Image for NATION: All you need is talk ...

Week in review ...

‘Sod off Tony! Bronwyn Bishop sends Tony Abbott packing, rebuking her pocket PM for his cheek, if not his hypocrisy in broaching the issue of her travel claims. The hypothetical scenario is surely the most likely outcome of the spat of the week based on what we know of each party and given the veil of secrecy our virtual-burqa-wearing government prefers. It likes to keep us guessing.

Whatever Tone did say to Bron, or he said she said, the outcome is plain.  Their conversation frames another amazing week in federal politics, a week which saw the PM’s leadership and that of his team tested if not bested by the need to walk the talk while the opposition followed suit.

Not content with adopting LNP policy on turn-backs, Labor also borrows the government’s specious rhetoric that it is a life-preserver.  Never mind that it is a preposterous lie. Never mind that Liberal spin doctors dreamt it up to disguise their real motive of vote-buying as preventing drowning.

Never mind that it is a cruelly disingenuous con, Bill Shorten, you need to explain to the nation how life in indefinite detention, where death is the only exit, say on Manus, is any kind of life at all. 

Explain to us, Bill, how it saves lives when thousands of Rohingya from Burma and Bangladeshi migrants are stranded at sea when Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand turn back their flimsy boats.

Apologise, Bill, above all, to asylum seekers for the slogan ‘turn back the boats.’ They are not boats that you turn back but people.

Bill Shorten also needs to apologise to all Australians for implying that ‘boats have stopped’ when it is clear we have paid at least one crew of people smugglers to turn back; when just last week there was another boat off Dampier.

The boats are still coming but we are not told about them. Keeping the people in the dark is part of the government’s art of national conversation, its current talking point obsession. Will Labor follow?

...lip-service to the conversation buzzword ...

Despite a Canberra gab-fest of talking points about the need to talk; about how good it is that we are having this conversation, real communication hit new lows. Every MP and her leader was so busy paying lip-service to the conversation buzzword, that trust and respect couldn’t get a word in.

“We want to have a well-informed and civil national conversation about all these things and, frankly, if we can have a conversation rather than a scare campaign, our country will be so much better off,”

Mr ‘Communications Skills,’ as he is known around parliament, Abbott intoned, achieving all the statesmanlike sobriety and gravitas of a cheap tourist souvenir, a plastic mascot of a man whose pale, taut face and patent insincerity were given unflattering emphasis by a backdrop of garish bunting; another set of spanking new Australian flags.

The Prime Minister’s gift to the conversation was to restrict it. Changes to the tax on super or any review of tax rates for the wealthy were ruled out, leaving leaders only one option to discuss: GST.

Abbott played host to the leaders’ retreat bull-session at Victoria police barracks in Canberra, a venue which doubtless saved him a travel claim whilst conferring the militaristic touch he favours in his ongoing ‘national security conversation’ a scare campaign he maintains constantly with ill-informed warnings and lurid fear-mongering about death cults coming for every one of us.

To be frank we’ve given up expecting any real dialogue, Mr Abbott. So far, your ‘honest national conversations’ are a blend of crying wolf, fetishising the military and bonkers paranoia. Your so-called White Papers are marketing tools for your agenda. Take away your IPA wish-list and you have nothing to say. You may think you can fool us but you can’t con Bronnie.

...the red flag of travel entitlements.

Abbott is Bishop’s political bestie and party warhorse but even a PM who puts the con in conversation, gets a charge out her when he waves the red flag of travel entitlements. Bishop does not respond well. Her nostrils flare. Such presumption amounts to lèse majesté. He may as well tell her to take a kerosene bath.

‘Where would you be without Bronnie?’ She cackles. Her support of Abbott enabled his one-vote 2009 leadership victory over Turnbull. It was close. One informal vote was simply marked ‘No.’

Would you still be my PM today without my people? Bishop is queen of the Liberals’ ultra-right wing and, in her own mind, the entire Liberal Party if not the nation. And her aspirations don’t end there.

Unaccountably, in her eyes, she has just been passed over as next Head of the Inter-parliamentary Union. Insiders cite her campaigns against Islamic dress as doing her case no good at all. Still, they could probably do with a Dowager Empress on Pluto. Great travel opportunity.

A more rational estimate of Bronwyn’s territory is her bishopric of Mackellar plus the PM’s neighbouring seat of Warringah; it’s her turf but she’s done him untold political favours even if Douglas Robb had to veto her plan to bank donations into her own political account in the early days. Abbott is indebted to her. She knows it. Some say she’s done quite well out of her mate, too.

