Diary

Gadfly
What a pity

An emotional nation has been moved by Schmo Morrison’s humanity as he fights for the freedom of citizens to cross state borders to attend funerals.

Funerals and their role in salving grief over the loss of a loved one is something dear to the Coalition.

Government Finance Minister and Turnbull quisling Mathias Cormann announced gutturally that Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is “so cold-hearted and so harsh and so nasty”.

On Sky News, home to the warm-hearted, Morrison was asked by Peta Credlin about the Canberra nurse who was stymied from attending her father’s funeral in Brisbane.

Peta wanted to know: Is Australia in danger of losing its humanity?

Indeed, Schmo thinks our humanity is in peril. “The way these decisions are being made, we’re at great risk of that.”

It only seemed like yesterday – December 2010 to be exact – that a boat carrying 90 asylum seekers went down off Christmas Island, with 48 swept to their death.

The then Immigration minister, Chris Bowen, arranged funerals in Sydney for eight of the dead, which is where members of their extended families lived.

The opposition Immigration spokesman at the time was Schmo Morrison and he thought sending people from Christmas Island to funerals for drowned asylum seekers in Sydney was a waste of taxpayer dollars.

At the time, Morrison was a Benito Dutton on training wheels, before we got the full horror of a real Benito Dutton.

Why, Morrison wanted to know, weren’t the funerals held on Christmas Island? This was an unnecessary cost of “asylum-seeker management”, he wailed. These people should have made “their own arrangements”.

“I know probably more than anyone how strongly people feel about this issue, how angry they get about the costs that are involved.”

How’s that for a big-hearted Coalition cross-border humanitarian?

Digressions of an X lawyer

There are some delightful morsels in the book by Anthony Dowsley and Patrick Carlyon about the life of police informant Nicola Gobbo.

At the University of Melbourne as a law student, Gobbo was co-editor of the student newspaper Farrago, where she interviewed then New South Wales Labor leader Bob Carr and wrote a glowing report:

“Carr is one MP who has maintained his integrity and commitment both to his party and his own ideals through many years of political involvement.”

There was also a piece by the young Lawyer X about law faculty revelries, under the headline, “The Place to Find a Well Hung Jury”: “If the dancing frenzy and amount of alcohol consumed are any indication of future legal prowess, then those at the 1993 Law Ball will constitute an impressive addition to the profession.”

Dowsley and Carlyon discovered that despite Gobbo’s average results as a student, “she nailed her final law subject” with first-class honours for legal ethics and professional conduct.

Hockey sticks by Trump

Judging by his new column in The Catholic Boys Daily, it’s pretty clear that former Washington ambassador Sloppy Joe Hockey has drunk the Trump Kool-Aid.

There he was last Saturday slathering on about Bone Spurs’ “authentic and fearless voice”.

Look at all the great stuff Trump has delivered, wrote Sloppy – the tax cuts, more jobs, toughened borders and greater military spending.

Of course, the election could go either way, but Spurs has “proven and popular” election policies. Hockey thinks someone called “Mary Milwaukee” from Wisconsin will decide the election, and that she will be spooked by the progressives in the Democratic Party.

“Fear is a much more powerful driver of votes than hope,” his former excellency advises.

We’ve long known that Joe has occupied a different firmament than normal, rational human beings. So, we should not be too surprised there was not a word in the column about the real Trump and the impoverishment of all standards of decency on his watch.

Also missing was recognition of Trump’s racist messages to white supremacists; that he refers to his “fucking generals” as “pussies” and calls fallen soldiers “losers” and “suckers”; that daily he delivers a mass of lies and is propped up in that mission by a mendacious Murdoch machine.

Or that he is accused by multiple women of rape and sexual abuse; that according to his sister he has never got anywhere without cheating; that he intends to scam the election results by fraud; that it is widely known by intelligence agencies Russia has “something” on him; that he has junked the rule of law in pursuit of his autocratic tendencies; that this is a White House of hucksters and last-chance merchants; that countless lives have been lost because of his negligence; and that he was impeached by the house of representatives for abuse of power and obstruction of congress.

Will any of that have an impact on voting trends? Maybe it will get a mention in Sloppy’s next column.

