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Day to Day Politics: What should Shorten do now?

Tuesday 5 December 2017

In terms of political strategy I think for any opposition leader to draw attention to himself (other than making rudimentary comments) while his opponents are indulged in their own self-destruction is political folly.

On the Labor side of politics the consensus seems to be that Bill Shorten should, with much urgency, become more aggressive and spruik policy together with an abundance of ideas and a planned future pathway for the nation. And it all should be boxed in a narrative that explains it all with Whitlam-style grandiosity.

But given Turnbull’s predisposition to stuffing things up, there is no hurry. The Government should be left to squirm and fester in the cesspool of political ineptitude it has created.

Timing and patience are required. What I am advocating is that Shorten should firstly take on the high moral ground starting with the repair of our democracy. Necessarily required because of the destruction caused to it by, principally, Tony Abbott and then the current Prime Minister. There is any amount of evidence for it.

There is no doubt that the Australian political system is in need of repair, but it is not beyond it. Shorten should burst into 2018 with a series of speeches titled, “A reformist agenda for our democracy.“

Labor has already taken a small but important first step in allowing a greater say in the election of its leader, however it still has a reform mountain to climb. Besides internal reform that engages its members, it needs to look at ways of opening our democracy to new ways of doing politics: ways that engage those that are in a political malaise so that they feel part of the decision-making process.

Some examples of this are fixed terms, and the genuine reform of Question Time with an independent Speaker.

Shorten needs to promote the principle of transparency by advocating things like no advertising in the final month of an election campaign, and policy costings submitted in the same time frame. You can add reform of the Senate into this mix, and perhaps some form of citizen initiated referendum. Get the people involved.

Given the success of the Marriage Equality survey, consideration should also be given to a plebiscite on the question “Should we have an Australian as head of state?”

Implementing some form of National ICAC is absolutely necessary and would have broad public appeal.

Perhaps even a 10 point common good caveat on all legalisation.

The citizenship fiasco has proven beyond doubt that our Constitution is in need of an overhaul and Shorten should propose a standing panel of review to do so. Even include a debate on a Bill of Rights.

I might add to that a department of the future where policy can be subjected to the riggers of future needs. A department that is constantly looking into the future needs of the country, lock the productivity commission into it.

Appeal for bipartisan government for the common good as Howard did with Hawke and Keating. On top of this is the need to do something about politicians expenses and there justification. You can add foreign political donations to that.

The biggest issue though is a commitment to truth in order to restore people’s trust in government and our representatives.

He needs to convince people of the need for a truly collective representative democracy that involves the people and encourages us to be creative, imaginative and enthusiastic. In a future world dependent on innovation it will be ideas that determines government policy, not the pursuit of power for power’s sake.

Good democracies can only deliver good government and outcomes if the electorate demands it and it doesn’t come about by people being disengaged from the process.

We exercise our involvement in our democracy every three years by voting. After that the vast majority takes very little interest. Why is it so? We need to exercise our creativeness, use our brains, and talk about what is best for ourselves as individuals, couples, families, employees, employers, retirees, welfare recipients and what is affordable for the future of the country. And their needs to be avenues by which our ideas can be presented to government.

Shorten’s narrative must convince the lost voters who have left our democracy to return. Shorten has to turn our democracy on its head on its head, shake it and re-examine it, then reintroduce it as an enlightened ideology-opposite to the Tea Party politics that conservatism has descended into.

He must turn his attention to the young, and have the courage to ask of them that they should go beyond personal desire and aspiration and accomplish not the trivial, but greatness.

That they should not allow the morality they have inherited from good folk to be corrupted by the immorality of right-wing political indoctrination.

He might even advocate lowering the voting age to sixteen (16 year olds were given that right in the Scottish referendum). An article I read recently suggested the teaching of politics from Year 8, with eligibility to vote being automatic if you were on the school roll.

Debates would be part of the curriculum and voting would be supervised on the school grounds. With an ageing population the young would then not feel disenfranchised. Now that’s radical thinking; the sort of thing that commands attention. It might also ensure voters for life.

Why did the voters leave?

Well over 3.3 million Australians have tuned out of politics because of the destabilisation of leadership, corruption on both sides, the negativity and lies of Tony Abbott (initially), the propaganda of a right-wing monopoly owned media, and the exploitation of its Parliament by Abbott and Turnbull. Somehow the lost voters must be given a reason to return. A reason that is valid and worthwhile. A reason that serves the collective and engages people in the process, and a politic for the social good of all – one that rewards personal initiative but at the same time recognises the basic human right of equality of opportunity.

Shorten needs to campaign for a robust but decent political system that is honest, decent, and transparent, and where respect is the order of the day. A political system where ideas of foresight surpass ideological politics, greed, disrespect, and truth. Where respect, civility and trust are part of vigorous debate and not just uninvited words in the process.

“The right to vote is the gift our democracy gives. If political parties (and media barons, for that matter) choose by their actions to destroy the people’s faith in democracy’s principles and conventions then they are in fact destroying the very thing that enables them to exist”.

The reader might determine that the writer is an idealist of long standing. That is so and I make no apologies.

There is much in the way of common sense to support the narrative I suggest but will a politician of Bill Shortens ilk take the plunge?

All the latest polls give Labor an unambiguously clear lead over their Coalition government. Malcolm Turnbull has proven to be a failure as leader and the electorate has recognised that they elected a dud. He has a trust deficit even worse than the fiscal deficit.

You might ask then, in light of all this, what then is Bill Shorten doing wrong? In spite of a clear lead in the polls he constantly comes under fire for his inability to cut through as Opposition Leader. Even on the pages of this site he is criticised for an incapacity to confront his opponent, communicate policy or at least differentiate it.

Leading your party in opposition must surely be a job you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. It’s a thankless, powerless task that has few positives but comes with enormous expectations from those who follow you.

Releasing policy is considered precarious until the election campaign begins. Ask John Hewson. He tried it. The media focus on the incumbent and often a 10 second grab on the nightly news is about all one can expect. Often you are damned if you support something with bi-partisan intent, or damned if you don’t.

Your followers have a ‘why doesn’t he stick it up ‘em’ mentality that is laced with an unrealistic desire to win every argument along the way.

It is all made the more difficult when your own ability is limited by your personal capacity to deliver succinct messages because people have an expectation that you should have the presentation skills of a Barack Obama, Bill Clinton combined with the charisma of Whitlam or Hawke. Shorten has none of their eloquence, instead showing a distinct inarticulateness that is at times depressive. Often he comes over as just another apparatchik or union boss. As a communicator he lacks charisma and personality. What he does have though is an ability for well thought out policies and ideas. He may very well be the man for the times.

So opposition leaders tend to come over as unconstructive, having nothing good to say, or mere carpers. Abbott of course made a virtue of it.

So what should Shorten do?

Well, for the moment he should sit pat and let Turnbull’s self-destruction take its course. Only react as necessary. At the same time he should not fall into the trap of adopting a small target strategy. As I see it, Bill Shorten, at this time in our political history, has been handed a unique gift.

The opportunity to create a narrative about the decline in our democracy and Abbott’s/Turnbull’s involvement in it. It’s an invitation to do the same as Abbott did. Redefine what opposition is, and do so, in a resoundingly positive way. Acknowledge the faults, the corruption on both sides together with the destruction of our parliamentary conventions and institutions. Shout the need for a new democracy as often as Abbott said “Stop the Boats”.

In every utterance say that good democracies can deliver good government and outcomes only if the electorate demands it. Messages should speak to young and old alike by appealing to people to participate in a new democracy where all policy is cantered on the common good. I can hear the first sentence of his first speech:

“I speak to all who have a common interest in renewing our democracy regardless of ideological association.”

As President Obama said:

“A better politics is one where we appeal to each other’s basic decency instead of our basest fears. A better politics is one where we debate without demonising each other; where we talk issues and values and principles and facts rather than ‘gotcha’ moments or trivial gaffes or fake controversies that have nothing to do with people’s daily lives”.

My thought for the day

“All in all our Parliament has become a cafeteria for self-serving individuals who walk the aisle with tray in hand selecting from a smorgasbord of rorts to select from.”

Abbott’s Royal Knightmare – What should Shorten do?

Photo: heraldsun.com.au

Photo: heraldsun.com.au

The premise of my last post for THE AIMN, Bashing  Bill Shorten was this:

“In terms of political strategy I think for any opposition leader to draw attention to himself (other than making rudimentary comments) while his opponent is in self-destruct mode would be political folly. The same goes for the release of policy. Timing and patience is required. The only exception would be commentary on the reform of his party”.

The Prime Minister’s incredulous appointment of Prince Philip as an Australian Knight and the following furore serves to reinforce my argument.

The fact that we have knighthoods at all is insulting and fundamentally undemocratic, and to give it to a bloke whose interest in Australia is at best marginal, is extraordinary.

Then the PM with spellbinding cringe worthy ignorance calls social media “graffiti on a wall” while his government spends 4.3 mil on finding out the extent of its influence. One word suffices to describe him; it is ‘Luddite’. But then the Prime Minister has always been guilty of being himself.

“Thus the captain of team Australia continues to bat for the other side. Nobody wants to play on his”.

If he had not already lost the people’s trust his decision to knight a 93 year old boring Greek who has survived on the public purse all his life most certainly has.

However, when reading the comments on my previous piece, two things were apparent. The first was that Bill Shorten was not popular. This is confirmed by similar postings on Facebook. The consensus seemed to be that Bill Shorten should, with much urgency, become more aggressive, spruik policy together with ideas and a planned future pathway for the nation and a narrative that explained it all in Whitlam style grandiosity.

What was misunderstood in my piece was the presumption that I was unsympathetic to these objectives. I am not. I want the same passion advocated by other writers on this blog, but I was suggesting there were a number of contexts’ to consider before making any ideological pitch to the Australian public. And given Abbott’s pre disposition to terminal political illness there was no hurry. He should be left to squirm and fester in the cancer he has created.

Let’s look at context.

1. In the latest Essential survey when asked:

“How much trust do you have in the following institutions and organisations?”

Political parties were placed last on 13%. Regaining peoples trust is of major importance to the progressive side of politics. (See list at the end of this article.) Shorten has to build his and not rely on Abbott’s unpopularity.

2. It must be remembered that if in the unlikely event the Liberal party replace Abbott with Turnbull (Bishop would be a major leap of faith.) there would be a 10% turn around in the polls. This would not make their task impossible because Turnbull would not necessarily be able to turn around their stinking policies because there is enough distrust among the Dries against him. He might be tightly reigned in, and they may not give it to him regardless.

3. Many Labor policies are probably still a work in progress.

4. There is a widespread belief that the political system, our democracy, is corrupted.

5. It suffers from an emptiness of explanation that needs to be addressed.

6. The next Australian Labor Party National Conference takes place in Melbourne next July. The conference is still the supreme decision-making body of the (traditionally) centre-left major party of Australian politics. National Conference is therefore the main opportunity to secure ‘progressive’ change in ALP policies during this term of Parliament, including on those issues affecting the LGBTI community.

7. 6% of eligible voters went missing at the last election believing they were disenfranchised from the system. Given they are probably disaffected Labor voters, Shorten has to win them back.

What should Shorten do?

In my piece, I counseled well thought out patience, letting Tony Abbott self-destruct at his own pace. Of course he can’t afford to wait around for Abbott to become terminal; it may not happen, and if it does, it will only mean that he will fight another, and perhaps more effective, opponent.

What I am advocating is that Shorten should firstly take on the high moral ground starting with the repair of our democracy. Necessarily required because of the destruction caused to it by the Prime Minister. There is any amount of evidence for it.

There is no doubt that the Australian political system is in need of repair, but it is not beyond it.

Labor has already taken a small but important first step in allowing a greater say in the election of its leader, however it still has a reform mountain to climb. Besides internal reform that engages its members, it needs to look at ways of opening our democracy to new ways of doing politics: ways that engage those that are in a political malaise so that they feel part of the decision-making process again.

Some examples of this are fixed terms, and the genuine reform of Question Time with an independent Speaker. No Government questions etc. Mark Latham even advocates (among other things) its elimination in a new book ‘’The Political Bubble’’. In fact he makes many suggestions of considerable merit.

Shorten needs to promote the principle of transparency by advocating things like no advertising in the final month of an election campaign, and policies and costing submitted in the same time frame. You can add reform of the Senate into this mix, and perhaps some form of citizen initiated referendum. Also things like implementing marriage equality and a form of National ICAC. Perhaps even a 10 point common good caveat on all legalisation. A plebiscite on the question. Should we have an Australian as head of state?

Address inequality. The world’s richest 1 per cent will own more than the other 99 per cent of the world’s wealth by next year. It must promote and vigorously argue the case for action against growing inequality in all its nefarious guises, casting off its socialist tag and seeing policy in common good versus elitist terms. The same fight must also be had for the environment.

Appeal for bipartisan government for the common good as Howard did with Hawke and Keating. On top of this is the need to do something about politicians expenses and there justification.

We need to exercise our creativeness, use our brains, and talk about what is best for ourselves as individuals, couples, families, employees, employers, retirees, welfare recipients and what is affordable for the future of the country.

The biggest issue though is a commitment to truth.

He needs to convince people of the need for a truly collective representative democracy that involves the people and encourages us to be creative, imaginative and exciting. In a future world dependent on innovation it will be ideas that determines government, and not the pursuit of power for power’s sake.

His narrative must convince the lost voters who have left our democracy to return. (And I am assuming that most would be Labor), Shorten has to turn Labor ideology on its head, shake it and re-examine it. Then reintroduce it as an enlightened ideology-opposite to the Tea Party politics that conservatism has descended into.

He must turn his attention to the young, and have the courage to ask of them that they should go beyond personal desire and aspiration and accomplish not the trivial, but greatness. That they should not allow the morality they have inherited from good folk to be corrupted by the immorality of right-wing political indoctrination.

He might even advocate lowering the voting age to sixteen (16 year olds are given that right in the Scottish referendum). An article I read recently suggested the teaching of politics from Year 8, with eligibility to vote being automatic if you were on the school roll.

Debates would be part of the curriculum and voting would be supervised on the school grounds. With an aging population the young would then not feel disenfranchised. Now that’s radical thinking; the sort of thing that commands attention. It might also ensure voters for life.

Why did the voters leave?

How has democracy worldwide become such a basket case? Unequivocally it can be traced to a second-rate Hollywood actor, a bad haircut, and in Australia a small bald-headed man of little virtue. They all had one thing in common. This can be observed in this statement (paraphrased):

“There is no such thing as society. There are only individuals making their way. The poor shall be looked after by the drip down effect of the rich”.

