When will Morrison and his government be held to account?

morrison alone at G7

“With everything that’s going on at the moment we need to be in the tent and we need to know what’s going on – and we are,” Scott Morrison spruiks his star role as a fly on the tent wall, a vital bit part in the latest instalment of the G7 soap opera, a chic, dysfunctional clique; a G6+1 held this year in Biarritz, artificial pearl of the Basque coast.

Next year, Trump wants them to kick back at his Trump National Doral in Miami, one of his top golf resorts in Florida. Invite his old pal Vlad Putin. Get a few holes of golf in. “It would be better to have Putin inside the tent than outside the tent,” Trump says. He doesn’t explain. Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine and its illegal annexation of Crimea are but two stumbling blocks for most G7 members. Putin won’t attend as guest. He wants full membership again.

Tent? Is ScoMo being droll? Few at the G7 know what’s going on – neoliberalism is dead for starters. The post-war world that spawned the Group of Seven, “advanced” non-communist economies the UK-Atlantic alliance is long gone. So, too are some G7 economies. Is France “advanced” or merely held up by transnational receipts, asks Crikey’s Guy Rundle.

Others will never know. The terminally bewildered include Donald Trump who may or may not attack Iran any minute, “bonkers”, Boris Johnson, whose EU ignorance may take the great out of Great Britain and Jair Bolsonaro who puts a sixty-day ban on lighting fires in the rainforest, while the Amazon, the lungs of the planet, burns out of control.

Did you see that tie-dye that Melania wore? It gets more ink that any international political or environmental or climate crisis. Or the fact that her husband doesn’t even deign attend the climate conference. Thank God we had ScoMo there, beavering away at “rules-based order” or keeping extremists off the net. It’s too late for The White House. Hopes that monster-baby Trump will pick the toys he threw out of his playpen, abandon the trade war with China – which he thinks he’s winning or the plan to attack Iran which he’s happy to leave out there – are dashed from the start.

After Trump repudiated last year’s motherhood statement, there is no attempt at a 2019 G7 consensus communique.

This year, he also vetoes ScoMo’s proposal for self-regulation of social media, an ineffectual, if not futile proposal to counter online extremism, which will collect data from law-abiding citizens and do nothing to curb extremists. It’s a quality thought–bubble that in the end, Trump sycophant ScoMo, sniffing the wind, doesn’t even vote for himself.

Luckily Morrison, still gets to wow leaders with our space research, a type of astral Spakfilla which “will fill space infrastructure gaps to support businesses and researchers to participate in the global space economy.”  Or at least his latest BFF, Boris bird’s nest head Johnson, Britain’s professional clown who is also putting in a top performance in vacuity as clueless Prime Minister tells him “it’s a fabulously interesting, brilliant and exciting project, Scott.”

Morrison is in Biarritz because, France’s President, Emmanuel Macron invited him to observe- along with India’s PM Narendra Modi and G7 pariah Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister. Despite reporting how Boris Johnson, is absolutely gob-smacked by Australia’s space agency space, ScoMo totally assures everyone he’d rather be at home.

“As Australia’s Prime Minister, I always prefer to be in Australia dealing with issues on the ground domestically,” says our most evasive PM since Abbott and the least accountable ever. He’s pleased to be out of the country when his government’s religious freedoms bill is finally published. It’s superfluous – religious freedom is not under threat; but it’s a sop to those who were out-postal-voted on marriage equality but who still claim they have a right to discriminate.

The bill, which skips the tricky stuff of actually defining religious belief, upsets progressives and conservatives alike, while dividing the broad church of the Liberal Party including some of its de-facto partners in the open marriage of convenience with the National Party (and anyone else it can bed), a secret agreement which has, at its core, an uneasy juxtaposition of mutual suspicion and condescension but which both sides pretend is a viable coalition government.

Laura Tingle warns, Morrison’s biggest domestic political challenge yet may be his need to deal with MPs such Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells who claims, Friday it is “clear from my ongoing consultation and engagement with religious leaders that the bills are likely to fall far short of properly and fully addressing their requirement”.

If Morrison moves to appease the reactionaries, he is in danger of alienating the conservatives whose support he courted when he declared religious freedom to be his key priority at the outset of his accidental prime ministership. On the international front, his government is choosing to fall in with Washington’s plan to wage war on Iran, a reflex appeasement of the Trump administration’s bullying which may well lead to catastrophic consequences.

In a brilliant show of legerdemain, a triumphant Macron produces the Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif from behind a screen, a move which is reported to surprise Trump and other leaders despite their prior warning.

Will Trump and Zarif talk? No. Iran’s PM Hassan Rouhani wants the US to lift sanctions first. Trump says he’ll meet Iran’s leader because “We’re looking to make Iran rich again.” US sanctions on Iran under the Trump administration have caused the rial to lose 75 per cent of its value this year.  Yet Trump rules out direct US financial assistance.

“No we are not paying, we don’t pay,” Trump says. “But they may need some money to get them over a very rough patch and if they do need money, and it would be secured by oil …, so we are really talking about a letter of credit. It would be from numerous countries, numerous countries.”

But all is not lost. Love is in the air. Bromance blossoms between BoJo, (Boris Johnson) and DoJo (Donald John Trump) two confirmed narcissists who praise each other to the skies and promise all manner of fabulous trade deals guaranteed to make Britain great again. Again. Hugely.

No-one bothers Trump with picayune details such as the way he depresses world markets and how he is a huge drag on the global economy with his mindless trade war with China.  Or his conflict of interest in next year’s proposed venue.

Or they see no point in raising it during his bromance with Boris. Luckily, BoJo and ScoMo are also now best friends forever. “Let’s just say that we’re going to have a great relationship,” Morrison sighs after his speed-date with Boris. Our nation is overjoyed by the potential outcome of the marriage of two such uncannily alike minds.

ScoMo caps his G7 gig in Biarritz, a world first for Australia, according to the hype but only if you ignore Kevin Rudd’s presence at a G8 in Japan in 2008, with a bromide on how the G7 team should root out violent, extremist, anti- social media, (but still allow its MPs to attend extremist rallies), with a quick Dili-dally on the way home to take care of business while upstaging the 20th anniversary of Timor-Leste’s democracy. Oozing unfunded empathy, our Neo-colonial Big White Bwana, reprises his brilliant Pacific shtick. Celebration? Locals should be grateful to Australia, he suggests.

Super-ScoMo, now with added whiteness power, repeats lying rodent John Howard’s fib that Australia protected and liberated Dili from Indonesia which invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975 in an illegal, genocidal annexation, massacring 2000 Timorese in the first weeks alone in a campaign of savage brutality in which 200,000 were killed.

Morrison’s chief mission is to see Woodside, or some other capitalist-crony, still gets to rip off Timor Leste’s oil and gas reserves while warning locals about Yellow Peril 2.0. It goes over nearly as well as when our PM also tells locals Australia won’t refund $5bn in royalties, already fraudulently gained by deception by bugging Timor-Leste’s cabinet in 2004.

Whip-smart, Morrison’s charm offensive includes telling locals that his government’s secret star chamber trial of Dili bugging, whistle-blower, former ASIS agent, “Witness K” and his lawyer Bernard Collaery, a case of international espionage is “a domestic matter” . Besides, how good is democracy, truth, justice and the Quiet Australian way?

Locals know the truth. If John, “The Liberator” Howard’s pro-Jakarta government had got its way on 30 August 1999, when it let Indonesian- backed paramilitary militias punish East Timor after daring to vote for independence from Indonesia in its 30 August 1999, referendum, there would have been no democratic state of Timor-Leste for Australia’s paternalistic PM, Scott Morrison, to pat on the head this week. Yet that’s not ScoMo’s narrative.

Instead, the thoroughly postmodern, post-fact, post-truth, Trumpist Morrison government; peddles an ancient myth. Australia played a major role in that period when East Timor broke away from Indonesia. A letter from former PM John Howard and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer led to Indonesia holding the vote,” Seven mis-reports, helpfully. The story is the subtext in every photo opportunity as ScoMo happily takes credit where it most certainly is not due.

It’s pure fiction, a lie confirmed, this week, when a ruffled Downer howls down the unequivocal evidence of newly declassified US intelligence documents, published by The National Security Archive based at the George Washington University Washington which cast fresh light on Howard’s letter to B. J. Habibie, then Indonesian PM.

The US, in fact – not Howard – leaned on Jakarta to call off its dogs of war; rescuing East Timor’s independence referendum of 30 August 1999. 78.5 per cent voted for independence. Almost every East Timorese adult voted.

Brutal was Jakarta’s reprisal. Indonesian military and police forces and their local paramilitary allies retaliated with a scorched earth campaign which killed over 1,500 Timorese and displaced nearly half the population. 100,000 were forced across the border into West Timor. Much of East Timor was razed to the ground. Australia looked the other way.

Australia had no plan for peace-keeping and acted only after the US. Howard and Downer’s hopes of cleverly engineering Indonesia’s permanent incorporation of East Timor, a bogus, special autonomy ruse had failed.

There’s no apology. ScoMo soft-soaps his hosts, congratulates them on the anniversary of their independence and proffers other heavy-handed platitudes. How good is democracy? How good is the people’s voice?

How good is the secret trial of Witness K and Bernard Collaery who are currently being punished in a star chamber?

Their crime, as all of Timor-Leste’s leaders know, is that Witness K had the conscience to blow the whistle on his government’s illegal bugging, in 2004, of the, then, East Timor cabinet during negotiations in which Woodside Petroleum was going to do very nicely out of fudging a boundary that gave Australia a 50 per cent share of oil and gas resources – located 150 kilometres from Timor-Leste’s shore but 400 kilometres from Australia’s.

His hosts mostly feign a polite tolerance but local hero, former independence leader and first President of Timor-Leste,

Xanana Gusmão threatens to come to Canberra to testify in person – not that Christian Porter’s kangaroo court could cope with something as fair and just as expert testimony.

No, ScoMo says, speaking quickly, Australia won’t pay back the $5bn in gas revenue it rorted from the government of East Timor. An earlier, treaty gained Australia an unfair advantage, thanks to information obtained by the illegal bugging of East Timor cabinet meetings in Dili. The bugging was allegedly ordered by then Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer. Downer denies it. Timor Leste successfully appealed to the permanent court of arbitration in The Hague

There is nothing to be proud of historically. Despite John Howard’s claims, Australia wanted East Timor to remain Indonesian and lobbied to exclude peace-makers. Howard’s backflip was forced on him only after the US stepped in on 9 September, 1999, to halt the carnage after the 30 August referendum in which 78.5 per cent of East Timorese voted to become independent. Nor is there anything to be proud of today.

A world statesman, whose presence is now du rigueur wherever heads of state may gather, our internationally- acclaimed, but “just a normal guy”, PM disappears when he returns home to Kirribilli House right after telling reporters at the G7, he’d rather be keeping the home fires burning, some fantasy about “dealing with issues domestically”.

Dealing or dodging? Despite nation-wide protests, ScoMo has nothing to say on “The Tamil family”, as newshounds call Peter Dutton’s paramilitary Home Affairs’ latest victims, now banged up on Christmas Island, before deportation, gaol and torture in Sri Lanka. Once in Colombo, they’ll be arrested for “illegally leaving the country” – despite it being completely legal, under international law, to seek asylum. Even in boats. Sri Lanka’s human rights abuses are legion.

If world leader ScoMo knows what’s going on, he keeps it to himself – until Monday, midday, when he resurfaces to call a press briefing. Fluently, he repeats his government’s lies that Kevin Rudd was soft on borders. Labor caused children to drown. Incredibly, Richard Ferguson writes almost a verbatim account of ScoMo’s spiel in The Australian, minutes later.

Deporting the Tamil family is ScoMo’s only honourable option, he says. The PM claims his period as Immigration Minister means he cannot “in good conscience” allow the family to stay since they came by boat and have been found not to be refugees. No evidence is given; nor do Sri Lankan authorities provide a guide to who is likely to be persecuted.

Aran Mylvaganam of the Tamil Refugee Council tells The Guardian Australia that our legal system fails to investigate asylum claims. Tamil asylum seekers have no means to prove claims of persecution, yet they are still being “disappeared” in northern Sri Lanka, where the ethnic minority is under the world’s most intense military occupation.

In Mullaitivu District, a 2017 report found at least 60,000 Sri Lankan Army personnel among just over 130,322 civilians.

Sri-Lankan family, Priya and Nadesalingam and their two Australian-born children Kopika, four, and Tharunicaa, two, lived in Biloela, Queensland until Border Force put them into Melbourne detention seventeen months ago. A wave of public sympathy is joined by family man, Barnaby Joyce and noted humanitarian, Alan Jones. But look over there – suddenly, reports The Australian’s Coalition hack, Simon Benson,  “a surge” of six Sri Lankan asylum seeker boats.

Who needs evidence? ScoMo’s government works by bald assertion, the endless recycling of lies and racist dog-whistling. Borders must be enforced. It’s all a matter of national security. Sovereignty. People have to come to Australia through the front door. The Medevac Bill will be fast-tracked; repealed when parliament resumes (for two weeks) next week. But not if Jacqui Lambie’s bluster is to be believed. She wants a parliamentary inquiry to proceed as planned.

“Use your bloody manners,” Burnie blowhard, Tasmanian Senator, Jacqui Lambie milks press attention with another of her plain-speaking truth-seeking, salt-of-the earth, Senator For-Ordinary folk performances. Lambie has a solid record of walking back her rhetoric and capitulating to the government. Who knows how she’ll vote this time?

