*Cartoon: Martyn Turner, used with permission: https://www.facebook.com/martynturnercartoons/ . http://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/martyn-turner
It’s been a shocker of a holiday for a Turnbull government which slunk off to lick its wounds after being routed by its own ludicrous 2016 energy policy debacle – only to be rocked by MPs’ travel scandals and the debacle of the Centrelink Robo-debt-clawback debt extortion scheme which may, it seems clear this week, have a ninety per cent error rate.
It doesn’t help when The Australian National Audit Office reports that the Department of Immigration and Border Protection spent $2.2 billion without permission. Nor when Scott Morrison trumpets he’s “putting Australia first”, but has to go to London to announce he’s helped us grow a $500 billion gross public debt; outspending Labor two to one.
But, look over here, Scomo’s got a beaut new trade deal up his sleeve, says The Herald Sun. Just as soon as the Brexit dust settles, he’ll be laying the foundations for a new trade agreement. Perhaps there will be stuff for backpackers who can also take in the washing in a transitioning economy based on services more than digging up coal and iron ore.
Much clearer, is the proposed mid-year export of George Brandis to London to get him out of harm’s way and to become Australian High Commissioner. It is being treated as an “open secret” at DFAT. Lord Alexander Downer who expected, at least, another term on the grounds that he is born to rule and that Daddy was Commissioner before me will have to be dragged kicking and scheming from the Australia House mansion by the usurper. At least with Crown backing, the Colossus of toads’ deposing of Downer should be less fraught than his demotion of a previous solicitor general.
Demotion is something the Coalition knows intimately, after its shock election result and its decline in opinion polls. As the Chinese Year of the Rooster dawns, Malcolm Turnbull and his government are already feather dusters.
Rude shocks continue. The Coalition of capons pulls its head out of the sand, only to be eye-gouged by newly proclaimed US Vandal-king, Donald the Red, a power-drunk, politically illiterate knuckle-headed tyrant eager to show he’s king of the playground at home and top dog on the world stage by abuse of his presidential executive powers.
Trump, the campaign blowhard, was meant to morph into a Republican pussy-cat. That was the Coalition plan; its reality-denying rationale for inaction and inertia secured by yet another Julie Bishop charm offensive – now exposed as woefully inadequate.
Instead, Trump is rushing to honour his threats including tearing up the TPP, banning Syrian refugees, closing the border to all Muslims and leaving Australia no “great and powerful friend” to cosy up to at the arse-licking end of the world.
… deep within the Coalition’s virtual sinkhole …
The deal to re-settle, in the US, refugees from Manus and Nauru, struck under Obama, is also dead in the water, Labor argues, but, world leaders in Direct Action, trickle-down, the NBN, scrapping a carbon tax and other modes of reality denial, the government remains confident, the PM announces Saturday, deep within the Coalition’s virtual sinkhole, it has found a loophole “deep within” the President’s anti-Muslim executive order.
The loop-hole, said to have been inserted by a cutting edge PMC allows a case-by-case exemption to allow the US to “conform to pre-existing agreements” provided Trump understands any of it or has read his own executive order.
Heroically, Turnbull phones Trump Sunday, on the number he got from Greg Norman, to probe the inner incoherence of the nuanced and profound understanding that has characterised The Donald’s diktats so far.
Doing a typically magnificent job as back-up, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce adds his own natty touch of policy incoherence and disunity. He tells 2GB listeners – the radio station that governs Australia – that it would not be the end of the world if the deal did not go ahead.
Finding his own loophole meanwhile, Loghman Sawari flies from Manus to Fiji, to seek asylum on the grounds of his certain persecution should he return to PNG. The 21 year old Iranian is the first to seek protection from Australia’s punitive offshore detention regime which has meant years of suffering beatings, bullying, imprisonment, illness, suicide attempts and being threatened by a PNG official. He fears that Trump will tear up the resettlement in the US plan.
Border Supremo, Generalissimo Peter Dutton has yet to comment – and won’t because operational secrecy trumps open and transparent government. Just imagine how the people-smugglers’ business model would benefit once people realised they could smuggle themselves DIY-style. Expect refugee advocates to be blamed for what is yet another indictment of offshore detention and evidence that Turnbull’s US resettlement plan is a cruel and dangerous hoax.
The ANZUS hoax is still intact. Trump hasn’t torn up the ANZUS Treaty yet, but given its nebulous wording only “to consult” he doesn’t have to. Turnbull’s wait and see tactics mean his government is flat-footed; floundering. Blind Freddy can see he’d be mad to expect any favours from a US President whose anti-Muslim ban is creating chaos around the world. He books a call for 9:00 am Sunday (5:00 pm Saturday in Washington) anyway.
Australia does receive from the US State Department a culturally sensitive Happy Australia Day message which claims that the US has “no better friend than Australia”.
