Burning Hands, Burning Pants
It’s been a truly crappy few weeks in politics. First there was reportage by the ABC that Royal Australian Navy personnel had burnt the hands of asylum seekers in their recent turn-back-the-boats escapade. I won’t go into how fraught and awful this exercise is in of itself, because we know the politics around it are as barren as the minds that conceived it. What I do want to recount is the extraordinary sequence of events which followed.
First there was the Prime Minister slamming the ABC and accusing them of gross inaccuracy in their reporting, and that somehow the national carrier is institutionally incapable of speaking on behalf of Australia’s interests. Now, this was kind of weird because Australia’s interests in this instance seemed suspiciously to be interchangeable with Tony Abbott’s interests as a politician. If the stretchmarks were showing, it got ugly when there was an announcement made that there would be an efficiency review of the ABC.
The Navy and the Australian government denied the allegations and have continued to deny them since they were first aired. It has looked like for all money that the ABC journalists on the ground were too keen to couch this as a problem for the Abbott government. In essence, they’re saying the ABC journos involved are liars.
Of course, taken aback by the ferocity of the criticism, the ABC made noises about being more true to the stories they are reporting, but independent of the furor, Fairfax sent a journalist to find these people who allegedly had their hands burnt. It turns out that the ABC didn’t just make this stuff up, it wasn’t an exaggeration of an idle claim.
This week, in the Tanjung Pinang immigration detention centre on a little island off the coast of Sumatra, that changed. Fairfax Media conducted the first extended face-to-face interview with Fasher, who says he was an eyewitness to the incident, and he told his story in unprecedented detail.
His account has been consistent from the first. He says he has no doubt that what he saw at close quarters on about January 3 was three people’s hands being deliberately held to a hot exhaust pipe by Australian naval personnel to punish them for protesting, and to deter others from doing one simple thing: going to the toilet too often.
And here’s the pic.
Late yesterday, the breaking news was that Defence Minister David Johnston called for an inquiry in to the ABC just about at the same time Fairfax was breaking the news corroborating the ABC’s original story. This is pretty stupid stuff so I am compelled to quote here:
”I don’t want to do anything that might complicate that task of stopping the boats and frankly I don’t want to do anything that would cast aspersions on the professionalism of our naval and customs personnel. I have nothing but respect for them … and I have seen nothing that credibly casts any doubts on that professionalism.”
Senator Johnston also said he was happy with assurances given to him by Defence brass.
”I have discussed this matter with senior command,” he said. ”They have assured me that there is no substance to these allegations.”
But he refused to detail measures taken to investigate the claims, instead calling for scrutiny of the ABC.
”If ever there was an event that justified a detailed inquiry, some reform and investigation of the ABC, this is it,” he said.
He said the navy had been “maliciously maligned” by the ABC’s coverage of the matter, dismissing the public broadcaster’s apology as “weasel words” by its senior management.
”I have not said much because, I have to confess, I was extremely angry. I required some time to cool off,” he said.
When asked why his department had not answered a detailed list of questions by Fairfax Media based on a detailed eyewitness account, Senator Johnston said it was a matter for Mr Morrison because it was a ”civil public policy issue”.
”When you give me something to act upon that is more than just hearsay, innuendo and rumour, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” he said.
How stupid is that? No, really, how deeply idiotic is that?
Talk about shooting the messenger. What can we glean from this? It seems David Johnston does not read the news. If he did, he would have to admit that there is much more than “hearsay, innuendo, and rumour”. There’s the photo above for a start. Given that there is the photo now in public with the corroborating report, I don’t see how David Johnston can maintain that he is happy with the assurance given to him by the Defence brass. If he is happy, it can only because he’s one of those docile morons that happily live with the cognitive dissonance of having wildly conflicting information in his head without the need to resolve them.
Be that is it may, he says he’s really angry at the ABC. He still thinks – in spite of the countervailing evidence – the initial report deserves an inquiry into the ABC and not the Defence department. When asked about the blatant conflict of information going, his explanation for it was that it’s a “civil public policy matter”- but he’s angry with the ABC about their “weasel words”.
Sorry Senator Johnson, the only person practising weasel words in this exchange is your awful, awful, awful, stupid self.
And this brings me to the usual gripe. Who puts idiots like these in charge of the Defence department? That would be the same idiots who put Tony Abbott into the lodge: that would be us, the electorate. The government has been in for only 5 months and it seems to go from one policy disaster to the next, and when they get pulled up for it by the press, they scream bias in coverage. This is so pathetic but worse still is the way it reflects on us all. Who could have thought that democracy could yield such ghastly results? The next time I meet a swinging voter who voted for this Coalition, I think I will blame them for all of this.
But Wait There’s More!
I forgot to mention the bit where Fairfax asked 21 pertinent questions to Immigration Minister Scott Morrison. This bit is good too.
Here’s the full text:
Scott Morrison’s response
‘‘The government does not give credibility to malicious and unfounded slurs being made against our navy personnel and rejects outright any allegations of unprofessional conduct by our people serving in Operation Sovereign Borders. If media outlets wish to give credibility by publishing such unsubstantiated claims, that is a matter for them.
