Month: March 2015

Stop the flip-flops and utter flops, Mr Abbott, put your mind to helping women at home.

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In another fabulous action-packed week of fantastical spinning, bewildering back-flipping, delusion, parliamentary hullabaloo and other outward manifestations of ‘good,’ ‘adults-in-charge,’ open for business, government, its multi-million dollar turd-polishing media unit was in overdrive. Abbott’s avid fascination with Goebbels lingers on like a fart in a sleeping bag, a noxious emanation impossible to disown or disavow.

Every flip and flop of the Abbott government’s flip-flops and total flops of unworkable, unpopular or utter nonsense policies were presented with fanfare and at great expense to an increasingly alienated nation as ‘positive new’ and ‘exciting new’ policy initiatives to be drooled over by sycophants such as Piers Ackerman, Miranda Devine and the craven conservative apologist, Greg Jennett on ABC TV whom we hate for replacing the insightful, wise and independent Lyndal Curtis who was always good value.

‘On the cards,’ we are told, is the despatch of Tony Nutt, a ‘political fixer’ who looks a bit like his former boss John Howard might if he had impacted wisdom teeth, to Abbott HQ to redress the Credlin captivity in line with Rupert’s orders and as a sop to foolish backbenchers, many of whom have whinged about her and who consequently now have no career prospects whatsoever. Doubtless he will pool ideas with Christopher Pyne, the other, fixer, albeit self-proclaimed, in the ranks.

Work experience boy, Environment Minister Greg Hunt added more utter nonsense as he presented his Direct Action assignment creatively rendered in noxious clouds of choking coal smoke signals. Hunt’s Direct Action means that government not only pays our taxes to polluters to reduce pollution, it now promises no real guidelines to measure that reduction. This is world’s best practice we are assured.

Direct Action, based on Hunt’s ‘fairies at the bottom of the garden’ vision promises to be a real hoot. It sets no baseline at all for electricity generators who are free to burn coal forever with impunity. The Abbott government is very happy with young Greg, consequently, and points to its consistency in always capitulating to the needs of fossil fuel electricity generators, amen, who play ‘a vital role in our economy.’

Any other industry gets a ‘guideline’ based on its peak pollution level over its last five years’ operation. The Climate Institute’s Erwin Jackson sees the policy as a ‘Claytons’, a ‘climate policy you have when you don’t want to reduce emissions.’ Safeguard provisions amount to a Newspeak term for no safeguards at all. How the Direct Action fairies will reduce pollution is anyone’s guess but we all recall Greg telling us he ‘just knows’ it will work. We hope he is not relying simply on our reducing electricity usage to meet his targets. At least he didn’t have to change the law as Brandis just has.

Hunt’s love of coal-fired power is in marked contrast to his declaration of war on solar power companies whom he threatens to investigate, pink batts style, claiming 15 per cent of the 1.3 million rooftop systems in Australia are substandard and potentially unsafe. Yet Australian Solar Council head, John Grimes says that under the Abbott government a safety advisory committee of the regulator has not sat once. Mr Hunt had not shown any concern about safety despite being handed three reports in his time as minister, he observes.

Brandis sighed happily as he helped Australia towards becoming a police state when his new metadata retention legislation was passed by the senate. It will become ever harder to hold government to account, criticise or even scrutinise as the state gained the right to access our metadata whenever it feels like it, for whatever reason, unless you are a journalist in which case a summons is required, although this will most likely be swiftly and readily provided by an obligingly sympathetic judge without unseemly delay in 2017 when the new law comes into effect.  Ordinary citizens stand to discover for themselves the ways this data can be used by a range of agencies to follow up even minor misdemeanours such as unpaid parking tickets.

The government was assisted by a feeble Labor government which needs to trade up its leader and a bewildered, incompetent senate which meekly fell into line with Big Brother.  A recent guest on The Drum, a much better website than a current events show, said his mates were not worried about it round the BBQ as if apathy and wilful ignorance were somehow some immunity to tyranny.

Contenders for star performer for the government faced stiff competition but must include Health Minister Sussan Ley who proclaimed that reversing the decision to cut funding to domestic violence victims is a policy triumph. How a backflip represents a wise decision, or a government at the cutting edge as she unfortunately put it, is beyond comprehension. All funds are needed and this reversal must be followed by scrapping the $30 million awareness programme and giving the money to outfits which provided women with urgently needed shelter, protection and support. Further funds may found in an efficiency dividend applied to Abbott’s ministry for women.

Given that Tony Abbott made himself Minister for Women only as a calculated snub to those who advocate justice, sexual equality and equal rights for women, Ms Cash’s assistant role remains problematic. If she continues to be subservient to Abbott whose dim and crazy view is that we have shattered all available glass ceilings, women would be better served by putting Ms Cash’s allowance into support for needy families suffering all over the nation from our epidemic of domestic violence, a violence experienced by one third of all women by the age of 15. Every week two Australian women die by from male abuse. Yet we pay more attention to two lives, albeit tragically, lost in a plane crash in an apparent pilot suicide.

Savings to fund programmes to address our domestic violence crisis could be made in our defence budget by scrapping a submarine or two. Even smarter would be to save at least $5 billion a year by bringing our advisers home from Iraq. Three Iraqi militia units who support the US- Iraqi assault on Tikrit have just withdrawn and refuse to fight saying they do not trust the United States.

Doubtless our advisers, with Kevin Andrews’ counselling skills could correct this little rough patch in an otherwise healthy relationship rooted in mutual distrust, hatred and competitive self-advantage. Failing that Andrews could kick a goal for common-sense and humanity by calling our troops home before they are irretrievably enmeshed in another military fiasco. Put the money into combating a real evil at home.

Chip in the $2.5 billion ear-marked for Direct Action, a total waste of money and you’ve got a sum which can be put to good use immediately. Of course millions in small change can be found instantly simply by dismissing all those spin doctors and media gurus who are even more redundant judging by the way the government’s message has continued daily to be totally incoherent. Then there’s the carbon tax which did have a chance of regulating carbon emissions and providing a handy source of revenue. None of this is pie in the sky given the extent of government back-flips and reboots so far. Yet any of it would be a victory for humanity and justice and a brighter future for all of us.

Now that Labor has achieved a good result in NSW and is revitalised, the Liberals who are poised to dump their increasingly crazy leader could make their move and make these much needed changes – if only they could read the writing on the wall. Yet instead, Abbott is likely, bizarrely, to claim some sort of vindication and crow and boast and make even more lunatic captain’s calls as his party, riven by leadership rivalry, drifts with him inexorably into the arid social wasteland of neoliberal neglect for the people in its pursuit of tea party small government and its mindless veneration of its cruel, false, free market god.

Julie Bishop gets her message out.

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An astonishing event in Canberra has seized the nation. Reeling from a record-breaking run of defeats, self-sabotage, own goals and sundry other debacles, a terminal Abbott government has defied the odds and at last notched up a win – of sorts. It has got its message out.

The victory is all the more remarkable given the Liberals’ record of deceit, evasion, broken promises, budget of injustice and studied disdain for any notion of governing for all Australians.

