In the news … March 2021

In the news banner for March 2021.

Australia lags in climate change, sex discrimination

24 March 2021: The Guardian picked up nicely on a theme in Coalition policy today: Australia lags behind international standards on climate change and sex discrimination.

Guardian environment editor Adam Morton reported that a letter from Boris Johnson to Scott Morrison, tabled during a senate estimates hearing on Monday, explained why Australia was disinvited from an international leaders’ summit on climate change in December because Australian policy is not ambitious enough.

A rebuke from Johnson on climate change, however diplomatically worded, is probably a bigger embarrassment than daily local news about the government’s climate policy failures.

Examining UN targets for eliminating discrimination against women, the Guardian’s Melissa Davey reports that Australia has met only 25 per cent of UN recommendations, while Asia-Pacific nations in crisis had achieved 40 per cent, compared to 34 per cent of Asia-Pacific nations not in crisis.

That’s probably no surprise to women in Australia, with a rolling scandal bedeviling a Coalition government exposed as host to a toxic culture of misogyny and sexual harassment, which likely spreads far beyond political parties, Parliament House, and the ‘Canberra Bubble’.

These specific policy failures are hardly the only ones challenging Australia.

Only idiots would believe Trumpists?

24 March 2021: An American lawyer who acted for Trump in November is using a legal defence that ‘no reasonable person’ would have mistaken her stolen election claims as statements of fact!

So she’s saying that all Americans who believed stolen election claims—millions of them—are morons for believing the claims?

The Guardian’s Tom McCarthy reports that a lawyer acting for Trump seeking to overturn election results in November, Sidney Powell, is being sued for billions of dollars by the voting machine company she impugned with allegations that the machines were rigged.

Her legal defence includes the argument that the ‘elaborate conspiracies she laid out on television and radio last November while simultaneously suing to overturn election results in four states constituted legally protected first amendment speech’.

“No reasonable person would conclude that the statements were truly statements of fact,” argued lawyers for Powell, a former federal prosecutor from Texas who caught Trump’s attention through her involvement in the defense of his former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Powell falsely stated on television and in legal briefs that Dominion machines ran on technology that could switch votes away from Trump, technology she said had been invented in Venezuela to help steal elections for the late Hugo Chávez.

It will be interesting to see whether a precedent is made here about responsibilities and consequences accruing to public figures spreading lies and disinformation. Equally interesting will be whether this absurd argument makes its way into the Australian political lexicon.

For posterity: Morrison squirms trapped by his own dishonesty

23 March 2021: There’s nothing intrinsically new in the following quotes, but they deserve to preserved for posterity.

The consequences of playing at semantics and dishonesty are coming back to Scotty from marketing, perhaps in a way he didn’t expect because he got away with similar prevarication in the past.

Following a terse exchange with Sky News politics editor Andrew Clenell, in which the latter said workplace conditions at his place of work were better than in Parliament House, Scotty from marketing threw back that:

“You would be aware that in your own organisation that there is a person who has had a complaint made against them for harassment of a woman,” Mr Morrison told Sky News political editor Andrew Clennell, after being asked about parliamentary culture.

“That matter is being pursued by your own HR department.”

—Josh Butler, The New Daily.

News Corporation Australia executive chairman Michael Miller issued a press release shortly later:

Prime Minister Scott Morrison was wrong today to claim an investigation is under way into a complaint accusing an employee of harassment against a woman in a female toilet. No complaint has been received and News Corp and Sky News are not dealing with a complaint.

News Corp and Sky News take seriously any issues raised by staff and our utmost priority is to respect their privacy and confidentiality. This is standard business practice and because of this, we do not normally comment on private matters.

However given the Prime Minister’s extraordinary public claims made at a press conference broadcast live across the nation, I want to put to rest any suggestion that an employee of our company is being investigated for conduct suggested by Mr Morrison.

In recent weeks, following the reporting of matters of sexually inappropriate behaviour at Parliament House, our HR team proactively gave our staff the opportunity to talk to us in confidence about their well-being. I thank those who did so.

During these proactive conversations, the News Corp’s HR team learned of a verbal exchange between two News Corp employees in Parliament House in Canberra last year. The exchange was about a workplace-related issue, it was not of a sexual nature, it did not take place in a toilet and neither person made a complaint. Following those inquiries, our HR team wrote to one of the people involved and the matter was resolved.

The Prime Minister appears to have joined these two matters and conflated them into an episode of harassment in a toilet that is under current investigation.

This is simply untrue and it undermines the principle that people must be able to raise issues safely and in confidence.

News Corp has no further statements to make on this matter.

—Reported on Guardian news blog, 18:59, 17:02.

Still later, news.com.au reported the whole thing from News Corp’s perspective, including the following:

During today’s press conference, Clennell questioned whether Mr Morrison had “lost control” of his ministerial staff after revelations on Monday of lewd behaviour by Coalition staffers, including one who performed a sex act on a female MP’s desk.

“Your job would probably be in a bit of jeopardy wouldn’t it?” Clennell asked. “Doesn’t it look like you have lost control of your ministerial staff?”

The PM hit back by suggesting people in “glass houses” should “be careful”.

“I will let you editorialise as you like, but if anyone in this room wants to offer up the standards in their own work places as comparison I would invite you to do so,” he said.