If only the reverse were true. The message coincides with Invasion Day rallies involving hundreds of thousands of Australians in major centres throughout Australia which are generally reduced in the media to reports of “clashes” rather than for any statement they seek to make.
“… crawl under a rock and hide a little bit”
Barnaby Joyce helpfully adds “protesters should crawl under a rock and hide a little bit”, as he does his best to promote ignorance and intolerance from the top – doing his own bit, as always, to disgrace and dishonour the Coalition in the eyes of increasing numbers of Australians who would vote this mob out tomorrow if they could.
His government in free-fall in opinion polls – 46% to Labor’s 54% in Essential’s poll this week, Mal the Vaccillator, the PM of convenience, whose total surrender to the right has neither quelled rebellion, nor inspired followers, is in deep trouble. Adding to his fix, an outbreak of Trumpophilia – with some MPs already Trump-struck.
Scott Morrison vows to “put Australia first” while right wing nut jobs get out their dog-whistles and Barnyard Barnaby descends to rocks and stones. Never to be outdone in delusions of grandeur, Pauline Hanson is reported to believe she has a serious chance of winning government in the Queensland state election. Or hold the balance of power.
Or something very big, important, something just “yuge” whenever her Svengali, micromanager and political aspirant himself, James Ashby, gets around to providing that talking point.
Beastie-Boy Cory Bernardi and George Christensen, geed up by Trump’s public humping of democracy and all decorum threaten to come out publicly as anti-Halal 10 February at anti-Islamic Q Society’s fund raiser while sniper Abbott’s latest gibe is that the PM ought to stop talking about agility and show some. Somehow, Abbott’s taunt gets a result.
Rocked by rorting revelations, so serious Pythagorean numerologist Sussan Ley’s inquiry must be kept secret, and with no policy agenda for 2017’s parliamentary year, the Coalition digs deep within its existential absurdity to find its own, inner, dead parrot.
Monty Python’s dead parrot sketch is reworked as a live TPP no-one else can see – an invisible friend with benefits. Frantic for distraction, the PM pretends that Trump has not killed off the TPP. Behold! It is reborn; our Free Trade saviour. Bill Shorten must die for his “cowardly” and “gutless” lack of faith and his heresy in refusing the communion of holy free trade – and his allegiance to populist, protectionist, powers of darkness.
Novel? It is politics as usual in the asylum; a mad theatre of the absurd run by the inmates, largely for their own benefit with a few indulgent words of praise from captains of industry bankers and the odd media mogul.
… stay in bed with property developers …
A couple of Liberal shills are called in to attest to the TPP resurrection. There was still “a lot to be gained” from the TPP and “we intend to pursue that”, Mad Dog Scott Morrison, our Federal Treasurer and revenue problem denialist says mid-week from a UK where he has discovered the secret to housing affordability – as you do – is to stay in bed with property developers, an amazing breakthrough he and his PM call “increasing supply”.
Trade Minister Steve Ciobo, who recently revealed that he can’t tell a trade deal from a Grand Final, chimes in with a catchy “12 minus one” arrangement, a sort of reverse baker’s dozen, rather like leaving the US out of its own stag night.
Japan, on the other hand, still raw after being dudded over Abbott’s submarine building deal, sneers. The TPP is “meaningless without the US”. Pursuing the TPP is a “pointless waste of time” agrees Shorten.
But Labor becomes the whipping boy. For days Shorten is howled down, publicly flogged for being a “cowardly” wimp and a free trade heretic and not upholding a TPP that has expired – a TPP that never was. An alternative factual TPP. What’s going on?
Turnbull’s farcical TPP diversion is a desperate bid to wedge Bill Shorten as anti-trade or for being weak- and in yet another echo of Tony Abbott’s character assassination – just for being Bill Shorten – a slur in itself now, thanks to Murdoch media and Abbott’s Royal Commission show trial which have both helped demonise the Labor leader.
This week, Turnbull taunts Bill Shorten over the dead parrot of the TPP which anyone but gutless Bill, weak Bill – can tell is not dead but just resting, shagged out after a long squawk. Labor’s honesty is heresy, treason and no cojones combined, in the PM’s hysterical denunciation.
OK, it might be clinically dead – but it will prove a phoenix rising from the ashes of Trump’s trade treaty bonfire. Or Trump could change his mind. Or a re-jigged TPP will lead us to a fair bit of eternal prosperity for the time being.
… no-one dare mention the truth …
In a post-truth Trump universe of alternative facts, no-one dare mention the truth. The TPP, like all other so-called “free trade agreements” is about trade protection. It is chock-a-block with lists of free trade exempt items such as digital goods and medicines. It seeks to increase copyright protection over these goods. Extend trademarks.
