There’s no roadmap out, wails NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, Typhoid Mary of our Delta blues, parroting Scott Morrison, the PM for NSW, who savages his gold-standard, open for business poster-girl; turns on her to save his own hide. Hand-ball Morrison gets JJ Frewen to fire the bullets in Friday’s national cabinet. It’s like the scene in Apocalypse Now where the water buffalo is hacked to death.
There’s no exit for Gladys. Yet there are plenty of entrances and an upstaging – notably from JJ – not The Beatles’ “Get back JoJo (to where you once belonged) – Lt General JJ Frewen, the Grim Dig who rips into a woman Premier, ostensibly, for having the hide to ask for more vax in a cabal a big-noting PM calls his “national cabinet” – a COAG of competent, experienced, leaders who have long since taken over the controls, carrying a PM poseur who is just not up to the job as Crikey’s Bernard Keane puts it, a verdict which skips the Machiavellian in Morrison and his theatre of cruelty.
That Morrison’s not up to the job is something Keane’s been saying since 2018. And many others, not part of a sycophantic, Pravda-like media which blankets Australia.
Is Scott a dangerous incompetent? It’s a view that is rapidly taking hold even amongst Quiet Australians who vote purely for self-interest. Anyone can see ScoMo & Co™ are artless dodgers. Incompetent. Fail vaccination supply, distribution and quarantine -but excel in creating confusion and vaccine hesitancy, yet always with a nod to their tin god ATAGI which Morrison says he bends to his will, like Yuri Geller with spoons.
The virus is in control. And out. When it comes to anyone doing anything useful, you have to applaud most premiers. Morrison’s on the nose with voters. July 19, Newspoll shows Morrison’s handling of the pandemic fell nine points in the past three weeks to 52%, far below the 85% rating at the previous peak of the pandemic in April last year. Confidence in the vaccine rollout slumped to 40%.
57% of respondents are dissatisfied while even Coalition voter support is lukewarm.
Other pollsters agree. Since March 2021, when the attributes questions were last put to respondents in the Essential poll, Morrison is down eight points on voter trust, nine points down on being seen to be in control of his team and a nine point drop on vision.
Rating the PM as good in a crisis drops 15%, while increasingly, Morrison appears out of touch with ordinary people (up eight points since March); a PM who avoids responsibility (up six points). And (well-done pollsters), 73%, also believes that Morrison plays politics. It’s the only game he knows.
Newspoll gives a six-point lead to Labor – 53-47, two-party preferred – a shocking result for those all government MPs, especially those in key Victorian electorates.
Last Friday, premiers and chief ministers are on the job telling a lame duck PM to pipe down while they get on with practicalities over a crook NBN hook-up when our PM turns his back and stokes the fire. He’s peeved to be upstaged; redundant, but as always, it’s a calculated gesture. That he delegates much of the wrangling and arm-twisting business of the meeting to Frewen is alarming.
But getting JJ to blast Berejiklian is petty, vindictive, bullying.
Later, Morrison, Sorcerer of out-sourcing, stumbles as he reads out something the Doherty Institute whipped up for him earlier. He clearly is not across the detail of his own “National Plan to transition Australia’s National COVID-19 Response” which proclaims “early, stringent and short lockdowns” to be central to the current phase. Phase? A meaningless obligatory three-word slogan “vaccinate, prepare and pilot”.
When we reach 70% or 80%, the good times will roll or something. Not counting children. His word-salad is impossible to follow. The plan it’s so hedged about with provisos it’s impossible to follow. Besides, it’s bound to change next week.
The road map Glad can’t see is in Victoria, where the Andrews’ government has successfully dealt with Delta, twice in what shapes to be a long guerrilla war, as Covid re-infects us with ever new strains. Monday brings further evidence NSW is ignoring any lessons from Victoria’s experience. Sydney’s inner west sees a nursing home hotspot traced to a “superspreading”, Christmas in July party. An infected nurse at the centre works at several aged care facilities.
Shocked by polls suggesting poor leadership and a federal government that has let the nation down badly, Morrison resorts to a stunt. Fellow Hillsong congregation member, and Morrison’s neighbourly, curly-haired, bin retriever, NSW Police Commissioner, Mick Fuller, calls in the army.
No. Not the ARMY, PMO press drops quickly quash that idea, but, instead, lads and lasses in uniform carrying hampers of health-foods to the needy as they sing We Are Family. It’s a fetching image but no-one in Western Sydney is fooled. Enforcing compliance is the name of the game. Making you do what you are told. It’s tricky. Instructions are unclear, changeable. Fuller shuns community leaders.
