Month: September 2015

If Scott Morrison is the answer, you are asking the wrong question, Mr Tunrbull.

scott morrison looking mad

‘You have got to get all of the systems lining up. Your welfare system, tax system, your industrial relations – workplace relations system – they have all got to be lining up to achieve growth.’ Scott Morrison

For all his media appearances our ambitious new treasurer Scott Morrison is a dark horse with a patchy track record. Head of Tourism Australia, a $350,000 PA job arranged for him by mate Joe Hockey after the 2004 election which ended with an agreed separation. Fran Bailey, his successor said ‘his ego went too far.’ Morrison did get a $300,000 payout.

Entering federal parliament in 2005 Morrison the ‘supreme opportunist’, in one senior Liberal eyes, has come a long way in a short time. His rapid rise and his changing roles don’t make it easy to follow him; know what he stands for at any one time. In two years he is on to his third makeover; his third ministry, a steep step up from Immigration and Social Services, a step which he could well trip over. More likely he will follow the boss’s orders. For as long as it suits him.

Morrison is good at reinventing and promoting himself. The human chameleon began as a moderate who was elevated to the shadow cabinet because he supported Turnbull five years ago. Yet he quickly became a rabid Abbott political conservative to follow his new leader.

Expect further changes in Morrison Ver3 to suit the political climate again. Expect his ruthless pragmatism, his unbridled ego, his ambition to remain the same. Morrison excels at selling himself and quick to change to take advantage of any situation. Beyond these limited political skills does the man really know what he’s doing? His record is thin when you get beneath the spin.

ScoMo, the border enforcer, bills himself as the tough guy who stopped the boats. In fact the boats were pretty well stopped by PM Kevin Rudd’s announcement on July 19, 2013, that any persons arriving irregularly by boat would not be settled in Australia. Boat arrivals fell quickly and dramatically.  Yet ScoMo, like his then boss Abbott, never let the facts get in the way of a good fiction. And like Abbott, he loves to whip up hysteria.

Morrison made news with his attack on the Labor government for meeting costs of flying 21 survivors of the shipwreck of an asylum-seeker boat on Christmas Island to Sydney for the funerals of family members who had died. How dare they, he raged, determined make political capital out a simple act of compassion and basic human decency.

Some say this marked him as a ‘tough man’. Most see it as a sign of a grub, a politician who would have no compunction in cynically whipping up our worst prejudices; our basest instincts. Morrison ranted on 2GB about the wasting of taxpayers’ money. Listeners on the right of politics would be easy to arouse, he calculated shrewdly. He was right.

78,000 of readers of The Australian who voted on the issue in an online poll, were 97 per cent behind Morrison. In a similar poll of 18,000 Sydney Morning Herald readers, however, only 31 per cent agreed with him. Clearly Morrison has a talent for tapping into right wing prejudices, inflaming the passions of those who resent and would punish asylum seekers. It’s ugly and despicable stuff.

Morrison and Abbott lied that being ‘tough on border protection’, to use their jargon for punishing asylum seekers for their misfortune, saved lives at sea. It was a specious claim at the time but it was repeated so often that it became accepted as true. Morrison’s brutality was completely exposed, however, in the scandalous way he whipped up hate over the funeral expenses. Lives had already been lost. His cruelty could no longer be explained away so readily.

Former Liberal leader, John Hewson, called his remarks “insensitive, lacking appropriate compassion, even inhumane”. Nick Xenophon described him at the time as “the greatest grub in the federal parliament”.

Morrison moved on to see himself as the ‘tough cop on the welfare beat’ when he became Minister for social services. ScoMo soon got attention for all the wrong reasons. Women who claimed maternity leave from their work and from the government were ‘rorters’ who were ‘double dipping’. Of course, he did not mean any offence, he quickly added. His gesture of retraction was to blame the system. Not that he is letting go of his crusade against the rorters.

He will, he says, this week, continue his mission as treasurer. Women will be stripped of the ability to claim the 18-week government-funded PPL along with any employer-paid benefits. Not only will this save buckets of money to give to multinational corporations setting up coal mines and the like, it will signal his toughness. It is a message he is fond of. Or no messages at all.

Everything is secret with Morrison. Kate Ellis, Labor Early Childhood shadow minister, says he’s obsessed with secrecy and control in whatever ministry he heads. In six months as social services minister, only two media inquiries were responded to. In six months his media team of fifty received 390 inquiries. It chose to respond to two.

Now having cut his reputation as a hard man headed for the top, Morrison sounds, in his second week in office as if he’s gone all mystical with a mission to ‘line all of the systems up’. Lord knows what he means.

Is he raising Kundalini? Aligning his chakras? Getting his ducks in a row? Just what the country needs right now is another Liberal treasurer who doesn’t know his job to patronise the electorate with more nonsense. It’s not like in Peter Costello’s day when you could do little, know little and rack up a lot of credit because you had Ken Henry as secretary of Treasury. Morrison will get little spoon-feeding from Abbott appointee, former investment banker John Fraser who doesn’t sound like he knows what he’s doing either, for all his self-awareness. ‘I am a prick’, he volunteers. ‘I really am.’

Perhaps Morrison is ‘lining up systems’ to avoid lifting and leaning. It worked for Joe. Hockey went back to 1942 to Menzies’ lie about lifters and leaners, dangerous, divisive nonsense then as it is now. Hockey, you recall also said that the age of entitlement is over. Except for him.

Joe’s being sent to Washington as Ambassador, as a consolation prize for failing to measure up after two years as treasurer. God knows what Washington will make of our human deficit but they won’t feel indebted to us.

Kim Beazley won’t be too flash on it either. Abbott renewed his term until the end of 2016. Being recalled early so that Hockey can be looked after would make anyone feel undervalued, despite being rated highly his peers. Yet the point of getting rid of Hockey – surely – is to start afresh. That’s another reason Morrison makes no sense at all. He’s either gone barking mad or he’s reading Hockey’s notes.

The debut performances from our tyro Treasurer are uninspiring. His interview with Leigh Sales a few days after he got the gig was a shocker. Morrison has a closed mind on ‘fixing the budget’. As far as he is concerned we have an expenditure problem.  We have a spending problem not a revenue problem, he repeats in the maddening sloganeering which was one reason Abbott dudded out. Morrison just doesn’t get it.

No need to raise revenue? No. No need to be in step with a wealth of credible experts including Ken Henry, former Head of Treasury who points to a revenue AND an expenditure problem? Having made a belly-flop of a dive into his portfolio, the newborn treasurer appears to be threshing around not waving but drowning in the baptismal font of his new ministry. Another MP says, of our new treasurer’s lack of expertise, ‘Morrison would drown in the shower’.

When Abbott was challenged, which was not infrequently, he would retreat into three word slogans. Morrison is already doing the same. Is he deaf to his new Prime Minister’s plan that government MPs talk sense? Or could it be that he is not the messiah but just a naughty boy? By being wilfully disobedient to this leader he can diminish Turnbull’s authority in the party room.

Turnbull called for: ‘a style of leadership that respects the people’s intelligence, that explains these complex issues and then sets out the course of action we believe we should take, and makes a case for it’. ‘Advocacy, not slogans’, would be the style of his new government. Except when it comes to his appointment of one he knows who can’t do the job of Treasurer. Someone he can control by giving him the job. Someone who has no option but to follow the PM’s instructions.

Barely a day later, cuckoo in the nest, Morrison is sloganeering like there’s no tomorrow-‘work, save, invest.’

We will all have to put up with the noise, for a while, I guess. Especially Turnbull who has taken a calculated risk in an appointment where the job is clearly too big for the man. Let Morrison waffle on about lining up his systems. We all know who and what he wants to line up if we will never quite know what he means. We all know he will never step out of the wretched cruelty of his past avatars.

If Morrison as Treasurer is Turnbull’s answer, already the 29th PM is asking the wrong question.

A ministry for the 21st Century or the cabinet of Doctor Caligari Mr Turnbull?

new ministry

A small, figure struggles up the steps of the Vice Regal mansion in Canberra. It is Assistant Cabinet Secretary, Senator Scott Ryan a king-maker in Malcolm Turnbull’s rise to power. Ryan is carrying a bible bigger than Kelly O’Dwyer’s baby as he helps create the beginning of a new week in national politics. He ushers in a new era.

The scene is being set for another swearing in at Government House, or Yarralumla, meaning ‘echo’ well before it was later brought into play to provide visiting kings and queens with somewhere to stay as well as providing shelter to our Governors General and prevented their having to doss down in the rough. No better place could there be to launch a Ministry for the 21st century.

