bed which retains a stale puddle big enough to reflect a trio of eucalypts in the background, a symbolic reminder of the Morrison regime’s unholy trinity. Cruelty. Ego. Inertia.

The setting says that while it may look dry, there’s plenty of cause for optimism. And more thoughts and prayers.

“We’ve had droughts before. Bound to rain again. Only latte-sipping city dwellers panic about climate change.”

Following Jenny’s recent write-up in national newspapers, wardrobe is all. Scott models a basic black Anthony Squires trouser with classic white shirt and salmon tie, while Michael teams the traditional National’s MP man-on-the-land-rig of rumpled moleskins with RM Williams Collins button-down, open-necked shirt and RM Williams Comfort Craftsman boot.

ScoMo’s a pro. He’s never forgotten what he learnt as the Vicks Love-Rub kid in the 70s Vapo-Rub ad. It shows. Hands on hips, Mugger Morrison grins down the lens while McCormack seems about to smile at something to the right. Michael could be about to crutch a sheep while Scott looks as if he has just sold the farm to an international consortium.

Fans of merit-based equality, the boys are every bit as “natural and authentic” as Jenny Morrison is recently judged.

 “It was a wonderful thing to do. We’re really advocates of wearing pieces over and over again … if something suits you – you should wear it as many times as you like, even to meet the Queen. It shouldn’t just be about wearing them once,” snipes Genevieve Smart: a verdict which should equally apply to a Stepford husband’s ability to dress himself.  Jenny doesn’t have a stylist. Buys all her own clothes. Gosh. Can the same be said of her husband and his deputy?

With drought and bushfires all under control thanks to a fabulous fashion-in-the-field photo shoot, the boys are at their best when called upon to dig deep back in Canberra; bash Labor and trash parliamentary democracy to the end.

The spirit of Christmas erupts across both ochre-red and eucalypt-green chambers of federal parliament as MPs break up for the year, Thursday, with a riotous free-for-all. It’s a joyously bicameral, poly-partisan, fiesta of back-stabbing, smearing and blaming amidst the ritual, slagging-off of Labor that now usurps all policy or reasoned exchange. Government MPs seem elated that they have the numbers to deny the opposition its democratic right of reply.

Ironically, there’s no debate allowed on the re-introduced Ensuring Integrity, a bill to further silence dissent in the workforce, a law which could deprive workers’ of their right to withhold their labour; make strike action impossible.  Could any Labor MP fail to get the vibe? Or mistake the lower house for a debating chamber? It’s now Morrison’s “bubble”. For Katharine Murphy, it shows how little parliament matters to a Morrison government. Albo is disgusted.

“They run in to gag the debate. They refuse to allow anyone to speak to push through legislation, to what end? So that they can make a point that while they lost in the Senate last week, they won’t on the floor of the House of Representatives?

“We know they have a majority on the floor of the House of Representatives, but this is not, or should not be, a totalitarian state … Dissent and the right of people to represent their electorates have been shut down.”

Warming to the occasion, Angus Taylor, a former Rhodes Scholar who makes Tony Abbott look bookish, over-cooks his already well-stuffed goose by accusing Naomi Wolf of anti-Semitism. His seasonal Christmas tree war is a total fabrication which plays well to misogynists, racists and all conflicted and confused opponents of political correctness.

Taylor’s outrageous fiction ignores Wolf’s objection that she was nowhere near Oxford in 1991 as he alleges. Besides, she rather likes Christmas. In a sensational development, she rings Taylor’s office whilst recording the response before posting it on YouTube and social media. In a post-fact era, her rational, logical, objections are automatically overruled.

Besides, as a woman, a feminist and a victim of male malfeasance she has three strikes against her already in the Trump era.

Yet Taylor is a racist parody in response. Racist? Taylor? Why, some of his best friends are Jewish and he’s got a Jewish grandmother. Irrefutable proof of virtue. It’s a low pitch to divert a nation still in uproar over Clover-gate.

It’s also, as Jacqueline Maley notes in The Brisbane Times, a farcical indictment of our wilful abandonment of reason and the siloes into which we’ve retreated. Or been abducted by our elected representatives. Maley sums up the spat;

“So, here we have it, at year’s end: the greatest, weirdest and the saddest encapsulation of the tribalism that seems increasingly to define our politics: two people at odds, one from the left, one from the right, both with reputations for playing loose with the facts to make ideological points.”

Equally loose with the facts in service of ideology, Morrison’s government by and for and of the ruling elite, a hardy, noxious hybrid of kleptocracy, kakistocracy and oligarchy, is hell-bent on expanding wage slavery under the guise of his vitriolic hatred of “union thugs”.

The coalition government gags debate in a ram-raid on democracy so that its Ensuring Integrity Bill, passes through a bruised lower house to await a newly compliant senate when parliament resumes next year.

Together with side-lining parliamentary democracy, Ensuring Integrity further trammels workers’ rights to freedom of association and makes it easier for governments to deregister unions as well as just interfere in union governance.

A win will further handicap unions’ efforts to monitor workplace agreements and employee entitlements; create an environment which invites wage theft. Whilst this may delight some employers it has dire implications for those families who increasingly depend on underpaid, insecure, casualised or uberised work. And it will help stuff the economy.

Workers must have wages to spend to buy the goods and services our worthy small businesses have for sale.

But there’s big profits in cutting wages and keeping wages down, down, down. Woolworths’ eye-watering underpayment of $300 million to 5700 of its employees happens right before the regulator’s eyes. Unpaid wages may even run to $620 million according to a class action launched this week, reports employment lawyer, Josh Bornstein.

Australian bosses underpay their workers by $1.35 billion every year, PwC estimates, in its November report.

Wage theft is rampant in the hospitality industry, notes Bornstein.  The Good Food Guide would fold tomorrow if it excluded those eateries that underpaid or otherwise ripped off their staff.

Workers are most vulnerable in construction (~$320 million), healthcare and social assistance (~$220 million), accommodation and food services (~$190 million) and retail (~$180 million). This estimate includes ~21% of the workforce in the selected industries, or ~13% of the total Australian workforce, reports PWC.

Speaking of rip-offs How good is Gladys Liu? Thursday we learn Morrison’s Great Australian is demanding the Liberal Party repays her $100,000 donation. It was only ever a loan. Victorian Liberals needed her money to hold Chisholm, a marginal Melbourne seat, she says. Liberal Party-poopers beg to differ. Thank God for Scott Morrison’s leadership.

“That’s a matter for the Victorian division of the Liberal Party. I was a state director a long time ago. That is no longer my job,” Morrison ducks and weaves in Canberra, Thursday, eagerly leading in evasion and prevarication at every turn.

But when money talks, a nation pays attention. And even our PM’s charisma can’t compete with Liu’s story.

Australia thrills to its small business backbone to hear how Glad’s pal Allen Saylav, ex-Brighsun CEO, backpacked to raise capital for his plucky little EV bus start-up.

Gladys steered Brighsun towards federal backing in 2015, taking the wheel as the company’s pro-bono Communications Director. Her role led her to organise events with former Minister of Energy and Direct Action dirt magic boondoggler, Greg Hunt, who was then flashing bags of cash for carbon abatement.

Gladys is so passionate about clean energy, she tells Nine Newspapers, she charges no fee.

Alas, poor Saylav has no idea the million dollars in cash including a cool half million he picks up in a Oztrail Quest backpack at a Melbourne BP petrol station car park in April and May 2016 involves a heroin-dealer. A drug mule? Who would know?  Not that Saylav can’t explain himself. He’s just following orders. From Mr Zhang.

Brighsun’s Chinese co-director and fat-cat backer, Zhang Genjiang is a Crown casino high roller who jets into Melbourne on his private plane for a flutter. As you do.

Australia is now completely made-over into Morrison’s own Trumpian dis-United States or commonwealth of Metanoia complete with Jacqui Lambie the post-modern anti-heroic little Tassie battler left bleating and freaking out about national security, a phrase which means whatever any MP wants it to mean – but how good’s a mystery ending?

“There is no secret deal,” Mathias Cormann insists – despite all circumstantial evidence pointing towards Lambie being gulled; duped by a promise that Morrison’s government would look into re-settling 500 asylum-seekers who have survived the repeal of Medevac being resettled in New Zealand.

Not that Morrison ever said that. His leadership weasel words include “revisiting” New Zealand’s offer of a deal which was never off the table, he says – despite being rubbished by himself and Dutton as a back-door to refugees resettling in Australia – The Greatest Country in the World. A deal may still be on – but only when the US takes all 500 asylum seekers off Nauru and Manus, an event six months away, at the earliest – and after extreme vetting – in other words, most likely never.

The nation thrills this week to the riddle, wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma of the Morrison government, a puzzle, that includes Lambie’s Faustian bargain, Angus Taylor’s war on both Naomi Wolf and Clover Moore with Gladys Liu’s to-do tipping the government’s weekly balance from hyper-partisan warfare and union thuggery into utter skulduggery.

The one-time trombone-playing former teacher’s aide and ex-chemist-shop proprietor cannot keep mum forever about her Brighsun or Liberal associates, nor they about her, especially as she now has cause to ask for her money back.

Any sensible, practical government would demand the resignation of both Gladys Liu and Angus Taylor. Given his form so far, Scott Morrison is likely to find fifty shades of grey evasion including blaming Labor and Wolf to avoid taking any decision.

There is no individual, no institution nor any emerging crisis so big that this government cannot find a way to look past it.

 

A Whale of a Taylor, too.

angus taylor feels the heat Thursday

“People aren’t spending” sighs Fran Kelly at the end of ABC Insiders Sunday, blaming us for the government’s epic failure to manage the economy. It’s always the victim’s fault. Yet if you don’t have it, you can’t spend it.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) records a snail’s pace in the latest increase in household incomes. ABS data shows a healthy increase from 1995 through until 2012, the period of the Howard and then Rudd/Gillard governments. Then it collapses in 2013. It is yet to recover. No wonder 9,300 retail stores will close their doors this year.

Average wealth per adult Australian, also fell by $US28,670 in 2018-2019 reports Credit Suisse in its annual global wealth report. Although Credit Suisse’s calculation includes falling house prices and a falling Australian dollar – and despite Australians remaining among the wealthiest in the world, the report confirms economic mismanagement.

We are one of a tiny minority of countries with wealth per adult lower in 2019 than back in 2012.

Vast amounts of wealth are being shunted offshore with little or no benefit to the people of Australia.

“There is no mineral resources rent tax, no other scheme to retain wealth in Australia, tax avoidance and evasion are rife, the Tax Office’s audit and enforcement divisions are severely understaffed and the Government keeps giving handouts to its foreign corporate mates,” writes Alan Austin.

What is improving is the Coalition’s strangle-hold on the media, helped in the ABC’s case by $84 million budget cuts, intimidating calls to head office, stacking of the board and a PM’s captain’s pick of Ita Buttrose as ABC Chair. AFP raids on working journalists help to increase the state’s pressure on everyone not to criticise; step out of line.

Journos pick up the vibe. Last week, Kelly’s love-in with work experience kid, Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg aids and abets Coalition’s lies about its comprehensive, colossal failure to manage the Australian economy.

“When we came to government, unemployment was 5.7%. Today it’s 5.3%. We have a record number of Australians in jobs. We have just produced the first current account surplus since 1975 … the budget is back in balance, already delivered, for the first time in 11 years. And we’re going to deliver a surplus. That means paying down Labor’s debt. Right now we have an interest bill of around $19 billion a year …”

 “So what we need to do is build the resilience of the Australian economy and face those domestic and global economic headwinds that all countries are facing, particularly the trade tensions,” Frydenberg lies.

OK, Josh. Perhaps you’d like to take credit for at least half of that debt and rising interest yourself. Hey Big Spender, your government spends like a drunken sailor. Since March, Australia’s gross debt was $543,409,430,000. Double all debt accumulated by every government from Federation to the 2013 election. Just tell the truth.

Global headwinds? Mathias Cormann – who’s never been the same since his arithmetic failed him as Dutton’s numbers man in the Liberals’ last leadership coup – has been wearing out this excuse since he become finance minister. Luckily, he need suffer no longer. He’ll quit politics at the end of this parliamentary session according to Paul Bongiorno. Cormann should go. Ten years ago, the nation was praised for its success during the GFC.

Now we lag the field. Global wealth grew during the past year as the five-year international boom in trade, jobs, investment, corporate profits and government revenue continues, although Alan Austin reports some easing with the new record high adult wealth reaching $70,850 or just 1.2% below last year’s record.

There are no global headwinds. The excuse is invoked whenever jobless figures rise, interest rates are cut, GDP per capita is lower than last year and declining productivity, among other factors, show our local economy stalling.

We’re all at sea. The mutinous dog in the captain’s rig may have seized the helm in last year’s dirty double, double-crossing of Turnbull. But the usurper has no charter; no vision. His first mate can’t read a compass and the crew are frigging in the rigging or sleeping in a cabin far below. No wonder Chief Purser Cormann is about to jump ship.

