Despite win-spin, Turnbull government ends week in chaos and contempt for the people.


“A bunch of bong-sniffing, dole-bludging, moss-munching, glue-guzzling, K-Mart Castros are again vandalising Parliament. And stopping other opinions being heard.” Queensland LNP senator and PM’s Assistant Minister, James McGrath, sneers at twenty members of the Whistleblowers, Activists and Citizens Alliance who disrupt Question Time mid-week with a plea to end the punitive detention of the 1300 innocent men women and children held on Manus and Nauru. “Close the bloody camps now,” they urge. Even worse, WACA is back next day abseiling down the building with a banner; putting red dye in the water feature.

For a moment, the government is flummoxed; shocked to hear the people they represent speak up, out of turn in parliament. Yet no-one heeds the message. MSM turns not to the protesters’ concerns but how best to keep the people out the people’s house. Democracy is under attack, squawk Shorten and Turnbull in unison. Only The Greens applaud the protesters. But nothing happens. To those suffering the torture of indefinite detention in the open air rape camp on Nauru and on Manus, the government’s Christmas present is the cruel hoax of false expectation of resettlement in the US, a prospect which recedes daily in the wake of news of President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team opposition.

Turnbull is typically conflicted. Earlier, he seemed cautious about a proposed $60 million security upgrade to parliament house which includes 2.5 metre high barriers. “We have always got to make sure the people’s house… is as open and accessible as it can be and we try to get the right balance there,” says the leader of a government whose secrets and lies over Manus and Nauru include making government operations off-limits to journalists and criminalising whistle-blowers.

Turnbull’s Australian people are free to marvel at the architecture, listen to Question Time, even take a selfie, provided they don’t get fancy ideas about inspecting policy, expecting accountability or, God forbid, voicing their outrage about our government’s human rights abuses on Nauru. The new, you-beaut, security measures are voted in on Thursday in what constitutes the government’s biggest victory all week; part of its drive to curtail, if not outlaw, the impertinence of political dissent. Oddly, no-one from the repeal 18C brigade leaps forward to defend the protesters’ freedom of speech.

The right to protest has long offended the Coalition, especially should it impede oil rigs and coal mines. Australia’s offshore oil regulator is censoring documents about BP’s plans to drill in the Great Australian Bight because environmental campaigners could use the information to “oppose all drilling activities” there. If they could understand them. The plans, it tells Greenpeace, who requested details under FOI, are too “technical” for the public to understand. Yet the FOI Act states that government agencies cannot consider whether releasing information “could result in confusion or unnecessary debate”.

Accountable to Energy and Resources Minister Josh Freydenberg, The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority told a senate inquiry in November that BP’s application “was still in play” and the company could sell its right to drill to another company if its application was successful. NOPSEMA, which is said to be reviewing its transparency is our gatekeeper for information which in all other OECD countries is a public document.

Similarly, Attorney General George Brandis aims to change the Environment and Biodiversity Act to restrict green groups from challenging major developments under federal law after Adani’s Carmichael Mine was challenged on environmental grounds in what Brandis attacks as “green lawfare.” Labor opposes any such change.

Its gang-bashing of Bill Shorten, rudely interrupted, a rattled government scurries out of the House by the nearest exit, leaving only its supercilious sneer behind, a dysfunctional, discombobulated Cheshire cat, its lily-livered leader cowed in yet another humiliating retreat. Later, safely behind an ABC microphone, Turnbull urges reprisals. The protests, he thunders, are an appalling “denial of democracy” … an affront to the Australian people. Unlike Coalition asylum seeker policy or an ABCC which makes it harder for construction unions to protect workers who risk their lives to earn a living.

Construction sector fatalities rose between 2005- 2012 during the last ABCC. On historical data, Turnbull’s reintroduction of the ABCC will cost another ten deaths a year, calculates Bernard Keane. As it stands, big companies can “get away with murder”, says CFMEU Queensland District President Stephen Smyth. Mining giant Anglo American pleads guilty this week to disregarding safety obligations, causing the death of worker Paul McGuire at its Grasstree mine, North-West of Rockhampton. The company settles with a paltry fine of $137,000.

While concessions to cross-benchers by a government desperate for any kind of victory mean that the heavily amended ABBC bill amounts to a re-badged Fair Work Building and Construction according to Andrew Stewart, University of Adelaide employment law expert, it still empowers Michaelia Cash to impose on Commonwealth contractors, a new building industry code of practice. This will spread to other major construction firms. The code will strike down Enterprise Bargaining and prevent “virtually everything” unions would seek to negotiate.

Labor sticks to its post in Parliament at least when the government clears out fearing the protesters. It’s a brief respite in the LNP’s war on Bill Shorten. A succession of MPs are howling down the Opposition Leader, rubbishing his union history and accusing him of post truth politics and lying before trumpeting its own fiction that passing its bastardised ABCC bill and resolving its backpacker tax fiasco are somehow victories; vital to running the country and not just desperate political expediency, critical only to saving Turnbull’s bacon. Parliament is given over to hysterical denunciation and personal attacks. Like a bad rash, the madness of “Good Captain” Abbott’s regime flares up again.

Even Laurie Oakes is disgusted. The government’s conduct is “grubby, unedifying, unpleasant. A week of brinkmanship, horse trading, and undisguised cynicism.” The Coalition’s unrelenting kill Bill invective is primitive, shrill and eerily reminiscent of March 2011 when Tony Abbott stood next to a sign urging “ditch the witch”, near another sign reading “JuLiar Bob Brown’s bitch”.

An ugly undertone of misogyny enters as Liberals itch to ditch Kimberly Kitching, Labor’s recent appointment to a casual senate vacancy by repeating unsubstantiated allegation made in Tony Abbott’s $46 million Heydon Royal Commission into Trade Union Corruption 2014. The smear was made during the long witch hunt into unions which led to only one criminal conviction but provided many a handy stick to beat Labor with all this week.

“The Leader of the Opposition deliberately parachuted into the Senate Kimberley Kitching to become Senator Kitching, who is alleged to have fraudulently filled out the safety tests for six union leaders in the Health Services Union,” Pyne crows, labelling the new senator a “Captain’s Pick”. Pyne, the mouth that roars, hyperventilates with confected outrage.

Parachuted into a portfolio he might not stuff up, Pyne is currently fighting a turf war with Marise Payne who refuses to tell Senator Labor’s Kim Carr who is the senior Defence Minister in a partnership which has yet to be clarified, Labor Senator Don Farrell points out, more than three months after Turnbull’s government was sworn in, despite ABC reports of duplication and confusion from Defence and industry.

In July, Turnbull promised something better. “I believe they want our Parliament to offload the ideology, to end the juvenile theatrics and gotcha moments, to drop the personality politics.” Instead, he has presided over more of the same, subtly undermined by his patent insincerity, his own, inner lack of conviction, achieving a hollow, stagey theatricality; a bad, toothless, flea-bitten, parody of Abbott’s junkyard dog.

The government line is that Labor is not the Labor Party of old; the party of Hawke and Keating but one ruled by militant unions and bosses who exploit their members. It’s a high-risk strategy which invokes invidious comparison between Fizza Turnbull and two real Prime Ministers. Further, “hard-working Australians” may not be wooed by Liberal nostalgia for a time when neoliberal Labor PMs traded off workers’ wages and conditions for companies to increase their profits; increasing inequality, vastly shrinking union membership and eroding Labor’s traditional support-base.

The semi-slavery of an itinerant and readily exploited expanding migrant rural workforce is the sordid reality behind the backpacker tax which is tricked up in parliament as a favour to rich white tourists. Instead, it is the result of an unregulated underpaid and increasingly illegal cut-throat labour market exploited by farmers and fruit growers to meet the ever lower prices offered them by our dog eat dog supermarket duopoly plus upstart Aldi. The real crisis lies not in the government’s utter incompetence in levying an effective backpacker tax rate, but in our economy’s growing dependence on ever cheaper part time or contract and piece rate labour, a legacy of the neo-liberal Hawke and Keating regimes.

Labor’s Accord with the ACTU removed union opposition to Labor’s neo-liberal “reform” agenda, helping governments to strip away hard-won rights and drive down living standards. Risky or not, however, the Shorten-is-no-Keating nor-is-he- Hawke tactic diverts attention from Attorney-General George Brandis, whose crisis-ridden tenure must surely end soon. Brandis awaits a Senate inquiry into how he directed Solicitor-General Justin Gleeson to argue in the Bell Group High Court case or his role in an alleged deal to dud the ATO of $300 million in 2015. Brandis’ retirement is imminent judging by Turnbull’s perfunctory support. “Of course I do,” he says when Labor asks if he still supports his AG.

Labor knows union-bashing failed the PM miserably last election. And as for harping on about how unfit your opponent is to be the nation’s leader, look how well that worked recently for Hillary’s campaign against Donald Trump. Labor’s most powerful indictment comes from the protesters’ banner outside. It reads “Labor: No opposition to cruelty”

Yet there are some extraordinary if not recklessly indulgent union-bashing performances. Turnbull repeatedly trumps up his rhetoric insisting absurdly that the Labor Party “is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the CFMEU”. Barnaby barnyard Joyce goes barking mad and attempts to throw the dictionary at the Opposition leader’s character. Shorten is “swarmy and lubricious.” He reads a scabrous, unsubstantiated TURC allegation until stopped mid-blow job reference by the speaker. Joyce has no problem, however, parroting his PM’s outrageous lie that the ABCC will reduce housing costs, a lie which has drawn censure from The Australia Institute’s senior economist, Dr Jim Stanford.

Stamford, has recently published a report rebutting what he says is the Prime Minister’s “appalling” ideological claim that a tougher construction union watchdog would make houses more affordable. There is no link between construction costs and rising house prices. The property bubble is not the fault of unions.

Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull repeatedly mock Wayne Swan for being the author of Joe Hockey’s backpacker tax. It’s a transparent lie which reveals more about the speaker than the object of ridicule. Turnbull could be talking about himself and his ABCC or his capitulation to his right wing or his Faustian deal with the Nationals to become Prime Minister.

“The hypocrisy of this Leader of the Opposition knows no bounds. He has no regard for consistency. He has no regard for accuracy. He is concerned only with seizing one political opportunity after another—no principles, no integrity, no consistency, no accuracy and no regard for the truth. Except there is one truth we all know about this Leader of the Opposition: he will stop at nothing to pursue his own political self-interest.”

