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Where fools rush in: The Leasing of the Port of Darwin and the Rise of China

By Dr Strobe Driver

Recently on the ABC’s Lateline,[1] Adam Giles the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory (NT) explained the reasons why the lease of the Port of Darwin—to a Chinese company, Landbridge Group—took place. And while the ‘deal has delivered the NT government a half-a-billion-dollar windfall, the port’s privatisation has raised anxieties about Chinese investment in a strategically important piece of Australia’s infrastructure,’[2] and moreover, there are other issues that the lease raises. Aside from the emotive nationalistic murmurings associated with the port being, and remaining, an Australian-owned -operated asset, which it must be said is now a redundant argument, due to Australia being part of the World Trade Organisation; believes in a free-market economy; is in favour of globalisation; and is the active participant in the breaking down of trade barriers, the lease is part of the of the trajectory of Australia’s commodity trading. All of the aforementioned elements were commenced by the Fraser government in the mid-1970s, and have been enthusiastically embraced by both federal and state governments ever since. The Port of Darwin lease is nonetheless, a step in the direction of implicating Australia in the new geo-strategic reverberations of China’s rise in the Asia-Pacific (A-P); and from a geo-strategic perspective can be placed on a par with the conjoining of Australia to the post-World War Two (WWII) geo-strategic ambitions of the United States of America (US)—in which Australia served and became involved in the US’ ambitions, rather than establishing a more independent and forthright position within the region. Thus, the lease of the Port of Darwin is a step in the direction of conjoining to another actor’s ambitions in the region—in this case China. The lease of the port is a decision of such magnitude that it will come to haunt Australian politics for years to come; and will incrementally and then exponentially ensnare consecutive Australian governments in A-P dilemmas as the rise of China gathers pace.

On the same program that Chief Minister Giles was interviewed, Peter Jennings of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute stated, “We have a China which is becoming increasingly assertive in the South China Sea and it’s very difficult to know how this is going play out and that should have factored into our considerations about a 99-year lease. Unlike Australia, unlike the US, the Chinese Communist Party has the capacity when it needs to reach into the operations of Chinese business whenever it suits it to do so …”[3]. These words resonate within the structure of openness that the Chinese government has set out to achieve through the prism of trade and the result has been success growth in countries from Australia to Brazil, making it indispensable to the world[4]. From this paradigm China has set out to establish an ongoing international presence comparable to the British during their Industrial Revolution; and the US during its post-WWII expansion.  However, at this stage it has been largely non-violent in terms of its international ambitions. What the Chinese government has accomplished through the prudent use of fiscal/monetary policies is to move China’s companies into the Asia-Pacific region and in doing so, have established a quasi-political and –strategic presence through these companies. This has, and continues to produce a geo-strategic environment that has essentially, been sponsored by its fiscal generosity.

To be certain, China is not the first to indulge in such a focussed foreign policy, as the US would do so with the post-WWII Bretton-Woods system[5] which tied world currency and therefore trade to the US dollar in 1949; the US taking over Guam and Diego Garcia; the British invading India and securing Northern Ireland in order to secure international resources and regional security; the French invading Indo-China  and Algeria; and to balance the argument somewhat, Russia invading the Eastern-bloc countries circa-1950. All are representations of focussed and (often) violent foreign policy initiatives.  The difference between what has gone before is that China is expanding in a world where communication and therefore, geo-political comment cum observation is much more robust, and there is much more information ‘out there.’ Governments are more aware of their actions and are therefore, able to make more enlightened decisions as the repercussions are understood more thoroughly. This said however, does not preclude there are many dangers in the decision of the NT government and whilst the decision has been made by sheer immediate economic advantage for the NT, it has also been made without any consideration for the future security of Australia per se. To assume that the lease will not place Australia in a very precarious position in the future is to be blind to the obvious intent of how countries prepare their strategic environment/s; secure their geo-strategic advantage more generally; and establish their regional advantage far into the future. All of these components are what the NT government has blithely ignored in the leasing process.

Australia, through the manoeuvrings of the economic world market, and due to the NT government’s desire for a form of fiscal independence—under the auspices of ‘self-reliance’ reducing the NT from 80 percent (%) to 71% of Federal funding[6]—is why the lease was deemed to be fiscally responsible.  ‘Fiscal responsibility’ however, is only one aspect of understanding what is happening in the A-P region—a region that will increasingly become friction-filled as China demands its ‘rights.’ It is the interlinking of the rise of China, its trajectory of dominance, and the lease of the port and the direct frictions for Australia that will be created from the juxtapositions of these three elements that is of interest here. The assumption within the framework of the NT government making such a momentous decision hinges on several assumptions: that the status quo will remain static, that is, US-Australia agreements will remain unsullied by the rise of China; Indonesia will be a relatively passive neighbour; the Philippines will continually side with the US; and Oceania’s governments will not exert political pressure on Australia to accept China’s foreign policy ambitions in the region. There are far too many variables to mention suffice to state the region will be in a dynamic flux, especially over the next two decades and moreover, China will steadily assert an enormous and continuous influence, as regional machinations unfold. This acknowledged, and in order to give the lease of the port a greater perspective of why the dangers associated with the leasing of it will come to the fore, a brief historical observation of why ruling sea-lanes—and the ports that are within them—are such a vital part of power-projection is needed. In observing what has gone before will highlight that if China decides to take a more robust (and possibly violent) geo-strategic pathway to realise its ambitions, Australia’s Port of Darwin will be one of the key areas impacted upon by its goals.

Post-WWII the US exploited its newfound power-base and as part of countering the Soviet threat, moved closer to Russia, establishing Okinawa as a quasi-suzerain state of the US, as it offered a rapid mobile presence for its naval forces and quick access to the Taiwan Strait, Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean. This geo-strategic approach, of having ports in another country stymied Russian regional ambitions becoming eventuating. The US, with varying degrees of political and direct force then shifted into Diego Garcia, Guam and the United Arab Emirates,[7] as well as other Middle Eastern countries. To be sure, this process, of stablishing military ‘footprints’ was a learned experience from the British and was a process which served consecutive British governments well when utilizing force-projection; and allowing for military force to be easily accessed if necessary. The British fundamentally understood the most effective way in which to rule the world was through sea-power, and enforced this in a multitude of effective ways. The paradigm alluded to, whilst being a somewhat lengthy explanation does offer an historical insight into the way in which the British treated access to what they perceived as their territory, cum territorial rights. The way in which the British projected their force is as follows . . .

 

The British practice of warfare from the sixteenth century to World War 1 was to employ…[a] way of war [which] de-emphasized direct confrontation, concentration, mass, and battle and emphasized surprise, mobility, manoeuvre, peripheral attacks on the enemy weaknesses, dispersion, conversion of resources, and negotiated settlements … The British used sea power primarily to achieve their limited strategic objectives. They traditionally fought low-expenditure, high-gain wars that took advantage of Britain’s geographic circumstances that exploited those of its enemy. The British way of war was to destroy when possible the enemy’s fleet; attack enemy trade; block the enemy’s coast and conduct raids on the enemy’s ports, coastal towns and colonies; seize, when possible, the enemy’s colonies; subsidize allies on the Continent; wait for the attacks on the enemy’s economy and peripheral areas to erode its capacity to resist; exploit opportunities through the use of surprise made possible by the superior mobility of the fleet; deploy limited expeditionary forces on the Continent to fight alongside the larger forces of the allies; and finally, to manoeuvre  the enemy into an untenable position in which it had no other option but to conclude a peace agreement on terms set by the British and their allies.[8]

The abovementioned signals what a large and competent navy is able to achieve and it is pertinent to reintroduce the Port of Darwin as a strategic necessity to an expanding country—in this case the People’s Republic of China (PRC). This stated it is important to observe how other countries have exercised their naval power in more recent times to show that the use of this power-base has not lost its appeal to governments. The British accomplished this through variations of force that are stipulated in the abovementioned, and the US certainly has used its navy on many occasions to enforce its geo-political will, or by directly responding to perceived threats to US ‘interests,’ and/or to force countries to abandon their anti-US stance. Engaging its sea-power by moving into the Strait of Hormuz in 1987 and reflagging Kuwaiti tankers to the US, so as to legally allow these ships to be protected by the US Navy[9] is one example of the utilization of direct force through the prism of protecting US domestic interests—in this case the flow of oil via tankers to the US. Iceland using its ships to disrupt British fishing on their actual/perceived territorial waters—in the ‘cod wars’ of 1950s through to the 1970s—is another example of the exercising of direct influence through the use of sea-power[10]. History is littered with examples of sea-power and the subsequent force-on-force collisions that have been engaged in are too numerous to mention.  Notwithstanding, to assume that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) will not move in the direction of using forceful and direct power is folly in the extreme. More to the point, if the NT government does not know this, the Liberal Party of Australia certainly does. To give this statement some meaning is to construct several scenarios.

As stipulated, China is on the rise and is establishing geo-strategic foothold in the A-P region, although it is also expanding into Central Asia. With this in mind is to also understand that the PRC is acquiring assets as it progresses and it correctly deems these assets—in line with international laws and protocols—as ones of legal ownership.  With ownership and short of a nation-state nationalising their assets a country is entitled to protect said assets, or bestow that right on another nation-state to be a byproxy guardian.  The Australia-New Zealand-United States (ANZUS) treaty would allow Australia for instance to act on behalf of, and with the support of the US, in an area of friction. The legalities of this is not important to the debate as this is not a legal submission, and what matters in this instance is a country can act alone, or ask another to protect its assets.

The activities of the PRC’s military has recently been exercising its actual/perceived rights in the South China Sea[11] with the construction of airstrips and bases on several atolls and this standpoint, regardless of the objections of others, remains the (historical) strategic necessity for a country expanding through force-projection. This, in and of itself, should have sent warning signals to the NT government but for some reason it did not. Now to the Port of Darwin.  If for any reason the PRC government believed that Chinese interests were under threat it could (and would) order the PLAN to exercise an incursion into the port, and moreover, it could claim any action was necessary under the  auspices of protecting its quasi- cum literal-territorial assets; and of protecting a Chinese direct-investment. To continue, what if the Australian government has a strategic disagreement with the PRC? For instance the Australian government objecting to the PLAN presence in the aforementioned atolls.  What if the disagreement escalates?  China would be entitled to protect its assets with a physical presence—as the British did with Hong Kong on numerous occasions. The PLAN could blockade the port, or harass ships that exited the harbour without the PLANs express approval.  China could refuse access to Australia’s allies and/or harass ships of Australia’s allies whilst in ‘its territory’ harbour and moreover, China could argue this was needed to protect its international assets.  Compounding these issues for Australia is the somewhat mythical belief that the US would come to Australia’s protection. This is due to the US being Australia’s greatest ally isn’t it?  Once again, the Australia-US relationship is not static and is influenced by both domestic and international politics. What if the US moves toward ‘Wilsonian-isolationism,’[12]  if Trump become the next US president?  What if Clinton directs America’s interests more toward Central Asia and decides the A-P is claiming too much of the US’ security assets time and effort for little reward? What is this phenomenon? Fraser Nelson stipulated in The Spectator recently that ‘America First’ is gaining momentum. Simply put: ‘It means using the [US] military when directly threatened, but [the US] worrying a lot less if other countries are attacked’[13].  What if China demands Australia sides with it rather than Japan, in the disputed territorial islands referred to, and/or demands that US Marine rotation stop? And furthermore, states Australia must choose or have Australian Navy access to the port limited/cancelled? If the PLAN decided to place one of its aircraft carriers in the port as a sign of force-projection, would Australia be able to say no?  All of these examples however, are insignificant if the PLAN decides to place several of its cruise-missile carrying submarines[14] in the port—this is where the real potential for ‘brinkmanship’[15]; and power-projection really comes into play.   The scenarios are limitless and need not be expanded further.

To be sure, Australia would have to deal with any PLAN activity within the port on its own and each one on its merits. However, to have such a naked example of business interests overriding security interests—especially when China is rising so rapidly, and the US is in such rapid decline in terms of applying its assets to other nation-states needs/interests—is simply astounding. Australia will rue the day it allowed this to happen and whether the US would ever come to the aid of Australia is, and always has been a moot point, and a cursory glance at World War Two history will attest to this state-of-affairs. Notwithstanding, the core element of the debate to actually lease such a valuable asset to a country—in this case China—at a time of such oncoming (and what will be ongoing) frictions is a signal that the Australian government is fundamentally not concerned with Australia’s security interests beyond the rhetoric of ‘stopping the boats.’  For Malcolm Turnbull to state “The security issues relating to that port sale were thoroughly investigated in Australia’s national interest by the relevant security agencies. That’s how we determine security issues; not, with all due respect, by text message opinion polls,” [16] simply offers up that business interests are the ultimate expression of a secure nation.

The Port of Darwin should not have been leased to any company and should have remained as a NT government asset, through the tutelage of the Australian government within a single understanding: it is vital to the security of Australia. No amount of money should have been traded for the right of, and for, another sovereign nation-state, whether as a byproxy of a particular government, or as a stand-alone independent company that operates within the prism of its government’s rationales. Notwithstanding, what the lease of the Port of Darwin means for Australians is the NT government has sacrificed the security of all Australians to an extent that is unheard of in recent times. The lease of Hong Kong was a ‘thorn in the side’ of an increasingly independent China, and China vowed to take it back—through diplomacy or force if need be—and have true independence in their post-1949 era.  Australia should have learned from China in order to understand what true independence actually comprises. China will utlilize this asset to its maximum potential, and Australia will be left wanting if the PRC makes unforeseen demands on Australia—the ones which the security agencies should have taken into account—and more to the point, the NT government should be ashamed of its ‘business management model’ because all Australians will eventually have to accept their folly; and the Turnbull government by allowing this to happen, has essentially placed Australia in an extremely dangerous future predicament. Australia will have to tread very warily in the A-P region per se in the coming years, however to have given the PRC through their military—the PLAN—such a strategic vantage point is stupidity writ large on the part of Australia; and the NT government in particular.

©Strobe Driver.  June 2016.

