Month: December 2014

Resignation: Abbott’s most significant achievement for women.

tony looking creepy

(The Prime Minister) told Channel Nine’s Lisa Wilkinson that when it comes to women, it’s very important his government does the right thing by families.

“Women are particularly focused on the household budget and the repeal of the carbon tax means a $550 benefit for the average family,” he said.

Abbott also pushed the paid parental leave scheme he said he’s still committed to in 2015 – a policy that will now be managed by incoming Minister for Social Services Scott Morrison, along with childcare and our welfare system.

Women of Australia are overwhelmed with gratitude. They are singing and dancing in the streets. Tears of joy are shed amidst the laughter. A great clapping of hands, shouting of ‘bravo’, ‘jolly good show’ and other expressions of joyous approbation sweep the nation in a spontaneous, tumultuous outpouring of thanks for the achievements of Prime Minister Tony Abbott in his repeal of the carbon tax. The repeal of the carbon tax, was his main achievement, as he put it, modestly, on breakfast television last week, in his role as Minister for Women.

Women embrace ecstatically.  Gone forever are the dark clouds of doubt and despair over inequality, injustice and oppression. Glass ceilings lie in shards all over boardroom tables throughout the land. Employers, unchained from carbon taxing, rush to pay women equally. Banished is the dreadful spectre of the throwbacks back in charge; the re-emergence of the arrogant, indifferent and cruel boys’ club of the patriarchy that ruled Australia in the 1950s.  There is hope in every woman’s heart. All this and a PPL, too! For there is no carbon tax to pay.

And the PPL, of course, the PM repeated, stalling, hearing no prompt on his ear-piece to Peta. He stared down the camera, looking vainly for an auto-cue, insulting and overlooking every woman who was not, nor was ever to become a mother. Of, course, naturally, there is our Paid Parental Leave; even if it doesn’t quite exist as yet; even if it is unlikely to ever be enacted. Even if the experts say it won’t work. That hasn’t prevented us from counting it in. Just the opposite. He grinned.

Just look at MYEFO. Just look at how we rigged the bottom line by including the GP co-payment and other payments we had yet to get through the Senate. But it wasn’t easy! The so-called experts were against me again, of course.

Here the Prime Minister laughed as if ‘expert’ were a dirty word along with ‘scientist’ and ‘feminist’ in his government and he were naturally averse to any advice save his own and the sound of others agreeing with it. It didn’t pay to dwell on issues. In a post-modern world everyone was his own expert. Truth, in the end, always boiled down to a simple, black and white formulation you could fit on a bumper sticker.

Take the Productivity Commission 2009 Report on Paid Maternity, Paternity and Parental Leave. What would they know? Pack of experts! Pack of eggheads, couldn’t even park a bicycle straight. They argued for flat rate payments, rather than the income replacement we are offering. They claimed ”the labour supply effects would be greatest for lower-income, less-skilled women, those most responsive to wage subsidies and least likely to have privately negotiated paid parental leave”.  He shuddered.

But, you know, these theorists. He winked. Hippy-trippy, tree-hugging, beardy-weirdy, love-everyone do-gooders. ABC listening lefties the lot of them. What would they know with their fair-trade, gluten-free café frappuccinos, their vegan free range risottos and their mung-bean sandals? Fixated on their social engineering and economic vandalism! Redressing disadvantage? For goodness sake. Next thing it will all be about counteracting hegemonic masculinity.

No. We need to help the right women first. Help the right class of woman to have babies. Look how they did it in Singapore. You know I have always been a big fan of old Lee Kuan Yew. He was in power for thirty years. Knew a thing or two, too, the old Lee.

Open a nation for business and the benefits will trickle down. You bet you are, I am, you bet it will. That’s why we’ve had Eric Abetz slaving away to cut red tape; red tape like keeping tabs on women’s participation in the workforce. We have a mandate to cut this ‘red tape’ by relaxing the gender reporting requirements of big bosses that have only just come into force and which were intended to track women’s workforce participation and remuneration. Frees up employers to create jobs. We are the party of little government, freedom and opportunity.

Experts even said my PPL wouldn’t boost the workforce. Said highly educated, well-paid women already are highly attached to the labour force; already enjoy a high level of private provision. Said that, because of this full income replacement ”would have few incremental labour supply benefits”. They banged on about its expense and how other countries have social insurance to pay for it. But that’s not what my staff tell me. I listen to them. And some of them are women. He winked again.

Minister for Women is a vital job, of course it is, a huge responsibility. Huge. One I take very seriously, he said. Very seriously. I am a feminist. At home they call me Mr Betty Friedman. I have three daughters and a wife who is a woman.  My own mother was a woman. And we have two women in cabinet! But my daughters made me a feminist. In fact if you got them the wool, they could make you a feminist, too.

And here’s a fact for you. Since the carbon tax was abolished, the number of women in cabinet has doubled. And that’s not all. Nearly twenty per cent of my entire ministry is female, he boasted. I stand on my record. Of course, we want to include all women but, let’s be perfectly clear, that doesn’t mean men and women are equal. As I said a few years back:

“I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons.”

But we’ve come a long way. As I said at IWD in March. Today you can be female and a high flyer. Look at a hundred years ago. ”It wasn’t so long ago as a Sydney-sider that there was a female lord mayor, a female premier, a female prime minister, a female head of state in our governor general, a female monarch, obviously, and indeed the richest person in our country was female.” And now, of course, we have a feminist male as a PM and Minister for Women.

Of course, I copped a bit of stick about it. Eyebrows went up everywhere when I put up my hand for this vital role. We need Tony like a fish needs a bicycle was the consensus. That’s what they said. And worse.

Was it not a calculated snub? Was my abrogation of the role of Minister for Women yet another gesture of contempt towards progressives in general and women in particular? And what of the implications? Some said it was a calculated insult to all women.

Well I knew it was going to be hard. But we are prepared to do the hard yards. Take the tough measures to get Australia back on its feet again. But it’s not like an Iron Man event or anything.

But there were a few hurdles, his staffers conceded privately; a few tricky patches he needed help with; needed to be eased through. First there was his almost total ignorance. Did he know who women were or what they did? On this and many similar fundamentals, but most especially his prejudices, his misinformation, his instinctive mystification his staff found it simpler, more expedient to adjust their own expectations than to expect to change his.

Julie Bishop rushed in to iron out the wrinkles and added a few more of her own. What the PM means is that benefits to women help everybody, she said.

“Women’s policy is everyone’s policy”. Did she mean Minister for Women was, therefore, a redundant anomaly?

“There are numerous issues that could be mentioned in the context of what we do for women,” she said. Yet she was not able to articulate a single one.

“I think the Prime Minister was focusing on the policy change that will have the largest impact on families and households and getting rid of the carbon tax is certainly that.” Yet out of Canberra’s spin cycle, the nation’s riddance of the carbon tax has been almost impossible to spot in the real world, in real things like power bills. Despite all of the coalition’s propaganda, very few of us are any better off and all of us face bigger utility bills in the near future.

In the end, of course, the PM was damned with faint praise. Bishop merely opened the door for Abbott to announce his decision to get out of the job to make way for someone who has the necessary qualifications and the experience. A woman would be a good idea. And as the PM has assured us, there are countless numbers knocking on the cabinet door.

Stitched up by Abbott, Scott Morrison falls on his sword.


“He that falls in love with himself will have no rivals.” Benjamin Franklin

THE man who stopped the boats yesterday declared he will now stop the bludgers. In a sweeping cabinet reshuffle, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison will now be tasked with putting rorters back to work and creating a new families package. Dubbing himself the “Minister for Economic Participation” the new Social Services minister has the task of clearing up the billions taxpayers fork out on people who would rather claim welfare then work. The Daily Telegraph 22 December 2014

The final nail in the coffin of the Abbott government was not the whiff of scandal emanating from the Pyle-Ashby nexus; the malodorous political corpse of scandal-in-waiting Mal Brough; the Credlin-Abbott power nexus; the stench wafting down from ICAC in Sydney.

Nor was it any number of other things such as the crushing unpopularity of a government that couldn’t take a trick without a dirty trick or two involving phone calls from asylum seeker children to cross-bench senators or the desperate plundering of Foreign Affairs’ money-box to pay for guns and gunships, sovereign borders, Federal Police, the Reserve Bank, Direct Action and sundry other lapses of impulse-control.

Nor was it the failure of all the PM’s snipers, ASIO operatives, terror squads and secret intelligence to protect Sydney from a notorious and threat-listed madman who somehow dropped off the list, resulting in the tragic deaths of two innocent civilians.

No. None of these. It was to prove Abbott’s last act of bastardry that did him in. The ‘promotion’ of Scott Morrison. How this came about is a curious tale of a most curious individual, in curious circumstances, for Morrison is a man conflicted in so many ways: by his beliefs and his actions; by his words and meanings; by his ambition and his embarrassing public displays of servile devotion and unquestioned obedience to his leader, whoever he or she may be.

Flushed with his self-proclaimed triumph of stopping the boats, First Sea Lord Morrison, reportedly repeatedly, relentlessly badgered his leader, the beleaguered, self-deluded Tony Abbott for promotion. ‘I am your stand-out star performer, he is believed to have said on every occasion and many would-be, could be, not-quite and not at all occasions. I stopped the boats…’

It was a poor career tactic. Morrison’s persistent attention-seeking self-promotion not only provoked displeasure in many of his naturally unpleasant or jealous cabinet colleagues, it prompted his boss or his boss’s boss, Peta Credlin, or both, to have him moved sideways.

