Morrison rebuilds trust with a farrago of lies; pushes McKenzie under a bus.

bridget with rifle

“The link between the fires, drought, and climate change is clear. For decades, climate models have predicted a hotter, drier Australia thanks to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. Were greenhouse gases at pre-industrial levels, natural factors alone would produce a year as hot as 2019 just once every 360 years. But add the effect of human-emitted greenhouse gases and the probability drops to one year in eight—a forty-five-fold increase in probability.” Tim Flannery

Scotty from Marketing, as The Betoota Advocate  dubs our Schlockmeister of spin, is busier than a one-eyed cat watching two rat-holes. The parliamentary year from hell awaits. After his “miracle victory” pitch, an upset helped hugely by political cane toad, Clive Palmer, and his gift of sixty million dollars of anti-Labor negative advertising plus Scotty’s own campaign of outright lies about Opposition policy and endless defamatory attacks on Bill Shorten’s character, Scotty’s political future is already in extremis.

“PR is the place people end up when all other professional options fail, writer and lawyer Richard Ackland, unerringly, observes, “and now Schmo has failed at the failures’ last resort.”

Arrogant, hopelessly out of touch, fearless cheerleader, Scotty, has botched his one big chance to fake empathy and leadership, opinion pollsters suggest. How? A lot of it is simply not turning up to the gig. Going AWOL. Hanging loose on Waikiki. Catching up with his loopy QAnon pal, Tim Stewart who believes that the world and its media are run by a conspiracy of Satan-worshipping paedophiles.

Woody Allen reckons, eighty percent of success is just showing up. Murdoch’s latest News Poll, fresh out of rehab, and Guardian Australia oracle, Essential, both agree that Morrison’s on the nose. His government, like a fish, is rotting from the head down – despite Scotty’s best charm offensive; repairing trust by forcing bushfire victims to shake his hand; visiting fire-ravaged areas only to be told to “fuck off”.

Who would have thought? Why should our worst bushfire crisis ever deprive Scotty of his right to a Waikiki Holiday? Who’d have guessed blaming Jen and the girls would have alienated the Australian nation? Will blaming Bridget McKenzie for his own sports-rorts pork-barrelling similarly backfire? Will the Senator for Elwood get the last laugh?

Even Simon Benson, The Australian’s top Coalition flack, notes 12 January’s News Poll has produced the worst numbers for Scotty since he knifed Turnbull in August 2018. Morrison’s now on par with Bill Shorten at his least popular. Now, Labor’s Anthony Albanese easily pips Morrison as preferred PM.

Essential’s Peter Lewis notes that “good in a crisis” is down 35% amidst a decline in Morrison’s personal standing. One in seven Australians have changed their minds about Scotty from Marketing in a month – but the surprising thing is not that he’s “taken a personal hit but that it isn’t a walloping.”

Yet there’s hope. Blaming Greens and arsonists cuts it with Morrison’s base. In a parallel with Trump supporters, just when the leader is most conspicuously not a leader’s bootlace, his base locks in.

Scotty will claw back some kudos by blaming arsonists and demonic Greens who oppose hazard-reduction, despite expert evidence that catastrophic fires burn even where the forest floor is clear. ABC Fact Check experts concur that it is highly unlikely arson is the cause of most of the current bushfires.

Scapegoating aside, Scotty will rebuild trust with a farrago of lies. He tells ABC viewers,

“It is, and always has been, the policy of our government to understand the need to take action on climate change and the impact that has on the world’s broader weather systems and climate systems,” Morrison bullshits to Michael Rowland on ABC 7:30, more an on-air massage than an interview.

Understand the need to take action? Morrison makes not cooking the planet sound like remembering to floss your teeth. The coalition government has no climate change policy. The claim is absurd. Look how quickly it got rid of Malcolm Turnbull when its right wing rump feared that he might adopt one.

Turnbull previously lost his party leadership to Abbott in 2009 by supporting carbon emissions-trading. Nick Feik, editor of The Monthly sums up some of the other inconvenient truths undermining Morrison’s hollow claim. Far from understanding the need for action, his government has opposed it at every turn.

“(It) killed the emissions trading scheme and the climate change portfolio; tried to kill the renewable energy target and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation; defunded the Climate Council; supports Adani’s massive proposed coalmine; has no significant emissions-reduction or energy policy; and is populated with climate deniers.” And those deniers show no sign of any Damascene conversion.

Someone needs to call bullshit on Morrison’s brand new mantra, “it has always been our policy.”

Last September, for example, David Littleproud professed not to know whether the global heating crisis was man-made. This month, Science Minister, Karen Andrews, says the “science is settled” but the Coalition will do nothing to lift its woefully inadequate carbon emissions targets.

And only last September, Ms Andrews was making the big pitch that

Harnessing new technologies in the mining, oil and gas industries will add $74 billion to the Australian economy by 2030 and create more than 80,000 new local jobs. Jobs and growth? All sorted then. But ABS figures suggest nothing like this.

Time to phone a friend. Federal energy minister Angus Taylor has an “expert panel” –led by former Origin Energy CEO and president of the Business Council of Australia, Grant King, along with Susie Smith, the CEO of the Australian Industry Greenhouse Network, which represents many of Australia’s largest emitters.

Taylor claims his panel will identify new opportunities to achieve emissions reduction – without explaining how. The panel has undertaken a closed consultation to which the public has not had input with Taylor’s handpicked group of representatives heavily stacked towards the fossil fuel industry and Australia’s largest emitters, reports Renew Economy’s Michael Mazengarb.

Angus Taylor’s list clearly indicates a government in cahoots with the polluters causing global heating. But Taylor’s case is fair and reasonable compared to Matt Canavan’s.

How does Scotty explain Canavan, the self-styled “Mr Coal from Australia” who tells Sky News calls to reduce emissions, especially by Greta Thunberg, are about social engineering than climate change?

“Their policy prescriptions aren’t actually about reducing carbon emissions, it’s about the radical massive changes to our economy and society and culture.” 

Seriously? As opposed to the radical changes caused by doing nothing?

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists executive chair of its Science and Security Board, former Governor of California, Jerry Brown, exposes Scotty’s posturing. “The Australian government is in utter and complete denial. Under its current leadership, Australia is fostering denial in an incredibly mendacious way.”

Now is not the time to talk about Greg Hunt’s soil magic but our ABC could at least hold the PM to account on how our bushfire catastrophe burns a hole in Hunt’s Direct Action tree-planting boondoggle.

“Carbon credits counted in government projections can, quite literally, go up in smoke and blow out the emissions side of the CO2 ledger,” ANU climate scientist, Will Steffen explains.

There’s also more bullshit of “evolving” climate policy and other ScoMo-hoaxes to cloak the reality that his mining lobby muppet government has no intention of curbing emissions or fostering renewables.

True, the PM’s crafty plan runs up against a raft of inconvenient truths such as The Greens not actually being in power or billionaire climate science denier Michael Hintze’s funding of Liberals for years, but, as Lewis points out, supporters will grab on to whatever they can in order to maintain their world-view.

The PM could explain why Hintze, a crusading Neoliberal who disputes scientific evidence that carbon emissions are rapidly helping cause irreversible global heating, donated $75,000 to former, fellow dud Prime Minister, Tony Abbott’s 2013 election campaign – amongst other Liberal Party support over the years. Hintze also enjoys a cordial long-running business relationship with Energy Minister Angus Taylor.

Only a year ago Morrison was preaching to us in The Daily Telegraph that Australians can always be counted on to make and keep our commitments. Exposed is his own utter lack of commitment to lead or to plan or to heed climate scientists’ or accept expert fire-fighters’ advice. Instead, he is a total liability.

Recent Australia Institute polling leads senior researcher, Tom Swann to conclude.

“Australia is in the grip of a national climate disaster. The social, economic and medical impacts are vast and only just starting to become clear,”

“Our research shows that it’s likely more than 5 million Australian adults, along with many children, have suffered negative health impacts as a result of the fires and at least 1.5 million have missed work.”

Lying about climate policy is taxing. Yet Scotty suddenly has a crisis on his hands – the Coalition’s $100 million sports rorts scandal reveals a government avidly milking the till, ripping off the taxpayer and other more deserving local sports clubs in favour of buying support in marginal seats.

In brief, then Sports Minister, Bridget McKenzie took it upon herself to decide which clubs got the grants. It turns out that she has no legal authority to do so. The Auditor-General, Grant Hehir is underwhelmed.

If only, in 2019, Georgina Downer hadn’t flashed a giant polystyrene cheque for $127, 373. Downer wished to “make sure the Yankalilla Bowling Club’s Community Sport Infrastructure grant application was successful”. It was. And battling Adelaide Hills Council also got almost $500,000 to upgrade change rooms at the oval.

Downer’s oversized cheque leads the Auditor-General to uncover a $100 million pork-barrel racket under the aegis of then Minister for Sport, Bridget McKenzie, with the help of two members of the PM’s staff.

Australians are still coming to terms with Morrison’s deceit and his fake apology and whilst the sociopath in him would like to con us that we’ve “moved on”, it doesn’t work like that. The rorts will do little to curb growing suspicion of his government’s corruption, incompetence and sheer contempt for due process.

“The past is not dead. It is not even past”, William Faulkner observed. Scotty’s shameless dereliction of duty, his substitution of PR strategy for policy and his contempt for accountability continue to eat away at his credibility as the bushfire crisis and the sports rorts scandal take their toll. As do his gaffes.

Monday, he stuffs up comprehensively, promising Nine’s Today that over ten years, “Our per capita emissions will fall by half”. This adds up to a massive forty-two per cent reduction. Even his own Environment Department boffins predict only a four percent over the same period – a decline from 532 million tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent in 2019 to 511 million tonnes in 2030.

Michael Pascoe boggles: not only does the PM clearly not know what he’s talking about, his hosts, Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon don’t notice. Hosts are only there to fawn over the most inept PM in our nation’s history. Show business for ugly people, celebrity back-scratchers.

As Pascoe notes, no-one pays attention, cares or follows whatever inanity comes out of the PM’s motor mouth. And to be fair, you do tune out after a while.

When he promised to “burn” for us, Morrison’s vision did not include megafires for which he’s completely unprepared. Then there’s his sports rorts; the scandal of doling out grants he isn’t entitled to. Will these prove to be his minister’s auto da fe?

Now Scotty’s doing the hard yards, slaving away back at the PM’s office, signing press drops disclaiming all responsibility for sports rorts or doing nothing at all to curb global heating and less than nothing to heed expert advice that we need to prepare for a terrible new type of bushfire. But, seriously, what would a mob of dedicated, distinguished and experienced former fire chiefs know about anything?

Also missing in action is Il Duce, Peter Dutton, our ambitious Home Affairs Czar whose duties include “Commonwealth emergency management and natural disaster relief, recovery and mitigation and financial assistance”. More powerful than the PM, Dutton has yet to do a tap – a sure sign that he’s keen to foster resilience and promote self-help by doing nothing at all for bushfire victims.

Dutto oozes natural leadership with his Queensland Drug squaddie jollity, his compassion and his endless hypervigilance over scoundrels who might rort our Border Protection by faking illness just to get into a mainland hospital but his emergency role, so far, is limited to accusing Labor of pork-barrelling, too.

Morrison’s nemesis, Malcolm Turnbull weighs in, Wednesday. Scotty double-double crossed his PM with the most brazen lie in our political history on 22 August, 2018. Morrison threw an arm around Turnbull, “This is my leader and I’m very ambitious for him”, he said in a rare break from plotting to knife his PM in the back.

Still wounded by the betrayal, Turnbull can’t fathom Morrison’s conduct, he helpfully tells BBC listeners. Revenge is a dish best served cold.

“I can’t explain why he didn’t meet the former fire commissioners who wanted to see him in March last year to talk about the gravity of the threat. Everybody knew we were in a very dry time and as a consequence the fire season was likely to be very bad.

“So rather than doing what a leader should do and preparing people for that, he downplayed it and then of course chose to go away on holiday in Hawaii? At the peak of the crisis? I just can’t explain any of that. It’s just not consistent with the way in which a prime minister would or should act.”

In the far pavilions of Victoria’s Liberal festering wen of corruption, rising evangelicals and intrigue, the lobster with the mobster crew in Victoria are no help at all. Current leader Michael O’Brien, elected for not being Matthew Guy, calls on the federal government to adopt long-term “sensible” emissions reduction targets. Communities and businesses need certainty beyond 2030. It’s the old, trite, tired slogan.

And it’s bullshit. O’Brien still wants native forest logging, so vital to micro-climate, ecology and to species survival and he’s full of guff about how gas is heaps better than coal because – you know … transition to renewables. He’s just another Liberal fossil fuel shill pretending to take global heating a little bit seriously.

Natural gas is a bridge to nowhere. It comprises mainly methane, a greenhouse gas that plays a big role in cooking our planet. When it first enters our atmosphere, it’s 120 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in trapping heat. Over twenty years, it’s eight-six times more powerful.

Methane leaks from natural gas extraction and production. This may make natural gas extracted from shale rock worse than coal in terms of its greenhouse gas footprint. The chemicals used in fracking fluid can easily end up contaminating groundwater. And drilling can be enormously polluting.

But it’s all OK, Scotty knows what to say. He deploys the lame “if anyone’s offended” cop-out to cover absconding to Hawaii. Besides, as everyone knows, bushfires are totally a state matter. Expect a piece in the Murdoch press quoting unnamed high-ranking Liberals exposing O’Brien as a hopeless bed-wetter.

Above all, not one catastrophic inferno could ever be linked to Morrison’s government’s crusade to mine, sell or burn coal, for its fossil-fuel industry robber baron sponsors. Long may their tax-payer funded subsidies suck dry the funds that should go towards  running schools, hospitals and making payments to disability pensioners.

No-one’s making the absurd claim that any single fire is solely caused by climate change but Morrison just loves the straw man logical fallacy – almost as much as he loves scapegoating and slurs.

As everyone knows, everything is always Labor’s fault. Tim Wilson, IPA MP for Goldstein instead of IPA fellow Georgina Downer, bags Daniel Andrews for slack hazard reduction. It’s as dishonest and as baseless as Tim’s election campaign franking credits farce. But it fits the PM’s lie that bushfires can be blamed on Greens, Labor -anyone. For seven years, Wilson was IPA Director of Climate Change Policy to protect mining.

Look over here, calls Morrison, Tuesday. I’ve got a little list. It’s more than a bid to look busy. Morrison is out to create a fake climate agenda by proposing a “national register to ensure hazard reduction transparency at a federal level”.  Karen Andrews has also been on the front foot to ensure that we just stop talking about how fossil fuels are helping us to fry the planet and instead talk about land-clearing.

“My starting position in the discussion tomorrow will be that the climate has changed and it continues to change. We need to focus on the steps to adapt and mitigate the impact of those changes.” Karen is Morrison’s Science Minister, a captain’s pick which confirms his perverse delight in choosing MPs whose views are antithetical to the portfolios they are assigned. Adapt and mitigate is coal lobby nonsense.

And it’s disingenuous. Australia is experiencing unprecedented, unpredictable and devastating climate change and we should be taking steps to reduce the carbon and other emissions that are part of its causation. Her “discussion” is a version of Morrison’s NRA gun lobby mantra: “Now is not the time …”

The national register is all part of Scotty’s team plan to divert attention from his government’s monumental failure of leadership in all aspects of the current bushfire crisis by blaming the states for not preventing the fires.

After unprecedented, catastrophic fire consumes 10 million hectares, destroys over 2,000 homes and kills at least 28 people, destroys some of the oldest forests in the worldkills nearly 500 million animals and causes the loss of sites that hold the timeless history of First Nations’ cultures, there’s nothing like a bit of scapegoating to restore the nation’s faith. Cue hypocritical hand-wringing from the Murdoch press.

Fearless advocate of fossil fuel and an early champion of “axing the tax: as Australia’s successful price on carbon, 2012-2014  was cynically misrepresented, The Australian now laments part of the costs.

The Oz estimates that the bushfire crisis has cost $2 billion in lost business revenue, forward sales and the physical destruction of tourism facilities, and could cost an additional $4.5 billion by season’s end.

Scotty’s non-apology helps us all heaps. We treasure his “regret” for “any offence caused to any of the many Australians affected by the terrible bushfires by my taking leave with family at this time”.

Scotty’s always got a glib comeback; an adman’s spin. He totally gets that we all like to see him take charge in times of crisis. Besides Jen and the girls needed a break. He pushes them under a bus. It’s something he’d like to do with Bridget McKenzie, but can’t – yet – because she’s a National and can do more or less what she likes according to the secret agreement that lies at the Coalition’s sclerotic heart.

In the end, Scotty spins. Wednesday, he makes a big deal out of announcing that the Auditor-General’s adverse finding that the allocation of funds intended to be awarded by Sport Australia is a process which appears to have be ignored or suborned by the then Minister for Sport and her PM.

It’s a headache. Not only did McKenzie hand out $100 million without legal authority on the basis of her own, political criteria, more worthy but unsuccessful grant applicants who followed a merit-based process could sue. Slater and Gordon is looking into a class action for those who missed out on grants.

Morrison refers former sports minister McKenzie’s handling of the $100m sports grants program to his own department to investigate whether ministerial standards were breached – even though the Auditor-General is concerned that it’s a tad more serious. Neither McKenzie nor Morrison have legal authority to hand out sports grants.

But don’t think the big guns aren’t being brought in. Attorney general and national paper tiger, our nation’s legal guardian, Christian Porter pretends to defend McKenzie after it’s revealed that she approved a $36,000 grant to a shooting club of which she is a member, claiming being a “paper member” of a club raises no probity issue.

The “only a paper member” defence is a stroke of forensic genius.

Sheer genius also is Ms McKenzie’s claim that she did not know she was a member of the club until her mother told her, a variation on Signor Matt Canavan’s “my mother made me an Italian” defence.

By Sunday, in the cross-hairs at Scotty’s political roo-shoot is the incredible Bridget McKenzie. McKenzie is already a VIP as a former sports minister. Does it get any more important than sport? OK, there may be a few minor peccadilloes such as our modern gladiators’ doping scandals, off-field homophobia, misogyny, match-fixing, substance abuse and FIFA’s corruption -but sport is huge.

And you’ve got to be in it to win it. Bridget packs a double-barrelled Beretta Silver Pigeon over and under shotgun. Loves being a sporting shooter. Killing puts her in touch with nature.

“I know it will sound incongruous to people but hunting is about connecting with nature and the outdoors. You have to understand nature to reap the bounty of it,” she tells The Age’s Matthew Knott.  Or have powerful automatic weapons such as the Adler A110, a banned rapid-fire shotgun.

Nothing says understanding nature more than the wild terror inflicted by the fearful noise of the shotgun. Just the sound of exploding black powder severely interrupts feeding and breeding. Quick kills are rare. Many animals suffer prolonged, painful deaths when hunters severely injure but fail to kill them.

The prohibition of the A110 was no real problem for McKenzie and our gun lobby to overturn quietly. Nor was there a single comment from then Attorney-General George Brandis or then Justice Minister Michael Keenan, who drew fire for heeding the gun lobby. In the year to March 2017, political parties pocketed over $300,000 in donations from the firearms lobby, gun suppliers and manufacturers.

Above all, McKenzie commands respect because she’s deputy leader of a mob of regional, parochial, benighted, mining Muppets who absurdly posture as The Nationals. Without the Nats to make up the Coalition’s numbers, however, the Libs are cactus.

Scott’s non-apology sets the tone for his government and for what is already proving to be a beaut new year of Coalition incompetence, evasion, denial and outright lying. Who will ever forget the inspiring leadership Morrison showed when he expressed “regret” for “any offence caused to any of the many Australians affected by the terrible bushfires by my taking leave with family at this time”.

Leading from the front this time, Scotty, himself, seems to have found $200,000 for a local Sutherland Shire Lilli Pilli Soccer club at least three weeks before grants were decided. A series of experts point out, yet again, that the PM has no legal authority to disburse funds designated for Sport Australia.

Nor does Bridget McKenzie. If he plays his cards right, Morrison will be able to handball Bridget McKenzie’s demotion to his own office’s Phil Gaetjens while he continues to snub a nation increasingly concerned that his government has no policy on greenhouse gas emissions.

Adding insult to injury, he will insist that his government “is evolving its policy” on climate change.

Scotty’s case is helped immensely, Monday, by his ugly personal and political attack on NSW Liberal Matt Kean, a state environment minister, who dares suggest that the federal government heed those voters who want the federal government to do something to protect our environment.

Other Liberal coal lobby shills, such as NSW deputy-leader John Barilaro quickly put the boot into Kean. As does Samantha Maiden in The New Daily who attacks the “Senator for Elwood”, as Bridget McKenzie is known in a helpful piece that will buck up the government’s spirits no end. It begins,

“Accused pork-barrelling minister Bridget McKenzie accepted a free Christmas ham from the pig industry, but took three months to declare her purchase of a $2 million investment property in beachside Melbourne.”

