Is our alliance with America worth it?


Almost eighty years ago Prime Minister John Curtin prepared a New Year’s Eve message for the Australian people. It was written three weeks after the war with Japan had begun. It was published in the Melbourne Herald on 27 December, 1941: 

‘Without any inhibitions of any kind, I make it quite clear that Australia looks to America, free of any pangs as to our traditional links or kinship with the United Kingdom.’

With this message he informed the world that Australia’s foreign policy direction must change, in response not only to the military situation with Japan, but to Australia’s location in the Pacific. From then on, he states, Australia will be proactive, the architect of her own interests. 

Australia disengaged from the ‘general war’ to concentrate on the Pacific conflict. Both Churchill and Roosevelt were surprised, and dismayed, but the die was cast. Australia survived the war, but only with massive assistance from the U.S. America has been the cornerstone of our foreign policy ever since.

Eighty years later, are Australia and the U.S. still a ‘perfect match’, or is it time to re-consider the partnership? Although America is the pre-eminent power on earth, does Australia need its protection, and secondly, does America provide said protection, and at what price? Is there a credible threat to us, or would we be more sensible to take a leaf out of New Zealand’s book, and be no-one’s enemy, and no-one’s target? It is important to look at our similarities, but also at the areas where we diverge.

Shared history, shared values?

For years, at least until President Trump was elected, there was a type of consensus that what we had in common far outweighed our differences. Recent events, particularly in America’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and then the Black Lives Matter protests, have thrown some doubt on that shared vision. 

Many have used the “shared history, and shared values” argument to justify our continued relationship. Others question the value for Australia, which has stood loyally by its mighty ally, through its many wars, with not much to show for the effort, except in terms of lost lives, and wasted military resources. We were never there as equal partners. 

We supported American wars whenever we were asked

Australia joined the U.S. in the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the First Gulf War in Iraq, the Afghanistan War, the Second Gulf War in Iraq. When push comes to shove, Australia is expected to step forward, no questions asked. Perhaps the debt from 1941 – 1945 has been paid?

Democratic standards

Australia and the U.S. are both nominally democratic societies, and yet there is in the U.S. an active campaign to suppress the vote for minorities, and to rig elections by gerrymander. There are efforts to outlaw postal voting, even when in the midst of a pandemic. 

Australians are used to electoral matters being decided by independent umpires. We are not only encouraged to vote, but we are punished if we do not. So is America still a democracy, and worth defending?

Guns

Probably the most contentious right Americans possess is the right to bear arms. Covered by the 2nd Amendment, and intended to permit the personal use of arms as a defence against state tyranny, it has mutated into a violent and uncontrolled gun culture. 

In 2017, gun deaths reached their highest level since 1968 with 39,773 deaths by firearm, of which 23,854 were by suicide and 14,542 were homicides. see here  Another side of this tragedy is that suicide accounts for almost twice as many deaths as homicide. 

By comparison Australia’s gun deaths in 2017 were 189. It is incomprehensible to Australians that Americans insist on their right to kill, and to be killed. 

This situation is exacerbated by the militarisation of the various state police forces, and the sheer number of mainly gun-fuelled deaths. Most of those deaths are of Black men, arguably by overzealous police. Do we share the values of a nation which practices officially sanctioned, racially based murder? 

Health system 

There is no universal healthcare in America. If you get sick in the U.S. someone has to pay, and there are tales of patients treated for Covid19 who have been charged as much as US$34,000 for testing and treatment. Estimates of costs usually range from US$9,000 to US$20,000.  

A recent study published in the American Journal of Medicine says the biggest reason for bankruptcy in the U.S. is medical debt. President Trump appears to be fixated on abolishing Obamacare, which is the closest many Americans come to being covered for illness and treatment. 

In Australia we have universal health care. Many see it as a basic human right. Some people opt for private insurance, but it is increasingly seen as a poor option, driven by elitism. The U.S. is actively pushing to remove any health insurance, and any welfare support, from its most vulnerable citizens. Do we share those values?

Is Morrison committing us to a war with China?

Recently our Prime Minister has ramped up the hysteria and the rhetoric concerning China. He even committed a sum of $270 billion to defence, which included funding for long range missiles. These are presumably to warn China that we are deadly serious about defending ourselves, militarily, against our largest trading partner. 

This can be traced back to a slavish desire, on Morrison’s part, to please Donald Trump. The President, in an attempt to divert attention away from his own criminal negligence toward handling the pandemic in America, has sought to demonise China for somehow ‘inventing’ Covid19. So by jumping on Trump’s bandwagon, Australia is going to be ‘protected’ if China reacts badly to our belligerence.

The logic behind that approach to foreign policy defies belief. If America was once a trusted ally, the Trump presidency must cause us to reconsider where we stand. A buddy this week, maybe not so much next week? We need to tread carefully until the U.S. has a leader who can be trusted, and we need to consider whether we actually do share values suited to a common future. Or is the American Empire heading toward its inevitable end? In Australian terms “have we backed the wrong horse?”

Arise Sir Tony!


At the risk of beating the same old drum, this current Government seems to be heading steadily down the ethical and moral drain, ever since the unexpected election win. So much of the country’s malaise, however, can be traced back to the ascension of one Tony Abbott, firstly as Opposition Leader, and then, unbelievably, as Prime Minister.

As Opposition Leader

He was a surprise, because no-one believed he would ever be elected to lead anything. He was almost universally derided for his open and unashamedly pugnacious Catholicism, and his awkwardness with language, and his seeming inability to move into the 21st century. He was the polar opposite of progressive, and seen as something of a likeable dinosaur.

