Alex Mitchell’s Weekly Notebook

Canberra’s Leaking Season is prelude to a fresh Killing Season …
Media bosses curb farewell parties for ex-staff … Why Egypt’s sale of Red Sea islands has ignited street protests … ASIC is a banks lapdog not a watchdog

Cabinet leak hits Turnbull amidships

On the day that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull released his timetable for a July 2 Federal Election, a Cabinet leak hit him amidships with the devastating accuracy of an Exocet missile.
It was fired by Sky News presenter Paul Murray, a member of Tony Abbott’s resuscitation team.
He revealed a post-budget advertising campaign will focus on selling the May 3 Budget which has become front and centre of the Coalition’s re-election pitch.
In other words, taxpayers will be forking out millions of dollars to pay for the Coalition’s bid to return to government.
The damaging leaked document shows that the ads will concentrate on $16 billion of budget “savings” (cuts) over four years, including crackdowns on superannuation tax concessions and multinational tax avoidance.
Murray is remaining tight-lipped about his source but the Canberra Press Gallery is in no doubt that it came from Abbott just as there weas no doubt about Channel Nine Laurie Oakes’s leak from Kevin Rudd which floored prime minister Julia Gillard at a National Press Club lunch the night before her 2010 leadership coup.
Another Channel Nine leak – that Ms Gillard had opposed in Cabinet an expensive paid parental leave scheme in – was dropped during the 2013 election campaign which the first female PM later described as “bastardry” and “the election-losing moment”.
This week Labor’s Financial Services spokesman Jim Chalmers, a former senior staffer with Treasurer Wayne Swan, said: “This humiliating leak says two things. One, that the government is so divided and so dysfunctional that they are leaking against each other on the first day of the campaign.
“Secondly, that they’re prepared to spend taxpayer dollars on their election campaign.”
The revelation enraged Turnbull but he was powerless to do anything about it. His own team is taking pot shots at him, the media is lapping it up while Abbott smirks in the shadows.
The Leaking Season has begun again. It is a prelude to The Killing Season. The target is Turnbull, the munitions supplier is Abbott and the snipers are employed by Rupert Murdoch at The Australian, Sky News, the Daily Telegraph (Sydney), The Herald-Sun (Melbourne) and The Courier Mail (Brisbane).

No more farewell drinks for ex-journos

Australian media organisations have suspended farewell drinks for journalists, photographers and artists made redundant during the Global Media Meltdown (GMM).
The bosses claim that it is either too expensive or too emotionally disruptive. More likely is that the fact that farewells – known in the print trade as a “banging out” – habitually turn into angry protests in which well-heeled executives are shirt-fronted and farewell speeches become inflammatory.
Fairfax Media demonstrated its miserly austerity this week when the SMH celebrated its 185th birthday with Jacobs Creek bubbles and four balloons.
These lessons have not been lost on London owners and editors. Before The Independent recently published its last print edition, Indian-born editor Amol Rajan sent an email to his loyal features and comment page editors saying:
“Yo! I’m taking a militant, unconditional, zero-tolerance approach to columnists and writers generally either whingeing about it being their final columns, or shitbagging the paper generally.
“I’m afraid I suspect I’m going to be sending a few back to you next week too. Could you please: immediately forward on any last-column copy as it comes in; alert me, in case I miss it, to any references to ‘this is my last column’; keep an eagle eye out for coded messages.
“And in the first instance could you please do all the above with Yasmin’s copy this Sunday.”
In the wash-up there was no shitbagging or whingeing in the final column by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown.
Launched in 1986 by Andreas Whittam Smith, ex-finance editor of the London Telegraph, with the collaboration of journalists Stephen Glover and Matthew Symonds, The Indy reached a daily circulation of more than 400,000 by 1989 advocating an anti-Thatcher, centrist editorial line.
Rupert Murdoch, aka The Dirty Digger, buried The Independent in 1993 when he launched a price-cutting war reducing the price of The Times from 45p to 30p and then to 20p. The Independent’s circulation slumped and never recovered. The City of London and various reactionaries celebrated long into the night when the final print edition appeared on March 26 and used the occasion to warn other journalists and publishers not to challenge the existing media cartel.
The title, owned by Russian oligarch Evgeny Lebedev since 2010, continues as a digital-only publication on the internet.

