Category: Uncategorized

The war will cause death of an Abbott government unprepared to share the true realities of situation in Iraq.

Eager to send Australian troops to war in Iraq, doubtless for perceived benefits to himself and his government’s electoral standing, Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott appears to have less appetite for due diligence. Or is it a matter of political will and instinct?. Whatever his motives, he is failing the nation in his responsibility as PM and courting electoral disaster for his party in his haste to commit us to Iraq.

Abbott’s attraction to Iraq is, no doubt, complex and ultimately unfathomable, even to himself but the following elements appear clear. He appears energised somehow as if he believes that combat itself enhances his leadership stature.  War engages his political and personal instincts, including his impatience with detail and depth. It also resonates with his moral view of the universe as a struggle between good and evil. At the very least it can be presented in this attractively over-simplified yet electorally appealing manner. The ‘pure evil’ of the ‘death cult of ISIS’ then leaves him with no alternative but to intervene on the side of the forces of good.

Yet it is far more than this. And yet so often, it will appear rather less: Abbott the political animal loves appearing at the centre of the action. Photo-opportunities beckon with men in uniform, men with arms. Soon images of Abbott in a flak jacket, Abbott sighting a rifle, Abbott inspecting troops will displace the current costume of hard hat and hi-vis vest. Yet there is more to it than appearances. War appeals also, no doubt, to Abbott’s macho man of action’s sense of himself. In some matinee theatre complex of his mind he is a type of antipodean Spider-Man, ever-vigilant over the rise of evil, ever-ready to stamp out wickedness and moral depravity.

Yet surrender to any of the charms of war could be the undoing of Tony Abbott and his party. The stakes are high – higher than he appears to recognise, at least publicly. Regardless of its innate appeal to the ‘fight before flight’ psychology of the former Oxford boxing Blue and irrespective of his shrewd political intuition that a war leader can be a popular leader, a commitment to war is not to be rushed into.  Even putting to one side for a moment his almost indecent eagerness to follow the US leader like a pack rat, boosting US-Australia relations, as he may see it, or ingratiating himself as might appear to others, being over eager to play the war card is a risky strategy. Make war in haste. Repent at leisure.

The Australian people deserve better leadership from their Prime Minister than hasty and ill-conceived military misadventures. What we need in a time of international crisis is a responsible leader whom we can depend upon to exercise due diligence before acting. Before entertaining any notion of military intervention in another country’s bloody civil war, Abbott must reveal a rational strategic plan which is based on more than impulse and intuition. And he must be prepared to publicly unpack his thinking. It is his responsibility. It is expected of him, not unreasonably, by the population at large and especially by those whom he is committing to war on their country’s behalf. Neglect of this step in maintaining trust, in vouchsafing his compact can only hasten his decline, and could easily be his government’s death warrant.

Due diligence would involve Abbott knowing what he was getting us into, and openly sharing what he knows. It would also involve a clear plan for aims and objectives as well as the nature and extent of combat.  So far what we have been fobbed off with is neither open nor realistic. Abbott’s explanation that we have kept our troops back until we have got the Iraqi government to sign an indemnity for Australian forces to operate as ‘trainers’ in Iraq ignores the political reality that such a signature would not be worth the paper it is written on. Iraqi politicians are drawn from those who were victims or who are relatives of Saddam Hussein’s Baathists. At best they represent a quarter of the population. Eighty per cent of government jobs, moreover are filled with members of this group who are often ill-equipped and unqualified for the positions and responsibilities they are expected to discharge. Most Iraqis are not happy to have foreign troops on their soil, despite what the political classes might claim. The signing of an indemnity by a yet to be appointed Defence Minister has been compared to signing his own death warrant.

Last Tuesday Iraq’s political leadership, including Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki; President Jalal Talabani; Mr. Maliki’s chief rival, Ayad Allawi; and several other high-ranking officials evaded the ‘deal-breaker’. Government spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh’s statement, said the leaders had agreed that there was “no need to grant immunity to trainers,” instead of the clear commitment which Abbott and the US were insisting was essential to deployment. We have yet to hear Abbott’s comment or indeed yet to have the PM share his setback with the nation. There has been no announcement that Australian troops are coming home.

‘Degrade and destroy’ is a slogan not a plan. Getting the Iraqi forces trained up to fight on their own is beyond any external agency. The US could not do it. Hundreds of billions of US dollars have already been wasted in pursuit of this chimera. And as for ‘helping the Iraqi government’, little research is required to reveal that this is a fool’s errand. The Iraqi government is severely compromised in its lack of political and military authority, its appearance as a puppet of the US, its dependence on embedded jihadi terrorists as capable of atrocities as ISIS and its record of Sunni persecution. Above all in a theatre of war riven with factions, shifting alliances, multiple flashpoints and against a determined, skilled, well-financed and well-equipped adversary with a commitment to fighting not matched by any outsiders, it is likely to be protracted difficult and long. For our troops’ sake for our country’s sake, Australia’s Iraq war III plans must contain an exit strategy, some idea of how and when we might get out. For, as modern history should show us, as in Viet Nam, or Afghanistan or Iraq 1 and 2, it is easier to get into an international fight than to get out of it. Above all, whatever their initial popularity, protracted engagements are likely to prove ruinous to any government in the end.

When news of the prospect of Australian military intervention in Iraq first broke, Prime Minister Tony Abbott appeared to jump to attention and salute the opportunities this might provide to boost his standing with an indifferent or alienated electorate. He’d already had a bit of win on the world stage although to some he seemed to be over keen on chasing ambulances, air disasters and other media opportunities to promote and stage-manage his statesmanship. Some of these wins proved illusory as in the free trade agreement with China which that country has not broken. Similarly unfulfilled were his promises regarding recovery of bodies of victims of the MH17 disaster and his advice regarding MH 370’s imminent discovery. Yet it was not for lack of trying: Abbott almost upstaged himself, such was the energy and lack of reserve with which he threw himself into the new role. Many spectators were unnerved rather than reassured by the newly minted desperately international statesman Abbott crashing about on the world stage.

At home it was toned down Tony who played to captive domestic audiences. Soberly, steadily, slowly enunciating the compass of our likely involvement, his new performance values allowed him full rein to practise in public the advice of his vocal coaches whilst inwardly basking in the warm after-glow of the self-invited, over-sharing partner to the righteous in an international crisis rich with opportunities to moralise. Dickens would have loved him.

Public office demands high performance and high performance standards. In leading our intervention in Iraq Abbott has been working himself into the role. As ever, his instinct is to play to the gallery. Or else he patronises audiences, talking down to the little people who on other occasions he claims gave his party a mandate. Little matter that even to close friends he has all the credibility of a dodgy funeral director. Or that he risks appearing self-indulgent, inconsistent, or inauthentic. Or all three. At his worst, Abbott resembles a method actor in continual rehearsal for a work in progress.  The act threatens to undo him, unravel the very fabric of his presentation of self, the fibre of his political being.

Events will quickly conspire to unseat Abbott’s lazy complacency and lack of due diligence. The myth of one united Iraqi people allied with us against evil will quickly be shattered by the reality of battle. It will become apparent that the Iraqis we say we are defending have a tenuous grip on power and are a diverse group, many of whom resent our presence. Many Iraqis are conflicted with intersecting allegiances to competing religious, tribal and political identities. Much of the government, and its administration has to be negotiated with factions . The negotiations are not going well.  Many political commentators believe that the government has lost legitimacy and any real authority. The Iraqi government is now resorting to trying to persuade Sunni armed factions and tribes to help it fight ISIL but Sunni leaders want greater rights and representation in government. In brief, we are backing up the US in its ‘pick a winner’ strategy but invest it as we may with moral justification as Abbott has our fight against pure evil is much closer in reality to fighting alongside troops who comprise a range of groups and affiliations many of whom are as evil or slightly less evil than ISIS itself. The propaganda war has to be laid to one side. Abbott has to share fully the complexity of the theatre of war before Australia is bogged down in a costly, protracted war of attrition between forces who may change sides at a moment’s notice.

Success would bring only another power vacuum. So embedded is ISIS and those factions who have allied with ISIS for the meantime to hitch a ride into a more promising political future that victory against ISIS would not usher in any period of peace and stability but rather just mark the next stage of an increasingly desperate and bloody civil war.

Abbott’s gambit of risking his fortunes and the fortunes of his party on an overseas adventure in Iraq will quickly prove costly. The ‘humanitarian mission’ will fail as it becomes wrecked on the rocks of political realities which it will become all too readily apparent, realities which could and ought to have been foreseen at the outset. There will be a huge cost to the nation in terms of all of the resources of war, as military strategists like to see them men, materiel and money. But greater than these losses will be the rapid disintegration of the theatre of integrity with which the Abbott government has sought to bolster its legitimacy. Australia is not an international moral policemen scrambling to mobilise against evil but an over-eager US catspaw rushing headlong into a doomed battle without a real plan. An already alienated or at best disaffected and doubting electorate will find even greater reason to mistrust the Abbott government and to resent being taken for a ride; resent its sordid descent into political expediency at the price of integrity and democratic responsibility and accountability.

