Category: International Politics

The shirt front that roared.

putin judo

When Tony Abbott threatened to ‘shirt front’ Putin, he put a lot on the line. He told journalists that he was going to shirt front the Russian president on the sidelines of G20 summit over the tragedy of the Malaysian airliner crash in the Donetsk Region of Ukraine in July.

What was he thinking? What did he hope to achieve? Who knows with Abbott? What is certain is that the gesture got him a lot of media interest. A bit of this was benign and non-intrusive. Some media types even looked up the term and explained thoughtfully on TV that it was an expression from Aussie Rules football. It was hopeful but did not really explain or excuse anything. The net effect, moreover, was to hang an albatross around Abbott’s neck.

Perhaps the shirt front was calculated to appeal to the alpha male. Perhaps it did win Abbott a flicker of attention if not admiration from macho types who believe that assertiveness equals being ready with your fists. Ironically, however, the same types would be irrevocably alienated by the lack of action. You can’t make a threat you are not prepared to carry out. Whatever modest gain in attention, the challenge is likely to have cost him further credibility. And the rest of us have probably had enough machismo to last a lifetime. Or Abbott’s political lifetime.

The shirtfront venue was first set for Brisbane at the G20 which Abbott is pretending to chair. Yet even Abbott subsequently realised that a shirt front was an unnecessary complication at a meeting which would require every ounce of his energy, just to appear to be in control. The distraction of an impending punch up out the back could be a tad distracting. Accordingly it was brought forward to APEC. (Entrepreneurs are probably hard at work as we speak creating an iPad  shirtfront booking app for that.) And there Abbott would be happy to let the matter lie. But some matters will not just lie down and die.

The shirt front is irresistible on many fronts. It conjures up an attractively incongruous image. Its inappropriateness appeals, especially given Abbott’s aspirations on the international stage. And the media would not leave it alone. Even as he stepped on to the carpet at his APEC meeting, there was a man or two chasing the PM with a microphone asking if ‘the shirt front was on’ at APEC. (APEC, by the way, is the meeting John Howard liked to talk up. APEC is the one where they all get dressed up in funny shirts for a photo opportunity. It is uncertain what else it achieves.)

In the event, there was no shirt front. Tony toned it down almost immediately. By the next day he was telling reporters that he was absolutely determined to have a very robust conversation with the Russian president.” Instead, he appears to have had a quick private whinge to Putin. No doubt he got on to the Russian leader’s complicity in the death of innocents in the shooting down of MH17. No doubt also Putin could have raised Australia’s appalling human rights record on asylum seekers and its recent indictment by the UN committee on torture.

It does not seem to have gone all that well. His promised great remonstration with the Russian leader is said to have lasted a whole fifteen minutes. He claims to have raised the issue of compensation by offering an indirect analogy. The US offered compensation when they accidentally shot down a passenger jet. Putin’s response is not known but can safely be guessed at it.

Ты меня достал! (You piss me off.)

The shirt front was more than an embarrassing gaffe. It will haunt Abbott for some time to come. It has got him the sort of attention that he would rather have done without. Naff. Limited. Testosteronic. Not flattering. Not useful. But enduring. And it even attracted the attention of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. You know you are in trouble when Julie Bishop goes into bat for you.

Putting, as usual, an impossible spin on it, Bishop claimed this week that the term has now entered the diplomatic vernacular. It’s not a gaffe but a nifty new term for a diplomatic confrontation. Abbott did not lose control after all. On the contrary we should all be grateful for his talent as a wordsmith. Quite the Shakespeare of the world stage.

If you swallow that you are in deep trouble. Next you will be believing that Tony Abbott is capable of leading the G20 through the next meeting. Or that he has prepared for the task. Or that he has the capacity to follow the discussion, let alone make a useful contribution.

What is more likely is that this lapse will prove a defining moment. When the world leaders look up at him at the podium on 16 November in Brisbane, it is likely to be through the lens of the shirtfront. They will wonder how a man who has trouble being in charge of his lip could ever be in charge of anything bigger, even if the chairmanship of the G20 will last only a year. They will not be happy with his almost complete lack of preparation; his ideological bent towards letting the market sort things out for itself when many of them have put in the hard yards intervening to prevent financial meltdown. They will see a man with anger management issues, a man who has trouble keeping his temper. They will see a parochial primitive predisposed towards a reductive approach to conflict resolution, a sort of spaghetti western hero who will invite adversaries out the back where we can settle this with our bare fists, man to man. And they will be antagonised, if not downright angry. Who knows, one of them might offer to take him out the back and sort out his attitude for him.

Blood on Scott Morrison’s hands.

funeral of bahari

Funeral of Reza Barati.


On 17 February 2014, men armed with guns, machetes, knives, pipes, sticks and rocks, systematically and brutally attacked asylum seekers detained on Manus Island. Reinforced by PNG Police and the PNG ‘mobile squad’, who pushed down a fence to join the fray, the assailants carried out acts of violent retribution to asylum seekers who had been protesting for three months, demanding that their claims be processed.

Reza Barati, a 23-year-old Faili Kurd from Iran was murdered in the attack. At least 62 other asylum seekers were injured. One man lost his right eye, another was shot in the buttocks and another was slashed across the throat.

The attack needs to be kept in sharp focus as the Abbott government, despite many protests and appeals from the local and international community, seeks to consolidate its high handed arbitrary approach while priding itself on the efficacy of its practices.

Changes to the Migration Act currently before the house, extend Maritime Law, redefine Australia’s responsibility to refugees and effectively give unprecedented powers to Minister of Immigration, Scott Morrison. Also slated is a plan to create a new super Ministry of Homeland Security with Scott Morrison at its head.

The legal changes proposed by the Immigration Minister would re-introduce temporary protection visas to be applied to about 30,000 asylum seekers still living in Australia. Asylum seekers found to be refugees would get a three-year visa allowing them to work, but they would ultimately have to return to their country of origin. Maritime powers would be expanded, covering people detained at sea, and allow Australian law to significantly limit the country’s responsibilities under international human rights laws.

