Month: April 2019

Coalition campaign launch a real shocker.

michaelia ute

“Their end game is simply winning at all costs, even at the expense of decency, compassion, and principle”.

Former Liberal leader, Dr John Hewson, Professor at ANU’s Crawford School of Public Policy, on Coalition tactics.

 

Pledging “a fair go for those who have a go” , a triumph of self-righteous humbug; a vow to pull an aspirational nation up but only by its own bootstraps, and homage to upwardly mobile “Helloworld” lobbyist Joe Hockey’s fabulous lifters and leaners in one, cloth-eared, slogan, the Morrison government doesn’t even give itself a chance in this week’s spectacular self-abortive surprise launch of its five-week federal election campaign show, Thursday.

A bit of sniping from Point Piper doesn’t help. Mal Turnbull gives ScoMo a bollocking over Dutton’s random act of kindness in organising a special citizenship ceremony for the family of billionaire Huang Xiangmo, one of the Coalition’s keenest patrons. Dutton needs to pulled into line. It’s something Turnbull never could manage.

Although Huang was not granted citizenship, himself, given some Chinese whispers from ASIO spooks over the glad-handed tycoon’s links to China’s Communist Party, Turnbull tells Morrison to hold Dutton to account. Malcolm says he knows what it is to be Prime Minister and where the buck stops. He’s forgotten his own capture by the right wing and his secret undertaking to the Nationals to continue key Abbott policies.

But time wounds all heels. A joint investigation by Four Corners, The Age and SMH shows Dutton granting then-Labor senator Sam Dastyari approval to hold a ceremony for the family of Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo, reports the ABC.  Turnbull is “concerned and troubled” by the story; the Prime Minister should take it seriously.

“(Dutton) is supposed to be the minister responsible for the domestic security of Australia, he is supposed to be the minister responsible for ensuring our politics is not influenced by foreign actors,” Turnbull nags, helpfully.

“Scott Morrison is the Prime Minister and you can’t wave this off and say that it is all part of gossip and of the bubble — this is the national security of Australia,” Turnbull wags his finger. The former PM, until ScoMo deposed him, draws a parallel with Sam Dastyari, who resigned over similar issues, in a “furore”. (Created by the Coalition.)

There’s also a bit of bother brewing in the deep north where a mob of mostly Queensland fossil-fools succumb to Adani madness, an affliction chronicled brilliantly by James Bradley in The Monthly. Those afflicted include Barnaby fanboy, Matt Canavan and “crazy as a jaybird” James McGrath who threatens to quit or get work experience environment minister, former Minerals Council of Australia shill, Melissa Price to resign.

What they want is Adani to be approved. It means a lot to their career prospects in a few QLD NLP electorates where climate change isn’t happening and where the lies that Adani will create thousands of jobs are believed. Canavan gets all fired up. Steams in to shirt front ScoMo, Thursday 11 April. It’s Adani approval or else.

Later he denies threatening to resign or that anyone is bullying Melissa Price to comply or resign – yet some letters are leaked, according to Barrie Cassidy on ABC Insiders, Sunday, which suggest that bullying may well have occurred.

Liberal senator, James McGrath is both a “fruit loop” and a “Tea Party extremist” to canny Doug Cameron, and a former Boris Johnson boffin. Jim, who also brags he got the scalps of Abbott and Turnbull – or at least helped in their political downfall, now threatens Price. She should resign. Unless she complies with his demand and approves Adani’s groundwater plan, the last hurdle before Queensland gives the final OK.

It’s an edifying glimpse into Coalition democracy at work and it quite puts the lie to any rumours of bullying. But who is former assistant minister, James McGrath, that he should wield such power? His 2013 entrance into the senate gives a fair clue.

Junkee’s James Colley makes a fair analogy. If Clive Palmer, as the Tele suggested, came in like a wrecking ball, then James McGrath came in like a strange man who wasn’t quite finished shouting on the bus.”

McGrath’s maiden maunder is timely in the wake of Christchurch and as a clue to ScoMo’s woes. Early in his maiden speech, McGrath says,

“The ‘Hundred Years War against Tyranny’ continues today on three fronts: first of all Islamist fundamentalism intent on caliphates destroying Western civilisation, especially religious freedom; secondly, democratic governments restricting freedom of speech and association, betraying hundreds of years of liberty; and, finally, leftists delegitimising all views other than their own, especially in media and education.”

Typically, at such times of conflict, or brewing scandal, a Liberal PM could count on a hand from The Oz. Look over there! Bingo! Here’s a bit of rabid Labor-bashing.

Labor plans “to destroy the two core foundations of not just a modern economy but modernity itself and indeed civilisation” rants Liberal hack, Terry McCrann in Murdoch family rag The Australian, after bagging Shorten’s suits.

“I actually think this is my favourite Terry McCrann column ever,” tweets Labor Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen.

Labor leader, William Richard Shorten replies: “I don’t remember putting this in our Fair Go Action Plan.”

Your campaign launch and your leadership is in trouble when your opponents point and laugh at your propaganda organs. Or when the Oz publishes Matt Canavan’s tweeted selfie as he bites into an onion at the Brisbane markets, Sunday, messaging “not as bad as I thought”, a cunning plug for Abbott’s return, or faint praise for ScoMo’s pitch. By eerie coincidence, sacks of brown onions mysteriously pop up in Warringah as if in silent vigil to Abbott’s fall.

But the Coalition runs off the road with its scare campaign. Labor’s target of 50% of new vehicle sales being electric vehicles is soviet-style economics. It’s Pink Batts all over again (in reality, a successful programme trashed by Abbott and a compliant media). Worse, it’s the end of the weekend – (unlike the abolition of penalty rates).

Unfazed, Labor socialists even plan to inject tens of millions into the production of electric vehicles; revive Australia’s moribund manufacturing industry. Instead of coal-fired power? Whatever will they stoop to next?

Electric vehicles can’t tow a caravan? (Nonsense retorts Toyota, we have powerful electric utes in production.) A farrago of lies and ignorance simply invites derision – and an industry rebuke. Wheeling in Michaelia Cash, without her whiteboard but with all her illegal AWU baggage, however, takes the Coalition campaign beyond peak stupidity and into mind-blowing, lunatic absurdity.

