Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Economy

NATION: Government by circus and sideshow diversion

*Pic: Tnarik Innael, Flickr of Peter Sellers at the height of his powers … “Fall-guy Cormann, to his credit, turns in a performance worthy of Peter Sellers’ Inspector Jacques Clouseau, another archetypal buffoon whose paté-thick accent and surreal logic could fox any questioner. Not that he’s trying to be funny. As Clouseau, himself, once observed. “There is a time to laugh and a time not to laugh, and this is not one of them.”

Urban Wronski … a reincarnated Bob Ellis

Leaked to the Saturday Paper this week, a damning UNHCR report shows we are destroying the mental and physical health of asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island by neglect and abuse and the torture of indefinite detention. To be formally conveyed to Immigration Department staff Tuesday, the report will be decried … and ignored as an ‘operational matter’.

A draft was made available months ago but Minister Dutton, who it is revealed this week, has only a skeleton communications staff of 82 and a mere $8 million in his media and public relations budget can’t be expected to comment on everything. Luckily Pyne’s tribute to his adviser Jack Walker who falls on his sword and Trump’s “Gropegate” help us through the information drought.

Also helping is a rich bill of fare of government diversions, distractions and denials. These include a bankers’ circus in Canberra a renewable war on renewables, an innovative front in its war on government spending, a data-driven war on the poor, while The Budgie Nine, a class act, fight their own rearguard action for the Trouser Liberation Front.

Meanwhile, The Australian breathlessly reports Saturday from the front of our war on asylum-seekers that “up to 22” Syrian refugees set to come to Australia may have links with terror. Tony Abbott, meanwhile, touring the Old Dart, a MacArthur parked, vows “I will return” in a travelling side-show psycho-drama all his own.

Also featuring are some quality fringe productions, such as Brandis Pettifogger-General and The Budget Repair Crisis. Rubbery figure Federal Treasurer Scott, “Black Hole”, Morrison and self-parodying Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, lampoon “open and transparent” government in an hilarious satirical sketch, part of the long-running Budget Repair Series.

In the BRS a fictitious crisis is repaired by cutting taxes to companies and the rich while slashing welfare and government spending, increasing poverty and inequality and tearing up the fabric of an open and civil society, while Labor is blamed for everything that can’t be pinned on” external economic headwinds”.

… exclude many from technical education …

Simon Birmingham, another class act, lampoons flaky TAFE courses. He is exposing shocking rorts by private tertiary education providers to divert us from his government cutting $3.2 billion from tertiary funding and imposing restrictions which will exclude many from technical education. Dubbed “a total overhaul”, The Birmingham Solution includes changes for the HECS scheme to get students to pay back loans sooner and will be the means whereby many Australians are shut out of tertiary education.

But the bean-counting black hole spotters – who pretend to run the economy – take the cake. Entitled “taking out the garbage” the ScoMo-Cormann Grand Final routine sees the comedy duo secretly bury the Coalition’s final 2015 budget outcome, near its NBN, its tax reform fiasco and Abbott’s promised surplus in the first year of government.

No press conference is held; not a jock shocked; not a word is heard from a treasurer who can talk the hind legs off a deaf donkey. History is made. Coalition openness and transparency 2016-style is a post on a Treasury website on a Friday of a Grand Final holiday, confirming that the government’s unchecked spending has doubled its budget deficit in three years. For years Liberals howled about Labor’s debt and deficit disaster. Now they are shamed into silence.

The jig is up the following Monday, when, on ABC 7:30, Leigh Sales shirt-fronts Cormann over the Coalition’s reckless over-spending.

“When you first came to power you predicted that the 2015/16 deficit would be $17.1 billion. What you posted on Friday showed that actually in reality what it’s turned out to be is $39.6 billion,” Sales begins, icily, turning Stormin’ Cormann to boudin water; swiftly tipping his liquidity into the dark abyss between Liberal rhetoric and reality.

