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.

 

 

Morrison government fails major test of good faith.

Ken Wyatt

 

“Art doesn’t imitate life, it imitates bad television”, quips Woody Allen.  ScoMo & Co’s reality TV Prime Ministership show, local franchise of the global schlock-horror melodrama of The House of Trump, sponsored by Multinational Oil Inc, exceeds our worst expectations this week. Our deep misgivings about its good faith are confirmed.

Frydenberg shills Philip Lowe into praising our tanking economy, trashing all vestige of RBA credibility as ScoMo re-runs Monster of the Third Chamber; kills any hope of constitutional recognition or voice to parliament for indigenous Australians – just to appease his right wing.

Daily, our Messiah from the Shire, the man without a plan, appears more a one seat wonder; every bit as impotent, inept and incoherent as either of his two immediate predecessors.  Daily, moreover, he seems to turn to theocracy rather than behave as the democratically elected representative of the people his political role entails.

Topping a top week, “Ecce ScoMo” gets invited to a nosh-up at a White House, once a type of confirmation ceremony, but it’s all going to hell under the current incumbent.

Trump backers attack the press in the Rose Garden, Thursday, an all-in brawl provoked by a reporter with the hide to ask Trump to take questions. Trump stalks off. He’s just ordered government to collect data it already collects, after failing to get a citizenship question on the US Census.  Sean Colarossi writes,

“The executive order meant to paper over his census loss went up in flames almost immediately – another loss for the president and his band of supporters.”

But help is on its way. When ScoMo scoots over to Washington in September, (if Dutton hasn’t toppled him), he’ll be sure to share his own media evasion tips. These include, as Immigration Minister, his infamous on water silences; then his abolishing press conferences altogether. Now it’s sooling the AFP on to nosey journos. At their homes.

The invite? It’s “a rare honour”, crows our ABC – equalled only by grovelling John Howard, Bush’s man of steel, a US lickspittle so keen to join in the killing of innocents; the illegal invasion of Iraq, that he lied, in 2003, to the parliament and people of Australia that he had legal authority. In fact, he had a couple of junior legal officers draw up a very specious case.

Howard still lies. Whistle-blower Andrew Wilkie quit his former job at the Office of National Assessments (ONA) in protest. He notes, “The US did not go to war in Iraq because of WMD and terrorism. Australia went to war in Iraq to support our alliance with the United States.”

Like his predecessor but with super-oleaginous sycophancy, Morrison is reviewing and  rehearsing ways to say “Yes, yes, yes!” to any request to join an illegal attack on Iran, although by September, Trump may have changed his plans several times.

He may have to. Report emerges from Sir Kim Darroch, Sunday, that Trump scrapped the Iran nuclear deal merely to spite Obama, “an act of diplomatic vandalism”  says the former British Ambassador who is promptly attacked by Boris Johnson as Boris performs his own act of subservience to Trump. It won’t silence Darroch.

In a wondrous case of art predicting the future – at least the generic, neoliberal political buffoon, HG Wells has a remarkably prescient image of Boris Johnson in A Dream of Armageddon (1901). Perhaps there’s more than a bit of ScoMo in the vision as well.

“He was one of those incredibly stupid energetic people who seem sent by Heaven to create disasters. His energy to the first glance seemed so wonderfully like capacity! But he had no imagination, no invention, only a stupid, vast, driving force of will, and a mad faith in his stupid idiot ‘luck’ to pull him through.” Wells would be happy substituting “Pentecostal faith” for luck.

Darroch highlights division among Trump’s advisors. And indecision. The White House lacks any ‘day-to-day’ strategy of what to do following withdrawal from the Iran deal. In other respects also, it lurches from chaos to catastrophe just as successfully as our own government.

But now, Trump’s past with registered sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein, raises its ugly head.

Trump hosted Epstein as a guest at Mar-a-Lago, where he appears in photos in 1997 and 2000. Epstein’s little black book, leaked by an employee in 2009, contains 14 phone numbers for Trump, his wife, Melania, and several of his employees, reports Vanity Fair’s Eric Lutz.

Bill Clinton, a former frequent flyer with convicted paedophile, multi-millionaire money manager and sex-trafficker, Epstein aboard Jeff’s private 727 jet, nick-named the Lolita Express, an airborne bordello, is under the pump now that his friend, gigolo Jeffrey is indicted for sex trafficking minors, working-class girls to prostitute to the filthy-rich and perverted.

Trump is clearly worried that, he, too, needs to cover his tracks and they are extensive.

Trump once praised Epstein as, “a terrific guy .. who is a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.

Now, the US President is forced to say that he’s “not a fan”. The two had a falling out fifteen years ago. Times reporters assume this to be a sour business deal.

Epstein ran a shuttle service between Miami and New York. Trump is unlikely to have been a client. Yet the two were closer than The Donald admits, reports The New York Times on Tuesday. Trump’s association with Epstein, who was convicted in 2008 for soliciting underage girls for prostitution, includes the two co-hosting at Mar-a-Largo, a “calendar girl” competition in 1992, attended by twenty-eight girls and only two adults; organiser Trump and Epstein. The hopeful calendar girls were led to believe the contest would include many VIPs.

Trump fires his Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, former US Attorney in Miami, who negotiated a super-lenient, secret, “non-prosecution agreement” granting Epstein and his associates immunity from federal prosecution and a sentence of thirteen months in gaol for Epstein in 2008. The leniency included allowing the tycoon to leave prison to go to work each day and to hire his own private guards.

Epstein’s case makes our own corporate criminal, and thrice jailed national hero, Alan Bond’s final minimum security stretch in prison seem harsh. In 1997, Bond spent time in maximum-security Casuarina prison before transfer to minimum security Karnet Prison Farm – where he had his own art studio; four years for the biggest fraud in Australian corporate history – stripping over a billion dollars from Bell Resources shareholders.

Acosta’s dilemma is not without irony. A US Labor Secretary’s role is to protect workers and children from exploitation; enforcing laws on child labour and human trafficking. That’s the theory. In practice, Acosta may have acted to protect a sexual predator. Miami Herald investigative reporter, Julie K. Brown, estimates that in 2008, Epstein received “one of the most lenient sentences for a serial sex offender in U.S. history.”  

It is government by kakistocracy, the kleptocratic tyrants of a very bad soap opera.

Epstein’s Bust is also an event that rocks our own ruling class to its core; our age of obscene inequality, wage slavery, wage-theft and sexploitation, a melodrama in which the thrifty rich trumpet their virtuous ascendancy over the slothful working-poor, on whom our taxes are frittered to cover the prohibitive costs of a welfare safety net – plus tax cuts for the rich.

Unlike the prudent self-denying plutocrats, lower classes are addicts to instant gratification. As ScoMo implies, they are unworthy because we give a go (only) to those who have a go.

“The Epstein scandal blows holes through the foundational myths of our time, revealing them for the empty and sickening bromides used to justify obscene wealth and power and privilege that they really are,” observes The Washington Post’s Helaine Olen.

Barely days after sending him on a fool’s errand, to get consensus from the Liberal Party and its National Party abusive partners, in Beyond Our Ken, ScoMo pulls the rug from under Ken Wyatt and any justice or voice for Indigenous peoples. The right to be and to be heard. It is despicable betrayal of trust and Prime Ministerial responsibility.

In a parallel sub-plot entitled Labours of Hercules, bigot-whisperer, Christian Porter, a Jedi, meanwhile, gets a year to “workshop” Coalition colleagues into embracing Ruddock’s religious freedoms, a rear-guard ambush of marriage equality. At the same time, Israel Folau takes his homophobia to the Fair Work Commission in a cameo appearance in With God on My Side.

The preposterous notion that first peoples be heard by our law-makers; have a voice to parliament or any right to constitutional recognition is quickly denied by ScoMo as climate clown Craig Kelly makes a fool of him. Aboriginal people should just be Australian he says. The mineral lobby sponsored IPA calls The Voice racist.

Wilfully misrepresented, thank you Mal, as an impossible demand for a third chamber in parliament, right wing critics see The Voice as nothing less than an assault on our parliamentary democracy itself – which any fool can see is a sacred institution working flawlessly to serve the ruling elite, and as fairly run as the Uluru Camel Cup.

Or as fairly run as the Fair Work Commission (FWC), a Rudd legacy, which has been carefully stacked by the Coalition. Last December, Bill Shorten pointed out that the government had appointed twenty employer appointments in a row.

Israel Folau’s case to the Commission against his employer, Rugby Australia, is that he was punished for his religious beliefs when his contract was ended after his Instagram post that homosexuals were going to hell. Whilst Folau’s homophobic comments are mistaken by some for his religious freedom, the case will also expose the FWC.

And it may also embarrass Scott Morrison and our Social Service Minister Stuart Robert, currently in the gun with pensioners for his niggardly adjustment to pensioners’ deeming rates. Both have close ties with the homophobic Hillsong Church.

Righteousness exalts our nation as Stuart Robert escorts fellow evangelical ScoMo to the annual Hillsong cult conference show where Morrison leads 20,000-odd in prayer. ScoMo attends Horizon, a Hillsong affiliate.