He had an unexpected skill, however. This special skill lay in his ability to focus on a single, simplistic theme, and then to carry the fight on, daily, against both his own moderate fellow-Liberals, but also against Julia Gillard, until the death. This ‘theme’ was the carbon price, still the best and only successful mechanism so far tried in Australia, to combat climate change. So it became his mania, and we still suffer from his short-term-ism, his willingness to throw Australia under a bus, in pursuit of his own political advancement.

He came to embody opposition; he lived the dictum of the (British) Whig Mr Tierney, “the duty of an Opposition was very simple—it was to oppose everything and propose nothing.”

He was in the right place at the right time – Kevin Rudd and Abbott, between them, destroyed Gillard’s Government, and allowed the election of Abbott, as Prime Minister.

As Prime Minister

Tony Abbott set about dismantling Australia’s pact with its citizens, from day 1. Perhaps his most unpopular act was to break an election promise NOT to cut the funding to the ABC. Of course he did, because he had warned us, back in his Opposition Leader days, that he was somewhat flexible with the truth.

Now if there is one thing Australians hold dear – it is the ABC. If you want a simple test as to whether someone despises the people of Australia, see who wants to dismantle, or hobble, or sell, or just remove funding from, the ABC. Read more about their really reprehensible moral vacuity here https://askbucko.com/2020/04/29/the-abc-is-the-latest-target/

The reason is that we all value information, and we expect it to be delivered without bias, and we don’t want Rupert Murdoch https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rupert_Murdoch or Kerry Stokes to have had a say in what form, or how, it is delivered.

It is profoundly undemocratic to stifle the voice of the public broadcaster, and cutting its funding is just another way to bell the cat, to keep us all in ignorance. And it removes oversight; it allows the political class to escape scrutiny. Which in this country these days can mean all sorts of chicanery.

The list of assassins is long, and it includes people like Eric Abetz, Cory Bernardi, Simon Birmingham, Matt Canavan, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Mitch Fifield, Bridget McKenzie, James Patterson and Anne Ruston, to name a few.

Oddly, the names are eerily similar to the list of middle aged people, who are very angry with Greta Thunberg, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greta_Thunberg because she dares to have an opinion, and because she is a leader. And she is 17 years old.

Many of these ‘young fogies’ believe that schools are for learning only, and not about thinking. They also disapprove of same-sex marriage. One can only wonder at the double standards shown by the Nationals on the list, because they know full well how much regional Australians value their ABC.

As a backbencher

Of course we all rued the days of Abbott, and we were all desperate to escape him; we were all hugely relieved when someone apparently adult took over. But he never could, really. Abbott held Turnbull as a virtual prisoner, and he led his posse of wreckers on a kamikaze mission to destroy Turnbull, all the while trying to dismantle the renewable energy industry, and to hamstring Australia’s efforts to deal with climate change.

This was not necessarily because he did not believe, (although it is still impossible to know where he stands on the issue), but purely for reasons of personal vindication, and simple revenge. So much for service to the community.

His successor fought the good fight, for as long as he could, but a combination of his own political ineptitude, and his opponents’ bloody-mindedness, finally did him in. It appeared to be a coup, by Abbott’s supporters, at the expense of the Australian people. How depressing to discover that we had a choice between the devil, and the deep blue sea: Peter Dutton, or Scott Morrison.

Abbott had the gall to then state that he was finally satisfied, because Turnbull was no longer PM. He behaved as if removing Turnbull was a noteworthy achievement. Remember that Abbott had promised, “There will be no wrecking, no undermining, and no sniping.”

If there is an individual who bears responsibility for Australia’s recent ‘fall from grace’, it is Abbott. He is shameless, a self-confessed liar and a man who seems to have jumped on the gravy train early, and who continues to ride it. He lacks the personal insight to reflect on his legacy, which is threadbare at best. Many struggle to find a single achievement to honour him for.

He was removed from his leadership role, and coincidentally the Prime Ministership in 2015, and then he got the ‘bum’s rush’ from his own electorate in 2018. He did manage to get back onto the public payroll in October 2019, when he was appointed to the council of the Australian War Memorial.

Post politics

In an attempt to retain some sort of relevance he has continued to travel the world, making speeches to anyone who will listen. Recently he has excelled, giving support to reactionary and oafish world leaders, including Boris Johnson and Viktor Orbán of Hungary, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/sep/13/tony-abbott-doubles-down-on-praise-for-hungarys-far-right-pm-viktor-orban.

He also believes that the world is in the grip of a climate cult https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/australasia/australia-wildfires-bushfires-latest-tony-abbott-climate-change-scott-morrison-a9268801.html.

He has stated that he remains ready to serve. Today Tony Abbott was made a Companion of the Order of Australia. Some may remember the public outrage when he awarded a knighthood to Prince Philip on Australia Day in 2015. What irony that he is awarded a gong, on the Queen’s Birthday Honours list, five years later. Could it be a ‘quid pro quo’?

This article has been updated to include changes, including the awarding of the AC to Tony Abbott in the Queens Birthday 2020 Honours List

Scomo wrote us a letter of regret


Why did he write the letter?

I dreamed that Scott Morrison woke up one day, very recently, and was filled with regret. He was so overcome with regret that he wrote a letter of apology to the people of Australia. The gist of his imaginary letter went something like this:

It is clear that the country needs to be re-set. We have at last done something right, and I feel a sense of pride, and achievement, as I have never felt before. We have flattened the curve of the virus. The people have banded together, and helped us through this turbulent time. They are chafing at the bit now, but we are confident we have done the best we could.

There are many areas that, on reflection, I should work on, though. Firstly, I need to stop thinking like my great friends, Donald and Boris. They both took a holiday when the virus arrived, and look where that took them. Thousands of unnecessary deaths.

I remember my own holiday. It did not turn out well. It seems that this is a full-time job. And I DO hold a hose, if required.