Since Margaret Thatcher made that statement and the subsequent reins of the three, unregulated capitalism has insinuated its ugliness on Western Society and now we have an absurdly evil growth in corporate and individual wealth and an encroaching destruction of the middle and lower classes. These three have done democracy a great disservice.

Where once bi-partisanship flourished in proud democracies, it has been replaced with the politics of hatred and extremism. Where compromise gets in the way of power, and power rules the world.

3.3 Million Australians have tuned out of politics because of the destabilisation of leadership, corruption on both sides, the negativity and lies of Tony Abbott, the propaganda of a right-wing monopoly owned media, and the exploitation of its Parliament by Abbott. Somehow the lost voters must be given a reason to return. A reason that is valid and worthwhile. A reason that serves the collective and engages people in the process, and a politic for the social good of all – one that rewards personal initiative but at the same time recognises the basic human right of equality of opportunity.

Shorten needs to campaign for a robust but decent political system that is honest, decent, and transparent, and where respect is the order of the day. A political system where ideas of foresight surpass ideological politics, greed, disrespect, and truth. Where respect, civility and trust are part of vigorous debate and not just uninvited words in the process.

“The right to vote is the gift our democracy gives. If political parties (and media barons, for that matter) choose by their actions to destroy the people’s faith in democracy’s principles and conventions then they are in fact destroying the very thing that enables them to exist”.

The reader might determine that the writer is an idealist of long standing. That is so and I make no apologies.

There is much in the way of common sense to support the narrative I suggest but will a politician of Bill Shortens ilk take the plunge?

2015 will reveal the character of his leadership.

As President Obama said:

“A better politics is one where we appeal to each other’s basic decency instead of our basest fears. A better politics is one where we debate without demonising each other; where we talk issues and values and principles and facts rather than ‘gotcha’ moments or trivial gaffes or fake controversies that have nothing to do with people’s daily lives”.

 

The Essential Report is a very interesting survey on how people rate our institutions.

 

Incident on the Bulldog Run

I can see by some of the recent comments that there are those who are getting a bit “nervy” … tempers are being tested and in some, found wanting … so please, if it can be of assistance in these testing times, perhaps you can let ol’ Uncle Joe tell you a tale or two to settle the nerves … after all, we may be here for some time.

Now … where were we?

If you turn off the main “Halfway House Road” there about seven mile out of the town, there onto a dirt, bush track; “The Bulldog Run” and go a few miles down that track, you’ll see away there off the side in the mallee scrub; Rhidoni’s old place … a small cottage built in that old pioneer style of four rooms with a lean-to on the back and the old “bucket ‘n’ chuck-it” dunny out the back yard.

The Hocking family had made this cottage their home … for the near future .. a future fraught with the uncertainty of shifting fortune and work … Not that Dick Hocking was such a determined seeker of full-time permanent employment … nor was his wife Alice that keen to become a part of any township community … herself having escaped from a trapped, middle-class life back in civil-war torn Ireland, but still retaining enough of that class’s snobbery to scorn small-town society.

No … the bush suited them just fine and so they sought out these cheap-rental, isolated cottages where scrutiny and regulation was never a problem.

So in consequence, Dick and Alice Hocking and their children stayed in many old pioneer huts out in the deep mallee back in the pre-war years … Because of their isolated positions, far from the nearest town, these huts and settler’s cottages could be rented much cheaper … and with them never being flush of funds at the best of times …

Such run-down old pioneers huts, part stone construct, part pug ‘n’ pine were the usual homes on such tracks as “The Sleeper Track” … named after the cutting of railway sleepers … ”The Seven Cross-roads” or as it is locally known; “The Seven Sisters Junction” … or in the case I am about to tell of: “The Bulldog Run” … locally shortened to just “The Bulldog” … not named solely on account of that particular breed of dog, but because of the wilds of country there … as in; “That’s wild country out there … real bulldog country … ”

It was at Rhidoni’s old place … out in the sticks there just a bit off from The Bulldog … The Hockings lived there a while with three of their children … there were five kids, but the eldest girl had gone to work on one of the river stations as a servant girl and the oldest boy had got work at the local post office in the town of Sedan and was away for most weekends … that left the two early teenage girls and the youngest boy who was around four or five years old.

The parents went to town one day, taking the youngest boy with them to get supplies, leaving the two girls home with the company of a local youth named Murray also in his late teens, who was courting after the elder girl, Maggie … he was safe … But there were some dodgy characters who made their way to the Murray Mallee to escape the law in the city and there was no better place to “disappear” than in the wilds of the mallee in those days … Such a desperate character came upon the cottage there with the three teenagers alone.

The rough looking man watched the youths play a while, reassuring himself there was no adult about … He then calmly approached them in the front yard.

“Hello, children,” he said, his gaze roaming cautiously about, ”Is mum or dad around?” He asked in an innocuous tone as if he knew the parents … foolishly, Rose, the younger of the three replied that “No … they had gone to the town to get supplies and won’t be back for a while” …

The man nodded, tipped his hat and melted into the bush …

But the teenagers became suspicious of his motives when they spotted him lurking about just out a ways in the scrub … They decided it was better if they went inside when they saw him sneaking up closer to the house …

It was fortunate they did, for no sooner than they had gone inside than they heard him cautiously try the door handle … the three children silently stared in fear as the handle of the door moved up and down and then could hear the door creaking and see the door being forced upon gently with his shoulder as he tried to get in … Now this is when things got a tad worse! … Rose had a little dog … a poodle she was most fond of and it had been forgotten when they retreated into the house … Rose became distressed when she noticed the dog’s absence and with a shriek, quickly ducked out the back door to retrieve the poodle, much to the panicked cries of Maggie and her boyfriend Murray …

“NO! … Rosie … come back!” But it was too late … they heard her call for the dog and they could hear the man leave the front door and scurry toward the voice of Rose … They heard his rough voice cry:

“YOU … stay there! … ”

Murray opened the front door and called for Rose …

“IN HERE Rosie, the front door!” and she suddenly appeared, little dog in arms and scurried through the front door with the rough man not half a dozen strides behind her! … Murray slammed the door in his face and quickly secured it … the man put his shoulder to the door and crashed it several times, but fortunately it was built of strong, stout rough-cut timber with a cross-bar securing it, so it stood firm against his thrusts … He then went to get the axe there at the wood heap and proceeded to hack at the door … The children were terrified …

Here, the youth; Murray, did the smartest thing he would do in what turned out to be an otherwise mundane life … He went as close to the front door as to be heard by the man outside and in a ‘just too loud’ whisper, said:

“Maggie … go get your dad’s 303 rifle and I’ll shoot the bugger through the door!” …

All went silent, the axe went still and the man seemed to think for a moment and then abandoned his intended deed and slunk away quickly into the bush … Of course, there was no rifle, it was just a clever bluff … and it worked … The police who later came and searched for the man found him and reported to the parents that he was a wanted rapist from the city …

Lucky children indeed …

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The clock is ticking ever closer to Doomsday

In developing a policy, as a broad generalisation, it is wise to explore the possible adverse effects as well as the advantages of adopting that policy.

But if you have an enemy on your borders and delay may mean that your efforts to repel an invasion will be unlikely to succeed, what should you do?

“India and China as well as the USA are responsible for the greatest increases in emissions. Our efforts will be wasted if they do nothing.”

“Solar panels will not last for ever and we may have significant problems recycling them.”

“We have survived an earlier Ice Age, and Warm and Cold periods have happened before, so what is the problem now?”

“Why are people so certain that mankind has been responsible for the present increase in temperatures?”

These are some of the arguments being put by people who do not agree that there is an urgent need to drastically reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

There are, in fact, plenty of countries which are not only doing something positive but are creating impressive milestones.

Please note – whenever something is stated as a ‘fact’, ideally it should be followed by the statement “based on current knowledge”. And that knowledge is based on scientific research which has determined the level of probability of a particular hypothesis – and on accurate reporting. The more likely it is to be true, the more confidence we can place in that ‘fact’.

Death, taxes and change are, after all, pretty much the only certainties in life! You don’t know when you will die, how much tax you will pay in the future nor how much change will occur!

At this point in time, we do know there is no Planet B!

People get confused by the concept of ‘climate’, which is inherently local. When scientists are talking about July 2019 being the hottest month on record, and you are freezing in Antarctica, you need to realise that they are referring to the highest average world temperature, which takes account of the whole world, not just a region.

The whole climate change, global warning issue is a whole world issue requiring cooperation which is only slowly forthcoming.

In the last election campaign, Bill Shorten was vilified because he would not answer the question as to now much his plans to counter global warming would cost.

What he should have answered, is “How much will it cost over the next decade to repair damage and recompense people if the severe weather patterns, droughts, fires and storms we have been experiencing actually continue or even worsen?”

How long is a piece of string?

The adults who criticise Greta Thunberg should be charged with child abuse!

She has a brain which is capable of analysis and research at a level way beyond most of them. She has researched the data, she is quoting the experts and she is fighting for a future for her own and following generations.

As are many adults who fear for the future of their own grandchildren. They are, in many cases, activists who are fighting for survival of humanity, against government inaction and flawed policies.

Greed and monetary interests have taken priority in most governments, including our own. We talk endlessly about the economy but we brush aside criticism of government policies which are actually hurting vulnerable people.

We have truly lost our moral compass, following get-rich-quick cults and ignoring the needs of those who do not have a chance to ‘have a go’!

We waste food while the poor in other countries – and some in our own – are starving.

We have developed a throw-away economy where manufacturers build in obsolescence.

We pollute to the point that some fresh water sources are no longer suitable for consumption.

The rate of loss of species diversity is enormous. No surprise, when we recognise that humankind is the Earth’s most dangerous predator!

The clock is ticking ever closer to Doomsday, and all the wealth, in financial terms, which a few have accumulated, will not save them forever when the air and water are polluted and the temperatures soar out of control! They might end up living lonely lives in luxurious caves!

Government funding cuts and concentration on research that brings in money has not yet quite destroyed the CSIRO. We have plenty of sources of viable plans for action.

All is not lost – yet!

Please can we persuade governments, starting with our own, that time is truly running out for action to be effective.

Stop thinking “What’s in it for me?” and start thinking “How can we ensure that humankind survives in a world which is not totally hostile?”

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All Aboard The Australian Political Change Bus: Why Does It Usually Run So Late So Often?

By Denis Bright  

At last political spin doctors want Australians to move on from the rhetorical victory laps of the federal LNP after its surprise victory on 18 May 2019. Cheering on the victory laps cannot go on indefinitely even if sections of the federal LNP still want to continue the polarising rhetoric on issues like the need for more coal fired power stations for North Queensland to compete with One Nation in regional seats at next year’s state election (The Australian, 29 October 2019):

Scott Morrison and Matt Canavan reportedly had a heated argument over a new coal-fired generator in Queensland with the Resources Minister overheard shouting “this is f***ed” during the closed-door meeting.

Tensions over the roll-out of a new coal-fired generator at Collinsville in central Queensland boiled over during a fiery exchange in the Prime Minister’s office in Canberra last Tuesday, The Courier Mail reports.

The clash was reportedly so loud it was heard by others waiting in the corridor outside, including first time MP Phil Thompson and Capricornia MP Michelle Landry.

The war-of-words is alleged to have been sparked by a “go-slow” directive given by the Prime Minister’s Office on a business case for the new generator.

During the election campaign, Senator Canavan announced a $10 million study to develop the business case for baseload power options, including in Collinsville.

The row came amid a split in Coalition ranks over its drought funding strategy last week, with ­Nationals MPs blindsiding Scott Morrison with a $1.3bn policy document leaked without approval from leader Michael McCormack.

Such antics were destined to prepare for a polarising Queensland state election in late 2020. Most constituents alas are perfectly aware of the financial and environmental costs of climate change and the pragmatic value of energy transition strategies. Unlike the National Party, the wider federal LNP must also hold marginal metropolitan seats where Pauline Hanson is no folk hero.

Even the local news on 4CA in Cairns projected a strong environmental theme (30 October 2019):

The scientific community has shown that the Great Barrier Reef is in imminent danger of massive damage and, ultimately, complete loss unless global warming is limited to 1.5C.

Report author Bill Hare, director of Climate Analytics, said: “If Queensland continues to emit carbon pollution from energy use at the same rate as in 2017, the state’s Great Barrier Reef safe carbon budget will be used up in less than 12 years, by 2031.

“As the highest carbon-emitting state in Australia and custodian of the Reef, Queensland urgently needs to get its house in order and do its bit to limit warming to 1.5oC.

“To ensure that Queensland’s carbon emissions stay within a carbon budget consistent with global efforts to meet the Paris Agreement limit of 1.5oC, Queensland needs to cut energy and industrial emissions by a total of 58% by 2030 (compared to 2005 levels) and reach zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“The good news is that there are tremendous opportunities for Queenslanders in a decarbonised economy due to its cheap and plentiful solar and other renewable energy resources, advanced industrial capabilities and existing resource industry and infrastructure.

“For Queensland to take advantage of these opportunities and stay within the carbon budget it is of vital importance for the government to develop a whole of economy Great Barrier Reef safe strategy.”

State Labor currently holds four seats of Cook, Cairns, Barron River and Mulgrave in the 4CA catchment. The seats of Hill, Hinchinbrook and Traeger in the regional hinterlands from the Coral Sea to the NT Border are held by the Katter’s Australia Party (KAT).

In this time to move on from the 2019 national election campaign, Anthony Albanese used the CEDA forum on 29 October 2019 to offer a broad-church strategy from the Labor Party as the State of the States Report from CommSec.

In a responsibly conservative style, the Opposition Leader offered some hope for a new consensus between business and Labor that would also tackle the climate change emergency. Not being able to find the full text of Anthony Albanese’s headland address to the nation from the CEDA forum in Perth, I must reply on the synopsis from Matt Coughlan of the West Australian (29 October 2019):

Labor leader Anthony Albanese has vowed to “circuit-break” a crisis in training and vocational education with a new federal agency targeting skills and workforce shortages.

Mr Albanese used his first major policy speech as opposition leader to promise to create a Jobs and Skills Australia under a Labor government.

“I am determined to circuit-break the crisis in training and vocational education,” he said in Perth on Tuesday.

The agency would be established with legislation and in partnership with large and small business leaders, unions, regional experts and federal, state and territory governments.

Mr Albanese wants it to be data-driven, working with labour market technology from professional websites Seek and LinkedIn.

