Month: January 2018

Turnbull Cooks up White Supremacy for Australia Day.

cook with bird number 2

 

“The very ink with which all history is written is merely fluid prejudice.”

Mark Twain

 

As Australia Day breaks upon Catani Gardens, St Kilda, the morn “in russet mantle clad” reveals Cook in the pink – not a trick of the light -but the victim of a “paint attack”, a casualty of a culture war we gaily wage each January.

It’s a brief respite from our energy wars or our government’s “humanitarian” war on refugees, asylum-seekers, our workers and our poor. Only IPA stooge, Tony Abbott, a self-styled conservative, a type of Aussie Tea Party martyr to a mindless cause, steps up his war of revenge on Malcolm Turnbull.  Hell hath no fury like an Abbott spurned.

An empty vessel makes the most noise, our father used to say. Not that Turnbull is a stranger to vacuity himself.

I’m disappointed by those who want to change the date of Australia Day,” the PM scolds, driven ever further right,  “seeking to take a day that unites Australia and Australians and turn it into one that would divide us.”

The day is not for changing, any more than our constitution will change  to recognise first peoples or their right to a voice to parliament.  Worse, Aboriginal Affairs Minister, Nigel Scullion claims “not a single Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person has approached him about changing the date of Australia Day”.

He’s the same minister who didn’t bother to read his department’s reports; four briefings on child abuse and breaches of the Youth Justice Act at Don Dale. “Nobody told me” is Turnbull’s code of ministerial responsibility 2.0.

Sack them, says Matthew Guy, Victorian Opposition leader, whose career will never recover from his lobster with a mobster dinner  with Liberal Party donors who included Tony Madafferi, whom, police allege, is the godfather of Melbourne Mafia. An error of judgment, says Guy. So is his call to sack councils who disrespect Australia Day.

Guy’s been inspired by the Federal government’s despotic decision to strip Melbourne’s Darebin and Yarra councils of the right to hold citizenship ceremonies because they’ve chosen another date for Australia Day.

An endangered species, Turnbull’s old, sclerotic, white male, mob must deny the fundamental truths of invasion, dispossession and subjugation lest the whole edifice of vested interest and ill-gotten privilege, be revealed to be rotten to the core.  Our PM calls a halt to all subversive date-changers. Gives them a stiff finger-wagging.

Wimpy Bill Shorten agrees. He’s for “Australia Day staying on January 26”; another vote for the house of cards.

Last August, when Lachlan Macquarie and Cook were tagged with “Change the date” and “No pride in genocide” Malcolm Turnbull’s over-reaction to “this cowardly criminal act” was more bizarrely alarmist. Then, it was “… part of a deeply disturbing and totalitarian campaign to not just challenge our history but to deny it and obliterate it.”

This year, Turnbull’s wrong-headed rhetoric evokes a school principal lecturing Year 9s for their lack of team spirit.

Unites us? Our wholesome, multicultural Australia Day ceremonies unite us by celebrating exclusion, cultural assimilation or token inclusion. How we love to keep outsiders out; and how great our state is at protecting us from the un-Australian and non-Australian are key themes. Next up will be flags with Major-Domo Peter Dutton’s face so we can wave away strangers – and blowflies – on the day; celebrate our intact border, our ring of steel.

Australia Day is set aside for conferring citizenship but numbers are down this year. Typically 16,000 and 17,000 migrants a year became citizens on January 26. This year it’s down to 12,887. Take a bow, Peter Dutton.

Protector Peter’s big on reinstating tough new language tests for prospective citizens but he’s not quite there yet. The old one would inspire anyone. From 1901 to 1958 the following dictation test effectively screened out non-Europeans. Even if you passed, the immigration officer had the right to test you in another European language.

If the land is ploughed when wet the furrows may, and in all probability will, wear a more finished appearance, and will be more pleasant to the eye, but land so ploughed will be more inclined to become set or baked, and when in this state will not produce a maximum yield.

More alarming, however, than language test plans, Australia Day is distorted into something it has never been – a test of loyalty to the state. Fortunately, the PM is upstaged by Melbourne’s Invasion Day protest, a show of support for the pink paint push; doing away with all celebration, as organiser Tarneen Onus-Williams explains,

“People who celebrate Australia Day are celebrating the genocide of aboriginal people, waving Australian flags in our faces. It’s disgusting. We don’t want the date changed. We don’t want to celebrate Australia Day at all.’’

Organisers estimate the Invasion Day Protest may number 60,000, a big turnout paralleled in other major cities. Melbourne’s vastly outnumbers the official Australia Day Parade, despite the State government’s alluring promises of an Official Flag Raising and other, fun, cultural stuff. And, boy, do they know how to sell their show.

After the Official Flag Raising Ceremony, spectators will be treated to a vibrant public display of our diverse community with more than 1,000 participants from over 80 community and cultural groups taking part in Melbourne’s annual Australia Day Parade. Diversity? It’s a veritable fiesta of multicultural efflorescence.

A 21-gun salute at the Shrine of Remembrance at noon helps our adulation for the military, a Coalition fetish which has grown from Howard’s khaki and cricket whites prime ministership through Abbott’s militarisation of compassion, in creating a uniformed Australian Border Force, whose dark blue shirts may as well be black.

Undeterred, or even spurred, by the thunder of big guns in the background, the Invasion Day Melbourne crowd chants “always was, always will be Aboriginal land”. History is on their side. While Fairfax shows new research suggesting only a third of Australians realise the date is offensive, most of us are happy with a change of date.

A year ago, only 15 percent wanted a date change. By September, it was 26 percent. A survey this month finds 49 percent of people agree that Australia Day should not be held on a date Aboriginal people find offensive.

Back in St Kilda, Cook looks as if he’s been anointed with a vat of strawberry yoghurt. Or a chef who’s had a bad accident with an exploding pastry bag. His periwig is plastered pink. Lavender pink daubs his high forehead, cheeks and nose in unwitting, ironic homage to the Aussie surfer’s iconic slip-slop-slap, ritual face-painting sun-screen.

