Month: July 2016

Turnbull government raises serious questions of judgement.

Turnbull and Martin


(Submitted to Tasmanian Times.)

Senator Lisa Singh’s re-election provides a rare beacon of hope in a week clouded by injustice, ignorance and petty recrimination as the nation is shocked by ABC Four Corners’ expose of child abuse within the juvenile detention in the Northern Territory and disappointed in PM Turnbull’s decision not to endorse Kevin Rudd’s nomination for the UN Secretary-General a mutually demeaning betrayal which Barnaby Joyce blames upon the Labor Party.

Labor is of course totally to blame for the shock news of the week announced by the AEC Sunday morning – which is that Labor’s Cathy O’Toole has won Herbert, a turn of events which MSM have spun as unlikely in an echo of the Prime Minister’s ugly election night victory speech at Sydney’s Wentworth Hotel in which he claimed the coalition would have “a solid majority”.

O’Toole’s victory means the government will have 76 seats in the House of Reps with Labor and independents 74, making management of the 45th Parliament a challenge, especially if the Coalition provides the speaker and leaving the government’s legislative programme highly vulnerable to the views of maverick MP Bob Katter and other independents.

The Herbert news is softened, Sunday, with warnings the LNP “is considering an appeal to the court of disputed returns” as if it’s not a real win or as if a subsequent Herbert by-election would buck all precedent and not punish a government in a climate of declining popularity.

Essential Research this week shows Labor increase its two-party preferred polling, to record a lead of 52-48 over the Coalition. Media spin aside, Turnbull would be foolish to try his luck.

As with Lisa Singh’s win over the odds in Tasmania, many Australians will be celebrating O’Toole’s victory in Herbert as a win for the ordinary voter in an election in which the government campaign rested on tax cuts for the wealthy and with little for anyone else but a vague promise of a stability which it has no means to deliver.

Unemployment in Townsville, Herbert’s heart, has almost trebled to 13.9 per cent, 2011-16.

A triumph of people power over an ALP machine which had relegated unaligned-left Labor independent Ms Singh to an unwinnable number six position on the ballot paper, the senator’s victory is also a call for action on climate change, asylum seeker justice, racial equality and religious tolerance, all of which are endangered in other events of the political week.

A blast of anti-Muslim, One Nation-type dog whistling erupts Monday from the office of Eric Abetz who endorses the bigotry of staffer Josh Manuatu’s defence of Sonja Kruger’s ban on Muslims as,

“A great article from a member of my staff on why we need an open and frank discussion on the future of immigration.”

“Open and frank” is code for closed-minded prejudice and cloaked xenophobia and wilfully misrepresents his staffer’s desire to restrict Muslim immigrants because of their homophobia and discriminatory beliefs and cultural practices against women. In brief, – as Max Chalmers puts it, “Muslims must be discriminated against in the interests of advancing tolerance.”

Open and frank discussions are of course breaking out all over the nation while the phrase threatens to overtake our “national conversations” about tax so keenly favoured recently.

After talking frankly and openly with former Liberal candidate Pauline Hanson, the Prime Minister refers reporters to the number of people who voted for her. 584,000 Australians gave One Nation their first preference, almost as many as voted for the National Party which received 600,000 first preferences and now dictates the pace and shape of Turnbull’s government.

The PM must get One Nation support for its legislative plans which include the ABCC, a bill which violates such legal principles as the presumption of innocence and which presumes guilt by association. It also needs support for “zombie” economic measures still on the books, largely cuts to services and benefits it calls savings which it included in its 2016 budget calculations.

As former Leader of Government Business in the Senate Eric Abetz sees it, he has the skills and the experience to help but the Abbott supporter has unaccountably been left out of cabinet.

Abetz’s political genius is highlighted in his role in the numbering of Liberal candidates on the Tasmanian senate ballot paper a move which helped former Tourism Minister, Richard Colbeck’s lose his senate seat to The Greens despite receiving nearly twice Abetz’s vote.

Demonstrating his superior analytical skills, however, Abetz maintains blame lies squarely with the grassroots campaign to get Colbeck elected, which he calls “a destabilising campaign” that undermined the message of stability and cost the party five seats.

Destabilising the Prime Minister quite nicely in government, Eric re-joins his fellow Delcons, (those delusional conservatives committed to returning Tony Abbott as PM) who now form a type of puritan choir harassing a hapless Malcolm Turnbull who is already hostage to the Nationals by secret agreement – and nudge the lame duck leader ever further to the right.

The rumbling of Rudd this week reflects – and worsens Turnbull’s predicament. The PM’s failure to honour his earlier commitment to back Kevin Rudd for the UN, now revealed to in several letters which Rudd has duly released to the media, reflects how far he has stymied himself.

Unwilling to prune dead wood such as the disturbed Minister for the Northern Territory, National (in Canberra) Senator Nigel Scullion, a politician who travels with three loaded guns beside him in his car and unwilling to make hard decisions, the PM has constructed a cabinet which is too big and too over-upholstered with blue-tie conservatives to help him make the hard decisions.

Unable to reach consensus on Rudd, Cabinet refers the decision back to the PM who must now break his word to the former Mandarin-speaking PM, a move which he hopes will appease the Right but which cuts his Foreign Minister and deputy party leader Julie Bishop adrift and which is likely to encourage the right to further test his authority while ensuring Rudd’s undying enmity.

But hold the tomato sauce! Rushing to the rescue is none other than resident mutt-catcher, Deputy dog Barnaby Joyce. In a breath-taking redefinition of ministerial responsibility and collegiate decision making, Joyce exculpates his government from the decision to not endorse Kevin Rudd in his bid to nominate for secretary general of the UN, by pointing out that the decision was in effect made by the Labor Party, a group which has also erased Whyalla from the map, put lamb roasts up to $100 and saddle Australia with debt and deficit disaster forever.

Joyce calls on Australia to blame Labor for Rudd being dudded out of getting endorsed by the Coalition government Cabinet. It was all Labor’s fault because there were “… a whole range of reasons articulated by the Labor Party themselves” which disqualified Mr Rudd from the job.
Apart from his amazing logical loopiness, Joyce sets a new low in political assassination which an MP is clearly now only as good as the invective of his worst opponent on a bad day. It is also an end of the bipartisan tradition in which Australians supported their own in international forums.

There was a hint of this when Steve Bracks was abruptly recalled shortly after the Abbott government came to power in 2013 – and before he’d even had a chance to do lunch as Australia’s consul-general in New York by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop who said Labor had been “arrogant in not consulting” the then opposition on the appointment.

Tanya Plibersek was prescient when she protested

“It is telling that the first act of an Abbott government is to play party politics in international affairs.”

The more things change, the more they stay the same with stable Coalition government.

Much less newsworthy a betrayal than a busted Rudd, because it involves the plight of ordinary people, is Christian Porter’s failure to honour the Coalition’s undertakings to protect low income people and to increase unemployment benefits, a promise which it gave to ACOSS and other groups at The National Reform Summit in August 2015.

Social Services Minister Christian Porter is beating up the $5 billion he says he will be able to take back from Australians who receive Centrelink payment as the government moves to soften its stance on super to appease the IPA and other powerful opponents on the right.

Porter’s full of euphemisms for bullying the poor, the needy and infirm using phrases garnered from corporate jargon such as “data-matching recipients”, “increasing disclosure requirements”, “reviewing” – read refusing – support to disability support pensioners, reducing carer payments and halting carbon tax compensation for new recipients.

None of the Minister’s bold new plan to punish the poor has been subject to any form of consultation, despite the government promising this a year ago at the summit. All that’s offered by way of explanation is a Social Services spokesman who says that legitimate recipients have nothing to worry about.

For ACOSS’ Cassandra Goldie, however, the government’s approach is ill-conceived.

“At the absolute minimum, given that we are talking about some of the most vulnerable people, the government should be sitting down with the community sector which has the direct experience with this system to make sure that its plans won’t create really harsh outcomes for people,” she says.

Apology there may be none but there is, as always, no end of feeding the chooks this week; breathless press release and media blitz has long usurped communication or listening.

Man of climate action, Kooyong Mitsubishi Colt, Josh Freydenberg, races into all available news studios mid- week, tooting his horn. He flashes his lights and spins his wheels for renewable energy in a Targa Rally damage control stunt that may easily end up a demolition derby.

Mr Coal, as Andrew Bolt flatters the younger fossil fuel fan, is clearly out to counter cynical criticism that he is not the man to clean up our act in energy at least. Fittingly, he seems to have left his “strong moral case for coal” somewhere in his party’s vast lost luggage repository.

Churlish onlookers object that not even “world’s best minister” Greg Hunt, who wowed the socks off the 21st Century energy Emirs who run the petro-chemical state of Dubai, could do justice to both energy and environment and that Freydenberg’s joint portfolio was conceived in spin.

Attempting to juggle both will inevitably lead to his dropping one of them, says Bernard Keane, although this does not take into account the way Hunt greeted news of his demotion.

“My work is done,” said the world’s greatest minister, thus leaving Freydenberg little to do on the environment other than perhaps to lock up, switch the lights off and put the bin out.

Cynical listeners to the Freydenberg spiel, observe that the new environment combo with the lot minister is loud in praise of renewable energy while fracking all credibility by simultaneously endorsing coal seam gas extraction.

Freydenberg was also last heard boosting a plan to build a $5 billion railway for an Adani coal-mine that would otherwise never attract sufficient investment capital in his capacity as Minister for Northern dreaming, having been persuaded, doubtless, by his predecessor Hunt, the government’s climate intellectual, according to George Brandis, that the project was good to go.

Hunt’s brilliant argument is that emissions produced in the burning of Carmichael coal, cannot possibly be included in any environmental cost equation but then, as the nation was painfully reminded this week they do things differently in the Northern Territory.

Northern Territory Nigel Scullion drives around with three loaded firearms in his car, Paul Bongiorno reports of the minister who once tied to ban the sale of Vegemite in the Top End because dry communities were using it to make home brew.

“We try and do the right thing by youth,” NT First Minister Adam Giles wrote on his Facebook page in April, justifying legalising extra means of restraining youngsters whom it turns out have not been charged with any offence but who are by and large in a detention centre on remand.

In 2010 Giles bid to become correctional services minister was, he said, so he could “put all the bad criminals in a big concrete hole”, even if he broke “every United Nations convention on the rights of the prisoner” as we were to go on to do in our offshore detention centres.

The Youth Justice Amendment Bill was introduced into the NT parliament in April and passed in May defined and expanded the use of violence against youngsters as young as ten years old.

Minister for Justice John Elferink, a former policeman, made the case for the amendment which would also circumscribe handcuffs, waist belts and “other systems by which you restrain hands to waists”, including the use of a mechanical chair.

The “spit hood” was a protective measure with no hint of sensory deprivation for the child whose head it would cover for hours. It would prevent officers from contracting Hepatitis C although the disease is only spread by blood to blood contact. Only in this way could 17 year olds like Dylan Voller be prevented from harming themselves and the good order of NT’s department of correctional services be preserved.

