Month: December 2017

A double agent in the house? It’s the least of our worries.

dutto2

 

Loud hosannas resound in Canberra. Hallelujah. Could it be the joyous news that Harry and Meghan Markle will grace us with their royal presence at a charity polo match in Marvellous Melbourne early next year?

Or is it Dotard Trump’s Middle East diplomatic masterstroke? Swayed by Zionist lobbyists and fat-cat Republican donors’ demands he moves the US embassy to Jerusalem? Images of rioting, protesting Palestinians appear immediately. Any moment, son-in-law, slumlord Jared Kushner, will “deliver peace” in the Middle East on cue.

No. It’s our own joyous ritual bloodletting. The killing season is upon us. A PM should watch his back. Beware Daily Telegraph claims that Turnbull is “turning the tide on Labor”.  Which tide? A chorus of MSM hacks ignore NewsPoll and Ipsos showing the Coalition lagging Labor 47:53, while Essential has the government 45-55 to Labor.

Yet Turnbull insists he’s ending the year on a high. Even lurching from crisis to catastrophe, a Coalition government always gets a fabulous press. It has the best connections.

Or it just helps itself to credit due to others.  A week before parliament plunges into recess, the government covers itself in stolen glory. In a stunt worthy of a Mean Girls’ character, little Malco takes credit for the Yes vote himself, despite leaving all advocacy to others. It’s his big win. This does not endear him to any LGTBI advocates.

More worryingly, Turnbull shows no sense that the survey was a delaying stunt. Nor is there any hint he feels sorry – or some responsibility for all of the injury done. Mental health expert, Professor Patrick McGorry – reports that, for many, the campaign revived traumatic memories of bullying and discrimination they faced at school.

Online agencies report a similar pattern. Digital Youth service ReachOut, a Frontline Service which attracts 1.5 million unique visitors to its website annually, reports its online forums recorded a sharp increase in activity, with young gay people reporting feeling scared and tired of personal attacks.

Many other agencies report distress. A key source of psychological suffering stemmed from the flaw in the survey’s conception. Many share Dennis Halloran’s anger that other people get to vote about his personal life.

“It’s insulting,” says Halloran a voter in Turnbull’s Wentworth electorate . “I believe equality is a human right.”

In other aspects, Turnbull’s support of marriage equality is equivocal; inconsistent. In 1997, he wrote a case against a postal vote because “it flies in the face of Australian democratic values”. In 2012 in Julia Gillard’s conscience vote in parliament, he voted against marriage equality. Bill Shorten voted in favour.

Turnbull has not been honest about the concept. The postal survey was not Dutton’s idea but came from Andrew Laming, an MP who drew up many surveys, which, when trialled always managed to get a negative result.

Most tellingly, Turnbull has never been keen to canvass the thoughts and feelings of those whose interests and experiences are most relevant.   Last August he ignored calls to consult with the LGTBI community before introducing his postal survey which, in inception at least, was a Trojan horse to forestall marriage equality.

Congratulations? The PM will be lucky to receive a Mean Girls  Spring Fling plastic tiara a cheap, hollow crown.

Yet a euphoria descends upon weary but relieved yes supporters. Even IPA tool, former anti-human rights commission, human rights commissioner Tim Wilson proposes to partner Ryan mid-debate.

You can read it in Hansard. Then, quickly compartmentalising joy as all male-dominated outfits must; it moves on to pride. The Coalition channels its inner Trump, boasting over its glorious, historic victory in the New England by-election.

The Coalition  crows. Biggest swing to a sitting government in history, even if it must say so itself – repeatedly.

This “wasn’t a Newspoll”, this was “a real poll” shouts a PM whose credibility is in free fall as a nation has just seen him cynically cancel a week of parliament on the pretext of making room for marriage equality law-making. The hiatus is a desperate move to ensure his own political survival. So, too, is his over-promotion of Peter Dutto.

Yet joyous exultation froths out of the Liberal spin machine over the imminent elevation of our Lord High Protector Peter “Spud” Dutton to his new Home Affairs gig. His installation is fast-tracked not by popular demand but by Turnbull’s need to appease right wing party bullies intent on total domination via ownership of the PM.

Dutto, too, kicks along the nation’s ersatz euphoria as Dastyari-bashing, a national blood-sport, is back in season.