Abbott’s increasingly erratic captain’s calls have madness in them and there are alarming signs of contagion in Pyne and Hockey’s disturbed behaviour. The fish rots from the head down and David Cameron warns of the insanity of office and its unpredictability:

‘I’m not saying all prime ministers necessarily definitely go mad or even go mad at the same rates …’

Yet, rampaging madness aside, one run for Team Lazarus appears on the board at last. A few more skewed polls, News Corp propaganda and even a modest Baird victory in NSW on Saturday will have the party high fiving and twerking in the streets; crowing with righteous vindication and as out of control as a mob of schoolies on the Gold coast in December.

Its coaches and supporters confused, worn out, worn down or just plain stood down like Credlin on Murdoch’s orders, Team Abbott’s forces appear in total disarray. Now out of control in Credlin’s absence, his government has a future only in the history textbook, to be studied avidly by students of political dysfunction, with an interest in a government misled by its own rhetoric; routed by its own incompetence.

‘We need to get the message out’ its leaders continue chanting at the half-time huddle; ‘get the message out,’ but suddenly the message is confused, scrambled by Captain Qeeg Abbott declaring the scoreless first innings over. He knows his onions, Tony Abbott, he claims, waving papers and making strange facial movements as he does before he speaks or eats random, unusual root vegetables.

Suddenly skipper Abbott, is happy with the economic picture after all. He flourishes graphs which he says show we are ‘on trend’ to a miraculous near-recovery in five or so years. The line plummets into disaster ever after but, hey, he’s a glass half-full type of skipper and besides, his team must rest their heavy lifting muscles. Why, ‘we get very close to balance’ he grins, waving his own copy of ‘The Intergenerational Report,’ another lame work of propaganda he’s spent a fortune flogging. Another Goebbels line pops into his head but he controls his impulse this time. Yet the image says everything.

Flapping his pages, like a Tibetan prayer wheel Abbott explains, Qeeg-like why after rejection of the budget by the Senate and the people of Australia, he has brought HMS Team Abbott to a full stop.

‘The document shows that we have halved Labor’s debt and deficit going forward. Debt as a percentage of GDP which would have been 120 per cent under the policies of the former government is about 60 per cent under the policies of this government.’

The ‘good captain’ lets the crew know that they have done more than enough already, compared to Labor, if Labor were elected, ignoring data showing bigger deficits than anything his government had inherited; and continuing insanely to claim a better result than Labor would have achieved had it been re-elected and ignored the deficit.

God knows what he will do when the prohibited substances or the beer goggles of Murdoch’s Newspoll predictions or sycophant Ackerman’s helpless, hopeless, lovelorn ranting wears off.

The scoreboard, however, records its own clear message, the team is always getting out. Or so it went until only yesterday when the plucky little vice-captain, working a stray ball from the edge of Hockey’s bat off her left leg, played a blinder with her eyeballs.

Julie Bishop gets her message out, a message which shows clearly that she is not happy to have been excluded from the decision. Also signalled is that she is not a team player.

Bishop has never been a team player, but in a Liberal team of every woman for herself this itself should not be held against her. She lets the team know, however, by mugging for the television camera, rolling her eyes at Joe and shaking her head.

Her human-emoji message is picked up by everyone instantly, a laser-beam of real feeling and disunity piercing the fog of faux party unity and ritual public grieving in its indulgent public fawning over Fraser

Amidst its elephantine, public lamenting of the death of the dead wet Liberal Malcolm Fraser, a prolonged, outpouring of dutiful affection and ritual laceration, to rival Whitlam’s wake, a cocky Joe Hockey overshares by airing his own disturbing, dirty little secret.

Cutting budgets is fun, he crows like a lunatic, emboldened, swaggering as he speaks, excited to be holding court again instead of appearing before the judge in one all last week, and having to give an honest account of himself. His behaviour gives credence to speculation that the whole cabinet should be swabbed for drug use

Bishop purses her lips, fit to kill and stabs exquisitely manicured and lacquered fingers savagely at her Blackberry. If only she had done the same when, in opposition, she looked on fondly while Abbott used every dishonest and misogynist trick under the sun to attack Julia Gillard.

If only she had rolled her eyes and shaken her head when her legal boss had instructed her to make mesothelioma victims struggle every inch of the way in their rightful claim for damages against CSR, a delay which cost lives and caused incalculable misery

Hockey extols his love of razor gangs and the power it gives him to deny others, erupting, mid-eulogy, a mourner transported by grief, political opportunism, and vanity, a mad ham actor amidst the obsequies, arms outstretched theatrically like Moses stopping battle, forlornly, re-enacting his inner need for authority, acknowledgement, approval. Someone once must have said, ‘Jeez you’re a dag, Joe,’ so full of it, you should be in parliament.’ And Joe believed them.

The Treasurer lards his speech with fulsome praise for Fraser, Liberals’ iconic hero of Labor-bastardisation, anti-Medicare, anti-union, Viet Nam drafter, a conflicted, dyed in the wool stalwart of Western District squattocracy, a conflicted tragic hero who also held a torch for multiculturalism and human rights along with a steadfast and undying interest in his own cause

Hockey bores on inexorably on the virtues of the departed when, suddenly, he changes his narrative and gains everyone’s attention. Pollies pause their yawning, texting and checking of email. Emojis are abandoned for a moment.

To a hushed house, Hockey professes his yet unsated appetite for cutting up the plans and hopes of others and all such other urges as may be served in wielding the razor in Fraser’s ERC

Waxing to his theme, he announces his government has again pilfered the small change now left in the Foreign Aid budget, funding so subject to depredation it is now a pittance, a tiny, useless, token amount, such as Apple, BHP or multinational may pay in tax under Liberal governments in Australia.

Australia’s foreign aid budget, which has already suffered $11 billion in cuts since the Coalition was elected is like a magic pudding be cut again in May in its second budget carve up.

The ERC or expenditure review committee is extolled as another of Saint Malcolm’s ever expanding list of achievements. Razor gang founder; architect of world peace, multicultural harmony, trouser loss and depositor of pickled onions in guests’ pockets at parties, Frazer is a veritable Mother Theresa, Gandhi and Martin Luther King whose ruthless ambition caused him to bring down a lawfully elected government in a Machiavellian conspiracy of squalid, ruthlessness, class hatred and petty advantage.

Joe, doubtless, has his mind fixed on such higher pragmatism as he rises Zorba-like to wheel, arms outstretched as if in some mystic dance routine to invoke the neoliberal gods of Hayek and Friedman

While Hockey performs his lumbering parody of a conviction politician, Bishop, another parody in waiting, upstages him by revealing her displeasure. Joe would eat his words; do her bidding, grovel and beg on his knees before her but it is Turnbull who pulls off the master stoke with his deadpan line to camera on morning television.

Joe wanted us to respond like that, he grins archly, it was that sort of speech. Joe wanted us to roll our eyes and shake our heads.

In less than twenty four hours, the Liberals have broken their run scoring drought. Bishop has communicated with the nation through the eye of god without Credlin or her husband’s prior permission. With head and eyes alone, Bishop has spoken volumes about Liberal disunity, division and selfish ambition. In a gesture she has shown us all the worth of her captain’s reassurances about consultation and communication.

It is a victory of honest communication for a government of deceit and utter dysfunction, which despite its message wants to keep its true message in not risk it getting out, but after last Monday’s non-verbal stoush, no-one need be in any further doubt. Fraser’s spirit was alive and well, its legacy inescapable even in Abbott’s reborn, revised, revamped, consultative neo-Liberal party.

