Is the Wentworth by-election result the middle of the beginning of the end for Skid?

October 21, 2018

I woke up this morning with a slight headache. Maybe it was the blackbird singing outside my bedroom well before dawn; maybe it was a disturbed sleep because the cat kept jumping on my head.

Nah, it was the celebration of the middle of the beginning of the end of  Scott Morrison’s interim occupation of the Prime Minister’s comfy leather couch.

 

I admit it. I probably had too much to drink, but who didn’t?

COALition supporters were either drowning their sorrows or drinking angrily whilst plotting revenge against someone — anyone really — on the other side of the factional fence.

Labor supporters were celebrating their guy losing so convincingly in a winning kind of way; while the Greens will find an excuse to drink at any time.

Kerryn Phelps deserves to nurse her own hangover this morning too. She has woken up to the aftermath of a political tsunami that rose up out of Double Bay on Saturday morning and came crashing down along the sandy coastline from Bronte to the Sydney Heads in the evening twilight.

It feels delicious to write this morning that Skid has led his tory scum to their worst EVER defeat in a by-election. It is historic and has captured attention from the international media.

Wentworth Nightmare

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Nasty, brutish and short: Thomas Hobbes and the Coalition’s politics of exclusion

June 3, 2018

Political editor Dr Martin Hirst has been musing on recent political news while re-reading Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan. His outlook is bleak.

First published on Independent Australia 2 June 2018.

I’m doing a course at my local TAFE this year; it’s a mixed group. I’m one of three oldies (I’d describe myself as a late baby boomer). Apart from a couple of students in their mid 20s, the rest of the group are all in their late teens. We had a discussion this week about what constitutes the zeitgeist — the “spirit of the Age”.

Some of the responses from the millennials in the class got me thinking. In part, I reflected on what I was like when I was 18; I also began to think about Thomas Hobbes and those famous lines from Leviathan about war of “all against all” and the bleak lives – “nasty brutish and short” – that some of us are forced to live.

I was reminded of these passages – from Chapter XIII, ‘Of the natural condition of mankind’ – by some of the fears and concerns expressed by millennial classmates.

For them, the overwhelming zeitgeist is fear. They are scared about the future that is facing them. More importantly, perhaps, they feel powerless to do anything about it.

They talked about how difficult it is for them to find work — even the precarious work of casual shifts in the hospitality or retail industries. They talked about feeling like they’d never be able to afford to buy a house, and their fear of global warming and the damage that we’re doing to the planet.

But most of all, they felt like they could do nothing about the problems confronting them.

I thought about it for a few days afterwards. Something was niggling me. I finally figured it out. For many millennials, it feels like they are being deliberately excluded from society and from decision-making.

Then it hit me: our whole political culture is built on exclusion and fear.

It is actually blindingly obvious.

Australia is a nation built on exclusion

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#Fizza’s winning ways continue into 2018

February 11, 2018

Republished from Independent Australia

FEDERAL PARLIAMENT resumed this week, marking the official start of the political year in Australia. Ah yes, those hardworking MPs and senators. Most of us have been back at work for a month now, but these upstanding public figures need their beauty sleep, or at least to spend more time in bed.

At the end of 2017, Prime Minister Turnbull promised that 2018 would be the “year of rewards” and that all of us would prosper from the trickledown impacts of cutting company taxes.

So far, it’s just been a continuation of the chaos that dogged the Coalition last year — and the year before that and the year before that one too.

The only person who seems to have been rewarded so far in 2018 is George “Bookshelves” Brandis who has been promoted to the plum and coveted role of Australia’s official representative at the Court of St James.

Brandis left the Senate on Wednesday after delivering the traditional valedictory speech afforded to retiring members. But Brandis did not follow the script. He appeared to issue a veiled warning to his Coalition colleagues about the rise of creepy rightwing politics – and creepy rightwingers – in the Liberal Party.

“Increasingly, in recent years, powerful elements of right-wing politics have abandoned both liberalism’s concern for the rights of the individual and conservatism’s respect for institutions, in favour of a belligerent, intolerant populism which shows no respect for either the rights of individual citizens or the traditional institutions which protect them.”