Hillsong prospers from its 34,000 local congregation’s tithes and offerings to the tune of one hundred million dollars a year. Blessed are the poor in spirit.

The congregation gives Morrison a standing ovation. ScoMo then faffs around in dialogue with himself and the church and the nation claiming publicly that religious freedom is about “culture” not about the law when clearly it’s about both. ScoMo’s increasing reliance on his belief system to supplant his political role is a concern.

Most voters would rather see a government act on the science of climate change and measures to abate carbon emissions rather than see the PM pray for rain.

“Our nation needs more prayer, more worship. That’s how things are overcome.” In a min-sermon, the first Pentecostal PM in the English-speaking world calls for “an avalanche of love”.

More love? It’s up to Peter Dutton to continue the Coalition’s war on Shorten on Nine’s Today Show Friday, by telling Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, that his failure to expel CFMMEU Secretary John Setka from the Labor Party makes Bill Shorten look good.

“This country needs more love and less judgement.”  Dutto would do well to heed ScoMo who eerily echoes Hillsong’s Global Senior Pastor, Brian Houston’s, Message to Folau, April opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Less judgement? Brian was quick to judge his own father, Frank, sacking him from his role as pastor and head of Assemblies of God in 1999, when he was accused of the sexual abuse of nine boys – yet did not report the abuse to the police – records The Royal Commission in 2015.

Whilst he acknowledges that he understood his father’s acts to be criminal, Brian Houston made the judgement that he would conceal what he knew from the authorities. His grounds?

“Rightly or wrongly, I genuinely believed that I would be pre-empting the victim if I were to just call the police at that point.” “Genuine belief” trumps moral or legal responsibility?

And what precisely does he mean by pre-empting the victim? He’s pre-empting justice.

One of Frank’s victims, Brett Sengstock, routinely abused between the ages of seven and twelve, has publicly called upon Houston to explain why he did not report his father.

Instead, Frank was allowed to resign with a retirement package. Sengstock, who has terminal cancer, unsuccessfully sought compensation when it could not be proved Assemblies of God was responsible for the abuse he suffered.

Church service over, ScoMo can relax. Our nation is in good hands Gorgeous Gus Taylor, spivvy star of Watergate and fossil-fuel poster boy Energy Minister, continues his dazzling run by jacking up both electricity prices and carbon emissions. Power bills are up on average fourteen per cent last quarter. Carbon, energy and sustainability experts, Ndevr Environmental report that our direct emissions are at their highest since 2002.

For the 2017 financial year, our total emissions were 9.1 MtCO2-e more than the previous financial year and equivalent to an additional 3.37 million car exhausts over the same time.

At Taylor’s rates we won’t meet or beat our Paris emissions reduction targets. Or anything. But at least ScoMo’s rudderless, agenda-free yet bitterly divided government rivals Abbott’s in breaking election promises, as well as in austerity budgeting, although details of spending cuts, which will amount to forty billion a year by 2030, are still well-concealed from punters.

At the same time, money for “soil magic” (as Lenore Taylor calls carbon sequestration) is drying up as the government’s Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) runs out of funds and projects. The ERF was climate denialist Abbott’s fabulous scam to fork more pork to Coalition sponsors. Now he is out of pork, while pesky emissions rocket ever upward, plucky Gus is over a barrel. And soon he’ll have to face a senate committee.

To be fair, Taylor is flat out hosing down claims he breached ministerial guidelines in March 2017 when he asked, then Environment minister, Josh Frydenberg to water down law to let him poison critically endangered grasses on 30 hectares of family property at Monaro, NSW.

But Taylor’s only an Energy Minister with no policy. His frantic efforts are dwarfed by a Morrison government which has set no course beyond tax cuts, which is already at the mercy of its reactionary rump and which seems content to muddle through on a wing and prayer.

That it took but four days for the Prime Minister to abort Ken Wyatt’s mission and to dismiss a quest for recognition and a voice to parliament made through extensive community consultation and in good faith is bad enough – but to do so by reviving the lie that a voice for indigenous peoples is a demand for a third chamber is to dismiss an act of good faith with an act of bad faith, a monstrous abrogation of democratic process, social contract and human rights.

Forget its surplus fetish and its neoliberal idiocy with regard to flattening our progressive tax system and its war on the poor, especially those who have endured a Newstart that hasn’t changed in twenty-five years, the Morrison government has failed a far more serious test, a test of its capacity to govern in good faith and to govern for all Australians. It will find it impossible to recover.

 

Plots and Prayers but no policy agenda bode ill for Coalition.

 

Dutton to a hostile ScoMo

What a week! Australia’s newly sworn in ScoMo-government wastes no time in destroying our progressive taxation system, one of the last vestiges of Aussie egalitarianism which the neoliberal toxin has virtually annihilated.

ScoMo & Co’s dodgy promises dupe Jacqui Lambie and crypto-Liberal duo Griff ‘n Rex from the Adelaide Hills into voting to kill the quaint old notion that each Australian should taxed according to his or her means. Benito Dutton’s Home Affairs Despotism admits to already using new laws to steal press freedom from under our noses and spy on the ABC.

But Mum’s the word – unless you want an AFP or ASIO operative ransacking your bedroom drawers or forcing QANTAS to tell where you’ve been travelling and what your stated travel purpose is, especially if you visit Afghanistan and you work for the ABC.     

Economic Management has never been better thanks to ten years’ Liberal DNA at work, but Philip Lowe, Governor of our Reserve Bank, warns government that monetary policy can go only do so much. He almost begs the Coalition to forget its surplus fetish; even borrow to start investing in infrastructure building – instead of endlessly talking about it. Or we are staring down an economic recession, which is what we’ve been suffering for years if you look at per capita recession.

Lowe also warns how wage stagnation threatens social cohesion but ScoMo & Co just point to Trump’s US miracle. The myth that Trump’s tax cuts have promoted trickle-down prosperity is repeated ad nauseam in our mainstream media.

The 2017 Tax and Jobs Act – the Trump administration’s one hit wonder in terms of enacted legislation – constitutes the biggest corporate tax cut in US history, but in the end, workers enjoy almost no benefit. But no-one can tell ScoMo.

He should read the report of the six-month investigation,by Peter Cary and Allan Holmes, from the Center for Public Integrity, a not-for-profit news agency based in Washington DC. But Morrison is a faith-based politician. He believes in the Laffer Curve and the magic of trickle-down.

At trickle-down HQ, it rains on Trump’s parade. Exposes his bald spot. His half-arsed military jamboree or A Salute to America, features ancient Abrams tanks, retired in 1957, replete with peeling paint as they rust atop their Heavy Equipment  transporters. Russian commentators piss themselves laughing at “Putin’s America” while Trump boasts “we took over airports in 1788”, a howler, the Covfefe-in-Chief blames on the rain, and a defective Teleprompter. It will all be the fake media’s fault.

Many Americans are unhappy as Kleptocrat-in-Chief Trump pilfers $2.5m from a cash-strapped National Parks to help pay for his folly. But it’s just petty cash; Trump’s oxymoron (his administration) is cutting Parks’ budget half a billion dollars in 2019 – and again in 2020. His brazen conversion of a national holiday into yet another episode of the Donald Trump Show, a reality TV presidency, sponsored by the US taxpayer, also produces howls of righteous outrage.

“Trump is creating a spectacle of tanks & missiles on the National Mall where the great protests for civil & human rights have been held at a time when 140 million Americans are poor & low income. He thinks this is the sign of strength, but it’s a damn narcissistic travesty,” tweets The Rev William Barber, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.  If only folks could kick back and relax; get with the vibe of the show. It’s unpatriotic to be so critical.

While no-one is prepared to allow 60 tonne tanks to trash the asphalt as they did in George H. W. Bush’s 1991 National Victory Celebration, F-22 Raptors and a B-2 stealth bomber roar over the Washington monument, the reflecting pool and the Lincoln memorial. “Great country” Trump says. “For Americans nothing is impossible.” An honest president, perhaps?

Tanks but no tanks? Later in his 47 minute harangue, Trump, a five times draft dodger whose bone spur excuse has long been exposed, is heard exhorting young Americans to join the military. At a starting salary of $20,000, you’d have to be in it for the safe working conditions, the healthy outdoor lifestyle, not to mention the travel and career opportunities.

Ronald Reagan airport is forced to close for two hours just to satisfy Trump’s ego. It’s poetic justice. Named after the only former president to rival Trump in fiscal incompetence, Reagan cut taxes for the ultra rich, while – like Morrison and Trump – he repeated the mantra that such contractionary measures would miraculously “grow the economy”.

In one term in office, Reagan took the US from being the world’s largest net creditor of $140.9bn to owing $532.5bn –  the world’s largest debtor nation, a place it has kept ever since. In eight years, inequality took off while, as in Australia, average incomes stagnated, although the top one per cent saw their incomes rise ten-fold, compared to everyone else.

A millionaire paying $700,000 in tax in the seventies would pay $350,000 in the eighties. The economy withered. With their extra income, the rich funded think tanks, hired economists and lobbied politicians to change laws.

