Month: October 2016

Women lose out in Turnbull government’s week of contempt for justice equality and the poor.


Attorney General and pocket Napoleon George Brandis QC, a liability to the rule of law even in a Turnbull government, alienates the entire legal fraternity this week by relentlessly bullying Justin Gleeson, his solicitor-general, into resignation. It’s a turn of events unseen in a hundred years, a departure which robs the office of one of its finest legal minds and strikes a blow at the heart of the solicitor general’s office itself – but our PM’s on to it. “These things happen”, blathers Malcolm Turnbull before dashing  offstage into witness protection.

 Each week brings fresh opportunities for the Prime Minister to go missing in action. The latest Newspoll says PM Fizza is even less popular now than former big cheese Tony Abbott, a Trump admirer, who found time to squeeze amongst some young netballers for a publicity shot, quipping and winking , “a bit of body contact never hurt anyone.” His louche let-down of a successor favours a more hands-off leadership style which is easily if not frequently mistaken by ministers for licence.

Minister for talking about women, Michaelia Cash is able to skip a planned meeting with states with the excuse that there’s “nothing requiring ministerial decision”, apart that is from a summit on curbing domestic violence and announcements that women are to be protected from idleness and double-dipping by cutting parental leave.

 Cash is allowed to pass up a chance to confer with states’ IR ministers about family violence leave or parental leave or to unpack her government’s August 2015 finding that female friendly workplaces may put men off as it was broadly reported –  although the truth is that it found that female friendly policy and practice was OK apart from “male-dominated” workplaces in science, mining and engineering where it may “cause problems”. From this alone it would seem that there’s a fair bit of work to do, Minister.

 The Minister could start with reviewing progress in key areas. In November 2014, The Workplace Equality Agency found 48 per cent of employers had policies on flexible work yet only about 13 per cent have a strategy for ensuring these policies are used by employees who want to access them. While half had a standalone gender equality policy, only 7.1 per cent had a gender equality strategy.

 Instead Michaelia Cash is talking up a storm in all the ways cutting funding will help women  and how domestic violence is a cycle which “must be broken” a process which currently involves a lot of talking and the spending of very modest amounts of funds while $34 million is still slated to be cut from community legal centres over the next three years. No hint officially that causes of men’s violence to women include entrenched gender roles and patterns of male privilege and the sanctioning of violence which current government policies help perpetuate.

 Instead the COAG domestic violence summit in Brisbane Thursday and Friday is geed up by a PM who boasts that the country has “undergone a cultural shift with regards to domestic violence and the momentum cannot be denied”.  It’s not reflected in the rising statistics of violence inflicted by men upon women nor is it reflected in the behaviour of so many of the men who wield power on his government’s behalf: witness George Brandis’ bullying of Gillian Triggs in a senate committee last year or Ian Macdonald’s bullying of Triggs and more recently of Solicitor-General Justin Gleeson.

 Whilst bully-boy Brandis misled parliament twice in claiming that he had the SG’s approval for his citizenship and his marriage equality bills and while he set himself above the law in issuing an illegal directive curtailing the SG’s independence, shit happens. There’s nothing to see here, according to Malcolm Turnbull. “It’s always regrettable when people don’t get on in the workplace.”

 Being replaced before your time is up is also ever to be deplored. Alexander Downer, Australia’s High Commissioner in London, a doyen of diplomatic discretion and good taste, in 1994 stunned a meeting of party faithful by suggesting they change the slogan “things that matter” to “things that batter” to better reflect Liberal domestic violence policy – an area still ill-defined despite this week’s gabfest -but then as now, only encouraged by such humour – is reported in The Weekend Australian to be furious. He’s heard his job is being “sounded out” in a bit of Liberal Party thinking aloud on how best to move Brandis out of harm’s way. But it’s just a tiff between two bigwigs, according to the Coalition. Nothing to see here. Besides, Downer has eighteen months’ sinecure left to serve.

 Clear to everyone is that Brandis must go. His actions represent an unacceptable and gross infringement on the independence of the Solicitor-General and he has “crossed a key line of integrity”. He should follow the Solicitor-General’s resignation with his own, says Australian Lawyers Alliance National President Tony Kenyon. Alternatively, he can continue to wreak havoc in a Cabinet which has more than its fair share of mavericks, especially on the vexed issue of energy.

 Nuclear fusion is the energy of the future. And it always will be until we can harness the heat and power of a fusion reaction. Greg Hunt, Minister for Innovation and Science, is, however, unfussed by mere practicality. Former Direct-Action carbon con-man, “my job is done” Hunt spruiks nuclear fusion as if it’s just around the corner, on Fran Kelly’s ABC Radio show Monday in his weekly own-trumpet-blowing solo. It’s how the world’s greatest minister keeps himself relevant.

 After its hatchet job on renewables after SA’s blackout, the Coalition’s mantra is that we need practical, reliable, secure energy. Greg’s listening. What better than the fantasy of nuclear fusion?

 Creating an abundance of safe, clean energy by fusing two hydrogen isotopes was first envisaged by English physicist Arthur Eddington in the 1920s. The concept excited Australia’s Mark Oliphant in 1933 but until we can find a way to harness a reaction as hot and fierce as the sun’s, we will always be thirty years away. Nuclear fusion is an area where we don’t even know what we don’t even know making it the perfect choice for an Abbott-in-drag government where wilful ignorance is a badge of honour. Nowhere is this better seen than in policies affecting women.

 Turnbull says he backs family leave “as a father and husband” before declaring it all a mystery to blokes. “In so far as men can understand these matters, we are absolutely understanding and sympathetic,” he says, misrepresenting key principles of equality and basic workplace entitlements as areas for male approval rather than simple human rights while his government slashes funding. The arcane mysteries of justice are just something to puzzle over as men decide what’s best for working mothers.

 Cutting parental leave, we hear this week, will combine with an absence of affordable child-care, to help grateful mothers back into the workforce to resume bonding with colleagues; properly leaving baby to frantic grandparents. Although the government enjoys confusing what is a workplace entitlement with welfare, one thing is clear. Shameful double-dipping will cease forthwith – or in nine months’ time as an indulgent Prime Minister exercises his seigneurial discretion. Australian women will be overjoyed that the Coalition’s eagerness to get them back into the workforce is almost second to none. On OECD statistics, our government’s paid parental leave is now lowest in the developed world outside the USA.

 Cuts will also fix our scandalously lavish Newstart handouts which sap initiative and prevent unemployed Australians from breaking out of their “inter-generational welfare dependency”. Five job-seekers already contest every single vacancy which is typically a part-time, casual, poorly paid job. Women are increasingly over-represented in part time, casual work.

 Yet clearly job-seekers are not trying hard enough and must be blamed or shamed into work. Federal Treasurer screaming Scott Morrison is on to something Friday when he says “it’s a crying shame” that thousands of welfare recipients would “have to take a pay cut” if they were to get a job –  but no-one mistakes his call for his bidding up the minimum wage.

 Morrison is mad keen to boost the myth of indulged welfare bludgers. He reckons 43,000 parents were high on the hog enjoying at least $45,000 in benefits last financial year.  The Australian Council of Social Services is left to counter that the true figure is fewer than 1900 households. Morrison says nothing about trimming the $1.8 billion welfare a year we pay to subsidise a dependent coal industry. Yet he is heard screeching that Green “lawfare” must stop. Protestors cost jobs.  Otherwise lies ruin, warn Black Hole Morrison and the increasingly shrill Minster for Resources, mining industry shill, Matt Canavan.

 Julie Bishop who is keeping herself nice before it’s her turn to knife her leader appears on Insiders to defend Joe Hockey’s $25,000 claim for five months’ baby-sitting expenses. Poor Joe struggles to get by on $360,000 in salary as US ambassador while he double-dips into his $90,000-a-year pension. Yet he must be feeling a bit sensitive about being part of the new age of entitlement because he’s changed his expenses from baby -sitting to extra staff after Fairfax made enquiry under Freedom of Information.

 Bishop who is the Liberal Party’s human Talking Point gives the standard defence that it’s a regular thing for an ambassador or a member of DFAT with an overseas post to have expenses paid glossing over the reality that Joe’s appointment itself is part of the Liberal Party’s special plan for Joe’s welfare, a handout and a handy way to pack the dumped failed former federal Treasurer off out of harm’s way. Hockey, despite what Bishop would have us believe, is not the equivalent of his predecessor, Kim Beazley a political academic with a lifetime of US contacts and a passion for American history.