Clennell replied, “They seem better than what is in yours.”

Mr Morrison said, “Let me take you up on that. Right now, you would be aware that in your own organisation that there is a person who has had a complaint made against them for harassment of a woman in a women’s toilet. And that matter is being pursued by your own HR department.”

“I am not aware of it,” Clennell said.

Mr Morrison said, “You are not aware of it. So let’s not all of us who sit in glass houses here start getting into that. It’s about taking responsibility. What I am suggesting to you is that there are serious issues here that no single individual can overwatch on every single inch of this place every second of the day. I don’t think any Australian has that reasonable expectation.”

—Ben Graham and Frank Chung, news.com.au.

It’s possible to detect a bit of venom in presenting the entire exchange to imply Morrison was acting like a threatening bully.  Not that Scotty from marketing doesn’t routinely behave that way.  It’s unusual as a public signal from one of Rupert Murdoch’s organs to the Liberal party.  Is this a signal that Rupert Murdoch has decided Morrison must be replaced as Liberal leader and PM?  The way he did with Malcolm Turnbull.

From Morrison’s perspective, this must surely count as another tactical blunder brought on by undisciplined anger and the arrogance this predictably inspires in Scotty from marketing.

Left hanging unanswered is the question: from which source did Morrison have the apparently incorrect ‘information’ about an investigation at News Corp?  And how long does he think that by pointing to the mistakes of others, real or imagined, he can avoid taking responsibility for his own, which, of course, must include those of his ministers, parliamentary staff, and the wider party.

Scott Morrison is the leader of the Liberal Party.  Nothing that occurs in the party is not ultimately his responsibility.

He is also the prime minister, and nothing that occurs in his government is not also ultimately his responsibility.

The alternative is that Scotty from marketing is not a leader.

After Mr Morrison’s media conference, Labor’s Kristina Keneally claimed he had “outed” the woman allegedly involved in the allegation, and questioned whether it had been done with that person’s consent.

“It does beggar belief that somehow the Prime Minister of Australia doesn’t know about an alleged rape of a staffer in his own government… But somehow, knows something, about an unspecified allegation of something that might’ve happened at News Corp,” she said.

“How in the world does the Prime Minister think it’s OK… to talk about it on national television? To throw out there an allegation that he apparently knows about, and then quite frankly, to look like he was almost threatening the reporter.”

—Josh Butler, The New Daily.

Exactly how Morrison made an enemy of Malcolm Turnbull remains shrouded in the fog of disputed history, but Turnbull isn’t shy about speaking his mind:

I do not believe that the Prime Minister ‘s office was not advised of the Brittany Higgins rape allegation or indeed the incident even before the allegation of rape was made.

I do not believe that the PMO was not told about that immediately.

And by the way, nobody else does.

As to whether Scott Morrison was told about it, you know, it beggars belief that he wasn’t but ultimately, you know, he has said that he wasn’t.

I know how prime ministers operate obviously but it would be inconceivable that something of that kind wouldn’t be advised to the PMO.

His office must have known.

—Malcolm Turnbull, Guardian news blog, 16:38

And:

You see, in the absence of strong leadership, and we have no leadership on the issue at the moment, it is going to continue and people think they can get away with it because nobody is being held accountable. It is this lack of accountability that is right at the heart of this.

—Malcolm Turnbull, Guardian news blog, 16:41

There it is again: Scotty from Morrison is just not a leader.  Chief lout, bully, and cup bearer.  But not a leader.  More like an unpopular boy being made head prefect ahead of others to prevent a complete surrender to anarchy within the party.

PM’s tortured language certain to hide other lies

23 March 2021: Scotty from marketing’s tortured language yesterday, in trying not to admit he knew the Gaetjens inquiry, into who in his own office knew what and when about the Brittney Higgins rape allegations, was on hold since 9 March, indicates that he’s hiding something else.

Why else would he try to obfuscate something he clearly knew about: the AFP had asked for a halt to Gaetjens’ investigation to allow its own investigations to proceed without conflict or confusionIf that is really what happened.  Who can tell with a government so wedded to lies that it falls back on dishonesty by default, even when it’s not necessary for any cover-up of corrupt conduct.

This whole thing would have been merely embarrassing, but not overly so, had it not been followed almost immediately by public revelations of at least one Coalition staffer filming himself masturbating in Parliament House, including on or over a woman minister’s desk.  Filming himself!  Having a wank in Parliament House.  And then sharing the video with colleagues! What sort of people, exactly, populate the Coalition’s ranks of hangers-on?  Do they represent the kind of people who vote for Coalition MPs?

A different question has been asked and not answered; it’s worth asking again, against this background of incompetence and perversion: what kind of prime minister needs an investigation to uncover who knew what and when inside his own office?

The answer must include: a man so egregiously incompetent–or dishonest–he can’t be entrusted with high office.  Scotty from marketing knows that he knew from the beginning, that key staff in his office knew almost as soon as he did, and that the Gaetjens inquiry was just a diversion.  One that has come back to bite him for its transparent dishonesty.

Even his own party must be reaching a tolerance limit for his unforced failures to perform in recent days, so obviously lying and prevaricating even a retarded Chihuahua could not have failed to notice, when faced with questions that didn’t need to be spun … unless Scotty from marketing is hiding something else.  Something much more embarrassing.

