Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Today by Elle Hardy

Trump’s deputy sheriff
The US president is transforming conservative politics in Australia too

Source: Facebook

The Australian government this morning confirmed reports out of the United States that President Donald Trump called Scott Morrison last month to ask for help in an investigation aimed at discrediting the Mueller investigation – and that Morrison agreed to assist.

The New York Times reporters who broke the story said that “Mr. Trump’s discussion with Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia shows the president using high-level diplomacy to advance his personal political interests”.

By way of background, Trump appears to think that a “deep state” conspiracy led by then President Obama and the FBI plotted against him during the 2016 election campaign. To his mind, the conspiracy has morphed into the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in that election.

In reality, one of his former advisers, George Papadopoulos, got drunk and bragged to Australia’s former high commissioner to the United Kingdom Alexander Downer that Russia had obtained political dirt on Hillary Clinton after accessing her emails. Downer subsequently reported this to Australian officials, who later notified the FBI, and this is said to have been the trigger for the Mueller investigation.

Papadopoulos, who was dumped from Trump’s team, has since gone on to allege that Downer is part of this deep state conspiracy, including branding him a “wannabe spy and Clinton errand boy” in a tweet today. Fox News anchor Sean Hannity suggested that Australia, Italy and Great Britain illegally spied on the Trump campaign on behalf of President Obama.

Trump, who appears increasingly preoccupied by the allegations of wrongdoing against him, wants Morrison to help out a mate and investigate Australia’s – read Downer’s – role. NBC reporter Ben Collins calls Trump’s fantasies about the investigations into him a part of “the 4chan Cinematic Universe”, and notes that “the point of all of these things is to absolve Russia from hacking the DNC in 2016”.

But while the headline out of the US might be that Trump pressured Australia to help absolve him of any guilt over his dodgy dealings, a letter from Australian ambassador Joe Hockey to the White House in May should leave no doubt that the president’s advances were welcome. “The Australian government will use its best endeavours to support your efforts in this matter,” he wrote.

The servile response, which suggests that the government is prepared to throw Downer under the bus, shouldn’t come as a surprise after Morrison’s meetings with Trump last week. It confirms that Trump is changing the nature of Australian conservatism all the way from Washington.

Trump’s entire political career has been based on a clever wager that “the base” is more wedded to him than it is to any party structure or coherent ideology. It now appears that the same bet is being made by the Morrison government, which, along with its conservative media allies, is getting behind Trump rather than backing a former Howard government minister.

We’re all living in Trump’s world now. It’s a seething, paranoid hellscape where norms are discarded, reality is obfuscated, and values can only be deduced from polls. It is populism for the sake of popularity and power, built on an ever-shifting foundation that is entirely devoid of principles.

The disinformation age has found its cultural cringe, and it is the lustre of this presidency. The light on the hill for Australian conservatives is a raging narcissist who scammed his way into the White House.

“It looks like Labor has learned all the wrong lessons in the election campaign and they are now walking away from climate change.”

Greens Leader Richard Di Natale criticises Labor’s reluctance to confront the coal industry.

“We totally reject any implication that private equity ownership of a hospital operator would drive detrimental outcomes on patient healthcare or working conditions for doctors and nurses.”

One of the nation’s largest private hospital providers, Healthscope, hits back at doctors and nurses unions’ claims that patients will suffer after the company was taken over by a foreign private equity firm.

Part two: The sentencing of Jaymes Todd
The judge who sentenced Jaymes Todd for the rape and murder of Eurydice Dixon was asked to consider Todd’s age, autism diagnosis and early guilty plea.

The number of signatures (so far) on Petition EN1041 – Declare a Climate Emergency, making it the largest Australian e-petition in  history. Unlike in other parliaments around the world, the lower house is not required to debate petitions, regardless of their size.

Attorney-General Christian Porter has instructed Commonwealth prosecutors not to charge journalists under certain sections of Australia’s secrecy laws without his formal approval, in response to raids on journalists’ homes and offices earlier this year.

The list

“‘The truth is, most theatre is fucking boring.’ So says Patricia Cornelius, one of the country’s best playwrights. Long unproduced by mainstage companies, the Melbourne writer is experiencing an uptick in opportunities and acclaim, but her surging profile doesn’t seem to have affected the sweary indelicacy that is one of her most endearing qualities. ‘I don’t see it as therapy,’ she says. ‘I can’t stand that shit.’”

“In the age of Donald Trump and Boris Johnson, it is tempting to assume that partisan tribalism has taken over – that a new wave of irrational loyalty to the leader, right or wrong, is the only proper way to go. But in fact it was ever thus…”

“In the early hours of Tuesday morning, as Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg addressed world leaders at a climate summit in New York, and Scott Morrison toured a McDonald’s drive-through in Chicago, some of the planet’s top climate scientists were locked in ‘tense’ negotiations in Monaco. History tends to happen all at once, although its parts are by no means equal.”

Elle Hardy

Elle Hardy is an Australian journalist based in the United States. She can be found at www.ellehardy.com



The Monthly Today

COVID scars

Even JobKeeper 3.0 may not be enough

Image of Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews

Called to account

Victoria’s second wave has landed a heavy blow

Out of sight, out of mind

Held for seven years in immigration detention, then COVID-19 strikes

Image of Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck appearing via video link during a Senate inquiry

Aged rage

As coronavirus deaths mount in nursing homes, the anger grows

From the front page

COVID scars

Even JobKeeper 3.0 may not be enough

Image from ‘Hamilton’

America’s imperfect angels: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s ‘Hamilton’

Post Black Lives Matter, the hit musical already feels like a souvenir from a vanished pre-Trump America

Image from First Cow

Milk it: ‘First Cow’

Kelly Reichardt’s restrained frontier film considers the uneasy problems of money and resources

Image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison

A unitary theory of cuts

The Morrison government is using the COVID-19 crisis to devastate the public service, the ABC, the arts and tertiary education