The parliamentary year ends with Turnbull having managed to tidy his sock drawer, says Lenore Taylor. The Backpacker tax which was Hockey’s solution to the debt and deficit disaster so urgent a year or so ago will raise less than a spit in the bucket over four years. Expect instead an expansion in the cash in hand work force. Expect more overworked, underpaid, scammed Pacific Islanders and Malaysian pickers in orchards, vineyards and packing sheds. Getting big companies to pay their tax or getting a fair return from our gas exports which should be worth $400 billion over the next ten years, according to the Tax Justice Network are far more productive tasks which the government has squibbed.

Despite the government “getting on with the job” or “ending the year with a win” spin on a pliant media; despite all the lies that houses will become cheaper in a “win for the economy”, its last week is a tour de force of chaos and crisis beneath the smokescreen of its war on Bill Shorten, its attack on unions and hence the wages and conditions of the average worker. $50 billion’s worth of tax cuts to companies, promised this year as a first priority, can only further increase inequality and divide a society which is increasingly polarised between those few at the top and the rest.

Best SNAFU comes on Thursday. The government could pass a backpackers tax rate of 13% in the senate Thursday. It has the numbers. Instead, it waits to be rescued by The Greens, an inexplicable move which costs it $100 million which will go to Landcare. Pressed (lightly) for an explanation, the PM says he loves Landcare and wouldn’t hear a word against it.

The ABCC, which has never been another cop on the beat, or a tough watch dog, is gutted of its ugly STASI-like powers and is all trussed up like a Christmas turkey with local preference rules, economic benefit strings and such trimmings as Doug Cameron’s hire Australian unless there is “no Australian suitable” for the job clause which has nothing to do with the spirit of the act but which will bugger the 457 Visa and impose more red tape and expense on a body in a bill which was supposed to streamline construction and lower building costs.

In the end the self-styled Fixer, a self-satisfied Christopher Pyne preens. “We’ll do a deal with anybody to get things done,” he says on Friday, making a virtue out of the sheer, unbridled, horse-trading of the government of the turning bull in its last week of the year where doing something, anything, is preferable to searching for the right thing, the democratic thing, the just thing. Not a word about principle, ideal or dedication to the common good.

All tip and no iceberg, to quote Paul Keating, Turnbull’s government for the elite by the elite ends the year spruiking success but all it has to show is a big new security fence.


Sack Dutton, Turnbull, you have nothing to lose but your whips and chains.

turnbull in vicuna shawl.jpg

 “… dun-coloured shawls will tone beautifully with local scenery as leaders return home to rust-belts left by the close of local manufacturing caused by free trade … “

APEC 2016 ends not with a bang but a whimper from Stockholm syndrome victim Malcolm Turnbull who begs our US corporate captors to keep flogging us with a TPP; expanding multinational power over us and favouring the USA in trade. Turnbull, a National Party hostage, has already astonished Australia with his devotion to his captors. His protestations of TPP love on a world stage allow him to indulge his perverse illness in a forum stacked with fellow-sufferers.

Flagellation deprivation aside, after decades of fawning and grovelling, Australia’s need to be independent of the US must come as a shock. Painful. When the road is long even slippers feel tight, as they say in Peru. Turnbull’s plaintive plea for Donald Trump to keep APEC’s trade accord, the infant TPP is, naturally quickly rebuffed. The US president-elect reiterates his threats. He will drop the new-born TPP on its head from the top of Trump Tower.

“From day one of my presidency”, he vows to withdraw in a YouTube video. “TPP is a potential disaster for our country.”

Trump alone will not kill the DOA TPP, despite his triumphal boasts. His adversary, Hillary Clinton who now leads him by over two million popular votes was not sold on the deal. Above all, the TPP attracted six years’ concerted popular opposition in prospective member countries. Australian critics compared it with the US-Australia Free Trade agreement, a trade deal debacle, ABC’s Ian Verrender points out, that buggered Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, limited the Commonwealth’s power to price medicines cheaply, and contributed to the soaring costs of our health system.

When in 1940, Australia set up its PBS, the Australian government used a “reference pricing” scheme to keep medicines affordable to ordinary Australians. Signing up to AUSTFA a decade ago made that illegal. Instead, medicines were linked to patents. In 2007 the PBS was split into two different formularies, boosting the cost of medicines to consumers by effectively delaying access to cheaper, generic drugs by an average of three years. Patent holders could, however, use “ever greening” to extend the length of the patent’s life from 20 to 25 to 40 to 50 years.

Top marks for chutzpah and Trump chump of the week award, nevertheless, must go to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop who rushes to her ABC to reassure the nation that we will still cop a flogging even if the TPP is history. The Donald will not do away with AUSTFA, the Australia US Free Trade Agreement. Relax. It’s a dud deal.   “We run a trade deficit with the United States. The US has a considerable surplus so it’s unlikely to change.” She means YUGE, OK, Donald.

In 2015, the US was our second-largest two-way trading partner in goods and services, worth $70.2 billion. Australia’s goods exports to the United States were $14.2 billion. Australia’s total imports from the United States were $33.0 billion in 2015. Our bilateral services exports to the US were worth $7.9 billion and imports $15.1 billion in 2015.

Bishop skips the best bit. In ten years, ANU’s Shiro Armstrong calculates, the preferential trade agreement has diverted Australia’s trade away from the lowest-cost sources. AUSTFA has led to Australia and the United States reducing their trade with the rest of the world by US$53 billion making them worse off than they would have been without the agreement. Imports to Australia and the United States from the rest of the world fell by $37.5 billion.

Then there’s the bondage. Exports to the rest of the world from the two countries fell by $15.6 billion over eight years to 2012. Australia is forced away from competitive suppliers to those dependent on the agreement . Yet trade between the two nations has not increased while the growth of trade with East Asian nations has been held back.

AUSTFA, like all free trade agreements, is neither about free trade nor even about trade, it is about realpolitik. US sycophant and man of well-oiled steel, John Howard, eager for a deal with George W Bush, after the second US invasion of Iraq, rushed the agreement through in one year. Similarly, the TPP advances US corporate interests and counters China’s expanding influence. Consequently, Washington’s current administration is loath to let it go. Blocking the TPP is “handing the keys of the castle over to China”, Obama’s trade negotiator, Michael Froman, worries.

At least the Chinese are cheered. Trump’s threat is a green light to China’s campaign to reign supreme in the region. Their Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership or RECP as they call their new empire involves the 10 members of ASEAN, plus their regional trading partners China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India. The RECP is a TPP knock off with just as much free trade hymn-singing but with fewer, lower regulatory standards. Red-devil developers who don’t mind a bit of asbestos in their cheap as chips roof-panels or who like to take a bit of a gamble on their bargain structural steel holding up will be delighted at the prospect of less red tape in the way of profiteering.

China is tucking into the Asia-Pacific noodle-bowl with gusto; last month it signed up Malaysia, Cambodia and The Philippines in a blitz of cheque-book diplomacy, billion dollar trade, aid and investment deals. It’s picking off pro-US ASEAN nations opposed to its territorial claims on The South China Sea, through which flows $A6.7 trillion worth of cargo; half the world’s trade. For Kim Beazley, the Obama administration’s insertion of the US into Asia is about to come undone under Trump, yet Australia’s response is just wait and see: let Turnbull twang on his banjo about the TPP.

Mercifully Turnbull is quickly eclipsed by the APEC leaders’ silly shirts photo, a big part of its annual free trade gab-fest . But there’s a twist. The dominant paradigm is subverted their year by host Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, President of Peru. Crafty Kuczynski, in the only surprise move in APEC’s entire history, kits out his twenty-one visiting dignitaries in natty Peruvian vicuna wool shawls. The dun-coloured shawls will tone beautifully with local scenery as leaders return home to rust-belts left by the close of local manufacturing in nations where wages stubbornly remain over a dollar a day.

Factory closures, the ruin of local manufacturing and the destruction of entire communities are only part of the tithe demanded by the free trade agreement god. Free trade agreement worship also requires that leaders gather at APEC to make their ritual oath of solidarity before returning home to undermine each other’s prosperity and make war on the planet. Lima’s air is the most polluted of any Latin America city. Copper, silver, gold, mercury, and zinc mining, unchecked by generations of corrupt governments, has poisoned the local water supply and hastened deforestation.

Luckily, the versatile vicuna shawl doubles as an air filter, shade sail or towel. In the APEC family photo the shawls could almost be soiled beach towels thrown over one shoulder as if heads of state are returning from a dip in a toxic local waterhole. Or, perhaps, a dip in the ocean has led to their entanglement with the Pacific trash vortex, that gyre of marine debris which is yet another environmental blessing industrialisation confers upon the planet which is boosted by free trade. The pollution is augmented by marine debris liberated by container ships, over-fishing trawlers and other vessels busily extending the tentacles of grasping free-traders; choking the globe’s waterways.

Turnbull wants Trump to agree to parts of the TPP which he says will benefit Australia, as if any part of it is non-toxic. In June, even our Productivity Commission slammed the TPP and other recent free trade deals because “they grant legal rights to foreign investors not available to Australians, expose the government to potentially large unfunded liabilities and add extra costs on businesses attempting to comply with them.” But no-one in the Coalition listens.

The TPP, driven by big business including big tobacco, and big pharma was invented to benefit huge multi-nationals and to help the USA counter China’s growing regional rivalry. Thanks largely to former Trade Minister, Andrew Robb, the man who unfroze Labor’s glacial negotiations by agreeing with everything the USA demanded, the TPP is an article of faith in Liberal ideology. Yet no Liberal can ever spell out its benefits. On the other hand, its ISDS provisions would allow foreign companies to sue Australian governments over public health policy and environmental protection laws. Prices for medicine, would rise while our internet usage would incur greater surveillance.

Australians may be spared the TPP thanks to the Donald’s popular isolationism but should he carry out his threat to impose tariffs on Chinese imports, or enact any of his promised protectionist trade measures, Australia could be in for a bumpy ride. Luckily our crack team at DFAT, headed by show pony Julie Bishop and with jolting Joe Hockey strategically deployed Trump-side, has come up with a brilliant game plan. Denial. So far the government’s position is that The Donald is just bluffing about his trade and foreign policy. Never happen. Yet the evidence, from his transition team appointments, his recent attacks on the media, to his release of a video denouncing the TPP attest otherwise.

