Month: March 2019

Australia’s home-grown terrorist a threat to all of us.

jacinda

“We were not chosen for this act of violence because we condone racism, because we are an enclave for extremism,” Jacinda Ardern told New Zealanders in the confused hours following the attacks.

“We were chosen for the very fact that we are none of these things. Because we represent diversity, kindness, compassion, a home for those who share our values, refuge for those who need it. And those values, I can assure you, will not and cannot be shaken by this attack.”

 


Fifty unsuspecting men, women and children attending Friday prayer at 1:00 pm in the leafy, peaceful, central Christchurch Al-Noor mosque and in the nearby mosque at Linwood, New Zealand, are suddenly brutally, cold-bloodedly shot at point-blank range by Brenton Harrison Tarrant, a 29 year-old Australian alt-right terrorist using an AR-15 semi-automatic, the weapon of choice in US mass shootings from Sandy Hook to San Bernardino.

Surgeons, who have treated wounds caused by AR-15 semi-automatic rifles, call the weapons perfect killing machines that can tear a body apart and create massive haemorrhaging. Many medicos call for it to be banned.

The assault is a callous, calculated hate-crime which leaves fifty Islamic worshippers dead and wounds fifty others, thirty-six of whom remain hospitalised, twelve in critical condition and a community utterly traumatised. Broken. Police arrest Tarrant, an Otago rifle-club member; charge him with one count of murder. Other charges will follow on 5 April. Despite earlier reports of a group of terrorists, police say Tarrant is the lone gun-man.

If only he were. Not for a moment, does Tarrant behave as if he is on his own. It’s in his demeanour in court, where he smirks at reporters and flashes an inverted white power symbol- it’s in his “manifesto”; the in-jokes and ironic references to fellow “shit-posters” on white supremacists’ websites; his prior posts to social media; his decision to film his pathological odyssey of destruction.  He is living proof of the myth of the lone wolf terrorist.

In his own, narcissistic, bubble-head, Tarrant’s gone from “zero to hero” appeasing the savage god of alt-right celebrity social media notoriety in thirty-six minutes. But he’s not got anywhere on his own. “Lazy talk of lone wolves obscures the nature of the real threat and makes us all less safe”, writes The Guardian’s Jason Burke.

“The truth is much more disturbing. Terrorism is not something you do by yourself, it is highly social. People become interested in ideas, ideologies and activities, even appalling ones, because other people are interested in them.”  Increasingly, however, links are tenuous. Networks, autonomous cells and “in rare cases” individuals have replaced groups with chains of command. Sadly, our AFP and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton’s other anti-terror forces appear still to be busting down doors in Grafton, Monday, looking for a mythic Tarrant terror cell.

Tarrant exudes complicity; a sense of co-conspiracy; a psychotic, anti-heroic triumphalism of “us” against “them”.

Has the tolerance given the alt-right by governments and mainstream media in Australia, misled him to believe he is starring in his own movie? That he’s untouchable? Or does he simply have the psychopath’s empathy by-pass? Yet rather than seek out a terror cell as his mentors, we need look no further than the federal government.

“Some politicians in Australia have for years been whipping up anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment,” Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi tells ABC Television’s News Breakfast, Monday, “and for years, Muslims have also been warning; we’ve been speaking out and saying this is damaging and hurting the community, and that this does have consequences – this doesn’t happen in a vacuum. And when I talk about politicians, I have to say I’m not only talking about the usual suspects like One Nation’s Pauline Hanson, or Fraser Anning.”

Faruqi spells it out, later on Radio National “… politicians like Peter Dutton have actually contributed to creating an atmosphere where hate is allowed to incubate in our society. They can’t shrug off their responsibility.

What they’ve been doing does come with a cost, it does come with consequences, because really they’ve been playing games with our lives.”

Peter Dutton takes this gentle rebuke with typical good humour. He quickly accuses Faruqi of making political capital out of the NZ shootings. Dutts says it’s “a disgrace” that people “on the far left or far right [are] trying to extract advantage” while families are “burying the bodies of those who have been massacred in Christchurch”.

“He still refuses to take responsibility for his role in demonising Muslims, migrants and refugees,” Faruqi tells Guardian Australia.Trying to claim that my response to the horrific massacre and Senator Anning’s disgraceful comments that harm our community are in any way equivalent is just vile.”

Anning blames the New Zealand victims in a bizarre tweet which asks “Does anyone still dispute the link between Muslim immigration and violence?” His asinine comment causes the Indonesian Foreign Ministry to summon the Australian Ambassador in Jakarta where foreign ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir has some helpful advice,

“Acts of terrorism, he says, are not associated with any religion.”

“The thought conveyed by the Australian senator is inappropriate and does not have a place in the modern world, whether in Australia, Indonesia, or elsewhere,” he says. Anning, meantime has over a million votes on a GetUp petition in favour of his standing down from parliament. His attention-seeking stunt is working marvellously.

As for acts of terrorism, if we look, as we do to the US, violent extremism driven by right-wing, racially motivated ideologies is growing at an alarming pace – ahead of the capacity of public understanding nor government action to keep up or to combat it. Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, calls upon leaders to wake up and to mobilise the necessary resources to deal with right wing terror. In Australia, we lag further behind.

Marvy Morrison is mugged by reality. Yet when it comes to “Muslim extremism” he has the answers all off pat. ScoMo echoes Abbott and most of his other MPs when he says the Muslim community in Australia must be more “proactive” in tackling the threat of terror attacks. Why?  Because “in many cases” imams and community leaders will know who is infiltrating and radicalising members of their flock. It’s reductive, patronising nonsense.

But Brenton Tarrant’s radicalisation is difficult to blame on anyone else but himself and his anti-Muslim, Islamophobic government. Not that ScoMo doesn’t give the hand-pass a try. He’s surprised, he says, that NZ authorities didn’t have Tarrant on their radar.

Jacinda Ardern replies that she’s surprised that Australian authorities, so much more advanced at this anti-terror stuff, weren’t on to Tarrant way back. Why weren’t his community leaders more proactive?

