Nothing to fear but fear itself in Turnbull government’s week of chaos and confusion

One of our most generous Guest Posters, Urban Wronski, has yet another piece of good journalism.

Why can’t the so-called professionals do this?

Thank you, Urban Wronski!

Craig Sillitoe; Fairfax

A month after claiming victory, a hollow boast in the best of political times, two weeks after PM Turnbull urged all MPs to “hit the ground doing”, our would-be Coalition discovers its narrative of good government is unravelling faster than the business plan for Shenua or Adani’s Carmichael mine. If our PM has a plan, why does Scott Morrison contradict him publicly all week?

Stray threads from its ripping yarn of heroic deliverance catch in the wheels as our P-plater PM, always an accident waiting to happen despite his stylish Isadora Duncan silk scarf, backs the Liberals’ Ming charabanc out of a tight parking spot into the path of Kevin Rudd’s UN Humvee.

What follows is a week of dangerous affectations, avoidable collisions and self-inflicted injuries including a mob of tin-foil hatters on the senate cross benches united only in their mission to repeal 18C of the Racial Vilification Act. As One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts explains “people are afraid to speak up on tax Islam and the economy,” not that this has ever stopped him.

Banks and backbenchers all over the road quickly bring our lame duck PM to a halt after being side-swiped by a runaway Royal Commission into as little as possible in NT’s juvenile justice system. Young Greg Hunt is sent out to redirect traffic wearing his brand new eye-catching science minister’s jacket which is clearly several sizes too big for him – as befits a clown suit.

After three years of funding cuts, the destruction of scientific careers and inestimably valuable research, the Federal government, keen to spin good news where there is none, executes a stunning back flip timed surely to coincide with the opening of the Rio Olympics or to distract from the week’s mess or the one third of MPs who refuse to accept that climate change is real.

Labor’s Kim Carr is outraged. He says Hunt’s claimed $37 million is in fact to replace $249 million that the Parliamentary Budget Office says was the consequences of the government’s budget cuts,’ The government’s 15 new climate jobs, comes after it has taken 75 climate jobs out of the CSIRO, part of the 300 jobs taken out of the CSIRO as a whole.

Quick off the mark as always, Tassie empiricist and exponent of the link between breast cancer and pregnancy termination, Senator Eric Abetz voices his concern that new Science Minister Greg Hunt’s “reversal of policy on CSIRO climate research is based on science, not ideology.”

The Senator is to be commended on his vigilance and must continue his empiricist’s mission to demand his government de-fund its National Wind Farm Commissioner into the non-existent harm caused by wind farms and put the $205, 000 salary into real research.

CSIRO’s new Climate Science Centre in Hobart, will proceed as announced in April although climate science research will still be significantly under-staffed and could find a use for the funds which could be augmented by the termination of the $5 billion in fuel subsidies and tax concessions so generously extended to the multinational companies engaged in mining.

Eric’s bickering echoes the dissension in the Turnbull government’s cabinet over Rudd abruptly nipped in the bud with a dud captain’s call. Where now is stable, consensus government, star of its grand narrative in which it publicly deluded itself it – and conned not a few others – that it would heroically save the nation?

In its place is chaos and confusion. The Rudd stuff up has everyone wondering if Turnbull will last out the year. The party’s hard right bully boys begrudge him three months grace before he’s spilled. No map at hand and beset by chaotic decision-making, Turnbull’s badly shaken team is already picking fights and playing up four weeks before the 45th Parliament sits.

In the meantime, the oxymoronic NT government may have failed to get its nominee Brian Martin QC up as Royal Commissioner but First Minister Adam Giles is still able to combine dark humour with light relief as he adds helpfully that Dylan Voller has not escaped torture entirely and that the spit hood and chair await him as any other prisoner now that he is in an adult jail.

“A society should be judged not by how it treats its outstanding citizens, but by how it treats its prisoners,” Fyodor Dostoevski’s voice of experience reminds us, a point Brian Martin raised in 2002 when David Hicks, was locked up and tortured in Guantánamo for five years before being released without charge into Australian custody where he could still remain had the government’s Counter Terrorism Amendment Bill (No. 1) been in force then.

The proposed Bill, which attracts bipartisan support and is somehow spun as a good news story this week, amends the control order scheme to apply to young people from the age of 14 years, with some restrictions, and introduces a new offence of advocating genocide. No-one questions that the new offence is about two hundred years too late to protect the indigenous Australians.

Dostoevski’s clearly lost on Attorney General George, lock-’em-up-and-throw-away-the-key Brandis or First Minister Giles and his “tough on crime” followers who advocate increased sentencing and eagerly demand prisons where even children are made to suffer.

