Author: urbanwronski

Urban Wronski is an Australian free-lance writer whose work appears regularly in The Independent Australia, The Tasmanian Times and also in The Australian Independent Media Network. He has also been published in Guardian Australia. An acute observer and analyst Urban continues to advocate for a just, tolerant and compassionate society.

Turnbull’s weak leadership revealed in junk-mail marriage-equality rip-off.

turnbull and cormann

Red Star flags and missile carriers are everywhere in this week’s best-directed mass military rally in Pyongyang Wednesday. North Korean soldiers in high-crowned hats like painted halos march frenetically across our screens, their unique, bouncing goose-step a tribute to their athleticism, indomitable spirit and edgy photogenic villainy.

‘Rogue state’ hysteria triggers fear of global nuclear war. Our local MPs heave a sigh of relief. Out of the spotlight, Victorian Opposition Leader Matthew “Mafia” Guy takes a spell from his epic struggle to shake himself free of news of his “lobster with a mobster” Liberal fundraiser.  His Laura Norder campaign is at risk.

The Victorian Liberals don’t have anything else by way of policy. News Corp backs them heavily – raving about how victims love Liberals’ promises of “toughest ever sentences”. The Herald Sun creates a rising crime wave hysteria. Victoria is the state of danger. It will be safe only when the Liberals bring in a two strike approach.

Mandatory minimum sentencing policies ignore a vast body of evidence showing that this approach to sentencing is expensive, unlikely to improve public safety and of no use in deterring future offending. But it has populist appeal and – as with any good terror programme -it cynically obscures the lack of any real policy.

Things get tricky when a secret recording shows Guy is lying. He claims he didn’t know which cool Calabrian businessman dude was about to shout him a cray at Beaumaris’ The Lobster Cave. Yet Fairfax sources report Guy’s office was informed that Mr Madafferi would be one of the guests. He attacks the secret recording.

Guy lies about the gathering’s size. His claim of 20 becomes six or seven when a witness dobs him in to 3AW.

The Opposition Leader is busted when Liberal staffer, Barrie Macmillan, un tipo losco, (a shady character) himself, is taped advising how to split up donations under the $13,200 threshold to avert being traced back to their donors.

“They want to give Matthew a substantial donation towards next year. Now, I understand what they can and can’t do,” bagman Bazza helpfully explains on a recording obtained by ABC’s Four Corners and Fairfax.

“I know how that all works, so you can’t associate Matthew with money, and I would have to be the intermediary, but I’m talking about a swag of money that they’re prepared to give for them.”

Shady? Astonishingly, the five year veteran Liberal Party fundraiser, turns out to have a criminal past. In 2006, while convicting him and ordering him to repay $25,000 to a local junior football team he defrauded , the magistrate told Macca he should never be involved in fund-raising-again.  But the Libs did not help him.

Liberal Party membership application rules do not require new members to declare prior convictions.

It has been alleged, in court, that Guy’s pal, Antonio “Tony” Madafferi, a market gardener whose business interests include the La Porchetta restaurant chain, is a don in Melbourne’s Calabrian mafia.

Madafferi denies any connections with organised crime. He has never been charged with any offences.

Madafferi has, however, been banned from Crown Casino and all Victorian racetracks over his alleged links with crime. None of this of course would ever have come to the attention of Matthew Guy or his office.

In an affidavit filed in court in June, Detective Superintendent Peter Brigham said police hold “substantial intelligence” indicating that Madafferi had “substantial and close involvement with serious criminal conduct including drug importation, murder and extortion”.

Brigham also alleged that Madafferi is,

“a known associate of prominent criminal entities and persons who have a history of significant criminal conduct that includes money laundering and drug trafficking”.

Yet Guy insists he met with long-time Liberal supporter Frank Lamattina and his cousin, Tony Madafferi, to discuss fruit and vegetable markets. Epping. As you do. No donations were made. But how would we know?

Macmillan, a former Datsun salesman and Tattersall’s agent resigns. Anywhere else, Guy would also have to resign, but in Victoria the (market) garden state, Liberals have powerful friends.

In 2013, as Victoria’s Planning Minister, Guy also was just an innocent diner who attended Liberal fundraising dinners with developers who had major planning applications he would decide on. “I did nothing wrong”, he explained at the time, despite then Premier, Ted Baillieu’s ban on ministers doing dinner with donors.

Also doing nothing wrong but being caught out not reporting 53,000 deposits of $20,000 because of just one maverick line of code is the Commonwealth Bank. Such a simple, innocent mistake – and only one error.

CEO Ian “nifty” Narev’s brilliant one slip-$1060 000 000 -defence is playing well. So clever of the bank to cast a Sontaran as its top banana.  Narev will slip out quietly with a golden parachute discreetly after his show.

Yet the CBA, part of our nation’s oligopoly of usurers, extortionists and silver-tongued con-men is relieved to be out of the spotlight over its you-beaut money-laundering for terrorists and drug syndicates ATM scam while Bruce Billson’s delicious double-dipping scandal can’t compete with nukes. Oh what a lovely war-scare.

Being paid by The Franchise Council of Australia, the same outfit he was lobbying for, while still being paid to be an MP, “for months”, as former Small-Business Minister Billson admits this week, will not embarrass a Liberal Party joined at the hip to employers, bankers, developers – and fruiterers. He’s off the hook. Almost.

In politics, there ain’t no such thing as a free lobster.

Always eager to promote the small business backbone of our economy, Billson was instrumental in helping Francesco, another Madafferi family member and suspected Mafia figure, obtain a permanent visa in 2004 – a year after his supporters, who included Antonio Madafferi, donated to the Liberal Party.

Billson, along with Greg Hunt, Marise Payne, Russell Broadbent successfully lobbied or contacted then Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone. Whilst the MPs protest their naivete, their association raises serious questions and has inspired calls for reform of the nation’s political party donations racket.

Billson “conveys his apologies to the clerk of the house for this error”.  Yet you can barely hear Billson’s apology for his corrupt behaviour, so loudly bark the dogs of war. Suddenly humdrum, day to day dealings of our nation’s rogues, knaves and MPs are swept aside in a tsunami of  “Konghanzheng” or Koreaphobia.

2GB’s veteran guest MP, expert military fetishist, the ever-practical Tony Abbott, calls for a national missile shield to be installed immediately. Later, the junkyard dog-whistler, may insist the North Koreans pay for it.

MSM hiss “the rogue state’s” rude defiance of US threats of nuclear annihilation and eternal demonisation.  How dare North Korea reject new ‘UN sanctions’ – on its exports of coal, iron and metallic ores, and seafood, amounting to $US1 billion or a third of its earnings from exports to China, its major trading partner?

Kim calls the measures “a panicky response by a US bully”. He warns he has four missiles ready to lob into the sea off Guam unless the US stops its B51 long-range bomber sorties from its US Pacific island territory.

Such base ingratitude. Media frame Kim as an utter psychopath; a suicidal maniac or just “The Fat Kid”. Not even the administration’s leaked decapitation strike plan can get Kim to pull his oddly tonsured head in.

Worse. Dear Leader has the US president’s number. In diplomatic slap-down of the week, Kim-Jung-un says Trump is “spouting nonsense”. No more Mr Nice Guy from the leader of the world’s top “evil regime”.

Kim hits back. The sanctions will cripple his nation’s economy. He gets personal. “Sound dialogue” is impossible with a person “bereft of reason”. He echoes other leaders’ frustration with Trump’s just “Being There” presidency. “Only absolute force can work on him”, he adds. At least he’ll get Trump’s attention.

He’s on to Trump. Even fun-loving Kim can tell, Trump is wasting his time “on the golf links,” instead of skulking behind a desk faking being president, as he must, on non-golfing or non-Fox News-watching days.

Ouch. At least he leaves alone the Commander in cheat’s multiple mulligans or how he forges his scorecard.

Kim says Trump’s gone dotty. He’s “bereft of reason”. He does not “grasp the ongoing grave situation.” His comments “show his senility.” He is “extremely getting on the nerves” of North Korean soldiers.  Take that.

No pussy-footing around from a chap who’s fed his rellies to his dogs – a Chinese satirical newspaper’s joke which instantly became “fact” in MSM accounts of Kim’s depravity and North Korea’s weirdness.

The demonisation of Kim and his state is throughgoing and includes the myth of the official Kim haircut, a fabrication recently exposed by two Aussie journalists who made a film, The Haircut (2017) – A North Korean Adventure about their recent trip to Pyongyang for a hipster haircut.

There is little doubt, however, he sent his uncle Jang to his death. But what if the US pushes him to the wall?

His people have had a gutful – according to the street theatre. Thousands of white-shirted workers march through Pyongyang Square angrily brandishing flags. The other hand does a taekwondo air punch.

Back in Canberra, a macho Mal endorses The Donald’s latest madness in provoking North Korea; threatening “fire and fury”. Turnbull invokes ANZUS, for the second time in our history. It’s a distortion of a treaty which is just an agreement to consult but he’s playing hard the only card left him, the loyal US sycophant.

Turnbull pledges Australia’s unqualified support in an unknown conflict between a con-man, a fake president and a crazy dictator. Oddly, there seems to be a reluctance from any other US ally to rush headlong into another bloodbath. By Sunday, he’s looking typically over eager – just as he did when he fawned and gushed all over Trump in his meeting last May on the USS Intrepid, in New York.

Is war with North Korea likely? Despite Trump’s bluster, there’s been no change to US troop deployment or alert status in the region. Unlike our own leader, China’s president Xi Jinping rings Trump Saturday to ask him to tone down his rhetoric. All is going to plan. Trump’s real aim is to get China to cut off North Korea’s oil.

The show must go on. All trace of last week’s electrifying travelling family mincer-jihadi terror drama is expunged by the fire and fury of this week’s national thriller. “Locked and loaded”, Donald Trump’s hairy-chested homage to John Wayne of Iwo Jima, goes viral. Malcolm Turnbull tries out a macho swagger himself.

“I am a strong leader,” Malcolm Turnbull tells Canberra’s press, Monday, despite his lame-duck government’s latest failure of nerve; a plebiscite-cum-survey to kick the can of marriage equality down the road.

“Strong leaders carry out their promises. Weak leaders break them.”  It’s a dig at Abbott and a hollow boast which backfires badly. It’s obvious to all assembled that Turnbull’s promise to be anything but Abbott in a better suit is now irretrievably broken. Only a weak leader would draw attention to his own inadequacy so publicly.  Whatever epithet he may end up wearing, he will always be the Liberals Great Disappointment.

On the back foot again, this time, the PM shoots himself in the other. Journalists smirk. No strong leader ever talks up his toughness. Or needs a side-kick on stage for backup. On twin lectern, to add grunt in stereo, is muscular straight-face heavyweight, Matthias Cormann, the Liberals’ fiscal Belgian schutzhund.

Can the government afford to go postal?  Does it have authority to fund the survey? The Finance Minister claims he has a $295 million line of credit to fund “anything unexpected or unforeseen”. A $122 million non-compulsory postal opinion poll to do parliament’s job for it certainly fits the bill. Other experts disagree.

The PM attempts to set the week’s tone. He certainly fails to set the agenda. Authority rules.  Briefly.  Seven’s Mark Riley cheekily asks why he is so weak on marriage equality; why yet again he is so keen to follow others rather than take the lead himself.

It’s not for want of body language. Our PM demonstrates his personal authority with his signature choppy hand movements. It’s as if he’s rinsing a lettuce at a sink. Then he’s back to Kill Bill, a game the whole party can play. And fear. Shorten will be “the most dangerous leftwing leader in generations”.

Left wing? Bill’s a member of the Victorian ALP Right?

Shorten has got to Turnbull. Cut him to the quick with an impassioned speech in the house on marriage equality. And he has threatened to hold Mr Turnbull “responsible for every hurtful bit of filth” “unleashed” during the same-sex marriage survey debate.

In an amazing performance, our government by evasion has duck-shoved its responsibility while pretending it’s honouring a fake election pledge to lumber us with a same sex marriage plebiscite. There was no campaign promise of a postal plan B if a plebiscite failed to pass the senate, as a reporter reminds the PM.

It’s not a plebiscite of course and it the term survey soon replaces it. No-one knows what authority it will have. It’s being tested in the High Court in two legal challenges which will come before the full bench of the court on September 5 and 6, Chief Justice Susan Kiefel tells a hearing in Sydney on Friday.

One challenge is by Tasmanian Independent Andrew Wilkie and Australian Marriage Equality and Victorian Greens senator. Janet Rice. Should these succeed, the government has no plan B.

What’s certain is, whatever the court decides about the legality of the postal survey, it’s no substitute for the conscience vote in parliament that Turnbull is forbidden by his gerrymandered National minority minders to embrace.

Nor is it fair, given the capacity for postal surveys to favour older voters, conservative voters and retain the status quo. Despite all the prompting the yes cause can muster, young people may well be loath to register just to take part in a junk-mail survey which is likely to be ignored by a government that has lost their trust.

Last election, there were almost a million young people missing from the electoral roll; too alienated to bother to register to vote. Voter turnout was the lowest since 1925.

Not only does it lack leadership, there is something fundamentally tacky about a government which can contrive to allow itself to be guided by a non-binding, non compulsory postal opinion survey on a basic human right. After calculated vacillation, indecision and cowardly prevarication, the Coalition has opted to allow the mob-majority to sit in judgement on the human rights of a minority.

