In the news … February 2021

Can someone explain it to Scotty from marketing?

28 February 2021: The head prefect is in trouble.  This time even hyperbolic rhetoric can’t get him out of trouble.

Scotty from marketing has to act on the allegation of rape against one of his ministers.  Words alone won’t do it.  It’s an election loser for him.

Worse than all of the sexual misconduct allegations against his thugs, his inability to feel empathy and imagine other people’s responses to life don’t serve him well.

Scotty from marketing is a sociopath.  A trait that probably served him well in politics so far.  Bullying and threatening his way to the top.

Now he needs to find someone to explain to him how to pretend that he does understand how people feel when they have been degraded, abused, and insulted for feeling the shame and anger of all of that.

The way Scotty from marketing makes ordinary people feel every day for being poor, sick, old, unemployed, black, Muslim, or … female.

I’m surprised only that Morrison hasn’t been accused of rape himself.

It’s a tough job to try and explain humanity to someone so devoid of it, and his wife isn’t up to the task; she’s lived with a monster for too long.

Is there anyone in his office who can explain it to him?  He seems to have surrounded himself with like-minded creatures.

Coalition chooses poverty and unemployment

25 February 2021: Professor Ross Garnaut makes a compelling case to say that the Coalition government is deliberately choosing high unemployment and the progressive immiseration of hundreds of thousands of Australians.

In his new book Reset: Restoring Australia after the pandemic recession he argues that policy settings include not aiming at full employment and costing the economy billions in lost economic output per person.

This isn’t a secret.  Particularly not after the ease with which the government increased social security payments during the pandemic to successfully maintain consumer spending during the recession experienced immediately before and during the pandemic.

The message is pretty simple: higher social security payments worked, and were not as unaffordable as ideologues keep telling us.  Against that background, the mean-spiritedness of reducing the Jobseeker rate again to bellow poverty-line levels from 1 April (a truly foolish decision for Fool’s Day) is exposed as ideological economic vandalism.

As is the ‘jobdobber hotline’ for employers to inform, like Nazi scumbags informing on their neighbours to the Gestapo, on people who refuse to accept job offers.  No comment I could make could equal The Guardian’s Van Badham, who succinctly exposes government policy as deliberate mean-spiritedness.

The upshot is pretty simple: look at the overfed faces on the front-benches and ask yourself why these porcine people think it necessary to make lives worse rather than better, and why they don’t actually pursue a policy of full employment.

Who benefits from that economic vandalism?  It is certainly not in the national interest.  But it satisfies the prime minister’s religious ‘prosperity’ theology that says poverty is the outcome of sin while tax evasion and white collar crime are evidence of virtue.  And it allows unscrupulous employers to pretend they have to screw down wages, create insecure gig economy jobs, and steal wages while paying themselves massive bonuses and delivering dividends to shareholders not justified by performance.

John Howard really is tone-deaf!

24 February 2021: John Howard has actually had a hearing problem for decades, but seems determined to compound his disability by willfully adding tone-deafness about rape culture in his party, and stemming directly from attitudes fostered in private schools, many of which are religious.

The Guardian reports he told some holy rollers that religious schools should be exempt from anti-discrimination legislation.

Why?  Because he, and they, know that all sorts of bigotry can be hidden behind a religious smoke-screen.

Yet, it seems almost too astonishing to make these kinds of assertions in the midst of national scandal about sexual assaults on Liberal Party staffers, and the revelations about how widespread sexual assaults are even among school-age children, mostly perpetrated by the sons of wealthy families, fostered in elite private schools.  All this after the national disgrace of senior Liberal ministers Alan Tudge and Christian Porter abusing their positions of power with coercive sexual relationships; one has to wonder whether Scotty from marketing now regrets dismissing those latter episodes.  Probably not.  For him all that counts is numbers in the House, not human decency, ethics, or integrity.

John Howard was the architect of the mean-spirited selfishness that replaced Australian egalitarianism and ‘fair go’ culture. I suppose it isn’t surprising that he has now retired into a dementia-driven attitude of entitlement, arguing for a tiered system of social classes, with his own prejudices as the basis for an elitism that condemns the rest of the nation to second- or third-class citizen status.