Education often appears, alongside health, as the biggest issue in people’s minds. I must remember that! My education was provided to me by the state. It was free, and secular. It was excellent, and I cannot imagine why I persist in funding wealthy private schools more generously than the state sector schools. It seems so counter-intuitive, to give taxpayers’ funds to people who choose to sequester their children, away from the common herd. Sydney High had it all, though. Free, but selective. Elitism, without the price. Anyway, I must have a word to Dan (Tehan). Maybe we can try to govern for all in the future.

I actually have a science degree, with honours. So the ‘daggy dad’ persona is a crock, or to put it in more seemly terms, a construct. I do feel great shame about the position my Government takes on climate change, because I know I have further enabled the terrible degradation of this beautiful country, and even its international reputation.

My area of expertise is in economic geography, but a science degree is built on the scientific method, and I know that I can, and I should, trust the scientists, when they tell us we are wrecking the planet. It is just that once I tasted success, and power, I lost my head. I felt that if I did the right thing, it might cost me the big job, but it is not too late. I must sack Angus, and put someone else in the job; someone who actually wants to help us save the earth.

Of course there are the refugees. Wow. What was I thinking? To demonise a thousand people, and to then torture them for years. I can’t even remember what it was I was trying to fix. I do remember saying something about keeping the sugar off the table. That was a reference to gaining entry to Australia through Indonesia. Considering my own family’s arrival here, it was really lacking in insight. But, it’s never too late to change. I sometimes look back on statements like that, and I cringe.

It can’t have been to save lives at sea, by ruining lives on land. That sounds like a false equivalence. What would my tutor in Economic Geography think? Perhaps it was to save money? But then, look at the money I wasted on ‘sports rorts’. We could have slung some of that money at the refugees. We could have put them up at the Hilton for the last seven years, and saved plenty.

Not to mention what Paladin has made from us over the journey. We don’t even check their invoices, so you know they have made a motza. Which brings me to Pete (Dutton). I keep buying him off, by increasing his powers, but nothing works. He craves more, and more. I never sanction him, I allow him to run his own line on Foreign Affairs.

He insults Lebanese-Australians by suggesting that they are more prone to committing crimes. He believes there is a criminal gene, I suppose. Doesn’t he even know that my great great grandfather was on the First Fleet, a convicted criminal. He might as well accuse me of having the same criminal gene. I think it is time I stopped Pete’s reign of terror, and put someone in who likes people. I will probably dismantle his department, while I think of it. It is one of Malcolm’s dopiest errors, and then I made it worse, by keeping Pete on.

I really need to apologise for that statement “A fair go for those who have a go”, which even I know is one of the most divisive phrases ever uttered in Australian history. I know better now that I am in this position. It is not a contest. We’re all in this together. Life is not a game, with winners and losers.

If I am going to stop Pete torturing refugees, I must stop torturing the poor. I want to ‘man up’, swallow the fact that I was wrong all along, and acknowledge that Newstart was degradingly low, and that the majority of Australians support it being substantially raised, permanently. So when the time comes to reduce it, I will remember that I serve the people. And I will leave it where it is.

That would not only make moral sense, but it would serve as a continuing economic stimulus. And while I am here, I would like to unreservedly apologise for ‘robodebt‘, which we know was unlawful and unenforceable for years. Again, what were we thinking? It has been suggested that that scheme may have caused between 800, and 2000 deaths.

Wow, deaths caused by a Government’s deliberate cruelty. Again, while I am seeking redemption, perhaps we could abolish the dreaded ‘cashless card’ for those who are already struggling. That is the one where we assumed that everyone on Newstart was buying grog, cigarettes and maybe even porn with their $290 a week. Now that it has been temporarily doubled, I can only hope that their lives have been improved. After all, that is supposed to be my main aim.

I am beginning to see the benefits of confession. It really does lighten the load. With such a brilliant population to work with, we can actually do anything. I think the extra $60 billion that Josh just ‘found’ could come in handy. I know, I will include the visa holders, and the artists, the performers, the casuals and anyone else excluded from JobKeeper. Let’s actually treat them with dignity, rather than sending them to food-banks. Food-banks, in Australia! What were we thinking?

Then I woke up.

Over-run by Bible Bashers


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

So that settles that question. Or does it? 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 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, for his failure to report the sexual abuse allegations against his father. He also failed to avoid a clear conflict of interest, by investigating his own father, while serving as National President of the Assemblies of God in Australia.

Kevin Rudd retreated from “the great moral challenge of our generation”, and Tony Abbott and John Howard, provided George Pell, a convicted paedophile, with a character reference, after his conviction. I can’t imagine what they were thinking. How could they do such a thing?

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 As the catalyst for that ban I mentioned, he seems to have a very judgemental attitude to women’s and girls’ sexuality. He had no problem with boys receiving the vaccination.

It is perhaps not their fault. I have always thought that those who profess strong religious beliefs seem to be searching for something, for some quality that they do not possess, a patch of still water in storm tossed seas. Notwithstanding that most of those named have risen to positions of great power and eminence, 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?”

Scott Morrison Should Resign and Call an Early Election


Looking for a renewed mandate has been done before

It has become clear that this Government is illegitimate. The stench of corruption is overwhelming, and any decent Prime Minister should acknowledge that fact. In order to re-establish his relationship with the people of Australia, Morrison should resign, and call a general election.

It has been done before, and it can actually re-invigorate the political environment. In 1963 the then Liberal Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, called an early election for the House of Representatives because the government were struggling to govern with their narrow 2-seat majority in the chamber. The government succeeded in gaining an extra 10 seats. There was no discernible sense that the Prime Minister of the time was corrupt.

What is so wrong now?

The situation is vastly different now, in that there is almost a complete lack of trust in this Government. The personnel, from the very top, are so far outside the expectations of rational and honest voters that many of us feel we deserve some sort of refund, if not of our time then of our taxes.