50% of tradies will lose their utes under Bill Shorten”, she rages.

How many? Only 50% of NEW car sales will be an electric target by 2030. Unless tradies trade-in their utes every year, it will affect less than half of them. Then there’s good news, electric utes and SUVs will soon hit the markets.

As The Blot Report, reports, “One of the current ute models developed in the US, the Rivian R1T, is expected to be on sale 2020… in three different versions, 105kWh, 135kWh and 180kWh, which will deliver a range of between 370 km and 650 km. Its payload is only 800 kg, it can tow 5 tonnes. Tesla also has an electric ute in production.”

“We are going to stand by our tradies and we are going to save their utes,” shrieks the Small Business Monster.

Yet Labor’s Great Ute Grab Scare of 2019 is abandoned, suddenly, when experts point out a range of fundamental flaws in Ms Cash’s case. This includes evidence that Josh Frydenberg, himself, was spruiking their virtues in January 2018. Where? You guessed it. The Australian, the one stop drop for every aspiring Coalition politician.

Since then, Josh has rocketed from Energy punching-bag to cadet-Treasurer despite lashing out at dinosaur colleagues, still behind the energy wheel. Josh even advocates electric car subsidies, predicting that “the critics will be the ones driving the vehicles in the next decade as part of a revolution taking place in the transport sector.”

We all expect ScoMo to go hard and go low but the fair go is first casualty of the campaign. Coalition rottweiler and Liberal leadership rival, Peter Dutton, slips his leash; attacking the honesty and integrity of Ali France, Labor candidate for his marginal seat of Dickson in Brisbane’s aspiring outer northern suburbs, accusing her of using her disability as “an excuse” not to live in her electoratecausing the nation of the fair go to rightly cry foul.

Dutton digs in. “Voters are angry,” he tells Coalition propaganda unit and minder, The Australian. “A lot of people have raised this with me.” It’s the “people say” fallacy, a common evasion of responsibility and the rules of valid argument. It’s preferred by Donald Trump, a figure hugely admired by our PM, PHON and other local politicians.

Matthias Cormann, Dutton’s numbers klutz in last August’s Liberal leadership coup, rushes to defend his idol by implying that Dutton lacks all moral autonomy and must, therefore, publicly repeat others’ defamation.

“Well, Peter Dutton was expressing views which were put to him by his constituents who had expressed those concerns,” Cormann tells the press. “There are people with a disability [who] live across Dickson and people in his electorate have put [it] to him, … that they don’t accept the explanation that was offered, as a reason for his opponent not moving into the seat of Dickson.”

Relaying malicious hearsay with intent to impugn, defame or gain unfair advantage is unlikely to impress his opponent, or her party, or local voters, or our judiciary.

Nor did MPs echoing opinion impress conservative icon Edmund Burke in 1774. “Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”

Morrison defends Dutton’s diatribe, which, he says, he hasn’t seen, despite Dutts rubbishing his own PM’s public views. Then, class act, ScoMo implies France is lying. “When Labor tell lies in this campaign, we’ll call them out.” Centrelink reversed the onus of proof for its clients; now you even have to prove your false leg is true.

Yet, ScoMo thunders “We have to establish a culture of respect for people living with disabilities and the families who support, love and care for them.” He proclaims a royal commission into abuse of disabled Australians. But his support for Dutton – and his snide insinuation that Ali France is a liar – makes him part of that abuse.

There’s not a wheel-chair accessible home for rent in Dickson, explains France. She’s forced to live six kilometres outside the upwardly mobile electorate. Dutton later tweets a delayed apology. By then, however, he’s torpedoed the campaign mainstay, the ritual ridicule, when Liberals finds black holes in Labor’s costings. Jeering, and finger wagging are cut short, however as Dutts fronts up with an apology – sort of.

Is it something Kristina Keneally says that triggers Dutts’ remorse?  Saturday, The Labor senator says she is “gobsmacked” that Morrison has not called upon Dutton to apologise. Is he afraid of Mr Dutton?” she asks.

“You cannot stand in the [Prime Minister’s] courtyard and shed a tear for people with a disability and then the very next week turn a blind eye to a low, despicable attack by Peter Dutton against Ali France,” Keneally protests.

She calls Dutton, “mean and despicable”, a “thug”, and the “most toxic man in the Liberal party”. To borrow a Duttonism, “many will view” Keneally’s counter-attack as showing admirable restraint and discernment but it’s a brave call nonetheless – especially given that “many will view” others in the Liberal Party as rival contenders.

It’s a public service. Open-minded voters can apply Keneally’s razor to assess any candidate’s despicable thuggery.

Or relative toxicity. ScoMo’s launch blows up in his face, upstaging the Liberals’ asinine slogan with their signature, baroque incompetence, policy nonsense, shonky costings and internecine division.  A toey, Tony Abbott, in “diabolical trouble” according to senior Liberals, with party polling a twelve percent swing against him, goes solo.

Abbott tells a hundred electors in a Sky News Pub Test at the Harbord Beach Hotel in the beach-side suburb of Freshwater, a local watering-hole in well-heeled Warringah, that immigration is the big issue of the campaign.

“Oh fuck off! You’re a migrant, Tony”, a woman in the audience reminds her local member, forgoing the temptation to go low. Call the budgie-smuggler out for being a ten pound Pom? They’re all class in Warringah.

But is there unseemly haste in Morrison’s surprise election call? Is he desperate to get into caretaker mode before any further questions can be asked in Senate estimates about how it could approve Adani’s Carmichael mine 2.0, now a pared-down mini-mega mine, a mere 27.5 million tonnes output P.A. instead of the 60 million in its permit?

“We were framed”, imply CSIRO and Geoscience Australia who step back from the Coalition’s assertion that the agency has given the green light to Adani’s new, improved groundwater plan. There is no new plan. The CSIRO merely answered a narrow set of questions on some aspects of Adani’s water management plans.

CSIRO categorically did not give the whole project its approval, reports The Saturday Paper’s Karen Middleton. Worse, it did not see Adani’s revised plans until two days after it had answered the department’s few questions.

Yet the senate was due to question CSIRO executives Thursday night and officials of the department the following morning. Suddenly Scott Morrison breaks with tradition to pay a 7:00am to the Governor-General. By 8:29 am, half an hour before Senate Estimates Committee is due to begin he is able to prorogue the parliament.

