Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, in its Super Saturday massacre 28 July, (National Drowning Prevention Day) the Coalition is quick to spin its five seat rout in Braddon, Longman, Mayo and its uncontested by-elections in the Labor electorates of Perth and Fremantle into a “typical by-election swing of five per cent against the government”.
It’s “normal”, Liberal MPs’ chorus; all on song from their dot points Monday as they sally forth in damage control; voices strident with performance anxiety. Inwardly all are inconsolable; mourning unexpected, unfathomable loss. Corporate tax cuts are on the nose with voters but can the party heed the feedback? So far it is incapable of listening.
Worse, the hoax that The National Energy Guarantee, (NEG) which is said to be “technology neutral” yet deliver cheaper, more reliable, electricity is rejected by most voters as just another coal-lobby con, aimed not at them but at Abbott’s black rock cult that rules Turnbull’s government, a “ginger group”, Peta Credlin calls them, that is deluded, misinformed and in thrall to mining company propaganda and funding.
Their mutual ignorance will shape the nature of our next ten years of energy policy.
It’s NEG week, an arbitrary deadline imposed to forge consensus on a National Energy Guarantee agreement so complex, lengthy and so recently handed down without consultation that few who will vote on it have read it, let alone understood it.
Yet the Liberal spin machine this week is all over the media telling us it’s all or nothing; now or never. Sadly the push coincides with the release of government data revealing that we’ve just wasted a billion dollars planting trees and restoring degraded habitat under Greg Hunt’s fabulous Direct Action emissions reduction fund climate policy.
Increased forest-clearing in other parts of the nation since 2015 has released over 160m tonnes of carbon dioxide wiping out any Direct Action carbon abatement gains. Emissions projections data estimates another 60.3m tonnes will be emitted this year – equivalent to 10% of national emissions. Hunt’s policy’s a costly, ignominious failure.
In NSW, data obtained under FOI by The Guardian and only after an eight month battle from the Berejiklian government which had not published information for three years, shows it gave permission to clear over 7,000 hectares of native vegetation in 2015-16, the second highest rate of clearing in a decade, while the creation of new conservation areas and restoration of bushland has slumped while it has held office.
Environmental groups and the government’s own Office of Environment and Heritage warn that the new regime will lead to a major increase in loss of habitat, on a scale only seen in Queensland, our nation’s worst state for land clearing and degradation.
To be kind to Hunt, rates of land clearing have been underestimated. In Queensland, moreover, LNP politicians pressured government to withdraw federal department of environment notices demanding landowners explain suspected of illegal clear-felling.
All of this provides context to the Coalition’s urging the states to accept a NEG with woefully inadequate emissions targets of just 26% below 2005 levels for the electricity sector, by 2030. Not only will new investment, least of all in renewables receive no clear signal, the NEG effectively will lock in Tony Abbott’s targets for ten years.
Breezily, commentators and government spin merchants urge states to sign up to targets which can be increased later. It’s a bit like a mobile phone sales pitch.
Sign up now, change your plan later. But it’s not that easy. A federal government committed to higher emissions targets may struggle to gain senate support.
Our total national carbon emissions continue to rise. The most recent national greenhouse accounts showed a 1.5% increase last year. More than $1bn of public money spent on cutting greenhouse gas emissions by planting trees and restoring habitat under the Coalition’s fairies at the bottom of the garden Direct Action climate policy will have effectively been wiped out by little more than two years of forest-clearing elsewhere in the country, according to official government data.
Could the coal warriors snap out of it? Is the Coalition seduced by its own party spin machine? Can it not abandon its futile Kill Bill strategy? Will it stop its tiresome pantomime that Anthony Albanese is after Shorten’s job? None of this is working for it.
Nor does insisting that unfunded tax cuts help the whole nation to prosper win over those who experience at first hand wage theft, the loss of penalty rates, too little work, dangerous work or the half of all workers who are now in insecure employment.
Trump’s American provides clear evidence that corporate tax cuts go into share buy-backs, executive bonuses – anywhere but increased wages or the creation of new jobs. History in both Australia and the US suggest wage rises are highly unlikely.
By Sunday, a new diversion is required. Turnbull announces the government’s $12,000 drought assistance package to farmers. Yet he’s mugged by reality. Ashley Gamble, a Toowoomba Queensland farmer says the cash payments promised by the government for struggling farms are inadequate. He could add insulting. Heartless. Cruel.
“To be honest, that’s absolutely nothing. $12,000 doesn’t even buy a load of grain.” Gamble’s completely out of stock feed. Nothing in the package for him. Nor many others like him. The government’s package looks like a stunt.
Turnbull spins the federal government’s generous plans to provide immediate financial support to farmers with a “$190 million package” to help farming communities fight one of the worst droughts of the past century. You can get one inadequate handout or you may qualify for a type of Centrelink support. It’s a whopping $16,000 PA.