[1] ‘Will the controversial decision to lease the port of Darwin to a Chinese company have an impact on the federal election?’  Reporter: Jason Om.  Presenter: Tony Jones. Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Lateline,  1 June, 2016.  http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2015/s4473850.htm

[2] ‘Will the controversial decision to lease the port of Darwin to a Chinese company have an impact on the federal election?’   http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2015/s4473850.htm

[3] http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2015/s4473850.htm

[4] Fareed Zakaria.  ‘Mishandling the China Challenge.’ South China Post, 9 Aug, 2005.

[5] ‘The Bretton Woods exchange-rate system saw all currencies linked to the [US] dollar, and the dollar linked to gold.’ Whilst this was eventually abandoned by the Nixon administration it set in play the continual attachment of countries to the US dollar.  See: ‘What was decided at the Bretton Woods summit.  The Economist. 30 June, 2014.  http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2014/06/economist-explains-20

[6] ‘Interview: Adam Giles, NT Chief Minister.’  Reporter: Tony Joes.  Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Laterline, 1 June, 2016. http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2015/s4473856.htm

[7] See: ‘United Arab Emirates Facilities.’ GlobalSecurity.org http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/facility/uae.htm

[8] Adrian Lewis.  Omaha Beach:  A Flawed Victory. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2001, 34-35.  Emphasis added.

[9] See: ‘Tanker War.’  The Robert S. Strauss Center for Securit and Law. https://www.strausscenter.org/hormuz/tanker-war.html

[10] Valur Ingimundarson. ‘Fighting the Cod Wars in the Cold War: Iceland’s challenge to the Western Alliance in the 1970s., The RUSI Journal, 148:3, 88-94.  http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/03071840308446895

[11] See: South China Sea: Conflicting Claims and Tensions.’  The Lowy Institute.  http://www.lowyinstitute.org/issues/south-china-sea  The Lowy Institute  observes: ‘While UNCLOS [The United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea] has been signed and ratified by nearly all the coastal countries in the South China Sea, its interpretation is still hotly disputed. Moreover, legal and territorial disputes persist, primarily over the Spratly and Paracel Islands as well as Scarborough Shoal, the scene of ongoing tensions between China and the Philippines. In terms of the Spratlys, more than 60 geographic features are reportedly occupied by claimants, which consist of Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, China and Malaysia. The Paracel Islands are the subject of overlapping claims by China, Vietnam and Taiwan. China makes the largest claim in the South China Sea, within a ‘dash-line’ map published by the Kuomintang Government in 1947. The ambiguous nine or ten ‘dash line’, which China asserts is based on evidence of historical usage, is disputed by other South China Sea territorial claimants and lacks a legal foundation under UNCLOS.’

[12] See: ‘American Isolationism in the 1930s,’ United States Department of State, Office of the Historian. https://history.state.gov/milestones/1937-1945/american-isolationism

[13] Fraser Neson.  ‘US ready to go it alone.’ The Spectator/The Age.  Fairfax Media: Melbourne, 7 June, 2016, 18.

[14] [14] For an insight into the capabilities of the PLAN see:  Franz Stefan-Gady.  ‘Chinese Submarine Simulates Cruise Missile Attack on US Aircraft Carrier.’ 21 Dec, 2015.  http://thediplomat.com/2015/12/chinese-submarine-simulates-cruise-missile-attack-on-us-aircraft-carrier/

[15] According to Gochman brinkmanship becomes part of political manoeuvrings when, ‘decision makers perceive a dramatic impending shift in the balance of power in favour of an adversary and/or a substantial internal challenge to their own political position at home.’  See:  The Process Of War.  Advancing the Scientific Study of War. Edited by Stuart Bremer and Thomas Cusack.  Australia: Gordon and Breach, 1995.

The Process of War, 97.

[15] For an insight into the capabilities of the PLAN see:  Franz Stefan-Gady.  ‘Chinese Submarine Simulates Cruise Missile Attack on US Aircraft Carrier.’ 21 Dec, 2015.  http://thediplomat.com/2015/12/chinese-submarine-simulates-cruise-missile-attack-on-us-aircraft-carrier/

[16] Jared Owens.  ‘China Darwin port: Intelligence, not texts’ sealed deal, says Turnbull.’  The Australian.  9 Mar, 2016.  http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/defence/china-darwin-port-intelligence-not-texts-sealed-deal-says-turnbull/news-story/8511b081548e2e1948b28766a8bdbe42

This article was originally published on Geo-Strategic Orbit.

Strobe Driver completed his doctoral thesis on war studies in 2011. Since then he has written on Asia-Pacific security, war, terrorism and international politics as well as Australian domestic politics.  Dr Driver is a sessional lecturer and tutor at Federation University, Ballarat, Victoria.  The views expressed here are his own.

Day to Day Politics: I think Turnbull has taken them for a ride. He conned them.

Saturday 21 October 2017

1 There are times in political life when an argument becomes exhausted. When all that can be said, has been. Because of political expediency the common good is overlooked: replaced by self-interest.

It is a time when the opposition needs to take stock and consider the public interest. It is now time for Labor to do a deal on an Energy Policy. Yes, there are disadvantages but if they negotiate with forethought there are many positives.

What the Coalition has presented is a policy based on the opinions of three heads of energy departments. The nuts and bolts we have yet to see, so Labor is entitled to criticise as much as it wants. That’s what oppositions are for.

Its fair game at the moment but Shorten needs to decide if he wants to continue with the energy/climate wars or does Labor want to present itself as the appeaser? Continuing with this trench warfare could do more harm than good. By speaking the truth they would receive enough kudos.

Some will want to fight with the hope that Turnbull is crushed by his own internal in fighting, but in my view this is a forlorn hope. Better to do a deal and go forward by making it patently clear that if they are elected there will be changes. They can always increase the emissions target and ramp up renewables at a later date.

The renewables industry will read between the lines of what that means and they can invest with certainty either way. According to the Essential survey support for renewables and an emissions target was around 68%. So the public gets it.

In any case the thrust of Labor’s argument can be made over time and evolve into an election policy.

Shorten should wait until everything, every detail is disclosed then interrogate Turnbull with the view to pointing out the weaknesses , if any, and then negotiate. Don’t allow it to look like a policy success. If it can easily be shown as dud then he can walk away from it in good faith. If it is sound then the national interest should take precedence.

Although the Coalition is dismissing Labor’s accusation that their policy is in effect a carbon price by another name. Which is true. And the chief of the Australian Energy Council, Matthew Warren, yesterday said it was and Hugh Grossman of RepuTex was of the same view.

Sean Kelly in The Monthly Today warned that:

“This is where Labor needs to tread carefully. There is a constructive reason for Labor to raise this, as well as a destructive reason.

Let’s start with the destructive one, which is obvious: to stir up trouble in the Coalition party room by convincing pro-coal and anti-renewable MPs that they’ve been masterfully conned by the not-a-real-conservative Malcolm Turnbull into supporting a carbon price.

Some of Labor’s attacks today headed in that direction, by explicitly referring to Liberal divisions, or by making it a focus of attack in Question Time.

If the Opposition has decided it has no interest in agreeing to the PM’s climate policy, then fine. There are advantages to delivering certainty, but then there are also significant weaknesses in this policy, so if the Opposition has decided its approach is to create maximum havoc, then I can’t really find a moral reason to tell it not to.

But – and this is a massive but – if Bill Shorten and his team have decided, or might be in the process of deciding, that they want a deal, then now is the time to back the hell away.”

Turnbull – when being interviewed yesterday morning – went out of his way to say that this wasn’t a carbon price policy but when the dunderheads on the back bench finally open their eyes to the fact that he has conned them, all hell might break loose.

And if they do a deal Labor will be able to say that the Coalition has gone the full cycle and arrived back at a carbon price.

Nobody believes the fanciful figures that power bills will be cut between $100 and $115 a year between 2020 and 2030.

They made a mistake by plucking that figure out of a hat. No one can guarantee anything that far ahead. Why do governments continue to treat us like fools when we aren’t.

2 Whilst Australia’s employment rate of 5.5% in September hit a four-year low the big concern is that full-time jobs seem to be almost a thing of the past. Sure, creating 19,800 jobs might seem fantastic but the reality is that only 6,100 were full-time. It seems that the structure of Australian jobs is rapidly changing. As good as the figures look the fact remains that for every job there are 17 people wanting it. Entry level jobs for young people we have five applicants for every job.Not to forget the number wanting more work.

3 Peter Dutton’s “Immigration Bill”, or citizenship crackdown, died an instant death in the Senate when they realised they didn’t have the numbers. And so it should have. Anything this minister handles has the stench of his filthy hands on it and this negative bill was just another attempt to demoralise people: to make them feel inferior. It’s the Dutton trademark.

My thought for the day

“Turnbull’s elevation to Prime Minister brought with it some expectation of civility of discourse. I had hoped that it might also bring an element of truth but it seems my hope has been shattered. Nothing has changed.”

PS: Last week I suggested that the PM would release his Energy Policy the same day the High Court released its findings on the status of 7 politicians eligibility to sit in parliament.

I confess I was wrong.

 

The Corporatization of Women

Before I go here, let us agree to lay our weapons at the door and seat ourselves quietly and not interrupt until the speaker is done … agreed?

Right … let me make an observation about the outrage and disgust concerning certain male behaviour, not naming those individuals accused, for they have to answer for their own crimes, but as for the heterosexual male of the species in general, we have to ask: “Why do we sometimes act so stupidly around women?” Now, I admit I am entering dangerous territory with this article … but let’s start a conversation anyway.

So let us begin:

There was a time in the mid-sixties – and right into the seventies – where young males (myself included) grew their hair very long and individual styled, and wore radical coloured and styled clothing that outraged the older males in society and there were frequent bashings and abuse and homophobic accusations committed against many of those young men … even to the point of sackings from their jobs. For a while there, it was full-on. This attitude and the abandoning of the old social mores and habits of employment led many young people to opt out and start collective life-styles in out of the way places … I helped build several mud-brick structures-including my own in these communities.

Of course, males and females both joined in the search for a different, “better” lifestyle. Places like Nimbin in NSW became one of the most famous, but there were many. Unfortunately, the fact that there was only the one generation to sustain the dream left it vulnerable to economic necessity and open to a decay of entropy through generational change and loss of sustained enthusiasm.

The need for one or other of the partnership to go out for work re-introduced “role-structure” back into the home. And since children came along with usual progress, the male mostly assumed … again … the role of “bread-winner”. This situation, once women had finally taken the early steps in the sixties toward liberation from male-dependency in economics and marriage, naturally bred resentment and more radical liberation theory and practice. The conservative mood of politics in the Menzies/Fraser governments exacerbated the anger … a ready pool of misogynist males in media and the workplace and in many social circles did more damage. There were those men who did support women’s liberation who often found themselves lumped together with the worst of the worst of the males … of course … how does one discriminate this from that of a herd of similar gender … and if those particular males did make their voice heard, they were many times attacked by other males with more aggression both verbally and physically.

A “lose-lose” situation …

A tragic end to a noble ideology.

But now the political theatre is shifting the plot … changing the scenery … With the rise of social media putting a spotlight on the gender inequality, those female “assistants” to media front-men “news anchors” have gained their voice. No longer the petite “bimbo” or the older “classy dame” to attract the early rising “sportsmen” of the breakfast shows, we are seeing stylish women making conversation in many platforms at equal level to the males … certainly … we have to acknowledge that mostly there is a male “behind the scenes” either owning or overseeing the network. But gone mostly are the likes of Kerry Packer’s shouting abuse and sexism into the intercom phones. All is certainly not equal (as can be seen by the recent gross accusations in the news) but the lumbering wagon has been set in motion.

However, this is an early-warning call to women … and I give it as a male who has lived through those years of suspicion, threat, abuse and retaliation by other males against what is seen as revolution against “the norm” … I am seeing the early warning signs of the “Corporatizing of Women” …

Corporation:

noun: corporation; plural noun: corporations

  1. 1.

a large company or group of companies authorized to act as a single entity and recognized as such in law.

“the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation”

synonyms:company, firm, business, concern, operation, agency, office, bureau, house, guild, institution, organization, trust, partnership, federation, conglomerate, consortium, syndicate, group, chain, combine, multiple, multinational; More

informaloutfit, set-up

“he was chairman of the corporation for three years”

  1. 2.

British

a group of people elected to govern a city, town, or borough.

“the City of London Corporation”

synonyms:council, town council, municipal authority, civic authority;

authorities

“the corporation refused two planning applications”

 

As political power is not only gained, but recognised to be present and available to those who “seize the day”, one finds that strangely, that power seems only to gravitate toward a certain group of citizens … not to the collective … and from that certain self-elected group, there comes forward certain “authorised” edits and demands of behaviour, language, style and conformity to protocol. In short; the febrile energy of the mass is gathered to a central power of management … a corporation.

Nothing, neither masculine stupidity at high-governance, macho brutality at low socio-economic levels nor any religion foolish enough to demand obedience to their patriarchal God will slow down this “Vishnu’s Juggernaut” from rightfully taking what is theirs by human destiny.

“What is born of equal pain has right to equal reign.“

But I tell you this for free … there are those in these groups, of either gender, who do not hold the best interests of the whole group, no matter the ethical philosophy, in their hearts. Many good, sensitive males have been crushed and destroyed by those men of power who know how to hold onto that power, and neither wisdom, faith nor decency has been able to save them. Ladies … watch your backs!

I would always gratefully stand to one side to let those most qualified do the task … but I do have regrets that when we boomers had our moment in the sun, and we shed those chains of social bondage in regards of work, play and life-style, we did not also take the opportunity to once and for all rid ourselves of this ponderous burden of gender oppression and religious patriarchy … we blokes should’a seen it right there in front of us … and we should have busted the bastards!

With just a bit more sacrifice we could have all been free! … But were too drunk on our own vain masculinity to comprehend the state of our sisters plight in our midst … fools that we were. Now we pay the price.

Mea culpa.