Australians would continue to pay more for these under the TPP. Leaked documents from the largely secret treaty, a lawyers’ picnic that was seven years in the making reveal that the TPP would extend US copyright laws over Australian businesses, hindering innovation and adding compliance costs, according to intellectual property experts.
In brief, one big lie inhabits another. Shorten is demonised for not valuing a dead TPP. It’s a bizarre contortionist performance from a frantic PM who is scaling new heights of absurdity in his will to convince us, against all evidence, that the dead parrot sings. How can he keep a straight face? Yet his resurrection dream is even sillier.
Not only is the TPP alive and well, with a quick re-jig and a few shanghaied new crew members from China, Indonesia, or wherever, we’ll be in easy street, rich beyond belief by rivers of free trade wealth trickling down from fat cat exporters. Pity no-one apart from Turnbull seems to see his point. Or would ever believe a Coalition promises.
Unlike Turnbull, however, Donald Trump seems to be keeping his pledges. Or his threats to tear up everything Obama achieved, everything progressive or enlightened or wise. So much to undo. So little time.
Certainly he is backing out of the TPP as promised as soon as he takes office. Most see this as the kiss of death. The US is a whopping 40% of the TPP which is less about trade than enabling big pharma, big tobacco and other US corporate interests to dictate to Australia and other nations how local politics best protects US investments. With a TPP, for example, plain packaging of cigarettes would fail. The investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) clause gives corporations power over its signatories; all sovereign states.
The other aim of the late, lamented TPP was strategic. It would balance China’s growing regional political and economic power. Act as a bulwark against the rise of the (not-so) Pacific Panda with its military installations in disputed territories and its muscular global diplomacy. Yet that TPP is not the make-believe TPP which our government wants resurrected.
To hear Turnbull or Ciobo spruik it, the TPP’s not about strategy or investment it’s all about trade, and not just trade but free trade, Amen. Look at all the deals that will go West if we walk away from the TPP at this stage. It’s bunkum.
benefits of the TPP … negligible.
In 2010, our own Productivity Commission found the benefits of the TPP to be negligible. No-one in government admits that TPP nations are already our trading partners. As for economic benefits, we didn’t need a TPP to have a resources boom from our trade with China.
Shorten ought to get real, Turnbull jeers. Any fool can see that the TPP is still alive. A quick ring around the neighbours and we’ll top up the numbers. Give the TPP skeleton the kiss of life. Put Humpty Dumpty together again. Get the gang show back on the road.
Of course, he’s got a lot to deal with – there’s a rift between the nervous nellies of the back bench who fear electoral annihilation through sheer incompetence and own goals of a cabinet you could drive a panzer tank division through. Or drag a Trump tower. Sideways. But his latest outrageous display is insane. Of course, there’s a lot on his disordered mind.
Factor in a damaging rorting crisis with the recycling of World’s best Greg Hunt, a fan of the US Health system, as Health Minister and a perfect, scrap-Medicare patsy. Blend in a complete absence of any plan or policy to speak of beyond tax cuts for the rich. Add a dash of Narcissus Trump who doesn’t give a toss for all our diplomatic grovelling, fawning and our mindless US-Alliance fetishising.
All he cares about is the size of his inauguration crowd and throwing his weight around.
Presto! Desperation is bound to break out. You might almost feel sorry for a PM who once had to say that he and The Donald were peas in a pod with their business backgrounds and their late entry politics – even if neither of these is true. Alternative facts, rule, OK?
We have come to expect the unexpected from a government with no real plan and less demonstrated competence – beyond a genius for turning crisis into catastrophe. Yet, as the year of the Rooster dawns, everywhere is chaos and cock-up. Trump-mania afflicts his crew, the new US president turns out to be mad, bad and dangerous to know, a monster intent on proving he’s boss at all costs. No wonder Captain Mal is showing a bit of strain.
But who would have thought he’d reprise the Monty Python dead parrot sketch in his madness- his manic quest to wedge Bill Shorten on the TPP; an ex-treaty, an agreement which even Shinzo Abe, never the sharpest knife in the sushi kitchen, can tell you is deceased.
Or could it be that the dead parrot represents the Turnbull government itself that is deceased, DOA at the beginning of 2017 parliamentary year; all over bar the squawking?
*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.
• Urban Wronski Update in Comments: Has Turnbull achieved another coup? Anti-Muslim travel ban by executive order loophole update: During a twenty minute phone call to President Trump at 9:00 am yesterday, the ABC breathlessly reports, Malcolm Turnbull achieved a breakthrough in Australia’s deal to re-settle, in the US, refugees currently suffering the torture of abuse and neglect in our offshore indefinite detention gulags on Manus and Nauru Island. On RN breakfast, Monday morning Fran Kelly wonders aloud if this will be Malcolm Turnbull’s coup. (Risky phrase, Fran, risky.) …