Abbott addresses his cabinet on terror and tactics prior to Parliament resuming.

8:34 AM

The coalition’s cabinet meeting was opened by Peta ‘Don’t look at me in that tone of voice’ Credlin and Prime Minister for Aboriginal Photo-Opps,Tony Abbott adding that there was a lot on the agenda. A very big agenda. A lot to get through. And if we don’t quite get to everything, today’s edition of the Daily Telegraph will, as always, carry full details of our decisions and resolutions. Abbott winked at Credlin. Credlin stared wordlessly back at Abbott for some time. She went back to sorting through a pile of high-vis vests, assorted sundry hard hats, lycra tights and tie-dyed loin cloths.

It had been an eventful coupla weeks, Emu Dancer Abbott said winking again and jerking his head in his collar like a skittish workhorse bitten by a botfly.

Been a bit on the go. He fiddled with the bottom button of his jacket. But we will get to that shortly. First job is to hand out report cards for those of us who had not yet been in to pick them up. You gutless bastards.

My but they look so big, thought Christopher Pyne who has a trained eye for educational resources. Pyne had missed his performance review when his weekly hairdressing appointment had gone over time because so much work was discovered that needed doing. And then he had been told a long but juicy story about a friend of a former member of Peter Slipper’s office. He just could not get away.

So big! Massive cards. Must have got a job lot off some reality TV, cooking, singing or some such TV show. Nice! He made a mental note to quiz the PM about his new tone of hair colouring. And did he spot some extra thatch? Was Tone intending to go down the Shane Warne path, he wondered. Who said politics was show business for “ugly” people he murmured admiring himself on the new security monitor. Hair today. Gone tomorrow.

Scott Morrison led members in prayer, fell into a trance and began to babble, speaking in tongues.   A quick thinking attendant nearby deftly inverted a nearby wastepaper basket and wedged it tightly over the minister’s head. The meeting resumed accompanied by a seductive low babbling like a neighbour’s radio tuned to the Dapto Dogs or 2GB.

Defence Minister? Peta Rottweiler Credlin scanned the assembled group, holding up an F. Do we have one?, quipped Barnaby Joyce.

“Missing in action”, Pyne chipped in. He couldn’t help himself.

“AWOL, more like it”, he added for good measure.

“Senator the Honourable David Johnston”, Abbott intoned, stepping in before the boys got too raucous.

Just like that prick not to turn up after a coupla weeks’ holiday. Gutless bastard. And I’ve been working my arse off Emu dancing and having my photo taken in the top end. As if I don’t have anything better to do with my time.”

The minister was typically nowhere to be seen.

“Nigel Scullion”

“Who?”

“Keeping a low profile!,”

Warren Truss hoped his witticism would deflect his leader’s wrath. At least he was still awake.

Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Abbott snarled through gritted teeth. He is quite good at it. His father, Dick is a retired dentist. They had wanted to call their son little Dick but agreed that another Dick in the house would be confusing.

“Scullion absent again”, he snarled to Credlin who was keeping a roll call with notes on her Blackberry. Credlin sighed rolled her eyes and arched her long neck and shoulders in withering disdain.

The meeting proceeded as meetings must. It was agreed that the terror threat and the imminence of random execution would eclipse the budget crisis, absolve the government of all sins of omission and commission and distract the nation from attempting to hold the government to account on anything. The “humanitarian war” would take care of the rest. This was met by universal random noises of approval from those present who were still fully conscious. A spontaneous outbreak of over-hearty applause ensued.

Warren Truss woke up with a start and coughed his teeth into Barnaby Joyce’s cup of tea which he was resting on his lap.

I am with you all the way, John!  Truss boomed, his a voice a stock auctioneer’s at the end of a long sale day. Clearly the Deputy PM had slumbered back into the dream time of the last coalition government where he was already banking his superannuation payout and about to embark on free travel for the remainder of his days.

Credlin hissed. Truss pretended he was just testing Siri on his iPad. He lowered his long head until his chin struck the sharp edge of a pin in his lapel causing him to rear up in pain and knock little Julie Bishop out with an elbow blow to her temple. Pyne was at her side in a flounce and gave her a prolonged kiss of life. Sucking and gurgling sounds ensued for a few seconds before Bishop screamed, eyes crossing “Take it out! And get that thing off me!” Bishop took to kicking and slapping Pyne forcefully, a gesture which found favour with the entire group except the Minister for Sturt himself.

Business resumed but not before Pyne had been dealt some further hearty random slaps and kicks from other members quick to exploit such a rare and long deserved opportunity.

All war questions would be evaded, it was agreed secondly. As too would be any questions including the illegal invasion of Syria, Assad’s genocide, Turkish shootings of refugee Kurds and lies about the existence of any government to speak of in Iraq could be augmented with empty rhetoric about our humanitarian duty. Nothing would be said about numbers in the coalition of the wilting which currently stand at two.