99% of NSW and more than 58% of Queensland is now officially in drought, yet no-one in government is bold enough to publicly make any links between land-clearing, drought and other extreme weather and climate change. We’ve politicised our own survival.
Capitalism is also unquestioned. Farmers now face unprecedented prices as feed becomes scarce, just as transport costs rise steeply as they are forced to seek sources further and further afield. Then there’s higher fuel and power costs.
The meagre drought assistance looks like a cheap publicity opportunity, especially given last week’s news that the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, a hitherto obscure “charity”, run by wealthy business leaders, receives $443 million from Malcolm Turnbull and Josh Frydenberg without prior consultation or even being required to apply.
There are no set expectations of accountability and the donation appears to have bypassed cabinet or the party room in a captain’s call.
Again, Turnbull’s government is remote, aloof and high-handed. It’s not heeding the people, nor serving the people, however sensitive it may be to Newspoll and media opportunities. Yet rich corporations get a $65 billion handout in a tax cut.
But look over there! Senses heightened by fear, the Coalition pack is hot in pursuit of Emma Husar; MP for Lindsay, a Western Sydney electorate. The single mother of three, they allege, bullies and abuses her staff. Not only must staffers walk her pet Labrador, they have to pick up dog poo and pop into Aldi for bread, milk and toilet-paper.
Husar has misused entitlements such as the Comcar travel service, some staff allege. Yet there’s no hint of any chartered helicopter hire, such as helped to ground Bronwyn Bishop. Husar’s not used RAAF VIP jets, such as Tony Abbott would use to fly to Melbourne, to attend a March 2015 birthday party of mining millionaire and top Liberal donor Paul Marks.
Nor is there any allegation that Emma’s abused her role to secure a job for anyone not-her-partner-at-the-time; nor a whiff of any dubious paternity, a “grey area” for Barnaby Joyce who has been cleared of wrongly procuring jobs for his paramour.
Nor has Ms Husar broken Turnbull’s “no bonking ban” which admonished our former deputy PM indirectly; unfairly over his affair with staffer Vikki Campion. “You can’t help who(m) you fall in love with,” Barnaby, the helpless victim explains.
The pursuit of Husar is a magnificent distraction, however, and a pent up Coalition fond of blood sports pounces on it.
Damned by her accusers, prejudged in the media, Husar takes leave after threatening messages are left on her phone. The bullying allegations are being investigated by the Labor Party with expert assistance from barrister, John Whelan.
Whelan, who has a reputation as a straight-shooter, previously worked for Labor leaders including Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Kim Beazley and Bob Carr before he set up his mediation business which specialises in workplace issues.
Turnbull calls for Shorten to stand Ms Husar down but he risks ridicule as a hypocrite, given recent Liberal history. Some prominent staffers have gone beyond the call of duty.
Niki Savva’s revelations in Road to Ruin quote an unnamed Liberal who witnessed Ms Credlin feeding then PM Tony Abbott food from her fork in public at a restaurant; resting her head on his shoulder.
Savva, who is married to veteran Liberal staffer Vincent Woolcock, records an insider’s poetic observation of a Credlin Abbott relationship moment which appears unusually intimate. “She fed him tenderly as if he were a baby bird.”
Was this duty detailed in Credlin’s job description? Capping her image of tender familiarity of not intimacy, Savva cites an anonymous minister who says he saw Mr Abbott slap Ms Credlin on the bottom not knowing he was watching the scene.
Emma Husar’s alleged misconduct, includes revealing herself to Jason Clare in a “Basic Instinct” move. Buzz-feed is agog despite Jason’s refutation. Can a woman “reveal herself” to a man who does not notice her? (So he swears.) What law is broken?
So far, despite the best efforts of The Daily Tele and other News Ltd papers, the allegation is baseless. But none of it need be true. All that’s required is a series of unfounded allegations and assertions. Mud sticks.
Metaphysical conundrums aside, Husar is a gift to apparatchiks eager to divert attention from the Coalition’s by-election flop. Her case evokes low journalism in support of a government over-eager to smear Labor. The lynch mob is a beast which feasts on salacious gossip; kindergarten tittle-tattle rather than rational political reporting and analysis.
Expect more of this type of “reporting” as Nine’s takeover of Fairfax, which is already forcing the share price of both companies down, forces Fairfax to “let go” its investigative reporters in favour of infotainers and ambulance chasers.
Will gossip also prevail on the ABC? In the run up to its IPA-ordained privatisation, the ABC announces the launch of ABC Life its new “lifestyle” website, next Monday, in a move which will make it more attractive to prospective buyers when the government privatises the national broadcaster. Lifestyle programmes outnumber all others categories.
