Ungainly landing for Gladys

At home, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian takes backflip which turns into belly flop … Will someone deport unwanted US Republican warmonger Senator John McCain? … And away, after Manchester bombing Prime Minister Theresa May manages to drop in polls … Now Putin is accused of ballot-rigging in Malta (!!) …

Our Gladys in belly flop

This week NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian performed a backflip. Not just an ordinary backflip but a monster one with double pike, somersault and mid-air twist.

Instead of landing on her feet, she landed on her arse. It was very ungainly. Very embarrassing. And quite possibly very politically costly.

Her stellar performance was on display when she announced that her government’s new fire levy (read additional tax! AM) to fund fire and emergency services would be scrapped – just four weeks before it was due to come into force!

Berejiklian inherited the tax project from her predecessor Mike Baird, both bankers, and they pushed it with evangelical fervour. Yet it was the most outrageous gift to the insurance industry because it removed the funding of the fire and emergency services from the insurance houses (most of them overseas-owned) and made it payable by home insurance policyholders and property owners. Their premiums would soar while big insurance companies would be out of the public’s firing line.

The legislation skated through parliament in March. It was accompanied by an expensive government advertising campaign (which we, the taxpayers, paid for) telling voters the “feel good” benefits of funding “our firies”.

Campbell Fuller, communications manager of the Insurance Council of Australia, was ecstatic. “This is one of the most significant pieces of tax reform since the introduction of the GST,” he spluttered.

“It serves as an incentive to be better insured … and it will encourage non-insured households to consider purchasing insurance.”

Meanwhile, Berejiklian and her pro-business Cabinet were basking in popularity and settling into their comfy front-bench seats, palatial offices in Governor Macquarie Tower and chauffeur-driven limousines.

But when their friends in business, small and large, became aware that they were being slugged with a new tax they howled to the heavens and a big lobbying effort started. By this week Berejiklian, already suffering a backlash over council amalgamations, greyhound racing and the Westconnex debacle, bowed to business pressure and scrapped the tax plan claiming it had been based on “incorrect modelling”.

New legislation will have to be brought to parliament to axe the previous bill, which should provide a field day for the Opposition if it has the brains and political talent to use it.

When she made her backflip, Berejiklian was standing next to her Treasurer, Dominic Perrottet, a sleek neo-con who is grooming himself to be the next premier.

How can he remain Treasurer when one of his key pieces of legislation has been overthrown in just three months? Does parliament, the civil service or the electorate have any confidence in him? Why did no one in the Cabinet see this coming? Who supplied the “incorrect modelling” and have they been sacked for this hugely expensive error? What is the state of relations between the Premier’s Department and the Treasury? Don’t they talk to each other?

When Berejiklian succeeded Baird in January she was presented as “a safe pair of hands” as in her previous banking career. That now looks threadbare and there will be a political price to pay – from pro-Liberal big business donors and nervous backbenchers.

Go home, senator!

Senator John McCain, the failed Republican White House contender in 2008, has just ended a visit to Australia to promote arms spending and strengthen links between the US and Australian military.

Considered a raving has-been of the Pentagon establishment, McCain, who chose Tea Party dervish Sarah Palin to be his running mate, was taken seriously by the Australian media.

Senator John McCain with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and PM Malcolm Turnbull

In major interviews with Rupert Murdoch’s Australian and the ABC he produced the eccentric line that Russian President Vladimir Putin was more dangerous than ISIS. In speeches earlier this month he claimed otherwise, saying that the biggest threat to peace in the Far East was China. Later he shifted to North Korea.

In all, McCain seems to believe that Australia is facing simultaneous war threats from four different quarters – Russia, ISIS, China and South Korea.

His “solution” is bizarre: Australia should get behind Washington’s war preparations, throw more taxpayers’ money into arms purchases (from US merchants of war, of course) and faithfully follow the policy directives emanating from the Pentagon and the CIA.

This means signing up to President Donald Trump’s reactionary and confrontational agenda and also falling in behind the very US agencies which falsified “weapons of mass destruction” and led John Howard to join the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq (since extended to Syria).

Women ministers

The two most senior females in the Coalition government, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Defence Minister Marise Payne, responded immediately: Bishop, former chair of Clayton Utz lawyers, issued a statement saying that maintaining the strongest links with US intelligence was in Australia’s best national interests and Payne, married to NSW Westconnex Minister Stuart Ayres, increased the number of soldiers to the US-led invasion of Afghanistan by a further 30 to a new total of 300.

Under the Bob Hawke, Paul Keating, John Howard, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard (Rudd again), Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull governments (from 1983 to 2017), Australia’s defence and foreign policy has been outsourced to Washington. Bone idle and brain dead ministers and permanent secretaries have simply fallen into line with Washington’s requirements while any opponents are branded “troublemakers”, “recalcitrants” and “non-team players” and demoted, or their careers brought to a grinding halt.

