11 October 2016
by David Tyler

Turnbull government provides a full card of diversions on its downward slide into extinction.

News emerges this week of another Coalition cover-up as a UN investigative report is leaked which exposes conditions on Manus and Nauru. Not only are asylum-seekers found to be in poor physical health, they also suffer extraordinary rates of mental disorder. The government has known this unofficially for months but has done nothing.

The United Nations refugee agency, UHCR will meet Immigration officials 11 October, to share the findings of its April and May investigations into the physical and mental suffering of those whom Australia has expediently locked up forever and forgotten on Manus and Nauru Islands. Informal briefings, provided months ago, were pointedly ignored by a government that, like its predecessor, “will not be lectured” by the UN.

“Eighty-eight per cent of asylum-seekers and refugees assessed were suffering from a depressive or anxiety disorder and/or post-traumatic stress disorder,” the draft report says. “These are extremely high rates, among the highest recorded of any population in the world, but a predictable outcome of protracted detention.”

Putting the lie to myths of luxury nurtured by Immigration Department propaganda provided for Peter Dutton, it is revealed this week, by a spin army at a cost to tax-payers of $8 million, inspectors found unusable toilets, broken washing machines and dilapidated gym equipment. Dwellings allocate each detainee 1.6 square metres, half the minimum international standard for prisons. Unlike Australian prisons, Wilson staff routinely dismiss as unsubstantiated allegations of sexual assault. The report recommends Australia accept all refugees or find a suitable third country.

Should these findings prove too confronting, the government has thoughtfully provided us a full card of diversions including a bankers’ circus, a renewed war on renewables, an innovative front in its war on government spending, a data-driven war on the poor, while The Budgie Nine provide a class act and The Australian breathlessly reports Saturday that up to 22 Syrian refugees set to come to Australia may have links with terror. Tony Abbott, meanwhile, touring the Old Dart in his own take on Waiting for Godot, vows “I will return” in a travelling side-show psycho-drama all his own.

Also featuring are some quality fringe productions, such as Brandis Pettifogger-General and The Budget Repair Crisis. Rubbery figure Federal Treasurer Scott, “Black Hole”, Morrison and self-parodying Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, lampoon “open and transparent” government in an hilarious satirical sketch, part of the long running Budget Repair Series in which a fictitious crisis is repaired by cutting taxes to companies and the rich while slashing welfare and government spending, increasing poverty and inequality and tearing up the fabric of an open and civil society, while Labor is blamed for everything that can’t be pinned on” external economic headwinds”.

Simon Birmingham, another class act, lampoons some flaky TAFE courses. He is helpfully exposing dreadful rorts by private tertiary education providers to divert us from the fact that his government is cutting $3.2 billion from tertiary funding and imposing restrictions which will severely limit access to technical education. Dubbed “a total overhaul”, The Birmingham Solution includes changes for the HECS scheme to get students to pay back loans sooner and a means to keep may Australians out of tertiary education forever.

But the bean-counting black hole spotters who pretend to run the economy take the cake. Entitled “taking out the garbage” the ScoMo-Cormann Grand Final routine sees the comedy duo secretly bury the Coalition’s final 2015 budget outcome, near its NBN, its tax reform fiasco and Abbott’s promised surplus in the first year of government. Unconfirmed sources also report discovering a freshly prepared plot nearby bearing a sign: The Turnbull Experiment.

No press conference is held; not a jock shocked; not a word is heard from a treasurer who can talk the hind legs off a deaf donkey. History is made. Coalition openness and transparency 2016-style is a post on a Treasury website on a Friday of a Grand Final holiday, confirming that the government’s unchecked spending has doubled its budget deficit in three years. For years Liberals howled about Labor’s debt and deficit disaster. Now they are shamed into silence.

The following Monday, on ABC 7:30, Leigh Sales shirt-fronts Cormann over the Coalition’s reckless over-spending.

“When you first came to power you predicted that the 2015/16 deficit would be $17.1 billion. What you posted on Friday showed that actually in reality what it’s turned out to be is $39.6 billion,”

Sales begins, icily, turning Stormin’ Cormann to boudin water; swiftly tipping his liquidity into the dark abyss between Liberal rhetoric and reality.