Especially draconian is the intent to raise the risk threshold for sending arrivals in Australia back to another country. Currently, people will not be returned to the country they came from if there’s a 10 per cent chance they will suffer significant harm there. The Government will now raise that risk threshold to greater than 50 per cent. Mr Morrison says the higher threshold is the Government’s interpretation of its international obligations. Greens Senator Hanson-Young says the bill will result in more asylum seekers lives being put at risk. “This is a mean, dangerous law from the Government,” she said. “If this was not so serious, if it was not about life or death, it would actually be a joke.”

Whilst Morrison’s colleagues hold him to be one of his government’s ‘top performers’ for stopping the boats, this is no commendation. Indeed, their high regard is an indictment on the rest of the cabinet. It also reflects poorly on both sides of Australian government and, indirectly, on the Australian public who have allowed themselves to accept their country’s hard-line approach.

Morrison is not the man to promote. Not remotely. Outside of the government’s joy in turning back the boats, few Australians would approve of his self-abrogating approach or his performance in his portfolio. Most of us feel a deep sense of anger and shame. Many eminent Australians in many walks of life have called for the Minister to resign.

Julian Burnside added to the calls with his public claim this week that the Minister of Immigration bribed witnesses to Reza Barati’s death to retract their testimony in return for transfer to Australia.

Burnside’s claim is, sadly no bolt out of the blue. It comes at the end of a long series of sordid reports of cover up and whitewash by the Abbott Government.

It is, nevertheless, a typically courageous challenge by a highly regarded champion of human rights and deserves to be heeded as a timely reminder of the alarming track record of this government’s cruelly punitive approach to asylum seekers. Sadly it was rejected with typical hostility by Morrison who launched a libellous attack on Burnside for his opposition, malice and lack of evidence.

“This is a false and offensive suggestion made without any basis or substantiation by advocates with proven form of political malice and opposition to the Government’s successful border protection policies. The government once again rejects these claims,” Mr Morrison said. Yet there is independent evidence that Burnside’s account is correct.

An asylum seeker at the Manus Island detention centre has alleged 3 November that he and another detainee were tortured, physically assaulted, threatened with rape and forced to sign papers withdrawing their witness accounts about the night Iranian asylum seeker Reza Barati died.

The man, aged in his 20s, has spoken publicly for the first time about what he said Wilson Security guards and Transfield staff did to him in a secret compound called Chauka. The asylum seeker making the claims said he was too scared to be named.

Ben Pynt, director of Human Rights Advocacy at Humanitarian Research Partners, a non-profit human rights and humanitarian research organization is clear that the witnesses are speaking the truth.

“The specificity of their claims is such that you couldn’t make it up. Dates, times, places, people and then the documents corroborate all of those things,” he said.

“It really makes me think there’s no doubt.

“Quite frankly, I don’t believe the Minister and neither should the Australian public. The Minister’s denial has no factual basis.

“He hasn’t responded to any of the individual claims and he hasn’t asked an independent person to find out what happened.

He has been in regular contact with the two asylum seekers and raised their allegations of mistreatment with the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the office of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR).

What caused the violence in February on Manus Island? It was not the suppression of a riot. The savage attack was the authorities’ response to a protest. More an armed attack than a ‘response’, the action was utterly unjustified, totally inappropriate and, in Reza Barati’s case, ultimately fatal. Detention Centre personnel were not attempting to quell any riotous assembly at the detention centre despite Immigration Minister’s version of events. Indeed, it seems, at the time of the incident, things had settled.

The previous day, 35 protestors had escaped. Yet by the day of the attack, only one individual remained protesting. The brutal, violent assault has been widely misreported as a riot in a whirlwind of spin generated by Morrison and his department in order to shift the blame from those running the camp and by extension himself.

How did Reza Bararati die? Julian Burnside QC gave this account last Wednesday. One G4S worker bashed the Iranian asylum seeker with a piece of wood which had two nails driven through it. His scalp torn open, Barati fell to the ground and was then kicked repeatedly by a dozen employees from within the detention centre including two Australians.

They kicked him in the head and stomach as he tried to protect himself with his arms, Mr Burnside recounted for the audience at his Sydney peace prize award last Wednesday. He said another employee took a rock and smashed it on Mr Barati’s head with “such ferocity, it killed him”. Other reports had stated that Mr Barati died of a head injury on the way to Lorengau hospital in PNG.

The morning after Reza Barati’s death, the story had been given a different spin. Minister for Immigration, Scott Morrison laid the blame squarely at the feet of the asylum seekers.

On 26 May, retired senior Australian Public Servant Robert Cornall’s report found Barati’s death occurred after guards entered the centre to suppress the protest. His ‘administrative review’ for the Federal Government revealed that contractors working for the Australian government were responsible for the death of one asylum seeker, the serious injury of others, and the mass trauma of dozens.

Yet Scott Morrison took the review as an exoneration. The evidence? Morrison instances the fact that Cornall found it was not possible to isolate one factor that could have mitigated injuries or damage.

Cornall’s 107-page ‘administrative review’ concluded that the ‘incidents were initiated by transferee protests’.

Its recommendations included increased security and reducing the processing time for refugee claims. It reaffirmed that no one could be resettled in Australia. By and large it said what the government wanted it to say. It sent the ‘right message’. Yet it must not remain unchallenged.

Long before Barati was killed, whistle-blowers provided sufficient information to prevent his tragic death. He did not have to die. But Morrison does have to come forward, accept the truth and his responsibility.

Former G4S former safety and security officer Martin Appleby quit because he found management ignored his concerns about the violent and volatile conditions.

“I couldn’t handle what was going on; no one wanted to listen,” he told Crikey. “I wrote many reports, and nothing was ever taken up. The lead-up started a long time ago.”

Manus Island is a hell.  The single men there face indefinite detention, without timeline, without information, without hope. Supplies are meagre. Facilities are few. It is hot and crowded.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald:

Asylum seekers have been denied adequate water and soap supplies or even urgent medical attention. They suffer “snakes inside their accommodation, malaria, lack of malaria tablets, no mosquito nets, [and] inedible food that often has cockroaches in it.

Manus Island offshore detention centre represents a flagrant disregard for human rights, justice or compassion. It is, moreover, an expensive and indefinite detention. One billion dollars has been spent to detain 2000 asylum seekers offshore on Manus and Nauru but, since 2012, only one has been processed. All up the Coalition has budgeted $2.87 billion over the next year to run Manus and Nauru. Transfield Services’ contract alone is worth $1.22 billion to run both camps for the next 14 months. The cost of holding one asylum seeker in offshore detention was found to be more than $400,000 per year by the Commission of Audit. The Refugee Council calculates this cost to be five times that of ‘processing’ in Australia.

