Sunday 31st of August 2014

april fool was a year-long affair...

april fool...

 

The Abbott Government is becoming more and more widely ridiculed, writes Clint Howitt, who says this is the litmus test of a failed government.

DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER Tanya Plibersek described the final sitting week of the Federal Parliament before the May Budget sitting, as “a bad week” for the Abbott Government — but it was going to get a lot worse before the week was over.

Some time ago, we had seen how the obsessive secrecy and the overblown military rhetoric surrounding Operation Sovereign Borders came under fire. Immigration Minister Scott Morrison and Prime Minister Tony Abbott had been ridiculed mercilessly over it.

Already, the Government has been lampooned for its ideologically driven agenda and for being too close to its rich and influential supporters. It was not just for rewarding them, but for doing so at the expense of the rest of the community.

The support given to the Coalition by Gina Rinehart, Rupert Murdoch and loudmouth media personalities has made them the targets of much caustic and satirical criticism.

The devastating parody by Prudence Vindin of Gina Rinehart’s self promotional video is a classic example:

Then there was the version of Gina’s comforting reassurance to Joe Hockey on The Shovel:

"I inherited a $47 billion hole too, and everything turned out OK."

In the past two weeks, more than ever, the government has been on the defensive.

Following hard on the heels of the food labelling scandal involving Senator Fiona Nash, assistant treasurer Arthur Sinodinos stood aside over evidence of corrupt practices within Australian Water Holdings, of which he was first a director and then chairman.

The government came out to defend him strenuously as a "man of integrity".

But it didn’t take long for the jokes to start. His $200,000 salary for a part time position and the fact that he stood to gain up to $20 million if his wheeling and dealing via his political connections had paid off, prompted a flurry of tweets recalling Arthur Daly in the TV series Minder, along the lines of: ‘a nice little earner, Arfur.’


And this, from a party already seen to be lining its own pockets during the travel rorts scandal in its first weeks in office.


Now, ridicule is toxic in politics.

    A government which is widely perceived as a laughing stock is not going to be taken seriously by voters. The Coalition knows this. It was a tactic they used constantly against the Gillard Government.

    But it was only the start.

    Things really started to fall apart for them late last week.

    It began when Attorney General Senator George Brandis revealed the proposed amendments to the Racial Discrimination Act. Under the guise of protecting ‘freedom of speech’ for the likes of Andrew Bolt, Brandis defiantly asserted to Senator Nova Peris that people had ‘a right to be bigots.’ 

    Commentators’ jaws hit the carpet with a collective thud. Brandis’ provocative phrase was described by Sydney Morning Herald political journalist, Lisa Cox, as ‘ham-fisted,’ ‘politically insane’ and ‘an horrendous own-goal.’ A flurry of protests erupted from our multicultural community.

    It was inevitable that the Attorney General would be laughed out of town.

    Memes popped up on line, showing people releasing their ‘inner bigot’ at the Cronulla riots and a reminder that Brandis had demanded the removal of a school library book because it denigrated his political hero as a tyrant.

    Comments such as these appeared on social media:

    •  ‘An antonym for “bigot” is “liberal”.’
    • ‘Bigots are people too AND they usually vote for us – Brandis.’
    • ‘The Coalition have directed the ABC to change Playschool. Going forward, Big Ted will be replaced by Bigger Ted.’

    This was getting out of control. The Government needed to hose down the situation to take the heat off itself.

    Instead, Tony Abbott only added fuel to the fire by announcing that he was reintroducing the British tradition of granting the titles of knights and dames.

    Predictably, a conflagration of hilarity ensued.

    It didn’t help that it had been done without consultation to his party’s members and that pompous monarchists like David Flint and George Brandis rushed to defend the move.

    In no time Abbott was lampooned as ‘Sir Pository of Wisdom’ in ‘The Game of Tones.’

    Even serious journalists like Annabel Crabb and Bernard Keane joined in the festival of frivolity:


    Next morning on the ABC Radio National's Breakfast programme, James Carleton stepped out of his usual serious role of summarising the day’s newspaper coverage to read out Keane’s collated tweets in sonorous mock-heroic tones.

    But along with the ridicule there has been a growing anger and contempt.