Lurid, graphic details of beheadings would be repeated. Random execution plots would be said to be imminent in all parts of Australia. The phrase on the best available evidence at the time would be brought into play. On no account could the words war, feet on the ground, Assad’s gassing of his own people or Saudi beheadings be brought up. The total lack of anything resembling an Iraqi government or army could safely be deemed to be the result of the Labor Party’s great big new tax on everything, their hopeless mismanagement of everything and their putting of IOU’s in the afternoon tea kitty instead of cash like everyone else.

House Leader Pyne outlined a series of very clever strategies for the day. He circulated a briefing paper on why terrorists hate our way of life and our freedoms, food, hairdressers and barber salons plus another in his capacity as shadow minister for Justice on why all civil liberties should be curtailed indefinitely.

The second was a favour to the Attorney General who has yet to learn about computers. Brandis and Abbott would explain why new anti-terror laws would effectively mean the end of the current rule of law including habeas corpus. Suspended without notice would be all other legal principles governing arrest and fair trials. Everything necessary would be prudently retired in order to facilitate Summary arrest, indefinite detention and any other legal precedents needed to replace onus of proof with suspicion of intent.

Backbenchers would ask fatuous questions of Ministers about terrorism. What was the government doing to combat terrorism? Other leaders would simply turn their backs on the opposition if questions about Ashbygate, actually eventuated as rumoured. Bronwyn “The Rhinocerous” Bishop would continue to deploy her formidable talents as speaker to prevent any semblance of fairness in debate and promised to head-butt Electricity Bill Shorten should he get within striking distance. It was generally agreed, however, to give Shorten a hearing given that he has been so useful to the coalition already. And given his performance so far in this parliament, this can only continue. Members uttering the words budget, RET or responsible competent government would be evicted immediately.

Abbott ramps up security

Canberra is to have increased security, Prime Minister Abbott announced, bravely, fearlessly yet disturbingly, recently, peering out from behind a tent flap in remote Arnhem Land, his voice dry after a long night on the kava at the après corroboree function.

Increased security, Prime Minister Rabid repeated in his familiar, irritating fashion for those few who may not have heard him the first time. Having successfully instilled fear of summary execution whilst simultaneously unleashing popular hatred of Afghans, Arabs and all other Islamic migrant communities on the population of Australia at large and in the wake of his farewelling 800 Australian troops to drop humanitarian assistance on sundry unspecified unwary Iraqi, Kurdish and Syrian tribespeople and other fellow travellers in the Middle East, Prime Miniscule Tony Abbott’s latest step towards declaring martial law is to announce that he is now upping  the terror alert around Parliament House in Canberra.  Especially the bits around the newly-refurbished luxury apartment cum office he cohabits with his body servant Peta Credlin.

Top Dog Credlin, whose height, formidable demeanour and dour facial expression is said to deter almost anyone approaching except Julie Bishop, Clive Palmer and Mormons on bicycles is reliably believed to run the government in conjunction with her husband Brian Loughnane who claims to be Liberal Party Federal Director. A special squad would be responsible for the area where Mr Abbott parks his bicycle and would be specially trained in cavity searching, saddle warming, bicycle helmet and helmet hair and comb-over readjustment strategies.

Random terrorist chatter has been intercepted, he intoned, specifying government targets including the Prime Minister.  Random terrorist chatter, he repeated himself helplessly. The Australian Federal Police would now take over policing in Parliament House and surrounds, adding that surveillance would be stepped up . Stepped up, he reiterated needlessly. He then stepped down and embraced an unidentified man in uniform who may have been Air Vice Marshall Banana Skins before slipping away in his newly imported armour-plated, bomb-proofed BMW for his regular on air rub-down and tongue kissing session with convicted felon, broadcaster and fellow misogynist Alan Jones.

The BMW is of course but one of a small but select $6 million fleet of luxury limousines which will be deployed to Brisbane for the G20 in November, transporting world leaders including US President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The fleet may yet be expanded. None of these world leaders could possibly share a ride. This is especially the case with VIP G20 guest Russian President Vladimir Putin, who will shortly annexe Ukraine for its vast food supply and Kazhakstan for its uranium, and who is clearly implicated in the recent terrorist downing of MH 17.

Mr Putin is still warmly welcome to attend because as discredited pseudo-Treasurer Joe Hockey has explained, we need to keep the dialogue going. And it is imperative to invite those who have shown such a firm hand with terrorism in their own land, added Mr Hockey, haranguing his audience in his typically blustering delivery. Those paying attention noticed Mr Hockey appeared to have turned his back on his guests in the course of his speech. An eagle-eyed and quick-thinking aide (one of only a very small group yet to be dismissed from his staff by the treasurer) was able to be turned around so that he actually faced his audience. “I thought I was back in parliament and Labor was talking”, Mr Hockey joked with his audience.

