Category: Political Comment

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.”

Aspirational? Don’t try to take us for a ride Mr Turnbull.

turnbull tax cuts

Aging chestnut mare, Aspirational, returns to the Canberra track, next week, in the lead-up to The Super Saturday By-election Stakes, to be run 28 July.  Aspirational, a J Howard favourite, now  hopelessly long in the tooth, was always a baulky, flea-bitten nag, but her recent runs are shocking.

Aspirational is all over the track. The PM’s spin unit has injected the tedious buzz-word into every MP’s talking points. Are they aiming for a wake-up call, or hitting the snooze button? What exactly is aspirational? Ambition 2.0? Hope? No. Currently, it is a cover for increasing inequality.

Abracadabra! Hocus pocus! By the magic trick of lifting the “tax burden” (a Tea Party, TM, idea) or making our tax system flatter, less progressive and more unfair, aspiration will kick in. Take off.

Those who’ll benefit the most over the next seven years are the rich. Turnbull’s tax cuts skew the system in favour of the wealthy. And they are subversive. The government’s new flat marginal tax rate of 32.5% for all workers earning between $41.000 to $200.000 a year undermines our progressive taxation system. It flouts the principle of each according to his or her means.

Workers average $62,000 a year. The median is trickier although there is no excuse for the PM taking the question on notice. It can range from 47K to 55K depending what you take into calculation. Easy. But how to reward the wealthy at a time of alarming increases in economic and social inequality? Easy. Pretend you are rewarding the mythical aspirational worker.

Is Liberal hoop Turnbull guilty of reckless riding? His backhand whip action and his attempts to box in rival top jock, Labor’s wily Will Shorten create uproar. But can he put Bill’s weights up?

“Slimy, insinuating and patronising” hisses the PM. It’s his best barb of the week. Turnbull is in the running for best venomous toad. His puffy eyes seem to fill with the milky white toxin which some toads produce from poison glands behind their eyes. He shouts. He bellows. He screams.

“This groveller, this man who abandoned workers while he tucked his knees under Pratt’s table.”

Turnbull is overcome by class hatred. ‘There’s class war all right,” US billionaire Warren Buffett reminds us, “but it’s my class, the rich class that’s making war and we’re winning’.

It’s the same, insane, snarling rage that ruined Turnbull’s pyrrhic victory speech, election night. Like Abbott, The Incredible Sulk, or his mentor, Donald monster man-baby Trump, a sore loser, Turnbull stoops to his “knees under the table” routine. It says more than he knows about himself.

Courtesy of Rupert Murdoch, whose Newspoll, which has installed itself as our national political oracle, Turnbull is reminded of two bitter truths each day parliament is in session.

As Tassie psephologist, Kevin Bonham, tweets, “Turnbull and Coalition lose an outright record 34 straight #Newspoll 2PPs, Bill Shorten 34 2PP wins in a row is the most for an Opposition Leader.”

Beyond desperate, the Coalition now tries to bribe the electorate with an over-hyped message about a “record” $140 billion of tax cuts, a mantra its ABC echo-chamber faithfully repeats. No matter those cuts are a long way into the future. Besides, aspiration, like grifting, is in its DNA.

 “We’re not mystified by [aspiration],” the PM crows this week. “We recognise it, we embrace it.”

Turnbull’s turns puce. His face is puffy. He howls down deputy Opposition Leader, Tanya Plibersek who doubts anyone refuses a pay rise, or a promotion just because they have to pay extra tax. She defends marginal tax rates which even The Grattan Institute says are vital to a progressive system.

Mal’s a dead man walking. Liberal Party internal polling predicts a Coalition rout next election. To use the surgical meaning, toxic Turnbull will soon be aspirated; sucked out of politics entirely.

In desperation, the PM tries to buy us with tax cuts. Yet his dodgy tax cuts will favour the rich. “Class warfare” is a reproach from the right of politics, whenever an attempt is made to help workers, those on low incomes, or the rapidly expanding underclass. Now it’s his main strategy.

A real class war election will be triggered by Turnbull’s move to lock future governments into huge income tax cuts for high income earners, as John Quiggin, notes. The top twenty per cent of earners will benefit – that is people who currently earn $87K or more.

Workers on $120,000-a-year today will still pay today’s average tax rate of 29 per cent in 2027-28, unchanged from today. Yet tax rates for middle-income earners will continue to rise.

If you earn $36,000-a-year today, your tax will increase from 10-16 percent, a 6 percent rise. Consequently, workers on the highest incomes get to pay a lower share of tax.

No wonder class inspires much of the PM’s bravura performance in Question Time this week.

Keeping his class-warfare personal, the PM attacks Tanya Plibersek’s family earnings, an extension of his mantra that the Labor Party is made up of class traitors just out for themselves.

“From the hard streets of Rosebery, with a household income of just under $1m, the deputy leader of the opposition says aspiration is a mystery,” he hectors. Our PM’s a class act. What a ham.

It’s a typical pick-on-Plibersek moment for a government which finds it uplifting to ridicule and publicly humiliate a woman. It’s a ritual that is, sadly, not just confined to the blokes.

Julie Bishop loves to mock Tanya Plibersek over such critical issues as Africa being a continent and not a country; or her knowledge of which of the Marshall Islands is now submerged due to climate change. Rebukes even echo the misogyny of the blokes in charge – in 2016, Bishop accused Plibersek of a “hysterical campaign of misinformation” about the government’s approach to Iran.

It’s inspiring, character-building stuff just guaranteed to make any woman feel equal and at ease. But it doesn’t stop with the put-downs. This week, Plibersek is even thrown out of the chamber when she attempts to table a transcript of the very interview which the PM is wilfully misquoting.

The transcript she offers would stop Turnbull’s mockery; correct the record – surely a reasonable and responsible action on her behalf. It is peremptorily disallowed by Speaker Tony Smith.

Her transcript reads: Honestly this aspiration term, it mystifies me. As if someone on $40,000 a year isn’t going to want to earn $100,000 a year because they’re going to pay a bit more tax. They’re going to get a lot more income, they’re going to pay a bit more tax.

I think it’s just an excuse and a cover for a government that is determined to give the biggest tax cuts to people like them, people that they want to look after at the big end of town. How is it fair that a surgeon on five times the income of a nurse gets a 16 times larger tax cut. Is that fair?”

Plibersek nails it. No wonder the government didn’t want the full text to appear in Hansard.

At other times, the PM and his team of mostly old white blokes tell men to wise up. Lift their game. Abuse of women would stop if only blokes could just show women a bit more respect. Further idle flapping of the gums is also devoted to why so few women are Coalition MPs. As for the PM’s guff about aspiration, that’s just a cover for injustice; a lame excuse to rip off the poor.

Not even Turnbull believes his cynical rhetoric – an excuse for rewarding the rich based on the lie that the harder you work, the richer you get. Australia has always been a stratified society. It’s a place, moreover, where’s been no real change in social mobility since the 1960s, former ANU economist, Andrew Leigh’s research, concludes, confirming other, significant, academic studies.