“Nobody wants to see a kid in jail, but nobody wants to see our cars getting smashed up and our houses getting broken in to. That’s it. Had enough.”

“They’re not kids, they’re mini-criminals and kids have to face up to the consequences of their actions,” a colleague offered helpfully.

With this refreshingly classical view of its young offenders and more than a whiff of the lynch-mob vigilantism sometimes called zero tolerance or getting tough on crime, staff at the Don Dale Youth Detention centre in Darwin, a 21st century innovation, a maximum security prison for juveniles, needed only to be supplied with the odd mechanical chair, a few spit hoods, a supply of tear gas, cable ties and they were set to “pulverise the fuckers”.

Fully equipped and sanctioned by the state, grown men could take their charges on personal journeys to reform or retributive punishment or keeping cars and houses safe, whatever their level of understanding of the goals of the NT penal code including their duty of care.

When it is shown on 4 Corners this Monday the video reveals men beating children, hurling them, stripping them naked; tear-gassing them. The footage is not new. There have been two reports on Don Dale. Yet when they are asked no-one in charge in the NT government remembers seeing the footage.

Nigel Scullion is asked by the PM to watch Four Corners but, as he explains in his apology Sunday, he has another urgent family appointment to attend. When pressed, he says he does recall mention of Don Dale but it didn’t “pique” his interest.

Any other Prime Minister would have asked for the minister’s resignation. Instead Malcolm Turnbull who cannot afford to lose another number in the house and who has been stung by accusations that he’s indecisive, consults Warren Mundine and within hours announces a Royal Commission which he makes clear must do its job as quickly as possible.

Against all advice this RC will be confined to the NT and conducted in conjunction with the Northern Territory, in a unique self-policing arrangement.

Who better, then, to appoint as Royal Commissioner than former NT Chief Justice Brian Martin whose previous sentencing includes a one month jail term for a man who raped a fifteen year old girl?

Martin presided over a manslaughter trial in Alice Springs where five men pleaded guilty to attacking and leaving Aboriginal man Kwementyaye Ryder to die in 2009. The men, all in their 20s, received non-parole periods of between 12 months and four years.

NT indigenous groups unite to condemn the Royal Commission as compromised from the start.

“Prime Minister Turnbull has comprehensively failed us,” says AMSANT Chief Executive John Paterson on behalf of the Northern and Central Land Councils and the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (AMSANT).

Deputy Chair Olga Havnen says:

“This appointment is wrong for all manner of reasons, and Aboriginal people in the Territory will not have confidence in the appointment of Brian Martin. As Chief Justice, he sat at the apex of the NT’s justice system. He presided over all judicial officers who sentenced young Aboriginal offenders to detention, and he knew them all; he himself sentenced juveniles to detention.”

The week ends amidst a din of further questions about the Coalition’s new stable, consultative, consensus style cabinet government and the vexed issue of its Prime Minister’s judgement.

Royal Commission, Rudd: How could Malcolm Turnbull get it so wrong?


Brandis, Turnbull present Brian Ross Martin

Three amigos bond in public display of their mutual quest for justice and cover-up.

How could he get it so wrong, so soon? Coalition circus ring-in ringmaster – an astonishing Abbott look alike in the right light or if you just look at the policies, Turnbull, the incredible shrinking man began brilliantly with his death-defying Cabinet-making show. Now it’s all gone belly up.

Political dwarfs were tossed, duds and duffers were reshuffled and an attempt was made on the Guinness book of records for how many anti-abortionists, marriage equality opponents and other “rising stars” of the right may be stuffed into a receptacle already over-filled with incompetents, pretenders, intellectual pygmies and a vast flock of screeching, headless capons.

It all looked fabulous for five minutes, just like the PM himself. No-one knows what went wrong. Perhaps Malco the human calculator did not count on the ways ascendant luminaries which include Ted Selesja and climate change sceptic Matt Canavan can bugger up an otherwise flawless decision making routine – especially when they interact with the likes of Peter Dutton.

Now he’s cooked his golden egg-layer. Not only has the newly sworn in PM just gratuitously insulted Rudd, he has set up a Royal Commission into juvenile detention where the terms of reference are decided in conjunction with the NT government the outfit under investigation. It beggars belief. Imagine if Labor had got the same offer over the TURC?

Labor’s offer of bipartisan backing has been spurned as assiduously as the NT has been invited to share the joy of a collaborative DIY objective legal inquiry not to mention the obvious political bromance as may well develop between NT First Minister Adam Giles, Attorney General George Brandis and Malcolm Turnbull, given their bonding as demonstrated when the three amigos awkwardly faced cameras today.

Already the two teams are united in gnosticism; just how much neither of them had any idea what was going on, especially Nigel Scullion whose job it was to know, who defended his ignorance on the grounds that he knew of the matter but it did not “pique his interest”.

It seems inconceivable that the government did not know of the use of tear gas at Don Dale Detention Centre or any of the other well-documented abuses there. If Minister for the Northern Territory and Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister since 2013, Nigel Scullion was unaware, or the PM was not informed, the abuse was well documented in the press in 2015.

Perhaps, like Bob Katter, he doesn’t read the news or watch television.

Above all big white Bwana Tony Abbott held one week publicity stunts in the bush just to help him let us know how enormously committed to helping Aboriginal people he was while his own department of PM&C cut 13.4 million from The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Aid Services (NATSILS). But that was only part of the tough love.

Its chaotic Indigenous Advancement Strategy which was administered by the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet cut $500 million from the Indigenous Affairs budget and collapsed 500 programs into five broad funding streams from which NATSILS then had to apply.

Given this sort of hands-on benevolence and commitment to equality and justice it beggars belief that neither politician was briefed by the elite staff of the PMC.

Perhaps that’s why the Turnbull government is in such a hurry. The PM and his Attorney General are clear that there’s neither time nor money to consult the Aboriginal community, a point accepted philosophically by media celebrity and Liberal apologist Warren Mundine on The Drum Friday.

According to Senator Brandis, the government did not have time for an “endless public seminar” on establishing the inquiry but that he and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull “did consult” with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda and Indigenous Advisory Council chair Warren Mundine.

Gooda later made clear that he rang the Attorney General but let’s not get legalistic about consultation or that would leave only one indigenous person consulted, Tony Abbott’s mate and beneficiary, Warren Mundine. So it’s either two whole people or one or not even one who can attest to the workings of Turnbull’s much vaunted consultative government in action. But it’s not all bad.

Making a virtue out of necessity, Turnbull has the chutzpah to style himself as decisive leader. On some level, he must know it’s already too late. He’s in frantic damage control. ABC’s Four Corners program has conveyed horrifying images of cruelty and monstrous abuse of aboriginal children in custody being hooded, cuffed, stripped or strapped to a mechanical chair and gassed across the nation and to shocked viewers around the world.

UN special rapporteur, Juan Mendez tells ABC Radio National Thursday that video footage showing mistreatment of six aboriginal boys at the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre indicates a “very worrisome development that can amount to torture.”

Is anyone surprised? When you don’t know what to do; when your cabinet can’t or won’t tell you and, when, frankly, you’ve never liked taking advice from anyone, it’s all too easy to stuff up. Turnbull’s set himself up to fail, even if his ill-judged election gambit hadn’t cost him his authority, credibility and so many of his party’s MPs their seats.

Now the right wing leads him by the nose. His captain’s call to humiliate Rudd is a fiasco. Petty, unnecessary and mutually demeaning, it makes sense only in terms of his own abject efforts at survival.

No wonder that he sets up a quickie Clayton’s Royal Commission into juvenile detention in the NT so utterly lacking in credibility and legitimacy that it shrieks of expediency.

Worse, Warren Mundine bobs up Friday on The Drum in defence of the government. A distant relative, Gary Foley calls Mundine “the white sheep of the family” A former ALP National President, Mundine surprised some when he buddied up with grandstanding token PM Tony Abbott at the beginning of the Coalition’s 2013, sweet light of reason election campaign.

Mundine cemented his allegiance with the right of politics when he married Elizabeth, Gerard Henderson’s daughter in 2013 and took his place at the head of Tony Abbott’s newly created Aboriginal body, The Indigenous Advisory Council which like John Howard’s was hand-picked by the PM. Gerard Henderson became his second in command.

None of this is made clear on The Drum where Julia Baird has fun flattering her guest with the notion that he and Gooda are the two most influential Aboriginal leaders in Australia today.

Harsher words have been used. To then NSW Labor Minister Linda Burney Mundine was a hypocrite for accepting membership of John Howard’s National Indigenous Council before he could even take up his position as ALP National President.

Now Mundine is the only Aboriginal man in the land in favour. Powerful, representative bodies the Northern and Central Land Councils and the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT and legal groups, reject the appointment of Brian Martin, former NT Chief Justice as Royal Commissioner. “Turnbull has failed us” they say. “Turnbull has failed the nation.”

Welcome to stable government, a Liberal minority government in thrall to a National Party and a rampant right wing in which every little thing rapidly turns into a vote on Turnbull’s leadership.

Welcome to inertia and policy paralysis where the right defies anyone to do anything worth doing. And it’s groundhog day on the environment. Turnbull’s cabinet preserves the undistinguished Minister for Aboriginal Affairs National MP Nigel, “pique my interest”, Scullion and puts “Mr Coal”, Josh Freydenberg, in charge of both energy and environment – despite advice that at least one of these ministers could be better suited elsewhere.

It’s a government which has no real plan for any vital issue. Besides, is there anything on the environmental front left to do after Greg Hunt’s “My work is done”?

Instead Turnbull has created an over-sized, unwieldy cabinet by adding a few right wingers to some proven underperformers featuring a Treasurer who no wants to “double down” on the benefits of free trade when all around the world the benefits are being exposed as a hoax.

And recyled failures. Just how many times will Pyne be given another chance to stuff up?

We are already sharing the pain of Turnbull’s dilemma. His cabinet-making has created an advisory council that won’t advise him. Part of this arises from his failure to retire some duds. He is of course unable to cull any Nationals even the underwhelming Scullion who made news with his claim that dry community members in Queensland were making home brew out of Vegemite.

Linda Burney says that Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion is a failure, pointing to recent cuts to Indigenous funding and his hostile relationship with advocacy group the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples. But she fails to do justice to his creative imagination.

In August last year, under the steady hand of good Captain Abbott, Scullion was about to ban Vegemite from the shelves of stores in the Northern Territory because he’d heard that it was used to make home brew. News of the move went viral.

The unhappy little Vegemite was making a stand. The minister said he was tired of hearing about “people’s rights’’, and wanted people to think more about alcohol-fuelled domestic violence and child neglect. And to notice him.

