Neither democracy nor integrity, ScoMo? Even the rats get it right.

mundine and morrison

“For years – decades – we have had political correctness in this country, which I fear is raising kids in our country today to despise our history, to despise how we have grown as a nation and I am disappointed that Bill Shorten would want to feed into that.” Scott Morrison

Australia Day is not for moving, despite protests from thousands of Australians across the nation – and as far as London’s Westminster Bridge. At least this is the view of our current PM, Scott Morrison, who won’t move the date because, as he says Cook might have made the odd mistake, (ask the Hawaiians) but to change the date would be to kowtow to political correctness. The wishes of indigenous people don’t seem to count at all.

Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples see the commemoration of 26 January as a day of mourning, less a reminder of the arrival of Arthur  Phillip’s first fleet than a harbinger of the genocide, alienation, dispossession and brutal oppression that followed. Nevertheless, Morrison’s government is seeking to keep the day and to deify Cook, in policies which seem calculated to celebrate white supremacy, invasion, slavery and forced colonisation.

Morrison’s recourse to “political correctness” is dangerous nonsense, a dog-whistle to the alt-right who us the term to invoke an imagined conspiracy to silence them. To be politically correct in its original sense means respecting diversity, modifying language to avoid giving offence to others. But Morrison is a Trumpista.

Trump constantly abused the term. Political correctness was to blame for everything in his 2016 presidential campaign. A Muslim with a gun killed forty-nine people at a night club in Orlando. Trump blamed Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton. They had “put at risk the lives of ordinary people.” Why? Political correctness.

“They have put political correctness above common sense, above your safety, and above all else,” Trump raved. When Fox News’ Megyn Kelly asks him if he were part of the war on women, he rants,

“I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct. ”His audience applauds. “I’ve been challenged by so many people, I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either.”

Ironically, Trump’s own rise to success comes from a nation where voicing criticism of your government could put you in gaol, as Pussy Riot discovered, gaoled for hooliganism for two years in 2012 because they had challenged the support of Russian clergy for Putin and his regime.

Or it could be fatal. Twenty-one journalists have been killed since Putin came to power in March 2000. In most cases, no-one has been held responsible for the murders. Now the press is too frightened to tell the truth.

Only the RBC media holding, made a name for itself over seven years by its investigative coverage of business and politics, including Putin insiders. Otherwise a fearful Russian press ignored the Panama Papers.

A few weeks after its Panama Papers report, RBC’s top editors were dismissed. RBC holding changed ownership a few months later. It was bought by pro-Putin Onexim Group, controlled by metals magnate, Mikhail Prokhorov.

Trump became president with a little help from his friends; Russian oligarchs whom the West helped install in the carve-up of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. Their funding helped rescue The Donald from himself; a series of disastrous business failures. Yet who could have predicted he would become a role model for Morrison?

“I think we both get it”, ScoMo tells The New York Times’, Maureen Dowd. Even though Australia did not get rocked by a recession like the US, some people feel forgotten, left off the globalism gravy train. “And that’s what we get. The president gets that. I get it.” What gravy train? No, ScoMo, you just love the propaganda technique.

Despite his posturing as battlers’ hero, Dowd sees ScoMo as a lucky chump, the Stephen Bradbury of Oz-politics.

“In 2002, ice skater Steven Bradbury became the first Australian to win a Winter Olympic gold medal when his three top rivals crashed in a last-minute pileup. The right-wing Peter Dutton kicked off the coup that felled Malcolm Turnbull, but then the slimy Dutton and the soignée Julie Bishop crashed in a pileup that allowed the unprepossessing Morrison to glide across the finish line.”  Not that ScoMo didn’t have his skates on, already.

Heroic hamster-in-a-wheel, ScoMo the party apparatchik, remembers a forgotten people he never knew; ordinary folk, average workers, whose interests neither he, nor Trump, will do anything to promote; everything to imperil.

Wages are flat-lining and despite all the turd-polishing from government media spin units, workers are increasingly likely to be part-time, underemployed, underpaid and in casual, insecure jobs. They feel ripped off.

Overall, Australia may be richer but the rich are the winners. Alan Austin reports that Credit Suisse’s annual global wealth report and wealth data-book — which show more Aussie millionaires  — confirms that since 2013, wealth continues to flow from the working- and middle-classes to the rich.

For the Coalition, Frydenberg argues it’s just not happening. As for ScoMo, he’s too ordinary to be elitist.

Morrison’s minders script a PM of faux-mundanity who spends Australia Day with Jen and the kids at the Shoalhaven Heads Hotel, having a feed of flathead and chips as he savours a beer and his own propaganda-show.

“Can this cloying folksiness be any more unconvincing than his policies on energy, climate, anti-discrimination, anti-corruption and refugees both offshore and onshore?”, asks The Saturday Paper’s Richard Ackland.

Unconvincing or contrived? What is the Coalition’s climate, energy, immigration, population or water policy? As with economic and environmental policy, it is non-existent. Anne Summers finds “…so many policy deficits in Canberra, it is difficult to know if there are any established, well-based and effective policies still in existence.

Faux-Mo overlooks how Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan sheltered us from the GFC. Even if prompted, he’d rant about Rudd’s pink batt disaster or school hall folly, Abbott-Murdoch lies, which demean both projects’ role as community assets and as economic stimulus. But Faux-Mo is a post-fact poster boy. Spin is everything.

Part of his act is ignorance. This week Morrison imagines James Cook RN circumnavigating Australia, a school boy howler. Those who know their nation’s history shake their heads. Yet it is also a wilful re-writing of history in the service of white supremacy, evident in Morrison’s $5.7 billion fetish for all things Cook, an imaginary or fantasy Cook – the bearer of civilisation. It’s a calculated gesture of contempt for all indigenous peoples.

The racist Donald Trump whose real estate company in the 19770s avoided renting apartments to African-Americans, in favour of whites, in the 1970s would be proud of him. If he were interested in anyone but himself.

Or if he could read. Or if his inattention span or his narcissism permitted. In other words, were he not a bigoted, boorish, pre-literate, vainglorious lout. Or wooing his “base” with follies such as his hard-line on the Mexican wall, his potentially disastrous trade wars with China, his isolationist foreign policy – less policy than populist retreat.

And here’s the rub. It’s not so much that ScoMo admires Trump’s discovery of the people who “fell off the global gravy train”, whose interests both Trump and Morrison imperil in their mission to service the rich. It’s the bully.

ScoMo and some other locals – including what’s left of One Nation – have become fans. They are drunk on Trump’s contempt for convention and misread his wilful ignorance as licence to misbehave badly. Because it works: just look at Fox. Or Sky. Or anything by Greg Sheridan. It’s the vulgarian Trump’s bad-boy behaviour that appeals.

Trump peddles a heady but pernicious mix of philistinism, prejudice and brute ignorance, often confused with iconoclasm, strength or independence, by the naïve, immature or uneducated who form most of his base. Their uncritical adulation fits hand in baseball mitt with our US Alliance, a one-sided, unrequited love affair with the US as our protector when, in reality, the relationship is a liability. Seriously. Both, moreover, require maintenance.

The Coalition is “joined at the hip” to our once-great and powerful friend, the disunited states of America whose current decline into anarchy is presided over by a clapped-out, TV celebrity game-show host, Donald J Trump, heir to a real-estate fortune; a grifter whose career peaked when he appeared on a 1990 Playboy magazine cover.

The playboy who would later be drafted into The White House, in the emperor’s new clothes, is depicted in black tie, minus his jacket which he’s chivalrously given to Brandi Brandt, his Playmate companion. It’s all she’s wearing.

Oddly, there is no comment from Morrison’s government now that the fake president has hit a wall – in Mexico. You’d think there’d be a bit of applause from a PM who built a career on demonising immigrants and colluding in off-shore incarceration on Manus and Nauru so cruel, the UN says it’s torture. Or refusing medical treatment, especially to sick children, many of whom have been driven mad by five years of imprisonment, neglect and abuse.

Morrison could turn a blind eye to Trump’s lie that Mexico would stump up $5.7 billion, or so, to wall themselves in – just as he’s made no comment on Trump’s Mexican stand-off with congress. Morrison or Marise Payne could offer congrats – not that Trump’s backed down on his government shutdown, but on his bullying Congress that it had better pay for the wall come 15 February or he’d declare a state of emergency.

800,000 government workers are on leave or working without pay. Trump tells them to get credit at the store.

But still not a peep, not a word in any tongue from ScoMo or his government. Could it be that “chaos is reigning; the PM is jumping at shadows and doesn’t know what to do?” as a Liberal “hard-head” tells Paul Bongiorno.

Rats continue to jump ship. Nigel Scullion joins Michael Keenan in the rush to desert the sinking, stinking, Liberals.

Trump has hit a wall or two before, of course. After squandering the $413 million bequeathed him by his builder father, Fred C Trump, a bankrupt Trump Jnr allegedly sought help from Russian financiers.

Craving approval and control, Trump surrounds himself now with sycophants and incompetents. In his court are enablers and rent-seekers such as VP Mike Pence, who this week crowns Trump,  – as a type of King.

Colluding in Trump’s paranoid delusion of invasion by a migrant caravan, Pence claims Martin Luther King, would support the President’s empty threat to build a wall along the US-Mexico border. “Now is the time to make real the promises for democracy,” Pence quotes King on the weekend of King’s birthday. It’s sycophancy on steroids.

It is a week of mutual Endeavour. In the US, The Donald’s rabid fearmongering about how the land of the brave and the free is to be invaded by drug-crazed, diseased and dangerous criminals aka “many gang members and some very bad people” – from South of the Border, is boosted by his VP. Pence calls it an epoch-making speech, an epic, if not heroic, evocation of human rights worthy of the late great, civil rights leader himself.

For Trump’s small and powerless pal, ScoMo, too many Cooks are never enough when it comes to invaders. What’s left of Morrison’s government goes cuckoo over Cook. James Cook that is.

In Cairns, the PM busies himself setting the record crooked reinventing the doughty Scots-Yorkshireman as an icon of Western Civilisation, a scientist, whose mission was not to observe the transit of Venus or to make his men eat sauerkraut but to bear the precious gift of The Enlightenment to the poor, benighted inhabitants of this land.

The myth that Cook discovered Australia has been taught in schools for decades – too long-established to quickly challenge. ScoMo may know this. He has a solid base of disinformation to build his culture warfare on. Just for the record, however, James Cook never held the rank of Captain. The British navigator was a Lieutenant when he landed in Botany Bay in April 1770 and was promoted to Commodore soon after his return to England in 1771.

Not to be outdone in cooking the books, Nationals’ deputy leader, Bridget McKenzie, a “flash bit of kit”, according to former Tsar, Barnaby Joyce, not only wants to keep Australia Day on 26 January, she wants to rewrite history.

“That is when the course of our nation changed forever. When Captain Cook stepped ashore,” Senator McKenzie tells Sky News viewers on Tuesday. “And from then on, we’ve built an incredibly successful society, best multicultural society in the world.”

Australia Day commemorates the landing of Arthur Phillip in January 1788, nine years after Cook’s death. “The best multicultural society” boast is rhetorical nonsense; impossible to quantify. Yet it also slights or treats with contempt the migrant experience of racist rejection, exclusion, scapegoating and discrimination, at school, in the workplace and in society at large from the treatment of the traditional owners of the land through the Chinese gold-diggers, forced to walk 900km from Sydney southward across the Murray River to the goldfields to avoid the 1855 Victorian poll-tax, to Dutton’s African gangs. And the White Australia Policy is the elephant in the room.

Sadly, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young also errs. Incredibly, she hadn’t time to read her release before publication, she says. “Despite an important national debate about changing the date of Australia Day away from Captain Cook’s landing at Botany Bay, the Government has decided to spend taxpayer money it is stripping from the ABC on yet another monument to Captain Cook on the land of the Dharawal people,” her statement reads.

ScoMo will go ahead with his captain’s call, the commission of a replica of HMB Endeavour, a replica of James’ Cook’s barque, itself a copy of a Whitby collier, broad in the beam and shallow in the draft, ideally designed to navigate the shallows, or cope with running aground, even survive a collision with the Great Barrier Reef.

Top of the list it has a generous storage capacity for coal – a happy metaphor for Morrison’s government itself.

Oddly, Morrison’s second captain’s call is not going so well. Drafting wily Warren Mundine from his pay-TV show on Sky Mundine Means Business as candidate in the NSW ultra-marginal south coast seat of Gilmore, over the heads of the local Liberal Party branch may not fare so well. Ann Sudmalis was ejected from the seat in favour of Grant, “you better watch out” Schultz, the real-estate agent son of former Liberal party MP Alby Schultz.

