Some think, that the Rationall Spirits flye out of Animals, (or that Animall we call Man) like a swarm of Bees, when they like not their Hives, finding some inconvenience, seek about for another Habitation: Or leave the Body, like Rats, when they finde the house rotten, and ready to fall.
— Margaret Cavendish Newcastle, Philosophical Fancies, 1653
There’s not a dry eye in the house, Saturday, as a weary, teary, Kelly O’Dwyer, MP for Privilege (Higgins), minister for women, jobs and Neoliberal industrial relations, yet still seen as a Liberal “wet” makes her “shock” announcement. Internal polling suggest she’ll get the bum’s rush next election. A ReachTEL poll of about 1000 voters in Higgins published by the Herald Sun in November also indicates Ms O’Dwyer may “lose her seat to Labor on a two-party vote of 53-47″.
But it’s not in the official script which instead re-iterates the epic delusion of the Libs winning the next election.
In between her standard Liberal MP stand-up routine: the talking-point bot, Kel goes rogue, looks up a bit from her notes; talks of quitting for “very personal reasons” which she quickly makes public, using economic jargon. The O’Dwyers want to “grow their family” while there’s still time. In an exclusive in The Herald Sun she talks of a recent miscarriage.
Multiple Joyce, puns The Courier Mail‘s Sunday front page, meanwhile, sensitively reminding readers of the former Deputy-Prime Minister’s fecundity, given having a family is so much more interesting than dull stuff like whether our government’s lack of policy on climate or energy or environment will leave us a nation fit to raise a family in.
Barney’s partner, Vikki Campion is expecting their second child in June, a boy to be named Thomas, after his grandfather. Will Barnaby now quit politics for fatherhood? Murdoch’s Tittle-tattle rag, The Herald Sun notes “family sources” say Joyce’s four daughters are “furious”. Dad is squaring off, meanwhile, for another tilt at being Nats leader.
ScoMo is frantic. How will his government survive? Will other rats desert the rotting house? Seer, Samantha Maiden reckons Cabinet colleagues say Julie Bishop is only hanging around to spite Christian Porter who has his eyes on her seat. Blue ribbon Curtin is certain and has more cred than his marginal WA seat of Pearce to Porter, an aspiring Liberal leader.
Some Liberals are happy to see O’Dwyer go. Victorian Liberal Party Hawksburn branch president Thomas Hudson tells The Australian Ms O’Dwyer’s decision could be a “fresh start” for Higgins. “We have been losing Liberal voters disappointed with Ms O’Dwyer’s lack of involvement in the electorate,” he explains. ScoMo counters with fantastic spin.
O’Dwyer is a huge loss. There’s much talk of her massive legacy of tireless work for women and for workers. And banks. Who else but O’Dwyer, a former NAB investment banker, could have fought off a banking Royal Commission for so long? Who else could have drafted twenty Coalition-friendly employer representatives in a row on to the Fair Work Commission? When Fair Work’s president, Iain Ross, recommends only one new appointment, O’Dwyer makes seven.
Who could so stoutly deny workers penalty rates? Women are hit by penalty rate cuts more than men. Director of The Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work, economist, Dr Jim Stanford, points out that women make up 60 per cent of Sunday workers in retail, and 54 per cent in hospitality, according to current data from Australia’s statistics bureau.
More women are also likely to work part-time. Seventy per cent of women in food and beverage services, and 60 per cent in retail, work part-time, compared to only 52 and 35 per cent, respectively, for men, concludes Stanford.
Quit politics, Kel must, however, even if it means leaving “the natural government for women” without a Minister for Women. Perhaps Abbott could be drafted into another special envoy posting? He has the runs on the board. And time on his hands. Nope, nope, nope? Make that a definite maybe, Tone has a battle on his hands just to win Warringah.