In 1960, business supplied 24 percent of federal revenues. By 1980, the figure had fallen to 12 percent. A vicious cycle flourished where wealth begat more wealth and more power; a cycle which ScoMo’s tax cuts will reproduce here.

What could be a more fitting emblem for the nation, its 45th president and tribute to moribund Neoliberalism than the damp squibs and obsolete tanks on trailers of Trump’s Independence Day Parade, a moth-eaten, flea-circus?

“Ya radge orange barmpot” (lustful or mad orange idiot), as Trump is called in Turnberry, another of his financially troubled international golf-courses, by hospitable yet canny local Scots, is spared further derision from Russia, Iran, North Korea and others when explosive memos from Sir Kim Darrouch, British Ambassador to Washington, are leaked. Kim warns London that an “inept and uniquely dysfunctional” Trump regime means “real risks are on the horizon”.

Risk of war with Iran is confirmed when news emerges of the truth behind Trump’s recent piking on his missile strike. Tehran is laughing at his backdown. “Iran was ready to retaliate on an unbelievable scale,” an Iranian journalist tells investigative journalist Reese Erlich in a phone interview. “After the first U.S. missile launch, Trump wouldn’t be able to control the consequences, not only in the Persian Gulf but from Saudi Arabia to Israel.”

A risk on the home horizon for Trumpista Morrison is Plots and Prayers, Niki Savva’s book-length gossip and hearsay column with some direct testimony on Turnbull’s coup. ScoMo’s reputation for deceit and disloyalty is revived while Labor waves the “absolute arsehole’s” taxation bill through even though it spells the end of Australia as we know it.

“We prayed that righteousness would exalt the nation … righteousness would mean the right person had won” Stuart Robert, fellow evangelical, god-botherer tells Niki Savva of a brief moment of quiet piety in Plots and Prayers, a methodical, detailed demolition of whatever may remain of ScoMo’s pretensions to honesty, integrity and decency.

Or popularity. “Morrison’s an absolute arsehole” shrieks Michael Keenan, gazumping talk of Weirdo-ScoMo’s flaws by a dozen senior Liberal MPs trashing party show ponies, tipping stayers and picking winners, as they lunch long at Guy Rossi’s top-noshery Garum in WA’s Westin Hotel in April 2018. Say what you really think, Mickey. Don’t hold back.

Keenan set the gold standard for arseholes as the Human Services Minister, who reminded the ABC that the automatic debt notice process is “reasonable, lawful and fair”. The department sent more than 900,000 debt letters to individuals during the period 1 July 2016 to 31 October 2018. Over 2000 people died after receiving Centrelink robo-debt notices.

Slurs flow as freely as the vino as our MPs repair to the Westin’s well-stocked cellar. Niki Savva knows how to set a scene. A dozen MPs on the turps can be jolly unkind. “Arsehole” almost becomes a term of endearment. Yet, oddly, Niki omits all mention of Keenan’s controversial 2015 gun-lobby meeting from which gun-control advocates were excluded, an act of bastardry any arsehole would be proud of – if not quite up to the master Morrison’s gold standard.

Red tape must be cut from gun regulation. It’s far too hard for an arsehole to acquire an arsenal. True, sporting shooters do tend to lose a lot of guns. The Sporting Shooters Association of Australia (SSAA) admits its members are targeted by organised criminals.  But that’s all about awareness; education. In over 12 years shooters “hadn’t learned properly” about appropriate firearm handling, use and storage.  But Keenan was keen on winding back gun control.

Expect to hear more “in this space” from our congestion-busting, red-tape cutting, freedom-loving Prime Minister.

Our gun lobbyists are big political givers so there’s nothing odd about a Justice Minister excluding unions, public health groups, domestic violence advocates, politicians and other spoilsports who support gun control in Australia. Since 2011, gun lobbyists have donated $1.7 million towards the best independent, democratic and objective decision-making money can buy.  Mad Bob Katter’s party has done the best; netting a cool $808,000 but, then, Bob does have Robert Nioa as son-in-law.

In 2017, Robert Nioa, CEO of NIOA won a contract to supply over thirty different munitions to Australia’s military. The contract is valued at $95 million and has an option to extend it to 15 years. Katter’s donations come mainly from  Nioa and The Shooting Industry Foundation of Australia (SIFA) dedicated to unwinding our gun laws. Nioa is a SIFA Director. But the group of MPs at Garum have other MPs – not our local NRA, the over-powerful gun lobby in their sights.

The Liberals indulge in the time-honoured bonding ritual of back-stabbing absent fellow MPs for having leaders’ batons in their knapsacks. A cleansing Margaret River Cloudburst Chardonnay or a big red Vanya Cabernet Sauvignon helps.

As always, talk turns to who would lead if then-leader, malfunction Mal, fell under a bus or into the gap between the platform and the track of his beloved public railway train? Keenan, who has held Justice, Human Services and Digital Transformation among other portfolios says his former Immigration Minister boss, Morrison treats him like a school boy. If the cap fits? Fellow sandgroper Christian Porter’s thought of the day is that Orifice Morrison is “not a team player”.

Hold that thought, Mr Porter. Cormann has seen Dutton up close now, he says – a disturbing image – and “Dutton’s better”. No-one’s touching that. Everyone in the parliamentary party knows that the pair are soul-mates. Cormann doesn’t tell, but Savva knows ScoMo shouted at him. Didn’t try it twice, brags Mathias full of testosteronic machismo. Quickly sketched is a portrait of a Liberal Party bullying culture which reaches all the way to the top.

Garum takes its name from the salty, sauce originally made from fermented fish guts. Much favoured in ancient Greek, Roman, Carthaginian and Byzantine cooking, it’s the perfect condiment for contemporary politics. The arsehole anecdote is later faithfully relayed to Niki Savva whose husband, Vincent Woolcock, is a veteran Liberal adviser of forty years’ service. Naturally, it is not implied that the pair ever share salacious political gossip, titbits or juicy morsels.

Savva clarified her independence as she launched Road to Ruin, her account of Abbott’s brief but disastrous term as PM.

“I never tell Vincent what I’m writing, she says. He didn’t see a single word of my manuscript.”  Vincent is acquitted. But Plots and Prayers’ insights, like those of Road to Ruin, are a tribute to Savva’s access to pliant Liberal Party sources.

Savva quickly establishes Morrison’s low peer approval, high distrust and his spectacular dishonesty. A News Corp Liberal, her richly alliterative Plots and Prayers is a type of swingeing director’s cut of ScoMo & Co’s coup of August 2017.   So far, Morrison’s only response is that it’s ancient history. No-one’s interested in that. Even if it does show who he really is – a ruthlessly ambitious, double-crossing liar who will say anything to anyone to get what he wants.

How good is News Corp? Rudd reckons it’s a political party and a cancer on our democracy. QED. If not exalting the messiah from the shire, or killing Bill or Albo via Setka, Savva’s News Corp certainly boosts ScoMo’s political fortunes.

Re-iterating the trickle-down fantasy, a myth which helps Liberals make a virtue out of selfish greed, is News Corp. The trickle-down dream helps divert attention from the flow of wealth from labour to capital, as increasingly underemployed and underpaid workers find their wages buy less as the cost of living rises in an increasingly divided society. News Corp leads Australia’s mainstream media chorus this week in crowing about ScoMo’s “stimulus” victory.

Stimulus? Propagandists to Morrison’s inept, agenda-less, policy-free regime, Murdoch’s media help perpetuate the lie that tax cuts and the virtuous pursuit of a budget surplus, (both contractionary measures) will not shrink the economy at all but, instead, by the miracle of the trickle-down tooth-fairy will somehow stimulate our tanking economy. So what if nowhere in the world, least of all in the US, is there proof that tax cuts stimulate wage growth or productivity?

Catastrophe of the week is ScoMo’s Unfair Go, the Coalition’s pyrrhic victory over reason, common sense and social contract; its subsidy of the rich, ironically entitled Treasury Laws Amendment (Tax Relief So Working Australians Keep More Of Their Money) Bill 2019. Yet you’d have little clue of the real nature of the bill from its coverage in the press.

As Crikey’s Bernard Keane calculates, 227 print and online media sources tackle the most profound change to our tax system in decades, but only 25 provide any analysis of the fiscal and equity impacts of the package – and six of these are rubbish; specious arguments that would kid us middle – not high-income earners are the major beneficiaries.

Our MSM simplify and select. Coverage is confined, says Keane “to a race call” of who voted for what – along with details of how much you can expect to get. It’s the broader, simpler, picture that suits our new streamlined media where veteran journalists with fine-honed analytical skills and independent insights are an endangered species. Instead, tabloid infotainment masquerades as news, especially on ABC 24, as newsrooms compete to keep it cheap, light and fluffy.

No-one really challenges ScoMo’s incredible farrago of lies about his role in deposing Turnbull. Savva’s book will help expose the truth. Yet Morrison’s myth of his immaculate conception as leader – like his tax cut recovery are all part of his fabulist-politics. Keep the story simple. And the myths large. Perceptions not facts that matter most in politics.