 While Hockey win best political bludger and Morrison is easily best welfare-basher, Huckleberry Hunt, the huckster’s huckster deserves some sort of award for reminding us that when it’s not putting the boot into the poor or discriminating against women, the Turnbull government has its feet planted firmly in the clouds. Best of all – Hunt’s nuclear fusion diversion is a free lunch. There’s no radioactivity, no carbon emissions and we get into the rarefied atmosphere of the fusion Spiegel-tent free – almost. Hunt gushes over his deal which trades our scientists’ “incredible expertise in plasma and imaging” for free admission to the fusion hucksters’ club.

 Ripping off scientists’ intellectual property to get into a wank-fest is just one way the Liberal-National helps our scientists feel valued. Since 2014, the Coalition has cut $3 billion from science and research helping Australia’s research and development investment to plummet to a 30 year low. Above all Education Minister Simon Birmingham is clear that pure research plays little part in his vision: Universities have to be driven by “what is in the best interests of the student and the need of the national economy” he maintains outlining a narrow vocational perspective for less investment in higher education. Luckily Hunt is budget-minded.

 According to Coalition propaganda-sheet The Australian, Hunt is once (or twice) again a pioneer “it is the first time in 35 years a nation outside the founding nine members has been admitted to the global collaboration to produce energy from fusion … the first time a member has been admitted without paying at least $346m as an entry fee to finance the research and development of a fusion ­reactor. Also a first is his  self-promotion mania. Just how many more feathers can Hunt’s cap bear?

 Equally eager to promote his relevance at any price is Barnaby (horse-feathers) Joyce, Deputy Prime Minister and federal celebrity dog-catcher who is keen to hose down another Coalition fuss over nothing erupting over his attempts to move Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines, an entire government department from Canberra to Armidale NSW to boost his electoral prospects. It has cost the Coalition tens of thousands to keep secret a letter written by Dr. Grimes, which is released by the Department of Agriculture Monday in which he warns Joyce he “no longer had confidence in his own capacity “to resolve matters relating to integrity with you”. 

 Joyce denies causing the head of the department to resign and blames an uppity “rogue staffer” for changing Hansard. He says, less than reassuringly, he’s changed it back again. Launching a desperate diversion Joyce  lambasts Labor for their communist policies such as vegetation management in an address to the National Farmers Federation. The audience which includes the Chinese Ambassador laps up the spectacular entertainment which is surely the prelude to a little more land-clearing.

 We need a bit more farm land. Queensland has seen 296 000 hectares cleared in 2015 while in NSW 23,000ha of vegetation has been cleared for cropping and pasture since 2010 and 59% of this is “unexplained”.

 Barnaby is barking mad again, ScoMo foams at the mouth but the show must go on in a week which also sees some solid ensemble work from a Turnbull troupe dedicated to entertaining its dwindling admirers and performing its heart out to please its mining business and financial industry backers. Bugger the people. Forget rights for women. Right wing bosses must be kept happy with buffoonery in energy, welfare and justice in a Melbourne Cup eve Turnbull Stakes that sees ignorance and folly racing neck and neck with crass stupidity.

Gleeson’s resignation a win for Brandis and bully-boy tactics.



“I said to them, how on Earth could it have been that in the period coming up to the 4th of May, you must’ve known about this direction, you were helping draft it, the Parliamentary Counsel knew about it, the attorney knew about it, his staff knew about it. “How on Earth could it have been that the one person who needed to know wasn’t told?”

Former Solicitor General Justin Gleeson

Break out the brandy and cigars. There’ll be chest-beating and drinks all round at the exclusive, all-male Savage Club a refuge where member George Brandis can kick back and forget his responsibility as Attorney-General to uphold anti-discrimination laws. Megalomaniac Brandis, a cane-toad in pin-stripes from the deep North, a legal giant who got his QC only after arriving in Canberra, has got his way at last. Forget the constitution. Forget justice. What matter is that Brandis rules thanks to his cunning plan to remove the Solicitor General, Justin Gleeson, a highly regarded, constitutional expert and independent legal advisor. All that remains, now, is to get a Liberal lickspittle to replace him.

Gleeson’s dismissal has not been achieved directly, of course, the Solicitor-General is a tenured public servant. Or was. Nor has his stitching up been easy. It has taken effort to make it impossible for the Solicitor General to continue to offer independent, expert legal advice that looked to the law rather than flattering the government and its power-mad, accident-prone, incompetent Attorney General. In the end, boys-club Brandis simply over-reached his authority in May. Imperiously, he directed that all requests for Gleeson’s legal expertise to come through his office first — a matter Gleeson was not consulted on beyond the idea being “raised” in a November meeting.

All that remained, then was to pretend Gleeson was consulted and when an inquiry arose Coalition bovver boys, Senators Ian Macdonald and Barry O’Sullivan could take the SG out the back and give him a good working over. They, too, must be so proud of themselves, now. It’s a win for the bullies. The dismissal has been achieved the Brandis way, using the sort of bastardry applied to Gillian Triggs to remove her dissenting, independent self from the head of the Human Rights Commission last year.

Gleeson, like Triggs, is accused of being political. How dare either of them offer criticism or expert, independent advice to a born to rule government’s right to ride roughshod over human rights or the nation’s constitution?

Spin doctors in damage control now have MPs bucketing Justin Gleeson for talking to Mark Dreyfus during an election campaign – as if this is an act of treason or a betrayal of office. Put this behind us and move on is the line heard on ABC Radio from MPs spruiking today’s Coalition talking points – after they trivialise and put the boot in. Nothing to see here. Nobody will believe the Attorney General who overreached himself and misled parliament.

Dreyfus rang Gleeson to ask him if he thought he had been consulted and if he was happy to be sidelined, he explains. Gleeson gives an honest no. For this, Macdonald tells him he ought to enter politics directly. Gleeson says he also gave Malcolm Turnbull legal confidential advice in January but this seems to attract no comment. What is needed now is for the former SG to be demonised for his outrageous political intervention.

Anyone who saw the treatment meted out to Triggs in February 2015 when the President of the Commission was also falsely accused of being politically partisan would recognise the shameless, relentless and misogynistic bullying.

“I thought you might like to hear a man’s voice” boomed Queensland Senator Barry O’Sullivan last year, randomly interrupting the senate estimates hearing for no other purpose than to make a sexist tool of himself. At other times, he and Ian MacDonald barked at women senators. Undismayed by such boorish bully-boy antics – and giving them his tacit approval, Brandis said he had no confidence in Triggs. He wanted rid of any critic of his government’s glorious policy of locking up children indefinitely in offshore hell-holes to punish them for not drowning at sea.

Gleeson also gets the Macdonald – O’Sullivan treatment in a senate committee just over a week ago – a hearing which was delayed as Macdonald sought to have the hearing held in camera – or behind closed doors, aka “out the back”. Scrupulously impartial and fastidious with regard to procedure, Macdonald declares at the outset that the senate inquiry is an “absolute waste of time”.

Despite the hazing, Gleeson demonstrates calmly and capably that Brandis misled the Australian Parliament. Macdonald does his best to treat the SC with utter contempt – as he did when he told Gillian Triggs he had not even bothered to read her magisterial Forgotten Children report. Why would he? He knew it was biased. Way to go Macca. Don’t let the facts get in the way of a reputation-trashing. Macdonald cuts off Gleeson three times and when cautioned by the chair says he always gives witnesses “the respect they deserve”.

Disrespect is modelled by Brandis. Not only has the Solicitor-General’s office been side-lined by Brandis’ naked power grab, he has also had his advice ignored and misrepresented as when Brandis lied to the house that the Solicitor-General had backed the legal land mine that resulted from the Brandis’ decision to rush up a law to appease his then PM, Tony Abbott, another Liberal who likes to play fast and loose with the rule of law, who wanted to score political points by threatening to strip dual nationals of their citizenship.

Brandis’ first attempt was an unworkable mess. It was reviewed by the circus known as The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, which is currently chaired by deadly Dan Tehan who daily, it would seem finds new evidence of fiendish terror plots against us to report. The second draft attracted no fewer than 27 recommendations for change.

As it is the law contains the legal fiction in section 33AA revocation of your citizenship just happens if you do something which might roughly be some sort of breach of the criminal code – unless you happen to be in Australia at the time of your offence to vaguely defined provisions in the criminal code, subject to one exception. Worse, it appears that it could be construed as a punishment and beyond the authority of the executive arm of government. No wonder the AG is a bit sensitive to criticism.

Brandis has acted illegally in demanding that all those who seek the solicitor general’s advice must come via the Attorney-General. In the words of a former solicitor General and Howard legal advisor, Gavan Griffith, the direction is not only unlawful, it would reduce the SG’s independence to that of a dog on a leash. Brandis has also lied about having consulted Gleeson as to his intentions, despite much unedifying quibbling from the Pettifogger General over the definition of consultation, a matter he is prepared to settle, like a schoolboy debater, with a dictionary definition.