Yet for all the money spent, the quality of care provided to detainees is substandard. The death of 24-year-old Hamid Khazaei, an Iranian on September 5 was entirely preventable. A cut on his foot led to septicemia. The tragedy resulted from a simple lack of basic first aid. Not only was it totally unnecessary, it has come to represent the ugly side of a deliberate policy of deterrence. In most civilized societies, it would be regarded as an act of criminal neglect.

Political commentator, former diplomat, Bruce Haigh believes Morrison should step down, ‘The Minister for Immigration, Scott Morrison, should resign. He is not a fit and proper person to be responsible for vulnerable lives.’

Haigh instanced the Manus Island assault and problems with our neighbor, Indonesia. ‘Without any help, Mr Morrison has taken the relationship with Indonesia to its lowest point since the mid-1980s. He appears to understand nothing and listens to no one…’

Christine Milne has similarly called for Morrison to resign. Tasmanian Independent Andrew Wilkie has formally asked the International Criminal Court prosecuting authority to investigate whether the treatment of asylum seekers contravenes international conventions.

In the meantime, immune to all criticism, the government presses on with its plans to settle 1000 asylum seekers in Cambodia. Scott Morrison is seeking to change the law to give the Abbott government even greater authority. To this end, he introduced the “Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment” in September. Morrison argued:

“The new statutory framework will enable parliament to legislate… without referring directly to the Refugee Convention and therefore not being subject to the interpretations of foreign courts or judicial bodies which seek to expand the scope of the Refugee Convention well beyond what was ever intended by this country or this parliament.”

The controversial bill is now in its third reading. It is a bizarre attempt to twist a treaty to suit the Abbott government’s own agenda. “It’s a sudden and unilateral reinterpretation of a treaty which has been signed by 145 countries around the world and has been the cornerstone of international refugee protection for over 60 years,” according to Daniel Webb, director of legal advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC) in Melbourne. Meanwhile, Cambodian officials are travelling to Nauru, for what Webb calls “an active selling of the refugee transfer arrangement by members of the regime that stands to profit from it”. 1,000 detainees from Nauru are slated to be transferred to Cambodia in exchange for US$35 million in aid. Cambodia has treated past asylum seekers poorly; it lacks the capacity to care for 1,000 newcomers.  Above all, details of the proposed plan have not been made sufficiently clear. The Australia-Cambodia Memorandum of Understanding does not specify how much money will be allocated for temporary accommodation and basic needs – or who will decide how the money is budgeted. It is simply one more damning move in Australia’s practice of deterrence which masks a callous indifference at best and at worst an unrepentant and calculated cruelty to innocent victims.

Under the Abbott government and its gung-ho Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison, the treatment of asylum seekers is a travesty of our international obligations and an affront to our humanity.

Moreover, as Julian Burnside reminds us this week, we have a minister whose department has not only shown gross negligence leading to accidental death, it has also been complicit in the brutal suppression of a protest on its Manus Island detention centre in February which resulted in the murder of an innocent victim. All the evasions and forced retractions in the world cannot wash away the blood on the Minister’s hands.

The G20 monster circus in Brisbane: an almost total waste of time and money.

The $45 million the Australia government is wasting hosting a G20 meeting in Brisbane 15-16 November is disgraceful. It is a shameful waste of money for an exercise in flatulent fatuity; a meeting that will once again produce a communique that no-one can understand and which no member has to abide by. Take this most recent example produced in Paris after an all-night meeting:

“Today we agreed on a work program aimed at strengthening the functioning of the IMS, including through coherent approaches and measures to deal with potentially destabilizing capital flows, among which macro-prudential measures, mindful of possible drawbacks; and management of global liquidity to strengthen our capacity to prevent and deal with shocks, including issues such as Financial Safety Nets and the role of the SDR.”

Clearly the G20 is not a meeting that one attends to achieve anything. G20 began in 1999 to achieve co-operation in world financial system but quickly became a meeting about meeting. For a moment in 2008 when even its members recognised that a world financial crisis was upon them and that it posed some immediate threat to capitalism, it proposed a complete reform of the international monetary system but then, characteristically and reprehensibly did nothing.

G20 is that type of meeting. It is a meeting that one attends to be seen attending. It is an extravagant indulgence in showmanship, compulsive attention-seeing and mutual self-congratulation by a self-appointed club serving the interests of a powerful but threatened elite, an elite with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo and a complete incapacity to agree on any single significant policy. Or even make sense to each other, let alone the rest of us. The meeting of G20 finance ministers in February has thus, accordingly cleverly set an agenda of achieving 2% growth for November’s meeting. No concrete plan, however, other than the OECD’s Base Erosion and Profit Shifting action plan, which aims to prevent multinational corporations from taking advantage of low taxing countries. Yep. We all know how well that’s tracking.

Expect a lot of waffle about growth. Like motherhood, it is good for you but the photo opportunities are less pleasing. Expect gratuitous expressions of ersatz solidarity over the three days which will last as long as it takes for members to get home and perhaps annex another country or impose another tariff as Russia has done in the past.

Why bother? Another expensive self-deluding side show is not what any of us need. It comprises neither real nor effective symbolic leadership. Above all it sets a poor example at a time when the world needs leaders prepared to marshal every possible resource to ensure our continued survival. In an era of peak oil, rapid climate change, species extinction, water scarcity, widespread political conflict, and looming economic crises, not to mention an Ebola epidemic, what the world needs is real leadership. It deserves no less. Expect instead photographs of Joe Hockey or Tony Abbott making expansive hand gestures and generally hamming for the camera. Look at moi! Look at moi! ‘Two per cent growth agreed’ the picture may well be captioned by the spin doctors of whom there will be a record number attending the Brisbane spin-fest.

Humanity needs leadership by example, leadership that does not vaunt itself, indulge itself or flatter itself on its fame or friendship with famous names. It demands leaders who will think and act; not fritter away their energies in mutual back-slapping and schmoozing amidst the ritual exchange of vacuous slogans that characterise the typical G20 junket.

