Author: urbanwronski

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

Turnbull’s leadership a sham as he seeks to evade GBRF scandal, climate change with a dodgy NEG.

macolm in trangie

“Our efforts to deal with climate change have been betrayed by a lack of leadership, a political cowardice, the like of which I have never seen” — Malcolm Turnbull 2010

Country folk up and down our fly-blown land give thanks this week for a federal government whose devotion to the plight of stock on drought-stricken New South Wales and Queensland to Tasmania is everywhere on display. Or not as in the case of rural spots still with poor TV or NBN coverage.

Since Will Hodgman upped the supply of pump action shotties and automatic rifles so vital to a good day’s work in the Tassie paddock, an election eve promise, Apple Isle farmers are doing so well they can now truck feed to Tamworth, where the PM comforts cockies battling a baffling absence of rain.

Clearly, in times of continuous national crisis, everyone has to get behind their national or their state government and to that end, Tassie’s Hodgman government has a plan to deal with workers who want to vent online about their stupid boss, low pay or government job. It’s just not on.

Hodgman and his crew hand-craft a beaut “new social media policy” to keep its servants civil.  Government employees will be forbidden to whinge or carp online. Ideally there should be no criticism of politicians over the internet at all, just an applause button or an emoji for job well done!

As rigorous as it is vigilant, the Tasmanian government also plans to ban staffers associating online with “groups or individuals”. No likes or shares. To like or share a post is the same as creating it.

By Wednesday, Will walks it back. “The draft social media policy has a number of unintended consequences that are clearly out of step with community expectations,” he says. Tasmanians are overjoyed to hear the policy is to be reviewed to “ensure a common-sense approach prevails”.

Common-sense flies out the window… 

Further north, common-sense flies out the window as Malcolm Turnbull pulls on his RM Williams. Faced with crisis and catastrophe over energy and a Great Barrier Reef debacle, the PM hits the road on a mission to win hearts and minds in places where he’s not going to be asked about coral reefs.

“Stay strong.  We’ve got your back,” our PM consoles teary central NSW farmers, in his role as tribal leader, as he selflessly helps media and agricultural lobby groups establish the dominant narrative that our farmers are merely hapless victims of the worst drought in history.

Not a word is spoken of climate change. And the farmers? They must get as much government support as possible in learning to rely not on welfare but on charity. Take it from the PM.

Moleskin Mal knows all about farming and hardship. He hunkers down. Scoops up a bit of dry, sandy topsoil, lets it trickle through his fingers, in his role as Agronomist-in-chief. Squints into the distance.

“Luce and I are in the sheep and cattle business in the Upper Hunter,” he declares. The Pitt Street farmer instantly wins over local cockies who are “doing it tough” with his self-reliance, his hard graft with fencing and fly-strike; fire, flood and drought. And his reckless generosity.

Taxpayers’ are still agog at Mal’s gift of their money to his pals at the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, (GBRF). The Foundation didn’t even have to ask. Malco always has his mates’ backs; anticipates their every need.  It’s a matter of principle, whatever his principles may be at the time.

He gives to all sorts of worthy causes; looks after the top end of town;

No government handouts for him – just tireless, selfless, self-help, trusts and tax breaks. He gives to all sorts of worthy causes; looks after the top end of town; The Sydney Biennale, The Australian Chamber Orchestra, Rhodes Scholarships and The Scots College. Above all, he looks after the odd needy family – especially his own.

Mal donates all of his $587,852 parliamentary salary to his own charity The Turnbull Foundation, or so he says. Like his pal, Donald Trump, he’s never made his tax returns public.  Unlike his giving. “I’ve always been a philanthropic person. We’ve always been very generous.”

The Turnbull Foundation, appears in the Australian Business Register as a “private ancillary fund”, (PAF) a scam invented by the Howard government, in 2001, with all the tax perks of a charity. Only 5% of the value of such funds need be donated annually to other non-profit organisations, who, themselves, hold deductible gift recipient (DGR) and tax concession charity (TCC) status.

What happens to the rest of the money? Historically, such funds average 8% in donations to such non-profit outfits, a trend which would leave Turnbull a handy 92% tax-free nest-egg. But there’s more. As directors, he and Luce are also entitled to draw tax-free directors’ fees.

Along with modelling altruism and advocating charity over government handout, Turnbull’s out to hose down alarmist speculation that climate change has something to with droughts and that governments have something to do with climate change. Or that the Coalition has no climate policy.

Mal tweaks this part of the official Big Dry story. He channels Abbott’s tin-foil hatter Maurice Newman as he continues to court the Liberal Party dries who don’t get climate change.

“The reality we face is rainfall has always been variable in Australia. It appears to be getting more variable, certainly in this part of the world and back where Lucy and I are in the Hunter,” he says modelling precisely the lack of leadership and political gutlessness he deplored eight years ago.

The coal-lobby sponsored, climate change denying, Coalition lacks the will to do anything but ignore expert consensus…

Worse, he and his government are adding to the problem. The coal-lobby sponsored, climate change denying, Coalition lacks the will to do anything but ignore expert consensus, be it in the parched paddocks of central NSW and QLD or on the Great Barrier Reef where governments have allowed record levels of bush-clearing for farming to create run-off which is helping to kill the reef.

Enter stage right The Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF) whose foundation chairman’s panel comprises big polluters; CEOs of BHP, Commonwealth Bank, Deloitte Australia, Lendlease and Deutsche Bank as well as representatives from Rio Tinto, Shell, AGL and Peabody Energy.

Australian Conservation Foundation’s Matt Rose nails it. “The links to companies such as Peabody Energy, which has funded climate denial groups in the past, doesn’t sit comfortably with us.”

The GBRF is a captain’s call by a PM desperate to greenwash a problem he knows he can’t fix.

Will greenwashing help? Despite Josh Frydenberg’s unbelievable performance on ABC Insiders Sunday, where he claims “extensive due diligence” (like extra virgin snake oil?) led, incredibly, to the selection of a group which just happens to represent the nation’s major polluters, few are bluffed.

Even Barrie Cassidy asks why the Great Barrier Reef Foundation (that word again) got the gig.

“Maximum leverage” Frydenberg blusters. Whatever it means, he hopes to silence the howls of outrage which erupt across the nation. Jargon’s good that way. And he could use a few levers.

Frydenberg … is totally unable to explain to Barrie Cassidy why $444 million was given in a lump sum …

Frydenberg, whose lack of accomplishment has not yet impeded his career, is totally unable to explain to Barrie Cassidy why $444 million was given in a lump sum to be used over six years to an obscure group of six mining and finance industry CEOs whose backgrounds create a palpable conflict of interest, without any tender, invitation, application or any other form of due process.

It doesn’t matter how much Frydenberg may claim that the foundation has delivered excellent results, its aims speak for themselves. There is nothing in the Foundation’s brief which mentions climate change. Immediate aims are to enhance water quality, cull outbreaks of invasive crown of thorns starfish and boost scientific research funds that might aid the reef’s “resilience”.

The reef is dying. It’s lost half its coral in the last two years. Global warming and the strongest El Nino effect ever recorded in 2016 caused the water temperature to rise, killing one third of the coral in a nine-month span between summer and autumn 2016. It would take decades for the coral to regenerate even if rising sea temperatures were brought under control.

A desperate government is wedged between the need to appease its coal-huggers who expect Adani to open and for Abbott Point to expand and an electorate which will not respond well to further bad news about the reef’s decline. It has gone for a spin solution, out of sheer political expediency.

Did Adani collude with Queensland’s state government to break the law? The Guardian reports that as Cyclone Debbie approached, 27 March, Adani leapt into damage control – by changing the rules – obtaining a temporary licence to pollute wetlands near Abbott Point. It’s a worrying sign. Doubtless there’ll be a move to recruit Adani to the GBRF in the light of its environmental concern.

“Shocking and almost mind-blowing” Michael Myer, a former founder of The Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF) terms the growing scandal surrounding Mal’s gift of $444 million to a group which is clearly still stunned at the PM’s unexpected, unbidden largesse; reefer madness.

“It was like winning lotto” says MD Anna Marsden. Truly. When you didn’t buy a ticket?

He quit in part over concerns about its “corporate” direction and the growing involvement of figures from the fossil fuels industry.

Myer, a member of the Myer family dynasty, was a financial supporter and board member of the GBRF for two years until 2002. He says he quit in part over concerns about its “corporate” direction and the growing involvement of figures from the fossil fuels industry. Now they run the outfit.

He tells the ABC Thursday that it is “unthinkable” for the Government to award the largest ever non-profit grant to an organisation with six staff members “without due diligence, without a proper tender process, without a request”. The GBRF albatross will rot around the Coalition’s neck.

Luckily, in the week’s good news, conflicted Energy and Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg fails to bully the states into accepting the National Energy Guarantee (NEG), Friday, thus avoiding locking in Tony Abbott’s inadequate emissions reduction target of 26% of 2005 levels by 2030.

Frydenberg will now have to battle Abbott’s faction to get Liberal Party Room agreement next Tuesday. Not that you would know from his spin. “We had the victory. The national energy guarantee goes through the gate to the next stage,” he lies.

Expect Josh to talk long; keep questions short – especially from “The Monash Group”, a mutant Monkey Pod, a cabal of anti-Turnbull plotters comprising Tony Abbott, Eric Abetz, Kevin Andrews, Craig Kelly and the resourceful George Christensen whom Matt Canavan sent to Tokyo to badger baffled Japanese bankers with his pitch to put their money in the rebels’ plan to build hugely expensive, new, loss-making, toxic coal-fired power plants.

The COAG rout is touted as a win in principle, a spin repeated by a fawning mainstream media who keep us distracted meanwhile with shocking images of parched paddocks and starving stock. It’s the Lynton Crosby distraction strategy of throwing a dead cat (or dying sheep or cow) on the table.

It’s an artful dodge. A conga-line of camera-men whose shadows appear clearly in-shot; a post-modern chiaroscuro, create a Brechtian alienation effect as Super Mal blitzes our screens last Sunday night, live from Trangie, a quiet, rural service town on the Mitchell Highway between Narromine and Nyngan, 493 km NW of NSW capital, Sydney.

Super Mal is paying a flying visit to Trangie whose name is an indigenous word meaning “quick”.

Sadly, Trangie relies on the Murray Darling Basin for water …

But not so fast, Super Mal. Sadly, Trangie relies on the Murray Darling Basin for water and as Karen Middleton notes in The Saturday Paper, its suffering in Australia’s last severe drought in the early 2000s, a “devastating dry spell, the worst on record, prompted calls for a management plan of the basin and the water it holds”.  The basin’s mismanagement cannot be so easily shrugged off.

Given the Coalition government’s record of Murray Darling mismanagement under former Minister for Water and irrigators’ pal, Barnaby Joyce, Turnbull quickly finds himself not waving but drowning. Naturally it doesn’t stop him talking up the ways his government is listening.

Flash Mal’s all care and no responsibility. Keen to escape the GBRF stench, his whirlwind “listening tour” of drought-stricken NSW and QLD allows him to plug an insultingly inadequate “drought relief package” of $12,000 and an easing of Centrelink rules so farmers qualify for a paltry $16,000 PA.

Some locals find his visit offensive. They’re fit to kill over the PM’s do-nothing, self-promoting political photo-opportunity tour, yet there’s more to his caring than exploitation.

Riding shotgun with his PM, Minister for Agriculture, David Littleproud, surely a world’s best case of nominative determinism is jeered on Q&A Monday when he says that it’s “a big call” to own responsibility for climate change and that he doesn’t “give a rats if it’s man-made or not”.

Littleproud then quickly ducks for cover: There’s no silver bullet to this apart from rain. We can’t make it rain,” he says opting for the bleeding obvious in a dismissive non-sequitur.

No-one expects any mea culpa; acknowledgement that the Coalition’s lack of any real energy policy is boosting global warming nor that anthropogenic climate change is helping to cause the drought. 2017 was NSW’s hottest year ever. Autumn 2017 in southern Australia was the driest for 116 years.

the PM is not about to blind the locals with climate science,

This is all the more remarkable given there was no El Nino effect in 2017.  Yet the PM is not about to blind the locals with climate science, as he would have eight years ago. Now he’s warm and fuzzy.

“We’re here with love and practical help …” Practical help? Or another vacuous platitude? The Coalition has spent years evading any form of practicality when it comes to energy or climate. And meanwhile, its social welfare practices have morphed into an automated Robo call extortion racket.

Thank heaven for the photo-opportunities. Super Mal is all heart and hat as he clutches One Bucket’s Edwina Robertson in a stiff embrace, a medium close-up shot. The Toowoomba wedding photographer, turned drought awareness campaigner, tears up as she confronts the PM.

Ms Robertson, who is on week five of her own drought awareness campaign tour, tells the PM the federal government’s last Sunday morning assistance announcement is “underwhelming.”

Worse. She tells reporters, his package is “short sighted”. “He needs to acknowledge the long term effects of this.” PM and campaigner concur it’s a big bastard; the biggest drought in history.

Yet she’s on song with the Coalition’s creed of small government and in tune with Turnbull’s own crusade for private philanthropy. Robertson calls on people to donate to charities around Australia.

“We all need to be consistent in our message of how bad the drought is,” she said.

“Our money is going to come from charitable help, we need Aussies to get together. [It] is not going to come from the government.” 

Mal bravely takes aim at the rabid black dog of despair down on the drought-stricken farm…

A modern Atticus Finch, Mal bravely takes aim at the rabid black dog of despair down on the drought-stricken farm as he reveals his African gang-busting, welfare-cheat-exposing, Emma Husar slut-shaming, Murray Darling Basin Authority bullying, COAG coercing, anti-immigrant racist dog-whistling, Bill-killing, witch-hunting government’s tender, nurturing side.

