Crikey Worm: Following bad Abbotts


Good morning, early birds. Asylum seekers and migrants are set to lose out on a number of fronts from Tuesday night’s budget, and spending on offshore detention is set to rise then crash. It’s the news you need to know, with Chris Woods.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Prime Minister Scott Morrison (Image: AAP/Lukas Coch)

ASYLUM SEEKERS AND MIGRANTS LOSE OUT

Refugees, people seeking asylum, and migrants are set to lose out on a number of fronts from Tuesday night’s budget, with the ABC reporting that the humanitarian program’s annual ceiling has been cut from 18,750 places to 13,750 — an Abbott-era rate — in an attempt to save almost $1 billion over the next four financial years.

Additionally, the Refugee Council notes that financial support for refugees and asylum seekers under the Status Resolution Support Service program has been progressively slashed over the past four budgets from $139.8 million in 2017-18 to just $19.6 million in 2020-21.

The Guardian also notes that $55.6 million will be spent over the next year to reactivate a Christmas Island facility in order to hold up to 250 “unlawful non-citizens” — which, wow — who come from both migrant and refugee backgrounds, have served prison sentences, and are unable to be deported due to COVID-19 restrictions.

And, on top of all this, a new language test requirement will bar Australians from sponsoring and marrying foreign partners who do not speak English, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

PS: For more on budget losers, see how the Morrison government plans to cut more than $41 million from homelessness services and social housing (SBS); has largely excluded older women from wage subsidies which are instead focussed on under-35-year-olds and male-dominated industries (The Age); and created a tax package The Australia Institute finds benefits the top 20% of income earners to the tune of 41% in 2020-21 and then — after lower-income earners get their one-off $2160$1080 refund — a whopping 88% in 2021-22.

OFFSHORE ACCOUNTS

Curiously, funding for offshore detention is set to jump from $961.7 million to $1.19 billion in 2020-21, before crashing to $307.5 million in 2021-22, $302.2 million in 2022-23 and $296.1 million in 2023-24.

While there is as yet no official explanation for the funding dip, one purely theoretical explanation for slashing annual offshore spending from around $1 billion for five years now to $300 million is that, sometime from between now and mid-2022, the government expects to relocate the final 350 detainees on Nauru and PNG and then keep the facilities themselves operating on standby.

It could also — and again this is spit-balling — have something to do with Jacqui Lambie’s decision to vote to repeal medivac in December 2019, after being informed of plans that she claimed she could not discuss publicly “due to national security concerns“.

THE ALBANESE WAY OUT

In his very own leaked budget address, Anthony Albanese is today set to outline an alternative recovery strategy that envisions $500 million for social housing (The Conversation), free childcare for low-income earners (news.com.au), and more support for aged care, infrastructure, defence industry and manufacturing, welfare support, renewables, research and science (The Australian $). Despite criticism from the Greens, the Labor leader has also advised the tax office that the party will support the Coalition’s tax package.

Meanwhile The Guardian reports that Scott Morrison has pledged to deliver spending promises in the face of concerns the budget relies on accelerated growth and a vaccine becoming available by 2021. In a front-page splash at The Australian ($), the prime minister has also received promises of sorts from employers such as billionaire manufacturer Anthony Pratt and Jayco caravans owner Gerry Ryan to pursue business incentives and wage subsidies.

MOMENT OF TRUTH: TRUMP WALKS BACK PLEDGE TO BLOCK SUPPORT UNTIL ELECTION

According to The New York Times, Donald Trump has walked back a promise to block any future stimulus bills — which have already been left in limbo since the Democrat-controlled House passed a $3 trillion package in May and another $2.2 trillion bill on October 1 — until after the election, announcing on Twitter he would sign a stand-alone bill for $1200 stimulus checks.

As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin enter negotiations, including relief for airline workers, CNN reports that the White House is making preparations for Trump’s eventual return to the Oval Office, including placing a so-called “isolation cart” filled with yellow medical gowns, respirator masks and plastic goggles for visitors next to assistants outside his door. The news comes after senior adviser Stephen Miller tested positive.

