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Bring out your dead


We are a polite lot in Australia. We do not like to rock the boat. The recent Omicron death toll here has effectively doubled the number of deaths we suffered in 2020 & 2021. We continue to listen to Scott Morrison and his team of incompetents, when they can be forced to appear in public; rolling out their excuses, and their selective, but non-specific comparisons with overseas countries. We live on an island, we care how WE are doing. We are now doing very badly, and it is still summer here. Imagine what winter will be like.

We have learned to decipher the weasel words, and to find the callous, and orchestrated, indifference behind them. When people die, and you could have prevented the deaths, then you might have a case to answer. It is more than a political problem – it is a question of humanity.

Of course Richard Colbeck’s decision to go to the cricket, for THREE DAYS, while Omicron was marching unimpeded through Aged Care facilities, is breathtaking, and insensitive. But he is merely a pawn. Last year he was already hopeless, and then they put Greg Hunt in to ‘oversee’ his work in the sector.

That was merely a cosmetic change, however, and an unsuccessful one, because if anything the sector struggled more, and learned absolutely nothing from mistakes of the past. This time around Morrison has defended him, by saying he has listened, and he would take it on the chin, and move on. That is not a response, it is empty and meaningless.

How do the aged care residents who have died move on? How do their grieving families move on? As Prime Minister, did Morrison not know his Minister for Sport was off to the cricket? Did Greg Hunt, his immediate boss, not know? Surely the team discussed his appearance before a Senate committee, to discuss his department’s response to the Omicron wave. If not, why not? Of 55 recent senate hearings into aged care, Colbeck has attended 2.

Morrison has never understood that he is responsible for every problem, he is expected to fix every problem, because he has the resources and the people to fix them. We gave the Prime Minister great powers for that reason. With great power come great responsibilities.

Of course Morrison does not have the personality or the sense of destiny to take control. He dithers, he deflects, he searches desperately for ways to elude responsibility. He has now become so predictable in his public appearances that we listen for the “we” instead of the “I” when it comes to accepting the Commonwealth’s major task, which can be condensed into three words: Keep Australians safe.

Attending the cricket is trivial however, when we look at the way the Prime Minister hi-jacked the pandemic response and opened up the country before it was ready. The incompetence and the hypocrisy of a fundamentalist Christian telling us all to throw off the shackles, and take back our lives is stunning. A man whose every aspect of life is controlled by his religion, telling us to live free, so the economy would kick back into life, and get him re-elected.

It was a gamble. Now he cries that Omicron was a surprise. No it wasn’t. It was decimating Europe and the U.S. and we were insulated from its damage. Until he opened the borders, we were safe, but grumbling. Now we are in mourning.

Morrison has proved himself to be a spectacularly poor planner. In the early days of the pandemic, he sometimes over-delivered. Much of his response was ‘reputation-repair’ after the Hawaii debacle, but it worked. Deaths were kept to a minimum, health advice was followed, and we felt that our government was putting people ahead of the economy.

Of course the lessons he learned in the first year and a half have been forgotten. Economists have almost universally supported leaving the Jobseeker payment where it was, because the poor spend their cash immediately. Not on paying down the mortgage, not buying a speed-boat. No, they buy food, and they pay their bills. But Morrison knew better. He reduced it back to starvation levels, and threw out the safeguards.

Morrison and Hunt told us to look at numbers in hospitals, not case numbers. Then, because they thought it was like a cold, they reduced support for testing. They did not buy Rapid Antigen Tests, although they were the only way for us to test ourselves. And so the inevitable happened. The sick were heading off to work, for two reasons.

First, they did not know if they were infected, or infectious, and second, the payments had either stopped, or been reduced, so people had no choice but to present for work. As more became ill, the supply chains collapsed. As the booster shots were certified and deemed essential, we didn’t have enough, in the right places.

The vulnerable groups remained the same that they had been in the first waves. Indigenous communities, those covered by the NDIS, the regions, the economically disadvantaged were all exposed, again. They continue to bear the burden of infections, hospitalisations, lack of testing, lack of boosters.

Amidst the rising infection rates, Morrison and Frydenberg were taking the time to boast about the economy. Stunning. Take a walk along any shopping strip, and see the shuttered shops. Take a look at supermarkets, look at the empty shelves. Ironically, as Morrison lifted restrictions, many self-imposed them. Someone had to do it, because the government went missing.

Morrison’s triumphal progress to another term is looking pretty sick, because he became tangled up in stupid plans to “push through”. This was part of his re-branding as a freedom fighter. And we are paying the price.

Their characterisation of the deaths in Aged Care this year has sunk to levels of infamy not seen in Australia before. They now regularly insert the false narrative that most (60%) of the elderly Australians dying of neglect in Aged Care facilities were ‘at death’s door already, so no harm done’ is the implication.

No, their deaths are not able to be dismissed. That is why we call the facilities “nursing homes”. Not dying homes. People who have lived lives, paid taxes, brought up children, built this country, so the spivs in the Morrison Government can write off their deaths as incidental.

1519 people have died in Australia with or from the coronavirus so far this year. I can’t put a date on that figure, because it is going up at around 80 – 100 each day. The Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer expects more variants, a flu season, and winter to present many more deaths in 2022.

Now would be a good time to quote our retiring Minister for Health: Greg Hunt, “Aged-care facilities have been required to implement infection control training and it is encouraging that despite the increase in cases, there has not been the same level of increase in illness or loss of life, with most facilities indicating that the cases have been more mild at this stage.”

It might be time to retire the lot of them, and see if there is a way to prosecute those who failed us.

