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.

Business as usual for the banks despite Frydenberg’s faux outrage and finger-wagging.

frydenberg royal commission

Our nation sighs with relief this week. Our banks are safe. Federal Treasurer, former Minister for resources and Northern Australia, energy, environment, serial failure and currently unelected Prime Minister, Scott Morrison’s Deputy, Josh Frydenberg, will not get tough on financial companies just because a Royal Commission uncovers incompetence, theft, forgery, impersonation, fee-gouging, usury amongst other criminal conduct while regulators looked the other way.

“Getting stuck into banks could hurt the economy”, he warns. Ah, yes. The economy – that lonely little petunia which blossoms on the dung-heap of consumption. As Richard Denniss observes, Australians have been told for decades that as long as the amount of stuff bought is growing we must be doing well. Yet it’s clearly never been the case.

The same mentality has the Coalition Monash coal cult calling for us to open new coal mines – if only we could find a single investor. Or even if we have to fund them ourselves in a bizarre hybrid state Liberal/National socialism.  While buying more coal, if we could, would “grow the economy”, (another neoliberal nonsense) buying stuff that harms us and harms the planet is not going to make us any better off. It’s what we buy, not how much we buy that matters.

But you can’t tell our tyro Federal Treasurer. Keenly attuned to the need to provide the right pastoral care to markets, Frydenberg hints darkly to The Financial Review of the perils of layering new rules on trustworthy institutions such as banks and insurance companies which laboured mightily to sell us harmful products, such as mortgages we can’t afford or junk insurance or even charge us for services they don’t even bother to provide.

Either Josh doesn’t know, or he’s wilfully misleading, but Justice Kenneth Hayne QC is not suggesting any new rules. He makes it clear he knows that the banks are bigger than the paper tiger regulators, ASIC and APRA. Why impose new rules that will just be ignored? What’s needed is no new set of rules but the will to impose existing legislation.

At present, all banks have had cosy chats with their corporate regulator. As they break the rules, they get a warm inner glow over putting things right by negotiating “Enforceable Undertakings.” Any tiny fine is factored into business costs.

Banks agree to sign a statement which says the regulator is concerned they have been bad boys, or rarely, girls. In return, our fearless corporate regulators, the “tough cops on the beat”, which Scott Morrison was only recently assuring us were more powerful than a Royal Commission, simply agree the banks have not really done anything wrong and they agree not to prosecute them. Occasionally there’s a token financial “penalty” thrown in for good measure.

Doesn’t this process pre-empt the whole Royal Commission? A get out of jail free card? That’s the whole idea.

As Justice Hayne’s three volume interim report makes clear: Enforceable undertakings have been negotiated and agreed on terms that the entity admits no more than that ASIC has reasonably based ‘concerns’ about the entity’s conduct. ASIC has issued infringement notices. But by paying the infringement notice the entity makes no admission. It is not taken to have engaged in the relevant contravention. Yet, ASIC and the Commonwealth are prevented from starting a civil or criminal proceeding in relation to the contravention that caused ASIC to issue the infringement notice.

But it’s reassuring to learn that Josh won’t rock the boat. He already knows the ropes. It will be business as usual. Just as it was with all six decades of previous inquiries up to the 1997 Wallis Inquiry report – which led to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and agreement that “light touch regulation” and the magic wand of market competition would best keep light-fingered institutions honest in a dishonest non-competitive system.

At heart was John Howard’s neoliberal fantasy as Bernard Keane describes it, a blueprint for a free market Utopia based on an ideology of competitive forces, rational consumers and information symmetry and the Howard government’s dream of a shareholder democracy (where ) ordinary Australian workers would be transformed into McMansion-owning, private school- and healthcare-using, investor-contractors enjoying the fruits of unfettered (but taxpayer-subsidised) markets and endless asset price growth. But just to be on the safe side, he blew a mining boom on middle-class welfare.

Instead lives were wrecked; ordinary Australians were ripped off; robbed blind, ruined, some even paying fees for services, they never received, plus fees for reviews of their non-existent services long after they themselves had expired.

ASIC’s light touch was lightened even further by funding cuts of $120 million over four years in Tony Abbott’s 2014 budget. Scott Morrison’s recent Federal Budget further cut ASIC’s permanent funding by $26 million to $320 million by 2020-21. Staff at the agency have been cut by 30 investigators. What could possibly go wrong?

Competition? The banks quickly became an oligopoly, colluding rather than competing. So much more profitable.

Oleaginous Josh is a capital chap who sounds in top form as a result of elocution lessons which slow his pace and lower his pitch. The kid gloves are on – no kidding. But have they ever been off? Is our system a world’s best protection racket?

Certainly there’s ample evidence of malpractice. Last week, for example, asthenic Kenny Hayne’s Royal Commission into misconduct in the (monolithic) Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry heard that mug punters who trustingly invest their life savings in cash in AMP’s subsidiary NM actually lose money because the firm charges its clients more in fees than they receive in their accounts from interest, or in bankers’ jargon, return on their investment (ROI).

Why? Because they can – and because this is what the system is designed to do. In Ken Hayne’s words, it puts “profit before people”. Naturally, as they explain their conduct to the commission, the banks or super funds blame the victim.

Above all, the negative return rip-off is all the customer or client’s fault. Caveat emptor. Witness the interaction between counsel assisting Michael Hodge and NM Super chairman, Richard Allert, at the royal commission 16 August:

Hodge: “Your point is why are they foolish enough to invest their superannuation with AMP?”

Allert: “(laughs) … no that’s not what I’m saying at all.”

Hodge: “But isn’t that your point?”

Allert: “You have to ask the client what’s in their mind when they put money into a cash account, and as you’ve pointed out, this person has had a cash account with AMP at least from March 1, 2014 to February 28, 2018. They’ve left the cash there knowing the return they’re getting.”

The exchange is pure Monty Python. If it did not cause such suffering. AMP alone acknowledges to the commission that inappropriate advice by fourteen advisers between 1 January 2009 and 30 June 2015 had resulted in compensation to 1,079 customers.

AMP also acknowledges a licensee continued many times to charge a customer fees for services that were not provided.

Unfair, unjust or just outrageous fraud? The scam is familiar to millions of us who see account balances steadily decline with annotations on statements such as “fee for service” even when there’s been no service. But at least we are alive.

Not content with generously helping themselves to our life savings, banks also charge fees to the deceased while their investment tentacles or subsidiaries cop a blast from Justice Hayne over charging “fees for no service”.

“Fee for no service” is one of many modern euphemisms and weasel-words for bare-faced fraud. ASIC defines it as, “… the failure to deliver ongoing advice services to financial advice clients who were charged fees for those services”.

Even better, it covers an additional fee you may pay for not getting a review – in effect advice about the advice you are not getting. ASIC calls it “failure(s) to deliver an annual (or other periodic) advice review that was promised to a client.”

The consequences of banks’ behaving badly is staggering – apart from the boost it provides to executive salaries. Some clients commit suicide. Others’ lives are ruined. But my, how investors, governments and banksters love it. Happily, we have the right chaps, and the odd lady chap, in Canberra who see the need to crack on with the racketeering.

And Kenneth Hayne’s Royal Commission interim report? It’s a type of post-modern show trial where the guilty pretend to be publicly shamed. Pure performance theatre. Nothing will come of it.  Michael West sums up, “Driven by greed, the banks behave with appalling dishonesty. Secondly, bankers exploit their customers for personal financial gain, often behaving illegally. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), is “captive” to those it regulates.

Captive also is the Coalition. Fabulist Frydenberg whose heroic failures include doing nothing to fix our fee gouging, planet poisoning coal-fired power grid and the laying waste of vast tracts of countryside, helping kill one world heritage reef, in what is archly termed “land-clearing” amongst other triumphs, is solicitous about the need to spare the rod.

Appearing on ABC RN Monday Frydenberg is as quick to posture and wag his finger about the shocking wrong-doing uncovered as he is to find a scapegoat, even if his script does sound like a quick precis of Justice Hayne’s own obiter dicta.

“Reading the 1,000-page interim report is one that shows a pretty frank and scathing assessment of the culture, the compliance, and the conduct in the sector.

And for me, Sabra, there were really two take-outs: firstly, that greed was the motive here and that the banks put profits before people; and secondly, that ASIC (Australian Securities and Investments Commission) as the regulator was too timid, preferring negotiation over litigation, even though they’ve had a greater than 90 per cent success rate in the cases that they’ve taken through the courts.”

Too timid? Frydenberg overlooks the Coalition’s savage cuts to ASIC’s funding. Or is this a case of psychological projection of his own mentality? Oddly Sabra doesn’t ask him about the nearly $150 million or the staffing cuts which have crippled the corporate watchdog to the point where it’s not even able to bark, let alone bite.

Of course it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog that matters, but as this section of the ABC transcript shows, Frydenberg is more than happy to lamely let the failed system fix itself. Sabra Lane asks

What have you said to ASIC’s chief James Shipton and APRA’s Wayne Byers about muscling up?

JOSH FRYDENBERG: Well, I’ve said that the public expect them to do better, and we, as the Government, stand ready to provide them with the support that they need.

But let’s not forget — the regulators should be enforcing the law, but we should also see greater compliance from the banks and the financial institutions themselves, and this greed —

SABRA LANE: But it’s clear that the banks and the financial institutions just didn’t fear being… You know, they just didn’t fear any consequences at all, that they regarded these watchdogs as toothless chihuahuas.

Hayne’s final report is due February 2019 and will include his findings on superannuation, insurance. It will also contain his recommendations, which can include recommending criminal prosecution.

What is clear, nevertheless, from the Coalition’s responses to a Royal Commission it vigorously and repeatedly opposed twenty-six times is that this government is happy to proceed with the theatre of its thoroughly post-modern show trial – even comply with a few token prosecution as long as it leaves the rest of the highly profitable and rotten edifice intact.

Above all, it shows itself firmly wedded to John Howard’s neoliberal vision of the past and as much in thrall to the powerful banks as any Coalition government.

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Urban will be taking a break to undergo coronary bypass surgery. He looks forward to returning to writing as soon as possible.

Lose our democracy? It’s as easy as ABC.

trump at un.jpg

“We need a president who isn’t a laughing stock to the entire world. We need a truly great leader, a genius at strategy and winning. Respect!” Donald Trump tweet, August 2014.

 

They laugh in Trump’s face at the UN, Tuesday. Twice. Is it a sign of rude good health in an international set too keen to kow-tow, suspend judgement or collude in the vainglorious delusions of the self-styled “stable genius”?

Trump is visibly taken aback; retreats into Security Adviser “barking” John Bolton’s bonkers script; pulls his head into his shell in Turtle Bay, midtown Manhattan NY site of UN Headquarters, a metonym for the UN itself . It’s Trump’s worst nightmare; his speeches are strewn with tell-tale images of being the laughing stock of the world.

The world? A hundred world leaders, ministers, ambassadors and dignitaries are present. Their laughter is an unprecedented breach of decorum. Never before have they laughed out loud at the most powerful man in the room. Or the least stable. It is not unreasonable to wonder how and when Trump will seek his revenge.

Our universe is also turned upside down. Not only is Turnbull’s pick to be ABC MD, Mal’s pal, Michelle Guthrie, unceremoniously dumped overboard shortly after she’s been made to walk the plank- an amazing coincidence as many have noted – the execution is so badly botched that ABC Board Chairman Justin Milne is forced to resign.

Intriguingly, neither Milne, nor the Minister for (mis)Communication, “bitchin'” Mitch Fifield, a minister who has made a record six complaints against the ABC in five months, can articulate why Guthrie has been boned. It’s something to do with her “leadership style”, Milne faffs around endlessly in response to pointed questions from a forensic Sales. It’s painful and damning. Incredibly, he clearly believes he has no obligation to explain himself.

Sales grills Milne on ABC 7:30 after his resignation Thursday. Weirdly, parts of the interview are used as ABC promos all that day. Did Milne resign in the studio before informing the board? Is Sales a Liberal fixer? Sales seems to push it uphill with her notion that his board stooges must explain why they didn’t act on damaging emails they had been shown between him and Ms Guthrie until after they were revealed by Fairfax Media.

Of course, she does obliquely make the point that his board is just there to rubber-stamp Milne’s decisions. Later, the nation is overjoyed to learn that one of the board, Kirstin Ferguson is to become acting deputy-chairman, meaning that she will fill Justin Milne’s shoes, at least, as the fiction goes, a new Chairman is appointed.