Mal pats her back in a touching, fatherly, gesture just perfect for TV replay. Nothing too patronising.

For Fiona Simson National Farmers’ Federation head, the show is no substitute for policy.

“We are certainly concerned that as a Commonwealth we don’t have a Federal drought policy in place. The Intergovernmental Agreement on Drought expired in July,” Simson snipes.

Perhaps the former, former Minister for Agriculture, (Malcolm Turnbull held the fort for 57 days) Barnaby Joyce was pre-occupied. Weatherboard and Iron, Joyce’s book launch comes with lurid details of his dissolute behaviour, inspired perhaps, distantly, by the confessions of St Augustine.

When it’s not over-sharing his own battle with booze, suicidal depression and philandering, Weatherboard and iron perpetuates the myth that Joyce and the Nationals somehow represent the interest of the rural worker, or the poor rather than the mining lobby or Big Agriculture. Nothing in Joyce’s voting record suggests he’s interested in preserving penalty rates or increasing Newstart.

Proposals which might benefit the poor he’s voted against. These include increasing housing affordability, the age pension, trade union powers in the workplace, funding for university education, public transport.

He’s opposed the right to protest and the use of natural resource wealth for the benefit of all.

Joyce was happily spruiking on the radio for Santos to develop its coal seam gas project at Narrabri…

Last September, Joyce was happily spruiking on the radio for Santos to develop its coal seam gas project at Narrabri, maybe thirty- maybe fifty kilometres from his own land holdings, he says although he says he won’t make any financial windfall.

Nor will Weatherboard and Iron. Australian readers are not so easily duped. Joyce’s exploiting the rural poor for his own political advancement just as Turnbull is exploiting the drought crisis for photo opportunities and as a distraction to his reef, energy and Royal Commission disasters.

Joyce flogs his book on every channel. He tells Charlie Pickering he needs the money. Charlie is too polite to demur. Barnaby has a wealthy family; whose main property is Rutherglen, in Woolbrook, which sprawls across more than 1780ha north of Tamworth. True, there are other siblings, but The Joyce Family trust fund administered by his parents Beryl and James, has Barnaby as a beneficiary.

Monday, it rains. Trangie receives five millimetres according to the new, sleek, efficiency dividend beneficiaries, The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), currently on the fifth year of a wage-freeze.

Turnbull’s team compassion is all over the airwaves, Monday, with its tough love. “Not everyone is going to survive,” federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud tells ABC’s RN, Monday morning.   “You can’t enjoy the fruits of the market economy without fear of failure.” Toughen up buttercup.

Meanwhile, full of fear of failure, Josh Frydenberg must do without the support of the states. – now he’s going into the party room Tuesday with no “leverage”; even less hope of forging consensus.

The Turnbull government spins another failure as a success – with a switch into vaudeville as Frydenberg “singles out hydrogen as a point of discussion” – about as practical as Greg Hunt’s Direct Action and just as outrageously expensive.

federal and Victorian state government are spending $500 million to build a pilot…

Yet our federal and Victorian state government are spending $500 million to build a pilot plant that will operate for only one year and produce “up to” three tonnes of hydrogen over the whole year.

We are beyond Carbon lock-in” – the self-perpetuating inertia created by large fossil fuel-based energy systems that inhibits public and private efforts to introduce alternative energy technologies.

What we’ve seen instead this week is a PM prepared to seek any distraction from his GBRF scandal and his party divided on the fundamentals of an energy policy which would meet our Paris commitments.

Instead his Energy Minister is peddling a NEG which is so complex and so rushed that no-one fully understands it but one thing is clear, it will lock in Abbott’s inadequate targets for ten years; a NEG which is worse than no NEG at all which is being presented as our only way to move forward and a framework which can be modified into something workable later.

It is neither of these but a shameful attempt to forge Coalition consensus and coerce the states.

Turnbull’s need to seek distraction and his natural evasiveness has led him on a lightning tour of drought-afflicted country towns where the focus is emotive with countless images of suffering animals and distressed farmers but which obscures the link between the big dry and climate change.

It will not be long before his GBRF scandal catches up with him and party disunity erupts over emission targets, and the NEG, like his tour of compassion is exposed as a transparent sham.

 

Turnbull snatches defeat from the jaws of victory.

turnbull drought

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, in its Super Saturday massacre 28 July, (National Drowning Prevention Day) the Coalition is quick to spin its five seat rout in Braddon, Longman, Mayo and its uncontested by-elections in the Labor electorates of Perth and Fremantle into a “typical by-election swing of five per cent against the government”.

It’s “normal”, Liberal MPs’ chorus; all on song from their dot points Monday as they sally forth in damage control; voices strident with performance anxiety. Inwardly all are inconsolable; mourning unexpected, unfathomable loss. Corporate tax cuts are on the nose with voters but can the party heed the feedback? So far it is incapable of listening.

Worse, the hoax that The National Energy Guarantee, (NEG) which is said to be “technology neutral” yet deliver cheaper, more reliable, electricity is rejected by most voters as just another coal-lobby con, aimed not at them but at Abbott’s black rock cult that rules Turnbull’s government, a “ginger group”, Peta Credlin calls them, that is deluded, misinformed and in thrall to mining company propaganda and funding.

Their mutual ignorance will shape the nature of our next ten years of energy policy.

It’s NEG week, an arbitrary deadline imposed to forge consensus on a National Energy Guarantee agreement so complex, lengthy and so recently handed down without consultation that few who will vote on it have read it, let alone understood it.

Yet the Liberal spin machine this week is all over the media telling us it’s all or nothing; now or never. Sadly the push coincides with the release of government data revealing that we’ve just wasted a billion dollars planting trees and restoring degraded habitat under Greg Hunt’s fabulous Direct Action emissions reduction fund climate policy.

Increased forest-clearing in other parts of the nation since 2015 has released over 160m tonnes of carbon dioxide wiping out any Direct Action carbon abatement gains. Emissions projections data estimates another 60.3m tonnes will be emitted this year – equivalent to 10% of national emissions. Hunt’s policy’s a costly, ignominious failure.

In NSW, data obtained under FOI by The Guardian and only after an eight month battle from the Berejiklian government which had not published information for three years, shows it gave permission to clear over 7,000 hectares of native vegetation in 2015-16, the second highest rate of clearing in a decade, while the creation of new conservation areas and restoration of bushland has slumped while it has held office.

Environmental groups and the government’s own Office of Environment and Heritage warn that the new regime will lead to a major increase in loss of habitat, on a scale only seen in Queensland, our nation’s worst state for land clearing and degradation.

To be kind to Hunt, rates of land clearing have been underestimated. In Queensland, moreover, LNP politicians pressured government to withdraw federal department of environment notices demanding landowners explain suspected of illegal clear-felling.

All of this provides context to the Coalition’s urging the states to accept a NEG with woefully inadequate emissions targets of just 26% below 2005 levels for the electricity sector, by 2030. Not only will new investment, least of all in renewables receive no clear signal, the NEG effectively will lock in Tony Abbott’s targets for ten years.

Breezily, commentators and government spin merchants urge states to sign up to targets which can be increased later. It’s a bit like a mobile phone sales pitch.

Sign up now, change your plan later. But it’s not that easy. A federal government committed to higher emissions targets may struggle to gain senate support.

Our total national carbon emissions continue to rise. The most recent national greenhouse accounts showed a 1.5% increase last year. More than $1bn of public money spent on cutting greenhouse gas emissions by planting trees and restoring habitat under the Coalition’s fairies at the bottom of the garden Direct Action climate policy will have effectively been wiped out by little more than two years of forest-clearing elsewhere in the country, according to official government data.

Could the coal warriors snap out of it? Is the Coalition seduced by its own party spin machine? Can it not abandon its futile Kill Bill strategy? Will it stop its tiresome pantomime that Anthony Albanese is after Shorten’s job? None of this is working for it.

Nor does insisting that unfunded tax cuts help the whole nation to prosper win over those who experience at first hand wage theft, the loss of penalty rates, too little work, dangerous work or the half of all workers who are now in insecure employment.

Trump’s American provides clear evidence that corporate tax cuts go into share buy-backs, executive bonuses – anywhere but increased wages or the creation of new jobs.  History in both Australia and the US suggest wage rises are highly unlikely.

By Sunday, a new diversion is required. Turnbull announces the government’s $12,000 drought assistance package to farmers. Yet he’s mugged by reality. Ashley Gamble, a Toowoomba Queensland farmer says the cash payments promised by the government for struggling farms are inadequate. He could add insulting. Heartless. Cruel.

“To be honest, that’s absolutely nothing. $12,000 doesn’t even buy a load of grain.” Gamble’s completely out of stock feed. Nothing in the package for him. Nor many others like him. The government’s package looks like a stunt.

Turnbull spins the federal government’s generous plans to provide immediate financial support to farmers with a “$190 million package” to help farming communities fight one of the worst droughts of the past century. You can get one inadequate handout or you may qualify for a type of Centrelink support. It’s a whopping $16,000 PA.

99% of NSW and more than 58% of Queensland is now officially in drought, yet no-one in government is bold enough to publicly make any links between land-clearing, drought and other extreme weather and climate change. We’ve politicised our own survival.

Capitalism is also unquestioned. Farmers now face unprecedented prices as feed becomes scarce, just as transport costs rise steeply as they are forced to seek sources further and further afield. Then there’s higher fuel and power costs.

The meagre drought assistance looks like a cheap publicity opportunity, especially given last week’s news that the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, a hitherto obscure “charity”, run by wealthy business leaders, receives $443 million from Malcolm Turnbull and Josh Frydenberg without prior consultation or even being required to apply.

There are no set expectations of accountability and the donation appears to have bypassed cabinet or the party room in a captain’s call.

Again, Turnbull’s government is remote, aloof and high-handed. It’s not heeding the people, nor serving the people, however sensitive it may be to Newspoll and media opportunities. Yet rich corporations get a $65 billion handout in a tax cut.

But look over there! Senses heightened by fear, the Coalition pack is hot in pursuit of Emma Husar; MP for Lindsay, a Western Sydney electorate. The single mother of three, they allege, bullies and abuses her staff. Not only must staffers walk her pet Labrador, they have to pick up dog poo and pop into Aldi for bread, milk and toilet-paper.

Husar has misused entitlements such as the Comcar travel service, some staff allege. Yet there’s no hint of any chartered helicopter hire, such as helped to ground Bronwyn Bishop. Husar’s not used RAAF VIP jets, such as Tony Abbott would use to fly to Melbourne, to attend a March 2015 birthday party of mining millionaire and top Liberal donor Paul Marks.

Nor is there any allegation that Emma’s abused her role to secure a job for anyone not-her-partner-at-the-time; nor a whiff of any dubious paternity, a “grey area” for Barnaby Joyce who has been cleared of wrongly procuring jobs for his paramour.

Nor has Ms Husar broken Turnbull’s “no bonking ban” which admonished our former deputy PM indirectly; unfairly over his affair with staffer Vikki Campion. “You can’t help who(m) you fall in love with,” Barnaby, the helpless victim explains.

The pursuit of Husar is a magnificent distraction, however, and a pent up Coalition fond of blood sports pounces on it.

Damned by her accusers, prejudged in the media, Husar takes leave after threatening messages are left on her phone. The bullying allegations are being investigated by the Labor Party with expert assistance from barrister, John Whelan.

Whelan, who has a reputation as a straight-shooter, previously worked for Labor leaders including Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Kim Beazley and Bob Carr before he set up his mediation business which specialises in workplace issues.

Turnbull calls for Shorten to stand Ms Husar down but he risks ridicule as a hypocrite, given recent Liberal history. Some prominent staffers have gone beyond the call of duty.

Niki Savva’s revelations in Road to Ruin quote an unnamed Liberal who witnessed Ms Credlin feeding then PM Tony Abbott food from her fork in public at a restaurant; resting her head on his shoulder.

Savva, who is married to veteran Liberal staffer Vincent Woolcock, records an insider’s poetic observation of a Credlin Abbott relationship moment which appears unusually intimate. “She fed him tenderly as if he were a baby bird.”

Was this duty detailed in Credlin’s job description? Capping her image of tender familiarity of not intimacy, Savva cites an anonymous minister who says he saw Mr Abbott slap Ms Credlin on the bottom not knowing he was watching the scene.

Emma Husar’s alleged misconduct, includes revealing herself to Jason Clare in a “Basic Instinct” move. Buzz-feed is agog despite Jason’s refutation.  Can a woman “reveal herself” to a man who does not notice her? (So he swears.) What law is broken?

So far, despite the best efforts of The Daily Tele and other News Ltd papers, the allegation is baseless. But none of it need be true. All that’s required is a series of unfounded allegations and assertions. Mud sticks.

Metaphysical conundrums aside, Husar is a gift to apparatchiks eager to divert attention from the Coalition’s by-election flop. Her case evokes low journalism in support of a government over-eager to smear Labor. The lynch mob is a beast which feasts on salacious gossip; kindergarten tittle-tattle rather than rational political reporting and analysis.

Expect more of this type of “reporting” as Nine’s takeover of Fairfax, which is already forcing the share price of both companies down, forces Fairfax to “let go” its investigative reporters in favour of infotainers and ambulance chasers.

Will gossip also prevail on the ABC? In the run up to its IPA-ordained privatisation, the ABC announces the launch of ABC Life its new “lifestyle” website, next Monday, in a move which will make it more attractive to prospective buyers when the government privatises the national broadcaster. Lifestyle programmes outnumber all others categories.