He said the new agency would have a similar model to Infrastructure Australia, which he established as minister in 2008 and has since become bipartisan policy.

“A collaborative model to guide investment in human capital, just as Infrastructure Australia guides investment in physical capital,” he said

Jobs and Skills Australia would undertake:

* Workforce and skills analysis

* Capacity studies, including for emerging and growing industries

* Specific plans for targeted cohorts such as the regions, workers aged over 55 and youth

* Reviews of the adequacy of the training and vocational system.

It would have an obligation to undertake workforce forecasting skills assessments for majority government-funded services like the National Disability Insurance Scheme, aged care and health.

Mr Albanese said Jobs and Skills Australia would form the basis of a new compact.

“It will work with business and unions to harness insights from industry to ensure that training is meeting not just today’s needs but to anticipate how work is changing,” the opposition leader said.

In coming months, Labor will also look at industrial relations reforms to address job insecurity and uncertainty for workers.

As Australian investment trends worsen, even the federal LNP has decided to endorse a cautious energy transition agenda which still includes the possibility of new and upgraded coal fired power stations (The Guardian, 30 October 2019):

An extra $1bn is being handed to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to invest in projects aimed at ensuring a reliable electricity supply.

The new fund – separate to the corporation’s existing capital – will be earmarked for power generation, storage and transmission projects such as pumped hydro, batteries and gas.

Eleven of the 12 new generation investments shortlisted for the Coalition’s energy underwriting program are also eligible for funding, although Guardian Australia has confirmed that both new coal power stations and coal power upgrades will be ineligible.

The underwriting program shortlist includes a proposed upgrade to an existing coal-fired power station in NSW’s Lake Macquarie put forward by coal baron and LNP donor, Trevor St Baker.

Labor’s carbon emission targets are highly compatible with the infusion of new investment in both energy transition and support for new infrastructure particularly in depressed regions and the outer-suburban fringes as covered in a recent 7.30 Report.

To avoid a repeat of the highly successful LNP scare-campaigns against progressive taxation measures, investment funding for the economy of the future must surely come from the local financial sector and overseas investment. Both Paul Keating and Anthony Albanese want no immediate return to traditional stimulus spending models against previous investment down-turns (Shane Wright for the SMH, 29 October 2019):

All governments have been urged by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) to use low rates to expand their infrastructure programs in a bid to drive down the unemployment rate and lift wages. The RBA’s official cash rate sits at a record low of 0.75 per cent while interest rates on government debt are at near-record lows.

Mr Keating said with monetary policy barely having an impact, and the economy growing at 1.4 per cent, it was time for the government to develop a growth-led agenda.

The economy is idling at the lights, it’s like the car idling at the lights, waiting for the lights to turn green again to take off,” he said. “The economy at 1.4 per cent is simply idling.”

Mr Keating, who oversaw the first budget surpluses since the 1950s when he was treasurer, said Howard government treasurer Peter Costello had been correct to follow with more surpluses. But that focus on a return to surplus was now risking the broader economy, with too many within the Liberal Party believing the budget should be run like a small corner shop.

As member for Whitlam in the House of Representatives, Stephen Jones has taken the case for more investment in sustainable mining to assist in building the new economy

Greg Jericho’s critical economic analysis in the The Guardian (22 October 2019) does suggest that the federal LNP is starting to believe its own rhetoric about economic competence during a time of global economic downturn:

Given the market sector is roughly 82% of the economy, you would expect it to contribute around 80% of the growth in the economy every year. And yet over the past year, the non-market sector actually contributed more to economic growth than did the market sector.

The market sector only accounted for 44% of the growth in the economy, and when we exclude mining, that number falls to just 15%:

Government revenue has been artificially inflated by the failure of the senate crossbench to deliver company tax reductions for large companies.

As noted by Michael West the extra revenue has come in handy if commitment to a budget surplus is to be achieved in the current financial year (Alan Austin for Michael West, 14 October 2019):

Down in Tasmania which received favourable comments in CommSec’s Leagues Table, the myth of a thriving market economy rests on extraordinary levels of federal largesse to the extent that 62 per cent of all revenue raising is derived from grants from Canberra to support the 2019-20 state budget.

But still the State of the States comparisons continue each month and are reported as fact on mainstream news services.

Change will not come easily in a slowing national economy. Some welcome green shoots have been generated this week on both sides of politics. Without an Australian financial node equivalent to Wall Street, the City of London or the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), Australians might choose to unite around social market values appropriate to a middle-sized open economy which predated the ANZAC traditions of 1915.

Anthony Albanese has made a good offer of greater consensus-building at the CEDA forum.

Regrettably, appeal from Labor for greater consensus-building is not new. It was indeed welcomed by Paul Kelly in an outstanding opinion piece in The Australian (30 October 2019).

At least the Morrison Government is now on board the energy change bus with a promise of $1 billion for Labor’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation which was established in 2012.

Perhaps the most progressive federal LNP’s spin doctors have been reading some Labor media releases from another era (from Jason Clare as Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy, 22 January 2019):

Most of the benefits of hydrogen development will be in regional Australia. For example, the deep-sea water ports of Gladstone and Newcastle are well placed to support a hydrogen export industry. While benefiting the nation as a whole, regional Queensland will be the big winner from Labor’s plan. Labor is taking a hands-on approach to supporting the new jobs and industries Queensland needs for the future.

We want regional Queenslanders to have good, secure blue-collar jobs for the future in existing and new industries.

Hydrogen can be the next great energy industry for Australia – and Labor has a plan to make it happen.

During the federation era (1901-14) prior to the formation of the Country Party, Alfred Deakin once reached across the political divide to form as association with Andrew Fisher through a progressive phase of social liberalism. The current associations between the Liberal Party and populists from both the National Party and One Nation are barriers to the return of such historical precedents. As a traditional Laborite, Billy Hughes returned Australia to the centre-right of politics which he broke with the Labor caucus over his support for conscription for the war in Europe which failed on two occasions.

Joe Lyons (Scullin’s Treasurer) also broke with the Labor caucus over his neoconservative plans for economic recovery from the Great Depression.

The Liberal Party’s current dalliance with populists in both One Nation and the National Party is an optional association which Scott Morrison can choose to terminate in the interests of economic sustainability with Labor’s support in the Deakinite traditions of the federation era.

Action on energy transition and economic sustainability in a global warning era will require bi-partisan support. The National Party and One Nation will never a more diluted populist thunder.

Look out for the Political Change Bus in the electorates around the country to break the frustrating delays in progressive Australian public policies. Perhaps the needs of people and their environments in a middle-sized open economy will ultimately receive bipartisan attention.

Denis Bright (pictured) is a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis is committed to citizens’ journalism from a critical structuralist perspective. Comments from Insiders with a specialist knowledge of the topics covered are particularly welcome.

 

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Is Labor doomed for oblivion, or can Albo mount a comeback?

Bill Shorten took over as leader of Australian Labor Party in 2013 and resigned in 2019 after taking the party to two elections.

He won the leadership in a two-horse race with Anthony Albanese (Albo) under revised party rules: Rules that gave Albanese little chance of winning.

In 2016 he came within one seat of becoming Prime Minister after adopting a strategy of prematurely revealing major policies well before the election.

He also adopted a benign approach to the everyday swings of Australian politics. An approach that was seen as sensible by some and too light on by others.

He wasn’t expected to win in 2016 so his narrow loss was seen as exemplary. In 2019 he was in better shape and given the dreadful performance of the Coalition in office was expected to win in a canter.

Labor had led in the polls for the better part of three years. Shorten had turned the conventional wisdom on its ear by going early with new policies and shirt-fronting the government at every opportunity.

In many ways it was a radical approach to electioneering taking from the rich to accommodate a fairer and more equal society. Having said that, there were many Labor die-hards who wanted policy to be even further to the left. Conversely, others wanted more centre-right policies.

In short, Labor had done everything right. They were disciplined and loyal to their leader but when the crunch came, even with a set of policies that would make for a better society, their campaigning was terrible.

“The campaign, not the issues, was Labor’s Achilles heel, with the Coalition’s personal attacks on Shorten the final nail in the coffin,” wrote Peter Lewis in The Guardian.

A leak, however, from the committee appointed to reason why Labor lost, seems to lay the blame squarely on the shoulders of Shorten.

It is now almost 6 months since Labor experienced its night of soul-destroying darkness. All the untruths and scares told by a prodigious teller of fabrication by Morrison wasn’t enough to unseat him.

The accrued mistrust of Shorten together with union association and unpopularity reigned supreme over the lies and scare campaigns of the Coalition. It must have run deep.

Once again Labor was to experience the loneliness of opposition.

Having had a right-wing Opposition Leader who took them to the left they elected a left-wing leader in Anthony Albanese who seems intent on taking them to the right.

In the months that have past, Albanese has given members the chance to publicly speak up on policy. Some have, and I feel sure more will once the report into their election loss is released in the next week or so.

Moreover, this point in time Albanese seems to be taking the rather old fashioned tactic of laying low unless its otherwise necessary, upping the anti in the third year and releasing policy with only a few weeks or months to go before the election.

At this point it would be wrong not to release a climate policy, very wrong.

The perception of Albo was that he could ‘tuff’ talk to any conservative leader. He indeed unlike others knew how to lay a decent shirtfront on the government.

Initially, Party members wanted him instead of Shorten. Now that they have him and the shirt-front is nothing more than a powder-puff to the left cheek, they want more aggression. As if it resolves everything.

As the theory goes, Labor only ever wins when a person of charisma enters the fray. Whitlam, Hawke and Rudd were men of their time who had vision, excited the people with the possibility that they could achieve great things.

All had one thing in common. They dared to be different, even radical.

The common good should be at the centre of any political philosophy. However, it is more likely to be found on the left than the right.

There are those in the Party, and those who support it, who long for the socialism of days long gone without a thought for the changes that have occurred in society. As if one thought suits all.

People scream out “retaliate with the truth”, but the fact is that accessibility or exposure to do so in opposition is limited to a 15-second grab on the nightly news.

Taken in totality, and in my view, there was nothing wrong with Labor’s policies for the recent election. It was just the way they were presented that was deplorable. A Hawke or Keating would have held society in the palm of their right hand and mellifluously told them the facts.

Had as much thought been put into how they were to sell them, and indeed defend the complications in them, they might have stood a chance.

As it was there were so many impediments that you could drive the proverbial truck through them.

Just as the government has a list of talking points to defend its policies, so too should the opposition have had to defend its own.

For example, when employment raises its head every Labor MP should know the following:

“In September 2013, there were 706,400 people unemployed (trend) or 697,100 (seasonally adjusted).

In September 2019, there were 718,000 people unemployed (trend) or 709,600 (seasonally adjusted).

They aren’t keeping up with population growth. Why does no one ever say in response to the jobs growth claim, that there are 12,000 more people unemployed now than when they took over?”

Tell it straight, tell it as it is and fix it.

I have gotten a little ahead of myself so let’s come back to the present. Labor is going through a period of self-examination with a new leader who hasn’t yet found his feet.

Albo is, however, making overtones of doing politics of the past whereas what is needed is something purer than the abrasive manner of the mouth that roared.

Albo should be using the phrase; “He’s loose with the truth” (about Scott Morrison) on every occasion he can, and keep on doing it until it sinks in.

And he should add; ”Just a clone of Trump” to a collection.

It is reasonable to assume that after his sucking up to Trump, Morrison is telling us that it will be the path of Trumpism he will be taking in the future.

At the moment Morrison is having a ball portraying Labor as a party of the past and that it is he and his party that are for the workers.

This impression is reinforced by responses to questions in this week’s Essential Report designed to get the first real take on peoples perceptions of Anthony Albanese’s Labor.

Morrison’s marketing experience – based mostly on slogans – comes through in everything he says and does. He understands the value of lies, repetition and misrepresentation.

It is a pity that Australian politics has degenerated to such a level, but it does however; give Labor an opportunity of rebirth, maybe as a “Common good party.” Dare to be different, and above all be progressive.

It would be a grave mistake to re emerge as just another centre-right party.

It seems to me that everyone wants an economy that is performing well.

However, when you are asking those who can least afford it to disproportionally support it you are not serving the common good.

When Joe Hockey was Treasurer he told the National Press Club: “The average worker works one month every year to pay for the welfare of others.”

At the time I wondered how many months the average worker worked to subsidise farmers, miners, tax breaks, negative gearing, franking credits, private and religious schools (religions don’t pay taxes), and retired politicians.

Fairness and equality of opportunity must be central to any Labor Party platform.

It is difficult to get a grip on just how Albo might rebrand Labor after its period of self-examination given that the opposition leader, given his confusing support for so many Coalition policies.

At the moment he is less popular than Shorten himself. If he doesn’t survive they could end up with a future leadership team of Queensland’s Jim Chalmers and former deputy leader Tanya Plibersek.

So much depends on the attitude of the leader that it is even more difficult to predict how the party will brand itself without it being settled in leadership.

Let’s put that aside for a moment. Before any re-branding can take place the party has to be satisfied that the reason or reasons for the defeat have all been exposed.

Was it the unpopularity of Bill Shorten? Was it the policies or was it entirely the campaign itself?

For me it was the trifecta. Yes, Shorten was unpopular. No, there was nothing wrong with the policies – it was the leaders inability to articulate them, which of course bleeds into the conduct of the campaign.

Ask yourself would Labor have won with Albo?

A hypothetical question indeed. And truthfully I don’t know what Labor should do. It is too early. All I can do is offer some comments, ideas and suggestions, but I have always felt that cleaning up our democracy would be a noble pursuit and the first step toward regaining government.

I note that as I write the news community today, 21 October, are asking for more transparency in our government. It is true that we have a government of a “need to know” mentality, that hides things from us and is about as transparent as a black glass window.

When a political party deliberately withholds information that the voter needs to make an informed, balanced and reasoned assessment of how it is being governed. It is lying by omission. It is also tantamount to the manipulation of our democracy.