It’s nigh impossible, writes Paul Daley in The Guardian Australia for “non-Indigenous Australians whose families have been in Australia for generations to fathom the fear some former asylum seekers – from Syria, Afghanistan or Iraq, for example – have towards police and the military.”
But the NSW police have things all under control. What could possibly go wrong?
Enter a three hundred “civilian police-led armed forces operation” as it’s dubbed by a defensive Dave Elliott NSW Minister for Police-and-strip-searching-twelve-year-old-girls, (3919 searches in four years up, to last year, according to Redfern Legal Centre data). Monday, Job well-done-Dave’s keen to let us all know that it is not as if the army are being sent in alone. His cops will keep them in line. The NSW Police? Phew. Everyone’s at ease already. Last year, Elliott placated everyone,
“I’ve got young children and if I thought the police felt they were at risk of doing something wrong I’d want them strip-searched. Having been minister for juvenile justice, we have 10-year-olds involved in terrorism activity.”
Leaving Dave’s arresting turn of phrase with dangling participle to one side, the Premier is boxed in like Tulloch; Gladys is wedged betwixt Police Minister and PM and Lieutenant JJ Frewen, who becomes “apoplectic” as he bawls her out over Zoom, a derisive -and utterly out of order- attack by an unelected public servant upon an elected premier. At least one state leader tells colleagues he would have “stopped the meeting had he been spoken to in that manner”, reports The Saturday Paper‘s Rick Morton. His sources tell him Friday’s atmosphere is “venomous”.
Morrison gives his take on the traditional Māori gesture of contempt, turning his back on premiers and chief ministers, as he bends down to poke The Lodge’s fire. Whilst he does not drop his dacks, Friday’s semi- whakapohane or bare arsed snub, may just be Morrison’s homage to his Kiwi heritage or his troubled two years as inaugural Director of Aotearoa’s new Office of Tourism and Sport, where he warred with the NZ Tourism Board. And lost. Got sacked. It’s the Morrison career paradigm.
Or it may just be another, calculated, gesture of contempt, like Phil Gaetjens’ inquiry into who knew what on or about 23 March 2019, when Brittany Higgins alleges she was raped by a senior staffer who worked for Linda Reynolds’ office. Justice delayed is justice denied. Two years later, she is still being denied justice.
A further show of contempt for due process is the PM’s decision to allow Porter to be leader of the house when Dutto texts in to say he won’t attend parliament next week, (so he’ll stay home plotting a Lib-spill, his revenge on Morrison)? Dutton’s had Covid. But he’s got to lockdown with his sons, is his message.
Is Christian Porter really the right choice? A fit and proper person to lead the house? Morrison’s career of serial failure suggests yet another dud judgement – even if the Machiavellian sociopath in him will have control at any price. Next week’s sitting will win him no friends, however. Labor may wonder aloud what is in the sealed envelope of testimony that is Porter’s bizarre condition of settlement in his botched attempt to bring a defamation suit against the ABC.
As Crikey’s legal expert, Michael Bradley points out “there could be myriad reasons for Christian Porter dropping his defamation case against the ABC, none of which appear to vindicate the former attorney-general.”
And before Porter moves that the member may no longer be heard, Labor may challenge his fitness to be a cabinet minister. But if this runs through Morrison’s mind, he is not distracted from enjoying the dressing down of Gladys. It’s got the works: misogyny, scapegoating and abuse of authority.
When it’s his turn at the conch, after JJ’s blast, Morrison says nothing. Silence is equivalent to applause here. Furthermore, he takes up from where Frewen leaves off, echoing the case of the man he’s just promoted to head the National Covid Vaccine Task Force. Like Oliver, Gladys asks for more. More vaccine, of course, but the idea of diverting precious resources sends Frewen into a frenzy.
Or does it? Has Frewen been worded up to publicly chastise Berejiklian? Help push her under a bus. Too much damage is done already to the Morrison brand for him to continue the public association? Besides, if Gladys continues to ask for more, it will reveal there is none, thanks to the reckless improvidence of a federal government which was equivocal about vaccination from the start and which was cut right down to size by Pfizer when a junior bureaucrat tried to haggle over the price.
Gladys is in an existential nightmare. She could be a character in No Exit (Huis Clos), Sartre’s drama where three damned souls are ushered into the same room in hell by a mysterious figure (wearing a Covid-Shield mask?). None at first will admit the reason for their damnation, a gambit adopted today by Prime Denialist, Scott Morrison, Greg Hunt and Gladys Berejiklian – and when they do things get a whole lot worse.
No Exit postulates that hell is not some place a cruel God knocked up in his spare time on the seventh day, after a hectic week at the creation works; hell is other people.
