Denis Healey

Denis Healey coined the word ‘sado-monetarism’, and famously said that being attacked in the House of Commons by Sir Geoffrey Howe was ‘like being savaged by a dead sheep’.

He survived Bradford, Balliol, undergraduate Communism, piano lessons, D-Day, Anzio, a lost by-election, the Labour Party backroom and the sudden death by surgical assassination of his mentor Hugh Gaitskell, was a fine Secretary of Defence under Wilson, whom he hated, and as Callaghan’s Chancellor in 1976 was abashed by the oil price hike and subsequent inflation and asked the IMF for bail-out funds and submitted, like Tsipras, to its onerous dictates and so helped speed Labour’s narrow defeat in 1979. He stood for the leadership in 1980, and, believing he had the numbers, went fishing in Scotland and was kiboshed by a late surge to the Left and its brilliant, sonorous, draggletailed candidate Michael Foot, and became his grumpy Deputy after having lost by ten votes. All the polling showed he would have defeated Thatcher easily had he been Leader in 1983 and thwarted thus the sado-monetarist misery that plagued the planet for thirty years thereafter.

But it was not to be; and he was for fifteen years Shadow Foreign Minister, a job he yearned for, a Gough-sharp Opposition wit and TV interviewee, sometimes playing the double bass, with his huge eyebrows and fluting, Monty Python voice, and a wonderful memoirist, contributing, in The Time Of My Life, one of the best such books on British politics.

Like Beazley he was a great, lost Prime Minister, and his Scottish fishing trip the costliest, perhaps, in history. His colleague Roy Jenkins, besotted by Brussels, did great harm by splitting the Party and not wooing Healey across to the Social Democrats and thus wishing on the world the Reagano-Thatcherist virus which has poisoned thus far all the civilised nations apart from Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Holland, Germany, France, Austria and Spain; and it’s a pity.

And so it goes.

On Killing Doctors In Kunduz

Our side bombed a hospital in Kunduz yesterday. We killed some Doctors Without Borders, some children and some women, in raids that again and again targeted a particular building, war crimes the pilots and generals will not be tried for.

It is as if an Indonesian air force bombed a hospital in Bathurst, killing nurses, patients and doctors, because they did not approve of the heresy, Anglicanism, prevalent in that town. It was an event in NATO’s longest war, now in its fourteenth year.

In the same week, civilian areas were bombed by Russian aircraft in Syria. This was in defence of a monster, Assad, with more blood on his hands than Franco. Most of those killed were social democrats. In each case, military forces with a Christian upbringing or tradition attacked and pulverized Muslims and thought they would be forgiven for it, not accused of war crimes by al-Jazeera and Red Cross.

How long will we continue to believe we can change men’s beliefs by bombing them? It did not persuade the Londoners to embrace Nazism. It did not persuade Honoluluans to embrace Shinto. It has not converted the Gazans, yet, to Judaism.

Surely it would be better to give each heathen country aid, health care, universities, ecological advice, and each family a television set broadcasting CNN and BBC. This method worked well on the Germans after World War 2, after the immolation of Dresden was thought to have been counter-productive.

We Australians should get out of America’s missionary wars. They are rarely won, and they shame us.

Or perhaps you disagree.

At Last

After a hundred years, we have, at last, on Australian soil, a genuine terrorist attack. It was a fifteen-year-old boy, and the Parramatta police were able unassisted to deal with him.

The billions spent on Border Force and the navy’s prowling of the high seas and kidnapping and torment of children were not necessary, nor the ACP’s raids at midnight on Muslim suburbs. The police were able to look after us, unassisted.

Though not the women killed each week by their crazed ex-husbands and lovers, of course. Not the victims of the Ice pushers who die in hundreds each year. Not the cyberbullied kids who suicide. We don’t spend billions on them. Just on the budding terrorists, one of whom we shot dead, and one of whom, the same day, the Anzac Day plotter, we put in gaol for twenty-five years for having bad thoughts, really bad thoughts, and setting them down.

We did not put in gaol for even a week the CEO of 7/11 for the blackmail, enslavement, and robbery of hundreds of millions from foreign students overworked past midnight in fear of deportation. We did not gaol for even a week the escaped white murderer of Reza Barati. We did not gaol for even a weekend Damian Mantach, who stole 1.5 million from Liberal voters.

But we did gaol a boy with grandiose, decapitating Anzac fantasies for twice as long as a rapist/murderer gets for the rape and murder of a child — for having bad thoughts and setting them down.

What kind of justice are we administrating? Cops who taser innocents to death get barely a reprimand. The killers of Katrina Dawson, all of them cops, will walk free.

What kind of justice?

Just asking.

How To Get Back Into Surplus In Ten Years

End the GST. Replace it with specific taxes — 3 percent on all food, 30 percent on imported glamorous cars — like we used to have. Charge 15 percent on all share transactions. 30 percent on all bank charges.

Restore Gonski. Add 6 percent to the Medicare levy, but charge only those under fifty, in full time work. Implement NDIS as originally conceived, and legislated.

Cancel the 25 billion dollar fighter bomber, it doesn’t even fly. Buy, at one twentieth the cost, some drones. Withdraw all troops and warlike machines from Iraq and Syria. Stop looking for MH 370. Reduce the budget, currently 480 million, of Border Force by 90 percent.

Close Manus Island, Nauru, and half Australia’s onshore detention centres. Increase our intake of Syrian refugees to thirty thousand a year for two years. Bring up to thirty thousand a year all other refugees. Reduce the money spent on the navy’s part in Border Protection by two thirds. Double foreign aid.

Cancel the Cambodia fiasco. Let the four refugees there (at a cost thus far of 50 million) settle here and give them a hundred thousand dollars each. Add four male nurses, specialising in the care of the demented, to every country town. Guarantee those jobs for twenty years, and favour African and Middle Eastern refugees. Let everyone currently on TPVs seek work, and give them residence.

Buy up Holden’s tools and factories and manufacture, in partnership with some recently famous ACT students who are good at it, a solar car. Give 200 million back to the ABC and SBS, every year, and a hundred miliion back to the CSIRO.

Put a four percent tariff on everything that is imported, and a fifteen percent charge on everything bought online from overseas.

Add a male conductor under age 25 to every bus, tram, train and ferry.

Put a price cap on all houses and flats. Work out carefully what that should be. 1.3 million perhaps for Malcolm Turnbull’s Point Piper harbourside house, 600 thousand for a three-bedroom apartment in Elizabeth Bay. Let no landlord charge more than a thousand dollars a week, and gaol him for two years if he does.

Gaol ten executives involved in the enslaving of foreign students by 7/11. Give them five years minimum. Similar terms for those exploiters of migrant labourers in rural Australia.

Buy back twenty-five percent of Qantas, sack Alan Joyce and let a public servant on four hundred thousand a year run it. Re-employ ten thousand of its sacked workers. Sack eighty percent of its ‘administrators’. What need is there of such people in an airline?

Cut by half the subsidization of private schools, and by two thirds the subsidization of private health funds. Ban the use of computerised recordings by taxi companies, demand the employment of four female call-takers from dawn till midnight, reduce taxi licences to 10 thousand dollars and taxi fares by one third.

Tax the interest earned by rich superannuees at 25 percent. Let this kick in at 100 thousand dollars a year.

Give two percent of all mining profits to Aborigines, through a fund run by Noel Pearson, Pat Dodson, Nova Peris, Adam Goode, Aden Ridgeway, Mark Ella and the usual suspects. Fine Gina Rinehart ten billion dollars for being a horrible bitch, and her undeserving, greedy exploitation of native land.

Ban the selling of land to foreign governments, or their arm’s-length entities. Vary the price of milk in colder and warmer states, as we used to. Allow Coles and Woolworths only three outlets each in capital cities, and halve the number of McDonalds, everywhere. Let Uber flourish, and put a tax on it of 30 percent.

Remember that sums of up to 200 thousand on individual Australians are never wasted, and every dollar that goes overseas is a crying loss. Instead of ‘attracting foreign investment’, seek loans from foreign banks and build up local industries — solar cars, wind farms,ferries, submarines — with government participation in both investments and profits.

Put a large acting school, like NIDA, with attached theatrical spaces, in every big provincial centre. Use these theatrical spaces for musical and dance performances by local young people.

Let a hundred flowers bloom.

Recommended Reading

Guy Rundle, Crikey: Abbott, All Too Human, Completely Undone.

The Latest Polling

Essential shows the Liberals on 40, the Nationals on 4, PUP on 2, the Greens on 11, Others/Independents on 9 and Labor on 35.