‘Fixer’ Pyne reveals much more about the Abbott regime than it may seem.

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When Christopher Pyne called himself ‘The Fixer,’ on Sky TV, recently, audiences guffawed and fell about helplessly, hooting with derision as another of the Abbott government’s star performers seemed to attain new heights of comic absurdity and grandiose self-delusion.

Pyne’s performance eclipsed even Scott Morrison’s claims that indefinite detention of children was an act of mercy and that on Nauru, Save the Children staff had ‘coached’ detainees to stich their lips and falsely claim sexual assault, both now shown to be false in Philip Moss’s report.  He almost outshone his master, Tony Abbott who has just said things happen and shrugged aside the report’s finding.

Pyne, more than any other clown in cabinet, has helped his Prime Minister elevate governing to a new level of absurdity. The surreal humour in David Speers’ interview on Sky lies partly in Pyne’s past failure to fix anything, let alone counselling cross-bench senators, such as Glenn Lazarus who appears about to take out a restraining order on him. But there is more to it than comic incongruity or the minister’s industrial-strength chutzpah.

Pyne’s inane grin signals some deep inner peace, if not pleasure, in challenging our expectations. Moreover, it tells Speers and his audiences exactly what he thinks of them; it is a gesture of contempt. And if his back-flip was bewildering; Pyne has learned well from Abbott his master.

Pyne’s gun-at-their-heads terrorist negotiation tactic had been dropped overnight. 177 researchers could continue to receive wages and feed their families. Universities would no longer be threatened with massive cuts to research funding unless enough cross-bench senators approved to pass the bill; another ideologically driven delusion of a tertiary sector where fees would rise and take standards and everything else up with them.

Everything was fixed. Pyne just was not going to say how. Like his boss, everything bad was behind him, we were moving forward, he promised, grinning like a Cheshire cat.

When Speers asked Pyne for details of his new-found funding fix, the Minister simply refused to tell. It was a watershed moment in his government’s history. It redefined and refined the doctrine of Westminster responsibility to a tissue of invisibility.

Pyne has taken government to a higher metaphysical plane. His non-interview with Speers was either pure Dadaist non-politics or a type of Zen mysticism. Commentators flocked in hordes to applaud the ensuing, absurdly surrealistic exchange, acclaiming it as worthy of comedic giants John Clarke and Brian Dawe.

‘I want it to be a surprise for you,” he told Speers. Asked again where the money was coming from he said, “That’s not really your concern.”

Laughter, of course, must not distract us from the hard facts. Pyne is a major contemporary political figure. Whilst he may entertain and divert us, he also busily refines the essential absurdity of his fantasy government, a surreal government which came to power in a puff of smoke, not by virtue of any real platform but by dint of simply not being Labor, a Dada government which took office with its feet permanently planted in the clouds, its head turned firmly away from Labor and the sordid, fallen world of the ordinary voter.

Pyne is chief custodian of the Abbott regime’s anti-government castle in the air. He embodies in word and deed an unreal government which bought office with a blizzard of false promises; a government which from inception created a trust deficit, which, together with its contempt for explaining itself, or being held to account, has ensured its future impotence and unpopularity. With the manifest arrogance of God’s anointed or the born to rule, it saw no real need to communicate, let alone negotiate, preferring instead to dictate the pace; act first and apologise afterwards; announce first and attack critics later enacting metadata retention laws to further frighten off dissent.

It is tempting to dismiss Pyne as a privileged Peter Pan whose plummy voice and arrested adolescence appeals to the old ladies of Sturt who receive signed birthday cards from him and who vote for him in droves. Yet that would be to overlook the consummate performance artist in him. Pyne’s stock in trade, his ‘shtick’ is serious self-parody. He is a kamikaze politician, like his gaffe-prone leader, Tony Abbott whose efforts more often get him into trouble than out. Yet like his master, he can grin and say sorry. Or just grin, turn around and dish up another serve of complete codswallop.

Thus Pyne continues at the wheel of the LNP vehicle, spinning the tyres, doing burnouts and sliding all over the track with boyish delight. That he gets nowhere is beside the point. It is Pyne’s deathless derring-do, his manic energy and single-minded determination to stay in the game – almost any game – at any price that is his vocation, his unique contribution. His plummy words are but puffery. Even he doesn’t expect us to really believe them.

By all conventional accounting, Pyne has a record of resounding defeat and underachievement in the Education portfolio and his latest nobbling of the government’s darkest horse in its privatisation stakes, Higher Education, fell at the first hurdle because he had not bothered to first make a case for change. Other Education Ministers would have negotiated or sought advice from experts such as Peter Dawkins, David Phillips or Bruce Chapman. Instead, it was easier for Pyne just to follow the same path that had led to power and make things up.

Lies are no substitute for building a case for reform, however liberally sprinkled, and Pyne’s two fundamental lies are whoppers. It is a lie to claim that there is a financial crisis in education funding and it is false to pretend that there is anything wrong with higher education. The government commits similar amounts of funding to private schools as it does to tertiary education yet never once has it proclaimed any crisis in funding parents’ right to choose their children’s (private) schooling. That would not be risky; it would be foolhardy.

Pyne will take risks to be Abbott’s fixer. Witness his role in the ‘fixing’ of Peter Slipper, a dangerous liaison which he cultivated for as long as it took to achieve a result. Although he maintains he promised Ashby no position or any other form of inducement to press charges against Slipper, it would be wise for him to hush this over as best he can.

As tempting as it may appear, however, it would be unwise to dismiss ‘The fixer’, as simply delusional. Pyne’s role in shaping the Abbott government’s style and direction is significant.  In his voice is money, privilege and droit de seigneur; in his antic disposition appears his party’s flight from reason into blind faith in neocon ideology.

Pyne shares with Abbott the same sense of vocation. Each is a type of priest in the ritual adoration of the sacred free market life force and other assorted Tea Party received truths. Both worship the gods of small government, small business and the much-lauded, miracle-working capitalist entrepreneur who makes all things possible to all men whilst praying for lower wages, fewer conditions and other ‘flexibility,’ to be granted by a good and faithful servant government, amen. Yet Pyne is the acolyte; Abbott his adored master.

Pyne is the quintessential Abbott courtier who has given his all to his government’s abortive radical neoliberal ‘reform’ programme. As Leader of the House, he has also, moreover, made his mark on parliament, snubbing democracy as befits the truly anointed member of the elect, deploying tactics such as privileging the ‘Dorothy Dix’ in question time, elevating time-wasting to an art, presiding over a parliamentary theatre of ridicule and simultaneously prosecuting his party’s contempt for reasoned discourse, decorum and common sense.

Historically, every monarch’s court had its jester or fool but few have been gifted with a Christopher Pyne. Just his unstoppability and his commitment alone command our notice if not our admiration. Energiser-bunny Pyne has tirelessly, selflessly, devoted his phenomenal energy to being a clown. Time, then, we gave him due credit for his sensational performances, especially his gift for self-deprecating absurdity, and considered him in his own right.

So popular has Pyne become as a laughing stock that he almost upstages his Prime Minister whose back flips, onion eating and zany captain’s calls have the nation in stitches. Abbott’s one-liners are head and shoulders above any of Shorten’s zingers. Only last week he boasted that he ignored metadata when he was a journalist. Yet his brief abortive career as a scribbler was over well before the Internet was in use in Australia.