Rebellion in Cairo

Political unrest has resurfaced in Egypt following President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi’s decision to sell two Red Sea islands to the Saudi Arabian monarchy.
Australia’s mainstream media has either ignored the deal or misrepresented the popular anger it has generated. ABC Radio has relied on comments by dolts from the privately funded think tank, the Lowy Institute, a foreign affairs mouthpiece for Canberra, Washington, London and Tel Aviv.
By selling sovereignty over the two islands, Tiran and Sanafir, to the corrupt House of Saud, Cairo’s military regime has aroused the ever-present pan-Arab national question. Selling Egyptian territory to the Saudis is tantamount to giving it to Washington.
What’s worse, giving them to Washington means sharing them with Israel, US imperialism’s main asset in the Middle East.
So while the Saudis are the nominal holders of title to the islands, Washington will establish military bases on them – for its warships and warplanes as well as a communications base to eavesdrop on events in Egypt, Yemen, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
America’s NSA and CIA will share (some) of the intelligence information with Saudi Arabia and Israel. Under President Hillary Clinton or President Donald Trump it share ALL of it.
So it’s no wonder that demonstrators have taken to the streets of Cairo to protest against the Saudi Arabian land acquisition. The Saudis have paid several hundred million dollars for the islands but that it a drop in the ocean to the billions they make each year from oil sales.
President al-Sisi, a former US-trained general, started his presidency by confirming his allegiance to the Camp David Accords with Israel and now he is flogging Egyptian territory to deepen Washington’s hegemony in the region.
Because of the fate of his three immediate predecessors – Anwar Sadat (assassinated), Hosni Mubarak (overthrown and jailed) and Mohamed Morsi (overthrown and jailed) – al-Sisi has decided to turn his country into a police state. It is a doomed strategy.

ASIC: bankers’ lapdog

The Turnbull government’s panic-driven decision to beef up ASIC is in direct response to the popular demand for a royal commission into the corrupt and criminal culture of the “Four Pillar” banks, their foreign-owned accomplices and the private finance sector.
Beefing up ASIC and restoring the $120 million budget cut made by the Abbott government in 2014 is a fraud.
When ASIC was formed in 1998 by the Howard government, the banks drew up the blueprint and ticked off on the accompanying legislation. ASIC replaced the Australian Securities Commission (ASC) created in 1991 by the Hawke-Keating government as a concession to Labor’s left for treacherously privatising the Commonwealth Bank.
ASC/ASIC is not an independent public watchdog of the banks. It is a lapdog of the banks. From its very inception, its purpose was to protect the banks and not to probe them.
Turnbull’s ASIC makeover involves Australia’s biggest companies paying $330 million-a-year to the corporate regulator.
At a stroke, ASIC switched from being a public regulator into a privately-financed one. The Coalition’s new ASIC is now financed by the very institutions it is supposed to regulate: it’s like the cops investigating the cops or Gerry Stone investigating 60 Minutes.
Only a royal commission can expose the criminal activities of the banking industry just as the royal commission into child sex abuse was the only instrument able to flesh out the systematic paedophilia of the Roman Catholic church and other religious and sporting agencies and shame them.
Bill Shorten’s Opposition has seized on the royal commission policy as a “point of difference” with Turnbull’s Coalition which is committed to a bank protection racket.
But not everyone in the Labor Party supports the plan. The spineless “Moaning Minnies” and “Tired Tims” in the shadow cabinet and caucus are shaking at the knees: they fear a bankers’ backlash on the scale mounted by the mining monopolies to defeat and emasculate the mining super profits tax introduced by Kevin Rudd and dismantled by Julia Gillard in the face of a $30 million propaganda blitzkrieg by Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton, Gina Rinehart, Andrew “Tricky” Forrest et al.
Banks have directors and big shareholders willing to cough up millions of dollars to thwart a royal commission. It boils down to a contest between private vested interests and the public interest. Which will you support?

Quote of the Week

“I think it’s an obscene amount of money. The Sanders campaign is absolutely right. It’s ridiculous that we should have this kind of money in politics.”
George Clooney, after organising a $353,000-a-couple fundraiser for the Hillary Victory Fund in San Francisco