Yet it was Morrison’s unctuous protestations of unhesitating loyalty to his boss that were the last straw. He would, he lied, with nauseating eagerness and frequency, do whatever his Prime Minister, said he should do. Someone give him a suicide vest and a one-way ticket to Iraq, please, Credlin murmured under her breath. Aloud she said to Tony, why don’t we give him Kevin’s job? It made sense. Couldn’t be any worse than Andrews, they agreed. And Kevin’s already cut all the agencies. Saved us a quarter of a billion. Glad we could help him out with getting the credentials for his counselling outfit.

Morrison’s conduct has been overweeningly, dangerously ambitious, even for a party built out of overweeners. He has put Julie Bishop to shame, but without the jewellery, couture or the jogging; Murdoch’s press loved him and his amour propre, affectionately describing him as a tough guy who got things done. That hurt. So, in the end, Abbott was persuaded by Credlin, he had to be taken care of.

Liberal Party Chairman Brian Loughnane, Peta’s husband, a dab hand at such matters, was in attendance, to ensure proceedings served the party’s interests, its heritage and its principles of unbridled pragmatism, expediency and leaving all the rest up to the market.

And so it goes that Mad-Dog Morrison, once and forever garlanded with the reeking albatross of Immigration and Border protection – the  moral, economic and policy failure of Immigration, tracked his execrable political corpse for the last time into the boudoir of power, Abbott’s own throne and star chamber, newly-renovated and replete with bar fridge, overnighter and bicycle by the wall, the Prime Minister’s office. He knelt at Peta Credlin’s size 11 stilettoes. He talked about himself, pleading his case.

Naturally, Morrison, explained, he had effected a little career enhancement of his own, as it were, on the job. His genius constrained by the plain title ‘Immigration’ he had cleverly expanded his importance by announcing that he was adding Border Protection but stopping short of explaining this was in order to imitate his mentor Howard in creating and maintaining an Australian phobia of asylum-seekers as a threat to the nation. The new title went with trimmings including an exalted four star general, Angus Houston, and lots of staff in uniforms. He sighed happily.

Morrison militarised his department, he went on. He gave regular briefings where he couldn’t answer any questions or else simply failed to turn up. He changed the law, putting himself, if not exactly above it, at least in the next best available position.

But every dog has its day and so it was on this day, a few days before Christmas. Arise Sir Scott, John, Morrison, said Abbott, only half in jest for a knighthood had been dangled over him.  Arise Sir Scott, Knight of the boats, the olds and the bludgers.

It was, he knew it, Morrison’s day to be shunted out of contention as a leadership rival.  Social Services was snatched from the safe hands of Kevin Andrews and thrust upon the newly dubbed has-been with some extras tacked on for show.

Time to take stock. Granted, the amalgamation of childcare, welfare and family leave create the appearance of a super ministry but it was hardly a reward. For starters, Morrison has no budget and beyond that he is singularly ill-prepared by his experiences in Immigration to begin to cope with Social Services, albeit the new, enhanced, expanded model with extra child-minding.

In brief, Morrison is clueless. He has no idea of how to go about his very different new job. In a stroke of either genius, pure malice or instinctive vindictiveness, Tony Abbott has checked the career of his ambitious over-reacher, Morrison with a poisoned chalice.

What can we expect? From the past, we can expect silence. Already Morrison has declined to be interviewed on ABC on the subject of the ‘defunding’ of disability advocates, homelessness and all other groups representing the poor and needy. Certainly, they had no idea that funds would be cut by a quarter of a billion dollars.

Naturally there will be a change of name to fit the neo-con mould of veneration of economics. Expect the Ministry of Economic Participation, caring for at least half a million who through no fault of their own are excluded from participation.

We can expect more manipulation. This will follow the trail blazed by the way he got children to phone cross bench senators such as Ricky Muir but just in case they may have got bamboozled: there are still hundreds of children in detention in Australia. Plus over 150 on Nauru. Peter Dutton could well attend to this in his first act as Minister.

Above all we can expect propaganda and lies about the NDIS being too expensive to run without swingeing cuts to other welfare spending. Here it will be imperative to remind Morrison of the facts. The NDIS was funded by a 0.5% increase in the Medicare Levy in July. The increase – from 1.5 to 2% – took effect in July 2014 and is expected to raise $20.4 billion by 2018-19. The NDIS is estimated to cost just over $22 billion a year when fully operational in 2019-20.

The cost per taxpayer is minimal. Average Australian taxpayers, in full time work the ABS calculates enjoy incomes of $74,724, before tax, it means around $350 per annum or $7 per week. Those on $110,000 will pay $500 or $10 per week.

There was bipartisan support for this Labor initiative but now it suits Scott Morrison to claim that welfare cuts are needed to pay for the NDIS.

In the end, however, we can expect the same crass ineptitude that is the Abbott government’s signature. Only this time, it will be visible and not enveloped by a pseudo-military operations secrecy. And Social Services won’t be militarised so readily although don’t discount the formation of a dole-bludger-busting squad trawling through Brandis’ metadata and even out on the street, lifting blankets, inspecting limbs, checking the real mobility of those in mobility scooters.

Morrison can’t refuse to speak because it is an ‘in-bed matter’ or an ‘in wheel chair matter. He won’t be able to ship oldies and other recalcitrant pensioners off shore, as much as he would like to. He may of course, resort to proposing military training for dole bludgers but it’s unlikely to be a runaway success, especially given poor morale in the forces because of low wages, poor conditions and so on.

In short, it will be a total disaster. Morrison will rush into savage cuts to pensions, allowances, and anything else he can get his hands on. The economy will change down another cog as a result. The public and the public servants will jack up.

Morrison will plead the need to fund the NDIS. He will bang on about safety nets and sustainability. But the Australian public will see him coming this time. They will resist. They will contest his every move, his every word and deed.

Not so fast, ‘mad dog,’ Australians will say, we’ve got your number. Get back in the Ute – and cut out that barking. We are taking you to the vet. Only it won’t be a vet, it will be a court of law requiring Morrison to answer charges relating to his time as Minister for death camps and detention centres. The long list will include charges of manslaughter, child abuse, obtaining benefit by deception and violation of human rights. Morrison will be advised to plead nolo contendere.  He will, by special arrangement, be incarcerated on Manus Island for the rest of his (un)natural life.

Abbott chooses Scott Morrison to take an axe to welfare funding.

aaa abbott and morrison

Never in the history of Australian politics has a ministerial appointment been so wrong. So egregiously wrong. So hideously, wickedly, grotesquely wrong. Who in his right mind would choose Scott Morrison for Social Services?

To choose Scott Morrison is to choose calculated cruelty and indifference to suffering. Ask those on Manus Island or any other detention centre.

To choose this politician is to condone a merciless, rampaging, bureaucratic inhumanity. Ask those who have been placed in indefinite detention with inadequate facilities, food or medical supplies.

To choose Morrison rewards secrecy, promotes a disturbingly fanatical and obsessive devotion. Ask all those suffering souls who have been intercepted, stripped of their possessions and incarcerated in the off shore gulag of Australia’s border protection system.

To choose ‘mad dog’ Morrison is to promote oafish intransigence and hide-bound obduracy. Gillian Triggs will vouch for that, and so will all who winced at his behaviour in the televised segments of the hearings. Australian Human Rights Commissioner Professor Gillian Triggs’ role was to investigate the Abbott government’s detention of children.

Morrison’s sneering attack on her understanding of the difference between a prison and a detention centre to name one of his excesses was cruelly, contemptuously out of order.  He did not disclose then his intention of using these children as hostages to the passage his new law which enhanced his powers and effectively put the Minister and his department above international law.

Above all to choose Morrison is to reward Orwellian deception and double-speak: this propagandist knows how to use language to alter perception and to evade accountability. His record is alarming.

Morrison re-named refugees ‘illegal maritime arrivals’; he changed his department’s name from Immigration to include Border Protection and he concocted ‘Operation Sovereign Borders.’

At each stage, he inserted a lie. Refugees are not illegal. Our borders do not need protection from refugees. Sovereign borders was a military cloak for secrecy. By fending off all explanation and accountability he put the lie to the code of ministerial responsibility. His actions were above Westminster parliamentary convention and allowed the running of camps and the treatment of refugees in ways that put him and his department beyond the law. In ways that caused suffering, torment, privation and death in order to achieve a narrow political aim: stop the boats.

Morrison is a narcissistic megalomaniac who revised Australian migration law to defy the UN Convention on Refugees. He is, moreover, the Machiavellian mastermind whose emotional blackmail of cross-bench senators included giving phones to children in detention on Christmas Island so they could plead personally with senators such as Ricky Muir, a shameful act straight out of any terrorist’s hostage taking rule-book.

Morrison has conducted himself with a total lack of decorum in national and international contexts. Employing all the diplomatic finesse of a swaggering, vainglorious lout, he has trashed Australia’s reputation for global citizenship. In the eyes of the world and in the eyes of the electorate he is the one Abbott government politician above all others who in the space of one year has done the most to destroy Australia’s reputation for fairness, decency and humanity.