How should the election be conducted?

If Morrison was able to conduct the election campaign as convention dictates, he would serve as a caretaker, and he would not spend millions of taxpayers’ funds on advertising his party’s policies; he would not bribe seemingly every coalition seat with unnecessary and cynical ‘grants’, and he might even stop lying about his climate policies. He should stop claiming illusory climate and emissions achievements, to appease his backbench rump. And additionally, he should allow the people to pre-select their own candidates, rather than intervene. This might lead to the omission of knuckle-draggers like Craig Kelly from the parliament. This would be a win for everyone.

If no election, what could change?

Further immediate improvements to consider include answering legitimate questions from the press, being open and transparent enough to release suppressed reports on ministers, and to promise not to protect those in his party room who have lost the trust of the Australian people. Imagine if he had actual standards which included not handing power to racists, to homophobes, or to those who have put personal advancement above the country’s interests. We know who they are, but he merely closes ranks when questioned. Sometimes he “rejects the premise of the question”.

Imagine if he apologised for the statement “A fair go for those who have a go”, which is one of the most divisive phrases ever uttered in Australian history. And imagine if his Government stopped torturing the poor. He could ‘man up’, swallow the fact that he has been wrong all along, and acknowledge that Newstart is degradingly low, and that the majority of Australians support it being substantially raised.

That would not only make moral sense, but it would serve as an immediate economic stimulus. And perhaps apologise for ‘robodebt‘, which we know was unlawful and unenforceable for years. Why don’t we rise up in revolt when it is suggested that between 800 and 2000 deaths have occurred because of that program. Who will take the responsibility for that?

Wow, death caused by a Government’s deliberate cruelty. That is to leave out the unimaginable monstrosity of our treatment of asylum seekers. Two names are enough. Scott Morrison, and Peter Dutton. A weeping sore for decent Australians.

As for other current issues, as an added latest twist of the knife, they want everyone who receives Newstart to have a cashless card, so that they have very limited access to cash. So firstly they assume everyone on Newstart is buying grog, cigarettes and maybe even porn with their $290 a week; after rent of course! Good luck with that. And secondly the idiots in charge of this have not even researched whether the card can be used in all parts of the country.

The main cause of the current dysfunction is Tony Abbott

How did it come to this? It is impossible to look at the decline of Australian democracy without looking at Tony Abbott. John Howard was mean and tricky, Kevin Rudd was a boring control freak, Julia Gillard was an effective legislator, but hopeless at presenting herself as a likeable achiever. And of course she encountered good old Aussie misogyny. Which brings us back to Abbott.

Serial liar, seemingly out to get the poor, hopelessly stuck in a misogynistic 1950s, elitist and yet so sloppy with language, so annoying and in the end so vengeful that we all knew he would take Australia down with him, if necessary, in his pursuit of Malcolm Turnbull.

Turnbull came to power as our saviour. Finally an adult in the room, urbane, sophisticated, he would treat us as adults. No more slogans, he would conduct a dialogue with us. But he turned out to have no convictions. He was over-turned, or actually complicit, on the issues of climate change, obstructing gay marriage, gutting the NBN, tax cuts for the rich (including himself), and even slogans – Jobs and Growth is notorious for its sheer meaninglessness, and he used it a lot. He also became very focused on National Security, and he was the fool who handed the keys of the ‘Interior Ministry’ to the most dangerous man in Australia, Peter Dutton.

Back to the re-set button

It is clear that the country needs to re-set, because this Government is NOT delivering on anything tangible, and there is a very strong argument that says it arrived in power by fraudulent means. It lied to every voter, and it bribed its way to a razor – slim majority.

The purpose of governments can be seen as being comparable with the underlying mission of families: To improve lives.

Governments are not elected to further their own interests, either politically, or materially. They are tasked with looking after the interests of their citizens, by advancing them along the road of progress.

So go on, Scott. Call an early election. See if God wants to reward you again, after all the shenanigans. I bet you don’t. But you should.

Waiting for the Replay


Scott Morrison is now having to deal with the two very distinct wings of his party, as they gird themselves for the culture war which will probably erupt at any moment. This culture war will not be about indigenous history, or the date of Australia Day, or even immigration. It is about climate change.

Since the election there seems to have been something of a re-birth of ‘wet’ liberals, or as they sometimes call themselves, Modern Liberals. Tim Wilson, Dave Sharma, Jason Falinski, Katie Allen, Angie Bell and Trent Zimmerman have even gone as far as joining the Parliamentary Friends of Climate Action group.

Now it is difficult to gauge the sincerity of several of the members, especially Tim Wilson and Jason Falinsky, because they have proved in the past to have a skittish relationship with the truth, but it just might be a sign of change. The group includes people from the other tribes, such as Labor and the Independents, so the Libs might even learn something. Apparently their ‘modernism’ is predicated on their acceptance that something is afoot with, you know, the weather, or the climate, or some-such.

Knowing whether any of them are prepared to ‘go to the barricades’ for the climate is another matter, entirely. Tim Wilson is a hard man to categorise. One day a thinker, the next wilfully awful, and a shameless self-promoter. His electorate expects something of him, however, and he is something of a weather vane (pardon the pun). They will be joined by others, eventually, but for the majority who do join them it will not be a matter of principle, but more one of crude survivalism, where instead of preparing for the climate catastrophe, they will be preparing for electoral Armageddon. Australians MUST run out of patience soon. If the bushfires in rainforests don’t prompt a wake-up, the smoke will.

We know that Malcolm Turnbull is the major casualty of the Climate Change War, versions 1.0 and 2.0. Will Scott Morrison be the next one? I think not, because Scott Morrison is playing a clever game, wherein he acknowledges the science behind the change, but then he slinks away, calling out such evasions as “our position will evolve, over time”. He has even had his Science Minister call for an end to the discussion, and for action! A mere diversion, I fear.