Luckily there is a big win for the government this week as Mike Baird nobbles ICAC by passing a law which replaces the current commissioner with not one head but three and makes a few running alterations which mean that property developers can be a lot more relaxed and comfortable if not brazen exhibitionists about getting back into bed with the Liberal Party. Profiteering out of buying and selling property now reclaims its rightful place as the moral mainstay of an agile and innovative nation. Real estate speculation can now come out from under the doona and mount the victors’ podium atop resource extraction and labour exploitation as number one engine of our 21st Century economy.

A knackered ICAC will restore the party’s fortunes in many ways. Perhaps Arthur Sinodinos may even recover his memory. A frighteningly re-energised screaming Scott Morrison is out of the blocks already; his sights fixed on filling developers’ pockets. He talks all over a fawning Lee Sales on 7:30. Gotta increase supply. Relax zoning. Release land on the edge of town. No jobs, no transport but by God it will sell well. He’s all worked up to distract us from party-poopers Deloitte Access Economics whose forecast this week joins other experts who warn that as treasurer Morrison is a hopeless joke. His binge-spending coupled with his denial of his revenue problem is rapidly increasing the deficit.

When the government finally “puts out the garbage” by releasing its budget update at the last possible minute if not the night before Christmas, the blowout will be about $24 billion over four years, a total of $108 billion. Despite the deficit being comparatively low by international comparison, our externally sourced private debt – much of it invested in housing via the banking system – is among the highest in the world.

Lowest on record is PM Turnbull’s approval even according to Newspoll which has the PM on -20. It’s four troughs down and twenty-six to go, by the formula Turnbull used to topple Abbott. Confidence in Turnbull to manage the economy has dropped below 50% for the first time. Essential and Newspoll have Labor ahead 53-47%. Given this and the economic bad news, what can any hopelessly divided, incompetent Coalition do but get into the gutter with Trump?

Peter “dog-whistle” Dutton plays the race card again. Ignorance and bigotry are his strongest suit. Last week’s shameful attack on Lebanese migrants is extended in parliament in a bid to wedge Labor on immigration or paint them as soft on border protection.

“The advice I have,” he tells the parliament, “is that out of the last 33 people who have been charged with terrorist-related offences in this country, 22 of those people are from second- and third-generation Lebanese Muslim background. The hyped up figure is repeated even by those who protest his bigotry despite its flaky nature. Teenagers posting on Facebook boost the dodgy statistic. Yet if Dutton has his way, even challenging his figures will become a terrorism-related offence.

The paragon of border control who spends $400,000 a year on every refugee locked up, the genius who chooses to further torture refugees on Manus and Nauru with false hope by airing a deal with the US which is clearly dead in the water is not shy of attacking Malcolm Fraser. “Mistakes were made” in his refugee program. Labor challenges him to be specific. He can’t.

“The reality,” he says, “is Malcolm Fraser did make mistakes in bringing some people in the 1970s and we’re seeing that today.” Fraser should have been able to eyeball refugees then and pick which ones would bear terrorist-related offending grandchildren. In a payback to a dead man who dared criticise his punitive detention and off-shore torture policy, the classy Dutton argues in effect that Australia should be admitting only the right kind of refugee, the immigrant who fits in and eagerly assimilates. It’s a preposterous rationing of human compassion and a wilful denial of the government’s own non-selective policy and the UN Refugee Convention. It explains the delay in Syrian refugee arrivals.

Posturing as a moderate against a “tricky Bill Shorten”, Dutton ends up wedging Turnbull who is daily revealed to be a weak leader, our weakest Prime Minister ever, who must appease his right wing captors at all costs even if it means indulging overt racist hate-speak in parliament. Each time Dutton gets into the gutter he drags his captive Prime Minister down with him.

Worse. For WA Labor MP Anne Aly, Dutton’s dog-whistling evokes several immediate threats of bodily harm. A Facebook post next day reads ” I would love to kill you and poison your family. ” Another reads “Peter Dutton was right,” referring to “Leb thugs”. “Pack your bags and piss off back to where you came from and take all of your terrorist faith with you.”

Turnbull’s failure to censure his Minister makes him complicit in these attacks. The closest he comes is to send Deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop out to ride shotgun in damage control. Bishop claims absurdly that the Immigration Minister was misquoted. He meant that 1970s support systems for refugees were not up to today’s world class standard.

Compromising himself utterly in truth or leadership stakes, Turnbull plunges to new depths of cringing servitude to his right wing in praising Dutton for “doing an outstanding job” when, under any other PM, his minister’s record in breach duty of care alone would be grounds for dismissal.

A Senate committee hearing last year, was told by Immigration that it had received 14 reports of sexual assault, 213 of physical assault and 798 of abusive behaviour in the offshore processing centre on Manus Island. The Guardian published files of 2000 incident reports of injury from self-harm, sexual assaults, child abuse, hunger strikes, assaults and injuries written by guards, caseworkers and teachers between 2013-15. Dutton disputed, dismissed or diminished the reports and has so far done nothing to demonstrate his ministerial responsibility for those in his care.

Dutton’s “outstanding” record suggests callous indifference if not cruelty as well as neglect. He called Samantha Maiden “a mad fucking witch”. A month elapsed before he would even acknowledge the plight of Abyan, a 23 year old Somali woman, pregnant after she was raped on Nauru. Later, awaiting an abortion, Abyan was deported from a hospital bed.

Dutton’s typical response to news of his torture regime is to attack the messenger. He has repeatedly attacked the ABC as being on a Jihad against him, or having a left-wing bias. He has falsely accused refugee advocates of causing or coaching asylum seekers to self-harm. He has even claimed that refugees and asylum-seekers in his care “self-immolate” in order to be deported to mainland Australia. His outbursts are irrational, unreasonable, even paranoid.

Shock therapy is called for if Turnbull is to resuscitate his government. He must dismiss Dutton immediately. He must also dump Trump and tear up the US-Australia so-called Free Trade agreement; liberate our trade with our closest neighbours. DFAT should be planning now for an independent strategic and trade policy in which China is in ascendancy and the USA is in retreat.

The PM needs to meet the rise of Trump not by getting into the gutter with him, not by attacking Fraser but by following Fraser’s late example of tolerance and humanity. He must counter Baird’s attack on honesty and integrity in politics with a federal ICAC. Above all he needs to assert himself over his rabidly right wing captors. Tear up his Faustian pact with the Nationals. He has nothing to lose but his whips and his chains.





Turnbull needs to dump Trump; bring home our refugees.


Extravagant professions of loyalty and devotion to the United States strike a somewhat awkward note for many Australian ears. How do we imagine they sound in the capitals of our neighbours?” … great powers regard deference as no more than their due”. Malcolm Turnbull 2011

An eerie light suffuses politics this week. A super moon, as astrologers term a full moon or a new moon which coincides with the closest approach the moon makes to the earth; super-charging lunatics everywhere and fertilising the bumper crop of nonsense that thrives in our post-truth, post science era.

Public-spirited newspapers such as the UK’s Daily Telegraph warn readers that “some even see the super moon as an omen of disaster or a warning of something momentous coming towards us”. Spookily on cue, moon-raker Donald Trump, President-elect of the dark side of the United States, bares his buttocks, mooning truth, justice and the American way causing a rash of local copy-cats eager just to be offensive or, like our PM with his sneer at elite media, keen to spin The Donald’s win to his own advantage.

There is something richly attractive in the elevation of a political illiterate; an irrational, unstable narcissistic con-man described by those who know him as a dangerous sociopath, a man whose response to criticism is petty and vindictive; a bigot and a sexual predator, a compulsive liar who is capable of doing anything who will deny everything. Especially if he’s about to become the next President of the United States of America.

A conga line of suck holes comprising Prime Ministers, Presidents, and sundry other aspiring petty despots and international heads of state rush to kiss Trump’s rump. Of course it’s risky. There are no protocols. No holds are barred. Someone’s bound to get trampled in the crush. Or “Trumpled”. Shinzo Abe, Japan’s perpetually bewildered Prime Minister appears terminally dazed and confused after meeting The Donald in person, a state not helped later when he surfaces in Peru, forced to wear a silly shirt and having to pretend to believe in free trade when Japan plays favourites; grants favourable credit terms to selected industries.

Never to be outbid, a pumped Malcolm Turnbull even jumps the queue, we discover Thursday. Our agile PM, Trump’s satellite of love down under, gets Aussie battler Greg Norman’s help with the pussy-grabber’s mobile number, gushes Daily Telegraph’s Sharri Markson whose breathless, exclusive, expose also stars Joe Hockey who moonlights as Australian ambassador to the US in between picking up his parliamentary pension. Murdoch media go wild over this victory. There’s a whiff of another class act, Alan Bond and his America’s Cup win about it. Paul Hogan eat your heart out. Call that a contacts list?

Oozing Aussie ingenuity, Turnbull rips the ring-pull lid off a can of true-blue larrikin can-do: skolls its contents. The silver fox rolls up his sleeves; takes off his favourite tie with the motif of the man lifting a weight above his head; wrangles protocol to the floor of the diplomatic jungle. We’re in like Flynn. Whoarr! Hourly bulletins recycle moonbeam Markson’s gatecrash story. Shark. Hockey. Trump. Whoarr! Plucky little Australia makes its own luck. Turnbull, as always is soon heard boasting, taking credit for someone else’s bonzer brainwave.

“In diplomacy and politics you use lots of networks and all I can say is we have great networks, great contacts and Greg Norman is a great Australian,” NBN disaster architect Turnbull grates after DFAT’s frantic efforts to get Trump’s number failed. At least Norman will be grateful for the plug. Estimated to be worth a paltry $300 million, The Shark is doing it hard after being boned by Fox for choking on microphone after only a year as a golf commentator. Norman became “speechless” over Dustin Johnson’s meltdown on the 72nd hole of the US Open, where he three-putted to hand Jordan Spieth victory.

Clearly Norman had no relevant personal insights to bring to bear, unlike Trump who can tap his YUGE real estate career and the world of the reality TV host to finesse his education in realpolitik and comes thoroughly prepared to be leader of the free world.

Our PM is in The Donald’s ear for a whole fifteen minutes on TPP, ISIS, trade and regional security, throbs The Daily Tele whose readers love romantic fiction featuring celebrity super-heroes in a two-dimensional post-truth universe. No need to explain that Trump knows nothing about foreign affairs and less about Australia. No reason to suppose a man with the concentration span of a gnat understood not a word of Turnbull’s unctuous toadying.

