“We have just seen the stability of the Coalition on full view, for all to see – government members running against each other for a position of deputy speaker … and for the prime minister to stand up and to pretend somehow this is a win.”
A Prime Minister rises to his feet to claim his humiliation, if not his rout, is a victory for parliament and for the voter? The death of shame infects our politics. Hypocrisy is no longer a thing. Shame is now just something only the other side should feel, while telling the truth when it doesn’t suit you is seen as a type of madness.
It wasn’t always thus. During the reign of Elizabeth I, the Earl of Oxford farted while bowing low before the Queen, records John Aubrey . So utterly mortified was Oxford, that he fled the country for seven years.
On his return, Elizabeth welcomed him but could not resist the quip “My lord, I had forgot the fart!”
Labor’s Anthony Albanese, may be a raving woke, latte-sipping, inner-city greenie to the Coalition’s pixilated right wing. This includes some Nationals who rebel, this week, against lame-duck leader, Michael McCormack. It adds a riot of colour and movement to the orchestrated litany of lies and chaos that is the Morrison government.
Yet, unlike the government, not only does Albo have a sense of humour, he can summon a dry wit,
“I congratulate the prime minister on his capacity to make anything into a marketing proposal.”
Barnaby Joyce, having botched his leadership spill, has stirred up enough trouble to get a few of his backers to attack his nemesis, the hapless Michael McCormack. Mick-Mack and his puppet-master Morrison are blindsided by an unprecedented public display of wilful insubordination by some Nats and cross-bench MPs who help Labor to elect Llew O’Brien over ScoMo’s tame deputy of choice, Damian Drum.
It’s a useful, if unwelcome diversion, to Morrison’s plight. The PM performs some shabby sleight of hand where he hopes to trick the nation into accepting that Phil Gaetjens’ quickie report on Bridget McKenzie’s Sports Rorts trumps the lengthy, forensic, investigation carried out according to due process by Auditor-General, Grant Hehir.
Or the AFP gives up on Gus Taylor, or someone from his department, uttering a forged document designed solely to discredit Sydney Lord Mayor, Clover Moore by leaking it to The Daily Telegraph. It couldn’t have been Taylor’s staffer, Josh Manuatu, formerly of Eric Abetz’ staff, who is now promoted Director Canberra’s Liberals.
Only a “low level of harm” AFP decides, deploying its Star Chamber function. Anyway, the minister apologised. Take too many resources. Case closed. Unlike the journalist Annika Smethurst, whose investigation is, ominously, still ongoing.
The duelling reports as News.Com.au misrepresents them (implying they are equal) evoke Trump’s Counsellor to the President, Kellyanne Conway 2017 defence of Sean Spicer’s absurdly inflated estimate of attendance at the President’s inauguration.
“I have alternative facts.”
Let the AG find that McKenzie flouted guidelines and broke the law with her abuse of her authority as sports minister in allocating funding solely according to colour-coded criteria for political advantage, the PM can whistle up an alternative secret report and find McKenzie guilty only of a minor breach of ministerial standards.
Similarly, Attorney-General The Christian Porter argues that the AG is wrong but refuses to publish his own argument. Now, McKenzie stands aside, clearly convinced all she has done wrong is give funds to a gun club of which she was a member. Her penance will be brief. Soon, she’ll be back in cabinet. But what of Mick-Mack?
Will our deputy PM survive? Barnaby is emboldened by O’Brien’s contempt for Mick-Mack’s authority. It’s all going to plan for BJ’s next assault on the top job.
Mick-Mack leads a double life as a casual Elvis Presley impersonator. Will Elvis now be forced to leave the building? Or will he just have to quit his day job impersonating a party political leader? McCormack may squawk a lot at the despatch box. Puff his feathers. Flap his wings. But he’s kidding no-one. Least of all himself.
A former editor of Wagga’s Daily Advertiser, who was sacked in 2002, prompting him to set up the now defunct online MSS Media, Mick-Mack will never truly be Boss Cocky of the regional rednecks, pork-barrel populists and climate-denying, mining lobby shills and agribusiness spivs who masquerade as a National Party.