“Sam Dastyari is a Chinese spy. A double agent”, dirty Dutto dog-whistles in Question Time. It’s a slur speaker Tony Smith doesn’t hear, he says, but it’s clear enough to 2GB listeners when Dutto first makes it a week earlier.

“You can’t have a double agent in the Australian parliament. It’s simply not good enough, Ray.”  

Government MPs love a lynch mob – especially with a racist vibe. All week, MPs pile on; raid the Liberals’ stock of Yellow Peril formula from the Cold War to whip up a fresh brew of Sinophobia. They howl Dastyari down, a Labor traitor in our midst, while putting the wind up the 44341 Bennelong residents who identify as Chinese-Australians.

Political piñata he may be, but Dastyari’s bashing goes too far. And not just in Sydney. China is “astonished” by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s statements which risk “poisoning” our bilateral relationship.

Less puzzled, however, is Martin McKenzie Murray who reports in The Saturday Paper that senior Labor Party figures believe the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) leaked the audio of Sam Dastyari’s 2016 press conference in front of Chinese media, but possibly did so following pressure from a disgruntled US.

Like the giant panda in the room, the issue of how the media gained report of Dastyari’s diabolical treachery is largely ignored in our MSM. A security agency’s spook may have leaked intelligence to the media in order to damage Dastyari and Labor but the story of the week has been largely ignored, save by McKenzie-Murray.

A hostile US embassy concerned with Labor’s links to China – and a willingness to co-operate may have stitched up Sam – and his PM.

How this Chinese-whisper stacks up against Andrew Robb, for example, or countless other money-grubbing Coalition figures is problematic. Dastyari’s breach of protocol is nowhere as serious, for example,  as Stuart Robert who, as assistant minister of defence, oversaw a mining deal between Nimrod Resources – run by his close friend, major Liberal Party donor Paul Marks – and the Chinese government-owned company Minmetals.

In a review conducted by Prime Minister and Cabinet (PMC)head, Dr Martin Parkinson, it was found that Mr Robert had acted inconsistently with the Statement of Ministerial Standards, if unwittingly. Parkinson also notes Mr Robert appears not to have received any financial benefit from the deal. Unlike Andrew Robb.

Andrew Robb’s contract with Chinese company Landridge, a document shrouded in confidentiality,  effectively guarantees him $800,000 per year with little in the way of prescribed, part-time  duties, – beginning shortly after he left parliament in 2016 – a contract revealed by Fairfax Media and Four Corners in June.

Billionaire Ye Cheng owns Landridge, which controversially acquired a 99-year lease for the Port of Darwin in 2015. In brief, any investigation of China’s influence in Australia would begin with far bigger firms and entrepreneurs.

And agents. McKenzie Murray reports sources who suggest that the damaging leak against Dastyari may arise from his association with Chinese businessman Huang Xiangmo. ASIO had forewarned major parties Huang was a likely agent for the Chinese Communist Party. Some suggest the NSW Right may have leaked the story.

A separate leak against Shorten was made quickly after the Dastyari tape went public. The Opposition leader is reported to have visited Huang prior to the federal election – months after an ASIO warning – for a campaign donation. The NSW Right may have leaked to warn Shorten to acquiesce with the pro-China faction.

All of this is damaging to Labor. Yet more than some of the story beggars belief.

Getting great airplay in parliament and in MSM is the PM’s story that Dastyari visited Huang at his home. He suggested to Huang that his phone may be tapped, or its microphone remotely activated. The story depends on the willing suspension of belief that neither man would simply turn his phone off.

Or that neither uses Telegram or some similarly secure popular messaging device. But we mustn’t spoil the story.

Being bugged by a phone which is  turned off taps vast reserves of fiendish oriental cunning and other Sinophobic prejudices. It is also fed by popular mythology of all-pervasive, ruthless modern cyber espionage, currently fanned to fever pitch by dynamic Dan Tehan and his PM on behalf of a government keen to crank up fear of Cyber-attack.

Hysteria beckons. MSM report stories of people fearing they are being spied on by their microwave ovens.

The attacks on Sam are problematic. It is unwise, however enjoyable, to speculate on motivation. Yet they are odd and appear orchestrated.  Are they US inspired? Shopping a spook – or a double agent could help the coalition show its fealty to the US and also be part of an attack on Shorten, an MP who has been pilloried mercilessly since Abbott in a prolonged and damaging process of character assassination and personal slur.