Morrison’s politics most closely parallel those of his mentor Donald Trump but it remains to be seen whether the imported model will enjoy quite the same degree of success. Savva’s book is evidence of the PM’s low status and limited authority over his parliamentary party.

But unlike Trump, Morrison must deal with the Dutton, his nemesis, who daily exercises his excessive powers – a monster created by Turnbull against the best advice, solely to appease a right wing which under ScoMo will still call the shots.

The excitement of a $1080 tax rebate will quickly subside even for the minority of Australian workers who receive it. The Morrison government now faces the challenge of no agenda, no real policy and the prospect of an imminent internal battle over religious freedom. ScoMo cannot sit on Ruddock’s report forever. Whatever bill is produced, it can be guaranteed, it won’t placate the right who seek laws to discriminate or those others who seek freedom from discrimination.

Conservatives are also urging IR reform, code for even lower wages and worse conditions, at a time when the economy, if not the dictates of humanity, demand a decent living wage and a fairer system. Then there’s a slew of problems and challenges shelved, a voice to parliament, the NDIS, the NBN lemon and the vacuum in energy and environment.

And it is environment, in the form of the Murray Darling Basin rorts and a nine billion dollar scandal at least, which is fast shaping to drown all other problems faced by a recycled proven failure, an inept government in bed with Big Cotton, Big Banks and all the other business barons from the top end of town who need only frown or pout and it goes to water .

 

Trump’s love for Kim almost upstages G20 farce.

trump-and-kim

“I never expected to meet you at this place” Kim can’t believe his luck. “He wrote me beautiful letters and we fell in love, Trump tells a Patrick Morrissey rally in West Virginia last September. Love must be in the air, Sunday, as The Donald waddles slowly toward an approaching Kim Jong-un.  Trump extends one small, fleshy hand in greeting.

The filming of the men’s cautious approach evokes a western duel. Is it High Noon or just high farce? The romance of a lover’s tryst is subverted for an eternity, it seems, by Trump’s ample rump filling the lens of a hapless cameraman tagging along too close behind. So much historic action to capture. So little time. So many fearful Koreans.

The leaders meet. Shake. It’s a fine bromance, even if Trump had to beg just to get a handshake. Even if the best outcome he’s ever going to get is an agreement from Kim to start talking. Nuclear. Not politics. Love is blind to concentration camps. So Kim has people killed for speaking their minds? Trump argues that the US has people killed too.

Kim’s regime has one of the worst human rights records in the world. Crimes “entail extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation,” concludes a 2014 United Nations report that examined North Korea.

Retired judge, jurist and academic, Australia’s Michael Kirby is one of the report’s three commissioners.

Trump squeezes Kim’s arm through Kim’s pin-striped Mao suit. Spins Kim around; frog marches him over the 38th parallel, (an ad hoc split of Korea’s 1500 years’ unity, by US decree in 1945). Now he turns, profile to camera, to pump Kim’s mitt. It’s a dangerous liaison – orchestrated -Trump would have us believe, by a single, humble, self-effacing tweet.

“After some very important meetings, including my meeting with President Xi of China, I will be leaving Japan for South Korea (with President Moon). While there, if Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!” Clearly, Kim finds “His Very Importance” Donald Trump’s humility irresistible.

Epic bromance or bravura braggadocio?. Trump’s stunts exceed peak attention-seeking, whatever you may think of the “mentally deranged US dotard”, as Kim once bagged The Donald. His G20 pickings may be slim, but, hey, look over here!

Of course from Kim’s point of view, US recognition is everything. The nuclear weapons threat is working a treat. And the mutual back-patting helps Trump with his myth that he has heroically tamed North Korea’s pocket rocket-monster.

If only Arab and Israeli leaders could apply the same hands-on, speed-date approach to diplomacy. Mid-East peace in our time, a show that even wunderkind Kushner is having trouble with, could all be fixed with a man to man handshake.

“Big Moment. Big Moment”, this week’s episode of the pussy-grabber-in-Chief’s reality TV presidency show, rates its Texan cotton socks off. And Trump’s G20 shtick almost upstages Mohammad bin Salman or MBS who stands smack dab in the middle of the G20 selfie in Saudi Arabia’s G20 photo-op coup, a credit to his product placement smarts.

MBS is a really great guy, great, says Trump . “It’s an honour to be with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, a friend of mine, a man who has really done things in the last five years in terms of opening up Saudi Arabia,” Trump sucks up publicly to MBS . “And I think especially what you’ve done for women. I’m seeing what’s happening; it’s like a revolution in a very positive way.”

Just when a little Saudi sword-jiggle dance appears to be on the cards, Trump is overcome by gratitude, “I want to just thank you on behalf of a lot of people, and I want to congratulate you. You’ve done, really, a spectacular job.”

Spectacular human rights abuse, perhaps? Human Rights Watch’s Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson, has some sobering, contradictory testimony. “Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ‘reform campaign’ has been a frenzy of fear for genuine Saudi reformers who dare to advocate publicly for human rights or women’s empowerment. The message is clear that anyone expressing scepticism about the crown prince’s rights agenda faces time in jail.”

By an incredible stroke of luck, Saudi Arabia will host next year’s G20 summit, which gives Prince Mohammed a prominent place for his brand at the front and centre of this year’s dysfunctional “family photo” of leaders Thursday.

A UN Report published last week finds “credible evidence” to warrant further investigation into allegations the crown prince masterminded the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi whose body was dismembered with a bone saw in a planned assassination. “No conclusion is made as to guilt,” the report states, but: “Evidence points to the 15-person mission to execute Mr. Khashoggi requiring significant government coordination, resources and finances.”

Trump’s historic mission for world headlines goes beyond his reverence for dictators who dismember press critics with bone-cutters to a handshake in the DMZ with Kim. It’s huge even in an age of hyper-spin and hucksters’ hornswoggle.

Yet a shadow must fall. Shit happens, as Tony Abbott will tell you -even to a military man like Donald, a bone-spur draft exemption veteran, the man who put the offence in charm offensive, a roué who tells Howard Stern on CNN in 1998, repeatedly, that avoiding STDs was “my Viet Nam”. Trump jests he should get the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Trump is about to jet off to top this year’s G20 Circus, which is all about himself and his diplomatic, deal-making genius, when he is savaged by writer and journalist E Jean Carroll who alleges that he raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman store dressing room in Manhattan in the 1990s. Trump airily brushes aside his twenty-first accusation of sexual misconduct.

“He opens the overcoat, unzips his pants, and, forcing his fingers around my private area, thrusts his penis halfway – or completely, I’m not certain – inside me,” Carroll details how Trump raped her in a department store change room.

It’s just another bum rap, claims The Donald. Besides, she’s “not his type”. “It never happened. He denies he’s ever met Carroll- despite photographs and testimony of two other women, Carol Martin and Lisa Birnbach. He issues a written disclaimer.

Undeterred, the President sets a personal best in offence by publicly insulting Japan, India and Germany within hours of touching down in Osaka for G20, 2019. It’s the annual Neoliberal gab-fest and photo-opportunity in vacuous fatuity which originated in a real need for nations to cooperate to survive the GFC but which is now well past its use by date.

Co-operating to survive is heresy in a White House where a rules-based world order is less popular than nuking Tehran. There’s no risk of any change to “Bush-era war hawk,” John Bolton and “cheerleader of hatred”, Mike Pompeo’s mad plan to attack Iran. Nor will Trump budge in his equally disastrous trade war with China, for all his bluster about “continuing talks”.

But now he’s talked up a tariff war with America’s largest trading partner outside the EC, he can talk it down. It’s one of Trump’s typical approaches to negotiation. Bully-boy tactics are followed by some degree of appeasement. In this case his next wave of tariffs will be postponed. Huawei may be able to import US materials but who knows? Trump has made no specific commitments, Reuters reports.

The world’s two largest economies remain locked in the midst of a bitter and mutually disastrous trade war despite Trump’s sanguine mood.

It’s déjà vu all over again to Phil Coorey, guru of The Australian Financial Review, an arm of Nine Entertainment,

“So here we are again, new city, same situation. The WTO still hasn’t been reformed, the trade war is worsening and the world awaits another meeting between Trump and Xi.”

Luckily, Trump fanboy, little Aussie groveler, Scottie Morrison, is just busting to schmooze The Godfather of the free world.  Hard-working Australians thrill to see our taxes hard at work flying ScoMo’s crack trade squad business class to Japan just for “a working dinner” with The Donald, his family and a few toadies on staff he hasn’t had time to sack yet.

As bad luck would have it, some of ScoMo’s lies are catching up with him now that Liberal hack Niki Savva’s book is out and extracts from others including Turnbull himself and his fan, David Crowe, are appearing in The Australian. The transparent lie that Morrison did not plot to remove Turnbull is surely untenable in the face of an expanding body of opposing evidence.