Proactive? Given our first major terrorist turns out to be a white supremacist, Neo-Nazi, why is ScoMo now not calling Anglo-Celtic community leaders to account? Because it’s nonsense? If there’s any good to come out of the tragic horror of Friday’s shootings, it’s the way that it exposes the Coalition’s preposterous supposition that Muslim “communities” are run by imams as some sort of theocratic state.

It also exposes a chilling truth. Paranoid nonsense about white genocide to one side, Tarrant’s intolerant ranting manifesto has many parallels with Coalition anti-immigration and anti-Muslim polemic. Tarrant’s immigration phobia; his scapegoating of Muslims, echoes ScoMo’s government’s own Islamophobic prejudices.

When a clearly deluded and paranoid Hassan Khalif Shire Ali killed one person and injured two others in Bourke Street, the PM identified the “vile presence” of radical Islam as the cause of the attack, dismissing the suggestion that mental health issues negated that primary cause as a “lame excuse”.

Tony Abbott insinuates Muslim leaders do not condemn terrorism: “I’ve often heard Western leaders describe Islam as a ‘religion of peace’. I wish more Muslim leaders would say that more often, and mean it.”

What messages did Abbott think he was sending when he allowed his government to send National MP “gorgeous” George Christensen to address an anti-Islam rally – Reclaim Australia? Perhaps Tarrant was even in attendance? The title of the address is remarkably similar to the theme of Tarrant’s cracked manifesto.

If it takes a whole village to raise a child, how many does it take to raise a genocidal, white supremacist gun-man? At the family level, Tarrant’s devastated relatives offer their profuse apologies to the families who have lost brothers, sisters, uncles, nephews, nieces, husbands and wives who until last Friday were teachers, engineers, accountants and scientists.

And children.  Two young children are among those gunned down in cold blood. Mucad Ibrahim, aged three, dies in his father’s arms. Abdullah Durie, aged four, is caught in the cross-fire and later dies in hospital, explains Abdulrahman Hashi, his uncle. Nothing anyone can ever say will ease their parents’ grief.

Suddenly, we are exporting terrorism. ScoMo’s government has the wrong script. Scott Morrison has said the Muslim community in Australia must be more “proactive” in tackling the threat of terror attacks because “in many cases” imams and community leaders will know who is infiltrating and radicalising members of their flock.

No Australian politician, however, steps forward to take responsibility for his or her role in contributing to the toxic miasma of Islamophobia; the anti-Muslim hate-speech that they nurture as part of Australia’s contemporary political discourse with its blaming, its scapegoating, its fear of the other.  No-one in government apologises for raising terrorist Tarrant, let alone allowing him out of the country to commit his hideous act of carnage.

Scott Morrison offers his condolences but his words ring hollow given how, in December 2010, ScoMo allegedly encouraged the shadow cabinet to exploit populist Islamophobia; growing concerns about “Muslim immigration”, “Muslims in Australia”, how “Muslims” were not assimilating – suppressing their culture, subjugating custom, thought and belief much as Australia’s aboriginal peoples are in many ways still expected to behave.

Julie Bishop and Philip Rudd allegedly remonstrated, but in 2011, Morrison asked why the Australian government should pay the fares of twenty-two mourners to come to the Sydney funeral of family drowned when an asylum-seeker vessel, SIEV 222, (Suspected illegal entry vessel) in our Orwellian terminology, evoking anonymity, illegality and illegitimacy, broke up and sank off Christmas Island’s Rocky Point, with the loss of over fifty lives.

Tony Abbott was censured by Wayne Swan for “parroting Pauline Hanson” in Abbott’s backing of Morrison.

ScoMo was persuaded to apologise or at least he made a contrived statement of contrition,

“I made the suggestion (the funeral) should have been held on Christmas Island. That wasn’t the right time to make that comment. I accept that. I have to show a little more compassion than I showed yesterday.”

Luckily, former accountant-cum-ethicist, Barnaby Joyce is on hand in 2011 to protect the borders of our humanity. The price of compassion is “not limitless’‘, he says. “You can’t do it with a completely open cheque book.”

Making his atrocity even more horrifying is that Tarrant live-streams his killings on the internet and posts an online manifesto, “The Great Replacement”, a deranged treatise on white supremacy: the high volume of immigration now seen in the West is bringing about a “replacement” of host populations by immigrant – and of course, inferior – cultures. The influx of newcomers is causing a “white genocide.”

Kiwi politicians get a copy of the treatise minutes before his attacks. Both his email and his Go-Pro live-streamed film convey not only his bizarre deliberations but suggest that the “entire attack seemed orchestrated for the social media age” suggest CNN reporters, Jenni Marsh and Tara Mulholland. It’s an ISIS-like recruitment tactic.

Before Tarrant’s attacks, a post on the anonymous message board 8chan — a forum featuring racist and extremist posts –previews the horror. It links to his 87-page grab-bag of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim slurs, and directs users to a Facebook page hosting the live stream. He also uses a new Twitter account to herald the attack. Yet no-one in any anti-terror police unit either in Australia or New Zealand notices his declaration of intent to murder.

Facebook claims that within 24 hours of Friday’s shooting the company had removed 1.5 million videos of the attack from its platform globally. Naturally, Scott Morrison has this contingency all under control.

“We will be seeking to get assurances from the social media companies about their capabilities to ensure that this tool cannot be used by terrorists,” ScoMo says, keen to be seen to impose “a tough on Facebook borders” solution. However, he reveals an astonishing ignorance of how social media works. As Mark Zuckerberg explains, his company could not have stopped Russia manipulating the outcome of the last US presidential election,

“We don’t check what people say before they say it, and frankly, I don’t think society should want us to. Freedom means you don’t have to ask for permission first, and by default, you can say what you want.”