Did the parliamentary cat forget to order the RATs


You know something is awry when they roll out Simon Birmingham. That is because he is the only remaining member of Morrison’s Government who is not openly despised by the vast majority of people in Australia.

He took over the role after Matthias Cormann got his big job. It is hard to say who is more dedicated to talking points, but Birmingham is growing into the role. He makes the relentless spinning, no matter how dire the situation, appear normal. He would make a jolly good grief counsellor, post politics.

Today he was sent out to defend the so-called “push-through” that Morrison, and his fellow Christian fundamentalist Perrottet, have forced on an unwilling populace. Lost amongst the blather and the word salads look at the deaths recorded every single day, mainly restricted in these early days of Omicron, to Sydney and Melbourne.

How many deaths from this ‘mild’ variant are they prepared to wear? Do five figures mean they made a mistake? What about the next variant? Will we have the same magical thinkers still trying to manage this outbreak? Will they have an adviser explain that without healthy workers we cannot have a healthy economy?

Birmingham spent five minutes telling ABC morning television that the Omicron variant is mild, and that the government is on top of it, that RATs are on their way, and that there is no problem sending close contacts back to work, and school-kids back to school, because one it is mild, and two, the RATs are on their way. The fact that GPs all over the country are being forced to cancel their appointments to vaccinate schoolkids is merely a matter of people talking to their GP. Incorrect. There are not enough vaccines for the 5-11 year olds, and if there are they are not where they are needed.

Responding to questions as to why there are no RATs to be found, he responds that there is a world-wide shortage. There isn’t, because the other countries with which these people compare Australia, ordered theirs, in quantity, and in time. So there you have the complete picture. Morrison, or Hunt, or maybe the parliamentary cat, forgot to order any, until they lost the advantage of being able to observe the wave spread throughout the northern hemisphere.

They saw that hospitals became choked with desperate patients, looked after by exhausted medical staff. They were able to see the importance of RATs in controlling the ability of the workforces to be at least protected from infectious colleagues.

So, Morrison is embarrassed, again, by another crucial failure. Don’t they add up, though? The bushfires, the vaccine strollout, the fiasco in Glasgow, his failure to protect women in the workplace, in the home, and in the streets.

Now we are facing shortages of food, shortages of medical care, shortages of vaccines again, his re-deployment of the general to hide behind, and a new catch-cry, “push through”. He defends his inability to plan by the diversion of telling us we cannot be trusted not to hoard non-available RATs, and that as a responsible money manager, no free tests. We then had the outgoing Health Minister join in, telling us we can’t have any more free stuff. Let me assure my fellow Australians that Greg Hunt will retire this year, with lots and lots of our money, packaged into a super account which would make your eyes water.

But wait, there is more! Old freedom loving Morrison tells us to exercise our Australian larrikin spirit, by getting governments out of our lives. Remember who is speaking here; this freedom fighter is a devotee of a church which believes the bible is literal truth, and who will not be guaranteed a place in heaven unless he is publicly baptised. A man who voted against same-sex marriage, because he believes so strongly in freedom.

And yet we are continuing to die, at a steady rate, and rising. Sydney and Melbourne today, total deaths 50. Not so mild, if it has the ability to regularly take our lives. Remember his executive action when someone was putting pins in strawberries? Very strict laws, his most rewarding legislative triumph, we presume.

What about ensuring we have the necessary testing equipment before throwing the old and the sick to the wolves? How about telling the truth when asked about the kids’ vaccinations? What about the matter of free RATs, for everyone. Because it works. Even his role model, Boris the party boy, gives RATs away.

He is still pushing the Religious Discrimination Bill, which is so important that no-one in the country cares. Oh, except for the homophobes and the Christian lobby, who want to be able to discriminate against Muslims and gay school kids. And gay teachers, or even teachers who don’t see anything wrong with being gay.

He won’t even introduce his Federal Integrity Bill, though. It is interesting to watch the goings on inside this man’s head, even as the death toll mounts, and he continues to go missing when the going gets tough. Is this a good time to say, God help us! But no more tennis players, please.

The Morrison Government has just given up


When you live in Australia these days you immediately become aware of the total lack of competent leadership, and the endless self-promotion of the Prime Minister. Talk of his personal photographer, tales of photo-shopping his image to show more hair on that head, and less fat in the face. His staff rolling out red carpets for when he leaves an aircraft. The man is a walking joke.

Watch a press conference from Morrison, and wait for the inevitable fact checking which follows; it always shows lies, half-truths, evasions, blame shifting. Of course if you have any brains, you know it’s happening before the fact-checkers verify it. He cannot help himself. Watch for the first difficult question, and watch him scamper away.

At the moment, in early January 2022, the country has descended into chaos. And yet you have the spectacle of the Prime Minister, and his boy treasurer asserting the recovery is on track. A walk through Ivanhoe shopping centre last Saturday showed more than half the shopfronts empty, and for lease. If that is a recovery, I will eat my baseball cap.

Every state except Western Australia, going from handfuls of cases, to thousands, every day. Hospitals filling up, staff becoming ill, or just plain overworked to exhaustion. Supermarket shelves are emptying, shops can’t get stock, or staff.

In Melbourne we have an informal, self-imposed lockdown. That is because we have been here before, and the Commonwealth Government is more interested in semantics, defining, and re-defining the meaning of words we all understand. Testing, isolation, quarantine, case numbers are all in the firing line. They are trying out the meaning of the word “death”, by planting the notion of “dying with covid” as somehow different from “dying of covid”.

