Month: August 2015

Dyson Heydon may have defended himself but his Royal Commission has been destroyed.

dyson heydon with tongue

… the mere fact that  a person agrees to deliver a speech at a forum does not rationally establish that the person is sympathetic to, or endorses the views of, the organiser of the forum’. Dyson Heydon Reasons …

In the end it is no great surprise that the former ‘High Court’s great loner,’ or ‘Great Dissenter’ Justice Dyson Heydon QC AC, has dismissed an application that he recuse himself from the Royal Commission into Trade Union Corruption. He is not unused to taking an independent or an unpopular position. Nor is he at all averse to a legal contest.

In fact, Dyson Heydon’s career is built on winning legal contests, arguments and disputations, a fact which also makes it unlikely that he would ever recuse himself on the grounds that he might appear biased or in any other way unfit to judge. Especially when he has to judge himself.

But can the great legal mind see the wood for the trees? Might he not consider his position independently of the case brought in the unions’ application?  No chance.

Today Heydon continues to walk to the beat of his own legal drum: the letter of the law. Justice Heydon has made it clear that in his considered and detailed opinion, there is no legal case to answer in the ACTU and other unions’ application to cause him to continue.

In his sixty-seven pages of reasons published at 2:00pm today on the Royal Commission’s website Heydon dissects the case against him and dismisses it, authoritatively, convincingly and resoundingly. That should be the end of it.

But it’s not the end; more like the end of the beginning. What Heydon has left out of consideration, as he must, is the larger, more important issue of how the public perception; how the average person may see his Commission.

The Royal Commission is tarnished. Whatever findings he makes by its December close, will forever be tainted by his belated discovery that he ‘overlooked’ his role as a Royal Commissioner and accepted an invitation to speak at a Liberal function.

Despite arguing convincingly in his reasons today that his speaking at the function does not necessarily make him a biased Royal Commissioner or one whose judgement would necessarily be impaired by his acceptance. The bigger picture is not reassuring to the public. Nor is the image of a judge who ‘overlooks’ details, favourable to fostering public confidence.

That loss of confidence may be accelerated by Heydon awarding himself a TKO.  Heydon argues, that the unions’ application fails to establish evidence from which a reasonable lay observer may deduce or infer his bias.

‘… the applicants’ submissions depend on isolating conduct which reveals a particular characteristic – affinity with, partiality for, lending of support to, persuasion, allegiance or alignment to the Liberal Party, or a political prejudice against the Australian Labor Party.’

Yet the integrity of the Royal Commission in its wider sense, has already suffered a crippling blow.

In order to consider the application from the ACTU and other unions that he recuse himself He had to put himself in the position of ‘a fair-minded lay observer.’

Yet given the circumstances surrounding his Commission are less rarefied. His impartiality has been challenged; his cooperation with requests for relevant documents has appeared less than perfect. In his words this may have been an ‘innocent’ oversight but it does not build confidence.

To complicate matters, Heydon has revealed his impatience with key witness, Bill Shorten, in a way that appears prejudicial to his full and fair hearing, rebuking the former head of the AWU lest he appear an ‘unreliable witness.’

Rebuking Shorten, was an extraordinary departure from protocol, but hardly the only indication that Heydon will do things his own way. He provides transcripts of charges against those called before the commission. These are given to reporters as those summonsed to appear get to see for the first time what it is they are charged with.

It may help the media but it does not help the perception of integrity. Moreover it provides easy ammunition for coalition politicians to use in parliamentary debate and to apply in arguments to persuade cross benchers.

He could not continue without significantly weakening the commission’s authority. At a cost of 61 million dollars so far and counting, the public deserves better value for its money. Heydon may have defended himself capably against the case of apprehended bias against him but even in doing so he has lost the bigger argument of why his commission should continue at all.

Abbott’s endgame; the Flinders Street crackdown that never happened and the battle for Canning.

flinders street crackdown

‘It never happened. Nothing ever happened… It didn’t matter. It was of no interest.’  Harold Pinter

“Nothing happened here except the issue of a poorly worded press release,” an open-necked, dressed-down for credibility, Prime Minister says, squinting in the Torres Strait sun as he covers up a cover up; capping a magical week of reality and illusion, which culminates in pure farce; an abortive Border Force crackdown on Melbourne’s Flinders Street Station, the city’s sordid underbelly of visa fraudsters, fare-evaders, bail absconders, buskers and other anti-social types.

A crack-up of a crackdown, Operation Fortitude is all over before it has begun; ridiculed into submission; laughed out of town. Bizarrely, the organisers have seen fit to post advance warnings of their surprise raid on social media. That does it. Melbourne’s twitterati drop everything but their smartphones and storm the station.

Dutton’s Fuzz, hopelessly outnumbered, are in trouble. Operation Fortitude is abruptly cancelled; redacted; consigned to the memory hole by the Ministry of Truth.

If Melbourne is odds-on to win best in show, it faces stiff competition from little Thursday Island where Tony Abbott, a veteran land-rights opponent, is reborn as Mabo Man.

Mabo Man leads a conga line of clowns, contortionists and illusionists that is our nation’s political elite.  Performers amaze onlookers and participants alike, all week, with a breath-taking display of Canning stunts, death-defying acrobatics, sideshows and some very funny stand up from the PM.

In a routine straight from Abbott (no relation) and Costello’s Who’s on first base, the PM kicks off the week’s fun and games by giving the nation the ring around on who rang whom in the race to be invited to invade Syria, an event most nations in the region have wisely stayed away from.