Abbott, like any good captain, sets the lunacy bar high. Yet Christopher Pyne is not about to give up. Undeterred, undaunted, the Pythonesque Black Knight is heroically resolved to fight on with his teeth if need be in the service of the surreal, fantastical, castle in the air that is the Abbott government.

Whilst some pragmatists see clowns merely as useful distractions, the role of the Education Minister is more complex, fashioned from the very essence of the fantastical yet fanatical neo-con theocracy that Abbott and his backers have installed to rule over us. Rather than dismiss him as some hopeless eccentric we should consider Pyne more thoughtfully for what he reveals of the workings of the Abbott government as a whole, a government which leans more towards performance art than politics, a government informed by an ideological fantasy of a neoliberal ‘hands-free’ approach to the very hands-on challenges of being a successful government.

All About Women, too much about Julie Bishop and too little about women’s real struggle for equality and justice.

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‘All About Women,’ the ABC’s grandly titled maiden International Women’s Day all-women panel episode on Q&A screened 9 March was a disappointing disservice to women even if it did provoke the chauvinist ire of Minister for Women, Tony Abbott into rebuking women of the panel for not taking the plight of the Bali Nine seriously. Abbott later attacked Greer’s levity in challenging Julie Bishop over whether she would flash for the Bali duo’s freedom. The rest of the show, however, was a fizzer.

Greer’s bare breast jest did make a serious point.  A Minister for Women who is a bloke is bad enough. But when the man who appointed himself Minister for Women rebukes you for being a silly woman, things are crook indeed.

Granted Greer was flippant with her dare to bare, ‘free the nipple’ theme. Her disparagement of the activists posited an inverse relationship between size of breast and revolutionary ardour but she was having fun at their and our expense. Her anecdote about inviting her pursuer home was definitely not something she was seriously advocating. Perhaps suitable cautionary, ‘Don’t try this at home’ or ‘caution, satire’  tweets could run in the twit line for future episodes.

Ultimately Germaine Greer is a notorious provocateur whose penchant for the outrageous should not distract us from the seriousness of her cause nor cause us to deny her right to poke fun at our self-seriousness and national irony bypass. Certainly, her strategy flushed out the chauvinists.

Abbott predictably rose to the bait like a trout leaping to an angler’s cast. So powerful was the allure, to him, of a chance to put a woman in her place, he was caught hook, line and sinker.  Sadly, however, the abortive episode did little to advance the cause of women’s rights and much to set it back. It has ended, moreover, being ‘more about men’ after all.

Television can engage with some complex issues when it tries, but this time, it typically chose to shy away into the outstretched arms of light entertainment and patriarchy. ‘All About Women’ cheated its audience of substance, side-stepping equality and justice to endorse resurgent sexism by indulging Julie Bishop, our token female foreign minister and blokes’ rules apologist to confuse real issues of serving the cause of equality with a form of words.

Our hopes were high, at least, with regard to the top of the bill. Top marks to the producer for securing Germaine Greer; and wonderfully literate and wise Bad Feminist author Roxane Gay, but few if any marks for selecting the other, minor guests who included Best & Less fashion store chief executive Holly Kramer, and engineer and youth advocate Yassmin Abdel-Magied. Bishop was along to get her head on. Greer would have been much better served by a panel of equals. And therein lies a big problem.

So minor was the calibre of these three other panellists, Greer and her audience could be forgiven for concluding that we don’t take her or her cause seriously. Consequently she resorted to being wickedly irreverent and flippant to salvage some integrity from the mundane banality of much of the earnest, competing discourses.  It was painful and it was embarrassing. The least Australia could have provided Greer was a panel of her peers.  As it was, the mismatch got in the way of the show’s progress and appeared to be another calculated insult to Greer and to all women.

Before anyone spoke, this Q&A episode was a slap in the face to those millions watching who understand and know personally the injustices women must suffer; the countless women who every day are relegated to a second-class existence; the millions who know that feminism is not some token label.  Women’s issues are not well-served by some hasty assemblage of talking heads whose chairperson appears to have a brief to keep it light; keep it funny.

It was not the right time or place for lengthy personal anecdotes about working in a male-dominated industry from the representative of Youth without Borders. Name me one that doesn’t have men in control. Perhaps a kind person could take such earnest young speakers aside and counsel them not to generalise from their own limited experience; explain to them that their experiences as qualified professionals working with other professionals who happen to be male does not match the workplace or life experience of the vast majority of women who must contend with being so much less than equal in more ways than a highly educated young female engineer could ever dream of.

Nor was it the right forum for the wittering ignorance of Julie Bishop, who represented not just herself again but the product of repression, the smart woman who will not even use the f-word for fear she frighten the boys and cruel her chances in a male-dominated, patriarchal power structure. She is not self-aware enough to own that status but it shows.

Bishop seized her opportunity once again to peddle the pernicious lie that feminism is an optional extra. She has puzzled and dismayed observers with her ‘self-describe’ disclaimer. She approves of gender equality in theory and even does a bit for women overseas but she is not going to apply the same rules to herself or expect them of others in her life or her workplace. Goodness no. Bishop’s got where she wants only by the historic achievements of past feminists and of course by the advantages conferred by her privileged upbringing but to hear her tell the story it is just about being determined. Bishop’s message was a cue for supporters of the minister for women to prick their cauliflower ears up and another slap in the face for all other women and those who support the cause of equality.

Where was Tony Jones when you needed him? Bishop claimed that she did not self-describe as a feminist. We have heard this before and worry how long it will take before it is accepted that being a feminist is not about what you choose to call yourself, it’s about what you do to further the cause of justice and equality for women. In Bishop’s case this is less than nothing, considering her role in her party’s unconscionable attack on Julia Gillard, but on Monday, she was allowed to get away with the impression that as Foreign Minister she was flying a banner for women’s emancipation or that she was some type of liberationist.  Equally so with her claim that she makes her voice heard in Cabinet.

Bishop has allowed her foreign aid budget to be raided by the boys to such an extent that her budget to do anything useful is pretty well nothing. So much for her voice counting in cabinet. She may well make claims on television about helping the women of the world achieve justice and equality but where was she when the Pacific Islands Forum women needed her support? After giving her word  that Australia would provide funds, Bishop was unable to even face the women after she was forced to renege on her promise when the boys took a hammer to her piggy bank. In the end, her own need to boost her public profile in the leadership stakes came before any other priority. As it did with her participation in the Abbott opposition’s hounding of Gillard and her collusion in the smear campaigns about her probity as a lawyer and about her credibility as a woman whose lifestyle choice included being ‘deliberately barren.’

Perhaps it was a reminder that with an ABC hating government holding the purse strings we must expect to see more and more of the lunatic right. Women’s rights are dangerously left wing territory by definition to the ruling conservative patriarchy even with the help of such grovelling apologists as Julie Bishop whose ‘I do not self-describe as a feminist’ comment put back women’s rights and trivialised feminism whilst signalling her own alarmingly limited grasp of reality.