Fall-guy Cormann, to his credit, turns in a performance worthy of Peter Sellers’ Inspector Jacques Clouseau, another archetypal buffoon whose paté-thick accent and surreal logic could fox any questioner. Not that he’s trying to be funny. As Clouseau, himself, once observed. “There is a time to laugh and a time not to laugh, and this is not one of them. ”

The Finance Minister’s answer to how his government could more than double the deficit? Cormann’s evasion is fluent gobbledegook. “We have several budget updates since the one that you mentioned and we have explained in some detail how, for example, external global economic headwinds and the impact on global prices or key economic exports and the like impacted on our revenue collections in particular.”

… a carefully nurtured fiction …

The economic headwinds are a carefully nurtured fiction like the crippling cost of health or how education must be flushed of corruption or how our unsustainable welfare spending will send us bust. Similarly, unreliable renewable energy, we are told, threatens to destroy the national grid and massively increase power bills. These myths help justify or disguise the transfer of costs from government to an increasingly impoverished public, a process of redistribution of wealth and power upwards that began under Hawke and Keating.

Sales does not ask Cormann how tax cuts for business and for wealthier Australians will help the budget bottom line. Tax evasion by multinational companies doing business in Australia has clearly nothing to do with the budget deficit.

Black Hole Morrison is obviously not going to appear. He’s got real blokes’ stuff to do; talking footy on commercial media. And Cabinet doesn’t just leak by itself. As for 7:30’s side of the sideshow, no-one on the show will nail Nigel (Sgt. Schulz) Scullion on news of several government briefings surfacing this week which prove he lied when he knew zip, nada, nothing of Don Dale. The Nationals’ Nigel Scullion is another MP, who, like the Treasurer, is in cabinet only to make up the numbers. And after Chris Uhlmann’s scapegoating renewables for causing disaster in SA there are simply no questions left and no-one to ask them as to why the ABC led the government jihad on clean energy.

Thank God, we have profiteering banks to keep us safe and a government which has the nous to get tough on turbines. But look over there! A massive $4.8 trillion welfare burden is set to destroy us all in 70 years.

Eight out of 10 Australians go to work so they can fund the nation’s welfare bill, The Daily Telegraph lied to readers last November as part of its brief as the propaganda arm of Tory government in Australia. The Tele trusts its readers will be too shocked to notice it’s nonsense: for starters, only half of government comes from income tax anyway. War-lord Christian Porter plucks an even scarier figure out of a Pricewaterhousecoopers report, hoping no-one can calculate that $4.8 billion is a drop in the bucket of the $360 trillion estimated to be government revenue over the same period.

Facts don’t matter. That his government has been spending like a drunken sailor does not stop Porter, on Q&A Monday from his war on the poor and the elderly. They are ruining us, he says, with their wilful, expensive dependency. Eva Cox points out that his scary figure which includes child care is further boosted by counting in the elderly and the age pension.”Since 70% approximately of the population ends up on the aged pension, it means it looks much bigger and much worse than it actually is.” An expert and a woman over a certain age, Cox is dismissed, derided and ignored.

… get bludgers off welfare …

Porter’s expensive new data-sets and algorithms, “as used by insurance companies”, – no less – will get bludgers off welfare and into non-existent jobs, but leave untouched tax cuts for the rich, superannuation breaks, negative gearing among other all middle-class handouts. It helps the government pretend that it is doing something new, when, in fact, research on welfare goes back to Ronald Henderson’s report in 1973. Henderson gave us the poverty line, research which is sufficient for the Australia Institute to calculate that there is now an unprecedented gap between the poverty line and what an unemployed family receives.

“A single adult is $189.71 below the poverty line,” Senior Research Fellow at The Australia Institute, David Richardson reports and a married couple with two children is $210.96 below in just two of what are welfare’s truly shocking figures. Porter’s reforms mean reducing even further our cruelly inadequate, demeaning and begrudging support.