NSW records its fifteenth Covid death, Monday, a man in his nineties who had received one shot of AstraZeneca. 207 new local COVID-19 cases are recorded; fifty-one are infectious in the community. Tuesday there are 199 locally acquired cases. Suppression? The virus is rampaging out of control.
Ten children under nine years old have COVID among Queensland’s 15 new cases, Monday. Tuesday, brings another sixteen new cases.
“There’s no roadmap for Delta, there’s no perfect way to deal with it,” Berejiklian tells Sky TV, which deserves an Olympic medal for fewest viewers while continuing to metastasize all over real news websites. And beyond. On Monday, in the UK, Reverend Tim Hewes, 71, sews his lips up and stands outside News Corp’s London offices in protest at the climate emergency across the world which Murdoch completely ignores.
Australia’s FOX News, which is to be commended on providing a warm place out of the rain for RWNJ’s and other notorious fabulists, with no hope of gainful employ, can now deceive, mislead and disinform regional viewers -24/7.
The boss likes to keep his shock-jocks desperate for attention ; last year, talking heads were told they could appear for nothing, or not at all. With Sky, Murdoch gets what he pays for, although some heads, such as Andrew Bolt, are on his payroll as columnists in his failing newspapers. Does the ABC still pay journos to do spots on Insiders? Each week, David Speers echoes Morrison’s framing of the news.
But it’s not just ABC Insiders looking through Rupert’s portal. Outpourings of grief clog ABC news airwaves, as young tanned, owners of coffee-bars, waxing salons, travel agents and other small businesses in NSW are cast in their own melodrama; encouraged to vent by a media obsessed with the epic battle of the poor little sole trader against the cruel state facing certain ruin under lockdown. It’s a moral fable, nurtured by the myth that small business is the backbone of economy.
This is as false as the claim that NSW is the engine room of the national economy, a claim which is used to boost NSW exceptionalism but one also made Friday for WA by Premier Mark McGowan. Victoria also makes the same claim.
“Victoria is proud of being the engine room of the Australian economy, occupying just 3 per cent of this vast continent, it is nevertheless responsible for a quarter of the nation’s economic activity. … In fact, Victoria has maintained its AAA ratings (Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s) throughout and beyond the crisis.”
Whilst small biz employs 45% of the workforce it accounts for only 5% of job growth.
It’s a resonant, deceptive and dangerous narrative. If lockdown were lifted, prosperity would return tomorrow. Businesses would hum; hives of industry where wage theft, overwork and underpayment would disappear. Implied also in the myth, is the notion that – after a little dose of ‘Rona – our two nations, rich and poor will bounce back. Because …freedom to exploit our fellow man and woman is divinely ordained or a human right or in the constitution.
Or something. It’s a narrative flogged to death on our middle-class middle brow ABC News which uses the Murdoch or the Morrison frame to peer through as it dons its Rose Bay spectacles. All that’s missing from the Sole Trader Tale of Woe is its unofficial anthem, Moving Pictures’ What About Me?
Auntie’s comfort-zone-only perspective clouds its view of Sydney’s workers; its less telegenic, “multicultural” precariat who face an even greater battle to survive. Or be valorised. Instead, they are patronised by Hazzard using othering terms “vibrant” and “multicultural” – code for strangers in silos we’d rather fear, blame and coerce, than reach out to; try to support and understand.
Western and South-Western Sydney residents are blamed, directly and indirectly, for not following unclear, contradictory – and at times half-baked – instructions for breaking lockdown. Berejiklian doesn’t help by telling a whopper.
Thursday, she claims that in NSW,
“We have harsher restrictions than any other state has ever had.”
It’s a shambles writes David Milner, in The Shot.
“no curfew in place, in-person real estate inspections underway, no specified time limit on being outdoors, travel to holiday homes totally legal, day cares as open as Bunnings, golf courses still actually used by golfers and not yet taken over by BMX gangs and Northcote hippies. Masks were only made mandatory outdoors on Thursday, and only in eight local government areas.”
Yet some government MPs barrack for the anti-lockdown brigade. Like Trump, hard-nosed opportunists see votes in any dissenting group. Dissenters are alienated from the major parties or just government of any stripe and need only your star to hitch themselves to. Tuesday in the house, George Christensen gives a huge ninety second speech on the anti-lockdown “freedom” protest.
He says he won’t hesitate to stand with them again.