The slaughter is quickly labelled “one of New Zealand’s darkest days” and “an act of terrorism” by Kiwi PM, Jacinda Ardern. Other world leaders offer sympathy. Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan goes further; arguing that Muslims worldwide have found themselves targeted and “demonised” since the 9/11 attacks on the US.

“I blame these increasing terror attacks on the current Islamophobia post-9/11 where Islam and 1.3 bn Muslims have collectively been blamed for any act of terror by a Muslim,” he tweets. “This has been done deliberately to also demonise legitimate Muslim political struggles.”

It is the largest massacre in New Zealand history since 1943, when forty-eight recently-arrived Japanese prisoners of war staged a sit-down strike at a POW camp in Featherston, a Wairarapa town in the Wellington region of the North Island. Guards fired a warning shot wounding Lieutenant Adachi Toshio. The prisoners rose. Forty-eight were shot by guards. A guard was killed, possibly by the warning shot. A further 63 prisoners were wounded.

Acting out his warped fantasy, Brenton Harrison Tarrant straps on his Go-Pro helmet camera, packs three semi-automatic rifles, two pump action shotguns and a bolt-action rifle in his Subaru before driving four and a half hours north from his home in Dunedin to Christchurch where he opens fire on unsuspecting innocents.

As Waleed Ali has written, it is “slaughter by appointment”. The true threat posed to us by this new form of terror; the true obscenity of the killings lie less in any alt-right madness about white genocide or Islamophobia but in the abuse of human trust and instinctive hospitality. The killer would have known how profoundly defenceless, how vulnerable, his targets would have been as they gathered in peace to begin their prayers. How vulnerable in their humanity and the innocent rituals of their faith.

“Hello Brother,” one greets Tarrant before the Australian terrorist shoots him dead.

 

 

 

ScoMo’s cynical Christmas Island stunt is an assault to our democracy and an affront to our humanity.

scott morrison on christmas island with fuehrer salute

 

“I will do everything in my power to ensure that these suggested changes … never see the light of day… I will fight them using whatever tool or tactic I have available to me … .” Scott Morrison

 

Flanked by a trio of Border Force black-shirts and a lone, grim digger in camouflage, Scott Morrison morphs into Colonel Kurtz of Christmas Island, Wednesday. Consumed by his delusions. In a spectacular mid-week flight of fantasy, he becomes Colonel Kurtz of Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola’s phantasmagorical 1979 Vietnam war film loosely based on Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness. For Kurtz and ScoMo  Horror and moral terror are your friend. 

Morrison is up for another stunt if only to drown out the erupting chaos and crisis of confidence in its leadership which, yet again, engulfs the Coalition. He’s also working up to a sensational International Women’s Day address Friday “so tone deaf so terrible” – so bad it makes international news. Is it the Kurtz method acting? Or is it just ScoMo’s ear of tin?

Pet black rock-star Morrison tells a flabbergasted audience at the Chamber of Minerals and Energy in Western Australia, a bastion of women’s emancipation, that it is “not in our values” to “push some people down to lift some people up”.

“That is true of gender equality,” he says. “We want to see women rise. But we don’t want to see women rise only on the basis of others doing worse. We want everybody to do better, and we want to see the rise of women in this country be accelerated to ensure that their overall pace is maintained.”  Clearly, ScoMo has no idea what equality means. But that doesn’t stop him “telling women not to get ahead of themselves” as Sarah Hanson-Young tweets.

Feminist, Malcolm Turnbull embarks on a finely nuanced new offensive against those who knifed him in the least successful coup in Liberal history by telling the BBC, his MPs dumped him because they knew he could win the election.

“Basically you could argue that their concern was not that I would lose the election, but rather that I would win it.”

It’s absurd. Obligingly, however, Turnbull also lets the world know that the Liberals definitely has a woman problem; a serious gender inequality issue. ScoMo will be thrilled. But Turnbull slaps down Tony Abbott for his “innumerate idiocy” in his carbon emission triple back-flip and snipe. The suppository of all wisdom declares he’s all for following the Paris climate-in-a-canter agreement now. Why? “Because the party’s leader and energy minister have changed.”

Nothing to do with being likely to lose his seat of Warringah where his chief adversary Zali Steggall confirms that Tony is being his “rude, aggressive, self.” He’s also lying, she adds. Who says there’s no consistency in politics?

Bonkers Barnaby Joyce is up for a change; he’s making ready to depose Nationals Leader Michael McCormack. The fracas will be very helpful to ScoMo in diverting us from Josh Frydenberg’s April stunning budget tax-cut bribes.

Joyce is close to a shoo-in. Few even in his own electorate have heard of McCormack. The Nationals are miffed by their lame-duck leader’s train-wreck interview with Waleed Ali on Ten’s The Project which goes viral on social media.

It’s a simple question and one that Barnaby Joyce would struggle with. “Could you name a single, big policy area where the Nats have sided with the interests of farmers over the interest of miners when they come into conflict?”

Macca just can’t name a single way that the Nationals Party stands up for the farmer rather than for mining interests.

Naturally, Macca is also attacked by “Joyced-up” Queensland Nats-rats who demand he underwrite Matthew Canavan’s “about ten” new coal-fired power stations before the Budget. For now, the agrarian socialists simply want state power over power companies; Angus Taylor, bring you big stick back. Or is this Barnaby’s cunning plan to win his old job back?

Macca kicks another own goal by telling the ABC, Sunday, that night-time sport would have to be cancelled given Labor’s emissions targets. McCormack calls Bill Shorten “nuts” and “living in fairyland” for pursuing a 45 per cent reduction in carbon emissions. “I mean sure, go down that path, but forget night footy, forget night cricket.”

Given this surfeit of absurdity, disunity and ever-mindful to lead by inspiring, ScoMo takes his shock-horror show on tour to Christmas Island, pressing a hand-picked media claque aboard an RAAF 747; a virtual, portable Canberra bubble. He says nothing he couldn’t have said in Canberra but he knows exotic settings make the news. And the value of escape.