Murdoch family newspapers already have the news the night before, given a scoop that appeals to Morrison’s twisted sense of giving the media a fair go. It’s a way of punishing those scribblers who criticise policy. It also undermines democracy, claims AFR’s Aaron Patrick, because it polarises media further; removing grounds for a policy debate in the centre. “Moderate voices are lost in a tribal war between conservatives and liberals.”

Patrick defines postmodern conservatism. So, too in a symbolic way does Morrison’s trip to the GG. ScoMo’s driver backs out the 3.6 tonne Prime Ministerial Limousine. The ScoMobile is one of a fleet of nine armoured, bullet-proof BMWs, ($500,000 plus per car) like ScoMo himself, an Abbott indulgence or fit of paranoid megalomania.

Top Ocker Morrison, Fair Dinkum Bloke, Pride of Sutherland Shire, is on his early morning secret mission to the residence of His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter John Cosgrove, Principal Knight and Chancellor of the Order of Australia, Military Cross, Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia; Pete’s pad at Yarralumla.

Yarralumla means echo, a perfect fit for ScoMo’s Canberra bubble. The federal election is at last proclaimed for 18 May. It will be an Adani of an election, Adani is the coal warriors’ totem in our postmodern war between those determined to act to heed the realities of climate change and those who would retreat into the denialism of coal.

Adani is one a dozen key carbon bombs, identified a decade ago which will spew out enough carbon dioxide to make a safe environment impossible. Should emissions continue, writes James Bradley in The Monthly, they will cause four degrees or more of warming well before the end of the century. ”

“Ecosystems around the world will collapse, wiping out most species of animals. Acidification and anoxia will devastate the oceans. Rising sea levels will destroy coastal areas, while heat and famine and cascading climate disasters will kill hundreds of millions. These are not outside possibilities. They are the inescapable and near-term outcomes of failing to reduce emissions.

In the face of this reality, opening new coalmines is like locking our children in a burning house and throwing away the key.”  Yet all our PM has to offer is a vacuous slogan about a fair go. He is gelignite putty in the coal lobby’s hands.

“I believe in a fair go for those who have a go,” Morrison proclaims outside his office Thursday morning. “And what that means is part of the promise that we all keep as Australians is that we make a contribution and don’t seek to take one.” Has he even begun to think about those who can’t “have a go”? His slogan is pernicious twaddle, a form of words which will lead to denying those of us in need as undeserving.

Borat impressionist, bingo-caller and a dab hand with a curry, our PM is a man of few parts and no interior or life of the mind but having worked for the Property Council early in his career he knows all about housing. In fact, there’s not much anyone can tell him.

Expect more nonsense about Labor’s grandfathered capital gearing causing property prices to plummet. There’ll be no admission of how over nearly six years’ flat wages growth has eroded each household’s standard of living.

The Morrison omnishambles even makes a hash of its formulaic set-piece, blowing their fake black hole deception by roping in an aggrieved Treasury. Having a flashback? John Fraser, who did little in Treasury except expunge all reference to climate change and take the department back to the (John) Stone age, was similarly put upon.

Bernard Keane reports “Treasury was regularly used to cost bastardised versions of Labor policies that were then dropped to News Corp stenographers as sensationalist “Labor $10 billion hole exposed” fictions.

Plus ça change …  In June, 2018, Fraser made clear that Treasury wasn’t costing Labor’s policies, but what was fed them by Morrison’s office. Perhaps he was underwhelmed when ScoMo publicly snubbed Treasury on negative gearing, insisting he, personally, knew more about the experts on housing. We are at the mercy of ScoMo’s “own experience and understanding”, his faith, or his chutzpah or even just the vibe that guides every dud captain’s call.

Treasury Liberal Phil Gaetjens, a former chief of staff to Costello and Morrison, himself, who also has a seat on the Reserve Bank Board, says that Treasury wasn’t costing Opposition promises. It was just given sets of figures to add up. In other words, like the Minister for the Environment, he’s been conned. Or he’s conning us.

In brief, the new black hole is nonsense but as it quickly hardens – as it surely will- into campaign false narrative, by endless media repetition, it is vital to challenge. Labor’s taxes will never cost  $387 bn; try $157 bn- that is, if you can set much credence on projected expenditure over ten to twelve years – an almost meaningless exercise.

The coalition’s election campaign is all over the auction – rather like Morrison’s dysfunctional government itself. The fair go slogan has been ruptured on the reality of Dutton’s cruelty to Ali France, aided and abetted by Scott Morrison himself who has not even tweeted an apology for calling her a liar.

The centrepiece of the black hole in Labor’s costings has been eclipsed by revelations from Treasury that the government has lied about its new figures being based on Treasury costings. The true figure is closer to $157 bn dollars over ten years, despite what the Coalition may try to tell you.

Above all, the Coalition is divided and under fire from two former PMs, each with their own agendas. What adds some semblance of coherence, finally, is based a series of lies. Adani has not received CSIRO approval for its water treatment plans. Nor will they be soon forthcoming. The Queensland government will need to see far more detail and evidence of practicality before it can even contemplate the process of final approval.

“This advice was limited to answering discrete inquiries on whether elements of Adani’s proposed plans would be adequate to protect nationally significant environmental assets,” says CSIRO’s executive director for environment, energy and water, Dr Peter Mayfield. Adani’s dreadful environmental record internationally  offers little hope of this.

“In that advice, CSIRO had found a number of problems with Adani’s proposed groundwater plans and recommended changes. The environment department, which has the role of regulator, summarised and conveyed those concerns to Adani, which then undertook to make adjustments.”

So far, the department, with its bullied, inexperience Minister, Melissa Price inspires little confidence.

What is certain, however, is that before too soon, electric cars could be produced in Australia and before that the import of electric cars, buses, trucks and utes will bring us cleaner, quieter, cheaper transports of delight. Not only are both parties’ plans almost identical on electric vehicles, it will take more than a catastrophic coalition election campaign to impede their uptake. Yet the launch is a moral and ethical disaster.

Above all, Dutton’s attack on the integrity and honesty of Ali France reveals the vacuity of ScoMo’s fair go slogan and his Prime Minister’s failure to censure him an indictment of his leadership. To accuse a disabled woman of lying about her disability, moreover, plumbs new depths of cruelty and inhumanity.