Australia needs to be told the true cost of war in Iraq.

How much will it cost the Abbott government to be at war in Iraq? Estimates vary. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott claims that his country’s intervention in Iraq will cost half a billion dollars per year. On ABC television 9 October, the PM volunteered the figure in the context of growing internal debate about where the funds are going to come from. Defence Minister David Johnstone more candidly and credibly has said the government has no idea. Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen has cautioned the government that the Opposition will not provide a blank cheque and pointed to savings in scrapping the PPL scheme. Hockey, unsurprisingly cheaply politicised the issue by proposing that Labor, indeed issue a blank cheque to underwrite the war effort as the price of its bipartisan commitment.  Finance Minister Matthias Cormann has not ruled out a war tax. We’ll be told in December or perhaps May.

“We’ll address that going forward without speculation in MYEFO [the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook] in December and then in the budget in May. We don’t need to get ahead of ourselves on this.”

What does Cormann mean?  Could it be that by December we will be treated to emotional blackmail? Shown graphic images of military personnel valiantly suffering the deprivations that only war can confer whilst we are told that we need funds to support their efforts on the nation’s behalf? Told: ‘We must let them finish the job they were sent there to do.’ Except no-one can tell us what that job is. Instead the PM serves us the warmed-up US military briefing leftover: the alliterative ‘degrade and destroy’ slogan. We have yet to learn precisely what this means. Perhaps by December, someone clever will have worked out a plan. Or is it that once we go to war, the whole budget morphs into a magic pudding?

Are we likely to be told the true cost? Don’t hold your breath. Today, Abbott appeared evasively up-beat and keen to brush aside the issue of the likely cost as he dampens any speculation that the cost of fighting in Iraq will be a drain on a budget which he has already described as ‘in crisis’ and worse. Surely it would be irresponsibly extravagant to commit further funds when we can’t afford to meet our current expenses. Indeed, in his party’s determined but unconvincing spin on the state of the nation’s finances, he or any other LNP spokesman will fondly trot out the tired old chestnut that the nation faces imminent financial ruin because of ‘the debt and deficit disaster that Labor left us in.’ If there is no money in the kitty what are we doing? Spending what we don’t have? Pledging more than we can honour? Following the US example into financing our efforts by increasing debt until it becomes so massive that it bleeds us dry?

Yet the debt and deficit rhetoric is a handicap on the cost of war issue. It begs the question of the wisdom of incurring further debt when as he would have us believe we are already up to our necks in hock. Consequently most would expect Abbott to play down the true cost of the war or it will look as if he has signed the nation up for another costly item it cannot afford, as, indeed, it seemed with his now shelved PPL scheme. In addition to appearing reckless with spending, it will add to the gathering impression that in an Abbott government the urge to be glad-handed with the nation’s resources comes ahead of any sober reckoning of either support or true cost. Finally, Abbott’s pro-US stance appears to override caution or common-sense. It stretches our credulity and damages his credibility. We are getting into something unforseen, something ill-defined with no precisely specified outcome yet he would have us believe that it is likely to come within budget? Or is that we must jump at the first opportunity or even before to honour our curiously one-sided alliance with our ‘great and powerful friend; to give and not to count the cost.’ Perhaps it is high time we had a serious look at the ANZUS Treaty. Should we be under attack at home the US pledges only to consult us in the matter.

Abbott’s estimate cannot go unchallenged. First it appears to be yet another attempt to fob off a reasonable line of enquiry on behalf of those who have a right to know, the Australian people. Why should we believe Abbott? What makes this any more credible than any other Abbottism? After, all we don’t have it in writing. Yet he should know. It is his responsibility to know. His duty to share. Surely his advisors would have already provided him with an estimate.

Although Abbott is on record for acknowledging that he can seem to be fast and loose with the truth when it suits him; or unreliable with oral or off the cuff commitments, he should be briefed on the real cost and on the likely cost of our foreign adventure. He should also be briefed on his need to level with the nation. Instead, it seems as if we are being told, once again to ‘run along, sonny’. Or, as in the curiously gradual nature of his disclosure of our military involvement in Iraq, we are treated to a dance of the seven veils, a type of strip-tease of a series of partial revelations.. The strategy further erodes our trust and Abbott’s paper-thin credibility.

A straight answer would be welcome. Time and again we see Abbott quickly prevaricate or be dismissive when challenged. ‘Tell them anything to shut them and we will sort it out later’ up appears to be his typical strategy. Yet the remark is not acceptable. It is not a credible estimate. He should not be allowed to get away with it.

First, his comment does not acknowledge any likely expansion of Australia’s military involvement. Expansion is more than likely, however, given expert advice that to defeat ISIS will require BOG (or boots on the ground.) US Defence Chief Martin Dempsey has already warned of a likely need for a deeper involvement including combat troops on the ground. The odds are Australian will be expected to step up its commitment to a war which will become protracted, difficult and debilitating.

Second, the cost of involvement is also the cost of rehabilitation and reconstruction both in Iraq, whatever is left of it and at home for those who have served, whatever is left of them. If the war effort continues even for even five years and it could well go for much longer, its cost in terms of repair and restitution will be high. Just how high is impossible to estimate but the Viet Nam legacy provides some valuable clues for comparison.

The cost of war in Iraq is not something Tony Abbott should treat lightly. He should stop his dance of the seven veils approach to difficult subjects. Withholding information or the staged gradual revelation will never establish the genuine partnership, the equal relationship needed if Australia is to be put on a war footing.

The nation demands more from its PM than a figure plucked out of the air. If you don’t know, Mr Abbott, it is your job to find out. Similarly, Australia also deserves a PM responsible enough to share this information and all other key concerns and considerations openly from the outset. It is alarming to see a shifty evasiveness masquerading as consultation in our nation’s leader when what is required is candour. Not only is the nation entitled to honest communication and open accountability, it is the only way to secure the support required to sustain a war effort, especially Iraq War III, an intervention in a foreign war of attrition between rival local factions whose real interest to the West amounts to their capacity to obstruct the flow of oil from the Middle East and threaten US strategic bases.

Obama’s Promise and the reality.

Barack Obama inspired us from the first as he inspired countless others who yearned for a leader who was a reformer, someone who could make things better all around the world. A real leader and a man of promise in so many ways had appeared among us, it seemed when we heard him, when we saw him in those early days of his presidential campaign.
Obama vowed to bring change to Washington and the world. A conviction politician, he held a special appeal for us. We were sold on the promise of integrity. Overnight, he became a big hit in our household and in many others all around the world for who he was and what he seemed to represent.
Engaging also was his personal style, the easy, yet practised ways he could articulate his powerful personality and his potential. Obama seemed refreshingly original and different yet there was some resonant quality about him. Something there was that reached out to us and held our attention, captured our belief. He seemed to reach out to everyone.
Part of it was his gifted speech. His sonorous tone and the steady, measured cadences of his speaking voice recharged and nourished our own modest hopes and dreams of a better future, a fairer society a flowering of the human spirit.
Part of it was the timing. Unlike, any candidate we had ever seen before, Obama uniqueness as a man and as a politician came at a time when there were seemed so many prior disappointments to counteract. His vital presence, his direct yet respectful manner and his upright bearing conveyed dignity. His words were a words to listen to; his delivery combined a natural eloquence with a passionate commitment to reason and justice tempered with the hard-won wisdom of experience. We wanted to believe in him. We believed in him. And there was a lot to believe in.
As a presidential candidate, we rated him highly. We thought he would be a natural. Wanted to believe he was a natural, so well did he present himself. Indeed, his gifts seemed to make him more than just an outstanding contender, we thought he had a unique and intrinsic merit. Obama seemed the president his nation and the world deserved.
From afar we saw him as a candidate whose commanding credentials and abundant natural talents were so clearly apparent that it was as if his merit spoke for itself; as if his campaign should succeed as a matter of natural justice.
Clearly intelligent, articulate, eloquent, educated and progressive, Obama’s appeal was also visceral. He could move his audience and move it to believe he felt for them, that he was moved by their suffering and shared their dreams. Obama seemed passionate about the great cause of the people, all of the people, a politician of deep conviction and abiding faith in the cause of humanity. Not only was he young and photogenic he seemed, vital, energetic, charged with the passion of men with vision. He seemed fired up to fight for freedom, equality, justice and all the other ideas, issues and causes that matter to an open society.
Barrack Obama was a beacon of hope to us. A black man in The White House, his origins also added to his charisma and his promise. Yes. We. Can. With this simple yet profoundly empowering slogan, he rekindled belief in the power of faith and hope and optimism. We expected him to build a better world by the exercise of his many gifts and by providing real leadership; a capacity to attract and to inspire the best to devote their talents to the challenges of harmony and peaceful co-existence.

