Month: September 2016

Turnbull’s lies to the UN cannot disguise a government in crisis.


Eric Abetz upstages his Prime Minister Sunday with a quick media blitz to reassure a grateful nation that thanks to his heroic efforts in writing to his PM there will be no change in the distribution of the GST for some years to come. Tasmanians especially will be overcome with gratitude at the Senator’s selfless dedication and letter writing. Once again we give thanks for something the government is not doing.

 Thunderous applause, spontaneous outbursts of Hallelujah and impromptu gospel singing also break out at the United Nations Refugee Summit in New York this week as Malcolm Turnbull, and his minder, Peter Dutton reveal with similar modesty that Australia is there to help the world solve its refugee crisis.

It is Australia’s duty as a world leader in humanitarian assistance, a nation prepared to invest over $40 million to re-settle one Rohingya man in Cambodia, but we must be cruel to be kind.

Turnbull explains, “Because we are able to say that we decide who comes into Australia and how long they stay, because we have control of our borders, we are able to deliver that generous humanitarian program.”

“Look to us,” the PM urges humbly, our solution is the “best in the world … we … create order from chaos.” Delegates go wild. A fabled faith-healer whose Neo-con nostrums, a trickle-down here, a tax cut there, have worked miracles at home, he is a natural on the international circuit. Leaders cheer, clap and stomp along to the sonorous rhythms of his spell-binding oratory as he tells how they, too, can be saved. Hallelujah!

Dutton bids up his government’s success, “Australia’s recent history has seen extraordinary challenges to our sovereignty,” he lies. But by being tough we are able to “keep up confidence in our migration policy and practice,” at a bargain price of $9.6 billion over three years and with the suppression of a few civil liberties.

Confidence is boosted by keeping details of its “border protection” operations secret and by ignoring the 2000 Nauru incident reports published in the Guardian last month –  8000 pages which depict widespread child abuse and trauma and reflect a regime of routine dysfunction and cruelty which Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International call “deliberate abuse hidden behind a wall of secrecy.”

“These policies and practices were not developed from a basis of fear,” explains the Immigration Minister whose own plain-speaking on the threat posed by migrants constitutes the Coalition government’s gold standard in dog-whistling bigots.

“They won’t be numerate or literate in their own language, let alone English. These people would be taking Australian jobs, there’s no question about that. For many of them that would be unemployed, they would languish in unemployment queues and on Medicare and the rest of it so there would be huge cost and there’s no sense in sugar-coating that, that’s the scenario.”

Dutton understates his case. “Being tough” is Dutton-speak for punishing all boat people we catch as a deterrent to others, or as they themselves describe it, a form of torture.

Or in a boomerang strategy boat people are sent back to suffer. Of course, it’s illegal. We break international law and turn back boats; delivering those fleeing persecution into the arms of their tormentors.  No. Of course it’s not fair. We are tough on border protection – unless you are wealthy. 1228 migrants with $5 million to invest were permitted entry as Significant Investors in the last four years.

A better, quicker route is available. Premium Investor Visas are granted to individuals who invest $15 million over only one year in a scheme which a Productivity Commission Report this week says offers an easy shortcut to Australian residency for rich foreigners – mainly from China – or anyone keen to launder money. We decide who will come into this country just as soon as you show us the colour of your money.

Unlike New Zealand’s similar investor scheme, prospective migrants undergo few checks on how their money was obtained. Furthermore, it is revealed this week, the department tasked with policing our fabulously secure borders appears to have a few major gaps in its own defences.

The Productivity Commission’s findings coincide with a Rand investigation also published this week which depicts a Department of Immigration and Border Protection which is so over-invested in stopping the boats of asylum-seekers that it is vulnerable to criminal exploitation, a department which suffers inadequate intelligence and staff-vetting procedures. It is estimated that it will take eight years to fix.

In the meantime, if you want to migrate to Australia, the only difference between being consigned to rot in hell forever and a red carpet welcome is the price of an air fare and a spare $5 million dollars.

But Turnbull is not in New York to spruik Australia’s fly-buy migration scheme. Nor is he there to be a wuss like the other fifty odd nations at the summit who collectively agree to double the refugee intake. Publicly he endorses Tony Abbott’s refugee intake target of 18,750, but spins this as a “permanent increase”.

Nobody’s fooled. Turnbull’s there to preach his nation’s wildly popular tough-on-border-protection nonsense or anything else which he believes makes himself look strong or which will play well at home. He’s all for strong borders, especially if it buys him time with the Coalition’s hard right wing.

What to do with the 65 million displaced people in the world? Apply some of Australia’s Border Protection, a patent pending combined refugee repellent and conscience salve which may be whipped up quickly and cheaply at home in even the poorest nation from local ingredients of fear, bigotry and ignorance.

All these years, says President Obama, leaping to his feet. All these years we put the influx of refugees down to civil war and catastrophe. All these years we believed refugees were fleeing persecution and famine. Now we know we were wrong. It was our wimpy border security that was the problem all along. Hallelujah!  

Turnbull does sell us a bit short. There’s more to our border security policy than persecuting the innocent. It’s a lot more than the inhumane, illegal and mutually degrading practice of banishing to faraway island gulags men, women and children who dare to seek our mercy.

It’s more than setting up refugees to be abused by guards or driven mad by the death in life of deprivation, neglect and indefinite off-shore detention although this is often mistaken for the glamorous high end of our operations.

Along with the 2000 in offshore gulags there are 29,000 asylum-seekers in limbo in Australia. They are on Temporary Bridging Visas which mean, in general, that they cannot work or access education or healthcare. They are not locked up in centres but they are locked into a vicious cycle of poverty, uncertainty and despair which causes increasing numbers to take their own lives, as in the case of tragic suicides amongst Hazara, a persecuted minority people from Afghanistan reported this week.