‘President Obama called me,’ he says with a poker face, to beg us to help the US, because our six ageing Hornets from 1984 are all he needs to turn Syria around; win it for him. OK, so it might improve my standing in the opinion polls. You can’t help bad luck.

Everyone knows it is Abbott’s call. All that is missing is a theme tune from the 1913 Broadway hit Honeymoon Express: ‘you made me love you, I didn’t want to do it; I didn’t want to do it …’

The week’s treats range from Abbott’s confected invitation to bomb all the IS it can find in Syria, a duty call to play our part in the ruinous potlatch ceremony that is our historic alliance with the US, our great and powerful friend who cost us $9 billion in Afghanistan alone, to ‘Visas, Please!’ a Dadaist production of Flinders Street theatre parodying our fetishising of totalitarianism, xenophobia and the narcissism of social media activists, artisan-crafted for a discerning Melbourne audience.

Code-named Operation Fortitude, Dutton’s Army, resplendent in six million dollar uniforms, – until now all dressed up with nowhere to go, team up with Victoria Police, Metro Trains, Yarra Trams, the Sheriff’s Office and the

Taxi Services Commission, to bail up random unwary pedestrians, who look a bit, well, temporary, fail to make eye contact or who fail the brown paper bag test. At least, that is the game plan.

The official plan is a caring, state protectiveness, such as a military dictator provides or the citizens of Johannesburg experienced when the Pass Laws kept them safe.  Armed and uniformed Border Force agents build ‘a secure and cohesive society,’ using tactics of fear and surprise. If you can prove your innocence, why, then you would have nothing to fear. Carry papers at all times.

It is a mission to ‘support the best interests of Melbournians, targeting everything from anti-social behaviour to outstanding warrants,’ explains ABF Victorian and Tasmanian supremo Commander Don Smith, ‘speaking with any individual we cross paths with … if you commit visa fraud you should know it’s only a matter of time before you’re caught out.’

Right on, Don! Yet it is Smitty himself who is caught out. ABF and co will stop ‘only those referred to us by police,’ he backtracks, too late. A flash mob public demonstration of anger against the government’s latest way of ‘keeping the public safe’ erupts forcing the performance to be called off ultimately in a teasing series of on-again, off-again announcements earning the ABF comedy hall of fame status as gold standard Keystone Coppers, in the national security division.

Tony Abbott, you can tell, back on Thursday Island, is searching desperately for another onion to bite into; a war to declare; a terrorist cell to bust, all week, but the closest he gets is Dutton’s utter cock-up.   Naturally the PM and his Minister for Border Protection have no explaining to do whatsoever, no responsibility for what was planned because it didn’t happen. ‘Operational matters’ secrecy will keep the monumental stuff-up under wraps.

Helpfully, a spokesperson for Peter Dutton’s office reminds the nation that ministers do not direct operational matters. Just in case you think he or his boss were behind something that had their fingerprints all over it. Abbott does come out on Saturday against random searches but has nothing to apologise for. It is all a miscommunication; a ‘very poorly worded’ press release.

The good captain blames his crew. ‘Nothing out of the ordinary happened,’ he repeats. ‘Absolutely nothing out of the ordinary.’ Nothing to see here. Unlike the spectacle that Joe Hockey made of himself earlier in the week when he took advantage of the bagless power vacuum at the top that is Abbott’s post-Dyson Heydon leadership to do his own thing.

Bruised after a rubbishing from the bean counters for his vacuous platitudes on taxation, at a Tax Institute and Chartered Accountants of Australia and New Zealand conference in Sydney, Joe Hockey comes out as a republican again in a hopeful bid for Turnbull’s approval, Christopher Pyne outs himself as a libertarian and a Republican, trumping Hockey in a cheeky bid of Me-tooism for the love of Malcolm in the middle, the PM-in-waiting’s attention while the top cat is away.

King for a week of Thursday Island, Uncle Tony honours his promise to go bush one week every year instead of doing anything practical to help indigenous peoples whom he continues to patronise while underfunding them. $534 million was cut last year from indigenous programs administered by the Prime Minister and Cabinet and Health portfolios.

Abbott needs time out. It will give him time to work out the best angle on the tax cuts he will dangle before the people of Canning, tax cuts which even Hockey can see they have no way of funding. It is time to work out a replacement for Dyson Heydon to rev up the war on Bill Shorten.

Thought bubbling, brain farting, gaze firmly on a middle distance framed in palm tree leaves and the prospect of defeat in Canning, the PM is in top visionary form. Re-energised, re-born, he holds two radio interviews and one full press conference, satisfying the nation’s hunger for a few inane slogans about jobs and growth. Somehow, he finds time after decorating some local war heroes, to float a proposal that their Northern Dreaming pay for a railway for poor Adani.

Joe Hockey says, on Monday, government is ‘working away’ to see if Adani can have some, if not all, of a $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Scheme announced in this year’s budget.

Adani is unlikely to secure the money to proceed with the mine, despite this latest carrot from our coal-fired Federal Government. Even if it went ahead tomorrow, there would be few jobs created.

ABS figures show that far more Australians work in solar power than coal; a total of 13,300 in July last year, compared with 9,500 in fossil-fuelled power stations.  Coal employs fewer workers than McDonalds.

Despite its mission to destroy what is left of our renewable energy industry, the government cannot hide the fact that its support of the coal industry is a costly economic and environmental mistake.