What is alarming is the number of MSM stories which now suggest Shorten faces troubling times.  Even more disturbing is Peter Dutton’s promise that he has more dirt to dish on Dastyari.

There will be more revelations to come out on shady Dastyari, he threatens in that menacing generality one expects from a super minister about to run a Home Affairs super ministry. Or a drug cop about to fit you up.

Huge damage has been done, despite Labor’s strong opinion polling. So effective has coalition sledging been, alone, the name “Bill Shorten” has in some contexts become a type of gag-line; a means to invoke derision or worse. Barnaby Joyce loves to make himself useful with such attacks. Nationals exist to bait Labor.

“You might be leader of the Labor Party, but it looks like you’ve never done a day’s labour in your life.

“He couldn’t run a pie shop and the thought of him running the country fills me with dread.”

Lapdog Barnaby is eager to follow Turnbull’s lead in preferring personal insult to political debate. Character assassination takes far less preparation than refutation or rebuttal or any other of the arts of debate. Far more damaging, too.

Yet there’s another twist. Mal’s cunning plan is to crank up the war on Dastyari to smooth the passage of a bill or several –he talks loosely of laws – which will restrict foreign influence- not just Chinese interference- while it prevents charities from advocacy (which entails criticising government policy) and nobbles GetUp!

More worrying is that the new legislation appears directed against Sam Dastyari, our Labor opponent du jour.

“In my view, the conduct alleged against him does not reach the threshold of the existing laws of treason and espionage, but that is why we are introducing – because of the gap in those laws, a new offence of unlawful foreign interference,” argues Attorney-General Brandis, a Queensland QC who argued in August that ignorance would save Barnaby Joyce.

Ironically, Australia takes further moves to silence dissent and to diminish agencies of advocacy or criticism, while China, with a long history of such measures  including persecution of dissidents, is quick to voice its displeasure.

Yet Turnbull’s gone overboard – or thrown the Dastyari out with the bath water. Whipping up anti-Dastyari hysteria so keenly as to offend a major trading partner amounts, is another poor judgement call from the PM. Happily the Liberals’ broad church can celebrate Barnaby’s brain farts instead.

Joyce to the world. Barnaby is not just Tamworth’s Salvator Mundi, says the PM although BJ says he’s no saint.

New England writs return in record time; Turnbull urgently needs BJ’s vote. By Wednesday, Joyce’s back at the despatch box ranting at Labor in a mongrel attack bagging Shorten for not sending MPs straight to the High Court .

 “Even after seeing the decision in the High Court where it is black and white, they (Labor) still made it a resolve of theirs to hide, to obfuscate and treat us all as fools,” he thunders his face all beetroot borscht and no cream.

“To Mr Shorten, to the Labor Party, to those being led around by the nose by the Labor Party, who actually took them on good faith to what they told you. I think now is the time that you should truly hold the Labor Party under the tutelage of Mr Bill Shorten well and truly to account.”   

There’s more of this from the former bean counter but the jig is up. Joyce is rewriting history. Preposterous is his outrageous claim that his delayed appearance in the High Court was not an attempt to hide, obfuscate and treat judges like fools. But he knows, as well as his government’s dirt unit, that it’s the big lies that work best.

Mangling syntax, forging tortuous metaphors, BJ rivals Bob Katter for wrangling language into nonsense.  Barnaby has his own wordsmithing ways and he’s not afraid to enter the smithy. Even if it gets him into serious trouble.

In October 2014, Barnaby corrected Hansard  His drought assistance answer claimed farmers received immediate help. He added disclaimers and qualifiers – “unless it is a new application,” and “if you were also a recipient of the Interim Farm Household Allowance”. He later had the changes struck out, blaming his staff for the error.

In  March 2015 his secretary Paul Grimes wrote to the now-Deputy Prime Minister telling him he “no longer [had] confidence in [his] capacity to resolve matters relating to integrity” with him. Grimes resigned. Fudging Hansard is probably not something to put on a CV but Barnaby’s absolved of all sin by his latest, greatest, glorious win.