Experts pointed out that the cooking of the yeast extract and the salt in the product left nothing alive which you could make beer out of. Yet Scullion was adamant, “I have seen first-hand the impact of home brewing which included Vegemite as an ingredient and many community members have told me about the problems it is causing,” he said in a statement.

One problem is Scullion is the only one ever to make this claim. Media Watch contacted every dry community in Queensland only to find them laughing at Scullion’s gullibility and casting into serious doubt his capacity to make sense of more complex issues – or to do his job properly.

Now Turnbull’s made a dud captain’s call in not backing Rudd’s bid for the UN; he’s insulted indigenous Australia by failing to consult with the Aboriginal community over his NT-friendly Royal Commission – and, above all, he’s agreed to keep the coalition agreement with the Nationals secret. Welcome to open transparent and consultative government from the only party with a plan. And a mob of diabolical liabilities in cabinet.

Turnbull is a sitting duck.

Turnbull addresses party room

Cabinet maker, nation builder, architect of our future, seer, Malcolm Bligh Turnbull squints into Monday’s winter sunshine in the courtyard where Tony Abbott used to park his bicycle and proclaims a mandate. A depleted Coalition stares back at him in disbelief.

Eric Abetz is scowling.

The bruising eight week ordeal on the hustings is a solid victory, he says. He has a vision, he insists. MPs will ask him in three years about KPIs, (key performance indicators), because “we have set out our plan”. Even Howard would struggle to be this dull. Not even Abbott would be this transparent.

“This is all about delivery,” he continues, as if addressing Eagle Boys Pizza, a PM who surely holds the record for the most over-promised and under-delivered election performance in history. His authority in tatters, his credibility shot, many MPs doubt Fizza will make it to Christmas.

“He’s a sitting duck and he knows it” one Liberal tells Paul Bongiorno adding that the Coalition’s plan will be to sit parliament as little as possible, planning only seven weeks’ sitting before December. Turnbull’s small target campaign will evolve into a small target parliamentary strategy.

The plan will be to say they have a plan that fixes everything and a mandate.Tactical evasion comes naturally to a leader whose approach to tax reform showed a genius for equivocation and indecision.

“We were fucked by February,” campaign guru Mark Textor confides after the party room meeting to one of the few female MPs to survive. Doubtless there will be no discount to his fee for services to the lost cause.

By Wednesday despite colossal media spin about mandates and plans even ducking and weaving looks risky. Chairman Mal’s heroic victory over the “outrageous lies” of scumbag Labor’s Mediscare dims with news that his government’s “solid majority” of 77 in the House of Reps of the 45th Parliament now amounts to only one seat. Eric Abetz did say, Monday, his campaign was crap.

In a flash of old Malcolm, the PM snaps back. How many members are in the Tasmanian branch? 1200? The senator claims Turnbull is 800 shy of the mark but the point is made. The party ran dead not only because its leader ran dead but also because its grassroots support is dying. Like all true leaders, Malcolm is quick to blame someone else, even if Abetz has a lot to answer for.

It ran out of money. Its policies did not connect with electors. And shockingly to all of us who hold that democracy is not for buying or selling, late in the day, Turnbull dipped into his own pocket.

Just how much Turnbull’s own contribution affected the election result will remain a matter of conjecture. How much proprietary authority it buys him in terms of his own leadership is impossible to reckon. The amount, however, may not be one million as reported in The Australian but two. When ABC’s Leigh Sales presses the PM on his donation he, typically, brushes her aside.

All of the donations I’ve made in the past to the Liberal Party and any donations that will be made or have been made will all be disclosed in accordance with the Electoral Act.”

The future looks grim. Unlike Labor, the Liberals cannot count on unions or idealistic young people with notions of social justice and community service to build support. And in a glimpse of things to come, in Tasmania recently, some power mad young Liberals seem to have lost the plot.

Eric Abetz had to abandon his address to a hundred bright young things attending the Australian Liberal Students’ Federation dinner in Hobart when students, dressed as security guards blocked delegates, claiming that they had not registered in time to vote for the new executive.

For Turnbull it is the opposite tactic. Rather than make hard decisions in allocating or re-allocating portfolios, or kick up a stink by replacing Liberals with Nationals, he has simply had a bit of a tinker with Environment and Defence and then let everyone in. His cabinet is the biggest since Whitlam. What he gains in patronage, he must surely lose in unworkability.

Gone is any faint hope of authority over his bitterly divided party. Helpfully ABC’s 7:30 Report Friday beats up Bill Shorten’s “factional war” but the Labor leader has just consolidated his leadership while Turnbull has open insurrection and belly-aching back-stabbers to contend with.

Munificent Mal must stare down the likes of gutsy George Christensen who threatens to waddle across the floor over super, in a social media spray two days after Monday’s party room meeting. Gorgeous George sees the proposed changes as Labor-style policies in a Tea-Party worthy swipe.

“It’s not the government’s money, it’s YOUR money. We in government need to remember that.” 

Union supporter, maverick Bob Katter has warned that he will not support an ABCC and is quick to tell the PM through the media that he will not stand for any union bashing. ACTU Head Dave Oliver applauds. Katter could be a handful on marriage equality too since he once said he’d walk backwards to Burke if there was a single gay in his electorate.

Simmering on the backbench is a potent brew of confused, imported populism, racism, climate denial, wilful ignorance and confected Trump-style resentment which finds expression in scapegoating all manner of outsiders from Muslims to marriage equality advocates. Some like Cory Bernardi interpret the election fiasco as evidence of a need to shift the party further to the right.

Into this mix, with his double dissolution Turnbull has delivered Pauline Hanson, former 1996 Queensland Liberal Party candidate, populist politician and celebrity bigot who claims clairvoyantly that she “just says what everyone is thinking,” such as – No more Muslims for Australia. Muslims should be prohibited because “like pit bull terriers they are a danger to our society.”

The gift of sensing “what everyone else is thinking” brings with it the delusion that her crackpot notions are mainstream views, an attitude also struck by Cory Bernardi and George Christensen and others whose sexual phobias are nurtured by the propaganda of the Australian Christian Lobby. Claiming to channel the mainstream is a specious bid for legitimacy and Turnbull will need to call her on it, although it is far from certain that One Nation senators will oppose the ABCC.

Turnbull’s capitulation to his party’s lunatic right wing’s witch hunt against Safe Schools suggests that he lacks the means or the will to cut through the toxic miasma of irrationality he has stirred up. Nor does he have much in the way of Liberal party political precedent to enable such a stand.

Despite her disclaimer, Hanson in fact channels prejudices popular amongst small sectors of the Australian community for generations, her incoherent, irrational, wittering discontent is much more closely linked with Liberal Party demagoguery than Turnbull and others voicing public disapproval would care to admit. It is to be heard, for example, in the nonsense expressed by Peter Dutton that migrants take our jobs while simultaneously being a drain on welfare.

It resonates with John Howard’s claim of babies being thrown overboard, an election winning gambit to demonise asylum-seekers as subhuman and unnatural. Hanson also taps the vein of fear nurtured by Tony Abbott who proclaimed that ISIS was “coming after each and everyone of us. She draws sustenance from the militarisation of our duty to refugees in Morrison’s Border Force and the pernicious myth that our borders are somehow under threat those who seek our asylum.

The myth of the dangerous Muslim is reflected in the Abbott government’s decision to offer haven to only those Syrian refugees who are Christian, a stipulation which has led to UN censure and to unnecessary and inhumane delay in our accepting our fair share of the world’s displaced peoples.

A lame duck leader mortally wounded by his deal with the Nats and despised by all for his arrogance; his imperious mien, his fatal combination of overpowering entitlement and poor judgement, the Chairman is now at the mercy of every desperate party renegade with an axe to grind. Reluctantly Liberal MPs gave support to a coup leader they didn’t like or trust in the hope that he would deliver them from certain political oblivion under Abbott.

Now he has doubly failed them. He will seek to appease the rebels over the proposed $500,000 lifetime cap on non-concessional superannuation contributions. Yet the price of peace will be an even less egalitarian society. Morrison is said to be working on it already.

Expect exemptions for when your Dad dies and leaves you a few mill and a farm in the Upper Hunter or for when you make a mozza out of a divorce settlement, as you do, especially women.

“Life events”, these windfalls will be called as if inherited wealth can never be taxable or as if granting tax exemption under duress is not the perpetuation of privilege, inequality and the power of vested interests.

But Turnbull doesn’t let it show; even if he could afford to. Long live Chairman Tang Bao, sweet custard bun! It’s not a backdown on an election commitment, just a bit of fine tuning because that’s what good government is about.

Mad Dog Morrison is fit to kill. On a mission to restore Australia’s AAA rating when experts reckon the ratings agency Standard and Poor’s is not worth taking seriously given its flawed record in the GFC, Morrison wants us to believe that he’ll have us return to balance by 2020-2021.

Moody’s told him in April that budget cuts alone would not return us to surplus. None of the ratings agencies believe his projected iron ore prices nor do they approve of his counting in zombie measures yet to pass the senate. In other words his budget calculations don’t add up.

Morrison’s furious to learn secondhand of Turnbull’s turnaround on Medicare from AMA’s Dr Michael Gannon who’s got the nod from Health Minister Sussan Ley. A $2.4 billlion dollar nod over four years according to Labor’s Parliamentary Budget Office costings.

“I would be gobsmacked if the government took an ongoing freeze to the next election. They got the scare of their life on health, and that was probably the policy which hurt them the most,” says Dr Gannon leaving a smiling Ley who also says “consultative and collaborative” for the camera.

“Loose lips” Morrison is left out of the loop again, as he was on the date of his first budget. The Great Helmsman clings to the tiller of the ship of state, his knuckles whitening.

Bad news from the Sombrero Belt midweek threatens to throw Chairman Mal off course. Herbert’s electors may fail in their duty to return sitting member, LNP’s Ewen Jones.

Voters do not embrace a tax cut for the rich – key to the great Economic Plan for jobs and growth on which our nation’s prosperity depends. One in five young people in Townsville is unemployed.

Worse, Labor’s Cathy O’Toole may be elected instead. Hawk-eyed Attorney-General George Brandis is urgently dispatched to scrutineer in frantic over-kill, doubtless, an early example of a good, stable government in action.

Herbert is instantly downplayed by national media outlets and the ABC, whose news packaging assumes that Herbert will come to its senses following a recount of all of its 104, 181 ballots.

Should Labor win the seat, leaving the Coalition with a majority of one, Ayatollah Turnbull will be utterly at the mercy of his back bench. Unable to muster numbers on a no confidence vote on same sex marriage, for example, could see his term of office over by Christmas.

Earning the nickname “The Ayatollah” for his autocratic management style in merchant banking, the PM is no natural negotiator. He is going to have to learn more than the hand chopping body language he has recently picked up if he is to master the requisite consensus forging skills to survive. Luckily he is able to play Father Christmas and buy some support as he hands out a record number of ministries.