Though this suggests a Labor vote, two party preferred, of 50 or 51 percent we are told in the summary it is 48. This is because — and I grow weary telling you this — the Others, the Independents, PUP and the Greens are redistributed as they were in 2013 when it was thought that Abbott was telling the truth. Today, by contrast, 90 percent of the Greens, 60 percent of PUP, and 50 percent of the Others/Independents would now favour Labor, and bring its total up to 51.5 or even 52.5 percent.

And this is if you leave out, as Essential does, the ‘don’t knows’. They do not say how many there were. If, as I suspect, there were 1.4 million of them — not knowing if they preferred Turnbull, or not — it is likely though not certain they would add another 1 percent to Labor once they made up their minds.

It is not likely the Coalition is ahead. In the seats it is contesting the Liberal Party is at best on 40, Labor and the Greens together on 45, and PUP, the Others and the Independents on 11. This means the Liberals have to get all their preferences to make 51. And this they cannot do. This they cannot do.

And Labor wins handily, with 52 or 53 percent.

And so…it goes.

Lies, damned lies, and statistics. The pollsters’ stock in trade.

And so it goes.

Certain Housekeeping Matters (174)

Deanna Jones is banned, again, for life. This time there will be no reprieve.

In breach of the rules, she commented on a film she had not seen. It was called Burton and Taylor, and it displayed, and talked of, and bounced up and down, the ‘floppy knockers’ she upbraids me for mentioning.

Like Peta Credlin, she seems to me arrogant and stupid, and she is no longer welcome here.

I am sorry if this upsets any other contributors. I am dying, and I have come to detest the sound of her fucking voice.

Suziekue is reprieved.

Troy Newman

A woman who wants an abortion is being prevented from coming to Australia, and a man who opposes abortion is being prevented from entering Australia, simultaneously.

Troy Newman believes abortionists are murderers and should be executed. He is currently not allowed to say this, anywhere in Australia, though he can say it anywhere in America, Europe and Africa.

This prohibition is absurd. Fred Nile believes homosexuals will burn in Hell, and is allowed to say so on Australian soil. George Pell believes non-Catholics will burn in Hell, and that eating the Christ and drinking his blood is a fine thing to do. He will not be prevented from returning to Australia because he says these things.

Many libraries carry Mein Kampf and The Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion, and police do not seize these books and burn them in a public place.

If these books, which recommend the mass murder of Jews, are available to any curious reader, how then can Troy Newman be forbidden to say anything?

Freedom of speech is universal and indivisible. Discuss.

In A Hundred Words

Dutton’s decree that a twenty-five-year-old woman must bear and suckle the child of her rapist — and, no doubt, allow him visiting rights and further sexual access to her — is a measure of what a dim fundamentalist cunt he is, and adds another crime against humanity to the several he is guilty of, and will see out his days in a cell in The Hague for.

It is truly amazing how the Abbott/Turnbull government is not yet worried by any level of major crime, and, when possible, assists those guilty of such crime to escape its consequences.

How Labor Can Win In 2016

Say they’ll bring in hundred thousand dollar degrees if you elect them, the Liberals.

Say we’ll bring in gay marriage by a conscience vote, not a referendum, and thus save a hundred and eighty million dollars. Give those hundred and eighty million dollars to remote communities, and Rosie Batty’s bashed wives.

Say they’ll cancel penalty rates if you elect them.

Say we’ll take twenty thousand Syrians, including those in detention here and on Manus and Nauru, since all Syrians, now, are genuine refugees.

Say we’ll give back to SBS and the ABC the two hundred million Malcolm took from them.

Say we’ll add a Medicare levy of six dollars a week from everyone under fifty, and give free dental care to everyone over seventy. This is two more billions a year.

Say we’ll buy up Holden’s tools, and build a solar car in South Australia.

Say we’ll cancel the Japanese submarine, and in a Royal Commission discover what kick-backs — to Abbott, or Johnston, or Andrews, or some rich friend of the Liberal Party — were involved in the Abe-Abbott ‘handshake deal’.

Say we’ll arrest and gaol the men responsible for slavery in most of the 7/11s, and Mantach for embezzlement, the local Volkswagen pollution swindlers, and the fugitive murderers of Reza Barati.

More to come.

Certain Housekeeping Matters (173)

Deanna Jones is reprieved. Suziekue is banned for a week.

I do not publish liars.

Consider this a rebuke.

What Julie Did Next

Julie Bishop has applauded Russia’s bombing and shooting-up of the ‘goodies’ in Syria and must now, as a proven idiot, resign her position, and go to the back bench; discuss. Marise Payne, who can keep a civil tongue in her head, might usefully replace her.

It is to be wondered, meanwhile, what our game is there, and what it will cost us — and how Assad can be ‘encouraged’ to make a graceful exit from total power in a country his father, the murderous tyrant, bequeathed him and the Arab Spring failed to seize back from him. Who would he take with him? How many? Where would they go? To a dacha outside Moscow? A bungalow in Palm Springs? A beachside house in the Gulf of Carpentaria? Where? How could he be assured he would not be assassinated on the way to it?

What kind of reality are we in here? What level of wishful absurdity is guiding our foreign policy? What will be do if war breaks out, as it has threatened to for seventy years, between America and Russia?

What are we doing there? We keep losing wars in that region; or, like Gallipoli, big battles.

What are we doing there?

Just asking.

Certain Housekeeping Matters (172)

Deanna Jones is banned for life.

Certain Housekeeping Matters (171)

On Ellis Gold is the October chapter of The Year It All Fell Down, my book of 2011, co-written with Damian Spruce and Stephen Ramsey.

I am told my selection of The Thirty-Eight Worst Things The Liberals Did Yesterday is ‘libelous in its every half-sentence’ and must never, never come out as a book.

If it were put up as a special feature of Ellis Gold and charged ten dollars for, would anyone in this readership buy it? And pass it on, printed out, as a Christmas present to relatives?

Just asking.

What Went Wrong

It may be time to ask why the Turnbull Surprise hasn’t proved, or not as yet, the glad, victorious upswing of national hope it promised it would be.

One reason, I think, is a lack of sudden dramatic policy change. Had Malcolm brought on a conscience vote on gay marriage within two days of gaining office it might have seemed the much-desired ‘new era’ had arrived, and he didn’t. Had he announced an emissions trading scheme, and a higher emissions reduction target, and done so within two days, he would have truly rung out the old, rung in the new.

But he didn’t. And the predictable charge from Labor, ‘different salesman, same policies’, seemed plausible, and hurtful to his momentum.

Then there were the howls of the vanquished: Bolt, Jones, Blair, Dean, Murray, Kenny, Hadley, Bernardi, Kennett, Murdoch, some headlines with the word ‘assassin’ in them, and many wild curses of Julie Bishop for being, like Julia Gillard, a disloyal, deceitful, female deputy and, worse, a three-time-disloyal, deceitful, female deputy in hugger-mugger backstabbing her anointed king; and Abbott’s narked assertion that he was the anointed king, and Turnbull the commentariat’s usurper.

The canvas became pretty crowded after that– Hockey stormed out, Andrews refused to, Abetz was demoted, Cormann forgiven, Ley cancelled money for certain diseases, Morrison ruled out, like a gibbering oaf, raising taxes, Brough proposed to abolish democracy — and the simple, clear, ‘new broom’ American-presidential elation Turnbull so boyishly craved was cluttered, bemerded and smutched by his critics’ catcalls and his noisy chorus line.

And then there was Peta Credlin. Her tallness, oddness, arrogance and mediocrity, rendered visible for the first time in a Women’s Weekly forum, raised in many minds the question, ‘If she was the best and the brightest, how good were those ministers who submitted to her lash, her staff changes, her tantrums, her policy demands? How mediocre and craven were they all? Including Malcolm Turnbull?’

Then Malcolm’s famed bad luck kicked in again, rose up foaming and bit him on the leg, the way it does. China’s economy tanked; the UN refused to go to Nauru; Russia proposed to protect Assad, and Bishop said what a good idea; Morrison proved within hours a hydrophobic innumerate; a woman raped on Nauru was refused an abortion in Australia by the simian dipstick Dutton; Russia bombed, not DAESH, but some people Obama favoured, including some women and children, in Syria; Keys cursed Dutton for expelling New Zealanders; and China announced an emissions trading scheme. And that was all in the first nine days.

And Turnbull, crowded out of his narrative, seemed impotent, or diffident, or insouciant, or somehow upstaged, a perfumed Versailles dandy slumming, and careless of his countrymen; bewildered by their grubby needs. And caught between being — or seeming — a new party in power (not the one we voted for) or a paint-job on the old one (the one we now distrust).

And I suspect it may be too late, pretty much too late already, to retrieve himself from the awkward, harassed, uncertain, bemused impression he is giving of late. He has both changed too much (Prime Minister; Treasurer; Defence; Education) and also changed too little. And how can we know who and what we are voting for if so much changes, and so little?