Here are some thoughts on a Labor revival based on repairing our democracy:

  1. The Labor Party needs to rid itself of out-dated social objectives and invest in a social philosophical common good instead.
  2. And recognise that the elimination of growing inequality is a worthwhile pursuit.
  3. In terms of talent, both parties are represented by party hacks of dubious intellectual liability without enough female representation and worldly work-life experience.
  4. Labor’s pre-selection processes are rooted in factional power struggles that often see the best candidates miss out.
  5. There is a need to select people with broader life experience. Not just people who have come out of the union movement. Fix it.
  6. Our Parliament, its institutions, and conventions was so trashed by Tony Abbott and those who followed that people have lost faith in the political process and their representatives. Fix it.
  7. Ministerial responsibility has become a thing of the past. Fix it.
  8. Question time is just an excuse for mediocre minds that are unable to win an argument with factual intellect, charm or debating skills. Fix it.
  9. The public might be forgiven for thinking that the chamber has descended into a chamber of hate where respect for the others view is seen as a weakness. Fix it.
  10. Question time is the showcase of the Parliament and is badly in need of an overhaul and an independent Speaker. Fix it.
  11. Recent times have demonstrated just how corrupt our democracy has become. We have witnessed a plethora of inquiries all focusing on illegal sickening behaviour. Fix it.
  12. Light frivolity and wit has been replaced with smut and sarcasm. It has debased the parliament and all MPs, as moronic imbecilic individuals. Fix it

I cannot remember a time when my country has been so devoid of political leadership.

In recent times we have had potential, but it was lost in power struggles, undignified self-interest, and narcissistic personality.

The pursuit of power for power’s sake and the retention of it has so engulfed political thinking that the people have become secondary and the common good dwells somewhere in the recesses of small minds lacking the capacity for good public policy that achieves social equity.

People on the right of politics in Australia show insensitivity to the common good that goes beyond any thoughtful examination.

One cannot begin to discuss the decline of Australian democracy without at the same time aligning it to the collapse in journalistic standards and its conversion from reporting to opinion.

Murdoch and his majority-owned newspapers; with blatant support for right-wing politics have done nothing to advance Australia as a modern enlightened democratic society.

On the contrary, it has damaged it, perhaps irreparably. Fix it.

Bloggers more reflect the feelings of grass-roots society.

Truth in government as a principle of democratic necessity needs to be reinstated.

Fix it first and common good policy will follow.

My thought for the day

Leaders who cannot comprehend the importance of truth as being fundamental to the democratic process make the most contribution to its demise.

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John Lord’s Election Diary No. 13: Shorten has dared to go where other Labor leaders have not

Saturday 11 May 2018

1 By this time next week, only those who haven’t voted pre-poll will be left to cast their vote in this most important election. All the policies, or lack of them, will have resonated with the electorate in varying degrees. Some will vote in a state of confusion but most with certainty. The young have become engaged and hopefully, they might return our democracy to some form of respectability and transparency.

The issue though is will the right win, will they be emboldened to move further right to satisfy the interests of the establishment, corporates and rich individuals. Or on the other hand, will the electorate be prepared to give Labor’s policies of change a chance?

2 The polls have played a fairly negative part in portraying an accurate position of the parties. Given the knowledge all and sundry have of the previous 6 years I find it difficult to believe they are an accurate reflection of the public mood.

“An enlightened society is one in which the suggestion that we need to legislate ones right to hate another person is considered intellectually barren.” JL

3 In recent days it has really hit home to me just how intensive the use of social media has played in this election. My message box, my email, and any other way, the parties could attract my attention, they have pestered to a point where I have had to look the other way.

A positive is though that my diary has attracted new readers by ten a day for its duration.

“The fourth estate as the custodians of the public right to know should act responsibly and report fact and not just express biased opinion.” JL

4 Peter Dutton has come out from whatever slime hole to inform us that Bill Shorten intends letting the boats start again and the redhead insists they will introduce a death tax.

5 Yesterday Labor released its costing’s. Why? Well, it might have been because they were very confident that any criticism of them could be hit to leg but another reason might be that it would keep attention on Labor’s policies and bring Chris Bowen into the picture.

Predictions already show that Labor because of the huge and fair increases in its revenues will be able to better the governments planned surpluses by double and have a $200bn war chest to spend on further tax cuts over the next decade.

It has also allowed $55 million for a plebiscite on Australia becoming a Republic.

“The parliamentary budget office estimates will also reveal that Labor has about $200bn to spend on tax cuts beyond the forward estimates to meet a tax-to-GDP ratio of 24.3% – the same level achieved under the Howard government.”

On any level, you would have to admit that they have not been sitting idly by for the past three years. They have not left a stone unturned to get things right and be upfront and transparent with the public.

6 Also, the release might just detract from the Liberal Launch on Sunday. Which in itself, is but a liberal Party cost saying measure and if Turnbull is a no show, an embarrassment.

7 From the Press Club debate, I would have been tempted to say that I learnt nothing new but that wasn’t the case. I learnt that the opposition, if a world economic downturn did occur, is better placed, because of the savings from Franking and Negative gearing to ward off the effects.

8 The other thing was the Prime Minister saying that Melissa Price would be the Environment Minister in the next Government should he win. He had to be joking. But “Where is she?” said Bill. Time will tell.

“We will never truly understand the effect Free Speech has on an individual until we have suffered from the abuse of it.” JL

9 I cannot remember a government going to an election with so few policies. You would have to go back to Tony Abbott to make any comparison. Tony, of course, believed that just being in office fixed everything. The born to rule brashness.

“If a newspaper article is written in a manner to suggest objectivity but subjective words are scattered throughout it together with carefully phrased unsupported statements then dismiss the article as having no cogency.” JL

10 Incidentally what is the difference between Scott Morrison’s $2.4 billion cuts to the Aged Pension four years ago and cuts to Franking Credits? He sneakily changed the way future rises to the pension are calculated.

11 AIM readers may have missed my Facebook post on the Daily Telegraph’s version of what Bill Shorten knows about his own mum. So here it is.

I wrote this while ill in bed and managed to post it on Facebook but not the AIM.

“Why this was the most compelling moment of this election campaign”

This was the headline on the ABCs online site today. The Daily Mail had attacked him because he attended an elite school.

“In a new low, The Daily Telegraph has decided to use my mum’s life as a political attack on me, and on her memory.” Mr. Shorten said.

“Mother of Invention”, read the headline accusing him of not telling the full story about his mother.

Mr Shorten said his mother died from a catastrophic heart attack in her sleep in April 2014.

“I miss her every day,” he said. “I‘m glad she wasn’t here today to read that rubbish.” 

While appearing on Q&A last Monday, Mr Shorten had spoken of his mother, Dr Ann Shorten, as his inspiration.

He said, “She had wanted to study law but had to take a teacher’s scholarship so she could support her younger siblings.” 

The newspaper accused Mr Shorten of having neglected to say that his mother did go on to study law, and gained first-class honours before going on to practice for six years.

The Daily Telegraph also described Mr Shorten as having benefited from studying at “Melbourne’s elite Xavier College”. 

“I didn’t read it all because there’s only so much time in your day and you can’t afford to waste it on the rubbish,” Mr Shorten said of the article today.

“They think that [because] I explained myself at Q&A on a Monday night, that they play gotcha about your life story — more importantly, my mum’s.”

“She loved being a teacher and she was very good at it. She later became a teacher of teachers.”

“She worked at Monash University over three decades, but she always wanted to be in the law.”

He said, “his mother studied law in her 50s and he was proud of what she achieved.”

“When I was in my first year of law school, she was in her final year. She was her brilliant self and won the Supreme Court prize.”

“She finally realised her dream and qualified as a barrister in her late 50s.”

Conservative media seem to get some perverse satisfaction from this sort of defamation. Remember Alan Jones attack on Prime Minister Gillard:

‘’Her father died of shame because of her political lies.”

I am not well today but I felt compelled to say a little or a lot about the Daily Mail’s attraction of Bill Shorten. Firstly the leading tabloid of the Murdoch gutter publications published it. To say that it is the worst example, the most gutless of all his publications would be an understatement.

They are the newspapers where the truth goes to die. Bill Shorten doesn’t need me to defend him he does a fine job on his own. However, when one’s mother becomes the intentional centre of an attack on the son then we need to speak up and combat it.

I have never really understood the dislike of Bill Shorten because l have always found solace in my enquiries when criticisms have been directed at him by the press and every day by the government. They did the same with Gillard and I also found that reprehensible.

That he has gathered together a team that is so woven in solidarity. So married to his leadership and so surrounded with women is truly, to me at least, remarkable. Sure he has little habits that annoy me but nowhere near as much as the Prime Ministers overbearing nature.

In this election, Shorten has dared to go where other Labor leaders have not. He has taken on the rich and said enough is enough. Schools, hospitals and aged care are the priorities. He has bravely taken on top-down economics and said there is a better way.

My thought for the day 

“If you are looking for the ultimate expression of the purity of love, there is no better place to look than in the sanctity of what we call motherhood.”

Conservative media seem to get some perverse satisfaction from this sort of defamation. Remember Alan Jones attack on Prime Minister Gillard: ‘’Her father died of shame because of her political lies.”

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Do Debates Help?

Hands up how many of you have seen both so-called leaders’ debates? Not too many I will wager.

It seems that the Liberal party got to choose the venues, the times and the broadcaster and in Perth that was The West Australian as moderator and Channel Seven’s second channel as a broadcaster. Some of the questions were loaded but fairly evenly : Morrison was asked twice about his preference swap deal with Clive Palmer but wasn’t able to reassure the audience that it was just normal politics : Shorten was pointedly asked about border security and Labor’s record in a loaded question prefaced by “800 boats carrying more than 50,000 illegal arrivals flooded into Australia; 1,200 people lost their lives at sea under Labor” straight out of the Liberal party songbook.

Of the 48 undecided invited guests, 25 gave the win to Shorten 12 to Morrison and 11 remained undecided.

Then the Liberals chose Brisbane, the Courier Mail and SKY News for last Friday’s debate : nobody watched as it cut into footy time (both AFL and NRL) and this time there were 100 supposedly undecided voters invited although one woman – could have been Dorothy Dix – who was worried about her religious freedoms clearly wasn’t going to vote Labor any time soon.

Morrison had evidently been advised to intimidate Shorten and crowd his personal space in a Trump-like manoeuvre: didn’t work as planned with Shorten going for the zinger and calling him a “classic space invader” which sent Morrison scuttling back to his corner and much laughter from the crowd.

This time it was 43 to Shorten, 41 to Morrison and 16 still undecided: SKY called this a draw! I wonder how they score the footie?

Shorten will be doing a solo appearance on the ABC’s Q&A program on Monday, May 6 taking questions from the audience but so far Morrison has not committed to doing the same. Labor has also proposed a third debate at the National Press Club on May 8 with journalists from Nine, the ABC and another media outlet on a panel but Morrison has yet to confirm on this one either. Perhaps the initial enthusiasm for public confrontations is no longer so popular with the Liberals who have also been accused of hiding their ministers in witness protection – some of them should be in solitary confinement as far as I’m concerned!

Overall, Shorten has benefited from these debates as it has given those who bothered to watch a clear contrast between the two men and has shown Shorten to be well briefed and have a positive vision for the future, and a mischievous sense of humour; these qualities are not so evident in a somewhat wooden Morrison. He comes across as bombastic and evasive particularly when it comes to the potential chaos that this preference swap deal with Clive could have in a future Senate.

It seems that Shorten has gained confidence and that the punters are warming to him………let’s hope so.

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Who do you trust?

As they wander round in their high-vis vests, shearing sheep, drinking beer, kicking footballs, and joining in the factory production line, Coalition politicians keep asking us “who do you trust” as part of their determined attempt to cast Bill Shorten as untrustworthy.

As a measure of their judgement, it’s perhaps more informative to ask who do they trust.

Tony Abbott and John Howard have both expressed their admiration for convicted pedophile George Pell.  Abbott described him as “a fine man…one of the greatest churchmen that Australia has seen”, a personal mentor.

He also described James Ashby as “a decent man” for whom he “had a lot of sympathy”.

Abbott described Kathy Jackson, a woman who systematically robbed the Health Services Union of hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund her lavish lifestyle, as ‘brave’ and ‘decent’, while Christopher Pyne called her a ‘revolutionary’, a ‘lion of the union movement’.

One of Abbott’s first acts was to appoint Maurice Newman as head of his Business Advisory Council.  This is the man who wrote that the world was ill-prepared for a period of global cooling and that the United Nations was using debunked climate science to impose a new world order under its own control.

Tony has also described Rupert Murdoch as a “hometown hero”, comparing him to John Monash and Howard Florey.

In this bizarro world, Gina Rinehart advises on tax policy, Twiggy Forest on Indigenous disadvantage, and Noel Pearson on education.  The creche for aspiring Liberal politicians, aka the IPA, regularly dictate what is to be done to make their members wealthier – the only goal worth aspiring to.

Treasury advice is ignored in favour of “independent” modelling from the Minerals Council and the Property Council.

Government departments are regularly bypassed as compliant consultants produce reports supporting Coalition policy.

Scientific bodies and climate scientists are ignored in favour of tame (or should that be lame) economists who always seem to have links to the fossil fuel industry.

If you genuinely wanted to save the Great Barrier Reef, would you give half a billion dollars to universities and the CSIRO for research and action plans or would you give it to a few business middlemen to dole out to private companies who they may or may not have connections with?

And then there are the Ministers.

Trusting mining lawyer Melissa Price with the stewardship of the environment is a cruel joke.  She should be called the Minister for Approvals.  She is as trustworthy as Barnaby Joyce was as Minister for Water or Tony Abbott as Minister for Women or Michaelia Cash as Minister for Attacking Unions or Malcolm Turnbull as Minister for Destroying the NBN or Mitch Fifield as Minister for Foxtel.

For some unknown reason, and despite the horror expressed by the majority of their party and the nation at large at the notion of Peter Dutton becoming PM, he is entrusted with the most power of anyone in the country – the power to singlehandedly decide the fate of people’s lives.  Every evaluation of his handling of every department he has ever overseen has been damning, but on he sails as a trusted lieutenant.

How many MPs trust tax havens to increase, and hide, their wealth?  As Minister Taylor would say, “Fantastic.  Great move.  Well done Angus”.

Look at the candidates they have trusted to represent the Coalition in the upcoming election – racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, sexism, misogyny, white supremacy, religious fundamentalism – these appear to be the traits of those who aspire to join the conservative side nowadays.

If you ask the electorate who they trust, I doubt the answer would ever be a politician.

But if politicians are the only choice, then it certainly isn’t your mob Scott.

If you care about other people, that’s now a very dangerous idea. If you care about other people, you might try to organize to undermine power and authority. That’s not going to happen if you care only about yourself. Maybe you can become rich, but you don’t care whether other people’s kids can go to school, or can afford food to eat, or things like that. In the United States, that’s called “libertarian” for some wild reason. I mean, it’s actually highly authoritarian, but that doctrine is extremely important for power systems as a way of atomizing and undermining the public.”

