Wednesday 23rd of September 2020

"darwin was wrong: in the human species, the idiots end up at the top of the tree..." shakespeare...

knuckle dragging...   Prime Minister Scott Morrison is telling the people what they want to hear while his approval rating plummets, writes Mungo MacCallum.

IT WAS ALMOST a throwaway line. In the course of his friendly chat welcoming David Speers to the ABC, Scott Morrison mused that his climate change policy was “evolving”. And since, as usual, he had nothing substantial to say in his ramblings, the commentators, speculators and fortune-tellers seized on the remark, investing it with genuine significance.

Was our leader finally ready to face reality? Would he confront the knuckle draggers, flat Earthers and self-interested fossil fuelers and do something serious? We waited in hope and anticipation. But of course, yet again, we were disappointed.

When ScoMo said things were evolving, he meant exactly that. And like any disciple of Charles Darwin, he knows that evolution is a long, slow process — it is not noticeable over a couple of parliamentary terms, or even a human lifetime.

The mutation that triggers evolutionary change may be a sudden one, but almost all mutations do not survive and the few that do take many generations to be embedded to supersede the less fit species that they replace. The dinosaurs lasted some 250 million years without any discernible progress — indeed, they were brought to environmental extinction before they could overcome their inertia, a thought for Morrison as he contemplates the herd of cold-blooded reptiles in his party room.

So roll on evolution, but for the foreseeable future, it will be business as usual as Morrison was quick to confirm when asked about the interview.

This does not mean he will be totally inactive — the political climate change has at least forced him into that. But it will be little more than tweaking, smoke and mirrors, distraction and spin.

The Prime Minister now insists that his government fully accepts climate change is happening. But it is patently evident that many of his backbenchers and a large chunk of his ministers accept nothing of the kind and there is a lingering suspicion that Morrison strongly sympathises with them — that he is even denying his denialism.

So, he is eager to offer money to a range of victims, from multi-billion agribusinesses to singed koalas which looks like a safe bet — although there are risks even in that, given the rushed process. After all, he definitely does not want a repeat of Kevin Rudd’s pink batt insulation scandals.

And the rest of it is little more than the usual waffle. When the inevitable inquiries report, there will be much talk of resilience and adaptation — palliative care as the patient goes steadily downhill.

We will look at more prevention, which will mean in practice more ruthless land clearing and, no doubt, tougher penalties for arsonists and looters. There are strong indications that our minister for stuff-ups, Angus Taylor, is planning to revive the idea of carbon capture to make coal slightly less polluting, with the added benefit of encouraging the big polluters, the fossil fuel magnates, to ramp up their production.

We may also talk up hydrogen, hydropower and burning waste to fuel electricity generation. But not much for the things that are actually working, mainly wind and solar.

However, there has been at least a semblance of a response to the near-universal view that Australia is not only lagging behind the civilised world but bludging on it, not doing its bit with the ludicrous excuse that because we can’t solve the problem on our own, it is better to do nothing — to go full emissions ahead until everyone else does the job and only then will we sign on.

As the rest of the world watches bemused as the bushfires blaze on and offers us comfort and succour, our government continues to play down the issue — nothing to see here except, of course, our unique environment, so drop over and we’ll slip another shrimp on the barbie just as soon as lighting barbies is permitted.

But the backlash is not just coming from overseas, pesky foreigners who should mind their own business, the country is our toy and we can break or burn it if we want to. It was all going along nicely, until Newspoll arrived last week spreading a bucket of vote retardant across the Coalition in general and Morrison in particular.

The two-party vote of 51 to 49 in Labor’s favour can be dismissed — that was the default position for many months before the last election and Bill Shorten still lost, as we will never forget reminding the bed-wetters. But the drop of eight points in ScoMo’s personal approval rating can hardly be ignored. This is not a statistical aberration or a blip within the poll’s margin of error; it is a dive, a plummet, back to the worst numbers of Bill Shorten, whose unfailing unpopularity presaged his defeat.