It’s time we recognized the interlinked nature of religious patriarchal bigotry, a culture of no consequence for serious crimes committed by the affluent, and the appalling perpetuation of rape culture by, especially, the most right wing extremist politicians and citizens.

There can be no exemptions from the law on grounds of religion, political orientation, or wealth!

Inquiries are methods to bury the truth

23 February 2021: Scotty from marketing’s response to the mishandling of sexual misconduct allegations has been to establish inquiries.  Four of them so far.

What can we expect from these inquiries?

First, three will be conducted by Liberal Party apparatchiks.  Nothing at all will come of these.  They serve only to delay a response until, Scotty hopes, public interest in the issue has died down.  Recommendations will be made, and shoved in a draw somewhere.

The fourth inquiry, to be at arm’s length from parliament and political parties, will be even more drawn out, offering a sinecure position to some former functionary with an interest in prolonging that pay cheque, and likely resulting in doorstop reports and recommendations that will equally go nowhere.

Cynical?  Have a look at parliamentary research paper 2 1998-99, a 2012 parliamentary research paper, and a 2012 senate standing committee report on a code of conduct.  Nothing came of these.  More recently, in August 2020 both Liberal and Labor members of the finance and public administration legislation committee rejected a binding code of conduct for parliamentarians, arguing there was no compelling need.

The message is pretty clear.  Elected representatives don’t want to be scrutinized for ethics, integrity, corruption, or personal behaviours.

Is there a clearer case here for an independent integrity commission?  Could such a commission also address sexual misconduct and bullying?

MPs would probably argue not.  But what has become abundantly clear is that they, and their staff, are not to be trusted top any greater extent than any convicted sex offender, embezzler, or stalker.

Penny Wong nails it on accountability

22 February 2021: Following a third woman making sexual assault claims about the same Liberal party staffer who allegedly raped Brittney Higgins, probably Australia’s most eminent senator, Penny Wong, hit the nail on the head when she rejected Scotty from marketing’s expressions of sympathy as hollow while he leads a culture of complete unaccountability:

“Mr Morrison talks about culture,” Wong said. “But what he is not talking about is the culture he leads, the culture he leads in his own government, where no matter what happens, he is never responsible”.

Wong said that when a Four Corners episode on the “Canberra bubble” raised serious concerns about the culture of mistreatment of women and his government, the government “tried to silence the ABC”.

“When women complained of bullying in his government, he said ‘I’m not going to be distracted by that’,” Wong said.

Katharine Murphy, The Guardian.

I’ve said it before, and nothing’s changed: Scotty from marketing is the champion of a sick organizational culture in the Coalition and in government.

Will that arrogant, patriarchal misogynist and bigot ever be able to change his ways?  I doubt it.  He needs to be voted out.

Did Morrison steal election with rape cover-up?

21 February 2021: If Scotty from marketing’s office knew of the Brittaney Higgins rape allegation in March or April 2019, saying and doing nothing about it, the Coalition likely stole the May 2019 election, which it won by merely two seats.

That’s a powerful reason for cover-up—not without precedent—and could explain the doggedness with which Morrison refuses to acknowledge he must have known.  Getting his former chief of staff to investigate is almost a guarantee of white-wash.  Watch for minor staffers falling on their swords to exonerate their boss; that would be a positive indication of cover-up.

In 1982 or 1983, Bob Hawke’s daughter, Rosslyn Dillon, was allegedly raped repeatedly by Victorian MP Bill Landeryou.  She says that her father, considered by some as Australia’s greatest post-war prime minister, begged her not to go public with the allegation because he was challenging for Labor leadership prior to an election.

At least one of her sisters confirms that she told the family of the alleged sexual assaults. If this were true, it is a stain on Hawke’s reputation, and all who knew about it but remained silent.

As it would be for Scotty from marketing and everyone around him who knew and did nothing so they could win an election rather than act responsibly in the face of a crime.

I suspect the present scandal will not go away, and may have ended Morrison’s plans for an election later this year. We should not let the Coalition paper over this scandal as if it were inconsequential.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese is quite right to argue that it is necessary to have a body independent of parliament and political parties investigate and act on such matters, but he stopped short of linking this to the need for an independent crime and corruption commission, which is what I would be doing.