The rate of suicide amongst detainees or refugees on TPVs does not appear to affect the government’s resolve. The Minister loves to remind us how “tough border protection” prevents deaths by drownings but this week Turnbull goes further. A brutal detention regime helps us focus our compassion. Hence the Australian Border Force Act 2005 outlaws whistle-blowers. We don’t want refugee advocates, doctors or teachers or other workers distract us from “focusing humanitarian assistance on those who need it most.”

Turnbull’s “risk mitigation” includes turn-backs, violations of international law including in 2014, returning two boat-loads of Sri Lankan asylum seekers to the Sri Lankan navy and into certain danger after on-board refugee “assessments.” Some of these people were arrested on return. Where are they now?

Operation Sovereign Borders’ Andrew Bottrell, told a Senate estimates hearing in February that 23 boats and “more than 680 people” were returned to their country of departure but what became of them, then?

No-one knows, moreover, the fate of those terrified, desperate souls on board when in May 2015, Australian officials paid USD $32,000 to six crew who had been taking 65 people seeking asylum to New Zealand and told them to take the people to Indonesia instead.  Nor is anyone permitted to ask since we militarised our compassion in the wilful self-delusion we are at war with asylum-seekers.

Not all dissent has been silenced, however. The secrecy provisions of the 2015 Border Force Act have compromised Australians’ basic democratic rights and damaged Australia’s international standing, the Human Rights Law Centre tells the United Nations in a statement to the Human Rights Council.

The lame duck PM’s hard line abroad show he’s desperate to take a trick at home. Pauline Hanson helps him link asylum-seekers and terror. She’ll decide who comes into this country. Essential reports this week that 49% of a thousand responses to its online polling oppose Muslim immigration mainly because of fear of terrorism and because Muslims don’t assimilate or share Australian values.  The Drum pulls some Muslims off the street to explain themselves.

Turnbull’s Trumpery underwhelms the current US administration. Barack Obama warns that nations who build walls or close doors will be judged harshly by history. “This crisis is a test of our common humanity – whether we give in to suspicion and fear and build walls, or whether we see ourselves in another,” he says.

UN Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, has already denounced Australia’s asylum seeker policy as “a chain of human rights violations.” Turnbull’s case for Australia to be admitted to the UN Human Rights Council for the 2018-2020 term is not shaping well.

Posturing as a strong leader abroad, however, cannot make up for Turnbull’s being Australia’s most disappointing Prime Minister at home. Let him talk tough on terror and turn-backs. Let him dress up in Abbott’s rhetoric. The PM’s hard-line posturing only serves to highlight his moral bankruptcy; his self-serving surrender to the cynical capitulation to populist scare-mongering that has been his party’s immigration policy at least since Howard’s despicable lie of babies overboard in 2004.

Nor is the UN bluffed. Turnbull’s claim that Australia is a world leader in humanitarian aid is so transparently false, so out of line with our deeds, that the Prime Minister unwittingly demonstrates the truth. With the shameful exception of Australia, a relatively prosperous nation, world leaders agree to donate more money, accept more refugees. Even Ethiopia, 14th poorest country on earth, commits to educate refugees from the primary to tertiary level, and to set aside 10,000 hectares of arable land for use by refugees.

Fortunately there is more war on the poor at home this week to take the heat off the government’s abortive campaign in New York and to distract from the cost of tax cuts to business, the need to look after the rich and where to send our Manus Island detainees now that PNG has told us to pack our bags, an ultimatum which the government appears to be ignoring along with its trouble keeping its contractors.

Connect Settlement Services, the latest contractor to walk away from our world class offshore detention regime is leaving Nauru, it is said, over insufficient mental health and childcare provisions. An embarrassing number of other firms are also having trouble sharing the Coalition’s pride in its world-beating system.

The government prevented Ferrovial, the Spanish firm  which owns Broadspectrum from pulling out of Nauru and Manus Island in February. Ferrovial will now leave in October next year while Wilson Security has indicated it intends to get out of the offshore detention centre business. Luckily news that we are on the verge of a “revolution” in welfare arrives to take our minds off a detention system in utter crisis.

An innovative Christian Porter wants to deny Newstart for a month to new applicants, a move he swears that is not ideologically based or coloured by assumptions that the poor and the jobless are lazy and a burden on the rest of us. Let them survive on fresh air and sunshine.

His other ideas are not so original. Impressed by New Zealand’s welfare-bashing investment approach which is based on spreading alarm at how much it might cost to look after people, Porter wastes time in a National Press Club Address this Tuesday with an absurd claim based on dodgy budget figures.

“We face a total estimated future lifetime welfare cost of the present Australian population of $4.8tn”.

What’s missing is the whopping $360.5trn which represents the Federal government’s revenue on the same figures over the same period. Like all true conservatives, Porter would have us believe nation will be ruined if we continue to waste time and money, including our precious tax receipts on the poor.

­So far the only person showing fear is the Treasurer. A threatened Scott Morrison quickly stakes his own claim. “When I was Social Services Minister we picked up a new approach from [New Zealand], to help get our welfare system under control … It was called ‘the investment approach’.” The team player explains that “Christian Porter is now leading the next phase of ‘investment approach.” Morrison’s job is safe after all.

Porter, a former WA State Treasurer, once proposed that Newstart benefits be suspended unless applicants were prepared to chase work in other states. Clearly, he puts poor people in the same boat as refugees and asylum-seekers. Both pretend to suffer misfortune in order to live the high life on welfare payments.

Never mind that government statistics reveal that young people out of work and out of education are at record lows. Or that our border protection is based on demonising innocent victims of circumstance for petty political advantage or that beneath the rhetoric is a department, a system, a government in crisis.