He will be doing his version of Hawke’s Economic Summit in only three hours this morning. And he will try to abolish penalty rates (really?) and bring in a bigger GST (no way). And he’ll have nowhere to go from there, except into quarrelsome deficit for forty years, and sacking Morrison, and plunging polls.

And Abbott hanging around the Chamber, occasionally interjecting.

Laughing Stock

Julie Bishop appeared before the United Nations a couple of hours ago in the guise of the representative of a liberal democracy. And many, many attending delegates shook with quiet mirth at her impertinence.

For we are nothing like that. We imprison for twenty-five years those of us who bind the wounds of the Kurds, or join them in battle with DAESH. We do not allow those on TPVs to find work, or vote, or enrol their children in university. We kidnap children on the high seas, and sentence them to ninety years among unindicted sexual predators in the stinking, dwindling, south seas police state Nauru. We imprison teenagers who criticise on Facebook US policy in the Middle East for twenty years. We send in arms and troops to fight on the side of Bashr al-Assad, a genocidal monster.

She posed as a Foreign Minister who cares deeply for the oppressed of other nations, what in former times were called ‘the wretched of the earth’, though she has cut all foreign aid by half. She has sent forty million to help nine million displaced Syrians, that is, five dollars each, and spent one hundred and twenty million looking for a downed aircraft, the MH 370. She will spend another hundred million on this quest; it is not known why.

Her government spends a billion dollars a year imprisoning and tormenting boat people of the sort now swarming into Europe. Where other nations welcome Syrians, we imprison them, though they are innocent of any crime, and swear they will never live in Australia.

It is a measure of her narcissistic dimwitted hauteur that she repeated these falsehoods before the UN this morning, and imagined that jaded body was not sneering at her. She even asked to be admitted, again, in fifteen years’ time, to the Security Council, and proposed that an Australian (Ruddock? Downer? Kroger? Vanstone?) be Secretary-General.

Uganda has a better chance. Gaza. Kazakhstan. Fiji.

She continues to shame us before the nations.

And she should really, really stop.

Miss Julie

Russian fighter bombers will soon be shooting up Australian citizens with our approval in Syria, while Julie Bishop continues to call for the arrest and trial of Putin for shooting down MH 17, and killing Australian citizens in another context.

This is a further example of this woman’s daft priorities. Elsewhere she approves the arrest and gaoling of any Manus worker who talks to the United Nations, and the kidnap of children heading to New Zealand, and their forced exile on Manus for ninety years thereafter.

Lately, she does not mind protecting Assad, whom she simultaneously calls ‘a monster, who has killed two hundred thousand of his own people’, while adding, with a cross-eyed wink, ‘We have to be realistic.’

It would be more realistic, surely, to target Assad with a drone, and take him out, and negotiate a transition government with his army chief, pending an eventual settlement with, if it exists, ‘the moderate wing of al-Qaeda’, or whoever the Syrian goodies are these days.

But no, she thinks it would be better to help the Russians shoot Australians than do this. It would be better to leave the monster in power.

It is to be doubted if Julie Bishop is wholly intelligent. She lived for years with Ross Lightfoot, the crack-pated quondam West Australian Senator who thought Aborigines descend from a different monkey than humans, and she no doubt shared for a while these addled views. She defended the asbestos companies for a decade, and with delays tormented bloodily coughing mesothelioma sufferers in their last days on earth.

She was the deputy, loyal then disloyal, to Nelson, Turnbull, and Abbott, and now Turnbull again, whom she helped castrate six years ago, saying ‘Trust me’ with a cross-eyed wink, the way she does. She keeps accusing Putin of murder, and asking him to submit himself to arrest and trial despite his power to veto this procedure and his probable reluctance to clap himself in gaol. And now she wants to help kill Australians in Syria. And, oh yes, she continues to spend fifty thousand dollars a day looking for MH 370, though it has been found.

No print journalist has pointed out the lunacy of this woman, nor the embarrassment of the UN when she begged, near tears, for the return of corpses ‘who still call Australia home’ from a war zone in Ukraine. She is defending in international forums a regime that kidnaps and torments children, and hides white murderers from black authorities, and drives young men to burn themselves to death, and young women to abort the children they had hoped give a good life in Australia. And she is hoping as well to be put back on the UN Security Council, though the UN is refusing to visit Nauru because our thugs are arresting doctors and nurses who reveal what is going on there.

She is a disgusting representative of a smelly, small-time South Pacific regime, and the UN knows it.

Or perhaps you disagree.

Troubadour: Alex Gibney’s Frank Sinatra: All Or Nothing At All

Sinatra turned 100 this year. And he hangs over the memory of those who saw him in the flesh (this writer included) like the tender ghost of a Christmas, an autumn, a year when the going was good, and the small town girls were easy and Noo York untried but beckoning.

He was a number of things, among them the urban troubadour of the promiscuous drunks that crowded the speakeasies of the twenties and the gay bars of the sixties and the Cheers bars of the eighties. He forgave his audience their carnal backslidings: baby, I’ve been there too. His voice was kindly, aggressive, affirmative, nostalgic, defiant, and as intimate in its contact as cunnilingus, or Elgar’s Cello Concerto. He knew how to make you, as one of his surlier discards Lauren Bacall once noted, feel like a woman.

Continued on Ellis Gold.

Crime And Punishment, The Dutton Way

A thesis could be written on the Liberal Party and their definition of, and relationship to, the concept of ‘crime’.

It would seem that crime is what the Labor Party do, and the ‘Green extremists’, but never the Liberal Party.

If it occurs on the Liberals’ watch, it’s not a crime, it’s an ‘administrative glitch’, or an ‘organisational anomaly’.

A Somalian woman raped and made pregnant on Nauru wants to be aborted in Australia, and Dutton, of course, won’t let her. There’s no thought of arresting and punishing the rapist, this is an administrative anomaly only, not a crime; what happens on Nauru, stays on Nauru, where abortion is illegal and rape hard to prove.

Nor was it a crime for two white persons to have killed Reza Barati, or assisted in his killing, it was an administrative malfunction. So were the sixty other injuries — a throat cut, an eye blinded, a number of heads bashed in with iron bars — on Manus Island, and the cyberbullying by Morrison (‘You will never live in Australia’) that provoked it. Nor were Morrison’s several acts of piracy, kidnap, child abuse and people smuggling. It is never a crime if a Liberal does it, or allows it. But it is a crime if Shorten, say, fails to note a receipt of moneys as part of a deal between a union and a businessman. Though there is no law against it, that is a crime.

Their moral bankruptcy is quite startling, and rivals that of the administrators of Abu Ghraib and Gitmo. Rapes and murders, forced whorings and buggered children are fine with them, these are after all the responsibility of PNG and Nauru, though Nauru is now a criminal dictatorship we give hundreds of millions to, and we have no influence over the way they dispense justice, or evade the dispensation of justice. That is in another country, they do things differently there, and good on them.

This applies to Damien Mantach also, who, although he stole 1.5 million, is not a criminal, just an administrative malfunction, whereas Craig Thomson, who misused five thousand dollars (firewood, cigarettes) and offered to give it back, was a major criminal whose vote on the floor of the House should be rejected by the Speaker and his constituents disfranchised.

Murder, kidnap, people smuggling, torture. This is part of the Liberals’ modus operandi, and therefore above criticism. But Peter Slipper misspending nine hundred dollars — which he offered to give back — on a winetasting tour in a cab is a villainous crime, a disgusting iniquity beyond all human revulsion, repellent enough to end his career.

Malcolm Turnbull, a man of keen conscience, as his defence of Gillian Triggs, Bill Henson and Peter Wright showed, ought to look into this awful habit of mind among his adopted party. He should expel Dutton from the party for starters, and end the hydrophobic pirate Morrison’s tenure of the office of Treasurer.

Or perhaps you disagree.

In A Hundred And Eight Words

Our new ally is Bashr al-Assad.

He has killed more of his own people than Franco.

And we are on his side.

Some he has killed with chemical weapons.

And we are on his side.

His ally is Vladimir Putin.

He is a neofascist post-Soviet corrupt dictator and former KGB spy who shoots journalists.

And we are on his side.

And when an Australian soldier is beheaded, or crucified, in a war vainly waged with apocalyptic savages, he will know he died in a good cause.

And in his last moments, he will be proud he was there.

Because of the company we keep.

Or am I wrong?

Turnbull, Day Eight

After only seven days, the Turnbull Experiment is in free-fall. Colonoscopies and tonsillectomies may sometimes be unnecessary, Sussan Ley blithers, and you, not Medicare, should pay for them. Every vote lost by the seven dollar co-payment will therefore be lost again. And Turnbull cannot win from here.