Already there’s a bit of a fuss over the fact that Wokka’s company has received half a million government dollars to date, in two government grants in 2017 and 2018, in a process cryptically described as being “a closed process”.

Schultz quits the party and will run as an independent but not before firing a fine parting shot.

“I can no longer be a member of a party that does not support democracy or act with integrity,” he tells reporters.

Sometimes the rats get it right.

ScoMo where’s your trousers? A week of epic failure.

frank-bainimarama-points-to-australian-prime-minister-scott-morrisons-sulu-vaka-taga-as-he-arrives-in-traditional-bula-dress-with-hi

Some think, that the Rationall Spirits flye out of Animals, (or that Animall we call Man) like a swarm of Bees, when they like not their Hives, finding some inconvenience, seek about for another Habitation: Or leave the Body, like Rats, when they finde the house rotten, and ready to fall.

— Margaret Cavendish Newcastle, Philosophical Fancies, 1653


There’s not a dry eye in the house, Saturday, as a weary, teary, Kelly O’Dwyer, MP for Privilege (Higgins), minister for women, jobs and Neoliberal industrial relations, yet still seen as a Liberal “wet” makes her “shock” announcement. Internal polling suggest she’ll get the bum’s rush next election. A ReachTEL poll of about 1000 voters in Higgins published by the Herald Sun in November also indicates Ms O’Dwyer may “lose her seat to Labor on a two-party vote of 53-47″.

But it’s not in the official script which instead re-iterates the epic delusion of the Libs winning the next election.

In between her standard Liberal MP stand-up routine: the talking-point bot, Kel goes rogue, looks up a bit from her notes; talks of quitting for “very personal reasons” which she quickly makes public, using economic jargon. The O’Dwyers want to “grow their family” while there’s still time. In an exclusive in The Herald Sun she talks of a recent miscarriage.

Multiple Joyce, puns The Courier Mail‘s Sunday front page, meanwhile, sensitively reminding readers of the former Deputy-Prime Minister’s fecundity, given having a family is so much more interesting than dull stuff like whether our government’s lack of policy on climate or energy or environment will leave us a nation fit to raise a family in.

Barney’s partner, Vikki Campion is expecting their second child in June, a boy to be named Thomas, after his grandfather. Will Barnaby now quit politics for fatherhood?  Murdoch’s Tittle-tattle rag, The Herald Sun notes “family sources” say Joyce’s four daughters are “furious”. Dad is squaring off, meanwhile, for another tilt at being Nats leader.

ScoMo is frantic. How will his government survive?  Will other rats desert the rotting house? Seer, Samantha Maiden reckons Cabinet colleagues say Julie Bishop is only hanging around to spite Christian Porter who has his eyes on her seat. Blue ribbon Curtin is certain and has more cred than his marginal WA seat of Pearce to Porter, an aspiring Liberal leader.

Some Liberals are happy to see O’Dwyer go. Victorian Liberal Party Hawksburn branch president Thomas Hudson tells The Australian Ms O’Dwyer’s decision could be a “fresh start” for Higgins. “We have been losing Liberal voters disappointed with Ms O’Dwyer’s lack of involvement in the electorate,” he explains. ScoMo counters with fantastic spin.

O’Dwyer is a huge loss. There’s much talk of her massive legacy of tireless work for women and for workers. And banks. Who else but O’Dwyer, a former NAB investment banker, could have fought off a banking Royal Commission for so long? Who else could have drafted twenty Coalition-friendly employer representatives in a row on to the Fair Work Commission? When Fair Work’s president, Iain Ross, recommends only one new appointment, O’Dwyer makes seven.

Who could so stoutly deny workers penalty rates? Women are hit by penalty rate cuts more than men. Director of The Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work, economist, Dr Jim Stanford, points out that women make up 60 per cent of Sunday workers in retail, and 54 per cent in hospitality, according to current data from Australia’s statistics bureau.

More women are also likely to work part-time. Seventy per cent of women in food and beverage services, and 60 per cent in retail, work part-time, compared to only 52 and 35 per cent, respectively, for men, concludes Stanford.

Quit politics, Kel must, however, even if it means leaving “the natural government for women” without a Minister for Women. Perhaps Abbott could be drafted into another special envoy posting? He has the runs on the board. And time on his hands. Nope, nope, nope? Make that a definite maybe, Tone has a battle on his hands just to win Warringah.

Natural government for women? O’Dwyer’s nonsense comes hard on the heels of her public reflection on how the Liberal Party’s “homophobic, anti-women, climate-change deniers” image cost votes. Only cynics would conclude that O’Dwyer has been “counselled” into being more upbeat about the toxic culture of the Liberal Party. Surely she has not been bullied into making some sort of unconvincing correction or retraction?  Or bullied out of the party?

At least, Kel gets a gig on the Scott and Jenny show, a special Saturday edition, a post-modern press conference with no questions but with dollops of emotional support from First Lady Jenny Morrison, who is suddenly seen everywhere in public with her husband and lashings of micro-management from minder ScoMo, who smirks and grins vacantly into the middle distance, displaying his nurturing nature in between bouts of affirmative, paternalistic nodding for the camera.

“Supportively” is the word reporters choose, desperately hunting for a term to put spin on ScoMo’s rictus with a tic.

Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them in a Saturday presser.

Kelly is a “great woman who’s done a great job for her country and community” and has “made a great choice for her family”, Morrison gushes over her trifold greatness.

“There is no one I know who has worked harder or achieved more than Kelly O’Dwyer,” ScoMo lays it on so thick and chunky you could carve it. His hyperbole entirely discredits himself and his subject, regardless of his intention.

Some note on social media that ScoMo’s face reminds them of when he stood supportively behind Turnbull shortly before knifing him. Now he hovers, a looming, controlling, sinister presence, upstaging and overshadowing. O’Dwyer’s resignation announcement is not allowed to be a speech. He cuts her off. No questions. He hauls her off-stage.

There’s a lot more to run away from this week. The stench of the Murray Darling Basin scandal continues but despite a Royal Commission and a report from the Productivity Commission – and a wealth of expert advice that the river system is being killed by the extraction of water for irrigation by Big Cotton and other corporate farming oligarchies – Morrison stalls. His tactic is straight out of Yes Minister. He’ll call for more information. Meanwhile, the river system is dying.

“I think we need to look carefully at what is actually occurring,” ScoMo says. “Of course, the drought, as the deputy prime minister has said, has had a devastating impact on what we’re seeing, and there has been a perfect storm of other environmental factors, which has crystallised into the serious fish death that we’ve seen.”

“But before we start ripping up bipartisan agreements that have been very important to how we manage that area, I think it’s important that we inform ourselves more.”

Managing? A neon sign warning of the Coalition’s paralysing inertia and its collusion with corporate agribusiness to the detriment of the small farmer, local fauna, the environment and the national interest, the Murray Darling Basin is poisoned by greed and graft. Naturally, the catastrophe is all too much for ScoMo. Suddenly, overwhelmed by the need to find some high moral ground overseas, our self-declared “Prime Minister for standards” has to flit to Fiji.

A human chameleon, our protean ScoMo, who also moonlights as a lackey of Big Coal, Big Cotton, Big Gina and all other bigwigs of Australia’s corporate oligarchy, has to let China know that the Pacific is our back yard; draw a line in the sand drowning from global warming. So it’s off to Suva to drop his trousers and don a Fijian kilt, the sulu vaka taga.

“We are family”, ScoMo tells Fiji, thawing our diplomatic deep freeze which began with then Head of Fiji’s military, Commodore Frank Bainimarama’s coup in 2006. Bainimarama declared himself Acting President deposing President Josefa Iloilo. In 2007, he reinstated Iloilo who then endorsed the coup and appointed Bainimarama PM.

In 2014 his FijiFirst Party narrowly wins the first election since 2006. Just over fifty per cent of voters turn out.

Now petty despotism is cool again, especially as China waves its chequebook in the region. China is set to quadruple Australia’s outlay on aid to the Pacific region after pledging $US 4 billion in 2017, most of which is accounted for by loans to an eager PNG, according to Lowy Institute calculations. Other nations are not so keen on racking up more debt.

Of course, there are other items on the agenda. We must hush-up Peter Dutton’s stuff-up over Neil Prakash not being Fijian. The subject did not even come up beams ScoMo. In return, Australia will train Fijian soldiers should Fiji be required to defend itself against China, for example – or once again help another local despot seize power in a coup.

ScoMo frocks up in the sulu. The loin-cloth was introduced by missionaries from Tonga in the nineteenth century and was worn to indicate conversion to Christianity. It’s a typically bold if not risky gesture for our seat of the pants PM.

Notorious for his bizarre dress sense, decorum bypass and cornball humour, ScoMo almost veers into blackface. But what is our PM without his daggy dress-ups, his cheap stunts; his desperate attempts to ingratiate? His ear of tin?

A faux-Fijian ScoMo wags the White Man’s Finger; lectures the benighted Fijians on how to deal with climate change. It’s a remarkable stance even by ScoMo’s standards. His government won’t commit to lower emissions, even though this is what Pacific Islanders beg, nor will it commit to renewable energy, as Fiji suggests. Climate change deniers dictate policy. Accordingly, ScoMo’s party has no climate change policy. He rebukes Aussie school children for protesting about this.

Above all, Morrison has a feature role at home as a fossil fuel shill, the only MP to worship a lump of coal in parliament; the only PM to select former coal industry boss and Rio Tinto lobbyist, John Kunkel, as his chief of staff.

“We’re very committed to funds in the Pacific to deal with programs to deal with the impacts of climate change here,” ScoMo patronises leaders in Fiji and Vanuatu and any other Islanders who miss the ABC radio cricket broadcasts along with the odd tsunami warning since Australia stopped its short-wave broadcasts to the Pacific, January 2017. Another round of ABC funding cuts, cunningly dubbed “efficiency dividends” in Newspeak, ended the eighty year service.

Our ABC, claims to be “seeking efficiencies” – of course – and doing Pacific Islanders a favour by upgrading their service. Yet its shift from shortwave to FM transmissions and digital and mobile services, overlooks the reality that in the remote Pacific, particularly Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands, there is no access to an FM signal, limited internet and, where internet is available, it is prohibitively expensive. Yet it’s a boon to any tin-pot dictator.

FM frequencies can easily be shut down by a self-appointed prime minister, as Fijians discovered in 2009.

But it’s not just empty rhetoric; linking vacuity with platitude, ScoMo is a master of artful meaningless jargon.

“To address the impact it’s having on particular communities, and to ensure we can put in place programs which protect those communities, and to ensure the continuance of lifestyle and the way of life,” he soars, way past peak bullshit.

Fiji’s PM, former military dictator, Frank Bainimarama points at the Australian Prime Minister’s nether regions. It is not clear from images published – Fijian press is even more heavily censored than our ABC – whether Frank is laughing or crying. Certainly he manages to work a sense of “You obsequious hypocrite” into the subtext of his welcoming speech.

“Australian coal is killing the Pacific; Australia must not put the interests of a single industry above the lives of Pacific nations battling climate change,” Bainimarama barrels the hapless, trouser-less, Australian Prime Minister. He kindly refrains from bringing up ScoMo’s snub of the South Pacific leaders’ forum last year. Or he didn’t really miss him.

Luckily, despite battling invisible charisma, ScoMo has a fantastic Kanaka 2.0 Pacific Islander labour recruitment scheme up his sleeve. It turns out to be merely an extension of the Pacific Labour Scheme, begun 1 July 2018, but in a fabulous new neo-colonial cultural twist, Fiji will get “a thousand hours of television” – Australian content for three years!

But wait, there’s more, Morrison promises Kanaka 2.0 will help Aussie farmers as well as pay Pacific Island workers so handsomely they can support their families at home. It matters little that after three years of investigation, the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) found that many migrant workers are exploited, overworked and underpaid. And bullied.

In 2016, Seasonal workers from Fiji who were paid less than $10 a week, were told by government officials they must return to work for the contractor who exploited them or leave Australia. An ABC investigation then revealed many received little or no pay after deductions while picking fruit and vegetables for AFS Contracting, in northern Victoria.

