Month: July 2017

Turnbull tries on Menzies’ mantle in another epic failure of judgement.

turnbull and queen

 

The Queen has embodied selfless public service, dignity, wisdom, leadership for and more magnificently than anyone alive today, there is not doubt.”


 

In a florid tribute which betrays more than he realises, a fawning Malcolm Turnbull, proclaims himself not only an Elizabethan but also a Republican, a surprisingly belated affirmation of a cause which he has shunned since being out-manoevered by John Howard in the skewed 1999 plebiscite. He also declares the Liberal Party is centrist.

It’s another incredible twist in a week of surprises as the PM extends his G20 junket to buddy up with Macron, hoping he won’t notice how we treat meeting our Paris Accord as a joke, return Abbott’s sniping, evade his fifteenth damning News Poll and do the dirty on the states on clean energy. All up, his grand tour is a tonic.

Saturday, Lazarus Mal is back, lurching to the right to massage Queensland Liberal Party prejudices. Coal-fired power opponents are “delusional”, he hollers. He’s all about energy security, stability and lower prices. The sunshine state is committed to coal-fired electricity. The coal bludgers also have the nation’s highest electricity prices.

In the real world, the US, our neocolonial dominatrix, leaves us in the lurch by not declaring war on North Korea after all. It also abruptly halts its processing refugees on Nauru, an ominous sign for Dutton and Turnbull’s US refugee swap deal .

The halt follows ABC’s Chris ” I only wrote what I was told to” Uhlmann’s honest and objective review of Trump as a total G20 failure, a your-emperor-has-no-clothes report which goes viral. Could the two events possibly be related?

Time to look more closely; first to Turnbull’s public coming out as an Elizabethan. It’s not the first time, as Judith Ireland reminds us, that the PM’s played the Elizabethan card. Last December he disappointed an Australian Republic movement sit-down do, at $150 a head, with his specious argument for not ditching the monarchy while Elizabeth reigned over us. The Queen is a vital tribal totem, as important to our identity as Vegemite.

So admired and respected is the Queen, he claims, that “few of us can say we are not Elizabethans”. Especially himself.

It’s a conundrum if not an identity crisis which annoys the Duke. “What’s wrong with these people? Prince Philip is reported to have said when the republican plebiscite failed in 1999. “Can’t they see what’s good for them?”

“They just couldn’t agree about the model”, replied Elizabeth. Little bull-dog, Howard, Order of Merit, had seen to that.

The 91 year old Queen, impeccably prepared, receives her Elizabethan-republican and recently proclaimed follower of Menzies’ Australian PM wearing her Ming bling brooch, a diamond-encrusted spray of wattle. It is a gift from a smitten Robert G Menzies, who “… did but see her passing by …” long enough to pin it on her during HM’s 1954 Commonwealth Tour.  It’s a sign Her Majesty trusts Turnbull won’t spoil things by raising The Palace letters relating to The Dismissal.

A Federal Court case to force the release of the letters, is set to begin in August, a move The Palace can veto, however, at any time, even after the 2027 embargo is up. Our figurehead of state still retains an extraordinary power.

Turnbull’s Palace reception lifts his spirits after the G20 letdown. He’s looking like a goose now war on North Korea is off the menu despite his urging and hectoring of China for letting its minion get dangerously and “recklessly” out of hand.

The Coalition’s attempt to jump the Trump was gazumped when the tweeter-in-chief failed to rail against North Korea. Not even an emoji escapes from under his thumbs alerting the twittersphere to the rogue state’s aim to nuke the world into oblivion. No idle-threatening. No behind the scenes lobbying. Not even a statement.

China and Russia objected to the G20 making any joint statement being made on North Korea and tougher sanctions, arguing the summit was an economic forum. Behind the scenes, our PM blames The Donald for his lack of leadership.

“… nobody round that table was defending the North Koreans, in terms of their conduct” at the G20 meeting in Hamburg, Turnbull tells Fairfax’s James Massola. Nor, however, was anyone making such a spectacular effort as Australia to support US Defence Secretary mad dog James Mattis’ anti-Kim madness in public. No-one else is that desperate to impress the US.

So embarrassing. The ABC has been dutifully screening endless loops of rockets and manic goose-stepping North Korean soldiers intercut with images of Kim taken on a bad hair day as Malcolm, Marise, Julie and Barnaby denounce the rogue.

“Experts” are quoted by Barnaby. Maps of the Top End appear on TV showing that all of North Queensland could be at risk of Kim’s nuclear warheads.  Darwin, anyway. Kim’s a monster, a one man yellow peril to be stopped at any price.

Yet there’s a bright side. Australia has done the world a favour by inadvertently exposing the hoax of international censure of Kim to be no more than a US-orchestrated beat up. It’s the same with every illegal invasion it has ever dragged us – however eagerly- into. So much for stable leadership. Full war alert one day; a deafening silence the next.

When the leader of the free world can’t even bother giving a press conference it leaves little even for a sycophantic media to embellish. Thank god for Malcolm and Lucy’s ride in the French President’s Falcon jet.

It’s a first, gushes Fairfax’s James Massola. Has Turnbull also persuaded Macron to withdraw France’s application to the UN Human Rights Council?  Over night, it seems, France is out, virtually guaranteeing Australia a place in October. Two years and hundreds of thousands of dollars has been well spent. Nothing to report here, though.

Turnbull’s keen to talk up our twelve submarines on order, a deal which is far from water-tight. He continues to pretend that a $50 billion investment in an untried concept is a stroke of genius. But he’s left treading water on the jobs hoax.

