Early days in this pandemic, but we CAN do this


The ‘Spanish Flu’ pandemic of 1918-1920 bears a strong resemblance to the current pandemic. Although the actual virus causing the disease is different, the result of the infection is similar. It causes pneumonia, and people die, in large numbers. There is no vaccine, so it needs to be managed. We can starve the virus, by limiting its hosts, and it will disappear. Or we can allow it to run through our community, until it decimates the population.

There are a range of self-help measures we can use. People need to physically distance themselves from others. They need to wash their hands regularly, using soap and water, or alcohol based sanitiser. They need to clean up their coughing, and even their breathing protocols, so that they ensure that they do not pass the virus on.

People coming in from overseas need to be quarantined. Not because they came from overseas, but because the virus, to this moment, has spread mostly from those who have recently returned. They need to be policed in this quarantine, because many have been found to be untrustworthy. And these rogues are not only annoying – they are potentially killing people.

We know these things because we have had time to study what has worked, and what has not worked, overseas. We also have the historical record. The Spanish Flu was another pandemic, and we know what worked then, and we know that the same measures will work for us, now.

We have watched China, South Korea, Singapore, Italy, Spain and the U.S. As the pandemic unrolls we know where the mistakes were made, and what worked. We know that physical distancing works, and yet last week we had the fiasco of the ‘hairdressing edict’, where hairdressing was treated as an essential service, and we even extended the time allowed.

We had the saga of the Ruby Princess, where Border Force had responsibility for allowing 2700 passengers to disembark, and to then disperse throughout the country, from Sydney, which was already carrying the burden of the largest number of confirmed cases in the nation. That might turn out to be the defining moment of our battle with the virus, when we realised this was serious, and we needed to wake up.

Is health more important than wealth?

We have had the argument about whether this is a health or an economic emergency. It is a HEALTH EMERGENCY. If we don’t survive this there won’t be anyone around to enjoy the bounce-back.

Eventually, and very haltingly, the Federal Government has responded with emergency measures, although the division of resources, or the balancing act between health and economy has meant that we have seen more of a financial response from the Feds, and more of a public health response from the States. This repeats the mistakes of the Spanish Flu response.

In late 1918 Victoria withheld its statistics on Spanish Flu cases, leading New South Wales to allow travel from Melbourne, when it was actually unsafe to do so. This proved to be extremely dangerous, and it led New South Wales to close its border with Victoria. Co-operation between the states collapsed. This time around, the Commonwealth seems powerless to act, and instead the states are acting alone, closing borders, closing schools, closing hairdressers even.

Scott Morrison is a man divided. He looks like he wants to lead, but his caution and political cunning holds him back. Every press conference concedes some ground, but it lacks what is needed now. We need the leader of the country to catch up with his premiers, to decide on positive action to stop the virus, to throw away the political handbook, and to worry about Australians’ health, and never mind the cost!

He should immediately sack Dutton and Robert, for gross incompetence, and he should include members of the Opposition in a type of ‘wartime cabinet’. This is not the time for politics, but for national mobilisation, using the best minds we have, so that we do not lose lives meaninglessly.

This virus seems to be most dangerous to the elderly. We cannot afford to lose them, as we could not afford to lose our young men, which we did, during the Spanish Flu. Australians who, by stupidity, or inability to act for the common good, should not be allowed to endanger the rest of us.

We need, to put it bluntly, to pull our finger out.

Three right-wing populists – a study in idiocy


It was like getting the band back together again. Trump, Johnson and Morrison, three ageing white populists, ready to save the world. All claiming a mandate to rule us, their way. No buyers’ remorse will be permitted.

They all speak a form of English, although it is understood that their words may not make sense. They are all somewhat confused by the notion of speaking truth, and they all suffer an empathy deficit. These are indeed deflating, and confusing times.

The leader of the free world

On any reasonably intelligent reading Donald Trump is exactly what we all expected. He is narcissistic, shallow, uninterested, ignorant and dangerous. In times of crisis he was always going to struggle, because he is not equipped, intellectually or emotionally, to deliver leadership.