Yet unlike Barnaby Joyce, McCormack poses no threat whatsoever to Scott Morrison, apart from when the Nationals’, neoliberal puppet leader falls off his perch as he did when Joel Fitzgibbon said that the Nationals should stop banging on about how tough it is for farmers. And “do something about it.” For years, the Nats have been lickspittles to Agribusiness and have eagerly helped Liberals get stuck into welfare and unions. Opposing raising minimum wage, penalty rates or increasing NewStart.
Is it the tail that wags the Coalition dog once again? The noisy Nationals’ are the coalition’s uppity rump, zealously promoting the myth, even at its inception in 1920, that we are an agricultural nation awash with pioneer spirit, despite the fact that most of us live in suburbia and work in health and social services.
The Nationals’ tail also wags the electoral dog; the party gets seven times the number of seats for fewer than half the number of votes won by The Greens, thanks to our atavistic, gerrymandered, electoral system, based on location; a scheme that assumes where you come from is more important than who represents you.
But help is always at hand whenever the poor, innocent, vulnerable handmaids and manservants of capital are attacked. Fran Kelly, a stalwart ABC RN Coalition advocate, naturally blames Albo, Tuesday, for the chaos in Coalition ranks. How very dare he vote for O’Brien, knowing the trouble it would cause? Isn’t that politics? What is she implying? Why can’t he be more like Tony Abbott, that icon of positivity, in opposition?
On cue, MSM are a forum for those who blame the climate megafires on The Greens’ “creeping environmentalism” as Matt Canavan calls it, in a flurry of news conferences Tuesday morning. His scapegoating is boosted by the PM’s bogus call for more fuel reduction firms – a cynical deflection which Victorian Fire Chief, Steve Warrington dismisses as “an emotional (and combustible) load of rubbish.”
Fran’s antsy about Labor’s backing Nat rat Llew (Who?) O’Brien who wins deputy-speaker over Coalition patsy Victorian MP Damian Drum, a Mick-Mack man. O’Brien quit the Nats after Joyce’s spill was unsuccessful. It is hardly the Abbott Opposition’s relentless pursuit of speaker Peter Slipper via James Ashby and Mal Brough.
Writer and lawyer, Richard Ackland, terms this “one of the grubbiest assaults on a government in recent memory.” The Coalition has no moral high ground to take over the O’Brien stunt. But it will try. And try. With a bit of help from its Murdoch pals.
Labor’s National Party Deputy Speaker tactic is an act of open defiance of Mick-Mack, the spectacularly inept Nationals’ leader. And his leader, the PM. For those who support O’Brien, it’s an act of open insurrection. Nats’ rats include Barnaby Joyce, Llew himself – and Ken O’Dowd, who, as Nats Whip, is responsible for party discipline.
Ken blots his copybook by openly confessing that he voted for O’Brien. Will Mick-Mack take the hint?
It’s a proxy war over the government’s direction, trumpets Nine Newspapers, as if the Morrison omnishambles has a direction – unless running from truth, science and brazen, bare-faced rorting – or “fraud, theft and massive corruption” – as lawyer, Michael Bradley, calls it out in Crikey -mutates like Orwellian Newspeak into policy direction.
The MSM narrative, being obligingly framed for Morrison, is that the Nats want more coal-mines whereas the Libs want fewer, a lie which conveniently overlooks a slag-heap of coked-on Liberal coal-holers from the PM down.
Scotty’s spin doctors have the Coalition “planning to set a 2050 strategy this year” to go beyond its (laughably inadequate) existing reduction targets. It’s billed as some sort of breakthrough in its climate denialism. Incredible initiative. Especially since each state has already set a target of net zero emissions by 2050. But hang out the flags.
There’s dancing in the street this week. Not just vague promise of a plan to set a 2050 strategy sends us wild with delirious joy. Unless you’re in Far North Queensland or NSW or other parts of our wide brown land’s east coast where the heaviest rains in twenty years bring flash floods forecast years earlier in the BOM’s warning on the freakish consequences of global heating on Pacific weather patterns.
Weekend storms devastate eastern NSW; causing flooding, power outages and commuter chaos. 391.6mm of rain falls over Sydney in four days, reports the BOM the most since 414.2mm fell from 2 to 5 February 1990.
