Scott Morrison is as funny as a dose of the clap

October 17, 2019

Dr Martin Hirst has lost his sense of humour when it comes to the Morrison Government. Instead, he argues, we need to be angry, not silently sniggering up our sleeves.

THE JOKES come thick and fast from ScoMo. This week, we’ve had the undignified crack that he’s going to name the taxpayer-funded RAAF jet that flies him around “Shark One” at great expense.

[First published on Independent Australia on 14 September 2019]

That’s our plane, not Morrison’s, but his complete lack of shame and his forced cornpoke humour are two of his better qualities.

Thankfully, Twitter chastised him over this idiocy.

Despite the PM’s attempt at portraying the blokey-jokey good guy, it’s getting harder to see the funny side of Australian politics. I’m not cracking a smile, I’m seething with rage.

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I have come to the terrible but sober conclusion that we can no longer laugh off the Morrison horror show. The clowns are actually ideological axe murderers in pancake makeup and funny shoes.

Are you asleep, or are you Chris Uhlmann?

Seriously, if you’re not disturbed and angry by the direction the Morrison Government is taking Australia today, you are either asleep or you’re Chris Uhlmann writing in the Nine stable “news” rags.

Uhlmann applauds ‘the sound of silence out of Canberra’ and claims that the ‘silent majority’ of Morrison’s so-called “quiet Australians” would also be quietly getting on with their quiet, boring lives.

‘Normal people would rather get on with the task of, hopefully, making an uneventful path from sunrise to sunset. For many that isn’t easy and their simple wish of the Government is it not make the task any harder.’

The whole idea of a “silent majority” is a discredited Nixonian talking point from the late 1960s and has no basis in sociology, political science or people’s lived experience. For Uhlmann, it is a convenient meme on which to hang his barely-literate gaslighting of the electorate. For Trump and Morrison – and enablers like Uhlmann – the idea of a silent majority supporting their populist rhetoric is a convenient political myth.

Personally, I’d rather engage with outrage on Twitter than spend any money, time or effort arguing with Chris Uhlmann and, it seems, so would plenty of others.

Why I’m not laughing anymore

I have had several swings of mood since the May Election. You may recall that in early July I wrote about the deep grief I was feeling at the time and how I was almost immobilised with depression.

Since then, I’ve cheered up and been amused by the stuff-ups, the malapropisms and goofy, daggy dad schtick that we’ve been enduring from Morrison. The Government’s lack of policies and ham-fisted management of just about everything actually gave me a false sense of hope that things really wouldn’t get any worse.

Two weeks ago, as we approached Morrison’s first full year in the PM’s office, the scales fell from my eyes and it became apparent that these jokers were deadly serious. The lack of clear policy and the absence of a mandate following the close Election result are not an obstacle to achieving the Government’s ideological mission.

It is the mission itself that motivates Morrison, his cabinet colleagues and his power-hungry backbenchers like “Freedom Boy” Tim Wilson. The mission is to remake Australia as a nation without compassion, empathy and opposition to Morrison and Dutton’s authoritarian instincts. It’s a change that started under Abbott, was briefly disrupted by Turnbull’s obsequious vacuity, but is now back in full battle dress.

The mission goal is an impoverished, embittered, divided Australia; a country where “having a go to get a go” means wealthy Liberal and National Party donors standing by the back door waiting for handouts, kickbacks and sinecures paid for by the reduction of everyone else to the status of serfs. It’s as if Morrison and company (that’s how they view the Government) are wanting to return Australia to the status of a penal colony.

The gulags on Manus and Nauru and the locking up of refugees in a PNG gaol are one obvious symbol of this. Sending the Tamil family from Biloela, Priya and Nadesalingam Murugappan and their two Australian-born children to exile on Christmas Island under heavy, expensive and ridiculous armed guard is another potent sign of where we are headed.

Dutton has all but confirmed this with his casual use of the awful Trumpian term “anchor babies” to describe the Murugappan children. It’s a racist lie coming out of Trump’s mouth and it’s racist when Dutton drops it into our language. Unfortunately, most of our political journalists are so shallow and compromised they started normalising it within hours.

