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.

Dutton’s naked power grab.

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Our nation faces a slow decline if it takes no action on its major economic, social and environmental challenges.”

Unless we act boldly; commit to long-term thinking, we face a poorer, bleaker future. It’s the big idea of the Australian National Outlook 2019(ANO 2019), a report published Wednesday, 12 June, by CSIRO whose partners include fifty leaders across twenty-two major Australian organisations from industry, the not-for-profit and education sectors.

Ken Henry is on 7:30 Report, Tuesday, to explain how this ANO has a new section on loss of trust and social cohesion.

“We all know why trust’s a concern” he says, straight-faced. Irony doesn’t cut it in an age of deep fakery. Perhaps Ken counts on our forgetting his smart-arse testimony to the Banking Royal Commission, an appalling performance which led to his standing down as NAB Chairman.

As he professed at the time, “I did not perform well. I really should have performed quite differently. I should have been much more open.”

Yep. Bugger honesty; integrity. It’s all about performance. Authenticity is the most important thing in corporate life. When you can fake that, you’ve got it made.

Clearly, Ken has no clue why trust’s a concern. Nor does The Liar from the Shire, our accidental PM, who never lifted a finger in the Turnbull coup. So he says. A month after ScoMo surprises everyone, including himself, by winning an election, which he pretended was a popularity contest between himself and Bill Shorten, a poll decided largely by betraying the trust of rural voters; hoodwinking regional Queensland and WA, he takes a leaf from Tony Abbott’s book. “Not-Me” Morrison makes a virtue of doing nothing. Man needs a break. Fear-mongering takes it out of you.

ScoMo takes “a brief, well-earned break” according to his press drop to The Herald Sun. It’s a secluded (expensive) family island holiday in Fiji, a state which doesn’t muck around pretending to a free press. Or free speech.

Besides, the hard work’s already been done. Expanding national security; “bigging up” Big Brother. Now ScoMo can sit back. Watch Going Batty, the latest episode of How Bad is John Setka?, a boo-the-union-thug melodrama, a Coalition-News-Corp production, while “Thumper” Dutton finesses our final descent into a mass surveillance police state.

Certainly that’s the plan, as News Corp’s, Annika Smethurst, reported in April 2018, warning us about a proposed abuse of state power. Her work led to her home being invaded by an AFP squad 4 June this year. A reprisal? No. The raid was about the ­“alleged publishing of information classified as an official secret” that police said “had the potential to undermine national security”. While some may view the charge as impossibly broad, no-one’s been arrested yet. Nor may any arrest be expected, says the AFP before it cops a theatrical, hypocritical, spray from its Murdoch-crat fans.

“This raid demonstrates a dangerous act of intimidation towards those committed to telling uncomfortable truths.”

Let News Corp bullies fulminate about intimidation, it’s all good publicity to Peter Dutton. Or the cat’s well and truly out of the bag. The Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) a military intelligence arm, will be empowered to spy on civilians, as Ms Smethurst said, a move which Dutton says on ABC Insiders Sunday, warrants “a sensible discussion”.

Dutton is of course not bound by fact and embellishes his interview with Annabel Crabb by claiming that “he’d got all children out of detention here in Australia”, whereas, at that very moment, two-year-old Tharunicaa is waiting to celebrate her birthday at the Melbourne Immigration Detention Centre. Her strawberry cheesecake birthday cake is refused entry in yet another reminder of the tenderness and mercy extended to those youngsters yet in Dutton’s care.

Tharunicaa is one of four small girls aged between one and four in the centre, which also imprisons a seventeen-year-old boy. Her parents, Priya and Nades have been incarcerated with her following a dawn raid fifteen months ago.

On the theme of sensible discussion, Rebekah Holt reports in Crikey that Border Force has previously disputed the definition of detention regarding baby Isabella and her mother Huyen, who are held in the same unit with Tharunicaa and her family. Lawyers and the UN agree, semantics aside, that Isabella is a detained child. Yet the Morrison government insists that the child and some others, be classified as guests to get around the law on detaining children.

Imagine how much more sensible Dutto’s discussion might be if the Minister could admit that Tharunicaa exists. Last year, her father also assiduously filled out a form requesting permission his daughter be allowed a birthday cake brought in by a friend. Then, as now, it was refused. It’s not petty cruelty, however, but merely a sensible precaution in the circumstances. Imagine the flood of refugees crowding our shores if we were known to be soft on kids’ birthday cakes.

A sensible discussion erupts in our main daily newspaper claque, radio and on TV networks, especially Sky TV. It consists of madly agreeing with Peter. Cheering. How we have to trade off a bit of fatuous free speech for the government’s hugely important (both for national security and in the national interest) need to keep secrets. ScoMo gets Paul Fletcher on ABC to help him with a commitment that’s worthy of an episode of Yes Minister.

Some journos question the PM regarding the AFP raids to rough up the press. ScoMo is a model of ponderous solicitude, despite wilfully misreading the question, as how a law which is rotten at its core may, somehow, be made better.

“If there is a suggestion or evidence, or any analysis, that reveals that there is a need for further improvement of those laws, well, the government is always open to that,” Morrison says. But the principles of maintaining national security and freedom of the press both have to be honoured. So? “I intend to proceed calmly, and soberly, and consultatively”.

Will he support a parliamentary inquiry into press freedom? Morrison evades the question on Tuesday, “What I’m going to do on this issue is listen carefully. I think we have to keep these matters in perspective”.

In other words, ScoMo intends to do nothing. Hope that it all blows over. Besides, Peter Dutton can sweet-talk anyone.

After all, as Pete says, the last thing we want is to let paedophile rings, terror networks, or the odd transnational crime syndicate (not Adani) get under our radar. Oddly, however, not all politicians favour such an increase in surveillance.

It’s “a dangerous and unjustified attack on fundamental rights”, protests Nick McKim, The Greens’ justice spokesperson, who quite properly takes exception at proposed laws to enable a government to spy on its people.

“For the Liberals to try to push this through just days after raids on journalists shows how little they respect basic rights and freedom of the press … No further powers should be granted to security agencies without a thorough review of existing laws, and until our rights are properly enshrined and protected in a Charter of Rights.”

Bernard Keane reports of a “power grab” by Home Affairs. At least, that’s how it seems to the Intelligence Community. A turf war rages as Mike Pezzullo, Home Affairs Czar, annexes the Australian Signals Directorate. Or at least asserts enough control to permit it to spy on civilians. It may well be one of those things that is best managed by Morrison on holiday in Fiji. On the other hand, its success can only help Peter Dutton with his enormous leadership ambitions. Already, he is technically more powerful than the PM. With even more powers, he will become impossible to manage.

The grab has other implications for civil society. Whilst he does not subscribe to the “spying on civilians” scenario, Keane does note “the proposal would include the ASD not merely advising corporations on cybersecurity but being allowed full access to their IT systems in order to “protect” them. The result would be the ASD having unfettered access to vast amounts of private information about the consumers and businesses that use that corporation’s servers — all under the guise of protecting the community from cybersecurity threats.”

ScoMo has no policy platform apart from a Tea-Party thought bubble which media insist on calling “tax relief” or “lowering the tax burden”. It further flattens our once-progressive system with unjust tax cuts for the rich which we can’t afford. A third tranche in 2024-5 will cost us $95 billion over five years, calculates senior economist, Matt Grudnoff at The Australia Institute. Overwhelmingly, high income earners will benefit. So ScoMo copies Abbo. Goes to ground.

“I want the people to know that calm, steady, purposeful government has returned; a government that’s about the substance of getting things done, not about the theatre of putting things on the front page.” Tony Abbott pronounced hopefully, with his own unique irony bypass and pious piffle filter working overdrive in 10 Sept 2013.

Observers of Abbo’s achievement are less generous. “An utter waste of space” is Laura Tingle‘s withering verdict in 2017, well after the self-abortive Abbott experiment collapsed under the inertia of its own ineptitude. “Secrets R Us” ScoMo will follow the same route but more quietly. And it may take a while. Warringah has only recently come to share Tingle’s view, despite the budgie smuggler’s brilliant, last-ditch attempt to re-invent himself as the father of marriage equality.

“When all is said and done, I helped to make the thing happen,” the former PM tells The Sydney Morning Herald, skipping the fact that from the onset, he vociferously opposed any change to John Howard’s Marriage Act. What he says next will form a gold standard in ministerial political accountability especially among Liberal Party neoconservatives.

“I set up the process which opened up the possibility and even the likelihood of change. Now that it has happened, I absolutely accept the outcome. It’s the law of the land and that’s the way it is.”  

Calm, steady and purposeful? Rarely are we blessed with such sublime self-parody. In 2015, Abbott was thrown into blind panic at the prospect of a real party room debate on marriage equality. It’s how we got the half a billion postal thingy which began as a plebiscite and then was moulded into a postal something on Peter Dutton’s suggestion.

As for the theatre, Abbott’s cabinet leaked all over the front page of The Australian or Daily Tele whenever it suited him, a tactic already avidly embraced by his heir-apparent to the fun of quietly getting things done, ScoMo, the totalitarian.

Abbott is a Caspar Milquetoast compared with ScoMo’s back-stabbing, ABC raiding, water-rorting, secrecy-obsessed, FOI refusing, Banking Royal Commission-resisting cabal of God-botherers, noddies and mining lobby shills.

True, the Abbottocracy did a lot of lasting damage. Its nihilistic climate change denial, its petty and pernicious hyper-partisanship, its war on renewable energy, the environment, the poor and its madness in mistaking Julie Bishop’s Aid budget for a cash cow, have all helped reduce us. Above all, his dud political judgement took its toll. Those who chart the Liberal Party’s decline under John Howard cannot ignore the toxic legacy of his spoilt acolyte, Abbott.

Getting things done? Or undone? Australia has one of the highest per capita carbon emissions in the world – yet it is the only nation in the world to actually repeal a carbon price? 17 July 2014 ought to be another type of national sorry day.

But how good is that front page? Much as Morrison is doing now, with the John Setka panto, Abbott hoped that by continuing to harp on the Gillard government’s supposed instability, the nation would miss his own stunningly crud judgement. Who can forget Prince Philip’s knighthood, the Bronwyn Bishop expenses fiasco or the Dyson Heydon imbroglio? Yet one enduring act of Abbott-sabotage is that our Tories end up believing their own News Corp chorus.

Morrison’s Follies follow both the trend to self-destruction and the rhetoric: the pretence that when it’s not throttling democracy or spending seven hours embarrassing and intimidating a free press journalist quietly at her home, it’s somehow nation-building because it has nothing to show – no programme – no vision and no sign of a set of policies

Yet barely four weeks out of the blocks, ScoMo’s show, another supposed tribute to the “Quiet Australians” he credits with bringing him his “miracle victory”  is already a riot of evasion and division with a power grab and police busts and a turf war waged on the Australian Signals Directorate by Home Affairs, the Department of Megalomania, created against all advice, by a Malcolm Turnbull whose reliably poor political judgement caused him to try to buy off power-hungry Dutton and his Monkey Pod roommates. Not even ScoMo can assert that sort of authority.

This week, ScoMo puts in some hard slog on Tony’s invisibility project. Does nothing. Holidays on an exotic coral atoll as yet undrowned by a steadily rising sea. Opening up the Galilee Basin to six new coal mines will help with that.  But it’s no respite. Apart from a pledge of tax cuts by 1 July, a vow which cannot be honoured, the policy void that is the Morrison government is rapidly filled, as Paul Bongiorno gently notes, by the ghastly “spectre of an incipient police state”.  And by the odd cameo role from our protector Dutton on birthday cake duty. Forget Setka, ScoMo, Dutto’s right behind you.

