*Pic: Bri, Flickr
Creepy Clown hysteria sweeps the nation, this week. Almost trumping The Donald, CC’s upstage AFL trades and eclipse politics. Is it a cult? Is it a craze? No-one thinks it will end well. Police beg copy-cats to end “this dangerous and stupid trend.” While reported sightings may distract us from assessing clown-prince Turnbull’s government’s performance, however, the Creepy Clowns illuminate far more than they obscure.
LNP Senator Ian MacDonald is a standout as Pozzo, Samuel Becket’s bullying clown modelled on the Keystone Cops character, in the Senate Inquiry side-show into megalomaniac George Brandis’ misleading of parliament over his subjugation of the solicitor-general in his government’s push to politicise our public service. And the Great Grimaldi, himself, would be delighted to own as his protégé the hapless, petulant, incompetent Mal Turnbull pathetically playing someone he can never be: anyone but himself - let alone another clown.
Turnbull’s first hundred days are a bungling reprise of the shtick of Coalition “Auguste” clown, Tony Abbott: union-bashing, poor-trashing, pro-coal, anti-welfare, education and environment in a government paralysed by division, its PM led “like a dog on a lead” by the right. Playing politics on marriage equality, its plebiscite hoax which would promote homophobic attacks while postponing legalisation is finally exploded this week in a type of anniversary gift, by Labor, The Greens, three Xenophons and Derryn Hinch. Turnbull’s regime sinks to Abbott-era depths in NewsPolls. Luckily, Eric Abetz has an innovative solution.
Come out of the closet, urges perennial unicorn chaser the agile Abetz, who blames media bias for not celebrating or honouring people who “come out” and switch from a homosexual to a heterosexual lifestyle. Abetz, one of four remaining Tasmanian Liberal Senators fighting for attention in Federal Parliament, is banking on a grateful media, free at last to give heterosexual Australians who have come out straight the attention they merit.
Abetz is also keen to share with reporters his completely rational, objective and measured conspiracy theory that there has been a campaign under way since the 1970s to deconstruct marriage and rob it of its meaning. He is there to launch a book with the most innocuous title Stealing from the Child: The Injustice of “Marriage Equality” by Australian Marriage Forum president David van Gend, a book that promises to lay bare the “breathtakingly subversive redefinition of marriage” and expose the “genderless agenda” that comes with genderless “marriage”.
“His call to celebrate people turning from gay to straight is just the latest line of attack against gays in a long political career that bears all the hallmarks of a religiously-fuelled, personal moral crusade,” writes James Norman in the SMH. Yet overall the media has framed its reporting of the plebiscite along government lines. It is Labor which is said to have “scuttled the coalition’s plan” for a plebiscite
the reality of entrenched and active bigotry
Reading Abetz’s views, is to be confronted with direct evidence which contradicts his PM’s comments in parliament this week that waive aside the reality of entrenched and active bigotry which is well-funded and politically powerful, with an airy “trust” in the Australian people to be nice or the specious argument that it is “only a minority” which is likely to suffer homophobic abuse.
Whatever his personal beliefs, Turnbull himself is beholden to a powerful and intolerant minority whose prejudicial influence upon a community he says he supports he cannot blithely wish away any more than he can will himself into any real control over the disparate, divisive and defiant elements that have ruined his own authority and legitimacy.
A hundred days in office, certainly, have not seen the Coalition develop its parliamentary skill. “There has never been a more chaotic government, there has never been a more chaotic parliament and there has never been a leader of the house that has had to endure humiliation from his colleagues on such a regular basis,” Manager of Opposition Business Tony Burke tells Parliament after Financial Services Minister Kelly O’Dwyer votes against her own government, endorsing a bill amended by Labor, which calls upon the Government to close tax loopholes and increase transparency.
Labor’s Jim Chalmers attacks O’Dwyer’s history of lapses: “Given the Minister for Revenue can’t answer basic questions about her legislation, contradicts the Prime Minister on house prices and negative gearing and was the original architect of the Census disaster, can the Minister please a very interested House about what other spectacular policy achievements lie ahead, or is this the high point of your brilliant career?” he says. O’Dwyer can only head upward from here.
