A massive pall of smoke cloaks NSW and shrouds Canberra as the state burns in a catastrophic mega-fire already the size of greater Sydney. Too big to put out, it could last for weeks. Or until rain falls. Meanwhile, Sydney itself joins the world’s top ten most polluted cities as air quality declines as a result of bushfire smoke over the last few weeks.
Some schools are forced to close while others cancel playtime and sports because of polluted air. Red dust and ash waft 2000 km across the Tasman. Smoke also reaches South America. Yet Coalition MPs back-slap and high-five each other on parliament’s last sitting day over their secret deal to repeal Medevac and endanger asylum-seekers’ lives.
“Australia is the best country in the world” government MPs chorus Thursday. “I, too, am confident about Australia’s future.” A claque performing fawning self-applause begin a raucous crowing over Medevac, job creation, congestion-busting, meeting our Paris emissions’ pledges in a canter, our drought relief plan among other Morrison government pretences. In counterpoint, fire alerts and other real warnings run in the crawler under coverage on our TV screens.
“The disconnect [is] emblematic of the week. Indeed, it’s a … motif of the Morrison government. There is no emerging crisis so big that the government cannot find a way to look past it,” even Molan fan-boy Peter Hartcher warns.
Hartcher himself has his blind spots. He hails Jim Molan’s return to the senate where the coal-warrior will replace renewables advocate, amnesiac Arthur Sinodinos who’s off to be our US Ambassador. Amazingly, Hartcher backs Molan to lead a Liberal charge for democracy whilst being uniquely valuable to national security. It’s hard to see how or why.
March 2003 to June 2006 alone 601,000 Iraqis were killed. Since 2007, four million Iraqi refugees had also been created.
Allegedly, Molan was in command when war crimes were allegedly committed in Fallujah 2004 after the US illegally invaded Iraq, a military mis-adventure to which we were joined at the hip. The greatest failure of Australian foreign policy, our involvement in Iraq was based on a farrago of lies. John Howard lied to the nation that he had proof that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction that could end up in the hands of terrorists.
We are still all paying the price in all sorts of ways.
Howard ignored advice in 2002 and in 2003 from Australia’s Defence Intelligence Organisation that there was no evidence of Iraq having chemical weapons nor nuclear weapons. He lied that we had to disarm Iraq to have any hope of disciplining North Korea – another palpable lie. And he fabricated a link between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.
There are votes in being tough on terror. This week, in similar duplicity, Home Affairs Tsar Peter Dutton deploys police to patrol our airports as if an extra 135 AFP officers armed with MK18, short-barrelled rifles will protect us from terrorists.
While our PM rants about suicide prevention amongst veterans, he would do better to attend to possible causes. These include growing evidence of moral injury. Fighting in conflicted wars is increasingly being seen – even by US Operations Special Command – as contributing to soldiers experiencing moral conflict or feeling morally damaged by their service.
Moral injury is the lasting mental and emotional result of an assault on the conscience — a memory, as one early formulation put it, of “perpetrating, failing to prevent, or bearing witness to acts that transgress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations.”
Whilst current research is based on military contexts, there is every reason to suppose that moral injury is also part of our modern human condition, not only a result of our war on terror, but of our climate wars which are mis-named attempts to downplay the wilful moral injury inflicted on those whose concern for humanity opposes the extinction of the planet via global warming boosted by the continued abuse of fossil-fuels in transport and electricity generation.
New Zealand’s once-pristine South Island glaciers are turning pink. Kiwis in Auckland and Wellington cough up our soot. But none of this alters Morrison’s mission to lie about climate change. And nothing can hide his hapless government’s monumental ineptitude in grasping the nature or scale – let alone its incapacity to respond appropriately to catastrophic bushfires which have so far killed six innocent people; destroyed over a thousand homes. Keep calm and carry on. Lying.
No credible scientific evidence links climate change and fires, Morrison insists. Besides, he just gets on with the job.
Accordingly, a can-do Morrison-McCormack government pledged to “meaningful practical action without damaging our economy or the family budget” rolls up its sleeves. Jumps in a ute. Gets its teeth into another bush photo-shoot.
Our PM and his dapper, deputy fashionista, Michael McCormack, a former editor (1992-2002) of The Daily Advertiser, a deeply homophobic bloke’s bloke, pose in a drying dam bed which retains a stale puddle big enough to reflect a trio of eucalypts in the background, a symbolic reminder of the Morrison regime’s unholy trinity. Cruelty. Ego. Inertia.
The setting says that while it may look dry, there’s plenty of cause for optimism. And more thoughts and prayers.