Above all the world needs leaders who are prepared to roll up their sleeves and quietly get on with the job of dealing with the many challenges confronting all of us; the many challenges to our continuing existence. There is no time to waste on bread and circuses. G20 leaders should wake up to the fact that they have more pressing priorities; more urgent tasks to attend to than shaking hands and listening politely once again while an antipodean treasurer stumbles to extol the virtues of venture capital, free markets and small government. G20 leaders should stay at home. Save the air fares. Save the planet. Get on with the job. Get on with the real business of governing. Scrap all future meetings. Use existing UN organisations before they atrophy from disuse.

Expect a lot of jargon about cost benefit analyses. But don’t expect anyone present to take it seriously or this to apply to the meeting itself. The cost even to host the circus vastly exceeds its usefulness. And its symbolic significance. The world would be a better place if G20  delegates had a change of heart, met by video-conference and saved conferences costs for something that makes a difference. Imagine if just $40 million were to be diverted into fighting Ebola in West Africa, donated to refugee organisations, or invested in education and health for the poor. What a difference that could make.

Instead, the G20 juggernaut trundles out of control through another shameless orgy of self-promotion and photographs as the self-important posture in the midst of widespread suffering and serious instability.

It promises to be a big show. There will be a lot of new faces in town: up to 4,000 delegates are expected to attend with around 2,500 media representatives. Expect a lavish do. Australia has spent up large as Bob Ellis observes:

 Abbott was revealed to have spent 254,000 on a table and some chairs and their transport to the APEC summit, money that might have gone to our soldiers, or our dead soldiers’ children, plus 150,000 on some computer tablets, 120,000 on ‘advice’ on ‘leasing armoured vehicles’, 34 million for security guards and 10 million for hotels. The 44 million 524 thousand thus spent would have kept ten small theatre companies going for a thousand years on the interest alone. But it was ‘well worth the expense,’ Abbott said, ‘to keep the mass murderer Putin comfortable for three days, and well fed on Queensland rump steak, and anxious to buy more of it, which he has unaccountably, lately, refused to.’

It would be nice if the G20 leaders stayed at home without telling Putin. One of the major drawbacks of meetings about meetings such as G20 is that they are opportunities for the unprincipled to exploit to help manufacture acceptance and legitimacy.  Leaders such as Putin can use the facts that they were invited and that they attended to continue to pretend to be real leaders, with something to contribute, instead of crazed psychopaths who murder their opponents at home while invading neighbouring countries, shoot down passenger aircraft, support the Syrian genocide and generally follow a policy of brutal, ruthless expediency and single-minded, blind self-interest.

So far, the G20 has failed to muster the resolve to disinvite the Russian leader. Perhaps there is poetic justice in the end, however, in the forcible detention of such leaders in a venue which is likely to be stuffed full of false friends, false plans and filled with hot air. If he cannot be held to account, he will doubtless be made to suffer, if only briefly. Perhaps in the intolerable, longwinded longeurs of an address by chairman Joe Hockey or any other comfortably self-satisfied representative of the privileged and irresponsible, there will be just a touch of terror at the prospect of death by Powerpoint.

And beyond that excruciating horror, a nightmare vision may emerge unbidden. The many-headed monster of mutual self-destruction appears, made visible through the abdication of world leadership. Nurtured by unreason, wanton self-deception and vested self-interest, it threatens everyone’s future as it vitiates the spirit and usurps the practice of common humanity. Feasting greedily on the remains of international cooperation is the G20 beast slouching roughly towards Bethlehem.

Putin calls Abbott

putin-badass

PUTIN: Is that you, Anton? Listen to me, Anton Antonovich, you piss-weak coward. You cloth-eared, rat-faced little arse-wipe.
ABBOTT: I am busy, Vladimir. This is not a good time for me.
PUTIN: Busy? Don’t shit me. Don’t make me laugh. Making me laugh is bad for you, believe me. Bad for other people seeing me laughing. Hearing me laughing.
ABBOTT: Look, Putin, if you have just called me just to indulge your sick sense of humour, you can think again. The joke is on you, pal. You are out on your own like a country dunny. You are on the nose. You have no friends. No one likes you. No one respects you, pal. No-one wants to answer your calls. You are as lonely as a bastard on father’s day.
PUTIN: Projecting your own problems, Anton? You would not dare abuse Putin. Abusing Putin not smart move. Many in Russia have found this out. Found out hard way. But, then, perhaps you are not smart man. Maybe you have trouble getting all four paws on the mouse. Of course, you know all about unpopular, Mr negative approval rating. You and your government are creating an Australian record for being on the nose. You popular as polly waffle in public pool. If you become funeral director, people stop dying.
ABBOTT: Jesus wept! So you’re a smartarse, too now are you? Are you looking for a knuckle sandwich?
PUTIN: Laughing for me is when I am enjoying killing only. When I am hurting another creature only. Always laughing when killing rats on Stalingrad apartment landing as young boy. Killing rats with bare hands. I crush skulls. Love to see them twitch and scream. And the blood. Makes me feel good to feel my own power over life and death. No-one pushes me around, knuckle-head.
ABBOTT: You sick bastard. It’s true what they say about you. You are a psychopath. You need psychiatric care. Committal to a psychiatric ward. For ever. No discharge. Throw away the key. Can you ring me back later. Like never again? Or when you want to tell me who downed MH17? Or is that why you have rung me?
PUTIN: No. Putin never rings back. You can’t put me off, Antonovich. MH17 is Ukraine business. Red herring. Not even side issue. As we say in Russian: elder-berry is in the kitchen-garden, and the uncle is in Kiev.
But nobody pushes Putin aside. Pushes Putin around. Many have tried. Sadly they are no longer with us, Anton. If they are not dead, they are in exile. Fearing death.
ABBOTT: You eliminate your rivals. Your opponents are either killed, disappear or emigrate in a hurry. You then get your hands on their property. You have risen to power by every foul means in the book. You are a real piece of work.
PUTIN: Thank, you. Anton. Takes one to know one. Let me tell you Russian proverb: man who steals 3 kopecks is hung as thief, but man who steals 50 kopecks is hero. Disappearing? Of course, every barber knows in politics there is danger. In life there is death.