With Fran’s help, Frydenberg’s farrago of lies includes his party’s whopper that it has a record number of Australians in jobs. Yet Australia’s population growth of 1.7 million people (over 15 years old) during the same period, “created” those jobs. And a record number of deaths, too, not that you hear any boasting on that score.

Even if you take figures at face value, ABC, you could query the quality of those jobs. As in the US, many Australian workers are waiting up to a decade for a pay rise, income inequality is at record levels, working hours are long or unpredictable and penalty rates are being cut or do not exist. Conditions are also rapidly getting worse.

Wage theft is becoming the new normal as every month another corporation is found underpaying its workers.

“For many workers there is no on-the-job training or chance for career progression, stress related illnesses due to intense work pressures are common and large sections of the workforce live in fear of being sacked without notice or redundancy pay because employment security provisions have been eroded,” reports the ACTU.

Above all, as The Australia Institute’s Richard Denniss asks, “… if the Coalition is managing the economy, why did they grow the population rather than create jobs for those who were already unemployed?” We need to explode the pernicious myth of the coalition as good economic managers.  And as Denniss puts it, the economy’s effect on the budget vastly outweighs the effect of any budget on any economy.

Budgets are important but budgets are not central to the management of the economy.

Context matters. Unemployment was indeed 5.7% at the end of the financial crisis or global recession of 2013 but that rate still put us eighth in OECD rankings – as contrasted with our 21st place today at 5.3% as shown in last month’s ABS data. That’s our lowest ranking since records have been kept. But no-one holds Josh to account.

The budget is not back in balance. As Finance Dept data reveals, the deficit at the end of October is around $14.7 billion. A surplus is predicted for next June. Alan Austin spells it out, that’s seven months away.

Above all, as Ross Gittins and others point out, any surplus requires a series of heroic assumptions which include expecting government spending to grow by just 0.1% in real terms – as opposed to 4.9% last financial year.

Then there are the decidedly unheroic calculations and assumptions of this government. Helping create a sacred surplus are cuts to NDIS, although the preferred term is “underspend”. Chief amongst these is the $4.6bn that has not been spent on NDIS, or to use the bureaucrats’ jargon, the “… slower than expected transition of participants into the NDIS and lower utilisation of participants’ individual support packages”.

In other words, our most vulnerable experience delay or denial as more stringent assessments reduce the numbers who qualify for NDIS. Wheelchair Basketball and Tennis, Paralympian Dylan Alcott is disgusted.

“I see the heartbroken families of people who try and try to get funding but can’t, robbing them to be independent, contributing members of society. Fix it.”

Then there’s the timing of receipts. Bringing forward the collection of tobacco excise collections, for example, Shane Wright reminds us, boosts the bottom line by several billions in the new financial year. But wait!

Look over there! In an “explosive allegation”, a Chinese spy ring, exposed by Nine’s 60 Minutes, Sunday, may involve the late Bo “Nick” Zhao, (32) a former luxury car-dealer in leafy Glen Iris in Melbourne’s sleepy eastern suburbs who was offered one million dollars to be a Chinese agent of influence in Australian federal politics.

Or so the self-professed Manchurian candidate, Bo told ASIO a year ago. Is Glen Iris the den of sedition, our ex-pat local sage and dramaturge Barry Humphries, has always warned us about?  Sandy Stone now a suburban guerrilla?

A nation is shocked to learn of the plot to parachute Bo into the Liberal seat of Chisholm. Bo would then be injected like a bacillus into the fibrillating heart of our body politic, our parliament, like Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (Lenin) in the train to the Finland Station in April 1917. Seriously? More panic from Canning MP, Andrew Hastie.

“I heard that he was a 32-year-old Melbourne resident cultivated by the Chinese Government to run as a Liberal Party candidate,” Chair of Parliamentary Joint Subcommittee on Intelligence and Security Hastie breathlessly tells Channel Nine whose chairman is former Liberal Treasurer and current chair of the Board of Guardians of our $148 billion (that won’t be invested in education, health or welfare) Future Fund, nest-egg, Peter Costello.

Sadly, it turns out Bo’s in jail awaiting trial for fraud in October when Chisholm’s preselection takes place. Gladys Liu, who also boasted she could raise a million dollars for the cause, takes his place. Bo’s bid would be a Chinese Communist Party long-term strategy, helpfully suggests Alex Joske, Australian Strategic Policy Institute analyst.

Did Bo know too much? Tragically, he is found dead of a drug overdose in a Mount Waverly motel after tipping off ASIO that Chinese intelligence operatives would give him a million dollars to run for Chisholm. What could possibly have gone wrong? The party would even have given him a hand with the odd fake AEC polling booth or two.

Mandarin language electoral booths in Chisholm and Kooyong and in several other electorates with Chinese speakers instruct unwary voters to unwittingly tick the box to elect the Liberal candidate. These appear to be authorised by the Australian Electoral Commission. Prove they affected one vote say government lawyers.

Cases have been brought against the two candidates by climate campaigner Vanessa Garbett and unsuccessful independent Kooyong candidate Oliver Yates. The fake poll booth case is currently before the full federal court.

Former acting Victorian Liberal party state director, Simon Frost, has testified that signs written in Chinese at polling booths on election day were designed to look like official Australian Electoral Commission signage. Preliminary comments from the bench are not encouraging. At least the spy scandal gets our PM’s attention.

“Deeply disturbing”, Scott Morrison finds the spy claims, he says, while Liberal MP for Canning, first talent-spotted by Greg Sheridan, and an Abbott, captain’s pick, former SAS Captain, Andrew Hastie, cranks up the hysteria.

A state-sponsored attempt to infiltrate our Parliament using an Australian citizen and basically run them as an agent of foreign influence in our democratic system,” cries Andrew “handy Andy” Hastie, who chairs the Australian Parliament’s oxymoron – its intelligence and security committee.

It seems to give Hastie a lot of prominence if not power.

Incredibly, another self-proclaimed Chinese spy, Wang Liqiang, who also comes to Hastie’s attention, is the star of a 60 Minutes’ show when he comes forward with sensational allegations. Wang claims he worked as a secret Chinese operative for five years. Worse, Beijing has directed overseas assassinations, including on Australian soil.

Yet barely a week passes before our spooks conclude the self-proclaimed Chinese spy is not a highly trained intelligence operative dispatched by Beijing to wreak havoc on China’s enemies. At most, they suggest, he may be a bit player on the fringes of the espionage community. But what a star. Let’s hope he’s awarded asylum.

“We develop friendly co-operation with Australia and other countries based on mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit,” a foreign ministry spokesman says. “We have not interfered and are never interested in interfering in other countries’ domestic affairs.”

That settles that, then. Meanwhile, it seems Wang may have some charges to face should he return to China. The Chinese Embassy insists he is merely a “self-proclaimed intelligence agent” and a convicted fraudster who was sentenced to one year and three months in prison, with a suspended sentence of a year and a half.

The embassy cites a Shanghai police statement of an investigation into Mr Wang they opened in April, after he allegedly cheated 4.6 million yuan ($960,000), in a “fake investment project”, involving car imports in February.

Chinese spies is the latest episode of Morrison’s Police State which stars our fearless anti-hero the PM as daggy-Dad, a NSW copper’s son, making yet another dud judgement call. Rather than get his Minister for Energy, Emissions, water-rorts and Round-Up, Angus Taylor, to explain who cooked up the dodgy document Taylor used to falsely impugn Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore – he rings Mick’s mobile. Is Mick’s number on Scott’s speed dial?

So our PM phones a friend; his former neighbour and bin brother, top cop, Mick Fuller. Mick’s NSW Police Commissioner, a passionate advocate of strip-searching minors, the separation of powers and augmenting the rule of law with a little bit of fear.

Young people should have a “little bit of fear” of police he tells the fear-mongering Sydney tabloid The Daily Telegraph. It’s a view which former AFP chief Mick Palmer does not share. He says it is frankly frightening.

Morrison tells parliament that Strike Force Garrad (SFG) won’t be going anywhere. He implies Mick’s told him.

SFG is the NSW police investigation of Gus Taylor’s use of doctored documents to ridicule Sydney’s Lord Mayor, Clover Moore for declaring a state of climate emergency over some forged travel figures, Gus swears were downloaded from Sydney City Council’s website, a claim contradicted by the council’s website metadata.

Gus Taylor’s wife, the conservative Liberal political dry, Louise Clegg will be a rival contender against the progressive, bike lane and green energy favouring Clover Moore in the 2020 mayoral elections. Doubtless, no crime will be found to have been committed but no-one will believe Morrison hasn’t leaned on Fuller to back off.

Happily, our spooks are up to snuff. The Australian even suggests that Morrison could learn from their approach. Don’t turn crisis into catastrophe.  Spymaster, ASIO Director-General Mike Burgess looms up late Sunday night to assure all loyal Australians that not only is ASIO aware of the matters but is “actively investigating them“.

A former Telstra information security chief, Mike’s a top bloke says Peter Dutton. Last August Mike “moved across” to head ASIO after heading the Australian Signals Directorate, (ASD). He was on deck to News Corp Annika Smethurst whose scoop, April last year busted an ASD plan to spy on all Australians. Mike says it’s bollocks.

Mike Burgess and two departmental heads, (always better than one) issued a rare public statement disputing the report. Later Smethurst’s home was raided by the Australian Federal Police, reports Michelle Grattan, looking for anything which would lead them to her source.

Since then, there’s been a lot of fuss and bother about the role of the free press, a debate in which News Corp is handicapped by the baggage of having urged Coalition governments to increase state powers to spy on us all.

News of the Chinese plot is enough to put a nation off its Uncle Toby’s Weeties, Monday morning and quite upstages Evangelical Stuart Robert’s frantic attempts to hose down the government’s dumpster fire which erupts when, as it knew would happen, its Robodebt assessment or extortion of the poor is ruled illegal Wednesday by the Federal Court. The Morrison government may have to repay hundreds of millions of dollars.

While MSM faithfully report that it’s a shocker of a week for Morrison, it is in fact a very positive week for the Australian worker. Bill Shorten also is in top form. He raises the following matter in parliament. He asks

“Given that the government has now suspended robodebt after three years of operation, is it because the Coalition government at the time of creating it either, a) didn’t seek legal advice, or b) had inaccurate legal advice or c) received legal advice but just didn’t think that Australians would notice the government unjustly enriching itself at the expense of the most vulnerable in Australian society.”

It’s a bad week for Scott Morrison chorus Nine Newspapers following News Corp’s lead. But it’s far from that. It’s a good week or at least a hopeful week for ordinary Australians. What is bad is that Ensuring Integrity and repeal of Medevac are not remotely necessary.

Worse, Jacqui Lambie and Pauline Hanson note the hypocrisy, the double standard applied to workers and Westpac bankers who have just been called out by AUSTRAC on twenty-three million counts of money-laundering.

“The Prime Minister himself came out and said ‘it’s not up to us to deal with it, it’s up to the board to deal with the banks’ – but that’s not good enough,” senator Hanson says.

In the end the Morrison government’s just not good enough, Pauline Hanson nails it. Or big enough.

One bill before the senate extends the government’s campaign to cripple unions; reduce further the power of workers to organise and exercise industrial action while the other is more a fit of pique – a sure sign that petty political point-scoring matters more than the human rights of asylum-seekers – or our compassion, humanity – or our doctors’ Hippocratic oath. Morrison’s government hates any law that Labor may have had a hand in.

Finally there’s the robodebt debacle. The government has been happy to connive at extortion but even when called on its illegal averaging to raise a debt, all its Government Services Minister Stuart Robert can offer is;

“This government does not apologise -” Yet apologise it must. And fitting restitution must soon follow. No government can treat its people with such contempt; nor in reversing the onus of proof put itself above the law.

As for Yellow Peril 2.0, its spy drama, cooler, wiser heads must prevail. Andrew Hastie’s Sinophobia has all the hallmarks of an orchestrated diversion, designed to distract us from a government in deep trouble.

This week Scott Morrison reveals he understands neither the separation of powers nor the rule of law in our democracy; he acts the can-do PM; markets himself as a man of action. Yet this does not give him permission to ring the NSW Commissioner of Police in the midst of a parliamentary sitting to seek details of an investigation it is not his business to ask nor the Commissioner’s business to tell. Both parties are now irrevocably impugned.

Viewed in conjunction with his eagerness to silence dissent and his government’s passage of at least eighty laws increasing the powers of the state to spy on its citizens, his behaviour is not only entirely inappropriate it is truly alarming. The road toward a police state is paved with such incursions into liberty, democracy and justice.

Just as the incessant repetition of party propaganda and lies mask a grave unwillingness to consult others, let alone fairly and effectively manage our nation’s economy and resources whilst elevating illusion over truth.

Yet this tyranny is not inevitable. Armed with knowledge we can resist. We must. Our democracy depends upon it.

Just not cricket, Mr Morrison.

cricket

“Going to be a great summer of cricket, and for our firefighters and fire-impacted communities, I’m sure our boys will give them something to cheer about,” Morrison tweets Wednesday, at the Gabba, prompting former Wentworth MP and AMA President, Kerryn Phelps, to reply that it must be the empathy consultant’s day off.