The Australian also carries another piece from Morrison’s office which states that the PM will not intervene to stop a Tamil family being deported from Australia. An “exception here or there” would only kick-start the people-smuggling trade. Yet Peter Dutton is happy to allow exceptions for au pair visitors and others. And ScoMo’s first speech as PM in August after his double, double-cross and back-stabbing of his leader, Turnbull, was a pledge to populist solidarity.

“We’re on your side because we share beliefs and values in common. As you go about everything you do each day …”

Sharing? ScoMo totally ignores thousands of people demonstrating in the streets, or those petitioning his government to show some humanity. Opinion polls – for what they worth – given an issue strewn with wanton disinformation and misunderstanding – show Australians are at best divided on the Coalition’s hard-line policy. Morrison’s government is back to the dark old days of Howard’s babies overboard, exploiting and generating division for political advantage.

Most telling is eminent criminal lawyer, Robert Richter QC’s opinion on ABC 774, that the Morrison government’s wilful neglect of the duty of care constitutes a criminal offence. Since all detention facilities are Commonwealth workplaces, the Commonwealth Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act), applies to them, across Australia and its Territories.

Above all, former Worksafe Prosecuting Solicitor Max Costello writes, section 19 imposes on workplace operators – in this context, Peter Dutton’s Department of Home Affairs – a “primary duty of care” for the health and safety of not only “workers” but also any “other persons” at the workplace – such as detainees. The relevant government agency to police the legislation is Comcare.

Whisked away to Christmas Island is two-year-old Tharunicaa, the little Tamil girl whose rotting baby teeth had to be surgically removed, a stark and compelling reminder of Peter Dutton’s department failure to provide duty of care.

Other cases are tragic. Damning. Manus asylum seeker Hamid Khazaei arrived brain dead at a Brisbane hospital in August 2014. An infected cut on his leg was not responding to treatment. He was developing blood poisoning. His airlift was delayed by the Department under then Immigration Minister Scott Morrison. Yet Comcare found no fault.

Costello reports, “Comcare’s Khazaei Inspector Report EVE00229456-0001 found “no evidence … that the [airlift] delay … was a contributing factor to the final outcome …”, and said “there were no apparent breaches of the legislation” (see Senate submission 47, pp 35–36).

Yet Queensland coroner Terry Ryan’s inquest report, 30 July 2018, concludes that the “overly bureaucratic” airlift process which involved no fewer than four levels of public servants, did, in fact, contribute to Khazaei’s death.

The department’s failure to stock the Manus clinic with Meropenem also contributed to the Iranian man’s death.

Costello cites four other cases and concludes, “If Comcare prosecuted the Department and a senior officer in, say, 2015, over alleged RPC-related offences; so that by, say, July 2016, both were found guilty, with the Department being fined $2 m and the officer jailed for 2 years, the (disgraced) offshore cruelty regime could’ve ended by, say, 1 October 2016.

If that had happened, six deaths would’ve been prevented, and the remorseless mass destruction of physical and psychological health would’ve been curtailed.

Finally, ScoMo must also keep mum about Attorney-General Christian Porter’s rip-snorting new religious discrimination draft bill which pleases neither progressives nor reactionaries and which may prove a bridge too far for our star of Dili, Pacific and European diplomacy. Or our globe-trotting PM may just be plumb tuckered out; a daggy dad with bad jet-lag. On the other hand, he’s been exceptionally ineffectual and deceptive, even by his own government’s yard-stick.

The key question is when will he and his government be held to account?

 

Pell appeal verdict unleashes perfect storm for our Tory ruling class.

pell and Howard

 

Head bowed, a manacled cardinal is led hobbling out of court into a prison van, a shocking image calculated to rock our nation’s Tories to the core, last Wednesday, as Victoria’s Court of Appeal upholds Cardinal George Pell’s conviction on five counts of child sexual assault, for offences committed against two thirteen year-old altar-boys in a priest’s sacristy at St Patrick’s Church, in 1996 and 1997, whilst Pell was still Archbishop of Melbourne.

By Sunday, thank God and Rupert Murdoch, it’s all OK – at least, in Australia’s News Corp-led “mainstream media” as our corporate, oligarchical, media tribe is typically misnamed, whose stories quickly turn a convicted predator into an innocent victim. OK, too, in our progressive, post-modern, post fact, Trumpian universe of discourse, our collective, international pandemic of unreason led by lords of misrule from Boris to Bolsonaro to The Donald.

Bugger the facts, it’s the vibe that counts. As former PM Turnbull, pre-knifing by Scott Morrison, told Glyn Davis, Vice Chancellor of The University of Melbourne when Davis challenged Turnbull’s spin that all was rosy between town and gown. Davis dared air his heretical view that collaboration between business and university was crap.

“This is, by the way, you running against the vibe. You haven’t got the new zeitgeist. The new zeitgeist, Glyn, is to believe in yourself, is to have a go.”  Did Mal’s liberating ideology help spawn ScoMo’s “have a go to get a go”?

Bugger “police, the prosecutors, the courts, the jury system, the burden of proof and the entire rule of law. In its place is the new primacy of feelings: they feel Pell must not be guilty, therefore he is innocent. All else — most significantly, the fully tested testimony of the victim that they have never seen — gives way before their emotional need.” writes Crikey’s legal beagle, Michael Bradley. Above all, our establishment must protect one of its own.

Pell can’t be guilty: he’s part of the power elite, as untouchable as Casino King, James Murdoch. Pell’s protection is necessary to preserve the power of our monocultural bunyip aristocracy. However, it’s a secular crusade now, David Marr reflects. “Rome somewhere in the past few years lost the power” to protect men like Pell.

Above all, however, is the political purpose served by the all-consuming pseudo-debate over Pell’s innocence, a diversion adroitly exploited by a Coalition keen to soft-pedal its announcement that it is eagerly doing the US bidding; taking up gunboat diplomacy in the Persian Gulf because this will help “de-escalate tensions”.

Foreign Minister, Marise Payne keeps a straight face on ABC Insiders, Sunday; farcically claiming we are part of an “international mission” which is “modest, meaningful and time-limited”. In reality, we are offering Trump a blank cheque. It’s all about restoring “rules-based order and the rule of law”. No-one mentions the fact that we are about to break international law. Trump’s administration clearly hankers for the good old days when it ran Iran.

With British help, America overthrew Iran’s democratically elected conservative Prime Minister, Mohammad Mossadegh’s nationalist parliamentary government, in 1953, to install Shah Reza Pahlavi, a dictator who gave 40% of Iran’s oil concessions to US oil companies. America supported the corrupt dictator until his overthrow by a popular mass movement in 1979. As punishment, the US backed Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in the Iran–Iraq War, 22 September 1980- 20 August 1988.

It is estimated one million Iranians died defending their country. Up to half a million Iraqis also lost their lives.

The international team comprises ourselves, the Great Satan, as Iran once called the US, Little Britain under Boris Johnson, a professional clown, now playing Albion’s accidental PM and Human Rights Watch pin-up, Bahrain, a state of unabated repression whose rulers’ crack-down on dissent has eliminated all opposition banned independent media and peaceful dissidents are roughed up, arrested, prosecuted and stripped of their citizenship.

Clearly, there’s a bit our government could yet learn from Bahrain and embedding our troops with theirs is a move guaranteed to bring mutual enlightenment, the rule of law and stability to a region where eighty million Iranians are starved of daily necessities from food to medicines as a result of forty years of US sanctions.

It’s possible, of course, that the sudden appearance of an Australian cruiser in January 2020 “for six months” or a P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft to the Middle East for one month “before the end of 2019” will prove immensely re-assuring to Iran’s government and cause citizens to hi-five and hug each other in sheer relief.

Aussie diggers posted to Bahrain, super-charged with ANZAC can-do, could repair the nation’s moral high ground.

Luckily for Morrison’s government, the Cardinal Pell in the Pokey show is the perfect distractor; a timely bit of cultural warfare guaranteed to upstage any grovelling capitulation to the whims of hawks such as Bolton or Pompeo who run demented Donald Trump and his mad, neo-con, anti-Iranian, administration.

Hard right hacks, Andrew Bolt, Miranda Devine, Bettina Arndt rush to defend Pell. Left out of the moral outrage are the 1900 child sex-offenders, identified in Australian Catholic churches, whose 4,444 victims were on average under twelve years old, according to the 2016 Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to child sexual abuse. Eclipsed almost entirely, is the suffering of thousands of abused children; or how their lives were ruined.

And who knows how many victims there are in the sexual abuse of nuns by priests, abuse which Pope Francis acknowledged last February? Catholic women are speaking out, too, under the #NunsToo hashtag. In the meantime, a sanctification of Pell proceeds, by some of our best and finest reactionary media mavens.

Poor George, whose Dad, a Ballarat publican, David Marr reports, ran an SP book from the public bar of The Royal Oak, from 1953 to 1976, becomes, by mythic invention, an icon of apostolic poverty, humility, chastity and saintly compassion who will appeal to The High Court. The magical thinking of his backers has him acquitted already.

A man of such grace and standing (Peter Kidd, Chief Judge at his sentencing commented on his “staggering arrogance”, in committing crimes he thought he could get away with), will automatically be granted leave to appeal. But in the eternal interim, the very idea of a fallen Pell is a monstrous offence against nature.

Worse, the appeal judgement is a heresy right up there with Aurecon’s shunning of Adani, a move which resources High Priest, Matt Canavan says is as “weak as piss” before calling on the energy oligopoly to shun and shame Aurecon. The Australian and others in the stable eagerly recycle the lie of Pell’s unblemished record.

Yet there is no question that Pell is the reactionaries’ reactionary, a one-stop shop for any crusade against change.

Pell held that abortion was “a worse moral scandal than priests sexually abusing young people.” is Papal-royalty. Boys driven to take their own lives through homophobia only had themselves to blame, Pell maintained;

It is another reason to be discouraging people going in that direction. Homosexual activity is a much greater health hazard than smoking.”

Pell denounces concern about climate change as “a symptom of pagan emptiness” The Greens? “Anti-Christian”.

Pell’s perspective on accountability is clear in his view, given in 2014, that “the church’s responsibility to those abused by priests is comparable to the responsibility of a trucking company to a hitchhiker raped by a trucker.”

Monday, Pell’s media acquittal continues. The Australian’s Mirko Bagaric blusters… it debases the legal and democratic process for anyone to insist — as a few prominent commentators have in recent days — that it is impertinent to believe that Cardinal George Pell is innocent despite losing his case in the Victorian Court of Appeal.

News Corp’s contempt for the rule of law is as staggering as the propaganda it peddles to buy its monstrous power. Its defence of St George, moreover, reveals Australia’s follow-the-leader-media rushing pell-mell to fall in behind Papal knight Sir Rupert’s News Corp’s Cardinal-as-Victim story-tellers.

Part of this narrative involves appeals to sympathy for “an old sick man” “who might well die in gaol” as the current Archbishop of Melbourne, Peter Comensoli tells 3AW’s Neil Mitchell. Bizarrely, Comensoli maintains Pell is innocent – and the victim is telling the truth too. It was another priest who committed the sexual abuse.

Easy for a thirteen year-old altar boy to get one 190 cm priest mixed up with another.

The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian and the odd guest on The Drum hold that Judge Weinberg’s dissenting view is the only one that matters or proof that our legal system is broken and or grounds for High Court appeal.

Paradoxically, another part of the story is that Pell is Australia’s most senior cleric, internationally renowned, a pal of Rupert Murdoch’s, a tall poppy cut down in his prime. The facts suggest otherwise.

At the end, Pell’s power in the Vatican rapidly waned, despite a promising start in modelling austerity by big spending. Outrage broke out over his choice of a 5100 euro a month apartment requiring he spend 87,000 on new furniture; employing an assistant on a 21,600 a month salary and even 6,650 euros on kitchen sink fittings.

Somehow word got out to Italy’s L’Espresso weekly of detailed opposition to Pell’s financial reform; not helped by his Secretariat for the Economy racking up a half-million dollars in expenditures in the last six months.

True, Pell rose to become Cardinal, but Francis, shrewdly diverted the ambitious antipodean prelate into the Sisyphean labour of draining the swamp of the Vatican’s scandalous financial mess, an impossible task – and one fraught with peril, for anyone, let alone a boy from Ballarat, who knew neither Vatican culture nor the rudiments of diplomacy or tact, author of The Melbourne Response, another monumental failure of Christian charity and human compassion which capped compensation clerical sexual abuse victims at $50,000.

They saw him coming, a retired priest says on The Drum. Rubbed them up the wrong way say Vatican insiders. Francis himself believes “Behind rigidity something always lies hidden,” he says. “In many cases, a double life.”

But nothing may detract from the Tory postmodern narrative of St George The Martyr. A man as powerful as Pell, a priest who could command a character reference from a former Prime Minister, (gasp) just cannot be guilty. The Pell pillar must be protected or the entire edifice of conservatism may be revealed to be rotten to the core.

It’s a monstrous spectacle made all the more shocking, somehow, by technical glitches which cause the live broadcast to freeze, the court website to crash and by appellant judge, Chief Justice, Anne Ferguson’s funereal delivery which brings “all the drama of a dead wombat to reading a summary of one of the most important criminal judgments of the year”, reports seasoned legal commentator, lawyer and writer, Richard Ackland.

The Tory world is in turmoil. Right-wing hacks and flacks led by News Corp, nutcase Andrew Bolt, thresh about protesting victim Pell’s innocence, slagging off Victoria’s judiciary and declaring war on the rule of law.

“Never any hope of justice for George Pell. He was too big a scalp for the howling mob,” tweets Bettina Arndt.

