Warwick: See how the pangs of death doth make him grin. William Shakespeare, Henry IV Part 2, Act iii.
Our PM and Opposition leader start their week with a flying visit to Israel to commemorate the Battle of Beersheba, a joyous trip into history and myth. Time to salute again the legendary, bronzed, invincible Digger, fearless in his duty to his King, his country and British Empire. Keeping Australia white. Inspiring. But somehow Mal can’t stay focused.
It’s a battle for Turnbull just to leave home. All hell is breaking loose. A Beersheba centenary bash doesn’t happen every year. But his sinking Prime Ministership needs him. The dual citizenship debacle is destroying his government.
Labor maintains an election-winning lead in opinion polls. Essential Research has Labor’s two-party lead bouncing back to 54-46, a result which mirrors this week’s Newspoll. A leadership spill is imminent, surely.
Meanwhile insurrection rears its neatly tonsured head. Kevin Andrews, Abbott ally and fellow-travelling malcontent, “father of the house”, suddenly has his Tintoretto head on all channels. Mal’s “the leader at the moment”, he snipes. “Voters are unhappy with inadequate leadership.” Is he echoing Turnbull’s rationale for toppling Abbott?
Kev’s not advocating (much) for a change of leader but Australians want clear, decisive, stable leadership. Not a fizza.
Above all, is the issue of Mal’s accursed poor judgement even if Father Kev is too kind to spell it out. Another day, another dud call is the Turnbull story so far. But all duds are not equal. His spectacularly bad call on The High Court’s dual citizenship of his deputy, in particular, is causing his prime ministership to explode in his face like a trick cigar.
Choosing to tough it out with Joyce’s eligibility in doubt is the PM’s most costly misjudgement yet. Some, at least, of his deputy’s decisions are now open to challenge, especially his casting vote for cutting penalty rates for some workers.
Penalty rates are part of his government’s war on workers. And unions. After creating her own credibility crisis, anti-worker, anti-union Employment Minister, Michaelia Cash, has yet to come out of witness protection after misleading parliament about her registered organisation commission (ROC)’s illicit AFP raid on AWU offices seeking documents already tendered to Abbott’s witch hunt on Shorten, the $61m Trade Union Royal Commission.
The AFP were seeking the minutes of an AWU meeting 12 years ago when Shorten was boss. The AWU voted to give $100,000 to what was then a brand-new progressive activist outfit calling itself Getup! It was a legitimate donation. No law was broken. Instead the ROC – AFP raid itself was illegal and clearly nothing more than an ugly, political stunt.
If the botched AFP raid is not enough, add Nigel Hadgkiss. The rule of law clearly didn’t trouble Cash or the government when appointing Hadgkiss to head the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), the “new tough cop on the block” to keep workers honest. Hadgkiss had broken the Fair Work Act himself. And Cash knew.
Some good has been done. Cash has helped spotlight the injustice of the Coalition’s war on workers. Since 2013, it has used politicised commissions and investigations to pursue its sworn enemy the unions and The Australian Labor Party, with extreme prejudice toward Julia Gillard and Bill Shorten, in show trials assisted and amplified by a tame MSM.
Cash may well have done her dash. Certainly she has put her government and her PM between a ROC and a hard place. She is one of the few cabinet ministers who don’t show up in Jerusalem – apart from Turnbull who misses the start.
Dithering only for a couple of days, agonising whom to leave minding the red teapot, Turnbull opts to put Ms Julie Bishop in charge. It’s no easy delegation. The Foreign Minister’s diary is already chockers with work-related Flemington Spring carnival engagements. Still, Julie will read out the day’s talking points and evade any ABC questions splendidly.
At last! Mal makes his mad dash to Jerusalem, where he buddies up with his bestie, Bibi, the terminally scandal-ridden Israeli PM who needs him in his quest to recruit history to the Zionist cause while he continues Israel’s war on Palestine.
Turnbull plunges into a speech mangling history; heavy on the brotherhood of battle between Israel and Australia and our two nations’ shared values. The Turnbull government’s commitment to the rule of law also cops a lot of repetition.
