“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.