Eight years later the enchantment of the Obama phenomenon has faded into history. Long gone is the enchanted spell of his campaign and inauguration, our hopes of an extraordinary new man and a new beginning. Obama’s charisma has all but vanished, dispelled by a record of achievement which has failed to match the promise of his lofty rhetoric. And Obama the man has revealed more mortal fallibility and frailty than his initial, brilliant presentation of himself ever suggested. More than we vested in him by the sheer power of our belief and hope. Obama the politician, moreover, has failed to live up to the high expectations, he set for himself and his followers from his inauguration.
One of the highest hopes was that Obama would be a healer of a divided nation. Somehow in the achievement he personified, the confidence he exuded, we believed we saw a special gift if not a personal mandate to unite black and white, rich and poor in the common interest of a humane and open democratic society. In the event he has achieved little. Indeed, his critics would argue that he has instead been uninterested in promoting unity or he has been ham-fisted in his actions, risking inflaming division, by dealing in what opponents saw as a partisan manner with such issues as they arose in the Ferguson riots:

There’s no excuse for excessive force by police or any action that denies people the right to protest peacefully. Ours is a nation of laws: of citizens who live under them and for the citizens who enforce them. So, to a community in Ferguson that is rightly hurting and looking for answers, let me call once again for us to seek some understanding rather than simply holler at each other. Let’s seek to heal rather than to wound each other.

A second, critical test of Obama’s presidency was his management of the GFC. From afar, his actions appeared admirable. His first significant act was to endorse a package of billion-dollar stimulus spending programmes, financed with debt, aimed at ‘jump-starting’ the economy. Yet the stimulus was all in the rhetoric. Whilst Congress voted for these ‘shovel-ready’ projects, it soon became clear to Obama and others, that the projects were fictions. The projects attracted funds which then disappeared. In the end, Obama has presided over a period in which the poor have got poorer, labour force participation has declined during the slowest recovery since the Great Depression. Nor does there appear to have been any really effective recession proofing. Whilst the Dodd-Frank reforms looked good in principle, the old system in which the big banks and other institutions were too big to fail has been preserved.
Other internal reforms including Obamacare which has benefited ten to fifteen per cent of those it promised to help and immigration reform which has largely been ignored in favour of an abandoned amnesty programme resting on an executive authority which the President does not have. The result is said to have alienated all groups in the immigration debate. ‘Nobody is happy and nothing has been accomplished.’
It is in foreign policy, however that Obama has been caught out most severely. His exit strategy for Iraq was not a success. It may be as some suggest that he was in too much of a hurry not to be George W Bush but in the rush to withdraw he seems to have neglected to see that Iraq was in danger of being destroyed from within and without. Unkind commentators have suggested that Obama was unwilling to interrupt his golf schedule but his administration seems to have been caught napping by the rapid deterioration in Iraq’s stability and integrity as a nation state and the rapid growth of ISIS. Much as we may admire his candour in admitting to not knowing now how to deal with ISIS, the rest of the world is less than impressed with the US’s belated attempt to quickly force an unlikely coalition to deal with a complex and intractable set of problems in the region.
The Arab Spring represented missed opportunities for Obama to develop its power and influence across the Middle East while he is criticised for being so slow in responding to events in Egypt that he is regarded by most Egyptian liberals as a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood. The outcome has been to see Egypt revert to the autocracy of its previous regime whilst its government views the US as an ineffectual ally.
Similarly critics of Obama’s isolationist administration take issue with its lack of initiative in exploiting opportunities to In Libya and in Syria to have taken advantage of the Arab Spring to help topple two brutal dictatorships. Many see US failure to intervene in Syria, as three years of dithering which permitted ISIS to rise and then establish itself as a real threat in Iraq. Finally, some see a missed opportunity in the US failing to back popular uprisings in Iran.
In Europe, also the Obama administration has been slow to respond to Putin and the apparent growth of Russian hegemony. Indeed, during a debate with Romney in 2012, Obama was dismissive of the potential risk of a renewed Russian autocracy:
“The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back.”

Critics have unkindly but not unreasonably responded that it now seems as if the 1970s are calling, as Russia invades neighbours, making US European allies feel vulnerable and unsure of real support from the US and NATO. Obama has responded to Russian aggression by imposing further sanctions and spoken out once against it in Estonia but appears to have no other plans.
Finally there are many observers world-wide who were dismayed that despite hope and promise, Obama kept Guantanamo operating, allowed the NSA to continue spying, and continued the use of drones.
Obama campaigned on the promise that America would be more respected in the world after the Bush years but in the event has achieved little to earn that respect. Rather the Obama administration has seen America treated less with respect than derision and contempt by its adversaries. The US is now viewed by its supporters as an unreliable ally and an ineffectual opponent by its foes. Rather than respect, opponents such as ISIS are treating it with contempt as they goad it into a confrontation which they are sure they can win.
In the beginning, Obama appeared everything we could hope for. And more. We constructed an image of an ideal type which rested on our hopes for change and his brilliant presentation not the least of which was the sonorous charm of his well-crafted rhetoric. In the end it looks as if we wanted to believe in a president who was different, enlightened, empowered to carry out our hopes for change without checking first more carefully the substance beneath the spin. History will not be kind to this President for seeming asleep at the wheel, his good intentions, his promises and his starry-eyed supporters all left in the dust by the wayside as events took their course.

Spinning out of control, Johnston’s case for war is no case at all.


Australian Defence Minister and high flyer, David Johnston posing at the controls.

Australians breathed a collective sigh of relief last week when it emerged that not only did our nation have a defence minister, our very own colossus of modesty Senator David Johnstone, but that he had been despatched to Iraq. ‘Tongue-tied Titan’ Senator David Johnston is of course not the same as Chief of Joint Operations, Vice Admiral David Johnston who is the joint chief of staff although, remarkable as it may seem, the senator may be no stranger to a joint.

The proud Australian nation enjoys a richly-deserved reputation for its eagerness to follow-the-leader to any war anywhere, anytime, as much as for its historic involvement in a series of US-led military misadventures, and the odd disaster such as Gallipoli or Crete. Yet, until recently, the Australian people had simply assumed that their Prime Minister had assumed the defence portfolio, as is his wont, without telling anyone, including the hapless, low-profile Johnstone who until now has been flying completely under our radar. This is no longer the case, indeed, it seems ‘Joint-operations’ Johnstone has recently been flying high as a kite.

‘Stone-wall’ Johnstone, who appears by all reports, including ISIS agents’ photographs, phone taps and listening devices to have greatly enjoyed Iraqi hospitality was, it seems not AWOL but simply MIA. The senator is reported to have spent some considerable time ‘inside the tent’ with key Iraqi officials and other unconvicted fraudsters, con-men and petty felons whose topless personal assistants promised him a bit of the action as they plied him with sweetmeats, soothing unguents, emollients, sweet talk and endless Narghile (waterpipes) of Baghdad Bhang.

topless girl hookah party

photograph courtesy of Peshmerga candid portrait, passport and special event photography

Afghan Kush and other connoisseur’s choices were also on offer from the vast array of weed freely available throughout the city, a flourishing commercial centre, rapidly emerging as a major world cannabis supplier thanks to US aid and military investment in the region. Australian consumers can look forward to high quality imports before the end of the year as our troops keep their boots well and truly high off the ground in their high flying, morale boosting joint missions.

The hitherto camera-shy 58 year-old Senator ‘Pockets’ Johnstone, a barrister and solicitor in WA in civilian life, took the fight right up to ISIS by hunkering down well in a lavishly appointed mess tent well out of range of any real fighting while taking part in protracted and arduous smoke-filled negotiations lasting long into the Arabian nights with intervals only called for ingesting vast quantities of refreshing sweet things and finger food.

Johnstone, the defence chief whose personal mission is to put the joint into ‘joint forces’ is reported to have staggered from his tent some days later startling unwary security guards, by his state of undress and incoherent ranting. Gibbering nonsense about morale building, Australia’s mission and the sheer grace, athletic beauty and fighting spirit of the Aussie Digger and the desert camel, Johnstone was holding up his trousers with one hand whilst waving a befouled piece of paper in the other. The paper purported to be a type of agreement which has later become his script as Johnstone debriefed before the Prime Minister, Peta Credlin and the nation on national television.

‘Pockets’ Johnstone’s subsequent comments and his address to the nation have confirmed his commitment to evading the truth rather than merely ‘weeding out’ himself and his opponents. He has made a number of assertions, promises and undertakings that were it not for the weed he will help bring into the country, would have him committed instantly to a spell in psychiatric care. Amongst his claims is the statement that the Iraqi army not only exists but that it can fight. More precisely, ‘pockets’ Johnstone has repeatedly claimed that there are pockets of fighters which are highly trained and highly effective. Well done, Minister. No-one else has spotted anything like this. Nor will they, without a share of your herbal medicine. Just how pockets of fighters will be any good in a situation which needs a whole army as yet to be explained, although a few pockets of men may be nimble enough and sufficiently well-armed to make off with the drug stash before they are busted by ISIS. Pockets of men, further, is probably not the best morale-boosting form of words for a nation that is reported to have 275,000 active frontline personnel with another 500,000 in active reserve.  Pockets of men can only draw attention to the vast numbers who have simply deserted or joined the other side or highlight the widespread corruption and the practice of pocketing funds sent for buying arms and other useful materiel.