    Groups like the National Seniors’ Association forced Finance Minister Mathias Cormann to back-peddle on planned financial ‘reforms’. Retirees were aghast at the proposal to undo the previous Government's financial advice measures, which prevented financial advisers from taking secret commissions and acting in their own interests rather than their clients’.

    Labor politicians have been quick to point to other measures which clearly discriminate between the privileged and the ordinary citizen.

    While the health and education cuts, the jobs being lost and the end of benefits to the orphans of war veterans are borne by ordinary working people, the removal the mining tax and the price on carbon provide the big end of town with windfalls worth hundreds of millions.

    However, it was not just the Opposition attacking the Government.

    Hand-picked by Tony Abbot to head the Prime Minister's Indigenous Advisory Council, Warren Mundine was critical of Brandis’s support for expressions of bigotry, saying the changes were more about them being a sop for one of the government’s media mates, Andrew Bolt, than about freedom of speech.

    Backbencher Ken Wyatt – the first Indigenous candidate to win a seat in the House of Representatives – threatened to cross the floor to oppose the amendments.

    On the issue of British honours, Liberal Senator Sue Boyce, a republican, was initially critical and upset that the party was not consulted but, in the end, pleased that it had revived the flagging republican debate.

    Liberal MP Russell Broadbent, observing that the Prime Minister did not take the matter to the party room, wryly described the announcement as an "interesting surprise".

    To top it off, the Government had slipped even further behind in the opinion polls.

    They now trailed Labor by 48 to 52 according to Newspoll and by nine points (45.5 to 55.5) in the Morgan Poll, on the two party preferred results.

    The growing disunity within Government ranks was developing into a serious problem for them.

    By Wednesday’s Question Time, the strain was showing. The Government was looking rattled and the Opposition was buoyant.

    Speaker Bronwyn Bishop was not amused.

    Already heavily criticised for her perceived bias, she responded to an outburst of laughter from the Opposition benches:

    "We seem to have a new tactic of having an outburst of infectious laughter, which I suspect may become disorderly, and I suspect it might begin with the member for Franklin (Julie Collins). The member for Franklin is warned."

    This tetchiness from Bishop culminated in high farce.

    Asked the Manager of Opposition Business, Tony Burke:

    "Are you ruling people out of order because they are laughing?"

    With that, the Speaker dispatched Collins.

    She was followed by fellow Labor members Terri Butler, Pat Conroy, Mark Dreyfus, Chris Bowen, Brendan O'Connor and Matt Thistlethwaite.

    Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten continued to rib the government over the reintroduction of British honours by interjecting that it was like watching "the royal comedy channel". He niggled further by humming Rule Britannia.

    After three years of directing sotto voce barbs across the dispatch box to Prime Minister Gillard and nicknaming Shorten ‘Electricity Bill’, it was a bit rich that Abbott now demanded a withdrawal from Shorten — which was given, but to more jibes from the Opposition benches.

    With a disapproving frown, Speaker Bishop gave a blanket warning:

    "... you can regard yourselves as universally warned." 

    Next day, Labor Shadow Attorney General, Mark Dreyfus, interjected twice calling out: "Madam Speaker…"

    For that he was named by the Speaker.

    To be ‘named’ by the Speaker for disorderly behaviour is designed to be used only for the most serious breaches of parliamentary discipline. It is rarely used. The imposition of this penalty, which evicts the member from the chamber for 24 hours, was less a reflection on the offence than of the Speaker’s frustrations.

    Immediately, Tony Burke was on his feet to move a Motion of No Confidence in the Speaker. This too was an extremely rare and serious move.

    Said Burke:

    "Yesterday, we had a Member of Parliament thrown out for laughing.

    "Madam Speaker, we have spent months watching you laugh at every joke from the ministers at the expense of members of the Opposition. But somehow, somehow, that is an appropriate way to conduct the role."

     

    He then accused her of bias:

    "Ninety-eight people have now been thrown out of the House by you. Every one of them from the Opposition: 98-0. No Speaker in the history of Federation has a record like that."

    The motion was lost on party lines.

    By the end of the day the score was 99-0. Watch for an online melt-down when it hits the 100.