On one side the night so dark

By freef’all852

South Australia was founded on the philosophic ideas of a degenerate, financed by the money of an opportunist, bailed out by the taxpaying British public and eventually prospered on the money of speculating aspirants. What sort of government would eventually grow from such riff-raff? Answer: An LNP government.

When it comes to choosing what type of person is suitable to govern a nation at election time, we are presented with a variety of choices, and if we look closely at those choices, it appears that the “preferred option” is a well-educated (as in private school/sandstone university), well-spoken (as in good English), well-dressed and morally reasonable personality. A bit of a “rat-bag” (Katter?) is OK, as is a “English as a second language” migrant – as long as they can get their message across – but one thing is noticeable by it’s impressionability, and that, at least amongst the males – and I would imagine similar with the women – is the “suit”.

We seem to luurrrve the “man in the suit”, be he the biggest bullshit artist in the country (Turnbull), the biggest con-artist in the country (Turnbull), or even the most mealy-mouth bastard in the country (Turnbull; 3 out of 3!). As long as he has “university cred” (preferably Oxford or Cambridge – but Harvard will now suffice – for the agile aspirants!) and an inherited or self-made fortune which gives the impression that he is not in the job for the money …

BULLSHIT!!!! Complete bullshitt with the double “t”.

nam dives qui fieri vult, et cito vult fieri“: for the one who wishes to become rich quickly (Juvenal).

We have fallen for this old chestnut again and again. Why? Because it is the “image perfect” for the “lady and gentleman” we, as a nation of aspirants seem to aspire to be: the image of success. God it’s horrible to watch … like a train wreck in slow motion. Let me tell you of the establishment of the colony of South Australia as an example.

Edward Gibbon Wakefield … a man who disgraces the first two names in his identity. The man was a disgrace all ‘round. A swindler, liar, fraud, pedophile and crook. It is of no wonder he was adopted by the aspiring men as a shining example of their class to write the formulae for the establishment of a “free enterprise” colony.

In 1829, the very year in which Thomas Peel’s colonists were being dumped down at Fremantle, West Australia, a man of thirty was busily writing in a room in Newgate Prison, in London. He was in prison because he had through a devious ruse: abducted a school-girl and “married” her at Gretna Green. But he was not treated like a convict. He could obtain books and pens and paper, as influential prisoners could in those days. He was writing a little book which was published in 1829. He called this book “A Letter from Sydney”, (although he had never been near Sydney, nor out of Europe). But he wrote so well and so brightly, including little bits of goss’ and “racy tales” that many people thought his book was the work of a man who had been living in Sydney for years, and who knew a great deal about Australia.

He proposed starting a new colony built on the idea of speculation and aspiration, with the proposition that:

“You must never sell land in a new colony except at a fairly high price. He called it a ‘sufficient price’. And he meant a price sufficient to prevent labourers from buying it easily. This would secure a supply of labour. When any land was sold—either to labourers who had saved money, or to emigrants who possessed money—the proceeds were to be used to bring out more labourers. No more land was to be given away, or granted cheaply, as in Western Australia.”

You start to get the idea … sounds familiar, doesn’t it? The object being that a labourer (and that title in those days included everybody who earned money for their work), if he had enough money to by his little piece of land when he reached the colony, would not be available to work for a “gentleman” for a measly wage, but would work his own land, and: “… his master would be left servantless. So the kind of life that an English gentleman loved—with plenty of (cheap) labour at hand—was impossible in Australia”.

This is the sort of bastard sets the example of those “born to rule”. Enter;George Fife Angus.

In 1834, an Act of Parliament was passed, which carved 300,000 square miles out of New South Wales, and established the colony of South Australia. But the British Government would not finance the new colony. Indeed, it might have well been a still-birth had not a wealthy financier. George Fife Angus stepped up and was appointed to a “Board of Commissioners”. He put up a surety of 200,000 pounds and the South Australia Company was formed with a prospectus enticing investors to buy into the project.

Eventually, two shiploads of ill-informed, ill-equipted “colonists” found their way to land at Kangaroo Island. The hopelessness of that as a colony capital was soon established. There was absolutely no information on the location suitable for settlement save Captain Charles Sturt’s notes on his Murray River trip. The whole fiasco was a gamble … a speculation … I leave the readers imagination to create the scene upon those two ships when the “investors” started to realise just who was in charge of their lives and fortunes in this strange land.

Fortunately, Colonel William Light – the surveyor with the party – reviled by the authority (Governor Hindmarsh), chose the present site of Adelaide as the best location to set up shop. He was chastised and challenged all along the way by those most incompetent Commissioners, and as Don Dunstan explained when he too was vilified by the “Powers that be” of also being a ” Melanesian half-caste bastard”, but he held fast and the site was settled. Eventually after a number of conflicts, a new Governor was sent and he (Governor Gawler), tried to organise the colony. However, no sooner had land been surveyed and sold, there began a chaos of land speculation:

“They had guarded against the lack of labour by sending out work-men, and by keeping up the price of land. (Later it was raised from 12s. to £1 per acre.) What they could not guard against was the desire of people to get rich quickly. Land was sold and the money was sent to England. More people came out and wanted to buy more land. But they wanted to buy it close to Adelaide and not far away from town. So the people who had bought land near the town sold it again for higher prices. Then began a wild rush of buying up land, not to cultivate, but to sell it again at a higher price. This is what is called speculation, or, sometimes, ‘a land boom’. We have had many outbreaks of it in Australia and nearly always it has resulted in misery and unemployment. But it is very hard to stop. With no farming going on, the immigrant labourers could get no work, and so they flocked to Adelaide and demanded food from the Governor. But food was hard to get. Very little of it was being grown in South Australia, and it had to be brought from New South Wales and Tasmania …”

Now we are getting into very familiar territory; the chaos of free enterprise.

The upshot of it all was that there being no farming done to employ or sufficiently feed the labourers. Governor Gawler put the men to work on civic construction – roads and buildings. – but with an empty treasury, he had to write out “promissory notes” (rubber cheques) to cover wages and goods. These notes, once presented for payment back in England were promptly dishonoured, and Gawler pissed off back home and the British Government was forced to honour the nearly 300,000 pounds owing and to take control of the colony just six years after it was formed. But that is how entrepreneurial speculation inevitably ends; the project is a disaster and the taxpayer is forced to pick up the tab either through gross incompetence or manipulative politics.

And there is where we will leave those floundering colonists..luckily the discovery of large tracts of copper ore saved the colony from bankruptcy..the gamble paid off…an early example of the “just in time” principle of survival capitalism which is then, through sheer blind luck claimed as “well planned management”.

And here we are in the twenty-first century, with another cycle of colonisation … not by an imperial power, but by mega corporations … with an administration called the “LNP Government” run by the same sort of gormless fools that ran the first … with the same principles but instead of depriving the Indigenous peoples of their lands, they now are in the process of depriving all the citizenry of their sovereignty. It is a colonisation of a different kind with the taxpayer still picking up the tab. And you can pin epaulets on their shoulders, gold-braid and medals upon their chests … you can string a long line of letters after their names and call them “sir” or “lady” … but they are still f#ckers and dickheads!

The selection of who to represent us in Canberra must no longer be chosen from the stupid, the fraudsters, the treasonous who received their coaching from the most exclusive schools and universities. They have betrayed their obligations. The future leaders must be chosen from the skilled trades and practical professions like nursing and engineering etc. We cannot risk our future with unskilled fools and speculating criminals from that class of degenerates who most believe they are “born to rule”.

They must be sent back to be retrained for at least something useful.

This article was originally published on freefall852.wordpress.com.

 

 

Turnbull fails reset as Trump dumps on US-Australia relations.

It’s fake news. After a shocking week in which Australia has its nose rubbed publicly in its own mess by the US, Donald Trump makes Islamophobia official US policy, threatens to invade Mexico and our PM confesses he paid $1.75m out of his own Cayman Island account to buy his own mandate – as you do- a grateful nation can at last heave a sigh of relief. Malcolm’s incredible slap-down – and its leaking to the Washington Post never happened.  Hit the reset button.

Surely Malcolm Turnbull would provoke no-one to hang up on him – not even a fellow egotist. As Phillip Adams puts it.  “ …Turnbull doesn’t suffer fools, the only problem is that to Malcolm we are all fools” while Peta Credlin observes a rich businessman turned politician who can bully and leak is hardly new to politics.  But it never happened, OK?

Relief comes late in the week from the man who has changed US diplomacy to 140 characters or less. US President and  playground bully, Donald Trump tweets that “fake media has lied” about “a very civil exchange” over what he still calls “a dumb deal”; “the worst deal ever” to swap our largely Muslim refugees for US Latinos, a deal he views with extreme prejudice, calculated ignorance and stupidity.  “They want to send us the next Boston bombers.”

Eureka! Scott Morrison high-fives Peter Dutton. The pernicious lie that our refugees are terrorists is one their party has actively fostered for years along with the myth that turning away refugees reduces the chance of terrorist attack.

No matter, moreover, that the Boston bombers were Chechen migrants, a people excluded from Trump’s Islamophobic travel ban. Mad Mullah Morrison rushes back to his 2GB pulpit to praise the US travel fatwa which excludes Trump’s business pals, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia and Afghanistan.

“We have got a good history around this and really the rest of the world is catching up to Australia now,” ScoMo crows.

It’s a lie Turnbull told at the UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants last September. That “good history” has cost us a massive $9.6 billion in three years, not to mention the incalculable cost to Australia’s reputation, putting us in breach of international human rights law 40 times. Children have fled conflict; sought our asylum –  only to be illegally detained for years in conditions which expose them daily to abuse, neglect and violence.

Oddly, information about our “good history”: is suppressed. Criminal sanctions apply to anyone who reports abuse on Nauru and Manus. Good history? In a world which has over 21 million refugees, Australia takes 13750 annually.

But it’s all sweet, now The Donald makes nice. White House Press Secretary Sean “Slice-n-dice” Spicer stresses in a presser, Friday, that the US will honour the deal “in some way”. “We’re going to vet these people in accordance with the agreement that happened and we’ll continue to have further updates as we do,” says a man whose debut was to convey “alternative facts” to boost the size of his President’s inauguration crowd. What could possibly go wrong?

Being Trump-chumped takes the gloss off born diplomat Turnbull’s master-stroke of the week. He’s rebooting and reinventing himself. Again. Hacks helpfully remind us Kerry Packer once threatened to kill him. Hairy-chested Malcolm threatened to whack Packer back. Turnbull hagiographer, Annabel Crabb records his response: “Well, you’d better make sure that your assassin gets me first because, if he misses, you better know I won’t miss you.” Such a way with words.

It is going to be a big speech. Huge. A nation is on tenterhooks; walking on egg-shells, awaiting the master tactician’s much-vaunted reboot at the National Press Club Wednesday. Everything is put on hold. Somehow the windy, wittering, toff-waffler will pull out all his stops in a heart-warming, soul stirring; inspiring, visionary, headland speech.

A bold new policy agenda has been slow-cooking in the Point Piper kitchen where Turnbull’s inner circle holds court under former Sydney Mayor Lucy who wields the wooden spoon, helped by the unimpeachable Arthur “safe pair of hands” Sinodinos, numbers man James McGrath, whose maiden speech called for the sale of the ABC and “keep Tertiary policy out of the campaign”, anti-Gonski Education Minister Simon Birmingham.

Malcolm will descend from the mount like Moses. Or so we are led to believe by the  army of scribblers contemporary LNP PMs can count on to puff any little fluff into a divine wind. Especially Turnbull, Australia’s eternally re-rising, self-saucing soufflé. Gunner Turnbull is always in the wings somewhere, about to morph into Super Mal. Some Press Gallery hacks make Apple fanboys look fickle. Yet, now, even Laurie Oakes calls for Turnbull to TPP or get off the pot.

Unaccountably, Turnbull’s address is a Fizza; another grab bag of flatulent platitudes, false or meaningless assertions and hollow boasts – “we are the most successful multicultural society in the world.”  Plumbs new depths even for a PM whose ear for rousing speech is pure tin. Who else could draw attention to his own dullness?

“Balancing the budget can sound a bit prosaic – something to satisfy the tidy instincts of the bean counters – but it is a profound moral issue,” he waffles.

Who else but Turnbull could seek the high moral ground as he churns out Liberal fiscal fetishism, an affliction which goes back all the way to Peter Costello’s “black hole”? Forget that deficit spending got us out of a hole in the GFC.  No matter that balancing the budget is irresponsible economic nonsense, a type of voodoo now widely held, along with austerity budgeting, to have dragged Europe into deflationary quicksand. It’s become a Liberal article of faith. The PM is giving his party what he thinks they want to hear.

Budget balancing is a profound moral issue? God help all of us -even the bean counters. Nothing about a fair and just society, arresting the galloping inequality fostered by decades of neoliberal stupidity and rule by mining, business and finance lobby which is irreparably destroying our social fabric? Nothing about the dire need to release 1250 refugees detained illegally on Manus and Nauru, islands of abuse and torture which infect our body politic and demean us all?

A pregnant Kuwaiti woman detained on Nauru, hostage to our own xenophobes’ morally bankrupt domestic political agenda urgently needs hospital treatment. Help is held up on the whim of our combined Border Force and Immigration department before she is flown to The Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital for treatment. Peter Dutton says nothing lest people smugglers update their business model. An 82 strong communications unit helps him keep stumm.

Turnbull needs a word with his wordsmiths. They’ve helped him over-promise and under-deliver. Again. Context is not so easily ignored. Turnbull’s empty rhetoric is upstaged by such pressing realities as his war on the poor and the vulnerable under Centrelink’s Robo-debt Clawback while corporations avoid tax. Education is now reduced to bean counting. Health is all flexible delivery options while pensioners put off doctor’s visits they can’t afford and people die on gurneys. Newly appointed Health Band-Aid, Greg Hunt wants a US-style system, a prescription for disaster.

Even Peta Credlin, who suffered Abbott’s agonising 2015 reset can tell Turnbull his “… speech lacked a plan, and clear deliverables, to demonstrate to ordinary people that the government was focused on the things that matter to them.”