Shorten is right to voice his fears that in the process many Australians will be hurt. In effect, the process virtually guarantees a maximum of damaging propaganda. It’s already started. Bronwyn Bishop on Sky News claims that marriage equality will lead to bestiality and the killing of newborn children.

Worse, old jelly-back Malcolm Turnbull, a leader who bizarrely tells parliament that being PM makes him too busy to lead debate, has made no effort to rebuke, rebut or reprimand her. It’s a telling abdication.

Then there’s Tony Abbott, disciple of BA Santamaria and nineteen fifties throwback, who leads those who would make the campaign about something else. He would turn his back on modernity while spreading his irrational fear of a nurturing, tolerant, progressive, pluralist society. He doesn’t care if he causes suffering.

He’s prepared to lie because he knows most Australians are in favour of marriage equality and he knows he can’t win if he acknowledges that a no vote is a denial of a human right. He’s cynically misrepresenting the issue. He’s got a solid track record of success in that whether it be in his white-anting of Gillard or his repeal of a price on carbon emissions we urgently needed but which he labelled a great big new tax on everything.

“I say to you if you don’t like same-sex marriage, vote no,” says Abbott. “If you’re worried about religious freedom and freedom of speech, vote no, and if you don’t like political correctness, vote no because voting no will help to stop political correctness in its tracks.”

Director of an organisation which calls itself the Australian Christian Lobby, but which gets plenty of support from US fundamentalists, Lyle Shelton, writes that “the marriage plebiscite is a referendum on freedom of speech and ‘safe schools'”. He laments the “stolen generation” that are the children of Australian gays.

The week ends in uncertainty as the diversion tactic of the threat of nuclear war yields to something more prosaic and destructive, a government which lacks both leadership and moral authority.

As the case of Matthew “Mafia” Guy and lobster with the mobster suggests, the modern Liberal Party covets funds above all else. It is as recklessly indulgent of its donors as it is heedless of the needs of the ordinary voter – or as it is of any promptings of conscience; or moral compass.

Bluster all he may about being a strong leader, Australia can see ever more clearly how deeply Malcolm Turnbull is in thrall to his party’s moribund conservatives and its modern amoral money-men.

He is a Prime Minister in title only who heads a government in retreat from reality, a government which is so keen to evade its basic responsibilities that it it is willing to commission a $122 million junk-mail survey to prove the point. It has no real concern over the hurt it will cause nor of the human rights it tramples.

Ironically, if the Turnbull government had hoped to consign the issue to the background for the next three months, to clear the decks to prepare itself for re-election, it will find it has instead done everything in its power to guarantee the reverse.

Turnbull’s terror bust raises big questions over his government and his leadership.

yellow and blue afp

Riotous splashes of daffodil – Petals on a wet, black bough, cheer a bleak Lakemba Street, in the flare of an OB TV van’s lighting, while the sounds of big diesel heaving and the grinding -peep-peep-peep of a garbage truck in reverse greet the nation Monday as it wakes to a motley squad of glum Teletubbies sifting rubbish. Who are they?

Surely it’s not our jolly AFP, out to fit up another Labor NBN leaker? Colvin’s cowboys? It’s all a visual riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, all rolled up in sodden copies of the Bankstown-Canterbury Torch, ever at hand to take care of any Lakemba household’s potato-peelings and discarded jihadi bomb components.

Sproule St’s canary-kitted bin-pickers are an establishing shot in a post-modern apocalyptic story of four Muslims, a halal meat-grinder and a fart gas plot. Fittingly, this week’s freak-out anti-terror squad is not in camouflage grunge. Last week’s gas masks, machine guns and assault vehicles yield to a form of Bananas in Pyjamas rig.

Oblivious to all hysteria, the wallopers seem part of a slow dance routine. Cue Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers.

The week’s wondrous political theatre includes a piece to camera in a brilliantly improvised disaster narrative – “one of the most sophisticated plots“…  ever attempted on Australian soil” – (we’ve had none before.) And what a ripper plot it is.

Four Men and a Mincer is a televisual feast. Every tidbit is filled with suspense and wonder. Fart gas? Wood scraps – errant Kebab skewers, perhaps? Brother, Khaled, planned to fly to Jakarta, terror capital of Indonesia?

Unknown to the airline, the police and even his brother, Mr Khayat packed a military-grade bomb, concealed in a kitchen meat mincer, in his brother’s check-in bag”? Bro didn’t notice the extra weight?  His bro’s teary farewell?

And “how very dare he”, as Catherine Tate says, not notify police or at least Etihad airlines, his carrier of choice.

In a novel twist the bomb or “IED”, (acronyms boost legitimacy), is Australia’s first FIFO explosive. “Authorities”, a term which helps convey authority, (together with breathless hyperbole and a total bypass of scepticism or hint of critical thinking), report bomb ingredients were flown from ISIS in Turkey, and delivered via the recently retired $4.8 million dollar gunpowder-runner Ahmed Fahour’s Australia Post. In another first, our terror goes postal.

FIFO clinches it. Terror fans today all know, full well, how ISIS has fiendishly ingenious ways of achieving the impossible – possibly disguising the explosives in a cunningly re-purposed receptacle such as a pressure-cooker. It’s extraordinary, moreover, that no traces of Semtex or C4 seem to have been found despite extreme “scouring”.

But wait. As luck has it, The Daily Telegraph a terror-organ hot-wired to Coalition HQ, is on hand to record a major discovery. OMG. Just as well the plot was foiled. Could’ve been Australia’s 9/11. Sharri Markson has a moment.

“Officers, dressed in yellow plastic jumpsuits, meticulously went through each garbage bag, going through avocado skins, beer bottles, egg shells and fast food wrappers before finding the flight receipt, which was ripped and soggy,” Markson records. Kerbside developments are relayed in relentlessly prosaic detail. Terrifying.

Soggy? NSW Commissioner Mick malaprop Fuller uses “forensic” to stress how well his men scour the area.

As befits any witch-hunt, there is no right to privacy. Nor is any presumption of innocence extended by The Tele which helpfully provides photographs, names, addresses and maps to assist rubber-neckers and vigilantes.

Nothing is left to chance, however. Neighbour Kate Harrison swoons.“There must have been at least 40 riot squad police with huge guns.” Massive swarms of police help reinforce the myth of our “probable” terror threat; the diabolical cunning, the fiendish “sophistication” of our enemies, the Lakemba jihadis, one of whom didn’t notice the sudden extra weight as a heavy home-made bomb disguised as a mincer made its way into his hand luggage.

Spin-off of the week is won by the tall tale of the travelling mincer. Top Cops, boost airport security whilst maintaining peak paranoia, by taking an each-way bet. Yeah. It was yet to pass metal detectors, they say, before being rejected because it was too heavy to be allowed on the flight. Yeah. Nah. Our systems didn’t fail us.

Sophisticated? Imagine the scene. “I know you say your bastard brother always packs the family travelling halal mincer for you, but I’m sorry, Mr Khaled, you either remove that IED from your bag or we can’t let you on board.”

All is calculated to steal the nation’s gaze away from the government’s Murray-Darling $13.5 bn water scandal, its NBN disaster, its energy policy failure, news of record carbon emissions, its marriage equality snafu, the revelation of un-renounced dual citizen-fifth columnists lurking in its midst, the leaking of the PM’s duplicity over our refugee deal, the CBA bank’s money-laundering for drug syndicates and other self-inflicted crises and catastrophes.

Self-inflicted? In another of its brilliant reforms, the Abbott government made AUSTRAC, Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre financially dependent on the same mafia it was supposed to keep honest. It moved AUSTRAC in 2014 to what it said with a straight face was ” a full industry-based funding model” which meant government funding would be replaced by an industry level. As long as AUSTRAC kept in sweet with the banks.

But look over there. No. Not our shameful abdication of responsibility for Manus. Not the farce of a non-binding, non-compulsory postal plebiscite, certain to be served upon the nation, Tuesday. Not The Great Equivocator Malcolm Turnbull’s slapdown over his resolute evasion of constitutional recognition for indigenous peoples – that’s too ambitious” even though – or, perhaps – because Labor is proposing it. No. It’s a Lakemba-terror. Look out!

Of course it’s not all meant to drive us to distraction. A well-executed terror scare helps us embrace our political leaders and reinforce their need to frighten us further. As experts point out, it is not clear-cut, however, although evidence suggests a terror threat can benefit right wing politicians, especially election candidates.

To create maximum consternation, a mincer is pressed into service as the engine of an “Islamic-based” plot. An inspired choice of device, “mincer” bolts the exotic to the domestic right in your own kitchen. Inventive? Sinister. Not only is ISIS coming to get us, as Abbott warned, our household appliances are not what they may seem.

There is a teensy evidentiary problem. No-one has been able to find the Kenwood in question. Happily, habeas corpus no longer holds up our streamlined anti terror laws. Mostly it’s straight to jail even if you only have a dumb plan. Yet it’s deadly serious. The attention to detail in costume alone signals a bin squad that means business.

Yellow plastic terror-proof cover-alls contrast vividly with blue kitchen gloves, blue plastic bags and the cerulean blue tarps everything in the bin is tipped out on. It’s more than a visual feast to lift a nation’s spirits, it’s a religious ceremony, the ritual elevation of the AFP into a priestly class.

Almost up there with ASIO, our AFP hierophants are blessed with supernatural powers to divine all manner of evil.

And keep us safe. The saffron vestments help cement the deal. A buttercup cop in a surgical mask upends a gun-metal grey garbage bin. Voila! But take heed, political deviants and dissenters. Our moral, metaphysical, if not spiritual, guardians sift rubbish with all the unhurried, unsmiling thoroughness of a gang of Mumbai rag-pickers.

Four Men … is a high-stakes, top-quality attention-grabbing drama, a long, suspenseful, terrifying stake-out.

Lethal. Yairs. Top cops tell us how an exploding mince-maker could bring down an airliner in a setting of utter suburban dullness, a plot device and a location so humdrum it takes the banality of evil to a whole new level.

Worse, Channel 7 rants, in more, explosive, revelations. It has wind of a back up plan to launch a Hydrogen Sulphide or fart gas attack on a public transport network system in Sydney. Is there no end to Muslim perfidy? But, wait, something’s on the nose. Of course, Seven has just re-releasing an AFP press release – and it’s a bit whiffy.

The gas is toxic in sufficient concentration but the volume required, Professor Greg Barton, who enjoys regular media billing as a Deakin counter-terrorism expert, argues, rules out any carry on luggage. You’d need a truckload.

And it’s only talk. AFP deputy commissioner of national security Michael Phelan reveals that a second terror plot was “allegedly being discussed by the accused”. Yet even this can be dressed up as scary. The men discussed “… building of an improved chemical dispersion device,” Phelan claims. It’s enough, moreover, to get you charged.

For News Corp’s Sharri Markson, who relays an anonymous minister (not Peter Dutton) the real terrorists are Tim Wilson, Trent Zimmerman, Trevor Evans, Dean Smith and Warren Entsch who are agitating for a conscience vote.

“Today we need to be talking about terrorism and the fantastic work our agencies have done — but instead, because of these saboteurs, these suicide bombers in our own party, we’re talking about same-sex marriage.”

Not another agenda hi-jack! Markson’s “minister” (not Peter Dutton) pretends that government can’t possibly talk about more than one thing at a time. It’s an indictment, to claim our elected representatives can’t “fart and chew gum at the same time” (as Johnson said of Gerald Ford) but it’s now a Coalition orthodoxy; a standard evasion.

Do we really need to baste the carcass of an open society in its own juices by gushing praise over police, paramilitary and other agents of coercion? Haven’t we valorised anyone in uniform enough already? What we need to acknowledge is how well anti-terror laws and terror bust theatre help conceal the terror of the state.

Our draconian security laws threaten our open society. As The MEAA points out we have criminalised the truth and suppressed the right to know. Despite George Brandis, Barnaby Joyce and company, it’s the state whose terror laws are “law-fare” – not the protests of environmental groups which the government seeks to silence.

Michael Forst, UN Special Rapporteur, last October criticised The Turnbull government for its bill to prevent individuals or organisations that have engaged in environmental activities in the past two years from challenging decisions under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

Others have instanced our Border Force Act 2015 which can put you in jail for two years if you reveal anything about Manus or Nauru. Too bad if this cuts across your professional obligation to report physical and mental harm.

But the Coalition has not been content just to outlaw whistleblowers and suppress dissent. It deploys its own terror. News “breaks” this week that 38,000 Centrelink pensioners receive “Taskforce Integrity” letters from the Department of Human Services which bear an AFP logo to help instil fear. The letters, sent late July, warn often terrified recipients against deliberately withholding or providing false information to dishonestly collect payments.

Since 2015, DHS has sent over 85,000 letters with AFP logo to welfare recipients in nine national locations. Should any  government put the frighteners on its most vulnerable?  ACOSS head, Sandra Goldie, is in no doubt,

“It is completely inappropriate for the government to send letters to income support recipients with the Australian Federal Police logo asking if their details are up to date.” “These letters are threatening and completely disregard any mental health issue the person may have.”

Yet, distressingly, the issue attracts little MSM attention and despite its Robo-claw debt recovery debacle, the government is determined to press on with its standover tactics and its efforts to shakedown pensioners to find the small change down the back of the couch while allowing 36 per cent of large companies to pay no tax whatsoever. Oxfam calculates multinational tax avoidance costs Australia $6 billion in revenue every year.

