The CIA, the Greens, and the time-travelling carbon tax

March 21, 2012

Sometimes, Australian politics is a gift that just keeps on giving.

By now, there’s probably not a person with access to any form of media that hasn’t heard about the Great CIA-Greens Conspiracy, helpfully revealed to us by mining magnate Clive Palmer. But just in case you’ve been hiding in a shack in the rainforest while wearing a tinfoil hat, here’s the gist:

The CIA wants to destroy the Australian coal industry. This would mean that the US coal industry could snap up our international markets. In order to accomplish this dastardly goal, they are funnelling money to groups like Greenpeace. And to the Australian Greens.

Via, of course, the Rockefeller Foundation, itself a long-time target of conspiracy wing-nuts, I mean theorists.

Because of this terrible situation, all Greens MPs should immediately resign. Conveniently, Palmer also demanded that those planning to run in Saturday’s Queensland state elections should withdraw their candidacy. This … this … dirty dealing, this funny money from international governments, must stop!

Shocking, isn’t it? Why, this could destroy the foundations of Australian politics as we know it!

Mr Palmer? You’re a significant contributor to the Queensland Liberal National Party, aren’t you? A vocal opponent of both carbon pricing and the mining super profits tax, which are foundational policies for the Greens? And aren’t you suing the management of one of your own hotels, alleging they’re – goodness me – illegally sending money to the US?

I think that’s known as seeing a theme. Or possibly smelling a rat. Or both.

Speaking of rats, the Opposition – recipients of Palmer’s largesse – is doing a fine job of impersonating them leaving a sinking ship, as the media descend upon them with glee. Tell us, they cry, what you think about Clive Palmer’s accusations!

Ever been at a party when someone has broken wind? Remember how everyone near them slowly edges away, while trying to look terribly casual?

Yeah.

They’re not doing themselves any favours. Really, the best thing to do would be to simply tell the media that Palmer’s entitled to his view, but it’s not one they share. Instead, they’re dancing around the question, looking for all the world like they secretly agree with him.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s response was particularly painful. He forced a laugh that actually sounded like it was causing him pain, and commented of Palmer: ‘he’s … (heh, heh) a larger than life character’.

Who presumably needs a larger than life tinfoil hat. Or, at least, a media advisor who can tell him it’s time to get off the podium and stop reading AboveTopSecret before bed.

But it gets better.

We all know that the Opposition believes the sky will fall when carbon pricing is introduced. It’s not like we can forget, after all – their elected members make a point of cramming their ‘carbon tax’ talking points into speeches on everything from superannuation legislation to grammatical corrections of current acts. It’s their favourite boogeyman, and they do so love to drag it out of the wardrobe for the purposes of frightening us whenever they can.

But guess what? Not only will this ‘carbon tax’ make the sky fall when it’s introduced on July 1 this year – it’s already doing so! In fact – gasp – it must have travelled back in time!

No, really. I’m not kidding.

The ‘carbon tax’ pushed up electricity prices starting from 2007. The ‘carbon tax’ forced any one of a dozen small businesses to lay off workers or close altogether months ago. The ‘carbon tax’ reduced our senior citizens to huddling around a candle for warmth because they couldn’t pay their gas bills. It’s driven up food prices! House prices! Petrol! Our international reputation, small country towns and trade – all in the process of collapse!

Yes, folks, this may be the single most powerful piece of legislation ever enacted. Forget SkyNet and its remorseless Terminators – it’s the ‘carbon tax’ that will destroy the world.

Sorry, is already destroying the world.

Or has destroyed the world? (looks out the window) Nope, there are houses still standing. Must be a work in progress.

What’s that, you say? There was a global financial crisis? Electricity prices started going up long before 2007? The price of petrol depends largely on the price of oil, set by Middle Eastern cartels?

Pshaw. You’re just not looking hard enough. For those in the know, the ‘carbon tax’ can be easily spotted lurking in the background of old photos, leaving behind traces of its nefarious activities.