Why does the Liberal Party not move on this man?  For one, his personal approval ratings remain mysteriously high; are only neo-fascists being polled?  For another, the party is probably rightfully fearful of any likely successor—Austapo boss Peter Dutton.  And who knows what guilty secrets Scotty from marketing is still sitting on, with which senior Liberals as the perpetrators?

Coalition subverts confidentiality Bill

22 March 2021: So, the Coalition managed to pass the Archives and Other Legislation Amendment Bill through the Senate, to ensure the confidentiality of evidence given to an inquiry into sexual assault and harassment in Parliament House.

But they slipped in an amendment that would effectively make of the inquiry a repository for all evidence of misdeeds to forever make these secret and inaccessible even through freedom of information legislation.

Of course they did!

And the ALP isn’t complaining either.

Fortunately, independent Zali Steggall picked up on it and hopes to motivate amendments that don’t facilitate the cover-ups when the Bill returns to the House.

Ms Steggall said the clause meant complaints made to a minister or department, or reviews of claims of bullying and harassment made to a political party, would be exempt — whether or not those documents pre-dated the inquiry.

That could have ramifications if a former staffer is taking the minister or department to court for unfair dismissal, or launching a civil court claim for assault, for example.

“It impacts the rights of complainants that they might otherwise have to pursue other remedies,” said Ms Steggall, who was a barrister before entering politics.

This is the Coalition demonstrating how serious it is about addressing sexual assault and harassment.  At the same time as the ALP demonstrating the same thing.

Inflexible arrogance disarrays Coalition

18 March 2021: On this last sitting day of Parliament before May, the failure of Scotty from marketing and his lieutenants to accept any responsibility for their mistakes, or to compromise in the national interest, reveals the Coalition to be in a dangerous disarray.

First and foremost, the Coalition’s manifest misogyny remains entrenched by a failure of the PM and his ministers to accept the need for change to law and attitudes towards women.  Digging in on inflexible, arrogant, and very dated, patriarchal positions does not make the Coalition appear strong.

What would it take for Scotty from marketing to realize he’s out of step with even large parts of his own voter base?  Or is he really the kind of banana republic dictator who refuses to acknowledge national interests in the hope of bullying and intimidating his way out of a crisis of his own making?

If Morrison continues this way, we may actually see a vote of no confidence heading his way, leading to an election he can’t win in spite of the weakness of the opposition leader.

Coalition strategy to silence critique, not address serious concerns

17 March 2021: Disgraced attorney general Christian Porter’s decision to sue for defamation as a result of an ABC story that doesn’t even mention his name is a desperate act from a desperate man.  And likely an effort to silence mounting criticism of his fitness to occupy high office on the basis that a court action is in train.

I would not be surprised if Scotty from marketing urged this action on him; he’s had plenty of time to take legal action and chose not to.  It was he who identified himself as an unnamed subject in the story talking about rape allegations against a senior government member.

The ridiculous assertions from retiring SA Liberal Nicolle Flint that GetUp! was responsible for a vilification campaign, and that Senator Penny Wong and ALP front-bencher Tanya Plibersek didn’t do enough to stand by her in what she says was a misogynist campaign sounds very much like another confected attempt to divert attention from the Coalition’s inability or refusal to address its sexism problem.

The viciousness of some of the attention Flint gained is much more likely due to her hardline approach to environmental and animal rights issues than to Labor, union, or GetUp! activism.  Being called a ‘whore’ is not always misogyny; it could relate to selling yourself to someone like Rupert Murdoch, the way Flint did with her often intemperate Adelaide Advertiser columns.  The way many men do, too.  Men I would have no qualms describing as whores for prostituting themselves to a propaganda machine.

Flint’s little sideshow doesn’t really divert attention from the fact that Scotty from marketing still doesn’t get it about women.  What was he thinking when he saw fit to talk about Australian women being lucky not to be shot for protesting?  How would this be a sign of anything other than him not understanding or caring for the aspirations of women to be treated as human beings rather than as second class citizens, or chattel.

It is noteworthy that News Corp’s online vehicle, news.com.au, carried an editorial condemning Morrison for being missing in action yet again during a moment of national crisis. Does he really think he can face down even the Murdoch propaganda machine?

Morrison, Porter lack integrity, decency

13 March 2021: Disgraced attorney general Christian Porter lacks any hint of integrity and decency for not resigning from his ministerial portfolio pending an inquiry he, himself, should request from the solicitor general.

In defending Porter, Scotty from marketing has further diminished the office of prime minister, already tarnished by his arrogant, repeated dismissal of any accountability for himself or his ministers relating to a growing portfolio of corruption and malfeasance within Coalition ranks.

Porter now faces a complaint to the legal practice board of WA (his home state) to probe whether he is a fit and proper person to be a member of the legal profession.  That complaint alone will prolong the scandal he has sought to avoid by taking mental health leave.

Yet the very action of prolonging the scandal is evidence that Porter, and Scotty form marketing, are not acting in the best national interests, nor the best interests of the office of attorney general.

As the nation’s most senior law officer, it should have been incumbent on him to respond to the scandal by requesting from the solicitor general an inquiry into himself to establish whether he could be rightly regarded as a fit and proper person to hold that office.