Equally humorous is the Abbott government’s weak-kneed decision to invite former KGB goon and self-made oligarch at his country’s expense Putin to Australia for the G20 festival of public wank fest in Brisbane in November. Putin, a dangerous man at home and abroad has never appeared remotely interested in dialogue. He has been known to disappear those who disagree with him. He is eager to annex adjacent states in his ambition to restore his popularity and to achieve his megalomaniacal ambitions. He is no stranger to terrorist practices at home.

But let’s keep the red carpet ready. Tightened security demands or not when it comes to dialogue our government is clearly eager to follow World’s Best Practice. Let’s continue to do all we can to make Putin feel welcome in Australia. The stepped up security, the terror campaigns, the double-speak of the Abbott government will help in no small way to make him feel at home already.

Terror on cue

Police say raids involving more than 800 officers have disrupted a terror plot to inflict violence on a random member of the public.

The operation, involving NSW police, the Australian Federal Police and ASIO targeting various Sydney suburbs, resulted in 15 arrests and one Omarjan Azari, a twenty-two year old Sydney man of Afghan origin, ‘with a full facial beard’ arrested and charged during the biggest counter-terror raids in Australia’s history.

Azari, whose appearance and demographic fits the public stereotype of a terrorist so well that he could have auditioned for the part with central casting is being charged with serious terrorism-related offences. The key reason for the raid, however, was a single twenty minute phone call from an Australian ISIS operative and former actor who rang him from Iraq where there are no laws prohibiting the sale or consumption of marijuana.

Azari will appear in court today, when it’s expected police will reveal an alleged plot to behead a member of the public on camera.

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“We all grew up on the street together,” Saudoba Afzal-Shanasa told 7News. “My mum knows his mother, we never thought anything like that.”

“He’s great, he’s always been friendly to us, he’s a great guy. I don’t understand how this all happened”.

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Australians awoke yesterday in stunned disbelief to news that Federal police had foiled a deadly local Jihadist plot in a raid on a Sydney house early this morning. Allegedly dictated by a high-ranking Australian in the service of ISIS in Syria, the plot was to wrap a random Australian in the ISIS flag and decapitate the victim on camera. It was maintained that the images would be used to boost propaganda for the ISIS cause. It would be a ‘demonstration’ killing.

Little of this made any sense at all to thoughtful Australians. Federal Police are not generally renowned for busting Jihadists or plots or anything else, really, for that matter since their formation in 1979. Nor, as yet, have so many of them been mobilised on the basis of a single, twenty-minute mobile phone call.

There are 6,500 Federal Police, each of whom receives at least three months special training in hand to hand combat and other martial arts. They can be impressively well-armed. Federal Police can carry Glock pistols and other lethal weapons but generally they are deployed overseas or on duty guarding VIPs in Canberra, escorting Prime Ministers out jogging and the like. They don’t normally bust into migrant housing fully armed and with sniffer dogs while helicopters circle overhead in the early hours of the morning or dig up other people’s gardens. Nor do they tip off The Daily Telegraph and 2GB.

If the raid is out of character for the Federal Police, the timing also raises eyebrows. Today’s events play into the hands of the Abbott government’s desire to create a heightened state of terror alert, anxiety, xenophobia and paranoia in its citizenry.

The arrest is also so close to the PM’s terror script that it is uncanny. It’s almost as if he could have scripted it himself. And as clumsy. Our intervention in Iraq and Syria but not yet Iran has been justified by the need to protect us from home- grown Jihadis in league with ISIS, the need to support the Iraqi government and other far-fetched rationalisation.

It is so neatly scripted it beggars belief.  Just a few days after the Prime Minister Tony Abbott had issued warnings of such a plot, such a plot is, indeed, conveniently discovered.  Right on cue. Slick.

Receiving news that most Australians were too frightened to leave their homes and that some had taken to their beds or under their beds, gibbering in fear, heads under their doonas whilst watching daytime television, Prime Minister Tony Abbott is reported to have placed his fingertips together intoning:

Excellent. Excellent. People of Australia are to go about their daily lives without alarm, just that extra degree of heightened awareness that the situation requires.

Mr Abbott confirmed raids were sparked by intelligence ISIL was planning public executions in Australia. He said direct instructions on beheadings were coming from an Australian overseas. He did not explain how the perpetrators intended to escape justice, given the somewhat lower degree of lawlessness in Sydney when compared to Iraq or Syria. Nor did he explain why the raid had taken place in September when authorities had known of the plot since May. Nor did he spell out just how such an act could work as propaganda for ISIL.

Immaculately timed to meet breakfast television deadlines, the event caught the imagination of the nation. Australians marvelled at the incredible coincidences: a home-grown Jihadist plot was discovered just days after official warnings, the week after our terrorist alert was moved to high and on the very day that six hundred of our boys were being farewelled for their tour of duty in Iraq or wherever.

