Category: Scott Morrison

The New Zealand opposition leader wants to follow a Scott Morrison blueprint to beat Jacinda Ardern | Van Badham | Opinion | The Guardian

Jacinda Ardern and Scott Morrison

via The New Zealand opposition leader wants to follow a Scott Morrison blueprint to beat Jacinda Ardern | Van Badham | Opinion | The Guardian

As he rails against activism, Scott Morrison is turning a bit sinister, a bit threatening | Katharine Murphy | Australia news | The Guardian

Scott Morrison

It takes some chutzpah to stand up with a straight face and deliver a speech foreshadowing a government crackdown on protest activity while in the same breath declaring that a new insidious form of progressivism is intent on denying the liberties of Australians.

But Scott Morrison has never lacked confidence.

via As he rails against activism, Scott Morrison is turning a bit sinister, a bit threatening | Katharine Murphy | Australia news | The Guardian

Questions raised over Scott Morrison’s declaration he is not a New Zealand citizen | Australia news | The Guardian

Scott Morrison and his mother, Marion.

Exclusive: PM was entitled to New Zealand citizenship from birth, but it is unclear whether his mother registered it

via Questions raised over Scott Morrison’s declaration he is not a New Zealand citizen | Australia news | The Guardian

Scott Morrison’s climate pact with the Pacific ‘family’ exposes the hollowness of his words | Katharine Murphy | Australia news | The Guardian

Scott Morrison at the Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu

” Hollowness of words” =Lying SOB (ODT)

One small exchange in Senate estimates has exposed the measurable gap between the prime minister’s rhetoric and actions

via Scott Morrison’s climate pact with the Pacific ‘family’ exposes the hollowness of his words | Katharine Murphy | Australia news | The Guardian

Revealed: the QAnon conspiracy theorist who is friends with Australian PM Scott Morrison | Australia news | The Guardian

QAnon composite

QAnon figure BurnedSpy, whose wife works on the prime minister’s staff, has propagated bizarre theories about Alexander Downer and Julie Bishop

The FBI has previously warned that QAnon could act as a potential motivator for “domestic extremists” and last year Reddit banned one of its main QAnon threads for repeated violations of its content policy, warning it would not tolerate content “that incites violence, disseminates personal information, or harasses” users.

In Australia, one of the more significant QAnon figures tweets under the handle @BurnedSpy34 and has amassed 21,000 Twitter followers in just over a year. BurnedSpy tweets daily QAnon material, including bizarre theories about Alexander Downer and Julie Bishop.

The Guardian has learned the identity of BurnedSpy and established he is a longstanding family friend of the Australian prime minister and his wife, Jenny.

The wife of BurnedSpy works on the prime minister’s staff.

via Revealed: the QAnon conspiracy theorist who is friends with Australian PM Scott Morrison | Australia news | The Guardian

Scott Morrison is trying to turn himself into the ocker Trump – Australian media beware | Greg Jericho | Opinion | The Guardian

Donald Trump and Scott Morrison

Two salesman and Morrison has decided to become Trump’s apprentice and not the Nations leader (ODT)

The prime minister has demonstrated a Trumpesque ability to fudge, mislead and obfuscate

via Scott Morrison is trying to turn himself into the ocker Trump – Australian media beware | Greg Jericho | Opinion | The Guardian

The Christian wolf in sheep’s clothing – » The Australian Independent Media Network

Any fool can manufacture a narrative, in fact, whole societies have manufactured consent through media ownership while vilifying those who would point out the facts to challenge them. Cruelty, victim blame, and vilification become the norms shrouded in fascicle smiley hypocrisy.

Unless, as a species, we learn the scientific facts … we are lost to this type of cruel and vile self-justification for evil. The Christian wolf in sheep’s clothing. A compulsive lying coat of thorns disguised as many colours. The smiling assassin.

Mark my words, Morrison is truly dangerous because he believes his own lies.

via The Christian wolf in sheep’s clothing – » The Australian Independent Media Network

Scomo’s mate’s mate and the billion-dollar privatisation of Australia’s visa system – Michael West

Scomo’s mate’s mate and the billion-dollar privatisation of Australia’s visa system

Meet the Tripodinas, the Sydney fruit and veg moguls and Liberal Party donors behind the bid to privatise Australia’s visa system. Michael Sainsbury reports.

Flemington market’s fruit and vegetable mogul Santo Peter Tripodina and his 38-year old son, property developer Adrian Tripodina, have emerged as mystery power-brokers behind the one of the two bids for the Federal Government’s $1 billion visa privatisation.

Both bidding vehicles for Australia’s visa system, chiefly via Consolidated Press and Accenture, have significant tax haven connections.

Scomo’s mate’s mate and the billion-dollar privatisation of Australia’s visa system – Michael West

Scott Morrison given explosive character assessment by Michael Keenan in Plots and Prayers book$zoom_0.197%2C$multiply_1%2C$ratio_1.776846%2C$width_1059%2C$x_0%2C$y_6/t_crop_custom/w_800/q_86%2Cf_auto/79b0536ae5790bbd9c591d31703bf32593d58c47

One of the first two cabinet ministers to quit Parliament after last year’s Liberal leadership coup described Prime Minister Scott Morrison as an “absolute arsehole,” an explosive new book claims.

Michael Keenan, who served as justice minister under Scott Morrison when he was immigration minister, made the comments to colleagues at a lunch at the Garum Restaurant in Perth in April 2018, just months before Mr Morrison became leader.

According to Plots and Prayers, political commentator Niki Savva’s new book about last year’s leadership stoush, Mr Keenan told his West Australian colleagues, including Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, Attorney-General Christian Porter and Mr Morrison’s chief ally Ben Morton, that Mr Morrison was an “absolute arsehole”.

via Scott Morrison given explosive character assessment by Michael Keenan in Plots and Prayers book

ScoMo embraces police state in a shocker of a week – » The Australian Independent Media Network

The New York Times notes: “… the real affront is to democracy, which flounders in the absence of a free press. It should be self-evident to the guardians of Australian security that rogue soldiers and overreaching surveillance are the true risk to Australia’s security, and that such threats will become far more dangerous if the wall of secrecy is made impregnable.”

via ScoMo embraces police state in a shocker of a week – » The Australian Independent Media Network

The price of not paying attention: Five ministers we cannot afford

Three years is a long time in any democracy. Three years of callous disregard for the vulnerable, the ill and the homeless, for the voiceless First Peoples, for the disabled and the elderly, the unemployed and the underemployed, and those held in detention without trial — some of whom have already attempted suicide this week. Three years is also a long time to spruik religion to a secular society, spit in the face of science and ignore the havoc we are wreaking on our natural world.

Morrison has already wasted $185 million on a stunt purely to stop critically ill asylum seekers (including children) from receiving medical attention. Morrison voted against a banking royal commission 26 times. He believes coal is the answer to our problems. Morrison is a failed Treasurer, who managed to double our debt. And ScoMo campaigned with only one policy: tax cuts.

via The price of not paying attention: Five ministers we cannot afford

No Refugees Have Been Sent To Reopened Christmas Island Detention Centre


Scott Morrison inspects the Christmas Island detention centre.