Having failed to initiate that inquiry, or stand aside, the conclusion must be reached that Porter lacks integrity and enough common human decency to respect Australian voters enough to step aside from his ministerial portfolios.

This failure, alone, already marks him as unreliable, untrustworthy, and unfit.  What it says about Scotty from marketing is possibly worse. He already presides over a government recognized internationally for seeking to protect political and public service corruption.

Gleeson exposes Morrison as an ignorant bumpkin

11 March 2021: Not that former solicitor general Justin Gleeson needed to after his public comments this week, in an editorial in The Guardian, he establishes clearly and authoritatively how Scotty from marketing has it entirely, stubbornly wrong about disgraced attorney general Christian Porter.

The attorney general, as the first law officer, has the ultimate responsibility to the parliament and the people for the compliance by the commonwealth with the law. She or he is both a political figure and a law officer. The solicitor general, or second law officer, holds an office under statute, the Law Officers Act 1964. The solicitor general, not being a member of parliament, is unaffected by political concerns.

Once it was known that it was Porter who was the subject of the allegations, the law recognises an irreconcilable conflict between Porter’s legitimate private interests and the performance of his duties as first law officer. Privately, Porter was entitled to the presumption of innocence and the right to silence as against any possible criminal charges. He was also entitled to take legitimate steps to defend himself against possible civil actions or executive inquiries that might follow. However, as a senior minister, holding a commission from the governor general under section 64 of the constitution, his position was now under a cloud and his clear duty was to put the high interests of the office of attorney general ahead of his private interest.

Given this irreconcilable conflict, the proper workings of government required two immediate steps. The first was that the solicitor general needed to be engaged immediately to provide the government with all necessary legal advice to comply with the law. Stephen Donaghue QC would have the assistance of legal officers within the attorney general’s department and the Australian government solicitor. In particular, he and his team would have privileged access to records of the commonwealth extending over 120 years, many of which are not available publicly or readily, on how the commonwealth has used its power of executive inquiry in situations which might provide useful precedents.

The questions for Donaghue would have included: does the executive have power as a matter of law to conduct an inquiry into allegations of historical misconduct by a minister where those allegations, if sustained, might be capable of bearing upon the current fitness and propriety of that minister to continue to hold a commission under section 64 of the constitution? If so, what are the relevant limits upon that power? What precedents are there for the exercise of such power in a case like the present? If an inquiry were to be held, what form could it take? Should it have statutory authority? What legal protections should be put in place to ensure that it provides fairness to Porter and does not abrogate his protections under the criminal justice system (noting that while the current case against him is closed for lack of sufficient admissible evidence, it could always be re-opened if further evidence came to light)?

This convincing reasoning cuts Morrison to the ground as an ignorant bumpkin, a rôle he plays so well you have to wonder whether he’s acting at all.

Gleeson’s is the correct approach if we were dealing with a responsible government.

We are not.  The only imperative Scotty from marketing recognizes is maintaining his own personal power, which rests on preserving his shrinking majority from the turmoil of acknowledged malfeasance by his ministers.

How the prime minister has managed to do that at all is a matter of concern; it means our Fourth Estate and the Labor opposition have failed to pursue the government vigorously enough on its accountabilities, responsibilities, and higher (than common civil and law abiding) standards of behaviour.

Still, it looks like this scandal is just not going away with the news cycle churn, the way Scotty from marketing had it planned when he sent his two most controversial ministers into the media exile of medical or mental health leave of absence.

Morrison may yet have to retreat on this issue, and permit examination of fitness to hold high office. What does it say about an attorney general that he needs mental health leave to address an accusation of which he claims to be innocent?

It must be galling in a week that the prime minister had earmarked as the time to test the waters for an early election on the basis of positive, though undoubtedly doctored, economic news.  I had emails from Josh Frydenberg and John Howard waxing lyrical about Coalition achievements and soliciting party political donations.

And the economic news is good only when massaged a little to hide its relativity to appalling conditions during the national pandemic lockdown.

That early election seems a lot riskier now, even with the flaccid performance of an apparently paralysed Labor Party.

Morrison wrong and incompetent declaring Porter innocent, ALP says don’t vote for us

10 March 2021: Scotty from marketing declaring Christian Porter innocent has no basis in fact or law.  The absence of a trial and a guilty verdict does not make an accused person innocent or guilty.  Unless the accusation is successfully refuted in some way (other than a criminal trial), the jury is out, as it were.

Dismissing the opinion of former solicitor general, Justin Gleeson, on the basis of his integrity in opposing a Coalition politicization of the office is not logically valid.  The opinion was not questioned, only the character of Gleeson.

It must surely be evidence of willfully ignorant incompetence by the PM to not have read the reported 33-page ‘dossier’ on Porter’s alleged sexual misconduct.  Or a deliberate lie to avoid closer questioning of Scotty from marketing’s own conduct in ‘managing’ the political rape culture allegations generally, and the Porter case specifically.

Even more egregious is Morrisson’s failure to consult the current solicitor general, Stephen Donaghue, because he was not advised to.  Advised by whom?  Didn’t Gleeson do so yesterday?  If the PM cannot or will not act unless advised to, what is the point of the title and office?  Has Australia signed up a bunch of faceless ‘advisors’ to run the country?

