“Don’t be a Malcolm”, warned The Toronto Star, as it urged Canadian PM, Justin Trudeau, not to ruffle Mr. Trump’s feathers as Malcolm Turnbull had done by trying to hold him to account over a refugee deal recently. The US President seemed ready to pull the pin on the US-Australia alliance when PM Turnbull foolishly expected him to commit to a pre-existing agreement. Hung up in his ear. It put the wind up the Turnbull government and other post-colonial toadies.
In a sense, the advice is old hat in Canberra. “Don’t be a Malcolm”, is a tip the Australian PM has long since deployed to advantage. This week he looks a lot like The Donald as he continues to turn himself inside out endorsing by evasion WA Liberals’ plan to do a preference swap with One Nation candidates in March.
“Preferences, he says, craftily, are a matter for the party organisation. In a state election, it is a matter for the organisation in Western Australia.”
WA Liberals will deal PHON its preferences in upper house multi-candidate electorates it may win in return for PHON preference support for Liberal candidates in single-member lower house seats, where One Nation victory is unlikely. What Turnbull is evading is the legitimacy, authority and credibility conferred by the deal upon One Nation.
Arthur “safe hands” Sinodinos, telegenic smooth operator and fixer for Coalition media damage control is sent in to peddle the lie that today’s One Nation is a “more sophisticated” party than it was twenty years ago. It’s an astonishing claim for a party which has merely shifted its scapegoats from “The Aboriginal Industry” and “Asians” to “Muslims”.
“Everyone changes in sixteen years” chimes in eternal opportunist John Howard, Great Helmsman of Liberal bigotry and One Nation dog-whistler, whose “babies overboard” lie demonised refugees; helped deny them rightful asylum.
On cue, One Nation anti-Gay Nazi mind control candidate Michelle Meyers, in the WA state seat of Bateman uses Facebook to warn voters abortion creates “societies of cannibals that consume our own progeny”. “Sexually confused” LGBTI people are “indoctrinating our kids” and transgender people are “broken”. In a nod to The Donald, “All terrorists ARE pretty much Muslims” and “the ‘peaceful’ majority [of Muslims] DO support them [terrorists]”.
The PHON preference deal is unlikely to shore up a WA Liberal rout. It may even cost Liberal votes. The PM’s main aim is to woo Pauline. Never in our political history has a PM so completely abandoned what he stood for prior to taking office. Malcolm Turnbull sheds his earlier progressive political identity as if it were a trendy leather jacket.
Not so easily cast off, however, is the historical record. In 2011 Turnbull blew the whistle on his future self.
“Some people would say that as we have a vested interest in coal being burned, we should oppose action on climate change and … muddy the waters on climate science in order to prolong the export billions from coal mining.”
What Turnbull warned against six years ago is precisely what he is doing now. Daily, he steers himself and his government ever further towards the rabid right. His treasurer, Scott Morrison, fondles a lump of coal in the house. His government mounts an energy scare campaign based on outrageous, irresponsible lies and a fortune in coal funding that renewables threaten something he calls “energy security” and promoting a clean coal that doesn’t exist.
Peta Credlin attacks the scare campaign. She helpfully confesses on Sky the claim was groundless: “It wasn’t a carbon tax, as you know … but we made it a carbon tax. We made it a fight about the hip pocket and not about the environment. That was brutal retail politics.”
Josh Frydenberg is sent on to ABC Insiders Sunday to pretend that Turnbull isn’t following Tony Abbott in “making energy about the hip pocket and not the environment”. He patronises Barrie Cassidy and unleashes a torrent of Trump-like inconsistencies and non-sequiturs a morass of logical incoherence to confuse known as Derrida’s Kettle.
“See Barrie, politics is about ideas and when we see a bad idea, we will call it out. And just 18 months ago we had a deal with the Labor Party and legislated through the Parliament a 23.5% Renewable Energy Target. Bill Shorten then fell under the spell of the deep Green left-wing of his party and produced a 50% Renewable Energy Target. And now the Government is prosecuting the case against that target because we believe not only will it lead to higher electricity prices and hurt the hip pocket and cost jobs, but it will also destabilise the system like we have seen in South Australia.”
Frydenberg continues to repeat the false claim that coal is the cheapest source of energy. Cassidy does not counter that coal is cheap only because it is subsidised. Without fossil-fuel subsidies, wind and solar would be instantly cheaper in Australia today. He does, however, tell Frydenberg he’s ignored the environmental costs of coal.
The Minister’s aim is to dump a load of disinformation. A few examples will suffice. He blames renewables for the rising cost of electricity when network costs and soaring gas prices are chief causes. Solar drives down costs and provides huge benefits to the economy. 24, 000 jobs have been created so far. His claim of unreliability is refuted by scientific reports which show that reliable systems need only a mix of solar and wind. As the sun goes down wind generally increases and as winds drop in one region they pick up in another.