Already there’s a fuss over the nonsense dignified by “competitive neutrality” which boils down to the government’s diktat that the ABC not compete with Murdoch’s’ or any other commercial oligarch’s rival lifestyle media “product”. It’s unfair. Our government-protected commercial media oligopoly rules. An inquiry is in place but no-one is certain of what it is or why, except that it is a Pauline Hanson condition on her accepting the first tranche of the Coalition’s brilliant new tax cut legislation.
What happened to the Productivity Commission? It has a section set up to hear competitive neutrality complaints. It’s been gazumped by an ad hoc inquiry.
Happily the Husar hue and cry also takes some of the heat off Malcolm Turnbull who has yet to explain how he could dole out a grant to Liberal Party mates who form the board of The Great Barrier Reef Foundation, a little-known charity comprising captains of industry and finance such as John Schubert, former CBA chair and Australian Business Council’s chairman, Grant King who also chairs the foundation’s board. Chalk it up to a captain’s call.
Along with many in the Business Council of Australia, Grant King is always calling for accountability from government but, as Bernard Keane notes in Crikey, he is not available to answer questions about the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. Perhaps he can’t comment on underwater matters.
Joining Grant is John Schubert also of the Business Council, and also “not available”. On board also is Suncorp’s Michael Cameron, toughing out a 16% drop in profit on a “weather and strategy spend”.
Powerful gold-plated poles and wires head honcho, Origin director, Steven Sergeant brings our warm and fluffy but hard-nosed electricity racketeers into the reefer madness zone, while Boeing Australia head Maureen Dougherty is there to represent a company which is a big arms manufacturer and totally non-polluting major global aircraft builder.
The Foundation is set up to allow our biggest polluters to greenwash their inevitable destruction of the reef, a scandal in itself, but this week, Turnbull feels the pressure over his unsolicited gift of $443 million of taxpayers’ money. He could begin by getting the body to undertake studies into the run-off from the land newly-cleared in NSW and QLD which will help accelerate the destruction of the reef.
Turnbull is long accustomed to spontaneous displays of support for experimental schemes. Or duds. Most memorable is his 2007 donation of $10 million, when, as Environment Minister, he financed Rupert Murdoch’s nephew Matt Handbury for his rain-making testing scheme, despite expert advice from Environment Department experts that the scheme would not work and was worth perhaps $2 million at best.
Handbury, in turn, strenuously denies any relationship between the grant he received from the then Environment Minister Turnbull and personal pal and his subsequent donation to Turnbull’s campaign for the seat of Wentworth.
Normalising electoral defeat helps re-build esprit de corps; a nod, perhaps, to the spirit of ANZAC, another nation-building catastrophe. At least it’s a public show of courage against the odds, as Dutton and at least seven other LNP MPs whose electorates adjoin Longman have reason to fear losing their seats, sneers Abbott’s soapbox, The Australian.
Axe the tax cut, some whimper privately, while yobbo Tony Abbott and others go public, white-anting their PM’s leadership, in the cheeky larrikin spirit of defiance of authority that marks out the true blue Aussie hero but with an obsession that betokens mania.
The anti-Turnbull pile-on via Sydney talkback radio helps ease the stigma of being infected by the viral disease of climate change denial, a malignant metaphysical meningitis, which causes rapid atrophy of the critical faculties.
Climate change denial helps incubate an aberrant strain of “thought”, as Greg Jericho flatters our current Coalition psychopathology in The Guardian “that has decided the way forward is to ignore evidence and instead pursue an ideology of wilful ignorance.”
Of course the government’s ruling Monash Five’s retreat from reason and its climate madness may both stem from larger causes, but the effects of wilful ignorance are pernicious. Giving the top end of town a tax break is another corporate sponsorship we can’t afford, which, judging by its record profits of 6% quarter on quarter, big business clearly doesn’t need. Profits increased faster for mining (10.9%) and electricity and utilities, (11.9%).
A record 94% of companies reported a profit this year.
By Tuesday, MPs return to backbiting, sniping and finger-pointing. What’s left for the desiccated dries and the dissidents of the Monkey Pod room who dictate government policy on environment and energy to fall back on but Dutton’s African gangs and Andrew Bolt’s rabid racist scaremongering and immigration?
Another dramatic scandal-ridden week in national politics sees further breaking of the ranks in the Turnbull government. Some call to walk back its tax cuts while others remain steadfast; loyal to their principles of looking after their wealthy corporate mates, the sainted capitalist entrepreneur at the expense of everyone else; a retreat into economic folly which entails abdicating their obligation to a just and fair society.
“Everyday Australians would be appalled to know that the annual company tax saving for just one company could pay for 7,610 teachers, 8,450 nurses or 6,310 police officers, says Executive Director, Ben Oquist.
The Australia Institute’s (TAI) new Revenue Watch Initiative calculates that based on Rio Tinto’s half year report, the Coalition’s company tax cut would represent a $7.67 billion gift to Rio Tinto over the first decade of the cut.
