A Fig for Contempt!

Urban Wronski, with his *ahem* urbane take on the state of the rabble, is today’s Guest Poster. As always, thank you from The Pub, and please drop in for a drink soon!

Photo credit: Fairfax

Turnbull government in crisis as ministers face contempt charges and Abbott stages a revolt over Finkel

A life-threatening political and constitutional crisis is brewing for the Turnbull government this week as three Ministers of the Crown face contempt proceedings in Victoria’s Supreme Court.

No big deal; just a politically motivated, orchestrated attack on judges for being hard left activists who are soft on terror, while, off Broadway, the Coalition’s out of court settlement of a class action on behalf of all those it detains illegally on Manus Island blows the lid off its regime of secrecy, cruelty and denial of responsibility in a week where federal government with economic management in its DNA racks up a record debt of over half a trillion dollars.

Adding fat to the fire, Shadow Attorney General Mark Dreyfus QC calls on Malcolm Turnbull to explain why he publicly backed Health Minister Greg Hunt, Minister for Social Services, Robo-Claw and the War on the Poor, Alan Tudge and invisible assistant treasurer, Michael Sukkar.

Dreyfus demands Turnbull explain why, the day before last Friday’s court hearing, the Prime Minister “backed in his ministers’ comments, on 3AW, despite knowing this matter was before the court the following day”.

Helpfully he notes the court proceedings could have “potentially serious” results. “It is incumbent on the Prime Minister to explain why he thought it was a good idea to validate the criticisms.”

Turnbull waffles “… in a free society a person is entitled to criticise the conduct of the courts or of a judge,” but this diminishes a concerted attack by three of his cabinet ministers on judges over an appeal which was still sub judice and, therefore, prohibited from public discussion.

Criticising conduct might, at a stretch, include the lads’ orchestrated slagging off at judges for being “hard-left activists”, “divorced from reality,” and conducting an “ideological experiment”

It might still have to contend with the judges’ view that the comments were “unfounded, grossly improper and unfair”, but Turnbull’s gloss cannot, surely, accommodate Michael Sukkar’s slur?

“It’s the attitude of judges like these which has eroded any trust that remained in our legal system …”

It’s all part of an action packed week of diversion, denial and disinformation. Oh my, Gonski 2.0 will rip $ 4.6 billion from Catholic Schools. But, look over here. Someone’s thrown a dead moggy.

“We’ve got a judiciary that takes the side of the so-called victim rather than the side of common sense,” suppository of nonsense, Tony Abbott pipes up, helpfully, articulating the Trumpish contempt for the rule of law that features in the Coalition’s approach to government this week.

Bugger the humdrum stuff of responsible government when lads can play politics instead.

Best Crosby (dead cat on the table diversion) goes to Peter Dutton’s secret citizenship test, a solution dog-whistling a problem, which is finally revealed to include a written English language test in a nostalgic bid for the official bigotry of White Australia. Anyone can become a citizen provided he or she has a university level of written language proficiency. And if Dutton says so.

No matter that Australia has no official language. It’ll help keep the Muslims down.

Illiteracy and innumeracy or cultural ignorance have seldom held back any conservative politician, while proposed changes to the law will set up the former Drug Squad detective, an acclaimed model of fairness and openness as final arbiter. He’ll get to decide who becomes a citizen and who’ll be deported. The bill gives Dutton the power to overrule decisions of the AAT.

Creating broad executive powers with minimal review undermines the rule of law, ironically, said to be one of the fundamental values which underpin Australian citizenship, writes Sangeetha Pillai, Senior Research Associate, Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, UNSW Law School, UNSW. Clearly, she fails to appreciate Dutton’s value to the PM.

More changes, in fact, are afoot to increase Benito Dutton’s arbitrary power by bestowing upon him a Homeland Security Department, merging several government outfits such as the AFP and ASIO in our fight against terrorism as the price of Dutto’s loyalty to Turnbull in the climate wars.

News comes this week, however, that the US style mega-department model which incorporates intelligence, police and security agencies is out of favour with the PM who now favours something akin to the bijou British Home Office, whose recent brilliant success in preventing terror, safeguarding citizens and accounting for lives lost in an entirely preventable fire in a high-rise building is matched only by its success in breaking up families in the name of immigration.

