Month: December 2015

A very merry Abbott/Turnbull Christmas (Inc) message…


Jesus said, ‘I was a stranger and you invited me in’ Matthew 25:31-46

‘The “decision-maker” has to weigh up whether or not somebody coming to Australia is likely to make a claim for protection or stay at a cost to the taxpayer’.

Peter Dutton on whether to allow a dying man’s family to visit.


Politicians exploit our attentuated Christmas attention-spans for a variety of jolly purposes. It is that time of year when we let our guard down; pause from our annual travail in the saltmines to reflect on the finer and deeper things of life, such as eating drinking and making merry. All the while being publicly and privately serenaded at every turn by angels on high letting us know that the spirit of Christmas (Inc) is big business.

What better time for Greg Hunt to finally approve Adani’s Carmichael mine, the biggest in Australia, none of us wants, needs or can pay for? Greg hopes we’ll all be too fonged to care; too tiddly with Christmas spirit to notice the Carmichael mine’s unacceptable risks to the climate, the region’s groundwater, biodiversity and economy.

Hunt ignores the impact of greenhouse gas emissions from burning the coal produced by the mine confirming his government’s preparedness to completely disengage with global climate change imperatives. Adani’s approval means no chance of even a 2 per cent growth in CO2 emissions.

What better time to threaten penalty rates?  Our lowest paid workers need cuts to their wages to help with the Christmas shopping.  What better time to forget that our environment policy is a fantasy, like Santa and his reindeer. Or the Christmas spirit, whatever that is when it’s at home.

What’s that?  Direct Action, along with our increased pollution after repeal of the carbon tax means no show of meeting even a 2% carbon reduction target? Bring on Bing and the Mills Brothers!

Bing, the Mills Brothers, Andrews sisters – vast armies of goodwill troopers are despatched out of Hollywood HQ on their Christmas mission; to spread goodwill as thick and sickly-sweet as brandy butter while loosening our wallets and purses with sentimental Christmas classics. No-one has time to post warnings about endangered reefs or species.

Christmas causes panic attacks in supermarkets. ‘Consumers’ since that’s how we’ve all been branded, repackaged, repurposed by a post-industrial society, succumb to anxiety and guilt. Bad thoughts prey on us. Bad feelings about our own reciprocity, generosity and acceptance – even our own authenticity.

xmas spirit is liquor

Add ersatz Christmas cheer to this toxic brew and you’ve got a lethal cocktail which can sleigh you in the aisles. Brought to you courtesy of the happiness industry (inc.) an affiliate of the international arms trade, Schmaltz takes no prisoners.

Commerce does a backflip. Any other time of the year it addicted to competition and lowering wages and conditions. Now it changes its tune. Suddenly commerce pesters everybody to show goodwill to all men and women, quite drowning out your seasonal greeting to your neighbour; your warning to your elderly mother she better not start too early on the gin or Christmas brandy.

But every year the Christmas industry starts earlier and earlier. Why? Do we look like we just can’t get given enough of this Christmas message stuff? Or is there more to it than mere supply and demand? What do our leaders have to say for themselves?

Her Majesty and the no less imperious illusionist, Malcolm Turnbull, the Jay Gatsby of Point Piper, have been hard at it, messaging unity and goodwill. Mal’s a late subsitute in the leadership stakes. He overcame his personal unpopularity with his colleagues to win a leadership spill –  but it takes more than that to become an effective PM.

Libs hate Turnbull for his arrogance and his fat head but most don’t want any more shenanigans from Abbott. Nobody loves even a Noel know all but Abbott just had to go. But not far enough, it seems.

Isn’t Plan T working well, for them now? Mal can’t even duck out of the office without mad dog Abbott getting on his case. As a PM he is a well-spoken lame duck. Or stuffed turkey.

Beholden to the Nationals for their support in landing him Abbott’s scalp and with Abbott himself out-bidding Donald for hawkish foreign policy and ‘anti-terror’ bullshit, Turnbull is Sisyphus in a gilded cage.

Trapped between the National’s conservatism and their baffled by anything post 1950 world outlook, Turnbull must daily, fruitlessly roll the immense boulder of his massive ambition. Only to have the Nationals roll it downhill every night. Abbott meanwhile pecks daily at his liver and his lights and snipes at him from the Daily Telegraph for being such a wuss.

Mal’s mythic predicament and patent, epic absurdity upstages any mealy-mouthed message of goodwill he may come contrive with his media unit, his stable of failed journos and former advertising copywriters. Mal says it’s a special time.

‘This is a very special time as the year comes to an end and we draw closer to family and dear friends – fond reminiscence of a year gone by and looking forward to a new year with anticipation and excitement,’

Turnbull begins safely with tepid banality before a plunge into controversy and confected social conscience.

‘But for many of us it is not so happy. Poverty, loneliness, illness, the loss of loved ones – these shadows hang heavier at Christmas.’

True words, Mr Turnbull. What are you going to do about this You are PM. Aren’t you? No sign of anything like a call to action. Turnbull’s last line on his Christmas card plunges into bathos and wilful blindness. For Mal and the rest of his party, it is never about addressing our rush into inequality. Or protecting workers’ wages and entitlements. It’s not about anything that will cost him anything. Words are cheap.

‘We can lift some of those shadows by sharing our love with others – beyond our family and close friends.’ True words, Mr Turnbull, true words. Trust you to put your mouth where your money is.

What is it with the message thing? Turnbull is just going through the motions. Why bother? Do our leaders believe we are somehow lost or morally and metaphysically bewildered children all year? Great comfort and joy awaits us at last being set straight by the rich and powerful. Won’t see it as a prelude to being done over once again?

The Christmas message is a bit like a rescue on the high seas of our impudent self-determination. A kindly government figure or ancient, flatulent, atavistic royal, commandeers our unseaworthy craft, stepping into our lives and on our toes yet utterly unabashed. They have that right. Just as they have a right to completely ignore our plight all the rest of the year. After all what have we done to merit their attention?


Lilibet, as Queen Elizabeth II is known to her intimate family, has sensibly augmented her hereditary power by continuing her family’s practice of putting their royal hands in commoners’ pockets over the ages. She is worth 44 billion pounds, according to Forbes, and the richest woman in the world, we never tire of telling one another, as if obscene wealth is unarguably licence to do anything. It could, however, pay for a few schools and hospitals.

Wealth helps give Lilibet the right to know what’s best for us while supercharging and fine-tuning her common touch. You see it when she meets her cringing and curtseying people, too.

But we commoners give Her Maj a bit of hand, too. We all love a bit of dominance with our submission and mindless subservience and economic servitude. Nothing like being taken for granted or emotionally punished around Christmas time as mothers, especially, can attest. So, bring on the Christmas Mess. Send us back to our tormentors and detractors, Lizzie. Turn us back, Mr Turnbull. We know it’s what we all so richly deserve. It’s a necessary ritual, clearly, a self-abasement with someone powerful standing over us to do the bits we can’t reach.

Seen in this light, you can’t beat a top Christmas ‘mess’. It’s a quality conversation, delivered by a professional ear-basher. So easy, too. All you have to do is be told. Like the conversation Turnbull plans for us about taxation. Or penalty rates. Nothing like having your bearings forcibly reset for you by a stranger with delusions of eternal superiority and the means to achieve it. Nothing like some authority figure’s flogging to empower each of us to sally forth once again gaily to stuff up another New Year. But you can’t complain. Nobody listens. They are all too busy Christmas messaging.

Australians are spoilt for choice when it comes to the Christmas ‘mess’. We can alight eagerly upon each of her Majesty’s quivery patrician vowels as she quavers, hem-haw, hem haw, hem-haw through her nose bag of Latinate verbiage and abstractions with the steady cadence of a seaside donkey plodding the sands at Blackpool. Donkey-like, we are worn down from centuries of abuse. And every step takes us all closer to the knackers.

Many of us enjoy HM’s speech-writing wallahs’ platitudes. Some savour her outrageous pretence at domestic normality and connubial bliss, ‘meh husband and eh …’ Why … the Queen’s just one of us really, instead of some shrewd, billionaire blueblood, a ruthless businesswomen in a tiara who also enjoys the best PR money can’t buy. Cringing obsequiousness is engendered through centuries of repression and shameless propaganda. And her divine right to the throne.

This ‘yer’, in her 63rd Christmas message Her Maj touches upon disasters. There’s been a few this year. But she’s upbeat. Her take is that light beats darkness. It’s a reprise of the stuff her forbears gave the crusaders before they set off to rape, pillage and destroy Islam. But as always the Queen is on to a good thing. Top marks for topicality.

The Crusades are held by many scholars to be the epitome of self-righteous intolerance, a black stain on the history of the Catholic Church in particular and Western civilization in general.



There are verbal and non-verbal messages, of course, but actions always speak loudest. And what could be more eloquent than the ‘robust’ local versions currently being meted out by our tireless actors in the public interest, our federal and state politicians. Here the dominant notes are pay up and ‘bugger off.’

Bugger off back to where you come from has a long, rich tradition. Jesus, himself, was born into an asylum seeker family. Like the 199 refugees and Kiwis we lock up on Christmas Island, preparatory to deportation or in indefinite detention without charge,’ bugger off back to where you came from’, is our political Christmas greeting du jour.