Turnbull’s death-defying back-flip



In a death-defying acrobatic routine in Canberra this week, the nation’s lame duck PM performs an astonishing back-flip on the high-wire without a safety net in a Coalition Circus show-stopper before a three week break in the slow trick bicycle race that is the 45th Parliament.  Pantomime legend, funny money man Treasurer Scott Morrison kids audiences along that his government is not breaking an election promise. 

 Breaking Turnbull’s “absolutely iron-clad campaign pledge” on superannuation law changes to suit the top one per cent at the expense of poorer retirees is just responsible government.  It mirrors Tony Abbott’s “good government” which honoured his promise of no changes to health and education by delivering cuts of $80 billion after a landslide victory.

 Its super backdown competes with news this week of Morrison’s failure as Minister for Immigration to notice a contractor add $1.1 billion to its tender to run the gulag on Nauru and Manus when his department suspended public service tender rules in face of our imminent invasion by waves of dole-bludging job-stealing, illiterate immigrants, as Peter Dutton loves to remind us. A confected emergency is ScoMo’s normal operating environment.

“…When you’re in government you have to solve problems, you have to work issues and you’ve got to get to conclusions and that’s what we’ve done today…” explains the Ming dynasty worthy Morrison who demolishes other considerations such as principle, honesty and integrity with effortless ease and more than a dash of self-parody. No-one mentions the massive problem his PM’s double whatsit created in the senate, Manus Island, his NBN or the four banks who hold the country to ransom under government protection. Arch pragmatist Robert Menzies would be proud.

News of Turnbull’s astonishing stunt, naturally earns thunderous applause from high income earners and is the finale to a four day extravaganza which includes omnibus billing, more flogging of dead horse Dastyari, the plebiscite dance marathon and the mother of all fool’s errands, a race to praise Malcolm’s first year as PM.

Not to be outbid in the absurdity stakes, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton pledges to take Australia’s “good UN story” on refugees to the UN next Monday. He recycles the canard that we lead the world in refugee resettlement reprising the old lie that Australia takes the most refugees per capita of any country in the world, so favoured by his idol Tony Abbott.

The lie misrepresents our role in the UNHCR resettlement programme, which takes only 1% of the world’s estimated fifteen million refugees, as evidence that we lead the world in resettling all refugees. It wilfully obscures the 1577, including children, we currently imprison indefinitely in detention centres including on Christmas Island, and the 1296 incarcerated on Nauru and Manus Island.  Worse, Dutton’s lie implies that these are not genuine refugees.

 “We don’t just provide a refuge, we guide people into a new life; a safe, healthy and hopefully a happy life, ” Dutton boasts in The Australian. “Our humanitarian programmes have helped tens of thousands.” The two thousand incidents of abuse exposed in The Guardian’s recent release of reports by officials on Nauru clearly don’t count.

 Nor do those 30 asylum seekers Dutton has put on Christmas Island to enjoy the company of 200 of what the Border Supremo calls “some of the country’s most hardened criminals” at the discretion of the Minister who applies his character test. Two Brigidine sisters report not happiness but fear and despair on the island. “What we witnessed was a group of men utterly without hope, almost all of them broken human beings,” they tell Fairfax Media this week.

Our cruelty is not only wrong it is expensive. This week sees both a Save the Children and a UNICEF report reveal off-shore detention has cost us $9.6 billion since 2013 – more than the UNHCR’s total global budget for programs this year. The reports coincide with an Audit Office report that puts the cost per detainee at $1570 per day or enough to put each asylum-seeker up in a Hyatt hotel and pay them the pension fifteen times over, calculates Fairfax’s Peter Martin.

 The Audit Office report shows that not only did the Coalition government breach public service tender guidelines, it created a false sense of emergency to allow it to dispense with proper procedures permitting the successful contractor to add an extra $1.1 billion to its bid without facing any counter-bid. The department of Immigration kept this additional premium secret from then Immigration Minister Scott Morrison who was also not told of the price per head.

 Also kept secret is Malcolm Turnbull’s own donation to his party campaign war chest made in the second half of the eight week election campaign although he has volunteered that he chipped in $2 million rather than the $1 million originally reported. It is still a good investment should he last three years. Turnbull  is the only PM in Australian political history to have bought his own mandate but, oddly, no-one brings this up as his greatest achievement. 

Indeed, Coalition MPs appear challenged to find any achievement at all to mark The PM’s first year in office. Most instead settle on competing to tell the most outrageous lie while an oleaginous Josh Frydenberg admits his boss has been “a good friend of mine” before praising him as ” a very successful Prime Minister.”

 A rising conga line of suck-holes is utterly upstaged, however, by George Brandis, a toad in pinstripes, who puffs his pal Malcolm into the equal of Sir Robert “and the great John Howard;” “one of the great Australian prime ministers”, praise so nauseatingly unwarranted, so patently untrue that even Howard The Great must set the sycophant straight.

 “I think those sort of comparisons at this stage in Malcolm’s career are a bit unfair and premature,” Howard tells ABC radio. Fresh from recording his own two part ABC hagiography on his idol and fellow philistine, Pig Iron Bob, helpfully scheduled this Sunday, Howard is quick to cut Turnbull off at the knees. “The most immediate thing he can do in emulating Menzies is to successfully go to an election with a majority of only one and increase his majority.”

 Ouch!. No matter how bad it gets Malcolm is still the leader, team player George Christensen ventures helpfully.

Others outside the parliamentary party also see Turnbull as a fizza. A D+ is awarded by 50 business leaders, former Liberal politicians, academics, economists, administrators, lawyers and lobbyists who grade the PM for the AFR Weekend. Turnbull has failed to translate our joyous excitement over his rolling of Abbott into any action at all. Nor has he hung on to that surge of popularity. Even Newspoll reports that what it coyly terms satisfaction levels with the Prime Minister are down six percentage points to 34 per cent since the July 2 election.