“Bonded like a slave,” the FWO says in its report, compiled after its Harvest Trail investigators visited hundreds of farms, speaking with workers and farmers. “In some cases a person is virtually bonded like a slave to a particular [labour hire] provider, on the basis they have been told they won’t have their visa extension signed unless they see out the season with them,” says the sublimely named Jennifer Crook, Assistant Director, Compliance and Enforcement branch.

It’s an excoriating report but nothing, however, compared to Concetta Fierravanti-Wells’ free critique. She gives ScoMo a serve over being demoted after punting on Dutton in last August’s Coalition two-horse race to be Australia’s least worst leader. Like most of the ginger group who run Morrison and his government, she fears the Liberals drifting to the left.

Now she also hates the “socialist termite” – a right wing term for those who lean to the left even if they are just adjusting their seatbelts- Morrison for not being Dutton and mourns the loss of her former portfolio and fatter salary.

The former Turnbull Pacific affairs and international development minister, claims it is “disingenuous” for Australia to announce a loans program late last year for island nations while complaining of Chinese “debt-trap diplomacy”.

Concetta vents in an opinion piece for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Fairfax has not yet become solely Nine-infotainment, its rapidly approaching fate. It can still publish the odd piece critical of the government, something you would never get away with in Suva.  Or in Beijing. The gist of her excoriating public attack on her PM is quite fair and reasonable if not authoritative and well-informed, even if, as David Wroe coyly notes, she “breaks ranks”, the rat.

“A region that already owes about $5.5 billion to international creditors,” she says, “doesn’t need to be saddled with more debt.”  Yet selling debt turns out to be only part of ScoMo’s amazing sales pitch.

In a fresh new episode of ScoMo Goes Weird (Again), Morrison tries a bit of self-deprecating and insulting flattery, “We’ve done pretty well you and I, maybe punching above our weight”, ScoMo says ogling Mrs Maria Bainimarama.

It’s a compliment on the beauty of their wives, Jenny Morrison and Maria Bainimarama. How much better looking the wives are than their husbands. How both are in the ugly-bastards-with-beautiful wives joy luck club. What a hoot!

His island jet-away dictator love fest allows Morrison to leave the Murray Darling Basin clusterfuck – an environmental, economic and political catastrophe, a scandal without parallel in the nation’s history, in the safe hands of David Littleproud whose father Brian was Minister for Education, Youth and Sport in Bjelke-Petersen’s moonlight state-brown -paper-bag government and who is related by marriage to John Norman, the operator of Norman Cotton Farming.

What could possibly go wrong? Water Resources Minister Dave’s a great climate change denier and blames the drought, a laughably dishonest fob-off and a wilful misreporting of the detailed reports that have been sent his way. Labor is to blame. ABC News 24 Sunday runs an item which wrongfully implies Julia Gillard wasted $13 billion on a scheme that doesn’t even work.  Next, a lover’s tiff erupts between the Coalition partners, but what’s new?

“The Nats are plagued by scandal, vested with bullies and riddled with incompetence … The one thing they were supposed to be good at were [sic] looking after farmers and they have failed at that. Look at the management of the Murray-Darling,”  says Liberal Party Wagga branch president Colin Taggart,  who adds

“The Nationals are a barnacle on the backside of the Liberals.” Don’t hold back, Col. Tell us how you really feel.

Pity poor ScoMo the most clueless Liberal PM since McMahon. His government is imploding, rotting at the core. It reeks of rotting fish and all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little band of climate change denying, environmental, ecological vandals. There are rats in the ranks and frigging in the rigging aboard HMS ScoMo-go-slow whilst civil war and insubordination breaks out over our aid to Fiji. In Victoria the blokes are crowing over their victory over Kelly O’Dwyer.

Teach her to suggest they are misogynists and bullies.  Next up: how to stop ScoMo parachuting another dud woman into Higgins. Rational spirits are flying out like a swarm of bees as chaos reigns in Morrison’s misgovernment. If he’s got any sense he’ll go for a March election – linger longer and other rats will surely quit the rotting house. Or rat on him.

Cry Me a River; the Murray-Darling is being destroyed by ignorance and greed.

roo at menindee

A stench of putrefaction wafts over a troubled nation, this week, all the way from the tiny, dusty, outback settlement of Menindee, in far west NSW. Mass media is full of shocking images of an horrific mass fish kill in the millions and distressed, hapless, trapped wildlife; hopelessly mired in the deep mud of a dessicated  Lake Cawndilla, nearby, confronting Australia with the catastrophic failure of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, (MDBA), a $13 billion lemon.

The MDBA’s failure is a metaphor for our nation’s ruling elite, who, like Trump, inhabit the eternal now and are in politics solely to look after big cotton, big mining and their other corporate sponsors. Bugger the science. Bugger the future. Just like Trump, Melissa Price, our own climate change denying environment minister has mining connections.

The environment can look after itself.

Or not. Set up by the 2007 Water Act to rescue the basin’s fragile ecosystem, by returning water to the ailing rivers, the MDDBA, its conflicted, compromised and corrupted, dark angel, instead, is achieving “perverse outcomes” – jargon for making things worse. It is, as some locals suggest, as if we’ve put mother in a home notorious for elder abuse.

Evasiveness, secrecy and deceit, experts testify, are part of the rotten culture of the MDBA – a test case in good policy stuffed up at every turn; a clusterfuck from foundation to nearly every stage of its implementation. It’s almost (apart from the policy) in the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government DNA. Except that Labor had a spanner in the works, too.

The MDBA is  “a fraud on the environment”, Royal Commission lawyers declare, on the other hand. Put simply it has not merely watered down a noble plan whose rational aims are enshrined in The Water Act of 2007 – it has subverted it.

The Water Act 2007 recognises that too much water is being extracted from the river system and seeks to reset the balance between the amount required for human consumption and the amount needed to sustain the environment. By 2011, however, as the Royal Commission will find, The MDBA seems to have subverted the intention of the act with the support of key National Party figures including current leadership rematch contender, Barnaby Joyce.

Psst… No-one says nothing. The 2017 Royal Commission is due to report in a few weeks, but it’s stymied by states and authorities’ refusal to cooperate. Had the banks behaved in this fashion during the Hayne Royal Commission there would have been an uproar. Not so rotten in the state of Renmark, South Australia, alone, agrees to give evidence.

Unimpressed, Counsel Assisting, Richard Beasley S.C, an eminent specialist in environmental law notes, acerbically, in his summing up for the Commissioner, Brett Walker S.C., that the state governments’ submissions were,

“..either totally unhelpful or not particularly helpful.”

The MDBA itself excels in chutzpah and contempt by writing to the Commissioner saying it is unavailable because it is “busy”. Our finest scientists, on the other hand, provide the commission with a wealth of expert, testimony.

“Systematic mismanagement, cover up and maladministration has undermined the proper implementation of the Murray Darling Basin Plan”, Maryanne Slattery, a Senior Water Researcher at The Australia Institute sums up.

“Implementing the Plan for political expediency, without transparency or accountability by the Murray Darling Basin Authority, has resulted in a fraud of a Basin Plan. It has benefited big irrigators, at the expense of everyone else, including Aboriginal people, regional communities, floodplain graziers, small irrigators and the environment.

MDBA has ignored the science it was set up to apply in favour of pleasing its political masters. Now, the fish kill creates a big stink for both major parties but especially for Barnaby Joyce, former Minister for Agriculture and Water resources, who is on record boasting publicly to farmers in a Politics in the Pub-demonise a Greenie session in Shepparton, Victoria of how his mob, heroically, was able to take the water meant for the environment and return it to agriculture.

“We have taken water, put it back into agriculture, so we could look after you and make sure we don’t have the greenies running the show basically sending you out the back door, and that was a hard ask,”

Former Director of National Farmers’ Federation, Mal Peters, claims Joyce tilted the Murray-Darling Basin Authority towards irrigation interests over the environment when he was agriculture minister. It may be impossible to tilt back.

Joyce is popular with irrigators for killing off water buybacks and substituting subsidies for efficiency, effectively government handouts but efficiency reduces the run-off back into the river system with predictably disastrous effects.

Above all, “hard ask” Joyce insists on his rhetorical triple bottom line which gives economic and social needs priority over environmental; subverting the environmental aims and the entire intention of the Water Act.

“It’s a public relations sound-bite made up by the Basin Authority” says Counsel Assisting Beasley. There can be no trade-offs between environmental objectives and socio-economic ones, as the environmental objectives of the Act are subordinate to Australia’s international environmental treaty obligations. We are committed to Ramsar, a treaty to preserve wetlands, which takes its name from the small Iranian town where in 1971, the agreement was drawn up.

The Productivity Commission, notes in its recent report available in draft form – (its final report is with government on the understanding that it will be released in 2019) that cancelling buybacks has resulted in more than doubling the cost of water savings. The commission concludes that the current progress on implementing water efficiency measures “gives little confidence” they would be completed by 2024, as planned. But when will the report be released?

Joyce, Morrison’s government, the states and the authority itself show true leadership by keeping eerily shtum.

Hilariously, ScoMo, our chameleon PM becomes “Prime Minister for standards”, he declares, at the end of the week, as he cynically but shrewdly comes up with another spectacular diversion; a truly cunning stunt. Sunday, our own political head prefect decrees, that Australia Day citizenship ceremonies will be compulsory. And formal. No flip-flops.

Not only must councils run ceremonies for new Aussie citizens on Australia Day, they’ll have to hold another on 17 September. But watch what you wear. ScoMo’s bold new citizenship shindig has a dress code. No thongs and shorts. In brief, you can become an Australian at a citizenship ceremony only if you shun Australian casual national dress. It’s bonkers, but it has to be to distract from the biggest stink of the Coalition’s odoriferous last five years in office.

Bill Shorten sniggers at ScoMo’s cynical ploy. “You sort of know when Australia Day’s coming up don’t you, when a couple of weeks before we get the annual conservative outing to put politics into Australia Day,” the Labor leader tells reporters in Melbourne Sunday. “It’s what the conservatives do to keep their base happy.” As do the reactionaries.

Edicts and bad odour are no novelty to our nation’s history. Menindee also felt the full force of government authority on January 26 1935 when, during the first rally against Australia Day, twenty-give Aboriginal men were nicely told if they did not perform the role of ‘retreating Aborigines’ in a re-enactment of the First Fleet, their families would starve.

Echoing Morrison’s current concern for a good show, officials were to recruit the best singers and dancers and take them back to Sydney to perform. Their women were terrified. Ngiyaampaa elder Dr Beryl (Yunghadhu) Philp Carmichael, born and raised on the mission, was only three at the time, but her memory of the fear in the community never left her.

“Whether they were taking them away to be massacred or what, no-one knew. The community went into mourning once they were put on the mission truck,” she recalls.

Menindee is a richly resonant site, historically, politically, ecologically and countless other ways including our vast, interminable, inscrutable legacy of heroic colonial stupidity – and our forbears’ barbarous cruelty to Aboriginal peoples.

In the light of Morrison’s decree on the observance of Australia Day, another typically vacuous, bogan slogan which reveals his ignorance of his nation’s history, (“I think people want Australia Day to be Australia Day, it’s for all Australians”,) it is timely to acknowledge the testimony of Edward Wilson who wrote in The Argus, 17 March 1856,

“In less than twenty years we have nearly swept them off the face of the earth. We have shot them down like dogs. In the guise of friendship we have issued corrosive sublimate in their damper and consigned whole tribes to the agonies of an excruciating death. We have made them drunkards, and infected them with diseases which have rotted the bones of their adults, and made such few children as are born amongst them a sorrow and a torture from the very instant of their birth. We have made them outcasts on their own land, and are rapidly consigning them to entire annihilation.”

Menindee unwittingly played its role. The first town on the Darling, Menindee is the oldest, European colonial settlement in western NSW and was the advance base for Burke and Wills’ 1860 expedition, a grand folly half-cocked, a noble failure, which, not unlike the MDBA, or the Morrison government, set out before its instructions were finalised.

Today, the putrid smell of decomposing carcasses of millions of golden perch, bony herring and Murray cod drifts up over the Darling River bank and into Maiden’s Menindee Hotel whence on 19 October 1860, Robert O’Hara Burke and his third in command, William John Wills, set out into terra incognita; their fatal expedition and the beginning of the end; a shocking new chapter of disease, dispossession and genocide for the traditional owners of the land.

“It opened up the way for the pastoralists,” says Joshua Haynes from Newcastle, a director of the Yandruwandha Yawarrawarrka Traditional Land Owners Aboriginal Corporation -, “and the moment someone took up ownership of the land we could be moved on, or disposed of, just like a kangaroo.”

