First published February 12
“There’s no-one more Australian than Barnaby Joyce”, blusters Malcolm Turnbull, his fair-weather defender in happier – well – slightly less miserable times last November when Joyce, another appalling ham, in RM Williams and stockman Akubra, playing an outback whip-cracking caricature from central casting turns out to be a Kiwi, too.
By week’s end it’s clear, as Oscar Wilde, on his death-bed, famously remarked of the wall-paper, “One of us has to go.” Not that Mal hasn’t put on a good show of support. Or milked Barnaby’s ” landslide” by-election for all it is worth and more – despite Barnaby going MIA, turning campaigning into pub crawls, refusing to debate the other candidates and talking of death threats. Hacks still misread the victory as a Turnbull comeback.
Cue the night of the New England by-election, a couple of old con-artists in a show about snake-oil salesmanship.
“We’re getting the band back together,” crows a PM who presides over his dysfunctional moribund leadership. How he loves to talk up renewal, unity. MSM follow his lead. He looks the part – all kitted out in blue flannel shirt and moleskins, the compleat Collins Street farmer. He tilts his pristine Akubra back to form a buffalo-hide halo.
A deafening roar of beer-sodden catcalls, stamping and two-fingered whistling buoys his spirits at the Nats’ election piss-up in Tamworth that Saturday night last December. But Turnbull knows truth will out. The “open secret” of 50 year old Barnaby’s affair with a 33 year old married woman cannot be kept out of the news forever.
Always solicitous of our well-being and a stalwart Coalition megaphone, The Daily Telegraph toils virtuously in the public interest, all week, photographing Barnaby’s new partner’s baby bump after previously deploring the intrusion of gossip into Barnaby’s personal life, his privacy and the New England by-election.
Even Turnbull must know it’s over
Now the two old stagers face their final curtain. Even Turnbull must know it’s over. He’s signed off twice on two plum jobs, for Joyce’s new partner, Vikki Campion, just to get her out of BJ’s office; keep her out of the public eye.
One is with Matt Canavan, the other as “second media adviser” to National Party Whip Damian Drum.
It’s hardly a subtle cover-up. Even Graham Richardson ponders in The Australian why the Nationals Whip needs one media advisor, let alone a second high-flyer. Puzzling Richo, also, is why Joyce should promote Drum to be his assistant minister.
A salary of $191,000 for Vikki is now in the news. So, too is The Daily Telegraph‘s Miranda Devine writing about Barnaby telling his estranged wife, Natalie that Vikki is expecting a boy. “A dagger to Natalie’s heart.”
Even Murdoch’s purple press has turned. 26 dud Newspolls plus one Barnaby fiasco may be too much for Rupert Murdoch. The Coalition’s major backer may be turning sour over Turnbull’s bungling ineptitude.
Creating national heroes can be hazardous, Turnbull discovers to his cost but he can’t help himself. When the Greens question Jim Molan’s involvement in the dirty battle for Fallujah in Iraq in 2004, Senator St James Molan, our PM thunders, fought for Aussie values against the ISIS Infidel and thus must be above all earthly criticism.
In his own way, too, Turnbull’s Aussie icon Barnaby Joyce is a self-styled Cultural Warrior on his own crusade for moral decency. Why, he even fought against girls being inoculated with anti-HPV vaccine Gardasil lest it promote promiscuity. He opposed gay marriage claiming it went against traditional family values. Now look at him.
It’s not playing out well in Tamworth …
Some unkindly call Joyce a hypocrite. It’s not playing out well in Tamworth, says The Daily Telegraph. Others raise the way the affair has been kept out of the news where Julia Gillard or Cheryl Kernot were hounded. “What if this MP were a fifty-year-old woman having an affair with a man half her age?”, asks Clem Ford in Fairfax. The media would have leapt instantly to judgement. Now the Tele has broken ranks, expect a ton of moralising to follow.
Moral posturing may be a key part of Joyce’s rural populist politics – his idol is former Queensland premier, the bible-bashing, corrupt hillbilly dictator Joh Bjelke-Petersen – but it carries grave risks of self-betrayal. Joyce, for example, campaigned against same sex marriage for years. In 2011, he addressed a rally organised by the Australian Christian Lobby and The Australian Family Association, posing as a protective father of four girls.
