Month: February 2016

Despicable decision, Mr Turnbull to make children suffer.

asylum seeker

People smugglers are no threat to our sovereignty postures Malcolm Turnbull in Question Time, Tuesday, as a beleaguered PM, beset by internal division and a continuing decline in global economic news, resorts to the old Liberal line that cruelty to asylum seekers is an effective and worthy deterrent of demon people smugglers. It is an unworthy and unwelcome decline in his leadership.

Of course it helps when heading into an election year if you can engender a sense of national crisis and pose as your nation’s saviour, but when babies and children must suffer as a result of your need to appear ‘tough on people smuggling’ you tread thin ice.

What does this do to ‘brand Turnbull’? What damage will this cause to his carefully cultivated illusion of a superior moral tone? What price his slogan-less government now?

Does the PM really need to appease his party’s disaffected right wingers by channelling Tony Abbott’s apparent cavalier disregard for humanity; his apparent contempt for our international obligations to refugees and asylum seekers?

The new parliamentary term has not begun well. Economic indicators are all heading south. AGL has pulled out of coal-seam gas. There is back-biting from the backbench about the GST hike, despite Douglas Robb’s denial.

Worse, the government’s game plan, which featured killing Bill Shorten with union smears is all over the media. A rat in the ranks has leaked the very first Cabinet meeting’s talking points.

The gauntlet is down. By Wednesday the PM seems all out to win at all costs in a race to the bottom. He uses parliament’s Question Time to pose as guardian of our national security, apparently happy to grandstand on the High Court 6:1 verdict in favour of the legality of Manus and Nauru.

Some MSM reporters, doubtless, will praise Turnbull’s ersatz patriotism. His cheap rhetoric will be hailed as making him ‘strong on border protection’. His posturing will blend in well with Scott Morrison’s ‘tough but fair’ stance on raising the GST for everyone so that a privileged few get income tax cuts. And it may help get the Monkey Pod room off his back for a moment.

 

Turnbull is under pressure to prove he’s no bleeding heart liberal. Abbott’s speech in the US helps wedge him on gay marriage and Kevin Andrews urges troop deployment in Syria in what seems to be a continuing bid to paint the new leader soft on terror. Or just soft.

 

A flying visit to the frontline does not quite do the trick. Images of Turnbull in a bomber jacket for an awkward photo session reveal few of our boys in Iraq with smiles on their faces. The ABC, does, however, seem to step up its anti-ISIS news items.

 

Knocking back a US invitation to boost our troop deployment may not have won any hearts and minds amongst our military personnel already deployed in Iraq, but it was a wise decision. Turnbull’s decision to dive into the people smuggling bag of tricks with all its attendant assumptions lies and misconceptions, on the other hand, is less well-considered.

“The people smugglers will not prevail over our sovereignty. Our borders are secure. The line has to be drawn somewhere and it is drawn at our border”.

Our borders never were threatened by people smugglers. In the meantime, however, as a result of the High Court’s ruling against a challenge, babies are able to be sent back to Nauru and Manus Island. Despite the PM’s real intentions and despite Peter Dutton’s desperate backpedalling, the news from the High Court is nothing to crow about.

It’s not something that merits a public pat on the back in parliament, Mr Turnbull. It doesn’t vindicate our policy towards asylum seekers. It doesn’t do anything for our international reputation or our claims to be a humane and compassionate society.

All it is an expected legal outcome. The High Court has ruled against a challenge to the legality of offshore detention. It says nothing about the morality of indefinite off shore detention in life endangering conditions on Manus or Nauru.

Ninety-one children, thirty-seven of them babies are among the 267 asylum seekers including female victims of sexual assault now threatened with deportation to places so notoriously unsafe and badly run that they’ve attracted protests from the UNHCR and human rights groups around the world.

Children suffer especially acutely, from bed wetting, nightmares, ongoing effects of trauma and torture in previous countries, as well as “situational crisis” from their current detention, IHMS reports. Those attending school on Nauru are threatened with knives and are subject to sexual harassment. Often beaten and abused by community members, they live in fear.