Could a Cardinal be so publicly undone? Could a high priest of our ruling elite, a fully-paid member of the board of Reactionary Australia Inc. be brought to heel? Could our rulers be held accountable? Perish the thought. Look at Crown.

The kid gloves are on in the federal government’s treatment of St James Packer’s Crown Casino where there is report from a whistle-blower that ought to be hair-raising. It’s a whale of a tale of high-rollers being fast-tracked through immigration, equipped with escorts before a restorative punt is followed up by a refreshing wildlife shoot.

Crown is a cathedral to our new age of mad depravity, infinitely more popular than any offering of the Catholic Church and more powerful. Crown’s backers rule our politics as the gun lobby does America’s, as former Victorian Premier John Cain observes.

Cain, whose government decided as early as 1983 that to build a casino would be to invite organised crime, warned of the power, grace and charm of casino lobbyists in 1990,  “Within three weeks of me going in August 1990, they had not only battered the doors down, but they were in the lounge room pissing on the furniture.”

Sensibly, heeding their mandate from silent Australians to leave no depth unplumbed, the Morrison government summons a toothless watchdog, no-one’s ever heard of.

Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI), a Clayton’s investigator, is agreed upon by both major parties, to allow our gambling lobby to continue to uplift the moral tone of the nation, growing jobs and building wealth, especially in the off-shore bank accounts of Crown Casino and its coterie of money-launderers.

Conspiracy theorists swarm to depict poor, vulnerable Georgie Boy as the innocent victim of a Gillard-leftist-Victoria Police-Nine News plot. In the midst of this fertile, national conversation, Scott Morrison shrewdly chooses to announce he’s just engulfed us in another US oil war which his BFF, another vainglorious lout, the dangerously demented Donald Trump is brewing up against arch-fiend Iran in the Straits of Hormuz.

“200 troops”, he says out of the corner of his mouth. “Limited to six months,” he says. “Or longer, as the case may be” he says, skipping away.  Marise Payne, repeats his de-escalation double-speak, almost word-perfect as so sundry other MPs as interviews are merely an excuse for the re-iteration of central minders’ talking points.

Happily, the week brings the anniversary of Scott Morrison’s hugely undistinguished year in office, after knifing Malcolm Turnbull in a double, double-cross. His government has no energy, no environment, no economic or climate change policies, no vision and no shame. But it’s cranking up Robo-debt to go after elderly age pensioners. That blessed surplus won’t accrue all by itself.

No-one in government fusses over the two thousand who die after receiving Robo-debt letters between July 2016 and October 2018.  It’s not difficult to envisage a link between their deaths and the debt letters.

Yet Morrison is now the best PM ever, according to the worst, “lying rodent” John Howard, the PM who did most to unpick the threads of a prosperous, progressive, cosmopolitan and egalitarian society and who lied to parliament and people that he had legal opinion to join the illegal US war in Iraq.

Howard also wrote a glowing reference for George Pell.

 

Morrison’s monumental Pacific “family” failure.

scomo in floral headgear pacific islands forum 2019

No matter how much money you put on the table it doesn’t give you the excuse not to do the right thing, which is cutting down your emissions, including not opening your coalmines.”

Enele Sopoaga, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, 14 August 2019

 

“Shove a sock down the throat of Jacinda Ardern” – urges Alan Bedford Jones, 2GB Sydney’s sock- shock jock, another former, failed, Liberal Party candidate and inveterate misogynist,Thursday, as New Zealand’s PM supports Pacific Islanders’ global warming concerns, endorsing the resolutions of all but one of the eighteen countries and territories of this week’s 50th Pacific Islands Forum, (PIF) meeting in Tuvalu’s capital, Funafuti.

Left on its own, promoting global warming is Australia. Ms Ardern says, diplomatically, that our land down-under can answer to the Pacific for itself. New Zealand, or Aotearoa ,as its Maori people named it, commonly translated as land of the long white cloud, or, continuously clear light is doing what it can to limit its carbon emissions to 1.5C.

Ms Ardern expects all nations to make a similar commitment but will not lecture others.

Rabid climate change denier Jones turns puce. He rants; spits foam at the microphone. Does ScoMo’s office tell Jones to put the boot in? For Jones and his audience – and, indeed, for much of Morrison’s government, global warming, is a hoax. And an aberration, a perversion of reason. The notion is an unnatural hoax, as is the monstrous regiment of women who dare to demand their fair share of political power from blokes.

“Here she is preaching on global warming and saying that we’ve got to do something about climate change,” Jones harangues listeners from his bully pulpit.  His signature outbursts of outrage, his demonising and his scapegoating are his own take on Orwell’s two-minute hate. Jones down low may be heard playing daily in all the best dementia wards in hospitals all over Sydney. Thursday, Jones goes off like a frog in a sock.

Preaching? It’s precisely what the Kiwi PM takes pains to avoid, but Jones rarely lets fact spoil his argument.

New Zealand has cows that burp and fart, he sneers, in a rare, brief, departure into scientific truth.

Jones role has little to do with reporting and even less with respecting fact. In the 1990 cash for comment scandal, where he and John Laws were found to have accepted money from a slew of corporations, QANTA, Optus, Foxtel, Mirvac and big banks, the jocks’ defence was that they were not employed as journalists, but as “entertainers” and thus had no duty of disclosure or of journalistic integrity. Yet Jones hopes the PM is briefed,

“I just wonder whether Scott Morrison is going to be fully briefed to shove a sock down her throat.”

Outraged by Ardern’s audacity – as much as the fact that she’s a Jezebel – a woman brazenly asserting authority, independence and leadership, Jones works up a lather. Arden’s an impudent hypocrite, he squawks. Australia act responsibly or answer to the Pacific on policy? Accountability is heresy in ScoMo’s government. Perhaps Jones hopes that his “sock it to her” will be an Aussie form of “send her back”.

Sending Kiwis home, if Peter Dutton doesn’t like the look of them, is at least one Morrison government policy that’s coherent. Repatriation on “character” grounds saw a thousand forcible deportations between 2016-2018. Under Morrison as Immigration Minister in 2014, the policy was expanded to include all those Kiwi-born residents who’d been sentenced to twelve months or more in prison.

Many of those deported under the “character test” have no family or friends in New Zealand; have extensive family ties in Australia and have spent very little time in New Zealand, having arrived in Australia as children.

It’s another source of friction between Australia, its major trading partner, despite China (NZ$15.3bn) now having eclipsed Australia (NZ$13.9bn) as New Zealand’s biggest export market.

Friday, Jones’ sock-jock mockery continues. “The parrot” ridicules one of New Zealand’s most popular and effective Prime Ministers; alleging Ms Ardern is “a clown” and a “joke” for “preaching about climate change”, claiming, falsely, that New Zealand’s carbon dioxide has increased per capita more than Australia’s since 1990.

The Parrot’s problems with women in power, rival those of the Liberal Party itself. Worrying aloud in 2012 about our Pacific policy and how “women were wrecking the joint” during Gillard’s highly successful minority government, Jones said he was “putting Julia Gillard into a chaff bag and hoisting her into the Tasman Sea”.

Gillard’s government invested $320 million in promoting Pacific Island women’s role in business and politics.

“She said that we know societies only reach their full potential if women are politically participating,” he shrieked in utter disbelief to listeners during an on-air hate update from Barnaby Joyce about the sale of Cubbie Station to a Chinese-led consortium.

“$320 million could have bought the 93,000 hectare Cubbie Station and its water rights, he reckoned. Kept it in Australian hands. There’s no chaff bag big enough for these people.”

“Women are destroying the joint – Christine Nixon in Melbourne, Clover Moore here. Honestly.”

Gillard’s father John a former psychiatric nurse who passed away at 83, “died of shame”, he added in 2012, “To think that he has a daughter who told lies every time she stood for Parliament.”

Also socking it to Jacinda, Jones is joined in combat by another Liberal supporter and climate denialist, One Nation’s resident empiricist, Malcolm Roberts, who knows how much Kiwis love sheep jokes.

“New Zealand has over 60 million sheep. Sheep produce about 30 litres of methane a day. If Ardern was serious about addressing ‘climate change’ shouldn’t she start by culling the entire sheep population of NZ? Or is she just climate gesturing?”

Roberts is wrong in several respects as an AAP fact check demonstrates. He can’t count sheep. New Zealand’s official data agency, Stats NZ, reports the most recent farm census, conducted in 2017, records 27.5 million sheep in the country. A 2018 provisional update reports a drop to 27.3 million.

Nor are sheep the major culprits. New Zealand’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory for 2017, released in April 2019, shows sheep produced 12.7 per cent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Dairy cattle accounted for 22.5 per cent, while electricity generation created 4.4 per cent.

Above all, this year, New Zealand introduced a bill to reduce emissions of methane by animals to 10 per cent below 2017 levels by 2030, and between 24 and 47 per cent below 2017 levels by 2050.

Fellow climate science denier, Mick-Mack, as Coach ScoMo calls our deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, must grab a headline to delay being deposed by Barnaby Joyce. Mick-Mack chimes in with a killer argument. Lenore Taylor says on ABC Insiders Sunday, that he couldn’t be more “offensive or paternalistic” if he tried. Itinerant Pacific Islander fruit-pickers, he says, should thank their lucky Aussie stars.

“They will continue to survive,” the part-time Elvis impersonator says in his most tone-deaf, judgemental manner. “There’s no question they’ll continue to survive and they’ll continue to survive on large aid assistance from Australia. They’ll continue to survive because many of their workers come here and pick our fruit.”

And our tomatoes – for eight dollars an hour, as reported in the recent settlement of a case on behalf of fifty workers from Vanuatu, who suffered bleeding from the nose and ears after exposure to chemicals at a farm near Shepparton under the government’s seasonal worker programme.

Brisbane based Agri Labour Australia refuses to admit liability, even after being taken to court and even after agreeing to an undisclosed financial settlement. The Fair Work Ombudsman takes separate legal action. This results in nineteen workers being compensated $50,283 for wage theft – a crime rife in our migrant workforce be it in horticulture or in hospitality.  No records were kept of the workers’ labour over six months.

Seasonal worker and father of six ,Silas Aru, worked for six months, yet was paid a mere $150 in total in farms across Queensland – also as part of a government seasonal workers’ or slave labour scheme. Federal Circuit Court Justice, Michael Jarratt​ struggled to imagine a “more egregious” case of worker exploitation.

Exploited to the point of criminal neglect or abuse, men and women from the Pacific Islands are often the slaves in our nation’s overworked, underpaid, casual or part-time workforce. Mick-Mack knows how to pick ’em. Rip off the vulnerable. Trick them. Rob them blind. Then remind them what a favour you are doing them.

As the bullying of the Pacific Island leaders rapidly turns into an unmitigated disaster, something must be done. ScoMo’s staff work long and hard to orchestrate a shit-storm in response. It’s specialised work. Howard allegedly had an operative in his office solely working on “Alan Jones issues” throughout his term in office, former 2UE Jones colleague and big critic Mike Carlton tells The Saturday Paper’s Martin McKenzie-Murray.

Jones’s confected outrage is a tactical dead cat thrown on the table; distracting media from ScoMo & Co’s default policy of bullying and duplicity. Con-man Morrison promises $500 million over five years for “climate and disaster resilience” but it’s an accounting trick; a shonky repackaging of existing aid. No-one falls for it.

Pacific leaders are insulted, alienated by Morrison’s attempt to con them with a fake bribe. Our PM adds injury to insult by adding a bit of emotional blackmail.  Fijian PM, Frank Bainimarama explains.

“The PM … apparently [backed] into a corner by the leaders, came up with how much money Australia have been giving to the Pacific.” He said: “I want that stated. I want that on the record.’ Very insulting.”

Bainimarama is ropeable. By Saturday, he is all over the media after phoning Guardian Australia. ScoMo’s “condescending” diplomacy is as much of a massive fail as his government’s energy or environment policy or overseas aid abroad vacuums. The Fijian PM is clear that by alienating and insulting Pacific Islanders, ScoMo is helping drive the leaders into the arms of the Chinese. In other words, Morrison’s mission is a total failure.

Kick Australia out of the PIF, calls Anote Tong, former president of Kiribati, and veteran advocate for nations battling rising sea-levels caused by global warming. Australia’s membership of the Pacific Island Forum should be “urgently reviewed” for possible sanctions or suspension over the Morrison government’s pro-coal stance, he says. There’s a precedent. Fiji was barred until recently in a move to censure its departure from democracy.

(PIF) … is supposed to be about the well-being of the members,” Tong tells The Sun-Herald and Sunday Age“If one country causes harm to other nations, such as by fuelling climate change, “there should be sanctions”.

“Pacific people see through this facade. We won’t solve the climate crisis by just adapting to it – we solve it by mitigating it, reducing emissions, investing and transitioning to renewables, not shirking our moral duty to fight,” Greenpeace’s Head of Pacific Joseph Moeono-Kolio says. But our federal government just doesn’t get it.

ScoMo started badly by opting for antagonism and insult. Sending junior minister, coal lobby shill, Alex Hawke on ahead to set up talks did not go over well. Hawke recycles denialist garbage. Human influence on global warming is “overblown” he reckons, while in Tuvalu, he peddles the lie that our economy depends on coal.

In reality, the Morrison government’s dance to the tune of the coal barons costs us a fortune. Avoiding climate change reduces our GDP, by $130 billion a year, reports The Australia Institute, citing calculations by government consultant, Brian Fisher. Yet in the reporting of the Forum, our media helpfully relay the government’s re-framing of our global warming crisis into a choice between jobs or a few more emissions.