A mess of thick pink paint dribbles down Cook’s front; dispelling, forever, any hope of gravitas, order or decorum.

What is decried as desecration or vandalism, appears instead as a timely commentary, if not an art form of its own as much as it may offend fans of replicas of early twentieth century British Edwardian academic memorial sculpture. Sculpture buffs will be delighted to know there’s another replica in Hawaii if all pink paint is not entirely removed. Others may be pleased to learn that Hawaii’s obelisk marking Cook’s death is  almost inaccessible.

The lava of pink paint also subverts the authority of Cook’s captain’s coat, his embroidered silk waistcoat beneath, the heroic fortitude of his set jaw and his imperious, surveyor’s gaze above. Yet history, as always, is even crueller.

The festive season of Cook’s first visit to Hawaii had ended. He returned early in 1779, left, then was forced back by gales, beyond his, by now, well worn-out welcome, during a time of worship of the god of war Kūkaʻilimoku.

But it was not just bad timing. Cook had also provoked the Hawaiians, killing several men and breaching kapu in a bungled attempt to kidnap their King Kalaniopuu to hold hostage in order to recover a stolen cutter. As you do.

Crew member John Ledyard’s journal‘s entries are not only ominous, they resonate with the cause of today’s Australia Day pink pot culture warriors.  “They had been oppressed and were weary of our prostituted alliance…”

Cook was clubbed and stabbed to death on Valentine’s Day 1779 on a wood-fringed shore, lapped by the musical, turquoise waves of Kealakekua Bay, on a return visit to Hawaii’s Big Island. His body was dismembered, cooked and burnt and the long bones returned to his crew, part of Hawaiian ritual respect to any chieftain slain in battle.

The cooking of Cook softened his flesh to allow the bones, in which a man’s power resided, to be more easily cleaned but accounts of his cooking have given rise to the myth that the British navigator and explorer was eaten.

His remaining, unspoilt, clothes were sold among the officers, following the Royal Naval tradition after a burial at sea, a practical custom, given any sailor’s rig became threadbare after a three year voyage, officers and men alike.

Ritual cannibalism is out of vogue today, but “No Pride” in big blood-red letters at the base of Cook’s statue suggests a waning appetite for the mindless veneration of the arrival of Lieutenant Cook, his rank when he came ashore in New Holland, as this land was known in April 1770, and proclaimed the whole east coast for mad King George III, a ruler who not only lost the American colonies, it is said but also his mind.

Modern research, however, suggests bi-polar disorder rather than Porphyria, an earlier, popular conjecture.

Cook declared the land Terra Nullius, beginning the legal fiction that Australia was waste and unoccupied, a lie that prevailed until the High Court decided that a form of native title existed in The Murray Islands in a case, (Mabo v. The State of Queensland (1992)) which overthrew Terra Nullius some two hundred years later.

Disaster for indigenous peoples swiftly, inexorably, followed Cook. Populations were rapidly decimated by smallpox, syphilis, TB, measles, typhus, influenza and even the common cold; diseases introduced by sailors and convict settlers for which Aboriginal peoples had no natural immunity. Natalie Cromb for IndigenousX takes stock,

“From that date forward we have been subjected to murders, massacres, mass poisonings, sexual violence, child removal, erasure of rights, decimation of language, identity and the means to collectivise and assert sovereignty.” 

Cook also brought sickness and death to Hawaii. University of California’s David Swanson estimates, one-in-seventeen Native Hawaiians had died within two years of Cook’s arrival. By 1800, the population had declined by 48% since Cook set foot on Hawaii. By 1820, it had declined 71%; by 1840, it declined 84%.

Smallpox killed over half the indigenous population living in the Sydney Basin in one year. Aboriginal land was then stolen and cleared for settlements and farms. Genocide followed.  The Australian frontier wars from 1788 to as late as 1934 saw settlers engage in systematic massacres and other forms of brutal dispossession.

In his 2013 book, Forgotten War, Historian Henry Reynolds estimates that about 30,000 Indigenous people and approximately 5,000 Europeans died. In research published in 2014, two Queensland University researchers suggest the death toll may have reached 60,000 Indigenous people in Queensland alone. Then there was grog.

“Dispossessed of the land that had nourished them for so long, the Aboriginal people became dependent on white food and clothing. Alcohol, used as a means of trade by the British, served to further shatter traditional social and family structures.”

For Tony Abbott, however, and other thinly disguised Aussie white supremacists, Australia Day is a chance to parade populist historical illiteracy, talk more nonsense about “Western civilisation” and to dog-whistle racists,

“What happened on January 26, 1788, was, on balance, for everyone, Aboriginal people included, a good thing, because it brought Western civilisation to this country, it brought Australia into the modern world.”

750,000 to a million Aboriginal peoples are estimated to have inhabited this land in 1788, yet only 30,000 were recorded in the British colony’s first national census in 1911. Yet Abbott’s mentor, Howard seized upon Geoffrey Blainey’s phrase others to consign such realities to the “black armband view of history”. Turnbull is not far behind.

All right-thinking Melburnians are outraged to discover yet another act of desecration has been perpetrated upon another statue of an old white male invader. A chorus of disapproval erupts across the nation. It’s sacrilege.

Worse, Burke and Wills are found to be splattered with green pain. “Stolen” is written across their plaque.

“The vandalism is a disgrace,” thunders Alan Tudge, our Federal citizenship minister.  “These people are trashing our national heritage by doing what they’re doing and they’re achieving nothing in the process,” he helps make up the minds of listeners to Coalition echo-chamber, Radio 3AW. (He may as well say “these pinkos”.)

“You can’t rewrite our history.”

But of course you can. History is continuously being re-written; a constant dialogue between the past and present.