The government said reopening the centre was vital after changes to refugee medical transfer laws — but nobody has been transferred there.-

Political Hoax (ODT)

via No Refugees Have Been Sent To Reopened Christmas Island Detention Centre

Dogwhistling? Me? Never! – » The Australian Independent Media Network

“I’m just telling the truth. One case is too much. forget about the Aussies that get off planes with comminicable diseases their not dangerous” (ODT)

That’s Dog Whistling

“Last year there were 56 cases of communicable disease from those who had arrived on illegal boats. These cases included everything from Tuberculosis and Hepatitis C to Chlamydia and Syphilis. These latest cases have now added typhoid to the list,” he said.

Dogwhistling? Me? Never! – » The Australian Independent Media Network

Scott Morrison On The Project With Waleed Aly Was A Trainwreck

Scott Morrison on The Project with Waleed Aly

And when Aly finished the interview by asking what the government needs to do next to defuse the situation, Morrison’s response was simple: “exactly what I did do”. By the end of the interview, he had cemented himself as a man who cannot listen, cannot answer, and cannot see the value in any ideas except his own.

via Scott Morrison On The Project With Waleed Aly Was A Trainwreck

‘Cowardly grubs’: Scott Morrison condemns sexist remarks about Tayla Harris | Sport | The Guardian

Prime minister Scott Morrison says trolls who targeted AFLW player Tayla Harris on social media are ‘cowardly grubs’Image result for Images of Pamela Anderson

Remember Morrison’s comments on Pamela Anderson. When difference is only an matter of degree between a photo and audio. Morrison presented a verbal photo that was not that different in the message. (ODT)

PM says trolls targeting the Carlton AFL Women’s player ‘need to wake up to themselves’

via ‘Cowardly grubs’: Scott Morrison condemns sexist remarks about Tayla Harris | Sport | The Guardian

Scott Morrison slams Waleed Aly’s ‘Muslim immigration’ comments after Christchurch shooting

Image result for Cartoons of Scott Morrison dog whistling Team Australia

Fake News I don’t think so this has been widely reported and stretches back to 2005. How is it Morrison said nothing all this time? Yet we have heard him attack the South Sudanese. We’ve heard him attack the rate of and lack of Integration of Muslims but not Greeks, or Italians. Hreadily disparaged the influence the Chinese have had here in recent times. So why wouldn’t we consider it an outright lie?  Morrison was an enthusiatic architect of dog whistling on immigration having witnessed the Cronulla riots in 2005.(ODT)

“I have no intention of doing that, I just simply want people to report the truth and that is an ugly and disgusting lie,” Mr Morrison said. “I reject it absolutely.”

The 2011 report was published in The Sydney Morning Herald by Lenore Taylor, the current editor of Guardian Australia.

“As the author of the report in question I can add that the sources (multiple) have always stuck by what they told me – and subsequently told several other journalists,” Taylor said on Sunday.

via Scott Morrison slams Waleed Aly’s ‘Muslim immigration’ comments after Christchurch shooting

Exploiting death: Scott Morrison, Pellegrini’s and Sisto Malaspina

As if on brilliant cue, Shire Ali, like Malaspina, had been a blessing, giving Morrison a chance to scold imams into a greater state of vigilance even as he extolled the inner Melburnian spirit.

Elevate the standing of the slain common man; berate the state of the corrupted accused. Shire Ali’s mental health was of little consequence to finding a suitably political description for him, one that could be marketed. “Of course issues of mental health and all these other things are important,” he told Network Ten, but the assailant “was a terrorist” with the blood of Islamic State coursing through him. “He was a radical extremist terrorist who took a knife to another Australian because he had been radicalised in this country.”

“We’ve been doing whatever we can in our capacity to eradicate extreme thoughts and potential acts of terror.”

The Australian National Imams Council secretary, Sheikh Moustapha, took issue with that stance, telling ABC Radio Melbourne that:,12098

Morrison ‘Cried & Prayed’ For Asylum Seekers, Just Wished He Was In A Position To Do More – The Shovel

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has told an event in Sydney that he ‘cried on his knees’ over the plight of children in Nauru, and just wished he was in a position to directly effect change.

“You think about these children and you pray, you cry, and you pray some more. But there’s only so much you can do. It’s frustrating because you feel so powerless,” Morrison said, asking the audience whether they knew anyone who worked in immigration.

“I can’t tell you the number of times I wished I had connections with a government minister or someone in the immigration department with some sort of influence over the situation’,” he said.

via Morrison ‘Cried & Prayed’ For Asylum Seekers, Just Wished He Was In A Position To Do More – The Shovel

So the LNP want to help the unemployed. What could possibly go wrong? – » The Australian Independent Media Network

Will ScumMo guarantee a minimum wage for every unemployed person forced to go and pick fruit? I doubt it, as the LNP currently allow people on internships to be paid far less than the minimum wage; and those forced into ‘work-for-the-dole’ programs, to not be paid at all for their work! The current stories from people on working visas and working-holiday visas to Australia tell a story of chronic underpayment, abuse, substandard accommodation, substandard food, and constant intimidation and threats. Here are just a couple of the many recent stories regarding the abuse of fruit-pickers and seasonal workers in Australia:

One-third of backpackers paid half the legal minimum wage, study finds

Aussies are being ripped off more than ever before, study shows

ScumMo, only 2 days ago you were spruiking you wanted to help people on social security. ScumMo, you and your criminal LNP cronies really are some bizarre form of bipolar, schizophrenic, evil, DUMB, psychopathic numpties.

via So the LNP want to help the unemployed. What could possibly go wrong? – » The Australian Independent Media Network

As criminal acts of banks are revealed Scott Morrison decides to target unions | Sally McManus | Opinion | The Guardian

ACTU secretary Sally McManus speaks to supporters outside the offices of the Fair Work Commission in Melbourne, 1 June 2018.

Why aren’t new laws that stop the banks ripping off working people the government’s first priority?

via As criminal acts of banks are revealed Scott Morrison decides to target unions | Sally McManus | Opinion | The Guardian

Manic Morrison in frantic, futile denial about bullying and climate and enemies. – » The Australian Independent Media Network

The revelations do nothing to mollify members of the Coalition’s hard right rump, whose mistrust of Morrison goes back at least to his betrayal of Tony Abbott in 2015. Abbott declares he’s still up for a leadership bid. No-one takes seriously his pious piffle that “the era of the political assassin is over”. It simply echoes his “no sniping”.

Then again, he did explain that no promise of his was to be believed – unless you had it in writing. Pathological liar or not, deeds do speak louder than words. Abbott’s are still speaking.

Who can forget his inspiring leadership in bullying Julia Gillard, “ditch the witch” or his services to party misogyny – well before he even contrived to insult all women in Australia by appointing himself the minister for women? His legacy may still be seen today.