In fact he is wrong at law about consultation, just as he over-stepped his authority in demanding control over the solicitor general’s office. There are grounds to accept that the term is used legally to mean something more than just “raising an issue” telling another party what you intend to do – after you have done it.

Brandis has an issue with consultation. As Arts Minister for an Abbott government which did not have an arts policy, much less have much time for such matters, he simply made up his own, not deigning to consult with the arts community before reducing arts grants to create his own award for excellence, which quickly became known as the George Brandis slush fund. His unwillingness to release his electronic diary to corroborate his claim that he met with representative has now cost taxpayers $50, 000 under FOI challenges and appeals.

Brandis’ power grab has been simplified by a media dedicated to preserving us from complexity to a personal spat between the two men, ignoring the constitutional issues involved and reducing the Attorney-General’s high-handed arrogance to a clash of personalities – or even more disingenuously – a fight between two leading lawyers. Gleeson may be a top silk. Brandis is not. A pettifogging legal piss-ant with monumental delusions of grandeur, his officious bungling and over-reach of his authority will continue to create crises for himself and his government. He is almost certain to be censured when the senate committee concludes its inquiry in a few weeks.

In the meantime the saga of Brandis’ war on his Solicitor General reveals a Coalition of petty despotism, convinced of its own infallibility, immune to criticism and contemptuous of due process, happy to misrepresent itself in its determination to impose its will at all costs; its desperate desire to silence its critics whatever it takes.

Turnbull declares war on Abbott.


Illustration: Eric Lobbecke

A muffled thumping disturbs the chamber this Thursday as our PM and his predecessor, in turn, throw each other under a bus, to use Omnibus Bill Shorten’s colourful phrase.  Guardian Australia’s Katharine Murphy, who continues to hold a torch for the PM, has never seen anything like it in twenty years of parliamentary reporting. The Coalition is openly at war with itself.

 After a two week niggling campaign, Tony (Gospel Truth) Abbott brands Malcolm Turnbull a liar for suggesting the Abbott regime struck a deal last year with Senator David (happiness is a warm Adler A-110 lever action shot-gun) Leyonhjelm. Turnbull counters that the Prime Minister’s Office knew of the deal. It has documents. Pyne, Dutton and Keenan back their PM. Abbott says he’s been “grievously” misrepresented but it’s his flat denial against the word of two ministers involved plus an entertainingly self-parodying denial from Turnbull camp clown Christopher Pyne.

 The Abbott-Leyonhjelm deal involved lifting import restrictions on the weapon in return for the Senator’s vote on stripping home-grown terrorists of their dual citizenship but at stake now is Turnbull’s authority; his capacity to maintain what remains of his Liberal leadership. Rightist Michael Sukkar, Member for Deakin, supports Abbott, feebly, saying there is “no strong evidence” for a deal. Turnbull nurtures his inner political death-wish by dithering; he allows two days to pass in which it seems as if a deal is still on the table.

 Astonishingly, ABC listeners are immediately treated to National Party’s Troy Grant passionate case that every farmer needs to be able to shoot eight rounds in eight seconds or be overrun by feral pigs. An Adler 110 lever-action rapid fire shotgun is vital to the survival of the entire NSW rural sector if not the national economy. To dare suggest that shotgun might fall into the wrong hands is to cast a hurtful slur upon responsible gun-owners everywhere despite the fact that the  Adler is precisely the sort of weapon most commonly stolen according to Gun Control Australia.

 Deadly David Leyonhjelm, whose 2014 maiden speech was peppered with references to philosophers such as John Locke, John Stuart Mill and David Hume who helped convince him that no government – indeed, no-one tells him what to do (although he does seem to expect others to fall in line with his views) is a gun nut. A down-under NRA Charlton Heston, to quote Mike Seccombe, Leyonhjelm is full of dangerous nonsense about our right to bear arms and the right of the citizenry to rise up against “over-governing, over-taxing and over-riding ways”.

 Leyonhjelm moonlights for the NRA in a video released last year slamming Australia as a “nation of victims”. His view is we’d be safer if we were all armed. “We love the NRA here in Australia amongst us gun owners and in fact we rely on you guys to also help us hold the line in Australia,” he riffs in the clip. In his libertarian view, it is the government which has to make a case for banning rapid-fire weapons – not the farmer or sporting shooter who wants to buy one.

 Bikies have the same right. At a rally outside Queensland’s Parliament in late 2013, the Senator decried new laws potentially denying gun licences to affiliates of outlaw motorcycle gangs.

 The 2015 deal traded guns for votes, Labor helpfully points out, attacking Abbott’s honesty and exploding the Member for Warringah’s pose of being tough on gun control, which, along with his tough on borders posturing, helped the former PM convince his right wing he could make Australia safe again – or as he likes to put it – protect our national security. Stopping the guns, like stopping the boats, or his puerile threat to shirt-front Putin, however, is pure Abbottry, that specious, empty rhetoric he substitutes for real communication or conviction.

 Abbott has no right to claim a legacy of public safety. He made Australia less safe by re-entering conflicts in Iraq and Syria, in a calculated political strategy that had nothing to do with Australia’s national security that would further radicalise some within Australia’s Muslim minority and increase the domestic terror threat. “They are coming after us” he said of ISIS inflaming paranoia increasing anxiety and adding his own note of hysteria to public alarm.

 Abbott indulged in dangerous and divisive dog whistling about terrorists on boats.  While he sloganeered on protecting our freedom, he restricted our civil liberties and shackled our watchdogs with laws which retain people’s metadata for two years and laws which could make it offence for journalists to report on spying. And he was useless in the Lindt café crisis in December 2014; too busy to speak to Man Haron Monis as the Inquest heard this April.

 What is at stake, Bernard Keane points out is Abbott’s ego. The facts don’t fit his macho image. It doesn’t fit the hard man image, the image of the prime minister who trashed civil rights and threw money at security agencies to fight terrorism, the man who attacked Muslims for failing to talk about the peaceful nature of Islam, to be seen as having connived at a deal to allow high-capacity shotguns into the country.”

 Is Abbott lying about the Adler? We’d be foolish to expect truth. In 2010, Abbott explained that unless you had it in writing, you’d be unwise to believe him. As it turns out, Abbott is contradicted by the evidence: an email from his office, sent 15 August 2015, published by Paul Bongiorno in this week’s The Saturday Paper supports Turnbull and Leyonhjelm’s version of events.

 “We confirm that ministers Dutton [Immigration] and Keenan [Justice] have agreed that the government will amend the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956 to insert a sunset clause of 12 months into the recently amended provisions which ban the importation of lever action shotguns with a magazine capacity of more than five rounds.”

 Leyonhjelm, nevertheless, carried out his side of the deal which was to “vote against the Labor amendments to the Migration Amendment (Strengthening Biometrics Integrity) Bill”. It was a straightforward trade of a gun for a vote. Now, the former Liberal, who resigned from the party in 1998, in protest over John Howard’s gun control laws, is threatening to pull the pin on his support for the union-bashing ABCC legislation despite his reservation that the bill infringes civil liberties.

 The PM’s public slap-down of his predecessor may cost Turnbull his ABCC legislation. Even those few Australians yet unpersuaded by the patronising arrogance of a Coalition who reign over us by birthright and by force and such other means as are from time to time necessary must applaud the Turnbull government’s wondrous capacity to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

 Not that applause is necessary. Those who dissent from its plans are dismissed as too stupid to know what’s good for them such as the Coalition’s dream of a deregulated, causualised, de-unionised part-time workplace, already on its way, glimpsed, for example, when backpackers and their tax appear up for discussion in another fiasco or when Seven-Eleven is revealed by Fair Work Australia to have worked its employees twice as long for half the going pay rate.

 Fair Work Australia’s fresh investigation 27 August follows an ABC and Fairfax lead but a frenzy of union-bashing erupts this week to assist with the passage of the ABCC in another orchestrated attack on organised labour and the rights of Australians to a fair wage and decent conditions. Although barely 15 per cent of workers are union members, the ILO reported in October last year, 60 per cent of Australian workers are employed under conditions that were collectively bargained for, far above the rate of many countries with higher union densities.

 The week begins so promisingly too. A faction-riven Coalition rabble is somehow marshalled by comical cat-herder Christopher Pyne. The government lines up the crooked CFMEU and nasty Bill Shorten in its sights. It guillotines debate to get its ABCC bill rail-roaded through the lower house. Labor is allowed to speak once. You don’t need democratic debate when you have an election mandate. Pyne gags that everyone’s views have been heard before in the two previous failures to pass the legislation, despite the presence of new MPs who have never spoken on it. Malcolm Turnbull accuses Bill Shorten of being in debt to the CFMEU and shows a video.  