Noam Chomsky “Business Elites Are Waging a Brutal Class War in America”.

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The Coalition will have to do better than rely on bogus announceables, attacking Labor and lurid scare campaigns

“Scott Morrison had a choice between standing up for ripped off workers or sucking up to a tosser who ripped them off and he chose the tosser. He chose Clive Palmer,” Labor’s Anthony Albanese, MP Federal Member for Grayndler Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development Shadow Minister for Tourism

A land down-under stands tall this week as our nation is regaled with tales of former glory from our annual Anzackery bash, vows of congestion-busting and refugee-capping via Coalition focus-groups and a Labor policy with teeth, its $2.4 billion pensioner dental plan – along with a $4 billion boost to childcare subsidies announced Sunday.

William Richard Shorten is also impressing those contacted by News Poll which reports late Sunday his highest approval rating since March 2015, with 39 percent of voters satisfied with his performance. He’s also narrowed the gap between himself and Morrison in preferred Prime Minister to 37 percent compared with ScoMo’s 45 percent.

The poll puts the Coalition 49 to 51, two-party preferred which is an improvement of one point on its last survey, yet  YouGov Galaxy conducted by Sunday News Corp tabloids, published Saturday, has the margin 48-52.

Capturing the nation’s imagination, a last-minute Coalition preference deal with Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party may give Palmer the edge over Hanson’s One Nation and put Malcolm Roberts out of the race. Digger ScoMo, on the other hand, may imagine himself heroically plucking victory from the jaws of disaster; going over the top at The Nek in a Gallipoli all in his own mind, to win a few preferences in some marginal lower house Queensland seats.

History is against Morrison. “In the last three decades, Labor has won 86 seats on preferences after trailing on first preferences. The Coalition has won two,” election analyst, Anthony Green, cheerfully tells ABC TV. Clive was present for 25 of 400 votes last time he was an MP, Labor reminds Insiders. “It’s a marriage between a con-man and an ad-man” ventures Penny Wong leading wags on social media to suggest that ScoMo’s tag should be “failed ad-man”.

It’s a week of mythic stories of larrikin heroes, noble sacrifice, true grit and other inspiring fictions of national identity, our unique courage, enterprise and ingenuity  – our can-do attitude – from ANZAC Cove to Uruzgan, while our amazing run of luck with getting multinational mining companies to dig up our buried treasure, take our water and taxpayer subsidies, wreck our environment, extinguish our unique wildlife and evade paying tax continues.

Exxon Mobile’s $33.1 billion over four years with zero tax paid will be hard to beat – but Adani’s got form.

Adani has breached its licence twice in two years and was prosecuted for releasing coal-contaminated water near the Great Barrier Reef, but its scaled-down, 15 million tonnes a year, mini-monster, a mine opposed by two-thirds of Australians, gets a federal government rubber-stamp on its flawed groundwater management plan.

CSIRO tells the minister the plan is useless given its poor modelling and is riddled with errors and false assumptions.

“The modelling used is not suitable to ensure the outcomes sought by the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Protection Act are met,” the CSIRO and Geoscience Australia state in a joint report.

Adani underestimates how the mine will guzzle bore water local farmers rely on. The water will be drained more severely; more quickly than predicted, the scientists warn. Above all, the mine could drain Doongmabulla an ecologically sensitive ancient natural springs complex, exceeding strict limits on draw-down of the springs’ waters.

But there’s more. Adani also gets a secret sweetheart royalty holiday possibly worth hundreds of millions, unlimited free water, a $100 million access road and an airport funded by Rockhampton and Townsville local councils in a not so open tender deal which has attracted the attention of the Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission.

Giant Canadian uranium miner, Cameco, with its massive Yeelirrie mine, 500km north of Kalgoorlie in Environment Minister “M.I.A.” Melissa Price’s Durack, WA, electorate also gets approval.  Is Price bullied into any decision? Nope, just “intense pressure” over Adani by her QLD colleagues, James McGrath, Matt Canavan and Peter Dutton.

We know from previous incidents, revealed by Julia Banks and others that there’s no bullying in the Coalition. Nor any hard feelings. Julia will now exchange her preferences with Labor in the seat of Flinders, she announces Sunday.

Mad-dog James McGrath merely threatened to call publicly for Ms Price to be sacked if she didn’t sign off on the project. Jacqueline Maley hates that the Coalition campaign is a bit of men’s shed, blokes-only show but that’s what you get with ScoMo who promised to look into the whole bullying thing, last September after Ann Sudmalis quit.

Maley is disgusted by ScoMo’s duck-shoving, not to mention his high-handed if not autocratic, abortion gag.

“There has been no investigation into the claims of misogynistic bullying made following the coup against Malcolm Turnbull, and just before the campaign began, Morrison decreed that the issue of abortion was a “debate” that doesn’t “unite” Australians, and was therefore not “good for the country”.

Mining is clearly good for the country, the Coalition contends, but it has botched both uranium and coal decisions in its rush to win votes and reward a mining lobby which donated $45,000 to the LNP last year. Good for the country? There is every reason, economic, environmental or health, to leave our coal and uranium underground.

“55,000 jobs depend on our coal mining industry. That’s what it does. And I think that’s great for Australia,” crows “Stunts” ScoMo who gained notoriety for waving a lump of coal at the despatch box. But 55,000 jobs is less than half of one per cent of Australia’s workforce. And far from being great for us, it’s toxic and costly. Taxpayers fork out $12 billion, a year in fossil-fuel subsidies alone. Other costs are borne by government. Then there are health costs.

Coal mining is the second greatest source of coarse particle pollution (22%) after metal ore mining (28%). Australia’s 92 coal mines emitted 320 million kg of PM10 (coarse particles) in 2017-18. There is no safe threshold for coal dust. Coal particulates contain heavy metals; toxic at low concentrations.

Coal dust blows out over MacKay from open stockpiles and uncovered rail wagons when the wind is right and port workers along with mine workers contract black lung, a disease thought to have been eradicated in 2015.

What’s great about inhaling lead, mercury, nickel, tin, cadmium, mercury, antimony, and arsenic, as well as radio isotopes of thorium and strontium?  Fine coal dust causes a range of diseases and health problems including an increased incidence of heart and respiratory diseases like asthma and lung cancer.

Coal is toxic; lethal. Along with the enormous, social and environmental costs of coal mining and coal burning are how it helps to shorten our lives. If you live within 50km of a coal-fired power station, you are three to four times more likely to die prematurely than your peers who live further away. Not that our states appear alarmed.

The government’s National Pollutant Inventory NPI’s April 2019 report shows our State governments allow coal-fired power stations to pump out as much as 20 times more toxic air pollution than other countries allow. Coal-fired power stations are the main source of Australia’s fine particle pollution (26% of the national ‘all sources’ total), oxides of nitrogen (26%), and sulphur dioxide (49%). They are responsible for a health bill of $2.6 billion, P.A.

Australia produces 5.5% of the world’s coal. We export more coal than any other nation; 38% of the world’s total coal exports. But there is little to be proud of. Assuming that only two million of the seven million deaths attributed to air pollution are due to coal burning, Australian coal causes 110 000 deaths each year.

All uranium ends up as either nuclear weapons or highly radioactive waste from nuclear reactors. Yet Yeelirrie’s approval is only after the federal government is persuaded to drop a requirement that would render it less hazardous – a requirement that the company demonstrate that no species would be made extinct. This requirement had previously caused the WA EPA in 2016 to issue advice that the mine not be implemented.

Matthias Cormann tells Sky News the approval was made 5 March but it is not until 10 April, the day before the election date is proclaimed, that the news is quietly posted on the department’s website. Australian Conservation Foundation’s national nuclear campaigner, Dave Sweeney, deplores a political decision based on a flawed process.

An environmental catastrophe, Yeelirrie may yield over 35 million tonnes of radioactive waste, consume 10 billion litres of groundwater while 2500 hectares of vegetation will be razed for its nine-kilometre long open pit.

Groundwater levels may drop by 50cm and not recover for 200 years, according to Cameco’s own reports.

“Australia could be a leader and driver of renewable energy tech. Instead, the government is rushing through approvals of the Yeelirrie uranium mine and Adani coal mine in what could be the government’s dying days,” Sweeney says.

Yeelirrie means “place of death” in the language of the local Tjiwarl people who were not notified of the decision.

Place of death? Mining uranium could drive to extinction rare subterranean fauna species and harm other wildlife species like the rare and likely to become extinct Malleefowl, the vulnerable Princess parrot and Greater bilby.

The elusive Price drops off the radar. Labor says she’s in witness protection after another shonky Morrison deal.

Shonky? True, the minister did vow last October to wait until the WA Supreme Court ruled on the legitimacy of state government approvals. Granted also, mining won’t proceed until uranium prices rise, if they ever do, but, in the meantime, what a coup for the rule of brute force, duplicity and stupidity. Bugger science or due process.

Our lucky country’s spoilt for choice, national chaplain, Father Morrison, tells us in what Paul Bongiorno calls the PM’s “warm and cuddly appearances” for nightly television bulletins: remember the fallen, mind our own small business, (the nation’s backbone), have a go to get a fair go and don’t ask questions. Especially on the Reserve Bank’s tipped to cut interest rates or water rorts. Or anything else. ScoMo is into government by announceables.

ScoMo, like Abbott and like Rupert Murdoch and before him the great showman Phineas T Barnum, follow Hollywood’s golden rule, as Jerry Roberts notes in The Dumbing down of politics, religion and trade unions.

“People are stupid. Therefore, they should be fed garbage.  An alternative rule goes back to the Scottish enlightenment and Presbyterian social conscience and says people are stupid because they are fed garbage.”

Morrison talks down to us at his peril. His folksy homilies, collection of caps and his tedious family anecdotes are barely coherent but the intent is clear; he seeks to patronise. Thus he alienates where he seeks to ingratiate. Nowhere is this clearer than in his pathological evasion of questions. His bullying, autocratic ego will be his undoing.

“Canberra bubble stuff” is ScoMo’s pet brush-off. Sometimes he borrows Angus Taylor’s favourite evasion “I’ve already answered that question.” Michelle Grattan notes a third evasive tactic he favours, also given detailed analysis by The Monthly’s Sean Kelly in The Rise, Duck and Weave of Australia’s no-fault Prime Minister.

Q: Should Clive Palmer, given he’s spending $50 million in advertising, pay the $70 million back to the Commonwealth plus the $7 million he owes to workers?

PM: Clive Palmer is making his own statements on those matters.

Plucky Gus, pencil-sharpie of post-modern Aussie mateship and rule by oligarchical collectivism may be our latest national hero, as he almost single-handedly bails out Team Barnaby; plugging leaks in the dyke of Watergate, a boondoggle where government pays $79 million for rain collected by agri-business rich and shrewd enough to build huge levees to divert overland flows into their own dams leaving high and dry the river system nature favours.

And sell it back to us. 28,000 megalitres. At huge profit. Exactly who profits is invisible thanks to cutting-edge Gus’s Cayman Island company, Eastern Australia Irrigation (EAI), parent of Eastern Australia Agriculture, (EAA), a mob the former director has nothing to do with now; knows nothing about. No further questions? But where’s the water?

The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder confirms to Karen Middleton of The Saturday Paper that the two contentious water licences for which the federal government paid $79 million have returned next to no water to the environment since they were purchased two years ago. Is this why ScoMo and co insist there’s nothing to see here?

Our ABC has a go. ABC RN’s Patricia Karvelas asks Barnaby Joyce some fair and reasonable questions, Monday. Why buy water that cannot be returned to the environment? Why pay so much for rights to water so unreliable? Why no open tender? Who were the beneficiaries? It’s a train-wreck of an interview from an MP who could well be our next deputy PM should the Coalition be returned to office. But only if you’re looking for accountability, lucidity or logic.

Labor. Labor. Labor. Labor. Barnaby seeks to shift the blame. Evade all responsibility. It’s a surreal performance – a Dadaist interpretation of ministerial irresponsibility. “How would I know?” is his most lucid response.

“And Labor did it, too.” The lie is repeated by ScoMo’s daggy dad, avatar, our nation’s post-truth pastor. That Labor ran open tenders, is way too much information for most voters, ScoMo calculates.  Meanwhile, his turd-polishing unit will come up with other trusty falsehoods: Taylor’s water problem is all due to politics anyway. One side is just as bad as the other. The line is now received wisdom on energy, despite its palpable absurdity.

Perhaps, after all, it’s the river’s fault? In a novel twist, former NSW MP Pru Goward blames the victim,

“Governments have struggled with how do we solve sharing a very poor river. Let’s face it, it’s a terrible river, between three states with all these competing interests.”

ANZAC Day brings a brief lull in the slanging-match between our business, banking and mining proxies, the volatile, Liberal, National Coalition, telling lies about Labor death taxes while trying to bribe voters with tax cuts and the representatives of their wage-slaves, Labor, once a workers’ party but, now, badly ravaged by the neoliberal pox.

Coalition campaigning gets a boost from a fake news item in local Chinese language social media about how Labor plans school programmes to instruct youngsters in gay sex. It’s an extension of the disinformation circulated about the Safe Schools anti-bullying programme. A photograph of William Richard Shorten accompanies the article which warns readers of Mandarin using recycled scare tactics from some quarters of the marriage equality debate.

“That men can use women’s toilets. For men to wear women’s clothing. That the following vocabulary cannot be used: dad, mum, older brother, younger brother, older sister, younger sister, uncle, aunt, boy, girl, pregnant, and other gendered words.”

From Queensland, appears a fresh source of hope to the far right or just far out. The civil war the Coalition loves to call its” broad church” whose views on climate change, are enriched by such luminaries as Craig Kelly and Tony Abbott will embrace its recent recruit, Queensland LNP climate nut and (winnable) number three spot senate candidate, Gerard Rennick, whose $30,000 party donation last year is totally unrelated to his pre-selection.

An advocate of a nuclear-armed Australia and a self-professed Russophile, Gerry has a compelling case. He “hates it when we vilify the Russians”, “They don’t want to be hated. I mean, they’re part of the West: they drink, they’re Christians, they play soccer, they’re Caucasians, they have very similar customs and values to us.”

Rennick will not only be a big help to Penny Wong on foreign policy but a boon to the Senate’s deliberations on climate and energy with his belief that the Bureau of meteorology fakes data to pump up global warming hysteria. To be fair to Gerard, this mad claim is one of many circulated to all conservative candidates by our friendly IPA.