We are “family” insists Great White Bwana Morrison. A dysfunctional family where a crafty Father Morrison tells the younger fry lies. The Greens Adam Bandt puts his finger on it. Our wretched carry-over Kyoto credits are yet another shonky accounting trick to allow ScoMo to continue his hollow boast that “we’ll meet and beat” our Paris emissions reduction targets. The stunt certainly does not impress beleaguered Pacific leaders.

“At the moment we are not on track to meet the Paris targets. No one in the world is. We are on track to exceed 3.5 degrees of global warming, which will be a catastrophe. The Pacific Island leaders know this.”

Exploiting “a pollution loophole” is how The Australia Institute (TAI) describes Australia’s bad faith. The “pollution loophole” amounts to about eight years of fossil-fuel emissions from the Pacific and New Zealand combined, calculates, TAI, in a research paper it helpfully makes available to leaders before the Forum. The paper pulls no punches from its title onward: How Australia is robbing the Pacific of its climate change efforts.

Worse, it spells out how Islanders are paying for our denialism. Australia intends to use 367 Mt of carbon credits to avoid the majority of emission reductions pledged under its Paris Agreement target. Meanwhile, the entire annual emissions from the Pacific Islands Forum members, excluding Australia, is only about 45 Mt.

The bad faith continues. ScoMo & Co coerce Island leaders into watering down the text of their draft declaration. Or so it seems, unless you are tuned to Radio New Zealand. Local reports have it that after twelve hours, the PIF comes up with a hollow text that mimics the Coalition’s own climate change denialism.

Pacific leaders released a draft declaration in Tuvalu, Tuesday, calling for “an immediate global ban on the construction of new coal-fired power plants and coalmines” and for all countries “to rapidly phase out their use of coal in the power sector”. It echoes the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call last May.

All references to coal go from the forum communique and climate change statement. Expunged also, are any aims to limit warming to less than 1.5C or any commitment to a plan for net zero emissions by 2050.

Naturally, the Pacific leaders have the nous to issue their own separate declaration with targets which echo its draft statement and which follow the lead of the United Nations, sadly, a body increasingly ignored – if not ridiculed – by our own government and that of its great and powerful friend the US, among a host of others.

By Saturday, Morrison’s stunt with grateful fruit-picker and sock back-up is unravelling badly. Promising to be “a good friend, partner and brother of Pacific Island countries” is China’s special envoy to the Pacific, ambassador Wang Xuefeng, who is quick to exploit the rift between Australia and its Pacific neighbours.

Morrison insists the Forum is a “family gathering” and that “when families come together they talk about the stuff that matters, that’s most important to them. Over the next few days that’s exactly what we’ll do.” It’s ScoMo code, Newspeak for insulting, alienating and bullying the leaders; trashing their hopes and aspirations.

Let the Pacific Islanders worry about rising sea levels and increasing salinity which is rapidly making their homes uninhabitable. In Australia, government energy policy is dictated by a powerful coal lobby – with powerful allies in the media. The PM who brings a lump of coal into parliament also has an assistant recruited from Peabody Coal and has his fossil-fuel lobby and a daft hard right with the upper hand in mind all week.

The Prime Minister’s performance at the Pacific Islands Forum is a monumental failure. Even if his bullying, his intransigence, his inhumanity and chicanery do impress a few one-eyed partisans at home it has dealt irreparable damage to our goodwill in the Pacific, which has not really recovered since the Abbott government  cut $11bn from overseas aid in 2015, a cut which the budgie-smuggler insisted was “modest”.

Fears that China will exploit Australia’s neglectful – if not abusive – relationship with its Pacific neighbours are aired all week but the Morrison government isn’t listening. It does everything in its power to offend and alienate Pacific leaders as it clings to its ideological fixation with supporting a moribund coal industry at home.

Above all, enlisting or inspiring the support of Alan Jones, aka The Parrot, has helped the Morrison government shine a light on the unreason, the bullying, the racism and the misogyny which lie at its heart.

 

 

CPAC’s travelling show can pack up and go home. And stay there.

abbott at cpac

“I’ve been to the border,” Fox TV’s Judge Jeanine Pirro says. US citizens living there talk of “rape trees” upon which the clothes of rape victims are hung she says. They talk of children having their hearts cut out with machetes. The US, as Donald Trump regularly tweets, is under siege; its way of life threatened by an invasion of rapists from south of the border. Trump’s re-election campaign team repeats the siege message 2199 times in paid Facebook ads since January.

Welcome to the Conservative Political Action Conference or CPAC ‘s travelling show, a rabble of far right US fear-mongers, liars and conspiracy crackpots convinced by Trump’s canard that George Soros or The Democrats fund the migrant caravan. It’s a popular idea which “progresses” inhumanity. Peter Dutton expresses similar ideas regarding our refugees on Manus and Nauru. He claims they are “economic refugees” who own “Armani jeans and handbags”.

Add the odd stray Brexiteer and sundry alt-right camp followers. Blend in two, confused members of the Morrison government, Craig Kelly and Amanda Stoker, bestowing a type of legitimacy -and presto -we have a three-day bag-fest of racist hatred, intolerance and ignorance vital to any healthy democracy. Or so our Federal government insists.

CPAC’s enriched US politics. It helped launch Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump, two useful idiots who could attract, repel or just distract the masses while lowering taxes and elevating naked greed; allowing finance, business, mining and gambling get everything they want. It’s a recipe for success that the Morrison government is following religiously.

The gory border story is a fiction told by Trump buddy Judge Jeanine. It’s all part of the enriching offerings to a conference which our Coalition government has sagely declared not to be white hate speech at all. Nope. Nope. Nope.

CPAC’s the voice of sweet reason itself, a symposium vital to any free speech-embracing democracy to add to its community conversation about why we should hate Mexican rapists, child-murderers and fear refugee-invasion. In local content, Craig Kelly MP says the CSIRO should go to jail for its science and calls for us to embrace nuclear power plants.

How good is the power of the nuclear energy industry?

Pirro’s in Sydney to help spread hate and fear at CPAC, a forum for the lunatic right, which began in 1974, with a speech from Ronald Reagan who entered national politics ten years earlier after a televised address promoting Barry Goldwater. Reagan’s talk did not help Goldwater win the election. Oddly, voters saw Barry as a dangerous, right-wing extremist.

True, Goldwater did want to nuke Hanoi. But this strategy was also advocated in 1965 by the US military’s Joint Chiefs during Lyndon Johnson’s presidency, Daniel Ellsberg reports, a plan, he believes, which was aimed at provoking a nuclear war with China. The Joint Chiefs envisaged a big show which would need 500,000 to a million troops.

Even more oddly, Johnson said no. Went on to do some socially useful stuff. His Great Society and War on Poverty.

All was not lost, however. California’s business elite saw in Reagan a man with the charm to sell right-wing extremism. Reagan was duly recruited as Republican Party candidate for Governor of California. He won easily by promising tax cuts. His victory was helped by a smear campaign against his opponent, Pat Brown. Trump’s rise to power has many parallels.

Star of her own Fox reality TV show, Justice with Judge Jeanine, Pirro is more than an incendiary hate-speaker, she’s a total pyromaniac. Her role as a tireless Trump cheer-leader has helped her to rebuild her TV career after a setback in the 1990s when her ex-husband Al Pirro, a Trump power-broker, went to jail for conspiracy and tax evasion.

Trump’s a HUGE fan. Not only does their friendship go back decades, the pair enjoy what The Washington Post’s Sarah Ellison calls “transactional loyalty”, a concept well understood by Morrison and Liberal Party leadership strategists.

“She’s as sexy as hell,” Trump tells New York Magazine; Pirro’s show is a relentless defence of everything Trump, but this week, she’s in Sydney spreading a type of lie that inflames prejudice and helps incite violence. Invasion is a fixation in the online manifesto of Patrick Crusius, the 21 year old who is accused of killing 22 people in a Texas Wal Mart.

Headline speakers, such as Pirro, peddle xenophobia, bigotry, misogyny, hatred and work themselves into a lather with their lurid anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic murder and rape fantasies in a ballroom set up with brown vinyl chairs at Sydney’s Rydge’s World Square Hotel, Friday to Sunday. But it’s not all rabid hate-speaking. Organisers thoughtfully include some local comic talent. Clown duo, Mark Latham and Ross Cameron, for example, do the warm-up.

Boosted as the largest gathering of conservatives in Australia, in fact it’s tiny; roughly one tenth of the size of all registered Tasmanian Organ Donors or 0.17% of the Melbourne Cricket Club’s waiting list.

But size doesn’t matter. Organisers have deep pockets; grand plans. CPAC’s powerful backers tell The Guardian’s Michael McGowan, they are committed to making the event a “multi-year, forever-type project” aimed at “galvanising” the right wing of Australian politics. Why not? Luigi Galvani even made dead frogs’ legs twitch by applying an electric current.

CPAC’s a show that ScoMo & Co sagely decide we all need to see. In fact, there are more than a few members of the government mad keen to attend – but don’t for a moment think MPs’ attendance is any endorsement, cautions failed Dutton coup numbers man, Matthias Cormann. No? Nor does it add any legitimacy to see George Christensen in the crowd, Jim Molan, former deputy PM National Party hack and mining shill John Anderson with Tony Abbott on stage.

Liberal Party MP when he’s not doing stand-up comedy, Craig Kelly’s a crack-up with his routine about how Tony Abbott won the Coalition’s election for it by attracting all the “crazies” to Warringah. “Took the bullets” for the others, he says, in what has to be least well-judged metaphor of the week. But wait. There’s more. Kelly says CSIRO ought to be in jail.

He accuses the science agency of a “bogus report” on energy costs because its 2018 report finds solar and wind generation technologies are the cheapest power stations to “build new”. CSIRO, of course, is correct. So, too is The Climate Council which reports Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s conclusion,

“Due to the continued fall in the cost of wind and solar, as well as the higher international price for black coal, it is now the same cost or cheaper to build a new wind or solar plant in Australia than to continue operating old coal power stations in New South Wales and Queensland.”

“If an ASX-listed company said that in an annual report, they would likely end up in jail because of how misleading it is,” Kelly claims modelling, himself, the sort of wilful disinformation he tries to rail against.

Meanwhile, Federal Energy Minister, the Watergate and Grass-gate survivor, Angus Gravy-train, Taylor is forming “a new taskforce” to pressure AGL to keep coal-fired Liddell power station open. It’s all part of ScoMo & Co’s big-stick approach.

Taylor says his taskforce, to be set up in partnership with the NSW Government, will consider “all options” – Liberal code for putting on blinkers; propping up coal. He does not rule out using taxpayer money to extend the life of the plant. AGL responds by pointing out that doing so would cost “a lot of money” and any such move “does not stack up.”

The IMF reports that the Australian tax-payer is already subsidising fossil-fuel industries to the tune of $29 billion a year.

In the CPAC spirit of personalised ridicule, Kelly has a presentation trophy to award to Labor Senator, Kristina Keneally.

“This is the CPAC Freedom Award, which goes to the individual who has done the most to promote the CPAC conference,” Kelly tells about 200 attendees. Thigh-slapping hilarity erupts on one side only.  Keneally sees it as part of a Two-minute Hate and straight from the pages of George Orwell’s dystopian vision of the future 1984.

“It’s uncanny how much CPAC is exactly what it claims to oppose,” Keneally tweets. “They are … spending all day yelling about their ‘enemies’. This is exactly how people under totalitarian regimes behave.” And key National Party figures.

Farmers’ friend and champion of the man on the land, John Anderson was chairman of coal seam gas frontrunner Eastern Star Gas, bought out by Santos in 2011. He’s one of a herd of former Nationals MP who model transactional loyalty, locally, despite some fuddy-duddy farmers seeing the defection from agriculture to mining as a betrayal.

Former Nationals MP, and pro-coal energy minister, Garry West ,chairs, for undisclosed sums, the Integra Vale, Ulan coal, Moorlaben coal, and the BHP Caroona Coal project, adjacent to Shenhua Watermark’s mine. It’s all part of the mining industry community consultation hoax. Former Nat, Larry Anthony, a former Shenhua Watermark lobbyist, was an advocate for a coal mine which was recently in the news for rigging the storage volume of underground aquifers.

“The values used were implausibly high based on our research,” Ian Acworth, UNSW Emeritus Professor, says in May.

Asking the questions, always more engaging than a talk, Ando interviews his old pal Abbo – who makes a double debut as ex-MP, and ex-PM. Australia is now a nation that offers “death on demand” warns the former minister for women, a master of the hollow three word slogan.

In NSW, an abortion law reform bill which has yet to pass the upper house, had been sprung on voters. “No due consultation”, protests the former PM who sprang a postal vote on marriage equality on the entire nation rather than face a divided party room. Victoria’s recent, assisted dying law proves we’ve lost our moral anchor points. Christianity used to anchor our morality, asserts Abbott, whose former spiritual mentor and adviser was Cardinal George Pell.

Death on demand? Lost moral anchor? “It’s pretty rich”, writes Junkee’s Joseph Earp, “coming from a man who helped speed along an environmental apocalypse that will cost the lives of animals and humans alike.”

“Faith is a gift,” Abbott offers generously. “Some people have it, some people don’t.” Go bite an onion.

Recording or photographing Abbott’s riff is forbidden. He insists. Some of the small audience applaud. The left, he says, opaquely, is wallowing in identity. Wallowing. “Spiritually we’ve rarely been worse off than we are now,” he adds for good measure, perhaps, a typically public-spirited projection of his own long, dark, night of the soul.

