Month: April 2019

Coalition will have to do better than rely on bogus announceables, attacking Labor and lurid scare campaigns.

melissa price

“Scott Morrison had a choice between standing up for ripped off workers or sucking up to a tosser who ripped them off and he chose the tosser. He chose Clive Palmer,” Labor’s Anthony Albanese, MP Federal Member for Grayndler Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development Shadow Minister for Tourism

A land down under stands tall this week as our nation is regaled with tales of former glory from our annual Anzackery bash, vows of congestion-busting and refugee-capping via Coalition focus-groups and a Labor policy with teeth, its $2.4 billion pensioner dental plan – along with a $4 billion boost to childcare subsidies announced Sunday.

William Richard Shorten is also impressing those contacted by News Poll which reports late Sunday his highest approval rating since March 2015, with 39 percent of voters satisfied with his performance. He’s also narrowed the gap between himself and Morrison in preferred Prime Minister to 37 percent compared with ScoMo’s 45 percent.

The poll puts the Coalition 49 to 51, two party preferred which is an improvement of one point on its last survey, yet  YouGov Galaxy conducted by Sunday News Corp tabloids, published Saturday, has the margin 48-52.

Capturing the nation’s imagination, a last-minute Coalition preference deal with Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party may give Palmer the edge over Hanson’s One Nation and put Malcolm Roberts out of the race. Digger ScoMo, on the other hand, may imagine himself heroically plucking victory from the jaws of disaster; going over the top at The Nek in a Gallipoli all in his own mind, to win a few preferences in some marginal lower house Queensland seats.

History is against Morrison. “In the last three decades, Labor has won 86 seats on preferences after trailing on first preferences. The Coalition has won two,” election analyst, Anthony Green, cheerfully tells ABC TV. Clive was present for 25 of 400 votes last time he was an MP, Labor reminds Insiders. “It’s a marriage between a con-man and an ad-man” ventures Penny Wong leading wags on social media to suggest that ScoMo’s tag should be “failed ad-man”.

It’s a week of mythic stories of larrikin heroes, noble sacrifice, true grit and other inspiring fictions of national identity, our unique courage, enterprise and ingenuity  – our can-do attitude – from ANZAC Cove to Uruzgan, while our amazing run of luck with getting multinational mining companies to dig up our buried treasure, take our water and taxpayer subsidies, wreck our environment, extinguish our unique wildlife and evade paying tax continues.

Exxon Mobile’s $33.1 billion over four years with zero tax paid will be hard to beat – but Adani’s got form.

Adani has breached its licence twice in two years and was prosecuted for releasing coal-contaminated water near the Great Barrier Reef, but its scaled-down, 15 million tonnes a year, mini-monster, a mine opposed by two-thirds of Australians, gets a federal government rubber-stamp on its flawed groundwater management plan.

CSIRO tells the minister the plan is useless given its poor modelling and is riddled with errors and false assumptions.

“The modelling used is not suitable to ensure the outcomes sought by the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Protection Act are met,” the CSIRO and Geoscience Australia state in a joint report.

Adani underestimates how the mine will guzzle bore water local farmers rely on. The water will be drained more severely; more quickly than predicted, the scientists warn. Above all, the mine could drain Doongmabulla an ecologically sensitive ancient natural springs complex, exceeding strict limits on draw-down of the springs’ waters.

But there’s more. Adani also gets a secret sweetheart royalty holiday possibly worth hundreds of millions, unlimited free water, a $100 million access road and an airport funded by Rockhampton and Townsville local councils in a not so open tender deal which has attracted the attention of the Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission.

Giant Canadian uranium miner, Cameco, with its massive Yeelirrie mine, 500km north of Kalgoorlie in Environment Minister “M.I.A.” Melissa Price’s Durack, WA, electorate also gets approval.  Is Price bullied into any decision? Nope just “intense pressure” over Adani by her QLD colleagues, James McGrath, Matt Canavan and Peter Dutton.