Born or as it was rebirthed ninety odd years later to reign over us and extended many times over the years, Yarralumla is a symbol of our inner Brit, our glorious colonial past and our divinely ordained royal task masters.

Largely vacant most of the time the mansion would accommodate a lot of Syrian refugees or shelter women fleeing domestic violence, had our leaders chosen the path of the Good Samaritan and not that of the passer-by like the priest and the Levi in Ryan’s bible, on the opposite side of the road.

Worthy as they may be these reflections are the least of the ironies which staunch republican Malcolm Turnbull must savour as he acts genial host and enlightened cabinet-maker while Tony Abbott’s knight, Sir Peter Cosgrove prepares to make himself useful, as best he can, on a salary of $425,000 and only a very limited personal staff.

While Ryan lumps his word of God up the steps, other godly folk amongst the new and newly-recycled ministry do a quick check of product labels in the kitchen to ensure for the sake of Cory Bernardi’s senate committee at least that no halal certified products may be sponsoring terrorism amongst the catering.

A quick sweep of the shrubbery has the AFP and ASIO, who are both in attendance, ensure that there are no eco-Green warriors lurking under leaves amidst the skinks and snakes all posed to leap forward with copies of section 487.2 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 to commit an act of what George Brandis calls ‘lawfare.’

Dewy eyed with hope and hay fever, others stand around dazedly blinking in the spring sunshine, yet to grow into their shiny new ministries. Kelly O’Dwyer’s baby Olivia breaks the ice.  An avuncular Turnbull smiles sweetly, showing a perfect set of milk-white bottom teeth. His surname Tang Bao, in China is a sweet custard-filled bun.

Monday is a big day for Turnbull and for the nation. Born today is the ‘Sugar bomb’ or ‘Sweet dumpling’ dynasty as Chinese scribes translate Turnbull’s name.  Oozing charm, patrician manners and a dab of Clive Christian No. 1 Pure Perfume for Men, the ebullient Turnbull mingles grinning amongst his team, a shark marshalling a school of minnows.

Eschewing anything as crass as ‘Team Australia,’ Turnbull reaches for his advertising copy book. His team will provide ‘strong, confident, imaginative and innovative leadership for the country’s future in a rapidly changing global economy.’

It is as if he is launching a new corporation. Certainly he breathes not a word about compassion, empathy, social justice or any of the qualities which build community; make us human. Ominously he includes the phrase ‘welfare net’ for those of us who can’t quite manage on the high wire of independent living and who must fall upon the cold, stinting charity of the cost accountant.

If all is not pitch perfect on Monday, Sugar bomb has other sour notes in his history. Associates, former employees and many in his own party eagerly volunteer some saltier alternative epithets for Malcolm Turnbull, whose conduct of his career path to becoming Australia’s 29th Prime Minister has attracted more than a few critics.

In 2009, Dr Brendan Nelson diagnosed Turnbull with narcissistic personality disorder because as he puts it, ‘he says the most appalling things and can’t understand why people get upset. He has no empathy.’

To Annabel Crabb, who once harvested yabbies and prepared pomegranates with the old silvertail, the Turnbull of old is a chest-beating Tarzan ‘more comfortable with grand gestures’ than the realities of political compromise.

Fifteen years ago Turnbull’s spin doctor Mark Wesfield noted both the sugar and the bomb in the complex mix that is the man, the corporate lawyer cum merchant banker cum Prime Minister.

‘Perhaps more than any person in Australian corporate circles, Malcolm Turnbull’s name inevitably provokes reaction. He can be courteous, charming and flattering one minute, and bursting with dark volcanic rage the next, depending on whether or not he is getting his way in negotiations.’

For one glorious morning all discord is briefly forgotten, however, as Sir Peter Cosgrove swears in Sugar Bomb’s ‘Ministry for the 21st Century’, a forward looking Mad-men type name for his brand which Turnbull has spun to excite our expectations for change and innovation while hinting at his hopes for its longevity and to disguise its conservatism.

His new crew is only as new as it can be, given the circumstances of the recent palace revolution that has enthroned him and the constraints of available talent. But anything after Abbott looks appealing.

There is also, inevitably, a bit of blood on the carpet. A wounded Kevin Andrews takes his sacking from Defence personally, even announcing his dumping before sweet dumpling could announce it himself in an extraordinary breach of decorum and political judgement. Bruce Billson also whinges and refuses to be demoted to Cities. Billson ends up licking his wounds in his North Frankston office and wondering what he’ll do for a Christmas drink this year. At, least, Frank Madafferi will still send him a case of grappa.

Malcolm’s picks are ‘a new broom’; ‘a talented bunch’ or that is the spin. In reality, Turnbull’s decisions are political. He owes the National Party for its support during his coup. He must also stitch up his foes and reward his cronies. Apart from these minor concerns the new PM has a finger or two in the ministry pie.

He proclaims that every minister is selected on merit, shaming and perhaps putting on notice the proven duds Hunt and Dutton. He hits back at his internal detractors daring them to put up or shut up,

‘No-one could suggest that this Cabinet, this ministry has been assembled on any basis other than merit,’ he tells the AM program Monday morning. Unlike the deposed Joe Hockey, Turnbull has a record of success in litigation.

Critics call Turnbull’s government ‘Abbott-lite.’ Viewed in one light, some see the PM as Malcolm Abbott, from the other, he appears as Tony Turnbull. Unfairly, unwisely they ignore the silver tail and silver tongue. Yet in policy they have a point. While he has some new faces amongst his galley slaves and while Eric Abetz, Kevin Andrews, Joe Hockey have been jettisoned overboard, the ditching of the hard right will cause no change of course.

Hockey it is said to offered Ambassador to Washington, a reward for failure and proof that the age of entitlement is not over yet for the failed treasurer.  Hockey will be ‘up in class’ as they say in horse racing, in a competitive field of foreign policy thoroughbreds.

But you can take sympathy for the underdog too far. Some see Joe’s affability as all he needs to make him a hit on the diplomatic scene. Yet some, like Bill Shorten, are stumped by the logic of the appointment and fear it may be read as a calculated insult.

‘You can’t sort of buy peace within your divided party by treating the post to Washington — one of our key foreign policy relationships — some sort of consolation prize for a treasurer who has taken Australia nowhere for two years.’

Some new ministers, such as the special minister for state are not unblemished. Mal Brough, no stranger to controversy has already antagonised the senate cross bench by attacking micro parties. Arthur Sinodinis still has questions to answer at ICAC. Most of the ministers who created problems in the Abbott government, moreover, retain their jobs. Dutton and Hunt ‘the great climate change intellectual of the cabinet’ according to Brandis, on Sunday are duds.

More moderate though it may appear, yet younger and with added women, the all-new ministry is cobbled together from some shop-worn components and may quickly fall short of the sort of performance in the sales pitch Turnbull is giving it. Tony Abbott, of course, sees no difference in the political complexion of the new line up.

In his first interview since his Manly surfside snipe at Scott Morrison, Tony Abbott’s promise of ‘no wrecking, no undermining and no sniping’ is elastic enough to permit him to tell News Corp on Sunday that Turnbull’s palace revolution had led to no change in policy direction. It was an Abbott promise after all. The sclerotic heart foundation of a failed Abbott government in exile gives Turnbull its tick of approval. Or its kiss of death.

‘Border protection policy the same, national security policy the same, economic policy the same, even same-sex marriage policy the same, and climate change policy the same. In fact, the rhetoric is the same.’ Tone intones.

Abbott has a point. The Merchant Prince of Point Piper’s golden galleon ‘The pragmatist’ will continue to steer hard right even on the republic. Let small l Liberals cry into their kale smoothies, if they join the Greens, we’ll get their preferences, says Good Prince Mal who is snug in his neocon life preserver.

Mal’s ministry are not all newbies. Also being re-sworn old hands Pyne and Morrison are rewarded for their loyalty by being fitted up with new ministries to keep them under control. Morrison immediately goes troppo opposing Turnbull’s pause of the tax reform white paper. Morrison will be white papering his way to cutting more spending, against all expert advice and in the face of warnings that such a tack will hasten an approaching recession.

‘Cuts’ Morrison could be picking a fight, undermining Turnbull in the party room with an Abbott era approach to the economy. He is already showing more than a tad of his maniacal defiance of reason that saw him king of our nation’s shame, the offshore detention centres. Who may forget his rabid, foam-flecked attack on the Human Rights Commissioner, Gillian Triggs, for daring to pursue the legality of having children in custody.