Court documents are expected to reveal the terror plan involved draping a random Sydney person in an Islamic State flag and beheading the victim on camera. It was to be a demonstration killing. Court documents would reveal nothing that might explain the uncanny coincidence that such a plot be discovered at such a convenient time for the beleaguered PM.

Attorney General (Mr Magoo) George Brandis appears to have typically wandered off message a little again in declaring that authorities had known of the plot since May. We had just been saving it up for the right time, he beamed. What Brandis didn’t explain is why in that case we had been told that there was no current threat under investigation when the terror alarm was raised to ‘High’ last week. Nor did he elaborate on how just one intercepted twenty minute phone call from a mentally unstable Australian serving with ISIS to a similar candidate at home was sufficient evidence to mobilise the entire AFP across two states. Nor has he fully explained the workings of his forensic mind to the conundrum of guilt by intention as articulated by his PM but we will learn more as the anti-terror legislation is rushed through parliament next week. Doubtless the new laws will be retrospective. Or made to measure.

For Abbott:

“This is not just suspicion, this is intent,” he said.

“… The events this morning were based on specific intelligence that people weren’t just preparing an attack, but had the intent to mount one.”

Doubtless also, the Abbott government will need to explain how alienating and marginalising elements of Australian Muslim communities in such spectacular fashion can do anything but increase local Islamic extremism. Reaction from local Muslim communities has been swift to denounce the government’s motivation. At a protest in Lakemba last night Uthman Badar from Hizb ut-Tahrir said it was no coincidence that the raids had occurred just before the latest terrorism laws were to be introduced into parliament next week.

“They are creating fear and hysteria to justify the unjustifiable,” he said

“Enough of scapegoating the Muslim community.”

Ultimately, the fear-mongering and war-mongering has precisely the opposite effect to the official justification. Clearly, the existence of the plot suggests greater danger to Australians at home is a result of our involvement in Iraq and Syria and whatever other undeclared war zone the US commands us into. Whatever the stated motives for sending troops to the latest Middle East disaster zones, keeping the streets of Sydney safer is not one of them. And whatever the official justification of yesterday’s raids, their effect can only add to factors already radicalising the thoughts of young men attracted to extremist thoughts and deeds.

Modern terrorism doesn’t work that way. We keep killing “senior figures” in terrorist groups – indeed, it’s more than three years since we killed the most senior of them all – and nothing substantive changes.

This yields a devilish problem: namely, that we are trying to confront a threat that exists nowhere in particular, and anywhere in theory. We can’t destroy that.

There is one very clear way in which this alleged plot can succeed, even if it is never carried out: that we become so emotionally manipulated, so provoked, that we end up helplessly polarised. That becomes a problem because a symbol as ghastly as ISIL can only prosper in a febrile atmosphere. Waleed Ali

Chickens roosting

At sunset the chickens retire from their day’s labours as if guided by the hand of providence. So gently and so surely are they gathered in by Nature, all order is confirmed once more. There is for the moment no rest better earned, no retirement more deserved, no process more befitting. A commanding, careful surety of purpose guides each bird calmly, steadily to her ordained place of safety. She murmurs contentedly in its sure caress.

Each bird glows red brown in the setting sun, their bodies seeming bulkier now, yet graceful as they are called in together by some mystic inner prompting. Their being is built up, embellished and re-defined in a painter’s light.

Turner knew how sunset reveals the inner nature of things. How it builds an exquisite density of tone, how a formidable solidity is briefly lent to all creatures. Tonight, these tiny russet bundles of being are figures in an eternal cycle, each creature etched forever against an ancient terra-cotta frieze.  The setting sun is lighting them up to bed. As it has since time began.

It is an unhurried business, the birds’ foregathering  and slowly ascending the stair that takes them to their small loft. They appear to tarry briefly and bide their time, softly cooing to each other as if to soothe and soften the darker edges of existence. Yet not one will delay overlong. An inexorable progress is evident. Day’s ending is undertaken with order and decorum. Each bird has its allotted place in the stately, unhurried, procession up to their straw-lined nests.

I check on them. My torch reveals they are nestled close, their heads aligned towards the east as if they were rowers in a boat setting out together on some ancient voyage towards dawn.

Theatres of War

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TONY Abbott has committed RAAF combat aircraft and army special forces advisers to join the fight in Iraq against the Islamic State terrorist group, in an operation that could last for “many months”.

Eleven years after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Prime Minister announced today that within days, the RAAF would send to the United Arab Emirates up to eight Royal Australian Air Force F/A18 Super Hornet or “classic” Hornet combat aircraft, an E-7A Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft; and a KC-30A multi-role tanker and transport aircraft.

With them will go about 600 Australian Defence Force personnel — 400 from the RAAF and 200 from the Army. The Australian

Flanked by a human shield of top to bottom military brass including yet another war dork, Prime Minister Anthony Battlelines Abbott confirmed yesterday that he would be sending Australian troops to Iraq – if the country still exists by next Monday. And if anyone can discover a safe air route over a battle zone.   His uniformed ‘rent a regular’ nodded for the camera. The PM nodded back, training his eyes on his guest, a frisson of wild excitement barely concealed beneath his funereal suit and manner.