Equally benighted but in Australia’s post-modern under-paid, casual, part-time workplace where wage theft is rife, Queensland senator, Amanda Stoker drones on about how industrial relations means labour hire and localised enterprise-bargaining, a vision of the future, surely, now that the government has its Ensuring Integrity bill through the lower house. The cross-bench will be sure to fall in line, especially if demon union thug John Setka’s name is mentioned.

But don’t get the wrong idea. So the government is cosying up to the lunar right in public? Don’t mean a thing. OK? But it does lend a dangerous legitimacy to the lunar right, as Jason Wright thoughtfully observes in The Guardian.

Raheem Kassam, a former Breitbart London editor who calls the Muslim holy book, the Quran, “fundamentally evil”, and Islam a fascistic and totalitarian ideology,” is a “career bigot” says Shadow Home Affairs Minister, Kristina Kenneally. Last month, Kenneally unsuccessfully asked that he be denied entry to the country.

Friday, in a speech largely devoted to attacking Kenneally and accusing her of putting his life in danger, Kassam says,

“She should be ashamed of herself … There’s nothing Christian about silencing your opposition,” he says, preferring an ad hominem attack on Senator Keneally and her Catholic beliefs, to any reasoned rebuttal. Kassam illustrates the fallacy of the Morrison government’s claim that CPAC even vaguely involves or promotes rational debate. Kenneally is closer to the mark when she describes the gathering as a “talk-fest of hate”. And anger.

Warming the chair for David Speers, ABC Insiders’ Patricia Karvelas asks an evasive Simon Birmingham if “we are we seeing a more aggressive position taken by conservatives after the election of your government?” Birmingham evades Karvelas’ question. He might well quibble with her misuse of the term. CPAC is conservative in name only.

Morrison’s government is not snuggling up in public to win votes from the radical right attending CPAC?

“Their attendance at this conference does not imply agreement or endorsement with the views of any of the other speakers attending in any way,” a dangerously deluded Cormann would have us believe.

“The government will always stand against divisive, inflammatory commentary which seeks to incite hatred or which seeks to vilify people.”

“However the way to defeat bad ideas, bad arguments and unacceptable views is through debate, especially with those we disagree with. It is not by limiting our conversations only to those who at all times share all of our views.”

Cormann forgets Scott Morrison’s 2011 suggestion that the Coalition exploit anti-Muslim sentiment. Or when in 2015 Abbott allowed George Christensen to attend an anti-Muslim rally. Or Tony Abbott in 2015 insinuating Muslim leaders do not condemn terrorism: “I’ve often heard Western leaders describe Islam as a ‘religion of peace’. I wish more Muslim leaders would say that more often, and mean it.” Or when Abbott chose Syrian refugees on the basis of religion.

We could add many more examples. There’s Handy Andy Hastie’s “Islam must change.” But this just brings him into line with the budgie-smuggler who declared that Islam has a massive problem and who called for a “reformation”.

Penny Wong points out the difference between hate speech and “bad ideas.” The nonsense that any of the speakers attending is willing to enter into rational debate or is as farcical as expecting the Morrison government to heed the science on climate change or to expect Peter Dutton to retract his scare campaign on the dangers of refugees using Medevac legislation to flood our shores.  Or issue an apology for his Melbourne African gang fear-mongering.

Having Cormann lecture us on bad ideas is hilarious coming from a man who tried to make Peter Dutton PM. As for rational debate, this is the Finance Minister who claims that tax cuts for the rich stimulate the economy. Sorry Matthias, you Belgian sausage, all evidence is to the contrary – especially in Trump’s Dis-United States of America.

But it’s a top show. Sponsored mainly by US organisations and gun, oil and cigarette industries, CPAC has deep ties to the Koch brothers. Our IPA, LibertyWorks and Advance Australia are also right behind the far right.

Augmenting top acts from Trump’s America is not only “Mr Brexit” nifty Nigel Farage, former head of the United Kingdom Independence Party, introduced to the CPAC audience as “quite possibly” Britain’s next PM. Seriously?

“A snake”, hisses Nigel Farage attacking a straw man; a mythical Malcolm Turnbull who starts out all right but who engineers a serpentine leftist coup. The crowd cheers, thrilled by Nige’s Olympian detachment, halcyon objectivity and utter historical falsehood. Farage’s farrago of lies offers a ludicrous parody of the hapless captive of the right.

“Your Liberal party, your conservative movement was hijacked by the other side, taken over by Malcolm Turnbull, who pretended to be a conservative but actually turned out to be a snake.”

Wrong in fact and egregiously wrong in function, CPAC and its backers can stay at home in the USA in future. We don’t need to invite far right ideologues or neo-fascists or hate-speakers to Australia. We have enough of our own at home, already.

Nor do we need to kid ourselves that CPAC speakers are interested in debate. All we’ve seen and heard is personal abuse and an eagerness to win converts to conspiracies.

There is a world of difference between freedom of speech and being granted a licence to spread hate-speech. And the last thing our politicians need is to court the far-right or let themselves be used to legitimise your fear-mongering and your lies.

Forget the idea of a “multi-year, forever, project”. Once is way more than enough.

 

Whose side are you on, ScoMo?

pompeo and payne

Describing the US-Australia alliance as “unbreakable”, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he hoped the junior ally would partner with America on “some of the most pressing foreign policy challenges of our time” including “Iran’s unprovoked attacks on international shipping in the Strait of Hormuz”.

Mike Pompeo’s press-ganging of Australia, one of its few remaining useful idiot allies, into a crazy, navy-battle with Iran is upstaged by Trump’s stupidity, surely the top “pressing foreign policy challenge of our time”, Monday, as the USA’s tariff war provokes a Chinese burn. Beijing lets China’s currency slip below seven renminbi to the US dollar.

It’s a dip in value not seen since 2008. Instantly, $38 billion is wiped off the Australian Stock Exchange, Monday; the worst day of the year for our stock traders. Stock markets in Tokyo and Hong Kong where trade is troubled by impertinent serfs wanting independence, fall 2 percent. Futures markets suggest Wall Street will open lower, too.

Even worse, Trump’s kamikaze trade war with China is based on his peerless ignorance and delusion. Blatant falsehoods and misconceptions lead him to blow up world trade in his crusade to make America great again.

“Tariffs are NOW being paid to the United States by China of 25% on 250 Billion Dollars’ worth of goods & products,” he tweets in May. “These massive payments go directly to the Treasury of the U.S.”

Nope. They don’t. But no-one can explain that to Trump. China is as likely to hand over billions of yuan for Trump’s tariffs as Mexico is to pay for a border wall. Instead, tariffs fall on American importers of Chinese goods, who then put up prices to American consumers. Every time Trump raises tariffs, he raises costs on families and businesses.

Eager to divert the Donald, Trump’s helpers urge on an unwinnable war with Iran. Seventieth Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, a former CIA Director briefly, (January 2017 to April 2018) who is now intelligence Czar by default of the most irrational, least cerebral White House in US history, flies in, Sunday, to dine with fellow evangelical weirdo, and Trump fan-boy “Gung-Ho” Scott Morrison. Pompeo lies about Iran. Suckers us into a tanker war. It works.

“Like us the UK are equally alarmed by the increasing tensions in the Gulf region and they also strongly condemn Iran’s attacks on shipping in the Gulf of Oman, given some of their vessels have been subject to attack,” Reynolds reads aloud. Defence Ministers now simply copy and paste US spin. Presto! Instant press release. In reality, Minister Reynolds, the attacks are a response to the US persuading Britain to seize Grace 1. It is a manufactured crisis.

And it is also a folly. Trump’s Gilbertian Gulf Protection Force will fail, just as its predecessor failed thirty years ago.

Reynolds should buck the Coalition trend of ignoring expert research or history or common sense and at least read Robert Fisk who reported 30 years ago on his experience of the ill-fated first tanker war,

“What afflicted most of the seamen in the Gulf was the heat. It burnt the entire decks until they were, quite literally, too hot to walk on. British sailors stood on the edges of their shoes because of the scalding temperatures emerging from the steel. The depth-charge casings, the Bofors gun-aiming device, were too hot to touch.

On the helicopter flight deck, the heat rose to 135 degrees, and only a thoughtless leading hand would have touched a spanner without putting his gloves on. It created a dull head, a desperate weariness, an awesome irritation with one’s fellow humans on the foredeck. Inside the ship … the heat shuffled through the vessel faster than the seamen.

The officer’s mess was a cool 80 degrees. One glass of water and I was dripping. Open the first watertight door and I was ambushed by the heat … After the second door, I walked into a tropical smelter, the familiar grey monochrome sea sloshing below the deck. How can men work in this and remain rational?”

There’s talk about how we could become a US missile base but Reynolds denies it later. So it could well be true. Reynolds also denies that the Liberal Party has a culture of bullying or misogyny. Her invisible friend Foreign Minister and Minister for Women Marise Payne does very little to earn either portfolio. She equivocates on missiles.

Who cares if the last tanker war in the 1980s ended in disaster? When our great and powerful friend tells us to jump, we just ask how high. Where are the details of the flotilla of the willing? What is the battle plan? In the 1980s Iran simply had to place a few antique mines in the water and the thin-hulled US vessels were in trouble.

A US tanker, The Bridgeton hit a mine 24 July 1987 but was able to limp home followed by a clutch of US warships forced to steam behind for their own protection like a gaggle of ducklings behind their wounded mother duck, much to the amusement of the Iranian navy. The American humiliation will not be forgotten. Except by News Corp.

Father Paul Kelly of The Australian bloviates glowingly of a “declaration by Pompeo that the US expects all nations with commercial interests in free navigation in the Straits of Hormuz to participate in intervention against Iran to protect the waters. This has been put as a general US appeal, not an alliance issue. But past experience suggests if the US assembles a broad coalition of nations then Australia will be involved.

No-one on the ABC and certainly no-one representing government points out that there are one or two tiny hitches. The US president and Commander in Chief, Donald Trump, will not, cannot even read a briefing paper. Staffers claim he does not believe in objective reality. He gets his policy ideas from Fox News. Pompeo was brought in to clean up the mess. His job, as the New York Times puts it is to travel the world cleaning up Trump’s messes.

Trump has no clue what he is doing. He fires anyone who disagrees with him. Pompeo, who prides himself on being a Donald whisperer is the last man standing of his original staff but Pompeo also believes in The Rapture. Iran must be crushed as part of God’s plan to send Jesus to return to an Israeli-owned Jerusalem. Trump’s current trade war with China, meanwhile, may lead to a world recession – yet no effort is pared to normalise the maniac.

Mike does suggest we set up a missile base in the NT. Point it at China. What could possibly go wrong? The former Tea-Party Congressman from Kansas is Trump’s willing partner in the politicisation of intelligence.

Whilst the CIA found evidence that Saudi Crown Prince MBS ordered Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, Pompeo told journalists there was no direct reporting that linked the prince to the order to kill Khashoggi.

Naturally, it’s a secret meeting to best serve the interests of transparency in a world run on by rules-based order. A further secret meeting follows with the PM in which he will eagerly volunteer to do anything Mike says.

Over 700,000 Australians struggle to survive on $40 dollars a day yet our government will provide $200 billion over 10 years for Australia’s military to support US wars, says the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network. (IPAN)

“Many are homeless, going without food and unable to pay for basic necessities like gas, electricity, education and health”.  The Coalition’s recent gift is $73 billion in tax free contracts to multinational weapons manufacturers.

IPAN Spokesperson, Shirley Winton says

“It is a disgrace that in a wealthy country like Australia, government benefits for unemployed people is the lowest of all OECD economies, while billions of dollars in taxes that people pay for a society to provide social and community services, health, education and public housing are being syphoned off to prepare for US wars of aggression and to subsidise the military-industrial complex.”

Australia, our ABC dutifully reports, is considering a “serious and complex” request from the United States to help protect oil shipments against Iranian interference in the Persian Gulf. Reynolds repeats the lie of our independence.

“We will ultimately as we always do, decide what’s in our sovereign interests.” Or whatever the US tells us to do. The word “lockstep” is used, a step above Turnbull’s image of mutually incapacitating affliction – “joined at the hip”.

The US peddles the lie that its allies have a say in its tanker wars. It’s visiting us just to check with Linda Reynolds and Marise Payne, who have no veto over ScoMo’s PM’s final call. Of course we yearn to be part of another illegal coalition of the willing. The US has not learnt a single lesson from its past disasters in the 1980s. Nor have we.

Nor has Britain, whose delusion that it is still a great naval power, lets itself be conned into piracy. Its seizure of Grace 1, an Iranian tanker, off Gibraltar, is illegal. It violates Part III of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea

Iran responds tit for tat. It seizes a British tanker, The Stena Impero, in the Strait of Hormuz, again an illegal act, but with due provocation. It is irrelevant that the tanker is attempting to breach sanctions by delivering oil to Syria. Yet there has been not a whisper of protest from our invisible Foreign Minister Payne or US toady, ScoMo.

Craig Murray, former head of the Maritime Section of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and alternate head of the U.K. Delegation to the UN Preparatory Commission on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea is disgusted. He both negotiated, and drafted parts of, the Protocol that enabled the Convention to come into force.

“The hypocrisy of arresting the Iranian ship and then threatening war when Iran commits precisely the same illegal act in retaliation is absolutely sickening,” is his informed judgement. Expect a different spin from Admiral ScoMo.

Donald Trump may never grasp the gravity of the events but his minders know that the collapse of the crucial international law on passage through straits would have devastating effects on the world economy.

No-one in our MSM, apart for Phillip Adams’ guest, Christopher Dickey of The Daily Beast on ABC’s Late Night Live with 350,000 listeners a week points out that the Brits have found themselves the pawns of the Americans. Now in deep trouble, fabulously untalented new PM Boris Johnson and his government are left on their own to work it out.