It is once again disappointing that Morrison wasn’t pursued on those very questions by the people who make up the national political news media cognoscenti.  The man is such a walking Gordian knot of lies, deception, misdirection, and unaccountability he should be the most conspicuous target for investigation by anyone claiming to be a journalist.

Worse than the news media failure, again, is the complete silence from the opposition.  Why aren’t the leader and shadow attorney general pounding the government on this issue?

A half-interested observer could be excused for concluding that the Coalition is in crisis and incredibly vulnerable right now, but that the ALP is so disinterested that it signals to the electorate a desire not to be elected to government.

Gleeson’s compelling advice on Porter shows Morrison is trying to undermine, not uphold the rule of law

9 March 2021: Former solicitor general Justin Gleeson rightly pointed out that the solicitor general should be asked to provide an opinion about how to end concerns whether Christian Porter is a person fit to hold high office.

As the nation’s second most senior law officer, the solicitor general seems the logical arbiter of whether Christian Porter has any case to answer outside the criminal law domain.

To wit, has Porter done anything in the past or present to bring his office into disrepute, making him unfit to hold the office of attorney general?

It is a question Scotty from marketing is trying hard to avoid, because it has far greater scope than determining whether a crime has been committed.  It effectively extends to more recent behaviours, such as those exposed in the Four Corners ‘Inside the Canberra Bubble’ report, and Porter’s own handling of the allegations since then.

Gleeson quite rightly points out that the PM’s assertions about the rule of law could be definitively adjudicated as a matter of law, not politics, and that the solicitor general’s opinion could address much broader terms than any coronial inquiry that might arise in South Australia.

Gleeson’s views will not be welcome by Scotty from marketing, because they again assert the solicitor general’s political independence, following former attorney general George Brandis’ disgraceful demand that all requests for legal opinions from the solicitor general be approved by the attorney general.  That dispute led to Gleeson’s resignation in 2016, embarrassing the Coalition government for its crude politicization of the solicitor general’s office.

And this is again the issue: will the PM ignore the law, simply asserting his own uninformed opinion on it, or will he allow a proper legal process to elapse in considering the Porter allegations and the attorney general’s conduct in relation to those allegations?

Morrison will dig his heels in to maintain the slimmest parliamentary majority and prevent his own party from imploding if the solicitor general finds Porter, and possibly others, have a case to answer.

Why isn’t the opposition fulsomely supporting the option of calling on the solicitor general?  Why has Anthony Albanese not asked the solicitor general to provide precisely the advice Gleeson talks about?  Or has he?

Is Mick Fuller stupid, or a Liberal stooge?

08 March 2021: NSW police commissioner Mick Fuller told Nine Radio that even if the unnamed woman who alleged she was raped by Christian Porter were alive, it would have been unlikely a prosecution would have been mounted.

Really?  Fuller can predict that historical distance alone makes a rape prosecution unlikely?  Why?  The he-said, she-said thing?  Or a lack of will to investigate at all?

Let it pass.  Maybe Fuller is right, no matter how callous the indifference.

But then Fuller said:

“We need to focus on victims in these matters, we need to focus on their journey through the justice system, and how difficult it is,” he said.

“I think focussing on Mr Porter, it’s not going to change things.”

Anonymous ABC news online story.

So, after dismissing the chance of a prosecution, we need to focus on the victim and her journey through the legal system!  What does that even mean?  We should feel sorry for her, but not do anything about it?

The question has to be asked: is Mick Fuller a moron?

It gets worse: we shouldn’t focus on Porter!  Because it won’t change the fact he might be guilty?  Won’t ever be prosecuted?

What does Fuller know about judicial inquiries and the possibility of finding a politician unfit to hold high office without a criminal prosecution?

Or is Fuller actually now a party-political partisan in this matter?  Nine Radio is part of Nine Entertainment, controlled by former federal Liberal treasurer Peter Costello, and still a party elder.

Is it coincidence Fuller made his comments on a radio station controlled by Costello?  Was his a scripted answer?

Fuller should resign or be sacked for having crossed the line into politics. But that won’t happen either. No rule of law for Liberals and their cronies. Ever.

Comedy hour with Barnaby and Scotty from marketing

7 March 2021: Barnaby Joyce really hates Scotty from marketing and is at liberty to stick it to him.  That’s all his statements about an inquiry into the Porter rape allegations really mean.

After Morrison backed himself into a corner by lying about the rule of law precluding an independent inquiry into the rape allegations—comprehensively debunked as nonsense by lawyers, academics, and others—Joyce’s sole reason for making public comment is to undermine the PM. A venture made easier now by even international attention to Australian rape culture that can’t be helping Mathias Cormann’s ludicrous bid to be nominated as the next secretary general of the OECD.

Joyce’s most telling comment was:

“Christian knows many in the opposition and some on his own side don’t want the truth unless it comes with his head on a plate. They just want his scalp.

“They will ultimately get what they want unless he can refer them to a deliberation on the allegation, beyond reasonable questions of efficacy.”

Australian Associated Press quoting Joyce, in The Guardian.

The sole purpose of that comment is to open up media speculation on instability in the Liberal Party.  Even if the statement is absolutely true.

Perhaps Joyce is also presaging things to come from Craig Kelly, with whom he has been reportedly consulting since Kelly moved to the back-benches.

Joyce’s focus here is probably that instability in the senior Coalition partner might open the door for him to challenge and replace the buffoonish Michael McCormack.  In an act of high farce, with one clown trouncing another.