This week women MPs speak of a culture of bullying in the Liberal Party. Male MPs, lobbying for Dutton, enter women’s offices early and refuse to leave in an intimidating and bizarre type of sit-in, unless the MPs sign up to Dutton’s faction. Some women MPs are told they must sign or they would lose their pre-selection, they allege.

via Manic Morrison in frantic, futile denial about bullying and climate and enemies. – » The Australian Independent Media Network

Scott Morrison ensured asylum seeker data breach probe failed, court finds | Australia news | The Guardian

Immigration department responded to a breach disclosing personal details of thousands of asylum seekers in a way that was ‘unfair to a significant degree’

Source: Scott Morrison ensured asylum seeker data breach probe failed, court finds | Australia news | The Guardian

Rapes and fears for safety on Nauru uncovered by independent Moss review | Only Truth is Scott Morrison wanted time. Accusing Save the Children workers and calling for a review was a ploy. It bought him 6 months. Six months to take the heat out of the accusation of rape and child molestation. He could then pass the investigation on to another jurisdiction Nauru. Absolve Australia and himself of responsibility. He couldn’t face another Manus. How many reviews? How many more months? How much more silence? Humanity and justice lost.

Nauru protest

Rapes and fears for safety on Nauru uncovered by independent Moss review | Australia news | The Guardian.

Moss review recommends changes for immigration detention on Nauru: Dutton does an Abbott and make excuses ,”1200 people drowned. You don’t realize how strained we are keeping people in detention. It’ so hard on us. Immigration are the victims.” It didn’t work for Abbott against Triggs it doesn’t now.What would Morrison have said as Minister? At the time he said it was a set up he scapegoated the Save the Children contractors to exonerate his department. The review says he was wrong and it was a ploy!!

DAVID MARK: A report by the former integrity commissioner, Philip Moss, has recommended a string of changes to the way the Nauru detention centre operates.

He was investigating allegations of sexual and physical assault on asylum seekers, including children, at the centre.

He’s also investigated allegations that staff on Nauru employed by the charity, Save the Children, encouraged refugees to self-harm or manipulate abuse allegations.

The Moss Review says there’s no information to prove those allegations.

Stephanie Smail reports.

STEPHANIE SMAIL: The Moss Review looked at a string of allegations about sexual and physical abuse against asylum seekers on Nauru.

They included claims of rape and forcing women to expose themselves in return for access to showers and other facilities.

The report says many asylum seekers living in the detention centre are apprehensive about their personal safety and have privacy concerns.

It also found some cases of sexual and physical assault aren’t being reported.

Philip Moss says when staff at the detention centre are made aware of issues, they have, in the most part, dealt with them appropriately and referred issues to police on Nauru when necessary. But he says there is room for improvement.

He wants the Nauruan government and the Immigration Department to overhaul how abuse claims are handled.

The Immigration Department has accepted the Moss Review’s 19 recommendations.

Mike Pezzullo is the secretary of the Immigration Department.

MIKE PEZZULLO: You don’t want to place anyone in a position where, for instance, a child is the subject of unwarranted and indeed completely depraved sexual attention in response, in relation either to someone’s gratification or in some cases, getting preferred access to things like showers or the ability to have a longer bath so you can shampoo someone’s hair.

I mean I find it abhorrent, and we’re going to crack down on the behaviour in partnership with all of the stakeholders I mentioned earlier.

STEPHANIE SMAIL: He says there are a couple of dozen allegations that warrant further attention.

The Immigration Minister Peter Dutton says he believes people on Nauru are safe.

PETER DUTTON: It was a very difficult environment, I think people need to understand the pressures on the staff, on the Nauruan government, on people within my own department at that time, and in the preceding months and years before that, because the boats had come freely and we had many, many people in held detention.

STEPHANIE SMAIL: The other substantive part of the report deals with allegations that staff working for the charity Save the Children encouraged asylum seekers to self-harm and fabricated claims of abuse.

Ten of the charity’s staff were removed from the island after those claims surfaced.

Philip Moss reviewed intelligence reports and interviews from Wilson Security, the security provider at the centre. But he says none of the information indicated conclusively that Save the Children staff had engaged in those activities.

Mr Moss acknowledged there is still an Australian Federal Police investigation into the case, but he has recommended the Immigration Department review its decision to remove the staff from the island anyway.

The department secretary says he accepts that recommendation and he met with Save the Children last week.

MIKE PEZZULLO: The contractual point in time decision to remove the staff, or to seek to have them removed, because they had to be removed both contractually but also in terms of their visa status by the government of Nauru, is something that should be reviewed in the context of looking at all of the circumstances that led up to that point in time decision.

So I’ve already agreed with Save the Children. I met with their CEO last week, that was one of the preparatory matters that we were engaged in, in preparing the action plan to respond to the Moss Review.

STEPHANIE SMAIL: Mike Pezzullo has set his department a two month deadline to work on fulfilling the recommendations.

The Immigration Minister Peter Dutton says the report shows why the Government is so determined to stop asylum seeker boats reaching Australia.

PETER DUTTON: Twelve-hundred people did die at sea when these boats were coming and do I want to see anyone in detention? Of course I don’t. But I also can’t allow a situation again where we see a flotilla of boats coming, and we end up with the sorts of things that we’re talking about today. That’s what I don’t want to return to.

DAVID MARK: The Immigration Minister Peter Dutton ending Stephanie Smail’s report.

Lean on me

lifters and leaners

“The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members” – Ghandi

When George Brandis, in one of his first actions after coming to power in 2013, sacked Disability Commissioner Graeme Innes and replaced him with the IPA’s Tim Wilson to be the Commissioner for bigots, we were given a frightening example of the blatant cronyism that has become a hallmark of the Abbott government.

Graeme Innes was Australia’s Disability Discrimination Commissioner from December 2005 to July 2014. During that time he has also served as Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner for three and a half years and as Race Discrimination Commissioner for two years.

Graeme is a Lawyer, Mediator and Company Director. He has been a Human Rights Practitioner for 30 years in NSW, WA and nationally.

As Commissioner, Graeme has led or contributed to the success of a number of initiatives. These have included the Same Sex: Same Entitlements inquiry, which resulted in removal of discrimination across federal law; the drafting of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and its ratification by Australia.

Graeme was also crucial to the development of the National Disability Strategy and the Disability (Access to Premises – buildings) Standards 2010; as well as the establishment of Livable Housing Australia.

He has also been an active high profile advocate for the implementation of cinema captioning and audio descriptions and, as Human Rights Commissioner, undertook three annual inspections of Australia’s Immigration Detention facilities.

Graeme has been a Member of the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal; the NSW Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal; and the Social Security Appeals Tribunal. He has also been a Hearing Commissioner with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.

He was Chair of the Disability Advisory Council of Australia, and the first Chair of Australia’s national blindness agency, Vision Australia.