Sir John Tweed, R.A., whose original statute at Whitby, the 1914 St Kilda statue replicates, would doubtless be tickled pink at the love and care lavished upon this antipodean copy of his hat-off- for- action Cook, maps in hand.

The Times publishes a photo of a worker giving Cook a facial with a Bunnings high pressure water cleaner.

cook's water facial

Another image shows a pigeon atop the haughty Yorkshireman’s pink pate completing Cook 2.0, transforming the staid effigy into an installation all its own, a surreal homage to the need for a subversive reading of history.

Above all, it’s an image of profound absurdity – like so much else in our narcissistic national veneration of ourselves, our lazy navel-gazing, our loutish Ocker jingoism, our trumpeting of our achievements and the decoration of heroic Aussies who appear in the Australia Day Honours List who “have contributed so much”.

Or whose forbears have taken so much.

Or, as in Brian Loughnane’s case, being director of the Federal Liberals for twelve years, an exercise in fatuity.

Australia Days of our Lives, a long-running political soap-noir, divides the nation again this week. Some underpaid, underemployed workers may be lucky enough to get a day off from their increasingly underpaid, part time, uncertain work . Our ABC and other MSM whip up a froth of fluffy, fun stuff. Show us all sinking tinnies; have a splash of the white; enjoying our holiday.

Many, however, rage against a government, whose indifference to Indigenous peoples amounts to contempt in its rebuff of any constitutional recognition, whose failure of human compassion and denial of historical reality can enable it not only to hold a national day on a date that marks an invasion, a day which led to dispossession and genocide, but to strenuously defend its prerogative, its shabby, specious case or “right” to do so .

 

Turnbull continues to attack our democracy.

turnbull 18 jan

“We are very concerned at the growing gang violence and lawlessness in Victoria, in particular in Melbourne …This is a failure of the Andrews Labor government.” Malcolm Turnbull 1 January

The PM’s uplifting, personalised New Year goodwill message, vilifying public enemy Andrews and belittling the Premier for causing The Herald-Sun’s fake African gangs crime wave, fuels another wave of racist xenophobia and shit-holery.

Top Dog Peter Dutton savages Victoria’s judges for their lax sentencing at home this week, while Trumpista Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, shit-holes China, our biggest trading partner for poaching our Pacific Island pals.

A born megaphone diplomat, hard right wing warrior, International Development Minister Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells on Wednesday bawls out China for building “roads to nowhere” and “useless buildings” in the Pacific. Even worse, they’ve been duchessing local politicians and promising a slew of new jobs, practices abhorrent to Australian politicos.

Australia is in no position to criticise. First, as ANU’s Development Policy Centre research shows, where our aid funds once gushed, there is now a mere trickle. And it goes against the flow. Other OECD nations now pump up aid; do their bit for global security if not humanity. Yet for every $100 we earn as a nation, we now give only 20 cents in overseas aid.

And our giving is not selfless. Our aid program boosts Australia’s commercial interests at the expense of genuine local poverty eradication. Neoliberal, “Aid for trade” programs, first adopted by Howard, benefit Aussies far more than Islanders. “Creating a favourable environment for business”, or giving to the rich increases local poverty and inequality.

Of course there’s more to aid than helping others. We like to be “geostrategic”, or keep other nations off our patch.

But it costs. There’s some concern in Canberra and Washington over China’s rapidly growing influence in the Pacific since Hockey and Morrison plundered our aid programme’s piggy-bank but Connie’s on to the Chinese. She’s not holding back on how she sees China’s aid programme as a type of indentured servitude or neo-colonial expansion.

Rising sea-levels should worry Oceania less, she contends, than its rising sea of crippling debt. Islanders are in hock to China over their heads. And Beijing’s influence can only grow.  Sri Lanka handed over its strategic southern port of Hambantota in a 99 year lease to the Chinese government last month because it couldn’t meet debt repayments.

Similarly, Landridge, a Chinese company, now has a ninety-nine year lease on the port of Darwin, because NT Chief Minister Adam Giles saw the deal as a fiscally responsible way of reducing the Territory’s indebtedness to Canberra.

There’s been a bit of a fuss since about the lack of due diligence, but given Darwin is not exclusively a military port and we are all one free trade, neoliberal, global fraternity, the government argues, what could possibly go wrong?

In 2009, Tonga’s debt to China was $US100.4 million ($A132.9 million) or roughly one-third of its national income.   Samoa and Vanuatu are also over-committed with big debts to China. In 2013, The World Bank warned Samoa of about “debt distress” where public loans repayments would exceed 56 per cent of Gross Domestic Product each year.

It’s all part of China’s One belt One Road plan to buddy up with foreign governments and companies to channel $trillions into ports, roads and other big infrastructure to boost its sea power or as it says “counter its maritime vulnerabilities”.

The Lowy Institute estimates China has poured $2.3 billion in aid to the South Pacific since 2006 – almost half Australia’s commitment. It’s expanding while our aid budget is the lowest it’s been in half a century and it’s still being trimmed.

The Abbott-Turnbull government cut a whopping $11 billion from our aid budget. “Unmet and unfunded”, moreover, remain our promises of climate change aid.  Oxfam Australia reports, Australia’s average annual contribution of $200 million to international climate finance has not increased since 2010. Little wonder China has been able to buy in.

Oxfam is calling for Australia to boost its contribution to climate finance to $3.2 billion by 2020.

Fierravanti-Wells, however, is a bull in a China shop. The best defence is offence. At least her panda-bashing will win US approval. And it’s a perfect fit with US-sycophants-R-US and Project Normalise Trump, the Coalition’s team plan.

Beijing is not bluffed. Australia is “the daring vanguard of anti-China forces” says the Global Times, Chinese edition.

China’s influence must be pegged back. Trump even threatens trade sanctions. But must we copy his combative communication style? Are we infected with Trumpism? Our Minister, it seems, cannot help herself.