Giles, whose CLP faces oblivion in the NT election on 27 August, takes a leaf out of the federal playbook and blames Labor, despite his government introducing in April the barbaric means of restraint in the Youth Justice Amendment Bill 2016 which notes in its second paragraph how,

“In recent years, children in custody have become increasingly violent, dangerous and irresponsible,” although it fails to provide any empirical evidence.

The law authorises increased unspecified restraint, or the use of further coercive force on children leaving the means at the discretion of the Commissioner of Correctional Services.

It’s a recipe for disaster, however well it may play in the politics of law and order according to Vincent Schiraldi, Senior Research Fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School, “I think these institutions poison everyone they touch,” he tells Australian reporters earlier this week.

Schiraldi’s stint in charge of Washington D.C.’s juvenile corrections program revealed a system in which abuse was not merely enabled but embedded.

“Don Dale cannot be fixed,” he says. “They need to destroy it, pour salt on the ground and come up with another model that fits the local area.”

Giles, however, believes he’s been stitched up. Territorians should know of his heroic quest.

“Labor have got their hands all over this, I’m the only bloody person who’s got the balls and the guts to stand up and try and deal with it, and I’ll do that every day for the interests of Territorians and kids.”

Giles’ man Brian Martin stands down. He says he does not have the confidence of all sections of the Indigenous community and he is not prepared to compromise the inquiry, despite George Brandis’ blandishments and attempts to talk him out of what appears to be an entirely reasonable and responsible decision. In other ministries, Brandis also would be stepping down.

Royal Commission Mk II, which features two commissioners, former Queensland Supreme Court Judge Margaret White and Indigenous leader Mick Gooda induces Corey Bernardi to attack Mick Gooda for being Aboriginal in the senator’s weekly “common sense” newsletter to supporters,

“I am most surprised that ancestry seems a more important qualification than judicial experience,”

No-one is surprised, however, at the banks giving the government the finger and keeping most of the week’s interest rate reduction the Reserve Bank hopes will boost our struggling economy.

Busted flat, however, is the Coalition’s conceit that it represents the only economic managers with a plan when not only must the Reserve Bank intervene by cutting interest rates, the banks can take advantage of a weak, government, beholden to them for funding and keep most of the interest rate cut for themselves.

As the Australia Institute’s research in June found – across a broad range of economic measures, the Abbott/Turnbull government has performed the worst of any Australian government since 1949. Economist Jim Stanford’s report examines economic performance across 12 indicators – including GDP per capita, the unemployment rate, employment growth and the growth of real business investment and intellectual property investment.

We are growing at 3.1% says Morrison – yet while GDP did grow largely thanks to property investment and a rise in export earnings as communities rose -real net national disposable income fell by 1.1% as Bowen pointed out a record eighth consecutive decline – the most sustained decline in our history.

The poor are hurting the most as inequality grows as a result of the government’s decision to cut the clean energy supplement to a range of new welfare recipients. The Turnbull government will drive the poorest incomes down to as low as 32 per cent below the poverty line within three years, according to the Australia Institute’s most recent research.

Being soft on banks doesn’t cut it either. The institute’s paper notes little historical correlation between “business friendly” policies and economic performance.

Rudd’s UN candidacy, “hardly a matter of first importance”, as Turnbull himself observes, blows up into a storm which rocks the whole boat. Leaks appear over night. Deputy dog helpfully volunteers cabinet votes narrowly favoured Kevin 016 but Turnbull is spooked.

Rattled, Turnbull tosses collaboration and consensus overboard. Like Captain Qeeg, he fixates on triviality, forsaking real leadership for impulsivity and a rash of bad captain’s calls on Rudd, the banks and Manus Island.

How best to deal with bastard banks for not passing on the full interest rate cut of a quarter of a per cent? A chat over a cup of tea and an iced VoVo! Kevin Rudd couldn’t have put it better.

Laughing all the way to and from the bank, NAB, CBA, ANZ and Westpac’s chaps in suits are very happy, they chortle, at the thought of a rorty road trip to Canberra for a chinwag with old pal Mal. Chew the fat with any pack of backbenchers such as the PM may muster.

Why some may even find time to give themselves a public flogging with a limp lettuce leaf. Or defend usury or explain why they must collude to fix interest rates and or lower the odds when they chance their insurance arms by disallowing claims and contesting medical opinions.

Inviting the banks to do lunch with Turnbull in Canberra once or perhaps more than once a year is a much better idea than a Royal Commission says Scott Morrison because it is “transparent”. Above all it will preserve that mythic confidence in our banks which only he can see.

