Month: May 2017

Trump presidency in real danger; the fall-out will be wide.

trump mad

“I put lipstick on a pig,” he said. “I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is.” He went on, “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.”

Tony Schwartz, ghostwriter of The Art of the Deal – for Donald Trump.


“I get great intel … people brief me on great intel every day,” Donald Trump boasts. You can tell he’s just busting to share. Show his visitors what a big shot he is. He loves to be liked. Instead, his net approval rating is below zero although he can boast he’s the only president to achieve this within his first 100 days in the White House.

Suddenly The Donald’s spilling the beans, sharing all the classified dot points he has been entrusted with about the latest, HUGE ISIS plot and everything.   A short attention-span is his characteristic, says Tony Schwarz who wrote The Art of the Deal for Trump, it’s impossible to keep him focussed on anything except his own self-aggrandisement.

Trump is big-noting himself to Russian foreign minister, salty Sergei Lavrov and Russian ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, 10 May, at a private meeting to which Russian state media only was invited. The White House, for once, is being prudent. Two years ago, Lavrov was recorded calling the Saudis “fucking imbeciles”.

But Trump has more to over share. “I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job.” The New York Times confirms from official documents. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

Later The Donald claims he has a right to blab. Is the president trying to impeach himself? Or is this some new post-truth defence against collusion? The nation is flabbergasted this week by the sensational revelation that Donald Trump has shared classified intelligence with the Russians while bragging; showing off about all the secret stuff he knows.

The extraordinary events are the latest episodes of Mar a Lago Hillbillies, a top-rating US presidential soap opera about the rise of a tangerine-tanned former reality TV boss and his gold-digging family. This week in Russia-gate the show blends all the electrifying suspense of the McCarthy era red witch hunt with the Whodunit mystery of Watergate.

Luckily, Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Showboat Bishop drops everything and dashes to help Trump, nine days later. Be there for him, almost. While she could not possibly know what he’s said, she’s sort of right behind him, more or less.

JBish is also in New York for an audience with wacky war criminal Henry Chicken-hawk Kissinger, a step vital to Australia’s application to join the UN Human Rights Council. There’s so much to gain from the wily old wire-tapper.

Julie knows her mentor once helped stage-manage genocide in East Timor. Right wing Latin American dictators who killed trade union leaders? Henry helped overthrow a democratically elected government in Chile. He urged Richard Nixon to wire-tap his opponents, including staffers and journalists. Julie sighs. So much to learn. So little time.

Kissinger got a Nobel Prize for his efforts to end the Vietnam War. These included extending it for five pointless years and  paving the way for Pol Pot and the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge.

“Military men are just dumb, stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy,” he says in Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s The Final Days. Comedian Tom Lehrer protested that Kissinger’s Peace Prize made political satire obsolete.

Julie shyly reminds Henry how her country loves Netanyahu and other strong leaders. How being strong helps Australia keep its borders protected; keep ourselves tough and buff. Just look at Peter Dutton’s wonderfully humane handling of the close of Manus Island. Exemplary. No-one lectures us on human rights. We are proud of our record.

Australia’s treatment of those now in their fourth year in gaol on the islands of Manus and Nauru is “not as a negative at all” as far as our UN bid is concerned, she says, just a way of stemming the flow of people-smuggling and preventing deaths at sea. Naturally, we’ve had to move things along on Manus which is due to be demolished at the end of June.

But we’ve made provision. A few can go to East Lorengau where they face beatings from locals who hate them.

The rest can go to Moresby where they won’t be beaten up or robbed if they stay inside cheap hotels. There are no jobs there anyway. Or they can return to certain persecution. Or get swapped to the US – if and when they’ve passed the “extreme vetting”, a little something Donald plans to whip up later, that he says will be imposed on a deal he detests.

When it’s invented, extreme vetting will detect “American values;” screen out anyone who is not prepared to “embrace a tolerant American society.” Our own PM has a similar scheme in mind to help us select the right type of migrant.

Peter’s also doing terrific stuff rounding up asylum seekers who just rip off tax-payers by living here and not producing any paper-work. He’ll deport 7,500 into war zones and further persecution and to countries with the death penalty.

Of course, our AFP helps prosecutors in countries which have the death penalty, but the worldwide abolition of the death penalty still remains one of Australia’s goals. We have to be practical and “appropriate“.  JBish puts a lot of thought into her vocabulary. You can tell. A cut in her budget has just gone into $300,000 extra funding for the AFP.

But Trump’s in trouble. Australia’s Foreign Minister releases a statement in support of his indefeasible behaviour.

“… The conversations the President has had, are, to our understanding, within the type of conversations that one would expect leaders to hold,”

Julie Bishop tells every nationwide press outlet. One does one’s best.

Betraying top secret information – bragging about sacking your nut case FBI director? It’s all bog-standard, run of the mill diplomacy, really, even if, as the New York Times observes, it rather strengthens the idea it’s intended to dispel. Surely no-one doubts “the president dismissed Comey primarily because of the bureau’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives?”

Amazingly, incredibly, Bishop’s defence is simultaneously expressed by Teresa May and a swarm of other US bot-flies in the coalition of the willing who all chorus their independent, spontaneous support. Orchestrated damage control? Never.

If he ever read anything, Trump would take little heart in Bishop’s vacuous endorsement but he’s on to his next big crisis.