He has drifted from overconfident bluster that COVID-19 was just like the flu, to trying to downplay it because it rained on his ‘economic boom’ on Wall Street, to preposterous posturing, such as when he stated that he knew it was a pandemic before the rest of the world knew, although he was also telling us it was not only just like the flu, but a Democrat hoax, all at the same time. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/15/opinion/trump-coronavirus.html

The U.S. is now weeks behind where it should be, in containment terms. This will most probably lead to many more deaths than would have otherwise been the case.

Trump has been calling COVID-19 ‘the Chinese virus’ for weeks, causing racist attacks on Chinese Americans, presumably by his base. This was seen as a fully conscious signal to his supporters. Today he did a full 180 degree turn, and leapt to their defence, describing them as “good people”. He did not call ‘the silent enemy’, the virus, Chinese. How long will Americans tolerate this man? There are very few groups he has NOT disrespected in his three years in power. One benefit of this virus is that it may cruel his chances of re-election.

It is difficult to tell if Donald Trump’s ‘handling’ of the COVID-19 crisis was wilfully negligent, or just plainly too uncomfortable for him. He is the successor to Lincoln, Roosevelt and Kennedy, and the country deserves better.

He has caused world-wide depression and anxiety, and he has tragically delayed America’s response to the virus. This has added to the impression that America has vacated its position as the world’s leading nation state. America’s reputation may never recover.

The leader of the United Kingdom

Boris Johnson has been with the British in some form for many years. “He is thought of as a joke, but he makes people laugh” is advanced as one reason for his current electoral success. He went early on the ‘herd immunity’ strategy for the United Kingdom, until his medical people panicked, and clamoured for change.

That approach was described as “callous and dangerous”, and hopefully he will one day face harsh judgement for his shambolic response. Valuable time was lost, and the U.K. can now, probably expect a much more serious rate of infections, and deaths, due to Johnson’s original, flawed choice.

He appears to be as narcissistic, shallow, uninterested, ignorant and dangerous as Mr Trump. In times of crisis he was always going to struggle, because he is not equipped, intellectually or emotionally, to deliver leadership. Trump and Johnson are like twins, separated at birth.

The leader of “The lucky country”

The third amigo is Scott Morrison. He is a marketing careerist, a fundamentalist Christian, and a shameless prevaricator who has, until now, had no known goal beyond dodging questions from the Press, and remaining in power. He is the successor of Chifley, Curtin, Hawke and Menzies. During the 2019 election campaign he was forced to hide his entire cabinet from scrutiny, because of their lack of intellectual capacity, and or human qualities.

He is using most of that cabinet, now out of hiding, as his front-line defence of the Commonwealth. They still lack basic qualities, but Morrison likes to do most of the heavy lifting. Like most of the leadership, however, they are being held hostage by a right wing rump in the Parliament, and we are not sure of their response, to his response, to COVID-19. So far, so good.

After a disastrous summer of catastrophic bushfires, in which Morrison lost most of the public’s trust, and goodwill, and a simmering argument about mishandled taxpayer funds, used for political purposes, the virus has very quickly assumed centre stage in our consciousness. It has become a battle for survival, with the community finally catching on to the seriousness of the situation.

On most measures, Morrison has stepped up. He has lost his supercilious smirk, and he seems to have jettisoned most of his neo-liberal baggage. He recognises the dire situation, and his obsession with fiscal rectitude has been put aside. He is playing catch-up, but he is seemingly sincere. He is using medical experts, and he is increasing our medical response. He is moving his focus from financial, to basic health concerns.

There are still glimpses of the partisan warrior, and a curious reluctance to fully embrace the Keynesian orthodoxy. Sometimes his simulatory measures have an in-built delay, which defeats the purpose of action, now! Why delay the increase in the Jobseeker Allowance, static for 24 years, until April 27? It just seems ideological, and we need better, now.

On balance, the greatest problem is one of implementation. A million people lose their jobs, and the Centrelink organisation is overwhelmed. The relief money from the bush-fires has not reached the intended beneficiaries yet, two months later. Can we trust this Government to deliver now, when the virus outweighs even the bush-fires, in terms of damage to people’s lives?

Can we expect the Government to govern, and to not be tied up in internal squabbles? Can they put aside their partisan positions, and utilise every person with necessary skills? Maybe even include the Opposition? Can they manage a novel set of disastrous circumstances, with competence?

