Turnbull government’s week of desperate, dirty politics.



“We were robbed.” Labor’s lies about Medicare blinded voters to the allure of tax cuts for the rich and funding cuts to hospitals and schools. In Tasmania, the Prime Minister tells the three amigos, Eric Hutchinson, Andrew Nikolic and Brett Whiteley what they want to hear. He’s good at that – and he’s not bad at finger-pointing either. Everything is Labor’s fault again this week from Hazelwood’s closure to South Australia’s aggressive 40% renewable energy target by 2020 which he is hoping we forget was set by the Howard government.

It’s just what the reality evaders and Tony Abbott supporters need to hear. It’s not that they were bad advocates for those who elected them. It’s not that their policies were few and fanciful. It’s that someone else is to blame. It’s a Turnbull government mantra; a futile bid to evade accountability. Don’t expect Nikolic to ask the PM to help him honour his tertiary education funding campaign promise of $150 million to UTAS for a new campus at Inveresk.

Turnbull has been stood up by Joko Widodo whose immense personal popularity has led more than one reporter to ponder whether our PM has something to learn from him. They have much in common. For starters, Joko Widodo is just another puppet of predatory oligarchic elites. Naturally, fluffy puff pieces are being rushed to our screens now in which Jokowi, as he is known, explains his amazing strategy of talking to the people.

Yet suddenly, unfathomably, the man of the people has a riot to attend to; a popular protest where some in the mob seem out for his blood. Some days, as One Nation bush poet Rod Culleton says, dog-shit just sticks to your boot.

Is there an Indonesian solution in the pipeline? Certainly, the problem of what to do with asylum-seekers on Manus and Nauru won’t go away just because we can’t talk about it. Whatever was in the wind, Joko’s choking has meant Turnbull is robbed by fate once again of a chance to pose as a statesman. Now, as Liberal shill Nikki Savva puts it on ABC Insiders Sunday he must go (once again) into “a new week of parliament with nothing”.

Fate also snatches away any chance to chat about the Ubud Writers’ festival where a year ago Jokowi made news for censoring three panel discussions set up to explore the Indonesian genocide of 1965; the brutal repression of the will of the people in which it is estimated up to a million people were executed for being suspected of opposing the government; communists, left-wingers, critics, independent thinkers and suchlike.

Secrecy makes it impossible to know how many died, but our PM will surely want to chat with Widodo about the international panel of judges which concluded this July that Indonesia’s mass killings of 1965 were crimes against humanity, and that the United States, United Kingdom and Australia were all complicit in the crimes.

Luckily for all concerned, an epic extravaganza bursts upon the national stage this week sweeping all before it. Holy smoke! Hazelwood mania is taking the country by storm.

The arresting tale of an elderly coal-fired power station in intensive care battling to come to terms with its mortality seizes the imagination of the nation, Hazelwood Mon Amor is an extraordinary production in which virtuous denim-clad artisan turbine tenders in moccasins and tats heroically contend with impending disaster caused when perfidious socialists collude with greenies to close the noble smoke stacks of a poor community’s life support system.

Hazelwood, we are told, will lose up to a 1000 jobs  – all because of a state Labor government’s avarice in tripling its brown coal royalty and its demonic pursuit of a 40% renewable energy target for green-washed ideological reasons. And it gets worse. Hazelwood’s closure will cripple a vibrant LaTrobe Valley economy. Without Hazelwood, the state will go from a net energy exporter to a net importer. Next thing you know, Victoria will be forced to suck on the withered tit of Bass-link. It’s the last blow for coal, we are told, as if that’s a bad thing.

Hazelwood is a post-truth drama. The Andrews government’s new royalty merely brings Victoria into line with NSW; its 40% renewables by 2025 target sees it join ACT, Queensland and South Australia, states with more ambitious targets than the federal government which has cut its target causing a three year drought in investment.   And Victoria’s target will create employment. Victoria’s Minister for Energy and Climate, Lily D’Ambrosio says her state’s scheme is expected to generate 3,000 jobs by 2020, before any costs were imposed, and then another 4,000 additional jobs by 2023/24.

