Month: August 2017

Turnbull’s weak leadership revealed in junk-mail marriage-equality rip-off.

turnbull and cormann

Red Star flags and missile carriers are everywhere in this week’s best-directed mass military rally in Pyongyang Wednesday. North Korean soldiers in high-crowned hats like painted halos march frenetically across our screens, their unique, bouncing goose-step a tribute to their athleticism, indomitable spirit and edgy photogenic villainy.

‘Rogue state’ hysteria triggers fear of global nuclear war. Our local MPs heave a sigh of relief. Out of the spotlight, Victorian Opposition Leader Matthew “Mafia” Guy takes a spell from his epic struggle to shake himself free of news of his “lobster with a mobster” Liberal fundraiser.  His Laura Norder campaign is at risk.

The Victorian Liberals don’t have anything else by way of policy. News Corp backs them heavily – raving about how victims love Liberals’ promises of “toughest ever sentences”. The Herald Sun creates a rising crime wave hysteria. Victoria is the state of danger. It will be safe only when the Liberals bring in a two strike approach.

Mandatory minimum sentencing policies ignore a vast body of evidence showing that this approach to sentencing is expensive, unlikely to improve public safety and of no use in deterring future offending. But it has populist appeal and – as with any good terror programme -it cynically obscures the lack of any real policy.

Things get tricky when a secret recording shows Guy is lying. He claims he didn’t know which cool Calabrian businessman dude was about to shout him a cray at Beaumaris’ The Lobster Cave. Yet Fairfax sources report Guy’s office was informed that Mr Madafferi would be one of the guests. He attacks the secret recording.

Guy lies about the gathering’s size. His claim of 20 becomes six or seven when a witness dobs him in to 3AW.

The Opposition Leader is busted when Liberal staffer, Barrie Macmillan, un tipo losco, (a shady character) himself, is taped advising how to split up donations under the $13,200 threshold to avert being traced back to their donors.

“They want to give Matthew a substantial donation towards next year. Now, I understand what they can and can’t do,” bagman Bazza helpfully explains on a recording obtained by ABC’s Four Corners and Fairfax.

“I know how that all works, so you can’t associate Matthew with money, and I would have to be the intermediary, but I’m talking about a swag of money that they’re prepared to give for them.”

Shady? Astonishingly, the five year veteran Liberal Party fundraiser, turns out to have a criminal past. In 2006, while convicting him and ordering him to repay $25,000 to a local junior football team he defrauded , the magistrate told Macca he should never be involved in fund-raising-again.  But the Libs did not help him.

Liberal Party membership application rules do not require new members to declare prior convictions.

It has been alleged, in court, that Guy’s pal, Antonio “Tony” Madafferi, a market gardener whose business interests include the La Porchetta restaurant chain, is a don in Melbourne’s Calabrian mafia.

Madafferi denies any connections with organised crime. He has never been charged with any offences.

Madafferi has, however, been banned from Crown Casino and all Victorian racetracks over his alleged links with crime. None of this of course would ever have come to the attention of Matthew Guy or his office.

In an affidavit filed in court in June, Detective Superintendent Peter Brigham said police hold “substantial intelligence” indicating that Madafferi had “substantial and close involvement with serious criminal conduct including drug importation, murder and extortion”.

Brigham also alleged that Madafferi is,

“a known associate of prominent criminal entities and persons who have a history of significant criminal conduct that includes money laundering and drug trafficking”.

Yet Guy insists he met with long-time Liberal supporter Frank Lamattina and his cousin, Tony Madafferi, to discuss fruit and vegetable markets. Epping. As you do. No donations were made. But how would we know?

Macmillan, a former Datsun salesman and Tattersall’s agent resigns. Anywhere else, Guy would also have to resign, but in Victoria the (market) garden state, Liberals have powerful friends.

In 2013, as Victoria’s Planning Minister, Guy also was just an innocent diner who attended Liberal fundraising dinners with developers who had major planning applications he would decide on. “I did nothing wrong”, he explained at the time, despite then Premier, Ted Baillieu’s ban on ministers doing dinner with donors.