In a bid to divert us from the half billion his government cut from Aboriginal funding, the same amount as its direct subsidy of coal, the PM proclaims himself to be the first federal politician to visit Eddie Mabo’s grave; first to rule Australia from Thursday Island for a week.

Bragging rights secure, Abbott then professes his own undying respect for Eddie Mabo, a radical conversion, direct to camera, in a road to Damascus moment, the like of which has not been seen since his last major public backflip. This is not the same Tony Abbott who told The ABC in February 1992, that Eddie Mabo was dividing the nation.

Tony ‘Mabo’ Abbott is a powerhouse of good government in the field. He even gets George Brandis under canvas, he winks, while issuing regular pieces to his own film unit assuring the nation that the vital Royal Commission into Bill Shorten must go on, whatever Heydon decides.

Jeremy Stoljar QC, counsel assisting, is weakening as captain’s pick. Stoljar overlooked the odd email making a fool of his boss over his claim to have given all correspondence to the ACTU as requested.

Dyson Heydon must recuse himself on grounds of apprehended conflict of interest but his announcements are delayed while the PM’s office finds a suitable replacement former High Court Judge without Liberal Party affiliations who is mug enough to sully his name in Abbott’s witch hunt.

It could be a long delay. Luckily the PM can dazzle voters in Canning with promises of tax cuts but his best plan is to keep well away apart from a fleeting appearance on a quiet Saturday afternoon.

Abbott’s crafty choice of a 19 September date for the by-election allows him to back out.  Parliament can’t run without me will be his first lame excuse. Should it go badly, it will be due to local factors, why, that the PM was barely there.

Reporters rash enough to raise with the PM trivial, real world matters such as signs of recession in China, or even signs of a global recession, are told to run along; nothing to see here. Look to the future. Follow me, he says, winking darkly.

He of the never-never gives his ‘guarantee.’ Aboriginal peoples, he says, will best be recognised in the Australian constitution if we are all prepared to have a go; if we could all do a bit more talking in our segregated assemblies, until next June. Suddenly, we will discover we are there.

A form of words will spring fully formed like Athena from the head of Zeus, to magically forge consensus, silence all naysayers and wow every voter in the land in 2017, most likely in the form of a referendum or plebiscite or something such as Uncle Tony or the next big white bwana may, in future, impose to get the result he’s after. No rush here or with marriage equality. Unlike war.

War is urgent. War boosted Howard’s approval in 2003. Abbott’s career is far more on the skids than Howard’s ever was. Desperate times …

It’s a simple plan of attack. Our nest of six Hornets is all set to buzz into Syria in an illegal extension of their ‘humanitarian’ mission that is guaranteed to win Syrian hearts and minds. No one will say what the terms of engagement are. No end point is envisaged. Like the Royal Commission into Union Corruption, it could run forever. Or until it sends us destitute.

Invading a sovereign state’s airspace is fraught with all manner of risks. But once again, questions are met with ‘nothing to see here.’ Foreign minister Julie Bishop who keeps up with all that type of thing assures us borders no longer matter because the enemy ignores them.

With sophistry like this guiding our foreign policy, the party with the focus on national security appears vulnerable on many fronts. Soo, too is the new candidate, Captain Andrew Hastie. Ms Bishop swoops on the 32 year old former SAS member. Takes him by the hand. She swans around shopping centres, flashing her new pal, Liberal candidate Andrew Hastie, like an engagement ring. Just whose campaign is Bishop, a contender for the PM’s job really helping?

Hastie, a veteran of unwinnable wars overseas, is boosted as a hero, a man of the military world. He knows what it is, he says to fight for his country’s way of life, whatever that means. The reality may be less grand. He may find himself yet again another pawn in someone else’s unwinnable endgame.

A shy, callow young man with little life experience outside of barracks and the combat zone, who is yet to produce a biography, he seems the perfect captain’s pick. Tongue-tied, nervous, used to taking orders, but good in a fight, he seems the ideal recruit to a tribal political party in which attacking opponents is the order of the day, dissent is discouraged, a party above all in which sideshows and diversions have become core business as real power lies in the hands of its puppeteers, the vested interests of commerce and industry and the ultra-right.

Hastie captain’s pick in Canning will lead to Tony Abbott’s downfall.

hastie

All eyes turn to the diverse Federal electorate of Canning where the death of sitting member Don Randall has caused a by election whose result could determine who leads the nation. Tony Abbott’s career rides on the result, according to a variety of sources in Canberra. Captain Andrew Hastie has been his captain’s pick to stop the rot, a man’s man to send on a man’s errand.

Former SAS Captain Andrew Hastie turns out to be a shy, gangly, young string-bean, awkward around people and ill at ease in public. Just the fella to parachute into the once safe Liberal seat formerly held by the late Don Randall whose local popularity Hastie cannot hope to match. We are treated to images of him at a local shopping centre in the infotainment that passes for TV news.

Hastie mumbles and fumbles. Looks down a lot. The tall young sandgroper is camera shy. Just as well he’s brought his Mum along. Mums come in handy if you ever have to explain yourself. As you do when you are still under investigation for serious misconduct on the battlefield. It doesn’t help that you are pretending otherwise.

Only it’s not his Mum at his side, it’s Julie Bishop. The diminutive Foreign Minister and deputy leader of her ultra-right party, takes the fledgling Liberal candidate firmly in hand. She flashes him around like a new engagement ring.

