*Pic: of Eric Abetz from his website ...
First published March 13
It’s a Labor landslide in WA. Mark McGowan’s party may end up with 41 seats as the Liberal primary vote collapses 15% , and it’s all over bar the infighting and the recriminations. Yet one thing is sure. The fall of “Emperor” Colin Barnett can have nothing to do with Malcolm Turnbull; no blame no responsibility is accepted. Nothing to do with Turnbull’s support for the One Nation preference deal or his government’s dud policies. Instead the WA Premier invokes Whitlam.
It’s an overwhelming “it’s time factor”, Colin Barnett lies as WA Liberals openly wish they’d dumped him. Shit happens.
The ineluctable truth of Turnbull’s blamelessness emerges on ABC Insiders as “How the West Was Lost”, a gripping media mystery drama, reveals a mob of scapegoats for Liberal failure in a week of dodgy deals and reversals in which our anti-scare tactic PM’s Great Big Energy Crisis is gazumped by electron-magnate Elon Musk who offers a stack of Tesla batteries to keep the lights on in South Australia, a rashly wind and sun powered renewable rogue state.
Peter Georgiou, who takes his brother-in-law Rod Culleton’s senate spot, catches measles, a setback concealed during the campaign lest anyone laugh; or cast nasturtiums at One Nation’s crusade against childhood vaccination. There is no hope Georgiou can match the gifted buffoonery or performance art of his bankrupt predecessor but he is already off to a brilliant start not only with the measles but with his all-in-the-family route to power. One Nation is a one-ring circus.
Not to be outdone, moreover, La Hanson suddenly falls arse over tit. Everything is going so well, too. She’s set to be crowned Queen of WA by an adoring media, when she inexplicably trips over her lip; declares herself both a Putinista and a passionate anti-vaxxer. Naturally. All Trump torch carriers are virulently anti-jab and pro Putin, too.
Hanson’s revelations cause a stir. Some PHON dingbats flee the belfry. Brazen hussy. Traitor. What became of Pauline’s Celebrity Apprentice bikini-bottoms with the Australian flag on? Worse, she self-aborts her mission. Her WA Liberals’ preference deal reveals to even One Nation voters that Pauline is just another conniving politician. It’s a fatal error. Half her predicted supporters turn against her. Beliefs, Peter Ustinov said, are what divide people. Doubts unite them.
Not that Hanson is wearing any of it. Quickly, the Liberal’s Senate stooge finds a handy scapegoat for her failure.
Like milk in your fridge ...
“I don’t think it was the Liberal Party, I think it was Colin Barnett. The people here did not want Colin Barnett — he should have stepped aside.” Or thrown out. Like milk in your fridge that’s started to go sour, she says. It’s easy to see why Turnbull confidante and inner cabinet member Arthur Sinodinos praised One Nation’s sophistication recently. The truth is voters have stepped aside - and not only from Colin Barnett. They’re not that sweet on Pauline either.
Not only does Pauline’s pixie dust suddenly wear off, however, lame duck Turnbull’s fate is sealed by the sand-gropers’ no-vote, based in real fear that the Coalition is just an ill-disguised front for business, bankers and miners with its coal-war on the climate and environment and its class-war on the poor. Turnbull’s leadership is terminal. No ABC-led defence can help him now. He is a dead man walking even if he dare not show his face before noon.
The PM goes into witness protection, yet a piece by a Malcolm Turnbull appears 9:00 am in The Sunday Telegraph with the Dubai World’s Best Minister Greg Hunt threatening to bar unvaccinated kids from childcare and preschools. “No jab no pay will be matched by no jab no play.” Mal’s even written a letter commending his idea to state and territory leaders.
Sky News calls it the PM’s “hard stance on vaccinations”. Hunt repeats the word “tough” twice. It must be a stiff letter. The Liberal Party’s storm-troopers are scrambled to put Humpty Dumpty back together again starting from the tough up. Sturmmann Matthias Stormin’ Cormann is despatched to stonewall on ABC TV. He belabours the Liberals’ preference deal’s impeccable logic. It would put a floor under a declining primary vote of 29%, he repeats ad nauseam.