After the pastoralists came the irrigators; cotton and wheat farmers who took both water and land. “Without the river, us Barkandji people, we are nothing. We’ve got no land, no name, nothing. This is our lifeblood, this is our mother,”

Barkandji Elder “Badger” Bates laments in a letter read in NSW parliament by Independent MP. Jeremy Buckingham.

After waiting 18 years for their Native Title to be acknowledged, his people watch the Barka (Darling river) dry up.

Menindee, today, is thus, the site of a massive environmental disaster, a site layered with all the historical associations of dispossession, alienation and worse; of Burke and Wills grand folly, now overlaid with the folly of irrigated agriculture, unsustainable – environmentally and economically not only here, but throughout Australia. Add a failure of political will.

Big irrigators with big party donations have recruited politicians of all persuasions. It’s a dramatic, tragic reminder in microcosm of how poorly governments of a corporate state have mismanaged energy, environment and health for example when too much power resides in a few massive corporations and oligopolies. Yet we don’t lack in ideas.

In 2006, a meeting of western NSW mayors, chaired by local state MP Peter Black, voted for the Commonwealth to buy the 96,000 hectare Cubbie Station, in southwestern Queensland, the largest landholding in the nation and also the biggest irrigation property in the southern hemisphere, enjoying rights to 400,000 megalitres of water, equivalent to all the water licences downstream in north-west NSW, but it was sold to a Chinese-led consortium. It’s a scandal.

There were two Australian bids on the table, both more generous than the $240 million winning bid, as the ABC’s Stephen Long reported on Radio National’s PM programme in 2012. At the time Fairfax’s Ann Kent puzzled,

“There is something odd about Australia. Our politicians expend huge resources and even more hot air wrangling over how to exclude a pitifully small number of legitimate Asian and Middle Eastern refugees from our shores, while they allow, almost without a murmur, the purchase of Cubbie Station, the largest landholding in the country, comprising a number of properties the size of the ACT, by a consortium headed by a Chinese enterprise, Shandong Ruyi.”

What’s not odd is the all too familiar way authorities rush to scapegoat. They duck and weave to evade responsibility. In this popular political pantomime, it is forbidden to admit the role of climate change or of disastrous mismanagement.

Officials are quick to claim the fish are killed by a toxic algal bloom but locals say the primary cause of the catastrophe is poor water management and irrigation agriculture. The drought and algal bloom are secondary stressors on a system which has failed to use water specially allocated to protect the foundations of the river’s aquatic ecosystems.

“Droughts would have contributed to the blue green algae outbreak,” says Richard Kingsford, Director of the Centre for Ecosystem Science at the University of NSW,  “But the river droughts are happening more often and they’re more intense as a result of the irrigation industry in the Darling diverting water from the river over the last 10 to 20 years.”

Leading scientists agree.

The NSW Irrigators Council would have us believe it is all about the drought. It isn’t. It about taking too much water upstream so there is not enough for downstream users, and the fish,” says Professor Quentin Grafton, UNESCO Chair in Water Economics and Transboundary Water Governance.

What would Grafton know? He’s just a scientist. In the media show which follows, it’s all the fault of the drought of course. In a rare display of synchronised swimming, Agriculture and Water Resources Minister, climate change denier David “don’t give a rat’s” Littleproud, ducks for cover, as does his counterpart, NSW Primary Industries and Water Resources Minister Niall Blair in a hilarious visit to Menindee, where he is seen in a boat speeding past a group of local protestors – only for safety reasons, of course, a technicality which local police do not support.

Unsafe at any speed, The MDBA has, of course, long been warned by scientists that things are hotting up in the basin; hotter periods are lasting longer. Climate change can happen very rapidly and abruptly. Even to denialists.

NSW Labor wants a special inquiry into the ecological catastrophe – as if there’s been no Royal Commission. They want a commission or an inquiry to determine why the Liberals and Nationals sought “changes to water rules that reduced river flows and allowed the over-extraction of water by lobbyist irrigators who were National Party donors”, while ignoring warnings from the Wentworth Group of Scientists and local communities.

Professor John Quiggan has the last word by reminding us that irrigation never was the solution. He notes that agricultural economists recognised long ago that the environment in Australia, especially in areas like Menindee, was not suited to irrigated agriculture. Yet, as he wryly notes, the converse recognition, that irrigation schemes are often disastrous for the environment, came much later. Or as in the case of the MDBA, or the National Party not at all.

The stink from Menindee ought to be enough to bring down any respectable government. On the other hand, it is clearly capable of distracting the Morrison government into outrageous, ill-considered and divisive stunts like his new edict for Australia Day.

In all the fizz and the fuss over the fiasco that is the MDBA debacle, not to mention the frenzy of finding scapegoats and blame-shifting and just plain lying it is worth taking a longer, broader view especially as Australia Day approaches, albeit still on the 26 January. Above all it is worth recalling the rights and the role of the traditional owners of the land and their suffering both past and present – for it far surpasses, in all dimensions, the losses of the corporate cotton farmer.

Women are the forgotten people of the modern Liberal Party.

linda reynolds and old scomo

Often, when good women call out or are subject to bad behaviour, the reprisals, backlash and commentary portrays them as the bad ones – the liar, the troublemaker, the emotionally unstable or weak, or someone who should be silenced …” Julia Banks, former Liberal, now Independent MP for Chisholm.

Julia Banks’ resignation speech is eerily prophetic. Spooky. In a flash, this week, a pack of Liberal women call her a liar – in effect. Worse, at least one of the women, Senator Linda Reynolds, is a victim of political bullying herself. So she says – but she’s happy for ScoMo to sort it all out. Naturally, he’ll pass it all on to an “independent” review.

In September, he told the party room the federal executive “would consider how they will take steps to ensure there is a rigorous and confidential process to deal with concerns and complaints from party members, including members of parliament”.

But he’s also declined to take any responsibility for the bullying, a dead give away, or, reports Fairfax’s Latika Bourke, to back allegations of bullying against female MPs during the leadership spill. His cop-out, his abdication of any kind of leadership, is that “both men and women were subjected to intense pressure during the episode”.

Even more alarming, is the way Reynolds quickly finds another MP to undermine Banks’ testimony with disinformation, an evergreen propaganda technique which can only further weaken our democracy.

Banks doesn’t know what she’s talking about snipes MP for Corangamite, Sarah Henderson. “In my view, being lobbied for votes does not constitute bullying,”

Henderson deploys the classic bully technique of invalidating the victim’s testimony by misrepresentation and selective misquotation.

“I can’t walk in anyone else’s shoes; I can only speak about my experience. But I can certainly say that being lobbied for votes is an integral part of a political process and it does not constitute bullying.”

No, Sarah. What Banks has trouble with is “supposed colleagues, “sniping” behind her back, spreading malicious rumours and then trying to shut her up by hustling her out of their way with an all-expenses-paid posting to New York. She accuses supporters of Victorian Liberal powerbroker Michael Kroger of backgrounding against her.

“There wasbackgrounding that I was an emotional wreck.”

Julia’s experiences deserve to be shared. There is a truth in her simple testimony that the bullies just cannot explain away and a Prime Minister exposed as a gutless wonder.

“The Liberal Party can be proud of its record on women,” Reynolds insists in The Australian. “Reform may be slow but it’s solid,” she claims in a whopper that monsters all credibility. It’s pernicious, too, with its Trump-like, duplicity- its utter contempt for truth. First fake news, now fake views. But how easily are we seduced?

Oddly, only last August, at the time of Turnbull’s knifing, Reynolds was “deeply saddened and distressed”.

The behaviour of some had “no place in [her] party or this chamber”. By contrast, she notes, “I greatly respect my friend and colleague Julia Banks who is an outstanding local member and a woman of great integrity.”

You can’t polish a turd. “Great integrity” won’t help there, either, Linda. The Liberal record is damning.

What is “solid” about a party that only gives female candidates seats they are unlikely to win? What is there to be “proud” of? Last election, only three women Liberal candidates, out of thirty-eight, were pre-selected for safe seats. With Banks’ defection, only 12 of the Coalition’s lower house of 74 are women.

Six may not survive May’s election, given many of the 12 are marginal  – and against record disaffection. News poll has the Coalition primary vote at 35%, lowest in the poll’s history, four months from an election. Labor is on 41%.

Oddly, Scott Morrison is upbeat, riffing about coming back like Whyalla. It’s a whole new trope for him. No-one has the heart to explain that Whyalla steel’s new owner, UK billionaire, Sanjeev Gupta, who’s made a fortune snapping up steel companies in the old Dart, others wouldn’t touch with a pair of tongs, is installing 780,000 solar panels.

Some UK papers report that bankers wonder whether Gupta has “too many plates in the air”, a very British way of hinting – (not that ScoMo or his work experience treasurer would listen) – that the brilliant billionaire whose plans rely on the heavy involvement of key Chinese corporations in Whyalla’s comeback may be a tad undercapitalised.

Whyalla Norrie and Port Augusta, along with Nullarbor and Coober Pedy have some of the highest rates of domestic violence offences in the state of South Australia. Police responses are, however, improving in both quality and promptness – but longer-term support such as mental-health therapy for victims – often falls by the wayside because of lack of resources. For this, the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government is responsible.

Tanya Plibersek is quick to instance some other ways the Coalition is culpable. “The Liberals argued against increases to the minimum wage that substantially benefit women … and they also tried to cut around $35m from Community Legal Centres that provide crucial legal services to family violence victims.”

No politician could possibly be proud of the national statistics. There is a war on women. Domestic violence? Try male violence. One woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner. Nine women were killed last October, seven allegedly in the context of a current or former intimate relationship.

One in three women has experienced violence since the age of fifteen. Intimate partner violence is the greatest health risk factor for women aged 25-44.

Indigenous women are 45 times more likely to experience violence than non-Indigenous women. The severity of the violence is also greater, with higher rates of hospitalisation. Yet for all women, there is no sign of action by government or any authority to effectively deal with the crisis.

Awareness campaigns such as the Federal Government’s Let’s stop it at the start are relatively easy to run and can help increase public understanding but changing public attitudes to violence is the critical challenge. And so far it has proved hardest to accomplish. A key factor, sadly, is the strength and persistence of victim-blaming.

Awareness campaigns are no time to be diverted by those who ask why male victims are overlooked. Men need to become a voice in this fight. Experts suggest that as role models, men’s voices are crucial in calling out violence against women. Any voice. Some campaigns explore holding the general public accountable for preventing.

Queensland’s #dosomething campaign, works along these lines. Similarly, Victoria has its Respect Women: Call it Out campaign. Yet there is no sign of any practical initiatives from the federal government. Just cuts to funds for refuges and advisors.

Silke Meyer, Senior Lecturer in Domestic and Family Violence Practice CQ University Australia writes in The ConversationIn order to make domestic violence everyone’s business rather than an issue solely for women, awareness campaigns need to follow these examples.”

“More importantly, they need to address how perpetrators manipulate victims, their families and their communities, and how we all play a role in speaking out against such violence”.

To the privileged, sheltered, old white males who run the party under instruction from their sponsors and who mould its patriarchal culture, gender inequality is like social and economic inequality. Or like climate change. Or renewable power. Not only does it not exist, or not work, it’s heresy to maintain otherwise.

It’s a threat to their world view, a denialist fantasy which in many cases hasn’t changed since the good old days the MP attended St Ignatius College, Riverview, for example, the exclusive Jesuit day and boarding school on the Lane Cove River, where senior tuition plus boarding fees costs $49,520 P.A. Both Joyce and Abbott are old boys.

There are few signs that their schooling helped them understand or relate to women but there are key events which can help us understand their real attitudes and values. One fertile example will suffice.

At Sydney University in 1977, an enraged Tony Abbott punched the wall either side of the head of Barbara Ramjan, his young student political opponent, when he was miffed at losing a student representative council vote.  Despite Ramjan’s sworn affidavit Abbott denies the incident. Old pal and Donald Trump fan, The Australian‘s Greg Sheridan supports him. “It was inconceivable”, he writes – and besides “there were no witnesses”.

In the 1970s, Menzies era throwback, Tony Abbott, set the Liberal benchmark on gender equality,

“I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons.”

Abbott’s on-air rubbishing of the Human Rights Commission’s bright idea that women should have equal representation on boards last year, shows he hasn’t changed his views much. When the HRC proposed that company boards work towards a 40:40:20 representation, the Riverview old-boy was outraged. King of wittering talkback 2GB’s Ray Hadley was dead keen to broadcast to his equally threatened old white male fans.