Economists and health professionals are united in pushing for free Rapid Antigen Tests, (RAT) as being in the national interest, both from a health perspective, but economically as well. That is because if you suspect you have symptoms you can self-test and isolate at home. That way you don’t infect everyone you meet on the way to work, or at work. Simple really.

To say he wants to protect the private companies who would sell the test kits is false, and stupid. Harvey Norman and Chemist Warehouse are doing ok already, they don’t need a leg up from a person who has never worked in the private sector, and couldn’t organise a trip to the toilet on his own.

Of course switching over to RATs was suggested by epidemiologists as far back as February 2021, and again by the AMA in September 2021. But the gambler in the Lodge didn’t want to spend the money, which was of course a false economy, as so much of his penny-pinching (with our money) is.

Morrison denies being unprepared, even as our case numbers approach 100,000 a day, notwithstanding the lack of testing. So using Trump’s logic, his first act is to suspend testing, by not supporting the testing regime in the states. He exhibits a mixture of blind arrogance, and a total lack of planning.

He tells us not to look at the case numbers, look at hospitalisations. All right, look at hospitalisations. Going through the roof. So Morrison and his willing accomplice Perrottet have managed to upend our entire covid response, and to throw public health care back on to individuals.

That is not why we elect governments, and it is not the reason we pay these clowns. Part of modern governments’ remit is to keep their people safe. It is difficult to comprehend, but there is no responsible adult available to help. Greg Hunt is a cipher, toeing the party line, until he retires. It will be interesting to see who employs him post-parliament.

The medical officials have also been side-lined by the clowns, and the country is going to the dogs. In this free for all, the states are as guilty as the feds. All we can hope for is that the states step up, and take over. They are showing signs of panic, so maybe the ‘let it rip’ philosophy is going to change.

The latest diversion from our dire straits is a tennis player. Even then, Morrison cannot tell the tale without lies, half-truths, and blaming. The federal government issues visas, not the Victorian Government. Not Tennis Australia, but like he did with Christine Holgate, throw a tantrum, stand up for the ‘little man’ and throw someone under the public outrage bus. If he thinks this will save his bacon in Victoria come election day, think again. Most of us cannot stand the sight of you, and the quicker we can consign you back to obscurity, the better.

Norman Swan raised the issue of ‘acceptable number of deaths’ today. We accept 1000 road deaths a year, 1000 flu deaths. What will we consider an acceptable number of deaths a year from covid? And if you can provide a number, are you prepared to lose your grandmother, or a sibling who is immuno-compromised? An old friend with a dodgy ticker?

Considering the success we enjoyed over the last couple of pandemic years, we must demand a return to intelligent public health measures, and stop the steady creep down the path of allowing our vulnerable to die, because of the ideological preferences of narrow, unfit for public service, religious zealots and neoliberals.

How they vote says a lot-Barnaby Joyce


Some LNP coalition members want to close down the “They Vote For You” website, because they feel it shines a light on how they vote on individual matters of policy. They appear to misunderstand the very nature of parliamentary democracy, which is no longer conducted in smoke-filled rooms, but in full public view. How they vote is thus in the public domain, and if they are ashamed of how they vote, they should change their position, or resign.

I live in the part of Australia described as “rural and regional”, so Mr Joyce, as the responsible minister, and an avowed champion of the regions, represents my interests. I am sure he thinks so. My house is coincidentally made of weatherboard and iron, which is the title of a book Mr Joyce once wrote. I am sure it can be obtained very cheaply these days, although his struggles with the spoken language would suggest his writing would be similarly ‘all over the shop’. I read a lot, but I admit I could not bring myself to sample his writing style.

His voting record is fairly consistent, and it could be inferred that he votes with his ‘heart, rather than his head’. But let us proceed to some of those votes.

On reducing inequality?

He strongly supports tightening the screws on welfare recipients. He voted to drug-test them, to pay their entitlements into a cashless debit card, and to limit the availability of payments to them. Clearly he believes that they cannot be trusted with money.

While many of his constituents in the regions rely on Social Security to live, he did vote for increasing the price of subsidised medicines, tighter means testing of family payments, and oddly, he voted for increasing parliamentary entitlements for current MPs and Senators.

He also voted against increasing consumer protections, against removing children from immigration detention, against increasing federal support for childcare, against closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. He is definitely not a “leveller”.

He represents New England. Perhaps he lives in the ritzier part of the electorate, which might explain his disconnect between how the majority of his constituents live, and their needs, and his own. He received six months free accommodation after his marriage breakdown, so he is not averse to a freebie or two. We just have to trust the donor was not paying for access.

On education

His position on education seems to be about making it hard for the disadvantaged to get into university, because he voted to deregulate undergraduate university fees, and to increase indexing on HECS/HELP debts. He also voted against increasing funding for university education.

He supports charging postgraduate research students fees, as well as political interference in funding research. He voted to increase fees for humanities degrees. He did support a national school chaplaincy program, though.

On marriage equality

He voted for a plebiscite. He also voted to support civil celebrants’ right to refuse to marry same-sex couples. He voted against equal treatment for all couples, and against same-sex marriage equality. He could be credibly described as not being in favour of same-sex relationships.

On science & the environment

Mr Joyce is the leader of the National Party, which is the party for farmers and agriculture. His voting record on protecting the environment is spectacularly negative.