Will our PM for all seasons, Morrison scramble a squad of ADF Super Soppers to mop up the deluge? Build more dams? Fund a totally redundant four million dollar Collinsville coal-mine study? Nope. This week Coach Morrison’s wholly focussed on practicality. He gives us all a pep talk from the sidelines. Bugger reducing greenhouse gas emissions, resilience and adaptation are what we need to survive climate catastrophe.
Better, he channels “don’t you worry about that,” Joh Bjelke Petersen and Liberals’ St John Howard who led our nation toward being “relaxed and comfortable” as he helped big business and banking do us over; squandering the mining boom on buying votes and allowing miners to be lightly taxed.
Howard’s toxic legacy lives on in many battles Australians face today; the casualisation of the workforce, underemployment and low wages growth produced by his industrial-relations policies, culminating in WorkChoices, Crispin Hull pointed out in the Sydney Morning Herald, three years ago. But it’s back to the future with Morrison.
Waffle-gab world champion, Morrison claims Australians want to have a ‘level of comfort’ and have confidence about our level of resilience. “We need to have a good stocktake of that …” whatever that means. In other words, while he disconnects the petrol gauge and closes gas stations, it’s up to us to check that we have enough fuel in our tanks.
“It’s remarkable, notes Dr Jennifer Wilson, “that the least resilient, most non-adaptive Federal Government in living memory should now urge its citizens, in the face of horrific bushfires, to prove our resilience and adaptability by learning to put up with weather conditions that are hostile to human life.
Remarkable? It’s an outrageously cynical con. Morrison has no intention of reducing emissions or alter one iota of any other aspect of our ecocide. Rather it is every one of us who must adapt and show resilience so that he and his minders may profit.
There is shameless, hypocrisy here, too. Witness how the Coalition slashed funding to the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) in 2017.
Crippling this vital adaptation research body three years ago has left Australia “not well positioned” to deal with fires, the “silent killer” of drought and other global heating impacts, its director, Jean Palutikof, explains.
Morrison, as Treasurer, took the axe to funding which gutted the research community. This means that our “capacity to take action on climate change is smaller than it was decade ago”.
The Guardian’s Paul Karp reports that the NCCARF, a Griffith University research facility, began under Howard and was funded in the 2008 budget by the Rudd government. It continued under the Abbott government with $9m over three years in the 2014 budget. The environment department reports that the body has produced 144 adaptation research projects since 2008 with a total of $56.3m in federal funding.
Yet in 2017, Morrison reduced its funds to $600,000. On this pittance, it had to continue its existing online platforms that inform decision makers seeking to adapt to changes in climate. But there would be no ongoing federal funding from 2018.
“I worry if it starts to rain and bushfires cease to be an immediate risk some money will be pumped in and then we’ll forget about it. The government will call it adaptation and resilience but people will be left in the same vulnerable state they were when these bushfires hit,” explains The Australia Institute’s (TAI) deputy Director, Ebony Bennett.
Bennett adds that the government’s new embrace of adaptation and resilience is the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff approach.
“To reduce the amount of gas and coal mined and burned in Australia is the [better] response … to prevent hotter and drier summers in future.”
Labor’s climate spokesman, Mark Butler, says: “The Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison governments have cut funding for significant adaptation work at CSIRO, completely de-funded the NCCARF and produced a national disaster risk reduction framework that failed to take climate change seriously.”
“The 2017 review of climate change policies completely excluded climate adaptation.”
The government holds a press conference in Canberra announcing extra bushfire payments to families, where Morrison Gish Gallops, a favoured evasive tactic named after US Creationist Duane Gish. Gish would spew as many half-truths and untruths as he could fit in his answer time so that questioners became overwhelmed.
You have no time to respond to each point, let alone refute its inaccuracy or challenge its relevance. Here’s Morrison’s original Gish Gallop, then, we’ll break it down exposing its monstrous lies.
At a press conference in Canberra announcing extra bushfire payments to families, Morrison says the hazards of “longer, hotter, drier summers” had “always been acknowledged by the government”.
He says that adaptation measures including hazard reduction, building dams and learning from Indigenous burning practices are “a part of that important response”.
