The Weekly Notebook

Scott Morrison with family after his swearing-in at Yarralumla

Scott Morrison: happy clapper in The Lodge

On entering Federal Parliament in 2008, Scott Morrison, the newly-elected Member for Cook in southern Sydney, delivered his inaugural speech on February 14 (St Valentine’s Day). He chose to discuss at length his deep devotion to his Christian religion and paid tribute to his mentors in the born-again Pentecostal movement led by the Hillsong crowd.

“Growing up in a Christian home,” Morrison said, “I made a commitment to my faith at an early age and have been greatly assisted by the pastoral work of many dedicated church leaders, in particular the Reverend Ray Green and pastors Brian Houston and Leigh Coleman.” All names now on the MP’s guest list!

(Years later, Houston made a memorable appearance before the Royal Commission into child sex abuse to reject allegations that any sexually predatory behaviour had ever occurred among well-heeled happy-clappies.)

MPs accustomed non-religious inaugural speeches were taken aback when he said, “I made my commitment to my faith at an early age” and then told of meeting his wife Jenny (at an evangelical ceremony) and their struggle with child birth. “After 14 years of bitter disappointments, God remembered her faithfulness and blessed us with our miracle child, Abbey Rose, on the seventh of the seventh of the seventh”. (7 July, 2002). In other words, they had a baby.

It’s a pity he didn’t relate more about the Pentecostal faith which was founded just over 100 years ago in America and some of its customs and beliefs. For example, devotees “talk in tongues” i.e. they exclaim spontaneous gibberish which only god himself can translate. Does Australia’s PM actually talk gibberish? Most people will think he does.

Two of its high-profile US luminaries made headlines in Australia: Oral Roberts (1918-2009), the first televangelist became a multi-millionaire amid family, property and financial scandals; Jimmy Swaggart crashed under the weight of sex scandals with prostitutes. After a repeat offence in 1991 he told his congregation: “The lord told me it’s flat none of your business.”

Morrison’s brand of religion

The Pentecostal belief system worries best-selling writer and columnist Robert Macklin who wrote recently: “The Genesis story, for example, is not only nonsensical, even as a myth it casts women as second rate citizens and sees snakes (which some US Pentecostals handle in church as part of the ‘holiness movement’) as the embodiment of satan.

“What is concerning is the literal belief in the very confused messages to be found in the bible, particularly those that so blatantly contradict the scientific method which has been responsible for all human progress out of the darkness of ignorance and superstition.”

Morrison assured MPs, “My personal faith in Jesus Christ is not a political agenda”, but then he wove Christianity into a message for a “strong” economy, obviously a capitalist one, with everyone expected to stand on his or her own two feet and prosper. They call that “personal and social responsibility” and those who don’t measure up have only themselves to blame.

Morrison’s model of Christianity is essentially Darwinian – survival of the fittest. It applies to life as well as business. Firms go bust because the free market is always on the move, forward and upward. People go bust because they can’t handle the pace of change or the “opportunities” thrust in front of them.

Wealth and happiness go hand-in-hand and being a rich bastard is no barrier to entering the kingdom of heaven. But what of the majority of people who are simply poor or struggling? Well, it’s their fault.

When Morrison, his wife and children swept into Yarralumla, the GG’s official residence, for the official vice-regal swearing-in ceremony, one cynical lackey remarked wryly: “The Amish have just arrived.”

The moment was reminiscent of Gladstone’s observation after visiting the Bourbon kingdom of Naples in 1850-51 when he ridiculed it as “the negation of god erected into a system of government”.

God reinvented as a neo-con

Before he reached the Godspeak section of his 2008 inaugural speech, Morrison outlined his business philosophy saying: “It is business that creates jobs and it is business that drives our economy. This is achieved through the initiative, enterprise and sacrifice of business owners and the hard work, skill and professionalism of the employees they lead.” Donald Trump and Goldman Sachs could not have put it more clearly and it has been the anthem of capitalist exploitation for hundreds of year.

But Morrison’s show-stopper was this: “Australia is not a secular country – it is a free country. This is a nation where you have the freedom to follow any belief system you choose. Secularism is just one.

“So what values do I derive from my faith? My answer comes from Jeremiah, Chapter 9:24: ‘I am the Lord who exercises loving kindness, justice and righteousness on earth: for I delight in these things, declared the Lord’.”