On the other side of this culture war are the usual suspects. Craig Kelly, George Christensen, Matt Canavan, Barnaby Joyce, Michael McCormack and even David Littleproud. There have been two prominent recruits to their ranks since the election; Gerard Rennick and Samantha McMahon, and they distinguish themselves with the strength of their denialism, and some of their creativity regarding the “climate change conspiracy”. Senator Rennick believes that the Bureau of Meteorology is in on it, and has been using a dodgy thermometer. But their spiritual leader must be the formidable Peter Dutton, he who made that terrific joke about water lapping at the feet of citizens of the Pacific. Perhaps we need look no further than that notorious film clip, to see where Morrison really stands – with Tony Abbott and Peter Dutton. And it is Scotty from Marketing who spots the microphone. Always on the lookout to protect his image.

But back to the culture war. Morrison is desperately trying to re-fashion his image, and to move on from his odd coal-clutching moment in Parliament, but he is either the creature of the right, or he is their hostage. Considering that keeping his job is the main game, and the perception that the electorate is indeed waking up, and will at some time demand climate action, he is indeed caught between a rock and a hard place.

What exquisite irony! Morrison could suddenly wake up, smell the smoke, and reverse a decade of lies, deceit and wilful blindness concerning the climate emergency, and undertake a belated transition to a low carbon future. Presumably he would have the Greens, the Labor Party, the Independents (the sane ones) and even the Modern Liberals on his side, as well as the Australian public.

The question is would he survive the inevitable reaction from what can fairly be called the Alternative Government? Craig and George, Barnaby and Samantha, Michaelia of ‘lost utes’ fame, and Dutts? I think he would, but I doubt he has the ticker, or the commitment to our future, to even try.

Why Labor Lost


As this year’s election result became clear, Bill Shorten stated, “We were up against corporate leviathans, a financial behemoth, spending unprecedented hundreds of millions of dollars advertising, telling lies, spreading fear – they got what they wanted.” That is the voice of a hapless victim, complaining about forces beyond his control, and not the alternative leader of the country.

Politics can be a dirty and brutal business, but the outcomes are real, and they have a real effect on the quality of people’s lives, so it is absolutely necessary to approach the contest prepared, and to deliver your best efforts. That includes fighting for your beliefs, especially if you are the party of reform, because you represent the needy and the disadvantaged, and the parties of the right will, by nature, and choice, represent vested interests.

The report into why Labor lost, by Craig Emerson and Jay Weatherill, really states the bleeding obvious, in that the party did not respond to the change of leader, from the failed toff to the shameless marketer; that it had too many, detailed, costly policies, which merely played to the Coalition’s perceived strength re. economic management; and it had an unpopular leader. What is not stated is that the party let down its constituency, by being unprepared, superficial, and self-satisfied.

Malcolm Turnbull is an inveterate waffler. He can’t help himself, but Shorten’s verbal awkwardness is equally excruciating, so they sort of cancelled each other out. As a contrasting attraction, Morrison is good on his feet, he is pithy in his communications, and he relates to the common man. Shorten could never match him in punchy messaging, so Labor needed to simplify, dare I say to shorten, and sell, the message. They also needed to modify their response to Morrison. He was not ostensibly from the ‘big end of town’, but his ambition and his duplicity were legitimate areas of concern, as was his penchant for rashness, and a reputation for callous disregard to those less better off than himself. Even Turnbull had the grace to display a modicum of ‘noblesse oblige’.

Oppositions are not Governments. They don’t have to prove anything, because they have been out of power, in this case for six years, so anything which looks or feels wrong, is by definition, the Government’s fault.

The drover’s dog could have won this election if Labor had merely turned up on the day, not scared anyone off with badly explained and overly complex policies, and bothered to relate to their base. Fighting the Greens in the inner cities was a waste of resources, and merely reinforced the impression that they had lost touch with their natural constituency, the Working Class.

And let us not forget the absolute rabble that the Government had become before going into the election. They knew it, and they were busily selling off the silverware, resigned to the fact that they were almost universally despised, and whoever had managed to accrue a decent pension, or a reasonable sinecure, was jumping ship. Remember the election launch, where the ‘joke de jour’ was that most of the cabinet ministers were in witness protection. Labor should have capitalised on that community disdain; Barnaby, Dutts, Shameless Angus and Melissa the Missing (Environment Minister), to name but a handful.

The Coalition’s lack of policies was a strength for them. It allowed the relentless sloganeering and the personal targeting of Shorten to proceed unhindered, and unchallenged. Labor looked like the nerd in the playground, who felt superior and smug, but would not bother to explain why, or respond.

Climate change was the elephant in the room, and was both Labor’s greatest strength, and its greatest vulnerability. Win Victoria and lose Queensland, or vice versa. Did no-one realise that the climate-denying rump of the Coalition was, and still is, calling the policy shots in the Coalition? Why not attack the Coalition’s disunity on the matter, exploit their confusion, dazzle them with economic arguments as to why renewables are so attractive, a real win-win solution.

It is hard to believe the lengths to which seemingly grown men and women will go to display confected outrage and disgust at something as innocuous as a paddock of solar panels, or wind turbines. Have they never seen a photo of a power station, let alone one in real life?

Why was no policy formulated, and sold, which explained the economic benefits of de-carbonising the economy, so that coal was, rather than being the saviour of mankind, explained as being too dangerous to use, and able to be economically phased out.

The argument about Shorten is correct. No matter the quality of the offering, you must sell it. And with Labor’s mix of impenetrably complex economic measures, a scare campaign was inevitable. What was needed was someone credible to discredit it. Imagine the “death tax” in the hands of Hawke or Keating; what we got was Shorten bleating that it was misleading.