Cormann’s the Liberals’ master tactician and powerbroker. His recent masterstroke was to be seen walking out with Peter Dutton recently. Dutton wants to head up a new uber-department of Homeland Security an idea which many of his colleagues dismiss as a naked power grab by the Border Enforcer and his boss Mike Pezullo who amalgamated Customs and Border Protection without over troubling to get them working together properly. Or communicating.
Some see Dutton keenly building a power base from which to challenge Turnbull. Homeland Security would take what is laughably called oversight of ASIO from Attorney General. Others see Turnbull so beholden to the right and so keen to be free of Brandis that he will agree. It will not be a path to the top but to the bottom. Dutton struggled to run Health. He is overwhelmed by the tasks of winding up Manus and running down Nauru. His refugee deal with Trump is stalled.
Out of his stall and a law unto himself as ever, deputy leader Barnaby Joyce calls the preference deal “a mistake” before offering some colourful opinions on ABC Radio about One Nation’s senate candidates. “Mad”, he says.” Lucky this is not being broadcast.” Labor simply replies swiftly that Fizza Turnbull failed to act on his power to veto the deal.
The “Junior, sweaty, Navy Lawyer”
Of course there are local factors. Barnett’s switched-on plan to privatise state electricity in WA seems a turn off for voters. It’s worked so well in other states. In Victoria and South Australia, prices soar as systems become less reliable. The “Junior, sweaty, Navy Lawyer” attack on McGowan by the typically sensitive Minister for Welfare Extortion and sandgroper, Christian Porter may have not struck the right note early in the campaign.
But in a post truth, fake news Trumpocene age, personal abuse beats rational argument any day. Besides, didja hear what Turnbull called Shorten?
Like their federal counterpart, the WA Liberals are lean on policy. Astonishingly, also, Colin Barnett fails to convince anyone that he should waste a third term pretending to be an effective State Premier after blowing the proceeds of the mining boom, driving up the state debt and causing credit ratings and property prices to fall.
The Department’s pre-election budget update forecast total public sector debt will reach $41.1 billion by mid-2020.
Then there’s the elephant in the room of WA’s dodgy queue-jumping tax grab. Barnett’s government passed legislation in late 2015 to seize control of the $1.8 billion assets from the Bell liquidation — potentially jumping ahead of the ATO and other creditors. Somehow Joe Hockey and Attorney General George Brandis led them to believe that the federal government backed WA’s strategy. The High Court threw out the legislation on appeal, humiliating the WA government.
Sadly, Brandis’ inability to recall the nature or the precise date of his involvement may have misled parliament over the issue. The AG seems to have confused everyone. The case may also have cast a cloud over the Barnett regime. Certainly it has led to calls for Brandis to resign. Whatever else may be said, however, the Premier is clearly not short of big ideas.
You can’t fault Barnett for innovative policy. He’s out there doing the hard yards promising ripper statues of sporting heroes at the new Perth Stadium, not just a digital tribute, but a whole new statue every two years, plus a whole bunch of other stuff in aquaculture, Aboriginal rock art and tourism along with a pledge to see the federal government’s wonderful new Sunday penalty rate cuts translated into state awards, too. Plucky? “You bet you are. You bet I am.”
But you can’t fight city hall. Barnett is blown away by the Tsunami of unpopularity that is the Turnbull government.
Centrelink Robo-debt extortion of the poor ...
Despite all the spin, the WA result is clearly a rejection of the Turnbull government’s Centrelink Robo-debt extortion of the poor and its equally cruel penalty-rate cuts. The state with 6.5% unemployed and rising, the nation’s highest, even measured by the government’s rubbery figures, also smarts over the barefaced robbery of Coalition tax cuts for the wealthy, while International Women’s Day this week reminds us that we remain one nation divided by entrenched gender inequality. It’s even more keenly experienced in the new mining industrial rustbelt of WA.