 Yet there is no shortage of vacuous, self-interested puffery from Liberal MPs to inflate the PM’s party balloon this week.

“This Turnbull Coalition government has much to do and much to get on with — indeed, that is the business of government. We get on with it,” pronounces maiden Liberal Senator Jane Hume in a gesture of utter absurdity. As her 18th Century namesake David Hume advised, a wise woman proportions her belief to the evidence.

 Senator Hume, a former bank manager who currently works for  a superannuation fund, with absolutely no conflicts of interest, wins biggest whopper in a week of lies and desperate dissembling. The Coalition government has nothing to do and less to go on with. There is not even an agenda for the senate, Monday. Everything grinds to a halt forcing Liberal Senators to filibuster, fidget or even pedal backwards as they frantically try to stay in the saddle until Question Time.

 Government senators pad out their speeches to twenty minutes to stretch things until Question Time. Bridget McKenzie back-handedly grabs a chance to call Nigel Scullion a “deep thinker” despite appearances and to praise a colleague from Tullarook but the National Senator can’t recall his name or place, “Andrew, it will come to me she says.” Party amnesiac, Arthur Sinodinos grins infectiously.  George Brandis government leader in the senate is, once again, missing in action.

 What follows is strangely edifying. Whilst having senators speak without prompt or preparation produces some of the most tedious, trivial if not excruciatingly inept speechifying in history, it also provides a privileged peek into a government upper house consciousness unsullied by thought, reflection or wretched talking point.  In this space also, Pauline Hanson makes the second maiden speech of her career, calling for Muslims this time, to go back to where they came from. This is our country, our land our lifestyle, she says. “Take advantage of our freedom” and leave.

 Greens senators stage a walkout yet Michaelia Cash embraces the One Nation leader to remind all of Turnbull’s one true legacy, a cross bench of misbegotten populist monsters. While One Nation owes its much of its revival to the PM’s double dissolution fiasco, its members also faithfully reflect the way the Liberal Party continues Howard’s tradition of gleefully dog-whistling up the bigoted, the racist and xenophobic amongst us to achieve its political agenda.

 George Megalogenis in Australia’s Second Chance traces migrant bashing to 1840 when Horse Tray Yah was threatened by 4000 orphan girls, economic migrants seeking asylum from persecution and Ireland’s Great Famine. Since then it’s been the turn of other groups to be vilified and persecuted, as Annabel Crabb cheerily notes in The Age as if the idea that this too will pass may somehow comfort or compensate victims of state sanctioned abuse. Or right any wrong.

 Helping any who may misread Ms Cash’s public embrace of Pauline Hanson, gorgeous George Christensen, Dawson Pauline-whisperer is quick to tell the Australian that Hanson’s views are “largely those of the Liberal Party rank and file.” It emerges that George arranged a cosy deal with Pauline not to stand a One Nation candidate against him in the last election. Julie Bishop also endorses former Liberal Hanson, cutely saying she does “not agree with all” of Pauline’s views.

 Cory barnyard Bernardi is off to New York to observe the UN a body which he, too, along with One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts has called “unelected and unaccountable.” If Cory’s not in bed with One Nation, he’s smoking the same stuff.

 Like One Nation Pokémon Malcolm Roberts, Bernardi fears we are “outsourcing aspects of our national sovereignty to unaccountable foreign organisations like the United Nations,” or the Chinese or else hordes of alien invaders from the planet Zorg. Bernardi will be right at home in New York where wacky is normal but surely he will need to be recalled when the party’s Turnbull experiment is blown up by Abbott’s marriage plebiscite time bomb.

 Neither Bernardi nor Christensen will have to cross the floor, however, because the Labor party won’t play the game on a plebiscite which was less about seeking the will of the Australian people than about the rat cunning of a Tony Abbott desperate to defeat the do-gooders in his own party room. But what’s a broad church without a narrow, rigid and remote pontifex?

 In the interim, national discourse is drowned by disingenuous drivel from right wingers who pretend that government funding to both sides is some sort of equaliser.

 The same dangerous nonsense is buried in the clamour of Bernardi’s band wagon to repeal 18 C of the racial discrimination and vilification act and his crusade against safe schools. He and Leyonhjelm certainly know better although the less said about the rest of Turnbull’s freak show of a cross bench the better.

 What matters is power. Funding those who already enjoy immense wealth and power is no way to promote anything but bullying and the more effective dissemmination of hate speech. Stripping away safeguards for the vulnerable, the disadvantaged and the marginalised in order to add further to the power of ruling classes is no way to achieve social harmony – or democracy. If only like the PM everyone were rich enough to fund their own campaign.

 Luckily our PM has never been too shy to blow his own trumpet. Malcolm Bligh Turnbull has been quick this week to point out what an incredible asset he is to the nation with his genius for economic management. He takes full credit for rubbery figures suggesting business is booming. Like Arthur Sinodinos we must all put out of our minds all memory of the Reserve Bank lowering interest rates to boost a flagging economy or of wages flat-lining for three years at least. If we are not technically in recession we need to have a hard look at the way we measure it.

 Our leaders want us to applaud the ABS. Crippled by funding cutbacks, a failure over its census, the ABS coughs up some dodgy figures about GDP being up just as it produces wildly erratic and unreliable unemployment statistics because it is pushed to report on what it can’t afford to count properly. More reliable is the news that a third of us now put off or avoid entirely going to the dentist because we can’t afford the cost.

 Luckily birthday boy Malcolm Turnbull will take time out from his first anniversary and being bullied by Eric Abetz, George Christensen and other right-wing nutters who run his government to bask in the admiration of leaders overseas. 