Given Joyce’s often drunken and barely coherent performances in the past, this one, apparently made on Facebook, seems remarkably prescient in predicting that without an inquiry, the allegations will hang over Porter for the remainder of his career, and might see him relegated to the back-benches before being shuffled out the door as a liability to the party.

It seems unlikely, at this time, that Scotty from marketing’s ploy to wait for the news media to forget the Porter allegations will actually work.  Particularly since he has not endeared himself to women and the news media with his arrogant, bullying mannerisms, which epitomize the key hallmarks of misogyny and toxic workplace culture.

No mention of parents in NSW rape response!

6 March 2021: Following the overwhelming response to Chanel Contos’s petition to teach more effective lessons about sexual consent, Sydney schools have been embarrassed into action.

Not motivated, nor proactively engaged.  Teachers and principals must have known what was going on, since they set the tone and culture of their schools, which is immediately visible as misogynistic.  All girls’ schools are no exception.

So, embarrassed and shamed into action, which is not confidence inspiring about anything but lip service.

It’s a positive first step for the NSW police and schools to work more closely together.

But why has there been no focus on the wealthy parents of affluent boys who are the rapists?  Why no proposals for acting against both parents and perpetrators as the responsible parties?  After all, rich parents seem to be telling their sons it’s OK to treat less wealthy kids any way they please, including bullying, bashing, and raping them.

Robodebt: proof there is no rule of law

6 March 2021: In a week during which Scotty from marketing and his stooge, Christian Porter, latched onto the concept that they cannot be accountable because Australia has a rule of law, we are reminded once again what a great, big, fat lie that is.

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal rejected another couple of Centrelink debt frauds that continued to use the discredited income averaging to impose ‘debts’ that have not been evidenced.

Independent senator Rex Patrick has now called for a complete overhaul of Centrelink practices in raising ‘debts’.

This follows a $1.2 billion class action settlement refunding 400,000 people fraudulently charged fabricated debts.  The settlement was the government’s way of avoiding having to answer questions in open court about who in government knew the Robodebt scam was illegal, and when they knew that.

In a comment on the recent rape scandal, the ABC’s Laura Tingle rightly drew a parallel between Porter’s ridiculous claim that he was being targeted unfairly and the lives destroyed by a fraud he supported:

…  people’s lives are destroyed by allegations all the time, often about something that “simply did not happen”, like the RoboDebt scheme over which Porter and a number of other ministers, including the Prime Minister, presided over for several years, including a period in which they had received advice that it was unlawful but said nothing.

The ridiculous ‘rule of law’ rhetoric from the government should be exposed as the lie it is: there is one law for them and their cronies, and quite another for other Australians with less power and money.

More taxpayer money for Scotty’s mate, Rupert Murdoch

6 March 2021: It took a freedom of information application to establish that last year public servants worked overtime to ensure Murdoch’s Foxtel pay TV business gained a $5.5 million grant for broadcasting women’s sport without a tender process to allow anyone else to bid for that money.

This follows a still murky payment of $30 million to Foxtel in 2017, and a $10 million coronavirus grant in 2020 that was fast-tracked through cabinet rather than normal channels.

How much more obvious can it be that Scotty from marketing is paying for the political bias supplied by the Murdoch propaganda machine with taxpayer money, as if it were a Liberal Party slush-fund?

Birmingham’s dishonesty is expected, news media failure to challenge him is tragic

5 March 2021: No one could accuse Simon Birmingham of being particularly bright, but did he not understand, when he said today, that parliament should set an example to the rest of the nation, that it has done so?

That example is: dishonesty, corruption, mean-spirited selfishness, and acting only on the principle of ‘whatever I can get away with’.  An example set continuously by Scotty from marketing and every one of his cabinet ministers who refuse accountability for their actions and deflect questions about misconduct.

Speaking in the context of the appointment of sex discrimination commissioner Kate Jenkins to ‘lead an independent inquiry into the culture of Parliament House’, Birmingham made a fool of himself with his comments:

“The fact is that the Parliament of Australia should set the standard for the nation,” he said.

“The Parliament of Australia should set the example for others to follow.

“The Parliament of Australia should reflect best practice in the prevention of, and response to, any instances of bullying, sexual harassment, or sexual assault.”

anonymous ABC online news story.

Parliament has set the standard for an increasingly lawless section of white-collar Australia.  It seems unlikely that while Morrison’s policy of unaccountability prevails, the only best practice reflected by parliament will be in corruption, lying, and unaccountability.

It is to be hoped Jenkins will deliver a no-nonsense report with actionable recommendations, but given the Coalition government’s record on extending an ever-widening gap between the privileges of the few, and the burden placed on a majority of Australians treated like second-class citizens, the appointment should be viewed with some reserve about expected outcomes.

In the meantime, both Professor Kim Rubenstein (co-director of the 50/50 by 2030 Foundation in the Faculty of Business, Government and Law at the University of Canberra), and the Human Rights Law Centre have made compelling arguments for an independent inquiry into the rape allegations against Christian Porter, arguing that no principle of justice or the rule of law would be injured by such an examination of the facts.

Scotty from marketing’s refusal to consider such an inquiry is obviously part of that best practice culture in parliament Birmingham was talking about, along with his less than insightful distortion about what the rule of law actually means.