“Our policy is to reduce emissions, to build resilience and to focus on adaptation,” he said. “All of these are the necessary responses to what’s happening with our climate. They are not either or, they are not one instead of the other.”
Here’s a bit of decoding. It’s a service which could be provided in the ribbon that runs across the bottom of TV broadcasts. It should be part of every journalist’s toolkit.
- Morrison claims the hazards of “longer, hotter, drier summers” had “always been acknowledged by the government” which is OK if it were not on record as denying or minimising those hazards. He follows this lie by proposing facile solutions which are then followed with a medley of buzz-words and platitudes.
- “Adaptation measures including hazard reduction”, except for all the expert advice showing that hazard reduction has no effect on megafires. Indeed, the current bushfire crisis has reached catastrophic severity in former logging areas.
- … building dams and learning from Indigenous burning practices are “a part of that important response”. Here ScoMo yokes two entirely separate proposals.
The Australia Institute’s Maryanne Slattery has tirelessly exposed the errors behind advocating dams. It doesn’t make it rain. First, there’s already been a spate of dam-building. Twenty or thirty at least, but the government won’t talk about those – event though tax-payer funds helped build them. Why? They go to irrigation; not towns.
Second for each dam built, an adjacent dam or aquifer must compete for groundwater.
Above all, dams which are built are drained by agribusiness giants such as Big Cotton. The additional water reserves are not the issue. It’s all about the fairness of that water’s allocation. It’s pointless building more dams so that billionaire companies can continue to plant water-intensive almonds or rice or cotton, what is needed is policy that works to fairly share the water with the community and with the environment.
- “Our policy is to reduce emissions, to build resilience and to focus on adaptation,” Morrison burbles.
Again he’s diminishing the vital task of emission reduction by linking it in the same breath to buzz-words that are in fact excuses for not addressing causes but which in effect transfer responsibility to victims.
This, as Dr Wilson notes, fits neoliberalism’s central tenet that individuals work out their own solutions with as little help as possible from governments. Above all governments can boost resilience by cutting welfare. This toxic nonsense has already corrupted our welfare, age pension and disability services – boosted by the need to take from the suffering, the poor and the vulnerable so that the government can create a surplus.
- “All of these are the necessary responses to what’s happening with our climate.” Morrison deploys the shabby trick of imputing false equivalence. They are not either or, they are not one instead of the other.”
But they are. Let’s get back to basics. Putting a price on emission such as the Gillard government successfully achieved resulted in a drop in greenhouse gas emissions.
Since Tony Abbott decided to play political games at the expense of our planet’s survival; since his cabinet’s group hug on the axing of the carbon tax – a tax which his Chief of Staff admits was just a rhetorical device, a lie to help build confusion and opposition, emissions have risen.
So let’s see the party games in Canberra for what they are – a diversion – albeit a significant attack on both Morrison’s authority and that of his decoy deputy, McCormack. Mick-Mack may go soon but whoever replaces him will do even less to help us understand and respond to global heating and the climate wars.
Let’s also reject the false MSM dichotomy – Nats bad vs Liberal moderates or changes of policy; there are many Liberal die-hard climate denialists, including Scotty himself. We must not be softened up to believe that Morrison’s government has the slightest intention of doing anything significant to mitigate global heating.
Above all, a critical reading of Morrison’s adaptation and resilience buzzwords is vital. Jennifer Wilson writes brilliantly about how this shifts all the responsibility on to the individual citizen while Scotty and his corporate state continue business as usual; laughing (and smirking) all the way to the bank.
Finally we must not let Morrison get away with the Gish Gallop, a cynical tactic to defeat any form of accountability and to evade questions which might expose his government’s duplicity, dissembling or disastrous wilful ignorance. Call him out on it. Blog it. Tweet. as Bret Walker notes here, it’s your right. Social media and non MSM are vital.
“I don’t care if it’s the first or only time they publish … they should have the same protection [as journalists]. The idea that people’s right to know should be filtered first by government and then an intermediary class of journalist I find really offensive … I’ll be damned if I’m going to give a monopoly to [officially approved] journalists. I don’t want the government to be giving badges to people, here are our licensed critics – that’s nonsense.” Brett Walker