Monthly Archives: November 2014

Abbott government ministers hate their ministries and everyone in them

In a sort of political version of Opposite Day, an idea has been kicking around social media for a few weeks on how to best understand the mystery that is the awfulness of the Abbott government. The idea is the Anti-Ministry, and it was quickly recognised and repeated because of the obviousness of its accuracy.

For starters, the Commonwealth government is headed by Captain No himself.

Tony Abbott remains in stubborn denial of the fact that he is no longer the leader of the Opposition but in fact the leader of the government. Leaders set the culture and tone and outlook of any organisation. This is so even when the specific leader lacks any actual leadership qualities, as with the current Australian Prime Minister.

Once I heard the Anti-Minister idea, I saw evidence that every man in cabinet behaves as though he hates his portfolio and everyone in it. This is not so bizarre. Consider the fact that the ruling LNP touts itself as following free market ideology, yet hands out huge corporate subsidies. This is a party that claims to be for small government and freedom, yet interferes in the lives of citizens to the extent that the grocery shopping habits of poor people are brought under its purview by force of law.

In that spirit then, here is another shopping list: of the Cabinet and their area of responsibility. Every single one of them is acting against the interests of those for whom he is responsible as a minister.

Malcolm Turnbull pretends that destroying the National Broadband Network and gutting public broadcasters ABC and SBS is good policy. Turnbull is the Anti-Communications Minister.

Kevin Andrews wants to cut pensions in real terms and bar job-seekers who are under 30 years old from any income support at all for up to six months. He is the ultimate Anti-Human Services Minister.

David Johnston disses Australian Submarine Corporation workers while failing to mount an argument against falls in real wages for defence force personnel. He is not the defence minister, he is the Anti-Defence Minister.

Greg Hunt wrote his Honours thesis on climate change policy. As minister, he has overseen dumping dredge fill where it will damage the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef. As anti-Environment minister, his greatest triumph to date is the repeal of the highly successful, market theory-based price on carbon.

George Brandis the Attorney-General. He champions “free speech” at the expense of legal redress for members of minority groups when their human rights are violated. The highest law officer in the land is demonstrably anti-justice.

Barnaby Joyce, elected by National Party-supporting farmers, looks out for mining interests that destroy farmland. His boss Warren Truss goes a step further, by being the Anti-Deputy Prime Minister. Truss is the second highest-ranking politician in the country, yet no-one ever sees him.

If Christopher Pyne does not hate public education, he has a funny way of showing it. In just over a year in office, the Anti-Education Minister has trashed the great social justice project that is represented by the Gonski reforms; and pushed to quadruple the cost of tertiary education.

Likewise, Peter Dutton displays every sign of hating universal health care, a cornerstone of our democracy. Dutton reckons that charging again for doctor visits – on top of the Medicare levy – should deter poor people, who have the worst health outcomes and the lowest capacity to pay. As of today, this ideologically confused “price signal” is current policy from the Anti-Health Minister.

I’ve published thousands of words, and spent far too much time, on Joe Hockey and his cigar-chomping buddy Matthias Cormann here https://imatthewsblog.com/2014/11/02/joe-will-be-the-first-to-go/ and besides, The Kouk http://thekouk.com/ does the job far more professionally and pithily than I can do.

Suffice to say that the two most senior ministers on budgetary matters are running up debt while running down confidence, and with it, the economy into the ground. They are Anti-Economy Ministers.

Together, this cabal are the Anti-Ministry.

At the top of the Anti-everything cabinet is something called the National Security Committee. This four-person inner sanctum is dedicated to distributing the message that Australia is under existential threat from frightening external sources. The purpose of this political strategy is two-fold: to distract from gross human rights abuses, the LNP-created budget mess and serial ineptness; and to justify further inteference in the lives of citizens, such as via data retention.

Again, this fits the Opposite Day pattern. If there is a country in the world more remote from anywhere and under any less existential threat than Australia, it is beyond the wilds of Siberia. Greenland, perhaps (yet no less vulnerable to climate change, about which we hear nothing – too real). If there is a law less representative of small government and liberal freedoms than data retention, I am yet to come across it this century.

The National Security Council is made up of the invisible Truss, who we need not mention again, and Morrison, Bishop, and Abbott. What a treat are these three: a trifecta of terror-mongering ghouls, pushing their political ambitions via manufactured threat after jumped up faux-military spectacle.

Leaving aside the euphoria of seeing a one-term LNP state government defeated tonight GO VICTORIA WE LOVE YOU the Anti-Ministry thesis sprang from deep frustration at the sheer deceit that shines through in every policy statement and political message put out by this negative-only government. It is the lies, and the lies about the lies in Opposition, compounded by the piles of lies in government, that are starting to bite.

The only woman, Julie Bishop – who unsurprisingly is the least-worst at her job (work twice as hard for half the recognition because chromosomes and all that) – is getting a bit of a soft-focus run as potential leadership material at the moment. There’s probably no need to go there right now – she is attracting plenty of attention, and vitriol. I am old enough to remember when the LNP turned in desperation to the other woman Bishop, the one making as much a mockery of Parliamentary process today as Abbott makes of “leadership”.