Josh Frydenberg is despatched to the US. Tuesday, he’s full of admiration for Trump’s tax cuts. Fran Kelly on Radio National Breakfast shares his joy. No point in being a party-pooper. Fact-checking a Treasurer who has yet to give any evidence that he is anything more than a neoliberal shill could not possibly be in the national interest. It may well be a threat to national security. Especially given that he’s refused to budge from his mission to balance the budget.

In fact, Trump’s $1.5 trillion in tax cuts that came into effect last year have failed to raise workers’ wages, boost economic growth, or stimulate business investment.

A recent US study by the bipartisan Congressional Research Centre suggests that in Australia, too, most workers’ pay will not rise nor will jobs grow. Nor will tax cuts boost investment or help any other measure of productivity. Only four percent of US workers have seen a bonus or pay increase following Trump’s tax cuts.

Far from creating jobs, corporations, such as GM, have laid off thousands of workers while using tax windfalls to buy back $1 trillion of their own stock. In America, as in Australia, corporate executives and rich investors are the real beneficiaries of tax cuts. GM posted a tax windfall of $157m in the first three months of 2018 thanks to the cut.

If and when parliament meets again, the government intends to put its tax cuts forward as one portmanteau bill. It is unlikely at this stage it will have anything but rave reviews from The Australian and unqualified support from the rest of News Corp. Whether it can persuade the senate cross bench, is, however, another matter. Already, Senator Rex Patrick, who shows sterling independence as an Alliance Party cross-bencher, has complained of bullying from Home Affairs Mike Pezzullo, a spat which Dutto says is all sorted out now in his nurturing, non-judgemental fashion.

“it was counterproductive because I have always found Senator Patrick to be a person of the sort of character who would seek to misrepresent the secretary’s words, and the secretary agreed the contact was not appropriate and that is where the matter ends”.

It has to be the best non-censure and least impartial intervention between a Minister and his chief of staff in political history. No wonder even Ken Henry can come on national TV to bemoan our lack of trust. ScoMo appears unafflicted, however, and doubtless when he does return from the South Pacific, he’ll find his government all shipshape and Bristol fashion and Captain Dutto on deck ready to pipe him aboard – in the most respectful non-insubordinate way. You wouldn’t count on him to bake a cake though.

ScoMo embraces police state in shocker of week.

 

Three weeks after its slender election victory, the Morrison government is all at sea. Three Chinese warships steam into Sydney Harbour uninvited. Spring our ring of steel. Laugh at our border security. PLA navy sailors roam The Emerald City, on a four day sleepover. And a shop. Cans of infant formula walk out the door. Sailors can double their money re-selling Aptamil back in China. Pooh-poohing “conspiracy theorists”The Australian eagerly spins a yarn that the Chinese warships are on a “baby milk raid”.

Taken by surprise, but never taken aback, ScoMo is OS. Unplugged. He plucks a ukulele, which he gifts to a grateful Manasseh Sogavare, newly-elected pro-China PM of our newly-rediscovered Pacific nation “family” in The Solomon Islands Honiara. The PM’s stunt is all part of a cunning plan to woo The Hapi Isles back to us.  The mass logging operations on “the lungs of the world” on the tiny island of Vangunu by Axiom Holdings, of which self-described “corporate doctor” Malcolm Turnbull was chairman, 1991-2, part of an act of catastrophic environmental vandalism, are not mentioned.

Multinational timber companies have logged ninety per cent of Solomon Island rainforest. Now logging is decimating remaining trees at 19 percent the sustainable rate. Its national forest will disappear by 2036. Whilst Unilever has been a major exploiter of local rainforest in the past, today eighty percent of timber is exported to China.

Embedded reporters spurn rainforest issues; focus, instead, on helping ScoMo spin his warship story, ” It’s a regular, reciprocal, visit.” The PLA is on its way home after “anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden”, a mere 12,271 km away? Shiver me timbers.

Inexplicably also missing the PLA visit memo, former Raytheon employee, Andrew Hastie pal, Defence Minister Brigadier (ret) Linda Reynolds is a big fan of the Libs’ “merit-based” exclusion of women. She’s not on hand to greet sailors personally. It’s no big snub. Linda probably has her work cut out not instructing the AFP to raid the ABC, not calling Ben Fordham at Nine’s 2GB and certainly not putting the wind up Annika Smethurst, News Corp’s Sunday Telegraph political editor.

So much not to do, so little time. It’s a week of surprise visits, lightning raids on our nation’s credibility, our attenuated, attention-span and an orchestrated attack on the heart, the liver and the lights of our democracy, our free press. And plausible deniability.

As with the week’s AFP raids on a free press, China’s visit to Sydney is not what it seems. Parading 700 well-armed fighting men along with your latest, state-of-the-art frigate and supply ship and amphibious landing craft is no show of force. No upstaging of Morrison’s diplomacy. No coincidence with the eve of the Tiananmen Square anniversary. It’s just part of today’s beaut “rules-based global system” keeping us safe.

So what if the warships dock in Sydney just as ScoMo tries to bribe Honiara with offers of loans to help them build an undersea Huawei-free communications cable to spike China’s influence in the Pacific? Why would our PM be in Sydney just to honour a visit from our major trading partner? ScoMo is in The Solomons, en route to the UK where important myths about D-Day, saving Europe from fascism, and presenting HM The Queen with Winx The Authorised Biography all demand to be commemorated or performed in person.

Luckily Morrison has time to announce his government’s catchy new policy of “Pacific step-up” a revamp which turns out to be just as bad as the old in ignoring climate change. Even older is his bold, new, back-to-the-future Kanaka 2.0 offer.

In the 1860s, Australian blackbirders began to lure what would amount to at least 30,000 Solomon Islanders to work on sugar plantations in Queensland and Fiji. New recruits got six pounds per year, a fixed rate for forty years, despite wage inflation elsewhere. Blackbirders and entrepreneurs, Robert Towns and John Mackay are commemorated in Queensland place names and in civic statues today.

Following this having a go but decidedly not a fair go tradition, Australia will gift $2.7 million over three years to Honiara’s government to help it fly Solomon Island FIFO workers here to be wage slaves on Aussie farms where they’ll “fill labour shortages in Australia” or undercut local workers by being paid lower wages and working longer hours in harsh conditions.  Half of all our migrant, temporary workers are underpaid. Hundreds of workers and millions of dollars in underpayment are involved.

The exploitation of migrant workers in Australia, a key report published last March, after a two-year inquiry by the federal Migrant Workers’ Taskforce, concludes that wage theft is widespread. A third of Australia’s foreign workers are paid less than half the minimum wage, and wage theft is especially severe in fruit and vegetable picking, according to Wage Theft in Australia, a survey undertaken by academics Bassina Farbenblum at UNSW and Laurie Berg at UTS. The Fair Work Ombudsman, they say, needs help.

Apart from the brutal legacy of its colonial past and its involvement in post-colonial exploitation, Australia may be belatedly realising how its climate change denialism and its cult of thermal coal; its abject failure to curb its own greenhouse gas emissions and its cuts to foreign aid help our Pacific neighbours reach out to China for aid instead.

But, in a post neoliberal, post-truth, Trumpian universe nothing is ever our own fault. Like Sydney’s Chinese warship fiasco. It isn’t true and it’s someone else’s fault.

Why, look!  The visit’s just something else retired Defence Minister, Pyne, forgot to pass on. Not a show of force by China at all, on the eve of the thirtieth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre.  Papa Morrison says there is no need for over-analysis by experts or media. Nothing remotely resembling gunboat diplomacy to see here.

NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian is also in the dark, but leaving Premiers out of the loop is part of ScoMo’s Trumpista leadership style. Speak up more in COAG, Gladys.

Similarly, the Chinese government obliges by sparing its own citizens from overthinking. It gets a scratch crew of two million online censors to block internet sites which might tell its people how Chinese government troops brutally fired on student-led pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen 4 June 1989. Precise figures are impossible to obtain, even with a free press, but two thousand may have been killed. As many as ten thousand are believed to have been arrested.

Thousands of other uprisings which spread to other centres, including Shanghai city, were also brutally repressed.

The Sydney PLA display catches ScoMo off-guard but he rallies later. Perhaps it’s jet-lag after nearly thirty hours in flight. Is he into the Tories’ class A recreational drugs enjoyed by so many otherwise promising successors to Theresa May? Unlikely.

ScoMo’s off and racing, wowing the Queen with, “How good is Winx?” a half-hour riff on a single platitude. A torrent of reports quote him explaining how well it all went. Her Majesty is spell-bound. Pity Phil is otherwise engaged. Taking the air. A twenty minute session becomes thirty-five. Or does it just seem longer? Lucky Queen.

Meanwhile, Dutton’s stakes rise as he wins the Alter-Copy-Erase media trifecta as a top staffer in Defence, or somewhere in the vast and powerful Home Affairs super-ministry, kits out his AFP with extraordinary warrants to raid the press on three separate occasions while both his PM and he, himself are OS. Nothing to see here.

A steward’s inquiry would just be a waste of time. Any Senate estimates committee will be treated with what in six years has become a show of open Coalition contempt for accountability and a painful reminder of the politicisation of the Public Service. Consider how the former minister for Environment, Melissa Price, was bullied by Queensland’s coal-pushers Matt Canavan and James Paterson into passing Adani’s flawed plans for water and wildlife conservation even if it meant the abdication of due diligence.

No-one’s home in government, Sunday, when a group of leading water scientists slam Adani’s “flawed” plan to protect groundwater near its Carmichael mine. Seven leading experts, from four major universities, warn that Adani’s water plan jeopardises Doongmabulla Springs seven kilometres south-west of its proposed excavation site.

The mine will bring extinction to a range of flora and fauna which currently depend upon the springs. Queensland’s Department of Environment and Science will meet this week to review Adani’s water management proposals. Yet, as we’ve seen with earlier federal government approvals, it’s important that we don’t get too carried away with the facts.

Cayman Island MDB company bagman and Energy Minister, Oxonian old boy, Angus Taylor finally nails how to evade our rising carbon emissions. It’s all good news. Everyone else in the world will breathe easier by burning our LNG. Official statistics can’t be trusted. So our greenhouse gas emissions are rising for the third year in a row? The good news is how our gas exports lower pollution in other countries. Genius. Gus wins most far-fetched stretch of credibility at less a canter than a rising trot.

Labor’s climate change and energy spokesman, Mark Butler, notes soberly that the data shows we are not on track to meet our Paris targets. “Not only did Angus Taylor not release emissions data by the deadline set by the Senate last Friday … the Liberals will try every trick in the book to avoid scrutiny of their record on tackling climate change.”

Best trick of the week for avoiding scrutiny, however, is getting the AFP to raid journalists for their sources, a reminder of the police state we’ve become. Important laws have been broken? National security is at risk? Spare us.

“The point is that politicians have constructed a repressive legal regime designed to protect the executive branch of government, impede accountability to the public and exert a chilling effect on the press,” Denis Muller writes in The Conversation.

“Quiet Australians” go wild with silent joy this week as ScoMo’s Stasi, the Department of Home Affairs, sends an AFP goon squad to frighten Annika Smethurst, News Corp’s Sunday titles’ political editor, Wednesday for her 2018 story that Home Affairs wants to spy on everyone. Their seven hour search of her Canberra home, includes her recipe books and underwear drawer. “You’re knickered” some flustered Federal cop is, doubtless, just itching to say on camera. Remarkably, Smethurst keeps her cool.

Of course, there’s more. The ABC is raided the next day. Two years ago, ABC broadcast a seven part series, The Afghan Files which investigates misconduct by Australian SAS troops engaged in our longest and most futile war; a campaign which not even our masters, the United States, can explain, let alone justify. The report documents possible unlawful killings. It includes fresh details of notorious incidents, including how Australians severed hands of slain Afghan Taliban fighters.