Family background still matters. What is growing, however, is income inequality and policies which accelerate it. Decades of neoliberal policies have widened the gap between the haves and have nots, enriching the toffs while creating an impoverished, marginalised underclass.

Yet Turnbull’s riposte is revealing – and ultimately self-sabotaging. It’s a key note in the week’s all-in brawl over tax cuts and justice which plays out against news of Donald Trump’s decree to separate babies from their mothers while their parents are prosecuted for illegal entry to America.

Nearly 1800 immigrant families are torn apart at the US-Mexico border from October 2016 to February this year. In Brisbane, a solo mother is being torn away from her eight year old son, Giro, who is an Australian citizen, by Peter Dutton’s Home Affairs and deported to the Philippines.

It will be at least three years before she will get a chance to return to see Giro again.

Like Dutton’s (broken) Home Affairs and his supporters, Trump peddles the pernicious myth that undocumented migrants are a danger. A myth? The Poynter Institute‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning Politifact reports, “undocumented immigrants – (along with all other migrants) commit crimes at lower rates than the native born.”

Giro’s mother, Bernadette Romulo has lived in Australia with her children for 11 years. She works in aged care, pays taxes; contributes to her church community. Her son cannot leave with her because partial custody arrangements require that he not be separated from his father.

Trump boasts it’s his tough zero-tolerance border policy, but, in reality, he’s just his playing to the gallery, or as commenters love to say, his “base”. Immune to reason, impervious to all evidence of ineptitude, illegality, or betrayal of its base, a more suitable term for his devotees is “cult”.

Yet base is a perfect word to fit Trump’s hollow posturing. Like Dutton, Morrison or Abbott before him, he’s forsaking all decency and humanity to win votes by pretending he’s a tough guy. And everybody knows only tough guys are caring and protective. Alpha males rule. It’s a grotesque, dog eat pup, faux show of strength in a neoliberal theatre of unfathomable cruelty.

That theatre is even more terrifying because it operates in a void. Trump’s America does not care, writes Robert Kagan, It is unencumbered by historical memory. It recognizes no moral, political or strategic commitments. It feels free to pursue objectives without regard to the effect on allies or, for that matter, the world. It has no sense of responsibility to anything beyond itself.

We are dragged along by our great and powerful friend’s coat-tails. Melania Trump causes a fuss this week when she chooses to wear a $52 Zara coat which says “I really don’t care. Do U?”

Melania’s coat is seen as she embarks on a plane to head to McAllen, Texas, for a surprise visit to the heart of the family separation crisis at the southern border. Could she be so heartless?

In a word, yes. Yet a torrent of apologies, excuses and semiotic glosses ensues, including a tweet from the POTUS saying his wife was heroically liberating herself from the tyranny of fake news.

He tweets, “‘I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?’ written on the back of Melania’s jacket, refers to the Fake News Media. Melania has learned how dishonest they are, and she truly no longer cares!”

As if. Gertrude Stein points to the truth with elegant simplicity, “A rose is a rose is a rose”.

If fake news is a thing, so, too are fake tweets. Trump’s one big thing is to feed our mistrust.

Above all, we need to demonise the other. Even as neoliberalism’s mainspring unwinds, its selfish competition and commodification of relationships vitiates normal social bonds of reciprocity, obligation and responsibility, we are driven to blame aliens; enemy agents to appease our guilt.

Pastor Peter Dutton, ever keeping us safe from terror, pipes up about the need to keep our “foot on the throat” of demon people-smugglers, terrorists and bad dudes with tats and facial piercings from Kiwi bikie gangs we must deport back to Nelson, Wellington or Christchurch.

It’s critical, he tells The Weekend Australian  much in the same way that Christian Porter insists we pass the proposed espionage and foreign interference bill – a bill which he says is necessary to protect the Super Saturday by-elections, July 28, which could be sabotaged by foreign agents but he can’t say who, how or why.  It’s another excuse to silence advocacy groups and GetUp!

Dutton tells Coalition colleagues that Australia is in a “danger phase” with illegal boat arrivals. One act of compassion could “undo overnight” five years of hard work in “stopping the boats”.

His claim’s preposterous. But who needs a reasoned case with evidence in an age of metanoia?

In the end, Trump rescinds his decree. Sort of. He tells an aide, Tuesday, that “it doesn’t look good politically”. Instead, children will be locked up with their parents, on bases, a practice zealously embraced by Australia despite Dutton’s repeated fake claims that we have no children in custody.

Refugee Council of Australia figures indicate there are seven children in detention facilities; 33 on Nauru, 180 in community detention and an estimated 3,083 in the community on a bridging visa.

Since 2010, 40 asylum seekers have died in detention. This week, Home Affairs Minister, Dutton bows to pressure and allows Ali, a 65 year old man, dying of lung cancer, to return to Australia.

Afghan refugee, Ali, has been interned five years on Nauru. As loyal US allies, we are still helping turn Afghanistan into a hellhole. Worse, grave allegations emerge that our forces have committed war crimes, amid a “complete lack of accountability” from the military chain of command.

Yet no-one can explain what Australia is doing in Afghanistan – apart from blindly following the US.  Even the US can’t say what it is achieving in its longest war in history and the costliest since WWII. It began in 1981 as the Bush administration’s response to the September 11 attacks. It has cost over $1 trillion to date. Civilian casualties are fast rising under Trump’s “fight to win strategy”.  There were 10,000 civilian casualties last year with over 3000 deaths.

Trump’s push is as ineffective as his decision to drop the GBU-43, the mother of all bombs. What is certain is that the region has been the source of a flood of refugees which some estimate to number three million. The nation has the reputation of causing the greatest number of refugees in the world. Of those who do return, three quarters are forced by violence to flee again.

The brutal answer to the question of what we are doing is that we are creating refugees.

Similarly, few are prepared to make the link between our illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the subsequent flood of millions of refugees or those from Syria. Nor do we hear of the ways the US illegal invasion helped radicalise Iraqis; join al Qaeda in Iraq which would become ISIL and other groups. Easier to discover are estimates that around four million Iraqis were forced to flee ISIL.

We’ve helped to dispossess Afghans but we don’t want them here. Ali and his family were told “under no circumstances” would he be permitted to set foot on Australian soil. It’s a reversal of a Trump-like decision by Border Force and Home Affairs to deny all natural aspiration to humanity,  compassion or respect for international law regarding the unity and protection of the family unit.

The UNHCR reluctantly agrees to help in the relocation of refugees from Nauru and Manus to the US, reports Ben Doherty, in The Guardian, but “on the clear understanding” that vulnerable refugees with close family ties to Australia would ultimately be allowed to settle there.

This proviso is ignored. Our government’s aspirations do not embrace or honour UNHCR requests.

Australia’s refugee policy is now a byword for brutality. Our Nauru detention centre which bears the Orwellian name of Regional Processing Centre is a place of medical neglect, hunger strikes, suicides and abuse. Amnesty International calls our policy a “human rights catastrophe”.