They had better, because we have not, in our lifetimes, faced such a terrible situation. And Morrison says his mission is to keep Australians safe. So I wish him luck.

Meet John Roskam, our real Prime Minister


I had heard bits and pieces about the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) for years, but I had always associated them with tired old culture warriors, like Gerard Henderson, maybe Bob Santamaria.

What were the 75 ideas about?

Three members of the IPA had written a ‘manifesto’ or wish list, which they had addressed to Tony Abbott, a year out from his elevation to Prime Minister. It was ‘delivered’ online, in 2012. Read it here https://ipa.org.au/ipa-review-articles/be-like-gough-75-radical-ideas-to-transform-australia

It invoked Whitlam as our most transformative leader, but not in any admiring sense. Its message was that, for Abbott to be remembered well, he needed to be the antidote to the ‘poison’ that Whitlam had injected into Australia’s political system. He needed to emulate Whitlam’s prompt actions, if elected. He would need to act with speed, as they had a program, ready to go.

What was Abbott’s response?

One would expect that he would thank them politely for their advice, and then proceed to do exactly as his party wanted. That would include governing for all Australians, and sticking to his, and the party’s, policies and the expectations which they had aroused. Australians have always voted for the ‘sensible centre’, and they were certainly not voting for any sort of ‘radical’ party.

Abbott’s response was both shocking, and surprisingly open. He responded during a speech, delivered at the IPA’s 70th Anniversary Dinner at the National Gallery of Victoria, which included the immortal line, “So, ladies and gentlemen, that is a big fat yes to many of the 75 specific policies you urged upon me.” Of course, he became Australia’s Prime Minister the next year.

But thank God for the IPA – here they were with a shopping list of neo-liberal ideas, and, being unelected, their ideas were, in many cases, borderline sociopathic.

Abbott appears to have taken their ‘manifesto’ more seriously than the writers had. They had presented it as a wish list, and the tone suggests their expectations were not high. They even outlined the ‘softer’ option, which consisted of a ‘steady as she goes, probably win another term, then act’. That was included in the paper, should he find their suggestions too radical.

Why did he accept their plan?

Abbott was never known for his abilities in the policy area. He was more of an attack dog, very able in the area of creating slogans, and engendering fear in the community, but policy – not really.

It is difficult to explain why Abbott was so accepting of such a radical makeover of Australia’s political paradigm. I have always thought of Tony Abbott as something of a time-server, a careerist, and being on the right side was enough for him. He was never a reformer. He was for, or against, things. His religion often set his priorities for him.

The best guess I can come up with is that he woke up one day, and discovered that he was the Leader of the Opposition. Remember the ridicule and the outrage when he won that particular vote? It was typically shambolic, like most of what Abbott has done – he ascended to the leadership by tricking Joe Hockey into believing that he would not run, and then he did. [Something of a playbook for a later run by Scott Morrison.]

Part of the outrage was that he had defeated Malcolm Turnbull, who was seen as a gentleman, an urbane and distinguished lawyer, who had decided to provide, pro bono, some adult supervision for the country. So Abbott had climbed the greasy pole, almost by accident, and then we saw him at his instinctive best – a wrecker, by three word slogan.

So, watching the Labor Party self-destruct, Abbott, over time, firmed as favourite to succeed to the top job. Notwithstanding his quiver full of degrees from Sydney, and even Oxford, he was given very little respect, or credibility, for his abilities, other than as a political brawler. The only work qualification he had was as an unremarkable journalist, and then a long term [19 years & counting, in 2012] as a parliamentarian.  

Maybe he was just lazy. He had a stellar education, but all he had really achieved was to be, at the time, known as the world’s worst health minister, called out by Julia Gillard for his misogyny, a series of really embarrassing public gaffes, and a penchant for punishing physical exercise. He had a reputation as a Catholic warrior, and he was a climate science denier. Why not go along with a ready-made basket of policies, something put together by boffins, from a respectable conservative outfit. He could claim them as his own, and proceed into power.

How did that go?

It was disastrous. The list, translated into an actual budget, caused chaos. It was never anything but a ‘boys’ own fantasy’, put together by three young men whose work histories consisted  mainly of working for think tanks, or for politicians.