Happily, the government has far too much on its plate at present and the decision can safely wait until December when it can be announced when everyone is on holiday. Unlike the despatching of junkyard Abbott who goes barking, frothing mad over Finkel and demands urgent attention.

“Go fuck yourself” Abbott tells Craig Laundy. It’s an “ugly” bust-up, Liberal MPs report, in a three-hour session held Wednesday. All of Finkel is reduced to how we need to keep coal at any cost. Besides, coal is OK now. It’s clean and there’s carbon capture and storage. Low emission coal.

It’s clear this week that if the boys have read Finkel they have not understood a word. The discussion of the blueprint becomes an excuse to air the same stale platitudes and lies. Renewables are too expensive. We will always need coal because it’s cheap and reliable.

Reductive? Utterly deluded? Never. It’s all part of the cut and thrust of the Coalition’s richly democratic, inclusive joint party room; the fabled broad church, where any member can howl another down. It’s Liberal individualism. Abbott’s tantrum will foster party unity and goodwill.

Laundy tries to speak. Abbott prevents him by repeatedly interjecting. A slanging match ensues which leads to chaos. Government hacks speed to brief the Press gallery how it’s just a vital exercise in democracy. The Finkel fracas degenerates into another Turnbull proxy war on Abbott.

There, there, Tony don’t hold yourself back. Tell us how you really feel. Really? Never mind.

It’s enough to get any boy band back on the road. Cap’n Abbott and the Carbonistas, a gospel rock revival group are all over Canberra airwaves this week. The boys reprise “gimme that coal-time religion” a toe-tapping gospel hymn of praise to blind faith in a toxic black rock as the nation’s true salvation while still maintaining their trademark grievance and sense of entitlement.

Dr Finkel has winkled out Malcolm Turnbull’s opponents en masse in what may be another crafty manoeuvre in our wily PM’s crafty plan to establish his leadership over Tony Abbott. Whatever his plan, the “sensible centre” is rendered insensible all week by Old King Coal and his chorus.

What is too silly to be said can be sung, Voltaire once observed, but even he did not foresee the Coalition’s holy coalers, its mad right-wing. All croon such complete nonsense in response to Finkel, a fudged blueprint for the future that ignores new technologies and cheaper renewables, that they reveal a damning incapacity to engage in any responsible, rational or informed debate.

Cult claims, moreover, show breathtaking levels of wilful ignorance and brazen deception. Just one example will suffice.

“Coal is by far the cheapest form of base load power,” Abbott cons 2GB listeners on Wednesday, recycling Peabody fossil-fuel propaganda. The problem is not base load but peak load but Abbott wouldn’t know the difference. Nor does he seem to know that even Finkel concedes networked renewables are more than capable of supplying cheap, reliable base-load power.

As for cheap, experts forecast a doubling in electricity prices if new coal-fired stations are built while coal is no longer seen as a form of base load even in China.

Last year China’s State Grid’s R&D chief Huang Han dismissed coal’s claim to be an indispensable source of “base load” generation. As the network operator builds out its clean power sources, coal-fired generators could only serve as “reserve power” to supplement renewables.

Incapable of little more than sloganeering, the vacuous Abbott’s role in the climate wars is to set a back-marker in our national conversation. After decades of paralysing, time-wasting “debate” the government can then achieve a compromise; build a few coal-fired power stations itself. The media is full of constructive suggestion on how the politics should be taken out of energy.

Both sides need to come to a sensible compromise; adopt at least half of government idiocy?

Coal? As even a failed former Health Minister, impossibly indulged by his crafty mentor John Howard, Abbott should know, coal poses one of the most significant health issues of our time.

While mining, transport and burning must be included in any cost calculation, coal imposes an incalculable cost on the health and well-being of those whose lives are affected, if not ruined by pollution, economic losses and environment damage to water sources, land and food production.

No-one on Coalition megaphone 2GB will challenge Abbott’s blatant lies but they could also point to huge costs in climate change and extreme weather events caused by coal burning.

Cheapest? Costs of coal are soaring across the globe. All published studies indicate that the true cost of coal is much greater than the market price. There’s complete consensus. Coal is crap, Tony.

Energy ministers and other coal lobby lackeys typically pretend coal is cheap. Yet its real costs are passed on to the long-term budgets of other departments. Even our Chief Scientist admits this.