That leaves Morrison and Abbott. Of course the culture of the Anti-Ministry is ultimately down to Abbott, the man who set the Captain No train on its seemingly unstoppable runaway track. He is stubborn and deceitful and practices a peculiar type of denialism that could be mere thick-headedness but probably contains a dose of malice as well. In other words, his refusal to switch from his Captain No oppositionalism might be simply because he lacks the skills to do so – but I doubt it. Abbott does come across as pretty thick, but he has some strategically smart advisers.

Either way, Abbott’s failure to adapt to the rather serious matter of being head of government is the hallmark of his Anti-Government: run by an Anti-Cabinet and, without exception, a slew of Anti-their-portfolio-responsibility Ministers.

Half the National Security Committee, Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop, tend to crowd the stage to glorify, in faux-solemnity, such events as the deaths of Australians on a civil aircraft, or our participation in the blowing up of people and property in Iraq. Again. These two use the same old tactics, politicising the military, surrounding themselves with brass to try and buy popularity and credibility by association. This is an association which, like Abbott’s other crutch, the churches, is mired in a culture of sexual abuse that stretches back decades if not centuries. They appoint the same old men as proved incapable of peace-keeping or creative diplomacy last time or the time before that.

The remaining member that counts, Scott Morrison, also surrounds himself with military brass to cement in the public mind that asylum seekers are a military threat to Australia. In reality, the war is on another continent, a war in which we are doing our unnecessary and uninvited bit to create more displaced persons through state-sanctioned violence – the worst kind. It is in this way that Morrison perpetuates the most horrendous Anti-Ministry charade of all. We actively participate in destroying the lives of thousands overseas. We then deny any sanctuary on our home soil to those victims of the violence we visit on foreign nationals.

While Abbott and Bishop are the architects of Australian contributions to the bloodbath in Iraq, Morrison is responsible for the inhumane, insanity-inducing conditions of off-shore detention as established by our government.

It is a close-run thing, but Scott Morrison is barely second to his boss in hypocrisy and deceit; and almost certainly, due to both his personality and his position, outdoes the rest of them for inhuman cruelty. His inhumanity is so appalling that this month the UN Committee Against Torture sanctioned our treatment of asylum seekers under the Convention Against Torture. Against Torture. Australia. And Morrison has minors in his care.

This and two other approaches under the Anti-Immigration Minister stand out from the more mundane racism, mendacity and dehumanisation. The first is the way this Anti-Government is wilfully and ignorantly damaging our standing abroad. We are not particularly important, so our reputation is easily damaged while our diplomacy is routinely ignored. The UN CAT Committee decision and refoulement of refugees to homelands where they are at very high risk of being tortured and killed, put our name out there for being in breach of international law. Negative negative negative. Given its approach and composition, how could this government produce any other outcome?

The other two are at the domestic level. These are the two that demonstrate that this government is so Anti-Everything except being in government that it is trashing our shared democratic principles; as well as their own liberal ideology. The shared principles are the separation of military and civilian law and function in a democracy. The military are for self-defence; other members of the executive (immigration department officials, say) are for non-military tasks. We have seen this line become increasingly blurred elsewhere, such as the military-issue equipment being used against civilians in Ferguson, Missouri.

Implying that asylum seekers are an illegal and invading hoard dehumanises asylum seekers and thus diminishes us all. It also diminishes our own understandings of the separation of powers; and the distinction between what is a foreign threat requiring a military response; and what is a domestic jurisdiction requiring action by public servants such as customs officials (who have also recently been given stronger law enforcement powers around the so-called threat of “foreign fighters”).

This deliberate blurring of foreign dangers and manageable numbers of desperate people means that we are unlikely to recognise an actual threat when we see it. For example, our most important allies/trading partners, the USA and China, are acting on climate change and the Anti-Australian government is refusing to respond. This is a far greater threat than a trickle of desperate survivors of wars in which we participate.

The Anti-Immigration Minister, right this moment, is overseeing a policy which ensures that desperate people fleeing from persecution will be worse off for having entered his sphere of influence. Morrison, whose 90-odd communications staff must be working overtime at our expense today, is busily denying that we oversaw the refoulement of 36 Sri Lankan asylum seekers. No doubt he is hoping the story will sink under the Victorian election outcome.

I heard Morrison say three times in as many minutes this afternoon that the asylum seekers had been screened “in person”. Is there some other way of processing asylum seeker applications? Of course there is not, but because we are no longer processing applications at all, Morrison kept repeating that the government had screened the asylum seekers “in person”.

The whole depressing spectacle of course is also giving paid to the lie that the government has “stopped the boats”. How are Australian officials screening asylum seekers at sea on boats which have stopped setting out for Australia?

This is a man whose heartless cruelty in the governance of people fleeing persecution –that’s asylum seekers to you and me, or “illegals” to the dehumanising mind-set of the Anti-Government – is comparable only to his mammoth hypocrisy in calling himself a Christian. Can a human being be illegal? If so, under what law, international covenant or cultural norm? The answer is no. Morrison is deliberately perpetuating a lie and dehumanising asylum seekers. He is the Anti-Immigration Minister. Every single one of them.