That our national broadcaster is subjected to a search in which the AFP have almost unlimited search powers is shocking; their warrant enables them to search almost everything – and copy – alter or delete files; in brief, tamper with the evidence. But even more alarming is the way in which the raid seems calculated to intimidate; prevent other journalists from risking speaking truth to power. This is not the act of a democratic government; a free, just and open society based on the rule of law. It is tyranny.

Even 2GB Drive’s Ben Fordham is harassed Monday for reporting that six refugee boats tried to reach Australia. Are random police raids part of the price we pay to live in ScoMo’s police state? It’s a state where, over time, the government has acquired extraordinary powers of surveillance, while citizens have been progressively stripped of their right to speak up; blow the whistle or just to report the truth.

An hour after his report goes to air, Fordham’s producer is contacted by the Department of Home Affairs to advise the refugee material was “highly confidential”“In other words, we weren’t supposed to know it,” Fordham tells Sydney listeners.

Everyone is under suspicion – just as with the reversal of the onus of proof under Robo-Debt, the jewel in our anti-welfare state crown, where Centrelink demands you pay back money they reckon you owe. Unless you can prove you don’t. It can be stressful, especially when you have no documents. Some Australians kill themselves as a result.

Some of us die as a result of just getting a letter. 2030 people don’t survive receiving their first Robo-Debt letter. The initial letter doesn’t specify how much you must pay back. Instead it asks you to confirm your previously submitted income information. Of those who are subsequently told they owe money to the department, 812 are dead.

It would, of course, be rash to make any connection. Former Minister Keenan is quick to voice caution. It’s a bit like the common explanation denying the role of climate change in extreme weather events. Causation is complex, therefore, don’t blame government.

“Any number of factors in an individual’s life could have contributed to their death during such an extended period and it would be foolhardy to draw a link to one particular cause without evidence to support such a claim,” he reassures us. And warns us off.

Acting AFP terror head Neil Gaughan is a star as Chief Inquisitor. He knows what fear can do. He can’t say, he says, whether some journalists will be charged with offences. He knows this leaves fear of prosecution dangling over as many heads as possible.

The leaks are sources of information about matters which the AFP should have been investigating -its primary focus – instead the sources become the target. The raids testify to the peril this poses to both reporters and their sources. Some have proposed law reforms protecting journalists but as many others point out, this involves all of us.

The New York Times notes: “… the real affront is to democracy, which flounders in the absence of a free press. It should be self-evident to the guardians of Australian security that rogue soldiers and overreaching surveillance are the true risk to Australia’s security, and that such threats will become far more dangerous if the wall of secrecy is made impregnable.”

ABC chair Ita Buttrose issues a statement in which she reports her protest and notes,

“In a frank conversation with the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, Paul Fletcher, yesterday, I said the raid, in its very public form and in the sweeping nature of the information sought, was clearly designed to intimidate.

It is impossible to ignore the seismic nature of this week’s events: raids on two separate media outfits on consecutive days is a blunt signal of adverse consequences for news organisations who make life uncomfortable for policy makers and regulators by shining lights in dark corners and holding the powerful to account.” 

In the meantime, ScoMo better get a fresh set of musical instruments to present and more books on racehorses on order if he is to continue his amazing foreign policy triumphs. He may just be able to find himself a diplomatic post to the Solomons or somewhere equally remote and low-lying when he loses office in Peter Dutton’s coup.

ScoMo and Co take us one week closer to fascism.

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“During this campaign we looked like a government in waiting. They looked like an opposition. It is time that the fourth estate held the government to account.”

Albo wants a press that speaks truth to power? Don’t we all? The newly anointed Labor leader takes aim at all press lackeys, hacks and toadies. He certainly gets their attention. Albanese can’t even decide how to pronounce” his own name, sneers our ABC’s Tiger Webb – instantly on Albo’s page – and case. Tiger implies Albo’s an indecisive, bastard scarred for life, by what Webb calls his single-parent upbringing and dramatic, late-in-life, rendezvous with his father.

There’s a mini-series in there, somewhere, along with Kill Bill, but the smart money is on Albo The Musical while Wokka’s World, an aquatic adventure series, where youngsters bolt marine art on to dead coral, is in pre-production. Truly.

Reef Ecologic’s Tourism Recovery Project promises to “lead in the design, creation and installation of underwater and inter-tidal interpretive art pieces across the Whitsunday region, coral restoration and educational activities”.

Dying marine creatures can look quite unsightly, but visitors can now feast their eyes on beautiful, artistic replicas.

The art attack aims to support tourism on the reef. Yet there’s even more good news and not just Adani which has been saved from bankruptcy by Modi’s newly returned BJP government. Adani looks like being fast-tracked to approval so that poor people in Bangladesh and other consumers may soon pay inflated prices for dirty Australian coal from its Carmichael Mine. This coal has a high ash content, causing deadly air pollution. But if we don’t sell it, someone else will.

There’s been some local argy-bargy because India doesn’t make enough electricity to officially permit its export to other countries but Adani has it sorted thanks to its fabulous mutually beneficial relationship with India’s PM Modi and his BJP.

Apart from Adani, news is full of the uplifting story about how Labor stuffed up an “unlosable” election. Got nothing right. By Sunday, Matthias Cormann does his “Labor, Labor” shtick on ABC Insiders. It’s all the Coalition does. A caring media tips buckets of gratuitous advice all over Albo. Look out for shifty Bill! Labor? The Labor Party is just one big factional brawl. Oddly, while ScoMo’s government helps sets fire to the planet, no-one seems to deem it newsworthy.

Nor do half of us seem to care that we are about to get into bed with thieves, rogues and scoundrels and those who question the wisdom of the Adani madness are howled down as being anti-blue-collar, latte-sipping economic saboteurs. Or in league with The Greens, whom everyone knows, are more harmful than any right wing extremist.

A class act, our ABC publishes Tiger’s public interest Albo story, just in case anyone mistakes Albo for a normal person. Doubtless, this comforts former Packer staffer, Network 10 morning show panellist, TV celebrity and “print media icon”, Ita Buttrose, ABC’s latest chairwoman, a Liberal stooge. Buttrose is in a blue funk about how Auntie lets her bias show.

“Sometimes I think, people without really knowing it, let a bias show through,” Ita says; her own pro-Coalition bias in full view, Wednesday, on ABC radio. It’s an alarming, unsubstantiated attack upon her own staff’s integrity. Part of her mission to get ABC “functioning again”, – like a sluggish colon – and with fibre – “stable management” and a varied diet.

“I think, sometimes, we could do with more diversity of views,” Buttrose’s studied indirection parrots the sniping of those who hate being held to account. Stay tuned for Auntie’s Anti-vaxxer and Ratbag half-hour. Perhaps One Nation’s empiricist, celebrity-nutter, Malcolm Roberts, could get his own NRA-sponsored show. Bush-lawyers, guns and money?

Money is a dirty word at our ABC. Under-funding our national broadcaster helps the Coalition keep Auntie under control – along with stacking the ABC board with Liberals and berating senior staff and board members. Last year, the government’s formal complaints broke all records, reports Jonathan Holmes. Its latest three-year “freeze” to the ABC’s annual funding indexation, is a big cut. Announced in 2018, it will cost the national broadcaster $83.7 million.

Now ScoMo’s government is miraculously returned, with some ABC help, $14.6 million of the new funding cuts will begin in July. Will jobs be lost? Buttrose equivocates, “There are many ways of achieving savings, you know. It’s not just people.” ABC staff are overjoyed by Ita’s coyly evasive, enigmatic reassurance. Management is ecstatic.

Stand by for even more repeats of Antiques Road Show, QI and further, endless renovation of Grand Designs.

But how good is ScoMo’s captain’s (cabinet) pick? Bugger the independent selection panel. Bugger the hapless applicants, gulled into addressing key selection criteria and a stroppy interview panel. No hard feelings, boys. A ScoMo lapel badge to former Fairfax Media CEO, Greg, “Maserati” Hywood, former News Corp CEO, Kim Williams, Film Victoria president Ian Robertson, and Gilbert + Tobin managing partner Danny Gilbert. You were all too qualified for the job.

Ita hasn’t been active in media management or high-profile chair roles for years; her experience running or editing large outlets is decades in the past, and confined to print journalism — the only medium the ABC isn’t involved in. She has no hands-on experience in meeting the challenges of digital media, Google and Facebook, streaming services or producing quality Australian content.” Bernard Keane sums up. But she won’t rock the boat; just what the Liberals are after.

How good is the ABC, moreover? Waking up to itself; realising its true role as ScoMo’s megaphone? Following all the best global trends, this week, our lucky country finds itself gently, but firmly, propelled further along the path to fascism.

As Henry Reynolds, observes, Morrison’s signature slogan about stopping the boats comes from the same deep well of intolerance, xenophobia and racist chauvinism as Trump’s Mexican wall and his recent, lunatic, five per cent tax. The Donald will tax all imports from Mexico until the Mexican government does something about “the illegal inflow of aliens coming through its territory” even though, as US corporations protest, trade and national security are separate issues.

On cue, a phantom boat turnback is reported by Border Force. Twenty people from Sri Lanka including “at least one baby” – now a type of weaponised incursion -seeking asylum are scooped up and flown back to their persecutors in violation of Article 33 (1 and 2) of the 1954 UN convention regarding the status of refugees. Article 33 (1) states,

“No Contracting State shall expel or return (‘refouler’) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”  It’s a convention Australia helped create. Now we treat it with contempt. But look over there! Mainstream media rush to publish the notion that the asylum-seekers were enticed by Labor.

Keen followers of Cirque du ScoMo’s fantastical illusionist act Keeping Australians Safe will recall Ring Master ScoMo bellowing – hyperventilating about Labor’s Medevac perfidy. Australia would be flooded with fake refugees because of Labor. Labor helped vote in the “Medevac Bill” aka the Home Affairs Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2018 moved by The Greens which provides urgent medical treatment in Australia to refugees detained offshore.

It’s clearly Labor’s-soft-on-borders fault for polluting our Christian charity and national security with feeble-minded leftist human rights dogma. “Look what Labor’s gone and done now” plays well for a day or two. In The Weekend Australian, Peter Dutton warns us we can expect more. An external threat is always a boon to any autocratic regime.

“Obviously people thought there was going to be a change of government… people smugglers have been marketing this.”

Cutting back on ABF patrols to save fuel may have played a part, but that matter is behind us Dutton assures the SMH. Patrols were restored in December after cutbacks were first denied. It is impossible to know, given government secrecy. Scott Morrison pioneered the practice of declaring all on water matters off limits to journalists. It’s part of the fiction that we are at war with asylum-seekers and is a key part of the wall of silence protecting the Morrison government.

On the other hand, push factors are more likely. The asylum seekers may have fled for their lives after the fatal Easter bombing attacks on three churches and four hotels in Batticaloa, an eight hour drive east of Colombo. At least 257 people, many of them Christians, were killed in a wave of suicide bombings on Easter Sunday. The National Tawheed Jamath Islamist extremist group which aligns itself with ISIS, has been blamed for the attacks.

Alternatively, Human Rights Watch warns of Sri Lanka’s unwillingness to begin accountability and reconciliation processes after its thirty-year civil war which ended ten years ago. Remaining in force is The Prevention of Terrorism Act which facilitates torture and other abuses. Muslims and other minorities face violence from ultra-nationalist groups.

They are not alone. As Michael Sainsbury argues in Crikey, Morrison’s push for religious freedoms cannot be taken seriously while his government continues to ignore the religious persecution of millions in Sri Lanka, India – or any other of our trading partners – even if ScoMo does use religious freedom as an excuse to legitimise discrimination and bigotry.