No-one on the Tele, nor any another MSM recalls that it was a “relaxed and comfortable” John Howard in 2004 who took it upon himself to change the Marriage Act to exclude gay couples. Nor that he did it without plebiscite.

True, there was a bit of a fuss when he also proposed to ban same sex couples from adopting children from other countries, but he was able to abandon that part of his “reform” in his hope of quickly wedging Labor.

He wished, he claimed, “…to  make it very plain that that is our view of a marriage and to also make it very plain that the definition of a marriage is something that should rest in the hands ultimately of the parliament…”

In fact, as he did with school chaplains, arch-conservative Howard imposed his own prejudices on the nation, pausing only to insult us that he had read our’ minds for us. In this sense, he planted an IED of his own that his indulged disciple, Tony Abbott, our accidental Prime Minister, was able to augment with a bomb of his own.

Losing control of an unruly six hour party room meeting stacked with Nationals dinosaurs and desperate to head off a conscience vote, Abbott got his then deputy PM Julie Bishop to propose a plebiscite. It was a word which Wokka Entsch reckons he never heard. Yet it put a time-bomb under Turnbull which is ticking louder by the day.

In a secret, special “emergency” meeting of the Liberal party room scheduled for next Monday, Turnbull  will continue his mission of open and transparent, cabinet based decision-making government by trying to engineer a solution which will preserve his confidential, Faustian compact with the National Party.

What has upset the conservatives is news that WA Liberal Senator Dean Smith wishes to introduce a private member’s bill in favour of a conscience vote in parliament. Planning of this was leaked when last June when in a kiss of death, Christopher Pyne overshared his view that a bill would be introduced “sooner than everyone thinks.”

It was not so much the assertion itself which had Liberal die-hard rightists spluttering but his allied claim that the left-wing of the Liberal Party had taken over a vision calculated to inflame the passions of the Abbott, Eric Abetz, Kevin Andrews and the ten or so “Deplorables” who like to style themselves as conservatives.

Michelle Grattan who knows people who know people in Canberra believes the five amigos have unleashed an existential battle which goes to the heart of Turnbull’s leadership, a locus, itself a vexed conundrum. Like some reverse terror group, those pro a SSM conscience vote, she says, have engineered an “extraordinary implosion”.

It won’t come to a fight. In typically assertive fashion, the PM’s made it clear that he won’t lead or embrace a position himself. In truth he doesn’t have the political capital to do much else – and even less authority.

What could possibly go wrong? Courting disaster is the par for the course with him. Politics, Groucho Marx reminds us, is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.

If all goes to plan, the PM will be able to brandish a non-binding, non-compulsory postal plebiscite which could cost the nation $100 million – to reach a verdict which his government can then reject. Malcolm Farr on ABC Insiders Sunday, says he’s charging the tax-payer to come up with a decision which parliament should be making.

In brief, a postal plebiscite is another political expedient; an evasion of Tony Abbott’s initial evasion of a conscience vote which would undo John Howard’s original 2004 political expedient. Bugger what the nation wants.

Polls show majority support for marriage equality. Only about 25% of Australians oppose same sex marriage.

In the end, the issue illuminates how far Turnbull’s need to keep his leadership outweighs all other concerns and how much his need to appease the right of the party leads his government further away from popular opinion.

The secret deal with the Nationals he made to gain the leadership has not been divulged even after FOI requests.  But it’s clear that he’s meant to keep a leash on the liberals in the party while the National party keeps a leash on him.

A joint party room will follow Tuesday where Turnbull will take a secret ballot, banking on the status quo. Whatever the outcome, the Nationals – who have seven times the number of seats as The Greens but less than half the votes – thanks to our gerrymandered political system, will exercise their right of veto, Friday.

In a ray of (setting) sunshine for the right wing, groundhog day for peak stupid arrives Saturday. Craig Kelly is on ABC crowing over the proposed visit of Trump EPA Head and climate change global village idiot, Scott Pruitt. Kelly gushes over the chance to hear Pruitt.

“The head of the EPA in the United States of America is a very high ranking and prestigious position and if he’s got time amongst his busy schedule to come and visit us down in Australia we should welcome him with open arms,” Kelly says.

Nonsense. Just let us know, Craig, if it were you or Josh who invited him. Pruitt does not need our endorsement; nor do we need to hear his stupidity nor his coal-lobby spin. We are being softened up for more coal-fired power stations. On cue this week, PM has been waffling about how ideology must not get in the way of energy security.

By the end of the week, the Turnbull government is in crisis even before parliament has resumed. Luckily a tape is leaked which gives the lie to claims that Turnbull has not talked tough to the US President, Donald Trump over our heroic refugee-swap which will see us clear Manus and Nauru in return for some unwanted Columbians.

He has “held the line” claim MSM applauding our PM’s assertiveness and offering other glowing endorsements his office has press-released them. In reality, the transcript reveals Turnbull’s thoroughgoing duplicity and cynicism. He is unconcerned if the US takes only a hundred refugees as long as the deal appears outwardly to be a success.

The leak is a damning indictment. It provides a privileged insight into a totally cynical Turnbull and his government to whom nothing matters, least of all the suffering of our refugees, detained offshore in conditions and circumstances which amount to torture.

Turnbull’s sole motivation is to cling to power by whatever means present themselves.

Above all the leaked transcript points to the callous inhumanity of our refugee policy. Whatever the outcome of its gay-marriage imbroglio, the Turnbull government needs to bring our refugees home immediately.

Similarly he could make the call for a conscience vote in Parliament and let his opponents be damned. It would require courage but he has absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Spare us the surreal terror scare tactics, the endless hype about security and the dog-whistling of division, Mr Turnbull. For once in your life do something healing.

 

Joyce, Canavan and Murray Darling scandal expose fatal flaws in Turnbull’s government.

barnaby joyce


Explosive revelations rock our sleepy island-continent this week as a plot to bring down a plane with an “improvised explosive device” is thwarted in Sydney in yet another timely Coalition terror alert while Labor dares suggest that a bigger threat is the inequality which is tearing our nation apart, just as the time bomb of section 44 (i) of our constitution wreaks havoc in North Queensland.

Happily, North Korea obliges with another diverting missile show. Our media replays its spooky tape of goose-stepping men in uniform with recklessly big hats and bad haircuts. A war with North Korea would last for ever judging by the way you see the same missiles fired endlessly. For a moment we forget our local woes and hiss the international villain.

Back to earth and some shocking news. Casa Canavani, home of the Federal Minster for Adani, Flat-earther Matt Canavan is in tatters. Many other MPs are at risk of a 44(i) gone rogue. Twenty MPs – at least risk being found ineligible.

Barnaby Joyce whose father was a New Zealander is hoist with the 44 (i) petard. Joyce maintains he’s not a Kiwi because he was born in Australian and he never applied for NZ citizenship.

Yet the 1948 British Nationality and New Zealand Citizenship Act (Section 7), which was in place in New Zealand when baby Barnaby was born, clearly states:

“Subject to the provisions of this section, a person born after the commencement of this Act shall by descent be a New Zealand citizen by descent if his father was a New Zealand citizen at the time of his birth”

Barnaby need not resign but he should, in good faith, declare his situation and add his case to the High Court, for consideration, too. The same goes for Eric Abetz.

Tasmanian Senator Eric Abetz has yet to document his timely renunciation of German citizenship. Indeed, his case is an anomaly of interest to the High Court, surely, given reports that he was ineligible to enter parliament when he did, initially filling a casual vacancy.

Legal action over Eric’s ineligibility was eventually withdrawn but only because the time to lodge objections to his initial appointment and his first election “win” had expired.

Abetz has yet to keep his promise to provide a copy of a letter he says he wrote to the German Embassy in 1993 renouncing his citizenship. Instead, Tassie Liberals attack Labor’s Justine Keay.

As befits our tribal politics, a witch hunt is unleashed. Tasmanian Labor MP for Braddon, Keay, said by ABC to be “dodging queries” has explained via social media that she formally renounced her UK citizenship before nominating as a Federal candidate and that she has provided proof to the ALP.

Section 44 (i) is, however, set to unseat recently-renounced dual citizen, PHON’s Malcolm Roberts, all seventy-seven votes of him. His bijou senate spot will now go to Pauline Hanson’s sister, Judy Smith, who is itching to hop aboard the clan’s Jabiru, despite its problematic provenance.

MPs scramble to check their mothers’ passports, recipe books and other signs of dormant dual nationality. A mercurial Malcolm Roberts embraces an impossible number positions in quick succession. No change there.

He clearly was once a Pom, as well as a Planet Zorgian and he has a go at renouncing his UK nationality on The Today Show and by email – as if being a PHON member isn’t worldly renunciation enough. His showmanship will be missed.

“I am choosing to consider I never was British”, says the nation’s top empiricist, in a backhand swipe, perhaps, at Australians who identify as Indigenous, perhaps confusing empiricism with solipsism. That settles the matter.

Some cry foul. Others say the unwritten rules and conventions the Constitution relies upon are not worth the paper they are written on. Yet our Constitution is a tribute to our federating fathers’ quest to create the best business environment they could for themselves. It bans anyone who:

“Is under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or citizen of a foreign power.

Always keen to strike a pose on the world stage, meanwhile, Australia is keen to join its secret arms trade partner, Saudi Arabia on the UN Human Rights Council, when the UNHCR accuses Immigration Minister Dutton and his team of deception in its US refugee swap double-deal.

Cross-examined by hostile Coalition Inquisitor, ABC’s Leigh Sales, Volker Turk, UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, responds that Dutton gave an undertaking that 36 refugees from Manus Island could join close family in Australia. He explains the nature of the assurance.

 “(Dutton) didn’t give us assurances because we didn’t present cases yet. But he did agree that we would be able to present such cases.”

Michelle Grattan suggests it would be too Machiavellian to suggest Dutton’s gang would give the impression of having cases looked at while they had no intention of reviewing them favourably.

In his best diplomatic manner, Turk condemns the damning shameful human rights big picture,

“… what we have seen is a deterrence policy. It’s a border protection policy with a slippery slope where, indeed, people who are refugees are effectively punished. Part of that punishment is also how they deal with people who have family links in Australia.”

As Gillian Triggs, Human Rights Commissioner, mercilessly pilloried and persecuted by Abbott, Brandis and News Corp, the Turnbull government, like its punch-drunk predecessor, says on retirement this week, Australia  is ideologically opposed to human rights. Poor fellow my country.

Supremo Dutton, meanwhile, who will acquire even greater power when he heads up our super-ministry of Home Affairs, in reward for his loyal support of the PM, is unavailable for comment.

Equally under-examined is our Foreign Affairs Minister, Julie Bishop. Her pro-US line on China has triggered a ban on our chilled beef and sheep exports. Six processing plants have been stopped.

Processors claim the bans are in retaliation to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s recent comments over freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.  Yet China may well accuse us of hypocrisy.

Australia is critical of China’s artificial islands and its bellicose posturing but we continue to bully our tiny northern neighbour Timor-Leste (East Timor) over rights to gas reserves in just the same way we accuse China of behaving in the South China Sea.

Strong-arming the weak and defenseless is Coalition policy, abroad as much as at home.

No drama. Help is on its way. Smooth-talking Trade Minister Steve Ciobo – not-an-Italian-citizen- says it is “a very significant situation” and the Government has “mobilised quickly” to engage Chinese authorities on the issue.

Whew. That’s all sorted then. We can all go back to our happy families living in democratic, rules-based harmony under US power.  The Bishop doctrine of denial shows blithe over-confidence in an imaginary friend. US leadership in Asia under Trump will be unlike any other. Now that’s a real and present danger.

Luckily, by Saturday, the bomb plot which Abbott-appointee, AFP’s Andrew Colvin says is “Islamic inspired” is discovered just as a couple of TV crews happen to be right outside. The bust is nicely timed for Prime TV and helps deflect attention from a Prime Minister who is in hiding all week.

No-one dare ask Colvin where he’s up to with investigating Pauline’s Jabiru. Or with the NBN busts timed so well for last election. The polite fiction of AFP independence and competence continues. Expect more lecterns and updates. We are in an era of government by announceables.

It matters little now to citizens of our democracy that 24 hours pass and no charge is laid. Rule of law? Separation of powers? So easy to extend detention without any charge with our beaut new anti-terror laws to keep everybody safe.

A dual citizen witch-hunt or alien alert, if you prefer, and an anti-Muslim dog-whistle terror distraction divert few from this week’s main show. Spoiler alert. The plot continues as follows.

Turnbull goes missing in inaction. In a searing new episode of Upstream Downstream, our nation’s epic soap opera, Matt Canavan is outed as an alien and Barnaby Joyce’s front bar gaffe pulls the pin on a Nats Murray-Darling basin boondoggle, revealing the scheme to be a scam.

First to a bar in Shepparton, packed we are told with local farmers, agog to hear Barnaby, as ever. He speaks their language.

“We’ve taken water and put it back into Agriculture [ministry] so we can look after you and make sure we don’t have the greenies running the show, basically sending you out the back door.” 

Barnaby means he’s helped wealthy cotton irrigators to help themselves to billions of litres of water, paid for by tax-payers to ensure the environmental health of the Murray Darling system. Some farmers may have traded in this stolen water, profiteering from its illegal sale.

The program exposes what appear to be seriously corrupt dealings between politicians, public servants and a few big irrigators in the Murray Darling Basin.

Not only is the alleged rort a national scandal, Joyce’s behaviour is shocking. Rather than exercise his own responsibility as Minister for Water, he accuses ABC’s Four Corners of trying to “create a calamity” over its allegations of water theft.  In the interim, he seems to collude with irrigators. In any other government he’d be tendering his resignation.