It should be remembered that over 90% of asylum seekers under at least the last two administrations, both ALP and the LNP policies, have been found by the department and Refugee Review Tribunal to be genuinely fleeing persecution. These decisions, some of which proceed through the Federal Court and High Court appeals processes, are made under the terms of the 1951 Refugee Convention and our unforgivably compromised Migration Act 1958 (Cth). This is the legal system we have, the one all government ministers as well as naturalised citizens, swear to uphold. Naturally, therefore, the Abbott government has installed a man with the heart of a persecutor to oversee people fleeing persecution.

The remaining outrage is the rampant profiteering from human misery that is facilitated by this Anti-Immigration government, at mammoth cost to the Australian taxpayer.

While the horrifically flawed and jumped-up defence policy Operation Sovereign Borders operates to politicise the Royal Australian Navy, it also operates to enormous financial benefit of giant corporation Transfield.

The Transfield contract is reported to be for $1.2 billion of our taxpayer dollars. And according to multiple credible sources, such as the UN-endorsed agency Save the Children and the highly-regarded Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and its equally well-respected CEO Kon Karapanagiotidis, asylum seekers who are forcibly sent to off-shore detention by the Australian government are exposed to huge dangers such as sexual assault, including of children, by armed guards.

Two men have paid the ultimate price, one by medical neglect and one by armed violence. Neither of these deaths were from natural causes, both were preventable, both occurred due to the actions and decisions of people we, the Australian taxpayers, fund – along with the money we forward to the pure profit of the corporation and its shareholders. Estimates vary, but the cost of off-shore detention is said to be between $400000 and $800000 per person per year. Even for such a colossal cost, Reza Berrati was not “secure” under the management of “security” corporation Transfield. He is dead, killed by agents of the state, people whose wages are funded by us.

Another man who costs us many hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary, staff, travel and so on is responsible for the well-being of asylum seekers, including children. In March this year, the former Sydney broadsheet reported that Morrison had 66 spin doctors to massage his litany of lies into media messages. By June, this had become 95 “communications” staff – presumably said spin doctors and associated assistants. The cost is reported to be over $8 million per year, on top of thousands in media monitoring retainers. This extremely expensive person presides over multiple forms of abuse carried out by our staff, via our contracts, via our elected government.

That Morrison is responsible – and under the principles of the Westminster system he is in fact both responsible and accountable – for these inhumane policies and practices while calling himself a Christian says nothing for Morrison or his religion. These tragedies have resulted from the decisions of his government. These atrocities are committed by agents of the state – via the “efficient” private sector – efficient at profiteering, that is – representatives of a state that we have elected.

All this is for political ambition, of course. Morrison is eying off the prize. There will be no refraining from covetousness for this self-proclaimed Christian. He is not as stupid as a box of hammers but he is about as Christ-like as a packet of razorblades. He will probably get Treasury at the first ministerial re-shuffle. Who knows, he will probably get whatever he wants for battering away at the ludicrously named Operation Sovereign Borders, a label in the finest tradition of the Anti-Immigration Minister, with its implication that the persecuted and the destitute are invading our remote and safe and wealthy island. How revolting. What a hypocrite. Yet entirely in keeping with the social media thesis that invoking Opposite Day is the best way to make sense of every single thing this government says and does.

Advertisements

Tony Abbott is beyond appalling

You know how Abbott is just too appalling for words? How every single thinking Australian – and many others besides – are all cringing in horror at the evil clown act we have as Australian Prime Minister? Which is insulting to evil clowns?

You know how all these claims are kicking around social media about Tony Abbott’s brain, some of which have – but should not have – ventured into intellectual disability and mental health diagnosis territory? Because we simply can not fully comprehend the repulsive creepiness of this which was apparently democratically elected?

Yes, it is all questions. Tony Abbott is stupendously dense and revolting. But that is not the main problem. The key question we struggle with is this: how is it that a man who is an apparently legitimately elected leader of the country incapable of speaking sense? What the hell kind of system produces a head of government so gross and so hypocritical, so deceitful and so nonsensical? Abbott makes his nasty paterfamilias – the terror-mongering racist John Howard, a conscience-free zone who sowed the seeds for this disaster – seem like a relatively benign and harmless old man. What the hell is going on in this country?

There are four key areas of explanation, and all stem from the fact that Tony Abbott is a typical privileged white male of the most destructive and greedy kind. He is typical, yet extreme. Abbott represents an extreme point on the spectrum of what goes horribly wrong when elite white men continue to hold power, as white men have, for century upon century, lording it over – and profiteering in – human lives, among other imperialist abominations, of which slavery is but one example.

The first is Abbott’s Englishness. This is not about Abbott and his failure to renounce British citizenship before standing for Commonwealth Parliament. (As an aside, if Abbott did renounce his British citizenship prior to the first time he contested the seat of Warringah in 1994, you may colour me very very surprised.)