“Congratulations @narendramodi on your historic re-election as Prime Minister of India. Australia and India enjoy a strong, vibrant and strategic partnership, and our India Economic Strategy will take our ties to a new level. I look forward to meeting again soon,” Scott Morrison tweetsIn reality, the two nations are not close partners. India and Australia differ on foreign policies, the legacies of empire, the cold war, even the nature of international politics.

Beyond ScoMo’s toadying, moreover, as Sainsbury notes, Modi’s divisive Hindu religious-nationalist government is but one of many regimes across the region, from Pakistan to Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines which persecute religious minorities. Above all, we must contend with China’s religious repression of Uyghur Muslims in the name of anti-separatism and anti-terrorism. “Separatism” is a crime which can incur the death penalty.

The officially atheist Communist Party has locked up at least one million ethnic Uyghur Muslims -some authorities estimate two million – in gulags in their home state of Xinjiang that Beijing calls “re-education camps”.

None of this is addressed, however, by deputy PM Michael McCormack or Mick-Mack as the PM prefers in his team coach patter. Mick-Mack will answer no questions at all. On water. Off limits. He repeats the lie that the Sri Lankans were entering Australia “illegally”. Not one reporter at the press conference remonstrates; raises the fact that seeking asylum by boat is not illegal. McCormack simply repeats the expedient lie that refugees endanger our national security.

“No, I’m not going to provide any more details because of security reasons – that’s always the case.”

Enter, “Il Dutto”, Home Affairs Supremo, Peter Dutton, a former Queensland drug and sexual offenders cop whose family trust owns two childcare centres, a situation which may put him in breach of section 44 (v) of the constitution because it seems as if he has a beneficial interest in a trust that has an agreement with the public service. Family First Senator Bob Day, a former Liberal was disqualified by the High Court from sitting in parliament on the same grounds.

Dutto changes the story in the light of damaging revelations from locals that no boat is sighted. Activity involving people boarding a plane is reported. The fake refugees are real enough but the Christmas Island landing is a false account.

The boat arrival is pure fiction. No locals believe it. The Federal Government must have gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal the reported arrival of 20 Sri Lankan asylum seekers on Christmas Island, its Shire President drily tells the ABC. Fine-tuning the Coalition narrative, Australian Border Force claims to have returned 186 people to Sri Lanka from ten people smuggling boats since September 2013. Secrecy shrouds turnbacks, but it’s clear the boats have not stopped.

Last year, Peter Dutton, Minister for Home Affairs stated that, 33 vessels have been intercepted under OSB, with 827 people returned to their country of departure or origin, as of September 2018. What became of these people is anyone’s guess. Now that asylum-seekers have been dehumanised, demonised and the power of the state has grown, few of us dare ask.

The rise of a xenophobic, radical right and its closet embrace by Liberal and National parties worries Henry Reynolds. It’s the big story of election 2019 but it receives little attention. Reynolds quotes The New York Times‘ opinion writer, Ross Douthat who discerns “the global fade of liberalism”. Recent events suggest we are not immune to the trend.

As radical right groups gain more support, they are brought in from the fringe; “blessed with mainstream recognition and even respectability”. Liberals do a preference deal with Palmer’s United Australia. Queensland’s LNP does a deal with One Nation. For Reynolds, “Of greater significance was the fact that the deals worked and there was no obvious backlash from the electorate. Such arrangements are presumably here to stay.” All week it’s the elephant in the room.

Two cheers for Adani. This week sees a big win for the mining oligarchy which runs its pliant, client, ScoMo government. Queensland folds to federal bullying. Giving the bird to scientists, who have yet to learn what’s good for business is good for the nation, a Neocon article of faith, it pretends Adani has a plan to protect our black-throated finch.

Adani shares immediately rocket up thirty per cent on the news. Expect Adani’s flawed “water management” plan to receive similar approval, despite the company refusing to accept scientific advice and recommendations.

A state election looms and the Labor government is widely tipped to lose by an eager Murdoch media monopoly. A bloodbath, shrieks The Courier Mail. Approving Adani is unlikely to provide electoral salvation for Labor if the federal election is a guide, nor will it provide the jobs, nor the economic boost so widely over-promised. Yet that is what the Palaszczuk government is doing. “Tripping over themselves”, writes Renew Economy’s Michael Mazengarb, they rush to push approvals through, even though the state is very much divided on climate change and coal.

Yet the Adani story is not just about Adani. It’s about the host of other miners who seek to open the Galilee Basin. Each year, coal mines may soon spew 320 million tonnes of black rock and toxic dust up into what was once the grassland habitat of the unsuspecting black-throated finch. With the mines will come coal and gas fracking. About to unfold is an unmitigated economic and ecological disaster as other mines close while our exported coal raises global warming.

“Opening up the Galilee Basin” will cripple our existing thermal coal mines, costing thousands of existing Australian coal industry jobs in ten years. As The Australia Institute’s Richard Denniss frequently points out, if this government were serious about preserving jobs in coal industry it would not be agitating to open any new mines. Adding another thirty percent capacity? Complete madness.

Yet the Adani cult is not rational. The phenomenon is less a policy than a cargo cult, a group psychosis in which we beggar ourselves; destroy our natural heritage in the delusion we will become fabulously wealthy. For Adani it is hubris. Faced with an energy market in India where renewable energy is twenty to fifty per cent cheaper than power plants burning imported coal, the company does not want to seem to have gambled and lost.

Modi government subsidies will help. Along with land, water and infrastructure and permission to charge higher prices to the state, these include declaring a special economic zone around Adani’s proposed plant in Jharkhand, which will spare it billions in taxes and import duties on plant and equipment – for a while.

Queensland and the nation is also granting absurdly generous concessions to a firm mining a toxic commodity in terminal decline. Adani may use huge quantities of ground water – free for its mining and extensive washing of its raw coal. It will enjoy a diesel fuel subsidy worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year to darling Adani.

While the Queensland government has updated Queensland’s mine rehabilitation legislation over last two years, Adani is still entitled to leave a very big hole in the ground in perpetuity. Finally, it is granted seven-year royalty holiday – a capital subsidy of $600 million to $700 million, although it has yet to provide the necessary financial assurance.

Meanwhile, Holy ScoMo explodes with sonorous high intent and low cunning. Modestly – no time to waste – he sets his sights on a fourth term. Fronting a lacklustre rabble of spivs, duds and fizzers, surprised to find themselves not in opposition, but behaving that way just in case, the PM morphs into Super-Coach “Sco-Motivator”.  Only ScoMo can put spin on spin. He’s incredible. You can tell his speech-writer has been working overtime, taking notes from Sammy J.

“Here we are, a fresh team. A team that is hungry, a team that is committed, a team that is united in the way we were able to fight on this campaign, to do one simple thing; that is to ensure Australians will be at the centre of our gaze. We will govern with humility; we will govern with compassion. We will govern with strength and we will govern for all Australians.” 

How good is ScoMo, our Aussie-centric, super-coach? Our nation’s super glue? Mr inclusivity with industrial strength empathy – but strong -our own iron chancellor, ScoMo? No-one boasts such humility. Uriah Heep, eat your heart out.

A fresh team? Parody abounds. ScoMo taps Tassie Peter Pan, Dick Colbeck, Minister for both old and young Australians. He upgrades former Assistant Treasurer, Stuart Robert, to Minister for Government services. (Fellow evangelical, Robert loves government services: he had to repay $38,000 he accidentally charged the taxpayer for his personal internet use.)

Nothing to see here. Brigadier Linda Reynolds (ret) will be beaut in Defence. True. She once worked for global gun-runner, multinational merchant of death, “defence contractor” Raytheon. But there’ll be no conflict of interest. Arms- length detachment. Not that it matters in the Trump new world order. Deal-maker Donald, Scott Morrison’s role model, and latest bestie, owns Raytheon stock. Stocks rose after Trump’s fifty-nine Tomahawk missile strike on a Syrian airbase in April 2017, although Snopes says there is no evidence to suppose that the US godfather benefited personally.

Similarly, Paul Fletcher will make a fantastic Minister for Communications given his previous career with Optus and his position as parliamentary secretary to former Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull will give him heaps of insight into how the NBN lemon was conceived purely to oppose Labor’s better, fibre to the premises concept.

“Today 9.28 million premises around Australia are able to connect to the NBN and almost 5.3 million premises are connected,” Fletcher boasts, after bagging Labor’s mess which the poor Coalition is forever having to clean up. We’d be happier knowing we were going to stay connected, Mr Fletcher and the more you add, the slower it seems to go.

Along with a slew of other self-parodying cabinet captain’s picks, ScoMo’s team pep talk is pure parody in motion.

How good is ScoMo the daggy-dad joker? An adoring nation just loves his unity gag. Already, on Sky, Christian Porter, our ambitious Attorney-General also picks up Michaelia Cash’s former Ministry of white-boarding, wage-freezing, penalty-rate stripping and union-bashing aka Minister for underemployment. Keep him occupied. Already, on Sky, Porter chortles about the voice to parliament, poor overburdened Ken Wyatt is tasked to bring about. After he closes the gap.

“Too vague”, Porter pontificates. Chris Kenny is all ears and eyebrows. Christian is not insulting Ken personally. It’s The Voice. He steps up the Coalition campaign against first peoples. Indigenous people need to learn they want far too much. Besides, ScoMo’s government knows best. Voice to parliament? Heavens. Don’t know what they’re talking about.

The great miracle-worker, Two-Seat Morrison will be flat out like a lizard drinking just keeping his cabinet on the rails and the Chinese language helpers of the Broad Church of his party out of court, let alone attempt to achieve anything. And even if the tax cuts don’t go through, it will help him blame Labor and their unholy alliance with the toxic Greens.

But achievement’s never troubled ScoMo much in the past and it won’t bother him much in the future, so long as the coal mines get going, the donations start flowing and he gets to bag Labor and its union bosses every day. So bridging visas have blown out by 147 per cent to a record 229,242 holders at the end of March? All Labor’s fault. And the unions.

Having Ita’s ABC on speed dial helps, too.

ScoMo is no messiah; nor is his cabinet blessed with talent.

Uluru-Statement-from-the-Heart-caamapwphoto-May-2018

Hallelujah! Sound the trump. All hail the “Messiah from the shire”, blasts Rupert’s Daily Bugle; The Australian, a claque whose long and frenzied coalition applause now induces a vision of Morrison as the son of God, in scribe, Simon Benson, or “Beno”, as ScoMo fondly calls his top press gallery sycophant.

Or is ScoMo just the liar from the shire? His campaign slogan warned us Labor would raise our taxes. In fact, it’s exactly what his coalition will do. When Abbott waddled into office in 2013, federal tax was 21.3 per cent of GDP. Morrison’s 2020 “budget surplus” will bring a tax-to-GDP ratio of 23.3 per cent.

By Monday, Beno is beside himself over ScoMo’s massive new cabinet. Messiah Morrison’s 22 MP monster is purged of all small L Liberals. Behold, at last, a party of hot-eyed Neocons! Banished is the “left-leaning clique” of Malcolm Turnbull, antichrist, technophile and closet socialist.

Off, to a US diplomatic post, is party amnesiac who stood down as former chairman of Australian Water Holdings in 2011, Arthur Sinodinos, a man who was daft enough to publicly question Morrison policy.

Sinodinos doesn’t challenge much. Our former assistant treasurer, told the NSW corruption watchdog, ICAC, in April 2014, he never investigated ballooning costs at Australian Water Holdings. Costs allegedly included million-dollar salaries and a $28,000 limousine bill for which taxpayers picked up the tab.