Annabel Crabb, an accomplished performer in other contexts valiantly struggled to assert her authority as chair permitting Germaine Greer to be talked over, Youth Without Borders founder Yasmin Abdel-Magied to talk too long and Julie Bishop to campaign for Liberal leader whilst a fawning Crabb looked on fondly . The articulate Roxane Guy made a series of stimulating observations and shared shocking details of her own life, such as her rape at the age of twelve, but these appeared to be too much for the rest of the panel to deal with. Guy is worth a show on her own but there was sense that the chair needed to keep it light and sunny. Reality can be so confronting.

In the end, the special International Women’s Day episode may prove useful as a type of warning. It serves as a timely reminder that we live in an age of an ill-informed phobia of feminism, eagerly supported by the vested interests of a patriarchal ruling class, when the gap between male and female equality is increasing and that we are currently governed by a party which takes every opportunity to keep it that way. The question Ms Bishop is not whether you choose to self-describe yourself as a feminist but rather how could you not be?

How in the face of the institutionalised injustice, inequality and suffering in the world today could anyone choose not to be a feminist. How can you maintain you have a choice? To deny the need is to be part of the problem.

Abbott government unfit to govern let alone attempt any national conversation.

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Canberra is notorious for its gas-baggers, blatherskites, hum-buggers, cods wallopers, and hog-washers but lately it has been in the grip of an obsession with national conversation. The phrase is on everyone’s lips. It monopolises the media. Every pollie, panjandrum, business busybody, wannabe and has-been it seems, is suddenly up for a chinwag.

It’s hard to keep up with the new zeitgeist. Just yesterday, everyone was busting a gut to ‘get the message out.’ Now ‘having a conversation’ is all the rage in a puzzling turn of events laced with comic incongruity if not profound irony. And there are so many competing calls for our attention a deafening static has turned us inward.

Everyone’s talking at me.

Can’t hear a word they’re saying.

Only the echoes of my mind.

Even for Canberra, those appealing loudest ironically often lack the most rudimentary conversation skills, such as Tony Abbott’s wilful incapacity to listen, a fatal flaw he shares with most members of government and his opposition, public servants, public figures and a deafness of do-gooders, preachers and other eminent notables.

Indeed, as a rule, those least equipped to communicate are most likely to order us to listen. Often after they have forfeited all respect. Abbott, with his own, unique empathy, attention and respect deficit disorders epitomises this flaw in his recent dealings with Joko Widodo, the United Nations, our entire Aboriginal population and all Australian women. Making himself Minister for Women was a two fingered captain’s salute which rubbished fundamental notions of equality and mutual respect. Now belatedly he has spent $300 million on an awareness campaign which will only help to further line the pockets of media companies while refuges languish for lack of adequate funding. Prior conversation might have steered this decision away from guff towards practical assistance for those desperately in need of shelter. No victim of domestic violence needs a TV campaign to help her identify their abuse or abuser.

Now Abbott is charging off to Victoria amidst a ‘war of words,’ in the ABC’s lexicon, with Daniel Andrews, leaving no doubt in anyone’s mind that young buck Daniel’s role is to agree with the old buck. It’s another classic conversation which essentially consists of ‘Tell you what I’ll do, and what you need to do, it runs, now let’s have a conversation to help you to agree with me. Sooky, Joe Hockey, the glassiest jaw on the front bench, currently provides a sublime example.

‘Ad hoc Joe’, privilege’s poster-boy, pocket neoliberal philosopher and stoutly loyal father, husband and son, is notorious for freely sharing his thought bubbles with an ungrateful world. Yet, $22,000 a year, will get you his undivided attention if you join his North Sydney forum. Hockey’s granting of privileged access at a price is a selfless gesture, he says, and a public good, part, perhaps of the largesse and noblesse oblige of entitlement.

It’s a party fundraiser, he says. If it were not for such public-spirited generosity, the taxpayer would have to foot the bill. Others take a different view. The Age reported the fee for access practice in its brief to act as a public forum under a ‘treasurer for sale’ headline. Hockey sprang into defensive action, getting staff to ring the editor at 2:00am to demand an apology and to threaten defamation. As you do, when you would lead the national conversation.

Now in court, Hockey wants compensation for his buggered reputation, caused, he claims, by the vile media report, inspired by ‘petty spite,’ malice and revenge, a conspiracy theory which quite baffles Fairfax. Walking and talking wounded Hockey and his entire family have been ‘devastated’ by The Age. Now his wisdom in seeking his own revenge only to expose what already seems to many as an oddly exclusive type of word in his ear is equally on trial.

A poor witness, who needs reminding whose role it is to ask the questions, Joe, has confused the witness box with the dock such is his stress, Nonetheless, he must take every opportunity to remind the court that he is federal treasurer, part grandstanding but also voicing a deeper anxiety over his tenure. Joe claims he was not hocking himself to businessmen and lobbyists by flogging twenty-two thousand dollar a year subscriptions entitling business types to have a cup of Joe with the Treasurer in VIP meetings in private boardrooms via his North Sydney forum, a Liberal party entity. It’s all a storm in a tea cup. Why he can’t even remember names without Fairfax’s counsel prompting him.

Who paid for an audience with Joe we shall never know because the list is confidential, the Treasurer reminds journalists, underscoring his own and his party’s notion that a good conversation was one where he controlled access to all the information and could readily withhold the bits he wanted hidden. A courtroom, however, is not a North Sydney Forum, what Hockey can only recall under probing questioning calls attention to another of his vulnerabilities in his job; a poor memory for names ill-becomes a man entrusted with the nation’s finances.

The Age’s case rests on a reasonable assumption that those paying for Joe’s attention expect something special from him in return. Whatever the legal outcome of his NSF debacle it will cost Hockey dearly in credibility in his call for an open national forum. The idea of exclusive access to the treasurer can only add to suspicions of unfair influence.

Bitter stoush with mortal enemy Fairfax, notwithstanding, Joe can’t resist another punt. When he should be comforting his family, preparing his testimony or preparing the next budget Joe, tears himself away to float his latest loopy idea of raiding our super to buy a first home. An attack on the basic role of super which would also push house prices even further out of reach of average wage-earners Hockey’s latest thought bubble threatens to bring the house down. But a pollie who hollers for a conversation is seldom bound by common-sense. Least of all, Joe.

A paternal Paul Keating has kindly bought into the conversation to straighten out the wayward younger treasurer. Boofhead Joe’s latest idea is a dangerous dud, he makes clear. Hell-bent on calling for conversations, however, allows Joe no time to listen or respond. Or converse. Into the breach springs the loaded dog, aka PM Abbott who lately displays all the survival instincts of a Jihadist suicide bomber.

Madly supporting everyone not moving against him, Abbott has rushed to back Hockers up before he tears himself away to put out a few spot fires he’s lit recently. It is difficult to converse when your foot is in your mouth. Yet shoot first, apologise later, is second nature to the captain. It does mean, however, Abbott has to mop up after one or two of his latest crap captain’s calls. Denial is his first tactic. The car industry call, he claims he took to the ERC, none of whom would ever disagree. Rapidly revising is also a favourite move. It wasn’t that much money. It was normal and proper.