Also doing nothing wrong but being caught out not reporting 53,000 deposits of $20,000 because of just one maverick line of code is the Commonwealth Bank. Such a simple, innocent mistake – and only one error.

CEO Ian “nifty” Narev’s brilliant one slip-$1060 000 000 -defence is playing well. So clever of the bank to cast a Sontaran as its top banana.  Narev will slip out quietly with a golden parachute discreetly after his show.

Yet the CBA, part of our nation’s oligopoly of usurers, extortionists and silver-tongued con-men is relieved to be out of the spotlight over its you-beaut money-laundering for terrorists and drug syndicates ATM scam while Bruce Billson’s delicious double-dipping scandal can’t compete with nukes. Oh what a lovely war-scare.

Being paid by The Franchise Council of Australia, the same outfit he was lobbying for, while still being paid to be an MP, “for months”, as former Small-Business Minister Billson admits this week, will not embarrass a Liberal Party joined at the hip to employers, bankers, developers – and fruiterers. He’s off the hook. Almost.

In politics, there ain’t no such thing as a free lobster.

Always eager to promote the small business backbone of our economy, Billson was instrumental in helping Francesco, another Madafferi family member and suspected Mafia figure, obtain a permanent visa in 2004 – a year after his supporters, who included Antonio Madafferi, donated to the Liberal Party.

Billson, along with Greg Hunt, Marise Payne, Russell Broadbent successfully lobbied or contacted then Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone. Whilst the MPs protest their naivete, their association raises serious questions and has inspired calls for reform of the nation’s political party donations racket.

Billson “conveys his apologies to the clerk of the house for this error”.  Yet you can barely hear Billson’s apology for his corrupt behaviour, so loudly bark the dogs of war. Suddenly humdrum, day to day dealings of our nation’s rogues, knaves and MPs are swept aside in a tsunami of  “Konghanzheng” or Koreaphobia.

2GB’s veteran guest MP, expert military fetishist, the ever-practical Tony Abbott, calls for a national missile shield to be installed immediately. Later, the junkyard dog-whistler, may insist the North Koreans pay for it.

MSM hiss “the rogue state’s” rude defiance of US threats of nuclear annihilation and eternal demonisation.  How dare North Korea reject new ‘UN sanctions’ – on its exports of coal, iron and metallic ores, and seafood, amounting to $US1 billion or a third of its earnings from exports to China, its major trading partner?

Kim calls the measures “a panicky response by a US bully”. He warns he has four missiles ready to lob into the sea off Guam unless the US stops its B51 long-range bomber sorties from its US Pacific island territory.

Such base ingratitude. Media frame Kim as an utter psychopath; a suicidal maniac or just “The Fat Kid”. Not even the administration’s leaked decapitation strike plan can get Kim to pull his oddly tonsured head in.

Worse. Dear Leader has the US president’s number. In diplomatic slap-down of the week, Kim-Jung-un says Trump is “spouting nonsense”. No more Mr Nice Guy from the leader of the world’s top “evil regime”.

Kim hits back. The sanctions will cripple his nation’s economy. He gets personal. “Sound dialogue” is impossible with a person “bereft of reason”. He echoes other leaders’ frustration with Trump’s just “Being There” presidency. “Only absolute force can work on him”, he adds. At least he’ll get Trump’s attention.

He’s on to Trump. Even fun-loving Kim can tell, Trump is wasting his time “on the golf links,” instead of skulking behind a desk faking being president, as he must, on non-golfing or non-Fox News-watching days.

Ouch. At least he leaves alone the Commander in cheat’s multiple mulligans or how he forges his scorecard.

Kim says Trump’s gone dotty. He’s “bereft of reason”. He does not “grasp the ongoing grave situation.” His comments “show his senility.” He is “extremely getting on the nerves” of North Korean soldiers.  Take that.

No pussy-footing around from a chap who’s fed his rellies to his dogs – a Chinese satirical newspaper’s joke which instantly became “fact” in MSM accounts of Kim’s depravity and North Korea’s weirdness.

The demonisation of Kim and his state is throughgoing and includes the myth of the official Kim haircut, a fabrication recently exposed by two Aussie journalists who made a film, The Haircut (2017) – A North Korean Adventure about their recent trip to Pyongyang for a hipster haircut.