Reading between the lines, the PM is overwhelmed by nostalgia for a simpler, quieter, Boys’ Own Australia where flannelled fools at the wicket and muddied oafs at the goals” commanded a man’s full attention and respect.

Australia’s Dear Leader is looking forward to kicking back at the end of a big year of getting in touch with his inner totalitarian; denouncing Labor at every turn in a perpetual campaign of hyper-partisan hysteria, union-bashing, evading scrutiny if not accountability and reforming his Party Room. Discussion and debate are all but eliminated.

Now MPs meet to view a PM’s PowerPoint of his latest talking points and vacuous slogans in silence. No smartarse remarks. Apart from his own. Morrison continues to put his foot in his mouth whenever he goes off script.

Something for the burnt-out to cheer about? It’s a shocker. Any self-respecting empathy consultant would run sobbing from the room, in search of another job. A gig with the Duke of York’s media team holds more appeal.

Opportunity beckons. Bond University and RMIT are cutting ties with Pitch@Palace, the disgraced Duke’s business mentoring charity, which once held a business pitching contest every October at Government House in Perth. The UK’s The Daily Telegraph reports that Andrew is no longer leading Pitch which will continue sans royal support.

Ironically, Bond could not recall $50 million stashed overseas when he appeared in Sydney’s Federal Court in 1994. Later, he served three and half years in prison, for stealing $1200 million from Bell Resources’ shareholders. It is the biggest fraud in Australia’s history, maintains Paul Barry. But Bond University still bears his name.

Shocking memory problems also now plague Prince Andrew, former host of Pitch@Palace, who claims he has no recollection of having ever met Virginia Roberts, a seventeen year old, whom convicted paedophile and financial hustler, the late Jeffrey Epstein, is alleged to have procured for his royal highness. His account is hotly contested.

Roberts, now Virginia Giuffre, tells the BBC’s Emily Maitlis the Duke had sex with her three times. The interview will screen 2 December. Giuffre claims Epstein trafficked her to powerful people and then used her as blackmail.

In New York court documents, prosecutors allege Epstein “enticed and recruited, and caused to be enticed and recruited, minor girls to visit” his homes “to engage in sex acts with him, after which he would give the victims hundreds of dollars in cash”. They say that “to maintain and increase his supply of victims, Epstein also paid certain of his victims to recruit additional girls to be similarly abused by him.”

The Duke insists, in an interview with The BBC’s Emily Maitlis, he was at home after a family party, a right royal pizza with the lot at Pizza Express in Woking? He can remember the day, date and year. It’s a lot to swallow. Never met Ms Roberts, no. Sex? No. He’d know “… if you’re a man it is a positive act to have sex with somebody.”

Naturally, The Duchess of York, a title she may keep as long she does not remarry, Sarah Ferguson, rushes to Instagram to defend her ex-husband. Andrew’s “a giant of a principled man” but after his gigantic train-wreck BBC interview, he may need a little professional help. As could our cricketers – with a very different type of pitch.

With “our boys”, Morrison instantly dismisses women’s cricket as anything uplifting. Australia is number one in the world in women’s cricket but you’d never know it from his utterly thoughtless and insensitive comment.

Does he not know, moreover, that our boys’ ball-tampering scandal in Cape Town, last year, has brought the men’s game into grave disrepute? Cricket Australia (CA) itself is in trouble.

Last year, an independent review found that players live in a “gilded bubble — disconnected, for much of each year, from families, friends and the grounding influence of community”.

CA’s review findings are resonant with meaning for all walks of corporate life and contemporary politics.

Cricketers, today’s gladiators, see themselves as being part of a “machine that is fine-tuned for the sole purpose of winning”, reviewers tut-tut, deploring CA’s win-at-all-costs culture. Imagine.  “The reputation of the game of cricket as played by men has been tainted.” Moreover, CA has an “arrogant, controlling and commercialised” culture which reacts to adversity by bullying or ostracising. In brief, it acts like any other corporate enterprise.

Above all, however, CA lacks accountability to its stakeholders, the public. Its independent report is redacted despite all promise of transparency from CA chairman, David Peever. Nor will it publish minutes of its meetings.

It’s not just cricket. CA’s reviewers could be talking about the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Coalition government or its backers, the banks, especially Westpac, which is also in the news, this week, over twenty-three million breaches of money-laundering laws. Happily, after an emergency meeting, CEO, Brian Hartzer, gets to keep his job.

As do the board of directors and the “senior executive team”.   The show must go on. And on. The best the PM can manage is to tell 3AW’s Neil Mitchell and ABC Radio’s AM that it’s not up to the government.

“It’s not for the government to say who should be in those jobs or not, but they should be taking this very seriously, reflecting on it very deeply, and taking the appropriate decisions for the protection of people’s interests in Australia. These are some very disturbing, very disturbing transactions involving despicable behaviour.”

Work experience boy, Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg is asked on ABC Insiders what would he do. Do? “Hard Discussions,” is all he can manage. No-one now seriously believes he has the will or the authority to take a bank to task.

Yet it’s a serious breach and it exposes major flaws in the system. Banks are exploiting loopholes. Anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws have been broken by Westpac, alleges AUSTRAC – on 23 million occasions. This includes failing to adequately monitor the accounts of a convicted child sex offender who was regularly sending money to the Philippines. Morrison says it shows the system is working.

Westpac more generally failed to “carry out appropriate due diligence on customers sending money to the Philippines and South East Asia for known child exploitation risks,” the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre – Australia’s financial intelligence unit and its anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regulator, AUSTRAC alleges.

Westpac is unlikely to be alone, writes regulatory expert Nathan Lynch. The story behind the story is industrial scale tax avoidance, the concealing of enormous cross-border payments. Yet it’s not up to the government?

Morrison’s hands-free policy with a bank is in complete contrast to his government’s Ensuring Integrity (EI) bill which seeks even greater state regulation of unions and a further curtailing of workers’ rights to organise.

If passed into law, the provisions of the EI Bill would directly interfere with the rights to freedom of association and independent functioning of trade unions guaranteed by, among other international instruments, the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, writes Anthony Forsyth, Law Professor in the Graduate School of Business and Law at RMIT University.

Granted, all this could take your mind off the odd bushfire – including the monster in NSW which, at its peak, had a front stretching 6000 kilometres- or from Sydney to Perth. And back. But Morrison is making a grotesquely tone-deaf proposal with “… our boys will give them something to cheer about.”  Does he lack all compassion?

Can Morrison, or any member of his government or PMO seriously believe, that those suffering bushfire’s devastation, the six hundred and twenty-three traumatised by losing their homes; all their earthly goods, or livelihoods, or the six households grieving the loss of a family member will be diverted by a game of cricket?

Because nothing fixes broken people in anguish, & blackened communities & animals in pain like random blokes doing something meaningless on an oval somewhere. “Fire trucks anyone?” “Nah, just some cricket thanks” tweets independent researcher and writer, Ronni Salt.

At least the Pentecostalist PM hasn’t repeated his promise to burn for Australians every single day. Yet.

Our “Prime Minister for standards” as Australia’s Prime Buck-Passer proclaimed himself last January, may be a sandwich short of a picnic when it comes to personality, policy or people-skills but you have to hand it to him, he certainly has the gift of the gaffe. Plus a tin ear. Tone deaf. It will prove his undoing.

Cook’s circumnavigation of Australia? You heard it first from The Gaffer. All Asians look the same? Morrison’s cheery “Ni Hao” to a Korean woman in Strathfield, the little Korea of Sydney’s inner-west. Understandable. He’s got China on his mind, after his mid-year monster diplomatic gaffe when he declared it “a developed country”.

Some gaffes suggest a malignant narcissism. In 2014, something more than a compassion bypass was evident in Morrison’s hostile response to allegations that underage asylum seekers on Nauru had been forced to have sex in front of a guard, and that women were being told to strip in exchange for showers of longer than two minutes.

Morrison announces an inquiry into the allegations but adds that the review will also look into whether the allegations had been concocted. In the meantime, he will remove ten Save The Children staff from Nauru?

“Making false claims, and worse allegedly coaching self-harm and using children in protests is unacceptable.”

They are “employed to do a job, not to be political activists”, Morrison makes his own false claims in a written statement, repeated verbatim at his press conference. Political activists? It’s a damaging and false slur.

Later the Immigration Department, he heads is forced to admit that there is no cause for the staff members to stood down.  “No reason to cause doubt to be cast.” The review results in full compensation being paid.

No censure or penalty is imposed on Immigration Minister Morrison, who goes on to become Treasurer.

As Treasurer, Morrison is questioned by Barrie Cassidy on ABC Insiders. Typically, Morrison denies all responsibility for his error of judgement, his fabrication of a damaging slur. He is as intractable as a mule. Morrie the mule.

“I drew no conclusions on the material that had been presented to me at the time.”

Cassidy tries to hold him to account. “Well, yes, you did.”

“No, I didn’t, Barrie.” He tells Cassidy to go back and check the transcript. Cassidy: “I have.” Shrugging aside all ministerial responsibility, denying any personal accountability, Morrison resorts to the Nuremberg defence:

“I did the job that I had to do in that situation, just as I am doing the job now as treasurer …”

Under pressure, this week, Morrison retreats into climate science denialism, a tactic which John Hewson hazards in The Sydney Morning Herald is “doubling down”, a phrase which originates in blackjack. If you are confident of winning after being dealt only two cards, you can double your bet but may take only one extra card.

High risk can yield high reward in blackjack. Figuratively, the phrase means to “to engage in risky behaviour, especially when one is already in a dangerous situation.”

Doubling down is now applied to any fit of intransigence. Hacks abuse it trying to explain the equally bizarre behaviour of Morrison’s mentor Trump who is now totally consumed by his own impeachment. Gone is all pretence of a Presidential role.  He emerges from his obsessive monitoring of coverage only to whinge to his aides.

Or he doubles down; repeats his allegation that it was “Ukraine not Russia”, a political interference conspiracy theory which nobody is buying. Even Republicans have trouble with it. In desperation, in a phone call to Fox, Trump admits he demanded a quid pro quo from Ukraine, tantamount to a public confession that as US President he resorted to extorting another nation to support his own political witch-hunt of Joe Biden’s son.

Doubling down can be admirably bold or woefully foolhardy. Morrison’s resort to a palpable lie about Australia’s contributions to greenhouse gases shows a contempt for his audience’s intelligence that will be his undoing.

“To suggest that with just 1.3 per cent of global emissions that Australia doing something differently — more or less — would have changed the fire outcome this season, I don’t think that stands up to any credible scientific evidence at all,” he tells ABC radio the following day.

It’s a nonsense response you might expect from a Craig Kelly, not a Prime Minister, deeply flawed in its logic and at odds with the evidence. Imagine if all the “little polluters” continued burning coal – worse, expanding their coal mining as Australia proposes.  Or just be honest with the facts, Morrison.

As AIM writer, Kaye Lee, explains, “in 2016, we were the fifteenth biggest emitter in the world. If we don’t have to worry about our measly contribution, then neither do 180 other countries including the UK, Turkey, Italy, Poland and France, all of whom have smaller emissions than us, and I am not talking per capita.”

As for the evidence, RMIT’s fact check, for example, estimates that Australia’s domestic emissions plus the emissions embedded in its exports added to 1,712 million tonnes in 2016. This represents roughly 3.6 per cent of total global emissions for that year, the latest reliable figures for global emissions.

It’s inspiring stuff. Or contagious. Government by bullying, extortion, deception and denial. Only an Abbott-Turnbull- Morrison government could send 6600 menacing debt letters to wrong addresses. When no-one responds, it uses income averaging to raise dodgy debts. Some are referred on to debt collectors.

Professor Terry Carney’s research finds when Centrelink asks for payment of alleged debts or evidence to disprove them, “most vulnerable alleged debtors will simply throw up their hands, assume Centrelink knows that there really is a debt, and seek to pay it off as quickly as possible”.

This week, the centrepiece of its three ring circus surplus-mania, the Robodebt extortion of over a million Australians – of money we mostly didn’t owe – is put on hold pending a class action from Gordon Legal, championed by Labor which is officially launched Wednesday, while Morrison is making his cricket pitch.

“There are a lot of our fellow Australians – single mums, pensioners, people who’ve been unemployed, people on Austudy, students – who’ve been forced to pay up under a regime which, in my opinion, is not validly based in law,” argues shadow Government Services Minister, Bill Shorten, who confirms that a separate class action will continue to argue that the government is “unjustly enriching itself at the expense of social security recipients”.

Government services ought to include “shakedown, outwrestling and exaction. Seven hundred thousand cases may now be opened to review should this single class action succeed.

Also still proceeding, is Deanna Amato’s imminent federal court case, which is due to be heard on 2 December, reports Victoria Legal Aid. The test case will continue to seek a declaration that the debt raised against Ms Amato is unlawful, despite the government’s announcement that it’s giving up granny-bashing and standover tactics in an unparalleled pause in its war on the poor.

It will, it promises solemnly, no longer rely solely on income-averaging to determine debts. No sense that it abused its duty of care in proceeding with an inherently flawed, cruel and unjust scheme which reverses the onus of proof on to the pensioner to disprove the alleged debt. No sense that it will compensate those whom it terrorised.