“Anyone who wants to game the system, understand you won’t be able to game your way to the mainland if I have anything to do with it. This is why we are here,” he blusters. Border Force cutbacks are not mentioned. Yet David Wroe writing for Nine Newspapers quotes a leaked Defence Department classified briefing paper warning,

“The Australian Border Force has been falling short of its sea patrol target by 20 per cent, which has posed an increased risk” to maritime security. Anti-terror work has been cut back just because the ABF hasn’t been out there doing its job. Budget cutbacks and crew shortages are cited as reasons in Wednesday’s Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

It’s a far cry from the halcyon days of Tony Abbott’s boat-stopping, a feat he didn’t achieve, which he has never ceased to take credit for. The depersonalisation stuck, as well. Stopping boats or “illegal maritime arrivals” is so much easier than owning sadistic cruelty to vulnerable people. As for Abbott and Morrison’s boat-stopping fiction, asylum-seekers, in fact, stopped attempting to reach Australia when Kevin Rudd made it clear, in July 2013, that they would never be settled here. By the time Morrison was in charge, the flow of boats slowed to a trickle. Yet one or two still try.

What Morrison can take credit for is a culture of secrecy and lies. As Immigration Minister, he showed contempt for the press – and with it – for normal measures of accountability in a democratic society. ScoMo would simply walk out of formal press-conferences when he didn’t like the questions – or scrutiny of openness and accountability.

At times, he would resort to the fiction that we were at war with asylum seekers and people-smugglers, a fantasy in which he was indulged by Abbott, a ruse to claim that “on water” or “operational matters” were top secret as a matter of national security. Yet, as his government’s exit, stage right, draws ever closer, his legacy will be his inhumanity.

Under Scott Morrison, Australia’s Migration Act was effectively entirely eroded: all affirmations of the rights of asylum seekers that applied in international law under the United Nations Refugee Convention were stripped from the Act.

Today, 1015 innocent men and women are deliberately being driven mad by the misery of indefinite offshore detention. Some are pushed to suicide and self-harm by our government’s policy of punitive incarceration; or sadistic cruelty.

Yet human beings with needs and rights do not feature in Morrison’s message to the press, midweek. There’s a lot about himself, of course. And pointing. Feeling of steel mesh. He points to where a refugee boat sank in rough seas in December 2010. Forty-eight died. But it’s only to reiterate the lie that Coalition policy is based on preventing drowning.

Does this humbug deceive anyone? Coalition policies are founded in crass, political advantage. Deny refugees’ rights. As John Menadue puts it, the Coalition’s political objective in opposition was to stop Labor stopping the boats. In co-operation with the populist Greens, it voted against the Malaysian Solution. A surge of boat arrivals followed.

Nowhere does ScoMo admit we must render others urgent medical help; our non-delegable duty of care. Instead, all he can talk about are those who will “game the system”. Fake illness. Like Dutton, he must dwell on duplicity; deception.

If not some type of disorder, the obsession with deception or lack of good faith destroys the Coalition’s promises to keep us safe. As do its laws preventing whistle-blowers. We’re safe until we blow the whistle. We’re not safe if we can’t trust government. As for deception, we have no idea how many boats have been turned around, give the level of secrecy surrounding Operation Sovereign Borders. Secrecy hardly encourages us to trust the Coalition’s official statistics

What is clear, is that punitive detention has no effect and the “successes” – if we can talk of abrogating our humanity and our responsibility to others in such a way – have come from boat turnbacks. No-one at the press briefing challenges Scott Morrison’s basic assumption – just how mainland medical aid to men on Manus or men and women on Nauru, which his government will deny by sending the suffering to Christmas Island, can attract more boats.

Talk of “illegals” crops up frequently in Coalition spin on “securing our borders”, a nonsense useful for wedging Labor. It’s repeated so frequently it’s become part of accepted truthiness. The word dehumanises but it is not illegal to seek asylum. Secondly, our borders are naturally insecure given our 25,760 km coastline. And more porous than they’ve ever been. In 2018, 9.2 million overseas residents flew in for a short-term stay say the ABS’ official statistics.

It’s high time we gave up the fiction of border control. Helping us, the formation of the Home Affairs (HA) super-ministry is already imploding. Size imperils co-ordination and communication. Home Affairs is so huge it took a senate committee two and a half days just to scrutinise Peter Dutton’s empire May last year, reports ABC’s Laura Tingle.

Home Affairs swallowed The Department of Immigration and Border Protection – itself a shotgun wedding of customs and immigration created by the Abbott government’s 2014, which Scott Morrison failed to manage well. One change was simply a captain’s call; desk-bound bureaucrats were suddenly kitted out in paramilitary uniforms.

Our refugees do not deserve our compassion, is Morrison’s subtext.  They do not merit being treated at “Bondi” he explains to Ben Fordham on 2GB’s bubble. The sick will be sent to suffer further on Christmas Island with its six bed hospital and its inadequate facilities. All that remains, is to demonise those whose only mistake is to seek our mercy.

The Coalition continues its warped fearmongering all week. Morrison has long accused asylum-seekers of carrying all manner of diseases from Hep B and TB to Chlamydia and syphilis. Now his government claims that those identified as eligible for treatment under Medevac include “paedophiles, terrorist sympathisers and an alleged murderer”.  

ScoMo’s speech could be made in Canberra but, instead, the Coalition flies its PM and an embedded media team by RNZAF 747, 5000 km to Christmas Island. It’s a bizarre and expensive stunt – even for the architect of Abbott’s 2014 “Cambodian Solution”, an abortive deal with one of the world’s poorest and most corrupt nations, which led to two refugees being resettled with no human rights guarantees at a cost of $55 million.

But Apocalypse Morrison sees only the horror.  Horror? “Labor will start the boats again. Every arrival is on Bill Shorten’s head.”  Last time it was in office, Labor brought 50,000 asylum-seekers in boats. Even if this inflated figure were accurate, his own government has seen 64,000 people claim asylum in the last three years. They flew here.