Other makeovers include former apprentice Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg and Simon Birmingham who inherits Pyne’s abortive higher education reforms, an Augean stable of steaming ordure. Communications is hived off to Mitch Fifield who inherits a mare’s nest of Fraudband sleight of hand in the rollout of an NBN which is 18 billion over budget, four years behind schedule and already obsolete thanks to Turnbull’s turn at the helm.

Some of the newly anointed are toey. Frydenberg promptly spills the worst kept secret in the coalition’s disastrous, ecocidal, uneconomic, mine construction saga a day later by talking of plans to spend five billion, euphemistically ear-marked ‘Northern Project’ on the railway that will help Adani and Gina Rinehart get their newly mined coal to port. It is another step backwards.

Australia will subsidise coal, petroleum and gas consumption by $41 billion in 2015, the International Monetary Fund said last month, the equivalent of 2 per cent of our annual economic output. A recent opinion poll clearly reveals that most Australians would prefer the money to be spent on Education and Health.

P-plate Treasurer ‘Lead-foot’ Morrison will be left to explain how a $5 billion splurge on a railway for your mates is in the nation’s best interests if it’s not embargoed as commercial in confidence, operational, or given its terminus, an on water matter. His weak argument will be that the sum is an item of already committed expenditure.

Turnbull has created a new Minister for Cities and the Built Environment in Jamie Briggs, who will not be in cabinet but who will work with Environment Minister Greg Hunt, sharing his stash of magic mushrooms, hashish and the other natural hallucinogens which inspired his Direct Action stoner scam.

The drugs seem potent. By Friday, high as a kite, Hunt has bobbed up in a presser claiming we have the ‘best and cheapest carbon emission reduction scheme in the world.’ He boasts also of having vetoed Abbott’s plan to hold an inquiry into the BOM. If only he’d done the same with Direct Action. On Friday, China announced the starting date to its national emissions trading scheme

We have a minister for cities but no minister for disabilities, mental health or housing. Perhaps these will manage themselves in the 21st century, or perhaps the cabinet is too big already without adding extra bleeding hearts. Yet a new analysis of the government’s ‘welfare-to-work reforms’ under Labor and Liberals alike has found that they failed to increase single parent employment in Australia. Instead up to 150,000 disadvantaged single parent families and their children are pushed into poverty.

One Nat is cheesed off. His party’s one cabinet position short, he reckons. David Gillespie, member for Lyne tells ABC Rural his party should technically have gained an extra seat in the Cabinet. Just add water … Turnbull would counsel him. He has added water to Agriculture to stitch up a deal with the Nats. The deal draws David Marr’s criticism. ‘He wanted to be Prime Minister, but was it worth the Murray-Darling basin?’

A large part of the price of Turnbull’s seizure of the Liberal Party leadership will be worn by the nation as it suffers another pragmatist at the helm, a silver-tongued, silver tail who may promise optimism and government to take us into the future. It is early days yet but already it seems as if there is more than a touch of the Dr Caligari than Dr Pangloss in Turnbull’s cabinet. In the end it  doesn’t really matter how big the bible that you take to the swearing in if your ministry is as mean and as unfair and as unreal as that of the  last heartless bastard.

Domestic violence calls for a much bigger commitment, Mr Turnbull. Time to man up.

turnbull and women

New PM Malcolm Bligh Turnbull has announced measures against domestic violence will be number one priority in his newly rebadged ultra-conservative LNP government. After its makeover, that government is still mainly blokes with a few token sheilas added to cabinet on sufferance, but Prince Mal is promising a feminist twist. He will need to do a lot of repair work, however, if he is to convince us that his latest cheesecake sale is not the same old LNP stall with new window dressing.

Combating domestic violence, he says, will be the first priority for his patriarchal, fossil-fuelled, marriage equality squibbing government as it gears up for what experts tip will be an early election to take advantage of Mal’s honeymoon approval ratings. A hundred million dollars will be spent.

Pin money! The man’s personal bank account contains more than that. He could drop that on the Dapto Dogs and not miss it. But it is at least a different gesture from the nose-thumbing at women of his party’s former PM.

Tony Abbott, Turnbull’s misogynist predecessor, appointed himself Minister for Women as his own pointed snub towards any movement towards gender equality or taking women’s issues seriously.   After two years, there is nothing to point to by the way of his achievements for women.

Worse, his inaction held back any real advances in the causes of gender equality or justice for women. A refusal to get real about dealing with the epidemic of family violence compounded the problem sending the wrong messages and betraying a cavalier disregard or at best an incapacity to understand the issues.

Abbott and the boys, with some help from some women, too, most notably the two Bishop politicians, showed their true colours in Opposition during their vile persecution of a woman who dared to be a PM, a woman who was able to negotiate a minority government among other achievements he could only dream of. By their deeds shall ye know them.

Abbott proceeded to cut funding for legal aid and women’s refuges. His real priorities lay with the boys and their toys.

In April 2014 Abbott announced Australia would acquire another 58 Joint Strike Fighters at a cost of around $90 million per plane, budgeting $24 billion to purchase and operate the aircraft until 2024.  It was another of his infamous captain’s calls. Our paternalistic democracy is not the sort of democracy where the people have any say big ticket items like spending on new aircraft. It’s a pity because half of the population for starters might have a different set of priorities.

No-one is suggesting we disarm. Australia urgently needs to get involved in another costly drawn out US war in the Middle East, a war that is guaranteed to end badly. Again it’s something the people don’t have any say in.  But just half of that $24 million would go a long way towards combating a real and present danger, the war on women, provided we don’t spend it all on awareness campaigns and further lining the pockets of well-heeled media and PR companies with links to the ruling patriarchy.

There are many other areas in which the federal government’s spending reveals its priorities. It is more important to subsidise a dying coal industry than it is to prevent women from being murdered by their partners. The Australian Conservation Foundation reminded us just how much Australians pay for fossil fuel subsidies.  In December 2014 it estimated $47 billion would be allocated by the federal government to the production and use of fossil fuels over the following four years.

Turnbull’s announcement sounds impressive, even newsworthy at first, and that’s where he hopes most listeners will leave it. When you look a little more closely at Turnbull government’s cash splash, however, it is only a drop in the bucket. This is not to dismiss its value.

A range of services, will receive funding including $21 million to help Aboriginal women and women in remote communities. $5 million to the 1800-RESPECT line and funding to help improve training for frontline services. But the crisis calls for far more.

Real money needs to be spent on the front line. Every week three women are hospitalised with brain injuries as a result of family violence. Six women die each month. Last year more than 12000 men in NSW assaulted partners or former partners. Yet after a state review of services women’s refuges in NSW were told they couldn’t just reapply for their own service – if they wanted to retain their refuges, they would have to show they could provide multiple services to all homeless people in their area. Services can no longer be exclusively for victims of domestic violence – they now have to cater to all types of homelessness.

In Victoria, last year, police have had to attend 70,000 incidents of domestic violence, a figure double that of 2013.

It is ‘a national emergency,’ says Michaelia Cash our new Minister for Women. She has got that right but there is no word to describe the damage her government has done with its cuts to peak programmes. The Abbott government took out 300 million last year. Now the same python with a different head wants applause for putting one third of that back in nine months later?

The announcement of more funding is misleading. A con. The coalition government cut funding from domestic violence services last year. The then Minister for social services, Kevin Andrews slashed funding to affordable housing and crisis housing services a week before Christmas, defunding peak bodies such as Homelessness Australia and National Shelter.

Experts identify two urgent priorities, ‘the provision of safe, secure and affordable housing; and provision of a continuum of individualised and open-ended support, including outreach services, that wraps around women and their children in a range of areas (therapy, health, life skills, housing assistance et cetera) for as long as they need it.’

The least Malcolm Turnbull could do is to put back what his predecessor took away from women. Next he could follow up by explaining that today’s announcement is just a tiny down payment, on a real investment in a coordinated campaign. Now that he’s got our attention, he needs talk in specifics and to put his latest funding in context.

His government will spend $100 million dollar to tackle family violence, on measures to keep women safe in their homes and by providing mobile phones that can’t be tracked by abusers.  In his announcement, however, Turnbull chooses to use the word ‘package’ with the connotation of a carefully thought out comprehensive wrap-around solution. Spare us the spin, Mr Turnbull. There is no ‘package’ from your government. At worst it is a cheap easy pre-election commitment, a token approach to women’s issues which rationalises neglect and effectively condones abuse.

Funding not only needs to be restored, massively increased and restructured into dedicated family violence funding, it needs to be integrated and guaranteed. We can do this when we are budgeting for military hardware or subsidising a coal mine but we cannot yet do it for the war on women that domestic violence represents. At present funding is piecemeal and fragmented across a range of agencies. It is less likely to be ongoing and it also serves to hide the real size of the emergency.

