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.