Details of the ‘mission’ were as we have come to expect in border protection classified unavailable and none of your business as befits ‘up in the air matters’. Mr Abbott, however, made it clear several times that no Australian would be doing any fighting. No-one. No combat. Their role, it seems, would be confined to the odd bit of air-striking, military advising, looting and trading recreational marijuana.

Wagering a crafty each-way bet that no-one in his audience was smart enough or old enough to see through his tired euphemisms and unsubtle double talk, fawning lickspittle and capitalist-imperialist lackey and running dog Abbott’s use of the phrases air strikes and military advisors was typically fearless . It pumped him up. It pumped his audience to see him pumped. And fearless with other peoples’ lives and futures.

What war-monger Abbott really meant was immediately clear to all viewers over ten years old. Australian forces would be fighting on the ground in Iraq or Syria or wherever for as long as it took. Or as long as the US required. For oil and multinational capitalism, amen. All Australians were committed without consultation. Dissenters would be thrown into prison under the newly formulated anti-terror laws that Attorney General Mr ‘Magoo’ George Brandis would rush through parliament immediately. Detention centres with surplus capacity had been placed on standby. Prison is too good for those who by their actions show they are not part of Team Australia, Mr Abbott said slowly. There need be no further discussion. The nation would be on standby for conscription when it became necessary.

Our commitment has been scaled back a bit. Abbott originally volunteered Australia’s entire armed forces, the reserves, school cadets and anyone on Centrelink benefits under 65. Lame Duck Obama, however kindly hosed the PM down in private, after a long jacuzzi and personal rubdown by young Maria one of the White House’s multinational personal staff, the President thanking him kindly but adding that this would not be necessary. Yet.

Digger Abbott’s bombshell was of course in some ways a fizzer. An anti-climax. After all, Mr Abbott had long treated the Australian people playfully to a cheeky sort of strip tease routine in which he gradually bared his intentions. All 37 members of the Turd Polishing communications unit had been working overtime for three months to put together this strategic product delivery. At last it all made sense. All we had witnessed prior from the PM were not so much premature ejaculations but a carefully planned softening up process in an orchestrated campaign of lies and tergiversation.

Naturally, to add to the arresting sense of deja vu, Mr Abbott was upstaged by the presence of yet another unknown War Dork an Air-vice Marshall  Bin liner, according to programme notes.

Despite looking like your local taxi-driver, Air-Vice Marshall Bearskin held the attention of the entire gathering effortlessly. Armed forces do that to an audience. Especially to the PM. Say what you will about natural leadership and authority you can’t beat a soft-spoken chap in khaki with a pistol in his pocket. Or eight Hornets in his carport. You could tell Bats-wing was used to captive audiences. You could tell he would take no prisoners. And he had to be more interesting than Abbott himself. And so it proved.

Telegenic Air Vice Marshall Blinky Bill was intelligible, coherent, measured, credible. And lethal. By the end of his softly spoken chat to the nation, ten chaps had perished in the UAE as they encountered friendly fire from Kurds, Sunni tribesmen, Peshmerga and other colourful local groups united by the presence of further western blood sport. They had spared a few other Australians to be passed over to ISIS for decapitation on social media. At the same time all terrorists in the Middle East had added Australia and Australians to their list of future targets.

It was a polished performance. Top marks must go to the Turd Polishers and to PMC on this pilot programme for what will inevitably be a very long running and highly successful reality TV series scheduled to run on all channels. The pilot show proved compelling viewing and, as befits reality TV, was in its own way both nauseating and grotesquely fascinating at the same time. At no time did it underestimate the intelligence of its spectators. Expect a lot more where this came from.

Sporting his latest ‘Gravitas’ aftershave, another Macy’s product from an admirer in the White House, and borrowing for the occasion Joe Hockey’s industrial strength deodorant, his Teflon coated comb-over dusted down for the lights, the Prime Minister affected a sombre bearing as befits one who must pretend to reluctantly bring such solemn news to a nation so far completely unused to seeing him do anything remotely decisive or wise or in the national interest. In anyone else’s interest.

Abbott’s awkward bearing resembled that of a school prefect, voted in because he was popular for being one of the lads who having just received his prefect’s badge, now for the first time in his life was expected to make a speech showing his leadership.  The effort was grotesquely fascinating, compelling and disturbing at the same time. The effect was unsettling. Even Abbott’s close friend Greg Craven has described the new pose as resembling a funeral director at a chancy funeral.