“Obviously we have to give women a fair go, but some of this stuff sounds like it’s just anti-men,” rants Abbot. “There are lots of things we can’t change but one thing we should never do is fail to call out politically correct rubbish.”

The “anti-men” canard may be an expression of Abbott’s own fear of women but even from a former PM, it is a dog-whistle, a covert and inflammatory signal to similarly threatened or misogynistic men to abandon all attempt at reforming their hostility to women. It is a shameful, reprehensible remark.

Proud of its record? When, in 2013, Tony Abbott made himself Minister for Women, a clear gesture of contempt for women in itself, (Michaelia Cash was to be his assistant), he promptly discontinued the Women’s Budget Statement, a measure of accountability and justice which now falls to volunteers to compile.

Gender bias towards men is inevitable in a budget which chooses to avoid explaining its impact on women. In March 2015, Abbott’s government then stripped $300 million from women’s legal services domestic violence advice and casework services and refuges. Some found themselves turning women away who couldn’t pay.

This year, the Coalition does highlight budget measures of interest to women in its 2018 Budget statement ‘Women’s Economic Capability and Leadership’. But it’s not a gender-based analysis of proposed policies, it’s a quick tick-and-flick list of initiatives that may benefit women.

As for reform, a weasel-word now used to denote any change while trading on the connotation of improvement, as in calling tax cuts for the rich tax “reforms”. The Australia Institute finds that men get twice the benefit from the income tax cuts compared to women – because men dominate the ranks of high-income earners. Previous spending cuts mainly disadvantage women because women are bigger beneficiaries of government services.

As for the Coalition’s sainted record on women,  Tanya Plibersek retorts,

Over the last five years, all Scott Morrison and the Liberals have done is deliver policies that disadvantage women. The Liberals tried five times to slash paid parental leave, and called working mums ‘rorters’ and ‘double dippers’.

Not to mention the defunding of women’s refuges and local legal aid centres. As Eliza Berlage writes, “in its 2018 budget the government could map out the costings of a seven-year tax cut package but wouldn’t secure that same forecast period of funding for frontline domestic violence services.

Plibersek could add much more. Household income is lower than it was in 2011. Part-time and multiple poorly-paid or casual, insecure jobs with too few hours now dominate our economy. 69% of part-time workers are women. Of 12.5 million workers in the workforce there are now at least 2 million casuals.

Underemployment, underpayment and even wage theft are becoming the norm for Australian workers and it is women who bear the brunt of the decline in wages, conditions and job security. Most commonly, it is the woman who must seek further casual work to pay the bills – on top of her regular work and work in the home.

Last July, Fair Work inspectors forced business to pay $472,000 to 616 employees after their audit of the hospitality industry in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. 72 percent of businesses had underpaid their employees.

The Coalition has helped keep wages at record lows by such means as stacking the Fair Work Commission with representatives affiliated with employers. Low wages may help boost profits in the short term but in the long term it is a recipe for social and economic decline. Raising wages boosts both family security and the economy.

Banks’ testimony and the accounts of other women MPs bullied during Turnbull’s political assassination, last August, are an indictment on the Liberal party. The women were betrayed; their silence bought by promise of an independent inquiry, as Kellie O’Dwyer insisted, which has ended up as a review. It will go nowhere.

Yet it won’t go away. As the new year begins Scott Morrison must deal with the albatross around his government’s neck. His own neck. Or is he bullying women into claiming there is bullying? Or at least persuading them to collude in the cover-up of a toxic Liberal Party bullying culture by propagandising that women get a wonderful deal?

It’s alarming to see Linda Reynolds, who complained of being bullied in August now leading a group of women who contend, bizarrely against all evidence  that the Liberal Party has done more women than Labor. What pressure are they under? What threats or promises have been made?

How have they been coerced into taking this stance? Or are they, as Jenna Price suggests, victims of Stockholm syndrome, in thrall to their captors and abusers?

One thing is certain. The Coalition’s unfair treatment of women in its own party, coupled with revelations of a culture of bullying and intimidation, if not misogyny, will cost it dearly at the next election. Its failure to craft policy to significantly advance the cause of gender equality and its shameful failure over its five years in office to address the crisis of male violence towards women – beyond raising awareness campaigns is reprehensible.

The truth is inescapable: women are the forgotten people of the modern Liberal Party yet without women’s support, the Liberals will be out of power for a long time.

Liberal bullying culture runs all the way to the top, ScoMo.

 

dutto 31 jan

The year can’t end quickly enough for the series of cunning stunts masquerading as a Morrison government.

Topping its epic series of diversions, evasions and sensational stuff-ups – and hastening its end, is its curtain call brawl; a spectacular bit of Biffo.  Peter Dutton pops up centre stage. He publicly attacks Julia Banks and Malcolm Turnbull. Why? Is the public brawling an orchestrated show of disunity; another stunt? Or is Dutto making his run?

Labor’s Amanda Rishworth ponders whether the comments are sanctioned by ScoMo or merely Dutto freelancing.

Who would know? Sean Kelly in The Monthly writes a detailed and persuasive case for considering the cagey and evasive Morrison our invisible Prime Minister who has developed techniques to erase himself from the frame.

Events occur, but Morrison’s involvement is passive, tangential, almost accidental. He may be the minister, but he is not an instigator, only a vessel through which others’ bidding is done. If you are Scott Morrison, it is even possible to become prime minister without any agency on your part. And, today, it is Dutton who takes the blame.

Liberal MPs “left” and right are unimpressed, calling the attack “selfish” and “arrogant” according to Rick Morton in The Australian . Off-record, one generously calls Peter Dutton “fucking dumb” for bagging Julia Banks.

Liberal MPs “lament the last chance at a reset” according to Amy Remeikis In The Guardian. That’s impossible. No-one admits this government was never “set” in the first place. It is a remarkable series of policy collapses informed only by expediency, the ruthlessly cynical pragmatism encompassed by the Trumpian phrase “whatever works”.

Another accuses Dutton of reminding voters “why they are sick of us.” This, too, taps into the fatuous narrative that the government would be a runaway success if only it could stop talking about itself and get its message out. It’s all a matter of communication. Abbott echoed the same nonsense.

A series of respectable national opinion polls show voters get the message all right and they don’t like it – especially on social welfare, the effective cap on wage growth, environment and energy, kids on Nauru.

The glib dismissals also indirectly serve to highlight the poverty at the heat of the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government. There are few policies or practical achievements to celebrate unless we’re suddenly in love with a data encryption bill rushed through on the last day of parliament which experts say is unnecessary, unworkable and a risk to our personal and national security.

What is clear is that the Coalition is tearing itself apart. A March election date firms as its least worst option.

Will Dutto be checked by a ScoMo™ show? Many PM performances self-abort. Nothing, however, will ever top the PM Poppadom’s Curry, a dazzling image and brilliantly-timed injection of esprit de corps in his recent secret dash to Iraq to inspire our soldiers and the nation – (PM-troop pep talks are traditionally for domestic consumption).

Our army is like a curry? Morrison is a poppadom? Food for thought. As with most things Morrison, it gets worse.

“I’m here to be part of the great collaborative curry by association despite having not contributed to the mix of flavours in any way. The alternative is potato though.”

No Australian Prime Minister has ever presented himself in this way. The troops stare at him in stunned disbelief. Or are they just relieved that a PM who can send them to war, with the backing of a servile cabinet, is not Dutton?

Only ScoMo™ could try to persuade anyone that the ADF has a “collaborative culture”. Least of all members of a ranked, class-conscious ADF.  Officers eat after their troops. Yearn to be called ‘boss’. Yet it’s complex. Officers shun tattoos and choose their personal car carefully, lest they be labelled as having ‘other rank tendencies’.

We have around four thousand war memorials in Australia. None depicts an officer. Or a poppadom. Or a potato.

Morrison stuns the troops into silence by his riff. “And I see myself as the poppadom, bland and uninteresting by myself, unpalatable really”. Shire genius, ScoMo, plumbs new depths of faux self-abasement. Fools no-one.

But he does get the “unpalatable” right, if only where his own, emetic, political self is concerned. Who can forget when, in 2014, he accused Save The Children advocates of coaching refugee children on Nauru in self-harm?

“Making false claims, and worse, allegedly coaching self-harm and using children in protests is unacceptable.”

“Bland uninteresting and unpalatable?” Now, that’s sure to win hearts and minds as much as it will outrage Australia’s many poppadom aficionados. Nothing tops a public display of incompetence quite like false humility. No wonder, Dutton sees his main chance. ScoMo™’s pose as a hopeless liability is a national embarrassment.

Time to kick a few goals, Dutton decides. Or heads. He’s on a hiding to nothing in Dixon as things stand.

When the going gets tough, the tough go for the vulnerable. Dutton bags Banks and Turnbull for their treachery.

Of course it’s the victims’ fault, especially Julia Banks. The MP for Chisholm is in the gun for everything she’s said and done since calling the Liberals a pack of “heartless bullies”, in a “party riven by personal ego trips” where MPs bully and intimidate to get their way in last week’s Women’s Weekly.  And then there’s Malcolm Turnbull.

Turnbull is the political pantomime villain Libs love to hate. Now, as everything goes on to hell in a handbasket, Dutto, at least, has a chance to let rip. The 2016 election fiasco? The loss of Wentworth? All those dud Newspolls? Turnbull’s to blame for everything. Above all, he is to blame for being Malcolm – not just a leftie but a dud.

“Malcolm had a plan to become Prime Minister but no plan to be Prime Minister,” snipes Dutton. Dutto’s own plan to be PM failed spectacularly when his numbers man, Finance Minister Matt (Turncoat) Cormann couldn’t count any better than Dutto –  but in postmodern, Trumpian politics – hypocrisy is the new moral high ground.

Legalists triumph in such times. Note, Dutton never said he himself had no plan to be PM. As for becoming PM, what we are witnessing, may, in fact, be his own run-up to toppling a PM who sees himself as a poppadom.

Peter “dog-whistle” Dutton chooses Sunday to join Andrew Bolt in the bully pulpit, our national media, a one stop shop for consumers of “the national conversation” or everything you need to be told on politics, dominated by ex-pat Rupert Murdoch with the generous assistance of the Australian tax-payer and the Australian government.

Bolt and Dutton’s bullying of Banks is a concerted, public attack on the MP’s credibility and integrity. Or what’s left of it. Banks massively damaged her own credibility, herself, with her claim in May that she could live on $40 a day, effectively actively supporting Coalition bullying and intimidation of job-seekers on Newstart.

Labor clearly agrees. Despite its recent national convocation and Shorten’s sermon on the Torrens, in its carefully stage-managed national conference, all it will commit to is a “root and branch review” of Newstart payments. Be its cause political timidity, or neoliberal thinking, the result is to vitiate its historical commitment to welfare.

Surely the party whose Curtin government created unemployment benefits in 1943 and who made the first payments in 1945 would do well to heed its current obligation. Or reflect on Ben Chifley’s 1946 observation.

I cannot forget how miserable those hundreds of thousands of men must have felt when they went back each night to their families after tramping the streets all day in search of work.

Unemployment averaged 2% in 1946. Last month, pollster Roy Morgan, who bases his figures on gainful employment rather than one hour’s work a week, calculates that, “in total 2,333,000 Australians (17.2% of the workforce) were either unemployed or under-employed in November, a decrease of 61,000 in a year (down 1%). 

But Dutto’s detonation is a spectacular diversion, especially to Morrison, who is now even losing the seniors’ approval in the latest Newspoll. Now, 45% of voters over 50 are dissatisfied with his performance, according to the poll – a drop of ten percent from the only group to show approval when he knifed Malcolm Turnbull in August.

Public infighting beats backstabbing. It is so much more cathartic.  But will it prove politically useful, to either combatants or their party? Some insiders believe Dutton’s latest stunt is carefully orchestrated; stage-managed.

For former PM Kevin07™, it is simply a case of Rupert Murdoch putting his pet candidate forward. He tweets.

Wonderful to see the Murdoch boys at work in all Sunday papers in a nation-wide puff-piece on their poster boy Dutton. The man who boycotted the Apology to appeal to racists. And was supposed to be Murdoch’s man in the Lodge. Now they’re trying to rehabilitate him & save his seat.”

Is Dutton a stalking horse for Abbott?  The Home Affairs Minister dismisses the question; preferring to set and answer one of his own. No. Nor is he making the running for any right wing “bible-basher”.