It’s possible, even, that the ‘carbon tax’ was responsible for the disappearance of Prime Minister Harold Holt. After all, he was a Liberal PM, and this agent of destruction – sorry, Agent of Destruction, it really deserves capitals – is a creature of Labor’s making.

(Oh, sorry, Senator Eric Abetz, the ‘Labor-Greens Majority Alliance’s making’. Let’s not forget that little bit of space-cadet scripture – the idea that Labor and the Greens are in ideological lock-step.)

So let’s see if I’ve got this straight. The Greens are taking CIA money to kill our coal industry, while the ‘carbon tax’ travels back in time to destroy Life As We Know It. (Really, it’s a wonder the Greens bother – they could just sit back and let the ‘Carbon Tax of Doom’ do the job for them.)

Really, none of this sort of thing is new. You don’t have to travel far on Teh Interwebs to find someone claiming Elvis is alive, the Moon landing was faked, Satanic messages can be found by playing rock and/or roll music backwards, and 9/11 was an attack mounted by the US on its own citizens. And that’s without needing to go anywhere near David Icke and the Lizard People That Rule The World. (I’m looking at you, Your Majesty.)

The difference here is the profile, and the amount of power these people can command. Palmer is a billionaire, and money buys a lot of influence. The Federal Opposition are elected representatives who have their speeches preserved, repeated and interpreted by the media, the public, and our international trade and alliance partners. That makes these notions of a CIA Conspiracy and a Time-Travelling ‘Carbon Tax’ of Doom not only ridiculous, but potentially damaging in financial and trade markets.

Not to mention the howls of derisive laughter directed towards us.

Do Clive Palmer and the Opposition have the right to say what they believe? Sure – although I’d question the ‘right’ of anyone to deliberately spread lies. But, why not? Let’s grant them the right to free speech.

As long as we have the right to mock them mercilessly for the dingleberries they show themselves to be.

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Paging Doctor Entsch – a new week of political shenanigans

March 19, 2012

It’s the start of a new Parliamentary week, we haven’t reached Question Time yet, and already the shenanigans are in full swing.

First, the hapless member for Dobell, Craig Thomson, was in the headlines again. Last week, Thomson was taken to hospital suffering abdominal pains. Initial reports said it was appendicitis, but that was not confirmed and tests would be carried out. He was released from hospital, but given a medical certificate for the week as he would be unable to take part in Parliamentary business – including votes.

You can see where this is going, can’t you?

Ordinarily, an MP who was ill would automatically be granted a pair. In fact, as Malcolm Farr pointed out today, no less than three Opposition MPs needed to take extended sick leave within the last year, and were readily granted pairs. None of them had medical certificates, nor were they asked to provide them. Which is all very civilised, and only to be expected.

Or so you would think.

Opposition Whip Warren Entsch announced this morning that Thomson would be granted a pair – but only for one day. The medical certificate was ‘vague’, he said, listing only ‘abdominal pain’ as the reason for absence. ‘It could just be constipation,’ he said. Manager of Opposition Business Christopher Pyne backed him up. It was ‘suspicious’. A more detailed certificate was clearly required before further pairs could be granted.

Paging Doctors Entsch and Pyne … oh wait, you’re not medical doctors?

It’s outrageous behaviour. Not only is it unprecedented to disallow a pair for an ill MP, to question the validity of that person’s medical certificate suggests that the Opposition regard Thomson’s doctor as either untrustworthy enough to falsify a diagnosis or too incompetent to make a correct one. Either way, it is an insult.

Doctors deliberately give vague reasons on medical certificates – most often, the stated reason for absence is ‘a medical condition’. This is to protect patients’ privacy, something that is taken very seriously here in Australia.

Oh … unless you happen to be a woman, have had an abortion, and had your records fall into Tony Abbott’s hands.

After that unpleasant beginning to the day, politics descended into pure farce.