Political gamesmanship or not, now is the time to push hard on the Coalition’s never ending corruption and sexual misconduct scandals.

Scotty from marketing defunds democracy

20 February 2021: Yesterday’s news that the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) faces severe budget cuts, endangering its ability to report on matters like the sports rorts and community grants corruption by the Coalition government should surprise no one.

Defunding the institutions and services that underpin liberal democracy has been a strategy vigorously pursued by the Republicans in the USA since the Reagan presidency, culminating spectacularly with the Trump administration, including its vandalism of the US postal service to sabotage postal voting at the last presidential election.

In Australia, the Abbott government pursued a similar strategy, most notably with massive budget cuts to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, making the organization incapable of providing accurate snapshots of Australia’s economy and demographics.

This served to help Coalition politicians make dishonest claims about their economic performance, particularly in the areas of employment and GDP growth: we are now routinely told that a handful of casual, part-time hours in an insecure gig economy amounts to jobs growth, and we are lied to about GDP growth as an accurate indicator because we are not told that the figures represent only an increasing wealth concentration and social inequality, not growing prosperity for the entire nation.

It’s no secret that the Coalition is also trying to sabotage a public interest news media by defunding the ABC and supporting right wing extremist propaganda from the News Corporation and Nine Entertainment disinformation platforms. That ANAO is now beings sabotaged to prevent it from exposing Coalition corruption is just the latest assault on democracy and its essential institutions, driven by Scotty from marketing, probably at the behest of Rupert Murdoch and some other billionaire owners of the Coalition.

Craig Kelly’s office a sexist cesspit?

19 February 2021: Why is it not surprising that conspiracy theorist Craig Kelly’s office emerges as a sexist cesspit?

Kelly, and others like him, on the exotic right wing fringe of the Liberal Party, adopt all the worst traits of the American Republicans, which includes a born-to-rule attitude with patriarchal, misogynistic conceptions of women as chattel, and fair game for unwanted sexual advances.

How is it at all possible that Frank Zumbo, the man at the centre of the latest allegations of sexual assault, is still working for the Liberal Party?

Whatever anyone in the Morrison administration now says about rules of conduct and propriety has to be regarded as deliberately dishonest rhetoric.

I suspect that even the Teflon reputation of Scotty from marketing is now tarnished, and he’d move against Kelly if he didn’t need the numbers in the House, where his majority is two MPs, including the speaker.

No one can now deflect allegations of a highly toxic culture in the Liberal Party, nor avoid continuing scrutiny, both official and from the news media.

Open letter to Paul Fletcher

19 February 2021

Re: Facebook comments and News Corp


Your remarks about the Facebook censorship of Australian news sources are largely accurate.

I was particularly taken with your comments on the ABC’s Q&A programme:

It is not acceptable to the government of Australia or any other sovereign nation that giant global corporations are controlling the information that comes to our citizens.

Yet you and your government seem to think it is perfectly acceptable for another foreign corporation, News Corp, to control information that comes to Australian citizens, presumably because Rupert Murdoch’s media assets work as a propaganda platform favouring your side of politics.

Like Facebook, the Murdoch holdings enjoy substantial market power, pay little to no tax, and have been critiqued by his own son, James, as a vehicle for disinformation, climate change denialism, and other conspiracy theories.

In The USA, the Murdoch controlled Fox Corporation, through its Fox News channel, aided and abetted Donald Trump’s conspiracy theorist and neo-fascist allies, including perpetuating the lies about a stolen election, thus aiding and abetting an attempted coup.

Is such a corporation really to be trusted with its oligopoly position in Australia, where its Sky News channel and newspapers have also spread conspiracy theories and are actively undermining Australian democracy by promoting social division, neo-fascism, and political hyper-partisanship.

Please note that two former prime ministers have supported a call for a royal commission to investigate News Corp in Australia; this is not some minority view, and your party’s stubborn insistence on being party to the threat to democracy posed by the Murdoch holdings, especially by undermining the public broadcaster at every opportunity, makes the Liberal Party an equal threat to our national freedoms.