However, it is not yet possible for Peter Dutton and Scott Morrison to send Australian citizens into exile so easily. Instead, we are facing imprisonment in our own homes — a permanent lockdown of our rights as citizens and constant surveillance of our lives, both public and private.

I don’t need to give chapter and verse on all of the outrages. If you’re reading Independent Australia, you are very much aware of them.

Let’s just summarise the issues in these headlines:

‘Utter lies: the truth on boat arrivals and border protection’

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‘Ensuring Integrity bill takes union busting to a whole new level’

‘Peter Dutton: crushing people because he can’

‘Littleproud fiddles while Australia burns’

‘Australia’s financial report card: Worst performance in the developed world’

A fundamental break with our egalitarian history

I don’t want to sound overly melodramatic, but I think we can now see the outline of our future if Scott Morrison wins the current rounds of the culture war against the rest of us.

Our civil society is being hollowed out and replaced with a 24/7 panopticon in which our rights are gradually and forcefully taken from us.

Everyone who works for a living or who is currently on any kind of welfare payment is under threat here. The attacks on workers’ rights don’t begin and end with attempts to clamp down on union action. The Government’s refusal to lift the poverty-level rate for Newstart and other benefits and plans to drug test unemployed people are further ways that Morrison and company want to impose workhouse levels of discipline on working people.

As for action on climate change, we are facing an existential crisis; the planet is dying, the eastern coast of Australia is going up in flames and once-flowing rivers are so dry that the Government has a crazy scheme to relocate fish in the outback. At the same time, the Morrison Government is refusing to take climate change seriously.

The less said about the disgraceful performance of this Government the better. At least a handful of ministers should be resigning over this deliberate lack of action. Start with David Littleproud and Angus Taylor.

I could go on, but I’m out of time, space and words to play with.

Australia was once known for its open and egalitarian ethos — it is being stolen from us. The time for laughing is over. We can no longer “grin and bear it”, it’s time to fight back.

You can start by joining the global climate strike on 20 September. It’s not just for kids — it’s our planet, too.

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I will not succumb to Morrison’s opiate for the masses, and I won’t go back to narcotics, neither should you.

July 12, 2019

This is quite a personal piece and it is a little bit dangerous for me given society’s attitudes to drug and alcohol addiction.

Just remember, if it’s not you there’s probably a junkie or an alcoholic in your family. Treat them with sympathy, not disgust.

Scott MOrrison pusher man, selling opiates to the masses

Courtesy of Dan Jensen and Independent Australia

[This piece was first published at Independent Australia on 11 July]

There’s a well-founded belief among recovering addicts and alcoholics that you have to hit rock bottom before you start to get better.

I certainly believe it to be true. I bounced along the bottom for quite a while between 2014 and 2016. I didn’t truly begin my recovery until I left behind the toxic circumstances of my employment.

I’ve been mostly clean and relatively sober for nearly three years. I’ve had a lapse here and there, but usually got myself back on track pretty quickly. I still go to meetings and I have regular sessions with a therapist, but overall, I’m definitely much happier, stronger and more stable than I was three years ago.

So, it was with some horror that I found myself picking up a narcotic a few days ago. Exactly what the substance was is irrelevant; suffice to say it exists in a grey zone of legality and is readily available in a certain kind of adult store.

I’m glad to say I had a really bad reaction to the stuff. After a few moments of delirium, I became violently ill. I hope I don’t do it again.

However, what I have learned about myself through three years of counselling and involvement in both NA and AA is that there is a cause for my lapsing and if I can get to the bottom of it, I’m less likely to do it again.

What caused me to pick up again?

So, what do I know about this week’s episode?

Well, the first thing to note is that I’ve been suffering writer’s block. This article is the first thing I’ve written since the federal election on 18 May. Outside of a handful of tweets, I’ve said nothing about the Morrison victory, or the disappointing postures adopted by the Labor opposition under the doubly-disappointing Albo. I have a book deadline looming, but I’ve been unable to write a paragraph, despite all the juicy media and journalism controversy swirling around us.