We know from previous incidents, revealed by Julia Banks and others that there’s no bullying in the Coalition. Nor any hard feelings. Julia will now exchange her preferences with Labor in the seat of Flinders, she announces Sunday.

Mad-dog James McGrath merely threatened to call publicly for Ms Price to be sacked if she didn’t sign off on the project. Jacqueline Maley hates that the Coalition campaign is a bit of men’s shed, blokes-only show but that’s what you get with ScoMo who promised to look into the whole bullying thing, last September after Ann Sudmalis quit.

Maley is disgusted by ScoMo’s duck-shoving, not to mention his high-handed if not autocratic, abortion gag.

“There has been no investigation into the claims of misogynistic bullying made following the coup against Malcolm Turnbull, and just before the campaign began, Morrison decreed that the issue of abortion was a “debate” that doesn’t “unite” Australians, and was therefore not “good for the country”.

Mining is clearly good for the country, the Coalition contends, but it has botched both uranium and coal decisions in its rush to win votes and reward a mining lobby which donated $45,000 to the LNP last year. Good for the country? There is every reason, economic, environmental or health, to leave our coal and uranium underground.

“55,000 jobs depend on our coal mining industry. That’s what it does. And I think that’s great for Australia,” crows “Stunts” ScoMo who gained notoriety for waving a lump of coal at the despatch box. But 55,000 jobs is less than half of one per cent of Australia’s workforce. And far from being great for us, it’s toxic and costly. Taxpayers fork out $12 billion, a year in fossil-fuel subsidies alone. Other costs are borne by government. Then there are health costs.

Coal mining is the second greatest source of coarse particle pollution (22%) after metal ore mining (28%). Australia’s 92 coal mines emitted 320 million kg of PM10 (coarse particles) in 2017-18. There is no safe threshold for coal dust. Coal particulates contain heavy metals; toxic at low concentrations.

Coal dust blows out over MacKay from open stockpiles and uncovered rail wagons when the wind is right and port workers along with mine workers contract black lung, a disease thought to have been eradicated in 2015.

What’s great about inhaling lead, mercury, nickel, tin, cadmium, mercury, antimony, and arsenic, as well as radio isotopes of thorium and strontium?  Fine coal dust causes a range of diseases and health problems including an increased incidence of heart and respiratory diseases like asthma and lung cancer.

Coal is toxic; lethal. Along with the enormous, social and environmental costs of coal mining and coal burning are how it helps to shorten our lives. If you live within 50km of a coal-fired power station, you are three to four times more likely to die prematurely than your peers who live further away. Not that our states appear alarmed.

The government’s National Pollutant Inventory NPI’s April 2019 report shows our State governments allow coal-fired power stations to pump out as much as 20 times more toxic air pollution than other countries allow. Coal-fired power stations are the main source of Australia’s fine particle pollution (26% of the national ‘all sources’ total), oxides of nitrogen (26%), and sulphur dioxide (49%). They are responsible for a health bill of $2.6 billion, P.A.

Australia produces 5.5% of the world’s coal. We export more coal than any other nation; 38% of the world’s total coal exports. But the there is little to be proud of. Assuming that only two million of the seven million deaths attributed to air pollution are due to coal burning, Australian coal causes 110 000 deaths each year.

All uranium ends up as either nuclear weapons or highly radioactive waste from nuclear reactors. Yet Yeelirrie’s approval is only after the federal government is persuaded to drop a requirement that would render it less hazardous – a requirement that the company demonstrate that no species would be made extinct. This requirement had previously caused the WA EPA in 2016 to issue advice that the mine not be implemented.

Matthias Cormann tells Sky News the approval was made 5 March but it is not until 10 April, the day before the election date is proclaimed, that the news is quietly posted on the department’s website. Australian Conservation Foundation’s national nuclear campaigner, Dave Sweeney, deplores a political decision based on a flawed process.