 Turnbull will dazzle the world with his agile, innovative shtick, his economic trickle-down wizardry, his war on the poor and Australia’s abuse of asylum-seekers’ human rights. DIY two million dollar mandates from the one seat wonder from down under, will go over well, especially after his predecessor’s G20 talk on GP co-payments, his lecturing the UN about how sick we are of being lectured by the UN and his mad plans to invade Syria or to send Aussie troops into Ukraine.

 It is Senator Jane Hume and her fatuous speech, however, who sets the week’s tone by exposing her government’s illegitimacy. Despite its overweening arrogance, triumphalism and braying inanity, the Turnbull government cannot disguise the fact that it has nothing to say. It is hopelessly and utterly seduced by the delusion that it is back on top where it belongs; all that it needs now is to talk itself into a government.



Turnbull government takes high stakes risks in Dastyari-bashing.


Back home Bill Shorten is standing up for Sam Dastyari’s right to take from a company associated with a foreign government.” M. Turnbull Hangzhou September 2016.   

Sweet Custard Bun, as Malcolm Turnbull is known in Hangzhou, checks in to the G20 club, for an annual, ritual mutual tail-sniffing of capitalist running dogs, this week. Suddenly he rears up on his hind legs.

Along with a yen for dressing up as a statesman, Bun loves the idea of one day taking a trick against Labor. Any trick will do for The Great Dilator, whose foghorn of lofty aspiration and fear-mongering of disaster by debt or by terror belie an abyss of empty promises within. Impulse overtakes him. It’s one way of breaking his perpetual, crippling indecision.  He lashes out at Sam Dastyari and Bill Shorten for lacking judgment to dismiss Sam immediately, unlike his own excruciatingly slow response to Stuart Robert’s scandal involving a Chinese business in February.

Polling this week shows Turnbull is now Australia’s least popular Prime Minister in forty years.  Something must be done. Bun lashes out. Never shy to sink the slipper but hopeless when it comes to timing, Turnbull joins in Cory Barnyard Bernardi’s gang-bashing of Sam Dastyari, the best political game in town, all week. “

Double-agent Dastyari is “…associated with a foreign government…” claims the PM in a shrill dog whistle to all Sinophobes, anti-communists and members of the lunatic right of his own party within earshot. It will do Turnbull little good in the end to paint Dastyari as a traitor.   It is impossible to throw stones at Labor’s venal Chinese mole Dastyari without smashing some glass in his own party’s hothouse.

Bashing Dastyari is, nevertheless, top story for a mainstream media pack which sniffs blood. Mal’s pal, Michelle Guthrie’s ABC is well in the hunt, despite a bit of yapping for attention from junk-yard dog Abbott who howls down Turnbull’s impulsivity in calling his Royal Commission into juvenile detention in the NT.  

A Royal Commission is an over-reaction” to news of abuse at the Don Dale Detention Centre, says the former PM, a politician whom Eddy Jokovich playfully  describes as a Derridan paradox: a nihilistic choice between the absence of presence, or the presence of absence.  

Abbott defines himself by not being Labor. Turnbull defines himself by not being Abbott. A protege of lying rodent Howard, Abbott must play while the cat’s away despite his promises of no sniping; no undermining. Some fancy Abbott will replace Turnbull, a PM whose only real appeal was that he was not himself but this takes nihilism too far.

Others appeal more in Liberal leadership stakes. Perennial bridesmaid Julie Bishop is keeping herself nice. What seems clearer each day, however, is that after his failed election double dissolution gambit, Turnbull is now Liberal leader in name only.   He’s a dead man walking.

Whilst the Turnbull experiment has clearly failed, it would be impossible for Abbott to regain the leadership. Not only does he have few followers, he continues to reveal himself to be more of a poseur than the current, incumbent. Witness his hypocritical pretensions to advance the cause of Aboriginal communities.

Abbott goes bush for a week a year. His much publicised ritual bonding with Aboriginal peoples and the odd smuggled-in Clonakilla Hilltops Shiraz enables him to tap into their condition; be their advocate in a mutually demeaning show of friendship which masks a patronising condescension, if not contempt, when it comes to consultation or funding.

Abbott set up his own Indigenous Advisory Council headed by Gerard Henderson’s son-in-law, the conservative, god-fearing Warren Mundine who was elevated over more representative leaders while he slashed $534 million from Indigenous Affairs funding, chiefly from health and justice budgets in 2014.      

 Aboriginal people have suffered friends like Protector Abbott before. His paternalism is as unwelcome a stunt as is his latest outrageous accusation that his PM has been frightened into an over-reaction. Is he suggesting that the abuse of human rights and other injustices revealed in the Four Corners documentary on Don Dale Detention Centre should be downplayed? Is this how he advocates for Aboriginal peoples?  We should be complacent that over half of children in detention in Australia are indigenous?

Abbott should spare us his own panic attack at increasing relevance deprivation. Retire. Spare us his hypocrisy. Many of his own calls, such as his plebiscite on gay marriage were equally desperate and just as cynical a delaying tactic as his PM’s Royal Commission. Is Shorten’s mob paying Junkyard to stay on just to cruel Turnbull’s faint hopes of success? 

Abbott does not revisit marriage equality this week, preferring instead to re-heat an IPA leftover. The government should be “very careful” he says about making retrospective superannuation changes. Very careful. Junkyard has no hope, however, of upstaging Dastyari who is in the limelight for all the wrong reasons. Sam puts on a shocker of a show of public confession and contrition, “What I did was within the rules but it was wrong,” he says as if somehow he can still bet each way on his own culpability. 

Dastyari declares that Labor doesn’t need his distraction. More fish to fry. He resigns. Cue J S Bach’s, St. Matthew Passion depicting Judas’ guilt on betraying his Lord. An already frenzied media pack goes feral. 

