Peter Dutton Brings Us All Down (To His Level)

Just when you thought that Tony Abbott’s being dumped from the nation’s parliament was going to necessarily lift standards, Peter Dutton picked up his baton and ran with it.

Let us backtrack a week however. If you can bear it, watch this interview with Annabelle Crabb, on ABC’s Insiders programme, to be seen here:

It is there for all to see, seemingly set in stone, at about 10 minutes, 30 seconds into the show. It may be available for all eternity, although I hope not. Imagine you are one of his electors, from Queensland’s seat of Dickson. He arrives, bright eyed and bushy tailed, almost charming. You could almost forgive yourself for electing this person, he looks so nice.

And then he stonewalls every single question, returning to his talking points relentlessly. No, he ignores the suggestion that the Australian Federal Police has become a political player in prosecuting selected journalists, he dismisses any feeling that sham security concerns are driving a militarised, spying agenda against Australians, he ignores the huge, wasted expenditure of re-opening Christmas Island for nothing, he states that he does not want anyone on Manus or Nauru, but stops short of actually addressing the ongoing suffering of everyone still there. The rolling over of the contract, again without a tender process, is probably going to happen, though he’s not sure, it is in the hands of the department … He seems not to understand that ‘the department’ operates under his direction.

He goes on to deny that the Americans sent anyone here in exchange for our own refugees, oh, except for two mass murderers, who somehow slipped in, no need to worry about them, he is not sure where they live. We should however be worried about alleged rapists, paedophiles and murderers who might become sick, and while being treated for their illness, will present an unacceptable danger to us all.

He implied that killing western tourists using a machete is not as heinous a crime as a more recent rape on Nauru, as if the timing of a crime is important in establishing its seriousness. And he is not sure that those facts (the machete murders) have been proved, notwithstanding the men pleaded guilty in the US.

It is difficult to judge whether he is simply dodging questions for political gain, or is he ‘just not very good on his feet’, a bit of a plodder, although when searching for political targets he appears competent. Whatever the question, he fails to answer even one of Ms Crabb’s questions. If it is not paedophiles and murderers it is Labor we should be afraid of.

But herein lies our dilemma. This is only one interview. It lasted ten minutes, and it was what I would call a ‘train wreck’. It was excruciating, and a waste of time, and it revealed the state of decay of our democracy. An interview like this would have once meant the end of a ministerial career, but his career didn’t finish, it soared. He was emboldened.

Later in the week he made the claim that rape victims on Nauru were fabricating their claims. “Some people are trying it on,” he said. “Let’s be serious about this. There are people who have claimed that they’ve been raped and came to Australia to seek an abortion because they couldn’t get an abortion on Nauru. They arrived in Australia and then decided they were not going to have an abortion. They have the baby here and the moment they step off the plane their lawyers lodge papers in the federal court, which injuncts us from sending them back.” When Dutton speaks someone suffers; his words need no embellishment. And Peter Dutton worked for the Queensland Police in the area of sex crimes.

But there’s more. Peter Dutton denies that there is a single child in detention in Australia. But we have evidence of at least two; a four year old and a two year old, siblings living in the Melbourne detention centre. I cannot imagine how he is able to explain to himself how they got there, and secondly why the little one was denied a birthday cake when she recently turned two. Additionally this child has serious dental issues, caused by a lack of sunshine during her formative years, which were spent ‘in detention’, and also a lack of remedial dental care, within our very own gulag.

Where was the Prime Minister when this week unfolded? Did he feel he should censure his minister? Did he flinch when he heard the insensitive comments about victims of sexual violence? Did he gulp with sympathy for the little girl living in pain and misery, denied even a token celebration? (Child Protection practitioners in Australia describe denying children the opportunity to celebrate significant milestones, such as birthdays, as child abuse.)

I’m not sure how Mr Morrison responded, but his stand-in, Michael McCormack, had no comment to make. So the Australian government stood idly by, during a week when a senior government minister so under-performed that he has become a by-word for insensitivity, if not downright crassness and casual cruelty. Mr Morrison wants, in his own words, to govern humbly.

