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.