In the 1990s, when Malcolm was still a merchant banker, the Turnbull family commissioned one of my father’s artists, Lewis Miller, to paint a portrait of Malcolm. Unhappy with the work, Turnbull confronted my father at a function and exclaimed: “That artist of yours is no good; he’s made me look like a big, fat, greedy cunt”, to which my father replied, “He is a realist painter, you know”.
Malcolm Turnbull’s pillow-talk may be less public these days, but Evan Hughes’ recollection of his father Ray’s heart to heart with the younger Mal’s taste in art is a rare and precious jewel in a week of schlock from the publicists, hacks and spin-doctors who must toil heroically to put lipstick on pigs.
News that our own accomplished turd-polisher, political strategist, former tobacco lobbyist, Lynton Crosby has been knighted by grateful UK Tories, almost takes the gloss off the Turnbull anecdote. Crosby pockets £ 2.4 million for his election-winning package after an election which was largely decided by non-conservative voters failing to vote.
So complete now is the average Brit’s exclusion from participation in politics and society, so bleak is their future, that the overwhelming response to both party campaigns was ‘why bother’?
Crosby has, nevertheless, helped the Tories set some sort of record. Not since universal suffrage in 1918 (for women over 30 but ten years later equally for both sexes) has any party with less than 37% of the popular vote gained an absolute majority in the UK parliament.
Least he be underwhelmed by his knighthood and fee, Crosby is hailed as ‘an inspirational role model’ by the Australia Day foundation who make him UK Australian of the Year. Perhaps his campaign against plain wrapping for tobacco products tipped the distinction in his favour.
Plain packaging discourage children from buying cigarettes, thereby denying an important market to tobacco companies whose products cause six million people to die each year. But bleeding heart liberals can butt out; spin-meisters rule the world OK?
Role models work best unfettered by scruples or ethics as the work of our own popular heroes in Border Protection, for example, or our Monkey Pod hoons, the Abbott government in exile, attests. Its suppository of wisdom is tapped by an anti-gay group in the US and fellow marriage guru, Kevin Andrews has taken leave of parliament to supply a similarly right-wing mob’s desire to have another Australian political failure on its speakers’ list. Abbott drops in on Rupert Murdoch and Jerry to offer some pre-nuptial counselling. It all spells trouble-making for Malcolm at home.
Tony Abbott, for whom ‘no’ is the new ‘yes’, is spurred to honour his pledge not to snipe or undermine Turnbull by doing precisely both. Is the portrait story a bit of monkey business? Imagine the outcry.
By Sir Lynton’s gong, no! By that new gold standard of ethics in public life, Sir Lynton’s knighthood, the reappearance of Turnbull the unhappy portrait subject an elderly story today, has nothing to do with Monkey Pod plotters.
Countless other scoundrels abound who would eagerly revive any story depicting his narcissism and foul mouth just to take him down a peg. Abbott’s anti-gay marriage speech and Kev’s mischief will help to wedge Mal if he doesn’t watch himself.
Just don’t expect him to revoke his exciting times marriage licence any time soon. Or counsel Tony Abbott with the pithy phrase used by Reserve Bank members on NPA’s Brian Hood tried to blow the whistle on corruption in 2007-8.
The director of Note Printing Australia who exposed alleged bribery in two Reserve Bank subsidiaries was told ‘you don’t fit in, f— off’. Similar advice may be invited by the antics of the Monkey Pod God.
The language may be a bit less blue when the RBA meets next Tuesday, to decide our futures as the tabloids would have it. Directors will prognosticate the unknowable, as distinguished economist Richard Denniss reminds us with his refreshing candour. Or just make stuff up. Expect fluffy coverage in MSM about interest rates, now a largely ineffectual lever being ‘on hold’.
The economy will be described as if it were a toddler taking its first steps. One thing is certain. On present trends, no-one will be high-fiving or punching the air. No-one will ask about the RBA’s reserves.
Equally certain is that no-one will vote to return to Treasury the $8.8 billion that Joe Hockey flicked its way, casually boosting the 2013 federal budget deficit to $40 billion, after years of screaming about deficits at Labor. It could be a deposit on repairing the $80 billion hole Joe made in health and education funding to the states.