No, this is about Abbott’s imperial attitude to women and Indigenous people. It is about his utter disregard for our rights, his inability to understand that we are not only human but better humans than those who reproduce elitist power structures based on exclusion and greed.

Tony does not get this. He appointed himself Minister for Women and for Indigenous Affairs because of the same basic character flaw. As an English-born wannabe try-hard non-aristocrat, he follows in the footsteps of the old-school English elite. Abbott thinks that by declaring something so – a misogynist declaring himself the minister for women, for example – that the rest will simply fall into place. Because he said so. A typical linear elitist thinker, if we can call him a thinker at all.

This brings me to the next two of the four key areas that explain Abbott’s unfitness for office: his Catholicism. We need not spend too much time on it. That particular type of sectarianism is a thing of the past, thank goodness. Simply take all the observations about try-hard Tony, and multiply each by at least two, because Tony is not Church of England, but Tony is a wannabe non-aristocrat of the English-born variety.

Many of us whose ancestors were relatively early occupiers of this continent, and who rarely identify as any nationality other than Australian, are descended from the feckless second sons of the minor British aristocracy. The gamblers and womanisers and drunks. Those who missed out on primogeniture (probably just as well) and were sent to the colonies to become magistrates and police chiefs and senior bureaucrats because who better to lead a new nation than such characters? Who better to benefit from – and bequeath to their descendants – the riches of the stolen land?

Such is the pseudo upper-class English mind, and its mindless faith that blue blood – even said blood diluted to within an inch of its minor aristocrat concentrate by whiskey and miscegenation and interracial marriage – somehow trumps merit-based promotion, genuine leadership, local knowledge, and belonging to the land. This wholly untrue and ultimately disgusting elitism is how the LNP collectively thinks, and this is how someone like Tony Abbott ends up in power.

So Tony Abbott embodies an imperialist Aust-Brit mentality with its aristocratic pretensions; as well as embodying a Catholic-Brit try-hard attempt to be accepted by the protestant majority. This is bad enough, but Tony has two other flaws that feed into his way of speaking – his inauthentic and meaningless mendacity, that vision-free zone that lacks any global outlook, which in fact lacks any quality that a Prime Minister should display.

Abbott is still the Australian Prime Minister, difficult as that is to withstand. The first two explanations are historically based. The next two are current. Together with his gross and apparently incurable creepiness, the history and current afflictions represent a kind of quinella of incompetence and nastiness that no polity should endure. He is destroying the country.

In his Oxford days, Abbott was a boxer. He was an average student. He would not have been eligible for the Rhodes scholarship on which he famously went to Oxford university had he not eventually applied for Australian citizenship – in order to get the scholarship – and not before – we will always be a bunch of colonials to Abbott. The scholarship is designed for a renaissance man, exceptional in sport as well as in mind. Abbott is neither. I am sure I do not have to point out to anybody that an idiotic bully like Abbott is not a renaissance man. But he was nothing if not ambitious, and boxing was his chosen ‘sport’.

This is hardly surprising: fighting is all Abbott does. He can not build consensus, or form a coherent sentence, let alone a persuasive argument. His only achievements are reliant on the fact that he is a privileged white male who attended elite educational institutions, a path forged and paid for by parental and demographic wealth rather than individual ability of any kind. This is contrary to liberal ideology of course, but liberalism – like democracy itself – has always been by the propertied white male for the propertied white male.

Abbott likes to punch, literally and metaphorically, and it has got him to where he is, but that does not make him good at anything but punching. Disastrously for us, Abbott punched his way to the top in an organisation – the Liberal National Party – which rewards thuggery.

So Abbott can punch, but not very well. He took a lot of hits to the head. This is the third explanation for his imbecilic performance at the G20 in Brisbane this weekend, his partisan, parochial bullshit, his inability to rise to the occasion. Abbott is incapable of rising to any occasion for that matter – other than an election campaign (the 2013 version of which he is apparently still waging).

I am told by a colleague of a specialist sports injury professor and a retired wrestler that Abbott shows every sign of frontal lobe damage. The ahhh and umming. The unspeakable tongue thing. The lip smacking and man-handling. Yes, he is an unreconstructed sexist racist homophobe, but he is also incapable of retaining more than one thought at a time, or processing any input without assistance. No-one in need of this much neurological rehabilitation should be in his position.

The final problem relates to the point about Abbott the man who is incapable of processing thoughts. Affairs of state, geopolitics, the measures by which a civilised society shows its values – say, treatment of the vulnerable – are all beyond Abbott.

Abbott has a Chief of Staff who assumes all roles and delegation power over what assistance he will receive. This has been a monumental failure at every level except one. The one success is that Abbott got elected to the Prime Ministership.

Other than that, his first year in office has been a nightmare of incompetence, spin, cruelty and creepiness. We can not ignore the winking, lip-licking creepiness, because it rears its ugly head so often. Abbott has been spray-tanned and hair-dyed and botoxed to within an inch of his appearance, yet still he can not articulate a policy, or take the reins of government. He can spout three word slogans and bad-mouth the opposition – but this is to not take the reins of government at all.