Former FBI Director James Comey claims Trump asked him to lay off investigating former national security advisor and Turkish Foreign Agent Michael Flynn because – apart from illegally secretly discussing US sanctions with the Russian Ambassador to the US last December – Mike’s a real nice guy.  I mean I really want him back on the team.

Trump also asked Comey about imprisoning reporters for publishing classified information, reports The New York Times.

Whatever he thinks of muzzling the press, Big Jim, who loathes Trump and everything he represents. Schwarz identifies the essential Trump as his willingness to run over people, the gaudy, tacky, gigantic obsessions, the absolute lack of interest in anything beyond power and money.” Comey formally notes the attempt to obstruct the course of justice. Things go pear-shaped for the orange Commander in Chief soon after. Hugely.

Trump hasn’t helped his case. Bad-mouthing Comey to Lavrov and Kislyak is not a wise career move.

A bombshell follows.  A special counsel is appointed, the widely-respected former FBI Director, Robert Mueller. He’s set to look into “The Russian Thing” as Trump calls it – and anything else he thinks looks fishy such as the Flynn Thing or the Blab Thing. The nutcase thing will probably take care of itself. The inquiry is now a criminal investigation.

Investigation of team Trump’s Russian links moves up a notch even briefly bumping news of the world laptop terror scoop. But it’s not entirely eclipsed. The Donald has confirmed he can’t be trusted with classified information. It will prove a most costly blunder – even if the details of the laptop blab sound suspiciously like a setup.

Classified Israeli intelligence warns the US that ISIS would use laptops to bring down planes. Terrorists may carry on laptops and use them to detonate explosives in the aircraft’s cabin, warn the spooks. News even emerges of a foiled plot involving an explosive-filled iPad. Talk about product placement. Details, naturally, are top secret.

For us, the jig is up. Australia’s government leaps aboard the nearest flight of hysteria to ban laptops and tablets from the cabin. Safer, by far, to stow devices in the cargo hold where an explosion may only bring down the entire aircraft.

Yet it’s not just about the laptops. Trump has named the city where the diabolical plot is being hatched. He’s identified an agent, causing a furore among US intelligence officers and their Israeli counterparts. Can he escape this lynch mob?

Trump digs deep. Using his  signature double switcheroo, he denies he’s blabbed, then blabs about his blabbing.

For Tony Schwarz, lying is The Donald’s second nature. He believes whatever he says at any given moment is true – or sort of true – or at least ought to be true. He lies strategically. He has a complete lack of conscience about it.

As one Washington wag puts it, George Washington was a president who couldn’t tell a lie; Richard Nixon was a president who couldn’t tell the truth. Donald Trump can’t tell the difference. Luckily a bit of gun-running has to be done.

Peddling weapons to Saudi Arabia turns out to be TREMENDOUS; helps rescue Trump from a slump. The human hyperbole toddles off into the record books, extended family in tow, to clinch the biggest arms deal in American history.

Cue massive spontaneous applause from the conga line of suck-holes. Our ABC describes the arms sale at first as part of the president’s focus on “forging peace” in the Middle East. Even The White House modestly calls it, “fighting terrorism and bringing safety, opportunity and stability to the war-ravaged Middle East.” Later ABC reports go big on dollar values.

At $110 billion immediately and $350 billion over ten years, it’s a neat deal which son-in-law Jared Kushner has been keenly negotiating and will help the Saudis supply arms to Syria, Egypt, Lebanon. It is also part of US strategy to create a bulwark against Iran.  Relax. Australians can still feel secure, ten per cent of all US weapons exports will still go to us.

Trashier than the Kardashians but with sensational appearances from not one but two former FBI Directors and a guest spot from the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who is visiting Washington not only to watch on as his Embassy goons beat up US protestors but to stop Trump arming Kurdish fighters in Syria, Mar a Lago Hillbillies has a breathtakingly unpredictable plot.

Sharing many themes and values with much of Australian politics, Mar a Lago Hillbillies  is all about heroic martyrdom. Serving hardworking Americans by cutting taxes for the wealthy and slashing services to the poor while raising pensioners’ energy bills and elevating global warming and boosting atmospheric pollution, a virtuous, yet totally misunderstood but beloved popular leader is persecuted by left media and toxic Washington insiders. Out to get him.

Just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean the bastards aren’t out to get you, as Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton well know. And it’s politically expedient to play the victim. “The single greatest witch hunt of a politician in US history”, gripes The Donald, perhaps the greatest witch hunter yet to inhabit the Oval Office, as his sacking of Comey backfires.

So unfair. A soft political coup or even an auto da fe may in fact await America’s presidential heretic. Despite stiff competition, he remains, by far, its most dangerously inept leader. But his biggest sin is that he won’t take advice. Mike Pence disappears. Washington gossips about Trump’s removal from office on the grounds of mental incapacity.

“They will say he has Alzheimer’s” claims pal Roger Stone, a “sinister Forrest Gump”, a mutual friend of Trump’s mentor, Roy Cohn, the lawyer who earned unparalleled emnity as Senator Joe McCarthy’s chief witch-hunter. Naturally attracted to The Donald, by his values, Stone is a self-professed “dirty political trickster” from Richard Nixon’s 1972 campaign and an inveterate attention-seeker for whom notoriety is better than no press at all. He warns of a cabinet coup.