Here is a list of the policies he has voted AGAINST:

  • Government action on animal & plant extinctions
  • increasing investment in renewable energy
  • increasing protection of Aboriginal heritage sites
  • local community consultation on infrastructure projects
  • protecting threatened forest and bushland habitats
  • a carbon price
  • a fast transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy
  • a minerals resource rent tax
  • increasing fishing restrictions
  • increasing protection of Australia’s fresh water
  • maintaining or increasing CSIRO funding
  • protecting the Great Barrier Reef
  • restricting foreign ownership
  • the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme
  • treating government action on climate change as urgent
  • ending illegal logging

This short retelling of Barnaby Joyce’s parliamentary votes is illuminating, and depressing. While strictly factual, it shows a disturbing pattern. His character has received much criticism over the years, exacerbated by his seeming shamelessness, and a singular lack of contrition. If we were to place him on a sort of political spectrum, he seems to embody eighteenth century social libertarianism, wilful blindness, proud anti-intellectualism, disregard for the poor, and a pumped up sense of achievement.

His attitudes expressly make it hard for his constituents to achieve social or economic mobility, and show an insensitivity to the needs of those less fortunate than himself, a complete disconnect between his role and the responsibilities inherent in it, and a drunken sailor’s lack of care toward the environment. For example, in 2017 he floated a plan to log old growth forests in Victoria, because of a couple of reported sightings of Leadbeater’s possum. Mr Joyce decided that it no longer needed to be protected from extinction.

He wears a floppy hat, and talks about shooting his cattle to stop them emitting methane, as if that makes him a farmer. He denigrates the latte sippers in the cities, accusing them of knowing nothing about the bush, but he has no concept of the duty to protect and nurture the land, as practised first by the Aborigines, and more recently by many of our farmers. He treats our natural environment as if it is a car-park, and our waterways as if they are solely for the use of multi-national cotton farmers.

He has been dubbed the Minister for Mining, and his record shows a total disregard for the future of life on earth, which borders on the sociopathic. He really appears to disrespect us all, and to treat the office of Deputy Prime Minister as a personal trinket.

As he said in his maiden speech in the House of Representatives, “Romans understood that political stability came from a public that was fed and, on a future stage, the British borrowed from this lesson and China is living it in a vastly more sanitised and politically correct form today. The basic rule remains the same; look after your own.”

Sadly, he appears to be conflicted as to who constitutes ‘his own’. Is it the people of Australia, or Gina Rinehart?

The gambler in The Lodge is gambling with our lives


“As a politician, my instincts and passions have always been domestic,” the prime minister said. “Despite my activity of the past year, I am not one who naturally seeks out summits and international platforms. But as prime minister you must always be directed by the national interest. As has been the case for prime ministers past, so much of Australia’s future right now is being shaped by events and relationships beyond our borders”.

There is not enough time left this year, or next, to analyse the sheer emptiness and fatuousness contained in the statement above. Where would one start? Like everything he says, if you pay attention you realise that you are reading strategically placed little lies, sprinkled like fool’s gold through the serious words.

Verbal fairy floss, spun out of a desperate search for respect, and plausible deniability. Of course there is a percentage of the electorate which automatically respects the office of Prime Minister, no matter the quality of the incumbent. But even those trusting souls who believe in the institution of government are about to be betrayed.

Morrison and his lieutenants, Frydenberg and Dutton, are betting the house on the Omicron variant being little more than a cold. They have created such a climate of faux “freedom from government” that the premiers of New South Wales and Victoria have blindly followed the flawed rhetoric. By the 10th of January we could reap the reward from ignoring scientific advice, and common sense. Our hospitals could be bursting at the seams.

Andrews and Perrotet have been shamed into putting the economy ahead of lives, with their own versions of betraying their own populations, by going along with the most dishonest government ever seen in this country.

Morrison is always scheming for political advantage, and he rode the wave of anti-vax and anti-lockdown rebellion cynically, until Omicron hit us. He dared the premiers to open up, too early, and he has them backed into a game of chicken. Who will blink first?

The Astra-Zeneca vaccine is about to lose its efficacy against the new variant. The other vaccines are marginally better, but not enough to protect the community. So boosters are strongly recommended.

There are a couple of problems with boosters. The first is that there is a limited supply available, and no adequate supply will arrive in Australia until after the New Year. Considering the monumental mess created by the first (st)rollout, who has faith we will have adequate supplies this time around?

By shortening the time gap between second and third (booster) shots, the number required by eligible people by December 31, rose from 2.3 million to 3.8 million. There are less than 1 million doses in the country now, and going by the empty shelves in most stores, international logistical problems will play a big part in whether we get our boosters in time, or not. Put an executive from Toll in charge, or at least someone who knows about logistics. Not a lightweight politician!

Secondly, Morrison, or Hunt perhaps, has reduced the fee payable to pharmacists for delivering vaccines into arms. Pharmacists received $16 per jab when administering the first dose, $26 for the second, and will now drop back to $16 per booster, which is less than the $24 paid to GPs. So pharmacists, who run businesses, not rorts, are pulling out of the program. So we have a shortage of doses, and a shortage of those prepared to deliver them. Some of the squandered cash from JobKeeper might have encouraged the pharmacists.

Morrison in campaign mode is different to Morrison the bad tempered and ‘shoot from the mouth’ leader of the country. When he sniffs an election he morphs into the ‘miracle worker’ he thought he was in 2019. He plays in the moment, there is no past, just the news cycle and the headlines, day after day after day, until he falls over the line.

This time around you can almost script his response. It will be the fault of logistics organisations, or overseas countries, or the Omicron variant was nastier than he thought, or the AdBlue diesel additive supply ran out, or people were reluctant …

The vulnerable were left till last during the last rollout. Aboriginal communities are even now still getting their first or second doses. Nursing homes and disability residential services have also missed out, as have many of their staff. Imagine what it will be like for them, adding another five months onto their already ridiculous waiting times.