There is little doubt, however, he sent his uncle Jang to his death. But what if the US pushes him to the wall?

His people have had a gutful – according to the street theatre. Thousands of white-shirted workers march through Pyongyang Square angrily brandishing flags. The other hand does a taekwondo air punch.

Back in Canberra, a macho Mal endorses The Donald’s latest madness in provoking North Korea; threatening “fire and fury”. Turnbull invokes ANZUS, for the second time in our history. It’s a distortion of a treaty which is just an agreement to consult but he’s playing hard the only card left him, the loyal US sycophant.

Turnbull pledges Australia’s unqualified support in an unknown conflict between a con-man, a fake president and a crazy dictator. Oddly, there seems to be a reluctance from any other US ally to rush headlong into another bloodbath. By Sunday, he’s looking typically over eager – just as he did when he fawned and gushed all over Trump in his meeting last May on the USS Intrepid, in New York.

Is war with North Korea likely? Despite Trump’s bluster, there’s been no change to US troop deployment or alert status in the region. Unlike our own leader, China’s president Xi Jinping rings Trump Saturday to ask him to tone down his rhetoric. All is going to plan. Trump’s real aim is to get China to cut off North Korea’s oil.

The show must go on. All trace of last week’s electrifying travelling family mincer-jihadi terror drama is expunged by the fire and fury of this week’s national thriller. “Locked and loaded”, Donald Trump’s hairy-chested homage to John Wayne of Iwo Jima, goes viral. Malcolm Turnbull tries out a macho swagger himself.

“I am a strong leader,” Malcolm Turnbull tells Canberra’s press, Monday, despite his lame-duck government’s latest failure of nerve; a plebiscite-cum-survey to kick the can of marriage equality down the road.

“Strong leaders carry out their promises. Weak leaders break them.”  It’s a dig at Abbott and a hollow boast which backfires badly. It’s obvious to all assembled that Turnbull’s promise to be anything but Abbott in a better suit is now irretrievably broken. Only a weak leader would draw attention to his own inadequacy so publicly.  Whatever epithet he may end up wearing, he will always be the Liberals Great Disappointment.

On the back foot again, this time, the PM shoots himself in the other. Journalists smirk. No strong leader ever talks up his toughness. Or needs a side-kick on stage for backup. On twin lectern, to add grunt in stereo, is muscular straight-face heavyweight, Matthias Cormann, the Liberals’ fiscal Belgian schutzhund.

Can the government afford to go postal?  Does it have authority to fund the survey? The Finance Minister claims he has a $295 million line of credit to fund “anything unexpected or unforeseen”. A $122 million non-compulsory postal opinion poll to do parliament’s job for it certainly fits the bill. Other experts disagree.

The PM attempts to set the week’s tone. He certainly fails to set the agenda. Authority rules.  Briefly.  Seven’s Mark Riley cheekily asks why he is so weak on marriage equality; why yet again he is so keen to follow others rather than take the lead himself.

It’s not for want of body language. Our PM demonstrates his personal authority with his signature choppy hand movements. It’s as if he’s rinsing a lettuce at a sink. Then he’s back to Kill Bill, a game the whole party can play. And fear. Shorten will be “the most dangerous leftwing leader in generations”.

Left wing? Bill’s a member of the Victorian ALP Right?

Shorten has got to Turnbull. Cut him to the quick with an impassioned speech in the house on marriage equality. And he has threatened to hold Mr Turnbull “responsible for every hurtful bit of filth” “unleashed” during the same-sex marriage survey debate.

In an amazing performance, our government by evasion has duck-shoved its responsibility while pretending it’s honouring a fake election pledge to lumber us with a same sex marriage plebiscite. There was no campaign promise of a postal plan B if a plebiscite failed to pass the senate, as a reporter reminds the PM.

It’s not a plebiscite of course and it the term survey soon replaces it. No-one knows what authority it will have. It’s being tested in the High Court in two legal challenges which will come before the full bench of the court on September 5 and 6, Chief Justice Susan Kiefel tells a hearing in Sydney on Friday.