You can almost hear him asking, “How good’s Dutto?”

The Climate is now Personal for All of Us

When the last tree is cut, the last river poisoned, and the last fish dead, we will discover that we can’t eat money. Cree Native American Prophecy

Like most non-scientists with an interest in knowledge I defer to science, which is derived from the Latin word “scientia” meaning knowledge. So when serious groups of scientists join together, and tell us that the earth’s climate is changing, for the worse, I believe them.

When I do so I expect that I am not alone. I do not fear a conspiracy wherein all the climate scientists have forged an unholy alliance, and are busy buying shares in renewable energy companies. I cannot understand much of the science, but I know that insurance companies worldwide accept that sea levels are rising. I know the Arctic is losing ice at an alarming rate, and that the average temperatures in Australia are going up, year on year.

That confounds many critics, but the main thing to note is that we are talking about 1 degree, on average, over the space of years, and more days of extreme temperatures can be expected. That does not mean Canberra is going to be balmy in winter, but it will have slightly higher temperatures, in winter and summer.

Similarly to the tobacco industry in the past, energy companies have been sitting on the facts of climate change for years, for reasons of base profit. So when I am faced with what appears to be a looming catastrophe I turn to my government for solutions. One cannot rely on the good will of for profit multi-nationals.

Australian Governments have, almost universally, failed me. As far as I can remember, Julia Gillard is the only leader of this country who actually put a price on carbon, which is believed to be the most effective method of reducing carbon use. And we know what happened then.

But let us take a look at the other, so-called leaders. Remember that this is an existential threat to our country, and our planet:

John Howard: “…I instinctively feel that some of the claims are exaggerated.”

Kevin Rudd: “the greatest moral, economic and social challenge of our time”. That was before he retreated from the challenge.

Tony Abbott: His description of the relevant science in 2009: “absolute crap”?

Malcolm Turnbull: Has been rolled as leader of the Liberal Party twice because he is a believer in the science, but allowed the climate science deniers to dictate policy to him, and when he defied them, he was deposed.

Scott Morrison: Considering he has come to power twelve years after John Howard left office, he has had time to become informed about climate change, and as a marketing person he is aware of the concerns held by a majority of Australians. Even those who voted for the Coalition recently believe in climate change. So you would expect his choices for ministerial office in this challenging area of concern, would be appropriately focused, and committed to searching for solutions.

Not so. Angus Taylor is a climate science denialist, and a self-described believer in renewables, as long as they are not powered by wind. That is because his grandfather worked on the Snowy Scheme, apparently. So he claims some sort of genetic greenness, apart from his aesthetic objections … We suspect his attitude to water buy-backs is more favourable, because they are so, so very profitable. He is also in favour of coal powered power stations, and against electric cars. Read about him and his fanciful ideas, here

Sussan Ley is the new Environment Minister. She has stated that she will be an environmentalist as the Minister. Her first thought has been that nature has got spare water hanging about, and so farmers should be allowed to ‘borrow’ it for farming, as long as they pay it back. I would say tell that to the millions of dead fish which littered the Murray-Darling basin last summer.

Scott Morrison has chosen these two as his front line defence against environmental degradation and climate change. I consider the choices to be disgraceful, and contemptuous in the extreme, when he well knows the overwhelming desire of Australians to ‘do something’ for the environment, and also to pull our weight internationally.

If and when the full effects of global heating become evident, where will these people hide? I for one, want my government to do the decent, sensible thing, follow the expert advice, and deliver solutions. But what we get is smoke and mirrors, and a bunch of old white people in power, too blinded by their own importance to heed the will of the people.

The day after Bob Hawke’s memorial service, we discover just how degraded the political system has become, where no side has the courage to act on our behalf.

The Liberals Disrespect Us All

Now that the Conservatives have won power for the next three years, it is time for us all to actually remind them that we did not vote for a replay of Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison.

Scott Morrison won the election through a combination of being a small target, by spreading misleading rumours of death taxes, by preying on the financially illiterate, and by being so much more marketable than his opponent.