330 refugees and asylum seekers, including 36 children, remain in detention on Nauru. Our government tells them that they will never be able to settle in Australia or New Zealand.

Are they, too, entitled to aspirations? Perish the thought. Time to return to Turnbull’s stunt.

Turnbull blunders. Is derision the best way he can respond to a Plibersek, a politician who has the integrity and intellectual honesty to own that she is mystified by his vacuous cliché? Bad enough that he must fend off her challenge to his platitude, a challenge which goes to the empty heart of his sonorous oratory; all sound and fury and no conviction, but he makes a very bad call.

Aspirations are not all to do with working harder, earning more or “improving” your social status and it diminishes any leader to pretend otherwise. Mal’s quip and the Coalition’s subsequent mockery by reiteration ad absurdum of the word aspiration in Question Time are another poor call. The nation is again dismayed by his lack of judgement. In World Cup terms, it’s an own goal.

Far from embracing or recognising aspiration, the Turnbull government will be remembered for its ever lowering of ambition in its desire to act with compassion, justice or humanity. Or humility.

It has heartlessly abandoned and abused to the point of torture those we choose to call asylum seekers. They are refugees; desperate men, women and children, fleeing war, famine and disaster whose only choice is to seek out Australia by boat and throw themselves on our compassion.

Embrace? No embrace here. Aspiration? More like apathy and perverse indifference to our own cruelty and inhumanity. At present, we illegally detain, indefinitely, over two thousand refugees on Manus, Nauru, Christmas Island as well as those in community detention on the mainland.

Despite Aspirational’s Liberal pedigree, Mr Turnbull, you would be well advised to drop the buzz-word immediately. Send the flea-bitten old nag to the knackery. While you’re at it you should drop the attacks on Tanya Plibersek. Can the wisecracks about her household income or Bill Shorten’s dinners with the Pratts. People in glass houses need to aspire to a higher standard of debate.

Finally, it may be a radical step for you, but it’s not too late to recall the last stage of your tax cut policy too. Or scrap the plan entirely. Australian voters are not mugs. They can tell when they’re being taken for a ride.

 

Can Trump and Kim’s Singapore Summit farce alert us to the dangers facing our own democracy?

trump and kim summit

 

“A new story, a new beginning, one of peace. Two men, two leaders, one destiny. A story in a special moment in time. When a man is presented with one chance that may never be repeated, what will he choose?”

High-tech-sci-fi labs, fast trains and a slam-dunking basketballer flit across the screen as a bizarre, four minute US mobile-propaganda-video, set to a dramatic musical score, fires our national and international imagination this week.

Fox & Friends host, Abby Huntsman, almost steals the show with a Freudian slip, however, when images of Trump, disembarking Air Force One, en route to his date with destiny at Paya Lebar Air Base, in Singapore, appear on screen.

Regardless of what happens in that meeting between the two dictators, what we are seeing right now, this is history,”

Two dictators? Single-handedly, deal-maker Donald Trump wrangles North Korea to the negotiating table. So he says. It must be a master of the art of the deal thing. Details are hazy and scant, but a brace of Norwegian anti-immigration politicians want give The Donald a Nobel Peace prize for his promo alone. Even Australia’s PM says he’s dead impressed.

“Well look, [he] gave it a red hot go”, Trump’s lackey, Malcolm Turnbull, tells Hobart Radio. Mal’s in Tassie, the apple (and other fruit machine) isle, boring Braddon voters rigid before the by-election.

“Red hot go” is a cliché the PM stole from ScoMo. It rivals “hard-working Australians” who, amazingly, are always virtuously succeeding in small businesses.

Yet ScoMo’s quick to call out our welfare bludgers who are a burden on the economy. As are our oldies. Low wage earners  – if not all – workers are shirkers. Poverty is God’s way to punish the lazy. Expect a national basics’ card soon.

Scott’s been cocking up the economy. The MP for Cook has also been cooking the books.  He rants about how his government has created a million jobs since it came to power. It’s a hoax. No-one counters his claim with the fact that the population grew by 1.6 million in the same period. His assurance of prosperity is based on a lie.

For the first time in history, says The Australia Institute, more than half of our workforce do not have secure full-time employment. Insecure work, with no holidays, super, or sick leave, is rising dramatically.

31.7 per cent of employment is now part time, the highest percentage to date, while the rest of our increasingly marginalised, alienated workforce is made up of self-employed, casual and underemployed workers.

Morrison crows about our 3.1% GDP; says we’re on the global leaderboard. It’s sheer nonsense. As Alan Austin notes, in Crikey, 3.1% in the current global environment is a fail. APEC economies, the 21 countries sharing Australia’s Pacific rim region, average GDP growth of 3.8% or more. Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore and Chile all exceed 4.0%. Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia top 5.0%. Vietnam, China and the Philippines are over 6.0%. Australia is lagging in the bottom half.

Being a Coalition Treasurer, however, and backed by the Howard era myth of better economic managers, Morrison can say what he likes. Our media lap it up.

His leaderboard nonsense is a complete falsehood. “Australia has climbed back to the top of the global leaderboard”? Not remotely true. Current GDP growth figures for 185 economies, published by Trading Economics, show Australia’s 3.1% ranks equal 96th. We are in the bottom half of the leaderboard, nowhere near the top. Yet there are no questions for the PM on ScoMo or Trump.

No Hobartian challenges Mal’s wilful mis-reading of Trump’s stunt either. Yet he’s at odds with Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, whose diplomacy owes much to The Godfather. She keeps her friends close and her enemies closer.

“I would not be taking my foot off the throat of North Korea until I saw very concrete steps that this time they were genuine.” Military exercises? Bishop hisses. “I think the United States needs to clarify what was actually meant.”

What was meant? Trump rashly promises he will suspend Ulchi-Freedom Guardian” eight days of massive, land, sea and air live fire military exercises between the US and South Korea. Each year, tens of thousands of American forces augment its 32,000-strong garrison, America’s third-largest, after Japan and Germany. Yet Trump’s consulted no-one.

Decapitation strike drills  – aimed at Kim and his high command, oddly, lead Pyongyang to see the US-led exercises as rehearsals for pre-emptive war on the North. Already, Trump’s administration is walking away from his concessions.

Is the president is dismayed to read he’s been outsmarted by Kim? For that to happen he would have to read or pay attention during briefings. No. What does get him down is how “little rocket man” commands his people’s attention.

He speaks and his people sit up at attention,” Trump complains. “I want my people to do the same.

Trump’s Singapore summit is a superficial, publicity stunt; a quick and dirty diversion from domestic issues for both Kim and himself. The money from his tax cuts for example is going straight into the CEO’s wallet.

Like his robotic Finance Minister, tedious, Mathias Cormann, an energiser bunny who recycles the same trickle-down mantra endlessly, “lower taxes = higher profits = more jobs”, Turnbull, a hapless captive of his party’s right wing, is fated also to repeat his party’s clapped-out canard that tax cuts for US companies have created jobs. They haven’t. They won’t here, either.