We’re told that it’s because Medicare costs twenty billion a year now, and it used to cost ten billion, and the growth in the cost of good health into old age is therefore ‘unaffordable’. It’s worth examining if this is so.

Twenty billion is thirty dollars a week per taxpayer. This will get you a free liver transplant, a free quadruple bypass, a free epidural birth of twins by caesarian. Is thirty dollars a week too much?

Thirty dollars a week is the price of a cinema ticket, some popcorn and a chocolate-coated ice cream. It is the price of a Lebanese meal and a beer. Is this too much for life-saving surgery when you need it? Really?

It is my belief that forty dollars a week would not be too much. That is twenty-six billion a year for Medicare. Or fifty dollars a week, the price of a Chinese meal and two beers.

In comparison, most young Sydney couples are paying eight hundred dollars, a thousand dollars a week in mortgage for a house, or six hundred, seven hundred dollars a week for a flat. How can thirty dollars a week for seventy years of good health be too much?

Yet the Liberals have got this word ‘unaffordable’ stuck in their throat. In the early 1980s Alan Jones used to say ‘unaffordablemedicare’ as if it were one word. The Liberals voted against the legislation in 1975 and 1984. They don’t like Medicare, any more than the Tea Party like Obamacare.

And they don’t see how mad the word ‘unaffordable’ is. Is thirty dollars a week, the price of two hours’ parking, too great a price for not dying at thirty? Sussan Ley, the idiot, thinks it is. And what a hand grenade her insight has proved to be.

Honest polls will show the Coalition hereinafter on 48 or 47 percent, two party preferred.

And all hope of a December election is done and finished.

Turnbull, Day Seven

(First Published by Independent Australia)

Turnbull’s luck was never enormous (he lost the leadership by one vote while two of his votes were circling, in bad weather, over Canberra), and events have conspired against his government’s first week in a way that may be irreparable.

Morrison has proved to be a rabid innumerate, declaring you attack a debt and deficit disaster by reducing revenue. Abbott has not gone quietly, calling Malcolm ‘the commentariat’s choice’ and himself ‘the people’s choice’. Credlin has proved herself arrogant and stupid. Brough a sworn foe of democracy whom the cross-bench is now at war with. China has brought on an emissions trading scheme a week after Turnbull uneasily joined Abbott in repudiating that always sensible idea.

And Morrison and Dutton seem to have been protecting eleven of the murderers of Reza Barati and refusing to agree to the extradition to PNG of one white one, an Australian, who is on the run from the police in Queensland. And, oh yes, far from shirt-fronting Putin, his government is now assisting him in the protection of the mass murderer Assad, an actual WMD-wielding monster worse than Saddam Hussein. Can Turnbull’s undoubted charm reduce the danger these shoals and rapids of ill fortune and bad policy have plunged him into, this resurrected odour of criminality from his front and back bench? The ICAC-tainted Sinodinos, friend of Obeid? The Mafia-soiled Bruce Billson? The infamous, ludicrous cheat of entitlements Bronwyn Bishop? The dodgy North Sydney yum cha host Joe Hockey?

To this might be added the odour adhering to the Abbott-Abe handshake over submarines. If the Japanese get the contract, will it then be thought a kickback of some sort was promised, to Abbott or the Liberal Party, or a big donor to that party? Was that handshake attached to a bribe of some kind? It could be so.

Will it be seen pretty soon that this was a government of criminal tendency? It could be so.

It may well prove that though Turnbull himself is clean, Julie Bishop, past defender of the asbestos companies and facilitator of mesothelioma, and Barnaby Joyce, likely thief of the Murray’s water from South Australia, and Damien Mantach, embezzler of 1.5 million of the party’s dollars, will darken the waters around him, and taint him, as Christina Keneally was tainted, by the fecal whiff of adjacent factional shysters and con-men, and expedite his descent from the altitude he now enjoys, and speed his defeat?

For he isn’t actually ahead yet. The Murdoch polls that suggest his government is only on 51 did not ring any mobile phones, or anyone out of the house on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, and redistributed not the actual preferences but how their preferences were two years ago when Abbott was thought to be telling the truth. He is on 50-50 at best, and the bad news keeps coming.

The swing in Canning was 9 percent to Labor on the raw figures, 6.4 on preferences; or, if you eliminate the usual by-election swing against the government of the day, 3.9 percent, which, duplicated nationwide, would put Labor on 50.2 percent, and narrowly in government with Green and Independent help. And this was at the height of the Turnbull honeymoon, before he chose his disastrous Treasurer and kept on the simian dumb-bum Dutton, sponsor of the corrupt dictatorship of Nauru and protector of its criminal police.

He could do well on his own. But his associates are dragging him down already.

It will be interesting to see what Abbott says next, and Credlin, and Hockey, and Gillian Triggs. And Peter Greste if he tries to go to Nauru and is forbidden. And the United Nations inspectors, if they ever get there.

Has Turnbull done a party-room deal with a bunch of criminals? Is this the next chapter of his narrative, the next evidence of his bad luck? Or can he, like Baird, walk away from all that, saying that is the past, and I am the future?

It’s possible. But it seems at the moment he might fall foul, as he has before, in business and politics and his alliance with Godwin Grech, of associates ill-chosen and crackpot, outdated policies too early embraced.

And we will see what we shall see.

Once More, My Love: Ivory, Laxton, West and Bonham Carter’s Burton & Taylor

All my life I’ve been a rapt admirer of Richard Burton, of whose voice I can do a fair-to-middling imitation (iron and sulphur, fury and brimstone, a tender, storming Elizabethan sonata of breath and fire unlike any other), having loved his readings of The Ancient Mariner and Under Milk Wood as far back as 1954, when it was snakily noted by Tynan that he had a voice that was thrilling equally to men and women. There was something Godlike about him, like the voice Moses heard in the Burning Bush; and, as Alexander the Great, and Jimmy Porter, and Hamlet, and Antony, and Wagner, and Trotsky, and Tito, and Iago, and Churchill, he gave off a sombre, smoke-cured charisma more melancholy-luminous and Homeric-stricken than any male star before him or since — though Depardieu and Spacey and Smoktunovsky come close, and his friend and rival Paul Scofield.

And it was plain to see in the telemovie Burton & Taylor (writer: William Ivory; director: Joseph Laxton) how close to his fervid, brimming quietude Dominic West was able to get; and his demons, his decency, his physical pain (a football injury drove him near mad for forty years, and impelled his drinking), his need for poetry and sex, and his strange soul-smashing addiction to Elizabeth Taylor, the drugged hypochondriac mediocrity he mistook for something special, and shipwrecked his art upon, a dozen times. They even did Shakespeare together, though he had cinema’s grandest voice, and she its most schoolgirl-shrieky.

The film deals with their last co-venture, when, though twice wed and twice divorced, she lured him back into co-starring with her in a touring production of Private Lives, a Noel Coward play-with-songs about a divorced couple coinciding on a balcony in the south of France while honeymooning with subsequent, lesser spouses. Elizabeth hopes to rekindle their ancient erotic furnace, and if not re-wed her Antony get him back in her life as, at the least, a holiday squeeze, a sexual friend, as Frank Moorhouse put it.

But…she is so unprofessional, unpunctual, upstaging, forgetful of lines, and, sometimes, soused and staggering on stage, and leering and winking at the audience; and so lividly abashed when he marries a new wife, Sally, secretly one weekend, that she deserts the production, feigning illness, imperilling its profit margin and threatening to bankrupt the project altogether. He is repelled by her, while wanting her as always, and so the old bed-games are in limp embittered middle age again played out, and lost. This time the strain is too much, and brings on, soon, a stroke that kills him, and he never plays King Lear, a role he covets and thunders away at yearningly backstage while waiting to go on.

Helena Bonham-Carter as Elizabeth is very fine. She does not have the absurdly beautiful violet eyes but everything else is pitch-perfect: the short-legged milkmaid pudginess, the big, floppy knockers, the spoiled-baby buoyancy and petulance, the shriek, and one sees the smouldering relics of both the young widow of Mike Todd (killed in an air crash when she was twenty-seven and threw herself on his grave) and the bruised child star addicted early, as they all were (Garland, Rooney, Temple, Durbin, McDowell), to wake-me-up and put-me-down pills by the studio, disturbing lifelong her emotional balance and plummeting her now and then into alcoholic depression and midnight murmurs of suicide.

I have seen this film four times now and I recommend it. The dialogue is excellent, the placement of the story in the principals’ biographies dead right, the final tender flashback very moving, and Dominic West is a great actor, and I hope now to see his Brutus, Coriolanus and Willy Loman, if I live, for he sits with Branagh, Cumberbatch and Seymour Hoffman in his thoughtful, searching, Byronic variety, on a high summit of art indeed, and this his Burton is a measure of how good he yet may be.