90% of the submarine build would take place in Australia, the government was promised. But in a senate committee hearing last month, French builder DCNS backed away from that commitment. DCNS has “no formal agreement” with ASC. The company now intends to “absorb” ASC workers, the ones David Johnston wouldn’t trust to build a canoe.

With a sinking feeling Turnbull returns to his own survival. He has a cunning plan to redefine the Liberals to exclude those who are giving him trouble. He’ll invoke Menzies. Portray him as a leftie. Brilliant. What could possibly go wrong?

Bill Shorten knows. He sticks his head up his holiday reading to lob a well-aimed zinger. “The Turnbull government is in the middle of an identity crisis and they’ve forgotten what their real job is – it’s to look after the country.”

Jeff Kennett doesn’t get it. “Why would you do it from overseas? Why would you throw a can of petrol onto a fire?”

“The Liberal Party has never been a conservative party”, asserts Turnbull, who knows he has nothing to lose. Moreover, he’s always been a PM who will say or do anything. He waxes historical in an address in London to Policy Exchange, deadly Dave Cameron’s favourite right wing think tank aka the “neo-con attack dog”. His audience glowers.

In 2009 Policy Exchange commissioned veteran opponent of wealth redistribution Peter Saunders to rebut Kate Picket and Richard Wilkinson’s case for reducing inequality. He denounced their book, The Spirit Level as a left-wing manifesto.

It’s an odd mob to tell “Menzies did not want his party to be reactionary”. But Turnbull has a wider audience.

It’s my party, not yours, Tony, is his message to his nemesis. It’s part of his thank speech to PE for its “Disraeli Award” for his government’s “non-discriminatory policies which help make Australia a land of opportunity”.  Last year, a report found a we’d only taken one sixth of the Syrian refugees we promised a year earlier. It takes time to pick the Christians.

Are we getting a Disraeli for stopping the boats? Our offshore detention policy is based on discrimination. On Manus Island, the PNG government cuts the power off to force 800 refugees into a transit centre in the town. The men fear for their safety and they fear abandonment. Fear makes us feel our humanity wrote Disraeli. Or not.

The government deal with the US to swap the refugees who will never be allowed into Australia has fallen in a heap. Opportunity? Julie Bishop on ABC Insiders Sunday skitters away. Blames Labor. Keeping a straight face, the prim white hope of Liberal leadership assures us “the process” will be resumed after 1 October. “…as the President promised…”

She repeats the lie that “Australia is one of the most generous countries in the world since the second world war.”

Our annual humanitarian intake of around 20,000 people is far from generous when placed in a historical context. In 1949, when there were 60 million global refugees and Australia had 8 million we gave refuge to almost 75,000 people.

“Processing” is a cruel farce. What could there be to discover after years of our multi-billion dollar Immigration  Dept processing? The US has threatened extreme vetting without deigning to explain what it means. The truth is that it is just something Trump made up in a speech. In the meantime the hopes of 800 men continue to be abused.

The camp will be completely demolished in October. Yet the government has no plan whatsoever – apart from the punt on Trump following through on Obama’s offer. Apart from all its inhumanity, Manus is a debacle. Dutton would have been asked to resign in any other but a Turnbull government. Instead, he is about to be given a promotion.

The award is a set up. Or ironic. Never was any recipient less deserving, politically or personally. But it’s an irresistible opportunity to bloviate, slap down Abbott and rebadge, if not reinvent, the party to suit his own, current, orientation.

An insufferable egomaniac, only Turnbull would attempt such a party trick; remaking the Liberals in his own image.

Normally no-one would notice. But when he claims the Liberal Party sits in the “sensible centre of politics” howls of outrage erupt from the party’s reactionaries, even though he’s craftily borrowed the phrase from tin-eared Abbott.

Jeff Kennett and Eric Abetz, who delude themselves they and their party are conservative, go right off. Barking. Acting PM Barnaby Joyce, nearly drops his Adani tar-baby. The Coalition has become “a philosopher’s club”.  In Barnaby’s barnyard, as in Craig Kelly’s cave or Jeff’s shed only tossers give a toss about ideas. Let’s tell it like it is, he snarls.

“In North Queensland, they have 20% unemployment. You know the only thing they want to hear? How you are going to get them a job? You know what they want to hear in regional areas? How you are going to invest in infrastructure, like inland rail.” There’s a lot of such reductive nonsense aired in regional seats but Barnaby’s blarney hits a new low.

The deputy PM’s nitty gritty is a myth. Inland rail is a hollow promise which has been repeated by Liberals and Nationals since 1996. It is unlikely to even pay its way – even if you could get it funded – let alone deliver a job bonanza but Barnaby’s one of the government’s big picture men.  Politics all comes down to a lump of coal or a barrel of pork.

The original inland train of thought envisaged a parallel energy corridor. Perhaps a natural gas pipeline that doesn’t have to contend with environmentalists is what really piques Barnaby’s interest today. As Tony Windsor points out it would harness a populist issue to to solve the problem of gas permits, access across private lands and NSW energy demands.

If it is, he concludes, maybe it’s time for some honesty. Instead, the acting PM opts for a poor man’s Bob Katter routine.

Joyce riffs a front bar ear-bash.

“They look at political candidates and say ‘have you ever actually lived, mate? Do you know what it’s like to not have any money in your wallet? Do you know what it’s like to think, shit, I’m want a life with dignity and I’m on the pension, and I can’t actually afford food, so how do I do this and keep my dignity in this town?’”

His rhetoric is as empty as the dead centre. Barnaby may have moved his office from Sydney to Armidale, but it’s all he’s done to “grow regional jobs”. His mob, moreover, tends to look out for the wealthy while it turns its back on the battler.

The Turnbull government cuts assistance to families. In March, Coalition welfare cuts included a two-year freeze on the indexation of the Family Tax Benefit. As a result the payment will no longer increase to keep pace with inflation.