Yet ScoMo dismisses his past behaviour. Being a disloyal liar last August is no clue to his present character. He says he knows we aren’t interested in ancient history. We’ve got exciting new unaffordable tax cuts to look forward to. A progressive tax system to flatten to accelerate our rapidly accelerating social and economic inequality. In the meantime, another foreign invasion would help restore some of ScoMo & Co’s waning credibility at home.

ScoMo & Co are so eager to help put pressure on Iran that no-one even bothers to ask what that means. Nor does the PM raise tricky stuff like bothering The Donald to ask Kim if he knows the whereabouts of 29 year-old Perth student, Alek Sigley who disappeared in North Korea a week ago. Trump’s got enough on his plate without finding lost Aussies.

Besides direct questions are dangerous. Morrison suggests we must temper our compassion with indirection – or something. His response is typically oblique, indirect, inadequate and offers little hope to Sigley’s wife and family.

“I will just be measured in what I say because that is all about using the best opportunities we have right now to, to inform ourselves about where Alek is and what his safety is and where he is being held, in what conditions,” cop-out Morrison tells reporters on Saturday evening. Our tough on borders door bitch is too afraid to tackle Kim.

President Pinocchio tells everyone he predicted Scott’s victory all along. How good are Trump’s lies? He makes a cryptic witticism in the midst of his self congratulation. It baffles everyone. Is it a droll non-sequitur or just a bloke’s joke?

“They called it an upset, but I don’t call it an upset. You probably didn’t. Your wife didn’t call it an upset,” gags the subtle funster as he takes a rise out of a fawning ScoMo & Co at the Thursday dinner. Cue over-hearty, sycophantic guffaws. Is that a rocket in Hockey’s pocket, or is he just happy to play golf with a lying, narcissistic psychopath who cheats? Or is he just turned on by wealth?

Along with normalising Trump with his mindless sycophancy, ScoMo has his own stunt to get a bit of international attention. Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, Snapchat and other social media delinquents need to stop hosting terrorist stuff, he says. Terrorism is bad. Other leaders are overjoyed there’s at least a chance to be part of something join in,

“The internet must not be a safe haven for terrorists to recruit, incite or prepare terrorist acts,” leaders agree solemnly in the mother of all motherhood statements. Yet it’s the laughably earnest, toothless, injunction that follows that exposes the G20’s impotence. It’s not so much a toothless tiger as a pussy-cat in high dudgeon.

“We urge online platforms to meet our citizens’ expectations that they must not allow use of their platforms to facilitate terrorism and VECT. Platforms have an important responsibility to protect their users.”

The statement is a Morrisonian masterpiece of sonorous but evasive vacuity, an apparent tough stand which is in fact a retreat from real commitment. It’s symbolic and voluntary and compels tech companies to do nothing; nor the nations to pass the sort of beaut new surveillance and security laws which since 2011, we have eagerly invented to turn ourselves into a police state. But we’ve jumped the shark. Australia has already legislated in this area,

As Josh Taylor reminds us we passed “world first” laws in April creating new offences for service providers that fail to remove videos depicting “abhorrent violent conduct” including terrorist acts, murders, torture, rape or kidnapping. But isn’t the state guilty of abhorrent violent conduct itself constraining refugees indefinitely on Manus and Nauru?

Service providers won’t be able to host evidence of the Coalition government’s own brutality and inhumanity. Australia’s report, released to coincide with the gabfest, in fact may do more than the whole G20 in terms of putting pressure on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and other social media. Yet, as another means to censorship and government secrecy, it may have unintended consequences.

The torture of refugees by indefinite detention in Australia’s offshore prisons does not rate a mention from ScoMo’s audience. State terror? No way. Trump is upbeat about our sadistic cruelty to those innocents whose only fault is to be wretchedly dispossessed and alienated; forced to throw themselves on our mercy. Deny them medical treatment. It helps deter others. There is general approbation of the nonsense of strong borders. Yet our vast borders have never been so porous.

Asylum-seeker arrivals by plane are at an all time high, according to Home Affairs, which processed 27,931 protection visa applications last financial year. The men, women and children who fly here are less likely to be “genuine refugees”

Despite its claim of stopping the boats, the Coalition’s own data shows it’s soft on borders. In four years, 64,362 protection visa applications have been made by un-vetted individuals who have arrived by plane writes Michael Pascoe, clear evidence that Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton have been ineffectual immigration or border enforcing ministers. And liars.

Other leaders make sympathetic noises. How good is ScoMo’s idea that we police social media? Ban it perhaps? How can (US) Citizen Murdoch stay in power with social media correcting his falsehoods; presenting accurate information?

Tuesday, Trump posts a series of our anti-asylum posters which say:  “If you come here by boat without a visa you won’t be settled in Australia” and “Australia’s borders are closed to illegal migration”.  “Much can be learned!” he tweets. Learned? The Coalition’s ongoing inhumanity and breach of international refugee convention is now a toxic contagion?

Tragically, some of ScoMo&Co’s limelight is stolen by Christopher Pyne’s brilliant new career. The Fixer’s been snapped up by EY, (formerly Ernest and Young) which breaks all ministerial guidelines for his expertise which includes the hunt the Slipper diary farce and his bastardry as Leader of The House, a role invented by IPA stooge, Bob Menzies in 1951.

One in four ministers go on to become lobbyists, reports The Grattan Institute. A Guardian investigation last year found over half of all registered lobbyists previously worked in some government role or for major political parties.

Expect the first question time of the new parliament to be taken up with at least a few Labor questions about Fixer Pyne being able to fix himself up so soon and in defence, such a bottomless pit of funds to shovel out. But without a code of conduct with real sanctions, there is no way to shut the revolving door. Or safeguard our democracy from being further corrupted by vested interests.

Despite his best efforts and a slew of expert has-beens, including occasional Trump golf partner and professional leaner, Joe Hockey but, oddly, not Marise Payne, our stay-at-home Foreign Minister, ScoMo can only insult Australians with his sickening sycophancy; grovelling to the monster-baby whose trade war with China and baiting of Iran could unfix us all.

Trump’s Osakan hosts are beguiled as the American President says the U.S.-Japanese defence alliance is unfair. Happily, funster Trump adds a commercial promo to his gaffe, joking that if the almighty United States were attacked, Tokyo could leave Washington in the lurch and instead “watch it on a Sony television.” Allies love to feel needed. Laughed at.

Japanese PM Shinzo Abe, whose stagey and supremely ill at ease act as Super Mario, an Italian plumber climbing out of a pipe, at the closing of the Rio Olympics, upstages anything his policies or charisma-bypass personality could ever achieve, is somehow this year’s perfect host. Abe is to the G20’s success as Tom Gleeson’s Gold Logie is to The sacred Logies but host aside, – and who can forget Tony Abbott quizzing G20 leaders about how to solve his brilliant doctor’s co-payment ideas in 2014 – the G20 is its own toxic self-parody. The world waits in eager anticipation of the Saudi show next year.

Perhaps MBS, like the great god capitalism, will lead by invisible hand to issue a communique of the need for arms dealers everywhere to assume their rightful legal liability for the injuries, suffering and property damage inflicted by their products. We have similar arrangements for other commercial products and services. Of course, we’d need to talk sense into insurance companies with their weasel worded “acts of war” clauses allowing them not to pay out as at present.

While we are at it, we could make Adani and other coal miners legally liable for damage caused by global warming boosted by the use of their product anywhere in the world. And environmental devastation.

Finally, to be inclusive of our generous Saudi hosts, let’s have a similar liability for the sale and subsequent use of hydrocarbon products, especially dirty diesel. That’d be a cracker of a G20.

 

 

 

 

 

ScoMo’s big speech reveals no ideas, no agenda, no mandate.

scomo in WA

 

“The only one who matters is me.” Donald J Trump

The Great Satan, as the US was to Iran in the ’70s, morphs into The Angel of Mons last week. Or at least that’s the lie peddled by its fabulist President. Heroically compassionate, a Walter Mitty Trump averts catastrophe; pulls back from the brink of war with Iran, Friday, with ten minutes to spare, when a general tells him that 150 Iranian lives are at risk.

Sceptics prefer less noble versions of events. Trump blabs. He brags, Thursday, to Tehran via Oman, that US planes are on their way; taking the surprise out of last Friday’s surprise attack, an unprovoked air strike on three targets, which, MSM insist, is “retaliation” for Iran downing one US drone. And other stuff. Why, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is giving secret briefings on Iran’s Al-Qaeda relationship – despite expert advice to the contrary. What hasn’t Iran done?

There’s its alleged nuclear program defiance; its alleged flouting of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Attacks on tankers in the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman? Six oil tankers and a downed drone. Clear proof of Iranian perfidy. But, then just as the hawks in Trump administration have a war all organised, Trump has to blow it with his big mouth.

Reuters reports that Trump tells Iran US planes are coming, before he countermands his order to attack, a scenario which The Donald now denies. More fake news from a rogue news agency? Few observers, however, share Trump’s heroic view of his own SNAFU.  Politizoom’s Dino Durrati is dumbfounded by the president’s error.

What would be stupider than starting a war with the Mid-East’s largest and most militarily capable U.S. adversary over what was essentially an Amazon delivery gone astray?   “How about ordering U.S. planes in the air against one of the most sophisticated air defences in the region while warning said adversaries they were coming?”