Banks, a staunch Turnbull loyalist, is not Dutton’s only victim. He savages his ex-boss but includes the odd compliment. Turnbull is “incompetent and spiteful” yet a “gracious and charming man” who “doesn’t have a political bone in his body”, Dutto generously tells the Brisbane’s Sunday Mail. Others also have knives to twist.

Banks’ eloquent, revealing account of how she was driven out of the party by the way she was bullied during the Morrison leadership coup last August appears in this week’s Women’s Weekly. Her story reveals Liberal bullying

Adding to the distraction, former Liberal MP, Julia Banks tells The Women’s Weekly how the “bullying” and “madness” at the heart of the Morrison government caused her to cross the floor to become an Independent. She gives a damaging account, moreover, of how the right-wing “reactionaries” seized control. She names names.

“It was all driven from Tony Abbott’s opposition,” explains Julia. “Tony Abbott, Peter Dutton, Greg Hunt – that whole program to knife Malcolm was driven by and led by them.”

Top Gun, Peter (Dog-whistle) Dutton, is scrambled. In a trademark deflection, he puts the boot into Labor. Again. (After all, his Great African Gang crisis of 2018 worked so well for his Victorian colleagues.)

“Under Labor, terrorists couldn’t be strip­ped of their citizenship. This government has now stripped Aust­ralian citizenship from 12, and our country is safer as a result.”

Both demean the Turnbull supporter, now an independent, by accusing her of lying out of self-interest.

“It just didn’t happen and it has been used by Julia as an excuse to leave the party because she was upset about Malcolm losing the leadership and her not being promoted to the Ministry under Scott.

It is pure and simple a case of sour grapes and it deserves to be called out. We need more women in politics but to suggest we have a bullying problem is ridiculous.”

Dutton inadvertently, reveals the very misogyny, bullying and intimidation, from reactionaries, that Banks and other women MPs claim is entrenched in Liberal party and federal Coalition culture.

Banks is moved by Dutton’s allegations to retweeting (off the record) a cabinet minister’s view that the Queensland MP is “just an egotistical moron who lacks self-awareness”.

Luckily, other scapegoating stunts are available to ScoMo’s government. A Home Affairs Minister can do a lot these days, especially after the data encryption bill was rushed through parliament on its last sitting day.

Bernard Keane warns that, “The encryption laws, designed to target terrorism, could allow security agencies to trick suspects into giving up access to their private messages, effectively robbing them of the privilege against self-incrimination, and also give law enforcement the ability to circumvent the need to obtain a warrant.”

Keane also quotes President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties Pauline Wright’s concern. “There’s been a massive amount of legislation passed that prior to then would have been unthinkable. There have been incursions into freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of movement, right to protest, all basic legal rights that underpin our democracy”.

Wright maintains that we now have more national security laws and harsher laws than any other western nations.

Neil Prakash, the nation’s star ISIS recruit, is stripped of his Australian citizenship this week by Dutton. Because he can. Because the Morrison government desperately needs a diversion from Broadgate. How could ScoMo™ not have been told by his own department of the scandal surrounding Andrew Broad, MP for Mallee over his alleged use of a dating website dating to seek out a sugar baby? It beggars belief.

“Broadgate” is the noxious miasma emanating from ScoMo™’s office after its incredible claim it knew early in December of Andrew Broad’s alleged attempted philandering but kept mum about the sugar daddy with their boss, the Prime Minister of Australia. For two whole weeks.

Incredible? “A long stretch” says Anthony Albanese, but, if true, evidence of the Morrison government’s acute dysfunction. Perhaps they didn’t want to over-tax ScoMo™. After all, he’s got an image makeover. Gone are the rimless spectacles and the suburban dad gear. Pictured talking to the Iraqi PM. ScoMo’s sports a look upgrade; new, open-necked shirt and pants – RM Williams boots, even, in Iraq. So much more like Malcolm’s wardrobe.

Of course, it may be that ScoMo™’s deputy PM, “Major Malfunction” Michael McCormack, ineffectual even in a token role, felt he needed to “support” Broad, if not collude with him, to curry favour with his right-wing critics.

The Nationals party room which Joyce created give Macca stick for not being Barnaby. It’s not looking good for the deputy PM, who, as Paddy Manning notes, “is being circled by a miraculously rehabilitated Barnaby Joyce”.

Today, The Courier-Mail reports that he has a “target on his back” as colleagues accused him of hiding Broad’s “sugar babe” scandal to protect himself from being rolled.

The year ends with a government at war with itself. Revealed also explicitly and implicitly is the entrenched bullying culture in the Liberal Party and in Coalition MPs behaviour that Scott Morrison promised he would set up a review to deal with. Those who have any doubts as to why progress has been glacial need only read Julia Banks’ account. This taken together with evidence from his colleagues at Tourism Australia and elsewhere suggest that the culture of bullying in the current parliamentary Liberal Party reaches all the way to the top.

Dutton’s bullying of Banks and Turnbull confirms that Morrison is either without judgement or authority. Or both. As for the future of the Liberal Party, the fish rots from the head down.

We’re into big ideas; they’re in New Idea.

plibersek and shorten

 

“It’s fun to shoot some people,” Defence Secretary Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis notoriously remarked in 2005.

“Actually it’s quite fun to fight them, you know. It’s a hell of a hoot … I’ll be right up there with you. I like brawling.” Mattis says, bringing a little Tarantino, perhaps, to a panel discussion in San Diego, California.

A Marine general voicing his enjoyment of killing causes military members of the audience to laugh and clap.

More worryingly, Mattis goes on to become famous as the Trump’s administration “only adult in the room”.

This week, Mattis exits; slams the door. Trump is pulling 2000 US troops out of Syria; 7000 will leave Afghanistan. It’s two steps too far. Mattis quits his post in a “Dear Mr President” letter of resignation and protest.

Adult to the end, Mad Dog drops fifty copies of his resignation letter around the Pentagon. As you do. Helene Cooper notes in The New York Times, it’s the most public condemnation of Trump’s isolationism the president has ever received from his administration. Mattis ups the ante; throws down a back-handed challenge.

“While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies.”

Trump hates the letter. He is particularly hurt by the widespread view that he sometimes needs adult day-care.

“We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there,” he tweets. It’s a full four Pinocchio on The Washington Post Scale after failing to persuade any senior Pentagon figure to publicly back his withdrawal. Or lie for him in his war on the truth.

Official White House fabulist, mythomaniac Sarah Saunders is left to spin Trump’s tweet. She settles for ‘clarifying’ that the recall of US troops over the next 2-4 months will mark a ‘transition to the next phase of the campaign’ against IS.

It’s standard Saunders’ Orwellian double-speak. Trump’s abrupt, unilateral withdrawal of US troops from Syria is more chilling. It illustrates, again, just how much US policy and power rest largely on the whim of one man-child.

Trump thrives on chaos and disruption, of course. He’s desperate to distract from Mueller’s investigation. He’ll do anything to evade the net. And in January, he’ll have to account to a Democrat Congress. They’ll ask for his tax returns. These may well expose his links with Putin’s government. But there are many other hazards.

CNN suggests that virtually every House investigatory committee will pursue something from his administration.

Even worse, no longer can he count on the Republican majority in the Senate as any guarantee of united support.

North Carolina’s senator Richard Burr, Republican chair of the senate intelligence committee, releases two independent analyses, this week explaining how Russia’s Internet Research Agency, (IRA) was able to use hacking and disinformation strategies to help Trump get elected and later boost his presidency.

On the other hand, Patrick Lawrence, queries the reality of the troop withdrawal. The Washington Post and other papers report that Raqqa “unofficially” has 4000 US troops, which control virtually a third of Syria. In September, these troops were told they were to remain until the Syrian conflict ended, as a bulwark against Iran.

Luckily for Australia, our troops in Iraq still get a visit from Scott Morrison (Afghanistan is too dangerous). ScoMo is photographed handing out a couple of deflated footballs as part a stunning pep talk-presentation. But will the soldiers get time to pump them up – let alone have a game? ScoMo is in the dark on Trump’s latest new world order.

As becomes an ally “joined at the hip” to the US, the Morrison government responds to America’s troop withdrawals with a vow that Australia will continue to hold the line, (whatever or wherever that may be).

The Weekend Australian runs the spin that Scott Morrison, Christopher Pyne and Marise Payne promise Australia will continue to hold the line with international partners, including the US and NATO. In other words, no-one has a clue what to do.

“Australia will continue to provide security, humanitarian and development assistance in the ­region.’’

There’s a good side. Happily taking selfies with soldiers means that ScoMo cannot field questions regarding Andrew Broad or George Christensen’s claim that his eight innocent trips to the Philippines are subject to a “vile and defamatory smear campaign”.

Broad says he won’t stand as Nationals candidate for Mallee in the light of his “sugar daddy” scandal which involves his visiting Hong Kong in September to hook up with a sugar baby almost twenty years his junior. He’s only done once and they didn’t have sex. The liaison is arranged via a website, “Seeking Arrangements”

Broad’s story appears in veteran celebrity gossip magazine, New Idea, this Monday. He subsequently steps down; issues a statement as any sugar daddy would.

Broad’s statement blames the media. “After recent media stories about my private life, it is clear that the people of Mallee will be best served in the next parliament by a different Nationals candidate.”

Proving, surely, that travel broadens the mind, is the fact that the member for Mallee was one of the first to criticise his former leader, Nationals’ Barnaby Joyce when details of Joyce’s affair with his staffer became public.

Broad does pay back a $400 internal airfare in case you think he’s misused funds but there is a bit of a fuss when a Guardian Australia article shows that he and George have been guilty of copying and pasting their fact-finding reports. It’s not a good look.

More damning is that his current National Party leader, the dynamic Michael McCormack knew about the matter six weeks ago, a fact which seems to slip his memory. McCormack’s explanation for not bothering Scott Morrison who learns about sugar daddy only this week, is that the PM was too busy.

“I don’t tell the prime minister everything about every member of parliament. He’s got enough on his mind at the moment and quite frankly I thought it was a matter for Andrew to sort out with his family.”

Naturally, Christensen chooses to defend himself in a Facebook post, Saturday morning, as his response to media recent media reports about AFP blackmail concerns over an unnamed federal MP visiting seedy neighbourhoods overseas notorious for drugs and prostitution. The whole affair is the work of his political opponents.

The allegations were “mainly” spread by a former senior government MP and one of his former senior staff members, he says he’s been told. He does not identify either. As for any allegations about him made to the AFP, these are vexatious, fake and made by a “senior Labor MP”, he says. That clears that up then.

On the lookout for fake Labor, or forged unity, scribes attend an over-orchestrated Labor gang show in Adelaide.

“Managed to an inch of its life”, sniffs Michelle Grattan. On the nose is The Fair Go, Labor’s 48th National Conference-travelling salvation show, which winds up beyond peak puke in North Terrace, Adelaide, city of Light, Tuesday. Newly ordained life member, Kevin Rudd, bestows a tongue-in-cheek benediction on his mortal enemies.

“You know, we had our occasional disagreements … Just here and there, at the margins, but you know something, we all have written our bit and I just have a simple suggestion: Let’s let history be the judge of these things.”

Rudd also jogs history’s elbow by reminding Labor that Murdoch is not so much a news organisation as a political party, warning Bill Shorten that “dealing with the Murdoch mafia is … like dealing with a daily evisceration”. We’ll take his word for it.

It is true that his press loves to hammer Labor but the experience in Victoria recently shows that voters ignored the trumped-up nonsense about African gangs and how a Liberal government would restore law and order and other fictions. Do his papers have the influence they once did? Or did they ever have the influence they claim?

Murdoch may like to style himself as a king-maker but two Australian academics disagree. Rodney Tiffen and David McKnight, argue that while his media outlets routinely excoriate Labor, Murdoch is more likely to trust in his political intuition; sniff the political wind before he makes a case for backing the favourite.

Even then, he insists that he’s not responsible for what his editors may write. (As if they don’t pick up his views.)

Perceptions do matter, nevertheless. Andrew Probyn argues that when Murdoch concluded Malcolm Turnbull was a dud, it rattled the then Prime Minister.

Probyn then reconstructs the infamous “Malcolm’s got to go” meeting where Rupert Murdoch is reported to have told Kerry Stokes, “We have got to get rid of Malcolm. If that’s the price of getting rid of him then I can put up with three years of Labor.” The Australian Financial Review reported a remarkably similar story.