The government has Joyce sworn in just before Question Time Wednesday and uses his crucial vote to stymie Labor’s attempt to send a joint referral of its current crop of nine MPs with dual citizenship to the High Court.

Turnbull does another flip-flop, back-flip. His political gymnastics are guaranteed to convey stability; strength.

For all its hype about a bipartisan resolution of the citizenship crisis , the government is now adamant that only Labor MP David Feeney and senator Katy Gallagher will be referred to the High Court. Given a chance to clear up an unpopular and time-consuming crisis, Malcolm Turnbull has chosen to prolong it indefinitely.

Yet, just as big, is the news of the elevation of Liberal top banana, former QLD drug squaddie “Dirty” Peter Dutton.

Riding high on the runaway success of his off-shore detention regime of deterrence and the genius of his Manus’ final solution, Dirty Dutto’s long overdue promotion to a Home Office super-ministry is tipped for 17 December.

The move strengthens talk that Santorin George Brandis, our Attorney-General, will slope off to Old Blighty to replace High Commissioner to the UK Alexander Downer even if he does have to evict Downer kicking and screaming out of his High Commissioner’s mansion. At least Theresa May will receive some free entertainment.

Yet Dutto has a tough gig. Long overdue is Australia’s response to the UN Human Rights Committee, a body which harshly condemns of Australia for failing in its treatment of refugees, Indigenous rights and inadequate protection of human rights, including the lack of a national human rights act.  On past form, Dutto will ignore all this.

His pal Tony Abbott provides a clue. Going on the offensive, Abbott declared that we were sick of being lectured to when a 2015 UN report found Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers breaches an international anti-torture convention. It was just after he called Professor Gillian Triggs report on children in detention a stitch-up.

The UN’s special rapporteur on torture finds Australia is violating the rights of asylum seekers on multiple fronts under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, a notion which Eric Abetz calls deluded when Tasmanian Senator Lisa Singh repeats it on ABC Q&A last Monday.

Dutto will be champing to get this bit between his teeth. His  super ministry will combine Australian Federal Police (AFP), spy agency Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), and the Australian Border Force (ABF).

But the week has a happy ending after all.

All hail New England’s conquering hero, former dual Kiwi, bar-storming, Barnaby Joyce, a man of the Tamworth world, who returns to Canberra in a blaze of glory, a cloud of bull-dust and his Akubra Cattleman hat. He’s back in parliament in a flash. His government’s majority rides on his RM Williams hand-tooled dynamic flex boots.

A boisterous, brawling government is abuzz with something more than the size of the New Election by-election win, a win which Turnbull instantly appropriates for the coalition – as he does with the marriage equality Yes vote.

Meanwhile, true-blue, Aussie battler and patriot Barnaby is pitted against Sam Dastyari public enemy number one.

Or that’s this week’s national mythic contest. It doesn’t pay to look closely. Barnaby may be Australia’s best retail politician but he’s a mining lobbyist who would help pollute the Great Artesian Basin, the world’s largest and deepest and our island continent’s biggest water source is extolled as a paragon of Aussie loyalty and fidelity.

“If you want to focus on the person in the weatherboard and iron they will give you the grace of their vote,” says the MP with a touch of Huey Long a politician who like Donald Trump appeals to the battlers and does nothing for them. And almost everything against them. Barnaby’s backers include billionaire Gina Rinehart

A deputy PM in charge of resources and water, he has no issue with spruiking for Santos on the local radio despite the damage done by fracking to local water.

Amidst the crush to cheer on Barnaby and install him in Tamworth’s pantheon as a cultural icon and appropriate his victory as the greatest swing to a sitting government ever, a frantic Canberra reaches fever pitch Thursday as religious freedom fears or time-wasting “pious amendments” such as Tony Abbott proposes are brushed aside and it becomes legal for same sex couples to marry. The winners’ circle is swamped by raucous gate-crashers.

Much of the ruckus is joyous celebration over the removal of an injustice and the recognition of a human right but there is also a desperate rush by a crush of unlikely MPs – rent-seekers eager to claim the victory of marriage equality, hitch their star to true-blue Barnaby’s iconic victory – while Dutton’s hot-eyed zealots pool resources, horses, water and feed and prepare to run any double agents right out of town.

Activists, lefties, greenies, advocates and dissidents all need to sit up and take notice.