A sobering thought – even if Omicron proves to be mild, its ferocious transmissibility will probably overwhelm our hospitals, and all classes of patients will be exposed to further delays in their medical treatment. The death toll will rise, and we will have our leaders to blame.

As we head into Christmas it is clear that no mainland Australian politician has the guts or the integrity to tighten up the rules, and to impose whatever limits it takes to keep us all safe. And we will be forced to watch their disgraceful attempts to shift culpability.

Dutton has been deeply offended


Peter Dutton has had a rough few weeks. Firstly he was “deeply offended” when he was called a rape apologist. He said so in court, where he was suing Shane Bazzi, an unemployed refugee advocate.

Mr Bazzi used Twitter to make his comment. I suspect that many Twitter readers agreed with him, but that is not a defence. It depends on what you feel the word “apologist” means.

And then there is the flawed Australian Defamation Law, where the judge decides what the reader probably imputed from your statement. So you are not judged on what you said, but on what someone else decided you meant to say. Even Christian Porter wanted to change that aspect of the law, before commencing on his own legal adventures.

Mr Bazzi was responding to a statement Mr Dutton had made in 2019. His tweet linked to a Guardian article where Dutton 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.”

The same day the tweet was posted, Mr Dutton had said he was unaware of the “she said, he said” details of Brittany Higgins’ rape allegations. These words can be construed as “police-speak”; formulaic, dismissive and designed to cast equal weight on the male-female narrative scales.

Ms Higgins was claiming she had been raped. Her alleged assailant was not claiming to have been raped, and so the formula is all wrong. There is no moral equivalence.

The problem with Dutton’s public pronouncements is that so many of them are wrong, or without evidence, or just another way of drawing attention to himself. Many of them are offensive, and many set up ‘straw men’ for the public to fear and loathe. Paedophiles and pacifists are two groups he targets, and the Chinese Communists are an old standby.

Some can be interpreted as ‘dog whistling’, such as when he demonises refugees, or Muslims, even African gangs. On a lighter note, he did want to assist white South African farmers in fleeing their own country, because of perceived racial prejudice.

There is always a whiff of lingering leadership tensions about Dutton, and he obviously thinks that what works for him in his electorate of Dickson works everywhere. It does not. How about his deciding to end ‘wokeism’ in the Defence Forces? Who was he trying to dog whistle that day? Who in Australia does not have a member of his or her family, or friendship group, who is non-binary, or a member of the LGBT community?

Peter Dutton is a Minister in Scott Morrison’s Government. Shane Bazzi is unemployed, and his defamation defence was crowd funded. He advocates for refugees. In an ironic sense, Shane Bazzi’s family has been ‘defamed’ by Dutton, as he is descended from the Lebanese migrants who arrived in the 1970s.

In 2016, while Immigration Minister, Dutton stated that Malcolm Fraser had made a mistake by letting in Lebanese-Muslim migrants in the 1970s. His reasoning is, as we have come to expect from Mr Dutton, shallow, misleading and discriminatory, both racially and religiously.

He believes that, no matter how long these people are in Australia, they, and their descendants, are more likely to commit criminal offences. While mathematically totally impossible to prove, or to disprove, when queried on his statement, he responded that the figures supported him, and that he would not be intimidated into re-considering his stance.

I have been deeply offended by many of Dutton’s statements, but to this stage I have not sued Mr Dutton for offending me. There are many pithy comments which describe this situation, but my favourite is “the pot calling the kettle black.” Second favourite was “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

And if he truly believes in free speech, he could stop trying to silence people who object to his simplistic world view. If it begins to look like we are being dragged into a war on China, he will be the culprit, and the reason will be cheap political advantage.

Peter Dutton has recently floated the idea of taxpayers bearing the cost of politicians’ defamation cases, seeing it as a ‘workplace entitlement’. If you cannot have a diversity morning tea, forget the public funding for defamation proceedings.

The state of our democracy


In general, there is still overwhelming support for representative democracy but with a focus on making the representative system of government more representative of the people they serve, and accountable and responsive to their constituents underpinned by integrity politics which are “cleaner”, “collaborative” and “evidence-based”.

Mark Evans, Director, Democracy 2025


Terrifying, really. If those qualities are important to us, why do we accept less from our governments? We like to comfort ourselves with tales of how bad Abbott was, and then how ‘adult’ Turnbull was, and then, as if to excuse ourselves for voting for him, how awful and deceptive Morrison is. But we need to lose that version of history, because, notwithstanding how many of our fellow citizens voted for, or used to vote for, the Liberal Party, the Liberals continue to win elections, notwithstanding their insoluble problems.


The first hurdle is their pack mentality when it comes to belief systems. If you want to belong, you must believe in neo-liberalism. There is no longer any room for dissent in Menzies’ party. You believe fully, no reservations, or you are out. No problem, although the neo-libs policies are anti-democratic, bloody minded, inhumane and innately illogical. One can only wonder how they can form a government, whilst believing in diminishing the role of government.


Neo-liberalism is an odd system, which was resurrected after the Second World War, and it is essentially a quest to return to dog eat dog capitalism. Worse, it wishes to return to the economics of the 17th and 18th Centuries, and is a fevered response to the values of social democracy, and the economic theories of Keynes. So it is reactionary, in the worst way.

They also call it market capitalism, because it hides the regressive nature of the system, but they cannot hide the central tenet that economic performance is measured by the performance of the market, hence Trump’s fatuous bragging when the Dow Jones was flying, even as hundreds of thousands of Americans either lost their jobs, or died, during the pandemic.