Of course, there’s no real cessation of hostilities. ‘Our heroes don’t just belong to the past, they live with us today,’ claims ScoMo in Townsville, where he embraces coal-mining, the Coalition’s back to the future portal with its iconic anti-Greenie, Australia based around real heroes, big blokes digging up stuff in our glorious war on nature and science.

All is well, however, in Rupert Murdoch’s media monopoly where scribes quietly declare their man Morrison to be well in front of shifty Bill Shorten. Others give the Murdoch empire a pat on the back. Election campaign and Canberra bubble veteran, Michelle Grattan, opines,

“Morrison so far has more than held his own on the campaign trail; Bill Shorten has under-performed. Second, the Liberals’ relentlessly negative campaign looks dangerous for Labor. This is especially so as Shorten is facing the full weight of News Corp’s hostility.” 

Grattan is articulating a key component of the upcoming federal election, the mainstream media narrative. The scorer, whom she awaits eagerly is of course News Poll. Expect a frenzy of adulation as “Morrison closes gap”. In truth, the News Poll may well be an outlier while Labor needs a uniform swing of just one per cent to win government. Pre-polling will open Monday and it’s clear that many voters have already made up their minds.

The Coalition’s hasty, flawed, last minute mining approvals are unlikely to provide the boost in popularity it seeks. If public opinion polls are any guide, neither new mine is likely to win hearts and minds. Nor is it certain either will proceed if only on economic grounds and each could face a series of legal challenges over the approval process.

What is clear is that any political party that underestimates voters’ intelligence and common sense is in for a rude awakening. With three weeks until election day and still no sign of policies on energy, environment, education, the Coalition will have to do better than rely on bogus announceables, attacking Labor and lurid scare campaigns.

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John Lord’s Election Diary No. 4: Shorten drops ball on Super but gives Murdoch the boot

1 Our political system is in crisis because our solicitations fail to speak with any clarity on issues that concern people.

In Australia the right to vote is the gift that democracy gives and people are free to vote for whichever party (or individual) they support but overriding this is the fact that people cannot possibly believe in democracy, if at the same time they think their party is the only one that should ever win.

A clear indication of an Australian Democracy in decline is the fact that people have been giving up this voting gift, literally saying: “A pox on both your houses”.

Three million did so at the last election by not voting. Who can blame them when there is no transparency, no freedom of information or politicians simply choose not to answer questions.

Wednesday 17 April

2 The question to Shorten was about an increase in tax on super to which he gave a misleading answer. Instead of saying Yes, we intend to raise taxes on people earning above $000.00 (whatever it is), in order to help those suffering from cancer. Instead he chose to tell a lie. Albeit one by omission.

”Lying in the media is wrong at any time however when they do it by deliberate omission it is even more so. Murdoch’s papers seem to do it with impunity” (John Lord).

In doing so, Shorten has made himself look stupid. You cannot be critical about other people’s behaviour and then do the same yourself.

And on the subject of who is the best economic manager:

The Coalition has added more debt in five and a half years than all governments over the preceding 118 years.

It also illustrates just how on top of the detail within policies one has to be. Kim Beasley and John Howard were the best I have ever seen, both having a deep knowledge of the facts between the lines.

Thursday 18 April

3 His apology for his stupid error seems to have been well accepted but it was helped by a Grattan report that said the Coalition would have to find $40 billion in cuts to services to pay for package of tax cuts for middle and high income earners, to start in 2022 and 2024.

4 Still on tax: A report in the Canberra times suggests that Labor has decided to opt out of any tax cuts for 1.5 million workers. It would have been a sizable cut for those earning between $90 and 12. Instead it will go toward reducing the budget bottom line. A good move.

At Shorten’s first press conference for the day he seems to have cast off his absent-mindedness and is mixing it with the journo’s. However, in opposition, and without access to Treasury it is sometimes impossible to give definitive answer, particularly on the cost of cleaning up the environment.

“We all incur a cost for the upkeep of our health. Why then should we not be liable for the cost of a healthy planet” (John Lord).

The latest inconsistency from the Budget is that High-income earners will receive at least $77bn from the Coalition’s 10-year income tax package, shrinking the proportion of the overall tax burden shouldered by the rich, according to a new analysis.

Liberal governments love spruiking large tax cuts and the rich and privileged think it’s fantastic with not a thought to where the money comes from. Nor do they care.

It comes from cuts to services like health and education. In the meantime the gap between rich and poor continues to rise.

“The exchange and intellectual debate of ideas needs to be re energised and it is incumbent on the young to become involved” (John Lord).

5 Let’s be honest. What has excited you about the election so far? Easter is upon us and people’s thoughts will have been confined to thinking about what they will be doing during the break.

No electioneering will take place and it would be the worst possible time to be talking policy.

6 Looking at Labor, I am wondering if after Shorten’s Budget in Reply speech he hasn’t lost his edge a little. I’m thinking, and I may be wrong, that he thinks he can just drift into power. We all know that would be fatal.

Up until now the campaign has been somewhat lacklustre, even boring and after Easter the people need to be woken from their holiday inertia with a change of subject.

Give the people a decent dose of inspiration, highlighting the inequality in society.

“A commitment to social justice demands the transformation of social structures as well as our hearts and minds (John Lord).

If the conversation must continue in the economic arena then the Opposition Leader must underline the difference in approach between the two parties.

The voter scepticism and unrest felt throughout the Western world is the result of a widespread disillusionment with neoliberal economics that continue to make the rich richer at the expense of everyone else.

And it is still the model favoured by the Coalition. It is a model that for forty or so years the Coalition has said would flow through to the general community. But the so-called trickle down effect has never materialised.

In this election Shorten must forcibly make the point that building better hospitals and schools is a better investment than making the rich richer.

Friday 19 April

7 With an ever-increasing hostility from the Newscorp tabloids and The Australian Shorten at a press conference on Thursday decided to hit back.

I suggest you read this piece from Paddy Manning in which he says that:

Shorten let rip: “First of all, it is just a nonsense claim,” he said of the suggestion that Labor’s carbon reduction policy could cost business $25 billion. He continued: “It is built upon the back of a big lie. It says somehow that using international offsets to help abate carbon is a bad thing.” In terms of the costs, Shorten said that the Labor plan relied on the same the same public modeling as the government.

Shorten continued: “The News Corp climate change deniers and their ally, the prime minister – a coal-wielding, climate-denying cave-dweller on this issue – they all say, ‘Look at the cost,’ but never mention the cost of extreme weather events, do they? They never mention the cost of not getting into renewables, and they never mention energy prices, do they?”

The Daily Telegraph has been vomiting out its usual front pages. The Australian is in a battle with itself to see how many anti Labor headlines it can fit on its front pages. After dark Sky News is so partisan it only has comedic value.

One cannot begin to discuss the decline of Australian democracy without at the same time aligning it to the collapse in journalistic standards and its conversion from reporting to opinion.

Murdoch and his majority owned newspapers with blatant support for right-wing politics have done nothing to advance Australia as a modern enlightened democratic society. On the contrary it has damaged it, perhaps irreparably.

They even promote free speech as if they are the sole custodians of it.

8 Barrie Cassidy asks: “Is there another job in Australia that pays you $550 a day to go overseas and do nothing?“

Who might he be talking about?

9 My last comment for today is that the AEC reports the highest voter enrolment since Federation. The young must think this election is very important.

My thought for the day

Invariably when I read about how successful people are. The measure is always the value of their assets. Why is this so?

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John Lord’s Election Diary No. 3: My language really doesn’t tell you what I think of these bastards

Monday 15 April 2019

The week opened with an unexpected Newspoll on Monday giving way to the view that Murdoch will be publishing a weekly poll from now on.

The poll, now that the election has been announced, gives a more accurate view of who people intend to vote for.

52% intend voting for Labor and 48% for the Coalition. Back to this later.

The lies being told by this government now that the election date has been announced are worse than the ones normally couched in innumerable shades of grey.

Morrison, Joyce, Dutton, Hunt, Taylor and others are so repetitive, so blatant so desperate that they could only come from men despairing of losing something. In this case, power.

The lies haven’t just started. They have only been using times past as practice. Climate change seems to awaken a latent conservative desire to be more absurd.

It necessitates an unrelenting urge to just make things up.

These are frightened, scared politicians on the cusp of defeat so worried about it that they will not hesitate to place lies before facts, as was the case with Taylor.

I am in this instance referencing an interview with Environment Minister, Angus Taylor and Barrie Cassidy.

Despite Cassidy shooting him down with irrefutable facts that our emissions were going up each year, he continued to over talk him with figures so obviously wrong that you would feel ashamed if your own son or daughter were quoting them.

But of course he isn’t the only one. The Prime Minister continues to say that we will reach our Paris targets in a canter. He does so in the knowledge that it is untrue. His own department tells him so but he so desperately wants everyone to believe him that he is prepared to toss his faith out the window and tell lies for God.

2 Normally a Prime Minister of standing, of reputation would not utter a sentence that implied that under his opposites governance the country would go into recession. Only a very desperate person would stoop so low. Morrison is one such person.

Last week we had the spectacle of Morrison calling Opposition Deputy Leader Tanya Plibersek a racist because she was quoted as saying that Australians could not “rely on an Indian mining company to bring jobs to central and North Queensland”.

On top of that in an article for Crickey (firewall) Bernard Keane had this to say:

The Coalition (spectacularly) missing the point on tax?

Documents purporting to be Treasury costings were circulated to media outlets to demonstrate that Labor would increase taxes by $390 billion over a decade compared to the government.

It was yet another lie cooked up by Freydenberg and Morrison.

Tuesday 16 April 2018

Then on Monday, Health Minister Greg Hunt claimed there’s a $6 billion black hole in Labor’s centrepiece promise to get rid of out of pocket costs for cancer care.

Hunt is a sublime truth twister who does it with a calmness that is frightening.

But as Paul Karp reported in The Guardian, the figures did not come from any official costing of Labor’s policy, but a costing “for lifting the Medicare rebate for all cancer-related items to the level of the AMA’s recommended fee (to eliminate out-of-pocket costs). The price tag is $6.8bn.”

Greg Jericho, also in The Guardian, surmises that:

… the lies seem more brazen now. I suspect the Donald Trump effect has now fully taken hold – it is not so much that there are more lies, it is that politicians care less about being called out for lying.

4 How important is truth in politics? As a writer who happens to love the way words can be constructed to shape a thought, send a message, express love, anger, or convey an action I am lost without them.

Without them something vanishes from our discourse. Without words, the ability to communicate the seemingly endless aspects of human emotion is taken from us.

Words, of course, are at their best when they are accompanied by a factual truth of what they want to convey.

5 The government’s words and actions over the past 6 years bring into question the very essence of the word “truth.” Or they have at least devalued it to the point of obsolescence.

Like Trump, they don’t care about their lying and don’t care that people object to it. They just lie about the lie.

If more people had the capacity to think for themselves and question what they are being told perhaps we would have more genuineness in politics.

If more journalists had the intestinal fortitude to question and syphon out the truth of what politicians are telling them we may get a better body politic and a more honest democracy.

On Tuesday I was watching Freydenberg being interviewed on News24. Most questions he just refused to answer. The interviewer took it that his response was normal and left it at that.

“Finding the truth and reporting it is more important than creating a narrative where controversy matters more” (John Lord).

6 Lying, misinformation, lying by omission, subliminally implied suggestions, straightforward propaganda, deliberate scare campaigning and any form of untruthful communication has become the norm in the way politicians and the media converse with the public. So normal and long applied has this form of conversation become that we are now unquestioning of it.

7 Tony Abbott has made himself available should the government lose the election.

Tony Abbott if nothing else is a very colourful character. He is aggressive both physically and in the use of language. His negativity is legendary and he has little consideration for any ideas other than his own and says NO to his opponent’s policies regardless of their worthiness.

He is by evidence and his own admission a liar of some regularity. Added to that he has a political gutter mentality and little respect for the institution of parliament and its conventions. Like most conservative politicians from the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison governments he shows an incapacity to feel or display compassion.

“Lying is wrong but lying to defend a lie is appalling immoral” (John Lord).

Now back to where I started with the polling. William Bowe, polling analyst from The Poll Bludger sums it all up this way:

Betting odds continue to point towards a sweeping Labor victory, even as intelligence from both sides of politics suggests a much tighter contest.

Speaking on RN Breakfast on Friday, Ben Oquist of progressive think tank the Australia Institute voiced the beltway consensus that “the bookies have got this one wrong at the moment – they’re forecasting a much bigger Labor victory than anybody seems to be predicting”. Betting markets at first appeared to respond, if not to Oquist specifically, then to the view coming through in media reports that both major parties were expecting a tight contest. Labrokes was offering $5 on a Coalition on Thursday, but by Sunday this was in to $3.50. Then came Newspoll, showing Labor maintaining its lead, and the Coalition blew back out to $4.50.

The individual seat markets have been more consistent, pointing to a Labor landslide of even greater dimensions than the one currently projected by BludgerTrack.

My thought for the day

Telling the truth should not be delayed simply because we are not sure how people might react to it.

Previous Election Diary editions:

No. 1

No. 2

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Green-Groups Bird-Dogging Labor is a Dog Act

This is one of the most important elections in our history. Bird-Dogging the alternative, progressive Government as a political strategy is a dog act. It risks punishing us with another term of conservative rule. Pushing a single issue agenda with the aim to suffocate the message of the Australian Labor Party is dangerous, classist, selfish idiocy. This is not good for the less privileged.

Bird-Dogging

Bird-Dogging is the political activist form of heckling. The intent of Bird-Dogging is to absolutely suffocate the message of the politician or party holding the event. Bird-Dogging is covert and coordinated. The idea is to get as many people as possible, sympathetic to your cause. The aim is to hijack a politician or a candidate speaking to the media or hijack a party event.

The idea is to covertly plant as many activists as possible in attendance at an event and push to ask as many questions as possible or make as many statements as possible about the activist issue. Activists achieve success if the politician spends a lot of time answering activists’ questions. This means the Bird-Dogging activists have suffocated the candidate’s message. They have drawn all the attention to the Bird-Dogger’s message.

It has come to light that Labor is the target. Greens aligned groups, such as the Australian Youth Climate Coalition and Stop Adani will participate in Bird-Dogging. They are not targeting the Liberals or One Nation. Their aim is to attack Labor using Bird-Dogging.

There is even a detailed Bird-Dogging Labor guide. This outlines the questions, responses and behaviour for Greens-aligned activists to attack Labor. (More on the Bird-Dogging Labor 2019 guidelines later).