Nuance, subtlety and indirection may be China’s diplomatic bag. Our Connie prefers a Trumpista style. A vociferous foe of abortion, marriage equality and coy reserve Concetta is a self-proclaimed loudmouth of the silent majority. She prides herself on speaking out – venting preconceptions, prejudgements and, in this case, insults.

“I think in politics it’s good to be upfront about what you believe in”, she says, as if communication were really that simple. As if all beliefs were rigid, unchangeable. Already she’s lost her PM, a politician who struggles more than most with knowing what he believes and how to voice his equivocation. Yet like Concetta, he’s quick to strike a pose.

Holding that pose is harder. Turnbull is a notorious flip-flop.  New Year’s Day, he proposes a postal vote on a republic. The next day it’s off the agenda. Doing a Turnbull will enter the language for a volte face; an abrupt reversal of position.

Like most MPs he’s constantly changing beliefs and seeking ways to hide, disguise or deny them. Little wonder he leads a government which has taken years to admit to its hoax about a carbon tax. The upfront plain speaker theory is bunkum.

But that’s not what Concetta’s really saying. What she means in this context is that it’s OK to be tactless or calculatedly offensive. Why, it’s now almost compulsory, as MPs are thrust on to a global stage, awash with Trumpist, “shithole”, anti-diplomacy. Yet Fierravanti-Wells dresses up bluntness or insensitivity as a virtue. Firstly, it’s a time-saver.

“It means that people don’t waste time. It means that they know where you stand,” says the MP. If only. As it stands, she’s offended both Pacific leaders and the Chinese. Prolonged hostility, not communication, results, despite the best efforts of our celebrity Foreign Minister and polo aficionado to step in with her talking points and smooth things over.

“Australia works with a wide range of development partners, including China, in pursuit of the goal of eliminating poverty in our region and globally.” Bishop refuses to endorse her development Minister in The Australian  which reports the Foreign Minister’s intervention as a slap-down. Samoa is not placated. Nor is China.

“The comments … have certainly surprised me, indeed, they are quite insulting to the leaders of Pacific Island neighbours,” St Paul’s College Old Boy, the urbane Samoan PM Tuilaepa Sailele, Auckland University’s first Samoan Commerce graduate  tells the ABC, “they have the capacity to “destroy” Australia’s relationship with the region.”

China lodges a formal protest. A diplomatic slanging-match breaks out. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang calls the Minister’s comments “nothing but irresponsible” complaining they show “scant regard for the facts”.

Xinhua News, which SBS and ABC, our own state news agencies love to demean as China’s state news agency, publishes an angry editorial accusing Australia of acting like an “arrogant overlord”.

“If Australia really cares about its Pacific neighbours, it should first learn from China’s to treat those much smaller neighbours as equals and refrain from behaving like an arrogant overlord,” Xinhua retorts.

“Then it could learn, again from China, to contribute constructive ideas, if not funds, to address the real concerns of the peoples in those countries.”

It’s a fair call. The diplomatic fracas intensifies. Doubtless, the PM will call in his right hand man, Peter Dutton, whose sensitivity to climate change sea rise faced by Pacific Island nations was immortalised, along with his condescension and indifference in his witty joke two years ago.

“Time doesn’t mean anything when you’re about to be, you know, have water lapping at your door.” 

Dutton, however, has a home fire or two to keep burning. He is busy branding Daniel Andrews an enemy of the people.

He means well. Grand Poo-bah, Home Affairs Supremo, Dutto sheds buckets of crocodile tears over “a small element of The African Community” who tarnish others’ reputations as he gangs up with News Corp to slander Victoria’s Premier for creating lawlessness by appointing limp, left-wing ideologues; wimpy civil-libertarian judges and magistrates.

It’s a rehash of last week’s outrageous attack, reheated and served up with calculated malice aforethought. He’s goading Andrews and the judiciary if not the whole legal establishment to see how much he can get away with. It’s also a stunning display of just how much authority he has over Malcolm Turnbull. Would any other PM indulge him thus?

Dutton also follows his leader’s Trumpism. His libellous allegations are utterly unfounded. Of Victoria’s 57 Supreme Court Judges, Associate Judges in Victoria, the state’s Attorney General, Martin Pakula has appointed 10. Out of 126 magistrates, he’s appointed 17 and out of 68 County Court Judges, a mere 17. But do the facts matter?

Our Home Fires Super Minister, whose interpretation of his role owes much to Tony Abbott’s junkyard or attack dog routines is not just the PM’s bodyguard and Party Room door butch but is already acting as Turnbull’s chief head-kicker.

He’s also treading thin ice. Even a Grand Poohbah can be charged with contempt of court. Is it macho bravado? Is he “going the niggle”  or does our newbie Home Affairs Tsar not understand the separation of powers? That the act is not more complex than it seems is betrayed by his decision this week to attack Lex Lasry for making fun of him in a tweet.

Thin-skinned as his mentor Trump, Dutton personally attacks Victorian Supreme Court Judge Lex Lasry. “Mr Lasry, who is a left-wing ideologue appointed to the court, is dismissive the other day of some of the comments I made.”  

Lasry tweeted that “citizens are out to dinner in Mansfield tonight and they are not worried.” In an alarming show of lack of proportion and decorum, Dutton goes nuts. His rebuke of Lasry is tellingly less than coherent.

“If you’ve got that sort of attitude towards the public, these people who think they’re above the public, it’s a complete nonsense.” 

Dutton is more offended by being mocked than by any legal issue, although he implies that judges should echo public opinion, a dangerously superficial interpretation of the role of the judiciary, especially from a Home Affairs Minister.

His attack earns him swift rebuke. President of the Judicial Conference of Australia, Supreme Court Justice Robert Beech-Jones, says “personalised attacks on judges and magistrates as opposed to individual decisions are unfair and unwarranted. (They) …  cannot respond, and the comments undermine the capacity of the judiciary to apply the law impartially.” 