Today they are part of an oppressed, exploited, invisible underclass of worker on farms, in factories, restaurants, building sites, franchises and other businesses, as The Saturday Paper’s Mike Seccombe details.

ScoMo’s promo draws all the attention he can to Christmas Island’s ignoble re-opening. Does the PM hope that a boat might chance indefinite offshore detention or turnbacks, on the off chance that some asylum-seekers may be sick enough to be treated on the mainland – despite the new legislation clearly applying only to refugees from Manus and Nauru?  It’s highly unlikely but he does makes much of the people-smugglers’ lack of nuanced understanding.

Why else, apart from pure political bastardry, re-open another island prison in Australia’s gulag archipelago of cruelty?

On Bill Shorten’s head? It’s a desperate projection. As former Immigration Minister and distinguished public servant, John Menadue notes, by defeating the means to implement the Malaysian Arrangement, Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison triggered the surge in boat arrivals from September 2011 onwards. The more boats the better for him.

In November 2009, the issue of asylum seekers was “fantastic” for the Coalition and “the more boats that come the better” a key Liberal Party strategist” told a US diplomat in Canberra.  Scott Morrison was the ‘strategy director’ for the 2007 NSW election campaign. The comment was published 10 December 2010 by the SMH reporting from Wikileaks.

Our onshore detention centres (gulags) are full, he lies.  Shorten’s new law means ScoMo must reopen Christmas Island Detention Centre, (a prison), because 57 “adverse characters,” require a “hardened centre”, (a fresh bit of jargon to help with the message that refugees are rapists, terrorists and worse. Some are Armani-wearing con-artists – just ask Dutts.)

“Somebody once said to me that we’ve got the world’s biggest collection of Armani jeans and handbags up on Nauru waiting for people to collect it when they depart,” Dutton told 2GB’s Ray Hadley two years ago, using the dodgy “somebody once told me…” propaganda strategy in the government’s squalid bid to smear our refugees as dishonest and undeserving – when it’s not demonising them as carriers of STDs or terrorist sympathisers.

Horror of horrors. There is room on the mainland. In a government of secrets and lies, truth, like science, is a dirty word. Home Affairs own monthly newsletter shows three mainland “hardened centres”. One alone has 200 spare beds. If every one of ScoMo’s 57 “adverse characters” were sick, we’d fit them all in. So far, not one has sought assistance.

And why ignore local residents of the Australian territory? They have a democratic right to be consulted,

Museum attendant, Roxanne Wilson, complains that ScoMo’s detention centre media blitz is certainly no advertisement for Christmas island. “I’m just concerned that any tourists on the island or [who] would like to come to the island, are thinking it’s a detention island. I would just like them to see the beauty of the island: we get bird watchers coming here quite regularly, the island has endemic bird life that is not found anywhere else in the world.”

Yet ScoMo flies 5000 kilometres to an Australia external territory, acquired in 1958, which his mentor, John Howard, rat-cunningly excised from our migration zone in September 2001.  An exhausted phosphate mine, Christmas Island is 1400 km north-west of Australia but only 360 km south of Java; alluringly close for Indonesian people-smugglers.

Is ScoMo hoping to reboot its allure? Another asylum-seeker boat or two could turn the May election into Tampa 2.0.

Or could it? How likely are demon people-smugglers to forget history? Tampa’s 438 passengers were taken to Nauru and Manus. Not to be outdone by the lying rodent, Howard, moreover, the Gillard government, excised the mainland of Australia from our migration zone in May 2013. Even if you do make it to Australia, you’ll end up being “processed” or in indefinite detention on Manus or Nauru. Only ScoMo could pretend the Medevac bill opens any “loopholes”.

Yet, blast the trump, Christmas Island is open for business again. What better spot for ScoMo to declare war on the Medevac Bill and humanity; protect us all from those who may “game the system”? Dog-whistle people-smugglers?

Morrison does boost Australia’s reputation for gratuitous cruelty and abuse of human rights via off-shore detention. Our democracy cops a hiding, too. Cap’n ScoMo’s determined to subvert the will of the Australian people as represented by parliament’s passing of a bill to allow asylum-seekers held on Manus Island and on Nauru to be treated on the mainland, a bill which received royal assent last Friday. No-one puts up a fuss. He’ll send them to an island where medical facilities are inadequate but thanks to Howard, the law doesn’t reach. It’s an act of pure political bastardry. And it’s not cheap.

All up, Monty Morrison’s flying circus costs taxpayers $2000 per minute, reckons Nine Newspapers’, David Crowe.  But that doesn’t begin to count the cost to our humanity nor to our capacity as sentient beings to find our way in the world.

The result of a consistent and total substitution of lies for factual truth is not that the lie will now be accepted as truth and truth be defamed as a lie, but that the sense by which we take our bearings in the real world – and the category of truth versus falsehood is among the mental means to this end – is being destroyed.  Hannah Arendt

 

=====

Note

 From the Attorney-General’s Department, Laura Tingle reports, Home Affairs has taken carriage of national security, emergency management and criminal justice functions. The Office of Transport Security has been plucked from the Infrastructure Department. Multicultural affairs has been absorbed from the Department of Social Services. And from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Home Affairs has taken control of counter-terrorism coordination and cybersecurity. The super-ministry also assumes responsibility for key agencies including ASIO, the Australian Federal Police, Australian Border Force, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and AUSTRAC.

No, ScoMo, you can’t have Snowy 2.0 and coal-fired power stations, too.

scomo hydro

“What we are talking about here is reliable, renewable, energy,” gurgles a pumped PM , Tuesday. He stands in the same spot as Turnbull, before ScoMo deposed him; the same huge penstock steel pipes arch back behind him like some gigantic, shamanic, horned headdress.  The pose gives pause for thought. As does ScoMo’s pivot; his sudden switch from bearer of the black rock in parliament to ScoMo of Snowy 2.0, a study of calculation in concrete brutalism.