We started off with Tony Abbott, holding forth on Queensland’s state Wild Rivers legislation. These laws limit development along certain river systems in northern Qld, to protect their environmental status. Abbott seeks to overturn that legislation via a private member’s bill. As might be imagined, that bill has run into its fair share of obstacles, not least being its blatant intent to abrogate state’s rights. It has gone to committee after committee, all of which have recommended further investigation and amendment – including those on which sit Opposition MPs. Undeterred, Abbott attempted today to bring the bill on for debate (and presumably a vote) before Parliament rises at the end of this week.

it was an extraordinary performance. With metaphorical hand clasped firmly on heart, his voice choked with emotion and perhaps even a teary gleam in his eyes, Abbott launched into a passionate appeal to ‘decency’ and ‘honour’. Someone must stand up for the indigenous people of Cape York, he cried! They are being strangled with ‘Green Tape’ (yes, you read that right, green tape, how terribly witty) when all they want to do is live their lives as they have always done!

How could the government allow this to happen to such good people, these ‘caretakers of the land since time immemorial’? And yes, that’s a quote. Does the government believe that the indigenous people are incapable of taking care of their land? How could they think such a thing? Surely these people had the right to use their lands for more than just ‘spiritual ownership’?

To say there was more than a whiff of the ‘noble savage’ argument about Abbott’s speech is wildly understate the case. This is the man who not two months ago argued that the Tent Embassy was probably ‘no longer relevant’ to today’s issues. The same man who argued the night before the Apology to the Stolen Generations against saying ‘sorry’ under any circumstances. And yet there he was this morning, extolling the virtues of the ‘wise’ and ‘respected’ indigenous peoples.

Of course, it’s possible Abbott had a change of heart. But sadly, no. This is no more than a continuation of a bun-fight that’s been going on for around a year now. The Cape York indigenous communities are split on the question of the Wild Rivers laws. Some, like the Carpentaria Land Council, have no problem with them. Others – notably, lawyer and economic and social development advocate Noel Pearson – see the laws as restricting the right of indigenous peoples to utilise their lands without government interference.

And who does Abbott count among one of his close friends? Mr Pearson.

It’s not the first time Abbott has attempted to make Pearson’s views stand as somehow representative of a united, homogeneous community. They’re not, and Independent MP Rob Oakeshott has called him on it before. Sadly, that doesn’t seem to stop Abbott trying, no matter how ineffectual his efforts are – or much it shows up his hypocrisy where indigenous peoples are concerned.

After that, we were treated to the spectacle of Shadow Immigration Spokesperson Scott Morrison trying to get standing orders suspended to bring on an immediate enquiry. It seemed to have something to do with Customs, and Glock handguns, and possibly Australia Post – although it was difficult to tell, given the speed at which he rattled out the wording of his motion. Unfortunately for him, he forgot to read the House’s procedures closely, and his motion was disallowed.

Undaunted, he tried it on again a little later, and we were treated to one of the nastier strategies available to the government. Within 30 seconds of Morrison rising, Leader of Government Business Anthony Albanese popped up to move a gag motion. Unsurprisingly, that one succeeded – the Independents have shown themselves to be notoriously impatient with attempts to hijack the House’s business. Having gagged Morrison, Albanese went on to gag Justice, Customs and Border Protection Shadow Michael Keenan – and with that, the motion was dead in the water and could not go on to a vote.

A disgruntled Coalition exited the Chamber, but not without a parting shot courtesy Bronwyn Bishop, Shadow Spokesperson for Ageing. She stopped by the Speaker’s chair and pointing an accusing finger at him, saying clearly, ‘Something will have to be done about this. It will not be tolerated’.

Frankly, if I’d been in Slipper’s chair at that point, I’d have named Bishop there and then. It’s bad enough to see the disrespect shown the position of Speaker during Question Time – to have a member effectively threaten the Speaker should be absolutely unacceptable.

It’s been a full morning – and we’re only just now getting to Question Time. I dread to think what’s coming up.

Any bets on how long until Abbott tries to suspend standing orders for a censure – the 49th since this Parliament was convened – today?

UPDATE:

It wasn’t Abbott who called for the suspension – it was Doctor Pyne, MD. Who, in concert with Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop, took advantage of Thomson’s absence to engage in the kind of backstabbing we tell our children is utterly unacceptable. Bishop – as ridiculous as it sounds – even went so far as to suggest that Thomson, and the Health Services Union, was somehow connected to the Mafia.