Author and essayist and one of Canada’s leading public intellectuals Jeet Heer summarises the government kettle technique as spreading lies while creating a state of dream-like delirium whereby reality and lies cannot be separated, where everything is just a pretext, an excuse or a rationale, and nothing is ever argued in good faith.
With his lies, his gibes at the media and his desperate right wing opportunism, his surrender to the mining industry and powerful backers in business and finance, Turnbull looks and acts more and more like an acolyte of Trump. The parallel extends into the use of invective.
Turnbull echoes The Donald’s attack on “crooked Hillary” as he leads his front bench in name-calling in a puerile assault on Bill Shorten’s phony, parasite and sycophantic character. Liberals bravely say it’s because “he started it” with “Mr. Harbour-side Mansion” but the taunt is Peta Credlin’s. He is on dangerous ground with “phony”.
After boasting of his leadership of the national conversation on the issue of domestic violence at the Parliamentary International Women’s Day Breakfast Thursday there are cuts proposed to women’s refuges. Turnbull vaunts the $200 million to be spent by his government over three years, as Anne Summers reports on advertising, research, information sharing, help lines, counselling services, trials of technology to improve victim safely, training of frontline staff, efforts to stop “revenge porn” and other worthy measures. Yet his government will cut $100 million from women’s refuges in May’s budget by axing the National Affordable Housing Agreement according to a leak last week.
As he fearlessly leads Christian Porter’s monstrous Robo-claw war on the poor, the sick and the vulnerable, Turnbull stands exposed as Tony Abbott in more expensive suit, another junkyard dog but with a more exclusive postcode.
“Don’t be a Malcolm” is, of course, meant as a wry caution to Trudeau not to stuff things up with shirt-fronting stunts. Yet when the lap dog is savaged by the top dog, the world is out of joint. Australia’s “special relationship” with the US is sufficiently notorious to make even Canada wary of its own reception in King Donald’s court.
Can you believe Trump hung up on the Australian Prime Minister?, boggles The Washington Post in the subtext of a piece written when a “high ranking White House official” leaks the call. Now all is thrown into doubt. A terrible, new, world disorder, an anti-Pax Americana, is born out of Mar-a-Lago and New York.
Even dud former treasurer, now work for the dole Ambassador to the US, Joe Hockey is worried by Wednesday.
“When America says ‘America First’, as someone with nearly 20 years in politics, I get that . . . but what the rest of the world is hearing is that they’re coming second and they’re the losers and America is the winner,” he tells the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, before hosing down Turnbull’s failure to get Trump’s nod to the refugee deal.
“Some countries unfairly look to the US to solve every problem the world faces.” We don’t expect leadership.
Hockey even lies that our Manus and Nauru detainees are “economic refugees”. He’s picking up the vibe of the Donald’s approach to truth. Even if his 2014 budget cuts are now “zombie measures”, Joe’s not slow to catch on.
Seventy years of a US-led alliance system may now be undone as The Donald, a con-man occupies the Oval Office, the most inept, insecure and least qualified person ever to have nominally become president lashes out at world leaders and the media; blunders around a Washington he cannot remotely fathom.
His first press conference is train wreck of incoherence, misinformation and bullying in which he attacks the press publicly, even upbraiding the BBC. The “media is the enemy of the American people”. Foreign policy is also a disaster. A US naval ship is buzzed by the Russians in the Black Sea. Russia tests a missile, flouting an agreement and a 300 foot surveillance ship snoops along America’s east coast. Somehow, despite DFAT and our best intel we are blindsided.
Not everyone is afraid, however. The Coalition is in such trouble that it could use the distraction of another military adventure. Clearly a deal is being done with The Donald’s administration to supply more Australian troops to “fight ISIS”. Using the same words every government uses, the Prime Minister and Defence Minister Payne say a US request for troops will be “looked at carefully”. Historically this is code for unqualified approval. Tony Abbott wanted to send even more than requested and made creative suggestions about a crack squad of Aussie troops invading Syria.
Domestically, also MPs take heart. The Donald-monster, a seven year-old in a seventy year old body, inspires our own reactionaries to unleash their own inner enfant terrible; inspires the Turnbull government to greater depths in the politics of denunciation and deceit. Killing Bill Shorten is now the Coalition’s only coherent policy. It’s a tag team free for all wrestling match and the bovver-boys wade in all week.
“Counterfeit Bill” sneers Steve Ciobo while Mouth-that-roars, Christopher Pyne wants us all to know that Shorten, the social sycophant and parasite, holidayed with millionaire Dick Pratt, the cardboard packaging king.