Always back a nag named Self Interest. You know it’ll run on its merits. Covid-cowboy-MPs aid and abet conspiracy theorists, QAnon and a range of others organised by the “Free Citizens of Kassel” in Germany, whose Worldwide Demonstration (WD) organise 129 co-ordinated rallies in May alone. WD also is a big help with anti-lockdown rallies Down Under in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney 24 July. Things don’t turn ugly all by themselves. They help organise our own keen mob of paranoid conspiracy theorists, Antivaxxers, rogue MPs and others.
WD gets a lot of local help, reports Rick Morton, from Australians vs The Agenda and Harrison McLean, an IT worker from Wantirna, whose two groups have 30,000 followers. This is probably double the National Party’s total membership across all states. Little wonder then that LNP poster-boy and Member for Manila, George Christensen leaps aboard, along with the MP, who quit the Liberals but votes with them anyway, Craig Kelly.
Jason Falinski appears on Patricia Karvelas’ show busting with bluff and bluster, protesting far too much that he has nothing to do with anti-vaxxers. For him, a semantic quibble gets you off the hook. He doesn’t oppose lockdowns, but he supports the free speech which allows other people who do – along with their toxic lies and delusions about herd immunity and how it’s no worse than the flu. Let’s not get to 5G, microchips, or how Covid was deliberately cooked up in a lab.
Always quick to spot potential voters and promising alt-right trends to nurture, former furniture salesman, and loyal employer and defender of staffer Frank Zumbo, now charged with sex offences, Craig “Hydroxychloroquine” Kelly who poses as a medical authority when he isn’t giving character references, joins gorgeous George Christensen in wooing the loopy consumers of the lockdown vs liberty false narrative.
Similarly confused notions of “freedom” dog Berejiklian’s rhetoric. Perhaps she could upgrade and substitute the word survival. And offer some real support. Sydney, the backbone of the state’s economy, has an underclass precariat of at least a tenth of the NSW workforce on temporary working Visas. Yet construction is shut down in her belated and ineffectual lockdown.
Instead, workers cop a serve from NSW’s Health Minister, Brad Hazzard who is mad keen to put the boot into the poor and vulnerable whom he patronises as multicultural and vibrant, Lib-speak for un-Australian and therefore a public health hazard.
Despite not consulting community leaders, Mick Fuller, the PM’s fellow Hill singer and former neighbour and wheelie bin retriever, is happy to send in the troops to in a shoot-first-ask questions after approach that’s worked splendidly in other tinpot despotic states for decades.
“Boots on the ground” is a phrase helpfully offered by Health Minister Hunt.
It’s not just language that is a barrier to his target audience heeding his government’s injunctions to get vaccinated and stay at home. Stay at home? These are people who need to work to survive. For many of them there is not even an inadequate Centrelink “safety-net”.
Mick’s decision to butch up his police team baffles those compressed by necessity into extended family survival units or cramming “bijou gem” apartments where there isn’t room for Gran to take her teeth out or powder her nose without dipping her elbow in a grandchild’s nappy bucket. Families far and wide in LGAs across the nation are gob-smacked; “reeling” as the pandemic rages in NSW infects other states. Anti-lockdown lunatics, condoned if not urged on by George Christensen, play with fire in the street.
A man punches a police horse.
Whilst the Emerald City has colonised our popular culture and dominates a tamed, depleted and declining national media, its plight illuminates our two nations, rich and poor and the yawning gap between them, widened by a federal government obsessed with depressing real wages while boosting business profits and tax cuts for the wealthy. To which of course, Labor has dropped its opposition as it saddles up for the last long stretch before a May election.
What is certain is that those in federal parliament, who are able to travel, return this week for its winter sitting, but it’s no longer the springboard to an October election. Even The Australian‘s Dennis Shanahan concedes that Labor has the upper hand. Morrison’s made sure he’s there in person by quarantining in The Lodge, but he may have to contend with being upstaged by MPs in lockdown zooming in.
It’s a pincer movement. Covid advances crab-like from the right under a Coalition kakistocracy of dills, duds and drones which sells itself as Keeping Australia Safe while it keeps its mates out of jail and attacks workers in the name of an invisible hand, Adam Smith’s vision of market forces, or the power of accumulated self-interest to achieve public good.
Or not. At odds with its Let It Be songbook of laissez-faire, the Morrison government’s is a paid up member of The Game of Mates where favours bleed the country and its catastrophic ineptitude.
Add a dollop of state socialism. Even Michelle Grattan concedes that its decision to build a 660-megawatt gas-fired power station in the NSW Hunter Valley further shows a government preferring state control, to markets, in its bid to appease its mining donors on energy and climate change.
Let’s not pretend it’s got any real policies on either.
