Turnbull – waving or drowning?

Malcolm Turnbull clings to office and Budget lifebuoy while sharks circle … Solving tax problem: make ‘em pay up … Premier Gladys Berejiklian fails to convince … Queensland rejects NAPLAN – Hooray! … Pope Francis on eating shit … John Clarke remembered … Great Crashing Snobs …

PM Malcolm Turnbull – waving or drowning?

If there were an obvious candidate to succeed Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as leader of the Parliamentary Liberal Party, the smug faintheart would be out on his ear.

But there are no leadership contenders among the current crop of federal Liberal MPs. Perhaps you’ve noticed why: they are an unintelligent, lazy and incompetent lot. Search everywhere, my friends, and you won’t find anything remotely befitting prime ministerial material.

The official gossip from Canberra is that backbenchers have given Turnbull until October to “turn things around”. After that, all bets are off and his job is up for grabs.

You know that they are scraping the bottom of the barrel when leaks to the media mention Peter Dutton, a former Queensland copper, nicknamed “potato head”, the Immigration Minister who is opposed to immigration.

But never underestimate the Liberal Party for gold-plated stupidity. When Ministers, MPs and the party hierarchy ousted Prime Minister John Gorton in March 1971, they replaced him with Billy McMahon, the worst prime minister in Australian history.

Personally, I hope they pick Tony “The Mad Monk” Abbott He will rattle into Canberra surrounded by a coterie of swivel-eyed trusties like Peta Credlin as chief of staff, Andrew Bolt as media director and Greg Sheridan as national security adviser.

His first Budget will allocate billions of dollars to the mass production of a coal-fuelled car and the Liberals will be out of office for a generation in Canberra and all over the country. Hail to the Monk!

Tax policy? Obey the law

While everyone is talking about a fresh approach to taxation policy, I don’t know why there isn’t a call for the collection of tax on family trusts.

There are literally hundreds of thousands of them in Australia and they are set up by tax lawyers and accountants for well-off clients for the specific purpose of avoiding tax and not paying, conservatively speaking, an estimated $2 billion a year.

In other words, they are tax rorts by the rich and wealthy who would rather horde their assets in secrecy than contribute to paying for social assets such as schools, hospitals, roads and universities.

Public servants have spent hundreds of hours preparing reports to show how the family trust rort can be busted and the tax revenue legally collected. But senior politicians and corrupt civil servants simply file the reports in Canberra basements where they are gathering dust.

Two enterprising Fairfax journalists, Royce Millar and Ben Schneiders, have blown apart the family trust scam but not a single MP has come forward to say action should take place. (“The tax minimisation tool that nobody wants to talk about”, SMH, 6 April 2017).

Their report said: “Unpublished figures provided to Fairfax Media by the Australian Taxation Office reveal almost 643,000 discretionary trusts (most family trusts are this kind) in Australia in the 2014-15 financial year, the most recent year for which figures are available. This is almost twice the number of 20 years earlier, an increase that far outstrips population growth.”

So who has these taxation devices? The SMH reporters explain: “Almost 90 per cent of trust assets are held by the wealthiest 20 per cent of income earners.”

If the Tax Office collected taxation from the Big End of town (eight of the 10 Australia media companies linked to Rupert Murdoch and his family paid NIL income tax in Australia in 2014), the global mining houses, property developers and investors, finance houses and family trusts and abolish negative gearing and stamp duty – at a stroke, the country’s revenue “problem” and housing “crisis” would evaporate.

So what are Turnbull, Morrison and Mathias Cormann proposing in next month’s Federal Budget? To cut company tax and protect negative gearing.

No wonder the boardrooms are stacking their fridges with French champagne for Budget night, May 9.

The trouble with Gladys

In NSW, we have a premier named Gladys. I long for the day when her opposite number at The Lodge in Canberra is called Vilma.

Premier Berejiklian with North Shore MP elect Felicity Wilson

But for the moment Gladys has pressing electoral problems to contend with. The transition from Premier Mike Baird to Premier Berejiklian three months ago has not been a flying success. In the latest Newspoll the Coalition stands on 51% to Labor’s 49%. This is precisely where the major parties stood at the end of last year when Baird was still premier.