ABBOTT: Look, Putin. No time for folklore, right now.
PUTIN: You make time for Putin. For Putin, always make time. Especially if planning to have next birthday. Planning future. Staying well. Insurance policy. No nasty accidents. No bad happenings to your family. Of course. I have advice. Advice I make free for you, now, Anton. Road test bicycle before every polly pedal. Before setting out on weekly ride. Lycra caucus, I am reading, it is called. Nothing is certain, my friend. Fate is written with pitchfork on flowing water.
ABBOTT: You threatening me, Putin?
PUTIN: No. Not threat. Not threatening. Warning. Due notice. Caution words. For years Russia makes for KGB special instructions. Special brief to exterminate enemies. Eliminate individuals who make enemies of Russian state. Russia creates special terrorist units for these special operations. Best in world. Ask your ASIO. They should know. Even your ASIO Keystone Cops. Clowns. Everybody knows Sheraton hotel bungle. Makes me laugh. Stupid stuffing up. Now I am reading yesterday ASIO is bugging itself. Makes me laugh. Whole world laughing.
ABBOTT: Your visa will be cancelled if you have terrorist connections. My government has just improved security.
PUTIN: You full of piss and wind, Abbott. All froth and no beer. All mouth and no trousers. Political-girly man who sits down to wee. You love to make the threats, yourself. Can only make threats. You making me laugh more. Is like hunting. Hunting makes me laugh, also. Also hunting and killing. Always. Makes much laughing matters for me. Bringing tears to my eyes, I laugh so much.
Maybe bear. Maybe smaller prey. Maybe wretched little rodent like you, Mr Rabbit. With bare hands I break neck of rabbit by twisting. Also pain making. Suffering. When I make enemy to be in pain. I laugh also. Much laughing. When hearing enemy scream for mercy.
ABBOTT: You watch your language. We have secret agents with vastly increased powers. Our own secret agents. I have seen to this personally. Everything you say is recorded and reviewed by our anti-terror people.
PUTIN: Please not interrupt, Anton, I make serious point. Death or pain making very funny to me always. And now you and your pain. Own political suicide. At you, I am now laughing, Mr Rabbit. Very much enjoying laughing. Whole world is laughing at you now. Very funny when you make yourself total joke, Anton. Complete cock-head. Laughing stock of diplomatic world. Kill all hope of your own re-election with one stupid comment. Destroy your own political career. About me is stupid comment. Very expensive stupid comment. Your minders stupid? Stupid? Doing nothing? Ah … but, then is Russian saying you get the minders you deserve in politics, Anton.
ABBOTT: Look, Putin, I am busy. Too busy to waste time talking to you …you never listen to a word I say. Anyone says. You listen only to your ego. Your own evil monster ego. Your twisted sadistic heart of mindless cruelty. Your heart of pure evil. Look, tell you what. Hang up and find me the criminals responsible for MH17.
PUTIN: Ego? Evil? Thank you. With fear comes respect, Anton. Only with fear. I am telling you this and only this Abbott: no-one pushes Putin around. No. Not expecting you talk… just shut up and listen. Listen! If you have courage. Guts to stand up and blow off is easy; real guts is what it takes to sit down and listen. I have things you need to hear, gutless wonder. Need to hear. Believe me. Hear from me. Trust me. Before you hear them from someone who really doesn’t like you. Or your family hears from someone unfriendly as me. Or maybe just drop out of sky one day. Or when drinking cup of tea, just drop dead. Pfft! Gone.
ABBOTT: Like Alexander Litvinenko? Litvinenko wrote two books, Blowing up Russia: Terror from within and Lubyanka Criminal Group, where he accused your Russian secret services of staging Russian apartment bombingsand other terrorism acts to bring you to power. I know. Peta read them both. Briefed me.
PUTIN: Litvinenko was deluded. Paranoid. I fired Litvinenko. Personally. Disbanded whole unit …FSB officers holding press conferences? Not on my watch! Not job for FSB. Not to air dirty laundry, either. Not make internal scandals public. Litvinenko was deluded. Paranoid. Thought himself safe in London. No-one safe from Russian agents of justice, Anton. No-one!
ABBOTT: You trying to tell me something?
PUTIN: Listen to me, Anton. Easy for you make threats when you so far away. Shirtfront me. Whatever that is meaning. Illegal in your football, I understand. Easy for you accuse me of murder. Trot out US lies about Ukraine, you craven bootlicking lickspittle of American capitalists. You have no self-respect. No independence. Disgusting little sock puppet. Abbott.
Listen to me now you slavering suck-hole. Just for one time make effort. Everyone is entitled to be stupid but you abuse the privilege.
ABBOTT: Spare the insults, Putin. Read those in Pravda. Cut to the chase. Your point is?
PUTIN: Anton, none of these things would you say to my face. You little wiener, you little prick, you vainglorious cockalorum. You need to remember no-one pushes Putin around. No one.
I am Putin. Putin. Most powerful man in world. Russia number five economy in whole world. After Ukraine maybe number four. Australia may be thirteenth if lucky.
ABBOTT: You are an amoral, unprincipled, opportunist, lying, thieving, murdering bastard.
PUTIN: You are losing plot, Anton. Foaming from mouth. My record is spotless. I am Putin. Strong man. Russian bear. Man of principle. Russia has strong principles.
ABBOTT: Principles? You mean you tap power of ignorance, prejudice and superstition.
PUTIN: Greed and bullying makes world go round. In Russia just like in Australia.
ABBOTT: My government?
PUTIN: In your dreams! You are merely caretaker. Current incumbent puppet of capitalist interests. You can do as you like as long as you let them pull your strings. Walk all over you. PFFT! Throw out when they are through with you.
ABBOTT: Through with me?
PUTIN: When you are bad for business. When you get in the way of greatest profit for your oligarchy. When you make country into international laughter stock!
ABBOTT: Hypocrite! You are an oligarch, yourself.
PUTIN: Thank you for compliment. Is international best practice in capitalist business management. Putin richest man in Russia as result of clever oil investment.
ABBOTT: You mean you put your biggest oil oligarch in jail and then stole his billions. Putin, I need to go. I have a G20 briefing.
PUTIN: Of course you do.
ABBOTT: What do you mean by that?
PUTIN: You have to check all strings for puppet masters.
ABBOTT: You are still attending?
PUTIN: Of course. You have no power to stop me. G20 is run by consensus. A clown like you is just there to make sure the catering is up to scratch and to twitch when the US pulls your strings. Brown-nose. Lick arse.
ABBOTT: You need a security detail…
PUTIN: Of course. But I will bring my own. Not meaning to offend but your keystone cops don’t cut it. Except maybe as human shields. Crash test dummies. Speed humps. I will see you in Brisbane next month.
ABBOTT: Assuming you are still President.
PUTIN: Assuming your good health continues. And no nasty accidents or bad luck. Assuming you are still Australian Prime Minister, Anton. I am Russian President for life.