The JCA rejects Dutton’s claim there was a “problem” with some of the state’s judges and magistrates, describing it as “generalised sledging” that “does not add to the debate”.

Sledging? Dutton’s certainly detracted from so many debates so regularly that his promotion to a Home Affairs super-ministry can only be explained as a leading example of Malcolm Turnbull’s incomparably poor political judgement.

A few examples will suffice. Dutton lashed out at Amnesty International for bullying him, when in October 2015,  Amnesty alleged Australian officials paid $45,000 to six crew to return a boat of asylum seekers to Indonesia and that money was also paid money to the crew of a boat turned back in July. Amnesty’s report describes Australia’s secretive Operation Sovereign Borders as “a lawless venture that should be fully exposed through a royal commission”.

After a spate of horrific incidents in May 2016, Dutton alleged that refugee advocates were “teaching asylum seekers to self- harm”. Refugees leaving Manus for the US were “economic refugees” who could afford Armani luxury fashion items, he claimed in September, in his on-air rub-down with Ray Hadley.

“Somebody once said to me that the world’s biggest collection of Armani jeans and handbags [is] up on Nauru waiting for people to collect when they depart.”

He’s accused men on Manus of paedophile behaviour to explain why drunken off-duty troops in PNG opened fire on the detention centre.  He’s been prepared to violate UN conventions on refoulement. Yahya Tabani, a 32-year-old Rohingya man who arrived in Australia in 2013 but was sent to Manus Island, told Guardian Australia he had no choice but to return. He said he had been promised $25,000 by the Australian Border Force.

Pressed by ABC 7:30’s Leigh Sales to say whether it was safe for Rohingya to return to Myanmar presently, given close to 400,000 Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, many with bullet wounds and stories of mass killings, Dutton says “it depends on the circumstances”.

He has promised thousands to Rohingya refugees who agree to return to Myanmar, a country accused of carrying out genocide or what the ABC continues to call with barbarous euphemism, “ethnic cleansing” against the Muslim minority.

Dutton’s unsuitability to hold office as Home Affairs or any other cabinet post is enough for a separate article. Most damning recently is a report from Queensland police who are investigating an incident in which a South Sudanese-Australian family say were followed home, racially abused, and threatened on Thursday afternoon.

Dutton’s dog-whistling and disinformation may incite further racist violence. He is too powerful to be held in check by his week Prime Minister. Yet he represents a more general malaise as Peter Brent explains.

Australian politics is not in a healthy place. Donald Trump aside, it is difficult to think of national leaders and senior government members of other comparable democracies who regularly debase themselves, and their country, as ours do with these campaigns against minorities. Turnbull, once proudly above all this, is now so enfeebled he feels obliged to join in.

It’s a trend which Brent and others trace to John Howard’s deployment of the politics of division in 2001 with the Children Overboard lie and the notorious, meaningless and false slogan “we will decide who will come into this country and the circumstances in which they come”.

As Brent points out, Howard would have won the election without the arrival of Tampa. Perhaps when Dutton seizes the leadership from Turnbull, as he is manoeuvring to do, he can lose the next election comprehensively by beating the anti-immigration drum and put the lie to the hard-wired notion that stopping the boats and persecuting migrants is somehow an election-winner.

Dutton for PM! The right man to lead the coalition to the defeat it richly deserves.

Just before the last election The Guardian published an Australia Institute poll which showed that most Australians believe that refugees who arrive in the country by boat ought to be allowed to settle here.

Two-thirds of Australians believe doctors working in Australia’s offshore detention regime should be free to speak out about conditions in detention centres, and a majority believe New Zealand’s offer to resettle refugees from Manus Island and Nauru should be accepted.

What Turnbull’s government proposes, however, in a bill introduced in the House of Representatives in December when it would be overshadowed by the result of the postal survey, is the Coalition government’s broader crackdown on treason, espionage and foreign interference in a bill which interprets these matters so broadly it threatens democracy.

If passed into law, the bill increases tenfold the maximum penalties for anyone communicating information potentially harmful to the national interest, where that information is obtained via a government official without authorisation.

As Barrister Greg Barns and lawyer Anna Talbot write, it’s a law which is designed to prevent an incompetent government from embarrassment rather than from any real threats to national security.

Both espionage and national security are defined so widely as to allow almost any writer to fall foul of its provisions which also, alarmingly, uniquely, remove the notion of intent to commit harm before being found guilty of espionage.

The net is cast so wide that almost any writer revealing corruption or misconduct could be caught in it. There is no public interest defence.  Its severe penalties of 5 to 15 years imprisonment with up to 20 years for aggravated offences are out of all proportion to the circumstances or the threat faced.

As Turnbull’s government continue to lose the plot, it resorts to a primitive racist scapegoating and scaremongering it mistakenly believes will rescue it from certain defeat next election. In the process, it emulates the wilful disinformation denial and savage attacks on opponents, individuals and the judiciary that characterise the worst of Trumpism.

Its Pacific foreign policy is an embarrassing self-inflicted failure; its short-sighted massive cutbacks in aid have helped cede influence in the Pacific Islands to China. Trump-like invective and attacks on our greatest trading partner are no substitute for a rational, co-operative policy. Security means an increased investment in foreign aid, not cutbacks.

Similarly the proposed espionage laws represent “a creeping Stalinism” to Ethicos Group specialist Howard Whitton, who has advised governments and the United Nations ethics office on whistle-blower policy.

“The absolute protection of principled disclosure of wrongdoing – unfettered by government – must be preserved, or Australia will become a laughing stock internationally.” Especially a government which has preached the virtue of open and transparent government. But that’s the least of its worries.

The bill will allow government to forgo vital checks on its decency, honesty integrity, justice and efficiency and promote a culture of secrecy and lies which will inflict irremediable damage on our already faltering democracy.