“We know that the best protection for those girls is that they get themselves into a secure relationship with a loving husband and I want that to happen for them. I don’t want any legislator to take that right away from me.”
How Barnaby thought same-sex marriage could do this is unclear, but he is one of fourteen MPs who abstained from voting on the same-sex marriage bill, Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017. What is clear is that in presenting himself as a family values campaigner, he has set himself up for a big fall.
Or has he? On ABC Insiders, Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek notes that the PM’s office signs off on jobs. Labor will pursue the only legitimate line of inquiry: she calls on Joyce and Turnbull to be “fully transparent” about the expenditure of taxpayer funds, which she said was the “only area in which there is a genuine public interest”.
In the end, the jobs will undo Vikki and Barney; the thin red line of the Prime Minister’s Office debit accounts, as much as Tamworth’s wrath. Joyce’s soap opera, moreover, makes Turnbull’s leadership look inept, weak and ineffectual. But right on cue, look over there. Our great and powerful friend, the USA graces us with Harry Harris.
We’re just mad about Harry. Our nation is overjoyed to learn, at long last, we have a US Ambassador. “Great Wall of Sand”, Admiral Harry B. Harris Jr, a Sinophobe, who doesn’t trust our largest trading partner.
“You’d have to believe in a flat earth to believe otherwise”
“In my opinion China is clearly militarizing the South China Sea,” Harris tells the Senate Armed Services Committee in February 2016. “You’d have to believe in a flat earth to believe otherwise.”
Harry’s “shithole” posting tells us he is no favourite of Trump’s but it does send a warning to China. A former Gitmo head, Admiral Hal also brings a unique record of duty of care to inmates of the USA’s “extra-constitutional prison camp”, Guantánamo Naval Base whose role, he explained to ABC in 2007, is not to be confused with justice.
It’s not about ” guilt or innocence” he told the late Mark Colvin, it’s about “keeping enemy combatants off the battlefield”. Harry’s past may help him advise Border Force in its own illegal, indefinite detention practices.
Doubtless Harry would admire our Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (resolving the asylum legacy caseload) bill 2014, a Scott Morrison masterpiece which gives the immigration minister, now Peter Dutton, unprecedented, unchallengeable, and secret powers to control the lives of asylum seekers.
Tragically, Harris is linked to the possible homicides of three young men in his care, June 9 2006; Salah Ahmed Al-Salami, a Yemeni aged thirty-seven. Mani Shaman Al-Utaybi, a Saudi, aged thirty. Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani, also from Saudi Arabia, was twenty-two. None had been charged with any crime but all were found hanged in their cells.
The three men were found to have stuffed rags into their throats; put on masks, fashioned nooses out of cotton fabric they, alone, mysteriously had access to and reached an eight foot high ceiling to hang themselves.
Harris declares the deaths “suicides.” Channelling a Big Brother hate session, he then attacks the dead men.
… an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us”
“They are smart, they are creative, they are committed,” Harris says. “They have no regard for life, neither ours nor their own. I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us.”
Naval Criminal Investigative Service records suggest, instead, death from torture. New evidence, published in Harpers, includes an eyewitness account of al-Zahrani, on the night of his death, which indicates torture and suffocation during questioning at a secret black site facility at Guantánamo known as Camp No, or Penny Lane.
Our MSM say nothing about “Gitmo” but a fluffy ABC gushes over the posting of “the first security professional” hinting at some pastoral care role for the new US Ambassador to Australia. Certainly, Harris will be a perfect fit to be joined at the hip, as our PM sees our US alliance, with Canberra’s tough on border protection boffins.
The big lie is that the US Alliance is a mutual security pact. Despite our political leaders’ bipartisan spin, all ANZUS entails is a promise to consult. JFK refused our plea for help against a “communist crisis” in Indonesia in 1962.
Before Trump, Nixon put us on his “shit list”, because he didn’t like Whitlam’s robust nationalism and when Man of Steel, US brown-nose John Howard asked for help in East Timor in 1999, Clinton told him to bugger off.