Yet birth rather than death and romance were the dominant subtexts of Abbott’s performance. Craven no doubt has yet to be informed of the budding bromance between Abbott and Obama. As revealed recently in The Herald Sun, the PM has disclosed a long-standing secret and unlikely admiration for the world’s most powerful leader, describing Barack Obama as an “extraordinarily gifted man” and a potential friend to rival past ­presidents. The spin unit, Mr Abbott’s strategic communications unit were still working on a catchy slogan. All the way with LBJ worked for the Vietnam War. Gung ho with B.O., on the other hand, was proving a little trickier to work with.

Viewers are settling in for a feast of quality viewing as more televised beheadings are scheduled in future episodes of the new big budget reality TV show which is provisionally entitled, Fools Rush in.

Communication Breakdown

The Abbott government has created a hub of 37 communication and social media specialists to monitor social media and offer strategic communications advice costing taxpayers almost $4.3 million a year.

Details released in Senate documents show the ‘‘Strategic Communications Branch’’ was implemented late last year, where the 37 staff are expected to oversee media within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, including Indigenous Affairs and the Office for Women. According to the documents, staff are expected to monitor social media, offer strategic communications advice and create internal newsletters graphic design support, among other duties.

A spokesman for Opposition Leader Bill Shorten slammed the number of communications staff  engaged to spin Tony Abbott’s messages.

Soon after assuming office, Prime Minister Tony Abbott is reported to have created a strategic communications unit comprising 37 staffers. Their exact role is unclear. So, too are many other details, a responsible government would normally be expected to divulge. What is clear, however, is that most of us have been mystified to learn of the unit’s existence. Or evidence that it has been anything but a dead loss. Perhaps its clearest function is what it communicates to the Australian people about Tony’s tin ear and the remoteness of his government. Not only have previous governments done well without such a unit but by definition if you need a tin ear symphony to be in touch with your electorate, you lack the essential communication skills and sense to govern.

Mr Abbott has been less than, well, communicative about his communication unit as befits his chosen style. But no doubt he believes it was a prudent investment made as it was in the midst of his chicken little alarm calls about the economy. Not that he believed he had any real alternative. After all, even Abbott knows it’s an imperative: now that he’s won the election by pretending to have alternative policies and pretending that Labor was incompetent, raddled with leadership challengers and too inclusive of women, he has to pretend that he’s now capable of being Prime Minister. And he had to do something about
his recurring nightmare that one day, after years of fun and games with Alan Jones, Rupert and his other mates who flocked to him in rubbishing the country’s Prime Minister and everything she stood for, he woke up and he was expected to perform as a Prime Minister.

Typically, our little Aussie Bolter, Abbott has thrown caution to the winds. No consultation. He’s been quick with another captain’s call. You can’t waste time listening to others if you want to set up a communications unit. Besides, since when has Abbott given a rat’s bum for anyone else’s views?

Some would see Rat’s Arse Abbott’s Strategic Communications Unit as a bold initiative. It’s certainly one with ample historical precedent. Joseph Goebbels exploited a similarly strategic approach to government to some effect. Goebbel’s Proganda Principle 16 is being followed as we write:

Propaganda to the home front must create an optimum anxiety level.

The rest of Australia may well see it as foolhardy, self-defeating or premature.  Apposite, timely communication, it must be acknowledged, is almost impossible in the absence of any coherent plan, let alone any vision.

Granted its creation was poorly timed. The announcement of the unit was made amidst shock revelations that there was nothing in the budget but a wad of well-thumbed IOUs, Peter Slipper’s Cabcharge dockets and few unused meal vouchers bearing the name M Coulson. Worse than nothing. Those Labor bastards were profligate. Spent money like water. But they didn’t have a strategic communications unit.

Fecklessly staring down those who might accuse him of hypocrisy or inconsistency, Mr Abbott spent up big. He appears gifted at finding funds a plenty when it comes to making him sound good. He found buckets of money to splurge on fabricating an ersatz authenticity, gravity, competence and legitimacy. The unit gives him a chance of looking as if he’s across the detail of issues and events. The unit gives him a faux empathy, a diminished level of ignorance and a coherence he would be hard pressed to muster on his own.

Some would argue the Unit faces a big job. It could take any number of hacks to make Abbott sound half-way credible. Others would say that it’s an impossible task. You can’t polish a turd. Even the attempt will cost you dearly. The PM’s unit is expensive turd polish.

Let’s say, conservatively, each staffer in the TPU (Turd Polishing Unit) is on subsistence wages of $100,000 per annum or more. There would have to be dirt money and danger money in the staffer’s EBA. Factor in legal insurance against malpractice, fraudulence, defamation, perjury and other litigation costs insurance fees. A cheer squad is never cheap to feed.

We can only speculate. In the absence of any clear communication, it may be assumed that conservatively, his ghost-writers cost the nation $4.3 million. That’s the official figure. Do your own add ins. That’s a heck of an investment especially when you add in Joe Hockey’s spin unit. Then, of course, we need to add Scott Morrison’s departments which employ more than 95 communications staff and spin doctors, costing at least $8million a year.