Not all is flagging; Petti-fogger General Brandis rogers the Solicitor-General while Turnbull gets into bed with One Nation. Pauline Hanson is helped on to the Joint Standing Committee on the National Broadband Network which exists in order to “inquire into and report on the roll-out of the national broadband network”. Numbers have been boosted from 7 to 17 members this year but doubtless it will be vital to have Pauline and her vast technical expertise on board.
These are top-quality performances. Either professional clown is up to Trump or any other international pick-up artist in sophisticated seduction or the vital matter of consent.
But look over there! Crippled by crushing welfare debt? Embarrassed by your nation’s quick whip round to give big business a bit of a handout? Fear no more. Worry yourselves sick, instead, over cyber-attacks. The nation is treated to a frenetic tap dance from Dan - “close the doors they’re coming in the (MS) Windows ™- Tehan.” The Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Cyber Security, executes a frenzied buck and wing in tribute to his government’s need to spy on us, keep our data and lie about it, hyping “cyber” terror, xenophobia and paranoia in this week’s coalition circus Oz.
... the work of professional fear-mongers ...
Deadpan Dan, enhances his tap-dance by unfurling something called The 2016 Threat Report, the work of professional fear-mongers, The Australian Cybersecurity centre and revealing chilling news: the intelligence service of an unnamed country hacked into our Bureau of Meteorology last year. No! Next we know, our weather will be on Wiki-Leaks.
But wait; there’s more. Tweaking things a little, Dan says the ACC warns public servants of cyber-devastation in three years - (He must mean government departments still in operation after Coalition savings and efficiency dividends.) -
The report, however, clearly states: “… it is unlikely terrorists will be able to compromise a secure network and generate a significant disruptive or destructive effect for at least the next two to three years”.
It don’t mean a thing if it aint got that spin. Desperate Dan milks further applause with a coy revelation. Reassuring us all that he will not sit idly by while we become victims of international cyber-crime, he reveals that Australia has (gasp!) cyber offensive capacity. Pressed for details of this creepy secret weapon, Dan tells Kim Landers on ABC Radio he can’t say because it wouldn’t be secret. Be alert, not informed. Mum’s the word. He also refuses to name any names about our cyber attackers although his vacuous drivel next day in party propaganda organ The Australian calls them ISIS.
“When it comes to, when it comes to intelligence matters there’s a long history of us not publicly broadcasting what we’re doing in this area,” says the little Aussie bottler. Indeed. Add that history to Border Security’s selective catatonia, targeting of whistle-blowers or mad King George Brandis’ two year, $50,000 tantrum over refusing Labor his diary least it confirm he cut arts funding without consultation - a word very much in the air Friday in a senate committee set up to help O’Sullivan and MacDonald bully Justin Gleeson the Solicitor General. The duo give him the Gillian Triggs’ treatment for daring to challenge King George’s megalomania or his lie to parliament that Gleeson was happy to be shafted.
Mad King George claims, like a schoolboy debater, that the whole sorry business is a matter of definition. He waves his dictionary, a pocket Napoleon brandishing his pocket Oxford. He misses the mark. The net effect is more of a sulky Humpty Dumpty. He’s decreed that all who seek the Solicitor General’s advice must have the Attorney General’s permission first and he’s told Gleeson afterwards, a process he claims is consultation.
“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
... trivialised into a “breakdown.”
By Friday, the latest chapter in megalomaniacal George Brandis’ self-aggrandisement, his misleading of parliament, his attempt to sideline the Solicitor General in a radical and unprecedented diminution of the second law officer’s authority had been trivialised into a “breakdown.” It is as if the two are naughty boys who ought to have their heads knocked together - a view favoured in the ABC’s framing of the conflict in its news bulletins and on The Drum which gets its name from the wrong part of a washing machine. It’s the filter that collects all the fluff and lint.
Barry O’Sullivan and Ian McDonald abuse Solicitor General Justin Gleeson SC because he took a phone call from Mark Dreyfus during the election, surely a communication entirely legal and within his role. Was he consulted about being demoted to Brandis’ subordinate? Was he happy about it? No and no. Expect Brandis high-handed abrogation of power to be overruled by the senate in due course. The Attorney General’s original instructions tabled in the senate are a “disallowable instrument” and can be overturned by a senate vote.