Bird-Dogging up Close is Pretty Horrid

I witnessed Bird-Dogging in person from the Greens last year, before I knew what Bird-Dogging was. This was at a Labor held Banking Inquiry Information session event, held by Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh.

The behaviour of the Greens in attendance that night was verbally aggressive, demanding the floor and interrupting questions and answers. For example, they would scream out that the Labor Party has destroyed Industrial Relations. Flailing about yelling how the Greens were “The Original Unionists”. (I know right *rolls eyes).

The Greens’ demanded attention to ask questions. When answering, they wasted time making very long-winded statements about the Adani mine, other Greens driven issues, or taking credit for things Labor had done over the last 100 years. It was seriously bizarre.

Many people that night did not get to ask a question on a serious issue, because of the Greens Bird-Dogging strategy. Many in attendance were most likely very concerned about being ripped off by Banks – or had been ripped off by banks. Andrew Leigh did stay after the event and spoke to people one to one, but the benefit of the entire room hearing the question and the answer was lost. Some, may not have had the self-efficacy to go up to a politician and ask a question or may have thought they were a bother. That is not good for our democracy.

The night ended up with a couple of men having to intervene when one of the Greens men was arguing inches away from a woman union delegate’s face screaming about how terrible Labor is. It was very upsetting and I started shaking, even watching it.

Bird-Dogging Labor 2019

Last week, I came across the Bird-Dogging Labor 2019 Guidelines posted on Twitter. The person who posted the guide appears to be involved in various activist groups. However, they obviously think that this particular tactic targeting Labor is dangerous and stupid, considering we have had five years of conservative rule and the country is going down the toilet.

Activists received the Bird-Dogging Labor 2019 guidelines at a Stop Adani meeting in Brisbane. The Australian Youth Climate Coalition developed the guide. These guidelines detail questions and responses and behaviour towards Labor Politicians and candidates, working hard to try to win seats off the LNP in Queensland.

We can predict what some of Labor’s responses will be to bird-dogging and want to be prepared with factual & sassy answers ready to go! The way this is written is to have a few responses to predictable answers so we can keep MPs or candidates on point & answering our questions when we go bird-dogging! (Bird-Dogging Labor Guidelines AYCC).

A Slap in the Face by a Privileged Hand

The AYCC and Stop Adani intend to do everything they can to suffocate Labor’s key messages for this crucial election campaign. The ONLY other result if Labor does not win, is another term of the Liberal-National Coalition Government. These groups campaign for the Greens.

This campaign strategy is a slap in the face to the workers and the disadvantaged who deserve to have the courtesy of hearing about crucial progressive policy which will affect them. Not just affect them, but there are some policies Labor will be discussing, that will literally change people’s lives. This is a slap in the face to the working class, by a very privileged hand.

However, the AYCC states in their guidelines, that Labor (as detailed by Tony Burke) has a valid point in why Labor can’t stop Adani.

“Why is this our ask?
Labor actually has a valid point when they say they can’t commit to stopping Adani for legal reasons. This is because if Labor gets into government and then stops Adani by revoking their approval to build the mine (having committed to stopping it prior to the election), Adani could
then sue the Labor Govt claiming that a genuine review did not happen and therefore it was wrongfully revoked. Therefore, while we are still pushing them to Stop Adani, the specific ask (for bird dogging, MP meetings and conversations) is for them to commit to reviewing Adani’s approval and act.” (Bird Dogging Labor Guidelines – AYCC)

Bird Dogging Guidelines

The AYCC state in their document that:

“This document is created in reference to the principal objects of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition as stated in the constitution (p.3).”

The Bird-Dogging Labor 2019 – Messages and Response Guide details:

“We can predict what some of Labor’s responses will be to bird-dogging and want to be prepared with factual & sassy answers ready to go! The way this is written is to have a few responses to predictable answers so we can keep MPs or candidates on point & answering our questions when we go bird-dogging!”

The guidelines detail answers as well as suggested behaviour. Some examples are below:

Sassy

“Our position is clear” + “we’re committed to Adani not receiving any public money”

(sassy) Which position is that?

So in the above example, not only do the guidelines state what to say, but the behaviour to deliver it. Which is to be Sassy – which is defined as “Rude with no Respect”. This shows that they are not interested in a serious answer, but their own ‘show’.

Leave Brittany The Liberals Alone!

“Why aren’t you going after the Government?”

If you want to be the next Government, you need to be serious about climate action which means stopping Adani. When will you commit to a review of Adani’s approval?

In the example above, Stop Adani, Greens members (and possibly candidates or politicians) and the AYCC who will all be active “Bird-Doggers” already agree that Labor is being truthful that there are legal implications of why they cannot stop Adani. However, their excuse for not attacking the Liberal Party, or One Nation, is that the Labor Party wants to be the next Government. Well, heads up purists wreckers! The Liberal Party and One Nation also want to be the next Government too!

According to this failed logic of these dangerous ideological purists, it is best to attack and suffocate the message of the Progressive Labor Party, than to hold the Liberal, National and One Nation Parties to account. It is also best to do their very best to derail the Labor Party’s campaign, so Labor does not get heard and do not win the election when Labor is the Party most likely to work with and not against Greens Groups.

Vomit on them

“We’re not in the business of ripping up contracts”

Vomit on them***

In the example above, the AYCC is instructing Bird-Doggers to what? Vomit on the Labor politician or candidate? Disgraceful behaviour aside, once again, the contradiction is that the AYCC has already accepted and detailed in the guidelines. They agree that Labor has a valid point regarding legal implications with regards to Stopping Adani. Bird-Doggers agree that Labor is reasonable here. However, vomiting on the candidate is the solution?

Is Richard DiNatale going to accept campaign assistance from Stop Adani and the AYCC, when this type of abhorrent behaviour is a suggested behaviour towards candidates or politicians in the Labor Party? Maybe he could file it in his “To Do List” right under, “Do something about sexism and misogyny in the Greens”

Yell This at Bill Shorten!

When Bill Shorten tries to run away- yell this at him

(if they require shaming for inaction) Is your personal political ambition is more important than a safe climate future for young Australians?

When Bill Shorten tries to run away- yell this at him

(if they get angry/unreasonable with you) All I’m asking for is for you to review Adani’s environmental approval.

I find this suggestion quite bizarre. Its almost as if these Greens groups only read the Greens Newsletter. It is as if they swallow whole every low-base Bandt Rant about how awful Bill Shorten is. They appear to have absolutely no idea about the politician that they are planning to attack.

I think readers will agree with me that Shorten does not run away from questions. He has hosted 75 town halls across Australia. Bill Shorten fields many questions from the general public. He always asks the media if they have any other questions. The only time we see Bill Shorten running is long distance running, because well….. it’s basically his sport!

They also appear very confused about who is who. Bill Shorten does not display anger or unreasonable behaviour. That is Richard DiNatale when confronted about the sexist behaviour towards women by men in the Greens and asked what will he do about it. Sorry, my bad. That’s not right, the behaviour from Richard is more passive and indifferent on that issue. But the Liberals and Nationals and PHON, the parties who are exempt from Bird-Dogging…well they have lots of angry and unreasonable people.

An Assault on the Working Class

This election is one of the most important elections in our history. There are absolutely critical Industrial Relations reforms that need a Labor Government so they become an actual reality. Only a Labor Government can change the rules and give workers back, fairness, safety, protection and dignity.

These Greens groups will respond and say how innocent, cute and sassy, Bird-Dogging is and it isn’t aggressive at all. However, I have witnessed Bird-Dogging first hand. The rest of the country has witnessed Greens groups crashing Labor events en-masse. They are far from protesting respectfully.

Attacking the Proles while the Bourgeoisie are literally pushing people to suicide through Robo-Debt and literally pushing workers to their deaths with the ABCC, is a privileged, classist attack on the working class.

As Daniel Andrews (SMH 2012) said:

According to the Greens, everyone must compromise except them. They would rather protect their ideals than search for the common ground that might just protect the most vulnerable. Even with the purest of motives, a refusal to bend while launching endless criticism at those who are prepared to work for real outcomes is arrogant and self-indulgent.

An Insidious, Cancerous Parasite in Our Social Fabric

With all the debate this week about who is more dangerous, PHON or the Greens, the question should be for whom? I think we can all agree that a party that pushes a racist and divisive agenda such as One Nation is an insidious, cancerous parasite in our social fabric.

However, if the purism of the Greens and their associated activist groups, are successful in their aims to suffocate the message of Labor on every issue and the only issue people hear about is about a mine that has not been able to start for six years and signed off by the LNP Newman Government; then there is a very good chance the consequence will be that Labor will not win Government. Another consequence could be an increased presence of Liberals, Nationals, PHON and other right-wing Independents in the chamber.

I think we can all agree that the behaviour of Greens purists, which may result in the return of the worst Government and worst Prime Minister in our history, plus a few extra nutters like PHON winning seats, through “Greens-aligned Groups’ successful activism against Labor” is also an insidious, cancerous parasite in our social fabric.

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Trending Issues: Coping with Barriers to Australian Sovereignty in the Shadows of NRA Tutelage

The publication of George Orwell’s 1984 in 1949 came with foreboding about the emergence of Big Brother States on the extremes of both sides of the political divide from General Franco’s Spain to Enver Hoxha’s Albania.

Older readers might recall the selective targeting of left activists and anti-Vietnam war protesters by our intelligence services during the Cold War era in Australia. More immediate threats to national security from far-right Croatian terrorists were conveniently overlooked (The Guardian Online 29 July 2016).

While the excesses of the White Australia Policy have been sanitized since the 150th Anniversary of Captain Arthur Phillip’s landing at Sydney Cove in 1788, far-right groups retained a strong outreach (The Conversation 13 April 2018):

Far-right political groupings are a constant feature on the fringes of Australian politics. In the 1950s and 1960s, they included the League of Rights and minuscule neo-Nazi parties. In the 1980s, there was National Action, the Australian Nationalist Movement, Australians Against Further Immigration and the Citizens Electoral Council.

In recent years, we have witnessed the emergence of a number of groups that combine online organisation with intimidating street activity: Reclaim Australia, Rise Up Australia, the Australian Defence League, the United Patriots Front, True Blue Crew and Antipodean Resistance.

While hostility between – and within – far-right groups is typical, they are united by their nationalism, racism, opposition to “alien” immigration and disdain for democracy.

Most far-right activists continue to be excluded from polite society. But the endorsement of their ideas by some mainstream political figures has allowed them to make creeping gains into the political culture.

Before his appointment to the High Court in February 1975, the Whitlam Government’s Attorney-General Lionel Murphy (1972-75) noted that ASIO and other Australian intelligence agencies had allowed blind-spots to emerge in their assessment of far-right groups in Australia. The details are covered in Paul Lynch’s article for the Evatt Foundation.

Lionel Murphy sought out his own security file at ASIO headquarters in Melbourne on a controversial raid in the presence of Australian Federal Police on the evening of 6 March 1973 (The Australian Online 15 September 2017):

Murphy believed ASIO was withholding information on Croatian terrorist organisations. The real reason Murphy raided ASIO, they claim, was to get a hold of his own file. Murphy feared ASIO might have incriminating evidence of links with communists.

When he showed up, some say quite intoxicated, he demanded that ASIO produce his file. He was told there was no such file. Not convinced, Murphy apparently thumbed through files looking for anything under “M”. He had also searched index cards at ASIO offices in Canberra and Adelaide.

Intelligence agencies have since been subjected to public inquiries by two reports of the Hope Royal Commission and the more recent Flood Inquiry (2004).

Former High Court Judge Michael Kirby believed that more accountability is still required from our intelligence networks (Cathy Alexander from Crikey Online 27 May 2014).

Former High Court justice (and student politician) Michael Kirby lamented that his file was “disappointingly small”. It started when he was a boy of eight, because his grandmother married a Communist Party member.

The man in question took Kirby to the zoo where the file showed “we were recorded near the lion’s den”, Kirby told the audience gravely.

But jokes aside, he said the book showed ASIO’s surveillance of people “went far beyond what was proportional”.

Yes, Australia needs a security agency, but there should be strong checks on surveillance, Kirby argued. And he said Edward Snowden’s revelations about the use security agencies made of IT to watch people compounded the issue.

“This is the new challenge of security in today’s world,” Kirby said. “We must keep sceptical about security agencies.”

 

Powers available to intelligence agencies have been widened in the interests of cybersecurity (The Guardian Online 5 December 2018):

In August, the Coalition released the telecommunications access and assistance bill, which gives law enforcement agencies new powers to deal with the rising use of encryption to keep electronic communications secret.

Applications like Signal, Whatsapp and Wickr, are effectively preventing law enforcement agencies from reading communications intercepted under warrant while investigating crimes.

The bill introduces a new form of “computer access warrant” to allow law enforcement agencies to covertly obtain evidence directly from a device, if approved by a judge or member of the administrative appeals tribunal.

Where a warrant has been issued to intercept telecommunications, the director general of security or head of an intercepting agency can then issue a “technical assistance notice” for a company to assist in decryption.

The attorney general would also gain a power to issue a “technical capability notice” requiring a communications provider to build a new capability that would enable it to give assistance to ASIO and interception agencies.

These changes received bipartisan support after Labor amendments. This leaves the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security of the Australian Parliament is one vital custodian of the fair use of the vast resources made available to intelligence networks:

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security is required under Section 29(1)(a) of the Intelligence Services Act 2001, to conduct an annual review of the administration, expenditure and financial statements of the Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation (AGO), Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO), and the Office of National Assessments (ONA)

Sensing the heightened possibility of a change of government in Canberra in a few weeks, one parliamentary insider noted that our intelligence services are becoming more even-handed in accordance with their legislated real national responsibilities. This inclusive relationship with intelligence networks would be a welcome part of consensus-building on cybersecurity and electronic surveillance.

The political persuasions of decision-making by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security is protected by recurrent information blocks like this Gilbert and Sullivan style directive.

 

A drift towards greater openness might be in the wind as intelligence services prepare for a change of government in Australia.

The text of an address by the Australian Signals Division (ASD) Director-General, Mike Burgess to the Lowy Institute in Sydney on 28 March 2019 was transmitted online on the ASD site.

This address talks up the even-handed professionalism of the ASD in offensive cyber-operations against Daesh in the Middle East. This would, of course, be welcome news to mainstream politics in Australia.

As Minister for Home Affairs, the Hon Peter Dutton relishes in the politicization of media releases about security issues (14 February 2019):

Under this Government, 12 terrorists have lost their Australian citizenship.

During the last Labor period of Government – no one – not one – person lost their citizenship for any reason.