Whatever the measures might be to counter the Facebook censorship, some means of rebalancing News Corporation’s activities must also be put in train.

On the subject of Facebook in isolation, the astonishing failure of Australian governments of all flavours to spot the danger in relying on this foreign-owned corporation is simply flabbergasting for its incompetence.

Private individuals and businesses taking the risk of basing their entire business models around a ‘free’ platform is bad enough.  But for governments to do so beggars belief.

Would you have supported a Chinese platform quite so uncritically?  A Russian one?

Why is it that government here has not pursued a policy of supporting an Australian social media platform, free from the benighting jargon and red tape that deadens Commonwealth and state websites, making them all but useless as information platforms.

Seeing the heavy reliance of government agencies on platforms like Facebook, why has your government not invested heavily in an Australian alternative, underpinned by NBN infrastructure, but as an arm’s length joint venture between the ABC, SBS, and an Australian technology company (like Atlassian, for example)? 

Is this not risk management 101?  Or will you persist in trusting foreign data storage, management, and manipulation organizations?

I would take it as a measure of your personal ineffectiveness not to act by planning on Australian independence from foreign corporations in the media space, including News Corporation (with a corresponding end to ABC-bashing in the service of Rupert Murdoch), and at least a plan for an independent, Australian social media platform.

Peter Strempel
BA, MBA, MInfTech,
Cert IV 40116 Training & Assessment

Conspiracy of lies in parliament house

19 February 2021: An investigation by News Corp Australia political editor Samantha Maiden leaves little doubt that we are being lied to by the prime minister’s office, parliamentary bureaucrats, ministers, and ministerial staff about the Brittany Higgins rape in defence minister Linda Reynold’s office on 22 March 2019.

The report lends renewed credibility to former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s comment that it’s very hard to believe Scotty from marketing didn’t know about the rape allegation until this month.

Further weight is given to doubts about the veracity of a whole slew of people working in parliament house by reports that federal police were not assisted forthrightly in their investigations.

Michelle Grattan, for The Conversation, was incisive about pointing to Scotty from marketing’s very poor handling of the scandal. Perhaps doubly so for being such a marketing guru. He comes across, on this one, as someone with things to hide that no amount of finger-pointing at the ‘other side’ will deflect.

Even Peta Credlin, former chief of staff to Tony Abbott and chief anti-Labor propagandist at Rupert Murdoch’s Sky News, stated that Morrison’s claims to have not known about the rape allegations until this week ‘didn’t stack up’.

If ever there was an argument to resurrect a fully independent integrity commission with powers to investigate politicians and bureaucrats, this is it.

If only a small part of the lies and obfuscation being reported are true, at least two ministers, Scotty from marketing, several ministerial advisers, and one or more bureaucrats should be investigated and prosecuted for perverting the course of justice and lying to the nation.

Fletcher’s Facebook claims more valid for News Corp

18 February 2021: Communications minister Paul Fletcher’s ridiculous comments about Facebook not being trustworthy actually made me laugh out loud.

Only idiots would have ever trusted Facebook to serve up reliable news information.

Similarly, only idiots would turn to Nine Entertainment or News Corp for reliable news rather than extreme right wing opinions.

No warning from Fletcher about those, though.  Because their propaganda favours his side of politics.

No mention of News Corp’s culpability in fomenting a coup in the USA.  How trustworthy can such an organization be?

The [media bargaining] code has been criticised as badly drawn legislation which undermines the workings of an open web, or a Faustian pact between Scott Morrison’s government and Rupert Murdoch, or both. Even those who want to see a transfer of wealth from big tech to underfunded journalism were unsure that this was the right way to do it.

Emily Bell, The Guardian.

It seems disappointing that Google should have done a deal with Murdoch’s propaganda platform for a subscription service.  Hopefully it will fail as badly as his Australian holdings.  Who wants to pay to be exposed to extreme right wing propaganda?

As for the ‘outcry’ about Facebook feeds being blanked out, what were all these people thinking, relying on the platform for entertainment, their businesses, and their messaging?

Did they fail to understand they have no rights in that space that Zuckerberg and co don’t grant them. Or revoke at any time?