Natural government for women? O’Dwyer’s nonsense comes hard on the heels of her public reflection on how the Liberal Party’s “homophobic, anti-women, climate-change deniers” image cost votes. Only cynics would conclude that O’Dwyer has been “counselled” into being more upbeat about the toxic culture of the Liberal Party. Surely she has not been bullied into making some sort of unconvincing correction or retraction? Or bullied out of the party?
At least, Kel gets a gig on the Scott and Jenny show, a special Saturday edition, a post-modern press conference with no questions but with dollops of emotional support from First Lady Jenny Morrison, who is suddenly seen everywhere in public with her husband and lashings of micro-management from minder ScoMo, who smirks and grins vacantly into the middle distance, displaying his nurturing nature in between bouts of affirmative, paternalistic nodding for the camera.
“Supportively” is the word reporters choose, desperately hunting for a term to put spin on ScoMo’s rictus with a tic.
Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them in a Saturday presser. Kelly is a “great woman who’s done a great job for her country and community” and has “made a great choice for her family”, Morrison gushes over her trifold greatness.
“There is no one I know who has worked harder or achieved more than Kelly O’Dwyer,” ScoMo lays it on so thick and chunky you could carve it. His hyperbole entirely discredits himself and his subject, regardless of his intention.
Some note on social media that ScoMo’s face reminds them of when he stood supportively behind Turnbull shortly before knifing him. Now he hovers, a looming, controlling, sinister presence, upstaging and overshadowing. O’Dwyer’s resignation announcement is not allowed to be a speech. He cuts her off. No questions. He hauls her off-stage.
There’s a lot more to run away from this week. The stench of the Murray Darling Basin scandal continues but despite a Royal Commission and a report from the Productivity Commission – and a wealth of expert advice that the river system is being killed by the extraction of water for irrigation by Big Cotton and other corporate farming oligarchies – Morrison stalls. His tactic is straight out of Yes Minister. He’ll call for more information. Meanwhile, the river system is dying.
“I think we need to look carefully at what is actually occurring,” ScoMo says. “Of course, the drought, as the deputy prime minister has said, has had a devastating impact on what we’re seeing, and there has been a perfect storm of other environmental factors, which has crystallised into the serious fish death that we’ve seen.”
“But before we start ripping up bipartisan agreements that have been very important to how we manage that area, I think it’s important that we inform ourselves more.”
Managing? A neon sign warning of the Coalition’s paralysing inertia and its collusion with corporate agribusiness to the detriment of the small farmer, local fauna, the environment and the national interest, the Murray Darling Basin is poisoned by greed and graft. Naturally, the catastrophe is all too much for ScoMo. Suddenly, overwhelmed by the need to find some high moral ground overseas, our self-declared “Prime Minister for standards” has to flit to Fiji.
A human chameleon, our protean ScoMo, who also moonlights as a lackey of Big Coal, Big Cotton, Big Gina and all other bigwigs of Australia’s corporate oligarchy, has to let China know that the Pacific is our back yard; draw a line in the sand drowning from global warming. So it’s off to Suva to drop his trousers and don a Fijian kilt, the sulu vaka taga.
“We are family”, ScoMo tells Fiji, thawing our diplomatic deep freeze which began with then Head of Fiji’s military, Commodore Frank Bainimarama’s coup in 2006. Bainimarama declared himself Acting President deposing President Josefa Iloilo. In 2007, he reinstated Iloilo who then endorsed the coup and appointed Bainimarama PM.
In 2014 his FijiFirst Party narrowly wins the first election since 2006. Just over fifty per cent of voters turn out.
Now petty despotism is cool again, especially as China waves its chequebook in the region. China is set to quadruple Australia’s outlay on aid to the Pacific region after pledging $US4 billion in 2017, most of which is accounted for by loans to an eager PNG, according to Lowy Institute calculations. Other nations are not so keen on racking up more debt.
Of course, there are other items on the agenda. We must hush-up Peter Dutton’s stuff-up over Neil Prakash not being Fijian. The subject did not even come up beams ScoMo. In return, Australia will train Fijian soldiers should Fiji be required to defend itself against China, for example – or once again help another local despot seize power in a coup.