Looks like Bridget’s in deep trouble but will Morrison once again walk away – miraculously – Scott-free? Or will the Senator for Elwood have the last laugh after all?

 

As straw men in a firestorm.

fire over water

 

“There is no link, the facts that cause the fires are the drought and the drying of the environment,”

“I follow the science,” lies Craig Kelly, MP for Hughes, who lobs on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, a pulpit for Piers Morgan, a Daily Mirror, former editor, sacked in 2004, for publishing fake images purporting to show British soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners.

Kelly’s claim is as ludicrous as his PM’s own palpable falsehood. It’s in this week’s talking-point kit. Suddenly government MPs are all trotting out the same bullshit.

“Our view of climate change is that it’s real. We accept the science,” Josh Frydenberg lies in a drop to every media outfit in Australia. Yet the Coalition, steadfastly, ignores all scientific advice linking global heating to climate change.

Scott Morrison’s government favours the straw man fallacy. No-one accuses them of denying the reality of climate change – that’s a distortion of the argument that climate change or global heating contributes to the new bushfire holocaust we are suffering – a fire so severe; so intense that it defies all conventional means to bring it under control.

Can Piers Morgan or co-host meteorologist, Laura Tobin tell Kelly that climate change causes the drought and dry? It’s difficult given that Kelly holds that there’s no evidence that climate change is making Australia hotter and drier. It’s woeful, wilful ignorance.

An exasperated Tobin berates Kelly for ignoring scientific reports that 2019 is our hottest and driest year on record.

“At the moment we want everyone to commit in the world to be one and a half degrees to lower our global temperature rise,” Tobin says. “You can’t even commit to two degrees.”

Kelly’s as plausible as an arsonist with a box of matches and a jerry-can of petrol who says he’s only helping other volunteers put out fires. Some punters say he’s been banned from Q&A so he’s now speaking out on “Pommy” TV as he calls it.

Or is he sent by the PM? Fair dinkum, says Craig. Australia’s fire catastrophe was no reason for Morrison to cancel his planned family holiday in Hawaii. The situation is totally under control and besides, fire-fighting is a state matter.

Neither Morgan nor Tobin ask why a plan to prepare for climate change-related natural disasters was left to gather dust in Peter Dutton’s Department of Home Affairs for eighteen months before catastrophic bushfires hit last month.

The bushfire crisis now includes a “mega blaze” of half a million hectares on both sides of the Murray in the Snowy and Upper Murray. The flames have cost twenty-seven lives, destroyed at least 2079 homes, damaged over 800 others and have burned or are currently burning 8.4 million hectares – an area the size of Ireland or Austria.

We can only guess at the loss of wildlife. Above and beyond the human trauma and loss in fire grounds, Australian Academy of Science Fellow, Chris Dickman estimates that 1 billion animals have now been killed in the bushfires — a figure that includes mammals, birds and reptiles, but not bats, frogs, insects or other invertebrates.

A National Disaster Risk Reduction report containing a national implementation plan was published just before Malcolm Turnbull was double-double crossed by Morrison. Then Dutton put it away. But you can bet he was under instruction from his new PM.

Kelly can claim he’s following the science, but follow the (current) leader appears to be the only Liberal game in town. Morrison leaks against you otherwise, as his government has with Gladys Berejiklian, claiming she’s being obstructive of federal efforts to help.

As luck would have it, Good Morning Britain is another show with no scruples at all. Self-styled “climate science-follower”, a dubious generic tag evoking a voyeuristic ambulance-chaser, Craig Kelly does not expect a hostile reception. More a back-rub.

A former editor of Murdoch’s now defunct tabloid rag, News of the World, whose then editor, Andy Coulson, resigned before it closed in 2011 after he’d been caught hacking the phones of dead children, Morgan admits to BBC Desert Island Discs in 2009 that gutter publishing corrupts much of Britain’s print media – as it does in Australia.

“I simply say the net of people doing it was very wide, and certainly encompassed the high and low end of the supposed newspaper market.”

The “everybody does it”, argument is hugely reassuring to all who expect a bit of truth in their news and a few less monsters in their politics, but Morgan, like Morrison and Trump are creatures of a post-truth era in which everyone just makes stuff up.

We must be careful, however. When a thousand people believe some made-up story for one month, that’s fake news. When a billion people believe it for a thousand years, that’s a religion, and we are admonished not to call it “fake news” in order not to hurt the feelings of the faithful. Not that it ends there. Morrison’s priority as PM, he claims, is to protect freedom of religion, even though this is already guaranteed in our constitution.

Christian Porter is slaving over a new bill to allow churches to discriminate against workers provided that the school or hospital or op-shop “publish policy” explaining its ethos and rules, (something of a challenge given explaining exclusion implies that it stems from reason and not faith or prejudice). But it’s all very fair and merciful.

Religious hospitals, granny farms and retirement homes will “preference” members of their own faith to preserve their “religious ethos”. Unbelievers can die on the streets.

Dutton supporter, Kelly looks more pub bouncer than MP in blue suit and red tie rucked up under a thick, red, neck. He’s eager to get his mug on ITV to help repay the favour he owes the PM by acting as mouthpiece for Morrison’s own climate science denialism.

Big Craig is the founder of bipartisan buddy-club, Parliamentary Friends of Coal Exports, (PFOC) a climate criminal and mining lobby catspaw self-help group which includes Joel Fitzgibbon. Mike Freelander, who holds the south-west Sydney seat of Macarthur, swells the throng, as does the invisible Member for Paterson, Meryl Swanson, and the Member for Oxley, the euphonious, Milton Dick.

Kelly continues to bullshit Morgan.

“On this, climate scientists down here have been very clear and they have said there is no link between drought and climate change.”  Kelly outdoes even his PM.

Kelly, as Morrison’s emissary and coal lobby shill, already has zero credibility before he even gets to his own batshit crazy blame-it-on-the big dry and I-follow-the-science big fat lie. His hosts do their homework. Laura Tobin, the woman Kelly calls a “Pommy weather girl” has a degree in physics and meteorology.

A former RAF forecaster for four years, Tobin has also worked as a broadcast meteorologist for twelve years. She’s completed a climate course with the World Meteorological Organisation. Kelly’s sexist weather girl slur is superbly misjudged.

But Kelly barely gets to open his mouth before Tory pit-bull and professional bully Piers Morgan, leaps down his throat. Morgan’s the other co-host of Good Morning Britain ITV’s daily carnival of interrogation, right-wing rants celebrity gossip and fashion tips.

Morgan attacks Kelly for taking a “nothing to see here, nothing to worry about” approach as “your entire country is eviscerated by fires”.

“You are facing now one of the greatest crises you have ever faced, and there is you Mr Kelly, with respect, a senior politician who still doesn’t think this has anything to do with a heating-up planet,” Morgan snorts and rages. Senior?

Kelly, who’s been warned off spruiking climate science denial on SKY, bobs up like a turd in the surf off Bondi, on Morgan’s show. But is there a bit of divine intervention, behind the scenes, to help Craig get a live TV link to London? If he’s free-lancing, it’s not going to help Humpty-Dumpty Morrison win back any credibility as a leader.

“I did @BBCRadio4 against him Sunday. The producer said they had asked for a senior government rep and this is who @ScottMorrisonMP thought was the best person to represent his government,” tweets Labor’s Catherine King.

Kelly denies it. He’s never said anything to the PM but Morrison did warn him off SKY. A “government spokesman” bags the suggestion as“fanciful”.  But it’s way too much to swallow. The same PM’s staff denied that he had deserted the nation in its hour of need when he nicked off to Waikiki. Sprung, he blames Jen and the kids – as he blames our failure to reduce fire hazards and arson as the causes of our worst bushfires ever.

Kelly’s interview is widely written off as a car crash but sometimes people do survive car crashes. Both Kelly and his PM have the skids under them. Aloha Morrison is done for.

“Car crash” also unfairly diminishes the salesmanship of our crack elite of climate science denialists. They’re out to crash the planet. Every time Kelly repeats a lie, it gains legitimacy. And like a rat up a drainpipe, Josh Frydenberg’s able to bucket us in more bullshit by publicly correcting Craig and boosting the red-herring of fuel load.

Frydenberg rat-cunningly corrects Kelly. The “government’s view is that climate change is causing hotter, drier summers”, but he shrewdly endorses the popular troll-bot myth that fuel load is “a contributing factor” to the bushfires.

“Hazard reduction is just one way of preparing for bushfires – it doesn’t remove the threat of fire,” explains a spokesperson for the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment. And the terrible new fire leaps fire breaks.

Kelly’s a useful idiot. The former Rugby knucklehead would be back selling furniture, had not Scott Morrison lobbied NSW Liberals to skip pre-selection for all sitting Liberal members; torpedo party democracy just to keep Kelly on the team. And out there selling denialism. As Chris Graham argues in New Matilda, there’s nothing that Craig Kelly recites in his Liberal talking points that Aloha Morrison hasn’t already said since he rinsed the sand out of his budgie smugglers on return from Waikiki.

Of course, there’s more to it than Morrison’s need to keep Kelly on board. Malcolm Turnbull weighed in to lobby the NSW Party Executive to waive its emergency powers; drop the Morrison plot to help Kelly dodge a bullet. Had pre-selection proceeded, a more moderate Lib/Lab MP, Kent Jones, would have unseated Kelly.

“Today I learned there was a move to persuade the State Executive to re-endorse Craig Kelly as Liberal candidate for Hughes in order to avoid a preselection – in other words to deny Liberal Party members in Hughes the opportunity to have their say.” Turnbull tweeted just over a year ago.

Besides, Kelly threatened to stand as an independent and cross the floor if he didn’t get pre-selected. Malcolm Turnbull weighed in on behalf of his imaginary friends, the Liberal moderates of Hughes, a south Sydney electorate, who are stoked to have a coal lobby shill represent an electorate where the monstrous new bush fire still rages today.

Hold it right there. Kelly is quickly gagged in the name of transparency and broad churchiness that is today’s Liberal Party- where any MP can say anything – provided his PM agrees. Sky News “Political Editor” Andrew Clennell claims, on Thursday, control freak Morrison, “… requests MPs don’t do any international media interviews …”

It’s a dig at Kelly. But only if Sky News had a skerrick of credibility. The supposed ban could well be a PM’s office drop to help boost Morrison’s floundering leadership. There’s no real evidence that this PM has any more sway over his right wing than Turnbull.

Above all, the government insists, now is not the time to talk. Unless you are the PM who gets a fab, fur-lined, fully scripted, designer interview with David Speers on ABC, Sunday to help narcissistic Scott Almighty from marketing to sing his own praises.

My, he’s called out the military. (Reserve). No-one’s done that before. He lies. Black Saturday in Victoria 2009 saw 600 ADF personnel deployed. But Speers can’t go there. Victoria doesn’t exist in the Canberra bubble – nor can the past intrude upon the eternal present of “news”. But, man, can motormouth Morrison talk up one simple phone call.

“I mean, the scale of these fires going across two very large jurisdictions reached an unprecedented level and that required an unprecedented response at that time and one was delivered and delivered very quickly.”

How many reservists have been deployed? If employed they have to get leave from work. “You may not be forced to take any form of paid or unpaid leave.”

How well trained are they? What was the call-up? “We are caught up in an unprecedented, catastrophic and uniquely dangerous bushfire crisis. Drop whatever you’re doing and join us?” A rapid, mass deployment may not be easy.

Morrison expects applause for a desperate afterthought after four years of his government ignoring warnings. Friday, over 30,000 people march in Sydney, alone, in a series of nation-wide demonstrations, quiet Australians take to the street to demand Morrison be sacked over his government’s lack of action on climate change.

Overseas protests are held from London to Lima. Morrison sooks on 2GB. John Stanley’s minding the mike while Alan Jones is on holiday. Oddly, the PM’s courage evaporates when Stanley asks him to book an ear-bashing with Alan on his return.

It’s “disappointing” that people are conflating the bushfire crisis with Australia’s emission reduction targets, ScoMo-Pinocchio tells 2GB Friday.

“We don’t want job-destroying, economy-destroying, economy-wrecking targets and goals, which won’t change the fact that there have been bushfires or anything like that in Australia,” he dog-whistles up a farrago of lies.

We? Only the federal government wants inaction on carbon and greenhouse gases. In fact, every state and mainland territory government in the country has made either aspirational or legislated commitments toward zero-emissions. Victoria has legislated a target of net zero emissions by 2050, while the ACT aims for net zero by 2045.

Job destroying; economy wrecking? The coal industry employs less than 0.4% of the Australian workforce and its royalties contribute just 2% of revenue to NSW and Queensland budgets. That’s before we subtract national, annual tax-based subsidies of $12 billion to boost fossil fuel production and consumption. Tax-payers subsidise wealthy companies?

Abreast of science; prompted by years of first-hand observation and experience, former emergency chiefs step up to write the PM an open letter warning about funding cuts to fire services, the coalition’s criminal negligence of the facts of global heating and the fatal consequences of following ignorance, self-interest and the sirens of the coal lobby.

“In the last year we’ve seen unseasonal fires in Tasmania, Victoria, NSW, Queensland and Western Australia, floods and twin cyclones in parts of northern Australia, longer bushfire danger periods and fires burning in rainforests,” the statement, signed by 23 representatives from each state and territory, says.

“Rising greenhouse gas pollution from the burning of coal, oil and gas is worsening extreme weather and putting people in danger.”

Now “pants-on-fire” Morrison gallantly blames yet another woman. (First it was Jenny and the girls.) This time, it’s NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. She’s refusing federal help to fight fires. Gladys is furious.  NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner, Shane Fitzsimmons simply says “it just didn’t happen”. Senior Liberals rush to support their premier, united against the PM’s dishonesty; his latest act of evasive misogyny.

Greens are to blame, lies barking Barnaby Joyce, throwing a hissy fit of relevance deprivation to divert a bit of heat off the PM. Always keen to recycle disinformation, Joyce repeats the old canard that “green caveats” for preventing hazard reduction burns led to the current bushfire catastrophe. Fitzsimmons rejects Joyce’s claims, saying the biggest challenge with hazard reduction is the “weather and the windows available” to do it safely not “environmental clearances.”

On Saturday, his shifty PM is keenly scapegoating, saying people “who say they are seeking those actions on climate change” could also be the same people who “don’t share the same urgency of dealing with hazard reduction”.

None of this is true. It’s easier to blame arsonists and greenies than to act on expert advice. It may divert attention from the government’s lack of consultation and its failure to delegate or deliver collective action, as Monash University’s James Walter observes.

But it highlights Morrison’s own incompetence; his preference for divisiveness in a crisis. This is a government without a clue and a leader without a plan beyond diversion, evasion and scapegoating, lying and gaslighting. It is a travesty of the notion of governance in the public good. Australians deserve better than this grifter.

Above all the ScoMo show has no scruples. A PM who is happy to recycle lies is not a leader – just a dangerous bullshit artist. Up there with Trump and his BFF Putin.

US philosopher Harry Frankfurt argues that whereas the liar cares about the truth – their aim is to prevent others from learning it – the bullshitter does not care about the difference between the truth and falsity of their assertions. They just pick ideas out, or make them up, to suit their purpose. This makes them more dangerous than liars.

“Bullshitters seek to convey a certain impression of themselves without being concerned about whether anything at all is true. They quietly change the rules governing their end of the conversation so that claims about truth and falsity are irrelevant.”

But it can’t happen so easily without a servile press. Hero of the week is Emily Townsend who leaves The Australian under a cloud – with a silver lining.

“I find it unconscionable to continue working for this company, knowing I am contributing to the spread of climate change denial and lies. The reporting I have witnessed in the Australian, the Daily Telegraph and the Herald Sun is not only irresponsible, but dangerous and damaging to our communities and beautiful planet that needs us more than ever now to acknowledge the destruction we have caused and start doing something about it.”

Commercial finance manager who reads between the lies, Emily Townsend emails executive chairman Michael Miller in a sensational open email to all staff.

News Corp papers highlight issues such as arson and hazard reduction to divert readers from climate change’s role in creating longer, more severe fire seasons. Arson may be responsible for one or two fires so far but it’s a major cause in the Oz.

Hazard reduction is no longer quite so relevant to today’s climate. Former NSW fire and rescue commissioner Greg Mullins tells ABC 24 climate change means it’s often too dangerous to burn: “Extreme drought like this, underpinned by 20 years of reduced rainfall, has meant the window for hazard reduction is very narrow now.”

Cutbacks in forestry and national parks personnel mean hazard reduction has fallen to volunteers. But in the end, the best hazard reduction is in calling bullshit to climate science deniers, for ultimately they are a type of arsonist, too.

Naomi Wolf is checking Bullshit Morrison’s dubious claims that the Australian government has sought overseas fire assistance. Dr Wolf calls Morrison’s office. It stonewalls. She’s amazed at how we Australians just take this lying down, tweets indefatigable, investigative reporter Ronni Salt.

“His office is not aware if either offers have been accepted”? In a working democracy the head of state knows if national offers of crisis assistance have been accepted. As does his office. “It’s alarming how they’ve tried to habituate people to no response,” she tweets. It’s even more alarming how the PM will just make up stuff.

War breaks out between NSW Liberals and Pinocchio Morrison, over his incredible story that the state government rejected offers of navy ships to help evacuate bushfire victims from Mallacoota and other fire-ravaged south coast towns. Further stretching credibility is that the story is dropped by the PMC to The Daily Tele’s Sharri Markson.

Labor also is losing credibility as an effective opposition on the need to get real about global heating. Terminally conflicted opposition leader, Anthony Albanese, wrings his hands in despair. Yet his recent advocacy of coal exports aligns him with other Labor MPs in the Kelly gang; the Parliamentary Friends of Coal Exports, (PFCE).

Albanese articulates his vision as shadow Prime Minister. He gets up to over-share his despair. No, Albo, no. Read the government and other, independent modelling that shows our economy will grow at just the same rate without coal.

“Despair not just that Craig Kelly has those views and continues to advocate them, not just here in Australia, but globally, and be seen to be representing the Australian government’s position, but the knowledge that he’s one of the people who has held back action,”

Albo sobs, backing the Coalition’s coal export toxic nonsense. Can our shadow PM not see how promoting coal makes him another “one of the people” to hold back action? Shut your coal-hole, Albo.

“I have seen a number of people suggest that somehow the government does not make this connection,” Morrison says deploying Trump’s favourite clapped-out bandwagon tactic “people say” followed by a fishy red-herring  “The government I lead has always made that connection and that has never been in dispute.”

The Bureau of Meteorology’s clear advice is that climate change is “influencing the frequency and severity of dangerous bushfire conditions in Australia and other regions of the world, including through influencing temperature, environmental moisture, weather patterns and fuel conditions”.

In the 2008 Garnaut Climate Change Review of the scientific evidence of the impacts of climate change on Australia and its economy, Ross Garnaut predicted that without adequate action, Australia would face a more frequent and intense fire season by 2020.

The bushfires that have ravaged our nation over the last four weeks, and which are likely to burn for at least a month more, are not just devastating farms, homesteads and forests. They also expose the wilful abdication of responsibility of a government in thrall to the coal-lobby and its servitude to a small but shrill group of climate science-deniers.

While Craig Kelly has widely been pilloried as a national embarrassment and a disgrace, he may have done us all a favour. His ITV interview debacle helps reveal the monumental ineptitude of the Morrison government he represents.

Above all, Kelly epitomises the Coalition’s dangerous, wilful ignorance, its mining industry muppetry as much as it helps expose the toxic nonsense of the climate science deniers and coal lobby shills which poison its ear and hence corrupt our body politic.

Scott Morrison and his government are as straw men in a firestorm.

 

A dangerously dysfunctional state of decay.

morrison in goggles

“The Prime Minister is testing the theory that the best way to resolve a crisis is to be as far away from it as possible,” Julie Bishop tells 150 “prominent” Liberals – in Nine Newspapers’ Michael Koziol’s view – who gather for The Liberal Forum (LF)’s annual, festive, pre-Christmas binge, whinge and back-stab over champers and canapés at former NSW Liberal president; serial company director, Fat Cat Kevin McCann’s, Mosman Gatsby mansion.

Her wicked dig is also an in-joke. Libs always cast Bishop as a “loyal girl” as Abbo aptly put it in 2009.

Bishop could also titillate guests with the PM’s other brilliant “out of sight out of mind” tactic of delaying or refusing FOI requests. How good is Morrison’s, latest attack on transparent government, a war begun by Tony Abbott, now a heroic Volunteer Fire-fighter bigging up his image in The Daily Mail at Morrison’s expense?