In fact, while banks and companies have profited massively: US jobs are not growing; nor is investment in Wall Street. Fat bonuses are back. Profits are rocketing. Companies reinvest. Apple is able to make a $100 billion share buyback.

Share buybacks push up stock prices. They are immediately followed by company executives offloading some of their own stock to take advantage of rising prices, reports Bernard Keane. He quotes CNN,’s research “the report studied 385 buybacks in 2017 and during the first three months of 2018. Thanks to the reliable stock bounce, insiders gained a total of $75.1 million on their stock sales, the SEC researchers calculated”.

But peace is bad for business. What if peace breaks out between North and South Korea?  Wall Street worries itself sick. Luckily, it has more than enough to depress it in Trump’s trade wars with China and the rest of the world.

Trump’s tough-talking trade war has cost the stock market $1 trillion dollars, since March, according to JP Morgan’s Marko Kolanovic. The Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 200 points, 6 June, following the president’s decision to include Canada, Mexico and the European Union in global steel and aluminium levies.

Yet further questions remain. Have South Korea, Japan and Australia – and even Trump’s off-White House been blindsided? Did Trump over-promise to stop the arms business-friendly military exercises over The Republic of Korea?

The video’s a White House media spin unit confection, cunningly credited to Destiny Productions. In case you miss its heavy-handed message, an incredible rewind sequence, a sort of reverse Indian rope trick, shows an array of missiles sliding back down their own vapour trails; resiling tidily into silos, denuclearising the world.

The video puff-piece is Donald Trump’s overture to a five hour speed-date with fellow enfant terrible Kim Jong-un in Singapore this week.

“One moment …” is the trailer for “A special bond” a new show in which the former reality TV boss, buddies up with paranoid narcissist confrere Kim Jong-un. It’s Trump’s East meets Western, a feelgood show which plays out at the Capella hotel, (from AU $659 per night), on Sentosa, Singapore’s Disneyland, off Singapore’s south coast Tuesday.

Madonna and Lady Gaga are known to stay at The Capella. The three bed colonial manor is a steal at AU$9946 per night.

Sentosa, as it is known nowadays, to celebrities, show-biz identities and presidents, is a former Japanese prisoner of war camp, now transformed for “high end” holiday-makers. An artificial paradise, its man-made beaches hide bodies of victims of past atrocities, Sentosa was formerly named “Pulau Belakang Mati”, (island of death from behind).

The old British coastal fort’s guns face out to sea but the Japanese invaded by land. It’s an ideal setting for Trump’s kiss and make up for the camera summit, a pact between two malignant psychopaths who only recently were vowing to annihilate each other. Their abiding mutual mistrust is suppressed as each seeks to profit personally from the PR.

“One moment…” could run for two and a half years, or until the end of Trump’s term, ABC seer, Andrew Probyn, warns Insiders Sunday. Bingo! In an uncanny coincidence, in Seoul on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo explains “major disarmament” would take place over two-and-a-half years.

Buoyed by his ratings, his love of strong leaders – and mad keen to distract from Robert Mueller’s tightening net, Trump is already promising to broaden the plot to include a speed date with his BFF Vladimir Putin.

A love-in with Putin will also help draw attention away from Trump’s being sued by New York state which is taking the Trump mafia, (Trump and his three eldest children, Donald Jnr, Eric and Ivanka and the board of his charity, to court for “an alleged pattern of persistent illegal behaviour.”

Barbara D. Underwood, NY State Attorney-General, alleges Trump’s charity is just a shell for payments that benefit Trump or his businesses. She describes the Trump foundation as “little more than a cheque-book for payments from Mr. Trump or his businesses to non-profits, regardless of their purpose or legality.”

Trump’s Kiss me Kim propaganda video is fashionably crass and a typically unsubtle attempt at coercion and diversion.

“What will he choose?” It’s a Zen riddle, a sly tribute – surely- to Iron Chef’s Kitchen Stadium, a campy Japanese cooking cult classic: “Whose cuisine will reign supreme?”  Kim doesn’t have to choose. He’s already being treated as an equal.

Trump and Kim’s love-in receives rapturous self-applause which resounds around the world courtesy of such US sycophants as Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who is still forlornly hoping Trump will honour his weasel word to take “up to 1250” refugees, including 29 children, in indefinite detention in our illegal offshore gulags on Manus and Nauru off our hands before Mal calls a snap election on national security and tax cuts in September.

The movie trailer and the man-made beach are also a perfect setting for a president who is artifice personified. Trump has the reality TV show host’s whitened teeth, big hair and witless patter; diplomacy effortlessly morphs into game show. Can diplotainment make America great again? Save the world from nuclear annihilation?

The president echoes the fortune-cookie platitudes of his trailer: sententious clichés will ensure lasting world peace.

“The past does not have to define the future,” he declares. “Yesterday’s conflict does not have to be tomorrow’s war. As history has proved over and over, adversaries can become friends.”

After five hours, including a sequence where Trump shows a keenly interested Kim the features of his bullet-proof limousine, the two get around to signing a document. Wait. It’s an historic agreement. Hold the front page.

Hold the fire and fury. All you need is gloves. A gloved official checks Kim’s pen to see it’s free of nerve agent poison. A microphone picks up Kim’s quip: “Many people in the world will think this is a scene from science fiction, from fantasy.”

The Singapore Sting is a breakthrough for North Korea. It may even usher in a brave new era of international diplomacy as diplotainment. The perpetually unprepared Donald J Trump defies all protocol to wing a summit with the North Korean dictator he calls “little rocket man”. Kim Jong-un outfoxes his woefully ill-briefed detractor.

But the show’s the thing. Donald Trump, a type of Reagan 2.0, is a mythomaniac who believes that he not Tony Schwarz wrote The Art of the Deal – just as Reagan came to confuse his acting in war movies with war service.

Of course, if no one is allowed to say the emperor has lost his marbles, as in the Trump administration, or in Peter Dutton’s Home Affairs super ministry, we are all in serious trouble but that is the trend which the Turnbull government favours with its draft Foreign Espionage and Foreign interference bill.

It is not reassuring that the draft bill has bipartisan support. Nor the nonsense that we face unprecedented threats from foreign espionage, even greater than the cold war.

One authority is uniformly cited, ASIO, but no further evidence is disclosed. Why? To do so would further imperil the national interest? It’s a beat up; an excuse to further curtail civil liberties. Media outfits and civil society groups such as Amnesty International, Greenpeace Change.org and GetUp! are alarmed at the way Turnbull’s government wants to rush the legislation through before the July by-elections

Nor is it encouraging when, all week, the Coalition rails against foreign interference but is willing to do nothing to curb foreign donations, especially so close to a snap election which looks as if it may be time for September.

“In an open democracy such as Australia, limiting free speech and the contestability of ideas is to destroy the very essence of our polity,” says GetUp!’s national director, Paul Oosting.