 

References:

Creeping Stalinism …

Turnbull’s terrifying new espionage laws endanger many innocent people

 

Turnbull’s New Year gang-bashing message a serious error of judgement.

dutton ugly

” … people are scared to go out to Melbourne restaurants of a night-time because they are followed home by these gangs …” People worry about home invasions and cars being stolen.” Peter Dutton’s New Year Message 4 January 2018.

 

At Heston Blumenthal’s Australian outpost, fireballs erupt outside the casino windows while a waiter freezes your ice-cream with liquid nitrogen, while, at Vue de Monde, patrons nibble on duck breast with fermented truffle.

Such culinary delights, alas, may soon be no more. Haute cuisine, imported wines and all the festive gaiety of a New Year’s nosh-up and natter with pals, once the birthright of every Melburnian, are now off the menu as violent gangs of black youths roam the streets driving honest, decent citizens away from eating out. Furtive, anti-social, home-delivered take-away or even DIY, stay at home, home cooking drudgery threaten to become the norm. Unless something is done.

Or at least that’s the government’s festive New Year’s message of peace on earth and goodwill to all white men. Hark, the herald angels at News Corp’s Herald Sun sing: glory to the new-born gang. Having promoted the “Apex gang”, they are now on to lurid accounts of a “violent crime spree” they wish us to imagine grips Melbourne’s western suburbs.

“Victoria, the state of fear”, they pun.  The Herald Sun dedicates 28 front pages in a year to a Sudanese migrant “gang” which police confirm were always Australian born-offenders, never had a clubhouse or flag and is now disbanded.

It’s all part of the service News Corp provides to Coalition politicians who sniff votes in a law and order scare campaign.

News Corp’s scare-mongering flies in the face of the facts. Criminal incidents recorded in Victoria are down 4.8%. Victoria’s youth crime rates are declining slowly over the last decade. The proportion of young offenders, under 25, moreover, is falling from half of all incidents recorded in 2007-2008 to 40% of all incidents in 2015-2016.

As Ben Debney reports in New Matilda, migrant youth and newly arrived migrants are not involved in criminal activity. Less than 10 per cent are overseas-born offenders. After Australia, the second-highest country, of alleged offenders in Victoria is New Zealand (2.8 per cent of the total offenders), followed by India (1.5 per cent), Vietnam and Sudan (both 1.4 per cent). Victoria Police confirm that Apex members were from a variety of backgrounds.

Still, gang violence is a good stick to beat Labor with. Turnbull bags Daniel Andrews’ government for nurturing “Apex and Menace to Society gangs terrorising residents following a spate of thuggery across the city’s western suburbs”.

‘We are very concerned at the growing gang violence and lawlessness in Victoria, in particular in Melbourne … this is a failure of the Andrews Labor government,’ Turnbull tells reporters at Sydney’s Bondi Beach Monday before handing the moral panic job to his superior attack dog Peter Dutton. Greg Hunt helpfully yelps the same talking points.

Welcome to 2018. As befits his status as Home Affairs Minister, an MP suddenly more powerful than the PM, Coalition chief head-kicker, fear-monger and crisis lever puller-Dutton, leads his Orwellian government’s first Hate Week by demonising Sudanese-Australians. African gang violence is totally out of control. Something must be done.

And said. Like all bigots, Dutton pretends his cynical racism is just honest, plain speaking. Unlike Heston’s steak tartare, moral panic can’t be minced. Leave that to the mealy-mouthed left with their Mouli-grater of political correctness.

 “We just need to call it for what it is.”  Dutton has no idea what “it” is. If he can’t or won’t even define what he’s talking about or give some evidence or example, he can’t possibly “call it for what it is.”  But he reserves the right to vilify.

Perhaps he’s alluding to the Herald Sun’s graphic tale of the slap where “escalating gang violence” in Werribee has left one woman disfigured and distraught.

“They told her to stay still for five minutes or they’d come back for her. She’s traumatised. They slapped her in the face and she’s got a fat lip.”

While there’s no doubt that the victim of the sensationalised attack may well be traumatised, there is no evidence that a Sudanese gang was involved. Just one witness reports to a News Corp scribe of seeing “men of African appearance”.

Victoria’s Police Minister, Lisa Neville, confirms that youth crimes in her state are mainly committed by Australians.

‘We’ve got to be clear, this is not just an African youth problem,’ she tells Melbourne radio station 3AW.

‘Overwhelmingly Australian citizens are the offenders, some of those are African-born.’

Yet none of this deters Dutton who is on cue to refine his PM’s “growing gang violence and lawlessness in Victoria”.

“Of course it’s African gang violence. It’s not the whole community, there are many good people within the community that would condemn this action as strongly as you and I would…and have done so, and to their credit.” 

Condemn this action? Last year South Sudanese community leader, Richard Deng helped set up a team of volunteers who patrol the western suburbs trying to prevent crime by engaging troubled South Sudanese youth.

30 volunteers now patrol the Wyndham area, 18 patrol the streets of Melton, and there are plans to recruit more volunteers across Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, Maribyrnong and Dandenong.

In fact, only one Sudanese man, Nelly Yoa has publicly supported Dutton’s nonsense that political correctness has helped create African gangs but MSM has published him everywhere. It’s almost as if he’s being groomed for Liberal politics.

Yet when Dutton rings the young Sudanese volunteer youth worker, Wednesday, Yoa says he politely rebukes the minister for his “reckless” and “exaggerated” comments about Melburnians being afraid to go to restaurants. Sadly for both parties, moreover, Nelly’s claims over his sporting career are revealed to be false.

So, too, are other claims. ABC News Radio’s Tracey Holmes speaking with the South Sudan Community Association in Victoria discovers that Nelly Yola is actually not working with the association; not in contact with community leaders.

But saddest of all, sanctimonious Paul Barry’s ABC’s  Media Watch falls for Yoa’s claims — labelling him an “ex-professional footballer” despite there being no evidence of his football career.  Not on your Nelly, Barry. It’s a no Yoa.

