Month: September 2015

Dead man walking: Abbott’s kamikaze week in politics.

dutton and abbott after gaffe

“It takes a good captain to help all the players of a team to excel.” Tony Abbott 31 January 2015

Tony Abbott’s ABC 7:30 Report interview with Leigh Sales, easily the worst in living memory for any serving Prime Minister, sets the high-water mark in a week in politics in which it becomes ‘crystal clear’ in PM-speak, that he and his government are not waving but drowning.

The government is awash all week; overwhelmed by opportunities. It is a week, flagged – as the glorious launch of our righteous crusade against evil in Syria yet it is a week in which a flat-footed PM loses his purchase, is swept up in a wave of refugee compassion and almost drowns when the refugee crisis throws the old boat-stopper a life preserver.

Abbott finds himself compelled by a rapidly rising international tide to seek some of the moral high ground it promises. He declares 12,000 Syrian refugees will be permanently resettled in Australia. Under pressure he rescinds his earlier decision to cut refugees from other countries and makes this an extra 12,000, unleashing an orgy of self-congratulation and false statistics from ministers keen to perpetrate the government lie that we are per capita the most generous refugee takers in the world.

UNHCR boffins will work out which batch of Syrians best suit his requirements. Syrian refugees on Nauru, Manus or on the mainland, however, will continue to rot in hell where they belong because of their deals with evil people smugglers. No word is spoken of forced repatriations to Syria ceasing.

Yet not even his conflicted, conditional ‘yes’ to more refugees, ‘ nor his stylish new combatant Andrew Hastie’s war on crystal meth in Canning can provide a lifeline to an Abbott government now totally out of its depth. Like the opposition leader, it is just treading water.

Sales offers Abbott a hand up. Calls on him to give an account of his leadership; his government’s achievements. A curiously flat as a tack Abbott is not up to it. Only his tin ear is working. He falls back on reprising old campaign slogans.  A narcoleptic trance overtakes him. He talks in his sleep about boats and carbon taxes; maunders about jobs and growth. Then Sales raises the PM’s record ever lower poll results; his ever rising unpopularity with voters.

Abbott awakes. His temper is bad. He peevishly attacks the ABC. Our national broadcaster ignores all his government’s good news. Sales is out of line. Abbott channels Dutton and Hockey from last week’s ABC-Fairfax jihadist bash.  The PM is so shockingly bad that Tony Windsor wonders aloud if Abbott has just given up.

The next day his old, superior, self is back only to have his toast fall butter side down. Abbott angers not only Pacific leaders but all indigenous peoples by laughing at their fate and their cultural view of time in response to Peter Dutton’s stupid quip about climate change.

Noting that Friday’s meeting on Syrian refugees is late to start, Dutton remarks snidely that it is running to ‘Cape York time,’ prompting our PM and man of the indigenous world Abbott to reply, ‘We had a bit of that up in Port Moresby’.

Add safari suits, pith helmets, monocles and behold! A club meeting of colonial masters laments the natives’ poor work ethic, commiserates over the thankless task of getting blacks to behave more like white men.  Abbott and co are the colonists’ white man’s burden writ large all over again.

Despite the millions spent on their pay, the PM’s minders let him down. They clearly fail to brief him that not every culture views the concept of time in the same way. Not that this would interest a politician with no ideas, nor time for any.  Perhaps he was looking at his watch. As he does. Not paying attention; needing to be somewhere else; on borrowed time.

Inspired, encouraged, Dutton adds, ‘time doesn’t mean anything when you’re about to … have water lapping at your door’. Abbott laughs like a drain.

Social Services Minister, Scott Morrison then notices the open microphone bobbing over their heads. At least one of the time-wasters has his wits about him. Trust Morrison to keep a weather eye open.

Too late. The remark is widely condemned. It is another rebuff after Australia and New Zealand have just refused the islanders’ appeals to push for a 1.5 degree rise in global temperatures at the Pacific Islands Forum. It doesn’t help that Australian aid to the region has been cut to a 40 year low under Julie Bishop’s term as Foreign Minister, nor that after Budget cuts she was forced to break her promise of aid for Pacific women.

‘We thought there was some resistance to the science of climate change amongst our friends to the south, but we didn’t expect there would be that indifference to a matter of life and death for their neighbours,’ Marshall Islands Foreign Minister, Tony de Brum tells RTCC, a climate advocacy website.

Later Abbott, in full damage control, intervenes to praise his Immigration Minister repackaging Dutton’s humour as a ‘lame’ joke and diverting us by calling attention – look over here – to Dutton’s Syrian refugee miracle. Peter Dutton is now a mastermind of compassion.

It is quite a spin. Dutton is fresh from the forced repatriation of Syrians from detention on Manus Island back into a bloody civil war. On Sunday comes the news that the ‘mastermind’ has flexed his new muscle given him by the revised Migration Act to fly an asylum seeker charged with criminal offences straight to Christmas Island before his trial. But by then the tide of opinion has rapidly, irrevocably risen against the pair, their intolerance, and the ‘insidious soft racism of low expectations.’

An angry Cape York traditional owner Gerhardt Pearson says the reference to ‘Cape York time’ aims to portray Aboriginal people as ‘lazy good-for-nothings.’ ‘We are constantly burdened with the view espoused by the likes of Dutton; a … soft bigotry (which) continues to dominate policy responses.’

Captain Abbott’s bravura SNAFU performance is a master class in political public self-destruction which makes a fitting finale to a week in which the PM seeks points in tactical compassion by agreeing to accept 12,000 extra refugees from Syria only to lose by imposing terms and by wasting time.

The PM adds an expensive tension-building prologue by sending Dutton off to UNHCR HQ to find out if this Syrian refugee thing is real.  Perhaps it’s a shrewd investment. It gets one loose cannon off the poop deck for a few days.

The PM has a proviso. He chooses his words carefully. He speaks of ‘women, children, families, persecuted minorities.’ This means our soon-to-be-new-Australians must be neither male nor Muslim and must have never been in a boat. His tide of support sweeps out like a torrent races around a rock. Perhaps Biggles bombs Syria an Abbott new release will attract favourable review.

Bombs away could be a life saver. Abbott’s government believes it is on to a winner in ‘turning left out of Iraq’ as Air Chief Marshall Binskin puts our violation of Syrian air space, to bomb the evil death cult ISIS, a motley crew who will immediately abandon their practice of embedding themselves amidst innocent civilians and expose themselves in the open so our six vintage Hornets can bombard them with surgical precision leaving unscathed those homes, hospitals and schools as yet untouched by Assad’s barrel bombs or the Iraqi-captured weapons of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, self-styled Caliph of Islamic state.

Bombing will solve everything – especially Syria’s refugee crisis. We know from Vietnam how successful aerial bombardment is in a theatre of guerrilla war. Nothing, moreover, may halt the exodus of millions of terrified civilians, traumatised by years of civil war, better than a fresh new wave after wave of Aussie bombs exploding over their heads.