Women with children, workers least equipped to find childcare other days in the week, suffer the most from the government’s cutting Sunday penalty rates. They bear a disproportionate part of the social, emotional and economic brunt of the government’s push to have more Australians under-employed in an increasingly part-time casualised workforce where hours may grow, wages are stagnant and penalty rate cuts increasingly undermine household budgets.
Things are likely to get worse. Legal opinion for the ACTU released Friday by lawyers Maurice Blackburn finds that the Fair Work Commission case to consider consumer expectations and not to actively deter weekend work could be used to reduce awards in nursing and health care, transport, security, cleaning services, construction, clerical workers, laundry services, hair and beauty industries, trainers, mining and factories.
Employment Minister and Minister for Women, avid part-time property investor and lip readers’ gift, Michaelia Cash says it’s all a Labor lie but since her claim to have overlooked registering her $1.5 million property investment next door, no-one can believe a word she says. She’s a big fan of penalty cuts but you’d never know it - now. She’s in witness protection for the duration. Or at least until there’s no risk of being questioned about her property management skills.
At least Pauline tells it like it is. Even if the big ideas don’t always fit the sentence. Hanson’s support for penalty rate cuts goes back to running the Ipswich fish shop. Labor’s to blame. McDonald’s undercut her minimum wage. She had to pay eight dollars an hour more. EBA’s are to blame. It’s not the sort of pitch the average WA worker can relate to.
Yet the jabs break through. Not every mother owns a small business but all mothers know what is to have sick children.
... “a strong leader” who “stands up for his country” ...
Along with her dangerous advice to parents to make up their own minds on vaccinating their children, a song from Donald Trump’s hymnbook, she professes love for Russian despot Vladimir Putin, whom she naively praises as “a strong leader” who “stands up for his country” - not one who invades others to seize lands where ethnic Russians may live - as indicated by his incursion into Georgia, his seizure of Crimea and his role in the “frozen conflict” in eastern Ukraine.
The media turn. Even ABC Insiders Barrie Cassidy can’t let her ignorance go unchallenged. Turnbull himself weighs in later and has another dab Sunday while Bill Shorten makes a bipartisan show of support for a factually based public health policy. It’s the high point of the political week - if you don’t count Colin Barnett’s comeuppance. Or Georgiou.
A concerted stand against Hanson may be good news for the nation this week even if the ABC gets its nose rubbed in its mess. In retaliation for holding Australia’s Trumpista to account, the ABC is barred access to her WA election wake where party members console themselves that their dismal showing was all the fault of Barrie Cassidy. Doubtless the banks and those international financiers who created the climate change hoax for profit have a hand in it, too.
Hanson’s “humilating flop” as Malcolm Farr calls it in WA parallells her failure to coordinate a handful of senators and makes a complete mockery of her leadership pretensions. But it’s not what people are telling her she says. It’s not what she hears from the voters. Like Corey Bernardi, she claims a type of clairaudience. She intuits the people’s will. Incredibly, no-one else can do this. Amazingly, ordinary people who lack her access to the media always agree with her.
No rebuke will easily dint Hanson’s rock-star popularity. Like her idol Trump, her fans are nurtured more by mutual ignorance, fear and hatred than petty details such as factual accuracy. Yet the preference deal with the Liberals, goes badly. She admits as much Saturday as she acknowledges PHON has won less than five per cent of the lower house vote and seven per cent in the upper.
Gone is any hope of the swag of seats predicted earlier. Gone is the prospect of holding the balance of power. PHON will be lucky to get one or two seats in a big Senate crossbench. Yet straight-faced she blames the Liberal Party.
Hanson, Labor helpfully reminds voters, is supposed to be above preference deals; that type of politics. No-one says that her WA bid is preposterous; no-one whispers she is utterly, ludicrously out of her depth; not waving but drowning. Luckily, however, there are others competing for Australian politics Darwin Award for individuals who contribute to improving the evolution of our national politics by selecting themselves out of the gene pool by self-destruction.
Perennial Darwin Award contender and sole survivor over his 2016 how to vote Liberal in the Senate fiasco plucky Tassie Senator Erich Abetz jostles to the front of the pack this week with some beaut new views on how women win respect.