What would be even dumber would be an Iranian adventure on top of his trade wars. Trump is on the edge of a war his populist presidency doesn’t want or need“Great Nations do not fight endless wars”, the President declares, in his State of the Union address, a line he repeats, last week, at a rally to launch his re-election campaign circus.

But can he stay out of a war? He’s not looking for a war he says but promises obliteration if there’s conflict. Tough talk. We’ve heard this sort of rhetoric before. North Korea. What Trump does seem to grasp is that a war will lose him votes.

Trump certainly doesn’t have the nous not to provoke a disastrous global trade war. That’s clear from his quip that trade wars are “good and easy to win”. He could only say that if he knew nothing about them. Surely.

Trump’s view of trade is based on overestimating how much trade hurts the US, while underestimating the effect of imposing tariffs. ScoMo’s mentor, Trump, believes the US is losing $400 billion to China because that’s the size of its trade deficit with that nation. It’s a view which ignores the value of imports; focusing instead only on the amount paid.

It’s like saying that we lose money anytime we go shopping anywhere, because stores aren’t buying anything from us in return says The Washington Post’s Matt O’Brien. Blow up the world trade system? Meh. What could possibly go wrong?

From our gung-ho ScoMo government, ever-promising to protect us – “burn for us” –  comes peak silence. Our “media-shy” foreign minister Marise Payne is MIA, although, to be fair, she’s got Malaysia’s Mahathir to set straight about MH17. Luckily, there’s heaps of stuff from Neoliberalism for Dummies for ScoMo to eagerly recite instead.

“Animal Spirits” will be unleashed, ScoMo proclaims, in a dreary rehash of clichés, Monday . The PM copies The Donald, conflating Keynes’ phrase with consumer confidence and laissez-faire economics. Why? “Animal spirits” will roar like a lion when we release the cage of “regulatory and bureaucratic barriers to businesses.” But why so late?

The Coalition has had six years to deregulate. Yet it still can provide no detail. Nor point to any record of success. Perhaps it’s just too modest. In the news currently is Private Security Company, Paladin, awarded $423 million to garrison Manus, without having to worry about an open tender. Or there’s the $444 million quietly slipped to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation a mob of Liberal mates headed up by a former CBA chairman, Dr John M Schubert.

Then there’s Fossil-fuel Energy minister, Angus Taylor, who’s held talks with federal environment officials over an issue at the centre of an illegal land-clearing action brought by the same department against a company part-owned by him and his brother, reports Guardian Australia. We should cheer the healthy disregard for regulation and the way the government appears to back the Taylor family in its alleged quest to bend the rules to help the Taylors to a better life.

What barriers are left unbent if not unbroken in these fabulous cases? Yet no-one take ScoMo at his word. It’s more of a mantra, a phrase to chant, to drown out those voices which, like Keynes himself, advocate government stimulus. If the Coalition needed a hint, it could look at Kevin Rudd’s stimulus programmes which helped get us through the GFC.

Yet, instead, as Greg Jericho reminds us, the Liberal Party and much of the media’s own relentless criticism means that the value of Labor’s successful stimulus has been almost entirely discredited – at least – in what we flatter ourselves is our national conversation not to mention our dominant mainstream media narrative. It means that what can be shown to work is discarded in favour of vague and platitudinous neoliberal nostrums. Animal spirits will save us.

But there’s more. A “champion in every Australian” awaits the government’s support to emerge. Quiet Australians just need the Coalition to “back them in”, as they do everything they can to “get ahead and make a better life”.

Quiet Australians are the heroes of the PM’s first official ear-bash. His lucky audience is the WA Chamber of Commerce, at a “Breakfast with the Prime Minister” ($139-$1490), Monday. Animal spirits are the way the economy will run itself while governments get out of the road? Or into Hi-Vis vests? Who knows? The text of the speech is incoherent.

Sensibly dispensing with any original thinking, Morrison regurgitates the stale rhetoric he thinks the nation wants to hear in a speech which is prudently despatched to media ahead of the occasion, as a safeguard against its instant forgettability. Deregulation and IR reform quickly emerge as key buzzwords in his government’s war on workers.

Reforms that would truly spur productivity, stimulate investment and innovation have been provided for ScoMo’s reference. In 2017, the Productivity Commission supplied the then Treasurer with a swag in its Shifting The Dial Report.

Shifting the Dial focuses on improving efficiency and effectiveness in health and education and making infrastructure investments based on genuine benefit-cost analysis. Proper infrastructure pricing would include congestion pricing, land taxes, breaking up the pharmacy racket and a carbon price.

Better education levels and skills, a healthier workforce, and more efficient and effective health and education systems were all aims of The Human Capital Agenda, led by Steve Bracks’ Victorian government. The aim was to increase productivity, participation and output through these means.

But like Trump, you can’t tell a ScoMo what he doesn’t want to hear. Or can’t understand. Or suggests failure.

Wage rises are not only glacial, Australian workers are cheated of their share of the nation’s prosperity to a record extent. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows in this month’s national accounts that Australia is now in the worst wages slump – relative to total earnings – since records were first published in 1959, reports Alan Austin.

Trump’s economic miracle, a piece of wilful disinformation and self-delusion features large in ScoMo’s tiny orbit.

“While reducing taxes has had a major impact in the United States, it was actually the Trump administration’s commitment to cutting red tape and transforming the regulatory mindset of the bureaucracy that delivered their first wave of improvement in their economy.”  Is there no journalist in Perth can challenge this toxic nonsense?

In fact there’s almost no response at all from mainstream media to the PM’s speech drop – apart from the AFR which takes it seriously and some doctrinaire posturing from the Australian which prints Judith Sloan hollering to bring back WorkChoices and some right wing git from the IPA who’s like Pavlov’s dog whenever deregulation appears in print.

Other of Nine’s papers run almost nothing on the speech, apart from a precis from David Crowe while the ABC is far too busy with its single-issue flat tax blather to do any analysis of the Prime Minister’s first major gum-flap. The Guardian’s Amy Remeikis fires up a bit. Bernard Keane thinks the lack of comment or analysis is a pretty poor show.

He’s right. There’s a beguiling conflict between braying for deregulation on the one hand in Perth and practically nationalising power companies by imposing – or threatening to impose heavy-handed, big stick, regulation. More important as far as workers are concerned, Howard’s WorkChoices actually caused productivity to slump. Morrison’s being inconsistent and as an economic doctor, he’s peddling an old remedy which we know will injure the patient.

As for Trump, ScoMo’s love is blind. US business leader, Leo Hindery argues Trump’s economic miracle is a mirage. Hindery’s “U.S. Real Unemployment” report challenges federal government’s statistics. Because it includes the millions of Americans who either did not look for work or cannot find full-time work, it paints a far more troubling picture.

In this light, the Trump economy’s unemployment rate is revealed to be double the official rate. Even workers with jobs eke out a bare subsistence. 40% of Americans for example, cannot afford an unexpected expense of $400, according to the Federal Reserve, yet half of the nation’s income goes to its top 3% of salary earners.

The average US worker hasn’t had a real wage increase since 1968.

“The real unemployment in this country,” argues Hindery, “is still on the order of 8.1%, which contrasts with the much lower Bureau of Labor Statistics’ unemployment rate of 4%. There’s about 13.3 million women and men who are in every sense of the phrase real unemployed workers.”

Trump’s trade wars are forcing his nation’s farmers into taking out desperation loans. Farmers have seen their net income plummet by half since 2013. It’s estimated that they will owe nearly $427 billion in debt this year. Yet there is no sense of any flaw in the Trump economic miracle if you listen to our PM, his treasurer or any other MP.

Fresh from his Fijian furlough, the master buck-passer bores yet another selfless, nation-building, tax-evading, rorty, yawning, business audience who are only there to hear about their tax cuts – surely only months away now given ScoMo’s huge mandate based on the Coalition’s thumping 1.2 % TPP election win? OK, there’s the networking.

Amy Remeikis sees red.  “After six years of promising to cut red tape,” Amy Remeikis writes in The Guardian, “Morrison uses his first major speech since winning the election to promise to cut red tape. Perhaps it’s a bizarre homage to Tony Abbott who held his own bonfire of red tape stunt back in March 2014. ScoMo picks another dreadful mentor.

Or is it mere contempt for voters’ intelligence and an alarming public indifference toward any form of accountability? In a related stunt, in 2014, then Immigration Minister Morrison abandoned press conferences on asylum-seeker arrivals.

First, he axed his department’s practice of announcing the arrival of each boat carrying asylum seekers. A weekly briefing would replace it. Then he scrapped the weekly briefing. A weekly press release took its place. This cut journalists’ questions, entirely. Pressed for explanation, Morrison cited “public interest immunity”.

It did help the minister get home to his family in Sydney earlier at the end of the parliamentary week.

It was, Laurie Oakes protested, a “disgusting attitude to the public’s right to know”. Morrison giving journalists “the finger”, and said, “By doing that, you’re saying that you don’t care if the voters are informed or not.”