    Bizarrely, the Prime Minister, who handpicked Mrs Bishop for the role, chose to defend Bishop on the basis that she brought:

    "...style and a touch of humour to the sometimes dour proceedings of our Parliament."

    Even more laughably, he claimed that, it was Labor that

    "... had lost its sense of humour when it lost the election."

    As well as the stigma of perceived bias, the mismatch between the Speaker’s rule and the triviality of the offence further undermines the government’s efforts to convey an image of competence. Instead, it offers ongoing grist for the mill of cartoonists and the on-line commentariat.

    There is no doubt the government is worried. Widespread public ridicule is a litmus test of a failed government.

    They will not be well pleased if the laughter at their expense continues.

    read more: http://www.independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/when-everyone-is-laughing-at-the-government--its-serious,6341

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    I firmly believe who laughs best is who laughs last.... And I am thus worried the Abbott regime exponents will laugh last as they plunder the pockets of the poorest to fill up their coffer and pay the rich with largess... It's a sad case of us seeing being punched left right, centre and below the belt and still laughing because it's the last thing that this Abbott Regime cannot steal from us. 

     

    people on low incomes will be hit a lot harder ...

    If you think you’re having trouble coping with the rising cost of living now, just wait until you see what the politicians have in store for you over the next three years. In all likelihood, you’ll be losing a significantly higher proportion of your pay in income tax, though people on low incomes will be hit a lot harder than those on high incomes.

    This will happen because an increase in the overall tax we pay is inevitable, but it suits both sides of politics to avoid the obvious, up-front increase that would come from raising the rate of the goods and services tax (or from extending the tax to spending on fresh food, education and healthcare) and rely on what Malcolm Fraser called ‘‘the hidden tax of inflation’’ – otherwise known as bracket creep.

    The pollies know voters much prefer any increase in taxation to be hidden from their view. Trouble is, the increase in ‘‘marginal’’ tax rates (the tax on the last part of your income, such as on a pay rise or some overtime) many workers face will be so big, you’d have to be pretty thick not to notice.

    Treasurer Joe Hockey has been softening us up for the tough budget he’s preparing for next month. Fine by me. But he’s studiously avoiding admitting there’s no way his spending cuts will get the budget back into lasting balance. He’s pretending all the problem is on the spending side (and all caused by Labor), when he knows the problem on the budget’s revenue side is just as big, if not worse.

    Consider the facts. Collections from company tax – which account for about a fifth of total tax collections – aren’t likely to grow any faster than the economy (gross domestic product). And collections from indirect taxes – which include the goods and services tax and excises on alcohol, tobacco and petrol – are likely to grow a lot more slowly than GDP.

    Collections from excises are declining relative to the rest of the economy, partly because John Howard abolished the indexation of the petrol excise, but also because consumers’ spending on alcohol and tobacco accounts for an ever-declining share of their total spending.

    Collections from the GST are also in relative decline, because consumer spending has stopped growing faster than the overall economy (as it did when households were borrowing heavily) and because consumers’ spending on items subject to the GST is growing more slowly than overall consumer spending. Putting it another way, private spending on untaxed education and healthcare is growing faster than our spending on taxed items.


    Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/joe-hockeys-budget-will-hurt-your-hip-pocket-20140401-zqp7v.html#ixzz2xii0X3mN

    Abbott has jumped the royal gun...

    Has Prime Minister Abbott and his office been misleading the public about his decision to restore imperial honours, compromising – and also offending – the Queen. Senior correspondent Barry Everingham suggests they have.

    YESTERDAY, Jonathan Swan and Peter Hartcher threw doubt over Prime Minister Tony Abbott's dealings with the Queen over the knights and dames issue in a piecepublished in the Sydney Morning Herald.

    At the same time they were investigating this issue, I was also independently looking into this same issue and can now provide more information.

    In summary, it doesn't look good for Abbott.

    Swan and Hartcher summarised the background as follows:

    Tony Abbott announced last week that Quentin Bryce had been made a dame and Peter Cosgrove a knight. But had they really?

    The Prime Minister's surprise statement began: "On my recommendation, Her Majesty the Queen has amended the Letters Patent constituting the Order of Australia."

    Letters Patent are the official instrument, the parchment signed by the Queen's own hand with her distinctive "Elizabeth R", that give force to her decisions.

