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.