The PM, aka Scotty from Marketing, orders staff not to release texts which Drought Envoy, Barnaby Joyce says justify $675 thousand in expenses – rung up as he ventured outside his electorate for less than three weeks to assiduously report on The Big Dry. As with Brian Houston’s invite to the White House, Scotty clams up.

Joyce was demoted for violating Malco’s Ministerial code’s no bonking clause, but to keep Joyce on side, within days of knifing Turnbull, ScoMo bought the support of the former Nationals’ Leader by creating an important job, Drought Envoy with expense account and staff to find out how no rain affects farmers.

Joyce has filed no report. He did not know he needed to. But he “sent heaps of texts,” he tells Channel 7. 

“An awful lot of texts,” he tells our ABC.  But he’s not showing them to anyone. Nor is the Prime Minister. Barnaby’s insights will remain hermetically-sealed, like the top secret agreement between the Liberals who need the Nationals numbers, come hell or high water. It’s as if some secret Freemasonry is the heart and soul; the life-blood of our can-do Coalition government which is always rolling up its sleeves to set up inquiries.

And stymie others. “I’m not going to tell you what they said, they were directed to the Prime Minister, if he wants to tell you what they said, that’s up to him … I can assure you, I directly sent reports,” Joyce blusters.

Can-do? If it’s OK with the Nats and their Big Cotton, Big Mining bosses, the Liberals can do it. Or not.

The PM’s Office refuses a FOI request for “any correspondence, including text messages and WhatsApp messages” between Joyce and Morrison “regarding his work as drought envoy”. Why? It claims it “would substantially and unreasonably interfere with the prime minister’s functions”. What a crack-up.

But ScoMo’s a no-show at this function. The Big Kahuna is still rushing back from Hawaii as guests arrive. But should the right wing warrior and climate change denier, Dutton dressed up as lamb, even get an invite?

The Liberal Forum runs on pure idealism, unsullied by the Party’s need to please its mining and banking lobby bosses’, its bigamous marriages of convenience to the Murdoch Press – and to The Nationals, its day to day chicanery or its Machiavellian pragmatism.  It’s a platonic affair, not a cabal of leadership plotters.

An “ideas group” of pure, if not lofty, intent, formed in secret in 1985 to offset “the conservative tide”, The Liberal Forum‘s noble, clandestine, mission was, alas, rapidly outwitted by “forces of greed and self-interest” recalls former NSW Senator Peter Baume, a small-l Liberal known to cross the floor on issues of principle.

Nowadays, The Black Hand, as wags quickly dubbed the Forum, is like The Cheshire Cat, a creature which has disappeared, leaving only the grin of its good intentions behind. The LF’s reduced to organising social events for what it fondly imagines is the modern Liberal Party’s moderate faction; a species which is much talked about  – in awe but never sighted- a type of Sasquatch or Loch Ness Monster, as Greg Jericho so aptly puts it.

Conspicuously missing in action (or “doing a ScoMo”) was any small-l Liberal in last February’s vote on the Medevac Bill. (Before it was so heroically repealed, early this month, thanks to Jacqui Lambie’s secret deal.)

Back in February, not one MP appears from Liberal ranks to be in favour of human decency. Not a word of protest is heard. Not one MP even hints that this niggardly act of humanity was OK, let alone fair or right.

Not a word is heard from any Liberal pleading to help our fellow human beings – all vulnerable, innocent people fleeing war, rape, genocide, political repression and murder. No-one speaks up for those whom we illegally detain indefinitely – an ugly, morally repugnant type of sadistic torture in our offshore prisons.

All the Medevac Bill proposed was that MPs agree to get all who are sick, or driven mad to a doctor. Twelve people have died in offshore detention to date. Coroner Terry Ryan’s inquiry into the case of Hamid Khazaei showed that he died as a direct result of the Australian Government’s refusal to follow medical orders.

Similarly, not one moderate protests last February’s gaming of parliamentary process by extending question time in order to avoid a vote on a Royal Commission into disabled care. But they do know how to party.

A former Liberal deputy leader, whose deputising was also near invisible, Ms Bishop wows the crowd when she mocks Scott Morrison as a PM who disappears just when we might need him. How good is her aim? But has Morrison become just another political joke?  Is the king-tide of Liberal support now fast running out for “miracle” Morrison, given his calamitous captain’s call to holiday while Australia burns?

Chins wag. Heads shake. There is much clutching of pearls. ScoMo’s snafu is generally held to be a monumental cock-up, except by News Corp’s Peter Van Onselen, who believes that Aloha Morrison has erred “while still on a honeymoon of sorts”. But, then, Van Onselen did predict a stonking Labor victory in May.

For most others, however, Aloha Morrison’s now a hopeless joke. (Hawaiians use Aloha both to greet and farewell.) Will “met his Waikiki” also enter the political lexicon as a colossal failure of judgement? Will Morrison’s dereliction of duty in time of crisis, be the only thing voters remember at the next federal election? Is Miracle Morrison already morphing into a political liability in the view of many nervous Liberal MPs?

But, let’s be frank, our Bronte bogan, the bad dad-joke who plotted day and night to get himself installed as PM over Turnbull’s politically dead body, but who didn’t have a clue what to do next, would still be the butt of derision even if he hadn’t cruelled Julie’s run for the top job or double-double crossed her pal, Malcolm.

Since becoming PM, Morrison’s wasted an inordinate amount of time and energy avoiding doing anything. At least Bishop gets in touch with her small-l liberalism by being cover star of Financial Review’s LUXURY Magazine September issue in a photo shoot. But it’s not all glossy photographs of Bishop rocking designer frocks and gowns. The former Minister for Women (2006-7) explains how she uses fashion for politics.

So this is what small-l Liberalism has come to? A photo-shoot in the exclusive LUXURY fashion-mag?

Julie loves a party, too. The former corporate lawyer knows how to have fun, as we all know, from her taxpayer funded trips to the Portsea Polo in 2016, a year when she racked up $1.2 million in travel expenses to her 2011, Reddy family celebrity Indian wedding in Hyderabad, a frugal, three-day event involving ten thousand guests, an intimate group of Indian politicians, Bollywood stars and a swag of international fashionistas. Bishop, Barnaby Joyce, Teresa Gambaro flew over in Gina Rinehart’s private jet.

But not back. Waggishly, Bishop billed tax-payers for a $3445 flight home to Perth from Hyderabad because, although she concedes she did attend the wedding, she was on a “study tour” which involved her in fact-finding, high-level trade and investment discussions with local energy and infrastructure potentates.

Bishop’s droll humour precedes her career in politics. In the 1980s, she worked as a solicitor for Wittenoom building company CSR, fighting workers’ claims and successfully delaying payouts to victims of asbestosis.

As Peter Gordon, whose firm Slater and Gordon won an historic class action for the workers in 1989, recalls, Bishop, then Julie Gillon, was a barrel of laughs, “… rhetorically asking the court why workers should be entitled to jump court queues just because they were dying.”

As a junior lawyer, Gordon had been told that it was too hard to run a case for negligence for someone with an asbestos-related cancer because “the victims died too quickly”. With his senior partner’s support, Gordon successfully approached the Court to fast-track the process “for interlocutory processes, discovery and interrogatories” to make sure victims got a trial in their lifetime. It was a hard-won decision.

Peter Gordon recalls, “We had to fight even for the right of dying cancer victims to get a speedy trial.”

Robert Vojakovic of WA-based Asbestos Diseases Society says Bishop “had a take-no-prisoners approach”.

Bishop is out of politics now but her legacy lives on in Morrison’s malignant narcissism; his ruthless ambition. His hyper-partisanship. And beyond.

Not only is the office of PM and Cabinet re-fashioned in his own Machiavellian image, his government has further cowed the public service into serving the party rather more than the people. And its Big Kahuna.

Back in the swim of things after his spectacularly ill-judged top-secret trip to Waikiki for a bit of quality time with his girls and his AFP Close Personal Protection squad, our roving PM takes time out from the rigours of defending his going AWOL by penning a blistering op-ed in The Daily Telegraph denouncing “reckless” and job-destroying proposals to cut coal coal-mining. He also takes a top photographer to Sydney’s Bronte Beach to snap him in his speedos for the press drop his boffins in the office make in crises of image management.

Charcoal-black budgie-smugglers,” The Daily Mail’s Tita Smith gushes.

ScoMo in speedos? The image conjures up a Lucian Freud nude – but our PM and his team of turd-polishers will go to any length to reassure an anxious nation that a PM who claims in his national apology that our nation’s clergy engaged in “ritual sexual abuse” of children is just a normal bloke. Even if he’s full of bull-shit.

Or even because of it. Australians love a tall story. It may help explain our nation’s weakness for Coalition election pledges. The coal industry employs less than 0.4% of the Australian workforce while its royalties contribute just 2% of revenue to the NSW and Queensland budgets – and that’s before the payment of subsidies. This week, our miners are hit by biggest thermal coal price plunge in over a decade. High coal prices cannot continue; Morrison’s Trumpista diplomacy has alienated our best customers in China. They are now buying less from us and more from other sources such as Mongolia in reprisal. Nice one, Trump fan-boy.

Morrison’s claim that we must choose between coal or prosperity is worse than nonsense. He’s just parroting coal lobby spin. Modelling shows we’d have just the same or better GDP growth with no mines. And with the damage done by his government’s diplomatic anti-China charm offensive, his rhetoric is even more vapid.

Yet with no coal mines our climate would be less overheated. Less likelihood, then, of catastrophic fires.

Fires destroy 4.6m hectares, across New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia. They burn with a ferocity and on a scale we’ve never seen before yet there is no hint that the government will acknowledge the link between the catastrophic fires and global heating. The PM makes a token concession.

Volunteer firefighters in NSW will be able to apply for up to $6,000 in compensation from the Federal Government, Morrison announces. Up to? Only NSW? Despite the cunning lack of clarity in the Coalition’s pledge, right on cue, there’s a howl of protest from Murdoch media, forever vigilant over the nation’s purse-strings and always eager to publish a government drop or spin story. And put the boot into unions.

“All prime ministers try to manage the media but Morrison is an extreme example. He is shameless about his use of favourites, whether individuals or outlets. The government regards The Australian as its bulletin board for announcements, frets even conservative Canberra Press Gallery veteran, Michelle Grattan.

Morrison’s offer is immediately denounced as against the “spirit of volunteerism” by Victoria’s CFA chief Steve Warrington. “We are always keen to explore opportunities to manage and reduce potential financial burdens on our members. However, it is my view and that of the CFA board that paying volunteers in general terms is not in the spirit of volunteerism,” he tells The Australian‘s Rebecca Urban.

A chorus of hard right commentators including Peta Credlin howls down the proposal. Incredibly, the same “spirit” nonsense is invoked. Worse, it’s a slippery slope. Credlin reckons there’ll be a rush of other applicants with their hands out for money. Imagine how we’d go to rack and ruin if we paid people for the work they do.

I’m a community volunteer. I can attest to the small fortune that local communities save governments with an endless series of fund-raisers, the donation of labour and the seeking of donations. At our Christmas community dinner, we helped raise $5000 to replace the chairs in three classrooms in the local primary school.

Chairs our state government is too tight-fisted to supply are part of the walnut and the thimble trick of global budgeting where the state shrugs off its responsibility leaving local principals teachers and school councils to do the hard unglamorous yards allocating forever shrinking funds to classroom and other programmes.

Imagine how our system would fall apart if we had fair and adequate government funding. Each federal education budget sees a further decline in real terms, although the Coalition loves to boast about total amounts spent. Population growth does that for them. In reality it’s always a per capita cut for the average kid in a state school. Greater hardship for working families. And support services increasingly harder to access.

Private schools continue to prosper but that’s all about giving parents’ choice as John Howard, pretended. Choice? Only for those who can pay. In a captain’s call, Howard also introduced poorly paid chaplains that schools must also raise funds to support.

What Credlin and Howard are about is the politics of division, where the wealthy prosper while the poor go begging, even though each spin their cuts as encouraging locally raised funds and community-building.

Decades of neoliberal management and federal funding cuts in education departments have seen countless rural schools become dependent for essentials on the “spirit of volunteerism“. Most teachers I know buy classroom materials out of their own increasingly casualised and contract salaries. Or go begging.

When the fires came for our place in regional Western Victoria, our local volunteers did a wonderful job. But if it hadn’t been for Elvis the giant Erickson S-64 Air-Crane, our little cottage in the woods would have gone up in smoke. Our neighbour M who is a former CFA chief gave us a video of Elvis dropping fire retardant on flames which licked across the dry grass, set fire to the trees, shrubs and fence-posts to within metres of our dwelling.

Three times the fire came and went; driven by high winds that switched north, south, north as they do in this area. After each wave of fire, local CFA volunteers, farmers with tanks on utes came to put out spot fires as ancient river red-gums along the road erupted into flame and century-old fence posts and battens caught fire.

The 2015 bushfire began in a vineyard, almost certainly started by a gas-powered bird-scaring device. I could see the smoke from our letter-box at the end of the street a kilometre away at lunchtime. I didn’t like way the wind was bringing it straight towards us. By the time I’d driven home it was time to leave. But you don’t just dash out. We had time only to pack up pets and a few essentials. We had to leave the chickens.

By 9:00pm the fire had burned more than 3,500 hectares. We stayed at our daughter’s place twelve kilometres away until we thought it safe to return. No way to tell if our place had survived. Just a line of cars crawling bumper to bumper. Each being stopped while ID was checked. Preventing rubber-neckers. Checking our destination. No time for police or CFA or SES to set up clear lines of communication to residents.

It is impossible to describe how it feels to drive through the smoke along your unsealed road while trees and fencing blaze. Or how it is to discover your gate posts are on fire but your house looks quite OK amidst a charred front garden which still has shrubs and mulch on fire and trees on the fence-line are burning.

The smell of eucalyptus leaves mingles with acrid smoke from the remains of your watering system burning.

We were lucky. Our house was spared. The fire came up within metres of the front and side. Thanks to the skill and sheer hard work of local volunteer fire crews and the expertise of our next-door neighbour. But Elvis was the star. Without the help of a leased US helicopter and its professional crew, our home would have been lost.

Now I note there is no sign of Elvis. Not for three years. No sign either of Morrison meeting with experienced fire chiefs who want him to get the gear to fight fires that in a few short years have rapidly grown into monsters. Heed the science of global heating. Invest in new equipment to cope with the new inferno.

The Coalition won’t offend its sponsors in the mining lobby or risk further internal friction by admitting there is a direct link between climate change, the genteel euphemism for catastrophic global heating. Nor will it imperil further its precious surplus, achieved partly by a contemptible underspending on NDIS. Because, in the end, the ideology of outsourcing has long usurped the desire to meet peoples’ needs. Exercise duty of care.

Wise up, Morrison. Global heating has wrought a terrible new type of bushfire. Cut the subsidies to miners and private health insurers; buy a few less F35s and submarines. Put the money into fire-fighting equipment that’s up the task of the monster bush-fires we have helped to breed.

Much fun has been had at Morrison’s expense over his unconscionable decision to leave Australia in flames while he took a secret holiday in Hawaii – and his scurrilous decision to blame the trip on his family. But it’s no laughing matter. While the Liberal Forum may make fun of the PM, his decision shows an arrogance, a lack of compassion, an alarming disconnection from reality and dud political judgement.

Worse, however, is his arrogant dismissal of former fire chiefs who call for a summit on the bushfire catastrophe. Morrison’s government is unwilling to listen. He can holiday in Hawaii but he can’t find the time to sit down and hear out those whose only motive is to help him save Australia from burning?

His Prime Ministership and his government are more than monumentally incompetent. Morrison’s intransigence and sheer perversity in preferring his own poor judgement to the advice of experts is dangerous.

As the year draws to a close some things stand out. The saga of the Medevac Bill reveals a government entirely devoid of humanity and human decency while the PM’s decision to embargo any text message that might have been sent from his faux drought envoy Barnaby “boondoggle” Joyce signal a government that has absolutely no intention of being accountable, whatsoever.

Instead it delights in thumbing its nose at democracy and transparency; turning its back on expert advice.

Above all, as the Liberal Forum annual gathering at Kevin McCann’s pad in Mosman last week so powerfully attests this is a government that has betrayed any ideals it may once have had in favour of Machiavellian pragmatism to keep itself in power for power’s sake and to serve the interests of its powerful corporate backers. It is not just a degenerate form of its earlier self; it is in a dangerously dysfunctional state of decay.

 

 

It’s not normal, Mr Morrison.

morrison on holiday in Hawaii

The nation heaves a sigh of relief as Hawaiian Airlines HA451, an Airbus carrying a Daggy Dad from Central Casting, Trump fan-boy and fellow crypto-fascist, Scott Morrison, finally touches down at 8pm after being delayed by thick clouds of acrid, catastrophic, bushfire smoke which choke Sydney Airport, limiting visibility.

“Where the bloody hell were you?” Effortlessly, the PM side-steps questions. It’s his signature move. Makes hokey, blokey, emotive excuses. He’d promised the girls a holiday. His office had to lie about where he was?

Security. Poor timing? Booked seven weeks ago. Bushfires were raging, then? Yeah. Nah. Who could tell how bad things would get? But he gets it how we’ve missed him. Need him. How good are empathy consultants?

“I get it that people would have been upset to know that I was holidaying with my family while their families were under great stress,” Morrison tells press at the NSW Rural Fire Service HQ in Sydney, Sunday. Great stress? Two volunteer fire-fighters are killed overnight. Two more are put in induced comas.

Seventy-two homes are destroyed in South Australia while little is left of Balmoral in the Southern Highlands, southwest of Sydney. NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner, Shane Fitzsimmons estimates that at least one hundred homes have been lost in the ferocious fires which hit the small town over the weekend.

The body language in the HQ control room is hostile. Tone deaf, Morrison is clueless about his chilly reception. Pity. His minders have him in RM Williams kit for bush credibility. His hands low on hips bolster his need to bulk up his personal authority but end up a tad on the aggressive side, creating a bullshit macho swagger.

“Stress” insults their families’ loss and grief; their trauma. But all spin-doctor props are in place. Images of Morrison, pointing at maps, head Sunday morning news; propaganda to be replayed throughout the day.

“Upset?” Morrison seeks to deflect anger by wilfully misreading others’ feelings. He diminishes. Invalidates. In fact, Australia is furious with the PM’s dereliction of duty. His cavalier attitude. His arrogance. Angry doesn’t begin to describe the nation’s outrage. Yet he’s not remotely contrite. And it’s all about him. Always.

Under pressure, Morrison’s malignant narcissism morphs into messiah-complex. His people need him.

“But I’m comforted by the fact that Australians would like me to be here, just simply so I can be here, alongside them as they’re going through this terrible time … and I apologise for that.”

Incredibly, Morrison’s monster ego lets him believe he now can draw a line under his deserting his post as PM; his epic lack of judgement in sneaking a secret holiday to Waikiki while instructing staff to keep schtum. They did better than that, ABC’s Andrew Probyn reports. Morrison’s staff were extraordinarily secretive.

No official public note was issued of the PM’s absence. Nor would the Deputy Prime Minister’s office confirm Michael McCormack was Acting PM. A journalist was referred back to the PM’s Office (PMO). Yet when asked, to confirm Morrison was in Hawaii, reporters were misled; told this was incorrect. But we have to move on.

“The time for that discussion is over”, Morrison declares, unilaterally. Or would – if he could seize control of the situation. Of course, it is not over. Nor will he ever move on. His monstrous lack of empathy; his staggering lack of political judgement will forever hang over his head, like the sword of Damocles.

The PM who skived off is denounced up and down the land. His own party room feels the heat. There’s talk of “moderate” Liberal climate rebellion. Even our Tory mainstream media attempts to hold the PM to account.

Reporter: “Are you sorry you abandoned Australia and secretly went to Hawaii on holiday while Australia burned?”

Morrison: “I already said that”

Reporter: “Are you sorry?”

Morrison: “I already addressed that.”

Also “addressed” is Morrison’s determination to defy reason and science and to deny the climate science of global heating. “I do not accept the suggestion that Australia is not carrying its weight,” he says. He doubles down; reverting to a climate science denialism which rules any MP who aspires to be Coalition PM.

Carrying its weight? Morrison is gaslighting; pretending that Australia is not blocking climate action – as it did recently, along with other hard-core chauvinists, USA, Brazil and Saudi Arabia at the twenty-fifth Conference of the Parties (‘COP25’) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (‘UNFCCC’).

Yet our Kyoto carry-over scam makes us one of a kind. The Climate Council confirms, even according to the Department of Environment and Energy, Australia, alone, of all other nations, seeks to use its supposed overperformance against previous goals as an offset for future targets. ‘Over-performance’? Australia over-reached its previous goals solely because they are among the weakest in the whole world.