Instead, Joyce goes missing until late in the week when the tape of his Wednesday address to farmers in Shepparton surfaces. The tape confirms his contempt for any environmental concern and implies he is in collusion with the water thieves. For any other minister it would be curtains. In any other government he’d be fired.

Agile Mal is on to it. After a long talk with his deputy, they decide that this is not a federal matter. How could the Federal Water Minister be responsible? NSW can sort itself out. After all Baird sorted out ICAC before he retired. Didn’t he?

By Sunday, Phil Coorey reports that the PM has ordered a national review of water compliance in the best Yes Minister tradition of diverting a crisis into a review rather than follow up what seem serious allegations of criminal misconduct made in the program. It beats real leadership.

The PM is silent, moreover, over Canavan. He must be gone for all money. Not a word about  Matt, The Accidental Italian which wins performance of the week for its opening number alone- Mum’s the Word.

Mum’s the Word  is a show-stealing multi-cultural number with slick ensemble work. It features Signor Canavan, Adani’s champion and family. Matt tears his hair with passionate self-loathing. No. He struts and frets. No. He’s turned into an Italian. No. Tell me it’s not true. I tell you I signed nothing. No. I have never been to Italy. No. An alien?

Canavan mugs the camera. He’s beside himself with conflicted loyalties. Is it witchcraft? Too much grappa?

No, Matteo. Not stregoneria. Worse. Motherly love. In a captivatingly coy cameo debut, Matt’s Mama, Maria, La Contessa Canavan, faithful wife of convicted felon Bryan, confesses. She’s kept everything from her son. The papers. The passport. The whole Italian job. Her secret for ten years.

Wife of Bryan is top contender for the week’s best spin-off for its sensational revelations alone. In 2007 when Canavan Snr was sent to the Big House for seven years for fraud, a provident Maria was inspired to take out Italian citizenship for herself and her children. As you do.

A quick family chat in 2006 and the subject was never again mentioned by anybody. Nor were the Italian government voting papers which arrived on three occasions ever forwarded nor was Matt’s brand-new passport ever sent on to him.  The script is pure farce, pure Dario Fo.

Not a word, even, of praise for Maria’s miracle: making Matt an Italian without his having to sign anything or produce ID. Embassy staff and other dual nationals even claim the feat is impossible.

The Australian recruits our sympathy for battler Bryan. Had to sell a string of properties in 2006, we are told, after he and a colleague were investigated for embezzling $1.6 million from Nestle. Clearly a better class of felon.

Suspense sky-rockets thanks to our PM’s studied under-performance. In homage to Conan Doyle’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, Malcolm Turnbull, lies doggo all week, despite a scandalous turn of events which could easily cause his government to lose its tiny majority.

Could it be that his recent OS trip and his bid to convert Menzies and the Liberal Party to lower case L over-taxed him. Or the government’s continued tanking in News Poll and Essential?

Certainly his shit-eating grin and camera handshake with Tony Abbott would be taxing. The encounter was billed as a fight to the death, yet, on the day, Turnbull turned the other cheek. Tiring.

Worse, he supported the NSW Liberal Party Warringah motion plebiscite, which will enable Tony’s backers to stack branches with right-wingers; safeguarding Abbott’s own pre-selection.

Perhaps the PM’s just hiding the egg on his face. When Greens Senators, Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlum, woke up to discover they were still dual nationals, the PM was quick to sink the slipper.

“It is pretty amazing, isn’t it, that you have had two out of nine Greens senators didn’t realise they were citizens of another country. It shows incredible sloppiness on their part,” Turnbull sneered.

Schadenfreude aside, the PM could acknowledge that Waters and Ludlum couldn’t resign from Parliament quickly enough. Yet, now that Canavan’s in trouble, it’s the law that’s at fault.

Of course, Matt may be above the law – the Coalition default option for cabinet ministers. He’s certainly acting that way. With unseemly haste, the government rushes to protect its own.

Signor Canavan proclaims he has “legal advice” that he is not in breach of Section 44 (i) of the constitution. He’s appealing to the High Court. The matter will be referred 6 August. It’s a useful gag and a standard tactic by government MPs in trouble to avoid any further scrutiny. Fat chance.

Legal advice? The law holds that ignorance is no excuse. What Canavan means is that he’s been persuaded not to resign by legal genius AG George Brandis. George just loves Matt’s defence of “My Mum did it”. Incisive. Like Malcolm Turnbull, Brandis has a brilliant mind until it is made up.

Matt is a man of the people, at least in North Queensland and our coal-fired national press.

Naturally, he is also a News Corp star for his advocacy of mining, his climate-denial, his right-to-lifing, his support of protests outside abortion clinics and his war against green vigilantes. Environmental groups must be prevented from any advocacy. They sabotage coal mines.

In brief, Matt is framed as an archetypal innocent trapped by events beyond his control. He is quick to protest his ignorance. The Sergeant Schulz defence goes over well in The Australian and with Andrew Probyn.

I know nothing. Mama is to blame he says. You have to understand. He has never been into an Italian embassy or even eaten pizza. Bravo, Matteo! Rave reviews follow.

Godfather to his children, his former employer, (Matt was his Chief of Staff) and an old family friend, an impartial Barnaby Joyce attests to Matt’s “incredible” character. Not the wisest choice of epithet in the circumstances, he realises, binding it with a running superlative or two – “exemplary character; exemplary person.” Barnaby nuance. Media pundits agree he’s a good minister.

Of course there’s no show without Punch. Think-tanking, our Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison tops last week’s top trick, Tudge’s Fudge, a redefining of poverty out of existence whilst continuing a war on the poor.

This week ScoMo banishes inequality simply by shouting everyone down and calling Bill Shorten a liar. It’s a fantastic trick. Such a boon to the mindlessly tribal approach the Abbott Turnbull Coalition has brought to politics.

And it’s personal. All week, a servile ABC repeats Morrison’s nonsense that inequality is a contested area and simply one of Evil Bill Shorten’s Mediscare fakes. Perhaps the Coalition’s sole achievement has been to turn the name Bill Shorten into a pejorative term – at least to their own tribes.

Nerding up with graphs, ScoMo puts the Gini Co-efficient back in the bottle in a Duttonesque demonstration that whatever evidence you may think you have, he alone knows the truth.  Besides, he leers, social inequality is something Bill Shorten invented in a naff attempt to cash in on trendy-lefties Jeremy Corbyn and Sanders’ popularity.

The week ends with a government in crisis over water, our most precious resource. No inquiry or review will siphon off the public anger and sense of betrayal. Turnbull’s side-step will only lower his negative leadership ratings.

The Murray-Darling Basin scandal helps confirm that this government has not the slightest commitment to environmentalism. Sadly it fits into a long established pattern of environmental neglect from the Great Barrier Reef to land-clearing. Its evasive, cynical response, alone, to say nothing of its failure exercise due diligence, however is yet another compelling indication that it is unfit to govern.

Ironically, the Murray-Darling water rort is also a grotesque illustration of some of the flaws of trickle-down economics, if any more evidence were needed, while the witch hunt for aliens in parliament; those MPs who have not yet renounced their dual citizenship is fed by an ugly, irrational, intolerance abroad in the land.

For this a government which substitutes the threat of terror to compensate for real leadership has only itself to blame. For Malcolm Turnbull, moreover, the water scandal and his weak response this week is a reminder that the Faustian pact with the Nationals which helped to become leader is rapidly working to depose him.

Turnbull’s super-ministry an epic failure.

trunbull and troops 2

They lie the men who tell us for reasons of their own

That want is here a stranger and that misery’s unknown …

Henry Lawson Faces in the Street


 

Loud Hosannas, cheers, applause and dancing in the streets erupt across a grateful nation this week as our bravely innovative, PM, Malcolm Turnbull, proclaims Peter Dutton, Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of Australia.

Dead-eye Dutton’s rise is but one sublime peak in a week action-packed with fear and surprise featuring a Turnbull presser at a military base, backed by a blackface troupe of armed commandos in balaclavas, keeping us all safe.

Meanwhile up the coast, intrigued by our amphibious landings and all agog at sundry other top-secret-state of the art, war games with the US, so cleverly filmed by our ABC, a Chinese Peoples’ Liberation Army-navy spy ship is observed “aggressively” lurking off Queensland’s coast, within our Exclusive Economic Zone in the Coral Sea.

So much for Malcolm Turnbull’s 2016 ring of steel, encircling Australia’s northern waters, protecting our borders.

In NSW, Liberals savage each other before their national conference, a stoush billed as a clash between left and right factions in a fight for control of the party. The vote also is a proxy war between Abbott and Turnbull.

Abbott leads a push to include members in candidate pre-selection in a “democratic reform” move which will only lead to a return to right-wing branch-stacking. Above all, it will help ensure his own pre-selection, currently at risk.

His “Warringah motion”, for one member, one pre-selection vote which features speeches from windy, right-wing warrior, retired Major General Jim Molan receives 61% of the 1224 votes, taking NSW Liberals further to the right.

Abbott’s eager contribution to political conflict also includes the gift that keeps on giving, the legacy of his plebiscite on same-sex marriage, a cynical, last-minute tactic to prevent a party conscience vote. A non-binding, non-compulsory, snap postal plebiscite, a Clayton’s plebiscite,  “just to get a result” on same sex marriage, has been prepared by a secretive government keen to avoid having to take the issue to the next election.

Peter Dutton, an opponent of marriage equality, threw his extra-large hat into the postal vote ring last February, as did Matthias Cormann. If a postal vote can take place quickly, it will avoid the scenario where Liberal senator Dean Smith can bring his promised private member’s bill to his party room and to a parliamentary vote in August.

Gorgeous George Christensen is urging everyone to go postal, as is the Queensland Liberal National Party, which last week called upon the Coalition to conduct a mail-out plebiscite, a process which is predicted to favour the no case partly because young voters, who are more likely to vote yes, are believed to be less likely to return non-compulsory ballots.

A no vote is the outcome the party right, who run this government prefers, despite it being a minority view in parliament and in the nation. Abbott may be long deposed, but his spirit of evasion, tactical subterfuge and reality denial lives on in Turnbull’s era. Dutton steps up to swing the vast bulk of Home Affairs behind a postal ballot.

Sunday, Dutton is right on song with the quick and dirty idea that a voluntary postal vote would be a “much cleaner process” than a private member or a Labor bill. Dispensing with pleasantries, early, in a Sunday interview, he quickly assumes his super minister bully role with a resounding rebuff to his imaginary enemy, a left-wing ABC.

In a twist on his 2015 denunciation of the national “Jihadist” broadcaster, in league with Fairfax to do the government down, the paranoid and autocratic Dutton, as befits a newly anointed super minister, now sees the ABC as a culturally-flawed “worker’s collective” that has deviated from its charter. Shades of Donald Trump.

Like any self-respecting Coalition heavy, Dutton puts pressure on ABC’s MD Michelle Guthrie to further diminish the possibility of objective commentary or factual reporting impeding the processes of government. No holding to account. It’s proved a devastatingly effective tactic when combined with budget cuts or chronic under-funding.

“I hope that Michelle Guthrie can arrest some of that direction and bring it back to a more sensible position,” Dutton tells Sky News on Sunday. He also adds his signature dog-whistle, this time, to all of ABC’s right-wing critics.

“That’s been my long-held view of the ABC … and I haven’t seen anyone dispute that with any seriousness.”

No-one cares much any more about the ABC but Alex Greenwich, Australian Marriage Equality co-chair, a NSW independent MP, is quick to denounce Dutton’s call as a “political trick to override the role of parliament”.

“Any attempt to hold a non-binding and voluntary postal plebiscite will be seen as a pointless political trick to override the role of parliament and delay the settled will of the Australian people.”

Luckily Alan Tudge is on hand to advance the national conversation from political chicanery to statistical duplicity. Taking time out from extorting “overpayments” from innocent and often helpless Centrelink victims to provide tax cuts to the rich, while unemployment benefits stay unchanged since 1994, the Minister for Social Services and Neoliberal nurturing, declares poverty is all your own fault. Time again to blame the victim.

More welfare, he tells the tough-luvvies of the hard right CIS think-tank in Sydney, will do nothing to alleviate what is simply the result of your own dysfunctional family. He echoes Jeremy Sammut’s  remarkable piece in The Australian last year when he identified “bad parenting” as the real dysfunction. Helping only makes this worse.

“Long-term welfare dependence is a poison on the individual, it reduces people’s ability, it reduces people’s confidence,” Tudge tut-tuts. CIS members whose think tank enjoys long-term tax-free status as a charity, cheer.

Some Indigenous communities, he blusters, before singling out Wilcannia NSW, are at “saturation level” of funding. In an echo of the Coalition argument for reducing our investment in education by billions, he contends that more money won’t fix the problem. What’s needed is to address the causes, he reckons.

Yet Tudge’s list of causes or “pathways to poverty” reads suspiciously like effects. He cites welfare dependency, drug and alcohol abuse, family breakdown and poor education standards. More self-righteous victim blaming.

But there’s more. A late ray of sunshine across a wintry national stage, littered with the corpses of dud ideas, Tudge has a magic formula of “absolute deprivation” to redefine poverty as your ability to afford, food, clothing, education – compared with say, thirty years ago when even a neoliberal Hawke was vowing to end child poverty.