Finally, Turnbull could look to his language. As Clementine Ford points out today, the line that real men don’t abuse women is false. They do. Expecting men to somehow shame other men into being non-violent with their partners hasn’t worked.

Expecting men to improve their behaviour by dividing them into the good guys and the bad guys is wishful thinking – and counter-productive. An abuser is unlikely to give a toss if his PM calls his behaviour or even him ‘un-Australian.’ No amount of nagging appeals to masculinity however well intended are like to have any effect. For apart from the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, ‘raft of measures’ and the ‘packages’ we hear the PM bang on about to protect women against their violent menfolk, there is a curious reluctance to address the real cause of the problem. The behaviour of men.

It is not the other bloke who is un-Australian who is to blame Mr Turnbull, it is ourselves. Men are violent. Unless we men are prepared to acknowledge our individual and collective responsibility to change our violent behaviour, our toxic relationships, women will continue to suffer our brutality. You have made a positive announcement about funding. Now take the lead in the owning and sharing of the man problem and you will have taken a significant step in the long, difficult and expensive journey to solutions. Now that would be a vote-winner.

Scott Morrison’s debut as treasurer shows him all at sea on the economy.


Scott Morrison bobs up on Wednesday’s ABC 7:30 Report for his debut as treasurer, his third role in a Federal Government only two years old. His performance is a shocker. Many viewers switch off or change channels so deeply disturbed are they by even a chance sighting of the member for Cook. Morrison’s 5% rating in the polls as preferred PM suggests a deep public aversion yet his poor public opinion ratings has not put a dint in his ambition.

Not one bit. It’s something Morrison can’t ignore, however, should he genuinely aspire to be a successful Treasurer. It helps if people approve of you. Trust you. Believe you. Respect you. The former minister for immigration and border protection has forfeited all of these, despite his reincarnation as Social Services minister, a role he describes as the ‘tough cop on the welfare beat,’ albeit a softer role than his act as Border Force Supremo.

The Monster of Manus Island lurks not far below the surface of this newly reinvented Morrison. He bull-dozes and blusters his way around a set of fair and reasonable questions designed to permit him to give an account of himself. Nothing new worthy of note emerges but the rest of his performance is scary; a flashback to the bad old days of Abbott. At the end we are left thinking that appointing Morrison is Turnbull’s biggest mistake so far. Unless he means him to fail. The pair have a history of bad blood. Morrison was one of a few who defected from the Turnbull camp to support Tony Abbott, an arrangement sponsored by the NSW Liberal Right.

Promoting the boat-stopper to Treasurer may be Turnbull’s crafty way of controlling his ambitious young rival. Give Morrison a job he can’t do. Cut him down to size. Keep him busy. Then, when he fails, send him packing -along with his neocon austerity nonsense. Then a change of course to more enlightened economic policy.

Of course the reverse may be true. Morrison could be running his own Abbott-era economic austerity agenda to win enough points from the Howard throwbacks and others who form the sclerotic hard right wing Liberal rump to wedge Turnbull in the party room. Thirty Liberals voted for Kevin Andrews, it must be remembered, in the deputy leadership spill.

But that’s idle speculation. What we see on Wednesday is alarming enough without second-guesswork. Morrison spews a fog of words, a noxious, billowing miasma of aggression, evasion and untruth. He bullies. He hectors. He bluffs. It rapidly becomes impossible to recognise the creature advancing under his own cloud of mustard gas.

Is it a venomous toad? Sales certainly isn’t going to kiss him to see if he turns into a prince. In fact after a failure to pin him down on what he knows and is never going to tell, she opens the formal part of the interview by telling him he is wrong to claim the government has an expenditure problem. Sales chides Morrison that we have a revenue problem as well.

Two things became immediately clear. Firstly, Morrison is economically illiterate, despite having taken economics in his degree. He shows little grasp of his new job. Second, what he does know, he won’t be telling. How he helped kick Abbott downstairs, for example, is a story he will never tell. To cap it all Morrison has a vacuous new slogan: ‘work, save and invest,’ courtesy of some think tank somewhere in the dismal Liberal Kiss Army of spin.

Sales gives the new Treasurer a platform to explain himself and his policies to the nation. In particular, he could reveal why cutting government expenditure is now his sole priority despite expert advice that cuts alone are never the answer. Cuts, moreover, would hasten the onset of recession. Morrison fails.

He also gets an opportunity to defend himself against recent Abbott’s recent criticism. Morrison evades the question.

Sales presses Morrison about the part he had played in the Liberal leadership coup. She offers him a chance to respond to Tony Abbott’s surfside allegation that he had ‘badly misled people’ with his claim after the coup that he had warned the PM that the Liberal Party room was about to depose its leader. Even Abbott haters believe the former PM’s claim.

Morrison is evasive, fobbing us off with the lie that this has all been cleared up last week on his friend Ray Hadley’s show. Ray implied he was lying, in fact, even requesting that he put his hand on a Bible which could not be found. Sales counters that Abbott had made his allegation this week, after the Hadley show. Morrison stonewalls, a favourite tactic. Stonewall Morrison has dealt with this question, he alleges and he refuses to discuss it further.

‘I don’t think there’s any profit in going over them again here tonight or any other night.’

In a past life this would have been an ‘on water matter’ or ‘an operational matter.’ Now it can be seen even more clearly for what it is –  sheer, bloody-minded intransigence. Morrison, it seems,  is in no hurry to take up his new PM’s call for a new consultative ministry. Last week Prince Mal promised a new style of leadership that ‘respects people’s intelligence, that explains complex issues and then sets out a course of action.’

This is not what we see from our new back-to-the-future Treasurer. He is in full Abbott minister mode as he evades, denies, dictates terms. Prevaricates. Lies. A persistent Sales eventually get an answer – of sorts. Morrison failed to warn his boss, he says, lamely because it wasn’t his job.

‘I was never the opposition whip and if the prime minister at the time wanted to discuss those matters with me that had been raised, well that was a matter for him.’

It’s nonsense. Raising matters would be a bit difficult if the PM had no idea what matters were coming to a head. Clearly, Morrison has just implicated himself in the coup. Is this the best defence he can come up with? Does he not realise that trust plays a key role in being a successful treasurer? Or does he simply not care?

Having admitted that he did not warn Abbott as he should establishes Morrison’s complicity. He begins to tank early in the interview. His admission costs him credibility. The answers that he is prepared to give Sales, the tedious explanations that are long on rhetoric, short on details fail to explain how he intends to do his job as Treasurer.

Everything he says is dimmed in Morrison-speak, a fog of dissimulation, secret power plays and overweening ambition. Is he axing government spending because this will cost Malcolm Turnbull his authority in the party room? The theory is gaining favour, he is so determined to stick to his austerity course.  Bugger the experts.

For the rest of the interview, viewers are treated to a performance which confirms how and why the Abbott government managed to alienate the people of Australia so quickly; how it clung to neocon ideology at the expense of any reasoned dialogue on social or economic policy; how ideology displaced any mandate, any responsible contract with the Australian people.

Out goes any hope of mutual respect or policy proceeding from a sense of justice and fairness. It was if someone has flicked a switch and we are back in the badlands of Nope, Nope, Nope.

Leigh Sales puts a fair case. Morrison’s government has failed to improve the economy. Things have got worse since Labor was in power. She gives a few reasons. Unemployment is up, GDP is falling while debt and deficit are climbing. Morrison is dismissive. He sweeps away her list of facts, dismissing her evidence as merely Sales’ opinion. He is not remotely interested in any case she may bring; he is on the show to broadcast his own preposterous spin. An arrogant self-righteous superiority is his major contribution to the conversation.

We are plunged back into deepest, darkest Abbott-land, a land of evasion and intractable confrontation in which Ministers do what the IPA or big business tells them. Morrison, the bull-master ignores experts such as former Head of Treasury Ken Henry.  The new treasurer discards the best economic advice available to pursue the same narrow, ideological agenda which has cost his party one Prime Minister already. His mantra is about cuts.

Further cuts to government expenditure must be made- cuts which will punish the poor and needy. GST may rise to increase revenue so that upper and middle income earners may be wooed with income tax cuts as a sweetener at the heart of next election campaign.  The Abbott crusade against the underprivileged continues unabated, despite the loss of the man at the helm. The Liberal party’s addiction to neocon economic theory is as strong as it ever was. The party’s wealthy sponsors in industry commerce and finance are eager to keep it that way.