Do you realise whom you are talking to? She barks. Her bedside manner wins her few admirers. Gareth Evans says it is easy to hate Bishop at first sight. It saves time later. Many in her own party are similarly underwhelmed by her naked ambition, self-interest and delusions of grandeur.

...blood sport which binds…

Rampant egos burnished bright, Bishop and her PM are political birds of a feather; in for the kill - the spoils and little else. Forget policy or the art of governance, it is the thrill of politics as blood sport which binds them, as much as the Narcissus within permits. And nests exist to be feathered. You will never get rid of either; they keep turning up like two sides of the same bad penny.

Abbott’s ‘ground control to Major Bron,’ damage containment mission has led him to describe his speaker as ‘a loyal servant of her country,’ choosing words which clearly presage a dame elect, an ultra-monarchist lady in waiting for whom the PM’s controversially revived Order of Australia is tailor-made, a distinction just begging to be conferred. Most others, however see her differently.

Bronwyn Bishop’s loyal service to herself is widely held to be her most outstanding feature. And being above the rules. Totally. No holds are barred for this veteran cage fighter who fights tooth and claw to put her own interests first, second and third. Never one to fight shy, her chutzpah is industrial-strength.

As Downer’s shadow health minister Bishop issued a statement approving tobacco advertising prompting an outcry from the AMA. It was her first day in office.  Her tantrums over not getting her favourite seat can keep commercial flights grounded for twenty minutes. She attends party room meetings. Doubtless this gives her insights to help her remain impartial as Speaker.

Despite all of her boss’s begging, pleading, blandishments, promises and unctuous entreaties, Bronnie remains steadfast; unrepentant, utterly unashamed and incapable of conceding she has ever done anything wrong be it her $5227 dollar helicopter ride to a Clifton Springs fund-raiser, her $88,204, two week European trip in her failed bid to be head of the Inter-parliamentary Union, or her billing the taxpayer $600 to wing it to Wang to attend Sophie Mirabella’s wedding in 2006.

All of these decisions were right in her eyes, even the $3300 she has spent in transport to the opera in the last three years, because she sees her public appearances as part of her function. Besides we should pay for the privilege of her blessed presence amongst us.  It is only right and proper.

‘two long conversations with her.’

Madam Speaker will never step down, she is emphatic. Her spurned spiritual love child Abbott, handling his rejection manfully, later reports to the media that he has had ‘two long conversations with her.’ 

Punishment enough, many would say. For either party. Evidently neither gets Abbott anywhere, forcing him to claim victory just in the jaw-boning, a theme he extends also to his failed COAG meeting and leaders’ retreat. Isn’t it just great to be having the conversation?

Nothing you can say that can’t be sung … All you need is talk. Talk, talk, talk. Talk is all you need …

Abbott, po-faced, in his best bodgie impression of gravitas, selects reverse gear on the spin machine. Bronwyn is, uh, contrite and has, uh, apologised for her, uh, ‘serious lapse of judgement’ merely ‘by paying back the money.’ Bronwyn, he claims, with best bestie insight, has learnt, uh, ‘a very salutary lesson.’ She is on probation; a set of gold-embossed luxury limo P-plates is in the mail.

Once again the PM must put lipstick on a pig. Cover up his drubbing. Not even the promised damehood which Abbott dangles before her will cause ‘the Lady Gaga of the seniors set,’ as he dubs her, to budge; her position is as rigid as her incredible chignon.

Bronwyn Bishop, Abbott’s pocket speaker, singing partner and craven crony to whom he owes his leadership and more simply tells him to go bite his bum. Go shave your legs, Tony, she laughs.

I’m sure you have another pollie pedal the public will pay your travel on. Some Iron-ing man event?

... $9400 Battlelines book-signing travel expenses ...

Don’t you have some people-smuggling expenses to declare? Time to fix the record about your $9400 Battlelines book-signing travel expenses you denied then were forced to pay four years ago?

Bishop may not remember to read things before she signs them; she has trouble with MPs’ names; trouble articulating due cause to use 94A to eject from the house 394 Labor MPs to six from the government but she understands all about power and mutual self-interest.

The doughty warrior is not over-fussed about appearing impartial or too afraid to rule out Opposition laughter. All is fair in love and war. She knows which side of her crust the butter goes on.

‘Besides, Tone, she purrs into a golden iPhone, I know where all the bodies are buried.’