In Copenhagen in 2009, Australia was proud to lead the world on applying climate science to fight our global heating crisis. A decade later, we are disgraced by our government’s switch to coal lobby spin and sophistry instead. Protect corporations. Look after banks, big investors and party donors. Bugger the planet.

“In Madrid Australia was “… potentially destructive… just really a self-interested righteous way of doing less,” frets The Australia Institute’s climate change specialist Richie Merzian who found it hard to watch.

“Your country is literally on fire because of climate change and your representatives are at the COP trying to water down the provisions for climate action,” Merzian says. “It’s kind of other-worldly.” Or barking mad.

Is anyone in the world fooled by Morrison’s specious 1.3% fig-leaf argument? Australia adds to global greenhouse gases, not only in the export of fossil fuels to be burnt overseas, but in a swag of other ways.

Other nations can see at once how Australian companies are today busily expanding their coal, oil and gas operations in some of the poorest areas in the world, reports ActionAid Australia. Mostly, it is women who pay the price. Australia has more mining companies operating in Africa than any other nation.

Above, all, ActionAid Australia reports, Australia’s growing global fossil fuel footprint shows that while the total number of projects is down, ASX-listed companies are increasing their reach in the furthest parts of the globe – with total carbon emissions potential up by 13% compared to last year.

These projects are likely to cause 2.8 billion tonnes of emissions — five times Australia’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. Whilst thirty-four projects, currently operating are owned either wholly or partially by ASX-listed companies, their annual reports reveal plans for an additional ninety-nine.

It’s insulting to other nations genuinely seeking climate action to insist Australia’s carbon emissions amount to only 1.3% of the global total, when our nation has one of the largest mining footprints in the world. Hypocritical, too. Our government’s failure on climate action is shameful; its denialism, reprehensible.

In brief, looking beyond our borders and even past our embarrassing performance at this year’s UN climate talks, our beggar-thy-neighbour role in global heating is far greater than Morrison’s government claims.

“Morrison’s touting of the 1.3% figure is his idea of a clever political tactic – it allows him to deflect responsibility. But the effects of climate change know no bounds. Women, poor communities, and other marginalised groups will of course be hit the hardest, but ultimately we all suffer the consequences,” writes ActionAid Australia’s Head of Policy and Campaigns, Katharine Tu.

Yet Morrison can’t wait to trot out his clapped-out rhetoric. The spin. The stale talking points. The lies. As Lenore Taylor writes in The Guardian Australia, Sunday, the nation urgently needs a credible climate policy. Stop pretending, she begs. It’s dangerous. Vast tracts of NSW are burning in a fire unlike any other.

Emergency-level fires also consume parts of South Australia and Victoria; fires so vast and so intense they create their own weather. Time to admit that global heating is fuelling our own catastrophic bushfire.

Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese, sees a government paralysed by complacency. “This government is complacent when it comes to climate change and energy. They do not have an energy policy and they sent [Energy Minister] Angus Taylor overseas to help to undermine international action on climate change, by arguing for accounting tricks rather than lowering emissions,” Albo tells reporters in Sydney on Saturday.

Morrison slinks back home to a bushfire and Liberal leadership crisis Saturday after cutting short – by a whole day – his surprise Waikiki family holiday. But there’s time to claim it was a working holiday. Regular bushfire briefings punctuate his QAnon conspiracy updates from close family friend, Tim Stewart, aka Burn Notice @BurnedSpy34 whose wife, Lynelle, works for bestie, Jenny Morrison, at Kirribilli House.

Mrs Stewart’s security clearance is a work in progress. But Jen and Lynelle were each other’s bridesmaids.

Former Fruit Loop proprietor, a failed online health food venture and former bankrupt, Tim’s a mate of Scott’s from way back. QAnon put him on to the secret cabal of paedophile-Satan-worshippers which rules the world.

Politics has its fair share of nutters but Tim’s clearly not without influence. Witness Morrison’s reference to ritualistic child sexual abuse in the PM’s national formal apology to survivors of institutional sexual abuse.

“The crimes of ritual sexual abuse happened in schools, churches, youth groups, scout troops, orphanages, foster homes, sporting clubs, group homes, charities, and in family homes as well,” Morrison told the politicians, supporters and survivors who packed the house.

The phrase was Tim’s idea, – or at least that’s what Tim claims. The word “ritual” introduced the idea of secret ceremonies with Satan’s involvement, which aligns with QAnon’s theory of global threats.

Perhaps his poorly-judged Hawaiian break attests to Scott’s loyalty to his mates. Or is it their power over him? If so, there must be a ray of hope. If only the nation could tap into Tim’s influence on his old pal Scott; gain some of the avid attention Morrison extends to his friend – then perhaps we could put the PM on to a real conspiracy, the mining lobby and its bizarre plan to dig us into extinction.

Extinction is also on the mind of a few Liberal MPs who are “becoming frustrated with the Federal Government’s inability to sell its climate change policies and believe the chief salesman, Angus Taylor, is part of the problem,” reports ABC’s Jane Norman.

It pays to have a scapegoat but Norman’s scuttlebutt draws attention to the glacial pace of the NSW Police Task Force investigation of Taylor over his alleged involvement in the publication of a doctored document in The Daily Telegraph which denigrated Clover Moore, Lord Mayor of Sydney’s green credentials.

“I think the biggest problem we face is not so much our suite of policy measures, it’s our credibility and sincerity and spokespeople,” says one Liberal.

Suite of policy measures? A set of trite slogans and a hyper-partisan party stalled in continuous campaign mode is a suite of policies? And it’s back to the old “selling the message”, regardless of how meaningless, or morally bankrupt. “Angus doesn’t have the ability to sell a positive climate change message.”

“This is not normal” says New South Wales Liberal Minister Matt Kean who is vilified The Australian for breaking ranks; noticing that Australia might be in the grip of record drought, heat and catastrophic bushfire.

Kean’s on to something.  Voters may, indeed, be expecting the Federal government to do more than send its PM on top secret holidays with his pal Tim. But credibility and sincerity? Morrison’s got no show.

 

Morrison’s credibility as leader goes up in puff of smoke.

Boris Get Brexit Done

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now

From up and down and still somehow

It’s cloud’s illusions I recall

I really don’t know clouds at all

Clouds Joni  Mitchell


Clouds or clowns? The week’s politics offers both. A toxic miasma of 250 million tonnes of CO2 and clouds of sooty bushfire-smoke blanket vast tracts of eastern Australia yet also expose the Morrison government’s total leadership fail, while professional clown, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson has a huge win over truth, justice and democracy in the UK. In the US, Democrats finalise two articles of impeachment that are unlikely to bother President, Donald Teflon Trump.

“There is no Republican Party,” John Boehner, who served as House Speaker from 2011 to 2015, said last year. “There’s a Trump party. The Republican Party is kind of taking a nap somewhere.”

Ditto for the UK Conservative Party. And for Australia’s Liberals who retain the name only as some sick joke. Hilarious. Meanwhile, is Gus the badly-burned victim of the author of The Beauty Myth‘s vicious, anti-Semitism or is he just crying wolf? Could Angus Taylor be making some kind of Johnsonian run to be Australia’s next Prime Minister ? You decide.

What’s clear is Energy, Emission Reduction and Round-up Minister, Angus Taylor, is under a cloud of his own; the noxious emanations of allegations of outrageous water rorting, document forging and alleged lobbying of an environmental compliance officer (ECO) in 2016. The explanation he allegedly offers does not stack up.

Taylor sought permission to poison kangaroo or red anther wallaby grass and an associated threatened ecological community in the thirty hectare Jam Land grasslands in Monaro region NSW, a property located outside his electorate of Hume, weakening Taylor’s claim that his meeting was prompted solely by his constituents’ concerns.

Taylor did, however, meet with Geoff Richardson, the Department of Environment and Energy’s Assistant Secretary for the protected species and communities branch.

The department had prepared a briefing document on the grasslands which explained that the species had been protected since 2000 and that, collectively, temperate grasslands are among the most threatened vegetation in Australia, with only about 5% remaining in relatively undisturbed condition. It’s an indictment of our introduced agricultural practices and our land abuse.

Jam Land Pty Ltd is a Taylor family linked company in which one of Angus’ Cayman Island-registered companies has an interest through his family investment company Gufee. His brother, Richard Taylor, is the director of the company.

Now parliament’s shut its doors for 2019, hola! Gus is off like the clappers to Madrid. Labor wouldn’t grant him a pair, what with Scott Morrison’s erstwhile neighbour, former bin brother and mate, top NSW cop, Commissioner Mick Fuller, at the head of a strike force, he says is actively investigating Taylor over Clover gate.

Barnaby Joyce says Clover gate is a “triviality” which has gone on far too long. Leaking a false document to the Daily Tele to discredit Clover Moore is trivial? All the mayor has done is write to Taylor; tell him to lift his game on climate change.

At least Gus makes the last week of UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, COP25 which involves 190 nations. Why rush? No-one’s all that keen to see him.

Australia has already earned the Fossil of the Day award. Twice. Will Taylor, a noted wind-energy critic with close coal industry links be having another public tilt at windmills? Nope. Instead he ties up the conference with Kyoto credit nonsense.

Just to get the facts in context, Australia is responsible for about 1.3% of annual pollution, as our PM is fond of boasting. But this places us 16th on a ladder of polluting nations. We emit more each year than 40 countries with larger populations, including G7 members Britain, France and Italy.

Talk about punching below your weight.

Gus gives a speech which reprises former Environment Minister Greg Hunt’s twaddle about our “meeting and beating our targets” (but only if we cheat; use our carry over from Kyoto cop-out). Courageously, Taylor skips our outrageous plans to use 411m tonnes of CO2-equivalent credits from the previous Kyoto targets against the government’s newer Paris commitment. But he leaves it to delegates to resolve.

Absent from any reporting, or any Australian communication, is the story of how Howard Government Senator Robert Hill argued late in the night in Kyoto in 1997; how reliant Australia is on fossil fuel industries. How we needed a special favour.  Hill got his way. Whereas Europe promised to reduce emissions by 8% by 2012, compared with the base year of 1990, and the US agreed to cut by 7%, Australia was one of three countries allowed to increase emissions – by 8%.

But that wasn’t enough. Long after most major players had gone home or had passed out from exhaustion, Hill got the UN to accept land-clearing; include land-use changes in calculating emissions. The Guardian Australia’s Lenore Taylor sums up,

Restrictions that had already been imposed on large-scale land clearing – especially in Queensland – allowed Australia to rest assured it had achieved its new target before it even signed up to it.”

In other words, Angus Taylor is on a fool’s errand if he thinks he can sell our Kyoto carryover caper yet again. Yet in our brave new world where Trump’s United States can just pull out of Paris, how much does good faith really matter?

Taylor flies out Friday leaving a skeleton crew of Australian negotiators to put the carry-over case. Observers expect negotiations on carbon trading rules and other issues to last until at least Sunday, Australian time. Only Australia is willing to play that card says John O’Connor CEO of the Carbon Markets Institute and it’s not winning us any friends.

There’s a more than a touch of the quixotic; a lot of Boris in Angus Taylor -beyond each MP’s wealth, their hidebound sense of privilege and entitlement, their membership of elite families, their Oxonian education and their ludicrous buffoonery. In Taylor’s case, unlike Boris, however, the class act is also a family affair. Enter Louise Clegg.

Gussie’s wife, Sydney barrister Louise Clegg, unreliably rumoured on social media to have local government aspirations in Sydney, but who “does not speak to journalists”, is quoted in the Australian Financial Review warning that rolling blackouts might be needed to teach people that “left populism (is) not the answer” to Australia’s policy challenges. Opposed to coal? Let them light candles instead.

Some Liberal malcontents mutter about having a Minister for emissions reductions who doesn’t actually want to reduce emissions but that’s Scott Morrison’s trademark perversity in his captain’s call in allocating ministries to MPs with opposing interests and backgrounds. Keeps everyone on their toes. Fantastic. Great move. Well done, Angus.

“Tickets” Taylor clearly sees himself as “a rising Liberal star” who may be only a Dutton coup away from being Deputy Prime Minister. Or are his sights already on the top job? He’s certainly attracting a lot of attention in track work. Just not the right type of attention.

Gus fully expects to be allowed to play Kyoto-Carryover, a party trick, a rare form of carbon emission-figure-fiddling while Spain burns along with the rest of the world. Editor Maddison Connaughton observes in The Saturday Paper,

“In Madrid, Angus Taylor argues for carryover credits, so that the government might do less. The world is slowly ending and he is doing a card trick. He is not even doing it well, and has to ask the other countries if they will pretend they didn’t see him cheating.”

It helps to have galloping Gus out of the country while NSW police investigate The Mystery of the Doctored Documents, another Canberra soap bubble opera which concerns false claims about Sydney City Council’s exorbitant overseas travel bill his office dropped to the Daily Telegraph 30 September to discredit the green credentials of Sydney’s Lord Mayor, Clover Moore. Any day or month now, police are bound to solve this baffling case, given how much rides on its speedy resolution. Or not. Imagine how our AFP, with full TV camera crews, would bust Gussies’ office if he were Labor.

But now to BoJo, who modestly claims a huge great stonking mandate” in the UK general election, over anti-Semitic, socialist, dotard, Jeremy Corbyn – who offends the press by not immediately resigning; outliving his political demise. Bojo’s win heartens our own Coalition government of secrets, lies and rubbery figures and its Tory Story supporters in Murdoch’s The Australian, whose orgy of Corbyn-bashing parallels its relentless character assassination of Shorten in its epic Kill Bill campaign.

Australia’s sons let us rejoice in a victory for vanity and mediocrity. Even The New York Time’s Jenni Russell describes the contest in terms that would delight the late, great, absurdist, dramaturge Samuel Beckett:

Two vain, incompetent, mediocre charlatans are competing to become prime minister. For the Conservatives, we have the blustering, lying, oafish puffball Boris Johnson. In the Labour corner is the querulous, wooden, sanctimonious Jeremy Corbyn.”

In mirror images of our own oxymoronic Coalition’s MPs, Russell sees each UK pretender as ill- briefed, hazy on the facts and implications of policy proposals, uneasy under scrutiny and belligerent when challenged. Yet, again, as in our local, national soap opera “How good is Australia?” both MPs meet realities of stagnant wage growth, galloping economic inequality and a mounting workers’ sense of helplessness with lies – especially Boris’ Brexit consoling fantasy.

As both ScoMo and Donald Trump know, illusion and deceit can build a type of rusted-on loyalty; feed our emotional need to believe that our leader is on our team. It’s a blind faith; at best indifferent to facts – if not downright hostile.

How Good is Australia has a sequel. How good are Quiet Australians? It’s a narrative about blind obedience; a type of group-think loyalty which scorns key detail and elevates faith above empiricism, especially the science of climate change.

If you are going to tell a lie tell a big one. Angus Taylor knows that. The big lie is back -if it ever went. If your big lie looks absurd, then launch an even more outrageous counterfactual counter-attack. The figures did not come from Clover Moore’s Sydney Council website. Throw a staffer, such as Josh Manuatu, under a bus. Then attack Naomi Wolf for her Christmas Tree War. When that’s exposed as a blatant lie, call the Jewish feminist writer an anti-Semite. Or sexist.

What’s wonderful about Gus’ contribution to our public conversation is its inspired inclusivity. No elitism here. After all, most of us were Rhodes Scholars together at Oxford. We all have a Jewish grandmother somewhere and we’re all on first name terms with Naomi. Probably send her Christmas cards. Talk to her about how good is attending Mass.

Boris’ big lie? A quickie divorce from foreign control, the parasites, bludgers and tinpot dictators of the EU will make Britain great again. Instead, he’s more likely to preside over Scottish independence than anything faintly like the Great Britain of his followers’ magical thinking. Probably about one hundred years too late, Boris.

But, in a post truth age, deceit rules. Victory goes to best clown.  In a debased, corruption of the court jester, the most plausible liar, the most brazen dissembling toady to the powerful, wins. Enter the PM as best crowd-pleaser.

As with Trump, local fans bust a gut to cheer on a fellow fraud; rally around his bigotry, ignorance and monumental incompetence. Lionise his repulsiveness. Naturally, Pete Costello’s Nine News’ Sydney Morning Herald throws to our own James McGrath.

“You don’t become mayor of London, you don’t become foreign secretary, you don’t become the elected leader of the Tories, you don’t become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and you don’t secure a new Brexit deal against the odds by being a dunderhead,” slobbers Johnson’s former aide, our senator for Adani, local savant McGrath.

Unlucky Jim McGrath, “Let them go if they don’t like it here” was fired, by Boris, in 2008 for telling older, Afro-Caribbean Britons to return to the Caribbean if they didn’t like the vibe and other vast benefits of Tory rule in London.

You don’t become? – clearly, you do, Jimmy. Above all, your former boss, Boris’ has the gift of the gaffe. BJ’s way with words supercharges his natural tact, his homophobia, xenophobia and misogyny. It’s unifying. Uplifting. Inspiring.

Gay men love it when Boris calls them, “tank-topped bum-boys”. Women in burqas are cheered to hear Boris; ” would go further and say that it is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes.”

Britons in general -not just racist Brexiteers, are also hugely comforted to know that if “a female student turned up at school or a university lecture looking like a bank robber” Boris would ask her to remove it [the burqa] to speak to her.

Despite being fired for telling lies as a journalist, urbane, cosmopolitan Boris is a peerless wordsmith. Who else could claim, “Voting Tory will cause your wife to have bigger breasts and increase your chances of owning a BMW M3.” ?

Boris will Get Brexit Done, Rupert’s local toadies croak. It’s Johnson’s only slogan. Yes. The Oz is a political party in its own right, as Kevin Rudd knows. But hold the front page. Getting Brexit done will create a bonanza Down Under all wrought by the miracle of UK trade deals with Australia which will be signed off within a year. It’s a done deal.

Oddly overlooked by The Oz is that there’s not a skerrick of evidence to suppose that Johnson can get anything done. Au contraire, apart from Boris’ sheer brilliance as professional fabulist, serial womaniser and a policy-free zone on a bicycle – his entire political career is one of unrelieved, bungling ineptitude. And malignant narcissism.

Unless, of course you admire Boris’ cunning stunts and his peerless record for cop-outs and cock-ups. Crass theatrics. Above all, is Johnson’s endearing laziness, his inspiring, Trump-like resolve not to bother with the fine print or even read briefings at all.

Also forgotten by The Oz is heretical research that shows that our own, upright, tax-evading, wage-stealing business class are fully occupied in being the backbone of the nation -having a go and getting a go. They mostly can’t understand free trade deals, don’t use them because they are too complicated –  or they’ve lost buckets of money on them in the past.

Unsurprisingly, a survey of Australian businesses, big and small, conducted last year by our august Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, found local tycoons largely ignore free trade agreements.

Yet, in another sign of the times, Johnson’s Tory Party win is a big victory for mendacity. Morrison’s mob will take great comfort that Johnson’s government was helped into being by a farrago of online lies.

First Draft, a disinformation tracking organisation, finds 88 per cent of the most widely circulated online Tory ads during the first four days of December were misleading. That’s nearly all of them. First Draft found no Labor disinformation in the same period.

But it’s another thing to try to lie your way out of a real crisis; one that demands a rational response and real leadership – as Boris and Scott Morrison will discover.

A noxious miasma of acrid smoke smothers the yellow brick roads of The Emerald City poisoning Sydney’s air, over twelve times hazardous levels in Camden and Liverpool, Tuesday, as catastrophic fires continue to ravage the east coast of Australia, consuming over 2.7 million hectares of bush and destroying seven hundred homes in four weeks.

Commuters choke. Hospital emergency admissions soar. Ferry services are cancelled. Yet no smoke is thick enough to cloak the federal government’s wilful blindness; its failure of leadership. Morrison’s government is being tried by fire; bushfires of unprecedented scale and ferocity. And it is found lacking -utterly, comprehensively lacking. Not a clue what to do but to retreat into a type of paralysis.

The smoke is thick enough to trigger alarms at Liberal HQ in Sydney where Australia’s climate science denialist Prime Minister Scott Morrison neatly sidesteps the nation’s catastrophic bushfire crisis by holding a press conference on his post-truth, post-government’s religious discrimination bill, a sop to his right wing, which effectively foments intolerance by extending the definition of religious organisations to include hospitals and Op-shops. Smoke prevents from leaving the building.

“Let’s not beat around the bush … let’s call it for what it is. These bushfires have been caused by extreme weather events, high temperatures, the worst drought in living memory – the exact type of events scientists have been warning us about for decades that would be caused by climate change,” says Matt Kean, who is the leader at state level of the NSW Liberals’ moderate faction.