Now we are up to a very conservative $12 million per year. Let’s say the government invested that amount each year for 15 years. Put it by for some frippery such as health or education. Assume an interest rate of 5%. Total funds available would be $283,889,901. Imagine if these funds were directed to help the needy and the underprivileged.

Then of course there is the incredible Credlin, Abbott’s minder, body servant and groom of the King’s close stool who must draw a performance bonus for the extra quota of turd-words as may be necessitated to meet daily contingencies such as our suddenly being at war in Iraq as stipulated in her EBA. Say what you like about Peta. She won’t come cheap.

The spending does not stop there. Other experts include a vocal coach to get Abbott to speak more slowly. Repeat key phrases. Key phrases. Even a spectacle coach, it would seem, has been engaged to get him to wear his glasses on camera to add gravitas. Or do a pale imitation of a policy wonk. On the other hand, perhaps it’s to tone down the anticipated hostility, Abbott’s public appearance unfailingly generates.  You don’t punch the kid wearing glasses.

Whatever the motive, Abbott’s unit are guaranteed to be a pack of very busy minders. And there efforts to date have been entirely unsuccessful. We point to the “slow down, Tony” strategy as one that is clearly working. It’s painful to witness but we must console ourselves that its logical extension must surely be that Tony speaks so slowly he says nothing at all. That is no bridge too far. Doubtless, the revised performance plan for the Chief Turd Polisher would be a bonus for getting Abbott to shut up completely. Government by wooden faced narcoleptic stupor has, after all worked well for such elder statesmen as Ronald Reagan, Vladimir Putin and Warren Truss.

Communication is a two way process. It requires a capacity for listening, a gift for tuning in, for sharing another’s point of view, an ability to feel for others, a non-judgemental approach which enables you try to see the others’ points of view. Above all it requires respect for and acceptance of others regardless of their age, station, beliefs or abilities. By definition, genuine communication does not include government by opinion poll, focus groups or the many other expensive artificial ways of measuring the bath water before you turn on the tap.  The opinion poll led government tends to move in ever decreasing circles until it disappears up its own rat’s rectum.

We have been saddled with an incompetent, remote and completely out of touch government which came to power by destroying the credibility of its opponents. The Prime Minister’s Strategic Communication Unit exists at our expense to remind us of the cost of a party that wins government by default. In due course it will be telling us that we have never had it so good. Or anything else really that its diligent researchers tell it is required to keep it in power. What we should know. And what we should think.

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Joseph Goebbels – Propaganda Principles

GOEBBELS’ PRINCIPLES OF PROPAGANDA

Based upon Goebbels’ Principles of Propaganda by Leonard W. Doob, published in Public Opinion and Propaganda; A Book of Readings edited for The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues.

1. Propagandist must have access to intelligence concerning events and public opinion.

 2. Propaganda must be planned and executed by only one authority.

a. It must issue all the propaganda directives.

b. It must explain propaganda directives to important officials and maintain their morale.

c. It must oversee other agencies’ activities which have propaganda consequences

3. The propaganda consequences of an action must be considered in planning that action. 

4. Propaganda must affect the enemy’s policy and action.

a. By suppressing propagandistically desirable material which can provide the enemy with useful intelligence

b. By openly disseminating propaganda whose content or tone causes the enemy to draw the desired conclusions

c. By goading the enemy into revealing vital information about himself

d. By making no reference to a desired enemy activity when any reference would discredit that activity

5. Declassified, operational information must be available to implement a propaganda campaign

6. To be perceived, propaganda must evoke the interest of an audience and must be transmitted through an attention-getting communications medium.

7. Credibility alone must determine whether propaganda output should be true or false.

8. The purpose, content and effectiveness of enemy propaganda; the strength and effects of an expose; and the nature of current propaganda campaigns determine whether enemy propaganda should be ignored or refuted.

9. Credibility, intelligence, and the possible effects of communicating determine whether propaganda materials should be censored.

10. Material from enemy propaganda may be utilized in operations when it helps diminish that enemy’s prestige or lends support to the propagandist’s own objective.

11. Black rather than white propaganda may be employed when the latter is less credible or produces undesirable effects.

12. Propaganda may be facilitated by leaders with prestige.

13. Propaganda must be carefully timed.

a. The communication must reach the audience ahead of competing propaganda.

b. A propaganda campaign must begin at the optimum moment

c. A propaganda theme must be repeated, but not beyond some point of diminishing effectiveness

14. Propaganda must label events and people with distinctive phrases or slogans.

a. They must evoke desired responses which the audience previously possesses

b. They must be capable of being easily learned

c. They must be utilized again and again, but only in appropriate situations

d. They must be boomerang-proof

15. Propaganda to the home front must prevent the raising of false hopes which can be blasted by future events.

16. Propaganda to the home front must create an optimum anxiety level.

a. Propaganda must reinforce anxiety concerning the consequences of defeat

b. Propaganda must diminish anxiety (other than concerning the consequences of defeat) which is too high and which cannot be reduced by people themselves

17. Propaganda to the home front must diminish the impact of frustration.

a. Inevitable frustrations must be anticipated

b. Inevitable frustrations must be placed in perspective

18. Propaganda must facilitate the displacement of aggression by specifying the targets for hatred.

19. Propaganda cannot immediately affect strong counter-tendencies; instead it must offer some form of action or diversion, or both.

