Whilst they professed their undying loyalty, fealty and overwhelming devotion to the great charter in public, our MPs trampled Magna Carta in the mire last week as they resumed the tribal blood-sport that now dominates national politics at the expense of the national interest and the common good.
A boat bound for New Zealand had been turned around with a wad of cash. Questions about it dominated the first day of parliament. Time to batten down the hatches, boys, says Captain Abbott.
Forget policy. What matters is whose side are you are on and what can you get away with. Federal government, rattled to discover it fosters the people smuggling trade it demonizes, reverts to its opposition strategy of attacking the man. Abbott is back in his element; doing the one thing he knows. Kill Bill. Get Gill. Who gives a fig for the common good, or justice and the rule of law?
Bribe back the boats. Lie about it. Let our border force boys be creative. We will do whatever it takes. They are keeping us safe. We won’t say how. We don’t comment on operational matters. What matters are results. We are at war with people who ask questions.
By Tuesday, Labor had dropped the ball. Suggestions that it, too, had bribed sea-farers in the people trade, were enough to cause an abrupt cessation of an attack which should have been continued. Julia Gillard came out to deny ever paying people smugglers but by then the opposition had dropped its demands for an explanation. And the people’s right to know.
A plucky Tanya Plibersek picked up the ball late in the week. But she may call all she likes for a full explanation. Tony Abbott will continue to refuse as long as he knows he holds the trump card of cheap, xenophobic, populism. As long as we let him.
Paul Sheehan reminds us, most of us closed our hearts and minds to refugees long ago. Now the PM wants us to close our eyes and stop our ears. We will do whatever it takes, he soothes, to keep you safe. Transparency? You really don’t need to know. And you can keep your criticism to yourself.
It was an ugly week in politics. An increasingly despotic LNP government turns viciously on its critics. It scorns and mocks and undermines those who seek to hold it to account. Even if it is their job. Labor is said to be ‘rolling out the red carpet’ for terrorists because Mark Dreyfus reminds a reporter our courts cannot try a person in his absences. Labor is about to steal our super.
Even uglier was the disgraceful attack on Monday on Gillian Triggs whose job it is to hold the government to account. The context of Magna Carta made it seem even more an indictment of our representatives’ capacity to pay lip service to ideals they daily scorn or flout.
The 800th anniversary of the great charter occasioned such a gush of public speaking that the forked tongue seemed fit to gain a place on our flag. The paying of homage in counterfeit coin was enough to make a baron blush while the deeds of those entrusted to govern us were once again a travesty of Magna Carta’s guiding principles in protecting us from abuse of power by upholding the rule of law.
How low can you go? Certainly, Captain ‘Hook or by Crook’ Abbott and his limbo-dancing government appeared to violate the rule of law at every turn, from Bronwyn Bishop’s public bullying of Gillian Triggs on ABC’s Q&A, another shameful act in the Coalition’s orchestrated campaign to undermine the Human Rights Commissioner, whose independence is intended to act as a check on executive power, to the PM’s mission to set up a kangaroo court in the Immigration Minister’s office for those whom he suspects should have their citizenship revoked.
Monday night it fell to Speaker of the House and Minister for ejecting Labor MPs, Bronwyn Bishop to take up the cudgels; belabouring Triggs with the LNP bully baton. Repeating the lie that the report on children in detention was politically motivated, Bishop urged Triggs to shape up or ship out.
There is a time, and I think Gillian recognises it, that as a statutory officer you have to decide whether you’re a statutory officer, fulfilling that role with security of tenure, or whether you wish to say, ‘I want to be part of the political debate’ and stand for office and run to become part of that political process.’
Clearly the only free speech this government values is its own and its mates’. It has a tame commissioner, Tim Wilson, formerly of the IPA waiting in the wings. It seeks Gillian Triggs’ scalp for the Human Rights Commission’s report on children in custody.
The Human Rights Commission, along with the judicial system, has its own job to do under international convention and Australian law. The Abbott government’s campaign to discredit it undermines the rule of law. It tramples the principle that independent actors are given specific roles as checks and balances to the government’s political power.
At least a small handful of LNP cabinet members who still believe in the rule of law but they are to be denied access to the final draft of the citizen-stripping bill which is calculated to win more political kudos than the alternative. The alternative would be to simply modify the existing law dating from 1948 under which dual citizens forfeit their Australian citizenship if they take up arms in the service of a foreign army against Australia.
The bill also dispenses with the courts, giving the Immigration Minister the authority, because, as the PM blurted out on radio last week, involving the courts is always perilous. Abbott, clearly has no faith in the legal system and is backing a single minister to get him a better result.
Abbott was keen to tell parliament he had support. He even verballed former national security laws monitor and head Brett Walker, a distinguished leader of the legal fraternity. A furious Walker was quick to issue a press statement pointing out that the courts should be an essential part of any such bill. Yet the PM continued unapologetic, unscathed, almost unchecked.
In parliament last week, Abbott did divulge that the final draft of the controversial bill would be seen by the AG and the Immigration Minister. The Foreign Minister is sidelined, as are all others who may dissent. The PM is more concerned with the roar of approval he anticipates from the mob.
Mates like anti-wind-farmer Alan Jones are vital to the Abbott government’s access to the mob. And the argument cannot be pitched too low just as long as it floats the shock jock boat. I know what the people are thinking Abbott says during the week. For ‘the people’ read Alan Jones’ listeners. It’s called talkback radio but anyone who disagrees is rubbished on air.