In an incredible back-flip, Faux-Mo re-invents his carbon-emitting, coal-powered government as climate and environmental custodians. Snowy 2.0 is the site of Turnbull’s nation-building pet project. Is his an act of homage, or  usurpation? Yet it could be a lemon. Neither the Coalition, nor its wholly owned Snowy Hydro, will reveal any financial models. Giles Parkinson notes that there’s a fair bit of red tape to clear, not to mention environmental issues to resolve.

No financial modelling? No worries. Whether nation-building with your ego or your energy policy, it’s the vibe that matters. And the mix. A “technologically neutral” ScoMo-government may green-wash itself overnight but it’s careful to leave black or brown coal-fired power generation still in the energy mix. It prolongs the hoax that coal and wind and solar can somehow co-exist, whatever the market is saying about the need to invest in renewables to make a profit.

Naturally a few false prophets must be ignored. The Australian‘s Chris Kenny is all for a nuclear option, safe, cheap; a boon, environmentally, as Fukushima and Chernobyl attest, with only a few drawbacks including toxicity, short life-span, long build time and prohibitive price as demand for electricity diminishes. Nuclear is so yesterday. As for green, any saving in daily running cost is offset by a large environmental debit incurred in the massive concrete construction.

But is our new ScoMo Coalition with clean, green, pumped snowy hydro 2.0 fair-dinkum? Giles Parkinson drily notes,

“…a government that “scrapped the carbon price, tried to kill the renewable energy target, defenestrated the Climate Change Authority and tried to scrap the Clean Energy Finance Corp and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency appears to be taking note that climate focused independents are posing a real threat to incumbent MPs.”

Is it green? Will our unreliable, coal-fired clunkers such as Liddell be taken off life support? (Liddell’s expected life-span was 25 years, when built in 1973.) Will filthy, new, polluting smoke stacks rise phoenix-like from the ashes, as the Coalition honours Matt Canavan’s recent pledge to fund ten new coal-fired power plants? Funding? Banks won’t touch them. China doesn’t love us any more and the Russians have already been well-tapped by Trump.

Government funding is promised to those keen to build new coal-fired power projects – but is it legal? In a startling new piece of legal advice from barristers Fiona McLeod SC and Lindy Barrett, The Australia Institute reports  McLeod and Barrett argue that the government will need parliament’s approval before it can underwrite any new coal fired plant.

The only existing authority for such appropriation of funds is the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, a body set up to encourage investment in energy-efficient; low energy or low emission technology. Coal or gas projects are excluded.

The barristers hazard that “Energy Minister Angus Taylor is in such a rush to funnel taxpayer funds to new coal fired power stations before the election, he seems to have overlooked that he has no constitutional authority to do so.”

Assistance for new coal fired power projects, it is argued, will require “some form of supporting legislation”, reports Katharine Murphy, either new or existing, to operate and fund the program, otherwise the arrangements would be open to a high court challenge. Certainly, Energy Minister Angus Taylor is coy about new build details.

Taylor, is tight-lipped on ABC Insiders, Sunday. Incredibly, after six years in government and with an election in May, he acts as if he is being put on the spot by a key question on major policy. Perhaps he is. Has no-one done the research?

“I’m the energy minister, I am not going to commit to a number here and now.” An evasive Taylor sees fit to use the Westminster code of ministerial responsibility to parliament to weasel out of a simple question in the national interest.

Instead, Trump-like, the Energy Minister spins a web of lies. He risks ridicule in pretending that the Coalition is reducing its carbon emissions. The government’s own figures show a five-year increase. (Emission rose again when, then PM, Abbott “axed the carbon tax: a lie which even former Chief of Staff Peta Credlin now admits was untrue – “just brutal retail politics” – by which she means ruthless, self-serving, pragmatism. Any means to win an election is OK.)

Yet Taylor’s cool with coal and pumped hydro competing. Has he read Tassie’s Project Marinus’ feasibility study? It’s clear from the project brief that the interlink will be economically viable only if coal is taken out of the mix – and soon.

“… when approximately 7,000MW of the national electricity market’s present coal-fired generation capacity retires”,

Pouncing, like a terrier, on the word “competition”, the topic of his M.Phil from Oxford where, like Abbott, he was a Rhodes Scholar, Taylor offers a touching non-sequitur, “You put your finger on it – we want more competition, Barrie.” Perhaps coal can compete with pumped hydro in the parallel universe of the coal lobby shill or the Kelly “ginger group”.

Taylor has ScoMo’s biggest lie off pat. “We will reach our Paris targets in a canter.” The Coalition knows that with repetition the lie will become orthodoxy  – as has the false narrative that our energy policy is a failure because “both sides” have been bickering, a point repeatedly made by Coalition MPs and their supporters on mainstream media, including the ABC’s The Drum and Q&A. No. It’s a Coalition wedded to its coal sponsors causing the damage.

There are no reputable scientists or economists who believe we will meet our Paris target to reduce our emissions by 26%, based on 2005 levels, by 2030 in a canter. Now the talk is of carry-over credits.

The question has Taylor talking about The Kyoto agreement to Australia fudging its figures; being allowed a credit for land-clearing and forestry in article 3.7 of the Kyoto Protocol, known but not fondly, as The Australian Clause and inserted at the behest of Senator Robert Hill. In brief, we chose 1990, a year when land-clearing had been high as our base, thus giving the impression of progress even if we did nothing. The Coalition’s attitude remains unchanged.

We did not do nothing. The Hawke government introduced policies to restrict land-clearing and established Landcare. When Kyoto was officially ratified in 2008, under Rudd, Australia was able to claim “emissions from Land-use, Land-use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) had fallen by over 80 million tonnes CO2-e … an almost 15 per cent reduction in Australia’s emissions – enough to offset the significant growth in emissions from electricity generation over the same period, which had added 82 million tonnes CO2-e by 2009.”

Because we will beat our 2020 Kyoto targets by 240 million tonnes of CO2, the Morrison government will carry these forward against our 2030 Paris pledge, if other countries are weak enough to allow this. The 26 to 28 per cent target effectively turns into a 15 per cent cut on 2005 levels.

