In the couple of weeks since the double dissolution federal election, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has managed to display to the electorate that he is nothing more than a puppet of the Liberal Party's far-right.
Rather than being Malcolm in Charge, he is merely the Prime Puppet of the racist and bigoted right-wing who are more concerned with money and power than people or the good of the country.
The first big decision for Turnbull followed the harrowing Four Corners story on Monday, 25 July 2016, which exposed gross human rights abuses of juveniles detained in the Northern Territory 'corrections' system(1).
|Northern Territory prison officials placing a juvenile prisoner, Dylan Voller, in a restraint chair and spit hood.|
Initially, Turnbull's reaction appeared appropriate. He immediately announced a Royal Commission into the abuse(2). However, amid calls for the Terms of Reference to include all state jurisdictions following similar allegations in Queensland and other states, Turnbull announced it would be restricted to the Northern Territory.
Overshadowing this restriction however, was the bombshell that Justice Brian Martin QC would head the Royal Commission. Martin has presided over a number of high profile cases and delivered what would appear to be some bizarre sentences. For instance, he described five white men as being of 'good character' after they went on a racially motivated crime spree in which they deliberately terrorised aborigines by driving their car over their camps and at the people. Their Klan-like behaviour culminated in them bashing to death 33 year old aboriginal man Kwementyaye Ryder(3). Martin was so impressed by their 'good character' that the men received sentences ranging from 12 months to four years(4). Clearly in Martin's interpretation of the law, the life of an aboriginal man is worth less than the 'good character' of five white killers.
Following the airing of the Four Corners program, Adam Giles, Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, removed the Corrections portfolio from John Elferink, however, Elferink retains a number of portfolios(5) including being the Attorney-General which one would expect to be a pivotal position during the Royal Commission. The Northern Territory also counter-sued the boys who made the claims of abuse, over damage caused during an escape attempt. Amid uproar, Giles announced the lawsuit was to be dropped(6).
Juan Mendez, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, has written to the Australian Government for an explanation of the allegations of abuse in the Northern Territory. Mendez stated that while Australia was yet to respond, the footage he has seen could amount to torture or crimes against humanity(7).
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees stated that multiple international conventions may have been broken, including the Convention for the Rights of the Child and the Convention Against Torture. Given the severity of the allegations of human rights abuses, the UNHCR stated that the Royal Commission needs to be independent, however, it has emerged that the Terms of Reference were formulated in consultation with the Northern Territory Government; the very government under whom the alleged abuses occurred(8). Compounding this lack of independence, there was no consultation with indigenous leaders before appointing Martin(9).
The appointment of Martin sends the message that the racists in the Liberal Party are looking after their racist mates in the Northern Territory.
The second issue in which Turnbull showed that he was merely a puppet of the far right-wing, was in rejecting the nomination of Kevin Rudd for United Nations Secretary-General(10). Julie Bishop, as Foreign Minister, was happy to endorse Rudd for the position, however, the extreme right-wing wanted to play politics and so their puppet Turnbull rejected the nomination at their behest, saying Rudd was unsuitable.
Cory Bernardi, right-wing extremist extraordinaire, clearly influenced Turnbull's decision(11). In a Tweet, Bernardi unbelievably made the statement that Turnbull was correct in stifling Rudd's personal ambition while boasting of his own appointment to the United Nations in a media statement which read:
- 'I welcome the Prime Minister's decision as it reflects the sentiments of a great many Australians. Our participation in international institutions is more important than an individual's ambition. While seeking to advance Australia's stature on the world stage, we've got to do what's right, rather than what's politically expedient. The Prime Minister has done exactly that today. I look forward to my secondment to the United Nations later in the year'.(12)
Turnbull, a man who once led Australia's push for a republic, who supported marriage equality, who supported an emissions trading scheme(13), a man who originally backed Rudd for the UN job(14), is now kowtowing to the extreme right of the Liberal Party on all of these matters.
Turnbull's failed strategy of calling the double dissolution was aimed at clearing the decks in the Senate and ensuring that smaller parties and independents were removed. He now has a Senate that is less malleable than the previous one and which is comprised of the likes of Pauline Hanson whose xenophobic, fear-mongering politics are a fine match for the bigotry of the Liberal Party's extreme right-wing. If Turnbull thought that this election was going to make his job as Prime Minister easier, then he has been sorely mistaken.
Turnbull ascended to the nation's top job following a coup that deposed then Prime Minister Tony Abbott. This was not a popular decision within the Liberal Party's extreme right-wing, who considered Turnbull to be far too left-wing for their fascist ideology. Many voters with moderate or left-leaning political inclinations felt that Turnbull would be better for the country than the bumbling, fear-mongering Abbott. Yet within a few short months it has become abundantly clear that even though Abbott is on the back-bench, the right-wing is still in charge(15) and Turnbull is but their puppet.
In both cases, the NT Royal Commission and Kevin Rudd's UN bid, Turnbull has been thrown under the bus by appearing to make Captain's Calls (as Abbott was fond of calling them), yet they are decisions that have been heavily driven by the right-wing faction of the Liberal Party.
With friends like these in his party, who needs enemies?