Coincidentally, a reassigned director at the National Institutes of Health Rick Bright — who filed a whistleblower complaint alleging that his early COVID-19 warnings were ignored and that his caution over hydroxychloroquine led to his removal — has announced his resignation from the government, alleging that the Trump administration “ignores scientific expertise, overrules public health guidance and disrespects career scientists.”

Finally, keep an eye out today for the Pence v Harris debate, it is sure to be excruciating!

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

[interviewing Miranda Devine]: …um when you talk about older people, you think they’re being… sorry I just want to clarify… that they’re being selfish?

Fox News host Dana Perino

As if there was ever any doubt, America’s most deluded, sycophantic and dangerous media outlet ain’t got shit on us.

A mutant of a budget offers mixed answers to the vital questions

“If one of the key questions about the 2020 budget was whether the government was prepared to spend enough to support the economy, it was answered resolutely in the affirmative in Table 1 of Statement 1 of Budget Paper No. 1 which showed deficits totalling $480 billion stretching off to 2024.

“The Grattan Institute had suggested the government needed to spend another $70 billion to $90 billion in 2021 and 2022 on top of its $180 billion in deficit spending already committed this year. Josh Frydenberg went way beyond that with another $112 billion deficit next year and deficits to the end of the forward estimates and then beyond into the forecasting haze of the late 2020s.”

The big ifs: the key assumptions lining the pathway to recovery

“The budget assumes Australia will continue to keep a handle on the COVID-19 pandemic over the next year. That means localised outbreaks, like the one we saw flare up in Victoria, will be ‘largely contained’.

“It means outside Victoria restrictions will continue to ease, and borders around the country, except for Western Australia, will reopen by the end of the year.”

Secret deals, mysterious financiers: welcome to the world of James Packer

“Australians are being given a rare glimpse into the world of James Packer and it’s even more bizarre than we imagined.

“Israeli billionaires, secret deals with mysterious financiers and threats of Mossad-trained enforcers — and that’s before you get to allegations surrounding Chinese crime gangs and money laundering.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

NSW has 48 hours to trace new COVID-19 cases or Queensland border clock resets

Temporary virus shutdown led to breast cancer checks plunging

COVID-19 vaccine timeframe still an ‘educated gamble’ as Government reveals July rollout is the ‘earlier’ scenario

Aboriginal leaders criticise $39m budget funding to non-Indigenous program for boys

Melbourne’s COVID-19 cliffhanger: how are the numbers tracking against reopening targets?

Trench warfare: LNP caught in crossfire as miners split over attack on Greens

Brisbane company Ellume wins $US30m to deliver rapid COVID-19 tests ($)

Roads over renewables: Budget seen as missed opportunity for a green recovery

Thinning forests doesn’t reduce bushfire risk and could make some blazes worse, study finds

‘We need to take away children,’ no matter how young, Justice Dept. officials said

THE COMMENTARIAT

Heroic assumptions in budget omit one major threat: a global debt crunchJohn Hewson (The Sydney Morning Herald): “You simply can’t buy business and consumer confidence, no matter how much you spend. To be fair, quite uncharacteristically for a Coalition government, it has certainly had a go, with both costly tax cuts and business incentives, but as Treasurer Josh Frydenberg conceded, ‘there is a monumental task ahead’ to climb out of the black hole created by the response to COVID-19.”

The three budget downers for business ($) — Karen Maley (AFR): “Let’s hope that Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has succeeded in dazzling Australian business owners with the prospect of writing off the full cost of any new equipment they purchase, or availing themselves of the opportunity to claw back some of their past tax payments. Because there’s a serious risk that if they look past the tens of billions of dollars’ worth of incentives being thrust at them, they could well become disheartened by what’s contained in the fine print of the latest budget.”

Drinking in the Sun: Media before MurdochJoel Deane (Meanjin): “can’t recall exactly when journalism betrayed me, but I’ll never forget how it seduced me. I was 17 years old — wearing my dad’s sports jacket, school shoes, a red paisley tie and a blue striped shirt that still have creases from the box — and standing in the Flinders Street foyer of the Herald & Weekly Times building. I wasn’t alone.”