An environmental catastrophe, Yeelirrie may yield over 35 million tonnes of radioactive waste, consume 10 billion litres of groundwater while 2500 hectares of vegetation will be razed for its nine-kilometre long open pit.

Groundwater levels may drop by 50cm and not recover for 200 years, according to Cameco’s own reports.

“Australia could be a leader and driver of renewable energy tech. Instead, the government is rushing through approvals of the Yeelirrie uranium mine and Adani coalmine in what could be the government’s dying days,” Sweeney says.

Yeelirrie means “place of death” in the language of the local Tjiwarl people who were not notified of the decision.

Place of death? Mining uranium could drive to extinction rare subterranean fauna species and harm other wildlife species like the rare and likely to become extinct Malleefowl, the vulnerable Princess parrot and Greater bilby.

The elusive Price drops off the radar. Labor says she’s in witness protection after another shonky Morrison deal.

Shonky? True, the minister did vow last October to wait until the WA Supreme Court ruled on the legitimacy of state government approvals. Granted also, mining won’t proceed until uranium prices rise, if they ever do, but, in the meantime, what a coup for the rule of brute force, duplicity and stupidity. Bugger science or due process.

Our lucky country’s spoilt for choice, national chaplain, Father Morrison, tells us in what Paul Bongiorno calls the PM’s “warm and cuddly appearances” for nightly television bulletins: remember the fallen, mind our own small business, (the nation’s backbone), have a go to get a fair go and don’t ask questions. Especially on the Reserve Bank’s tipped to cut interest rates or water rorts. Or anything else. ScoMo is into government by announceables.

ScoMo, like Abbott and like Rupert Murdoch and before him the great showman Phineas T Barnum, follow Hollywood’s golden rule, as Jerry Roberts notes in The Dumbing down of politics, religion and trade unions.

“People are stupid. Therefore, they should be fed garbage.  An alternative rule goes back to the Scottish enlightenment and Presbyterian social conscience and says people are stupid because they are fed garbage.”

Morrison talks down to us at his peril. His folksy homilies, collection of caps and his tedious family anecdotes are barely coherent but the intent is clear; he seeks to patronise. Thus he alienates where he seeks to ingratiate. Nowhere is this clearer than in his pathological evasion of questions. His bullying, autocratic ego will be his undoing.

“Canberra bubble stuff” is ScoMo’s pet brush-off. Sometimes he borrows Angus Taylor’s favourite evasion “I’ve already answered that question.” Michelle Grattan notes a third evasive tactic he favours, also given detailed analysis by The Monthly’s Sean Kelly in The Rise, Duck and Weave of Australia’s no-fault Prime Minister.

Q: Should Clive Palmer, given he’s spending $50 million in advertising, pay the $70 million back to the Commonwealth plus the $7 million he owes to workers?

PM: Clive Palmer is making his own statements on those matters.

Plucky Gus, pencil-sharpie of post-modern Aussie mateship and rule by oligarchical collectivism may be our latest national hero, as he almost single-handedly bails out Team Barnaby; plugging leaks in the dyke of Watergate, a boondoggle where government pays $79 million for rain collected by agri-business rich and shrewd enough to build huge levees to divert overland flows into their own dams leaving high and dry the river system nature favours.

And sell it back to us. 28,000 megalitres. At huge profit. Exactly who profits is invisible thanks to cutting-edge Gus’s Cayman Island company, Eastern Australia Irrigation (EAI), parent of Eastern Australia Agriculture, (EAA), a mob the former director has nothing to do with now; knows nothing about. No further questions? But where’s the water?

The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder confirms to Karen Middleton of The Saturday Paper that the two contentious water licences for which the federal government paid $79 million have returned next to no water to the environment since they were purchased two years ago. Is this why ScoMo and co insist there’s nothing to see here?