Why take your guideline teaching from the Old Testament, a book of fables written by early leaders of the Jewish faith? And why single out a quotation that sounds more like a dictatorial instruction than a message of compassion and humanity?

Samuel L. Jackson in “Pulp Fiction”

When I first read Morrison’s speech, the biblical passage sounded like Samuel L Jackson playing Jules in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. Quoting Ezekiel 25:17, Jules said:

“The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy My brothers. And you will know I am the Lord when I lay My vengeance upon you.”

India’s independence leader Mahatma Gandhi summed up Christianity saying: “You Christians look after a document containing enough dynamite to blow all civilisation to pieces, turn the world upside down and bring peace to a battle-torn planet. But you treat it as though it is nothing more than a piece of literature.”

Next week: Scott Morrison and Captain Cook

Two funerals divided the US

The ravine-deep division in American society was on public display at two state-organised funerals, one for John McCain and the other for Aretha Franklin.

Normally, funerals do the trick in America. Mourning heroes and heroines is a well-established device for “bringing the nation together”. It allows Americans to wallow in “healing” rituals and get all sentimental about belonging to “the greatest nation on earth”.

This time it didn’t go according to the usual script.

Aretha Franklin’s funeral

White folk, led by important people from the military-industrial-financial complex and the Republican and Democratic elite, went to the Washington DC funeral of unindicted war criminal John McCain.

Meanwhile, black folk in their thousands, backed by a sprinkling of the Republican and Democratic elite, flocked to the Detroit funeral of the inspirational black singer Aretha Franklin.

Some Democrats, like the shameless Clintons and Obamas, and some Republicans attended both. Former slave owners sat in pews near former slaves. It was very weird.

America revises Vietnam war

McCain was a lifelong militarist who went to war against the Vietnamese people fighting for their independence. Bill Clinton and George Bush were draft dodgers who worked every trick in the book to avoid serving the Stars and Stripes.

Both funerals were intensely political affairs. Predictably, they became stage-managed demonstrations against the 45th President, Donald Trump. They came to bury Trump as well as McCain and Aretha.

John McCain’s funeral: Pres and Mrs Bush, Pres Bill Clinton and Hillary, VP Dick Cheney

The theme of the funerals was “Let’s overthrow the president and impeach him”. The mass media, smarting under Trump’s abuse that its representatives are “the enemy of the American people”, celebrated the funerals as milestones in its campaign to commit domestic regime change.

But first prize for gobsmacking chutzpah went to McCain’s daughter Meghan who redefined the Vietnam atrocity as a noble fight “for the life and liberty of other people in other lands”. Hash-taggers loved it and sobbed tears of nauseating hypocrisy. A political career in her father’s footsteps beckons: Arizona is on heat again.

Remember these funerals. They represent a turning point in US, and possibly world, history. At a stroke, and in the midst of hymns, prayers and hypocrisy, Trump lost the support of white military personnel (in uniform and in retirement),  veterans of the post-war black civil rights movement,  their children and grandchildren, and black military personnel, black law enforcement (cops, national guard, private and public security) and black musicians and artists.

Trump cornered in the White House

Following 200 US newspapers printing anti-Trump editorials last month, the New York Times this week published an anonymous editorial piece by a senior White House official, thereby admitting the existence of the much-ridiculed Deep State. He/she called for a Washington insurgency to end Trump’s presidency.

The orchestrated anti-Trump fury has erupted in advance of mid-term elections on Tuesday, November 6 (Melbourne Cup day for us) when all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 Senate seats will be contested.

If Trump survives the mid-terms he will serve out his presidency and have another crack for a second term in November 2020. This scenario is an apocalyptic nightmare for many Americans and his opponents are pulling all the stops to end his rule. Everything is being thrown at him: porn star Stormy Daniel, Watergate investigator Bob Woodward, former FBI director James Comey, ex-Apprentice starlet Amorosa, Hillary Clinton’s books etc.

Under this barrage, Trump has begun to look like earlier fugitives from the wrath of American “justice”. Will he resign, be impeached, stand and fight, cut and run?

ABC platforms Steve Bannon

On ABC TV this week, 4 Corners gave viewers 45 minutes of Steve Bannon, the nut job who guided Trump into the White House and briefly became his chief strategist.

Bannon, the multi-millionaire former chair of the far-right Breitbart, is an ex-Goldman Sachs investment banker.