I know and trust that our navy and Customs and Border Protection Service act in accordance with their training and lawful orders and would only use force where necessary and appropriate to deal with threatening and non-compliant behaviour, as appropriate.
There are clear rules and guidelines to govern their behaviour and use of force and they are well trained to act in accordance with these rules. I’ll back their professionalism and integrity every day over the self-serving claims of those unhappy that they were denied what the people smugglers promised them.’’
It is also not the government’s policy to give people smugglers a ‘how to guide’ on our operations by providing responses on the issues raised. To do so would put both the people who protect our borders and the operations that are successfully stopping the boats at risk.
The government is aware of reports on Tuesday, 7 January, 2014, of claims that four people may have fallen overboard from a suspected illegal entry vessel inside Australian waters.
These claims were rigorously assessed and acted on at the time they were made, and I am confident that they were not true.
It is important to note that the claimed incident occurred well before the suspected illegal entry vessel had been intercepted by Australian authorities.
For operational security reasons, the government will not go into further detail on this matter.’’
If you believe that you’ll believe anything this bunch says. What’s more worrying – apart from the tone of the reply as well as the brazen disregard for developing any kind of discourse on the subject let alone addressing fairly specific questions, is this notion that what the government does is legitimately covered in some secrecy and therefore above and beyond the citizenry and its desire to be informed. No matter how you look at it, it’s a cynical attempt to dress up something that is shonky as good and pathetic as profound. Again, we must ask ourselves how did we get here? … and we can only blame ourselves once again.
All the same, you do wonder about the education of these mendacious semantic lightweights posing as statesmen of our commonwealth. They’re shills for special interests.
They Want You To Lose Your Shirts
If you want even more evidence that they are just shills for special interests, try this one about the changes they want to make for financial planning. Pleiades sent in this one of Bernard Keane on Crikey observed behind the paywall:
First, there was the reversal of Labor’s decision to require better record-keeping and reporting for fringe benefits tax on novated leases. Note that this wasn’t a tax rise, as widely portrayed, but merely a requirement that people currently avoiding, or possibly in some circumstances evading, tax demonstrate they are doing so for the legitimate reasons they claimed. It was designed to end a straight-out tax rort perpetrated by the parasitic salary packaging industry, at the expense of every taxpayer without a novated lease. Hockey has reinstated the rort, at a cost to the rest of us of $1.4 billion over four years.
However, that’s as nothing compared to the government’s plans to reverse Labor’s Future of Financial Advice reforms, quietly revealed right before Christmas by Assistant Treasurer Arthur Sinodinos. Sinodinos proposes to dump the “opt-in” clause for financial advice fees that requires financial planners to actually get their clients’ permission to automatically skim off fees every year for advice clients have never sought and don’t want. Sinodinos also wants to get rid of requirements for advisers to reveal fees to existing clients and dramatically water down requirements designed to end the conflict of interest in which financial planners push clients into products planners stand to benefit from.
While much of the financial planning industry, large and small, is eager to move to a professional model for the financial advice that would turn away from the decades of self-interest and fee-gouging of clients, a rump of planners with close ties to the Liberals want to retain their ability to exploit the disengagement of most Australians about their superannuation in order to skim off a never-ending line of fees. The Liberals, in any event, strongly support the retail super sector of the industry, run by the big banks and AMP, which routinely underperforms the industry funds despised by the Liberals for trade union involvement.
Sinodinos’ changes may cost financial planning clients, i.e. ordinary consumers, $130 billion in lost retirement savings, which the age pension system of the future will have to help make up. It puts all other handouts by government in the shade.
At the same time, the government has also scrapped Labor’s plan to tax superannuation earnings over $100,000 a year for high-income retirees (i.e. Liberal voters) at 15% — while dumping assistance for low-income earners to increase their super contributions (i.e. Labor voters).
This government’s pretty cynical about who it helps and who it condemns. The whole process whereby they let GM close Holden’s factories in Australia and let Qantas dangle in the wind tell us that they are very much interested in smashing unions by making union employees in particular, unemployed. It sure would be one way to smash the unions if you could destroy the jobs that give them strength. So even without resorting to Work Choices which was front end bludgeon against the unions, Tony Abbott and his scabbie crew can wreak havoc on the union movement through simply letting their jobs fade.
This is some radial Thatcherite shit. No doubt there’s Rupert Murdoch cheering on this kind of thing although you wonder if all this ideological manoeuvering would be so aggressive if Murdoch wasn’t distorting the Liberals and their base into some kind of Tea Party clone.
It’s amazing that this current incarnation of the Coalition don’t want to govern for all Australians, but to remake the landscape so that they only have to govern for sectional interests. Case in point is this business of giving money to Cadbury while denying a similar amount of money to SPC Ardmona. Eric Abetz – Grand nephew of NAZI Otto Abetz – was on Insiders last week (another dismal mendacious self-congratulatory and nasty-minded effort) claiming there was a world of difference between the Cadbury and SPC situation and even threw in the Carbon Pricing as a reason these companies were struggling (*UGH*). It might just be that Australians are lot more sadomasochistic than previously imagined and this is some grand BDSM Theatre of the absurd dressed up as politics.
Well, I for one wouldn’t mind whipping the dying snot out of this sorry lot.