Nor was Sinodinos aware the company was once in such dire straits that it could not meet tax and superannuation commitments until corrupt ex-MP Eddie Obeid’s family threw it a $400,000 lifeline. With Sinodinos’ special talent, he’ll have no trouble working with the Trump administration, which traffics in alternative facts, or a president who has made the phrase “truthful hyperbole” his own.

Will his new, expanded, Cabinet 2.0 work for ScoMo, now that it’s purged of all “leftist” elements; independent thinkers? Never. It’s big enough to fit those whom he needs to control, but far too big to control. If you gave each minister enough time to begin to discuss their portfolios in any detail you’d be meeting for a week.

Just getting Energy Minister, Angus Taylor whose portfolio is now combined with that of minister responsible for reducing greenhouse emissions to explain how he’s going to keep coal-fired power stations burning, open new coal mines and still get our carbon emissions down would take a fair while.

“Climate damage is one of the biggest risks that Australians face right now, so we need Angus Taylor to understand that and take action to move the country towards renewable energy,” the Nature Conservation’s foundation’s CEO Kelly O’Shanassy tells SBS News.

Ms O’Shanassy says the new government needs to better address the issue.

“Having the same minister in charge as before the elections makes me very concerned that the Morrison government has no plan for changing the way it deals with energy in the way it deals with climate change.”

ScoMo has no such plan. As for team-work, delegation and consultation are entirely absent from his CV. Of course there’s always room for improvement. Tourism Minister, Fran Bailey, sacked him in July 2006 from his $350,000 PA job. “I’m sure he has learned how to work better with people these days.”

Working better with people? It’s hard to explain how he’d keep Barnaby Joyce in the dark about his demotion as drought envoy. I knew about only via a tweet from TV, Sunday, Joyce complains.

“I would have (expected a phone call), but I didn’t and that’s life,” the former deputy PM says.

“That is the role a leader has, they can make that call. But I think it is incumbent upon them to relay that to person to people, not to have them to find out via Twitter.

‘Why it’s important is because you’ve got staff and you’ve got to ring people up. 

Expectations, however, are absurdly high. A fawning MSM expect miracles from the miracle man.

Believing in miracles is also a team thing. Nationals’ top cocky, Michael McCormack, is a chap of great faith. Praying for rain is one of his drought responses, a parched nation learns to its immense relief.

“One of many policies, I will always pray for rain, I pray for lots of things. I think people should pray more, it’s a good thing to pray,” McCormack explains. He loses us when he talks of more policies.

Reform will, at best, get some airplay. Ken Wyatt will be kept busy, not only fixing bullying in his department, but after cleaning up aged care, he’ll be up for closing the gap. Then the Uluru Statement from the heart needs immediate triage to put right centuries of government persecution and neglect.

Wyatt is Australia’s first Indigenous Affairs Minister and first Indigenous cabinet minister. Indigenous leaders of all faiths and persuasions rush to back him. But his PM is, typically, much more guarded. Morrison has no inkling of why constitutional recognition matters. Alarmingly, he appears incapable of making any commitment towards equality.

Seven months ago Morrison rejected the proposal; repeated the lie that an indigenous voice to parliament was a call for a third parliamentary chamber. Yet he introduces a new indigenous consultative agency Monday, a thought bubble, which is no part of the process of a voice to parliament.

ScoMo won’t set a timeline. Instead, he says it will take “as long as needed” the kiss of death. Clearly Morrison is already ducking and weaving; dissembling. How good is ScoMo? Flunks his first test of leadership.

Constitutional recognition and the inclusion of a voice to parliament should be imperatives to any self-respecting Australian federal government. Under Morrison, indigenous issues are already in danger of being fobbed off with waffle, another “national discussion on the best way” to stall for time, a total lack of urgency and a worrying lack of respect for years of work already undertaken by first peoples.

Other appointments already draw controversy. Minister for African Gangs, (AKA Assistant Minister for multicultural affairs) the mono-cultural Jason Wood, a former copper who has just held on to his Victorian seat of LaTrobe by campaigning to “deport foreign-born thugs”, is already drawing the ire of the Sudanese community in Victoria.

South Sudanese Community Association of Victoria, Chairwoman, Achol Marial, finds Wood’s dog-whistling rhetoric to be “quite disturbing”.

“It was a tool for use by politicians to manipulate viewers and voters to make people think there was an issue, it was a trick … But if you look at the statistics, [the rate of crime committed by] South Sudanese and Africans in general was very low compared to other Australians. I find it quite sad that Jason Wood would use it as a tactic to try to get people’s attention.”

Invisible Environment Minister Melissa Price does not make the team despite ScoMo’s earlier assurances. She’ll be outside the tent but as DIM (Defence Industry Minister) a non-cabinet post, she’ll continue to work on flying below the radar.

Sussan Ley, who had to resign as Turnbull’s Health Minister in January 2017 over allegations that she rorted her travel allowance to visit her Gold Coast investment properties, will replace Price. Her opinions, so far, suggest that she is pro-Adani.

In tabling a petition from local constituents opposing the Adani coal mine proposal on February 8th, Hansard records Sussan Ley distancing herself from the petition and attempting to de-legitimise the views expressed in the petition.

“This [the Adani coal mine] is a very important and emotional issue for many of them.” 

Ley then says the Stop Adani group has expressed their views to her “very forcefully.”  Her dog whistling dismisses calls for evidence-based climate change policies as the “bleatings of bleeding-heart leftists and dangerous political extremists.”

“A new generation is in control,” says Benson. A new dominion is born, based in the ‘burbs and the bush, the suburban, regional outliers where, as everyone knows, true-blue, real Australians reside.

Is it blasphemy or just hypocrisy? For weeks, Holy ScoMo harped on about how we were not just “anointing Bill Shorten”. Instead, we could fall for his policy-free scare campaign, lies about Labor’s death duties and a tax cut, for most of us, of $5 per week. For Chinese language speakers’, Chinese lies:

“Correct way to vote: on the green voting card, put preference 1 next to the Liberal party,” a sign, in electoral commission purple, reads. “The other boxes can be numbered from smallest to highest.” The sign pops up at Weeden Heights in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, and at Kooyong and Chisholm.

WeChat also carried ads warning Chinese language readers that Labor planned to introduce a million migrants over the next ten years and cost taxpayers $10 billion per year. Weibo is reported to have carried advertisements warning readers of Labor’s plans to introduce death taxes.

The 2019 campaign is now notorious for its lies; false or exaggerated claims made by fringe groups on Facebook, such as Labor’s 40% inheritance tax, claims later echoed by Coalition candidates. The process was detected by The Guardian’s project to monitor clandestine political advertising on social media.

Our first social media election involves a place where, Christopher Warren argues, the almighty “algorithm rewards extremism by pulling people’s attention from mainstream political parties, like the Liberal and National Parties, to more right-wing fringe parties like One Nation, Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party and Fraser Anning’s Conservative National Party.” 

Yet, now, washed in the blood of the lamb, ScoMo’s own, tiny, victory, is heralded as a “miracle” and an “historic victory” by the boys and girls from The Oz, The Daily Tele, The Herald angels- and all other tabloid tattle-sheets, corporate shills and ambulance-chasers who rule our nation’s print media.

Across Australia, all media echoes News Corp, “a propaganda operation masquerading as a news agency”, as Denis Muller calls it out; a definition that evokes News Corp’s 1922 secret origins as News Limited, a mining company propaganda rag, owned by the most powerful industrialists of the day.

Conceived in spin, News Corp’s specialty du jour -relentless personal vilification – is but a short spit. Helping Liberals’ “Kill Bill”, a character assassination campaign to mock, defame and pillory Labor’s leader for the last six years, is one of the triumphs of the coalition’s most powerful backer. More wondrous, still, is how Murdoch’s hacks apply themselves assiduously to the apotheosis of Morrison.

Rapturous applause echoes up and down our wide, brown-nosing land, a state run by corporate profiteers as the oligarchs of Oz applaud their puppets. No hint of the jeers that greeted Malcolm Turnbull’s meagre win in 2016. Turnbull earned censure for his “pathetic” angry election night speech, “a flabby failure”, according to Mike Carlton, delivered well after midnight at the Wentworth Hotel.

We may live in secular times, writes The Monthly’s Sean Kelly, but there is a remnant of anointment in the ascension of prime ministers, the erasure of the past and the chance to start anew. Before, you were mortal; now, you are divine. What you did before hardly matters in these new, immortal days.

ScoMo is not the messiah from the shire, however, much his cheer-squad insists. Instead, he’s created a vast cabinet to manage and control a coalition of mediocrity and negativity which has just won an election with no coherent policy, beyond the promise of slightly lower taxes for most and a flatter tax system which will greatly benefit the elite.

Of greatest concern is Morrison’s move to stall Indigenous constitutional recognition, a rejection of the Uluru Voice from the Heart, in effect, a response which suggests yet further inaction and delay, an alarming abdication of leadership and humanity.

Hello ScoMo. Goodbye democracy.

scomo kiss

“How good is Australia? How good are Australians? … an amazing country of amazing people.” ScoMo manages to amaze himself -shades of Trump – by the Coalition’s shock election results. How good is change that stays the same?

How good are Queenslanders? One in eight votes for Pauline Hanson or Clive Palmer; deliver the Coalition its big win. Of course, it helps that, unlike 2016’s campaign, News Corp now has a monopoly over news in the Banana-benders’ state.

Banana-bender Kevin Rudd’s former campaign manager Bruce Hawker sees News Corp as “easily the most powerful political force in Australia, bigger than the major parties or the combined weight of the unions … I saw how, on a daily basis, the storm of negative stories that emanated from News Corp papers blew our campaign off course.”

Helping “Foxify” Queensland, Win TV last year began broadcasting Sky News, including the right wing nutters’ “Sky After Dark” free-to-air through its network across regional Queensland and NSW. It’s helping create two nations as in the US.

On the other hand, as Crikey’s Guy Rundle argues, Labor made itself a big ticket, big target without articulating a vision; making a compelling case about what it was all for, what sort of society it wished to create.

Its failure left it wide open to scare campaigns about death duties which didn’t exist. Its franking credits reform ended up worrying a third of voters. Such was the rabid fear-mongering. It didn’t matter that only a tiny percentage of Australians would be affected. It was an election decided by fear and lies. For Rundle, Labor has only itself to blame,

“They bore the cost of their big-ticket strategy” whilst gaining “none of the benefit from a more comprehensive vision”.

Lord of the flies, Morrison seems elated; euphoric. Or is he just grinning with relief?  Abbott’s squirrel grip on Liberal policy is at last released. The budgie smuggler is trounced by Zali Steggall in Warringah – not because of GetUp! –  but because Abbott’s worked so hard to make himself irrelevant to his electorate. He’s had a fair go; now he has to go.

As Niki Savva puts it, on ABC Insiders, Sunday, Abbott’s resignation is six years’ too late. “I’d rather be a loser than a quitter”, says the suppository of all wisdom. Relax, Tony. Like your predecessor, Howard, you’ve never troubled the nation with any big ideas. But your seventeen plus different positions on climate change will take some beating. As will your craven sycophancy towards the IPA, your policy HQ.

Similarly, your toxic legacy of negativity, hyper-partisanship and your brazen politicisation of the public service lives on. And you can be sure, for all the talk of this being a climate change election, your climate change denial will still thrive. Above all, your contempt for UN conventions regarding refugees’ rights to seek asylum is now a core Liberal value. Arbitrary, indefinite detention? It’s in the Liberals’ DNA.

As is your war on the poor, the crusade your austerity budgeting Treasurer, Joe Hockey portrayed as “lifters” against “leaners”. Expect Centrelink’s extortion via Robo-debt to ramp up. Expect even fewer disabled Australians to qualify for the NDIS.