Advocacy group GetUp! publishes research to show this is precisely what the Turnbull government is doing.  Yet it’s backfiring. GetUp’s Paul Oosting, argues: “The Turnbull government’s attack on democracy and free speech is absolutely unprecedented, so it’s not surprising it has energised GetUp members like little else before.”

Trump’s erratic, attention-seeking, grandstanding with his fake treaty with North Korea this week is alarming for its sheer chicanery. Like Kim he is in it simply for his own selfish reasons, be it diversion, ego, or greater kudos at home.

Even more alarming is his abandonment of accepted protocols of accountability and consultation. Much is made of the threat of the terror cell or of the lone wolf terrorist but Trump’s impulsive, egocentric, ill-informed and entirely ill-advised upstaging of diplomacy and international relations poses a far more tangible threat to world stability.

Trump’s bluster over tariff barriers alone can only feed global economic instability and fuel increasing tension between US and China, a conflict that affects our national interest rather more directly than any foreign spy or terror bogeyman.

In such times, it is vital that we continue to demand honesty and accountability from our government; from all politicians. Above all, we must resist current Coalition attempts to curb our democratic right to free speech.

Similarly we have a right to expect representative government to respect due process. The Foreign Espionage and Foreign Interference Bill must not be rushed because of some spurious “urgency” of the government’s own making.

As Sunita Bose of Change.org writes,

People power should not fall casualty to restricting foreign influence over parliament. Our laws must be better than this. They must protect the important role Australians play in shaping policy from the ground up. The government and Labor need to urgently introduce stronger safeguards for campaigning in these bills, or risk silencing Australians who participate in our democracy.

 

Just effing get over it: Hunt’s new motto for a caring, new age, Turnbull government.

cash quotes

“Fucking get over it”, is Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt’s uplifting advice to 71 year old Fay Miller, Mayor of Katherine, who dared front Hunt in Canberra last December, to lobby him for more local resources to clean up contamination, a multi-billion dollar operation, from toxic fire-fighting foam used at RAAF Bases in Darwin and Tindal.

Hunt doesn’t give a toss about the environment, either. His PM is due to tell us the Coalition has squandered $2.3 billion on Direct Action, Hunt’s emissions reduction fund boondoggle.

As a back-bencher, Turnbull had the guts to predict Direct Action would waste billions of taxpayers’ dollars paying farmers to plant trees so industry could freely pollute, a scam he denounced as “a recipe for fiscal recklessness on a grand scale”– akin to his current unfunded corporate tax cuts.

“F…get over it” could be The Liberal Party’s motto if it had one. So much better than “Our Plan will deliver a strong, prosperous economy and a safe, secure Australia.”

“F… get over it” would also be fair warning of the Libs’ abandoning any pretension to be a party of individual freedom when as coalition partner they constantly extend state power over us, be it beefing up surveillance, (Home Affairs plans to expand the Australian Signals Directorate to spy on all citizens), retaining data, censorship, human rights abuse, compulsory ID checks at airports for all, or violating our right to privacy.

Privacy? Personal information may be leaked to damage your reputation or discredit your case – as Alan Tudge, or his department, did to Andie Fox who dared criticise the DHS’ Robodebt reversal of onus of proof extortion racket.

In Paul Malone’s Fairfax article in February 2017, a Centrelink spokesman, General Manager Hank Jongen, commented on Ms Fox’s personal information including her history of claiming the Family Tax Benefit and relationship circumstances.

Acting Privacy Commissioner, Angelene Falk, declares this week it’s OK for Social Welfare Dictator Alan Tudge and his band of bureaucrats, to use private information “if the individual would reasonably expect it to do so.” 

Her deliberations have taken a year but her verdict boils down to this. So you think you have a right to privacy? Get over it.

The Mayor of Katherine does not like being told to “fucking get over it” – and let’s face it, who does? – even if Hunt “may reasonably be expected” to model himself on his PM.

“Fuck off and get out of my way,”  Malcolm Turnbull once told Peter King, his rival for Wentworth, in 2004. Ironically, in an aside to a scrum of reporters, King declared.

Bullying is “abhorred by everybody and true liberal values are contrary to that approach.” My, how times have changed.

Twice, Miller writes the minister, Dear Greg, you owe me an apology for your abusive outburst. But it’s more than abuse. Hunt, who, in January, vowed he was an advocate for mental health because his late mother, Kathinka Hunt, suffered bouts of bipolar disorder, was “rude, disrespectful, misogynist, boorish; arrogant“, Miller tells our ABC.

A former NT MP, Miller says she was “probably in the biggest boy’s club in Australian politics” as a Country Liberal Parliamentary Party member, but claims she has never been as insulted as she was by Hunt — who called her “feisty”.

“He went off like a light switch,” she explains. As mayor, she “believes in fairness” she adds and being an advocate for her community. “Sometimes people in parliament are seduced, so it’s important that they remember how they got there”.

Hunt counter attacks in February, bagging Miller’s own behaviour. Only last Wednesday does he offer an apology – and only then, when –News Limited claims The Herald Sun submits questions to Hunt and his PM, does Hunt phone Miller.

What a mensch! Greg’s tender, bedside manner and what the former Environment Minister tries to kid us is just “strong language” vividly evoke his government’s contempt for the welfare of working Australians, everywhere, especially those who may be over 70, female and refractory. Or regional.

Hunt’s class act, moreover, sets the tone of the week’s political theatre.

By Thursday, Labor’s Catherine King confronts Hunt in Question Time; asking whether he had been involved in any other instances “involving inappropriate behaviour towards stakeholders, public servants or staff”. King later tells Sky News Hunt appears to have “an anger problem” and his PM “had to decide whether it was befitting a minister”.

Yet Hunt is prepared to divulge only that “one case has been raised with him”.

This again concerns “strong language”, his euphemism for abusing Martin Bowles, his own department head, who has since resigned. Hunt’s defence is to claim dramatically that it was a matter of life and death: the progress of screenings for cervical cancer.

Of course the ends always justifies the means for Hunt and his party. “I think in that situation, while it was a strong discussion, it resulted in the right outcome, the program was able to be continued and I have utmost respect for the (now Head of Calvary Health) public servant involved,” Hunt bull-shits Parliament. It’s not what happened.

Martin Bowles, a highly regarded senior bureaucrat, seems to have been bullied into resigning as Head of the Department of Health, 1 September last year, after “rumours of tensions” between himself and Hunt. Bowles was tipped to become defence secretary but was overlooked in favour of Greg Moriarty, Malcolm Turnbull’s former chief of staff.

Bowles’s fraught, if not downright unhealthy, ­relationship with Hunt was a major factor in his ­decision to “abruptly end his distinguished 40-year career of public service last August”, contends The Herald Sun, Friday. The Australian claims “government MPs have privately expressed concerns there could be further tales of temper tantrums.”

Temper tantrums? Why infantilise an abuser? Bullying or silencing dissenters is not, of course, confined to the Coalition’s approach to inclusive, democratic leadership.

When the arse falls out of One Nation, this week, no-one is surprised.  But it’s as almost as comical as bankrupt Rod Culleton and his tea cup juggling. Or as farcical as Mal Roberts’ attempt to explain his citizenship.