 

A shameful betrayal of trust and responsibility.

turnbull and barnaby in hats at tamworth

“Yes we have no bananas. We have no bananas today.” (Frank Silver, Irving Cohn from, Make it Snappy 1922.)

“For every person who voted for us … I just want to say how completely and utterly humbled I am,” lies Barnaby.

“This has been a stunning victory and a great demonstration of the strength of the coalition,” says the PM.

A surreal political week reaches peak bullshit, the communications strategy of our era and one of the greatest dangers we face as a people and as a nation, Saturday.

It’s the talking up of Barnaby Joyce’s victory in the New England by election Saturday. Professional political con-artist, Malcolm Turnbull gives four cheers for his side-kick Joyce. Two stooges in concert in Tamworth, he and his deputy are dressed like stock agents on a Saturday night out. Costume is vital to any Nationals’ occasion.

The duo shriek Collins St farmer chic in matching blue checked shirts and nattily contrasting cowboy hats, light for the local and dark for the Canberra ring-in dude. Turnbull grins like a barracuda. Busts his chops as if he’s just won Lotto. There’s a holler and whoop from the crowd before he’s back on the mike with another crock of whoppers.

“Thank you for getting the band back together”, says the PM to his ruddy-faced sidekick. More whoops.

The nation looks on warily. Joyce’s re-election rubber-stamp after 16 years of ineligibility in Senate and Reps is the end of a bizarre anti-campaign in which our unseated sitting candidate rarely appears outdoors. He deigns to appear in public, let alone debate the other 16 candidates. Cannily, he calculates, it’s not worth his while.

None of the out of town blow-ins, he knows, offers any real competition to Himself, a sitting member who is owed a massive Section 44 victim sympathy vote. He sets up his victimhood well. Cleverly makes it all about injustice.

It’s a complex, paradox-ridden balancing act and is part of the key to the paralysis afflicting national politics.

Despite being top dog, BJ plays the underdog who’s been cruelly and unfairly thrown from office. The ABC encourages this view.

Other media also obligingly depict BJ as another victim of ‘the citizenship crisis’, as if it were some rogue virus; negating his own responsibility. Like many other MPs Joyce was just too slack to check his own citizenship eligibility. Yet government chatter turns now to changing to law to protect the negligent.

By Saturday, Turnbull will crow. His deputy PM’s re-election represents a thumping endorsement of federal government policies.  And the wisdom of allowing candidates to check their own eligibility. But who are The Nationals? Do they even know themselves? How does Barnaby re-take New England? Time for a closer look.

“Bananas” Barnaby Joyce, New England’s celebrity MP, leads a motley rural mob of likely lads, ladettes in hats, self-interested mining shills and big-noting populist con-men like himself. Despite their pretentious name, the Nationals are local and parochial. Little is as it seems in the hugely over-promoted  victory in New England.

As with Donald Trump’s supporters, Nationals’ contradictions are endless.  For one, the Nats’ electorates offer refuge, of sorts, to a growing rural poor, whose numbers are swollen by increasingly transient Australians forced by rising rents, falling real wages and skyrocketing utility prices to migrate to regional and country towns.

Yet our poor folk in the bush get little joy from their MPs, although George Christensen did cross the floor, in June, to vote with Labor against the abolition of Sunday penalty rates for retail and hospitality workers. Nationals are generally right behind the Liberals’ crippling war on the poor, a plan that has seen wages and welfare stagnate.

The Nats’ big role is to add a second anti-Labor party to our politics – and joy to the hearts of our business class.

Mining interests love them. Ironically, Nationals MPs obsess over their own patch of turf while remaining hostile to those environmental and climate change policies which would help them conserve it.

Naturally, like former leader John Anderson some go on to top PR jobs in resource extraction after politics. Matt Canavan, who effortlessly relays Peabody and Adani Coal propaganda is already almost a full-time mining lobbyist.

Yet they are mysterious. Barnaby Joyce is privy to the top secret Coalition agreement which gives his party total control of the Prime Minister.  The government won’t show it to Labor, even under Freedom of Information. Opposition Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon mounts a legal challenge.

And they are conflicted. The Nats say they represent farmers but as primary production dwindles to 2% of GDP, they are far more likely to be lobbyists for Big Cotton and other rural, corporate interests which need the likes of Barnaby to help them suck the life out of the Murray Darling Basin, for example, at scandal-ridden Goondiwindi.