Oquist maintains that his institute’s research shows that the company tax cuts are “economically unsound.” Cutting company tax will reduce revenue available for community services and productivity enhancing public infrastructure.
Others duck and weave to dodge the brickbats from Super Saturday as rifts widen within the Coalition over energy and tax cuts for the rich, which Abbott wants to ditch, Scott Morrison wants to keep and which Dutton won’t commit to.
Caught between snafu, self-sabotage and frantic damage control, the PM’s unsolicited $443 million largesse to his party’s mining and finance pals in The Great Barrier Reef Foundation blows up in his face, whilst Health Minister Hunt is left looking unwell when he’s proved wrong on the ease with which others can access patient data on MyHealth.
Of course, he’ll simply fiddle with the wording of the legislation. The opt out concept violates patient’s rights.
Figures for the first quarter of 2018 from Australia’s data breach notification scheme show that over all sectors, around half of breaches were caused by human error.
The scheme found most breaches came from the healthcare sector, reports ABC’s Ariel Bogle.
What could possibly go wrong?
“No-one should be punching the air in the Labor Party. There is not a lot to crow about”, says Turnbull when he finally emerges from his blue funk, Monday. Party Pollyanna, Christopher Pyne, surpasses peak absurdity, in his verdict on Georgina Downer’s crash and burn in Mayo. He’s almost as upbeat over his party’s overall performance.
Downer, Pyne opines, has “created a good base to win in May next year”. Just a little more public contempt for the electorate’s intelligence, should help seal her victory. In all three seats, he lies, it’s “a good result” for the Liberal Party.
Good? It’s a disaster. And it’s unprecedented. Until Saturday, a five per cent swing against the government has never occurred in by-elections in Opposition-held seats, as all five, on 28 July, were. Sixty such byelections have been held since Federation, writes Peter Brent. Half were uncontested. Results from the remainder range widely.
In the thirty seats which were contested, fourteen swung to the government. Of the remaining sixteen, the size of the swing to the opposition averages 1.5% while the mean is a meagre 1.2%. Yet the Liberal spin is quickly, widely repeated.
Incredible Sulk, Tony Abbott is on air with Ray quick as a rat up a drain pipe. Although 2GB boasts it’s number one with 11% of Sydney’s radio audience, according to its own figures, nearly ninety per cent of listeners listen to someone else.
Yet Abbott and Dutton love 2GB’s shock-jockery. Or used to. Monday, Abbott tells Hadley’s fans that his government needs to change policies after its disastrous showing in the three by-elections it bothered to contest. Its policies are just as much of a problem as its leader, Abbott tells listeners. Who’d invent a 30 dud Newspolls’ test of success?
“One of the things you learn as leader over the years is don’t set yourself up to fail, don’t set tests for yourself that are going to be very hard to pass.” Abbott should know. His own government dishonoured 85 policy promises in 88 weeks.
“There will be no new spending under a Coalition government that’s not fully-costed and fully-funded,” was one of his hollowest election pledges. Once elected, Abbott’s government proceeded to spend more relative to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) than even the notoriously profligate Howard government. Unfunded or deficit spending doubled.
Thursday, Hadley calls Scott Morrison and Turnbull “numbskulls” and gives even Home Affairs supremo Peter Dutton a serve. Channelling Abbott, he bags the PM and his Treasurer for continuing to pursue their policy of tax cuts for businesses with turnover of more than $50 million, following the Coalition’s failure to win seats in Saturday’s by-elections.
Last week Abbott was beating Dutton’s drum. … why do we store up trouble for ourselves by letting in people who are going to be difficult, difficult to integrate?” 2GB Radio regular malcontent, Toxic Tony asks his “big question” relentless in his quest to destroy his nemesis, Malcolm Turnbull, even if it means cruelling the coalition’s chances in the process.
Abbott drips poison as he dog-whistles up racists.
It’s as good as anything his mentor, John Howard, ever managed, when in 1988 he began attacking the Asianisation of Australia, ending years of bipartisan agreement not to play the race card. Howard called for “One Australia,” neatly appealing to the followers of One Nation, which the Liberal candidate for Oxley created the year before when she was disendorsed by her party for racist comments which would be defended as “freedom of speech” today.
Confounded by reality failing to live to its rhetoric in Super Saturday’s debacle and the scandal breaking over Turnbull’s Great Barrier Reef Foundation scam, the accelerating land clearing that is helping kill the reef and the anxiety and stress that Health Minister Hunt is bringing to all of us over our medical data, not to mention Abbott’s sniping at his PM, the government retreats into dissension, reality and climate change denial and the comfort of reverting to the simpler, safer times when elder statesman and war criminal John Howard looked after us all by stopping the boats and rekindling our racism.