Turnbull is a model of largesse and jobs and growth in action as he creates the biggest cabinet in forty years, with jobs nearly half the party. Only Eric, Kevin and Tony The Incredible Sulk Abbott are left to cool their heels in the corridor and plot mischief.

Promoting conservatives Matt Canavan and Zed Seselja and putting Christopher Pyne in a new role as defence means a hard right turn in policy with a left back twist in protectionist submarine building in the Turnbull government’s new ministry, officially Australia’s 71st as the million dollar PM boosts the Nationals and rewards his own backers over Abbott faction members.

An anti-abortion campaigner, Canavan doubts climate science is settled while Seselja will abstain from voting should the marriage plebiscite go ahead while the appointment of the conservative Josh Freydenberg to a combined energy and environment portfolio is the kiss of death to those who have been hoping for a progressive approach to either.

But like the jobs and growth slogan itself, this cabinet is no new era in policy or government or anything else much beyond an attempt at appeasement; a calculated buying of time and support so that the man who would be Prime Minister can achieve his dream.

Even if the rest of the country goes to hell in a handbasket, if the economy nose dives and the social contract is torn up while rabid right wing nut jobs argue the toss, Turnbull will be able to claim that he was an elected Prime Minister. Even if he has Buckley’s chance of lasting until Christmas.

Historians will take the view that like his predecessor, Turnbull never had what it took to be a Prime Minister but that his tenure represents the last desperate gamble of a Liberal party which came to have no effective popular support base and no clear idea of what it stood for above servicing the requests of business, a party which spent its political capital as freely and unwisely as it did the proceeds of the mining boom leaving no-one fit to mind the shop and the barbarians an open gate.

abbott clapping

Abbott out; Turnbull buys in as Coalition heads toward civil war.

Kevin Andrews father of the house began crackdown on pensioners

Father of the house, Kevin Andrews conceived crackdown on pensioners.

Tasmanian senator Eric Abetz fearlessly leads the charge of the right brigade this week into a stoush between his beloved team Abbott and the Pollyanna faction led by tub-thumping, sub-stumping $50 billion dollar man Christopher Pyne. Eric is out to keep the bastards honest

Abetz takes a pot-shot at the Turnbull’s government’s legitimacy, the issue of the political week if not the forty-fifth parliament’s lifetime, after sub-Marathon Mal’s hamstrung election performance, which saw the PM forced to fund his party’s manifest destiny to the tune of a million dollars.

Can he just do that? Millionaire Mal’s DIY fund-raising does not raise an eyebrow on ABC Insiders Sunday. Fran Kelly, Nikki Sava, Karen Middleton, all senior journos, see no problem posed to our democratic processes by a rich man buying a prime ministership. If Laura Tingle has reservations she keeps them to herself. “Do I look bothered?” Catherine

Tate would say.

“He’s done it before,” Karen Middleton sighs, “and he’ll do it again.” Perhaps she recalls Turnbull’s desperate battle for Liberal preselection for the blue-ribbon seat of Wentworth thirteen years ago, when his opponent, Peter King, says Turnbull told him to “fuck off and get out of my way.”

Money talks – and often in the Turnbull story. In 2003, Turnbull paid Alan Jones $5000 a plug to support him on radio and won. Perhaps this time, too, his million dollar investment may help to stem rising Liberal Party disquiet. The election’s cost him too much personal authority to do it any other way.

…wept on camera…

Some say millionaire MPs do this sort of thing. Queensland Nickel donated $288,516 to PUP last December, a fortnight before sacking staff at the Yabulu refinery near Townsville. Nothing was left in the kitty to pay wages. Ewen Jones, then member for Herbert, wept on camera.

Pity us poor Liberals, Julie Bishop pleads on ABC’s Insiders, “we don’t have the rivers of gold that come from the union movement.” AEC ALP records do not match the Foreign Minister’s fantasy, showing instead a broad set of donors. In 2015, the CFMEU donated $50,000 yet WestPac gave $1.5 million. No-one challenges Bishop.

Most likely, however, Turnbull’s party was just caught short as its uber-rich supporters; fearing penury if super rules were to change, withheld donations.

A $500,000 lifetime limit on how much of one’s after-tax contributions one can make to one’s super is at issue. Currently the limit is $180,000 a year.

The IPA opposes the “diabolical” changes along with Coalition plans to impose 15% tax on income generated by balances above $1.6m. Director, John Roskam, says the changes are also clearly retrospective. So central is the IPA to controlling Liberal policy, this means the government is at war with its own brain stem.

Its civil war with the IPA aside, most of the Liberals’ pain is self-inflicted.

…Arthur is unable to recall.

In March the NSW Electoral Commission denied the party $4.389m in public funding because it accepted illegal developer donations for the 2011 NSW election via its “Free Enterprise Foundation”, a matter the ICAC needs expert help to sort out, hence its request to then Liberal Party Treasurer and President, now Coalition Cabinet Secretary Arthur Sinodinos. As yet Arthur is unable to recall.

No big fan of Arthur, who was numbers man in Turnbull’s coup, an ear to the ground Abetz reckons the super changes were never properly ventilated and massively cost Liberal votes in Tasmania, an insight he has gained by door-knocking and national report.

“From right around Australia I got very strong feedback that that was not the way to go forth and I trust that we will revisit aspects of that policy.”

Can a party change its policy after the campaign? Abetz seems to think so. He’s not alone. Mad dog Morrison, our reverse Robin Hood Treasurer, is on standby with a solution which may see the super changes watered down. Protect the rich.

In the real world over 31,000 people have lost their disability support pension in the past year, the biggest annual drop on record as several years worth of government crackdowns begin to bite. 90,000 may expect to undergo a medical review in the next three years. More “savings” are promised as Mad Dog Morrison has promised to find another $3.5 billion.

Don’t expect schools or hospitals…

It costs money to keep negative gearing for speculators and then there’s the cost involved in “fine-tuning” its super changes to protect the wealthy. Don’t expect schools or hospitals from this mob.

All of this challenges the notion of a mandate on policy his party took to the election; the current Liberal Party mandate mantra. “What mandate?” says Eric.

Unhappy Abbott camper Eric is bucking his party’s line on its campaign, a failed gamble on an early election double dissolution which has left its PM’s authority in tatters; its future on a knife edge.

“A lot of our colleagues see the election result as the barest of victories, if we can a call it a victory having declared victory two weeks out,’ he growls.

For Turnbull toy dog Christopher Gertrude Stein Pyne, however, “a win is a win, is a win” and the whole election thing is just a game of footie, really. Bugger what the people actually wanted or what they thought they were voting for.

Mincing poodle, as Julia Gillard so aptly dubbed Pyne for his performances as Abbott’s yap dog in three years of relentless negativity in opposition, has done well out of our defence policy.

Pyne’s SA seat of Sturt is now secure thanks to the government’s astonishing flip-flop on protectionism to the tune of a $50 billion industry subsidy. The ASC will assemble a dozen frog submarines in the SA rust belt state, when it would be so much cheaper to have them made in France.

For half the price we could have had them made in Japan and Germany quoted $20 billion and the subs to be delivered six years earlier.

…$490,000 for every vote…

Winning has not come cheaply. The $50 billion amounts to to $468,000 per potential vote in Hindmarsh, $490,000 for every vote in Pyne’s Sturt and $480,000 for each potential Boothby vote.

It may sound expensive but it’s an investment in not just Pyne’s seat but in the democratic pork barrel itself so vital to mandate creation. And it’s not a subsidy to car-makers, a prospect former Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey, amen, hated.

For one per cent of the sub investment, car manufacturing would still be able to employ 200,000 Australian workers, directly and indirectly.

To be fair it wasn’t all about boats. Pyne does admit,along with dog-catcher Barnaby Joyce and other National Party campaigners that they threw campaign talking points away – departed from the official script. Yet although success came from not plugging policy, he does not hesitate to claim a mandate.

Also leading the charge in the battle of the mandate is lynx-eyed Attorney-General George Brandis, a chap who may have failed to explain metadata and who was unable to open a spreadsheet warning of a terrorist threat but who has got a safe pair of hands on everyone’s metadata, nevertheless.

…signed letter of permission…

Just in case, four days before the election, Brandis elevated the attorney general’s status. Anyone, including the PM, who needs to see Justin Gleeson, the Solicitor-General now has to get signed letter of permission from himself, a move which has legal experts legal experts describe as an “unnecessary impediment” to expert advice.

Members of the legal community point to a growing tension between the nation’s first and second law officers over matters, including the 2013 same-sex marriage High Court case, the 2015 advice Mr Gleeson provided over changes to citizenship laws and over the drafting of same-sex marriage plebiscite legislation, a matter which Brandis is overdue to report back to government on.

One of the new Cabinet’s first tasks after Governor General returns from France to swear them in after arranging armed transport and a special security detail for Mitch Fifield’s massive family Bible will be the wording of the plebiscite so that it is unlikely to succeed.

Of course, it may be that we never see the plebsicite at all just as we will never see the secret agreement between the Liberal Party and the Nationals. It may request the government not to budge on same sex marriage, given that it can lead to polyamory, as Eric Abetz attests, or to bestiality, one of Cory Bernardi’s big bugbears. There is no mandate for a secret coalition agreement.

What the secret agreement is also likely to reflect is a Nationals push to nudge the Coalition even further towards Hansonism, given that One Nation’s support base comprises an fair muster of alienated single fathers who blame their marriage and relationship breakdowns on the Family Court.

…a kangaroo court…

One Nation, which apart from its familiar figurehead, is now a blokes’ party, attracts such voters with its policy of abolishing the Family Court and replacing it with a kangaroo court which it calls a community panel.

A mandate man, Brandis is under the illusion on Monday’s Q&A that this is Turnbull’s second term as elected PM. His memory lapses are eclipsed, however in the company of Cabinet secretary Sir Arthur Sinodinos, who is appearing all over the media to talk up his government’s mandate while awaiting a call back from ICAC on Australian Water Holdings and the Free Enterprise foundation.

Now that the Turnbull government may attain a whopping seventy-seven seats in the House of Representatives of the forty-fifth parliament as the vote count continues in the Townsville-based seat of Herbert, shows Labor’s candidate Cathy O’Toole behind the LNP’s Ewen Jones, by only a dozen votes, Liberals have been vigorously pumping the handle of the mandate organ.

Soon hagiographers rewriting the history of Australia Pty Ltd will be telling us this is Chairman Mal’s finest hour. Expect ballet and epic theatre to be commissioned in the great helmsman’s favour.

Mandate? Michaelia Cash is dashing into TV studios to madly impress us with her claim that the government has 700,000 more votes than Labor. Yet it is only true as a Coalition. Labor’s 4.3 million first preferences put it ahead while if you total all minority parties, the government is outstripped.

As Guy Rundle points out, the mandate issue becomes even more vexed if you consider the fundamentally flawed nature of our democratic voting process where The Nationals with one million votes get 23 seats while The Greens get one seat after receiving 1.2 million.