The Crazed Criminality Of Scott Morrison

It became clear tonight what is eating Scott Morrison, and caused his recent innumerate blithering.

It is his refusal to allow the extradition to PNG of a white Australian who is one of the murderers of Reza Barati. And the continued employment of six or seven more of his murderers in the Manus Island facility, no doubt with Morrison’s approval and connivance.

This puts Turnbull, a respected lawyer, in a difficult position. He must now either order the arrest of Morrison and Dutton for assisting and protecting murderers and thus impeding the course of justice, or become himself complicit in their criminality.

This is a big moment in his career, and that of his Treasurer, who cannot hold that office while he is being investigated.

After only five days, the government is, or should be, in crisis.

And so it goes.

Recommended Viewing

Frank Sinatra: All Or Nothing At All, on SBS last Sunday and next Sunday.

One of the best documentaries ever made.

Review follows on Ellis Gold next week.

Morrison Unhinged

Morrison continues to be the First Drongo of the new era, yapping and blithering like Billy MacMahon, embracing the Laffer Curve and gamely boasting that a new Tax Office paid for by the taxpayers and built in Gosford was the core and furnace of the new, inspirational Free Enterprise Millennium rather than what it was, an old-fashioned Keynesian stimulation of the locality.

It is clear from all he has done this week that he is not only mad but stupid. And he may be worried about something. His record of piracy, kidnap, cyberbullying, assisting murderers and torturing children may be catching him up with him and he may not, like Richard III, be sleeping well but waking with a yell at the pale ghosts at the end of his bed berating him and clenching bloodied hands in his direction.

He is certainly an abominable salesman — he did not know, and would not say, what the building would cost, and which public servants now working in Canberra would be made to move into it — and Turnbull must be horrified now at the rubbish he is daily uttering.

We deal with a debt and deficit disaster, he is saying, by reducing revenue. Oh boy.

A kindergarten child with an abacus could see the flaw in that.

Oh boy.

And we will see what we shall see.

Sea Change, Lesbos, Lampedusa

I sense I’m not wrong when I say the millions leaving Syria have changed everything. They’ve above all shown the human face of ‘asylum seekers’ and the foolishness of imagining they can be ‘turned back’.

So…Labor should jump in early, and say ‘Syria is different. Syria is different. Every outcome in that shattered country is a tyranny, and everyone still there is at risk of slaughter by one of four armies, beheading, crucifixion, forced marriage or conscription by Assad. Inasmuch as we would not “turn back” the boats approaching Lampedusa, or Lesbos, or the boats leaving Dunkirk, we should neither turn back, nor lock up, nor purpose to expatriate, any Syrian who gets to our shores, by whatever means.’

The 7.30 of last night is decisive in its arguments, and should be seen, and taught in schools. And Labor should speak now, lest Turnbull ope the gates of mercy before they do, before we do, and wedge us from the left.

Syria is different.

Syria is different.

Let them in.

Marr’s Shorten

Marr’s essay on Shorten is very fine and very fair. Unlike his parallel work on Rudd, whose treacherous first sentence was a hand grenade that changed our history, he gives in this a full, deep, nuanced picture of a man he is neither enthused by, nor unsettled by.

As with Hawke, Rudd, Albo, there was a strong mother. As with Hawke, Rudd, Albo, Latham, an almost absent father. A need for approval, for love. As with Abbott, a Jesuit sensibility. And, as Herndon said of Lincoln, ‘his ambition was a little motor that had no rest’.

Much is explained of the months when that motor seemed to be chugging at half speed. A thirty-year-old rape allegation, the death of his mother, internet rumours, efficiently denied, of infidelity. Marr charts well the moment when he regained both control and charisma, at the Labor Party Conference in June, and the moment he might have lost it, last week, and how he survived.

Things that in my nine year acquaintance with him I only partly knew — that he is a superb up-close negotiator, an agile welder of consensus, a factional generalissimo, a backroom inspirer of the troops — are detailed here. His rivalry with his non-identical twin brother Robert, now a London banker, is detailed also, as is his impactful cleverness, outstripping Swanny we are told, as an architect and advocate of economic policy.

I myself can vouch for his passionate empathy for the disabled, about whom we wrote many speeches together. ‘It’s the last civil right,’ he told me with ferocious conviction. ‘Like Martin Luther King, I want them up the front of the bus.’ I did not know he could play the piano — better, in some judgments, than his brother; that he and his brother performed in Gilbert and Sullivan; that Richard Marles was his Best Man; that Gillard offered him a place in her law firm, which he refused; and so on. Nor that he recorded a Logies acceptance speech, as the author of the ‘zingers’ that occupied ‘at least half Mad As Hell’s broadcast time’, in a year when Micalleff did not win that award, which meant his genial self-send-up was never seen.

The sinuous detail of his manoeuvres in Young Labor, his alliances with Robert Ray, Kim Carr and Kim Beazley, and for long years with Conroy, which earned their faction the nickname ‘the ShortCons’ was absorbing but, for me, a little unsettling. In Melbourne, well…they do things differently there; and the macchiavellian shifts and betrayals and reconfigurations of discarded friendships which Marr notes here in their…well..particularity, their moveable, embittering, fratricidal pragmatism, their High Noon confrontations from which there is no turning back, may daunt some of us more mild-mannered New South Welshpersons with their fired up, take-no-prisoners finality. Victoria is different. They do things differently there.

Does Marr like Shorten? I think he does. The essay at any rate deep-etches with sympathetic understanding the recent star of Q&A who on Monday night surprised many grumblers with his ease and guile, and tipped the advantage back to Labor and did so on the Turnbull government’s very first day.

Can he win from here? I think so. Can he win a March election? Absolutely. That is enough time. There will be dirty tricks though before then, some from Dyson Heydon, and it may seem uncertain whilever Newspoll and ReachTEL cheat their sampling and the Murdoch front page computer libels remain as vile, mendacious and unjust as they are.

But Marr has left one crucial factor out of his portrait, and this is that Shorten is lucky.

An absorbed student of Napoleon, that famed admirer of lucky generals, he lucked into Beaconsfield, and with it national visibility, and Beaconsfield’s handy suspenseful thirteen-day narrative and happy ending; and into NDIS, our noblest act of legislated mercy; and into the selling of Gonski, which had no enemies, to especially the doomed, anti-Abbott O’Farrell and Napthine, which showed how good a negotiator he is; and into, yes, the new Rudd rules that let him into the leadership with many, many less votes than Albo, in a month when Greg Combet believed he was too sick to nominate, and wasn’t. And he lucked into Abbott also, the punch-drunk Creationist homophobe kook, and the stupidest Ministry since Federation. How lucky was that.

For this and other reasons he’ll get there.

In fact, he is there already.

Recommended Reading

I am reading Marr’s Quarterly Essay on Shorten, which is excellent thus far, and reviewing it in a day or so in Ellis Gold.

Anyone who also wants to review it, I will print here.

Events, Dear Boy, Events

In a nine-day wave of self-destruction Abbott, Hockey, Andrews, Billson, Brough and Credlin killed off their place in history, Morrison proved to be a gibbering oaf and Dutton, chief sponsor of a corrupt south seas dictatorship and a company presently concealing child rape, was isolated from Cabinet pending police probes into his criminality, and this is the casualty list (some might call it the honour roll) of the three day old Turnbull government, thus far.

Two Murdoch polls indicate it would narrowly win an immediate election, but a real poll on Saturday showed a swing to Labor of nine percent. And the wind went out of it, rather, once Credlin proved to be arrogant and stupid, Brough bent on ending democracy and Morrison unable to count to ten on his fingers. It might have been different had, say, Christian Porter been given the top finance job and Morrison by the PM’s command arrested for kidnap and people smuggling, but there you go. It is too late now to reverse or slow the visible crumbling of a government whose flavour is nasty and whose figures don’t, and never could, add up.

What has also done for it I suspect, and it came out of left field, was the coincident refugee crisis in Europe, and the light cast by most Europeans’ instinctive mercy on Tony ‘nope-nope-nope’ Abbott’s cruelty to children. It will soon be seen that sexual abuse of children like that by priests and Salvation Army majors and Geelong teachers occured on Morrison’s, Dutton’s and Brandis’s watch, and they blasted Triggs for revealing it.

This cannot but be bad news for Turnbull, who retained them, and promoted the cruellest, Morrison, to the highest office in the Ministry.

So…history has caught up with him — ‘Events, dear boy, events,’ as Harold Macmillan once characterised it — and left him with little wriggle-room, though he is a good wriggler.

And we will see what we shall see.

Exit, Blithering

Scott Morrison on 7.30 tonight was calamitous. He lost two thirds of the Liberal-voting old folk watching, and all the pregnant women and nursing mothers.