To send the babies back would be child abuse, says Greens senator Sarah Hansen-Young whose heroic efforts to expose conditions in the off-shore detention centres have been subject to ridicule by Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton. Even Dutton is now, however, saying he would not send a child back into danger.

Border protection is at best a confected nonsense, one of the worst legacies of the Abbott Prime Ministership debacle. Our national sovereignty was never in question. Punishing asylum seekers and refugees by putting them on Manus and Nauru has never been a deterrent to any people smuggler.

Instead of pretending to be tough on people smugglers Malcolm Turnbull could prove he is tough by exercising moral leadership. Close down the detention centres. Let the men, women and children live amongst us. Let us look to their healing. Surely they have suffered enough.

 

The will of the people cannot be ignored on GST, Mr Morrison..

shifty morrison


 

Don’t tell  waste your breath telling the Federal Treasurer his tax plans are unpopular.  Being unpopular  will only serve to flatter his colossal ego.  Don’t ask how he can ignore the will of the people. Or delay the hundreds of submissions to his green paper on tax reform options. ScoMo knows what’s good for us. He’s about to launch a 15 % GST hike upon us.

Ready or not-so-ready, Scott Morrison is already lumbering down the runaway. His rent-seekers’ pre-election special, the deceptively misnamed ‘tax reform package’ is set for a barn-storming national tour. Pity none of it adds up.

Morrison proposes to tax all of us more despite telling us there’s no revenue problem.   We are meant to swallow whole his government’s line that this will ‘grow’ the nation’s economy. As a sweetener, expect tax cuts for those earning over $80,000 PA which will net you $100, 000 a year if you are a millionaire or about seven dollars a week if you are not.

The ScoMo-tax will hit hardest those who can least afford to pay, the poor and the elderly. It will also discriminate against women who already pay higher prices for identical products in a so-called ‘pink-tax‘ and do nothing for those it pretends to help, women with children in part-time work who would increase their hours but for the extra income tax. Compensation is spoken of, true. But what this will amount to is anyone’s guess. Best keep your hopes low.

And who are we to quibble? What would we know? Never does respecting the people’s will enter into ScoMo’s vocabulary. Nowhere does he deign to explain how a regressive tax will do anything at all to promote economic growth. Or do anything but increase social division. Doing unpopular means not doing explaining or being too fussed over fairness. Morrison will just mow you down if you say it can’t fly. Experts scatter for their safety.

Bizarrely, even for ScoMo, riskily, he resorts to mythologising his past. He harangues his talkback mate Ray, I-can’t-find-the-Bible, on Hadley’s 2GB radio show about how in 2013 he knew best . He parades his track record of trashing the people’s will as a badge of honour even if it means he has to re-write some well-known history.

‘I remember before the 2013 election turn-backs actually had lower levels of support in the Australian community. It’s important that when you believe that something’s right for the country, that you remain focused on that’, he tells Ray and Ray’s listeners.

‘Turn back the boats’ as an unpopular slogan? Seriously? Morrison will do or say anything. His national conversation on tax is also a complete con. His government never had any intention of truly consulting anyone. What it sought were smoke and mirrors, a subterfuge where, after all options having been ‘on the table’ for months, suddenly all we are all shoe-horned into one: a GST rise.

Cue Mr Clean Mike Baird to take some of the heat with his so-called ‘compromise plan’ which equally bizarrely gives the money raised by the new GST rise, a state tax, largely back to the Commonwealth. A pittance only of $7 billion would go towards health and education, both of which are bleeding after the Abbott government’s cuts of $70 billion.  If this is a compromise, it highlights how far off the tracks the ‘national tax conversation’ has been derailed. Or hi-jacked.