Money in your wallet? Joyce was silent when his government phased out the Energy Supplement for pensioners.

Centrelink’s robo-claw automated debt recovery, should help Joyce’s constituents retain their dignity. Cutbacks to hospitals and schools are morale boosting. Character building. So, too the decision to keep pensions so low a third of pensioners are on the poverty-line.

Penalty rate cuts are other helpful Coalition “reforms” which help make the unexamined life worth living.

Duty bound to stop the rot, Eric Abetz looks for someone else to blame. With the ease of long experience he quickly finds a scapegoat. “Hysterical media have decided to dishonestly spin the speech in such a way to inflame tensions.”

He’s heard the speech. It’s “a great speech; a unifying speech”. Undone now by the media who seem to have had time to sit down and collude to mis-report it. In tandem, Dutton still wages war on the leftist, Jihadist ABC.

Has Turnbull been misreported? There’s not a skerrick of evidence for Abetz assertions. It’s easy to locate the text of his speech, posted promptly after the event. But that’s not the point of his tactic. He’s commenting on some comments, a tack the Liberals always swear they are not going to take as if you can be an MP without giving opinions.

Let’s return to Turnbull’s argument, despite Abetz attempt at distraction. It’s a great stretch to see Turnbull as any type of Menzies. Our protean PM, whose identity, legitimacy, credibility and authority are all always works in progress, is brave, moreover to align himself with Menzies, a man who when he wasn’t trying to outlaw the communist party or despatch our chaps off to stop the dominos of communism falling from Viet Nam on to Australia.

Menzies would have hated Turnbull. Ming whinged to his daughter, Heather Henderson, in 1974,

“The main trouble in my state is that we have the State Executive of the Liberal Party, which is dominated by what they now call ‘Liberals with a small l’ – that is to say, Liberals who believe in nothing but still believe in anything if they think it worth a few votes. The whole thing is tragic.”

The speech goes down well with a few party sycophants. Christopher Pyne praises it as an “historically accurate rendition of the party’s foundational principles.”

” Considered and powerful”, says Josh Frydenberg says, a public speaking connoisseur. Julie Bishop loves it to bits.

Yet not every Liberal is tickled pink.  Jeff Kennett turns the air beyond blue. Abetz saddles up his inquisitorial war horse.

Lying rodent, John Howard, who carefully blocked progressives throughout his long period in office and over promoted the likes of Abbott, helpfully tells the press that the Liberal Party will always have room for conservatives before blowing any question of political judgement by mounting a case not to prejudge Donald Trump. But the rot’s set in.

Sole, surviving Tasmanian Liberal Senator, Eric Abetz can sniff decay like a Lagotto Romagnolo can snout a truffle. A man on a mission, his hypervigilance once helped him proclaim a link between abortion and breast cancer. Lynx-eyed, he, alone, could see treason in rainbow flags in government offices, discerning flags of “a cause” and of “a hostile nation.

“Australian policies for gay and lesbian citizens had caused them to plant a flag in the Coral Sea Islands of the Great Barrier Reef, naming their own nation and declaring war on Australia”, said activists in 2004. Eric remembers.

Eric loves to keep the nation up to the mark. It’s a tough love. In May, the former Abbott employment minister whose PM’s approach to policy was notoriously underdone, he had the hide to call public servants professional slackers.

It’s not an easy call even for black-pot Eric. As Liberal Party affiliate Judith Sloan, notes Abetz did not impress many with his work effort himself. “The ineffective Workplace Relations minister, Eric Abetz,” she writes “submitted a number of relatively inconsequential and technical amendments of the Fair Work Act to the Senate, but they were rejected”.

When Yassmin Abdel-Magied dares voice opinion on our challenged system of government, he shows her the door,

‘If Ms Abdel-Magied thinks our system of government is so bad perhaps she should stop being a drain on the taxpayer and move to one of these Arab dictatorships’. Ouch. No good at her job? Doesn’t deserve to be here? It’s Eric’s way.

It’s government by dog whistling the unhinged, and with his help, the nation sees a wave of xenophobic anti-muslim, misogyny hurled at Julia Baird who declares Yassmin Al-Magied the latest woman to be roasted on the public spit.

Few can sniff conspiracy like Abetz and he’s as daft as David Leyonhjelm on the nonsense of political correctness being a leftist plot; a tyranny. Call him an “angry white man” and he’ll be quick to tell you that’s racial vilification.

And so it is this week, brows beetling, nostrils twitching, our national guardian of the straight and narrow spots a perfidious plot. Media twist the PM’s words. Turnbull may be fighting for his political life but Eric won’t let the press lead us up the garden path. Let hacks laugh themselves silly over the PM’s hubris and deception in “sensible centre”.

Abetz wilfully misses the point. Turnbull’s “sensible centre” is a dig at his nemesis Abbott, an expression of a hatred that cannot speak its name. Menzies, he says,” chose the name Liberal” because he never wanted a conservative party.

Never is no time at all in politics. But never conservative? Think energy; marriage equality or tax cuts for the wealthy. Think equal pay for women. And so much more. What can he mean? It’s a “Tony Abbott slapdown”, scream News Corp’s Tory Shepherd, Peter Jean and Sheradyn Holderhead, who are always keen to sell ringside seats to a stoush.

An anti-Liberal media conspiracy or an anti-Turnbull plot? Regardless of what he means, in the wider view, Eric Abetz is on to something huge. Attacking the media when you don’t like the message. And he’s a front-line combatant.