In brief, Morrison is the worst man for Social Services in the entire LNP government. Could this be why he’s been chosen? Perhaps there’s some dark comedy here? Perhaps he’s been shafted sideways. Who can tell? It is true, nevertheless that Social Services is not the portfolio of choice for the ambitious political climber. And it will doubtless check his ambitions.

A rival for Abbott and in some quarters a potential prime minister, Morrison will be kept busy in a portfolio with many challenges, a ministry which offers far fewer creative opportunities than Immigration afforded. Yet his first comments are alarming. From the first day he is trying it on. From his first comments, Australians should be very worried.

“I will now turn my attention to our welfare system and working to ensure the integrity, dignity and sustainability of our safety net,” he said in a statement, sounding like a stage magician announcing his next death-defying stunt.

“But the best social service we can afford any Australian to help them deal with costs of living, is a job.” The pernicious myth of a job for everyone waiting for all those who can be prepared to look hard enough is being revived by this word-weasel. He has also chosen to state his perspective. Again it is about things, processes, jargon -not, as may be hoped in this portfolio, about people. And it enshrines a lie about our nation’s climbing unemployment rate. There are no jobs.

‘Safety net.’ Morrison’s focus is revealing, as revealing as Tony Abbott’s re-classification of Social Services, his new portfolio, as ‘an economic portfolio.’ Typically, Abbott and Morrison haven’t wasted any time on consultation or anything rashly democratic. He’s just imposed his own shiny new definition of Social Services.

“The ministry for social services is essentially a ministry for economic participation and it is very important to have a minister of Scott’s drive and competence in this role” Abbott noted that Morrison was a “master of difficult policy” and claimed that his ministry was “essentially a ministry for economic participation” that would encourage people “to give a fair go”.

This was news to most of us who have come to expect a ministry practising compassion, empathy, protection and support in the sure knowledge that how we treat the marginalised is the measure of our humanity.

But the PM and his most powerful new minister have been quick to spell out the new perspective: Morrison’s priorities lie with the system not with any human being. Bugger wasting time on people now you are in social services, “tough guy’ Morrison, as the press terms him, chooses instead to talk about the safety net. It’s a net he’d like to personify.

The safety net has human attributes. It has integrity, dignity. Two attributes the new minister conspicuously lacks; two attributes he will never have. Lucky for us that net has them. Then he lurches off-key. Apparently the safety net also has something called sustainability.

Sustainability: the subtext worries me. Already I am hearing that it’s not going to last if we use it, that safety net. I am hearing that it will be a smaller net because we are Australians and although we have survived Labor’s debt and deficit disaster, OK and snuck under the radar somehow with the GFC, we are going to have to get used to small.

This is a right wing radical government of small. Already I have had a year of politicians prattling about living within our means, a means that it suits them to lie about; an economy they pretend is irreparably damaged, wrecked by Labor. Just one small problem or two. It’s not what they are saying overseas about our economy – and it’s not what the experts are saying. The budget crisis is a lie.

Safety net makes me feel unsafe. That safety net image reminds me of circus performers who fall off the highwire or who fail some other routine. Now it’s OK to associate politics with the circus but it hurts to hear yourself identified with failure. I wince as I hurtle towards the sawdust. The fall is OK compared with the realisation that Scott Morrison is the safety net; or holds the safety net.

It’s clear from the safety net image that I have failed. All those who need social services are really basket cases in his eyes of the newly promoted sideways Minister. Real people may need a help up not a hand out, he will say, parroting other Neo-cons who have failed social policy. What if his new portfolio were his safety net? Don’t count on any empathy. We can’t have generous pensions or even realistic pensions or unemployment benefits. We can’t afford them, he will say. Besides, (he loves this one) we have to take the sugar off the table.

The clearest thing Morrison says is that the best social service the government can provide any Australian is to afford them a job. Unless you are crippled, disabled, old or in other ways unable to work. Unless you happen to work in advocacy services.

Cutting funding to advocacy groups won’t hurt frontline services, Morrison wants to reassure radio listeners today. No? Advocates are the people who help people when the frontline services fail. They are the lobbyists. They take care of people who cannot advocate for themselves. But they are also the people who hold the government to account. They are the ones who read budgets and inspect policies and ask hard questions. Get them out the way and you are laughing.

If there were any personal rivalry, the public show was an Abbott love-fest. During Sunday’s press conference, Abbott voiced words of commendation for Mr Morrison, who he described as “splendid” and a “master” of difficult policies. Mr Abbott explained that the Minister called the “most powerful man” in Parliament by the Guardian, after his major changes to asylum seeker policy this year, is ideal for his role because there is “no finer advocate”, and:

“The ministry for social services is essentially a ministry for economic participation and it is very important to have a minister of Scott’s drive and competence in this role”

The first priority of the Coalition leader’s “star performer” is the development of an “holistic families package” that will be introduced in the first half of 2015.

Mr Abbott then emphasised twice the foundation of his government’s agenda in the phrase, “getting a fair go, and trying to get people to give a fair go”. According to the Prime Minister, this integral sentiment will form the core of the “fair dinkum” paid parental leave policy and childcare enhancements that are due to be contained in Mr Morrison’s holistic package.

What does all this add up to? What will be Morrison’s first big crafty move?  Easy to spot one move already, Morrison will aim to cut welfare spending by using the NDIS as blackmail. Tonight, the night before Christmas, he is on the radio softening us up. To have something so world standard as an NDIS …Savings will need to be made …

Expect savage cuts across the board. Expect to be lectured on our limited funds. Expect to hear that we have to cut deeply into what we used to do in the way of helping the elderly, the unemployed, the young, in all the ways we exercised the last vestiges of a civilised compassion. Expect to hear lots more about the safety net. More about ‘savings’ and the bottom line. Don’t count on hearing about people and their increased personal suffering as Mad dog Morrison, the newly appointed zealot sets about slashing and burning his path to the top.

Don’t count on hearing the truth: funds for the helpers and carers in Australian society and their agencies have for years been cut to the bone. There are no savings to be found, unless we rob Peter to pay Paul. Don’t count on being told that the NDIS is already funded. Do count on an aggressive campaign to deny the needy our compassion and practical support.

What Social Services needs is an increased budget and a higher profile. It is the first duty of a civilised society and it is well within our means. Putting Morrison in charge, however, is the clearest signal yet that this government will do whatever it can get away with to meet its meagre targets in a government obsessed by budget-love; a government prepared to steal from the elderly, the young, the sick and the vulnerable if it helps them balance their books.

Passengers’ Protest Stops Deportation of Chinese Asylum Seeker

AAA sydney_refugee_activists_at_airport

RAC members hand out pamphlets at Sydney Airport

The following story was released yesterday to the press by the Refugee Action Coalition but appears to have been ignored. It is published here as forwarded from Ian Rintoul with some minor editing. Urban Wronski.

The story has been published online by the Green Left Weekly

Pilot refuses to fly after plane protest by cuffed asylum seeker

December 20, 2014

Last Friday, the pilot of an Air China flight carrying a Chinese asylum seeker made a last minute decision to abandon the take off and returned to the terminal to unload the asylum seeker after he staged a dramatic on-board protest.

Wei Lin, a Chinese asylum seeker, was taken directly from the Federal Court to the airport, under escort of four Serco guards, following failed last minute legal action to prevent his deportation.

Around 6pm, refugee activists went to Sydney airport to distribute leaflets to passengers on the Air China flight to raise awareness of the Wei’s deportation and to request their support to prevent the forced deportation

At the airport he was tightly handcuffed and a mask placed over his head. Wei was placed between two Serco guards of the last row of seats on the plane.

Around 9.00pm, with around 80 per cent of passengers boarded, Wei was able to move to the front of the plane and address the passengers after being escorted to the toilet.

Wei showed passengers that he was cuffed and said, “I am a political asylum seeker. The Australian Immigration Department forced me to come the airport & board on the airplane against my will…”

The plane had begun to move to taxi to the runway, but after about 20 minutes the pilot announced that the incident was ‘unresolved’, and the plane would return to the terminal.

Some passengers, both Chinese and Australian, clapped for Wei as he was taken from the aircraft at 9.50pm. He was subsequently returned to the high security section of the Villawood detention centre.

Wei is a professional athlete who has been harassed in China because of his knowledge of the use of performance enhancing drugs in Chinese sport. He first made a protection application in late 2007.

“We are again calling on the Minister to halt attempts to deport Wei, and to halt all deportations to danger,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition. “We are also calling on the airlines to refuse to carry forced deportations. By co-operating with the government, airline such as China Air become complicit in the government’s abuse of asylum seekers’ human rights.”

For more information contact Ian Rintoul mob 0417 275 713

Another account of the event by Steph O’Donnell appears below

Seven passengers stood up on an Air China flight to stop a Chinese asylum seeker being deported late last Friday night. Wei Lin, a 33 year old Chinese asylum seeker was escorted by four Serco guards; was tightly handcuffed and had a mask placed over his mouth, but he able to get to the front of the plane after asking to go to the toilet, as passengers were boarding.

Wei was able to hold his shackled wrists to show the passengers and said, “I am a political asylum seeker. The Australian Immigration Department forced me to come to the airport & board on the airplane against my will…,” before he was roughly pushed back to his seat. The red welts left by the handcuffs were still obvious on Wei’s wrists yesterday (Sunday) at Villawood detention centre.