I do not pretend for a moment that I think Tony Abbott was ever capable of any sort of statesmanship, or leadership, or anything other than his ugly bullying power-seeking self. He found his spiritual home in the Liberal Party, and it is by membership of the Liberal Party that he has become Prime Minister. But I do think that these four general points go some way to explaining just how low we have gone with this man in the Prime Ministerial seat. And what a crying shame it is that the Liberal Party is not motivated to be even slightly more true to its principles, simply because he is in power, despite the fact that liberalism is being trashed by Abbott and his cabinet, trashed beyond repair.

So here we are: the country run by an LNP coalition headed by a delusional misogynist, a racist homophobe; an elitist white male in thrall to an imperial past; driven by a sectarian history; a man so embarrassingly inarticulate he is both intellectually and spiritually incapable of putting together a warm or constructive sentence; who is also a bully and a liar; and who is unfit to hold public office.

Farewell Comrade

What a day, what a moving and beautiful day, in turns solemn and funny, nay whitty, and sad. A day when we were reminded of politics as the art of possibility, equality, opportunity, inclusiveness, and visionary greatness. A day when Noel Pearson returned to his roots and spoke passionately and convincingly in that fiery Obamaesque preacher style, as an Aboriginal man and as an Australian.

A day when the supremely talented Graham Freudenberg deployed his craft for a most important and perhaps last time, weaving words into pictures and sentences into messages that none of us who were there could possibly ever forget. A day when the crowd joined in the chorus as Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly sang another anthem – as a masterly MC Kerry O’Brien so aptly described their retelling of the Gurindji story – a story that evoked poverty, patience and pride, a tall stranger, and a handful of sand.

This was the Whitlam Memorial at Sydney Town Hall that I attended, with my two younger children. They got the day off from school for the occasion. Afterwards we met up with my adult son, who had rung me – twice, because I was teaching when the first call came – on the day the news of Gough’s death broke. He rang first to make sure I had heard the news, and second to ask if I was alright.

I was not alright, of course. I taught six hours face-to-face that day, on injustice and inequality, at an institution that would not exist without our Gough: the University of Western Sydney.

Gough brought us so many things, and Pearson listed a fraction of them in a stunning soliloquy that went for several long minutes. Three stand out as most relevant and memorable and worth reminding the young people with whom I work.

The first is that Aboriginal people moved in leaps and bounds to articulate their identity, knowledge and law to the rest of us, those of us whose ears had been closed for so long. These great steps could be made because a true leader had listened, a leader who was across the grand principles of universal human rights and the aspirations of self-determination that had been denied by colonial governments for so long. Gough listened to Aboriginal leaders, their elders, their political realities and their ancient living knowledge of the land.

Noel Pearson evoked Gough the Roman, but I wax lyrical on Gough the Greek. The Romans were about power, as are all politicians. The Greeks were about civilisation, as all politicians ought to be. Pearson noted this distinction differently, and he most certainly, pointedly, noted the emptiness and destructiveness of a political class interested in nothing but maintaining power. Pointedness goes to the origins of the polity itself.

The point is – linguistically and actually – the Greek origin of the polis, the high point in the land – in Athens, the Acropolis – where lights burn in the night, and can be seen from far and wide, for the people have gathered to discuss matters of state. This is the Athenian roots of the polity.

We pay our respects to the Greek light thea whenever we evoke theory OR theology. For science and religion seek answers to the same fundamental questions of the human condition: who are we? Why are we here? How should we live? And most of all, what is a life well-lived?

Gough had a vision for answering these questions on behalf of us all. Not some of us. All of us. Whether Greek or Roman, our Gough was a classicist. It was Gough who ensured that Aboriginal people had a point of light, it was Gough who established pillars of civil society that form the foundations for equality of opportunity and a landscape of co-existence. It was Gough who understood the essential nature of Aboriginal Medical Service, Legal Aid, and Housing. These fledgling organisations founded a grand vision: the possibility that universal human rights would not be trampled by the state – when it came to Aboriginal communities.

And it is on this note that I turn to the two remaining legacies that have been drummed into my children and my students for years, and again most emphatically this fortnight.

Gough Whitlam brought tertiary education and the sewerage system to western Sydney. It may not sound too fashionable, but Gough thought poor people should be allowed to get university degrees AND flush toilets. The point of light was this: that university degrees and flush toilets are not merely for the rich.

Every time we call a plumber, we should thank Gough that the system worked every other day to keep us safe from disease and maintain public health due to sanitation across Sydney instigated by Gough. Every time we pass a unit and get that little bit closer to graduation, we should thank Gough. Every time a graduate gets a job, or a payrise, or associated quality of life, it is Gough as well as themselves who has earned gratitude and respect.

Education and health in university degrees and flush toilets: these are not the only answers, but they are two fantastically good ones. This is what a liberal democracy should look like, and what ours did look like, and what Australia can look like again.

A coda: I am reluctant to donate even five minutes of my day to the crushingly stupid beat-up that is the booing of Tony Abbott by the crowd outside Town Hall. But too many of my lefty friends have allowed themselves to be drawn into doing the work of Murdoch hacks. Tony Abbott is of course rubbing his hands with glee that a brief crowd reaction to his reptilian self has become the story, rather than the monumental achievements of a man in whose footsteps he can never hope to walk. So here is the response.