From America’s Tweeter in Chief’s battle with fake news to Saudi Arabia’s tussle with Al Jazeera, originally a BBC outpost until it ran factual news reports on Saudi Arabia and found its satellite switched off, the world is at war with reporters who tell the truth. What’s needed is good news; positive news; news that’s a faithful echo of its master’s voice.

Luckily news comes this week that some of this will be fixed. Australia awaits the financial wizardry being performed on Channel 10 as it is being transformed by the alchemy of limited liability from a bankruptcy into another successful Murdoch venture. A nurturing Turnbull government has slashed TV station licence fees.

News reports invariably barrack for 10 as if it were some benevolent charity. Even voluntary administration, a process which could see 17,000 ordinary investors lose everything is cheered from the sidelines.

A Fox News type channel may well eventuate, a sign of the times which can only cheer on the sensible centrists in power.

An equally chilling sign is is Turnbull’s dip into a think tank to ” get his message out”  So much of the Coalition’s political discourse is shaped by an echo-chamber of think tanks, shock jocks and Murdoch hacks; a claque of noisy, like-minded, powerful voices who also just happen to dictate so much of party policy. Little wonder the electorate despairs.

Turnbull is in serious trouble. His leadership is in tatters. His credibility is spent. Evidence accumulates on all fronts of a government in crisis largely as a result of its own indecision and poor policy.  The problem will not to be solved, however, by sophistry; by redefining the party as small “l” liberal to exclude its conservative critics.

In promoting the sensible centre, the Prime Minister is looking to his own survival and settling, tellingly for another clever trick. Instead, he should address his government’s many real failures of policy in energy, education, environment, immigration and economics. Standing up to the mutinous few in his crew will do more to put his ship to rights than trying to change its flag.

G20 No Ode to Joy.

g20 hamburg

Ode to joy, the final movement of Beethoven’s ninth symphony, buoys the spirits of G20 leaders as they gather with groupies, minders and hangers-on, Friday, in Hamburg’s magnificent Elbphilharmonie concert hall, a glittering crystal palace soaring high above its brick foundation, once the base of an old cocoa warehouse.  The building is a triumphal monument to high culture towering over the hoi polloi swarming Germany’s busiest port below.

“It’s a hymn to humanity, peace and international understanding,” purrs G20 host German Chancellor Angela “Mutti” (mother) Merkel, explaining why she chose Beethoven’s last major work at a time of unprecedented international conflict and brutality. The choice of venue, a sanctuary for a privileged elite speaks for itself.

As host, Germany also sets the agenda. No-one is looking to the US for leadership.  The G20 is now the G19.

Keen to move delegates beyond their habitual GDP fetish, Merkel inserts health into the G19+1 agenda. The only leader to have attended all twelve gabfests, she knows what will work. Perhaps she recalls Australia’s failure.

Who can forget the embarrassment of watching Tony Abbott in 2014 as he bizarrely sought to recruit world leaders’ into his local political challenge of imposing a GP co-payment? Was he winging it? His retreat into domestic politics perplexed leaders as much as Hockey’s call for 2% plus growth with no idea how to get there.

Australian media have already set their own agenda, of course, with our ABC hyping “military action” on North Korea endlessly before the G20. Effortlessly it recycles clichés of “rogue state”, “hermit state” and now “client state” in its mission to support a Turnbull government reduced to echoing or second-guessing US foreign policy.

It’s a crisis. No-one, including its president seems to knows what US has planned for North Korea but acting PM Barnaby, Kamikaze, Joyce says we’ll back any trade sanctions which it may impose on China, a posture Julie Bishop affirms on her return from the US. North Korea may nuke North Australia, any moment, Barnaby assures us.

Incredibly, cool hand Luke, David Johnston, Defence’s chief of joint operations, disagrees. The likelihood Pyongyang would even target Australia is “low”. Even if they had the means. Media outlets, naturally, ignore him. Who could pass up an excuse to screen images of goose-stepping troops? Shots of rockets belching flames?

We are unlikely to be on North Korea’s hit list, confirms University of Tasmania missile systems expert James Dwyer on ABC Radio and later on Sunday’s TV news in a rare and commendable correction to Joyce’s hysteria.

Psychologist Lissa Johnson cautions, however, that we are more likely to believe Barnaby rather not. We struggle to accommodate an uncomfortable truth in a process known as system justification.

“The more that a person feels dependent, powerless and vulnerable, at the mercy of a system over which they have no control, the more terrifying it is to think that the system is deeply flawed.”

In a post truth, Trumpocene era, moreover, truth is losing its value as society’s reserve currency while legitimate scepticism is yielding place to pernicious relativism warns The Guardian’s Matthew D’Ancona.

“Emotional resonance”, he adds, or gut feeling – a narrative that gives visceral meaning – increasingly means more than fact or evidence. The vibe. Certainly there’s a vibe to Ode to Joy, a revolutionary anthem.

Ode to Joy forms a touching counterpoint to the cries of protesters as they rise above the sirens of Hamburg Police’s tank-like police water cannons rumbling far below. Plumes of acrid smoke arise from cars set alight.

Almost all of the 100,000 who are in Hamburg to protest are non-violent. The same cannot be said of the societies represented around the G20 conference table.  Or the state-sponsored violence. Everyday lives in US, Russia or Saudi Arabia are among the world’s least peaceful according to The Global Peace Index 2017.

Violence may cost 12.6% of world GDP in 2016 or $14.4 trillion in purchasing power parity.

Even harder to measure is the violence done to those suffering austerity budgeting such as Greece which has been forced by its lenders such as the European Central Bank to agree to further spending cuts, pension reductions and tax rises in order to unlock emergency funds. The bank is a key G20 player, safe inside the towering concert hall.