Reporters fidget with phones and microphones. The PM’s speech-making so often mires itself in the no man’s land between homily and harangue. He’s sonorous but sincerity and conviction suffer. At the end he takes media questions.
“Do you ever feel you’ve had enough? You’d just like to — it’s all been too much?” I’ve never had more fun in my life, he replies. A cheeky scribe wants to know why the PM hasn’t just resigned, given his record of epic, inglorious failure. Why, like disgraced employment minister Michaelia Cash, doesn’t he just lie down and pull the doona up over his head?
Mal puts on his brave smile, something Katharine Murphy calls a rictus, – an allusion to the death rictus. A harsh Jerusalem sun which somehow finds the gaps between the olive leaves at The Grove of Nations reveals too much ugly sinew. His thin, dry, skin puckers at the cheekbone betraying a face ravaged by age and the vicissitudes of fate.
He flashes a shit-eating grin, so brightly polished it could light up the entire east coast of Australia. It’s his cue to stride away manfully. End the presser in a triumphant display of strong and resolute leadership. Another shutdown.
But the PM makes a gaffe. Is it jet lag or just poor judgement? Somehow he thinks it would be a top occasion for a prank. The PM pretends, puckishly, to confuse Bill Shorten with “Bill the Bastard”, a notorious old war horse.
“Bill the Bastard – that was a horse, that was a horse, I hasten to add – he was un-rideable. He was a rogue“, he sniggers.
Yet Bill the Bastard was fractious, fierce and built like a rhinoceros. Turnbull’s ironic insult won’t harm Shorten.
Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag. Smile boys that’s the style. No festering enmity while paying respects.
Mal and Bill are at war with history in Jerusalem, helping war criminal Israeli PM, Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu pretend that the 1917 Australian Light Horse charge on Beersheba struck a blow for Israel, a state created 31 years later.
Turnbull will pose as a patriot, this time in a vote-winning re-creation of the Battle of Beersheba as an Australian-led victory, a version of events which discounts the heavy and decisive fighting of British infantry and artillery and other colonial forces. To be fair, he does also briefly mention New Zealand but it won’t please our ANZAC partners.
The Australian raid was made possible only when the Kiwi Canterbury Mounted Rifles Regiment enabled Auckland Mounted Rifles to capture of Tel el Saba, a Turkish fortified hill overlooking the plain 3.2 kms north-east of Beersheba.
“It was a great victory, a great charge, the last successful cavalry charge in military history, and certainly one that rings through the ages, profoundly Australian in every respect, deeply etched in our national psyche,” Turnbull claims.
Military historians cringe. The Fourth Light Horse Brigade, confused on Channel 7 with the Light Brigade were not cavalry but rather, mounted infantry who would ride into battle; dismount and fight on foot. Other errors are legion.
It’s the last successful cavalry charge apart from all those which came after it. These include the 18th Pomeranian Uhlans, a Polish cavalry charged charge against a German infantry regiment at Krojanty, routing a larger force with lance & sabre. Or the Battle of Schoenfeld, March 1945 when Polish cavalry overran German antitank gun positions.
Beersheba would have fallen anyway. Yet the PM takes another vital step in the long march of what Henry Reynolds describes as “the progressive militarisation of Australian history”. He declares open the ANZAC history museum endowed by the Pratt family monopolists and others, who also set up the 2008, (theme) Park of the Australian Soldier.
Yet it’s not just a fake history excursion. Big-note club veteran, Turnbull “beefs up our defence and security ties with Israel” which involves signing a memorandum of understanding on defence industry co-operation. Dan Tehan looks on.
Any excuse to use the word cyber and to parade danger mouse, Dan Tehan, The Minister for Anzackery and cyber security amongst other portfolios. Dan heads a Melbourne Cup field of MPs on the junket. Frydenberg is even sighted.
The PM reminds everyone that we are already at war; brothers in arms with Israel. A band of brothers and sheilas.