Bugger off goes back awhile. The (Roman) government needed to do some onshore processing. ‘Registration’, it was called. All part of a rich conversation with the people about tax reform. Ensuring poor people paid their dues. Aliens were told to bugger off back home to be counted and assessed for tax.

Much later, in another hot, dry, continent obsessed with aliens and inland revenue, the Australian Liberal Party took the same tack, dedicating itself at inception to serve privilege and wealth and extort the poor. The Party was born to serve the interests of the rich, while taking the most ironic and laughably incongruous name possible.

Liberal? Liberals took liberties with a word which means free. They quickly became known for their intolerance of the ideas and behaviour of others, their implacable hostility and suspicion of strangers. But they remain shrewd: a liberal dose of xenophobia helps them stay in power.

The unity of mutual enmity glues the party together, just as it did for the Romans in 4AD who, sixty years later, crucified Christians in full-scale state-sponsored persecution of what they saw as a dangerous and craven death-cult.

Historians dispute the Bible census story. Luke may have added the tax collection detail. One thing is certain, however, the four day trek to Bethlehem would have been hard going for any expectant mother. Her young husband may not have even had a donkey to offer her to ride on as in the popular illustrated Bible stories. 100 km of bad weather and bandits on the road, were, however the least of the worries of Joseph and Mary.



Things got a lot worse, post-partum. After the child’s birth, Jesus was hunted down for execution. The paranoiac Herod, the Great of Judaea, a Roman puppet, forerunner of all subsequent western stooges and humanitarian invasions visited upon the region ever since was out to destroy all first-born males. It proved a curtain-raiser for a type of war peoples of the Middle East have suffered to this day. Some call their war a Jihadist war; for others it is a humanitarian intervention. The results are remarkably similar.

War and occupation, all by the US and its allies, in the name of humanitarian intervention, liberation and democratisation directly and indirectly claimed the lives of about a half-million Iraqis from 2003 to 2011, according to a pioneering 2013 survey of 1,960 Iraqi households and public health experts. Those left alive were visited by ISIS and other groups borne of the desolation and dislocation of war.

Luckily, for baby Jesus and his unmarried teenage mother, Mary, and Father Joe the jobbing carpenter made it safely to Bethlehem, roughly 10 km south of Jerusalem. A couple of thousand years ago, Bethlehem was a rough place. But it could have been a lot worse. Imagine if Joseph and Mary had fetched up in Australia.

Peter Dutton would have had a field day. Witness his recent lofty and principled defence of our economic security when the family of a young Pakistani man, suffering the final stages of terminal cancer, found it nigh impossible to be allowed to be with their son on his deathbed. The Duttonator exploded any sort of Christmas humbug involving charity or compassion. His gift to the family was Nope on a rope.

‘The “decision-maker” has to weigh up whether or not somebody coming to Australia is likely to make a claim for protection or stay at a cost to the taxpayer’. In ‘the Decision-Maker’. Dutton disavows personal responsibility.

Jesus wept!

Bugger the rule of law. Power over ordinary people goes to a vast army of faceless men, Tony Abbott made it his duty to expand. Yet Abbott and Turnbull have also been up front. They brazenly toady to multinationals; inviting the best that money can buy to dictate our energy, environment and health policy. This is how they ‘deliver ‘transparency‘, Ask not what Adani can do for Australia but what Australia can do for Adani.

Abbott was not a dead loss to the nation. As Bernard Keane points out, Cap’n Onion-eater’s two year comic turn as PM did serve one useful purpose, aside from granting Peta Credlin de facto Cabinet membership and an all-expenses paid holiday with the PM and his daughter on the piste. His failures, (Keane kindly calls them flaws), help reveal who really makes the decisions around here. The Abbott/Turnbull government has more in common with an autocracy than any more consensual apparatus.

Craven sycophants rule! 2015 showed once again, that if you want to succeed in business, it pays to be a wealthy multinational, preferably in drugs or cigarettes. Or coal.

Making Greg Hunt Minister for the Environment may have been Abbott’s two fingered salute to the greenies but as a ministerial appointment, it is the Christmas gift that keeps on giving. We’ve got all the coal mine approvals we could wish for. And then some. And just a few days out from the Yuletide stupor, the little poppet gives approval for the biggest coal mine in the southern hemisphere.

Not only is it coal we don’t need if we won’t to keep an atmosphere. We won’t be able to sell it. Unless we continue to subsidise Adani. But Hunt the Christmas tree angel has an extra surprise. Just when you thought you were getting one massive coal shipping port at Abbott Point, it is revealed that you are getting two. O tidings of comfort and joy!

O come all ye faithful tender-hearted, coal-adoring Liberal Party animals out there, time to channel your inner Saint Nicholas. OK, we know there are countless ways in which the Abbott/Turnbull government has already embodied the spirit of Christmas. We know.

It’s not just that it has proved to be wise, just, compassionate and kind as in Peter Dutton’s decision to delay granting a visa of a dying Pakistani student, in case as he says the family decides to stay and free-load. Like Adani making a fat profit and paying no tax. Or any one of the forty per cent of corporations earning over 200 million who manage to avoid with impunity any tax payments.

As a new year beckons, the government is on message in its commitment to its coal industry backers who are dreaming of a coal black Christmas. Adani’s massive coal mine will at best employ 1400 workers or 0.6% of the workforce and it must have our money to pay for its ports and for its rail to get coal from mine to ship, despite the falling price of coal and other economic indicators which predict the likely outcome will be an unviable, unworkable mine, a stranded economic asset.

But the spirit of goodwill to all men prevails in the Abbott/Turnbull’s pitch to apply a 15% GST to all of us so that we can offer tax breaks to corporations, 40% of whom pay no tax at all.

It’s less Joy to the World than jingle bells rock as the (coal) ition circus heads for yet another year of absurdist performance art and Dada happenings, such as Morrison’s case for fixing those who evade tax to by lowering company tax rates. Or Turnbull’s NBN, the white elephant in the room running berserk and if not exactly trampling him to political death, well hurting him a little bit, even if he is the Grand Panjandrum of innovation and positivity.

But don’t expect too much in the way of real information on how your taxes are being spent or what new ones are in store. 2016 will continue to see the hysteria of national security whipped up yet again. Expect more anti-terror, more ugly xenophobia and ersatz Ozzie nationalism.

National security helps, like Christmas messages, to unify us around false ideas, if not false idols; to divert us and dull us into buying the rhetoric that there’s never been a more exciting time to be alive. All problems, clearly, let it be understood, implies our PM lie not with the stars but with ourselves.


Are we there, yet? Scott Morrison of the never-never meets Thelma and Louise.

1. morrison wombat wobble

“The MYEFO confirms that tax revenue will rise to 23.1 per cent of GDP in 2018-19…Not Whitlam, nor Keating, nor Rudd, nor Gillard ever taxed this high. The only government to have a higher tax-to-GDP ratio was John Howard, who exceeded this rate in eight of his years in office.” 

Stephen Koukoulas, former adviser to Julia Gillard.


It’s in and what a shocker it is! P-plate treasurer, Scott Morrison’s morally bankrupt, fiscally inept MYEFO statement, shows our national income shot to buggery while expenditure goes through the roof.

Our deficit rockets to $37.4 billion. The net debt savings the Coalition had earlier claimed by slashing Australia’s foreign aid in half and shifting $80 billion of hospital and school bills to the states is now pretty well all gone.

Morrison, naturally, quietly leaves in all of Joe’s earlier cuts to Education and Health, while slashing $200 million more from agencies such as Health and the Attorney-General’s Department. Tassie also loses funds for inessential stuff like protecting forests. Bugger the environment. But, then, Hunt’s doing a good job of that already.

However, everything is OK with most of the MSM. The rest of us kids are all being taken for a ride. Everybody loves a summer holiday. Dad Morrison always drives without any sort of map. Never checks the gas gauge. He’s running on empty.

Mum jokes we are from the Fockawi tribe, always driving around in circles and off cliffs shouting, ‘We’re the Fockawi!’

Mismanagement and duplicity masquerade as budgeting yet again. Too be fair, Morrison can’t see past those bulging tax cuts for corporations up his sleeve, or as he loves to say ‘on the table’ despite the fact that according to the ATO, 40% of our ‘good corporate’ citizens are having a free ride. They pay no tax.

Corporate tax evaders are not in ScoMo’s sights. Nor are the wealthy who enjoy $25 billions of tax breaks per year via Super. Nope. Nope. Nope. it is the poor, the elderly and the vulnerable who must bear the brunt of  $10.6 billion worth of spending cuts, including reductions in bulk-billing incentives for pathology, funding for aged care providers and tougher means-testing of childcare benefits.

Morrison’s con job, his innumeracy and incompetence, raise barely a murmur from the ‘Chuck this mob out’ squad, of course. News Corp hounds would be baying for blood if his, high-taxing, high-spending, deficit-blowing-out, living beyond its means government were not Liberal, not an branch of its head office; an arm of its own franchise.

Shock and horror, the iron ore price is going through the floor. Well, who would believe? Lordy, lordy, lawks a mercy. We are told all about the dreadful fall in commodity prices as if it just took us all by surprise. Shocking! No-one could see it coming.