But it all goes bad by Wednesday and ends in catastrophe with the Prime Minister shooting himself in the foot, destroying any vestige of doubt as to his political ineptitude by helping get Tony Abbott back on to the ABC’s 7:30 Report (bumping unhappy deputy Liberal leader, Julie Bishop) on Wednesday night. Tony clearly believes he is once again a contender for the top job even if he forgets to say he stopped the boats.

 The week should have featured a virtuoso performance by immigration intellectual Peter Dutton doing a number on the ABC; rebutting the Four Corners expose of cruelty and child abuse on Nauru by shooting the messenger: calling the whole programme an orchestrated litany of lies and accusing the ABC of being on a crusade against government policy”.

Why? Dutton’s raving: “because they hate the fact that we’ve stopped boats and they believe we should have open borders and they’ve turned themselves into political operatives,” – adding for good measure, in some alarming former drug squad code all his own, “drinking the Kool-Aid”.

 Who knows what Dutton’s been drinking but Thursday, The Border Enforcer is inspired to a piece of performance art which links bikies, The CFMEU, Bill Shorten and Labor with the high price of apartments and the fact that decent young Australians can’t afford to buy a home.

 Meanwhile, in a senate committee, veteran plot-spotter Eric Abetz tells Michelle Guthrie she’s been captured by the leftist conspiracy which runs Radio National and infects the rest of the ABC. Tenderfoot Liberal Senator Jane Hume dismisses the Four Corners Report as selective. Where are the refugees who were happy with their lives on Nauru? She wonders if “all we heard on this program were the representatives of Save the Children and Amnesty (International) and the stories they wanted to tell, and selected stories from the young people on Nauru?”

Eric Abetz wonders if ABC reporters are not siding with activitsts.

 Way to go Senators. Show us all the fun side of indefinite open detention, ABC, on 21 square kilometres of abandoned guano mines, a ravaged moonscape of an island the size of an international airport. Report on the joys of living with the daily fear of assault in a failed state run by a corrupt oligarchy with a corrupt police force, where 90% of the population of 9,000 are jobless and suffer extreme levels of diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

 Have the senators read The Moss Review (2015), the Senate Select Committee Inquiry into the Nauru Detention Centre (2015) or the Report by Australian Women in Support of Women on Nauru (2016)? These reports document endemic gender-based violence systematic abuse carried out on Nauru against asylum seekers and refugees, abuse condoned by the Nauruan and Australian governments. Rape, assaults and indecent assaults are an inescapable part of life on Nauru and the government knows it.    

 Central to Dutton’s regime is the precept that refugees are to be punished for not drowning by being locked up in a hell-hole on Manus or Nauru, as Julian Burnside notes. The UN has recently confirmed that Nauru is one of the world’s worst in a report presented by doctors and officials from the United Nations’ refugee agency, to senior immigration department staff 11 October.

 Dutton and his 82 communications staff provide no response to the UN’s investigation. He has successfully prevented or discouraged anyone but The Saturday Paper from reporting even on the leaked report. Instead he deploys the Coalition’s favourite ploy: attack the messenger, as it did when in August The Guardian leaked case notes of 2100 actual investigations.

 In a masterpiece of spin, the Minister then accused The ABC and Guardian Australia of ‘trivialising’ grave issues ‘by trying to promote the 2,100 reports as somehow all being serious when they’re not.’ Dutton also falsely accused Save The Children of leaking the reports. It’s a quality response as might be expected from a Minister with 82 communications staff, 22 of whom are dedicated to its “24/7 media operations”, including social media.

 Immigration also had eight non-permanent communications staff earlier in the year. It paid Talkforce Media more than $225,000 for training after its Operation Fortitude fiasco in Melbourne last August – on top of $1 million on external media monitoring staff and another $7 million on public relations and internal communications staff.

 Will the PM survive his showdown with Tony Abbott? Will the party now break down into two armed camps, the right wing troglodytes affiliated with Abbott versus the Trotskyites who lean towards Malcolm Turnbull, a PM in the words of Kate McGregor on The Drum recently more of a progressive Labor leader than a conservative? Will Leyonhjelm be wooed by another deal?

 What is certain is that Fizza Turnbull will continue to face challenges to his authority as his incapacity to lead, his instinct for poor judgement, his capacity to turn crisis into catastrophe is daily revealed to be a liability to the interests of his party’s big business backers; an impediment to the Neocon agenda of the IPA and other powerful lobby groups. Julie Bishop is staying out of things, appearing on an ABC story about sportswomen as befits her feminist inclinations – you can bet she won’t be backing equal pay -and keeping herself nice for when Turnbull needs to be knifed.

 Meanwhile the ABC will continue to be derided and defunded and accused of bias whenever it dare report the truth instead of doing its job as the government’s cheer squad. Whether the over-hyped ABCC bill passes or not, the government will not ease up on its war on workers while the gulags on Nauru and Manus will not go away, however much the government invests in their denial. Like the rotting prison hulks of yesteryear they are a reminder of how badly a nation can go wrong when it prefers the politics of cheap populist hysteria over humanity; tries to hide from its own conscience; its moral responsibility.










Clowns run the show: 100 days of Turnbull government on behalf of coal.



Creepy Clown hysteria sweeps the nation, this week. Almost trumping The Donald, CC’s upstage AFL trades and eclipse politics. Is it a cult? Is it a craze? No-one thinks it will end well. Police beg copy-cats to end “this dangerous and stupid trend.”  While reported sightings may distract us from assessing clown-prince Turnbull’s government’s performance, however, the Creepy Clowns illuminate far more than they obscure.

Take LNP Senator Ian MacDonald for example. He’s a standout as Pozzo, Samuel Becket’s bullying clown modelled on the Keystone Cops character, in the Senate Inquiry side-show into megalomaniac George Brandis’ misleading of parliament over his subjugation of the solicitor-general in his government’s push to politicise our public service. And the Great Grimaldi, himself, would be delighted to own as his protégé the hapless, petulant, incompetent Mal Turnbull pathetically playing someone he can never be: anyone but himself – let alone another clown.

Turnbull’s first hundred days are a bungling reprise of the shtick of Coalition “Auguste” clown, Tony Abbott: union-bashing, poor-trashing, pro-coal, anti-welfare, education and environment in a government paralysed by division, its PM led “like a dog on a lead” by the right.  Playing politics on marriage equality, its plebiscite hoax which would promote homophobic attacks while postponing legalisation is finally exploded this week in a type of anniversary gift, by Labor, The Greens, three Xenophons and Derryn Hinch. Turnbull’s regime sinks to Abbott-era depths in NewsPolls. Luckily, Eric Abetz has an innovative solution.

Come out of the closet, urges perennial unicorn chaser the agile Abetz, who blames media bias for not celebrating or honouring people who “come out” and switch from a homosexual to a heterosexual lifestyle. Abetz, one of four remaining Tasmanian Liberal Senators fighting for attention in Federal Parliament, is banking on a grateful media, free at last to give heterosexual Australians who have come out straight the attention they merit.

Abetz is also keen to share with reporters his completely rational, objective and measured conspiracy theory that there has been a campaign under way since the 1970s to deconstruct marriage and rob it of its meaning. He is there to  launch a book with the most innocuous title Stealing from the Child: The Injustice of “Marriage Equality” by Australian Marriage Forum president David van Gend, a book that promises to lay bare the “breathtakingly subversive redefinition of marriage” and expose the “genderless agenda” that comes with genderless “marriage”.

“His call to celebrate people turning from gay to straight is just the latest line of attack against gays in long political career that bears all the hallmarks of a religiously-fuelled, personal moral crusade,” writes James Norman in the SMH. Yet overall the media has framed its reporting of the plebiscite along government lines. It is Labor which is said to have “scuttled the coalition’s plan” for a plebiscite

Reading Abetz ‘s views, is to be confronted with direct evidence which contradicts his PM’s comments in parliament this week that waive aside the reality of entrenched and active bigotry which is well-funded and politically powerful, with an airy “trust” in the Australian people to be nice or the specious argument that it is “only a minority” which is likely to suffer homophobic abuse.

Whatever his personal beliefs, Turnbull himself is beholden to a powerful and intolerant minority whose prejudicial influence upon a community he says he supports he cannot blithely wish away any more than he can will himself into any real control over the disparate, divisive and defiant elements that have ruined his own authority and legitimacy.

A hundred days in office, certainly, have not seen the Coalition develop its parliamentary skill. “There has never been a more chaotic government, there has never been a more chaotic parliament and there has never been a leader of the house that has had to endure humiliation from his colleagues on such a regular basis,” Manager of Opposition Business Tony Burke tells Parliament after Financial Services Minister Kelly O’Dwyer votes against her own government, endorsing a bill amended by Labor, which calls upon the Government to close tax loop-holes and increase transparency.