…almost another million dollar man…

Amazingly making the same claim to a mandate is a pin-striped Malcolm Turnbull who is careful to be photographed with Martin Parkinson, Head of Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and on $860,000 PA almost another million dollar man proving to all Australians that because they are both using Ipads, this whole 21st Century innovation thing will be just a doddle.

What they are doing is not revealed because like the Coalition agreement it is secret and like our imports of asbestos in portables from China none of our business. What is likely to be on the iPad, however, will include the promotion of Zed Seselja whose opposition to same sex marriage is but a small element of his valuable contribution to good government in the forty-fifth parliament.

Team player and good captain, Tony Abbott will not be attending The Lodge for pre-blood-letting drinks Sunday night says Julie Bishop. Nor will he find himself back in the cabinet, in a welcome sign that some sanity at least has prevailed in Mr Harbourside Mansion’s Point Piper decision making processes. Expect press releases to tell us he has a contribution to make in other areas.

Expect to hear a lot about the Coalition’s mandate to provide stable government; how we must knuckle under; pull together; go without to get us all on a “credible path back to surplus” and other unreal stuff. Watch out when Eric, Tony and Kevin find themselves surplus to requirements.

What is real is that the first shot in the Turnbull government’s war with itself has just been fired.



What mandate Mr Turnbull?


turnbull looking weak


“… a win is a win is a win…” Christopher Pyne

Before the Electoral Commission’s glacial vote count even ends in finely divided electorates, Christopher Pyne sticks his head out of the Coalition campaign train-wreck window to crow victory. Even Eric Abetz can see he’s wrong; the government has won nothing but “a kick up the pants”.

Welcome to the 45th parliament of Australia whose foundations are already being laid firmly in the realms of fantasy, delusion, denial and secrecy, not to mention confusion and division, where an election result, is just like the outcome of a football game.

The false analogy is as bad as Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce’s comparison on Thursday RN. He sees the National’s secret agreement with Liberals to be the same as a journalist protecting her sources. It’s as spurious as the PM’s claim, Thursday, that a win is a mandate.

No mandate results from any small-target campaign. The Coalition bypassed real issues such as climate change, or how to pay for health and education, provide equal pay for women, invest in renewables or what to do with the gulags on Nauru and Manus Island.

It ignored the yawning abyss of social and economic inequality that even Bill Shorten could tell it is one of the lessons of the Brexit revolt. Instead it ran a reality-denying campaign show of magic words. Hey Presto! Endlessly repeating jobs and growth and stability would make them appear.

Now, Mathias Cormann is claiming that the government’s empty sloganeering amounted to an agenda and that it can now get on with “implementing the plan we took to the election”.

In reality, the government has just enough of a majority to get itself into trouble. An existential nightmare of negotiation and infighting lies ahead of it. Eric Abetz and Kevin Andrews are already demanding Abbott returns to cabinet. The IPA won’t rest until Turnbull drops his super changes.

The real game is only beginning. And the captain’s in trouble already whatever his game plan.

Turnbull is a lame duck. A weak leader who campaigned poorly, his approval as PM rating, taken over the last two weeks, dropped three points to 37% in Tuesday’s Essential Poll which now has Labor 51 to the Coalition’s 49 two party preferred. At its current rate of decline it will not be long before Turnbull overtakes Tony Abbott’s record unpopularity.

Popularity is not everything – as Tony Abbott always said – but repelling the electorate will not improve Turnbull’s position with angry back-benchers whose seats are more precarious than ever as a result of his early election gambit failing. His natural arrogance and impatience do not help.

Even MPs in safe seats will be emboldened. A slim majority means every one is a king maker who may make demands of a PM whose lip-service to cabinet government and his need for the company of the like-minded makes him vulnerable.

Turnbull is guided by Pyne, aka “The Fixer” self-deluded master tactician and reality denialist in an inner circle of advisors that includes foundation member Lucy Turnbull, Arthur, party amnesiac, yet to hear back from ICAC, cabinet secretary, Sinodinos and show pony Julie Bishop, a wimpy Foreign Minister so desperate to avoid a spat with China over The Spratleys or anything else, she can’t do her job. No danger Turnbull’s inner sanctum will tell him anything he doesn’t want to hear.

Nor will Turnbull’s poor poll showing give him the authority to break free of his Faustian compact with the Nationals. He turned hard right to win support to depose Abbott. Now he cannot turn back.

Barnaby Joyce has succeeded in keeping the Nationals’ agreement with the Liberals secret. While a pro-government ABC boosts the Nats’ success, claiming their bold showing bestows greater negotiating power, the reality is the Nats won a 0.4% swing. The real question is what is in the hidden detail of their hold over Turnbull?

On Sky, Joyce quips “The first aspiration is the agreement remains confidential. That’s aspiration one, two, three, four, five and six.” His flippant disregard for democratic process makes a mockery of the Coalition’s promises of open, transparent government.

On R N Breakfast Thursday morning, Joyce tells Patricia Karvelas that Coalition secrecy is the same as reporters protecting their sources. Then he’s off blaming Labor for lying about Medicare; causing all our economic problems. We could lose the ABC, he reckons, unless we push ahead with tax cuts which will do nothing for budget repair.

Coalition agreements have not been public in the past, but why the secrecy? Whatever Joyce is hiding is bound to be a matter of public interest. Crikey’s Bernard Keane makes a compelling case for Barnaby’s chasing the Hanson vote, building on the AFR’s Phil Coorey’s report that the Nationals are keen to take some One Nation turf including her proposal to abolish the Family Court. a move which would further disempower women and increase suffering, One Nation would replace the Family Court with a panel of “mainstream” community members, dump current child support arrangements, change legal aid to require losing parties to pay costs, and make joint custody the “option of choice” for the family law system in an echo of the Australian Christian Lobby.

Australian Institute of Family Studies research shows that two thirds of separations involve partnership violence with one third of women reporting serious violence. One in five parents has concern for the safety of their children as a result of contact with the other parent. Yet violence against women is hugely under-reported.

Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS) research shows less than eight per cent of media stories about violence against women includes comments from survivors but there is a body of embittered males amongst One Nation supporters convinced the system is loaded against men and the only solution is to do away with the Family Court entirely.

The Nationals may wish to increase their political relevance but why indulge the misogynistic, irrational mythology of men’s groups who feel discriminated against despite all the evidence?

Lurching to the right with a secret agreement will not help a Coalition which couldn’t govern even with a solid majority in its last incarnation.

We will be “getting on with good government”, Turnbull tells us, borrowing Abbott’s phrase. We are to overlook its thin majority and pretend it will all be plain sailing with a senate cross bench which includes Pauline Hanson, Derryn Hinch and other incoherent, opinionated populists.

Finally, the double dissolution early election was supposed to be the making of Turnbull; a cunning plan whereby he could snatch the victory he needed to establish his authority over his party; a master stroke to rid his government of an uncooperative senate cross bench.

Instead, Turnbull’s gamble has turned out to be an unmitigated disaster; another stunning example of his poor political judgement and the single most compelling reason why his win is no win at all.

With the likely result to yield 77 seats, Turnbull will need to give up one to the speaker, leaving a majority of one. Liberal Party funding via boutique foundations to allow property developers to break the law in NSW will continue to trouble it.

Cabinet Secretary, former NSW fund-raiser, party amnesiac and Turnbull confidante, Senator Arthur Sinodinos is banging on tonelessly about a mandate, having managed to resist with Malcolm Turnbull’s assistance calls for his resignation. Tanya Plibersek has said it beggers belief that as treasurer and finance director of the Liberal Party he did not know about hundreds of thousands of dollars of illegal donations to the Liberal Party.

Although News Corp’s Sharri Markson wrote an impressive scoop 21 January this year reporting that charges had been dropped, the next day ICAC said its inquiry into a company linked to Labor and Liberal figures including Arthur Sinodinos has not yet been completed. Sinodinos failed to have retracted a NSW Electoral Commission’s report in March that he knowingly disguised donations.

Humpty Dumpty Sinodinos stunned ICAC in October 2014 with his prodigious feats of memory failure. ICAC reasonably wanted to know what Arthur did as a Director to earn $600,000 for an estimated 25.5 hours to 45 hours a year in three years at Australian Water Holdings, one third owned by the Obeid family. Arthur could not recall. He said so 68 times.

Nor could he recall an AWH donation of $74,000 to the Liberal Party, although he was deputy director and had drawn up a list of donors to be approached which included AWH.

Shortly before drawing up the donor list, Sinodinos had been lobbying Barry O’Farrell to support granting AWH a lucrative government contract. Sinodinos did not inform soon-to-be premier O’Farrell that he stood to make as much as $20 million if the deal went through.

AWH billed the state government’s water utility Sydney Water for “administrative” costs that in fact included fat salaries and political donations. ICAC has yet to report its findings on Sinodinos.

ICAC is yet to report on another matter. As Treasurer and Chairman of the Fiance Committee of the NSW Liberals the senator accepted donations through the Free Enterprise Foundation from property developers, a group prohibited from making political donations.

Expect a lot of pressure from Labor to be applied to the curious case of Arthur Mandate Sinodinos, whose byzantine financial dealings and unfortunate memory failure have the makings of something by the late Oliver Sachs.

As always it is not easy to grasp readily what Arthur means. A mandate for what? Jobs and growth? The retention of negative gearing for the rich speculator? The Liberals’ campaign was cobbled together out of the scraps that had fallen off the table of Turnbull and Morrison’s farce of a tax reform review which ultimately collapsed under its own inertia and its leader’s indecision vanishing like the Cheshire Cat leaving nothing behind but the smile of its good intentions.

True, there were tax cuts on offer if you were in above average earnings territory or you ran a business. Yet even these appealed only if you believed in fairies at the bottom of the garden economics or the Laffer Curve, the discredited promise of trickle down economics.

Tax cuts for business and wealthier Australians were flogged ad nauseam but no-one, not even Liberal voters could tell you how they would restore the nation’s prosperity and productivity.

The winning theme is also embraced by the Coalition’s own Justinian, Attorney General George Brandis, the man who when faced with advice of terrorist threat could not open the second tab on a spreadsheet.

Brandis appears on ABC’s Q&A, Monday to speak up for the golden years of John Howard’s era, stopping a whisker short of praising the lies of babies overboard, his boosting of funding to private schools or his Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, a lie occasioned by his raging US sycophancy as much as a vote winning scare tactic.

Brandis expects everyone to forget also how the man of steel let Peter Costello blow the proceeds of the mining boom and how he is one of the leading architects of our current economic and social mess. He glosses over how the Howard 2006 reform, acceding to the pressure of mens’ rights groups, to the family law act brought misery to countless women.

Brandis’ mission is to promote Abbott the junkyard dog, the textbook failure of an effective hound of an opposition leader who should never have tried to be a prime minister. With a straight face Brandis calls Abbott an elder statesman.