Scott Morrison led the country for six months of ineptitude and trickery, and his election win does not wipe away the history of those six months.

Remember that he actually promoted Peter Dutton back into the ministry, into the most powerful position in the country, after his own. That is not an oversight, it is a statement of intent. Dutton is very unpopular throughout the country, for reasons which are as obvious as they are repetitive. He appears to be the worst sort of bully, and his behaviour this week, where he ducked the media, seemingly slapped his Departmental Secretary with a wet lettuce leaf, after he became involved in the partisan politics of the day, was in character. Dutton says he spoke to him, but then immediately made it clear the man was justified in this act, although he acted inappropriately.

Dutton was also in charge of the Australian Federal Police, when they raided a journalist’s home, and also the ABC. I do not believe for a moment that the raids were not run past the Minister before they happened, but even if they were, they were conducted under the Westminster system, where the buck stops with the responsible Minister. So batten down for more of the same, for the next three years.

I have already written about the appointment of Angus Taylor into the Energy portfolio. He had Emissions Reduction added to his pre-election responsibilities, and that doubles the insult to the Australian people. This man wants to sponsor coal-fired power, and he does not like renewables. His appointment will appease the far right wing of the party and no-one else, but it will alienate every citizen who values the environment.

In my opinion Angus Taylor has also escaped scrutiny over his role in the water buy-back disgrace. Merely denying any benefit gained is not to my mind even close to adequate, and it is shameful and contemptuous of Scott Morrison to believe the Australian people are so gullible.

Scott Morrison went to the election crowing about an imaginary surplus, and a total absence of policies. That surplus appears to have dried up, as it always would have, because it was a forecast, and forecasts are just that, guesses. I would be prepared to wager that sometime within this term Mr Morrison will start to beg, borrow or steal some of Labor’s policies from prior to the election, because he has nothing else to offer, and a team of warriors who think their only task is to keep the other side out of power. This government has no discernible values.

Our Minister for Emissions Reduction has strange ideas about reducing emissions

Angus Taylor is the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, and he is arguably one of the best educated people in our parliament, with a degree in Economics, one in Law, and a lazy Master of Philosophy (Economics) from Oxford. Each of these degrees is necessarily reliant on the use of facts, and figures, real evidence, and reasoning.

That is why Angus Taylor’s position on wind power, and climate change in general, is so mysterious. Ben Potter from the Financial Review believes his opposition to wind power dates from when a wind farm was built next door to his family’s property in Cooma. I can understand that may have annoyed the family, but this is a Minister of the Crown with such an illogical and unreasoning hatred for a form of power generation that perhaps he should step aside from his portfolio, as it appears to be beyond his emotional capacity to deal with. Or he could simply get over it, and do his job.

He also moves in mysterious company for one so classically and formally educated. While still only a candidate he joined the “National Wind Power Fraud Rally” in Canberra in June 2013, where he was introduced by Alan Jones, that noted assistant to Prime Ministers and aspirants. Amongst other luminaries attending was Craig Kelly, the culture warrior from the extreme right of the Liberal Party, and a a noted climate change sceptic. If you consider attendance at this rally as an audition for cabinet, clearly Angus Taylor out-performed Craig Kelly on the day! He also made a string of wildly inaccurate claims re. electricity prices, and the reasons for those increases.

Now let us consider his position. He is the Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister. Two big, important jobs, and yet he seems unable to give either a fair shake. He is in favour of a taxpayer funded coal-fired power station, against all the evidence, as it becomes less and less financially viable when compared with wind and solar power. These price comparisons are not being done by feverish greenies somewhere in their mum’s basement, but in boardrooms across Europe, the US and Australia.

He is against any sort of target when it comes to renewable energy. He is even a staunch critic of his own government’s electric car policy, with such a misunderstanding of the basics of battery storage and the charging technology being rolled out over Australia’s East coast, that he thinks we will all have the extra cost of installing 3 phase power to our homes, if we want the luxury of an electric vehicle.