Labor’s Jim Chalmers attacks O’Dwyer’s history of lapses: “Given the Minister for Revenue can’t answer basic questions about her legislation, contradicts the Prime Minister on house prices and negative gearing and was the original architect of the Census disaster, can the Minister please a very interested House about what other spectacular policy achievements lie ahead, or is this the high point of your brilliant career?” he says. O’Dwyer can only head upward from here.

Not all is flagging; Petti-fogger General Brandis rogers the Solicitor-General while Turnbull gets into bed with One Nation. Pauline Hanson is helped on to the  Joint Standing Committee on the National Broadband Network which exists in order toinquire into and report on the rollout of the national broadband network”. Numbers have been boosted from 7 to 17 members this year but doubtless it will be vital to have Pauline and her vast technical expertise on board.

These are top-quality performances. Either professional clown is up to Trump or any other international pick-up artist in sophisticated seduction or the vital matter of consent.

But look over there! Crippled by crushing welfare debt? Embarrassed by your nation’s quick whip round to give big business a bit of a handout? Fear no more. Worry yourselves sick, instead, over cyber-attacks. The nation is treated to a frenetic tap dance from Dan – “close the doors they’re coming in the (MS) Windows ™- Tehan.” The Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Cyber Security,  executes a frenzied buck and wing in tribute to his government’s need to spy on us, keep our data and lie about it, hyping “cyber” terror, xenophobia and paranoia in this week’s coalition circus Oz.

Deadpan Dan, enhances his tap-dance by unfurling something called The 2016 Threat Report, the work of professional fear-mongers, The Australian Cybersecurity centre and revealing chilling news: the intelligence service of an unnamed country hacked into our Bureau of Meteorology last year. No! Next we know, our weather will be on Wiki-Leaks.

But wait; there’s more. Tweaking things a little, Dan says the ACC warns public servants of cyber-devastation in three years – (He must mean government departments still in operation after Coalition savings and efficiency dividends.) – 

The report, however, clearly  states: “…it is unlikely terrorists will be able to compromise a secure network and generate a significant disruptive or destructive effect for at least the next two to three years”.

It don’t mean a thing if it aint got that spin. Desperate Dan milks further applause with a coy revelation. Reassuring us all that he will not sit idly by while we become victims of international cyber-crime, he reveals that Australia has (gasp!) cyber offensive capacity. Pressed for details of this creepy secret weapon, Dan tells Kim Landers on ABC Radio he can’t say because it wouldn’t be secret. Be alert, not informed. Mum’s the word. He also refuses to name any names about our cyber attackers although his vacuous drivel next day in party propaganda organ The Australian calls them ISIS.

“When it comes to, when it comes to intelligence matters there’s a long history of us not publicly broadcasting what we’re doing in this area,” says the little Aussie bottler. Indeed. Add that history to Border Security’s selective catatonia, targeting of whistle-blowers or mad King George Brandis’ two year, $50,000 tantrum over refusing Labor his diary least it confirm he cut arts funding without consultation – a word very much in the air Friday in a senate committee set up to help O’Sullivan and MacDonald bully Justin Gleeson the Solicitor General. The duo give him the Gillian Triggs treatment for daring to challenge King George’s megalomania or his lie to parliament that Gleeson was happy to be shafted.

Mad King George claims, like a schoolboy debater, that the whole sorry business is a matter of definition. He waves his dictionary, a pocket Napoleon brandishing his pocket Oxford. He misses the mark. The net effect is more of a sulky Humpty Dumpty. He’s decreed that all who seek the Solicitor General’s advice must have the Attorney General’s permission first and he’s told Gleeson afterwards, a process he claims is consultation.

When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

By Friday, the latest chapter in megalomaniacal George Brandis’ self-aggrandisement, his misleading of parliament, his attempt to sideline the Solicitor General in a radical and unprecedented diminution of the second law officer’s authority had been trivialised into a “breakdown.” It is as if the two are naughty boys who ought to have their heads knocked together – a view favoured in the ABC’s framing of the conflict in its news bulletins and on The Drum which gets its name from the wrong part of a washing machine. It’s the filter that collects all the fluff and lint.

 Barry O’Sullivan and Ian McDonald abuse Solicitor General Justin Gleeson SC because he took a phone call from Mark Dreyfus during the election, surely a communication entirely legal and within his role. Was he consulted about being demoted to Brandis’ subordinate? Was he happy about it? No and no. Expect Brandis high-handed abrogation of power to be overruled by the senate in due course. The Attorney General’s original instructions tabled in the senate are  a “disallowable instrument” and can be overturned by a Senate vote.

Until then, Gleeson will disregard what he believes is an unlawful instruction. Expect the framing to continue, however. The media prefers us to see a brawl, a face-off, a feud, a tiff that distorts and distracts from Brandis’ naked power grab.

A Newspoll published Monday shows the Coalition once again trailing Labor 52-48 two party preferred as Turnbull’s lame duck government clocks up an underwhelming one hundred days in office.  Its vaunted omnibus bill merely  enables it to pass savings slated in Abbott’s first dud budget but it has achieved some dangerous union-bashing as the senate passes its amendment to the Fair Work Act to ban the inclusion of certain “objectionable terms” in enterprise agreements covering workers employed by a “designated emergency management body” (such as the CFA). Clauses requiring management to consult with the relevant union are considered “objectionable”.

In November last year, CFA management was rebuked by a senate committee for refusing to supply vital information into the operation of its training college at Fiskville, where trainees were sent after the site was found to be contaminated with carcinogenic chemicals.  Fiskville was finally shut in 2015 after a cancer cluster was discovered among those who lived and worked there since the 1970s.

A Victorian government inquiry has found that “The CFA withheld test documents that confirmed the site was unsafe, yet insisted publicly that everything was OK” according to United Firefighters Union head Mick Tisbury and has criticised WorkSafe and the Environmental Protection Authority for their poor oversight of Fiskville. Yet, workers, paid and unpaid will continue to be at risk as a result of a massive union-bashing campaign driven by Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV), the Murdoch press and the Liberal Party. The issue has been successfully framed in the media as one of noble volunteers being at risk of thuggish union control. Our lawmakers even seem to have heeded the rhetoric.

One Nation’s vote was vital in getting the CFA Volunteers Bill through the senate Tuesday even if they don’t seem to have a clue what it’s about. Party empiricist, Malcolm Roberts calls the matter an issue of freedom versus control:  The control mechanism proposed is an EA [enterprise agreement] that gives union bosses the right to dictate the daily operations of the community-based rural fire brigades,” he says; talking through his tin-foil hat.

Doug Cameron points out it’s the opposite: “Career fire-fighters who place their lives in danger to protect the community are entitled to documented, enforceable health and safety conditions in their enterprise agreements,” Senator Cameron told the chamber. “The volunteer fire-fighters union, basically, want power and control. There is no doubt about that.”

Nor is there any doubt about Donald Trump. Australia heaves a sigh of relief this week as Tony Abbott rates Donald Trump’s policies as “reasonable enough,” while he concedes that the Republican candidate’s views on women are “gross.” Abbott cherry picks for praise Trump’s “cutting tax” and “boosting foreign policy”, neither of which are more than banner headlines in The Donald’s policy-free platform.

Elder statesman Abbott, Bronwyn Bishop and John Howard’s political love-child and suppository of all knowledge, icon of the Liberal Party’s hard-right rump, former PM and Minister for Women, is keen to open another split between himself and Turnbull by defending Trump against the unfair bad press the Republican presidential candidate has been receiving lately largely over his pickup artist tips and lies spread by women claiming he abused them.

Allegations of misconduct against Trump are false, Campaign spokesperson Hope Hicks explains. They are all part of a “political attack designed to tear down Mr. Trump,” and nothing to do with his policies which include building a wall across the United States to keep would-be immigrants back where they belong, an eerie echo of Abbott’s own Sovereign Borders fantasy and with as much feasibility.

While Abbott may be merely attempting to dog-whistle conservatives and to provoke Turnbull, he is displaying a Trumpish lack of judgement in parading his own glass house of boorish ignorance, social incompetence and political ineptitude. Rat cunning is no substitute; nor will it fund a comeback. Turnbull loses the judgement challenge, however, responding by asking if Abbott has read Trump’s views against Free Trade. Abbott by then doesn’t need to.

Keen to make rating The Donald a proxy war between right and moderate Liberals, NSW’s Parliament’s Upper House passes a motion which censures Trump for being a revolting slug.