An incremental war is brewing – as it did in September 1980 turning the straits of Hormuz into Exocet ally, leading to a full scale war in 1986 and the US backing Iraq against Iran including the contra scandal.  1987 Operation Earnest Will saw US vessels outwitted by Iran and ended in another humiliation for the Reagan administration. Under Trump’s even more inept performances as Commander in Chief, Tanker war 2.0 will also end badly for America.

Perhaps our talented maritime experts in the Coalition will be asked to help lobby Iran to release the Stena Impero.

“Whose side are you on”, cries ScoMo & Co all week as he is forced to turn to internal politics and jeering at Labor. The PM and his motley crew, snipe at the Opposition with a new hyper-partisan, rallying cry. Morrison loves to pretend everything is black and white. No-one will ever accuse him of sophistication, complexity or depth.

Besides, ScoMo’s got to kick up a bit of dust to cover the Crown scandal which threatens to expose ministers and staff in organising junkets to woo whales (big gamblers) from China, where gambling is illegal, to Australia and then fast-track them through Immigration to Crown Casino and more, according to whistle-blower Roman Quaedvlieg.

Exocet missile and Attorney-General the very Christian Porter is on to it. The scandal is handballed to Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI) which has jurisdiction only over law enforcement and which is so underfunded it may well have to ask Crown to look into itself. In the meantime, the affair is punted off limits.

Because allegations have been referred to ACLEI, it’s not proper to comment, says Mathias Cormann with a straight face, reports The Monthly’s Paddy Manning. Above all the PM “is not aware of any of his ministers breaching ministerial standards”. Not aware? To The Greens’ Nick McKim, it’s a “pathetic” response. He says the referral to ACLEI is “convenient” – given it cannot investigate sitting politicians – and calls Porter’s stunts a “cover-up”.

McKim is right on the money. Crown, however, will not so easily be dealt with given its apparent scale and given that it follows a mini-series of rollicking scandals which includes grass-gate, where Jam Land’s endangered grasslands are given a good spray of Glyphosate herbicide, despite their protected status, a scandal Angus Taylor can’t defuse even with his top suggestion that we form a committee or something to look into nuclear power stations.

Nuclear power is too expensive, takes too long to build and needs abundant water as a series of past reviews have duly reported, but when you have no policy agenda and a cluster headache of scandals breathing down your neck, it may at least give you a breather. Or at least the Taylor family hopes so. Unhelpfully loitering the background are Reef-gate, Helloworld, Watergate and questions unanswered about a closed tender for security on Manus Island.

Crown, a big donor to both major parties, is even dubbed “The Vatican” because it is a law unto itself but although he hopes it can all be buried in a review, ScoMo throws a dead cat on the table. “Whose side are you on?” implies that Labor cannot be trusted or that they betray the decent, quiet Australians who star in Coalition spin.

ScoMo’s politics sounds a lot like kids choosing sides in some playground game, although the least helpful thought bubble by a country mile this week has to go to troubled Terry Young, the Queensland LNP MP for Longman, who suggests in his first speech in the House of Representatives that schools should teach both sides of the climate change debate in school – to prevent them being “brainwashed with extreme left or right ideologies”.

Only it’s far more sinister. “Unfunded empathy”, is Morrison’s brave new taunt of the week. He sneers at Labor for showing compassion, he says we can’t afford – despite the IMF’s May report showing that Australian taxpayers subsidise fossil fuel industries by a whopping $29 billion a year. Raising New Start is small beer in comparison.

Yet “unfunded empathy” is worse than nonsense. It betrays Australia’s long tradition of egalitarianism and attacks the very heart of the social contract. It’s odd that a man that so publicly professes his religious faith does not seem to know the injunction that to give is to give and not to count the cost.

it’s OK for his Coalition spendthrifts to blow over $4 billion a year on Operation Sovereign borders, a fortune on paranoia, xenophobia.

“We believe what Australians believe.” Coach ScoMo tells his team they need to show voters they’re on their side when they jet home business class for their well-earned late winter break and to spend their electorate allowance ?

What better way to divide a diverse, far-flung, failing nation state, less a democracy than a oligarchy, ruled by a rat-pack of business, mining, media, banking and gambling magnates? In its place, MPs exchange matey barbs on the banality of breakfast TV; leaders in the babel of much of our national conversation, where daily we run up the white flag in the battle to separate fact from fiction. For Facebook, a lie is just a demoted truth.

Facebook is in the gun for publishing Labor’s evil plan to bring in a death tax should it have won the May election. It’s fake news. “False” says an independent fact-checker. Yet the social medium’s executive and word weasel, Simon Milner says it’s something else. Not just fake news but also something a political party doesn’t care for.

“We do not agree that it is our role to remove content that one side of a political debate considers to be false.”

Labor’s death tax is demoted not deleted. Communications Minister Paul Fletcher, a former Optus “Yes” man who, like his predecessor, Fifield, is one of our less communicative MPs, says he’s sympathetic to Facebook. It’s a remarkable turn-around for a government threatening to bring the socialists and keyboard warriors on Facebook and twitter to heel; slap them down with a huge new ACCC report. Fletcher is happy to parrot Milner.

“I don’t think we can dismiss reality – a digital platform is a different kind of business to a traditional media organisation that has editorial obligations.”

You’ve got to keep on the right side of this Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison government. No good coming out from France and making a documentary about our dying reef as Hugo Clement discovers. No good bleating to Mistress Tingle on 7:30 Report “But I thought Australia was a democracy”. Anyone could see whose side Monsieur Clement was on.

Did the cheese-eating surrender monkey think he could inspect bleaching in the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef? Film protestors at Adani’s sacred site? Defile the miracle of our extra virgin clean coal which will be mined in our heroic, philanthropic mission to lift Indians out of indigence and into penury by charging them double the average tariff thanks to an MOU with crony Modi’s business-friendly government?

Of course we run him in. Clement and his three musketeers are manacled and man-handled by Queensland’s top cops, herded into divvy wagons, thrown in the slammer at Bowen for seven hours, and released on bail until September. Of course, police say nothing. Quiet Australians are everywhere these days. No fuss. Just the bare minimum “get in the van” and the obligatory “spread your legs” for the body cavity strip search.

“They didn’t give us an explanation when they arrested us and they are not giving us an explanation now when they are saying ‘OK, it is over’,” Clement shrugs. Later it emerges police are keen to press a charge of trespass. Trespass is big in the news this week and it’s going to help protect farmers’ rights to practise animal cruelty, without being exposed by animal activists.

Luckily, Quiet Australians are on the right side. Hardworking Australians, mum and dad investors, self-funded retirees are still on Team ScoMo and the side still includes heroic small business folk, frantic to spend their tax cuts to create another casual part-time job for another underpaid, over-worked employee. How good are jobs? At least this is the drama in the eternal sunshine of the PM’s spotless mind. Perhaps they are all on the same team.

Thank God for ScoMo! Our divisions are healed by the miracle of Pastor Scott’s sublime gift for leadership and nation-building. This week’s building includes attacking Albo, vilifying John Setka and mocking Labor for calling for an increase in the New Start pittance. “Unfunded empathy” sneers our PM. You can hear the word of God in him.

Being a Pentecostal prosperity-gospeller must be a huge inspiration to our man at the top. Paul is all over the need to choose sides and put down others when he says “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11.  Or when he tells the Galatians to “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.” — Galatians 6:2

But “The Bible is not a policy handbook”, says the old fox Morrison “faith in Jesus Christ is not a political agenda”. It’s another of his many acts of dissembling. It’s impossible, argues James Boyce to understand the PM’s political career without considering his religion.

Uplifted, we soar above a barrage of scandals, “Grass-gate”, “Water-gate”, “Hello World” and even damning allegations of ministers of the Crown (Casino) who intercede to smooth the path of the holy high roller.

Whistle-blower and former Border Force Commissioner, Roman Quaedvlieg supports others who blow the whistle on how Crown Casino had a hotline to Immigration to help its whales (wealthy Chinese) avoid being beached by petty rules or having their bags searched.

Quaedvlieg says Crown’s fast-tracking of Chinese VIP gamblers into Australia, including on private jets, raises major security concerns. By Tuesday, the issue seems to have been eclipsed by thought of a glorious new war with Iran. But you can’t blame the whistle-blower, although experts will be working on ways to silence or arrest him.

“My immediate reaction was there was an enhanced risk … Who was coming on these flights? They were being coordinated, organised, through junket operators which are widely known, not just in the public sphere, but certainly within the law enforcement context, as being a triad-affiliated,” Mr Quaedvlieg says.

Luckily, the matter will be taken care of by an underfunded and limited ACLEI task force. Nothing to see here. It’s the same winning formula with Liberal women who just won’t go to the police to get the run-around on rape claims.

Former NSW Premier, Nick Greiner’s sage counsel is keep calm and carry on undeterred by claims of a Liberal Party culture of bullying, misogyny and accusations of attempted rape – they are state affairs and they happened long ago

“They are not federal examples, they are historical and besides we have no knowledge of them.”

 

ScoMo’s captain’s pick could sink the entire ship.

Phil Gaetjens

What do you do when your Treasury secretary, a controversial, political posting in 2018, claims that workers are to blame for their own wage stagnation? It’s nothing to do with government. Wage too low? Just find another job that pays better. Joe Hockey was right all along when he told those who were struggling to buy a home “to get a good job.”

Promote him is what you do. Continue the war on the poor; show neoliberalism to be alive and ageing well. Genius. Bugger the boffins, if you ever need advice, there’s always the IPA or Deloitte Access or Judith Sloan. And The Australian Terry McCrann is always full of good news even barracking for APRA this weekend.

Parachuting Phil Gaetjens, Liberal hack and Canberra-Bubble head, a career public servant since 1977, into Dr Martin Parkinson’s chair as secretary of the Department of PM and Cabinet is ScoMo’s top act of the week. Out with the old and in with the old mate is all part of today’s hyper-partisan politics. Shocking. Another apparatchik, Liberal staffer, Simon Atkinson, appointed deputy secretary by Morrison could well move into the top job.

Adding a tragic element to the drama is the fact that Parkinson has to be sacked, two years before his time expires, to make way for ScoMo’s chum and new shiny bum, as a bureaucrat is often fondly termed.

Of course, Phil’s got a few runs on the board. John Howard got his help to spend once in a lifetime mining profits buying votes, he also helped Costello handcraft a gift for Hockey in the form of a budget structural deficit of $56 bn PA. There’s a lot more including bringing in a GST that, of course, cuts hardest the poorer you are – in rather the same way that Morrison’s flat tax system is a boon to the wealthy but sees the ordinary worker pay more than their fair share.

And speaking of things unfair, Phil helped set up Costello’s now $148 billion Future Fund in 2005. Costello likes to kid us that the fund is set up to guarantee public servants and politicians their superannuation – a purpose for which it is both inadequate and unnecessary but its main effect so fair is to takes billions away from useful functions such as education, health and infrastructure as Kaye Lee has clearly pointed out.

ScoMo’s set up a future fund himself to drought-proof Australia which is modelled on Abbott’s dud Medical future fund which is also all about investing in equities, cash and debt securities and keeping the financial industry in work. ScoMo’s drought fund will also dole out $100 m P.A. on some loose criteria, creating what is effectively a Nationals’ slush fund.

ScoMo’s appointment of Gaetjens, sends a message not just about rewarding political time servers and politicising the public service but about surrounding himself with yes-men; a claque of vacuous, boosters like himself. Long gone are quaint public service customs such as promotion on merit. Above all, Morrison sets up a bond of patronage. Let others inspire loyalty or command respect. Yet, of course, the bond does have drawbacks such as any capacity to provide the wisdom gleaned from experience and expert, objective, frank and fearless advice. Treasury is a case in point.

The Hayne Royal Commission exposed Treasury’s complete failure to regulate financial services, a key portfolio function.  Forecasts appear more wishful thinking or influence from above than careful projection. Once an engine of economic reform, since 2013, Treasury is now reduced to predicting heroic wage growth rates that never materialise.

Its latest 2018-19 wages forecast of 2.5% has been revised down three times since 2016. It has failed to predict the collapse in economic growth in the second quarter of 2018. But the problems run deeper than poor performance.

In February, responding to Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus’ concerns, Parkinson observed pointedly,

“I regard acts that have the substance, or appearance, of politicising the APS as threats to the effectiveness of Australia’s democracy.” 

Deposing Dr Parkinson, whom ANU Chancellor and former Foreign Minister Gareth Evans praises as “the outstanding public servant of his generation” who’ll be missed is but one stunt in a week of unbridled chutzpah in both local and international events. It almost upstages the Coalition’s attack on its own bipartisan Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, the PJCIS, chaired by Handy Andy Hastie. Why? Peter Dutton doesn’t like compromise.

ScoMo & Co can’t possibly have an advisory committee so uppity that it gives you advice. As for traitor, Mark Dreyfus,

“Mark Dreyfus waters every bill down … what ends up happening is we end up with a bill that’s ineffective and these matters are too important for that … I’m not going to allow national security agencies to be stymied by Mark Dreyfus’ ability to water down bills.” Consultation in the ScoMo government post PJCIS 2.0? It’s now just a rubber stamp.

Dutton’s histrionics echo performance artist Boris Johnson who becomes the first professional clown to enter 10 Downing Street while con man Bernie Madoff, currently serving a 150 year sentence for the largest Ponzi scheme in history, in which he swindled thousands of investors out of billions of dollars, petitions Trump for clemency.