Senator Sam Dastyari or Dasher, as he is to his NSW Right pals, (Nifty was already taken) is the new anti-Christ according to Murdoch papers which have him in bed with communists. “Dastyari’s donor has party cell” thunders The Australian. Leigh Sales savages him. It’s not so much that he took Chinese money, a practice unknown to Liberal MPs, but that he spruiked Chinese policy. He must be hung, drawn and quartered. And burnt in effigy.  

Sam, it seems, didn’t parrot the US line that China needs to get out of the South China Sea, which amazingly is also Australia’s own position thanks to ANZUS, the lynch-pin of our independent foreign policy, and why we follow the USA in regime change in Iraq or invading Syria.  Suddenly, it seems, Dastyari’s inspiring a Chinese takeover. An AFR opinion writer claims that Chinese tourists pose a Yellow peril security risk.    

Dasher can’t remember what he said about China’s policy, he says. Amnesia’s always a bit of a worry, tuts AFR’s Laura Tingle on last week’s Insiders thinking doubtless of Arthur Sinodinos, an MP who does not recall receiving funds from anyone anywhere, even if he were treasurer of The Free Enterprise Foundation, an organisation set up solely to receive funds from property developers and other donors to the NSW branch of the Liberal Party in 2011. The AEC was obliged to freeze four million dollars of Liberal campaign funds.

Memory lapse aside, Dastyari always backed Labor’s policy, he claims. Sadly the record tells against him. He softened Labor’s stance. “The South China Sea is China’s own affair,” he is quoted as telling Chinese media on June 17. “Australia should remain neutral and respect China on this matter.”

Bill Shorten’s been tough on Sam, he says. Next sound bite he promises Sam another portfolio sometime later. “Sam is a young bloke with a bright future ahead of him. He has a lot more to offer Labor and Australia,’’ Shorten says, but clearly Sam’s offerings are to be put on ice for some time.   

Bun sounds as if he’s insulting his Chinese hosts, the ones he’s just bragged he’s done a deal with. Or does he mean the ChAFTA “spectacular,” the best thing since Marco Polo, especially if you are a Chinese investor seeking to deploy a Chinese work force in Australia? With few tariff restrictions left as bartering chips, the negotiators traded away Australian workers’ conditions but don’t expect to hear this explored much in parliament at the moment.

The lugubrious former trade minister Andrew Robb is, however, refreshingly untroubled by his own legendary friendship with the very same Huang Xiangmo head of YUHU group who was so quick to come to the party when Sam couldn’t quite pay his $1700 travel fees or his $5000 legal bill, a fee The Australian has as $40,000. You will hear that in the house Tuesday.  

Yuhu group companies made $500,000 in political donations including $100,000 to Andrew Robb’s Bayside Forum a fund-raising entity the day the trade deal was signed. But this is quite a different matter says the Liberal-News Corp-ABC affiliated slayers of Sam and no defence at all of his conduct. Nor does it matter that the PM himself was a keen comprador for a Chinese firm with equally inescapable links to the Chinese government.

Nor is it relevant, it seems, to dwell on the power of Huang Xiangmo, a Chinese-Australian billionaire who has given $1.8 million to the University of Technology in Sydney to help establish an Australia-China Relations Institute, replacing a more independent body. Now both sides of parliament are supplied with pro-China “research” to enable them to come to the right decisions on such matters as ChAFTA and how it’s great for Aussie workers.

Not so long ago Bun wanted Chinese electronics giant Huawei to be permitted to bid for what would be our national telephone carrier if we hadn’t flogged it off to Telstra, a mob which models its customer relations on the big four banks. Labor raised issues of national security and the thought-bubble was pricked.   Sam’s pitch pales by comparison.

It seems unwise for the Coalition to go so hard after the senator over a two-year old matter he did declare at the time. The PM delays a couple of days before joining Bernardi’s attack on Dastyari, although this may just reflect his lame duck leadership, especially when overseas. Labor is calling for a ban of all foreign donations to politicians or parties calling upon Malcolm Turnbull for support. Expect more noises about reforming the system to be upstaged by further revelations when Parliament resumes with more MPs ducking and weaving for cover. 

Leigh Sales raises the $50,000 Gina Rinehart put into coal mining champion Barnaby Joyce’s campaign coffers in 2013. This is clearly a different matter, the funny-man- cum deputy PM huffs and puffs, because it was at arm’s length and auditable. He’s a crack-up. Did the money affect his support for mines?  Did his support attract the money?

‘What do you think that you have to give her in response? Is it access? Why does she give that money? What does she expect?’ Sales asks on her ABC’s 7.30. She could have also raised the $500,000 in donations received over two years by Julie Bishop on behalf of the WA Liberal Party from the same Yuhu group of property developers. The donations cannot possibly be linked to Ms Bishop’s public gushing admiration of Huang’s entrepreneurship or business skills.

Cory Bernardi has opened Pandora’s box. Now the target will shift from Dastyari to donations themselves and some key Liberals may be asked to do some explaining. The government will struggle to put the lid back on when Parliament resumes Tuesday. Expect a volley from an opposition that’s had a week to prepare.

George Brandis is already targeted over his May 2016 $370,000 appointment to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal of Queensland solicitor, Teo Tavoularis, a Liberal Party donor and a lawyer who also defended George Brandis’ son.

 The bashing of Dastyari will help conceal the government’s real agenda of making it almost impossible to check the operations of private companies, as the Turnbull Government’s plans to privatise ASIC’s corporate database move closer to fruition next month. Only two companies are listed on the stock exchange. The database currently permits public access to details of millions of other companies.  

 The move will frustrate journalists’ and academics’ attempts to hold corporations to account; to investigate corporate illegality and has provided a means to the detection of illegal activities discovered in past scrutiny such as money laundering, financing terrorism, labour exploitation and human trafficking.