Strangely both major Australian parties have moved to make it nearly impossible to remove a party leader, at the expense of good sense, or changing circumstances, or even voter preference. Look at the example in Britain. Jeremy Corben is firmly in control of his party in the Commons, yet almost universally loathed throughout the electorate. Ditto Bill Shorten. Hard to vote for a person who has stabbed not one, but two of his leaders in the back, and then to add insult to injury, he is irremovable.

The final mistake was to leave Morrison’s hucksterism unchallenged. His footy following, beer chugging, curry cooking persona was so obviously at odds with his Holy-Roller, bible bashing personality, he was almost as laughable as Peter Dutton trying to smile for his tilt at the Prime Ministership. But as the experts in Behavioural Economics tell us, in moments of doubt or uncertainty, we naturally return to the ‘default’ position. In this case better the devil you know, than the one you don’t. And see where that has got us all!

A Tour of a Pentecostal Church service.


Each time Scott Morrison scandalises or shocks Australians with a new low in parliamentary, or Prime Ministerial standards, he is likely to completely blank any questions asked, or to make some sort of ‘take it or leave it’ rejoinder to the questioner, especially if the questioner is from the press. He seems not to understand that the press asks those questions on our behalf, and are not attending simply to be independently insolent.

Having gratuitously brought us into his confidence regarding his religion, he has consistently annoyed thinking Australians with his seeming disregard for accountability. Perhaps he answers only to his God.

Morrison is a member of the Australian Pentecostal Church. Last week I visited a church which falls under the umbrella of Morrison’s church, in order to better understand his beliefs, and also to perhaps explain his apparently unassailable, and unaccountable behaviour. He reeks of arrogance, which appears to be at odds with his professed Christianity.

The church in which I find myself, is known as a Central Christian Church, which is an affiliate of Assemblies of God in Australia, or so the pastor’s business card states.

I was in regional Australia, so the church was on the outskirts of a small regional city. It has a large parking area, and paddocks opposite, and to either side of the block. It shares the space with the Baptists, whose service is conducted at the same time, every Sunday morning. They are located in separate spaces, at opposite ends of a largish bush-style building.

The congregations share a tea room/kitchen, and after their respective services, they co-exist, without really mingling. Women from each congregation share the washing up duties, and the men form small groups, within their own, informally segregated areas.

The service in the Pentecostal ‘church’ was broken up into three separate segments. The first is rock and roll themed, with the congregation seated in family groups, watching the band, who are up on a stage. The music is ‘on’ the minute the service begins.

The band is made up of three backing musicians, with a girl and a boy singer out front. The boy singer has an electric guitar. The band is incredibly young, with all the members looking to be in their late teens, at most. They are well presented, dressed very much in ‘everyday’ clothes, but young, modern and wholesome.

The music they sing has a mild rock and roll sound, with two guitars, a drummer and the vocals provided by the boy and girl up-front. The words to the songs are projected onto the wall, and are easily read. They sing of worship, God as saviour, and there is a fair amount of allusion to “the Enemy”, who is the Devil. The songs are repetitious, and the depiction of the words on screen has the owner of the copyright indicated at the bottom of the screen. Most of the songs played that morning are attributable to Hillsong, the church founded and led by Morrison’s friend, Brian Houston. Presumably they are paying a royalty to Hillsong, for every song they play? There are several favourite songs, wherein God is described as the “keeper of promises”, the “light of the world” and generally regarded as reliable for those in need.

During the musical segment, various members of the congregation are inspired by the music, or the words, and engage in waving of the hands, apparent swooning from emotion, and gasps of “yes” and other fervent affirmations. The music is gentle, but it still has a regular beat, and is quite stirring, even to the stoical, or non-believing.

The second part of the programme is a type of personal reflection time. The pastor’s wife rises, and quietly bears witness to moments during her day when God and she speak, quietly chatting. She is not claiming anything otherworldly, but more a relaxed world wherein God is a real presence in her everyday life. The pastor takes over for moments of reflection, and then a man, very old and stooped, and wearing a woollen beanie, speaks clearly, with an old, but strong voice, about once being an angry man, who accepted God, and has now found peace. He is earnest, and believable, and he disappears back to his pew as quietly as he approached the microphone. There is no sense of staging, but a confidence that, whatever their message, they will be heard.

During this middle period there has been an informal coming and going of the very young, maybe five or six of them, of kindergarten age, and that number again of early teens, often in sibling groups, very cleanly presented, and loving towards each other. The group appears to have a low impact, peaceful dynamic, and I am constantly welcomed by older members, hands outstretched, enquiring as to whether I am an old devotee visiting from elsewhere, or maybe someone interested, perhaps searching? It is friendly, without being pressurised.

The third and final act is one where the pastor formally presents a sermon, with biblical citations, but an everyman’s interpretation of the language. There was a presumption that his congregation knew him, and his family members, and could relate to his search for tangible safety, amid the real dangers presented by evil, or temptation, in the body of the Devil. The subject matter was reasonably interesting, and dealt with the fact that God hears the voice of the faithful, and delivers, against the constant threat of evil. Moses, and Aaron, in their search for water in the desert, was the quest, and trust in God’s word was the solution, against a very real threat of failure.

He explained the nature of the universe, divided into three; the realm of the real world, the Kingdom of the Devil, and the Kingdom of God. The surprise, in such an everyday setting, is the weight that is afforded the Devil, and his ability to change outcomes. He is seen as very real, very vindictive, and very active. Mankind is shown to be in constant peril, and pretty helpless, without throwing his hat into God’s Kingdom. But once one has accepted God’s word, and God’s help, one is safe.