A final word on Turnbull’s high-sounding nonsense. Australia is “A beacon of harmony in the midst of diversity, founded on a deep tradition of mutual respect in a world of rising intolerance.” It must be why we are cherry-picking Christian refugees from Syria. Canada has rescued 800 times as many. Turnbull’s words help explain why last September, Essential pollsters found 49% of respondents in favour of a ban on Muslim immigration.

Turnbull tricks up his makeover with ornate garnish but nothing can disguise stale leftovers. His speech serves up his dud 2016 policies and warns us off Bill Shorten and Labor who will trash our energy security and give us big power bills with their mad belief in renewables. It’s rehashed and reheated with a fresh topping of unicorn droppings; new clean coal. Clean coal is a fiction; a climate-denier’s fantasy. A Jay Gatsby, the rock of Malcolm Turnbull’s world is fastened securely to a fairy’s wing.

Just as with Abbott before him, nothing can save the PM from his re-set failure, not even the whole Liberal front bench, it seems, a nodding, smiling claque, a unique and disturbing- turn of events in itself. Yet luckily, the rest of the week in politics is utterly consumed by the scandalous canard that Trump has hung up in Turnbull’s ear; called his refugee resettlement deal “dumb”, the “worst possible deal”.  Apologists are all over this like a rash.

Turnbull has the guts to stand up for his nation sucks Mark Kenny, doubtless eyeing off the PM’s media backgrounders’ stock PR image  in Saturday’s The Age, again. The PM is depicted bolt upright, jaw down, a deal-broking pose, dwarfed by a clunky handset from a fixed line telephone that appears to pre-date John Howard. It looks as if the PM is jumping to attention at the sound of his master’s voice. Or he’s strayed into a remake of Get Smart.

Turd polishers and pig lipstick appliers go into overdrive. Laurie Oakes sees the great vacillator “showing his mettle” while for The Guardian Australia’s Jacqueline Maley, Turnbull is the “grey rock” of textbook responses to malignant narcissists. Much speculation ensues. Did Turnbull stand his ground?  Will the deal proceed?  It seems highly unlikely. As it stands, the deal only commits the US to allowing refugees to “express an interest” in being resettled in America.

What is certain is that Turnbull’s call was leaked by a senior White House official who intended to humiliate Turnbull. Also certain is that “extreme vetting” – a bit of campaign rhetoric is now a thing without any further explanation. Unless, as Peta Credlin wickedly suggests, he may have leaked it himself. He’s been known to play the victim. Just look at his campaign video depiction of himself as son of sole parent Bruce a battling hotel broker suffering poverty in Double Bay.

What is extreme vetting? How long will it take?  Surely the three years of “processing” endured by those on Manus and Nauru is enough? Is it that no-one dare speak out in case we offend the bully in The White House? Julie Bishop argues with Reuters; pushes the line that US representatives are still interviewing refugees on Manus and Nauru. Perhaps rather than remain in LA taking photos with celebrities, she should have been dispatched to The White House.

One thing is clear. You don’t beg a bully. An attitude of supplication is no way to begin a relationship with Trump. The best thing Turnbull could do is to bring the refugees home. And he’s got nothing to lose and everything to gain by adding his voice to the many world leaders including France, Germany and the UK who have protested The Donald’s anti-Muslim travel ban, a ban which has successfully been suspended thanks to courageous Seattle Judge, James Robart who finds legal grounds to challenge the ban, legal opinion Donald Trump dismisses as ridiculous and one he will overturn.

Turnbull says he’s just “doing what a good Prime Minister does”, a job description which includes buying his own mandate as he later tells ABC 7:30’s Stan Grant. Grant leads him to confirm his $1.75m donation to his own party when it is clear campaign funds were running critically low – not that this is his gloss on it.

At $1.75m it was just one of those regular philanthropic things that he and Lucy get up to, a donation to a good cause – a theme later continued by screaming Scott Morrison on 2GB, a benevolence to warm the cockles of your heart if you overlook the calculated self-interest.

It may well have helped him over the line. Certainly it will provide Labor with ammunition even if only to attack his judgement and how his immense fortune isolates him from the real needs and issues of everyday Australians.

By week’s end, his ignominious dumping by Trump is so big it does Turnbull a favour. It helps sink his reboot and takes attention off his lame policies  – but at the cost of a focus on his diplomatic rebuff; his skills as a negotiator; even his ticker. He’s walked softly but copped a lot of stick. His government again seems upstaged by events it could have reasonably foreseen. The Coalition begins 2017 with its inability to plan; its retreat from the real world highlighted.

While no-one could predict exactly how Trump might jump, there was every reason to suppose he’d hate the deal.

Similarly, with Trump’s anti-Muslim travel fatwa. Turnbull’s bid to defend his silence in the face of expressions of outrage from leaders around the world as permitting a quiet and effective personal word with the president rings hollow in the light of Trump cutting the phone call short, hanging up on him and allowing details to be leaked to the press.

Turnbull’s even caught napping; upstaged at the National Press Club Liberal Party love-in Wednesday. Bill Shorten has beaten him to it only the day before, calling him phony nine times in the course of his speech and in answers.

Turnbull is pilloried for his appeasement of Sun King Donald Trump.  In vain, he claims that he does not comment on other nations’ domestic affairs. His record clearly shows otherwise.

Only last April his commentary on domestics included urging the Chinese leadership towards “continued openness and the rapid development of the rule of law”, which, he argued, “is a fundamental requirement of progress”. Many times has he lectured  PNG, Syria, Russia and North Korea.

The Chinese are unimpressed. They’re on the UN Human Rights Council. They know how we run our gulags on Manus and Nauru.  Not that they would welcome any commentary on their denial of freedom of speech, religion, and association; extrajudicial killings; repression of civil society; discrimination against Tibetans and other minorities.

The truth lies closer to home. Turnbull’s right wing will give him gyp if he goes soft on terror now. He dare not utter a peep over Trump’s Islamophobic travel ban; the persecution of a Middle East diaspora largely created by decades of US foreign policy; its war on terror. His policy reset has failed. His diplomacy has been trumped. He has been made to look a capon in the Year of the Rooster when it comes to exercising his authority in the international community.

The spotlight has swung back on his judgement, his leadership and above all his capacity to prosecute a plan. Parliament will begin next week and already the PM is on the back foot; he has been tried domestically and abroad and found wanting. Another dud Newspoll awaits him. As Prime Minister he is a dead man walking.

Day to Day Politics: Internet Media defeats the Mainstream Media.

Saturday 12 November 2016

1 One of the fascinating things to come out of the American Presidential Election campaign was just how wrong mainstream media was. In fact one has to say that Donald Trump in attacking them as biased, while at the same time talking directly to the people (no matter how crassly) played them for fools.

I have to admit that I followed the election mainly through the pages of the Washington Post and the New York Times. More fool me perhaps? Trump it has to be said picked the issues, like unemployment, free trade deals, and immigration etc., talked about them, even exaggerated them.

An observation

‘It is a pity that fact in journalism cannot be made compulsory and decency legislated’.

It seems that the democratisation of information is, both  in Australia and the US, having a far greater influence than the MSM, than political parties thinks.

The MSM backed Clinton to the hilt as they did Turnbull. Both outcomes suggest the MSM got it badly wrong.

James Dean writing for The Australian said:

“It is estimated that each of the college electoral votes won by US president-elect Donald Trump cost about $US935,000, compared with $US2.6m for each vote won by Hillary Clinton. The Center for Responsive Politics estimates that Trump’s presidential election campaign cost about $US286m, while Clinton’s cost $US609m. Although both candidates utilised social media, University of Wisconsin academic John Blakeman notes that Trump used digital platforms to target electors with personal messages”

Perhaps now we can agree that the internet has smashed the MSMs long-held monopolisation of information. Another knife in the back of Murdoch I should think.

An observation

“The mainstream media will only ever print or say whatever is in its best interests. Then it might say something interesting and truthful”.

Katharine Murphy in Friday’s Guardian added a sobering thought on the subject of public interest journalism:

“Culturally, we are on a slide down a slippery slope. If no one wants to read anything other than material that confirms their pre-existing biases, then public interest journalism is in danger of becoming a historical artefact”.

Something we should all keep in mind.

2 Another insight into the mind of George Brandis. The conditions he imposed on the former Solicitor General have been dropped. That doesn’t change the fact that any new applicant will face the same possibility. Agree with me or suffer Gleeson’s fate.

What a bastard he must be. The shadow attorney General said the only purpose of the direction was to force Gleeson to resign. 10 out of 10 Mark.

3 One Nation and its leader Pauline Hanson got very excited about Trumps win thinking that it gave credence to their policies. Fortunately the 99% of people who didn’t vote for her don’t see it that way.

4 “If you don’t have a strong and sensible centre-right party, people who are looking for what might broadly be described as conservative positions will find other voices to represent them”.

So said Tony Abbott. I think he misses the point. The folk he is talking about are those who don’t see the answers in a centre right party but in a far right party. That’s why they go to Hanson.

Malcolm Turnbull countered by saying:

“The question for my party and for me and my government is why people were able to be frightened”.

Remember ISIS is coming to get you personally. That’s the voice of far right parties.

In his interview with Fran Kelly on the ABC he was also critical of   comments made by the President-elect, but said people should now judge him on his future actions instead of past insults.

“People are not voting for a saint or even for a role model — they’re voting for a leader,” he said.

Now that statement shows just why he was such an abysmal failure.

5 Why was there such a rush on Thursday to announce that we had ratified the Parris Climate Agreement? Was it because Liberal MP Craig Kelly, the Governments environment committee chairman,  said on his Facebook page that the Paris  agreement was now ‘’Cactus’ ’He also shared on his page a video clip of Trump saying he would cancel the Paris agreement at an oil and gas conference in North Dakota in May.

How can one man hold the future of the planet in his hand while the remaining leaders kowtow to him?

6 “We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals,” Trump said. “We are going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none.”

It is one of the few statements of Trumps that makes sense.

It was somewhat akin to Rudd’s “Building the Education Revolution” program during the global financial crisis. Trump may be about to implement an anti-austerity program of gigantic proportions.

He will have to borrow considerably which will annoy the hell out of his party but it does have its short and long-term rewards. Something that Turnbull should be doing. Money has never been cheaper.

6 The Government is dropping hints that America is opening its doors to asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru. If the reports are true that is a good thing. Some day they will be citizens of that country. I still find it difficult to imagine that the US would agree to deny its citizens, the right to travel freely.

My thought for the day.

‘We would be a much better society if we took the risk of thinking for ourselves unhindered by the unadulterated crap served up by the media and some self-interest groups’.

 

Out of the frying pan: Should the Australian Army be used against terrorists on Australian soil?

By Dr Strobe Driver

Introduction: Terrorism as a ‘dynamic’

Recently in The Australian, an article entitled ‘We’d be fools not to use the ‘best in the business’’[1] was written suggesting that the Australian Army—specifically TAG East, the special forces team based in Sydney—should have been used to stop the gunman Man Haron Monis in the 2014 Lindt Café siege.[2]  The justification being that the police alone can no longer be relied upon as the ‘sole defenders against a terrorist attack.’[3]  The reasoning for this case is that sieges have changed and that terrorists, in this case supporter of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), are now ‘faster moving’ as illustrated by the Paris attacks of 2015 in which 130 were killed. [4] The French police special forces— which are integrated with the military—then took another two days to confront and neutralise the threat.  According to Maley in his article, the Paris attack is ‘emblematic of the style of terrorism the West now confronts.’[5]   All of Maley’s statements are factual and reflect the fact that terrorists—as with conventional sovereign-state military forces—alter their tactics in the kinetic phase of battle in order to gain the outcomes that most benefit their perception and realities in any a given situation.  As such ISIS, in the Paris attacks is no different than what has gone before.  For instance the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA)—colloquially known as the ‘Provos’—fought Irish security personnel and the British Army in Northern Ireland (and on the English mainland) in a seventy year’ war before a settlement was reached.  The IRA encompassed strategies that would escalate tensions and create a belief that the police and army were not in control and many tactics were tried—such as  setting a building on fire and then shooting at the arriving firemen[6]—in the pursuit of their ambition to rid Northern Ireland of what the IRA saw as invaders.  The point being made here, is that terrorist groups are a dynamic, and as with any violent group their tactics need to be assessed and dealt with by experts, of which the New South Wales (NSW) Police Force no doubt, has access to, whether through its own staff or a broader expertise through consultancy.  Therefore, to suggest the Australian Army should be ‘called in’ in order to right a ‘terrorist situation’ needs to be assessed on the basis that the NSW Police Force—and therefore any other Australian police force—is somehow incapable of proactively or reactively containing a terrorist and/or terrorism.  There is more to introducing the Australian Army into the abovementioned than meets the eye and contains many worrying aspects for Australian society in general.

Policing versus the military

Emphasising the matter-at-hand the difference between the Australian Army and a State/Federal policing force is that the police are a civil force tasked by authority within the numerous conventions of State and Federal laws with solving a situation through policing which is (in theory), a combination of governance, maintaining order, preventing and detecting crime, whilst upholding the rule-of-law.[7]   Within this remit however, police officers have rights (and responsibilities), and are able to use their discretion and rationale in the policing of a situation.  The stark difference between the police and the army is first and foremost, a member of the armed forces in under orders and must carry out those orders or face direct and severe consequences such as a dishonourable discharge/court-martial and/or prison.  If a soldier was given the order to kill Monis then there is no questioning, no discretion and rationale is to be introduced: it must be done.  Here is the hidden danger in introducing an army into an overall scenario.

With the abovementioned in mind, the point of whether the Australian Army should be deployed in order to fight against its own citizens needs a more stringent debate than the simplistic notion that the Australian Army should be involved because terrorism has ‘changed’ society. To be sure, the Australian Army is a defence force, charged with defending Australia’s borders and its citizens.  Whilst the argument can be made that if the Australian Army was involved in the siege and it was their personnel that killed Monis therefore, it was a form of ‘defending’ the Australian public has some validity.  The problem with the situation is and remains with the outcome: the Australian Army would be attacking a resident/citizen of Australia.  The debate beyond a single tragic instance can now be addressed.