James Paterson was 24 years old in 2012, which suggests that he was a little inexperienced to be writing a grown-up country’s political plan. Chris Berg is an academic, I think, of unknown age, who is an ‘expert’ in Block Chain Innovation. He is also a think tank veteran. John Roskam was 44 years of age when the plan was written, and he has worked for several politicians, and two think tanks. He also did PR for a mining company.

He has tried for Liberal Party pre-selection, but he has failed to win. One wonders why he would bother, considering he has an entire Government at his disposal. One thing he does well: He is very good at getting on the radio and television, and considering his seeming fear and loathing for the ABC, he has managed to obtain lots of exposure on the national broadcaster. Is that known as biting the hand that feeds you?

What are some of the things they succeeded in?

It is eerie to work one’s way through this simple, simplistic shopping list, because so many of the items can be ticked off, as having been completed, or at least attempted. I would describe most, if not all of them, as reactionary, elitist and nasty. I can’t say if that nastiness is intentional, or just not thought through.

Repeal the carbon tax, and don’t replace it. Tick

Abolish the Dept of Climate Change. Tick

Cease subsidising the car industry. Tick

Repeal the mining tax. Tick

Devolve environmental approvals for major projects to the states. Tick

Cease funding the Australia Network. Tick

Privatise Medibank. Tick

It seems like the sort of list that very young, privileged brats would produce, before they actually encountered some real life. Let us just say it is a work of stupendous lightness, and the Liberal Party has been captured by it for nearly eight years now. I have sometimes idly wondered where Abbott got such a witches’ brew of pettiness for his 2014 Budget.

I do not see one thing that would materially improve the life of a single citizen. All I see is self-aggrandisement writ large, with not a thought for the weak or the vulnerable. We have been blaming Abbott, Hockey, Cormann, Morrison and Dutton for a long time, but they are just dupes of three would-be intellectuals, who wouldn’t know what the words mutual obligation meant.

So the IPA gave Abbott a plan for Australia. And he bought it!

Religious over-represented?


This country is constitutionally secular. Not atheist, but secular. S116 of the Constitution reads thus: “The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.”

Parliament is more religious than we are

As the country becomes less religious, the Parliament becomes more so. Why is this? One would expect that the Parliament would reflect us more closely than it does, and by definition it would reflect our declining interest in religion.

There have always been outliers in the Parliament, those who consciously and publicy brought their religious beliefs to the table. But they always seemed to be a little extreme for most of us, slightly unbalanced when it came to matters such as abortion, or de-criminalising homosexuality. Vince Gair and Brian Harradine spring to mind; men of principle, but quaint and embarrassing. They were essentially lone wolves, not a part of a dangerous pack.

Are overly religious politicians dangerous?

Fast forward to today. Where did all these right wing warriors come from? Why are people voting them into power, and why are there so many members of Parliament who profess such strong religious convictions? On face value Eric Abetz and Kevin Andrews are relics of a bygone age, Conservative Catholics, social traditionalists, old fashioned, lacking media skills, but successful, in election after election.

Even the high flyers who reached the top of the pile are strangely uncomfortable with modern mores, but somehow they have succeeded. Their beliefs are surprisingly uncommon. What is it about Kevin Rudd, and Scott Morrison, and Tony Abbott? All out and proud, professing a belief in the Christian god. Absolutely a private matter, most of us would think.

One of the great mysteries of life is how religious and political leaders are able to contort and twist the messages of their faiths, so that they become self-serving, self centred and frankly inhumane, especially when considering those of other faiths. Think of the major religious communities around the world, and their interaction with other faiths in their areas. There you will find examples of man’s inhumanity towards man. All of them do it. Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus and any other faith you can think of, guilty of persecution, of someone, somewhere, and happening right now.

A local act of social vandalism.

In 1997, Kevin Andrews, a resident of Victoria, succeeded in pushing a private member’s bill through federal parliament, overturning the first legislation to permit assisted suicide in Australia, which had been enacted in the Northern Territory. To reiterate, Kevin Andrews wilfully caused a Dying with Dignity Act to be repealed, after it had become law, in another state of Australia. His private members bill still disallows assisted euthanasia, in the Commonwealth Territories ie. the Northern Territory, Canberra and Norfolk Island.