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Tony Abbott’s trade deal role


Australia’s controversial ex-Prime Minister and vocal Brexit supporter Tony Abbott is set to take on a new role for Boris Johnson, writes Dr Binoy Kampmark.

FORMER AUSTRALIAN Prime Minister and serial political saboteur Tony Abbott is being readied for what will prove to be one of the more comic appointments in recent times — as President of Britain’s Board of Trade. The timing is important — Abbott has been picked to steer trade deals that are meant to miraculously materialise for a post-Brexit United Kingdom.

The original story of this announcement appeared in The Sun, a press outlet sketchy and unreliable at the best of times. The paper understood that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had sought Abbott’s addition to a team of ‘global “friends” to bang the drum from Brexit Britain’. But the former Australian Prime Minister will not have exclusive control of the reins, having to share them with current Trade Secretary Liz Truss.

Abbott has been a loud pro-Brexit voice throughout the painful process, though he started out backing the cause for Britain to remain in the European Union.

In April 2016, he argued in The Times that Britain should remain in the EU family for reasons of correcting it: 

“There’s much to dislike about the EU but very little that would be improved if Britain left.” 

Then he moved off the reservation; as a born again Brexiteer, he has repeatedly dispelled fears about a No-Deal Brexit from the European Union, suggesting irrelevantly and incongruously that Australia was doing rather nicely without being in the EU.

In The Spectator Australia in March last year, Abbott wrote:

‘As a former Prime Minister of a country that has a perfectly satisfactory ‘no deal’ relationship with the EU, let me assure you: no deal would be no problem.’ 

This no-deal scenario did not stop Australia ‘doing about $70 billion worth of trade with the EU in goods and services’. This is unmoored logic of the most startling sort and would only make comparative sense had Australia ever been a member of a trade bloc, negotiating as a trade bloc.

At the Tory Party conference held last year, Abbott did his little bit of ingratiating for Johnson, reminding his audience that “no deal is no big deal, let’s face it”. The times were “daunting” but also “stirring… because a great country is grasping for freedom. If any country is capable of standing on two feet it is Britain”.

In such moments, Abbott shows himself to be drunk with a heady brew of anglophilia: 

“This country has the mother of parliaments, the world’s common language and the history of the industrial revolution.” 

All lies matter: Even Abbott's award

In a piece for The Telegraph published on 31 January, he celebrated Britain’s formal exit with hyperbolic ecstasy: 

‘As a big moment in geopolitics, it ranks with the fall of the Soviet Union.’ 

He congratulated the Little Englanders such as Nigel Farage who had ‘single-mindedly been crusading against the arrogance and interference of the EU for almost three decades’.

Abbott has never tired of brandishing his impeccable anti-EU credentials, poking fun at the bureaucrats in Brussels, Strasbourg and Luxembourg as petty tyrants while celebrating Brexiteers as brave liberators: 

‘The revolt of the British electorate against Brussels’s encroachment shows, yet again, that there’s nothing inevitable in the course of history.’

He has lauded nationalist anti-immigrant movements in Europe, many hostile to the EU program. He has praised the demographic politics of Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, whom he regards with a degree of reverence in seeking to address the “extinction” crisis brought about by “our failure to produce more children”. Abbott’s point on multiplying is obviously not directed at the swarthy races — he fears that white Christian Europeans aren’t doing their procreative bit in the bedroom to keep European civilisation safely afloat. 

Reaction to his appointment was swift and did not sit well with the UK’s Shadow Trade Secretary Emily Thornberry:

“I just find this appointment absolutely staggering. On a personal level, I am disgusted that Boris Johnson thinks this offensive, leering, cantankerous, climate change-denying, Trump-worshipping misogynist is the right person to represent our country overseas.

 

If it wasn’t so downright humiliating, it would be almost hilarious.”

Thornberry might be missing the point. A good deal of the Brexit movement was motivated by Little England feeling tea and scones nostalgia and a burning sense of telling Johnny Foreigner to sod off. In certain instances, it was a crude refitting of the British Empire for modern purposes, the jingo let out of the closet with scant awareness about the role of Europe. Such parochialism matches the Abbott formula well.