There is no undoing the hurt, but Morrison and Dutton could start by making genuine apologies. The fair go nation will expect no less.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The phony war has started. Expect a savage campaign to follow.

frydenberg budget 2

The phony war has started. Josh Frydenberg’s budget speech, Tuesday, is a fraud. It’s more a campaign launch than a real budget. Yet when Barrie Cassidy, on ABC Insiders, Sunday, asks the Treasurer to confirm Laura Tingle’s tip-off that the government is spending $600,000 per day on advertising, Frydenberg demurs.

“The process is transparent” is the best he can manage. “So transparent”, Barrie persists, “that you can’t tell me.” The exchange goes to the heart of Coalition accountability.

And why the delay? A government which dips into the nation’s housekeeping kitty to conserve its campaign war-chest will alienate voters before the official launch. Dud judgement and poor politics dog Morrison’s every move. Frydenberg is challenged to defend the Morrison government’s spending $185 million to open Christmas Island.

And close it again. “It’s a deterrent” is the best the Treasurer can manage. It prevents refugees gaming the system.

Gaming the system? Seriously? You have to flee your homeland. You spend thousands to risk your life on an unseaworthy boat to travel to Australia knowing that you will be caught by Border Force; put on Nauru or Manus. Then you will fake an illness serious enough to get yourself transferred to a soon to be closed Christmas Island?

The explanation has as much plausibility as Frydenberg’s promises and projections pretending to be a budget.

“Back in black”, Josh Frydenberg’s budget fantasia is a pack of lies.  In part it’s a specious hymn to thrift, self-reliance and the God-given right of the rich to be selfish. Pay less tax. Our everyday heroes, the story goes, are those who can stand on their own two feet. They have a go. Hence they merit the lion’s share of “tax relief”.

Wealthy people will pay less tax, because the government is “incentivising and rewarding hard work”. The uplifting narrative is marred only by the nagging afterthought that some voters see the poor as deserving. Hardworking. Incentivised, whatever that is. Flat taxes, in effect, continue the war on the poor.

The problem is fixed a day later by promising unemployed workers and pensioners seventy dollars, a “one off” energy supplement; a handout. Genius.

“We are delivering a surplus. In 2019-20, the surplus is $7.1 billion. Over the forward estimates, surpluses will be $45bn.” The Treasurer lies to The National Press Club in Canberra this week. How does he get away with it?

Delivering? Try projecting. ScoMo lacks the bottle to deliver a budget; risk putting his rubbery figures to a vote in parliament. Everyone knows you can’t trust Bill Shorten. Shorten obliges by outwitting the government on its tax cuts in his well-pitched budget reply speech which invokes hope, promises fairness and a big boost to Medicare.

Do you want the best health care system in the world? Or the biggest tax loopholes? Do you want your children to get a world’s best education? Or the world’s most generous tax subsidies? Do we want a fairer, more equal country where the economy works in the interests of everyone? Or do we want another three years of drift, with the top end of town profiting much better than everybody else?

Labor cleverly frames the election as a contest about fairness. It’s quick to repudiate the radical flattening of the tax system proposed by the Coalition, which would slash $95bn from public revenues in five years, while enriching covetous, upper-income earners in inner-city electorates, according to National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) analysis.

Research by The Australia Institute, reports Max Grudnoff, shows that when the tax rates are flattened in 2024-25, a third of the benefit of these tax cuts will go to the top 10 percent of taxpayers and more than half go to the top 20 percent. By comparison those on the bottom 20 percent only get 3 percent of the tax cut.

Lies? Everyone knows budget projections are bodgie. The last decade’s budget projections were out by $12.76 billion on average; half the budget balance. Alan Kohler notes, “The 2019-20 fiscal balance could end up being anything. We’ll find out in 18 months, and the only thing we definitely know is it won’t be a surplus of $7.1bn.”

But Frydenberg’s on a roll. He gives out racy photos of himself in tennis rig back in 1984 when he had a mullet and Labor was in the black. Laugh? It’s another hilarious dig at Bill’s apostasy over surpluses if not the neoliberal faith itself. Just another reason not to trust Bill Shorten. The stunt confirms Frydenberg’s narcissism to anyone in doubt. Number one funster, ScoMo, just about wets himself. Calls Frydo “The Member for Mullet”. What a crack-up.

Poster-boy for post-modern conservatism, Josh and his mob love their hyper-partisan avatars and emotions far more than truth and reason. As the Coalition climate change debacle shows, what matters is their version of reality – not what experts say is happening, contend Deakin University’s Geoff Boucher and Matthew Sharpe in their prophetic 2008 work, The Times Will Suit Them. Postmodern conservatives turn our culture into a war zone.

What is unlikely to happen is whopping growth say NATSEM. “The budget predicts an average growth in revenue of 6.2% over the next four years. To put this into historical perspective; that is almost double the average revenue growth experienced by the Labour governments of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard and the Abbott government.”

Our record is fabulous. Frydenberg insists.” Growth is higher. Unemployment is lower … fewer people on welfare. There are a record number of Australians with a job. School and hospital funding are at record levels. And the budget is stronger.”  It’s all spin and cherry-picked puffery. A few examples will suffice to illustrate.

Growth? Annual GDP growth was 2.34 per cent for 2018. This ranks 112th out of 183 countries in the world, and 19th out of the 36 OECD members; Australia’s lowest rankings ever, reports Alan Austin

Unemployment lower? 664,000 workers are unemployed. Over one million are underemployed.

Record jobs? Since the Coalition came to office, TAI chief economist, Richard Denniss points out, population growth of 1.7 million people (over 15 years old) during the same period “created” those jobs.

Lack of evidence does not stop Frydenberg’s spruiking. Again we hear the Coalition’s favourite fantasy about wages rising in a flood of prosperity that will bucket down as rich bosses get buckets of money to tip all over the poor. Trickle-down trickster, pin-up for narcissistic personality disorder ScoMo, provides Dooh-wah-diddy gospel fusion backup. Belts out one hell of a hallelujah chorus for those who stand on their own two feet. Having a go. Unlike the rest of the nation’s wage slaves, or the multitude trapped in welfare and pension penury.