But even when Morrison used to appear, he created his own absurdist theatre of refusal of accountability and secrecy. Inventing the myth that we were at war with asylum-seekers, he helped weaponise compassion. He could embargo questions into what he called “on-water matters”. Or “operational matters”. Absurdist exchanges followed.

It’s groundhog day – mostly. ScoMo drones on about deregulation and other neoliberal clichés he fobs off as “government economic priorities”. Onya Morrison, it beats having an agenda or a mandate for anything.

And it beats doing anything yourself. Keane notes in disgust, Monday, that Scomo’s reform agenda is a re-hash of Neocon tosh the PM doesn’t have the bottle to flog himself. “We would expect business organisations such as yours to build the evidence for change and help bring the community along with you too.” The Messiah from the Shire is on fire.

The message, observes David Crowe in the SMH, astutely, is a direct call to business leaders to make the case for industrial relations “reform” – a weasel-word for attacking workers’ right – without committing Morrison’s government to any specific proposal while shifty ScoMo leaves it up to others to lead the debate.

In fact, much of Morrison’s hoary commonplaces echo a speech made just over a year ago by Craig Laundy, then Minister for Small and Family Business, the Workplace and Deregulation, whom everyone agrees has done a fabulous job in creating opportunities for wealth if the Taylor family is anything to go by.

Of course, there’s the obligatory nod to The Donald; his political mentor Trump, the economic miracle man of the moment, a natural leader of the free world and most decisive Commander in Chief in recent history, who has inspired ScoMo on how to cut red tape to “supercharge the economy” by removing regulations from the resources industry.

While toxics may mock a president who has second thoughts on war or whose administration is at war with itself, they have failed to give due credit for the ways Trump’s mob has been busily stripping protections from a staggering 13.5 million acres of American lands and waters.

A new Center for American Progress analysis shows how Trump’s executive actions make him a world leader when it comes to cutting red tape previously protecting pristine natural environments—which he claimed he’d protect. Trump’s been incredibly successful in rescinding permanent land protections and in permitting mineral extraction.

Our great and powerful friend the United States steps back from the brink of a catastrophic war with Iran, last Friday when its president blabs details of his imminent attack. But is it a United States?

It’s at least eleven separate nations according to Robert Woodard. And it shows. What passes for the Trump administration’s policy is almost as divided. Yet our nation cleaves to Uncle Sam in servile subjugation, even professing we are forever, joined at the hip. Who did save the US from catastrophic war with Iran? Did Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, an Islamophobic, misogynistic, populist, racist talk show host catch the president’s ear?

Carlson who argues against war, sways the US President into calling off a “retaliatory” missile strike on “three different sights (sic)” in Iran. Disaster is averted – at least until tomorrow’s crisis. Such is Trump’s Pax Americana,

On Saturday, Trump brands Bolton a “hawk” who had been wrong for his previous support of the U.S. invasion of Iraq during the George W. Bush administration. Trump said he doesn’t always agree with Bolton, who has called for regime change in Iran but said he likes hearing a range of views.

“Ultimately, I make the decision. The only one that matters is me. I listen to everybody. I want people on both sides,” Trump says. Of course it’s not true but it’s still too alarming to contemplate.

Luckily we have our own Trump in Morrison, who is more than happy to discard expert advice on real reform in favour of sticking with what he knows, the endless recital of neoliberal slogans about deregulation and industrial “reform” all mixed in with platitudes about backing in “quiet Australians” and lies about how well the economy is doing.

Like Trump, moreover, ScoMo’s always got someone else to blame. Expect an attack on Labor when parliament resumes next Tuesday 2 July. John Setka will be slandered.

“Union thugs” will seldom be far from our Prime Bully, ScoMo’s grab-bag of cheap insults. All remaining government energies will be focussed on passing a tax cut bill the nation neither needs nor can afford based on a trickle-down delusion. Yet no-one will explain the true cost in terms of cuts to government spending; public services.

Expect more nonsense about animal spirits and no sense at all about how a government devoid of any policy agenda and lacking any real mandate can resist all intelligence yet trust instead in a failed and totally discredited Neoliberal ideology that continues to help divide and cheat a prosperous and vital nation of its rightful heritage.

 

Dutton’s naked power grab.

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Our nation faces a slow decline if it takes no action on its major economic, social and environmental challenges.”

Unless we act boldly; commit to long-term thinking, we face a poorer, bleaker future. It’s the big idea of the Australian National Outlook 2019(ANO 2019), a report published Wednesday, 12 June, by CSIRO whose partners include fifty leaders across twenty-two major Australian organisations from industry, the not-for-profit and education sectors.

Ken Henry is on 7:30 Report, Tuesday, to explain how this ANO has a new section on loss of trust and social cohesion.

“We all know why trust’s a concern” he says, straight-faced. Irony doesn’t cut it in an age of deep fakery. Perhaps Ken counts on our forgetting his smart-arse testimony to the Banking Royal Commission, an appalling performance which led to his standing down as NAB Chairman.

As he professed at the time, “I did not perform well. I really should have performed quite differently. I should have been much more open.”

Yep. Bugger honesty; integrity. It’s all about performance. Authenticity is the most important thing in corporate life. When you can fake that, you’ve got it made.

Clearly, Ken has no clue why trust’s a concern. Nor does The Liar from the Shire, our accidental PM, who never lifted a finger in the Turnbull coup. So he says. A month after ScoMo surprises everyone, including himself, by winning an election, which he pretended was a popularity contest between himself and Bill Shorten, a poll decided largely by betraying the trust of rural voters; hoodwinking regional Queensland and WA, he takes a leaf from Tony Abbott’s book. “Not-Me” Morrison makes a virtue of doing nothing. Man needs a break. Fear-mongering takes it out of you.

ScoMo takes “a brief, well-earned break” according to his press drop to The Herald Sun. It’s a secluded (expensive) family island holiday in Fiji, a state which doesn’t muck around pretending to a free press. Or free speech.

Besides, the hard work’s already been done. Expanding national security; “bigging up” Big Brother. Now ScoMo can sit back. Watch Going Batty, the latest episode of How Bad is John Setka?, a boo-the-union-thug melodrama, a Coalition-News-Corp production, while “Thumper” Dutton finesses our final descent into a mass surveillance police state.

Certainly that’s the plan, as News Corp’s, Annika Smethurst, reported in April 2018, warning us about a proposed abuse of state power. Her work led to her home being invaded by an AFP squad 4 June this year. A reprisal? No. The raid was about the ­“alleged publishing of information classified as an official secret” that police said “had the potential to undermine national security”. While some may view the charge as impossibly broad, no-one’s been arrested yet. Nor may any arrest be expected, says the AFP before it cops a theatrical, hypocritical, spray from its Murdoch-crat fans.

“This raid demonstrates a dangerous act of intimidation towards those committed to telling uncomfortable truths.”

Let News Corp bullies fulminate about intimidation, it’s all good publicity to Peter Dutton. Or the cat’s well and truly out of the bag. The Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) a military intelligence arm, will be empowered to spy on civilians, as Ms Smethurst said, a move which Dutton says on ABC Insiders Sunday, warrants “a sensible discussion”.

Dutton is of course not bound by fact and embellishes his interview with Annabel Crabb by claiming that “he’d got all children out of detention here in Australia”, whereas, at that very moment, two-year-old Tharunicaa is waiting to celebrate her birthday at the Melbourne Immigration Detention Centre. Her strawberry cheesecake birthday cake is refused entry in yet another reminder of the tenderness and mercy extended to those youngsters yet in Dutton’s care.

Tharunicaa is one of four small girls aged between one and four in the centre, which also imprisons a seventeen-year-old boy. Her parents, Priya and Nades have been incarcerated with her following a dawn raid fifteen months ago.

On the theme of sensible discussion, Rebekah Holt reports in Crikey that Border Force has previously disputed the definition of detention regarding baby Isabella and her mother Huyen, who are held in the same unit with Tharunicaa and her family. Lawyers and the UN agree, semantics aside, that Isabella is a detained child. Yet the Morrison government insists that the child and some others, be classified as guests to get around the law on detaining children.

Imagine how much more sensible Dutto’s discussion might be if the Minister could admit that Tharunicaa exists. Last year, her father also assiduously filled out a form requesting permission his daughter be allowed a birthday cake brought in by a friend. Then, as now, it was refused. It’s not petty cruelty, however, but merely a sensible precaution in the circumstances. Imagine the flood of refugees crowding our shores if we were known to be soft on kids’ birthday cakes.

A sensible discussion erupts in our main daily newspaper claque, radio and on TV networks, especially Sky TV. It consists of madly agreeing with Peter. Cheering. How we have to trade off a bit of fatuous free speech for the government’s hugely important (both for national security and in the national interest) need to keep secrets. ScoMo gets Paul Fletcher on ABC to help him with a commitment that’s worthy of an episode of Yes Minister.

Some journos question the PM regarding the AFP raids to rough up the press. ScoMo is a model of ponderous solicitude, despite wilfully misreading the question, as how a law which is rotten at its core may, somehow, be made better.