It seems like sharp practice – and in terms of our real contribution to curbing global warming it is a shamefully weak effort, yet our environment minister, “Invisible” Melissa Price, says “it’s a great result for the environment and for the economy”, helping prosecute the fallacy that curbing emissions acts as a break on prosperity, a myth so widely and frequently circulated that it is Coalition and mainstream media orthodoxy.

Bill Hare, director of Perth-based global consultancy Climate Analytics, says there’s no chance we can meet our target without new policies.   Most other experts agree. Yet the Coalition is a policy-free zone, especially around energy.

Barrie tries to chat about rats leaving the sinking Coalition ship. Ten faux-green bottles no longer hanging on the wall. More to accidentally fall? Taylor recycles ScoMo’s spin that while the faces may change, the policies remain “focused”. Yet  coal is in now out of-focus while hydro gets a spin.  And since Taylor’s debut in August, energy is an enigma. Even Frydenberg didn’t try to ride two horses at once. You can’t burn coal and pump hydro. It’s one or the other.

Unless it’s for show. This week the Coalition puts another $1.6bn into the kitty for Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro. Invests $56m in interconnector 2.0, or the Marinus link to make little Tassie a powerhouse; “the battery of the nation”.

Marinus will carry power not only from pumped hydro, moreover, it will be able to conduct electricity from wind-power projects in the pipeline. But it won’t be economic; it can’t pay its way unless coal-fired power generation is retired. The costs of the poles and wires are extra.  These, ScoMo generously makes clear, are to be borne by the relevant states.

For Tassie’s Marinus 2 project to work, however, its feasibility report says its necessary or our nation to get out of coal-fired power generation. Fast. 2020 is suggested. Yet Angus Taylor suggests there may be ten coal-fired plants which the government may subsidise. Again, it’s impossible to have an each-way bet. Giles Parkinson sums up: Snowy 2.0 and the Tasmanian scheme only make economic and financial sense if coal-fired power production ceases.

“There is no place in the schemes if coal-fired generators remain.”

That’s entirely at odds with Coalition policy. This includes a type of state aid to Trevor St Baker, the billionaire who bought Vales Point from the NSW government for a song – and poised to set up some new ones; a white knight of the black rock and a Liberal Party donor just battling to make a quid by keeping old stations such as Liddell running well past their use-by date.   No wonder the government is releasing no feasibility study. What they propose is impossible.

At base, however, Snowy 2.0’s just another show.  “Getting on with the job”, as Showboat ScoMo pitches his cynical faux humility. Typically, “the job” entails the hard slog of deception, disinformation and spin but the old stager knows no sort of performance can distract from the reality that at least ten of his Coalition crew are madly stampeding for the exits.

“Jobs for the boys” are what we are in fact talking about, as Labor’s Penny Wong never tires of reminding us.

Wait, there’s more good news. “A record seven women in cabinet”, boasts Nine news. ScoMo boldly overpromotes rookie WA Senator Linda Reynolds straight from assistant Minister for Home Affairs, to Minister for Defence Industry.

“When you can call up a brigadier, in the form of Linda Reynolds, to take on the role of defence minister, it shows we have a lot of talent on our bench to draw from” Morrison lies. It does show the Liberals’ fetish for militarism. Above all, it rewards Reynolds for quickly abandoning her complaints of bullying in the Liberal Party.

“As a soldier I believe you go through a chain of command and you do things internally,” she says. Her cryptic comment may make sense to a part-time army reservist on a weekend camp but how is this Liberal individualism?  Of far more concern, is how the potential Minister of Defence would respond to whistle-blowers.

Alarmingly, Reynolds repeats Morrison’s myth that voters have no interest in the internal workings of the party – a nonsense given the party’s commitment to transparency  – and given the ways our choices of candidate and party are justly informed by insights into party culture – or as Kelly O’Dwyer put it, ways votes are lost by a popular perception that the Liberal party is a mob of “homophobic, anti-women, climate-change deniers”.

ScoMo promises to make Reynolds Defence Minister after Christopher Pyne tidies up his sock drawer and ties up a few other loose ends such as our $79 billion submarine contract. Can he get the boats built in Australia by Australians – preferably in his own state, if not his own electorate? How will we provide crews? A lot for the Fixer to work through.

Reynolds is also – gasp – a woman and a Brigadier in the Army Reserve – irrefutable proof of the Liberals’ egalitarian democracy, despite only nineteen MPs being women.  And a reservist Brigadier will instantly win over any full-time ADF member. Yet the PM fails to cut a dash given the splash as rats desert HMAS Chum-bucket his sinking submarine.

The week in politics sees the federal Coalition frantically green-wash its cred – even recycling the direct action scam, a monster magic soil boondoggle only Hunt could flog, as it struggles to “get on with the job” as ScoMo puts it.

Everyone else lost interest long ago. Or they’re jumping overboard or already off-grid, as a weary nation battles fair-dinkum fatigue, a torpor not even Snowy Hydro 2.0, a Sisyphean marvel now bigger than ANZAC, Phar Lap and Kokoda put together can shift.

“It’s absolutely fair-dinkum power. It doesn’t get more fair dinkum than this,” gurgles ScoMo, who transforms, this week, into state socialist as he widens the sluice-gate of government funding on a project which has already cost a mozza; $6 billion for the Commonwealth just to buy out NSW and Victorian states’ investments.

This week’s capital transfusion transforms Malcom Turnbull’s pipe-dream into a Ponzi scheme. Snowy 2.0 will pump water uphill when power is cheap and let it rush downhill again when the price is right driving whirling turbines to produce top dollar power which cannot but help drive up power bills.

“We don’t need Morrison’s money”, carps Snowy Hydro CEO, Paul Broad, to News Corp, rejecting the Coalition’s sudden, unbidden injection of $1.4 billion part of a largesse which includes glad-handing $440 million to The Great Barrier Reef Foundation, a sign that the outfit may be struggling to stay afloat; struggling to make its numbers add up.