The hidden danger: Broadening terrorism

A single problematic exists beyond the Monis/Lindt Café siege case and whilst acknowledging this, it is important to note that in the Monis case there is no doubt that he was acting within the legal definition of a terrorist; committing a terrorist act; and using the patrons of the café as tools in his aim to prove his point.  In this case the label of ‘terrorist’ is unambiguous, focussed on him and his actions.  What of the future?  Within the wider remit of using a military force against a ‘terrorist,’ and/or ‘terrorists’’ is to engage with the unthinkable: what if the legal definition of what a ‘terrorist’ comprises ‘of’ changes in the future?  Of course, this is fanciful, and could never happen in Australia.  Nevertheless, numerous laws have undergone changes over time.  The charge of rape was once, unable to be applied within a spousal situation.  Now when the allegation is made the police must become involved and once charges are laid the accused must attend court in order to accept or defend the charge/s.  The point being here is that the law changed, due to the influences of interest groups, a body-politic, a change of societal attitudes and a myriad of other reasons. Whether the change to a law is positive or negative remains external to this argument as what is attempting to be drawn out here is that the law is also a dynamic, and changes can be made in a liberal-democracy should the impetus be strong enough.

Now to ‘terrorism. Imagine the scenario with regard to a terrorist act unfolding to something anyone objecting to what the government is doing is able to be deemed seditious and therefore, acting in a ‘seditious manner.’  The terrorist label is then applied and once having used the Australian Army, it will be able to be called in again as governments once having gained laws in their favour rarely relinquish their newfound power; or have ‘sunset clauses’ in legislation.  Reverting to the military for answers to societal issues is a dangerous path as per the aforementioned British military in Ireland.  Of course, this would never happen.  No democratically-elected members of a liberal-democracy could ever harness that much influence could they?  Events in Britain suggest they can.  Recently in Britain, the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), a body-politic had consistently demanded (over the past decade) that Britain exit the European Union (EU) and by and large, it was never accepted that UKIP could express so much power.  It has been since acknowledged that the persistent and consistent focus of UKIP on the ‘Leave Vote’ significantly impacted on Britain’s voting choice.[8]  As a result Britain is no longer part of the EU. This example proves that small highly-active political-blocs can bring about cathartic change and indeed pursue a single-issue agenda with robustness and flair, and thereby alter a country’s path.  A path which was once reserved for the major players in liberal-democracies.  Hence, one need look no further than the One Nation party in Australia to observe the garnering of exponential power through persistence—a party which is now a ‘major force in Australian politics.’[9]

Conclusion

To be sure, it is not unusual for neo-conservative and/or conservative commentators to demand decisive acts as an answer to the ills of terrorism, whilst also offering a corresponding gracious and all-encompassing mantra that the West is the ultimate model of what a society should ‘be’ and any form of resistance to the model should be seen as terrorism.  As per the above we come back to what a terrorist ‘is’ also remains a dynamic, and a cursory observation of Nelson Mandela’s party—the African National Congress—is a party which was once labelled ‘a typical terrorist organisation’ by the Conservative Prime Minister Thatcher in the mid-1980s.[10] the statement is tantamount to  an expression that apartheid should not have been challenged.  This stated perhaps the most dangerous aspect of Thatcher’s statement, and one that exists today, is it homogenizes terrorism for the benefit of the nation-state.  If the sovereign nation-state deems you a terrorist, then ‘you are, what you are.’  The fact that Mandela was reacting against the crushing of his people by the nation-state authorities is irrelevant. Thus, Maley’s opinion with regard to the use of the Australian Army is the conservative reaction that befits the model of wanting to ‘get something done’ in the face of a terrorist act.

In conclusion: terrorism came to the fore and into the public sphere more robustly in the 1970s—especially with the destruction of four airliners that had been hijacked and then destroyed in the Jordanian desert[11] —and therefore to imply that a police force in the West does not have a succinct understanding of how to tackle a terrorist attack is insulting in the extreme based on the amount of time and resources Australia—and the West in general—spend on this issue.  If the reverse was proven to the case then the police commissioner in question, should be dismissed.  With regard to the use of the military against its own people in order to  to quell ‘dissent’ is to understand how a horror story can become real life:  the People’s Republic of China Army during the Tiananmen Square protests; the Thai Army use of force against its southern Muslim population; Saddam Hussein’s use of his  army against the Southern Kurds (Marsh People) in the south of Iraq; President Assad’s current use of this military against numerous cities in Syria; the military control of the population of Myanmar up until very recently; and the use of the army in Sri Lanka to eradicate the Tamil Tigers.  The list goes on.  All of these examples illustrate that policing actions are not used by an army as the remit of the army is to get the ‘job done’ at all costs. Therefore, introducing the Australian Army into the domestic  populace to quell terrorism—unless what a the legal definition of a terrorist remains solid and unchanging, which obviously cannot be guaranteed—would be a dangerous and irresponsible move based on the use of the military in the aforementioned examples.  The evidence-base therefore suggests, ‘we’d be fools to use the ‘best in the business,’’  and this is due to the following: a more balanced approach to the issue of terrorism needs to be debated in the public sphere; once the  Australian Army is introduced there will be no turning back; and Australian governments will not relinquish their power over this aspect of the military forthwith.

©  Strobe Driver Sept, 2016

[1] Paul Maley. ‘We’d be fools not to use the ‘best in the business.’’ The Australian. Nat ed. 29, Sept 2016, 2.

[2] Liz Burke.  ‘Martin Place cafe siege: Police storm café and kill gunman ‘Sheik’Man Haron Monis – Report.’  New.com.au.  16 Dec, 2014.  http://www.news.com.au/national/martin-place-cafe-siege-police-storm-cafe-and-kill-gunman-sheik-man-haron-monis–report/news-story/a1e51d29469209ffa62684e648441043

[3] ‘We’d be fools not to use the ‘best in the business.’’ The Australian.  Emphasis added.

[4] ‘We’d be fools not to use the ‘best in the business.’’ The Australian.

[5] ‘We’d be fools not to use the ‘best in the business.’’ The Australian.

[6]  Anthony Joes.  Urban Guerrilla Warfare. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 2007, 123.

[7] ‘Policing.’  Dictionary.com.  http://www.dictionary.com/browse/policing?s=t

[8] See: Ashley Kirk and Daniel Dunford.  ‘EU referendum: How the results compare to the UK’s educated. Old and immigrant populations.’  The Telegraph, 27 June, 2016.  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/24/eu-referendum-how-the-results-compare-to-the-uks-educated-old-an/

[9] Michael Koziol.  ‘One Nation wins four Senate seats, crossbenchers to hold eleven seats.’  The Sydney Morning Herald.  4 Aug, 2016.

http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/one-nation-wins-four-senate-seats-crossbenchers-to-hold-eleven-seats-20160803-gqkn0h.html

[10] Julian Borger.  ‘The Conservative party’s uncomfortable relationship with Nelson Mandela.’  The Guardian.  27 Dec, 2013.  https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/dec/06/conservative-party-uncomfortable-nelson-mandela

[11] ‘1970: Hijacked jets destroyed by guerrillas.’  BBC News, 12 Sept, 2016.  http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/september/12/newsid_2514000/2514929.stm

This article was originally published Geo-Strategic Orbit.

 

Every Now And Then, I Think Before I Say Something… Perhaps, Malcolm Should Try It Some Time!

Ok, just in case you’re wondering, I am talking about the Turnbull Malcolm and not the One Nation Malcolm…

Now, I know some of you are critical of Malcolm Roberts and are suggesting that he’s been put there to make Pauline Hanson look intelligent…

Well, maybe not intelligent, but at least sane.

However, I say, everyone is entitled to believe whatever they like. So if our recently elected senator wants to believe that there’s no such thing as man-made climate change because we had climate change in previous times, I say, let him. In fact, I see similarities in his argument and my assertion that because car accidents had occured in previous times, there was no way that it was my fault that I had that accident in 1993 when I pulled out from a stop sign without looking. Indeed, I don’t think that the government has a right to impose stop sign laws against us, and I’m thinking of seeing if Senator Roberts will take up my cause and get my money back from aforementioned “accident”. Clearly stop signs are part of the UN conspiracy to impose world government, as are all road rules.

But enough about that. ‘Tis the other Malcolm I intend to discuss. You know the one I mean, after all, at least some of you voted for him…

Although even Neil of Sydney won’t admit to being a Turnbull supporter so it does make me wonder how he’ll last out the year. That’s Malcolm, not Neil. There’s apparently a patron saint that protects drunks and fools… Ah, so that’s how so many One Nation supporters have managed to vote without stabbing themselves with the pencil… Yes, yes, tell me that it’s democracy and all that and that we should respect the vote… I heard that from the editor of one of the Murdoch papers on the radio today. I couldn’t help wondering if I asked him why his paper never takes that view when Labor actually win an election.

Anyway, let’s try and imagine if the Labor Party had done what the Liberals did this week…

I guess that I should point out for the umpteenth time that I have no links to the Labor Party, I’m not a left-winger and if you come up with a halfway competent group of people who make me feel like they’re capable of organising things in a way that enables people to have the chance at a decent life no matter where they’re born, then I’ll pledge my loyalty to them for the next election. In fact, I may pledge my undying loyalty to them for life and join their cult and just follow orders, but not if it involves too much exercise.

The point of this is to point out the bleeding obvious, and, in doing so, I’m not doing it in the hope of winning votes for anyone – I’m just intrigued that there isn’t more of a “you can’t be serious” reaction from people.

It’s sort of like the joke where Gillard walks on water across Lake Burley Griffin and the headline in the Murdoch papers is “Gillard Can’t Swim!”

Anyway, let’s just look at the facts in the most objective way possible:

ABC does a stitch-up on Government by releasing video showing the treatment of young offenders in the Northern Territory.
Turnbull springs into action and announces Royal Commission, nominating ex-Chief Justice of Northern Territory as head.
Turnbull rejects suggestion that there should be an Indigenous person appointed as well, saying that it’s not needed.
Turnbull also rejects suggestion of any conflict of interest given that the appointee was actually part of the system that he’s investigating.
A couple of days pass, and the appointee stands down.
Indigenous appointment made.
Big announcement that they’ve told the – “we don’t make the decisions it’s an independent body” – CSIRO to create a climate change division and employ some of the people who were going to get the chop.
In spite of it being a firm commitment in their election campaign, they’re now considering changes to the superannuation policy that they took to the election, because there was a supposed backlash against it. Somehow though, they have a mandate for all their other policies. It’s this one that caused them the electoral pain. And, of course, the Labor lies on Medicare.
Turnbull announces that Mr Rudd always knew that his endorsement was in the hands of Cabinet. Someone leaks that Cabinet voted 11-10 in favour of endorsing Rudd.
Banks don’t pass on full interest rate cut; they’re told they’ll have to report to Parliament. (Didn’t Joe tell us that banks would always pass on cuts under a Liberal government when he was in Opposition?) So when the banks report and say that they need to pocket more money because the government upped the amount they need to keep in reserve, will Turnbull’s terriers tear them apart and tell them that, come the revolution, they’ll be the first ones lined up against, or will they nod and say, “Good on you, it’s responsible actions like that which make Labor’s call for a Royal Commission into the banking industry a political stunt!”

Now let’s imagine that it was a Labor government who’d been in power while all this was happening. We’d have front pages on leadership tensions because of the leaks. We’d have editorials on their inability to manage the simplest processes. We’d have complaints that they rushed into the Royal Commission and that it was a knee-jerk reaction which didn’t think through the implications of their initial appointment, as well as complaints that the subsequent appointments were similarly ill-considered. We’d have shock jocks talking about how this was the worst, most disfunctional government since Whitlam.

Instead we have attacks on the Education system and cartoons that seek to remind us that if indigenous children are being ill-treated by white people than it’s all the fault of their parents for not being better people… I mean, let’s not shy away from it here, as Bill leaked today, it’s not racist to remind everyone that it’s all the fault of aboriginal people if they haven’t become a successful human being like him and therefore their kids deserve no sympathy!

>Sigh

Gobbledegook in three part harmony

By James Moylan

Part one: the consumer

We have been all been sold a pup. And a coat rack. Also an extensible walking stick with a built in LED light. Plus wine, soap, cereal, funerals, alien abduction insurance, thirty dollar packets of cigarettes (discretely of course) and endless acres of inflatable mattresses. And of course the chance to attract ever more semi-naked women. If you are a modern living breathing human being of any age, shape, or habit: you have been sold endless ‘stuff’. ‘Up Up and Away.’

The great democracy that is portrayed in our advertising is not Australia. Most of us understand this (if we ever bother to think about it at all). We know that when we are being targeted as a consumer we are not being ‘advised’ impartially. Advertisements are generally seen to be all about trying to get you to do or buy something. So when we are being addressed by an advertisement we don’t expect a deep and meaningful message. Consumers expect (and distractedly demand) instant answers to simple questions. ‘Things go better with Coke.’

The key is that advertising is consumed automatically and distractedly.  Advertising is experienced as a lived reality (as opposed to being sought out and rationally considered). So while our modern 24/7 multi-media commercial extravaganza does certainly provide a hundred and one wonderful ways of advertising opportunities to buy expensive goods that you might not otherwise know you need – it also has significant consequences for the way in which we consume all other sorts of information. ‘Aveagoodweekend’.

Despite rumours to the contrary our modern commercial marketplace is not a ‘democracy of ideas’. Where the Jesuits say they need to instruct a young and growing mind for seven years before being assured of their eternal devotion, our modern advertisers manage much the same invisibly, thirty seconds at a time, in an eternal drip-feed of background advertising. We grow up constantly bathed in a background radiation of commercial imagery and inducement. We become accustomed to instantaneous satisfaction being defined and seamlessly delivered, all the time, everywhere. In the advertising world there are no complex insoluble, irrational, or non-commercial answers. ‘A diamond is forever

We know consciously that, in the main, advertisers do not give a damn about the validity or quality of information. They are solely focussed on promoting a particular response. Validity and quality of information are merely aspects considered in the light of how persuasive a message might be. So anything problematic will be dismissed, but more significantly, if no problem exists then one will be instantly invented. ‘Put a tiger in your tank.’