No-one in DFAT reads the New York Times which points out that Trump clearly intends to carry out all of his campaign threats to make war on America; bulldoze the status quo and reverse eight years of liberal domestic policies and also to overturn decades of bipartisan consensus on the United States’ proper role in world affairs.

Turnbull’s shark-assisted call comes to nothing in the end. Yet the PM’s dial a Donald stunt does help to boost our cultural cringe towards the US, as Paul Bongiorno notes. PM media mavens publish photographs of our Fizza standing erect as he talks on a clunky landline to the President-elect. The handset looks like it’s recycled from a Blue Heelers set. If the call were to set up a meeting as Turnbull passed through New York en route to the APEC wankfest in Lima, Saturday, his mobile diplomacy turns out to be another dud.

In what has become his signature political move, the PM chokes. Despite being in the vicinity, he receives no invite from The Donald. Turnbull blames bad timing. Trump, indeed, may well be strapped for time. He must now a find $25 million to settle out of court a six year fraud case brought by six thousand students who enrolled in Trump University only to be denied any of the real estate secrets the proprietor promised. Trump also has to pay a million dollars to the state for violating the state’s education laws.

New York’s Attorney-General, Eric Schneiderman paints a helpful sketch of Malcolm Turnbull’s newest bestie, if only the PM were capable of listening. “Donald Trump fought us every step of the way, filing baseless charges and fruitless appeals and refusing to settle for even modest amounts of compensation for the victims of his phony university.”

Schneiderman skips racist abuse. Trump also attacked Judge Gonzalo Curiel, the Federal District Court judge hearing the case for not only being a hater, a total disgrace and biased, but also a Mexican. The Judge is a US citizen born in Indiana who is of Mexican heritage.

Suddenly, Turnbull’s judgement is in the spotlight again – and for all the wrong reasons. What makes his Trump snub worse is his rush to delude himself that The Donald is someone else. He’s all over Trump like a rash punting on a fellow huckster, con-man and shyster failing to keep his promises. He won’t ban Muslims, make NATO pay for its bases or impose tariffs on Chinese imports as if not following through with lunatic threats will improve his suitability to be president.

Local media eagerly spin the Coalition line that Trump will turn out to be just another Ronald Reagan with bad hair and a Twitter account. Shorten, however, sticks to his barking mad call only to cop abuse from Turnbull for endangering national security. Mostly MPs backflip. Mouth that roars, SA submarine builder Christopher Pyne now raves about Trump’s defence build-up “signalling immense opportunities for Australia”. In March, he said, a Trump Presidency terrified him.

Incredibly, Australian media present Trump’s out of court fraud settlement as a victory for the President-elect. No matter that the students who were conned may get only half their money back. No matter that the case raises issues of probity which go to the heart of his suitability to be any kind of president. The settlement allows Trump or Trump University to accept no fault, surely something contradicted by the payout, niggardly as it is. Will this prevent Trump from assuming The Presidency? Don’t bet on it. One Nation’s Rod Culleton is overcome with envy. Malcolm Turnbull plays the Trump card when Leigh Sales asks hard questions.

Sales cheekily asks Turnbull if he got real with Trump, bowling the PM’s own “frank and forthright” cliché back at him. Sales has the nerve to imply Turnbull might ask the President-elect what will become of the 1600 refugees on Nauru and Manus we now torture afresh with promises of a new life in Trump-land. A “frank and forthright” PM, moreover, would also deplore Trump’s misogyny, views he called “Loathsome …(which) deserve the absolutely universal condemnation that they’ve received.” But that was last month.

Instead, the silver-tail sneers at ABC elitism, a Trump tactic. Turnbull, an MP who owes everything to his membership of more elites than you can poke a stick at, counters Sales’ questions by mocking the ABC for being an elite media organisation which indulges itself and wastes funds pursuing the truth; fruitlessly attempting to hold the government to account. Why, he implies, is the ABC not more like Markson’s rag? Devote itself to seeking endless ways to praise the Coalition; relay government propaganda and attack Labor?

Saturday’s Daily Tele spares no hyperbole, painting Bill Shorten a bigger threat to world trade than Donald Trump.

“Elite media” features bigly in Trump’s limited political lexicon. Like paranoid Peter Dutton, Trump maintains that there’s a conspiracy against him in his rants against the dwindling band of responsible journalists still left working in the US whose work appears in the few remaining independent news outlets such as The Washington Post or The New York Times. Like Turnbull and his government, Trump’s real beef is with being held to account.

Turnbull airbrushes Trump’s unpopularity. Around half of all eligible US voters did not bother to vote; and of those who did, half voted for Hillary Clinton, meaning The Donald won only a quarter of the vote. Fifty million Americans, it is estimated, cannot bring themselves to even register to vote. Sales doesn’t ask how our PM can continue to claim that “the American people have spoken.”

Unchallenged also are MPs who insist billionaire Trump’s win is a victory for ordinary people, a spin happily encouraged by mainstream media and seized upon by Eric Abetz, George Christensen, Corey Bernardi and a crush of attention-seekers, nutters and trouble-makers infesting the lunar right of the Coalition or our own dark side of the mooners, the odd-ball cross-bench created by Turnbull’s double dissolution. Yet they, too, claim the same about their own nonsense; they are not using their position to promote their own lunatic views, they are just saying what ordinary people are thinking.

If romancing the Donald can be tricky as back-flipping and denying it, Immigration has been thrown into chaos by the implications of Trump’s victory on a secret refugee deal with strings attached it has cooked up with a clearly underwhelmed Obama administration.

Is it a cruel hoax? Will the 1600 refugees we currently torture by indefinite detention, abuse and neglect on Manus and Nauru Islands be relocated to the US in return for our government taking refugees from Costa Rica? Obsessed with secrecy, the Turnbull government will make public no details of the proposed swap, a deal which will never receive President-elect Donald Trump’s approval. Our Prime Minister is vague on the details. Peter Dutton says nothing but manages to confuse the issue. Barnaby Joyce says on Monday’s ABC Q&A that he knows because he’s on the joint security committee. But he can’t tell. At least it makes him feel important. The situation would be laughable if we were not playing with peoples’ lives.

Instead of real details, the nation is treated to a preposterous fantasia of military might. Maps are shown with images of boats. “More sea-craft will be deployed than at any time in our history since World War Two”, puffs our Prime Minister, as if we are at war with asylum-seekers – as if we are to believe the tired old fiction that demon people smugglers will exploit any opportunity to pursue their vile trade and will suddenly launch a thousand ships now that our nation has shown its hand. Or half-revealed its plan.

A weak, indecisive leader and a poor communicator, a puppet if not a total tool of his reactionary right wing, who is now less popular than his bone-headed predecessor, PM Malcolm Turnbull is making a desperate, dramatic attempt to cut through. Malcolm Bligh Turnbull, the great vacillator, is making a last ditch attempt to convince us that despite his surrender to the right, despite his total capitulation to the National Party, despite all his dithering over tax policy, he’s really a strong and decisive leader.

Yep, Turnbull is one hell of a tough guy, underneath the leather jacket wearing public transport is fun nerd with the Apple I-watch guy. No-one mucks around with MT, he’s out to show us. Monday he’s got tough guy written all over his unsmiling face which is only a whisker away from sulky. He bares his bottom teeth. He sticks out his lower jaw. Points with his chin. He makes great show of being resolute and committed.

Peter Dutton up behind him somewhere stares manfully at the back of Turnbull’s neck.

Turnbull will be tough on border protection, whatever that means. Moreover, he’s got all of Tony Abbott’s puerile slogans off pat just to show us that he, too, can militarise compassion or make war on the UNHCR. No-one lectures Turnbull on how to out-posture Abbott.

In a high camp production number not out of place in an episode of Border Patrol, Turnbull unfurls his new cut jib on national television with a whole set from Border Force Central Command behind him including a rear-admiral in tropical rig naval uniform who looks as if he may fall flat on his face if someone doesn’t put a ship’s wheel in front of him soon.

Incredibly, elite ABC reporters find no queue of asylum-seekers in Indonesia. They interview refugees from Afghanistan but no-one is prepared to risk years of processing on a sea-voyage with a fifty per cent chance of failure. The tsunami of opportunist refugees appears just another lie; a shonky justification for Turnbull’s show of force.

It the PM wants to show he’s a strong man, he will need real strength to put things right with refugees on Nauru and Manus whose mental health his government has already stretched beyond breaking point; whose hopes he has now cruelly aroused but must now surely dash. Even Trump will tell him to forget about any other country, Australia must now step up and assume its legal and moral responsibility.

Having failed to wedge Labor on its absurd bill to ban asylum seekers from even visiting Australia, there is only way forward for the Turnbull government. Resettle all those on Manus and Nauru on the mainland; bring them home without delay. Drop the posturing. Stop dreaming. Forget Trump. A strong leader can be compassionate, democratic and responsible. A little bit of independence won’t hurt a bit. Try to act like a real Prime Minister. 


Trump-mania overtakes Australia in Turnbull’s bad hair week.



“My door will always be open” tweets Pauline Hanson, at the first signs of Donald Trump’s surprise victory. Is it an ironic echo of her 1996 maiden speech? “Of course I will be called racist but if I can invite whom I want into my home, then I should have the right to have a say in who comes into my country.”

In 2001, desperate for a boost in the polls, fellow US sycophant, John Winston Howard, stole Hanson’s line: “But we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.” Howard went on to praise Philip Ruddock, who lied that babies were thrown overboard, helping his and subsequent governments demonise asylum-seekers, refugees, people-smugglers and ultimately the UNHCR.

Fifteen years later, immigration still dominates the week’s politics. “We, the United States, have agreed to consider referrals from UNHCR on refugees now residing in Nauru and Papua New Guinea,” declares US Secretary of State John Kerry, Sunday, upstaging the Coalition’s own announcement and our MPs’ frenzied Trump fan clubbing.

Earlier in the week, Ms Hanson is elbowed aside by other MPs with a soft spot for a con-man. Who doesn’t love a misogynistic, sexist, racist thug? Fan boy Cory Bernardi tweets images of himself in a cap saying “make Australia great again”. George Christensen, who begged Hanson not to run a candidate against him last election, says “it shows people want a different style of politics”, while, ever sensitive to the popular will, autocratic Tasmanian Senator Eric Abetz says “people do want to get back into control”; rid of the tyranny of political correctness.