Leigh Sales allows Malcolm Turnbull a little too much rope …

leigh sales and malcolm turnbull

I think the ABC, like most media organisations, is determined to hold the Government, any government, up to account, and speaking of politicians, of course, always feel that the media is too critical… I would say, as somebody who used to interview people for a living, both as a journalist and then as a barrister, and then, of course, as a politician, I would say that a more effective interviewing style is one that is less aggressive and more forensic. Malcolm Turnbull on The Bolt Report

The ABC 7:30 Report last Monday treated viewers to Lee Sales’ boldly experimental interpretation of the art of the interview as a non-aggression pact. It was less of an interview than an assisted monologue, a radical departure from Kerry O’Brien’s savaging of former PM leadership coup winner, Julia Gillard. Or indeed, Sales’ own recent Abbott interview where she rightly challenged his empty rhetoric; his sloganeering.

Is this an attempt to meet the Turnbull government’s hope for a more ‘forensic’ ABC, as the PM put it on The Bolt Report when he criticised Sales and Lateline’s Emma Alberici as ‘aggressive’?

Or is the host too scared of her guest to ask hard questions? Or is it OK to attack Labor but another, softer, set of rules apply to Liberal leadership coup winners? Certainly, Sales was soft on Monday.

Cue soft lights and mood music, Leigh Sales all but curtseys to new Liberal Party ruler, Malcolm Turnbull, The Bonnie Black Prince of Point Piper as he enters the 7.30 Report studio, lord of all he surveys.  Her greeting celebrates, cements Prince Mal’s political ascension,

‘Prime Minister, congratulations on your elevation to the position.’

Having put our newest Dear Leader up there, and ourselves down lower, the next bit is tricky. How should a commoner put questions to a king – especially one with Black Prince Mal’s fearsome reputation? Even Kerry Packer feared him. So, too does ‘our ABC.’ Mal, as Minister of Communications under Abbott presided over deep cuts to ABC funding.

Many Liberals would go even further; privatise Aunty out of obligation to the commercial masters of the airwaves such as Rupert Murdoch who see the public broadcaster as unfair competition. A waste of public money.

Two years ago a Murdoch Adelaide paper released the salaries of the ABC to help Rupert’s case. Leigh Sales’ salary was then $280,400, a bargain compared with Tony Jones on $355,789, yet each is one third of their counterparts on commercial flagships Seven, Nine or Ten.

Some say the publication of ABC salaries was aimed at recruiting talent but it has left most ordinary punters hoping for value for money. And so it was on Monday night.

Opting for a post- modern deconstruction of the traditional question and answer format, Sales co-opts her host into interview as assisted monologue. Her questions serve as Turnbull talking points not as opportunities to challenge what are often false or very flimsy generalities. Turnbull is relieved and perplexed at this lowering of expectations.

Prince Mal need not actually answer any or all of her questions, Sales makes clear, nor need he remain relevant in his responses. Making sense is entirely up to him. She will ask what seem to be questions but he can answer any way he likes. She will not interrupt. Follow ups are verboten lest Dear Leader be held to account for contradicting himself, for example as he does in his specious case for his party’s Direct Action confidence trick as an effective emissions control.

Sales opens by playfully making a pact with Mal to respect the sanctity of the opinion poll, ensuring that he knew she would be calling the shots on her show. He readily agrees that he does take polls seriously. More than most, he smiles.

Our postmodern interviewer Sales says she will remember this amazing insight. His assent will help her with her future scripts. It will also help keep future reports fluffy and focused on what the polls say this week. Or playing gotcha. It beats doing more detailed research.

Uncritical acceptance of opinion polls helps trivialise political conversations and overvalues impressions. Snapshots of our feelings are elevated and inflated out of all proportion to their true worth or beyond the means of most interpreters to adequately contextualize and responsibly explain. Every set of poll statistics deserves at least three basic questions.

Where do they come from? What are they actually measuring? And what have the pollsters done to the data?

Mal says none of this and Leigh is not about to prompt him for us. He does warn that a poll is only a snapshot but his big statement is that he takes them very seriously – more seriously than most. Some viewers are intrigued by the PM’s candid reply but Prince Mal is keen to avoid even a friendly gotcha moment.

But wait, there’s more. Prince Mal is disarmingly, charmingly frank about what lies beyond the looking glass. He is about to give Sales another exclusive. Politicians tell fibs!  They pretend opinion polls don’t interest them. Now that’s an exclusive. You heard it first on the Leigh and Mal show.

He waffles on. Whatever Mal may have said about polls not meaning anything, he never meant it, it is just part of his political shtick. You say stuff when you are politics.

The PM makes it clear that he takes polls very seriously, before worrying that this may sound foolish. He adds that polls are just a snapshot in time in case we think that he will be amazingly popular for all eternity, although it would be fitting.

A green light on polls allows Sales to lower the boom. She talks dirty; goes for the fundamentals. Prince Mal is asked about his government’s core values and beliefs. He nearly drops his dagger, dripping with Abbott’s blood in shock. Hard core so early! He is thrown.

The soft approach is a disaster. With no adversary to rise against, Turnbull flops badly. He bores on regardless, however, a good twenty minutes of piffle. He lacks focus, detail and structure. He expresses tepid generalities in long, over-qualified badly finished sentences. The freedom word comes out – ‘it’s all about freedom.’ As we all saw in the Liberal party’s attempts to stop its own members holding a conscience vote on gay marriage. Or in the Royal Commission into Bill Shorten.

Freedom of speech has been outlawed by this government if you are a doctor, nurse or any other government employee on Nauru or Manus Island and you happen to report any breach of the law or violation of our international rights obligations. Leigh Sales could take up these or a host of other incursions into our civil liberties under the coalition but she is not following up. Her role is to plump up the cushions on Mal’s day bed and hold his hand while he rambles on, not to hold her guest to account for his arrant nonsense or ask him to explain himself out of respect for his viewers.

Securing any specific commitments is off limits in this version of 7:30 Report. Take tax for example, Sales prompts him to reveal that he is going to change taxes but that’s it. Turnbull is allowed to get away with the ‘not ruling anything in not ruling anything out’ evasion on tax reform. Yet up to now everything has been ruled out in favour of coercing the states to propose a GST increase that the Federal government is too wimpy to impose itself. The savings then can be squandered on tax cuts to boost re-election.

Superannuation concessions for the rich, the capital gains tax discount, negative gearing, closing loopholes for the top 1% were all off the table for the coalition. An indulgent Sales helps to keep it that way by not following up or challenging Turnbull’s windy waffling.

Sales fawns over her royal guest, even apologising for interrupting him when he was rambling so badly he had become completely incoherent.

Sales: “I’m sorry I’m laughing, but you’re not at the dispatch box and you’re not at the bar, so I’ve got to squeeze in one more question before we run out of time.”

Turnbull: “One more question. Sorry, sorry, sorry.”

Sales: “I’m sorry. I’m sorry to be rude like that too.”

Turnbull: “You’re not being rude at all. It’s quite understandable.”

Sales: “The – no, no, I did cut you directly off.”

Turnbull: “That’s fine.”

Sales’ mission, clearly is to put Prince Mal at ease. Handmaiden to her latest star, she gently massages his regal ego, plying him with soft-serve questions and permitting him to blather on happily free from any hint of scrutiny or obligation to even make sense. Turnbull-shit.

Yet even a soft interview gives Turnbull enough rope to hang himself. Left unchallenged, he has nothing to say, no concrete proposals, no insights, no ideas, no plan but a snake oil salesman’s determination to talk things up. His assertions are include alarmingly vacuous claims.

‘So everything I can say to inspire confidence is going to help the economy.’

Sadly, it is on environment that Turnbull is most compromised having been a trenchant critic of direct action in the past. Tonight, however, everything is rosy. Besides, he knows each time he repeats a lie, it gains acceptance; displaces the truth.

… what’s good about the Emissions Reduction Fund and the other mechanisms the Government has in place? What’s good about them is they’re working. .. the Government’s policies will achieve the reductions that have been – that we’re taking to the Paris conference of the parties.

The last word may go to Sales whose light-hearted tweet trivialises viewer responses; she is above criticism or at least she will laugh off her responsibility to at least help her guests make sense.

“Leigh Sales went too hard/too soft in her interview last night and she is a left-wing stooge/right-wing fascist. Her outfit was gross/awesome/reminiscent of a bag lady. Bring back Kerry O’Brien​/Chris Uhlmann​/the guy who plays the piano with the puppet,” she posts.

Not so fast, Leigh. Parodying audience responses does not diminish our right to have expectations nor does it relieve you of your responsibility to hold your guests to account; keep the bastards honest. Don’t go soft on us. There’s more than enough fluffy stuff on the commercial channels. We are drowning in a tide of spin. Giving Turnbull or his ilk a free ride will cost every one of us dearly in the end.