 The ruckus over donations will also displace attention from the way in which the government has helped keep a lid on CUB’s sacking of maintenance workers at its main brewery in Melbourne.  In a move reminiscent of Dollar Sweets’ 1985 landmark lockout of workers, where young lawyer Peter Costello successfully brought a common law action against a union for damages suffered by the employer during the course of the strike.

CUB expects its workers to sign up again with a 65 per cent pay cut. To help play its part in promoting jobs and growth, the government through the Fair Work commission has ordered the striking workers to refrain from insulting or offensive language.

 Suddenly the raucous far right of the Coalition, sundry senate cross benchers and the other outspoken advocates of the abolition of section 18C who claim the law curtails freedom of speech all fall silent.


Turnbull government fails in week of chaos.

turnbull and others in rout on thursday




The jig is up by 5:00 PM Thursday. Canberra’s Liberal Party drovers, dog handlers and the capital’s baggage handlers are stunned to discover that the government’s much vaunted “strong working majority” is no majority at all when self-styled Liberal leadership contender Peter Dutton and several other MPs enact their commitment to smaller government by leaving the House of Representatives early, causing riotous disarray and ignominious defeat – followed by a frenzied volley of finger-pointing.

Welcome to Calamity Turnbull’s 45th parliament of chaos and catastrophe.

Bored to tears, baffled by the lack of any team plan, Immigration Minister “Spud” Dutton, Justice Minister Michael “Fibs” Keenan and Social Services Minister Christian “War on the Poor” Porter and a few other battle-weary MPs, steal away from the chamber early, allowing Labor to defeat an adjournment motion and to present its full case for a Royal Commission into the banks, a hot button electoral issue which has already passed the Senate earlier that day.

All is not quite as it seems. The Mouth that Roars, Christopher Pyne, has given Monkey Pod Supremo “Spud” Dutton permission to bail out early. God knows why. Presumably the human life preserver has more drownings to prevent. Or a new Manus to manufacture. Perhaps Spud’s planning a bit of urgent follow-up on the 2000 recently leaked Nauru incident reports.

It’s a tad embarrassing. A majority government trading on its stability loses control of parliament for the first time since windy Pig Iron Bob Menzies fifty years ago, a PM who also lost the support of the Liberal party room, for all his speechifying, his insufferable egoism and his union-bashing.

“A government which cannot run parliament cannot run the country,” crows Labor in a dig at Pyne who made this claim repeatedly in opposition to Julia Gillard’s successful minority government.

Who is running the Turnbull government? Upstaged by its own arrogance, its complacency and its utter disorganisation, the government, according to the AFR’s headmistress Laura Tingle, is acting as if it “doesn’t give a rat’s” about its prospects. She’s referring to Cory Bernardi’s stunt in getting up a senate backbench mutiny against Calamity Turnbull on 18 C but it’s surely something broader. A mania for self-destruction sweeps the parliamentary Liberal party.

Perhaps the Libs are still in shock; paralytic after their near-defeat. Two months’ preparation and great expense, not to mention the odd crate of Grange, has gone into failing to plan for something Blind Freddy could have foreseen. A small fortune is outlaid on party Whips and on Leader of the House, Christopher Finger-point Pyne to prevent such mishaps – not to flap his gums on the Today Show about Labor’s stunt.

Peter Hartcher calls for Pyne to go but that would wreck Lucy’s seating plan at Point Piper’s select inner circle dinners: Pyne is her husband’s chief cup bearer. Above all other sycophants, even Sinodinos and Brandis, Pyne has a gift for telling his prince what he wants to hear.

Nola Marino, enigmatic, self-effacing Chief government whip, who won her preselection for the WA seat of Forrest with Turnbull’s backing is paid $250,790, an extra 26%, to enforce party discipline while “The Fixer” Pyne gains an extra 75% salary loading for his role as Leader of the House, boosting his salary to $348,320 or enough to give a year’s New Start to twenty-five unemployed car workers.

Perhaps it’s not enough. Certainly leadership and discipline are missing in action on Thursday, something no amount of recrimination and blame can alter even if they play well on television.

The Coalition loses a series of votes before Dutton and Porter are hauled back cursing into the Chamber as the motion comes to a final vote. Crossbenchers Andrew Wilkie and Rebecca Sharkie vote with Labor. The vote is 71-71. Speaker Tony Smith follows convention to side with Labor enabling Labor to put the Opposition case for a Royal Commission at length.

In shock and awe over the inexplicable malfunction of the party’s well-oiled machinery, Liberals fall back on their strongest suit; blame, a fail-safe device which allows master tactician, Pyne to continue to draw a salary only $160,000 less than his prime minister.

Pyne’s has the PM’s backing. Turnbull quickly steps up to tell anyone who might believe him that his favourite is not to blame, a theme his minister and inner circle confidante is always quick to inspire.  The former Education Minister consults his lesson plan.

A man yet to be introduced to shame, Pyne tells Channel Nine the Liberals were up for a bit of discovery learning: “What happened late yesterday afternoon was a stuff up and those people who weren’t there obviously they learnt a valuable lesson.”

In brief, the blame lies with them, not him. Pyne doesn’t repeat his line from opposition that Menzies resigned after three defeats in the House. Turnbull would have only two losses left.

No less valuable, and uniquely excited to be Australia’s PM Malcolm “blithe excitement” Turnbull lectures his errant ministers for their “complacency” in leaving early, from the heights of his own unassailable smugness and superiority. Had he not given the party the immaculate gift of himself? A reprimand will surely bring them to heel – and deflect from his own incompetence.