Even Peter Van Onselen is disgusted with the Coalition’s budget hoax. He provides a handy summary critique.

“It crows about a surplus it hasn’t actually achieved yet. The forecast surplus for next financial year is built on the back of better-than-expected commodity prices and less spending than was anticipated on the National Disability Insurance Scheme, while the out year forecasts predict wages growth that won’t happen and economic growth numbers that certainly won’t be achieved. Throw in the dodgy numbers ­projected for the birth-rate and immigration flows, and clever accountancy is as responsible for the “return to surplus” as any claim to “strong economic management”.

Brazenly, the Coalition rolls out a massive pork barrel. An eye-watering $22 million is splashed out on the bijou Bundanoon arts foundation, Arthur Boyd’s old joint, a sandstone prison for art, set on the lower NSW coast amidst 1100 hectares of bushland, stolen from the Yuin nation, along with their fishing rights, near Nowra in the Shoalhaven region and smack dab within Gilmore, the Coalition’s most marginal seat.

Captain’s pick Warren Mundine, Gerard Henderson’s son-in-law, a former Labor Party President and newly rebirthed Liberal has been parachuted into the contest, much to the chagrin of Alby Schultz’ son, Grant, who will stand as an independent, narrowing Wokka’s chances, although he has emailed all electors with his manifesto,

I’ve spent my entire life in regional Australia, helping to create jobs and build communities. I’ll fight for you and stand up for our region’s needs.”

Curiously in his autobiography, Warren Mundine, in Black and White, Wokka says he’s lived variously at Auburn, Cabramatta, Darling Point, Haberfield and Lidcombe. A spin on “regional Australia” worthy of a Frydenberg.

Soft corruption upstages the rubbery figures that fluff up the rest of the Budget 2019. Two billion dollars for a Very Fast Train is promised to the lucky punters in Corangamite where Liberal Sarah Henderson, the nice lady who used be on the 7:30 Report and who won a Walkley for her 1999 coverage of the Port Arthur massacre, faces a challenge from Labor’s Libby Coker, a former teacher, making her second bid.

The promise is too little, too late not because the redrawn seat may shrink former News Corp lawyer Henderson’s estimated margin to 0.3%, but because the funding will not be available for two years and work may not begin until the mid 2020s.

Former Victorian Premier, Steve Bracks is adamant that $20bn is a fraction of what a VFT would cost but let’s not confuse spin with substance. Yet the memo doesn’t seem to have got through to all MPs.

Alan Tudge insists the VFT could start in eighteen months but Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews shunts Tudge into a siding by noting that forward estimates allocate only $50 million. Geelong will be lucky to get a VFT study group.

Yet Budget 2019 is more than an outrageous assertions built upon false assumptions. A surplus is not inherently good. It’s a failure to invest responsibly in the greater good. Our nation was built on deficit spending. Labor and Liberal. Menzies’ deficit spending in the 50s and 60s stimulated economic growth and built public assets.

Budget surpluses, however, increase private debt and are a bugger to run. Ultimately they are unsustainable. As Per Capita economist Warwick Smith reminds us somebody’s surplus is always someone else’s deficit – and this includes the federal government.

At the end of last year, household debt was equivalent to 127% of GDP, or 189% of disposable income. Both ratios are near record highs and are very high on any global comparison, reports Michael Blythe.

Given that Australia’s private sector debt is at least 200.00% of GDP compared with government debt of around 30%, voters can expect the PM and his government to explain why they think we should increase the record level of debt we already hold in our homes and businesses.

Surplus fetishists pose as virtuous, responsible civic-minded money-managers. It’s a hoax. What does it mean to run a surplus? The budget papers say it requires ‘continued fiscal discipline’ a bit of self-congratulatory jargon. What it should say is, “Our plan is to tax you eighteen to twenty billion dollars more than we need just to cover government spending,” as The Australia Institute’s Dave Richardson translates the budget’s econobabble.

“Fiscal discipline” is rich from a government which says it will blow five billion dollars just on getting re-elected.

Or not. Back in black? This government’s never been in the black. Flattening the tax system, moreover, is not “highly progressive” as Frydenberg proposes, It’s regressive; a retreat from fairness. It abandons the principle that how much tax we pay depends on how much we can afford to pay. A flatter, simpler tax system, as the government chants, is a recipe for creating a more unequal society with fewer hospitals, roads and schools.

The unvarnished, unspoken truth is that every tax cut means less government spending on health, education, aged care and all other services that Australians have every right to expect. Along with the right to fair dealing.

Abandoned also is good faith. Frydenberg fudges; adds last year’s tax cuts to this year’s pocketful of promises.

Few notice. We are Waiting for Godot as the forty-fifth federal parliament fizzles out and we begin the protracted, ritual theatre of the election of its successor. The process is a spectacular distraction. It includes incessant guessing when the PM will call on Her Majesty’s representative, Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, General, The Honourable, Sir Peter Cosgrove.

Pete was due to retire last month; make way for David Hurley, another old soldier, ScoMo’s captain’s pick, but will now be kept on and on for the election, which pundits predict could be called next weekend, with polling day either 18 or 25 May. Hurley’s appointment is keenly awaited, especially given his wife Linda’s revelation.

“I hula-hoop every morning and I like to read the Bible or a devotional book while I’m doing that.”  Don’t we all?

Polling day, meanwhile, is rapidly morphing into polling days and weeks, a “Netflix effect” which taxes our politics and media’s capacity to get and keep our attention. The Australian Electoral Commission speculates that,

“… electors consider the inconvenience of ordinary voting at a polling place on the Saturday as an infringement on their time and are prepared to avail themselves of other voting opportunities that may be more convenient.”

It’s not just convenience. More than a third of Australian workers now work weekends. And workers are busier: at least two million Australians now work two jobs. Little wonder that in 2016, 4.5 million votes were cast prior to election day — a stark increase on the 26% (3.6 million) early votes in 2013’s general election.

Postal votes also rose from 1.1 million in 2013 to 1.2 million in 2016. Then there’s convenience, The Netflix Effect, which means that political campaigns must not only gear up quickly to reach early voters, they must be “always on”.

“Politicians need to shift and understand that they need to sell to voters at every moment in the campaign, especially in the early days,” argues  Marcus Phipps, lecturer in Marketing at the University of Melbourne.