Of course the budget’s buggered. This mining boom was going to be everlasting, unique and unlike any other this country has experienced. Unprecedented? What is unprecedented is what we are expected to swallow. His analogy is so bad it’s good.

‘There are no short cuts; there may be some delays on the way with road works and the like,’ Morrison muses. “There will be plenty of people in the back seat – which often happens when I’m driving the family – saying, ‘Are we there yet? Are we there yet?’

No, ScoMo, they are saying that you are all over the road. You have no clue where you are going. No good just saying ‘follow that car!’ Chasing falling revenue by cutting government spending is going to get you nowhere apart from back into recession. What’s that? Move it?

Of course! Brilliant!  You can always push out your ‘back in the black’ fantasy estimates. You can’t do it forever, however and Peter Martin notes another teensy problem with the are we there yet going on holiday analogy. We never get to come back. That date for return to surplus keeps on getting postponed. Still, you always get a few smartarses.

Some are asking the right questions. How did we put all our revenue eggs in one basket? How could we have been so dumb? How could we accept such wilful blindness, greed, short-term political myopia and a cheer-squad of vested interests only too happy to take over the driver’s seat. Voting Liberal because we thought Labor was worse. It’s cost us. And it will continue to cost us.

But we don’t have a revenue problem claims Blind Freddy Morrison who is happy that forty per cent of corporations pay no tax at all. Nothing to see here. Just as we never had anything to explain in our offshore processing centres. Nothing to see in the collapse of commodity prices.

Look over there! Export volumes went up in the last quarter. We are on track. Morrison is rabid with spin; barking mad. Reasoned discourse is impossible, Leigh Sales discovers – yet again. Don’t even try to reason with the mongrel. Your job is to nod agreement and offer the odd Dorothy Dixer he’s thoughtfully supplied.

The laughable ‘credible path to surplus’ slogan gets a rest and the ‘target’ is shifted forward into infinity. Instead transitioning gets a workout. Exports show we are transitioning, a buzz-word for our times that covers changes we don’t understand that we have Buckley’s of controlling. Exports? Our miners’ last-ditch attempt to turn a profit is responsible for the increase in exports, not a sign of any diversification or restructure. A last gasp transition?

Transitioning works so well for the Turnbull government, however, it just can’t leave the buzz word alone. You’d swear they had invented it. So perfect to claim things are going your way when the truth is that you don’t have a clue where you’re going. Scott ‘Are we there yet’ Morrison’s dumb analogy of the federal budget as family car trip

Today’s favourite buzz-word was, however, around well before a few right wingers and a mob of failed farmers and agrarian socialists, the Nationals threw in their lot with a few right wing odds and sods, including the politically conflicted mutual self-delusion that is the ‘broad church’ Liberal Party to transition into a coalition early last century. They are still back there.

Transitioning into a coalition made political sense, numbers-wise, even if some hayseeds later turned out to be diabolical liabilities and fair-weather friends. Populist nut-job Bob Katter, for example, sensibly became an Independent in 2001 and the often less than sensible Barnaby Joyce, goes barking mad with pistol envy from time to time as he did at Johnny Depp. Barnaby will come right. He is set to transition into Deputy PM when Wokka Truss retires.

Since a conservative rabble transitioned into a Coalition they have never looked back. Or ceased to look backwards. And sidewise, under the bed and behind the wardrobe. In place of a coherent ideology, the coalition is fuelled by a mutual mistrust bordering on paranoia. But it works. Australia is safe from Boo and Pistol. A transition can do that. And more.

The arse falls out of mining. You’ve spent all the proceeds of the boom years on buying votes with tax breaks and benefits. You’re skint. Forty per cent of your companies pay no tax at all. No problem. Tell the punters the economy is transitioning. Approve massive coal mines like Adani’s Carmichael mine while you bugger the renewable energy business but, hey, your energy policy is transitioning from fossil fuels to renewables. Transitioning even works with your human resources.

You recycle your rejects. There’s Joe Hockey, transitioning effortlessly from dud treasurer to top show pony. He also gets free rent and utilities in Washington as Australia’s Ambassador to the US and he gets to pool his $90,000 PA parliamentary pension with his new diplomatic salary of $360,000. A few bargain-priced running repairs costing a mere couple of hundred million should tide him over, as Australia transitions towards a new, more appropriately upmarket mansion.

Joe has never shown a shred of diplomatic potential but his grasp of the economy wasn’t that flash either. You have to bury your corpses somewhere. And opportunities abound in these exciting times. There has never been a better time to be Joe Hockey.

Joe may even team up with Donald Trump. They are made for each other.  Joe could put his foot in Don’s mouth and vice versa. Transition into stand-up comedy. Anything. Just not politics.

Malcolm Turnbull, too, was once a lowly Communications Minister who couldn’t, well, communicate. OK he landed a hard gig. In Opposition, he spruiked a bogus NBN but after the election when the opposition transitioned into the government things were looking crook even for the man who could talk his way out of an HIH collapse.

Once his mob was in power, no-one understood Mal any better, but now people expected him to make his NBN fraudband work. Walk the talk. Was the NBN Tony’s (or Peta’s) hand-brake on the over-ambitious, underperforming silver-tongued silver-tail? Not even Tone thought it could work.  But in the bigger picture it was just a stop-gap until Mal transitioned to Prime Minister when it could be someone else’s problem; someone else’s fault.

Because Abbott was so widely and well hated, Turnbull as PM has had a dream run although hazards are ahead.  One is his fat head.  Consistently being overrated in politically useless popularity polls can do that even to a narcissist.

Popularity as ‘measured’ in public opinion polls has stuff-all to do with actually being a PM, although it cranks up expectations. Can Malcolm transition from pop-star to real politician? Will Abbott and the lunatic right’s monkey pod push let him? All bets are off.

Being PM involves practicalities like showing backbone and getting projects finished. Anyone can waffle about innovation but if all you can show for it is a buggered NBN and a lot of hot air about innovation, then the honeymoon will eventually be over. And while the not-being-Tony-Abbott halo effect elevates Mal above his station, it will also more powerfully illuminate his deficiencies. Mal’s popularity is in inverse to his capacity to achieve anything. Or his bottle.

Scott Morrison is in the same sort of fix. He’s clearly hopeless as treasurer. He got the job because he was ambitious and Mal wanted to keep him busy and out of trouble. ‘The Fixer’ was fixed up.

OK Morrison was hopeless at his first cabinet post but he could make it up as he went along. Best of all he could refuse to answer any questions about his stuff ups. Or anything really. Then there was the ‘on water’ and the ‘operational matters’ analogy, as if we were at war with our own humanity and compassion. Genghis Khan was more accountable.  And he had a real budget.

Fear not. Fee, Fie, MYEFO Fum Scott ‘Are We There Yet’ Morrison is merely in transition from head of Tourism Australia, an unhappy appointment which was terminated by mutual agreement.  His transition into politics was set with a bit of help from his friends in the form of a job as NSW Liberal Treasurer. Scott, Where the bloody hell are we? Morrison of Tourism Australia has transitioned into ‘Are we there yet?’

So that’s it, then, kids. MYEFO is really just a children’s story about a family trip in the car. Just don’t expect it to have anything to do with real Federal budgeting. Or a happy ending.

Australian government fails its people and the planet.

morrison looking ugly

Australia’s climate delegation returns to a media blitz of self-generated glory. Hunt’s Heroes lead the world only briefly, however, before being upstaged by Scott Morrison’s MYEFO war on the poor. Although ScoMo continues to show no reason whatsoever to suppose he is any better than the treasurer he replaced, he is a great deal meaner and he is a past master in refusing point blank to be accountable.

Morrison brings new obduracy and condescension to the treasury portfolio as befits Joe’s successor and baton-carrier. He’s also booked savings which have yet to pass the senate and are most unlikely to. But that’s OK. We’ve had treasurers before like that. Costello was seen as mean and sneaky. But he had revenue. Morrison’s tank is empty.

ScoMo’s lame analogy that budget repair is like a trip in the family car demeans both his audience and himself. Treasurers love to talk down to us and labour false analogies but Morrison’s car trip is a lemon. Are we there yet? it presumes we are heading somewhere. Voters and investors can tell he’s only a P-plate driver.

Reductive, simplistic stories and slogans may work in Immigration but the economy is more complex and demanding. No-one is expecting a more nuanced approach, given Morrison’s performance in Immigration and Social Services. But when your own figures show you have a revenue problem, you need to admit it. Or you seem out of your depth. Or over-eager to support the wealthy in their tax breaks and other entitlements. And you can’t keep cutting the public sector s, however much your right wing-nuts love that stuff.

Our public sector is already leaner than most other comparable nations while an emaciated education, environment, foreign aid and transport infrastructure have been so under-funded as to impair their capacity to meet our needs, expectations and obligations. Hunt’s hideously extravagant Direct Action con, on the other hand, or the billions wasted on Border Force or the war on terror are expensive political sacred cows which weaken any case for cuts to real public services, even for governments with proven competence or political capital.