It does not matter that Whitlam’s people at Whitlam’s memorial briefly booed Abbott. It was a crowd moment, ephemeral, transient, amid many boos and cheers and calls and much laughter and many tears, singing and crying and chuckling, talking and sharing on this great day for the great man. If some people react negatively to a boo – BOO! – they are seeking an excuse to not honour Gough Whitlam. If anyone argues that mainstream voters will be alienated, they forget that mainstream voters are hip pocket voters.

If you claim that it was undignified, you were not there. If you judge the crowd from a media report, you are doing the work of the Murdoch press, baiting and switching and dissembling, for the purpose of avoiding any focus on a visionary politician. The news story of the day was that Australia commemorated a giant of a man who stood literally and politically above anything we have today.

The only people who want to change that story into petty nonsense and judgemental tut-tutting are those who refuse to honour Gough. No-one is going to change their vote. Let us not look to a brief instinctive crowd reaction to the nasty destructive petty hypocritical man who, uninvited, entered our space.

Let us look instead to the waves of emotion and uplifting words crafted in honour of a splendid visionary. A constructive man, a builder and a fighter, a man whose memory and legacy will outlast us all. Every time a highly trained professional serves us well, or brings us pleasure, or enriches our lives with their knowledge and wit (or I flush the toilet) I send a little message skyward: Thank You Gough.

Joe will be the first to go

Over at my favourite blog of all time http://loonpond.blogspot.com.au/ is a critique of Miranda Devine listing the academic and professional qualifications of federal government members. It is one of those shallow obsequious pieces of writing in which Devine specialises, all hagiographic knob-polishing, as loonpond calls it, but it has one interesting feature. Devine did not list the sterling university career of Joe Hockey.

Joe is just like the rest of them, a wealthy male who attended an elite university and obtained qualifications in law. A quick google shows his double degree was in arts and law, but Devine was not for googling that day.

One might have hoped that with all those economic-law degrees floating about the place, one of their holders might be put in charge of the national budget, but that is not how our system works. Despite the elaborate story-telling that is required to sustain facades like ‘reward for effort’ and ‘merit-based promotion’, these narratives remain twisted fairy tales of self-interested lies, disseminated to paint poor people as lazy and rich people as virtuous.

The current federal government is dominated by white men in a culture that – despite the massive work done by generations of women and people of colour – is dominated by white men. Two stand out from the crowd.

The first is Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. Julie is doing her thing, propped up by the usual media toadies. Our foreign policy, what there is of it, lacks any substance or strategy or generosity to the developing world. But she gets out there and sells it relatively competently. She does not serially demonstrate incompetence and complete insensitivity the way Abbott and Hockey do. She’s from Western Australia, so the NSW Independent Commission of Corruption (ICAC) is not closing in on her fund-raising activities. She is credible on her portfolio in that shallow, 24-hour news-cycle, no-need-for-actual-depth-or-knowledge way. Her unsavoury actions as a corporate lawyer defending those nice insurance companies against nasty asbestiosis sufferers are unreported and unscrutinised outside social media. She has followed in the footsteps of a certain breed of thick-skinned and wilfully-ignorant privileged white woman by publicly denying feminism.

The other one is Hockey. Joe is not white. No matter how many blue ties he dons and elite educational institutions he has attended, he will never be a white man, and they know it and he knows it and this is the root of Joe’s try-hard wannabe callousness and aggression. He will never quite belong, but he desperately wants to, so he is always on the lookout for opportunities to out-white-man the white men.

It is relatively well-known that Joe’s family hail from Palestine and Armenia. The two groups have been ruthlessly persecuted: the Palestinians by the Israelis and the Armenians by the Turks. Both groups have suffered, if not final solution genocide, then at the very least genocidal intentions aimed at their peoples.

Being a politician, Joe dusts off his heritage every now and then and trots it out for political gain. The most memorable occasion was his dishonest and calculated histrionics about children in detention when in opposition. We haven’t heard much from Joe on children in detention, or murders in detention, or criminal neglect in detention, since Joe became Treasurer. We haven’t heard anything because Joe does not care about people in detention, not children, not anyone. Like a lot of rich people, he wants to pull up the ladder that he had the privilege to climb, and spit on those below.

But Hockey is in all assorts of trouble. Six months after it was tabled in the House of Representatives, much of his budget has not passed the Senate. The odious Finance Minister Matthias Cormann is being wheeled out to sell the compromises and deals and back-room bargains the government is trying to close. Cormann is no better at budget salesmanship than Joe, but he is white, even if he is the worst thing to come out of Brussels since the sprout (as comedian Subby Valentine quipped last week). Whiteness routinely attracts credibility, and is rewarded with it on a silver platter by the gutter press.