In 1995 Graeme was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM). In 2003, he was a finalist for Australian of the Year.

Tim Wilson, on the other hand, has no qualifications or experience to recommend him for the job.  He worked at the Institute of Public Affairs for seven years, serving as Director of Climate Change Policy and the Intellectual Property and Free Trade.  He was a vocal critic of the Human Rights Commission and during his time there the IPA called for the abolition of the commission.  Apparently his criticism of the HRC faded away when he found out how much he would be paid.

Tim Wilson now has a total salary of $389,000 plus vehicle and telephone expenses after the Remuneration Tribunal approved a travel allowance of $40,000 and a “reunion allowance’’ of $16,800 in addition to his base salary of $332,000 — back dated to February 17 when he took up the job.

This becomes even more obscene in light of the subsequent treatment of the disabled by the Abbott government.

Just under half of Australians with disabilities live at or below the poverty line. For the 30% who can work, poverty wages are the norm. The quality of life of Australians with disabilities compares very badly with other developed countries; in fact, it ranks as one of the worst in the OECD.

Some employees with disabilities are paid as little as 9% of the minimum wage – or 99 cents/hour, $8/day, $40/week – including some who work for government-supported Australian disability enterprises.

Over the last five years, some 10,000 employees with intellectual disabilities have sought to be paid more by pursuing a class action lawsuit. According to the federal and high courts, these employees have been illegally underpaid in breach of the Disability Discrimination Act for more than a decade. They are entitled to be compensated by the federal government. Instead, the government has done everything it can to block that effort.

In November, the federal government brought a bill before the Senate, designed to thwart the employees’ class action to recover their back pay. It was unprecedented; under the proposed law employees could accept half of their back pay in exchange for giving up their right to recover the other half. If they didn’t accept the offer, the government made it clear that it would continue to resist and delay the back pay claim in the courts for years.

The government lied to the crossbenchers in the Senate, claiming the employees would only recover half of their back pay in court after deductions for legal fees (false: it’s a pro bono case) and income tax (false: mostly the employees come under the income tax threshold). Jacqui Lambie, then still a PUP senator, parted ways with her colleagues and together with John Madigan and Nick Xenophon voted against the bill, which was defeated by one vote.

Within hours of the vote, Mitch Fifield resumed his lobbying of the crossbench senators, advising them that he would reintroduce the government bill in February 2015.

A few days before Christmas, the federal government cut funding to disability advocacy groups hoping that no one would notice. It did so shortly after reneging on its commitment to reform multinational corporate tax avoidance, a multi-billion dollar industry.

Groups which lost funding include the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations, Autism Aspergers Advocacy Australia, Blind Citizens Australia, Brain Injury Australia, Deaf Australia, Deafness Forum of Australia, Down Syndrome Australia, the National Council on Intellectual Disability, Physical Disability Australia and Short Statured People of Australia.

All up, these funding cuts are said to have affected around 140 groups who deal with about 200,000 individuals.

The cuts also hit groups working with homeless people, including National Shelter, Homelessness Australia and the Community Housing Federation Australia.

This, too, will exacerbate existing problems. According to the most recent data, an estimated 105,000 Australians are homeless while some 254,000 used homeless services in the last year.

From the beginning of this year, those applying for the disability pension will have to be assessed by a government-contracted doctor instead of their own GP.  Regular doctors will no longer be allowed to approve new DSP applications.

If the government doctor finds they’re not completely unable to work they could be put on the dole instead – which is about $160 a week less.

Instead of fixing a legitimate problem, ACOSS chief executive Cassandra Goldie says the end result will be a modest budget saving at the expense of greater poverty among those with disabilities who are already doing their best to find work in a “really tough” and discriminatory job market.

“We need a proper job strategy to open up job opportunities to reduce discrimination against people with disability and we would like to see the Commonwealth lead that charge,” Ms Goldie says.

Eligibility for the DSP had already been tightened under the previous Labor government, including tougher impairment tables and job search requirements.  Over the past decade the proportion of working age people receiving the DSP had remained relatively constant.

Last financial year, the Department of Human Services investigated 411 people for dishonestly claiming DSP, which clawed back $9.5 million.

However social security fraud represents about 0.02 per cent of payments.

Meanwhile, Kevin Andrew’s $20 million marriage counselling voucher scheme is to be scrapped because, of the 100,000 vouchers on offer, only a few thousand were taken up.

The appointment of “tough guy” Scott Morrison to the Social Services portfolio does not auger well for the vulnerable in our society.  Dubbing himself the “Minister for Economic Participation” the man who ‘stopped the boats’ declared he will now ‘stop the bludgers’.

As they ramp up the attack on the most vulnerable members of our society it is incumbent on all decent Australians to raise their voice in protest and help defend the rights of those who are unable to defend themselves.

Speaking out: Scott morrison ex minister of silence and secrets

Karen Wells never thought she would be a whistleblower. She had spent 11 years working in the prison industry and two years at the Woomera and Curtin detention centres before taking a position as a guard on Manus Island.

“In corrections,” she says, “we just didn’t dob on anyone.”

But after the violent clashes in February 2014 on Manus Island, during which asylum seeker Reza Barati was killed, Wells contacted refugee advocate and lawyer Ben Pynt to speak out about what she described as the “complete mishandling” of the situation.

Pynt, the founder and director of advocacy group Humanitarian Research Partners, has set up an encrypted mailbox on the centre’s website to deal with the “steady leaks” he says he has been receiving over the past 12 months. He has also established an “onion site”, a hidden service reachable via the Tor network, to minimise the risk for those wishing to share information anonymously.

Wells is one of dozens of guards, caseworkers and medical staff who have worked at the Nauru and Manus Island detention centres and contacted lawyers, professional medical bodies and human rights groups, wanting to speak out about what they’ve witnessed. Lawyers and refugee advocates say that over the past year calls from workers and former workers have been steadily increasing.

Pynt adds that since the start of the most recent asylum seeker hunger strike on Manus, he’s had an “explosion of contact” from the island, receiving dozens of messages, emails and calls in the last ten days from both new and existing sources.

Barrister and human rights advocate Julian Burnside says he receives frequent calls from workers and former workers. The calls have “significantly increased since the legislative regime has harshened”, he says.

The potential whistleblowers have been keen to share information about alleged incidents of abuse and medical neglect, and to report what they see as the general mistreatment of asylum seekers detained at the offshore facilities. They have also sought advice about what would likely happen to them should they choose to speak out.

“The situation is becoming more desperate for asylum seekers in those facilities,” says Graeme McGregor, who heads Amnesty International’s refugee campaign in Australia.

“Conditions are worsening and people are reaching a point where they can’t not speak out.”.

Steve Kilburn, who served in the navy for 20 years and had been a firefighter for a decade before working on Manus Island, recalls signing his confidentiality agreement with security contractor G4S without giving it much thought.