‘Rule of law’: a lie that fails Australians every day

5 March 2021: How very predictable that would-be Australian Gestapo boss Peter Dutton would label Christian Porter’s staged media performance on Wednesday as ‘gutsy’.

But the operative word here is ‘staged’.  Carefully managed, including a feigned emotionalism that seems to contradict everything Australia knows about the man: stony, determined, and arrogant.

Similar to Dutton himself, who rolled out the predictable old chestnut about a politically motivated witch-hunt, displaying his own tone-deafness about sexual assault and the limit to public patience for arrogant, powerful white men to dismiss the issue as irrelevant to their own interests.

All the worse, then, that the ABC’s Annabel Crabb would play to exactly that sense of entitled impunity with a mealy-mouthed comment about Christian Porter, the ‘justice’ system, and the impossibility of either the unnamed woman who alleged she was raped or Porter to ever get their day in court.

The wordy editorial is called ‘analysis’, but seems pretty light-on for that.  It’s not until 800 words into an 1800 word freestyle ramble a la Joh Bjelke Petersen that Crabb makes her most salient point, and even then only half-heartedly:

As for the rule of law: The truth is that our legal systems fail people all the time. Even in Parliament House. Especially in Parliament House, actually. They just don’t usually fail powerful men.

What Crabb didn’t say is that there is no rule of law for the millions of Australians who cannot afford the expensive solicitors and barristers to take on the powerful and wealthy.  The latter are a class of people who rely on that wealth barrier to be forever immune from prosecutions they richly deserve.

No mention here of the perversion of presumptions of innocence for thousands haunted by an adversarial social security system.  No mention here that not a single bank executive has been prosecuted, let alone gaoled, despite a royal commission report explicitly listing criminal activities.  No prosecution of that small, revolving club of bank board members either, despite their explicit rôles to prevent such criminality.

It becomes inescapably clear that Crabb, and other ‘journalists’ like her, are part of the problem.  By effectively denying the truth about the rule of law and the justice system.  By not asking hard questions and behaving like they are part of a Fourth Estate, telling truth to power.

How very disappointing.

Crabb’s claim that change is coming, based on a recent wave of sexual crime allegations, rings hollow.  It seems more likely that she, and most other news media workers, will forget this issue, just the way Scotty from marketing has it planned.  Because the news media workers are, after all, part of the privileged classes who don’t see or care how the less privileged live with second-class citizen status every day.

There’s no doubt in any right-thinking person’s mind that crimes against women is an urgent priority to fix.  But I doubt that hanging our hopes on a cause that women news media workers think is trendy right now will deliver any real change.  The kind of fundamental change that has to explore and alter the indifferent, negligent interrelationship between victims of crime, the police forces around Australia, and the court system. 

How often are police or magistrates prosecuted for not acting when they know that a crime has been committed?  The answer is probably zero.  The same as for parliamentarians who know of crimes and do nothing.

So, while the Dutton-Crabb farce rolls on, just the way Scotty from marketing wants it to, a more level headed approach came from the unlikely propaganda machine, News Corp.

Political editor Samantha Maiden, once labelled as a ‘mad fucking witch’ by Dutton, has been a solitary journalist at News Corp pursuing stories critical of the Coalition.

This morning, news.com.au published a comment from her arguing that there’s no precedent for an independent inquiry into the Porter rape allegation, but that a coronial inquest into the death of the unnamed woman who alleged she was raped by Porter might be the proper forum to discover what evidence exists in the context of an alleged suicide. 

A suicide the South Australian coroner, David Whittle, says has not yet been satisfactorily investigated.  Whittle says in a media release that an investigation continues, at the end of which he would determine whether to hold a coronial inquest.

Maiden also made the following comments in her editorial:

Earlier this week, the NSW police declared “case closed”.

Some journalists have rushed to suggest that as a result Mr Porter has been “cleared” but sadly and entirely unfairly for Mr Porter, this is not what has occurred.

Since there was never any police investigation – the Attorney-General has never been interviewed police – there was never anything to be cleared of.

Is this what journalists think constitutes police procedure these days?

The coppers don’t even ask you if you’ve done it but if the alleged victim dies it’s “case closed” and you’re “cleared” on the 6pm news?

If so, we have bigger problems in Australian journalism and basic reading comprehension than we realised.

Samantha Maiden.

Indeed.  There are deep problems in Australia’s news media, and with the intellect—or lack of it—among people who call themselves journalists.

Porter deserves no sympathy, Morrison must not be let off the hook

4 March 2021: The unnamed woman who accused attorney general Christian Porter of rape is dead and the NSW police says the case is closed.  Porter will not face a criminal investigation on that front.

The legal principle here is sound: an accused deserves to be confronted by the accuser, and is innocent until proven guilty.  However, given previous reporting of Porter’s questionable character and sexual misconduct, the ethical thing to do is to hold the independent inquiry called for by the opposition and multiple media commentators.

Scotty from marketing naturally dismissed this option.  He knows how precarious the Coalition’s hold on power is and cannot lose another MP, even if only temporarily.

The stated reasons for rejecting an inquiry, or Porter’s resignation, about the rule of law, ring hollow.  Porter argued this himself, followed by Josh Frydenberg and then Morrison.  Yet all three men were in charge of removing a presumption of innocence for the Robodebt fraud victims, and who knows how many others accessing Commonwealth services.