The big four banks enjoy a hold over more than 80 per cent of home mortgages – 82 per cent of the nation’s $937.8 billion in owner-occupier loans outstanding last month and 85 per cent of the $523.8 billion housing investment loans. No-one in government questions this over concentration of investment in real estate in the face of an approaching economic downturn or the wake of a GFC we really never got out of.

If the banks are in need of protecting it is from themselves. If the Coalition’s plan for keeping the banks honest is ludicrously ineffectual, however, it is a gutsy effort when compared with its head in the sand approach to solving its Manus Island dilemma.

PNG’s Supreme Court orders the Australian government to provide a resettlement plan for immigration detainees being held on Manus Island by a 4 August deadline. Border Supremo, Dutton and his PM are all over it. Their plan? Australia simply does not show up in court.

It’s a while since Greg Hunt defended the government’s interest in trading coal with India and other underdeveloped countries on the grounds that it was “not a colonial power.” PNG’s legal team have just been given cause to believe otherwise.

“His ABC” and other mainstream media help spin Captain Mal’s action as a virtue in itself, in case the PM’s decisions might again prove over-hasty or ill-advised. Otherwise we may get misty-eyed over the need to be cruel to children in indefinite detention or fail to see that Manus is PNG’s responsibility.

Trade minister Steve Ciobo is despatched to Indonesia where he will forge another you beaut free trade deal that his predecessors have somehow missed in the hundred years or so we’ve been trading with our neighbour – an opportunity not spotted by Andrew Robb’s 360-strong trade delegation last November.

Before we can ask why the hurry, we are moved along. Before we have time to dwell on Rudd’s comeuppance, Brandis’ utter cock-up over the Royal Commission or digest the news that the new senate will generally be less easy to manage than the impossible lot Turnbull just tossed out we are hurried along. Nothing to see here.

Or look over there, a 31 year old terrorist has just been arrested in Braybrook. Great to know our stable government is keeping us secure. Nothing to fear but fear itself.


411 thoughts on “Nothing to fear but fear itself in Turnbull government’s week of chaos and confusion

  1. includes an audio clip, worth a listen


    Cormann raises ‘first elected’ plan to halve Senate terms for crossbenchers
    The Australian 12:39PM August 12, 2016
    Jared Owens Reporter Canberra

    Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has articulated a plan that would disproportionately relegate crossbench senators to three-year terms, while ensuring six-year terms for more than half of the Coalition’s upper-house MPs.

    Following a double-dissolution election, half of the states’ senators will be forced to recontest their seats in three years’ time. How that is determined is left up to the chamber itself.

    Senator Cormann, the Coalition’s deputy leader in the upper house, today said the “first-elected method” – under which the first six senators elected in each state receive longer terms – would recognise that those senators’ tickets attracted more primary votes and a stronger flow of preferences.

    The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Penny Wong, threw the ALP’s weight behind the idea.

    Under that formula there would be six-year terms for 13 of Labor’s 26 senators, 16 of the Coalition’s 30 senators, three of the Greens’ nine senators, two of the Nick Xenophon Team’s three senators and populist crossbenchers Jacqui Lambie and Pauline Hanson.

    Senators who received less popular support – such as Derryn Hinch of Victoria, David Leyonhjelm of NSW and Bob Day of South Australia – would all risk losing their seats at the election due in 2019, as would the NXT’s Skye Kakoschke-Moore and three One Nation senators.

    Major party senators facing re-election would include International Development Minister Concetta Fierravanti-Wells and Labor frontbenchers Lisa Singh, Pat Dodson, Doug Cameron, Jacinta Collins and Claire Moore.

    Senator Cormann, the first-elected senator in Western Australia, told Sky News: “This has happened on seven occasions before since federation and on each occasion the way this has been settled is on the basis of the order in which individual senators were elected to the Senate in their respective states.

    “The important point is obviously this is a function of how many votes and how many preferences you are able to attract. If you are elected in the first six out of 12 then it stands to reason that you were elected earlier and as such you qualify for the longer period.”

    Senator Wong said in a statement to The Australian: “Labor will support the Government’s proposal to allocate Senators’ terms of office according to the order in which Senators were elected in each State.

    “This is consistent with the Senate’s previous practice following double dissolution elections and reflects the will of the voters.”

    An alternate formula, known as the “recount method”, would see the Australian Electoral Commission recount the ballots as though it were a regular half-Senate election and award seats depending on those duly elected. The AEC is required to conduct such a recount, although it will be up to the Senate to decide which method is used.

    Mr Hinch, who has raised the spectre of legal action if he is handed a three-year term, has proposed an entirely new method in which each elected party would receive at least one six-year term for its team regardless of how well it did relative to larger parties. This would safeguard minor party candidates, such as himself.


  4. has a helpful list at the end of which Senators are affected

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