In other words, Berejiklian’s carefully choreographed succession has failed to produce a “honeymoon bump” for the State’s first female Liberal premier. There have been six by-elections in the past six months, three under Baird on November 12 and three under Berejiklian on April 8. Here’s what happened to the Liberals (and Nationals) in these six contests:

Orange – swing against Nationals of a record-breaking 34% on first preferences (21.8% on the second preference count).

Canterbury – Liberals did not stand a candidate. Labor victory.

Wollongong – Liberals did not stand a candidate. Labor victory.

Manly – Liberals hold seat but swing against of 24.2%.

North Shore – Liberals hold but swing against of 15.4%.

Gosford – Labor hold but swing against Liberals of 11.9%.

If these double digit swings against the Liberal and National parties continue, Premier Berejiklian’s Coalition will be swept from office in March 2019 and all the seats gathered by Barry O’Farrell in 2011 and Baird in 2015 will be lost in an electoral bloodbath.

Two pyrrhic victories

In the April by-elections Baird and Skinner, both political veterans who led distinguished careers in Cabinet and Opposition, were replaced by UNdistinguished novices. As a result, the level of the Liberal gene pool, already painfully shallow, fell again.

Berejiklian and her rabid supporters were racing around the media saying the “victory” in Manly and North Shore “proved” that she was a great campaigner and “has what it takes”. On the contrary, if the Liberals can’t hold Manly and North Shore then their electoral prospects are truly grim. The ALP didn’t bother to stand in either.

The only real testing ground for Berejiklian’s premiership is in western, south-western and north-western Sydney, the Central Coast, the North Coast and the Southern Highlands.  If the Liberals can retain (and win) seats in “tiger country”, then they can win the next state election. If they can’t, they won’t.

Currently, all the signs are that Berejiklian is regarded as a weird, remote and privileged politician whose purpose in life is to serve the real estate developers, the merchant banks and at pro-privatisation neo-cons. (The sale of the NSW Lands Titles Office to the profits-hungry finance sector is just the latest assault on critically important public assets).

It is the prospect of electoral defeat in two years’ time which is unsettling Coalition MPs in Macquarie Street and explains why Berejiklian is under constant threat from hard right opponents from the Tony Abbott-John Howard camp, destructive media leaks and backstabbing.

It was notable that during the recent by-elections, Attorney-General Mark Speakman, MP for Cronulla, was out on the campaign trail practising his prowess as an election campaigner. Why? Strongly supported by the centre-right, Speakman appears to making allies among the “wets”. He remains the MP to watch in any party room upheaval.

Green shoots?

The success story from recent by-elections is the NSW Greens. In Canterbury the Greens vote was 14.9% (up 5.3%), Wollongong 10.6% (up 1.1%), Orange 5.7% (down 1.1%), Manly 18.3% (up 1.1%), North Shore 15.9% (up 1.3%) and Gosford 7.4% (down 1.6%).

Those loyal to the authentic, independent Green manifesto – and not the powder puff coalitionism of federal leader Dr Richard Di Natale – are winning support from voters who are sick of political double talk.

Queensland takes the lead

Pauline Hanson, Peter Dutton, George Christensen and George Brandis are all Queensland politicians but that doesn’t mean that the Sunshine State is hopelessly backward.

So step forward Queensland and take a bow for being the first State to pull out of the NAPLAN school student testing to be held next month.

Education Minister Kate Jones said students at 100 Queensland schools would not take part in the nationwide online testing system before of its many flaws. “I simply cannot commit to a system that might disadvantage our students,” she said.

Kate Jones

Ms Jones, 38, is the Labor MP for Ashgrove. In 2015 she won the Brisbane seat of Ashgrove defeating Liberal Campbell Newman and simultaneously ousting him as premier. A former student of Kelvin Grove State High School, she has a BA in politics from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and is completing a masters degree in environmental law at the ANU. She is a member of the Ashgrove Historical Society, the Ashgrove Climate Change Action Group, a member of the management committee of Enoggera Respite Centre and a member of the Fred Hollows Foundation and World Vision.

Take a second bow, Ms Jones.

Pope’s excremental encyclical

Pope Francis has confounded the faithful by accusing fake news addicts of sinful indulgence in coprophilia. His message appeared to be that reporters should stop generating fake news and loyal Catholics should stop reading it on social media and believing it.