Johnston, Australia’s current Defence Minister says he is optimistic about how quickly a coalition of forces will be able to undermine the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group in Iraq. He does not detail how this might be done but the script so far is that air strikes will do the trick. This does not take into account such experiences to the contrary as VietNam, where a determined Viet Cong made steady advances despite massive air strikes. Nor does Johnston admit any concern with regard to collateral damage, a term which the United States gave to the world when its air strikes in Vietnam killed thousands of innocent civilians, including women and children.  Above all, he fails to explain the ways in which pilots will be able to discern targeted enemy combatants who will be hidden or embedded amongst civilians in cities.

There are many other elements of the Defence Minister’s briefing that are wacky if not outrageous but perhaps none so much as his confident prediction of victory which he cautions may be months rather than years. Even the expert spinner fellow Sand Groper West Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is more cautious about the prospects of successfully defeating ISIS through military intervention. And most expert commentators warn that the engagement could last years and faces only a slender prospect of success – not that we have managed to draw up a battle plan or decide what success would look like.

Most baffling of all his pronouncements was Johnston’s confident assertion that our Australian troops would boost the morale of Iraqi soldiers who until now have yet to win a single battle and who have distinguished themselves only by their capacity for corruption and their readiness to run away from battles. Johnston’s major blind spot here is that he is wilfully evading the truth that the Iraqi armed forces, expensively trained at great expense by the US with some assistance from the West, have no commitment to fight to the death for a government which is alien, effectively a dysfunctional, unrepresentative, US puppet government. Even if, somehow, with the ingestion of certain ‘joint force’ substances, perhaps, Iraqis could be influenced to stay and fight, the elephant in the room is the corpse of the Iraq government which itself has failed, and in the process lost control over vasts parts of its territory to ISIS.

Putting his head in the sand is unlikely to help us or David Johnston’s career. Nor is it wise for him to collude in the delusion that a military adventure will boost his party’s electoral fortunes. He needs to get real and level with the nation before someone else does it for him: Iraq War III is about protecting multinational oil companies and their interests and about maintaining strategic bases in the area for the United States.  We are in it because our Prime Minister rushed to offer his country’s support without considering the matter closely or deeply or responsibly sharing the decision with the people.  And if, at the onset, our Defence Minister is so far off the ball, then heaven help us when basic truths about Iraq and its lack of real fighting capacity emerge, as they must, in the heat of combat. We will have rushed to join an unwinnable, protracted war for no good reasons but to curry favour with a United States which does not have the means to pay for its own involvement let alone look after its allies or manage the vast costs of rebuilding and reconstructing Iraq. Abbott and Johnston’s flag-waving is an appeal to patriotism and national sentiment but Australia’s true colours in this field are self-deception, self-interest and irrationality, the abandonment of rational, responsible decision-making is what causes us to join in the real battle in Iraq.

Burqa Berserker unveiled in Canberra

Berserkers (or berserks) were Norse warriors who are primarily reported in the Old Norse literature to have fought in a nearly uncontrollable, trance-like fury, a characteristic which later gave rise to the English word berserk.
‎Berserker (disambiguation) – ‎Harii – ‎Trance – ‎Old Norse literature


The fury of the berserkers would start with chills and teeth chattering and give way to a purpling of the face, as they literally became ‘hot-headed’, and culminating in a great, uncontrollable rage accompanied by grunts and howls. They would bite into their shields and gnaw at their skin before launching into battle, indiscriminately injuring, maiming and killing anything in their path. Dating back as far as the ninth century, the berserker Norse Warriors were said to be able to do things that normal humans could not. According to ancient legend, the berserkers were indestructible, and no weapon could break them from their trance. They were described as being immune to fire and to the strike of a sword, continuing on their rampage despite injury. –

ned kelly

Sunday, October 05, 2014
3:56 PM

In a rare moment of capital Canberra madness this week, Australian Prime Minister Tony Berserker Abbott once again unleashed a perfect desert storm of unbridled ridicule and derision when he publicly exposed his position by professing to his finding the burqa ‘ personally confronting’. Abbott may as well have tipped his kitchen slop bucket, or his bedside commode over his own head or defended kick-back king Arthur Sinodinis before an ICAC hearing such was the ensuing great stench, a stench which threatened to put the PM even further on the nose, even, as he himself contended yesterday threatening to create such a distraction that it would upset important business such as his spin on Australia’s illegal invasion of Iraq.
What the PM really wanted to share with the nation was that the very good news, the very good news, his very, very good news, that when the Iraqi-US puppet government came back to work from its holiday (if it ever came back) and if it by then still had anything left of Iraq to administer, and further, should it ever have a defence minister, to even at this late stage, have a foolhardy person sign his own death warrant or strap himself into the virtual suicide bomber’s belt of the portfolio of Iraqi defence minister, why, at that point in time, the minister would sign the utterly worthless piece of paper which gives Australia permission to invade the country, kill other Iraqis and generally look after the interests of multinational oil producers and the strategic requirements and expectations of the United States. Up until now, the complete absence of any candidate was merely a testament to the ways Iraqis have so fully embraced the democratic process. This includes pocketing billions of dollars transferred from would-be supporters donated to build up their defence stocks of helicopters and armaments. Above all it includes engaging in the ruthlessly systematic, joyous wholescale persecution of infidels adhering to minority religions such as Sunnis which at last reckoning made up a fair swag of their nation’s population.
The push of thinly veiled scallywags, disguised as journalists, in the Canberra press gallery countered that Abbott should pull his head in, arguing reasonably that most Australians found the sight of a PM out in public in red underpants or speedos truly confronting. Some ventured that Bronwyn’s bouffant beehive hairdo was not only a cruelly confronting and tasteless parody of iconic children’s role-model, Marg Simpson, but that because of its inherent capacity for concealment was a security risk. Others, including the worthy but truly sidelined voice of mature reason, common sense and justice Christine Milne faced off against Abbott, making appeals to tolerance and acceptance even despite, or perhaps because of, their true feelings that a woman in a burqa is a symbol of oppression unless she is an Afghan cameleer in disguise fleeing exploitation in historic outback Australia.
On-the-record-Burqa opponent, Peta Credlin unveiled the complexion of her thinking eagerly compromising her boss with either an ill-considered piece of tactical advice or a shrewd dog whistle to those Coalition rednecks who wanted to put their heads up above the parapet to oppose the burqa to do so for security reasons. All this did, predictably, perhaps was set the hares after the Afghan hounds.
As if his unguarded comment was not enough of an ‘own goal’, Abbott was then ambushed by the right wing of his party which boasts such stalwarts as Cory Bernardi, Bill Heffernan, Bronwyn Bishop and sundry other rednecks, racists, chauvinists, boors, philistines, undiagnosed dementia patients and rabid haters of the ABC, tolerance, science and reason. The events proved especially embarrassing to Abbott who showed once again that he was out of touch both with contemporary mores and out of touch with the rabid beast that is his own party. Many took his gaffe and subsequent fall out as yet more evidence that he could not control his own rump, although one backbencher did pull his head in when Peta Credlin threatened to smite his neck in a thinly veiled allusion to the Koran and its sanction of decapitation as the just desert of all infidels, a fact which up until now the PMC and its spin unit have been keen to publicly deny.
Whilst some expert Tony-watchers claim that his moves were just the latest in a series of craftily veiled dog whistles, many others conclude that he spoke the truth. As Annabel Crabb has so capably put it, the truth parrot on his shoulder spoke out, as it has to his cost so many times in the past, to put the kybosh on Abbott’s thin and flaking veneer of moderation and his confected illusion of control.

Abbott’s Death Cult Zombie Show

Regrettably, for some time to come, Australians will have to endure more security than we are used to and more inconvenience than we would like. Regrettably, for some time to come, the delicate balance between freedom and security may have to shift.

There may be more restrictions on some so that there can be more protection for others. After all, the most basic freedom of all is the freedom to walk the streets unharmed and to sleep safe in our beds at night.image

Tony Abbott in Parliament 23 September 2014

When it comes to entertainment, terror takes the cake. Say what you like about romance, game show or reality TV. None of these can poke a stick at terror. Not even Budget Crisis, the long-running LNP soap opera featuring popular villains Debt and Deficit. Not even sport. (Sport, like politics contains powerful theatre but essentially is applied psychopathy.) In sport and in politics you dedicate yourself to putting shit up your opponent. And occasionally on your opponent. Terror, on the other hand, scares the shit out you. And it’s good for you. It combines the therapeutic power of catharsis while it reinforces conventional morality. No wonder Abbott and the Death Cult Zombies, the latest smash hit theatre sensation is taking the country by storm.

Death Cult Zombies is a shrewd investment attracting powerful backers such as Rupert Murdoch. And billionaire entrepreneurs who have long lunches with the treasurer. It’s a sure thing. With terror you can’t go wrong. It’s tried and true. A box office you can bank on. Little wonder then, our LNP coalition has just treated us to a feast. It comes naturally. Political conservatives have a natural talent for popular entertainment. And creative fiction. It shows in their day to day dealings such as dropping unpopular bits of their budget while claiming today that they remain completely committed to their budget. It shows in their central political tenet that looking after rich mates is some form of public service. And it finds expression in rich theatrical occasions.

