‘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.