In a Senate estimates hearing at the start of the month, Alan Finkel noted: “The actual cost of bringing on new coal in this country per megawatt-hour is projected to be substantially more expensive than the cost of bringing on wind or solar.”

Abbott has not read Alan Finkel’s work. Nor will he. His mind is made up. He and Russell Broadbent are convinced, moreover, that any emissions-lowering policy will boost power prices.

Abbott and his Carbonistas show a Malcolm Roberts’ level of scepticism on climate change.

When Senator Roberts asked if it were a scientist’s role to be sceptical, Alan Finkel replied: “All the scientists I know have a healthy degree of scepticism, but healthy is an important word there.

“You have to have an open mind, but not so open your brain leaks out.”

Doing the coal lobby’s bidding involves a type of lobotomy but the Coalition has been at it for some time. Denying reality in climate change is another proud tradition which goes back to St John Howard who squandered the entire proceeds of a mineral boom while weaseling out of any real responsibility for the environment or climate. It’s never been serious about either.

Half of Alan Finkel’s panel may be well be power corporation representatives but pandering to vested interests in energy is a long-term trend for us. In 1997 we took an industry lobby to negotiate Kyoto. As Sarah Gill notes we “comprehensively cheesed off” the European Union by demanding a free ride and, after almost derailing consensus, we refused to ratify Kyoto after all.

Gill makes the case we out-Trumped Trump in dodgy deals on climate change. Kyoto was set up for nations to agree to reduce emissions yet Australia secured permission to increase them by eight per cent. By including emissions from land clearing, we were able to inflate our 1990 baseline by 30% which made our 2012 target impossible to miss.

Direct Action dweeb Greg Hunt was fond of crowing about how we’d meet or beat our target, which amounted to 0.5% of our 1990 emissions yet our absolute emissions are rising. In 2020 they will be higher than they were in 2000. How’s that for emission reduction?

Greg’s Direct Action scam doesn’t get much airplay these days and Greg’s been shunted sideways to Health where he’s got us all on side with his declaration of love for private health insurance and how we could learn a lot from the US Health system. We’ll all heed his warning, too, on how the recent Senate easing of rules for medicinal cannabis for terminally ill patients could be fatal.

Yet Greg has voiced no regret at wasting $2.23 billion on a scheme that paid beneficiaries to plant trees that may have been planted anyway while relaxed land clearing laws in NSW and Queensland wiped out any of the gains. No apology. We understand. Taking cheap potshots at the judiciary would make big demands on your time. In the meantime, emissions continue.

As Reputex reported, last year, “the rate of annual emissions growth continues to outpace credits contracted by the [fund].” In other words, DA did less than sweet bugger all to stop polluters.

“This growth is driven by Australia’s largest emitting companies, which have … not participated in the [fund] due to the voluntary nature of the scheme, and the large up-front costs.”

Always careful with expenditure and a stickler for accountability, Captain Kangaroo, Peter Dutton, meanwhile joins Tony Abbott in continuing his government’s attack on the legal system over the momentous decision to award $70 million damages plus $20 million legal costs to 1905 Manus Island detainees in an out of court settlement this week.

Slater and Gordon, Dutton says are “ambulance-chasers”. Labor lawyers.

Abbott madly attacks the presiding judges, for siding with the victims despite the settlement being negotiated between the government’s and plaintiff’s lawyers. Dutton is in denial.

It’s no admission of liability, he claims. Rather, in the parallel universe he and his government inhabit, it is a “prudent outcome”. Certainly, it averts a six-month damages trial in which the Commonwealth and its contractors would be accused of negligence and false imprisonment.

In the real world, however, it is a momentous decision and a landmark admission of liability which blows the whistle on years of Coalition pretence that Australia’s offshore detention is the responsibility of the nations hosting our camps. It also provides direct refutation of government claims that detainees were well looked after.

Mr Kamasaee, a 35-year-old Iranian, who needed treatment for severe burns he suffered as s child, described his experience as degrading and cruel.

“I came to Australia seeking peace, but I was sent to Manus, which was hell,” he said. “Every day in the harsh sun, my skin felt like it was on fire. I was in pain every minute of every day … I cried every night until I had nothing left.