Who can forget such baroque epics as Malcolm where’s your trousers? Hockey’s biography: the compelling achievements of a man who so far hasn’t amounted to anything, much. So far. And who will go on to do even less.

What can compare with the finesse and fictive inspiration of Abbott’s intent to repay his mate Andrew Bolt for his support in winning the election by promising to gut racial discrimination law? And then claiming this would improve freedom of speech for the nation.  And then doing a backflip because of some mythic concern for the Muslim community. It’s a wonder they don’t incorporate the party and publish it as a work of fiction. It’d be a best seller. Shit all over the opposition. But then, Labor hasn’t walked out on the show. They are clinging to the second best seats in the house.

Death Cult Zombies is an all-singing, all dancing, (mostly) all Australian, anti-Terror Terror show. It’s a show to die for. Of course, it’s a Dutch treat. You get the bill in your tax assessments. With interest. Unless you are a big corporate sponsor like Murdoch. Then you’ll pay one cent in the dollar. Yet it’s compelling viewing. Endlessly diverting first Act. Then an enormous dramatic pause. So dramatic in fact that the suspense is killing us. Some of us are even beginning to notice impresario Anton’s vestments. The (former, would-be) holy roman emperor’s new clothes. And wonder if he’s wearing any.

Where’s the second act?

Why so quiet? A cone of silence has descended. The curtain remains down. The Greatest Australian terror raid played to packed houses mid- September. Two weeks have passed and there is not even an apology for extending interval. Why? What do the authorities have to share? Have to hide? Is it tough love? Or tough titty: we are never going to tell you and soon we will change the law so we never have to? 800 police and AFP must have more to show for their efforts than a pimply 22 year old with paranoid delusions about killing a random pedestrian.  When do we get to see it?

We love big shows in Australia.  Especially those which are big overseas. We love to talk them up before we go and afterwards. Up and up. This gratifies us for many reasons, not the least of which is the virtuous feeling we derive from talking up our experiences generally, our quality lifestyle, our good taste, our superior networking and of course our nose for good value.  “Great show and we were so lucky to get the best seats in the house so cheaply …”All sold out by my mate who knows the producer got me tickets.”

Exclusivity, amazing fortune, breathtaking bargaining skills or special contacts and great connections are all part of the weave of the legendary experience retold. Especially at ICAC. Rich indeed is the warp and weft of your typical après show discussion. Yet most of this is missing from our latest national diversion. Curiously absent.

It was a big operation. Massive. Even bigger was the hype. Australia’s biggest counter terrorism operation ever was the way it was presented. And re-presented. And commented upon. Repeatedly. Never has any show been so in love with its own production values. Not that we have that much to compare it with. A couple of smaller shows with a limited cast of evil bearded rotters and plotters. Still, others are bound to follow. You may depend on it. Now we’ve set a benchmark, we will have to better it. We won’t be able to help ourselves.

Australians deserve to know the score. It can’t just be nothing. Or next to nothing. After all we’ve just been slugged a cool $600 million for the beefed up security. And the costs don’t end just with the show. Factor in the cost of anxiety, fear, panic, paranoia, xenophobia and alarm washing through our consciousness as we battle to remain focused on those daily tasks which ordinarily make us if not paragons of productivity, a people chasing world’s best for time spent at work.

A great deal of fuss was made of the busting of terrorists on the day Abbott signed us up to fight in Iraq or Syria or wherever the United States said. But not go to war. Not yet. Humanitarian arms supplies and assisting air strikes. And a great deal of money was spent. And made, no doubt. Commercial news was full of the threat of a random beheading. Could happen to anyone. Just around the corner.

Abbott insists that we are all in real and present danger. Not because we are going to war. But because ‘truly evil’ jihadist terrorists in Syria and Iraq have stretched out their terror tentacles to Australia. ISIS operatives are hiding in bedrooms all over the country.  We need to go to war over there to stop them over here. If we could swat the ISIS blowfly in the Middle East we could be free from domestic maggots.  We would be safe in our beds at home.

But we haven’t really found any. Even though police kicked down doors and upturned beds all over the country. It’s not much of a plot, really is it? Stated baldly it’s not all that convincing is it? Or logical. True, there are successful shows that have creaky plots based on implausible stories but impresario Abbott needs to pull a rabbit out of a hat or his audience will walk out during intermission. Are walking out, as we speak.

Every impresario has something up his sleeve. Abbott is no exception. In this case it’s introducing new anti-terror laws. Laws that curtail our freedom. Especially the freedom to enquire about the missing second act of his Death Cult Zombie Show. The freedom to ask to see the proof of this dire new threat. Ask why we need new laws. A question we all need to ask. A question we need to be able to ask freely. Or remain forever silent.

Or before too long we will get laws we don’t need and didn’t ask for. Laws that don’t make us any safer. But which give much greater power to the government and its agencies.  Surely we don’t want that. No citizen  wants that. Or is it that after the Death Cult Zombie show, Act One, we are so frightened we’ll be happy to give up our right to stand up for our rights. Or even ask what’s going on.

Teen shot dead in knife attack; police and nation critically wounded.

No words can ever tell what led him to attack Police with a knife in the first hour of darkness on that fateful September evening. Strike at them not once but many times. Again and again in a mad frenzy. He wanted to settle things, perhaps. Unsettle everything, certainly. To settle nothing in the end. No words can ever let us into the deep, overwhelming darkness of his fury; the blind, frenzied lashing out, of his final, fatal acts.

No words can ever mend what has been done. And undone. No words can tell of his victims’ pain and shock and terror. Nor how their lives will never be the same. And those who know them. Belong to them. Love them. No words can tell, either how any of us will ever be the same. Bystanders, onlookers, outsiders every one of us, we can only re-trace some steps in his descent into madness.

Endeavour Hills is no stranger to desperation. Once a shift workers’ dormitory satellite serving Melbourne and Dandenong’s factories, it is today a many-layered place, a migrant melting pot, a terminus and refuge for the marginalised and dispossessed.

There are no hills to speak of.  You do climb a bit on your way through from Frankston to Dandenong. Any further elevation is all in the developer’s copy writer’s imagination. Increasingly those who live here, descend here. The place itself bears witness to much that is in decline.

Fading brick veneer buildings edge narrow streets, stunted drives, guillotined cul-de-sacs and crescents.  The 70s tint de jour was Dulux Mission Brown. Unmistakeable. Nothing like it. Imagine if you mixed every colour you could get together, you would end up with this brown. Perhaps how they made it. It’s a smart way to use up your leftovers, if you are DuPont. If you are just a consumer? You wear it.

Mission Brown will cover anything. Cover a multitude of sins. Here it’s everywhere like a dirty brown canker. Suck the life out of any streetscape. And out of you if you let it. Still keeping on keeping on defying you to rest your eyes on it. Find anything cheerful, anything remotely uplifting in it. Let your imagination run riot, as Barry Humphries might have said. Paint the town brown. Whatever it does for the painter, it’s not uplifting to the human spirit.

Cramped cream brick or tumbled brick veneer cottages have titchy unweeded yards where neglected dogs bark themselves stir-crazy. You get surround sound without having to ask for it. Neighbours can listen to neighbour without having to make up an excuse to pop next door to borrow a cup of flake. Hear their neighbours’ TVs; their domestics; doors slamming; their boy racer tuning his V8 in the drive; feel his sub-woofer shaking the bars of his roll cage.

These homes are too close for comfort. Closer to each other than their inhabitants will ever be in many cases. Their owners who have invested a lot in blinds and curtain netting. And more than the odd Rottweiler, mastiff, Pit bull terrier or mongrel combo with the lot. Estate developers cut costs and corners. Threw them up in a flash. Squeezed as many into the subdivision as they could get away with. Then got out in a flash. Made their fortunes. Made a killing. Put on white shoes and set off to walk arm in arm with another government to plunder the Queensland coast.

Cheaply made and poorly fitted, your average dwelling pinches at the elbows and around the seat, standing the test of time like a cheap 70s suit. After time that you couldn’t build quality if you wanted. Later constructions reflect how the ’80s and ’90s building boom strained building supplies. It shows in cheap and low quality materials.  Creature comforts are basic. Luxury is in low supply.

Not all the houses are tiny. Some are two storeys. Grass castles for stoner kings and queens. But the place feels cramped. Skimped. Confined. Tense. It is not the Australia of House and Garden magazine. You wouldn’t set Ramsay Street here. Domestics are violent.

A man shaved his wife’s head, bound her with duct tape and beat her for twenty minutes with a garden hose in a jealous rage. “If a wife cheats on a husband, she can expect to have this done to her. She made me do it,” her husband said in defence. His three-and-a-half year sentence would be nearly up by now.

Another resident kidnapped a Nepalese student he had befriended online, stealing from her bank accounts and was apprehended when about to push her into a grave he’d dug in the back yard. Her parents would not pay his $20,000 ransom. He said in court it was her idea.

Endeavour Hills bears more than its fair share of domestic conflict, home invasions and random bashings. It gets a bad press in some circles. But then, nothing good ever came out of Bethlehem or so they said. Best thing that comes out Endeavour Hills, wags say, is the road to Dandenong. And Dandenong’s rough.