Before he spreads any more dangerous nonsense around the world, the 80-year-old McCain should quit the US Senate and enter a gated community in his home state of Arizona and only be allowed into the community on special family occasions.

Bombs away with Mrs May

The horrific terrorist bombing in Manchester on May 24 was perfectly timed for British Prime Minister Theresa May who is facing a general election next Thursday (June 8).

Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May

Immediately after the bombing Mrs May suspended all election campaigning. However, she took to the television to give a series of interviews and addressed the nation. She also travelled to Manchester to visit the scene to console victims and relatives.

She was channelling her heroine Margaret Thatcher. After the war against Argentina in the Malvinas (Falkland Islands), Thatcher staged a memorial at St Paul’s Cathedral in the City of London accompanied by an RAF fly past and a celebratory homecoming march through the streets of London, and then called an election. Trailing in the polls before the Falklands war, the Iron Lady won convincingly.

May began the current election campaign with a margin of 20% over Labour. But Labour was narrowing the gap when the terror bomb went off in the foyer of a concert in Manchester killing 23 adults and children.

The much-anticipated “bump” in May’s popularity has failed to materialise. On the contrary, Labour has closed the gap to about 6% and she still hasn’t won over voters in the north of England.

These are the citizens who voted Brexit last July and the Tories want them to vote blindly for the Thatcher impersonator next week.

Tory strategists made May herself the centre of their campaign. She told voters to “give me a mandate” and lectured them with “I offer myself as your prime minister”. The tactic was clearly to suggest that she was the nation’s obvious leader and her opponent, Jeremy Corbyn, was a hopeless drongo not to be trusted.

But by making herself the reason for voting Tory, she invited voters to look at her policies more closely and those of Corbyn as well.

And guess what happened? A growing number felt May could not be trusted and an equal number decided that Corbyn’s policies made a lot of sense.

Bombs and ballots

It will be fascinating to see how British voters react to the Manchester bombing. Latest figures show that workers’ wages are falling further behind the rate of inflation which means poverty is a growing menace – not an ideal time for a privileged Tory with a taste for expensive shoes and clothes to ask for votes.

Bombings are not new in the UK. Just read Joseph Conrad’s 1907 novel, The Secret Agent, about a Russian terrorist, or the early history of bombings by Irish nationalists. The history is very mixed: the Birmingham bombers and the Guildford bombers, imprisoned for many years, were all later cleared on appeal.

Other IRA-instigated blasts took place at the Old Bailey, Euston, Kensington, Manchester, Liverpool, Coventry, Bristol and Southampton. People in these cities endured the Blitz and Luftwaffe bombing raids across the British Isles, so what happened in Manchester isn’t new to them.

French voters faced a series on terror bombings and shootings on the eve of the French presidential election but they spurned the anti-Islam and anti-refugee scaremongering of far right National Front candidate Marine Le Pen.

Will British voters follow their cross-channel neighbours and reject the anti-refugee, hardline Brexit policies of Mrs May?

It all depends on whether the Brits vote class consciously against the Tories despite their reservations about the social democrats (Labour) and their leader Jeremy Corbyn. In recent elections in Holland and Austria voters repudiated the racist and anti-EU far right, but we’ll have to wait and see whether their example is followed in the UK.

Putin in the dock

I was intrigued to learn from last Sunday’s London Observer that Russia was mounting electronic interference ahead of this month’s election on the tiny Mediterranean island of Malta, population 450,000. (Malta accuses Russia of cyber-attacks in election run-up).

And the man behind the plot? Step forward President Vladimir Putin.

Reporter Jamie Doward (who he?) provided not a skerrick of evidence for his wild claims and merely quoted “a source in Malta’s information technology agency”. Smell a rodent? So do I.

After Putin was blamed for Hillary Clinton’s loss in the US presidential election, I am waiting for Rupert Murdoch’s papers in Australia to name the Russian president as the evil genius behind the voting in the Australian Olympic committee’s recent presidential election. How else could John Coates have won?

Then there’s the selection of the Queensland State of Origin team. Surely I’m not the only one to believe that Putin used cyber warfare to prevent Billy Slater from team selection?

The CIA, ably assisted by the US State Department, has been rigging elections in South America, the West Indies, the Far East and Africa for the past 60 years.

Ex-CIA spies have written dozens of memoirs over the years outlining how they did it. I have no doubt that the former KGB also ran interference in elections to support their favoured candidates, but it was never on the scale of the American operation. It cost billions of dollars and resulted in thousands of lives that were lost in coups, civil wars and assassinations. Some leftists simply disappeared and were never seen again – victims of CIA-trained murder squads.

So, can we have a little balance in the current media coverage of Russian cyber attacks on elections in the US, France, Britain, Malta etc?

Remember the old journalistic saying: If it smells like bullshit and tastes like bullshit, it is almost certainly bullshit.

Headline of the Week


  • Daily Express, London

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