Their loyalties can be murky. Barnaby’s our nation’s Minister for Water. Yet when ABC’s Four Corners alleges Barwon-Darling valley farmers are taking more water than they are entitled to, it’s nothing to do with him, or federal government. “State issue.”

Yet in a Shepparton pub-talk, he’s every farmers’ champion, backing irrigators against greenies. Farm profits are more important than the environment. A recording shows him making extraordinary promises.

“We’ve taken water and put it back into agriculture [ministry] so we can look after you and make sure we don’t have the greenies running the show, basically sending you out the back door.”

Happily, no-one asks Barnaby about water in the campaign. But up in Goondiwindi, farmers report rorts in the “Healthy Headwaters” program. Irrigators replace water sold back to the Commonwealth with extra floodwaters caught off the plains, utterly subverting the Murray-Darling Plan’s aim.

Phlegmatic to the core, Barnaby’s not fussed. It’s not a matter for the commonwealth he maintains.

Healthy Headwaters appears to have been falsely entered on Goondiwindi invoices currently under investigation by Queensland’s major organised crime squad (rural). While Barnaby’s been looking after irrigators, there’s enough accrued evidence of corruption for SA to order a Royal Commission. “A states’ issue”, he insists.

Joyce is untroubled by awkward questions on his anti-campaign trail. A no-show means no-one holds him to account. Yet river issues form only part of Barnaby’s story. Nats are also big on fracking, a process of hydraulic oil and gas extraction known to contaminate, deplete and ruin the water table for farming and safe drinking.

In March, he endorsed a South Australian government plan to pay farmers 10 per cent of royalties for allowing gas wells on their land. The scheme should be rolled out nationally, with an exclusion of prime agricultural land.

“I can’t see people who start making hundreds of thousands or possibly millions of dollars a year having a backlash,” Joyce tells Fairfax Media. Bugger the environment, Barnaby. Buy complicity in eco-vandalism.

Joyce has also been accused of conflict of interest. In September, the Turnbull government demanded NSW accelerate approval of the Santos project at Narrabri, north-west of Sydney, to “ease a looming gas shortage”.

So its spin machine claims. Barnaby lists land at Gwabegar, west of Narrabri as part of his pecuniary interests.

He downplays his purchase of the land. He had no idea he’d bought CSG reserves when he paid $572,000 dollars for a thousand hectares of mongrel country on two blocks in 2006 and 2008. He denies receiving advice from his pal former Nationals leader, John Anderson, who became chairman of Eastern Star Gas in 2007.

Eastern Star co-owned explorations rights to PEL 428 a neighbouring area- before being taken over by Santos.

Given all his power, influence and sheer hide, however, Teflon Barnaby causes a stir with his invisible campaign stunt.

On the stump, it’s deathly quiet. You can almost hear the boys from the banks duffing cattle and forging signatures on contracts as they foreclose on farm mortgages in Tamworth’s main drag. Even the $9 per week Fijian fruit-pickers turn down their radio. Trust crafty old Bananas to run a silent auction instead of a campaign.

BJ’s fifty but the old stager uses a New Age, anti-campaign approach. Innovative. He stays up-tight and out of sight until voters re-elect him and the next episode of Barnaby goes Bananas begins all over again. Or when Turnbull goes down in harness. BJ’s mob will make a bold showing in any new coalition opposition portfolio carve-up.

New Age? No self-respecting modern local hero or anti-hero wants to risk over-exposure. Appear on the hustings? Debate the other 16 candidates? Don’t waste my time. Sagely, BJ stays right away from public fora.

His campaign team confirms the former deputy PM  is “not be participating in any public forums or debates”. It’s all due to the Melbourne Cup Field of “out-of-towner” candidates, volunteers The Armidale Express.

Not even BJ can keep it up. Duty calls. He must flip off a man’s hat in The Graman Hotel near Inverell Monday. The Deputy Prime Minister then calls his bare-headed victim a “fuckwit” reports the jihadist Labor-left- wing-greenie ABC news.

“A line was crossed. The man was bringing up family matters“, Barnaby tells Fairfax.  It’s a win for New England gallantry. The Nationals’ leader also sets a new community liaison benchmark to his followers.