Bishop brags about Hastie being ‘an outstanding candidate’ as he clings to her arm like a new toy boy or even man bag an accessory after the fact of her own political ambition as much as his mentor. Bishop is not ruling out throwing her hat into the ring should Abbott step down as PM.

Hastie is promising. He has to be. There is little in his record which commends him for the job. He hopes his soldiering will fill the gap in his CV, a delusion encouraged by his military fetishising PM.

Widely seen as a ‘litmus test,’ a do or die by-election for the Prime Minister, Canning is just a bit of routine maintenance, a spark plug or oil change, according to Ms Bishop. She laughs off all suggestions of it being Tony Abbott’s last chance. This only confirms our suspicions.

‘The Canning by-election is all about the people of Canning. It’s all about finding a replacement for a very popular member in the late Don Randall,’ she lies.

If this were true, what is she doing there? Why are some of Abbott’s mates, Andrew Nikolic and two other Tasmanian Liberals, each chipping in $2000 for the campaign?

Hastie says he ‘knows what it means to fight for the Australian way of life,’ but he doesn’t explain what on earth he means; what this means in a multicultural society not at risk of invasion. He talks of how his tours of duty have been formative in his candidacy,

In a place where …’power and violence regularly intersect I’ve come to appreciate the unique conditions of liberty that has led to the flourishing of Australian society and our system of government.’

It’s another long stretch, which only draws attention to the truth. Everybody knows the ‘young fella’ was just another Aussie tag-along in another mad American adventure that has ended badly for all except the international heroin trade. A question mark hovers in the minds of some citizens at least as to why exactly any sane young man would volunteer to go there. Three times. Or what anyone would learn that could help them in Canning from the Narco State of Afghanistan where the fruits of war were chiefly a massive rise in opium production.

By 2014, a record 224,000 hectares of opium was under cultivation, double the amount grown before the American war. Afghanistan produces an estimated 6,400 tons of opium, 90 percent of the world’s supply. The drug is twenty five per cent of the nation’s economy and its tentacles stretch into the highest levels of the Afghan government. The opium trade brings in 3 billion per year and is the largest legacy of the war with America. Australia did its little bit for its great and powerful friend, the US and by extension, the drug lords.

Afghanistan, was a thirteen-year military failure; a futile incursion for which Australian leaders eagerly volunteered our young men. One thousand US soldiers were killed. Untold numbers went mad from their suffering.

Although the war was declared over last December, the ceremony in Kabul honouring the mostly-American and British troops who fought and died there had to be held in secret. The war went so badly that even Kabul itself is no longer safe from the Taliban.

His three tours of Afghanistan notwithstanding, it is probably prudent, therefore, not to hail Hastie as the returning conquering hero. It would be wise, moreover, to question what another soldier could possibly add to our testosteronic posturing, our tribal shirt-fronting leader’s style. The Liberals do not need another junkyard dog. Nor do they need another Audie Murphy loose cannon.

Hastie shoots himself in the foot by firing off a line about Labor being weak on supporting our boys in Afghanistan. He rails against renewable energy.

‘I never felt Labor had our backs when I was serving.’

Captain Hastie was in a helicopter when in 2013 a corporal under his command cut off the right hands of three slain Taliban fighters. Hastie’s claim that the investigation is over is not true. It was normal practice, he claims, a line he contradicts by his assertion that he was first to report the incident up the chain of command. If it were routine, he would not immediately inform his superiors.

Bishop’s defence of him is spirited but unhelpful. What happened was OK, by the Army, she effectively says and besides Andrew was in a different part of the battlefield. Please.

Does it matter where the captain was on the field when the atrocity was committed? Are we to believe that such a violation of the Army’s rules of engagement and of the Geneva Convention on war could ever be considered OK? The spin machine is suddenly under pressure to clean up the candidate’s past before he’s even begun campaigning.

A rapidly flaky Hastie is moved on. Nothing to see here. It’s the same out and about. There is an underwhelming reception for Hastie on the streets of Canning.

Bewildered strangers seem a under-awed. Perhaps it’s the instant familiarity Bishop rains upon them. She is like the Chinese war lord who baptised his troops with a hose. Candidate in tow she barges on; brazenly, fearlessly butting in uninvited; intruding into the private lives of the people of Canning and their business in the town.

Hastie is the goods and she is out touting him about. The people of Canning baulk at the hard sell of a less than glossy Liberal candidate whose paint is already badly chipped and fading as details of his past leak out.

Bishop takes charge of her young man, as Mums do, grasping his hand tightly as if taking a grandson to the zoo. Yet this outing is far scarier; more dangerous. Captain Hastie must fill a dead man’s shoes, he must take a crash course in meet n greet. He must learn what fights to pick and how.

Bishop offers the uneasy former SAS man a career-change jumpstart; an intensive immersive professional development experience, an induction into the show business for ugly people that is modern politics.

Julie is ten megatons of tactical cheesecake and power come hither. Andrew puts his head down and mumbles into his boots. The pair are so totally unalike each is diminished by the other’s proximity. And Hastie needs to learn to keep his mouth shut and not lead with the odd cheap shot.

Being gauche is not the kiss of death in today’s modern Liberal Party. Nor is being fast and loose with the truth. It may even confer a modest advantage but Andrew needs to woo the camera as much as the electorate. Sadly he is terminally upstaged by the supercharged Julie Bishop who is channels her own inner Tina Sparkle, so intense is her razzle-dazzle charm offensive. She gushes bonhomie and repartee, the perfect Perth hostess offering Andrew about as if he were the last canapé on the plate at a society do.