Liberal party helicopter duenna now authority on self-restraint and political propriety, Bronwyn Bishop gives her former colleagues, her own inimitable brand of tongue-lash and finger-wag. The former speaker tells Sky News that Liberal complacency must be rectified right now. She’s about to work her nemesis Tony Abbott into the blame zone but she’s cut short. Besides, Abbott is smirking like a Zen Ninja at Calamity Mal’s latest collision with reality.

Abbott taps his moment of satori to recycle a Norman Lamont line from 1993 that the Liberal Party is “in office but not in power.” Someone looked that up for him on Google. A master of mayhem or perhaps a black belt, he knows he can laugh. Fairfax’s Adam Gartrell comments,

“Abbott’s government was an incompetent mess from top to bottom; a circus that lurched from one self-inflicted crisis to another until it finally tore itself apart. But at least it never lost a vote in the house.”

Greg, “Wikipedia” Hunt, stung by Bronnie’s bromide Googles complacency. It’s no help. Rectifying or removing the complacency of the party of the born to rule may prove even trickier than paying polluters to clean up their act.

Complacency underpins Liberal policy from climate to its economic world view to its strategy.  Complacency was the party’s only coherent game plan in its last long election. Hunt goes back to his big new statement on Science he has warned us all is imminent. His job is done.

The parliament is already undone. The government is being pushed under its own Omnibus by a bill which doubtless looked a ripper in planning at Point Piper but turns out to be an utter turkey in terms of tactics. The Coalition’s 26 bills in the first week stunt is designed to make it look as if it has a plan but it will all go to hell when things stall, as they must, in the senate.

The plebiscite hoax is clearly going nowhere. A by-product of “lying rodent” John Howard’s 2004 ramming through of a narrowing of the definition of marriage to exclude same sex couples, it is another legacy, along with babies overboard and the ripping apart of social safety nets; the war on families, of the “Howard’s” ten years of making Australia a smaller, meaner society, a trend which his successors so avidly follow.

There’s always the Coalition war on workers but you can’t bash the unions senseless every session. What do they do now?

Luckily a diversion is always at hand. Cory Barnyard Bernardi, who was stood down four years ago for claiming same sex marriage would lead to bestiality, is able to recruit all but one of his party’s senate backbenchers in a push for a private member’s bill to repeal section 18C of the racial vilification act. His bill will not get lower house support. It has no chance of being more than an attention-seeking time waster and a calculated gesture of defiance of his PM.

Our Racial Vilification law was a response to the reports from the 197-1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody but it is today wrongly held by the barking hard right to impede free speech by which they mean the incalculable cruelties of racial abuse which helps cause vulnerable, alienated, marginalised and dispossessed people to take their own lives.

Thursday’s fiasco takes some heat off Sam Dastyari – who, not content with his proposed halal lunch pack date with Pauline Hanson, is now single-handedly about to destroy Australian politics forever by accepting $1670 from a Chinese firm. ABC radio has a week of Sam slamming. Dastyari’s donations become the soft target of the political week. Never to be overlooked, Cory Kung-Fu Panda Bernardi also goes after Dastyari in a campy demon dragon-slaying worthy of Monkey Magic.

Not to be monkeyed with is Foreign Minister show pony Julie Bishop who has links with Chinese businessmen who have donated half a million dollars to the Western Australian division of the Liberal Party during the past two years, despite having no apparent business interests in that state. Naturally overseas donors are not bound by AEC rules of disclosure, an AEC spokesman helpfully points out,

While the commission can seek compliance, overseas donors cannot be compelled to comply with Australian law when they are not in Australia”.

Yet clearly they expect a little more bang from their bucks. Helpfully, Huang Xiangmo, chairman of property developer Yuhu Group and a big mover in Australian-Chinese business circles – and himself one of Australian politics most generous donors cautions the Chinese community in Australia not to let itself be viewed as little more than a “cash cow” by either of the two federal parties it makes donations to.

Stuart Robert was forced to resign in February over using his office for fund-raising but there’s not a whisper to suggest that Bishop has any explaining to do. Nor does former Trade Minister, Big Spender Andrew Robb whose trade deal in May was the trigger for a Chinese government-backed propaganda unit and a swag of companies that stand to gain from the China Australia Free Trade Agreement to invest over half a million dollars of political donations in Victoria.

Instead Robb, veteran of the long Yum cha gets the nod to do the Liberals’ review of their election disaster in which Turnbull will be found entirely blameless. Their failure will be found to have been caused by Labor’s illegal Medicare scare tactics.

Yet Robb will be sorely taxed by his task. Apart from his rewriting history challenge, he will be greatly exercised choosing where to invest his fee least he fall foul of the proposed super changes.

Robb figures if he waits a few weeks Mad Dog Morrison will have watered the changes down as the IPA has dictated. In the meantime, however, he’s tasked with an impossibility. Reviewing the Liberals’ last election disaster will be like nailing a jelly to a wall.

Jelly? That’s it. Call in Matt Cormann. His wibble wobble jelly routine is a standout routine and will stand him in good stead should  he have to seek real employment in commercial media. Yet, sadly, like everything else this week it’s ineffectual. Labor’s not a jelly on a plate. It’s disciplined. It knows minority government and it has big win in the first week. Even name-calling has to fit.

The PM’s off on his summit season junket which includes a meeting with what some wag is bound to call the G 19.5 in honour of Australia’s less than full-blooded presence. Stand by for some rhetoric worthy of Menzies. Yet even a “put your money back in your pocket and get off those islands in South The China Sea” spray from Mal won’t turn the tsunami like tide of his domestic failure. Week one of the forty-fifth parliament is a washout. His career is wrecked.

Happily, Calamity Turnbull is able to leave the ship of state in safe hands. Johnny Depp’s nemesis, Barnaby part-tomato Joyce is rising to the occasion already by promising never to leave early again. What could possibly go wrong?