Turnbull abandons the environment in his new ministry of the future.

turnbull looking odd

Malcolm Turnbull is all mouth and no trousers. His ’21st-century government and a ministry for the future’ is anything but. Nowhere is this clearer than with the environment. In 2010 he had the right words.

‘We as a human species have a deep and abiding obligation to this planet and to the generations that will come after us.’

Now he clearly doesn’t give a toss. In his first week as PM in parliament he ridicules Labor and its renewable energy aspirations using plenty of invective and rhetoric but a damning lack of argument.

Fancy proposing, without any idea of the cost of the abatement, the cost of proposing that 50% of energy had to come from renewables! What if that reduction in emissions you needed could come more cost-effectively from carbon storage, by planting trees, by soil carbon, by using gas, by using clean coal, by energy efficiency?

What if this is an entirely specious and irresponsible speculation posing as an argument, Mr Turnbull? Or are you prepared to ignore the experts; the science in favour of the sound of your own voice? What if such schemes will take far longer to achieve their objectives than originally planned; achieve much less than expected; cost far more than was budgeted. The Australia Institute pointed out in research paper four years ago.

Direct Action is unlikely to achieve more than 18 per cent of your party’s target of reducing emissions by five per cent on 2000 levels by 2020. Emissions falling by five per cent on 2000 levels? In 2020, they would instead rise by 18.4 per cent? Facts not empty rhetoric, Mr Turnbull. We had more than enough hot air from your predecessor.

We know hot air when we hear it, Mr Turnbull. So do you. You once described Direct Action climate change policy as “fiscal recklessness on a grand scale” but now you would have us believe the policy is a “resounding success”.

Clean coal? Really? More Turnbullshit. Clean coal doesn’t exist Mr Turnbull and you know it. As you put it in 2010,

“Despite all of the money and all of the hope that has been put into carbon capture and storage there is still, as of today, not one industrial scale coal fired power station using carbon capture and storage”.

If you were at all serious about the future, your past speeches would be a good start. Next you would set up an inquiry into work experience boy Greg Hunt mishandling of his brief as Environment Minister. A PM who is really making plans for the future as you so eloquently put it, a PM who is making a case for agility and being on our toes cannot afford to have a Hunt anywhere near environmental policy.

Hunt is an embarrassing liability in the Environment Ministry with his farcical Direct Action plan and his record of having his eyes wide shut whether it be approving dirty big international coal mines but forgetting about the local water supply or the endangered fauna; holes in the ground to bury our future or risking our heritage in the Great Barrier Reef to ships bearing coal with unskilled underpaid crews to make profits for overseas merchants.

Hunt closed his eyes to the building of a refuelling port on Melville Island in the Tiwis. The excuse was that his ministry is so overworked that it failed to notice the construction of a round the clock commercial refuelling port in a pristine part of Australia without any environmental study.

A $130m deep-sea port project was allowed to go ahead without environmental assessment or approval, despite being in an area of ecological national significance, home to nesting turtles and dugongs. Storage tanks that can store up to 30 million litres of diesel have been installed within the area. Already there has been diesel spill of 3,500 litres.

The latest report on the Port Melville construction without approval fiasco is that the government will not be taking any further action. The Federal Department of Environment has dropped its investigation into the Tiwi Land Council and its Singaporean development partners.

Hunt cannot be allowed to get away this gross negligence of his portfolio and allow Australia’s heritage and future to degenerate into a free-for-all for international speculators keen to exploit our nation’s lack of vigilance, due diligence.

The man was overseen Australia’s carbon emissions rise since the coalition gained office thanks to the abolition of the carbon tax which was never a tax but an emissions trading scheme which even Tony Abbott used to support before he flip-flopped because it was such a good strategy to beat Labor with. Hunt has gone along with this, including the nonsense that families gained $500 per household. Few gained at all – and in the long term all lost. Labor’s scheme was both sensible and workable.

Renewables are the key to our future energy needs yet while you were announcing your new cabinet, the quarterly Ernst & Young ranking of the attractiveness of global markets for renewable energy investment has demoted Australia further to now be out of the top 10, citing ‘an all-out attack on the Country’s wind sector’ by the government.

As a new Prime Minister who wants to offer a credible message of hope Mr Turnbull, you need to do more than mention the word ‘renewal’ frequently and the need to ’embrace the future’ or the nation will see your rhetoric as merely political, a way of drawing a contrast with the coal-fired climate change denying, back to the 1950s, Abbott gang.

Start by holding Greg Hunt to account. Stand him down. Get a Minister for the Environment who can look after the environment.

Another week in politics, another narcissistic opportunist, the false promise of Malcolm Turnbull.

tunrbull on 2GB

Another week, another Prime Minister struts and frets the poop deck of Federal Politics as the Liberals throw mad Captain Abbott overboard and bring back Malcolm Turnstile from the brig in a desperate attempt to calm rising seas, distract circling sharks and other monsters of the deep and to keep their leaky vessel off the rocks.

Captain Ayatollah as he is known to former crews, appears delighted to be at the centre of the political universe and in his rightful appointed place at last. He can’t get seem to get that thin grin off his face. Malcolm Bligh Turnbull flashes his barracuda bottom teeth as he contemplates his new cabinet demotions and the settling of old scores. Ever gracious in victory, he congratulates Fortune on finally coming to her senses, even if it did take five long years for her to get it right.

Nothing becomes Tony Abbott, so much in his Prime Ministership as the leaving of it. Not that he makes a good end. Like all bad hams, he drags it out too long. Not until mid-day Tuesday, does he share with the nation his parting pearls on losing Monday’s leadership spill against him by a margin of ten votes. Where is he hiding? Has his stint in the Top End convinced him to copy Adam Giles and refuse to step down? Like a shark can he only swim forward?

A SkyNews helicopter quarries him out at lunchtime Tuesday outside Parliament House, a hunched figure walking awkwardly as he were a farmer with a pig under each arm. It circles above, upstaging the former PM who rants and rattles the mental leg-irons of his slogans, clichés and lies, in subdued but nevertheless classic Abbott fashion.

Beelzebub, God of lies, Lord of the Flies why hast thou forsaken me? Am I to be destroyed by my own hubris?

He lies that he sees it as an honour to be asked to go. The rest of his farewell is shredded by the noisy blades of the hovering media chopper. Right to the end he has trouble getting his message out. Or does he? Luckily half his audience is deafened or they might be upset; take issue with his attack on them. Unbelievably, he promises to stop his sniping, hoping doubtless for some kind of truce.

Abbott whimpers. Snipes. Curse Turnbull, this isn’t the twenty-one flag ‘Presser’ of the week he had planned; his glorious war on Syria’s ‘first bombs away’ of his recovery is planned for Wednesday. Abbott blames everyone and everything but himself for his fate, a true anti-hero to the bitter end. The ‘Meeja’ cop a broadside. But a bad end cannot detract from his accomplishment. Going. It is the most seemly and fitting thing he could ever do as PM. Or have others do to him.

Colleagues choke back tears of grief and pity. Oh, that it took so long to get rid of him. Tributes flow from the lips of those who lopped him; cursed him when he held power. Morrison’s Father Confessor, His eminence raving Ray Hadley, Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt go ballistic. They have lost the best ratings milch-cow in the history of shock-jock demagoguery.  They know they won’t be telling Malcolm what to think. Besides his head is too big.

The consensus among these opinionated egotists of the shock-jockracy is that Turnbull thinks too much of himself. Australia be warned. He who falls in love with himself shall have no rivals. Turnbull take note.

A staffer working overtime shredding documents in Abbott’s office Monday night, however, shows remarkable understatement and restraint. He calls out to Turnbull, who is taking a nocturnal stroll around his palace, noting who’s still at work, congratulating himself on taking possession.

‘Malcolm. Malcolm.’

‘Yes, what is it, my loyal and dutiful subject?’

‘You are a Greg Hunt.’

Consumed by recrimination and regret, Abbott cannot bring himself to attend his rival’s swearing in, the formal handing over of his wonderland of power. Flushed out of hiding, all he can do is play the victim. He flails about him; lashes out.

‘We have more polls and more commentary than ever before — mostly sour, bitter, character assassination. Poll-driven panic has produced a revolving-door prime ministership, which can’t be good for our country, and a febrile media culture has developed that rewards treachery.’

For all his macho swagger; for all his fearless shirt-fronting, onion-eating, public courage Tony Abbott wimps out. In the end he cannot face even his own knight, Sir Peter Cosgrove.