I predict that Turnbull will sack him before Christmas, and give the job to Frydenberg.

Days Of Hope

Turnbull today hailed journalists for speaking truth to power, at Gallipoli and after, and called our detention centres ‘controversial’.

I know him; and these two successive thoughts are not coincidence. It is likely I now think that he will heed Gillian Triggs, let Four Corners in, and sack and shame Dutton, an Abbott supporter, for abetting monstrous crime.

Lines For Albo (71)

Is a man who pays people smugglers to dump kidnapped children, illegally, on a reef in Indonesia, where they are not wanted, a good choice for Treasurer? Or a cell in Goulburn Gaol?

Morrison, Treasurer, Fucked Already

2.11 pm

I was wondering how long Morrison would take to blow it. He seems to have done so already.

He just said it’s not a revenue problem we’ve got, it’s a spending problem. And he invited Bowen and Shorten to join him and Cormann in the cutting of billions from welfare.


2.20 pm

He seems to be ruling out any further tax on millionaire superannuees. He says he wants taxes brought down, or hived off to the States. He wants a reconfigured Federation; in short, another Australia. He praises Joe Hockey for his many triumphant achievements, and gives no hint of why he displaced, usurped and shamed him.

He is rapid, edgy, uncertain, unconvinced by himself, blithering at shadows, if that’s the phrase I want. He is in strange waters. An instinctive, habitual, focussed fanatic, he is visibly and audibly uncomfortable in a job whose duties, outcomes and measuring tools are uncertain, unproven, arguable. There is no equivalent of ‘stop the boats’ or ‘on-water matters’ or ‘integrity of our borders’ in a thirty-year plan with unknowable, unguessable, wavering figures in it.

2.26 pm

PVO and Lipsom are already marvelling at his ‘no revenue problem, a spending problem’ stark lunacy.

He’s really, really blown it.

A Question To The Prime Minister

Why must refugee children spend ninety years in the drear tropical hellhole, currently a corruption-fardled police state, Nauru? This is seven times the life sentence murderers get.

What did they do that was so wrong?

Adequate Nicknames (1)

Dutton:’The Missing Link’

Pyne: ‘Woody Woodpecker’.

Credlin: ‘The Bride of Frankenstein’.

Turnbull: ‘Humpty Dumpty’.

Julie Bishop: ‘Princess Mesothelioma’.

I invite further contributions.

The Turnbull Story So Far

People forget what the Abbott Era was really like.

It wasn’t just Abbott versus Rudd then Gillard then Rudd then Shorten. It was Abbott versus Windsor, Hockey versus Bowen, Burke versus Bronwyn, Hanson Young versus Morrison, Brandis versus Triggs, Credlin versus Bishop, Lambie versus Johnston, Xenophon versus Andrews, the civilised world versus Pyne. The era was populous, argumentative, star-studded. Clive Palmer was in it, for a while very impressive, entertaining and thought-provoking; and so, on the sidelines, waiting his moment, was Turnbull. And Abbott only fell when a tangled scrum of all of them wrestled him to the ground.

And Malcolm is wrong, dead wrong, when he radiates the impression that only he and Shorten are in the arena. For other big players are altering the scorecard already. Costello attacking Abbott, Abbott attacking Morrison, Brough determined to abolish democracy, Leyonhjelm defying Brough, Shorten disdaining Dyson Heydon, Xenophon defending South Australia, Hunt abolishing wind farms, the appalling Peter Dutton continuing to fund the police state Nauru and assuring the rapists of children that nothing will happen to them.

The stars and stories massed around Malcolm multiply daily, hourly, and soon he will be lost in the hubbub, or diminished, or seen in his true proportion. It’s not just a humorous, self-satisfied soliloquy that will suffice in our day, but a big patch of history, and a battle on many fronts of many contestable big ideas.

He has already made two lethal mistakes, in my view. He held up gay marriage, and smirked his way out of ‘the greatest moral challenge of our time’, climate change: instead of reasserting his original thought, the punishment with tax of the big polluters, he adopted Abbott’s craven alternative, rewarding them. And also, while he was up, and posing as a future-hugger, he embraced his dim Creationist cronies’ bloody sundering of the Nobel-Prize-winning CSIRO.

And his vote is currently only 47 percent, as my deconstruction of today’s Newspoll demonstrates, at this, the Humpty Dumpty Summit of his eminence and altitude. Shorten’s careful, steady emphasis on good policy is already dragging him down, and revealing his impotence and shallowness and insouciant pomposity, and he may be already on his way down, down, to the Humpty Splatter that may, or may not, be his fate.

While Dean, and Bolt, and Jones, and Bernardi roar ‘traitor!’ and ‘usurper!’ and ‘cuckoo in the nest!’ and ‘assassin!’ around him, and the tumbrils gather, and Mme Guillotine awaits. And his inexperienced Cabinet rehearse their first five big mistakes, and Credlin shrills that she got there on her own.

It’s a bigger, more populous, garrulous and threatening world than Turnbull is pretending.

And we will see what we shall see.

Today’s Newspoll

The latest Newspoll, interestingly though not unexpectedly, is a fraud. It rang only landlines, and a million voters don’t have any. It rang them on Thursday, Friday and Saturday night when few folk under fifty were at home. It eliminated 9 percent who were ‘uncommitted’ or ‘refused’, that is, a million people who were ‘uncommitted’, undecided, unconvinced by Turnbull. It redistributed the Green and Independent second preferences as they were in 2013, when it was thought Abbott wasn’t lying.

In 2013, about 18 percent of the Greens preferred the Coalition, and the Green vote then was 8.7 percent. It’s 11 percent now, and no more than 6 percent of them, probably, now prefer the anti-wind-farm polluter-rewarding Coalition.

This puts Labor’s vote up by 1.8 percent, on 50.8 percent, two party preferred. A similar shift of the ‘others’, or what may be called the Tony Windsor Local Independents, adds 0.7 perhaps to Labor, now on 51.5 percent.

On top of this there must be an adjustment to do with young people who use only mobiles, or are out of the house on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. This adds 1.5 percent, probably, to Labor, now on 53 percent.

This is almost certainly the case. And it supports the Saturday swing in Canning TO Labor of 4.5 percent once you eliminate the mourning-Don-Randall factor of 2.5 percent. And the 9.3 percent swing, first party preferred, to Labor, an amazing number.

So Labor, now on 53 percent (probably), is in no great trouble, and Turnbull, sly smug seller-out of gay marriage, the Murray and wind energy, is looking poorly.

Turnbull should be asked if he will give back the money he thieved, as Minister, from the ABC and SBS, give it back today. Or say why he will not. And the two hundred million lately taken from the CSIRO. Or say why he will not. He should be asked to debate this with Shorten. Or say why he will not.

On the figures, the actual figures, the adjusted figures, the true figures, he is Humpty Dumpty already.

About to splatter and half way to the ground.

The numbers in this Newspoll say so.

How To Solve The Present European Crisis

Forgive half Greece’s debt if they take in a million refugees.

Shorten on Q&A

Tony Jones, a Liberal voter, interrupted Shorten whenever applause was threatened though sometimes it came anyway, and a visual saboteur made him look pallid and jumpy and dwarfed by the audience close-ups, and a blood-red vomitous backdrop made some shots impossible to look at, but Bill performed very well and he won back maybe fifty thousand votes the Turnbull Risorgimento’s honeymoon moment had lately pilfered, and he was pitch-perfect, a calm, persuasive advocate of a fair Australia who was in no danger now of his leadership whatever Newspoll says tomorrow morning.

Had he been jittery and clueless it might have been all over for him. But he was the amiable, witty, ardent Shorten I’ve known for nine years, and backed and admired and wished well and wrote some early speeches for. And he survived the night.

It’s a pity the ABC so mangled the visuals and Tony Jones is so efficiently, rudely unfair. But the night went well for Labor, and here we are, and so it goes.

And we live to fight another day.

Today’s Morgan

Morgan, usually accurate, shows on the weekend Labor on 45 and the Turnbull Coalition on 55, two party preferred.

It’s a worry.

But it runs counter to the actual result, that same weekend, in Canning which showed a swing TO Labor of 7 percent, two party preferred. This, extrapolated, would forbode, nationwide, after you subtract 2.5 percent for the wellbeloved dead member Don Randall, a swing of 4.5 percent and a narrow Labor majority of six or eight seats.

And some things happening today, like Hunt insanely affirming the prolongation of Abbott’s crazed war on wind power, and Shorten’s avowed three billion for TAFEs and universities, and the rabid Morrison’s continuing skirmish with lactating mothers will diminish these figures, in time, I think, to something more like 50-50.