No wonder the ABC’s flagship programme has become a basket case. For ABC loyalists like me, it’s tragic.

In years gone by, 4 Corners would have conducted a scathing investigation of Bannon and not showcased him.

Trump began his administration promising a grand deal to create “WORLD PEACE, nothing less”. Simultaneously, he promised to “Make America Great Again”. The two slogans went hand-in-hand with “Build the Wall”.

All three slogans were invented by Bannon. They are now history and Trump is totally consumed by one task: staying president and avoiding impeachment.

Far right strategist Steve Bannon

From one end of the world to the other, the main story is Trump. Everything else – economic crises, currency wars, trade conflicts, domestic political wars, outrageous corruption scandals, mass population shifts – has been relegated to the margins.

Trump luxuriates in the media attention; it’s his favourite venue and where he feels completely at home. For the rest of us, it’s a bloody nightmare which won’t end well.

Trump is sucking all the oxygen out of the global political debate on things that matter. I don’t know why people can’t be two things at once – fiercely anti-Trump and militant socialists.

The House will come to order

Julian Hill, Labor MP for the Victorian seat of Bruce since 2016, is a rare bird in ALP ranks – an academic with intellectual interests.

The 48-year-old attended Monash University, Monash’s Faculty of Law and Deakin University, receiving his Bachelor of Science (Chemistry) and Bachelor of Laws at Monash and a graduate certificate of international relations from Deakin.

A former councillor and mayor of the City of Port Phillip, Hill worked as a senior public servant for the Victorian Government in the Departments of Transport, Sustainability and the Environment, Planning and Community Development, Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources.

Julian Hill MP

In Parliament, he is deputy chair of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit. In that capacity he and committee chairman, Labor’s Dr Andrew Leigh, have written to Rod Sims, chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) laying out their concerns about the billions of dollars in public fees paid to the “Big Four” consultancy firms – PriceWaterhouseCoopers, KMPG, Deloitte and EY. The chief allegation is that the “Big Four” operate as a cartel to gouge exorbitant fees from governments. Leigh and Hill want to assemble evidence already researched in Britain, Italy, the European Union (EU) and North America and conduct public hearings if they become necessary.

In the last tumultuous parliamentary sitting which saw the ousting of Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister in a party room coup organised by ultra-conservatives, Hill used his wit to embarrass Christopher Pyne, the yapping Liberal Leader of the House:

“I rise to inform the House of an important development. On Sunday, the Leader of the House [Christopher Pyne] updated his register of interests to include two tickets to the Adelaide Festival’s performance of Hamlet. Was the Leader of the House there to learn from Shakespeare’s classic tale of ambition, betrayal, revenge, or crippling indecision—or was he there to offer a few tips of his own?

“And one wonders which way the sweet prince of Sturt [Pyne] cast his vote today. To be Wentworth [Malcolm Turnbull], or to be Dickson [Peter Dutton]; that is the question.

“And, as the restless ghosts of old kings walk the battlements up there on the backbench, uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. But, as much as Shakespeare could pen a mighty tragedy, we also know that he enjoyed a good farce and a little bit of slapstick. That must be the only explanation for the reports we now hear today that the Member for Flinders [Greg Hunt] is now a candidate for deputy leader! And, apparently, he is desperate for the job.

But, alas, poor Yorick! This was not to be. Hamlet is Shakespeare’s longest play at 4,000 lines and nearly four hours. Sadly, the Liberal Party civil war has been going for five years, but Australians are still waiting for the curtain.”

Alas, poor Yorick!

Footnote: Two days later Turnbull was gone and Pyne, having voted for Turnbull and then switching to Scott Morrison, was back in the Cabinet … for the moment!

Quote of the Week

“The Nationality Law is a vital law that places a dam in the face of the ongoing erosion of the identity of the State as the Nation State of the Jewish people, preventing the State from becoming a State of all its citizens.”

  • Yariv Levin MP, Israel’s Tourism Minister, chair of the Knesset’s Land of Israel Lobby and lawyer

Street Sign of the Week

“Waxing for men and women: Brazilian and Bum (inner) $45”

  • Outside beauty emporium in Coolangatta, Qld

Appointment of the Year

Steven Seagal, the action-movie star, has been appointed Russia’s special representative in the United States to promote “relations between Russia and the US in the humanitarian field, including in culture, arts, public and youth exchanges”.

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