Already there’s a fuss over the nonsense dignified by “competitive neutrality” which boils down to the government’s diktat that the ABC not compete with Murdoch’s’ or any other commercial oligarch’s rival lifestyle media “product”. It’s unfair. Our government-protected commercial media oligopoly rules. An inquiry is in place but no-one is certain of what it is or why, except that it is a Pauline Hanson condition on her accepting the first tranche of the Coalition’s brilliant new tax cut legislation.

What happened to the Productivity Commission? It has a section set up to hear competitive neutrality complaints. It’s been gazumped by an ad hoc inquiry.

Happily the Husar hue and cry also takes some of the heat off Malcolm Turnbull who has yet to explain how he could dole out a grant to Liberal Party mates who form the board of The Great Barrier Reef Foundation, a little-known charity comprising captains of industry and finance such as John Schubert, former CBA chair and Australian Business Council’s chairman, Grant King who also chairs the foundation’s board. Chalk it up to a captain’s call.

Along with many in the Business Council of Australia, Grant King is always calling for accountability from government but, as Bernard Keane notes in Crikey, he is not available to answer questions about the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. Perhaps he can’t comment on underwater matters.

Joining Grant is John Schubert also of the Business Council, and also “not available”. On board also is Suncorp’s Michael Cameron, toughing out a 16% drop in profit on a “weather and strategy spend”.

Powerful gold-plated poles and wires head honcho, Origin director, Steven Sergeant brings our warm and fluffy but hard-nosed electricity racketeers into the reefer madness zone, while Boeing Australia head Maureen Dougherty is there to represent a company which is a big arms manufacturer and totally non-polluting major global aircraft builder.

The Foundation is set up to allow our biggest polluters to greenwash their inevitable destruction of the reef, a scandal in itself, but this week, Turnbull feels the pressure over his unsolicited gift of $443 million of taxpayers’ money. He could begin by getting the body to undertake studies into the run-off from the land newly-cleared in NSW and QLD which will help accelerate the destruction of the reef.

Turnbull is long accustomed to spontaneous displays of support for experimental schemes. Or duds. Most memorable is his 2007 donation of $10 million, when, as Environment Minister, he financed Rupert Murdoch’s nephew Matt Handbury for his rain-making testing scheme, despite expert advice from Environment Department experts that the scheme would not work and was worth perhaps $2 million at best.

Handbury, in turn, strenuously denies any relationship between the grant he received from the then Environment Minister Turnbull and personal pal and his subsequent donation to Turnbull’s campaign for the seat of Wentworth.

Normalising electoral defeat helps re-build esprit de corps; a nod, perhaps, to the spirit of ANZAC, another nation-building catastrophe. At least it’s a public show of courage against the odds, as Dutton and at least seven other LNP MPs whose electorates adjoin Longman have reason to fear losing their seats, sneers Abbott’s soapbox, The Australian.

Axe the tax cut, some whimper privately, while yobbo Tony Abbott and others go public, white-anting their PM’s leadership, in the cheeky larrikin spirit of defiance of authority that marks out the true blue Aussie hero but with an obsession that betokens mania.

The anti-Turnbull pile-on via Sydney talkback radio helps ease the stigma of being infected by the viral disease of climate change denial, a malignant metaphysical meningitis, which causes rapid atrophy of the critical faculties.

Climate change denial helps incubate an aberrant strain of “thought”, as Greg Jericho flatters our current Coalition psychopathology in The Guardian “that has decided the way forward is to ignore evidence and instead pursue an ideology of wilful ignorance.”

Of course the government’s ruling Monash Five’s retreat from reason and its climate madness may both stem from larger causes, but the effects of wilful ignorance are pernicious.  Giving the top end of town a tax break is another corporate sponsorship we can’t afford, which, judging by its record profits of 6% quarter on quarter, big business clearly doesn’t need. Profits increased faster for mining (10.9%) and electricity and utilities, (11.9%).

A record 94% of companies reported a profit this year.

By Tuesday, MPs return to backbiting, sniping and finger-pointing. What’s left for the desiccated dries and the dissidents of the Monkey Pod room who dictate government policy on environment and energy to fall back on but Dutton’s African gangs and Andrew Bolt’s rabid racist scaremongering and immigration?

Another dramatic scandal-ridden week in national politics sees further breaking of the ranks in the Turnbull government. Some call to walk back its tax cuts while others remain steadfast; loyal to their principles of looking after their wealthy corporate mates, the sainted capitalist entrepreneur at the expense of everyone else; a retreat into economic folly which entails abdicating their obligation to a just and fair society.

“Everyday Australians would be appalled to know that the annual company tax saving for just one company could pay for 7,610 teachers, 8,450 nurses or 6,310 police officers, says Executive Director, Ben Oquist.

The Australia Institute’s (TAI) new Revenue Watch Initiative calculates that based on Rio Tinto’s half year report, the Coalition’s company tax cut would represent a $7.67 billion gift to Rio Tinto over the first decade of the cut.

Oquist maintains that his institute’s research shows that the company tax cuts are “economically unsound.” Cutting company tax will reduce revenue available for community services and productivity enhancing public infrastructure.

Others duck and weave to dodge the brickbats from Super Saturday as rifts widen within the Coalition over energy and tax cuts for the rich, which Abbott wants to ditch, Scott Morrison wants to keep and which Dutton won’t commit to.

Caught between snafu, self-sabotage and frantic damage control, the PM’s unsolicited $443 million largesse to his party’s mining and finance pals in The Great Barrier Reef Foundation blows up in his face, whilst Health Minister Hunt is left looking unwell when he’s proved wrong on the ease with which others can access patient data on MyHealth.

Of course, he’ll simply fiddle with the wording of the legislation. The opt out concept violates patient’s rights.

Figures for the first quarter of 2018 from Australia’s data breach notification scheme show that over all sectors, around half of breaches were caused by human error.

The scheme found most breaches came from the healthcare sector, reports ABC’s Ariel Bogle.

What could possibly go wrong?

“No-one should be punching the air in the Labor Party. There is not a lot to crow about”, says Turnbull when he finally emerges from his blue funk, Monday. Party Pollyanna, Christopher Pyne, surpasses peak absurdity, in his verdict on Georgina Downer’s crash and burn in Mayo. He’s almost as upbeat over his party’s overall performance.

Downer, Pyne opines, has “created a good base to win in May next year”. Just a little more public contempt for the electorate’s intelligence, should help seal her victory. In all three seats, he lies, it’s “a good result” for the Liberal Party.

Good? It’s a disaster. And it’s unprecedented. Until Saturday, a five per cent swing against the government has never occurred in by-elections in Opposition-held seats, as all five, on 28 July, were. Sixty such byelections have been held since Federation, writes Peter Brent. Half were uncontested. Results from the remainder range widely.

In the thirty seats which were contested, fourteen swung to the government. Of the remaining sixteen, the size of the swing to the opposition averages 1.5% while the mean is a meagre 1.2%. Yet the Liberal spin is quickly, widely repeated.

Incredible Sulk, Tony Abbott is on air with Ray quick as a rat up a drain pipe. Although 2GB boasts it’s number one with 11% of Sydney’s radio audience, according to its own figures, nearly ninety per cent of listeners listen to someone else.

Yet Abbott and Dutton love 2GB’s shock-jockery. Or used to. Monday, Abbott tells Hadley’s fans that his government needs to change policies after its disastrous showing in the three by-elections it bothered to contest. Its policies are just as much of a problem as its leader, Abbott tells listeners. Who’d invent a 30 dud Newspolls’ test of success?

“One of the things you learn as leader over the years is don’t set yourself up to fail, don’t set tests for yourself that are going to be very hard to pass.”  Abbott should know. His own government dishonoured 85 policy promises in 88 weeks.

“There will be no new spending under a Coalition government that’s not fully-costed and fully-funded,” was one of his hollowest election pledges. Once elected, Abbott’s government proceeded to spend more relative to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) than even the notoriously profligate Howard government. Unfunded or deficit spending doubled.

Thursday, Hadley calls Scott Morrison and Turnbull “numbskulls” and gives even Home Affairs supremo Peter Dutton a serve. Channelling Abbott, he bags the PM and his Treasurer for continuing to pursue their policy of tax cuts for businesses with turnover of more than $50 million, following the Coalition’s failure to win seats in Saturday’s by-elections.

Last week Abbott was beating Dutton’s drum. … why do we store up trouble for ourselves by letting in people who are going to be difficult, difficult to integrate?” 2GB Radio regular malcontent, Toxic Tony asks his “big question” relentless in his quest to destroy his nemesis, Malcolm Turnbull, even if it means cruelling the coalition’s chances in the process.

Abbott drips poison as he dog-whistles up racists.

It’s as good as anything his mentor, John Howard, ever managed, when in 1988 he began attacking the Asianisation of Australia, ending years of bipartisan agreement not to play the race card. Howard called for “One Australia,” neatly appealing to the followers of One Nation, which the Liberal candidate for Oxley created the year before when she was disendorsed by her party for racist comments which would be defended as “freedom of speech” today.

Confounded by reality failing to live to its rhetoric in Super Saturday’s debacle and the scandal breaking over Turnbull’s Great Barrier Reef Foundation scam, the accelerating land clearing that is helping kill the reef and the anxiety and stress that Health Minister Hunt is bringing to all of us over our medical data, not to mention Abbott’s sniping at his PM, the government retreats into dissension, reality and climate change denial and the comfort of reverting to the simpler, safer times when elder statesman and war criminal John Howard looked after us all by stopping the boats and rekindling our racism.

Not so super Saturday for Mal but silencing dissent a winner.

turnbull and big trev

Love is in the air is on endless loop at PM’s eleven-week, five by-election, 500,000 voter dance marathon. It’s a bizarre, grotesque, contest as bone-weary MPs fight to stay upright to the end this week.

Turnbull, meanwhile, flits among the “crucial” by-electorates of Braddon, Longman and Mayo, boosting morale. Spinning. Sloganeering. Grandstanding. It’s Mal’s take on campaigning. Australians hate it.

All they see is another rich, Sydney blow-in with tickets on himself.

Similarly, Alexander John Gosse Downer does his daughter, Georgina, – (“out of towner, Downer”) – locals dub her, no favours in Mayo. Or is she too good for them? Maserati-driving, Alexander the great, modestly muses on his family’s legacy in Facebook:

“I would say our family have been nation builders. We’ve helped make this nation great. And you can abuse us and you can criticise us and we’ll take it. We’ll take it, we don’t mind, because nation building is in our blood.”

Downer’s nation-building includes his backing of Australia’s illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003. Iraq, he said, had weapons of mass destruction. Australia, therefore, had legal authority to invade. Both assertions later proved false.

In 2004, as Foreign Minister, Downer ordered ASIS to bug East Timor’s cabinet in order to cheat the impoverished, developing or in Downer’s diplomatic terms “busted arse” nation out of its fair share of recompense for its oil and gas reserves.

A former Portuguese colony, East Timor suffered some of the worst atrocities of modern times, losing 200,000 lives, a quarter of its population, in its fight for self-determination against Indonesian occupation in 1975.

This Wednesday, in the ACT Magistrates’ Court, proceedings begin against two whistle-blowers, one known only as Witness K – and his lawyer, Bernard Collaery, a former deputy chief minister and attorney-general of the ACT.

The case is brought by the government’s hand-picked Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions — former Trade Union Royal Commission counsel, Sarah McNaughton, a decision which raises questions about the motives for the prosecution in a week which sees Turnbull attack the ABC for daring to suggest that Australia would be part of any future “air-strikes”, as they are cutely termed, on Trump’s new nemesis, Iran.

Firstly, the DPP requires Attorney-General, Christian Porter’s, assent. Porter says his hands are tied: he has been briefed by predecessor George Brandis, yet Greg Barns, barrister and president of the Australian Lawyers’ Association, says this is to reduce the AG to a rubber stamp. He argues that the AG can and should exercise his discretion.

Witness K and Collaery face charges of conspiring to commit offences against section 39 of the Intelligence Services Act 2001, which prohibits the unauthorised disclosure of information about ASIS activities.

The pair are being prosecuted by the government for “revealing information about its own crimes”, says Clinton Fernandes, Professor of International and Political Studies at The University of NSW.

And as if whistle-blowing isn’t bad enough, they’ve gone and told The ABC.

One problem, as Crikey’s Bernard Keane and The Saturday Paper’s Mike Seccombe point out, is that the government is charging Collaery with talking to the ABC 13 December 2013 when The Australian published an interview with him on the same matter in May 29 2013.

Why? As the government wishes to keep proceedings secret, we may never know.

Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie suggests, in parliament, that the government has held off until it has reached its new agreement with Timor-Leste and that “with the diplomacy out of the way, it’s time to bury the bodies”.

Downer whose subsequent position with Woodside petroleum, the major firm involved in East Timor gas and oil has nothing to do with his work as Foreign Minister, was also implicated in the 1999-2004, AWB $300 million Iraqi wheat for oil scandal while in 1994, as Liberal leader, he parodied his party’s slogan, The Things That Matter and its domestic violence policy with a witty word play, which he clearly thought would bring the house down, “the things that batter”.

His boat stopping was no joke either. In 2001, as Howard’s Foreign Minister, Downer was instrumental, with Mandy Vanstone, in turning back to Indonesia, 14 Kurdish asylum seekers whose boat had reached Melville Island, by falsely alleging that not one had asked for asylum. Abuzer Goles, one of the Turkish Kurds, testified otherwise.

“Thousands of times, thousands,” said Abuzer Goles“I begged them, I pleaded down on my knees. They sent a Turkish interpreter and I pleaded with him saying I’ll do anything not to be sent back. We spent four days on the water, 10 days without sleep, it nearly killed us. I’m human, I’m a human being. I’m a refugee.”