Hate week, or “Peter’s Panic attack” identifies the nation’s common enemy, unifies us against a nominated minority and diverts us from real threats to our security such as the impending energy crisis. Prices continue to soar despite talking-point-Turnbull and flip Frydenberg’s glib, risible, assurances they have our gas and electricity oligopolies under control.

In fact, Victorians’ electricity prices will rise 10-15%, courtesy of the Coalition’s failure to regulate the price-gouging industry or its labyrinthine, extortionate supply mechanism. This rise comes on top of last July’s rise which imposes a $44 million increase for health services as part of the new electricity contract, according to Health Purchasing Victoria, which is responsible for securing bulk power deals. Some Health services’ power bills doubled.

Cobdenhealth​’s CEO Leonie Rooney says her regional service’s monthly bill is up about $4000 to more than $7000.

Gas producers continue to jack up local prices and to export 74m tonnes by 2018-19, up from 52.2m tonnes this year, with capacity growing to 88m tonnes as we challenge Qatar for world’s largest LNG exporter. All cool, says Turnbull.

“They have given us a guarantee that they will offer to the domestic market the gas that was identified as the expected demand shortfall, by AEMO, in 2018.” The PM cons no-one. It’s a non-binding fairy-floss agreement and the ACCC’s December report says prices remain too high. The market is not functioning effectively.  Big companies may have experienced some price relief but smaller operators and domestic consumers will still pay rates which were too high.

A slew of other problems afflicts a government whose big win, its raison d’être, is to cut corporate tax rates by increasing income taxes on middle-income wage earners. Its Centrelink war on the poor is going well, too. Knight errant of neoliberal austerity, the very undistinguished, Christian Porter has now been over-promoted to Attorney-General.

A former failed WA Treasurer, Porter maintains Centrelink’s Robo-debt recovery program is “working incredibly well”.

Like Dutton, he can scapegoat and demonise the poor as unworthy dole-bludgers, a drain on the public purse who can’t be trusted not to rort their pension claims. Accordingly each is deemed guilty until they prove their innocence.

This can be impossible, especially for women who are more likely in our gig economy “precariat” to hold a range of poorly-paid part-time casual jobs. One woman, reports Tasmanian Independent Andrew Wilkie, was expected to get documents from five employers she had worked for in a seven-year period, one of whom was no longer in business.

The high error rate among 20,000 notices produced weekly brought a sharp public and political backlash against the Coalition and prompted both the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Senate to investigate the scheme.

There’s a herd of other elephants in the room. Alan Austin reports our economy collapsed inexcusably during the two years Joe Hockey was treasurer. But it has tanked even further, except for the very rich, since Morrison replaced him.

And – despite his denials, we experience galloping economic inequality, a demoralised, underpaid, increasingly part-time and insecure casual workforce, homelessness, not to mention housing unaffordability and a housing bubble. Nauru and Manus smoulder. Then there’s Australia’s male violence epidemic, still too often misleadingly termed domestic violence.

ABC’s Emma Alberici takes issue with Dutton’s scapegoating of Sudanese when the minister could more profitably turn his faux concern for victims of gang violence and deploy his resources to deal with male violence towards women.

Victoria recorded 90,000 family violence offences in 2017. Family violence accounts for 17.5% of all crime in the state. One woman a week in Australia dies at the hands of a current or former intimate partner. 

What crime is “out of control”? Family violence is “out of control” She tweets. 

Dutton is already way out of control. Yet his understated delivery, like a drunk’s deliberate phrasing gives him away. He’s a plain speaker, he insists. Nuanced language just can’t be trusted. Like Trump, he poses as blunt, homespun and trustworthy. He also shrewdly exploits populist anti-intellectualism. Tellingly, in 2016, Dutton attacked Labor’s leader.

“Bill Shorten can carry on being part of the tricky elite in this country,”…  “He can talk double-code to people, he can be tricky in his language. I’m not going to be intimidated by it.” 

Confusing racial vilification or offensive speech with honesty is part of Peter’s plain speaking shtick. Calling it for what is. Part of Peter’s appeal is that we already know what he’ll say. He’s said most of it before. More than once.

“The vast majority of Lebanese-Australians are law-abiding, hard-working, good, decent people who are besmirched by a small element within their community who are doing the wrong thing,” he said in November only last year.

It’s dangerous dog-whistling which encourages racists to make threats and post insults to South Sudanese community leaders on social media, but then, Il Duce Dutton is the most dangerous politician in the country.

His Home Affairs combines ASIO with Australian Border Force, Australian Federal Police, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) and the Office of Transport Authority.

Dutton’s been over-promoted, a textbook example of The Peter principle in politics, stratospherically beyond his own  competence. A serial failure, the worst Health Minister in 35 years, according to a magazine survey of doctors and a Minister whose mission to blend Border Force with Immigration, still eludes him, now has a swag of other ministries to administer. The responsibilities would tax even a capable administrator. But he loves talk-back shows.

Of course there’s no real talking back with a minister who opens his mind only to give you a piece of it. He gives us his Wild West weed-killer formula for a tolerant, sophisticated, multicultural and compassionate society.

“We need to weed out the people who have done the wrong thing, deport them where we can, but where they are Australian citizens, we need to deal with them according to the law.” Yep. Round ’em up and run ’em out of town.

African leaders warn that Dutton’s out of touch and dangerous. Many young offenders were in fact born here, they add, while those who are not Australian citizens would be returning to war-torn death zones if they were to be deported.

But Dutton has no time for facts. And if he doesn’t like the look of you, you’re gone, as many Kiwi deportees now on Christmas Island have discovered.

Vigilantism, demonising and scapegoating work a treat on talkback’s echo-chamber where petty-minded opinion recycles in an endlessly recirculating spin like the fan above the warm fug of the front-bar of some country pub.