Forget measuring economic or governmental performance on human happiness, or levels of education, or even self-determination. They stress the importance of individual freedom, which under neo-liberalism presumably includes the right to die from hunger or neglect.


The Liberals’ second ‘disability’ is to be shackled to the National Party. Now we all understand the wonders of modern Australian agriculture, but the National Party is no longer representative of farmers; it seems to have hitched its wagon to miners. It is, however, crucial to the Liberals gaining, and holding onto, power. Without the Nationals the Liberals are a small, urban, middle class party, with delusions of grandeur. Having lost the collective conscience of their ‘soft’ or ‘wet’ members, they have coalesced around a rump of born again Christians, and economic fundamentalists.


The Labor Party has traditionally been the party of the working class, and the party of reform. Extended periods in the political wilderness has de-fanged the Labor Party, which now has a political philosophy of presenting a ‘small target’. Sadly, being a small target projects a message that the party stands for nothing.


The reason for this is that it relies on factions to elect its leaders. These leaders of factions are just that – leaders of splinter groups, unsuited to the macro levels of leadership required by actual governments. As the case of Bill Shorten illustrates, good policies must be sensible, defensible, and saleable. Morrison tore them apart and shredded them in 2019, characterised as economy-wrecking and frightening. Shorten lacked the wit to counter Morrison’s energy and sloganeering. Since Kevin Rudd, the party has not had an effective salesman type representing it, and so it has been out-manoeuvred, and out-sold.


Morrison has always been a marketing man, and he is blessed with an ability to live so ‘in the moment’ that he is able to present himself differently, according to the moment, and the need. In the bush he will appear in immaculate moleskins and a high-vis vest, in the city electorates as a ‘plain aspirational man with worthy values’.


He sees no contradictions in his ‘dressing up’ efforts, and the electorate will tire of it before he will. He is essentially a one man Government, because he has so commanded, and diminished his Cabinet, that there is no-one who stands out. He has no challengers. They are all less energetic than he is, and so they owe him everything. He campaigns for them all, and he stands to gain all, should the voters remain apathetic.


Although we seem to want representative, accountable, fair government, we wouldn’t know it if we fell over it. Like all electorates, we get the governments we deserve, because we are too lazy to listen, too disengaged to take note of what is said, and because the essential elements of our institutions continue to be eaten away by the corrosive nature of neo-liberalism.


Who would knowingly vote for a Government which promotes wanton cruelty to welfare recipients, continues to sell our public service functions to multinational contractors, picks fights with emerging superpowers, treats our money as their own, refuses to regulate the behaviour of our representatives, embarrasses us on international obligations, and is prepared to let the planet burn for the sake of political preferment? With their Trumpian idea of limiting the vote, they are putting lead in the Labor Party’s saddle bags. So, who, in his or her right mind, would vote for a repressive, authoritarian government, which has failed for more than eight years?

Below is a graph showing our faith in democracy since 1996, with a huge drop around the time Tony Abbott’s short time in power began to take shape. So Australians are not entirely stupid, but we certainly ignore hard evidence.

Would you like voter suppression with that?


Many Australians are still mightily impressed with the state of our nation, especially when we compare it with our rich and powerful ally, the USA. We have managed to somehow avoid the utter chaos and devastation, which they have endured now, for close to two years, during a once in a century pandemic.

Our Government(s) made plenty of mistakes in handling the pandemic, but nothing on the scale of the criminal negligence President Trump and his Republican Party allies were guilty of. Even now, with Joe Biden attempting to salvage the situation, vaccination appears to be the only way out.

But there are gathering signs that we have a particularly immature, and sadly ill-informed set of ‘parliamentarians’, and their fellow travellers, mainly from the loony-right think tanks, who are keen to import some really bad American ideas. Of course the loony-right think tanks are another import we could do without, but that is another matter entirely; suffice to say we are stuck with them.

One reason the American system has faltered recently is that the traditions and the myths of their origin story have been hi-jacked, and politicised, and the myths have won out, over common sense.

Some bad American ideas

Some examples include the notion of personal liberty outweighing the public good, the belief  that public health systems are socialist, the idea that education is not a basic human right, but something to be purchased.

Other caustic ideas include the notion that imposing regulations and limits on the private sector are always bad, that global warming is rubbish, that welfare paid is money wasted, that citizens should have the right to bear arms, that any relationship, or family, based on anything other than the classic nuclear family is immoral, that reducing taxes on the rich does nothing other than to increase inequality, and that poverty is a sign that a vengeful god is punishing the poor.

There are many other silly ideas, but I want to highlight the matter of voter ID, aka voter suppression, which is definitely on the radar for our very own Trumpist Government.

Voter suppression is a first step to authoritarianism

Voter suppression is an ancient, and honoured tradition in America, and it continues today. Since 1870, when the Fifteenth Amendment was passed, all men (later broadened to include women) were guaranteed the right to vote. This included men of all races, and specifically former slaves. Southern states, still smarting from their loss in the Civil War, set about limiting black access to the vote. These methods included a poll tax, which charged a fee to lodge a vote. Poor whites could gain an exemption from paying the fee, but not poor blacks.

Literacy tests were also routinely applied, with many more black Americans being excluded than white Americans. This often related to the level of education achieved by black Americans, which was in most cases inferior, if it was even available. But in other cases, the tests applied were selective, with African-Americans often receiving more difficult tests. These measures were gradually phased out during the 1960s, but not before they had disenfranchised generations of otherwise entitled voters.