So our days are just crowded with a thousand and one messages that sometimes relate to very real problems, but sometimes just advertise wonderful answers to invented problems. In fact, in the ‘advertising world’, we expect that anything can and might happen. We expect a ‘super-reality’. And we are always ready to suspend disbelief at the drop of a hat. While we know we are being ‘sold a pup’ most of the time, we all still pay passing regard to the fleeting parade of images – just in case. This is because while most advertisements are so obviously selling the wrong breed of puppy in the wrong way at the wrong place at the wrong time. We also know that every now and again we just might see a dog that we might want to buy.

In this way, from preschool until pension, we are all exposed to a hundred and one invented problems and we become aware of their immediate and apparent cures. Even while we semi-consciously screen out the majority of advertisements and simply dismiss the ones that are telling a story we don’t want to know, we are becoming entirely familiar with the ‘common-sense’ of our commercial world. Advertisers tell you that you are bald, tubby, unattractive, smelly, sick, bored, tired, overworked, exploited, and drive the wrong car to the wrong suburb to sleep in a badly renovated and decorated home with a dysfunctional family. Then they offer you an instant cure for any one of these problems. ‘But wait: there’s more!’

We all know (as an intellectual and academic fact) that behind the seemingly random and chaotic flood of advertising images we are exposed to every day is a massive industry that is devoted to identifying every emotional quirk and habit that we are ever likely to experience. We know that half of what we are being told is total BS but we brush it off as being mere commercial flim-flam. Yet this knowledge is something we have to dredge up and consider. It is the sort of thing that we only really acknowledge when we are consciously considering one or many of the eternal flow of advertising images and inducements that float in front of us during every one of our days. ‘Beanz meanz Heinz.’

So why have I commenced this article with such an extensive tour of the bleeding obvious? We all know that when we consider carefully our relationship with all of the commercially driven information providers in our society that a lot of the stuff we are being told is nonsense. However in the process of learning to live in an information and advertising saturated world we have all also become habituated to many aspects of ‘commercial common-sense’ that are downright nonsensical. ‘Big bubbles: no troubles!’

In the commercial world complexity is entirely masked and ethical questions are represented as simple economic equations. Stereotypical imagery and generalisations abound. And the right answer is always likely to be a simple and inexpensive answer. So we have been taught from the time we a very small to mistrust complexity and expense. The modern Australian electorate over the last two decades has been conditioned to think and react as consumers. We have been educated to expect simple answers to difficult questions. ‘A Mars a day helps you work rest and play.’

So we come to the end of two decades of continuous pandering by our politicians to our commercial sensibilities. And what is the result? The Australian voter has been transformed from being a citizen into a consumer with an investment in an economy. To facilitate this change many of the old ways of talking about being a citizen have been jettisoned and our political world is now saturated with new phrases that stand for our new modern ideas. They are mainly ways of thinking that have been borrowed from the advertising and commercial marketplace. Now econospeak is used to excuse and justify behaviour that cannot be talked about in open and stark terms. ‘Have a nice day.’

Part two: econospeak

Econospeak is used to mask and justify inequity. It enables euphemisms to be coined to stand in for long discredited ideas and to hide that you are actually advocating on behalf of apparently objectionable outcomes.  Econospeak is simply a social code that has been developed to propose that the economic interests of a very few rich individuals in our society are identical to those of the public at large. It’s as much a ‘vibe’ as it is a series of catch phrases. It is a way of speaking that presupposes that we are all first and foremost self-interested and economically rational beings. In other words; it presupposes that we are all greedy bastards.

For example the term ‘aspirational voter’ actually  refers to a class of voter who is so heavily invested in the current boom that they see their commercial self interest as outweighing all other considerations. ‘Tax cuts’ or ‘tax relief’ or ‘addressing bracket creep’ all variously stand in for the objectionable concept of ‘trickle-down’ economics. ‘Rationalising’ means cutting benefits, services, and complexity. ‘Hard-working Mums and Dads’ is shorthand for ‘indebted working consumers’. ‘The economy’ means all of the important parts of our society. ‘Common-good’ means fiscally expedient. Etc.

For twenty years our politicians have simply refused to grapple with any of the really big questions that face our country over the longer term. Rather they have decided to simply pander to our commercial sensibilities and mask their expediencies with econospeak gobbledygook. For five years we surfed the wave of a renovated economy, then for another ten we lived off a mining boom. Now our good fortune has largely evaporated. We have gradually exported all of our economic capacity and so now the mining boom has dried up our property market is the only part of our economy left standing.

When viewed from the outside there is no denying that Australia is on a sticky wicket. Our banks have borrowed trillions of dollars and then leant it out to hundreds of thousands of overextended borrowers at historically low interest rates to pay hyper-inflated prices for property at a time when our terms of trade have gone south and economic activity in our country is on life support. Then the response of our political class has been to simply not look at it. I mean what could possibly go wrong?

Now we’re all collectively so deep in a hole that we are obliged to keep digging regardless. There are no other readily apparent options. So econospeak is used to support the pretence that we are not actually in a deep hole, but instead we are all enjoying sweet economic sunshine, and that all of this activity is socially beneficial anyway. In fact, we all need lots of very deep holes for the public good. In other words econospeak is the stuff we whistle to make us feel better as we walk past the graveyard.

Like a frog in a pot over a flame Australians have become so deeply invested in the illusion that everything is absolutely and completely hunkey-dory that it looks like we are entirely unlikely to leap out of the pot until we are deeply scalded. Understandably our political class has decided they also will simply pretend that house prices can and will continue to rise forever.

Part three: Gravity is hereby suspended until further notice

Yes it might actually be ludicrous but it is easier and less painful in the short term to simply pretend that we can all forever float high above the ground, and move ever higher, instead of planning on returning to earth, or even thinking about the possibility that we might all jointly ‘plummet’ together. After all Australia is an island. Different rules apply!

So jointly we get together in our media and pretend that having a wildly overinflated housing bubble instead of ‘houses’ is actually a good thing. Moreover for the period of the coming election campaign we will all once again wear a false grin and argue that it is perfectly normal to be spending a million dollars plus on a house when you earn one tenth of that amount per year (before tax).  Nothing to see here.

A suspension of credulity is required. It’s obviously too late for any sort of remedial action. Many hundreds of thousands of Australian family’s are now so massively indebted, just to live in a suburban house, that any downturn in the market will tip them into bankrupt. Everybody is now exposed to the whim of the marketplace. Any aware individual with even the slimmest facility with basic mathematics has to suspend credulity just to remain relatively free of existential angst. It’s emotionally safest to simply nod at the continued assertions that black is white and up is down – for the good of us all.

Anyway, for the very first time in the history of capitalism, houses might just forever go up in value. Just this time. Here in Australia. There is at least as much a chance of this as there is that pigs might fly and I have seen pictures of flying pigs. So maybe?

So it goes without saying that nobody serving in our parliaments today could possibly advocate that we should all back away from the huge Ponzi scheme that is the Australian property market. Our country, as a whole, is now so heavily invested in property that a recession would likely see several of our banks fall over, and half of the ‘on-paper’ wealth in our country evaporate instantly.

So certainly no federal politician can afford to even mention a bubble. Especially since the same econospeak ideas that they blithely and endlessly repeat are also endorsed as realities by our corporately owned and controlled media. The idea that everyone in Australia can own a million dollar house, and aspire to owning lots and lots of stuff, and that those who own lots and lots of stuff are happier, are all truisms in our press.

So no politician or pundit will point out that our banks are ludicrously overextended and that the majority of the investment funds across the world are now short selling Aussie bank shares. Most of all nobody will admit that the whole trickle down mythology of the last twenty years is bankrupt and has led to a massive growth in inequity and social and environmental damage. Even as we approach the edge of the cliff, at speed, no politician in our land will advocate a need to reverse direction. In fact, any that did campaign on a platform of raising taxes and slashing the price of housing probably wouldn’t even get pre-selected.

This is because the assertion that if we cut taxes it will stimulate the economy persists in our social discourse as a social fact. Despite it being plain wrong in every way imaginable. So this caustic and socially destructive mythology underpins and promotes the ongoing debasement of social responsibility by the political class in virtually every western world country. Yet still the idea of trickle down economics rules in the minds of our politicians and in our press.

The simple idea that cutting the tax of a corporation or individual will lead to the money that is ‘saved’ being ‘reinvested’ in a socially beneficial manner is not just incorrect; this prescription for ‘growth’ has caused economic chaos wherever it has been implemented. In country after country it has prompted greater inequality, greater social indebtedness, housing booms and major busts, and extended periods of austerity and hardship for the poorest and most disaffected in the community. All throughout the world. All for no apparent benefit except for further helping to enrich a very few of the already wealthiest individuals.

Over the last twenty years in Australia we have seen a slow dismantling of the social democratic contract that once existed. We have allowed our politicians to reform what government means. They have been allowed to pretend that our society is now nothing but an ‘economy’ and that the good of the many is reducible to the financial health of the few – and we have been gullible enough to buy it.

Top marginal and corporate tax rates have been massively reduced and at the same time the cost of living has soared. The cost of housing has ballooned and has swallowed up all of the spending money that Australian workers once had to spend, and then a bit. Paradoxically, the higher the housing market has soared, the less money we have all had to spend, and the average worker has had to work ever harder and longer just to enjoy a reduced quality of life. Why?

The top ten percent of Australians are now living an incredibly luxurious lifestyle while everyone else is working ever harder just to support their jet-setting habits. We have come to a place where our Prime Minister can have an undisclosed amount of money in a series of secret overseas accounts, in a tax haven, and it is considered to not only be acceptable, but unremarkable.

We have collectively sold our soul to a marketplace blind to both the environment and the long term interests of our society. We are all far more indebted. Our future no longer appears as rosy as it once did. We were the lucky country yet perhaps that might be fading? Certainly history is betting that our housing bubble will burst sooner rather than later.

However our common exposure to this looming threat is as much our own fault as it is that of our political masters. We were the ones who bought simple answers to complex questions because it was far easier than thinking for ourselves. We have been provided with political masters that will pander to what we want to hear.

In America the housing bubble burst when the average price of a house got to five times average yearly wages. In Ireland it burst when it reached eight times.

Think about how much the house you are in now is worth on the current market. Then divide that sum by what you earned last year. It’s not a difficult sum to do. The bankers and money men throughout the rest of the world have done that very same piece of arithmetic. That is why they are short selling our banks.

Tick tock. Tick tock.

Poor fellow my country!

The Great Warming: Anthropogenic Global Warming and the spread of disease

Regular readers of Australian political blog sites will  be familiar with Deknarf, whose ‘Graphic Manipulations’ provide a barbed, light-hearted observation of the fools on the Hill on a weekly basis.

Lesser known, is that Deknarf is a researcher in his right in the field of micro-biology. As  this weeks guest blogger, he takes a look at the micro-biological effects of AGW.

Now there’s a heart-stopper of a headline!  Presenting information on the likely effects of Anthropogenic Global Warming and the related spread of disease tends to make people’s eyes to glaze over.  It does mine after a lengthy sojourn wading through the science-speak!  So, perhaps a hypothetical. Remember Joe Hockey saying that it’s highly probable that a child is being born and that it will live until 150?

So here we go!

It’s 2035!

I’m sitting on the mosquito-proofed verandah, beachside in tropical Sydney, gazing out to sea.  Wasn’t able to do that a few years ago because there were beachfront houses over the road.  More rapid global sea rise took care of those.  Another prediction that went awry!  Forgot to incorporate in the models that as the world warmed the rate of sea rise would increase, not stay at a steady rate.

It wasn’t so much that the models were wrong, they just didn’t include a couple of factors, and it all turned out to be less incremental, more logarithmic, eh?  Especially when the Arctic permafrost let go and released all that methane!  Anyhow, now that they’ve removed the wreckage there’s just the road between home and the beachfront and luckily home is still three or four metres above sea level.

The property value went up accordingly but since they reckon that the road will be inundated in another 10 to 15 years, that little bubble’s going to burst soon I’d say.  But then again, on current expectations, I won’t be around to see it.

It’s a bit of a shame that you have to go inside around 4.00 in the afternoon unless, of course you cover yourself in anti mozzie stuff and smell like a bad case of body odour.  Since the “Great Warming” started those bloody Queensland disease bearing mozzies headed south and now we’ve got them all over the place!

Part of the daily grind is the “get rid of the stagnant water patrol” just to make sure the little buggers aren’t breeding in every puddle!  Given that we now get afternoon tropical storms it’s a right pain in the bum!  So if you want a dose of Dengue, Japanese Encephalitis or Malaria just step outside for a bit and get a mozzie bite, or two!!

Going outside at night?  Brave person!  If you dodge the mozzie’s then there’s always the Cane Toads!  Along with the mozzie and disease invasion those bloody toads came too!  Sydney these days has become “Tropical one day, hospitalized the next!”  Someone said the other day, that they’d found fire-ants in Vaucluse!  That’ll play havoc with the real estate prices!

And all this, on top of the increase in food and water borne diseases, respiratory diseases as well as animal borne disease mean that, these days, living past about 70 is primarily down to good luck, living in Tasmania, and good genes!

What with Dengue, Chikungunya, Japanese encephalitis, Malaria, E coli, Campylobacter, Salmonella, Giardia, Cholera, influenza, whooping cough, as well as the Hendra and Leptospirosis I’m surprised that there’s still a population of 20 odd million in the Sydney metro area!  Most of them moved down from Queensland after the desertification, and the refugees from all those Pacific Islands are still coming!  Some smarty-pants called them “submergees”!

And the odd part!  There are still the seriously deluded who still believe that the last 30 years is just a warm weather anomaly and it’ll all change back again – eventually!  I’m wagering they still vote Liberal or National Party and think, “Coal is Good!”