How many dying Australians have that religious warrior to thank for their unnecessary suffering? How many Australians have cursed his interference, as their relatives wasted away in pain? Did it occur to Kevin Andrews that his act was inhumane, and incredibly selfish, and did he reflect that the overwhelming majority of Australians support at least some version of dying with dignity. The latest poll taken in 2017 showed 87% support throughout our nation. So on whose behalf did he act when he pushed that private member’s bill?

Our leaders have been found wanting.

Scott Morrison took the treatment of refugees to previously unexplored depths, which, to many Australians with a conscience, is and continues to be, inhumane, cruel and definitely goes against anything the nuns would have taught me. His continued insensitivity towards the unemployed, (aka the poor) forever memorialised by the “You’ll get a go if you have a go” absurdity, is compounded by his active refusal to permanently increase NewStart. He also said, in 2015, that he would never support voluntary euthanasia. He didn’t support same-sex marriage, either.

Morrison is still friends with, and fully supportive of, Brian Houston, who is being investigated after the Royal Commission censured him, firstly for his failure to report the sexual abuse allegations against his father. Secondly, he had a clear conflict of interest, in investigating his own father, while serving as National President of the Assemblies of God in Australia.

In 2006, Barnaby Joyce, who was the catalyst for the ‘bonking ban’, argued against the introduction of Gardasil, a vaccine which would prevent the spread of human papilloma virus (HPV). To be truly effective, girls must be vaccinated before they become sexually active. Joyce felt that making it available to girls would encourage promiscuity. Read Jenna Price’s article here https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/barnaby-joyces-other-betrayal-20180209-h0vurf.html He had no problem with boys receiving the vaccination.

It is perhaps not their fault. I have always thought that those who publicly profess strong religious beliefs seem to be searching for something, for validation perhaps, or recognition of their virtuous path?

Notwithstanding that most of those named have risen to positions of great power and influence, they are like lost children. Perhaps they need to study Matthew 16.26 again,
“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?”

Barnaby Joyce is a disaster


Barnaby Joyce has had a reasonably long career in Parliament, now heading towards 15 years. His career is one which has had a number of very public setbacks, and he is generally dismissed by what he would call the ‘inner city elites’. He remains popular, however, and always newsworthy. He appears to have the ability to ‘bounce back’.

Many outstanding politicians are remembered for doing something special for their country, or perhaps for a lifetime of sustained effort for the country’s benefit. Barnaby Joyce was named “Australia’s best retail politician” by Tony Abbott. Now that endorsement does muddy the waters somewhat, but a reference from a former Prime Minister is still a reference.

He has also ‘served’ as Deputy Prime Minister of the country, which in itself is an achievement. It also illustrates the point that our system elevates the leaders of political parties to positions that are sometimes beyond their capabilities. It is arguable as to whether Tony Abbott and Barnaby Joyce are two such examples, but it also points to the problem of having a junior coalition partner. The leader of the National Party automatically becomes Deputy PM if the coalition is in power. This is problematic if the person in the role is, for any number of reasons, not a good fit.

These reasons might range from any ongoing scandals, to a lack of suitable ‘gravitas’ in the candidate. The expectations on a Deputy PM would be that he, or she, is an acceptable stand-in for the Prime Minister, should the Prime Minister be overseas, or ill, or even deceased.

Resignation and return to the back bench

In February 2018 Malcolm Turnbull was scheduled to go to the U.S. and he flagged that Mr Joyce would be acting Prime Minister in his absence. Unfortunately Mr Joyce was at that time embroiled in a personal crisis, which included the very public end of his marriage. Mr Turnbull, in what amounted to an expression of no-confidence in his deputy, appointed someone else to stand in for him. Barnaby Joyce was sent on a week’s leave. 

Obviously that was an uncomfortable set of circumstances, and within a week Mr Joyce resigned from the leadership of the National Party, and consequently lost his position as Deputy Prime Minister.

A look at his ‘annus horribilis’

It would not be unreasonable to expect that Mr Joyce might have called time on his career at that time, as his personal and political reputations were at an all-time low. But no, he had several more struggles to contend with.