He then broke down, crying.

There’s been the odd bit of anti-immigrant and African gang hysteria from Tony Abbott, Peter Dutton and his enabler,Turnbull. At a time when One Nation candidates in QLD threaten to take by-election votes away from the Liberals, a bit of strong-on-borders rhetoric doesn’t hurt. Yet it’s only recently that Turnbull has joined the racist choir.

Hitting the selfie trail and the nation’s airwaves, copping the wrath of the odd age-pensioner in Longman, the PM effortlessly blends a boyish, artless, narcissism with an heroic narrative that is all about him. Only when it all ends badly does our anti-hero duck for cover. Up until then he’s got more front than Myers. And Mark Foy. Combined

“The … contest is between me and Bill Shorten as the prime minister and the opposition leader,” he huffs in Brisbane.  He offers the same reductive puffery in The Australian later.  Again, it’s uncanny. It could be testosteronic Tony Abbott, himself, speaking.

It’s fashionable to decry personality politics as a modern curse, but it’s been with us forever. So has the golden rule that you should only pick a fight you can win. And pride, if not macho chutzpah, goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.

Is it hubris? Or vainglorious vacuity? Are his long-suffering staff to blame if Truffles loses the plot? Goes off script. Since 2017, Turnbull has a meagre 58 staff; each averaging $233,000 PA.  Turnover is high.

February, Penny Wong queried stability in the Prime Minister’s department, noting 28 staffers hold mere acting positions in the senior executive service.

Just don’t hold Turnbull personally responsible. Friday night, as all five by elections go against him. Mal duck dives. The (self-styled) party Fixer, Christopher “Periscope” Pyne surfaces on ABC Insiders Sunday. Turnbull never called it a leadership contest, he lies. When even Barrie Cassidy tries to remonstrate, Pyne trots out the party line.

“It was just a typical by-election swing of 4%”, he squibs – except that in Longman it was at least 10%. Things look bad now for Dutton’s adjacent seat and in three other Queensland seats the government holds by narrow margins. If the Coalition continues to alienate voters in these seats, it is on track to lose the March 2019 general election.

Expect further turnover in Prime Minister and Cabinet.  Turnbull finally comes up for air around Sunday brunch. You can’t keep a straight face on an empty stomach.

“We will look very seriously and thoughtfully and humbly at the way in which voters have responded,” he tells Sydney media. “We will be carefully considering the analysis of the byelections, particularly in Braddon and in Longman.”

We will? Turnbull is the compleat political chameleon: Woody Allen’s Australian Zelig. All voters care about, he declares in a Devonport pub, earlier this week, is “jobs-and-growth”. Voters hear a less nasal, more fluent Tony Abbott with plummier vowels.

Coalition spin-doctors make “Super Saturday”, a referendum on Bill Shorten. It’s a cunning plan. Enduring, too. ABC RN even leads its byelection reporting, Sunday, pondering “what this means for Bill Shorten” – when the real question is how can Malcolm Turnbull survive?

Even after Labor wins all four seats, mainstream media groupthink is still obsessing over the fate of the Opposition. Yet privately government MPs are worrying.

The curse of Malcolm’s dud judgement rears its ugly head again. Why did his government does not contest Perth or Fremantle? OK. Fremantle you can understand – but Perth? Perth casts more votes for Liberal than Labor.

Then there’s the issue of whether it’s wise to chum up to One Nation and lose votes to it, or to “take it on” as Cassidy says. First you’d have to take her off Sunrise.

And Hanson’s everywhere. A  man in love with himself will have no rival, but Mal must contend with fifty life-size cardboard cut-outs of Pauline Hanson. Scandalous allegations emerge that One Nation’s Longman candidate, Matthew Stephens, has failed to pay workers and subcontractors he promised to recompense out of a $66,000 settlement in a long-running legal dispute.

Adding piquant mystery to the romance, One Nation needs to please explain. Just what did happen to the $66,000? Pauline certainly knows how to pick her candidates.

No use asking Queen of vanity politics, Pauline. The government’s loyal cross-bench little mate, is currently enjoying a luxury cruise around Ireland. Unaccountably, she’s missing in action. Perhaps it’s the only moment she can get to reward herself for her long service to Turnbull. Did he or Cormann pay her fare?

Happily, Hanson’s absence leaves Mal free to bang on about his government’s media “reforms” without needing to fuss over how much One Nation’s dogged support has made them possible.

Credit is of course also due to others. There’s the talking toilet brush, as he is known at home in NZ, Derryn Hinch, senate slut-shamer and gun-slinger, Tea Party potty mouth David Leyonhjelm and the stunt-loving but ephemeral NXT.

Mal’s blowing his bags about his government’s fabulous record-breaking job-creating success and the buckets of money it’s throwing at essential services, hospitals, schools, infrastructure; even the odd little charity such as The Great Barrier Reef Foundation which is just the ticket to fix the largest coral reef ecosystem on earth from its inevitable destruction under Coalition tolerance of massive land clearing, acceleration of global warming and other anti-environment policies.

The Foundation, is a charity whose board is headed by the Business Council of Australia’s Grant King. It includes other merchant princes, princesses, bankers, corporate tycoons; all Liberal Party-loving gals and pals in line to get a $433 million dollar government handout; without a tender process or any other skerrick of public accountability.

The United States Studies Centre can also thank its lucky stars. Set up by Howard, it’s the foreign policy think tank the ABC dips into it whenever it needs the ubiquitous John Barron to comment on what Donald Trump is up to now. It has close links to the Turnbull and Murdoch families and it gets a generous $12 million from the federal government, Monday.

James Brown, Malcolm Turnbull’s son-in-law was the Centre’s research director from 2015 until recently when he took up an unpaid position as head of the NSW RSL to help it sort out its current financial scandal. Lucy Turnbull is the Centre’s patron.

Similar largesse, was shown by the Coalition to Foxtel. “News Corp is refusing to explain exactly how it will spend taxpayers’ money more than six months after the Turnbull government granted Foxtel $30 million,” reported Fairfax in February.

Secrecy is a Turnbull government byword. Accordingly, the reef biz-boondoggle will not have to divulge how it spends our money to “lever” more funds from the private sector. Its three directors, moreover, are all too busy to comply with requests to appear before a senate committee hearing into the body, which holds its first meeting in Brisbane Monday.

“How much of it is going to be used to promote the companies and essentially greenwash some of these businesses that are key polluters?” asks Greens’ Oceans spokesman, cheeky Peter Whish-Wilson, who is not a big fan of secrecy. Imagine wanting to know what influence businesses would exert over how the grant was spent.

The government’s own expert agencies were invited not to apply, reports investigative reporter, Nicole Hasham of what, until this week, was known as Fairfax, but which will now be known as Nine, in a “merger” the PM heartily approves of.

Why, he takes full credit for Nine’s takeover of Fairfax. Fewer voices mean It’s a huge step forward for our nation’s democracy which for, too long, has been frustrated by independent nay-sayers in the jihad against the Turnbull government conducted by the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age

“It’s been made possible by the changes in media ownership laws we made,” Mal swanks to Brian, “Spoonman”, Carlton in their bromantic duet on Tassie talkback, Thursday morning.

“To be frank, I welcome the announcement.”

You bet he is; he does, to paraphrase Tony Abbott. The loss of Fairfax in a takeover by Nine will remove one of the few remaining papers, available to the nation, which would protect our democracy by speaking truth to power. And in many other ways.

Andrew Jaspan, a former editor-in-Chief of The Age notes “A well-informed democracy needs to be underpinned by the pluralism of ideas and outlooks that comes from strong, independent news outlets. The well-respected, grown-up and independent journalistic voice of Fairfax journalism will be the casualty of this deal.”

Instead, expect infotainment.

“From now on those remaining Fairfax journalists will answer to the whims of Nine Entertainment. That means news values framed by those of A Current Affair and 60 Minutes, tightly laced with the blokey culture of the Footy Show, with cultural cues set by the programming giants behind Love Island, Married at First Sight and Ninja Warriors.”

Best of all the deal’s a steal. It will cost Nine nothing, reports Jaspan. Nine’s $4 billion Fairfax takeover is just a scrip deal which values Nine at $1.96 billion and Fairfax $1.92 billion. With a bid premium to get to $4 billion. Nine gets 51 per cent and all the power.

Fairfax loses it all despite gaining fabulous former Liberal Treasurer Peter Costello as chairman. Smirking Pete will bring just the right skill-set and networks to help the paper navigate the turbulent seas of competitive neutrality and impartiality.

The merger is unlikely to be a commercial success, however, if the history of media mergers is any guide. Glen Dyer writes in Crikey that “the highest value is always on the day of the merger and then slides from then on.”

He argues that media merger deals fail to create value because they are set up to protect the interests of the moguls or investors and not the position of employees or consumers. Kerry Stokes’ Seven West Media, for example, was worth $4.1 billion at its inception in 2011 but it was worth only $1.3 billion Thursday.

Most observers are too polite to mention the servility the newly merged Nine will be keen to show as it grovels to its latest benefactor.

You can glimpse the future in the crawl and response enacted back on Tasmania Talks, where Carlton is spoon-feeding his PM the best lines. It’s like having a human tele-prompter. “I just wonder”, says Brian, “to what extent we need to more greatly connect the economic success of Tasmania at the moment and the flow-on benefits to people in the state.”

The battlers doing the hard yards in Braddon can’t get enough of this. Beats having enough money to feed your kids or have your teeth fixed.

Bugger the electricity bill, we’ll bask in the warmth of trickle-down and the flow-on benefits of Mal’s miraculous reforms which amount to cutting taxes for the rich while keeping workers’ wages frozen and helping the workforce to become increasingly casualised, part-time, underpaid, unprotected by unions and under-employed.

Two cheers, then, for the Turnbull government’s media reforms. Our media landscape is diminished as is our chance of reading the truth, thanks to the help of a few confused cross-benchers, led by the wily servants of the oligarchy that runs the joint to whom no news is good news unless it’s a feelgood story or an advertorial or an infomercial.

Or a piece which puffs the government’s latest, greatest victory in slashing corporate taxes or invading Iran with Donald J Trump.

Turnbull’s cunning plan of a Super Saturday of five byelections to help destabilise Bill Shorten’s leadership hits a bit of a snag this week, when voters refuse to co-operate. But with the help of a more compliant less diverse press, who knows what amazing achievements await us? And we haven’t even got on to Media Reform 2.0; the privatising of the ABC. Yet.

Look out! Bill is right behind you.

turnbull dutton behind

Trump’s “surrender summit”, his love-in with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in Helsinki, Monday, almost upstages our long-running local political panto, “Look out, Bill’s behind you”, performed with gusto all this week by our glorious Coalition, a collective of climate change deniers, rent-seekers, lobbyists and sundry other butlers, maids of the mining, banking and corporate oligarchies which run our nation with Gina Rinehart and Rupert Murdoch’s tender assistance.

Five by-elections are to be decided by next Saturday. Energy and Environment Minister Frydenberg is stuck up on the high wire above a party divided over the National Energy Guarantee, (NEG) a squalid compromise between the changes needed to lower carbon emissions by phasing in the renewable generation the nation needs to make to meet even its modest Paris targets – and his PM’s need to appease its right-wing coal warriors. The suspense is electrifying.

Best trick in the greatest trick-show on earth, a marvel of illusion and sleight of hand, is to cast the Coalition’s internal conflict as somehow between opposition and government. Much time can be wasted; attention diverted, in blaming “the other side” for energy policy failure.

In truth, the Coalition has never had a real energy policy. Their MPs are too busy brawling. Even their think tanks are at odds with each other. And Tony Abbott is quick to exploit divisions as a stalking horse to bring down his PM. Yet sadly, his coal warriors must lump the latest expert advice.

In June last year, The Finkel Review called to prolong the operation of coal-fired power stations beyond their fifty-year life expectancy as our cheapest option. Now the Australian Electricity Market Operator, which runs the national grid, (AEMO) says it’s cheaper to stop at fifty years -if the coal-fired clunkers can even last that long.

AEMO has other hard truths for the pro-coal, Monash Forum. First, it’s prepared to say “clean coal” is a chimera. So-called “Clean coal” is prohibitively expensive. Solar, wind and storage are what we need and all we can afford. Busted also is the mantra of Turnbull’s government; the myth that a 50% renewables target is “reckless” or “irresponsible.”

Best of all, Bloomberg New Energy Finance reports that the falling cost of rooftop solar will help solar push coal out of the market. Giles Parkinson sums up: governments need to get out of the way; leave investors and operators to it.

“The transition is inevitable, only the pace of it is under question if politicians and vested interests seek to erect road blocks in the form of a NEG, an abolition of rooftop solar support, or the power and inertia of the incumbents.”

But none of this will take government MPs eyes off the by-election show. Look out, Bill is right behind you!

Tassie senator, Eric Abetz gets his head on ABC Insiders, Sunday, to spruik for the Liberals in the Braddon by-election; a bit of mind-numbing, bumper sticker sloganeering which passes for argument in our post-truth, post fact politics. The Tasmanian economy is booming, he claims. “A real vibrancy.”

Why? When the Tasmanian people voted Liberal in state and national elections, the “economy was turbo-charged”. Unemployment is down from 8.1% to 5.9%, he reckons.

No-one on Insiders says that 5.9% is still a shocking figure, especially if you’re one of the thousands out of work. Nor is any thought given to the proliferation of poorly paid and part time underemployment. Half of all jobs now have no security; no sick leave or holiday pay. Above all, no-one challenges Abetz’ assertions which imply Braddon, which takes in Tasmania’s West and North-west is benefiting from a super-charged state economy. In fact, it’s the opposite.