Steph O’Donnell, a passenger on the plane, in transit to London, was among seven passengers who refused to take their seats as the pilot taxied the plane onto the runway following an on-board protest and appeal for help by Wei Lin, the Chinese asylum seeker, on board the flight. Steph contacted the Refugee Action Coalition on Sunday from London explaining the action of the passengers – her account can be read below. She is available for interview by arrangement.

After passengers maintained their protest, the pilot the take-off was abandoned and the plane returned to the terminal gate while Wei and his four guards left the plane. Wei was confronted on the plane and at the gate by people assumed to be Chinese air marshals. The passengers’ action came after activists from the Refugee Action Coalition distributed leaflets, in English and Chinese, at the check-in counter explaining how passengers could help stop forced deportations by ‘standing up for asylum seekers’.

“The passengers protest has shown how ordinary people can make a difference in the face of the government’s cruel treatment of asylum seekers. “Action by passengers has been known on European deportation flights, and we have previously leafleted airports, but this has taken action to stop forced removals to a new level,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“There is a growing awareness of the injustice meted out to asylum seekers, and every reason to expect more protests on the planes. There are too many asylum seekers deported to danger. The airline companies should refuse to co-operate with forced removals. “The new Immigration Minister should call a halt to the government’s forced deportation regime.”  For more information, and to arrange an interview with Steph O’Donnell, contact Ian Rintoul mob 0417 275 713

From Steph O’Donnell to RAC Facebook page (21 Dec 2014) :

Abbott chooses ‘a safe pair of hands’ in appointing Kevin Andrews to Defence, rather than competence or experience.


EVERY three years Kevin Andrews and his wife Margaret book themselves in for a joint ­session on a marriage counsellor’s couch — or the workshop, as he prefers. They have a solid and loving 35-year marriage, he insists, but he likens his relationship to the modern motor car. “It might last a lifetime,” the Minister for Social Services explains from a couch in his Melbourne electoral office as modern motor cars scurry along Doncaster Road, “but usually we get it serviced every two or three years.” Without that service the car, like his marriage, may still run along, seemingly OK, “but the tyres get a bit bald, the brake pads need replacing and, you know, the steering needs adjusting — if you’re fixing it up, you’re going to go on for longer.” The Australian.

Kevin Andrews, former marriage guidance counsellor and latterly Minister for Social Services has been re-deployed into Defence, typically regarded as a graveyard post for fading cabinet stars, rudely shafted in the twilight zone of their careers who know too much to be sacked and who thus need to be put somewhere safe but not too far out of the public eye while they enjoy a Coonawarra Cab Sav over a long lunch with a general or a contractor or international arms dealer or other vital network contact; in order that their après-shafting dignity and of course their loyalty may be maintained whilst others do any work as may be required and generally carry on as if nothing had happened. Happily, Andrews will still be able to demonstrate the odd Nelson touch and will be encouraged to raise his scope to a sightless eye as he did when he made his recent pronouncement that the Liberal defeat in the Victorian election had nothing to do with the unpopularity of the federal government or its prime minister. Similarly when accused earlier this month of conflict of interest in accepting race meeting tickets from online betting companies he could not see any conflict of interest despite his membership of a government which has put him on committees examining gambling. His explanation is both Nelson’s unwillingness to see with a dollop of John Clark and Brian Dawe.

“The Social Services portfolio includes the issue of gambling, therefore it’s relevant the minister meet with industry stakeholders on a regular basis,” he said.

The Nelson touch will doubtless come in very handy when reporting on the progress of the war on ISIS. The marriage guidance background should also prove a real asset in the new job whether it be counselling families of victims of recruiting barracks bastardry or soothing grief-stricken families of servicemen and women on the loss of their loved ones in battle on behalf of big oil and international capital in the hell-hole that is modern Iraq or Syria. Andrews will be able to pour oil on the troubled waters of inadequate pay, bullying, sexism, institutionalised misogyny, homophobia and other key workplace issues. Strangely, however, none of these talents were mentioned by the PM on Sunday who chose to focus on Kevin’s other attributes. Andrews will be a safe pair of hands, Prime Minister Tony Abbott volunteered, a safe pair of hands, he repeated, while announcing other changes on Sunday. Abbott’s endorsement of the hapless Andrews’ hands is typically ambiguous unless we are meant to imagine the new minister catching grenades and lobbing them back in Iraq or Syria or some similar theatre of military adventure. Perhaps Andrews will be on standby during parachute drops to Kurdish allies to ensure that Australia’s support does not fall into ISIL hands. He may even be permitted to practice a little conflict resolution or to turn his safe hands to midwifery or triage as the battlefield occasion demands. This would allow him time to distribute his handy marriage counselling vouchers to combatants. His brainchild while he was Minister for social service, the vouchers may well be still in sufficient supply to more than meet requirements in the field. In October there were 90% of the $200 vouchers remaining, a fact which confirms Andrews’ intuition that creative forward-thinking problem solvers like himself may often find their solutions ahead of the market. Doubtless it is one of the risks of leading from the front. Of course, Abbott’s words should not be taken literally, (if they must be taken at all) a safe pair of hands is a phrase which can cover a lot of things which may otherwise offend including lack of initiative, dull, insipid, pedestrian and of course, reliable, as in one who would not dare step out of line. True, he has overstepped the mark occasionally following his boss Abbott by making statements which were not exactly gospel truth but, hell, he didn’t put them in writing and by God they put the wind up the dole-bludgers. In June, he said: “In New Zealand, everybody who is seeking to get welfare payments, the dole equivalent, has a one-month waiting period.” He seems to have made it up, off the cuff, but only because of the steadiness of his safe pair of hands. The figure of speech contains an element of rebuke for former sand-groping Defence Minister, David Johnston who was in some trouble over his long liquid lunches and most notably for his ill-considered but heartfelt comment that he would not trust the ASC to build a canoe. Johnston probably torpedoed himself in word and deed and seems also to have failed to protect his rear from sniper incursions from the harrying of a PM’s department which invaded Defence long ago but he retains support from the Defence Association which immediately criticised Andrews’ appointment because the minister has previously openly declared no interest in Defence, a remark which Defence and its associates rightly found offensive. The comment, which ‘safe hands’ Andrews claims today has slipped his memory, has been recorded by the association which appears to keep excellent records of its support from Canberra. Whilst it may prove an impediment to Andrews, the comment would only encourage a PM and his department who have virtually taken up permanent camp in Defence anyway, leaving the new Minister plenty of time to engage his other interests such as opposing abortion or addressing right wing family groups visiting from the US such as the World Congress of Families., a controversial conference that endorses anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage messages. Andrews was persuaded out of attending but was still able to help out the cause when he let them put the text of his speech on their website nevertheless. Whilst he and his wife have moved on from the Catholic counselling service they co-founded in Melbourne in 1980 called the Marriage Education Programme its objectives remain dear to his heart and he has recently published research to show that couples who marry stay together longer than those who are mere de facto sinners and destined to go to hell anyway. Andrews, a profoundly conservative Catholic, has for years been influential in shaping Abbott’s policy in ways that ensure right-wing thinking is represented at every turn. Same sex marriage, abortion, euthanasia for example, are opposed by Abbott and Andrews. Chaplains in schools, on the other hand, are all the go. Whether his rigidity and inflexibility in areas of religious doctrine and social mores have been identified as bolstering his suitability for defence is unknown but the fact is that he starts his portfolio on the back foot. Before even being sworn in today, Andrews has had to take evasive action: Australia’s 52nd Defence Minister was forced to reassure the military community of his commitment to the task after it learned he had “no interest in defence issues”. Spokesman for the Australian Defence Association, Neil James, said the association was “reasonably disappointed” in the appointment of Mr Andrews, describing it as another “terminal posting” for a politician in the twilight of their careers.

“Defence is getting very, very tired of receiving ministers who are really in their last term or two in Parliament. What we need is younger and more able ministers with a future ahead of them,” he said.

James is being a little narrow in his perspective and need not be so despondent. The facts are that Abbott makes the real decisions anyway; Defence is already colonised by the PM’s department. He should take heart in Andrews’ one-eyed vision and his pair of safe hands. He should also be cheered to know that Andrews is part of the Peta Credlin’s Star Chamber and is said to be on good terms with the PM’s ‘boss’, a small cabal of ministers who are happy to play obedient courtiers in the Credlin court one of a select and dwindling few to have the king (or his queen’s ear). How Andrews will fare when it all goes bad in Iraq or Lebanon or Syria or Israel and Palestine or when ISIS acquires nuclear weapons or when Putin formally annexes Ukraine, or when facing the challenges of an aggressive China and a militarised Japan are matters which can be safely left to the future. So, too, it has been decided with all other pressing highly complex military demands which pullulate like mushrooms in our region. We are to count our blessings. Rather than risk the situation to an intelligent, informed, up to date, cabinet minister with a military background or any expertise let alone any demonstrated capacity to seize the initiative or exercise leadership, instead, our anointed Defence Minister is to be a dogmatic apostle of conservatism on every front, a charmed member of Abbott’s Star Chamber, a dangerously right-wing bigot with a safe pair of hands.