So does media need to shift. Our mainstream media often resemble those hired actors who hold up placards flattering Trump at his mass rallies, an ancient tradition which includes such potentates as the wanton profligate Nero, who paid groups to applaud his singing. Yet a few lynx-eyed independents such as ABC’s Laura Tingle scoff at the Morrison government’s vapid yet “spectacular pretension”; a budget is not a budget until enacted in law.

Dazzled by the sound and light of Frydenberg’s forecasts – for that is all his budget amounts to – most of our ABC struggles to keep up; its editorial independence crushed by budget cuts and relentless government bullying – reduced, after long abuse, to “a punching bag by narrow political, commercial or ideological interests”, as former Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief, Michelle Guthrie laments. Look over there! Frydenberg cries.

All miss his duplicity; how our P-plate treasurer inflates projected tax refunds by adding in cuts from Budget 2018.

Intrepid investigative news-hound, Michael West, alone, is on to Frydenberg’s fiddling. Low income earners, he writes, “really get a boost of $55, not $255, as $200 has already been legislated. The Treasurer’s trick is to inveigle the press into counting the tax cuts in last year’s Budget in their numbers for this year’s Budget, a ruse which inflates tax cuts for low income earners by a factor of five and medium income earners by a factor of two.”

Of course, it’s not a real budget until it passes parliament and Morrison’s government is not up to that. The budget is a bit of puffery, a campaign pitch about as real as Frydenberg’s guarantee of transparency around funding and election expenditure Sunday. Or the government’s chances of having to follow through on its pledges.

Bookies quote the ScoMo government a one in five or 20 percent chance of being returned. Labor, by contrast has, on average, an 80 percent chance of winning next month’s election.  Tony Abbott, on the other hand, looks set for a defeat if what Nine Newspapers’ Michael Koziol reports is “diabolical polling” proves an accurate indication of his vote. Abbott’s currently lagging independent challenger, Zali Steggal, by twelve percent. News of a Chinese donor scandal brewing will not help his fortunes.

There is no doubt overall, however, that the Netflix Effect, which extends voting in ways parties have yet to fully adapt to – if they ever can, combined with the weaponising, the ruthless pragmatism of campaign strategies by our hyper-partisan postmodern conservatives will make this election harder to call and more savagely contested.

The dirt unit deployed so successfully in the recent NSW election is already being mobilised for the Federal Coalition campaign.

The emergence of an organised, disciplined Labor Party with a platform which lures the Coalition on to Labor strengths, education, health and low income earners can only increase the government’s sense of desperation. The phony war is about to go ballistic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Nation shoots itself in the foot while our gun lobby takes aim at our democracy.

pauline read book

“We’ve been importing all these Muslims into Australia. We have about 230,000 people coming in a year. Our population’s only 25 million… some really dangerous people. They’re just breaking into people’s homes with baseball bats and killing people. Basically stealing everything they own. Our country’s going into chaos.”

Steven Dickson, One Nation QLD.

 

“Some really dangerous people” do show up last week, but not the people Dickson demonises as he makes his pitch to America’s National Rifle Association. The enemy is within. In an undercover sting, One Nation’s duplicity is exposed in utterly compromising footage of its attempt to woo the US gun lobby, even tap the billionaire Koch brothers, in a deluded bid to beg enough funds to buy a controlling share in our political system.

Cranking up Islamophobia, trashing Labor, betraying Australia, a well-oiled, trio of desperadoes, Queenslander Dickson, aspiring senate candidate, Chief of Staff, James Ashby and leader Pauline Hanson, plot to relax our gun laws in return for a $20 million squirrel-grip on our democracy in How to Sell A Massacre, a two-part Al-Jazeera documentary, three years in the making, completed, in September last year, screened by the ABC this week.

Now, the party is campaigning to stop overseas political donations to organisations such as GetUp!, but consistency is one charge you could never level at One Nation nor its fickle Morrison government bed-mate.

In a boozy bull session, the boys are locked and loaded: a $10-20 million donation is a sure-fire way to win One Nation enough House of Reps and Senate seats to give it the balance of power. How? It’s a big picture thing. It fits mainstream media’s narrative: One Nation is back – even if it’s suffered a series of recent failures at the ballot box and in parliament and no matter that its proposals are mainly Trumpist, racist brain farts dressed up as policy.

Steve’s loyal side-kick Jim is played by James Ashby, a natural black ops conspirator whose creative skulduggery includes Hunt the Slipper, a botched plot to character-assassinate Peter Slipper, the black-robed former speaker of the house. Ashby even shirt-fronts Brian Burston after Pauline claims the former PHON senator hit on her in the Rooty Hill RSL. “Pauline’s been propositioning me for years”, replies Brian. A man’s not safe alone with his boss?

Each calls each other out on their alleged sexual harassment.  Brian dobs in his former boss to the AFP and plans to sue Hanson for defamation, when all she was doing, she says, was trying to support “Lucky” Jim Ashby for trying to report “the sexual abuse and harassment that was going on with the female staff” in Senator Burston’s office.

His Burston biffo gets James suspended from his workplace, but will Pauline choose Rooty Hill to die on? Happily ABC Four Corners eagerly screens, the Al Jazeera doco, providing an edifying, if not show-stopping, diversion.

Gold Logies all round for Al Jazeera’s Rodger Muller and his RM Williams Akubra Cattleman hat, in How to Sell a Massacre, co-starring One Nation’s knights errant Steve Dickson and James Ashby’s quest for funding with the help of their friends in the National Rifle Association, an outfit which guides them, almost flawlessly, to the fabulous Koch brothers’ pad. You can take the boy out of Buderim but you can’t take the Buderim out of the boy.

Even in the grainy, groggy, button-hole camera scenes, Dicko is shooting his mouth off. As he did on Safe Schools,

“We are having little kids in grade four at school, young girls being taught by teachers how to masturbate, how to strap on dildos, how to do this sort of stuff — that is the real problem in this country,” One Nation Queensland Senate candidate, Steve Dickson claims of the Queensland Safe Schools program in 2017.

Later, Dicko apologises for using the word “dildo”. He has never retracted the allegation which is based, he maintains, on information provided him by a parent. Anastasia Palaszczuk, Queensland Premier was forced to intervene. Point out that safe schools is not even taught in the classroom but support to teachers and families.