Further funding for auto and parts manufactures turns out to be a type of reverse magic pudding promise which begins as 900 million but which self-deflates in a day to one tenth of that if you are lucky.  The wealthy multinationals who are the Australian car industry puzzle all the way to the bank. Hockey choked them to death last year yet now flings them some loose change he just found lying in his pocket.  Pay for the drinks at their wake. The intergenerational report, already an entrant in the Miles Franklin award for fiction, also deals with loose change in the nation’s pocket, however much it is boosted in Hockey’s jawboning.

“It is a very genuine attempt by the Treasury, in an unprecedented way, to launch a conversation about Australia’s future,” Hockey told the NSW Business Chamber.“ It will be a genuine community conversation about actions that not only protect our current way of life, but protect it for the next generation, and the next, and the next.”

Joe Hockey oozes protectiveness, then proposes we raid our super to buy our first houses, a move that could wreck countless young futures and push up house prices. What our leaders mean by ‘Let’s have a conversation’ is less than it sounds. And more sinister. This government has shown no capacity to consult; no ability to listen to mere mortals, so bound up is it in its worship of the holy free market, captains of industry and its duty of care to vested interests.

Rupert Murdoch can cause Peta Credlin to be moved off stage but the recent United Nations’ censure over our mistreatment of refugees is dismissed by Abbott as wrong in substance and an unwanted lecture to boot. Express a dissenting view or even broadcast one and you will be overruled, attacked or ridiculed or all three as happened to Gillian Triggs. The record shows little sign of any government conversation skills or any other wherewithal for genuine dialogue whatsoever.

Let me talk you round to my point of view; talk you into submission; talk over the top of you. Not, let me listen to your opinion with an open mind and heart. Not let me pay you the courtesy of consulting with you first and respecting your point of view. Such is the case with Morrison’s latest offer to compromise on lowering the pension.

The proper time and place for a national conversation about the pension was at the last election. Instead the proposal to change the indexation method from being wage based to CPI, was simply proclaimed. The proposal aims to save the government billions over time but it cheats pensioners who struggle now to exist on the pittance provided by a resentful government by lowering the amount of their entitlement at a time when essentials such as utilities are set to rise steeply. But who knows, perhaps the boys can find another carbon tax to axe.

Sponsoring the privatisation of utilities and cossetting energy producers has guaranteed price rises which will put utilities soon beyond the means of the average pensioner. We are, however, invited to a conversation after the government has declared its intention. Why, Scott Morrison MKII, the biddable, loveable saviour of drowning children and newly minted model of ingratiating affability is open to compromise, he says.

The Abbott government simply does not communicate. Half-way through its term in office, it says, it is waking up to the need to listen to itself. If it’s true, it’s been a long and dangerous sleep. Wokka Entsch warbles contentedly now about how his party now listens to its own back bench. Perhaps he thinks we will hail its belated discovery of common-sense a virtue. Perhaps also he confuses listening with hearing. His optimism deludes him into believing that his leader will do anything more than grant him permission to speak.

The Abbott government which has shown no capacity for dialogue whatsoever even with its own. For a conversation to succeed, you need to be able to listen. You need to be able to seek advice, then take advice, not brush it aside with a rubbishing of the messenger. Lenore Taylor in the Guardian lists several compelling cases where the Federal Treasurer has brushed aside significant and worthy contributions to the national debate, often with a sneer or ad-hominem attack, such as his gibe at the Greens.

Calls for conversations have some unlikely politicians singing from the same crowded song sheet. But in a government which has no record of consultation and even less of a commitment to dialogue, or mutual respect, there is little more to it than a parroting of a new buzz word in a cacophony of double-speak spin as each clamours for our attention, each presuming our assent.  Meanwhile, its leaders continue to draw attention to their own, singular unwillingness and lack of skill in listening or sharing. As they will until the next election gives the people their turn to speak.

Abbott and Hockey are playing Australians for fools in the IGR’s dog’s breakfast of lies and half-baked nonsense.

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Side-stepping convention, tiptoeing around the climate elephant in the room, Joe Hockey shrugs off precedent and other reasonable expectations to promote his narrow, political and partisan Intergenerational Report, a propaganda piece which is less an honest estimate of future trends than a final, desperate dose of shock therapy to the LNP’s own black dog of despair, its own budget mess.

The report is a dog’s breakfast of lies, half-truths and half-baked statistics all rehashed in a neoliberal ideology blender. Sloppy Joe Hockey wants his IGR to begin a national conversation about our future, yet surely even Hockey cannot expect any real dialogue when he and his government are unwilling to act in good faith. The report needs to speak the truth. It fails the test of credibility.

Some of its lies could just be sloppiness: early in the piece’s executive summary, current Australian life expectancies for men and women ‘are 91.5 and 93.6 today.’ Yet the ABS figure is ten years lower than that. There is a bit of a push on from the Abbott government to abandon the frippery of census taking and other hard empirical data gathering but until that happens, the ABS figure has the ring of truth. The error rings alarm bells. This IGR is light on for accuracy.

Similarly, the IGR plays fast and loose with the truth about projected government income, population growth and even boosts its own performance figures by factoring phantom income such as its abandoned GP co-payment and other measures which have been blocked by the senate.

Its pretence at prognostication, to one side as a bit of window dressing, this IGR sets its sights on the here and now. The report is a big gun in a campaign to strike terror into our heats and stampede us into accepting austerity budgeting. But it is deluded if it thinks it has kept its powder dry and that its scare tactics have not lost their shock value. Can it not see it has cried wolf too often?

Forecasting is a risky business at the best of times and never more so than with the imperfect science of economics. None of the previous IGRs have come within a bull’s roar of getting their budget estimates right. You need clear aims, rigorous methodology and quality data.  As Richard Denniss notes the garbage in, garbage out principle of computation applies to this IGR in spades.

Even if you just want to scare people, you need credibility. Joe Hockey fails to meet any of these requirements and instead must fall back on blind neoliberal faith and ignorance if not stupidity. Stupidity is repeating the same mistake and expecting different results. Change the record, Joe.

Fools enjoy a natural immunity from self-awareness and the Great Helmsman Abbott is happy to sail into the wind taking his bearings from false soundings. Anything but change course to accommodate science and reason.  Undeterred by the prospect of his leadership’s imminent ship-wreck, the fool-hardy Hockey fudges numbers to fake impending economic disaster. We are all doomed: only he and his government’s fiscal austerity medicine can save us.

The Abbott government’s IGR paints an incredible future scenario in which everything governments do remains the same for forty years. Governments continue to lower income tax rates each year while deficits rise, an unimaginable if not absurd prospect. What the states’ economic lives contribute to the changing picture is never contemplated. Nor is the reality of the cost of changes in our weather. Joe is making his own arbitrary decisions for his own reasons: his own captain’s call.

Climate change doesn’t matter a damn and Labor never gets back into power or brings back a carbon tax. True intergenerational theft is the province of the climate change denier whose influence is at work in this one-eyed squint at the future.

Technology never evolves nor could it ever make work more possible, more profitable. There is no thought given to the potential of a healthy renewable energy industry nor the boom it could bring not just to lower power costs but also to exports.

The inter-relationship of new technology with a brighter future may be illustrated with Tony Windsor’s comment:

“If the package of technologies enabled by high-speed broadband can keep 5% of elderly people in their homes for just one extra year, Australia could save $60 billion over ten years on aged care facilities ($4 billion a year in bed operating costs and $20 billion in capital costs). These savings alone would more than pay for the NBN.”