Certainly, The High Court’s upset him. Barnaby’s stripped of his office by seven judges dim enough to claim he’s a Kiwi despite his First Fleet ancestors in the local cemetery. So unfair. No-one’s more ‘Strayan. Even Malcolm Turnbull knows that. So why is Barnaby not on the hustings? His nation needs him. The suspense is incredible.

Everything rides on BJ’s re-election, an RM Williams-Gina Rinehart-Santos-Murray-Darling cotton joint-production. But Nats are more than lobby group sock puppets. Our gerrymandered electoral system, helps too.

Nationals get seven times as many seats in parliament as The Greens for less than half the votes. Nats get at best seven per cent of the national vote, David Marr reminds viewers on ABC Insiders Sunday.

But our democracy loves a helping hand. New England  receives $170m in community grants from the Federal pork-barrel, for example. Labor-held NSW seats average $3m. And Barnaby’s got some powerful sponsors.

Gina just wants to give her old pal, Barney, more money: he’s the Minerals Council’s nation’s best ever farmer. Santos needs the Resources Minister’s silver-tongue to keep spruiking the benefits of fracking while the Nats go ape-shit without a top banana in control. When Barnaby’s not on top of them, his sidekicks run amok.

NSW Nats’ leader, State Deputy-premier John Barilaro tells 2GB the PM should give the people his resignation as a Christmas gift. Barilaro’s compliments of the season come as renegade Nationals rampage without “strong leader” Barnaby. They side with Greens and Labor to force Turnbull into ignominious retreat over his long-held opposition to a banking royal commission. And it’s all his own fault.

“Turnbull is the problem, the Prime Minister is the problem,” Barilaro tells 2GB who assume he’s speaking only for himself. “He should step down, allow for a clean-out of what the leadership looks like federally. And whoever governs the country needs to make sure that they put the country and its people first.”  

Quickly, “barrel of laughs” Barilaro gets a slap-down from serial cabinet leaker Julie Isabel Bishop, an aspiring leadership contender herself, it is whispered – if mainly, at this stage, by Peter Hartcher and Latika Bourke.

He’s “irrelevant”, Bishop lisps. He’s not even in our party room.  So there. Yet Barilaro can give the PM as much cheek as he likes. Besides, Turnbull’s runt of a government needs Bananas for its lower house majority.

Barnaby rallies to his PM’s cause. Turnbull is a mate, he says. Besides, he did not know what Barilaro was going to say about Turnbull. If he had, he’d have told him not to. Yeah. Nah. That’s the leadership you get with Bananas. And the loyalty. Then, just so you know you can trust his judgement, Barnaby goes barking. Foams at the mouth.

Barilaro’s comment is the “worst possible insult in politics … worse than drowning a dog, worse than murder”. 

Barilaro almost distracts the nation from the government’s weekly witch hunt of “Shanghai Sam”. Yet even Dastyari-bashing, 2.0 is upstaged briefly by the most bizarre PM’s presser in Australia political history, Thursday.

The PM backflips over banks. He has to. The Nationals sans Barnaby threaten to cross the floor unless they get a royal commission and he hasn’t got the numbers. Yet if he’s forced into it, he’s had time to tip off the banks.

It’s a sensational performance; a double back flip with pike. Ayatollah Turnbull and ScoMo – Where the bloody hell are you? -his all-singing, all dancing former tourist tout cum refugee jailer cum treasurer steal the political show with an amazing improvisation. It’s incoherent, illogical and ultimately inexplicable but ScoMo tries his best.

“S’ a lot of politics in this. That politics was damaging our economy. It was damaging the credibility of our banking system,” Morrison tells Coalition megaphone and One Nation comfort station, Channel Seven’s Sunrise next morning. He sticks his chin up for the camera in an alarming Benito Mussolini impression.

“Sometimes in politics you’ve got to take the least worst option.” He waves a letter from the banks. So he claims.

The truth is that the Nationals have helped force the federal government into an inquiry it doesn’t want. Labor gets blamed, of course, but no-one sees it as anything but an attempt by a PM desperate to save his political skin.

The letter is a theatrical prop too far. “Is that a permission slip?”, snorts Bill Shorten, warming up. He’s close. Yet the government has chosen terms of reference which include superannuation, one of the few areas of financial industry doing the right thing for members, as The Australian Financial Review’s Laura Tingle points out.