ScoMo frocks up in the sulu. The loin-cloth was introduced by missionaries from Tonga in the nineteenth century and was worn to indicate conversion to Christianity. It’s a typically bold if not risky gesture for our seat of the pants PM.
Notorious for his bizarre dress sense, decorum bypass and cornball humour, ScoMo almost veers into blackface. But what is our PM without his daggy dress-ups, his cheap stunts; his desperate attempts to ingratiate? His ear of tin?
A faux-Fijian ScoMo wags the White Man’s Finger; lectures the benighted Fijians on how to deal with climate change. It’s a remarkable stance even by ScoMo’s standards. His government won’t commit to lower emissions, even though this is what Pacific Islanders beg, nor will it commit to renewable energy, as Fiji suggests. Climate change deniers dictate policy. Accordingly, ScoMo’s party has no climate change policy.
He rebukes Aussie school children for protesting about this.
Above all, Morrison has a feature role at home as a fossil fuel shill, the only MP to worship a lump of coal in parliament; the only PM to select former coal industry boss and Rio Tinto lobbyist, John Kunkel, as his chief of staff.
“We’re very committed to funds in the Pacific to deal with programs to deal with the impacts of climate change here,” ScoMo patronises leaders in Fiji and Vanuatu and any other Islanders who miss the ABC radio cricket broadcasts along with the odd tsunami warning since Australia stopped its short-wave broadcasts to the Pacific, January 2017. Another round of ABC funding cuts, cunningly dubbed “efficiency dividends” in Newspeak, ended the eighty year service.
Our ABC, claims to be “seeking efficiencies” – of course – and doing Pacific Islanders a favour by upgrading their service. Yet its shift from shortwave to FM transmissions and digital and mobile services, overlooks the reality that in the remote Pacific, particularly Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands, there is no access to an FM signal, limited internet and, where internet is available, it is prohibitively expensive. Yet it’s a boon to any tin-pot dictator.
FM frequencies can easily be shut down by a self-appointed prime minister, as Fijians discovered in 2009.
But it’s not just empty rhetoric; linking vacuity with platitude, ScoMo is a master of artful meaningless jargon.
“To address the impact it’s having on particular communities, and to ensure we can put in place programs which protect those communities, and to ensure the continuance of lifestyle and the way of life,” he soars, way past peak bullshit.
Fiji’s PM, former military dictator, Frank Bainimarama points at the Australian Prime Minister’s nether regions. It is not clear from images published – Fijian press is even more heavily censored than our ABC – whether Frank is laughing or crying. Certainly he manages to work a sense of “You obsequious hypocrite” into the subtext of his welcoming speech.
“Australian coal is killing the Pacific; Australia must not put the interests of a single industry above the lives of Pacific nations battling climate change,” Bainimarama barrels the hapless, trouser-less, Australian Prime Minister. He kindly refrains from bringing up ScoMo’s snub of the South Pacific leaders’ forum last year. Or he didn’t really miss him.
Luckily, despite battling invisible charisma, ScoMo has a fantastic Kanaka 2.0 Pacific Islander labour recruitment scheme up his sleeve. It turns out to be merely an extension of the Pacific Labour Scheme, begun 1 July 2018, but in a fabulous new neo-colonial cultural twist, Fiji will get “a thousand hours of television” – Australian content for three years!
But wait, there’s more, Morrison promises Kanaka 2.0 will help Aussie farmers as well as pay Pacific Island workers so handsomely they can support their families at home. It matters little that after three years of investigation, the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) found that many migrant workers are exploited, overworked and underpaid. And bullied.
In 2016, Seasonal workers from Fiji who were paid less than $10 a week, were told by government officials they must return to work for the contractor who exploited them or leave Australia. An ABC investigation then revealed many received little or no pay after deductions while picking fruit and vegetables for AFS Contracting, in northern Victoria.