Scary Toast stories

Tucked away at the bottom of page 10 of last weekend’s Catholic Boys Daily was a story under the headline “Earth blowing hot and cold”.

That was misleading, as the story was about a study in Science magazine that said things are getting a lot hotter. “The most detailed analysis of how the climate has evolved since the age of the dinosaurs confirms that the planet has entered a new period of change,” the newspaper reported.

Without action the globe will be pushed into a “hothouse” phase not seen for 45 million years.

During that earlier hothouse phase, there was no ice in Antarctica, average global surface temperatures were between 12ºC and 16ºC warmer than present and sea levels were at least 50 metres higher.

In other words, a planet uninhabitable by humans. Without something radical happening to restrict greenhouse gases there will be a reversal of 45 million years of sustained cooling, and within three centuries we’re back to microbes running the place.

The five paragraphs were so hidden in the paper, it must not have been regarded as a news story at all.

As it happens though, Gadfly has picked up a book titled Toast. It’s not the autobiography of foodie Nigel Slater but a sobering look at the whole climate catharsis from an old comrade, Ralph Evans.

He’s a chemical engineer, former head of Austrade and the Australian Institute of Company Directors and in that capacity he would have run into a lot of diehard deniers.

He digs into the denier “philosophy”, where any facts lead this tribe into more elaborate counterarguments: the Earth is cooling, there’s nothing we can do, carbon is good for you.

Ralph’s analysis shows that with warming of three degrees or more this century, we are all toast.

Gas masks the truth

What better moment for Schmo and Gassy Gus Taylor to conjure their taxpayer-funded gas-led recovery out of the pandemic?

This is a bizarre mountebank of a policy, based on the ruse that gas will deliver cheap energy to industry across the nation.

Actually, gas is the expensive way to deliver the energy needs of industry. If renewable energy and gas are measured in terms of the price per megawatt hour, it seems Gassy Gus is having a lend of us (and not for the first time).

In April this year, the research service BloombergNEF found renewables were the cheapest source of power for more than two-thirds of the world’s population.

Power from open-cycle gas-turbine power plants costs $US146 to $US309 a megawatt hour to operate.

In Australia, solar tracking, meanwhile, costs just $US39 per MWh.

Gas is also more expensive than onshore wind power, which BloombergNEF says costs between $US32 and $US83 a MWh.

While the pandemic has brought gas prices down, it is not the only energy source getting cheaper, with solar and wind costs predicted to fall below $US20 per MWh before 2030.

The truth is that batteries, investors and consumers already are on a different trajectory to the fossilised nincompoops of the government.

Jacqui takes poll position

To help make up her mind on matters diverse and strange, Senator Jacqui Lambie is consulting far and wide.

She has a page on her website labelled “Advise Jacqui”, where ordinary folk can “vote” on the questions Jacqui will have to vote on in the senate.

The current topic is the government’s proposed asylum-seeker mobile phone ban.

Jacqui explains the government’s position on the bill with a quote from Alan Tudge, one of the Coalition’s court-scandalising three. He says it’s all about stopping immigration detainees from accessing child pornography. Tudge set the scene in his traditionally overloaded tone: “I am disgusted with those opposite who would stand for those crooks – those disgraceful, disgusting individuals – rather than stand for the protection of children and innocent people.”

Jacqui also has a few lines from Labor MP Peter Khalil, who says the bill is a “pathetic dog whistle”.

There it is – for and against. John and Jane Citizen can vote by clicking one of three boxes: one for supporting the bill, one for opposing it, and one for “I can’t decide”.

Jacqui’s team will “collate” the votes and email her voting advisers once she has actually voted on the bill in the senate.

Nowhere can the public see how many people have actually voted for and against the proposal.

Once they’ve lodged their vote on the senator’s website, citizens are asked to fill in their details and click through to the “next question”, which asks them why they voted the way they did.

There’s yet again a “next question” button, which, it turns out, doesn’t take you to a question at all, but to a donation button.

Democracy in action. 

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Sep 19, 2020 as "Gadfly: What a pity".

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Richard Ackland is the publisher of Justinian. He is The Saturday Paper’s diarist-at-large and legal affairs editor.