Formed in 2008 to fix the GFC, the G20 pursues something called stable and resilient economic growth, a task which consists mainly of putting on a talk show. No-one except MSM which hypes a Putin-Trump showdown and a North Korean slapdown and, of course, the odd grand-standing politician expects it do anything more.

The European Central Bank, in its 2014 study, for example, concludes the annual group of twenty meeting has no effect on anything much. Merkel is hopeful in adding a health ministers’ discussion. Or shrewdly courting votes.

Those who dismiss the G20 as international capitalism talking to itself in public should, however, look beyond the windy free market rhetoric and neoliberal truisms, to its role as political theatre. This year the drama is vastly enriched by a reality TV presidency who adds all the bullying, bitching and backstabbing banality of Celebrity Apprentice or in the Putin-Trump kiss and tell feature segment, a good dollop of Farmer Takes a Wife.

Yet there are rules and expectations. Much tut-tutting is heard, for example, when soi-disant feminist, Ivanka Trump, deputises for her father when Donald has to duck out unexpectedly of a Saturday meeting for some undisclosed one on one discussion. Perhaps his attention-span is playing up again.

No biggie. Unless you want to get picky about the Trump family firm’s teamwork. Or nepotism. Or where the Presidency involves the national interest rather than Trump Inc business. Or Ivanka’s potential benefit.

A White House spokesman opaquely explains:

“… the topic involved areas such as African development, areas that will benefit from the facility just announced by the World Bank.” The White House adds that other leaders had their seats filled by others. But not by family.

There’s clearly more to the G20 show than just a lot of hot air. It’s a ritual re-enactment of how international capitalism, hopelessly diseased by neoliberal faith, helps the rich get richer at the expense of the poor. Austerity budgeting or slashing public spending or balancing budgets with maximum suffering is part of its reason for being.

Whilst Germany’s Chancellor may be a neoliberal pin-up abroad, not everyone’s a fan at home. In the eyes of many Europeans, Merkel rivals IMF MD Christine LaGarde as fiscal austerity’s door-bitch.

“The policies of Angela Merkel and Wolfgang Schaeuble have no doubt contributed to the deep crises in the European Union since 2008, to the isolation of a dominant German government and, through a relentless insistence on austerity, to high unemployment outside Germany,” Vice Chancellor Gabriel argues.

The G20 takes place amid galloping global inequality caused by globalisation. Just eight men now own the same wealth as half the world, Oxfam reminds us in its January 2017 report Economy for the ninety-nine per cent.  One in ten people survive on less than $2 per day. There are huge inequalities within societies such as pay for women.

On present trends, it will take 170 years before women are paid the same as men.

Big business and the super-rich fuel our inequality crisis by dodging taxes, driving down wages and using their power to influence politics. Oxfam, doubtless, along with many protesters in Hamburg seek a fundamental change in the way we manage our economies so that they work for all people, and not just a fortunate few.

Inequality is trapping hundreds of millions in poverty; it is fracturing our societies and undermining democracy,  says Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International.

“Across the world, people are being left behind. Their wages are stagnating yet corporate bosses take home million dollar bonuses; their health and education services are cut while corporations and the super-rich dodge their taxes; their voices are ignored as governments sing to the tune of big business and a wealthy elite.

The sparkling new high rise concert hall, however, insulates delegates beautifully from tens of thousands who protest far below. As it is, a police lockdown causes five guests, including Malcolm Turnbull to miss the start.

Turnbull doubtless has time to take in the word from the street of Nick Dearden of Global Justice Now.

“The model itself is broken.” We need a new model to undermine the racism and thuggery of Trump and his ilk—one that values human life before the profits of the superrich.”

20,000 well-equipped police use pepper spray, water cannon as well as underwater and aerial drones to protect 38 square kilometre designated ‘no protest zone’. 74 police officers and several protesters are reported hurt.

Outlawing protest would meet with Malcolm Turnbull’s approval. The “no protest zone” in Hamburg parallels initiatives taken by Australian federal and state governments to curb dissent, erode protest rights and press freedom in order increase state power and ensure vested business interests are protected.

Turnbull could swap stories with Merkel about changes to laws in NSW which make it harder to protest about mining. Police were given new powers to stop, search and detain protesters and seize property. Peaceful protests could be shut down on the grounds that they obstruct traffic. The offence of “interfering” with a mine, is expanded to cover coal seam gas exploration and extraction sites. It carries a seven year jail penalty.

The Inclosed Lands, Crimes and Law Enforcement Legislation Amendment (Interference) Bill 2016,[2] follows similar laws targeting Tasmanian anti-logging protesters[3] and Western Australian environmentalists.[4] The bill confers expanded powers on police and increases penalties for protesters.

Australia’s G20 mission, however, seems to be couched in terms of echoing The White House’s spin of the moment on North Korea, along with our usual rhubarb about freeing up trade and investment. Climate is talked up and there are always opportunities to repeat the furphy that we are world leaders in re-settling refugees.

Sky News lets us know of a leader-level discussion behind closed doors on terrorism, Friday, where Mr Turnbull calls for cyberspace to be treated “just as seriously as the battlefield” in countering Islamic State. It’s all part of the fertile war footing and anti-terror alarmism that helps our government increase surveillance, discourage dissent and curtail human rights, including indefinite detention much to the horror of  Human Rights Watch .

Such moves, especially detention were likely to radicalise potential terrorists HRW protested in its submission to government last October. Yet “cyber”, as it is now called, by dangerous Dan Tehan, is a great distractor and a wonderful way to convey the illusion that a government that has trouble keeping Medicare numbers private or getting its Robocall debt recovery right, is somehow hard at work protecting every hard-working Australian.

Dan is also careful to tell us that cyber is not all defence. In some unspecified way, we are to wage cyber war as well. How our first hack capability will be implemented is unsaid. What’s certain is the IT industry will be happy. IBM will be delighted to atone for its census fail.