Tingle calls the targeting of industry super an “ideological fatwa”. It clearly an extension of the government’s war on workers and their attempts to organise their labour to protect their rights and conditions through unions.

Not only has the government allowed the banks to dictate the terms of its own inquiry, it has connived at a Clayton’s Royal Commission to take aim, equally, at the banks’ only competitor, industry super funds. It is an outrageous political stitch-up. To make it more absurd, it blames Labor.

We just couldn’t allow a politically hi-jacked inquiry to be taking place” says Matthias Cormann Thursday with a straight face. Yet that is precisely what the government has delivered.

An in-form Shorten calls it a “bank flip”.  A “super bank-flip”, perhaps, also, given its designs on industry super? A super-size me (broad and vague) commission?

Of the $2.6m banks donated to the major parties last year, Labor received $1m, however. Even if the attack on workers’ savings provides fresh resolve, on past form, the Opposition is unlikely to pursue banks too far.

Best total bank receipts for a party in government, however, go to the Liberals who received at total of $12,716,470 in donations from Macquarie, NAB, CBA, ANZ and Westpac between 2013 -2016.

Money talks but best colour and movement goes to “dragged kicking and screaming” to a Royal Commission a popular offering by Nationals MP, George Christensen, who vowed he’d cross the floor to vote for a Commission and who now not so secretly promises to resign if his PM does not. He later reneges as expected.

At least he can be credited with helping supply the right imagery even if turns out he hasn’t forced Turnbull into doing anything. Is it all a sham? So far all signs suggest a bravura confidence trick. Amazingly the PM calls a Royal Commission the very day the banks write to him begging for one.

Their letter shows that the banks will set their own terms of reference. Clearly, this is no royal commission. As the terms of reference, the year limit and the appointment of Ken Hayne, QC, Dyson Heydon’s stablemate as its Chief Commissioner make clear, it not about fixing the banks but about helping banks access union super funds.

Will an inquiry damage the credibility of the banking system as Morrison and his PM maintain? The banks have done a good job of that themselves; they can thank their own conduct. Since the GFC, our Big Four banks have paid out over a billion dollars in fines and compensation for rorting their own clients.

Ian Verrender, points out, moreover, our regulatory authorities have a track record of letting banks off lightly.

Are they “too big to fail or too big to jail?”, asks former Deutsche Bank analyst Mike Mangan now CEO of funds manager 2MG. Mangan  summarises our banks’ transgressions during the past decade from the Storm financial crisis to rigging Malaysian currency markets and providing bad financial advice.

Complaints are broad and range from farmers to small business and households. Issues  include banks’ usurious profiteering, their fee-gouging, money-laundering and their almost complete contempt for the law.

On ABC Insiders, Mark Riley warns the government will be challenged by “expectation management”. He means the nation will be angry at its betrayal when it discovers that the Royal Commission into the banks is not the Royal commission everyone was hoping for. Already any change in regulation is ruled out as is any change in policy.

“… the Commission is not required to inquire into, and may not make recommendations in relation to macro-prudential policy, regulation or oversight… ”, 

No-one but the banks and a government desperate to buy time will be happy with a Clayton’s inquiry with terms so wide and vague as the one outlined Thursday. The Coalition will quickly live to rue its chicanery.

Above all, as Marr points out, there will be no forum for story-telling, a place for farmers, for example, to share their stories of how they were sold financial products they couldn’t manage and then thrown off their land.

In stories there is part of the path to healing; part also of the process of calling to account those government subsidised and protected institutions we have allowed to grow into monsters preying upon our lives.

In its absurd theatre of calling a royal commission it didn’t want but its weakness forced it into, as in its faux self-congratulation in the New England by-election on a victory it didn’t win for policies which continue to fail even the popularity test, the government again reaches peak bullshit. The nation is ill-served by such duplicity.

Its banking commission is clearly a hoax, a poorly disguised way of pretending to heed calls for an inquiry while providing the means for banks to access Industry super while it furthers its ideological war on unions. More than duplicitous, it is an attack on some of the most vulnerable members of society in the interests of profiting the rich.

It’s shameful betrayal of trust and responsibility.