And now that the ABC board is stacked with Liberal and pro-government appointees, expect the next scheduled $84 million cut in funds to sail through. It may even be time to further delight the IPA by privatising Aunty.

Morrison has nothing to crow about. There is nothing decisive about his “victory” nor can he claim any mandate having taken no policies to the people beyond a tax cut for the rich and a less progressive, more unfair tax system. His thought bubble of a first home buyers’ housing loan deposit guarantee capped at 10,000 borrowers is not a costed policy. Nor does it amount to anything in our vast home lending market.

UBS senior economist George Tharenou scoffs at ScoMo’s stunt. “It’s far too small to change the nature of the property market.  It is a tiny 1 per cent share of annual total home loans of $227 billion,” he says.

The world’s most expensive tax cuts will mean cuts to funds for hospitals and schools and welfare but since the $80 billion cost was never taken to the electorate, you have no real mandate, ScoMo. Instead, you will need to cut into funds for the disabled, for hospitals and schools, the things you told voters were ring-fenced with our strong economy – an economy, in fact which is tanking, before Trump’s trade war with China further shrinks our export earnings, especially in coal and iron ore.

A quarter of votes cast in pre-poll or postal remain uncounted. A one or two seat majority may well be the future of the Coalition, the marriage of convenience between the Nationals and the Liberals – a coalition of secrets and lies, not to mention chaos, ineptitude, bullying, misogyny, corruption, racism and paternalistic arrogance.

Two cheers for the scare-mongering, dog-whistling ScoMo-government of the top end, for the top end, by the top end of town. A government playing the game of mates has no time at all for environment or climate or lifting wages or ensuring workplace equality.

Oddly Scott Morrison alludes to none of this in his vainglorious victory speech.

You can tell ScoMo’s got no victory speech prepared. No notes. How good is ScoMo? The presumptive Prime Minister, crows and struts on stage at Sydney’s Wentworth Hotel, named after explorer, lawyer, entrepreneur, author, William Charles Wentworth’s original inn, Saturday. Good? A quarter of us put minor parties as our first preferences.

How good? Mark Kenny appears on ABC TV News 24, Sunday, rebuking Labor for its low primary vote of 26% in Queensland, while Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party, a stalking horse to lower Labor’s vote, earns no censure. One Nation can do what it likes to subvert our gun laws with secret NRA funding providing its preferences go to LNP. Its followers show a Trump-like immunity to any evidence of corruption or ineptitude.

How good is Australia? A mining billionaire can buy the government that suits his business interests; field a party with instant candidates in every seat; bombard us with anti-Labor ads with the sole aim of lowering the Labor primary vote. Few seem even mildly perturbed that Palmer may have bought the political result that his business needs. Except for the retiring Wayne Swan.

Something is rotten at the heart of our politics Wayne Swan protests, “A $60 million spend by a conservative-aligned billionaire in a preference recycling scheme for the Liberal and National Party cannot be allowed to stand.”

No leveller, no democrat, Wentworth, like ScoMo held that men must be free, but free to rise—and his own family especially. In charcoal, Canali lounge suit and powder blue Hermes tie, ScoMo radiates aspirational prosperity and the cachet bestowed by a good label.

You’d never guess he’s only there, by and large, thanks to the power of negative thinking. Commentators and politicians tut-tut. Negative campaigns are deplorable but they do work a treat.

What doesn’t work is Labor’s big target, or actually having costed policies to put to the electorate. News Corp has helped abolish all of that. But there has never been a government campaign so devoid of policy; so full of lies and slurs.

In the Labor camp, the knives are out for Party National Secretary, Noah Carroll, reports The Guardian’s Katharine Murphy and Sarah Martin. Carroll is bagged for not telling Shorten his tax agenda is electoral suicide. If only Bill had got the memo Noah couldn’t bring himself to send. Labor’s much-vaunted discipline and team-work takes a beating.

Back at the Wentworth oasis, a Liberal mob cheers as ScoMo pitches a few easy clichés about how great we are. Voting for a pig in a poke. Then it’s into the schmaltz-pot; how his family deserves thanks. Next ScoMo bullshits about how his own disciplined team’s hard work helped win it for the “Quiet Australians”.

Team? Everyone knows he did it almost entirely on his own, jawboning others out of the spotlight; gagging others; hiding MPs such as anti-Environment Minister Melissa Price.

Bear-like ScoMo stoops to a group-hug; proprietorially paws Jenny and the girls, a public paterfamilias, publicly fondling his family and electoral asset; his living CV. It’s an American import, this showing of the trophy family as political accessory, testament to paternalism, a suburban hetero-normality presentation of credentials. And it shows.

The Morrisons look as if they’re about to start of family game of Twister. But let’s stay on message. Who needs day care? Here’s living proof that even a daggy dad can breed like a cabbage aphid and still get to run the show.

Blokes rule, OK. Father ScoMo knows best.  Yet even Morrison’s surprised by his win.

“It’s a miracle”, he says, Trump-like, he ignores the main force in conservative politics, News Corp, with its long-running Kill Bill defamation campaign, an unceasing demonising and character assassination boosted by Clive Palmer and his UAP’s saturation Labor-bashing ad campaign. A chipper Palmer is upbeat about his own party’s loss and upfront about his main aim being to trash Labor.

Advance Australia, the Tory anti-get up group pitches in with “Wake up to GetUp!” episode 2, a second video showing how GetUp! is a gateway drug to world socialism; repeating the lie that GetUp supports Labor, despite GetUp! being found by the AEC in February not to be affiliated with any political body.

How good is the repeated lie, ScoMo? Goebbels knew. How good are citizens who know their place. Know to shut up?

“Quiet Australians” make their debut. “Quiet Australians” echoes Nixon’s “silent majority”. It’s the populists’ conceit that ScoMo, somehow, mystically, intuits the will of a muted majority. A dog-whistle to those who believe the myth that we are muzzled by “political correctness”. Pauline Hanson makes the same claim. If this were true, Morrison would have a bit to say about raising wages or leading on carbon abatement, not a toxic, policy-less campaign based on fear and hate and lies.

“Quiet Australians” also evokes a government which has kept itself in shape by limiting whistle-blowers” rights and increasing ways the state may legally intrude on our Facebook and Twitter, for example, all in the interests of protecting us from terrorists, of course.  Quiet Australians are trained not to question as Bernard Keane observes.

“… we are becoming a specific kind of police state, in which the government hands itself ever more power to prevent scrutiny, deter and punish whistle-blowers, smear opponents and hide its wrongdoing, using legal framework justified in the name of national security. We’re becoming a nation where embarrassing the government, or revealing its misconduct, has become a dangerous occupation. Perhaps police state is less accurate than an anti-dissent state.”

ScoMo shrewdly credits his victims for his extraordinary election heist, a win which defies fifty consecutive negative opinion polls for the Abbott-Turnbull- Morrison puppet government and its backers. a policy-free zone where chaos is coaxed into catastrophe but whatever he says, (I’m-a-billionaire-and-I-don’t-give-a-shit), Clive Palmer has the last word.

“It’s clear Scott Morrison has been returned as Prime Minister and he’s only done so because of the 3.5 percent of the vote of the United Australia Party,” his overweening modesty and generosity of spirit prompts Palmer to point out.

Palmer drops a lazy $80million into creating his own party and anti-Labor trojan horse. It doesn’t net a single seat in the lower house, nor in the senate – but for a man who boasts he’s worth $4 billion dollars – it’s a shrewd investment should tax rates be eased; a tax system flattened.

Or a coal mine or a coal-fired power station project need permission to proceed. Palmer has both on the drawing board. Or beyond. He boasts he’s got environmental approval and he’s already advertising for workers for his coalmine.

Clive’s help in bashing Labor through relentless anti-Shorten ads in his election campaign will give him leverage in negotiating further approval for his massive Alpha North Coal Project, right next door to Adani’s stake in the Galilee Basin – but a third bigger. It is capable of producing 80 million tonnes of coal a year, enough to put a swag of other mines out of business overnight.

Palmer’s Alpha North Coal Mine Project, adjacent to Adani, would be a series of open-cut and underground mines covering an area of 144,000 hectares, according to documents submitted to the federal Department of Environment and Energy by Mr Palmer’s Waratah Coal, reports the ABC.

Waratah Coal chairman Palmer even has a 700MW coal-fired power plant planned to help power the mine.

Scott Morrison may kid himself he’s won victory all he likes, but, in reality it’s as much Rupert Murdoch’s win – a victory of fear and loathing over reason supercharged by Clive Palmer’s anti Labor propaganda. It is a victory no-one could see coming but that says more about our pollsters outmoded polling techniques than it does about our political landscape or our capacity to be hoodwinked by a biased right wing media.

Scott Morrison calls it a “miracle” but his victory is very much business as usual. Dirty business. Morrison, to adapt, Churchill, may be a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is how a negative campaign and an appeal to self-interest can combine with a reactionary media monopoly to re-elect a PM who has offered us nothing in the way in policy to earn a single vote.

If it’s a vote for more of the same, Morrison’s record – carefully airbrushed out of his campaign – gives cause for alarm. Although it’s presented as ScoMo’s “superior reading of The Australian character” by Father Paul Kelly in The Australian, the Coalition victory is more of the ScoMo show combined with Kill Bill, a campaign started by Abbott and happily amplified ever since by News Corp media.

Kill Bill is a theme eagerly taken up, sadly, by Nine News and even our ABC, too cowed by budget cuts and calls to the top floor to dare not to follow the pack.

Saturday sees the finale of the one-month ScoMo Unplugged solo tour. Our narcissist-in-chief, benches the rest of his team to perform a solo populist parody: a beer-chugging, footy-kicking, basket-balling, bingo-calling, razzle-dazzle hoopla-variety show while he repeatedly puts the boot into Bill Shorten. Pure vaudeville.

Look out! He’s behind you! Shifty Bill’s after your savings. Hell-bent on raising massive taxes. Look out. He’ll “take money from your pocket.”

Is it a spin-off from the Trump beats Clinton Show; the same franchise that brought us fake news and alternative facts? There are many alarming parallels. What is certain is that whilst Scott Morrison’s Coalition may get the votes he needs to form government, he has neither the statesmanship, nor the policies, nor the record of success to inspire any form of confidence. History suggests the very opposite; government by SNAFU.

Expect instead, a continuation of the ScoMo circus, lurching from chaos to catastrophe with nothing but the prompting of its sponsors and its mining, banking and other corporate lobby groups to guide it, – forever reacting to self-inflicted disaster – a vitiated democratic state that rules by force and fear and favour; not a democracy nor a meritocracy but a one man band and his cronies, The ScoMo oligarchy.

 

 

 

Morrison campaign launch flops capping a week of catastrophic failure.

morrison campaign launch

 

Scott Morrison’s Liberal campaign flop at the Melbourne Convention Sunday may be a teensy setback but at least he gets to talk for 55 minutes. Jim Jones would harangue The Peoples’ Temple for hours. Fidel Castro bored on at the UN for four hours, 29 minutes. Ted Cruz ranted against Obamacare for 21 hours 19 minutes. ScoMo’s clearly working up to that.

“I believe that Australia is a promise to everyone who has the great privilege to call themselves an Australian. It’s the promise that allows Australians quietly going about their lives to realise their simple, honest and decent aspirations,” 

ScoMo’s clearly been influenced by Robert Lee James Hawke who invoked the same promise in a real speech in 1987.

“This is the promise of Australia. This is the Australian vision. This is the reality of the Australian dream. Together, let us begin a new century of Australian achievement.”