Or however long it takes before Ferguson’s history with Theiss is in the public domain. Thiess was involved in a 2010 bribery scandal over a $6bn Indian coal mine deal. A whistle-blower contacted Leighton’s ethical committee chair and then Thiess advisory board chair Dr Kirstin Ferguson about the payments, but no action was taken. Instead, the whistle-blower was dismissed in accordance with our new rules of corporate and offshore detention.

“I’m really glad to have you in that role. I really am,” Dr Kirstin Ferguson her whistle-blower. Ferguson was speaking to David (not his real name) who for more than two years had been working to stamp out alleged corruption and misconduct within his company, Thiess, part of the Leighton group which is implicated in serious foreign bribery and corruption cases involving negotiations over the $6 bn Indian coal mine concession.

David was suffering stress and anxiety because he feared – with good reason – that his boss was cutting him loose. Two weeks later, he was given three months’ notice and told to go immediately on “garden leave”.

Perhaps Malcolm or Lucy Turnbull are interested and available? Julie Bishop may be at a loose end soon. So, too, if predictions are accurate, could be Peter Dutton. Judging by Milne’s stonewalling and evasion, not to mention how he’s let it be known that the ABC as it stands is “dead to me”, the totally hands-off Dutto would be ideal.

The plan to combine the SBS and ABC, which Morrison magnanimously refuses to rule out, would suit someone of Dutton’s megalomaniacal temperament or would be an ideal add-on to his current suite of responsibilities. His appointment would be a logical extension of installing the PM’s mate as the government’s man on the board.

Milne, whom Fairfax media reports, refers to female colleagues as “chicks” and “babes”, finally quits after sacking MD Michelle Guthrie, “the missus”, as he refers to her in a Trump-like infantilising and objectifying of women.

Not that he’s been told to interfere or end journo’s careers. Like ScoMo, his hands are clean. Honest Injun. Evidence emerges that, in fact he’s been very “hands-on” voicing displeasure with the work of Emma Alberici, Tom Ballard and Andrew Probyn. (Curiously those like Laura Tingle and Phil Coorey who have written for other publications to express similarly heretical viewpoints have escaped unscathed.)

The singling out of ABC journalists tends to confirm that it is not just a matter of correcting errors of fact as the government maintains but, rather, a desire to eliminate dissent, as Waleed Aly writes for Fairfax. Aly contends that the week is one in which the ABC has been recast as an organisation more concerned with keeping the government happy than with the non-negotiability of journalistic independence.

For Ali, “it’s about a civic culture that is slowly falling apart: a political class with fewer civic boundaries, less concerned with the independence of institutions, and a muscular intolerance of dissent.

It’s also a ruling class is happy to cling to power by mounting increasingly legalistic, hair-splitting defences.

“I never provided instructions that anyone be sacked he tells ABC 7:30…I have never sent an email to Michelle Guthrie or anybody else, which says you must sack Emma Alberici or Andrew Probyn or anybody else.’

Yet that’s exactly what his email to Guthrie, republished by Fairfax shows he did do. Other excuses follow. His “email was taken out of context.” Astonishingly, a former PM and his personal friend is quick to back him up.

Nor, stresses Turnbull from his pad overlooking Central Park in NY, did he ever issue any such instructions. Not that he had to. Being the PM’s bestie and former OzEmail business associate would help him pick up the vibe.

Calling, hands-free, from New York, Turnbull denies instructing anyone to sack anyone. All he’s done is appoint Milne to the board; a friend he could then harangue about the performance of various journalists and their stories. Did he also get stuck into Guthrie? Who knows? Turnbull’s personal hotline to Milne would do the trick.

A lot of tosh fills the airwaves on chat shows like The Drum which help Liberal stooges to deceive voters that ABC journalists are never directly berated by politicians, an illusion Jacqueline Maley is quick to dispel. She notes our nation’s “sharp segue from a national conversation about media interference in the politics, following the (latest) spill, to political interference in the media.”

It’s less a national conversation – more that the nation is dumbfounded by a collective sense of outrage.

Incredibly the rest of the ABC is struck dumb. Not a peep is heard from other Liberal stooges on the broadcaster’s board – five of whom were appointed directly by Communications Minister, Mitch Fifield- aka “the talking toilet brush”, who appears also to be able to bypass regulations designed to ward off political influence with impunity.

Just as they sat on Milne’s email since Friday. The chairman was making an inappropriate if not illegal request. Were they so in thrall they were powerless? What was stopping any one of them from blowing the whistle?

Breaking rules with impunity are our usurious robber-barons of banking. Commissioner Kenneth Hayne’s interim report of his banking and financial services Royal Commission hammers banks and slack regulators,

“… the conduct identified and criticised in this report was driven by the pursuit of profit – the entity’s revenue and profit and the individual actor’s profit. Employees of banks learned to treat sales, or revenue and profit, as the measure of their success.”  (And not just banks.) He should next have a word with Centrelink about Robodebt.

“Too often, the answer seems to be greed — the pursuit of short-term profit at the expense of basic standards of honesty,” he says. “How else is charging continuing advice fees to the dead to be explained?” 

Part of the answer is that neoliberalism itself is dead. Hayne would do well to refer to The Australia Institute’s Richard Denniss, How Neoliberalism Ate Itself. Yet, as Denniss concludes, even as a corpse, the false idea that what is good for business is good for the country has so much rhetorical and political clout in Australia – it has vitiated if not utterly corrupted healthy social relationships. Even caring has become a “service delivery industry”.

Hayne sees a problem in bankers’ pay structure; a base salary supplemented with incentives or bonuses an inducement to greed. “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works,” chortles the deluded

Gordon Gekko, a satirical character in Wall Street (1987.) While Wall Street foresaw the era in which we live, one defined by greater inequality and the normalisation of corporate greed, Gekko is not a role model.

Greed is not good for us; let alone our banks – despite the claims of parliamentarians and The Business Council of Australia who witter on endlessly about “flexibility”, code for even more casual, underpaid, underemployment.

Claims? Two years ago, Arthur Sinodinos gave a gold standard definition when he railed against entitlements, defending Steve Irons who spent thousands on airfares and accommodation to attend Melbourne’s Derby Day and a golf tournament on the Gold Coast. On another occasion, Steve charged taxpayers to get to his own wedding.

 “These are work expenses which are paid for by the taxpayer.” Some say MPs work hard and are entitled to everything they get – or it prevents bribery. It’s as specious as the claim that bankers won’t work properly, or even stay in Australia, unless they receive special incentives or help to profiteer.

Irons’ claims were all honoured. Haynes is not having a bar of it. Even his interim report has stirred the possum.

It’s put the wind up Scott Morrison who voted against a Royal Commission 26 times. ASIC, he falsely claimed, had greater powers. Yet now, novice-Treasurer Josh Frydenberg makes ASIC the scapegoat. Another stunning reversal.

Frydenberg blames the regulators, namely ASIC for seeking “negotiated outcomes” instead of pursuing litigation or forcing entities to face the courts. This strategy saw ASIC working too closely with the sector it was regulating.

Yet, as Kaye Lee reports in The AIMN, ASIC was crippled by Coalition funding cuts. And it gave fair warning. After Tony Abbott cut ASIC’s budget $120 million in 2014, she notes, its chairman Greg Medcraft, warned that over 200 staff would be cut. Worse. The regulator just couldn’t do its job properly.

 “Our proactive surveillance will substantially reduce across the sectors we regulate, and in some cases stop.”

In many cases it did. In 2016, Scott Morrison was inspired to announce “reforms” to shift the regulator to a “user-pays” funding model – in which the institutions it regulates are forced to pay for the ongoing cost of their regulation – so taxpayers no longer have to fund its operations, a brilliant incentive to ignore infringements.

Similarly, as with recent Coalition governments, a culture of evasion, secrecy and lies is nurtured. Hayne warns.

“If the short term incentive scheme reduces the amount allowed if an employee does not meet some standard (of accuracy, or behaviour) the employee may focus as much upon avoiding error being discovered as upon avoidance of error.”

May or will? In his bravura performances of the week, banking royal commissioner, captivating Kenny Hayne, concludes, in his sonorous, gravel baritone, the interim stage of his mini-morality play by finding vice is to blame. Vice is leads to usury, theft, extortion not to mention collusion over interest rate fixing or an oligopoly itself.

“Too often, the answer seems to be greed — the pursuit of short-term profit at the expense of basic standards of honesty,” he writes. It’s not his lines so much but the way he delivers them that make him such a crack-up.

Another funny man, Donald Trump is laughed at by the UN, the butt of an entire world’s jokes. But not by its loyal cultural colony of Australia, a satellite of mateship to whom, as Turnbull says, the US is “joined at the hip” and not the funny-bone. Raised in a Queens mansion, Trump remains an outsider in Manhattan, an unwelcome, parvenu. Yet the polite titters and Bronx cheers he receives are unprecedented, if not shockingly un-Australian.

When Trump proceeds to assert – “Germany will become totally dependent on Russian energy …” he draws a similar response. Germany’s delegation laughs and snickers. But it’s sacrilege to us fair dinkum, down-under allies.

We must suck up to Trump, our Siamese twin, culturally, economically, politically; ape America’s decadence and double-speak, fawn over its hypocritical “rules based world order”; just as we cheered its illicit attacks on a base in Syria in 2017 and its three further, more expansive strikes on what it claims were chemical weapons sites in 2018.

How we eagerly joined its illegal 2003 invasion of Iraq. PM Howard only had to pretend he had legal authority . Few brave our patriotic press to explain that the failed invasions have created a refugee crisis, let alone colossal human suffering, which we have no hope of dealing with. Perhaps guilt helps fuel our anti-refugee hysteria.

As obsequious, fawning lickspittles we help normalise Agent Orange, as Trump is sometimes known.

And we love a stoush. A frisson of anticipation runs round our island nation’s high command at the merest hint of a role to play in invading North Korea, Syria or Iran or wherever the flower of democracy must next be tenderly preserved. As the needs of the military-industrial complex, as Eisenhower warned in 1961, demand.

Imagine, as Orwell puts it, whenever you think of the future, a boot stamping on a human face forever.

We’ve just put our hands up to join a NATO-led mission in Iraq “to improve the country’s military academies”. How else to stop the return of ISIS or a resurgence of terrorism? We’ll “train the trainers” who’ll teach Iraqi soldiers how to counter suicide bombers and detect, defuse and dispose of terrorists’ improvised explosives.

At least that’s the official spin, loyally and faithfully reproduced by Fairfax and our ABC over the last five years.

The Donald may be a joke to the rest of the world. But not us. We are remaking our politics in his own image. It’s not just how we’ve taken to fake news increasingly found in Murdoch tabloids and Sky after Dark. Even our ABC dare not put a foot out line in singing the praises of the wisdom of toxic, expensive, coal-fired base-load power.

Think Great Barrier Reef Foundation where we tip a bucket of money over a group of fossil fuel executives, coal lobbyists and other climate change deniers. We have to give them $444,000, to meet UN requirements regarding deadlines set for spending and amounts to keep the reef registered on the world heritage list. The chief advocate for this decision has gone on to knife his PM and wear a Trump-like cap.

Our own unelected PM, Scott Mad Max Morrison is so utterly converted to Trumpism that he’s taken to wearing baseball caps – all that’s missing is the MAGA logo.  Or is it? A closer look at the UN laugh-in is instructive. The rest of the world is less prepared to pretend that the emperor wears new clothes. The worm may be turning.

Deluded narcissist, monster-baby and first US President from Russia with love, Trump takes his Fox-populist Neocon shtick on the road, Tuesday, only to have United Nations General Assembly delegates, laugh at his own trumpet-blowing; chutzpah solo, the hollowest boast UN members have ever heard from any president.

And the most far-fetched fantasy. “In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country.”

Delegates laugh at the leader of the free world. Fifty-five per cent of the UN’s 193 members represent dictatorships – or in UN double-speak “not fully-fledged democracies” evoking Dryden’s nod to Aristotle’s view of man as an unfeathered two-legged thing. Tyranny and despotism are equally plucked; featherless.

But common to all democracies is a free press. Some of these even have a proudly independent national broadcaster free from political interference. And they’ve cut away the dead albatross; the decay corpse of neoliberalism from around their necks leaving them to invest in schools and hospitals not the service delivery of privatised and outsourced health care and educational options. And banks set up not to profit out of need and vulnerability but to supply the funds to develop a civil society.