One challenge is by Tasmanian Independent Andrew Wilkie and Australian Marriage Equality and Victorian Greens senator. Janet Rice. Should these succeed, the government has no plan B.

What’s certain is, whatever the court decides about the legality of the postal survey, it’s no substitute for the conscience vote in parliament that Turnbull is forbidden by his gerrymandered National minority minders to embrace.

Nor is it fair, given the capacity for postal surveys to favour older voters, conservative voters and retain the status quo. Despite all the prompting the yes cause can muster, young people may well be loath to register just to take part in a junk-mail survey which is likely to be ignored by a government that has lost their trust.

Last election, there were almost a million young people missing from the electoral roll; too alienated to bother to register to vote. Voter turnout was the lowest since 1925.

Not only does it lack leadership, there is something fundamentally tacky about a government which can contrive to allow itself to be guided by a non-binding, non compulsory postal opinion survey on a basic human right. After calculated vacillation, indecision and cowardly prevarication, the Coalition has opted to allow the mob-majority to sit in judgement on the human rights of a minority.

Shorten is right to voice his fears that in the process many Australians will be hurt. In effect, the process virtually guarantees a maximum of damaging propaganda. It’s already started. Bronwyn Bishop on Sky News claims that marriage equality will lead to bestiality and the killing of newborn children.

Worse, old jelly-back Malcolm Turnbull, a leader who bizarrely tells parliament that being PM makes him too busy to lead debate, has made no effort to rebuke, rebut or reprimand her. It’s a telling abdication.

Then there’s Tony Abbott, disciple of BA Santamaria and nineteen fifties throwback, who leads those who would make the campaign about something else. He would turn his back on modernity while spreading his irrational fear of a nurturing, tolerant, progressive, pluralist society. He doesn’t care if he causes suffering.

He’s prepared to lie because he knows most Australians are in favour of marriage equality and he knows he can’t win if he acknowledges that a no vote is a denial of a human right. He’s cynically misrepresenting the issue. He’s got a solid track record of success in that whether it be in his white-anting of Gillard or his repeal of a price on carbon emissions we urgently needed but which he labelled a great big new tax on everything.

“I say to you if you don’t like same-sex marriage, vote no,” says Abbott. “If you’re worried about religious freedom and freedom of speech, vote no, and if you don’t like political correctness, vote no because voting no will help to stop political correctness in its tracks.”

Director of an organisation which calls itself the Australian Christian Lobby, but which gets plenty of support from US fundamentalists, Lyle Shelton, writes that “the marriage plebiscite is a referendum on freedom of speech and ‘safe schools'”. He laments the “stolen generation” that are the children of Australian gays.

The week ends in uncertainty as the diversion tactic of the threat of nuclear war yields to something more prosaic and destructive, a government which lacks both leadership and moral authority.

As the case of Matthew “Mafia” Guy and lobster with the mobster suggests, the modern Liberal Party covets funds above all else. It is as recklessly indulgent of its donors as it is heedless of the needs of the ordinary voter – or as it is of any promptings of conscience; or moral compass.

Bluster all he may about being a strong leader, Australia can see ever more clearly how deeply Malcolm Turnbull is in thrall to his party’s moribund conservatives and its modern amoral money-men.

He is a Prime Minister in title only who heads a government in retreat from reality, a government which is so keen to evade its basic responsibilities that it it is willing to commission a $122 million junk-mail survey to prove the point. It has no real concern over the hurt it will cause nor of the human rights it tramples.

Ironically, if the Turnbull government had hoped to consign the issue to the background for the next three months, to clear the decks to prepare itself for re-election, it will find it has instead done everything in its power to guarantee the reverse.

Turnbull’s terror bust raises big questions over his government and his leadership.

yellow and blue afp

Riotous splashes of daffodil – Petals on a wet, black bough, cheer a bleak Lakemba Street, in the flare of an OB TV van’s lighting, while the sounds of big diesel heaving and the grinding -peep-peep-peep of a garbage truck in reverse greet the nation Monday as it wakes to a motley squad of glum Teletubbies sifting rubbish. Who are they?