“This case is not just about me, it is about everyone who has been trapped on Manus Island. Our voices have never been listened to, but today we are finally being heard.”

No compensation can make up for the torture endured by the men on Manus. Now that the legal fiction that they are not Australia’s responsibility has been destroyed, the men should be brought to Australia immediately. PNG warns that it will close the centre permanently 31 October.

Dutton ought to resign immediately for failing his duty of care while the government needs to abandon its secrecy and explain clearly what it intends to do after the centre is closed. As in so many areas of this chaotic government, the plan seems to be to wait and see what turns up.

Backward-looking, ever desperate for evasion and diversion, the Turnbull government is beset with a series of crises. There’s more to it than nostalgia or simple coal-lust. A retreat into the past is the only option for a Coalition government caught with no policy, let alone an environment or energy policy.

It has relied instead on populist posturing on border protection and punitive detention in a regime of secrecy, unaccountability, evasion and bare-faced denial – and it has been caught out.

Time to face the music. Instead, a battle of the bands erupts as the Point Piper Set amps up its catchy Blueprint for the Future: Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market, a concerto fantasy for two conductors in homage to Philip Glass, another innovator, whose music some find challenging because it doesn’t go anywhere.

The Turnbull government’s bastardised Blueprint for a world class electricity system, widely reviled by Carbonistas everywhere as The Finkel Review may fail to provide a political road map to allow an endangered coalition a safe exit from an energy policy highway as intended but it is to be praised at least for highlighting a terminally conflicted and out of touch government devoid of ideas or real plans hell-bent on substituting politicking for policy.

Serious questions are raised over Turnbull’s lack of leadership, finally, in his endorsement of his three ministers’ extraordinary, co-ordinated political attack on the Victorian judiciary. Any democratically-elected government which sets itself above the law; which fails to respect the separation of powers between the judiciary and the parliament forfeits its legitimacy.

There’s a better than even chance, according to some experts that Hunt, Tudge and Sukkar may help it out of its misery.

639 thoughts on “A Fig for Contempt!

  1. L2

    I think Shorten will avoid the ring kissing ‘ceremony’ , The nakedness of Emperor Rupes is getting a bit more obvious these days. The other thing he better not do is join Krudd and JG in popping along to the ACL conference to speak. WTF! were either of them thinking to do so ? Especially JG.

  2. Saw a bit of a repeat of The Drum in the early hours.

    A woman was asked about the state of the Catholic church, not specifically about Pell she was to understand.

    “it’s been a terrible time for the church.”

    It’s not often I want to throw things at the tv …

  3. I don’t like Pell personally very much but I do think that there’s a bit of hysteria going on about the charges against him.

    When I asked someone yesterday why they were willing to say he was “guilty”, the answer came back that the police wouldn’t have charged him unless they thought he was.

    I pointed out that acquittals are often delivered in the courts, rules of evidence etc. She would have none of it. He was a bastard and obviously guilty, and that was that.

    If there’s a lot of this about, then in my opinion, it’s a bad business.

  4. Section 3 . . .

    Grenfell Tower survivors are banned from attending the first meeting of Kensington Council’s cabinet since the fatal blaze because of fears of violence. Council leaders have taken the decision to hold tonight’s meeting (Thursday June 29) behind closed doors – with all public and press banned from attending.
    A new exposé by acclaimed U.S. investigative journalist Seymour Hersh throws into more doubt U.S. claims that Syria’s Assad regime gassed its own people.
    Luke Foley is promising the impossible writes James Robertson.
    In the party that says it does not have factions factional warfare in the Victorian Liberal Party has intensified after a senior official was accused of being involved in a Catholic schools campaign against the Turnbull government’s Gonski 2.0 education funding reforms.
    A destructive wave of energy bill hikes is poised to sweep across businesses and households from July 1, with some commercial customers to be hit by a tripling in electricity prices after the closure of the Hazelwood coal generator. Google.
    Does your heart bleed? Mine doesn’t!
    Michaela Whitbourn tells us about the grilling Mehajer got in court yesterday.
    Richo says that even when the Liberals win they lose, given the deep rifts within their party. Google.

  5. Section 5 . . . Cartoon Corner

    A chilling contribution from Cathy Wilcox on UK low cost housing.