“It was like the ‘I agree’ box when you download something from iTunes,” he says. “I read it and I thought, ‘Well, what does it matter? Who am I going to talk to?’ ”

For Kilburn, the tipping point was witnessing force used during the Manus Island riots that he believes was “way above what was required”. In April 2014, he appeared on the ABC’s Four Corners, recounting what had happened to a group of asylum seekers who had sought to escape the centre:

“When they saw the hiding they were getting, the belting that they were getting, some of them thought actually this is not, you know, what we expected and tried to climb back over the fence to get back into their compound. They were dragged off the fence and beaten.”

“After the riots, when I was looking after injured guys, it started to sink in about how bad it was,” he told me. “There was a young Sudanese guy with his head smashed in and he couldn’t speak and he couldn’t eat and I sat there looking at him, thinking, Who’s going to stand up for this guy? Who’s going to say this is not right? No one is.”

Salvation Army employees Chris Iacono, 25, and Nicole Judge, 24, employed as caseworkers between 2012 and 2014, first on Nauru, then on Manus Island. Before he worked offshore, Iacono “didn’t think anything about politics” and “didn’t know anything about asylum seekers or refugees”.

A former McDonalds manager, he heard about the work from Judge, who saw a job ad on Facebook after she joined the ‘Salvos’ student group at university.

“They were advertising the jobs as kinds of working holidays,” Judge says. “It was like when you see trips to Africa and it’s a really cool safari and everyone has a great time. I had a quick phone chat with the recruiter and then got an email saying, ‘Yay! You’re going to Nauru. Bring all your friends!’ ”

Judge and Iacono arrived on Nauru three days after the detention centre had opened in August 2012.

“I was sitting on the floor of the half-built office, and one of the only posters on the wall was about ‘cut-down procedures’. It was describing a technique with a ‘Hoffman knife’, which is training to be issued on how to cut the rope for someone who had hanged himself,” Says Judge.

Official sources’ apparent misrepresentation of the violent events that occurred on Nauru in July 2013 made them first consider coming forward.

“Once there were attacks on the centre and no news got out that it was the locals that had been threatening everybody, we were like, ‘Why isn’t anybody telling people back in Australia what’s going on?’ And we decided [that] maybe that’s supposed to be us [speaking out] because we’re here,” Judge says.

In June 2014, and Judge and Iacono testified before the Senate inquiry into the riots on Manus Island. In her testimony, Judge spoke about what she saw as the “mistreatment, abuse, and degrading treatment that asylum seekers transferred to Manus Island endure on a daily basis”.

She also laid out plainly what she thought would follow: “The attacks, whilst brutal and utterly devastating, did not surprise myself or my colleagues . . . I believe whilst the centre remains open more deaths and serious injuries are inevitable.”

In October 2014, former immigration minister Scott Morrison used Section 70, an anti-whistleblowing provision, of the Commonwealth Crimes Act to remove ten Save the Children staff from Nauru for “misusing privileged information”. The section prohibits any person employed by the Commonwealth from sending information to a non-government officer. The maximum penalty is two years’ imprisonment.

Lawyers and advocates are concerned that this action might have had a silencing effect on workers, eliminating a key source of information about the already secretive facilities.

“What you don’t want is a situation where staff are afraid to report a rape or an instance of child abuse because they’re afraid of legal action [against them] by the government,” says Amnesty’s McGregor. “There is a genuine risk of self-censorship.”

A senior associate at Maurice Blackburn, Lizzie O’Shea reports taking a dozen calls in the past year from potential whistleblowers, but confirms there is a “real risk at law” for those who choose to breach confidentiality agreements.

“No one I know of has been prosecuted for breaching these provisions but it’s a risk people have to be aware of because, if at some point the Commonwealth does get concerned about the amount or breadth of disclosures and decides to do something about it, you don’t want to be in the firing line.”

A kind of “whistleblower protection”, known as the Public Interest Disclosure Act, was introduced into law in 2013.

However, O’Shea says that because the act has not been tested, it’s difficult to predict what would happen if a whistleblower was taken to court.

“Obviously, it is problematic if people who have evidence of serious wrongdoing feel that they are at significant risk of civil and criminal liability if they disclose that information externally, for example to the media,” she says. “A healthy democracy requires that power be exercised transparently and in a manner that is accountable. Silencing whistleblowers is the opposite of this.”

Pynt acknowledges that workers who feel an obligation to share information that they believe is in the public interest are currently forced to put themselves at legal risk. But, he adds, that as well as the fear about the legal consequences, workers also contend with the threat that they will lose their jobs. Those speaking out all describe a “culture of secrecy and intimidation” at their respective organisations aimed at curbing leaks.

Dr Suelette Dreyfus of the University of Melbourne has conducted research into Australians’ attitudes to whistleblowers. Dreyfus says studies show that more than 80% of whistleblowers try to report wrongdoing internally first. She says that reporting externally is an extremely difficult step that most whistleblowers take when they see it as the only way to get action to address the wrongdoing they have witnessed.

Former G4S guard Karen Wells says she tried many times to report serious issues to her managers.

“They would read your reports in front of you and say, ‘You’re getting soft in your old age. You need to harden up’,” she reflects.

“Whether I agree with asylum seekers being here or not, whether I agree with them getting visas, you can’t treat a human being like that.”

Kilburn and Wells say that after the February 2014 riots they were repeatedly sent emails from G4S reminding them of the confidentiality provisions of their contracts and of the legal consequences of speaking out.

“A lot of people there are in security . . . That’s their livelihood and that’s what their future is based on,” Kilburn says. “These are people with young families and mortgages, so they’re not going to risk it. I had people ringing me saying ‘I really wish I could speak out, but I can’t’.”

Security workers are not the only ones whose jobs are at risk for those who choose to speak out.

Dr Robert Adler, a Melbourne-based paediatric psychiatrist who visited Nauru on behalf of International Health and Medical Services (IHMS), claims that he was told his services were no longer required after he wrote letters expressing concerns about detention.

Adler, who describes himself as “apolitical”, says he was appalled by what he saw on Nauru.

“Families were living under a marquee, separated from one another with plastic sheets, with no easily accessible toilet or kitchen facilities, no privacy and no air-conditioning in 40 degree heat . . . I couldn’t provide health services in a situation that I found deeply concerning and [then] remain silent.”

A few days into his trip, Adler drafted a letter to Tony Abbott, objecting to Australia’s detention policies. On his return home, he sent the letter off, along with copies to Bill Shorten and both leaders’ deputies, before emailing copies to a number of his colleagues and contacts, including the head of psychiatry at IHMS.

Not long after, according to Adler, despite his letter containing no confidential or direct clinical information, IHMS’ chiefs called him in for a meeting and told him that he would not be returning to work at the detention centre.

A co-founder of the advocacy group Doctors for Refugees, Richard Kidd, says that his organisation has received calls from doctors and nurses who have worked offshore, enquiring about their legal obligations, and the risks posed by speaking publicly.