Kean is quickly clobbered; he cops a hiding for being right in The Australian. He’s accused of using the bogeyman of climate change as an excuse for not introducing any new initiatives – whatever they might be. It’s a straw man argument in which the Australian specialises. He’s also – shock – horror –“politicising the fires”.

“The [no new initiatives] revelation comes after Mr Kean attracted criticism for politicising the devastating fires — which have seen six people killed and more than 720 homes destroyed so far this season — by claiming the nation needed to prioritise the urgent reduction of carbon emissions to prevent catastrophic bushfire seasons becoming the new norm.”  Expect a lot more of this type of smear before the season of peace on earth and goodwill to all men and women is over.

But a few festive season shout outs are in order. Merry Christmas aged care executives – enjoy your $12 billion dollar a year subsidy and congratulations in lobbying govt to vote down Aged Care 2019 amendments to make aged care accountable  – as recommended by the current Royal Commission.

Public health researcher, Dr Sarah Russell, reports for veteran Walkley Award winning investigative reporter Michael West how a “few big interests” run our coalition government was on full show last week, when three critical amendments to the Aged Care Legislation Amendment (New Commissioner Functions) Bill 2019 were tabled. The Liberal-Nationals voted against all amendments.”

The amendments would have been a watershed in aged care – holding private firms accountable for their duty of care rather than maximising their profits. To vote down the reforms makes a mockery of the Commission’s findings and stalls vital transparency and accountability around finances, staffing ratios and complaints in aged care homes.

Yet you’ll hear a lot of boasts about the number of new home care packages available. Few of us are ever frail enough to warrant any kind of care package at all. Most packages available to average candidates offer very limited practical help.

The elderly do not need neoliberal packaging, any more outsourcing, service-delivering or commodifying. They need a government prepared to exercise humanity and to reform a system which horrifies Royal Commissioners by its cruelty, its abuse and its neglect of our senior citizens – all in the interests of a privatised age care system which works mainly for the financial benefit of owners and investors..

Season’s greetings also to all pensioners who may still be able to fend for themselves.

Waiting until the last sitting day, the Coalition uses its numbers to quietly push through its Social Security Integrity Bill which will make life harder for 400,000 Australians. Newstart recipients are mostly over 45. A quarter are over 55 years old.

Labor’s Linda Burney, Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services is furious at the arbitrary, uncaring injustice.

” … the two onerous or odious bits of this bill is what’s called the Liquid Assets Waiting Time. If you are a middle aged man, who’s lost their job; been made redundant; and you have more than $36,000 in the bank – or if you’re single and have $18,000 in the bank – the government wants to double the wait time before you can access social security.

So it’ll go from 13 weeks to 36 weeks, which is half a year. And it means that the government expects people to run down all their savings – any buffer they’ve got for a disaster in their life, like sickness – before they can access social security.

The second aspect of this bill which is odious as well is what’s called the migrant wait time. That means if you’re someone that’s migrating here from overseas, and you go back to your home country for more than six weeks the government wants to take the age pension supplement off you.

One final image of a government out of touch with those in its duty of care; a government crippled by internal division and its servitude to climate change deniers in its ranks and its donors; our coal barons and fossil fuel magnates, occurs Tuesday.

The bushfire smog is so thick that it triggers fire alarms trapping occupants of Liberal HQ in Sydney. Prevented from leaving also, is a climate science denialist PM who is trapped in a building by smoke from fires fuelled by man-made global warming, a term which the press has largely dropped in favour of the neutral “climate change”.

Time to drop the ideology, Mr Morrison. If you can’t join the dots connecting climate change and catastrophic bushfires, it’s high time you stepped aside in favour of someone who can. Or sought advice from experts. Not turn away when former fire chiefs try to help you with their advice and expertise.

Given your government’s track record, so far, however, it’s clear that you are a dangerous liability in the current crisis. You are not just fiddling while a nation burns, you are feeding the flames with your inertia, your policy paralysis, your wretched climate science denial. Time to declare a state of national climate emergency as a first step to taking the type of emergency action that experts are urging you to adopt.

Twenty-three former fire and emergency leaders say they tried for months to warn you that Australia needed more water-bombers to tackle bigger, faster and hotter bushfires. Former NSW Fire and Rescue chief Greg Mullins — one of the founders of the Emergency Leaders for Climate Action Group — says his group’s been seeking a meeting with Federal Government to discuss the crisis since April.

Subsequent pleas fall on deaf ears. Time to act step aside in favour of someone who can. Australia’s current crop of catastrophic fires are not about petty party politics and climate science denial. They are a real and pressing danger you need to address now.

Call the National Summit which Greg Mullins and Lee Johnson, two former fire chiefs from NSW and Queensland, say we need immediately to work out “how to deal with the increasing strain on volunteers battling more extreme and frequent bushfires, but also how Australia deals with fire in a changed climate.” Listen to them.

“What we’re saying long term is there needs to be a paradigm shift for how we deal with these fires,” former chief of NSW Fire and Rescue Greg Mullins says.

“A big national conversation needs to be had. We need farmers, councils, the military, politics.”  Of course, it won’t solve the crisis but it’s a very good start.

Instead we have a federal government and a headstrong, obdurately stubborn PM unwilling and incapable of taking any advice that is not his own or from powerful cronies whose views he already shares. It’s a lethal combination. A deadly Canberra bubble all of Scott Morrison and his ministers’ own making.

Don’t look to Boris Johnson’s win as some kind of vindication; far better that you treat it as a warning that even a lunatic, incompetent, clown born with a silver spoon in his mouth can get elected PM but there’s no reason to believe he knows remotely where to begin when it comes to governing. Nor does he have the personality or the nous to ever learn. If that sounds familiar, it’s time you, yourself, stood aside or at least owned your own cluelessness. The bluffing just adds another potentially lethal layer of disaster.

No emerging crisis so big the government can’t find a way to look past it.

scott morrison and michael mccormack in business attire at dry dam

A massive pall of smoke cloaks NSW and shrouds Canberra as the state burns in a catastrophic mega-fire already the size of greater Sydney. Too big to put out, it could last for weeks. Or until rain falls. Meanwhile, Sydney itself joins the world’s top ten most polluted cities as air quality declines as a result of bushfire smoke over the last few weeks.

Some schools are forced to close while others cancel playtime and sports because of polluted air. Red dust and ash waft 2000 km across the Tasman. Smoke also reaches South America. Yet Coalition MPs back-slap and high-five each other on parliament’s last sitting day over their secret deal to repeal Medevac and endanger asylum-seekers’ lives.

“Australia is the best country in the world” government MPs chorus Thursday. “I, too, am confident about Australia’s future.” A claque performing fawning self-applause begin a raucous crowing over Medevac, job creation, congestion-busting, meeting our Paris emissions’ pledges in a canter, our drought relief plan among other Morrison government pretences. In counterpoint, fire alerts and other real warnings run in the crawler under coverage on our TV screens.

“The disconnect [is] emblematic of the week. Indeed, it’s a … motif of the Morrison government. There is no emerging crisis so big that the government cannot find a way to look past it,” even Molan fan-boy Peter Hartcher warns.

Hartcher himself has his blind spots. He hails Jim Molan’s return to the senate where the coal-warrior will replace renewables advocate, amnesiac Arthur Sinodinos who’s off to be our US Ambassador. Amazingly, Hartcher backs Molan to lead a Liberal charge for democracy whilst being uniquely valuable to national security. It’s hard to see how or why.

March 2003 to June 2006 alone 601,000 Iraqis were killed. Since 2007, four million Iraqi refugees had also been created.

Allegedly, Molan was in command when war crimes were allegedly committed in Fallujah 2004 after the US illegally invaded Iraq, a military mis-adventure to which we were joined at the hip. The greatest failure of Australian foreign policy, our involvement in Iraq was based on a farrago of lies. John Howard lied to the nation that he had proof that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction that could end up in the hands of terrorists.

We are still all paying the price in all sorts of ways.

Howard ignored advice in 2002 and in 2003 from Australia’s Defence Intelligence Organisation that there was no evidence of Iraq having chemical weapons nor nuclear weapons. He lied that we had to disarm Iraq to have any hope of disciplining North Korea – another palpable lie. And he fabricated a link between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.

There are votes in being tough on terror. This week, in similar duplicity, Home Affairs Tsar Peter Dutton deploys police to patrol our airports as if an extra 135 AFP officers armed with MK18, short-barrelled rifles will protect us from terrorists.

While our PM rants about suicide prevention amongst veterans, he would do better to attend to possible causes. These include growing evidence of moral injury. Fighting in conflicted wars is increasingly being seen  – even by US Operations Special Command – as contributing to soldiers experiencing moral conflict or feeling morally damaged by their service.

Moral injury is the lasting mental and emotional result of an assault on the conscience — a memory, as one early formulation put it, of “perpetrating, failing to prevent, or bearing witness to acts that transgress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations.” 

Whilst current research is based on military contexts, there is every reason to suppose that moral injury is also part of our modern human condition, not only a result of our war on terror, but of our climate wars which are mis-named attempts to downplay the wilful moral injury inflicted on those whose concern for humanity opposes the extinction of the planet via global warming boosted by the continued abuse of fossil-fuels in transport and electricity generation.

New Zealand’s once-pristine South Island glaciers are turning pink. Kiwis in Auckland and Wellington cough up our soot. But none of this alters Morrison’s mission to lie about climate change. And nothing can hide his hapless government’s monumental ineptitude in grasping the nature or scale – let alone its incapacity to respond appropriately to catastrophic bushfires which have so far killed six innocent people; destroyed over a thousand homes. Keep calm and carry on. Lying.

No credible scientific evidence links climate change and fires, Morrison insists. Besides, he just gets on with the job.

Accordingly, a can-do Morrison-McCormack government pledged to “meaningful practical action without damaging our economy or the family budget” rolls up its sleeves. Jumps in a ute. Gets its teeth into another bush photo-shoot.

Our PM and his dapper, deputy fashionista, Michael McCormack, a former editor (1992-2002) of The Daily Advertiser, a deeply homophobic bloke’s bloke, pose in a drying dam bed which retains a stale puddle big enough to reflect a trio of eucalypts in the background, a symbolic reminder of the Morrison regime’s unholy trinity. Cruelty. Ego. Inertia.

The setting says that while it may look dry, there’s plenty of cause for optimism. And more thoughts and prayers.

“We’ve had droughts before. Bound to rain again. Only latte-sipping city dwellers panic about climate change.”

Following Jenny’s recent write-up in national newspapers, wardrobe is all. Scott models a basic black Anthony Squires trouser with classic white shirt and salmon tie, while Michael teams the traditional National’s MP man-on-the-land-rig of rumpled moleskins with RM Williams Collins button-down, open-necked shirt and RM Williams Comfort Craftsman boot.

ScoMo’s a pro. He’s never forgotten what he learnt as the Vicks Love-Rub kid in the 70s Vapo-Rub ad. It shows. Hands on hips, Mugger Morrison grins down the lens while McCormack seems about to smile at something to the right. Michael could be about to crutch a sheep while Scott looks as if he has just sold the farm to an international consortium.

Fans of merit-based equality, the boys are every bit as “natural and authentic” as Jenny Morrison is recently judged.

 “It was a wonderful thing to do. We’re really advocates of wearing pieces over and over again … if something suits you – you should wear it as many times as you like, even to meet the Queen. It shouldn’t just be about wearing them once,” snipes Genevieve Smart: a verdict which should equally apply to a Stepford husband’s ability to dress himself.  Jenny doesn’t have a stylist. Buys all her own clothes. Gosh. Can the same be said of her husband and his deputy?

With drought and bushfires all under control thanks to a fabulous fashion-in-the-field photo shoot, the boys are at their best when called upon to dig deep back in Canberra; bash Labor and trash parliamentary democracy to the end.

The spirit of Christmas erupts across both ochre-red and eucalypt-green chambers of federal parliament as MPs break up for the year, Thursday, with a riotous free-for-all. It’s a joyously bicameral, poly-partisan, fiesta of back-stabbing, smearing and blaming amidst the ritual, slagging-off of Labor that now usurps all policy or reasoned exchange. Government MPs seem elated that they have the numbers to deny the opposition its democratic right of reply.

Ironically, there’s no debate allowed on the re-introduced Ensuring Integrity, a bill to further silence dissent in the workforce, a law which could deprive workers’ of their right to withhold their labour; make strike action impossible.  Could any Labor MP fail to get the vibe? Or mistake the lower house for a debating chamber? It’s now Morrison’s “bubble”. For Katharine Murphy, it shows how little parliament matters to a Morrison government. Albo is disgusted.

“They run in to gag the debate. They refuse to allow anyone to speak to push through legislation, to what end? So that they can make a point that while they lost in the Senate last week, they won’t on the floor of the House of Representatives?

“We know they have a majority on the floor of the House of Representatives, but this is not, or should not be, a totalitarian state … Dissent and the right of people to represent their electorates have been shut down.”

Warming to the occasion, Angus Taylor, a former Rhodes Scholar who makes Tony Abbott look bookish, over-cooks his already well-stuffed goose by accusing Naomi Wolf of anti-Semitism. His seasonal Christmas tree war is a total fabrication which plays well to misogynists, racists and all conflicted and confused opponents of political correctness.

Taylor’s outrageous fiction ignores Wolf’s objection that she was nowhere near Oxford in 1991 as he alleges. Besides, she rather likes Christmas. In a sensational development, she rings Taylor’s office whilst recording the response before posting it on YouTube and social media. In a post-fact era, her rational, logical, objections are automatically overruled.

Besides, as a woman, a feminist and a victim of male malfeasance she has three strikes against her already in the Trump era.

Yet Taylor is a racist parody in response. Racist? Taylor? Why, some of his best friends are Jewish and he’s got a Jewish grandmother. Irrefutable proof of virtue. It’s a low pitch to divert a nation still in uproar over Clover-gate.

It’s also, as Jacqueline Maley notes in The Brisbane Times, a farcical indictment of our wilful abandonment of reason and the siloes into which we’ve retreated. Or been abducted by our elected representatives. Maley sums up the spat;

“So, here we have it, at year’s end: the greatest, weirdest and the saddest encapsulation of the tribalism that seems increasingly to define our politics: two people at odds, one from the left, one from the right, both with reputations for playing loose with the facts to make ideological points.”

Equally loose with the facts in service of ideology, Morrison’s government by and for and of the ruling elite, a hardy, noxious hybrid of kleptocracy, kakistocracy and oligarchy, is hell-bent on expanding wage slavery under the guise of his vitriolic hatred of “union thugs”.

The coalition government gags debate in a ram-raid on democracy so that its Ensuring Integrity Bill, passes through a bruised lower house to await a newly compliant senate when parliament resumes next year.

Together with side-lining parliamentary democracy, Ensuring Integrity further trammels workers’ rights to freedom of association and makes it easier for governments to deregister unions as well as just interfere in union governance.

A win will further handicap unions’ efforts to monitor workplace agreements and employee entitlements; create an environment which invites wage theft. Whilst this may delight some employers it has dire implications for those families who increasingly depend on underpaid, insecure, casualised or uberised work. And it will help stuff the economy.

Workers must have wages to spend to buy the goods and services our worthy small businesses have for sale.

But there’s big profits in cutting wages and keeping wages down, down, down. Woolworths’ eye-watering underpayment of $300 million to 5700 of its employees happens right before the regulator’s eyes. Unpaid wages may even run to $620 million according to a class action launched this week, reports employment lawyer, Josh Bornstein.

Australian bosses underpay their workers by $1.35 billion every year, PwC estimates, in its November report.

Wage theft is rampant in the hospitality industry, notes Bornstein.  The Good Food Guide would fold tomorrow if it excluded those eateries that underpaid or otherwise ripped off their staff.

Workers are most vulnerable in construction (~$320 million), healthcare and social assistance (~$220 million), accommodation and food services (~$190 million) and retail (~$180 million). This estimate includes ~21% of the workforce in the selected industries, or ~13% of the total Australian workforce, reports PWC.

Speaking of rip-offs How good is Gladys Liu? Thursday we learn Morrison’s Great Australian is demanding the Liberal Party repays her $100,000 donation. It was only ever a loan. Victorian Liberals needed her money to hold Chisholm, a marginal Melbourne seat, she says. Liberal Party-poopers beg to differ. Thank God for Scott Morrison’s leadership.

“That’s a matter for the Victorian division of the Liberal Party. I was a state director a long time ago. That is no longer my job,” Morrison ducks and weaves in Canberra, Thursday, eagerly leading in evasion and prevarication at every turn.

But when money talks, a nation pays attention. And even our PM’s charisma can’t compete with Liu’s story.

Australia thrills to its small business backbone to hear how Glad’s pal Allen Saylav, ex-Brighsun CEO, backpacked to raise capital for his plucky little EV bus start-up.

Gladys steered Brighsun towards federal backing in 2015, taking the wheel as the company’s pro-bono Communications Director. Her role led her to organise events with former Minister of Energy and Direct Action dirt magic boondoggler, Greg Hunt, who was then flashing bags of cash for carbon abatement.

Gladys is so passionate about clean energy, she tells Nine Newspapers, she charges no fee.

Alas, poor Saylav has no idea the million dollars in cash including a cool half million he picks up in a Oztrail Quest backpack at a Melbourne BP petrol station car park in April and May 2016 involves a heroin-dealer. A drug mule? Who would know?  Not that Saylav can’t explain himself. He’s just following orders. From Mr Zhang.

Brighsun’s Chinese co-director and fat-cat backer, Zhang Genjiang is a Crown casino high roller who jets into Melbourne on his private plane for a flutter. As you do.

Australia is now completely made-over into Morrison’s own Trumpian dis-United States or commonwealth of Metanoia complete with Jacqui Lambie the post-modern anti-heroic little Tassie battler left bleating and freaking out about national security, a phrase which means whatever any MP wants it to mean – but how good’s a mystery ending?

“There is no secret deal,” Mathias Cormann insists – despite all circumstantial evidence pointing towards Lambie being gulled; duped by a promise that Morrison’s government would look into re-settling 500 asylum-seekers who have survived the repeal of Medevac being resettled in New Zealand.

Not that Morrison ever said that. His leadership weasel words include “revisiting” New Zealand’s offer of a deal which was never off the table, he says – despite being rubbished by himself and Dutton as a back-door to refugees resettling in Australia – The Greatest Country in the World. A deal may still be on – but only when the US takes all 500 asylum seekers off Nauru and Manus, an event six months away, at the earliest – and after extreme vetting – in other words, most likely never.

The nation thrills this week to the riddle, wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma of the Morrison government, a puzzle, that includes Lambie’s Faustian bargain, Angus Taylor’s war on both Naomi Wolf and Clover Moore with Gladys Liu’s to-do tipping the government’s weekly balance from hyper-partisan warfare and union thuggery into utter skulduggery.

The one-time trombone-playing former teacher’s aide and ex-chemist-shop proprietor cannot keep mum forever about her Brighsun or Liberal associates, nor they about her, especially as she now has cause to ask for her money back.

Any sensible, practical government would demand the resignation of both Gladys Liu and Angus Taylor. Given his form so far, Scott Morrison is likely to find fifty shades of grey evasion including blaming Labor and Wolf to avoid taking any decision.

There is no individual, no institution nor any emerging crisis so big that this government cannot find a way to look past it.

 

A Whale of a Taylor, too.

angus taylor feels the heat Thursday

“People aren’t spending” sighs Fran Kelly at the end of ABC Insiders Sunday, blaming us for the government’s epic failure to manage the economy. It’s always the victim’s fault. Yet if you don’t have it, you can’t spend it.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) records a snail’s pace in the latest increase in household incomes. ABS data shows a healthy increase from 1995 through until 2012, the period of the Howard and then Rudd/Gillard governments. Then it collapses in 2013. It is yet to recover. No wonder 9,300 retail stores will close their doors this year.

Average wealth per adult Australian, also fell by $US28,670 in 2018-2019 reports Credit Suisse in its annual global wealth report. Although Credit Suisse’s calculation includes falling house prices and a falling Australian dollar – and despite Australians remaining among the wealthiest in the world, the report confirms economic mismanagement.

We are one of a tiny minority of countries with wealth per adult lower in 2019 than back in 2012.

Vast amounts of wealth are being shunted offshore with little or no benefit to the people of Australia.

“There is no mineral resources rent tax, no other scheme to retain wealth in Australia, tax avoidance and evasion are rife, the Tax Office’s audit and enforcement divisions are severely understaffed and the Government keeps giving handouts to its foreign corporate mates,” writes Alan Austin.

What is improving is the Coalition’s strangle-hold on the media, helped in the ABC’s case by $84 million budget cuts, intimidating calls to head office, stacking of the board and a PM’s captain’s pick of Ita Buttrose as ABC Chair. AFP raids on working journalists help to increase the state’s pressure on everyone not to criticise; step out of line.