Calculating poverty from average household earnings, taking, for example, the OECD’s benchmark of 50% of median income, puts 3 million Australians, including 731,000 children, below the poverty line, is so passe.

Instead, argues Tudge, go back thirty years. Apply an absolute deprivation filter. Presto. A single unemployed person on $38 per day, today, is ten per cent better off than in the past. People with children are even wealthier.

It’s a cruel statistical hoax, of course. The reality is that poverty is increasing  as shown by a range of reputable researchers such as ACOSS. At least of third of those receiving social security live below the poverty line. It is highly likely, moreover, that poverty is under-reported but for this government, if you are poor, it is your own fault.

Tudge could go back to 1890 and find figures to prove that today’s poor are fat cats relatively speaking. But only if we accept a ludicrous formula which, among other flaws, ignores the soaring costs of accommodation and energy.

Blaming the victim and demonising the poor are not new trends. Nor is sophistry and wilful ignorance.

“People who have secure accommodation, decent food on the table, access to medical care and whose children go to school are not poor”, thundered The Australian in 2004, denouncing “the welfare lobby”‘s attempt to define poverty as earnings less than average weekly income. No matter that no such definition has ever been ventured.

Tudge continues to argue against increasing government spending on welfare. Spurious statistics are adduced to persuade us that a married couple on welfare now enjoys 38% greater benefit that a couple thirty years ago. Benefits have increased, he claims in real terms by 10% for a single person. It’s dangerous nonsense.

Tudge and his government are reviving a culture of cruelty, a mean-spiritedness which speaks against a culture of compassion or solidarity in favour of division and an ethos of competitive rivalry, a survival of the fittest in a type of neoliberal authoritarianism which threatens the very fundamentals of our welfare state and our civil society.

Aside from the cheer squaddies, others see Turnbull as a forlorn Theresa May figure, a PM in title only, cynically embracing fear-mongering and in no position to refuse his right-wing rival in a last-ditch bid to stay in power.

Butch Dutton’s elevation comes a day after the PM stages his weirdly dystopian press-terror show. It’s an ironic over the top homage to military fetishist Tony Abbott who followed his mentor Howard, in politicising the military. A beached assault vessel lurks behind masked ADF soldiers in camouflage gear who brandish automatic weapons to help the PM explain the ADF’s need for greater powers; expanding into domestic terror attacks.

As Guy Rundle writes, “up pops Malcolm, to announce a vast centralisation of state power in one department, and a weakening of the barrier between military and police operations in domestic matters.”

Dutton grins. Becoming super powerful is something he and his Immigration and Border Protection secretary, Mike Pezzullo, have been working on for some time, despite enjoying very mixed success with their day jobs.

Is it another of the PM’s cunning plans, a Turnbullian tactic which flouts all expert advice, common sense and the mind-numbing dullness of collegiate decision-making to buy off a right-wing challenge? Or is it capitulation?

Certainly, it’s another fracture in the image of reasoned collaboration and consensus-seeking. A day after deposing Tony Abbott, a junkyard dog of opposition promoted out of his depth, who sensibly left all big decisions to his chief of staff, Peta Credlin, Turnbull declared he was a Prime Minister who would listen to his peers.

“We need to restore traditional cabinet government. There must be an end to policy on the run and captain’s calls,” he said, in what proved to just the first step to becoming an answering-machine of high-sounding, crowd-pleasing promises he had no intention of keeping. And even less capacity. Now, even Greg Sheridan protests:

“The decision … to establish an omnibus, security-focused department of home affairs, with Peter Dutton leading the new ministry, changes the Prime Minister has ­described as the most important to the organisation of national ­security in 40 years, never once went to a full cabinet meeting for consideration.”

Nor was it taken to the cabinet national security committee for any deliberation or evaluation. “The Ayatollah”, as Turnbull was known in merchant banking, has returned with a vengeance. He’ll do anything to stay in power – he” even over-promote Peter Dutton whose record as a Minister is one of manifest serial incompetence .

Dutto’s promotion makes the former Queensland drug squad policeman,  aka J. Edgar Tuber,  the most powerful man in Australia. He’s now way above the PM atop a brand-new, instant, Super-Ministry of Home Affairs, a press-ganged crew of ASIO spooks, Border Force cowboys, our AFP and many others, none of whom were consulted and all of whom may be counted on to resist the amalgamation, especially when it comes to co-operation and sharing.

For all his high-sounding embrace of “the sensible centre”, a posturing which involved the reinvention of Menzies during his speech in London, Malcolm Turnbull has taken the Liberal Party and his government hard right. In this he may, indeed, prove tactically agile, moving to a position where Abbott’s attacks are unable to find him out. He may also as Guy Rundle suggests move closer than he knows to Ming’s reactionary and ruthless pragmatism.

In the process of shoring up his leadership, however, Turnbull has created a monster which is far more likely to prove a major liability rather than any streamlined, linked-up, co-ordinated, up to the minute anti-terror fighting machine or super ministry. Even the one voice in cabinet promise sounds like a problem. One voice three times?

The PM’s ignored good advice; a review of the intelligence system by two top mandarins, Michael L’Estrange and Stephen Merchant commissioned last November. These senior bureaucrats were advised by former senior British spook Sir Iain Lobban. Nowhere does their report propose an amalgamated Home Affairs ministry.

Not that it’s more than a bureaucratic exercise. For Bernard Keane, the review of Australia’s intelligence community is superficial; “a major, perhaps spectacular, missed opportunity, [which] skips critical thinking for bureaucratic insularity, empire-building and a bizarre indifference to the key issues of intelligence and national security.

Lots of new high-ranking bureaucratic positions will be created, however, in a process of systemic self-perpetuation. Naturally, both Turnbull and Morrison are pretending all will be cost-neutral.

Turnbull was not seeking depth or objectivity; rather a box to tick. In the process, however, he appears overly receptive to Peter Dutton whose secretary Mike Pezzullo is the architect of the Home Affairs concept in a process which rewards DIY empire building at the expense of any wider, objective or detailed view.

Home Affairs is what Dutton wants and what Turnbull thinks he could use; a recipe for disaster from day one. Then there are practical issues such as ASIO issuing warrants which will have to be signed off on by Brandis.

Apart from unease over the process, strains will naturally quickly appear in Home Affairs, a forced menage a trois of three separate government bodies, none of whom favour amalgamation – and with key issues unresolved – let alone under Dutton, a Minister who has struggled to administer the unhappy merger of Immigration and Customs.

Is the PM tongue in cheek when he praises the new model’s superior communication and collaboration potential? Peter Dutton is typically evasive, non-communicative or hostile. Of all ministers, he is the least responsive.

He has yet to explain why he misled the parliament and the Australian public when he asserted that shots were fired upon Manus Island Detention Centre on Good Friday this year in retaliation over the refugees’ suspected paedophile activity, an unsubstantiated slur. Greens Senator Nick McKim reports that after visiting Manus, he found that Dutton’s account was not supported on the ground.

“What I can say is that both the PNG police and Ronny Knight, and all of the detainees … are consistent in their positions, and that is that an event involving a small child had nothing whatsoever to do with the attack and the shooting, which obviously puts the lie to Peter Dutton’s version of events,” he says.

The super ministry is likely to get in its own way; confuse the allocation of counter-terrorism roles and responsibilities.  Yet the elephant in the room is the over-hyped terror threat which is its reason for being. Seriously. Despite Abbott’s rhetoric, Australia does not pose an existential threat from ISIS or any other group.

Talk it up all you will, Prime Minister, our nation’s terrorist experience is tiny – mercifully. As Mehdi Hasan writes, “there have been zero mass-casualty terror attacks on Australian soil since September 11, 2001.”

Or as Greg Austin, international security expert at the University of NSW, observed last October:

“More Australians have died at the hands of police (lawfully or unlawfully) in 10 years (50 at least from 2006 to 2015) or from domestic violence in just two years (more than 318 in 2014 and 2015) than from terrorist attacks in Australia in the last 20 years.”

The threat our nation faces from the right-wing of the Liberal Party and the puppet Turnbull government it runs is immeasurably greater than any external threat it must conjure in order to boost its dwindling authority.

While the super-ministry fiasco, a giant bureaucracy no-one except the PM needs and no-one except Peter Dutton and Mike Pezullo want reflects its manifestly inept decision-making, the Coalition’s fixation with neoliberal ideology is more pernicious and far more pervasive than any possible external terror threat.

A PM who truly cares about national security would look within. The war on terror is a hoax. The government’s capture by business, mining and banking has led it to inflict injustice and indignity including the cruel trickle-down fraud of $65 billion dollar tax breaks for business in the pretence of prosperity for all.

Forget the war on terror, Prime Minister. Spare us the weird theatricals. Look at rampant inequality fostered by your neoliberal economic policies. If you want better security, cease your war on the poor and the vulnerable, the cutting benefits and penalty rates. Address underemployment. Get real about enforcing working conditions and pay rates. Ensure that businesses pay a fair rate of tax.

Stop the demonising of the poor. Take the $65 billion you were going to give to the rich and boost pensions and benefits. Set an adequate minimum wage for the average worker. Invest in education. Health. Boosting living standards and reducing inequality will foster social cohesion. Real national security needs no super ministry.

 

 

 

 

 

Turnbull tries on Menzies’ mantle in another epic failure of judgement.

turnbull and queen

 

The Queen has embodied selfless public service, dignity, wisdom, leadership for and more magnificently than anyone alive today, there is not doubt.”


 

In a florid tribute which betrays more than he realises, a fawning Malcolm Turnbull, proclaims himself not only an Elizabethan but also a Republican, a surprisingly belated affirmation of a cause which he has shunned since being out-manoevered by John Howard in the skewed 1999 plebiscite. He also declares the Liberal Party is centrist.

It’s another incredible twist in a week of surprises as the PM extends his G20 junket to buddy up with Macron, hoping he won’t notice how we treat meeting our Paris Accord as a joke, return Abbott’s sniping, evade his fifteenth damning News Poll and do the dirty on the states on clean energy. All up, his grand tour is a tonic.

Saturday, Lazarus Mal is back, lurching to the right to massage Queensland Liberal Party prejudices. Coal-fired power opponents are “delusional”, he hollers. He’s all about energy security, stability and lower prices. The sunshine state is committed to coal-fired electricity. The coal bludgers also have the nation’s highest electricity prices.

In the real world, the US, our neocolonial dominatrix, leaves us in the lurch by not declaring war on North Korea after all. It also abruptly halts its processing refugees on Nauru, an ominous sign for Dutton and Turnbull’s US refugee swap deal .

The halt follows ABC’s Chris ” I only wrote what I was told to” Uhlmann’s honest and objective review of Trump as a total G20 failure, a your-emperor-has-no-clothes report which goes viral. Could the two events possibly be related?

Time to look more closely; first to Turnbull’s public coming out as an Elizabethan. It’s not the first time, as Judith Ireland reminds us, that the PM’s played the Elizabethan card. Last December he disappointed an Australian Republic movement sit-down do, at $150 a head, with his specious argument for not ditching the monarchy while Elizabeth reigned over us. The Queen is a vital tribal totem, as important to our identity as Vegemite.

So admired and respected is the Queen, he claims, that “few of us can say we are not Elizabethans”. Especially himself.

It’s a conundrum if not an identity crisis which annoys the Duke. “What’s wrong with these people? Prince Philip is reported to have said when the republican plebiscite failed in 1999. “Can’t they see what’s good for them?”

“They just couldn’t agree about the model”, replied Elizabeth. Little bull-dog, Howard, Order of Merit, had seen to that.

The 91 year old Queen, impeccably prepared, receives her Elizabethan-republican and recently proclaimed follower of Menzies’ Australian PM wearing her Ming bling brooch, a diamond-encrusted spray of wattle. It is a gift from a smitten Robert G Menzies, who “… did but see her passing by …” long enough to pin it on her during HM’s 1954 Commonwealth Tour.  It’s a sign Her Majesty trusts Turnbull won’t spoil things by raising The Palace letters relating to The Dismissal.

A Federal Court case to force the release of the letters, is set to begin in August, a move The Palace can veto, however, at any time, even after the 2027 embargo is up. Our figurehead of state still retains an extraordinary power.

Turnbull’s Palace reception lifts his spirits after the G20 letdown. He’s looking like a goose now war on North Korea is off the menu despite his urging and hectoring of China for letting its minion get dangerously and “recklessly” out of hand.

The Coalition’s attempt to jump the Trump was gazumped when the tweeter-in-chief failed to rail against North Korea. Not even an emoji escapes from under his thumbs alerting the twittersphere to the rogue state’s aim to nuke the world into oblivion. No idle-threatening. No behind the scenes lobbying. Not even a statement.

China and Russia objected to the G20 making any joint statement being made on North Korea and tougher sanctions, arguing the summit was an economic forum. Behind the scenes, our PM blames The Donald for his lack of leadership.

“… nobody round that table was defending the North Koreans, in terms of their conduct” at the G20 meeting in Hamburg, Turnbull tells Fairfax’s James Massola. Nor, however, was anyone making such a spectacular effort as Australia to support US Defence Secretary mad dog James Mattis’ anti-Kim madness in public. No-one else is that desperate to impress the US.

So embarrassing. The ABC has been dutifully screening endless loops of rockets and manic goose-stepping North Korean soldiers intercut with images of Kim taken on a bad hair day as Malcolm, Marise, Julie and Barnaby denounce the rogue.