There was that television interview, for which he was paid $150,000. There was talk that it was against the rules for Parliamentarians to take remuneration for appearing in the media, but that appeared to be incorrect. It is a convention, which is not binding, and so moot.

Joyce and Ms Campion arranged that lawyers were to establish a trust fund for their son, Sebastian, to set aside the $150,000 to pay for future expenses like school fees. Apparently the payment was to be made into a family trust, which is also a way to avoid a significant tax bill. So much for lifters and leaners.

His next mis-step was when he made the extraordinary claim that he might not be the expected baby’s father. He framed it as a ‘grey area’ which surely failed on every measure of chivalry, if such a thing still exists.

The next bombshell in the ‘annus horribilis’ for Mr Joyce was that he was found to be a dual New Zealand and Australian citizen. Under S44 of the Constitution, he was obliged to resign from Parliament, and to re-contest his seat. He won the by-election, against low profile candidates, but nevertheless he improved his margin.

As if that was not enough he was next found to be living, at no expense, in a friend’s apartment in Armidale. He declared the ‘gift’ of free rental, but again he was pilloried by many in the Press. He even made the comment that he needed the assistance, because he was living on a reduced wage, of over $211,000 per annum. But he was supporting six children, and two households.

Why is he so popular, when his every act seems to be career damaging at the least, career-ending at worst? When looking at his career, and notwithstanding his rise to near the top, one struggles to find the signature ‘big’ achievement. He does have a singular talent for making outlandish statements, which immediately gathers media attention, and he has made something of a reputation for speaking the ‘unvarnished truth’.

This has been gradually whittled away, mainly due to his own efforts, where onlookers or listeners are often left questioning whether he is affected by drink, or perhaps having a psychotic break of sorts. Perhaps it is just bad luck.

Some of his disasters

Mr Joyce continues to have many faithful followers, despite some stumbles along the way. Some of them are shown below:

The radio interview with Patricia Karvelas springs to mind, listen here https://www.theguardian.com/global/video/2019/apr/23/labor-labor-labor-labor-barnaby-joyces-bizarre-interview-on-rn-drive-video

You could also watch his Facebook post late last year, here: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/dec/25/barnaby-joyce-sick-government-being-in-my-life-taxes-climate-change

It could be argued that he has been forever oafish, but not particularly harmful. Jenna Price, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, thinks otherwise https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/barnaby-joyces-other-betrayal-20180209-h0vurf.html 

Weighing it all up

He has been called the world’s worst ever Agricultural Minister. He has overseen the Watergate purchase, of seemingly illusory floodwaters, for close to double the asking price. He did say that his department made the decisions; he was presumably absent, because it shows a level of mismanagement not commensurate with a Minister, or on a humbler level, an accountant.

He has been condemned for moving the pesticides regulator from Canberra to his own electorate, at huge expense, and with no discernable upside. He has apparently saved Australia from an environmental hazard, by threatening to euthanase Johnny Depp’s small dogs. Partly for this reason, he was presented with the 2015 Froggatt Award. I cannot tell if the award was ironic, or not.

More recently he completed his term as Special Drought Envoy, where he managed to spend $675,000 and ‘produced’ a report, sent by text messages, which the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, was too busy to read.

These are just some examples of how genuinely he has been found wanting in his role as a Parliamentarian, and Cabinet Minister. Think of an issue, and he will have likely taken the renegade position, and as likely as not, reversed his stance at some point. It is plain that he sees himself as a born leader, and his recent tilt at the leadership of the National Party, after the ignominy of the past year, has not dampened his ardour for a life at the top.

He continues to be reasonably popular, which is totally unbelievable, but true. He is a phenomenon.

Christmas Island – A Huge Waste of Money


Who is to blame?

When one is looking at the current Government, and its ministers, and rating their general demeanour, competence, and ability to deliver decent, law-abiding administration, choosing the worst performers is tricky. How to choose between Scott Morrison, Peter Dutton and Angus Taylor? They would all qualify for the final, but let’s go with Morrison and Dutton, for their conspicuous heroics in re-opening Christmas Island.