War on the poor, nevertheless, helps the Coalition distract us from the fact that it is cutting the family allowance amidst other ideologically driven government spending cuts. Turnbull must keep sweet with his hard right even if it means turning himself inside out as he does with lunatic logic over renewable energy this week.

SA’s power crisis proves we need more government-subsidised coal-fired power plants to secure our energy from natural disasters caused by global warming caused by carbon emissions caused by burning coal to make electricity – not that a Coalition, whose MPs still mostly believe that climate change is crap – will ever admit to the connection. Renewables are to blame.

Our ever-vigilant, agile, innovative, protective but fetchingly slender, Federal Government has re-invented “energy security” to keep us safe from “aggressive renewable targets” and other evils which threaten to destroy our nation’s way of life. Green energy undermines our core beliefs and values and our massive subsidies to miners, coal-burning electricity generators and other multinational corporations out to do us over and destroy the planet.

Energy security, (think Peter Dutton with a three-pin plug and an endless extension lead), will protect us from natural catastrophe and bodgy baseloads caused by fickle wind and solar power which everybody knows by now caused a massive blackout in South Australia when freak storms – nothing to do with climate change – knocked over 23 pylons.

Everybody including Greg Hunt gets into the coal lobby sponsored act. Their performance helps upstage Tony Abbott’s Quadrant revival tour of the old country in which he’s clearly campaigning against Turnbull. Abbott has no show but then, neither did Turnbull until opinion polls reached Turnbull’s current record low. How long will it be this time before the sinking ship deserts the rat?

… getting back into coal …

Mr Coal, Environment and Energy Minister Josh Freydenberg, holds a make-believe conference of state energy ministers which he spins into a big win for energy security. It’s a first step, surely, towards getting back into coal and gas fired generation as states are pressured to revise their renewable targets downwards.

Seldom has an Australian government been so obsessed with evasion, under-handedness; seldom such meanness of spirit and deceit. Never has the nation’s expectations of fair dealing and decency been met with such contempt.

Luckily another outrage diverts our attention. Scions of the nation’s ruling class, the Budgie Nine, at a loose end in KL, set out to boost Australia’s international dick-head standing, by mooning 29 million Malaysians and anyone else watching Formula 1 on TV. At least the boys have the foresight to plan their wardrobe; each silly young thing wears what appear to be a Cranston School class set of matching budgies, sportively printed in motifs from their hosts’ national flag.

Boys will be boys. The Daily Telegraph loves the thirty-something larrikins. The Australian spots a bit of the Gallipoli spirit. The media is seized by a frenzy of fawning indulgence that is typically reserved for male footballers, cricketers and other sporting heroes whose misbehaviour we licence as diminished responsibility; they are just being one of the boys.

The Budgie Nine’s antics upstage our banking bosses who bare their bums at the government in Canberra this week. How dare the government inquire into how they rig the whole system and destroy thousands of ordinary, decent Australians’ lives? The four fat cats waddle down to Canberra to put on such a floor show of sincere contrition. It invokes Al Capone’s undying regret that he didn’t always manage to remember to pay his taxes.

Instead of a banking industry, as it is fondly termed, we have an oligopoly which functions as a cartel to enable our banks to achieve the highest profits in the OECD. State-sponsored – or at least condoned – monopoly is their business model. God preserve them from competition. It might push down costs to clients.

Like the Budgie Nine, the big four bankers, are rich and powerful and male enough to get away with saying and doing just about anything. Like Pyne’s advisor, Jack Walker, they’ve got mates in high places. But no-one in the banks, it turns, out lost their jobs over the crook advice dispensed, the insurance claims denied. If they act as if they own the show, it’s because they do; the rest of us pay handsomely to keep it that way.

Ian Narev CEO of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and his henchmen want us to believe that our shonky, government-protected banking system is strong because it is profitable and that profitable banks make a strong economy strong. It’s bunkum. The Big Four’s profits and huge executive salaries are boosted by collusion and sharp practice.