Andrew will be a hit with some Liberal voters judging by the guy in the Dick Smith shop who squeals and wets himself on sight of the new candidate for Canning. Loves a man in uniform. Hastie gives out his card. You can call me. Or email me at any time. Sure. We’ll get back to you after the 19th on that, Andrew.

Joe Hockey offers more free beer

hockey the self-righteous


Remember that young Joe Hockey, from Sunrise TV?  Full of jovial bonhomie and matey ocker banter, the man exuded likeability. A likely lad, he was rated highly by TV couch potatoes across the land. All for grinning and acting the fool.

Back then Joseph Benedict Hockey was a rising star, a young Turk, although of Palestinian Arabic extraction, a future PM and harbinger of a matey, multicultural, new era of brotherly tolerance; effortless accomplishment and noblesse oblige.

Nine years ago, now, at least, Hockey’s political fairy tale had us in its powerful spell. The rock of the world is fastened securely to a fairy’s wing, says Francis Scott Fitzgerald about the unreality of reality in The Great Gatsby.

Affable Jesuit educated north shore Sydney migrant boy, turns politician, renouncing a world he’s barely had time to taste let along experience. Or suffer much to inherit. Runs for SRC president at Sydney Uni in 1987 on a free beer ticket.

No yobbo, though, not our Joe. Neat. Nicely turned out. Pin stripes, tie and clean shaven, even in the ungodly hours of the sunrise time slot. Mums love him. Best of all he seems solid, dependable, bankable.

Not everything goes his way. Those studio lights are hot. And it’s hard work being funny, let alone consistently nice. Yet nothing ever seems to worry Joe. Nothing dents his relentless cheerfulness. Upbeat. Glass half full kind of fella. Happy as a clam at high tide. Always cracking silly. Full of beans and bus-tickets.

Everyone knew Joe then. Or reckoned they did. He was a part of their lounge rooms; grinning, guffawing, hanging shit on Rudd; talking shit, letting everyone know underneath the expensive suit he was a regular, normal Joe even if he did come from a rich family, his missus was a merchant banker and everything.

Joe wanted us to know it was OK to like him. So too did his Skippy bookend, K Rudd. Kevin 07 and Joe were always stirring each other, joshing, mugging for the camera. Joe won best guffaw. Rudd won cutest comebacks.

They should have kept it going. The Kev and Joe show could have come next, a Seinfeld with politics, a show about nothing that made you feel OK about knowing nothing, doing nothing, that there was nothing to worry about a show which was just good fun. Make you laugh. It was OK to suck at politics. But Rudd pulled the plug once he got into office.

Well, guess what. Turns out Joe’s still around. Looks the part, too but he’s a lot less jovial. Still a big joker, though.  Good that he’s been able to keep that up. The other day he reckoned he was the federal treasurer. What a crack-up.

Monday, he told a ledger of accountants at the ACCI Business Leaders’ Summit that we ought to cut income tax rates to arrest bracket creep and to ‘incentivise workers.’ Reduce the ‘burden’ of their taxes.  Especially for his mates, the 300,000, the top three per cent who will creep into the second top tax bracket. Or politicians nudging into the top.

‘He got us all here to tell us that we need lower tax rates’ fumed a bean counter head of the CPA of Australia, a mob which blows hard about rich people needing to pay less tax but for workers’ rates to be slashed because everybody knows that business is crippled because wages are too high. Penalty rates are prohibitive. Cafes and restaurants are their favourite examples. It’s bullshit.

Latte servers and mocha sellers are not struggling. ABS figures show a hospitality sector in rude good health. As for their boss saying ‘hell I just won’t go in to work today because I am paying a few cents in the dollar more,’ that is an even bigger stretch of reality.

But how would Joe know? His advice to anyone who wants to buy an overpriced home courtesy of the housing bubble that he and his banker mates helped create is to get a better paid job. Get wealthy parents. Marry a merchant banker. It worked for him.

Hockey sees our taxes as ‘a burden’ we should try to get out of instead of our social responsibility, a way of paying our way; helping support others. Funny man. Look where it’s got the Americans. His latest cuts will cost 25 billion over four years. To get that he will cut government spending on hospitals, schools, social service.

But he won’t stop there. He’s all for upping the country’s GST rate. Needs to be 15% and include education, health and fresh food. GST is a regressive tax, hitting low income families hardest.

Hockey’s still a neocon comedian. Wealth, he insists despite all the evidence, trickles down from the rich; workers just can’t be stuffed working hard because their wages have gone up only to take them into a higher ‘tax bracket.’  Another couple of crack ups.

Wealth does not ‘trickle down, Joe; top income earners are surprisingly adept at hanging on to extra income. They are the nation’s best savers for example. Wages are not rising, in the real world even if politicians did give themselves a 31% pay rise in March 2012. OK they did get another 3% on top of that three months later. The base for a backbencher became $190,550. only 2.7% of the workforce gets over $180,000.

You always were protected from the real world, Joe. Privileged. It’s your shtick. As Treasurer to the wealthy, you are a gem. Keep looking after the elite. Great to hear you are keeping the free beer flowing.

Market turmoil

Michael Roberts Blog

As I write on Monday 24 August, stock markets around the world are taking another plunge.  Most markets have already fallen by 10% in the last month.  Why is this happening?