Logic plays little part in Abbott’s crusade against the infidel; his own war against evil. The real truth of our involvement must be kept from us. We are in Syria at the PM’s instigation, our first irrevocable step into a quagmire that will only require us to send more and more troops, a conflict which will be long, protracted and punishing.

Instead we are fed the official US line, a cut and paste of a Centrecom press release.

RAAF bombings will help us help ‘the Iraqi government’ degrade and destroy ISIS. Yet there is no Iraqi state left and not much in the way of a functioning government or military. The fall of Ramadi in March shows an ISIS which can quickly gain the upper hand in many a strategic battle.

In Ramadi, capital of the Anbar province and one of the biggest cities in Iraq, 150 ISIS troops were able to dispel 1500 Iraqi troops who fled on May 17 this year. US air support was unable to be of assistance to the Iraqis because it could not distinguish between Iraqi and ISIS forces intermingled in heavy combat.

It was not an isolated incident. Desertion is a logical consequence of an engagement by an army whose morale is low, whose function is imperilled by corruption and whose loyalties in a region beset with sectarian conflict are divided. Tens of thousands of desertions have the Iraqi military have created what one U.S. official describes as “psychological collapse” in the face of ISIS offensives.

We have gone to war as allies of an Iraqi army which runs away, a demoralised army at the service of a defeated rump of a corrupt and malfunctioning government, propped up by the US for strategic purposes. Yet we will not hear this from Tony Abbott’s or Kevin Andrews’ lips. Nowhere does our government acknowledge the realities of the recent rapid increase in Russian military assistance in all forms, from boots on the ground to air and naval support.

Nor is there any mention of Syria’s other long-term ally Iran which has recently also despatched soldiers to serve the cause of Bashar al Assad. Saudi armed forces are also a threat to be left out of the equation by a PM anxious to spin his own child-like mythology of the hunt for the evil Daesh.

Against this in a bizarre counterpoint, the language of the military normalizes and disguises barbaric cruelty and random acts of violence as in Air Commodore Bellingham’s report of our first sortie into Syria.  ‘The Hornets were also prepared for any short notice high priority tasking which could include surveillance and weapons release.’

The Australian Air Task Group will continue to plan and conduct strikes against Daesh in Iraq and Syria as part of coalition strike operations aimed at disrupting and degrading Daesh strongholds, Bellingham says.

The PM parrots the US administration’s spin that ‘the coalition’ is winning the battle against ISIS and al Nusra, al Qaeda’s branch in Syria. We are kept at arms’ length from real news of what is truly happening. Instead we are entertained by images of an RAAF Super Hornet on its first bombing raid into Syria.  Make that ‘weapons release,’ it sounds almost desirable.

Bombing will, of course, give Abbott something to brag about when he visits Canning on the weekend as well as a chance for the Canning Liberal candidate, former SAS Captain Andrew Hastie, to take a breather from his war of words on ice and his war with reporters wanting to know more about his creationist and anti-gay marriage beliefs. Once again, Hastie will remind voters that he is a former soldier. He knows what war is all about.

Being photographed with Hastie will boost the PM’s stocks, he reasons and divert questions about his leaked cabinet reshuffle, an IED of sorts, militarily speaking which he disavows utterly.

Just when things can’t get any worse, they become disastrous. The Daily Telegraph, an annexe of the Abbott government’s media office in Antony Albanese’s quip, claims that six ministers would go in a cabinet reshuffle planned by the PM to keep his government fresh and appealing to voters.

Is it a leak from the PMO designed to flush out leadership contenders? Joe Hockey’s name is not among the six to get the sack. Is it a leak by a contender?

Whoever leaks it, the report creates havoc. ‘It is like a hand grenade has gone off,’ a minister, clearly well into the military swing of a khaki election, tells ABC news. MPs see the leak as coming from the PMO. Coalition MPs regard The Daily Telegraph as their government gazette. Those tipped to be on the up are agitating; those tipped for the chop are – well, agitated or, as Tory Shepherd put it on ABC’s Insiders on Sunday, ‘pissed off.’ It is a disaster in anyone’s estimation. Even the government seems to know it.

A spill is on next week. Paul Bongiorno, who has good sources, claims the numbers are there for a spill. A spill will have to come before the Canning by-election because afterwards will smack of desperation. But not everyone is convinced of this. What is agreed is that Abbott is ‘a dead man walking’ as one of his ministers put it – off the record of course.

We are all waiting for Canning. A curious unreality settles over the political scene by the end of the week. We are at a Becket play, in a Becket play, a menacing world of pointless circularity in which:

‘Nothing happens. Nobody comes. Nobody goes. It’s awful.’

Throughout Waiting for Canning, time and who controls it plays a major role, as in climate change, cabinet reshuffle or the invasion of Syria. As Becket knew well, ‘the waiting is the hardest part …Not only is the waiting difficult, but working out what to do while waiting is difficult.’

In the meantime, our compassionate government provides an entertaining series of short film clips of our magnificent men in their flying machines dropping bombs on the evil Daesh death cult while innocent men, women and children scream in pain and in terror just off camera, out of frame.

Tony Abbott is looking for trouble in Syria.

syrian street


“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it wrongly and applying unsuitable remedies.” Groucho Marx

He may not be able to take a trick when it comes to winning trust or building confidence but Tony Abbott certainly knows how to look for trouble. After threatening to shirt-front Russian President, Vladimir Putin, at the G20 last year, an embarrassingly  inappropriate blustering that did nothing to improve his standing as a statesman and everything to make himself look foolish, our bizarrely behaving PM, is like a rat up a drainpipe when it comes to the next big misadventure. You can’t hold him back.

This week he’s sending us into Syria, a nation torn apart by civil war; buying into trouble without explaining why; without bothering to make a case. Does he have even have a case? Or is his move just a cynical ploy to divert us from his failed domestic policies; his disastrous rating in opinion polls?  As usual, his government likes to keep us in the dark.

For a man who publicly loves to disparage speculation, the PM does everything to encourage it. Abbott offers no strategy. No analysis. Just more bullshit. We get more empty rhetoric about stopping the ‘evil death cult’ Daesh as if our six thirty year old Hornets are somehow going to make all the difference. The US has failed to halt ISIS so far, despite 6,500 air strikes.

Abbott’s Syrian adventure is presented as a ‘logical extension’ of bombing ISIS in Iraq. Not a word is uttered about its effect on Syria. If we do ‘degrade and destroy’ ISIS, we help Assad the butcher stay in power. Whatever the outcome we have bought into a conflict where we are unwelcome. We have already got up the nose of Syria’s powerful ally, Russia. Iran is likely to be hostile also.

