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PM desperate, flailing and in a blind panic The Byron Shire Echo

Volume 33 #40 • March 13, 2019

A NSW election primer Two parties are likely be elected to form a NSW government at the March 22 election. They are NSW Liberal-National coalition (right wing) and NSW Labor (left wing). At the time of going to press it appears NSW Labor may snatch victory after eight years of the NSW Liberal-National coalition. Yet elections are foolish to predict considering modern day voter volatility. Fun fact – the terms left and right come from the French around their revolution in the late 1700s: the wealthy sat to the right of the King while the peasants sat on the left. The peasants eventually cut the King’s head off, along with many others. Oh, what times. So can the two major party system be voted out? That would require almost every vote to be cast below the line for an independent. Most people vote above the line in the lower house, yet if you vote just 1 for your party, your vote will be wasted (exhausted). You should keep numbering your least wanted candidate last. Many voters – along with journalists and politicians – struggle to understand the complex system as it is, thus ensuring governments are dominated by either party. The NSW Liberal-National coalition comprises an alliance between the Liberal and National parties. Their agreement stipulates that in regional areas such as the Ballina electorate, the Nationals Party will run a candidate, not the Liberals. In turn, the Liberals run candidates in city areas instead of the Nationals. Labor is a party in its own right, but has generally relied on the Greens and like-minded cross bench MPs to get laws passed unless it has a thumping majority. Where elections between the Liberal-National coalition and Labor are close, a balance of power emerges from the cross bench (Independents and Greens). If you are wondering what politicians do for their $200,000 odd salary, they are supposed to uphold and carry out the functions and responsibilities of the NSW government. They include managing (or mismanaging) your taxes, which are distributed to the state by the federal government. Elected state politicians create the illusion they direct policy on health, education, infrastructure, police, courts and local councils, for example. Yet without sounding cynical, it’s actually bureaucrats who control all forms of government. The most powerful role politicians undertake is creating and voting on laws that affect every aspect of our lives. That’s why it’s important to consider whether your vote will go towards a party that reflects your values. Elections are an ideal time to reflect on what those values are. Hans Lovejoy, editor

W

hen the people smugglers see me, they see a brick wall, boasted our great war leader. Well, up to a point: they certainly see someone as thick as a brick and far less transparent and straightforward. But most Australians see him more like a hole in the air – a political vacuum feverishly trying to present himself as authentic by relying on the constant repetition of the mantra he adopted from Alan Jones, ‘fair dinkum.’ Scott Morrison’s half hour on Christmas Island was not the most expensive photo opportunity on record; the ritual forays to be snapped with the troops in the Middle East cost more. But the touchdown in the normally ignored territory was unquestionably the most pointless. Not only did ScoMo have nothing to announce – he had absolutely nothing to say, other than the obligatory swipe about how Bill Shorten was endangering the nation. And perhaps that was just as well, because the true cost of his vicious and optimistic campaign to persecute asylum seekers is now starting to emerge. Morrison initially said it would cost $1.4 billion (yes, billion) to make the Christmas Island detention centre viable. This included new Guantanamo Bay-style maximum security prisons for those who failed Peter Dutton’s character test, if that phrase is not a contradiction in terms. But it now transpires that providing adequate medical care for the evacuees – none of whom had even made preliminary applications for it at this stage – will require many hundreds of millions more. The extra money for doctors will no doubt please the long-suffering inhabitants of the remote settlement, but it is unlikely to cover the special needs of the traumatised evacuees, assuming they arrive – Morrison says the fewer the better, thus admitting that the whole exercise my well be a monumental waste. And this does not factor in the cost of air transfers, both from Nauru and Manus to Christmas Island or the likelihood that the most vulnerable of them will have to be airlifted to Perth anyway, as has been the practice for ailing locals for many years. Either this, or leave them to die – which would probably not worry Morrison or Dutton much, but which would definitely not be a good look before the forthcoming election.

But for our former treasurer, money (taxpayers’ money, that is) is no obstacle as long as it keeps his ridiculous scare campaign going. The real objective – the only objective – is to keep boat people off the mainland, partly because if they touch our sacred shores they may demand the rights to which they are entitled by international law, that have in some cases been confirmed by Australian tribunals but also because he sees it as a test of his machismo.

Taxpayers’ money is no obstacle, as long as it keeps his ridiculous scare campaign going Mungo MacCallum Having lost the parliamentary vote, he is determined to render it ineffective – to deliberately subvert the democratic will of the nation. Thus he chose to ignore the advice from his department that a simple amendment to the legislation guaranteeing that the evacuees could come to the mainland but must be returned to the detention camps on Nauru or Manus after medical treatment has been completed would solve the problem. But that would still constitute a defeat in Morrison’s distorted worldview, where there is no such thing as defeat. Or, for that matter, honesty. At best, his approach to asylum seekers is paranoid delusion – at worst, and far more likely, it is a deliberate scare campaign that goes far beyond his normal parameters of mean and tricky, and into the world of straight-out lying. And naturally, he has form. Even his own Treasury admonished his government for an earlier (and still ongoing) scare campaign on negative gearing – the wrecking ball, the sledge hammer that would flatten the economy. When Treasury quietly pointed out that it wouldn’t, the treasurer himself, Josh Frydenberg, snapped back that he had far more reliable advice from the real estate agents and the land speculators that it would. Such is the desperation of a flailing government. It has not only lost all sense of honour or decency, but of any

last vestige of purpose or direction. Climate change policy has been effectively abandoned, but Morrison – and now even Tony Abbott, for heaven’s sake – are pretending that they take it seriously, while determinedly doing nothing, the policy they have pursued for the last ten years. Morrison has suddenly discovered the importance of women, including them in every available photo opportunity – but he doesn’t want to advantage them over everyone else, by which he presumably means men. So, in the interests of falling in line with the opinion polls, he includes an extra woman in cabinet, leaving just five left on the backbench, with the near certainty of fewer after the election. This not just policy on the run – this is not policy at all. And now Morrison is recklessly and irresponsibly talking about recession, or rather the likelihood of it if Labor forms government. This, of course, ignores the fact that the last Australian government – perhaps the only Australian government – that kept the country out of recession was a Labor one, during the GFC. Not just another scare campaign, and one clearly against the national interest, but sheer, blind panic. And the most obvious and recent manifestation of it can be found in Frydenberg’s seat of Kooyong. The announcement that the humane human rights advocate Julian Burnside will run for the Greens in his electorate along with the centrist former Liberal Oliver Yates has led to demands for a cool million smackeroos to fund the treasurer’s campaign, presumably at the expense of far more vulnerable seats. This is Kooyong, the safest Liberal seat in Victoria, the ancestral siege of the sainted Ming, the party’s founder, Sir Robert Menzies. Menzies called Victoria the jewel in the Liberal crown and regarded Kooyong as its brightest facet. Now Victoria is called by its Labor premier Daniel Andrews the most progressive state in the nation, and Kooyong itself is considered at risk in an election in which the loss of a single seat will end Morrison’s majority. No wonder ScoMo is marketing himself as an insuperable barrier, a fantasy construct as ineffective as Donald Trump’s border wall and even less convincing.

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The Byron Shire Echo – Issue 33.40 – March 13, 2019  

Free, independent weekly newspaper from the Byron Shire in north eastern NSW, Australia.

The Byron Shire Echo – Issue 33.40 – March 13, 2019  

Free, independent weekly newspaper from the Byron Shire in north eastern NSW, Australia.