Even without Stone’s conspiracy theory, Trump’s abuse of Comey is a tad ungrateful. Comey helped Trump’s campaign and caused a furore by reviving claims Hilary Clinton made “careless use” of a private email server. It remains an unprecedented public discussion and communication with Congress  by an FBI Director just prior to an election.

Could they be frenemies? There was a moment of bromance. On 22 January, during a ceremony, Trump called Comey over from where he was hiding against the curtain to hug him in public, a gesture which Comey found “disgusting“.

More repugnant was Trump’s attempt to recruit the FBI Director at private dinner. He asked me to pledge my personal loyalty, says Comey who Cordelia-like offered his honesty instead, offended by what he saw as an egregious impropriety.

Trump summarily dismissed his FBI head. Despite plenty of gratuitous slagging, he’s providing conflicting accounts for firing him. Comey fudged the Clinton case, (although he was full of praise at the time).  Comey’s a “show-boat”. Nobody likes him. “The Russian thing” is a hoax and a tax-payer funded charade. Now Comey’s a nutcase.

Is it a clumsy Trump cover up? Almost certainly. The FBI director discussed his agency’s investigation into Russian meddling in the US presidential election – and possible Russian ties to the Trump campaign – before a Senate committee. The timing is suspicious. So, too is Trump’s attempt to threaten Comey that he may have been taped.

The tape threat is Trump’s desperation bid to salvage his story that Comey promised him three times that he was not under investigation. Comey, naturally, denies this vehemently. For his part, Trump denies ever asking Comey to ease off his pal, nice guy and national security adviser, Russophile and foreign agent mad Michael Flynn.

Complicating matters for Trump are reliable reports that Comey filed a memo documenting the President’s request. An FBI Director’s memos would be admissable evidence in the current subsequent criminal inquiry or any other.

Comey’s friend, Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, the US establishment’s think tank and editor-in-chief of the Lawfare blog is in no doubt about what happened:

“Trump fired Jim Comey because the most dangerous thing in the world, if you’re Donald Trump, is a person who tells the truth, is dogged, you can’t control, and who is as committed as Comey is to the institutional independence of an organization that has the power to investigate you,” Wittes tells NewsHour’s William Brangham.

Trump cries foul. The witch-finder is victim of a witch hunt. One of the least stable, most insecure occupants of The White House beyond even Nixon, Trump’s paranoid attacks on Hilary Clinton, Obama, Washington, Mexicans, Muslims, the media, aliens in our midst and other “real bad dudes” are his signature theme. He has only one other claim to fame.

No. It’s not the abomination of his second attack on Obamacare, his affordable health care Act, which will deny 24 million Americans health care. Nor his anti-Muslim travel bans. Trump’s biggest contribution is the alternative fact.

“Even my enemies would say there is no Russia collusion.” It’s not just “Look over there!”- but, “There is no “there” over there.”  He’s got millions of Americans believing him. Yet, just in case, as events unfold, he’s quick to change his story.

Now a special counsel is on his case, Trump makes it clear, Friday, he’s only speaking for himself. No-one else in the team. He, himself, directly, no Russian collusion. OK? He pulls Sean Spicer from the White House Podium.

It won’t help his cause. It won’t undo the egregious impropriety with which he has conducted himself. It won’t erase the impression that he is a president who holds the protocols of his office in contempt. Even his latest BFF, the Turnbull government, cannot save The Donald from himself.

He’s wedged himself. Now the 45th President of the United States faces an alienated James Comey on the outer, while on the inside, special counsel, former FBI Director Robert Mueller approaches with his signature painstaking forensic particularity. He has Trump’s number.  Things will turn ugly, however, as the cornered beast lashes out.

Commentators on ABC Insiders Sunday are unanimous in reassuring Australians that the impeachment of a president is a long and difficult process. That’s not the point. Trump’s presidency is already irrevocably damaged.

Inept, inexperienced, chaotically disorganised and overwhelmingly ill-informed, Trump has destroyed whatever credibility or legitimacy he may once have claimed.

A big arms deal with the Saudis won’t save his presidency, however much he trumpets its success or however much the ABC repeats the price tag. Nor will all of the accommodation, the normalisation and the flattery that our government and other US vassals have lavished upon his presidency avert the rapidly building crisis.  We need to get real. Our accommodation of the monster has already cost us dearly.

For all its entertainment and action-packed shock value, the Mar a Lago Hillbillies is likely to have a very bad ending. None of us is likely to come out of this well.

A dodgy bastards’ budget of lies.

 

scoMo

 

“Rather than justice for all, we are evolving into a system of justice for those who can afford it. We have banks that are not only too big to fail, but too big to be held accountable.” 

― Joseph E. Stiglitz


“Pay your staff, you dodgy bastard,” a nineteen year old Sydney FC fan bellows from the stand last Sunday night at the A-League Sydney Grand Final. He’s calling out 36 year old celebrity chef, George Calombaris, whose restaurant group underpaid by $2.6 million 162 of his 430 workers over six years, an oversight which has put Calombaris off-side with the Fair Work Ombudsman, the odd hospitality industry employee, if not an entire nation.

“Pay your staff …” resonates in a week of Fairfax sackings and news of widespread exploitation, underpayment or wage slavery in a range of workplaces and locations including our homes. Despite unpaid internships, the abolition of Sunday penalty rates, cash in hand underpayment, casualisation, the rise in part time work and the use of “contractors” most of us prefer that workers be paid what they are due. Even if we have a problem paying women.

