David Tyler reviews another exciting week in the jolly Kingdom of Abbottralia.
"Full steam astern!" shouts Captain Hook-or-by-Crook Abbott on the poop deck, ducking volleys of brickbats, derision and sheer disbelief from home and abroad, manfully commanding the start of another week of good government and doing whatever craven acts it takes to follow the almighty IPA’s wish-list, amen, annihilate all opponents and preserve his arse — a commodity he must remind us, that is not for sale. Monday sees him suddenly reversing course to avoid a leaked green-paper proposal for wealthy parents to pay fees for their children’s public schooling bobbing up like a turd in the surf at Bondi.
‘Not policy, now or ever", Abbott lies, trusting someone will pick it up and run with it. It’s a win-win. The fuss will distract the nation from the legality of Australia’s offshore detention being challenged in the High Court or PWC’s report that a third of Australia is effectively in recession. So much to evade, deny, silence or lie about, he sighs, so little time. But at least he can do Bill slowly. The Royal Commission into destroying Shorten forever promises to be worth every penny, he winks as he is told the Information Commissioner Professor John McMillan has given up after being forced by government cuts to pay all costs, even work from his own home. The Abbott Government’s war on transparency is all going to plan.
A hell’s kitchen of housing prices continue to bubble but nothing to see here, says Abbott and Hockey rubbishing the RBA’s view. Who cares, as long as decent, Liberal voters owning property in Sydney and Melbourne make a fortune? Does it matter where investment comes from? Some foreign buyers, it seems, are all cashed up with the proceeds of crime or are buying under shonky schemes to hide their identity. Yet the matter is well in hand, as the government’s new fee for overseas buyers is guaranteed to ease the pressure. Sort things out. Guaranteed. Enough with the negative.
Listen to Billson if you want proof that economic management is in our DNA:
Tax breaks for some small businesses are restoring our nation’s flagging prosperity. Why, just the other day, a small business in my electorate bought a new coffee machine. A new coffee machine, Madam Speaker! By taking advantage of the new tax write-offs. LNP turd polishers instruct MPs to stud their talk with homespun folksy anecdotes about having a go in the new millennium of the Hockey economic miracle of pandering to where the votes are rather than where investment or even an economic plan is needed.
Minister for Positive (Delusional) Thinking Bruce Bilgewater gurgles joyfully, winsomely to the house, possessed by a permanent raptus; a true believer whose evangelism embodies all that is wrong with the Abbott’s "open for business" slogan. No-one ever tells this polyester-wool blend Pollyanna to shut up on a point of order. Everyone is struck dumb in awe of the holy simpleton. Not so dumb, however, is the rest of the world which is taking less kindly to our wool-pulling in climate change and our entry into the people-smuggling trade.
World leaders are increasingly short with Hunt’s walnut shell and pea solution to global warming, while it looks as if none of the coal in the Galilee Basin is worth mining let alone ruining a world heritage reef over. Scrapping the carbon tax continues to shred our credibility. The notion that Australia is too small to make any difference to the world is challenged by the view that only if the world can get nations such as Australia to reduce emissions will measures to counteract climate change have a chance of success.
We are keeping the world guessing over whethe our PM will even attend the Paris climate talks or send ministers with a cut lunch. And our new emissions target is still a secret. Abbott will only repeat his empty rhetoric that any new target for Australia will
"... safeguard economic growth while taking action on climate change."
Kill Bill, our PM’s real contribution to statecraft, runs dead midweek in a late night call, we are told, to chateau Shorten. The PM, no, Australia needs the opposition leader to agree to change the law on Thursday to make offshore detention legal. Shorten chortles at the thought of Manus and Nauru suddenly expelling their main income source but agrees with his shifty counterpart that bipartisan support is needed if you really want to make a go of trashing human rights.
Cabinet leaks continue. Abbott continues to tank in all reliable opinion polls and it is increasingly harder for Julie Bishop to disguise her looks of withering scorn; her utter contempt for her PM, a £10 pound pom who never renounced his British citizenship still blocking her glittering career path to the top at any cost.
Yet none of this cramps Abbott’s style in a week which sees him flanked by 12 national flags, avidly eying off some openly displayed colour-coded maps of pure evil secret intelligence on camera.
There is an image of the Middle East projected on a screen behind him which experts recognise as a year old souvenir from The Washington Post news broadcast. Labor give him a flogging with a limp lettuce leaf in parliament about going public with those maps but Abbott has by then enjoyed exploiting his unique photo-opportunity.
Eager, almost priapic, to protect Australia and to keep us all safe from death cults other than Catholicism, Abbott tells the nation that ISIS is coming for each and every one of us. His jihad on the ABC is helped immensely by the appearance of Zaky Mallah on Q&A. "Heads must roll," he says. Say what you will about his taste in imagery, our PM wastes no time on over thinking his strategy.