ScoMo’s fixation with expenditure causes him to turn a blind eye to the nation’s revenue problems and to completely misrepresent our economic situation. His party fought to prevent the wealthy from having their tax affairs scrutinised.  Even the compromise, published today is a damning reminder of a whopping revenue problem. But he’s not interested in ‘political questions’, he says, talking down to Leigh Sales recently, just as he did to Gillian Triggs, as he dismisses Sales’ attempts to get him to explain his party’s inconsistency.

Morrison is interested only in ‘sensible, rational conversation’, meaning he will dictate the terms, such as in Health cuts where it he acts first and dismisses criticism later. In a surprise move to scrap bulk-billing incentives to pathology companies Morrison is gazumping a review still in process and picking a fight he can’t win with patients, the AMA and the pathology companies. The hapless, arrogant Hockey-like streak in Morrison’s makeup becomes more apparent by the hour.

Another hapless, neoliberal fantasist, Sussan Ley is demolished by the AMA when she defends what amount to Morrison’s pathology test co-payments by stealth in the name of competition. Companies will undercut each other to extract your blood or scope your bowel.  Trust the market. Our supermarket duopoly reminds us that markets are not inherently trustworthy. Sick people will end up paying more for their tests.

The Coalition ‘hits those who can least afford it hardest’ says an independent senator who is right on the money. So, too is the opposition leader with the charisma bypass, Plain Vanilla Bill Shorten. But, with apologies to Hockey, pathology tests are another waste of money on bludgers without private health insurance. Poor people don’t thrive.

Also looking unwell is Australia’s wilful climate change denial. Hunt declares a target of 2% is ‘deeply personal’, yet he needs to meet a 1.5 % rise. Less about Greg. More about real targets. Yet selfies are his team’s standout achievement in Paris, apart from our rapidly increasing carbon dioxide emissions and our world-beating reputation as climate change cowboys and con-men.

OK there is also Greg Hunt’s stand-up routine at the screening of a documentary on the dangers facing the Great Barrier Reef, an echo of his earlier claim that the UN had given it a ‘clean bill of health’ . We approve massive coal mines because who are we to tell India to keep the world’s coal in the ground? Neo-colonialism is so yesterday.

Hunt’s account of how he spent his time includes a big white bwana style mediation between vulnerable countries and the powerful which seems a disingenuous posturing. Tony de Brum, for example, made it clear that vulnerable nations speak most effectively in their own right. Australia’s intercession on small islands’ behalf, moreover, is difficult to square with its setting carbon reductions targets which will surely drown them.

Yet we love to lead, even if it is only to lead astray. Malcolm Turnbull pledges Australia to a lead role in climate change policy, a boast echoed by Julie Bishop. Bishop goes further and asserts that we are leading already with our innovation. We will sit back, do nothing and hope something high-tech will turn up to save us all from our selfies.

You can’t rush hackathons. At the current rate of carbon emissions, the world will reach 450 ppm in 2040. Then it will be too late. In fifteen years, says the International Renewable Energy Agency, we take our chances on catastrophic climate change. Australia, however, lucky country to the last, prefers to gamble on human ingenuity galloping to our rescue.

Turnbull commits us publicly to a global ‘Mission Innovation’ in Paris, giving green, clean tech $200 million a year only to continue Abbott’s war on alternatives at home. A pledge to scale back government subsidies of fossil fuels is best left to other countries because our Liberal Party sponsors need handouts and handicapped alternatives to remain competitive.

Julie Bishop reprises Turnbull’s stale, empty rhetoric. You can bet she is planning another hackathon soon, the paperless passport for Kiwis, her latest innovation breakthrough, a real boon to DFAT as it is to our trans-Tasman relations, those whom we are not deporting via Christmas Island for at some time having served criminal sentences.

‘… innovation and technological breakthroughs … will ultimately be the game changer in our climate change response,’ Bishop claims in Australia’s ‘National Statement’ to the UN conference. Yet we will provide no help with organising finance. There’s a world of difference between a start-up and an upstart like wind or solar. Last week told parliament that her government would abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

Shamelessly Bishop also spun Australia’s renewable energy target as ambitious, despite it requiring only 20 per cent of the nation’s energy to come from clean sources by 2020. ‘Ambitious’ also, according to the Foreign Minister, are our 2030 emission reduction targets which ‘will see us double the rate at which we reduce our emissions,’  she said as if our rate of reduction were anything but inadequate. Australia’s gutless 2030 target of 26 to 28 per cent on 2005 levels places the country behind all developed nations.

After Paris, other nations confirm their opinion of Australia as who just don’t get the gravity of the climate crisis. Our soft targets join our other notorious underarm delivery in the hall of infamy and brazen, shameless bending of the rules. Our big polluters are let off the hook. We are the only country ever to have abolished a price on carbon – and the first to have a net increase in carbon emissions to show for it. We are world leaders after all. We have crippled the uptake of clean alternative power sources such as wind and solar.

Abbott’s scrapped carbon tax boosted coal industry profits, but cost Treasury billions in lost revenue. Now ordinary Australians must make up the deficit with cuts to health and welfare. Fixer Scott Morrison’s MYEFO shakes down the poor, the sick and the elderly. And he has cheats in his sights again as a way to cut welfare spending.

Social Services Minister Christian Porter is eyeing off another billion and a half he reckons he can find from Centrelink recipients alone since last May’s treasure hunt of welfare bludgers.  It’s not about cuts to welfare; it’s all about ‘better targeting’, he says to ABC listeners. Poor people vote Labor, anyway.

It’s business as usual for the LNP. Massive new coal mines will be approved, our carbon reduction targets will be fiddled and the disadvantaged will be squeezed to pay polluters. Direct Action won’t work and we can’t afford it.  But Hunt has a solution. We will be able to buy international carbon credits. Way to go, Greg! Saves any fuss and bother about cutting pollution at home. The planet won’t even notice.

In a parallel universe of honest intentions and just desserts Hunt and our other brazen coal industry toadies would be ashamed to come home. They were disgraced in Paris. Australia is third last in action to curb climate change according to the Climate Tracker think tank.

Labor’s spokesperson for the environment and climate change Mark Butler sums up our commitment. ‘We have no five-yearly target whatsoever, no target for 2025 and instead of a commitment to net zero emissions by the middle of this century we have a target from this government of net zero emissions by the end of the century.’

Turnbull and his government will be undone by its Turnbull-shit and with the assistance of mainstream media. On ABC breakfast Monday an upbeat, on script Hunt assured listeners Australia would ‘meet and beat its targets’. He was not asked how.

What he has in mind is a hoax which involves first an accountancy trick which lowers the figure of our true responsibility in curbing emission and second the dodge which involves paying polluters to plant trees and better manage their land-filling which he calls Direct Action. Even if we could afford to go on paying polluters, Direct Action does not solve our increasing carbon emission problem.

Nor was Hunt asked why our target is so low as to be a doddle; so low, moreover, as to be lethal. Experts calculate that our 26-28 per cent limit would see the globe warm 3-4 degrees with disastrous results. Current emissions reductions targets in Australia would mean we would be the highest per-capita polluter in the G20 by 2030.

Hunt was permitted to announce that we would buy credits from overseas as if that were relevant to a discussion about curbing our own emissions – not how cleverly the books could be fiddled while we avoided real action of our own.

Nor was the Environment Minister required to explain why Australia is persisting with the accounting trick of carrying forward credits from Kyoto. Other countries with Kyoto credits abandoned them as a gesture of commitment to real carbon emission reduction. The reality is that despite meeting notional ‘targets’ Australia has been rapidly increasing its emissions since the repeal of the ‘carbon tax’.

When asked about coal, Hunt dipped into his cache of buzzwords and came up with ‘transitioning’. We are ‘transitioning’ from fossil fuel to renewables. Transitioning is a go to verb for coalition politicians caught having to defend bad policy. In this case coal-fired power generating. Hunt was permitted to use the buzz word to give the impression that Australia had policies to lead it away from coal. Or a plan. Or the intention. Does it? Nope. Nope. Nope.

ScoMo says our economy is transitioning when all he has evidence for is a rise in the volume of exports last quarter. Mining has upped its output despite falling prices in a last ditch attempt to survive. It is not a sign of other sectors taking up the slack unless we factor in Turnbull-shit. Spin is our real growth industry.

In the MYEFO and in the parading one more around the ring of our shonky climate policy, our one trick pony of a government  continues to pursue bad policy with the practised ease of the entitled, a pathological indifference to others and all the ugly wrong-headed zeal and ultimately self-destructive arrogance of those who wilfully put ideology before any attempt at empiricism.

Paris Climate Accord a miracle and a catastrophe; time for Australia to get real.



At the UN climate Jamboree at Le Bourget, near Paris, the Climate Concord 2015 finally rattles into the station complete with buffet car and sleeping carriages and the last word in anti-macassars. A straining boiler creaks and hisses superheated steam. Hastily applied stove polish sizzles over rusty bits. Rivets pop. Pressure valves blow. Global warming must be kept below 1.5 degrees, all at last agree. Hurrah! It is a breakthrough and a catastrophe. All aboard!

Bleary-eyed delegates totter wearily aboard, thankful any train has arrived at all, knowing full well, that while the Paris 2015 agreement is the best we can do, it is nowhere near good enough to get us home safely. It is not a treaty. For all the talk of it being legally binding, it is only an aspirational goal of 1.5 degrees. We have no agreed route to get there.