Our ABC has a go. ABC RN’s Patricia Karvelas asks Barnaby Joyce some fair and reasonable questions, Monday. Why buy water that cannot be returned to the environment? Why pay so much for rights to water so unreliable? Why no open tender? Who were the beneficiaries? It’s a train-wreck of an interview from an MP who could well be our next deputy PM should the Coalition be returned to office. But only if you’re looking for accountability, lucidity or logic.

Labor. Labor. Labor. Labor. Barnaby seeks to shift the blame. Evade all responsibility. It’s a surreal performance – a Dadaist interpretation of ministerial irresponsibility. “How would I know?” is his most lucid response.

“And Labor did it, too.” The lie is repeated by ScoMo’s daggy dad, avatar, our nation’s post-truth pastor. That Labor ran open tenders, is way too much information for most voters, ScoMo calculates.  Meanwhile his turd-polishing unit will come up with other trusty falsehoods: Taylor’s water problem is all due to politics anyway. One side is just as bad as the other. The line is now received wisdom on energy, despite its palpable absurdity.

Perhaps, after all, it’s the river’s fault? In a novel twist, former NSW MP Pru Goward blames the victim,

“Governments have struggled with how do we solve sharing a very poor river. Let’s face it, it’s a terrible river, between three states with all these competing interests.”

ANZAC Day brings a brief lull in the slanging-match between our business, banking and mining proxies, the volatile, Liberal, National Coalition, telling lies about Labor death taxes while trying to bribe voters with tax cuts and the representatives of their wage-slaves, Labor, once a workers’ party but, now, badly ravaged by the neoliberal pox.

Coalition campaigning gets a boost from a fake news item in local Chinese language social media about how Labor plans school programmes to instruct youngsters in gay sex. It’s an extension of the disinformation circulated about the Safe Schools anti-bullying programme. A photograph of William Richard Shorten accompanies the article which warns readers of Mandarin using recycled scare tactics from some quarters of the marriage equality debate.

“That men can use women’s toilets. For men to wear women’s clothing. That the following vocabulary cannot be used: dad, mum, older brother, younger brother, older sister, younger sister, uncle, aunt, boy, girl, pregnant, and other gendered words.”

From Queensland, appears a fresh source of hope to the far right or just far out. The civil war the Coalition loves to call its” broad church” whose views on climate change, are enriched by such luminaries as Craig Kelly and Tony Abbott will embrace its recent recruit, Queensland LNP climate nut and (winnable) number three spot senate candidate, Gerard Rennick, whose $30,000 party donation last year is totally unrelated to his pre-selection.

An advocate of a nuclear armed Australia and a self-professed Russophile, Gerry has a compelling case. He “hates it when we vilify the Russians”, “They don’t want to be hated. I mean, they’re part of the West: they drink, they’re Christians, they play soccer, they’re Caucasians, they have very similar customs and values to us.”

Rennick will not only be a big help to Penny Wong on foreign policy but a boon to the senate’s deliberations on climate and energy with his belief that the Bureau of meteorology fakes data to pump up global warming hysteria. To be fair to Gerard, this mad claim is one of many circulated to all conservative candidates by our friendly IPA.

Of course there’s no real cessation of hostilities. ‘Our heroes don’t just belong to the past, they live with us today,’ claims ScoMo in Townsville, where he embraces coal-mining, the Coalition’s back to the future portal with its iconic anti-Greenie, Australia based around real heroes, big blokes digging up stuff in our glorious war on nature and science.

All is well, however, in Rupert Murdoch’s media monopoly where scribes quietly declare their man Morrison to be well in front of shifty Bill Shorten. Others give the Murdoch empire a pat on the back. Election campaign and Canberra bubble veteran, Michelle Grattan, opines,

“Morrison so far has more than held his own on the campaign trail; Bill Shorten has under-performed. Second, the Liberals’ relentlessly negative campaign looks dangerous for Labor. This is especially so as Shorten is facing the full weight of News Corp’s hostility.” 