These are more than parallels or echoes or outbreaks of the same neoliberal, post truth Trumpian zeitgeist, they are interactive influences in a mediated, globalised world where connectivity makes intimate what used to be remote.

Meanwhile, our local performer, PM ScoMo, stars in his Towards Zero Suicide advertorial which portrays his compassion on screens across the nation, a sequel to Praying for Rain, his popular drought relief melodrama, while, hidden from prying eyes, his government drives refugees to take their own lives in the suicide factories on Manus and Nauru or in lock-up or at home in terror on the mainland.

There have been 24 deaths in Australia’s onshore and offshore detention facilities since 2010, according to refugee groups, with 14 confirmed as suicides. More than half of the recorded deaths were people held on Manus and Nauru.

Not to be forgotten is Robo-Debt’s hugely successful extortion of the poor, about to be stepped up this year.

From June 2016 to October 2018, the Department of Human Services (DHS) sent more than 925,000 automatically generated letters asking welfare recipients to confirm their income as part of the federal government’s online compliance scheme, known as “robo-debt”. Of those who received letters, 2030 died within the next two years.

Because our DHS does not collect data on cause of death, it is impossible to say how many took their own lives. Although anecdotal evidence was presented to a 2017 senate inquiry, DHS representatives could supply no details of location of the 2030 deceased letter recipients or how many – if any – had been referred to a social worker or helpline.

Morrison’s bid to be our most autocratic PM yet, complete with theatrical displays of public compassion and a public service on a leash, is upstaged by Barnaby Joyce, Craig Kelly, Andrew Bragg and a rash of others suffering relevance deprivation, free-lancing costly ideas or madly impractical policy in the media. Best leave that stuff to me, ScoMo, says in what media report is a “riot act” reading to his party room, Tuesday. Some call it a carpeting. All agree it’s ineffectual.

Yet there’s no censure for good old boy Gaetjens with his “blame the worker” shtick. What can Phil mean – apart from an even more politicised, partisan public service? We’ve caused our own wage freeze with our inflexibility? Workers should be out there jogging from job to job; forever seeking out bosses who can “offer greater productivity”. He claims there’s historical evidence to support the notion that better wages are to be found at more productive enterprises. Oddly, this does not explain the handsome salaries enjoyed by senior public servants. Especially veteran political apparatchiks.

Treasury produces a working paper and deputy secretary Meghan Quinn gives a couple of dull speeches on the virtue of labour market fluidity. Yet the case is flimsy. Among other deficiencies, the authors say they’ve left out utilities, education, public administration and safety, health and financial services from their analysis, in brief the top five sectors for contemporary wage growth. Yet there is no doubt that the thesis is a winner in terms of political utility.

Crikey’s Bernard Keane and Glenn Dyer call out the wilful evasion – if not self-delusion at the heart of Gaetjens’ heartlessness – his scapegoating of lazy workers. They also point to the inadequate evidence and note that the Productivity Commission and The Reserve bank are far less convinced. But it’s bound to get a lot airplay.

Wouldn’t it be great if the whole problem of wage stagnation could be explained away as no big deal? As though the flat or in some cases negative real wages growth of recent years was merely a passing phase, not evidence that something had gone structurally wrong in neoliberalism?

On a smaller scale, the Coalition’s answer to consumer’s rising power prices, a function of our electricity cartel and market rules which encourages generators to game the system is to tell the consumer to shop around.

It’s nonsense. But it’s a timely diversion as sectors of commerce and industry rev up their calls for Newstart to be increased by $75. It pays to paint the welfare recipient as a job snob or one who lacks the gumption to get up, get out and get a real job. And of course, if it’s all the workers’ fault, then a government with no IR policy is doing the right thing.

The jobs are out there, affirms dynamic deputy PM, “Mick-Mack”, as Michael McCormack as he is dubbed by ScoMo who has pet names for his colleagues, all part and parcel of the PM’s footy coach approach to leadership. If only our dole bludgers would get up off the sofa. Why, he was out in the bush the other day and they were just begging for workers.

“Get off Newstart and go Bush” is Mick-Mack’s message for the young unemployed – despite the fact that in outback Queensland, for example, the ABS reports an unemployment rate of 27.6%. The Brotherhood of St Laurence ought to have a word to him. It lists twenty hotspots for youth unemployment; they are all in the bush.

Lowest is the New England area and that suffers 14% unemployment. If time permits, Mick-Mack could also research rampant regional underemployment – and then there’s the issue of migrant workers brought in as cheap labour. Or the deputy PM could just do some research. Read some of the information his own government produces.

ABS data records just 243,000 job vacancies in Australia in May, for example, with 697,000 workers unemployed. Even if each worker has the skills the boss is looking for, even McCormack, surely, is capable of calculating the shortfall. On the other hand, his studied innumeracy and cruelty would not see him out of place as treasury secretary.

Pete Costello’s former chief of staff, Phil Gaetjens, the fiscal whizz-kid who helped Howard blow the entire proceeds of Australia’s mining boom largely through tax handouts to the rich, is exalted for his loyalty this week, although any notion of nepotism or politicisation of the public service is scotched by ScoMo. Besides, he says, it’s all been done before. ScoMo reads out a list, he just happens to have on him, of Labor hacks who also have gone on to be top public servants.

What was to be the megalomaniac’s master-stroke of mates in high places; installing his pal Gaetjens in charge of PM and Cabinet and appointing himself Minister for the Public Service, however, quickly turns into a surreal nightmare. It’s not for want of trying. ScoMo tries to talk softly and carry a big stick but it all comes unstuck with no agenda.

“My view of the public service is straightforward: respect and ­expect — respect their capabil­ities, and expect them to get on board and implement the government’s agenda.”  Agenda? ScoMo has no policy agenda and it shows. Respect? Hasn’t he just sacked an urbane, respected public servant and replaced him with a two dimensional party hack? Worse, ScoMo resorts to what he fondly believes are subtleties but which to any bureaucrat appear as simply idle threats.

“We don’t expect the public service to run the government. That’s what we were elected to do,” he tells The Australian. “In my ­experience, the public service ­always works best when it has strong guidance and leadership.”

Scrap Medicare? Go for nuclear power?  Include the family home in the aged pensioners’ assets test? Make super optional for those earning $50k or less – when $47k is our workforce’s median annual income? Backbenchers from crazy Craig Kelly to barking Barnaby Joyce are all over the airwaves. MPs whom even Captain ScoMo knows are best kept locked in the Liberal Party brig are frigging in the rigging; doing everything they can to get attention.

Liberals’ current festival of ideas is an intriguing oxymoron, were not most proposals just plain silly. Could it be simply a function of nature abhorring the policy vacuum at the dead heart of Morrison’s miracle? ScoMo tells MPs to stop it.

Proposing policy initiatives in the media is forbidden. Run them through proper party processes, implores a PM whose signature is policy on the run. Relocating our embassy to Jerusalem? The Cambodian Solution. Both good ideas at the time. He was all for constitutional recognition of indigenous people for a few days after appointing Ken Wyatt his fixer. It lasted four full days, until he felt the dead weight of his right wing’s disapproval and ruled it out.

Morrison’s strictures make his leadership look even more tenuous, as mavericks laugh at him, blow raspberries or ignore him. By week’s end upping Newstart, at least, is firmly on the agenda and it’s likely to cost at least $3 billion for starters. Bugger the bleeding hearts who want the poor and the elderly to stay alive. There goes the sacred surplus.

Worse, the proposal to raise Newstart is supported by rabid socialists such as Philip Lowe, Governor of the Reserve Bank who believes helping pensioners to afford to feed themselves regularly might be just the boost we need to stimulate the economy, despite his compromising photo-opp with Hungarian Josh Frydenberg – where, after some prompting by the Treasurer, Phil whispers that the “Australian economy is growing” and the “fundamentals are strong”, immediately seized upon by media pundits as solid evidence that while Josh talks tosh he knows what he’s doing.

You can tell Dr Phil’s having a lend of Frydenberg when he sends up the Treasurer’s set-up witless with his line,

“But I don’t think we should forget that more Australians have jobs today than ever before in Australian history. That’s a remarkable achievement.” Remarkable indeed considering that we have more Australians than ever before. Our population continues to grow, boosted by our wildly successful jumbo Australia scam where migrants arrive by jet in record numbers, as Border Force combs the seas for the odd boat-load of refugees. But all is well at Border Control.

Immigration Minister David Coleman, crows over yet another Coalition triumph. Onshore asylum claims “fell by 12 per cent in the 2018-19 program year, a result of the Government’s focus on stopping unmeritorious claims.”

But, as former Immigration official Abul Rizvi notes, that’s not saying much.  The year before saw a record 28,000 applications – and after an astonishing rise to 18,000 applications in 2016-17.

Then there’s those social activists and more bleeding heart liberals at neoliberal lobby group Deloitte Access who argue a $75 boost might cost a few billion but that it would yield a “prosperity dividend”.

The PM gives team ScoMo a pep-talk and a finger-wag. Government is not a blank cheque, he says. Those who go to the media disrespect their colleagues. His lecture results only in the odd snigger and a few muffled titters. The lunatics are on the grass. Not only does a two seat majority ginger up his internal critics, he’s hoist by his own petard.

Having won the election all by himself – and erasing all traces of his party, in “Honey I Shrunk the Libs”, a successful gambit – helped no end by Clive Palmer’s non-stop noxious anti Labor propaganda into regional Western Australia and rural Queensland, Morrison the miracle-worker, finds himself sidelined by his own genius; upstaged by an untalented, unruly mob anxiously clamouring for attention. Relevance deprivation syndrome sets in early when your leader is an egotistical control-freak who has yet to learn, as Fran Bailey put it “to work with other people”.

Yet if the spectacle of a party hack parachuted into head of PM and Cabinet is not wondrous enough, the nation thrills to a brilliantly zinger-less, orchestrated Question Time grilling of Angus Taylor from an Opposition keen to weed out corruption as it needles a busted Gus on his meeting with a compliance officer about relaxing the law in his bid to apply glyphosate, the cockies’ carcinogenic poison of choice, to endangered grasslands on the family farm. Or was it agent orange? ScoMo is completely upstaged in Albo’s new tactics; ignored as Labor treats the PM with icy disdain.

“We’ll treat Morrison as if he’s just another Minister,” a key Labor strategist explains to Paul Bongiorno.

It seems to be working. Immediately it gets under the egomaniac’s skin. By the close of play Tuesday, Morrison, the balding Prima Donna sulks publicly, upbraids Labor with a sooky-la-la rebuke,

“I would invite the opposition to perhaps ask me a question tomorrow. They didn’t do that today.”

Given your obsession with secrecy and control; your record of turning every question into an attack on Labor and given your allergy to objective advice, not being asked questions is something you may need to get used to ScoMo – but just have a word with your department. Phil and the rest of the crew will be quick to tell you you’re doing a fantastic job.

How good are jobs? How wrong is Morrison and his government?

ScoMo and Trump in Osaka

How good are jobs?

Only ScoMo, “Ya Radge Orange Barmpot’s” number one fan-boy Down Under could find something to crow about in Wednesday’s dismal ABS June Labour Force statistics showing jobs and hours worked are down. Yet statistics, fail to reveal the realities of wage theft, wage slavery, bullying and other types of coercion and exploitation, such as Neil Perry’s chef, Rohit Karki’s, working twenty hour shifts, day after day at The Rockpool Bar and Grill.

Rohit Karki earned twelve dollars an hour. Unable to get home and back in time, he slept on a pastry bench between shifts. Unpaid overtime is common. Australians work an average of six hours’ overtime unpaid each week. That’s $106bn of free work given to bosses every year according to The Australia Institute’s research published last November.

Australia suffers from an epidemic of overwork while other workers suffer underemployment; need more hours. Then there’s increasing wage-slavery.

Celebrity chef Perry was keen to resolve” payroll issues in October last year. He said that Rockpool, which employs 2400 staff and has a payroll of $100 million would backpay its workers $1.6 million to reconcile wages arrears. Words are cheap.

Wage theft is uniquely privileged in being treated not as a crime but as some absent-minded oversight. Imagine if Rockpool missed a bank payment of $1.6 million? Or if a party of guests left without paying the bill? Why do workers’ rights not have the same status? Perry’s announcement does nothing to remedy Karki’s predicament.

Karki is forced to make a federal court claim for six years of alleged underpayment. Originally from Nepal, his work conditions got a lot worse, he says, after he secured a 457 visa sponsorship in 2013. When he complains, he is bullied by a senior chef into taking on the work of three staff members; pressured into resigning.

How good is Karki’s job – and all the other hopeful, migrant workers he represents?

“This is another Dickensian example of wage theft and exploitation of vulnerable workers that is all too common in the hospitality industry,” says Maurice Blackburn Principal, Josh Bornstein, who is representing Karki. Exploitation can also mean underpayment of penalty rates, superannuation and leave entitlements. Industry Super estimates, for example, that one third of our workers are underpaid super; 2.4 million Aussie workers have $3.6 million per year stolen from them each year.

News of Rohit Karki’s case comes in the same week as Fair Work Ombudsman, Sandra Parker orders celebrity chef, George Calombaris, to pay $200,000 in a “contrition payment”, a penalty which she makes clear, on ABC 774, is “not a fine”. Calombaris must repay the $7.8m he owes workers and also appoint an external auditor to check pay and conditions until 2022. In an almost totally de-unionised hospitality workforce, exploitation is typically unreported. Bullying and intimidation are rife.

In 2018, the Fair Work Office (FWO) investigated 243 restaurants and cafes it targeted in Glebe in Sydney, Victoria St in Melbourne and Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley, reports Crikey’s Bernard Keane. It found wage theft in 38% of these eateries. Over 600 workers were owed $470,000 in unpaid wages. By comparison, the underpayment rate across all industries is around 27%. Something is broken in hospitality.