More recently the Republican Party has refined its methods, to suit the times. In Florida, for example, until recently convicted felons were ineligible to vote. Many with similar names to felons were wrongly purged from the electoral rolls.

That law was reversed in 2018, but the Republican State Government managed to circumvent the intention of the statute, known as Amendment 4, by making restoration of the right to vote almost impossible. In the election of 2000, George W Bush won the country by less than a thousand votes, while convicted felons, and some of those with similar names, were purged from the electoral rolls. Convicted felons were, by a huge margin, more likely to be black, and to vote Democrat.

Although the election last year was not decided by a tiny number of votes, Florida voted for Trump. As many as 1.4 million voters were eligible to be restored to the rolls, but only 300,000 were allowed to register. That is 1.1 million voters disenfranchised. That would make a difference to the result.

That couldn’t happen here

Of course that could never happen here, or could it? We have no voter fraud here, so there could be no reason to change the voting rules. Well, yes it could happen here. As Caitlin Fitzsimmons reported in the Herald Sun in January this year, the federal government’s joint standing committee on electoral matters recently included a recommendation to require ID to vote, and another recommendation to require ID to enrol or change address. The chair of the committee is Senator James Paterson, an ex-IPA director. He thinks if he has to show ID in a club, why not when voting?

Liberal members of the committee made similar recommendations in their reports on the 2013 and 2016 elections as well. They quoted several submissions in support, from the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), and others. Labor and the Greens opposed the recommendations, but they were outvoted.

There is a cynical reason for such a simple rule. The more disadvantaged you are, the more difficult it is to conform to what look like petty requirements. And the ID of choice for the majority of Australians is the driver’s licence. Petty for you, and me, but not if you have insecure housing, or are forced to live on the starvation line, or if you are fleeing domestic violence. And many disadvantaged people do not own, or drive, a car. That means they probably don’t own a licence, and yet they may need to buy some form of photo ID, in order simply to vote.

The Liberals think that the disadvantaged are more inclined to vote for Labor, so any measure which makes voting or registering to vote more difficult, is a good thing. There is a reason why most Australians despise the IPA and its ilk. They appear to be staffed by strangely inadequate individuals who dream of making life difficult, in a range of petty ways, for the vulnerable.  

In the case of instituting Voter ID for Australia, we would need to accommodate Australia’s system of compulsory voting, and compulsory enrolment to vote. That would arguably force the Electoral Commissions, state and federal, to implement inclusion measures such as provision of regulated photo ID for anyone who needs it. Obviously that would send the cost of elections through the roof. This is another example of unintended consequences, caused by allowing inexperienced, or simply shallow twits, to write policy.

Australia’s lost decade on everything, including climate


Scott Morrison has had a tough few years. First there was The Great Bush-fire Debacle. He went on holiday in Hawaii. Nothing wrong with that, you might say. Except that he tried to hide the fact that he was away. When he was sprung, he made all sorts of excuses, but in his own special way he made a statement that we will always remember: “Mate, I don’t hold a hose.” That was exceptional in many ways. It showed his narrow, superficial mind, with all its smugness, and complete lack of self-awareness. During a catastrophic bushfire, everybody holds a hose.


The country then discovered that, just before the election, and possibly even after the election was called, he had been using our money to try and buy coalition seats, and also lots of marginal seats they wanted to win. Scott Morrison was caught in the headlights of the sports rorts affair, and in an act of utterly callous self preservation, he threw his Sports Minister, Briget McKenzie, under the proverbial bus. Considering his narrow win in the 2019 election, how many seats were retained, or won, because of the calculated misuse of taxpayers’ funds?


The global pandemic struck next. He talked a lot about following the scientific advice, but his resistance to lockdowns, and his reluctance to provide financial support proved very unpopular. Like a dog after a bone, he sniffed the electoral wind, calculated he was on a losing trajectory, and promptly changed direction. He then pinched Boris Johnson’s JobKeeper idea, at Labor’s suggestion.


None of us knew then that the Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, would do such a lousy job on the program’s design. Ripped off by thousands of companies, many of which paid bonuses to their already overpaid executives. Some even used those taxpayers’ funds to pay dividends to shareholders. That is some form of middle class welfare! Frydenberg now says it would be unfair to ask for the money back. There is only one word necessary to explain this Government’s moral bankruptcy – Robodebt.


Robodebt, where the might of the Federal Government was turned against often helpless, certainly powerless, welfare recipients. Ten year old debts, calculated using a dodgy averaging algorithm, and subsequently found to have been unlawful. The Government denied wrong-doing, as Evangelical far-right governments always do.


In June 2021, Justice Bernard Murphy approved a settlement worth at least A$1.8 billion, payable to those who had been harassed and vilified by their government, calling it “a shameful chapter” and “massive failure in public administration” of Australia’s social security scheme. Wikipedia.


The Ministers who have had their hands on the program include Christian Porter, Scott Morrison, Alan Tudge, Stuart Robert, Marise Payne. There are very few geniuses in that little group. And so far, not a word of apology.


Of course after the horrors of the pandemic, there was great optimism about the arrival of the vaccines. Produced in record time, they did not appear in Australia, for several months. Outbreaks in Sydney, and then Melbourne, took hold. Hundreds of deaths followed, and Scott Morrison then made another of his astounding pronouncements: “It is not a race.” He repeated it, ad nauseum, many times over.


But it was a race, and Morrison and his hapless Health Minister, Greg Hunt, tried hard to cover up their sheer incompetence. But even Blind Freddie knows you don’t just buy one vaccine, when there is a worldwide shortage. And you don’t announce at a late night press conference, that the only vaccine you have on hand, is suspect. Morrison actually destroyed the AstraZeneca vaccine’s credibility, because he panicked. Lately he has been trumpeting how well he handled the vaccine rollout. Really.