All this aimed at a man who was not there to defend himself, who suffers from an illness that may very well be exacerbated – if not caused – by stress, who has been convinced of no crime and at worst faces an investigation.

Where I come from, we call that cowardice.


You can’t make this stuff up

March 15, 2012

As unlikely as it may seem, there are days when Parliament debates substantial issues – climate change, mining revenue, the woeful lack of mental health infrastructure …

And then there are days like today.

We had Christopher Pyne, Shadow Spokesperson for Education and Manager of Opposition Business in the House, launch into a full-throated attack. His argument seemed to be a variation of ‘for want of a nail, etc’, but somewhere along the line his logic became a little tangled.

Let’s see if we can tease it out:

* the government has terrible border protection policies (read: people are coming here in boats!)

* because they have terrible border protection policies, they have to spend lots and lots of extra money trying to fix things (read: stop the evil refugees seeking our help at all costs!)

* because they spend money trying to ‘fix’ border protection, more guns have turned up in Australia (wait, what?)

* because there are more guns, there are more bikie gang wars in South Australia

* therefore, the government is responsible for bikie gang wars in South Australia because they didn’t stop the boats.

No, I’m not kidding.

Of course, you can see the nasty little implication, can’t you? All these evil boat people who the government can’t keep out must be bringing the guns in with them … and presumably selling them to their bikie contacts in Adelaide. Perhaps it was even all planned this way!

Funny, I never knew that the Hells Angels had chapters in Afghanistan.

As ludicrous as it sounds, this was the subject of a serious speech in Parliament today from a senior member of the Opposition. Bad refugee policy equals bikie gang wars.

But if you think that’s absurd, try this.

In Question Time today, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott asked an apparently serious question of the Prime Minister: why hadn’t she taken the recommendations of the Future Fund and appointed former Treasurer Peter Costello as its head?

Fair question, actually. Why wouldn’t you choose the guy who actually set up the fund in the first place? The long-serving Federal Treasurer who left the Budget in surplus when Labor was elected to government back in 2007? The very person, in fact, who the fund’s Board wanted for the job?

Well, there are a number of reasons, actually, and Stephen Koukoulas lays them out in devastating fashion. But let’s put those aside for a moment, because Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s answer said all that needed to be said: because the government decided that, notwithstanding the recommendation of the Board, they felt that someone else would do better. That someone, David Gonski, has a resume at least as impressive as Costello’s – and without the partisan political history.

Abbott was fairly outplayed – not that this stopped him. Before Gillard’s backside had hit her seat, he was up at the box again, using a supplementary question to press the point. Not to be outdone, Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey joined in, and their combined questions started to bear a suspicious resemblance to an annoying three-year-old: ‘But whyyyyy???’

And then we truly entered the realm of the ridiculous. Abbott attempted to suspend standing orders for the 46th time since the Gillard minority government came to power. In itself, that would have been enough to qualify as a stupid waste of Parliamentary time. It was the substance of the motion, however, that carried the day.

Abbott called on Gillard to ‘explain herself’. Why hadn’t she appointed Costello? What did she think she was doing? How dare she and Finance Minister Penny Wong make a decision that didn’t slavishly follow a recommendation with which he agreed?

It was unbelievable. Here was Abbott attempting to take the government to task for not practising nepotism – not providing ‘jobs for the boys’. This was the same Opposition that pointed the finger and cried foul when former Labor leader Kim Beazley was appointed as our US Ambassador (while conveniently failing to complain when former Nationals leader Tim Fisher became Ambassador to the Vatican). There should be no favouritism – apparently unless it means that a former big-name Liberal misses out on a plum government job.

And it got worse. Gonski was an ‘outsider’, Abbott argued. How can we trust him to do the job properly?

This from the man who outright accused Treasury of corruption in order to justify bringing in an outside accounting firm to go over the Coalition’s costings during the 2010 election campaign.

Remember, all of this was in context of Abbott attempting to interrupt the normal business of the House. The matter of Peter Costello not getting a job was so important that all other business had to immediately cease.