“Reform” may be on its way. With ScoMo’s miracle mandate, the Productivity Commission could revive its 2015 push to do away with awards and give workers an “enterprise agreement” instead. No time-wasting negotiating, just issue an ultimatum. Tell workers to take it or leave it. If we look at hospitality we are already there. Higher numbers of visa migrant workers makes hospitality a much easier workforce to exploit.

Fast-tracking applications from workers on skilled migrant visas is one of the Morrison government’s election pledges. If nothing changes, we can expect more injustice, more inhumanity and suffering among our nation’s most vulnerable group of workers.

Yet hospitality workers are not alone. Wage theft has become routine in certain sections of the nation’s workforce reports the ACTU; the exploitation of workers is now a business model. Agriculture, meat processing, retail and accommodation also all have a high incidence of underpayment of low paid workers. And it hurts, notes the ACTU,

“When low-wage workers are cheated out of even a small percentage of their income, it can cause major hardships like being unable to pay for rent, child care, or put food on the table. Above all, such wage theft is an injustice that demeans; degrades us all.

Wage theft from low paid workers is also detrimental to society, as it contributes to widening income inequality, wage stagnation, and low living standards—interrelated problems that drive inequality in our society.”  

The ACTU argues that businesses such as 7 Eleven, Caltex, Pizza Hut, Dominos, Red Rooster and others must take responsibility for their flawed business models which invite wage theft and other exploitative practices. It notes that the government does nothing to address wage theft, or the integrity of employers. Instead, this fortnight, it aims to reintroduce Ensuring Integrity, a bill which attacks working people; an act of anti-union extremism that makes it unique in the western world.

Minister for alerting media to AFP raids on the AWU and other union-bashing acts, Michaelia Cash, stashes her whiteboard; joins fellow intractable, “Rottweiler” Morrison in a photo-opp spin and grin. Both smile maniacally on every news.  How good are their jobs? “All credit no responsibility” says Karen Andrews in thought-bubble of the week.

“Leadership doesn’t mean taking responsibility,” Industry, Science and Technology (and trashing the Westminster system), Minister Andrews declares.It could be ScoMo’s motto. No sign on her desk like Harry S Truman’s spelling out “the buck stops here”.

Politicians serve a wider community and so should always consider others and have their best interests at heart, political economist and sociologist, Max Weber argued in 1919… without responsibility, the politician becomes selfish and interested first in their own careers and goals. Vanity and narcissism tend to reduce responsibility …

Australia’s jobless rate is tanking; plummeting below seventeen other OECD countries. Ninth in 2013, according to World Bank figures, we drop to 13th in 2016. Now we are 18th out of 36 on the latest ABS figures – and falling fast. No-one in MSM reports it.

Only a Morrison government can grin and spin such monumental failure. Unemployment is up from 4.8% to 5.2% in a few months, despite the Coalition hype that it’s steady. As housing slows in NSW and Victoria, expect it to reach 5.5%

Seasonally adjusted, only five hundred new jobs were created across the nation in June, despite market forecasts of 10,000. Monthly hours worked in all jobs also fall by 100,000 hours seasonally adjusted. Bernard Keane and Glen Dyer note some growth but at slower rate than May.

How good are these jobs? It depends on what and where they are. The mindless repetition of statistics is never accompanied by any acknowledgement of the declining quality of jobs.

Australia has one of the highest shares (13%) of employees working in short part-time jobs (defined as working 1-19 hours per week) among OECD countries, together with the Netherlands (21%), Denmark (15%) and Switzerland (13%).

One in four workers are in casual employment. Over half of all casual workers report they have no guaranteed hours, reports the OECD’s latest employment outlook. 36% of Australian jobs face a significant or high risk of automation.  This means that a sizeable share of workers will need to re-skill or re-train to meet the needs of future jobs.

Labor notes that of the 2.6 million casuals in Australia, more than half have been with their current employer for 12 months and 192,000 for more than 10 years. In April former Labor leader Bill Shorten proposed that workers with a year’s employment with their current employer should be entitled to ask to be made permanent. Doubtless the proposal, along with Labor’s push for a rise in the minimum wage remains Opposition policy, yet it will be anathema to the Morrison government. Why make any changes when everything is working so well?

Pretence, subterfuge and denial come as easily to our PM as lying and racism comes to his mentor, Donald Trump. The PM lets everyone know he has a hot dinner date with his BFF 19 September. MSM repeat Scomo’s spin that it’s some type of honour to be feted by an increasingly desperate, dangerously degenerate president, who not only has no grasp of the issues but no interest in acquiring one, a populist who would declare war on Iran merely if it improved his re-election prospects.

Yet it’s an auspicious date, not only is it National Gymnastics Day in America, it is also International Talk Like a Pirate Day. This augurs well for ScoMo to offer immediate, unquestioned support – Aye Aye Cap’n to whatever it is his advisers let Trump do to Iran. Or be the ship’s parrot. Trump’s gymnastics, on the other hand, are noted by Roger Cohen who begins a fair and objective appraisal in The New York Times.

President Trump has been all over the place on Iran, which is what happens when you take a serious subject, treat it with farcical superficiality, believe braggadocio will sway a proud and ancient civilization, approach foreign policy like a real estate deal, defer to advisers with Iran Derangement Syndrome, refuse to read any briefing papers and confuse the American national interest with the Saudi or Israeli.

Aware that finesse is needed to resist ScoMo’s subtle sweet-talk, Donald Trump is clearly already training hard for his meeting with our miracle worker by calling London’s mayor Sadiq Khan “an incompetent” and “a stone cold loser”.

Diplomacy, like charity begins at home, of course and Michaelia Cash is rewarded for her sterling work in whiteboarding, media liaison and union bullying with her re-appointment to Morrison’s cabinet. It cost $282,000 just for her AWU case legal fees, a bargain for such a top performer. As Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, she will continue, as always, to grow jobs like crazy as she oversees a Department of Jobs and Small Business. Keeps the whiteboard handy.

Industrial relations and union-busting stuff now become part of Attorney-General Christian Porter’s portfolio. Porter, of course, has his anti-union bill at the ready. He’ll call it a reform even though it harks back eighty years to Brazil’s dictatorship, according to The International Centre for Trade Union Rights based in the UK.

The Coalition’s “Ensuring Integrity Bill” breaches international conventions on labour rights by restricting workers’ freedom of association and collective bargaining, even when they are not involved in wrongdoing. ACTU President Michele O’Neil warns that the Morrison government’s proposed legislation is dangerous and extreme.

“All Australian workers benefit from the work of unions. If unions are shut down or silenced, who will stand up to the powerful, make sure workers get their rights and fight to improve workers’ rights?” she tells AAP.

“The Morrison government has overseen raids on journalists and is now attacking working people’s freedom to run their own unions. These are dangerous attacks on fundamental pillars of democracy.”

How good are jobs? Mostly you are likely to be overworked and underpaid in short-term, casual or part-time work. The OECD identifies one major reason why – the decline of unionism, a process ScoMo and Co are mad keen to accelerate.

“In Australia, the proportion of union members among employees fell from 45.6% in 1986 to 13.7% in 2018, while the proportion of employees covered by collective agreements declined from 83% to 58.9% over the same period.”

One result of an underpaid, casualised, de-unionised workforce is increased inequality given a helpful boost also from the Coalition’s tax cuts and its attack on our progressive taxation system. Average income earners pay more tax which helps to enrich the wealthy who now pay less. And among the wealthy are the fabulously rich merchant princes of our banking cartel which hasn’t fixed up its act at all after the Royal Commission.

How good is Ross McEwan’s new job? Guaranteed a fixed salary of $2.5 million PA just for showing up, starting April 2020, the new CEO of NAB, who pipped former NSW Premier and Pepsodent kid Mike Baird on experience for the job, will get $3.75 million extra if he hits “annual targets”. That’s a lot of upside, as they say. Add another $3.25 million a year based on the long-term performance of the bank and the former Kiwi, could be paid $9.5 million a year, all going well.

NAB was a stand-out performer at the recent Banking Royal Commission Show, earning censure, if not withering derision from Commissioner Kenny Hayne over charging fees for no service and for its culture of profits before people. NAB Chairman Ken Henry was forced to throw in his claw and CEO Andrew Thorburn was also compelled to explore other employment opportunities. Both appeared aggrieved at being unfairly singled out but why aren’t they in gaol?

Of course there’s more. Our banking cartel hates to see its CEOs begging in the street. Or “growing dope” and nicking stuff to get by, like our rural Newstarters, according to Barnaby Joyce. Topping it all off, new boss, Ross gets “vesting rights” which could take his pay over $10 million, depending on how NAB shares perform. They’re off to a good start with investors hugely comforted by NAB’s caring 2017 plan to make 6000 employees redundant by 2020.

Masters of spin, confirming it was sacking 180 workers in February, NAB avoided any references to job losses at all. Instead it was a restructure which “was designed to better align rosters with customer banking habits”.

The tough love of Newstart, fixed for twenty-five years is totally vindicated, despite advice to lift it from a Melbourne Cup field of experts. Even John Howard says it should be increased. The payment’s value has fallen forty per cent in real terms over that time but it would be folly to raise it above the poverty line, say ScoMo & Co. Madness. Starvation and beggary uplift and motivate; incentivise us to get jobs. Above all, turning your back on a neighbour in distress is good old Aussie mateship at its conflicted best. Even Labor now says you’ve got to convince the government yourself.

Besides, ScoMo and Co always would have us know, rorty Newstarters on the public tit, get heaps of supplementary payments. Suck our budgets dry. It is a fact, as he and Frydenberg like to remind us, that 99% of recipients are on other benefits, such as “parental allowance and other forms of support”. But it’s also true that the additional income is meagre. Fifty-seven per cent of us on Newstart receive only one additional payment, moreover – nine dollars per fortnight, Energy Supplement.

“We have one of the best safety nets, if not the best, of anywhere in the world,” Whoppers Morrison misleads us in May. The unemployed “don’t just live on Newstart alone,” he claims. “It goes up twice a year and 99 per cent of people on Newstart are also on other payments.” It’s a despicable, cynical act of damaging disinformation.

A single unemployed adult on Newstart gets $555.70 each fortnight. That’s $40 a day. Add in an energy supplement, a paltry $228.80 a year. Yet ScoMo would have us believe the extra 60 cents a day is a huge boost. If you’re sixty, or over, you’ll receive just over $600 a fortnight, after nine continuous months on Newstart. It’s a meagre increase which virtually guarantees you a life below the poverty line.

On DHS figures, Newstart recipients who also get rent assistance (about 28%) get an extra $55 a week on average. So they live on about $48 a day. For people to get the maximum rate of rent assistance of around $10 a day, they had to spend twice as much in rent to be eligible. In summary, the extra help averages out to about a dollar a day.

It is time the Morrison government dropped its nonsense and increased its welfare payments. It is not true that low payments increase your motivation to get a job, especially when there are at least eight applicants for every advertised vacancy and many times more in regional centres where jobs are fewer.

Tell the truth about Newstart being a poverty trap. Acknowledge that at least twenty percent of beneficiaries are on Newstart for five years or more.

Above all acknowledge the growing percentage of older Australians who are put on to Newstart and made to seek jobs which their age precludes them from. Until they qualify for the age pension. They lose their jobs to younger people and find their applications rejected by ageist prospective employers. The number of people aged 55-64 on Newstart has risen by more than 55,000 in less than five years. This group is growing by 10,000 a year and must cause a rethink in the Coalition’s callous inhumanity.

Older, working Australians deserve a new start, too. They can’t afford one on $40 per day, especially if they have to rent. Increasingly we are a society where it’s OK to see mature women who lose their jobs and their homes being forced to live rough or live in their cars.

Nothing your government has done yet has even acknowledge this vulnerable group, ScoMo. Drop the moralising “mutual obligation” slogan. These Australians have given their lives to society. They don’t owe you anything. It’s time you gave a little support back. Stop your prosperity gospel and exercise some Christian compassion.

Well overdue that is you drop the fetishising of jobs, ScoMo. Stop the meaningless statistical pressers every month. Start to look for quality of work not number. How good is a job? It depends entirely on where and what that job is. If it’s as CEO of a bank or as a Liberal Party cabinet MP, it can seem absurdly ill-deserved; a cruel reminder of our growing inequality. And of how the many in your Australia must subsidise the few.

If, on the other hand it’s in the 457 Visa jungle or in the increasing majority of dog-eat-dog de-unionised workplaces such as in hospitality or in agriculture, meat processing, retail and accommodation  – or in employ of one of the many wage-slavers running franchises it’s likely to be a wretched, unfair, underpaid, uncertain and dangerous thing.

If you are young and in a regional or rural area, you probably won’t even get the hours you need to get Centrelink off your back, so you can expect to have to report your income and prove that you’re applying for jobs even though everyone knows – from Centrelink to your job provider – your applications are a waste of time.

How good is a job. ScoMo? Under the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Coalition government the experience of work has not been good at all, over all. Degrading, depressing and dehumanising if you must know. Wise up. It’s not the job, it’s the nature of the work that matters. And the workplace. It must, at least be safe, supportive and protect workers’ rights to be respected and valued.

Your IR policies, your vicious war on unions and on workers’ rights to organise; their right to expect a fair wage, fair dealing and safe conditions – has been nothing short of an indictment of your corrupted government and its capture by captains of mining, commerce and banking at the expense of those whom you were elected to represent and protect.  Urgent reform is needed before the decline is irretrievable.