The strength of our banks depends on their massive investment in domestic mortgages continuing to be profitable. With household debt at record levels and rising and a housing market bubble there is no reason for complacency.

How much confidence we have in the banks is of course also a critical factor but in their totally unconvincing performances at the Canberra circus none of them gave any cause to inspire further confidence or trust. Like the government, however, they are dead keen to put on a good show. And it’s clearly an uphill battle for either party and so unfair, to adapt John Cleese that 99% of bankers or politicians give the decent 1% a bad name.

*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.

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. john hayward

    October 9, 2016 at 11:37 am

    Those discouraged by their efforts to deconstruct the reasoning of Scomo, Brandis, Porter, Dutton, et al, will soon have access to a streamlined digest of conservative thought which distills it to its basic elements -greed and fear.

    The General Theory of Avarice, which will help explain why climate change is dwarfed by the need to further concentrate wealth and other forms of power, will be presented by Donald Trump around lunchtime.

    John Hayward

  2. witters

    October 9, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    It seems obvious now that Turnbull is there merely to hold up a blue tie.

  3. Shane Humpherys

    October 9, 2016 at 1:00 pm

    However moronic the actions of the budgie nine, the self righteous indignation of the outrage brigade is equally moronic. Nothing smacks more of colonial patronizing than the suggestion that a bunch of ‘rich white kids’ shocked the culturally pure Malaysians out of their naïve ignorance of the form of the human body, while they relaxed in front of their digital TV’s inside their traditional Malayan long house’s. Lets get this straight – the Fomula 1 circus is the most affluent – profligate – sporting roadshow going around. Sponsored by consumerism including alcohol that apparently presents no issue for Malaysia. It is supported by thousands of equally affluent Malaysians of all faiths who are happy to host this affront to wealth distribution. KL is as modern and as profligate city as any in the world where prostitution and drug use abound. In this context the ‘rich white kid’ tag given so freely by many to the budgie nine pales into insignificance against the many thousands of wealthy Malaysians who attended the race. In other words their wealth in this context is a non issue as is their skin colour, which leaves us with the issue of stripping down to swimmers. Big Deal! This is nothing more than a political and diplomatic beat up from Malaysia that is latched onto by the self righteous tweety birds in Australia. We so often hear people lamenting the Australia of old, where apparently we were a more compassionate society. That Australia also included regular streakers at the international cricket – a cultural pastime that now seems anti-establishment, irreverent and quite humorous in retrospect.

  4. Robin Charles Halton

    October 10, 2016 at 1:53 am

    #4 A hard caning on the soles of the feet would have been most deserving for these nine stupid disrespectful boys out on a binge in what is a reasonably tolerant Muslim country.

    I’m no fan of Muslim beliefs but I would respect their ground rules while visiting.

  5. phill Parsons

    October 10, 2016 at 10:42 am

    I criticized Uhlmann for his comments on the SA power system but it seems his research shows that a privatized system that has little oversight had design flaws when taking wind power into the system and failed to maintain the privatized distribution network.

    His solution is a Carbon price which does not favor coal.

  6. Leonard Colquhoun

    October 10, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    Strongly agree with Comment 3’s opener, “However moronic the actions of the budgie nine, the self righteous indignation of the outrage brigade is equally moronic”. How about, instead of this truly “circus and sideshow diversion”, a bit of outrage at creeping islamisation in Malaysia whereby sharia ‘law’ is threatening a whole range of women’s rights?

    Oz feminists, where are you and why the silence? BTW, note how sensibly the whole incident was handled by the Sepang court. (Ironically, Malaysian citizens of Chinese and Indian descent have more rights than the Muslim bumiputra.)

    And that Western politicians (including its newly selected Secretary General), academics, celebs and commentariat are advocating a UN parliament to ‘rule the word’ – surely they can’t be so ignorant that they don’t know that actually working parliamentary democracies in the UN are outnumbered 3 to 1 by a rabble of marxist totalitarians, Islamist theocracies & other Islamic dictatorships, and assorted military despotisms?