But even a train-wreck of a campaign launch may have a silver lining. It’s great to hear Sarah Henderson run through stale talking points about how we can’t afford Bill Shorten, framing the election to be about who you would pick to be PM.

And how good is Michael McCormack? His own campaign itself is tanking. He may well lose his seat. He changes the topic if you mention climate change. But what guts.

The Morrison government appears to be in a spot of bother. MPs are rushing to save the furniture polishing cloth. “Senior cabinet ministers are panicking and drawing in resources to protect their own seats,” reports ABC’s Laura Tingle.

But all is well. The nation is all aflutter this week with a confirmed sighting of “invisible” Melissa Price, our reclusive environment minister. No-one expects Mel to campaign or anything – she’s refused umpteen invitations to appear on ABC 7:30 alone – not that anyone could blame her.

So one million plant and animal species are on the verge of extinction? Dire are the implications for human survival, the United Nations warns Monday, reports The Washington Post. The work doesn’t rate a mention in ScoMo’s speech.

Seven lead co-authors from universities across the world compile a ground-breaking report which directly links the loss of species to human activity. It also reveals how those losses undermine food, water security and human health.

“150 authors from 50 nations labour for three years to compile the report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services — a panel with 132 member nations, including the United States. Representatives of each member nation signed off on the findings.”

In most countries, in most parties, the environment minister would reply promptly. Mel doesn’t even go “meh”.

Morrison backs her up. “I don’t want to see the Labor Party get to office where they tie businesses up with all sorts of union red tape and all sorts of the Greens’ green tape, which would just cost people jobs,” he says.

It takes a special kind of PM to call to reduce environmental protection at the time of such a report. And facing an election where pollsters find addressing climate change and preserving the environment top Australian citizens’ concerns. But Mel says Meh.

Is she OK? Mad-dog McGrath said he’d get her dumped. Call publicly for her to resign. Yet all Pricey has to do is pick up her pen. Sign on the dotted line. OK Adani’s water and conservation plans for ecology. Flawed? So what if Adani’s a $60,000 party sponsor? It’s just due process. No bullying. ScoMo’s fixed all that Liberal bully culture stuff.

Last September, Liberal senator Lucy Gichuhi threatened to name and shame the bullies. But she’s withdrawn all that. After a chat with ScoMo, where he appealed to her as “a good Christian woman”, Lucy came to her senses and decided to give ScoMo a fair go to assert his authority; fix party discipline. You can tell it’s working by the tiny turnout at the campaign launch Sunday. Only a strong leader could persuade so many party members to stay away. Lucy’s there, though, hoping for censure of Safe Schools.

Will Mel and her Yeelirrie, WA uranium mine approval earn her a guest role in the next instalment of Kill Bill? “Pretty big decision. A lot of money at stake. Made in the dead of night, the day before the election’s called.” What’s he insinuating? There’s a glut of Uranium. It could be years before the mine is built – if ever. But it’s an announceable. And it’s in Durack, her electorate. But News Corp will get Bill back.

OK, even The Australian states that Yeelirrie’s unlikely to be built this decade. Claims “Senior mining industry ­sources” tell The Weekend Australian that large sections of the industry are fuming at the timing of Price’s Yeelirrie decision. It could have been made well before the election. Price’s latest calls are a “desk-clearing” exercise that make the industry look dodgy.

Make the uranium industry look dodgy. You’d have to go a long way for someone to rival that achievement. As you’d have to go a long way to see an election turn on an attack on a leader’s recount of his mother’s career.

The latest episode of Kill Bill, sees Bill pilloried yet again in The Daily Telegraph, for not telling the whole truth about his mother Ann’s brilliant career. On Q&A, Shorten shares the fact that like so many intelligent women of her generation, Ann was forced by family circumstances to forgo her dream of a law career and take a teaching scholarship instead.

Anna Caldwell’s story, sensitively timed for the week before Mother’s Day, bears the banner, Mother of Invention.  

Shifty Bill leaves out the bit where, in her late fifties, Ann did qualify as a lawyer only to suffer the age and gender discrimination which still flourishes in our “fair go if you have a go” workplace. Later, Shorten explains that his mother,

“… got about nine briefs in her time. It was actually a bit dispiriting. She had wanted to do law when she was 17, she didn’t get that chance, she raised kids, and at 50, she backed herself. But she discovered in her mid-50s that sometimes, you’re just too old, and you shouldn’t be too old, but she discovered the discrimination against older women.”

The Kill Bill Show is one of many ways our ruling oligarchy of Murdoch, Mining and Banks supports its Coalition puppet government, while, in return, the great string-puller gets away with paying no tax. News Corp’s creative reportage also leads the Australian media pack in cheering us on in our triennial ritual hunt for the elusive democracy sausage.

False narratives abound. We hang on MPs every word, in one myth, weighing up policy and promise as if our lives depend on it. Or the campaign’s the thing! We dismiss all recall of a government’s actual performance in office in favour of their carefully costed promises and that unicorn of contemporary politics, their policy platform. Myths both of them.

For Waleed Aly, our myopia is alarming. “The whole neo-liberal economic world view is being called into question; “the benefits of trickle-down economics don’t trickle down much at all; politics is a game geared to the benefit of an elite. … the British Parliament – under conservative control – has just declared a state of emergency on climate change in line with countless warnings from scientists.  Yet our federal general election may turn on Bill’s mother’s work history?

Yet three quarters of us are naughty, report researchers. We forgo the democracy sausage. Make up our own minds – and before the campaign even begins. Worse, 2.2 million have already voted. By Polling Day, next Saturday, millions will have already voted. A huge Eurovision Song Contest legitimising Palestinian oppression will upstage televised tally rooms, screens of polling results booth by booth.

Happily, Rupe provides us with countless ripping yarns, diversions and false narratives. These include, ScoMo imagines he is Prime Minister an illusionist masterpiece which prefigures the Liberals’ anti-campaign launch, Sunday where their leader talks to himself alone on stage after being photographed, US-style, hugging his daughters, Abbey and Lily. Wife, Jenny has to stretch her arm to stroke his shoulder. It’s a non-launch, a radically post-modern event for a Bronte bogan.

“It’s not going to be a party hoopla event,” Mr Morrison tells Leigh Sales on 7.30 Monday. “It’s not about the Liberal Party and it’s not about the National Party … It’s not about who is coming, it’s about who will be listening.”

Motor-mouth Morrison is never sure who is listening. Or when he’s made his point. When to stop. Earlier in the week, he pioneers the killer comeback with a two-day delay.

“Who remembers PAC-MAN? That little thing that goes around gobbling up like that?” ScoMo shows and tells. Moves hand. Imagine a snapping turtle sock puppet without the sock.  “That’s Bill Shorten’s tax policy. And you know how it chases people around, in the maze? That’s Bill Shorten’s tax policy. The only space he’s going to invade is your wallet.”

Hilarious. Not. A smart comeback is ruined if you have to explain it. Or it takes two days to think up. But ScoMo just loves a bit of panto. Almost as much as refusing to answer questions.  Or monstering opponents. Suddenly he springs a surprise puppet show. How funny am I? Who remembers PAC-MAN? Melissa Price? The environment? Policy?

We may not have an environment, energy, education or arts policy from this government., but at least we’ve got ScoMo’s magic Muppet-Show to win our hearts and minds; lift our GDP; save our koalas and Reef. But PAC-MAN?

Get a grip, ScoMo. PAC-MAN isn’t the bad guy. PAC-MAN’s a hero; a digital Odysseus. You help PAC-MAN through a maze full of hungry ghosts. Think Banquo. Or Turnbull.

ScoMo muffs his riposte to Bill’s withering “Space Invaders” slap-down in the second leaders’ debate. Bill wins easily. Goes on to trounce his opponent 3:0 in the series. Commentators turn absurdly to body language to explain how ScoMo actually won on confidence. Or body language. Or sock puppetry.

Graham Freudenberg warns Morrison will flop. “Because … he does take people at the lowest common denominator.”

Sean Kelly sees something of the Kinder teacher in him. Always gesturing. Talking down. Question Time, he’ll ask MPs to put their hands up. If Morrison is elected, Saturday, a lucky nation can expect further infantilising. More vapid, saccharine banter. More beers with the boys. More footy-kicking. Picking up fallen women and other CWA heroics.

Expect more banal, populist, faux-patriotic bull-shit. “Who loves Australia? Everyone. We all love Australia. Of course we do. But do we love all Australians? That’s a different question, isn’t it? Do we love all Australians? We’ve got to.” 

Beneath this sanctimonious veneer lurks a monster at war with the poor via Centrelink’s Robo-debt, a man who sees nothing wrong with freezing wages, cutting penalty rates or locking up men women and children on island prisons indefinitely, with no charge, driving them mad as a deterrent to others. Others whose only fault is to throw themselves on our compassion. There is no compassion for our refugees in his speech.

No reference either to the Islamophobia and the misogyny spread by his own government ministers – all the interests of “loving all Australians”.

Daggy dad, deadbeat or dinosaur? Fossil Morrison, Paul Keating calls him at the Labor launch. “There’s the prime minister walking around with a lump of coal. Coal is a fossil. The prime minister is a fossil himself – a fossil with a baseball cap, but a fossil.”

A federal election is not a presidential contest, despite Murdoch’s urging and the Mexican wave of independent MSM. Yet fewer and fewer of us take them seriously these days. Nor do we believe ScoMo who endlessly, witlessly, insists it’s “a choice between Bill and me”.

The punters always right, as William Bowe reminds us; take the Victorian election for example. But Betfair odds on Labor victory shorten to $1.13 while the Coalition eases to $6.00. One punter bets a million dollars on Bill.

It’s a record for a political bet in Australia but it’s barely half what Mal paid to win his one seat majority in 2016.

Coalition MPs panic. Stampede wild-eyed, out of Canberra, hell-bent on saving their own seats. Laura Tingle reports Liberal insiders writing off Abbott in Warringah while in NSW, Gilmore and Reid are gone. Labor may even snatch Lindsay. Cowper may go to Rob Oakeshott, & Farrer, despite Sussan Ley’s 20% margin, may go to a local mayor.”

But it’s the Daily Tele’s attack on Shorten’s story of his mother, a whopper that he’s laundered her story shopped around Canberra Tuesday, which backfires horribly on Gotcha Morrison. The low blow gives Labor’s leader an opportunity to cut through the fog of cockamamie economics, dog-whistling, scaremongering, falsehood, fabrication, distortion, outright lies, character assassination and personal abuse that is the News Corp Trumpery integral to Coalition campaigning.

“An absolute gift to Bill Shorten”, says a back-handed, Barrie Cassidy on Friday’s ABC Breakfast News, “it humanised him in a way he hasn’t been able to do so far. One hell of an own goal; a very nasty story and it backfired”.News Corp sources say the Daily Telegraph has another story in their dirt file to throw at Shorten, writes Paul Bongiorno. “It is highly defamatory and legally dubious. The desperation that led to the attack on Shorten and his mother’s memory may give them pause to think about running it. As one Labor campaign worker says, “”It’s difficult to know where the government ends and News Corp begins.””

Stop your lies, Frydenberg, your climate and environment policy is a failure.

black throated finch

Bobbing its blue-grey head and cackling, ecstatically, as it greets its mate, the Southern Black-throated Finch, (Poephila cincta cincta) whose rufous wings and cinnamon body evoke a tiny, tan Driza-Bone coat, is fighting to survive.

Only one-eighth of its natural habitat remains in North Queensland. Even that remnant is under threat as habitat-clearing continues.  Should seventeen proposed new Galilee Basin mines proceed, we’re all in trouble.