Witness his crafty hand pass of the privatising state school political football:
"I think it's good that some of the states and territories at least are thinking creatively about how they can responsibly fund their operations."
Abbott winks as he puts away his dog whistle.
By the week’s end, the PM has backed away from a whole raft of measures, including his love for the ABC. Ever the stand-up comedian, Abbott was happy to waste parliament’s time with his ironic public vote of thanks to the ABC for shafting Shorten in The Killing Season but a day later he was calling the national broadcaster to account for "betraying Australia" and getting Malcolm to send the boys around for a please explain.
"Whose side are they on?"
The question will play out well on talkback. Tony Abbott morphs into Oskar Matzerath, the hero of Gunther Grass’ Tin Drum, who chooses to remain a child forever, as he gives a blast on his whistle and beats his anti-terror drum.
It is business as usual. PM Flip-Flop suddenly drops his mission to give Immigration Minister Dutton the power to banish undesirables in favour of something constitutional after all. Dutton would no longer revoke citizenship all by himself but an existing law would be amended.
It is a big back down that goes unacknowledged. But the tough on terror dog whistle has done its job.
A 1948 law that automatically cancels the citizenship – subject to judicial review – of dual nationals who fight with foreign militaries against Australia was approved by Cabinet on Tuesday, making Opposition leader Bill Shorten’s lack of opposition to anything on national security appear even feebler, but sparing him a political wedgie.
Abbott fails to wedge an infuriatingly bipartisan Bill Shorten as soft on bad terror legislation. Even worse, ultimately for both parties, although neither can see it, Shorten unctuously supports Abbott in the hasty last-minute change to the law to fix the human rights smart-arses appealing to the High Court on the legality of Australia’s concentration camps on Nauru and Manus Islands.
So unseemly is the Government’s haste to close what it calls "a loophole" that it is clearly unsure as to ‘whether it had the authority to lock asylum seekers up indefinitely in the territories of other sovereign nations or to effectively procure that detention’ says Daniel Webb, The Human Rights Law Centre’s director of legal advocacy.
The bigger loophole is in allowing access to education to the hoi polloi. Here, the coalition’s strategy is a work in progress. The PM’s high speed flip-flop on fees causes a bit of a pile up in the conga line of suck holes of his ministry. Pyne and Turnbull even break step for a moment to dissent but their leader masterfully out-manoeuvres them.
Abbott, manfully shrugging off possible light bruising, quickly gets in first telling the House that it is not policy. The day’s morning news flash is a non-starter by question time. The PM leaves us guessing why it had been run up the flagpole in the first place.
"If the states and territories want to charge wealthy parents fees for public schools, that is a matter for them…Charging wealthy parents for their children to attend public schools is not this Government's policy. It is not now, it won't ever be."
By question time Monday afternoon, mnister for social media, wealthy parent Christopher Pyne is all a twitter with his opposition to the idea, causing wonderment if not utter disbelief amongst those of the commentariat not under threat of decapitation.
Those permitted to keep their heads were encouraged to avoid all controversy and to stick to publishing lists of the coalition’s record achievements, photographs of Bruce Billson beaming and photographs linking Bill Shorten with colourful union identities and would-be foreign mercenaries.
Some voters are old enough to recall governments refining proposals after discussion, debate and due consultation. Last week, the Abbott Government set a world record in responsive government. No-one can recall a government ever floating and sinking its own proposal on the same day. It is as unprecedented as paying people smugglers bound for New Zealand to turn back to Indonesia.
Clearly, creative problem solving is all the go, whether it be our PAYG border protection racket or keeping ordinary people in ignorance by privatising state schooling. A little fancy footwork is only to be expected when it comes to keeping the nation safe from bad ideas.
The fee for public school reversal, the last minute dash to change the law to make our offshore prisons legal are like beacons of what Mathias Cormann made it his mid-week mission to tell us is the "orderly and methodical" approach to government favoured by the Coalition. It was all just a means to "a mature and sensible discussion" about how best to steal our children’s birthright and ensure that inequality of opportunity is entrenched in education.
Abbott’s sights remained firmly set on the main chance of his continuing in politics by "hook or by crook" in a full week of the skulduggery and thuggery that was our good government before parliament rose, perhaps for the last time.
Kill Bill was going gangbusters. Even little Katie Carnell was out smearing Shorten with the CFMEU’s criminality on Monday’s The Drum. Citizen-stripping got the tough on terror message out coverage and Monday’s Q&A gave him a perfect opportunity to have another bash at the ABC and the silencing of all objective reporting and – God forbid! – dissent.
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