EM stocks

The reasons are clear.  The Chinese economy, now officially the largest in the world (at least as measured by the IMF’s rather weird purchasing power parity method), is slowing fast.  Every bit of data coming out of China shows a worsening situation for manufacturing output, investment, exports and, above all, the purchase of raw materials from other countries.  The drop in demand from China for basic commodities has caused a huge drop in commodity prices (the prices for oil, food, iron, coal, industrial metals etc).  This drop in prices means less export sales for the likes of Brazil, Australia, Indonesia, Argentina etc.  Also the Chinese are not buying so many BMWs, luxury handbags, machine tools, cars etc at…

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Abbott pays respects to Mabo but says nothing about his government’s savage cuts to Indigenous programs.

abbott on mabo's grave


So the PM is going to govern Australia for a week from a ‘defence facility’ on Thursday Island? What’s that? Govern? There’s always time for the great Bwana to try something new.

We thought he was up North for a photo shoot. Doing stuff he loves. Going bush with military blokes, living in barracks, wearing fancy dress. Having locals make a fuss of him. Beef up his sorry status in opinion polls. Give him a few days’ quality time amidst people he can ignore for the rest of the year. Or longer.

Not that we would ever knock his visit. Not only does it get him out of Canberra and a long way from Canning, it’s a great opportunity. Give him time to explain the $534 million his government cut last year from indigenous programs administered by the Prime Minister and Cabinet and Health portfolios. It’s not far north enough to be an operational matter so he can unzip a bit.

It’s not institutionalised racism, the Minister for Aboriginal Australia will explain, it’s savings. We’ve got to find the money for the subsidies we give to mining companies from somewhere. Federal government subsidies to the mining sector have increased by half a billion dollars over the past year, according to the Australia Institute.

But in case you are thinking it’s a simple swap, direct subsidies are only part of our mining welfare payments. Mining companies effectively get a $5 billion handout when you factor in the tax concessions they get from the government according to the institute’s Matt Grudnoff. Yet you can make a case for the true cost to Australian society of the handout being far higher than that in the long run when you see where it is being taken from.

What the government is doing is taking more than $160 million from Aboriginal health and putting it into its own fabulous medical research slush fund. It must be helpful to have the PM on the team, so to speak.

The cuts are being made, a frugal Joe Hockey beams, ‘to eliminate waste.’ He should know more than most politicians what it is to have to stretch every dollar and cent. You start by stopping wastage.

No more frittering of millions on indigenous language support. No squandering funds on redressing disadvantage or looking after the little ones. Without extra funding it is likely that 38 Indigenous childhood development centres across the country will close.

Cutting the luxury of infant health and well-being helps create expensive problems and misery further down the track. These include alienation and contempt for the white man’s law. But, relax. A local copper always puts the stopper back in the bottle. The government did find $54 million for new police stations to be built in seven remote Indigenous communities in Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia over the next four years.

But there is not the faintest hint of apartheid about the coalition’s policies. Abbott will explain how he is ‘sweating blood’ to have indigenous Australians recognised in the constitution. True, he’s done a bit of back flip or two recently but basically it’s all OK now for indigenous people to meet to discuss the issue.

Of course non-indigenous people will be holding their simultaneous series of meetings. What will happen next? We’ll hold a referendum as we have promised, sort of with gay marriage and as history tells us is the ‘go to’ option when you really don’t want any change at all.

All of this and more will be playing softly in the background as the PM shakes hands, lays wreaths and kisses babies.

Abbott faces mutiny as his captain’s pick comes unstuck and his government runs aground.

dyson heydon

“Probity may be affected by conscious bias for or against a particular litigant or class of litigants. The law compels judges who have such a bias or may reasonably be thought to have such a bias to disqualify themselves, and in the practice it may be assumed that very few judges are consciously biased.” Dyson Heydon, Quadrant Dinner speech 2004


‘Man overboard! Cabin boy Hunt squeals from the crow’s nest where he’s been sent to practise spotting endangered species. A waterlogged periwig bobs uselessly, oddly, among the sodden crusts, fag ends, and potato peelings of cook’s galley slop in a dirty scum off the stern.

Losing Dyson Heydon is a cruel but not unfamiliar blow. Abbott’s captain’s picks seldom stick. The ship of state, now utterly rudderless, idle, all projects stalled or shelved, drifts helplessly in foul seas listing further to starboard by the minute and leaking like a lobster pot. Now even a show trial seems beyond it.

Abbott’s ship has lost its figurehead and its fig leaf of decency. Justice Dyson Heydon, AC QC, former High Court Judge, is a respected academic and ultra conservative thinker, ‘a paragon of integrity’ to hear the PM speak, drafted because of his reputation. Now he has been dragged into the depths of Abbott’s sordid world. Nothing good can come of it for either party.

Heydon’s predicament makes him star performer in a surreal week in the theatre of the absurd that is Australian federal politics, a week which began with the leaking, to two media outlets, of an empty Cabinet agenda and a PM pep talk on unity, loyalty and not leaking.

The agenda proved cabinet had no agenda and no way of hiding it. Later in the house, with no hint of irony and less of hypocrisy the PM jeered at Labor for being non-substantive under Rudd.

Abbott got the word from a speech of Heywood’s in 2013. It was an indication of partiality best left alone but the PM was all junkyard dog. Had he been into the rozzer’s ‘roid’ supply at police barracks where he chooses to doss down? Certainly, the ex-pugilist came out fighting Monday.