“We are all fighting together against militant Islamist terrorism,” the PM says, relaying a cheap shot at the ethos of Islam, part of the obligatory public bellicosity or Trump-grovelling that being a US ally demands from this government.
“It’s a threat to Israel, it’s a threat to Australia and it’s a threat to all who value and cherish freedom.”
Demonising is a great way to alienate the 2 billion people of the world’s second largest religious faith. Most Muslims feel insulted, wronged, or angry at hearing expressions which seem to blame terrorism on Islam.
Keeping us safe, Turnbull helps terrorists by reinforcing the idea that the West sees Islam as a source of evil.
Of course there’s a lot of jaw-boning about our shared values. The f-word gets a huge work out.
Bibi knows his bestie will understand that for Israel, freedom is a relative term. A 2015 US Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, shows Israel faces significant human rights problems regarding institutional discrimination of Arab citizens of Israel, many of whom see themselves as Palestinian, a type of apartheid, Ethiopian Israelis, women, and the treatment of refugees and irregular migrants.
Non-Orthodox Jews face institutional discrimination as do intermarried families. Abuses of Labour rights are experienced by foreign workers. Then there’s freedom of speech, a work in regress in Australia and in Israel.
On top of all is the elephant in the room, the Israeli dispossession of Palestinians in the occupied territories. Or the 2014 attack on Gaza, its offensive against Hamas, in which killed more than 2,200 Palestinians and 73 Israelis.
According to the UN, Israel conducted 6,000 airstrikes and fired over 50,000 tank and artillery shells in its war on Gaza.
Al Jazeera reports that the Israeli army indiscriminately and deliberately targeted civilians during a brutal 2014 assault known as “Black Friday”, according to a 2015 report on the Gaza war. Save the Children reports that in a survey of 300 families, 70% of children suffer post-traumatic stress symptoms.
Netanyahu banned Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem bureau chief from a recent state-sponsored event on freedom of speech.
“Bibi”, as Turnbull and other big-shot Zionist pals call the Israeli PM, is at war with the free press in his own country. Last year, Freedom House, a US democracy advocacy organisation, downgraded Israel’s press freedom from free to partly free. Turnbull could proudly share how he allows only News Corp reporters on to Manus Island.
Or how he could brag how he and his ministers can ring up to roast the ABC if they see a dangerous Muslim like Zaky Mallah in the Q&A audience or when Four Corners reports the truth on Nauru without putting the other side.
Mal may even brag how soon to be Home Affairs Super-Minister, top dog, paranoid Peter Dutton accuses The Guardian of jihadist, left-wing conspiracy in his regular media bullying. How he can complain the “activists have taken over” at the ABC. But chin up Dutto. This week ABC screens a programme showing us how Border Force is keeping us all safe.
Beersheba’s commemoration is not only the culmination of our government’s three year, $600,000 commemoration of World War One, it is highly symbolic. Netanyahu knows his propaganda. When Israel bombarded Gaza, he said
“They want to pile up as many civilian dead as they can. They use telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause. They want the more dead, the better.”
There’s a parallel here with John Howard whose “babies overboard”, demonised asylum-seekers. An echo also of Josef Goebbels who wrote in 1941, “One suddenly has the impression that the Berlin Jewish population consists only of little babies whose childish helplessness might move us, or else fragile old ladies. The Jews send out the pitiable.”
Despite all his demonisation and his recent claims that refugees are wealthy Armani-wearing frauds or child abusers whom the locals quite rightfully want to kill, Dutton’s epic Manus Island failure is a humanitarian crisis, says the UN.
Sunday, the PM rebuffs Jacinda Ardern’s offer to take 150 refugees yet PNG tells Al Jazeera Australia ought accept it. Turnbull tries to make a case for his US deal taking priority, playing down the urgency of the situation. Is the government rejecting New Zealand’s offer, which Labor urges it to accept, just to paint the opposition as soft on border protection?
Manus represents Peter Dutton’s department’s total failure to plan for the needs of the 600 or so refugees and asylum seekers when there has been adequate warning that PNG was closing the centre. In April 2016, PNG’s Supreme Court ruled that the detention of refugees on Manus was illegal and in breach of fundamental human rights.