“Australia’s calamitous energy and climate policy is going from bad to worse with the government decision to build a $600m gas-fired power plant that will deter private investment,” warns the Financial Review’s Economics Editor, John Kehoe.
Labor says it is On Our Side but gives up opposing tax breaks for the rich. Negative gearing. Capital gains tax, both pet projects of former leader, Bill Shorten. It’s a policy of small target opposition. Don’t promise anything which a Morrison misgovernment with a Murdoch megaphone can trash.
Good luck. Already, as with Bill Shorten, Antony Albanese’s name is now a term of derision with our media. Or treated as if it were the punchline to some snide in-joke about hopeless incompetents in politics, by ABC’s The Drum‘s Ellen Fanning.
On the right are our Tories, the corporate-small business and aspirational tradies’ alliance led by The Swinging Big-Dicks, the Liberals in an unmade bed with The Nationals, Big Mining’s flea circus. It’s a dangerous liaison, spruiked as a coalition which is founded on victim blaming. Yet, it is still a shock to see the army sent in to quell Western Sydney; assist the police with Covid compliance – so desperate is the PMO to find scapegoats for its abject failure to protect us from a pandemic.
Covid is not spread by people being disobedient. Nor is NSW made any safer by its Premier’s pathetic pleading. Sending in the army is calculated to create confusion, anger and resentment.
On the centre-but somewhat-leftward (leaning in) is a Labor Party, which once held a torch for the poor. Labor’s sick of being a soft target; Labor will tax you to death, and now runs up the white flag on a fair and just income tax system.
But of course, there are more than two parties, even before we get into the division and disunity within a twin-set, the ABC loves to call “Both Major Parties”, or even Joel Fitzgibbon’s Hunter for Coal ginger group.
Greens’ leader, Adam Bandt does bag Labor for being gutless. Top income earners get up to 400 times the benefit of median income earners, he also quickly points out.
Labor’s backflip on high-end income tax cuts, notes Paul Bongiorno, has one aim. It seeks to make Morrison and his catastrophic bungling of the pandemic the key focus of the election campaign. The Australian Financial Review, reports an Utting Research poll, supporting Albanese’s tactic.
Greg Jericho reports that if Labor wants to fix the regressive tax regime they’ve agreed to they should implement a Warren Buffet Rule tax strategy where high income earners pay a minimum rate of tax on their earnings before any deductions are claimed – proposal by The Australia Institute.
There’s no anodyne for grinding poverty. A decent minimum wage and adequate pensions for the aged and those looking for work would, however, be a start.
As for part-time PM and moralist Scott Morrison’s self-help philosophy – his have a go to get a go – it’s a kick in the teeth, a wanton disregard for the causes and consequences of poverty. You do have to work hard to acquire his level of ignorance and prejudice. Like most of his maxims, it is a patently absurd lie – hurtful in times of economic recession measured by hours worked and underemployment, however much neoliberal treasury boffins choose to define it as two consecutive quarters of negative GDP. Rick Morton reflects,
What is a recession but surplus insecurity, the loss of opportunity and scarcity of hope?
Three and a quarter million people in Australia are poor; more than one in eight adults and one in six children live below the poverty line. How do they cope with half the population in lockdown due to the federal government’s catastrophic failure to buy vaccines, set up a quarantine system – let alone look after the elderly or provide for those out of work or underemployed?
“No poverty” is the first of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Australia is a signatory yet it has the 16th highest poverty rate out of the 34 wealthiest countries in the OECD.
Labor’s decision to agree to the Coalition’s third tier of its fat-cat, flat tax, policy with its tax cuts for the rich to be paid for by the needy is distressing. Those earning between $45,000 and $200,000 will all pay thirty cents in the dollar.
It’s a volte-face, “a political triple backflip”, Paul Bongiorno calls it, from Albo; Anthony Albanese, the leader of a party that once, famously, sought the light on the hill, as former Labor PM and engine-driver, Ben Chifley put it, seventy two years’ ago, after four years as leader to the 1949 NSW ALP Conference.
“I try to think of the Labour movement, not as putting an extra sixpence into somebody’s pocket, or making somebody Prime Minister or Premier, but as a movement bringing something better to the people, better standards of living, greater happiness to the mass of the people.”
The Whitlam spirit has gone from the Labor Party, laments Crikey’s Guy Rundle, who notes that the party’s base is fractured and reflects that a progressive tax policy may as well be just a Chifley a pipe dream for a political party whose voters are now as much knowledge class as working class.
Gone? That may be a little premature. And Whitlam did own up to his own pragmatism: only the impotent are pure. He understood that vision without executive power is the prerogative of protest groups, not of a party wanting to govern.