The back end of Hanson’s One Nation panto horse departs the front. Brian Burston, backs out, mid-performance. Rips asunder the patched, well-worn costume.

Pauline’s panto horse party, her mythic white charger, ever rescuing battlers in distress or offering hope to an entire nation of deadbeat dads who hate the family court for having to pay maintenance, now lies in shreds downstage.

Can it ever be repaired? Is there a panto horse vet in the house? Hanson rushes to be comforted on the Bolt Report. Weeps buckets. “Burston’s a backstabber”, says the betrayer of her entire electorate of battlers. Backstabber Burston accuses Pauline of “a massive dummy spit” and “running a dictatorship”; both of which are fair comment.

But unwise. Pauline orchestrates a very public falling out with the NSW senator over Burston’s baffling decision to keep his promise to vote for the Coalition’s corporate tax cuts, just as she decides One Nation will renege on its deal.

It’s only the fourth or fifth change of position which the party has taken on the company tax cuts but Brian refuses to budge. Some scurrilous scuttlebutt has it that the PM wants an excuse not to proceed with the unpopular tax measure.

A high-handed Hanson kindly writes to Burston to give him his marching orders. Quit the party. Leave the senate. Now.

She’ll have to expel him from the party. Burston won’t budge. He won’t resign from One Nation, he declares. Let Pauline expel me. And he has no intention of leaving the senate.  He’ll become an independent who’ll vote with the government in the One Nation tradition.

Rumours abound that he touts himself around to the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers but it’s all the fault of a matchmaking mate who didn’t tell small bore Brian that he was pleading his case. Mates go off half-cocked like that all the time.

AAP reports that the Shooters reject Burston like a shot. A spokesperson says it is not a lengthy decision.

Mad Mark Latham is now being touted as a possible recruit for the One Nation parliamentary micro-party which will soon be able to meet in the cabin of the Jabiru 230-D two-seater aircraft, bought for it by property speculator Bill McNee, a political donation which the AFP reports breaks no Commonwealth legislation. Who needs law courts?

Latham refuses to confirm or deny any overture from One Nation but he’s probably only waiting for Burston to bail out. Time is on the wing for Pauline’s vanity political party, along with La Hanson, hersel.

The consummate drama queen with a nose for trouble, flies to the UK Saturday with a parliamentary delegation. She’s hell-bent on bonding with fellow alt-right martyr Christopher Yaxley-Lennon alias Tommy Robinson, a football hooligan turned anti-Muslim rabble-rouser who is in stir for contempt of court.

Founder of the (now defunct) far right, English Defence League, banned from Twitter under its “hateful conduct” policy, yobbo Robbo is sentenced to do thirteen months’ porridge for live-streaming outside a continuing court case; a practice which could have prejudiced a fair trial.

He pleads guilty. He knows it will make an iconic free speech warrior of him.

The Drudge Report, which has 1.3 million followers, and other alt-right disinformation sites already hail Robbo as a fearless citizen journalist silenced Soviet-style by British justice. Roseanne Barr and Donald Trump tweet their support.

There’s heaps to talk about should Hanson make contact. She’ll boast how she’s closed down the Australian family court thereby advancing men’s rights, when in fact she has just made it much harder for women victims of male violence to gain legal help. Horse-trader Cormann and his party are, of course, complicit in the secret deal.

Closed down? The government’s announcement that it will “merge” the Family Court of Australia (FCA) with the Federal Circuit Court (FCC) will affect tens of thousands each year. Even the super court’s not so super jaw-breaker of a title gives a hint of the troubles which lie in store for the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCA).

The changes will affect a great many of us each year. We average 47,000 divorces annually, while thousands of de facto relationships also wind up in the courts. In 2016-2017, we made 106,000 applications for family law determinations.

Naturally former failed WA treasurer, Christian Porter our current Attorney-General, is raving about the savings which the new merger will bestow upon all of us. Of course it will save confusion as well as “address costly inefficiencies” which is government jargon for providing fewer services and having to make do with fewer funds.

Porter does stop short at the Coalition favourite neoliberal weasel phrase, the “one-stop shop” but there’s no evidence at all that the merger will be any less inconvenient or any less expensive overall to families than its predecessor. It’s billed instead as “saving time and money”. Clearly, that doublespeak means government time and money. What could possibly go wrong?

Everything. “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” Tolstoy observed. Families have complex and unique problems. They need specialised help – not speed and efficiency.

Jane Wangmann and Miranda Kaye of the Faculty of Law, University of Technology Sydney list issues of family violence, child sexual abuse, alcohol issues, mental health concerns, and questions of parenting capacity. Time to be listened to properly and at length vastly outweighs any fast-tracking.

Fast-tracking? Was the merger rushed through to help secure One Nation’s vote on tax cuts for companies?

Why is the Turnbull government so keen to pre-empt the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC)’s review due March next year? It’s  the first comprehensive review of the family law system since the Family Law Act was passed in 1975.

There are certainly challenges in our current system. 87% of Family Law matters are heard by the non-specialist FCC leaving only 13% to the specialists at the FCA. Yet the “reforms” extend the non-specialist FCC. Cheaper, faster, better.

Faster decisions do not necessarily lead to better judgements, however, and the merger appears not only over-hasty and premature but lacking in consultation. Again, these are the hallmarks of a Turn-bull in a china shop government.

The Burston bust-up briefly upstages the Joyce soap opera when father of the year, Barnaby breaks down with stage fright, exacerbated by a shocking case of self-righteous indignation.

He cannot go on. Medicos immediately triage him on to sick leave – with a medical certificate, vouches Leader of the House, the Mouth That Roars, Christopher Pyne.

On the set of Love Among the Cinders, (a working title for what may well become a mini-series or blossom into a full-blown soap opera, Joyce is badly hurt by cruel if not outright vicious criticism of his decision to flog for $150,000 to a voyeuristic, tabloid TV show the right to publicise everything about how he and Vicky Campion found true love, a modern maid-servant swept off her feet by her Prince Charming and vice versa; a fairy tale romance come true. And, of course, the miracle of a male heir at last.

But – sheesh – just look how the media puts them all through living hell; ruins his privacy; spoils their intimacy.

Revealed in the caring and sharing spotlight is Brian Burston who vows he’ll keep his word to support his party’s Aussie battlers by voting with the government on an unfunded tax cut for big business which will go straight into company profits and do less than nothing for workers who will end up paying for it in higher taxes.

Finally, even a nation accustomed to its lunatic fringe regularly being eclipsed by its government’s own spectacular random acts of madness, is astonished to hear how Scott Morrison gets his little hands on our piggy banks.

Hardworking Australians, who mostly now delight in the riotous freedom and flexibility of casual work; liberated from such encumbrances as sick leave, holiday pay, regular hours or a living wage, thrill to learn that a public-spirited Turnbull government has just vacuumed up $2 billion of their unclaimed super.