Consider the first and only measurable target he was mandated to achieve in his newly supercharged role. He was obliged to release the December quarter’s emissions results on May 31. They were calculated five months ago, and were available for some time before the deadline.

They were, at first instance, late. They were then, rather than released, leaked to a journalist from the Australian newspaper. Finally they were officially released, as per parliamentary order, six days late. They showed a rise in emissions, for the fourth year in a row.

How did our fearless minister explain this failure to achieve a reduction, which is after all the goal, because we signed an international agreement to do just that? He argued that although we had failed to achieve any sort of reduction, we sort of had, because if you took into account this other figure, which is not part of the calculations, and has nothing to do with measuring national emissions, but it made the minister feel proud, because it was helpful to other countries who import our natural gas, I think he said, but if you’re counting strictly, well no, we did not actually meet our target.

At this stage I expect Oxford University has rung Angus, and asked for their degree back. This is the person charged with the reduction of this country’s greenhouse gas emissions, which a lot of Australians consider important, perhaps even crucial to the future of mankind.

It almost appears as if the Prime Minister wants us to fail the test of rolling back our emissions, because he appointed someone so ill-suited to the task. He either believes in the science and its conclusions, or he does not. His choice of minister sends a message that he is unconcerned, and so Angus will do.

But let us not forget that Angus from Goulburn is very good at his job-because he told us so. He actually delivered this endorsement, of himself, by himself, on Facebook -“Fantastic. Great move. Well done Angus.” That is not to any random Angus, but to himself. Strange ideas indeed!

This Government Is Already Awful

When elections are held most people take a partisan position. Those positions can range from a mild barracking for one side, to outright political warrior hysteria. When the result is in however, it is considered good form to respect the decision, because the people have spoken, and their choice, no matter how dopey it looks, stands. This is the nature of democracy, and we are all signed up as believers.

The problem with this government is not its legitimacy, but its relentless pursuit of partisan advantage. The slide began six years ago. The people were jaded, bored by the machinations of Gillard and Rudd, and looking for redemption. Enter Tony Abbott, who from the moment he ascended to the top job treated the country as his personal fiefdom, and really the people as his subjects.

I cannot understand why these conservative men so lack any self-awareness. They are so boorish, so swashbuckling, so cavalier with standards; the only word I can find is ‘unstatesmanlike’. They behave like a bunch of thieves who know they will be caught, eventually, but are out to plunder what they can in the meantime.

Scott Morrison has gained legitimacy with his election win, but he won with a small drift away from Labor, less than 2%. So that means it is not a landslide, because he only gained two seats. There is no definition of landslide, or mandate, but we know when it is not either. And this time around it was not a landslide, and neither did it confer a mandate. It legitimised a Prime Minister who had gained power through non-electoral means.

Morrison’s choice of a cabinet is the reason this government is awful. This was his opportunity to move on from the shambles he took to the election. It was the time to stamp his authority on government, and signal his intentions of lifting standards. But look at the personnel, and their roles, and their attitude to their portfolios.

This process used to mean something, where truly committed individuals were given burdensome responsibilities, which they would take very seriously, and the result would be a better Australia. It was a given that, if they were not already all over the subject matter, they had the talent and the civic pride to master the brief, so as to deliver quality administration.

It is not unkind to notice that the treasurer is unable to distinguish between the removal of a tax concession, and a new tax.

It is not unkind to notice that the Minister for Emissions Reduction is a sceptic when it comes to renewable energy, and that he believes that electric cars will require every one of their owners to install three phase power into their homes, so that they can re-charge them.

Is it too unkind to remember that the Minister for Home Affairs believes Melburnians are too frightened to go out to dinner, because they are afraid of African teenagers, or that the descendants of Lebanese migrants are genetically more disposed to criminality?

Can it be true that the Prime Minister really thinks it is criminally negligent to bring sick or damaged asylum seekers to Australia for medical treatment?

These are not the opinions or beliefs of a cabinet. They are the fevered and lazy thoughts of a bunch of self-servers, and beneath the dignity of a national government, which is tasked with governing for all, even those deluded souls who voted for the other side.