Fall-guy Cormann, to his credit, turns in a performance worthy of Peter Sellers’ Inspector Jacques Clouseau, another archetypal buffoon whose paté-thick accent and surreal logic could fox any questioner. Not that he’s trying to be funny. As Clouseau, himself, once observed. “There is a time to laugh and a time not to laugh, and this is not one of them.“

The Finance Minister’s answer to how his government could more than double the deficit? Cormann’s evasion is fluent gobbledegook. “We have several budget updates since the one that you mentioned and we have explained in some detail how, for example, external global economic headwinds and the impact on global prices or key economic exports and the like impacted on our revenue collections in particular.” Bravo! Eat your heart out, Donald Trump.

The economic headwinds are a carefully nurtured fiction like the crippling cost of health or how education must be flushed of corruption or how our unsustainable welfare spending will send us bust. Similarly unreliable renewable energy, we are told, threatens to destroy the national grid and lead to a massive increase in power bills. These myths help justify or disguise the transfer of costs from government to an increasingly impoverished public, a process of redistribution of wealth and power upwards that, sadly, began under the Hawke and Keating governments.

Sales does not ask Cormann how tax cuts for business and for wealthier Australians will help. Tax evasion by multinational companies doing business in Australia has clearly nothing to do with the budget deficit.

Black Hole Morrison is obviously not going to appear. He’s got real blokes’ stuff to do; talking footy on commercial media. And Cabinet doesn’t just leak by itself. As for 7:30’s side of the sideshow, no-one on the show will nail Nigel (Sgt. Schulz) Scullion on news of several government briefings surfacing this week which prove he lied when he knew zip, nada, nothing of Don Dale. The Nationals’ Nigel Scullion is another MP, who, like the Treasurer, is in cabinet only to make up the numbers. And after Chris Uhlmann’s scapegoating renewables for causing disaster in SA there are simply no questions left and no-one to ask them as to why the ABC led the government jihad on clean energy.

Thank God, we have profiteering banks to keep us safe and a government which has the nous to get tough on turbines.

But look over there! A massive $4.8 trillion welfare burden is set to destroy us all in seventy years.

Eight out of ten Australians go to work so they can fund the nation’s welfare bill, The Daily Telegraph lied to readers last November as part of its brief as the propaganda arm of Tory government in Australia. The Tele trusts its readers will be too shocked to notice it’s nonsense: for starters, only half of government comes from income tax anyway. War-lord Christian Porter plucks an even scarier figure out of a Pricewaterhousecoopers report, hoping no-one can calculate that $4.8 billion is a drop in the bucket of the $360 trillion estimated to be government revenue over the same period.

Facts don’t matter. That his government has been spending like a drunken sailor does not stop Porter, on Q&A Monday from his war on the poor and the elderly. They are ruining us, he says, with their wilful, expensive dependency. Eva Cox points out that his scary figure which includes child care is further boosted by counting in the elderly and the age pension.” Since 70% approximately of the population ends up on the aged pension, it means it looks much bigger and much worse than it actually is.” An expert and a woman over a certain age, Cox is dismissed, derided and ignored.

Porter’s expensive new data-sets and algorithms, “as used by insurance companies”, – no less – will get bludgers off welfare and into non-existent jobs, but leave untouched tax cuts for the rich, superannuation breaks, negative gearing among other all middle-class handouts. It helps the government pretend that it is doing something new, when, in fact, research on welfare goes back to Ronald Henderson’s report in 1973. Henderson gave us the poverty line, research which is sufficient for the Australia Institute to calculate that there is now an unprecedented gap between the poverty line and what an unemployed family receives.

“A single adult is $189.71 below the poverty line,” Senior Research Fellow at The Australia Institute, David Richardson reports and a married couple with two children is $210.96 below in just two of what are welfare’s truly shocking figures. Porter’s reforms mean reducing even further our cruelly inadequate, demeaning and begrudging support. War on the poor, nevertheless, helps the Coalition distract us from the fact that it is cutting the family allowance amidst other ideologically driven government spending cuts. Turnbull must keep sweet with his hard right even if it means turning himself inside out as he does with lunatic logic over renewable energy this week.

SA’s power crisis proves we need more government-subsidised coal-fired power plants to secure our energy from natural disasters caused by global warming caused by carbon emissions caused by burning coal to make electricity – not that a Coalition, whose MPs still mostly believe that climate change is crap – will ever admit to the connection. Renewables are to blame.

Our ever-vigilant, agile, innovative, protective but fetchingly slender, federal government has re-invented “energy security” to keep us safe from “aggressive renewable targets” and other evils which threaten to destroy our nation’s way of life. Green energy undermines our core beliefs and values and our massive subsidies to miners, coal-burning electricity generators and other multinational corporations out to do us over and destroy the planet.