It is likely, though, that a November election would be lost by Labor if it is brought on.

We must watch tonight both Turnbull and Shorten with interest.

Certain Housekeeping Matters (167)

Claire is banned for life.

She is a horrible, sly, creepy, fraudulent person, and as fair in her judgments as Bronwyn Bishop.

The Legacy

This is a partial list of the Abbott/Hockey/Morrison beliefs, priorities, policies and war-cries.

Coal is the future. Wind energy must be defunded. State education should be abolished. Knighthoods revived. Paying people smugglers to return kidnapped children illegally to Indonesia is a good idea. The abuse of captive children is Nauru’s business, not ours, and though Nauru is presently a police state it deserves, in billions, our money.

Forty million, that is twice the cost of one of Turnbull’s houses, is enough to serve the needs of nine million Syrian refugees in camps as winter approaches. Dyson Heydon is worth twelve hundred dollars an hour and Rosie Batty not a penny.

We must redefine ‘disability’ lest undeserving cripples thieve our money. No Minister should go on Q&A till the ABC is reconfigured. The UN should keep its bib out of our affairs, we can torture what infants and whore what women we like. Barack Obama has no business praising the Barrier Reef, it is our natural wonder, not his, and he and his family aren’t welcome there.

DAESH is coming for each and every one of us, and billions must be spent dragging swarthy teenagers out of their beds at midnight for having bad thoughts about our democracy. If anyone tends wounded Kurds and comes home to Australia he will get twenty-five years in prison. Muslims must denounce their relatives, and give them up to the secret police, or they are not part of ‘Team Australia’.

A hundred and twenty million dollars is a fair price for the search for MH 370. A billion spent on ANZAC memorials round the world is fair enough, though traumatised veterans of recent lost wars now gibber and suicide untended. The Nettleton children deserve crucifixion, beheading and forced marriage for choosing a mad father and obeying his commands. Raped children should spend ninety years on Nauru, stalked and harassed by their unpunished assailants.

Gillian Triggs should stop saying human rights have been violated, this is none of her business as Human Rights Commissioner.George Brandis and only George Brandis will decide what art is, and what milliions his mates will get for making it. Aborigines must be ethnically cleansed from land they’ve lived on for thirty thousand years if it has minerals under it.

Soldiers must fight in more lost wars for much less money. If they go mad remembering bad moments, well, shit happens. The idea that they should get thirty dollars an hour, and Dyson Heydon twelve hundred dollars an hour, is a good one. His sork is so much more important than theirs.

Rudd’s new school halls were all a disaster. Swan, though hailed world wide, was our worst Treasurer ever. Japan should build in Japan our submarines, and the twenty billion we pay for them should stay in that country. We will fight on that country’s side in any war over islands with China. China can bring in any workers it wants and take our jobs.

No trains should ever be paid for by the federal government. More and more roads will get our subsidy, so petrol pollution rises, and strangles the planet. It is really wrong to have more trains when cheap foreign cars are more and more available. No cars shall be made in Australia, ever again. Two hundred thousand jobs that manufactured cars, and the the bits that made up cars, were well worth losing to save a hundred and twenty million dollars, that is nine dollars a year per taxpayer.

Joe Hockey knows what he’s doing, and when he goes from ‘debt and deficit disaster’ to a hopeful ‘have a go Budget’ there is no contradiction. Joe’s stomach-stapling did not damage his brain.

Abbott’s early amateur boxing did not damage his brain. He nods, lurches and verbally fumbles for other reasons. He is the best choice for Prime Minister among fifty other candidates he towers over. His sister will burn a billion years in hell for the abominable sin of muff-diving. He will talk her out of lesbianism next Christmas, over the pudding.

The refugees that came in rubber boats to Lampedusa should have been all turned back. The only way to handle the greatest movements of peoples in world history is to turn back the boats. Indonesia didn’t want the boats we sent back to them, but our two countries’ warm friendship never ebbed or faltered. More to come.

Malcolm ‘s Ministry

3.23 pm

Kevin Andrews has blackguarded Turnbull for not retaining him. He will be replaced, I suspect, by Andrew Hastie. This after David Marr on Insiders called, wonderfully, Christopher Pyne a ridiculous idea. The first duty, he said, of a Minister for Defence is to ‘frighten the nation’s enemies’.

3.59 pm


Abetz, Andrews, Macfarlane excised. Brough ignored. Hockey out of parliament. A female Defence Minister. Turnbull the oldest, apart from Truss, in the ministry. Is Robb gone? Possibly not. Is Dutton?

,..It could work. No-one dare slag Payne (would Caesar make Calpurnia a general? really?), but Morrison is a pugilistic, foam-flecked fool, and Sinodinos, shadowed by ICAC, may soon have to stand down abashed again.

4.13 pm

Brough an Assistant Minister. Robb still there. And Dutton. Wow.

5.10 pm

Odd that Turnbull doesn’t see what a malignant kook the tonguespeaking hydrophobic Morrison is. Asked if he prays for God’s guidance before he cuts a fund, he will leap over the table and punch out the interviewer. Asked if sodomites burn in hell he will say, ‘You bet.’ Any study of the Hadley Hullabaloo will remind the viewer of Bruno Ganz as Hitler in Downfall. Tasked with impoverishing old people, and starving nursing mothers, and making adolescents wait for the dole, he will do it very unattractively.

Has Marise Payne worn any martial uniform in her life? Mal Brough has. Dutton the long dim Queensland copper has. Andrew Hastie did until a month ago. Abbott was a famously sadistic cadet sarmajor at Riverview. Campbell Newman, Andrew Wilkie spent long years in the army. Where has this brave new cockamamie chess move come from? Would Hillary Clinton have been offered Defense by Obama, at any turn of the political cycle? Don’t think so.

8.29 pm

It was Joe who was offered Defence, I’m told, a not too shaming sideward shift, a ministry nearly as important as Treasury, and he said yes on Friday morning. But, on the weekend, considering his young family, and his rich wife, and his old dad, and a quiet life, he suddenly thought he might get out of politics altogether, at the same age, fifty, that Reith, Costello, and Dawkins did. And he told Malcolm he was doing this at 1pm on Sunday, and Malcolm, rattled, postponed the announcement of his ministry and somehow after blithering indecision settled on Payne, though Andrews, Brough and Hastie, male alternatives, surely made more sense.

It was a luckless choice of Joe’s, and an accursed move in Malcolm’s game, because the loss — in a week — of both Prime Minister and Treasurer made the whole thing seem more like a raggedyarse palace coup, and less like a well considered ministerial adjustment, and it summoned up the impression of a ramshackle mutiny, and it made the new Cabinet suddenly seem like cats in a sugar bag slowly sinking in the Nepean. The image of squabbling divisiveness has overwhelmed, as it need not have had Joe stayed put, the forthright image Malcolm wanted, of a smooth lift off into clear blue skies in a calm new age of good government, and here he is, and here we are, and so it goes.

Malcolm never had the luck, and Shorten always did, and so it goes.

After Canning

The swing to Labor was 9.3 percent on the raw figures in Canning and then, after the distribution of preferences, 6.9 percent, two party preferred.

After subtracting from this the beloved-local-member-the-dead-Don-Randall-swing-factor one gets a movement to Labor of 4.7 percent, two party preferred. Duplicated across Australia, it would lose the Coalition twenty-nine seats, and government.

So ‘the Turnbull factor’ gained for the Liberals only 2.5 or 3 percent; this at the height of his honeymoon. It would have been 1.5 or 2 percent tomorrow, after his inevitably contentious reshuffle.

This does not mean Labor’s troubles are over. A November double dissolution might still, with a let’s-try-out-the-new-man trumpet-voluntary and some retrieved Abbott-hating female votes, squeak Malcolm in. But the figures, overall, show, thus far, he is not the panacea he seemed at midnight on Monday.

Shorten will do well on Q&A tomorrow night, surprising many who may have forgotten just how effective he is and has always been on that influential bully pulpit. Morrison, Treasurer, will stuff up early, after persecuting nursing mothers, the young jobless, pensioners and students and yapping his defiance of them in his usual unattractive hydrophobic way. Dutton will be sacked from Immigration and suffer Senate questioning for covering up child rape, forced whoredom, waterboarding and collaboration with Nauru’s crooked new subfascist junta. Abbott’s embattled marriage post-Kirribilli will bestir the female readership of the nastier glossies for many, many months. Credlin will join Skynews and make mischief there, like Richo, Hewson, Paul Cameron and Kristina Keneally before her, every other day.

And Malcolm’s haughty backflips on equal marriage, climate change, the Murray-Darling basin and the Governor-General’s rubbery knighthood will fail to win back votes already lost on these issues.