Twenty years ago, we made laws to help. Our Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) was lauded as a way to preserve endangered species. Queensland’s own Vegetation Management Act was set up in the same year to regulate the clearing of vegetation. Neither has succeeded. The fate of the gregarious and plucky black-throated finch illuminates the failure of our attempts at environmental governance.

The EPBC is fragmented, decentralised and inconsistent among states. It is unclear what is state and what is national responsibility. Compounding all, is a lack of accountable federal leadership. On cue, Sunday, ScoMo does a runner. He declines an invitation to appear on ABC The Insiders. Josh Frydenberg appears instead. He lies about,

“… why we take our Paris commitments seriously and why we’ll beat our 2030 target, just as we’ve beaten our original Kyoto target and on track to beat our 2020 target. We have $25 billion in renewable investment currently under way in Australia – a record amount. And we are one of the most attractive destinations in the world for renewable energy. We’re also investing in Snowy 2.0 to become the big battery on the east coast of Australia. But you shouldn’t see climate change as a zero sum game, as a binary choice between doing something and doing nothing.”

Frydenberg should tell the truth. We fudged Kyoto by including land clearing. (LULUCF). Article 3.7, The Australia clause, was added to the agreement by Howard’s environment minister, Robert Hill. It allows countries with net emissions from land-use change, usually land clearing, to include those emissions in their baseline calculation.

Barrie doesn’t call him on it. The lie is repeated each time a Morrison government minister trots out the day’s talking points. Hill’s fiddling the books greatly benefited Australia. In 1990, when the baseline was determined, Australia was land clearing massively. After 1990, a Hawke Government initiative saw land-clearing cut sharply.

The resulting credit was big enough to allow Australia to boost emissions, especially from electricity generation and transport fuels while sticking within its rigged Kyoto-con emissions limits. Yet the credits have run out now and a useful question for the Coalition, sadly not asked on Insiders, is how do we plan to meet our target now?

Given our LULUCF credit has now expired, what cuts will be made in which other sources to meet even the lame 26-28 per cent reductions we committed to in our signing the Paris Agreement? Or why is ScoMo shying away?

What is clear is that the PM won’t appear, Barrie Cassidy explains, until after the election. Morrison’s pathological fear of scrutiny, his love of secrecy and his contempt for accountability are entrenched. As Immigration Minister he’d walk out of his own press briefings. A reverse space invasion. Then he abandoned briefings altogether.

Poorly led at federal level, our attempts to protect our environment are maladministered; open to abuse. Above all, nowhere do they factor in climate change, flaws writ large also in The Murray Darling Basin scandal.

Last October, the UN gave all of us twelve years to curb catastrophic climate change. In March, it called for ambition, urgency “We are the last generation that can prevent irreparable damage to our planet,” warns General Assembly President María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, “climate justice is intergenerational justice.”

If we don’t curb our carbon emissions to 45% by 2030, zero by 2050, keep global warming to a maximum of 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels expect more droughts, floods and heatwaves; more extreme, freak weather.

Hundreds of millions of us will be forced into poverty. Yet nowhere in our phony election campaign is climate change seriously addressed. Only school children demonstrating, it seems, grasp the reality; the urgency.

Instead a coal-puppet Coalition ignores its role in increasing carbon emissions; brazenly lies that we’ll meet our Paris targets “at a canter” when, in fact we’ll miss our modest target of 26 per cent by 2030. Our current policies are more consistent with a scenario of four degrees warming. Disastrous. And it will be expensive.

University of Melbourne’s Professor Tom Kompass sums up, “The severe falls in GDP in the long term will put many governments in fiscal stress. Tax revenues will fall dramatically and increases in the frequency and severity of weather events and other natural disasters, which invoke significant emergency management responses and expenditures, indicate that pressure on government budgets will be especially severe.”

Modelling from Brian Fisher of BAE Economics, a coal-lobby stooge, who never met a climate plan he didn’t like, is used as a diversionary dead cat on the table. Labor’s carbon abatement will be hideously unaffordable – causing GDP to drop by “up to” $542 billion by 2030. The diversion is taken up by MSM, now, while Morrison delights in pretending that Labor can’t cost its policy or it’s hiding the true cost. For ScoMo, it beats trying to save the planet.

What is unaffordable is doing nothing. No coalition MP acknowledges the $130 billion PA, The Australia Institute (TAI) calculates doing nothing would cost our annual GDP. Our climate debate is deficient on three points:

  1. The cost of inaction on climate change is huge – Australia’s GDP would average $130 billion per year lower if the  Paris Agreement is not achieved according to a prominent study.
  2. Under the carbon price period, Australia successfully reduced emissions by 2% while the economy grew by 5%.
  3. Economic literature suggests the economic impacts of climate policy will be minor.

For the Coalition to claim we even need modelling to show we can’t afford carbon abatement is a monstrous lie.

“In just two years Australia reduced emissions by 2% and grew the economy by 5% under a carbon price and the sky did not fall in. In fact, employment grew by 200,000 jobs,” writes TAI Research Director Rod Campbell.

The nomadic black-throated finch once foraged for fallen seeds and the odd spider, termite or ant from Inverell in northern NSW to Cape York in Queensland. Today it’s lost the southern two-thirds of its former range. Yet such is the incoherence of our ineffectual environmental protection systems that it is all too easy to play politics

The vast, grassy woodland, the finch once grazed, is now, mostly farm paddock. Clearing for Adani’s massive Carmichael mine would tip the gregarious bird into extinction. Yet this week, the Queensland government puts Adani on hold because its plans to protect the endangered finch do not meet the miner’s approval conditions.

Howls of outrage erupt from Adani and its claque. It’s “a massive blow”. Adani won’t be able to start construction for another five years, “a spokesman” tells The Australian’s Charlie Peel who joins Michael McKenna, in public handwringing, promoting the Coalition lie that state and federal Labor MPs are delaying and politicising Adani’s approval because the mine is unpopular with voters in “inner-city electorates”.

Helpfully, Federal Resources Minister, Barnaby Joyce’s protégé, Matt Canavan, tells The Australian that Labor has caved in to pressure from the Greens and from inner-city ­electorates. “The Labor Party has to answer why they are listening to anti-coal academics in Melbourne and not the workers of central and north Queensland,” he says. Canavan could tell workers the truth. Opening Adani or any other new mine will put existing jobs at risk.

Research by The Australia Institute estimates that developing the Galilee Basin would reduce coal mining jobs by 9,000 in the Hunter Valley (NSW), 2,000 in the Bowen Basin (QLD) and 1,400 in the Surat Basin (QLD), compared to a scenario with no Galilee mines out to 2035. With declining world demand for coal, each new mine opened in The Galilee Basin will cause layoffs and closures in Australian mines elsewhere. And jobs in the industry are scarce.

Across Australia, coal mining accounts for half of one percent of all jobs (0.5%) or half a job out of every hundred. Even in peak coal-mining territory, North Queensland, coal mining represents only four percent of all jobs. Twice as many jobs are to be found on reef regions, jobs which Adani’s Abbott Point pollution has already endangered.

“If Adani can’t safely operate Abbot Point, how can it be expected to safely operate a giant coal mine?” asks ACF’s Christian Slattery.

The Stop Adani convoy which began in Hobart just before Easter, arrives in Canberra today and in a rally on Parliament House lawn, Bob Brown tells thousands that they can’t rely on divine intervention to prevent the Adani coal mine. He also explains that the journey has not always been cheered on by fellow Australians.

“We had rocks thrown at us, we had people spat on, some people were actually physically abused.”

Writer and Booker-prize winning novelist, Richard Flanagan makes an impassioned speech. MPs are patently insincere when they profess to care about workers, Richard Flanagan, who grew up in a coal town, says.

“If they cared wouldn’t they be advocating to end black lung disease, a 19th century industrial disease now returned, because of unsafe working conditions, to kill Australian coal miners in the 21st century?”

If they cared wouldn’t they be speaking out about the increasing casualisation and pay stripping of coal miners, supported by the Morrison government?

And if they cared wouldn’t they question whether Adani is an appropriate business to employ Australian miners? Adani, such a friend of the working man that, when building its giant Shantigram luxury estate in India, it housed workers in conditions so appalling that there were 15 recorded outbreaks of cholera.”

As the canary is a type of finch, the black-throated finch may be the canary in our national coalmine. Perhaps its fate will receive such publicity that it will serve to alert the nation and its leaders to the need to act on climate.

Adani may never act. Despite its epic “gunner” political theatre, Adani may do nothing but endlessly re-announce that work is beginning. A lot of care goes into the performance. “Gunner start” “before Christmas” the latest reveals planning. “Gunner start.” Presto! A yellow grader appears. Workers in Hi-Vis vests clear scrub. But that’s it. Adani, clearly, has no intention of beginning unless it can get funding or compo from our government.

It’s likely to be a long, slow, wait. Environmentally catastrophic, financially unviable yet outrageously oversold, Adani’s Carmichael Mine is surreal performance art with a hefty price tag. Last July it failed to pay $18.5 million for 12.5 billion litres of water, a fee to take water from the Sutton River. No matter. It gets another year to pay while world demand for coal continues its four-year fall. Public subsidies and freebies could sustain it forever.

Currently, thermal coal fetches up to US$90/tonne for top quality Newcastle coal but prices are declining. Carmichael, which has inferior coal, is a basket case unless it can earn over US$110/tonne.

Adani is hanging on, partly to disguise booking a loss of $3bn on its accounts, spent acquiring the mine and partly in hope its lawyers can persuade an Australia government to compensate it for breach of contract.

University of Queensland economist John Quiggan reminds Guardian Australia readers that the current price of coal is enough to prevent Adani’s Carmichael Mine or Clive Palmer’s or Gina Rinehart’s or any of the other mines from ever opening. Adani has no intention of investing its own money. It would take a massive ongoing government subsidy. For every new Adani worker employed, another job would be lost by a competitor.

But it’s art with a hefty price tag. Adani will string things out until it’s told to go away or long enough to demand compensation from the federal government. John Quiggan suggests that a claim is possible under the investor state dispute settlement system (ISDS) which applies despite the lapse of our free trade agreement with India.

An emblem for every living, sentient being on our planet ark, the tiny finch is, at best, granted a stay of execution.

“If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon,” David Attenborough warns the UN.  Action, of sorts occurs late in the week on Adani’s plans.

Despite invisible Federal Environment Minister, Melissa Price, ticking the box, Queensland’s Department of Environment and Science, (DES) spurns Adani’s offer of a cow paddock as an adequate bird management plan. With seventeen coal mines proposed for the Galilee Basin, Adani may be banking on the finch’s inevitable demise.  On the other hand, with coal-mining increasingly uneconomic, the government may be banking on Adani stalling.

Yet we live in a land where coal barons own politicians. Not to mention a media cheer squad. Even ABC 24 anchor Ros Childs asks an expert guest if the creature’s plight is not just “an Adani stalling tactic”. Our national broadcaster plays into mainstream media fictions; false narratives about how noble coal-barons create jobs and prosperity but their mission to boost our prosperity is thwarted by the pettifogging impediments of Green lawfare.

In fact, miners’ bulldozers and land clearing for sugar-cane farms and apartment buildings have razed vast tracts of the black-throated finch’s North Queensland home, its last refuge after pastoralists’ land-clearing and overgrazing led to the species’ extinction in NSW in the 1990s. Solar farms are proposed. Adani and Palmer’s and Rinehart’s proposed giant open cut and underground coalmines, should they proceed, will inevitably spell the end.

A sleek but thickset bird that seeks only to forage for fallen seeds in an undisturbed natural habitat is locked in an heroic battle for survival in a week of dirty electioneering, in which neither science nor nature, nor environmental law has its champion – the southern black-throated finch assumes iconic status; a type of national emblem.