Thank God we’ve got soldiers like Jim Molan to protect us and to hire out to the United States; win its illegal wars.
Liberal Senator “Jingo” Jim Molan, is sworn in Monday and wastes no time in urging even greater expenditure on the military. A thoroughly modern former major general, Jim’s memoirs modestly entitled Running the War In Iraq, reveal his glee in using drones to direct 200kg bombs that could “pick up a house and land it in the street”.
… he can’t be a racist, insists the PM, because he’s been a soldier …
Jim’s no slouch on Facebook or war by social media. Yet while he posts racist videos on Facebook and retweets a racist, Islamophobic joke, he can’t be a racist, insists the PM, because he’s been a soldier and freedom-fighter.
Turnbull rounds on Bill Shorten’s suggestion that he discipline our Aussie war hero Jim as “deplorable” and “disgusting”. Yet what is more deplorable and disgusting is the extent to which Turnbull must overreach; grovel publicly to a new Abbott supporter. He falls back on the last refuge of scoundrels, patriotism.
Jim is a “Great Australian” brays the PM, who claims the former soldier (in 2004) ” … led thousands of troops in the battle for freedom against terrorism”. Others know it as the 2003 illegal invasion of Iraq, under the twin fictions of regime change and ridding Saddam Hussein of his weapons of mass destruction, while wresting control of Iraq’s oil-fields and utterly destroying Iraq, fuelling anti-Western terrorist extremism into the bargain.
As the late Chalmers Johnson warns in Blowback, the appalling blundering by US strategists in Afghanistan and the Middle East is the prime motivator of terrorist organisations like Al Qaida and ISIS. Jim may think he won Fallujah but he lost the war. Yet the monstrous lie of Iraqi liberation is central to Turnbull’s government world-view.
Experts estimate around half a million Iraqis died in the Bush-Blair invasion; A Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Survey published in the Lancet, and the Iraq Public Health Survey published in the New England Journal of Medicine, give figures of 655,000 and 400,000 excess deaths respectively.
In 2013, birth defects for the city of Fallujah surpass rates for Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the nuclear attacks at the end of World War II. Scientists suspect the white phosphorous and depleted uranium in US munitions.
The use of white phosphorous was illegal because it is arguably a chemical weapon, riot control agent, or incendiary weapon. Furthermore, the methods and means of its use in Fallujah violated the laws of war.
Greens MP Adam Bandt has, however, apologised to senator Jim Molan, for saying he could be a war criminal.
… unlike our Border Force and the militarisation of compassion …
Inexplicably, the PM skips Jim’s winning “2009 Australian Thinker of the Year” an inestimable gift of appreciation which unlike our Border Force and the militarisation of compassion, another of Jim’s great Australian contributions “carries with it no responsibilities, commitments or obligations of any kind”.
The fuss over Jim helps distract from the revelation that the Coalition has been lying about Treasury advice. Our ABC reveals how Turnbull’s government lied in 2016 about Labor’s negative gearing plan. Our sensible centrist PM calls it “the most ill-conceived, potentially destructive policy ever proposed by any opposition“.
The ALP wanted to limit the tax deduction and halve the capital gains tax (CGT) discount, a modest proposal. Yet Coalition MPs went into howls of protest: Labor would take an “axe”, a “sledgehammer” or even “a chainsaw” to the housing market. Such wanton vandalism would bring Australia’s booming economy to a “shuddering halt”.
Of course, the Turnbull government lied. And it lied that its lie was based on “confidential Treasury advice”.
It was a scare tactic straight out of Gitmo or Abbott’s carbon tax hysteria playbook and almost as damaging.
It’s taken a mere, two-year legal battle to find out the lies. Treasury advised in 2016, that Labor’s plan “might exert some downward pressure; a (possible) relatively modest downward impact” on house prices. The lie was a key campaign issue in the 2016 election. Newspeak virtuoso, Scott Orwell Morrison, is not, however, a whit abashed.
ScoMo still lies about who benefits from negative gearing. Treasury advice is that negative gearing and the capital gains tax mostly benefit high-income households. Treasury calculates, 52.6% of the tax benefits from negative gearing are reaped by the top 20% of income earners, while 54.3% of the tax savings from the capital gains discount go to the top 10% of families ranked by income.