Wimpy Bill goes to war.

In the latest of a series of disturbing and disappointing career moves including winning Labor Party leadership, second musketeer Bill, ’war for one and war for all’, Shorten has further diminished Labor’s electoral standing and dashed the hopes of decent working men and women throughout Australia. Yet, surely, it is at times such as these ordinary Australians need a voice and deserve a representative who will stand up for them. Instead Australians have been betrayed by lickspittle Bill eagerly stepping up for his own turn on the war drum, acting as Tony’s roadshow toady. It’s an alarming and dangerous turn of events: another out of step drummer is frankly not in the national interest. An effective Labor Leader of the Opposition is.

For those who must serve in uniform, short-shrift Shorten has helped to cruel their futures, cancelling some of them and aborting yet others. Rather than protect his followers, he has helped make things dangerous at home and deadly abroad. Shorten has aided and abetted PM Tony Abbott’s fetish for militarism by backing him in sending us to an undeclared war, a war which Abbott’s spin doctors insult the nation’s intelligence in calling a mission. Accidentally, the word ‘mission’ may be heading in the right direction if only because our over-eager acquiescence in the US military adventure is not unlike assuming the missionary position.

Whatever form of words you choose, however, this latest military adventure is a dangerous war game. We have no strategy, no end game and there is no prospect of anything but a long, protracted engagement in an alien environment against forces which are difficult to identify. Many will suffer. Death, serious injury or a lifetime of traumatic psychological disorder await the unwary, to say nothing of the suffering such military service will bring to the combatants’ families and the nation. Mission improbable will morph into a mission impossible which will rapidly outwear our current hysteria, our quickly whipped up appetite for vengeance against the evil anti-western death cult desert dwelling barbarians, a hate-inspiring phantasm, the constructed enemy of the moment, created by tabloid media assisted by the PM’s strategic communications media. the outcome of such an engagement is impossible to predict. The only certainty is that it will be protracted, expensive and ordinary people will suffer. Those who survive ISIS can look forward to a civilian life of alcoholism, ostracism, family breakdown, a rat shit pension and PTSD. Ordinary men and women are the ones who get sent to their deaths in war, Bill, not the scions of the elite. Surely you would have learned that at University.

Why is Labor’s leader tamely agreeing with Abbott on the need to go to war? Abbott’s not making sense. Never has. No compelling case for war has been articulated by our gung ho,trigger happy leader. And we know that the little Aussie scrapper has a history of anger management issues, an unhealthy interest in fights and physicality matched only by his unbecoming attraction to grandstanding, his predilection for posturing and his ruthless expediency, his capacity to do anything else that he thinks will win votes. Why indulge him? It’s irresponsible. It’s like shouting another drink to an alcoholic who has fallen off the wagon. Perhaps Wimpy Bill has caught something. Perhaps he’s been careless with his prophylactics again. Is obsequious fawning an infectious disease? There’s been a fair bit of it about lately. Clearly the man’s not acting right. What compels him to join Labor to this latest conga line of suck-holes? What makes him think it is OK to go along with Tony’s going along with the USA and commit Australian troops to Iraq and Syria? We all know Abbott may be lacking in many things but the last thing the PM needs is help boosting his war lust or wimpy Bill cheering him on. Shorten has morphed into an embarrassing fan who claps the beat, whistles and throws his underwear on stage – or the moral equivalent of his underwear . Indecent is his haste: the curtain is barely up on the First Act.

Why is he doing it? If he knows he is not telling and his silence fuels unhealthy speculation that he is in it for self-interest, in the hope that the gravitas conferred by joining cause with the war effort will boost his credibility as a leader. Wet lettuce Willie Shorten has passed up on the need to offer any explanation or clearly articulated alternative position, preferring instead to whimper that Labor is bipartisan when Australia’s security is at stake. Bipartisan may be OK in key areas of public policy but here it is an unconvincing cop out. Our national security is not at stake, Mr Shorten, despite the government’s hysterical war propaganda, but it soon will be if you continue to support ‘Wall-Banger’ Abbott in committing troops to a cause rather than a conflicted military zone, a cause that will that will serve to put us fairly and squarely on the ISIS terror target map. As for your own or your party’s future, if you lie down with a dog of war, you wake up with fleas.

Committing our troops to serve in the Middle East will create more enemies than Rat f**k Rudd having a bad hair day. For despite Abbott’s spin, and the rhetoric of the coalition of the concerned, it is not a mission or a cause. It is not our freedoms that ISIS hates, Bill, it is US air strikes. ISIS does have a problem with being bombed and shot at or having a missile shower skewer their fundamentalism. It’s not an unreasonable reaction. Public decapitation in the name of Islam, however, is a means to an end for ISIS, a guaranteed way to get our attention which must be seen in historical context. Whilst Mr Abbott seizes on this with his pure evil death cult slogan and confects a cause from moral outrage it is vital to not confuse the causes with one barbaric symptom. Let us not ignore the long history and theological underpinnings of decapitation in the name of Islam and pretend that the task is an aberrant atrocity and let us not assume that our confected moral outrage is a just cause for  war. Challenge the government’s scare tactics by asking for empirical evidence of threats to our security and for evidence of  our attempts to deal with it before new laws make this even harder.

Enough of that dangerous ‘bipartisan’ drivel, Bill. Challenge Abbott to drop the demonising rhetoric of rampant evil and instead stick to the facts. Or do your own analysis and apply your own thinking. Now, Mr Shorten, it seems as if you are not really listening or understanding, so let us put it as simply as we can. An Opposition is meant to keep the government in check not lie down and let it walk all over you. You are leader of the opposition, not Tony’s double or cheer squad. People look to you to for leadership and they expect you to be independent from the vested interests of the machinery of war. Ordinary people expect you to stand for something and they need you to represent them. They look to you to ask the hard questions and they have a right to expect you to act in their best interests; the interests of ordinary Australians. They do not expect you to throw your hat in the ring with Abbot’s: into the dirty whirlpool of the war monger who deals in death; who denies our common humanity; whose evil business may destroy us all.