Having writer’s block is not normally associated with me having a lapse or finding an excuse to drink more than I should, but I think there’s something intrinsic to my situation that created this recent blockage and then began to spiral me down to a bust.

Read the rest of this entry »


On Disruption: An insider’s view of the collapse of journalism

July 19, 2018

Can journalism and the news industry survive the perfect storm of digital disruption? Dr Martin Hirst reviews Katharine Murphy’s essay On Disruption.

Katharine Murphy’s brief essay On Disruption lays out for the reader a useful insider’s view of how the news industry and journalism are struggling to cope with the changes wrought by digital technologies and collapsing business models.

If you have any interest in understanding how the news establishment sees itself, and its prospects for surviving the crisis of profitability and trust, it is worth reading this pamphlet.

At only 120 pages, it would be unfair to expect Katharine Murphy to provide fully-articulated solutions to the almost panic-inducing problems confronting the mainstream media. Having said that, On Disruption is an insight into how establishment journalists see themselves, their mission and the state of their industry.

The key theme that Murphy explores is that the internet and social media instituted a period of disruption that has unsettled the news media and left it in a state of uncertainty that persists today.

This is true enough, but my criticism stems from the technological determinism that frames her view:

‘… the boss has decreed this is the future, not because he or she necessarily wants it to be, but because it is the future, and we are powerless to argue with it.’

This is a classic trope of technological determinism: the belief that technological change is the root cause of everything. In this case, it is the pessimistic, and ultimately passive, view that the future is somehow pre-ordained by the technology and that we are “powerless” to shape the future for ourselves.

Inevitably, Murphy argues, journalists must adapt to the new ways, rather than challenge them. The second telling point about the quote I’ve used here is the reference to “the boss”. This metaphorical figure is present in a long anecdotal metaphor that Murphy uses to explain how disruption has affected the news industry.

The analogy involves substituting the car industry for journalism. In the analogy, the reader is asked to imagine themselves as a worker in a car factory that is confronting technological change. Okay, it’s only a metaphor, so perhaps not be taken literally, but it is a key section of the first half of Murphy’s argument, so it is worth deconstructing.

Murphy begins by suggesting that the car analogy is ‘possibly psychic penance on my part’ for her previous work on ‘structural adjustment’, which emphasised ‘disruption as an economic homily’ while ignoring ‘the human dimension of the story’. As Murphy acknowledges, when there is personal interest involved, the human dimension suddenly becomes very real.

The take-away from this is that the structural adjustment process now being applied to journalism is a necessary corrective brought about by digital disruption. Read the rest of this entry »


​Canberra Press Gallery black bans Nauru forum coverage (except for News Corp)

July 18, 2018

The Canberra Press Gallery has announced its members will boycott the Pacific Islands Forum in solidarity with banned ABC journalists. Political editor Dr Martin Hirst says this is an historic decision by the Gallery.

The Republic of Nauru — pretty much all of it (Image by Tatters via Flickr)

THE CANBERRA PRESS GALLERY has announced its members will boycott the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) in September in an act of solidarity with ABC journalists refused a visa by the Nauruan Government.

I’m very pleased about this. You could say it’s something for Gallery members to be proud of, but my only fear is that news organisations will find a work-around to make sure some reporters can break the black ban.

It’s not a surprise that the pro-Nauru, pro-gulag Newscorp papers have announced they will be sending a team.

In a strong statement, Press Gallery President, <a

The Nauru Government’s decision to block an ABC journalist from joining a media pool to cover the Pacific Islands’ Forum has been widely condemned by media rights organisations and by the journalists’ union, the MEAA. But it seems that, for some, it is difficult to condemn something that they secretly condone and would love to do themselves. It seems that, for some political leaders, free speech is great — but not for the ABC and not in Nauru Yes, I’m talking about the Prime Minister. All that Malcolm Turnbull could muster is that the decision is “regrettable”, but that it “must be respected”. In other words, I love freedom of the press, but not for the ABC and not in relation to Nauru.