“Experts” are quoted by Barnaby. Maps of the Top End appear on TV showing that all of North Queensland could be at risk of Kim’s nuclear warheads.  Darwin, anyway. Kim’s a monster, a one man yellow peril to be stopped at any price.

Yet there’s a bright side. Australia has done the world a favour by inadvertently exposing the hoax of international censure of Kim to be no more than a US-orchestrated beat up. It’s the same with every illegal invasion it has ever dragged us – however eagerly- into. So much for stable leadership. Full war alert one day; a deafening silence the next.

When the leader of the free world can’t even bother giving a press conference it leaves little even for a sycophantic media to embellish. Thank god for Malcolm and Lucy’s ride in the French President’s Falcon jet.

It’s a first, gushes Fairfax’s James Massola. Has Turnbull also persuaded Macron to withdraw France’s application to the UN Human Rights Council?  Over night, it seems, France is out, virtually guaranteeing Australia a place in October. Two years and hundreds of thousands of dollars has been well spent. Nothing to report here, though.

Turnbull’s keen to talk up our twelve submarines on order, a deal which is far from water-tight. He continues to pretend that a $50 billion investment in an untried concept is a stroke of genius. But he’s left treading water on the jobs hoax.

90% of the submarine build would take place in Australia, the government was promised. But in a senate committee hearing last month, French builder DCNS backed away from that commitment. DCNS has “no formal agreement” with ASC. The company now intends to “absorb” ASC workers, the ones David Johnston wouldn’t trust to build a canoe.

With a sinking feeling Turnbull returns to his own survival. He has a cunning plan to redefine the Liberals to exclude those who are giving him trouble. He’ll invoke Menzies. Portray him as a leftie. Brilliant. What could possibly go wrong?

Bill Shorten knows. He sticks his head up his holiday reading to lob a well-aimed zinger. “The Turnbull government is in the middle of an identity crisis and they’ve forgotten what their real job is – it’s to look after the country.”

Jeff Kennett doesn’t get it. “Why would you do it from overseas? Why would you throw a can of petrol onto a fire?”

“The Liberal Party has never been a conservative party”, asserts Turnbull, who knows he has nothing to lose. Moreover, he’s always been a PM who will say or do anything. He waxes historical in an address in London to Policy Exchange, deadly Dave Cameron’s favourite right wing think tank aka the “neo-con attack dog”. His audience glowers.

In 2009 Policy Exchange commissioned veteran opponent of wealth redistribution Peter Saunders to rebut Kate Picket and Richard Wilkinson’s case for reducing inequality. He denounced their book, The Spirit Level as a left-wing manifesto.

It’s an odd mob to tell “Menzies did not want his party to be reactionary”. But Turnbull has a wider audience.

It’s my party, not yours, Tony, is his message to his nemesis. It’s part of his thank speech to PE for its “Disraeli Award” for his government’s “non-discriminatory policies which help make Australia a land of opportunity”.  Last year, a report found a we’d only taken one sixth of the Syrian refugees we promised a year earlier. It takes time to pick the Christians.

Are we getting a Disraeli for stopping the boats? Our offshore detention policy is based on discrimination. On Manus Island, the PNG government cuts the power off to force 800 refugees into a transit centre in the town. The men fear for their safety and they fear abandonment. Fear makes us feel our humanity wrote Disraeli. Or not.

The government deal with the US to swap the refugees who will never be allowed into Australia has fallen in a heap. Opportunity? Julie Bishop on ABC Insiders Sunday skitters away. Blames Labor. Keeping a straight face, the prim white hope of Liberal leadership assures us “the process” will be resumed after 1 October. “…as the President promised…”

She repeats the lie that “Australia is one of the most generous countries in the world since the second world war.”

Our annual humanitarian intake of around 20,000 people is far from generous when placed in a historical context. In 1949, when there were 60 million global refugees and Australia had 8 million we gave refuge to almost 75,000 people.

“Processing” is a cruel farce. What could there be to discover after years of our multi-billion dollar Immigration  Dept processing? The US has threatened extreme vetting without deigning to explain what it means. The truth is that it is just something Trump made up in a speech. In the meantime the hopes of 800 men continue to be abused.

The camp will be completely demolished in October. Yet the government has no plan whatsoever – apart from the punt on Trump following through on Obama’s offer. Apart from all its inhumanity, Manus is a debacle. Dutton would have been asked to resign in any other but a Turnbull government. Instead, he is about to be given a promotion.

The award is a set up. Or ironic. Never was any recipient less deserving, politically or personally. But it’s an irresistible opportunity to bloviate, slap down Abbott and rebadge, if not reinvent, the party to suit his own, current, orientation.

An insufferable egomaniac, only Turnbull would attempt such a party trick; remaking the Liberals in his own image.

Normally no-one would notice. But when he claims the Liberal Party sits in the “sensible centre of politics” howls of outrage erupt from the party’s reactionaries, even though he’s craftily borrowed the phrase from tin-eared Abbott.

Jeff Kennett and Eric Abetz, who delude themselves they and their party are conservative, go right off. Barking. Acting PM Barnaby Joyce, nearly drops his Adani tar-baby. The Coalition has become “a philosopher’s club”.  In Barnaby’s barnyard, as in Craig Kelly’s cave or Jeff’s shed only tossers give a toss about ideas. Let’s tell it like it is, he snarls.

“In North Queensland, they have 20% unemployment. You know the only thing they want to hear? How you are going to get them a job? You know what they want to hear in regional areas? How you are going to invest in infrastructure, like inland rail.” There’s a lot of such reductive nonsense aired in regional seats but Barnaby’s blarney hits a new low.

The deputy PM’s nitty gritty is a myth. Inland rail is a hollow promise which has been repeated by Liberals and Nationals since 1996. It is unlikely to even pay its way – even if you could get it funded – let alone deliver a job bonanza but Barnaby’s one of the government’s big picture men.  Politics all comes down to a lump of coal or a barrel of pork.

The original inland train of thought envisaged a parallel energy corridor. Perhaps a natural gas pipeline that doesn’t have to contend with environmentalists is what really piques Barnaby’s interest today. As Tony Windsor points out it would harness a populist issue to to solve the problem of gas permits, access across private lands and NSW energy demands.

If it is, he concludes, maybe it’s time for some honesty. Instead, the acting PM opts for a poor man’s Bob Katter routine.

Joyce riffs a front bar ear-bash.

“They look at political candidates and say ‘have you ever actually lived, mate? Do you know what it’s like to not have any money in your wallet? Do you know what it’s like to think, shit, I’m want a life with dignity and I’m on the pension, and I can’t actually afford food, so how do I do this and keep my dignity in this town?’”

His rhetoric is as empty as the dead centre. Barnaby may have moved his office from Sydney to Armidale, but it’s all he’s done to “grow regional jobs”. His mob, moreover, tends to look out for the wealthy while it turns its back on the battler.

The Turnbull government cuts assistance to families. In March, Coalition welfare cuts included a two-year freeze on the indexation of the Family Tax Benefit. As a result the payment will no longer increase to keep pace with inflation.

Money in your wallet? Joyce was silent when his government phased out the Energy Supplement for pensioners.

Centrelink’s robo-claw automated debt recovery, should help Joyce’s constituents retain their dignity. Cutbacks to hospitals and schools are morale boosting. Character building. So, too the decision to keep pensions so low a third of pensioners are on the poverty-line.

Penalty rate cuts are other helpful Coalition “reforms” which help make the unexamined life worth living.

Duty bound to stop the rot, Eric Abetz looks for someone else to blame. With the ease of long experience he quickly finds a scapegoat. “Hysterical media have decided to dishonestly spin the speech in such a way to inflame tensions.”

He’s heard the speech. It’s “a great speech; a unifying speech”. Undone now by the media who seem to have had time to sit down and collude to mis-report it. In tandem, Dutton still wages war on the leftist, Jihadist ABC.

Has Turnbull been misreported? There’s not a skerrick of evidence for Abetz assertions. It’s easy to locate the text of his speech, posted promptly after the event. But that’s not the point of his tactic. He’s commenting on some comments, a tack the Liberals always swear they are not going to take as if you can be an MP without giving opinions.

Let’s return to Turnbull’s argument, despite Abetz attempt at distraction. It’s a great stretch to see Turnbull as any type of Menzies. Our protean PM, whose identity, legitimacy, credibility and authority are all always works in progress, is brave, moreover to align himself with Menzies, a man who when he wasn’t trying to outlaw the communist party or despatch our chaps off to stop the dominos of communism falling from Viet Nam on to Australia.

Menzies would have hated Turnbull. Ming whinged to his daughter, Heather Henderson, in 1974,

“The main trouble in my state is that we have the State Executive of the Liberal Party, which is dominated by what they now call ‘Liberals with a small l’ – that is to say, Liberals who believe in nothing but still believe in anything if they think it worth a few votes. The whole thing is tragic.”

The speech goes down well with a few party sycophants. Christopher Pyne praises it as an “historically accurate rendition of the party’s foundational principles.”

” Considered and powerful”, says Josh Frydenberg says, a public speaking connoisseur. Julie Bishop loves it to bits.

Yet not every Liberal is tickled pink.  Jeff Kennett turns the air beyond blue. Abetz saddles up his inquisitorial war horse.

Lying rodent, John Howard, who carefully blocked progressives throughout his long period in office and over promoted the likes of Abbott, helpfully tells the press that the Liberal Party will always have room for conservatives before blowing any question of political judgement by mounting a case not to prejudge Donald Trump. But the rot’s set in.

Sole, surviving Tasmanian Liberal Senator, Eric Abetz can sniff decay like a Lagotto Romagnolo can snout a truffle. A man on a mission, his hypervigilance once helped him proclaim a link between abortion and breast cancer. Lynx-eyed, he, alone, could see treason in rainbow flags in government offices, discerning flags of “a cause” and of “a hostile nation.

“Australian policies for gay and lesbian citizens had caused them to plant a flag in the Coral Sea Islands of the Great Barrier Reef, naming their own nation and declaring war on Australia”, said activists in 2004. Eric remembers.

Eric loves to keep the nation up to the mark. It’s a tough love. In May, the former Abbott employment minister whose PM’s approach to policy was notoriously underdone, he had the hide to call public servants professional slackers.

It’s not an easy call even for black-pot Eric. As Liberal Party affiliate Judith Sloan, notes Abetz did not impress many with his work effort himself. “The ineffective Workplace Relations minister, Eric Abetz,” she writes “submitted a number of relatively inconsequential and technical amendments of the Fair Work Act to the Senate, but they were rejected”.

When Yassmin Abdel-Magied dares voice opinion on our challenged system of government, he shows her the door,

‘If Ms Abdel-Magied thinks our system of government is so bad perhaps she should stop being a drain on the taxpayer and move to one of these Arab dictatorships’. Ouch. No good at her job? Doesn’t deserve to be here? It’s Eric’s way.

It’s government by dog whistling the unhinged, and with his help, the nation sees a wave of xenophobic anti-muslim, misogyny hurled at Julia Baird who declares Yassmin Al-Magied the latest woman to be roasted on the public spit.

Few can sniff conspiracy like Abetz and he’s as daft as David Leyonhjelm on the nonsense of political correctness being a leftist plot; a tyranny. Call him an “angry white man” and he’ll be quick to tell you that’s racial vilification.

And so it is this week, brows beetling, nostrils twitching, our national guardian of the straight and narrow spots a perfidious plot. Media twist the PM’s words. Turnbull may be fighting for his political life but Eric won’t let the press lead us up the garden path. Let hacks laugh themselves silly over the PM’s hubris and deception in “sensible centre”.

Abetz wilfully misses the point. Turnbull’s “sensible centre” is a dig at his nemesis Abbott, an expression of a hatred that cannot speak its name. Menzies, he says,” chose the name Liberal” because he never wanted a conservative party.

Never is no time at all in politics. But never conservative? Think energy; marriage equality or tax cuts for the wealthy. Think equal pay for women. And so much more. What can he mean? It’s a “Tony Abbott slapdown”, scream News Corp’s Tory Shepherd, Peter Jean and Sheradyn Holderhead, who are always keen to sell ringside seats to a stoush.

An anti-Liberal media conspiracy or an anti-Turnbull plot? Regardless of what he means, in the wider view, Eric Abetz is on to something huge. Attacking the media when you don’t like the message. And he’s a front-line combatant.

From America’s Tweeter in Chief’s battle with fake news to Saudi Arabia’s tussle with Al Jazeera, originally a BBC outpost until it ran factual news reports on Saudi Arabia and found its satellite switched off, the world is at war with reporters who tell the truth. What’s needed is good news; positive news; news that’s a faithful echo of its master’s voice.

Luckily news comes this week that some of this will be fixed. Australia awaits the financial wizardry being performed on Channel 10 as it is being transformed by the alchemy of limited liability from a bankruptcy into another successful Murdoch venture. A nurturing Turnbull government has slashed TV station licence fees.

News reports invariably barrack for 10 as if it were some benevolent charity. Even voluntary administration, a process which could see 17,000 ordinary investors lose everything is cheered from the sidelines.

A Fox News type channel may well eventuate, a sign of the times which can only cheer on the sensible centrists in power.

An equally chilling sign is is Turnbull’s dip into a think tank to ” get his message out”  So much of the Coalition’s political discourse is shaped by an echo-chamber of think tanks, shock jocks and Murdoch hacks; a claque of noisy, like-minded, powerful voices who also just happen to dictate so much of party policy. Little wonder the electorate despairs.