Doing its bit for the Turnbull government’s desire to re-heat Abbott’s terror hysteria to distract, divert and divide us, home-grown terrorists are being bred in Goulburn’s Supermax prison, “Australia’s toughest jail,” investigative journalist Chris Masters sensationally reports on Four Corners. Two sixteen year olds, it reports later are arrested for planning a terrorist attack.  Not content with promoting fear of renewable energy, the national broadcaster is further able to boost its usefulness to government by adding xenophobia and Islamophobia as it claims our best prisons are breeding “the worst kind of terrorist”. Be alert and alarmed.

Ignorance, superstition and partisan political spin appear increasingly part of the mix as our ABC re-interprets its “innovative and comprehensive services” to include many feel-good stories during the week about how coal-mining really has a future in the country now that the coal price is up. Interviews with community business people celebrating news that the Collinsville mine in Queensland’s Bowen Basin help put the case that coal-mining is really about local jobs.

Similarly, Resources Minister Matt Canavan is heard deploring BHP’s decision to pull the pin on oil drilling in the Great Australian Bight muttering about the ugly edge of green activism. Green activists, it seems, have been “swilling champagne” while people lost their jobs.

The ABC’s coverage of the SA blackout which scapegoated renewable energy reliance as the cause is a good example of how a dominant frame, once established, can exert a long-lasting influence over media coverage of a particular event, writes Ben Eltham in New Matilda. So, too with the simplistic framing of the week’s reports on coal into a choice between coal-mining or jobs.

Has it really taken only ten months for the Turnbull government to morph completely into the Abbott government on the environment and on energy? Are we really prepared to abandon everything we have gained in environmental education and awareness, everything we have learned about fossil fuels and climate change or the effects of mining on the environment, everything we have learned to accept as our international responsibility to curb carbon emissions that we can allow our state broadcaster to ally itself to a political party which is captive to the resource industry and oblivious to any real concern about the nation’s future. 



Don’t you love farce?
My fault, I fear.
I thought that you’d want what I want…
Sorry, my dear!
And where are the clowns
Send in the clowns
Don’t bother, they’re here.

Turnbull government provides a full card of diversions on its downward slide into extinction.


News emerges this week of another Coalition cover-up as a UN investigative report is leaked which exposes conditions on Manus and Nauru. Not only are asylum-seekers found to be in poor physical health, they also suffer extraordinary rates of mental disorder. The government has known this unofficially for months but has done nothing.

The United Nations refugee agency, UHCR will meet Immigration officials 11 October, to share the findings of its April and May investigations into the physical and mental suffering of those whom Australia has expediently locked up forever and forgotten on Manus and Nauru Islands. Informal briefings, provided months ago, were pointedly ignored by a government that, like its predecessor, “will not be lectured” by the UN. 

Eighty-eight per cent of asylum-seekers and refugees assessed were suffering from a depressive or anxiety disorder and/or post-traumatic stress disorder,” the draft report says. “These are extremely high rates, among the highest recorded of any population in the world, but a predictable outcome of protracted detention.” 

Putting the lie to myths of luxury nurtured by Immigration Department propaganda provided for Peter Dutton, it is revealed this week, by a spin army at a cost to tax-payers of $8 million, inspectors found unusable toilets, broken washing machines and dilapidated gym equipment. Dwellings allocate each detainee 1.6 square metres, half the minimum international standard for prisons. Unlike Australian prisons, Wilson staff routinely dismiss as unsubstantiated allegations of sexual assault. The report recommends Australia accept all refugees or find a suitable third country.

Should these findings prove too confronting, the government has thoughtfully provided us a full card of diversions including a bankers’ circus, a renewed war on renewables, an innovative front in its war on government spending, a data-driven war on the poor, while The Budgie Nine provide a class act and The Australian breathlessly reports Saturday that up to 22 Syrian refugees set to come to Australia may have links with terror. Tony Abbott, meanwhile, touring the Old Dart in his own take on Waiting for Godot, vows “I will return” in a travelling side-show psycho-drama all his own. 

Also featuring are some quality fringe productions, such as Brandis Pettifogger-General and The Budget Repair Crisis. Rubbery figure Federal Treasurer Scott, “Black Hole”, Morrison and self-parodying Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, lampoon “open and transparent” government in an hilarious satirical sketch, part of the long running Budget Repair Series in which a fictitious crisis is repaired by cutting taxes to companies and the rich while slashing welfare and government spending, increasing poverty and inequality and tearing up the fabric of an open and civil society, while Labor is blamed for everything that can’t be pinned on” external economic headwinds”. 

Simon Birmingham, another class act, lampoons some flaky TAFE courses. He is helpfully exposing dreadful rorts by private tertiary education providers to divert us from the fact that his government is cutting $3.2 billion from tertiary funding and imposing restrictions which will severely limit access to technical education. Dubbed “a total overhaul”, The Birmingham Solution includes changes for the HECS scheme to get students to pay back loans sooner and a means to keep may Australians out of tertiary education forever.

But the bean-counting black hole spotters who pretend to run the economy take the cake. Entitled “taking out the garbage” the ScoMo-Cormann Grand Final routine sees the comedy duo secretly bury the Coalition’s final 2015 budget outcome, near its NBN, its tax reform fiasco and Abbott’s promised surplus in the first year of government. Unconfirmed sources also report discovering a freshly prepared plot nearby bearing a sign: The Turnbull Experiment.

No press conference is held; not a jock shocked; not a word is heard from a treasurer who can talk the hind legs off a deaf donkey.  History is made. Coalition openness and transparency 2016-style is a post on a Treasury website on a Friday of a Grand Final holiday, confirming that the government’s unchecked spending has doubled its budget deficit in three years. For years Liberals howled about Labor’s debt and deficit disaster. Now they are shamed into silence.

 The following Monday, on ABC 7:30, Leigh Sales shirt-fronts Cormann over the Coalition’s reckless over-spending.

“When you first came to power you predicted that the 2015/16 deficit would be $17.1 billion. What you posted on Friday showed that actually in reality what it’s turned out to be is $39.6 billion,” Sales begins, icily, turning Stormin’ Cormann to boudin water; swiftly tipping his liquidity into the dark abyss between Liberal rhetoric and reality.

Fall-guy Cormann, to his credit, turns in a performance worthy of Peter Sellers’ Inspector Jacques Clouseau, another archetypal buffoon whose paté-thick accent and surreal logic could fox any questioner. Not that he’s trying to be funny. As Clouseau, himself, once observed. “There is a time to laugh and a time not to laugh, and this is not one of them. “

The Finance Minister’s answer to how his government could more than double the deficit? Cormann’s evasion is fluent gobbledegook. “We have several budget updates since the one that you mentioned and we have explained in some detail how, for example, external global economic headwinds and the impact on global prices or key economic exports and the like impacted on our revenue collections in particular.” Bravo! Eat your heart out, Donald Trump.

The economic headwinds are a carefully nurtured fiction like the crippling cost of health or how education must be flushed of corruption or how our unsustainable welfare spending will send us bust. Similarly unreliable renewable energy, we are told, threatens to destroy the national grid and lead to a massive increase in power bills. These myths help justify or disguise the transfer of costs from government to an increasingly impoverished public, a process of redistribution of wealth and power upwards that, sadly, began under the Hawke and Keating governments.

 Sales does not ask Cormann how tax cuts for business and for wealthier Australians will help. Tax evasion by multinational companies doing business in Australia has clearly nothing to do with the budget deficit.

Black Hole Morrison is obviously not going to appear. He’s got real blokes’ stuff to do; talking footy on commercial media. And Cabinet doesn’t just leak by itself. As for 7:30’s side of the sideshow, no-one on the show will nail Nigel (Sgt. Schulz) Scullion on news of several government briefings surfacing this week which prove he lied when he knew zip, nada, nothing of Don Dale. The Nationals’ Nigel Scullion is another MP, who, like the Treasurer, is in cabinet only to make up the numbers. And after Chris Uhlmann’s scapegoating renewables for causing disaster in SA there are simply no questions left and no-one to ask them as to why the ABC led the government jihad on clean energy.

Thank God, we have profiteering banks to keep us safe and a government which has the nous to get tough on turbines.

But look over there! A massive $4.8 trillion welfare burden is set to destroy us all in seventy years.

 Eight out of ten Australians go to work so they can fund the nation’s welfare bill, The Daily Telegraph lied to readers last November as part of its brief as the propaganda arm of Tory government in Australia. The Tele trusts its readers will be too shocked to notice it’s nonsense: for starters, only half of government comes from income tax anyway. War-lord Christian Porter plucks an even scarier figure out of a Pricewaterhousecoopers report, hoping no-one can calculate that $4.8 billion is a drop in the bucket of the $360 trillion estimated to be government revenue over the same period. 

Facts don’t matter. That his government has been spending like a drunken sailor does not stop Porter, on Q&A Monday from his war on the poor and the elderly. They are ruining us, he says, with their wilful, expensive dependency. Eva Cox points out that his scary figure which includes child care is further boosted by counting in the elderly and the age pension.” Since 70% approximately of the population ends up on the aged pension, it means it looks much bigger and much worse than it actually is.” An expert and a woman over a certain age, Cox is dismissed, derided and ignored.