Abetz aids and abets Abbott’s anti-Union witch hunt in campaign against workers and women.


When it comes to visits to the doctor, Australians are told to ‘tighten belts’ and to expect increased fees. These are laughably termed ‘price signals’ as if the spin makes it easier to accept the increased cost. Yet when it comes to union bashing, the government is happy to spend like a drunken sailor, a phrase it popularised whilst in opposition.

And when it combines its union bashing with an equally unfair and unbecoming vendetta on former PM Julia Gillard, a uniquely capable and respected politician who also just happens to be the woman who publicly called him on his misogyny, Tony Abbott is awash with funds; he has buckets of money to splurge, regardless of the outcome. With the nation’s indulgence, he has spent their money on his own blood sport.

The latest union bashing is both expensive and appears at first glance a poor investment. Abbott has spent one hundred million dollars on his Royal Commission into Trades Union Governance and Corruption without claiming the scalp of its chief target, Julia Gillard, and without finding any evidence of criminal conduct by any union representatives. Yet the dynamic of persecution continues unchecked. The show is guaranteed to continue as long, (or as short as) he is in office.

100 million is a hefty sum to squander on a wild goose chase. There is no sign, however, of any let-up in one of the most cynical witch-hunts against organised labour this nation has seen. Instead, the inquiry has been extended for another year, which, amazingly, as luck would have it for the PM, places it in the election year of 2016.  And because evidence is as scarce as hobby horse manure, it has requested public servants to help it with a fishing expedition.

Remarkably, to help fish up some ‘evidence’, all federal departments and agencies are being asked to disclose every contact with any trade union for any reason over the past decade in response to a “scoping questionnaire”. Not only is this outside the commission’s terms of reference it is predicated on the assumption that any contact or association with workers’ representatives is somehow illicit.

Vividly revealed in this move are the Abbott government’s prejudices against organised labour. Unions, unionists and rank and file members are not only suddenly persona non grata, this government is willing to go to extreme lengths to bring them into disrepute.

It is a fine line it treads. Should it prove that Abbott’s cabinet ministers are behind the ‘scoping’ it is a clear-cut abuse of power. Accordingly the ACTU is currently using FOI to investigate the involvement of Abetz and Brandis. No good looking in the report, of course, for this is a report with a highly selective focus: workers and their representatives are the villains of the piece. The employer is as ever beyond reproach. And the former PM is found to be at fault for showing impatient or sounding rehearsed. With these caveats, Commissioner Justice Dyson Heydon’s report makes diverting and instructive reading.

The Commission tabled its three volume 1800 page plus report on 19 December. Already, rating itself off the charts, it is a must-have Christmas gift for those who enjoy reading crime fiction over the Christmas holidays. The plot is compelling, the characters are colourful and it is all lavishly produced, no doubt with an eye to a musical or a mini-series.

(Proposed titles so far include The Hunt for Red Julia, Ranga Banga Party (a nod to Silvio Berlusconi’s cultural gatherings) or Julia’s big fat Greek Reno.)

No expense has been spared in production and two volumes are available for download now. The third volume is embargoed because someone may kill you if you read it, according to Employment Minister Eric Abetz who was careful to make the claim when interviewed by Leigh Sales last week on ABC TV.

Sales quoted the Commissioner’s wish to protect witnesses by suppression of volume three and his fear of something larger, something undefined, elliptical, something we can only guess at.

“It reveals grave threats to the power and authority of the Australian state.” Yet when pressed by Sales to elucidate, Abetz went coy. Or he didn’t know either. But the slur was all in a good cause. The cause of recruiting workers to the Coalition’s new or refurbished organisations:

Sales: What is this grave threat that he’s talking about?

Abetz: I’m not going to try to second guess His Honour. The commissioner has made these statements. One assumes that a former High Court judge would not make such a statement lightly, but it is indicative of the seriousness of the matters that are being dealt with, and that is why I call on the Labor Party to no longer run the apologies for the trade union movement, but get on board with our Registered Organisations Commission legislation and the reintroduction of the Australian Building and Construction Commission. We need the rule of law to apply in the trade union movement and on our building and construction sites.

The hundred million could have done a lot of good had it been invested in health, or education to name but two areas where funds have been slashed.  It could have saved Commonwealth legal assistance funding from the massive cuts inflicted upon it. It could have even gone towards salaries in public service.

Indeed, those public servants just put out of work by the Abbott government’s cuts might be forgiven for feeling a little sensitive, a little vulnerable, if not downright angry at the Abbott government’s priorities; a government which has seen fit to cut one public servant in eight from the workforce.

Surely it would have made economic if not also moral sense to put some of these families first? Put the security of the worker before the need to run expensive show trials for political purposes? Or is that just too much compassion and common-sense?

Sadly, neither the cost of continuing the Royal Commission, nor its failure to produce evidence has sated the Coalitions’ appetite for extravagant union-bashing. The Abbott government will happily spend further millions to indulge itself in its own blood sport.  And if it all looks a bit thin, you can always talk up the problem, as AG George, ‘soapy’ Brandis, a former QC, and member of the all-male Savage Club of Melbourne did recently.

The government, he claimed, extended its open season on the unions by another year because as the problem is just too big to deal with any sooner:

“It is very plain that the problem of criminality and the associations between certain unions, and certain union officials, and crime is a much more widespread problem than appeared to be the case when at the beginning of this year the government decided to establish the royal commission,” Senator Brandis said.

There were no specifics either in his statement or in the commission’s report, a report in which volume three was withheld from publication because it contained information too dangerous to share. This is a big problem the government tells the nation, so big and bad we can’t even tell you all the detail; so big and bad we don’t need to show you the proof. So bad you would not want to know. Just trust us on that.

But who needs proof, especially when you have got the bosses in your pocket and the Murdoch press in your corner? Slur and innuendo will do the trick. Mix in a good dollop of righteous indignation and prejudice. Let this mixture be whipped up by shock jocks, the Andrew Bolts and the many LNP MPs who go for this type of thing. It’s quickly become the government’s house style. Slur and innuendo are the Abbott government’s signature, its tried and tested fall-back strategy, always at hand just to keep things moving along.

Last week we were treated to a bravura display of smear tactics on ABC TV from Eric Abetz, a former Tasmanian lawyer in an attack on Gillard which stopped a micron away from defamation.  Although there are few who take Abetz terribly seriously, especially since his claimed link between breast cancer and abortion, he has clearly been sent forth to put the team case and to keep the witch-fires well-stoked. His first comment to Leigh Sales began with a lie and ended with a nifty side-step-slur which ensured that ‘other findings’ concerning Julia Gillard were still alive, despite the disappointing finding of lack of criminality on her behalf.

This inquiry has its genesis with a lot of people coming forward saying that there was something terribly rotten with the Australian Workers Union of that period where a slush fund was established with hundreds of thousands of dollars. We have people, no less than Ian Cambridge, a Fair Work Commissioner, Robert McClelland, a former Labor Attorney-General, seeking an inquiry to get to the bottom of all the allegations that were circulating. Clearly, today the Royal commission’s report indicates that Ms Gillard was not engaged in criminality. It has made some other findings which I don’t need to amplify or comment on in relation to Ms Gillard.

The genesis of the inquiry in fact was the Abbott government’s determination to pursue Julia Gillard, whom George Brandis, under protection of parliamentary privilege had referred to as a criminal in the lodge. He declined to repeat the slur outside the house.

Conjecture about Gillard’s involvement in an AWU slush fund was kicked off by Kennett in 1995 and dogged her all her political life. She has been grilled on her relationship with former partner and AWU organiser Bruce Wilson and with her knowledge of the fund for twenty years. No-one but Abbott would have re-opened speculation and smear. Nothing to see here boys, run along sonny, might well be the advice any reasonable human being would give her current persecutors. Yet it goes deeper than that both politically and personally for Abbott.

First, the commissioner is able to proceed in a way that attacks Gillard’s reputation without the typical legal constraints of evidence. Thus despite Commissioner Dyson Heydon being unable to find wrongdoing by Gillard in her work on the fund, he can still find a “lapse of professional judgement” on her part. As if that were a crime. As if that not something she shares with millions of other professionals in the nation. As if the phrase is not a juicy titbit for tabloid radio and other mindless reputation wreckers in the land including Eric Abetz who appeared to savour the phrase in his interview with Leigh Sales last week. Then the commissioner is free to speculate on the witness’ motives in a most damaging fashion; in a way that exacts maximum revenge. His report says:

 … there could be alternative explanations for Gillard’s testimony. The first was that she wanted it to be true that she had paid for all the renovations; the second was that she knew her testimony to be false.

It was very unlikely that Gillard’s testimony proceeded only from “some unconscious transmogrification of the truth proceeding from velleity”, the report says.

“Taking together the incorrectness of her evidence, the strength of her motives, and her demeanour in giving evidence, the inference is strong that she consciously chose to adopt the clean course of flat denial.”

A long-running union bashing show is handy on the IR front. Abbott may have declared Work Choices is “dead, buried and cremated” but it’s not what his party and his backers want to hear. And after all, they appreciate that it was just one of his verbal promises. No-one got it in writing. His hard right colleagues and his supporters still salivate their pockets off over getting Work Choices or key ingredients of their favourite dish back on the table. For them it was never really off the menu.