Pauline’s very quick to defend her crack crew. Fake documentary, she cries. Cut and paste job. “I’ve been dubbed and spliced.” And entrapment. This is quickly taken up by Peter Greste (of all people) amongst others and is in danger of having the intended effect of distracting from Hanson’s party of patriots’ betrayal of her nation.

Al-Jazeera journalist Peter Charley tells Guardian Australia that while they had “pushed the boundaries”, his conscience is clear and the public interest in the material justifies the methods used.

Lawyer Michael Bradley argues in Crikey that Al Jazeera’s sting is not only legally watertight it is ethically responsible – if not a necessary and inspiring example of the need for journalists to keep politicians accountable; democracy transparent.

“Entrapment is a sexy word, moreover, he adds, but in Australia it has no legal meaning. The police routinely run sting operations to catch criminals and, even if they acted illegally, that doesn’t give the accused a defence.”

How to Sell a Massacre is an indictment of One Nation and of US gun lobbyists. But it also reveals an arms industry with its sights on our politics. Above all, it reminds us that the Howard government’s National 1996 Firearms Agreement was a step away from the US path we were following, but a step too far for any state to sign it -yet.

Beneath the Howard idolatry lies the reality, Gun Control Australia points out in its 2017 state by state audit, is that after 21 years Australia’s gun laws are unravelling and “in trouble”.  But not fast enough for One Nation.

“We’re not even allowed to own guns in Australia for the self-protection of women”, wails Dickson, One Nation’s “Queensland leader” in a line straight out of the US National Rifle Association (NRA’s) playbook. Dickson’s a mine of nut-jobbery, but How to Sell a Massacre shows his own gun fetish has little to do with protecting women.

“They’re not even allowed to have mace.” Except in WA, Steve, although neo-fascist, “Final Solution”, Fraser Anning, hopes to fix that. One Nation’s one day wonder, whose nineteen personal votes meant he replaced crackpot Mal Roberts, Anning is now an independent. His role in parliament is to make One Nation look good.

Anning wants to expand the use of mace if he’s in politics long enough to live down his censure. Get elected. The former One Nation senator is quick to blame the victims in the Christchurch massacre in a cynical bid for publicity.

“As always, left-wing politicians and the media will rush to claim that the causes of today’s shootings lie with gun laws or those who hold nationalist views, but … the real cause of bloodshed on New Zealand streets today is the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place.”

Hanson will not take part in a bipartisan move to censure Fraser Anning when Parliament returns. “It won’t prove anything,” she says. Nor will her abstaining prove anything, either, but it will suggest sympathy for Anning’s views.

It’s all about the money. Dickson declares. “We want to get funding. That is really the nuts and bolts because we can change everything in this country. We can make that happen. This is the thing I want to get through your head: if we can get $10 million we could fucking win a heap of seats plus a shitload of seats in the senate.”

Naturally, One Nation cries foul. It’s how you’re caught – not what you’re plotting that matters. “Entrapment” Hanson howls, a call AFR’s Michael Stutchbury duly, outrageously, repeats on ABC The Insiders, Sunday.

Stutch blusters; shakes his head over a doco being “made by a foreign company using foreign funds”. Like CBS? CBS owns Channel Ten, whose recent episode of The Project helped the foreign company expose Scott Morrison’s 2010 Islamophobic proposal; the shameless PM’s patently transparent excuses are no match for Waleed Aly.

Undeterred, ScoMo offers a bad parody of Nelson Mandela, morphs into Morrison the multiculturalist, forever dedicated to bringing Islamic and Anglo Australia together with his hug-a-Muslim, hug-each-other, all you need is hugs manifesto. Hug-me, ScoMo 2.0, possibly an unconscious homage to the Red Octopus, the National Party’s women’s code for Barnaby Joyce and fails its first real test when Kiwi PM, Jacinda Ardern visibly cringes, Friday.

Luckily, the Australian Financial Review and other MSM are there to support One Nation’s crusade.

“Al Jazeera.” Stutchbury insists. Channels his inner anti-Muslim. “Made with Qatari money. Foreign interference in our political system.” What is he saying? You can’t trust an Arab nation? Foreign interference in Australian politics has bedevilled us for decades. It could be foreign CEO, Rupert Murdoch’s, News Corp’s motto.

Yet Stutchbury’s ill-considered comment gives Pauline Hanson’s disclaimer a boost it doesn’t warrant.

“When I first saw the initial hit piece and Steve Dickson’s comments I was disgusted. But having watched my own comments knowing how out of context they were betrayed to the Australian people, I knew he was stitched up,” Hanson says happily settling on her perennial theme that an adoring mainstream media really have it in for her.

Hit piece? Let’s not get carried away. Too Trumpish. Your party was exposed, Pauline. Actions speak. Your boys were sprung betraying their nation – and to the reckless endangerment of the Australian people. The 1996 National Firearms agreement is not perfect, but it is, at least, credited with helping halt mass shootings.

Professor Simon Chapman‘s 2016 study shows 13 mass fatal shootings in 18 years were followed by 22 years with no such incidents, with the probability of this being a chance occurrence calculated at 1:200,000 against.

“I acknowledge Steve, made some inappropriate comments, however, let’s not forget, he was set up.”

This risibly feeble defence which skates over Dickson’s racism and treason may work with rusted-on supporters, where reason and evidence mean little to Hanson’s Trump-like cult following, but being set up didn’t dictate Dickson’s behaviour. Nor can you possibly dismiss his rants as “some inappropriate comments”.

Dickson salivates over guns on camera. He almost humps a pump action shotgun on show. He waxes priapic over his plan to use up to $20 million to get the seats his party would need to hold the balance of power in parliament – although it’s not clear how. One Nation is but a shooting star in our nation’s political constellation.

Trumpista Hanson, who toadies to the NRA in an embarrassing segment where she fancies herself as a Trump groupie – reminiscing, in her cups, about her party’s champagne toast to Trump’s election and how it represents the power of “ornery people” also tries to argue that it’s fake news.

“Dubbed” and “spliced” she shrieks again; accusing highly reputable veteran journalist, Peter Charley and his Al Jazeera team of wasting three years creating a patently flawed mockumentary. Dream on, Pauline.