“Bonded like a slave,” the FWO says in its report, compiled after its Harvest Trail investigators visited hundreds of farms, speaking with workers and farmers. “In some cases a person is virtually bonded like a slave to a particular [labour hire] provider, on the basis they have been told they won’t have their visa extension signed unless they see out the season with them,” says the sublimely named Jennifer Crook, Assistant Director, Compliance and Enforcement branch.
It’s an excoriating report but nothing, however, compared to Concetta Fierravanti-Wells’ free critique. She gives ScoMo a serve over being demoted after punting on Dutton in last August’s Coalition two-horse race to be Australia’s least worst leader. Like most of the ginger group who run Morrison and his government, she fears the Liberals drifting to the left.
Now she also hates the “socialist termite” – a right wing term for those who lean to the left even if they are just adjusting their seatbelts – Morrison for not being Dutton and mourns the loss of her former portfolio and fatter salary.
The former Turnbull Pacific affairs and international development minister, claims it is “disingenuous” for Australia to announce a loans program late last year for island nations while complaining of Chinese “debt-trap diplomacy”.
Concetta vents in an opinion piece for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Fairfax has not yet become solely Nine-infotainment, its rapidly approaching fate. It can still publish the odd piece critical of the government, something you would never get away with in Suva. Or in Beijing. The gist of her excoriating public attack on her PM is quite fair and reasonable if not authoritative and well-informed, even if, as David Wroe coyly notes, she “breaks ranks”, the rat.
“A region that already owes about $5.5 billion to international creditors,” she says, “doesn’t need to be saddled with more debt.” Yet selling debt turns out to be only part of ScoMo’s amazing sales pitch.
In a fresh new episode of ScoMo Goes Weird (Again), Morrison tries a bit of self-deprecating and insulting flattery, “We’ve done pretty well you and I, maybe punching above our weight”, ScoMo says ogling Mrs Maria Bainimarama.
It’s a compliment on the beauty of their wives, Jenny Morrison and Maria Bainimarama. How much better looking the wives are than their husbands. How both are in the ugly-bastards-with-beautiful wives joy luck club. What a hoot!
His island jet-away dictator love fest allows Morrison to leave the Murray-Darling Basin clusterfuck – an environmental, economic and political catastrophe, a scandal without parallel in the nation’s history, in the safe hands of David Littleproud whose father Brian was Minister for Education, Youth and Sport in Bjelke-Petersen’s moonlight state-brown-paper-bag government and who is related by marriage to John Norman, the operator of Norman Cotton Farming.
What could possibly go wrong? Water Resources Minister Dave’s a great climate change denier and blames the drought, a laughably dishonest fob-off and a wilful misreporting of the detailed reports that have been sent his way. Labor is to blame. ABC News 24 Sunday runs an item which wrongfully implies Julia Gillard wasted $13 billion on a scheme that doesn’t even work. Next, a lover’s tiff erupts between the Coalition partners, but what’s new?
“The Nats are plagued by scandal, vested with bullies and riddled with incompetence … The one thing they were supposed to be good at were [sic] looking after farmers and they have failed at that. Look at the management of the Murray-Darling,” says Liberal Party Wagga branch president Colin Taggart, who adds …
“The Nationals are a barnacle on the backside of the Liberals.” Don’t hold back, Col. Tell us how you really feel.
Pity poor ScoMo, the most clueless Liberal PM since McMahon. His government is imploding, rotting at the core. It reeks of rotting fish and all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little band of climate-change-denying, environmental, ecological vandals. There are rats in the ranks and frigging in the rigging aboard HMS ScoMo-go-slow whilst civil war and insubordination breaks out over our aid to Fiji. In Victoria the blokes are crowing over their victory over Kelly O’Dwyer.
Teach her to suggest they are misogynists and bullies. Next up: how to stop ScoMo parachuting another dud woman into Higgins. Rational spirits are flying out like a swarm of bees as chaos reigns in Morrison’s misgovernment. If he’s got any sense he’ll go for a March election – linger longer and other rats will surely quit the rotting house.
Or rat on him.
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.