“If there is a suggestion or evidence, or any analysis, that reveals that there is a need for further improvement of those laws, well, the government is always open to that,” Morrison says. But the principles of maintaining national security and freedom of the press both have to be honoured. So? “I intend to proceed calmly, and soberly, and consultatively”.

Will he support a parliamentary inquiry into press freedom? Morrison evades the question on Tuesday, “What I’m going to do on this issue is listen carefully. I think we have to keep these matters in perspective”.

In other words, ScoMo intends to do nothing. Hope that it all blows over. Besides, Peter Dutton can sweet-talk anyone.

After all, as Pete says, the last thing we want is to let paedophile rings, terror networks, or the odd transnational crime syndicate (not Adani) get under our radar. Oddly, however, not all politicians favour such an increase in surveillance.

It’s “a dangerous and unjustified attack on fundamental rights”, protests Nick McKim, The Greens’ justice spokesperson, who quite properly takes exception at proposed laws to enable a government to spy on its people.

“For the Liberals to try to push this through just days after raids on journalists shows how little they respect basic rights and freedom of the press … No further powers should be granted to security agencies without a thorough review of existing laws, and until our rights are properly enshrined and protected in a Charter of Rights.”

Bernard Keane reports of a “power grab” by Home Affairs. At least, that’s how it seems to the Intelligence Community. A turf war rages as Mike Pezzullo, Home Affairs Czar, annexes the Australian Signals Directorate. Or at least asserts enough control to permit it to spy on civilians. It may well be one of those things that is best managed by Morrison on holiday in Fiji. On the other hand, its success can only help Peter Dutton with his enormous leadership ambitions. Already, he is technically more powerful than the PM. With even more powers, he will become impossible to manage.

The grab has other implications for civil society. Whilst he does not subscribe to the “spying on civilians” scenario, Keane does note “the proposal would include the ASD not merely advising corporations on cybersecurity but being allowed full access to their IT systems in order to “protect” them. The result would be the ASD having unfettered access to vast amounts of private information about the consumers and businesses that use that corporation’s servers — all under the guise of protecting the community from cybersecurity threats.”

ScoMo has no policy platform apart from a Tea-Party thought bubble which media insist on calling “tax relief” or “lowering the tax burden”. It further flattens our once-progressive system with unjust tax cuts for the rich which we can’t afford. A third tranche in 2024-5 will cost us $95 billion over five years, calculates senior economist, Matt Grudnoff at The Australia Institute. Overwhelmingly, high income earners will benefit. So ScoMo copies Abbo. Goes to ground.

“I want the people to know that calm, steady, purposeful government has returned; a government that’s about the substance of getting things done, not about the theatre of putting things on the front page.” Tony Abbott pronounced hopefully, with his own unique irony bypass and pious piffle filter working overdrive in 10 Sept 2013.

Observers of Abbo’s achievement are less generous. “An utter waste of space” is Laura Tingle‘s withering verdict in 2017, well after the self-abortive Abbott experiment collapsed under the inertia of its own ineptitude. “Secrets R Us” ScoMo will follow the same route but more quietly. And it may take a while. Warringah has only recently come to share Tingle’s view, despite the budgie smuggler’s brilliant, last-ditch attempt to re-invent himself as the father of marriage equality.

“When all is said and done, I helped to make the thing happen,” the former PM tells The Sydney Morning Herald, skipping the fact that from the onset, he vociferously opposed any change to John Howard’s Marriage Act. What he says next will form a gold standard in ministerial political accountability especially among Liberal Party neoconservatives.

“I set up the process which opened up the possibility and even the likelihood of change. Now that it has happened, I absolutely accept the outcome. It’s the law of the land and that’s the way it is.”  

Calm, steady and purposeful? Rarely are we blessed with such sublime self-parody. In 2015, Abbott was thrown into blind panic at the prospect of a real party room debate on marriage equality. It’s how we got the half a billion postal thingy which began as a plebiscite and then was moulded into a postal something on Peter Dutton’s suggestion.

As for the theatre, Abbott’s cabinet leaked all over the front page of The Australian or Daily Tele whenever it suited him, a tactic already avidly embraced by his heir-apparent to the fun of quietly getting things done, ScoMo, the totalitarian.

Abbott is a Caspar Milquetoast compared with ScoMo’s back-stabbing, ABC raiding, water-rorting, secrecy-obsessed, FOI refusing, Banking Royal Commission-resisting cabal of God-botherers, noddies and mining lobby shills.

True, the Abbottocracy did a lot of lasting damage. Its nihilistic climate change denial, its petty and pernicious hyper-partisanship, its war on renewable energy, the environment, the poor and its madness in mistaking Julie Bishop’s Aid budget for a cash cow, have all helped reduce us. Above all, his dud political judgement took its toll. Those who chart the Liberal Party’s decline under John Howard cannot ignore the toxic legacy of his spoilt acolyte, Abbott.

Getting things done? Or undone? Australia has one of the highest per capita carbon emissions in the world – yet it is the only nation in the world to actually repeal a carbon price? 17 July 2014 ought to be another type of national sorry day.

But how good is that front page? Much as Morrison is doing now, with the John Setka panto, Abbott hoped that by continuing to harp on the Gillard government’s supposed instability, the nation would miss his own stunningly crud judgement. Who can forget Prince Philip’s knighthood, the Bronwyn Bishop expenses fiasco or the Dyson Heydon imbroglio? Yet one enduring act of Abbott-sabotage is that our Tories end up believing their own News Corp chorus.

Morrison’s Follies follow both the trend to self-destruction and the rhetoric: the pretence that when it’s not throttling democracy or spending seven hours embarrassing and intimidating a free press journalist quietly at her home, it’s somehow nation-building because it has nothing to show – no programme – no vision and no sign of a set of policies

Yet barely four weeks out of the blocks, ScoMo’s show, another supposed tribute to the “Quiet Australians” he credits with bringing him his “miracle victory”  is already a riot of evasion and division with a power grab and police busts and a turf war waged on the Australian Signals Directorate by Home Affairs, the Department of Megalomania, created against all advice, by a Malcolm Turnbull whose reliably poor political judgement caused him to try to buy off power-hungry Dutton and his Monkey Pod roommates. Not even ScoMo can assert that sort of authority.

This week, ScoMo puts in some hard slog on Tony’s invisibility project. Does nothing. Holidays on an exotic coral atoll as yet undrowned by a steadily rising sea. Opening up the Galilee Basin to six new coal mines will help with that.  But it’s no respite. Apart from a pledge of tax cuts by 1 July, a vow which cannot be honoured, the policy void that is the Morrison government is rapidly filled, as Paul Bongiorno gently notes, by the ghastly “spectre of an incipient police state”.  And by the odd cameo role from our protector Dutton on birthday cake duty. Forget Setka, ScoMo, Dutto’s right behind you.

Josh Frydenberg is despatched to the US. Tuesday, he’s full of admiration for Trump’s tax cuts. Fran Kelly on Radio National Breakfast shares his joy. No point in being a party-pooper. Fact-checking a Treasurer who has yet to give any evidence that he is anything more than a neoliberal shill could not possibly be in the national interest. It may well be a threat to national security. Especially given that he’s refused to budge from his mission to balance the budget.

In fact, Trump’s $1.5 trillion in tax cuts that came into effect last year have failed to raise workers’ wages, boost economic growth, or stimulate business investment.

A recent US study by the bipartisan Congressional Research Centre suggests that in Australia, too, most workers’ pay will not rise nor will jobs grow. Nor will tax cuts boost investment or help any other measure of productivity. Only four percent of US workers have seen a bonus or pay increase following Trump’s tax cuts.

Far from creating jobs, corporations, such as GM, have laid off thousands of workers while using tax windfalls to buy back $1 trillion of their own stock. In America, as in Australia, corporate executives and rich investors are the real beneficiaries of tax cuts. GM posted a tax windfall of $157m in the first three months of 2018 thanks to the cut.

If and when parliament meets again, the government intends to put its tax cuts forward as one portmanteau bill. It is unlikely at this stage it will have anything but rave reviews from The Australian and unqualified support from the rest of News Corp. Whether it can persuade the senate cross bench, is, however, another matter. Already, Senator Rex Patrick, who shows sterling independence as an Alliance Party cross-bencher, has complained of bullying from Home Affairs Mike Pezzullo, a spat which Dutto says is all sorted out now in his nurturing, non-judgemental fashion.

“it was counterproductive because I have always found Senator Patrick to be a person of the sort of character who would seek to misrepresent the secretary’s words, and the secretary agreed the contact was not appropriate and that is where the matter ends”.

It has to be the best non-censure and least impartial intervention between a Minister and his chief of staff in political history. No wonder even Ken Henry can come on national TV to bemoan our lack of trust. ScoMo appears unafflicted, however, and doubtless when he does return from the South Pacific, he’ll find his government all shipshape and Bristol fashion and Captain Dutto on deck ready to pipe him aboard – in the most respectful non-insubordinate way. You wouldn’t count on him to bake a cake though.