Was this Brandis having a dig at his colleague, Unter Führer Peter Dutton? Many commentators seemed to think so. And perhaps it was more than a coincidence that the valedictory coincided with the parachuting of alleged racist and alleged war criminal, General Jim Molan into the Senate. Molan replaced former Nationals deputy, Fiona Nash who fell foul of section 44 last year.

According to credible research, backed up by his own sanitized memoir, Jim Molan was allegedly responsible for a series of potential war crimes, while serving in Iraq and a high-ranking Coalition general. While this is shocking enough, Molan’s entry to the Senate was marred by another scandal, this one much closer to home.

Molan shared the racist Britain First videos infamously circulated by Donald Trump last year. Of course, this potential disaster was turned into an opportunity by the agile and nimble Prime Minister.

Fizza took the opportunity to defend Molan loudly and in his most patrician shouty voice.

According to Turnbull’s logic, Molan can’t possibly be a racist because he once wore a uniform. In other words, being a soldier means you either a) are not a racist ipso facto; or b) your racism can be excused. Fizza had to ignore a whole lot of history of racism in the Australian Army and by Australian soldiers to come up with that fairy tale.

“The Leader of the Opposition wants to describe [Molan] as a racist. That is deplorable. It is disgusting. Jim Molan is a great Australian soldier. We are lucky to have him in the Senate. He doesn’t have a racist bone in his body.”

Yes, lucky indeed. Molan will no doubt bolster the ranks of the nasty faction around Dutton, Tony Abbott and their troglodyte henchmen (and women, but mostly men). Molan is a good fit with Dutton and co. As a leading exponent of “Sovereign Borders” he has experience in not being a racist, but…

In his own mind and words, Jim Molan is a champion of multiculturalism — a set of skills he learned well in the battlefields of Iraq where he led an equal opportunity policy of slaughtering men, women and children, regardless of race or religion. Too bad most of them were unarmed civilians and probably Muslims.

From the Sydney Morning Herald, 8 February 2018:

Asked if he apologised for his actions, Senator Molan said: “No I don’t. No, because I didn’t know it was an appalling organisation a year ago. 

“Anyone who thinks I am anti-Islamic or racist, as the allegations were made yesterday in The Sydney Morning Herald, is stark-raving mad. I have worked effectively cross culturally for years,” the former military major general said, referring to his role on missions in Muslim nations such as Iraq.

Senator Molan also denied he had shared articles about banning Muslim migration to Australia. However, his Facebook page still shows he shared two news articles about the issue in September 2016.

Jungle Jim is just another example of Australia’s seemingly willing and blind slide into open Trumpism in our politics. Malcolm Turnbull is also willing to let this happen on his watch.

We also learned this week that the Turnbull Government has learned nothing from Australia’s disastrous military adventurism in Iraq and Afghanistan on behalf of our American cousins. It’s a pity General Molan can’t share some of his no doubt deep expertise on the issue.

The Jobs and Growth government – which is presiding over one of the worst declines in real wages in a generation – has decided to propel Australia into the already crowded global weapons industry.

Yep, manufacturing armaments – you know, ordnance that kills people – is to be the new highway to economic nirvana and a bright new future for Australian industry. It’s a joke, but the punchline is you get blown to bits.

Yep, Malcolm is winning and winning this week. However, perhaps his greatest victory – the sweetest victor of all – was his sterling and spirited defence of embattled Deputy PM Barnaby #BeetRooter Joyce.

The week began well for Bananaby, the Daily Telegraph splashed his happy baby news on the front page. Oh how delierously delighted the nation was at that point. A true champion of family values had finally been blessed with a family.

Oh what? Really? He already had a family and the babymama was a former staff member, and she was married and….

Well, that quickly turned into a shit sandwich for everyone concerned.

And, of course, it is under these arduous and adverse conditions that Malcolm truly knows how to win. He gallantly dived in and took a great big bite of the sandwich, declaring through gritted teeth, and with an unpleasant look on his face, that Barnaby would make a good father and at least he hadn’t left his babymama to bring up the love child on her own.