    But, mysteriously, although they are public documents published in the Government Gazette, no one has been able to provide evidence that one was signed.

    Or show that the Queen had signed the parchment at the time of the Prime Minister's declaration.

    This raises an awkward question. When Mr Abbott publicly pronounced Ms Bryce a dame in time for her official reception on March 25, was she? General Cosgrove started using the title Sir on March 28 after his swearing-in as Governor-General, but again was he officially allowed to claim that title?

    The PM seemed to imply by his statement he had conferred directly with the Queen, however when Abbott called the Palace, he my sources say he did notspeak to the Queen but rather to one of her senior aides.

    Abbott allegedly advised the aide that he was "restoring" a "truncated" (his words) part of the Order of Australia.

    And, despite Abbott's words, the subject of the Letters Patent was apparently not mentioned at that time but arose later, when the legality of his unilateral decision had time to sink in.

    read more: http://www.independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/tony-abbotts-right-royal-disaster,6346

     

    saving candlelight by "humility" in too many houses...

     

    Taxpayers now know the price of Tony Abbott’s humility. The Prime Minister’s unorthodox decision to forgo a $3000-a-week luxury home in Canberra for Spartan accommodation at the Australian Federal Police College has cost taxpayers $65,000 in lease termination fees, Senate documents reveal.

    After winning the election, Mr Abbott was supposed to stay in what real estate agents described as a "sensational executive residence” in one of Canberra’s most desirable suburbs, Forrest. Mr Abbott had not chosen the property - it was procured by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet - but bureaucrats expected he would stay there for as long as it took to complete renovations on The Lodge. 

    But days after becoming Prime Minister, Mr Abbott let it be known he would rather not stay at the mansion and would prefer instead to stay at the $110-a-night police college while in Canberra. This would save money over the long run, depending on how long it took to renovate The Lodge. But in the short term the putative prime ministerial mansion, which the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet had procured for a $156,000 annual lease, was left empty.


    Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/tony-abbotts-expensive-humility-20140403-zqq9c.html#ixzz2xqpzrqqS


    I was so impressed when Tony Abbott decided to live with the AFP recruits. He had paraded with the protective vest full of toys for the boys including the taser, a couple of years earlier like a smiling dork... The vest was too small or he was not allowed to fully-impersonate a policeman by buttoning it up... Not that he would have fooled us. At the time he was of course wearing a RED tie, indicative that he was still a communist.
    His elegant gesture to live like a young green-horn, showed us he was a willing to learn green-horn. The accommodations (shown to us by an appreciative MMMM) reminded me of the spartan living quarters in some religious orders, the Jesuits for example... Not much difference between the keepers of law and order and those maintaining the moral law and order... Of course the mad monk could have imagined this killer-vest like the chasuble of priests he would have worn had he pursued priesthood (it is my humble opinion it would have been better for all of us, should he have carried on and become the archbishop of Parramatta under the guidance of B A Santamaria) and thus longed for the days he would have graduated from the seminary's dormitory to the single room priesthood. 
    No. I believe Tony wanted to save the nation's some real dosh. Tony is such inclined: when he pedals for charity, he sends the bill to the government... When he swims for charity, he sends the bills to the government. Though we must admit he generously gives his sweaty presence to charity though the government still pays him a wage, whether he is charitable or not... 
    So Tony wanted to save money on accommodation (unless he wanted a reason to sleep in a single bed)... As soon as he became primal minister, he chose to live like a single (!) man, a pauper at about $770 a week (paid by the day, now totalling 20,000 should he still be there of course), instead of the mansion at $3,000 a week which had been pre-arranged by the government because the official Lodge was being renovated at a cost of millions...
    I must say, I am with Tony on this one. The sensational executive house with swimming pool looks like one of those brick-veneer abodes where the ceilings are too low and the bricks too red. And, from my experience, living without the other-half and without the brats, makes a daddy-dag a bit more energetic in the morning. It gives the brains time to formulate new ways to stuff things up, while getting up before the sun. The morning rituals would have started with a young recruit blowing in a trumpet as a wake-up call, instead of the morning cuddle. The morning fare would be shared by all in the canteen.
    Yes, the lodge had to be renovated, especially those "pink batts" soacked in possum urine and the electrical wiring that could go up in flame any minute. All this of course was good enough for the former lady of the house, Julia Gillard, who did not complain too much about the wallpaper, except when she had important visitors who felt sorry for her. 
    So Tony wanted to save the nation some dosh and he did... Counting the full lease minus the accommodation in cramped quarters and minus the termination fee, Tony saved about 40,000 plus the cost of the "house" staff which were not employed at this time... Or were the staff of the lodge still paid for not being there? Who knows...
    But "downsizing" was obviously the lesson of the day for Tony. We old folks, after the kids have flown the cuckoo's nests, live in houses that are usually too big, rattling and too costly to maintain... especially that swimming pool that no-one uses anymore... Bingo! Tony-the-bright-light saw a way to downsize the budget and suddenly a heap of workers are losing their job: Holden, Boeing, Qantas (let's heap that one on Tony while it's mostly due to Alan Joyce but) and more, except those working for the chocolate factory... 
    One thing's for sure. When one lives alone, a chocolate bar soon starts to replace an elegant meal with candlelight... So by end of day, Tony saved money on not buying candles as well... Thank you, thank you... Mind you now he's moved in with the family at Kirribilli house, Sydney — an expensive bit of official read estate on the lower north shore with views of the harbour... I have no idea where he stays in Melbourne, should he ever go there...