Morrison’s numerous apologists assure us that it will be washed away when – if – the fires are actually extinguished, but there is a far grimmer possibility — that the Murdoch columnist Graham Richardson’s constant refrain is coming true: the mob has found him out, that our leader has final been exposed as a double-dyed phony, superficially mouthing profundities but deep down hopelessly shallow.

This is the way it looks from where I sit; I have watched all the 30 Prime Ministers since Menziesand I have never seen one so inadequate. Billy McMahon may have been more risible, but even he had a version of economics and policy and usually tried to implement a coherent free enterprise agenda. Morrison offers nothing but daggy dad clichés, mendacity and evasion.

There is no point in accusing him of insincerity — he has nothing to be either sincere or insincere about.

As always, Shakespeare said it best:

‘…a walking shadow/ That struts and frets his hour upon the stage/ And then is heard no more. It is a tale/ Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury/ Signifying nothing.’

The antihero Macbeth was despairing of life in general, but he knew a doomed and despised leader when he saw one. Actually, that would not be so bad — “nothing” could be seen as an unfortunate pause, common in the long tale of the struggle for survival of the fittest.

ScoMo is a throwback, a reversion to the primeval ooze from which intelligent life eventually emerged. Darwin would discard him. And perhaps, just perhaps, the mob is considering that this may not be the worst option.
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the racket of passing the last tennis summer...

The Daily Telegraph has been nothing if not balanced this past week. On Saturday the Sydney paper published a double-page advertising feature promoting careers in mining, paid for by the Minerals Council of Australia. On Tuesday it followed up with a full-page ad from Greenpeace, which warned that mining coal would lead to the end of the Australian summer tradition of tennis tournaments.

The Greenpeace ad, which mimicked the Australian Open’s blue and white branding, cheekily invited readers to attend the “last Australian Open” before extreme weather forced it to close.


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The fate of embattled Nationals deputy Bridget McKenzie's ministerial career lies in the hands of Australia's top public servant, as the Prime Minister seeks to shield himself from the sports rorts fallout.

There is a sense of irony in Scott Morrison's decision to effectively outsource the decision about Senator McKenzie to the very public service she ignored when handing out $100 million worth of grants to sports clubs before last year's federal election.

But in asking Philip Gaetjens, the secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, to investigate whether the Senator breached ministerial standards, Mr Morrison has tried to distance himself from the scandal while giving himself the political cover he would need to get rid of her from Cabinet.


The Scomo government should resign if Scomo had any ethics in his Christian underpants... 

great scott! a dumb scomo!....

It’s been too long since we were in each other’s warm embrace. But here we are, back from a fume-filled break. As they say in Hawaii, aloha.

It’s not been an easy time for Scotty from Marketing. He is supposed to be a PR genius, yet the art of public relations suddenly got too complicated for him. PR is the place people end up when all other professional options fail, and now Schmo has failed at the failures’ last resort.

The sight of him in his post-Hawaii scramble for street cred will stay with us for yonks: wantonly grabbing at the hands of people who were telling him to “piss off”, dashing about for photographic moments, jabbing his fingers into maps of fire-torn country, ordering “boots on the ground”, producing a grab bag of money that will turn into a trickle when the carnage fades, and his video conflating the Liberal Party with national salvation.

Citizens desperately wanted to believe that promises of an “evolving” climate policy and “balance” were signs that things would change. Nothing will change. We’re trapped in a country led by rorters and snake-oil merchants.

One thing is clear, the Nasty Party is split – clearly evident in the putdown of New South Wales Environment Minister Matt Kean, someone who wants to take more than a timid step on climate policy.

Schmo is a control freak who has lost control, a fearmonger who is afraid – mainly for his own political future. Australia is an international pariah and newspapers such as the Financial Times are mentioning that the prime minister is an “absolute arsehole” – an observation from a ministerial colleague as reported by Niki Savvain her book Plots and Prayers.

Praise be.



You may have detected a touch of longshoreman’s patois has crept into the column. Unlike the hardworking hacks at the ABC, Gadfly has not received any language instructions from the editor.

In response to a miserable Twitterer who dubbed the national broadcaster’s reports on the climate and the fires as “fake news”, Laura Tingle retorted: “A rare editorial engagement: go fuck yourself.”