452 mining jobs and 1,392 manufacturing jobs have gone in the past five years. The region has 444 fewer businesses over the last four years. On other indicators, such as increasing the area of agricultural land under cultivation, or decreasing the number of insolvencies, the West & North West region also lags behind, reports The Australia Institute.

So why does the former minister for employment gush over Braddon’s “prosperity”? What policies are working?

Abetz can’t nominate one, concrete, Liberal policy responsible for the Tassie turnaround. Let’s hope it’s not just a reflection of population growth from immigration pushing up property prices as retirees seek somewhere they can still afford to buy a house. The Chinese are now Hobart’s second-largest immigrant group writes Martin Flanagan in Fairfax.

You’d think that Brett Whiteley in Braddon would be a Liberal shoo-in; riding the Tassie tiger economy. Yet, in a flash, Abetz reveals his real reason for being on ABC; he’s not expecting a Liberal victory. “Always a five per cent swing away from government in a by-election”, he says, a cross between a politician and a half-baked talking fortune cookie.

Abetz neglects to mention Craig Garland, a Wynyard fisherman and an independent widely tipped to attract ten per cent of the vote in Braddon. Labor could benefit from his preferences. Locals clearly warm to Garland’s pungent populist mistrust of Abetz’ and others’ narrative of a booming Braddon blessed with incredibly successful Liberal politicians who create an overnight economic turnaround.

“I’ve had a gutful of the lot of them,” Garland says. “They treat the electorate as if we’re brain dead, as if we don’t think.”

Or don’t care. And it’s not confined to Tassie. On pause is Girls Make Your Move, a $600,000 plus social media “influence” campaign which pays young women to get themselves liked on Instagram as they post images of themselves kickboxing, yoga, surfing, roller derby, rock climbing and drinking alcohol. Some have also been posting racist abuse but no national health reform is perfect.

The innovative approach to fitness, by commodifying attractive young women in their bathers, is to be “paused and reviewed” reports media savvy, Health Minister, Greg Hunt, this week while the government continues its incredibly successful policy of getting Australians off disability support pensions, merely by tightening up on eligibility criteria.

Not to be left out- or drowned out, our PM echoes Peter Dutton’s dog-whistle; Melbourne, “he hears”, is an African gangland. “You must have your hands over your ears not hear it.” He’s pitching to the hearts and minds of One Nation voters in Longman, whose Liberal National Party candidate, “Big Trev” Trevor Ruthenberg, is a Campbell Newman throwback.

Trumped also is the racist card played by ten-pound Pom, Gina Rinehart’s butler and Monkey pod dog-whistler, Tony Abbott, who says immigration is a great, big, huge, new issue wrecking everything. And it’s all Labor’s fault, because, as he bleats, on 2 GB, his regular talk-back-if-you-dare-radio pulpit, a cess-pit of ignorance and popular prejudice,

“the Labor Party is in the grip of, I suppose, ethnic activists in certain respects”. 

Ethnic activists? Seriously? There’s panic in the ranks and at Point Piper HQ as Super Saturday’s 28 July by-elections loom closer. Arses must be covered. The PM pops his head out of our local version of a Fox-hole to caution party faithful that “the odds are against his government snaring an historic victory” as Channel 10 puts it. Odds? Snaring? Nothing to do with the candidates?

Longman’s legendary Liberal-fabulist candidate, Grim Digger, Trevor Ruthenberg, lies about a medal he never got – an innocent mistake it’s taken six years to correct. “He never wore the medal”, he never received, he explains, helpfully, surpassing peak plausible deniability, as things go bad in Braddon. ReachTel surveys 700 voters for The Australia Institute; finds a 3.3 per cent lift since June in Labor’s primary vote to 36.3 per cent, while Liberals dwindle 4.1 per cent to 42.9 per cent.

Even more confronting, the poll finds sixty per cent of voters want company tax increased or kept the same. Few are tricked by the trickle-downers. Must ScoMo blow his bags in vain? Around seventy percent support keeping Sunday and public holiday penalty rates. In a rush of typically public-spirited generosity, Peter Dutton, Home Affairs, Grand Pooh-Bah, throws in a few brand-new CCTV cameras for Burnie in Braddon, despite receiving no local, formal request.

Trickle-Downers struggle in SA, too as Mayo voters rebuff Georgina, returned prodigal daughter of the local Downer dynasty, after 20 year’s absence, reduced to a blow-in. She puts on a marvellous ventriloquist’s dummy act. She cannot so much as squeak in public without her PM, her former PM or some other top Liberal by her side. It’s a brilliant show. You can barely see their lips move.

Loose lips sink ships. The Libs rush to Mayo to announce a $35 billion contract to build nine anti-submarine frigates for the Royal Australian Navy has been awarded to defence company BAE Systems. It’s déjà vu all over again as the immortal Yogi Berra would say, as locals recall Tony Abbott making a mad dash to Adelaide in 2015 to promise a fleet of submarines would be built locally by government-owned ASC despite the navy having crew for only one.

Abbott was not helped by party-pooper Defence Minister David Johnston saying he wouldn’t trust ASC to build a canoe. It did Dave’s career no harm, however. Salty dog Johnston is currently filling a specially created position – no interview – no application required – as the federal government’s first defence export advocate on an “eminent person’s salary”, typically between $2500-4500 per day but details of which must remain secret under cutting edge “commercial in confidence” nonsense.

But locals are weary of announceables. The Future Frigate employment miracle won’t begin for four years. By then, there’s a real risk that the workforce will have moved on to fruit-picking, waitressing or uber-driving or the many other rewarding employment opportunities, beloved of any neoliberal government that values employer flexibility above a living wage and which puts corporate profits and tax cuts above the need to provide adequate health, welfare and education services.

And the promise of jobs? Nothing happened then and nothing’s been signed now, sighs Ryan Richter, a local ASC employee interviewed by The Saturday Paper. Meanwhile, fifty of his colleagues are made redundant this week. A recent ReachTEL poll has Rebekah Sharkie sitting at 62-38 ahead of Downer on a two-party-preferred basis. Could Downer’s past prove her downfall?

In her time at the IPA, Downer called for the abolition of minimum wage and penalty rates. An early Trump fan-girl, she wrote a 2016 op-ed for The Sydney Morning Herald, praising his election as “a big rejection of the international environmental movement and its fatwa against carbon”.

Georgina is supposed to be the Liberals’ trump card in winning back a seat which has been warmed almost forever by her globe-trotting father Alexander’s nether regions.

Downer was Howard’s Foreign Minister for 11 years, before his role in ordering the bugging of the East Timor cabinet and his involvement in the Australian Wheat Board wheat for oil scandal led to his promotion as Tony Abbott’s High Commissioner to London.

Downer’s only just been ousted by George Brandis who is more a bloviating bully and a bore than a bon vivant but not before Alex’s secret liaison with a George Papadopoulos in a South Kensington wine bar, where he learns that the Russians have some compromising material on Hilary Clinton and plan to use it. Alexander passes the message on through Australian intelligence to the US.

Doubtless something appropriate will be found for Georgie should she fail to win Mayo.

Yet Trump in Helsinki upstages even Downer’s diplomacy.  It’s not just that Trump has done no homework. He can’t. Trumpistas such as Ms Downer explain away The Donald’s manifest incompetence, as somehow refreshing, or even disruptive, as John Howard once indulged an inept Tony Abbott, who enjoyed a string of failures in cabinet before being accidentally elected PM. There are recent signs, however, from Julie Bishop that the Trump indulgence is wearing thin.

Trump’s short attention-span; his inability to sit through any type of briefing is rationalised by aficionados as a strength. It’s seen as part of his disruptive, unorthodox mystique; a positive asset to a reformer hell-bent on cleaning up the Washington swamp. Besides bringing his own swamp, the White House couch potato Fox TV addict shows total disdain for any briefing or expert advice.

So, Trump has to wing it and fails. What’s more shocking is that he prefers Putin’s denial to his own intelligence agencies’ evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election. The New York Times’ James Blow finds the Donald’s mind-boggling.

Putin’s track record does not inspire confidence.

He still blames Ukraine for the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 and in the eastern Donetsk region, a tragedy in which 298 innocent people, including 40 Australian citizens and residents, up to 80 of whom were children died. Locals reported “a rain” of bodies falling on homes and in sunflower fields. Belongings were ransacked because rebels at first mistook the aircraft for a Ukraine Airforce fighter jet.

Recently published reports compiled from evidence gathered by teams of international investigators which include a rebel video which shows faces, implicate Russian military at least in the supply and the retrieval of the BUK-TEAR anti-aircraft weaponry used to shoot down the plane.

Nor is there much doubt Moscow helped get Trump elected. Putin, himself, admits that “patriotic” Russian hackers may have meddled in the election, although this exchange appears to have been overlooked by Trump at the summit – along with a number of other pressing issues.

The Washington Post quotes Max Bergmann of the Centre for American Progress:

Any other President — Republican or Democrat — would use this summit to confront Russia for its on-going attack on our democracy, for its illegal occupation of Crimea and invasion of eastern Ukraine, for its efforts to assassinate people using chemical weapons in the U.K., and for its backing of Assad.”

The New York Times’ Charles Blow joins many other US commentators in deploring his President’s behaviour as “disloyal, traitorous”. Trump’s surrender sucks some oxygen out of our nation’s action-panicked week in politics which features a cameo performance from Abbott parrot, Craig Kelly, on how MH17 victims’ families need to move on with their lives.

“So, what is best for the continued future of the world – and it is best in my opinion that the leader of the USA and the leader of Russia at least have a good talking relationship,” he said. “And if that means some of the things that Russia has gotten away with in the past has to be slightly looked over, well, I am sorry. That is the price we have to pay, sometimes, to have good relations going forward.”

Kelly follows his insensitivity and misreading of the Putin Trump summit as “a good talking relationship” with Australian politics’ most pointed non-apology – but almost as offensive is Malcolm Turnbull’s eager sing-along to Peter junkyard Dutton’s dog-whistling alarm call that all of Melbourne is hostage to rampaging African gangs because Dan Andrews is soft on law ‘n order.

African gangs are not our only worry, however. Australia is “veering towards multicultural segregation” and must “do more to ensure the integration of migrants”, Alan Tudge, the minister who found Centrelink’s Robodebt persecution of the poor blameless, takes up the cudgels for Dutto.

An Aussie values test for intending permanent residents would fix everything, even if the PM himself is unable to articulate what those values may be, even if he’s able to fake xenophobia.

At last, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, takes umbrage at Trump’s crimes and misdemeanours in a speech she gives in London, she tut-tuts over the way “Trump’s America is challenging the international order which has brought such peace and stability after World War Two”,

It has? Bishop’s clearly not counting its nuclear holocausts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan or its illegal invasions of Vietnam, Iraq, Syria, Granada and Afghanistan or its interventions in Latin America. Nor does she touch upon Trump’s mad trade wars which have the capacity to trigger another world recession, rather than make America great again.

Naturally, at the hint of criticism Trump’s immediately on the offensive.

“Some people HATE the fact that I got along well with President Putin of Russia,” Trump tweets on Wednesday. “They would rather go to war than see this. It’s called Trump Derangement Syndrome!”

The presser after the boys-only summit is extraordinary. Is it the money he owes the Russians? Or the pee tape Kompromat? Whatever the cause, Trump appears to crawl to Putin. Grovel. And Putin keeps him waiting for an hour before the show begins. Although the Donald later tries to walk back his capitulation – even suggesting he “misspoke”, Trump is totally unconvincing, except of course to his supporters, to whom he offers an escape hatch.

What is most shocking to many Americans and others all around the world, however, is how at the news conference after a private two hour closed meeting, Trump white-ants his own intelligence community, to buddy up to Putin, saying:

“I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this. I don’t see any reason why it would be … So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”

It’s an embarrassingly naïve, almost childlike remark. So, too, the president’s proposal that Putin collaborate in the investigation into himself, an alarmingly absurd idea. Trump later tries to retract the “would be” by claiming he meant to say “wouldn’t be” but he’s patently unconvincing.

Amid all the chaos on the world stage and especially the implications for Australia’s relations with America, our Prime Minister has been steadfast and has the media focused on immigration, supporting Minister Dutton and the Victorian Liberal Party and the myth of Melbourne’s ‘African gangs’ showing Victoria’s Labor Government is soft on crime – all part of the popular Coalition pantomime “Look out Bill’s right behind you”.

 

 

Who’s the real baby, Trump or Turnbull?

trump balloon and babysitters

Who’s the real baby here? A monster orange balloon-effigy of Trump as an angry baby in a nappy, complete with blonde comb-over and blue mobile in tiny hand, scares him off London, Friday. It’s a brilliantly surreal representation, of the inner Trump which also evokes just how untethered this president is from his administration. Or from reality.

Giving 100,000, “Together against Trump”, London protesters the slip, he elects to chow down with Theresa May, at Chequers, her grace and favour country residence, sixty-four km safely away in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.

Not that his safety is at issue, of course, although Scotland’s police will ground Trump baby on security concerns. Pressed on the mass demonstrations against him, Trump offers a reporter his favourite blend of delusion and denial: “‘Some of them are protesting in my favour, you know that? There are many, many protests in my favour.”

May displays a hearty appetite, despite the resignation of hard Brexiteer Boris Johnson, her foreign minister. He’s her ninth minister to resign in a year. Then Brexit Secretary, David Davis makes ten. Clearly, something is up.

Steve Bannon, who sees a Trump-like quality in Johnson’s capacity to be dismissed as a clown, rates him a potential Prime Minister. Incredibly, not only does Trump barrack for Boris for PM also, this is widely seen as undermining Theresa May. By Friday, however, Johnson is back on the staff of The Daily Telegraph.