Abbott has flicked the technical fix off to a Productivity Commission his government has already started to stack with former political staffers.

As to a political fix? Well, a long-running inquiry that might weaken trade unions and dirty-up political opponents would just about be the dog’s bollocks. Working Life.

On the personal level, it is clear that by refusing to get off his hobby horse, Abbott has confirmed in spades Julia Gillard’s appraisal of his misogyny, a disorder well-represented amongst those males who bond around the cabinet table and throughout the LNP parliamentary party and its supporters. And there are no price signals for the Prime Minister: he is more than happy to spend whatever it takes on a continuing witch hunt fixture to keep bosses on top, workers under the thumb and women out of the workshop.

Abbott re-shuffles marked deck: Morrison to turn back oldies, job-seekers, needy in ‘new’, dry, right Cabinet.

 abbott and microphones

Tony Abbott was the man who could never be prime minister. “He’s just too right-wing,” a colleague told the Courier-Mail. “Too hardline,” said another to Abbott’s face. “He’s very much a mid-20th century sort of a bloke,” declared Labor strategist Bruce Hawker in early June, only to be trumped the following evening by Kevin Rudd, on the 7.30 program, who called him “one of the most extreme right-wing conservative leaders or politicians that the Liberal Party has thrown up”. Waleed Aly

Announcing his much vaunted Cabinet re-shuffle today, Prime Minister Tony Abbott confirmed that he is incapable of listening to the electorate’s serious concerns with his uncaring, unfair, autocratic style of government and signalled instead that he intends even more of the same. A beleaguered Prime Minister has shuffled a marked deck only to play cards which follow suit. Under pressure, he has retreated further into his atavistic mid-fifties reactionary hard-line political shell but it is unlikely to help him – or his nation.

Tony Abbott has found it impossible to make the leap from Leader of the Opposition to Prime Minister. He is seen as dishonest, untrustworthy, remote and unfair. Now, under huge pressure in the polls and facing a growing backlash within his own party, he has drifted even further to the right. Instead of any broadening of its base, his Cabinet will be narrower with fewer dissenting voices and more triumphal nonsense from those like himself he’s promoted, members of the far, dry right. Fed by the legions of spin doctors in its employ, nourished by the tabloid press, the spin is that we are on the right track. The fatal error is that it appears to have fallen for its own rhetoric.

The new Cabinet choices will continue his government’s remote, autocratic and unresponsive regime. It is a regime in which a balanced budget matters more than caring for people; a budget which matters more than inclusiveness, acceptance, equality or justice. It continues, moreover, the priorities of a government which exists to serve the interests of business and capital and to put those interests above the more challenging and less financially rewarding responsibilities of looking after the people, looking after the planet.

There may be no directorships on company boards for retiring politicians accruing from it, but the ultimate test of the humanity of any regime is how it deals with those at the margins, the poor, the weak, the elderly, the infirm, the alienated and the dispossessed. In this crucial test, this government has been a total failure. Yet the Prime Minister has chosen to tough it out.

Abbott’s regime, so far, has courted the big end of town with all manner of financial incentives, preserving privilege and entitlement and tax breaks whilst neglecting its responsibility to provide for the welfare of ordinary Australians, cutting welfare, education, health and effectively reducing pensions to balance a budget which it has already blown out by thirty billion in a series of dubious spending decisions including an unrequested, unwanted $8 billion gift to the Reserve Bank, its $2.5 billion unproved, untested Direct Action policy and its $2.5 billion military intervention in Iraq.

The Prime Minister who suffers the lowest approval rating in the history of Australian politics, today announced changes which confirm clearly once again why he has alienated so many in such a short space of time; changes, especially in social services which will surely net him even more opposition and hasten his political oblivion. Today’s tinkering indicates a continuing instinct for coercion and imposition from above rather than governing by consensus, co-operation and negotiation; changes which reveal why the nation is convinced he is just not up to the job. Abbott just doesn’t get it. He will never get it.

Terming the changes ‘reforms’, his government’s newspeak for any kind of change it thinks it needs to impose without adequate consultation or research, Abbott squinted into the afternoon Canberra sun as he outlined a series of changes which will be both unpopular and ineffective; changes calculated to accelerate his own demise.

Nowhere is this seen better in his demotion of Scott Morrison, a potential rival his own position and tipped by many in the press as a possible future Prime Minister. Morrison will get Kevin Andrews’ post as Minister for Social Services.

Scott Morrison, the soft, pliable, and nurturing former Immigration Minister is notorious for his intractable, overbearing and confrontational approach to those who dare to question or challenge his approach to his portfolio. An evangelical Christian, he has presided over a draconian quasi-military solution to stopping the boats, an extreme interpretation of his government’s political need to show a decrease in asylum seekers reaching Australia. In every aspect of his language and his actions, he has demonstrated a calculated inhumanity and cruelty from calling refugees, ‘illegals’ to letting children remain in indefinite detention, a situation which has only recently partially eased with the promised re-settling of asylum seeker children from Christmas Island, a concession he offered along with having children phone key cross-bench senators, in order to secure passage of his new migration legislation in which his own powers are enhanced and Australia’s responsibilities to refugees under the UN convention of 1951 are traduced.

It must be noted that Morrison has waged war against an illusory enemy. Very few of Australia’s ‘illegal immigrants’ as they are termed arrive by boat. Yet the facts have counted for little in the battle of reality versus misperceptions and widely held prejudices.

Morrison has appealed to right-wingers, xenophobes and all those whose prejudices are massaged by the nation’s talkback shock-jocks, tabloid press and all other pedlars of lies, misinformation and mistrust who seek the collusion of a mass audience in a collective hysteria which finds its expression in cruelty and hostility to complete strangers.

The former Immigration Minister has also gone out of his way to court these groups in what many have described as Australia’s ‘race to the bottom.’ With this type of audience egging him on, his approach in his new portfolio will be blame the victim and to lapse into a judgemental approach which labels unemployed as lazy and which peddles the myth that there are sufficient jobs ‘out there’ if only unemployed people would look harder.

The consensus in the popular press is that Morrison has done a good job. His image of a man of action who delivers results has been effectively sold using all the support of the tabloid media and a phalanx of Ministerial spin doctors. In reality, however, he has denied justice, denied humanity and presided over a department which either by negligence or by equal measures of incompetence, indifference and cruelty has seen asylum seekers dying from violence or from preventable infection.

Morrison who has adopted extreme measures lest Australia practise compassion, or even accept its UN obligations to refugees and asylum seekers is now to be Minister for Social Services, a role previously discharged ineptly by the immensely powerful Kevin Andrews, a conservative who has added a 1950s touch to his shaping of key elements of Abbott policy behind the scenes.

Morrison, who has the negotiating skills of a rutting warthog is the standout bad choice in a handful of minor Cabinet changes and edge-tinkering. There are some other disturbing choices in which promising unknowns of the right political colour have ‘stepped up’.

The cabinet as a right wing claque will only be strengthened when the former reactionary assistant Education Minister moves up to cabinet to take up Health. Sussan Leahy, will be feted as another woman in Cabinet given Health, yet if her words in parliament are any sign, is likely to be much more like Morrison in her approach to her duties and responsibilities. Expect more rhetoric about self-reliance and higher medical costs, especially for the poor.

New Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, seen by some as compassionate, is unlikely to release his department’s iron grip on those victims of war and other upheaval who have sought our clemency and compassion. The babies may be released from Nauru but the rest of the outrageously inhumane and cruelly punitive Border Protection practices will continue as the Abbott government repeats its boat-stopping as one of its big successes. If only it realised what this shameful disgrace really adds up to in terms of our international reputation and above all in our own sense of everything that is decent and right and proper.

The tacking on of Science into Industry is an insult and one which reveals the Abbott government’s complete misunderstanding of the value of scientific research. It does not redress the original fault, it merely compounds its error. In this, as in all other decisions regarding his cabinet, Tony Abbott has, in desperation lunged further to the right. It is his comfort zone but it will not save him. Rather it will hasten the demise of his own career and ensure that the LNP coalition enters the records not just merely as a one term government but a one term disaster; if not the worst government to ever accede to office.

Australia’s ‘brush with terror’ leaves Abbott with much to explain yet little wriggle room.

abbott anxious

”He who would trade liberty for some temporary security, deserves neither liberty nor security.”

Benjamin Franklin

The Sydney siege has left Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott with a lot of questions to answer in a climate of expectations with little wriggle room, a climate of shock and fear and doubt, a climate in which his typical evasiveness will appear even less credible, and in which his attempts to exculpate himself could find him fighting for his political life.

First he must deal with the security breach. Abbott justified his government’s increased security measures and its heightened national terror alert as a trade-off: the need to give up some freedoms in order to make us all more secure. Now he must account for the demonstrable failure of these measures to protect Sydney and by extension the whole nation.

“Regrettably for some time to come, the delicate balance between freedom and security may have to shift he said in September, “there may be more restrictions on some, so that there can be more protection for others, he promised.

“Creating new offences that are harder to beat on a technicality may be a small price to pay for saving lives and for maintaining the social fabric of an open, free and multicultural nation,” he reasoned.

At the time, Abbott laboured the sacrifices which the nation would have to endure, but now the circumstances of the Sydney siege are causing his ‘ordinary Australians’ to question what they have received in return; challenge whether he has kept his side of the bargain. His political compact with the people is looking daily more fragile; wearing dangerously thin.