Some see the abandonment of Robodebt as likely to put paid to any surplus. The truth is that its net benefit never amounted to much any way. Crikey reports this week, debt-collectors have done very well out of Robodebt.

Over $2 billion worth of so-called debt has been outsourced. Yet it’s cost government $534 million – almost as much as the $658 million that has been collected. The model is deeply flawed as Paul Bongiorno observes

“This model of outsourcing government services, which so often sees taxpayer funds being funnelled to some of the government’s biggest friends and supporters, is increasingly problematic. It is operating in the National Disability Insurance Scheme and in the aged-care sector – where, as the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has shown, millions of dollars of public money is going to the private providers’ profits.”

But this time, Morrison The Congestion-buster, can’t blame his office, which is whittled down to a skeletal staff of fifty mandarins -(where one in five is a former coal industry shill) – as he did, last month, when all thirteen pages of the day’s talking points were emailed to the press gallery.

A conversation scripted to reassure us about a prince’s judgement has the opposite effect. A chance to connect the royal family with the modern world reveals that it is marooned, remote and criminally out of touch.

Similarly, Morrisons tin-eared tweet about cricket reveals a PM who is in another world, a malignant narcissist who is pathologically incapable of feeling for others, a would-be tribal leader who has no moral compass; whose energies are invested solely in maintaining power at any cost and increasingly in the politics of division.

As the economy tanks and households find it harder to make ends meet, after six years in power, the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government has only more coercion to offer the average Australian. And cricket.

Above all, the Robodebt debacle shows a government which has no scruple in waging war on the poor. It has, moreover, connived at diverting funds from schools and hospitals to boost the profits of private providers.

As Christmas, a festival of giving approaches, a cruel and tricky government prepares to further punish workers with a law that is certain to reduce their power to negotiate a living wage.

Yet there is hope for some. The million – plus pensioners who have been caught up in Robodebt may take heart in the fact that the government has been forced to abandon the scheme, at least for now.

Just don’t expect any real reform from the banks under a Morrison government.

 

 

Now is the time, Mr Morrison.

bushfire n nsw six homes

“In this bucket is my house”, Aaron Crowe tells other unquiet Australians rallying in Macquarie St, Sydney, Tuesday. He lifts an organic compost bin, a repurposed twenty gallon steel red drum with hand-made wooden lid, a homely relic of former peaceful, rural domesticity, now, destroyed forever, aloft.

The 38 year-old-father tips a few charred, remnants of the two bedroom home he once built, himself, on to the footpath outside NSW’s Parliament. Crowe and his wife, Fiona Lee, journey 323 kilometres, from Warrawillah, near Bobin, SW of Port Macquarie, to call MPs to account; confront them with the truth.

A powerful, personal, rebuke to the spin-doctors and MSM who drown real voices out of public discourse

Crowe’s gesture is eloquent testimony to a terrifying new bushfire season and a call to authorities, especially NSW state politicians in charge of funds and resources that it’s time to get real about climate science. Communicating climate science through our commercial media with its spectacularisation at the expense of underlying issues, its government media drops and its climate denialism is now impossible.

The challenge of communication has been taken up by independent media, social media, conferences, public meetings and personal protests. No wonder our anti-activist PM has these in his sights.

Crowe testifies to how global warming has bred extreme bushfires against which there is no defence.

“We had ample time to prepare and they’re talking about hopes and dreams, thoughts and prayers, miracles and heroes – it’s not realistic. This is not about unicorns and fairies, this is about people’s lives, it’s only going to get worse.”  Yet Aaron Crowe’s plea is waived aside by his premier and his PM.

Now is not the time to talk about climate change chorus NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and PM Morrison, Tuesday. Bushfire survivor, Badja Sparks contextualises this for The Guardian Australia.

“Today is not the day to talk about climate change.” No, yesterday was, or the day before, or the month before, or the year before. But it didn’t get a mention.

Now we have the reality, and the mention it gets is: “Don’t talk about it now.”

So the politicians (and the media) turn the talk to hazard reduction burns, or the lack of them, as something else to blame on the “inner-city raving lunatics”.

“We had a bushfire two months ago that burned most of our property. It didn’t matter. It burned again.”  Badja attests to a terrifying new type of fire that defies traditional means of control. A crown fire roaring in from the west on a hot afternoon with an 80km/h wind – it wasn’t on the ground. It was a firestorm in the air – raining fire. There was no fuel on the ground; it was already burned.

“Now is not the time” is a tactic the US National Rifle Association (NRA) uses to silence of debate.

NRA “spokespersons” or “public faces” such as Dana Loesch are quick to claim  “now is not the time to talk gun control” after so many of the 36,000 plus annual fatal shootings that make USA’s rate of death by firearm the highest in the developed world. Clearly, not talking works – for the gun lobby.

And for the government. Coalition shill, Chris Kenny in The Australian declares, “Climate alarmists are brazen opportunists preying on misery.”  Pushing the Morrison government’s political barrow he writes,

“Climate alarmists are using tragic deaths and community pain to push a political barrow. Aided by journalists and others who should know better, they are trying to turn a threat endured on this continent for millennia into a manifestation of their contemporary crusade.” 

In “more of the same just more of the same” false equivalence, Kenny’s failure to research any of the characteristics that make the current fires unique does his readers a dangerous disservice.

So, too, does what was once the party of the bush, The Nationals. Now the burnt out people of the bush feel increasingly betrayed by National Party MPs. All MPs. Crikey’s Guy Rundle argues that the Nationals have made themselves the enemy of rural Australia’s survival. Catastrophic fires occur so often now that they are “beginning to wear down the resistant scepticism of large areas of rural Australia”.

When country folk could once pride themselves if not define themselves on the thought that city folk didn’t know what they were talking about, the reality of drought and bushfire has caused a re-think.

Increasingly extreme weather; the lived experience of rural voters tests their dogged loyalty to The National Party and its blind faith in climate science denial. It’s at odds with their own everyday reality.

Undermined is the nub of rural identity which values bush experience and concrete realities over abstract science. Now that rural National voters’ bushfire experience is matching scientists’ warnings, Rundle perceives a weakening of “folk denialism”; traces an awakening of respect for climate science.

It’s complex. Adding to voters’ alienation is the Nationals’ support for mining over farmers. On Channel 10’s The Project, Waleed Ali stumps Michael McCormack in March when he challenges the deputy PM,

“Could you name a single, big policy area where the Nats have sided with the interests of farmers over the interest of miners when they come into conflict?”

Within the network of influence and lobbying which mining holds over the Coalition, Rundle traces a moment when the Nationals as an organisation lost interest in representing their agrarian community.

“Former party leader Anderson became chairman of Eastern Star Gas. His successor in the Nationals, Mark Vaile, now sits on the board at Whitehaven Coal, against which farmers in the Liverpool Plains have staged hundreds of days of blockades. Party scion Larry Anthony was a lobbyist for the Shenhua Watermark mine.”

John Anderson pops up like the White Rabbit on ABC’s The Drum last Friday to falsely claim that “the scientists cannot directly link extreme weather events with climate change”. But they can. And do. And our leaders – must heed them. The Australia Institute economist, Richard Dennis sums up,

Climate change makes bushfires worse. Even if we catch an arsonist who lights a fire, the fact is the fires they light will burn further and faster than they would have if the world had burned less coal, and the temperature was lower than we have made it.

We can manage fuel loads; cut firebreaks, but a fire lit by an arsonist will spread further today. Embers from hotter fires, race across drier ground; spark new fires further from the fire front than ever before.

First the women, younger folk and community leaders are sceptical of the Nationals’ bush mythology. Now, Rundle believes Nationals’ voters’ crisis of faith may harden into one final act of resistance before it cracks irrevocably. Attacking The Greens is one last populist move to regain a show of leadership.

On Monday’s RN Breakfast, McCormack is stung by Greens MP Adam Bandt’s claim that Morrison’s coal-promotion makes him complicit in the suffering of those currently being burnt out by extreme bushfires.

What people need now, the Deputy PM says, is real practical assistance, not “the ravings of some pure, enlightened and woke capital-city greenies”.

To Mid-Coast Councillor, Claire Pontin, McCormack is “just saying silly things”. He and Joyce may have missed this pivotal change in their own constituencies, notes The Saturday Paper’s Paul Bongiorno drily.

The best real, practical assistance McCormack could offer would be to embrace the science. Then he might ask NSW’s premier to reinstate the tens of millions the NSW has cut from state fire services.

Denial, downplaying and disinformation costs lives – especially the myth of false equivalence which holds that both sides are too blame for inaction on climate change, a term which is itself spin-doctored because it’s a neutral substitute for global warming. In fact it’s pretty much all the Coalition’s own work.

And much of that work was achieved by one man. Tony Abbott seized a personal political chance in 2009, writes The Monthly Today’s Paddy Manning, “sold the truth down the river” and in 2014, pre-figured Trump in becoming world’s first political leader to repeal a carbon price. Abbott then agitated against the NEG, creating waves of instability that helped Morrison topple Turnbull. Not only did Abbott put the nation back at least a decade, his legacy continues in Morrison’s lack of energy policy.

To adapt Katharine Murphy’s phrase, no wonder Morrison’s government doesn’t want anyone to talk about climate science, its own record is one of unmitigated shame and ignominious failure.

Yet McCormack insists we shouldn’t be talking about climate change. “Australia’s always burned”, he says. Nothing to see here. Just bushfires that come earlier, stay longer, burn hotter, higher and spread faster; evolving into a threat unlike anything we’ve had to deal with before.

The deputy PM follows up with NRA tactic stage two: shift the blame. If only greenies weren’t locking up our state forests for ecotourism, we could get in and cut the fuel load. Yet only nine per cent of NSW is “locked”. Only Queensland is lower with a shameful eight per cent.

Greenies, moreover, have no issue with hazard reduction. It’s climate change itself is which increasingly restricts burning off. As the fire season extends, south-east Australia dries out. Opportunities to use controllable, low-intensity fire to burn off the litter become fewer.

Above all, not all forest types are amenable to hazard reduction.  Wet sclerophyll and rainforest, for example, are not fire-adapted and most of the time are too moist to ignite. When they are dry enough to burn, it is too dangerous to burn them explains Brendan Mackey, director of the Climate Change Response Program at Griffith University.

This is what the ecological and climate emergency looks like,” says Fiona Lee.  It’s a young couple’s way of calling out the Morrison government for recently voting down an Opposition move to declare a state of climate emergency. Dismissing Labor’s bill as “symbolic” and impractical, Energy Minister, Angus Taylor says its “emotive language” ignores everyday Australians’ practical needs. He would know.

Taylor belongs to a government that wilfully ignores practical needs. 23 former emergency service chiefs wrote to Scott Morrison, in April, seeking an urgent meeting to discuss the serious threats facing communities this fire season due to climate change. In September, they wrote again. All were rebuffed while federal MPs rubbish any attempt to have a national state of climate emergency declared.

A hyper-partisan, Morrison government irretrievably stuck in campaign mode politicises the issue:

Labor is making a huge song and dance about declaring a climate emergency, but refuses to commit to a single policy in this area from the last election,” jeers Taylor.

Meanwhile, a ferocious new fire burns across the land, defying all traditional forms of management and causing the NSW government to declare a state of emergency, Monday. 500 homes are destroyed in one week. The fires are unprecedented in length, extend and intensity.

62 fires are burning across NSW, 56 of which have not been contained, ahead of a heatwave predicted for Tuesday which could see temperatures reach the mid-40s.

A “once in a century fire” is burning for the third time in ten years, a frequency which threatens even the false complacency nurtured by National Party retail politicians, such as Barnaby Joyce whose mantra is that bushfires and drought are just a feature of life in the bush, or that someone or something else is to blame. This week it’s The Greens again and or the sun’s magnetic field and or bad hazard reduction.

As it destroys life, property and virgin natural bushland, however, the terrible new fire threatens one of the bastions of climate change denialism itself, The National Party of the bush which is also under siege from drought and double-digit unemployment is losing credibility as its constituents experience first- hand the conditions climate scientists predicted. Will it also be the death of the National Party? If so, reflects Crikey’s Guy Rundle it will be the only death that is deserved.

“The pressure is now on Scott Morrison to resolve the fierce resistance in his own government’s ranks and respond with policies that persuade voters – thousands of them victims of this week’s inferno – that the federal Liberals and Nationals get it.” Paul Bongiorno notes.

Eastern NSW is ablaze. Bush fires, bigger and more ferocious than any Australia’s experienced before, include crown fire, an eighty kilometre an hour aerial firestorm – there’s no fuel left on the ground – raze a million hectares; cut a swathe of destruction already equal to that of the last three fire seasons combined. Areas burn at an intensity and in a season never seen before, says ecologist, Mark Graham.

A million hectares burn in NSW alone. Queensland and other states face the biggest fire front in Australia’s history. Catastrophic conditions are forecast for Sunday in four WA regions: east Pilbara coast, west Pilbara coast, east Pilbara inland and Ashburton Inland.