Dan tells us, deathlessly, that “The Defence Signals Directorate will be given legal authority to expand offensive cyber operations from a military role to civilian targets overseas. It’s breathtaking stuff – even if it does look like a tactical diversion from a government which is bitterly divided and poorly led.

‘As of tomorrow, Australia will have an information warfare division within Defence. This is a result of the changing character of contemporary conflict,’ Tehan declares. It’s so innovative and hush-hush nobody knows any details.

Clearly Australia is at war. The subtext is that of our ongoing war on Islam, a conflict which is conflated with the War on Terror, an epic invention of George Bush, along with WMD, lies which were somehow meant to help find and punish those responsible for the attack on the World Trade Centre and which led us into war in Afghanistan.

Now, however, Trump’s advisers want us to know that we are all at war with Jihadist Islamic fascism.

In a rare show of lucidity, US tweeter-in-chief, Donald Trump reads a speech in Poland as a type of prelude to the G20 – an off G20 show. It’s an amazing success. Authorities bus in hundreds of spectators from the countryside to ensure the President is shown in a square which seems packed with cheering fans. The Donald is deliriously happy.

The speech itself, however is pure Steve Bannon, Trump’s new chief strategist, who argues that the West is in “the very beginning stages of a brutal and bloody conflict . . . against jihadist Islamic fascism,” while KT McFarland, his new deputy national security advisor, argues that we are engaged in a “long war” against radical Islam. The idea is endorsed by former national security adviser and lobbyist for the Turkish government Michael Flynn.

Trump’s address and the rants of his ratbag minders owe much to Harvard academic the late Samuel P Huntington, who decries the clash of civilizations, American decline, and sees a West encircled by enemies. Immigration is hugely bad too.

It’s a text both for our times and for our politicians. It proposes a beguilingly simple, albeit paranoid and unrealistic, theory to explain a complex world. The downside is that it provides nothing to guide any policy. Beyond that it is reductive, distorts reality and misrepresents the complex causation of warfare.

Will our US vassal government take up the Donald’s vision of the clash of civilisations? Highly likely. Already, there is more than a hint, in the PM’s warnings that terrorists hate our way of life and despise our values, spurious, dangerous, notions that probably also inspire our new citizenship test and oath of allegiance if we allowed a peep.

At the end of the G20, however, the ABC is reduced to applauding our PM for having hitched a ride in French President Macron’s car, a brilliant move which is seen as endorsing the incredible submarine deal with DCNS in which we are contracting to spend $50 billion on a completely untried design on a concept of retro-fitting nuclear power plants that experts doubt is even possible. All for a firm that won’t keep its promise of local work.

Our media gives us the score on the G20. Sky says it ends “divided” on climate and free trade. What Sky means is that all delegates agreed except Donald Trump, a president so challenged, intellectually and morally that he cannot comprehend the crisis of global warming, let alone the imperative take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Not that he’s alone. Back at home while the cat’s away, Mouseketeer Abbott is leading his insurrection.

In the end, the truth is more prosaic. The US under Trump has failed to exercise global leadership on climate and trade. The world enters uncharted territory with China and Germany and Russia all keen to muscle in on the US act. Yet as Turnbull notes, the US has a role from which it is impossible to abdicate, given its size and power.

The G20 cheer squad for international capitalism has met yet again to further its own interests, in a Hamburg crystal palace high above the masses below.

Deaf to all entreaties, heedless of the suffering caused by their Neoliberal nostrums, their austerity budgeting, tax cuts for the rich and trickle down economics, the G20 represents an abdication of humanity which the unassailable optimist, Beethoven, inspired by the liberty equality and fraternity of The French revolution would be sorely troubled by.

Abbott’s attack will finish Turnbull

abbott and turnbull scary

 

“It’s not that easy being green …” sings Kermit, the sage of Sesame Street, a truth NSW Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon helps her party revisit in a wild week of backstabbing, slagging, poodle-poking and character assassination as our federal MPs let it all hang out in the bare-knuckle, free for all stoush that is our nation’s endless quest for effective, decorous and representative political leadership.

“When it comes to political white-anting, Lee is the Greens’ version of Tony Abbott,” says Bob Brown. Ouch.

In January, he bagged Rhiannon’s moves to challenge the party’s direction under Richard Di Natale’s leadership.

Rhiannon wants her mob to follow Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn and stress its left-wing policies on economic redistribution.  She leads a debate between her “Eastern Bloc” on the party’s left and the more conservative environmentalists or “Tree Tories” who currently suck up to an anti-greenie government.

It’s a tough gig. Pilloried by MSM for her socialist parents, profiled by ASIO as a subversive revolutionary and attacked as a Leninist-Stalinist by News Corp’s Gerard Henderson – who also falsely accused her of being a communist, Rhiannon was asked by Bob Brown to quit the senate last July – just a month after being elected.

In response, the senator accuses her former leader of resenting that NSW preselected candidates are not his preferred nominees. Yet, in an open season of sniping and undermining, she is accused of betrayal. Brown says the rules provide for her to be expelled from the Greens’ Party Room and even to lose her party membership.

A case is building against her. Last week, all nine of her federal colleagues accused Rhiannon of undermining them over school funding negotiations after she distributed a leaflet in Sydney’s inner west against the deal.

The NSW Greens see Gonski 2:0 as a con. It’s neither needs-based nor sector blind. In fact, it guarantees 80 % of federal funds to the wealthy, private system. It has been imposed without state or public school consultation.

Rhiannon says the pamphlet is a local initiative. She has done nothing wrong. Her protests will, doubtless, come to little but they do make her a top scapegoat. Many teachers will see NSW as the only Greens to get it right.