Even accepting that Murdoch is shrewd rather than all-powerful, there are, nevertheless, changes in the complexion of Australian print and electronic media since Fairfax’s corporate merger with Nine, attracted by Stan and Domain and little else, is likely to lead to more cuts to journalism and a drift to the right, with a senior Liberal, Peter Costello taking over the nation’s biggest media company.

Then there’s recent confirmation of active interference by the Coalition in the ABC, with pressure on the national broadcaster not to be critical of government policy while savagely slashing budgets to help ensure compliance.

None of this seems to unduly bother Labor’s 48th conference. It survives some desperate attempts at upstaging on Monday by the government’s MYEFO castles in the air future surplus and hint of income tax cuts stunt – self-sabotaged also by the member for Mallee’s sugar daddy broadside – prompting a zinger from Deputy, Tanya Plibersek – “We’re into big ideas, they’re in New Idea.”

There are some bold proposals. Shorten commits a Labor government to subsidise the building of 250,000 homes for low and middle-income earners over ten years, even if it is not prepared to raise Newstart or to increase the age pension or fix a liveable minimum wage.  Ensuring the Fair Work Commission was not unfairly stacked with employers’ representatives might help with core issue of the suppression of fair and reasonable wage increases, too.

A pledge to fund 15 hours a week of subsidised preschool for every three-year old, acknowledges the importance of early learning, but fails to include a ParentsNext scheme reform that will not see young mothers forced to attend activities such as playgroup or swimming lessons to keep their parenting payments.

Nor is there any hint of a recall of the RoboDebt programme and a reform of other Centrelink demands on low-paid workers’ time.

Among other worthy but often general aims, James Button includes the following in his report of the conference:

“New funds for schools and TAFE, a commitment to higher pay for “feminised industries” such as child, disability and aged care, and restored penalty rates for 700,000 workers. 

While it’s promising to learn “The refugee intake would be lifted over time from 18,750 to 32,000” It’s inexcusable that the aim to empty offshore detention centres on Manus and Nauru cannot be made effective immediately.

Similarly, it’s distressing to learn that asylum boat turn-backs are a policy now accepted by the party’s Left. These are neither legal nor humane. As it is, it’s enough to drive Peter Dutton nuts as evident in his wild attack on Bill Shorten – still the best game in town amongst the Liberal right wing. Dutton sneers.

“In fact what he has committed to is unravelling Operation Sovereign Borders – the Coalition’s successful policy – that stopped the boats after Labor’s last disastrous term in government.”

Dutton must believe Australians can’t read the reports of bullying in the ABF or the tragic reality of suicide amongst its staff. He also assumes, contrary to opinion poll evidence, that the old canard that the Coalition stopped the boats with Operation Sovereign Borders has any currency. It’s just a lie that is endlessly repeated.

In fact, the boats slowed to a trickle under Kevin Rudd in July 2013, with his announcement that people arriving after that time would not be resettled in Australia.

Furthermore, as John Menadue never tires of pointing out, “Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison kept the door open for tens of thousands of boat people arrivals by opposing legislation that would have enabled implementation of the Malaysia Arrangement of September 2011.”

It’s heartening to learn that Labor also promises to hold a referendum to recognise First Australians and create an Indigenous advisory body to Parliament in the Constitution. The voice to parliament was cynically misrepresented by the Turnbull government as constituting a third chamber and dismissed out of hand.

Finally, among the edited highlights, the conference makes new commitments to fight climate change, yet side-steps Adani, a project which Labor maintains will not go ahead instead of boldly exposing the lies about promised employment and opposing such issues as environmental degradation and the energy subsidy it represents.

Despite its delusions and mining backers, the Coalition is not going to win the election on Adani. The Australian Conservation Foundation has already come up with a powerful campaign. Labor simply needs to get on board. It even has a ready-made pitch.

“If it goes ahead, Adani’s mine and its coal will wreck our climate, steal our groundwater, trash Indigenous rights and irreversibly damage the Great Barrier Reef. Adani’s mine is a climate crime – a crime against humanity and our planet.

Life memberships are also bestowed, in absentia, on two other former Labor PMs, Paul Keating and Julia Gillard, as part of the conference’s spirit of ecumenism and public unity. Shorten pays tribute to Keating as a “hero of the true believers” and to Gillard for her “continuing inspiration for women and girls”.

No mention is made of Gillard’s NDIS which is being wilfully cut back by the Coalition. It has already pruned a handy $2.5 billion off the cost by making it harder to qualify. Autism advocates have protested, for example, at cost-cutting in the case of autistic children. The government changed the qualification criteria so that many people would have to be individually assessed to determine their need for support.

No Keating quote? Keating’s insults are surprisingly current. “He’s wound up like a thousand-day clock! One (more half) turn and there’ll be springs and sprockets all over the building. Mr Speaker, give him a Valium.” Scott Morrison? Josh Frydenberg? PJK could have had any number of the current front bench in mind.

No. The mood and the rhetoric is curiously subdued, over-cautious, over-controlled rather than inspiring .

Karen Middleton mistrusts the display of unity at Labor’s triennial conference. The party may boast that it holds an open shop but all that’s on show is a window display writes another. Veteran Canberra Gallery-slaves appear to mourn a lack of ill-discipline, confusion or open insurrection in The Fair Go. After all it is a Labor shindig. For weeks, scribes predict nothing else. Someone’s got to keep the hoi-polloi on script.

In three days of public debate over the party platform – if debate is not too robust a word — observes James Button, just one issue is taken to a contest, when the Left faction’s push to introduce a Charter of Human Rights loses by just three votes. Can a Labor conference lose such a vote and still have what it takes to run the country?

The peoples’ voice is not entirely excluded. Resourceful protestors make colour photocopies of passes; gain entry. But, again, all is not what it seems. A lad with a promising mullet tells the press ,“young working class people like me aren’t racist dickheads”.

His cotton protest tabard-cum placard bears the legend: “ALP CLOSE THE CAMPS”

Contentious issues are dealt with in caucus. In 2015 this was not the case and clearly some commentators hanker for a return to the past so that the (largely fictive) narrative of a faction-riven, fisticuffing Labor Party may yet again play out in public.

Middleton and Grattan are right. The Fair Go is more your Whitby collier, built broad of beam and shallow in draft to lessen the drama of running aground in uncharted waters. It’s no man o’ war or flashy transport of delight.  Yet Shorten easily brings her up alongside after four days of left-hand down a bit and steady as she goes.

“There has been a lot of pain,” Shorten consoles by torturing an analogy. “But today I say to the conference, it is time for healing, to make peace with our past in the same way we are united about our future.”

All hell breaks loose on the other side. Mozzle Morrison, aka Captain cluster-fuck, our mini-Trump – whose gift for turning chaos into catastrophe surpasses Turnbull the PM Scott somehow deposed in August’s mystery coup – is stumped . Moz still can’t explain why he’s Prime Minister. Judging by his wondrous stuff-ups, nor can anyone else.

Take a bow, Moz.  True, you haven’t cocked it all up on your own. There’s your own self-effacing Santa’s elves on your largely invisible front bench. Tirelessly, they ply their skills to erase all trace of any ministerial responsibility.

And the states. The NSW government is pressing Morrison to do what predecessor Turnbull had planned – go to an election in early March, before the NSW state election at the end of the month, rather than waiting until May.

Don Harwin, NSW Energy Minister, bags his Federal Coalition colleagues for being “out of touch” on energy and climate policies in an op-ed for The Australian Financial Review.

“We need to end the ‘climate wars’ and put science, economics and engineering ahead of ideology,”Harwin says.

The “big stick” energy policy – now no stick at all – frightens mining and business lobby horses. It is against Liberal principles. Yet can a party which has this abject, jargon-stuffed line in its credo really claim any right to govern?

“We believe in the inalienable rights and freedoms of all peoples; and we work towards a lean government that minimises interference in our daily lives; and maximises individual and private sector initiative.”

Finally, t’is the season to be giving. And for every giver there must be a receiver. Top marks to Tassie Nationals’ senator, Steve Martin, who manages to spend $531,000 to refurbish his new electorate office (and more than $50,000 in temporary office costs) after he quits the Jacqui Lambie Network and relocates to Devonport.

Four snouts, Stevie!

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t lose sight of the fair go, Bill.

shorten ambushed at conference 2018

 

Australians are spoilt for choice this week in politics. On the far right is Scott John Morrison who is determined to improve on his last week’s Slow-Mo filibuster fiasco by pretending that religious freedom is the biggest issue facing the nation along with encryption-busting and stopping kids needing medical treatment off Nauru.

Not only that, he’s a Walter-Mitty-Henry Kissinger style negotiator who can kick-start the Arab-Israeli peace process by offending both parties and sundry nearby Muslim nations such as Indonesia and Malaysia whom our governments are always on the verge of cracking amazing free trade deals that somehow never eventuate.

ScoMo’s got both hands full in his pre-MYEFO clean-up as he checks the fudged figures and shoves a whole lot of other stuff off into a review, while, over on the left, in Adelaide, city of churches, Labor holds its annual conference, an event which somehow shrinks in ABC TV coverage to recurring images of Stop Adani protestors.

Bill’s got the fair go theme happening; great shots of the most photogenic family in Australian politics and a beaut re-run of a plan to subsidise housing for developers who’ll charge rents low enough for underemployed workers to afford, despite their flat-lining wages, soaring utilities and jobs that are increasingly underpaid and insecure.

Yet developers and loans all take time. Sadly for those three million Australians, the OECD tell us are living on the poverty line, there is no hope that Labor will lift Newstart. Guardian Australia reports the conference will wimp out with promises to review Newstart within 18 months if Labor wins in May or whenever. Insult the poor.

The Guardian’s Katharine Murphy who clearly knows her onions reports “senior figures are reluctant to sign up to a concrete commitment to increase Newstart because of the fiscal impact”. The fiscal impact? The triumph of Neoliberalism is complete when Labor apparatchiks talk of fiscal impact when they won’t pony up the money.

Where is the Labor Party that stood by the battler? The party that fought for a fair days work for a fair day’s pay?

Stage right there’s a banner showing some poor sod being evicted for upstaging Mr Shorten with a message about getting kids out of detention. Labor’s lock-step with Liberal on “off-shore detention” doesn’t offer much hope but you can’t fault the demonstrator for gate-crashing the Labor love-fest with a heartfelt plea to help the suffering.

Over in Morrison’s sordid corner, the work experience PM is riffing with his powerful fellow religious cranks.

We have more than enough religious freedom in Australia but, like John Howard, ScoMo knows – or hopes – there’s votes in even the most fatuous, confected, totally futile crusade.  Besides, he believes this stuff. You can tell.

When he declared religious freedom his number one priority back last August it was more than a broad hint. Back then he spoke of “preventative regulation and legislation to ensure your religious freedom in this country. In other words it didn’t have to exist but if it did we’d have the laws on the books to stop it in its tracks.

“What you believe should always be a matter for you … Anti-discrimination is an important principle in a modern democracy and so it is important that that principle of anti-discrimination and the protection of people’s religious liberty are addressed in this country. And there is some unfinished business that we are seeking to address in the announcements that we’re making today.” Morrison stutters at his Thursday presser. Yet he moves fast.

Sleeves rolled-up, “getting on and doing – and listening”, ScoMo sets a cracking change of pace as he dashes into a series of pressers. Last week’s slow bicycle race is over. Now he’s waving a Christmas check-list. Busy-dizzy. The futuristic white tubular podiums, which wouldn’t be out of place on the bridge of a spaceship get a fair workout from the daggy dad, the everyman PM who vows to be a man of the people. Fat chance. Morrison loves to preach.

Call it his post-modern sermon on the dismount or his own “unfinished business”, ScoMo battles to clear the decks and appease Abbott and the lads, a scurvy crew who’ll mutiny at any hint of a Federal ICAC or any sell-out of the right over religious freedoms, a long-promised sop to homophobes for losing the marriage equality plebiscite.

Morrison has a lot to tick off. None of it is easy, but top of the list is taking his foot out of his mouth over his Wentworth by election stunt. Foreign policy is not his forte. Who’d be so silly as to bid for “the Jewish vote” by moving the Australia embassy to East Jerusalem?  Why follow the United States’ and Guatemala’s lead and flout international consensus? It’s the thought-bubble debacle of his political career, against some strong contenders.

Who can forget or forgive ScoMo’s $55 million 2014 Cambodian solution which resettled but two refugees, a decision which Peter Dutton, ever the master of Orwellian double-speak, calls “a good outcome”?

