Nacht und Nebel

(Image credit: Wikipedia)

Fifty days ago, the Australian electorate blinked, and chose a Coalition government led by Mr Abbott – devout Catholic, Rhodes Scholar, Oxford Blue, sometime journalist, advisor to former LOTO Dr Hewson, exercise junkie, father of “not bad-looking daughters”, self-proclaimed political offspring of Mrs Bronwyn Bishop and Mr John Howard – a man who counts among his political and spiritual mentors B. A. Santamaria and Cardinal Pell.

The government as a whole, and Mr Abbott in particular, are deeply indebted to two powerful individuals, Mr Rupert Murdoch, and Mrs Gina Rinehart. The debt owed by the new Federal government and prime minister to Mr Murdoch in particular is extraordinary, and is most likely to be paid through the sale hand-over of the NBN and, possibly, the privatisation or abolition of the ABC. Mrs Rinehart’s rewards are the repeal of the MRRT, the “liberalisation” of 457 visas to enable the employment of ever-cheaper labour in her mines, and an open-slather approach to exploration and mining, maybe even in national parks, and to coal seam gas fracking. After all, what else is the environment for?

So, what has the new government achieved over the past 50 days?

  • Abolished the Climate Commission.
  • Sacked three departmental heads.
  • Sacked the NBN Board.
  • Announced the privatisation of Medibank Private.
  • Appointed the head of a major business union to chair the Commission of Audit which also includes (gaia help us) Ms Amanda Vanstone. Mr Tony Shepherd also chairs a company that has substantial contracts with the Commonwealth.
  • Announced a witch-hunt judicial enquiry into the Rudd Government’s home insulation scheme.
  • Cut disaster relief payments in the middle of major bushfires in New South Wales.
  • Denied any possible connexion between bushfires and climate change.
  • Released draft legislation to repeal the MRRT, which also (among other things) repeals
    1. – the schoolkids’ bonus
      – the low-income tax superannuation contribution
      – geothermal exploration provisions.

    Then, and worryingly, are

    1. The increased demonisation of asylum seekers arriving by boat by requiring the Immigration Department and detention centre staff to call them “illegal arrivals” and “detainees”,
    2. The militarisation of border protection, which is the excuse for
    3. Attempts to restrict information about the arrival of asylum seekers, and their movement to and from various places of detention.

    What we are witnessing is an attempt – by shutting down sources of information, whether they are bodies like the Climate Commission, or reports in real time of boat arrivals – to keep Australians ignorant of the real state of affairs, and ultimately and as soon as possible to silence dissent. How long will it be before there is federal legislation of the type Queensland Attorney-General, Mr Bleijie, released two weeks ago – legislation that has the potential to control what people wear, what music they listen to, maybe even what books they read and films they see? How long will it be before all Australian courts are effectively instructed to do as they are told by the government that – in Mr Newman’s words – they should come down from their ivory towers and make decisions in line with community expectations?

    Silencing dissent sounds to me very like Mussolini’s third principle of fascism:

    1. “Everything in the state”. The Government is supreme and the country is all-encompasing, and all within it must conform to the ruling body, often a dictator.
    2. “Nothing outside the state”. The country must grow and the implied goal of any fascist nation is to rule the world, and have every human submit to the government.
    3. “Nothing against the state”. Any type of questioning the government is not to be tolerated. If you do not see things our way, you are wrong. If you do not agree with the government, you cannot be allowed to live and taint the minds of the rest of the good citizens.

    Prime Minister Abbott has made it clear time and time again that he will not brook questions, he will not brook debate, he will not brook dissent. He is, as Jeff Sparrow points out, a cultural warrior par excellence. He has no compunction about establishing the slush fund, ”Australians for Honest Politics”, that resulted in the jailing of Pauline Hanson. Is it beyond the bounds of possibility that he might act in a similar way to anyone who dissents, disagrees, or differs? It may seem ridiculous in 21st century Australia even to ask such a question. However …

    … remember,

    Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

    Remember Argentina in 1966, Chile in 1973, Germany in 1933.

    Nacht und Nebel has happened before, and will again unless we heed Martin Niemöller’s words:

    First they came for the communists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

    Then they came for the socialists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

    Then they came for me,
    and there was no one left to speak for me.

    883 thoughts on “Nacht und Nebel

    1. A bit on George Brandis’s background:

      Brandis, 56, is an only child. When he was nine his father, a junior public servant based in Sydney, died of heart disease. His mother was left “pretty much destitute” with no assets and just $300 in the bank.

      The young widow returned to Brisbane to be closer to her family, rented a house in a poor neighbourhood and took a job as a typist at the Mater Hospital. There she met John Herron, then a senior surgeon and later a Howard government minister. Herron became a father figure and political mentor to young George.

      Brandis says his father’s death built a special bond between him and his mother, who died in 1995. “We were a two-person family and I was very much the focus of a very loving mother. I always felt her greatest gift to me was self-belief.”

      But for the Australian Labor Party split of the 1950s, the Brandises, like many Catholic families, would have remained staunch Labor folk. “My father would have grown up voting Labor, but went to the Liberal side via the bridge of the DLP [Democratic Labor Party],” says Brandis.

      Neither of his parents finished secondary school, but Brandis says his father had topped the state in mathematics in a Queensland public schools examination. “His family couldn’t afford to send him to university, but it never bothered him. He was a very happy and contented man who was never interested in material ambitions.”