Dutton turns lazily like a basking shark in the shallows of populist ignorance on 2GB’s Chris Smith Show. Slow, talking out-spoken Pete shows off his strong moral leadership, nurturing yet inflaming his listeners’ prejudice dependency .

Dutton also keeps to the Coalition team plan of evading real challenges, as former Liberal leader, John Hewson, notes.

“In almost every area of public policy the real challenges have simply been kicked down the road by an obsession with short-term, opportunistic, mostly negative, point scoring and blame shifting,” writes John Hewson for Fairfax.

Attack-dog Dutton may not sully his assertions with evidence but he is swift to smear the judiciary. It’s de facto Liberal policy: Greg Hunt, Michael Zukkar and Alan Tudge did the same in July but were quickly forced to make grovelling “unreserved” apologies to the Victorian Supreme Court to avoid pending charges of contempt of court.

The Coalition’s Sisyphean task is to paint an image of lawless Victoria under a soft Andrews government in order to improve the chances of Matthew Guy’s opposition in November’s election on a tough on crime law and order ticket.

Guy’s mug already appears on Orwellian billboards reading “Safer communities; protecting your future.”

Yet Guy’s lobster with a mobster has blown his tough on crime campaign up in his face. Early last year, Guy enjoyed a crayfish and a few bottles of Grange with Tony Madafferi, whom police allege, is a Melbourne Calabrian Mafia Boss.

Tony, who has never been charged with any crime, and his relatives are long-term Liberal Party donors. The secret dinner at the Lobster Cave in Beaumaris, Guy squeaks had nothing to do with fund-raising. Nor did his 2013 meeting.

In 2013, a dumbfounded Guy found himself “unwittingly’ the star attraction at a fundraiser hosted by  Madafferi at his Docklands venue centre. The Opposition leader was warned then about associating with alleged mafia figures.

Besides his interest in seafood, Madafferi is a prosperous market gardener who owns the La Porchetta, literally little pig or roast suckling pig pizza chain. Guy’s spokesman claims straight-faced, “The whole purpose of attending this gathering was to discuss public policy issues in relation to the vegetable-growing industry with some of the biggest users of the market.”  

Yet in an affidavit filed in court in June, seeking his ban from Crown Casino and racetracks, Detective Superintendent Peter Brigham said police held “substantial intelligence” indicating that Mr Madafferi had “substantial and close involvement with serious criminal conduct including drug importation, murder and extortion”.

Mr Brigham also alleges that Mr 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”.

The ban succeeds. Yet Mathew Guy invites Madafferi and his associates to a slap-up meal in a sea-food restaurant?

Also heroically reckless, or Trumpian, Junkyard Dutton follows Hunt, Zukkar Tudge in slagging off the judiciary whilst effortlessly spurning respected research disproving the populists’ nostrum that harsh sentences deter crime.

But let’s be fair, as a former Queensland policeman, Dutton may be a tad underdone on criminology. Doubtless, he’d dismiss Victoria as a hotbed of permissiveness but his call for stiffer sentence is cynical populist nonsense, as The Victorian sentencing advisory council concludes: 

The evidence from empirical studies of deterrence suggests that the threat of imprisonment generates a small general deterrent effect. However, the research also indicates that increases in the severity of penalties, such as increasing the length of terms of imprisonment, do not produce a corresponding increase in deterrence. 

Yet super-minister Dutto can ignore the separation of powers and criminological evidence at the same time.

“You look at some of the jokes of sentences that are being handed down, there’s no deterrence at the moment,” 

Dutton knows how to talk tough. His comfortingly-terrifying vision of a lawless, trendy-leftist, human-rightist, civil-libertarian, dystopian Victoria is a right-wing bigot’s nightmare. Victoria is being held to ransom by gangs of black thugs.

Blacks? “It’s an African gang problem”, “Benito” Dutton dog-whistles. And a conspiracy. Victoria’s civil-libertarian judiciary, appointed by Andrews’ socialist Labor government are telling magistrates and police to “go soft on crime”.

They are? It’s a libellous accusation and wilful disinformation- apart from being a parody of how our legal system works.

But Dutton’s a worry from top to toe. For starters, our Minister for Immigration speaks of “African gangs”? Does he not know The African Union and UN recognise 54 countries in Africa? No wonder the pace of refugee “processing” is glacial.

Luckily help is at hand. Like a rat up a drain-pipe, 2GB’s Smith, Dutton’s on-air message masseur, urger and bigotry facilitator du jour notes, glowingly, that “some leaders have spoken out” against the “car-jackings and home invasions”.

Smith spins the Aussie racist’s favourite long-playing broken record. Why don’t the black thugs’ community leaders step up and take control?  The record’s been given a thrashing with Muslim community leaders. Now it’s time to point the finger at “The Sudanese Community” as if there is only one. “Some have,” Dutton chimes in.

Now he’s about to castigate the Sudanese-Australian community leaders for not controlling the minority of riff-raff in their communities as he did the Muslims, such a cunning double dog-whistle this time. Two ways migrants can fail.

Will the Coalition’s cunning plan succeed? Will Turnbull’s government ruin Andrews’ chances of re-election? Will the massive distraction of bagging African gangs in Victoria distract the entire nation from all the other ways the government is unable to keep its mind on the job? So far, the signs are not promising.

Matthew Guy who has a lot of skeletons in his law and order closet is backing off the African gang thing like a startled rat. Rupert Murdoch’s increasingly unread Herald Sun has over-egged the lawless state pudding while Melburnians who are not so easily put off a good night out their favourite eatery are already laughing all the way to the bistro.

Ultimately, however, regardless of the success of its cunning plan, the government’s unscrupulous resort to racist tactics for selfish political gain can only fan the flames of prejudice and intolerance and will already be causing incalculable suffering to individuals, families and to the nation as a whole. Turnbull’s New Year African gang-bash is an indictment; another lamentable failure of political judgement.