“We’ve had droughts before. Bound to rain again. Only latte-sipping city dwellers panic about climate change.”
Following Jenny’s recent write-up in national newspapers, wardrobe is all. Scott models a basic black Anthony Squires trouser with classic white shirt and salmon tie, while Michael teams the traditional National’s MP man-on-the-land-rig of rumpled moleskins with RM Williams Collins button-down, open-necked shirt and RM Williams Comfort Craftsman boot.
ScoMo’s a pro. He’s never forgotten what he learnt as the Vicks Love-Rub kid in the 70s Vapo-Rub ad. It shows. Hands on hips, Mugger Morrison grins down the lens while McCormack seems about to smile at something to the right. Michael could be about to crutch a sheep while Scott looks as if he has just sold the farm to an international consortium.
Fans of merit-based equality, the boys are every bit as “natural and authentic” as Jenny Morrison is recently judged.
“It was a wonderful thing to do. We’re really advocates of wearing pieces over and over again … if something suits you – you should wear it as many times as you like, even to meet the Queen. It shouldn’t just be about wearing them once,” snipes Genevieve Smart: a verdict which should equally apply to a Stepford husband’s ability to dress himself. Jenny doesn’t have a stylist. Buys all her own clothes. Gosh. Can the same be said of her husband and his deputy?
With drought and bushfires all under control thanks to a fabulous fashion-in-the-field photo shoot, the boys are at their best when called upon to dig deep back in Canberra; bash Labor and trash parliamentary democracy to the end.
The spirit of Christmas erupts across both ochre-red and eucalypt-green chambers of federal parliament as MPs break up for the year, Thursday, with a riotous free-for-all. It’s a joyously bicameral, poly-partisan, fiesta of back-stabbing, smearing and blaming amidst the ritual, slagging-off of Labor that now usurps all policy or reasoned exchange. Government MPs seem elated that they have the numbers to deny the opposition its democratic right of reply.
Ironically, there’s no debate allowed on the re-introduced Ensuring Integrity, a bill to further silence dissent in the workforce, a law which could deprive workers’ of their right to withhold their labour; make strike action impossible. Could any Labor MP fail to get the vibe? Or mistake the lower house for a debating chamber? It’s now Morrison’s “bubble”. For Katharine Murphy, it shows how little parliament matters to a Morrison government. Albo is disgusted.
“They run in to gag the debate. They refuse to allow anyone to speak to push through legislation, to what end? So that they can make a point that while they lost in the Senate last week, they won’t on the floor of the House of Representatives?
“We know they have a majority on the floor of the House of Representatives, but this is not, or should not be, a totalitarian state … Dissent and the right of people to represent their electorates have been shut down.”
Warming to the occasion, Angus Taylor, a former Rhodes Scholar who makes Tony Abbott look bookish, over-cooks his already well-stuffed goose by accusing Naomi Wolf of anti-Semitism. His seasonal Christmas tree war is a total fabrication which plays well to misogynists, racists and all conflicted and confused opponents of political correctness.
Taylor’s outrageous fiction ignores Wolf’s objection that she was nowhere near Oxford in 1991 as he alleges. Besides, she rather likes Christmas. In a sensational development, she rings Taylor’s office whilst recording the response before posting it on YouTube and social media. In a post-fact era, her rational, logical, objections are automatically overruled.
Besides, as a woman, a feminist and a victim of male malfeasance she has three strikes against her already in the Trump era.
Yet Taylor is a racist parody in response. Racist? Taylor? Why, some of his best friends are Jewish and he’s got a Jewish grandmother. Irrefutable proof of virtue. It’s a low pitch to divert a nation still in uproar over Clover-gate.
It’s also, as Jacqueline Maley notes in The Brisbane Times, a farcical indictment of our wilful abandonment of reason and the siloes into which we’ve retreated. Or been abducted by our elected representatives. Maley sums up the spat;
“So, here we have it, at year’s end: the greatest, weirdest and the saddest encapsulation of the tribalism that seems increasingly to define our politics: two people at odds, one from the left, one from the right, both with reputations for playing loose with the facts to make ideological points.”
Equally loose with the facts in service of ideology, Morrison’s government by and for and of the ruling elite, a hardy, noxious hybrid of kleptocracy, kakistocracy and oligarchy, is hell-bent on expanding wage slavery under the guise of his vitriolic hatred of “union thugs”.
The coalition government gags debate in a ram-raid on democracy so that its Ensuring Integrity Bill, passes through a bruised lower house to await a newly compliant senate when parliament resumes next year.
Together with side-lining parliamentary democracy, Ensuring Integrity further trammels workers’ rights to freedom of association and makes it easier for governments to deregister unions as well as just interfere in union governance.