Kevin Andrews has also hopped aboard the bring back Tony pony express and perhaps Turnbull will be looking to create a special cabinet post for the union basher. Abbott could be the Minister for the ABCC. Although it was mentioned briefly twice only in the eight weeks’ campaign the ABCC, hated by unions and the Law Council because it strips away workers’ civil rights is due to be brought back into the limelight.

Will it pass the cross bench of the senate? Derry Hinch has already said he’d have a talk to both sides, despite his votes not being all counted yet. There’s no question that the human headline, who has been to jail for contempt of court over releasing information prejudicial to the fair trial of sex offenders will rule out something just because it does away with workers’ rights.

Pauline Hanson whose been busy with Today show appearances and Dancing with the Stars or like Bob Katter too bushed to read newspapers or watch TV news is expecting to be briefed.

The ABCC, a Howard era throwback with no solid evidence to suggest it ever worked is an attempt to end “corrupt union practices” which remain no more than assertions despite the mammoth and hugely expensive Dyson Royal Commission. The ABCC reverses the onus of proof, removes the right to silence, and allows officials of the ABCC to enter premises without a warrant and demand to know names and addresses.

With dodgy legislation to oversee as a priority and with pressing claims from every MP in a government whose numbers mean that it is poised on a knife edge and with the right wing Delcons already resuming their crusade to restore Abbott their leader, helmsman and meal ticket Turnbull, the Great Capitulator will find that a win is neither win and nor is it a mandate but merely a ticket to ride the meanest bucking bronco in the rodeo, the 45th parliament, already pawing and snorting as he approaches the mounting yard.

Always someone else to blame.


Turnbull victory speech

It was Getup; it was Labor’s lies about Medicare. It was the super changes. It was the electorate getting it wrong. It was a week of finding someone else to blame.

Liberal Party power broker, Tasmanian senator Eric Abetz is almost quick enough off the blocks to lead of the Coalition’s nation-wide chorus of denial, its political feature of the week, with his bizarre defence of his party over its election rout.

For Andrew Nikolic, the 10.6 % swing which lost him the marginal Bass to Labor’s Ross Hart resulted from a “dishonest, nasty, personal campaign.” That nicely clears up any confusion about the role of his refusal to talk with any but pro-Liberal voters.

Nikolic, former chair of the nation’s joint parliamentary committee on intelligence, accuses unions and Labor of deception “built around the core lie of Medicare privatisation.” He attacks GetUp! for peddling lies and frightening pensioners.

Yet GetUp! National director, Paul Oosting, says volunteers had communicated “clear facts about cuts to health education and renewable energy supported by Nikolic, whilst a funding crisis at Launceston General Hospital was of great concern to locals – as was the GP Medicare freeze which will price some families out seeing a doctor.

The government’s nothing-to-see-here case was not helped, moreover, when Sussan Ley was put in witness protection for volunteering in May that she would lift the Medicare freeze but she was blocked by departmental red tape.

Rumours abound that Ley will be relieved of her post with some suggesting that world’s best minister Greg Hunt, who has also been in witness protection during the campaign, will be an ideal Health minister given his outstanding success in environmental protection and his clean bill of health for the Great Barrier Reef.

One in twenty Australians already can’t afford to see a doctor. Yet the government’s extension of the Medicare freeze until 2020, means patients could face a $25 fee per consultation according to the AMA. No mention of a red tape problem.

Dotty Scott Morrison is also quick to claim that the government was robbed. “Beam me up Scotty” loves antics and theatrics and corny mock shock horror shows but he has failed at the main game. He has not got a handle on the Treasury portfolio.

There’s the trust issue for starters. His PM would not even trust him with the date of his own budget. Surely he will be relieved of the post after his shocking campaign in which he sacrificed any shred of credibiity remaining to him with his war on business, his childish charts and his own black hole in Labor’s hole and other loopy stunts.

The reason, voters were dumb enough to be bluffed by Labor’s lies, he blusters Wednesday, was that the Coalition had run such a positive campaign.

Has he forgotten his own scaremongering; the Labor’s war on business scare, the certainty that Bill Shorten would run Australia like a union scare; the collapse of the housing and even the stock market negative gearing scare, the soft on border security leading to chaos on our borders scare or Peter Dutton’s refugees taking Aussie jobs while simultaneously sponging up all our Centrelink scare?

Even his PM the day before is wearing what Barrie Cassidy calls his “shit-eating grin” and conceding that there was “fertile ground” for voters Medicare fears to grow. What he could say is that voters are intelligent enough to recognise the Coalition’s moves amount to establishing a two-tier privatised health system.

Part of the “fertile ground” for this campaign is that Australians have heard this promise before. Many recall John Howard’s undermining of Medicare by failing to allow funding to keep up with costs and population growth.

Many others would also remember Tony Abbott’s disastrous 2014 Budget promise of “no cuts to health” and how the Liberals tried to introduce a $7 GP tax and hike the price of prescriptions while ripping billions out of public hospitals.

And surely all would recall how Turnbull took the opportunity of his very first economic statement, the 2015 MYEFO, to cut even further than Abbott, slashing $650m from Medicare rebates for pathology and diagnostic imaging, cuts which Pathology Australia, the Diagnostic Imaging Association and others said would increase the price of vital tests and scans beyond affordable for some Australians.

Yet it is still a stretch to claim that Labor tricked electors into voting for it. Scruitneers and electoral officals reveal Medicare may have cost the Coalition votes, it seems from this stage of the vote count, but did not boost Labor’s vote, as it might if people had been conned into believing they needed to vote to “save Medicare”.

In the meantime, as vote counting continues its glacial pace in marginal lower house seats as well as the senate, Tasmanians’ votes below the line on the ballot ticket for Labor’s popular Lisa Singh appear to be pushing her towards a senate seat.

Not only is Lisa popular, she, like Liberal Richard Colbeck, campaigned for a vote below the line, a trend which is likely to result in Eric Abetz, who easily accessed number one spot, receiving fewer votes than Colbeck, thereby signalling the end of party control over senate voting and some attenuation of Ubergruppenfuhrer Abetz’s authority over the Tasmanian Liberals.

The gobsmacked senator elect is on to something, however with his suggestion that someone form a right wing Get Up, a theme also embraced by conservative party luminary Senator Cory Bernardi, who is once again said to be starting a group of right-thinking red-blooded Australians who aren’t already voting One Nation.

Cory’s new conservatives will nudge politics a little further to the right in response to the Liberals’ thrashing in the polls and the miraculous resurgence of One Nation’s Pauline Hanson, former guest of Her Majesty and latterly celebrity demagogue on the Today Show, clear signs to Eric Abetz and others that what voters are craving is another dollop of right wing nut-jobbery. A right wing GetUp would help, he reckons.

Yet there are a few hurdles ahead of Bernardi and Abetz starting with the support the conservative cause already enjoys from the odd powerful press baron, almost all mainstream media including the ABC and all our captains of industry and commerce, their supporters, the well-funded lobbyists, think tanks, foundations and institutes.

Also on the lucky Liberal list now are Chinese language voters who get all their news from WeChat, which hosted a non-scare campaign information service which explained for the non English reader Labor’s plans for boys to use girls’ toilets.

Voters in the Victorian seat of Chisholm in Melbourne’s East were also told by WeChat how Labor was going to open the gate to refugees who would take jobs. Labor was going to increase the refugee quota at the expense of Chinese migrants.

Chisholm records a first-preference swing of 4.2% to the Liberal candidate, Julie Banks, and 5.6% away from Labor which is so low as to use scare tactics.

The volunteer-run WeChat social media campaign was organised by Gladys Liu, the Liberal party communities engagement committee chairwoman for Victoria.

Apart from being superfluous, Eric and Cory’s concept of popular activists telephoning voters, for example, and canvassing votes on the basis that big business really needed a tax break or that pensioners needed further hurdles to jump to get their paltry allowances may need a little re-thinking.

Voters are more likely to paint their bodies blue and lie about naked in the street to be photgraphed, an event entirely of our time in the recent “Sea of Hull installation”, another of Spencer Tunick’s, true-blue artworks.

Yet Abetz is no lone wolf. His whingeing echoes his hapless Prime Minister’s petulant victory speech at the Wentworth hotel, such an ugly dummy spit that it even causes seasoned sourpuss Laurie Oakes’ some grief.

“It is the first time that I have seen a bloke that has won the election give a speech that saying we was robbed,” Oakes says on a Channel Nine chat show that also doubles as an election night special.

The “we was robbed” theme is continued at the end of the week by the dynamic Arthur Sinodinos who appears on ABC Insiders to demonstrate in person that his party has learned nothing, claiming the results as a mandate for tax reform.

Oddly, none of the journos present asks Arthur whether his memory has recovered enough for him to be able to assist ICAC in what he did in the 25 and 45 hours a year he spent working as a director for AWH 2008-11 to justify his $200,000 salary.

We were robbed. Not that the candidates were out of touch or that their policies were duds. All voters were offered the usual hollow slogan of jobs and growth with the promise of a tax cut for the top four per cent – surely an irresistable package. Plus extra stability.

Denial is capably assisted by scapegoating and blaming. Already recriminations are flowing thick and fast while Tony Abbott is getting fan mail on ABC from the likes of Andrew Probyn. Is a bit of factional sand-bagging already taking place?

The consensus on Sunday’s Insiders is that Abbott played a blinder of a campaign even helping out others such as poor George Christensen, one of the Liberals’ Lost Boys and deserves a Brownlow for best non-sniper on the field and that he cannot possibly be linked to the salvoes of criticism which underminded his nemesis Turnbull from Sky media celebrity Peta Credlin. Nor will he in any way benefit.

Abbott does have a little jab at Malcolm on 2GB in yet another on-air rub down with Cronulla riot demi-urge Alan Jones. The big issues like budget repair, national security and border security, were underplayed in his opinion, aired for everyone’s benefit, along with a lot of Rugby playing analogies that leave no doubt that after a spell on the bench, Abbott is waiting to be picked again for the firsts.

Stop the press. Tosser Turnbull has claimed victory, Bill Shorten has conceded defeat.

it’s an odd speech about good government a phrase which recalls “good captain” Abbott who promised the same, not long before, he, too, got thrown out.

Tosser waffles about “building on the strength of our economy,” with a bit about how we get him wrong and how he is not an unduly sentimental fellow and how he was holding his grand-daughter when Bill Shorten rang him and sod the present it’s all about the future and our grandchildren. We are trustees for our future generations.

Has he been on the single malt again?

Perhaps Turnbull’s had a Damascene conversion. Perhaps he’s about to ring Birmingham and Sussan Ley. Tell them he’ll put back the $70 billion that his government ripped out of health and education.

Could someone get Greg Hunt on the phone? It is too late to ring Howard about getting the profits of the minerals boom back? A word with Keating about QANTAS and the Commonwealth bank, the infrastructre he sold off for a song?

There’s a bit about democracy too, just to keep the Mineral Council of Australia happy, not to mention the long list of lobbyists and powerful backers to appease.