Turnbull is in serious trouble. His leadership is in tatters. His credibility is spent. Evidence accumulates on all fronts of a government in crisis largely as a result of its own indecision and poor policy.  The problem will not to be solved, however, by sophistry; by redefining the party as small “l” liberal to exclude its conservative critics.

In promoting the sensible centre, the Prime Minister is looking to his own survival and settling, tellingly for another clever trick. Instead, he should address his government’s many real failures of policy in energy, education, environment, immigration and economics. Standing up to the mutinous few in his crew will do more to put his ship to rights than trying to change its flag.

G20 No Ode to Joy.

g20 hamburg

Ode to joy, the final movement of Beethoven’s ninth symphony, buoys the spirits of G20 leaders as they gather with groupies, minders and hangers-on, Friday, in Hamburg’s magnificent Elbphilharmonie concert hall, a glittering crystal palace soaring high above its brick foundation, once the base of an old cocoa warehouse.  The building is a triumphal monument to high culture towering over the hoi polloi swarming Germany’s busiest port below.

“It’s a hymn to humanity, peace and international understanding,” purrs G20 host German Chancellor Angela “Mutti” (mother) Merkel, explaining why she chose Beethoven’s last major work at a time of unprecedented international conflict and brutality. The choice of venue, a sanctuary for a privileged elite speaks for itself.

As host, Germany also sets the agenda. No-one is looking to the US for leadership.  The G20 is now the G19.

Keen to move delegates beyond their habitual GDP fetish, Merkel inserts health into the G19+1 agenda. The only leader to have attended all twelve gabfests, she knows what will work. Perhaps she recalls Australia’s failure.

Who can forget the embarrassment of watching Tony Abbott in 2014 as he bizarrely sought to recruit world leaders’ into his local political challenge of imposing a GP co-payment? Was he winging it? His retreat into domestic politics perplexed leaders as much as Hockey’s call for 2% plus growth with no idea how to get there.

Australian media have already set their own agenda, of course, with our ABC hyping “military action” on North Korea endlessly before the G20. Effortlessly it recycles clichés of “rogue state”, “hermit state” and now “client state” in its mission to support a Turnbull government reduced to echoing or second-guessing US foreign policy.

It’s a crisis. No-one, including its president seems to knows what US has planned for North Korea but acting PM Barnaby, Kamikaze, Joyce says we’ll back any trade sanctions which it may impose on China, a posture Julie Bishop affirms on her return from the US. North Korea may nuke North Australia, any moment, Barnaby assures us.

Incredibly, cool hand Luke, David Johnston, Defence’s chief of joint operations, disagrees. The likelihood Pyongyang would even target Australia is “low”. Even if they had the means. Media outlets, naturally, ignore him. Who could pass up an excuse to screen images of goose-stepping troops? Shots of rockets belching flames?

We are unlikely to be on North Korea’s hit list, confirms University of Tasmania missile systems expert James Dwyer on ABC Radio and later on Sunday’s TV news in a rare and commendable correction to Joyce’s hysteria.

Psychologist Lissa Johnson cautions, however, that we are more likely to believe Barnaby rather not. We struggle to accommodate an uncomfortable truth in a process known as system justification.

“The more that a person feels dependent, powerless and vulnerable, at the mercy of a system over which they have no control, the more terrifying it is to think that the system is deeply flawed.”

In a post truth, Trumpocene era, moreover, truth is losing its value as society’s reserve currency while legitimate scepticism is yielding place to pernicious relativism warns The Guardian’s Matthew D’Ancona.

“Emotional resonance”, he adds, or gut feeling – a narrative that gives visceral meaning – increasingly means more than fact or evidence. The vibe. Certainly there’s a vibe to Ode to Joy, a revolutionary anthem.

Ode to Joy forms a touching counterpoint to the cries of protesters as they rise above the sirens of Hamburg Police’s tank-like police water cannons rumbling far below. Plumes of acrid smoke arise from cars set alight.

Almost all of the 100,000 who are in Hamburg to protest are non-violent. The same cannot be said of the societies represented around the G20 conference table.  Or the state-sponsored violence. Everyday lives in US, Russia or Saudi Arabia are among the world’s least peaceful according to The Global Peace Index 2017.

Violence may cost 12.6% of world GDP in 2016 or $14.4 trillion in purchasing power parity.

Even harder to measure is the violence done to those suffering austerity budgeting such as Greece which has been forced by its lenders such as the European Central Bank to agree to further spending cuts, pension reductions and tax rises in order to unlock emergency funds. The bank is a key G20 player, safe inside the towering concert hall.

Formed in 2008 to fix the GFC, the G20 pursues something called stable and resilient economic growth, a task which consists mainly of putting on a talk show. No-one except MSM which hypes a Putin-Trump showdown and a North Korean slapdown and, of course, the odd grand-standing politician expects it do anything more.

The European Central Bank, in its 2014 study, for example, concludes the annual group of twenty meeting has no effect on anything much. Merkel is hopeful in adding a health ministers’ discussion. Or shrewdly courting votes.

Those who dismiss the G20 as international capitalism talking to itself in public should, however, look beyond the windy free market rhetoric and neoliberal truisms, to its role as political theatre. This year the drama is vastly enriched by a reality TV presidency who adds all the bullying, bitching and backstabbing banality of Celebrity Apprentice or in the Putin-Trump kiss and tell feature segment, a good dollop of Farmer Takes a Wife.

Yet there are rules and expectations. Much tut-tutting is heard, for example, when soi-disant feminist, Ivanka Trump, deputises for her father when Donald has to duck out unexpectedly of a Saturday meeting for some undisclosed one on one discussion. Perhaps his attention-span is playing up again.

No biggie. Unless you want to get picky about the Trump family firm’s teamwork. Or nepotism. Or where the Presidency involves the national interest rather than Trump Inc business. Or Ivanka’s potential benefit.

A White House spokesman opaquely explains:

“… the topic involved areas such as African development, areas that will benefit from the facility just announced by the World Bank.” The White House adds that other leaders had their seats filled by others. But not by family.

There’s clearly more to the G20 show than just a lot of hot air. It’s a ritual re-enactment of how international capitalism, hopelessly diseased by neoliberal faith, helps the rich get richer at the expense of the poor. Austerity budgeting or slashing public spending or balancing budgets with maximum suffering is part of its reason for being.

Whilst Germany’s Chancellor may be a neoliberal pin-up abroad, not everyone’s a fan at home. In the eyes of many Europeans, Merkel rivals IMF MD Christine LaGarde as fiscal austerity’s door-bitch.

“The policies of Angela Merkel and Wolfgang Schaeuble have no doubt contributed to the deep crises in the European Union since 2008, to the isolation of a dominant German government and, through a relentless insistence on austerity, to high unemployment outside Germany,” Vice Chancellor Gabriel argues.

The G20 takes place amid galloping global inequality caused by globalisation. Just eight men now own the same wealth as half the world, Oxfam reminds us in its January 2017 report Economy for the ninety-nine per cent.  One in ten people survive on less than $2 per day. There are huge inequalities within societies such as pay for women.

On present trends, it will take 170 years before women are paid the same as men.

Big business and the super-rich fuel our inequality crisis by dodging taxes, driving down wages and using their power to influence politics. Oxfam, doubtless, along with many protesters in Hamburg seek a fundamental change in the way we manage our economies so that they work for all people, and not just a fortunate few.

Inequality is trapping hundreds of millions in poverty; it is fracturing our societies and undermining democracy,  says Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International.

“Across the world, people are being left behind. Their wages are stagnating yet corporate bosses take home million dollar bonuses; their health and education services are cut while corporations and the super-rich dodge their taxes; their voices are ignored as governments sing to the tune of big business and a wealthy elite.

The sparkling new high rise concert hall, however, insulates delegates beautifully from tens of thousands who protest far below. As it is, a police lockdown causes five guests, including Malcolm Turnbull to miss the start.

Turnbull doubtless has time to take in the word from the street of Nick Dearden of Global Justice Now.

“The model itself is broken.” We need a new model to undermine the racism and thuggery of Trump and his ilk—one that values human life before the profits of the superrich.”

20,000 well-equipped police use pepper spray, water cannon as well as underwater and aerial drones to protect 38 square kilometre designated ‘no protest zone’. 74 police officers and several protesters are reported hurt.

Outlawing protest would meet with Malcolm Turnbull’s approval. The “no protest zone” in Hamburg parallels initiatives taken by Australian federal and state governments to curb dissent, erode protest rights and press freedom in order increase state power and ensure vested business interests are protected.

Turnbull could swap stories with Merkel about changes to laws in NSW which make it harder to protest about mining. Police were given new powers to stop, search and detain protesters and seize property. Peaceful protests could be shut down on the grounds that they obstruct traffic. The offence of “interfering” with a mine, is expanded to cover coal seam gas exploration and extraction sites. It carries a seven year jail penalty.

The Inclosed Lands, Crimes and Law Enforcement Legislation Amendment (Interference) Bill 2016,[2] follows similar laws targeting Tasmanian anti-logging protesters[3] and Western Australian environmentalists.[4] The bill confers expanded powers on police and increases penalties for protesters.

Australia’s G20 mission, however, seems to be couched in terms of echoing The White House’s spin of the moment on North Korea, along with our usual rhubarb about freeing up trade and investment. Climate is talked up and there are always opportunities to repeat the furphy that we are world leaders in re-settling refugees.

Sky News lets us know of a leader-level discussion behind closed doors on terrorism, Friday, where Mr Turnbull calls for cyberspace to be treated “just as seriously as the battlefield” in countering Islamic State. It’s all part of the fertile war footing and anti-terror alarmism that helps our government increase surveillance, discourage dissent and curtail human rights, including indefinite detention much to the horror of  Human Rights Watch .

Such moves, especially detention were likely to radicalise potential terrorists HRW protested in its submission to government last October. Yet “cyber”, as it is now called, by dangerous Dan Tehan, is a great distractor and a wonderful way to convey the illusion that a government that has trouble keeping Medicare numbers private or getting its Robocall debt recovery right, is somehow hard at work protecting every hard-working Australian.

Dan is also careful to tell us that cyber is not all defence. In some unspecified way, we are to wage cyber war as well. How our first hack capability will be implemented is unsaid. What’s certain is the IT industry will be happy. IBM will be delighted to atone for its census fail.

Dan tells us, deathlessly, that “The Defence Signals Directorate will be given legal authority to expand offensive cyber operations from a military role to civilian targets overseas. It’s breathtaking stuff – even if it does look like a tactical diversion from a government which is bitterly divided and poorly led.

‘As of tomorrow, Australia will have an information warfare division within Defence. This is a result of the changing character of contemporary conflict,’ Tehan declares. It’s so innovative and hush-hush nobody knows any details.

Clearly Australia is at war. The subtext is that of our ongoing war on Islam, a conflict which is conflated with the War on Terror, an epic invention of George Bush, along with WMD, lies which were somehow meant to help find and punish those responsible for the attack on the World Trade Centre and which led us into war in Afghanistan.

Now, however, Trump’s advisers want us to know that we are all at war with Jihadist Islamic fascism.

In a rare show of lucidity, US tweeter-in-chief, Donald Trump reads a speech in Poland as a type of prelude to the G20 – an off G20 show. It’s an amazing success. Authorities bus in hundreds of spectators from the countryside to ensure the President is shown in a square which seems packed with cheering fans. The Donald is deliriously happy.

The speech itself, however is pure Steve Bannon, Trump’s new chief strategist, who argues that the West is in “the very beginning stages of a brutal and bloody conflict . . . against jihadist Islamic fascism,” while KT McFarland, his new deputy national security advisor, argues that we are engaged in a “long war” against radical Islam. The idea is endorsed by former national security adviser and lobbyist for the Turkish government Michael Flynn.

Trump’s address and the rants of his ratbag minders owe much to Harvard academic the late Samuel P Huntington, who decries the clash of civilizations, American decline, and sees a West encircled by enemies. Immigration is hugely bad too.

It’s a text both for our times and for our politicians. It proposes a beguilingly simple, albeit paranoid and unrealistic, theory to explain a complex world. The downside is that it provides nothing to guide any policy. Beyond that it is reductive, distorts reality and misrepresents the complex causation of warfare.

Will our US vassal government take up the Donald’s vision of the clash of civilisations? Highly likely. Already, there is more than a hint, in the PM’s warnings that terrorists hate our way of life and despise our values, spurious, dangerous, notions that probably also inspire our new citizenship test and oath of allegiance if we allowed a peep.

At the end of the G20, however, the ABC is reduced to applauding our PM for having hitched a ride in French President Macron’s car, a brilliant move which is seen as endorsing the incredible submarine deal with DCNS in which we are contracting to spend $50 billion on a completely untried design on a concept of retro-fitting nuclear power plants that experts doubt is even possible. All for a firm that won’t keep its promise of local work.

Our media gives us the score on the G20. Sky says it ends “divided” on climate and free trade. What Sky means is that all delegates agreed except Donald Trump, a president so challenged, intellectually and morally that he cannot comprehend the crisis of global warming, let alone the imperative take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Not that he’s alone. Back at home while the cat’s away, Mouseketeer Abbott is leading his insurrection.

In the end, the truth is more prosaic. The US under Trump has failed to exercise global leadership on climate and trade. The world enters uncharted territory with China and Germany and Russia all keen to muscle in on the US act. Yet as Turnbull notes, the US has a role from which it is impossible to abdicate, given its size and power.