Journos pick up the vibe. Last week, Kelly’s love-in with work experience kid, Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg aids and abets Coalition’s lies about its comprehensive, colossal failure to manage the Australian economy.

“When we came to government, unemployment was 5.7%. Today it’s 5.3%. We have a record number of Australians in jobs. We have just produced the first current account surplus since 1975 … the budget is back in balance, already delivered, for the first time in 11 years. And we’re going to deliver a surplus. That means paying down Labor’s debt. Right now we have an interest bill of around $19 billion a year …”

 “So what we need to do is build the resilience of the Australian economy and face those domestic and global economic headwinds that all countries are facing, particularly the trade tensions,” Frydenberg lies.

OK, Josh. Perhaps you’d like to take credit for at least half of that debt and rising interest yourself. Hey Big Spender, your government spends like a drunken sailor. Since March, Australia’s gross debt was $543,409,430,000. Double all debt accumulated by every government from Federation to the 2013 election. Just tell the truth.

Global headwinds? Mathias Cormann – who’s never been the same since his arithmetic failed him as Dutton’s numbers man in the Liberals’ last leadership coup – has been wearing out this excuse since he become finance minister. Luckily, he need suffer no longer. He’ll quit politics at the end of this parliamentary session according to Paul Bongiorno. Cormann should go. Ten years ago, the nation was praised for its success during the GFC.

Now we lag the field. Global wealth grew during the past year as the five-year international boom in trade, jobs, investment, corporate profits and government revenue continues, although Alan Austin reports some easing with the new record high adult wealth reaching $70,850 or just 1.2% below last year’s record.

There are no global headwinds. The excuse is invoked whenever jobless figures rise, interest rates are cut, GDP per capita is lower than last year and declining productivity, among other factors, show our local economy stalling.

We’re all at sea. The mutinous dog in the captain’s rig may have seized the helm in last year’s dirty double, double-crossing of Turnbull. But the usurper has no charter; no vision. His first mate can’t read a compass and the crew are frigging in the rigging or sleeping in a cabin far below. No wonder Chief Purser Cormann is about to jump ship.

With Fran’s help, Frydenberg’s farrago of lies includes his party’s whopper that it has a record number of Australians in jobs. Yet Australia’s population growth of 1.7 million people (over 15 years old) during the same period, “created” those jobs. And a record number of deaths, too, not that you hear any boasting on that score.

Even if you take figures at face value, ABC, you could query the quality of those jobs. As in the US, many Australian workers are waiting up to a decade for a pay rise, income inequality is at record levels, working hours are long or unpredictable and penalty rates are being cut or do not exist. Conditions are also rapidly getting worse.

Wage theft is becoming the new normal as every month another corporation is found underpaying its workers.

“For many workers there is no on-the-job training or chance for career progression, stress related illnesses due to intense work pressures are common and large sections of the workforce live in fear of being sacked without notice or redundancy pay because employment security provisions have been eroded,” reports the ACTU.

Above all, as The Australia Institute’s Richard Denniss asks, “… if the Coalition is managing the economy, why did they grow the population rather than create jobs for those who were already unemployed?” We need to explode the pernicious myth of the coalition as good economic managers.  And as Denniss puts it, the economy’s effect on the budget vastly outweighs the effect of any budget on any economy.

Budgets are important but budgets are not central to the management of the economy.

Context matters. Unemployment was indeed 5.7% at the end of the financial crisis or global recession of 2013 but that rate still put us eighth in OECD rankings – as contrasted with our 21st place today at 5.3% as shown in last month’s ABS data. That’s our lowest ranking since records have been kept. But no-one holds Josh to account.

The budget is not back in balance. As Finance Dept data reveals, the deficit at the end of October is around $14.7 billion. A surplus is predicted for next June. Alan Austin spells it out, that’s seven months away.

Above all, as Ross Gittins and others point out, any surplus requires a series of heroic assumptions which include expecting government spending to grow by just 0.1% in real terms – as opposed to 4.9% last financial year.

Then there are the decidedly unheroic calculations and assumptions of this government. Helping create a sacred surplus are cuts to NDIS, although the preferred term is “underspend”. Chief amongst these is the $4.6bn that has not been spent on NDIS, or to use the bureaucrats’ jargon, the “… slower than expected transition of participants into the NDIS and lower utilisation of participants’ individual support packages”.

In other words, our most vulnerable experience delay or denial as more stringent assessments reduce the numbers who qualify for NDIS. Wheelchair Basketball and Tennis, Paralympian Dylan Alcott is disgusted.

“I see the heartbroken families of people who try and try to get funding but can’t, robbing them to be independent, contributing members of society. Fix it.”

Then there’s the timing of receipts. Bringing forward the collection of tobacco excise collections, for example, Shane Wright reminds us, boosts the bottom line by several billions in the new financial year. But wait!

Look over there! In an “explosive allegation”, a Chinese spy ring, exposed by Nine’s 60 Minutes, Sunday, may involve the late Bo “Nick” Zhao, (32) a former luxury car-dealer in leafy Glen Iris in Melbourne’s sleepy eastern suburbs who was offered one million dollars to be a Chinese agent of influence in Australian federal politics.

Or so the self-professed Manchurian candidate, Bo told ASIO a year ago. Is Glen Iris the den of sedition, our ex-pat local sage and dramaturge Barry Humphries, has always warned us about?  Sandy Stone now a suburban guerrilla?

A nation is shocked to learn of the plot to parachute Bo into the Liberal seat of Chisholm. Bo would then be injected like a bacillus into the fibrillating heart of our body politic, our parliament, like Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (Lenin) in the train to the Finland Station in April 1917. Seriously? More panic from Canning MP, Andrew Hastie.

“I heard that he was a 32-year-old Melbourne resident cultivated by the Chinese Government to run as a Liberal Party candidate,” Chair of Parliamentary Joint Subcommittee on Intelligence and Security Hastie breathlessly tells Channel Nine whose chairman is former Liberal Treasurer and current chair of the Board of Guardians of our $148 billion (that won’t be invested in education, health or welfare) Future Fund, nest-egg, Peter Costello.

Sadly, it turns out Bo’s in jail awaiting trial for fraud in October when Chisholm’s preselection takes place. Gladys Liu, who also boasted she could raise a million dollars for the cause, takes his place. Bo’s bid would be a Chinese Communist Party long-term strategy, helpfully suggests Alex Joske, Australian Strategic Policy Institute analyst.

Did Bo know too much? Tragically, he is found dead of a drug overdose in a Mount Waverly motel after tipping off ASIO that Chinese intelligence operatives would give him a million dollars to run for Chisholm. What could possibly have gone wrong? The party would even have given him a hand with the odd fake AEC polling booth or two.

Mandarin language electoral booths in Chisholm and Kooyong and in several other electorates with Chinese speakers instruct unwary voters to unwittingly tick the box to elect the Liberal candidate. These appear to be authorised by the Australian Electoral Commission. Prove they affected one vote say government lawyers.

Cases have been brought against the two candidates by climate campaigner Vanessa Garbett and unsuccessful independent Kooyong candidate Oliver Yates. The fake poll booth case is currently before the full federal court.

Former acting Victorian Liberal party state director, Simon Frost, has testified that signs written in Chinese at polling booths on election day were designed to look like official Australian Electoral Commission signage. Preliminary comments from the bench are not encouraging. At least the spy scandal gets our PM’s attention.

“Deeply disturbing”, Scott Morrison finds the spy claims, he says, while Liberal MP for Canning, first talent-spotted by Greg Sheridan, and an Abbott, captain’s pick, former SAS Captain, Andrew Hastie, cranks up the hysteria.

A state-sponsored attempt to infiltrate our Parliament using an Australian citizen and basically run them as an agent of foreign influence in our democratic system,” cries Andrew “handy Andy” Hastie, who chairs the Australian Parliament’s oxymoron – its intelligence and security committee.

It seems to give Hastie a lot of prominence if not power.

Incredibly, another self-proclaimed Chinese spy, Wang Liqiang, who also comes to Hastie’s attention, is the star of a 60 Minutes’ show when he comes forward with sensational allegations. Wang claims he worked as a secret Chinese operative for five years. Worse, Beijing has directed overseas assassinations, including on Australian soil.

Yet barely a week passes before our spooks conclude the self-proclaimed Chinese spy is not a highly trained intelligence operative dispatched by Beijing to wreak havoc on China’s enemies. At most, they suggest, he may be a bit player on the fringes of the espionage community. But what a star. Let’s hope he’s awarded asylum.

“We develop friendly co-operation with Australia and other countries based on mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit,” a foreign ministry spokesman says. “We have not interfered and are never interested in interfering in other countries’ domestic affairs.”

That settles that, then. Meanwhile, it seems Wang may have some charges to face should he return to China. The Chinese Embassy insists he is merely a “self-proclaimed intelligence agent” and a convicted fraudster who was sentenced to one year and three months in prison, with a suspended sentence of a year and a half.

The embassy cites a Shanghai police statement of an investigation into Mr Wang they opened in April, after he allegedly cheated 4.6 million yuan ($960,000), in a “fake investment project”, involving car imports in February.

Chinese spies is the latest episode of Morrison’s Police State which stars our fearless anti-hero the PM as daggy-Dad, a NSW copper’s son, making yet another dud judgement call. Rather than get his Minister for Energy, Emissions, water-rorts and Round-Up, Angus Taylor, to explain who cooked up the dodgy document Taylor used to falsely impugn Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore – he rings Mick’s mobile. Is Mick’s number on Scott’s speed dial?

So our PM phones a friend; his former neighbour and bin brother, top cop, Mick Fuller. Mick’s NSW Police Commissioner, a passionate advocate of strip-searching minors, the separation of powers and augmenting the rule of law with a little bit of fear.

Young people should have a “little bit of fear” of police he tells the fear-mongering Sydney tabloid The Daily Telegraph. It’s a view which former AFP chief Mick Palmer does not share. He says it is frankly frightening.

Morrison tells parliament that Strike Force Garrad (SFG) won’t be going anywhere. He implies Mick’s told him.

SFG is the NSW police investigation of Gus Taylor’s use of doctored documents to ridicule Sydney’s Lord Mayor, Clover Moore for declaring a state of climate emergency over some forged travel figures, Gus swears were downloaded from Sydney City Council’s website, a claim contradicted by the council’s website metadata.

Gus Taylor’s wife, the conservative Liberal political dry, Louise Clegg will be a rival contender against the progressive, bike lane and green energy favouring Clover Moore in the 2020 mayoral elections. Doubtless, no crime will be found to have been committed but no-one will believe Morrison hasn’t leaned on Fuller to back off.

Happily, our spooks are up to snuff. The Australian even suggests that Morrison could learn from their approach. Don’t turn crisis into catastrophe.  Spymaster, ASIO Director-General Mike Burgess looms up late Sunday night to assure all loyal Australians that not only is ASIO aware of the matters but is “actively investigating them“.

A former Telstra information security chief, Mike’s a top bloke says Peter Dutton. Last August Mike “moved across” to head ASIO after heading the Australian Signals Directorate, (ASD). He was on deck to News Corp Annika Smethurst whose scoop, April last year busted an ASD plan to spy on all Australians. Mike says it’s bollocks.

Mike Burgess and two departmental heads, (always better than one) issued a rare public statement disputing the report. Later Smethurst’s home was raided by the Australian Federal Police, reports Michelle Grattan, looking for anything which would lead them to her source.

Since then, there’s been a lot of fuss and bother about the role of the free press, a debate in which News Corp is handicapped by the baggage of having urged Coalition governments to increase state powers to spy on us all.

News of the Chinese plot is enough to put a nation off its Uncle Toby’s Weeties, Monday morning and quite upstages Evangelical Stuart Robert’s frantic attempts to hose down the government’s dumpster fire which erupts when, as it knew would happen, its Robodebt assessment or extortion of the poor is ruled illegal Wednesday by the Federal Court. The Morrison government may have to repay hundreds of millions of dollars.

While MSM faithfully report that it’s a shocker of a week for Morrison, it is in fact a very positive week for the Australian worker. Bill Shorten also is in top form. He raises the following matter in parliament. He asks

“Given that the government has now suspended robodebt after three years of operation, is it because the Coalition government at the time of creating it either, a) didn’t seek legal advice, or b) had inaccurate legal advice or c) received legal advice but just didn’t think that Australians would notice the government unjustly enriching itself at the expense of the most vulnerable in Australian society.”

It’s a bad week for Scott Morrison chorus Nine Newspapers following News Corp’s lead. But it’s far from that. It’s a good week or at least a hopeful week for ordinary Australians. What is bad is that Ensuring Integrity and repeal of Medevac are not remotely necessary.

Worse, Jacqui Lambie and Pauline Hanson note the hypocrisy, the double standard applied to workers and Westpac bankers who have just been called out by AUSTRAC on twenty-three million counts of money-laundering.

“The Prime Minister himself came out and said ‘it’s not up to us to deal with it, it’s up to the board to deal with the banks’ – but that’s not good enough,” senator Hanson says.

In the end the Morrison government’s just not good enough, Pauline Hanson nails it. Or big enough.

One bill before the senate extends the government’s campaign to cripple unions; reduce further the power of workers to organise and exercise industrial action while the other is more a fit of pique – a sure sign that petty political point-scoring matters more than the human rights of asylum-seekers – or our compassion, humanity – or our doctors’ Hippocratic oath. Morrison’s government hates any law that Labor may have had a hand in.

Finally there’s the robodebt debacle. The government has been happy to connive at extortion but even when called on its illegal averaging to raise a debt, all its Government Services Minister Stuart Robert can offer is;

“This government does not apologise -” Yet apologise it must. And fitting restitution must soon follow. No government can treat its people with such contempt; nor in reversing the onus of proof put itself above the law.

As for Yellow Peril 2.0, its spy drama, cooler, wiser heads must prevail. Andrew Hastie’s Sinophobia has all the hallmarks of an orchestrated diversion, designed to distract us from a government in deep trouble.

This week Scott Morrison reveals he understands neither the separation of powers nor the rule of law in our democracy; he acts the can-do PM; markets himself as a man of action. Yet this does not give him permission to ring the NSW Commissioner of Police in the midst of a parliamentary sitting to seek details of an investigation it is not his business to ask nor the Commissioner’s business to tell. Both parties are now irrevocably impugned.

Viewed in conjunction with his eagerness to silence dissent and his government’s passage of at least eighty laws increasing the powers of the state to spy on its citizens, his behaviour is not only entirely inappropriate it is truly alarming. The road toward a police state is paved with such incursions into liberty, democracy and justice.

Just as the incessant repetition of party propaganda and lies mask a grave unwillingness to consult others, let alone fairly and effectively manage our nation’s economy and resources whilst elevating illusion over truth.

Yet this tyranny is not inevitable. Armed with knowledge we can resist. We must. Our democracy depends upon it.

Just not cricket, Mr Morrison.

cricket

“Going to be a great summer of cricket, and for our firefighters and fire-impacted communities, I’m sure our boys will give them something to cheer about,” Morrison tweets Wednesday, at the Gabba, prompting former Wentworth MP and AMA President, Kerryn Phelps, to reply that it must be the empathy consultant’s day off.

Reading between the lines, the PM is overwhelmed by nostalgia for a simpler, quieter, Boys’ Own Australia where flannelled fools at the wicket and muddied oafs at the goals” commanded a man’s full attention and respect.

Australia’s Dear Leader is looking forward to kicking back at the end of a big year of getting in touch with his inner totalitarian; denouncing Labor at every turn in a perpetual campaign of hyper-partisan hysteria, union-bashing, evading scrutiny if not accountability and reforming his Party Room. Discussion and debate are all but eliminated.

Now MPs meet to view a PM’s PowerPoint of his latest talking points and vacuous slogans in silence. No smartarse remarks. Apart from his own. Morrison continues to put his foot in his mouth whenever he goes off script.

Something for the burnt-out to cheer about? It’s a shocker. Any self-respecting empathy consultant would run sobbing from the room, in search of another job. A gig with the Duke of York’s media team holds more appeal.

Opportunity beckons. Bond University and RMIT are cutting ties with Pitch@Palace, the disgraced Duke’s business mentoring charity, which once held a business pitching contest every October at Government House in Perth. The UK’s The Daily Telegraph reports that Andrew is no longer leading Pitch which will continue sans royal support.

Ironically, Bond could not recall $50 million stashed overseas when he appeared in Sydney’s Federal Court in 1994. Later, he served three and half years in prison, for stealing $1200 million from Bell Resources’ shareholders. It is the biggest fraud in Australia’s history, maintains Paul Barry. But Bond University still bears his name.

Shocking memory problems also now plague Prince Andrew, former host of Pitch@Palace, who claims he has no recollection of having ever met Virginia Roberts, a seventeen year old, whom convicted paedophile and financial hustler, the late Jeffrey Epstein, is alleged to have procured for his royal highness. His account is hotly contested.

Roberts, now Virginia Giuffre, tells the BBC’s Emily Maitlis the Duke had sex with her three times. The interview will screen 2 December. Giuffre claims Epstein trafficked her to powerful people and then used her as blackmail.

In New York court documents, prosecutors allege Epstein “enticed and recruited, and caused to be enticed and recruited, minor girls to visit” his homes “to engage in sex acts with him, after which he would give the victims hundreds of dollars in cash”. They say that “to maintain and increase his supply of victims, Epstein also paid certain of his victims to recruit additional girls to be similarly abused by him.”

The Duke insists, in an interview with The BBC’s Emily Maitlis, he was at home after a family party, a right royal pizza with the lot at Pizza Express in Woking? He can remember the day, date and year. It’s a lot to swallow. Never met Ms Roberts, no. Sex? No. He’d know “… if you’re a man it is a positive act to have sex with somebody.”

Naturally, The Duchess of York, a title she may keep as long she does not remarry, Sarah Ferguson, rushes to Instagram to defend her ex-husband. Andrew’s “a giant of a principled man” but after his gigantic train-wreck BBC interview, he may need a little professional help. As could our cricketers – with a very different type of pitch.

With “our boys”, Morrison instantly dismisses women’s cricket as anything uplifting. Australia is number one in the world in women’s cricket but you’d never know it from his utterly thoughtless and insensitive comment.

Does he not know, moreover, that our boys’ ball-tampering scandal in Cape Town, last year, has brought the men’s game into grave disrepute? Cricket Australia (CA) itself is in trouble.

Last year, an independent review found that players live in a “gilded bubble — disconnected, for much of each year, from families, friends and the grounding influence of community”.

CA’s review findings are resonant with meaning for all walks of corporate life and contemporary politics.

Cricketers, today’s gladiators, see themselves as being part of a “machine that is fine-tuned for the sole purpose of winning”, reviewers tut-tut, deploring CA’s win-at-all-costs culture. Imagine.  “The reputation of the game of cricket as played by men has been tainted.” Moreover, CA has an “arrogant, controlling and commercialised” culture which reacts to adversity by bullying or ostracising. In brief, it acts like any other corporate enterprise.

Above all, however, CA lacks accountability to its stakeholders, the public. Its independent report is redacted despite all promise of transparency from CA chairman, David Peever. Nor will it publish minutes of its meetings.

It’s not just cricket. CA’s reviewers could be talking about the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Coalition government or its backers, the banks, especially Westpac, which is also in the news, this week, over twenty-three million breaches of money-laundering laws. Happily, after an emergency meeting, CEO, Brian Hartzer, gets to keep his job.

As do the board of directors and the “senior executive team”.   The show must go on. And on. The best the PM can manage is to tell 3AW’s Neil Mitchell and ABC Radio’s AM that it’s not up to the government.

“It’s not for the government to say who should be in those jobs or not, but they should be taking this very seriously, reflecting on it very deeply, and taking the appropriate decisions for the protection of people’s interests in Australia. These are some very disturbing, very disturbing transactions involving despicable behaviour.”

Work experience boy, Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg is asked on ABC Insiders what would he do. Do? “Hard Discussions,” is all he can manage. No-one now seriously believes he has the will or the authority to take a bank to task.

Yet it’s a serious breach and it exposes major flaws in the system. Banks are exploiting loopholes. Anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws have been broken by Westpac, alleges AUSTRAC – on 23 million occasions. This includes failing to adequately monitor the accounts of a convicted child sex offender who was regularly sending money to the Philippines. Morrison says it shows the system is working.

Westpac more generally failed to “carry out appropriate due diligence on customers sending money to the Philippines and South East Asia for known child exploitation risks,” the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre – Australia’s financial intelligence unit and its anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regulator, AUSTRAC alleges.

Westpac is unlikely to be alone, writes regulatory expert Nathan Lynch. The story behind the story is industrial scale tax avoidance, the concealing of enormous cross-border payments. Yet it’s not up to the government?