The faithful reached for their dictionaries to discover what was coprophilia and how to avoid it.

In polite language, it is a reference to an excremental fetish which, I am told, causes sexual arousal and is popular in Brazil. (That’s right next door to Argentina where Francis was born and bred before he was chosen by a conclave of cardinals in their fifth ballot to be 266th representative of god on earth).

“I think the media have to be very clear, very transparent, and not fall into – no offence intended – the sickness of coprophilia, that, always wanting to cover scandals, covering nasty things, even if they are true,” he told Tertio, a weekly Belgian Catholic newspaper. And since people have a tendency towards the sickness of coprophagia, a lot of damage can be done.”

To be absolutely clear: coprophilia means “abnormal interest and pleasure in faeces and defecation” while coprophagia means “the eating of faeces or dung”.

All this is new to me; it just goes to show how much you miss by having a state education and not one provided by the Jesuits (of which Francis is one).

Havelock Ellis, the pioneering sex therapist who spent some years in Australia as a teacher (1875-1879), noted in his master work, Studies in the Psychology of Sex, that coprophagia was a common condition among the insane.

Modern psychologists simply called it shit-eating which is a perfect description of acquiring news from so-called “social media”.

Pope Francis is not the first Catholic eminence who has resorted to faeces-driven abuse. Sir Thomas More who led the battle against Protestantism during Henry VIII’s rule referred to Martin Luther as “Father Toss Pot” who allowed “nothing in his mouth but privies, shit and dung”. Luther, whose teachings inspired the Reformation, was only fit to “lick with his anterior [head] the very posterior of a shitting mule”. St Thomas – he was beatified by the Vatican – also accused Luther of defecating while saying mass, which, on the face of it, seems to be an early version of fake news.

I mention this while wondering why Cory Bernardi, Tony Abbott, Eric Abetz and other crazed conservative politicians are so keen to amend the 1975 Racial Discrimination Act so that sick-minded racists and Islamophobes can abuse, intimidate and bully minorities in our multi-cultural community. They may believe in bigotry (like Attorney-General George Brandis) but the overwhelming majority of Australians don’t.

Lest We Forget!

John Clarke, who died this week aged 68, was a tremendously talented writer, teacher, mentor, satirist and broadcaster. He will be sorely missed. The fondest tribute that Australians gave to Clarke was their embrace of him as an honorary Australian. Only a very few Kiwis have been welcomed with such warmth – Sam Neill, Fred Hollows, Neil Finn and Phar Lap.

I’m appalled by the crocodile tears over Clarke’s death at the ABC and among Canberra politicians. Only a couple of years ago, there were plans to move the magnificent Clarke & Dawe segment from its traditional spot before the 7 o’clock news. Viewers were told Clarke & Dawe would be shifted to an earlier time slot, however the promoters of this plan were never identified. That is a shame.

Certainly there was pressure from some temperamental narcissists in the News and Current Affairs division who felt that Clarke’s brilliant satire made life difficult for them and made some of their “serious” reports sound ludicrous (which they were/still are). Some thin-skinned politicians were also on the warpath.

So can we have some honest account of who was behind the move to shuffle off Clarke & Dawe which was abruptly abandoned after a fierce public outcry?

I feel sure that Kerry O’Brien, Quentin Dempster, Leigh Sales, Chris Uhlmann, Kate Torney and Mark Scott have memories they could share. And from the political class, former communications minister Stephen Conroy, the ALP right-wing head kicker who is now head of a betting lobby group.

Great Crashing Snobs

I have a terrific private health policy. It covers everything that will ever happen to me. It used to cover my kids too but now they’re grown up they have to learn to stand on their own two feet so I’ve taken them out of my policy. I sent them to private schools which cost me a fortune, but at least they didn’t have any state school teachers who are either homo, leso or socialist. Okay, my kids were in danger of being sexually abused by the priests and nuns but that was a risk I was prepared to take. But children can be so ungrateful; now they want me to give them one of our negatively geared apartments. No way! Which reminds me – I have an appointment with my accountant next week about my old aged pension and the government’s new assets test. It’s diabolical. But he tells me not to worry; he’ll re-arrange my assets so I continue to get the full aged pension. What a relief!

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