He added that he really didn’t want to talk about it:

I’m very conscious of the distress this causes to others, in particular Natalie Joyce and her and Barnaby’s daughters, so he it is a private matter, a tough matter, and I don’t have any more to say about it. 

Lucy and I are very conscious of the hurt occasioned to Natalie and their daughters in and particular. So that’s why I don’t want to add to the discussion about it.

And, no wonder Fizza didn’t really want to talk about the BeetRooter’s baby. It seems that – despite self-serving media bleating about no real public interest in the matter – there may be more to come about the Deputy PM’s trysting with a former staff member.

A lot of people have been asking why the Daily Telegraph would publish this story now. And it’s a good question. I think I have at least part of the answer.

As regular readers of Independent Australia would know, the rumours about Bananaby’s extramarital nookie have been around for a while. We covered the story back in November last year, but back then the mainstream ignored it.

The real target of the NewsCorpse machete attack on Joyce was not the Deputy PM. He and his family are just collateral damage.

The real target is Turnbull himself.

Now it has been revealed that Turnbull’s office – and therefore the PM himself – helped move Mr Joyce’s girlfriend into a well-paying job in Matt Canavan’s office, he is firmly in the firing line.

Both Joyce and Turnbull will be under increasing pressure to either come clean about this – which could lead to one or both of them resigning – or they will have to double down and keep trying to put out a raging dumpster fire with methylated spirits.

I don’t put it past either of them to make a last-ditch effort to cling on to their jobs. After all, we now know for sure that it cost Fizza $1.75 million to buy his bed in the Lodge and the BeetRooter has paid the ultimate prize for his position — he’s earned the probably permanent hatred of a woman scorned, times by five.

My gut feeling is that NewsCorpse support for Peter Dutton is behind the stories coming out now. Somebody is certainly drip feeding the Daily Telegraph with juicy updates on the affair, the money trail and the inside goss on who knew what and when. Dutton is certainly the front-running challenger to replace Turnbull and the Libspill rumours just won’t go away.

We know from the Joyce story that if the rumours are swirling then there’s something lurking just below the surface.

It might be only the start of politics for 2018, but I’m willing to bet that Turnbull won’t be prime minister at the end of the year.

He won’t be beaten in an election, because the Coalition will want to cling on to the bitter end. Fizza will be replaced — sooner rather than later.

Dutton will become Prime Minister and the “Butcher of Fallujah” will get a cabinet post.

Here’s a bit of advice. If you get into trouble and Malcolm Turnbull offers to come to your defence, best you politely decline. He doesn’t have a good track record.

PS: I haven’t had the space to mention the Banking Royal Commission, which starts next week, but it doesn’t take a stable genius to know that, unless there is some dramatic whistleblowing, it will be a whitewash.

Also, and finally, the Closing the Gap report this week underlines just how good Turnbull is at winning. The gap in health, education, opportunity, wealth, life expectancy and incarceration rates between white Australia and Indigenous Australians is getting bigger. That is a win of Trumpian proportions.

You can follow political editor Dr Martin Hirst on Twitter @ethicalmartini.


Turnbull’s horoscope indicates a horror year ahead for #Fizza

January 9, 2017

Malcolm Turnbull is a Scorpio. 2017 could be a year of failure and disappointment for the invisible Prime Minister.

turnbull-horoscope-screenshot-www-sunsigns-org-2017-01-04-16-18-53

Can #Fizza Turnbull make it to the end of the year?

The signs are not good for PM Malcolm Turnbull as 2017 slowly recovers from its Christmas hang-over and bingeing.

Already the advance guard for the Trump faction of the Coalition is out and about wining and dining and whining with the ready-made racists of the notorious anti-Muslim Q Society.

Cory Bernardi and George Christensen accepted invitations to speak at a Q Society fundraiser months ago, but over the slow-news holiday period a couple of lazy journalists thought they’d revive the story, you know just for the lulz.

Like most such stories, it first got a run in The Australian over a month ago, where it was treated as good news about mates helping a friend who happens to be an anti-Islam bigot.

According to The Oz’ Chip le Grand, Bernardi and Christensen are stepping up to help the Q Society and three office-bearers to fund a defamation defence.