The state of ICT having reached where it has, there is ample evidence kicking about the internet that Joe Hockey is a deeply unpleasant man. The most recent story doing the rounds, and the inspiration for this post, is that Joe called the Mayor of North Sydney at 6pm on a Friday night to discuss the placement of outdoor furniture at a pizza restaurant. The Mayor has denied taking the call. Joe has not denied making it. In one column I saw, Joe seemed to be proud of throwing his weight around in front of his children while childishly tantrumming for not getting what he wanted, which was an outdoor table and footpath realignment or something.

What a truly awful man. The cigars on budget night also got a wide airing. There they were, Hockey and Cormann, chomping away on the best Havana could produce, in celebration of kicking the poor from here to next year – on health, education, and income support. The three most fundamental universal tenets of our liberal democracy went up in a puff of smoke, driven skywards by a bunch of bandits who call themselves Liberals. Revolting.

Then there was the dancing. Joe was reportedly dancing in his office with the wife while the primary-school aged son entertained himself to the tune of ‘Best Day of My Life’. Again, ew yuck gross, but what about the excuse Joe gave the next day? ‘It was more to do with our little boy’ Joe assured ABC radio. He hadn’t seen his boy for want of budget work, you see, so when he did see the child he was so happy that he danced with his wife while the child sat by in dad’s office. No politicisation of family there, nope none at all, nothing to do with budget night celebrations. Just sheer joy at seeing his son. Ugh.

All this is repulsive of course, but the real problem is reflected in the nickname bestowed on Hockey: eleventy. The man can not add up. He is economically illiterate. A dunce. Bottom of the class. He can’t explain the budget, partly because he doesn’t care about its impacts on the most vulnerable, but chiefly because he has no idea what he’s talking about. Like most powerful incompetent men who are promoted way beyond their abilities, he only has two settings when called out: indignant and sooky. This is the bully mode of operating, for all bullies are cowards who project their inner sookiness with aggression. Anger and self-pity are pretty much the two least attractive traits in any person, and are most certainly hideous when displayed in public by complacent, self-entitled, smug male elites.

So Joe is a terrible politician, stumbling and bumbling about his portfolio, appearing sweaty and dishevelled on television, unnerved, incompetent and in turns impulsively arrogant and horribly stupid. He does not grasp fiscal matters and he can not sell his message.

Joe is also the member for North Sydney. While we await the findings of the ICAC, here are a few observations that suggest to me that Joe will be the first minister in the Abbott government to be demoted.

The first is the obvious demographic flaw of having been born a brown person yet choosing to join the Liberal Party. The Libs are no place for women or gays or brown or black folks. Every person who belongs to one of these groups and the Liberal Party is asking to be exploited and demoralised and hung out to dry. I simply do not get Aboriginal membership of the Liberal Party, or women members of the Liberal Party. But then I do not really get membership of political parties in general. All political parties strike me as hyper-masculine aggressive spaces where women are shouted down and talked over and belittled and ignored.

Next, the North Sydney Forum, the fund-raising sub-branch of the Millennium Forum established for the election of Joe, is looking a bit tarnished when a key fund-raiser was called before the ICAC in August. The trail is murky, and I do not have the investigative skills of the great Kate McClymont, journalist hero of the ICAC hearings, who recently spoke so eloquently on the terrible experience that is a lawyered-up politician intent on quashing public debate through the cunning use of defamation law. But anyway, here goes.

There are laws against accepting money from developers in NSW, because the relationship between developers and politicians has been showed to be continually, systemically corrupt. Yet the developer corporation Buildev continued to donate to the Liberal Party through various guises. Emails obtained by the corruption watchdog show that developer Nathan Tinkler was not shy in articulating his demands for returns on his investment-donation from the ruling LNP government. Two state Liberal MPs resigned over specific corrupt dealings with developers. Another seven have moved to cross-benches to await the ICAC findings. Those who resigned have been replaced with Labor members. The LNP decided not to contest the by-elections. Again, this is at NSW state political level. ICAC has no remit over federal matters.

The state-federal intersection gets difficult to trace. It requires a stronger grasp of the relationship between the parliamentary representatives who form government and political party structures – fund-raising, pre-selection, state executive and the like – than I have or care to acquire. These parliamentary and administrative arms of the Liberal party are separate on paper, yet obviously overlap in life: membership, degrees of influence that numbers men have over candidates and safe seats and so on. To claim that the two are separate or independent entities is legal sophistry. Each exists for the other.

The Millennium Forum was headed by executive chairman Paul Nicolaou, a former head of the pubs and pokies lobby group and acting state director of the Liberal Party. The organisation has been quickly dismantled and rebuilt as the Federal Forum, with the same purpose, structure, and avarice. The Liberal Party is awash with trust fund lawyers and corporate types who are expert in the accrual and disguise of wealth. The replacement of the Millenium Forum with the Federal Forum may fool nobody, it is a tried and tired trick, but it still works to keep the law at bay and the money rolling in.

These dodgy favour-sellers are the end-product of an ugly mix of politics, power, wealth, and deception. The misuse of the law for one’s own ends, like some kind of rich boys’ vigilante posse, perverts the spirit of the law. Exploiting every letter of every relevant law, many of which they have had an active hand in making or amending, is gross and naked greed, wealthy westerners at our absolute worst, corrupting democratic processes for the sordid ends of the power-addicted uber-rich.