Father of climate change awareness NASA scientist James Hansen thinks we are all being taken for a ride.

‘It’s a fraud really, a fake,” he says, …just bullshit for them to say: ‘We’ll have a 2C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.’ It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned.’

The final ‘aspirational target’ of 1.5 degrees is better than Hansen expected but there is a big gap between this and the woefully inadequate targets nations have set themselves which might, perhaps, limit global warning to 3 degrees at most. A carbon price placed on major emitters, which Hansen and others advocate as the only real way to get pollution down to 1.5 above pre-industrial levels, is still a bridge too far for most governments.

CICERO, Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research – Oslo predicts that at our current rate of emissions the world will have produced enough carbon dioxide by 2020 to lock in 1.5 degrees warming. But, hey, there will be regular inspections every 5 years to confirm we are on our way to certain extinction. Yet no-one can make a profit out of a dead planet. Business and finance have been eagerly hopping aboard recently.

In the last year, investors have rushed into a low carbon economy.  John Kerry, US Secretary of State is upbeat. ‘While we’ve been debating, … the clean energy sector has been growing at an incredible rate.’  Clive Hamilton of Charles Sturt University calls it an amazing shift among investors and ‘non-state actors’ that ‘signals a sea-change in climate action that now seems unstoppable’.

Self-interest is worth backing because it is a horse which will always run on its merits. In one year, The Montreal Carbon Pledge under which large investors commit to measuring and reporting on the carbon footprint of their portfolios, has been signed by investors controlling more than US$10 trillion in assets.

A ‘Science Based Targets’ initiative, has seen 114 large corporations pledge to reduce their emissions in a way consistent with a 2℃ objective. Big corporations including Ikea, Coca-Cola, Dell, General Mills, Kellogg, NRG Energy, Procter & Gamble, Sony and Wal-Mart have already signed up and are implementing plans.

Curbing climate change has long been presented as a choice between development or environment, thanks largely to the propaganda units of fossil fuel interests such as Peabody Energy.  Recent developments seem set to challenge this logic. A bloc of vulnerable countries has now formed. Combine these voices with the development of renewable energy capacity. Add a commitment by rich nations to fund poor nations’ climate mitigation and adaptation and the old equation is set to be disproved.

Agreement has been a slow train coming. In 1995 in Berlin, the first UN Conference would have been able to achieve a 1.5 degree warming target but the train was derailed by fossil fuel lobbyists who were able to take advantage of politicians only too willing to trade short term gain for long term disaster.

50,000 delegates, media, rent-seekers and hangers-on from 193 nations skitter all over the talking shop in a last minute flurry of pledges, alliance building, mutual suspicion, misunderstanding and folie à foule.  Only two things are certain. This moment has been over twenty years in the making yet no-one can predict exactly what it all means. It will never happen again.

Marshall Islands Foreign Minister Tony de Brum is photographed being tightly embraced by a dazzling Julie Bishop, who channels her inner Pirelli calendar girl to glamorise Australia’s Leyland P76 lemon of a climate change policy. She also covers for Hunt who puts in a pretty ordinary performance, even for him.

Jules is all over her ‘good friend’ Tone like a rash but even her full frontal frottage fails to gate-crash his ‘coalition of ambition’, a melange of 80 developed and developing countries including the US, EU, Canada and Brazil – aimed at offsetting a push by China, India and Saudi Arabia to water down the wording as negotiators go at it hammer and tongs well after the final siren.

De Brum says he is happy to take down Bishop’s particulars but Australia will have to make its case. ‘We are delighted to learn of Australia’s interest and look forward to hearing what more they may be able to do to join our coalition of high ambition here in Paris.’

Kiribati’s President Anote Tong who voted for Australia to be on the UN security council because of its pledge to put climate change on the agenda says his country now feels betrayed by Coalition policy on global warming. He is far less diplomatic in his assessment of Australia’s commitment. ‘They don’t feel it, they don’t know it, [and]they don’t care: They care about the next election.’

Clearly, a window of opportunity opens for Australia’s Minister for a coal-powered future, George Brandis’ ‘climate intellectual’ Greg Hunt who whispers that curbing global warming to less than 20′ is ‘a deeply personal goal’ of his whilst eagerly, hastily, approving vast new coal mines.   If anyone can wangle us a seat on the coalition of high ambition, Hunt the agile, nimble-witted, back-flipper Hunt. If only someone could find him.

Conflicted and compromised publicly by his flawed performance as protector of the Great barrier Reef Hunt’s profile in Paris is lower than a Yakka skink by Thursday. He may just have nodded off. Luckily, crowd-pleaser Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, always makes herself freely available. And hits a bum note.

Bishop attracts attention and unkind parodies. Marie Antoinette caricatures of her appear as if by witchcraft for advocating coal as a solution to world hunger.  ‘Let them eat coal.’

Bleary-eyed, sleep-deprived negotiators hold all-night indaba, a Zulu word for discussions around huge tables of 80 officials from as many countries in which everyone present must speak and be heard.  Agreement on a common but differentiated responsibility’, a Nicene Creed of climate change ownership in its complexity, is reached by attrition through an exhausting series of redrafts and revisions. Specifics are edited into hazy generalities until real commitment to curb global warming threatens to disappear completely like the Cheshire Cat leaving nothing behind but its smile  – of good intentions.

Delegates of rich nations seek to erase their oversize carbon footprints; their historic responsibility for polluting the planet’s atmosphere. Poor countries lobby to lock in emissions exemptions in the name of development.  Convention mastermind, Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General, says the talks are ‘the most complicated and difficult negotiations’ of his career.

The fate of the planet hangs by a thread, a frayed, well-chewed-over form of words, a universal agreement on climate change achieved by a ‘consensus model’ in which every official of every nation has to agree to every word in six languages in a marathon of talking. It is a miracle there is any consensus at all.

Inexplicably out of range of ABC microphones, veteran talkfest-meister Greg Hunt is last seen publicly in a failed attempt to put his case at a screening of naturalist David Attenborough’s documentary on the Great Barrier Reef. Australians are forced instead to endure rational, informed and objective commentary on proceedings from bodies such as The Climate Institute, although, as always Julie Bishop gets a good look in to shore up optimism and positivity. Minister for Are We There Yet?,  she stays relevant by reporting agreement is imminent and that it’s all been a lot of hard work.

Is Hunt sulking? Or just skulking? In the panel discussion after the Attenborough screening, Thursday, Aussie biologist Ove Hoegh-Guldberg who has made a lifetime study of the reef says Australia must choose to either proceed with its $16 billion Adani coal mine or protect the Great Barrier Reef.  Hunt, mistakenly believing Australia has funded some of the BBC documentary in yet another of his hilarious crossed wires, forcefully requests to speak at the end of the film only to riff about Australia’s innovative neo-neo-colonialism.

Rather than choose to address the disconnect between promoting coal mining and protecting the reef, Hunt, instead, boosts Australia’s piddling $140m ‘reef trust’ aimed to combat soil erosion, crown of thorns starfish and other threats. Earlier he explains that Australia approved Adani because we are not a ‘neo-colonialist’ power that tries to tell poor countries what to do. For Hunt, that clears up the issue. For Tong, it lacks moral justification. Above all it is a specious argument that ignores Australia’s history.

Australia’s neighbours may beg to differ with Hunt, especially those fielding boatloads of Border Force refugee turn-backs. Or Pacific Islanders, long colonised by Aussie multinationals. In Profits of Doom, Antony Loewenstein explains how PNG has been made dependent on Australian aid, about $500 million a year. About 60% of this will end up with Australian corporations. Bishop’s ‘New Aid Paradigm’ with its slogan of poverty reduction through economic growth continues to boost the fortunes of our neo-colonial investors.

Julie Bishop, mistress of the universe of diplomatic discourse does, however raise Australia’s profile with her lecture to delegates in which she upholds coal as the solution to world poverty. ‘Let them eat coal’ plays to bemused delegates who check their programmes in case they’ve accidentally wandered into the Climate Change Circus which runs concurrently with COP21. Consensus is rapidly reached. The Australian Foreign Minister has been at the Peabody Energy drinks cabinet again.

‘It will be innovation and technological breakthroughs that will ultimately be the game changer in our climate change response,’ Bishop waffles in what is billed as our ‘National Statement’, an embarrassing excuse for not being able to admit you have no ideas whatsoever. Or no intention of curbing emissions.  And less concern.

Bishop’s statement reiterates Hunt’s misleading statistical nonsense about our target of a 26% reduction on 2005 levels being ‘ambitious’ and the falsehood that we are per capita leading the world in our emission cutting. Climate Change Authority analysis and projection, however, shows Australia continuing to lead the world right out to 2030 and beyond it in its pollution per capita.

Surely now, Greg Hunt will reveal Australia’s secret admirers’, those direct action fans or groupies, he alludes to so often. The minister for the environment has kept everyone in suspense with his repeated claims his nation’s Direct Action had attracted much favourable attention. Yet it all seems a case of misreporting. All Hunt is claiming is OECD and IEA approval of his reverse auctions.

During an OECD panel discussion, Hunt claims ‘Both the International Energy Agency and the OECD have said reverse auctions could be the most effective means of price discovery.’ Whatever the truth of his claim, it relates only to a small sub-component of his scheme and not Direct Action itself.