Many of us remember what the Minerals Council of Australia did to subvert public discussion on the Mining Super Profits Tax. Or what Clubs Australia did to stymie gambling reform, or what Big Coal did to Emissions Trading Scheme; the Carbon Tax.

Now it’s all over bar the shouting. The blood-letting. The blaming. Will Turnbull be able to manage a slim majority and a cross bench of nine? He had the odd spot of bother with the last mob. And they had no Pauline Hanson. No Derryn Hinch.

How will he go with a leaner Liberal Party but a fatter right wing, a “broad church” with a rabble of conservatives pointing the finger at the Sinodinos faction of wets, circling cabinet positions and back-benchers bitching, ranting about their betrayal, now every one of them a king maker?

Whatever the outcome there’ll be someone else to blame.

A party room meeting is scheduled for Monday.


Cory Bernardi’s true blue conservative flash mob?


















Turnbull must resign


Turnbull wentworth

The poor election showing of the Coalition should come as no surprise. Despite the growth fantasies of Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison who is out of his magic faraway tree, the economy is in an income recession while wages growth, as the ABS notes, “is now the lowest on record since the series was first published in September quarter 1998.” People are doing it hard.

Few Australians not among the top four percent promised a tax break would share Malcolm Turnbull’s view that there has never been a more exciting time to be Australian. Even fewer would see his mindless optimism as anything more than another sign he is out of touch.

No-one below the poverty line on an age pension or other Centrelink payment would welcome Morrison’s $2.3 billion welfare crackdown increasing already stressful delays and challenges in a toxic atmosphere of mutual mistrust. No-one is mad keen to vote for more war on the poor.

Nor are the times exciting to anyone in the job market. For all the ballyhoo, the hollow boast of 300,000 jobs created last year, the trend continues to part time poorly paid casual work where franchise workers are slave labour and women are underpaid just because they are women.

Job ads have been falling. Employment growth has stalled. More workers worry about losing their jobs than at any time since Turnbull became PM. And now, Turnbull’s double dissolution election fiasco, on top of his government’s dodgy budget estimates has earned a Standard and Poors credit downgrade – adding insecurity and instability to an anaemic economic climate.

His vacuous campaign slogan of jobs and growth was a con, a phrase to make palatable handouts to the wealthy. There never were any jobs on offer. Yet, to be fair, Turnbull’s Prime Ministership is itself only part of larger Liberal Party crisis of identity, policy and leadership.

Desperate to ditch Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull’s backers gambled on a rank outsider with a patchy track record; an acclaimed orator who could also be a dithering windbag and a bore with a gift for talking himself up matched only by his capacity to talk down to or over others. His massive over confidence, his capacity to trust his own poor judgement has proved his undoing.

A self-alienating, weak leader, Turnbull’s surrender to the right to win power left him nothing to offer the electorate but an economic plan which consisted entirely of tax cuts for the rich. No wonder he ran dead, despite – or perhaps because of being shepherded by a media cheer squad which awarded him victory before the race had been run and whose campaign reporting reflected optimistic party insider briefing far more than reality. Perhaps he was never really in the race.

Desperate to be rid of the Abbott catastrophe, Liberals took a long punt on Turnbull’s electoral popularity. A natural despot with a rampaging ego who suffered fools badly, he had failed as a leader to gain support of his party or party room six years ago and he led the Australian Republican movement nowhere in 1999 but there was still the hope that his patrician image, connections and the myth of his self-made success would elevate him beyond politics into the unassailable ranks of celebrity and total immunity from accountability. A bit like our Pauline.

Enter Pauline Hanson, celebrity demagogue, another proven political failure, whose latest rise to power owes much to the Turnbull double dissolution fiasco and The Today Show. Hanson’s press agent, James Ashby, has let Fairfax know Pauline is currently unavailable for interview. Like Turnbull, Hanson is happy with the idea of the media as fan club.

Now the myth of Turnbull’s business success and the popular superstition that it will ensure political success or at least make him saleable, gets another trot around the ring from deputy show pony Julie Bishop who tells Turnbull fan 7:30 Report’s Leigh Sales on pro government ABC TV later in the week, “he knows how to negotiate” when the record of his dealings show only that he will do anything to get his own way.

Yet, on 2 July, PM Malcolm Bligh Turnbull’s brief dream run ends in a rude awakening. The party’s bet on the former merchant banker running an IPA agenda has not paid off. Turnbull has gambled on a double dissolution early election and lost. He has only himself to blame.

Now he must face the loss of his government’s authority in what looks like a slender majority in parliament – and the huge loss to his personal authority in a party riven by faction, divided over same sex marriage and with types like Cory Bernardi and the Delcons yearning for Abbott’s return misreading the election result as a call to turn even further to the right.

Turnbull is not the man to handle complex and delicate negotiations. He has never disguised his enormous ambition nor his king-size ego. Former business partner, Trevor Kennedy, Australian Consolidate Press managing director and former Bulletin editor said in 1984,

“Malcolm probably wouldn’t even be satisfied with being prime minister of Australia. He’d probably rather be prime minister of the world.”

Banking colleagues dubbed him “The Ayatollah” while Brendan Nelson who defeated Turnbull for Liberal Party leadership in 20017 believes Turnbull,

“has a narcissistic personality disorder. He says the most appalling things and can’t understand why people get upset.”

Come election night, he’s lost the plot. He’s late to his own wake; or rather the “victory party” staged in a hotel which like the PM’s blue-ribbon electorate is named after William Wentworth, son of a convicted highwayman, a “currency lad” who re-invented himself as a patriot.

Turnbull, like Jay Gatsby, springs from his own immaculate conception of himself. The man who would be Prime Minister must now look out over the bedraggled remnants of his depleted cheer squad, many of whom, like the PM himself, are tired and emotional and offer some solace. He is confronted: taunted by the tawdry reminders of his failure to deliver and it shows.

The private schoolboy has a public tantrum. No-one is thanked for their campaign, no commiseration is offered to the many who have lost seats. Victory has been stolen from him. Once again, it is all about Malcolm. Quickly the Delcons, the deluded conservative Abbott supporters will claim the result would have been better under the junkyard dog. Once again, they are wrong.

Turnbull is no overnight failure. Years of Liberal government misrule, party division and dysfunction, not to mention the monumental ineptitude of his predecessor, who spent recklessly on defence, fetishised the national flag and fantasised about invading Syria or Ukraine, not to mention shirt-fronting Putin, have led up to this moment.

To see Turnbull as solely the architect of his own misfortune is to miss the Liberal Party’s decline over the last decades a process which as Guy Rundle puts it “so successfully undermined the platform on which it once stood, that it has fallen through the hole.”

Today’s Liberal Party draws upon an eclectic mix of ideologies from neoliberal, classical liberal and conservative schools of thought, blending tea party jargon about small government with neoliberal and small “l” liberal ideas and even in submarine building, industry protectionism. The confused brew makes the task of leadership even more daunting for Turnbull.

Will he fall on his sword? The honourable way out would be to make a resignation speech. Now, just when once again he seems to have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, a mortally wounded Malcolm Bligh Turnbull reaches deep within himself and orates.

We can still form majority government, he thunders. Why is he shouting? Echoes here of the schoolboy debater, a natural third speaker who chooses bluster over substance.

Then there’s the scapegoating. It is as if the public have spoilt the party by not voting for him.

Labor’s mendacity, including “an extraordinary act of dishonesty” in text messaging purporting to come from Medicare has scared voters off the privatisation of Medicare which is otherwise proceeding apace with the government’s freezing of the Medicare rebate to GPs, and cutting bulk billing payments for pathology and diagnostic imaging and cuts to the Medicare Safety Net.

Yet no cuts are proposed to the $11 billion government subsidy of private health insurance.

No privatisation? Turnbull’s technically correct. Former PMC secretary John Menadue points out, current Coalition policy won’t privatise Medicare, it will destroy it.

By Tuesday, Turnbull concedes that the scare campaign against Medicare succeeded because his government had provided fertile ground for Labor’s “outrageous lie,” but the wounded Turnbull lashing out at a Labor scapegoat, Saturday, is the one voters will recognize as more authentic.

Ira fraudulosa esse non potest. Anger cannot be dishonest.

Turnbull lies that “party officials,” whose myopia has contributed to the campaign disaster, confirm the Coalition could form a government in its own right. Claw back seats from Labor.

We’ve been here before,” he adds, another palpable lie, rallying the faithful whose bitter disappointment in his leadership is fast turning to anger. He offers another spurious historical parallel and the implicit hope that he’d lead them through this crisis instead of deeper into it.

I give you Bob Katter,” he will be able to say by Friday, enriching his government’s prospects of success in the same sex marriage plebiscite con by signing up an independent who will walk backwards to Burke if there’s a gay in his electorate.

Katter’s list of demands include federal funding for the Galilee Basin railway, a strong moral case according to Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg in October last year who is keen to divert funds from the Northern Australia infrastructure facility to build a stranded investment that will never pay its way servicing the proposed Adani coal mine that could only proceed if the world reversed its investment in renewable the Indian government changed its policy of discouraging coal imports.

Before he even begins his election night dummy spit, Fizza Turnbull has been abandoned by a good third of the victory party to say nothing of a parliamentary party white-hot with rage and seething with self-righteous resentment. The smart set has withdrawn to its comfortable eastern suburbs barricades. Au pairs and nannies are put to bed leaving Alan Jones to put the boot in.

Smelling blood, Channel 7s team, fittingly, leads the nation in a bit of victim-bashing speculating that poor little Malco has wimped out. He’s staying home with his head under the doona. Shortly after this is broadcast, the PM appears, family in tow.

He has a plan, he says. He will turn this disaster of a defeat thing around. Like any blue-blooded scorpion, he lashes out at Labor’s Medicare lies. The police will be involved.

A simian John Howard, the architect of so much of the modern Liberal Party’s existential crisis, whom party and media amnesiacs alike have grotesquely elevated to party patron saint looks on approvingly, perhaps remembering his own undermining of Medicare not by open cuts but by failing to increase funding to keep up with increases in prices and population and his use of the “babies overboard” lie to win an election he deserved to lose.

Perhaps his heroic Iraqi war effort is on his mind. So hard to get good intelligence before battle.

It can’t be easy being Malcolm. Failure has dogged so many of his grand ventures now, including his failure to lead the Australian Republic Movement in 1999, his botched, white elephant of an NBN, his disastrous attempt to lead his own party in 2009 which ruptured on his despotic temperament and his failure to negotiate a PM role which left him any credibility or authority, all which his media cheer squad has been keen to overlook.

No one to blame but himself.

Turnbull’s dismal performance on election night earns the scorn of Laurie Oakes, self-appointed national moral guardian whose own virtuous behaviour includes the practical misogyny of his persecution of Julia Gillard who wrote the book on successful minority government.