Catastrophic fire conditions is a recent forecast category which arose from the inquest into Victoria’s 2009 Black Saturday Fires in which 173 people died.

“It’s a treacherous combination of gusty winds, high temperatures, low humidity and extreme dryness. Any fire that ignites will quickly reach intensities and move at speeds that place properties and lives in imminent danger,” writes Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, ARC Future Fellow in the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of NSW. Her definition could be a summary of global warming’s role.

So far in NSW, six people have died, nearly 500 homes have been destroyed, reports the Rural Fire Service (RFS).  That’s more than double the previous most severe bushfire season in 2013-14, when 248 homes were lost. More than 1,650,000 hectares have been burnt across the state — more land than during the past three bushfire seasons combined. And the fires could rage for weeks.

“It is likely that the fire threat in Northern NSW and South East Queensland will continue for weeks unless significant rainfall occurs assisting fire fighters to extinguish blazes,” says Andrew Gissing emergency management expert with the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre.

Up in smoke goes any hope that our nation’s leaders may provide for or protect us. Instead, state and federal MPs rush to hide their blame; circling their wagons to defend their own shameful record of wilful neglect, climate reality denial and how their loyalty to big donors in mining eclipses any civic duty.

Avoidance is the Morrison government’s default position on issue which might involve taking responsibility; facing the fact that anthropogenic climate change is creating droughts, floods and fires.

More alarming is the censorship attempted by the NSW government when it tells its public servants attending a conference on adapting to climate change not to make any link between climate and fire.

It’s all too much for Morrison who vanishes Tuesday afternoon only to bob up Friday in praise of model corporate citizen QANTAS’ 99th birthday and to greet George Brandis returning on the Dreamliner which makes an historic nineteen hour nineteen minute non-stop flight London to Sydney. That’s at least 300,000 litres of fuel return.

The IPCC estimates that aviation is responsible for around 3.5 percent of anthropogenic climate change, a figure which includes both CO2 and non-CO2 induced effects. Luckily MPs have scapegoats.

Joyce adds to the myth that the latest bushfires are caused by The Greens’ curbing back-burning and fire-hazard reduction despite the fact that climate change has made back-burning too dangerous.

Ever the conservationist, Barnaby recycles the voice of disinformation, populist shock-jock and LNP parrot Alan Jones who blames the fires on The Greens, falsely claiming they had prevented controlled burns. In fact it’s global warming itself which is preventing controlled burning. Such measures are impossible due to the unique nature of the drought and the very dry conditions.

“Honestly, not today” calls NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian as a reporter, who had previously been speaking to couple asks Scott Morrison about climate change. ABC News interrupts Morrison’s response.

“In this bucket is my house,” Crowe tells the crowd. “When’s the time to talk about climate change then, if I’m standing in the wreckage of my own house?”

“The time is definitely right for talking about climate change – for me, there has never been a better time to talk about climate change,” his wife tells the crowd outside.

Morrison’s absence for most of last week is an indictment of his failure to lead – as are the comments of his ministers, McCormack and Taylor. What is urgently needed is an embargo on the spin-doctors and a willingness to accept the facts; confront the reality that global warming means a terrible new type of bushfire that demands all of our resources not more of the Federal Coalition’s division and scapegoating.

Above all it means heeding reality; the stories of people like Aaron and Fiona have much to tell us. We cannot afford to brush them aside any more than we can ignore their cries for help.

As expert firefighters have told Morrison, we will need to put in a lot more resources if we are to deal with the new levels of devastation, the new fires are bringing. His government and all state governments need to start listening. Twenty years ago would have been good but now is the next best time.

Labor’s “brave review” fails to upstage Morrison’s incompetence.

Bill and Chloe

Were politics reset in keeping with the times, the parties would concede that it is not a contest between social democracy and a capitalist free-for-all, or “the light on the hill” and “the forgotten people”, or even conservatives and progressives, but one in which the ghosts of organisations that once had some claim to represent these passions compete to prove themselves the superior financial managers. Don Watson

Attack of the Labor Zombies: “Review of Labor’s 2019 Election Campaign”, the ritual killing of Bill Shorten by hungry ghosts, premiers nationally, this week, six months after Bill’s political death, a fate which the commentariat is still finalising for him despite his promising to “hang around” for another twenty years.

Karen Middleton scoffs at Shorten’s pledge. “He’ll be in his seventies”, she sighs, on ABC Insiders Sunday. Bill will be 72. Four years younger than Joe Biden. Elizabeth Warren’s 70. Billy Hughes served for 51 years; died at 90 before he could get around to thinking about retiring. But it’s not about age.

It’s … the chutzpah. “He’s got to win all those elections.” Shorten won almost a five per cent (4.99%) swing to Labor in his Victorian seat of Maribyrnong, last election. Next he’s at fault for making his twenty-year pledge before the review comes out to help others decide his future for him.

How very dare he get in first?

MSM is consumed by the review; the review of the review and any excuse at all to kick Bill Shorten.

Kill Bill has become a national sport since Tony Abbott contrived to make “Bill Shorten” a pejorative term, a project taken up shamelessly by Malcolm Turnbull and with glee by bully Morrison.

Interviews with Morrison normalise his bullying, as Dr Jennifer Wilson argues, in analysis of the PM’s manic scattergun barrage of bullshit to cover his running away from the question guerrilla tactics.

Julia Banks quit parliament after only a term because of the level of bullying during the leadership spill.

What’s even more alarming is the subtext that Morrison, miraculously, got everything right. Scapegoats help with that. It’s a by-product of reducing party politics to the popularity of the leader, part of our brave new age of populist personality politics where policy and reasoned argument count less than spin and image. And Morrison’s fevered hyper-partisanship makes Tony Abbott look like a peace-maker.

Albo offers to accompany Morrison to NSW bushfire areas, he tells Fran Kelly, Sunday. His offer is brushed aside. Something about not getting in the way of “the rescue effort”. Later media images show Morrison, alone, comforting victims, as he did with his drought series of visits, grandstanding on grief.

But Labor doesn’t seem to have got the memo that there’s a war on. Blending psychic surgery with forensic post-mortem, Labor eviscerates itself for a ritual cleansing. Bares its soul. And then some. The Review … is an unparalleled, almost naive act of faith. No wonder it gets everyone’s attention.

But why? Is this orgy of over-sharing prompted by some rush of utopian socialism which only true believers can call into being? Or is it folly? It’s unique, says ABC’s Laura Tingle, her take on “brave”.

“That’s very brave of you, minister. An extremely courageous decision,” as Mr Appleby would say.

Yet Labor’s purpose, beside officially defining what went wrong, is to draw a line under its defeat.

Fat chance. Just because closure is a tabloid TV victim’s top buzz-word doesn’t make it achievable. Somehow, there’s something for everybody because, you know, Labor lost. By Sunday’s ABC Insiders, a  narrow loss morphs into a rout. Labor can’t even pass its own post-mortem exam, Fran Kelly implies.

It’s not easy. Former Keating speech-writer, Don Watson, notes that Labor’s changing constituency increasingly includes service-sector employees, lower-level managers and healthcare workers, as the middle class itself is changing. Labor’s review even detects an influx of woke, affluent, graduates in Southern states, whom, it contends can afford the luxury of idealism. It’s a dangerous hypothesis.

“Since university graduates, on average, earn higher incomes and have more secure jobs than those without tertiary qualifications, they are more readily able to think about issues such as climate change, refugees, marriage equality and the rights of the LGBTQI+ community.”

But a few rich grads didn’t win Labor any seats, Emerson and Wetherill are quick to note. And if your idealism or concern for justice and the survival of the planet is in proportion to your wealth, heaven help the rest of us. Paul Keating reckons Labor lost because it failed to understand the “new middle-class”.

New? Watson sees a class with no ideology nor even consciousness of itself as a class. Being new it has “no roots beyond its self-interest”. He hopes Morrison hasn’t already press-ganged it into Quiet Australians, another bogus, Silent Majority.

But who needs analysis? Nuance is banished from our national conversation. Labor’s review simply has to make Bill the villain. You can’t trust Bill Shorten. It’s the old Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison melodrama.

News Corp prefers a shifty, shorthand, “dud leader, dud policies, dud strategy”, summation which bears no resemblance to the subtler findings published by Dr Craig Emerson and Jay Weatherill who chair Labor’s inquiry. But given Murdoch’s stranglehold over our media, it will soon become gospel truth.

Paul Kelly, The Australian’s editor at large, wilfully misrepresents the report.  Eagerly, he invents a turf war. Two Labor constituencies are at war with each other. Father Kelly fears for Labor  – a fear which Fran Kelly and others put to Albo. How can Labor possibly bridge the gap between blue-collar and gown?

“The Labor Party now resembles two rival constituencies fighting each other — their origins embedded in the party’s past and its ­future — a conflict that extinguished Labor’s hopes at the May election and a chasm that nobody knows how to bridge,” Kelly fantasises. But it’s never had any trouble in the past.

Rupert’s troupers can’t labour Labor’s factionalism enough. It diverts from Coalition disunity. All is not well, for example, in Cockies’ Corner. Nationals Deputy Leader and Minister for Agriculture, Bridget McKenzie, “couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery” one MP tells ABC’s Lucy Barbour.

McKenzie is under pressure to perform; step up to the plate or step aside. Pauline Hanson’s taken all the credit for saving the dairy farmers and the PM seems to own drought the relief compassion show.

Barnaby Joyce is still agitating for promotion despite spending $675,000 for only three weeks in the field and not providing any reports as special drought envoy. But as media keep the focus on Shorten’s failure and the myth of Labor’s imminent decent into civil war, the Morrison miracle spin gets a further tweak.

(By the magic of implication, the current struggle between Nats and Libs – witness the spat over who owns the theatre of drought relief, or the Liberals capture by climate change denialists – means the Coalition with its three Prime Ministers in six years, rivals The Mormon Tabernacle Choir for harmony.)

Not the Puritan Choir, that’s another, evangelical, faction led by Mr Probity, Stuart Robert, architect of the Turnbull assassination plot. But all is forgiven. He’s repaid $37,975, only $8000 shy of what he had previously claimed as ‘residential internet expenses’.  Streaming Christian TV from home is not cheap.

Be fair. Stu’s wife, Peoples’ Pastor Chantelle, can’t run her Pentecostal online evangelism without a decent broadband connection. Robert also says he’s returned a brace of gold Rolex watches, he and his wife – and other Coalition MPs received in 2013 from Chinese instant noodle billionaire Li Ruipeng.

Robert, Abbott and Macfarlane thought the $250,000 worth of watches were fakes, they say. As you do, whenever any oligarch tenders a token of his esteem in expectation of a return favour. Or perhaps not.

Or perhaps you do – if you’re an Australian MP seeking favour. Robert resigned from Turnbull’s ministry when he breached the Ministerial Code of Conduct on a business trip to China for Nimrod resources in which he somehow gave his Chinese hosts the false impression he was in China in an official capacity.

In 2017, Robert’s eighty-year-old father, Alan, discovers that he is a director of one of his son’s companies and that his son has used his Dad’s address on one of his businesses. Without telling him. The private company in question is doing rather well in winning government contracts, until then.

You won’t catch Robert or Morrison holding any public review. It’s against their religion. Look at the trouble Morrison’s mentor Brian Houston is having just complying with NSW police investigation. He’s refusing to answer questions about his father’s child abuse. The tactic seems to be working perfectly.

Frugal with the truth, lest Satan strike you whilst your guard is down, God’s hot-eyed warriors know when to keep stumm. Just as they know that God put coal underground for our blessing and just as they are happy to burn for mining while awaiting the rapture, believing they will be saved by their faith.

Thou shalt not fear fossil fuels preaches Pentecostal Pastor PD King in The Christian Post.

Yet Robert’s god-botherers and coal warriors are not symptoms of deep division in the Coalition. Nor are Tim Wilson, Dave Sharma, Jason Falinski, Katie Allen, Angie Bell and Trent Zimmerman who sign on to parliamentary friends of climate action, “a safe place away from partisan politics”, which has Greens, Labor and cross-bench supporters, only to snub their very first meeting 14 October.

But not all MSM scribes are bluffed. Do what Father Morrison does: walk both sides of the chasm at the same time. Granted, “Shut up and eat your peas, dad is talking” is Morrison’s leadership style, as The Guardian Australia’s Katharine Murphy astutely discerns, but don’t let a paternal despot pull the wool.

“… look at Morrison, who manages to walk every side of every street simultaneously and talk out of both sides of his mouth and suffer no apparent penalty.”

Murphy’s amused by Morrison’s hypocrisy in his illiberal lecture to the mining mafia last Friday week in which he threatens yet another new clampdown, (number 84 and counting) on the civil liberties of illiberal protesters who are exercising their right to boycott businesses who collude with coal-miners to extinguish the planet. She believes he just says this sort of stuff for effect and hopes nobody notices.

Also hypocritical is Morrison’s message that he’ll do everything for coal. Only a few days earlier, he makes a billion dollar grant to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC). Abbott tried to close down the CEFC along with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), a move Turnbull reversed.

