You are the Prime Minister of Australia – For One Day Only

Today’s Guest Poster is the magnificent Puffy The Magic Dragon, who – as always – has come up with a topic guaranteed to put fire in the belly (and even out of the mouth). Thank you so much, Puffy.

Also, I apologise for my lack of activity for the past few weeks. I am sure you all understand.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Hats off to Mr Steve Georganas MP, Federal Member for Hindmarsh, House of Reps. ALP.

Steve Geoganas, a thoroughly good bloke, recently attached a questionaire to his newsletter, for people in his electorate, asking about issues and concerns they may have.

As well as keeping in touch with his electorate and proactively seeking their input, his survey finished with an interesting question that I have not seen before in such an exercise.

‘What would you do if you were Prime Minister for one day.’

What an intriguing thought. What would I do?

I would:

  • Close Manus Island and Nauru camps and order repatriation to Australia of the people interned there.
  • Establish royal commissions into the banks, and another into our involvement into the Iraq WMD war. And Children Overboard, and the rest of that can of maggots. Chuck one in for political donations too, while we are at it.
  • Stop the Adani coalmine.

Because I will get to work early on my day, it will only be morning tea-time.

  • I will have plenty of time to fix the NBN fiasco, and then after lunch with Indigenous people’s representatives to nut out a plan to really address inequities, roll my sleeves up for a late nighter.

There is so much more.

  • Also, I would implement the ALP Animal Welfare plan, and designate theft of pets as an act of national harm, punishable by ten years of cleaning up doggy doo doo.

What would you do?

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alt Factive Friday

Guest Author John Birmingham on top of his form:

Photo credit: NRC

And so we are one hundred days into Donald Trump’s presidency of laughter and forgetting. The laughter is the deranged cackle of an escaped mental patient hiding in the darkened basement of a Stephen King story. The forgetting is inevitable, because who can keep this shit straight? The alternate facts, the Russian hookers, the amateur oompah band of cosplay Nazis winding their way through the White House kicking out the jams on a 76 trombone cover of old SS dancehall favourites, the early morning tweet storms, the gentle tonguing of Vladimir Putin, Kelly-Anne’s shopping network promo for Ivanka’s failing fashion line, Mike Flynn’s sacking, Steve Bannon’s demonic possession, selfies with the nuclear briefcase guy, and family favours and open bribes from the Chinese government and the transfer of the Situation Room to the outdoor dining lounge at Mar-a-Lago. And all of that is just off the top of my head. With a quick search on el Goog I could fill this whole column with a firehose of craziness, the same way that talking baboon’s anus constantly fills our world with a never-ending toxic gas leak of his brainfarts and crazy uncle conspiracy theories.

As John Oliver said. “Trump hasn’t said one crazy thing, he’s said thousands of crazy things, each of which blunts the effect of the others.”

In a week where an unremarkable Facebook post by Yassmin Abdel-Magied set off a firestorm of nontroversy—imagine a shrinking tribe of pantsless old white men circling their walking frames to light each others farts in Rupert Murdoch’s private cigar lounge—and as a human CAPS LOCK error approached the hundred day mark of his Administration, it’s worth unpacking the triumph of Donald J. Trump.

Yes. That’s right. Not his abject policy failure. Not the imminent prospect of the US government ceasing to function this weekend because a Republican majority House of Reps, and a Republican majority Senate cannot agree with a Republican circus peanut in the White House on how to pass a simple budget measure. Nope.

His triumph.

Because while Trump rolls from one outrage to the next like a giant fluorescent novelty condom filled with Sriracha flavoured hobo stew and nightclub urinal cakes, we are so thoroughly enthralled by the grotesque spectacle that we forget the original outrage, the one that will probably see him driven from office. As the hundred day milestone approaches, almost nobody is talking about whether Trump now wanders the halls of the West Wing at ohfuckno-thirty in the morning because the Russian intelligence services wanted him there.

How does that connect to the witch hunt and burning of Yassmin Abdel-Magied this week? Well, I think her mistake was not serving up a doubledown sandwich to the angry mob which pursued her online. Serving it up and jamming it down their fucking throats, actually. Especially the free speech hypocrites compulsively squeezing their raging hate-boners as they imagine being allowed to abuse Abdel-Magied for both her gender and her skin colour. (Not that there’s much stopping them now. Certainly not the editorial guidelines at News Corp.)