The Mad Monk also sports a streak not dissimilar to Johnson — a talent for reputational self-harm and blunder. His remark in October 2017 that environmental policies seeking to address climate change were akin to the practices of “primitive people once killing goats to appease the volcano gods” could have been easily scripted by the imprudent Johnson. 

Tony Abbott spruiks Western civilisation on the world stage

For his part, Johnson boasts an extensive archive of cultural insensitivity. 

His remarks on the British Labour Government in 2006 endure:

“For ten years, we in the Tory Party have become used to Papua New Guinea-style orgies of cannibalism and chief-killing and so it is with a happy amazement that we watch as the madness engulfs the Labour Party.” 

Johnson’s response to the furious PNG High Commissioner to London was to “add Papua New Guinea to my global itinerary of apology”.

Like moths to a flame, Abbott and Johnson are inexorably drawn to controversy. Abbott is now the subject of an exemption from Australia’s fairly tight travel regime, from which he can attend a golf tournament in Wales, repair to Italy and scoot back to London to speak to old friends at the Policy Exchange.

A spokesman from Australia’s Border Force explained it thus to the Sydney Morning Herald:

“Decisions by the ABF Commissioner to grant exemptions for travel must be balanced against the Government’s intent for imposing the travel ban and the health risks imposed to the Australian community by international travellers.”

Between 20 March and 31 July, the Australian Border Force received 87,600 applications seeking exemption from the travel ban. Only 15 per cent of requests were approved.

Given such figures, Labor Senator Penny Wong fulminated, linking cool government shortcutting with hard coronavirus realities: 

‘Now Tony Abbott leaves for a breakfast meeting about a plum foreign government job. But other Australians can’t visit dying relatives.’ 

A Twitter user with the handle @Ria_Oxburgh wrote of a friend who ‘was refused permission to travel to her father’s funeral in the UK. But international travel for Abbott’s job interview is essential. The hypocrisy is boundless.’

A spokesman for Abbott insists that travel costs are being met privately, including the mandatory two weeks of hotel quarantine he will have to undertake upon his return. But there is something strikingly fitting in all of this: the man of convention and rules, hectoring others who take issue with them, while happily being exempted himself. All for Britain.

Dr Binoy Kampmark was a Cambridge Scholar and is an Independent Australia columnist and lecturer at RMIT University. You can follow Dr Kampmark on Twitter @BKampmark.

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All lies matter: Even Abbott’s award


Nothing epitomises the hypocrisy that is Australia’s racism denial like Tony Abbott being awarded a Queen’s birthday medal by a non-Indigenous “independent” panel for his “service” to Indigenous affairs.

LYING AWARDS

The perhaps once-prestigious accolade was bestowed on the former PM for

‘… eminent service to the people and parliament of Australia, particularly as prime minister, and through significant contributions to trade, border control and to the Indigenous community’.

Also indicative of institutional racism is the part that recognises his disgraceful “stopping the boats” border control exploits, but we shall leave that aside for now.

While for most onlookers the irony is obvious, others have taken to their collective keyboards and mobile devices to declare the right of past prime ministers to be awarded for their public service.

A commendable argument. One that may even hold weight were it not for two annoying little details.

The first is that it would then follow that former prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard should also be recognised — before Abbott, in fact, since they preceded him in office.

The second detail is that even if holding the top job in the country should be reason enough for lacklustre, even disastrous, politicians to receive yet another award not based on merit – a debatable point in itself – Abbott was awarded the honour because of his service to the Indigenous community. Not simply for his embarrassing leadership — the farce of which caused even his own party to be rid of him. 

The only thing more ludicrous than presenting this symbol of colonialism for imagined achievements in Indigenous affairs to Abbott – in the week when George Floyd’s murder has highlighted the litany of wrongs against Australia’s own Indigenous people – would be his being awarded for his services to the advancement of women.

WHITE LIVES MATTER 

The horrific murder of George Floyd has catapulted the Black Lives Matter movement into the limelight, where it will hopefully stay until something significant changes.