May’s hospitality toward Trump is restrained. So much for the full state visit the British PM promised him in January 2017. Hot to trot, May jetted to the White House with an invitation from the Queen, seven days after Trump’s inauguration; the first world leader to visit monster baby. Perhaps it’s hyperbolic remorse.

“I think Brexit’s going to be a wonderful thing for your country and I think it will be a tremendous asset, not a tremendous liability,” Donald, sagely predicted. So much for that.  So much too, for Trump’s subsequent refusal to visit Blighty if there were large-scale protests. Monster baby soars above London; a bizarre barrage balloon.

Large scale? There’s an unprecedented, massively popular, “dump Trump” protest in all major UK cities.  May, herself, has alienated her party with her Brexit white paper, proposing an “association agreement”, an homage to the agreement the EU signed with Ukraine, a stroke of genius which could lose her control of her party.

By week’s end, Scotland blows a raspberry at security and at The Donald. Police have yet to nab a paragliding Greenpeace protester who breaks through the “no-fly zone” surrounding Trump’s Turnberry golf resort, Friday evening. He’s as elusive as the small fortune Trump is losing on the venture. Or its source.

Trump lost $36.1m on Turnberry in 2016, the last figure available. The Washington Post is looking into $400,000 in cash which Trump plunged into acquisitions, including $65m to buy Turnberry, between 2006 and 2015. Eric Trump has reassured everyone, however, by volunteering that much of Turnberry’s funding came from Russia.

Floating past the US president, a notorious golf-cheat, as he enters the Scottish hotel; flaunting himself in front of rows of police snipers, the protestor trails a canary yellow banner with the legend “Trump: well below par #resist”.

Police go ballistic with all the latest anti-terror, counter terror, dissent repressing and all the other top secret security routines that cannot be divulged for operational reasons  – measures which are so popular in our own nation that we blithely surrender our rights to the very “way of life” we are trying to protect.

Freedom of the press, a right supported by the Australian Human Rights Commission and The Australian Press Council is increasingly eroded or curtailed. Anxious not to be wedged, Labor supports the Coalition’s latest espionage bill and its foreign transparency register. The former could criminalise protests and criticism of government, according to legal advice, obtained by Get Up.

Would a monster baby Trump survive in our skies?

Our pro-Trump commercial media and our cowed, under-funded, government-bastardised ABC, about to endure an efficiency review, would have us believe that the Donald, who watches up to eight hours’ TV a day, won’t see the protests. The mainstream narrative normalises the monster as much as it insults its audience’s common sense.

Some of the more coherent, authentic local Trumpistas are wheeled out, at week’s end to rave over him.

On ABC Insiders Sunday, Gerard Henderson, pronounces Trump’s diplomatic mission as “largely successful”. He just loves Trump’s pep talk to NATO, a US-led containment strategy dating from 1949.

Trump threatens to pull out the alliance. Rich NATO countries are not paying their fair share, he raves.

“Many countries are not paying what they should,” he says. “And, frankly, many countries owe us a tremendous amount of money for many years back, where they’re delinquent, as far as I’m concerned, because the United States has had to pay for them.”

Yet as Stephen Saideman explains in Politifact, “Countries falling short means not that they owe anyone money, but that countries have weaker militaries than we would like. NATO is not a country club.”

The next day, however, Trump holds a conference praising NATO. He spends more time spruiking his own success in getting members to increase their budgets and commitments, but he won’t specify by how much.

It’s another outright lie. There has been no such increase. Nor is the US being dudded.

Although the US pays only 22% of the cost of maintaining NATO, leaving Germany (14.65 percent), France (10.63%) and Britain (9.84 %) – and thirteen allies; mostly smaller, vastly poorer, former communist countries roped into the alliance after the fall of the USSR and disintegration of Yugoslavia, who pay less than one percent each.

Zut! French President Emmanuel Macron confirms no-one has agreed to any figure higher than what was in the leaders’ communique — 2 per cent by 2024 — a leaders’ statement that Donald Trump had signed the day before.

Gerard Henderson could, of course, be ahead of the game. Perhaps he’s referring to his idol’s business successes – or, at least, he may be impressed at how many infomercials and business trips Trump works into his gruelling presidential schedule.

Trump’s Turnberry tour of duty is the 169th day during his presidency that he has visited a property owned, managed or branded by The Trump Organisation, writes Katie Rogers in The New York Times.

Then again, merry Gerry could have been charmed by the President’s slap-down of Angela Merkel who was also  chuffed to hear that Germany was “captive to Russia” because of its dependence on Russian natural gas.

Of course, Trump will watch TV coverage of his favourite subject, himself.  But that’s not even the main point of Trump Baby, its creator, environmental activist, Leo Murray, explains, claiming (mostly) loftier aspirations.

“Trump Baby will spread cheer and goodwill, putting smiles on the faces of millions of people here and around the globe as we remember our common humanity, and laugh together at the idiot president.”

An inspired send-up, and a telling put-down, the six metre high, ($1600 worth of helium)-filled, flying monster baby parody is calculated to get some form of response, because, as Murray, explains to The Guardian, Trump is,

“… a deeply insecure man, and that is the only leverage we have over him. If we want his attention, we have to do something that humiliates him.”

Britain’s PM must grin and bear Trump’s humiliation of her in the Murdoch press. The Donald, a self-proclaimed stable genius, says May failed to take his advice on Brexit and she’s about to kill any special UK-US trade deal.

Boris would make a great Prime Minister, he adds, but he clears all that up by explaining that it’s fake news and that May is “an incredible woman doing an incredible job” and The Sun just left out all the good stuff, he says.

Advice? By Sunday, May reveals on BBC TV’s, The Andrew Marr Show, that Trump suggests she sue the EU. May publicly declines the US president’s advice. She will, instead, be negotiating with the EU, she says pointedly.

Insecure? Trump shouts down CNN’s reporter; calls CNN “fake news.” He bags NBC News for “such dishonest reporting.” The Donald falsely accuses London’s The Sun of cherry-picking quotes from an interview; complains about a New York Times image that, he says, makes it look like he has a “double chin.” He acts like a big baby.

Or anti-baby? Most babies like to breast-feed.  The New York Times reports, last Sunday, that the US confounds world health experts by heavying other nations to block a UN resolution promoting breastfeeding.

Monster baby Trump, evokes babies of “illegal” migrants in cages. Our government tends to play along with The Donald’s random acts of cruelty.

Only Peter Dutton matches Trump’s mob when it comes to souring the milk of human kindness. Now even the human breast is suspect. The US defies long-standing scientific consensus that breast milk is ultimately healthier for children than infant formula, (although not all parents can breastfeed).

Breast-milk is not only safer, it’s cheaper. “The deaths of 823,000 children and 20,000 mothers each year could be averted through universal breastfeeding, along with economic savings of US $300 billion,” a 2016 study found.

Yet breast-feeding threatens the profits of multinational corporations who produce infant formula in a US $70bn industry dominated by a few giant US and Europe-based multinational firms. Even after Trump’s tax breaks, they may fail to thrive should mothers put their babies on the breast.

Six major international companies and their subsidiaries control the market: Nestle leads with 22% of the global market share, Danone, Mead Johnson (now RB), Abbott, Friesland Campina, and Heinz. It’s a tribute to the power of oligarchical, multi-national capitalism. Its brilliant success mirrors the fabulous benefits we enjoy as a result of having privatised so many essential services such as electric power or the provision of jobs or disability services.

Trump’s concern parallels our own business-friendly government’s solicitude; its crusade to help out needy corporations with tax cuts, especially the ten companies who have written an open letter urging the senate to pass the last tranche of the legislation even if half of them didn’t pay any company tax in 2015-16.

Amazing news gladdens the hearts of all Australians as Rod Sims, head of the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission, (ACCC), commonly billed as our “competition watchdog” announces it has solved the mystery of why our nation’s electricity is the most expensive in the world. Retail competition is a failure.

It’s taken just over a year for the ACCC to make its statement of the bleeding obvious. Yet now it is overnight the expert du jour on setting energy policy. Already there’s the Australian Energy Market Commission, (AEMC), The Australian Energy Regulator (AER), Australian Energy Market Operator, (AEMO) and Energy Security Board (ESB), an alphabet soup of acronyms to set energy policy – helped of course by various state government bureaucrats.

We had three bodies too many when the ESB entered the scene a year ago. And as Brian Toohey explained in The Australian Financial review, last year,

The AEMC’s rules have pushed electricity prices unnecessarily high. One rule gave the grid companies a guaranteed mark-up on capital outlays, rewarding them for gold plating the network. Another rule let wholesale suppliers enjoy ridiculously high prices by “gaming” the government-created National Electricity Market (NEM).

It doesn’t help that the ACCC report is highly contentious. John Quiggan shows commendable restraint in calling its report “a mishmash of cognitive dissonance and half-baked suggestions for fixing the unfixable”. Of course, it may well be designed to read like that. Or as The Saturday Paper’s Sean Kelly puts it

 “… the political equivalent of the Laurel or Yanny sound clip. The Nationals heard, “Coal!” Labor heard, “Turnbull is to blame for rising prices!” Malcolm Turnbull himself heard, “My plan will work!”

Less ambiguous, however, is its call to cease subsidies for solar panels, a call which flies in the face of The Australia Institute’s (TAI) latest expert analysis. Their findings are that “rooftop solar delayed and reduced peak demand in the National Electricity Market (NEM) this summer. This improved the reliability of the grid, covering for coal-fired power plants during breakdowns.”

“Hot days are the greatest challenge for our electricity system and especially for gas and coal-fired generators. Our system now struggles to meet peak demand without rooftop solar and other renewables,” says Ben Oquist, Executive Director of The Australia Institute.

Immediately, however, the blind men and the elephant (in the room) that is the Turnbull government energy and environment committee claim that the ACCC calls for government-subsidised new coal-fired power stations. It doesn’t. Time for someone to produce a balloon barrage of Craig Kelly, Matthew Canavan, Tony Abbott, Barnaby Joyce and co.

If time is short, a flying Frydenberg or a michelin man Malcolm Turnbull would do.

These babies could be deployed whenever and wherever the nation’s citizens are brave enough to risk prosecution by protesting at having been exploited for decades; robbed blind by an electricity system that is built for profits and not fit for purpose.

Our electricity system will not be fixed by the NEG, the ACCC or any other dodgy acronym, authority, board or quango that permits further environmental destruction under the hoax of being “technology neutral” or “agnostic” as a ruse to allow coal-fired power stations to continue to cause global warming, destroying the planet and poisoning the very air we breathe.

 

Abbott’s subversion fails as Turnbull undermines a fair and just society.

Tony in the dark

 

“The nose of Cleopatra, if it had been shorter, would have changed the face of the Earth,” ventured philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal in 1669.… This indefinable something, so trifling that we cannot recognize it, upsets the whole earth, princes, armies, the entire world.”

David Leyonhjelm would not have been elected to the Senate had Malcolm Turnbull not bet the house on a double dissolution election, a stroke of Turnbullian genius, according to Annabel Crabb, one of the PM’s many Canberra media fans.

“Turnbull’s a soft cock and a pussy”, David cat-calls merrily this week.

“Fuck-off”, he tells a journo, because this is how Australians talk to one another. He defends his coprolalia by pretending obscenity, like slut-shaming, is a Libertarian thing. His misogyny is undisguised. It’s OK to call women bitches “when they are bitches“, he tells Channel 10.

Even less plausible is his claim to crusader status. It’s his duty to manfully call out misandry. This he does by asking his colleague when she’ll “stop shagging men”. It’s done so softly that it is not recorded in Hansard; not heard by the Senate President, Scott Ryan.

Naturally, he must repeat and expand upon the slur in a series of media interviews.

In the Leyonhjelm parallel universe, men are victims of a powerful, all-pervasive misandry, because, as Clem Ford writes, “being made to feel bad or implicated somehow in the power advantage enjoyed by men is exactly the same as living with an increased statistical likelihood of being beaten, raped or murdered by one.”

Leyonhjelm refuses to apologise. There’s no such thing as bad publicity for him. Even if the election is not until 2019, voters will recognise Leyonhjelm’s name. It’s all he needs to get his 7000 votes.

By Sunday, ABC Insiders, delivers the nation the ever-popular celebrity-gossip politics, spats and leadership tussles that sustain us. Why risk a slow show investigating the big issues, such as the crypto-fascism of Turnbull’s corporate oligarchy of secrets and lies with its flat tax madness, mass surveillance, its war on workers, the poor and The ABC or its $1bn unfunded GST bid to buy back voters in WA? Happily, it gives an already over-exposed Leyonhjelm another free plug.

But for Leyonhjelm to trash the PM for weak leadership is ungenerous. Cleopatra’s nose knows he should be grateful. If gratitude is a Libertarian thing. Or do Libertarians pretend that gratitude, like offence, can only be taken, not given?

Leyonhjelm owes his place to Mal’s dud judgement. (And tricking some would-be Liberal voters with the Liberal in Liberal Democrat). Turnbull’s genius shrank his government to a one-seat majority; delivered a senate cross-bench like a scene by Hieronymus Bosch, a nightmarish, macabre image of hell complete with mutant monsters and goblins.

So, too with One Nation, the senate’s Cheshire hellcat, now rapidly vanishing leaving nothing behind but its scowl. Yet Turnbull has only himself to blame for having to contend with a One Nation puss too big for its boots. A half senate election may have returned only Pauline herself.

Now, as The Guardian’s Nick Evershed shows, after 23 months, a rapid succession of changes in the senate has seen senators switch parties several times, leave politics or depart because of their dual citizenship. Hey presto, the government has a malleable senate cross bench. Last week, it passes its socially disfiguring monster income tax cuts.