Surely it’s not our jolly AFP, out to fit up another Labor NBN leaker? Colvin’s cowboys? It’s all a visual riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, all rolled up in sodden copies of the Bankstown-Canterbury Torch, ever at hand to take care of any Lakemba household’s potato-peelings and discarded jihadi bomb components.

Sproule St’s canary-kitted bin-pickers are an establishing shot in a post-modern apocalyptic story of four Muslims, a halal meat-grinder and a fart gas plot. Fittingly, this week’s freak-out anti-terror squad is not in camouflage grunge. Last week’s gas masks, machine guns and assault vehicles yield to a form of Bananas in Pyjamas rig.

Oblivious to all hysteria, the wallopers seem part of a slow dance routine. Cue Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers.

The week’s wondrous political theatre includes a piece to camera in a brilliantly improvised disaster narrative – “one of the most sophisticated plots“…  ever attempted on Australian soil” – (we’ve had none before.) And what a ripper plot it is.

Four Men and a Mincer is a televisual feast. Every tidbit is filled with suspense and wonder. Fart gas? Wood scraps – errant Kebab skewers, perhaps? Brother, Khaled, planned to fly to Jakarta, terror capital of Indonesia?

Unknown to the airline, the police and even his brother, Mr Khayat packed a military-grade bomb, concealed in a kitchen meat mincer, in his brother’s check-in bag”? Bro didn’t notice the extra weight?  His bro’s teary farewell?

And “how very dare he”, as Catherine Tate says, not notify police or at least Etihad airlines, his carrier of choice.

In a novel twist the bomb or “IED”, (acronyms boost legitimacy), is Australia’s first FIFO explosive. “Authorities”, a term which helps convey authority, (together with breathless hyperbole and a total bypass of scepticism or hint of critical thinking), report bomb ingredients were flown from ISIS in Turkey, and delivered via the recently retired $4.8 million dollar gunpowder-runner Ahmed Fahour’s Australia Post. In another first, our terror goes postal.

FIFO clinches it. Terror fans today all know, full well, how ISIS has fiendishly ingenious ways of achieving the impossible – possibly disguising the explosives in a cunningly re-purposed receptacle such as a pressure-cooker. It’s extraordinary, moreover, that no traces of Semtex or C4 seem to have been found despite extreme “scouring”.

But wait. As luck has it, The Daily Telegraph a terror-organ hot-wired to Coalition HQ, is on hand to record a major discovery. OMG. Just as well the plot was foiled. Could’ve been Australia’s 9/11. Sharri Markson has a moment.

“Officers, dressed in yellow plastic jumpsuits, meticulously went through each garbage bag, going through avocado skins, beer bottles, egg shells and fast food wrappers before finding the flight receipt, which was ripped and soggy,” Markson records. Kerbside developments are relayed in relentlessly prosaic detail. Terrifying.

Soggy? NSW Commissioner Mick malaprop Fuller uses “forensic” to stress how well his men scour the area.

As befits any witch-hunt, there is no right to privacy. Nor is any presumption of innocence extended by The Tele which helpfully provides photographs, names, addresses and maps to assist rubber-neckers and vigilantes.

Nothing is left to chance, however. Neighbour Kate Harrison swoons.“There must have been at least 40 riot squad police with huge guns.” Massive swarms of police help reinforce the myth of our “probable” terror threat; the diabolical cunning, the fiendish “sophistication” of our enemies, the Lakemba jihadis, one of whom didn’t notice the sudden extra weight as a heavy home-made bomb disguised as a mincer made its way into his hand luggage.

Spin-off of the week is won by the tall tale of the travelling mincer. Top Cops, boost airport security whilst maintaining peak paranoia, by taking an each-way bet. Yeah. It was yet to pass metal detectors, they say, before being rejected because it was too heavy to be allowed on the flight. Yeah. Nah. Our systems didn’t fail us.

Sophisticated? Imagine the scene. “I know you say your bastard brother always packs the family travelling halal mincer for you, but I’m sorry, Mr Khaled, you either remove that IED from your bag or we can’t let you on board.”