He says there was a spike in the number of calls he received both after the Manus Island riots last February and the death last September of Iranian asylum seeker Hamid Kehazaei, who died in a Brisbane hospital after being transferred from Manus Island with septicaemia.

Kidd says the incidents highlighted that “asylum seekers do not have safe, timely and appropriate access to an Australian standard of health care”.

As a result, health professionals working with IHMS have come to believe that “working within their contracts may put them in breach of the medical board and the Australian Medical Association’s code of ethics, thus putting their registration at risk”.

The Monthly’s questions to IHMS were forwarded onto the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, but they had not been answered at the time of publication.

Dr David Isaacs, a professor of paediatric infectious diseases at University of Sydney, returned from working with IHMS on Nauru in early December 2014 and has since decided to use his experience offshore to advocate against current detention policies.

“People have often said if you ignore things and don’t speak out when there’s undue trauma being caused to people than you’re in a way colluding with it,” Isaacs says.

“And, after being there, I feel that to not speak out would be appalling.”

Isaacs believes the clauses in his contract that say he’s not allowed to speak about specific patients are “fair enough”, but that “any doctor ought to be able to speak out against behaviour that’s causing illness”.

While on Nauru, Isaacs says he saw “extraordinarily high rates of psychological problems in children and adults”, which he feels were directly related to the condition of their detention.

According to Dreyfus’s research, half of all Australians believe there is too much secrecy in our public institutions, while four in every five agree that whistleblowers should be protected, and 87% support whistleblowers being able to turn to the media, even if it means revealing inside information.

“I think if most people got to spend some time on Manus Island and saw what was going on, most fair people would say, ‘This is not right’,” says Steve Kilburn.

“We all need rules and parameters and ways to work, but nothing should be above scrutiny. If you take away that ability then what you’re left with is unaccountability, and that’s a dangerous place.”

Reporting on this story was made possible with an independently awarded grant from GetUp’s Shipping News project
About the author Bec Zajac
Bec Zajac works for Overland magazine and broadcasts on 3CR community radio.

The big winner in Abbott’s reshuffle is the ambitious Scott Morrison: Losers are those on DSP and Welfare. He will send them to a Cambodia in his mind

Tony Abbott has seized the opportunity for a significant reshuffle that he says puts “jobs and families” at the heart of his 2015 agenda, as he seeks to “reset and refocus” his battered government.

The changes favour key allies (Scott Morrison and Kevin Andrews), scrape at barnacles (the women issue) and attempt to address some problem areas (the failure in selling messages, poor negotiation with crossbenchers).

The big winner is the highly ambitious Scott Morrison (who, incidentally, is said to be close to Abbott’s chief of staff Peta Credlin). He gets the expanded portfolio of social services, which has had child care added.

Abbott said Morrison had likened it “to being the minister for economic participation”.

“It is very important to have a minister of Scott’s drive and competence in this role because this is about trying to ensure that Australians are having a go,” Abbott told his news conference. Morrison said in a statement: “Getting as many Australians as are able off welfare and into work will be one of my core goals.”

Morrison will be on cabinet’s expenditure review committee, so he will have a hand in budget preparation, access to whole-of-government information, and the chance to participate in the broad economic debate.

He’ll be able to talk tough about welfare cheats and the like to his favourite Sydney shock jock and the Daily Telegraph. He will also be in charge of the families package the government will unveil, including child care and the restructured parental leave scheme. This will give him something positive to sell, complete with plenty of picture opportunities with kids.

Morrison has lobbied and manoeuvred for months for an expansion or change of role and this had not made him popular with some colleagues. For a time the speculation was that he could get a new homeland security portfolio or defence.

Defence became open with Abbott’s sacking from cabinet and the ministry of David Johnston, the big casualty of the reshuffle (the other casualty was Brett Mason, dropped as a parliamentary secretary).

But in terms of the future, Morrison is much better placed in social services where, with other advantages, he will have maximum opportunity for publicity.

It remains to be seen whether he’ll be able to win crossbench support for the budget welfare measures that the government hasn’t be able to get through the Senate. But he was successful in negotiating his temporary protection visas package, and seems to have built a relationship with some key crossbenchers.

In immigration Morrison has been a man with a harsh face. He has succeeded in stopping the boats but seldom shows compassion or any signs of being troubled about the human costs of the policy, preferring to emphasise only the (undoubted) benefit in terms of preventing people drowning. The next year will tell whether he can adopt a more nuanced public persona.

The second most interesting change is Kevin Andrews, who goes from social services – where he has not been able to convince either the public or the crossbenchers – into defence. Abbott said he had worked with Andrews for a long time and sees him as a “very safe pair of hands”.

In defence Andrews will face the difficult issues of the new submarines and the coming defence white paper, but it is likely that the Prime Minister’s Office will be all over these.

Abbott has moved to counter two problems that dogged the announcement of his initial team: he has promoted women and he has designated a minister for science.

Sussan Ley goes into cabinet and replaces Peter Dutton in the health portfolio, where she will have to begin a difficult dance with the Australian Medical Association over the revamped Medicare changes, on which the doctors are arcing up.

Having two women in cabinet is better than one, but the criticism “only two” will replace “only one”.

Two women become parliamentary secretaries. The well-qualified Kelly O’Dwyer will be parliamentary secretary to Treasurer Joe Hockey; Karen Andrews, a former engineer, is parliamentary secretary to Ian Macfarlane who has now had “science” added to his title of industry minister.

Asked why he’d changed his mind after always saying Macfarlane didn’t need science in his title Abbott said, a touch ruefully, “well it seems that sometimes it helps if you do put these things in the titles”.

Dutton, unimpressive in health, gets a decent consolation prize by taking Morrison’s immigration and border security job, which gives him membership of the national security committee.

Josh Frydenberg, who has performed well as parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister, moves into the junior ministry as assistant treasurer, a post in limbo for most of this year. The reshuffle was prompted by last week’s reluctant resignation from the frontbench of Arthur Sinodinos, who had stood aside as assistant treasurer in March when he was called before the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Another parliamentary secretary, Simon Birmingham (one of that little band of Liberal moderates), moves up to be assistant minister for education and training. His senior minister, Christopher Pyne, has had training added to his education portfolio, with some functions transferred from the industry area.

Former West Australian treasurer Christian Porter becomes parliamentary secretary to Abbott. It’s a pity he isn’t a minister.

Despite its limitations (some notable poor performers are still in their places) and oddities (Andrews in defence), Abbott in his reshuffle has sent the message to his team and the public that he’s listened to some of the criticisms being made.

Reza Barati’s father blames Immigration Minister Scott Morrison for son’s death on Manus Island

An asylum seeker in Delta compound holds aloft a picture of slain asylum seeker Reza Barati.

The father of Reza Barati has blamed Immigration Minister Scott Morrison for the Iranian asylum seeker’s death in the Manus Island detention centre during a riot in February.

Speaking from an internet cafe in Ilam city in northern Iran, Torab Barati said his family wants his 23-year-old son’s killer bought to justice.