Grattan is articulating a key component of the upcoming federal election, the mainstream media narrative. The scorer, whom she awaits eagerly is of course News Poll. Expect a frenzy of adulation as “Morrison closes gap”. In truth, the News Poll may well be an outlier while Labor needs a uniform swing of just one per cent to win government. Pre-polling will open Monday and it’s clear that many voters have already made up their minds.

The Coalition’s hasty, flawed, last minute mining approvals are unlikely to provide the boost in popularity it seeks. If public opinion polls are any guide neither new mine is likely to win hearts and minds. Nor is it certain either will proceed if only on economic grounds and each could face a series of legal challenges over the approval process.

What is clear is that any political party that underestimates voters’ intelligence and common sense is in for a rude awakening. With three weeks until election day and still no sign of policies on energy, environment, education, the Coalition will have to do better than rely on bogus announceables, attacking Labor and lurid scare campaigns.

 

It’s not the economy, stupid, it’s climate change that matters most to the nation.

scomo at carrot farm

 

“In climate change, there will never be enough figures to satisfy the climate sceptics. If you don’t believe in the science of climate change, no amount of evidence will ever convince you because, fundamentally, it’s a stupid position not to take action,” Labor’s leader squelches a popular press narrative in Darwin Tuesday. The News Corp story is a “bait the left” stunt is that Labor’s emissions policy target will cost business $25 billion.

Bill-baiting starts Tuesday. 10 “News First” Jonathan Lea asks, “When can voters learn more about Labor’s emission reduction target, how you will get there and the cost to the economy?”  Read their policy?

A “look at me” moment from a TV journalist, to engineer a sense of something at stake, says The Guardian’s Katharine Murphy who has her own thoughtful analysis of a policy which has been available since December.

It’s not perfect. Labor’s carbon trading raises questions. No carbon budget exists yet, given the hyper partisan state of our energy debate, but it’s way ahead of a Coalition driven by a group of climate change deniers.

Malcolm Turnbull helpfully enters the fray, swinging at ScoMo, his nemesis, Sunday, alleging that by dumping the national energy guarantee, (NEG) Scott Morrison’s captain’s recall will drive up electricity prices. Turnbull takes issue with a Daily Telegraph column by Sky News’ David Speers on the NEG and electricity prices.

Turnbull takes exception to Speers’ characterisation of the NEG as “Malcolm Turnbull’s National Energy Guarantee”.  The NEG had support from cabinet and ScoMo. It is no longer policy only because of a “right wing minority” revolt in the party room: a few MPs threatened to cross the floor unless the NEG was dropped.

Disregarding the many flaws in the NEG, Turnbull argues, “The consequence is no integration of energy and climate policy, uncertainty continues to discourage investment with the consequence, as I have often warned, of both higher emissions and higher electricity prices.” In a parting shot at Labor, the former PM helpfully calculates Labor will have to find about $35 billion through carbon credits purchased offshore by 2030.

A small fraction of the economy would be affected, argues ANU economist, Professor Warwick McKibbin. The Morrison government policy to reduce carbon emissions would subtract about 0.4 per cent from the economy by 2030, he reckons, despite much criticism of Direct Action’s usefulness and Labor’s would do the same.

But long range forecasts are fraught. And why must cost dominate? William Richard Shorten remonstrates.

“This has been a 10-year torture on climate change, where the climate has got worse, the extreme weather events have got worse, and this government is still trying to delay and discourage.”

Australians are united on global warming.  New research from The Australia Institute, puts the lie to myths of a North/South divide: most voters in all states and a majority across political allegiances want the government to mobilise all of society, “like they mobilised everyone during the world wars”, to tackle global warming.