All is calculated to steal the nation’s gaze away from the government’s Murray-Darling $13.5 bn water scandal, its NBN disaster, its energy policy failure, news of record carbon emissions, its marriage equality snafu, the revelation of un-renounced dual citizen-fifth columnists lurking in its midst, the leaking of the PM’s duplicity over our refugee deal, the CBA bank’s money-laundering for drug syndicates and other self-inflicted crises and catastrophes.

Self-inflicted? In another of its brilliant reforms, the Abbott government made AUSTRAC, Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre financially dependent on the same mafia it was supposed to keep honest. It moved AUSTRAC in 2014 to what it said with a straight face was ” a full industry-based funding model” which meant government funding would be replaced by an industry level. As long as AUSTRAC kept in sweet with the banks.

But look over there. No. Not our shameful abdication of responsibility for Manus. Not the farce of a non-binding, non-compulsory postal plebiscite, certain to be served upon the nation, Tuesday. Not The Great Equivocator Malcolm Turnbull’s slapdown over his resolute evasion of constitutional recognition for indigenous peoples – that’s too ambitious” even though – or, perhaps – because Labor is proposing it. No. It’s a Lakemba-terror. Look out!

Of course it’s not all meant to drive us to distraction. A well-executed terror scare helps us embrace our political leaders and reinforce their need to frighten us further. As experts point out, it is not clear-cut, however, although evidence suggests a terror threat can benefit right wing politicians, especially election candidates.

To create maximum consternation, a mincer is pressed into service as the engine of an “Islamic-based” plot. An inspired choice of device, “mincer” bolts the exotic to the domestic right in your own kitchen. Inventive? Sinister. Not only is ISIS coming to get us, as Abbott warned, our household appliances are not what they may seem.

There is a teensy evidentiary problem. No-one has been able to find the Kenwood in question. Happily, habeas corpus no longer holds up our streamlined anti terror laws. Mostly it’s straight to jail even if you only have a dumb plan. Yet it’s deadly serious. The attention to detail in costume alone signals a bin squad that means business.

Yellow plastic terror-proof cover-alls contrast vividly with blue kitchen gloves, blue plastic bags and the cerulean blue tarps everything in the bin is tipped out on. It’s more than a visual feast to lift a nation’s spirits, it’s a religious ceremony, the ritual elevation of the AFP into a priestly class.

Almost up there with ASIO, our AFP hierophants are blessed with supernatural powers to divine all manner of evil.

And keep us safe. The saffron vestments help cement the deal. A buttercup cop in a surgical mask upends a gun-metal grey garbage bin. Voila! But take heed, political deviants and dissenters. Our moral, metaphysical, if not spiritual, guardians sift rubbish with all the unhurried, unsmiling thoroughness of a gang of Mumbai rag-pickers.

Four Men … is a high-stakes, top-quality attention-grabbing drama, a long, suspenseful, terrifying stake-out.

Lethal. Yairs. Top cops tell us how an exploding mince-maker could bring down an airliner in a setting of utter suburban dullness, a plot device and a location so humdrum it takes the banality of evil to a whole new level.

Worse, Channel 7 rants, in more, explosive, revelations. It has wind of a back up plan to launch a Hydrogen Sulphide or fart gas attack on a public transport network system in Sydney. Is there no end to Muslim perfidy? But, wait, something’s on the nose. Of course, Seven has just re-releasing an AFP press release – and it’s a bit whiffy.

The gas is toxic in sufficient concentration but the volume required, Professor Greg Barton, who enjoys regular media billing as a Deakin counter-terrorism expert, argues, rules out any carry on luggage. You’d need a truckload.

And it’s only talk. AFP deputy commissioner of national security Michael Phelan reveals that a second terror plot was “allegedly being discussed by the accused”. Yet even this can be dressed up as scary. The men discussed “… building of an improved chemical dispersion device,” Phelan claims. It’s enough, moreover, to get you charged.

For News Corp’s Sharri Markson, who relays an anonymous minister (not Peter Dutton) the real terrorists are Tim Wilson, Trent Zimmerman, Trevor Evans, Dean Smith and Warren Entsch who are agitating for a conscience vote.