The scenario shows how small changes can make a huge difference, and highlights fruitful future areas of investment if we are truly concerned to address the costs of our aging society. Rather than concern itself with solutions, however, the report takes a different tack. The IGR scapegoats an ageing population for raising health costs. Pressure on the system, in fact, comes from the wealthy wanting to be healthy. They then purchase ever more expensive government health services.

The elephant in the room of climate change is invisible to this government. The biggest threat we face in 2055 will be a budget deficit, according to the report’s authors who appear trapped by a tunnel vision and happy to ignore the facts and all previous warnings. Or is it that they suppose that Greg Hunt’s direct action has climate change safely under control?

It seems more like avoidance: turn your back on it and it will go away, an unbecoming if not downright dangerous attitude in any would-be forecaster. Either way it’s an act of wilful negligence that further undermines its flawed economic forecasting. Or has the lesson of the IGR become only that we can safely ignore the last one?

The last IGR warned us ‘the largest and most significant challenge to Australia’s environment. If climate change is not addressed, the consequences for the economy, water availability and Australia’s unique environment will be severe”.

Australians deserve better than to be played for fools over their future.

Hockey has transformed the Intergenerational Report from its use of data to model future scenarios to prompt informed debate beginnings as it began in 2002 into something which is not about the future at all. It’s all about Joe. And Labor is to blame.

Everything the Abbott government ever set out to do was right on track and all that needs to be done is for those Labor bastards to drop their opposition, that mongrel senate to fall into line and the budget will be passed at last and we’ll be back in surplus tomorrow and forever after. The report has the graphs to prove it. It’s only because of Labor that things aren’t perfect already. Cuts must be made to balance the budget. Nothing else matters.

Hockey’s report will go in the waste bin along with its Commission of Audit and other failed attempts to soften us up for more cuts to government expenditure. Expect to be blitzed, nevertheless with an advertising campaign telling us we are living beyond our means.

No expense has been spared. Funding of advocacy groups is threatened; emergency accommodation for women seeking refuge from domestic violence has been slashed yet Joe can blow $380 million on an ad campaign to frighten us into submission.

Hockey’s IGR is propaganda masquerading as prediction. If Hockey is serious about ‘having a conversation’ with Australians about our future then he needs to put up some honest data. He’s missed the boat with this report. But has he ever been remotely interested in any conversation which doesn’t tell him what he wants to hear?

The Treasurer is so desperate to claw back lost opportunities that he will even politicise an IGR if he has to. Even if it means, as is highly likely, he kills it off. Hockey has abandoned all pretence at a forecast based on best available information as a responsible public service or even duty. Instead he has concocted a fiction to serve his party’s narrow political ends in the hope it might rescue his political career. It is unlikely to make his political future any less uncertain.

What is certain is that whatever shape is taken by our budget and the economy forty years hence it will bear no remote resemblance to any scenario presented in this so-called ‘report.’ Certain also is that the Australian people will see through this tissue of lies and see through the ensuing campaign assault on their common-sense and intelligence as a desperate government abandons any remaining good faith and turns to fear-mongering about the future to save its own self interest because it can make no larger plan.

The Hockey horror show desperately tries to terrify a nation it has failed to persuade.

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Australians are falling off their chairs, all over the nation as they guffaw, hoot and cackle with laughter at the latest offering from the Federal government’s veteran entertainer, Joe Show-biz Hockey.  Just as he predicted. Almost. Well, he got the chairs bit right.

Lenore Taylor says it’s not scary. But then she spoils it all by giving reasons. Typical. She’ll never be on Team Australia. Trust is what’s called for. Respect. True belief. All long gone, you say. Just you watch. The show’s the thing.

From its catchy title to its up-beat, all-singing, all-dancing closing finale, ‘Living within our means’ with its touching chorus of colourful elderly beggars plaintively singing about their love of poverty, constant hunger, ill-health and the freedom of living rough whilst being moved on by riot squads of heavily armed police, The Intergenerational Report is a gag a minute family show which has everything; a great cast, a classic plot and some wonderful numbers.

The stage is dominated by a giant piñata doll effigy of Peter Costello, a sacred figure who founded the IGR tradition with Budget Paper Number 5 in 2002, a sexy little number which was all about dipping into the future which even then was an act of foolhardy bravado if not utter futility but at least it took the focus off his giveaways, lowering taxes and other bribes to stay in power. Costello could not even foresee what he had started. A gifted bureaucrat wrote with a straight face that the report would:

“assess the long term sustainability of current Government policies over the 40 years following the release of the report, including by taking account of the financial implications of demographic change”.

Centre stage, Costello’s fingers are raised in what seems to be a gesture of benediction or perhaps a victory salute. The smirking doll is worshipped by all characters at the beginning of each act until it is smashed in the finale, bursting open in a ticker tape parade explosion of receipts from the sale of the resource boom and other assets.

It is a rich spectacle in a show that takes the incredible into a realm well beyond mere disbelief. Costello’s other hand bears a future fund brief case with over a hundred billion dollars in it which is rescued by a regiment of Iraqi commandos and quickly borne off stage before anyone even thinks of settling any debts.

The most spectacular gag of all, however, is that ordinary punters pay a small fortune for our tickets while multinationals get in almost free because they provide jobs. We must not upset them by asking them to pay their fair share of tax or they will bugger off and leave us to exploit ourselves. Just think of it as spending money to make money, impresario Hockey says. Spending your money to make them money. They are needy and deserving is his punch-line. Quality entertainment is never cheap but look at the cost of funerals these days. Or dental care.

Just the focus groups cost $380, million. Focus groups test your best lines for you. There’d be other costs in there, too, doubtless, including a massive saturation ad campaign, but what can you get these days for under a billion? Star of the show is MC Joe Hockey whose torch song opening brings the house down with a seductive number about starting a conversation reprising the Eurythmics’ Would I lie to you?’

The IGR plot is surreal. It creates the most implausibly fantastic future scenario: ‘No carbon tax, not never and policies to stay the same for ever,’ goes the chorus. No change for forty years but government will lower income tax rates every year. Labor either never gets elected or its carbon tax policy is not reintroduced. Technology never evolves nor makes work more possible, more profitable. There is no ink wasted on the renewable energy industry nor the boom it could bring not just to lower power costs but also to exports.

‘Blame it on the old; their lives are over’ is a toe-tapping Bossa Nova number which scapegoats an ageing population for raising health costs. Pressure on the system, in fact, comes from the wealthy wanting to be healthy. They then purchase ever more expensive government health services. The old are hunted down by work for the dole youths and deported into work camps.

Our current Treasurer, it is true, struggles a bit with numbers or economics, but give him his due. He makes a great fiddler. And what an act! We should scratch Sebastian and enter Joe in Eurovision. A versatile comic genius, he effortlessly combines parody and pantomime and tops it all off with shlock-horror served with lashings of vaudeville. Everyone gets a chance to hiss the Labor villain right through the show. He’s right behind you! No. Over there. On your right!  In 2055 the budget is finally balanced on stage with the assistance of a small tactical nuclear device.