Morrison’s CEFC grant will help fund new transmission infrastructure to help clean energy access more of the national grid. Next he agrees to help underwrite the main NSW-Queensland interconnector.

Murphy rightly asks why Morrison is able to shape-shift every day of the week but Labor is excoriated for selling out when it tries to straddle two constituencies. Worse, it must get a real leader, like ScoMo, the actor playing the daggy suburban Pentecostal dad with the Stepford wife, a man we can all identify with.

Shorten’s unpopularity has more to do with his crucifixion by News Corp and its lackeys including, sadly our ABC, than any political reality. Labor’s review concedes, however, that damage has been done.

Labor’s review sums up Labor’s loss as a combination “of a weak strategy that could not adapt to the change in Liberal leadership, a cluttered policy agenda that looked risky and an unpopular leader” –  a verdict, writes ANU’s Frank Bongiorno “which belies the sophistication of the report as whole”.

But everyone in the gallery – from Michelle Grattan to Mark Latham – gets to twist the knife. It’s a massive pile-on; way more popular, than Melbourne’s Spring Carnival. Bagging Labor’s failings easily upstages the Melbourne Cup, the race that barely slows the nation, our increasingly anaemic, ritual national blood-sport. Besides schadenfreude is surely part of our tall poppy syndrome.

But like the curious incident of the dog in the night time, nowhere is there mention of News Corp.

“The Murdoch media didn’t merely favour the government over the opposition. It campaigned vigorously for the return of the Coalition. And it is a vast empire, with a monopoly through much of regional Queensland, for instance. It is hard not to see in the review’s silence on this matter a clearing of the way for a future kissing of the ring of the familiar kind.” Frank Bongiorno writes.

Everyone wants to wag the finger; tell Labor where it went wrong and by implication how Morrison’s miracle campaign was so inspired – when in reality it was almost totally negative; long on disinformation and attacking Shorten’s character – including the Daily Telegraph’s attack on his mother’s integrity.

A review of the Coalition campaign? Nasty, brutish and short on policy beyond the promise of tax cuts. The $1080 tax cut may have bought a few votes but it is proving a total failure as a fiscal stimulus.

The retail sector is in its third year of per capita recession. While Frydenberg and Morrison seek to explain it away by online sales, as Alan Austin notes, the ABS figures include online sales.

“Retail sales for the September quarter came to $82.6 billion, up just 2.48% on the same quarter a year ago. With inflation at 1.7% and population rising 1.6%, that is a decline in real terms relative to population. So the sector is now in its third year of per capita recession.”

Luckily Labor Zombies … is a sell-out performance, upstaging the government’s own show, “Geronticide! Hell ain’t a patch on the ways you will suffer in God’s Waiting Room; dying of abuse and neglect in our private aged care homes”, brilliantly scripted by commissioners Lynelle Briggs, AM, and Richard Tracey, AO, in their three volume Interim Report into Aged Care …, “…a shocking tale of neglect”.

Everything’s apples with aged care with just a few rotten fruit spoiling everything. Besides, Morrison says there’ll be more funds by Christmas. He can’t say how little. No-one would expect his government to have been briefed so soon, given that it’s only Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison’s sixth year in government. Expect Santa Hunt and Morrison to stuff the announcement in a stocking late on Christmas Eve.

In the meantime, despite the commissioners’ finding that commodifying aged care is the core of the problem, the Coalition is proceeding with its plan to privatise the staff who do the assessments.

Amazing new efficiencies will follow; such as we’ve seen in the NDIS, where $1.6 billion is being saved by shunting disabled Australians on New Start instead. Private enterprise is a miracle of profit-driven efficiency. And care. No funds will be wasted on gratuitous compassion or humanity. Or spent in haste.

“We are six years into the rollout and we have heard of people waiting two years for a wheelchair, so it needs concerted attention,” says Kirsten Dean from disability advocate group Every Australian Counts.

Expect the reforms to raise the bar; reducing the number of our elderly folk who qualify for homecare “packages”, which are already very limited in scope and difficult to access even at their most basic level.

Above all, Labor Zombies … is a great diversion from the long list of latest revelations of wrong-doing by Morrison’s mob, especially the Australian National Audit Office’s (ANAO) censure of the pork-barrel party coalition for its shonky award of funding under its $200 million regional jobs and investment packages.

Conceding it might have a bit to hide, a furtive, federal government chooses to release its ANAO report on Tuesday afternoon when it hopes all eyes and ears will be turned to the track at Flemington.

The ANAO is scathing about the Morrison government’s disregard for advice provided by bureaucrats. It is also unhappy with ways the Coalition chooses to ignore guidelines regarding merit and eligibility.

Untrained ministers took over the process, making decisions on their own, unaided by expert advice. No. Of course, they did not bother to take minutes. 64 of 232 applications were scrapped. A total of $75.9m in funding is declined. Yet $77.4m in requested grant funding is approved to 68 applicants not on the departmental list. Over half the funding is pork forked out of the barrel.

While program guidelines require applicants to declare any perceived or existing conflicts of interest, or declare that they had no conflicts – “no action was taken to give effect to this element of the program guidelines”.

Doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results, is one definition of insanity. Yet, when the Coalition rolls out the pork barrel, this week, in yet another round of drought relief; a billion dollar “suite of measures” to its backblock pals, as it grandiose handout, once again, to entice farmers to do more of the same, is there method in its madness? Or is it merely Groundhog Day again?

The groundhog factor cannot be ignored. Mugged by an Anthropocene reality; Morrison’s mob have no idea what to do. No policies; no plans. No future. They can only fall back on past practice. And buying votes. Along with nostalgia, the pork barrel is part of every Coalition MP’s mental furniture; it’s in its DNA.

And craving more of the same old, same old means it’s only natural to look backwards; unerringly repeat the same mistakes of the past.  Five years ago, then PM Tony Abbott, and his Minister for Agriculture and Water rorts, Barnaby Boondoggle Joyce, announced – a suite of measures offering financial, social and mental health support. Bingo!

But there is method or shrewd craftiness. Evading accountability for starters. Is there any area of public funding less scrutinised than drought relief?, wonders Bernard Keane.

Australia would still have a car industry and 50,000 secure jobs for a only a third of the amount that the Coalition is prepared to pony up for loans to farmers and small-businesses in drought-affected towns.

But imagine the outcry from News Corp and its claque if workers, or manufacturers, could borrow up to two million interest-free for two years; with no need to pay back the principal until the sixth year.

“Rural communities can’t function without these small businesses – that’s why we’re stepping in to provide this extra support,” Morrison says. But in its Abbott incarnation the coalition government was perfectly happy to deny SPC Ardmona $25 million just five years ago?

Many workers and their families in other sectors would be glad of the support. Manufacturing, for example, lost 100,000 jobs, or a third of the entire agriculture workforce, in the year to August.

But extra support has limits. State schools won’t be eligible for $10m in new education funding announced in Thursday’s drought package, an “elitist and unfair” if not downright cruel decision.

Australian Education Union president, Correna Haythorpe, argues it’s “another slush fund for private schools” on top of the $1.2bn Choice and Affordability fund for Catholic and Independent schools, which Lenore Taylor reports also included money for drought-affected areas.

In its encore, Drought Relief 2.0 “Suite of measures” this week, Morrison’s travelling roadshow hopes, above all, that the hullabaloo will distract punters from its own Drought Response, Preparedness and Resilience a report which it commissioned from top brass Stephen Day, DSC, AM, the very model of a modern Major General and former Drought Co-ordinator-general.

Somehow it must keep us from the light of Day.

Drought is not a natural disaster, it’s an enduring feature of the Australian landscape, reports Day. Yet instead of launching into the droughts and flooding plains of Dorothea McKellar’s My Country – and a staple of The Nationals’ MP interview press-kit, Day breaks with climate-denialist tradition.

“While droughts are normal for Australia, drought conditions are likely to become more frequent, severe and longer in some regions due to climate change.”

It’s plain as Day that we’re responsible for drought, with our love of coal-fired power stations, coal mines and our mania for land clearing. It’s a far less romantic notion than playing the hapless victim – Abbott’s “Shit Happens” philosophy, a helpless victim of natural disaster.

But accountability is apostasy, heresy even in the broad church of the Coalition Party Room and especially to the reality denial cabal in the driver’s seat, to say nothing of the God-made-coal-so-we-should-profit-from-his-divine-providence, Pentecostal push that has a hot-line to the current tenant in Kirribilli House.

Beyond a Morrison Police State

morrison with fascist look on face


 

“This is not about free speech, it’s not about the ability to protest, these people are completely against our way of life,” former Queensland drug squad and sex offenders cop, now Home Affairs Supremo and family childcare business partner, self-made millionaire, MP Peter Dutton tells Channel Nine Friday.

“For many of them they don’t even believe in democracy, … the disharmony they seek to sow within society is unacceptable,” says our super minister who, only recently, was keen to dog-whistle racists by falsely claiming that African crime gangs make it unsafe to go out on the streets in Melbourne.

A fretful nation is overjoyed that Il Dutto has spotted another enemy within. In a nifty intercept, former Hillsong Elder, Scott Morrison, now our PM for extractive industries, snatches the ball and punts it.

How good is our media? By Friday night, every newspaper in the land carries the banner “radical activism threatens mining”. It’s a spectacular, mass propaganda drop which highlights how smoothly a Prime Minister’s staff of fifty can swing into gear should Dutton or any other MP steal the limelight.

“High velocity bollocks” is Katharine Murphy’s view of Morrison’s alert on ABC Insiders. A tad unfair. ScoMo has to create a diversion from Thursday’s Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety interim report of scandal that has taken place during the Coalition’s six years in government.

It’s a shocker. Health Minister Hunt bobs up also on Insiders to pat the government on the back for ordering the Royal Commission but skips the $2 billion cut by the Coalition since it came to power.

“… the aged care system fails to meet the needs of its older, vulnerable, citizens. It does not deliver uniformly safe and quality care, is unkind and uncaring towards older people and, in too many instances, it neglects them,” report commissioners Richard Tracey and Lynelle Briggs in a media release.

Images of Morrison are everywhere. Speechifying. Threatening protesters at a Brisbane mining lobbyists’ free lunch. And anyone daring to impose a secondary boycott. “Wedgislation” rasps Murpharoo.

All it would take, mumbles former News Corp hack, now Brisbane free-lance, Dennis Atkins, deftly sidestepping the ScoMo police state elephant in the room, is to change the bit in the law where unions’ secondary boycotts are outlawed and extend that … section … mumble … something DD.

The bit in the law? Generally, in Australia strikes are unlawful, in breach of international law which holds that the right to strike is recognised as a fundamental human right, as the ILO has been reminding Coalition and Labor governments for the last thirty years. But the PM’s team plays a blinder in giving him a time and a place and a text Friday, to normalise the outlawing of secondary boycotts.

“If it’s not OK to have secondary boycotts being run by unions … it’s not OK for environmental, well, they’re anarchist groups … to be able to disrupt people’s jobs, their livelihoods, to harass people as we saw down in Melbourne,” Morrison blusters, glossing over the highly contentious anti-union law.

Naturally there is no detail from such a big picture thinker. And scare tactics work best without specifics. But Morrison needs to explain what he means. How can he possibly legislate against freedom of choice, one of the set-pieces of Liberal rhetoric? Aren’t we free to choose which firms we patronise?

Also skipped is the real disruption that accrues now that our largely de-unionised workforce has so little real bargaining power over wages that spending drops and helps tip Australia into economic recession. But you’ve got to hand it to the PM’s staff. They’ve had wage cut-backs, too. 13 per cent since Malcolm Turnbull was double-double-crossed by Morrison and his right-hand evangelical Stuart Robert and crew.

At an average salary of just over $200,000, the PM’s minders work wonders on a shoe-string budget. And a skeletal staff. All up, the Morrison government must battle on with a mere 457 ministerial advisers.

(Theresa May’s UK government employed 99 ministerial advisers in December last year, including 2 who earned the maximum salary of £140,000 pounds.)

But it’s all about team work. Our press flacks fall in behind the Coalition’s muppet-show and the mining and banking lobby which pulls their strings. Morrison threatens “a radical crack down” on protesters.

The team plan is to demonise those who protest against a government in denial that holy coal mining and coal-burning power stations even cause global warming, air and water pollution. On present trends, let alone with new mines, coal will destroy nature, our health and ultimately extinguish our future. But just as we’ve created illegals out of those who seek asylum, we’ll do it with climate protesters.

Morrison is addicted to the politics of division. And it worked with vegan activists. The Criminal Code Amendment (Agricultural Protection) Bill 2019 which outlaws “farm invaders”, passed 12 September.

Labor was wedged into voting for draconian, superfluous legislation. Trespass is covered by state laws. Labor senators Kim Carr and Anthony Chisholm warn farmers, themselves, are at risk from the new law, if opposing fracking.  Whistle-blowers and journalists are also at risk of prosecution for inciting trespass.

Reporters who merely publish footage of animal cruelty, or who publish a map of factory farms and slaughterhouses where such cruelty is known to occur, may face a criminal charge for “inciting trespass onto agricultural land” regardless of whether incitement to trespass is intended by the publisher, and regardless of whether the cruelty is legal.