However, he said ultimate responsibility for Barati’s death lies with Mr Morrison.

A Senate inquiry found the cause of the riot to be a failure to process asylum seeker claims, stating the violence was “eminently foreseeable”.

It also found that the Australian Government failed in its duty to protect asylum seekers, including Barati.

Mr Morrison accused Labor and the Greens of using the report “as a blatant attempt to whitewash their own failures in government”.

However, Mr Barati said the minister needed to take responsibility.

“I do not accept this claim because my son’s transfer was done under this Government’s supervision,” he told the PM program.

“Those many thousands of migrants that came to Australia under the previous government are now in Australia. He was sent to the PNG (Papua New Guinea) camp under this man’s supervision.”

Two men are currently being held for trial for Barati’s murder and Papua New Guinean police say they are still looking for three more suspects.

Barati family calls for compensation from Government

Mr Barati said the family believed they should be compensated for the aspiring architect’s death.

“They should punish my son’s murderers and I should be compensated for my son’s death,” he said.

It’s a point being made by a number of international authorities… it’s clearly recognised by Reza’s family that the responsibility for Reza’s death lies with the Minister and with the Australian Government.

Refugee advocate Ian Rintoul

“We have become mental, including my wife, my daughter, my young son, even myself and my mother. All of us have become mental.”

“It was his son’s dream to settle in Melbourne and become an architect. Instead, he was returned to Iran in a coffin.”

Mr Barati said 10 months after the riots, his wife is still not coping.

“I swear to god she is going mental, she is tears day and night. She has become totally dysfunctional,” he said.

“It was the Prime Minister’s decision that my son be sent to Papua New Guinea. He should pay my son’s rights, whatever they are.”

Refugee advocate Ian Rintoul called on the Government to provide Barati’s family compensation.

“It’s very telling… clearly the impact on the family is very, very obvious. And there’s the scale of the grief, and the concern at losing a son so needlessly just stands out markedly,” Mr Rintoul said.

“I think it’s also very compelling – the recognition that the Minister is responsible, that Manus Island is run by the Australian Government.

“It’s a point being made by a number of international authorities, but I think it’s clearly recognised by Reza’s family that the responsibility for Reza’s death lies with the Minister and with the Australian Government.”

A spokesman for Mr Morrison issued a statement stating that Mr Barati’s death was tragic, but offered no direct response to the accountability and compensation issues raised by Torab Berati.

Abbott’s dirty deal with Cambodia will condemn refugees to destitution: Sarah Hanson-Young

hanson young cambodia

The Abbott government knows full well that it won’t be able to support the refugees that it dumps in Cambodia.’

The Abbott government plans to send hundreds of refugees to Cambodia. Ironically, many poor Cambodians are displaced refugees in their own country

Like many five-year-olds in Cambodia, Samang must work for a living. He spends his days collecting drink cans from the rubbish dump that doubles as his home and then takes them to his grandmother, who crushes them with a brick. His grandmother does her best to care for him after his mother left Cambodia to find work in Thailand because there are no jobs in Phnom Penh. He is HIV positive.

I travelled to Cambodia to see what life will be like for the refugees the Abbott government plans to send there. Ironically, Cambodians like Samang have become refugees in their own country. Slum dwellers in the capital, Phnom Penh, have had their land and homes grabbed from under them by developers, and are pushed out onto the streets without any compensation.

Samang’s story is tragic, but it’s also common in a country that has been destroyed by brutal civil war, poverty and decades of endemic corruption. Human rights abuses are on the rise as the government cracks down on those who challenge the corrupt justice system and public services. Only last week, seven local mothers were jailed for a year for peacefully protesting the government’s inaction over sewage that floods their homes and children’s school on a regular basis.

Most of all, I fear for the young women and girls who Australia will send here. The sex trade is rife in Cambodia and young women are almost without protection. Orphanages in Cambodia are still full of young girls and boys, taken from poor homes with the promise of food and education, who are then exploited and sold for sex and labour. Clearly it is no place for Australia to be sending families who came to us asking for protection.

I met a young Rohingyan refugee named Tayab who has lived in Phnom Penh for several years. He has no officially recognised residency or citizenship and, therefore, none of the basic human rights that come with it. He cannot travel, get a job or own a vehicle. He survives by cooking roti every morning and selling it to passers-by on the street. Without official identification papers, it’s the best he can do.

“There is no future for me here,” he told me as we sat in in his cramped flat, “I want to leave but I can’t. Without papers, if I do leave, I will have to do it illegally.”

After a long pause, he added: “This deal, with Australia, it is very bad luck for the refugees.”

hanson young cambodia
‘The vast majority of Cambodians work in low paying, unstable and informal jobs.’ Children in Phnom Penh. Photograph: Supplied

The Cambodian and Australian governments have been tight-lipped about the details of the refugee deal. At a farcical signing ceremony in September, the media snapped photos of the immigration ministers clinking champagne glasses but were ignored when they tried to ask questions about the new arrangement. What we do know, largely from Senate estimates questioning, is that refugees will be sent there by the end of the year. Australia will pay $40m plus costs for the privilege and, after a short time spent in the country’s capital, refugees will be dumped in regional Cambodia and told to get on with their lives.

Regional Cambodia’s rice fields and stunning natural beauty are interposed with scenes of stark destitution. The vast majority of Cambodians work in low paying, unstable and informal jobs – and this is especially true in the regions.

While visiting one of the villages in the rural province of Battambang, I spoke to parents at the local school. The overwhelming majority of them told me they had to travel to Thailand to work (often illegally) to earn enough money to survive. Unless you already own land and can grow rice, there are no jobs in the regional areas. What jobs will the refugees Australia sends here actually be able to perform? None, as far as I can see. There’s no work in Phnom Penh either – many are likely to take the locals’ advice and head across the border, where the wages are better.

Right now, there are 63 refugees and 21 asylum seekers in Cambodia. That’s a mere 84 potential refugees in the whole country. NGOs told me that they can’t care adequately for even that small number. There are more than 1,200 asylum seekers on Nauru, including families and children. All will be sent to Cambodia if the Australian government gets its way. The Abbott government is willing to pay to set this deal up, but the country clearly can’t cope with such a significant influx of vulnerable people.

While the politicians in Canberra might have decided to condemn the refugees on Nauru to a life of poverty and hardship, Australians deserve to know about the realities of life in Cambodia. They need to know about Tayab, poor young Samang and they need to know the truth: this dirty deal with Cambodia will condemn hundreds of families to a life of senseless and cruel destitution.

The Abbott government knows full well that it won’t be able to support the refugees that it dumps in Cambodia. Alarmingly, it doesn’t care.

  • Names in this article have been changed.

A tale of two Tonys

Illustration: Jim Pavlidis

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity … it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. Charles Dickens

From one vantage point, these have been the best of times for the Abbott government: the Prime Minister delivering exactly what was promised at the G20 summit; signing a landmark trade deal with China; and elevating the relationship with India to a new trajectory of boundless promise.