The nation may never recover. Even if One Nation’s populism is in decline, it’s infected the body politic. We are a less equal nation today partly because of Mal’s courtship of Queen Pauline with her batty flat tax ideas, her state-built coal-fired station and her personal vendetta against The ABC.

And Turnbull’s readiness to use her.

Flat tax? As the IMF reports in its Fiscal Monitor for 2017, “Australia is among countries with the highest growth in income inequality in the world over the past thirty years.” The flattening of our tax system, will ensure that by 2024, when the Turnbull government’s tax cuts take full effect, the rich will pay a lost less than their fair share of tax.

It’s a recipe for increased inequality. Ben Eltham notes that a worker earning $200,000 a year in 2024, will pay the same rate of tax as someone earning $41,000. Scott Morrison’s largesse to the Liberal base will cost a mind-boggling $144 billion dollars which can only come from cuts to spending. It’s the Coalition’s small government, mean-spirited ideology at work.

None of those making the tax changes have the faintest clue what it’s like to get by on $41,000.

Rather than invest in a democratic and just society, the Coalition chooses to reward the well to do – taking from the poor, impoverishing the many, to give to its rich supporters. The National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) at The University of Canberra modelling finds “a couple both earning twice the average full-time salary can expect an extra $13,000 in 2024-25”.

What a stroke of good fortune for a lucky few; Morrison’s Aspirationals. Those who need it least.

Pauline backs the tax cut; betrays her battlers, yet again, thanks to Matthias Cormann’s sweet talk. Cormann promises government can wring billions out of corporate tax avoiders, a fairy story. And Pauline’s keen to get help with her ABC vendetta.  Stop all the lies its lefties tell about her; about climate change, Four Corners’ fake news and how she runs her party like a malignant despot.

“Absolute dictatorship. Brutal,” says One Nation’s former Queensland president and treasurer Ian Nelson.

Help is on its way. Who better to look into the left-leaning, Jihadist, ABC than former-Foxtel head honcho Peter Tonagh? Tonagh and former Australian Communications and Media Authority acting chairman, Richard Bean will head the government’s “efficiency review” of the ABC and SBS.

Fox Sports and Foxtel are 65 per cent owned by Jerry Hall’s husband, Rupert Murdoch’s family business, News Corp. The other 35 per cent is owned by Telstra. Rupe is back on deck now after a fall on his son’s yacht, an occupational hazard for billionaires and their kin, and a potential ABC buyer.

“Efficiency review” means cutting funds. Minister for Communications and Complaining About Emma Alberici, Mitch Fifield, who sees no conflict between his role and his membership of an IPA pledged to privatise the ABC, (the Liberal Party Annual Council, last month, voted 2:1 in favour) complains of Auntie’s bias and slack journalism – five times in six months.

“In the fast-evolving world of media organisations, it is important to support our public broadcasters to be the best possible stewards of taxpayer dollars in undertaking their important work for the community,” Fifield says. Nothing about speaking truth to power. Community voice? Never.

An IPA bean-counter orders a commercial rival to review Aunty. What could possibly go wrong?

Pascal is on to something. Had Mark Anthony not been smitten by the beauty of Egypt’s Queen in 41 BC, he would never have gone to war for her; changed the destiny of the Roman Empire and the History of the West, whose civilising legacy yobbo, Tony Abbott, convinced his private health tycoon pal and fellow St Ignatius Riverview old boy, Liberal donor, Paul Ramsay, to leave $3.3 billion to perpetuate. Without Abbott’s intercession, who knows whom may have benefited?

In 2012, Ramsay gave $300,000 to help the now defunct The Kevin Spacey Foundation to aid arts education. Spacey set up his foundation in 2008, when, as artistic director at the Old Vic, he is accused of routinely preying on younger men.

Paul Ramsay wouldn’t have built his private hospital empire without tinpot Neocon general John Howard ‘s dogged determination to subsidise private health insurance; part of his grand plan to undermine the Medicare system, dismantle public health and his dedication to welfare for the wealthy. Battlers like Ramsay deserve a hand up.

Efficiency! Flexibility! The words buzz. And it’s all about choice. Public health is not for everyone.

Forcing the poor to pay more, Howard kept bulk billing rebates down, discouraging doctors from helping the needy by prescribing a low scheduled fee, a goal recently revisited in the Coalition’s thawing of his Medicare rebate freeze. It’s a wee puddle in the permafrost.

“General Practice has been transformed” spruiks Minister for Private Health Insurance, Hyperbole Hunt. GPs weep with gratitude for the few extra cents he’s wantonly thrown their way.

Last July, the Federal Government allowed indexation for bulk-billing incentives – putting an extra 12 cents in doctors’ pockets. This July, GPs will benefit as indexation is applied to GP attendance items.

This adds a whopping 55 cents on a standard consultation. Naturally, GPs must wait until mid-2020 for indexation on a further 140 MBS (Medical Benefits Scheme) items. Had the same price-fixing strategies been applied to private business, Howard, Abbott, Turnbull would be in gaol.

Like Howard’s squandering of the mining boom, Coalition health policy is an intergenerational fail. Twenty years after his 30% subsidy for private health insurance came in, premiums continue to rise every year. The subsidy does, however, sop up those lazy billions we’d otherwise fritter away on education, public hospitals, dental health, refuges, infrastructure or social welfare.

It’s costly but outsourcing democracy to titans of industry and commerce is never cheap. Just ask Donald Trump’s if his BFF, Vlad Putin is thriving along with his fellow oligarchs and Mafia pals.

“Putin’s fine,” Trump says. “He’s fine. We’re all fine.

Health insurance companies are fine, too, thanks to the nation’s generous taxpayers. $6.5 billion went to insurance companies from the government subsidy alone in the 2016 federal budget. If nothing else, Ken Hayne’s Royal Commission into Banksters , round four, currently playing in Darwin, shows just how fabulously successful our nation’s insurers can be with a bit of a hand up.

If the neoliberal Turnbull government is more attuned to maintaining the rude good health of private health corporations than to improving public health, it does plan to inoculate the body politic against toxic ideas. Or it did, thanks to former failed health minister, now Liberal Party pariah, Tony Abbott who chatted up Paul Ramsay long before Paul had a heart attack on his yacht Oscar II off Ibiza, May 2014 and was subsequently rushed all the way back to Bowral NSW to die.

Now The Ramsay Centre is on the nose despite its promise of “a cadre of leaders … whose awareness and appreciation of their country’s Western heritage and values … would help guide their decision making in the future”. Or because of it.

Ramsay wants its lectures to be vetted by what Guy Rundle describes as “a Stasi-like process of commissar-auditors in lectures” but now the ANU has rejected it, all bets are off. Will it be buried out the back of the ACU under the eye of Abbott pal, Greg Craven, as recently forecast? Or will it instead, end up at Notre Dame University at Fremantle and Sydney where its mission to civilise by promoting a bogus western supremacy, will cause far less grief and mischief?

Even if Dr Tony Abbott doesn’t end up as its director, Ramsay’s been exposed as a travesty of the fundamental idea of the university as a university, a place of free inquiry, a notion that baffles Liberals who confuse Uni with job training.

In brief, The Ramsay Centre’s a grubby think tank peddling an entirely spurious and dangerous notion of western supremacy, and Leyonhjelm IPA-type nonsense about freedoms , a cause Dan Tehan, our federal Minister for Social Affairs, takes up in The Weekend Australian  where he argues we should have a religious discrimination act. Get us ready for Phil Ruddock’s committee report.

In 2008, a clear majority of Australians favoured some form of bill of rights, according to the report of the  National Human Rights Consultation, a Government commissioned inquiry chaired by Jesuit priest and human rights lawyer, Father Frank Brennan. The concept was howled down by leaders of religious groups, predominantly some Christian groups, who claimed that rights would take away religious freedoms, especially the freedom to discriminate. So much for brotherly love.

As befits an urbane civilised westerner, Toxic Tony Abbott, the incredible sulk, the asp forever at Turnbull’s bosom, hisses with malevolence and petty jealousy. Tuesday night, he hunkers down at The Australian Environment Foundation (AEF), a front for the IPA, which keeps its funding secret, but is revealed this week to have overlooked declaring a $4.5m donation from Gina Rinehart.

The Australian flatters the AEF as “a climate sceptic think tank” – as if climate change were a matter of belief not established scientific measurement. It does not burden readers with the fact that the AEF was founded by the IPA. Curiously, no mention is made at all of Don Burke, AEF’s hand-picked celebrity gardener and green-wash mascot.

Snug as a slug in a slag-heap, coal-bagged by climate deniers, Abbott snipes at Turnbull. Abbo doesn’t understand climate change. Never has. Never will. Instead he channels his former business adviser, Maurice Newman, a former head of the Australian Stock Exchange and chairman of the ABC.

“He is either intentionally misleading the public or he is incapable of understanding scientific consensus, in which case he has no business advising the government” warned The Climate Council, a non-profit body set up by former members of the Climate Commission after it was abolished by the federal government three years ago. They had tin-foil hatter Maurice in their sights but it may as well have been The Mad Monk Abbott for his efforts this week.

Abbott is all over the media this week trying to bring down the NEG, Turnbull’s singularly unworkable national energy guarantee. It’s his cunning plan to bring down Turnbull.

Tuesday, he claims no means yes: he’s the only man in Australia not to know the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, he signed was a binding commitment. Anyway, he reckons now that stable genius Trump has pulled out, that we should never have joined. Or words to that effect.

When it comes to argument, there’s always less to Abbott than meets the ear.

But what is he smoking? In his sights is “the emissions obsession that’s at the heart of our power crisis”. Yep. The reason we don’t have enough power, or cheaper power, or fabulously well-paid coal workers eagerly stoking filthy hot furnaces in power stations fired by the lung-destroying, toxic, dirty black rock is because of our folly to commit to lower emissions in Paris. Obvious, really.

The rest of Abbott’s nonsense may safely be left to the reader. It’s a reprise of his quick study of coal-lobby spin and it hasn’t changed since 2010. He tries to raise insurrection amongst The Nationals, whose new leader, Michael McCormack settles the pit-ponies by telling Queensland Nats that “coal will be in the mix”, an expensive hoax perpetrated by Josh Frydenberg the Minister whose NEG is ill-defined, unworkable and in current draft form, long, verbose and incomprehensible.

Abbott, on the other hand, is going over the top. He wages the same campaign as he waged against Gillard, a campaign he and Peta Credlin now openly admit was based on a lie, ” a label to stir up brutal, retail politics”. This week, Abbott recycles the lie that coal is cheap and reliable.

“Far from wrecking the government, MPs worried about energy policy are trying to save it, with a policy that would be different from Labor’s and would give voters the affordable and reliable power they want.”

Sadly, his colleagues avoid him. They fear to join his rebellion lest it be an attack on Turnbull. Far from fomenting dissent, he is creating some type of cohesion. A Liberal wag notes that Abbott has wasted years only to make himself completely irrelevant and the object of his colleagues’ pity.

Modelling done for The Australian Energy Market Commission, Reliability Panel the government expert energy adviser, puts the lie to the scare campaign led by the federal government. The risks of power supply not being met are “so small, they are generally not visible on the chart.”

On the other hand, many old coal plants are unreliable, especially in Victoria, where The Australia Institute reports 16 major breakdowns at Victoria’s three brown coal plants, Loy Yang A, Loy Yang B and Yallourn took place last summer. All saw hundreds of megawatts of capacity withdrawn from the grid almost instantly. This makes Victoria the standout state for power plant breakdowns.

Even more alarming, reports TAI, were two fires. The first was at Loy Yang A on January 6th, within 500m of the mine. Another in the coal pit of Yallourn on February 4th, cost $100 million dollars and endangered the health of 14,000 Morwell residents

Of course, Abbott believes in new power stations, the great black hope of the future for the coal industry lobbyist. Yet even those spun as High Efficiency Low Emissions are almost as polluting as the old. And their prohibitive cost far outweighs installing a renewable plant with battery back-up.

“It takes character to do what’s right and it takes courage to disagree with your peers,” Abbott quotes Bob Carter, a climate science quack, to his fellow climate change deniers Tuesday.

Time to heed your own advice, Tone. Get out more. Cycle down to the library. Open your mind. Do some independent research. There is no time to waste on coal lobby lies and propaganda. Take time out. Malcolm Turnbull would be delighted to arrange a year or two’s study leave.

The week ends with Abbott exposing Coalition division over energy, one of the causes, says Paul Bongiorno of a record 35 News Poll losses. Could it also be that voters are not fooled by a party so keen to bribe the rich with $144 bn of uncosted tax cuts – a government dedicated to the destruction of a just and fair democratic society which its flat tax policy, its social welfare war and its increasing secrecy and surveillance and its relentless clampdown on dissent, all inevitably lead.

Turnbull’s Kill Bill show won’t hide his failure to sell his NEG to his back bench.

tony and craig


Is it back to the future? Or is it déjà vu?  The Coalition fails to win over its coal lobby to its Clayton’s National Energy Guarantee, (NEG) a huge defeat, this week, eclipsed only by the uproar of a pliant media when Bill Shorten rethinks his tax cut repeal.

Energy and Environment Minister Frydenberg ends up hinting at a NEG 2.0 due to the woeful ignorance and wilful obstruction of his government’s troublesome, Turnbull-hating, ruling, right wing.

Happily, Frydenberg is still able to help protect Abbott’s Booby, an endangered sea bird which breeds only on Christmas Island. Alarmingly, The Dept Of Environment and Energy notes “there is no adopted or made Recovery Plan for this species.”

