“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 electorate” causing 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.