Pumped hydro schemes are generally not profitable, reports Giles Parkinson. Last year, data from the Australian Energy Market shows that existing pumped hydro schemes made almost no money from this activity. In the last quarter, they actually lost money and over the previous four quarters made virtually no money. Paul Broad is less expansive.

“The government decided the way it wanted to balance out the funding. It wanted to sustain dividends,” Broad says. “It wanted to support the project with equity. These things are part of negotiations that go on. We never asked for it. We never asked for anything.” Keeping financial modelling secret only fuels suspicion that Pacific Hydro’s in trouble already.

 Our PM quickly whips up a succession of other phantasmagorical stunts, this week, ranging from Monday’s Climate Solutions fund to spruik the ERF’s resurrection, an Abbott scam for channelling funding to Big Agriculture and even Big Coal amongst other worthy Liberal donors and supporters. It would cost $200 bn to use it to reach our Paris targets.

In other words, it’s “a recipe for fiscal recklessness on a grand scale and a fig leaf to cover its determination to do nothing”, as Malcolm Turnbull proclaimed of Abbott’s ERF plan prior to the 2013 election.

An emission-abating nation gasps as “showboat” ScoMo simultaneously flogs a dead horse, puts lipstick on a pig and executes a reverse pork barrel dive with pike all in free-fall off Mount Kosciuszko in the Snowy Mountains region.

“Magic-soil” Morrison rebadges Abbott’s quick and dirty emissions reduction fund (ERF) boondoggle as a $2bn Climate Solutions Fund (CSF) whilst slashing its annual budget from $510 million to $200 million.  Sheer genius.

It’s half of the funding Abbott committed in the 2013 election campaign. The Kiwis are right. ScoMo’s a phenomenon; a force of nature; a cunning stunt and not a one trick pony after all.

If there’s less pork to fork, what’s left is spread more widely; farmers, whose fingers are already worked to the bone filling in drought-relief forms can now apply for a CSF handout to “drought-proof” their farms, whatever that means, or just do a bit of re-vegetation. Businesses get handouts for “energy efficient projects” and not just planting for trees they would have planted anyway. Given that ERF farmers are agri-businesses, also, a double dip may well be possible.

The Wilderness Society calls on the invisible Environment Minister Melissa Price, former  to review the channelling of funds into paying farmers to protect native vegetation after Queensland satellite data suggested recipients of such money were clearing other parts of their land. What could possibly go wrong?

“Our analysis shows that 13,317 hectares of forest and bushland clearing has occurred across 19 properties in the same year or years subsequent to winning ERF contracts for funding under vegetation methodologies,” Glenn Walker, climate campaign manager for the group, says in a letter to Minister Price.

Not to be outdone, Home Affairs Super-Minister, one trick pony, Peter Dutton doctors up his fear campaign Thursday, with another populist dog-whistle from Dutts Unplugged, a long-running White Australia revival tour.

“People who need medical services are going to be displaced from those services, because if you bring hundreds and hundreds of people from Nauru and Manus down to our country, they are going to go into the health network,” Uncle Dutts tells a fawning of loyal reporters in Brisbane. Doctors respond that the claim is nonsense.

Oddly, not a word of support is heard from anyone, not even Craig and the rest of the Kelly gang, a sect whose job it is to invite climate-change deniers to parliament to mislead policy-makers and to hold Morrison to ransom on energy, a kindness paid forward by the PM and his federal energy minister, Angus Taylor in dictating to the states.

Nobody’s talking. It’s an “announceable” – not a discussion topic. Flanking his PM in the photo opportunity, is Angus, “Squizzy” Taylor, our federal energy enforcer. Was he in witness protection since his rout late last December’s COAG meeting? Then he refused NSW energy minister, Don Harwin’s call for a new national zero emissions policy?

“Industry is spooked by poor policy”, Harwin holds; a circuit-breaker is needed. Squizzy shoots him down. Out of order.

December’s COAG meeting does not even hear NSW’s point of view. Taylor tells Harwin to zip it, citing procedural grounds. Vetoes discussion. “It got ugly very quickly. It was a full-on revolt”, a source tells Fairfax, now Nine Newspapers.

Happily Craig Kelly’s not worried. “I know how [Taylor’s] mind works”, he explains to Guardian Australia’s Katharine Murphy. Murphy wisely leaves this alone. On Sky, Taylor won’t divulge how many Coalition coal projects are planned but Matt Canavan blabs that the government is looking at including ten in the underwriting scheme. Someone needs to talk to Canavan but only after voters are sold on the wave of jobs that will flow from so many new automated hell-holes and black-lung health hazards.

But it’s not Handbrake Kelly’s backbench committee to abort any change in energy or environment that Morrison really needs to win over. Nor is it the cabal of climate deniers Buzzfeed dubbed “The Dirty Dozen”, in 2016. Still in parliament, at least until May, are Tony Abbott, Eric Abetz, Craig Kelly, Zed Seselja, Peter Dutton, Barnaby Joyce and George Christensen. Senator Linda Reynolds must surely get a Dirty Dozen supporter lapel pin for disinformation,

“Remember when the coalition repealed the carbon tax? It led to the largest fall of electricity prices on record,” she lies.

ScoMo’s Snowy Hydro 2.0 reboot is a bid to woo Kooyong, Warringah, Wentworth, Higgins and Tasmanians who’ll be pumped to be included, even if they’ll have to pay for the bits to make the interlink link anywhere. Knit their own cables.

The media narrative that both major parties’ squabble threaten the development of a sound energy policy is a myth invented by those reactionaries and others who call themselves conservative parties. Conservative?

The lack of progress towards renewable energy is no fault of partisan politics or any 24-hour news cycle, but an outcome actively planned and funded by key stake-holders whose institutes, associations and think tanks enjoy remarkably success – if you can count the win of the mining lobby, (just for example), as a win and not an irretrievable, egregious loss in terms of global warming, environmental vandalism and humanity.