Will Tony be hurt by protecting Bronnie? It’s more like, how much? It’s not going to go away, is it? Thus runs the week’s whopper BBQ chopper stopper in a fascinating seven days of ‘national conversations in which Captain’s Tosser, Abbott’s congress with the electorate and with the high-flyers in his own party is all mouth and no trousers, serving only, ironically, to confirm that without trust, mutual respect, the will to listen, - and a little thing called truth, any call for conversation is just a con.

Abbott’s midweek COAG wankfest con is billed as some kind of summit on tax ‘reform’ meaning state and territory leaders have been docked $80 billion over ten years from federal hospital and education grants to pull them into line with the coalition’s plan to offer the electorate tax cuts next election. A Mike Baird proposed raise in GST to fund this election largesse rapidly comes unstuck when Labor leaders reject the ploy. Expect to see the proposal re-emerge in some form soon.

...a form of words on terror that is truly frightening…

COAG then simply wastes time and money viewing presentations on ice and terror before being reduced to blathering on, ‘because it would be remiss of me not to’ about the Northern Territory’s fantasy of achieving statehood before releasing a form of words on terror that is truly frightening.

Why terrorism? The media release peddles a myth to suit the government’s own jihadist mind set.

“The common element in radicalisation is exposure to violent extremist ideology … Other drivers, such as social isolation, a longing for a sense of purpose or belonging, long-term unemployment, criminality, or perceived political grievances, may also contribute.”

The analysis is skewed, incomplete, false. As Bernard Keane notes, drug use and mental illness are omitted and none of the list above is a key factor save grievances. The last begrudging concession to political grievances must not be properly acknowledged lest these be legitimised.

Into the perceived political grievance category fit the radicalising consequences of western intervention in Iraq and the effects of Assad’s genocide including its recent barrel bomb attacks on school children in Aleppo.

...Julie Bishop’s Arab Spring thesis ...

In its national conversation on terror, the government must put up a straw man to enable ludicrous arguments such as Julie Bishop’s Arab Spring thesis to succeed. Western intervention played no part according to the government’s foreign minister, IS sprang up from the Arab Spring. It is ‘a risk greater than rise of communism or the cold war.’

This may provide the means to crank up the terror threat machine but it is dishonest, manipulative, neoconservative propaganda.

COAG does its bit for the myth, too, by issuing a new terror threat scale, in effect, implying that things must surely be getting alarmingly bad to warrant a whole new measure but the real message is that this is a government of mass manipulation not national conversation. 

COAG’s true function is to showcase Mike Baird’s initiative.  His leadership eclipses the PM who has absolutely no idea or interest in any discussion regarding taxation matters beyond scare tactics and three word slogans. A spotty sort of limelight falls on the NSW premier, for showing up the PM, according to Herald but this is hardly any mark of distinction.

Baird is the politician who made election promises to Watermark farmers that he would be taking a personal interest in the Shenhua mine fiasco, a mine we don’t need, don’t want and which should never have been approved. The NSW premier hasn’t been seen in the area since.

...as big as the blockade of the Franklin River.

Former New England Independent MP, Tony Windsor, sees the Shenhua mine approval as being as big a stoush as the blockade of the Franklin River. On Saturday, he predicts that it may end Barnaby Joyce’s career and sour our relationship with China.

The mine will proceed with the help of our Environmental Minister who continues to act as the obedient servant of a government which is, itself, beholden to Chinese mining interests.

‘The valley-wide bioregional assessment process that was initiated by former federal minister Tony Burke has been butchered by Coalition minister Greg Hunt and replaced with a box-ticking exercise of little more than a localised environmental impact statement.’

Trust is something Tony Abbott says we can’t put in Bill Shorten or Labor yet all of his abortive attempts this week to ‘hold a conversation with the nation,’ point to his own government having forfeited trust along with mutual respect. Talk to the people? His government can’t even get its speaker to listen to reason. And Windsor is speechless on shifty Hunt.

Abbott’s failure to rein in even his high-flying speaker friend this week is a fitting emblem of his incapacity as Prime Minister to lead his party in a government which has forfeited all credibility in its fondness for the spoils of office, its arrogance, remoteness and for its dizzy spin.

It has failed to use COAG to corral the states into raising the GST to permit it to offer tax cuts at the next election but it has successfully bumped up its use of the conversation buzz word, removed any environmental brake on foreign coal-mining in the best agricultural region in the nation and bumped out another instalment of its anti-terror gang-show, effortlessly refreshing its anti-jihadist terror death cult threat ideology to buttress its rule by fear, division and truth-suppression.