“Today we need to be talking about terrorism and the fantastic work our agencies have done — but instead, because of these saboteurs, these suicide bombers in our own party, we’re talking about same-sex marriage.”

Not another agenda hi-jack! Markson’s “minister” (not Peter Dutton) pretends that government can’t possibly talk about more than one thing at a time. It’s an indictment, to claim our elected representatives can’t “fart and chew gum at the same time” (as Johnson said of Gerald Ford) but it’s now a Coalition orthodoxy; a standard evasion.

Do we really need to baste the carcass of an open society in its own juices by gushing praise over police, paramilitary and other agents of coercion? Haven’t we valorised anyone in uniform enough already? What we need to acknowledge is how well anti-terror laws and terror bust theatre help conceal the terror of the state.

Our draconian security laws threaten our open society. As The MEAA points out we have criminalised the truth and suppressed the right to know. Despite George Brandis, Barnaby Joyce and company, it’s the state whose terror laws are “law-fare” – not the protests of environmental groups which the government seeks to silence.

Michael Forst, UN Special Rapporteur, last October criticised The Turnbull government for its bill to prevent individuals or organisations that have engaged in environmental activities in the past two years from challenging decisions under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

Others have instanced our Border Force Act 2015 which can put you in jail for two years if you reveal anything about Manus or Nauru. Too bad if this cuts across your professional obligation to report physical and mental harm.

But the Coalition has not been content just to outlaw whistleblowers and suppress dissent. It deploys its own terror. News “breaks” this week that 38,000 Centrelink pensioners receive “Taskforce Integrity” letters from the Department of Human Services which bear an AFP logo to help instil fear. The letters, sent late July, warn often terrified recipients against deliberately withholding or providing false information to dishonestly collect payments.

Since 2015, DHS has sent over 85,000 letters with AFP logo to welfare recipients in nine national locations. Should any  government put the frighteners on its most vulnerable?  ACOSS head, Sandra Goldie, is in no doubt,

“It is completely inappropriate for the government to send letters to income support recipients with the Australian Federal Police logo asking if their details are up to date.” “These letters are threatening and completely disregard any mental health issue the person may have.”

Yet, distressingly, the issue attracts little MSM attention and despite its Robo-claw debt recovery debacle, the government is determined to press on with its standover tactics and its efforts to shakedown pensioners to find the small change down the back of the couch while allowing 36 per cent of large companies to pay no tax whatsoever. Oxfam calculates multinational tax avoidance costs Australia $6 billion in revenue every year.

No-one on the Tele, nor any another MSM recalls that it was a “relaxed and comfortable” John Howard in 2004 who took it upon himself to change the Marriage Act to exclude gay couples. Nor that he did it without plebiscite.

True, there was a bit of a fuss when he also proposed to ban same sex couples from adopting children from other countries, but he was able to abandon that part of his “reform” in his hope of quickly wedging Labor.

He wished, he claimed, “…to  make it very plain that that is our view of a marriage and to also make it very plain that the definition of a marriage is something that should rest in the hands ultimately of the parliament…”

In fact, as he did with school chaplains, arch-conservative Howard imposed his own prejudices on the nation, pausing only to insult us that he had read our’ minds for us. In this sense, he planted an IED of his own that his indulged disciple, Tony Abbott, our accidental Prime Minister, was able to augment with a bomb of his own.

Losing control of an unruly six hour party room meeting stacked with Nationals dinosaurs and desperate to head off a conscience vote, Abbott got his then deputy PM Julie Bishop to propose a plebiscite. It was a word which Wokka Entsch reckons he never heard. Yet it put a time-bomb under Turnbull which is ticking louder by the day.

In a secret, special “emergency” meeting of the Liberal party room scheduled for next Monday, Turnbull  will continue his mission of open and transparent, cabinet based decision-making government by trying to engineer a solution which will preserve his confidential, Faustian compact with the National Party.

What has upset the conservatives is news that WA Liberal Senator Dean Smith wishes to introduce a private member’s bill in favour of a conscience vote in parliament. Planning of this was leaked when last June when in a kiss of death, Christopher Pyne overshared his view that a bill would be introduced “sooner than everyone thinks.”