      Brandis attended Brisbane’s Villanova College, run by the Augustinian order. “I was a complete nerd,” he says. He quickly proved himself a committed scholar and an “observant” Catholic, and he still goes to Mass “every now and again”.

      Obsessed with politics, Brandis joined the Young Liberals at 16 and was determined to get into Parliament. He read John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty in year 11. “I found it completely compelling. I was rereading it a couple of years ago and I couldn’t help smiling at all the detail, underlining and marginalia that I had written as a kid.”

      His 1978 honours thesis at the University of Queensland, where he gained first-class honours in arts and law, was entitled “An interpretation of the ideology of the Liberal Party of Australia.” He proudly plucks the heavy volume from his office bookcase.

      (But then, this was penned by Mark Baker …)

    2. Albo clears up any doubt.

      Anthony Albanese declares Labor’s commitment to carbon pricing

      Anthony Albanese has declared Labor will stand by its principles on carbon pricing before a shadow cabinet meeting canvassing how to respond to Tony Abbott’s intention to repeal the clean energy package.

      The shadow infrastructure minister, who lost Labor’s recent leadership ballot to the Victorian right winger Bill Shorten, said the party’s ongoing commitment to carbon pricing was made clear by both candidates during the leadership contest.

      “It was a bit of an issue in another ballot that was held recently and both myself and Bill Shorten made our position clear,” Albanese told reporters in Canberra before the shadow cabinet discussions on Friday

    3. The government borrowed another $800 million this morning, and, I think, $1000 million yesterday. I’ve lost track of what the total since 9 September is, probably around $19.8 billion.

      The money is being spent on paying off old debts and covering the deficit. So they are getting into new debt at a cheaper rate to pay off old debt at a higher rate – or something like that.

      For anyone who likes finance and figures, (I don’t) the Australian Office of Financial Management has released their 2012/2013 report. Go here –
      and click on the top link. It’s a big pdf file.

      I’ve been flipping throught the first part in an attempt to understand what all this debt business is about and how all the borrowing works. It made my head hurt so I’ve decided to save it for later – much later.

      I like this explanation, it’s much easier to understand.

    4. Been reading transcripts of the NOW criminal charges in the UK. If proven, don’t see how Ruperts business can survive intact in the US. Criminal offences in another country are caught up in the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. This current trial lays bare the hideous culture in Rupert’s newsrooms in the UK. It says a great deal about Ruperts values and character. Dame Elizabeth was right.

    5. Al Palster,
      Ever since learning that the prosecution has produced evidence of the longterm affair between Ms Brooks and Mr Coulson, I have been wondering whether evidence of another rumoured affair may also emerge.

    6. Fiona, been wondering the same thing. All this stuff would make a wonderful movie. Given Clooneys masterpiece on Ed Murrow he would be the ideal producer/director. Would be a blockbuster.

    7. What does this email mean, from my subscription to Treasury?
      Is Joe borrowing again?

      Results of Treasury Note Tender Number 31/13
      Maturity 24 January 2014
      Series Number T24014
      ISIN AU2CLT240145
      Offered to Public ($million) 1,000

      Reserve Bank Take-up ($million) –
      Total Amount Offered ($million) 1,000
      Amount Allotted to Public ($million) 1,000
      Weighted Average Issue Yield (%) 2.4688
      Coverage Ratio 2.99
      Lowest Yield Accepted (%) 2.45
      Highest Yield Accepted (%) 2.47
      Total Amount of All Bids Received ($million) 2,992
      Total Number of Bids 30
      Total Number of Successful Bids 7
      Number of Bids Allocated in Full 4
      Best Bid (%) 2.45
      Worst Bid (%0) 2.58
      Weighted Average Bid (%) 2.5004
      Amount Allotted at Highest Accepted Yield as Percentage of Amount Bid at that Yield* 97

    8. puffy
      It means Joe borrowed another $1000 million – that was yesterday’s borrowing. Don’t ask me to explain all the other stuff, I haven’t got my head around it yet.

    9. Thanks. The other stuff is not important. What is important is that Joe is borrowing a billion dollars in one day and no-one in our media has asked why?

    10. After the huffing and puffing about Labor borrowing $1 million a day we now have a treasurer who is borrowing God knows how many times that amount a day and no-one is saying a word. That’s not counting his $8.8 billion borrowings to give the Reserve Bank money they don’t need and don’t want. .

      I understand the borrowing to pay off interest on debts thing, but why does Hockey need to borrow so much more than Labor was borrowing?

    11. Meanwhile – Newman is looking at flogging off some of Queensland’s water infrastructure. Costalotto recommended it. Newman says it’s not really privatisation, ‘it’s innovative ways to reduce capital expenditure’. You get someone to give you money and you give them a state asset in return – sounds like a sale to me.

      Click to access ETU%20Sunwater%20privatisation%20water%20torture.pdf

    12. Bill Shorten quells the nerves of any who wondered if Labor were in danger of going to water on carbon pricing

      “Labor will never be a rubber stamp for Tony Abbott … I won’t be bullied” – @billshortenmp on opposing carbon price repeal #auspol”

      “@latikambourke: OL Bill Shorten – no serious economist supports Direct Action.”

    13. Fiona, Joe et al

      I’ve got to take Buddy for a walk, I’ll be back soon and if you start without me I’ll catch up no worries.

    14. Leroy,
      Great reads – would you mind reposting them on the Friday thread, as I’m about to close comments here?


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