As Lenore Taylor notes, a deluded Hunt has wasted his time in Paris pretending that his ERF is a price on carbon and the peddling the preposterous lie that the world is remotely interested in his Direct Action.

At home, consumed by paranoid delusions of betrayal, Ayatollah Abbott is still barking mad.  Still shrewd enough, however, to spot a strike-back opportunity, he rubbishes Islam. Helpfully, he further poisons the turbid well of the nation’s international relations and foments Islamophobia at home by attacking Islam for its backwardness. Pauline Hanson is interviewed on ABC shortly afterwards on the coattails of Abbott’s disingenuous mischief-making, rabble-rousing.

Unlike his own faith with its history of crusades, Inquisitions and conquistadors, Islam is a menace in Abbott’s eyes because it lacks the seasoning of reformation. ‘Cultures are not all equal. We should be ready to proclaim the clear superiority of our culture to one that justifies killing people in the name of God.’

God only knows what the coal lobby will find for Abbott to say next or how Hunt will claim that the UN decision is a victory for Direct Action and that we are already so far ahead of our targets we don’t’ need to do a tap until 2020. Add in Ian McFarlane’s defection to the National Party as a means to getting back in cabinet and it will take real leadership to steer government away from the fossil fuel obsessed towards something renewable.

Today’s report that Hunt was sidelined while Turnbull removed Abbott’s restrictions on Clean Energy Finance for wind farms is an encouraging sign that the PM is prepared to encourage green energy, yet he still owes favours to the Nationals’ agenda of retaining Direct Action.

‘There’s never been a more exciting time to be an Australian,’ PM  Turnbull repeats, playing the straight man before a non-sequitur worthy of Hunt, ‘We need to embrace new ideas in innovation and science, and harness new sources of growth to deliver the next age of economic prosperity in Australia.’ What Turnbull will have to do soon, however, is stop talking and put his money where his mouth is.

We don’t need no innovation, with apologies to Pink Floyd. Keep coal in the ground and invest in clean, renewable energy without further ado. It’s our last chance to act to match the aspirations of Paris with deeds that may earn us some respite if not reprieve from the inexorable changes we have caused by allowing carbon in our atmosphere to reach 400 parts per million.

Cancel all coal mine projects at once. Get out of coal-fired power generation. Boost investment in solar and wind. Abandon the Peabody propaganda. We have nothing to lose by getting out of fossil fuels. And a whole world to re-gain.

Hunt and Turnbull


Turnbull’s ‘innovation’ bereft of new ideas; just another handout to the rich.



Pyne and Turnbull innovating

Former failed Education Minister, Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Christopher Pyne and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull address the media after the announcement of the National Innovation and Science Agenda at the CSIRO Discovery Centre in Canberra on Monday 7 December 2015. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen



Malcolm Turnbull’s, ‘Innovation! Package’, turns out to be another boost to small business and nothing to do with innovation at all. It is another conjuring trick from a government pledged to avoid commitment or accountability under the guise of ‘encouraging the free flow of ideas and entrepreneurs’. It is based on a seriously defective business model, the tech start-up. As a strategy toward economic restructure, it is a poor choice; an inexcusable error of judgement.

Above all, Innovation! is an opportunity missed. Instead of investing in renewables, boosting employment and kicking its fossil fuel dependency, the coalition has chosen the trendy but flaky tech start-up business enterprise, a choice which will distract from tackling its rising carbon emissions while further trashing Australia’s former reputation as a good global citizen.

For all Greg Hunt’s absurd claims that we lead the world in climate policy, expert report, based on a range of measures, from the UN climate talks in Paris yesterday reveal us to be third last. Although Julie Bishop may fluff around on the world stage promising to fix climate with ‘innovation’ the truth is that we are substituting urban myth for science or economics.

The start-up myth itself is enchanting and beguiling. Rich young San Francisco Bay Area, California dudes meet somewhere on the autism spectrum and hunker down to a year or two of nerdy anti-social existence. They live off their wealthy parents while they code software 24/7. Overnight they become billionaire misfits and eccentric publicity-loving celebrities proving all along to the world that smarts matter. The PM, especially, loves this tale.

The dudes attract a few other couch surfers along the way together with a rash of venture capital: rich folk who gamble by lending the dudes money in the hope of a huge return on their investment. Or not. Stop the press.

The start-up success story is an urban myth. Surely no-one in their right mind would recommend we adopt this model to fix our own tanking economy? If he is serious about the Innovation! hoo-ha, Mal’s judgement is once again is up the Silicon Valley creek.

…over 90% of start-ups self-destruct.

Start-ups are expensive failures as a rule. Current UC Stanford and Berkeley research shows that over 90% of start-ups self-destruct. Typically, software dudes borrow to build a product for which there is no customer, a product for which they also have to manufacture a demand. Nothing like putting on the wings when your craft is taxiing along the runway. When the product is ready to market, the dudes have no buyers, no income and no funds to continue and they crash. The dudes fall back on couch-surfing until they inherit.

Not all give up. There are serial starters-up who make failure a lifestyle choice. Our PM warms to these. He will see to it that failure is elevated in our own society to the status it deserves by taking the sting out of bankruptcy. No stranger to failure himself, politically, he will ignore the difference between political and business failure. Taxpayers will pick up the tab.

Even the few start-ups who succeed, employ few workers and minimise their taxes. Outfits like Google or Apple or Facebook are adept in creative tax accountancy. What start-ups are good at is making profits for investors.

Making a few rich dudes richer is no way to rebuild a nation’s prosperity. Start-ups offer no key to economic revival. They do, however, offer an attractive package to business classes, a package which is trendy enough to deceive the mug punter who will pay the bill through higher taxes. And coal is spared by default.

Strip away the packaging and Innovation! looks like plain old crony capitalism; a rebranding of the same old pocketful of promises to the big end of town that is the Liberal Party’s reason for being. A bit of tinkering around the edges is added to confirm Innovation!. Some refunds are touted as reinvesting in science as if government has suddenly come to its senses after destroying the CSIRO’s morale and much else with it. Turnbull supporters seize on the refunds as proof that Mal is progressive after all. The facts attest otherwise.

So much knowledge …lost.

Some ‘efficiency dividend’ cuts from CSIRO, made when ‘good government’ had no need of science, will be returned. But it is nowhere near enough funding to do a ‘reset’ even if CSIRO wanted to. Or it were possible. So much knowledge has already been irrevocably lost. But business and science will be able to hold hands in the cosy, innovative Turnbull era instead of being at arm’s length or independent as empirical impartiality dictates.

Academics are to be enticed out of ivory towers to team up with business types in an alarming re-run of the wishful thinking that ignores our economy’s small size. We do not have the money. Venture capital is just not available here to the degree that it is to UK or US researchers. The priceless value of pure research in non-commercial fields is also ignored, although vital to innovation and the foundation of all science.

So what are we left with? Another tax break for investors? A newer, softer neo-liberal bankruptcy-lite to allow ‘entrepreneurs’ to quit more easily; bail out of financial obligations such as wages to redundant workers more readily? An incubator for shonky con-men and dud business ideas? Strip away Innovation! Package wrapping and most of what is left amounts to a scheme in which privileged venture capitalists are subsidised by everyone else.

Attracting venture capital, we are told by our po-faced ring master Turnbull will enable the best business brains to invent new businesses which in turn will G-R-O-W the economy. We are to forget in all the hoopla and excitement that venture capital has no interest in progress or innovation as such. But it loves huge profits.

Turnbull expects us to fall in love with a scheme to encourage those whose business model includes the very best the Cayman Islands has to offer. It will not build a 21st Century economy or a nation but it will accelerate our already disturbingly rapid divergence into two distinct nations, a nation of haves and have-nots.

Yet is anyone really surprised by Turnbull and Pyne’s surprise package? Turnbull gave us our NBN, popularly known as ‘fraudband’. A political stunt, NBN is now woefully behind schedule, over-budget, slow and over-priced. It is increasingly evident to consumers that the NBN project, like Direct Action is fundamentally flawed.

…an accountancy trick…

Substituting copper wire for fibre allowed the LNP to undercut Labor’s real NBN, but it is a bit like carrying forward Kyoto credits instead of reducing our carbon emissions, an accountancy trick which does nothing to make it all work. A sale of Turnbull’s NBN lemon is rumoured. In softening bankruptcy rules, Monday’s message is that it’s OK to fail. You learn from it. Turnbull would know. Or is it OK to fail, provided someone else picks up the tab?

A Humpty Dumpty for our times, Turnbull can make Innovation! TM mean whatever he chooses as he peddles a scheme to boost his wealthy backers’ fortunes at the expense of all the rest of us; a type of subsidy for the investing classes. Treasurer Morrison is on standby to announce further cuts in government spending; cuts to our services and quality of life as a nation, all in the name of Innovation! Innovation! is already morphing into a new, secular religion, at least in Liberal Party circles. Or is it a tax-deductible church and charity to business? What is certain is that it will cost us all dearly.

Innovation promises, programmes are old hat in Australia. Innovation policy expert Roy Green notes that Australia has had 60 reports at Commonwealth level on innovation since 2000. $9.7billion of government funds is spent annually on ‘research and innovation’ across 13 portfolios and 150 budget line items.