Ayatollah Abetz hectors Race Discrimination Commissioner Dr Tim Soutphommasane. How dare he propose that “our society must have strong protections against racial abuse and vilification, while guaranteeing freedom of speech?”   The Commissioner must “consider his position and … reflect on whether his elitist approach to enforcing his world view on people is in line with the expectations of the Australian people whom he should be serving.”

Trumpmania is not just for nutters. A crush of Federal MPs, former PMs and wannabes stage dive into the populist mosh pit of The Donald’s Aussie victory concert. They crowd-surf on the cross-bench molls, trolls and xenophobes partying happily in step already with the Trump trash pop groove.

A bevy of local experts on demagogues and charlatans including John Howard, John Hewson, Paul Keating, Kevin Rudd and Georgina Downer eagerly review The Trump Show for us; peer into the Donald’s crooked looking glass.”

“It’s a huge victory for middle America, Ms Downer writes in deathless IPA prose. It is a rejection of liberal internationalism, political correctness and the progressive politics of urban elites in favour of traditional American values … Trump will lead the US in the right direction.”

“The American people have made a great and momentous choice” says Turnbull. If only someone could tell the American people.

“Fuck Trump” say the placards of demonstrators in a dozen US cities, who clearly are not feeling hugely victorious.  On the streets are scenes of fear and uncertainty; an abdication of leadership. Crowds chant “Not my president!”

Australia is quite safe, we are told, now there’s a crazy, trigger-happy cowboy at the helm of the world’s most powerful nation. Don’t believe everything he says. Now that he is President-elect, his threats and promises will be revealed to be “just campaign devices”. He didn’t mean it or others will keep him in check when he is on the oval office. Relax. The politics of inertia takes care of itself.

There are grounds for scepticism. Arab diplomatic sources report that the Trump campaign contacted Middle East embassies in Washington, D.C. three months after Trump declared his ban on Muslims entering the U.S.: “ His campaign workers asked key Arab diplomats to ‘ignore Mr. Trump’s rhetoric on the campaign trail.” Trump is also “walking back” his threat to dismantle Obamacare and his threat to put crooked Hillary in jail.

Yet there are countless other grounds for concern over Trump’s character despite the dubious defences.  No matter how many women testify to being sexually assaulted by The Donald, all thirteen are lying, including first wife Ivana Trump in her sworn 1990 divorce deposition. No matter that Trump refuses to show his tax returns or anything else that gets in the way of his pathological need for approval, when’s he’s President, he’ll do better. No matter that Trump lies about opposing the Iraq war; we all make mistakes when we speak in public.   No matter that the only thing that the only consistency in his incoherent, rambling, ranting campaign hate speeches is his insatiable appetite for applause. It’s his traditional vibe that matters. No matter he’s only in it for the rallies and the rabble-rousing self-gratification.

In a post-truth, post modern world, the naturally repulsive Mr Trump is an anti-hero for his times, a grotesque travesty of a popular leader whose political skills amount to shrewdly echoing his listeners’ prejudices, anxieties and fears. Like all demagogues, he knows how to give voters what he thinks they want to hear.

Trump’s cunning enough to know that he can make big promises to little people because they are too small to make him keep them. Like Tony Abbott, or Malcolm Turnbull, The Donald’s counterfeit discourse makes authentic civic conversation impossible. One thing only is certain, no-one – least of all the impulsive Donald Trump – knows what he will do.


To real-estate clients Trump offers three types of luxury, luxury, super luxury and super, super luxury. After interviewing him to discover what makes The Donald tick, the New Yorker’s Mark Singer concluded, Trump has achieved the ultimate luxury, “an existence unmolested by the rumbling of a soul”. The Donald will say or do anything if it gets a cheer.

Trump may promise to “bomb the shit out of ISIS” and steal their oil or build a Mexican wall or round up and deport twelve million “illegal” aliens. He may claim climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese to steal US jobs.

But there’s more to the Trump vibe than the thrill of ignorance and bigotry unleashed. It’s a field day for Tony Abbott and all other self-respecting narcissists who rush the airwaves to admire their own features in the vanity mirror of their gloss on Trump’s upset victory. Turn his win to their advantage.  In a barb aimed at his PM which wilfully misrepresents Trump’s radicalism, Abbott says “politicians should not ignore the conservative vote” .

The failed former prime minister is quickly slapped down by the current incompetent. Turnbull tells 3AW that Abbott’s policies: his budget and copayment played a huge part in voter disillusionment. Trumping Abbott’s bid for attention, he is telephoned by the US President-elect – the fifth world leader on the list. Trump, he reports “was warm”. He is a businessman, a deal-maker. The US President-elect and the Australian leader have a great deal in common. What can possibly go wrong?

“I suppose as both being businessmen who found our way into politics, somewhat later in life, we come to the problems of our own nations and indeed world problems with a pragmatic approach,” lies Turnbull, who has been in politics all his life, adding for good measure that the US has principles which both parties must follow.

The sacred Australia-US Alliance will be preserved, Mr Turnbull vows. Amen. No-one really believes that Donald Trump has even heard of it, let alone understands it. No matter. Australian politicians love to get it wrong. The alliance is only “an agreement to consult” .   The ANZUS Treaty is similarly ambiguous. It calls on signatories to “consult” and “act” if another party is attacked, but does not specify what that action should be. But we can’t let that worry us with Trump magic in the air.

A presidential campaign which has defied rational analysis for eighteen months suddenly makes sense to everybody. Miraculously it gives heart to both our Prime Ministers, the deposed but yet undead former Prime Minister and his replacement with the same policies, Malcolm Turnbull, yet neither is quite as Trump-struck as Pauline. Could it be love?

Ms Hanson blushes later, laughing off Karl Stefanovic on Nine and his suggestion that she has the hots for the delectable Donald. A model of accommodation for this rich white male member of a power elite, the One Nation leader and former celebrity dancer cum political commentator, poses with champagne in parliament grounds to offer her probing assessment of Trump’s victory over Clinton. The success of the billionaire reality TV host, property speculator and tax evader who inherited his father’s real-estate business and between $40 and $200 million and who forced small contractors out of business by not paying his bills, represents a win for little people everywhere.

Hanson, who has represented her little people by voting with the government on all but two occasions so far, dismisses Stefanovic’s call for Trump’s isolationist rhetoric to be taken seriously. In vain, the Nine host instances The Donald’s ranting against NAFTA and all other Free Trade Agreements including our Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) a very big deal whose benefits to Australia this government has yet to spell out to anyone. He could just as easily instance Trump’s role as an apologist for Russia.

“I believe what Donald Trump says, look after your own country first. Karl, they’re not going to be isolationists. People put this fear factor out,” she says, blithely unaware that Trump’s “America First” is the slogan of 1930s US isolationists, confusing it, perhaps, with a religion. Anything you don’t understand can be explained away as the work of a conspiracy.

Cory Bernardi, George Christensen and Malcolm Roberts follow Hanson; publicly clutching at the coat-tails of The Donald’s sudden elevation from racist hate-speaker, paranoid fear-monger and pathological liar to popular hero. For Mr. Bernardi, not only is Trump’s win a win for all billionaire narcissists oppressed by political correctness everywhere, it is all about Cory and “a validation of all I have been warning about for many years.”

Mr. Bernardi, an inveterate attention-seeker who insists that his own ultra-conservative agenda and his homophobia somehow represent a persecuted silent majority, warns of “major political parties wilfully ignoring voters in favour of their own power and self-interest.”

“We see this as a wonderful opportunity to restore freedom” says Malcolm Roberts who, not to be outdone, defies all forms of correctness when he appears Thursday unfurling an infantile US revolutionary flag beloved of Tea Party nutters and troublemakers everywhere. It bears an image of a serpent and the legend “don’t tread on me”.

It’s been a huge week for Mr Roberts whose press conference Monday saw him release a 42-page document claiming the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology corrupted climate data and that global warming is an international Jewish banking conspiracy to gain global control through environmentalism.

PHON Freedom, of course, has its limits. When journalists ask about Rod Culleton, party hack James Ashby shouts: “We’re not talking about that now.” The media conference is closed.

Later, claiming to have been invited to “connect” with the Trump presidency, the irrepressible Roberts hisses that Trump is ” … dismantling the establishment … what we have is only One Nation, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, capable of dealing with Donald Trump’s presidency.” Roberts’ monopoly on The Donald is a big call even in a week when the PM rises to nail Tony Abbott’s colours to his mast over same sex marriage.

“I’m not interested in gesture politics,” gestures Malcolm Bligh Turnbull Tuesday in the House, earning howls of derision from Opposition MPs who know a token politician when they see through one. Despite its duplicity and heroic denial, his government has been ambushed by reality. After the defeat of its bill in the senate Monday, marriage equality will no longer be tried by divisive plebiscite and alarmist, sensational government-funded homophobic propaganda.

It’s a crisis, firstly because the PM has no plan B; it’s his signature. Turnbull’s singular capacity to tie himself up in knots devising a single, workable plan A was painfully evident in his everything on the table taxation reform debacle. Despite George Brandis and other bullies urging that it was now or never, the movement for equality will not die down. It is likely now to proceed via a bill to the senate where it will be passed and then referred to a lower house where Turnbull’s leadership will be severely tested by a vociferous minority of hard right opponents of gay marriage such as Cory Bernardi and Eric Abetz who have never really accepted his authority or legitimacy.

As one plank of a thin campaign platform collapses and with the prospect of an ABCC defeat in the senate imminent, the government’s thin agenda is even more exposed. The diversions of racial vilification and his popular war on asylum-seekers and showing humanity to refugees appear to be little more than wedge politics. His 18C show is currently getting up a head of steam with the announcement of an inquiry into the Human Rights Commission. Luckily, his Turnbullishly clever double dissolution, as Annabel Crabb would have it, has wrought some colourful distractions of its own.

A merciful diversion is provided by One Nation as Pauline Hanson throws her own Rod Culleton under a bus after it becomes clear that the sand-groper, a natural amateur standup comedian, owes around $5 million at least to a big bank and to Wesfarmers. When he declared his eligibility, moreover, his pending sentence for felony slipped his mind as did any inkling that he might, to all intents and purposes, be insolvent.