It’s a national trait. Australians will speak up for justice, however, much it may suit government to invoke our law-abiding compliance as it goes about dog-whistling our supremacists with their demands that all migrants be assimilated into “multicultural” submission. To the government’s dismay, our values have a way of finding their own voice, just as its own actions, in its “full astern” budget this week, betray a colossal, cynical pragmatism.

The Coalition is up to its own dodgy bastardry. Its big-spending, high taxing budget, “rests on principles of fairness, security and opportunity” says Morrison who will say or do anything. It’s only about its own survival; a frantic attempt to arrest the PM’s diabolical unpopularity and to cut and run from its 2014 Abbott budget fiasco.

It’s an amazing backflip. The debt and deficit disaster? Never happened. The Malcolm Roberts-esque mantra that “we do not have a revenue problem”, maintained for three years, is suddenly dropped, along with Neoliberalism.

The expenditure problem has overnight become a virtue, provided it is “good debt” ie debt the government likes.

Now the government proposes to raise taxes from middle income earners in the form of a 2.5 % Medicare levy and it will get banks to pay a new tax although, once again it will persist with the fiction that this is a levy.

Proving he has not lost his sense of irony, the Treasurer keeps a straight face as he claims Medicare is guaranteed. At least Peter Costello could smirk as he told us his new charter of budget honesty would banish all mendacity.

Above all, ScoMo screams, “this is an honest budget”. Unlike the last one?

It’s an honest budget all right, apart- that is –  from the dishonest bits such as the Medicare guarantee.  The process sounds OK. Any funds remaining from the increased Medicare levy – after paying for the National Insurance Disability Scheme (NDIS) –  (already funded by Labor) will be paid into a Medicare Guarantee Fund

“Proceeds from the Medicare levy will be paid into the fund. An additional contribution from income tax revenue will also be paid into the Medicare Guarantee Fund to make up the difference.” Provided it passes the senate.

It’s OK- provided the government does not fund the costs of public hospitals. The costs of Medicare are re-defined solely as a combination of expenditure from the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) but minus the commonwealth’s contribution to public hospitals.

Although Morrison claims greater transparency over Medicare funding, transparency is just another dodgy buzz-word. It will, as The Grattan Institute’s Stephen Duckett points out, be much harder to follow Medicare funding.

At the heart of the Morrison magic pudding is the wild assumption that wages will increase. On ABC Insiders Sunday he talks up wage growth to 3%. There are similarly unrealistic expectations placed upon commodity prices.

Surely it would have been more prudent just to have postponed the business tax cuts, handouts which in Thursday’s Question Time, after some embarrassing fumbling, he admits will be $65.4 billion over ten years.

But no. After years of pretending that we battled economic headwinds, suddenly the world economy is on the up. Good times are just around the corner – unless you are unemployed or indigent. The war on the poor continues.

Continued is the demonising of our unemployed as unworthy; dole bludgers, druggies and a burden on society. There will be drug tests, a failed US policy, and extra tests to check that you are single and a beaut three strikes and you’re out tolerance of slip ups in honouring your Centrelink obligations. Robo-debt could be put on to that.

It’s another echo of yet another failed US tough on crime policy and a clear sign that the government is posturing.

The all-new-tough-on-bludgers-crackdown will tackle what government claims are “around 40,000 people(who) appear to be wilfully and systematically gaming the welfare system with no intention of working”. Assuming, of course, that work is available – although work could be redefined on a very part-time basis. Technically, to keep unemployment statistics off the scale, you are employed on one hour’s paid employment per week.

The dole bludger bashing is a divisive, dishonest stunt. Morrison claims it will save $632m over 5 years. As Greg Jericho patiently points out in The Guardian, however, it’s less than 0.1% of total welfare expenditure.

Budget 2017 seeks to punish those out of work. It’s somehow their fault. It caricatures the jobless as too drunk or stoned to turn up to a job interview. It substitutes puritanical political posturing, a justification of denial and withholding for any genuine attempt to share resources fairly according to need. It also punishes by neglect.

It neglects women. There is not one budget measure to address gender inequality; to promote equal pay.  The environment doesn’t get a look in either. Nor does climate change. These matters are clearly all dealt with.

Work, on the other hand, is fetishised, idealised as inherently ennobling in a cruel parody of the harsh and often demeaning realities of the 2017 workplace where exploitation and expendability are defended as “flexibility”. Again the government reveals itself to be totally disconnected from the realities of the modern workplace.

Work is increasingly rare, unfair and insecure. Penny Vickers, a Brisbane night-fill worker, has just won a nine-month legal battle against a dodgy 2011 Enterprise Bargaining Agreement which saw her pay drop by $30 per week below the award wage. Abandoned by her union, amazingly, heroically, she successfully battles alone.

Fairfax, which blew the whistle on the injustice, is in her corner-  yet to The Australian, to stand up for your rights is defiance, even if it delights in the case because it says the Fair Work Act 2009, a replacement for Howard’s Work Choices 2005 is a Labor Law and because it senses endless opportunities for union-bashing.

Forced to represent herself in the Fair Work Commission, Ms Vickers has taken on the power of Coles and the silks of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) a monster union, some 200,000 strong nationally.

Her win is a rare yet significant victory as workers battle to extract themselves from deals which the right-wing SDA has concluded with a range of major companies including Coles and Woolworths. The conservative SDA sets out to offer maximum industrial co-operation and minimal disruption to employers.  Is it a fake union?