Mums and Dads trying to get ahead”
Despite this, an Orwellian Coalition and its housing lobby pals claim the opposite. “Teachers, nurses, and police officers” stand to benefit the most or it’s that sentimental family favourite “Mums and Dads trying to get ahead”.
The Grattan Institute finds 12% of teachers negative gear and 9% of nurses. Yet 29% of surgeons and anaesthetists benefit. Doctors also get a much higher average tax benefit. $3,000+ compared to nurses, who benefit by a mere $226 and teachers who benefit by $289. But ScoMo never listens. Nor does his government.
Treasury is wrong, ScoMo maintains. ScoMo knows because he was once “a research economist in the property sector”. From 1989-1995 he was, indeed, a manager for The Property Council of Australia, a housing industry lobby group, a role guaranteed to give him halcyon independence, objectivity and peerless, impartial advice.
Morrison’s chutzpah, his Trumpery, his flaky claim to credibility, allows him to dismiss Treasury experts; spurn Productivity Commission research that Labor’s proposal will have little, if any, effect on housing supply.
The Treasurer’s big lies, of course, include the fiction that his government are good economic managers and that we are in the middle of a jobs bonanza. Public opinion, he says, agrees – another lie.
It’s not that every opinion poll is rigged, although Clive Palmer candidly admitted paying for the results the Liberals wanted when he was state director. It’s not just that MSM is always ready to repeat the monstrous falsehood – some defending it on the grounds that it’s a widespread perception – or it’s what voters think. Voters think?
… Abbott and Turnbull are Australia’s worst post-war economic managers on record …
The reality, Alan Austin notes, ” … is that the economy collapsed inexcusably during the two years Joe Hockey was treasurer. But it has tanked even further, except for the very rich, since Scott Morrison replaced him. The Australia Institute research indicates Abbott and Turnbull are Australia’s worst post-war economic managers on record.
Less forgettable or, as Orwell has it, less worthy of erasure, is Scott Morrison’s preselection; how The Daily Telegraph got the MP pretending to be an effective Federal Treasurer launched into politics in 2007. The extraordinary circumstances of Morrison’s entry into the political arena are almost cause, in themselves, to be cautious of any of his subsequent claims. No other MP, surely, is less credible; has such a flaky threshold of power.
In 2007, Morrison loses 82 votes to 8 to Lebanese-Australian Michael Towke, a telecommunications engineer member of the Liberals’ right faction, in pre-selection for the safe Liberal NSW seat of Cook.
Enter The Daily Telegraph. In four articles, The Tele falsely accuses Towke of branch stacking & faking his resume. Towke is disendorsed. The Liberals hold a new ballot. Morrison wins; parachuted in over the politically dead body of his rival local members gossip. Towke sues The Tele for defamation; settles for an undisclosed sum.
Glad tidings round off the week in politics as US fiscal genius Donald Trump’s tax cuts help panic the stock market into wiping off $2.49 trillion in a 10 percent fall by Thursday from a record on Jan. 26. Global stock markets follow, losing $5.20 trillion.
Trump’s cuts are acclaimed by our economically illiterate government which seeks to emulate Trump’s economic wizardry and his war on truth. Morrison, recently returned from the US, claims to have witnessed for himself the miracle of massive company tax cuts creating jobs. But the only example he can give is Walmart.
Yet Walmart on 12 January said it would raise entry-level wages for U.S. hourly employees to $11 an hour in February as it benefits from last month’s major corporate tax cut and on the same day announced it would shut stores and lay off thousands of workers.
Of course, Morrison will dispute this. He will know better than the experts. Better than any authorities or any so-called facts. He always does, just like his Prime Minister. It’s the signature theme of the Turnbull government. The future looks impossibly rosy. Especially when you are making it up. But the key lies in erasing the past.
As Malcolm Turnbull himself quoted from George Orwell, this week “The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became the truth”. It was not yet our reality, he says, but no longer entirely fantasy.”
He and his government are seeing to it, personally.
*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.