How has Facebook insinuated itself into so many lives? Have IQs dropped sharply in Australia that we don’t seem to understand we don’t have any claim on the social media giants?

Rape just part of the perks for Morrison’s gangsters

16 February 2021: Why is it so awful that I cannot say anything but ‘I told you so’ when hearing about Brittany Higgins?

How many stories have we not heard?  Will never hear?  Of overbearing men in powerful positions who think their public school immunity from consequences will last their whole lives?

This is just the side-effect of Coalition politicians who think they are accountable to no one, because our Fourth Estate has comprehensively failed us, and our ALP opposition is so timid it doesn’t understand ethics anymore.

And rape of women is almost desultory to the rape of the country they perpetrate daily.

How very telling that Scotty from marketing chose to blame a woman for not making him aware of the rape allegation. How very neat that this whole thing becomes a women’s problem.

I want so much to believe Katharine Murphy from the Guardian, but she seems so terribly removed from her own profession, from the sins of omission of her profession. From continuous failure to hold the rich and powerful to account for their transgressions.

It isn’t just the failure of Scotty from marketing, or his wife’s ridiculous suggestion he should be a father figure (he’d be the abusive father, for sure). It’s the failure of the Fourth Estate, with its many women, to speak up and stand against patriarchal abuse. What use are you, Murphy, if you comment only when it’s opportune for you?

Do we now conclude that we ourselves don’t understand ethics anymore to allow such things to happen?

Are we so stupid that we actually need to see these men with loaded guns in hand while raiding a bank before we know they are crooks of the worst kind?

Republicans now officially USA Nazi Party

14 February 2021: Having found Donald Trump innocent of fomenting a coup (‘insurrection’ to those who don’t like the truth), I guess that means the Republicans have finally voted themselves the American Nazi Party.

PM is actually only minister for deflection and guilty secrets?

14 February 2021: What prompted Laura Tingle’s critique of Scotty from marketing for refusing to answer questions about leadership and accountability?

It’s not that the comment is not richly deserved by a government plagued with corruption and pathological liars.  Scotty from marketing is infamous for rejecting questions and evading forthright answers.

But he’s been doing it for so long that you have to wonder whether Australia has any Forth Estate presence at all anymore.

Could it be that Tingle was aware that parliamentary independent procedure office research has found that Scotty from marketing deferred answers to questions put to him in parliament to his ministers 189 times since he became the prime minister for holidays, announcements, and lack of accountability.

On another 62 instances he partly answered before deferring to a minister.

The research compared Scotty from marketing to Julia Gillard, who never once deflected or deferred a question during her time as prime minister.

We should not be surprised.  Scotty from marketing has made evasion a hallmark of his administration.  He clearly has plenty to hide.

But a worse suspicion niggles at me: what if all this evasion is actually an indicator that Scotty from marketing is clueless about what goes on in his government?  Not just the most corrupt government since federation, but the most ignorant and incompetent?

Dutton needs to explain inconsistency

11 February 2021: In the fallout to the ABC’s 7:30 report story on a fast-tracked $880,000 grant to the National Retail Association (NRA) days after it donated $1500 to the LNP for Peter Dutton’s political purposes, an inconsistency in the details must be explained.

The ABC says: ‘The grant was not awarded through any open or competitive grant scheme, but was awarded on a one-off basis by Mr Dutton.’

However, NRA CEO Dominique Lamb is says ‘ … we worked incredibly hard to go through a significant tender process in order to be awarded this particular grant, because it was at such need of our membership.’

It can’t be both ways: not through and open and competitive grant scheme and subject to a significant tender process.

The NRA apparently donated a d further $5000 to the LNP in 2019, the year the grant was approved.

I suggest any fair-minded person can spot a huge potential for conflict of interest here, and it is incumbent on Dutton to explain how it was not a corrupt exchange of favours, relying on his control of the Commonwealth’s Confiscated Assets Account.

It is not good enough to dismiss the matter as ‘defamatory’; that’s a meaningless statement unless Dutton is willing to test the matter in an open court of law.

Hunt prostitutes federal government

10 February 2021: What a pathetic little pimp our health minister is, whoring out the whole nation for a bit of cheap publicity for the Liberal Party.