”... artificially promote you simply because of your sex,”
“Queen Elizabeth II has demonstrated that hard work and commitment earn you far more respect than demanding that people make way and artificially promote you simply because of your sex,” tweets the budding local female emancipist, pocket philosopher and inveterate attention seeker Abetz who trips badly in his run-up to achieving his own unique insight into International Women’s Day. Abetz succeeds once again only in putting both feet into his mouth.
Last October, Abetz was berating the media for bias in failing to celebrate those who come out straight. “Ever thought why there is no celebration for those that decide to go from the homosexual to heterosexual lifestyle? Are they not honest? Are they not coming out as well? … just one of the examples of the one-way traffic and bias from the media.”
HRH, one hopes, will overlook Eric’s slight on her inherited privilege, status and wealth - just as women whose hard work and commitment has not yet made them members of the Royal Family may now safely overlook anything the Senator says as the blathering of a manifest idiot who has no clue about gender inequality and less about gender politics.
Media bias, however, to be fair to Eric, is firmly entrenched although the traffic follows the money; flows Eric’s way. An ally, of sorts, for example, in Abetz’ quest to misrepresent, dismiss or deny the gravity of gender inequality is to be found on what Peter Dutton sees as the jihadist conspirators’ ABC’s The Drum where one of a panel of “successful businesswomen” points out that the surest path to equal opportunity is to have your stockbroker gal pal on your speed dial. She’ll be the one with the best baby-sitting contacts. Abetz is right about the bias; The Drum is an exclusive club where success talks to itself in public.
In the same way, politicians talk to themselves in the media, or over each other or the interviewer, a process they fondly describe as “having a national conversation”.
None of these token successes have anything remotely useful to offer ordinary women whose lives in their own ways deserve every bit as much celebration and affirmation. Their presence is a reproach to all those who are trying to run a home and a family on a hopelessly inadequate and shrinking part-time wage.
... a one per cent chance of being interviewed ...
Our media promotes inequality in privileging the discourse of the successful as it does by ensuring the dominance of a white male middle-class elite. If you are a woman, for example, you have a one per cent chance of being interviewed in a newspaper, on TV or radio or any other form of media. And in news coverage, three quarters of all women are invisible. Only about 24% of all people seen, heard or read about in the news are female.
Although women make up 46 per cent of all employees in Australia, they take home on average $283.20 less than men each week (full-time adult ordinary time earnings). The national gender “pay gap” is 18.2 per cent and it has remained stuck between 15 per cent and 18 per cent for the past two decades.
The PM honours International Women’s Day with community legal centres in Australia, facing a 30 per cent funding cut from the Federal Government next financial year. Tasmania’s State Government recently announced they would make up the difference.
Nothing is heard from Minister for Women Michaelia Cash about penalty rate cuts which hurt women the most. Nor does the government express any compassion or concern for the consequences of Robo debt clawback - although the 10 per cent debt recovery surcharge may well be illegal - as too are its methods of discouraging protest.
News comes this week that the department pulls the files of those who make a fuss and sends their personal details to the Minister, who then may pass them on to be used against the ungrateful welfare recipient. It’s an extraordinary admission of another step towards a totalitarian state. It fits with Brandis’ recent admission that the AFP accesses certain journalists’ meta-data in order to hunt down whistle-blowers.
Soon this may all be under the aegis of Peter Dutton. What could possibly go wrong?
WA is at the very least a slap in the face for the Federal Government. It is almost certainly the end of Malcolm Turnbull. It may well be, also, that it is the beginning of the end for Pauline Hanson whose attempt to make it on the national stage has not got much beyond a seat on the cross-bench.
Or is it the end of the beginning? Certainly the curbing of the mainstream media’s fawning indulgence of a celebrity politician with some dangerously false ideas is a welcome corrective against infectious ignorance and division.
Now the same process needs to be sustained on the wilful disinformation of those in the major parties who would divide and dupe us for their ends and their backers’ profits.
*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.