Reversing over his body to see if he’s dead, Hanson waves Culleton’s One Nation Party application before tabling the document in the Senate – just in case it might appear One Nation itself was in any way at fault.

Culleton, clearly a threat to Malcolm Roberts’ place as best standup routine in the One Nation team entry, touchingly promised reporters in July that even should his candidacy be annulled, his key-nicking, debt-defaulting days were over: “I’m going to pursue a life of common sense and real down-to-earth politics.” Neither of which, clearly, are achievable should he remain in either the One Nation party or in the senate.

All is not lost, however, on big Bob Katter who takes a shine to young Rod. He calls forlornly upon Pauline to stand by her man. Could it be, he ponders aloud, in the House of Representatives Monday, that Culleton’s support of a Royal Commission into banking, his opposition to foreign ownership of farms or his stance against the ABCC have put the skids under his otherwise promising career path? Perish the thought.

Back in his office, Malcolm Turnbull takes solace in his red tea pot. Things can only get better next week. He’s made a fool of himself in airing his misunderstanding of the role of the HRC. His big refugee announcement sounds like a con and he has been gazumped by John Kerry. Obama’s got to be allowed one parting shot.
Bungling George Brandis has backed down disgracefully after trying to take over the solicitor general’s authority. His mission critical ABCC bill, so urgently required to free our great nation of workplace thuggery has been put on hold while One Nation gets its act together; at least until its senators’ bona fides are sorted out by the High Court.
Bob Day just won’t go away but at least the Coalition has not revealed what it knew about him so far.  At least the backpacker tax debate has been put off until Barnaby or the monkey pod boys tell him what to do about it.

Turnbull government’s week of desperate, dirty politics.



“We were robbed.” Labor’s lies about Medicare blinded voters to the allure of tax cuts for the rich and funding cuts to hospitals and schools. In Tasmania, the Prime Minister tells the three amigos, Eric Hutchinson, Andrew Nikolic and Brett Whiteley what they want to hear. He’s good at that – and he’s not bad at finger-pointing either. Everything is Labor’s fault again this week from Hazelwood’s closure to South Australia’s aggressive 40% renewable energy target by 2020 which he is hoping we forget was set by the Howard government.

It’s just what the reality evaders and Tony Abbott supporters need to hear. It’s not that they were bad advocates for those who elected them. It’s not that their policies were few and fanciful. It’s that someone else is to blame. It’s a Turnbull government mantra; a futile bid to evade accountability. Don’t expect Nikolic to ask the PM to help him honour his tertiary education funding campaign promise of $150 million to UTAS for a new campus at Inveresk.

Turnbull has been stood up by Joko Widodo whose immense personal popularity has led more than one reporter to ponder whether our PM has something to learn from him. They have much in common. For starters, Joko Widodo is just another puppet of predatory oligarchic elites. Naturally, fluffy puff pieces are being rushed to our screens now in which Jokowi, as he is known, explains his amazing strategy of talking to the people.

Yet suddenly, unfathomably, the man of the people has a riot to attend to; a popular protest where some in the mob seem out for his blood. Some days, as One Nation bush poet Rod Culleton says, dog-shit just sticks to your boot.

Is there an Indonesian solution in the pipeline? Certainly, the problem of what to do with asylum-seekers on Manus and Nauru won’t go away just because we can’t talk about it. Whatever was in the wind, Joko’s choking has meant Turnbull is robbed by fate once again of a chance to pose as a statesman. Now, as Liberal shill Nikki Savva puts it on ABC Insiders Sunday he must go (once again) into “a new week of parliament with nothing”.

Fate also snatches away any chance to chat about the Ubud Writers’ festival where a year ago Jokowi made news for censoring three panel discussions set up to explore the Indonesian genocide of 1965; the brutal repression of the will of the people in which it is estimated up to a million people were executed for being suspected of opposing the government; communists, left-wingers, critics, independent thinkers and suchlike.

Secrecy makes it impossible to know how many died, but our PM will surely want to chat with Widodo about the international panel of judges which concluded this July that Indonesia’s mass killings of 1965 were crimes against humanity, and that the United States, United Kingdom and Australia were all complicit in the crimes.

Luckily for all concerned, an epic extravaganza bursts upon the national stage this week sweeping all before it. Holy smoke! Hazelwood mania is taking the country by storm.

The arresting tale of an elderly coal-fired power station in intensive care battling to come to terms with its mortality seizes the imagination of the nation, Hazelwood Mon Amor is an extraordinary production in which virtuous denim-clad artisan turbine tenders in moccasins and tats heroically contend with impending disaster caused when perfidious socialists collude with greenies to close the noble smoke stacks of a poor community’s life support system.

Hazelwood, we are told, will lose up to a 1000 jobs  – all because of a state Labor government’s avarice in tripling its brown coal royalty and its demonic pursuit of a 40% renewable energy target for green-washed ideological reasons. And it gets worse. Hazelwood’s closure will cripple a vibrant LaTrobe Valley economy. Without Hazelwood, the state will go from a net energy exporter to a net importer. Next thing you know, Victoria will be forced to suck on the withered tit of Bass-link. It’s the last blow for coal, we are told, as if that’s a bad thing.

Hazelwood is a post-truth drama. The Andrews government’s new royalty merely brings Victoria into line with NSW; its 40% renewables by 2025 target sees it join ACT, Queensland and South Australia, states with more ambitious targets than the federal government which has cut its target causing a three year drought in investment.   And Victoria’s target will create employment. Victoria’s Minister for Energy and Climate, Lily D’Ambrosio says her state’s scheme is expected to generate 3,000 jobs by 2020, before any costs were imposed, and then another 4,000 additional jobs by 2023/24.

Yet the government of the turning bull never lets fact spoil its story. The loss of 1000 jobs is tiny compared with an SEC workforce slashed from 11,000 in the late 1980s to 2600 in Jeff Kennett’s newly privatised state power grid which left one third of families in Moe and Morwell without bread-winners. Nor are the workers merely cast aside penniless. The CFMEU, demonised by the Coalition, has negotiated $300,000 plus redundancy packages for workers. The confected outrage has nothing to do with compassion for the workers or their families.

The Hazelwood saga is scripted by Peabody Energy, the world’s largest coal-mining company in which the closure of mines and power stations is reduced to a choice between jobs or coal. The environment can fend for itself; what really matters is “energy security” another Peabody concept, that only coal or gas-fired generation can bestow and something archly referred to as base-load power which cannot possibly be achieved without base-load generators burning coal or perhaps powered by nuclear reactors.

Yet north German states Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Schleswig-Holstein already operate on 100% net renewable energy, mostly wind; trading with each other and neighbours and without baseload power stations.

As Christine Milne put it ‘We are now in the midst of a fight between the past and the future.’ The refutation of the baseload fairy tale and other myths falsely denigrating renewable energy are a key part of that struggle.”

Once again a tamed ABC and a bought mainstream commercial media do big mining’s dirty work for it on behalf of a crisis-ridden, coal-powered Coalition desperately in need of a tactical diversion if not aerial support in its jihad against renewables, refugees, reporters or anyone who might tell truth to power.

Our ABC blitzes the airwaves, sensationalising the long overdue closure of brown coal-burning Hazelwood, the dirtiest power station in the developed world, a dinosaur of energy generation. Josh Frydenberg lies that the Andrews government has driven the operator out of town while French owner Engie repeatedly explains that its decision to close the fifty year old plant is economic; nothing to do with state government policies.

Aunty’s obsession almost eclipses the chaos in the Senate as Liberal stooge Bob Day, who even managed to vote to cut family allowances, resigns as the High Court prepares to get the last laugh on One Nation’s Rob Culleton, an amateur stand-up comedian who claims “four glasses of wine” may have caused him to incorrectly declare he was eligible to stand for the Senate.

Culleton also believes that the High Court has been acting illegally in not issuing writs in the name of the Queen but that will not prevent it sitting in judgement on his eligibility to be a senator given that he was a convicted felon at the time he stood for office, a conviction that was subsequently quashed. What may not help Culleton defend his false declaration is his apparent insolvency, broadly defined as owing more money than you can pay back.

The One Nation funster appears to have a liquidity crisis, owing around $5 million to Wesfarmers and a bank. But there’s no justice, as Rod himself is fond of pointing out. Don’t get him started on the Family Court.

Being insolvent did not preclude Bob Day from voting nine out of ten times with the government when technically his financial interest in his own North Adelaide electoral office building may also have made him ineligible to stand for the senate. The High Court will do its job on Bob and it is likely to find a recount is required in SA’s ballot for the senate, an event which pollsters predict could produce another Labor senator.

If Culleton abstains from voting as promised, Labor need only two cross-bench votes to defeat government legislation. Whilst Turnbull maintains that the cross-bench may yet prove biddable, news that the government was aware of Day’s financial interest in his Adelaide office at least since before the election will make it hard to dispel the suspicion that his government was keener on Day’s vote than its legality. Even harder to evade is the impression that its high-handed arrogance and has caused the born to rule party to become unstuck.

The government went to some expense, it seems, to buy Day’s vote. The revelation that in November 2015 the Coalition donated two million dollars to Adelaide’s North East Vocational College knowing that Day was a director and a former chairman of ten years’ standing has been met with strenuous denial from government despite the existence of photographs showing Simon Birmingham visiting the college with Day six months earlier.

When the going gets tough the tough become ludicrous, at least according to Bill Shorten who has dismissed as very silly indeed Peter “Nutso” Dutton’s desperate attempt to up his government’s cruelty to asylum-seekers to divert attention from its self-inflicted chaos.

Is it legal? Immigration Minister Peter Dutton talks all over Fran Kelly Monday when she dares to question the government’s proposal to banish forever those being tortured on Nauru and Manus Island. It’s his latest ploy in a plan to wedge Labor on immigration and paint it as soft on border protection. Thomas Albrecht, the United Nations refugee agency’s regional representative says the bill appears to breach Article 31 of the Refugee Convention, which prohibits refugees being penalised for seeking protection in an irregular manner.

The Attorney-General’s department has given its assurance that the proposed bill is constitutional and it meets our international obligations, splutters Dutton. Enough said. He brushes the ABC aside lightly as befits a minister whose beef is that the public broadcaster is packed with lefties and has a jihad against Immigration. The paranoid border protector explains to mate Ray Hadley, the ABC is part of a conspiracy. “Sometimes, particularly through some of the left wing media outlets, Border Force gets a pretty rough time.”