The overall impression I got from the ninety minutes was the dualistic nature of the beliefs expressed. Life was an eternal battle between the forces of Good, and Evil. Good would triumph, but only on the acceptance of God’s protection. Without it, one is exposed to the wiles and the evil power of the Devil, and it seems to be that man cannot hold out against that sort of power.

I wonder if this is a universal belief amongst all the Pentecostal believers, or was I merely exposed to the idiosyncratic beliefs of a regional pastor?

Having seen the workings of the church, and presuming that the beliefs on show were not too far from those which drive the current Prime Minister, what are we to make of his world-view?

Although the congregation was made up of well-meaning, kindly people with no obvious signs of elitism, or even judginess, there is the dualism, the division of the world into those for Good, versus those for Evil, the very belief in such figures as the Devil, the separation of those who are saved, against those who are not, the helplessness in a sea of turmoil … The list of uncomfortable, unsophisticated beliefs goes on.

I actually don’t care what gets Scott Morrison out of bed in the morning, other than to serve the Australian people. I care about his commitment to deliver honest, decent, humane government, and to ensure that the prime in Prime Minister means he asserts control over his ministers, and polices standards. His religion might even make this task easier, although I have yet to meet a ‘believer’ who actually lives by Christ’s code.

There is a troubling lack of humility in the man, as well. From his refusal to engage with the media, and his penchant for making one-off captain’s calls, without referral to us, the people. And his lack of human compassion is noteworthy. Back in 2011, when he was in opposition, he questioned the cost to the taxpayer of funerals for families mourning the loss of loved ones, lost in the Christmas Island shipwreck tragedy. His apology extended to the timing of his comments, and not to the substance. That is something of his style – part apologies, part truths.

His treatment of asylum seekers in the last six years, whether in the portfolio, or not, has set standards so low that many of us feel shame about our international reputation. And never forget that the behaviour you walk past is the behaviour you accept. He has failed to remove Peter Dutton, who makes what should be career-ending mistakes almost every single day, and yet he continues to enjoy the PM’s confidence. And his treatment of those on Newstart is scandalously smug, ideologically driven, and wantonly cruel.

What does that say about the accidental Prime Minister? Are his beliefs blinding him to common humanity?

This Born-Again, No Plan Government

No Plan

Last year, and until the federal election this year, the Liberal National Coalition believed it was heading toward electoral oblivion, and some of the Government’s behaviour looked at best to be dodgy. They made sure they would reap the benefits of the last six years in power, I’m sure there was much shredding of documents, and many of them deserted the ship, entitlements intact.

As an example of their cynicism, and their outright perfidy, they stacked the Administrative Appeals Tribunal with time servers and Liberal mates, creating chaos for the incoming Labor Government. Of course the Labor Party lost, so all the rush was for nothing. They could have stacked it at will, drip fed over the next three years.

It is not possible to pinpoint why so many left, but it is reasonable to assume that the misery and the ignominy of opposition was not an attractive prospect; added to that, when one considers the quality of the company one would be forced to keep, in the meetings and the corridors even, who wouldn’t run for the exit?

The prospect of sitting in the opposition party room must have loomed as torture, like endlessly re-visiting gruesome family Christmases, with your worst relatives, and being forced to kiss Uncle Fester and Aunt Morticia, every week, until you feel like you have died and gone to hell.

So winning government again must have seemed like a surprise Christmas, or even a miracle, if you are inclined to believe in flying teapots, and fairies. No opposition hardships, and at least Tony Abbott was gone, although there are still plenty of his elderly altar-boys and girls still getting a run. The photograph of the team captures the “how did we get out of that one” spirit, and for a moment one can almost identify with them, happy and hopeful, perhaps still wanting to ‘do good’ for the community.

Fast forward to now, and Morrison is still being treated as a modern political master. He believes it too. He won the ‘unwinnable’ election. He lied and obfuscated, he misrepresented Labor’s policies, he hid his front bench, he played the ‘daggy dad’ way better than poor, awkward Bill Shorten, and he even pretended to show us his spiritual side, with a photo opportunity inside a church. He continues his ‘dissing’ attitude to legitimate questions, because he has no plan, except to stay in power.

We should recall, however, that the ‘mandate’ he insists on calling the narrow win, saw the Coalition increase their Parliamentary numbers by one seat, and the Opposition lost one seat. It makes one wonder why he wears the never-fading smirk. That sort of majority can disappear in a heartbeat, and it does not constitute a mandate.

The longer we are exposed to his hand-picked rabble the shallower the talent pool looks. Peter Dutton is still the most powerful politician in the country, a de facto Prime Minister, calling the shots and seemingly immovable, bolstered by his posse of backbench trolls, who allow Morrison to continue as PM just as long as he continues along his Trump-lite path. In any other Government Dutton’s combination of personal toxicity, insensitivity, inflammatory language, and a spectacularly simplistic world view would trigger his urgent removal from office, but in this company he is a star. Consider this little gem: He recently described the two children of the Sri Lankan couple fighting deportation, as “anchor babies”, notwithstanding the fact that Australia does not confer citizenship on the children of refugee mothers. The term is considered racist in the US, and has been used by Donald Trump, when trying to demonise immigrants.

But enough. Picking the poor performers only serves to take us down the rabbit hole of despair. Let us look forward. When trying to understand this, or indeed any Government, it is simplest to just look at what it wants to achieve in this term.

It is desperate to repeal the Medevac laws, because it does not want to send sick detainees to the mainland for treatment. It thinks they will feign sickness, and overwhelm the Australian hospital system. If the ‘overwhelming’ does not occur, there is a catastrophe B – there will be a flood of new refugees rushing to Australia, because we have hung a sign up, stating we are ‘open for business’. These new refugees will arrive, be locked up for years, tortured mentally and physically, and then they will attempt to hoodwink Mr Dutton, by over-using the Medicare system, and or having an anchor baby or two.