Morrison stitches up deal with Cambodia in bizarre rewrite of Australia’s obligations to refugees.

A move within the Abbott cabinet to establish a homeland security super-ministry drawing together several major departments and functions looks to have been scuttled because senior figures viewed it as an attempt by backers of Immigration Minister Scott Morrison to elevate him to future leader status.

The Age 1.10.2014 MARK KENNY AND JAMES MASSOLA

MORRISON: That you, Tony? Morrison here. Best on ground. Your star performer. Rising star. Team captain before too long. And on dancing with the stars. On hundred dollar bills soon.

ABBOTT: Scotty. Maaaate. [aside. God give me strength. The clowns I have to deal with. Some think they’re God Almighty. Or comedians. Or both.]

MORRISON: Are you free to talk, mate? Not got you at a bad time? Need a quick dicky. A quick word.

ABBOTT: Never a good time, Scotty. Not since opposition. Remember the days? Bag the shit out of Gillard all day and all night you could. Never had to do anything else.  Apart from sloganeer. And have Alan Jones blow smoke up my arse.

Ahhh … the slogans. You know tell I love them still. Axe the tax. Turn back the boats. Turn back the boats. Still good. Wake up at night. Find myself shouting it. And punching the bedroom wall.

And we did it. You did it. Always time for you Morrison, old cock. Time for you, Scotty. Time for you. Time for you. Time for you. You.

MORRISON: God Almighty! What the hell is that echo?

ABBOTT: Peta on conference phone. Credlin. The Boss. Oh and  ASIO, ASIS and the FBI. Of course.  Peta’s gotta to be working for them all I reckon. Smart girl that one. And the best arse in parliament.

CREDLIN: [aside: hold it right there, Abbott. Keep your hands in the open. Where I can see them.]

Scott Morrison! How the f**k are you. Back already? You lucky bastard! Didn’t step on a landmine, then. Kept out of bar doorways. No grenade in the kisser? Clap missed you, too I guess.  How was your trip?

ABBOTT: Near the doorway? Clear of doorways? Clap?

CREDLIN: Doors of bars in Shinaoukville. Rival owners on scooters. Ride up. Toss in grenades. Ride off.  Nobble the opposition. Disrupts trade. Smart tactic, though. Go well in Canberra. Not on Shorten, though. Be wasted. The bastard would fall on it like a giant wet weetbix. Smother the blast. Spoil the fun.

MORRISON: Place is f****d. Filthy. Stinks. Trash everywhere. Sewer stinks. Sex industry worse. Prostitutes everywhere. Ugly older men and young girls. Sleazy Europeans fondle teenage girls on their laps. Crawling with sex tourists and touts for child prostitutes. Children come up, begging or trying to get hold of groceries, snatching food out of your bag. Homeless kids live on the street. Crawling with children everywhere. Cambodian population mostly school kids. It’s what it looks like. Bird flu epidemic. Corrupt. Most corrupt country in the world. Or among them. Rampant corruption among judges, prosecutors and court officials. Slavery and child sexual abuse. Dangerous. You can get away with murder. And torture. You can die from just drinking the water. No-one in his right mind would want to go there. Live there. [laughs] Perfect place for asylum seekers.

CREDLIN: Spare us the travelogue, Scott. We didn’t send you over to dip your wick. Cut to the chase. Did you get us a deal or not? Where the bloody hell are you?

MORRISON: The Deal? Yes. Got good news and bad news, PM.

ABBOTT: Let me guess. The telegram that said your mother had died?  Turned out to be your mother- In- law? You drop 40 million at the casino. Turns out to be someone else’s money? And your boss gives you a pay rise?

CREDLIN: Keep it brief guys. Tony, you and I have a briefing soon. No time to listen to a couple of galahs rabbiting on.

MORRISON: Briefing? Course you do, Peta. What on? How to tell Obama’s arse from his elbow? Hope he’s in on it. Someone needs to tell him! Seriously. Where the border between Syria and Iraq is? Jesus! Better let the Syrians and Iraqis into that. Or how we wasted all those years and all those billions training up an Iraqi army who can’t fight its way out of brown paper bag. Whose battle plan is to drop their weapons and run away? We’d all love to know the answer to that.

ABBOTT: Enough of that, smartarse. Deep briefing from top brass on keeping our boots off the ground.

CREDLIN: While we fight the mother of all battles. Aleppo. Baghdad.  Armageddon.

MORRISON: Not another oil war in the Middle East. You know they are unwinnable. Got your head up your arse again, Tony. First we arm and train ISIL against Syria. Now we turn them into Anti-Christ. Wouldn’t it be easier and cheaper just to take more Timor oil? I know some good lawyers.

ABBOTT: [changing subject] How’d the bubbly go? You really know how to seal a deal, Morrison. But if you want Moet, by Christ, we’ll give you Moet. But we do expect you to turn up on time. And not to spill their drinks.

CREDLIN: Yes. We heard you turned up half an hour late. Crashed a tray of Cambodian glasses and then pretended to toast the deal for the camera. Poor bastards didn’t even have empty glasses to raise for the photo-opp.

MORRISON: It’s not all bad. Good news is the Cambodians agreed to take a few. From Nauru. Now that we’ve redefined our refugee obligations. So that we don’t have any part in looking after their welfare.

CREDLIN: In legal terms, the deal represents an abrogation of Australia’s responsibility to refugees who have been found to legitimately need our protection. Moving refugees somewhere else does not absolve Australia of its legal obligations. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, describes it as “a worrying departure from international norms”.

ABBOTT: [ignoring Credlin] A few hundred? Morrison, you are a legend. A few hundred, you say?

MORRISON: Not that many.

ABBOTT: A hundred now. Five hundred next year?

MORRISON: No. Two or three at this stage. They will see how they go.

CREDLIN: See how you go, you mean! You gave them 40 mill? The 40 million we gave you to sweeten the deal. $40 million over four years. No strings attached. No questions asked. And they are taking just two asylum seekers?