Disharmony is a design feature in Endeavour Hills. Patterns, colours, textures and materials often argue with each other in the same fascia. Cheaper to get the job finished that way. Under budget. Parsimony knifes the soul. Cut-price suburban neurosis festers. Unwary visitors feel its chill. You could go easily go mad here. Kill yourself. If you weren’t a bit mad to have moved in.  Or desperate to escape another war-zone. Another hell hole. An Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon from the long gone days when Australia accepted refugees.

Any place at all suits when you’re desperate for shelter. Desperate to settle. Yesterday’s bargain build appeals when your budget is small. Practical necessity wins any arm wrestle over taste or design. No point in champagne taste on a beer budget. You may already know someone here.

And so it is the Hills have filled with migrants over recent decades. And their children. Their children’s children. It’s cheap real estate. Easy to get to. Near work. Handy to schools and other factories. It is an obscure place, unknowable to all but those who must reside here.  Unknowable even to itself. Easy to get lost in. Safely out of the way. Until now.

Today news bolts into our consciousness in an incandescent flash. It flashes, flares and burns like Icarus too close to the sun of everyday necessity. Simple stories are quickly whipped up and served hourly in our living rooms. Our anti-social social media is driven by them. Sick with them. Riven by them. Most are short-lived, self-destructing, fabrications. They burn up as they enter the atmosphere of our contested consciousness. Burn to ash in the short-fuse furnaces of our fractured and attenuated attention spans. How big is JLo’s butt, now? Celebrity obsession and our all-consuming appetite for the novel, superficial and the trivial help fan the flames. Yet others are ground out by big money’s boot heel, threatening law suits or big money calling the shots.

Yet our stories shape us. Define us. However long they may last. Give us a sense of ourselves. Who we are. Who we imagine we are. And who we are not. Stories define the outsider. The other. The threat. The monster. The real and present danger of the terrorist within. The red under the bed. The DIY mechanic boy with a petrol leak from his car yesterday in the parking lot of the Doveton mosque at his teenage friend’s funeral becomes a potential jihadist.

In a flash, a rampaging beast takes off. The demoniser. The hate-maker. It helps us ease our guilt. Cauterise our wounded pride. How could this happen on our watch? Quickly, the hapless man-child is the devil’s servant. A monster. In league with jihadist forces head-quartered in Syria and on Facebook. Gushers of hate-speak spew forth from public orifices to seal the deal. Pure Evil. Under the influence of pure evil, Tony Abbott says, of Jihadist forces abroad. Pure evil.

But wait, there’s more. There may be others like him, waiting to strike.

A heightened sense of alert feels very much like a paranoid panic attack, however, well the PM’s strategic communications unit may package it. Or the PM sells it. It strengthens the arm of central government. It sells newspapers. Boosts Rupert Murdoch’s income. No wire-tapping needed. It boosts ratings. Sets the hounds after the hares. Yet it also tears us apart as a nation. Tears at the very fabric of our social being. Turns us against them.

A young man is killed. Only now, forlornly, belatedly, do some of us seek to know him. Know who he was. What drove him to such desperate behaviour? Seek to find what went wrong. Discover the story. His story. Our story. For the rest, it seems, there is an easier way to deal with the facts.

‘Scum’ is the word many Aussie Bloggers are using in their rush to judgement. Too many.

Such simple-minded but savage attacks feed on ignorance and emotional immaturity but they now receive oxygen from the top. They are nurtured by a dominant public discourse in which we are under attack. Under attack not from our own lack of charity, compassion and concern for others but from the other. Evil is not in all of us. It is disembodied. Out there. In the young jihadist. This shameful, wilful black and white political narrative does none of any good.

It is a dangerous but familiar story which seeks to band us together against an enemy within.

It is the narrative of the witch hunt. We must root out the evil within us and destroy it. It is both infantile and lethal. It does not become as a nation. It does not serve us a people. It is a fiction which story which distorts our social conscience. It wilfully blinds us to the responsibility we must all bear for one of us has been lost. The flames of bigotry are fanned.

Now outbreaks of racist intolerance are reported in some quarters. No real surprise here. A litany of lies and wilful blindness is publicly broadcast. The deceased has become the enemy. Not ourselves.  This boy’s death, we are told in the subtext, is not our loss. He was not one of us in his growing up. We did not take him and give him succour. We did not nourish him, guide him, take care of him in every way we could as he grew into a man.

Instead of showing leadership, The Prime Minister’s spin on the story is to call it ‘a nasty incident in Melbourne’. Absolved, assuaged in this way is the fear-mongering unleashed in a terror alert upgrade. Absolved are those who resort to terms such as ‘pure evil’. Condoned is a primitive blood-lust for revenge and counter-attack.

A reporter calls on a neighbour in Narre Warren last week. A few doors away is the young man’s home. Blinds and curtains darken this house, with its untidy teenager’s room, a room that only yesterday was filled with music, life and laughter, friends and bits of gym equipment. A room whose emptiness is now eternal. No-one will call on him now. The dark angel has flown. Forever.

The neighbour turns the reporter away. He will not give his name.  Mr Go Away does not want to get involved.  None of my business.  Fear is in his voice. And anger.

Leave me alone is the gist of what the neighbour is saying. Just as the boy was left alone. Police covered his body with a tarpaulin. Left him on the road where he fell. Until the next day. The corpse could have been dangerous, they said. Lethal. A risk to our safety and security.

Mr Go Away is but one voice of the ‘community’ which surrounded, supported and educated the young man who has died. But it is not a helpful voice. This is not the voice of neighbourly concern. It is not the voice of any true community. Rather, it is just one representative of what has come to usurp community. A post-modern aggregation of self-absorption, self-interest, irrational fear, mistrust and indifference.

Sadly it is this voice which is privileged. It is this voice that appears to be in the ascendancy, nurtured, called forth by our national terror alert and all its eager handmaidens.

Narre Warren is another Endeavour Hills in the making. A cheap knock-off. Only the buildings are newer. The general idea is the same. Knock them up cheap. Sell them dear. The quality is the same or worse. The dead flat blocks are smaller. There is a sense of a future slum evolving before your eyes. A ghetto. It rises on stony ground: the stinginess and greed of its developers’ and builders’ hearts. Kids’ cars clutter streets and drive ways. Doors slam. Dogs bark all day. You feel instantly that you will be forever on the outer. Unwelcome. Uninvited. Unconnected.

There is no neighbourliness, no community speaking in this man’s voice. It is the voice of denial. Go away. In these words, we deny ourselves, our love for one another. That part of others that makes us whole. Our delight in another’s company. Another’s joy. Grief in another’s sorrow. Our humanity. Go away? We cannot go away. We are not made that way. Not one of us.

Perhaps Mr Go Away senses this. Perhaps he dimly realises that we are all in this together. Perhaps in some way it disturbs him. Traps him. Perhaps even he suspects that there is no easy way out. Senses that we are all involved for better or for worse in the end. All he would say for the record was that of course he knew of his neighbour. He knew of is a form of words you choose when you don’t know a person at all. Knew of is the Judas kiss of death to any real community.

Abdul Numan Haider’s knife attack on two policemen and his subsequent fatal shooting outside Endeavour Hills Police station at 7:45pm, Monday 23 September troubles us for many reasons. What caused this eighteen year old to attack police when they called him in for questioning? He clearly intended to harm them. He took knives. He set it up. He phoned to arrange the meeting outside the station. He reversed his Nissan Pulsar into a park as if making for an easy get away.

He did not get away. Whatever plans he may have had of escape, his actions have unleashed a perfect storm of hatred, recrimination, discrimination and revenge. And evasion.

Who knows what disordered thoughts ran through his teenage mind? Martyrdom? Revenge? Anger? Suicide? We need to ask hard questions of the evidence. We need to look into ourselves, our own hearts. Avoid boarding that juggernaut of popular opinion on its rush to judgement.

Media reports describe Haider as yet another desperate Islamic fanatic, an ISIL extremist obeying instructions to decapitate. A jihadist carrying out a fatwa.  An automaton programmed to destroy and self-destruct. Or a lone wolf. A lone wolf who chooses to carry out the fatwa rantings of a jihadist madman. The two are logically opposed but either fits well within the PM’s national scare strategy. Serves its purpose. Purpose? The euphemism is ‘team-building’.

Other journalists looking for the person discover personal stressors: his relationship breakdown. Some report his anger at having his passport cancelled, his resentment at being visited at home and hassled.  They write of a good kid from a decent family. They report his parents’ grief and disbelief. They write of his becoming a target for investigation of terror suspects. Earlier that day the police called at his home. They searched his bedroom while he was out before issuing their invitation to join them at the station when he returned. His parents tried to prevent him from going to the station.

Few trouble to raise some basic questions. A lethal trap sprang shut last Monday. The consequences are tragic. Was it entrapment? Was it a random act of madness? What efforts had police made to assess risk? Could police have not sensed the suspect’s psychological instability? They made many visits to his home. They quizzed him about his contacts his networks. Did they follow these up? They raided his room while he was out. They then requested that he attend the station. Could they not have reasonably foreseen a confrontation brewing? What steps were taken to defuse a volatile and potentially lethal situation?