The men on Manus have no facilities; no power, water or food. Attempts by others to bring food and water have been rebuffed by a government prepared to adopt the heartless and inhumane expedient of starving the men out.
The men are terrified to leave the centre. They fear for their safety in the unfinished camp the Australian government is building at Lorengau, after no consultation with local people as part of a process of moving them into a hostile PNG community with which they have no ties. Lives are at risk. The suffering has gone on too long.
As Tim Costello argues, after four years no other solution has been found. The government needs to come to its sense and bring the refugees and asylum seekers to Australia. There is no other option than to resettle the men here.
The PM seems unmoved. He does makes an emotive appeal on behalf of Josh Frydenberg who may be Hungarian. His rhetoric seems designed to distract from the fact that in 2011, Hungary’s new constitution restored citizenship stripped from Jewish people by the Nazis. It also conferred nationality on their children.
“We must not allow ourselves to be dragged into a sort of lynch mob, witch-hunt, trial by innuendo and denunciation,” the prime minister rants from Perth forsaking all outward sign of sobriety and rationality himself. It’s unfortunate that AWU witch hunt organised by Michaelia Cash and her ROC is fresh in the nation’s memory.
Yet the genie is out of the bottle. “Business as usual” will see other dual citizen MPs pressed to confess to lying low while the High Court got it sorted. Or somehow the dogs are called off.
Ma’s just mad about Parry. Stephen Parry, former undertaker by trade, and now ex-Liberal Senate leader kept a long time mum about his English dad. Parry clearly punted on the High Court voting the way his PM tipped it. And lost.
Turnbull publicly laments Parry’s delay. It’s a lame leadership strategy from a lame leader. Parry tries to justify himself.
The High Court’s decision on Friday had provided, he says in a statement, “absolute clarity about the application of section 44 of the Australian constitution” and that he had written to the British Home Office to clarify his status.
Assistant Immigration Minister, Alex Hawke is the latest MP to face calls to prove he is not a dual Greek-Australian citizen. There is also chatter about MP Ann Sudmalis not having renounced her British citizenship. Yet whilst Labor has better procedures, neither major party wants to take up The Greens audit proposal. There is clearly too much to lose.
The Turnbull government is one by-election in a marginal away from political extinction. Astrophysicist Colin Jacobs calculates the mathematical probability of additional “dual” citizens in 150-member lower house as 99.96 per cent.
The Australian an anti-Turnbull journal which counts Tony Abbott amongst its contributors, helpfully concludes that his Prime Ministership is built on pillars of sand and “can no longer be assured” and gives the nod to Turnbull party room loyalists such as Scott Ryan and James McGrath who are beginning to “crab-walk” away from their leader.
Julie Bishop’s leadership chances get yet another spin while there is talk of Dutton-Hunt ticket. (To be fair several “senior Liberals” – say they would rather go into Opposition than serve under Julie Bishop.)
Worms will turn. Barnaby Joyce now says he knew in his gut he was done for. But the Solicitor General, (read PM) made him stay. Why, if it’d been up to him, he’d have done the decent thing. Got this by-election over with months ago.
Joyce is openly disloyal to Turnbull. Already a stink is brewing over who gets to replace Fiona Nash. Joyce also bleats about how the Nationals won the last election and how somehow that makes them dominant partner in the Coalition why, they ought to be leading the senate, now that Tassie Senator Parry’s come out as a Pom.
Turnbull’s Battle of Beersheba excursion may prove a costly diversion from his local problems. Without any strategy in place to stem the dual citizenship catastrophe and without any plan to acknowledge, let alone end the humanitarian crisis on Manus and his anti-union witch-hunt unravelling, he has just given opportunity to his opponents to lead a movement against him.
Whatever they may achieve now, his enemies certainly have plans to stall any change to the Marriage Act when the postal survey result is known. Given that he has nothing whatsoever to lose, Turnbull should bring those on 600 or so suffering acutely now on Manus Island home to Australia immediately.