A win will further handicap unions’ efforts to monitor workplace agreements and employee entitlements; create an environment which invites wage theft. Whilst this may delight some employers it has dire implications for those families who increasingly depend on underpaid, insecure, casualised or uberised work. And it will help stuff the economy.
Workers must have wages to spend to buy the goods and services our worthy small businesses have for sale.
But there’s big profits in cutting wages and keeping wages down, down, down. Woolworths’ eye-watering underpayment of $300 million to 5700 of its employees happens right before the regulator’s eyes. Unpaid wages may even run to $620 million according to a class action launched this week, reports employment lawyer, Josh Bornstein.
Australian bosses underpay their workers by $1.35 billion every year, PwC estimates, in its November report.
Wage theft is rampant in the hospitality industry, notes Bornstein. The Good Food Guide would fold tomorrow if it excluded those eateries that underpaid or otherwise ripped off their staff.
Workers are most vulnerable in construction (~$320 million), healthcare and social assistance (~$220 million), accommodation and food services (~$190 million) and retail (~$180 million). This estimate includes ~21% of the workforce in the selected industries, or ~13% of the total Australian workforce, reports PWC.
Speaking of rip-offs How good is Gladys Liu? Thursday we learn Morrison’s Great Australian is demanding the Liberal Party repays her $100,000 donation. It was only ever a loan. Victorian Liberals needed her money to hold Chisholm, a marginal Melbourne seat, she says. Liberal Party-poopers beg to differ. Thank God for Scott Morrison’s leadership.
“That’s a matter for the Victorian division of the Liberal Party. I was a state director a long time ago. That is no longer my job,” Morrison ducks and weaves in Canberra, Thursday, eagerly leading in evasion and prevarication at every turn.
But when money talks, a nation pays attention. And even our PM’s charisma can’t compete with Liu’s story.
Australia thrills to its small business backbone to hear how Glad’s pal Allen Saylav, ex-Brighsun CEO, backpacked to raise capital for his plucky little EV bus start-up.
Gladys steered Brighsun towards federal backing in 2015, taking the wheel as the company’s pro-bono Communications Director. Her role led her to organise events with former Minister of Energy and Direct Action dirt magic boondoggler, Greg Hunt, who was then flashing bags of cash for carbon abatement.
Gladys is so passionate about clean energy, she tells Nine Newspapers, she charges no fee.
Alas, poor Saylav has no idea the million dollars in cash including a cool half million he picks up in a Oztrail Quest backpack at a Melbourne BP petrol station car park in April and May 2016 involves a heroin-dealer. A drug mule? Who would know? Not that Saylav can’t explain himself. He’s just following orders. From Mr Zhang.
Brighsun’s Chinese co-director and fat-cat backer, Zhang Genjiang is a Crown casino high roller who jets into Melbourne on his private plane for a flutter. As you do.
Australia is now completely made-over into Morrison’s own Trumpian dis-United States or commonwealth of Metanoia complete with Jacqui Lambie the post-modern anti-heroic little Tassie battler left bleating and freaking out about national security, a phrase which means whatever any MP wants it to mean – but how good’s a mystery ending?
“There is no secret deal,” Mathias Cormann insists – despite all circumstantial evidence pointing towards Lambie being gulled; duped by a promise that Morrison’s government would look into re-settling 500 asylum-seekers who have survived the repeal of Medevac being resettled in New Zealand.
Not that Morrison ever said that. His leadership weasel words include “revisiting” New Zealand’s offer of a deal which was never off the table, he says – despite being rubbished by himself and Dutton as a back-door to refugees resettling in Australia – The Greatest Country in the World. A deal may still be on – but only when the US takes all 500 asylum seekers off Nauru and Manus, an event six months away, at the earliest – and after extreme vetting – in other words, most likely never.
The nation thrills this week to the riddle, wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma of the Morrison government, a puzzle, that includes Lambie’s Faustian bargain, Angus Taylor’s war on both Naomi Wolf and Clover Moore with Gladys Liu’s to-do tipping the government’s weekly balance from hyper-partisan warfare and union thuggery into utter skulduggery.
The one-time trombone-playing former teacher’s aide and ex-chemist-shop proprietor cannot keep mum forever about her Brighsun or Liberal associates, nor they about her, especially as she now has cause to ask for her money back.
Any sensible, practical government would demand the resignation of both Gladys Liu and Angus Taylor. Given his form so far, Scott Morrison is likely to find fifty shades of grey evasion including blaming Labor and Wolf to avoid taking any decision.
There is no individual, no institution nor any emerging crisis so big that this government cannot find a way to look past it.