The tragic events will not, of course, yield to any quick and easy explanation. Their origins are highly complex. Some would have us begin with the story of a migrant boy from Afghanistan and his family. Deep in this story are wounds of the heart and soul. Wounds of loss. Of deprivation. Dispossession. Betrayal. Conflict. Wounds that are slow to heal. If they ever really heal. No outsider can measure the pain and suffering. Embedded in the refugee’s trauma is the damage inflicted by a war torn homeland on all its people and especially those who forced to flee for their lives as refugees.

Others will talk of influences and radicalisation. And it is true, part of his motivation will be found no doubt in the ideologies of hate and killing that ensnared him. But these are catalysts more than causes. To be radicalised, it helps first to be alienated, unwanted, marginalised, dispossessed, and discarded. Cast off to one side. Made to make do with a place on the edge of things. It is not the influence itself so much but everything that has led to his vulnerability to such propaganda that should be our true concern. We do not need to cast him off. We do need to accept what is ours in this. Accept at least some of the responsibility.

The important questions are less easily explored. But they must be explored. Located deep within the fabric of our social being, they involve us all. Who took care of this family? Who took them in? Who made sure they were OK?  Provided for. Taken care of beyond the basic needs.

When a young man begins to act strangely, it is seldom a sudden event. Who was there who was prepared to get alongside this young man when he began to act so bizarrely? Who was there to take him to one side and untangle his snare of unreason? Which one of us made time to listen? To help bind his hurts? To move him out of harm’s way before he attracted the attention of the police? There will be hurts, wounds, hardships and other causes deep within that we need to acknowledge. Investigate. For our own sake. For the sake of the many strangers in our midst. For how we look after those at the margins, those on the edge is in the end the true measure of our humanity.

Abbott’s private terror attacks

“First day back down, Boss”, croaked Team Captain Abbott, opening a frosty Phoenix Migration stout beer with a discarded set of dentures Warren “Tusker”, Truss or some other old NP blowhard had forgotten to take home after drinks. He made a mental note. Return Wozza’s choppers. It was the right thing to do.

They were stained, he noticed as he slipped them into a pocket. And chipped. I’d leave them behind, too. But no-one dared collect forgotten belongings after PM’s drinks and nibbles. They were too afraid to front Credlin. Too afraid to even look at her most of the time. But they loved Tony’s boutique beer. And Peta’s smack-downs. Well, they laughed anyway. Funny that. Especially Pyne.

“Great to get back to the bar fridge. Top end’s great but so dry. Dry as a Rudd tea party.”

Abbott perched on a leather Natuzzi Revive, his favourite new chair in the suite of furniture he had entitled himself to in the July  $50,000 furniture upgrade to the PM’s Parliament House Office. He patted the leather with genuine affection and pleasure.

“Boss” was his pet name for his personal chief of staff Peta Credlin who would soon be over to unlace his shoelaces for him, he thought happily. And his tie. Undo his top button. Adjust his waistband. No wonder Malcolm had raved about her. That girl could handle anything. Looked like it, too.

Credlin reached for her Bollinger. She detested beer and those who drank it. She did her best not to look at Abbott. He let her put her IVF needles in his bar fridge. But had to tell the press about it. He thought it made him look enlightened. Feminist. She thought it was tacky, another cheap and self-defeating lunge at image- boosting. Malcolm “rotary nuts” had not felt the same need. Any moment now he would burp. Or fart. Disgusting little chimp. Had the hide to appoint himself Minister for Women. Most women can’t stand the sight of him. The sound of him. No wonder that they remain another of life’s total mysteries to him.

Peta Credlin, personal assistant and most powerful woman in Australia, rose to adjust the new electronically operated curtains to obscure the ASIO operative disguised as a useful human being pruning the pittosporum outside the window. She was a tall woman. She loved controls. She despised mediocrity. She was offended by incompetence. She hated fraud. What was she doing in Abbott’s employ?

She made a mental note to have the ASIO agent replaced. He looked uppity. Poor disguise, too. He appeared to be looking in. With intent. And he failed to salute her.

She would dismiss him by email later that evening. Or get Tony to tell him on the way out.

Abbott and Credlin met regularly to review the day and to plan strategy. The encounter was typically bruising. No holds barred. Neither of them liked it. He was all “yes Boss” “no Boss”, “you’re the boss, boss” But the next day, give him an open mike on his mate Alan Jones show and he’d come out with his same old shit. Couldn’t stick to a script if it was Araldited to his bum. She was in the mood to let him have both barrels.

“We still suck in the polls”, she glowered.

“You’re kidding! ”

“Not even a dead cat bounce. We stink. Our budget stinks. You rant about terror and opinion drops further. And stop perching like a Cockatoo trying to shit. No point in getting fine furniture if you don’t relax in it.”

Credlin knew Abbott was incapable of relaxing. He lived on stress. If you stripped out his anxiety, you wouldn’t be left with much. Tics. Abbott certainly put the tics into politics! Best to sidestep the bad news in the opinion polls. Still, she felt like slapping him. Jolt him into reality. He wrote about his masturbation in his wank Battlelines but there were times when she thought he was a total wanker. Many times. And so did others. You could tell.

“Terror raids were a shemozzle!”

“I thought they went off rather well.” Abbott hated it when he found himself sounding defensive. Especially with women. Besides when Credlin was in this sort of mood, you couldn’t take a trick. Best not to try.

“No-one’s fooled. Apart from the intellectually challenged, the mentally feeble, the terminally confused and readers of Rupert’s papers. And we’ve already got them onside. They already voted for us. They are our demographic. And the idle rich and would-be rich. The aspirational voters. Wankers the lot of them.

The terror raid was as fake as a three dollar bill. It was contrived. It looked contrived. It was unsuccessful. It didn’t work. And it has created a wave of resentment. We’re getting even more off side.”

“Geez. I know what you mean. Know what you mean. All we could get is one 22 year old lunatic. One 22 year old mental defective. And we put so much work into it. Even had the police doing their own press releases with pictures. And the choppers. No looking real flash is it, Boss.”

Well, I got my point across in the House. Great speech the unit did for me. Statesmanlike.”

“You sounded like a dodgy undertaker reading someone else’s badly-written, lame obsequies. And all that: they-hate-our-freedoms-shit. That was lame in the days of the Korean War. ISIS is tech-savvy. They have billions of dollars. Many of ’em have enjoyed Western freedoms. They have thousands of recruits from other countries who … ”

“Well, at least we’ve got Shorten on the payroll.” Abbott cut Credlin off.

“Don’t get me started,” Credlin snorted and poured herself another flute of champagne. She was glad she included flutes in the refurb. She felt like kicking the little runt in the chair.

“Shorten is a whining, mealy-mouthed moral pigmy. Wouldn’t piss on him if he was on fire. No credibility, Bill. Useless as tits on a bull. A total tool. Less horsepower than my kitchen blender. Nothing to look at. Nothing to listen to. He’s redefined the charisma bypass. No integrity. He’s a right wing leftie with the Queen’s representative as his mother in law, for God’s sake. He makes Peter Dutton look credible. All he’s ever been good at is brown nosing. Cultivating the right connections. A Clayton’s. He’s the leader you have when you are not having a leader. Labor put the little whinger in to keep the seat warm for Albo. Just in case we get a crack at two terms. Which right now looks highly unlikely.”

And so it continued. The new anti-terror laws which were not new at all and entirely unnecessary were beginning to look iffy. And they’d prevented police from questioning the handful of suspects they did detain. Pyne had got himself into trouble with his travel bill. And then there was the stinking carcase of the budget so dead and stench-ridden even the blowflies wouldn’t touch it. Then there was the RET. The back bench were getting mouthy.

At this point Abbott drifted off. Thing about Credlin, he thought, apart from her natural cattle-dog authority is that she tells it like it is. Never short of a word. Not much that gets by her. Wonder how she puts up with me. Wonder how I put up with myself at times. Just hope there’s another frostie in the fridge.

Abbott addresses his cabinet on terror and tactics prior to Parliament resuming.

8:34 AM

The coalition’s cabinet meeting was opened by Peta ‘Don’t look at me in that tone of voice’ Credlin and Prime Minister for Aboriginal Photo-Opps,Tony Abbott adding that there was a lot on the agenda. A very big agenda. A lot to get through. And if we don’t quite get to everything, today’s edition of the Daily Telegraph will, as always, carry full details of our decisions and resolutions. Abbott winked at Credlin. Credlin stared wordlessly back at Abbott for some time. She went back to sorting through a pile of high-vis vests, assorted sundry hard hats, lycra tights and tie-dyed loin cloths.

It had been an eventful coupla weeks, Emu Dancer Abbott said winking again and jerking his head in his collar like a skittish workhorse bitten by a botfly.

Been a bit on the go. He fiddled with the bottom button of his jacket. But we will get to that shortly. First job is to hand out report cards for those of us who had not yet been in to pick them up. You gutless bastards.

My but they look so big, thought Christopher Pyne who has a trained eye for educational resources. Pyne had missed his performance review when his weekly hairdressing appointment had gone over time because so much work was discovered that needed doing. And then he had been told a long but juicy story about a friend of a former member of Peter Slipper’s office. He just could not get away.