Imagine all the good news stories Aunty could be reporting that Immigration has to tell about indefinite detention, self-harm on Nauru or the physical and sexual abuse of those in its care. No wonder Dutton is forced to set up Border Force podcasts to get out the positive accounts, insights and reflections about feeling trapped forever on an island hell-hole.

Article 31 of the United Nations’ 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees states that signatories “shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees”.

Dutton is on thin ice. His claim that due diligence has been done by the Attorney-General is unfortunate after Brandis’ false claim about his government’s citizen-stripping bill having been vetted or his recent misleading of parliament that the solicitor general had consented to becoming a dog on the Attorney-General’s leash.

The act of calculated cruelty is the latest in a series of desperate attempts by a faction-ridden Turnbull government to divert attention from its bungling incompetence and its delusion that is above the law. Is it so desperate to appease its xenophobic right wing and to arrest its plummeting popularity that it will stoop to persecute the weakest and most wounded?

It is unconscionably inhumane to further crush the spirits of those already suffering the cruelty of indefinite detention, deprivation and brutality. It seems a bizarre response to the UN’s report on Manus and the endemic suffering and institutionalised abuse exposed by the reports leaked by the Guardian Australia earlier this year.

Some call it folly. Bernard Keane and others point out that the attempted wedging of Labor will not work. The Australian electorate no longer trusts the government much more than the opposition on asylum-seekers. Polls now indicate at best a two point advantage over Labor.

What is clear is that the proposed bill reflects the moral bankruptcy of a Coalition conflicted internally; irreparably divided if not crippled by its capture by its conservative rump, a government of bungling incompetence fit only to turn crisis into catastrophe. Its backers call the tune on energy and the environment, a coherent if shameless capitulation to big mining, big business, big banking. Yet its latest move reveals a heart of darkness.

In the administration or systematised wilful neglect of asylum seekers and refugees on Nauru and Manus, torture has become our government’s policy.  Is it now so desperate to boost its stakes that it is prepared to resort to sadism?


Women lose out in Turnbull government’s week of contempt for justice equality and the poor.


Attorney General and pocket Napoleon George Brandis QC, a liability to the rule of law even in a Turnbull government, alienates the entire legal fraternity this week by relentlessly bullying Justin Gleeson, his solicitor-general, into resignation. It’s a turn of events unseen in a hundred years, a departure which robs the office of one of its finest legal minds and strikes a blow at the heart of the solicitor general’s office itself – but our PM’s on to it. “These things happen”, blathers Malcolm Turnbull before dashing  offstage into witness protection.

 Each week brings fresh opportunities for the Prime Minister to go missing in action. The latest Newspoll says PM Fizza is even less popular now than former big cheese Tony Abbott, a Trump admirer, who found time to squeeze amongst some young netballers for a publicity shot, quipping and winking , “a bit of body contact never hurt anyone.” His louche let-down of a successor favours a more hands-off leadership style which is easily if not frequently mistaken by ministers for licence.

Minister for talking about women, Michaelia Cash is able to skip a planned meeting with states with the excuse that there’s “nothing requiring ministerial decision”, apart that is from a summit on curbing domestic violence and announcements that women are to be protected from idleness and double-dipping by cutting parental leave.

 Cash is allowed to pass up a chance to confer with states’ IR ministers about family violence leave or parental leave or to unpack her government’s August 2015 finding that female friendly workplaces may put men off as it was broadly reported –  although the truth is that it found that female friendly policy and practice was OK apart from “male-dominated” workplaces in science, mining and engineering where it may “cause problems”. From this alone it would seem that there’s a fair bit of work to do, Minister.

 The Minister could start with reviewing progress in key areas. In November 2014, The Workplace Equality Agency found 48 per cent of employers had policies on flexible work yet only about 13 per cent have a strategy for ensuring these policies are used by employees who want to access them. While half had a standalone gender equality policy, only 7.1 per cent had a gender equality strategy.

 Instead Michaelia Cash is talking up a storm in all the ways cutting funding will help women  and how domestic violence is a cycle which “must be broken” a process which currently involves a lot of talking and the spending of very modest amounts of funds while $34 million is still slated to be cut from community legal centres over the next three years. No hint officially that causes of men’s violence to women include entrenched gender roles and patterns of male privilege and the sanctioning of violence which current government policies help perpetuate.

 Instead the COAG domestic violence summit in Brisbane Thursday and Friday is geed up by a PM who boasts that the country has “undergone a cultural shift with regards to domestic violence and the momentum cannot be denied”.  It’s not reflected in the rising statistics of violence inflicted by men upon women nor is it reflected in the behaviour of so many of the men who wield power on his government’s behalf: witness George Brandis’ bullying of Gillian Triggs in a senate committee last year or Ian Macdonald’s bullying of Triggs and more recently of Solicitor-General Justin Gleeson.

 Whilst bully-boy Brandis misled parliament twice in claiming that he had the SG’s approval for his citizenship and his marriage equality bills and while he set himself above the law in issuing an illegal directive curtailing the SG’s independence, shit happens. There’s nothing to see here, according to Malcolm Turnbull. “It’s always regrettable when people don’t get on in the workplace.”

 Being replaced before your time is up is also ever to be deplored. Alexander Downer, Australia’s High Commissioner in London, a doyen of diplomatic discretion and good taste, in 1994 stunned a meeting of party faithful by suggesting they change the slogan “things that matter” to “things that batter” to better reflect Liberal domestic violence policy – an area still ill-defined despite this week’s gabfest -but then as now, only encouraged by such humour – is reported in The Weekend Australian to be furious. He’s heard his job is being “sounded out” in a bit of Liberal Party thinking aloud on how best to move Brandis out of harm’s way. But it’s just a tiff between two bigwigs, according to the Coalition. Nothing to see here. Besides, Downer has eighteen months’ sinecure left to serve.

 Clear to everyone is that Brandis must go. His actions represent an unacceptable and gross infringement on the independence of the Solicitor-General and he has “crossed a key line of integrity”. He should follow the Solicitor-General’s resignation with his own, says Australian Lawyers Alliance National President Tony Kenyon. Alternatively, he can continue to wreak havoc in a Cabinet which has more than its fair share of mavericks, especially on the vexed issue of energy.

 Nuclear fusion is the energy of the future. And it always will be until we can harness the heat and power of a fusion reaction. Greg Hunt, Minister for Innovation and Science, is, however, unfussed by mere practicality. Former Direct-Action carbon con-man, “my job is done” Hunt spruiks nuclear fusion as if it’s just around the corner, on Fran Kelly’s ABC Radio show Monday in his weekly own-trumpet-blowing solo. It’s how the world’s greatest minister keeps himself relevant.

 After its hatchet job on renewables after SA’s blackout, the Coalition’s mantra is that we need practical, reliable, secure energy. Greg’s listening. What better than the fantasy of nuclear fusion?

 Creating an abundance of safe, clean energy by fusing two hydrogen isotopes was first envisaged by English physicist Arthur Eddington in the 1920s. The concept excited Australia’s Mark Oliphant in 1933 but until we can find a way to harness a reaction as hot and fierce as the sun’s, we will always be thirty years away. Nuclear fusion is an area where we don’t even know what we don’t even know making it the perfect choice for an Abbott-in-drag government where wilful ignorance is a badge of honour. Nowhere is this better seen than in policies affecting women.

 Turnbull says he backs family leave “as a father and husband” before declaring it all a mystery to blokes. “In so far as men can understand these matters, we are absolutely understanding and sympathetic,” he says, misrepresenting key principles of equality and basic workplace entitlements as areas for male approval rather than simple human rights while his government slashes funding. The arcane mysteries of justice are just something to puzzle over as men decide what’s best for working mothers.

 Cutting parental leave, we hear this week, will combine with an absence of affordable child-care, to help grateful mothers back into the workforce to resume bonding with colleagues; properly leaving baby to frantic grandparents. Although the government enjoys confusing what is a workplace entitlement with welfare, one thing is clear. Shameful double-dipping will cease forthwith – or in nine months’ time as an indulgent Prime Minister exercises his seigneurial discretion. Australian women will be overjoyed that the Coalition’s eagerness to get them back into the workforce is almost second to none. On OECD statistics, our government’s paid parental leave is now lowest in the developed world outside the USA.

 Cuts will also fix our scandalously lavish Newstart handouts which sap initiative and prevent unemployed Australians from breaking out of their “inter-generational welfare dependency”. Five job-seekers already contest every single vacancy which is typically a part-time, casual, poorly paid job. Women are increasingly over-represented in part time, casual work.

 Yet clearly job-seekers are not trying hard enough and must be blamed or shamed into work. Federal Treasurer screaming Scott Morrison is on to something Friday when he says “it’s a crying shame” that thousands of welfare recipients would “have to take a pay cut” if they were to get a job –  but no-one mistakes his call for his bidding up the minimum wage.

 Morrison is mad keen to boost the myth of indulged welfare bludgers. He reckons 43,000 parents were high on the hog enjoying at least $45,000 in benefits last financial year.  The Australian Council of Social Services is left to counter that the true figure is fewer than 1900 households. Morrison says nothing about trimming the $1.8 billion welfare a year we pay to subsidise a dependent coal industry. Yet he is heard screeching that Green “lawfare” must stop. Protestors cost jobs.  Otherwise lies ruin, warn Black Hole Morrison and the increasingly shrill Minster for Resources, mining industry shill, Matt Canavan.

 Julie Bishop who is keeping herself nice before it’s her turn to knife her leader appears on Insiders to defend Joe Hockey’s $25,000 claim for five months’ baby-sitting expenses. Poor Joe struggles to get by on $360,000 in salary as US ambassador while he double-dips into his $90,000-a-year pension. Yet he must be feeling a bit sensitive about being part of the new age of entitlement because he’s changed his expenses from baby -sitting to extra staff after Fairfax made enquiry under Freedom of Information.

 Bishop who is the Liberal Party’s human Talking Point gives the standard defence that it’s a regular thing for an ambassador or a member of DFAT with an overseas post to have expenses paid glossing over the reality that Joe’s appointment itself is part of the Liberal Party’s special plan for Joe’s welfare, a handout and a handy way to pack the dumped failed former federal Treasurer off out of harm’s way. Hockey, despite what Bishop would have us believe, is not the equivalent of his predecessor, Kim Beazley a political academic with a lifetime of US contacts and a passion for American history.