Beneath all the fuss and alongside the left and right divisions, a grassroots party controlled by members struggles against the power imposed by few at the top in what John Passant calls a battle for the soul of The Greens.

An ugly public brawl ensues. Bugger consensus politics. Di Natale generously tells the Left Renewal faction their anti-capitalist rhetoric is ridiculous and that they should join another party. Critics accuse Di Natale of shaping The Greens into a potential coalition partner for the Liberals; point to his record of support for Coalition legislation.

Rhiannon is disappointed in Richard’s leadership, she tells Barrie Cassidy, on ABC Insiders, Sunday. Rather than explore the issue, Cassidy is keen to seek more details of the conflict but, like Kermit, the senator is philosophical.

“Sometimes democracy is messy”, says Rhiannon. She wins this week’s Golden Litotes for understatement of the week. Her thought is echoed and debased by Tony Abbott who proposes streamlining democracy to fix Senate obstructionism and resolve deadlock through a joint sitting of both houses to pass deadlocked bills.

Australia “increasingly resembles Italy”, facing chronic changes of PM and an inability to get things done, the MP whose career in and out of The Lodge is a byword for instability and policy paralysis Abbott explained straight-faced to a South Australian Young Liberals Federal Convention in Adelaide in February.  

Or the UK. The young Libs may have lost a little sparkle as results filtered in at their UK Election champagne breakfast 9 June. Thank God guest speaker, nuclear lobbyist Haydon Manning was on hand to liven things up.  

Manning is all too happy to help. Our nation’s politics is vastly enriched by an ever-growing army of lobbyists, think-tankers, bold ideas-men and women and former leaders who fearlessly shirtfront the onion of democracy.  

The Centre for Independent Studies, for example, helped inspire Tony Abbott to cut the last two years of Gonski – for public schools, while continuing to fund the private system, a favouring of privilege continued in Gonski 2.0. Research Fellow Simon Cowan, one of its policy wonks, whipped up a nifty monograph on nuclear subs, too.

Then there’s “green lawfare”. An IPA and mining industry campaign against environmental groups raged under Abbott. It continues under Turnbull. What constitutes an “environmental organisation” will be redefined to strip such groups of their charitable status and is an “attack on Australian democracy”, warn legal experts.

The IPA would like to see environmental groups denied all government funding, a position they articulated in 2011. Their services to tidying up democracy, Abbott-style include selling the federal government the idea of imposing restrictions on advocacy, such as gag clauses and threats to curtail groups’ advocacy activities.

Emily Howie, a Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre warns:

“A thriving democracy needs an informed public debate with a range of voices. However, governments are making it clear to charities that work with families and communities doing it tough, that if they speak out about government policy, their ongoing funding will be put in jeopardy.”

Apart from the threat to free speech, the ban on advocacy adds another dimension; another layer of urgency to the Greens’ current existential struggle to maintain its own traditional social and environmental advocacy.

Greens’ harakiri or ritual disembowelment is just a warm-up act, however, to the hype, the trash-talk and the stare-downs of the World Championship Wrestling theatrics of our federal MPs who eye-gouge, hair pull and scissor-kick viciously in a desperate, no-holds-barred, last-ditch bid to upstage each other. Or worse.

Exterminate. Exterminate. Top of the bill is Dalek Abbott, a self-promoting attention-seeker and professional wrecker, programmed to destroy his nemesis Malcolm Turnbull in a fit of pathological hatred and payback.

A one-man opposition party, a self-described “whirling dervisher”, Abbo busts a gut this week to bag his nemesis Malcolm Turnbull, even if he has to destroy the Liberal Party in the process. He pulls out all the stops.

It’s a multi-faceted act. Upstage so far he’s in danger of being electrocuted by the footlights, Abbott promises to build new coal-fired power stations and freeze migration. A true-blue Rinehart Cowboy, he will Make Australia Work again by opening more mines, cutting government spending and scrapping his own renewable energy target. Best of all he dog whistles up our safety. No more known jihadists will run loose in our streets.

Wait. There’s more. Nuclear submarines. Raising the nation’s awareness of relevance deprivation disorder, wacky weirdo Abbott easily wins our public service award. His brave stand-up comic routine, Permission to Lower the Scope is fittingly staged by his loyal supporters at the Centre for Independent Studies, Thursday, in its leak-proof Sydney think tank. Tony goes off like a frog in a sock. The CIS love him. How he adds to the national conversation.

Tony’s all for nuclear submarines, all week, although Defence Minister, Marise Payne is unconvinced. She’s right.  Abbott had ample time to declare himself a fan of floating reactors well before his prime ministership sank before the end of its maiden voyage. He just wants to scuttle Turnbull. Party-pooper Payne fires a salvo across his bows.

“We don’t have a civil nuclear industry, we don’t have the personnel or the experience or infrastructure, we don’t have the training facilities or regulatory systems that you would need to design to operate to construct a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines,” she says.

Apart from that, Tony, you know all this. You made the call. Remember. When you were briefly PM. Ouch again.

“What we are in fact doing is delivering the plan to acquire the plan that was set out and agreed by Tony Abbott and his team in 2015,” she says. It’s a forlorn appeal to a former PM who put the flip into flip flop commitment, the MP who warned Kerry O’Brien that he often lied – “gospel truth is those carefully prepared scripted remarks”

For Fairfax’s Jason Wilson, who builds a case that Abbott is a loose unit, “This was not only a blunder, but a revelation of the kind of confessional impulse that needs a national stage. After a while, you start to feel like a therapist, sitting in silence while Abbott regales us with his symptoms.”