Laurie Oakes was also instrumental in preparing the electorate for Tony Abbott, contributing to the myth that the Gillard years were chaotic and dysfunctional or that the junkyard toad would somehow, overnight become a prince, a leader and an effective Prime Minister.

Beyond the theatrics of a lost election lie the profound issues of the people’s voice ignored, a voice which now it is so easy to disparage or dispute or discourage competing as it must in a mediated society where elections are about what we believe to be our choices based on what we are told by radio, TV, website and all other form of mass medium.

Perhaps the greatest irony in the Coalition’s election debacle is that a servile, pro-government media created a bubble which insulated the government from the feedback it needed to run an effective campaign. Instead of the strategic feedback the Coalition needed, it received an echo of its own spin.

The government was “tracking well in the marginals,” we were all told. Insiders were quietly confident. Insiders predict a comfortable victory. No wonder Turnbull in his naiveté thought he really didn’t have to try. Perhaps this is the key to his anger election night, he and his party were undone by their own spin; betrayed by their own narcissism.

Surely, also, on some level he must know he is utterly undone and once again, parliamentary party playmate of the month that he may once have been and however much seduced by the Liberal party’s born to rule complacency, he is ultimately the architect of his downfall.

Without the victory that would have conferred authority and without the judgement and personal skills required to negotiate a minority government or one with a slender majority, his best course of action is to resign.

Tasmania leads the nation




Tasmania leads the nation, Saturday, in a clean sweep of Liberal-held lower house seats, which sees its three amigos, Eric Hutchinson, Andrew Nikolic and Brett Whiteley, sent packing. In the contest for Tasmania’s twelve senate seats, the fates of sixth listed Labor senator Lisa Singh and non-Abbott man listed fifth, Liberal senator Richard Colbeck may take weeks to be finalised.

Why the clean sweep? Some say the three Abbott loyalists brought it all on themselves by not representing Tasmania’s interests. Others report that Andrew Nikolic was not easy to engage or debate, especially if requests contravened local Liberal Party policy of strictly only two party debates. None of this, however, can detract from Tasmanian voters’ achievement on Saturday.

Where did we go wrong in Tassie? The Coalition is said to be puzzling- as if it got the rest of the nation right. Hint: beware of believing your own talking points. Most polls put the two parties neck and neck over the eight weeks but Turnbull and his team campaigned as if they had it in the bag. Labor was left to engage with the people; put out real policies.

Was it a Mark Textor tactic to create a bandwagon effect? Exude confidence. Claim the government is ahead in the polls and you can help to put the government ahead in the polls?

“We are polling well in the marginals.” You could tell it was a line just by listening to Julie Bishop – the walking talking point. The Coalition was doing much better in the marginals according to its own polling. Never mind anybody else’s poll.

Once you succumb to self-deception, all manner of delusion becomes possible; it becomes less a question of what went wrong and more how could anything go right? Next thing you know someone will suggest that Tony Abbott would have run a better campaign.

Tassie voters sensibly reject a Coalition campaign which ignores the rights of ordinary people to better healthcare, education, penalty rates and employment, offering, instead, lower taxes for corporations and to those on higher incomes, which ordinary people would subsidise in a not so innovative and astonishingly ill-judged new plan announced by the Federal Treasurer in the last few days of the campaign. Tax cuts for the rich would be funded by doing over the poor.

Not working? Australians on retirement or sickness pensions will not miss out. Their Centrelink claims will be scrutinised by a uniformed Human Services officer in a supportive “better targeting and integrity strengthening process.”

By this means, the Treasurer expects to claw back a lazy $2.3 billion that may have fallen down the back of the sofa, or is sloshing around in Grandma’s handbag making it too heavy to carry or too hard for her to find her betting tickets or her daily half bottle of brandy.

…the $5 billion clamp down on welfare fraud…

Of course, the new clawback is not that new. It’s identical to the $5 billion clamp down on welfare fraud announced a couple of months ago in last May’s Budget. “Sometimes people are overpaid and they don’t even know it,” explains Scott Morrison. His eyes light up at the prospect of privatising debt recovery from pensioners. But not until the election’s settled.

Morrison’s got the Productivity Commission to review all human services “delivered” by government: community services, social housing, prisons, disability services and Medicare.

It goes without saying it’s not a scare campaign, or a threat, this war on the poor to pay the rich. It’s just another treat from the smorgasbord of “efficiency-dividend” and “savings” or “greater flexibility” and choice that Sussan Ley talks about when she means to cut funds or social services or terrorise the elderly by stopping pension payments without notice at all should an overpayment accidentally appear. You’d be mad not to vote for more of it.

Liberal plans to privatise Medicare have taken a bit of stick from the Liberal campaign war machine recently. It’s all a beat up. A critical semantic distinction is commonly overlooked. The PM can deny with an air of wounded innocence that his government has any plans to privatise Medicare because it is already doing it. And Tasmanians know it.

Semantics aside, the government makes a last minute pitch of strident denials that it has any plans to privatise Medicare. These are augmented with attacks on Labor’s lies and its cruel strategy of ringing old people, who cannot be expected to know what is going, on especially about their own health. The old folk are then terrified to hear the truth second hand.

Medicare is tricky, too, because there’s been a late change of plan. No longer will the $50 billion fee collecting business be flogged off to eager private models of integrity such as Telstra – or at least not for the time being. The Prime Minister has promised to keep back-office operations in house, for the time being. But the real issue is the freeze on the GP Medicare rebate .

The biggest privatisation of health ever is already under way in Australia – the co-payment, which our government is forcing on all of us by freezing the GP Medicare rebate. Some practices are already adding this to their fees.

Privatisation involves increasing the proportion of private payment in the health system. We are forced by the freeze to pay, so our GPs can continue to treat us.

…fails to resonate with ordinary Australians …

If privatisation denial is no vote winner, the promise of stability, oddly, also fails to resonate with ordinary Australians, despite coming from a Coalition which knows first hand its worth. It’s had two Prime Ministers, three different tax policies and seventeen changes in its cabinet in the last three years, not to mention its internal rifts such as between its conservative rump and the rest.

Not even a Brexit reference makes Turnbull’s pitch to the nation to behave like good children, sit still, stop wriggling, shut up and vote for him any more compelling. Tasmanians see right through it – despite his finger-wagging and scare tactics.

“The upheaval reminds us there are many things in the global economy over which we have no control … At a time of uncertainty, the last thing we need is a parliament in disarray,” he lectures the party faithful gathered in Sydney. Tony Abbott, before him had worried us all about the ISIS monsters who were coming to get us – but, not to worry, only Labor runs scare campaigns.

The great big new tax on everything scare, the $100 lamb roast, the wiping of Whyalla off the map and Bronywn Bishop’s tale of the pensioners who had to stay in bed because they couldn’t afford their electric heating bills were all OK when they were part of Tony Abbott’s campaign.

Brexit is a vexed issue for the Liberals. Britain has tried Neoliberalism and rejected it. Brexit is a warning to leaders who believe we are merely consumers bonded by economic ties, born to compete; not communal creatures with misty-eyed notions of nurturing and helping one another.

Brexit may be a warning to our increasingly remote power elite of the alienation, marginalisation and exclusion experienced by those who make up the mass of the modern corporate state. For Turnbull it is a stick to beat us with. So, too the false memory of disarray, the Liberal myth that our last minority government was anything but an astonishing success. Now, disarray is just what the Liberal National government has delivered. It could last for years.

Of course, others may see it differently, local Liberal power broker Eric Abetz is blaming national issues which “swamped the state campaign,” or so he claims in The Mercury Sunday. Abetz believes that the local Liberals ran an exemplary campaign only to be gazumped by “dishonourable and deceptive statements” made about Medicare.

…a highly welfare-dependant state…

“They are genuinely concerned about their well-being and we in Tasmania are a highly welfare-dependant state, and if you are welfare dependant then Medicare, and those sort of support facilities, are vitally important to you,” he says. Best not mention Medicare, then in case, like democratic choice, it spoils people’s voting intentions.

To Abetz credit he reveals that the party of stability is already baying for its leaders blood. Asked if he has ‘full confidence in Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister’ the senator says: “I always have confidence in the elected Parliamentary leader.”

While vote counting will continue Tuesday in a Federal Election result which may remain unknown for weeks, some things are certain. Malcolm Turnbull, whose errors of judgement include the leasing of the Port of Darwin to a Chinese firm, the Godwin Grech affair, where he was the victim of an outrageous sting, and the appointment of Mal Brough to his cabinet, may have made his final, fatal error.

Perhaps he is a victim here, too, a plausible stand in, bound to fail, a politician whose untested claims to electoral popularity were oversold by backers desperate to replace a politically toxic Tony Abbott.

Certainly his gambit has proved an expensive mistake. Despite high praise from Press Gallery backers, (one gurgled, that his double dissolution plan meant “he ha(d) seized the initiative by the scruff of its neck,”) Turnbull’s punt will cost him and his government dearly. Lenore Taylor calls it “an unmitigated disaster.”

The PM who promised strong, stable stand-alone government, spends Sunday morning canvassing support from Lower House Independents including Andrew Wilkie who returns to Denison, and Cathy McGowan who returns to Indi.

There was never going to be any deal, says Wilkie, a sentiment echoed by McGowan.

…a bizarre speech of recrimination…

His appeals sit oddly with his public assurances to those of the party faithful who remained to hear him make a bizarre speech of recrimination made after midnight at The Wentworth Hotel.

On election night, the PM is sure a majority is in the bag. He is just as sure that the Labor campaign has been a farrago of lies. He is calling the police on the opposition’s fraudulent scare-mongering. Had the AFP not had its hands full with NBN whistleblowers and the mystery of who had access to Peter Slipper’s diary, it might leap at another non-political investigation.

The PM has lost his double dissolution early election gamble, along with many of the marginal seats his leadership was set up to protect. He has failed, comprehensively, in his bid to achieve a more congenial senate despite reforming the election process to eliminate micro parties.

His government will struggle to find support from a new senate cross bench which includes at least one Pauline Hanson and Fred Nile. It is certain to be at least as challenging as its predecessor while the PM who has failed to deliver stability or security to his own party has lost even more authority and credibility as party leader

Bolshie senate to one side and leaving the witch hunt over illegal scare-mongering alone, Labor’s Brian Mitchell expresses something which, sadly is too easy for the complete, modern corporate statesman or party hack to overlook. It goes to the heart of Labor’s Tasmanian victory and may be one key to the post Brexit Labor success across the nation.

For Mitchell the result is,

“Just an amazing feeling. I’m the son of a school cleaner, my mum cleaned schools, my dad was a factory hand, to think that their son is now in Federal Parliament, that’s the Labor story.”

Of course, there is more to the story than that, especially in a modern Labor Party which post-Hawke is as neoliberal as its opposite number, a party with more than its fair share of lawyers and party apparatchiks, its consultants, publicists and lobbyists but Mitchell is on to something nonetheless.