Will he abandon the hundred thousand dollar degrees? It’s likely. Will he go for a raised GST? He may dare to, or he may not. Will he balance the Budget in the present century? Of course not.

His difficulty in the end will prove to have been I think the ground rules, and those recurrent lines of public propaganda which Abbott, in Opposition, force-fed the swinging voters: to wit, that leadership ructions betoken always a ‘government in chaos’ that must be put out of its misery at the ballot-box, very soon.

So the situation post-Canning is not ideal for Labor, whose vote is not now, as it was last weekend, 57 percent but 53.5. But it leaves the sado-fundamentalist soreheads like Dean and Bolt and Kroger and Murray and Kennett very angry, and very vocal, and Turnbull with very little room to move.

The Next Malcolm Chapter

It’s a little hard to predict what will happen.

But I’ve known Malcolm for forty-two years. And in my view it’s likely, not certain, that he won’t get through the next, conciliatory stage of his glorious Restoration without stuffing up.

Andrews won’t go quietly. Abetz will fight like a beaver to retain his position as party leader in the Senate. Pyne will be despised by the army and navy. Joe will curse Malcolm’s legacy at Communications. There will be three, not five, new women in the ministry,and the two left out will be ropeable. Christian Porter will get a gig, and whoever he displaces will be fervid, factious and vengeful.

And…Morrison will be ghastly as Treasurer. He’ll get the pensioners, young unemployed, future students and nursing mothers off side in three days. His combative, belligerent manner, and the cuts he will have to affirm, will blaze his failure in the headlines in a month. His habit and style is aggressive secrecy, and it just won’t wash when the bad figures come in.

And Malcolm’s own capitulations and climbdowns will rankle. Like Rudd abandoning ‘the greatest moral challenge of our time’, Turnbull embracing Direct Action, delaying gay marriage (what he should have done was bring on a conscience vote on Thursday), and his sellout to the troglodytes of his own ministerial baby, the Murray-Darling, will show him to have been shallow, greedy and pompous; and, when it came to the toss, mere ditto marks under the worst Prime Minister in our history.

And his scalded foes will intrigue against him. These will include Loughnane, Kroger, Bolt, Jones, Paul Murray, Rowan Dean. His party’s numbers will creep back to 48 and the November poll he is planning will horrify his colleagues and may need to be aborted.

He is not well placed. The ‘sugar hit’ was far less than Rudd’s when he essayed his comeback, and he lost the subsequent election in a landslide.

The simple fact is, he is hoist on policy, and a miserable set of Budget numbers that grow daily more dire. Only a GST will give him credibility, and the voters will hate it.

And he will be seen — not now, not next week, but soon — as a Booby Prize.

Or am I wrong?

A Prediction

Andrew Hastie will win Canning with 53.1 percent of the vote, two party preferred.

This will be a swing to Labor of 8.7 percent.

Morrison Futures, Going, Going

(First published by Independent Australia)

I predicted last Sunday night that Abbott would fall on Monday morning or Monday night. I was right, as I was when I said in 2009 that Abbott, not Hockey, would be made leader by ‘two votes, one of them disputed’.

I’m not that sure of what will occur in Canning, a faraway country of which I know little.

What I am now sure of, however, is Morrison’s hectic, fraudulent mediocrity.

He showed it on Ray Hadley yesterday morning. Caught out in five lies, he refused to swear on the Bible that he had not spoken to his faction, or to Turnbull, about how his faction would vote, and how he would vote, when he held and controlled the numbers to decide who would be Prime Minister. Then he said he would swear on the Bible, and Hadley closed down the interview.

He has been called ‘a brilliant communicator’, and, by Laurie Oakes, ‘the next Prime Minister’. But he’s actually pretty lousy when he faces an interviewer.

He answers too rapidly, fudges too readily, and, like an army sarmajor, bullies and bellows and insults, and makes on the hop fool decisions that cannot be justified.

He’s a people smuggler. He’s a pirate. And under most international law a kidnapper and facilitator of child abuse. He cyberbullied two young men into burning themselves to death. He organized the escape of eleven murderers, those that killed Reza Barati, from arrest and trial and imprisonment, or he looked the other way while bureaucrats beneath him did so. And, when asked about these things, he imagines he only has to shout and rail and deny everything to escape what will come to him eventually, probably, years in gaol.

It is possible he will not be Treasurer now, after the Hadley hullabaloo and continuing fallout, and the agitated mendacity he displayed while it was occurring. But if he is, he will find his tactless pugnacity won’t help him when the figures are added up and found wanting.

He will find the deficit going up, every week, and the Menzies-era pensioners ropeable at the money which, year by year, he is proposing to thieve from them. He will find his wait-a-month-for-the-dole plan unpopular. He will discover that his Sunday habit of speaking in tongues will brand him as a loon in some opinions. He will find aggression does not always prevail, and it will not work to call ‘an on-water matter’ the trade balance figures, or the plummeting price of iron.

He was called ‘a great communicator’ and an ‘able negotiator’, but this was in comparison to, say, Tony Abbott, Campbell Newman, David Johnston, Bronwyn Bishop.. Compared with, say, Bob Hawke or Bob Carr or Bob Brown or Mike Baird or Richard di Natale or Tony Windsor, he is hopeless.

And, if he survives this weekend, he will dwindle quickly, and end up, like Jack Nicolson in The Witches of Eastwick, as a puddle of plasticine, and rarely be thought of again.

Like Tony Abbott, half-forgotten already. And Eric Abetz. And Kevin Andrews. And Cory Bernardi.

And so it goes.

Morrison Agonistes: Portrait Of Holy Fool

Morrison’s behaviour yesterday may have halted the surge to Turnbull, and reduced the majority, if any, of Andrew Hastie in Canning.

A man who hopes to be Treasurer was seen to be a sort of pious angry fool, with a glint of wild mendacity in his aura.

Why would he not swear on the Bible? Witnesses in every court case do. As Treasurer on Tuesday, he will be sworn in on the Bible. What he did on Friday can only mean that he was caught out in a lie, and he was a kind of oath-bound religious maniac, and an ill-tempered bully.

The effect of this has been to draw attention away from Turnbull, and interrupt his Royal Progress to earthly eminence like a bomb-thrower at Sarajevo. It explains Hockey’s howl of betrayal, and dirties up Turnbull’s the-nation-calls-me narrative. It shows the Liberals as a quarrelling rat’s nest of fatwah-slinging mullahs, as factious and vengeful as the Ruddites and Gillardites of 2013.

And it gives the Labor strategists what they hoped for, a cartoon of the Liberal Party as a pack of nutters in mutinous chaos, biting each other on the ankles and slapping each other with Bibles, which might lessen their vote in Canning, and provide a swing of seven to ten percent, because it seemed that Morrison was a holy fool, and Hastie a crusading maniac, yelling war-cries at his troops like General Patton.

Will the voters of Canning decide after this that the Liberals are a pack of bickering boofheads, and vote accordingly? It’s possible.

The emotional effect of the Hadley ‘shirtfront’ is pretty powerful, and hard to describe. Morrison is a big, strong, dangerous-looking man, with a hint of baleful madness to him. And when he shrieks like a martyr being stoned to death, and bellows about his faith, and ends a friendship with a friend on air, he deeply unsettles the audience, and also gazumps the emotional space that Turnbull — this week –should occupy.

It’s hard to describe. But it bodes no great good for Malcolm, this week or next. Will he appoint a hectic, yelping bully Treasurer? Is this a good idea? Or will he deny his ally this glittering prize, and lose his factional support? Either way this encounter will damage him.

It’s possible, too, just possible, that Hastie’s frequent public display of crusading belligerence and constitutional ignorance will have an effect, and lose some votes in Canning, on top of the thousand Morrison lost yesterday.

Can Labor win?

It’s possible.

The Sweet Sad Ballad Of PVO

One the privileges of my illness is the time it has allowed me to watch, day after day, and night after night, the moral immolation of Peter Van Onselen.

A rural Jehovah’s Witness who fought his way out of that blood-refusing madness into university and intellectual respectability and a much-praised history of the Liberal Party; and then a whole lot of money in a Faustian bond with Murdoch, he has now, head in hands, called on Dyson Heydon to resign or be sacked, and will echo soon his own pleas, in February, for Abbott to go away, go anywhere, but please, please go away.

Van Onselen (whom I have nicknamed The Choirboy) is the worst of men, brilliant but wedded by greed and ambition to the Sean Hannity-Karl Rove-Tea Party agenda, and personally charming enough to dine out with Crabb and Muldoon and Richo.

In the next weeks, as his handsome features alter into the picture of Dorian Gray, and then a homeless person, and then an Ice addict, it will be interesting to see who still talks to him.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses will, of course, and at some point he may go home, and become a preacher for them, and wonder if, indeed, all this was a dream.