Morrison is now on his way to attend the Glasgow climate summit, on our behalf, representing us on a world stage. He will smugly claim that he has an agreement in his back pocket, of net zero by 2050. The only problem is that up to a quarter of the Nationals do not agree, and he cannot legislate the target, because he will lose the vote in Parliament. So he is going with nothing in his pocket, except an unenforceable promise, redeemable in 29 years, by which time the whole Parliament will probably be retired, or dead.


He and the Coalition have been sabotaging our response to climate change since 2009. Morrison expects us to believe that he has done a complete U-turn, in a month, and to now put our faith in him. Sorry, not a believer, Scott. Up to a quarter of the junior Coalition partners, the National Party, does not agree, and have had to be bribed to stay silent. He has not lead anyone, anywhere. He was dictated to by the likes of Barnaby Joyce, Matt Canavan, the former Sports Minister Briget Mckenzie (she who went under the bus), and George Christensen.

We must also remember the sterling efforts of the Minister for Meaningless Climate Statements, Angus Taylor. Angus delivered his sales pitch with passionate fervour, but as we all know, Carbon Capture and Storage does not work, and most of us think bribing the Nationals is actually worse than a carbon tax, because it is using our tax money to support the coal and gas industries. We want to reduce our emissions, not increase them, Angus. Angus is going to Glasgow also, but he is going to spruik for the fossil fuel industry. They might as well take Tony Abbott along with them.


So the sum total of the Government’s achievements on climate change is essentially in the eye of the Prime Minister – Government by press announcements, which are believed in by no-one, and which are as flimsy as feathers. You have to admire Morrison’s sublime disconnect from reality, and his faith in his own ability to gaslight world leaders, like he tries to gaslight us. Welcome back, Scotty from Marketing, and you, Angus. Top job on all your efforts. How embarrassing. People around the world might think he represents how we think and feel about the planet’s health.

Inequality leads to starving our children


Australia has had a chequered past, when it comes to looking after our most vulnerable. The history of our treatment of the First Australians is dark, and shameful. But in what could be an exercise in ‘black humour’, we now have a non-discriminatory policy towards all who are poor.

This means that we have Government policies which, either consciously or not, treat those who are of Aboriginal descent, the aged, those who are disabled, those who are addicted, those who suffer from mental illness, those who are homeless, and those who are either unemployed, or underemployed, as second class citizens. Now that is equal-opportunity discrimination. Consider the millions of Australians who fall into any of these categories.

The most recent example has been the vaccine rollout. Who missed out, from the beginning? All of the above. Aboriginal people are still lagging in the area of vaccine coverage, even after being identified as especially vulnerable. Catching up now, but an after-thought. The disabled? Forgotten, until now.

We are at close to 90% of first doses, and yet this Government has not bothered to include regional and remote communities. I live in a regional town, only 70 kms from Melbourne, and last Wednesday, October 13, we had a visit from a vaccine bus. The first visit, mind you. I don’t have the figures on car ownership where I live, but plenty of people did not, because they could not, travel to Kilmore for their first shots.

Many of the older residents were hesitant to get the jab, because the ‘communicator in chief’, aka Mr Morrison, an alleged marketer, stuffed up the rollout, by not buying enough supplies, and by then bad-mouthing the ‘product’ he was supposedly trying to sell to the public. No wonder he kept getting the sack from his previous jobs.

We will never know how many deaths were caused by his, and his Government’s, sheer incompetence, but we all know they got their shots first. We know that the recent lockdowns were caused by Government inaction on vaccines, because now that we have mostly caught up, state governments feel they can open up again. Cause and effect can be an elegant equation.

Let us move on, to hunger

As part of the Morrison Government’s response to the economic effects of Covid-19, we saw them respond, reluctantly and late, by providing economic support to those who needed help. They even doubled the unemployment benefit. This action saw millions of Australians able to pay their bills, able to find accommodation, even able to feed their children, and themselves.

Their additional spending helped to power the temporary economic revival. The majority of our economists applauded the targeted assistance. Of course they were unaware that the poor were not the only recipients of Government largesse. Billions of dollars also flowed to hundreds of ineligible companies, which, opportunistically and cynically, paid executive bonuses, and even dividends to shareholders with their ill-gotten gains.

But then, as expected, the Morrison Government’s bastardry and adolescent hubris kicked in. They sent the poor back to where they belong, poverty-stricken and abandoned. They sent Australian children into a situation where

“An estimated 1.2 million children in Australia went hungry in the past year, while one in six adults also faced severe food insecurity, a new report says.

Foodbank’s annual Hunger Report, released on Wednesday as part of Anti-Poverty Week, suggests the number of people going hungry in Australia has increased since the coronavirus welfare supplement and jobkeeper payments were withdrawn.” This report was cited by Luke Henrique-Gomes, in the Guardian Australia.

There are many solutions to reining in spending, especially if the Government you elected is stupid and venal, as this one is. But causing our children to starve is unforgiveable. This result is a direct consequence of neoliberal thought. Someone tell me where markets will fix food insecurity, when we export over half of what we grow. This Government needs to be replaced, at the ballot box, as soon as possible.

You can see how conflicted and useless they are. They cannot even agree on mitigating climate change. In the area of providing adequate nutrition for our future, aka our children, you would think they were at least able to see the harm they are doing. Starving children is very un-Australian. They should be ashamed of themselves.

Vote these idiots out, first chance you get. They are dangerous to us all.