While the brave new ag-gag law has yet to be tested in court, Morrison is playing hyper-partisan politics again with the help of his imaginary arch-fiend “absolutist environmentalism”.  Some complain that attacking an “ism” indicates mental laziness. Imprecision. But fear-mongers just love it. And it works.

Protesters are “anarchists, radical activists; extremists”. If a lie is half way round the world before the truth can get its boots on, vilification is even quicker. Once the PM puts the boot in; Morrison’s gutter politics leadership immediately has its own followers; copycats -even in the police.

A Victorian police officer faces disciplinary action for wearing a sticker with the phrase “EAD Hippy” – slang for “eat a dick” – while patrolling this week’s anti-mining protests in Melbourne. Instead of heeding dissent, the federal government joins some states in choosing to dismantle democracy instead.

Protesters have a right to stage community campaigns to voice their concerns, as Kelly O’Shanassy CEO of Australian Conservation Foundation ACF quickly points out. Moreover, demonstrators and protesters come from diverse walks of life and their dissent is expressed in many different ways, she explains.

“People protesting in the streets are not the only ones expressing alarm about climate change – the head of the Defence Force, the deputy governor of the Reserve Bank and the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority have all recently raised serious concerns,” Ms O’Shanassy says.

Morrison’s not listening. The PM loves his bully-pulpit. You can tell he gets a buzz out of casting out evil.

Progressives seek to deny the liberties of Australians, he tells The Queensland Resources Council, (QRC), another mining lobby, Friday – giving his spin an extra twist by preaching to the converted. It’s a whopping lie, of course and a masterly piece of projection and deflection. But the QRC is cheering.

“The QRC welcomes new laws passed by the Palaszczuk Government to deter people from using dangerous devices …” runs the lobby’s 25 October media release.

Yet the “dangerous devices” turn out to be unsubstantiated claims that some “lock-on devices” contain dangerous items, such as glass or gas canisters aimed at deterring police. No evidence has yet been provided, beyond a few images of a protest in 2018, a case which was prosecuted under existing law.

“Any laws that may infringe on important rights such as peaceful protest ought to be subject to a detailed and proper parliamentary scrutiny process. We are concerned that this has not occurred…,” says Bridget Burton, Director of Caxton Legal Centre’s Human Rights and Civil Law Practice.

Enter Macca. QRC CEO Ian, “Chainsaw”, Macfarlane, a former federal Minister for Industry. After being sacked from the front bench and when his attempt to defect from the Liberals to The Nationals was blocked, Macfarlane quit politics and signed on to head QRC, for a modest half million dollars a year, in 2016, to help eke out his $150-200K income from the Parliamentary Contributory Super Scheme.

Ian’s terribly worried these days about the need to lock up protesters. Their bullying and reckless endangerment of lives – even their own – must be stopped. Tougher laws are the key. Always.

“It is often the case that fines are small and no convictions are recorded,” he tells Brisbane Times in August. Morrison says he is working on legal measures to outlaw the “indulgent and selfish practices” of protest groups that try to stop major resources projects. As if he can outlaw protest.

“Now, we will take our time to get this right. We will do the homework and we’re doing that right now. But we must protect our economy from this great threat,” he thunders.  It’s the sacred economy again. Amen. Or did he mean surplus? Meanwhile, the multinational mining companies protesters target bleed us dry in tax evasion. Not to mention what they cost us in subsidies.

Tenderly, our government takes our taxes and spends billions of dollars to help more coal, gas and oil to be extracted and burned. Other favours include tax-based subsidies, direct contributions, concessional loans from public financial institutions, lax environmental laws and approvals for disastrous projects.

Now ScoMo takes time to hiss the villain. Progressivism, a “new-speak type term”, ScoMo claims (of a movement achieving social and political reform in the US, two decades before Orwell published 1984), aims “to get in under the radar, but at its heart would deny the liberties of Australians.” 

“Apocalyptic in tone, it brooks no compromise,” Elder Morrison continues, as if he were describing the template for a Hillsong sermon. “It’s all or nothing. Alternative views are not permitted.”

But no “needless anxieties”, please. Think of the children. What we need at times like these is some “context and perspective”. The Australian Way of Life must remain secure in its glass case along with a bust of Langley Frederick Hancock, a piece of coal and a blue ribbon for best country in show at Liberal HQ, protected by the eternal vigilance of Dutton’s AFP, ASIO and the web of eighty-odd federal national security laws governments have spun to catch evil-doers since September 11, 2011.

Nobody seems to know precisely how many laws. Or care. The more the meh-factor.

Our most recent bit of spy fly-paper is the Coalition’s Foreign Influence Registry, part of its visionary Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme, which became law last December. In a mass mail-out last month, the Attorney General asks all foreign agents of influence to put their hands up. Way to go.

Who? What? Defining influence can be a tricky business, which is probably how Tony Abbott got caught in the net. In deathless prose, Porter’s department appeals to lobbyists of a “parliamentary and general political nature” but includes those involved in “communications activity” and “disbursement activity”.

Transparent? Sheer genius. Sadly, this little list is in its infancy. And it’s a one way mirror. It does not run to how we influence other nations such as our ASIS agents’ spying on Timor Leste’s cabinet in 2004.

Given the high esteem with which they are held in Timor Leste, you might expect the whistle-blower, Witness K – as the ASIS officer has become known – and his lawyer, Bernard Collaery to feature. These men represent our finest, as former Timor-Leste president José Ramos-Horta writes in August.

“Individuals with a conscience and courage, representing the very best of Australians as I know them – instinctively sympathetic to the underdog, the weak and vulnerable.”

The tribute is a salutary corrective to ScoMo’s rhetoric. The men should be venerated as public heroes.

Yet their secret trials, revealed by Andrew Wilkie under parliamentary privilege, in June 2018 and currently under way in two Canberra courts, the Magistrates Court for Witness K and The Supreme Court for his lawyer Collaery, represents “… the national security state’s assault on Australia’s democratic culture”, writes Clinton Fernandes, University of NSW Professor of International and Political studies.

Both face lengthy prison sentences. An example must be made of whistle-blowers to discourage others. Some suggest that given some unexplained questions in his past careers and the fact the someone knows the answers, Morrison is keen to diminish the likelihood of the whistle being blown on himself. Whatever his personal investment, national security agencies are keen to punish whistle-blowers.

It’s not citizens in Queensland and Melbourne exercising their rights to protest but the state itself which is attacking the rule of law, a corner-stone of our democracy. A police state? To Fernandes, it’s more.

These prosecutions come at a time of vastly increased powers for police and intelligence agencies, raids on the homes of journalists and news organisations, and the deployment of technologies of mass surveillance. The aim of this power grab must be understood clearly, if it is to be resisted. The national security bureaucracy doesn’t want a police state. It is more ambitious than that. The hope is to return Australian culture to the conformity and political quietude of the 1950s.”

In this context, Porter’s Registry is but one small step but could well escalate into a flight of stairs.

In the last decade, 81 per cent of political donations from the mining industry have been to the Coalition; 71 per cent to the Liberal Party. The Grattan Institute reveals that mining has the most lobbying contacts with government. Many of these are foreign-owned firms. Surely these should appear on the registry?

Nowhere does the registry list other influential foreign companies who run local branches to great tax advantage. These include household names: Uber, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, McDonalds, Ikea and Aldi. Perhaps they need more than four weeks to gauge their influence. If it can be done at all.

Multinational parent companies do not register their Australian operations as branch operations. Consequently they do not comply with ASIC’s disclosure and reporting obligations. In fact, we generously give them a tax deduction when they send royalty payments to arms of their own company overseas.

Are we Thinking Big enough? Perhaps, given the meagre 194 entries, so far, there is room for our own agents of influence abroad to declare themselves. Scott Morrison would doubtless be keen to explain what he did to get the flick from his job as head of NZ Tourism and Sport in 2000.

It would help greatly with our close trading neighbour – where Think Big was a state intervention strategy – and it would clear up a mystery or two. The Saturday Paper’s Karen Middleton reports that a Kiwi Controller and Auditor-General audit found that ScoMo hi-jacked the NZ Tourism Review.

It is early evidence of ScoMo’s gift for taking charge and his top-dog inter-personal skills. Not for him the namby-pamby consensus type or a democratic style. “Absolute arsehole” is former MP Michael Kennan verdict. Kennan served as Justice Minister when Scott Morrison was Immigration Minister.

His comment is recorded by Niki Savva in Plots and Prayers as having been made to colleagues at lunch at Garum Restaurant in Perth in April 2018 just before Morrison deposed Malcolm Turnbull.

“Porter joined in, saying he did not think Morrison was a team player. Cormann said he had seen Morrison up close now, and, in his opinion, Dutton was better,” Savva writes.

Similar charges would be made by the Australian National Audit Office, (ANAO) nine years’ later when it looked into his management of Tourism Australia. ANAO found “non-consultation, making unilateral decisions, not observing due process and restricting board access to information.”

But Morrison gets off Scott-free. Not so one of his illustrious predecessors. All hot and bothered this week, Tony Abbott, The Australian’s Prime Minister-in-exile is asked to sign The Registry…

Abbott is incensed by Christian -(but a Jedi on his census) Porter’s department’s recent demand that the budgie-smuggler register as “an agent of foreign influence”, just the day before CPAC, in Sydney, last August. The department of the Attorney-General is not one to rush matters. But it has improved.

Porter’s predecessor, George Brandis dithered for two years and three months over prosecuting Bernard Collaery and Witness K. Then he got posted to London as our High Commissioner. Porter, on the other hand, took the decision to prosecute only six months after coming to office. But Abbott’s underwhelmed.

The Incredible Sulk is happy to ear-bash fellow reactionaries at non-events such as CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, an oxymoron on steroids. Tipped to be the next Director of the weapons industry sponsored National War Memorial in Canberra, he’s clearly still a VIP.

But foreign influence? The former Riverview boy ­refuses the request, labels it ­“absurd” and in a direct dig at the Jedi claims “senior officials of the commonwealth have better things to do with their time”.

If only.

Scott Morrison’s pledge to crack down on climate protestors is in part a deflection, a ruse to encourage climate change deniers by implying that there’s nothing wrong with building more coal-fired power station; it’s the extremist, radical activists” who are out of line. And it’s a way of wedging Labor. Yet it would be wrong to see it merely as an act of bellicose posturing from a wannabe populist strong man.

Morrison’s past record suggests more than a hint of an authoritarian, if not autocratic, personality beneath the evasions, the secrecy and the cultivated, folksy veneer of the sport-loving, cap-wearing , beer-drinking suburban dad as populist leader.

Given the proliferation of national security laws which have hugely strengthened the power of the state, since 2011, moreover, we must challenge Morrison’s latest rhetorical assault on democracy and rebuff all attempts at division.  Our future as a civil society; our freedom depends upon it.

Pauline rushes to the rescue while Coalition falls apart.

drought


“I want to put out a call to these farmers; please don’t give up hope,” Senator Pauline Hanson says shortly before breaking down in tears on her old pal, Alan Jones’ 2GB radio show, Friday last week.

Laugh and the world laughs with you. Weep and you weep off microphone. But no longer need you weep alone, Australia. Help is on its way. No. Not Joel Fitzgibbon’s outrageous suggestion of a bipartisan “war cabinet” approach to drought relief. Drought relief is for ScoMo & Co to pork-barrel; grandstand on grief. The government has no drought relief policy. The last thing it wants is Labor to show it up.

ScoMo ridicules Fitzgibbon in Question Time, an institution now entirely corrupted by a government in perpetual campaign. Vitiated by Dorothy Dixers, Labor-bashing and political assassination by quoting News Corps, the nation’s most powerful political party. Monday, ScoMo quotes Troy Bramston of The Australian on Anthony Albanese’s hopeless leadership.

“A Labor frontbencher told me …” is Bramston’s prelude to back-stabbing Albanese. Trump uses ” people tell me…” When no specific authority or evidence is given, the slur may be mere confection or confabulation. But it is also impossible to refute.

“For a guy who wanted to be leader so bad, and couldn’t wait to announce he was running for it less than 24 hours after the election, he does not know what to do with the job.” A Labor frontbencher?

Sure he did, Troy. Sure. Look. It’s uncanny. ScoMo’s cock a hoop with your “scoop”, first up Tuesday.

Labor couldn’t be trusted when it was in power, Mr Speaker, Morrison scoffs. It’s vital to repeat the one big lie of Labor’s hopelessness with money. As experts now, daily, attest to ScoMo and Co’s economic incompetence and the Reserve virtually begs for some serious stimulus measure, it’s especially important to repeat the lie that the GFC didn’t happen here or that we are still paying for Labor’s mess.

As The Guardian Australia’s Greg Jericho notes, Mathias Cormann now claims absurdly that Labor’s GFC stimulus drove up interest rates and the value of our dollar.

“If interest rates went up due to the stimulus then that meant it had helped improve demand in the economy, which was the whole point.”