Australia will not increase its troop numbers despite their wider deployment. Australia has 400 personnel supporting aerial missions over Iraq and 200 SAS soldiers training Iraqi counter-terrorism units. Another 300 soldiers are training Iraqi forces at the Taji training base north of Baghdad.

This refutes Abbott’s claim that the US urgently needs us in Syria. If we can manage with our current small troop numbers; with our six planes, there is no operational urgency to enter Syrian air space. Unless we are there symbolically to send a message to Russia and Iran.

In announcing that the RAAF will invade Syrian air space to bomb ISIS military targets, Abbott must now face down both Russia and Iran, nations who are now stepping up their support for Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s genocidal regime.

Just how Australia’s new bombing role will be achieved or at what cost is not mentioned. ISIS is embedded amidst the Syrian people. Bombing raids ignore the hard-learned lessons of Vietnam. A guerrilla army cannot be defeated from the air. So Australia is to provoke other nations by embarking on a futile and dangerous mission. Now there’s a captain’s call.

Russia has already condemned Australia’s involvement. A spokesman for Russian Ambassador Vladimir Morozov told the ABC today that US-led airstrikes on IS targets have not achieved much and that what was required was a broad, international coalition.

In the meantime, the Russians are expanding their presence in Iran, a presence which dates back to the soviet era with military arrivals by air reported and two tank carriers arriving by sea. Lebanese sources say that the Russians are establishing two bases, one inland and one on the coast.

In the last few days, Iran has committed soldiers ‘on the ground’ to help Syria. The troops are there ‘in cooperation with’ Vladimir Putin who is also using the presence of ISIS as an excuse to maintain a Russian presence in Syria. There are strategic concerns, a gas pipeline; access to it naval facility at the port of Tartus.

Australia is not alone in deciding to enter Syria. French President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron, have both announced bombing campaigns in Syria. Like Abbott, they have been quick to make claims which justify intervention in Syria as somehow addressing the needs of the mass exodus of Syrian refugees.

Abbott’s solution to the refugee crisis borrows the same crazy logic that the more bombings we conduct over their villages, their homes, their heads, the more likely Syrians will be to decide to stay home.

The Prime Minister has failed to take us into his confidence; failed to explain his real reasons for entering Syria. He cannot say what victory would look like when questioned by journalists. He has moreover, let us know that our presence has no clear end date.

Without aims, without strategy, without explanation, without real political leadership, Australia is being dragged into another foreign conflict which can only end badly for us. Whatever his hopes of improving his party’s chances in Canning, whatever dreams he has of reversing his massive unpopularity, Tony Abbott is looking for trouble in Syria.

Canning Candidate on Ice.

hastie answering question


Liberal Canning candidate, Andrew Hastie, looks like a younger Cory Bernardi, but unlike Bernardi, the would-be representative stubbornly refuses to concede that his own Christian views are any business of the electorate. How could they possibly influence his politics? If only the media would stop asking about his beliefs. He would rather talk about ice.

Hastie, who refuses to be drawn on the topic of creationism, his theologian father’s speciality, today suggested that the WA state government double its current mandatory penalties for ice dealers who serve underage clients; endanger children. It is an unworkable, ill-informed, irresponsibly punitive proposal but it may get him known for being tough on drugs. Above all, it resonates with a government which punishes asylum seekers for arriving by boat; punishes the poor and disadvantaged, the unemployed for being a drain on the Budget bottom line when there are billionaire miners it needs to subsidise.

The Liberal candidate, of course, revealed his hand. In his clumsy bid to divert questions about his father’s creationism and his stunt to gain the attention of an electorate underwhelmed by blow-ins, let alone geeks bearing ice-war gifts, the former SAS captain unwittingly drew national attention to his own limited political, intellectual and moral horizons.

Naturally Hastie needed to change the subject back to fit his image; something manly, some alpha male posturing; an SAS unarmed combat assault on ice rather than admit he is a creationist like his Dad.  The people of Canning are no doubt suitably impressed by this facile substitution. Give us the rhetoric of war and toughness, they plead. Who cares if it is a load of bunkum? Who cares if it after years of it from Barnett, the drug problem is booming?

Andrew Hastie told assembled reporters that he would ignore their questions about his beliefs, his father’s creationism, his wife’s homophobia.

‘People are sick of this crap,’ he said. How does he know? How dare he presume to know? Perhaps they are just keen to know who their new fly-in candidate really is. Perhaps they are rapidly finding out. His last underwhelming stunt was to hire a plane to fly a banner across the skies of Canning towing a banner which read VOTE 1 HASTIE. Doubtless the presumption and the crass sloganeering would endear him to his new-found bestie, the PM.

Class act, Andrew Hastie, as the Liberals have packaged him, was parachuted into the electorate Canning on the death of man of the people Don Randall at the behest of Julie Bishop who says she was greatly impressed with the politically and socially conservative young SAS Captain Hastie when she sat down with him for a chat over morning tea in Afghanistan.

As you do. Of course Hastie was not on his anti-drug crusade at that stage. But he was wearing a uniform.

Drug abuse amongst serving troops would not have entered the conversation. Australia’s military code of denial has helped keep it off the national agenda, too. There is no reason, however, to doubt Hastie’s recent comments that he has had personal experience with friends who had been affected by illegal drugs and was passionate about finding a solution. It is more than likely that some of these may have been soldiers.

Whatever the case, he owes those who suffer ice addiction more than the tired old cliché of a war on ice. He would do well to abandon any macho tough on drugs posturing and explore ways of understanding and treating the needs of those suffering addiction.

Ice is popular with returned soldiers. It is a local substitute for the heroin which is so cheaply and readily available in the narco-state of Afghanistan today, largely as a by-product of western intervention. Whilst the Department of Defence denies that Australian soldiers using heroin or opiates in Afghanistan is a problem, therapists who work with returned servicemen tell a different story.

27,500 Australian soldiers served in Afghanistan since 2001. There have been 40 fatalities. The conflict has been Australia’s most intensive commitment since Vietnam. Yet after Vietnam, those in command knew that many recruits, even those physically unhurt, would not return home unscathed. PTSD rates amongst returning soldiers are about twice the rate of the civilian population. Drug and alcohol abuse is a problem.

A war on drugs is the last thing these returned soldiers need. They have been through enough horror; enough punishment. Surely there is something more useful the aspiring candidate, with all his military insights could be offering. And as for the parliament, the people of Australia already have one Cory Bernardi. Two is one too many.

Time to get real, Mr Hastie. Get some real policy. We have more than enough sloganeering, alpha male shirt-fronters with their meaningless, simplistic ‘solutions’ wasting our time and money in national politics already.

Abbott bombs in Syria before bombing in Canning.

super hornets


Announcing in a Canberra Press Conference today what he calls ‘a logical extension’ of Australia’s campaign in Iraq, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has committed his nation to joining the US in bombing ‘ISIS military targets’ inside the Syrian border in an illegal incursion into another sovereign nation’s air space, a nation embroiled in a brutal civil war, a nation of strategic significance in the Middle East which currently enjoys the support of Iran and Russia.