[S]elf-styled conservative warriors Cory Bernardi and George Christensen will ­appear at a fundraising dinner to help an anti-Islam organisation and three members of a rival ­political party defend themselves in defamation ­proceedings.

halal-choices-q-society-screenshot-www-qsociety-org-au-2017-01-04-14-49-43

Why The Guardian decided that the first day of the new year was a perfect time to publish their own take on this story is a mystery to me. Perhaps it really is the silly season and the editor hoped that we’d forget that we’d actually seen this story somewhere else some time ago.

However, in a textbook case of cascading media coverage, once The Guardian story appeared on 1 January it was repeated (with only minor amendments) for the next 48 hours across Fairfax papers (3 January), on Sky news (3 January) and on the News.com.au website (3 January).

The simple summary of the story is that three leading members of ‘Australia’s premier Muslim-critical organisation’ are being sued by Mohammed El-Mouelhy, the head of the Halal Certification Authority. El Mouelhy claims he was defamed in two videos produced by the Q Society. The case is being heard in the NSW Supreme Court and has been running now for nearly 12 months. It is estimated that the Q Society will run up over one million dollars in legal costs to defend itself and its members.

But this is not a piece about these idiot bigots, it is about Turnbull being wedged on the Islamophobia issue for the benefit of the right wing nut jobs who want to take over the party.

So far the bigots and nutjobs are hiding in plain sight, under the umbrella of Bernardi’s Conservative Leadership Foundation which is the vehicle for his right-wing, Christian, small government and free enterprise values. His natural allies are the likes of the Q Society, which (coincidentally) has its own political ‘party brand’, the Australian Liberty Alliance.

You can read the original version of this piece at Independent Australia.

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Malcolm v Gough: Who is/was Australia’s worst Prime Minister?

August 12, 2016

It has been a stable myth of Australian politics for nearly half a century, but was the Whitlam government of 1972-1975 the “worst” in Australian history?

I don’t think so and believe we can now safely make the claim that Whitlam’s record of so-called disaster is about to be overshadowed by the ongoing disaster that the Abbott-Turnbull government appears to be.

Perhaps we might even be so bold as to suggest that Turnbull’s legacy will be his ham-fisted attempts to dismantle some of the major reforms of the Whitlam period.

Was Whitlam really “that bad”?

All the aging so-calledsuperstars” of Australian political journalism would agree that Whitlam’s crash or crash through demeanour was at times rash or ill-considered. They would also chime in that Whitlam’s cabinet was the most incompetent of all time. Laurie Oakes, Paul Kelly and several others have written books on the Whitlam government and its dismissal that paint a picture of disaster and ill-considerd policy.

They would point to the Khemlani loans affair, Jim Cairns’ sexual affair with Juni Morosi, the debacle of some economic policies and a general air of chaos, then they would claim that Whitlam and the ALP were out of their depth, not ready to govern and lacking in individual talent or vision. They would argue that Whitlam’s dismissal by the governor-general was justified.

It wasn’t really until Whitlam’s death that the achievements of his government were properly acknowledged and celebrated.

whitlam vincent

Gough Whitlam and Vincent Lingari at the birth of the land rights movement in 1975

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Politicising human rights – what a terrible thing to do

June 9, 2015

So, finally, in 2015 Australia the debate about human rights has become politicised.

 

It’s about time really, human rights should be a very political question. You know, discussing the politics of who does and who does not support universal human rights should be regular dinner time conversation in most normal families, or pub chatter for the more inebriated among us.

In any civilised country, one that prides itself on taking human rights seriously, the application or removal of those rights should be a matter of political discourse and close attention. Which, sadly, leads me to surmise that Australia today is losing some of its civility.

Our ability to have a sensible and sensitive conversation about the importance of human rights and to debate the failures (or the rare successes) of our government (of any stripe) in promoting human rights seems to be diminishing.

Instead the media thugs and government bullies are out to silence one of the last bastions of criticism of Australia’s uncivil and inhumane refugee policies and to shut down debate about the steady erosion of our rights through the over-reach of surveillance and through the fear-mongering around terrorism.

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