Abbott, the avowed monarchist, resigns by fax in one last gaffe. He breaches protocol, committing Lèse majesté against the Australian Governor General representative of her majesty the queen.

The deposed PM is absent without leave from parliament all week. An ABC camera lingers on a vacant back bench seat now allocated to him, unwarmed by his nether regions all week, the unfilled place, a metaphor for his time at the top. A hot-shot opposition leader, the job of Prime Minister proved just too big for the man. Not that it stopped him having a go.

Abbott was always prepared to punch above his weight. Foolishly at times. Yet it was his pugnacity, his conviction that he could beat Bill Shorten and that beating Shorten and hammering Labor was all that being PM entailed, more than any other flaw which made Abbott the architect of his own downfall.

Scribes are quick to list his many other failings. His war against the Left, caused him to flip-flop on the economy, on the emissions trading tax he had previously supported; on anything in which he needed in order to oppose Labor.

His captain’s calls were the signature notes of his capacity for monumental ineptitude. Last Friday’s leak to the Daily Telegraph purporting to be his cabinet reshuffle plans was taken as a leak from his office, whatever its true origin, such is the well-established pattern. It creates a swell of disaffection and discontent to boost Turnbull’s recruiting drive.

His grandiose delusions, his mendacity, his broken promises helped make Abbott the most unpopular and least successful prime minister in Australian history and contributed inevitably to his spill. And more than a touch of madness. Turnbull tells anyone who will listen that the increasingly erratic PM is burning the house down.

A liability to his party and an ever-increasing threat to the seats of growing numbers of his colleagues, Abbott is deposed by his nemesis, the man he, himself, did down five years earlier. It is karma with more than a whiff of betrayal. Of course when pressed, Scott Morrison has his hands clean despite his Holiness Ray Hadley wanting him to swear his innocence on a bible. Similarly Julie Bishop has played no part at all, she assures us in her PM’s downfall.

Scott Morrison does not contend the deputy leadership spill despite the PM summonsing him the day before, promising him the posts of Treasurer and party deputy leader, provided he stand for deputy. Morrison cops it from Ray Hadley but denies he colluded with Turnbull. This is the most amazing ‘hands-free’ leadership coup in history it would appear but give it a week and the dirt will start to come out.

Already there are leaks about Turnbull’s claim to favour women. He has the worst record as Communications Minister for employing female staff members. Of course, the figures are misleading as he happily explains to Labor questions, when they can get their questions right.

Having got its worst actor ever off stage, the Liberal party has no choice but to fall back on another old ham, Malcolm Bligh Turnbull, who seizes his chance to finally knife his rival. He promises less shouting in parliament. He always prepared to argue clearly and equably why he is always right.

Turnbull, a long-winded narcissistic know-all proceeds at length to talk himself and his party up and to put everyone else down through a week of parliament in which Labor appears under some sort of hypnagogic spell. In the meantime several Abbott Cabinet Ministers, Andrews, Hockey, Dutton keep nicking out to appear on TV auditioning for their former jobs. A disgusted Liberal MP calls their performances ‘craven.’

It is not an edifying performance from either side. Some see Turnbull as a Rumpole reprising his best barratry. Most are distressed to hear him embrace the right. Labor accuses him of being an Abbott with elocution; an Abbott in a better suit. Burke notes that the new PM has locked himself in to every one of the Abbott government policies.

Turnbull hectors, lectures and patronises even Tanya Plibersek on Foreign Aid who responds with a request for a little less mansplaining. Leave the bloviating to Brandis, she could have added –  for everybody’s sake. There is a palpable sense, however, of the new PM having got what he wants, just going through the motions of being engaged by parliamentary debate.

The key task at hand for Turnbull is to choose a cabinet that will tide him over until an early election delivers him another three years of power at least. Malcolm Blowhard Turnbull may be fond of the sound of his own voice but he is even fonder of getting his own way. Coalition godfather, Rupert Murdoch freely dispenses his well-intentioned advice.

‘Sad to see such a decent man as Abbott toppled,’ Murdoch writes in a tweet. ‘Now Turnbull needs a November election before Labor sacks Shorten.’

Not so fast, Rupert. Malcolm has to pick the right team. He’s had plenty of prompting, thank you. The Liberal parliamentary party is not shy of self-promoters. Happily, such types are also like their former leader undone by their own hubris. Look at Morrison, for example.

Scott Morrison, it is widely held will be Treasurer because Joe was hopeless. Morrison, the people smuggler, the arrogant bully of Gillian Triggs is held up in contrast as a ‘good performer.’ Reza Berati’s family won’t be writing any character references. Barati was bashed to death in February by a Manus Island guard and an accomplice. Those sexually abused in the Nauru camp won’t be writing any testimonials for either Morrison or Dutton who recently swept aside the findings of the Senate Committee as being politically motivated.

‘Good performer’ is a self-referential, self-serving term, as if it matters not a jot what it is that is being performed, be it cruelty, secrecy and utter contempt for accountability and due process. No-one who presided over the indefinite detention of men, women and children in conditions of punitive neglect in the Abbott government’s mission to stop the boats is fit to be in government let alone hold a ministry.

Malcolm Turnbull will not be guided by such concerns, however. He will be interested only in balancing power within his cabinet, of keeping a political lid on things until he can get re-elected. But don’t think that after this the ‘true Malcolm’ will return to his small l Liberal, progressive ways. Politics is all about power and Turnbull has to appease and control a right wing party where power is wielded by throwbacks to the Howard era whose attitudes and values are woefully out of step with modern society.

Turnbull may be our new Prime Minister but he inherits a parliamentary party of refugees from reality; he is bound to their hide-bound conservatism for his very existence, let alone his continued survival.

A Hastie victory in Canning can only add to Malcolm Turnbull’s problems.

dark Hastie

The Liberal Party has blown a million dollars on the Canning by-election. $1.2 million so far, to be precise – not that anyone’s counting. Not that we will ever know.

A fortune has been wasted in a final, futile attempt to save Tony Abbott’s career as PM.  Now Malcolm Turnbull has deposed Abbott, what sort of a return will the Liberals get on their investment? Or the nation? Not to mention the eternal bridesmaids, the electorate of Canning, the people of Australia?

Turnbull will not rush to embrace the Abbott vice-captain’s pick. He has enough ultra-conservatives frustrating his control of the parliamentary party as it is. Another Cory Bernardi with all the extra baggage of an ex-serviceman is no help to him.

Especially an Andrew Hastie who clearly has not had time to work out who he is or exactly what he stands for. If he ever can.

Not that the Canning Liberal candidate wants to share too much; give very much away. Bonding with the electorate is best done at arm’s length. Hastie sees his fundamentalist views as off limits, as if somehow they are not integral to his decisions as a politician. Besides, ‘voters are sick of this crap,’ he tells a reporter.

Andrew Hastie was still telling ABC listeners this week that he wasn’t a politician. One host corrected him on air. Yet you can understand his confusion. The youngster was an SAS captain until Julie Bishop coaxed him out of his uniform and into politics a few weeks ago.

Why was the junior army officer recruited? Bishop liked the cut of his jib. Tony Abbott’s conservative journo mate Greg Sheridan was also attracted to the young man years earlier using him in a piece on the war in Afghanistan. The local selection committee were also all over him like a rash.

What exactly it is about a soldier that makes conservatives drool is a complex issue but it appears to include a fondness for authority and a nostalgic hankering for simple certainties, black and white thinking, a backward looking affection for security by the imposition of force.

These very same qualities may be found in spades amongst the hard right core of the modern moribund Liberal party if not liberally dispersed throughout.

If looking backwards is a worry, so too is assuming that a military background is an asset in modern politics. Whatever it is that suggests Hastie or anyone like him will become a ‘good politician’ is never spelled out but it is equally disturbing. The new young candidate is more likely to turn into another right-winger like Tony Abbott with all his rigidity, his inability to empathise; communicate; represent ordinary, decent Australians.

Military types are seldom democratic or flexible in their thinking.

“I know what I believe and I believe what I believe is right,”

George W Bush, once endearingly said about his own closed mind; his opinionated dogmatism. Bush could have been channelling Tony Abbott. Similarly, Hastie refuses to even discuss his fundamental religious beliefs, state his grounds, especially on his creationism. Does Australia need more of this mindset in Canberra?

Soldiers are well-trained in taking orders.  Bullying and bastardisation also remain part of their rites of passage, their culture despite many well-meaning promises of reform. Andy’s professional obedience would have been handy to the former PM.

A weak leader, independently minded subordinates bothered Abbott. Toadies did a lot better. How else to explain the rise and rise of Bruce Billson? Or Abbott’s indulgence of the misrule of Joe Hockey as treasurer. But the choice goes beyond the PM’s need for tame followers or any other personal weakness.