Not only are ScoMo’s ‘unpopular’ turn-backs a false analogy, however, his words are a disturbing abrogation of his responsibility to the people. Morrison  is happy to override popular opinion in order to give us not what we want but what he thinks we need. Or what he’s been told to tell us we need. Tax cuts for the top end of town.

His package won’t fly. Can’t fly. He’s even getting ahead of the PM as Michelle Grattan observes ; his equivocal but needier fellow social isolate flight ‘Captain Flash’, Turnbull. A rough patch looms ahead, surely. Turnbull may flake off just when Morrison discovers he, himself, is irrevocably welded to a GST that we all hate. It wouldn’t be the worst outcome. Not for Turnbull, anyway.

Morrison’s got few of us on board. His past lies don’t help. His ‘national conversation about tax’ performance piece failed to be a conversation. It solicited hundreds of submissions from all of us. Now it is totally ignoring them.

The promised green paper reflecting our views on tax reform has been postponed, the Treasurer says until ‘before the election’. Besides, who needs consultation when you have ‘Malcolm and I’?

‘Malcolm and I … have advanced the debate a lot more effectively over the past four or five months than a green paper ever would‘.

One modest government: two colossal egos.

February’s version of ScoMo is running the old ‘tough but necessary’ operating system. We’ve seen it before, right down to the presumptuous arrogance. Ad nauseam. It saves admitting that his sales pitch is a failure. Or that his reform package is no such thing but just a ruse to get us all to subsidise his government’s tax cuts for the rich.

You can tell Morrison senses defeat by his uncompromising demeanour. Soft and cuddly ScoMo locks up and has to reset himself to Rottweiler mode. It’s disturbing transformation as Gillian Triggs discovered when she dared venture that the indefinite detention of children was a human rights abuse if not a crime against humanity. Morrison pounced on her definition of detention as if a bit of categorical nit-picking ever did anything for imprisoned children.

Perhaps looking for the word, ‘resolute’, SBS  helpfully misreports that the treasurer is resilient. No. After pretending to be tractable, democratic, even, he is back to his old I-know-what’- good-for-you-damn-you contempt for any views but his own. He has no shortage of other stellar performers, either, to cheer him on.

Kate Carnell, tireless advocate for the abolition of penalty rates and the promotion of lower wages, who plays the role of Liberal blue heeler, nips at dissenters’ heels. Kate has strategically morphed into an ombudsman to supply a bit more puff on behalf of wealthy business interests who feel out in the cold in Canberra.

Ms Carnell will supplement the more than one thousand business lobbyists already hard at work in the nation’s capital, to say nothing of her own ACCI,  the Australia Chamber of Commerce and Industry and an alphabet of similar groups who must daily badger our political elite. When it comes to advocates for business, too much is barely enough.

The public will pay a bargain $6 million dollars for Kate and a small team to support her to act as a cheerleader for increasing the GST. Yet ordinary folk are not allowed the luxury of having any new advocates or even our disability or sex discrimination commissioners reinstated.

Kate helpfully waves aside popular opinion.  Earlier this year, fearing an unpopular GST increase would be discarded too quickly, she got up nine different business groups to join in lobbying against ‘short-termism’ in political decision-making. Her view is that no-one likes to pay extra tax. Or even their fair share.

A reporter raises recent Newspoll results suggesting that a GST increase is not what we want. A rise appeals to at best just under half of voters. The people are wrong again, however, it seems. Mal and Scott will sort them out. Tell them what’s good for them. Good for Mal and Scott that is.

A democratic government respects the will of the people. It does not trash popular opinion to follow its own agenda of protecting privilege by offering tax cuts to its mates. It  cannot merely be the servant of entrenched division and inequality. It cannot seek tax reform submissions and just sit on them. It cannot offer slogans instead of explanation of its aims. If it seeks more tax revenue it must make its case for increased prosperity for the common good.

So far the Abbott/Turnbull regime has flouted every requirement of a decent, democratic government in its campaign to increase taxes without consultation. It is time for all Australians to speak out.