It was not so much the assertion itself which had Liberal die-hard rightists spluttering but his allied claim that the left-wing of the Liberal Party had taken over a vision calculated to inflame the passions of the Abbott, Eric Abetz, Kevin Andrews and the ten or so “Deplorables” who like to style themselves as conservatives.

Michelle Grattan who knows people who know people in Canberra believes the five amigos have unleashed an existential battle which goes to the heart of Turnbull’s leadership, a locus, itself a vexed conundrum. Like some reverse terror group, those pro a SSM conscience vote, she says, have engineered an “extraordinary implosion”.

It won’t come to a fight. In typically assertive fashion, the PM’s made it clear that he won’t lead or embrace a position himself. In truth he doesn’t have the political capital to do much else – and even less authority.

What could possibly go wrong? Courting disaster is the par for the course with him. Politics, Groucho Marx reminds us, is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.

If all goes to plan, the PM will be able to brandish a non-binding, non-compulsory postal plebiscite which could cost the nation $100 million – to reach a verdict which his government can then reject. Malcolm Farr on ABC Insiders Sunday, says he’s charging the tax-payer to come up with a decision which parliament should be making.

In brief, a postal plebiscite is another political expedient; an evasion of Tony Abbott’s initial evasion of a conscience vote which would undo John Howard’s original 2004 political expedient. Bugger what the nation wants.

Polls show majority support for marriage equality. Only about 25% of Australians oppose same sex marriage.

In the end, the issue illuminates how far Turnbull’s need to keep his leadership outweighs all other concerns and how much his need to appease the right of the party leads his government further away from popular opinion.

The secret deal with the Nationals he made to gain the leadership has not been divulged even after FOI requests.  But it’s clear that he’s meant to keep a leash on the liberals in the party while the National party keeps a leash on him.

A joint party room will follow Tuesday where Turnbull will take a secret ballot, banking on the status quo. Whatever the outcome, the Nationals – who have seven times the number of seats as The Greens but less than half the votes – thanks to our gerrymandered political system, will exercise their right of veto, Friday.

In a ray of (setting) sunshine for the right wing, groundhog day for peak stupid arrives Saturday. Craig Kelly is on ABC crowing over the proposed visit of Trump EPA Head and climate change global village idiot, Scott Pruitt. Kelly gushes over the chance to hear Pruitt.

“The head of the EPA in the United States of America is a very high ranking and prestigious position and if he’s got time amongst his busy schedule to come and visit us down in Australia we should welcome him with open arms,” Kelly says.

Nonsense. Just let us know, Craig, if it were you or Josh who invited him. Pruitt does not need our endorsement; nor do we need to hear his stupidity nor his coal-lobby spin. We are being softened up for more coal-fired power stations. On cue this week, PM has been waffling about how ideology must not get in the way of energy security.

By the end of the week, the Turnbull government is in crisis even before parliament has resumed. Luckily a tape is leaked which gives the lie to claims that Turnbull has not talked tough to the US President, Donald Trump over our heroic refugee-swap which will see us clear Manus and Nauru in return for some unwanted Columbians.

He has “held the line” claim MSM applauding our PM’s assertiveness and offering other glowing endorsements his office has press-released them. In reality, the transcript reveals Turnbull’s thoroughgoing duplicity and cynicism. He is unconcerned if the US takes only a hundred refugees as long as the deal appears outwardly to be a success.

The leak is a damning indictment. It provides a privileged insight into a totally cynical Turnbull and his government to whom nothing matters, least of all the suffering of our refugees, detained offshore in conditions and circumstances which amount to torture.

Turnbull’s sole motivation is to cling to power by whatever means present themselves.

Above all the leaked transcript points to the callous inhumanity of our refugee policy. Whatever the outcome of its gay-marriage imbroglio, the Turnbull government needs to bring our refugees home immediately.

Similarly he could make the call for a conscience vote in Parliament and let his opponents be damned. It would require courage but he has absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Spare us the surreal terror scare tactics, the endless hype about security and the dog-whistling of division, Mr Turnbull. For once in your life do something healing.