It is a captain’s call, which Ayatollah Abbott makes once again, an authoritarian, arbitrary decision-making style he prefers to consulting his people or going through parliament, but one which he presents as consultative on the grounds that it has been discussed by his government’s national security committee, a rubber stamp of the executive. Abbott fools no-one.

Proving that he will do anything to revive his political fortune, the most unpopular, least successful Prime Minister in Australian political history confirms also that he is happy to fly by the seat of his pants. Abbott could articulate no specific objectives, in question today, yet he is keen to persuade the electorate, especially the people of Canning, that his commitment of Australia’s token strike force of six elderly Super Hornets is both a significant contribution to the war on ISIS and an insignificant extension to his party’s unswerving pro-US foreign policy. It is neither.

The notion that Australia’s decision adds anything to the largely unsuccessful US bombing strategy is laughable. Even if Australia added another two of its antique aircraft in response to the US ‘tasking cycle’ as it was obscurely described by Head of Armed Force today it would be risible. The nation’s military deployment against ISIS, would remain that of a using pea shooter to halt a mad, charging water buffalo.

Similarly, to present the PM’s decision as a logical extension of Australia’s current military commitment in Iraq is an attempt to hoodwink the nation; an evasion of its illegality and a down-playing of its significance in international law. It is a violation of national sovereignty. Yet is something which it suits the Abbott government to trivialise. Up until now the PM and the Foreign Minister has argued speciously that going into Syria is OK because ISIS disregards the border with Iraq.

What does bombing achieve? Utterly underplayed is the point of bombing and its risks. The 6,500 strikes which the US coalition has completed so far have not halted the advance of ISIS.  Most military experts concur that ISIS will not be stopped by this strategy, however, appealing it may be to a US which does not want to become embroiled in ‘boots on the ground’ warfare .

What is clear is that innocent civilians will be killed. An Australian raid on a suspected IS weapons factory, on December 21 last year appears to have led to the deaths of a woman and a child according to a US Central Command report obtained by the ABC. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop responds that the government is aware of the incident but that the deaths have not been confirmed, whatever that may mean in a war zone. The report compiled by coalition pilots and ground forces lists dozens of other possible civilian deaths which are downgraded in military jargon to ‘casualty incidents.’

In the Vietnam war the term collateral damage enjoyed currency as the deaths of ordinary innocent civilians, the destruction of normal everyday life was presented as an unfortunate by product of virtuous military campaigns. Today, the killing and maiming of innocent people should  be seen for what it is an inevitable part of war, especially the preferred war in the air, the massive series of bombings which US has co-opted us into. Australia won’t make a bit of difference to the outcome. But today’s commitment may add a few points to the Abbott government’s polls at home.

The bigger picture is no less distressing. Whatever short term bounce in the polls Abbott may enjoy, if indeed there is any bounce at all, the PM has helped commit Australia to a taxing and unwinnable conflict; taken another step towards becoming a part of another US military ‘solution’ to a complex, intractable uprising that will not yield to air force power.

ISIS will not be stopped by bombing in Syria. The next step could well be a call for boots on the ground. Yet even if it is not drawn into another Afghanistan, Australia has aligned itself with the US against Iran and Russia in a conflict which it has no hope of either winning; no hope of easy retreat.   Yet if ISIS needs confirmation of its propaganda that the US and the west is conspiring or colluding against it, for reasons of their own, Abbott’s announcement today is right on script.

And if the voters in the rapidly approaching Canning by-election need any more evidence that the Liberals campaign is not ‘all about the people of Canning’ but is rather the last desperate act of a failed Prime Minister and an incompetent government, his declaration of war on ISIS in Syria, today indelibly fits the bill.

Shame on you, ABC, repeating Abbott government lies about Australia’s refugee intake.

syrian refugees


Australians, per capita, have nothing to boast about with regard to helping refugees.  On the contrary, UNHCR statistics show that we are an embarrassing 27th place in the world or 46th if you consider our relative wealth in GDP. And it is a concerning long term trend as is our asylum seeker policy of pretending that those who seek asylum by boat are somehow not real refugees, a strategy which allows us to put them into prison camps on Nauru and Manus Island where they must endure the punishment of indefinite detention and brutality at the hands of guards to teach others a lesson.

In 2013, moreover, Australia took a giant step backwards when our incoming ultra-right Abbott government made a politically expedient cut to our total intake of refugees of 30%. It was one of the first acts of the new government. Yet to hear our politicians on our ABC currently and to hear journalists such as James Carleton on RN Breakfast this morning, you would think we were a nation of over-achieving humanitarians, doing so much heavy lifting in refugee resettlement that we are all in danger of developing compassion fatigue. Nothing could be further from the truth.

And while we are far from the truth, let’s start with our PM and his ministers Robb, Dutton who are so morally irresponsible, so blinkered or indoctrinated by their own propaganda that they can repeat the claim that Australia ‘takes more refugee and humanitarian entrants,’ than any other country, as Tony Abbott put it on radio 5 September.

It is grossly irresponsible not to add that this claim is true only if you ignore 96.9% of refugees in the world and confine comparisons to the miniscule 3.1% resettled by the UN.

If you redefine who is a refugee, in other words, if you exclude roughly 97% of all other refugees, you can brag. Most Australians would be ashamed if they knew the truth. Instead, a shameful lie is perpetrated upon the unwary.

It is more than shameful, moreover, that this pernicious lie is repeated on our ABC Monday and Tuesday. Australians trust their ABC. But, then, that’s the tactic. Repeat the lie until it is believed; accepted as truth; received wisdom. No-one will bother to check the facts – even if all they have to do is visit the UNHCR website.

In 2014 UNHCR data shows the 14,350 refugees recognised or resettled in Australia during 2014 made up 0.43% of the global total. Australia ranks 22nd overall, 27th on a per capita basis and 46th relative to total national GDP.

It has been much the same for the previous ten years. 141,047 refugees were recognised or resettled by Australia.  This was 1.16% of the global total of 12,107,623 which earns Australia 23rd rank overall, 27th per capita and 46th relative to national GDP.

Australia’s PM has earned international censure for his party’s stance towards refugees, most recently in an editorial in The New York Times 5 September.

‘Prime Minister Tony Abbott has overseen a ruthlessly effective effort to stop boats packed with migrants, many of them refugees, from reaching Australia’s shores. His policies have been inhumane, of dubious legality and strikingly at odds with the country’s tradition of welcoming people fleeing persecution and war.’