It does not matter if, as Abbott is now reasonably claiming, there are no measures which could have prevented mad Man Monis’ deranged act of hostage-taking. The Australian public does not want nuanced excuses, it expects the PM to deliver the increased security he promised. It matters little that, once again, as in economic matters, his government may have over-promised and under-delivered. Security is a much more immediate basic need. There are no second chances; no appeasement by enquiry for a public that feels let down, scared.

Abbott, the would-be ‘protector’ is trapped in the gilded cage of his own rhetoric as defender of public safety. His climate of expectations may have been a selling point in justifying increasing security but it has now turned into a noxious miasma of doubt, disappointment and betrayal which threatens to choke him and his government. The public will not be bought off with a token inquiry, in which those AFP, ASIO and police responsible agree to look into their behaviour.

The public, moreover, does not want to hear of bungling or systemic failure, although such lapses appear at every turn. There is the curious quest to discover Monis’ gun licence which ended with the AFP admitting it had wrongly advised the PM that the man ever held one. Despite the logical impossibility of anyone having a licence for a pump action shotgun, a prohibited weapon, the PM’s insistence on its existence just diminished his credibility. The nation is not reassured to learn that the AFP mistakenly advised the PM. How much other dud advice is he receiving at our expense? Then there is the regrettable and curious fact of Monis entry into Australia whence he fled from Iran claiming political persecution, an event which Attorney General, George Brandis, on Radio National this morning was unaware of but which he assured listeners would be looked into.

Historically, Australia’s ignored Iran’s plea for Monis extradition to answer criminal fraud charges at home.

“We have no extradition treaty with Iran, George Brandis has pointed out, failing to acknowledge that treaty or no treaty, the government failed to co-operate with Iran at the cost of accommodating a criminal fraudster and imposter in Australia.  There are many other failures, indeed, too many other failures in this tragedy of errors. These include the failure of our legal system to protect its citizens from a serial sexual offender who was a suspect in the murder of his own wife, a criminal with a history of erratic and extreme behaviour including writing abusive letters to widows of soldiers who had died in Afghanistan.

Abbott committed Australia to military intervention in Iraq, a failing nation state in a dangerously unstable region on the grounds that this would help make Australia safer. Now has some very difficult explaining to do even before the general public learns that our boys are indeed aiding and abetting a regime which is both corrupt and in league with its own local terror squads. It is not a venture that engenders reassurance.

As the tragic events of the Martin Place siege recently demonstrated, the much vaunted Abbott government safeguards that are in place don’t seem to be working. Just the reverse. Whilst the link with IS in the Sydney siege is tenuous, it seems any overseas military presence may attract the wrong sort of attention from certain mentally disordered, marginalised, misfits in our community.

Of course, ultimately, the PM’s assurances were mere rhetoric. Australians are no safer in fact than we were before Abbott’s anti-terror crusade. More to the point, nor do they feel safer: public opinion polls indicate that Australians feel less safe now than when the PM started his sabre-rattling militaristic foreign policy and his hairy chest beating internal security measures.

The only certainty is our new uncertainty. Abbott has increased our anxiety about our personal privacy and liberty whilst conspicuously failing to deliver his promised extra security. Our chief unease is that the state has greatly increased its authority over individuals whilst reducing its need to be open and accountable for the uses or abuses of that new power. This internal threat to our peace of mind outweighs our fear of any overseas, external enemy.

Abbott’s terror security package has not come cheap. The cost of the war in Iraq, to call it what it truly is, amounts to 2.5 billion so far, and is likely to demand more as an increasingly hawkish US foreign policy discovers what advisors have said all along, that you can’t win a war from the air. In terms of its damage to his political credibility and in terms of its abrasion of the fabric of society and the body politic, Abbott’s whole security and terror campaign appears to have backfired badly as wiser heads could have warned him had he been keen on taking any wide advice. Now the ex-pugilist has boxed himself into a corner where the gap between his promises and his capacity to deliver is illuminated by the public’s disappointed expectation of safety, a harsh and unforgiving scrutiny which may well end his bout.

For in the final analysis, there is no abstraction, no form of words that can ease the nation’s suffering, salve its grief, heal its bewildered pain at learning that a dangerous lunatic was able to end the life of respected barrister Katrina Dawson, a young mother of three, kill a ‘special’ boss and colleague, a brother and a son, Manager Tori Johnson who bravely attempted to wrest the gunman’s weapon from him by all accounts. Then there are the shattered lives of those who survived that cannot be mended by any glib assurances, apologies or excuses. These wounds are deep beyond words, these lives lost a sacred trust that all of us who mourn feel each one of us neglected; somehow failed to properly protect.

Sydney Siege Gunman killed by police mentally disturbed and acting alone not a terrorist.


Sydney siege gunman, Man Haron Monis, said to be aged either 49 or 50, a mentally disturbed Iranian-born Sydney resident was shot dead by police when they stormed the Lindt café St Martin Place in central Sydney, where he was holding patrons hostage.

It seems clear from all available evidence that Monis, known to NSW police and judiciary for his letters to deceased soldiers’ families and released on bail on a charge of being an accessory to the murder of his wife and mother of his two children, acted alone and for personal motives. There is no reason, at this stage, to link him with ISIS or any other terrorist organisation, despite such speculation in some sections of the media.

Tragically two hostages were also killed. They were Sydney lawyer and mother of three Katrina Dawson, 38, and the day manager of the Lindt cafe Tori Johnson aged 34. It is yet to be determined whether they were executed by Monis, as he had threatened, or tragically caught in police cross-fire when police stormed the building shortly after 2:00am after hearing gunfire from within.

It is not known what motivated Monis, despite his communication with police negotiators during the sixteen hour siege which began around 9:00am in the café in the heart of Sydney’s business centre. Subsequent comments from his lawyer suggest that his motives were typically confused and contradictory, although there is evidence he was angry with the judiciary over failing an appeal over a court sentence.

Monis took 15 café staff and patrons hostage on the day after courts refused his appeal against his community work sentence for his conviction for writing bizarre letters to the families of soldiers who had served in Afghanistan.

Monis, aka Sheikh Haron and Mohammad Hassan Manteghi, and known to some Sydney residents as ‘The Fake Sheik’ was a self-proclaimed cleric, with a history of mental illness, and convictions for sexual assault who came to Australia in 1996 as a refugee from political persecution in Iran.

Most recently, he was charged with over 50 allegations of indecent and sexual assault relating to time allegedly spent as a self-proclaimed “spiritual healer” at a premises in western Sydney over ten years ago.

During the patron’s sixteen hour ordeal, Monis, an Iranian Shiite Muslim forced them to contact media with requests which included an ISIS flag. It is clear from Monis’ lawyer interviewed on ABC radio today that the hostage-taker was not a member of ISIS and that the request for the flag represented yet another attempt to gain publicity by the mentally ill man whose previous attention-seeking behaviour includes a series of online tirades directed at various Australian politicians and chaining himself outside Sydney courts.

It is important to note that there is no evidence whatsoever to link this disturbed individual to any organised terror group. His bizarre and pathetic, Walter Mitty style request that police procure an ISIS flag for him because he had the wrong flag is enough to sound a note of caution to those commentators who seek to speculate about his links with terror; a warning to those who would embellish or dignify the manifest symptoms of insanity with more organised thinking and motivation.

The would-be terrorist’s flag was an innocuous Shahada, or profession of faith in Islam, which asserts: “There is no god but Allah; Mohammed is the Messenger of Allah.” To a population already sensitised to terrorist threats and to a media saturated with reports of ISIS beheadings, however, it was at first sight evidence of something sinister, a visual cue to link a mentally ill individual to ISIS, a movement which PM Tony Abbott has chosen to describe to the nation as the ISIS death cult. To members of the Muslim community, it was a distressing type of betrayal, an ambiguous and potentially provocative signal to those non-Muslims fuelled by anti-terror propaganda keen to link Islam and terror. It was also a clear indication of the gunman’s confusion and mental disorder.

What went right during the siege was the way the police appeared to manage the situation, in particular their control of information. It seems that radio stations, TV and other media were able to co-operate with the police in restricting speculation and in limiting their coverage to a few simple facts. Whilst this may have made for boring TV, it doubtless saved lives.

Radio stations were contacted by terrified hostages, yet all were able to refuse Monis’ demands, including the nature of those demands. Monis, however, was able to force his hostages to post videos on social media. Standing in front of the black and white Shahada flag they talk of bombs and Islamic State. They are made to call Monis “the brother”.

“We’re held here hostage and the brother has three requests. One is to get an IS flag and he will release one hostage.

“The second is for the media to inform the other brothers not to explode the other two bombs which are also in the city. There are four bombs altogether here.

“The third is for Tony Abbott to contact the brother via live web, somehow, and he will release five hostages.

The skill with which these demands were parried is a tribute to all those involved in the handling of the disturbing incident. Monis was, thus, effectively deprived of a forum. Whether his frustrations ultimately led him to shoot two of his hostages will not be known until police conclude their inquiry into what is termed a ‘critical incident.’

What is perhaps less skilled has been the appearance of media experts who seem fascinated with ‘lone wolf’ terminology.  This has led to an unhelpful circularity of thought, a type of Catch 22, in which it is held that Mons acted alone therefore he is a lone wolf but given that ISIS encourages lone wolves, then he could still be part of the ISIS pack.