    Broelman and Turnbull’s Jaws of Hell.

    Matt Golding and the next cover of TIME magazine.

    David Rowe does it again!

    Another crack at the banks from Ron Tandberg.
    Mark Knight and the businesslike announcement by Victorian police.
    Jon Kudelka contrasts the stabilities of the major political parties.

    • BK and Billie,

      BK, just now I accidentally emptied spam instead of sending it to pending. Really sorry!

      Billie, thank goodness you were on the job!

  6. BK
    Friday, June 30, 2017 at 8:11 am
    Good Morning Dawn Patrollers.

    Joanne McCarthy, who was the reporter that really got the action on child sexual abuse going, writes that it was a momentous day yesterday as George Pell now has a case to answer. Interestingly she tells us that Pell lives just outside of the diplomatically protected grounds of the Vatican.
    Pontificating Paul Kelly, who railed against Julia Gillard’s announcement of the CA Royal Commission, says that it is not just Cardinal George Pell who is on trial — it is the integrity of Victoria Police, the justice system and our capacity to deliver a fair trial. Google.
    David Marr writes that Pell is now facing the fight of his life.
    Sexual assault charges against the pope’s adviser prolong a familiar, appalling story. No wonder people are turning their backs on the church writes Catherine Pepinster.
    I’m sure Pell thinks Abbott is a very fine man too.
    The Guardian lines up the odious Miranda Devine for accusing the Victorian police of all sorts of things with respect to Pell.
    John Hewson concludes that the Abbott/Turnbull government is as bad as the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd one.
    Grattan on Friday: It’s a year since Turnbull won his first election, but what about a second?
    David Crowe with some straight talking says that we are witnessing the cowardice at the heart of Abbott’s campaign. He concludes by saying that the mystery is that Liberal MPs, as a group, saw a Labor government reduced to rubble but still have no idea what to do when the wrecking ball is swinging toward them. Google.

  7. BK
    Friday, June 30, 2017 at 8:12 am
    Section 2 . . .

    Alan Austin writes that the Murdoch media have gone the full Abbott this week with multiple articles spruiking a comeback for the disgraced former PM. In the spirit of Tony, they are riddled with hypocrisies, distortions and lies.
    At least Marise Payne has the guts to rebuke Abbott.
    Trump is a grub!
    Meanwhile the Trumpcare legislation limps into the summer recess with no vote in sight.
    After eight months of grinding urban warfare, Iraqi government troops on Thursday captured the ruined mosque at the heart of Islamic State’s de facto capital Mosul, and the prime minister declared the group’s self-styled caliphate at an end. We shall see.
    Trump’s new Muslim travel ban rules explained – sort of.
    The traditionally community-owned before-and-after school care sector is under siege with an American private investment firm gobbling up more than a quarter of the national market as it targets profits from another heavily government subsidised sector. Here we go again!
    Jeremy Corbyn has sacked three of his top team – and forced another to quit – after they defied his orders not to back a ‘soft Brexit’ in the Commons. Bang!

  8. BK
    Friday, June 30, 2017 at 8:13 am
    Section 4 . . .

    Matthew Knott says that The Turnbull government is prepared to significantly water down its plan to increase university fees and slash the HECS repayment threshold in a bid to pass higher education savings through Parliament.
    Former prime minister Paul Keating has hit out at “bludger” international companies operating in Australia but not paying enough tax. Trust Keating to say it as it is!
    The ATO is going to have a field day with Uber drivers and the like this year by the looks of it.
    From out of the new census figures comes a number to show that the world might just have a chance. For the first time “no religion” is now the number one religion — with 30 per cent of us saying we don’t have an organised faith. Rejecting religion doesn’t mean we are becoming evil writes Justin Smith. I do like the last sentence! Google.
    Australia’s energy future will be increasingly reliant on renewable energy sources, with the operator of the nation’s energy markets conceding that even with a forecast 30 per cent rise in population over the next two decades the amount of energy travelling across the grid will be little changed. This paints an interesting scenario that doesn’t add to any appetite to finance new coal fired power stations.
    The Financial Review covers Albo’s lament the Infrastructure Australia is being sidelined by Turnbull turf wars. Google.
    Jacqui Maley writes that gay marriage is an argument even conservatives know they have lost, which is why it doesn’t appear anywhere in Tony Abbott’s alternative conservative manifesto.