Those who reduce Black Lives Matter commentary with the all-encompassing and intrinsically privileged “all lives matter” slogan, simply choose to ignore the undeniable evidence that in the U.S., as in Australia, Black lives matter less.

As IA‘s David Donovan responded to one “all lives matter” commentator, this

‘…ignores the uncomfortable disadvantage and discrimination Black people continue to experience since being kidnapped and shipped [to the U.S.] and used as slaves for the wealth creation of White landholders. It ignores the fact that even after the Civil War, which was over the right to keep slaves, America still insisted on a system of discrimination against them, via the Jim Crow laws. These persisted at least until the 1950s and 1960s when the Civil Rights Movement forced change. But discrimination did not die then. The War on Drugs begun by Nixon was directed largely against Black people and resulted in mass incarceration. Now we see police and White people in America murdering Black people with relative impunity, hence the Black Lives Matter protests. That is the background.’

In Australia, while we continue to vehemently protest the fact of our institutional racism, we are not far behind. Essentially, Europeans came, conquered, raped, pillaged, wiped out thousands upon thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, allowed their slaughter without consequence and didn’t even recognise them as human beings until the 1967 Referendum.

The systematic discrimination, disadvantage and loss of hope suffered by Australia’s Indigenous population, despite all claims to the contrary, continue on.

Once again for emphasis are a few figures, cited last week, which belie the “all lives matter” rhetoric:

How can there be 432 Indigenous deaths in custody and no perpetrators? Would this ever happen if they were White deaths? Of course not.

In an excellent piece In the Saturday Paper, Darumbal/South Sea Islander Amy McQuire writes:

‘… We have all become witnesses to Floyd’s death. The footage, powerful, confronting and undeniable, has backed the testimony of the black witness, who has known intimately the reality of police brutality, while awakening the white witness, who is more likely to be believed.’

ABBOTT’S INDIGENOUS SERVICE LIE

As with most complete lies, it is important to set the record straight with a few facts about the former PM with respect to his Indigenous service record.

Tony Abbott:

  1. as reported only in IA fell asleep in a parliamentary committee meeting after Indigenous participants trekked for three days to be heard;
  2. as PM, chose to appoint himself Minister for Indigenous Affairs to counteract the widely-held view and public relations problem that he was racist;
  3. this double-up of duties also ensured Indigenous affairs did not have a minister dedicated only to this role;
  4. prior to his election, promised, in front of Indigenous Elders and other participants, to spend his first week in office in a remote Indigenous community but ignored this once elected, eventually spending just three days in Arnhem land;
  5. reaffirmed terra nullius with this comment“I guess our country owes its existence to a form of foreign investment by the British Government in the then unsettled or, um, scarcely settled, Great South Land.”
  6. cut total Indigenous funding by $600 million;
  7. labelled Indigenous communities “lifestyle choices”
  8. abolished the position of co-ordinator-general for remote Indigenous services;
  9. claimed to be “volunteering” while ignoring traditional owners of the land in taxpayer-funded, private jet-flown, photo opportunity tours of outback Australia;
  10. described Australia as “nothing but bush” before the arrival of the First Fleet; and 
  11. in his final, impressively titled “special envoy on Indigenous affairs” role – bestowed on him by the current prime minister – was not even required to report as to his activities, which cost the taxpayer an additional $95,000 in travel expenses and $200,000 in advisory staff, for six months “work”.

COLOURING LIES

We continue to silence our Indigenous voices with claims of “all lives matter” as if that should be reason enough for no action on 432 unexplained deaths. We continue to rub salt into their wounds by dismissing the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which asks only for an Indigenous voice to parliament.

Finally, for Tony Abbott’s award to at least be truthful, surely it should refer to his undying service to White supremacy.

This is only half the story!  Read the rest of this editorial in the IA members-only area. It takes less than a minute to subscribe to IA and costs as little as $5 a month, or $50 a year — a small sum for superb journalism and lots of extras.

You can follow executive editor Michelle Pini on Twitter @VMP9. You can also follow Independent Australia on Twitter at @independentaus or on Facebook HERE.

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