Porter’s expensive new data-sets and algorithms, “as used by insurance companies”, – no less –  will get bludgers off welfare and into non-existent jobs, but leave untouched tax cuts for the rich, superannuation breaks, negative gearing among other all middle-class handouts. It helps the government pretend that it is doing something new, when, in fact, research on welfare goes back to Ronald Henderson’s report in 1973. Henderson gave us the poverty line, research which is sufficient for the Australia Institute to calculate that there is now an unprecedented gap between the poverty line and what an unemployed family receives.

A single adult is $189.71 below the poverty line,” Senior Research Fellow at The Australia Institute, David Richardson reports and a married couple with two children is $210.96 below in just two of what are welfare’s truly shocking figures. Porter’s reforms mean reducing even further our cruelly inadequate, demeaning and begrudging support. War on the poor, nevertheless, helps the Coalition distract us from the fact that it is cutting the family allowance amidst other ideologically driven government spending cuts. Turnbull must keep sweet with his hard right even if it means turning himself inside out as he does with lunatic logic over renewable energy this week.

SA’s power crisis proves we need more government-subsidised coal-fired power plants to secure our energy from natural disasters caused by global warming caused by carbon emissions caused by burning coal to make electricity –  not that a Coalition, whose MPs still mostly believe that climate change is crap – will ever admit to the connection. Renewables are to blame.

 Our ever-vigilant, agile, innovative, protective but fetchingly slender, federal government has re-invented “energy security” to keep us safe from “aggressive renewable targets” and other evils which threaten to destroy our nation’s way of life. Green energy undermines our core beliefs and values and our massive subsidies to miners, coal-burning electricity generators and other multinational corporations out to do us over and destroy the planet.

Energy security, (think Peter Dutton with a three-pin plug and an endless extension lead), will protect us from natural catastrophe and bodgy base-loads caused by fickle wind and solar power which everybody knows by now caused a massive blackout in South Australia when freak storms –  nothing to do with climate change, knocked over 23 pylons.

Everybody including Greg Hunt gets into the coal lobby sponsored act. Their performance has nothing to do with upstaging Tony Abbott’s Quadrant revival tour of the old country in which he’s clearly campaigning against Turnbull. Abbott has no show but then, neither did Turnbull until opinion polls reached Turnbull’s current record low. How long will it be this time before the sinking ship deserts the rat?

Tasmanians thrill to “interconnectors” a country and western number by Wichita lineman Greg Hunt who takes Monday morning off to jam with the big boys in the band in a song about how baseload supply won’t ever let you down. 

“This means that the states will have to consider new or upgraded interconnectors between Tasmania and the mainland, and South Australia and the eastern states,” he says contradicting The Australian Energy Market Operator which identifies South Australia’s extreme weather last week as the prime cause of “multiple transmission system faults.”

Hunt is on song with his Australia to continue to have reliable baseload power supply, for the states to engage in better planning of renewables expansion and for a more integrated system of providing consumer and investment security. Mr Coal, Environment and Energy Minister Josh Freydenberg, holds a make-believe conference of state energy ministers which he spins into a big win for energy security. It’s a first step, surely, towards getting back into coal and gas fired generation as states are pressured to revise their renewable targets downwards.

Seldom has an Australian government been so obsessed with evasion, under-handedness; seldom such meanness of spirit and deceit. Never has the nation’s expectations of fair dealing and decency been met with such contempt.

Luckily another outrage diverts our attention. Scions of the nation’s ruling class, the Budgie Nine, at a loose end in KL, set out to boost Australia’s international dick-head standing, by mooning 29 million Malaysians and one or two international viewers of Formula 1 on TV.  At least the boys have the foresight to plan their wardrobe; each silly young thing wears what appear to be a Cranston class set of matching scanties, sportively printed in motifs from their hosts’ national flag.

Whatever were they thinking? Did someone put them up to it? Did anyone think they would not get away with it?

 Boys will be boys. The Daily Telegraph loves the thirty-something larrikins.  The Australian salutes their heroics.  The media is seized by a frenzy of fawning indulgence that is typically reserved for male footballers, cricketers and other sporting heroes whose misbehaviour we licence as diminished responsibility; they are just being one of the boys.

The Budgie Nine’s antics upstage our banking bosses who bare their bums at the government in Canberra this week. How dare the government even to pretend to hold a fake inquiry into how they rig the whole system and destroy thousands of ordinary decent Australians’ lives?  The four fat cats waddle down to Canberra to put on such a floorshow of sincere contrition it invokes Al Capone’s undying regret that he didn’t always manage to remember to pay his taxes. 

Instead of a banking industry, as it is fondly termed, we have an oligopoly which functions as a cartel to enable our big four banks to achieve the highest profits in the OECD.  State-sponsored – or at least condoned – collusion is their business model. God preserve them from competition. It might push down costs to clients.

Like the Budgie Nine, the big four bankers, too, are rich and powerful and male enough to know they can get away with saying and doing just about anything. Like Pyne’s advisor, (Dak-less) Jack,  Walker, caught with his pants down, they’ve got mates in high places. Naturally they act as if they own the show: the rest of us are paying for their entertainment.

To Ian Narev CEO of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia goes a Wronski award for the biggest whopper of the week. Narev – and his henchmen reckon profiteering makes our banking system strong. Amazingly, he’s allowed to get away with the lie that obscene profits and even worse executive salaries are justified because they make our banking system strong. Wrong! The strength of our banks is where they invest and how they invest and how much confidence we have in them.

Had it not been for the Rudd government protecting their Triple A rating during the GFC, our big four might be dancing to a different tune. As it is they have been more profitable than banks overseas because, largely our banks heavily rely on domestic loans, particularly the low risk household sector. As household indebtedness rises, it may be problematic to have so many eggs in one basket.

As the IMF warned Thursday, over the past 20 years, total household debt in Australia has soared from 75 per cent of total disposable income to more than 180 per cent – one of the highest debt-to-income ratios in the developed world. Mortgage debt is the main cause of this increase. Helped by our banks and their government protected oligarchy, households have racked up a rising mountain of debt. Banks will stay strong as long as we can pay it all back. In the meantime, forget the other shenanigans, they run the show. Like the Turnbull government their preference is to be accountable only to themselves.

The lights go out for the Turnbull government.


Greg Hunt begins the week in attack dog mode. Bill Shorten is “… a blinding hypocrite … a fraud, a charlatan … an absolute failure of leadership,” yaps the Industry and Innovation paragon. Killer Chihuahua Hunt, a former Environment Minister who famously puts coal above coral, is a climate guru, who simply made up the numbers for Australia’s 2030 emissions reduction pledge in Paris last year, a senate enquiry this week reveals. Why would a world’s best minister need to bother with modelling?

When PM Turnbull attacks states’ renewable energy targets in the wake of SA’s power failure he appears similarly unfettered by empiricism; equally keen to blame Labor states’ “aggressive” targets.

 News that the nation has no modelling for emissions beyond 2020 or for when emissions might peak does not seem to take any of the shine off “My work is done” Hunt’s record, it seems. Instead, it gives him moral authority to savage Shorten, Monday on Sky for putting people before the politics of a plebiscite, a petard of its own devising which appears about to destroy the Turnbull government.

 Hunt’s Bill overkill echoes the Liberals’ denunciation of Julia Gillard and their demonisation of both Labor leaders in the witch-hunting hysteria promoted under Abbott’s leadership. Beneath the suave leather jacket of the Turnbull experiment lurks a beast reared on the politics of the lynch mob, not responsible government.

 Hunt’s timely derision of Shorten comes just as his government assures us that same sex marriage supporters will not be abused by well-funded nutters on the right but it must fight to make itself heard above the din which erupts when Marriage Alliance’s Sophie York calls marriage equality supporters the “Pagan Caliphate” a term some Islamic representatives attending her organisation’s one hundred strong meeting in Sydney, Monday oddly take exception to whatever they make of her assertion that polygamy will surely follow any move towards marriage equality.

 While Hunt’s attack may be beyond all parody, however, it signals something’s up. Even a government accustomed to lurching from crisis to catastrophe can panic when it looks about to run itself off the road thanks to Abbott’s wretched plebiscite.

 However scurrilous Hunt may paint him, Shorten will scuttle a dud plebiscite. Dead in the water is the Coalition’s non-binding, expensive and divisive plebiscite on marriage equality which, as The Age notes Sunday, violates the “general principle that the right of minorities should never be subjected to a popular vote”.  Paul Bongiorno thinks that Turnbull’s rigidity over the plebiscite will ruin him just as Howard was undone by his refusal to say sorry to Indigenous peoples but ruin is only part of the disaster-prone, self-sabotaging government’s latest crop of misfortunes.