The other piece of writing on the wall centres on yet more emails, this time from the desk of Federal Liberal party director Brian Loughnane. This one is also deeply murky on many levels. Briza is married to Peta Credlin, who is Tony Abbott’s chief of staff. Credlin is ubiquitous, ever-present, globetrotting, permanently by Abbott’s side, always quick with a sanitary wipe or a handy word for those hair dye and spray tan and clunking inanity emergencies.

Here is the rub. If the ICAC closes in on corrupt donations to the Liberal Party, and the Millennium Forum has been replaced by the Federal Forum, and the North Sydney Forum is all about Joe, and the federal director is married to the chief of staff and the shit hits the fan, someone will have to take the fall. Political parties are like every other political organisation in the history of humanity that has recognised the ancient powerful usefulness of the sacrificial goat.

The goat is almost certainly Joe. The ICAC problems are centred in Sydney and surrounds. Abbott and Credlin will be protected at all costs. Joe is brown. He is terrible at his job. The North Sydney Forum has been selling a pup: access to Joe for annual membership of $22,000 per annum. We too have been sold a pup, of course, paying millions in salary and benefits to a Treasurer who can’t explain indexation without slurring the poor and revealing the depth of his arrogance and ignorance.

The age of entitlement is over, declared Joe, a bloke who demands that an elected mayor should take time out on a Friday night to soothe old Joe over street furniture and fire regulations. Poor people don’t have cars chortled Joe as he struggled to explain an increase in the fuel excise despite the fact that he is remunerated to the tune of $400,000 every year by us to know, understand and communicate such concepts. I never intended to offend anyone sweated Joe, as true to his breed he proved yet again that it is absolutely impossible for born-to-rule elite men to offer sincere apologies for their multitude of careless oversights, brash ignorance, and cruel determination to make others’ lives a misery.

As invisible as Joe after another of his jaw-droppingly incoherent ramblings on the budget are the national economic figures under this pack of brats who endlessly tout themselves as the party of economic management. I wouldn’t trust them with the lunch money. They are stupendously bad at economic management. They don’t know what they’re doing and they don’t care. Hockey is even worse than John Howard as Treasurer under Fraser, and Howard was until now the worst Treasurer in living memory. He knew nothing, got there on the numbers, and sheer rat cunning. Joe is worse.

The best source is over at the blog of Steven Koukoulas http://thekouk.com/ but here is a brief summary. Both business and consumer confidence are lower than each index has shown since before the election. Employment is down. The economy is barely growing, and at a sharply lower rate. The dollar has dropped to the high 80s against the greenback after being above parity under the previous government. The budget deficit has more than doubled in the one year of LNP government. Yep, the Libs have run up more debt in a year than Labor accumulated during two terms and responding to the Global Financial Crisis. The Labor deficit was genuine policy-based Keynesian economics that kept us out of recession. The LNP deficit is sheer profligacy and poor management.

We have no climate policy except the absurd notion that paying $2 billion to big polluters to not pollute is some kind of substitute for policy. Our dream of a National Broadband Network – an obvious social equaliser with massive economy-wide efficiency dividends – is in tatters. Our Prime Minister has committed to spending half-a-billion dollars per year in another baseless shameful invasion of Iraq despite the fact that the Iraqis do not want us there. Super jets. Rich parents paid to breed. Continued fuel subsidies to foreign-owned mining companies while the punters pay more at the bowser. Increased costs to access health services. And the absolute basest fruit-loopiest insult of all: a call from the king of all haters and juvenile stunts himself, Tony ditch-the-witch no-doesn’t-mean-no Abbott, calling for a debate on increasing the goods and services tax “without hurling insults”. He said that with a straight face. He is beyond help.

There is another reason I chose to remind ourselves of the odious characters in charge of our economy. The government has appointed the equally self-entitled mega-miner Twiggy Forrest to review welfare spending. Twigs reckons the road to empowerment of low-income households is to foist an in-kind no-cash system on the nation’s most impoverished citizens. In the grand tradition of these things, it is being touted as a ‘healthy welfare’ card. No booze, no smokes, just government-approved spending from the bullshit department of the party of small government and freedom telling you what you may buy in the way of groceries for your household.

This disgusting piece of social control, this gross invasion by government into the tiniest details of the private lives of citizens, this revolting meting out of punishment to people who are actively impoverished and oppressed by the state, has already been around for seven years in our national laboratory for oppressive impoverishment, also known as remote Aboriginal communities.

These kinds of government actions are deliberate humiliation of the poor. It is extreme neo-liberal ideology of the worst kind, the kind that says poor people are lazy and rich people not just hard-working but somehow retrospectively endowed with great wisdom and virtue – because they’ve plundered and manipulated their way to a fortune through cheap access to mineral resources, rent-seeking, wage-cutting, mass sackings and the rich man’s gambling den, the stock market.

Think twice about invisible Joe. His day is coming sooner than the rest of the bandits running around at our expense, shafting all but the wealthy, and pretending to govern the country.