Instead, the Coalition mobilises a scare campaign to panic electors. Labor will massively tax superannuation. Business will go bust with the extra costs of international carbon credits.  Labor’s climate change policy is Carbon Tax 2.0 which will impose MASSIVE costs on Australians. Basic, diversionary tactics help it evade scrutiny of the $40 billion in spending cuts required to pay for the Coalition’s promised tax breaks.

The prospect of any cuts upsets the states. Treasurers in Victoria, Qld, WA, the ACT and the Northern Territory write to fledgling Federal Treasurer Frydenberg, this week asking him to “confirm that there will be no further funding cuts to hospitals, schools, infrastructure and other essential services that Australians rely on.”

Their letter points out that a $40 billion cut in spending “is more than the Commonwealth’s entire annual contribution to the states and territories for health ($22.8 billion) or education ($21.5 billion) in 2019-20”.

Along with its Kill Bill campaign and ScoMo’s nervous tic of naming Bill Shorten twice at least in every sentence, the Coalition attacks Labor’s electric vehicle target of 50% of all new car sales by 2030; a government fleet target of 50% by 2025 and 20% tax deductions for businesses purchasing electric vehicles (EVs) with witty retro word-play; Bill’s Car-Bon tax. Suddenly we’re back in 2013 with the Mad Monk Abbott.

Meanwhile, astonishingly, our accidental PM morphs into a clear communicator, admired for his consultative style by key stakeholders in an explosion of spin from his turd polishing unit which even has a piece on The BBC News website. Yet Scott Morrison cannot, so far, voice a single reason for toppling Turnbull. Instead he is photographed in business suit and RM Williams boots clod-hopping carrot fronds in Tasmania.

“What’s over there?”, he power-points, as all leaders must, on camera. “Carrots” says a minder. On a carrot farm? What will they think of next? Root vegetables deracinated, plant husbandry done, an honest tiller of the soil for a whole photo-op, hands dirty, ScoMo turns to ask reporters, “How shifty is Bill Shorten?” As he does.

ScoMo’s parody of John Cleese as Minister of Silly Walks may well win over a few Monty Python fans and those who warm to visual puns about carrot incentives and Easter Bunny (EB). But is it wise? EB’s role may be already taken by the lovely “Dutts” as Home Affairs’ Dutton is known to sycophants such as Hunt and Sukkar.

Peter Dutton is Labor’s Easter Bunny, their secret weapon, notes Paul Bongiorno in The Saturday Paper, who observes that Dutton’s abortive coup, (his numbers’ man Mathias Cormann botched the arithmetic), is a living reminder of the dysfunction and deep division that is today’s post-modern conservative Liberal Party. And a reminder of Morrison’s curiously confected legitimacy, his party’s antidote to having Dutton elected leader.

Dutton is toxic in Victoria, Labor research finds. He may even be the most unpopular Liberal politician in living memory, a keenly-contested title. ScoMo’s campaign stump in Deakin with local MP, Michael Sukkar, a Dutton numbers man, is briefly diverted when a wag hack asks whether the odium Victoria reserves for Morrison has anything to do with Sukkar’s judgement that “Peter Dutton should have been the leader of the Liberal Party?”

Luckily the government has campaign strategists and consultants CT Group to lead them onward; upward. There’s a bit of static about gorgeous George Christensen’s neglect of electoral duties in Dawson, QLD. “The Member for Manila”, as wags dub him, love-struck George spent seventy days each year, visiting April Asuncion, his fiancée in The Philippines for the last four years.

“He’s a human being,” David Littleproud offers a conjugal defence but Dawson voters may argue he’s their MP, first. At least his long-distance romance keeps him off the streets; away from Reclaim Australia Rallies.

On the streets, a Liberal Party advertising truck tools around Canberra, a city Walter Burley Griffin designed for “a country of bold democrats”“Labor will tax you to death” its slogan runs, a hoax which invokes rumours on Fake-book, (bogus Facebook pages) that Labor will re-introduce death duties.