This EBA affects 77,000 workers yet under Section 193 of The Fair Work Act, if one worker can prove that he or she is not better off overall than under the award, the FWC cannot approve it. The FWC estimates that 56% of workers could be affected. Wages withheld amount to $77 million.

Across other workplaces, there could be $300 million in underpaid wages every year. Yet it’s never just about the money.

“Pay your staff … ” has a larrikin edge; an echo of the spirit of the fight for fair pay and conditions between the owners and the workers of the Shearers’ strike of 1891, a harshly suppressed yet nation-changing insurrection which, today, thanks to dodgy bastard John Howard would be classed as “an illegal industrial action”.

Nation-building irreverence, independence or wilful insubordination are unlikely, however, to feature in any Coalition government citizenship test. Increasingly, as Fairfax workers discover, again, to their cost, this week, the spirit of the age is not agility and innovation but rather servile docility and subservience to dodgy paymasters with corporate loyalties which put profits before people.

The madly accelerating gap between capital and labour that threatens our entire society is thrown into stark relief. 115 full-time workers lose their jobs while executives get a pay rise for their part in reducing costs.

Richard Ackland quotes business writer Michael West’s claim this week that four top executives at Fairfax “were secretly gifted $6.7 million in share options in a transaction which the company failed to disclose in its annual report. The sneaky pay deal involved half of a $13.4 million options package awarded by the board.”

$13 million would help journalists’ salaries or even defer the planned reduction of payments for contributions.

Yet it’s my way or the highway in an increasingly autocratic and pro-government Fairfax management culture. Mike Seccombe reminds us Paddy Manning was summarily dismissed in 2013 for criticising the “rubbishy” sponsored corporate editorial material and “PR-driven churnalism” increasingly evident in The Financial Review.

Former Liberal Party staffer James Chessell was appointed to run federal politics, business and world coverage in February, an event which a striking worker tells Seccombe is extraordinary.

Workplace agreements are built on the premise that master knows best not that old Aussie egalitarian nonsense that Jack’s as good as his master. The new breed of Fairfax master, moreover is a creature of the investor class. And for the investor the firms’ once great papers are now valued solely in terms of their profitability.

Reporters investigations and all the rest of their craft are now merely ways to drag traffic to Domain, Fairfax’s money-making real estate site.  TPG offers to buy the business as it did with Myer in 2006.

The offer is rejected but is likely to resurface. As Ian Verrender warns, a successful bid will usher in a similar pattern of asset-stripping that has left Myer a shell of its former self. Relisted on the stock exchange and floated to investors at $4.10 in 2009, the company has declined in value ever since is now worth $1 per share

But Fairfax reporters stopped work, in part, to call attention to a matter of national security far graver than any trumped up terror threat. Our once robust national press is about to collapse. A pillar of democracy is in danger.

It’s not just us. The Australian could have the plug pulled at any moment. The News Corp tabloids are struggling. The Guardian’s in a perilous financial position. It’s a looming national crisis.”

For Peter Dutton, however, it’s a real bonus. The Immigration Minister has yet to account for his utter refusal to produce any evidence for his outrageous slur that asylum-seekers on Manus Island were fired upon in retaliation for some unspecified sexual abuse. Nothing but good can come of the loss of Fairfax, in his opinion.

Speaking on Sydney’s (Fairfax-owned) 2GB on Thursday, in his regular sledging session, he puts the boot in.

“I thought the productivity of Fairfax went up last week with the strike. I don’t think lives were affected one way or another,” he sneers. “I think people realise you can live without reading Fairfax newspapers. I think it’s a better way to lead your life – that would be my advice.”

Being held to account is something which does not sit well with Mr Dutton. Nor does it suit our banking oligopoly which are being asked to pay a new tax, a notion they claim which was foist upon them with no consultation. Consultation in this context means a chance to give the government its instructions. There will be hell to pay.

Already, Ian Narev, CEO of The Commonwealth bank who was paid 12.3 million last year, has told the Treasurer that the bank will have to pass on the new tax. Morrison is not budging – not at this stage anyway. He must know that our banks are the most profitable in the world. Their profits in 2016 were a staggering 3% of our total GDP.

Nor is ScoMo in any way discombobulated by the threat. The government will still get the money. In an interesting but equally predictable twist, the banksters are following the same script as the miners who successfully forced a backdown seven years ago for the Rudd Labor government. Bernard Keane says they are recycling the same lies.

The rest of the scenario is quite different. Back in Rudd’s day there was Tony Abbott to lead an opposition in a litany of lies about how the proposed super profits tax would ruin the miners and the entire country.  And some Australians actually liked mining companies, apart from those who held shares in them.

Both these factors do not apply to the Big Four banks of our nation who contrive amongst themselves to run a ludicrously profitable monopoly – in between running governments and Prime Ministers. The banks, do, it is true have a Fairfax paper, The Financial Review on side and there has been the predictable bugling from Simon Breheny at the IPA, while for Paul Kelly at The Australian, politics is knocked off course by the populist drumbeat.

Putting to one side how many of these commentators may own bank shares, which despite the banks’ propaganda number a swag of institutional and foreign investors as opposed to the mainly Mum and Dad investor ploy – expect to hear more of how the process has been at fault and how investors will be driven elsewhere. There will be a lot of bumf about our need for a strong an profitable banking sector rather than four profiteering banks.