Morrison as PM, terminally conflicted compromised and confused.

QUESTION TIME

 

It’s been a big week for helmsman ScoMo, who urges a scurvy crew to make the Coalition boat go faster, according to Laura Tingle.

Playing an average suburban joe, Trumpista Morrison, whom Maureen Dowd notes in The NY Times, is devoted to The Donald, apes his mentor by affecting a fair dinkum vernacular and a daggy baseball cap to match.

Carn the Sharks!

Morrison claims Monday, in The New York Times, “many people in both the US and Australia feel left behind by the powerful economic forces of globalisation, which have brought massive wealth to some but left others feeling poorer and disenfranchised.” What he skips is his own role in the advocacy, implementation and local design of this process.

He could confess his own role in opposing 26 times, calls for a Royal Commission into banking, a key agent of the very forces, which, he hypocritically implies, he will mitigate. Similarly, he has opposed raising the minimum wage, the age pension, penalty rates, Newstart and insists on referring to tax as a burden and welfare as a safety-net.

What he won’t do is acknowledge that Donald Trump has done nothing to allay the concerns of his supporters. And even less to make decisions to improve their lives.

Above all he is a big fan of what he fawningly praises as Donald Trump’s practicality. Trump? Practical? It’s an impossible oxymoron. Yet, inspired by Abbott’s you-beaut barnacle removal of 2014, ScoMo’s trimming our ship of state. But not before he’s got a Crosby-Textor dead cat or two on the table and a handy, grandstanding opportunity.

Thirty inquiries have been held into aged care since Bronwyn Bishop’s kerosene bath scandal of 1997. Yet Morrison’s blitzing the airwaves, Monday; announcing a brand new Royal Commission. Oddly, his Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care, Ken Wyatt, tells the ABC that a Royal Commission would be a waste of time and money.

The Great Strawberry terror crisis of 2018 is a godsend to Morrison the grandstander.

“We have a real issue going on here … I’m not going to get distracted … I’m going to stay 100 per cent focused on those issues.” Not the real issues – such as energy- climate – education  – the rise of China’s global influence and an increasingly erratic US foreign policy ; Irrigation, drought, or our growing economic inequality which sees wages frozen and profits soaring – all risks to his government.

Liberal and National parties snub their electorates on climate change and on inadequate regional services in their stampede to heed the wishes of mining.

Outside metropolitan areas, both Coalition partners now depend on miners and not farmers in their electorate for funds and ideas. The Coalition also ignores country voters’ concerns – climate change, NBN, rural poverty including substandard, cut-down or run-down health and education services.

As Ms Dowd notes, company profits approach record levels yet wage growth remains stubbornly anaemic, and cost-of-living pressures, particularly around housing and power, leave millions feeling poorer, rather than better off. Does ScoMo want to know?

“Why don’t we talk about strawberries and not politics for a second?” The PM asks peevishly. Carn the sharks!

Weaponised fruit? A new act of depravity. Morrison goes into outrage mode. It’s an over-hasty, over-reaction. Penalties for food tampering are increased overnight, despite little evidence that stiffer penalties diminish crime.

The Criminal Code Amendment (Food Contamination) Bill 2018, increases the maximum penalties for the offences of contaminating goods (section 380.2), threatening to contaminate goods (section 380.3) and making false statements about contamination of goods (section 380.4) from 10 years’ imprisonment to 15 years’ imprisonment.

It will also introduce new offences that will apply where a person contaminates goods, threatens to contaminate goods or makes a false statement about contaminating goods in circumstances where the person is reckless as to whether their actions will cause public alarm or anxiety, economic loss or harm (or risk of harm) to public health.

After the House of Representatives passes the brave new anti-food tampering legislation, Thursday morning, but just before MPs debate a motion of no confidence in Dutton over the au pairs scandal, which he wins again only by his casting vote, the Home Affairs minister introduces the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Bill 2018.

It’s another big step towards becoming a police state.

A new Office on National Intelligence within the Prime Minister’s Department will help to increase surveillance of citizens; bypass personal privacy laws and expand into monitoring domestic activity. It’s the biggest expansion of our intelligence operations in decades, argues Karen Middleton. A key change redefines public information.

Public information is broadened by legal definition. This allows ONI to collect some online data that we might typically assume to be private. It defines this as “information relating to matters of political, strategic or economic significance to Australia that is accessible to any section of the public”. This definition will allow it to include accounts on social media sites such as Facebook, even those which are set to private.

Middleton also warns that the new law ushers in a new era of intense scrutiny of domestic political activity – in conjunction with new laws on foreign influence, interference, espionage.

Along with the theatrical diversion of the 2018 “terrible”, “criminal” strawberry terror show, ScoMo’s a desperate, ruthless pragmatist. All week, he junks unpopular policy that might scupper the mother-ship.

Does this make the boat go faster? Morrison urges MPs ask themselves before commenting in public. He cuts Herb Taylor’s Rotary four way test down to one.

If only Malcolm had shown such command! Such business smarts! If only MPs could exercise restraint. Ticky Fullerton raves over ScoMo’s sales background secret weapon in The Australian.

We have an election coming. And this time it’s different — our sitting prime minister is a marketing man.

“A simple campaign strategy is emerging. Stripped down, this strategy is systematically to go through all the pain points of the Coalition out there in voter land and remove them. This is more than barnacle scraping because these pain points are not just slowing down the good ship ­Coalition — the ship is taking on water after a bloody mutiny.”

Ticky’s on to something. Bugger platform, policy or vision. Ditch everything that voters don’t like. All hands to the bilge pumps. Politics is just a reality TV show. MPs do anything they can not to get themselves voted off. In Peter Dutton’s case, Thursday, this involves using your own vote to prevent a censure motion for misleading parliament.

ScoMo loves his pep talks. Someone has to. In Tuesday’s party room meeting, Morrison tells incredulous MPs that “we have momentum”. One realist responds: “Yeah, the sort of momentum you get when you jump off a cliff.”

Is our current Prime Minister just a crowd-warmer until the coalition loses government in the May election?

If not, motivator Morrison will need to refine his pitch. In the senate, for example, the government is becalmed. It runs out of legislation. Stalls. Senators filibuster their own bills; even debate the Governor-General’s 2016 address-in-reply.

There’s also a bit of backlash about bullying. ScoMo invalidate the complainants. Gaslighting helps. There’s no bullying in the Federal Liberal Party. It’s all part of the rough and tumble of politics.  Now it’s all hands on deck.

Heeding the call, at least on the poop deck, Supercoach ScoMo’s throwing energy, education and any other useless policies and principles overboard; clearing the decks for re-election. Anne Sudmalis is packed off to the Big Apple.

She’s being temporarily deported for naming names; her second secondment, although her first as an MP.

Bullying, betrayal and backstabbing have been the hallmarks of one of my state Liberal colleagues, Gareth Ward, over the past six and a half years, she says. There is every reason to believe that the culture is entrenched. Yet Morrison remains staunchly in denial. Not one male Liberal MP comes forward to support Sudmalis.

The same is true of Linda Reynolds and Julia Banks, who is resigning from politics because of bullying.

On the contrary, Liberal power-broker and Victorian Liberal president Michael Kroger respond that “people do speak strongly” in politics while Scott Morrison says he is concerned for “Julia’s welfare and wellbeing”. Neither acknowledge bullying is a problem in the Liberal Party.

Vice president of the federal Liberal Party, Teena McQueen, says of quotas for women in politics, “Women always want the spoils of victory, without the fight”.

Liberal Senator, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, is similarly, all compassion. “Politics is a tough businessif you can’t stand the heat you should get out of the kitchen” she blames and bullies the victim.

Likewise, other victims of bullying are bullied into line. Men control Liberal preselection, women are reminded.

But help is at hand. In NY, Sudmalis won’t be such a vocal critic of party bullying – the sort ScoMo denies exists. Instead, she can blow raspberries at the UN, in person, as she swans off on a three month secondment-junket, a cunning plan to inflict her on the international body the Coalition loves to hate. Sudmalis may have attended the secondment when advisor to Jo Gash, the former member for Gilmore*

Morrison’s denial and evasion are unlikely to do anything but solve his short-term problem. But then, his approach has been less compassion or true concern and more about himself and potential political embarrassment. Regardless of how many times he refers to “Jenny and the girls”, women are unlikely to forgive or forget his role.

Meanwhile the PM jettisons all vestige of energy policy. Neophyte Energy Minister Angus Taylor proudly announces, “the renewable energy target is going to wind down from 2020 … and we will not be replacing that with anything”.

Climate change isn’t happening. Education? Overboard goes all rhetorical abhorrence of special deals with private schools as the Coalition blows $4.6 billion dollars, including a $1.5 billion dollar slush fund, as Labor fairly calls it.

Enrolments that were once growing at a rate of 20,000 a year will slow to as little as 3000 by the middle of the next decade, according to ABS data, presenting a stark marketing if not survival challenge to private schools. $4.6bn is not a need; it’s a bribe.

Buying off private schools is also jettisoning a potential electoral headache but it’s likely to create others. NSW education minister, Rob Stokes, responds by arguing that “we don’t want a return to the school funding wars of the past that pitted private schools against public schools, and urge the federal government to provide equal treatment for all schools, public and private”.

No chance of that. Morrison works all week solely to clear the decks. Religious freedom-fighter, decorated boat stopper, Cronulla Shark number one ticket-holder, he now promises to free his (Christian) peoples’ speech. And religion. But as Brian Morris points out, Australians currently have religious freedom.

Australia is a signatory to the International Covenant of Civic and Political Rights which states: “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”

This may be OK now, for Morrison, but will it be good enough in future? The PM’s logic is magical, irrational. He is proposing laws to protect what may happen; an event which only he can foresee and not even he is prepared to name.

This is not how a Prime Minister should behave.

Morrison’s “not happy with the last ten years’ trajectory”, he tells Sky, cryptically and misleadingly. But there’s more. Christians will all be able to sit on the boards of big companies or law firms whose policies may conflict with their beliefs. Serco, perhaps. Big Coal? Fabulous. Nothing is so compelling as a solution in search of a problem.

Is there a problem? Trajectory-busting Scott’s on to it. A weasel word to the wise. You prove him wrong.

“It shouldn’t happen in this country. Now, I’m not saying it is, necessarily. People say ‘oh well, if there’s not this great problem, why do you need to do it?’ [But] can they guarantee me it won’t happen in the future?

In a television interview with Sky News on Monday night, Morrison says he is displeased with the level of free speech given to Christians and freedom of religion generally; “So there’s nothing wrong with a bit of preventative regulation and legislation to ensure your religious freedom in this country.”

Except that it’s not under threat. Except that it’s been since May that Ruddock formulated his twenty recommendations and still the Coalition has not seen fit to share them with its key stakeholders, the people. Except that such a radical step could at least proceed openly and in a widely canvassed and unhurried, consultation.

The latest Newspoll will do little to cause any reassessment. The Coalition’s primary vote is up two points to 36 per cent. There is a two point improvement in the two preferred vote with the Coalition now trailing 46/54 following a three year low of 44/56 over the past two Newspolls. Morrison’s government will spin this as a win.

It’s not. It may be aberrant. Even if it’s not, on these statistics, the Coalition stands to lose 20 seats at an election on a uniform swing. Yet the week has seen a dysfunctional willingness to discard well–established positions, especially in funding private schools but also in due process with regard to bullying accusations made by Liberal women against their male colleagues. These suggest the problem is entrenched in party culture. A boorish, sexist, inequality, if not overt misogyny, appears to be institutionalised.

Similarly, the PM has shown such blind support for Peter Dutton that his capacity to act with independence and integrity is already severely compromised. Nowhere is this more evident than in his making his main goal the securing of gratuitous further legal guarantee of esoteric religious freedoms – freedoms he can neither identify nor make any rational case for.

Like his failed predecessor, Turnbull, but after only a few weeks in office, Morrison appears to be just as much a puppet of Big Mining, Banking, Big Dutton and his right wing push. Add in his church and other vested interests and Morrison’s capacity to succeed as PM appears doomed.

 

ScoMo’s debut ruined by his own treachery.

scott_morrison dork

“You are a fucking mendicant,” Scott Morrison tells Tassie Treasurer, Peter Gutwein, reports Paul Bongiorno who quotes a Herald Sun article, Wednesday, citing “senior Liberal sources”. Gutwein doesn’t dispute the claims.