Worse, Pyne, boxes on, as national secretary of the Australian Workers’ Union Shorten signed an agreement with Pratt’s company VISY “which removed maternity leave rights and turned them into unpaid maternity leave”.
It’s a lie. The Labor leader kept maternity leave in the 2002 agreement but the new world disorder discourages truth.
In a Trumpian universe of discourse every little fact must fend for itself against mad King Donald’s whim. No shot is too cheap, too wild or too low for the billionaire vulgarian. Nothing is what it seems. Ears pricked in Canberra, new, improved, Malcolm Mark III, unleashes his own inner pack leader. Now with extra junkyard dog, he sniffs the wind, reverse-engineers himself before our very eyes to maul Shorten and cock a hind leg over Labor’s track record.
Pausing his snarling and yapping only to beg a biscuit from his backers in media, mining and banking while Pauline Hanson’s political love child, the anti-halal crusader gorgeous George Christensen threatens to defect from Mal’s kennel; the Coalition’s Church of infinite breadth which, he says, needs narrowing because it’s squeezing voters and conviction politicians like himself out. Things are crook. The chief National Party whip is its least disciplined member.
“Don’t be a Malcolm” in the original context evokes Turnbull’s unparalleled gift for SNAFU, self-sabotage and gratuitous insult, all in play this week. The PM, whose own election night dummy-spit dismayed a nation, jeers Thursday that Bill Shorten is “defender of the biggest glass jaw in Australian politics”. All hail the crystal mandible.
Yet it’s Turnbull, not Shorten, who appears fragile lately despite the cheering-on he’s received from a tame ABC and others for shouting insults at Bill Shorten. The Coalition believes that painting the Labor leader as a working-class traitor and a social climbing brown-nose will win over an electorate already fed up with petty personality politics.
Desperate to arrest his government’s continuous decline in the polls, Malcolm’s been making a Donald of himself by descending to character attack and ever wilder claims in the manner of a president who publicly upbraids journalists at his first Press conference; lashing out at the lying hounds who report non-fake news merely to attack an administration which, any fool can see on Fox or read on Breitbart, is running “like a fine-tuned machine”.
All is going well according to the Turnbull spin machine which nearly blows a gasket as Scott Morrison goes up river like Mr Kurz and bullies the cross-bench, threatening new taxes if members fail to pass its childcare bill which cuts welfare to fund childcare. It’s a streak of SNAFU genius that only the Turnbull government could achieve and a sign of poor discipline and teamwork under the Prime Minister’s leadership.
Nick Xenephon and his senate duo get it right when they announce they would vote against the bill, saying “pitting battling Australians against Australians needing disability support services is dumb policy and even dumber politics”.
Despite his attack on Shorten, however, Turnbull finds himself boxed in like Tulloch as he wedges himself between his war on the poor and his tax cuts for the rich; a tricky spot he makes impossible by his failure to persuade anyone but the rich that trickle-down economics works; or that Centrelink’s Robo-claw debt collection is a riotous success.
A full third of the benefit of a company tax cut would be enjoyed by just 15 companies in Australia. Once phased in the cut would be worth $6.7 billion per year to these companies, reports The Australia Institute.
On top of that the government has to justify a $50 billion splurge right at the time it’s urging savings, threatening taxes and repeating the meaningless mantra of budget repair. Turnbull bats away the growing pressure for a Royal Commission on banks because Royal Commissions are lengthy and don’t achieve anything, which was no impediment to the $80 m Heydon Royal Commission to get Shorten which was actually extended, at great cost, by Tony Abbott.
Turnbull also bats away an allied proposal that the company tax cuts not apply to the big four as “not practical”.
Having increased debt by $100 billion since Labor left office and with its petrol excise tax and its budget repair levy tax, the Coalition is the big taxing, high spending it accuses Labor of being. Despite its rhetoric, the only jobs created are part time and casual and the economy contracted last quarter. So much for growth and hollow slogans.
Its war on renewables means the team must argue Abbott’s case that it’s only about the hip pocket, not the environment but Credlin’s blown the whistle on that. And you can’t build coal-fired power stations unless you can find investors, no matter how much you fudge the rules of the Clean Energy Foundation’s loan book.
A farrago of lies boosting fossil fuels over wind and sun vitiates debate as a Turnbull government blind-sided by Trump the disruptor and the dawn of a new world disorder, seeks to please its corporate backers and appease its insatiable right wing at any price. No truce is called in its class war on the poor while profiteering banks bleed the nation dry; escape all censure. Heartened by Trump’s trashing of covention, Turnbull’s jeering mob puts the boot into Shorten demeaning itself, the nation’s parliament and all “hardworking, ordinary Australians” it claims to represent.