150 years old Joe? Don’t think many of us will get to see that milestone.

Perhaps we could use the now ex-Prime Minister of Team Australia’s approach!

“My fellow Team Australians.  The are coming after us and they strike, wraithlike, from the shadows and in the darkness of the night.  In their urgent quest for our blood, they send their Death Cult terrorists amongst us.  Everything possible needs to be done to defeat these evildoers!

This is a Government utterly committed to a campaign against those who are coming to get us.  And the point I keep making is that these killers of women and men, child murderers, these medieval barbarians, broadcast to the world through the mounting death toll the ugly dimension to their evil.  We may not always feel that we are at war with them, but they certainly know that they are at war with us!”

“And, as the world warms new battlefronts open up to these murderers.  New territory to conquer, new opportunities to wreak their evil, murderous havoc on the innocent and unwary.

Rest assured my fellow Team Australians, as long as we have our energy, our industry, and our coal is good, we will fight them on all fronts! In tropical Sydney, in Mediterranean Melbourne, in the deserts of Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory – we will never surrender!

WE WILL WIN!  CRUSH THE INVADERS!   CRUCIFY THE CULTS!  Thank-you Team Australia!”

Then again, perhaps the Abbott approach was just a tad hyper hyperbolic.  After all.  We did create the opportunities for these little beasties, didn’t we?

Deknarf  blogs on his own site; Deknarf: The Australia Blog.

 

Turn out that damn light

The Abbott government’s hysterical response to a question asked on last Monday’s Q&A is concerning on many levels.

Zaky Mallah, an Australian who spent 2 years in jail for threatening to kill ASIO officials, had a heated exchange with MP Steven Ciobo on proposed laws to strip terrorists of their Australian citizenship after Mr Ciobo said he would be comfortable blocking someone with Mallah’s past from living in Australia.

Mallah fired back that Mr Ciobo’s comments were the reason young Islamic people were prepared to leave Australia and fight for ISIS. He later tweeted: “I would pay to see that Minister dumped on #ISIS territory in Iraq!”

The Prime Minister’s response was predictably to once again take aim at the ABC.

“I think many, many millions of Australians would feel betrayed by our national broadcaster right now, and I think that the ABC does have to have a long, hard look at itself, and to answer a question which I have posed before – whose side are you on?”

Long gone is the idea that we “shine a light on dark places”, that people should be free to express their views and the listener be free to judge them accordingly.

Rather than letting the hatred and anger foment in secret, there is much of value that can be achieved by having this discussion in the public arena.

Mallah travelled to Syria in 2011 and was believed to be involved in non-violent roles in the civil war to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.  There were accusations that he was an undercover operative of Australia intelligence agencies.  (If it’s illegal for me to talk about that, sorry – I read it in the Courier Mail)

This young man seems ideally placed to help us understand how and why our young people are being seduced to join IS.  His anger showed how some young Muslims are feeling targeted by their own government and alienated in their own community.

Mallah’s intemperate outburst (no worse than Steve Ciobo’s slit her throat comment about Gillard) was immediately condemned by the Muslim community. It sparked a Twitter war as Muslim groups rushed to distance themselves from the man.

By silencing the debate we are forgoing our chance to make our case – to speak publicly about the horrors of IS, to help address the social problems that have allowed some of our citizens to be wooed by these bloodthirsty extremists who are using our children as cannon fodder, to contribute to the discussion of policy that strips us of our rights.

Abbott described Q&A to the Coalition party room as a “lefty lynch mob”.  He is launching inquiries and making threats and is relishing in his G W Bush stance “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”

Abbott will not tolerate scrutiny or criticism.  He hates Q&A because he cannot control the questions that the Australian public want to ask.  It is the only place where those with a social conscience can question our politicians.  The right has all the rest of the media – the Murdoch press and talk back radio.  The ABC annoyingly persists with fools like Rowan Dean, the insufferable Gerard Henderson, and the never-ending parade of IPA stooges in waiting for their government appointment.

In defence of the repeal of Section 18c of the racial discrimination act, the IPA’s Chris Berg wrote

“the very foundation of our liberal democracy is a right to speak freely on matters of political importance.  To defend free speech is to recognise that no ideas are sacrosanct, that all ideas can be challenged. Historically, free expression has been one of the strongest weapons for pluralism. Speech rights are most necessary for the weak, not the powerful.  Nobody denies the harm of hate speech. But nor should anybody deny the necessity of protecting free expression for the maintenance of a democratic system and as a basic individual right.”

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shootings, Tony Abbott said “I accept that in the course of having a robust democracy a lot of people will be offended, a lot of people will be insulted.”

The Prime Minister said if any encouragement could be drawn from the recent tragedies in Paris and at Sydney’s Martin Place, it was that “more and more Muslim people seem to be saying ‘look, there is a value in diversity’.

“We do have to adopt the position of live and let live.”

It is increasingly apparent that Abbott means live like I do and don’t question me or you will suffer the consequences.

And furthermore…

As someone not of a religious bent, Edward Eastwood spent the Easter break compiling a list of a few of his least favourite things.

Reality T.V. cooking programs where smarmy overdressed and overfed ‘judges’ humiliate greedy aspirationals in front of a nationwide audience. These same overfed and overdressed epicureans are usually the ones who scream loudest and longest about the need to pay their staff penalty rates.

Ditto for ‘home improvement’ programs where the average home-owner is conned into believing that with no knowledge of either building or architecture and with the aid of a ‘mate whose done a bit of this himself’, the renovators delight into which they’ve sunk their hard-earned into for the next twenty years can be magically transformed into a palace that has doubled in value.

Bunnings hath no greater love than it has for the cashed up effwit with a headful of ‘brilliant ideas’ taken from a television program.

Cyclists who abandon common sense in the belief that the rules of the road will shield them from the laws of physics as applied by a real estate agent at the wheel of a 4WD while using a mobile phone and running late for a meeting.

MSM financial gurus, economic experts, and assorted Ju-ju men who continually espouse the ‘government deficit is public debt’ line while delivering what is little more than an interpretive dance.

In the case of Ross Greenwood, this flannel is delivered at a speed and volume that would cause even the most hardened of ‘thrash metal’ aficionados to wince.

Sporting commentators who rush to the field to interview athletes and ask them, “how do you feel?”, making the viewer long for the reply; “With my hands, Eddie…”

Corporate mission statements that use weasel words to describe their operations. Doubly so for school reports and employment advertisements, and in the case of the link provided; semi-literate to boot. Then again what else would you expect from this particular corporation?

Why not be honest and tell the applicant that they’ll be cleaning toilets and that several of the board members suffer from palsy, so it would be a good idea to keep an eye out for stray nuggets that may have missed their target.

While we’re on the subject of nuggets, Q&A’s Tony Jones. The only interviewer in the MSM who asks a question and then answers it himself before his interlocutor has a chance to open their mouth.

Fad diets, the latest being Paleo. If you want to live and behave like a Neanderthal, join the Liberal Party.

Benedict Cumerbatch as Sherlock Holmes. Another bloody Hollywood ‘re-imagining’. Why bother when Jeremy Brett did it so much better in the 80s.

The entire front bench of the House of Fools aka the Abbott government. One look at Warren Truss, you just can’t help but think perhaps all the talk of ‘Lizard People’ may have more than a ring of truth to it.

Warren Truss

Unemployment looms for Job Network staff: Karma’s a bitch

Are staff at the Job Network Providers about to fall prey to rising unemployment? Edward Eastwood reports:

My case-work officer at the Job Network provider doesn’t seem too bad a human being. It’s just that he has some strange ideas and is looking very worried.

He worries about dole bludgers and those who rort the system, he worries about Islamic terrrorists. He thinks that putting young unemployed into the army is a good idea. He sees himself as an avenger appointed by that most put upon of species; the Australian tax-payer.

On this day however, he is not worried about any of the above. Today he’s worried about job loss – his own.

Following the usual meet and greet, he tells me that Job Network provider which employs him has lost its contract and in all likelihood, he too will lose his job.

I make noises of mild surprise and then we go through the same old rigmarole, where am I working?, how many hours?, is my employer aware that I want more work? Would I like him to phone my employer and tell them that I’m looking for more hours?

“Sixteen.”

“Yes.”

“NO!”

I mention that I’m teaching English as a Second Language to middle aged Vietnamese who once worked in factories and are now forced by the ‘earn or learn’ policies to attend English classes.

He tells me that there is a crackdown on “the people who having been doing these courses over and over. Some of them, particularly the Vietnamese, having been learning English for nine years.”

“Oh yeah, what do you know about Vietnamese culture?”

He gives me a blank look.

“It’s a Confucian culture which means that it’s both family and socially centred. Most Vietnamese would rather work in their own family businesses rather than work for someone else.”

“When they came as refugees, they worked every shit job that the locals wouldn’t do. They made the cars, they cleaned the toilets, they worked the factories and the fields.

“Now the factories have all but disappeared, what is it that you expect them to do?”

I get another blank look and then he turns to the screen and begins to punch in a few details.

More rigmarole and we move into phase two of the meeting; ‘checking the clients welfare 101’.

He can see I’m in a shitty mood but fools rush in, and he attempts to engage me in friendly conversation.

“What do you think is the greatest danger in the world today?”

“Global warming. Why? What do you think is the greatest danger in the world?”

“Fundamentalist terrorism.”

“Oh yeah, so you think that there’s a good chance that ISIS will succeed in imposing Sharia Law under an 11th century Caliphate and do away with democracy?”

“We’ve gotta be on our guard!”

For some reason, his answer shifts the conversation to his views of putting young unemployed into military service.

I ask him if he’s ever served in the Armed Forces and he tells me “No, but I did try to get in.”

Another armchair warrior who have never served but would eagerly force service on others as a cure to society’s ills.

This time it’s my turn to give the stony gaze.

He ploughs on.

“I saw something about investigations into RTO’s a day or so ago. What’s that all about?”

“I don’t know. I did see that TAFE’s are coming under investigation altering the grades of international students so that they pass the entrance exam.”

“Yeah, I had woman in here who had a Cert Two in Aged Care telling me she wanted to learn English! I mean, how did she get the qualification if she couldn’t speak English?”

“I knew she was lying about not speaking English. How could she get the qualification if she didn’t speak the language spoken in class?”

“Good question. What was the upshot?”

“It went to the team manager and in the end they let her do the English classes.”

“So, how did you feel about that?”

“Well, I knew something was phoney. Either she was phoney  or her qualification was phoney.”

“What did you decide?”

“I came to the conclusion that her qualification was phoney.”

“Yeah, well I guess that’s what you get when you try to make a commodity out of education and sell it for a profit”. When the owners interest is solely pecuniary, academic rigour and standard take a distant second place”.

No answer to that one either, and he turns his attention to booking my next appointment.

“Ok, I’ll see you in three weeks and then I’ll also be able to tell you whether we’ll be here for any longer.”

“What happens to you?”

“I’ll have to find something else. I also work part time for a cleaning company and I might be able to get full time work with them.”

I can’t help myself and decide to twist the knife.

“How well do you think you’ll survive on a part time cleaners pay, and how long do you think it will be before you’re replaced with a 457 visa holder?”

“Oh no,” he says. “They’re pretty good. I don’t think they’d do that.” He frowns and a flicker of doubt crosses his face. “Nah… they wouldn’t do that.”

“Oh yeah? Are you sure about that?”

“Yeah, pretty sure.”

“How do you feel about this?”

He gives an exasperated sigh and sinks back into his chair.

“It’s just so much stress and anxiety. You don’t know where you are from one day to the next. Whether you’ve got a job or not.”

I want to put the boot in and tell him that now he knows how every person who walks through the door feels and they also carry the added weight of self appointed avengers of the tax-payer and righters of rorts breathing down their neck but I say nothing.

I can see the fear in his eyes. He knows that very shortly he’ll be in the same situation as his clients, struggling to find work and reliant on the dole to make up the difference. Which means that he’ll also be reporting to his counterpart at another Job Network provider – and it fills him with anxiety.

Working on the front line of unemployment he knows the real truth of the job market and the future looks even more bleak than the present.

He’s my ninth case officer over a period of nearly four years and typical of the staff in these organisations and their claims to petty officialdom.

The system of private employment agencies enforcing welfare regulations while at the same time receiving subsidies for job placement or breaching offenders was never going to work in the long term.

While the Howard government was successful in keeping the focus on ‘mutual obligation’ to the tax-payer by the unemployed  as a means of deflecting attention away from from its own half of the bargain – that of job creation through government initiative, the Abbott government has no such luxury.

In the past eighteen months, the tide of unemployment has risen so rapidly as to make itself felt even among the ‘enforcement arms’ of the government’s welfare watch-dogs.

As the unemployment rate climbs and the job vacancies plummet, the JNS contractors are increasingly unable to meet their ‘targets’ and so contracts are cancelled.

For the corporations who own these organisations, it’s simply a matter of a name change and a re-tender for available contracts.

For many employees, it’s joining their clients among the ranks of the working poor or the unemployed.

As I walked back to my car, I think of the countless people who have been caused anxiety and stress trying to comply with policies designed to be punitive for the unemployed while at the same time profiting from their misfortune, enforced by people like my case officer and the organisation he works for.

I try to have some sympathy for his plight but f*ck ‘im. Karma’s a bitch.

Unemployment

 

 

You Bloody Idiots!

There is madness in the air and to deliberately mis-quote George Santayana, those that do not pay attention to history are bound to repeat it. That is exactly what Tony Abbott and his government are doing and why should we expect anything different from someone who is so devoid of anything original all he can do is follow the leader like sheep follow the shepherd.

Paul McGeough’s analysis in Monday’s Age newspaper is spot on. Fools rush in where wise men would bide their time. Tony Abbott is sending 600 military personnel and eight ageing aircraft into a conflict with no idea what he is getting involved in, what the strategy is, or what the time frame is. My only reaction when I heard this latest piece of news was to say, ‘You bloody idiots’.

isilWhat does he seriously think 8 jets and 200 military advisors can do? More importantly, was he asleep during the first decade of this century? How many jets does Saudi Arabia have? How many does Egypt have? What about Iran, Jordan, Turkey? What are they doing to intervene in this conflict? This is their turf; their area of responsibility. Would any of those countries send their jets to Fiji or Samoa or Nauru if there was an outbreak of unspeakable violence there?