 Hunt, whose $1.7 billion Direct Action, fairies at the bottom of the garden carbon abatement plan, pays polluters to plant trees but does nothing to curb emissions, accuses the Opposition leader of deception. He should know. His Monday mongrel routine, however, is to distract us from his party’s gift for turning government into crisis management. Not everyone is deceived, however.

 “Neither Menzies, Howard nor Whitlam would have held a plebiscite” offers former High Court judge Michael Kirby, boosting growing concern over Turnbull’s poor judgement before warning. “Parliamentary democracy … is central to our version of democracy. We should be strengthening that formula, not undermining it.”

Kirby’s words fall on deaf ears. One day, dreams Eric Abetz, Hunt will be able to say what he really thinks of Bill’s feeble opposition to having a human right “decided” by plebiscite. And it’s not just Hunt who benefits. 18C of the Racial Vilification Act, Abetz believes, is holding back decent, ordinary, Australians from the all-in, no holds-barred, state-sponsored, cage-fight that we all need should a plebiscite be publicly canvassed. Propagandists opposing same sex marriage need help.

 As in Ireland’s same-sex marriage plebiscite campaign, homophobia is dressed up as concern for children. Gays make unsafe parents. Same-sex marriage will increase sexual diseases. Drug use will rise. Jobs will go, warn pamphlets already circulating from opponents who include Chris Miles, former Howard government Liberal M. His speech ought to be liberated, according to Abetz’ nonsense, if he were not fettered by 18C. Tell us what he really thinks. Make us really afraid.

 If the federal government lacks the fibre to change the law, moreover, Tasmania will lead the nation. On Monday, Abetz commends Premier Hodgman’s move to amend Section 18C to permit religious bigots to vilify whomever they please  – even if he has failed to make any case. To those who warn that the new law will sanction hate speech, Eric generously offers his “confidence in my fellow Tasmanians to have free speech and to exercise it responsibly”.

 Be fair. Abetz is making an heroic effort to deal with his AIS, (acquired irrelevance syndrome.) Doubtless it helps to keep yourself busy when you’re no longer wanted in cabinet.  Long may he bleat into the island’s prevailing westerlies about how racial abuse is vital to freedom of speech. He can only gain insight into the nature of power and his own insignificance. Right now he’s not making sense. Next thing you know he will be on about a conspiracy.

 “Free speech is a precious yet fundamental freedom which has been eroded under the guise of political correctness,” Abetz claims without a shred of evidence. It’s a baseless but persistent lie like the myth that the coalition is better at managing the economy. But it’s in good company. Attacking political correctness mirrors the lunatic logic of the coalition’s case against windfarms or its po-faced advocacy of Direct Action, both clear cases where ideology conspires with the bidding of its powerful backers in the mining industry to blind it to reality.  Or adjust its perception.

 In May The Climate Institute reported that Direct Action and its Emissions Reduction Fund had increased Australia’s emissions levels at a cost of $90/tonne while in February, Melbourne-based RepuTex revealed government figures show Australia’s emissions increased by 1.3 per cent in 2014-15, the first annual increase in emissions since 2005-06. Yet none of this is any concern to Turnbull’s government which seizes upon SA’s power failure to attack renewable energy in a political point-scoring exercise as remarkable for its invective as its cavalier denial of reality and responsibility.

 Turnbull decrees that the SA blackout means we need to ease our “extremely unrealistic renewable” energy targets. He can offer no evidence whatsoever, of course. Six years ago he was in favour of 100% renewable energy by 2020. Now Malcolm Turnaround claims that half the target in twice the time is a recipe for disaster.  An innovative PM is taking us back to the future. Tony Abbott wanted no targets at all. But Turnbull’s is no lone, lunatic, voice. Barnaby Joyce and other MPs including Nick Xenophon are a mine of misinformation and alarm. Anyone might think that there’s a well-resourced, industry-based propaganda campaign at work to prolong the use of fossil fuels.

 The Climate Change Authority and The Climate Authority report that the only way to meet our Paris targets, in fact, is to keep existing state targets: Victoria’s 40% renewables by 2025, South Australia’s 50% by 2025, Queensland’s 50% by 2030 as Lenore Taylor writes in The Guardian Saturday.

 Yet the week sees a concerted attack on our clean energy targets. The ABC takes first prize for its leadership of the case for scapegoating renewable energy and the dissemination of misinformation. Chris Uhlmann is a stand out when he claims “Forty percent of South Australia’s power is wind generated, and that has the problem of being intermittent — and what we understand at the moment is that those turbines aren’t turning because the wind is blowing too fast.” ( In Germany an increase in solar and wind power generation has led to a more stable grid and a halving of costs.)

 Other complete nonsense follows. “Windmills produce asynchronous power” a challenge that was met years ago. There was no base load power – apart from the fully operational gas standby. The power went out because storms destroyed the grid. As SA Premier Jay Weatherill points out the blackout was caused by multiple failures of high voltage transmission infrastructure. It would not have mattered if the grid had been completely fossil fuel powered.

 No-one listens. There is no retraction; no apology on ABC. Radio National’s Fran Kelly seems to accept Weatherill’s verdict but pursues a mayor in SA who confirms local people are blaming renewables. The Grattan Institute’s criticism of renewables gets much free air support from the National Broadcaster. As Lenore Taylor writes, ‘ one big storm and our climate and energy debate is surging back to peak stupid.

 Never one to let a crisis go unexploited, Energy and Environment Minister Josh “Mr. Coal” Freydenberg calls for a COAG energy summit in yet another bid to reduce renewable targets and prolong further the use of coal fired electricity generation before Stuart Robert can explain why property developer Sunland writes his speeches for him.

 So ends a week of finger-pointing and death-defying, reality-denying stunts featuring real linesmen and a state power supply as Barnaby and his baloney benders straddle a high wire between willful ignorance and stupidity while on the sawdust far below, a crew of Coalition clowns fall over each other to blame Labor for everything from robbing Gonski to acts of God in South Australia.

 Best special effects award goes to Greg Hunt for his replay of Kill Bill. Hunt is just one of a number of Coalition throwbacks still stuck in the glorious past of Dyson Heydon QC’s Royal Commission into the working class.  Special thanks must go to the ABC for their hard work in support of Greg and of the Prime Minister and his attack on renewable energy.  

 ABC Radio National Breakfast eagerly rehashes Hunt’s confected rage in its daily serve of coalition-flavoured commercial tidbits but, as always, there’s a great risk. Will listeners mistake The World’s Greatest Minister’s words for a confession of his own failure as Environment Minister? Or will Turnbull be seen as his target? Hunt’s words could be a cleverly nuanced assessment of his current Prime Minister whose government’s primary vote is now below 40% for the first time according to Newspoll. At 38% the coalition’s primary vote is lower than when Tony Abbott was deposed by Turnbull.

 Plebiscite support is also plummeting – down to 39 from 70 per cent earlier this year according to Newspoll who report that 48 per cent of respondents favour a vote by MPs to resolve the issue, an outrageous suggestion.

 The plebiscite, along with the war on William Shorten, is a legacy of the Lycra-larrikin, shirt-fronter in Tony Abbott’s sophisticated leadership repertoire akin to sprinkling tacks on the road ahead of his pursuers. At the time Abbott was desperate to stay ahead of the pack. Cutting Gonski funding hadn’t won him any advantage, a move Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, tells the nation is vital if we are to fix the great big mess Labor caused by following its ideological obsession with wasting money providing educational opportunity for the poor.

 Federal Education department data published during the week indicates that as many as one in five private schools may be getting more government funding than they should but Birmingham appears to be keener to talk up a “corruption” he perceives at the heart of the Gonski model as a pretext for “rationalising” (always code for cutting) the patchwork of agreements left him by his predecessor Christopher Pyne who was happy to label the report a “conski” without even reading it.  

 Whatever claims he makes, Birmingham is unlikely to recover any public confidence in the government’s intentions in school funding after his predecessor’s performance and especially after the COAG meeting in March when Malcolm Turnbull threatened to withdraw from school funding altogether – public school funding that is, doubtless to the cheers of his right wing minders for whom public education is to be viewed as an encumbrance and a cost.  

 Abbott’s cynical plebiscite tactic was calculated to avoid a parliamentary vote on gay marriage and to keep himself nice as poster boy – pin up for the party’s conservative rump. Cory Bernardi comes out this week with a call for the Liberals to express a nuanced version of “go back to where you came from”, “Islam is not a religion” its climate denial and other planks from the One Nation platform. Someone needs to tell Cory that the project is already well in hand.