Putting to one side ‘Two year Tony’s Abbott’s fetish for the military, his eagerness to bond with another macho man of action, the Hastie runs deeper than any one actor; any individual’s agency.  Choosing a man with a military background helps to perpetuate the old guard, the male oligarchy, the boys’ club if you will. The old guard, an endangered species, is fighting a rear-guard action in the real world but it will spare no expense to turn back the clock in politics. It remains convinced it is born to rule. Witness Tony’s abject blaming of others right to the end.

Tony Abbott was deposed on Monday but to hear him talk, it was nothing he had done, no reflection on his decision-making, his dud prime ministership. Narcissist old guard politicians are like that. As he bleated on TV, it was all someone else’s fault. The media did him down by publishing malicious leaks and false rumours. So unfair.

Unfair? Nothing like the leaks his office fed the Daily Telegraph, daily? Nothing like the way Murdoch’s papers boosted this political nonentity  into power?  Left to his own devices, he would always find his job too big for the man. As it was at the end.

The uniform was no consolation to the former PM when the chips were down. He broke with protocol. The representative of his beloved monarch was sent a fax. Abbott did not have the ticker to concede defeat to his own knight, Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove. A military fetish did not help his personal bravery.

Besides a personal appearance would have meant shaking that bastard arch rival Turnbull’s hand. No. As he said on each of the three brief occasions he visited, the Canning by-election was not about him. Nope. Nope. Nope. So what is it about?

Canning is about Liberal values. Forget the rhetoric about individualism in action, self-help, keeping our great nation safe and how the coalition government has a PLAN. Despite there being all sorts of talk about choosing a woman candidate, or a local candidate, the Liberal plan is all about the man. Hastie, the young reactionary was head-hunted. He was approached by Julie Bishop, agreed to stand and then resigned from the Army. Then the money was tipped in.

Who needs hospitals, schools, women’s refuges? Helping Andrew Hastie buy a safe Liberal seat is a real priority. Canning show-cases the independence, the freedoms, the respect for the individual and other slogans Liberals like George Brandis are so fond of repeating over a reflective single malt in his all-male Savage club. A lad from a privileged background can’t possibly be abandoned, left to his own devices or be trusted to win a safe seat on his own merit. What he needs is a massive subsidy.

But it’s a hand up not a hand out. Tomorrow Hastie should have a job for life with all the other ‘lifters’ in parliament who have succeeded by their own hard work unhindered by their wealthy, powerful and privileged families. Now the ex-soldier has taken an opportunity to make something of himself, despite his opportunity being pre-made, offered to him on a plate. Of course he must behave himself; follow party room directions; read the daily talking points.

In Canning, our taxes are hard at work, the Liberal poster boy for rugged self-reliance and initiative, Andrew Hastie must pretend he has something to offer voters. Not that he was selected to suit the party’s needs. The Liberal machine picked Hastie because they liked his kerb appeal. In the post-modern era, politics has moved on – transitioned – from ideals of public service and commitment to principles to whatever looks good. Exalting image over substance, matches the party’s elevation of pragmatism over any kind of principle.

For most of us Hastie represents a bridge too far; a travesty of the whole process of candidate selection. In Canning, however, an advertising campaign is enabled to usurp a political campaign. The selection of the new recruit has nothing to do with seeking a people’s representative or grass-roots or any other form of democracy. It’s about making the Liberal Party look better than it really is. That is hard enough, especially in its current crisis. By choosing Hastie, however, the Liberals have made a hard task impossible.

Malcolm Turnbull, by nature a more moderate Liberal, has just won a leadership coup more by default than by personal popularity with his party.  He already has his hands full attempting to assert his authority over a bitterly divided party. The new PM does not want to have another rabid right wing pup to call to heel.

Two Cheers for Malcolm Turnbull

Australian Prime Minister designate Malcolm Turnbull with Deputy Prime Minister designate Julie Bishop during a press conference in the Blue Room, after winning the Australian Federal leadership in a party ballot vote, at Parliament House in Canberra, Monday, Sept. 14, 2015. (AAP Image/Sam Mooy) NO ARCHIVING
Australian Prime Minister designate Malcolm Turnbull with Deputy Prime Minister designate Julie Bishop during a press conference in the Blue Room, after winning the Australian Federal leadership in a party ballot vote, at Parliament House in Canberra, Monday, Sept. 14, 2015. (AAP Image/Sam Mooy)

Wish I could say something good about Malcolm Turnbull. OK. He’s not Tony Abbott.

There. Feel better now? What’s that? He got rid of Abbott? Well, no, Abbott did a pretty good job of that himself. Before he was rejected by those whose interests he threatened to stuff up; those whose futures he was about to ruin. But not Malcolm’s, at least not right away.

Malcom’s a former tycoon and a lawyer, a wordsmith with business smarts as well as a former Merchant banker, you say? Please. A rhyming slang, is how his peers see him.

Already he is waffling on about being consultative leader who runs a traditional collaborative cabinet government. Last time the tosser was full of it. He meant it, too, before talking everyone else under the table.

On the good side: Turnbull has command of complex issues and is keen to articulate his mastery. On the bad side: Turnbull has command of complex issues and is keen to articulate his mastery, Peter Lewis and Jackie Woods

No-one could fault Turnbull’s understanding or his principles. He was just a dud when it came to leading the team. Sound familiar?

At least the new Liberal leader is recycled, a hand-spun home makeover, you say, a homely re-purposed hand me down kaftan cum security blanket knitted out of some of grandpa’s old woolly work socks that will keep the party snug and warm, until the next election? It doesn’t sound that way from all the bleating and whinging so far.

Cory Bernardi is already bleating he’s left out in the cold again, but a Turnbull-led Liberal Party is not that broad a kaftan. Expect a fuss from other hard right nutters such as Nikolic, Abetz, Andrews, Christensen and too many others to name left outside the tent pissing in. Abbott had them inside the tent pissing out. Or so they thought.

OK, at least the Liberals are recycling at last. But isn’t that putting a bit too much spin on an act of desperation. Not cosying up together, just a mob of sheep rushing to huddle up miserably frightened by a bad storm. Most Liberal MPs can’t stand the arrogant bastard who failed last time he held the reins, the smart-arse they just re-elected leader, in a panic to be free of the last mad bastard.

Two cheers are in order. Liberals are free at last of Abbott’s oligarchy, aka the Credlinator and rule by PMO and the sidelining of cabinet. Yet why recycle a leader who didn’t fit last time? Could it be that Malcolm was the only option? An out of date default back up programme?

Still some points at least for recycling even if it means another sort of bully is back in charge for a while.

Will voters see through the makeover? Or will they see it as another expensive Direct Action con, which the coal-fired party desperately hopes we won’t understand but which Hunt can somehow claim is a world first. Perhaps it is in a way.

I’m with First Dog on this. If Malcolm Turnbull is the answer, you are asking the wrong question. As Malcolm Turnbull, takes his turn carrying the coal scuttle that is the Liberal Party leadership, don’t expect too much in the way of a change of course, least of all in those fabulous national conversations we’ve all been having about the need to pay more tax and have less freedom of speech.

All of our national nattering, getting stuff off our community chests has been obligingly helped along with lashings of data retention, provided by our communications minister and former OzEmail director Malcolm Turnbull who practically invented all that Internet stuff, as his technologically illiterate former PM was fond of boasting when it suited him.

Turnbull returned the vote of confidence by enabling the state full and free access to every citizen’s private cyber life. Say what you like about Turnbull, he gets things done.

Communications Minister, Turnbull was the head-kicker who got on to the ABC over Q&A having Zaky Mallah, the man who dared to travel to Syria to film the Syrian civil war in its show.

‘Heads must roll’ said Abbott, channelling his death cult nemesis while doing the nation a favour by forbidding his ministers from appearing on the show, adding with his finely nuanced understanding of the role of public broadcasting, ‘Which side is the ABC on?’

In case this threat to its independence was dismissed another Abbott bit of hairy chest-beating or shirtfronting, Minister Turnbull quickly put the boot into Q&A, confirming the Liberal party line that the ABC is infested with lefties, greenies and fellow travellers on an anti-government jihad.

At least you could say Turnbull actually did something in bullying Mark Scott. Something in addition to the massive cut in funding, the ‘efficiency dividend’ to stifle independence of Joe Hockey’s IPA Budget he seemed happy with earlier.

Now Q&A must share a studio with Peppa Pig and co. Its tweets are vetted, too.

Welcome to Malcolm in the Middle, Episode Two. Or is it just another repeat?