The G20 cheer squad for international capitalism has met yet again to further its own interests, in a Hamburg crystal palace high above the masses below.

Deaf to all entreaties, heedless of the suffering caused by their Neoliberal nostrums, their austerity budgeting, tax cuts for the rich and trickle down economics, the G20 represents an abdication of humanity which the unassailable optimist, Beethoven, inspired by the liberty equality and fraternity of The French revolution would be sorely troubled by.

Abbott’s attack will finish Turnbull

abbott and turnbull scary

 

“It’s not that easy being green …” sings Kermit, the sage of Sesame Street, a truth NSW Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon helps her party revisit in a wild week of backstabbing, slagging, poodle-poking and character assassination as our federal MPs let it all hang out in the bare-knuckle, free for all stoush that is our nation’s endless quest for effective, decorous and representative political leadership.

“When it comes to political white-anting, Lee is the Greens’ version of Tony Abbott,” says Bob Brown. Ouch.

In January, he bagged Rhiannon’s moves to challenge the party’s direction under Richard Di Natale’s leadership.

Rhiannon wants her mob to follow Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn and stress its left-wing policies on economic redistribution.  She leads a debate between her “Eastern Bloc” on the party’s left and the more conservative environmentalists or “Tree Tories” who currently suck up to an anti-greenie government.

It’s a tough gig. Pilloried by MSM for her socialist parents, profiled by ASIO as a subversive revolutionary and attacked as a Leninist-Stalinist by News Corp’s Gerard Henderson – who also falsely accused her of being a communist, Rhiannon was asked by Bob Brown to quit the senate last July – just a month after being elected.

In response, the senator accuses her former leader of resenting that NSW preselected candidates are not his preferred nominees. Yet, in an open season of sniping and undermining, she is accused of betrayal. Brown says the rules provide for her to be expelled from the Greens’ Party Room and even to lose her party membership.

A case is building against her. Last week, all nine of her federal colleagues accused Rhiannon of undermining them over school funding negotiations after she distributed a leaflet in Sydney’s inner west against the deal.

The NSW Greens see Gonski 2:0 as a con. It’s neither needs-based nor sector blind. In fact, it guarantees 80 % of federal funds to the wealthy, private system. It has been imposed without state or public school consultation.

Rhiannon says the pamphlet is a local initiative. She has done nothing wrong. Her protests will, doubtless, come to little but they do make her a top scapegoat. Many teachers will see NSW as the only Greens to get it right.

Beneath all the fuss and alongside the left and right divisions, a grassroots party controlled by members struggles against the power imposed by few at the top in what John Passant calls a battle for the soul of The Greens.

An ugly public brawl ensues. Bugger consensus politics. Di Natale generously tells the Left Renewal faction their anti-capitalist rhetoric is ridiculous and that they should join another party. Critics accuse Di Natale of shaping The Greens into a potential coalition partner for the Liberals; point to his record of support for Coalition legislation.

Rhiannon is disappointed in Richard’s leadership, she tells Barrie Cassidy, on ABC Insiders, Sunday. Rather than explore the issue, Cassidy is keen to seek more details of the conflict but, like Kermit, the senator is philosophical.

“Sometimes democracy is messy”, says Rhiannon. She wins this week’s Golden Litotes for understatement of the week. Her thought is echoed and debased by Tony Abbott who proposes streamlining democracy to fix Senate obstructionism and resolve deadlock through a joint sitting of both houses to pass deadlocked bills.

Australia “increasingly resembles Italy”, facing chronic changes of PM and an inability to get things done, the MP whose career in and out of The Lodge is a byword for instability and policy paralysis Abbott explained straight-faced to a South Australian Young Liberals Federal Convention in Adelaide in February.  

Or the UK. The young Libs may have lost a little sparkle as results filtered in at their UK Election champagne breakfast 9 June. Thank God guest speaker, nuclear lobbyist Haydon Manning was on hand to liven things up.  

Manning is all too happy to help. Our nation’s politics is vastly enriched by an ever-growing army of lobbyists, think-tankers, bold ideas-men and women and former leaders who fearlessly shirtfront the onion of democracy.  

The Centre for Independent Studies, for example, helped inspire Tony Abbott to cut the last two years of Gonski – for public schools, while continuing to fund the private system, a favouring of privilege continued in Gonski 2.0. Research Fellow Simon Cowan, one of its policy wonks, whipped up a nifty monograph on nuclear subs, too.

Then there’s “green lawfare”. An IPA and mining industry campaign against environmental groups raged under Abbott. It continues under Turnbull. What constitutes an “environmental organisation” will be redefined to strip such groups of their charitable status and is an “attack on Australian democracy”, warn legal experts.

The IPA would like to see environmental groups denied all government funding, a position they articulated in 2011. Their services to tidying up democracy, Abbott-style include selling the federal government the idea of imposing restrictions on advocacy, such as gag clauses and threats to curtail groups’ advocacy activities.

Emily Howie, a Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre warns:

“A thriving democracy needs an informed public debate with a range of voices. However, governments are making it clear to charities that work with families and communities doing it tough, that if they speak out about government policy, their ongoing funding will be put in jeopardy.”

Apart from the threat to free speech, the ban on advocacy adds another dimension; another layer of urgency to the Greens’ current existential struggle to maintain its own traditional social and environmental advocacy.

Greens’ harakiri or ritual disembowelment is just a warm-up act, however, to the hype, the trash-talk and the stare-downs of the World Championship Wrestling theatrics of our federal MPs who eye-gouge, hair pull and scissor-kick viciously in a desperate, no-holds-barred, last-ditch bid to upstage each other. Or worse.

Exterminate. Exterminate. Top of the bill is Dalek Abbott, a self-promoting attention-seeker and professional wrecker, programmed to destroy his nemesis Malcolm Turnbull in a fit of pathological hatred and payback.

A one-man opposition party, a self-described “whirling dervisher”, Abbo busts a gut this week to bag his nemesis Malcolm Turnbull, even if he has to destroy the Liberal Party in the process. He pulls out all the stops.

It’s a multi-faceted act. Upstage so far he’s in danger of being electrocuted by the footlights, Abbott promises to build new coal-fired power stations and freeze migration. A true-blue Rinehart Cowboy, he will Make Australia Work again by opening more mines, cutting government spending and scrapping his own renewable energy target. Best of all he dog whistles up our safety. No more known jihadists will run loose in our streets.

Wait. There’s more. Nuclear submarines. Raising the nation’s awareness of relevance deprivation disorder, wacky weirdo Abbott easily wins our public service award. His brave stand-up comic routine, Permission to Lower the Scope is fittingly staged by his loyal supporters at the Centre for Independent Studies, Thursday, in its leak-proof Sydney think tank. Tony goes off like a frog in a sock. The CIS love him. How he adds to the national conversation.

Tony’s all for nuclear submarines, all week, although Defence Minister, Marise Payne is unconvinced. She’s right.  Abbott had ample time to declare himself a fan of floating reactors well before his prime ministership sank before the end of its maiden voyage. He just wants to scuttle Turnbull. Party-pooper Payne fires a salvo across his bows.

“We don’t have a civil nuclear industry, we don’t have the personnel or the experience or infrastructure, we don’t have the training facilities or regulatory systems that you would need to design to operate to construct a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines,” she says.

Apart from that, Tony, you know all this. You made the call. Remember. When you were briefly PM. Ouch again.

“What we are in fact doing is delivering the plan to acquire the plan that was set out and agreed by Tony Abbott and his team in 2015,” she says. It’s a forlorn appeal to a former PM who put the flip into flip flop commitment, the MP who warned Kerry O’Brien that he often lied – “gospel truth is those carefully prepared scripted remarks”

For Fairfax’s Jason Wilson, who builds a case that Abbott is a loose unit, “This was not only a blunder, but a revelation of the kind of confessional impulse that needs a national stage. After a while, you start to feel like a therapist, sitting in silence while Abbott regales us with his symptoms.”

In fact, as PM, Abbott ignored a sub submission from Australia’s peak defence industry group in May 2015. Australian Industry Group Defence Council chairman Chris Jenkins and Australian chief of French Industry giant Thales, told him to reconsider a nuclear option for replacing the ageing Collins class subs. It remains a great pitch.

No need to worry about having no local nuclear plant. New subs are so efficient they almost never require maintenance. No need to build if you don’t want to. Just lease a few of the bastards off the yanks. Trained crew? These babies practically steer themselves. What could possibly go wrong?

Now, torn by regret, lyrically, ever the tragic ham, Abbott cries. “Not more robustly challenging the nuclear no-go mindset is probably the biggest regret I have from my time as PM.” It’s pure, dramatic, poetry in a performance guaranteed to heighten anyone’s sense of the cruel suffering inflicted on those deprived of relevance.

His biggest regret? Even by Abbott’s yardstick, it’s an utterly incredible claim. But the CIS can’t get enough of him.

A powerful right wing lobby group which styles itself an Australian Libertarian think tank, the CIS is a big wheel in the oxymoron of Australian conservative politics. Tony’s no Tory; more of a radical ratbag with a grab bag of soundbite ideas. Some are socialist. Take state coal power. Yet his attention-seeking is a win-win for both parties.

Like the IPA, which set most of the Abbott government’s agenda, the CIS also keeps its donors’ names secret but it will get great mileage out of publicising the former PM’s nuclear conversion as evidence of its capacity to influence even those of our political class, like Trump, who are notoriously difficult to brief in anything but sketch outlines.   

In return, Abbott is able to strut his stuff, this week, in front of both IPA and CIS, Australia’s most conservative and influential think tanks. The exposure can do his campaign no harm. A successful spill is impossible, he has only a handful of backers, but his regular sniping and undermining helps Turnbull toward the magic 30 dud News Polls.

Showing off his capacity as a quick nuclear study is a bonus for Abbott. His game plan is to highlight Turnbull’s not so secret plan to convert to nuclear its diesel submarines from French builder DCNS, despite no conversion ever having been done. The hulls are shaped differently. Some experts doubt it can be done.

The first DCNS Shortfin Barracuda submarine is not scheduled until the 2030s. Whilst the late delivery gives plenty of time to work out a solution to the retrofitted nuclear propulsion problem, it also means that the Collins subs will have to remain in service until the 2040s, becoming less safe as they age and requiring expensive refits.

Technical issues alone mean the whole project is a huge blunder, according to Jon Stanford  a director of Insight Economics and past head of the Industries Division in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

“If you asked someone to devise a new submarine program with the highest risk factors at every stage, you could not have done a much better job. It will almost certainly end in tears and possibly a catastrophe,” a senior defence official told The Daily Telegraph in September last year.

Yet with a commitment to a drawing – “the development of a detailed design” –  only at this stage, it is not too late to change course and Abbott knows this. He is also counting on causing maximum embarrassment to his PM.

Some unkind souls also interpret Abbott’s nuclear submarine proposal as revenge on Christopher Pyne, who, in a late night session at The Star Casino’s Cherry Bar has confirmed what the conservatives have always believed is Malcolm’s secret plan to turn the Liberal Party to the left. It’s all about legalising same-sex marriage. And more.

Marriage equality has become the proxy for the struggle in the Liberal Party between right and left. It also acts to focus the fear and rage of those Liberals who instinctively retreat from change; those whose lack of adaptive capacity leaves them open to a rampant paranoia that the modern world is a leftist plot against them.

Pyne’s indiscreet comments assuring gay marriage supporters of a victory sooner than later are calculated to offend and enrage those conservatives who remain resolutely opposed to change and suspicious of Turnbull.

It also provides Abbott with a receptive host for his wormholes as he continues his white-anting of Turnbull.

Posing as a conservative, he’s happy to coin a new breed of Liberal to make it clear that he’s making up a deficit in the current government. Not only is he self-sacrificing, he’s duty bound to continue indefinitely.

“I’m in no hurry to leave public life because we need strong Liberal conservative voices now, more than ever.”

For his part, Turnbull makes it clear that he is not going to hang around. Sunday he announces that he will leave parliament should he no longer be PM.

Some claim that Abbott’s strategy has all gone awry because his week of Turnbull-bashing has not led to a conservative uprising. If anything he’s been met with a chorus of put downs from those on the right.

Peter Dutton is wheeled out to claim “the Liberal Party operates at its optimum when we do have a broad church, when we do have people across the spectrum”, and that it was good to have a diversity of views in cabinet because “you have a more rounded discussion” and better decisions as a result.

Better decisions? Turnbull takes to listing his government’s achievements on social media. It’s a thin list which includes the Gonski 2.0 makeover boosted as a such as a new plan for education funding and contentious visa reforms. “Plans for an intervention on gas exports” are counted as achievements. And of course there is that magic faraway tree of action on a second Sydney airport.

Dutton’s defence and Turnbull’s list are as unconvincing their own way as Abbott’s manifesto, a big bucket-list gig routine featuring a good half-dozen bad ideas, or flip-flops and snappy, empty platitudes and hollow slogans.

Other coalition members during the week do their best to bring the rogue to heel. Some point out his contradictions. His advocacy of things he never stood for before. None will succeed. The ultimate test of his case against Turnbull’s ineffectual and indecisive leadership lies in what he can get away with. He’s made it clear this week that he will continue as long as it takes to exact his revenge on the man who deposed him.

Liberal senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, tells Abbott he can’t reinvent the past. It’s a futile reproach. As a former follower of BA Santamaria, Wilson points out, Abbott is necessarily committed to living and thinking totally against the grain of the present, and dreaming of an impossible restoration of the past.