Making Innovation! into a faith means that it is immune from criticism. You can’t be against the future can you? Only a heretic would be sceptical. Challenging the creed is almost un-Australian, as Malcolm Turnbull clearly implied when he chided Leigh Sales on Monday’s 7:30 Report. ‘Aunty is not interested in Innovation!?’ he gibed. Nor was she excited. ‘Exciting’ infects all government policy announcements it seems. It is becoming a test of faith. Forget reason. If you are not excited, you are beyond the pale; an unbeliever and a luddite.

Turnbull’s ‘exciting’ announcement on his nation’s future is pure theatre. Spruiking his package around lunch time Monday, the PM is flanked by our agile new Innovation! Minister, Christopher Pyne, the consummate political organ grinder’s monkey who is reinventing – repositioning himself – ‘in this space’ – before our very eyes. Pyne is flattered, he says, to reveal that his name was called second when Turnbull announced his new cabinet, but to others the PM’s choice of Christopher Pyne for the new portfolio signals an each-way bet at least on its success.

…the modern filth of relevance…

A spectacular flop as a ‘back to the future’ Education Minister, whose advisors included back to basics gurus, Kevin Donnelly and other advocates for corporal punishment and that old nostrum ‘the Judaeo-Christian tradition’ to purge the modern filth of relevance from children’s learning, Pyne peddled his ideologically blinkered, backward vision of education as a private market-driven commodity and the rightful prerogative of the rich.

Although the odd, ambitious, Vice Chancellor could see promotion in embracing Pyne’s elitist neo-liberal plan to privatise learning, there were few other takers. It was widely believed that Pyne was forced to write a book, about himself for his children lest they read for themselves, one day, unaided the truth about their father’s failures. Yet he is a survivor. A sequel, Christopher Pyne, A Man for All Seasons, must surely follow.

Disappointingly missing from the launch of the new era of mindless optimism, Australia’s own techno-Micawberism was a song and dance routine. Surely Kylie could be persuaded to reprise Locomotion with just one or two judicious edits?

‘Everyone is doing it … the Innovation!…c’mon…c’mon… do the Innovation! with me’

Another Prime Minister, another Christopher Pyne is doubtless already working on the choreography. ‘Industry, Innovation! and science’ are conjoined uneasily in a threesome of convenience in the tyro minister’s full title but we all know it’s a meaningless title for a made up job to keep a recycled Pyne, a numbers man, in Turnbull’s pocket in case another coup is brewing.

Abbott will stay in politics by popular demand, he says, between snipes at his PM and his PM”s policies. Yet Mr Popularity brushes aside his need to discipline rogues. Even with the recent eight point downturn, he’s still up in the ego polls of preferred PM, as if it matters.

…ubiquitous lobby groups for the rich…

Turnbull is mobbed by his own cheer squad. Kate Carnell just loves him. Andrew Carnegie has a man crush. Orchestrated squeals of approval are heard from the hordes of ‘institutes’ and other ubiquitous lobby groups for the rich which will successfully block any real progress or innovation. Indeed, Australians have stagnation rather than innovation to look forward to in the words of the clear-eyed economist Satyajit Das.

‘What I’m seeing now in Australia is the same that I see in many Western democracies. Powerful lobby groups form and then they basically push their own agendas and, because they countervail each other, the whole system basically gets completely and totally stagnant and nothing happens.’

Turnbull’s Innovation! stimulus package unleashes a Pavlovian stampede as business classes clamour and elbow each other aside to snout the public trough, breaking only to preach small government or plead with government to cut funds from the poor and disadvantaged. An intoxicating scent of vast profits to be made wafts towards the feral animal spirits of the entrepreneurial classes like catnip from Canberra. This way if you want to make money!

Anyone who has any can lend their money at favourable rates and with less risk to ‘start-ups’ or new businesses. Rich white men step up. They are not slow to catch on to Malcolm’s spiel. Business, especially ‘small business’ as the motely, multifarious mob likes to style itself, can see that Innovation! is all about encouraging ‘start-ups’ or small business ventures. About them. And that’s all it is. Innovation! is not about new or original ideas. The country can’t afford any of that expensive, non-productive nonsense.

Kill-joy Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, is duty-bound to remind anyone still listening to him that, ‘Since the 2013 election, the Abbott-Turnbull Government has cut $3 billion from innovation, science and research initiatives.’ Let Malcolm Turnbull insist at every turn that we are an agile and clever country, the evidence is otherwise.

Australia ranks below Azerbaijan…

Australia may rank number one in the world for how many years kids typically spend at school, but it is 77th when it comes to how many graduate with science and engineering degrees. Here Australia ranks below Azerbaijan, Mongolia and Guatemala and will continue to do so provided our innovation is confined to creating business incubators for the wealthy at the expense of expanded, improved access for all to education.

Let Turnbull make his announcement with the assistance of a funky horn-rimmed Pyne now reborn as guru of the Innovation! vibe. Well may they redeem bankruptcy and failure as yet another stage in learning. Pyne is destined to fail at his latest project just as surely as he flopped as Minister for Education. Unless, of course, he incurs collateral damage as Mal Brough digs himself out of the Ashby go-fetch-Slipper’s-diary scandal.

Australians are not deceived. They know that Prime Ministers and governments do not create innovative nations or economies by decree. They know that however attractive the tax breaks, a rash of investment in companies based on the software start-up model is no more a step towards greater national prosperity than it is a way to restructure our stalled economy.

Designed to reward his small business backers, presented as something it is clearly not, infected by the mania of the Silicon Valley start-up cult and heeding none of its limitations, Turnbull’s Innovation! Package is a breach of faith with the Australian people as much as a signal failure of his government’s political imagination and will to explore real reform. Still, with Kylie behind it, The Innovation! could really catch on.

‘Everyone is doing it … the Innovation!…c’mon…c’mon… do the Innovation! with me’

PM Turnbull cooks his own goose in Paris while leadership goes to pot at home.



‘It is not simply that we are optimistic about an agreement, we are optimistic because we believe we have, as a global community, as humanity, the ability to innovate and imagine the technologies to enable to make these big cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.’ Malcolm Turnbull at the United Nations Convention on Climate Change 1 December 2015.

‘From Australia we come from confidence and optimism’, barks PM Turnbull, our very own super-woofer. Now he’s top dog, he won’t stop yapping and nipping at everyone’s heels about how success is just a matter of how you hold your mouth; your positive mind-set, your attitude; how imagining things brings them into being.  And it’s free.

Turnbull’s full up to pussy’s bow with rampant corpo-silicon valley technobabble and thinking outside of boxes. You won’t hear a peep, however, about Faustian compromises he’s had to make along the way. These rapidly reveal themselves this week when his promises to the Nationals to keep Abbott’s climate policies, or to repay Mal Brough’s loyalty to his coup help invite an insubordination that could scuttle Captain Smirk along with his starship enterprise.

In Paris he’s as flash as a rat with a gold tooth. An habitual power dresser, he wears the Canali that won him the leadership spill, a suit that could run the country by itself. And possibly still is. Like all top brands, the electricity consumed in its manufacture, marketing and counterfeiting could power a Pacific nation for a year. Or drown it forever.

No-one calculates carbon tax or suggests ‘savings’ or applying an ‘efficiency dividend’ on Mal’s wardrobe. We like his rig; the cut of his jib. For Joe Aston, of the AFR, it is because ‘we are happy to have someone who can dress himself as a PM rather than a theatre usher’. Or an ‘Ansett purser’. Yet ‘Turners’ Turnbull’s climate policy is pure Abbott in its capitulation to the Minerals Council of Australia and the powerful mining industries and interests it represents.

For many Paris is just another form of up-market tag team wrestling match where the theatre of cruelty still matters. Looking the part, too, is almost as important as the size of your backers’ bank accounts. Turnbull, however, knows it pays to play nice to those in the cheap seats; the developing nations. You never know they could get into bed with the Chinese, like all those nations who have rocketed from developing to Chinese satellite status in Africa.

Julie Bishop is tasked with water damage control after Dutton’s sea-water-lapping-at-your-back- door gaffe. She commits a gaffe and a half of her own in the house when she fluffs her rebuttal of Tanya Plibersek by confusing Eneko with Anebok, an island in the Marshalls which has long succumbed to rising water levels. Marshall Islands Foreign Minister Tony de Brum is said to be keen to straighten her out.

Bishop will fix things with the Pacific Islanders when she replaces our Direct Action Man Greg Hunt, Australia’s anti-environment minister in the second week of talks. She is to bring her own mop and bucket. Mal won’t let either of them spend a red cent more. Hunt and Bishop’s air fares alone this year could buy a decent size island in the Marshall group.

Bishop’s foreign aid piggy bank is raided yet again. Australia commits $1 billion over five years to help Pacific nations and other developing countries ‘prepare’ to fight climate change – out of money it is already giving. Canada, by contrast, has pledged a genuine $2.5 billion.

In another piece of shonky accountancy Australia will carve its $1 billion out of the pittance of our aid budget. Also included is the paltry $200 million over four years the government has already stumped up for the UN’s Green Climate Fund. Yet all this giving by taking away and fiddling the figures amounts to a policy masterpiece, according to Hunt.