Who is to blame for this debacle? Scott Morrison probably, because he is in charge, and he was the one who was so enraged by the passage of the Medevac Bill – The Home Affairs Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) 2018 . He also had Dutton to deflect blame onto, because Peter Dutton does not care what we think of him. We are just ‘looney lefties’ to him, anyway.

Why was it re-opened?

Christmas Island was specifically re-opened to by-pass the intention of the Parliament, which merely wanted seriously ill asylum seekers, who normally reside on Manus Island or Nauru, to receive medical treatment in Australia. They would then, after their treatment, be returned to their places of detention.

These asylum seekers are, after all, in our care, but Morrison / Dutton were having none of that, from the soft medical profession, or those bleeding hearts who thought we owed a duty of care to them.

So, they decided that they would re-open Christmas Island, and that would ensure that those pesky asylum seekers need never set foot on Australian soil. They would even send doctors and nurses to the island to treat them. It would be kept very Spartan in tone, because they suspected that the sick asylum seekers would just lounge around, at taxpayers’ expense, enjoying a holiday on Christmas Island. (I told you it was a neurotic plan.)

Perhaps it was just another Home Affairs grab for power. It looks like a classic Dutton point-scoring ploy, but again Scotty from Marketing does like to call the shots. It is difficult to call.

Of course it turned into a massive waste of money, while at the exact same time they and their henchmen in the Government were pursuing the poor for money. This program, dubbed robodebt, in itself was found to be illegal https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-02-06/robodebt-illegal-scheme-suspended/11939810. There is speculation that robodebt has been the cause of multiple suicides https://www.reddit.com/r/australia/comments/5upxiv/centrelink_robodebt_linked_suicide/.

What did it cost?

So far it has cost us over $180 million, just to re-open it. To this day there have been NO refugees basking in the sun there, and after three months of operation, with NO customers, in July 2019, the facility was re-closed.

It was dutifully placed in mothballs, and then a Tamil family, from Sri Lanka, whose two children were born in Australia, were re-housed there, awaiting deportation. That small act of cruelty cost another $30 million. There were / are over 100 staff working there, to provide security etc. to two parents, and their two toddlers. They are still there, awaiting determination of their case. https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/tamil-family-fighting-deportation-to-stay-on-christmas-island-two-more-months-20191217-p53knq.html

Although Mr Dutton was able to arrange for a couple of au pairs to stay in the country https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-09-19/emails-show-role-peter-dutton-played-in-au-pair-visas/10282822, he is unable to bend in this case, presumably because if he lets two children stay, those floodgates will flop open.

Their community, from Biloela, a town in Queensland, has fought to keep this particular family in the country, but Mr Dutton has pretended it is a matter of principle (his) although the community have even taken the Government to court to fight the decision.

Fate continues to play a part in the decision to re-open the facility. The arrival of the coronavirus has re-purposed Christmas Island as a quarantine centre. Perhaps the two geniuses from the Government think its new, temporary use means we will forget the wasted $210 million, and still counting.

This is stunning maladministration. It came to our attention through the Budget, and it appears no-one was embarrassed, or sorry, or regretful, that we had refurbished an unsuitable site for medical evacuations, at huge cost to taxpayers’ funds, and it will never be used for its intended purpose. Morrison and Dutton are so anxious about asylum seekers’ setting foot on Australian soil that they were willing to waste our money to prove a point.

Was anything useful achieved?

Morrison did obtain a single use for the facility – he held a press conference there. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/03/we-paid-180m-for-scott-morrison-to-have-a-press-conference-on-christmas-island It took less than 30 minutes, and it has been calculated as the most expensive press conference ever held in Australian history. What will Mr Morrison do to make it up to us?

Politicians need to be held accountable. And they need to be treated with the same severity as we are, should they mis-step. If you fiddle your expenses, you should be charged, rather than being allowed to pay it back. Raise the defence in a court that you didn’t intend to steal it, and could you please just pay it back, and see how the courts treat that.

I thought that, after a disastrous summer, and the newly revealed ‘sports rortz affair’, now might be a good time to remind us of this, another shameless episode of wasting public money, by this Government. One of them, or both, made the decision to re-open Christmas Island. It was a highly neurotic, vengeful and pointless exercise, meant to say “I told you so” to the well-meaning parliamentarians who passed the Medevac Law.

This is the party with a plan.