There would be ‘serious consequences,’ for gutless rats,’ ranted the Good Captain Abbott, now barking mad and unlikely to survive past the Canning by-election in September, despite Andrew Hastie, his ex-military candidate’s refusal to be tainted by his unit’s investigation for severing Taliban enemy hands two years ago, which he says is standard finger printing practice, and was judged appropriate at a military inquiry. All but one of his troops was cleared.

Abbott could swap leadership stories with Captain Hastie on how best to deal with subordinates. Only last week he had ambushed the lot of them over gay marriage by suddenly opening a farm gate to let in a mob of Nationals, even if it did include pink redneck Wokka Entsch, with his private member’s bill on gay marriage.

Abbott had deployed a form of ‘branch stacking’ to avoid a conscience vote, said Pyne, clearly angling for the bovine rather than the team player vote. Others in the Coalition have been off side ever since.

It was the night of the long horns; the act of a leader so desperate to save his hide he would appease the right at all costs. A rancorous, mutinous discontent with ‘the prick’ his crew’s term for him, now seethes above and below Team Australia’s decks. And will not be quelled.

Immediately leaked also by a ‘high-ranking cabinet member’ who had remained awake during the PM’s serve were the ironically entitled ‘talking points’ MPs must parrot each week.

Cabinet ministers were sent out with the line that ‘our cabinet is functioning exceptionally well,’ a satirical crack-up too ludicrous even for the Abbott government, a government in deep trouble; such dysfunctional division that catastrophe has become the new normal.

‘A few rough patches,’ Abbott and Hockey say, that’s all, just the ‘tough decisions of governing’ overlooking the reality that all tough decisions on tax, super, energy, environment are being evaded. Hockey’s broken promise to lift GST from tampons does not even come close.

Mike Baird, Abbott’s sock puppet proxy vetoed to its removal at the state premiers’ COAG GST party on Friday while Joe ‘look, no hands ma,’ Hockey, leaned in, beaming approval, squibbing any unpopular heavy lifting himself, such as raising the GST rate, but fooling no-one. Punters have not forgotten his 2014-15 Budget’s massive cuts to state school and hospital funding.

The patches were more than rough. The government was rebuked by the Federal Court for misrepresenting a court decision to fit its paranoid vigilante litigation myth. Four cabinet leaks occurred. Victorian Liberal leader Damien Mantach is said to have embezzled millions, a scandalous charge which assails the Liberal ‘better economic managers’ myth and exposes Liberal leadership selection processes. But it was a better week than last week; funnier, too.

Cabinet crack-up, straight man, comic Eric Abetz, fearlessly attacked ‘gutless’ leakers from safely behind a microphone on ABC radio. It was Eric’s take on courage, unity and loyalty. Perhaps he should turn professional. In his day job Tuesday he failed to get two IR ‘reform’ bills through the senate. So much for the crackdown on unions. In the lower house, the riot actors were in form.

Fearless MPs took turns to jeer and smear Labor, Monday, toning up their abuse after the captain’s motivational speech. The PM led by denouncing the ‘smirking phony’ Shorten for criticising the star of Abbott’s $80 million witch hunt set up expressly to destroy the Labor leader.

Labor was racist, too, for making a fuss about Chinese workers on 457 visas taking Aussie jobs under the Free Trade deals which would now have to be amended to allow Australia to slap a GST on all online vendors.

Despite clearly enjoying themselves trashing Shorten and his party, the Labor-baiting was abruptly trumped mid-week by Brandis, Peter Pan Hunt, Abbott and the other lost boys of the Liberal leadership gang into declaring war on vigilante litigators, ‘elements within the greens,’ Labor racists and any other traitors taking the piss out of progress, jobs and growth.

‘Progress jobs and growth’ means allowing dirty unprofitable multinational coal mines which, in reality, could guarantee none of these things even if they were viable. Renewable energy was ugly and would add five thousand dollars to household electricity bills.

Wind power was backed by the same ‘well-funded’ conspiracy against King Coal, a paranoid Brandis muttered darkly into his brandy, scattering other, saner, Bohemian Club brothers who feared he’d spill their drinks.

It was ‘lawfare’ by vigilantes, Brandis ranted, amidst other bizarre lies about Adani’s coal mine being stopped by ‘extreme greens’ instead of admitting that Hunt had made a mistake.

Ultimately, a desperate Abbott was forced to put on a straight face on Friday and claim the US needed Australia to drop bombs on ISIS in Syria, a group which would immediately abandon its tactic of being embedded with civilians and rush out of hiding into the desert and other wide open spaces to present itself as an Australian air raid target.

Having Aussie top guns kill the evil death cult would do Assad a favour and allow him to continue to barrel bomb his own population without distraction.

In trooping into Syria, Abbott had drummed up a diversion from his government’s ineptitude and chaos; his poor leadership and bad judgement. Yet all of this and more was on more permanent display in Humpty Dumpty Dyson Heydon’s fall from grace and in the conundrums it poses.

Can a judge we perceive to be biased be trusted to judge his own perceived impartiality – as he must – as if he were an average punter? Is a black-letter conservative, an intellectual jurist, a notorious dissenter, up to the task? Will he exercise insight or oversight? Does it matter?

Heydon’s joy in ‘beautifully clear black letter propositions,’ betrays his reverence for an idealised past of certainty and true virtue, a world ill-attuned to the squalid compromises of modernity. It also indicates a mind opposed to those who elevate contemporary values or modern concepts such as human rights above the letter of the law. Yet even Heydon cannot bestow upon Abbott’s Royal Commission the integrity it lacks from its inception. Nor is he the right judge for the job.