Bean-counter Gutwein can’t find a good word for Morrison when asked how it feels to be so bullied and abused by his new leader. He fobs off reporters’ impertinent questions. He has “a constructive and positive working relationship” with Morrison, he lies, before falling back on that hoary political standby, “we don’t comment on private conversations”.

Yes Minister. Our politics is choked with such double-speak. In time, it will be a “robust discussion”, part of a “national conversation” or “a healthy exchange of views” but to witnesses it’s the Liberals’ St Valentine’s (four) Day massacre. Luckily mainstream media, mostly, happily agree to report this nonsense at face value. It’s an extension of the pact to report flawed employment statistics and falsehoods about uninterrupted economic growth as if these were facts.

Morrison may bray about “creating a million jobs since 2013” but he doesn’t give any detail of the quality of those jobs. Nor is any government ever directly responsible for creating jobs outside the government sector. No-one in government mentions population increase or net job growth. Above all, his boast wrecks the government case for company tax cuts. The miracle million has been created without these. Finally, as every household knows, wages remain stagnant.

Roy Morgan reports the workforce which comprises employed and unemployed Australians is now 13,416,000, up 407,000 on a year ago. He calculates that 1,476,000 Australians are unemployed (11% of the workforce); an increase of 152,000 (up 0.8%) on a year ago and the highest level of unemployment for over two years since March 2016.

And the jobs which shouldn’t be happening without expensive corporate tax cuts? Turns out the huge growth in jobs is in education and healthcare which also accounts for a boost in women’s participation. It may just be, of course, that Labor’s NDIS has boosted women’s employment. So much for small business being the engine of the economy.

So much for his government’s fetish for small business, (amen) forever praised (wrongly) as the nation’s biggest employer. It seems the government sector plays a vital role, after all, despite all the fervid neoliberal faith.

None of this fits ScoMo-a-go-go’s mantra of “a fair go for those having a go”, an echo of nineteenth century self-help. Critics have relegated him and his party to the 1950s. This is a bit mod. His social philosophy goes back to the 1850s.

“Daily experience shows that it is energetic individualism which produces the most powerful effects upon the life and action of others, and really constitutes the best practical education,” wrote the ever popular Samuel Smiles in 1905.

The fair go for those having a go carries its own sanction or disapproval of the slob, or those unable to have a go. It’s a hopelessly limited and outdated ethic but it’s clearly still got a lot of self-righteous political mileage left in it. But whatever happened, pray, tell, Mr Morrison to the Christian ethos of unconditional love?

Beneath the sentimental façade, it’s war out there. Each week brings further news of welfare crack-downs in the Coalition’s war on the poor. Or of bludgers. In 2016, three quarters of the bludger bashing in the Daily Telegraph included government statistics and interviews with prominent ministers. It’s a Coalition government strategy to alienate public support by poisoning our natural empathy with myths about the unworthy poor. Then cut their allowances.

But no Australians are being prevented from having a go. Or restricted to having only a bit of a go. Morgan finds 1,071,000 Australians (8.0% of our workforce) are under-employed, working part-time and looking for more work, a fall of 170,000 in a year (down 1.5%); The meagre increase in employment is driven by an increase in full-time employment which was up 323,000 to 7,761,000, while part-time employment fell 68,000 to 4,179,000.

The hand-ball to Frydenberg is so smooth it is disturbing. An over-achiever he is already out of the blocks contesting Labor’s thesis that inequality is growing. Except it’s not Labor’s thesis but the work of a body of respected economists. But what matters is that he’s already playing politics with the statistics.

“The Productivity Commission said exactly the opposite,” he cries. “It said we had made strides in recent years in reducing inequality.”

He’s referring to September’s report which, Ross Gittins explains, doesn’t strengthen the government case for tax cuts and trickle-down at all. In fact, it says inequality is not as bad as it could be but only because of measures we have taken which are not to the liking of the right wing of the Coalition at all.

Above all, it assumes that the inequality we started out with was acceptable. It bases its conclusions on a version of the Gini coefficient which has the nifty in-built flaw of making inequality appear much smaller than other measures.

The relative Gini assumes that inequality stays constant—growth remains ‘inclusive’—if everyone experiences the same rate of growth, and rises only when upper incomes grow faster than lower incomes. Accordingly, inequality stays constant if a two person distribution x = (10, 40) becomes y = (20, 80). But the poor are relatively poorer.

The income gap has grown from 10 to 40. Moreover, it’s just as plausible to argue that inequality remains constant under The Absolute Gini, if incomes grow by the same amount; when individuals receive the same additional amount to the initial measure. If, as is happening, richer individuals receive more, then inequality will grow.

In brief, we should not ignore trends in absolute income gaps when making inequality comparisons, as most of neoliberal governments, and our new Federal Treasurer does. To Frydenberg’s joy, the Commission’s report implies nothing need be done to reduce income and wealth inequality. The rich would stop wanting to get richer.

At the bottom end, government should help only those poor people whose disadvantage has become “entrenched”.

As Ross Gittins explains, “In other words, don’t acknowledge that poverty is being kept high by successive governments’ refusal to lift the freeze on real unemployment (and age pension) benefits.”

Research published by The Australia Institute, shows despite record business profits, workers’ share of GDP is at a post-war low. From 58 per cent of GDP in the mid-1970s labour compensation — including wages, salaries, and superannuation contributions — declined to just 47 percent in 2017, their lowest level since 1960.

Even more concerning is that real wages have consistently lagged behind the ongoing growth in labour productivity. This means workers do not get paid enough to buy back the goods and services they produce.

It’s a lesson in trickle up. The loss of labour’s share of GDP translates into the redirection of over $200 billion in income per year from workers to other groups in society (mostly corporations).

None of this reality is of any cause for concern to a Coalition government at war with itself and with economic reality.

A week of wicked leaks almost drowns out ScoMo’s shouting and slanging, his chief gift to our body politic, exceeded only by his rat cunning and his talent for suppression, secrecy, evasion, prevarication and lies. To be fair, yes, ScoMo does put in a bravura absurdist-Dadaist performance on ABC 7:30 Report. He simply cannot explain why we need new laws to protect our religious freedoms, why it is his number one priority, nor why he is PM; why he rolled his PM, Leigh.

(Chumming up with your executioner was a Hawke strategy. The New Generation Morrison would do well to leave the ingratiating use of his interlocutor’s first name alone. But it adds rich nuance and subtext. You can tell she hates him.)

Why is Morrison PM? Because he is not that dangerous lefty Malcolm Turnbull. OK, there’s his overweening ambition.

 I have no spur / To prick the sides of my intent, but only / Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself /

And falls on th’ other.

But unlike Macbeth, ScoMo is not big on insight even if he is as ruthless. He’s a verbose Tony Abbott from the suburbs.

Happily, deputy dog, Michael charisma-bypass McCormack, Barnaby’s placemat, tells the truth – in his own fashion:

“But, you know, when you combine those sorts of things – ambition, and Newspolls and the like, opportunity – people take those opportunities and we’ve got a new Prime Minister.”  They pullulate like mushrooms after rain, it seems.

Thanks for the heads-up, deputy. We’ll keep our eyes peeled. You never know when another new PM will pop up.

ScoMo loses all hope of authority or legitimacy the moment parliament resumes. It’s not just that he looks like that daggy bloke from the butcher’s who raffles the meat tray in the pub. All he needs is a striped apron and a scabbard.

His debut is ruined by own his treachery. MPs tot it up. He’s knifed a PM whom he’d just publicly embraced as “his prime minister”, a PM whom “he had ambitions for”; a PM, for all his fizz, far more popular than himself. Turnbull and his camp now sees clearly what those ambitions were. Or now feels brave enough to put a spoke in ScoMo’s wheel and offer legal advice from NY on what to do with Dutton – an intervention which only a few weeks ago he voted against.

Not only must Holy ScoMo, technically our most charismatic Liberal leader to date, contend with the ghost of Malcolm, Peter Dutton misbehaves disgracefully, abusing parliamentary privilege to imply his former hand-picked Border Force supremo, Roman Quaedvlieg is a paedophile. Morrison sabotages any remaining credibility to unreservedly back Dutton and to dismiss calls that Spud be referred to the High Court over his eligibility to sit in parliament at all.

Morrison’s first week in parliament is a fiasco. He campaigned to be leader with the pitch that his hands were clean and he could hold the show together. Stop boats. In reality, he got votes because he wasn’t Dutton. No PM -even by dirty deed- demonstrates less authority, legitimacy or gravitas. Bernard Keane believes,

Elevation to the prime ministership has exposed his hollowness; he is a figure who has stepped straight from an ’80s lawnmower ad, bereft of policy on the economy, on energy, on wages, on climate change — but most of all, bereft of authority. His colleagues and former colleagues are not even according him the respect due the office; instead, they’re blithely carrying on their own wars with no regard for either the government or the electorate.

Not so much unpopular as reviled, mistrusted and afflicted by dud political judgement Sub-Prime Minister, shifty Scott Morrison alienates rather than inspires. He presides, says Bernard Keane, “over a world-class political circus; less over a party than an ongoing civil war”.  And after his Wentworth slap-down, he’s increasingly the party piñata.

Morrison’s angry Tassie outburst caused Turnbull to sideline him in GST talks with the Apple Isle, say the “sources”. Yet, in a chillingly Trump-like response, the new PM denies ever abusing Gutwein. Why, the claims are “offensive” he counter-attacks, trusting we have all forgotten all his offences against human rights; humanity as Immigration Minister.

Most found Morrison’s own actions offensive when in 2011 when he questioned whether taxpayers should pay to fly twenty-one friends and family of refugees to Sydney so they could the attend funerals of their relatives, who drowned off Christmas Island.

Faced with enormous backlash including from members of his own party including Joe Hockey, later Morrison did concede that his comment was “insensitive and inappropriate”. Like Abbott he prefers to act first and apologise after.

Offensive? What of his lies that Reza Berati’s death on Manus Island, February 2014 was caused by his being outside the compound. Offensive? Experts attest to Manus being set up and mismanaged. Violence was easily foreseeable.

Offensive, above all, is the way Morrison and Abbott played politics, seeking to blame Labor and fob off responsibility on to PNG, a shabby hoax it maintains to this day. It refused to accept that Morrison and his department had a non-delegable duty of care to ensure the safety of those it detains, as refugee lawyer Greg Barns argues, irrespective of the location of detention. Similarly, boats were turned back into almost certain danger.

Much was made of preventing drownings at sea by stopping boats but not a word was spoken of the risks to turnbacks’ occupants’ safety. Morrison brings to his new PM act a history of barefaced chicanery, hypocrisy, evasion and denial.

Is ScoMo our new Trump? He has the cap, the lapel flags and the murky past. Where is he leading us? Surely a Christian leader sees mendicants as blessed – not accursed? Or does he merely mean to remind us that beggars can’t be choosers?

Trump-like, he brushes aside all suggestion that Peter Dutton present himself to the High Court to clear up his eligibility to sit in parliament. As Trump would say, ScoMo claims the public doesn’t want the “lawyers’ picnic” to continue.

A nation puzzles all week over the contortions of the coal-lobby’s latest Liberal poster-boy who would gull us he’s an innocent abroad; just a suburban boy in the big city. “I’ve got clean hands. I can hold the show together” was his sales pitch in the second spill. Each claim was as bogus then as it is now. Yet now, he is the accidental Prime Minister.

What is he doing there at all? The inexplicable Morrison is utterly unable to account for his presence as leader despite being invited to do so by the Opposition all week. When he crows about jobs and growth and other so-called Coalition successes, he begs the question of why if things were going so well, Turnbull had to be deposed.

One thing is clear. Expect obfuscation, evasion and turbidity. A poor communicator, he’s more skilled ranting; shouting slogans at us than accounting for his actions. Posturing Morrison’s an enigma wrapped in cliché, inside a mystery. A caricature of cant, condescension, overweening self-righteousness, rigidity and denialism, he’s all front and no Myers.

His “new generation” team is set to take us back to the 1950s or even earlier, anywhere in the age of steam will do.

His denialism is not merely directed towards climate change, gender and marriage equality, it finds expression this week in his dismissal of any hint of bullying in the Liberal Party despite Julie Bishop, Julia Banks and Lucy Gichui making detailed claims. Bishop has even questioned whether some Liberals acted illegally during the leadership spill.