In fact, as PM, Abbott ignored a sub submission from Australia’s peak defence industry group in May 2015. Australian Industry Group Defence Council chairman Chris Jenkins and Australian chief of French Industry giant Thales, told him to reconsider a nuclear option for replacing the ageing Collins class subs. It remains a great pitch.

No need to worry about having no local nuclear plant. New subs are so efficient they almost never require maintenance. No need to build if you don’t want to. Just lease a few of the bastards off the yanks. Trained crew? These babies practically steer themselves. What could possibly go wrong?

Now, torn by regret, lyrically, ever the tragic ham, Abbott cries. “Not more robustly challenging the nuclear no-go mindset is probably the biggest regret I have from my time as PM.” It’s pure, dramatic, poetry in a performance guaranteed to heighten anyone’s sense of the cruel suffering inflicted on those deprived of relevance.

His biggest regret? Even by Abbott’s yardstick, it’s an utterly incredible claim. But the CIS can’t get enough of him.

A powerful right wing lobby group which styles itself an Australian Libertarian think tank, the CIS is a big wheel in the oxymoron of Australian conservative politics. Tony’s no Tory; more of a radical ratbag with a grab bag of soundbite ideas. Some are socialist. Take state coal power. Yet his attention-seeking is a win-win for both parties.

Like the IPA, which set most of the Abbott government’s agenda, the CIS also keeps its donors’ names secret but it will get great mileage out of publicising the former PM’s nuclear conversion as evidence of its capacity to influence even those of our political class, like Trump, who are notoriously difficult to brief in anything but sketch outlines.   

In return, Abbott is able to strut his stuff, this week, in front of both IPA and CIS, Australia’s most conservative and influential think tanks. The exposure can do his campaign no harm. A successful spill is impossible, he has only a handful of backers, but his regular sniping and undermining helps Turnbull toward the magic 30 dud News Polls.

Showing off his capacity as a quick nuclear study is a bonus for Abbott. His game plan is to highlight Turnbull’s not so secret plan to convert to nuclear its diesel submarines from French builder DCNS, despite no conversion ever having been done. The hulls are shaped differently. Some experts doubt it can be done.

The first DCNS Shortfin Barracuda submarine is not scheduled until the 2030s. Whilst the late delivery gives plenty of time to work out a solution to the retrofitted nuclear propulsion problem, it also means that the Collins subs will have to remain in service until the 2040s, becoming less safe as they age and requiring expensive refits.

Technical issues alone mean the whole project is a huge blunder, according to Jon Stanford  a director of Insight Economics and past head of the Industries Division in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

“If you asked someone to devise a new submarine program with the highest risk factors at every stage, you could not have done a much better job. It will almost certainly end in tears and possibly a catastrophe,” a senior defence official told The Daily Telegraph in September last year.

Yet with a commitment to a drawing – “the development of a detailed design” –  only at this stage, it is not too late to change course and Abbott knows this. He is also counting on causing maximum embarrassment to his PM.

Some unkind souls also interpret Abbott’s nuclear submarine proposal as revenge on Christopher Pyne, who, in a late night session at The Star Casino’s Cherry Bar has confirmed what the conservatives have always believed is Malcolm’s secret plan to turn the Liberal Party to the left. It’s all about legalising same-sex marriage. And more.

Marriage equality has become the proxy for the struggle in the Liberal Party between right and left. It also acts to focus the fear and rage of those Liberals who instinctively retreat from change; those whose lack of adaptive capacity leaves them open to a rampant paranoia that the modern world is a leftist plot against them.

Pyne’s indiscreet comments assuring gay marriage supporters of a victory sooner than later are calculated to offend and enrage those conservatives who remain resolutely opposed to change and suspicious of Turnbull.

It also provides Abbott with a receptive host for his wormholes as he continues his white-anting of Turnbull.

Posing as a conservative, he’s happy to coin a new breed of Liberal to make it clear that he’s making up a deficit in the current government. Not only is he self-sacrificing, he’s duty bound to continue indefinitely.

“I’m in no hurry to leave public life because we need strong Liberal conservative voices now, more than ever.”

For his part, Turnbull makes it clear that he is not going to hang around. Sunday he announces that he will leave parliament should he no longer be PM.

Some claim that Abbott’s strategy has all gone awry because his week of Turnbull-bashing has not led to a conservative uprising. If anything he’s been met with a chorus of put downs from those on the right.

Peter Dutton is wheeled out to claim “the Liberal Party operates at its optimum when we do have a broad church, when we do have people across the spectrum”, and that it was good to have a diversity of views in cabinet because “you have a more rounded discussion” and better decisions as a result.

Better decisions? Turnbull takes to listing his government’s achievements on social media. It’s a thin list which includes the Gonski 2.0 makeover boosted as a such as a new plan for education funding and contentious visa reforms. “Plans for an intervention on gas exports” are counted as achievements. And of course there is that magic faraway tree of action on a second Sydney airport.

Dutton’s defence and Turnbull’s list are as unconvincing their own way as Abbott’s manifesto, a big bucket-list gig routine featuring a good half-dozen bad ideas, or flip-flops and snappy, empty platitudes and hollow slogans.

Other coalition members during the week do their best to bring the rogue to heel. Some point out his contradictions. His advocacy of things he never stood for before. None will succeed. The ultimate test of his case against Turnbull’s ineffectual and indecisive leadership lies in what he can get away with. He’s made it clear this week that he will continue as long as it takes to exact his revenge on the man who deposed him.

Liberal senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, tells Abbott he can’t reinvent the past. It’s a futile reproach. As a former follower of BA Santamaria, Wilson points out, Abbott is necessarily committed to living and thinking totally against the grain of the present, and dreaming of an impossible restoration of the past.