This is another crucial test for the Leader of the Opposition.

Having caved into Labor’s radical Left and agreed to trash the Coalition’s successful border policies, does he support Mr Dreyfus’ constant efforts to thwart legislation that seeks to protect Australia and Australians?

If Mr Shorten and Mr Dreyfus want to run the lawyer line to look for some technicality to allow terrorists to remain or return to our country – that is an issue for them.

The Morrison Coalition Government will seek to keep them as far from our shores as possible.

Importance of Even-handed Media Coverage of Security Issues

If Australians are to become more comfortable with the extent of cybersecurity and electronic surveillance in troubled times, a much more even-handed from our political insiders on both sides of politics. There are real challenges from far-right nationalists, corporate eves-dropping, criminal networks and rampant tax evasion which are overlooked in the currently highly charged security environment.

Australia’s welfare and security are compromised by the extent of the Black Economy which has been covered in the Final Report of the Black Economy Taskforce from the Australian Treasury dated October 2017.

The Taskforce Report notes that this Black Economy has doubled in size as a percentage of GDP since the election of the federal LNP in 2013:

The black economy is not standing still, but rapidly shifting and evolving in step with wider economic, technological and social changes. It is a growing problem which, if not dealt with, can develop a dangerous momentum of its own: a ‘race-to-the-bottom’ which we are already seeing in particular areas.

In 2012, the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimated that the black economy equated to 1.5 per cent of GDP, with the illicit drug industry adding a further 0.4 per cent of GDP. This estimate is now outdated. We consider that the black economy could be as large as 3 per cent of GDP (roughly $50 billion) today, given the trends we identify in this Report.

A sense of urgency is needed from policymakers, leaving behind business-as-usual approaches from the past. A new strategy and commitment are required: one which addresses underlying causes, not symptoms, while keeping regulatory burdens low; one which goes beyond tax; and one which breaks down agency silos and embraces joint action and the intelligent use of data and analytics. This Taskforce was a genuinely whole-of-government undertaking, bringing together 20 Commonwealth agencies.

If Bill Shorten makes it to the Lodge in a few weeks, there is real scope for a more even-handed appraisal of national security and supervision of the corporate databases which are monitoring the Australian population.

In researching this article, I made polite inquiries with the RISQ Group in Sydney which boasts an association with Sterling Talent Solutions.

The capacity of the multinational RISQ Group to challenge the presumption of innocence by assisting in assessments of new recruits and existing staff members challenges our legal traditions and needs a full parliamentary inquiry so that legislative amendments can be drafted to control future abuses of corporate power. It is just the tip of corporate monitoring networks with multinational connections whose legal status needs thorough investigation.

 

Electronic eves-dropping and systematic data collection are alive and well across the corporate sector from the antics of Facebook and Google to self-proclaimed homespun commercial sites like Ancestry.com with their wide access to government databases.

 


Good reporting is always needed to expose threats to civil liberties in a digital age which might go unnoticed without the resources of the ABC and progressive news analysis sites like the Guardian and the Saturday Paper.

The excesses of the regional election results in parts of NSW on 23 March 2019 are in the processes of being rectified in a quite unexpected manner. Here is the new action scenario.  

Some Positive Outcomes of the NSW State Election

As expected, centre-right minor parties made big advances at the NSW state election with the comparative successes for the Shooters, Farmers and Fishers Party (SFF) with encouragement from One Nation (SMH Online 26 March 2019):


In the NSW Legislative Council, One Nation and the SFF have achieved a combined 2.5 quotas (ABC News Online 26 March 2019). This adds to the influence of the two far-right Legislative Councillors who continue their eight-year term from the 2015 election.

 


The NSW state election result has enormous implications for the federal election in NSW, Queensland the NT and WA in mid-May 2019. However, the most recent bomb-shell from Al Jazeera has dashed some of the optimism from One Nation.

 

Senior One Nation figures James Ashby and Steve Dickson claim they had been “on the sauce” drinking scotch for “three or four hours” when discussing seeking a $20m donation from the National Rifle Association to the far-right Australian party.

Ashby and Dickson faced the media on Tuesday after an Al-Jazeera investigation revealed the two men had sought millions in donations from the NRA during a trip to the US last year, in a bid to seize the balance of power and weaken Australia’s gun laws.

Dickson said the party’s leader, Pauline Hanson, was “quite ill” and unable to appear publicly.

Instead, Dickson and Ashby faced questions about their interactions with a journalist, Rodger Muller, who used a hidden camera and posed as a grassroots gun campaigner to expose the party’s extraordinary efforts to secure funding in Washington DC in September.

Political morality has temporarily triumphed over populism and expediency. The criticism of One Nation by Prime Minister Morrison is timely and appropriate. On the wider issues of cybersecurity, electronic surveillance and data collection on just about every aspect of our private and public lives, it’s time to reach out to more even-handed intelligence services for greater protection of Australian sovereignty.

The brightness of Australian landscapes, international peace and social justice must triumph over the need for private arsenals of guns and knives to offer illusionary protection for lifestyles and civil liberties at a confusing time for humanity.

Ironically, in middle age impressionist artists, Tom Roberts (1856-1931) and Arthur Streeton (1867-1943) served Australia’s military commitment to the Great War (1914-18). Arthur Streeton was indeed the official war artist with the Australian Imperial Force during the last months of warfare in France during 1918.

The sombre mood of Streeton’s battle-field paintings should stand as a stark warning to contemporary advocates of shooters rights at home and gun-ho military adventures with the US Global Alliance as advocated by One Nation and other far-right political movements (Art Gallery of NSW showing Mount St. Quentin 1918).

Fortunately, the impressionist school is better remembered by the creative works of youth like Arthur Streeton’s Ariadne which was created in 1895 (National Gallery of Australia).

 


Like traditional D grade horror movies, the macabre still has its fascination in mainstream politics. Fear is still an important element to rattle the electorate in very emotionally charged debates which define mainstream politics. Hopefully, One Nation may have overplayed its hand in negotiations with the NRA and with Election 2019 restored as a fair debate between pragmatic policy options rather another soap opera.

Denis Bright is a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is committed to citizens’ journalism by promoting discussion of topical issues from a critical structuralist perspective. Readers are encouraged to continue the discussions in this current series of Trending Issues for Australians in this election year.

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Freedom of Speech: An Insidious Monster

No religion, race, or gender incited terrorism on our cousins in New Zealand yesterday. This terrorism was fuelled by the insidious monster of indiscriminate freedom of speech. Racist politicians, laws allowing racist hate groups to gather together and the depraved voices in our media give racism legitimacy of thought and voice.

We Felt the Pain and Witnessed the Horror

Friday, 15th March 2019 was a day of heartbreak and mourning. The culmination of racist hatred, Islamophobia and bigotry festered and erupted in a terrorist attack upon Australia’s dearest neighbour, New Zealand. The terrorist, an Australian, has killed 49 people, so far and injured many more. This gunman took innocent lives and ripped other lives apart. The gunman did not discriminate. Furthermore, he exuded as much hatred for a four-year-old boy, as he did for mothers, grandmothers, fathers, uncles and brothers, as he gunned them down as they participated in silent prayer.

An insidious monster motivated this terrorist. An aggressive, insidious monster valiantly protected by loud media voices and weak and divisive leadership. This monster is Indiscriminate Freedom of Speech.

Regardless of the harm indiscriminate freedom of speech may cause; advocates believe it has true value as individual freedom. Also, advocates of freedom of speech reject the reaction of disagreement or consequence. They see these reactions as a threat to their freedom. As a result, yesterday, we witnessed the horror that is the death of innocents. Indiscriminate freedom of speech gives licence to this hatred.

Discriminate Freedom of Speech

The only thing that can kill this monster is Repressive and Discriminate Tolerance.

Repressive tolerance argues freedom of speech as underpinned by the constructs of (small l) liberalism exists to share ideas and have those ideas respected unless those ideas cause harm. Above all, Herbert Marcuse believed that even in the 1960’s that the tolerance of ideas that were harmful to society encouraged a repressive society rather than enable a progressive one.

Marcuse does not argue for complete indiscriminate tolerance, but discriminate tolerance where we tolerate ideas unless they are harmful. We should frame and set aside harmful ideas. His argument is that unless this is done, we are tolerating for the sake of being tolerant and impeding progress of the Left.

Marcuse argues that indiscriminate tolerance is indeed beneficial in many forms of debate, howeverBut society cannot be indiscriminate where the pacification of existence, where freedom and happiness themselves are at stake: here, certain things cannot be said, certain ideas cannot be expressed, certain policies cannot be proposed, certain behavior cannot be permitted without making tolerance an instrument for the continuation of servitude.

The Pain of an Unequal Framework

Atrocities such as the New Zealand Terror attack, rip the blind fold off the wilfully blind and not so wilfully blind. At these times racism is alive.It is bright and it is loud. We see it clearly. Even the people like me who feel we speak up enough. Who call racism out. Who condemn and shout at racists. We become hyper-aware. But … I’m not a target of racism and many reading this are not targets either. That is why at these times we are hyper-aware.

A sudden striking of hyper-awareness occurs because you do not experience racism.

We co-exist in an unequal framework. We must always bear that in mind. Particularly, as allies. Listening and reflecting upon what targets of racism say, is more important than anything we say; because people who do not experience racism; inherently reap the benefits of power within this unequal framework.

In a democratic society, democracy is not pure. Debate exists within an unequal framework. The institutions of Government and the media as two examples, have privilege and power to define what is ‘normal’ for the majority and what is not. These entities have the power to stigmatise groups of people and spoil normal identity (see Erving Goffman). They have the power to place minority groups in the place of ‘weird and unacceptable.’

Our media in Australia gives the platform of legitimacy to racist thought and voice. Australian media has predefined for a long time that racist thoughts and racist voices are an important contribution to the development of society. That we must listen to them and more importantly, debate them.

However, today, we sharply see they are wrong. Others who experience racism every day, live that the media are wrong every day with many, including “The Project’s” Waleed Aly, that they are not surprised.

The power of our media resonates here:

“Under the rule of monopolistic media–themselves the mere instruments of economic and political power–a mentality is created for which right and wrong, true and false are predefined wherever they affect the vital interests of the society.” (Marcuse)

Tweets such as these speak volumes.

Indiscriminate Freedom of Speech Kills

Layers and layers of racist behaviours, actions and words are repeated every single day. In particular, racism is amplified by politicians and the media. In addition, our laws enable racism. The forceful arguments from the conservative, libertarian and nationalists platforms, that indiscriminate freedom of speech is vital for a just and fair society is now killing people. People are dying, literally, to satisfy the ego-driven desire for inane and depraved racists thoughts to be heard.

Indiscriminate Freedom of Speech, kills.

Weak political leadership trying to score political points dog whistling to racists for votes, kills people.

Politicians overtly inciting a negative stereotype and stigmatising an entire group of people, by wearing a burka, over-inflating statistics or suggesting eugenics through DNA testing, kills people.

Our laws that allow racists to congregate en masse targeting Muslims and our laws that allow hate groups to recruit and radicalise others to share their messages of hate and anger, kills people.

Our laws that keep Asylum Seekers imprisoned in indefinite detention; laws that enforce no investigation or redress or control measures when Asylum Seekers are murdered or suicide, kills people.

Our Media, who give paid breakfast airtime to racists; who invite them on dancing shows to build a profile for the purpose of assisting that racist individual to secure a political foothold, kills people.

Our Media, who adopt the stance of a stunned mullet, unable to muster up one difficult question to challenge extremist views, who welcome racists on their shows to amplify their platforms, who glorify and salivate and selfie-take with international “celebrity” racists, kills people.

Targets of racism always know this. Begging for it to stop fell on deaf ears because indiscriminate freedom of speech was more important.

Conveniently Discriminate

Discriminate tolerance (Marcuse) is framing and setting aside the ideas that should not be tolerated in a debate towards progress. We already do this as a society. We do not have complete indiscriminate tolerance, as those ideas will harm society. Our national security legislation is one example. Another example is Section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act which makes hate speech unlawful.

However, those who sit on the right wing and the extreme right, the Conservative-Liberals, Nationalists and the Libertarians argue for complete indiscriminate tolerance. They argue that unless they can be completely indiscriminate, this impedes their freedom of speech, even if that speech is harmful. They want the section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act, destroyed.

However, at times like this, when blood is spilled in senseless, hate-filled murderous terror attack; we beg for discriminate freedom of speech. We are conveniently discriminate of free speech. A search of “Do Not Share” on Twitter returns hundreds of tweets of:

“Do Not Share the terrorist’s video or manifesto, because it contributes to terrorism”

The tweet below is a compelling argument for discriminate freedom of speech.

Ingrained Racism

This must be a turning point.

In particular, First Nations people also experience this discrimination.

In Australia, there is an ingrained system of stigmatisation and discrimination that First Nations people experience. The countless stories told by Indigenous people of deaths in custody, wrongful incarceration, abhorrent treatment in incarceration, mortality rates, racially discriminatory ’employment’ programs, access to health and education, under-funding of Indigenous services, poverty and every day casual racial discrimination….the list goes on.

In particular, let us never forget, the darling of the racist set, Pauline Hanson, (who also brought us the depraved, disgusting, gutter trash, hateful, racist mindset of Fraser Anning, now condemned internationally); started her tirade of racism against First Nations people and Asian people.

Last week Pauline Hanson and Mark Latham brought back attacks on Indigenous people with unashamed overt racism. They want people to vote next week in the NSW election for DNA testing of First Nations People.

If you have learned anything from the terrorist attack yesterday, you must use your voice to condemn this and put One Nation LAST.

A New Era

Today we wake up to a new day. Yesterday we saw the growing outcry of no longer accepting hateful voices.

Bill Shorten – All Eyes Are On You

After the New Zealand Terrorist attack, it is evident that every single politician who does not show democratic leadership to unite us and instead plays to the politics of fear and division will soon learn the transactional cost at the ballot box in May. We will no longer tolerate divisive politicians.

Furthermore, many suggest that Bill Shorten will become our next Prime Minister. Bill Shorten stands out head and shoulders as a leader who does seek to unite us. The current Government has a sordid history of politics of fear and division, particularly the Prime Minister. It is clear that Bill Shorten will be the next Prime Minister of Australia.

Bill Shorten, you have a huge responsibility ahead of you. Huge. You need to lead the way and be the voice that will be the emotional contagion to drive the eradication of stigmatisation, discrimination and racist culture in this country.

Bill Shorten – All eyes are on you.

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