His social media statements are similarly adduced as evidence of his wider influence, his further connectedness in the web of terror. Let’s just say at this stage that he posted his delusional thoughts on social media. It is not in itself evidence of anything more sinister. Did he have a following? Again, on the evidence, it seems most unlikely.

Clear heads have prevailed so far. Clear thinking needs to continue. On all the evidence, so far the gunman was motivated by the delusional thinking and false logic symptomatic of a profound mental disturbance or disorder. His aberrant behaviour clearly included the capacity to inflict his pathological violence on others, and possibly on himself. Calls for strengthening terror laws, speculation on links with ISIS are less than rational and are unhelpful to our understanding and our capacity to deal effectively with what has been a shocking and frightening incident. Let us proceed cautiously by objectively and dispassionately adhering to established fact, with all due compassion for those who have suffered and are suffering as a result of the actions of this madman. Only then will we be best placed to understand and to support, to heal and secure a community which is grieving and in shock.

Put Hockey out of MYEFO misery before he inflicts more damage on himself and his nation.

epic fail

Treasurer Joe Hockey said the Government had “made a good start”.

“There is more work to be done but we are on the right track,” he said.

Put Joe Hockey out of his misery, please, someone. Someone he will listen to needs to, kindly but firmly, take him aside and let him know that his government has held office over a year. Certainly, the Coalition’s grip on governing, as with its grip on many day to day realities, has been tenuous, uncertain and weakening daily but Hockey needs to be told he’s in the driver’s seat now. He needs to know. There’s a big difference between running an opposition campaign and running the country.

Yet, from the way Hockey’s sooking over his MYEFO today, he just doesn’t get it. Or he doesn’t want to get it – any more than he wants to face his budget’s role in helping create the $17 billion blowout in the deficit, the LNP’s own MYEFO black hole, formally announced today.

MYEFO shows peak debt rising to $460 billion and the Budget balance deteriorating by $68.1 billion in just three months. This includes additional spending of $13.7 billion in just 101 days since the government was elected.  Unemployment is rising to stay at 6.25 per cent from 2014-15.

Break it gently to Joe, the reality of his position will clearly come as a big shock to one so under-prepared to take power; but it’s for his own sake, for everyone’s sake. And it’s only fair. It will give him a personal taste of what he has inflicted on so many other Australian workers whose Christmas surprise will be to be told by the boss they are dismissed or, in emulation of world’s best practice in HR, an email telling them their services are no longer required.

Unlike Hockey, of course, there will be no prospect of a cushy job on the board of the Reserve Bank or any other bank or financial outfit he’s helped look after in office. Just growing unemployment and worsening job conditions and real wages. And amidst rising utilities costs, more than a hint of a GST hike to look forward to.

Hockey can’t seem to look forward but he does need to stop deluding himself he’s still back in his larrikin glory days when he gave them heaps every day in parliament. He saw it all differently then, of course. Not for Hockey were there any extenuating circumstance, or headwinds, no such thing as a drop in receipts. He was merciless, excoriating towards the then Treasurer, World’s best finance Minister for 2011, the impressively successful Wayne Swan whose policies helped Australia weather the GFC.

How Hockey jeered and heckled then. How he preened and crowed.

“Old Swanny likes to blame everyone else.”

“The trouble is he gets his numbers wrong in the first place and again if you were a company director you would go to jail.”

Now it has all come back to haunt him. Hockey faces some of the very same challenges Swan had to deal with. Yet he’s hoping we have forgotten how badly he behaved then. He hopes that we will be generous and forgiving today where he was remorselessly critical, unfair and cruel only yesterday. The hypocrisy is breath-taking. He needs to wake up to himself before it is all over.

It’s time Hockey stopped obsessing over Labor’s Bolshevik conspiracy, the Black Hand of Trade Unionism and other paranoid fantasies; it is time he faced the real enemy, his own government’s fiscal ineptitude under his leadership as Federal Treasurer.

Put the bluff and bluster aside, Mr Hockey, the truth is that you don’t know what you are doing: your government has no coherent economic plan. Bullet points and slogans may have worked in opposition but their usefulness has long expired. Knee-jerk reflexes to cut spending such as sacking seven percent of the public service workforce and making whopping cuts to health and education will only compound the problem by depressing economic activity and lowering confidence.  You bang on about small business being the backbone of the country but in cutting public service positions you effectively destroy small business’ custom.

Let’s be clear about cause and effect here. It is true that we face challenging external factors in world commodity prices which are beyond anyone’s control such as the drop in the price of iron ore or the drop in oil and natural gas but Hockey’s got a lot to directly account for himself.

Consumer and business confidence continue to fall while unemployment rises. Money is cheap but no-one thinks it’s a good time to borrow. ‘Ordinary Australians’ are unhappy with the Abbott government’s dismal performances. They worry about their job security, whether they can pay their bills, or is they can afford to buy a home.  They expect their government to do something to help them, not make things worse. They expect the Federal Treasurer to know what to do, not come running to them with apologies, lame excuses and more hollow promises.

Contrition doesn’t cut it, Joe, the electorate wants effective action informed by understanding and insight; not a series of desperate experiments but an intelligent, practical plan. Australians look to you for real leadership. Yet all you have to offer in return, it seems, is finger-wagging, fibbing and evasion.   You need to take a long hard look at yourself. Perhaps you may then wake up to what you look like to others, others who are heartily sick of your errors, your evasions and your lies.

What do the Australian people see when they look at you, Mr Hockey? They see a treasurer who doesn’t care, an unfair treasurer, a treasurer who makes excuses, a treasurer who can’t keep his promises, a treasurer overwhelmed by his portfolio.

No good taking credit for the infrastructure Labor promised, Mr Hockey, your government won votes by promising to build infrastructure but so far it’s done nothing, a nothing which is worse than nothing given the state of the rest of the economy. Finance is unlikely to ever be much cheaper, the economy needs the boost of public spending yet all you can do is bite your nails and whinge about being blocked by the Senate. Oh, and dishonestly claim credit for projects started under Labor.

Mr Hockey you are not still in Opposition: blaming others for your own mess was never a good idea and right now it can only simply further damage the Australian economy and shred the few remaining threads left of your own reputation. $17 billion in the hole in such a short time is an indictment but passing the buck here is a fatal error to you, your government, and Australia’s economy.

You are in the driving seat, Mr Hockey, despite your evasion and your denial. It’s an alarming, prospect, we grant you but it has to be faced.

Those at the Abbott government wheel appear to be facing backwards, looking to the past for direction, suckered by trickle-down and other rightist myths of economic management, itching to cut and shuttle back the engine of recovery.

The ‘adults in charge’ Abbott government bickers and blames Labor; blames the drop in international commodity prices; blames any independent press and still tries to take its hard dry right hands off the wheel while its ‘open for business’ juggernaut veers alarmingly out of control and all over the road. Skittling sundry unwary advisers, former employees, contractors and the odd supporter it accelerates madly downhill towards its inevitable fatal collision with destiny.

Mr Hockey, who until recently drove like Mr Toad of Toad Hall, now in MYEFO dock adopts a different guise, a different plea: he wants to beg the nation’s mercy, admit he got things wrong.

It’s not what the electorate wants to hear. Mr Hockey. It is not good enough. It would be better for all of us if you could tell us what you’ve learnt. Contrition doesn’t cut it. Let’s hear what you have learned from your mistakes. What exactly it is that you plan to do differently this time around? MYEFO appears to be more of the same disaster. It seems to set us up for further massive cuts in the next Budget, assuming that is you draw the line sometime under your current long-running farce, the Budget and the Senate that wouldn’t budge.

Before we offer you our indulgence, Mr Hockey, before we let you try another crank with less choke and a little more accelerator this time, you need to show us that you understand what went wrong, and what it is that you did wrong. It’s not so crazy. One definition of insanity, after all, is expecting different results after repeating the same mistakes.

Those mistakes are serious and include the budget debacle, the higher education fiasco, the unfair GP co-payment, in brief the Abbott government’s expensive, overpriced, overhyped, paralysing lack of significant achievement, discounting its dubious asylum seeker solution and its abandonment of a couple of useful taxes on carbon and a mining.

The MYEFO exposes the Abbott government’s utter lack of credibility, its failure to act like a government. Despite Mr Hockey’s best efforts today and Matthias Cormann’s breathtaking gift for understatement these are not however remotely endearing or excusable oversights or minor frailties, rather they are signs of terminal illness. MYEFO is no beacon guiding us to recovery, Mr Hockey. Instead we are trapped in Uncle Arthur’s parlour while he tries to find out how to switch on his slide projector. In the dark.

Mr Hockey, you and your LNP mob have had long enough to get it right. If you couldn’t do the job, why did you put your hand up for it in the first place? Spare us your ‘reboot’ analogy. An economy is not a computer. Best you think an economy as a real, living thing, an organism which involves real people, ordinary people whose real lives depend on leaders knowing what they are doing. You have a responsibility as Federal Treasurer to ensure their trust is not betrayed. MYEFO could have been a circuit-breaker for you, a genuine opportunity to reflect and take stock. If you are not up to any of that your best option is to withdraw, resign, make way for someone who is.