The editor notes that European officials have travelled to Australia recently and quotes an International Organisation for Migration spokesman who explains that while politicians may love fences, the fences such as those built by our asylum seeker policies in fact create further suffering, adding to, rather than alleviating the world’s growing refugee and humanitarian crisis. It is inexcusable that people fleeing emergencies should end up finding themselves in conditions more desperate, more hopeless and degrading than those which forced them to flee their homes.

Australians deserve better than to be fed lies which cruelly distort the truth about its policies towards refugees. Now we are experiencing a wave of compassion for refugees from Syria, a compassion triggered by images of a three year old boy washed ashore on a Turkish beach.

Compassion is to be encouraged, however, belated its discovery, provided it is not confused with sentimentality. Now that we have glimpsed the truth, perhaps, been helped to understand the truth about what it means to be one of the 19.5 million refugees in the world today, more of us will demand an end to indefinite detention and the daily brutalities of our camps on Nauru, Manus Island. But only if we demand the truth from our politicians, expect the truth from our national broadcaster.

Shame on the ABC for lamely accepting the lies of its politicians for in repeating those lies it allows itself to become an instrument of propaganda. Shame on our political leaders who in seeking power through manipulation and deception demean all Australians.

Abbott Government of secrets and lies will bomb Syria yet refuses to take in Syrian refugees.

port melville


Averting its eyes from a stock market bear rampaging in the China shop, turning its back on the Syrian refugee crisis but effectively planning  to help Assad in his genocide by bombing his ISIS enemies for him, a narcissistic Abbott Government of secrets and lies turned inward to embrace its own feral inner Panda, spin its ChAFTA Free Trade Deal and claim the June Quarter ABS statistics vindicate its economic plan whereas to most other observers they reveal an economy standing still, living standards in decline and a nation increasingly out of work.

In Canning, however, it was all about the people of Canning as Andrew Hastie, the Liberal candidate, a former SAS soldier promised to meet voters’ needs with a war on ice which he would fight with his bare hands and totally without funding.

A bromance broke out instantly between Hastie and his PM and the candidate was able to turn away questions about his creationist theologian father, Peter Hastie and any other personal questions which might give the electorate some glimpse of his real identity and beliefs.

It was all about being on message and on course for the incoherent and directionless government. ‘A bugger’s muddle,’ Trade Minister Robb, bravely reprising 1950s slang, told ABC Insiders on Sunday, would result if government were duped into providing protection for Australian workers from cheaper Chinese workers on 457 Visas which Labor had invented anyway.

Robb’s case was seldom clear enough to persuade let alone inform but he left viewers with the perfect collective noun for the bugger’s muddle that is his party’s policies.

A buggered Abbott Government was on task, policy or not, pursuing its core business of displaying unity to the party room through infighting, finger-pointing, fear-mongering and self-delusion as MPs bickered, back-stabbed and passed the buck all week. Labor, a jihadist ABC and Fairfax came in for a serve for failing to act like News Corp, the party’s propaganda arm.

Yet not even News Corp could explain away the miraculous dirty, big re-fuelling port which has miraculously popped up on pristine Melville Island without so much as a Yakka Skink of an environmental study, acquired, it seems, like the British Empire in a fit of absence of mind.

Absent also was the PM’s mind. Tony Abbott who himself sets the bar high in displaying moral leadership, enriched the national conversation, in his captain’s gaffe of the week by effortlessly offending the Jewish community and many others with his gratuitous nonsense about the Nazis being a class act in evil-doing because their shame dictated they kept their wicked deeds hidden.

‘I mean, the Nazis did terrible evil but they had a sufficient sense of shame to try to hide it,” he said relaxing in the weekly hot tub and rub down offered him by his pal Alan Jones’, another popular historian and ethicist, thereby giving top ranking to the pure evil ISIS mob who flaunt their atrocities and also amply confirming that his grasp of history does not extend beyond yesterday.

Abbott’s idiotic comment played into the hands of the ISIS propaganda unit; guaranteeing more local recruits. At least the PM gave Alan Jones’ listeners plenty to talk about. He showed he could still insult, alienate and divide with the best of them, even if he was a dead man walking awaiting the outcome in Canning.

Just to make this message crystal clear, however, our pocket moral philosopher PM explained that our nation should heed the plight of Syrian refugees because we have stopped the boats and prevented drownings. So far Abbott has dismissed suggestions that Australia make any provision to take any extra refugees saying that we already take more refugees than other countries, noting that last year we agreed to take 4,400 refugees from Northern Iraq and Eastern Syria areas where the death cult is active, glossing over the civil war which Assad wages on his own people, in favour of demonising ISIS.

Achieving its KPI of at least one major stuff up per day meant the Abbott oxymoron kept pace with its target In a star-studded, hotly contested field, Joe Hockey and Peter Dutton easily won a dead heat for best whinger because the Fairfax media and the ABC are always out to get them but best all round performance was Greg Hunt’s Tiwi Islands magical mystery port.

Hunt narrowly defeated the PM and his Treasurer who called a midweek press conference to axe Labor’s bank deposit guarantee levy; to axe a tax which wasn’t a tax and which didn’t exist.

Every other MP sought someone else to blame or frame for the mess they had, by and large, got themselves into, apart from our work experience boy the Environment Minister who discovered that a massive $130 million port has been built on Melville Island with no environmental oversight.

Even Hunt will have trouble blaming ‘vigilante lawfare,’ for his latest cockup but he’s sure to come up with something. Perhaps it will be Labor’s fault for getting into bed with the Greens to sabotage investment, development and progress. Or those Top End, bottom-feeding bastards who go crazy over a barrel of pork. Or diesel.

A 2007 cyclone demolished a wharf intended to support a proposed forestry scheme on Melville, the biggest island in the Tiwis. Reconstruction started last year but mysteriously, magically, the project morphed into a major port designed to handle ships up to 200 metres, making fifty visits a month in a 24 hour re-fuelling operation.

Port Melville will store 30 million litres of diesel or 15% of the entire NT fuel storage capacity according to NT Labor MP, Senator Nova Peris. Of course, no-one knows anything; no-one is talking, least of all, curiously, the mouth from the south, the wind-eating Gregory Hunt, MP.

Using documents obtained under FOI, New Matilda reports that ‘… in partnership with the local Tiwi Land Council, the original developers of the expansion – a Singapore-based company called Ezion Holdings – hoped to use the port to service the growing Timor Strait oil and gas industry.’

Hunt seems to have either fallen asleep at the wheel or been too busy looking up Wikipedia to notice while a major offshore oil and gas supply base was constructed, a port which now stands poised to pollute a pristine Top End waterway, to say nothing of the thirty-eight endangered species in the area which its construction and operation threaten.

In May, the NT Environment Minister, Gary Higgins and former planning Minister, channelling Clark and Dawe in a script worthy of Utopia appeared to have a lend of Greg when they told the ABC that a loophole in environmental legislation had rendered them powerless to stop the development. Besides, proper processes were followed.