Morrison formally recognises West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Saturday in a talk in Gerry and Anne Henderson’s cosy right wing, corporate-sponsored think tank, The Sydney Institute, which in 1989, former Howard adviser, Gerry lovingly fashioned out of the Sydney branch of the IPA with financial assistance from Philip Morris.

Two staff members only are employed, Gerard is Executive Director and Anne is Deputy Director.  You can see them both in homespun shot as they fiddle with microphones and fetch glasses of water for the useful idiot PM.

“Foreign policy must speak of our character and our values. What we stand for. What we believe in and, if need be, what we’ll defend,” oleaginous Trump toady Morrison bloviates in yet another pro-US foreign policy speech at the Henderson’s Sydney terrace home, otherwise, grandiosely known to the ATO, as The Sydney Institute.

It is not a good outcome for our international relations. Australia joins just three other nations; the Russian Federation, the Czech Republic and Panama. Since 2014, our international reputation’s copped a hammering.

We make the declaration, says Morrison from a desire to end a “rancid stalemate” in the peace process. It’s likely to have exactly the opposite effect. Could he be hoping that his mixed metaphor will achieve a breakthrough?

Neither side seems impressed. An Israeli official tells The Times of Israel “We’re disappointed with the Australian decision… Morrison only went half-way. It’s a step in the right direction, but we expected more.”

President of the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, Bishop George Browning, calls Morrison’s announcement “a tortuous attempt to salvage himself from a pre-emptive thought bubble prior to the Wentworth by-election”.

That there is no city named West Jerusalem, according to the Israeli government, doesn’t seem to worry Morrison’s government. Yet, in international law and diplomacy, the status of Jerusalem has been a vexed question since Israel was created in 1948. Fools rush in.

International law considers East Jerusalem to be Palestinian territory under illegal Israeli occupation. Since 1967, when Israeli troops drove Jordanian settlers out of East Jerusalem, expanding its borders, Israeli actions have been the subject of many UN Security Council resolutions calling upon Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories.

Australia will hold off moving its embassy, Morrison says, until a peace settlement is reached. But it’ll check out a site. Palestine will be recognised after a settlement has been reached on a two-state solution.

While Israel sees Australia’s stance as “a step in the right direction”, Palestine is incensed. Secretary-General of the PLO Executive Committee, Saeb Erekat, blasts the “irresponsible policies” that led to the recognition.

“The policies of this Australian administration have done nothing to advance the two-state solution,” Erekat says in a statement. “The holy city remains a final-status issue in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which have run aground.”

The Palestinian Liberation Organisation attacks Australia’s new policy for being contradictory. It violates our obligations under international law (namely UNSC 478, something Australia denies). Luckily a culture war breaks out at home. Morrison must stand up for what he believes in. Bugger the rest of us.

Ruddock is dudded. Blessed are the meek in spirit but pity the poor souls who are made to wait seven months to hear a peep from the PM on their report on the power of religious outfits to discriminate. Ruddock recommends that such organisations have their exemptions from discrimination laws abolished or at least reduced.

[The panel] could see no justification for exceptions in existing law relating to race, disability, pregnancy or intersex status,” the report says of the current religious anti-discrimination exemptions at the federal, state and territory level that differ across jurisdictions. “The panel is of the view that those jurisdictions retaining exceptions should review them having regard to community expectations.”

But ScoMo says no. “Pushes back” as they insist in modern commentary. The PM orders a review of the review.

Ruddock’s review has taken a full year since Turnbull lit the torch and seven months since it reported. It’s now likely to become an election issue and voters may not take kindly to the Coalition’s need to placate the far right over the right of all children (and teachers) to be spared discrimination regardless of what school they attend.

But ScoMo knows best. He rejects Ruddock’s findings in favour of his own surprise Christmas gift to the nation, a “freedom of religion commissioner”, to bulk up The Australian Human Rights Commission with a bit more rightist bias, as part of a culture war no-one needs or wants. Or can afford, financially or socially.

Not everything gets top air-play. Dud ideas, such as the Clayton’s Federal ICAC or ones that may cause trouble such as the promise to hold a Royal Commission into aged care are dumped in a quiet time-slot; “putting out the trash”. It’s as much a Coalition strength, as its fetish for secrecy or its unparalleled capacity to stall, flip-flop, flounder or nose-dive while preaching practicality and strong leadership.

Despite the promise that the royal commission would start this year, its first directions hearing has been postponed from December 7 to January 18. As Laura Tingle points out, hearings proper begin in February.

It gives little time for public submissions, nor for the commissioners to adequately prepare themselves.

Not so our new Governor General, who will – gasp- be another old digger, David Hurley, a former defence chief and current NSW Governor. The Coalition has pointedly ignored Labor’s request to make the appointment after the proposed May 2019 election. Cosgrove will stay on until the end of June when Hurley officially takes over. As Paul Karp notes this gives Morrison his pick of governor as well as keeping his election options open.

Tellingly, Morrison announces the appointment with another homily.

“It was General Hurley who first spoke the words, ‘The standard you walk past, is the standard you accept’. That is a lesson to all of us. It is a phrase that embodies what Australian leadership is all about and it is a phrase that has embodied the service of General Hurley.”

Yet as Chris Bowen notes, the timing suggests a government blithely unconcerned about standards of fair play.

“Do we really believe that a governor general, who will be taking up his post in the middle of next year, had to be announced today while the leader of the opposition was making an important speech at the very same time? What a coincidence.”

Yet Hurley is the very model of a modern governor general, whose heart of faith helps him lead and whose wife Linda inspires by sharing details of her daily spiritual spin, a rare double act with Eternity News

“I hula-hoop every morning and I like to read the Bible or a devotional book while I’m doing that.”

Who doesn’t? Onward Christian soldiers. Curiously, Morrison’s presser proclaiming his redundant religious freedom commission segues into his announcing his utterly unrelated Commonwealth Integrity Commission, (CIC) a Clayton’s federal ICAC, a totally toothless tiger which would have allowed even Eddie Obeid or Eric Roozendaal to evade justice, experts warn.

Geoffrey Watson SC, who had acted as counsel to ICAC in NSW opines it’s “worse than having no commission, in my opinion” while former NSW ICAC commissioner David Ipp tells ABC radio that it’s “the kind of integrity commission you’d want to have when you didn’t want to have one”.

For Crikey’s Bernard Keane, there is a wider significance in the paper tiger. Scott Morrison’s joke of federal anti-corruption body simply confirms everything voters hate about politics in Australia.”

It’s crippled by having no public hearings; the public won’t even know who is under investigation, let alone why. Herein lies a key problem.  Keane believes “that’s exactly one of the key problems voters perceive with our current political system: that so much is hidden from citizens. Donations. Meetings. Lobbying. And corrupt conduct. The exercise of power in Australia is hidden, confirming the sense that it is exercised by and for the powerful only.”

Nor will justice be seen to be done if the only recourse the CIC has is to refer a matter where a public servant has acted inappropriately to the DPP, who is chosen by the Attorney-General of the day.

Perhaps the greatest flaw in the Morrison proposal is that the public will not be able to dob in a delinquent official – or one they suspect may have broken the law.

“The CIC will not investigate direct complaints about ministers, members of Parliament or their staff received from the public at large,” the government says.

Typically, Pastor ScoMo doesn’t help his cause by calling NSW ICAC a “kangaroo court”, while, equally out of order, Federal Attorney-General Christian Porter accuses it of “show-trials”. For Morrison’s government to cynically insult the integrity of a real commission against corruption diminishes any further confidence in their proposal.

Some see the CIC as a pre-emptive strike by a Morrison minority government to dodge a tougher ICAC forced on them by independent Cathy McGowan, Labor and an uppity crossbench. Yet it could filibuster or close up shop early. Parliament will sit only ten days in the first eight months of 2019 as it. Would a few less days matter?

Even if the election were to be brought forward, it should not distract us.  Just how have we been gifted with a religious discrimination commissioner when Ruddock’s review panel specifically recommends against it – and what does it say about the Morrison government’s religious pre-occupation?

Freedom For Faith, a group which describes itself as a “Christian, legal, think tank” in its submission, has persuaded the Morrison government to create a religious freedom commissioner, a bargain at $1.25m-$1.5m. Beyond the fee, however, is the incalculable social cost of granting religious groups new authority to discriminate.

A Religious Freedoms Act, a cruel parody of a charter of rights, which Ruddock’s panel does recommend, would codify and expand exemptions to anti-discrimination laws. These currently grant church groups the right to hire or fire those sympathetic to its ethos. Or not.

The act would limit and override the anti-discrimination laws of Australia’s states and territories and “further protections for people who don’t want to associate with same-sex marriages”.

But be of good cheer. “Christians are not into freedom to discriminate, they’re really into freedom to select,” explains author Patrick Parkinson, a professor of law at Sydney Uni and a Freedom for Faith board member.

Father knows best. Yet, like his patronising, patriarchal predecessor, ScoMo’s paternalism will prove his undoing.

ut, my, such unity. Not a bum note is heard – for a whole 24 hours. Coalition MPs are all on song, a ragged paean to the policy-free politics of survival as they plot Bill Shorten’s death and hope, somehow to avoid electoral annihilation in May as Monday’s Newspoll confirms the Morrison government’s unique and abiding unpopularity.

It trails Labor 45-55, a record low in the poll’s history for a government five months out from an election. It’s the government’s third, ten point defeat in a row. The last time this happened, notes Paul Karp in The Guardian, Julia Gillard was replaced by Kevin Rudd. Political scientist, Kevin Bonham says history is not on Morrison’s side.

“No government has recovered from this far behind with this little time to go,” Bonham says. Yet The Daily Telegraph says Labor’s “softened border policy” invites shady types into Australia. “Foreign crims’ free pass,” screams the headline. The Australian obligingly runs a very similar scare campaign. An influx of terrorists, paedophiles and crime gangs will flood the nation as a result of Labor softening its border policy.

‘Tis the season to be jolly, however. Can Bill still stuff up? Enter Rupert the red-nose reindeer. National Affairs Editor, Simon Benson in The Australian, Friday, hyperventilates over Labor’s hubris, and lese majesté in “preparing to run union-backed election campaigns in once unassailable Victorian Liberal heartland — including Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s blue-ribbon Melbourne seat of Kooyong — with polling showing the Coalition risks losing the electorate once held by Australia’s longest-serving prime minister, Sir Robert Menzies.”

Back in the bosom of the Liberal Party’s broad church and even in the weatherboard and iron of the Nationals’ annexe, hearts swell as MPs rejoice in the hyper-partisan hypomania of the festive season; all noses are to the grindstone as the Coalition of the killing of Bill sharpen stilettos, rake muck and top up vast vats of vitriol.

The Coalition is obsessed by Shorten; they mention him by name in Question Time, this year, 1260 times.

Spoiler alert. Bill is to be killed during Labor’s annual conference 16-18 December. Labor will be attacked for being soft on borders, national security and refugee torture. Frydenberg’s coup de grace, a MYEFO monstering, will follow on Monday. The cunning plan is to upstage day two of “A Fair Go for Australia” Labor’s gabfest.

A mid-year economic financial outlook in December? It’s a bit like July in Christmas. But it’s all amazingly good news. A temporary spike in the price of coal and iron ore and a boost from government spending on setting up its bastardised NDIS, helps to mask a stalling economy as wages remain frozen, profits soar. Morrison’s mob, however, will boast its superior economic management. It certainly won’t be telling the truth about infrastructure.

Public and private investment in engineering is dwindling, for the fourth time in five years, Alan Austin reports; all in the five years since the Abbott government was elected, according to ABS figures up to the end of September. It’s a decline not seen since ABS figures began in Whitlam’s era. The nation’s net worth is declining as a result.

Morrison will predict a budget surplus. Yet as economist Stephen Koukoulos warns, it won’t be until September 2019’s final budget outcome that we will know if the surplus occurs, or if it’s just like Wayne Swan’s, as Paul Bongiorno notes, another in a series of disappearing desert mirages. Much like the Coalition itself and the neoliberalism on which it is founded.

Disappearing. It won’t be for lack of appeasing the right. Morrison has taken no chances there. It’s fitting to reflect on the PM’s inclusiveness and largeness of heart in the season of giving.

Even drones such as Craig Kelly, who sacrificed a career selling furniture for the politics of climate change denial to chair the committee for promoting coal are thoughtfully rescued from; returned to the fold by Pope Scott’s pre-selection bulk plenary indulgence that fits brilliantly the special religious if not at all ecumenical and certainly not gender-equal character of the mates’ rates 45th parliament.