Bizarrely, however, the Foreign Minister praises the party for handling complaints internally in more theatre of the absurd. Despite Minister for Women, Kelly O’Dwyer’s pledge, the issue barely gets a mention in Tuesday’s Liberal party room meeting.

Despite his promise that bullying complaints would be dealt with internally, the Prime Minister’s office confirms no process has been established to investigate them – or, is even planned. Instead, the party’s whips have been charged with handling “future” complaints. Which probably will be suppressed and denied also. What could possibly go wrong?

Gichui, another devout Pentecostalist, confirms on ABC Radio National, that, “as a good Christian woman” she was pressed to vote for Peter Dutton in last month’s leadership spill.  Yet Morrison persuades her to drop her threat to name names when parliament resumes. Those who have been bullied are bullied out of making a complaint.

What is going on? Is it, as Bernard Keane suggests, the women have been reminded that men control the pre-selection and to shut up if they wish to work in Canberra again?

What is clear is the Liberals’ fabled broad church is narrowing. Morrison and other foot-soldiers of the religious right are capturing the party as former member for Moore, Mal Washer puts it

 “… on climate, on women’s rights, on freedom of choice on abortion, on new ideas about sexuality, about a whole range of things … Basically they are out of date and out of step with community views. They are bloody damaging, to be realistic.”

But man, can ScoMo duck and weave. All week, Morrison evades questions from Labor and Leigh Sales as to his legitimacy. He quotes stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf, the US general second only to McArthur in theatricality, whom he recalls, as having heard once at the Sydney Entertainment Centre. As you do.

‘When placed in command, take charge,” Our new PM sees his role as akin to a military commander? Alarming.

But Tinpot Morrison seized command. Now he promulgates the myth of acclamation. Greatness was thrust upon him.

He cunningly quotes lying rodent and inveterate plotter St John Howard. He’s invoked Ming last week – even visited Albury, birthplace of the miscellany of self-interested reactionaries and union-bashers that became the Liberal Party.

“John Howard used to say something quite simple and that is, the privilege of serving as the leader of your parliamentary party is the decision of your parliamentary party,”

His attempt to induct himself into the Liberal pantheon is embarrassing. None of his overreach has a shred of credibility.

Mal’s out for revenge. He’s also got it in for Dutton. He phones and texts key Liberals. He wants Peter Dutton referred to the High Court because of his apparent violation of the constitution’s section 44 given his wife Kirilly’s family trust, RHT Investments, of which he is a beneficiary, owns two childcare centres which have profited from the crown.

The Liberals’ civil war rages.

A daggy dad joke will fix it. In a bizarre twist to his existential nightmare, Morrison’s office tweets a meme it’s cleverly compiled showing coalition MPs in Question Time, Thursday, repeatedly raising their right hands. The frantic fascist arm action is dubbed with Be Faithful, a track from rapper Fatman Scoop, whose lyrics celebrate casual sex.

The chorus elevates the PM’s EM Forster-inspired “Only Connect” defence to a whole new level.

Who f***ing Tonight? Who f***ing tonight?

Who f***ing Tonight? Oh! Oh! Who f***ing tonight?

“We’re just trying to connect honestly with people, Morrison says in defence. Connect honestly? Bugger policy. Honest communication. Listening to the electorate. In ScoMo’s world a tricked up, meretricious, video clip is honest connection?

Bowen reckons the members of ScoMo’s Party room know he doesn’t have a clean pair of hands. In the first big test of his already comprised authority, Muppeteer Morrison favours party hack Katherine O’Regan for Wentworth. There’s great hand-wringing over quotas in the media. but the fact is that on current trends, the Liberals will soon be an exclusive white, male brethren.

Worse, party polling puts the Liberal primary vote in Wentworth at 39%. Minority government beckons. Our new sub-Prime Minister shrewdly plays the gender card, even though it’s against his religion. Throws a sheila on the barbie.

ScoMo is rolled by Turnbull and Howard. Their pick, Dave Sharma, a former ambassador to Israel, a long-shot, political and geographical outsider, is duly pre-selected. David Gonski’s reference helps.  Losing the seat to independent, Kerryn Phelps looks increasingly like a real possibility.

Morrison sends a fulsome, fawning tweet in which he gets Sharma’s name wrong. His name Devanand.

“Big congratulations to David Sharma. A quality guy with extensive experience and capability. The best candidate won. That’s how it should be.”

 

Manic Morrison in frantic, futile, climate and bullying denial.

morrison and guy

 

Come on, come on

Do the ScoMo-motion with me

Ye-ye-ye-yeah …

The Locomotion, by Little Eva.

 


Bullying, standover tactics, sit-ins – allegations of misconduct flow thick and fast in the aftermath of Peter Dutton’s botched Liberal Party leadership coup, a fiasco which Scott Morrison helped create – then exploited in his ambition to topple Turnbull.

Morrison’s plotters voted for the spill only to switch their allegiance in the next round. Lucy Gichui maintains, moreover, Morrison’s mob had been planning to knife Malcolm Turnbull, at least, since June.

The revelations do nothing to mollify members of the Coalition’s hard right rump, whose mistrust of Morrison goes back at least to his betrayal of Tony Abbott in 2015. Abbott declares he’s still up for a leadership bid. No-one takes seriously his pious piffle that “the era of the political assassin is over”. It simply echoes his “no sniping”.

Then again, he did explain that no promise of his was to be believed – unless you had it in writing. Pathological liar or not, deeds do speak louder than words. Abbott’s are still speaking.

Who can forget his inspiring leadership in bullying Julia Gillard, “ditch the witch” or his services to party misogyny – well before he even contrived to insult all women in Australia by appointing himself the minister for women? His legacy may still be seen today.

This week women MPs speak of a culture of bullying in the Liberal Party. Male MPs, lobbying for Dutton, enter women’s offices early and refuse to leave in an intimidating and bizarre type of sit-in, unless the MPs sign up to Dutton’s faction. Some women MPs are told they must sign or they would lose their pre-selection, they allege.

“… I’m talking about senators and ministers who were in tears because they were at the crossroads where they could not choose, especially the ones from Victoria went through a very, very rough time because they were holding a carrot … like this is your preselection — ‘hey you do this, we do that’,” Liberal senator Lucy Gichui alleges.

Gichui threatens to name names under parliamentary privilege next week. MP for Chisholm, Julia Banks says she will resign from parliament and not re-contest the next election. For her, the spill was “the last straw” and “women have suffered in silence too long.” Dutton and his henchmen disavow all knowledge. So, too do party leaders.

Scott Morrison dismisses the women’s claims. Appearing on The Project, he denies there’s a bullying issue.

“I believe there was a lot of pressure, that it was applied over a very intense period, okay? Australian politics had been “ferocious” and “tough” but he would not describe any behaviour as bullying. Problem solved. It’s all a matter of how our Humpty Dumpty PM defines a word. And power and gender politics.

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

Morrison has another go. Votes may be lost over this. The Australian reports that he’s going to be a bully-buster.

“I have laid down the law to my cabinet. I have laid down the law to my ministry and to the parliamentary secretary ranks of my government. They know what I expect and I have every confidence they will live up to what I expect,” Morrison says.

Bully the bullies – get them to live up to “my standards”. What could possibly go wrong?

Cue the big guns. Victorian Liberal Party President and expert feminist Michael Kroger dismisses the women’s evidence, Monday on our ABC RN. There’s no bullying problem in the Liberal Party. It always helps to be dismissive in conflict resolution as in dealing with complaints but Kroger’s also patronising. The females are imagining it.

Why, if it were, true, President Kroger would be the first to do something about it.

Also in denial, is his wife, former Liberal Senator for Victoria and president of the Federal Women’s Committee, Helen Kroger. She blames the victim. Toughen up buttercup. It’s just “part of the rough and tumble of politics”.

The euphemism “robust” is abused all week. It’s now code for rude, abusive and distressing. An example will help.

Alexander Downer in July 10 2007 used The Australian, to call then Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd shallow, cynical, immodest, mealy-mouthed, duplicitous, a boy in a bubble, a foreign policy imposter and unfit to lead the nation. That’s robust. Morrison merits all of these insults and more but it’s unlikely they’d upset him either.

Craig Kelly’s language doesn’t help any attempt at denial. The women should “roll with the punches”, he says.

As for living up to his expectations, Morrison’s 45-40 victory divides the party. So, too does his apparent duplicity. Parliamentary Liberals are furious. Voters are also angry. Why and how is Morrison our new PM?

Morrison has no answer. As Paul Bongiorno reports in The Saturday Paper, ScoMo is quickly the target of a vicious “scuttle Scott” campaign from within his own party. A flood of leaks this week undermine him.

The Herald Sun Monday has his infrastructure plan, $7.6 billion that Turnbull had handy to splash in marginal electorates around election time. Tuesday he reads details of his former boss’s now not so secret $4.4 billion deal to buy off Catholic schools over the next ten years. Wednesday, The AFR, leaks details of how Turnbull planned to use $3.6 billion of the blocked corporate tax cuts to provide “accelerated relief” to small business.

The Sydney Morning Herald publishes Liberal polling, midweek, suggesting that the party not over-react to the Longman byelection. The candidate’s false medal claim and poor campaigning are more to blame.

It’s clear that Morrison has already made enemies but there’s nothing new about that.

Even Sydney Boys High School alumni- (SBHS Old Boys) has had its robust Facebook page public forum locked by moderators after former students said they were “embarrassed” to be associated with their former classmate.

“His political actions are a disgrace to humanity and his Christian hypocrisy is mind-boggling. Hardly someone to hold up as a model of what SBHS turned out.”

It’s not a new phenomenon. The Guardian reports that in 2015, 300 alumni signed an excoriating open letter when Morrison was invited to speak at a school fundraiser. SBGS Old Boys, including former supreme court judge Hal Wootten and acclaimed journalist John Pilger, criticised Morrison for “flagrantly disregarding human rights”.

Parliament resumes next week. Labor will challenge the PM’s legitimacy with the help of Liberal leaks. Given the government’s lack of a majority, Labor could move that Peter Dutton be referred to the High Court.

The Opposition may allege that Dutton’s financial interest in RHT Family Trust, which runs two childcare centres, and his failure to recuse himself from cabinet discussion of childcare funding, puts him in a position to profit and in breach of Section 44(v) of the Constitution. The centres have received government subsidies since 2 July.

Meanwhile, Dutton publicly bullies his former head of Border Force Roman Quaedvlieg, over his testimony that on at least three occasions, Dutton as Minister for Immigration, intervened in the granting of visas to au pairs. Dutton responds that his friend and former protégé is mentally unwell. Calls on his employer to arrange medical help.

It’s a form of bastardisation which leading medical experts condemn in The New Daily. Dutton, they allege, is “lowering the tone of public discourse, seeking to delegitimize another person by way of stigma, damaging years of work to improve public attitudes, and breaching his duty of care.”

But it’s up our new Prime Minister to dig deep into his own faith-healer’s medicine bag to give the nation some of that old-time religion and good, old fashioned, self-righteous judgmentalism that will get us all out of trouble.

ScoMo-locomotion grips the nation this week as Uber-Pastor Morrison and his travelling revival show make a mad dash back to Canberra after freeing our trade in Jakarta. It’s the big deal Turnbull vowed he’d conclude in 2017 but for the teensy problem that apart from a million tourists to Bali, we don’t produce much Indonesia needs.

Indonesia ranks us lowly in trade. Suharto family and ruling elite sock puppet PM Joko Widodo is blunt.  “You need us more than we need you”, he says. The left has not recovered since the 1960s when the military massacred hundreds of thousands of “radicals” crushing opposition to the ruling class and suppressing democratic reform.

Do we care? Our 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper barely mentions Indonesia. Abbott and Hockey cut Australia’s foreign aid by a billion dollars in 2015.  Indonesia’s aid was slashed 42% from $542.5m to $323m. But no biggie.

Enter “power-housing”, a breakthrough which lets both parties talk about “leveraging access” to third markets that neither could access on their own, a bit like ScoMo’s PM coup in which he leveraged himself off the back of Dutton’s plotters, duping everyone, at least for a week or so. Indonesia? After eight years, a one page outline.

Off like a frog in a sock on to Sydney, ScoMo’s all over soul bro, Alan Jones, where our accidental PM attacks Safe Schools’ “gender-whisperers”. Alan loves a PM who gets how schools brainwash children about sex – and gender.

“I don’t want the values of others being imposed on my children in my school and I don’t think that should be happening in a public school or a private school.”