Mr Higgins said developers were supposed to submit to him environmental impact statements if required by the NT Environmental Protection Agency (NTEPA), and Mr Higgins would then pass on those statements to the responsible minister. His explanation deserves a place in history alongside the Nuremberg as the Melville Defence.

‘The responsible minister for port development is a loophole in the legislation,’ Mr Higgins told reporters.

‘There is no responsible minister for signing off on a port development.’

Mr Chandler said it was the responsibility of the EPA and the Federal Government to step in if they believed a development was not fit for approval.

So how and why did the Federal government fail to act? The Department of the Environment blames overworked staff, and claims they had been conned. Potentially ‘false and misleading information’ has been provided to investigators. A bit like the Minister’s emissions targets he plans to take to Paris at the end of the year.

Hunt seems to have shut up about Port Melville in the hope that it will all go away. Mainstream media have been helpfully silent. Expect federal government spin doctors to have a (well-fertilised) field day. They certainly got into gear on economic news this week.

While ABS figures for the June quarter showed Australia’s economic growth stalling with falls in construction, mining and living standards, our own Dr Pangloss, Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey was typically upbeat, claiming his ‘plan’ is working and that something he calls ‘our over-arching goals’ will be met.

The fact that he doesn’t seem to have much of a plan did not deter his optimism although he did concede that he ‘wouldn’t get too complacent,’ carefully choosing words associated with a positive set of figures.

If Hockey’s promise not to break out the champagne just yet did not pass the sniff test for most ordinary punters, it certainly inflamed his fiercest critics, most of whom are in his own party.  Julie Bishop did not deny she had barrelled the PM about Joe’s vote-losing manifest incompetence six months ago but of course she would not be drawn into any speculation over the identity of the phantom cabinet leaker. Besides, she had enough on her hands supporting her vice captain’s pick, former SAS Captain Andrew Hastie, as they patrolled the malls of Canning, while those Labor traitors ran dead.

Or so she claimed, implying that Labor would rather keep the incumbent incompetent whom they could easily beat next election. Some took this as a swipe at her PM.

The noise was deafening, even for the Liberals. Already razor-sharpened knives were honed for the scapegoating of the hapless Hockey schlockmeister, who despite outperforming all others bar his boss and cabin boy Hunt in the bullshit stakes, is far and away Australia’s worst treasurer. Hockey who has helped bring the Australian economy to a full stop and who has boosted real unemployment towards ten per cent did not miss a beat.

The Treasurer immediately accused the media, once again, of undermining government, while bagging ‘fringe whingers’ in Federal Cabinet for telling the press, the PM should sack him.

One of the Tony Abbotts claiming to be the PM told reporters ‘no one had raised it with him,’ possibly because he is part of the plan. Arthur Sinodinis, the unimpeachable, called for Abbott to sack the rats; especially the leakers. Peter ‘Chucky’ Dutton saw a Jihadist anti-government conspiracy being plotted by the ABC in cahoots with Fairfax. Yet all was not lost, papyrus-faced Dyson Dinosaur Heydon applied his best solipsistic black letter vision to adjudge himself fit to proceed in a legalistic clean bill of health which will satisfy neither the community nor the trade unions but which did his own ego a power of good.

In a ruling which is guaranteed to create further trouble for the government, Heydon diced definitions of perceived bias in his own case wafer thin and on Monday at 2:02pm, served up his meagre but adequate offering with a judicious sprinkling of precedent, as you might expect from a learned black letter jurist. Should they not boycott the commission, expect unionists to plead in their defence that they ‘overlooked’ key details and that they don’t even plan to own a computer.

Abbott’s expansion of his humanitarian bombing into Syria will be announced soon in timing which has nothing to do with the Canning by-election but which reflects the need for careful consideration by the government’s intelligence and security committee which will have to factor in how long it takes to procure the necessary extra bunting for what is sure to be a twelve flag announcement.

Why are you forcing the FTA with China upon us Mr Abbott? Is it for your gain or ours?

chinese PM


China’s uniquely regulated stock market crash may not prove to be the great fall of China so widely predicted nor is the Bling Dynasty, China’s obscenely wealthy elite, finished yet, but it what is certain is that the slowing economy of Australia’s largest trading partner has bust our mining boom and that our politics will never be the same. Liberal governments, in particular, who banked on the good times lasting forever have been caught with their pants down.

Suddenly, as Paul Krugman puts it, Australia, like Canada has the wrong exports and ‘is kind of in the wrong place in the world right now but has other strengths.’ The best, however, the Abbott government could grasp last week was the fig leaf of its Free Trade Deal with China to cover its nakedness; its failure to plan; its lack of initiative; its poverty of policy.

Liberals hope to sell us the China deal as an achievement which atones for decades of failure to plan. Above all, Tony Abbott plans to wedge Labor. Labor is not opposed to the deal, Blinky Bill Shorten makes clear, but he is not going to commit to a deal which permits Chinese firms to import their own cheap labour and do Aussies out of a job. Shorten says nothing about the FTA empowering China to sue the Australian government should one of our laws impede any of its projects. He ignores the ways in which the deal opens up Australia to some significant labour market deregulation.

A Chinese firm bringing in workers under 457 Visas on a construction project, for example, get to negotiate the wages with the department of Immigration and Border Protection. Details will be kept secret. In this and in other ways, the deal with China could represent a major assault on Australia’s construction industry, but perhaps this its real attraction to the Abbott government. Perhaps this is why it is strangely reluctant to offer any details.

The coalition unable to instance one concrete benefit has its bid trumped by Labor’s specific objection. Shorten’s challenge, moreover, resonates with the people of Canning according to ReachTEL opinion polls in the electorate this week.  Yet pressure is put on Shorten when state Labor leaders go all the way with the FTA. Abbott seizes on this to demand an end to Labor’s intransigence.

The PM references the weight of opinion, hoping we have forgotten his contempt for the weight of opinion on marriage equality. The weight of opinion, he says or on even within Labor ranks, is for the agreement to pass by November for the sake of the economy.

‘Quite frankly, Bill Shorten is playing fast and loose with our future – this free trade agreement sets Australia up for decades to come,’ he said whilst offering no detail as to how or why. Although the argument is one which is couched in terms of the national interest, this is windy rhetoric. The proposed Australia-China deal, like the Trans Pacific Partnership, is mostly about entrenching the power of monopolies, about preserving the power of a ruling elite. It promise bugger all for the nation and less than nothing for the average punter.

At present, however, what matters is the politics. The deal is a useful blunt weapon for the coalition to wedge the traitor Bill Shorten, the union bastard for daring to ask questions about workers’ or any other kind of protection before hopping into bed with a complete stranger whose details have been kept low key.

Even the Productivity Commission reports that bilateral trade deals ‘lack transparency and tend to oversell the likely benefits.’ Yet we are being rushed into something which appears to offer huge political benefits to the Abbott government in terms of labour deregulation but less than nothing, including unemployment and poorer working conditions to our workers in return. Australians deserve better than this.