The legend mimics Conservative negative advertising in the UK in 2010, by Crosby-Textor (now CT group) whose fear-mongering and dead cat on the table diversions failed to deliver a Tory majority in 2017 or avert Turnbull’s 2016 near-disaster.

Yet, as Lizard of Oz, Sir Lynton Crosby and former Australian Liberal Party Director, knighted for frightening UK folk to vote for their neoliberal oppressors, famously opines, “you can’t fatten a pig on market day”.

Or by weighing it. Sadly CT group has its own problems to contend with; Mohammed Saderuddin Syed, 44 the firm’s former chief financial officer has recently been charged with defrauding the company of $850,000.

The dead-cat slogan on the truck simply betrays Morrison’s mob’s desperation. Even those inside the Canberra bubble, a no-go-zone which bubble-dweller, ScoMo, invokes to dodge questions, know the Coalition’s on the run from voters wanting policy on environment, climate change, energy,  – anything -even a budget passed by parliament. Josh Frydenberg’s recent dodgy estimates will never appease our high priests, the economists.

Above all, voters have had a gutful of government profligacy, waste and the game of mates. Fourteen out of a flurry of 70 appointments to boards, statutory bodies and tribunals, and diplomatic postings in the last few weeks are former Liberal or National MPs, party executives or advisers to Coalition ministers, according to Guardian Australia analysis. No-one suggests corruption, but the practice does politicise government bodies.

Corruption’s stench does, however, waft up from water rorting in the Murray-Darling Basin, while Adani’s last-minute fake approval stinks; its water management plan is not endorsed by CSIRO, despite Price’s pretence.

The Australia Institute reports that “Minister Price was reportedly threatened by members of her own Government to approve the groundwater plan or face public calls for her to be sacked. The internal lobbying reportedly included Ministers Canavan and Dutton demanding answers of their colleague last week. Adani Australia CEO Lucas Dow even flew to Canberra to push the case, having recently threatened to sue for damages if any restrictions were made to coal mining in Queensland.” 

Adani still faces a number of other tests before it gains final approval from the Queensland government but the way the “approval” is rushed through, on the cusp of caretaker mode, raises serious concerns about the Morrison government’s regard for due process. It may also provide grounds for approval to be rescinded.

No-one was ever bluffed by Hunt’s Direct Action boondoggle. Now renamed “The Climate Solutions Fund”, it’s re-set to squander a $2 billion top-up paying farmers to plant trees they would have planted anyway, amongst other rorts, such as refurbishing Vales Point coal-fired power station. The move puts Australia at odds with The World Bank, the US and Europe, all of whom opposed using climate funds to retrofit coal power stations.

“If you were committed to meeting the goals of the Paris climate agreement, which the Australian government says it is committed to, this is just lunacy,” says Sean Kidney, CEO of London-based Climate Bonds Initiative.

“No investors in the western world will accept any green bonds that incentivise anything like coal station retrofits. From an investor’s perspective, coal is a dead duck.”

Nothing to see here, is the Morrison dead Mallard’s response. Every truck, bus and Vespa motor-scooter in Canberra should bear the legend. Foremost is the erupting scandal of Murray-Darling Basin scheme water buy-backs. Minister for Agriculture and Water Rorts, Barnaby Joyce, fulminated against buy-backs, whilst overseeing at least three big deals; $200 million for giant corporate irrigators such as Webster farming.

The Menindee Water Savings Project will fundamentally change the lives and livelihoods of all of the people in the Lower Darling Valley report The Australia Institute’s MaryAnne Slattery and Rod Campbell, September 2018. The Australian government has paid one large agribusiness $80m in compensation. No other stakeholder has received any compensation, instead they have all been made more vulnerable.

Pressure mounts for an inquiry. By Saturday, however, it’s go-low ScoMo who accuses William Richard Shorten of “throwing mud around” during the election campaign. Our own Watergate scandal is upon us thanks to research compiled by The Australia Institute and some assiduous detective work by investigative journalist Michael West. Channel 10’s, The Project’s Hamish Macdonald re-runs the story, which first broke a year ago.