Morrison’s clearly a big picture man, too. He exudes tolerance, insight; a profound grasp of a balanced curriculum.

“When it comes to public schools, as you know they’re run by the state governments, but how about we just have state schools that focus on things like learning maths, learning science and learning English?”

Too bad, he’s criticising “respectful relationships” an optional case study which is part of the Victorian curriculum.

But who expects our self-appointed PM to know what he’s talking about? He comes up trumps when the parrot mentions unions. Scott’s into John Setka and his kids using an obscenity to mock the obscenity that is the ABCC, head, whose predecessor Nigel Hadgkiss, despite a salary of $426,421 per year, broke the Fair Work Act.

“You know, when you see children being used in these sorts of protests, and we saw it in some of those horrific things in relation to the protests around terrorism, this kind of stuff just makes your skin crawl,” says Morrison.

It’s the type of incoherent babble Trump deals in but ScoMo passes The Parrot’s on air values test, well before his Thursday pilgrimage to Albury, NSW, birthplace of The Liberal Party in 1944 for a sermon on the Murray.

And to pray for rain. “Voters should love all Australians” he preaches. But especially himself.

“I’ve come to talk to you today about what’s in here,” says Morrison, pointing to the black rock of his heart. It’s a set-piece for your average high-functioning sociopath. In Albury, it’s also an excuse for fluff. How he loves Australia. How he and Jenny know all about ritual and how this connects them with Aboriginal peoples.

His homily, entitled “until the bell rings”, in subtle homage to Menzies, (not Pavlov) is over-praised by Katharine Murphy and Gareth Hutchens in The Guardian as “trialling a new anecdotal approach to political communication”.

No. It’s story-telling. His colleagues’ body language is wary but few appear asleep.

As for Menzies, he was just as much of a hypocritical blowhard, who built the Liberal Party out of eighteen different political parties and groups who were united only in the determination to defeat the Labor Party.

“No party seizes the imagination of the people unless the people know the party stands for certain things. And we’ll fight for those things until the bell rings.”  RG Menzies

No-one does vacuous platitudes like Morrison. Billed by our ABC 24, breathlessly as “a major speech by the PM”, Morrison’s sermon on the Murray is a cliché-ridden homily full of banalities about a fair go and having a go. But even at the end of it, exhausted listeners still don’t have a clue what the man or his government stand for.

“I don’t believe that for you to do better, that [others] have to do worse. I don’t think you need to be taxed more for [others] to be taxed less,” he says. It’s a mantra you could chant at any flat tax magic pudding Tea Party.

“I don’t think that, for someone to get ahead in life, you’ve got to pull others down. I believe that we should be trying to lift everybody up at once, that we get away from this politics of envy.”

As he’s just amply demonstrated with his knifing of his former Prime Minister.

Like the notoriously treacherous reaches of the Murray itself, however, there are dangerous undercurrents and snares as he evokes a society of lifters and leaners. ScoMo is doubtless inspired by Menzies’ gold standard:

“The great vice of democracy … is that for a generation we have been busy getting ourselves on to the list of beneficiaries and removing ourselves from the list of contributors, as if … there was somebody else’s wealth and somebody else’s effort on which we could thrive.”

The “love” Morrison preaches is far from inclusive, humane or enlightened. Instead it seeks to exclude the poor and disadvantaged; divide our nation into worthy and unworthy according to our need for welfare.

Social contract fixed, ScoMo scoots off to the arse end of the Frankston line, Morrison’s venue of choice to meet Melbourne media for the first time since he deposed Malcolm Turnbull and stitched up Peter Dutton.

“Congestion-busting” is his mission, ScoMo tells reporters at Leawarra station. It’s also Alan Tudge’s new portfolio, but Morrison’s a man of vision; he’s also on a mission. There are prejudices to massage; policy to be made on the run; climate change denialists to reassure. As Giles Parkinson notes, there are huge concerns here.

This week, Australia tries to water down the language of the Pacific Islands Forum declaration on climate change. In Bangkok it sides with the Trump administration and Japan in attempting to weaken climate finance obligations in a move Parkinson says “that has horrified some observers.”

The NEG is dead, because, he lies, we’ll meet our (inadequate) Paris commitments at a canter. Bugger climate change. Or the environment. In reality, it’s a sop to the right wing, a tactic which is eerily familiar of his predecessor.

Morrison’s lack of interest in climate change is matched only by his profound ignorance. He tells new energy minister Angus Taylor, a wind energy hater and a climate change sceptic, despite his protestations, to focus only on “bringing down prices”. Ensure the nation retains as much “fair dinkum” coal in the system as it can.

What could possibly go wrong? OK. The rest of the world won’t continue to trade with us if we can’t show we’re serious about curbing emissions – and we’re coming under increasing international scrutiny. Pray for clean coal.

Morrison’s next choice is even more alarming. New environment minister Melissa Price, a former mining company lawyer is responsible for emissions. She’s spruiking new coal-fired generators?

We’ve scuttled back into Abbott’s foetal position on energy and environment. It’s all too hard, not settled and besides those coal companies give your party such wonderfully generous political donations, don’t they? Great talking points, too.

Energy and environment fixed, midweek, ScoMo appears on Seven to backflip on his promise to make us work until we’re seventy, a “reform” he once swore was vital to protect the national economy going bust from funding elderly work-shy bludgers.

When you’ve just knifed your PM and put down your colleagues as “a Muppet Show” which somehow you are not part of, a few running adjustments help you keep yourself nice. Even micro-popularity needs a boost.

“I was going to say this next week but I may as well say it here … I’ve already consulted my colleagues on that. And next week, cabinet will be ratifying a decision to reverse taking the [pension] age to 70. It will remain at 67 …”

Announce publicly first, obtain consensus later. ScoMo’s has rule by cabinet consensus all under control.

His vision of an Australia, girt by xenophobic seizures, a federation of homophobia and paranoia that ends at the parish pump and his gospel of self-help or as he puts it “having a go” are not to be hidden under a bushel. His frantic, manic pace and his parochial vision are guaranteed to make us relaxed and comfortable

By Friday, the ScoMo show and its all-star cast including Jenny and the kids, gets rave reviews in ScoMo’s promos; his office’s dumps to favoured news outlets. But it’s not without sacrifice. He’s had to turn down a leadership role in the Pacific Islands Forum on Nauru to hang with his Sydney talkback radio pals on 2GB and 3AW, shock jocks Alan Jones and Raving Ray Hadley. And he’s had to cram for his sermon on the Murray and the Frankston whistle-stop. Especially Frankston. It’s a huge performance.

Up front is bantam opposition leader, a former Baillieu government’s bodgie planning minister and mobster’s mate, natty Matthew Guy, while Scott Morrison is a knockout as a not so daft as daggy, demented father figure spitting Chips Rafferty fair dinkums and other stuff he just makes up like “Tulla”, which like the word “mate” he repeats.

Endlessly, Mate. Is he auditioning to be the host of ABC’s Macca All Over? Morrison loves the show and has already won Annabel Crab’s admiration for record number of mate in a sentence, mate. Spare us the faux, folksy bonhomie, you monster.

Tulla turns out to be a reprise of Turnbull’s promise to build a railway from Melbourne to Tullamarine Airport, a project certain to appeal to every Frankston voter. Is that Dunkley’s, too cool for school, Chris Crewther over there? Or is it some Year 12 student from Flinders Christian College dressed up in a suit for work experience week?

Fresh from his sermon on the Murray where he tells astonished multitudes that all you need is love, Rev Morrison segues effortlessly into fixing “decongestion”, his government’s patent medicine for curing Victoria’s public transport ills by electrifying the eight kilometres of the Stony Point track which runs between Frankston and Baxter. It’s also used by diesel trains to Bluescope Steel at the Port of Hastings. Sheer genius.

It’s the same exciting new announcement Malcolm Turnbull made six weeks ago when he was still allowed to be Prime Minister. Fair go? It’s been a Frankston Council project since 2012 but in 2016, the Turnbull government committed an incredible $4 million dollars. Now motormouth Morrison’s having a go, mate.

A woman journalist spots the similarity between the Pastor’s spiel and Turnbull’s. She asks, quite reasonably, if ScoMo plans to re-announce all of Turnbull’s projects. Will she now ask if he’s stolen not only Malcolm’s job but all his talking points?

You can tell by the way he overdoes his head-nodding that Morrison takes an instant dislike to her.

“It’s a great opportunity to affirm the continuity of the commitment, here,” the new PM says.

Skip the flag pin, Morrison, we already know whose side you’re on.

morrison and dog fence

Stunned silence blankets Canberra, this week, on the set of Kill Mal, the Turnbull government’s orgy of self-destruction. Even seasoned backstabbers and plotters in our political class are shocked to discover how our new PM played them; urging unpopular tax cuts before the Longman byelection to damage Turnbull and deceiving Dutton over numbers.

In The Saturday Paper Karen Middleton reveals“a story of ambition, doublecrossing and outfoxing, with (Peter Dutton) as an unwitting stooge.” “Senior cabinet sources” say Home Affairs Minister Dutton, was just a stalking horse for ScoMo.

Both leadership contenders were undermining Turnbull for their own purposes. Middleton alleges Mathias Cormann gave Dutton tacit support, an allegation Cormann rejects. Promoting himself as the moderate compromise candidate, Morrison was able to play each faction off against the other. The first spill ballot was critical, explains Middleton.

“Supporters for both Dutton and Turnbull say they believe it was actually Morrison’s backers who secretly forced matters to a head, voting for Dutton in the first ballot to boost his numbers and generate a crisis for Turnbull, while intending all along for their man to prevail.”

Middleton quotes a Liberal on how ScoMo fiddled the spill. “Assuming the Dutton vote was 40 [based on his result in the subsequent ballot], where did the other five come from? They were Morrison people who voted for the spill.”

Of course, the serial incompetent Morrison, had a bit of help from his friends and others who thought they were. As Richard Denniss points out, interest-based politics rule and Morrison is a poster boy for coal, at least for now.

In the end even Turnbull, a skilled back-flipper, almost in the same class as Tony Abbott, the contortionist’s contortionist, was fast losing his appeal to a coal lobby worried he’d lose the next election or honour our pathetic emissions target under the Paris Agreement or something else terrible. In vain, he desperately jettisoned the NEG.

“Coal has had this cabal by the balls for a decade. Their weakness in the face of the miners has been pitiful. Compelling Turnbull to abandon his latest effort to deal with emissions was not enough. He was getting nowhere but he had to go because there was no trusting he wouldn’t somewhere down the track once again irritate the coal industry.  Writes David Marr also in The Saturday Paper.

But who can tell what all the gratuitous violence in Kill Mal is about? Abbott’s hatred of Turnbull plays a big part. Alex Turnbull has freely offered his analysis, that the coup was caused by a government right wing desperate to stop action on climate change. Their fervour he attributes to the “undue influence” of a small cabal with vested interests in the fossil fuel industry. Finally, elements of the media helped immensely – especially Murdoch media.

The baroque plot expands to reveal a stalking horse inside a stalking horse. Coup support is a high stakes game favoured by punters who play to win. “Rupie” (as Donald Trump calls Murdoch) owns papers ever ready to word up the cause of our Mining and Business cabals such as that led by “affordable, reliable”, Gina Hancock. And to demolish opponents.

Yet Clive Palmer also has a runner in the race. His $6.5bn Waratah Mine is all set to go Adani or no; Adani, he tells the AFR, ultimately, was just a stalking horse.

“We have a whole team of people working on our project all the time. I think we can develop that. But unlike Adani we don’t need to raise as much money as them. All the fuss about Adani getting federal government approvals. They took all the heat and we sailed through after them.”

Gina’s three mines in the Galilee Basin will produce 90 million tonnes of coal a year and Palmer reckons Waratah could produce thirty percent more than Adani’s proposed monster. But neither is commercially viable without a railway.

All it needs is a federal government to give the Northern Australia Infrastructure (NAIF) piggy bank, a slush fund for the fossil fuel industry a bit of a shake and our local mining billionaires will have the funds to build the railway required.

But it’s all kept quiet. As Greens senator Andrew Bartlett reported after the senate inquiry into the NAIF, 6 July.

“Both the NAIF and the Coalition have refused to answer questions about who has applied to the NAIF, how decisions are made and what the loan conditions are to access public funds. It’s difficult not to conclude that the NAIF is really just a slush fund for the fossil fuel industry that bankrolls the Coalition.”