The Australian Spectator, The Daily Telegraph and The Courier-Mail were among the guardians of public decency who were aghast. Mark Maley, the acting editorial director at Aunty, was quick to send out an all-points ukase to the ranks, urging them to do “nothing that brings the ABC into disrepute”.

“It is crucial that our ability to be impartial and to be seen to be impartial is maintained.”

This raises the question of whether a corrective response to someone who is not impartial itself amounts to impartiality.

Maley continued: “In short, if you wouldn’t say something or endorse a point of view on air, it’s best to avoid doing it on social media.”

Oddly, La Tingle’s lively remark is still available on Twitter, while the account of the anonymous character to whom it was directed has been suspended for violating the rules.


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tell scummo to fuck himself instead of the ABC...

the political death of a salesman...

Scott Morrison’s urgent task to press the reset button at Wednesday’s National Press Club address has been reduced to a repackaging exercise from a very damaged salesman.

Consider this: The Prime Minister of Australia left the country for holidays mid-December when the nation’s biggest city was encircled by a mega-fire ignited by lightning in the Blue Mountains seven weeks before.

By the time he and his family boarded the Jetstar flight to Hawaii, Sydney had already recorded the worst air quality in the world at nearly 30 times safe levels.

The choking smoke reinforced the anxiety and jeopardy millions of Australians were already feeling in what was being described by experts as an unprecedented fire crisis.

Mr Morrison did so as retired emergency and fire chiefs revealed he had refused to meet them to directly hear their warnings earlier in 2019 that the nation needed to be better prepared for a catastrophic bushfire season made worse by climate change.

The Prime Minister’s first instinct on returning to a nation reeling from weeks of bad news, that was in fact worsening, was to virtually say it had nothing to do with him.

The PM blamed the states, said no one advised him more was needed and no one had asked for it.

It was an admission that he was blind to the conflagration on the doorsteps of his official residences in Canberra and Sydney.

It was a complete derogation of duty from the leader of a government who often states his prime responsibility is to “keep Australians safe”.

If there were any doubts that Australians were now viewing Mr Morrison through a different lens, the first Newspoll of 2020 showed his approval crashing and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese leap-frogging him as preferred prime minister.

Trying to regain lost ground

Mr Morrison has tried every contortion to regain lost ground.

He has blitzed the media, announced a $2 billion fire recovery and relief package, and spoken of “resilience and adaptation”.

None of it makes up for the failure to provide the funding required for more water-bombing aircraft or for an already-in-place contemporary national fire disaster plan.

The PM’s problem is the huge hit his credibility has taken.

The nickname infesting social media – “Scotty from Marketing” – while delighted in by his opponents will be lethal if it becomes an embedded general perception.

Sports rorts

Mr Morrison’s inept handling of the fire crisis has been matched by his response to the scathing Auditor-General’s report into the $100 million sports grants process.

The Prime Minister’s first response was to attempt to deny the Auditor-General had found anything wrong with his minister, Bridget McKenzie, and her handling of what was found to be a brazen partisan pork-barrelling exercise of dubious legality.

Senator McKenzie is resisting calls to go and is refusing to take the fall for implementing a scheme the whole government embraced as a campaign masterstroke.

The Prime Minister is a victim not only of his own poor judgment but, in both cases, is wedged by the fraught dynamics in his narrowly returned coalition government.

The Nationals have no appetite to be seen being dictated to by the Liberal Prime Minister over Senator McKenzie’s fate.

That they can’t see the damage the unresolved imbroglio is doing to become just another manifestation of the post-election car crash the government has become.

The Liberal National Party in Queensland – an amalgamation of the two parties – will brook no strengthening of the government’s emissions reduction targets.

It argues its pro-Adani coal mine, jobs before climate, action saved the day for Mr Morrison at the election.

That leaves a weakened Prime Minister with few convincing options to offer for the sort of direction the nation is now demanding.

Paul Bongiorno AM is a veteran of the Canberra Press Gallery, with 40 years’ experience covering Australian politics



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war room...

she�ll be right, sport....


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