Energy security, (think Peter Dutton with a three-pin plug and an endless extension lead), will protect us from natural catastrophe and bodgy base-loads caused by fickle wind and solar power which everybody knows by now caused a massive blackout in South Australia when freak storms – nothing to do with climate change, knocked over 23 pylons.

Everybody including Greg Hunt gets into the coal lobby sponsored act. Their performance has nothing to do with upstaging Tony Abbott’s Quadrant revival tour of the old country in which he’s clearly campaigning against Turnbull. Abbott has no show but then, neither did Turnbull until opinion polls reached Turnbull’s current record low. How long will it be this time before the sinking ship deserts the rat?

Tasmanians thrill to “interconnectors” a country and western number by Wichita lineman Greg Hunt who takes Monday morning off to jam with the big boys in the band in a song about how baseload supply won’t ever let you down.

“This means that the states will have to consider new or upgraded interconnectors between Tasmania and the mainland, and South Australia and the eastern states,” he says contradicting The Australian Energy Market Operator which identifies South Australia’s extreme weather last week as the prime cause of “multiple transmission system faults.”

Hunt is on song with his Australia to continue to have reliable baseload power supply, for the states to engage in better planning of renewables expansion and for a more integrated system of providing consumer and investment security. Mr Coal, Environment and Energy Minister Josh Freydenberg, holds a make-believe conference of state energy ministers which he spins into a big win for energy security. It’s a first step, surely, towards getting back into coal and gas fired generation as states are pressured to revise their renewable targets downwards.

Seldom has an Australian government been so obsessed with evasion, under-handedness; seldom such meanness of spirit and deceit. Never has the nation’s expectations of fair dealing and decency been met with such contempt.

Luckily another outrage diverts our attention. Scions of the nation’s ruling class, the Budgie Nine, at a loose end in KL, set out to boost Australia’s international dick-head standing, by mooning 29 million Malaysians and one or two international viewers of Formula 1 on TV. At least the boys have the foresight to plan their wardrobe; each silly young thing wears what appear to be a Cranston class set of matching scanties, sportively printed in motifs from their hosts’ national flag.

Whatever were they thinking? Did someone put them up to it? Did anyone think they would not get away with it?

Boys will be boys. The Daily Telegraph loves the thirty-something larrikins. The Australian salutes their heroics. The media is seized by a frenzy of fawning indulgence that is typically reserved for male footballers, cricketers and other sporting heroes whose misbehaviour we licence as diminished responsibility; they are just being one of the boys.

The Budgie Nine’s antics upstage our banking bosses who bare their bums at the government in Canberra this week. How dare the government even to pretend to hold a fake inquiry into how they rig the whole system and destroy thousands of ordinary decent Australians’ lives? The four fat cats waddle down to Canberra to put on such a floorshow of sincere contrition it invokes Al Capone’s undying regret that he didn’t always manage to remember to pay his taxes.

Instead of a banking industry, as it is fondly termed, we have an oligopoly which functions as a cartel to enable our big four banks to achieve the highest profits in the OECD. State-sponsored – or at least condoned – collusion is their business model. God preserve them from competition. It might push down costs to clients.

Like the Budgie Nine, the big four bankers, too, are rich and powerful and male enough to know they can get away with saying and doing just about anything. Like Pyne’s advisor, (Dak-less) Jack, Walker, caught with his pants down, they’ve got mates in high places. Naturally they act as if they own the show: the rest of us are paying for their entertainment.

To Ian Narev CEO of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia goes a Wronski award for the biggest whopper of the week. Narev – and his henchmen reckon profiteering makes our banking system strong. Amazingly, he’s allowed to get away with the lie that obscene profits and even worse executive salaries are justified because they make our banking system strong. Wrong! The strength of our banks is where they invest and how they invest and how much confidence we have in them.

Had it not been for the Rudd government protecting their Triple A rating during the GFC, our big four might be dancing to a different tune. As it is they have been more profitable than banks overseas because, largely our banks heavily rely on domestic loans, particularly the low risk household sector. As household indebtedness rises, it may be problematic to have so many eggs in one basket.

As the IMF warned Thursday, over the past 20 years, total household debt in Australia has soared from 75 per cent of total disposable income to more than 180 per cent – one of the highest debt-to-income ratios in the developed world. Mortgage debt is the main cause of this increase. Helped by our banks and their government protected oligarchy, households have racked up a rising mountain of debt. Banks will stay strong as long as we can pay it all back. In the meantime, forget the other shenanigans, they run the show. Like the Turnbull government their preference is to be accountable only to themselves.