So big! Massive cards. Must have got a job lot off some reality TV, cooking, singing or some such TV show. Nice! He made a mental note to quiz the PM about his new tone of hair colouring. And did he spot some extra thatch? Was Tone intending to go down the Shane Warne path, he wondered. Who said politics was show business for “ugly” people he murmured admiring himself on the new security monitor. Hair today. Gone tomorrow.

Scott Morrison led members in prayer, fell into a trance and began to babble, speaking in tongues.   A quick thinking attendant nearby deftly inverted a nearby wastepaper basket and wedged it tightly over the minister’s head. The meeting resumed accompanied by a seductive low babbling like a neighbour’s radio tuned to the Dapto Dogs or 2GB.

Defence Minister? Peta Rottweiler Credlin scanned the assembled group, holding up an F. Do we have one?, quipped Barnaby Joyce.

“Missing in action”, Pyne chipped in. He couldn’t help himself.

“AWOL, more like it”, he added for good measure.

“Senator the Honourable David Johnston”, Abbott intoned, stepping in before the boys got too raucous.

Just like that prick not to turn up after a coupla weeks’ holiday. Gutless bastard. And I’ve been working my arse off Emu dancing and having my photo taken in the top end. As if I don’t have anything better to do with my time.”

The minister was typically nowhere to be seen.

“Nigel Scullion”


“Keeping a low profile!,”

Warren Truss hoped his witticism would deflect his leader’s wrath. At least he was still awake.

Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Abbott snarled through gritted teeth. He is quite good at it. His father, Dick is a retired dentist. They had wanted to call their son little Dick but agreed that another Dick in the house would be confusing.

“Scullion absent again”, he snarled to Credlin who was keeping a roll call with notes on her Blackberry. Credlin sighed rolled her eyes and arched her long neck and shoulders in withering disdain.

The meeting proceeded as meetings must. It was agreed that the terror threat and the imminence of random execution would eclipse the budget crisis, absolve the government of all sins of omission and commission and distract the nation from attempting to hold the government to account on anything. The “humanitarian war” would take care of the rest. This was met by universal random noises of approval from those present who were still fully conscious. A spontaneous outbreak of over-hearty applause ensued.

Warren Truss woke up with a start and coughed his teeth into Barnaby Joyce’s cup of tea which he was resting on his lap.

I am with you all the way, John!  Truss boomed, his a voice a stock auctioneer’s at the end of a long sale day. Clearly the Deputy PM had slumbered back into the dream time of the last coalition government where he was already banking his superannuation payout and about to embark on free travel for the remainder of his days.

Credlin hissed. Truss pretended he was just testing Siri on his iPad. He lowered his long head until his chin struck the sharp edge of a pin in his lapel causing him to rear up in pain and knock little Julie Bishop out with an elbow blow to her temple. Pyne was at her side in a flounce and gave her a prolonged kiss of life. Sucking and gurgling sounds ensued for a few seconds before Bishop screamed, eyes crossing “Take it out! And get that thing off me!” Bishop took to kicking and slapping Pyne forcefully, a gesture which found favour with the entire group except the Minister for Sturt himself.

Business resumed but not before Pyne had been dealt some further hearty random slaps and kicks from other members quick to exploit such a rare and long deserved opportunity.

All war questions would be evaded, it was agreed secondly. As too would be any questions including the illegal invasion of Syria, Assad’s genocide, Turkish shootings of refugee Kurds and lies about the existence of any government to speak of in Iraq could be augmented with empty rhetoric about our humanitarian duty. Nothing would be said about numbers in the coalition of the wilting which currently stand at two.

Lurid, graphic details of beheadings would be repeated. Random execution plots would be said to be imminent in all parts of Australia. The phrase on the best available evidence at the time would be brought into play. On no account could the words war, feet on the ground, Assad’s gassing of his own people or Saudi beheadings be brought up. The total lack of anything resembling an Iraqi government or army could safely be deemed to be the result of the Labor Party’s great big new tax on everything, their hopeless mismanagement of everything and their putting of IOU’s in the afternoon tea kitty instead of cash like everyone else.

House Leader Pyne outlined a series of very clever strategies for the day. He circulated a briefing paper on why terrorists hate our way of life and our freedoms, food, hairdressers and barber salons plus another in his capacity as shadow minister for Justice on why all civil liberties should be curtailed indefinitely.

The second was a favour to the Attorney General who has yet to learn about computers. Brandis and Abbott would explain why new anti-terror laws would effectively mean the end of the current rule of law including habeas corpus. Suspended without notice would be all other legal principles governing arrest and fair trials. Everything necessary would be prudently retired in order to facilitate Summary arrest, indefinite detention and any other legal precedents needed to replace onus of proof with suspicion of intent.

Backbenchers would ask fatuous questions of Ministers about terrorism. What was the government doing to combat terrorism? Other leaders would simply turn their backs on the opposition if questions about Ashbygate, actually eventuated as rumoured. Bronwyn “The Rhinocerous” Bishop would continue to deploy her formidable talents as speaker to prevent any semblance of fairness in debate and promised to head-butt Electricity Bill Shorten should he get within striking distance. It was generally agreed, however, to give Shorten a hearing given that he has been so useful to the coalition already. And given his performance so far in this parliament, this can only continue. Members uttering the words budget, RET or responsible competent government would be evicted immediately.

Abbott ramps up security

Canberra is to have increased security, Prime Minister Abbott announced, bravely, fearlessly yet disturbingly, recently, peering out from behind a tent flap in remote Arnhem Land, his voice dry after a long night on the kava at the après corroboree function.

Increased security, Prime Minister Rabid repeated in his familiar, irritating fashion for those few who may not have heard him the first time. Having successfully instilled fear of summary execution whilst simultaneously unleashing popular hatred of Afghans, Arabs and all other Islamic migrant communities on the population of Australia at large and in the wake of his farewelling 800 Australian troops to drop humanitarian assistance on sundry unspecified unwary Iraqi, Kurdish and Syrian tribespeople and other fellow travellers in the Middle East, Prime Miniscule Tony Abbott’s latest step towards declaring martial law is to announce that he is now upping  the terror alert around Parliament House in Canberra.  Especially the bits around the newly-refurbished luxury apartment cum office he cohabits with his body servant Peta Credlin.

Top Dog Credlin, whose height, formidable demeanour and dour facial expression is said to deter almost anyone approaching except Julie Bishop, Clive Palmer and Mormons on bicycles is reliably believed to run the government in conjunction with her husband Brian Loughnane who claims to be Liberal Party Federal Director. A special squad would be responsible for the area where Mr Abbott parks his bicycle and would be specially trained in cavity searching, saddle warming, bicycle helmet and helmet hair and comb-over readjustment strategies.

Random terrorist chatter has been intercepted, he intoned, specifying government targets including the Prime Minister.  Random terrorist chatter, he repeated himself helplessly. The Australian Federal Police would now take over policing in Parliament House and surrounds, adding that surveillance would be stepped up . Stepped up, he reiterated needlessly. He then stepped down and embraced an unidentified man in uniform who may have been Air Vice Marshall Banana Skins before slipping away in his newly imported armour-plated, bomb-proofed BMW for his regular on air rub-down and tongue kissing session with convicted felon, broadcaster and fellow misogynist Alan Jones.

The BMW is of course but one of a small but select $6 million fleet of luxury limousines which will be deployed to Brisbane for the G20 in November, transporting world leaders including US President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The fleet may yet be expanded. None of these world leaders could possibly share a ride. This is especially the case with VIP G20 guest Russian President Vladimir Putin, who will shortly annexe Ukraine for its vast food supply and Kazhakstan for its uranium, and who is clearly implicated in the recent terrorist downing of MH 17.

Mr Putin is still warmly welcome to attend because as discredited pseudo-Treasurer Joe Hockey has explained, we need to keep the dialogue going. And it is imperative to invite those who have shown such a firm hand with terrorism in their own land, added Mr Hockey, haranguing his audience in his typically blustering delivery. Those paying attention noticed Mr Hockey appeared to have turned his back on his guests in the course of his speech. An eagle-eyed and quick-thinking aide (one of only a very small group yet to be dismissed from his staff by the treasurer) was able to be turned around so that he actually faced his audience. “I thought I was back in parliament and Labor was talking”, Mr Hockey joked with his audience.

Equally humorous is the Abbott government’s weak-kneed decision to invite former KGB goon and self-made oligarch at his country’s expense Putin to Australia for the G20 festival of public wank fest in Brisbane in November. Putin, a dangerous man at home and abroad has never appeared remotely interested in dialogue. He has been known to disappear those who disagree with him. He is eager to annex adjacent states in his ambition to restore his popularity and to achieve his megalomaniacal ambitions. He is no stranger to terrorist practices at home.

But let’s keep the red carpet ready. Tightened security demands or not when it comes to dialogue our government is clearly eager to follow World’s Best Practice. Let’s continue to do all we can to make Putin feel welcome in Australia. The stepped up security, the terror campaigns, the double-speak of the Abbott government will help in no small way to make him feel at home already.