Hang on. Help is on its way. Good news this week. Dairy farmers struggling to squeeze out $3.00 an hour in an industry milked dry as de-regulation, duopolies and globalisation lead to ruinous farm gate prices – while many suffer drought and ScoMo photo-ops – rejoice to learn that Pauline Hanson has their backs.

“Give me an opportunity to keep fighting. I don’t want these farmers to give up.”

The plucky One Nation leader heroically battles on at Jones’ microphone before it’s all too much and she’s led, sobbing inconsolably, off-air. But not before a word from her sponsor. Pauline’s “upset”, Big Al explains to listeners, “for the farmers” and exhausted as she “fights the bureaucrats” in Canberra.

Pauline is tirelessly fighting up hill and down dale to get our honest, hardworking, dairy farmers a fair price for their milk, a long-lost cause she shows no sign of understanding.

Fairness would involve the dismantling of global price-fixing and regulating the Fonterra-Saputo duopoly that dominates our milk-processing. (Canadian giant Saputo, which enjoys a monopoly in British Columbia bought out a troubled Murray Goulburn, our largest milk processor in April 2018.) Murray Goulburn had contracted with Coles to supply one dollar milk to 2023.

None of this matters to Hanson’s quest for self-aggrandisement. But Pauline’s plan will entail having Canberra bureaucrats very much on side. And supermarkets. Not to mention Saputo and Fonterra.

“It’s hard to say this but it makes no fucking sense,” sweet-talking Saputo boss, Lino Saputo Jnr admits freely. “$1.10 still doesn’t make sense when you can buy water at $3 a litre, when you can buy soda pop at $4 a litre, when you can buy Gatorade at $5 a litre.”  No? Never heard of a loss leader, Lino?

Yet loss-leading supermarkets are not the only bad guys. More than half Australia’s milk is sold overseas. The same neoliberal ideology that has us paying export prices for our own gas works with milk, too.

Even if the price of milk on the supermarket shelf were to double, the extra profit wouldn’t go to farmers directly as the ACCC found in its 18 month report on the dairy industry last year.

Dollar milk is the scapegoat, regardless. Even those who may be expected to understand how farmers contracts are set by producers play along with this. Yet never in Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie’s howls of outrage (or Drought Minister David Littleproud’s) does either stop to recall that Labor’s policy last election was to set a minimum price dairy farmers can be paid for the milk they produce.

Doubly unhappy is Bridget McKenzie, the Nationals’ “flash bit of kit” (as Barnaby once described his party’s deputy leader during a late night senate debate). Ms McKenzie cops flak for letting Hanson grand-stand as the cow cockies’ saviour. It’s not just a turf war; everyone knows that hand-wringing over drought or flood or farmers being robbed blind by multinational middlemen is the Nationals’ pitch.

Below the topsoil, the post Barnaby-era party writhes in existential crisis. It lacks leadership, identity and others are muscling in on its patch. Things quickly go bad – with a little help from New England. Friday, the Nationals split with their Coalition partner by leaking a $1.3 bn drought funding policy without approval from Michael McCormack – aka Mick-Mack. Scott Morrison is gob-smacked; blind-sided.

So much for the tremendous authority which pundits confidently predicted Scott Morrison was sure to wield over the Coalition after his miracle win. Or is that all spent in gagging and finger-wagging? The National backbench policy committee, which includes Barnaby Joyce, is the author of the rogue policy.

Such perfidy will not go unpunished – but, that it occurs at all – indicates how weak is ScoMo’s hold on Coalition reins. Are the Nats paying him back for crowding them out of his drought-porn photo-ops? Or did Pauline Hanson’s calling them weak and ineffective” do the trick? The Oz thinks so. The truth hurts.

Extra funding? It’s part of a ten-point plan. This includes setting up committees to oversee who gets their forks into $10m pork barrels, help with boarding school fees and other thought bubbles which will do less to alleviate drought suffering than improve the Nationals’ political identity. Rivals appear, artfully clad in Collins Street bushman’s kit of RM Williams’ moleskins and boots. Topped with spotless Akubra.

Is it identity politics? The Nats argue that their cash-splash will send a message. Or a vibe. It would “appear as an unambiguous package that is clearly labelled Nationals” they claim. Naturally. Nothing shrieks National Party so clearly and plainly as a barrel clearly labelled “pork”.  But even a simple lack of ambiguity can come back to bite you in the bum, as the trepid party deputy leader discovers.

Adding to the Nationals’ woes, Bridget McKenzie’s brazen pork-barrelling of grants has rejected 618 applications for community sports facilities. Labor’s sports spokesman Don Farrell cuts to the chase;

“The minister, we now know, rejected advice from her own department, Sport Australia, as to who should get these grants, and she imposed her own favourite grants in their place.”

Above all, despite McKenzie’s promising the ACCC’s recommendation, a dairy industry code of conduct by 2020 – hey – presto -to keep Hanson’s vote, the code will miraculously be available later this year.  So far, Hanson seems happy. Early report had her demanding re-regulation of the dairy industry.

Mathias Cormann must be a sweet-talker if Pauline’s being fobbed off with a code of conduct.

How bad are codes? Hopeless -if the PM’s own code for MPs, Morrison’s Statement of Ministerial Standards, tabled last August, is any guide. Gus Taylor just goes ahead and does what he likes. Clearly. Attacking Clover Moore is part of a rational plan?

Oddly, all hell breaks loose. Gus ducks and weaves. Evades all responsibility for the patently false figures in his bizarre letter lecturing Sydney’s lord mayor, Clover Moore on her travel. Tries to claim that the City of Sydney published fake figures on his website. Yep. The old “fake figures made me frame you” defence.

Worse, his PM supports Taylor, a serial offender, yet again, refusing to sanction his Energy Minister. It’s yet another sign of weak leadership and utter lack of integrity.

By his own code of rules, ScoMo should at least sack Taylor from cabinet; report him to the police.

Shadow climate minister, Mark Butler, tells an Adelaide presser Friday,

“Instead of the prime minister actually putting his words into action and putting this into the hands of the New South Wales police, he has shown that there is one rule for one group of Australians – cabinet ministers in the Morrison government – and another rule for everyone else, including the journalists who are currently under threat of prosecution for doing their jobs.”

Gus is helped by The Daily Telegraph, which publishes an article claiming hippy, tree-hugging, bicycle-riding, Clover Moore is not merely a progressive and independent pain in the establishment’s bum, a theme familiar to Telegraph readers, the Lord Mayor has been “told by the federal government to rein in the hundreds of thousands of dollars her council is spending on international and domestic travel if she is serious about lecturing Australia on climate change”. It’s madly untrue, of course, but well-timed.

Trump-like, Taylor uses what seems to be a forged City of Sydney council document to accuse City of Sydney council of spending “$1.7m on international travel and $14.2m on domestic travel” for councillors. The real figures are $1,727.77 on international travel and $4,206.32 on domestic travel.

Taylor’s dead cat on the table, distracts from Morrison’s stuff-up: his upstaging of the Nationals’ announcement of the breakthrough on the dairy code, Thursday. Experts warn that ScoMo’s holy surplus may now never eventuate. Or if it does it may come smack dab in the middle of a recession. Bad look.

But a line has to be drawn in the sand. News surfaces, Sunday, that Scott Morrison told Craig Kelly, chair of the Coalition’s backbench energy and environment committee, not to appear on Q&A with his daft graphs that show that climate change is a hoax. So much for Howard’s broad church Liberal Party.

Gagging Kelly is as much an extension of ScoMo’s naturally despotic leadership style as it is his way of “moderating public perception” to use Michael Koziol’s euphemism for the PM’s hiding an inconvenient truth from voters. ScoMo’s keen to conceal his climate change deniers and cover up the fact that they control the black hole that passes for government policy, a course largely determined by the coal lobby.

Kelly was due to wow ABC audiences with his insights on 16 September. A week prior, the climate denier regaled the multitudes who packed into an Australian Monarchists League function with the amazing news that the South Pacific island nation of Tuvalu is “floating, not sinking [due to climate change]”, because it was a coral atoll and “a coral atoll actually floats on the ocean”. Seriously.

It’s not clear that Kelly is aware that coral is acutely sensitive to sea-level changes. Or that Tuvalu is sinking. Already two of its nine islands are on the verge of going underwater swallowed by rising sea-levels and erosion. Scientists predict Tuvalu will become uninhabitable in fifty to a hundred years.

Porous, salty, soil is already useless for planting crops while Tuvalu’s water supply is now contaminated by rising seawater leaving Tuvaluans entirely dependent on rainwater. Even the fish are now toxic. Ciguatera poisoning affects reef fish who have ingested microalgaes expelled by bleached coral.

When fish infected with ciguatera toxins are consumed by humans, it causes an immediate and sometimes severe illness: vomiting, fevers and diarrhoea. Someone should tell Kelly and his committee but communicating scientific information is heresy in a government devoted entirely to spin.

Clearly, Morrison doesn’t talk to Mick-Mack, his pet name for his deputy Prime Minister. Mick-Mack is also in danger of being drowned by a rising tide of nostalgia for the good old days when Barnaby ruled.

For the Nationals, another backward-looking party firmly rooted in the past, Barnaby can do no wrong.

Yet it’s not what the historical record suggest. It’s never perfect with agrarian socialism or any other cult. Never ends well. Investigative journalist Jommy Tee sums up a topical part of Saint Barnaby’s legacy.

As Minister for Water and Agriculture, Barnaby was responsible in 2017 when the government coughed up $80 million in water buybacks to Eastern Australia Agriculture (EAA), the company where Angus Taylor had been a director and consultant. Eastern Australian Agriculture, a company founded by Gus Taylor made a two hundred percent profit out of Australian water and cotton farms.

Barnaby offered Clyde, a cotton-growing property to the LNP QLD government in 2006. Queensland  approached the federal government only to have the sale knocked back by Malcolm Turnbull, then parliamentary secretary to the PM. The federal government deemed the $20m price tag – for both property and water too high, given the water flow’s unreliability and its high price.

Joyce, Taylor and the current federal coalition government have much to explain. This includes:

“Why in 2017, did Barnaby Joyce, as Minister for Water, engineer the purchase of that same water from Clyde at the exorbitant cost of $40 million to taxpayers?”

Doubtless, refreshed after their five week break, our Coalition MPs will rush back to Canberra to clear up the stench of Watergate. Resignations will be tendered. Heads will roll. On the other hand, if Home Affairs top shiny-bum, Mike Pezzullo has his way, people will be jailed for leaking government information to the media.

But at present, it seems, neither partner in the coalition can even synchronise their diaries. Snap! Morrison holds his PM’s presser Thursday, on 2SM Radio.

ScoMo’s broadcast is heard just as the Nats gather at parliament house to simultaneously announce the good news on the code and cheer on the same pitifully small cash grants of $7000 and $13000 to farmers coming off the totally inadequate Farm Household Allowance (FHA) of up to $600 a fortnight.

Centrelink grants FHA to those who can pass its convoluted and protracted application process. Most applicants give up. Of 26,000 eligible households, only 2000 apply.

But of those 2000 who have persevered against all expectation – all will be overjoyed to receive a pittance extra, provided they don’t want to do anything rash like buy feed or replace a set of tractor tyres. See a dentist. Or pay the rates or the electricity bill.

Yet help is on its way. Professional empathy consultants, Futureye, are out in the field, helping ScoMo & Co win hearts and minds; forge its social licence in the bush. It’s not all photo-ops up dry creek-beds and matching green shirts.

Revealed by senate estimates committee questioning, this week, the ever more marvellous Morrison government approach to forging consensus.

Queensland Labor senator Murray Watt asks how Futureye works. Senior Inland Rail project officer Dr Garth Taylor is keen to explain, a rarity in the week’s proceedings where across four committees, ministers and mandarins take hundreds of questions on notice.

“Three key areas come to mind. “One is around empathy, around getting the right tone of voice to deal with landowners along the way … We start with getting the tone of voice right and getting the narrative right, and that leads to empathy. I think that along the way, with the landowners we’ve been dealing with, there has been an appreciation that there has been a more empathic approach taken since the social licence initiative.”

Picking up the $190 million tab to help ScoMo and Co build empathy along the tracks across the backblocks is the Department of Infrastructure’s Train to Nowhere, its Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail Project, a $10 billion boondoggle which is battling to establish its credentials, let alone goodwill. Even the government’s own hand-picked experts told it, the inland rail would never pay its way. It went ahead anyway.

The week ends with Matt Canavan being sent out on damage control. Canavan talks all over Fran Kelly on ABC Insiders, Sunday, to demonstrate his party’s superior empathy. Instead he gives a virtuoso display of gaslighting; arguing black is white. It’s his Prime Minister’s if not his government’s favourite tactic.

Instead of an utter disaster, a catastrophic rout by its own incompetence, in brief in spite of all the damning evidence, we are to see the week as the Nationals’ finest hour?

Finest hour? The reality is that the Coalition is unravelling as the going gets tough,with bad news on the economy that is ever harder to explain away and no sign that any of its carefully choreographed show of concern for drought victims is yielding any result.

Fighting over who gets credit for what is at best a band-aid solution or a PR stunt is not an edifying end to a parliamentary term. Nor does it augur well for the next.