(It must have given Costello a warm glow to hear that. Certainly warmer than when his former colleagues refused to support him for the Liberal Party leadership and chose instead to engage in some truly vicious character assassination.)

But really, it was Hockey who walked away with the award for the week’s Most Nonsensical Argument, when he rose to second the motion.

Basically, it boiled down to this: it’s OUR Fund and it’s OUR turn. (Insert metaphorical foot stamp and pout.)

Yes, you see, it was a Coalition government that created the Future Fund. It’s too good for the likes of some grubby little Labor appointee. Why, you could say it’s … it’s … Costello’s birthright! Hand it over at once, and let the man lead as he was born to do!

Okay, I may be paraphrasing a little there. But this … is pure Hockey. This was how he wound up his speech:

‘If the government won’t do the right thing and appoint Peter Costello to chair the Future Fund … then they should get out of the way and let us govern!’

(Flourish, decisive nod of the head, retire to seat and stare at the government in self-righteous indignation.)

Yes, you read that right.

Hockey seemed to think that was a stinging ultimatum. It was an utter absurdity.

What does he expect? Perhaps the scenario plays out like this in Hockey’s mind:

Gillard, crushed by Hockey’s inescapable argument, suddenly stands up and says, ‘Whoops, Joe, you’re right there. We want our man in the Future Fund job, so I’ll just swap places with Tony here and off you go, Bob’s your uncle – Bob Menzies, of course, wouldn’t want you think I meant our Bob, ha ha. Oi, Swanny, hand over the cash box, it’s Joe’s turn now.’

Everyone in the House shuffles chairs, and a message is sent to the Senate telling them the news. Joyous bells ring out across the land as people everywhere celebrate their rescue from the terror of doing it hard on $160,000 a year, and a New Golden Age of Prosperity and Corporate Success dawns as unicorns gallop gracefully over the rolling hills of the Australian capitalist utopia.

Which is a scenario as ridiculous as Hockey’s demand. I mean, honestly. Does Hockey really think Gillard will call an election just because he tells her to do so? And then what? Not campaign? Put out an ad telling everyone she’s decided to ‘let’ the Coalition govern? All on his say-so?

It’s probably a good thing that this is the end of the Parliamentary week, because – barring a sudden invasion of clowns into the Senate, the Clerks deciding to play Jenga with the accumulated volumes of Hansard, or the Serjeant-at-Arms running amok in the Press Gallery with the Mace – I don’t think it could get any stupider than this.

And the worst part of it is that, apart from a small amount of exaggeration here and there (and the occasional unicorn), it’s all true. As the man says, you can’t make this stuff up.

These are the people we elected. Depressing, isn’t it?


Shaving for a cure

March 13, 2012

First up, sorry about the lack of content lately. I haven’t been terribly well. But never fear, I’m sure our esteemed leaders (ahem) will give us something to poke into this week while Parliament sits.

In the meantime …

I’ll be taking part in the World’s Greatest Shave for this year. For those who haven’t heard of it before, it’s a fund-raising initiative to raise money for the Leukaemia Foundation. This organisation is dedicated to helping leukaemia sufferers and their families, and furthering research into treatments and – eventually – a cure for this terrible disease.

The Foundation accepts donations year-round, but the World’s Greatest Shave is its most visible event. So what is it?

Simply speaking, volunteers ask people to sponsor them to either dye their hair an outrageous colour – or shave it all off.

Currently, my hair’s nearly waist-length – about where it is in my avatar photo, only red. On Friday, it’s all coming off. And I mean all of it. When I’m done, it’ll be as short as a Marine recruit buzzcut.

So – as you’ve probably already guessed – this is a shameless request for sponsorship from you, faithful readers. I can’t stress enough how worthy a cause this is – it can completely disrupt a family for years, put people through incredible suffering, and worst of all, it takes the most vulnerable – young people and the elderly. My partner’s grandfather died from it. A friend’s younger sister lingered for a long time before finally succumbing. And it goes on.

If you have a few dollars to spare, please visit my sponsorship page. Any donations are gratefully accepted.

And yes … there will be pictures.


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