Stop pretending and start behaving like a real treasurer, Mr Hockey.

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Joe Hockey is upbeat. He has to be. Disingenuous frauds have no other choice. For a government that prides itself on having economic management ‘in its DNA,’ a government forever banging on like the proverbial empty vessel about jobs and growth, the truth hurts.

Unemployment is up 0.5% from July and a year ago while growth is almost at a standstill according to the ABS June 2015 quarter National Accounts. A slow-down in mining and construction and a 3% decline in exports have reduced the economy’s growth to 0.2% or half the predicted rate.

Unemployment is up 0.5% since July bringing the real unemployment to 9.2% and rising says Roy Morgan.

There are new jobs, of course. Yet the 3000,000 new jobs Coalition MPs boast that the federal government has ‘created,’ are not enough to meet an expanding workforce. Nor did they create many of them. Apart from the recently hiring of a mob of ABF recruits or in the case of creating a wind farm commissioner, or paying the crew of people-smuggling boat to turn back to Indonesia the ultra-right Abbott government does not create jobs.

It’s just the opposite. As CPSU National Secretary points out the coalition has been quick to save on its wages bill by sacking masses of public servants and by chiselling away at the quality of work available to those who retain a job .

“The Abbott Government has slashed 17,300 public sector jobs since taking office and now it’s going after the conditions, rights and take-home wages of 160,000 Australians who work in the public sector.”

Infected by tea party rhetoric about ‘small government’ and keen to cut expenditure where they can, the coalition has slashed public service jobs and clamped down on even modest wage increases. The flow-on effects as workers and their families must suddenly make do with a loss of income, not to mention the incalculable costs to well-being add significantly to the slowing of the economy.

Public service cuts are sold by the treasurer and ‘economies’, ‘savings’ and even productivity dividends. Beneath the bullshit, workers struggle to complete projects with fewer colleagues to assist; morale plummets; efficiency declines.

Perhaps the false economy of cutbacks explains the recent catastrophic failures of the Department of the Environment to perform due diligence in the required environmental studies for the Carmichael Mine or their failing to do any study at all in the scandalous Tiwi Port project which has been built without any environmental consideration whatsoever. Certainly, a reality-denying, ideologically-driven culture in cabinet does not help. Hockey is a major repeat offender.

Nominal GDP grew at 1.8% for the year, according to the ABS, its weakest growth rate since 1961-2, a comment which the Treasurer seems unwilling to accept., arguing that it is in line with ‘over-arching expectations’ and a target of 2.5%. Hockey bluffs that the figures ‘bounce around’ a bit when what he has in front of him is not bouncing but steadily declining. The government likes to apply the same spin to its consistent and continuing record decline in 27 straight opinion polls. No-one is deceived.

It’s about as bad as it gets without turning into a recession, an event defined by two successive quarters of negative growth. We are not there yet. But everything is going to plan, according to our Treasurer. Plan? Recession-led community security? We can hardly wait.

Hockey shrugs off suggestions that the high points of the National Accounts data, are part of his plan. Government spending on three new warships has helped tipped growth into a marginally positive territory. Total government spending increased by 3.4% also contributed to delivering growth of 0.2%.

Yet for Hockey this one positive is to be explained away. ‘It wasn’t planned that way,’ he says of the three warships. Sadly he and his government are wedded to government cuts – austerity. It is against his religion, his neo-con ideology to concede any evidence that state investment in the right projects could be part of any plan to support economic activity in challenging times.

The same windmills which Hockey finds ugly on his drive past Lake George are a solution staring him and his Prime Minister in the kisser. A government lead in boosting Australia’s renewable energy industry would be a prudent investment in job creation and in longer term benefits to the economy and environment. Its attacks on the renewable energy industry, sadly expose its lack of vision.

The coal-powered coalition needs to get over its ideological block towards Keynsian economic investment; its mindless opposition to alternative energy and go cold turkey on coal. It cannot afford to continue its servile protection of a fossil-fuel industry not only heading for history’s dustbin itself, but likely to take us with it.

In the end the current account figures reveal some concerning trends which call for more than head-shaking. Hockey needs to abandon his pretence that we are still ‘on trend’. His government needs to get its blinkers off, wake up to itself and take the lead. Intervene. Subsidise solar and wind. Instead of wasting money we don’t have to prop up a dying coal industry, we don’t need and can’t afford.

Put some money into industries with a future. Create jobs and export opportunities. Harness Aussie ingenuity. Build a clean future. If that’s all too hard, then get out of the way. Make way for someone who can. But stop pretending, please.

What is the truth about Andrew Hastie, Liberal candidate for Canning?

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“Out of respect for the Australians I led overseas I took a position going into this election that I was not going to talk about operational matters … As I have said previously, not everything goes to plan in any aspect of life, let alone in a high-pressure war zone where people are trying to kill you.’ Andrew Hastie, Liberal candidate for Canning

Who is Andrew Hastie? What is he trying to hide? Why is there still no campaign biography of him?

Could it be, as military sources have it that Hastie is still under investigation by the Army for his role in an incident 28 April last year in Zabul, Afghanistan in which an Australian SAS corporal severed the hands of three dead Taliban fighters, claiming that the mutilation was ‘out of military necessity’?  SAS troops were instructed to collect fingerprints.

The official version is that the corporal, who is still under investigation, was acting on advice given by an officer from the Australian Defence Force Investigative Service (ADFIS), who lectured a group of SAS soldiers on April 19 during a training session at the Australian base at Tarin Kowt.

The ADFIS officer told them it did not matter how the fingerprints were taken and that it would be acceptable to chop off the hands of the dead and bring them back to base for identification purposes. Although this account appears to be widely and uncritically repeated, it has raises more questions than it answers.

One problem with this version is that such behaviour violates ADF regulations ‘the remains of the dead be respected’ and international law. Article 15 of the Geneva Convention states:

“At all times, and particularly after an engagement, Parties to the conflict shall, without delay, take all possible measures to search for and collect the wounded and sick, to protect them against pillage and ill-treatment, to ensure their adequate care, and to search for the dead and prevent their being despoiled.”

What we do know is that former reactionary PM, military fetishist and US sycophant John Howard joined Tony Abbott to hold Andy’s hand as they tried to con voters that the people of Canning are what matters in the campaign today. Just how successful their help would be is open to question.

Abbott is the greatest promise-breaker Liberal PM in history. Howard is an ultra-conservative who turned back the clock on a raft of social and political issues and who lied about Iraq and invented Tampa to win an election over Keating. Would you buy a used captain from this duo?

What happened to ‘open and transparent government?’ The amazing case of former senior Victorian Liberal Damien Mantach who it seems was helped to allegedly embezzle over a million dollars because he could hide his past should warn the Liberals about the dangers of running a dark horse.  Yet with the Canning by election, they seem to be at it again.