A complex and divisive figure, Heydon is a cultured scholar and ‘national treasure,’ a revered Solon to his admirers. To others he appears pompous, pedantic and overbearing, a fossil who has no time for ‘judicial activism’ or changing laws to suit the times. He was never a trial judge. Listening to evidence and weighing it all up as he must in the TURC must be a trial to him.

Heydon is out of his depth in this commission. An academic with no experience of unions let alone the workaday world of building construction, he is more at ease with reading and writing academic dissertation than listening to unionists’ testimony.  In almost every way, he is the perfect Abbott Captain’s pick who must now judge himself from the perspective of the fair-minded observer, an everyman legal construct as impossibly far from his real self as could be imagined.

The Witch-Finder Royal has been forced down from Olympus by his own fallibility, his ‘oversight’ of a series of emails over his agreeing to speak at a Liberal Party fund raiser. Now he must plead his own case; argue that he is fit to proceed. Already the evidence suggests he is not.

Star of his own Star Chamber, Justice Heydon is Abbott captain’s pick in his Machiavellian plan to shore up the coalition’s re-electability; trash the unions, damage Labor and kill Bill Shorten. Now he may have discovered the hard way the truth of Sir Owen Dixon’s dictum that High Court Judges decline the offer of any Royal Commission.

To accept is to become a creature of the government with no constitutional protections for independence. It is also to blot the escutcheon of the High Court. Certainly this commission is bound to end badly for all parties.

Heydon will respond to a submission lodged on behalf of the ACTU, Unions NSW and four unions that he should recuse himself and resign his commission “on the grounds that he is unable to afford any union or any person associated with any union procedural fairness as a result of his apprehended bias”.

Forced to sit in judgement on himself, an awkward, uncomfortable, if unique, privilege at the best of times, Heydon has already taken a massive step down. He will, he advises, take some time to consider his case and will hand down his verdict next Tuesday.

Whatever Heydon’s finding, the Royal Commission is irrevocably tainted. Should he choose to remain, moreover, the ACTU and the Unions could take its case to the Federal or the High Court.

Heydon’s credibility and that of his commission is now as bad as his memory. Sadly for a party, that has a crush on bigwigs, another Liberal idol is seen to have feet of clay.

To most ‘fair-minded observers,’ Heydon’s case surely beggars belief. A top silk, whose reputation includes his capacity to summon even the smallest detail and who clearly expects the same powers of recall from those who appear before him, a judge who is perfectly capable of applying seventeenth century precedent to acquit a husband of the rape of his wife – can ‘overlook’ things? Or not realise things?

Heydon is resisting calls for his resignation on the grounds he was not aware the Garfield Barwick address, was a Liberal fundraiser – despite the emails and despite Barwick being a Liberal legend for his 1975 role in advising Kerr in Whitlam’s dismissal.

Is he foxing? Surely Heydon must recuse himself. The damage is done. Yet the former Howard appointee to the High Court is acting like a politician, denying, pleading ignorance, making excuses, ‘ so many speaking invitations,’ denying, demurring and prevaricating.

The top silk is dancing in step almost with Bronwyn, the dance of the umpteen veils of departure until the booing is loud enough for the PM to haul him off. Yet you can understand his reluctance.

The performance was going so well. Abbott’s show trial into Gillard and Shorten and the criminals, thugs and bikie gangs that run the union movement was providing more than just dark comedy, light relief and welcome theatricality; it offered rich pickings for press and pollie alike, providing a flailing coalition with enough mud to sling at Bill to fill a coal mine.

Heydon himself had got into the swing of his extended season, following up his mind-reading of Julia Gillard whose ‘demeanour’ he judged to contain ‘an element of acting’ by striking another blow at impartiality with his gibe at Shorten who was in danger, he said, of ‘becoming an unreliable witness.’ Bugger protocol. Heydon sets his own rules.

Senator Conroy reminded the senate, Heydon’s Royal Commission departs from precedent. It accepts hearsay but refuses objections and cross-examinations. Double standards for different witnesses appear depending which side of the pay desk they are on.

Detailed media briefings are provided to reporters minutes ahead of witnesses who may read the charges against them for the first time when they enter the box.

The PM tried hard and loud to defend his pocket colossus in parliament. Heydon, AC QC, Abbott repeatedly hectored MPs, the QC AC sounding faintly like some band, is a Justinian of Australian jurisprudence, Sydney Solon, a certainty to pick up a knighthood for services rendered.

Not only is this paragon ‘absolutely beyond reproach’ it is a criminal act to attack a serving Royal Commissioner, the PM bellowed getting up a riff: Labor must stop running a protection racket on a protection racket, stop smearing a former High Court judge.’

Abbott doth protest too much. Hoist with his own petard, his explosive Royal Commission device has spectacularly backfired disabling his mate Dyso and himself leaving Shorten smirking.

His crew in mutiny if not open revolt, his vow to beat Shorten looking increasingly like all his other broken promises, his government ‘chaotic as a Tupperware cupboard’ and utterly without an agenda, Captain Abbott appears to be up shit creek without a paddle.

All the military adventures and other diversions he can wangle, all the QCs he can commission cannot put him back together again. Not as leader, anyway. A leader would have given Heydon the heave-ho long ago. Or not appointed him in the first place.