Yet the government of the turning bull never lets fact spoil its story. The loss of 1000 jobs is tiny compared with an SEC workforce slashed from 11,000 in the late 1980s to 2600 in Jeff Kennett’s newly privatised state power grid which left one third of families in Moe and Morwell without bread-winners. Nor are the workers merely cast aside penniless. The CFMEU, demonised by the Coalition, has negotiated $300,000 plus redundancy packages for workers. The confected outrage has nothing to do with compassion for the workers or their families.

The Hazelwood saga is scripted by Peabody Energy, the world’s largest coal-mining company in which the closure of mines and power stations is reduced to a choice between jobs or coal. The environment can fend for itself; what really matters is “energy security” another Peabody concept, that only coal or gas-fired generation can bestow and something archly referred to as base-load power which cannot possibly be achieved without base-load generators burning coal or perhaps powered by nuclear reactors.

Yet north German states Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Schleswig-Holstein already operate on 100% net renewable energy, mostly wind; trading with each other and neighbours and without baseload power stations.

As Christine Milne put it ‘We are now in the midst of a fight between the past and the future.’ The refutation of the baseload fairy tale and other myths falsely denigrating renewable energy are a key part of that struggle.”

Once again a tamed ABC and a bought mainstream commercial media do big mining’s dirty work for it on behalf of a crisis-ridden, coal-powered Coalition desperately in need of a tactical diversion if not aerial support in its jihad against renewables, refugees, reporters or anyone who might tell truth to power.

Our ABC blitzes the airwaves, sensationalising the long overdue closure of brown coal-burning Hazelwood, the dirtiest power station in the developed world, a dinosaur of energy generation. Josh Frydenberg lies that the Andrews government has driven the operator out of town while French owner Engie repeatedly explains that its decision to close the fifty year old plant is economic; nothing to do with state government policies.

Aunty’s obsession almost eclipses the chaos in the Senate as Liberal stooge Bob Day, who even managed to vote to cut family allowances, resigns as the High Court prepares to get the last laugh on One Nation’s Rob Culleton, an amateur stand-up comedian who claims “four glasses of wine” may have caused him to incorrectly declare he was eligible to stand for the Senate.

Culleton also believes that the High Court has been acting illegally in not issuing writs in the name of the Queen but that will not prevent it sitting in judgement on his eligibility to be a senator given that he was a convicted felon at the time he stood for office, a conviction that was subsequently quashed. What may not help Culleton defend his false declaration is his apparent insolvency, broadly defined as owing more money than you can pay back.

The One Nation funster appears to have a liquidity crisis, owing around $5 million to Wesfarmers and a bank. But there’s no justice, as Rod himself is fond of pointing out. Don’t get him started on the Family Court.

Being insolvent did not preclude Bob Day from voting nine out of ten times with the government when technically his financial interest in his own North Adelaide electoral office building may also have made him ineligible to stand for the senate. The High Court will do its job on Bob and it is likely to find a recount is required in SA’s ballot for the senate, an event which pollsters predict could produce another Labor senator.

If Culleton abstains from voting as promised, Labor need only two cross-bench votes to defeat government legislation. Whilst Turnbull maintains that the cross-bench may yet prove biddable, news that the government was aware of Day’s financial interest in his Adelaide office at least since before the election will make it hard to dispel the suspicion that his government was keener on Day’s vote than its legality. Even harder to evade is the impression that its high-handed arrogance and has caused the born to rule party to become unstuck.

The government went to some expense, it seems, to buy Day’s vote. The revelation that in November 2015 the Coalition donated two million dollars to Adelaide’s North East Vocational College knowing that Day was a director and a former chairman of ten years’ standing has been met with strenuous denial from government despite the existence of photographs showing Simon Birmingham visiting the college with Day six months earlier.