Expect to hear how the banks saved us from the GFC and not a word about how the Rudd government successfully protected the banks. Expect to hear less about the reality. How the government is collecting $6 billion over four from our big four banks while contracting to deliver them $7 billion in company tax cuts over a decade.

What is needed, however, is some cheeky teenager in the stands to shout:

“Pay your dues you dodgy bastards.”

Stop grovelling to Trump; stand up to Dutton and for Australia Mr Turnbull.

trump and turnbull

Capping a week of monster surprises, Mitch Fifield, Arts Minister 2.0 , announces government will help media moguls to become even more powerful just as the PM is due to sup with Rupert Murdoch and a conga line of suck-holes at a nosh-up for Australian-US sycophants on USS Intrepid, a New York war-porn museum inside a WW2 aircraft carrier, Thursday.

The billionaires’ relief package is timed for Turnbull’s emergency dash to kiss Rupert’s ring and a unique opportunity to fawn over Rupert’s protégé, Donald the Wunderkind, Trump, while Trump still believes he’s trashed Obamacare, bigly.

Should our government get its way, however, with its media laws, Australians could be reading only of the President’s amazing victory.

While changes proposed will need parliamentary approval, they include repealing the two out of three cross media ownership laws and the 75% reach rule which currently prevent Australia’s media giants from consolidating.

Turnbull’s backers hope there’s a poll bounce in truckling to Trump but either way, it’s a key step in the Coalition’s philanthropic mission to the rich. The $12 billion dollar little Aussie battler could do with a bit of a hand up just as the nation needs more media concentration if it is to be certain that the news it hears and sees is government-approved.

Will Fairfax now at last be free to marry Nine Entertainment? How will the proposed new laws help the 125 workers or the 25% of its journalists Fairfax just made redundant? Do the new “reach” and “two out three” “reforms” allow a virtual monopoly? No time for any further discussion. Look over there, it’s the Ugly Budget Show.

But first a word from funny man and Trump fan Happy Harold Mitchell, chairman of Free TV Australia, the industry group that says it represents the free-to-air networks. Mitchell argues that the changes were needed to help protect Australian media companies from overseas technology giants, such as Facebook and Google.

“Broadcasters must be able to effectively compete with the giant multinational media companies taking advertising dollars out of Australia,” Mitchell says straight-faced. Yet Murdoch’s US business was able to take 4.5 billion from its Australian business in 2015 virtually tax free. Expect Scott Morrison to offer more of the same hogwash Tuesday.

Tuesday will be huge. Everyone’s on edge lest they bugger up The Budget Process or, somehow, mar the “finishing touches” being applied to the Frankenstein’s monster Morrison is building. Or, rather, the monster we are all constructing such is the power of the collective fiction of the Almighty Budget reborn, or recreated, every year.

So powerful it can destroy the futures of those yet unborn, the Budget Monster usurps entire governments and oppositions alike. The Ugly Budget dominates all rational discussion of the economy.

The nonsense of Budget Repair, for example, is widely accepted as justification for cutting government spending while giving tax cuts to the rich.

Forget jobs and growth. Forget the slogans about delivering on its promises. As Treasury will have told ScoMo, the Coalition has in fact delivered budget unrepair. Its policies have massively increased the deficit and helped retard economic growth.

Jobs will continue to be part time and casual while the unemployment rate won’t budge much from 5.25-5.75%, helped by the ABC’s Fran Kelly and the many others in the Coalition cheer squad who say this is “relatively good”.

Expect half measures from the faint-hearted. The Australia Institute’s Richard Denniss warns of a “hodge podge”.  High Priest Morrison, the Malcolm Roberts, of the economy says his budget won’t “tickle the ears of the ideologues”.

Yet after years of ear-tickling about bringing the budget back into balance and its worship of the free market, the government has abandoned some of its neoliberal magical thinking in favour of something which might win it a few more votes.

It will still, however, cling to its trickle-down superstition that making the rich richer is good for all of us.

Gone is debt and deficit disaster. Some debt is good, especially if it’s an excuse to boondoggle. “Good debt” is money borrowed by government for an inland Queensland rail that will never pay its way or an Adani mine that’s a fiscal and environmental liability and other pork-barrel projects that it sanctifies in the holy name of infrastructure spending.

Neoliberal economics has failed spectacularly worldwide but this government puts gut feeling first as Barnaby Joyce says. He can move a whole government department to help his electoral prospects despite no feasibility study no modelling or supporting evidence.

Similarly, ScoMo’s second Budget will preserve the delusion that ripping $48 billion out of the budget in the form of tax cuts for companies will lead to increased productivity, more jobs and higher wages if you say it often enough. Or that welfare is a cost not an investment in a socially cohesive, fair and decent society.

The Market, Amen, must be left to its own devices – mostly. ScoMo will subsidise Adani’s coal mine even though other mines won’t be able to compete. The Coalition will pop up a second Sydney airport while energy companies rob us blind with the help of a market regulator they helped to create and a government keen to protect it.

Undeterred, coal industry shill, Matt Canavan, our quixotic Resources Minister tilts at Westpac Bank again. This week, he accuses a bank of conflict of interest for not falling in with his government’s plans to subsidise Carmichael, a monster coal mine project we don’t need, which won’t pay its way and will become a stranded asset.