Morrison’s hands-free policy with a bank is in complete contrast to his government’s Ensuring Integrity (EI) bill which seeks even greater state regulation of unions and a further curtailing of workers’ rights to organise.

If passed into law, the provisions of the EI Bill would directly interfere with the rights to freedom of association and independent functioning of trade unions guaranteed by, among other international instruments, the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, writes Anthony Forsyth, Law Professor in the Graduate School of Business and Law at RMIT University.

Granted, all this could take your mind off the odd bushfire – including the monster in NSW which, at its peak, had a front stretching 6000 kilometres- or from Sydney to Perth. And back. But Morrison is making a grotesquely tone-deaf proposal with “… our boys will give them something to cheer about.”  Does he lack all compassion?

Can Morrison, or any member of his government or PMO seriously believe, that those suffering bushfire’s devastation, the six hundred and twenty-three traumatised by losing their homes; all their earthly goods, or livelihoods, or the six households grieving the loss of a family member will be diverted by a game of cricket?

Because nothing fixes broken people in anguish, & blackened communities & animals in pain like random blokes doing something meaningless on an oval somewhere. “Fire trucks anyone?” “Nah, just some cricket thanks” tweets independent researcher and writer, Ronni Salt.

At least the Pentecostalist PM hasn’t repeated his promise to burn for Australians every single day. Yet.

Our “Prime Minister for standards” as Australia’s Prime Buck-Passer proclaimed himself last January, may be a sandwich short of a picnic when it comes to personality, policy or people-skills but you have to hand it to him, he certainly has the gift of the gaffe. Plus a tin ear. Tone deaf. It will prove his undoing.

Cook’s circumnavigation of Australia? You heard it first from The Gaffer. All Asians look the same? Morrison’s cheery “Ni Hao” to a Korean woman in Strathfield, the little Korea of Sydney’s inner-west. Understandable. He’s got China on his mind, after his mid-year monster diplomatic gaffe when he declared it “a developed country”.

Some gaffes suggest a malignant narcissism. In 2014, something more than a compassion bypass was evident in Morrison’s hostile response to allegations that underage asylum seekers on Nauru had been forced to have sex in front of a guard, and that women were being told to strip in exchange for showers of longer than two minutes.

Morrison announces an inquiry into the allegations but adds that the review will also look into whether the allegations had been concocted. In the meantime, he will remove ten Save The Children staff from Nauru?

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

They are “employed to do a job, not to be political activists”, Morrison makes his own false claims in a written statement, repeated verbatim at his press conference. Political activists? It’s a damaging and false slur.

Later the Immigration Department, he heads is forced to admit that there is no cause for the staff members to stood down.  “No reason to cause doubt to be cast.” The review results in full compensation being paid.

No censure or penalty is imposed on Immigration Minister Morrison, who goes on to become Treasurer.

As Treasurer, Morrison is questioned by Barrie Cassidy on ABC Insiders. Typically, Morrison denies all responsibility for his error of judgement, his fabrication of a damaging slur. He is as intractable as a mule. Morrie the mule.

“I drew no conclusions on the material that had been presented to me at the time.”

Cassidy tries to hold him to account. “Well, yes, you did.”

“No, I didn’t, Barrie.” He tells Cassidy to go back and check the transcript. Cassidy: “I have.” Shrugging aside all ministerial responsibility, denying any personal accountability, Morrison resorts to the Nuremberg defence:

“I did the job that I had to do in that situation, just as I am doing the job now as treasurer …”

Under pressure, this week, Morrison retreats into climate science denialism, a tactic which John Hewson hazards in The Sydney Morning Herald is “doubling down”, a phrase which originates in blackjack. If you are confident of winning after being dealt only two cards, you can double your bet but may take only one extra card.

High risk can yield high reward in blackjack. Figuratively, the phrase means to “to engage in risky behaviour, especially when one is already in a dangerous situation.”

Doubling down is now applied to any fit of intransigence. Hacks abuse it trying to explain the equally bizarre behaviour of Morrison’s mentor Trump who is now totally consumed by his own impeachment. Gone is all pretence of a Presidential role.  He emerges from his obsessive monitoring of coverage only to whinge to his aides.

Or he doubles down; repeats his allegation that it was “Ukraine not Russia”, a political interference conspiracy theory which nobody is buying. Even Republicans have trouble with it. In desperation, in a phone call to Fox, Trump admits he demanded a quid pro quo from Ukraine, tantamount to a public confession that as US President he resorted to extorting another nation to support his own political witch-hunt of Joe Biden’s son.

Doubling down can be admirably bold or woefully foolhardy. Morrison’s resort to a palpable lie about Australia’s contributions to greenhouse gases shows a contempt for his audience’s intelligence that will be his undoing.

“To suggest that with just 1.3 per cent of global emissions that Australia doing something differently — more or less — would have changed the fire outcome this season, I don’t think that stands up to any credible scientific evidence at all,” he tells ABC radio the following day.

It’s a nonsense response you might expect from a Craig Kelly, not a Prime Minister, deeply flawed in its logic and at odds with the evidence. Imagine if all the “little polluters” continued burning coal – worse, expanding their coal mining as Australia proposes.  Or just be honest with the facts, Morrison.

As AIM writer, Kaye Lee, explains, “in 2016, we were the fifteenth biggest emitter in the world. If we don’t have to worry about our measly contribution, then neither do 180 other countries including the UK, Turkey, Italy, Poland and France, all of whom have smaller emissions than us, and I am not talking per capita.”

As for the evidence, RMIT’s fact check, for example, estimates that Australia’s domestic emissions plus the emissions embedded in its exports added to 1,712 million tonnes in 2016. This represents roughly 3.6 per cent of total global emissions for that year, the latest reliable figures for global emissions.

It’s inspiring stuff. Or contagious. Government by bullying, extortion, deception and denial. Only an Abbott-Turnbull- Morrison government could send 6600 menacing debt letters to wrong addresses. When no-one responds, it uses income averaging to raise dodgy debts. Some are referred on to debt collectors.

Professor Terry Carney’s research finds when Centrelink asks for payment of alleged debts or evidence to disprove them, “most vulnerable alleged debtors will simply throw up their hands, assume Centrelink knows that there really is a debt, and seek to pay it off as quickly as possible”.

This week, the centrepiece of its three ring circus surplus-mania, the Robodebt extortion of over a million Australians – of money we mostly didn’t owe – is put on hold pending a class action from Gordon Legal, championed by Labor which is officially launched Wednesday, while Morrison is making his cricket pitch.

“There are a lot of our fellow Australians – single mums, pensioners, people who’ve been unemployed, people on Austudy, students – who’ve been forced to pay up under a regime which, in my opinion, is not validly based in law,” argues shadow Government Services Minister, Bill Shorten, who confirms that a separate class action will continue to argue that the government is “unjustly enriching itself at the expense of social security recipients”.

Government services ought to include “shakedown, outwrestling and exaction. Seven hundred thousand cases may now be opened to review should this single class action succeed.

Also still proceeding, is Deanna Amato’s imminent federal court case, which is due to be heard on 2 December, reports Victoria Legal Aid. The test case will continue to seek a declaration that the debt raised against Ms Amato is unlawful, despite the government’s announcement that it’s giving up granny-bashing and standover tactics in an unparalleled pause in its war on the poor.

It will, it promises solemnly, no longer rely solely on income-averaging to determine debts. No sense that it abused its duty of care in proceeding with an inherently flawed, cruel and unjust scheme which reverses the onus of proof on to the pensioner to disprove the alleged debt. No sense that it will compensate those whom it terrorised.

Some see the abandonment of Robodebt as likely to put paid to any surplus. The truth is that its net benefit never amounted to much any way. Crikey reports this week, debt-collectors have done very well out of Robodebt.

Over $2 billion worth of so-called debt has been outsourced. Yet it’s cost government $534 million – almost as much as the $658 million that has been collected. The model is deeply flawed as Paul Bongiorno observes

“This model of outsourcing government services, which so often sees taxpayer funds being funnelled to some of the government’s biggest friends and supporters, is increasingly problematic. It is operating in the National Disability Insurance Scheme and in the aged-care sector – where, as the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has shown, millions of dollars of public money is going to the private providers’ profits.”

But this time, Morrison The Congestion-buster, can’t blame his office, which is whittled down to a skeletal staff of fifty mandarins -(where one in five is a former coal industry shill) – as he did, last month, when all thirteen pages of the day’s talking points were emailed to the press gallery.

A conversation scripted to reassure us about a prince’s judgement has the opposite effect. A chance to connect the royal family with the modern world reveals that it is marooned, remote and criminally out of touch.

Similarly, Morrisons tin-eared tweet about cricket reveals a PM who is in another world, a malignant narcissist who is pathologically incapable of feeling for others, a would-be tribal leader who has no moral compass; whose energies are invested solely in maintaining power at any cost and increasingly in the politics of division.

As the economy tanks and households find it harder to make ends meet, after six years in power, the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government has only more coercion to offer the average Australian. And cricket.

Above all, the Robodebt debacle shows a government which has no scruple in waging war on the poor. It has, moreover, connived at diverting funds from schools and hospitals to boost the profits of private providers.

As Christmas, a festival of giving approaches, a cruel and tricky government prepares to further punish workers with a law that is certain to reduce their power to negotiate a living wage.

Yet there is hope for some. The million – plus pensioners who have been caught up in Robodebt may take heart in the fact that the government has been forced to abandon the scheme, at least for now.

Just don’t expect any real reform from the banks under a Morrison government.

 

 

Now is the time, Mr Morrison.

bushfire n nsw six homes

“In this bucket is my house”, Aaron Crowe tells other unquiet Australians rallying in Macquarie St, Sydney, Tuesday. He lifts an organic compost bin, a repurposed twenty gallon steel red drum with hand-made wooden lid, a homely relic of former peaceful, rural domesticity, now, destroyed forever, aloft.

The 38 year-old-father tips a few charred, remnants of the two bedroom home he once built, himself, on to the footpath outside NSW’s Parliament. Crowe and his wife, Fiona Lee, journey 323 kilometres, from Warrawillah, near Bobin, SW of Port Macquarie, to call MPs to account; confront them with the truth.

A powerful, personal, rebuke to the spin-doctors and MSM who drown real voices out of public discourse

Crowe’s gesture is eloquent testimony to a terrifying new bushfire season and a call to authorities, especially NSW state politicians in charge of funds and resources that it’s time to get real about climate science. Communicating climate science through our commercial media with its spectacularisation at the expense of underlying issues, its government media drops and its climate denialism is now impossible.

The challenge of communication has been taken up by independent media, social media, conferences, public meetings and personal protests. No wonder our anti-activist PM has these in his sights.

Crowe testifies to how global warming has bred extreme bushfires against which there is no defence.

“We had ample time to prepare and they’re talking about hopes and dreams, thoughts and prayers, miracles and heroes – it’s not realistic. This is not about unicorns and fairies, this is about people’s lives, it’s only going to get worse.”  Yet Aaron Crowe’s plea is waived aside by his premier and his PM.

Now is not the time to talk about climate change chorus NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and PM Morrison, Tuesday. Bushfire survivor, Badja Sparks contextualises this for The Guardian Australia.

“Today is not the day to talk about climate change.” No, yesterday was, or the day before, or the month before, or the year before. But it didn’t get a mention.

Now we have the reality, and the mention it gets is: “Don’t talk about it now.”

So the politicians (and the media) turn the talk to hazard reduction burns, or the lack of them, as something else to blame on the “inner-city raving lunatics”.

“We had a bushfire two months ago that burned most of our property. It didn’t matter. It burned again.”  Badja attests to a terrifying new type of fire that defies traditional means of control. A crown fire roaring in from the west on a hot afternoon with an 80km/h wind – it wasn’t on the ground. It was a firestorm in the air – raining fire. There was no fuel on the ground; it was already burned.

“Now is not the time” is a tactic the US National Rifle Association (NRA) uses to silence of debate.

NRA “spokespersons” or “public faces” such as Dana Loesch are quick to claim  “now is not the time to talk gun control” after so many of the 36,000 plus annual fatal shootings that make USA’s rate of death by firearm the highest in the developed world. Clearly, not talking works – for the gun lobby.

And for the government. Coalition shill, Chris Kenny in The Australian declares, “Climate alarmists are brazen opportunists preying on misery.”  Pushing the Morrison government’s political barrow he writes,

“Climate alarmists are using tragic deaths and community pain to push a political barrow. Aided by journalists and others who should know better, they are trying to turn a threat endured on this continent for millennia into a manifestation of their contemporary crusade.” 

In “more of the same just more of the same” false equivalence, Kenny’s failure to research any of the characteristics that make the current fires unique does his readers a dangerous disservice.

So, too, does what was once the party of the bush, The Nationals. Now the burnt out people of the bush feel increasingly betrayed by National Party MPs. All MPs. Crikey’s Guy Rundle argues that the Nationals have made themselves the enemy of rural Australia’s survival. Catastrophic fires occur so often now that they are “beginning to wear down the resistant scepticism of large areas of rural Australia”.

When country folk could once pride themselves if not define themselves on the thought that city folk didn’t know what they were talking about, the reality of drought and bushfire has caused a re-think.

Increasingly extreme weather; the lived experience of rural voters tests their dogged loyalty to The National Party and its blind faith in climate science denial. It’s at odds with their own everyday reality.

Undermined is the nub of rural identity which values bush experience and concrete realities over abstract science. Now that rural National voters’ bushfire experience is matching scientists’ warnings, Rundle perceives a weakening of “folk denialism”; traces an awakening of respect for climate science.

It’s complex. Adding to voters’ alienation is the Nationals’ support for mining over farmers. On Channel 10’s The Project, Waleed Ali stumps Michael McCormack in March when he challenges the deputy PM,

“Could you name a single, big policy area where the Nats have sided with the interests of farmers over the interest of miners when they come into conflict?”

Within the network of influence and lobbying which mining holds over the Coalition, Rundle traces a moment when the Nationals as an organisation lost interest in representing their agrarian community.

“Former party leader Anderson became chairman of Eastern Star Gas. His successor in the Nationals, Mark Vaile, now sits on the board at Whitehaven Coal, against which farmers in the Liverpool Plains have staged hundreds of days of blockades. Party scion Larry Anthony was a lobbyist for the Shenhua Watermark mine.”

John Anderson pops up like the White Rabbit on ABC’s The Drum last Friday to falsely claim that “the scientists cannot directly link extreme weather events with climate change”. But they can. And do. And our leaders – must heed them. The Australia Institute economist, Richard Dennis sums up,

Climate change makes bushfires worse. Even if we catch an arsonist who lights a fire, the fact is the fires they light will burn further and faster than they would have if the world had burned less coal, and the temperature was lower than we have made it.

We can manage fuel loads; cut firebreaks, but a fire lit by an arsonist will spread further today. Embers from hotter fires, race across drier ground; spark new fires further from the fire front than ever before.

First the women, younger folk and community leaders are sceptical of the Nationals’ bush mythology. Now, Rundle believes Nationals’ voters’ crisis of faith may harden into one final act of resistance before it cracks irrevocably. Attacking The Greens is one last populist move to regain a show of leadership.

On Monday’s RN Breakfast, McCormack is stung by Greens MP Adam Bandt’s claim that Morrison’s coal-promotion makes him complicit in the suffering of those currently being burnt out by extreme bushfires.

What people need now, the Deputy PM says, is real practical assistance, not “the ravings of some pure, enlightened and woke capital-city greenies”.

To Mid-Coast Councillor, Claire Pontin, McCormack is “just saying silly things”. He and Joyce may have missed this pivotal change in their own constituencies, notes The Saturday Paper’s Paul Bongiorno drily.

The best real, practical assistance McCormack could offer would be to embrace the science. Then he might ask NSW’s premier to reinstate the tens of millions the NSW has cut from state fire services.

Denial, downplaying and disinformation costs lives – especially the myth of false equivalence which holds that both sides are too blame for inaction on climate change, a term which is itself spin-doctored because it’s a neutral substitute for global warming. In fact it’s pretty much all the Coalition’s own work.

And much of that work was achieved by one man. Tony Abbott seized a personal political chance in 2009, writes The Monthly Today’s Paddy Manning, “sold the truth down the river” and in 2014, pre-figured Trump in becoming world’s first political leader to repeal a carbon price. Abbott then agitated against the NEG, creating waves of instability that helped Morrison topple Turnbull. Not only did Abbott put the nation back at least a decade, his legacy continues in Morrison’s lack of energy policy.

To adapt Katharine Murphy’s phrase, no wonder Morrison’s government doesn’t want anyone to talk about climate science, its own record is one of unmitigated shame and ignominious failure.

Yet McCormack insists we shouldn’t be talking about climate change. “Australia’s always burned”, he says. Nothing to see here. Just bushfires that come earlier, stay longer, burn hotter, higher and spread faster; evolving into a threat unlike anything we’ve had to deal with before.

The deputy PM follows up with NRA tactic stage two: shift the blame. If only greenies weren’t locking up our state forests for ecotourism, we could get in and cut the fuel load. Yet only nine per cent of NSW is “locked”. Only Queensland is lower with a shameful eight per cent.

Greenies, moreover, have no issue with hazard reduction. It’s climate change itself is which increasingly restricts burning off. As the fire season extends, south-east Australia dries out. Opportunities to use controllable, low-intensity fire to burn off the litter become fewer.

Above all, not all forest types are amenable to hazard reduction.  Wet sclerophyll and rainforest, for example, are not fire-adapted and most of the time are too moist to ignite. When they are dry enough to burn, it is too dangerous to burn them explains Brendan Mackey, director of the Climate Change Response Program at Griffith University.

This is what the ecological and climate emergency looks like,” says Fiona Lee.  It’s a young couple’s way of calling out the Morrison government for recently voting down an Opposition move to declare a state of climate emergency. Dismissing Labor’s bill as “symbolic” and impractical, Energy Minister, Angus Taylor says its “emotive language” ignores everyday Australians’ practical needs. He would know.

Taylor belongs to a government that wilfully ignores practical needs. 23 former emergency service chiefs wrote to Scott Morrison, in April, seeking an urgent meeting to discuss the serious threats facing communities this fire season due to climate change. In September, they wrote again. All were rebuffed while federal MPs rubbish any attempt to have a national state of climate emergency declared.

A hyper-partisan, Morrison government irretrievably stuck in campaign mode politicises the issue:

Labor is making a huge song and dance about declaring a climate emergency, but refuses to commit to a single policy in this area from the last election,” jeers Taylor.

Meanwhile, a ferocious new fire burns across the land, defying all traditional forms of management and causing the NSW government to declare a state of emergency, Monday. 500 homes are destroyed in one week. The fires are unprecedented in length, extend and intensity.

62 fires are burning across NSW, 56 of which have not been contained, ahead of a heatwave predicted for Tuesday which could see temperatures reach the mid-40s.

A “once in a century fire” is burning for the third time in ten years, a frequency which threatens even the false complacency nurtured by National Party retail politicians, such as Barnaby Joyce whose mantra is that bushfires and drought are just a feature of life in the bush, or that someone or something else is to blame. This week it’s The Greens again and or the sun’s magnetic field and or bad hazard reduction.

As it destroys life, property and virgin natural bushland, however, the terrible new fire threatens one of the bastions of climate change denialism itself, The National Party of the bush which is also under siege from drought and double-digit unemployment is losing credibility as its constituents experience first- hand the conditions climate scientists predicted. Will it also be the death of the National Party? If so, reflects Crikey’s Guy Rundle it will be the only death that is deserved.

“The pressure is now on Scott Morrison to resolve the fierce resistance in his own government’s ranks and respond with policies that persuade voters – thousands of them victims of this week’s inferno – that the federal Liberals and Nationals get it.” Paul Bongiorno notes.

Eastern NSW is ablaze. Bush fires, bigger and more ferocious than any Australia’s experienced before, include crown fire, an eighty kilometre an hour aerial firestorm – there’s no fuel left on the ground – raze a million hectares; cut a swathe of destruction already equal to that of the last three fire seasons combined. Areas burn at an intensity and in a season never seen before, says ecologist, Mark Graham.

A million hectares burn in NSW alone. Queensland and other states face the biggest fire front in Australia’s history. Catastrophic conditions are forecast for Sunday in four WA regions: east Pilbara coast, west Pilbara coast, east Pilbara inland and Ashburton Inland.

Catastrophic fire conditions is a recent forecast category which arose from the inquest into Victoria’s 2009 Black Saturday Fires in which 173 people died.

“It’s a treacherous combination of gusty winds, high temperatures, low humidity and extreme dryness. Any fire that ignites will quickly reach intensities and move at speeds that place properties and lives in imminent danger,” writes Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, ARC Future Fellow in the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of NSW. Her definition could be a summary of global warming’s role.