When the going gets tough the tough become ludicrous, at least according to Bill Shorten who has dismissed as very silly indeed Peter “Nutso” Dutton’s desperate attempt to up his government’s cruelty to asylum-seekers to divert attention from its self-inflicted chaos.

Is it legal? Immigration Minister Peter Dutton talks all over Fran Kelly Monday when she dares to question the government’s proposal to banish forever those being tortured on Nauru and Manus Island. It’s his latest ploy in a plan to wedge Labor on immigration and paint it as soft on border protection. Thomas Albrecht, the United Nations refugee agency’s regional representative says the bill appears to breach Article 31 of the Refugee Convention, which prohibits refugees being penalised for seeking protection in an irregular manner.

The Attorney-General’s department has given its assurance that the proposed bill is constitutional and it meets our international obligations, splutters Dutton. Enough said. He brushes the ABC aside lightly as befits a minister whose beef is that the public broadcaster is packed with lefties and has a jihad against Immigration. The paranoid border protector explains to mate Ray Hadley, the ABC is part of a conspiracy. “Sometimes, particularly through some of the left wing media outlets, Border Force gets a pretty rough time.”

Imagine all the good news stories Aunty could be reporting that Immigration has to tell about indefinite detention, self-harm on Nauru or the physical and sexual abuse of those in its care. No wonder Dutton is forced to set up Border Force podcasts to get out the positive accounts, insights and reflections about feeling trapped forever on an island hell-hole.

Article 31 of the United Nations’ 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees states that signatories “shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees”.

Dutton is on thin ice. His claim that due diligence has been done by the Attorney-General is unfortunate after Brandis’ false claim about his government’s citizen-stripping bill having been vetted or his recent misleading of parliament that the solicitor general had consented to becoming a dog on the Attorney-General’s leash.

The act of calculated cruelty is the latest in a series of desperate attempts by a faction-ridden Turnbull government to divert attention from its bungling incompetence and its delusion that is above the law. Is it so desperate to appease its xenophobic right wing and to arrest its plummeting popularity that it will stoop to persecute the weakest and most wounded?

It is unconscionably inhumane to further crush the spirits of those already suffering the cruelty of indefinite detention, deprivation and brutality. It seems a bizarre response to the UN’s report on Manus and the endemic suffering and institutionalised abuse exposed by the reports leaked by the Guardian Australia earlier this year.

Some call it folly. Bernard Keane and others point out that the attempted wedging of Labor will not work. The Australian electorate no longer trusts the government much more than the opposition on asylum-seekers. Polls now indicate at best a two point advantage over Labor.

What is clear is that the proposed bill reflects the moral bankruptcy of a Coalition conflicted internally; irreparably divided if not crippled by its capture by its conservative rump, a government of bungling incompetence fit only to turn crisis into catastrophe. Its backers call the tune on energy and the environment, a coherent if shameless capitulation to big mining, big business, big banking. Yet its latest move reveals a heart of darkness.

In the administration or systematised wilful neglect of asylum seekers and refugees on Nauru and Manus, torture has become our government’s policy.  Is it now so desperate to boost its stakes that it is prepared to resort to sadism?


2 thoughts on “Turnbull government’s week of desperate, dirty politics.

  1. My goodness, so much to write about in one short week, Urban! Love your coverage of this Keystone Cops government we are enduring. Really, you couldnt make it up, could you? Re Bob Day lease and the Abbott government agreement with him in 2014, if the High Court rules him ineligible at the 2016 election, and the agreement dodgy, what penalty/punishment should the government receive for wilfully “misleading the people” ? Makes you wonder what else they get up to.


    1. Thank you, Jaquix. Wilful deception and misleading conduct are par for the course with this mob. Sadly, their shenanigans with Day may incur censure but no real penalty.


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