In an area of the world where conflict has been raging in one form or another for over 1000 years, where kingdoms and dictatorships have been the norm, where paper thin democracies struggle to define themselves, are we going to save them from themselves?

I think not!

How simple-minded this government is. How pathetic is the Labor opposition that so meekly falls into line as if there was no other position it could take. I well remember how staunchly Labor opposed the war in Vietnam and our involvement in it. Arthur Calwell stood firm. Gough Whitlam stood firm. In the end they were right. Their views prevailed. But not before the Liberal government continued to increase our commitment to that conflict and not before 500 Australian soldiers died in a civil war that even our current Governor-General, himself a decorated military man, said was a mistake. How many of our soldiers died in Afghanistan and for what? Does anyone seriously think Afghanistan is stable? Does anyone seriously think the Taliban are defeated?

heraldWhere are the voices of dissent now? Who will oppose this absurd decision? Don’t look to the mainstream media. Monday’s headline in the Herald-Sun tells us quite clearly where their support lies. ‘Ready for War’. Really? You stupid, stupid people.

I would not even give Abbott the credit for doing this as a means of saving his political hide. That would be praising him.  He just isn’t that smart. This is pure Santamaria ideology. But Labor should know better. They ended our involvement in Vietnam. They have a conscience.They should know better.

Petal

An award winning story

By John Lord
‘The red rose whispers of passion

And the white rose breaths of love

O, the red rose is a falcon
And the white rose is a dove’.

John Boyle O’Reilly

I first met Doctor David Gillespie in the hellish confines of Changi Prison. I was his commanding officer and we were friends for a little over two years. He was the most selfless altruistic man I ever met. His unselfish devotion to the men of our battalion often went beyond human capability. I think even some of the Japanese guards noticed his decency. In front of the men, he would address me as Colonel Matheson and in private it was simply Peter. All the men called him Doc Doogood in the Australian manner dispersing nicknames.

Changi was built by the British in 1936 as a civilian prison to hold 600 inmates and in 1942 following the fall of Singapore the Japanese interned 3000 prisoners of war. Of these 650 souls died in wretched circumstances including Lieutenant Gillespie. He died in my arms at 10am on Sunday the tenth day of October 1944 following yet another severe beating by the Japanese. His demands for better conditions and medical supplies for the men had reached a point of no return. Two days previous, he had had an argument with the camp superintendent about medical supplies. It developed into a shouting match.

There they were standing face to face at morning roster shouting at each other in Japanese. The commandant in pressed uniform and David with only a pair of tattered thin kaki shorts hanging loosely from a body that displayed nothing more than skin and bones. I must say he took it up to the bastard though. He had acquired the Japanese language in a very short time and conversed with the guards fluently. When the commandant hit him, across the face with his baton, the entire assembled battalion took a step forward and I quickly issued an order for the men to fall back in line. David slowly raised his arm, touched his face with the tips of his fingers, looked directly into the commandant’s eyes and spat in his face. Three guards dragged him away and he appeared four hours later staggering across the assembly ground carrying two cardboard boxes with Red Cross signs printed on them. I rushed out to meet him and caught him just as he was about to fall.
‘Medical supplies sir. I think I won the argument.’ He said.
‘That’s debatable, and at what cost?’ I whispered in his ear.
‘Some will live but the dead are many.’ he replied and then through swollen bloodied lips caked with dried blood, he said ‘There is only what you do or don’t do.’

He was barley recognizable from the beating he had taken. His head appeared to be twice its size. He spoke in short bursts of heavy breath indicating broken ribs and his left arm was obviously broken at the elbow. Two men helped me carry him to his quarters where we placed him on his cot. I asked one of the men, a sergeant who assisted David to see what was in the boxes. There was some morphine and I asked him to give David a shot. He did this and then set about the task of cleaning him up.
‘I will have to set the arm.’ said Sergeant Harry Dunfeld.
‘Yes, do it Harry’. I said adding ‘What do you think?’
‘If I may say so Sir, I don’t think he will make it beyond today. He’s taken some beatings before but this is by far the worst. Is it all right to let the men know? Some will want to pray’.
‘I will do it Harry.’ I replied, and I went to address the assembled throng at the entry to the hut.

I returned to my quarters and sat on my cot, closed my eyes and recalled the first time I met David. What a truly impressive man he was. Not just his physical characteristics, which were exceptional, but also his intellect and strength of character. He was twenty-five going on fifty with a well-rounded worldly attitude. He had a presence about him that lifted the spirit of anyone he met. His enormous mental capacity enabled him to complete his studies two years ahead of his class and graduate from Melbourne University with honors .He had also attained blues for both cricket and football in which he excelled.

He was sitting on an upturned crate when I caught his eye. He was holding fast to a tourniquet around the arm of a man whose arm was badly bleeding.
‘Sorry Sir. I’d salute if I could.’
‘Not to worry Lieutenant. Got a bit of work ahead of you.’ I said looking at the line of men seeking medical attention.

And so it was for the next two years that I would daily watch him treat the men for various illnesses without medication and instruments. On the occasions that he was able to procure medicine or even vitamin tablets, he usually had to suffer for it. It became a sort of a game with the camp commandant. They would argue. David would be given a beating and then return with whatever he was given. Often after spending days in solitary confinement. At first, he coped physically but as his health deteriorated each bashing left him just a little weaker. I implored him not to give his rations away but he declined saying that the Lord would provide. He said he had sufficient and others were worse off.

He witnessed the death of many of his patients but he never allowed tragedy to penetrate the need to assist suffering. Although we were prisoners, the horror of war was present in its absence.

When we each had completed our day’s ministrations, we would meet for a chat. We would talk of politics, theology, philosophy, the arts and anything that expanded our minds. We spoke of loves won and lost and children remembered or yet to be loved. Often other officers and enlisted men would join in and our conversation was always lively and satisfying. Over a period, I concluded that often our opinions are based on our values rather than our understanding and the difficulty was in separating the two.

However, it was when we were alone that we were able to share our aspirations beliefs and innermost secrets. I valued those conversations as if they were gold. He was the sort of person who wore his heart on his sleeve and no discussion with him was ever inhibited by unnecessary virtuous secrecy. He told me that the month before he was to leave for Singapore he had fallen in love. It was at the St Kilda town hall that he first saw her and when he asked, for a dance and she accepted he knew that he was in love. The intimacy of touch sought only to confirm his feelings. When he looked upon her face, he saw not just beauty but integrity and she wore lipstick the color of his favorite rose. She was studying at the nurse’s college in nearby Commercial Road and intended joining the military when she completed her course. His eyes would light up when he spoke of the love they shared in the days prior to departure. They were both of Christian up bringing. Her family were dairy farmers from southern Victoria and he lived in Melbourne with his parents who were well respected in social circles and the medical profession.

When the physical passion of their relationship demanded consummation, they decided to marry. He told me that both sets of parents gave their consent after observing their happiness and they were married in the St Kilda Methodist church in Fitzroy Street. It was the week before he left for Singapore. The few days before departure, they spent making love.
‘We couldn’t get enough of each other.’ He told me. Then it ended. He bordered a ship at Port Melbourne with the whole family witnessing a farewell embrace that lasted all of ten minutes.
‘I swear we would have made love on the pier had the opportunity arose.’ He added with a twinkle in his eye. Every week a box of twelve long stemmed roses arrived for her at her flat. One week there would be red and the next white.
The love of roses was but one of the many things they shared. He conveyed to me that he had entrusted his mother to have a box of roses delivered to her every Friday regardless of where she lived and for as long as she lived and that this arrangement was to continue if he didn’t return from the war. Added to that his mother was to see that the arrangement continue after her death. In our conversation, he always referred to his young wife as ‘Petal.’ He never mentioned her real name. I remember one clear night when we were sitting on the parade ground. The stars were high and bright in the night sky. He looked at me and then at the sky for what seemed an eternity. When he lowered his face, he said.
‘You know Peter. The fascinating thing about love is that we can experience it without needing to know anything about it. It controls us and we have no control over it.’

On another occasion, he spoke about the meaning of roses in a Biblical metaphorical sense.
‘You see the blue rose is symbolic of the impossible the unattainable and the red represents the passion of Christ and its thorns the blood of the cross. The white rose speaks of innocence, purity, exquisiteness and virtue. The faded rose reminds us that beauty is only fleeting. The rose garden is paradise and the single rose is in essence, a sign of completion, two coming together to consummate perfect love.’
Then he handed me a small piece of paper with a poem written on it.
‘Peter I want you to do something for me. If I don’t get out of this hellhole would you see that Petal gets this?’
‘Yes of course David.’ I replied. ‘I will even put it to memory so as I can retain its meaning’.

Red Rose

First blush of spring
Life’s passion red awakens
Roses touched by clear sky
Sun of day
Son on cross
Crimson drops forgive

White Rose

Immaculate conception
Pure white awakens
Roses touched by innocence
Grow from virgin seed
Son of God
In love forgiveness blooms

 

‘I think you had better come Sir.’
‘What is it Harry.’ I replied.
‘The Doc Sir, he’s taken a turn for the worse.’
When I arrived at his quarters, some soldiers were trying to prevent two Japanese officers from taking David with them. He was repeatedly mumbling.
‘Enough, enough Kagen ni shinasai, please no more no more’.
I began pushing them away and shouting at the same time.
‘He’s dying you fools. Can’t you see he’s dying?’
In the confusion, an officer unknown to me came in shouting orders at the others.
‘Choudai sakini dekata.’
They stepped aside allowing him space to examine David. Then he looked at me with his back to the others, crossed himself in the manner of a Catholic and said in perfect English. ‘Please forgive us. War is an abomination.’ And with that, he turned and exited the hut with his subordinates in tow.

With the help of the others, we managed to prop David back up on his cot. I sat down next to him trying to keep him erect but I could see it was hopeless. He fell down with his head in my lap and it was in that position that he died. I read his poem to the men as I stood above his grave but I don’t think many of them understood its meaning. The day after we buried him, I was summoned to appear before the officer who spoke English. He introduced himself as Major Hitoshi and asked for David’s poem. When I explained that I had promised to send the original copy to his wife, he agreed to make a copy. ‘
‘It is very beautiful. ’He commented. ‘From what I hear he was an extraordinarily brave man.’

After the war, I joined the Australian diplomatic service and spent many years in England. I also made frequent trips to Japan and often visited Major Hitoshi. We became good friends discussing world issues and he always wanted to know more about David.

When I returned home, I obtained David’s parents address, wrote a long letter detailing his bravery at Changi and requested that at their convenience I would like to visit some time. I explained that I was being relocated to Brisbane and asked if they would forward the poem onto Petal. I never heard back from any of them and assumed that they were too distraught to communicate. I was later to find out that for whatever reason they never received my correspondence.

Some years later when I retired my wife and I purchased a property in the inner Melbourne suburb of St Kilda. We quickly fell in love with the Edwardian style house. Our neighbors were pleasant folk and eager to see that we settled in without fuss. I noticed that the woman who lived next door delighted in growing roses. She had a row of red and white standards along her front garden just inside a picket fence and I often saw her pruning and spraying. One day I was walking our dog and stopped to compliment her on their appearance. She thanked me and said that she grew them in memory of her husband who had died in the war. We exchanged further pleasantries and I went on my way.

Some days later, my wife commented on the fact that every Friday at 10am an Interflora van delivered a box of flowers to her doorstop.
‘Roses I think, and long stemmed judging by the size of the box.’ She said.
My mind went into a spin. It couldn’t be I thought to myself and dismissed the idea as a flight of fancy. On the Sunday, we decided to go to church and choose the Methodist church in Fitzroy Street. We sat in one of the side pews and when I looked around, I saw the woman from next door. I couldn’t help notice how distinguished she looked with her greying hair pulled back and knotted in a bun. Her lipstick was of a passionate red hue and for some reason an image of David Gillespie vividly entered my mind. She noticed us smiled and gave us a wave of recognition. A young man walked down the isle past me and I jumped when he sat next to our neighbor.
‘You all right darling, you’re as white as a ghost.’
‘Bit of indigestion. It will pass.’
At the end of the service, I said that we should formally introduce ourselves to our neighbor.
‘Well certainly Peter but you look like you’re about to meet royalty. Why the nerves?’

We spent some time in small talk chatting to different people and moved closer to where our neighbor and her companion were standing with their backs to us. When they turned I involuntarily said.
‘David.’
‘You know me.’
‘Well I Think…perhaps, I mumbled without completing the sentence.
‘Allow me to introduce my son Doctor David Gillespie Junior. Our neighbor said.
‘I can’t believe it, you’re the spitting image of him.’
‘Who.’
And you must be ‘Petal.’ I said.
‘Only one man has ever called me that. You must have known him. She answered with the inquisitiveness of lost love.
‘Yes indeed I did. I think he was the finest man I ever met. My name is Peter Matheson. I was your husband’s commanding officer in Changi. He died in my arms. Did you not receive my letter?’
‘No, I did not.’
‘Then you have never read his poem’
‘Poem, No.’
I took a small piece of paper from my wallet and handed it to her.
‘This is a copy.’
When she looked up, her eyes were moist and sanguine. She placed her hand gently on my arm.
‘Would you care to join us for lunch? Today is David’s twenty fifth birthday. There is much I would like to ask you.’
‘Good God’ I said softly. ‘Your husband died on this day twenty-five years ago.
She turned to her son and said.
‘We may need a bottle of red and a bottle of white, David.’
‘But mother you don’t normally partake before dinner.’
‘Today we make an exception.’
‘By the way’ I said. ‘What is you name?’
‘Rose.’ she answered. ‘Rose Gillespie.’

In Memorium

(Lieutenant) Doctor David Gillespie

‘His life was measured not by the shortness of it’s duration but by the compassion of its depth.’

 

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