Hockey’s expensive political statement, a way of dramatising Labor’s reckless debt and deficit disaster will continue to be paid for by cuts to health and welfare budgets. Ordinary Australians are stung for Hockey’s political stunt. Onya Joe! Is there an award for US Australian of the Year?
Australia’s growth in 2016 will be minimal, perhaps two per cent. Export earnings continue downward while domestic demand remains weak. Yet our PM just oozes excitement and wild optimism. He can’t think of any better time to be alive. It’s a disturbing take on leadership.
Dissent is unacceptable in the Turnbull Liberal government, as Glyn Davis of Melbourne University found early last November. Turnbull dismissed the Vice Chancellor’s real objections to his thought bubble tying university researchers with industry as ‘… running against the vibe.’
‘You haven’t got the new zeitgeist. The new zeitgeist, Glyn is to believe in yourself, is to have a go’. Davis simply told Turnbull that unlike Britain, for example, we don’t have industries big enough to fund university research.
A new zeitgeist, or a new despotism? Is his government so deluded it believes it can force us to agree against all evidence that we live in the best of all possible times? Of course it can. It works in North Korea, a totalitarian state, but it is ‘a hard ask’ as they say in sports journalism in Australia.
Far from offering hope, Turnbull is peddling denialism in a different package. And it’s the last thing worried investors and a cash-strapped general public want to hear. Record household debt suggests average Australians worry more about paying their bills; meeting their current financial commitments, than shopping the nation back into economic recovery. The true picture is sobering.
Sterling has collapsed 7% in two months, partly on rumours of an impending ‘Brexit’ from the EU, Australia’s third largest trading partner and its low interest rate forecast for 2016. Weak demand and overproduction continue to drive down commodity prices. Warren Hogan, ANZ Bank’s chief economist, foresees depression in China’s heavy industry. Will he, too, get a lecture from Turnbull on his need to get the new vibe?
Australian MSM, on the other hand, is rushing to fall in with our Dear Leader. His ABC new broom, Michelle Guthrie, is abuzz with the new zeitgeist. Sabra Lane recently gushed over Malcolm Turnbull’s interest in art and his love of Winston Churchill for seven minutes, as if nothing else in the world was more important. If only she could have asked him to recall his verdict on the Lewis portrait. Or what his government’s up to with the ABC?
Technology editor, Nick Ross quit the ABC because he has not been allowed to report on the NBN fiasco. His reports have the wrong vibe. Evidence that Turnbull has sabotaged the NBN is just not part of the new optimism.
Other commentators play down any sense of impending crisis by softening their language. TV news is of ‘stocks tumbling’, ‘investors jittery’ and the old chestnut ‘market volatility’ diminish a stark economic reality. The new vibe involves the old cultivation of diversion as well as evasion and denial.
Admiral Morrison continues to turns a blind eye to anything that’s not in his script of expenditure and income tax cuts. And dumping on Labor. Will he also sling a few billion into the reserve bank’s reserves?
‘It will be a tight budget’ says the PM and his treasurer while busily waving fistfuls of dollars under the Adani Brothers’ noses. Turnbull’s game plan is to entice the billionaires into fantasy coal mining, a type of reality TV show in which the contestants don’t have to do anything to get the money. It parodies the ABC where it can do nothing under the current government to keep its funding.
The tight budget also tightens a noose. Investors are divesting from coal-mining shares as the world’s carbon budget tightens in the fight against climate change, and as renewable energy technologies fall in cost. Opinion polls, moreover, show Australian voters are less and less sold on industry subsidies.
Morrison spent much of his week pitching his leaner, fairer, smaller tax system. A GST rise will fund planned tax breaks.
Average families out of pocket $6000 a year as a result of a GST hike will welcome their chance of being a part of Turnbull’s campaign ‘to do something about the bottom line’.
Yet we are awash with buckets of money for the rich. A millionaire will get an extra $100, 000 a year under ScMo’s planned cuts. The rest of us get an extra $7.00 per week. Employers can expect continued support in their bid to keep wages low. Working conditions must stay as they are for everyone’s good.