Air Strikes terror into hearts of students of history of US military intervention

Barrack Obama has unveiled his plan for US military intervention in the Middle East. No. nothing unilateral. The US will lead a coalition. And there’s more. No boots on the ground. Humanitarian motives. Air strikes, armaments and advisers only will be supplied. Or so we are told. No mention of the W word. It’s the war you have when you are not having a war. If Obama’s plan sounds too good to be true, it’s because it is. The plan will not deliver the intended objective. ISIS will not be significantly diminished by a policy of erosion, however systematic. Increasingly abortive air strikes will lead inevitably to mission creep. Mission creep raises its ugly head today amidst a thicket of euphemisms, jargon and military double-speak which US involvement richly and effortlessly generates. It is not what it might seem. No. Mission creep is not the detested commander in chief who never knows what’s going on – on the ground and who never gives the troops enough to do a proper job. No. He is not the guy on your mission who takes selfies with corpses, loots from combat zones or who takes advantage of the thousand and one opportunities war provides to the morally challenged. On this occasion mission creep is a cute way of saying boots in air will be followed by boots on the ground. The mission Obama has so carefully and confusingly outlined will morph into full military involvement. Boots and all. It’s inconceivable that he’s unaware of this but it may be postponed until his term of office concludes. Indeed, boots on the ground could be a catchy and attractive slogan for the next Republican candidate to aim for the Oval Office. Boots on the ground is another US militarism but unlike mission creep, one which dates from the earliest encounters. The literal meaning is easy to grasp. But it symbolises an approach to battle that has characterised part of US military thinking for at least eighty years. It is an approach, however, despite its pedigree which brings with it intrinsic difficulties. In the Second World War, it was a cornerstone of US strategy. History is not kind in its verdict. The United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) pursued a doctrine of strategic bombing as its main mission. The doctrine was founded in the belief that unescorted bombers could win the war all by themselves. No ground troops would be required. It was a fundamentally flawed doctrine. Yet it prevailed throughout the entire course of the war. Belief in the doctrine did not waver amongst USAAF command. Consequently the USAAF operated independently of the rest of the Army. Strategic bombing is neither new to US military thinking nor without its detractors. It appeals of course to presidents such as Obama whose advisors would gauge this type of military intervention as the easiest to sell to a population increasingly wary of engaging in foreign wars. Yet in an era of alternative sources of information from Al Jazeera to social media and images taken on cell phones, it is increasingly difficult if not impossible to maintain that it is a workable policy. For it flies in the face of all evidence. At its core is the delusion of a safer type of warfare. The face of US policy, however, is one thing. Its exercise is another. Again, the key is in the language. Students of US military-speak around the world and especially in South East Asia and the Middle East would understand that the phrase military advisor can cover a multitude of modes of deployment including active combat. Historically, the role of the US military advisor is well-defined. It is the soldier you send to fight when you are not sending soldiers to fight. The Vietnam War demonstrated that for the US there is no such thing as a military “advisor” in a war zone.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the U.S. sent thousands of military “advisors” to South Vietnam to allegedly train the South Vietnamese army against “Communist” invaders. This was, of course, another civil war that the U.S. should have had no role in and that only created an even worse debacle in that country. But the fact of the matter was that these so-called “advisers” were, in fact, combat troops or special forces units that didn’t just advise; they engaged in combat. That’s why they were there in the first place. Americans don’t like taking a secondary role to anyone, and certainly this is true of the U.S. military. No military “adviser” is going to just take a secondary role with the Iraqi military. Mario T Garcia National Catholic Reporter
We need to be cautious about what the President has set in place. We need to be sure we understand the nature of the beast that has been unleashed. We need to be hard-nosed. Military intervention admits of no other kind of approach. One way to start would be for politicians who have written a blank cheque of support for Obama’s intervention to cancel it. Instead they should ask the hard questions. These include: What is the US planning exactly? Why? What will it most likely lead to? This particularly applies to Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbott. Stop slavering at the prospect of a war. It’s embarrassing. You don’t need to act like a total sycophant of the US to help your much beloved ally. In fact you would be more respected and you would be of more use to ‘our great and powerful friend’ if you asked what exactly the US plan really was and what precisely we are committing ourselves to supporting. And then you need to share this immediately with the Australian people. It will be a difficult new step for you. it will involve the extension of trust. It will involve the practice of honest communication and democratic sharing. You may have to take fresh advice. But it won’t hurt your image at all. And it may save the lives of the very people it is your responsibility to protect.