    But, hey, it’s worse than ignorance or naivety: many of these publicly-funded fools actually believe in this cruel hoax. Stinks of treachery.

    Seeing that the UN GA is based on nations, perhaps the 20 or 30 true democracies should break up into 200 or 300, becoming an aggregation of micro-states like the old Holy Roman Empire.

  7. Barbara Mitchell

    October 10, 2016 at 5:22 pm

    It’s only a very minor point, but Urban Wronski compares Matthias Cormann to Peter Sellers’ bumbling detective, Inspector Clouseau.

    Wouldn’t a picture of Sellers as Clouseau be more appropriate than Sellers as Dr Strangelove?

    Ed: Best the Ed could do. ‘Cause TT is trying to get into the Google News Index … we need to use only Flickr in which “some rights are reserved”. Til then we were nicking piccies, specially from the ABC. You are quite right Barbara … it is Dr Strangelove!x

  8. Claire Gilmour

    October 10, 2016 at 11:13 pm

    Tell me what local council has not ultimately been controlled by party/parliament? They threaten you to keep quiet, otherwise ‘they’ will use anything they can to threaten to destroy you.

    Isn’t that what federal, state, local politics is all ultimately about ? … Blackmail !

  9. Lynne Newington

    October 11, 2016 at 9:48 am

    #8 Sounds familiar to me…..any government church or state.

  10. Leonard Colquhoun

    October 11, 2016 at 1:09 pm

    Yes to Comment 9’s “#8 Sounds familiar to me…..any government church or state”, and extendible to the (upper echelons) of any hierarchical culture, institution and organisation.

    Which, however, is NOT to claim that orgs et al shouldn’t have hierarchies – that > chaos. Nor does it absolve those outside the hierarchies. What is does is remind us of another of those Latin sayings (usually Englished as) ‘the price of liberty is eternal vigilance’. Which includes (relative, always relative) liberty from corruption, incompetence and administrative stupidity.

    Which means that We the People need confidence and trust in the media to do its most basic core business, asking about and then reporting on the Who, the What, the When and the Where.

    Wouldn’t that be ‘luverly!’ – journalists who are reporters first, and cheer squaddies much later! And much better informed.

  11. Lynne Newington

    October 11, 2016 at 6:35 pm

    It seems either side of governments the Catholic church with all it’s tax exemptions and charitable status always comes out in front at the taxpayers expense fair means or foul.

    Canberra Times Exclusive Oct 12.
    Sweetheart deals exposed: Wealthy Catholic Schools benefit from corruption of Gonski.

  12. phill Parsons

    October 14, 2016 at 9:32 am

    Further to #5 a Carbon price favors gas so one has to ask is Uhlmann simply acting altruistically by offering a lower carbon solution or does he have a pecuniary interest in gas, a fuel that will lead to more fracking id it is seen s the alternative to old king coal.

  13. phill Parsons

    October 14, 2016 at 9:42 am

    The Strangelovian allusion is perfect. The madness of a government that has and continues to mismanage the Australian environment and the economy to the detriment of Society is pictured perfectly by the solutions offered by the Dr from the madness of totalitarianism as the characters of the film seek solutions to the conundrums of their own making that they face because of the actions they set in train.

  14. Chris

    October 14, 2016 at 10:45 am

    Watch 4 Corners next on refugees on Nauru.

  15. Leonard Colquhoun

    October 14, 2016 at 2:24 pm

    About Comment 13’s “The Strangelovian allusion is perfect” – is any allusion ‘perfect’, either in its older sense of complete/d (‘to form a more perfect Union’, a ‘perfect’ storm, ‘practice makes perfect’), or in its current sense of excellent? Anyway isn’t lack of ‘perfection’ the essence of an allusion?

    And, hhmmmm, linking (even by insinuation) totalitarianism with Australia?!?!? (Although some of the more extreme ideologues among us may clearly have totalitarian attitudes very clearly expressed, such as “Behead all [whomever]”.)

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