 While Hockey win best political bludger and Morrison is easily best welfare-basher, Huckleberry Hunt, the huckster’s huckster deserves some sort of award for reminding us that when it’s not putting the boot into the poor or discriminating against women, the Turnbull government has its feet planted firmly in the clouds. Best of all – Hunt’s nuclear fusion diversion is a free lunch. There’s no radioactivity, no carbon emissions and we get into the rarefied atmosphere of the fusion Spiegel-tent free – almost. Hunt gushes over his deal which trades our scientists’ “incredible expertise in plasma and imaging” for free admission to the fusion hucksters’ club.

 Ripping off scientists’ intellectual property to get into a wank-fest is just one way the Liberal-National helps our scientists feel valued. Since 2014, the Coalition has cut $3 billion from science and research helping Australia’s research and development investment to plummet to a 30 year low. Above all Education Minister Simon Birmingham is clear that pure research plays little part in his vision: Universities have to be driven by “what is in the best interests of the student and the need of the national economy” he maintains outlining a narrow vocational perspective for less investment in higher education. Luckily Hunt is budget-minded.

 According to Coalition propaganda-sheet The Australian, Hunt is once (or twice) again a pioneer “it is the first time in 35 years a nation outside the founding nine members has been admitted to the global collaboration to produce energy from fusion … the first time a member has been admitted without paying at least $346m as an entry fee to finance the research and development of a fusion ­reactor. Also a first is his  self-promotion mania. Just how many more feathers can Hunt’s cap bear?

 Equally eager to promote his relevance at any price is Barnaby (horse-feathers) Joyce, Deputy Prime Minister and federal celebrity dog-catcher who is keen to hose down another Coalition fuss over nothing erupting over his attempts to move Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines, an entire government department from Canberra to Armidale NSW to boost his electoral prospects. It has cost the Coalition tens of thousands to keep secret a letter written by Dr. Grimes, which is released by the Department of Agriculture Monday in which he warns Joyce he “no longer had confidence in his own capacity “to resolve matters relating to integrity with you”. 

 Joyce denies causing the head of the department to resign and blames an uppity “rogue staffer” for changing Hansard. He says, less than reassuringly, he’s changed it back again. Launching a desperate diversion Joyce  lambasts Labor for their communist policies such as vegetation management in an address to the National Farmers Federation. The audience which includes the Chinese Ambassador laps up the spectacular entertainment which is surely the prelude to a little more land-clearing.

 We need a bit more farm land. Queensland has seen 296 000 hectares cleared in 2015 while in NSW 23,000ha of vegetation has been cleared for cropping and pasture since 2010 and 59% of this is “unexplained”.

 Barnaby is barking mad again, ScoMo foams at the mouth but the show must go on in a week which also sees some solid ensemble work from a Turnbull troupe dedicated to entertaining its dwindling admirers and performing its heart out to please its mining business and financial industry backers. Bugger the people. Forget rights for women. Right wing bosses must be kept happy with buffoonery in energy, welfare and justice in a Melbourne Cup eve Turnbull Stakes that sees ignorance and folly racing neck and neck with crass stupidity.

Gleeson’s resignation a win for Brandis and bully-boy tactics.



“I said to them, how on Earth could it have been that in the period coming up to the 4th of May, you must’ve known about this direction, you were helping draft it, the Parliamentary Counsel knew about it, the attorney knew about it, his staff knew about it. “How on Earth could it have been that the one person who needed to know wasn’t told?”

Former Solicitor General Justin Gleeson

Break out the brandy and cigars. There’ll be chest-beating and drinks all round at the exclusive, all-male Savage Club a refuge where member George Brandis can kick back and forget his responsibility as Attorney-General to uphold anti-discrimination laws. Megalomaniac Brandis, a cane-toad in pin-stripes from the deep North, a legal giant who got his QC only after arriving in Canberra, has got his way at last. Forget the constitution. Forget justice. What matter is that Brandis rules thanks to his cunning plan to remove the Solicitor General, Justin Gleeson, a highly regarded, constitutional expert and independent legal advisor. All that remains, now, is to get a Liberal lickspittle to replace him.

Gleeson’s dismissal has not been achieved directly, of course, the Solicitor-General is a tenured public servant. Or was. Nor has his stitching up been easy. It has taken effort to make it impossible for the Solicitor General to continue to offer independent, expert legal advice that looked to the law rather than flattering the government and its power-mad, accident-prone, incompetent Attorney General. In the end, boys-club Brandis simply over-reached his authority in May. Imperiously, he directed that all requests for Gleeson’s legal expertise to come through his office first — a matter Gleeson was not consulted on beyond the idea being “raised” in a November meeting.

All that remained, then was to pretend Gleeson was consulted and when an inquiry arose Coalition bovver boys, Senators Ian Macdonald and Barry O’Sullivan could take the SG out the back and give him a good working over. They, too, must be so proud of themselves, now. It’s a win for the bullies. The dismissal has been achieved the Brandis way, using the sort of bastardry applied to Gillian Triggs to remove her dissenting, independent self from the head of the Human Rights Commission last year.

Gleeson, like Triggs, is accused of being political. How dare either of them offer criticism or expert, independent advice to a born to rule government’s right to ride roughshod over human rights or the nation’s constitution?

Spin doctors in damage control now have MPs bucketing Justin Gleeson for talking to Mark Dreyfus during an election campaign – as if this is an act of treason or a betrayal of office. Put this behind us and move on is the line heard on ABC Radio from MPs spruiking today’s Coalition talking points – after they trivialise and put the boot in. Nothing to see here. Nobody will believe the Attorney General who overreached himself and misled parliament.

Dreyfus rang Gleeson to ask him if he thought he had been consulted and if he was happy to be sidelined, he explains. Gleeson gives an honest no. For this, Macdonald tells him he ought to enter politics directly. Gleeson says he also gave Malcolm Turnbull legal confidential advice in January but this seems to attract no comment. What is needed now is for the former SG to be demonised for his outrageous political intervention.

Anyone who saw the treatment meted out to Triggs in February 2015 when the President of the Commission was also falsely accused of being politically partisan would recognise the shameless, relentless and misogynistic bullying.

“I thought you might like to hear a man’s voice” boomed Queensland Senator Barry O’Sullivan last year, randomly interrupting the senate estimates hearing for no other purpose than to make a sexist tool of himself. At other times, he and Ian MacDonald barked at women senators. Undismayed by such boorish bully-boy antics – and giving them his tacit approval, Brandis said he had no confidence in Triggs. He wanted rid of any critic of his government’s glorious policy of locking up children indefinitely in offshore hell-holes to punish them for not drowning at sea.

Gleeson also gets the Macdonald – O’Sullivan treatment in a senate committee just over a week ago – a hearing which was delayed as Macdonald sought to have the hearing held in camera – or behind closed doors, aka “out the back”. Scrupulously impartial and fastidious with regard to procedure, Macdonald declares at the outset that the senate inquiry is an “absolute waste of time”.

Despite the hazing, Gleeson demonstrates calmly and capably that Brandis misled the Australian Parliament. Macdonald does his best to treat the SC with utter contempt – as he did when he told Gillian Triggs he had not even bothered to read her magisterial Forgotten Children report. Why would he? He knew it was biased. Way to go Macca. Don’t let the facts get in the way of a reputation-trashing. Macdonald cuts off Gleeson three times and when cautioned by the chair says he always gives witnesses “the respect they deserve”.

Disrespect is modelled by Brandis. Not only has the Solicitor-General’s office been side-lined by Brandis’ naked power grab, he has also had his advice ignored and misrepresented as when Brandis lied to the house that the Solicitor-General had backed the legal land mine that resulted from the Brandis’ decision to rush up a law to appease his then PM, Tony Abbott, another Liberal who likes to play fast and loose with the rule of law, who wanted to score political points by threatening to strip dual nationals of their citizenship.

Brandis’ first attempt was an unworkable mess. It was reviewed by the circus known as The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, which is currently chaired by deadly Dan Tehan who daily, it would seem finds new evidence of fiendish terror plots against us to report. The second draft attracted no fewer than 27 recommendations for change.

As it is the law contains the legal fiction in section 33AA revocation of your citizenship just happens if you do something which might roughly be some sort of breach of the criminal code – unless you happen to be in Australia at the time of your offence to vaguely defined provisions in the criminal code, subject to one exception. Worse, it appears that it could be construed as a punishment and beyond the authority of the executive arm of government. No wonder the AG is a bit sensitive to criticism.

Brandis has acted illegally in demanding that all those who seek the solicitor general’s advice must come via the Attorney-General. In the words of a former solicitor General and Howard legal advisor, Gavan Griffith, the direction is not only unlawful, it would reduce the SG’s independence to that of a dog on a leash. Brandis has also lied about having consulted Gleeson as to his intentions, despite much unedifying quibbling from the Pettifogger General over the definition of consultation, a matter he is prepared to settle, like a schoolboy debater, with a dictionary definition.

In fact he is wrong at law about consultation, just as he over-stepped his authority in demanding control over the solicitor general’s office. There are grounds to accept that the term is used legally to mean something more than just “raising an issue” telling another party what you intend to do – after you have done it.

Brandis has an issue with consultation. As Arts Minister for an Abbott government which did not have an arts policy, much less have much time for such matters, he simply made up his own, not deigning to consult with the arts community before reducing arts grants to create his own award for excellence, which quickly became known as the George Brandis slush fund. His unwillingness to release his electronic diary to corroborate his claim that he met with representative has now cost taxpayers $50, 000 under FOI challenges and appeals.

Brandis’ power grab has been simplified by a media dedicated to preserving us from complexity to a personal spat between the two men, ignoring the constitutional issues involved and reducing the Attorney-General’s high-handed arrogance to a clash of personalities – or even more disingenuously – a fight between two leading lawyers. Gleeson may be a top silk. Brandis is not. A pettifogging legal piss-ant with monumental delusions of grandeur, his officious bungling and over-reach of his authority will continue to create crises for himself and his government. He is almost certain to be censured when the senate committee concludes its inquiry in a few weeks.

In the meantime the saga of Brandis’ war on his Solicitor General reveals a Coalition of petty despotism, convinced of its own infallibility, immune to criticism and contemptuous of due process, happy to misrepresent itself in its determination to impose its will at all costs; its desperate desire to silence its critics whatever it takes.