Until then, Gleeson will disregard what he believes is an unlawful instruction. Expect the framing to continue, however. The media prefers us to see a brawl, a face-off, a feud, a tiff that distorts and distracts from Brandis’ naked power grab.
A Newspoll published Monday shows the Coalition once again trailing Labor 52-48 two party preferred as Turnbull’s lame duck government clocks up an underwhelming one hundred days in office. Its vaunted omnibus bill merely enables it to pass savings slated in Abbott’s first dud budget but it has achieved some dangerous union-bashing as the senate passes its amendment to the Fair Work Act to ban the inclusion of certain “objectionable terms” in enterprise agreements covering workers employed by a “designated emergency management body” (such as the CFA). Clauses requiring management to consult with the relevant union are considered “objectionable”.
Australia heaves a sigh of relief this week as Tony Abbott rates the objectionable Donald Trump’s policies as “reasonable enough,” while he concedes that the Republican candidate’s views on women are “gross.” Abbott cherry picks for praise Trump’s “cutting tax” and “boosting foreign policy”, neither of which are more than banner headlines in The Donald’s policy-free platform.
Elder statesman Abbott, Bronwyn Bishop and John Howard’s political love-child and suppository of all knowledge, icon of the Liberal Party’s hard-right rump, former PM and Minister for Women, is keen to open another split between himself and Turnbull by defending Trump against the unfair bad press the Republican presidential candidate has been receiving lately largely over his pickup artist tips and lies spread by women claiming he abused them.
... Abbott’s own Sovereign Borders fantasy ...
Allegations of misconduct against Trump are false, Campaign spokesperson Hope Hicks explains. They are all part of a “political attack designed to tear down Mr Trump,” and nothing to do with his policies which include building a wall across the United States to keep would-be immigrants back where they belong, an eerie echo of Abbott’s own Sovereign Borders fantasy and with as much feasibility.
While Abbott is merely aiming to dog-whistle conservatives and to provoke Turnbull, he is displaying a Trumpish lack of judgement in exposing his own glass house of boorish ignorance, social incompetence and political ineptitude. Rat cunning is no substitute for leadership; nor will it fund a comeback. Turnbull loses the judgement challenge, however, responding by asking if Abbott has read Trump’s views against Free Trade. Abbott by then doesn’t need to.
Keen to make rating The Donald a proxy war between right and moderate Liberals, NSW’s Parliament’s Upper House passes a motion which censures Trump for being “a revolting slug” which is code for being more on Turnbull’s team than Abbott’s, with just a touch of what they really feel about the former PM.
The plebiscite is now an albatross around Turnbull’s neck. There is ample time and opportunity between now and the next election for Labor to remind voters that whatever he may claim, that it is a symbol of Turnbull’s impotence as a leader, a token of his capture by his deal with the Nationals and the Coalition’s right wing. The botched plebiscite is also a legacy of his unwillingness and inability to negotiate with an Opposition which once supported the plebiscite principle and will be seen by his party as a failure to deliver.
*David Tyler (AKA Urban Wronski) was born in England, raised in New Zealand and an Australian resident since 1979. Urban Wronski grew up conflicted about his own national identity and continues to be deeply mistrustful of all nationalism, chauvinism, flags, politicians and everything else which divides and obscures our common humanity. He has always been enchanted by nature and by the extraordinary brilliance of ordinary men and women and the genius, the power and the poetry that is their vernacular. Wronski is now a fulltime freelance writer who lives with his partner and editor Shay and their chooks, near the Grampians in rural Victoria and he counts himself the luckiest man alive. A former teacher of all ages and stages, from Tertiary to Primary, for nearly forty years, he enjoyed contesting the corporatisation of schooling to follow his own natural instinct for undifferentiated affection, approval and compassion for the young.
• Guardian: ‘Welfare mentality’ must end: Coalition responds to report on rising poverty Research shows nearly 3 million Australians are living below poverty line – government says answer is to get people off welfare, not increase payments …