Mr Mantach was forced to resign as the Tasmanian Liberal party’s state director in 2008 because he ran up personal expenses of $48,000 on a party credit card. The money was repaid but not disclosed on the party’s annual return.

Mantach not only embezzled money in his role in Tasmania, however, he proceeded to do far more damage to the Liberal brand and their reputation as money managers when he became state director for the Victorian Liberals. Up to 1.5 million is missing. This was not because his past was unknown but because somehow vital information about his past was not communicated.  Information, Liberals tell us increasingly is something they have a right to withhold.

From his arrogant comments to The Guardian yesterday the tight-lipped Hastie is the very model of an uncommunicative modern Abbott government Liberal. He refuses to answer the questions that matter in a manner which tells us that he believes he has every right to withhold the truth.

Rather than respond to a fair and reasonable question about his past, the former SAS captain cites operational matters forbid his divulging details of his past.

Hastily parachuted into the electorate in a desperate captain’s pick by a Tony Abbott whose future rides on the result it seems that due diligence has been discarded in the rush to pick a candidate who fits the PM’s fetish for the military. Voters, it is implied, have no right to ask who Hastie is. The young man is a soldier, a superior being, a man of courage and action, for God’s sake. Isn’t that enough?

Michelle Grattan delineates Abbott’s secrecy and quasi-military drill:

‘The Coalition, just because it can, withholds information on the most spurious grounds, excuses the inexcusable, tolerates what it would have vociferously condemned in Labor’s day. Moreover, learning only selectively from the Howard experience, it has compromised the military, using it not just to execute policy but as a political shield.’

Hastie’s introduction to the electorate is profoundly disturbing. He is pulling down the blind of operational secrecy. And he gets his party leader’s backing. It is not good enough for any accountable politician and it is certainly not good enough from a candidate who should be making it clear who he is and why he should be elected. ‘Operational matters’ do not apply. They never have.

The phrase which Scott Morrison lifted from military, is applied to anything that the government does not want to reveal about its inhumane, punitive immigration and detention policy; its preparedness to do whatever it takes including paying of people smugglers or paying 40 million to Cambodia to take four refugees off Nauru, in an abortive scheme which was originally based around resettling a thousand asylum-seekers.

Andrew Hastie needs to explain who he is and why he is a suitable candidate for the Canning of electorate and the parliament of Australia. The government and the people do not need another dud captain’s pick chosen impulsively because his background and his deeply conservative values make him of use to a failing PM desperate to exploit every opportunity he can to survive in power.

Border Force victim of media Jihadi witch hunt conspiracy rants paranoid Minister Dutton

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‘the reality is there is a bit of a jihad being conducted against the government by Fairfax at the moment …

they’re being helped by the ABC as well, there’s no question about that …’ Peter Dutton on Skynews and on ABC Radio 1 September

In his quixotic crusade to keep the nation safe, a mission which is fraught with grave risks for himself and for a largely unsuspecting nation our Immigration Minister, Chucky lookalike, Peter Dutton took the morning out from policing our streets and borders to win our hearts and minds, take us into his confidence after yesterday dismissing out of hand as a ‘political witch hunt,’ the senate select committee’s report into alleged sexual abuse and its recommendations for reforms on Nauru.

It proved a disturbing experience. Dutton buttonholed a series of media hosts only to make some wild accusations; a series of crackpot rantings suggesting that all is not well with the Minister or his government.

Dutton accused Fairfax and the ABC of conspiring to bring the government down. It was a rude shock to most listeners who foolishly expected some form of ministerial responsibility. He had bobbed up, we reasonable assumed, to take questions about Operation Fortitude; deal with the fallout over his Friday Border Force fiasco in Melbourne and with anything else that needed clearing up. Instead he went on the attack.

On ABC Radio National’s AM programme Peter Dutton was asked a fluffy question about how the coalition could get back on course; communicate its message to voters. Dutton immediately leapt into the media. It was not that his government has little coherent to communicate, but that media organisations were conspiring to sabotage everything his government tries to do. Aside from the fact that the government has been doing a fine job of self-sabotage, the attack on the media was as ill-judged as it was alarming. The man is not travelling well.

Nor is the government travelling well as it lurches from crisis to catastrophe. The recent debacle in Flinders street being but the latest in a sequence of bizarre stunts and stuff ups. Even more alarming, apart from hopping into public enemies  number one the ABC and Fairfax, the PM and his Immigration Minister have assured media that Operation Fortitude was perfectly normal. Or SNAFU, to use military slang.

‘What was happening as part of this Victorian police operation to, I gather, crack down on anti-social and unlawful activity at transport hubs, was that anyone who the Victorian police suspected might have a visa issue would then be referred to Australian Border Force in the normal way,’ the Prime Minister told reporters in western Sydney Friday.

So what went wrong? If it was normal, why was it announced beforehand? The government has yet to reconcile an array of conflicting explanations and eye-witness accounts. Some of these are not reassuring.

Friday was ‘our first hit out in community safety operations,’ a senior official explained, using an unfortunate metaphor.

But not only is the media to blame, it’s the media AND Labor. This all started when reporters went ape after Labor, in the final stages of the last government and we’ve just been dropped into their mess, Dutton volunteered. He could have added that the officers were entirely within the law in their plans to ask for papers.

The newly amended Migration and Maritime Powers legislation Act permits  an authorised officer to ask for information from someone the officer “knows or reasonably suspects is a non-citizen”.

Border Force officials have a range of powers to enforce migration laws, including the power to compel a person to produce such documents as visas and tax file numbers to check whether they are an unlawful non-citizen.

Until Friday’s disaster the ABF has been going from strength to strength since its creation by the Abbott government in July. Recruiting is proceeding apace to meet plans for some five to six thousand officers. Most are to be trained in the use of force.

A government which must cut welfare, hospitals and schools can afford 10 million so far, on signage and quasi-military uniforms for their new border enforcers. Officers taught racial profiling to help target their community protection. It is an alarming assault on our democratic society by a government which is increasingly secretive and autocratic.

Now the force is being road tested as we saw in Melbourne last Friday. Other recent trial manoeuvres include ‘Operation Brothel Creep’, an assault last Wednesday on Top End massage parlours which saw 19 NT ‘establishments’ raided in a joint operation with police. None of this is adequately explained. Instead we are treated to an attack on the messenger, the media for challenging or holding to account a government increasingly out of control.

We don’t want to hear that the operation was normal. Spare us your nut-bag conspiracy distractions Mr Dutton. The Australian people need to know why we need an armed paramilitary force at all.

After Friday’s sneak preview, it is clear that the minister must apologise, resign and that his ‘border force’ goon squad be disbanded immediately. The uniforms could be donated to the next gay Mardis Gras.