MORRISON: Two or three. It was news to me too. They call it a pilot programme. But just wait. There’s a bit you haven’t heard yet. They keep the bastards in Phnom Penh a year. After that they are relocated.

ABBOTT: Jesus. Your  Cambodian officials will all be down the casino now. Just imagine it. $40 million. Pissed up against the wall. Then it’s return to sender? God almighty!

MORRISON: No. They send them home.

CREDLIN: And where would that be?

MORRISON: Where they bloody came from. And don’t you worry about the 40 million being spent by officials. Any spend’s a good spend. It’s bound to trickle down. Create opportunities.

ABBOTT: So what’s the bad news Scott?

MORRISON: We still have to pay them.

CREDLIN: Pay them?

MORRISON: Yes. Everything you do in Cambodia costs money. Haven’t worked out how much yet. Under wraps. Christ, they know how to haggle. Basically, Australia agrees to pay the board and lodging. And …

CREDLIN: And?

MORRISON: Agrees to let Cambodia set the fee.

CREDLIN: Which is likely to be how much?

MORRISON: Billions.

ABBOTT: Mary, mother of God! Tell me again. Why did we send you Morrison? What in God’s name possessed us?

MORRISON: I’m the Immigration Minister. I am the star of Sovereign Borders. Soon I will be the head of Homeland Security.

ABBOTT: And?

MORRISON: And I’m way out in front in the opinion polls. You’re in negative territory. Going backwards. I can do what I like. Get away with anything. The country thinks your government is shite. Your budget stinks. Your terror diversion isn’t working. Your Royal Commission is a waste of money. You couldn’t lie straight in bed. No wonder Australians don’t trust you. But they know where they are with me.  Gotta go now, Peta and Tony. Mission accomplished. Leave you two to sort out the invoices.

Air Strikes terror into hearts of students of history of US military intervention

Barrack Obama has unveiled his plan for US military intervention in the Middle East. No. nothing unilateral. The US will lead a coalition. And there’s more. No boots on the ground. Humanitarian motives. Air strikes, armaments and advisers only will be supplied. Or so we are told. No mention of the W word. It’s the war you have when you are not having a war. If Obama’s plan sounds too good to be true, it’s because it is. The plan will not deliver the intended objective. ISIS will not be significantly diminished by a policy of erosion, however systematic. Increasingly abortive air strikes will lead inevitably to mission creep. Mission creep raises its ugly head today amidst a thicket of euphemisms, jargon and military double-speak which US involvement richly and effortlessly generates. It is not what it might seem. No. Mission creep is not the detested commander in chief who never knows what’s going on – on the ground and who never gives the troops enough to do a proper job. No. He is not the guy on your mission who takes selfies with corpses, loots from combat zones or who takes advantage of the thousand and one opportunities war provides to the morally challenged. On this occasion mission creep is a cute way of saying boots in air will be followed by boots on the ground. The mission Obama has so carefully and confusingly outlined will morph into full military involvement. Boots and all. It’s inconceivable that he’s unaware of this but it may be postponed until his term of office concludes. Indeed, boots on the ground could be a catchy and attractive slogan for the next Republican candidate to aim for the Oval Office. Boots on the ground is another US militarism but unlike mission creep, one which dates from the earliest encounters. The literal meaning is easy to grasp. But it symbolises an approach to battle that has characterised part of US military thinking for at least eighty years. It is an approach, however, despite its pedigree which brings with it intrinsic difficulties. In the Second World War, it was a cornerstone of US strategy. History is not kind in its verdict. The United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) pursued a doctrine of strategic bombing as its main mission. The doctrine was founded in the belief that unescorted bombers could win the war all by themselves. No ground troops would be required. It was a fundamentally flawed doctrine. Yet it prevailed throughout the entire course of the war. Belief in the doctrine did not waver amongst USAAF command. Consequently the USAAF operated independently of the rest of the Army. Strategic bombing is neither new to US military thinking nor without its detractors. It appeals of course to presidents such as Obama whose advisors would gauge this type of military intervention as the easiest to sell to a population increasingly wary of engaging in foreign wars. Yet in an era of alternative sources of information from Al Jazeera to social media and images taken on cell phones, it is increasingly difficult if not impossible to maintain that it is a workable policy. For it flies in the face of all evidence. At its core is the delusion of a safer type of warfare. The face of US policy, however, is one thing. Its exercise is another. Again, the key is in the language. Students of US military-speak around the world and especially in South East Asia and the Middle East would understand that the phrase military advisor can cover a multitude of modes of deployment including active combat. Historically, the role of the US military advisor is well-defined. It is the soldier you send to fight when you are not sending soldiers to fight. The Vietnam War demonstrated that for the US there is no such thing as a military “advisor” in a war zone.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the U.S. sent thousands of military “advisors” to South Vietnam to allegedly train the South Vietnamese army against “Communist” invaders. This was, of course, another civil war that the U.S. should have had no role in and that only created an even worse debacle in that country. But the fact of the matter was that these so-called “advisers” were, in fact, combat troops or special forces units that didn’t just advise; they engaged in combat. That’s why they were there in the first place. Americans don’t like taking a secondary role to anyone, and certainly this is true of the U.S. military. No military “adviser” is going to just take a secondary role with the Iraqi military. Mario T Garcia National Catholic Reporter
We need to be cautious about what the President has set in place. We need to be sure we understand the nature of the beast that has been unleashed. We need to be hard-nosed. Military intervention admits of no other kind of approach. One way to start would be for politicians who have written a blank cheque of support for Obama’s intervention to cancel it. Instead they should ask the hard questions. These include: What is the US planning exactly? Why? What will it most likely lead to? This particularly applies to Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbott. Stop slavering at the prospect of a war. It’s embarrassing. You don’t need to act like a total sycophant of the US to help your much beloved ally. In fact you would be more respected and you would be of more use to ‘our great and powerful friend’ if you asked what exactly the US plan really was and what precisely we are committing ourselves to supporting. And then you need to share this immediately with the Australian people. It will be a difficult new step for you. it will involve the extension of trust. It will involve the practice of honest communication and democratic sharing. You may have to take fresh advice. But it won’t hurt your image at all. And it may save the lives of the very people it is your responsibility to protect.