    Gus Leonisky
    Your dithering real estate agent.

     

    an extraordinary embarrassing embarrassment...

     

     Labor has slammed Prime Minister Tony Abbott, declaring him embarrassing for cancelling meetings with the world's top finance officials during his visit to the United States.

    Deputy opposition leader Tanya Plibersek said Mr Abbott had made a succession of missteps during his travels overseas, the latest in the US.

    "Australians have to worry that he'll be embarrassing us on the world stage," she told reporters in Sydney.

    That follows a report from political columnist Laurie Oakes on Saturday that Mr Abbott had cancelled long-planned meetings with US treasury secretary Jack Lew, International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde and World Bank president Jim Yong Kim.

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    Ms Plibersek slammed Mr Abbott as "Nigel no-friends" on the world stage, suggesting he was avoiding facing up to criticism over Australia's lack of action in tackling climate change.

    She said it was extraordinary that Mr Abbott wasn't meeting the top economic officials at a time when Australia was preparing to host world leaders for the November G20 summit, "the most important international meeting that has ever been held on Australian soil".

    But a spokeswoman for Mr Abbott's office said in a statement on Saturday that he was scheduled to meet Mr Lew and Janet Yellen, chair of the Board of Governors of the US Federal Reserve.

    "In the United States the prime minister has a very full program of formal talks with the President (Barack) Obama and other political, policy and business leaders focusing on how we can strengthen this extraordinarily important bilateral relationship.

    "The prime minister is also leading a business delegation to strengthen trade and business ties between our countries."

    The statement did not mention any planned meetings with Ms Lagarde or Dr Kim.

    Treasurer Joe Hockey has previously met with the heads of the IMF and the World Bank and will hold further meetings in July, and they will attend the G20 summit in November.

    Mr Abbott has said he does not want climate change to be the focus of the summit.


    Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/abbott-embarrassing-us-on-the-world-stage-labor-20140607-39q15.html#ixzz3401m4Jqv
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    Our Turd-in-Chief wants to sell more more more coal before global warming kicks in... compounding the problem at a rate of knots... As a "weak" El Nino, promised for the last two years is approaching, it's likely that conditions for bush fires and drought are going to be perfect and getting perfecter... Autumn in Australia has beaten records like flies swatted on a window pane in a grubby delicatessen shop-front, winter is also on the same path and spring, well, hell, who knows...

    Obama knows something has to be done about climate change and he is pushing his agenda.

    Our Turd-in-Chief is a major extraordinary embarrassing denialist who could not care less... as long as more coal and more coal is sold at speed never seen before... Five new giant coal terminals are being built in Queensland to satisfy the fire sale, because let's face, the price of coal is going to tumble, has tumble and is contributing to the acceleration of global warming to which bush fires are going to be like hell.

     

     

    See toon at top...