What is remarkable is the authenticity of How to Sell a Massacre ; how it faithfully preserves Pauline’s own patois, her idiosyncratic syntax and vocabulary. The scene of the well-lubricated, One Nation leader, disputing that one gun man could not be responsible for the Port Arthur Massacre to which Martin Bryant confessed to shooting and killing thirty-five innocent people is compelling Cinéma vérité.

It is also a dangerous myth, however much it may appeal to La Hanson, doyenne of conspiracy theorists, ratbag nutjobs and abusive, misogynistic, men with a grudge against the family court and justice in general.

Within hours, Hanson is forced back into denial. She just didn’t say what the camera shows her saying, (clearly, in a way that appears to show no hint of editing) that Bryant was not alone. The theory is seductive to conspiracists on social media. It is called upon by gun lobbyists and right wing nut jobs to bolster the pernicious and enduring myth that Port Arthur was engineered to deprive Australians of their God-given right to bear arms.

“An MP said it would actually take a massacre in Tasmania to change the gun laws in Australia,” Hanson tells Al Jazeera’s undercover man. “Those shots, they were precision shots. Check the number out … a lot of questions there.” They weren’t. Bryant missed every terrified being he shot, at apart from those he shot at point blank range.

Pauline is equally ill-informed on her grounds for legal appeal. Lawyer and writer, Michael Bradley observes in Crikey that even in Queensland, (where much of the local scenes seems to be shot) it’s not illegal to secretly record a conversation to which you’re a party, and it’s OK to publish it – if doing so is in the public interest. Recordings made overseas don’t trigger any Australian laws, so they’re in the clear. Unlike One Nation.

The timing couldn’t be worse. As Damien Murphy notes, ten days after the Christchurch massacre in which home grown white supremacist, Brenton Tarrant killed fifty Muslim worshippers and wounded fifty others with an AR- 15, his chief weapon, One Nation’s James Ashby and Steven Dickson appear on national television offering to help water down our laws restricting the same semi-automatic weapons, in return for $10-20 million in funding.

Peter Charley’s documentary reveals a lot more as our intrepid brothers in arms, Ashby and Dickson get into a bonding session with US National Rifle Association (NRA) personnel. We get the NRA playbook for (not) responding to a massacre. It’s a chilling reminder that that this is a group no-one needs in their politics.

How should you respond to a deadly mass shooting if you are a gun rights advocate?

First, “Say nothing.” If media queries persist, go on the “offence, offence, offence”. Smear gun-control groups.

“Shame them” with statements such as – “How dare you stand on the graves of those children to put forward your political agenda?”

It’s clear that both Ashby and Dickson are already converts to the cult of gun violence. They lust over gun-shops and are wowed by tactical advice from NRA strategists – “you have to weaken gun laws one slice at a time.”

And it’s personal, Steve confesses that to hand in his guns after Port Arthur was “hell on earth” for him.

One Nation’s  former Campbell Newman government Minister, member for Buderim and rabid anti-Muslim fabulist, Steve Dickson defected from the LNP in September 2017, (entirely of his own accord, Pauline Hanson wants us to know), to become a big fish in a small pond; One Nation’s Queensland leader and a federal senate candidate in May. Given his cameo monologue where he waxes lyrical about his fantasy to be a drug-lord who’ll “shoot everything up and down the water, with a machine gun”, he may or may not have blown his chances.

Or blown up One Nation. Australia’s Muslim Threat is just one paranoid delusion traded by Dickson bigging up himself to the US National Rifle Association (NRA) captured, along with buckets of alcoholic braggadocio, on button-cam by Rodger Muller, in Al Jazeera’s documentary-sting, “How to Sell a Massacre” .

Jim and Steve get on the ‘ski, schmooze the NRA and plot to strong-arm our political system. Put a nine millimetre to the back of its neck. Visit Koch HQ. It’s boys’ own adventure-Walter Mitty type stuff – if it weren’t so dangerous. Not only are the pair prepared to trade our gun laws for their own gain, they are happy to subvert our democracy by being willing accomplices in the gun lobby’s plan to back minority parties as a means to infiltrate our politics.

This is already happening, of course, given Bob Katter’s son-in-law Robert Nioa’s vast arms empire which makes him Australia’s largest supplier of weapons and munitions to defence and civilian buyers.  Rob’s also supplying the New Zealand Police with 70,000 Glock pistols and providing their military with a handy grenade launcher. But he’s still a big police supplier, this side of the Tasman. Seventy per cent of Victoria Police’s ammo is bought from Rob.

Nioa got his big break from John Howard whose 1996 gun buy-back scheme helped the Queensland gun-dealer amass over $1 million, tax-free, which became his capital to invest in a market Howard had helped make less competitive; sending rivals out of business.

Labor alleged at the time Nioa’s stock was overvalued but did not pursue this.

$1.7 million was donated to Australian political parties from the gun lobby since 2011, just from publicly disclosed donations says The Australia Institute’s (TAI) research. Major beneficiaries of gun lobby donations include Katter’s Australian Party, with a tidy $800,000 – plus, and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, which received nearly $700,000.

It seemed to work for Katter, reports TAI. “At the last Queensland state election, Katter’s party increased its seats from two to three. The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party won three lower house seats in last weekend’s NSW election, up from one. The final count will determine if they increase their seats in the upper house, too.”

Major donors, apart from firearms supplier and manufacturer NIOA, include the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia and the Federation of Hunting Clubs.

Thanks, indirectly to Howard, our politics is now awash with gun money which funds campaign such as the recent “Not Happy Dan” campaign in Victoria and the 2017 Flick ‘Em campaign in Queensland. Neither has been hugely successful but they are insidious given that the gun lobby prefers to finance campaigns above parties or candidates. The tactic is straight from the NRA playbook. So too is the amount spent by the gun lobby.

The Australia Institute calculates that now the gun lobby in Australia spends as much per capita as the NRA.

Yet Australia does not need any gun money in its politics. Foreign funding is also likely to corrupt our democracy. It’s time we acted to remove the gun lobby from its unfettered access to MPs, parties and time we made it illegal for the merchants of death to invest in any political party. The Al Jazeera team should be commended on highlighting the issue as much as for their service in exposing One Nation’s dangerous delusions of grandeur.