The Booby’s habitat is threatened by phosphate mining, an attractive extractive industry which did so much to enrich, enhance and refine the Island of Nauru, essentially a mound of fossilised bird turd – before all royalties were squandered and the island reduced to a barren, rocky moonscape. It’s the perfect site for a prison for innocent men women and children who must be punished for having the audacity to seek us out by boat and throw themselves on our compassion.

And “pour encourager les autres” – as a deterrent to other smugglers whom a paranoid Dutton claims are poised to put boats into the water at the slightest hint of compassion.  “Pour encourager les autres” is  from Voltaire’s Candide whose eponymous hero notes that “in England, it is good, from time to time, to kill an Admiral to encourage the others.”

Frydenberg knocks back Phosphate Resources’ environmental approval application which promises, with a straight-face some “small-scale exploration clearing”. What a crack up. It hopes to clear 6.8 hectares to see if it’s worth digging up any more. A “fair and balanced” ABC quotes Shire President, Gordon Thomson, a stoic, master of understatement, who reports that the island community faces “economic and population collapse” without the approval.

Incredibly, other flora and fauna including the island’s famous red crabs would be threatened by mining expansion.

Also at risk are our endangered species on the cross bench of our house of review, the senate. Peter Georgiou, Rod Culleton’s brother in law, may find family comes first in his relationship with party supremo, Pauline Hanson.

Lucy Gichuhi, however, who was recruited from Family First into the Liberals, is now relegated to an unwinnable fourth on the SA Liberal Senate ticket. Despite being in the news for struggling with rates and water bills for her burgeoning Whyalla low-rent property portfolio – she’s clearly having “a red hot go” and she is a Kenyan-born woman; both of which should make her an ideal fit for SA Liberals’ vision of a multicultural, entrepreneurial, small business-led community.

The sniping of micro- party senator, David Leyonhjelm, this week, evokes Paul Keating’s jibe at senate minor parties – “unrepresentative swill“. Little did the former PM suspect in 1992, that the  “unrepresentative swill” to whom he refused to expose John Dawkins, his treasurer, is now more of a badge of honour than an insult.

Even the Bankstown bovver-boy, would be shocked by the maverick mayhem of our senate cross-bench this week.

Sarah Hanson-Young should “stop shagging men” snorts failed Liberal candidate, now Liberal Democrat Senator, Tea-Party nut, David Leyonhjelm, who supports The Katter Party’s Queensland Senator Fraser Anning’s motion that state governments legalise and promote the carrying of pepper spray, mace and tasers by women for “personal protection”.

“Fuck Off” is Crazy Dave’s caring, Libertarian, free-speech-respecting response to Sarah Hanson-Young when she demands an apology. In defence, Dave blames Hanson. “She said all men are rapists”, he howls. Something like that. Seriously.

Women quickly, effortlessly get the better of Leyonhjelm. “The last thing that women in Australia need now is another man in power telling us that we are responsible for violence against us,” Greens senator Janet Rice responds.

Despite Leyonhjelm’s lewd contribution, which is overlooked by Clayton’s Senate Leader Scott Ryan, a perpetual cub-scout who, despite the size of his giant swearing-in Bible, is yet to exercise leadership or authority, the taser motion is defeated 46-5.

Senator Fraser Anning, One Nation’s WA ring-in, Peter Georgiou and reactionary homophobe, Cory Bernardi, loopy Leyonhjelm and Big Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party’s “senate leader” Brian Burston are the only supporters.

Who’s representing whom? And how? Isn’t this supposed to be a debate about protecting women? It’s surrealism at its finest. An antipodean William of Ockham, Leyonhjelm is God’s gift to a senate which ever in need of his razor-sharp capacity to simplify debate. His fabled metaphysical libertarianism will cut to the nub of any conundrum. Dave stars, for example, in a 2015 National Rifle Association film. Warns US viewers not to repeat Australia’s gun buy-back folly. OK, they did pay him.

“We are a nation of victims”, he says of a scheme which The Conversation fact check duly acknowledges is difficult to measure. The Conversation does concede last year, however, that “in the 15 years prior to the first gun buyback in 1996, there had been 13 mass shootings in Australia. In the 21 years since more restrictive firearm policies came into effect, there has not been a single mass shooting in the country.”

Leyonhjelm’s reading from the same NRA script supplied to its other stooge, Donald J Trump whose response to school shootings is to arm the teachers. He repeats the NRA myth that the only protection against a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

It’s puerile nonsense – which puts it on a par with much of Libertarian politics, Morrison’s justification of tax cuts to business and all of Trumpism.

Research into four decades of data in all fifty states reveals that “right to carry” laws have no public safety benefit. None. Zero. When “right to carry” laws were introduced, violent crime rates went up.

Also rising as steeply as a pithead over a mineshaft is coal. Coal is back. “Good for humanity”, lifter out of poverty, the sainted black rock will put paid to all those “reckless” and “aggressive” targets for renewable energy in Labor states run by union thugs, hell bent on wrecking the sacred National Grid (amen) with solar, wind and other unreliable, heretical, sources.

Baseload is back now thanks to equal parts of inertia, ignorance, indifference and a huge dollop of the enormous power of corporate vested interest with which our nation is blessed. Coal is in the mix, courtesy of the National Energy Guarantee which the backbench of the Liberal Party and most Nationals just don’t get. Fatuous Josh Frydenberg’s failure, as our hopelessly conflicted energy and environment minister has played a key role, too, but we mustn’t be too hard on him. He’s been set up to fail.

For a Liberal, there’s a natural conflict between meeting the demands of energy and environment. When the joint portfolio was announced, many welcomed the move as representing an enlightened acknowledgement – at last – of some interrelationship. But it didn’t take long before the combination was revealed for what it is, a cover for a party which has no real policy on energy and even less concern for the environment.

Today, Frydenberg is trying to peddle a last-ditch National Energy Guarantee which will appease his party’s implacable opponents of renewable energy and he never tires of saying be “technology neutral” – but we can’t burn coal and meet our Paris commitments.

Worse, the NEG in its latest incarnation involves a great big new subsidy on coal.  Yet if the country’s greenhouse gas emissions continue on their current trajectory, Australia will fail to meet its Paris target by a billion tonnes of CO2. That’s about two years of Australia’s combined national emissions, according to Lisa Cox reporting in The Guardian, Monday, on new data released by NDEVR Environmental – data which excludes unreliable data from land use and forestry sectors.

Yet NDEVR projects that the Australian electricity sector would meet the proposed NEG target of a 26% cut on 2005 levels by 2030, five years ahead of schedule, without the NEG, because investment continues in renewable energy generation while large, aging coal-fired plants are rapidly approaching their use-by date.

But not if One Nation has a hand in it.  A few senate cross-bench votes shy of a majority in its bid to include our richest corporations in its $140 billion of unfunded, unworkable, unnecessary tax cuts, Wednesday, the government suddenly backs former 1996 Oxley, Liberal candidate, Pauline Hanson’s new North Queensland state coal power plan.

Is Turnbull’s support a bizarre, late play for Pauline’s loyalty? Or is it also using Hanson as a stalking horse to officially return to centre stage the IPA, The Minerals Council of Australia, the Business Council and countless other members of the order of the black rock active among the 252 lobby groups currently registered with the department of Prime Minister and Cabinet that Rupert Murdoch’s press so obligingly helps to shape government energy policy?

Of course, not all lobbyists have to register, including religious groups and charities and non-government organisations. John Menadue estimates there are at least a thousand people, counting full-time and part-time lobbyists in Canberra helping to make Turnbull and his government’s mind up for them. But Wednesday looks like a big win for Big Coal.

Astonishingly, the entire Coalition senate team votes for Hanson’s 1950s Ming dynasty, Menzies era state socialist Senate bill for government to build new coal-fired power stations. But hang on. Her bill sounds so familiar it’s spooky.

And there’s more. Old clunkers will get a retro-fit. Now it makes sense. Pauline’s channelling The “Monash Forum”, a “ginger group” as Peta Credlin flatters them, which includes climate change deniers, Eric Abetz, Tony Abbott, Kevin Andrews and fellow holy coaler Craig Kelly whose identical call for a new taxpayer-funded coal fired power station is derided as “ludicrous” by energy analysts who calculate it would cost at least $3 billion, drive up energy prices and take eight years to build.

Apart from that, what could possibly go wrong? True. Coal subsidies are toxic; political poison. But so, too, increasingly is neoliberalism itself.

Is Hanson’s echo of the monkey pod boys, Abbott’s band of dissidents, out of left field? Or right? Or as daft as a chimney-sweeper’s brush? As the PM is quick to remind us – often, we must respect the fact the people voted for her. Yet he also said Hanson was “not the sort of person he wanted to see in politics”. Before she got elected.

Pauline’s latest power play, taken with her pattern of regularly voting with the government, suggests that The Red Queen is still a true blue aspirational Liberal even if the Libs had to disendorse her for disparaging Aboriginal people, leaving her to win the seat of Oxley as an independent. There is also a legacy of mutual help. In 1996, members of the Oxley branch of the Liberal Party distributed how to vote cards for Hanson after she was disendorsed as their candidate.

Hanson wrote a letter to The Queensland Times claiming that reverse racism bred Aboriginal entitlement.

Amazingly, our media treats Queen Pauline very seriously. No-one even laughs – or at least not in public – at  her absurd notion of retro-fitting toxic old coal-burning clunkers. With what? Filter tips? A kit of scrubbing brushes so they, too, can now burn clean fuel, to match the fabulous new clean coal we’ve all been hearing about? The idea that it is practical or economic to prolong the life of a station at the end of its life is simply another bit of coal lobby propaganda.

Coal-hauling, keel-hauling, Captain of One Nation’s two-man canoe, Pauline wants to “to facilitate the building of new coal-fired power stations and the retrofitting of existing base-load power stations”. Crew of one, Petro Georgiou claps madly. Pauline runs a tight ship. He doesn’t want to suffer the same fate as Rod Culleton, his brother-in-law.

Base-load power stations are the mythic invention of a coal industry under imminent threat of extinction.

Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel made it clear to a Senate Estimates Hearing, “The actual cost of bringing on new coal in this country per megawatt-hour is projected to be substantially more expensive than the cost of bringing on wind or solar.”

In the vexed case of Liddell, for example, for all Turnbull and Frydenberg’s bullying, extending its operation would be futile.

Delaying the closure of coal burning at Liddell would achieve precisely bugger all. Arguably, it would be worse than bugger all as it would delay the investment in the alternative generation that AGL is proposing. Unless you’re a weird little coal-hugger, or strained by internal political conflicts, it’s an absolute no-brainer writes John Menadue.

Will this week’s blast from the Stakhanovite Coalition’s State Socialist collective’s coal-huggers blow up Turnbull’s government? Is the Coalition’s backing of Pauline Hanson’s bill to build new coal-fired power stations an innovative, disruptive Googly, Facebook, coal-powered 2.0 type of thing?

(Soviet hero, Aleksei Grigorievich Stakhanov, mined 102 tons of coal, so the legend goes in less than 6 hours (14 times his quota) on 31 August 1935.)

No. It’s a sop to the right.

A split, big enough to drive a steam locomotive through, now divides Turnbull’s back bench bovver boys from their PM and his utterly ineffectual Energy and Environment Minister, the hopelessly conflicted, Josh Frydenberg over its rejection of Frydenberg’s mare’s nest of an energy policy.

A Coalition cave-in under a shower of black rock any moment seems imminent as Frydenberg fails utterly to corral the ugly right wing rump that runs the Turnbull government. He wants Abbott, Kelly and other climate change deniers to fall in behind the hoax that is the National Energy Guarantee. They won’t.

Ironically it’s their fear of emissions reduction from a NEG which could, in fact, lock in higher emissions, which proves a major stumbling block, as literary connoisseur Tony Abbott tells his mate, Alan Jones on Friday on his regular 2GB on-air rubdown.

 “… there’s a few lines on reducing price, there’s a few pages on boosting reliability, and there’s page after impenetrable page of the most appalling prose you’ve ever read, which is all about reducing emissions.”

Josh Frydenberg’s hasty hand-ball of The Neg is a dud pass. Frydenberg gives the job of spruiking The national energy guarantee, to a few CEOs and minerals business shills. Turns out they’re the same people who sold Abbott on axing the carbon tax not so long ago. They have no credibility to sell anything new to Craig Kelly’s environment and energy committee.

It’s a brave new way to dodge all personal and ministerial responsibility, but the back- benchers do not budge from their conviction that there’s nothing wrong with reducing the globe to a smoking ruin. Others are doing it. And perish the thought that a government ought to be anything more than the thinly disguised political wing of the mining lobby.

But OMG, just as Turnbull is about to throw another dead cat terror alert on the table, Tuesday, Bill Shorten makes a captain’s call to repeal the tax break for businesses with a turnover of between $10 – 50 million, a simple bribe, which is undeserved, unnecessary, unworkable and unfunded. But that’s not how most media respond. They pounce. Kill Bill!

Just look at what Shorten’s gone and done now! The air fills with howls of derision, cat-calls and pages in The Australian about how it’s Shorten, not Turnbull now who is a dead man walking.

The week ends with all eyes on Shorten. Not to mention venom and scorn for the class traitor. Some on ABC Insiders Sunday even predict his demise if Labor should fail to win even one of the five by-elections slated for Super Saturday 28 July.

In the rush to crucify Shorten, Paul Bongiorno wryly observes, the government gets away with redefining small business as any enterprise with a turnover between $2 million and $10 million.  In the end the government withdraws its bill but you can be sure that after 28 July, they’ll be lobbying again;

The NEG will be sold as better than nothing. In fact nothing is better. What is certain is that as far as members of the cross-bench of the senate are concerned, in the words only Mathias Corman can use to channel Arnie, “I’ll be back.”