Turnbull will be lucky to survive a full term with his puppet-masters engineering his downfall.
Update 1 August 2016
Following uproar across the country, Brian Martin stands down from heading the Royal Commission 'in the public interest'. Prime Minister Turnbull has replaced him with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Mick Gooda, and former Supreme Court judge, Margaret White(16). This would appear to present a more balanced and potentially less biased Royal Commission.
Supporting the perception of Turnbull being merely a puppet of his right-wing, it has now emerged that he rejected the advice of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade which found that Rudd was 'qualified for the job' and a 'better candidate than previous Secretaries-General'(17).
1. ABC Four Corners, Caro Meldrum-Hanna, Mary Fallon, Elise Worthington, 'Australia's shame - The brutalisation of children behind bars', 25 July 2016. http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/stories/2016/07/25/4504895.htm. Accessed 30 July 2016.
2. Al Jazeera, 'Australia: PM orders inquiry into juvenile prison abuse', 27 July 2016, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/07/australia-pm-orders-inquiry-juvenile-prison-abuse-160726175327189.html. Accessed 30 July 2016.
3. Overland, Michael Brull, 'Top blokes, totally out of character: when five white men beat an Aboriginal man to death', 14 May 2010, https://overland.org.au/2010/05/top-blokes-totally-out-of-character-when-five-white-men-beat-an-aboriginal-man-to-death/. Accessed 30 July 2016.
4. New Matilda, Chris Graham, 'NT Juvenile Detention Abuse Royal Commissioner Needs No Introduction to Black Territorians', 28 July 2016, https://newmatilda.com/2016/07/28/nt-juvenile-detention-abuse-royal-commissioner-needs-no-introduction-to-black-territorians/. Accessed 30 July 2016.
5. ABC News, 'John Elferink sacked from Corrections in wake of Four Corners report; Adam Giles alleges culture of cover-up', 27 July 2016, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-07-26/nt-prisons-minister-john-elferink-sacked-after-4-corners-outrage/7661086. Accessed 30 July 2016.
6. Huffington Post, Eoin Blackwell, 'NT Government Withdraws $160,000 Law Suit Against Don Dale Teens', 29 July 2016, http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2016/07/28/nt-government-sues-torture-teens-for-160-000-in-damages/. Accessed 30 July 2016.
7. ABC Radio National, RN Breakfast, Ellen Fanning, 'Does abuse of children in juvenile detention qualify as torture?', 28 July 2016, http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/breakfast/does-abuse-of-children-in/7667508. Accessed 30 July 2016.
8. ABC News, Timothy Fernandez, 'Four Corners: NT youth detention treatment may breach two human rights conventions, UNHCR says', 30 July 2016, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-07-30/nt-youth-detention-may-abuse-human-rights-conventions:-unhcr/7674532. Accessed 30 July 2016.
9. The Guardian, Calla Wahlquist, 'Indigenous leaders 'disgusted' they were not consulted on detention inquiry', 29 July 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/jul/29/indigenous-leaders-disgusted-they-were-not-consulted-on-detention-inquiry. Accessed 30 July 2016.
10. ABC News, Stephanie Anderson, 'Kevin Rudd: Malcolm Turnbull rules out nominating former PM for UN secretary-general job', 29 July 2016, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-07-29/kevin-rudd-un-secretary-general-bid-endorsed-by-malcolm-turnbull/7671542. Accessed 30 July 2016.
11. The Australian, Jared Owens, Joe Kelly, 'Cory Bernardi says Coalition should not support Kevin Rudd's UN bid', 20 July 2016, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-07-29/kevin-rudd-un-secretary-general-bid-endorsed-by-malcolm-turnbull/7671542. Accessed 30 July 2016.
12. Twitter, Cory Bernardi @corybernardi, 29 July 2016, https://twitter.com/corybernardi/status/758856175119020033. Accessed 30 July 2016.
13. New Matilda, Ben Eltham, 'Agile Government: Turnbull Has Notched 17 Backflips In Seven Months', 12 April 2016, https://newmatilda.com/2016/04/12/agile-government-turnbull-has-notched-18-backflips-in-just-seven-months/. Accessed 30 July 2016.
14. ABC News, Eliza Borello and Stephanie Anderson, 'Kevin Rudd releases letters claiming Malcolm Turnbull backed him for United Nations secretary-general job', 30 July 2016, https://twitter.com/corybernardi/status/758856175119020033. Accessed 30 July 2016.
15. The Age, Mark Kenny, 'Turnbull hamstrung by divided party even after the election', 29 July 2016, http://www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/turnbulls-wings-clipped-before-he-even-gets-airborne-20160729-gqgm1i. Accessed 30 July 2016.
16. ABC News, Anna Henderson, 'Mick Gooda, Margaret White named royal commission heads after Brian Martin stands down', 1 August 2016, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-01/brian-martin-stands-down-from-royal-commission/7677400. Accessed 1 August 2016.
17. SBS, 'PM rejected DFAT advice on Rudd's bid', 1 August 2016, http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2016/08/01/pm-rejected-dfat-advice-rudds-un-bid. Accessed 1 August 2016.