The ABC’s Michael Rowland was quite right to question why a federal minister would make a Commonwealth announcement featuring a party-political logo rather than the Commonwealth crest.

It’s a question one would have had to ask the ALP too if it had been in government and used its own logo for an announcement.

This is the kind of corrupt behaviour that seeks to use the Commonwealth as a private fiefdom of the Liberals, the way Donald Trump used the USA’s highest office as personal business collateral.

I’m no great fan of Rowland, but I would back his ethics and integrity above that of the Liberal Party corruption machine any day.

Dutton’s hand in piggy-bank as well

10 February 2021: Following on from the rolling series of public funding used for Coalition electioneering saga, today it comes to light Peter Dutton has been doing the same with money seized from proceeds of crime.

The nation’s top law enforcement spiv leading by example: if it can be rorted, why not?  No one can stop us.

Corruption is how we lose democracy

9 February 2021: Should we be surprised that the NSW Coalition, like its federal counterpart, thinks taxpayer-funded grant money is actually a re-election piggy bank?

I suppose not.

Yet it is an indicator of how we are being progressively desensitized to ever greater corruption by politicians.

That desensitization is driven in no small part by an ever-greater failure by our Fourth Estate to be that; to tell truth to power and to pursue corruption as more than a day’s headline followed up by deafening silence.

This is the road we take to destroying our democracy and attaining the shambles that are the American and British systems that were once admired around the world.

Ultimately, I must suppose, it is also because most of us are far too narrowly focused on our own mean-spirited, selfish concerns, and do not engage widely enough with our communities and civic structures to force greater honesty on our elected and appointed public servants.

Wage theft now called ‘structural adjustment’

7 February 2021: In an underreported news item, the Coalition gang has labelled wage theft in the tourism industry ‘structural adjustment’ in the same week as a South Australian hospitality worker was assaulted when demanding her below-minimum wage pay.

Euphemisms like ‘structural adjustment’ always hide a truth that could be expressed in more simple words.  Wage theft?  Criminal standover?  Screwing workers?

Is there an irony in the coincidence that the assaulted tea shop worker is South Australian, and the euphemist is South Australian senator Simon Birmingham?

Is there a bigger irony in the fact that the Helloworld travel company emailing its employees to demand large pay cuts is run by Andrew Burnes (Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director), who was treasurer of the federal Liberal Party, and shares a background in tourism with Scotty from marketing?

Someone should ask Helloworld’s senior management team how big their own pay cuts will be.  Or should we understand that executive fat cats will never be part of any ‘structural adjustment’?

Right wing clowns still outplay ALP

5 February 2021: Coming immediately after a failed right wing extremist coup in the USA, Scott Morrison’s failure to censure Craig Kelly and George Christensen, plus a cowardly move to add mention of far left anarchists and communists to a motion condemning extremist threats, tells us Morrison thinks he can gain votes by wooing precisely the right wing extremists he and his gang say don’t exist.

(Having a cosy chat with Kelly to point out that his conspiracy theories are not government policy is not a rebuke or censure, just more spin.)

But we know they exist, from personal experiences, and empirical evidence from the UN.

At the same time, we learn Tony Abbott will join the IPA, possibly the most prominent neo-fascist ‘think tank’ outside the USA, to promote ‘traditional Australian values’.  That’s the cowardly way of talking about the White Australia policy, misogyny, homophobia, racism, and every other kind of bigotry.

The hands of Rupert Murdoch, Gina Rinehart, and others are in this effluent up to their elbows.  For profit.  And with the same mistaken belief they can control fascists to limit their terrifying ambitions that German industrialists had in the 1920s and ‘30s.  We all know how that turned out.

Worst of all, Scotty from marketing has long sought to cloak his government in the honourable and terrible price the ANZACS paid for opposing the same fascism he now seeks to embrace.  All veterans should be opposing this fraction of a man.

And still, the ALP fails to call him out for what he is: a neo-fascist who has already allowed his dumbest colleagues to destroy our trading relationship with China, and who seeks to make second-class citizens of thousands of Australians.  The Indue card, among other measures, may not quite be a cloth yellow star or pink triangle sewn to clothes, but it serves the same function: to make people un-people in others’ eyes.

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