The issue has been “raised before and has been addressed” says Scott Morrison whose much-lauded (by his own spin unit) clear communication style becomes cloudier the more he says; the longer his sentences extend.

“I understand the Senate inquired into the matter and sought production of documents from the government, regarding those transactions, which the government has provided,” he bull-shits before reaching for the buzz-words. “So, that strikes me there is a high level of transparency.”  Expect more posturing and protestation but Labor has asked for an explanation by Monday 22 April. It’s a scandal unlikely to help Morrison’s campaign.

Nor is the Coalition’s war on climate change abatement. It is “malicious and stupid” snorts William Richard Shorten; as a reporter twits him about the cost of Labor’s carbon reduction policy on Thursday in Darwin, now another China One Belt One Road, port thanks to a Coalition financial management and security masterstroke.

In 2015, Adam Giles’ NT government leased the port for ninety years to Chinese-owned Landridge group for a mere $506 million. Andrew Robb, Former Trade Minister, who later became a star Landridge recruit, at $880,000 PA, promoted the lease and purchase of a controlling interest in port operations. It was a “powerful sign” of a commercial relationship through a free trade deal of his. Later he resigned from the firm when it did not seem to have much work from him to do. No suggestion is made that Robb acted with impropriety.

The deal did, however earned a protest from then US President Barack Obama who said he would at least have liked some prior notice. He should be so lucky. Even federal cabinet was not aware of the deal until hours before then-chief minister Adam Giles announced it publicly in November 2015. The $506 million is long spent.

Undeterred, News Corp hacks and flacks cackle gleefully at the prospect of beating up another great big new tax on everything fear campaign, praying that it’s 2013 all over again. As Darwin’s sale shows, only the Coalition, a party whose MPs have financial management in their DNA, according to fiscal wizard Tony Abbott can be trusted to propitiate our gods of the economy, free trade deals and security.

The Australian’s, Chris Mitchell, a flack with the Morrison incumbency’s propaganda arm, savages opponents of the Adani Carmichael Mine with environmental concerns. First, it is nowhere near the reef. The Galilee Basin is inland in sparsely settled, dry pastoral country. Adani’s coal will have to be railed 300km to the Abbott Point coal loader, which already services coal exporters from Bowen Basin fields 200km closer to the coast.

That settles that, then. Or does it? For James Bradley, in The Monthly, opening one more coalmine while allowing emissions to continue on their current path it is like locking our children in a burning house.

“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.”

Divided, delusional and drowning in a Watergate scandal of its own making, the Morrison government is held by some news outfits to have “won” the first week of the campaign.

It’s a dubious claim that ignores vital evidence that voters see through the scaremongering, the nonsense about the prohibitive cost of acting responsibly on climate change – not to mention ScoMo’s Canberra bubble, his cone of silence, which is just Morrison’s update on refusing to speak on “on water” matters – a practice he began as Minister for Immigration and, later, Border Force, now a part of Dutton’s struggling super-ministry.

The phrase “on water matters” is particularly apt again now that a scandal is brewing around the rorting of water from the Murray-Darling Basin scheme that could help cause a Coalition election washout.

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Seven flaws in the NEG from Environment Victoria

 

  1. It is worse than doing nothing for our renewable energy industry.
  2. It may give polluting coal generators an incentive to keep polluting for longer.
  3. It is inconsistent with our Paris climate agreement commitments or stronger targets necessary to limit global warming to 1.5 to 2°.
  4. It concentrates market power with the ‘Big Three’ energy retailers (leading to higher electricity bills for consumers).
  5. A major loophole – international offsets instead of domestic action.
  6. It undermines state renewable energy and greenhouse pollution reduction targets.
  7. It ignores the advice of the Chief Scientist and is a thought bubble with no economic modelling.

==================

 

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.