Less than half of Australia’s workers hold a permanent full-time paid job with leave entitlements. Insecure, inadequate, underpaid work is the new normal, for the first time on record, reports, The Australia Institute‘s Centre for Future Work.

For our government, the super windfall is a win-win. Not only will the cash come in handy in fudging a return to surplus, it also helps its false narrative that union super funds are shonky – despite the Productivity Commission’s findings.

Because it doesn’t trust our super funds with our money, the Coalition argues, it sensibly pockets the money itself. A lot of money. The ATOs been swooping on 4.1 million “lost” super accounts.

Of course, the money will still be able to be claimed should its owners realise it’s theirs to claim – and provided the government passes measures in its May Budget. Pigs might fly. In the meantime, it’s a boon to its budget bottom line.

The $2 billion unclaimed super grab is “factored in”, as Treasurer ScoMo is desperate to tot up even the miserable $2.2 billion fantasy surplus, which the government bullshits it will deliver in 2019-20. It’s a promise which beggars belief and defies even its own expectation that most new found lost super funds will flow back into the active funds of workers.

The median income for all workers – that is, the amount at which half earn more and half earn less – is just $52,988. Most of us on these rates will save bugger all in super.

It would be cheaper and a far better investment of time and effort to cancel the $11 billion a year which the government spends subsidising private health insurance funds whose operations directly undermine a successful Medicare system. Put half of that into health and put the rest into boosting age pensions and welfare payments.

Minister for Jobs and Innovation and ripping off workers, Michaelia Cash gives a bravura performance this week of not answering any questions to do with anything. In frustration, Senator Murray Watt asks her if she knows the time. She has no intention of explaining how she got the AFP on to the AWU, despite there being no law broken.

She called the media to the AWU raid in a stunt to embarrass Bill Shorten. It may backfire. Sooner or later she needs to explain as to how she misled a senate inquiry on the matter. But it’s all Bill Shorten’s fault because he just can’t be trusted.

In the meantime, let us count our blessings, Cash never fails to sound as if she’s auditioning for Kath or Kim or Upper Middle Bogan. Bugger the workers. Stuff the injustice. The Coalition show must go on. And on. And on.

What’s that? You’ve got serious issues with the performance? The narrative? No. Just take a hint from the sensitive new age Mr Hunt: “fucking get over it.”

 

Hastie goes over the top while Hanson spills the beans.

turnbull and hastie

 

Petty, vindictive, political bastardry, the signature theme of our bastardised, post-modern, dog-eat-dog politics, erupts far and wide this week, from magical fabulist, US pseudo-President, mob don, Trump, to our mock-populist, One (White) Nation’s Pauline Hanson, who each abandon key political deals at the last minute. Consternation and chaos ensue.

Leaping into the fray, Canning MP, sandgroper, Handy Andy Hastie, conducts a surprise attack on his own Prime Minister. Doubtless, Hastie’s five years in Afghanistan equip the former SAS officer well for the mortal combat, cage fighting, mud-wrestling and sundry other contests vital to any Liberal MP’s advancement. He is certainly combative.

‘I have no problem with people coming after me, but just make sure you come after me and not my family’ Hastie threatens in 2015 in case anyone asks about his family and his fascinating, fundamentalist religious views.

And on matters relating to his military service, Hastie, an Abbott man, is with Peter Dutton, Angus Campbell or Scott Morrison who kept secret his ordering of boat turnbacks in not talking about “operational matters” – as if, somehow, our nation is at war; as if such information threatens, rather than strengthens, the national interest of a democratic state.

Hastie is later cleared of any wrongdoing when a soldier under his command cut off the hands of Taliban fighters in 2013. In 2015, Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop offer gushing endorsements which make interesting reading today.

“We want you in Parliament,” Bishop says. “You are an outstanding Australian who deserves to be elected in the seat of Canning and we will do whatever we can to ensure that our Parliament, our country, has the benefit of your skill, leadership and expertise.”

Parachuting Hastie into the safe Liberal seat, it was believed, might even save Tony Abbott from a Turnbull challenge.

“He has fought for our country in the field and he will fight for our country in the Parliament. Thank you Andrew for making yourself available for this important form of national service,” Abbott says his military fetishising, boundless.

While the mutilation or mistreatment of the bodies of the dead is a violation of the laws of war, the soldier involved has never been disciplined. Inquiry transcripts published by The ABC in 2017 have led to public outcry and conflict between defence personnel. Some contend the incident is evidence of a “drift in values” among Australia’s Special Forces.

The soldier cut the hands off three dead EKIA (Defence reports depersonalise the dead with the acronym, EKIA – enemy combatants killed in action)- in order to be able to identify them, it is claimed, although then Captain Hastie wasn’t at the scene. Yet a commanding officer’s approval would be needed, to authorise such an action army experts attest.

Similarly Hastie was “just making up the numbers”, explains military expert and war criminal John Howard, in 2015, in another operation in which US troops accidentally killed two Afghan boys, firing on them from a helicopter gunship.

Right place, wrong time? For Hastie the incidents are a test of his fortitude and his patriotism.  “I’ve seen these things and I’ve had to have the strength of character, integrity and honour to deal with these incidents and serve my country.”

“Who dares wins” is the SAS motto. Yet when Hastie blows up his own PM this week, Turnbull and his committee are blind-sided. Or is it shock and awe?  Under parliamentary privilege, anti-communist Hastie denounces one of our government’s benefactors, Chau Chak Wing, accusing Chau not only of being a communist but a corrupt communist.

Chair of Federal Parliament’s joint intelligence and security committee, (ISC) Hastie, is testosteronic Tony Abbott’s star 2015 recruit. As befits an Abbott man, Hastie lobs a grenade into his own leader’s tent, fragging Turnbull, under parliamentary privilege, while spilling the (classified) beans on billionaire businessman Chau Chak Wing a Chinese–Australian wanted by the FBI for co-conspiring in the bribery of a former UN president. Chau has never been indicted.

All hell breaks loose. The Turnbull government fears all is lost in its mission to repair its increasingly rocky relationship with China. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who is always “doing an outstanding job”, according to her PM, whose government continues to plunder her budget and hasn’t read her Foreign Policy White Paper, is putting finishing touches on her communique after failing to patch things up with China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi in Argentina for the G20.

Bishop reports “very warm candid and constructive” talks. Wang Yi says the two nations “encountered some difficulties”.

“If Australia sincerely hopes that the relations between the two countries will return to the right track … they must break away from traditional thinking, take off their coloured glasses, and look at China’s development from a positive angle,” Wang adds. Our government’s foreign interference laws are not being received well in Beijing.

Yet, as Bishop suggests in her incoherent Foreign Policy White Paper, we must be prepared to go to war with China, if it can’t observe something US policy wonks love to call, “rules-based order” a code for the status quo in Asia. We have just realised how powerful and determined China is. The problem, notes Hugh White is what are we going to do about it?

All the White Paper can offer is the naff bumper sticker slogan of “a new mix of co-operation and competition”.

