Australia’s unsuspecting body politic was about to be plunged into the chill and murky depths of revoking citizenship last week as Captain Abbott beat out a mean anti-terror snare on the old tin drum he keeps by for when fortune flags, boredom yawns or he gets stuck in the muck of good government. Strip their citizenship. Make ’em stateless. Fetch the gang-plank!
It was all rousing, hairy-chested, tough-guy, stuff. Bugger the judiciary. Nobody separates our powers, Abbott winked as he instructed Credlin to tell the ‘Tele’ the result of the cabinet decision before they’d had the discussion. No agenda necessary, Peta, he winked again. Peter Dutton fetched a length of timber from somewhere, checking carefully beforehand to see it wasn’t a sleeping Warren Truss. Tar and feathers appeared in another wink..
Things were shaping well towards our declaring undesirables stateless; their fate resting entirely on a Minister’s suspicion; requiring no burden of proof. Being made stateless would show them we were tough on terror. Teach them to nick off to the Middle East when you can get good falafel in all major cities. But was it too tough?
Revocation would be used only sparingly, ‘Gung Ho’ Dutton rushed to explain, managing only to sound like a bent head-master justifying his use of the cane. Dan Tehan reported that the backbench loved it. But their finer-pointing was drowned out by an outbreak of ‘robust debate,’ all reported verbatim in the Fairfax press the next day.
Robust debate scuppered Abbott. Senior Ministers Bishop, Turnbull, Brandis, Pyne and Andrews all opposed summarily revoking citizenship. Brandis claimed, po-faced, that as AG, it was ‘his job to uphold the rule of law.’ Tell that, Mr Brandis to the Australia Council whose funds you have just raided to create a personal slush fund, to be known as the ‘National Programme for Excellence in the Arts,’ without the merest hint of irony.
Dutton then broke everyone up by explaining no evidence was necessary. ‘That’s the beauty of it’ he said before being howled down. It was left to Barnaby Joyce, perhaps seeking to make up for his disgraceful email to Gina, to stop the show with ‘ Isn’t that what the courts are for?’.
Forced to back off revocation the PM then had to suffer being outmanoeuvred by a nimble Bill Shorten who upstaged him by proposing his own marriage equality bill to be debated Monday. Rolled by his own cabinet, a subdued Abbott walked out only to suffer a painful political wedgie from Shorten. It was too late to cancel the Telegraph’s report of a unanimous Cabinet in favour of revocation of citizenship for those whom we suspect may be un-Australian or who grow their beards, cover their wives, watch the Friday movie on SBS or eat that Halal stuff or something.
What should have been a week of simple pleasure drumming out death cult drongos or kids who fly to Syria to join ISIS; and drumming out any other enemies and fifth columnists within our embryonic police state, thus suddenly morphed into a long drop on to the dung heap for the hapless PM. Thank God for the backbench and their red-necked supporters. Thank Rupert for the Tele which continues to portray a version of the government which bears no resemblance to the real chaos, entropy and reality denial which engulfs the incumbent ruling political party.
LNP denial extends to the facts of life, embarrassing even to a grown man like Joe Hockey who appeared ambushed on ABC’s Q&A by a young woman campaigning to have the GST removed from tampons and other sanitary products. Put on the spot, Joe appeared to concede she had a case, a stance which the PM, wearing a silly grin which betrayed his discomfort on the topic, appeared to oppose the following day. The split between treasurer and prime minister revealed a PM who cannot command consistency of policy nor as it turns out loyalty in cabinet, although it must be said he had betrayed democratic process by his leak to the Tele of the result before cabinet had even met. A good captain leads from the front.
Upstaged by Joe’s going soft on tampon tax on Q&A; betrayed by Bishop and rolled by his senior colleagues in the best-leaked cabinet room revolt in Australian conservative political history, Abbott is suddenly looking very vulnerable. Cabinet has lost confidence in his judgement. Now he was to suffer mutiny along with mutterings of unfairness in his second budget – especially over his pledge to ‘never ever’ change tax on Super, a promise ensuring the wealthy continue to be subsidised in their retirement to the tune of 18 billion.
To make matters worse, Barnaby’s email advising Gina Rinehart’s ungrateful brats to suck it up was all over the news, as if Abbott had set it up, an outrageous slur. It was the Peter Slipper witch hunt all over again. To say nothing of the witch hunt now underway to prove Bishop and Turnbull collaborated on leaking chapter and verse of cabinet to Fairfax reporters.