Turnbull warns his is not going to be a ‘fistful of dollars’ budget, unless of course, you exploit natural resources, endanger the environment or head up a wealthy corporation. High rollers, like Shenhua mining win the whole trifecta.
Sneering at Labor who promise this week to restore some of the education funding needed to address inequality of opportunity promised under Gonski and then some, Turnbull said this would not be a cash-splashing budget. ‘We all know, the PM said airily that it’s not just a matter of spending more money on the problem.’
Indeed, much would continue to be taken from the lives of ordinary folk who are said to be excited by the Turnbull government’s innovative ways of getting them to toughen up. Cuts to education, health and social services help us all develop resilience and independence.
Australians with disabilities are said to be liberated by the loss of their disability commissioner and those who are denied a fair go because of gender are raving about Turnbull’s decision to delay appointing a sex discrimination commissioner.
A ‘fistful of dollars’ would be the last thing anyone would wish upon poor innocent victims of misfortune. Government ministers, this week, extol a range of new numbers you can call to raise your awareness of your own poverty or your partner’s violence.
Kent, a homeless man, appears in Saturday’s The Age thanking Malcolm for his innovative government decision to put some of the money cut from refuge services into creating a website which offers the destitute something to click on.
Although Kent has no internet connection, our hearts swell with pride and hope in this ground-breaking step towards an inclusive compassionate society which will soon offer a website for everything.
Click on me will become the new national anthem in an innovative agile and high-tech savvy Australia. Lean on me will provide the melody.
Click on me when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need somebody to click on
Kent and others like him are happy to kip down in his local shopping centre. Spend $600 million on a wind commissioner. As long as David Leyonhjelm is happy.
David’s supporters were all over the news this week pointing up the oft-ignored link between Port Arthur massacre and domestic violence. The logic is now crystal-clear, thanks to the independent senator. Since women have struggled after Howard’s gun buy-back to get a good weapon, their menfolk have got away with murder.
Hitting women was being made out to be worse than it really is, anyway, by the feminists and those whose political correctness had gone berserk, said Mark Latham, whose Mr Punch role after politics gets him attention if nothing else in his splenetic outbursts.
Violence is just ‘a coping mechanism’ for men, he said on his debut on Triple M’s Lathamland a show tailored to the incorrigible attention-seeker’s need to be needlessly offensive.
‘How is the tax system actually stopping people who are actually out there backing themselves, achieving the goals they want to achieve?’ Scott Morrison, Sky News Monday 25 January.
‘Stopping people’ has an irresistible ring to Scott Morrison who put a stopper in Tony Abbott’s career by ‘running dead’ to ensure Malcolm Turnbull won the leadership spill four months ago.
Before that he was Abbott’s boat-stopper and Abbott’s ‘fixer,’ before fixing Abbott’s wagon in the spill. Now he’s on to a plan that will help ensure that the more you earn, the more you can keep. It’s part of his quest for a fairer system. And a smokescreen for a higher GST.
Morrison did not stop the boats, they stopped under Rudd, yet by dint of repetition he has most of us believing him. This week he’s hard at work inventing another bizarre fantasy. This time it’s about our tax system stopping us from working or achieving our goals. ‘Backing ourselves’ whatever that means. He just can’t just stop the whoppers.
Morrison pretends that a dollar or two more in tax incurred via bracket creep will cause workers not to go to work or cease to need schools, roads or hospitals. Yet he knows he’s got to pay for essentials such as our latest $400 million a year foreign adventure in Iraq. Border protection cost $2.9 billion and got a top up of $450 million in the MYEFO.
Then there’s parliamentary entitlements. Where are the cuts to pollies’ expenses? Barnaby cost the nation $ 1 million over six months last year in helicopter Joyce rides.
ScoMo’s happy to peddle the Tea Party lie that paying tax prevents us achieving our goals. Encourage wilful blindness as to the social benefits of an income tax system. He’s playing with fire.
A tax break would tie up more capital in Australia’s cash-strapped economy where private debt is at record levels while cuts to government spending could plunge us into a recession we need not have.
Predicted low commodity prices will in 2016 will mean our earnings will continue to decline, yet, at home, the forty per cent of companies who owe us billions in taxes they evade, are not, in Morrison’s view worth chasing. A fantasy, he says. He would know.