The next priority is to make it all right to be a Christian, and if you want to be, you can also be a Christian ‘refusenik’. A Christian refusenik is someone who refuses to bake wedding cakes for gay couples, whereas a Christian is merely one who believes in Jesus. Both categories will be catered for.

The third priority appears to be plastic. They want to ban it, especially from oceans. They are fine with global warming, because it does not exist, although they believe in the science(?), but they draw the line at plastic. They also think that children should be at school, and that any protesting should happen on Saturdays. There has been talk of banning the use of cars to travel to the protests, and also the eating of meat, because in the hands of children these products cause global warm…

Most legislative programmes are restricted to actual legislation, however there is one other priority, which involves actively NOT legislating. This is to NOT increase the Newstart allowance. Now it sits at about $40 per day, and all parliamentarians are paid seven times that amount, every day they attend work. Yes, each and every day they go to work they receive seven times the daily Newstart allowance. This steadfast position is being held to, despite much community angst, because this Government believes that you only get a go, if you have a go. There does seem to be an undercurrent of dislike towards those who are not self-sufficient, but time will confirm, or not, that feeling.

I cannot think of anything else this Government wants to do for this term. They will bang on remorselessly about national security, Dutton will fixate on paedophiles, and Morrison will try to alleviate the anxiety of children, by ignoring climate change. Lots to look forward to.

Unknown Man Takes Over The Country


Scott Morrison was originally elevated to the Prime Ministership by pretending not to be a candidate, and then by swooping in on the prize when it came down to a choice between himself, and a man almost universally loathed by the electorate. Voters were actually relieved that it was won by ‘Anyone But Dutton’ Morrison. He came through as the Steven Bradbury of the Liberal Party.

The man he ‘released’ from politics, Malcolm Turnbull, was a walking, talking ‘stuffed shirt’. He was liked, and even admired, but the more we got to know him, the more we understood that politics was a ‘vanity project’ for him; one always felt that he was pleased that he had achieved one of his life’s goals, but that it was not quite up to what he had expected. He had not listened when he was told that if one lies down with dogs, one is prone to get up with fleas.

Scott Morrison will always be remembered for that awkward moment, when he put his arm around Turnbull, and responded to a question about his own ambitions for the top job – “This is my leader and I’m ambitious for him!” As we all know, Morrison replaced Turnbull two days later. That blokey image of affectionate support can now never be excised from our collective memories.

Morrison, having achieved his own Holy Grail, then spent eight months showing us why he was particularly unsuitable for the role, with a series of gaffes, misjudgements and ‘daggy dad’ routines. These included his blundering into the foreign affairs area, with no consultation and less judgement, when he announced the decision to move our Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This alienated most of the Muslim world, seemingly to send a message of ‘support’ to Donald Trump.

The Government continued on its merry way, with Morrison attempting to run his own version of “outside the beltway”, where he, the ultimate insider, a former public servant and Liberal Party State President, tried to convince us that his interests were with ordinary citizens, rather than with Canberra and its internal workings.

During this time some of his political appointments were almost beyond belief. His Environment Minister, Melissa Price, was particularly hapless, once accusing an ex-president of Kiribati of merely being in Australia for the hand-outs. She did, however, manage to sign off on some important approvals before the election, such as the Adani mine.

Now that might sound strange for an Environment Minister, because she was putting all her energy into matters pertaining to mining approvals, when many of us thought she might try to alleviate the extreme concerns for vanishing wildlife, or even their habitat, or casting her eye over the Murray Darling river system, or even the Great Barrier Reef, but no, first things first. Sign off on the mines, then look to the environment. Melissa then did a vanishing act; she was invisible for the entire election period, and she was quietly replaced in the portfolio after the election, although her leader vowed she would be kept on, thanks to her sterling efforts in the portfolio.

Morrison’s Energy Minister needs no introduction. Angus the Shameless doesn’t like renewable energy, apparently because he grew up next door to a wind farm. That can scar a young chap, and no amount of climate science can lessen the pain, and allow him to do his job. Since the election he has been promoted, so that he is now responsible for Energy, and Emissions Reduction. He distinguished himself before the election by actually arguing against his own Government’s electric car policy. You can see how well suited he is to the expanded role. I do not know if he sleeps with a lump of coal beneath his pillow, but I would not be surprised.

One can only wonder what sort of thinking goes into making some of these appointments. Is it that he is sending placatory messages that if he appoints duds they won’t achieve any changes for the better, so nothing to worry about. I think that keeping the likes of Dutto and Craig Kelly quiet is the main game, but is he achieving that?

Tony Abbott was never held hostage by his extreme right rump, because he was their spiritual leader, and he was capable of out-stupiding them. Poor Mr Turnbull was terrorised by them for his entire term, and he will be remembered forever, as our first hostage-in-chief. Mr Morrison is a man who has seemingly no political goals, except to be in the big chair. So it is difficult to know where he stands. He looks and sounds like one of them, and he talks about ‘the Canberra bubble’ a lot, so maybe he really wants to govern for those ‘quiet Australians’. I just don’t know how we got to this position.

The Government since the 2019 election seems to be obsessed with very little, except for national security, pesky journalists reporting things, paedophiles in boats on the high seas, and the right of Christians to be Christians. Now I was unaware that they were under threat, but then again this is the ‘ship of fools’, who went along with the vote that it was all right to be white, so perhaps being Christian is under threat.

It is difficult to choose the next ‘nation-building’ issue that the Coalition can sink their teeth into. Perhaps they should consider sending school children to detention, if they attend climate change action marches. Perhaps they could take a long hard look at toilet blocks in schools, because some of them are using non-binary gender signs on their doors. This could lead to a national emergency, and needs attention.

Otherwise, business as usual. Poor fellow, my country!