Last December, Turnbull took up the diplomatic megaphone to declare that the Australian people would “stand up” against meddling – a phrase evoking Mao Zedong and insulting his successors. As The Guardian’s Katharine Murphy writes, “Language like that fuels the Chinese nationalist narrative of a century of humiliation.” Beijing wants an apology.

Worse, our great and powerful friend, the US is underwhelmed by Hastie’s breach of classified information and is less likely to trust our ISC with its secrets in future. Ms Bishop’s “outstanding job” looks curiously like yet another spectacular Turnbull government failure. And in one short week, we’ve alienated our two greatest trading partners.

Is Hastie over-hasty? Has he ruined, forever, our kowtow to Zhongguo, (China)? Is our Sino-Australian love-hate relationship now impossibly conflicted by our love of Trump; our Australian crawl, the latest act of ritual abasement in our historic US-Australian vassalage? Or is Handy Andy simply urging his nation not to go soft on Sinophobia?

Or have we been set up by US spooks eager to foment discord; see the fur fly between the koala and the panda?

Whilst he told neither his PM nor his committee, Hastie did tell an ASIO operative “in a speculative way” before he blew the whistle on Chau. It’s as if he’s been set up by the Abbott-Dutton hard right faction. Or its supporters.

The Turnbull government is caught with its pants down. Worse. Hanson blabs.  One Nation has been wooed with promises of a petrol resource rent tax hike. It’s kept mum in the hope it will garner enough Pauline Hanson One (White) Nation (PHON) votes to pass its enterprise tax plan, a $48 billion hit over ten years to its revenue and a sugar hit to business, which will do nothing to boost wages and less to lift productivity but will do everything to raise workers’ taxes.

Hanson is stung to discover the May Budget meets few of her other bucket list demands such as lower migration which currently is “destroying our standard of living and way of life”. And where’s her Health Card for self-funded retirees? Her new coal-fired power station for North Queensland, home to some of the biggest solar plants in the country? Her gas pipe line from west to east coast Australia?  And there’s more. So Hanson goes for her fourth company tax position.

She’s happy with all but the last stage – but she’s got a long list of needs that negotiator Mathias Cormann must satisfy.

Pauline’s script is fabulous: “The people of this country want leadership. They want honesty and they want trust. And I have to do that job.” Voting regularly with the government, she styles herself “a senator for the people of Australia.”

La Hanson is a martyr to her lofty principles and her mangled syntax: “(in) all good conscience I cannot look back in time and think I could have made a difference and never did anything about it”.  No? There’s always room for a fifth position.

Hanson’s veto may give Turnbull just the excuse he needs to drop the unpopular tax and further ammunition to attack Labor’s capacity to cost its own promises. But will his government’s corporate sponsors let him?

All bull-dust and bastardry aside, Hanson evokes the spirit of our time and helps to lead us in our “universal descent into unreality”, as US writer Benjamin DeMott noted of his own nation’s zeitgeist, sixty years ago.

Upstaged almost, but equally impotent and deluded, is our own Mad Man Mal. Like Trump, he is another hapless Gatsby ,trapped in the fantasy of his own self-creation, who gets his independent Australian Electoral Commission to tell his independent speaker, Tony Smith, to declare, on Thursday, that Super Saturday, a series of super Section 44 by-elections, will be held on 28 July, a date which clashes with the final day of Labor’s 48th national annual bun-fight.

“No judgement”, as Paul Keating famously dismissed Malcolm Turnbull, is confirmed Thursday, as his pet Speaker and IPA member, Tony Smith, calls a Super Saturday of five by-elections in Braddon, Longman, Perth, Fremantle and Mayo, to conflict with The Australian Labor Party’s National Conference scheduled for 26-28 July.

Labor is in uproar. It’s “a disgraceful indictment” on the government and “stinks of interference … with the independent electoral commission” howls ALP National President Mark Butler.

Granting a nine-week campaign period, however, secures no certain advantage to the Coalition. In fact, it seems to repeat the dud political judgement that nearly cost Turnbull’s government victory last election.

When the going gets tough, the Coalition goes to water. The party that saw no need for a royal commission into child abuse, a mob which howled down calls by The Greens, Labor and others for a royal commission into banking, completes a hat-trick in responsibility abdication, this week, by pretending there is no water-tight case for a federal ICAC.

Attorney General, Christian Porter, tells Labor shadow Mark Dreyfus that there is no “persuasive evidence” that current methods of tackling corruption are insufficient. Even for a Turnbull government, which denies climate change, gender equality and which can cynically misrepresent the Uluru voice from the heart as a bid for a third parliamentary chamber instead of an eloquent, cogent case for constitutional recognition of Aboriginal peoples, it is a staggering denial of reality.

Contributing brilliantly to the national conversation which Liberal party weasel-wordsmiths are having on merit versus gender equality quotas, a ruse favoured by conservatives desperate to defend the status quo, Senator Jane Hume wins token bloke of the week for her attempt on Monday’s Q&A to ingratiate herself with her party’s patriarchy.

The Liberal party is particularly fond of touting “merit” as the reason it cannot take affirmative action to redress the dearth of women among its ranks. The Coalition has but 13 women MPs in the lower house; four fewer than John Howard had in his first term in 1996. Howard, Pru Goward, Head of the Office of the Status of Women, told us in 1997 was surrounded by strong women “and it doesn’t bother him a bit” and he knew all about feminism from his daughter.

While some of Howard’s best friends were women, Senator Jane Hume on Q&A on Monday tells women hoping to become Liberal MPs to simply “work harder” to get pre-selected; win seats. Equality can also be fixed by “being nicer”.

Wild applause breaks out across half the nation at this immensely helpful suggestion while The Guardian’s Georgina Dent attacks the specious merit argument.

“If merit is an entirely fair and effective mechanism then, it must hold, that men are simply better company directors, chief executives, judges, surgeons, professors, pilots, politicians, leaders, bureaucrats, principals and lawyers than women.”

There is some evidence from the US that the elevation of reality TV show host Donald Trump to the Oval Office of The White House has inspired women to run for office and to get out and vote. If it’s true, it may prove his only positive achievement in a presidency which he has contrived to demean since his inauguration.

News this week that Trump has broken off his summit with North Korea’s Kim Jon-un should not distract us from the fact that the summit was never his in the first place. It was a meeting neither Trump nor his advisers were remotely prepared for. Instead, it was something he hijacked; a process instigated and nurtured by South Korean president, Moon Jae-in – with most of the hard yards being done by Im Jong-seok, a former prominent student democracy activist who is now President Moon’s Chief of Staff. She must have worked hard and been nice to a lot of people.

The US descent into unreality continues apace. An increasingly erratic, paranoid Trump, desperate for any diversion from the inexorable progress of investigation into his collusion with Russian interference in the presidential campaign – a two-pronged process into obstruction of justice and collusion led by ex FBI Chief, Special Counsel Robert Mueller, falsely accuses The New York Times on Saturday of making up a source in an article about North Korea.

The source is, in fact, a senior White House official addressing a large group of reporters in the White House briefing room.