  9. Notorious crow single-handedly shuts down mail delivery in neighborhood

    And now for some very Canadian news: Mail delivery has been halted in certain areas of Vancouver because a ‘well-known crow’ attacked a mailman. Canuck the crow, who is identifiable to locals because of a red tag on its ankle, has been causing trouble in the area for a long time. His long list of troublesome behavior includes everything from riding the SkyTrain to evidence tampering.

  10. Bushfire Bill,

    I agree – Pell should be given a fair trial. The media should shut up.

    That goes for la divina (who’s batshit crazy anyway) and ppppauling kelly, with their disgraceful politicisation of Vic Police.

  11. BB, fiona –

    Add me to the list of those who want the media to shut up and allow Pell his fair trial.

    Some of the media hysteria is amazing in its stupidity.

  12. Cyber warfare unit set to be launched by Australian Defence Forces

    Australia’s military is undergoing a major transformation, with the launch of a new information warfare unit.

    The ABC has learned the team will launch within days and will be a central part of Australia’s defence operations.

    It will be tasked with defending Australian military targets from cyber attacks and preparing to launch its own assaults on foreign forces.

    Professor Greg Austin from the University of New South Wales described it as one of the biggest shifts in defence strategy


    I don’t know about this. Just look at this government’s recent record on IT.
    Census – fail
    Robo-debt – fail
    ATO – fail
    And then there was this, in January this year –
    Cyber spy agency back-up generators failed for two hours during power outage

    Does anyone remember the 1980s movie ‘War Games’? I do. Are we in for a sequel?\

    • Yes, I bet they all afraid of their personal files being dumped to a salivating media
      The damage is done and after 50+ years the pain isn’t going away
      The only hope is that the culture is broken and its no longer acceptable to terrorise children in your care

    • Agree. I’ve got no idea of what he’s being accused of, or whether there is a prima faci case.

      I do hold other grievances over his damage control actions in covering up known abusers and fighting victims to minimise church compensation. But that is a separate issue.

  13. I have a dilemma. Any feed back would be much appreciated.

    I’ll be eligible for aged pension in a couple of months. I’m currently on Carers pension. Do I have to go on aged pension or can I stay on carer pension, as I will still be caring for Razz.

  14. All I will say on the matter is that the corollary of Pell’s strident denials is that the complainants are all lying.

    A nice logical bon mot, but it doesn’t prove a thing.

    The witnesses are possibly lying (it’s happened before), but also possibly suffering from a form of mass hysteria or delusion.

    From the Inquisition, to the Salem Witch Trials, to the McCarthy Hearings, public opinion – while bursting with enthusiasm – has been shown to be often somewhat lacking in rigour. I might add the Lindy Chamberlain case and the allegations against Bill Shorten at TURC to the mix of “dead certs” that didn’t turn out to be true. Kathy Jackson is also a case in point. A Liberal politician once said that if what Craig Thomson said was true, then Kathy Jackson (to whom the parliament was in the process of apologizing at the time) would have to be the greatest liar in history.

    Turns out she was, or at least right up there in the front row.

    In short, just because someone accuses you of something bad, it doesn’t mean you’re guilty, or even that the accusers are lying. 50 years is a long time to remember things, and also a long time to get them confused or exaggerated in your mind (and it’s no excuse to say that you’d never forget such a horrible thing, because whether the horrible thing ever happened is exactly what we’re trying to find out).

    Having recently assisted Her Indoors on a matter of institutionalized mobbing, pre-judgement, outright falsification of allegations and evidence tampering I am pretty leery of applying the deceptively simple test – “If he didn’t do it, why did they say he did?” – as the final determinant of anyone’s guilt, even George Pell’s.

    The man has a right to a fair hearing, a robust defence, an unbiased process, and factual reportage in the media as a minimum.

    Criminal charges are serious. They are not an opinion poll, a matter of religion, a political football or a twitter storm. Pell should be given his day in court and our full support in enjoying it, or we are no better than a lynch mob.

  15. last one an interesting off-topic bit if history

  16. “Trump’s voter-fraud commission wants to know voting history, party ID and address of every voter in the U.S.” – very creepy

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