Nothing is forever, but the MP who once brought his pet black rock into parliament, “Coal scuttle” Morrison, the bankers’ and miners’ friend, our sixth Prime Minister in eleven years, could be in the Lodge for the next nine months, at least. Of course, like any seasoned performer, he’s had shorter gigs but his career could do with a bit more scrutiny.

A child actor who played The Artful Dodger to his father’s Fagin, Morrison is the spitting image of the Vicks “Love Rub” kid in the 1970s Vicks Vaporub commercial, although he is evasive on the subject. He also did voiceovers and sang.

None of this wins hearts and minds with his countrymen nor at The Pacific Islands forum held on Nauru this year. Pacific leaders want answers. Australia must explain why twenty refugee children refuse to eat or drink. Hint: ScoMo- they are traumatised by war and worse, in illegal indefinite detention and terrified they’ll be there for the rest of their lives.

Most media are banned on Nauru  which after a chequered history in the fertiliser industry, derives almost all of its income from housing Australia’s “boat people” or refugees who arrive by sea. Guardian Australia‘s application was rejected; The ABC was also told it would not be allowed on the island, effectively, a vassal state of Canberra.

The Pacific Islands Forum says there’s only room enough for three journalists from each member country.

Yet in the last three years, Australia incarcerated over 1,200 men, women and children on Nauru. Perhaps if he turned up, Morrison may have to answer questions about his former behaviour. And not even he could put a gloss on that.

As Immigration Minister, Morrison’s response to reports of children self-harming on Nauru by claiming that Save the Children workers were making false claims, and even coaching children to self harm, in order to undermine the government. Independent reports later found his claims to be false. Peter Dutton still repeated them.

Nor do his claims to have stopped the boats hold water. As John Menadue and Peter Hughes point out

Abbott and Morrison actually kept the door open for tens of thousands of boat people arrivals by opposing legislation that would have enabled implementation of the Malaysia Arrangement of September 2011.

They also explain that Tony Abbott’s and Scott Morrison’s role in ‘stopping the boats’ was at the margins and vastly overstated. By the time Operation Sovereign Borders was in full swing, numbers of boats had slowed to a trickle. There were forty-eight in July 2013 but only seven in December 2013.

The real boat stopper was Kevin Rudd’s announcement that people arriving by boat after July 2013 would not be settled in Australia. Menadue sums up:

Tony Abbott  and Scott Morrison in Opposition gave the green light to people smugglers by opposing the implementation of the Malaysia Arrangement in September 2011. In Government, Operation Sovereign Borders, had a marginal effect on boat arrivals. By the time OSB came into effect, the number of boat arrivals had been dramatically reduced.

Fortunately, our tough new cop on the beat, Scott Morrison, is way too busy in Indonesia where he hypes a one page statement of general intent as a “game-changing” breakthrough in our vague agreement to improve our trade or something with Indonesia, a nation which accounts for 2.3% of our total exports and $7bn of Australian goods.

It’s tiny. It’s about the same as our export trade to New Zealand, a nation with one fiftieth of the population. Yet even smaller, it seems is what Turnbull leaves behind him as he departs the political scene.

Malcolm Turnbull’s legacy? No-one on The Drum, on Mal’s muzzled ABC can find a good word to say. Or anything.

True. Massive income tax cuts are Super Mal’s great leap forward to a more unequal, less democratic society. But it won’t be until 2024 that the rich will pay far less tax than they do now, a vital reform which will cost us $144 billion in foregone revenue, while the rest of us have to make do with fewer teachers and schools; more suffering, poorer health.

By 2024, a worker earning $200,000 a year will pay the same rate of tax as someone earning $41,000. The National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) modelling calculates that “a couple both earning twice the average full-time salary can expect an extra $13,000 in 2024-25”. Heart-warming to help the needy get their just rewards.

Of course it’s unfair, but as Ben Eltham claims growing injustice and inequality are only some of the effects of ripping the guts out of our progressive tax system, a fair system. The main aim is to collect less money. Then you have less funding for infrastructure, defence, welfare and all the other nasty nanny statism (au pairism?) which the right abhors.

“…lower revenue is all part of the Coalition’s plan. The Turnbull government wants to give away all this money – not just to reward high-income earners in its political base, but in order to permanently reduce the federal tax base.”

Richard Denniss begs to differ. The Australia Institute Chief Economist argues that, despite its rhetoric, in thirty years the Coalition has made no attempt to lessen government regulation, spending or decrease the tax take, the problem is that

“for 30 years Australian political debate has revolved around “what the economy needs”. The simple truth is that economies don’t need anything. People do.”

Of course, Fizza’s left a lot to be going on with. Some of it’s OK.

Industry Super is gaining from the Royal Commission Morrison and Turnbull voted 26 times not to have. The AFR reckons rivers of gold are pouring out of bank-owned superannuation funds and into industry funds in response to revelations of misbehaviour at the banking royal commission.

AustralianSuper says it received more than $1 billion from new customers in July and August – double the amount of the same time last year. It’s a snafu in a commission the government hoped would have the opposite effect.

History will not spurn Turnbull, the J Alfred Prufrock of Australian politics, however, for all the brevity of his tenure, his indecision and his incapacity to lead. He wins the Honey I Shrunk the Kids Award. Even hobbled by his Faustian pact with the Nationals, his “smaller government” diminished us; making us a smaller, meaner, sneakier, crueller society with increased state surveillance, persecution of dissenters, especially whistle-blowers – not to mention the pressure brought to bear on charities lest their advocacy for the poor and marginalised lead to any criticism of government policy.

Critics were also put on notice that DHS may leak their personal details to the press to “correct media claims.

Centrelink briefed a journalist about the welfare history of blogger Andie Fox, who wrote an opinion piece for Fairfax Media claiming the agency had “terrorised” her over a debt she claimed she did not owe.

Unfounded allegations unnecessarily undermine confidence and take staff away from dealing with other claims,” a DHS spokesman explained, keeping a straight face. Unfounded allegations? Centrelink itself concedes that one third of appeals relating to its contentious robo-debts scheme have resulted in the debts being set aside by a federal tribunal.

Centrelink’s Robo-debt automated persecution of the innocent is also no small feat. A government department that holds you guilty until you prove your innocence, not only reverses the onus of proof, it’s a real money-spinner. Terry Carney, a former member of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal argues that the Turnbull government’s robo-debt program involves enforcement of “illegal” debts that in some cases are inflated or non-existent. Money for jam.

Politics is of course about more than power for its own sake but the Liberals remind us it can also be about so much less.

Abbott’s petty vendetta towards Turnbull is worthy of a Maupassant story, the monstrous dwarf’s, all-consuming, insane power of revenge.  Turnbull bears responsibility as PM for not confronting Abbott on his overt sabotage campaign. He preferred the passive-aggressive right to his final quip that “past prime ministers should get out of parliament”.

Above all, in the short term, Turnbull’s weak leadership has helped deliver us unto ScoMo, even if the new Prime Monster’s pathology ultimately has a deeper and broader aetiology.

In the end, the delusional right’s nostalgia for an old, white, male Australia doesn’t let the Liberals give much thought to Turnbull’s legacy – although there were signs of a party reported in Dutton HQ when it seemed that the merchant banker was at last cast out. And as for the nation – it’s too distracted replaying the ScoMo show, whose plot features a thoroughly post-modern coup where winner loses all as his party gives up on heeding what the nation wants.

It’s attuned instead to coal lobby propaganda and the music of its banking and business lobby’s donations.

Peter Dutton stars as Morrison’s useful idiot, in the on demand replay of Scott Malcolm, a whodunit with a baroque plot in which Mal’s backers help Morrison to seize his job and blow up the Liberal Party. Explosive revelations, recriminations and exclusive off the record, well-sourced accusations rock Canberra, this week, as a volley of aftershocks threatens to demolish what remains of the smoking ruins of the Turnbull government. ScoMo will finish the job.

Turnbull himself wisely kisses politics goodbye and jets off to the Big Apple where he and Lucy own a modest luxury apartment on the Upper West Side which overlooks Central Park. At least it will have reliable, high speed broadband.

Whilst the Cayman Islander, himself, calls his political assassination “a malevolent week of madness”, in a touching farewell letter to his Wentworth constituents, it is just another day at the office for the megalomaniacal, stop-at-nothing, frothing Morrison.

In his first stand-up routine as leader and Liberal Top Rat, Morrison hands out Aussie flag lapel pins. He wears one, ScoMo explains, to the most divided Liberal party room in history, because it helps him remember which side he is on.

“The reason I wear it is because it reminds me every single day whose side I’m on. I’m on the side of the Australian people, that’s what I’m saying to myself, that’s who I think about first.”

Flags? Side? It’s a brilliantly subversive, richly allusive, Freudian piece, an ironic homage to Ten- Flags-Tony Abbott’s ersatz nationalism, while flagging that a race-baiting, bigot-whistling immigration election is on the menu. All other futile pretence at policy, from The NEG, to the banking royal commission is finally about to be swept overboard or scuppered as the brave new leader clears the decks of all detritus and Dutton supporters. Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead.

“This is about giving up on the country, on what it wants, because a stubborn few cannot give up on coal and traditional values. The Coalition would sooner forsake electoral success than reckon with the realities of climate science or engage with the leadership asked for by multiculturalism.

Scott Morrison is prime minister not because he has a better chance than Malcolm Turnbull of winning the next election. He is prime minister because he is willing to govern against the desires of the electorate.” Writes Erik Jensen.

Our screens soon clog with images of our dear leader in a Hurley cap and shirtsleeves, a sly rebuke to Turnbull’s Collins Street Akubra and RM Williams moleskins. Gonzo Morrison is an antipodean Gomer Pyle in a frenzy of emoting consoling and mad gesticulation amidst drought-porn images of dying stock, parched paddock and stoic, laconic farmers.

Of course it’s all about keeping us safe. News of a terror plot is a timely reminder of our super security. Somehow, somewhere is a shot of a dog-proof fence for ScoMo to reach right up and hold on to, another ironic parody of all those images of Turnbull strap-hanging in railway carriages, a millionaire public transport aficionado, man of the people.

Morrison’s more at ease with the fence, the fear and the dog-whistle.

Meanwhile after-shocks from ScoMo’s coup continue with complaints about bullying, his buying-off Abbott and Joyce as special envoys at rates which may even equal Ruddock’s $274,507 plus pay for his own hugely successful stint as special envoy for human rights. Above all, a mysterious flood of leaks threatens to drown Dutto in an au pair scandal.

A former drug squad detective, Peter Dutton shouldn’t have to work too hard to suss out where they’re coming from.

You’ve got to hand it to Morrison; before he takes all the credit himself.

scomo with mouth like a trout

“Lay on, Macduff, and damned be him who first cries ‘Hold! enough!’” Macbeth Act V Scene viii.

It might have been heroic. Given another time, place or PM, Malcolm Turnbull’s call for a Liberal leadership spill Tuesday, might have been inspiring -“Turnbullian”, as Turnbull torch-holder, fan-girl Annabel Crabb would have it. Perhaps she could run a new hit TV series: “Kitchen cabinet makeovers you can safely enjoy at home.”

As it is, Turnbull makes a typically, ill-judged, call. Rattled by the jungle drums of the Dutton camp, amplified in True HD Dolby stereo in the Murdoch media, Turnbull demands a Liberal leadership spill, Tuesday. It is his undoing.

He gains 48 votes, 57.8 percent of all ballots cast. Making public his meagre victory, however, serves only to advertise how many oppose him. It helps prematurely end his own vexed term as the 29th PM of Australia by Friday; a mixed blessing.

Dutton says he’ll challenge again, (and again) Turnbull demands his Home Affairs Supremo supply 43 signatures by Friday.

Calling a spill may throw Dutton off-guard, but with Turnbull’s modest support now public, his insurgents have some useful vulnerability to work with as they hit the phones, twisting arms, tweaking role descriptions, even promising portfolios.

Don’t be sucked in. Monstrous, soulless, merciless, the Coalition is a horror-show, Labor Deputy, Tanya Plibersek warns the house.

“This is a Frankenstein’s monster of a government. It has the face of the member for Wentworth, the policies of the member for Warringah and it has the cold, shrivelled soul of the member for Dickson.” 

Others, out of right field, voice disappointment that Tuesday’s coup has not delivered Mal’s head on a platter. Or under a strappado. Some may be heard getting pilliwinks ready.