She backed down. Trump never does, at least in his own mind, and as he’ll tell you, he’s president and you’re not.

For now, anyway.

Every day of his term the world will awake to whatever exciting new dumpster fire he’s lit overnight. But the investigations of Russian involvement in his election continue quietly. This week the disgraced National Security Advisor General Flynn, who famously led the chants of ‘Lock her Up’ at the Republican convention, was back in the news because it turned out he’d earned hundreds of thousands of dollars in undeclared payments from Russian companies and individuals with close ties to Russia while he was working for Trump.

As one smartarse OpEd put it, Trump believes in extreme vetting for immigrants, “but apparently not for members of his administration. Unless, of course, he was fully aware of what Flynn was up to.”

Most likely, Trump’s not aware of what Trump is up to on any given day. After a hundred of them it’s exhausting to imagine what a whole four years might feel like when they’re done, assuming we live that long. At least if he decides to start a new Korean War from Mar-a-Lago this weekend, to distract everyone from the US government going out of business, there’s a good chance he’ll send the aircraft carriers in completely the wrong direction. Again.

Friday 24th March: Tony Burke’s #5and5

My apologies for stealing another Tony Burke missive, but me mum has been hospitalised again with pneumonia. So things are at sixes and sevens in this household. Over to you, Tony:

[BTW, I’ve been trying to find one of those turnbull/abbott morphing pics/cartoons, but without success – so if anyone could give me a link …]

I remember saying that Malcolm Turnbull’s transformation was complete when he had gone full Tony Abbott.

Then he went full One Nation.

This was the week that One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts boasted how happy he was that the Government had started following One Nation’s lead, and Liberal Senator James Paterson said the Government’s decision to water down racial hate speech protections would help win back One Nation votes for the Liberal Party.

1. One of the very first items of business on Monday was Bill Shorten introducing his Private Members’ Bill to protect penalty rates. If this bill passes, people will have their penalty rates protected. Without it, nearly 700,000 workers are up for a pay cut. We didn’t get to vote on the Bill in the Reps but there was a vote in the Senate on protecting penalty rates. Jacqui Lambie and the Greens voted with Labor to protect penalty rates. And the Government, One Nation, Derryn Hinch, Cory Bernardi, David Leyonhjelm voted against. The Nick Xenophon Team didn’t vote. If they’d voted with Labor, we would have won.

2. The fight in the Senate to stop cuts to welfare payments resulted in some extraordinary speeches. Both Katy Gallagher and Jacqui Lambie delivered deeply personal accounts of the challenges faced by people who need the support of government payments to get by. The speeches were impassioned and powerful. When the issue came to a vote these pleas were ignored with the Liberals, Nationals, One Nation, Derryn Hinch, David Leyonhjelm, Cory Bernardi and the Nick Xenophon Team lining up together to impose the cuts.

3. One of the best things we did in Government was deliver education reforms so that every school would have the resources they needed to help every student. The Government has been tearing apart the “Gonski” reforms but the campaign to deliver the resources that schools need won’t go away. On Wednesday, the Australian Education Union brought the Gonski bus to Parliament House, with principals explaining how Labor’s reforms could change the lives of students for the better. After Question Time, Tanya Plibersek spoke about the choice between Labor’s reforms focussing on every child and the Government’s $30 billion of cuts to schools.

4. You may be surprised to read that Scott Morrison was angry this week. Thanks to Jim Chalmers and Nick Champion he became just that little bit angrier. After Scott Morrison gave an answer claiming he had a good record on debt and deficit Jim Chalmers was on his feet with this question:

“My question is to the Treasurer. If a deficit of $11 billion was a budget emergency in the 2014 budget, what does he call a deficit of $37 billion, which has more than tripled on his watch? Given this Treasurer has tripled the deficit, doesn’t this just prove that the Treasurer is completely incompetent and hopelessly out of his depth?”

As Scott Morrison wandered forward to the Despatch Box trying to think of an answer, Nick Champion called out,

“How old will Wyatt Roy be before you deliver a surplus?”