Better late than never, Cabin boy Hunt fetched good news from the crow’s nest he is forced to occupy now that cabinet has excluded him and his ministry because it can’t stand either of them. He spied fair landing on The Great Barrier Reef, he shouted.
‘At the end of the day, this is the strongest possible endorsement of what Australia and Queensland are doing,’ the Minister for breathless Hyperbole, puffed. In reality, someone had just emailed him a UNESCO draft decision which was highly qualified, cautious and untrusting.
The committee recorded its concerns about the poor outlook for the reef and recommended that the World Heritage Committee review any lack of progress in 2017.
UNESCO’s concerns would cause any self-respecting environment minister to reef in his sails but Hunt’s faux triumphalism capped another week of chaotic instability, duplicity and bad decision-making that our PM assures us is ‘good government ‘.
Not content with pretending that UNESCO had given us a big tick of approval for our reef management, Hunt huffed that our environmental policy now earns us unreserved applause from a grateful world, not to mention a few clapped out reef tourist operators who are keen to flog the half of Great Barrier that survives its wholesale abuse since the 1980s.
At least Hunt’s false joy makes a change from our PM’s tendency to sneer at the UN and to lecture it on daring to lecture us on what is fit and proper to do in our own sovereign dystopia. Don’t try to lecture us on human rights or anything now. We lead the world on the environment.
Granted there was our wee fracas with the US only a year ago when a senior Democrat accused Australia of “behind-the-scenes lagging” on global efforts to tackle the challenges of climate change. But ever since then, Hunt pretends, Australia has been so quick to clean up its act that the rest of the world must now sing our praises for, as Hunt puts it, ‘what we are doing.’
Doubtless Hunt’s ‘what we are doing’ includes the abortive Bjorn Lomborg Consensus Centre, a proposal which caused such dissension UWA had to abandon it. Fossil fuels continue to rule in Oz. We pander to the coal industry and we continue to subsidise big mining. Perhaps that is or rather was the plan. With Bjorn in a professorial chair we could have been world leaders in climate-sceptical self-interest and mutual self-destruction. Let false prophets bless our fat profits. To hell with reason, science, responsibility and all the rest of that leftist bullshit.
What are we doing? We are busily licensing the Adani mega-mine in the Galilee Basin while expanding coal ports up and down the Great Barrier Reef coast. Let Germany get into bed with renewable energy. We love it under the doona with dirty old coal.
If ‘coal is good for civilisation,’ as Abbott claims, it has failed to promote civilised or rational behaviour amongst its advocates and producers who would elbow each other under the next monster mining truck in their rush to exploit a fuel which has ravaged the planet and which threatens us all with extinction as coal fires boost global warming and pollution.
Selling more coal to other countries is like shouting a drink for an alcoholic on the grounds that someone else is only going to do it if we don’t. And it gets us off the hook. Greenhouse gas emitted by coal-fired plants in other countries doesn’t count. We only sold them the coal.
‘Direct Actor’ Hunt’s hollow assurance highlights, a remarkable week in the Coalition’s forlorn and at times sordid, quest for legitimacy as it continues its desperate search for credibility and respect by looking for love in all the wrong places. And in all the wrong ways as Barnaby Joyce’s email to Gina Rinehart’s children illustrates.
How and why Joyce would take it upon himself to persuade the children to drop their case against their mother’s control of their inheritance is just another extraordinary episode in the chapter of accidents that was the week that was.
The government has been strangely buoyed by a phantom ‘bounce’ in opinion polls, which all others see as showing a continuing preference for Labor. It is crowing with fiscal pride because no-one is throwing up over its second budget. Yet the budget continues unfairness, especially in pensions and superannuation which are set to preserve the perks of the wealthy while diminishing the returns of the deserving, the middle to lower income retiree who now have to make do with less, despite all of Morrison’s enjoyment of phrases such as taper rates and other attractive jargon used to cloak taking from the poor and elderly to subsidise the rich.
What is most evident, finally over much of the week’s politics is the tribalism of the Abbott government, a mentality which experts tell us is part of a widespread cultural trend toward fragmentation and a retreat from civil discourse. Stripping any citizen of his or her right to have rights, their citizenship, is part of a drift towards partisanship and cultural isolationism – as Abbott’s book title warns us battle-lines are being drawn. As the people we are not included in the process of government but increasingly marginalised, frightened we are expected to simply choose sides.