The upshot?  All three men told bare-faced lies to the Australian public.

My guess is that if I were to resign and that set a new standard, there wouldn’t be much need for an Attorney-General anyway, because there would be no rule of law left to protect in this country.

Christian Porter.

He’s entitled to the presumption of innocence as any citizen is entitled to and he has the prime minister’s support and he has my support.

Josh Frydenberg.

We run the rule of law based on police. On courts. On judicial systems. On rules of evidence. On presumption of innocence. That’s how liberal democracies function. And we have to be very careful – very careful – even in traumatic and sensitive issues like this – that we don’t fundamentally undermine that principle. Because upon that, our entire system is built.

Scotty from marketing.

Should we care how emotional Porter was yesterday when denying the allegations against him?  He has certainly been at the sharp end of the Coalition’s culture of misogyny and other bigotries, unaccountability for ministers and apparatchiks, mean-spirited vindictiveness against the poor, and double standards on the claimed rule of law.

He was also the subject of a damning ABC Four Corners report, ‘Inside the Canberra Bubble’, about sexual misconduct of Coalition ministers. A report the government tried very hard to censor.

In that report, barrister Kathleen Foley was scathing about Porter. She studied at the University of WA at the same time as Porter, and worked as a state solicitor in WA when Porter was crown prosecutor there, allowing her to observe the man professionally over a number of years.

“For all of that time I’ve known him to be someone who was, in my opinion, based on what I saw, deeply sexist and actually misogynist in his treatment of women, in the way he spoke about women,” she told the ABC.

The Guardian’s Matilda Boseley.

On that basis, and the high office he holds, rather than pity, perhaps Australian voters ought to be asking whether such a man is really worthy of representing them, no matter what his colleagues say in his support.

A few days ago, Leader of the Opposition in the senate, Penny Wong was absolutely correct to call out Morrison for never once having accepted responsibility for his government’s failures or his ministers’ misconduct.

He sets standards that form cultural expectations.  His actions and inactions shape the culture.

But when Four Corners raised serious concerns about the culture of mistreatment of women and his government, he tried to silence the ABC.

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

When rape was alleged in an office of one of his own ministers, he sets up whitewash investigations that can be controlled.

Mr Morrison’s media advisors started rumours about Ms Higgins and her partner.

And Mr. Morrison blamed the victim.

He said he was angry about being left in the dark—but there have been no consequences for those he claims left him in the dark.

Mr Morrison talks about culture.

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.

Where no one is accountable for anything.  And where serious crime was covered up.

Paul Syvret reporting Wong’s comments on Twitter.

Wong is not alone in questioning the PM’s sincerity.

Following the embarrassing performance of Morrison first ducking questions about the Brittany Higgins’ rape allegations, and then making the ludicrous comment that his wife had to ask him to consider how he’d feel if this had happened to one of his own children, the words of Australian of the Year and sexual abuse survivor Grace Tame ring out powerfully: ‘It shouldn’t take having children to have a conscience.  And, actually, on top of that, having children doesn’t guarantee a conscience.’

Indeed.  By his words and actions–or inactions on all his government’s failures and misconduct–it would be easy to conclude that Scotty from marketing has no discernible conscience, no ethical orientation, and no sense of decency.  Especially not when it comes to the targets of his bigotry, which includes an easily recognized streak of misogyny that no slogans or rhetoric can address.

The two weeks’ mental health leave for Porter, following a similar ploy to remove Linda Reynolds from the media firing line, just won’t cut it.  It is unlikely that Australian women will forget how this issue has been ducked by Morrison and Porter.

Particularly since Porter’s credibility is hardly as solid as it should be for an attorney general:

No one put anything in any detail to me seeking a response. None of the senior politicians or ex-politicians that have known about these allegations and rumours put them to me. No journalist has put the detail of the allegations to me in a way that would allow seeking a response, not ever. All I know about the allegations is what I have read in the media.

Christian Porter.

Countered by this from The Guardian’s Amanda Meade:

But journalists including those from the ABC, Guardian Australia, Crikey, the Sydney Morning Herald and 3AW’s Neil Mitchell say they either called or emailed Porter’s media advisers many times and were ignored.

Who would you believe?  A besieged minister in the Morrison gang, or several journalists with no reason to lie about the comments they sought?

It seems clear Porter is too used to the private school, sandstone university impunity from consequence for misbehaviours he’s enjoyed all his life to now do the right thing and resign.  That leaves the matter in the PM’s domain.

The only way to show himself as a leader now is for Scotty from marketing to accede to demands for an independent inquiry; not the propaganda jobs he’s organized by his own staff and flunkies in the Higgins case.

There’s truth to the comment from The Guardian’s Pauline Wright:

… a criminal prosecution is not the only way to test the truth of an allegation. A fair and independent inquiry would provide Porter with the opportunity to clear his name. An inquiry would consider all available evidence, including that of the attorney general, if he chose to participate, statements made by the complainant, evidence of contemporaneous complaint, diary entries, all of which can be tested through a fair process.

Without an inquiry, the shadow of doubt will persist within the Australian public as to whether Porter is a fit and proper person to retain his role as Australia’s first law officer.

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