If you watch the clip you can see that Turnbull is very uncomfortable with the words coming out of his mouth. His vocal cues show that he is insincere and suggest that he’s really delighted with the actions of the Nauru Government.

Clearly, you know, we…

We regret…

It’ll be regrettable if the ABC is not there. We’d love to have you there with us…

But we have to remember and respect Nauru’s sovereignty.

It is up to Nauru who cones into their country just as it is up to our Government – my Government – as to who comes into Australia.

And that’s the nub of it really. Turnbull is powerless to say or do anything against Nauru because his Government is totally dependent on the Pacific island nation as an offshore gulag in which to imprison women, children, and men who are refugees and who – according to international law and human rights convention – should be allowed to enter Australia.

Of course, we all know that Australia’s inhumane and potentially illegal incarceration of legitimate asylum-seekers is at the heart of the Nauru Government’s visceral hatred of the ABC.

Unlike the compliant Murdoch hacks who’ve been given access to Australia’s prison camps on Nauru, the ABC has covered the refugee issue and other human rights abuses by the Nauru Government accurately.

Which, of course, leads to the Nauruan accusations of “fake news” against the ABC.
Free press, but not you, or you, or you Read the rest of this entry »


Malcolm Turnbull’s protection racket for incompetent Ministers and MPs

May 4, 2018

There was a time where prime ministers insisted that their cabinet colleagues, junior ministers and backbenchers met certain standards of behaviour but today, the Ministerial Codes of Conduct are not worth the paper they’re printed on. Political editor Dr Martin Hirst explains.

First published on Independent Australia.

Cartoon by Mark David / @mdavidcartoons.

YOU COULD SAY this is a fable — a tale of two Malcolms.

Malcolm Fraser – the former Liberal Prime Minister who is reviled on the left for his role in former PM Gough Whitlam’s dismissal – was a saint and a man of great virtue compared to his namesake, Malcolm Turnbull.

Malcolm Fraser sacked two cabinet ministers in 1982 for bringing a colour television into Australia, but declaring it was black and white to avoid customs duty, Michael MacKellar was sacked for this relatively minor offence and Customs Minister John Moore was dismissed from his portfolio for his poor handling of the whole issue. A few years earlier, then MP Andrew Peacock offered to resign because his wife appeared in a television commercial for Sheridan Sheets.

As an aside, 20 years ago, even the disgraced war criminal former PM John Howard had the decency to sack two ministers over a travel rort over the paltry sum of $9,000.

In contrast, today Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is running a protection racket, not a government. His ministers break convention and hide their actions from public scrutiny, and sections of the backbench seem completely feral, but Fizza does nothing to rein them in.

Lucky for us, the glitter is washing off and the machinations of the protection racket are being forced to endure the cleansing sunlight of public scrutiny.

 

Let’s take a look at some of the recent outrages, in no particular order.

Michaelia Cash

Minister for Jobs and Innovation Michaelia Cash has been hiding from the media for several months, constantly dodging questions about her portfolio and the circumstances under which her office tipped off journalists about an AFP raid on the offices of the Australian Workers’ Union. Four of Cash’s staff have left her office under an unresolved cloud of suspicion in the wake of the scandal. Her office is also using the excuse of the AFP investigation of the leaks to stall Freedom of Information requests by journalists trying to uncover the truth.

Read the rest of this entry »


A Chinese base in Vanuatu, or another Fairfax beat up?

April 13, 2018

Should Australia be concerned about a rumoured Chinese military expansion in the Pacific? Or is it yet another distraction from the Government’s domestic problems? Political editor Dr Martin Hirst investigates.

First published on Independent Australia Wednesday 11 April

ON MONDAY this week. the Fairfax papers and websites ran an “exclusive” story with the alarming headline ‘China eyes Vanuatu military base in plan with global ramifications‘ — but is the story accurate? The lead par was an insistent and alarming allegation that China was planning a naval base in Vanuatu,

‘… that could see the rising superpower sail warships on Australia’s doorstep.’

However, in typical fashion – that we’ve come to expect from mainstream journalists covering the “security” round – the next two pars walked back the suggestion and sourced it to “senior security officials” in Canberra. In other words, the reporter, David Wroe, had been given a “drop” a background briefing by an Australian spook, because the Government wanted to float the idea and get a reaction.