Bugger global warming: renewable energy is so ugly. Abbott uses Sydney radio to tell us that he hates windmills. Like Hockey he needs to say so. They look bad. Bound to be bad for you. ‘Visually awful,’ he says to his pal – unlike, it would seem, a nice clean coal-burning smoke belching power station.
Reasoned discourse, dissent and difference continued to be pushed to the wall. Mud-slinging and dog-whistling remain our PM’s own special way of fostering a ‘national conversation’ on energy. On our responsibilities as global citizens. On the process of accountability itself.
As modelled by Bronwyn Bishop on Monday’s ABC Q@A, the much-touted national conversation that the LNP urges upon us is all one way. Shut up and listen to our platitudes, prejudices and lies. Hector your critics. Threaten them when you can.
Royal commissions come in handy, here. They sound so legitimate. Even ABC sound-bites help carry forward the impression that the latest commission is anything more than a political witch hunt. Abbott gets the boot in early.
In Cairns on Friday to flog a White Paper on Developing Northern Australia, Abbott accuses Bill Shorten of ‘identity theft’ in the former AWU head’s workplace negotiations. ‘Verging on identity theft’ are his weasel words.
Ironically his white paper on the deep north is a tissue of lies, based on rent seeking, opportunism, romanticism which flouts the expert advice of countless studies attesting to its national economic, social and environmental madness. But this is not mob to fuss over serving self-interest or ignoring science.
‘Verging on identity theft. ‘How or why is best left unsaid. The PM’s smear is a mere appetiser to the meal he is certain to make of Shorten’s appearance next week at the costly political witch-hunt that is his government’s Royal Commission into Trade Unions. Nothing like giving your independent judiciary a helping hand. What’s that about the separation of powers? Don’t you worry about that. Just look at that crook Shorten.
Senator David Leyonhjelm, at times, such as on gun control, a cup short of the full tea-party is all over commercial news with skeletons of this magnitude which Shorten must explain. Shorten is ‘haunted by his days as a union boss’ according to another. In fact when he appears on ABC’s Insiders on Sunday, he is proud of being a modern bloke and an accomplished negotiator who has moved beyond class warfare. Much good may it do him.
Bill Shorten is already convicted in the Murdoch media over alleged union support of his campaign to the tune of $300,000. The smear campaign has already found him guilty of something unspeakably shifty despite union support being perfectly legal. What is not reported is that it is only about half of Roslyn Packer’s 2013 gift to the LNP of $580,000 in 2012-13. In the commission also Shorten is guilty until he proves himself innocent. In the court of popular opinion he is another Craig Thomson already. Reports have it that his former wife has been interviewed. Must be dodgy.
The LNP receives twice as much money from all donations than Labor but this week we were being worked up over Shorten’s ethics in accepting unnecessary support. Joe Hockey should know. Is it as unnecessary as an allowance paid to a wealthy treasurer who rents a house his wife owns in Canberra?
Worse, Shorten was diddling the workers he was representing. In reality, he helped negotiated a series of rostered days off into flexible RDO’s. But the media pack is baying for blood. On Murdoch TV we learn that Shorten’s personal life is under scrutiny from the Royal commission. Guilty. Guilty Guilty.
Criticism is a type of treason it seems according to the Abbott government’s rules of engagement. So blind is its anti-terror frenzy; so virulent is the anti-other intolerance and hysteria it whips up to cripple the national psyche.
Luckily for us simple folk, head coach, Captain Hook-or-by-Crook-Abbott pledges to keep us safe from harm by doing whatever it takes, whenever he feels like it, to make us all feel endangered, whilst he busily stirs up further insecurity, enmity and division. The biggest danger to our well-being as a nation is himself and his government of crazed neo-cons. The only leadership he knows is how to put the boot in.
Our elected representatives were spoilt for choice as heads to kick popped up everywhere last week. Let’s kill Bill,’ the government’s contribution to bipartisanship, played to packed houses in and out of parliament while the week began with yet another round of ‘let’s get Gill.’ She’s just a political mouthpiece for telling us that children should not be in indefinite detention. Any kind of detention.
Mothers got some tough love too, as support for perinatal depression was axed in another round of ‘independence-building’ in the needy and the vulnerable. Australia wants mothers who lift not lean. The $85 million National Perinatal Depression Initiative expired in 2013 leaving state health ministers to negotiate its future but Health Minister Sussan Ley told them this week that the Commonwealth would stop contributing by the end of the month. You have to be cruel to be kind.
Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley called a press conference to object to a cut which does not just hurt the mother but her whole family:
“To cut the programs that fund perinatal programs that support mothers and children is just one of the cruellest cuts [the Federal Government] could deliver to the most vulnerable families,” he said.
Yet it was not all negative. After his on-air rub-down with Alan Jones, Abbott had an innovative proposal. We are to be blessed with a new wind commissioner we never knew we needed, after the PM declared his hate for the sail on his mate Alan Jones’ hate-for-the- other radio.
It was a kick in the teeth for sacked disability commissioner Graham Innes who protested that he must continue his advocacy unpaid after the government pulled the rug out from under him. We can’t afford someone to look after twenty per cent of the population who have a disability yet we need to fork out a million dollars on a commission into wind-farms that any number of previous commissions and reports have shown to be completely safe to public health.
In the meantime, the barbed wire canoe that is our ship of state sails ever further up shit creek without a paddle. But the coast is clear and nothing but fair seas await on the starboard bow. No-one in government knows anything they need to explain to the people or seek their opinion on while our Good Captain Abbott already knows, he says, with a wink, what the people think.