5. Despite everything that came from the Government in between, Question Time on Thursday started and finished decently and respectfully. The PM and Bill Shorten opened with speeches about the horrific attack in London and the British High Commissioner was invited into the Chamber to be with us when we all stood together in silence. Then at the end of Question Time, the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs stood up and gave an answer about a program to help veterans with mental health issues. Labor’s Amanda Rishworth stood up after the answer and offered Labor’s full support for this important issue.

1. You can’t make this stuff up. Tuesday was the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. In every school it was Harmony Day. And in Parliament House it was the day the Government announced it wanted to change the law to give permission for more racist hate speech.

Photo credit: Andrew Meares

2. Anne Aly asked the PM what racial speech it was he wanted people to be allowed to say that they couldn’t say now. He responded with the patronising line: “The question is really this…” and then he answered a different question. Anne stood straight back up for the next question and we had this exchange:

ANNE ALY: My question is to the Prime Minister. As someone who has been subjected to racism time and time again as I was growing up and even in my life now, please give me an answer: what exactly does the Prime Minister want people to be able to say that they cannot say now?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: I understand the point the honourable member is making.

TANYA PLIBERSEK: You don’t; that’s the point.

3. No matter which way you look at the Government’s changes to the Racial Discrimination Act they guarantee there will be more racist hate speech in Australia than there is now. After all, how can it be about freedom of speech unless it is going to allow more things to be said?

I led a debate on Tuesday about how dangerous these changes are. Mark Dreyfus, Linda Burney, Anne Aly and Peter Khalil spoke and were able to draw on deeply personal accounts of the impact of racism. Linda quoted an awful message that she had received only that morning with these words:

“The previous speaker […] said that all Australians are decent people. I hope that is true. It is true in the main, but let me read you a tweet that I received this morning […]. It says: ‘@LindaBurneyMP: Why are you Abos allowed to harass people for dollars outside grocery stores? You are uneducated drug addicts and disgusting. Change it.’ She is talking about 18C. She is talking about what you people are about to try and do […] People that have never experienced racism cannot possibly stand in the shoes of those that have.”

4. Part of the Government’s strategy on the weakening of the Racial Discrimination Act has been to introduce the bill into the Senate first instead of the House of Representatives. This is a deliberate and calculated scheme to play for One Nation votes while at the same time avoiding their local MPs from having to vote on the issue. It’s an attempt for the Liberals to broadcast one message on the TV and a different message at every community event. Well we didn’t let them get away with that. On Wednesday, Bill Shorten moved a motion which included a specific commitment to keep section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act in its current form. No matter what they’ve been saying in their communities, every Liberal and National MP voted against it. And to top it off, just as Bill started his speech Christopher Pyne moved that he be not allowed to speak. So much for freedom of speech.

Photo credit: Mike Bowers

5. This week in the Reps, we nearly finished the speeches debating the Government’s $50 billion handout to big business. The strangest thing is that even though Government backbenchers were standing up one after the other committing to the handout to big business, Scott Morrison wouldn’t commit to it. Now you might think, but isn’t the handout Scott Morrison’s idea? Well the answer is yes. Isn’t it his policy? Well the answer is yes. Wasn’t this the centrepiece of the last Budget and the key to their entire so-called economic plan? Well yes. Will it be in the next Budget? How dare you ask! Chris Bowen pursued this all week, and Scott Morrison found many words, in fact many angry words, but still had no answer to the question.

So next week a series of issues will come to a head. The $50 billion handout to big business should reach the Senate and there will also be debate on whether we should allow forms of racist hate speech that have been considered unlawful for 25 years. On top of these issues, the Government’s submission to the Fair Work Commission on penalty rates is due by 4pm today. None of this will make Australia fairer, but that’s the Government we have, and why we need to change it.

A final message, if you live in Sydney or if you know anyone who lives in Sydney we have the Walk for Respect opposing racism next week on Friday afternoon. It’s not an angry protest, but a celebration of modern multicultural Australia. I hope you, your friends and family can make it along.

I’ll be back in touch next week.

Tony

P.S. Chuck Berry died this week and there have been endless tributes from some of the greatest musicians in Australia and around the world. In honour of a Government without an agenda here’s Chuck Berry with “No Particular Place to Go.”