On cue, Adani vows to get its railway lines from Whyalla steelworks, a gesture that is hailed as a “lifeline” by Canavan and much of MSM. Yet the steel represents one per cent of Whyalla’s total output. A one off order of 56,000 tonnes of railway line is not a ‘lifeline’ for Arrium Steel but a cruel hoax,” says The Australian Institute’s Richard Denniss.

Under fire from The Incredible Sulk, Tony Abbott, over his Australian values and Gonski 2.0 cons and with the monster of Manus Island at large again after a Border Force worker alleges that Peter Dutton is lying, intrepid Turnbull acts decisively.

He scoops up Lucy and a tuxedo. Dashes to New York. It’s a last ditch bid to cure his electoral scrofula; the laying on of hands by a White House incumbent that guarantees all Australian Prime Ministers a boost in the polls. Or used to.

Turnbull is even up for a Trump love-in staged by Rupert Murdoch in New York, a city that doesn’t trust either of them.

“We’re not babies”, cries man-baby Donald Trump whose self-awareness at 70, like his political self and his emotional maturity are still works in progress. Monster baby Donald is ever ready to reset reality; get the mythic US Australian Alliance back on track with a bit of mature and resposible denial.  As adults do. A few brazen falsehoods always help.

No. He never threw his rattle out of his pram or hung up on Turnbull over that” worst deal ever” to swap refugees.

“We had a good call. You guys exaggerated that call. It was an exaggeration. We’re no babies. That was a little bit of fake news.” Enabling, Turnbull nods. “That’s right”, he lies.

Their relationship is rebuilt on mutually agreed dishonesty. The lie sits well with their mutual exploitation of the ANZUS myth. Trump’s handlers are counting upon an expanded Australian troop commitment wherever whenever it sees fit; Turnbull’s desperate to get his refugee deal. And butch up for the right wing of his own party.

Next, Trump denies all grounds for conflict. “We have a fantastic relationship …  I love Australia. I always have.” “It’s one of the great, great places. One of the most beautiful places on earth. Greg Norman’s here today, a friend of ours.”

The US President is a guest at the American Australian Association Battle of the Coral Sea Commemorative Dinner on USS Intrepid, a refurbuished WW2 aircraft carrier which sits in the silt and the General Electric’s factory’s PCBs of The Hudson River at New York’s West 46th Street.

Turnbull’s mob has moved heaven and earth to book him facetime with the president, even if it’s only a quickie. Now the dinner has come up, our PM has jumped at the chance, even if he has a Budget in the oven at home.

Nicknamed the “Dry I” or “The Decrepit” for the time it spent in dry dock and its incredible run of bad luck, the Intrepid suffered four, separate, kamikaze attacks. It was torpedoed once. It’s not the White House, it’s not Mar-a-Lago but it’s a perfect venue for a lame duck PM, to hoist himself out of range of Tony Abbott’s sniping and to declare fealty to his liege Lord Donald of the USA.

First up, Australian economic refugee and New York parvenu, 86 year-old Rupert Murdoch introduces Trump. Rupert’s father, Keith started the American Australian Association in 1948, an outfit dedicated to” building strategic alliances between the two nations” a process which entails ways of helping wealthy Americans make money out of Australia.

‘These are dangerous times,’ Murdoch observes, windily ‘and we must be, as this great carrier is called, “Intrepid,” that is to say, fearless and bold in our resolve to advance the frontiers of freedom, and in defense of our nation’s shores.’ Putting his mouth where his money is, courageously, he’s turned Fox News into The Trump Show, a paid advertorial.

The alliances include Chevron. The US-based multinational pays its CEO $20 million a year yet in the last two years has paid no tax on its offshore gas projects in Australia. Rupert’s American Australian Association gave Chevron’s CEO an award in 2014.

The Association’s president, former US Ambassador to Australia, John Berry, has urged Turnbull to meet Trump early in his presidency. Turnbull rushes to comply even if it leaves Abbott a loophole and Scott Morrison unsupervised around key Budget leak time.

The Donald’s stand up includes his love affair with everyone he’s ever met from Australia, like Greg Norman and Rupert Murdoch – including its Prime Minister whom he’s just kept waiting three hours in order to talk himself up on Fox news; explaining how bigly he’s scuttled Obamacare, even though he still has to get the bill past the Senate.

Above all, he vows theatrically, the two nations have “a bond sealed with the blood of our fathers and grandfathers.” (Gina Rinehart is there but the women don’t get much of a mention. Sunday she’s in the NT News urging Turnbull to cut spending like Trump.)

The Donald hails a fawning Malcolm Turnbull as a fellow late-bloomer, deal-maker and man of the world, monstering his guest, finessing that excess of affection and patent insincerity that so many celebrities confuse with affirmation. The two nations are blood brothers. Together, we beat back the Japanese; turned the tide of the Second World War.

Now, side by side in the war on terror, we reach out to new enemies. Why, there’s the “enormous risks” Kim Jong–un’s regime has been unleashing with its “reckless and dangerous” conduct, Turnbull obliges, woodenly, -but on cue.

Breathless hacks spin the event as their “first face to face meeting” which it is – for a whole forty minutes.  Or thirty-five before the wives are let in. Ivanka’s book has been described as a strawberry milkshake of inspirational quotes. Her father’s speech, like his account of what was discussed is something similar. Trump bumper stickers.

Face to face? In a post fact, Trumpocene era, two can meet by tweet; just being there doesn’t cut it much any more – but the martial staging of the Turnbull Trump kiss and make up is lavished with careful attention to detail. It’s all about the vibe and the venue.