‘Julie Bishop is a master in this space of delivery of Australian aid in a way which meets our global objectives, our regional objectives, but their national needs,’ he said, yet Bishop has allowed her budget to be plundered twice so that we can spend $3.7 billion more on security and defence over four years. Australian aid will fall to 0.22% of Gross National Income in 2017-18, the lowest level in Australia’s history and against a world trend of increasing commitment. The UK has passed a law to see it meets its increased target of 0.7% of GDP.


As for meeting our regional objectives,  most Australians (75%) say ‘helping reduce poverty in poor countries’ is the most important objective. Only 20% of Australians, surveyed by the Lowy Institute, identify ‘promoting Australia’s foreign policy objectives’ as the most important objective of the program.


None of this matters to Turnbull – yet. Things have never looked so rosy to our PM, our own lonely little petunia in an onion patch, posing as the incorrigible optimist on stage. A wayward wisp of comb-over like a fraying silver thread unwinds in the spotlight, hinted at the veteran con-man in Turnbull, a chap more at home dealing in derivatives or finance than clean energy or climate.


Spectacles slightly askew, the former merchant banker could be a superannuated Clark Kent, condemned by age and nature to be cut off forever from any transformative phone-booth. The glad-handed elder salesman you see before you is what you get. Or less. Australia seeks concessions as it did in Kyoto in 1997 to weasel out of any real commitment.


His spiel all down pat, Turnbull moves to the boxy lectern, grasping its sides with both hands, to steady himself, like an up-market delivery boy bearing some over-priced, over-packaged Christmas gift from Macy’s.


Turnbull under-delivers. His spray merely reprises his now far from new innovation evangelist shtick in the Loire room at the Paris Convention on Climate Change, while in the Seine room in a simultaneous but sincere and well-received speech, Canadian PM Trudeau, is pledging his nation to real action, ‘Canada can do more and will.’ Turnbull, on the other hand, might be giving us a heads-up on the first line of some dull new national anthem or corporate-state team song he has just devised. ‘From Australia, we come …’


‘We are not daunted by our challenge’, he postures, while Hunt negotiates to get us off the hook. Australia need do nothing until 2020 about curbing its carbon emissions after it persuades St Lucia and South Africa to allow it the accountancy dodge of carrying over Kyoto credits. In return Hunt won’t commit to a 1.5% rise but instead settles to ‘reference 1.5% in the text’


It inspires us, it energises us’, he says despite mounting evidence of his evading challenges on the domestic front. He is unable to control a growing chorus of dissidents sapping his authority within his own party. His domestic audience will never forgive his indulgent support of Mal Brough, nor his failure to bring a hostile and increasingly insubordinate Tony Abbott to heel.  Increasingly, he appears unable and unwilling to put his money where his mouth is.


Mal’s contortionism and his Silicon Valley vocabulary make him a ready crowd-pleaser, a popularity boosted at home and abroad by not being Tony Abbott. For his star turn at the international climate circus, he springs another surprise. Turnbull emerges from the change room in a Leghorn rooster costume. Where is the superman outfit everyone expected? What of Greg’ Hunt’s adenoidal, preppy promises that further climate change pledges would be revealed? World audiences, are, however, not entirely disappointed. Turnbull is to perform his signature routine.


The PM executes a virtuoso performance of his innovative trick unicycle act, wobbling atop a fraying tightrope while pursued by a crazy clown in budgie smugglers bearing a feather duster and a rolled up copy of The Daily Telegraph. Pedalling desperately to stay upright, Mal must negotiate a barrage of inflated Cory Bernardi and Ian McFarlane balloons while side-stepping a deflating, saggy Mal Brough doll which threatens to fall on him from a great height.


Turnbull does not fall. He tips a scuttle of coal all over a New Zealand-led pledge to phase out fossil fuel subsidies. In a great show of tidying up, he tears up the unsigned document from the land of the long white cloud before pulling a ‘Kyoto 2020’ a cute Hello Kitty kawaii type toy rabbit out his hat which overflows with Kyoto carbon credits carried over.


L’Équipe Australie (Team Australia) exits stage right, borne off by a team of Gina Rinehart lookalikes in hard hats singing It’s been a hard day’s night. I’ve been working like a dog to earn my 2 million dollars an hour.‘ Silence. The curtain goes down to a smattering of polite applause, Gallic shrugs and other gesticulations of multicultural bewilderment.


Meanwhile, on the domestic front, NAB chief economist and killjoy Alan Oster, reports an unwinding of business confidence with the resolution of the LNP’s leadership jitters while confidence in mining, construction and finance continues to fall because the nation has avoided reality, trusting instead in the hope that resources boom will last forever, a myopia encouraged by our political masters who squandered the proceeds buying votes with tax cuts.


Despite the odd blemish, however, in areas such as export receipts and an economy that needs rebuilding, Oster was all for looking at the bright side of things. We were not a basket case yet. Things may be looking up. Especially if you are in banking – or baskets.


While our big-talking PM is clearly making no ‘big cuts’ to his rhetoric to leaders in Paris, at home all bets on change are off as party deputy Julie Bishop executes the Liberal leadership’s ‘good cop bad cop routine’. For all Environment Minister Hunt’s prior hints that in Paris we might at last get real about our carbon reduction targets, Foreign Minister Bishop abruptly drops her emoji transmission to rise in the lower house on Monday to scotch all rumour of change.


Ethiopia and Rwanda are now doing more for climate change than Australia.  Australia is bludging on the efforts of others, Kofi Annan complains. Or sabotaging them.


Bishop publicly reassures the restive right in her own party and its fossil fuel backers, that LNP dinosaurs will still rule. Using Parliamentary privilege, she spells out coalition intentions. Her coal-fired government will not be changing its soft target of 5% reduction, a target too feeble to begin to abate a jot of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. Emissions will continue to increase in fact, since Direct Action without a carbon price mechanism provides no means of controlling carbon emitters. It will also continue to Hunt down and crush any upstart renewable energy start-ups.


Innovation is fine as a buzzword it seems, just as long as coal and oil keep their duopoly over Australia’s energy options. Any brash new solar or wind Johnny- come-lately that challenges the dominance of the privileged, government sponsored fossil fuel industry in Australia can expect open opposition from the Abbott/Turnbull coalition. The government will continue to give $7 billion-a-year in fuel tax credits alone to mining and agriculture.


A triumphant Bishop boasts that her government will stick to Tony Abbott’s pledge to abolish the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation. After all these will only encourage emerging clean energy technology, Let Turnbull blow his bags abroad about Australia ‘meeting the climate challenge’ through ‘innovation’.  It can’t and won’t.


Bishop leaves out the best bit. Given the workload in soothing party throwbacks, hacks and backers, not to mention the psychic energy required to stare down Tony Abbott’s after his recent accusations of deceit and treachery, it is, perhaps, understandable that Ms Bishop neglected to publicly salute her government’s heroic commitment to global warming over the next four years. That’s right. Australia will turn up the thermostat while expecting other countries to dial down their carbon emissions.


Australia will spend money it can’t afford creating future problems no-one needs. $47 billion of government hand-outs is ear-marked for the production and use of fossil fuels such as the Fuel Tax Credit scheme ($27.9 billion over four years), the concessional rate of excise on aviation fuel ($5.5 billion), accelerated depreciation rules ($1.5 billion) and the removal of the carbon price ($12.5 billion).


Turnbull came to power promising better economic leadership. Not only has he failed to show any climate change leadership whatsoever in Paris, a leadership which is now widely seen as fundamental to economic growth and sustainability, he has failed to show he has the bottle to lead his own LNP.


Cracks are appearing in the PM’s charismatic but largely cosmetic authority, a gloss which makes him popular in the nonsense of opinion polls but which does not carry over into day to day political leadership or management. Ian McFarlane is jumping into a Truss-warmed bed with the Nationals in order to get back into Cabinet out of a sense of his own entitlement rather than any notion of service to his nation or party.


Mal Brough’s tawdry involvement in the Slipper affair was sufficiently well-known prior to Turnbull’s rise to power to pre-empt his selection as a supporter by any prudent leader in the making. Once again, Turnbull’s lack of judgement is out in the open.


Tony Abbott just won’t shut up. Whether he opens division and threatens party unity on defence and security doesn’t matter, he is openly defying the authority of his PM.  He needs to be brought into line. Then there is the nightmare that is Greg Hunt, a minister who has committed the Turnbull government to an exorbitantly over-priced, unproven and ultimately unworkable emission reduction scheme.


Hunt will return from Paris boasting of illusory victories and the admiration of all nations. Yet he has nothing but bad news for Turnbull. Hunt’s specious arguments and spurious, outrageously far-fetched claims merely serve to highlight the government’s mendacity and its contempt for the electorate’s intelligence. Both of these brought Abbott undone.


Despite the superior cut of his suit and the fluency of his Pollyanna techno-optimism, Turnbull has some serious thinking to do over Christmas if he wants to remain PM after the election that is coming as certainly as the New Year. The ability to bloviate or to ‘imagine and to innovate’ even if it were more than a figment of the PM’s advertising puffery imagination is no substitute for good government.