So far in NSW, six people have died, nearly 500 homes have been destroyed, reports the Rural Fire Service (RFS).  That’s more than double the previous most severe bushfire season in 2013-14, when 248 homes were lost. More than 1,650,000 hectares have been burnt across the state — more land than during the past three bushfire seasons combined. And the fires could rage for weeks.

“It is likely that the fire threat in Northern NSW and South East Queensland will continue for weeks unless significant rainfall occurs assisting fire fighters to extinguish blazes,” says Andrew Gissing emergency management expert with the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre.

Up in smoke goes any hope that our nation’s leaders may provide for or protect us. Instead, state and federal MPs rush to hide their blame; circling their wagons to defend their own shameful record of wilful neglect, climate reality denial and how their loyalty to big donors in mining eclipses any civic duty.

Avoidance is the Morrison government’s default position on issue which might involve taking responsibility; facing the fact that anthropogenic climate change is creating droughts, floods and fires.

More alarming is the censorship attempted by the NSW government when it tells its public servants attending a conference on adapting to climate change not to make any link between climate and fire.

It’s all too much for Morrison who vanishes Tuesday afternoon only to bob up Friday in praise of model corporate citizen QANTAS’ 99th birthday and to greet George Brandis returning on the Dreamliner which makes an historic nineteen hour nineteen minute non-stop flight London to Sydney. That’s at least 300,000 litres of fuel return.

The IPCC estimates that aviation is responsible for around 3.5 percent of anthropogenic climate change, a figure which includes both CO2 and non-CO2 induced effects. Luckily MPs have scapegoats.

Joyce adds to the myth that the latest bushfires are caused by The Greens’ curbing back-burning and fire-hazard reduction despite the fact that climate change has made back-burning too dangerous.

Ever the conservationist, Barnaby recycles the voice of disinformation, populist shock-jock and LNP parrot Alan Jones who blames the fires on The Greens, falsely claiming they had prevented controlled burns. In fact it’s global warming itself which is preventing controlled burning. Such measures are impossible due to the unique nature of the drought and the very dry conditions.

“Honestly, not today” calls NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian as a reporter, who had previously been speaking to couple asks Scott Morrison about climate change. ABC News interrupts Morrison’s response.

“In this bucket is my house,” Crowe tells the crowd. “When’s the time to talk about climate change then, if I’m standing in the wreckage of my own house?”

“The time is definitely right for talking about climate change – for me, there has never been a better time to talk about climate change,” his wife tells the crowd outside.

Morrison’s absence for most of last week is an indictment of his failure to lead – as are the comments of his ministers, McCormack and Taylor. What is urgently needed is an embargo on the spin-doctors and a willingness to accept the facts; confront the reality that global warming means a terrible new type of bushfire that demands all of our resources not more of the Federal Coalition’s division and scapegoating.

Above all it means heeding reality; the stories of people like Aaron and Fiona have much to tell us. We cannot afford to brush them aside any more than we can ignore their cries for help.

As expert firefighters have told Morrison, we will need to put in a lot more resources if we are to deal with the new levels of devastation, the new fires are bringing. His government and all state governments need to start listening. Twenty years ago would have been good but now is the next best time.

Labor’s “brave review” fails to upstage Morrison’s incompetence.

Bill and Chloe

Were politics reset in keeping with the times, the parties would concede that it is not a contest between social democracy and a capitalist free-for-all, or “the light on the hill” and “the forgotten people”, or even conservatives and progressives, but one in which the ghosts of organisations that once had some claim to represent these passions compete to prove themselves the superior financial managers. Don Watson

Attack of the Labor Zombies: “Review of Labor’s 2019 Election Campaign”, the ritual killing of Bill Shorten by hungry ghosts, premiers nationally, this week, six months after Bill’s political death, a fate which the commentariat is still finalising for him despite his promising to “hang around” for another twenty years.

Karen Middleton scoffs at Shorten’s pledge. “He’ll be in his seventies”, she sighs, on ABC Insiders Sunday. Bill will be 72. Four years younger than Joe Biden. Elizabeth Warren’s 70. Billy Hughes served for 51 years; died at 90 before he could get around to thinking about retiring. But it’s not about age.

It’s … the chutzpah. “He’s got to win all those elections.” Shorten won almost a five per cent (4.99%) swing to Labor in his Victorian seat of Maribyrnong, last election. Next he’s at fault for making his twenty-year pledge before the review comes out to help others decide his future for him.

How very dare he get in first?

MSM is consumed by the review; the review of the review and any excuse at all to kick Bill Shorten.

Kill Bill has become a national sport since Tony Abbott contrived to make “Bill Shorten” a pejorative term, a project taken up shamelessly by Malcolm Turnbull and with glee by bully Morrison.

Interviews with Morrison normalise his bullying, as Dr Jennifer Wilson argues, in analysis of the PM’s manic scattergun barrage of bullshit to cover his running away from the question guerrilla tactics.

Julia Banks quit parliament after only a term because of the level of bullying during the leadership spill.

What’s even more alarming is the subtext that Morrison, miraculously, got everything right. Scapegoats help with that. It’s a by-product of reducing party politics to the popularity of the leader, part of our brave new age of populist personality politics where policy and reasoned argument count less than spin and image. And Morrison’s fevered hyper-partisanship makes Tony Abbott look like a peace-maker.

Albo offers to accompany Morrison to NSW bushfire areas, he tells Fran Kelly, Sunday. His offer is brushed aside. Something about not getting in the way of “the rescue effort”. Later media images show Morrison, alone, comforting victims, as he did with his drought series of visits, grandstanding on grief.

But Labor doesn’t seem to have got the memo that there’s a war on. Blending psychic surgery with forensic post-mortem, Labor eviscerates itself for a ritual cleansing. Bares its soul. And then some. The Review … is an unparalleled, almost naive act of faith. No wonder it gets everyone’s attention.

But why? Is this orgy of over-sharing prompted by some rush of utopian socialism which only true believers can call into being? Or is it folly? It’s unique, says ABC’s Laura Tingle, her take on “brave”.

“That’s very brave of you, minister. An extremely courageous decision,” as Mr Appleby would say.

Yet Labor’s purpose, beside officially defining what went wrong, is to draw a line under its defeat.

Fat chance. Just because closure is a tabloid TV victim’s top buzz-word doesn’t make it achievable. Somehow, there’s something for everybody because, you know, Labor lost. By Sunday’s ABC Insiders, a  narrow loss morphs into a rout. Labor can’t even pass its own post-mortem exam, Fran Kelly implies.

It’s not easy. Former Keating speech-writer, Don Watson, notes that Labor’s changing constituency increasingly includes service-sector employees, lower-level managers and healthcare workers, as the middle class itself is changing. Labor’s review even detects an influx of woke, affluent, graduates in Southern states, whom, it contends can afford the luxury of idealism. It’s a dangerous hypothesis.

“Since university graduates, on average, earn higher incomes and have more secure jobs than those without tertiary qualifications, they are more readily able to think about issues such as climate change, refugees, marriage equality and the rights of the LGBTQI+ community.”

But a few rich grads didn’t win Labor any seats, Emerson and Wetherill are quick to note. And if your idealism or concern for justice and the survival of the planet is in proportion to your wealth, heaven help the rest of us. Paul Keating reckons Labor lost because it failed to understand the “new middle-class”.

New? Watson sees a class with no ideology nor even consciousness of itself as a class. Being new it has “no roots beyond its self-interest”. He hopes Morrison hasn’t already press-ganged it into Quiet Australians, another bogus, Silent Majority.

But who needs analysis? Nuance is banished from our national conversation. Labor’s review simply has to make Bill the villain. You can’t trust Bill Shorten. It’s the old Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison melodrama.

News Corp prefers a shifty, shorthand, “dud leader, dud policies, dud strategy”, summation which bears no resemblance to the subtler findings published by Dr Craig Emerson and Jay Weatherill who chair Labor’s inquiry. But given Murdoch’s stranglehold over our media, it will soon become gospel truth.

Paul Kelly, The Australian’s editor at large, wilfully misrepresents the report.  Eagerly, he invents a turf war. Two Labor constituencies are at war with each other. Father Kelly fears for Labor  – a fear which Fran Kelly and others put to Albo. How can Labor possibly bridge the gap between blue-collar and gown?

“The Labor Party now resembles two rival constituencies fighting each other — their origins embedded in the party’s past and its ­future — a conflict that extinguished Labor’s hopes at the May election and a chasm that nobody knows how to bridge,” Kelly fantasises. But it’s never had any trouble in the past.

Rupert’s troupers can’t labour Labor’s factionalism enough. It diverts from Coalition disunity. All is not well, for example, in Cockies’ Corner. Nationals Deputy Leader and Minister for Agriculture, Bridget McKenzie, “couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery” one MP tells ABC’s Lucy Barbour.

McKenzie is under pressure to perform; step up to the plate or step aside. Pauline Hanson’s taken all the credit for saving the dairy farmers and the PM seems to own drought the relief compassion show.

Barnaby Joyce is still agitating for promotion despite spending $675,000 for only three weeks in the field and not providing any reports as special drought envoy. But as media keep the focus on Shorten’s failure and the myth of Labor’s imminent decent into civil war, the Morrison miracle spin gets a further tweak.

(By the magic of implication, the current struggle between Nats and Libs – witness the spat over who owns the theatre of drought relief, or the Liberals capture by climate change denialists – means the Coalition with its three Prime Ministers in six years, rivals The Mormon Tabernacle Choir for harmony.)

Not the Puritan Choir, that’s another, evangelical, faction led by Mr Probity, Stuart Robert, architect of the Turnbull assassination plot. But all is forgiven. He’s repaid $37,975, only $8000 shy of what he had previously claimed as ‘residential internet expenses’.  Streaming Christian TV from home is not cheap.

Be fair. Stu’s wife, Peoples’ Pastor Chantelle, can’t run her Pentecostal online evangelism without a decent broadband connection. Robert also says he’s returned a brace of gold Rolex watches, he and his wife – and other Coalition MPs received in 2013 from Chinese instant noodle billionaire Li Ruipeng.

Robert, Abbott and Macfarlane thought the $250,000 worth of watches were fakes, they say. As you do, whenever any oligarch tenders a token of his esteem in expectation of a return favour. Or perhaps not.

Or perhaps you do – if you’re an Australian MP seeking favour. Robert resigned from Turnbull’s ministry when he breached the Ministerial Code of Conduct on a business trip to China for Nimrod resources in which he somehow gave his Chinese hosts the false impression he was in China in an official capacity.

In 2017, Robert’s eighty-year-old father, Alan, discovers that he is a director of one of his son’s companies and that his son has used his Dad’s address on one of his businesses. Without telling him. The private company in question is doing rather well in winning government contracts, until then.

You won’t catch Robert or Morrison holding any public review. It’s against their religion. Look at the trouble Morrison’s mentor Brian Houston is having just complying with NSW police investigation. He’s refusing to answer questions about his father’s child abuse. The tactic seems to be working perfectly.

Frugal with the truth, lest Satan strike you whilst your guard is down, God’s hot-eyed warriors know when to keep stumm. Just as they know that God put coal underground for our blessing and just as they are happy to burn for mining while awaiting the rapture, believing they will be saved by their faith.

Thou shalt not fear fossil fuels preaches Pentecostal Pastor PD King in The Christian Post.

Yet Robert’s god-botherers and coal warriors are not symptoms of deep division in the Coalition. Nor are Tim Wilson, Dave Sharma, Jason Falinski, Katie Allen, Angie Bell and Trent Zimmerman who sign on to parliamentary friends of climate action, “a safe place away from partisan politics”, which has Greens, Labor and cross-bench supporters, only to snub their very first meeting 14 October.

But not all MSM scribes are bluffed. Do what Father Morrison does: walk both sides of the chasm at the same time. Granted, “Shut up and eat your peas, dad is talking” is Morrison’s leadership style, as The Guardian Australia’s Katharine Murphy astutely discerns, but don’t let a paternal despot pull the wool.

“… look at Morrison, who manages to walk every side of every street simultaneously and talk out of both sides of his mouth and suffer no apparent penalty.”

Murphy’s amused by Morrison’s hypocrisy in his illiberal lecture to the mining mafia last Friday week in which he threatens yet another new clampdown, (number 84 and counting) on the civil liberties of illiberal protesters who are exercising their right to boycott businesses who collude with coal-miners to extinguish the planet. She believes he just says this sort of stuff for effect and hopes nobody notices.

Also hypocritical is Morrison’s message that he’ll do everything for coal. Only a few days earlier, he makes a billion dollar grant to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC). Abbott tried to close down the CEFC along with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), a move Turnbull reversed.

Morrison’s CEFC grant will help fund new transmission infrastructure to help clean energy access more of the national grid. Next he agrees to help underwrite the main NSW-Queensland interconnector.

Murphy rightly asks why Morrison is able to shape-shift every day of the week but Labor is excoriated for selling out when it tries to straddle two constituencies. Worse, it must get a real leader, like ScoMo, the actor playing the daggy suburban Pentecostal dad with the Stepford wife, a man we can all identify with.

Shorten’s unpopularity has more to do with his crucifixion by News Corp and its lackeys including, sadly our ABC, than any political reality. Labor’s review concedes, however, that damage has been done.

Labor’s review sums up Labor’s loss as a combination “of a weak strategy that could not adapt to the change in Liberal leadership, a cluttered policy agenda that looked risky and an unpopular leader” –  a verdict, writes ANU’s Frank Bongiorno “which belies the sophistication of the report as whole”.

But everyone in the gallery – from Michelle Grattan to Mark Latham – gets to twist the knife. It’s a massive pile-on; way more popular, than Melbourne’s Spring Carnival. Bagging Labor’s failings easily upstages the Melbourne Cup, the race that barely slows the nation, our increasingly anaemic, ritual national blood-sport. Besides schadenfreude is surely part of our tall poppy syndrome.

But like the curious incident of the dog in the night time, nowhere is there mention of News Corp.

“The Murdoch media didn’t merely favour the government over the opposition. It campaigned vigorously for the return of the Coalition. And it is a vast empire, with a monopoly through much of regional Queensland, for instance. It is hard not to see in the review’s silence on this matter a clearing of the way for a future kissing of the ring of the familiar kind.” Frank Bongiorno writes.

Everyone wants to wag the finger; tell Labor where it went wrong and by implication how Morrison’s miracle campaign was so inspired – when in reality it was almost totally negative; long on disinformation and attacking Shorten’s character – including the Daily Telegraph’s attack on his mother’s integrity.

A review of the Coalition campaign? Nasty, brutish and short on policy beyond the promise of tax cuts. The $1080 tax cut may have bought a few votes but it is proving a total failure as a fiscal stimulus.

The retail sector is in its third year of per capita recession. While Frydenberg and Morrison seek to explain it away by online sales, as Alan Austin notes, the ABS figures include online sales.

“Retail sales for the September quarter came to $82.6 billion, up just 2.48% on the same quarter a year ago. With inflation at 1.7% and population rising 1.6%, that is a decline in real terms relative to population. So the sector is now in its third year of per capita recession.”

Luckily Labor Zombies … is a sell-out performance, upstaging the government’s own show, “Geronticide! Hell ain’t a patch on the ways you will suffer in God’s Waiting Room; dying of abuse and neglect in our private aged care homes”, brilliantly scripted by commissioners Lynelle Briggs, AM, and Richard Tracey, AO, in their three volume Interim Report into Aged Care …, “…a shocking tale of neglect”.

Everything’s apples with aged care with just a few rotten fruit spoiling everything. Besides, Morrison says there’ll be more funds by Christmas. He can’t say how little. No-one would expect his government to have been briefed so soon, given that it’s only Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison’s sixth year in government. Expect Santa Hunt and Morrison to stuff the announcement in a stocking late on Christmas Eve.

In the meantime, despite the commissioners’ finding that commodifying aged care is the core of the problem, the Coalition is proceeding with its plan to privatise the staff who do the assessments.

Amazing new efficiencies will follow; such as we’ve seen in the NDIS, where $1.6 billion is being saved by shunting disabled Australians on New Start instead. Private enterprise is a miracle of profit-driven efficiency. And care. No funds will be wasted on gratuitous compassion or humanity. Or spent in haste.

“We are six years into the rollout and we have heard of people waiting two years for a wheelchair, so it needs concerted attention,” says Kirsten Dean from disability advocate group Every Australian Counts.

Expect the reforms to raise the bar; reducing the number of our elderly folk who qualify for homecare “packages”, which are already very limited in scope and difficult to access even at their most basic level.

Above all, Labor Zombies … is a great diversion from the long list of latest revelations of wrong-doing by Morrison’s mob, especially the Australian National Audit Office’s (ANAO) censure of the pork-barrel party coalition for its shonky award of funding under its $200 million regional jobs and investment packages.

Conceding it might have a bit to hide, a furtive, federal government chooses to release its ANAO report on Tuesday afternoon when it hopes all eyes and ears will be turned to the track at Flemington.

The ANAO is scathing about the Morrison government’s disregard for advice provided by bureaucrats. It is also unhappy with ways the Coalition chooses to ignore guidelines regarding merit and eligibility.

Untrained ministers took over the process, making decisions on their own, unaided by expert advice. No. Of course, they did not bother to take minutes. 64 of 232 applications were scrapped. A total of $75.9m in funding is declined. Yet $77.4m in requested grant funding is approved to 68 applicants not on the departmental list. Over half the funding is pork forked out of the barrel.

While program guidelines require applicants to declare any perceived or existing conflicts of interest, or declare that they had no conflicts – “no action was taken to give effect to this element of the program guidelines”.

Doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results, is one definition of insanity. Yet, when the Coalition rolls out the pork barrel, this week, in yet another round of drought relief; a billion dollar “suite of measures” to its backblock pals, as it grandiose handout, once again, to entice farmers to do more of the same, is there method in its madness? Or is it merely Groundhog Day again?

The groundhog factor cannot be ignored. Mugged by an Anthropocene reality; Morrison’s mob have no idea what to do. No policies; no plans. No future. They can only fall back on past practice. And buying votes. Along with nostalgia, the pork barrel is part of every Coalition MP’s mental furniture; it’s in its DNA.

And craving more of the same old, same old means it’s only natural to look backwards; unerringly repeat the same mistakes of the past.  Five years ago, then PM Tony Abbott, and his Minister for Agriculture and Water rorts, Barnaby Boondoggle Joyce, announced – a suite of measures offering financial, social and mental health support. Bingo!

But there is method or shrewd craftiness. Evading accountability for starters. Is there any area of public funding less scrutinised than drought relief?, wonders Bernard Keane.

Australia would still have a car industry and 50,000 secure jobs for a only a third of the amount that the Coalition is prepared to pony up for loans to farmers and small-businesses in drought-affected towns.

But imagine the outcry from News Corp and its claque if workers, or manufacturers, could borrow up to two million interest-free for two years; with no need to pay back the principal until the sixth year.

“Rural communities can’t function without these small businesses – that’s why we’re stepping in to provide this extra support,” Morrison says. But in its Abbott incarnation the coalition government was perfectly happy to deny SPC Ardmona $25 million just five years ago?

Many workers and their families in other sectors would be glad of the support. Manufacturing, for example, lost 100,000 jobs, or a third of the entire agriculture workforce, in the year to August.

But extra support has limits. State schools won’t be eligible for $10m in new education funding announced in Thursday’s drought package, an “elitist and unfair” if not downright cruel decision.

Australian Education Union president, Correna Haythorpe, argues it’s “another slush fund for private schools” on top of the $1.2bn Choice and Affordability fund for Catholic and Independent schools, which Lenore Taylor reports also included money for drought-affected areas.

In its encore, Drought Relief 2.0 “Suite of measures” this week, Morrison’s travelling roadshow hopes, above all, that the hullabaloo will distract punters from its own Drought Response, Preparedness and Resilience a report which it commissioned from top brass Stephen Day, DSC, AM, the very model of a modern Major General and former Drought Co-ordinator-general.

Somehow it must keep us from the light of Day.

Drought is not a natural disaster, it’s an enduring feature of the Australian landscape, reports Day. Yet instead of launching into the droughts and flooding plains of Dorothea McKellar’s My Country – and a staple of The Nationals’ MP interview press-kit, Day breaks with climate-denialist tradition.

“While droughts are normal for Australia, drought conditions are likely to become more frequent, severe and longer in some regions due to climate change.”

It’s plain as Day that we’re responsible for drought, with our love of coal-fired power stations, coal mines and our mania for land clearing. It’s a far less romantic notion than playing the hapless victim – Abbott’s “Shit Happens” philosophy, a helpless victim of natural disaster.

But accountability is apostasy, heresy even in the broad church of the Coalition Party Room and especially to the reality denial cabal in the driver’s seat, to say nothing of the God-made-coal-so-we-should-profit-from-his-divine-providence, Pentecostal push that has a hot-line to the current tenant in Kirribilli House.