‘While no formal proposals have been put to Vanuatu’s government, senior security officials believe Beijing’s plans could culminate in a full military base.’

The tell that this was a planted story is in the lack of detail and the vague sourcing:

‘The prospect of a Chinese military outpost so close to Australia has been discussed at the highest levels in Canberra and Washington.’

The Vanuatu Government was quick to issue denials and even labelled the Fairfax reports as “fake news”.

Vanuatu’s Foreign Minister Ralph Regenvanu said rumours of discussions with China over a military base were false.

We are a non-aligned country. We are not interested in militarisation, we are just not interested in any sort of military base in our country,” Mr Regenvanu told the ABC.

However, David Wroe’s story still had the effect desired by the Australian “security officials” who briefed him. Within hours, PM Turnbull was able to front the media to express Australia’s concern at the – still unproven – rumours.

We would view with great concern the establishment of any foreign military bases in those Pacific Island countries and neighbours of ours,” Turnbull bloviated.

This is an interesting position and an even more puzzling definition of “foreign”. The United States operates more than 20 military bases across the Pacific – from Hawaii to Japan and many ports in between – so why isn’t this alarming to our Prime Minister?

And this is what is really ironic and cynical about Turnbull’s concern: there is – as yet – no Chinese military base in Vanuatu, yet the United States operates permanent military bases throughout the Pacific, including in Australia, Japan (21 bases), Guam and South Korea. Read the rest of this entry »


Malcolm Turnbull 30 days on #Newspoll death row

April 9, 2018

Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership is safe for now. However, as political editor Dr Martin Hirst reports, he is forever stained by his 30th Newspoll loss in a row.

Published on Independent Australia

MALCOLM TURNBULL increasingly looks like a very worried man.

It’s not surprising really; last weekend he was at an AFL game in Sydney and when his face was projected onto the big screen, the crowd let out a mighty roar.

Well, it was a sustained booing noise really and the Fizza looked very, very uncomfortable.

Today he is looking – and no doubt feeling – a lot more uncomfortable. It’s easy enough to shrug off a few, perhaps light-hearted boos at the footy; it’s a lot harder to ignore your 30th Newspoll loss in a row. Hard indeed, when your initial claim to the prime ministership was that your hapless predecessor had reached that magic number. But that is indeed the precarious position that Malcolm Turnbull finds himself in this week.

This week, Turnbull closed the gap a little on Shorten, but really only within the statistical margin of error. The ALP still holds a four-point lead – 52-48 – over the COALition. The shift in Turnbull’s favour is not enough to overcome the ALP’s substantial two-party preferred lead over the COALition.

He’s safe for now. But, not, perhaps, for much longer. According to reported comments, the main leadership contenders –Peter Dutton and Julie Bishop – have spent the last few days pledging their loyalty.

And we all know what that means … the leadership speculation will continue and so will the internal plotting against Turnbull.

Now, he’s also facing the difficulty of having a formal faction of backbenchers – the so-called Monash Group – who will be meeting regularly to agitate against the Government’s coal and energy policies. It’s not difficult to believe they’ll also be discussing Malcolm’s failures of leadership too.

Je ne regret, rein?

In late 2015 Malcolm Turnbull cited then Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s 30 Newspoll losses in a row as one of the reasons he launched his challenge. Now he is rueing the day. In the lead up to his 24th consecutive loss in the poll numbers, Turnbull was widely quoted as saying he regretted making the 30-loss issue so prominent.

“I do regret having said it,” Turnbull admitted today during a live internet radio interview with News Corp columnist Miranda Devine:

“Only because it allowed people to focus on that, rather than the substantive reasons [for my challenge]. The substantive reasons that I stated were related to economic leadership and governance.”

Instead, Turnbull has claimed that his challenge to Abbott was based on the latter’s poor communication practices and his failing economic policies. That was in December last year. Now he has added to his tally of failures and equalled Abbott’s disastrous record.

Read the rest of this entry »