“… in its current state the Liberal Party cannot even organise an assassination, let alone run the country,” Catherine McGregor carps in Fairfax, disappointed that Abbott and his monkey-pod rebels or his Monash Mensheviks have been so overtly unsuccessful. Rasputin’s hit job is beginning to look more professional.

Rasputin was poisoned, shot three times, bludgeoned with a dumb-bell, before he was bound and thrown from a bridge through the ice and left to drown in the river Neva. Even so, when his corpse was recovered, the position of the hands suggested he was trying to untie the bindings. The Turnbull government is just as messily despatched.

The final twist of the knife, happens mid-morning Thursday. Three cabinet ministers claim publicly that Turnbull has lost majority support among his colleagues and that they have to bring the leadership dispute to a head. Had they not defected, their three votes would have been enough to thwart Friday’s spill. Turnbull would still be PM.

Ultimately, Turnbull is undone when his three loyal lieutenants desert him. Cormann, Fifield and Cash all defect to the enemy en masse. Why? There’s no logical reason to pull their vital support. “It’s just the vibe of the thing”, Tony Wright writes in Fairfax. Do the three musketeers nobly elect to go with the flow in order to purge their party?

True, the Liberal Party, itself, is paralysed by division; gripped in a “cataclysmic, existential” fight, as Liberal shill, Terry Barnes, adviser to former Health Ministers, Abbott and Medicare levy Michael Wooldridge, hypes party discord to Fairfax.

Malcolm’s political miscalculation; misjudgement plays into Labor’s hands: Shorten calls a vote of no confidence. Pity there’s no vote of over confidence.

“The conduct of this narcissistic government is both shocking and selfish and undervalues the Australian people.”

This house should vote for no confidence because the prime minister has no authority, no power and no policies. And the reason for that sits behind him. If nearly half of his own government do not want him to be prime minister, why should the rest of Australia put up with him?”

Shorten echoes former Howard adviser, former QLD and SA state Liberal Party President, Geoffrey Green, a “senior Liberal” strategist who told The New Daily astutely and fearlessly last year that,

“The Turnbull government is at war with the people. This is a government which hates their own constituents. The Liberal Party has lost touch with what it stands for and will be decimated unless it changes tack.”

“The Turnbull government has attacked every core constituency, small business, superannuants, pensioners, families with children, all because they have a budget that is out of control.” OK there’s a class war they have to win too but he leaves that out.

“They have not done anything about their own backyard. Public servants still fly at the front of the plane.” Or anywhere in the plane if it’s a chartered RAAF jet to the football.

Far from having his knuckles rapped, Greene, moreover, now runs Peter Dutton’s campaign in the seat of Dickson which he holds by a margin of 2%. But he’s going to have to hose down Spud’s coup-mania, or his urges toward auto da fe.

Even for the modern Liberal Party, an oxymoron which rivals “Turnbull government” as a contradiction in terms, Tuesday’s botched right wing coup is a colossal cock-up. It sets in train a farcical series of miscalculations, aided and abetted by Murdoch’s media, Australian politics king-maker supreme. And by its own, internal fifth column.

Be it group madness or poor arithmetic, or Turnbull’s sheer bloody-minded revenge on Dutton, Scott “where the bloody hell are you?”, Morrison wins narrowly 40-45 against Dutton, Friday, after Julie Bishop is unfairly eliminated first ballot with only eleven votes.

A leaked WhatsApp reveals the party is instructed not to vote for Bishop in round one as this is a ruse to enable shonky Morrison to drop out and give all his votes to Dutton.

Dirty Tricks? Morrison is victorious 40-45. The MP whose capacity to foster racism and resentment makes him the “greatest grub in Australia’s political history”, according to Peter Hartcher, is sworn in as Prime Minister, Friday.

A divided, dysfunctional, party musters all its sublime ineptitude to transform chaos into catastrophe. Above all, as David Marr argues, the fiasco reveals an atavistic right wing desperate to wrest control of a party it doesn’t reflect.

Trouble is already brewing for Morrison if it is true that Peter Dutton, is – or was a stalking horse for Tony Abbott’s own return from exile. Morrison has already wisely excluded Abbott from his cabinet, fobbing him off with a job as Coalition water-boy.

The latest Newspoll shows a massive blowout in what Turnbull bragged, this week, was a closing of the gap – but which is more likely to have been an aberrant result. The two party preferred split showed a slim two point gap of 51/49 in favour of Labor a fortnight ago. Now it’s blown out by twelve points. Labor now leads 56/44.

For the first time since 2015, Bill Shorten emerges as preferred PM, reversing a 12 point lead by Malcolm Turnbull, two weeks ago, into a six-point lead (39/33) for the Opposition leader over Morrison.

As The Australian’s Simon Benson puts it mildly, popular support for the Coalition has crashed to the lowest levels in a decade with the newly elected Prime Minister Scott Morrison now faced with leading a shattered government out of the wreckage of last week’s leadership coup and rebuilding a Liberal Party in crisis.

Yet there’s a lot to Morrison’s rebuilding of his own background before we even get to his party leadership or to his fitness to be Prime Minister. His success as state director of the NSW State Liberal Party 2001-4. His subsequent $350,000 PA post as head of Tourism Australia, bestowed by a grateful then Tourism Minister, Joe Hockey, is widely seen as cronyism or part of the Liberal tradition of jobs for the boys.

Morrison soon, however, ran into trouble with the nine man board of Tourism Australia inspiring complaints which echo those from Immigration Department Officials when he militarised the nation’s compassion by setting up Border Force in what it suited the xenophobic Abbott government to pretend was “strengthening our borders”.

Nick Bryant reports of Tourism Australia in The Monthly, “Its members complained that he did not heed advice, withheld important research data about the controversial campaign, was aggressive and intimidating, and ran the government agency as if it were a one-man show.”

His contempt for then Minister, Fran Bailey, also reveals qualities of mind and spirit that do not augur well for any neophyte Prime Minister. Morrison boasted that “if Bailey got in his way, he could bring her down”. In the end Howard backed his minister. Morrison was paid out in an “agreed separation” believed to have been A$300,000.

Much of the secrecy and the absurd officialise and bureaucratic jargon of “operational matters” and “on-water” matters are part of Morrison’s lasting legacy to obfuscation if not secrecy. Morrison’s incoherence owes a great deal to meaningless jargon.

Morrison’s dealings with the media and accountability to the public have been widely criticised. A 2014 Australian Human Rights Commission report to government found that Morrison failed in his responsibility to act in the best interests of children in detention during his time as minister.

In 2014, he also succeeded in passing a bill through parliament which gave him more power than any previous immigration minister. He could now return asylum seekers to their place of origin, detain asylum seekers without charge, and refuse any asylum seekers who arrive by boat. No-one made much of a fuss. Unless it was all hushed up.

In his two-year career as Immigration Minister Morrison saw at least one major incident where he was shown to lie about an attack 17 February 2017, on a 23 year old refugee Reza Barati, who, Morrison maintained for days, was outside the compound of the Manus Island detention centre, until incontrovertible evidence emerged later that the young Iranian man was in fact attacked by a gang of guards inside the compound.

Witness and fellow Iranian refugee, Behrouz Boochani writes: “Even though four years have passed, the killers have yet to be brought to justice, and there are still no clear answers to the fundamental questions concerning the riot.”

Reza Barati’s parents still hold Morrison completely accountable for their son’s death. A senate inquiry found  the cause of the riot to be a failure to process asylum seeker claims, stating the violence was “eminently foreseeable”.

It also found that the Australian Government failed in its duty to protect asylum seekers, including Barati. Morrison accused Labor and the Greens of using the report “as a blatant attempt to whitewash their own failures in government“. Nice.

Many similar miscarriages of justice and neglect of duty of care are documented in the 2000 leaked reports which detail the abuse of women and children on Nauru Island during May 2013 to October 2015. Morrison was Minister for Immigration and Border Protection 2013-2014.

Other examples of Morrison’s behaviour suggest that he is not a fit and proper person to be Prime Minister.

These include politicising suffering. When 48 people died in the Christmas Island disaster of 2010, Morrison objected to the Gillard Government offering to pay for families’ fares to the funerals in Sydney. The cost of the fares would have amounted to a few cents per Australian taxpayer.

Morrison did admit later that his comments were insensitive and in appropriate. But how many incoming PMs have hung with Hun Sen? Or sipped champagne with Pol Pot’s former Khmer Rouge battalion commander, a mass murderer and his cronies in Phnom Penh, just four years ago, as he sealed a bargain A$55m deal, whereby they would take five of our refugees off our hands?

The corrupt regime got A$40 million vaguely described as “development assistance’. In other words we bribed a corrupt Cambodian government to take our refugees, aka “illegal maritime arrivals”, whom our domestic political theatre has been taught are illegal aliens, persons we cannot accept because of their links with Islamic terror and their capacity to encourage demon people smugglers and other monsters of our leaders’ febrile imagination.

Finally, together with this selective account, offered as a clue to “Scott Morrison: Who the bloody hell are you?” (as Nick Bryant entitles his Monthly essay) must be included the means by which Morrison secured preselection for the safe Liberal NSW seat of Cook, prior to the 2007 federal election.

Michael Towke, a Lebanese Christian from the right faction, won with eighty votes. Morrison managed only eight. Four days later, amid allegations of branch stacking, Towke became the victim of a smear campaign, suggesting he’d inflated his CV, along with a series of damaging personal stories alleging his family has unsavoury connections leaked to the Daily Telegraph. (After mounting a legal fight, News Limited offered him an out-of-court settlement).

A Lebanese Australian could never win a seat that had recently witnessed the Cronulla riot, it was muttered. Consequently, the NSW state executive refused to endorse Towke’s nomination, and demanded a second ballot. The beneficiary was Scott Morrison, a cleanskin in the factional fight, who was parachuted in as a unity candidate.

Turnbull looks relieved. In part he is happy, no doubt, to see Dutton come unstuck. Some part of him also must be relieved to be rid of a role no-one could master; a straightjacket imposed by the Nats’ former leader, Warren Truss who, in the secret Coalition Agreement, dictated Turnbull’s Faustian compact: Malco could be PM just as long as he was never himself – especially on such matters as climate change, energy, water or same-sex marriage.

There’s a lot of the thespian in the PM; a ham actor. Yet quitting office is quite the best thing Turnbull’s done to date, a measured, if not restrained performance, not that he’s likely to get any thanks for it. The right wing mistrust him as a dangerous leftie, a threat to the purity of their Menzian ideological mish-mash. He’s not one of them.

Our media, once again, rush to air with “vox pops” interviews with “ordinary Australians” (there is no such thing as an ordinary Australian” – “ordinary people” are extraordinary – but that heresy is never part of the narrative).

The narrative is to deplore the change of Prime Ministers. In the next breath, it is time to bag Labor. Sheesh, the Coalition’s caught the Labor disease. Enough said.

Yet for all the truth that people like to get the PM they vote for and for all they suspect that a change means they’ve been sold a dud, the notion of betrayal is nonsense, a cheap and easy way to expose a raw nerve. We all know that our pollies our parasites. How much joy it gives to express our futile righteous indignation. And envy.

Aussies love to take the mickey out of those with tickets on themselves – even if we’re paying for them. We love to puncture the pomposity of the over-exalted. There’s nothing wrong with that. But Shorten’s on to something when he claims Turnbull’s government undervalues the people. We’re all ripped off.

The popular narrative has two skeins. Men and women in the street obligingly decry the incessant changing of our PMs, while behind our backs, other parts of the media find virtue in a new pretender, a process ScoMo helps with a brilliantly timed set of releases including a puff piece in the Australian Women’s Weekly that takes the cake.

You have to hand it to Morrison. His knack of being in the right place at the right time, his Zelig-like shape-stealing self-camouflage, his overweening ambition, his lust for realpolitik and his PM’s backing all help him see off his rival. ScoMo riskily insinuates himself between Dutton’s coup and victory; snatching the nation’s thirtieth Prime Ministership all for himself. For now at least.

Dutton is undone. ScoMo robs an ugly mob of reactionaries, opportunists, and the malignant malcontents of the monkey pod room, Monash groupers, a scurvy crew of climate change deniers orchestrated by Tony Abbott and Peta Credlin in league with Sky, The Australian and other Murdoch media outlets out to depose Turnbull.

Just how many days will it take before they turn on him? How long before telling the truth about a prime or any other minister will become an indictable offence?