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.