It was Vladimir Putin who reflected the views of visiting heads of government when he lauded Abbott’s collaborative style, discipline and chairmanship of the Brisbane summit. And it was India’s Narendra Modi who simply dubbed him the “perfect host”.

In the Parliament, Abbott revealed a side of him we rarely see when introducing Modi. Reflecting on his three months as a student backpacking around India, and without so much a glance at his prepared text, he recited lines from a Gujarati poet about the father of the Indian nation, Gandhi.

To those who saw the concentration on foreign policy as a distraction from the main game, the Abbott message was one of reassurance: “The objective of all our international engagements is, yes, a better world, but particularly, a better Australia.”

So why, then, are the polls so dire? Why is the usual cheer squad so angst-ridden? Why do Victorian Coalition MPs, especially those holding marginal seats, fear an Abbott backlash will consign them to being part of the state’s first one-term government since 1955?

The answers were as much on show this week as the official banquets, signing ceremonies and cuddly koala photo opportunities for foreign leaders. The first was Abbott’s failure to anticipate the importance and urgency his guests placed on the issue of climate change and other concerns.

It showed in the discordantly parochial opening statement to the leaders’ retreat on Saturday when, after Barack Obama’s rallying cry to young Australians to make their voices heard, Abbott “kicked off” proceedings by reporting how he had axed the carbon tax.

It showed when, in the same sentence,  he told G20 leaders how his government had “stopped the boats”. Only the previous day, Turkey’s Prime Minister had explained to a Brisbane audience why his country had opened its borders to some 1.8 million refugees from Syria and Iraq. “We cannot close our borders because they are our relatives, our neighbours, but before everything they are human beings,” remarked Ahmet Davutoglu.

While some commentators branded Obama’s focus on climate change impolite, and others an act of bastardry, Abbott finally seemed to get the tone right on the issue  after one-on-one talks with his French counterpart on Wednesday.

Abbott’s commitment to a “strong and effective” agreement in Paris next year on carbon emissions cuts vied for attention with Communication Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s announcement that funding to the ABC and SBS would be cut by more than $300 million over five years. It fell to Turnbull and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann to explain how this sat with Abbott’s election-eve promise of “no cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions, no change to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS”.

Turnbull’s argument was essentially the same as Labor’s explanation for Julia Gillard’s “no carbon tax” edict on the eve of the 2010  election – that the words had to be seen in the context of previous statements that were more equivocal and qualified. Both he and Treasurer Joe Hockey had indicated on several occasions that, if circumstances necessitated across-the-board cuts, then the ABC and SBS could not be exempt, Turnbull explained.

But this was just like Labor spinners arguing that Gillard’s “no carbon tax” pledge had to be heard in the context of Labor’s consistent support for pricing carbon to tackle climate change. Both arguments fail what Sydney broadcaster Alan Jones this week dubbed the “pub test”.

The main focus of Jones’ rage was what he considered a one-sided China trade deal, but he summed up the concern of listeners in broader terms: “We don’t believe the people who are elected to represent us are speaking our language”.

On the ABC cuts, Cormann was even less convincing than Turnbull. Asked by the ABC’s Chris Uhlmann what judgments he thought the Australian people would make, “when the night before the election the Prime Minister says there’ll be no cuts to the ABC and SBS and then there are cuts afterwards”, Cormann said flatly: “Well, they’re not cuts.”

Cormann was being interviewed in response to the third sign of a government in trouble: the coup that saw a breakaway Senate group (branding itself the Coalition of Common Sense) demolish the Government’s changes to Labor’s financial advice laws. The changes were adopted with the support of Palmer United Party senators in July, but two senators who backed the deal, Jackie Lambie and Ricky Muir, are now convinced the changes are grossly inadequate to protect consumers. Once again, the government found itself on the wrong side of an argument about fairness.

Finally, there was Immigration Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement that asylum seekers who registered in Indonesia after July 1 will no longer be eligible for resettlement in Australia, and that the few refugees who will be taken (who registered before the cut-off) face a “much longer wait”.

Much can be said about the unfairness of the decision, particularly to the 1000 unaccompanied children in Indonesia, whose prospects of reunion with family members in Australia or resettlement elsewhere have been drastically diminished. But just as troubling is the way it was announced, with Morrison saying the Indonesian government had been “briefed” on the decision which was “designed to reduce the burden, created by people smugglers, of asylum seekers entering Indonesia”. Here, once again, was Australia deciding what was best for Indonesia and setting back any prospect of a genuine regional framework to deal with asylum issues.  The contrast with the focus on collaboration in Brisbane could hardly have been more stark.

With the exception of boats, where the hard-line approach is still a vote winner, the common denominator is a government that has failed to take the people with it or be seen as acting in their interests. No wonder some federal Coalition MPs are worried that they, too, could be out of office after just one term.

Michael Gordon is political editor of The Age

Indonesian says Australia has created a burden after decision to cut resettlement intake of asylum seekers

Setting sun in Indonesia

Indonesia says Australia has burdened it with the responsibility of looking after thousands of refugees and asylum seekers, after the Federal Government decided to cut its resettlement intake.

Indonesia’s minister for law and human rights, Yasonna Laoly, said his country could only accommodate 2,000 asylum seekers and refugees.

Mr Laoly said it was a human rights issue and the decision placed a burden on Indonesia.

“It’s Australia’s right, but it becomes a burden for us,” Mr Laoly said.

On last month’s figures, there were 10,500 asylum seekers and refugees registered with the United Nations (UN) in Jakarta.

As Indonesia is not a signatory to the refugee convention, the UNHCR seeks to resettle them in countries like Australia.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will not say whether she discussed the policy with her Indonesian counterpart at last weekend’s G20 summit but said Indonesian authorities were briefed on the plan.

“I spent quite some time with the new [Indonesian] foreign minister over the weekend in Brisbane at the G20,” she said.

“We spoke about a whole range of issues including the issue of border protection and asylum seekers policy and we agreed to work closely.

“The Indonesian authorities have been briefed in detail about this.”

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison announced on Tuesday Australia would cut the number of refugees it would resettle from Indonesia and would not accept anyone who had registered in Indonesia after July 1.

Mr Morrison described the decision on Wednesday as “taking the sugar off the table”.

“We’re trying to stop people thinking that it’s OK to come into Indonesia and use that as a waiting ground to get to Australia,” he said.

Mr Morrison said Indonesia, as a transit country, was used by smugglers.

“We’ve had great success in stopping people coming to Australia by boat and for most of that time over the past year, that has seen a significant reduction of people moving into Indonesia,” Mr Morrison said.

“In recent months, we’ve seen a change to that and that’s because people think they can transit and sit in Indonesia and use that as a place to gain access to Australia.”

Indonesia’s foreign ministry said it would monitor the impact of the decision and would consider taking measures to protect Indonesia’s interests.

The ministry’s spokesman did not say what those measures might be.