Love is in the air, albeit belated. A huge bromance. Huge. OK. It’s had its rough patches but true love never runs smooth.

“Got a little testy, got a little testy but that’s OK” Trump ad-libs before returning to script. That Call is woven into his blokey, hokey, narcissist’s shtick, along with how Greg Norman showed up The Donald but saved him embarking on a career as a golf pro.

Turnbull half-grins. His rictus is confined to the bottom half of his face, as if by some inner border force ring of steel. They are two of a kind; both socially inept spoilt brats, utterly consumed by their mutual, fruitless search for approval – along with their love of money and things and their mission to help people like themselves get richer.

Both have done work on their routines. Trump 2.0 loves Turnbull 2.0, tonight, in public at least. Loves Australia. Wonderful country. He’ll visit someday. Has friends there. The genius of convention has kitted him out in a monkey suit –  a costume favoured by Sinatra’s rat pack and countless other crooners, stage magicians and entertainers.

It suits him. Trump looks better, as a riverboat hustler, a con man without the Freudian slip of a tie dangling down past the waistline. Turnbull, however, looks wary, edgy and ill at ease. But it’s hard to relax with Peter Dutton acting up and with respected small “l” Liberal Ian McPhee arguing that the Immigration Minister has too much power.

Former Fraser government Immigration Minister McPhee makes a strong case for Peter Dutton’s powers to be reined in and calls for a halt to plan legislation to expand them.

He is “disgusted by the power accorded to current ministers regarding the lives of people fleeing persecution”.

In a powerful rebuke to Turnbull and his capitulation to the right, McPhee not only finds constitutional fault with the practice of increasing the Immigration Minister’s power, he has a dig at the Coalition’s values.

“Ministers now exercise power that is mostly beyond the review of judges,” he said. “Such power should be exercised humanely and in accordance with morality, not absolute law. “The law and its practice is now unjust. It is un-Australian.”

His comments are made in “Playing God”, a report by Liberty Victoria’s Rights Advocacy Project, released Thursday, calling for current powers to be reduced and for bills to expand them even further to be abandoned.

Report author Lauren Bull points to the creation of a monster, a minister whose powers include “discretions to approve, refuse, or cancel visas, to detain or re-detain an asylum seeker without warning, to send asylum seekers to offshore detention centres and, even in some cases, prevent reviews of decisions not to grant protection visas.”

 “Under Australian law, no other minister – not even the prime minister – is given anywhere near as much unchecked power.”

Dutton is accused of lying by a Border Force Officer on Manus who this week has given further information to ABC’s Barrie Cassidy which supports the police chief and other locals who deny the Minister’s allegation that shots were fired into the  detention centre because of sexual misconduct by detainees against a young Manus Island boy.

Peter Dutton has refused to alter his version of events, a version which effectively blames the asylum seekers for the disturbance.

The Immigration Minister has not only failed in his duty of care to provide a safe environment for the asylum-seekers, preferring instead to offer the lame excuse that PNG is responsible, but he has damaged the reputations and endangered the well-being of those in the camp with his implication of sexual assault.

His actions have exacerbated the already strained relationships between asylum-seekers and Manus Island locals.

While Dutton claims he has information to support his allegations, he refuses to make the information available. He has even demanded an apology from Fairfax and the ABC for a report which he claims is based on discredited witnesses.

Dutton’s conduct is completely unsatisfactory and a breach of his ministerial responsibility. It may be that with the unprecedented increase in his powers that he has been led to believe, wrongly, that he is not answerable to anyone.

Malcolm Turnbull urgently needs to exercise his leadership and stand Peter Dutton down, at least until the incident is resolved. Should the Prime Minister fail to do so, it will irrevocably weaken his authority as leader, let alone a leader who professes Australian values of fairness and justice. The consequences for the welfare of detainees could be dire.

Malcolm Turnbull needs to take time out from his attempts to boost his approval ratings with stunts such as the public forelock tugging with the US President and such as his recent crackdown on 457 Visas and his rhetoric on Australian values which seem little more than a dog-whistle to the intolerant and a shirking of our responsibility to refugees.

Australians deserve more from their government than an abdication of independence in foreign policy. Our alliances with other nations can be maintained without so much overt servility and undignified, fawning obeisance.

Given what we have seen of Donald Trump’s utter unsuitability in ability, temperament or experience to be an effective president and given what we know of those whom he has chosen for his administration and his advisers, it would be prudent, surely to exercise prudence, restraint and discernment.

Instead we are like hysterical teenagers stricken with Trump-mania.

Similarly, it does not advance a democratic nation’s best interests to indulge a wealthy and powerful profit-seeking elite who would seek a monopoly in reporting the news or in any other of the functions of modern mass media.

It is not beyond a government that it is genuinely committed to a free, fair and open society to actively support an independent and diverse press.

Certainly, the proposed new media legislation ought to be rejected for the grave and dangerous mistake it is.

Above all, the nation needs a sensible, rational economic policy on behalf of all Australians, informed by a broad range of experts, not neoliberal ideologues and certainly not a budget driven solely by an out of touch and out of favour Coalition government’s need to regain popularity by whatever means it can find.

Sadly nothing in the week’s events in politics suggests a narcissistic, immature, Turnbull government has the vision or the competence to put anyone but itself first.