We must give the Hockster his due, his intergenerational report is full of inspired comedic situations such as everybody paying less tax until 2055 or women and elderly folk finding non-existent jobs so that the government can pay less on health and pensions and families may be fed

Climate change is not even a cloud on the report’s horizon because doubtless, factored in is the certainty everything will be fixed by all that direct action that the government is taking. Whew. Or is it that old standby: turn your back on it and it will go away. Either way it’s a shaggy dog story at best.

The last IGR warned ‘the largest and most significant challenge to Australia’s environment. If climate change is not addressed, the consequences for the economy, water availability and Australia’s unique environment will be severe”. Great we’ve cleared all that up. Nice one, Joe.

You have got to hand it to Joe Hockey. He’s really thought this thing through. Talk to me while I lie and frighten you is an approach which commands respect even if it is the rapid step back to create personal space we deploy to safely distance ourselves from the dangerously insane, the intellectually challenged or the nice bicycle brothers heaven sent in suits and sure of themselves all the way down to their patent underclothing who visit your home to chat about God’s Word, Satan’s wicked ways and how to stay out of Hell.

It’s a hell of an act of faith to think you can scare the nation peddling lies and false testimony, making false prophesy and then expect folk to want to talk to you ever again. Or a last, dumb, desperate gamble from a man who knows this is the last time ever the country will suffer an IGR of his making, a man who must know in his water that he will be lucky last past the NSW election. In the meantime, enjoy the show for what it is, the triumph of deluded self-belief and ignorance over any form of science or better judgement. What better epitaph for a government that never rose above an opposition, a party that was elected not for what it might do but because of what it was not, a government so blinded by its far right ideology that it never came close to being in touch with reality.

Hockey’s Intergenerational Report is partisan, political propaganda not Triggs’ appeal to our humanity and decency.

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Federal Treasurer, Joe ‘Show-bag’ Hockey, a man of few graces, no distinction and fewer achievements, has finally done something noteworthy. He has broken his own party’s gift to politics, the charter of budget honesty Act 1998, to give himself time to fiddle his intergenerational report. This has involved running it by a $300,000 focus group and ‘fine-tuning’ to deliver the maximum shock to punters. The IGR will make you fall off your chair, he boasts. It’s a real shocker, a masterpiece of sensational scare-mongering.  It is also another step into the dark abyss of LNP ignorance.

Expect more finger-wagging about intergenerational theft but zilch about climate change or the scuttling of renewable energy industries. Pricing our children out of an education has also been sensibly soft-pedalled. Expect fiddled figures: including Treasury population estimates requested to be as low as possible to magnify crisis. If we all work until we are 150 we will be able to make up for taxes that multinationals mustn’t be asked to pay. For they provide jobs. Amen.

Fittingly, the Charter of Budget Honesty, trumpeted as the Liberals’ answer to mendacity, duplicity and broken promises in politics carries no penalty but Hockey’s breach is compromising. He who would command must first obey, Joseph.

Thursday is set for IGR lift-off. The stage is set for alchemy, wizardry and other dark, political arts. Witness before your very eyes the transmutation into party propaganda of the IGR which started life as mere statistical prediction, a sampling of data to predict trends and in the very act of doing so, of course, alter them. Now dire prognostication, ruin and our mutual doom will be foretold.  Unless, of course we see the neoliberal light and slash all spending savagely.

Expect sensational drama, a packed house and lashings of frenzied fear mongering. Expect to be hectored, lectured and shouted at. Like his leader, Hockey raises his voice when he can’t lift his argument. Flags go up, too. Expect the full Nuremburg of flags, flanking Joe Treasurer as he looks into the darkness of the worst of all possible futures glassily. Expect anti-Labor raving; how Labor drinks the blood of the young; sups with the devil and is out to wreck and destroy everything from here to Armageddon. Every revivalist loves his anti-Christ.

Thanks must go to Joe and co. for leading us to this dark place where facts don’t matter, experts are pilloried for knowing too much or being too learned; information is abused and rhetoric usurps reasoned argument. Ignorance is presented as a right in our egalitarian parody; let’s build a future where Jack is as good as his master.  Not that his master is much chop.

Our retreat from reason is encouraged by our elected representatives. Minister for Ignorance, Christopher Pyne is eager to dumb the nation down by denying Australians their birthright to education with his push to privatise higher learning. Pyne is poster-boy for a party obsessed with the cost of everything; a party, yet, which knows the value of nothing.

Pyne, however, is a pussy-cat compared with the senate’s anti-poster boys, boofhead bovver-boys who bring to politics their own unique blend of mongrel bastardy, pig-ignorance and gratuitous aggression. Senator Ian Macdonald flaunts his contempt for the nation, academia and justice by crowing that he has not read the Gillian Triggs’ report. Yet he will chair the committee entrusted with looking into it.  Amazingly, tellingly, he has not been censured by his peers.

Australia holds 800 children in mandatory detention but unless you read Triggs’ report, you probably wouldn’t know. Most are mainland detainees and the rest could easily be accommodated here. 200 is the press and parliament’s preferred figure. A false figure is repeated until it is accepted as part of the myth-making and muck-raking that upstages our national conversation. We are losing our reason and with it our capacity to order our affairs.

186 children are detained on Nauru. Children have been held with their families on the mainland and on Christmas Island for, on average, one year and two months. Over 167 babies have been born in detention within the last 24 months. Trapped in an existential hell, they have no pathway to protection or settlement.

Tony Abbott denounces Triggs’ report as partisan and political because of its timing yet cannot advance a jot of evidence. Senator Ian Macdonald, at least, admits he did not read it. He heard it was biased, he says so he did not waste his time although he did read the addendum with Morrison’s objections. There is no addendum but in appendix 8 the Immigration and Border Protection Department objects to the methodology.

The report addresses the issue of our nation’s policy of keeping asylum-seeker children in detention, its causes and consequences. It applies a rigorous methodology and its findings are conveyed with scholarly objectivity. It gives voice to those whom we must keep out of sight and out of mind lest our consciences trouble us. It includes an appendix of captious objections from Immigration including challenging the amount of anonymous testimony. Only a monster would argue children who fear persecution or recrimination should not be protected by anonymity.

The voices to be heard are not partisan or political, they are the voices of forgotten children; not out to score points or to serve any political agenda. The Abbott government’s attack on Triggs and on her report, on the other hand, has been entirely political yet there is no evidence to indicate that the release of The Forgotten Children was politically motivated. This weak claim does a government with low credibility little credit. Nor do personal attacks which appeared in News Limited papers.  Triggs did not begin her inquiry in 2013 because of the imminent election. She reasonably deferred starting her research until after the election to take into account any change of policy from the new Abbott government.

These two very different reports reveal a great deal about us. The IGR propaganda and spin will not be subject to the same derision and contempt we have seen in government and media attacks on The Forgotten Children and its author.  What have we come to as a nation when the partisan, politically doctored humbug of the scaremongering IGR is given legitimacy over the honest, objective and humane scholarship of Professor Triggs?  Time to have a long, hard look at ourselves before we forfeit also that self-respect that enables effective, honest introspection and reflection.

The juxtaposition of these two contemporary reports presents an opportunity and a vantage point for us to undertake a national critical self-evaluation. Are we to allow fear to force us into submission and unreason, as the IGR will insist or do we assert our humanity, rationality and our right to know the truth? Both are noteworthy but confronting as it may be, Triggs’ report, along with its circumstances, is more worthy of our full and sustained attention.